Read NINIA of The Ebbing Of The Tide South Sea Stories - 1896 , free online book, by Louis Becke, on ReadCentral.com.

I

Away out upon the wide Northern Pacific there is a group of three little islands.  They are so very, very small that you need not seek to discover them on the map of the Pacific Ocean; but if any of you have a chart of the North or West Pacific, then you would easily be able to find them.  Run your eye up north, away past the Equator, in the direction of China, and you will see, to the north of New Guinea, a large cluster of islands named the “Caroline Islands,” some of which are named, but most are not ­only tiny dots no bigger than a pin’s head serve to mark their position.  Perhaps, however ­if you get a German chart ­you may see one of the largest of the small dots marked “Pingelap,” and Pingelap is the name of the largest of the three little islands of my story; the others are called Tugulu and Takai.

Now, although Pingelap and Tugulu and Takai are so close together that at low tide one may walk across the coral reef that encircles the whole group from one island to another, yet are they lonely spots, for there is no other island nearer than Mokil, which is ninety miles away.

But yet, although the three islands are so small, a great number of natives live upon them ­between four and five hundred.  There is only one village, which is on Pingelap, and here all the people lived.  The island itself is not more than two miles in length, and in no place is it more than a quarter of a mile in width; and Tugulu and Takai are still smaller.  And from one end to the other the islands are covered with a dense verdure of cocoanut palms, with scarcely any other tree amongst them, so that when seen from the ship two or three miles away, they look exactly like a belt of emerald surrounding a lake of silver, for in their centre is a beautiful lagoon surrounded on three sides by the land, and on the west protected from the sweeping ocean rollers by a double line of coral reef stretching from little Takai to the south end of Pingelap.

There are hundreds of beautiful islands in the Pacific, but not any one of them can excel in beauty lonely little Pingelap.  There are two reefs ­an outer and an inner.  Against the outer or ocean reef huge seas for ever dash unceasingly on the windward side of the island, and sometimes, in bad weather, will sweep right over the coral and pour through the shallow channel between Tugulu and Pingelap; and then the calm, placid waters of the lagoon will be fretted and disturbed until fine weather comes again.  But bad weather is a rare event in those seas, and usually the lagoon of Pingelap is as smooth as a sheet of glass.  And all day long you may see children paddling about in canoes, crossing from one shining beach to another, and singing as they paddle, for they are a merry-hearted race, the people of these three islands, and love to sing and dance, and sit out in front of their houses on moonlight nights and listen to tales told by the old men of the days when their islands were reddened with blood.  For until fifteen years before, the people of Pingelap and Tugulu were at bitter enmity, and fought with and slaughtered each other to their heart’s delight.  And perhaps there would have soon been none left to tell the tale, but that one day an American whaleship, called the Cohasset touched there to buy turtle from Sralik, the chief of Pingelap, and Sralik besought the captain to give him muskets and powder and ball to fight the Tugulans with.

So the captain gave him five muskets and plenty of powder and bullets, and then said ­

“See, Sralik; I will give you a white man too, to show you how to shoot your enemies.”

And then he laughed, and calling out to a man named Harry, he told him to clear out of the ship and go and live ashore and be a king, as he was not worth his salt as a boatsteerer.

And so this Harry Devine, who was a drunken, good-for-nothing, quarrelsome young American, came ashore with Sralik, and next day he loaded the five muskets and, with Sralik, led the Pingelap people over to Tugulu.  There was a great fight, and as fast as Sralik loaded a musket, Harry fired it and killed a man.  At last, when nearly thirty had been shot, the Tugulu people called for quarter.

“Get thee together on Takai,” called out Sralik, “and then will we talk of peace.”

Now Takai is such a tiny little spot, that Sralik knew he would have them at his mercy, for not one of them had a musket.

As soon as the last of the Tugulu people had crossed the shallow channel that divides Tugulu from Takai, the cunning Sralik with his warriors lined the beach and then called to the Tugulans ­

“This land is too small for so many.”

And then Harry, once the boatsteerer and now the beachcomber, fired his muskets into the thick, surging mass of humanity on the little ’islet, and every shot told.  Many of them, throwing aside their spears and clubs, sprang into the water and tried to swim over to Pingelap across the lagoon.  But Sralik’s men pursued them in canoes and clubbed and speared them as they swam; and some that escaped death by club or spear, were rent in pieces by the sharks which, as soon as they smelt the blood of the dead and dying men that sank in the quiet waters of the lagoon, swarmed in through a passage in the western reef.  By and by the last of those who took to the water were killed, and only some eighty or ninety men and many more women and children were left on Takai, and the five muskets became so hot and foul that Harry could murder no longer, and his arm was tired out with slaughter.

