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A short story by Louis Becke

The Fisher Folk Of Nukufetau

Title:     The Fisher Folk Of Nukufetau
Author: Louis Becke [More Titles by Becke]

Early one morning, about a week after I had settled down on Nukufetau as a trader, I opened my chest of fishing-gear and began to overhaul it. In a few minutes I was surrounded by an eager and interested group of natives, who examined everything with the greatest curiosity.

Now for the preceding twelve months I had been living on the little island of Nanomaga, a day's sail from Nukufetau; and between Nanomaga and Nukufetau there was a great bitterness of long standing--the Nanomagans claimed to be the most daring canoe-men and expert fishermen in all the eight isles of the Ellice Group, and the people of Nukufetau resented the claim strongly. The feeling had been accentuated by my good friend the Samoan teacher on Nanomaga, himself an ardent fisherman, writing to his brother minister on Nukufetau and informing him that although I was not a high-class Christian I was all right in all other respects, and a good fisherman--"all that he did not know we have taught him, therefore," he added slyly, "let your young men watch him so that they may learn how to fish in deep and rough water, such as ours." These remarks were of course duly made public, and caused much indignation, neither the minister nor his flock liking the gibe about the deep, rough water; also the insinuation that anything about fishing was to be learnt from the new white man was annoying and uncalled for.

I must here mention that the natives of De Peyster's Island (Nukufetau) caught all the fish they wanted in the smooth and spacious waters of the lagoon, and were not fond of venturing outside the barrier reef, except during the bonito season, or when the sea was very calm at night, to catch flying-fish. Then, too, the currents outside the reef were swift and dangerous, and the canoes had either to be carried a long distance over the coral or paddled a couple of miles across the lagoon to the ship passage before the open sea was gained. Hudson's Island (Nanomaga)--a tiny spot less than four miles in circumference--had no lagoon, and all fishing was done in the deep water of the ocean. The natives were used to launching their canoes, year in and year out, to face the wildest surf, and were, in consequence, wonderfully expert, and in the history of the island there is only one instance of a man having been drowned. The De Peyster people, by reason of the advantage of their placid lagoon, had no reason to risk their lives in the surf in this manner, and so, naturally enough, they were not nearly as skilful in the management of their frail canoes when they had to face a sweeping sea on the outer or ocean reef.

Just as I was placing some coils of heavy, deep-sea lines upon the matted floor, Mareko the native teacher, fat, jovial, and bubbling-voiced, entered in a great hurry, and hardly giving himself time to shake hands with me, announced in a tone of triumph, that a body of _atuli_ (baby bonito) had just entered the passage and were making their way up the lagoon.

In less than ten seconds every man, woman, and child on the island, except the teacher and myself, were agog with excitement and bawling and shouting as they rushed to the beach to launch and man the canoes, the advent of the _atuli_ having been expected for some days. In nearly all the equatorial islands of the Pacific these beautiful little fish make their appearance every year almost to a day, with unvarying regularity. They remain in the smooth waters of lagoons for about two weeks, swimming about in incredible numbers, and apparently so terrified of their many enemies in their own element, and the savage, keen-eyed frigate birds which constantly assail them from above, that they sometimes crowd into small pools on the inner reef, and when the tide is low, seek to hide themselves by lying in thick masses under the overhanging ledges of coral rock. Simultaneously--or at least within a day or two at most--the swarming millions of _atuli_ are followed into the lagoons by the _gatala_--a large black and grey rock-cod (much esteemed by the natives for the delicacy of its flavour) and great numbers of enormous eels. At other times of the year both the _gatala_ and the eels are never or but rarely seen inside the lagoons, but are occasionally caught outside the reef at a good depth--forty to sixty fathoms. As soon, however, as the young bonito appear, both eels and rock-cod change their normal habits, and entering the lagoons through the passages thereto, they take up their quarters in the deeper parts--places which are fringed by a labyrinthine border of coral forest, and are at most ten fathoms deep. Here, when the _atuli_ are covering the surface above, the eels and rock-cod actually rise to the surface and play havoc among them, especially during moonlight nights, and in the daytime both rock-cod and eels may be seen pursuing their hapless prey in the very shallowest water, amidst the little pools and runnels of the coral reef. It is at this time that the natives of Nukufetau and some other islands have some glorious sport, for in addition to the huge eels and rock-cod many other deep-sea fish flock into the shallower lagoon waters--all in pursuit of the _atuli_--and all eager to take the hook.

* * * * *

As soon as the natives had left the house, Mareko turned to me with a beaming smile. "Let them go on first and net some _atuli_ for us for bait," he said, "you and I shall follow in my own canoe and fish for _gatala_. It will be a great thing for one of us to catch the first _gatala_ of the season. Yesterday, when I was over there," pointing to two tiny islets within the lagoon, "I saw some _gatala_. The natives laugh at me and say I am mistaken--that because the _atuli_ had not come there could be no _gatala_. Now, _I_ think that the big fish came in some days ago, but the strong wind and current kept the _atuli_ outside till now. Come."

