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      Our ship, the Brutus, lay moored in the coral-girt bay at Ualan, commonly known as Strong's Island, one of the Caroline group. The starboard watch, of which I was a member, were ashore, on liberty, and, as if the matter had been arranged for our special benefit, a woman of some rank, the wife of one of the chiefs, had died that morning. An opportunity was thus afforded us "outside barbarians" to see and take part in the funeral ceremonies.

      The body, after being swathed in voluminous wrappers of matting, was committed to the earth, as its most appropriate resting-place. Indeed, but for the noisy demonstrations of grief which accompanied the process, it might have been termed a Christian burial. Meanwhile a strong detail of natives were employed at the great council-house in preparing the feast, of which every person of rank was expected to partake.

      The "funeral-baked meats" consisted of several roasted dogs, the flesh of this animal being preferred to that of the pig by the natives of Ualan. The breed of dogs, which seems peculiar to this Island, is a study for naturalists. They possess many feline characteristics, carrying their ears erect, and emitting a vocal music unlike anything I ever heard elsewhere,in which the bark and the men are most curiously blended.


      Pyramids of the "unadulterated "loaves" from the bread-tree of which Byron sang so sweetly, flanked by piles of golden bananas, were demolished by the hungry mourners, and the flowing bowl went merrily round, in the form of calabashes filled with the cold infusion of kava-root, a sort of compromise between tobacco and sarsaparilla, which muddies the brain while it purifies the blood.

      After the collation came the ball, as a matter of course. The dances were conducted by the king in person, and commenced immediately after dark, by the light of an immense bonfire. The movements of the dancers, though somewhat grotesque, and generally performed in admirable concert, were far inferior in striking interest to those of the Marquesan hula-hula, or the war-dances of the North American Indians.

      The royal despot of Ualan, King George, as he is called by the whites, rules his subjects with a sceptre of iron, holding their lives and property at his absolute disposal. He did not join in the dance himself, but, as master of ceremonies, nothing escaped his eagle eye. Squatting upon his hams, with a staff of the principal chiefs about him, he regulated the movements of the whole corps of dancers, using only his arm as a baton.

      One young man of slender figure, and seemingly of sluggish Intellect, had on two or three occasions failed to come exactly to time, and the warning gestures of the king had only had the effet of confusing him more, though it was evident he was doing his best to give satisfaction. But suddenly the royal countenance became distorted with savage passion at some trifling shortcoming of the unfortunate youth; the king rose to an erect position, poising a heavy fragment of rock in his hand, and before we had time to express to each other our horror at the sight„ it was hurled full at the breast of the delinquent. The blow seemed sufficient to have crushed in his chest. The poor fellow fell helpless to the earth, and was dragged to the rear of the line by his companions, who, not daring to take any fureter interest in his case, resumed their places in the dance as before.

      The king, seemingly indifferent as to whether the man lived or died, was already waving his arm for the entertainment to proceed, when a bread-fruit, the size of a small child's head, met him square in the nose, knocking him back against his rear supporters, the chief nobles of the realm. The missile, split into several fragments, fell to the ground; and a voice of thunder, in a must musical brogue, rose above the yells of indignation from the astonished islanders:

      "And sure the bread was baked too soft to be any good! I only wish 't had been a raw one, and knocked his ugly head clane from his shoulders!"

      And Jack Doyle, a young Philadelphian of Irish parentage, the life and soul of our watch, stood boldly forth with clinched fists to beard the human lion in his den. His was the sacrilegious hand which had thrown the bread-fruit, and thus offered a mortal indignity to royalty.

      At a signal from the king, a dozen strong arms were extended to seize him, but Doyle, nimbly falling back, and throwing himself into a pugilistic attitude, stood at bay, daring them to do their worst.

      "Come on, ye haythens!" he roared. "I'm saying, shipmates, if ye'll jist see fair play, I'll lick any six of 'em, one up and t'other down!"

      Struck with admiration at the courage of the impulsive youth, we rallied at his call; but the mate, seeing that a terrible scene of bloodshed must ensue – for some of the natives had already seized their arms – interfered.