All that night Sralik’s warriors watched to see that none escaped, and at dawn the hideous massacre began again, and club, spear, and musket did their fell work till only the women and children were left.  These were spared.  Among them was Ninia, the wife of Sikra, the chief of Tugulu.  And because she was young and fairer than any of the others, the white man asked her of Sralik for his wife.  Sralik laughed.

“Take her, O clever white marn ­her and as many more as thou carest for slaves.  Only thou and I shall rule here now in this my island.”

So Harry took her and married her according to native custom, and Ninia was his one wife for nearly fifteen years, when one day he was quietly murdered as he lay asleep in his house with his wife and two children; and although Sralik wept loudly and cut his great chest with a shark’s teeth dagger, and offered sacrifices of turtle flesh to the white man’s jelin, Ninia his wife and many other people knew that it was by Sralik’s orders that Harry had been killed, for they had quarrelled over the possession of a whaleboat which Harry had bought from a passing ship, and which he refused to either sell or give to Sralik.

However, Sralik was not unkind to Ninia, and gave her much of her dead husband’s property, and told her that he would give her for an inheritance for her two daughters the little islet ­Takai.

And there in the year 1870 Ninia the widow, and Ninia her eldest daughter (for on Pingelap names of the first-born are hereditary) and Tarita, the youngest, went to live.  With them went another girl, a granddaughter of the savage old Sralik.  Her name was Ruvani.  She was about eleven years of age, and as pretty as a gazelle, and because of her great friendship for Ninia ­who was two years older than she ­she had wept when she saw the mother and daughters set out for Takai.

Fierce-hearted Sralik coming to the doorway of his thatched hut heard the sound of weeping, and looking out he saw Ruvani sitting under the shade of some banana trees with her face hidden in her pretty brown hands.

When he learned the cause of her grief his heart softened, and drawing his little grand-daughter to him, patted her head, and said ­

“Nay, weep not, little bird.  Thou too shalt go to Takai; and see, because of thee my heart shall open wide to Ninia and her daughters, and I will give her four slaves ­two men and two women ­who shall toil for you all.  And when thou art tired of living at Takai, then thou and thy two playmates shall come over here to me and fill my house with the light of thy eyes.”

So that is how Ninia, the widow of the wandering white man, and her two daughters and their friend came to live at the little islet called Takai.

II

The months went by and Ruvani, the chief’s granddaughter, still lived with her friends, for she was too happy to leave them.  Sometimes, though, on bright moonlight nights, the three girls would paddle across to the big village and gather with the rest of the village girls in front of the chiefs house, and dance and sing and play the game called n’jiajia; and then, perhaps, instead of going home across the lagoon in the canoe, they would walk around on the inner beaches of Pingelap and Tugulu.  And long ere they came to the house they could see the faint glimmer of the fire within, beside which Ninia the widow slept awaiting their return.

Stealing softly in, the girls would lie down together on a soft white mat embroidered with parrots’ feathers that formed their bed, and pulling another and larger one over them for a coverlet, they would fall asleep, undisturbed by the loud, hoarse notes of a flock of katafa (frigate birds) that every night settled on the boughs of a great koa tree whose branches overhung the house.

Sometimes when the trade-winds had dropped, and the great ocean rollers would beat heavily upon the far-off shelves of the outer reef, the little island would seem to shake and quiver to its very foundations, and now and then as a huge wave would curl slowly over and break with a noise like a thunder-peal, the frigate-birds would awake from their sleep and utter a solemn answering squawk, and the three girls nestling closer together would whisper ­

“’Tis Nanawit, the Cave-god, making another cave.”

Ere the red sun shot out from the ocean the eight dwellers on Takai would rise from their mats; and whilst Ninia the widow would kindle a fire of broken cocoanut shells, the two men slaves would go out and bring back young cocoanuts and taro from the plantation on Tugulu, and their wives would take off their gaily-coloured grass-girdles and tie coarse nairiris of cocoanut fibre around them instead, and with the three girls go out to the deep pools on the reef and catch fish.  Sometimes they would surprise a turtle in one of the pools, and, diving in after the frightened creature, would capture and bring it home in triumph to Ninia the widow.

Such was the daily life of those who dwelt on Takai.

One day, ere the dews of the night had vanished from the lofty plumes of the cocoanut palms, there came to them a loud cry, borne across the waters of the silent lagoon, over from the village ­

“A ship!  A ship!”

