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Professor No No
by [?]

It was years ago that he came to Uvea (said little Nofo, as we sat side by side on a derelict spar and watched the sun go down into the lagoon)–years and years and years ago, when I was an unthinking child and knew naught of men nor their crooked hearts. He was a chief, of wild and strange appearance, with a black beard half covering his piglike face; a thin, bent, elderly chief, with hairy hands, and a head on which there was nothing at all, and teeth so loose in his mouth that at night he laid them in a cup beside him. He was landed from a ship that forthwith sailed and was never seen again–he and three tents, and a boat and innumerable boxes, all numbered from one to a thousand, and a nigger named Billy Hindoo to care for him and cook.

The Government gave him a piece of land next the lagoon, where he pitched his tents and lived; and they put a taboo round the land so that none might cross, and also a notice on a board, saying, “Be careful of the white man.” Here he unpacked his things, and arranged a place for Billy Hindoo, and another place, open at the sides, where at a table he was daily served with sardines and bottled beer. He was named Professor, and his occupation, unlike that of all other white men, was to look at dead fish through bits of glass. He was a man of no kindness nor accomplishments, meanly solitary, and, in spite of two pairs of spectacles worn the one on the other, he was almost blind besides. Were you to come near him, he would scream out, “No, no!” Were you even to touch his bits of glass, or finger his sticky shadow pictures in the pool, he would run at you, crying, “No, no!” Were you to approach him as he bathed in the lagoon, marveling at his unsightliness, he would beat the water like one delirious, and scream again, “No, no!” So, in time, his name became changed from Professor into No No, or, as many called him in one word, Professor No No; and we all grew to hate him, as did also Billy Hindoo, who was generous and loving, and gave away unstintedly sardines and biscuit to those he favored.

But Professor No No, unexpectedly returning in his boat with a new dead fish no bigger than that (a fish, too, of so little worth that one couldn’t eat it without feeling ill for the succeeding week), discovered Billy Hindoo dividing a tin of biscuit among the girls with whom he had made friends. The rage of Professor No No was without limit, and he ran at Billy Hindoo and choked him with his hairy hands, and beat him over the body with a stick, and drove him away with execrations. Then he sat down at the table and drank bottled beer, and held up the fish to his blind eyes, and at intervals shouted out, “No, no; No, no,” as we all crowded about the taboo line, watching and wondering.

The next day Billy Hindoo came back, but Professor No No repelled him with a stick, having counted the beer and the sardines and the biscuit, and found many missing. Then Billy Hindoo sought a place in the house of Tamua, and being a man of subtle mind, though without paper on which to write, carved the date of his rejection on a tree, together with the names of witnesses who had seen him struck. He would fain have brought suit against his master before the ancients, but they were afraid of men-of-war, and thought it ill to interfere. But the anger of Billy Hindoo surpassed that of a woman whose man has cast her off; and, baffled in one direction, he redoubled his efforts in another, telling tales about Professor No No that made the strongest shudder to hear them; how, indeed, he was Antichrist, and that his coming to Uvea had been foretold in Revelations. Whether this was true or false, it was evident that Professor No No believed not in God; for it was seen he went never to church, and remembered (when strangers asked him if he were a missionary) that he would grow beside himself and roar, “No, no!” snorting like a suffocating person.