      "Come away, boys!" he called out to us. "Fall back toward the boat, and keep cool. You, too, Doyle, if you can; but don't attack them, or it'll cost all our lives."

      We did as directed, and fell back leisurely toward the beach, the infuriated natives still pressing on, but apparently unwilling to attack, their sole object seeming to be to capture alive the man who had assaulted their sovereign. We had nearly reached the boat, when they made a sudden rush, as if they feared their prey might escape. But no arms were used, and it seemed to be by the king's orders that they forbore to use them. Two or three of us were overthrown in the melee, and more than a dozen of the assailants were knocked down, several of them by Doyle's own fists. But keeping steadily to their purpose, they seized him and dragged him off, permitting the rest of us to go on board without further difficulty.

      The captain, who had been watching us from the ship, was much excited when he learned what had happened. There was little doubt that the rash youth would lose his life for his temerity, and that their object had been to reserve him for torture, or a formal execution, rather than to put him to death on the spot.

      All means having, failed to induce the king to come on board, the captain went in with the boats the next morning, and opened a parley, without venturing to land. But neither persuasion nor threats could secure the release of Jack Doyle, and all offers of ransom were indignantly rejected. The wound inflicted upon the royal honor was not to be healed with a plaster of plug tobacco, or smothered in bandages of Lowell cottons.

      To have opened a fire from our single carriage-gun, a four-pounder, mIght have had a good effect; but, situated as we were, the captain was reluctant to resort to violent measures. The harbor is not easy of egress, and, in case of any accident to the ship in getting out, we should all be at their mercy. Besides, even if we escaped, they would be quite sure to retaliate upon some other unfortunate white men who might fall into their power.

      While the parley was going forward, a party appeared, bringing the prisoner among them, bound. He was led down to the bank, in full view of us all, and we were given to understand that the punishment was to be inflicted there, in our presence. But it was not death, as we had feared. He was to have both ears cut off! and, to our astonishment, we recognized in the executioner who was to mutilate him the same young man who had been the victim of the king's barbarity, and whose brutal treatment had stirred Doyle's indignation. He was still doubled up with pain from the injury he had received, but seemed ready to do what was required of him. He, doubtless, considered his own life of trifling value as compared with the outrage offered to his people in the person of majesty.

      The young Irishman, though his hands were tied, was not gagged, and his tongue ran riot without a moment's cessation. He understood what his punishment was to be, and protested he would willingly lose his ears if he could have one fair stand-up crack at the old savage, King George.

      "Let me see the withes on your hands, Doyle," said the captain. "Hold your hands above your head!"

      The wrists were secured together by a lashing of small line made of the fibrous husk of the cocoanut, and he had already stretched and loosened it by working his arms.

      The captain lifted his rifle from under the stern of the boat, and took deliberate aim, while the astonished natives dodged out of range.

      Hold your hands high, Doyle, and keep them still, so I can take sight between them! Steady, now!"

      A crack of the rifle startled the frightened natives, and they perceived the captain's object in firing, but too late. The cord on Doyle's wrists was partially divided by the shot, and the rest was the work of an instant for the quick-witted young seaman. His hands were free, his two immediate guards were dashed right and left, the king received a "facer" that laid him sprawling on the coral slope, and Jack was in the water, striking out for the boats, in less time than is necessary to relate it.

      A rush in pursuit was checked by the unexpected sight of a dozen muskets leveled to cover the movement. It was unnecessary to fire. The effect of the shot which they had witnessed was enough to hold them all in wholesome fear.

      Baffled as he was, the king was fain to accept a few presents of cloth, and to forget his purpose of revenge, rather than to provoke further use of the dreaded guns. We had reason to be well satisfied that our shipmate's ears had been saved, without bloodshed, and Doyle himself had received a lesson that taught him to use more prudence, and to be less hasty in redressing the wrongs of those who would hug their own chains, and kiss the royal hand that smote them down.

. . . .


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: The King vs. Doyle: Assault and Battery.
Publication: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.
Vol/No/Date:Vol 29, No. 743 (Dec 25, 1896)