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PAGE 2

O’s Head
by [?]

I did the little I could, and let it be pretty well understood about the beach that the man who played fast and loose with her would have to reckon with old Captain Branscombe. And then I got the missionary ladies to take her up, and as I never stinted a bit of money for her dresses and what not (as though Clyde’s daughter wasn’t worthy of the best in the land), she made good headway in what little gayeties took place in the town. Of course, I went about to keep an eye on her–that is, when they asked me to their parties, which wasn’t always; and I remember once making very short work of one fellow, a labor captain from the Westward, who seemed bent on mischief till I took him out in the starlight and showed him the business end of my gun. To tell the truth, I never had a peaceful moment till he up anchor and cleared, for he was a good deal the kind of man I was at thirty, and he hung on in spite of me, keeping half the family in his pay while I kept the other, and he even landed the last night with muffled oars, when, instead of finding Rosalie on the beach to fly with him, he ran into me, laying for him under an umbrella!

There were many who said I was in love with the girl myself, which, as like as not, was true; for she was one of those tall, queenly women, with a wonderful grace to anything she did, and magnificent dark eyes, and a way of smiling,–brilliant, arch, and tender–that made even an old stager of sixty remember he still wore a heart under his jumper. Yes, I had a pretty soft spot for Rosalie, though I had sense enough to know that God had never meant her for an old sea horse like myself. And lacking me–whom the weight of three-score years had put out of the ring (not but what I’m a pretty game old devil yet)–I could see nobody in sight I preferred half so much as Silver Tongue.

So there was the situation till the war of Ninety-three came along to jumble us all up and knock everything to spillikins. Oppenstedt in love with Rosalie; Rosalie in love with Oppenstedt; Bahn and old Taylor working on the second story of the Southern Cross Bakery; Miss Potter doing double tides at the trousseau, and I, the friend of both, with a six-hundred-dollar piano on the way from Bremen for their wedding present. A fair wind, port in sight, and (say you) everything drawing nicely alow and aloft. So it was till that wretched fight at Vaitele, when the Vaimaunga came pouring in at dusk, bearing wounded, chorusing their songs, and tossing in the air above them the heads of their dead enemies. It made me feel bad to see it all, for to me these people were children, and it seemed horrible they should kill one another; and it made me sicker still to watch the wounded carried into the Mission and stretched out in rows on the blood-stained boards. Though not a drinking man, I braced up at Peter’s bar and then went on to pass the time of day with Oppenstedt.

I found him, as usual, on the mats of the native house, glumly smoking a pipe and talking politics with Papalangi Mativa. His lean, dark, handsome face was overcast, his eyes uneasy, and had I not known him for a brave man I should have thought that he was frightened. He was certainly very curt and short in greeting me, and I had a dim perception that my visit was unwelcome.

“This is a black business, Silver Tongue,” I said; though, to be exact, I called him Leoalio, which means the same thing in native.

“Plack!” he exclaimed. “It’s horrible! It’s disgusting! They have been cutting off beople’s heads!”