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The Ebbing Of The Tide South Sea Stories - 1896

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A boy and a girl sat by the rocky margin of a deep mountain pool in Ponape in the North Pacific. The girl was weaving a basket from the leaves of a cocoa-nut. As she wove she sang the "Song of Luliban," and the boy listened intently.

"'Tis a fine song that thou singest, Niya," said the boy, who came from Metalanien and was a stranger; "and who was Luliban, and Red-Hair the White Man?"

"O Guk!" said Niya, wonderingly, "hast never heard in Metalanien of Luliban, she who dived with one husband and came up with another—in this very pool?"

"What new lie is this thou tellest to the boy because he is a stranger?" said a White Man, who lay resting in the thick grass waiting for the basket to be finished, for the three were going further up the mountain stream to catch crayfish.

"Lie?" said the child; "nay, 'tis no lie. Is not this the Pool of Luliban, and do not we sing the 'Song of Luliban,' and was not Red-Hair the White Man—he that lived in Jakoits and built the big sailing boat for Nanakin, the father of Nanakin, my father, the chief of Jakoits?"

"True, Niya, true," said the White Man, "I did but jest; but tell thou the tale to Sru, so that he may carry it home with him to Metalanien."

Then Niya, daughter of Nanakin, told Sru, the boy from Metalanien, the tale of Luliban of the Pool, and her husband the White Man called "Red-Hair," and her lover, the tattooed beachcomber, called "Harry from Yap."

"It was in the days before the fighting-ship went into Kiti Harbour and burnt the seven whaleships as they lay at anchor{*} that Red-Hair the White Man lived at Jakoits. He was a very strong man, and because that he was cunning and clever at fishing and killing the wild boar and carpentry, his house was full of riches, for Nanakin's heart was towards him always."

* The Shenandoah, in 1866.

"Was it he who killed the three white men at Roan Kiti?" asked the White Man.

"Aye," answered Niya, "he it was. They came in a little ship, and because of bitter words over the price of some tortoise-shell he and the men of Nanakin slew them. And Red-Hair burnt the ship and sank her. And for this was Nanakin's heart bigger than ever to Red-Hair, for out of the ship, before he burnt her, he took many riches—knives, guns and powder, and beads and pieces of silk; and half of all he gave to Nanakin."

"Huh!" said Sru, the boy. "He was a fine man!"

"Now, Harry from Yap and Red-Hair hated one another because of Luliban, whom Nanakin had given to Red-Hair for wife. This man, Harry, lived at Ngatik, the island off the coast, where the turtles breed, and whenever he came to Jakoits he would go to Red-Hair's house and drink grog with, him so that they would both lie on the mats drunk together. Sometimes the name of Luliban would come between them, and then they would fight and try to kill each other, but Nanakin's men would always watch and part them in time. And all this was because that Luliban had loved Harry from Yap before she became wife to Red-Hair. The men favoured the husband of Luliban because of Nanakin's friendship to him, and the women liked best Harry from Yap because of his gay songs and his dances, which he had learnt from the people of Yap and Ruk and Hogelu, in the far west; but most of all for his handsome figure and his tattooed skin....