Now not many ships came to Pingelap ­perhaps now and then some wandering sperm-whaler, cruising lazily along toward the distant Pelew Islands, would heave-to and send a boat ashore to trade for turtle and young drinking cocoanuts.  But it was long since any whaleship had called, and Ninia the widow, as she looked out seawards for the ship, said to the girls ­

“’Tis not yet the season for the whaleships; four moons more and we may see one.  I know not what other ships would come here.”

By and by they saw the ship.  She sailed slowly round the south point of Pingelap and backed her foreyard, and presently a boat was lowered and pulled ashore.

Little Tarita, clapping her hands with joy, darted into the house, followed by Ruvani and Ninia, and casting off their wet girdles of banana fibre ­for they had just come in from fishing ­they dressed themselves in their pretty nairiris of coloured grasses, and put on head-dresses of green and gold parrots’ feathers, with necklaces of sweet-smelling berries around their necks, and were soon paddling across the lagoon to see the white strangers from the ship, who had already landed and gone up the beach and into the village.

It is nearly a mile from Takai to the village, and before the girls reached there they heard a great clamour of angry voices, and presently two white men dressed in white and carrying books in their hands came hurriedly down the beach, followed by a crowd of Sralik’s warriors, who urged them along and forced them into the boat.

Then seizing the boat they shot her out into the water, and, shaking their spears and clubs, called out ­

“Go, white men, go!”

But although the native sailors who pulled the boat were trembling with fear, the two white men did not seem frightened, and one of them, standing up in the stern of the boat, held up his hand and called out to the angry and excited people ­

“Let me speak, I pray you!”

The natives understood him, for he spoke to them in the language spoken by the natives of Strong’s Island, which is only a few hundred miles from Pingelap.

The people parted to the right and left as Sralik, the chief, with a loaded musket grasped in his brawny right hand, strode down to the water’s edge.  Suppressed wrath shone in his eyes as he grounded his musket on the sand and looked at the white man.

“Speak,” he said, “and then be gone.”

The white man spoke.

“Nay, spare us thy anger, O chief.  I come, not here to fill thy heart with anger, but with peace; and, to tell thee of the great God, and of His Son Christ who hath sent me to thee.”

Sralik laughed scornfully.

“Thou liest.  Long ago, did I know that some day a white-painted ship would come to Pingelap, and that white, men would come and speak to us of this new God and His Son who is called Christ, and would say that this Christ had sent them, and:  then would the hearts of my people be stolen from Nanawit the Cave-god, and Tuarangi the god of the Skies, and I, Sralik the king, would become but as a slave, for this new God of theirs would steal the hearts of my people from me as well.”

The white man said sorrowfully ­

“Nay, that is not so.  Who hath told thee this?”

“A better white man than thee ­he who slew my enemies and was named Hare (Harry).  Long ago did he warn me of thy coming and bid me beware of thee with thy lies about thy new God and His Son Christ.”

Again the missionary said ­

“Let me speak.”

But Sralik answered him fiercely ­

“Away, I tell thee, to thy white-painted ship, and trouble me no more,” and he slapped the stock of his musket, and his white teeth gleamed savagely through his bearded face.

So the two missionaries went back, and the Morning Star filled away again and sailed slowly away to the westward.

That night as the three girls lay on the mats beside the dying embers of the fire, they talked of the strange white men whom Sralik had driven away.

Ninia the widow listened to them from her corner of the house, and then she said musingly ­

“I, too, have heard of this God Christ; for when Hare, thy father, lay in my arms with the blood pouring from his wound and death looked out from his eyes, he called upon His name.”

Young Ninia and her sister drew closer and listened.  Never until now had they heard their mother speak of their white father’s death.  They only knew that some unknown enemy had thrust a knife into his side as he lay asleep, and Ninia the widow had, with terror in her eyes, forbidden them to talk of it even amongst themselves.  Only she herself knew that Sralik had caused his death.  But to-night she talked.

“Tell us more, my mother,” said girl Ninia, going over to her, and putting her cheek against her mother’s troubled face and caressing her in the darkness.

“Aye, I can tell thee now, my children, for Sralik’s anger is dead now....  It was at the dawn, just when the first note of the blue pigeon is heard, that I heard a step in the house ­’twas the death-men of Sralik ­and then a loud cry, and Hare, thy father, awoke to die.  The knife had bitten deep and he took my hands in his and groaned.

