Chapters 11 and 12 are both being posted today, a couple of hours apart. If you haven’t read Chapter 11 yet, look for it just below this post.
The Bottle Message
The Adventures of a Boy on a South Sea Island
By Janet Tooke
Chapter Twelve: Waiki-pali Again
Synopsis: Tee Totum and his chum, Namay, find that their mysterious friend is “King of the Island” and that it was he who, many years before, had saved the life of a little white baby and had given the child to a medicine woman named Momo, who had no children of her own. Could it be possible that Tee and Namay were brothers? Baby clothes, a paper yellow with age, and a small scar on Namay’s shoulder gave identification. What would Uncle Tom and Momo say?
The boys slept that night in the comfort of Kalillo’s cave. But first the great man killed a goat, and prepared a luau for them. And what a feast that was! With Jack found, their search ended, with the safety of Kalillo’s cave and company after the horror of the night before, they felt utterly contented.
And in the morning they would be sailing back to home, friends, and happiness.
It seemed impossible to keep their high spirits down, and despite the grave, though kindly countenance of their companion, they laughed and joked continuously.
“Say!” exclaimed Namay, “it awful funny, don’t you think? I go out over sea to far island to find myself. I find myself. Now bring myself home. Funny! Huh?”
“I hope you appreciate yourself, now that you’ve found you.”
They roared with laughter, throwing themselves backward in their delight, their bandaged heels kicking the air.
“We sure have gone to a lot of trouble to find each other!” Tee sighed happily.
After a delicious dinner of goat flesh, yams, taro, and wild berries, Kalillo, who had already drawn their attention to the whiteness of Namay’s skin where he was accustomed to wearing shorts, taught them how to weave girdles for themselves out of ti leaves. As they had not a stitch of clothing on, except the bandages on their legs and feet, this was very necessary, and they worked hard until they each had a gay garment of leaves for use on the morrow.
“Tell me, Kalillo,” said Tee, to the tall quiet man, “how is it you’re all alone on this island? And why did you refuse to show yourself to us before?
Kalillo sat deliberately and thoughtfully for a moment, then: “Me once had many people on this island. Me king. Much rich island. But people of Waiki-pali all time come fight. Try take island for self. Much fight always. Kill much my peoples. After that, plague come. Much sickness. Take all except me. Me left alone.”
The boys glanced at one another in wonder. “Then – that wonderful palace in the forest – the palace of the flowers and the mynahs – that is yours, Kalillo?”
And Kalillo nodded. “That palace of King Kalillo,” he said with quiet dignity. “My old home. But my people all gone now. Much lonesome.”
Tee pictured again the echoing courtyard, the high silent halls through which birds darted like phantoms, the clinging, heavy-scented vines, the gold and crimson chameleons. Yes, lonesome. Beautiful, but lonesome.
“Couldn’t you still live there? It’s – so lovely!”
“Lovely, but too much sad. Me like better here.”
Tee remained silent, saddened by this terse account of the falling of a proud tribe; trying to imagine the loneliness of the man during all these years.
“But why wouldn’t you show yourself to us?” he pressed.
“Me think maybe you spies from other island. Come to take. Me watch much. See what you do.”
“Shucks! You needn’t ever be afraid of Waiki-pali any more, Kalillo. Waiki-pali is peaceable now, and my uncle will see that no harm ever comes to you from there.” Tee hesitated, wondering how he could convince the man that he was safe from all interference.
“You must come and see my uncle, Kalillo. You’ll like him. He’s keen. And – he’ll be mighty obliged for what you’ve done for us.”
Kalillo rose to his feet, and bowed. “Mahalo, Tee Totum. Much thank you!”
“Shouldn’t wonder if Mahina will be populated again some day,” Tee ventured.
“P’raps. Who knows?” replied the man wistfully.
Sleepiness suddenly overcame the three friends, reminding them that they had slept but little the night before; so Kalillo spread gorgeously colored rugs for them on the soft floor, and soon they were lost in a dreamless, satisfying slumber, unhampered by fears of a possible night marauder.
When Tee awakened, it was to the heartening aroma of fried fish. He lay for an instant gazing up at the high roof marked with grooves and crevices like the tearing left by the claws of some monster. It reminded him of the previous night, of all the events leading up to it. Of the mysterious man. Of Namay – Jack! Namay – Jack! … Was it possible they were one and the same person?
