The Bottle Message
The Adventures of a Boy on a South Sea Island
By Janet Tooke
Chapter Seven: The Kona
Synopsis: Tee Totum lives on Waiki-pali, his uncle Tom’s island, where he chums with Namay, a boy persecuted by the other boys because they believe him to be the son of a witch. Tee discovers that he has a brother somewhere in the world, and decides to ask Namay’s help in finding him. In the meantime, through a careless remark let fall by Tee, the boys have set on Namay with evil intent, because they believe he intends to turn them into worms. Momo, Namay’s mother, has come to Tee for help. Tee, his uncle, and Peter Malua return with Momo to the cave where Namay lives. Rescues Namay and sleeps outside cave. The following morning Tee tells Namay about his lost brother. Namay promises to do all he can to help in the search.
With the consent of Momo and Uncle Tom obtained, the boys were now free to make arrangements for their expedition to the other islands. And what a pair of excited boys they were!
They stocked enough food in the canoe to last them for a week. Then one night Tee wished his uncle and Peter Malua goodbye, reminding them to look well after Momo, and walked through the forest to the cave. There he slept that night, with the intention of starting early in the morning, the cave being much closer to the sea than the ranch was.
The boys were up with the first stroke of dawn, ate a hurried breakfast, took their usual dip in the ocean, and set out on an enterprise that Tee was to remember with wonder all his life.
The day was fine, the sea was calm and beautiful with a multiplicity of colors. In places it was so placid and clear that they could see far below the surface, where fish of weird shapes and vivid coloring darted and glanced amongst the seaweed and coral.
The boys talked on many matters, gay and otherwise, Namay recounting to his friend many strange legends of the islands.
“One island somewhere out there called Island of Youth,” he said.
“Which is that?” asked Tee.
“I dunno. No can see. Long way, I think.”
“Why do they call it the Island of Youth?” asked Tee.
“Because nobody live there but boys and girls. No big peoples.”
Tee’s eyes opened wide. “Is that really so?”
Namay shook his head doubtfully. “I dunno. P’raps true, p’raps not. I think p’raps just story – like witch story. Never see that island, me. Just hear about it from Momo.”
“What did Momo tell you about it?”
“She say it most beautiful island of all. All children. Very happy.”
“But don’t the children grow up?”
“Then there must be some grown-ups on the island!”
“No. No grown-ups. You see, this is what Momo say. Another island they can see from the Island of Youth. It called Island of Dreams. Sometimes children look at that island, all blue and misty, sometimes pink with set of sun. Sometimes boy or girl look at island, say: Very lovely island! I wonder what is there? he wonder again. He wonder some more. And then he wonder again some more. He dream and dream of things on that island. And he say: Some day I go see! That means he become curious, see? He start grow up. Bimeby he take his canoe when sun and all other childrens gone to bed, and set sail for Island of Dreams. On way boy get much tired, much sleepy. He fall fast asleep. When he wake, he find sun is wake also, and he landed on Island of Dreams.”
“What was the island like that he landed on?”
“Very marvelous island. Much old and much big. So marvelous he quick forget Island of Youth where he come from. Island of Youth never see boy any more! Gone! Grown up!”
“I’d sure like to see that island myself.”
“No. Do not say that! That is how trouble start always on Island of Youth. It the only trouble there. everything else play, laugh, fun. Much happiness! Then somebody say, ‘I like see that island,’ and trouble start! He grow up – go away. Other childrens very sorry! If everybody content on Island of Youth, and never become curious, they never grow up. They happy always!”
“But Namay, I want to grow up! I don’t want to be a boy always!”
“If you on island of Youth, you want to be boy always. No boy or girl on that island ever want to grow up! What they want sometimes is see Island of Dreams. Then they become curious and start grow up whether they want or not. They not know that till they land on Island of Dreams!”
“Then I suppose everybody on the Island of Dreams is grown-up! Is that so?”
Namay nodded. “Everybody grown-up! No children!”
“I don’t think I want to go there after all! ‘Twould be pretty dull, wouldn’t it?”
Namay was thoughtful awhile. Then he said: “If all grown-ups nice like Momo, everything all right, huh?”
“Oh, sure!” agreed Tee happily. “Also if they were like Uncle Tom and Peter, they’d be all right, wouldn’t they?”
Namay nodded agreement again.
It seemed as if these boys, who first made each other’s acquaintance by fighting, now agreed in everything they said or did.