“‘Farewell,’ he said, ‘O mother of my children, I die!’ Then he cried, ’And Thou, O Christ, look down on and forgive me; Christ the Son of God.’

“With my hand pressed to his side, I said:  ’Who is it that thou callest upon, my husband?  Is it the white man’s God?’

“‘Aye,’ he said, ’this Christ is He whom I have so long denied.  He is the Son of the God whose anger I fear to meet now that my soul goes out into darkness.’

“‘Fear not,’ I said, weeping, ’I, Ninia, will make offerings to this white God and His Son Christ, so that their anger may be softened against thy spirit when it wanders in ghost-land.’

“So he groaned and was dead.  And for six or more moons did I put offerings to the white God upon thy father’s grave as I had promised.  No offerings made I to our own gods, for he despised them even as he despised his own.  But yet do I think his jelin (spirit) is at rest in ghost-land; else had it come to me in the night and touched me on the forehead as I slept.”

III

A month had gone by since the day that Sralik had driven away the “Christ ship,” as the people called the Morning Star, and then word came over from Sralik to Ruvani, his granddaughter, to come over and take her part in a night-dance and feast to the rain-god, for the year had been a good one and the cocoanut trees were loaded with nuts.  For this was the dancing and feasting.

All that day the eight people of Takai were busied in making ready their gifts of food for the feast which was to take place in two days’ time.  In the afternoon, when the sun had lost its strength, the three girls launched their canoe and set out for a place on the northern point of Pingelap, where grew in great profusion the sweet-smelling nudu flower.  These would they get to make garlands and necklets to wear at the great dance, in which they were all to take part.

In an hour or two they had gathered all the nudu flowers they desired, and then little Tarita looking up saw that the sky was overcast and blackening, and presently some heavy drops of rain fell.

“Haste, haste,” she cried to the others, “let us away ere the strong wind which is behind the black clouds overtakes us on the lagoon.”

Night comes on quickly in the South Seas, and by the time they had seated themselves in the canoe it was dark.  In a little while a sharp rain-squall swept down from the northward, and they heard the wind rattling and crashing through the branches, of the palms on Tugulu.

Ninia, who was steering, boldly headed the canoe across the lagoon for Takai, and laughed when Ruvani and Tarita, who were wet and shivering with the cold rain, urged that they should put in at the beach on Tugulu and walk home.

“Paddle, paddle strongly,” she cried, “what mattereth a little rain and wind!  And sing, so that our mother will hear us and make ready something to eat.  Look, I can already see the blaze of her fire.”

Striking their paddles into the water in unison, they commenced to sing, but suddenly their voices died away in terror as a strange, droning hum was borne down to them from the black line of Tugulu shore; and then the droning deepened into a hoarse roaring noise as the wild storm of wind and fierce, stinging rain tore through the groves of cocoanuts and stripped them of leaves and branches.

Brave Ninia, leaning her lithe figure well over the side of the canoe, plunged her paddle deep down and tried to bring the canoe head to wind to meet the danger, and Ruvani, in the bow, with long hair flying straight out behind her, answered her effort with a cry of encouragement, and put forth all her strength to aid.

But almost ere the cry had left her lips, the full fury of the squall had struck them; the canoe was caught in its savage breath, twirled round and round, and then filled.

“Keep thou in the canoe, little one, and bale,” cried Ninia to Tarita, as she and Ruvani leaped into the water.

For some minutes the two girls clung with one hand each to the gunwale, and Tarita, holding the large wooden ahu or baler, in both hands, dashed the water out.  Then she gave a trembling cry ­the baler struck against the side of the canoe and dropped overboard.

Ninia dared not leave the canoe to seek for it in the intense darkness, and so clinging to the little craft, which soon filled again, they drifted about.  The waters of the lagoon were now white with the breaking seas, and the wind blew with fierce, cruel, steadiness, and although they knew it not, they were being swept quickly away from the land towards the passage in the reef.

The rain had ceased now, and the water being warm none of them felt cold, but the noise of the wind and sea was so great that they had to shout loudly to each other to make their voices heard.

Presently Ruvani called out to Ninia ­

“Let us take Tarita between us and swim to the shore, ere the sharks come to us.”

“Nay, we are safer here, Ruvani, And how could we tell my mother that the canoe is lost?  Let us wait a little and then the wind will die away.”

Canoes are valuable property on Pingelap, where suitable wood for building them is scarce, and this was in Ninia’s mind.

They still kept hold of their paddles, and although afraid of the sharks, waited patiently for the storm to cease, little thinking that at that moment the ebbing tide and wind together had swept them into the passage, and that they were quickly drifting away from their island home.