I needed no pressing. In five minutes I had my basket of lines (of white American cotton) ready, and joined Mareko. His canoe (the best on the island, of course) was already in the water and manned by his two sons, boys of eight and twelve respectively. I sat for'ard, the two youngsters amidships, the father took the post of honour as _tautai_ or steersman, and with a chuckle of satisfaction from the boys, off we went in the wake of about thirty other canoes.

Oh, the delight of urging a light canoe over the glassy water of an island lagoon, and watching the changing colours and strange, grotesque shapes of the coral trees and plants of the garden beneath as they vanish swiftly astern, and the quick _chip, chip_ of the flashing paddles sends the whirling, noisy eddies to right and left, and frights the lazy, many-hued rock-fish into the darker depths beneath! On, on, till the half mile or more of shallow water which covers the inner reef is passed, and then suddenly you shoot over the top of the submarine wall, into deepest, loveliest blue, full thirty fathoms deep, and as calm and quiet as an infant sleeping on its mother's bosom, though perhaps not a quarter of a mile away on either hand the long rollers of the Pacific are bellowing and thundering on the grim black shelves of the weather coast.

So it was on this morning, but with added delights and beauties; as instead of striking straight across the lagoon to our rendezvous we had to skirt the beaches of a chain of thickly wooded islets, which gave forth a sweet smell, mingled with the odours of _nono_ blossoms; for during the night rain had fallen after a long month of dry weather, and Nature was breathing with joy. High overhead there floated some snow-white tropic birds--those gentle, ethereal creatures which, to the toil-spent seaman who watches their mysterious poise in illimitable space, seem to denote the greater Mystery and Rest that lieth beyond all things; and lower down, and sweeping swiftly to and fro with steady, outspread wing and long, forked tail, the fierce-eyed, savage frigate birds scanned the surface of the water in search of prey, and then finding it not, rose without apparent motion to the cloudless canopy of blue and became as but tiny black specks--and then, _swish_! and the tiny black specks which but a minute ago were high in heaven are flashing by your cheeks with a weird, whistling sound like winged spectres. You look for them. They are gone. Already they are a thousand feet overhead. Five of them. And all five are as motionless as if they, with their wide, outspread wings, had never moved from their present position for a thousand years.

"Chip, chip," and "chunk, chunk," go our paddles as we now head eastward towards the rising sun in whose resplendent rays the tufted palms of the two islets stand clearly out, silhouetted against the sea rim beyond. Now and again we hear, as from a long, long distance, the echoes of the voices of the people in the canoes ahead; a soft white mist began to gather over and then ascend from the water, and as we drew near the islets the occasional thunder of the serf on Motuluga Reef we heard awhile ago changed into a monotonous droning hum.

"_Aue_!" said Mareko the _tautai_, with a laugh, as he ceased paddling and laid his paddle athwartships, "'tis like to be a hot day and calm. So much the better for our fishing, for the water will be very clear. Boy, give me a coconut to drink."

"Take some whisky with it, Mareko," I said, taking a flask out of my basket.

"_Isa_! Shame upon you! How can you say such a thing to me, a minister!" And then he added, with a reproachful look, "and my children here, too." He would have winked, but he dared not do so, for one of his boys had turned his face aft and was facing him. I, however, made him a hurried gesture which he quite understood. Good old Mareko! He was an honest, generous-hearted, broad-minded fellow, but terribly afraid of his tyrannical deacons, who objected to him smoking even in the seclusion of his own curatage, and otherwise bullied and worried him into behaving exactly as they thought he should.

By the time we reached the islets the _atuli_ catching had begun, and more than a hundred natives were encircling a considerable area of water with finely-meshed nets and driving the fish shoreward upon a small sandy beach, where they were scooped up in gleaming masses of shining blue and silver by a number of women and children, who tumbled over and pushed each other aside amidst much laughter and merriment.

On the larger of the two islets were a few thatched huts with open sides. One of these was reserved for the missionary and the white man, and hauling our canoe up on the beach at the invitation of the people, we sat down under a shed whilst the women grilled us some of the freshly-caught fish. This took barely over ten minutes, as fires had already been lighted by the children. The absence of bread was made up for by the flesh of half-grown coconuts and cooked _puraka_--gigantic species of taro which thrives well in the sandy soil of the Equatorial islands of the Pacific. Just as we had finished eating and were preparing our lines we heard loud cries from the natives who were still engaged among the _atuli_, and three or four of them seizing spears began chasing what were evidently some large fish. Presently one of them darted his weapon, and then gave a loud cry of triumph, as he leapt into the water and dragged out a large salmon-like fish called "utu", which was at once brought ashore for my inspection. The man who had struck it--an active, wiry old fellow named Viliamu (William) was panting with excitement. Some large _gatala_, he said, had just made their appearance with the _utu_ and were pursuing the small fish; therefore would we please hurry forward with our preparations. Then the leader of the entire party stood up and bellowed out in bull-like tones his instructions. The canoes were all to start together, and when the ground was reached all lines were to be lowered simultaneously; there was to be no crowding. The white man and missionary, however, if they wished, could start first and make a choice of position.