Tee had recovered nicely from the smarting sunburn that he got when he first came to the island, and was rapidly becoming tanned. At present his skin was a lovely honey color; and his dearest wish was that it would some day become the color of Namay’s. All he wore was a pair of shorts. That, he felt, was one of the many delights of the island – he didn’t have to bother about shoes and clothes. All he had to do in the morning was to jump into the ocean or into the pool, pop his shorts on afterwards, brush his hair and teeth, and his toilet was complete.
They were nearing the island now – the Island of Mahina, it was called – and Tee gazed curiously at the range upon range of velvety green tree-tops, reaching up and up until they seemed to pierce the sky.
When they pulled their canoe onto the narrow strip of sand, it was about an hour before sunset, as far as they could judge. They had no watch, but Namay could almost always guess the time accurately by the position of the sun.
There was no sign of life along the beach; and they decided to conceal their canoe and explore the island a little before dark. The beach was steep and narrow, great banyan trees and ironwoods encroaching on it, and forming a wide shelter that almost reached the sea. The boys, seeing no trace of a trail of any kind, decided to penetrate the forest. Everything was terribly still – not a sight or a sound of life. Nothing moved but the topmost branches of the trees, and they kept up a constant and gentle swaying.
The silence seemed to weigh down upon Tee. He felt as if he must shout to make someone hear, to make something move. It certainly couldn’t be called a dead island with all this profusion of growth; on the contrary, it gave one the feeling of having just been created; of perhaps having just risen from the sea, fresh and new, and waiting for someone to come and inhabit it that lived and moved beside themselves.
Whether the goats heard his words, or whether they suddenly scented the boys, is not certain. Anyhow, the hindermost goats flicked up their heels, and in another moment the whole herd had disappeared.
The boys laughed, and resumed their journey, the sight of a coconut palm reminding them that it must be getting on for lunch time. Namay presently shinnied up a palm and brought down two ripe nuts; and while they were eating these and drinking the milk of them, they heard a sudden chattering in the distant tree tops. This chattering coming nearer and nearer they recognized at last as the sound of mynah birds. The birds reached the trees under which the boys sat, then dropped to the ground before them, strutting and chattering in a very quaint manner.
Tee, much amused at their sociability, threw scraps of nut for them. There was a great deal of scurrying and scolding over the tid-bits; and at last two big fellows started to have a real quarrel.
The rest of the flock sensing a fight in the offing, ranged themselves in a circle around the combatants, and the fight started. Round and round the angry birds wheeled, screeching and darting at each other with their long, yellow beaks, pulling feathers out, and in some instances using their claws. Once an onlooker, apparently dissatisfied with the way the fight was going, entered the ring to help, but he was immediately driven back by the others, protesting and angry. He again took his place in the outer circle, but kept up a constant grumble. The combatants fought and fought, and the onlookers became more and more excited; then another fellow tried to interfere, only to be put into his place by the rest. Apparently none was allowed to interfere in the private affairs of the other.
The angry fighters now seemed to be tearing each other to pieces, and Tee felt that the fun had gone far enough; so he ran in amongst them, almost expecting the indignant birds to tell him to get out where he belonged. But they didn’t. The fight was perforce called off – perhaps only to be postponed – and the whole flock disappeared.
“I think those birds live where peoples are,” remarked Namay.
Tee agreed that it might be so; and they decided to follow in the direction taken by the birds.
On and on they went, the heat now oppressive and suffocating. A dead silence once more fell on the forest, even the tree-tops seeming to stand still – breathless.
Namay gazed apprehensively at the bits of sky showing between the trees. “I thinks p’raps Kona come pretty soon!”
“Kona? What’s that?”
“Kona much bad storm.”
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth than a swirl of wind sent the trees swishing and writhing around their heads. A cloud of dead leaves and vegetable debris rose and hurled itself at the boys, forcing them to the ground, where they huddled beneath the shelter of a huge banyan.
The forest no longer seemed dead. It had awakened to a fury of movement. It writhed, it moaned, it bent! It shivered, it screamed! It became a living tortured monster; and the boys crouched in the midst of it like two tiny, frightened maggots.
The rain dashed down in sheets. The terrific howling noise, the force of the wind whistling through the tree trunks, deprived them of the power of speech – almost of breath. All they could do was crouch close to the ground, and pray that it would soon pass.
Tee’s most fervent hope was that a tree would not crash down on top of them, and so put an end to their search forever!