All that night Ninia the widow and her four slaves sought along the beach of Tugulu for the three girls, who they felt sure had landed there.  And when the day broke at last, and they saw that the gale had not ceased and that the canoe had vanished, they ran all the way over to the village, and Ninia threw herself at Sralik’s feet.

“Thy granddaughter and my children have perished, O chief.”

The chief came to the door of his house and looked out upon the wild turmoil of waters.

“It is the will of the gods,” he said, “else had not my whaleboat been crushed in the night,” and he pointed to the ruins of the boat-shed upon which a huge cocoanut tree had fallen and smashed the boat.

Then he went back into his house and covered his face, for Ruvani was dear to his savage old heart.

And Ninia went back to her lonely house and wept and mourned for her lost ones as only mothers weep and mourn, be they of white skins or brown.

Away out into the ocean the canoe was swept along, and Ruvani and Ninia still clung to her, one at the head and one at the stern.  Once there came a brief lull, and then they succeeded in partly freeing her from water, and Tarita using her two hands like a scoop meanwhile, the canoe at last became light enough for them to get in.

They were only just in time, for even then the wind freshened, and Ninia and Ruvani let the canoe run before it, for they were too exhausted to keep her head to the wind.

When daylight broke Ninia, with fear in her heart, stood up in the canoe and looked all round her.

There was no land in sight!  Poor children!  Even then they could not have been more than twenty miles away from the island, for Pingelap is very low and not visible even from a ship’s deck at more than twelve or fifteen miles.

But she was a brave girl, although only fourteen, and when Tarita and Ruvani wept she encouraged them.

“Sralik will come to seek us in the boat,” she said, although she could have wept with them.

The wind still carried them along to the westward, and Ninia knew that every hour was taking them further and further away from Pingelap, but, although it was not now blowing hard, she knew that it was useless for them to attempt to paddle against it.  So, keeping dead before the wind and sea, they drifted slowly along.

At noon the wind died away, and then, tired and worn out, she and Ruvani lay down in the bottom of the canoe and slept, while little Tarita sat up on the cane framework of the outrigger and watched the horizon for Sralik’s boat.

Hour after hour passed, and the two girls still slept.  Tarita, too, had lain her weary head down and slumbered with them.

Slowly the sun sank beneath a sea of glassy smoothness, unrippled even by the faintest air, and then Ninia awoke, and, sitting up, tossed her cloud of dark hair away from her face, and looked around her upon the darkening ocean.  Her lips were dry and parched, and she felt a terrible thirst.

“Tarita,” she called, “art sleeping, dear one?”

A sob answered her.

“Nay, for my head is burning, and I want a drink.”

The whole story of those days of unutterable agony cannot be told here.  There, under a torrid sun, without a drop of water or a morsel of food, the poor creatures drifted about till death mercifully came to two of them.

It was on the evening of the second day that Ninia, taking her little sister in her own fast weakening arms, pressed her to her bosom, and, looking into her eyes, felt her thirst-racken body quiver and then grow still in the strange peacefulness of death.  Then a long wailing cry broke upon the silence of the night.

How long she had sat thus with the child’s head upon her bosom and her dead sightless eyes turned upward to the glory of the star-lit heavens she knew not; after that one moaning cry of sorrow that escaped from her anguished heart she had sat there like a figure of stone, dull, dazed, and unconscious almost of the agonies of thirst.  And then Ruvani, with wild, dreadful eyes and bleeding, sun-baked lips, crept towards her, and, laying her face on Ninia’s hand, muttered ­

“Farewell, O friend of my heart; I die.”

And then, as she lay there with closed eyes and loosened hair falling like a shroud over the form of her dead playmate, she muttered and talked, and then laughed a strange weird laugh that chilled the blood in Ninia’s veins.  So that night passed, and then, as the fiery sun uprose again upon the wide sweep or lonely sea and the solitary drifting canoe with its load of misery, Ruvani, who still muttered and laughed to herself, suddenly rose up, and with the strength of madness, placing her arms around the stiffened form of little Tarita, she sprang over the side and sank with her.

Ninia, stretching her arms out piteously, bowed her head, and lay down to die.

She was aroused from her stupor by the cries of a vast flock of sea birds, and, opening her eyes, she saw that the canoe was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of bonita that leaped and sported and splashed about almost within arm’s length of her.  They were pursuing a shoal of small fish called atuli, and these every now and then darted under the canoe for protection.  Sometimes, as the hungry bonita pressed them hard, they would leap out of the water, hundreds together, and then the sea birds would swoop down and seize them ere they fell back into the sea.