He rolled over and stared at the dark features of the still sleeping Namay. His brother! Jack was found! A sweet thought, but hard to realize. Turning it over and over in his mind, savoring it as one savors a particularly luscious morsel, a tender feeling took possession of the boy, and slowly, silently he crept to Namay’s side, and very lightly touched his lips to the brown forehead.
Then he crawled back to his own side of the cave, and started to whistle noisily.
Breakfast was a jolly affair. They ate much, and talked more. Kalillo told them of the island’s history; and the boys recounted the affairs of Waiki-pali. How the plague had visited their island as well as his, killing more than half the population. Of the coming of Thomas Tathom to grow coconuts and fruit; and the consequent prosperity of the people. Of the boys’ visit to Lani-lani, and their findings there.
“But tell me, Kalillo,” questioned Tee, “what was that terrible creature you saved us from two nights ago?”
Kalillo shook his head. “Me not know. See often on moonlight nights. Never heard name for. Me think p’raps some kind devil fish. Never come all way out water. Just like you see last night – always.”
“My, I’d like to capture the brute, and get rid of him. He’s a – what-d’you-call? – a menace!”
Namay nodded his head wisely. “That’s right, brother. Him menace!”
Tee laughed delightedly. Namay was already making great efforts to improve his English, and to act as much as possible as Tee acted.
“Some day p’rays you come back to Mahina,” suggested Kalillo, “and you an’ Namay an’ me try catch that big devil. Huh?” And the boys eagerly consented.
As soon as the remains of their breakfast was cleared away, they prepared for the journey to Waiki-pali. Kalillo’s canoe was a royal affair, hewn out of the tough hibiscus wood, with outriggers made of some extremely light kind of wood. It seemed to cut through the water like a shot arrow.
As they approached Waiki-pali, they found that Thomas Tathom, Peter Malua, and a crowd of natives had been on the look-out for them. For as the canoe neared the beach beneath Momo’s home, they saw the men scramble down the side of the mountain, cheering and waving, old Momo bringing up the rear.
Tom threw his arms around Tee, shook him, punched his chest, and in other peculiar ways showed his joy at the boy’s return. Momo, in her own way, did much the same thing to Namay, darting, nevertheless, suspicious and furtive glances at Kalillo. There was a great deal of noise, laughter, and rejoicing. Kalillo was introduced to everybody as the boys’ very good friend and protector, and as such was warmly welcomed.
Then Tee drew Tom aside and whispered: “Say, Tom, let’s you an’ me, and Peter and Kalillo and Namay and Momo get away by ourselves for a while. Can we?”
“Sure thing! Let’s see now – suppose we have a luau down here on the beach. I’ll send the boys skidaddling for eats and drinks, and that’ll give us a chance to get together, eh?”
“Most important thing in the world!” Tee grinned mysteriously, and Tom despatched the native boys on various errands, leaving the members of the proposed conference alone in the shade of an overhanging cliff.
“Now, my boy,” Tom was all curiosity. “What’s the idea of all this secrecy and pow-wow?”
“Kalillo has something to show you,” explained Tee, enjoying the impression he was making on Peter and Tom.
Momo, ever since she had caught sight of the big man from Mahina, had clung close to her son, peering apprehensively at Kalillo, and saying little. Now she sat close to Namay’s side, holding his hand in hers.
Kalillo placed the small wooden chest on the sand in the center of the circle of friends, opened it, and held before them the tiny baby-garments of Jack Tathom, displaying them one by one before the astonished gaze of the two men. Momo was the only person who did not seem surprised, and she swayed her body back and forth in obvious anxiety and agitation of mind.
“What is this?’ barked Tom at last, showing more perturbation than Tee had ever known in the little man, “what are you doing?”
He looked from one to the other impatiently, growing excitement and anxiety furrowing his brow. Then Kalillo handed him the yellowed slip of paper; and he read slowly and laboredly, as if finding the meaning hard to digest. His fair face grew very red, then pale, and he jumped to his feet.
“You mean,” he exclaimed, “you mean that these clothes – belonged to John Tathom – my nephew?”
Kalillo nodded solemnly.
“But where is he? What became of him? What d’you know about him? Tell me!” The words were rapped out in a panic of agitation.
“Do not fear,” the old king murmured calmly, “Baby John quite safe.”
“Then for God’s sake, tell me where he is!”
Kalillo hesitated a moment, then raised his hand and pointed calmly toward the boy Namay, who sat with crossed legs beside the swaying, moaning figure of Momo.
“There baby John.”
Tom gazed at Namay, wonder and incredulity widening his eyes. From Namay his puzzled gaze returned to Tee, to Momo, to Kalillo, and back again to Namay, to Tee.
“Tell me, Tee,” he pleaded, “what is the man talking about? What does it all mean?”
“It’s just like Kalillo says, Tom.” Tee could not refrain from a grin of enjoyment. “Namay is my brother Jack. Kameka left him in Kalillo’s care before he died of coral poisoning. Kalillo couldn’t read the writing on the paper, but he promised to deliver the baby to Waiki-pali, and he did. Just left him, and went back to Mahina right away, because he was alone and afraid of the natives of Waiki-pali. He left the baby with Momo. Momo knows! Look at her. She can tell you all about it.”
Tom turned to the mournful figure of the old woman, and questioned her in her own language. She answered in a sing-song voice, and with many tears.
Yes, it was as the great man of Mahina said. She had received the white baby as a gift from God and a blessing from heaven. He had been a comfort to her in her loneliness, providing her with food and protection, and were they going to take him from her now that her days were numbered, and she old and helpless?
Namay murmured reassuring words in her ear, and she became calmer.
The child had been white, yes. But she had taken great pains to make him brown quickly, so that he would not attract undue attention. The secret was helped naturally by the fact that the people of Waiki-pali feared and avoided her.
Then followed a detailed account from the King of Mahina of the baby’s arrival, the death of Kameka, and of the delivery of the baby to Waiki-pali. Of the incision he had made in the child’s shoulder to save it from death by centipede poisoning; and of the way it had been discovered on Namay’s shoulder by Tee.
Tom drew Namay to his side and looked long into his eyes. He examined his finger-nails, his lips, the palms of his hands, and more especially that part of his body that had been protected from the sun’s rays by shorts and breech-cloth. Then his arm went around the boy, and he drew him close. His other arm reached for Tee, and he gazed from one to the other with scarcely repressed emotion.
“Tee! Namay! My boys! What can I say? Oh, Tee, you have found him. Jack’s boys, both of you! And now you’re mine. My very own!”
He mopped his brow with a big red bandana, blew his nose noisily, and otherwise made a great to-do, and Tee, perceiving that his uncle was almost overcome with emotion, exclaimed:
“Say something funny, Unk!”
And Tom, welcoming the suggestion, opened his eyes wide, straddled his knees, and pointed a finger at Tee:
“Tee – To – tum!”he yelled, “Haw-haw-haw! Ho-ho-ho!” He slapped his thighs resoundingly, and they all went off into paroxysms of laughter. The air was cleared of a sentimentality that threatened to become too much for them, and everybody went to hunt up the luau.
On the way Tom assured Momo that he was not going to rob her of her son, but that she had gained another son in Tee, and he, Tom, another nephew in Namay. So the old lady rejoiced again, and patted her new son’s hand.
Then Tom suddenly stopped in his tracks. “Say, Namay! Jack! Whatever-your-name-is! D’you mean to tell me that you’ve been out searching for yourself all this time?”
Namay nodded, sheepishly.
“Well, tell me,” asked Tom, in a confidential whisper, “are you sure you found yourself?” A question which brought on another peal of laughter, and it was so that they joined the party on the beach, where the smell of food reminded them that they were desperately hungry.
A new solemn Thomas Tathom introduced his new nephew to the assembled company, which by this time had been re-inforced by most of the people from the ranch. The native boys stared wide-eyed at Namay, seeming to be stricken with wonder, a furtive curiosity, and remorse.
The witch-boy? Mister Tom’s nephew? Tee Totum’s long-lost brother? The boy whom they had treated as something inhuman? Whom they had attempted to murder?
After a long stare of incredulous amazement, their eyes filled with something like shame and turned toward the sand at their feet, to the hills in the distance, anywhere away from the quiet ones of the witch-boy.
And when the story of the search expedition, with its happy consummation, was told, when Tom had expressed his gratitude to Momo for caring for the homeless baby, and to Kalillo for his share in the rescue, they rose tot heir feet as one man, and set up a cheer; another, and another, and welcomed the new nephew to their midst, with all the warmth of their natures.
And that day and the next were given up to dancing and feasting and music in honor of Jack Tathom, of Tee Totum, and Kalillo, the great King of Mahina, who remained an honored guest in their midst.
Of how King Kalillo regained the lost glory of his island; of how Tee Totum and Jack Tathom shared his Palace on Mahina with Kalillo and his family; of how King Kalillo, his baby John, and Tee Totum set out to destroy the unnamed species of devil-fish, the menace of the island of Mahina, would take much too long to tell here.
But some day, perhaps. Who can tell?