Ninia, trembling with excitement and the hope of life, watched eagerly.  Presently she heard a curious, rippling noise, and then a rapidly-repeated tapping on the outrigger side of the canoe.

Oh! the joy of it; the water was black with a mass of atuli crowded together on the surface, and frightened and exhausted.

She thrust her hands in among them and threw handsful after handsful into the canoe, and then her dreadful thirst and hunger made her cease, and, taking fish after fish, she bit into them with her sharp teeth, and assuaged both hunger and thirst.

As she tore ravenously at the atuli the sky became overcast, and while the bonitas splashed and jumped around her, and the birds cried shrilly overhead, the blessed rain began to fall, at first in heavy drops, and then in a steady downpour.

Taking off her thick grass girdle, she rolled it up into a tight coil and placed it across the bottom of the canoe, about two feet from the bows, so as to form a dam; and then, lying face downwards, she drank and drank till satisfied.  Then she counted the atuli.  There were over forty.

All that day the rain squalls continued, and then the wind settled and blew steadily from the east, and Ninia kept the canoe right before it.

That night she slept but little.  A wild hope had sprung up in her heart that she might reach the island of Ponape, which she knew was not many days’ sail from Pingelap.  Indeed, she had once heard her father and Sralik talking about going there in the whaleboat to sell turtle-shell to the white traders there.

But she did not know that the current and trade wind were setting the canoe quickly away from Ponape towards a group of low-lying atolls called Ngatik.

The rain had ceased, and in the warm, starlight night she drifted on to the west, and as she drifted she dreamed of her father, and saw Ninia the widow, her mother, sitting in the desolate house on Takai, before the dying embers of the fire, and heard her voice crying: 

O thou white Christ God, to whom my husband called as he died, tell me are my children perished?  I pray thee because of the white blood that is in them to protect them and let me behold my beloved again.”

The girl awoke.  Her mother’s voice seemed to still murmur in her ears, and a calm feeling of rest entered her soul.  She took her paddle, and then stopped and thought.

This new God ­the Christ-God of her father ­perhaps He would help her to reach the land.  She, too, would call upon Him, even as her mother had done.

“See, O Christ-God.  I am but one left of three.  I pray Thee guide my canoe to land, so that I may yet see Ninia my mother once more.”

As the dawn approached she dozed again, and then she heard a sound that made her heart leap ­it was the low, monotonous beat of the surf.

When the sun rose she saw before her a long line of low-lying islands, clothed in cocoanuts, and shining like jewels upon the deep ocean blue.

She ate some more of the fish, and, paddling as strongly as her strength would permit, she passed between the passage, entered the smooth waters of the lagoon, and ran the canoe up on to a white beach.

“The Christ-God has heard me,” she said as she threw her wearied form under the shade of the cocoa-nut palms and fell into a heavy, dreamless slumber.

And here next morning the people of Ngatik found her.  They took the poor wanderer back with them to their houses that were clustered under the palm-groves a mile or two away, and there for two years she dwelt with them, hoping and waiting to return to Pingelap.

One day a ship came ­a whaler cruising back to Strong’s Island and the Marshall Group.  The captain was told her story by the people of Ngatik, and offered to touch at Pingelap and land her.

Ninia the widow was still living on Takai, and her once beautiful face had grown old and haggard-looking.  Since the night of the storm four ships had called at Pingelap, but she had never once gone over to the village, for grief was eating her heart away; and so, when one evening she heard that a ship was in sight, she took no heed.

Her house was very sad and lonely now, and as night came on she lay down in her end of the house and slept, while the other four people sat round the fire and talked and smoked.

In the middle of the night the four slaves got up and went away to the village, for they wanted to be there when the boat from the ship came ashore.

At daylight the ship was close in, and the people in the village saw a boat lowered.  Then a cry of astonishment burst from them when they saw the boat pull straight in over the reef and land at Takai, about a hundred yards from the house of Ninia, the white man’s widow.

Only one person got out, and then the boat pushed off again and pulled back to the ship.

Ninia the widow had risen, and was rolling up the mat she had slept upon, when a figure darkened the doorway.  She turned wonderingly to see who it was that had come over so early from the village, when the stranger, who was a tall, graceful young girl, sprang forward, and, folding her arms around her, said, sobbing with joy ­

“My mother...  The Christ-God hath brought me back to thee again.”