"No, no," I said, "let us all start fair."

This was greeted with a chorus of approval, and then leaving the women and children to attend to the camp, we hurried back to the canoes. Just as we were leaving the hut I had a look at the _utu_--a fish I had never before seen. It was about three feet in length, and only for its head (which was coarse and clumsy) much like a heavy salmon. The back was covered with light green scales, the sides and belly a pure silver, and the fins and tail tipped with yellow. It weighed about 20 lbs., and presented a very handsome appearance.

The fishing-ground to which we were now paddling was not half a mile from the islets, and lay between them and the outer reef which formed its northern boundary. It consisted of a series of deep channels or connected pools running or situated amidst a network of minor reefs, the surfaces of which were, for the most part, bare at low water. Generally the depth was from eight to ten fathoms; in places, however, it was much deeper, and I subsequently found that there were spots whereon I could stand (on the coral ledge) and drop my line into chasms of thirty-two or thirty-three fathoms. Here the water was almost as blue to the eye as the ocean, and here the very largest fish resorted--such as the _pura_, a species of rock-cod, and a blue-scaled groper, the native name of which I cannot now recall.

It must have been nearly ten o'clock when the canoes were all in position, and the word was given to let go lines. The particular spot in which we were congregated was about three acres in extent and about seven fathoms in depth, with water as clear as crystal; and even the dullest eye could discern the smallest pebble or piece of broken coral lying upon the bottom, which was generally composed of patches of coarse sand surrounded by an interlacing fringe of growing coral, or white, blue, or yellow boulders. A glance over the side showed us that the _gatala_ had arrived; we could see numbers of them swimming lazily to and fro beneath, awaiting the flowing tide which would soon cover the lagoon from one shore to the other with swarms of young bonito, as they swam about in search of such places as that in which we were now about to begin fishing.

Each man had baited his hook with the third of an _atuli_--at this stage of their life about four inches long and exactly the colour and shape of a young mackerel--and within five minutes after "_Tu'u tau kafa_!" ("Let go lines!") had been called out several of the canoes around our own began to pull up fish--four to six pounders. I was fishing with a white cotton line, with two hooks, and Mareko with the usual native gear--a hand-made line of hibiscus bark with a barbless hook made from a long wire nail, with its point ground fine and well-curved inwards. We both struck fish at the same moment, and I knew by the zigzag pull that I had two. Up they came together--three spotted beauties about eighteen inches in length and weighing over 5 lbs. each. Then I found the advantage of the native style of hook; Mareko simply put his left thumb and forefinger into the fish's eye, had his hook free in a moment, had baited, lowered again and was pulling up another before I had succeeded in freeing even my first hook which was firmly fixed in the fish's gullet, out of sight. I soon put myself on a more even footing by cutting off the small one and a half inch hooks I had been using and bending on two thick and long-shanked four inchers. These answered beautifully, as although the barbs caused me some trouble, their stout shanks afforded a good grip and leverage when extracting them from the hard and keen-toothed jaws of the struggling fish. Then, too, I had another advantage over my companions; I was wearing a pair of seaboots which effectually protected my feet from either the terrible fins or the teeth of the fish in the bottom of the canoe.

I had caught my eighth fish, when an outcry came from a canoe near us, as a young man who was seated on the for'ard thwart rose to his feet and began hauling in his line, which was standing straight up and down, taut as an iron bar, the canoe meanwhile spinning round and round although the steersman used all his efforts to keep her steady.

"What is it, Tuluia?" called out fifty voices at once. "A shark?"

"My mother's bones!" said old Viliamu with a laugh of contempt. "'Tis an eel, and Tuluia, who was asleep, has let it twist its tail around a piece of coral. May he lose it for his stupidity."

We all ceased fishing to watch, and half a dozen men began jeering at the lad, who was too excited to heed them. Old Viliamu, who was in the next canoe, looked down, and then cried out that he could see the eel, which had taken several turns of its body around a thick branch of growing coral.

"His head is up," he called out to the youth, "but you cannot move him, he has too many turns in and out among the coral." Then paddling up alongside he again looked at the struggling creature, then felt the line which was vibrating with the tension. Stepping out of his own craft into that of the young man, the line was placed in his hands without an inch of it being payed out, for once one of these giant eels can get his head down he will so quickly twine the line in and out among the rugged coral that it is soon chafed through, if of ordinary thickness. But the ancient knew his work well, as we were soon to see. Taking a turn of the line well up on his forearm and grasping it with his right a yard lower down, he waited for a second or two, then suddenly bent his body till his face nearly touched the water, then he sprang erect and with lightning-like rapidity began to haul in hand _under_ hand [12] amid loud cries of approval as the wriggling body of the eel was seen ascending clear of the coral. The moment it reached the surface, a second native, with unerring aim sent a spear through it and then a blow or two upon the head with a club carried for the purpose took all further fight out of the creature, which was then lifted out of the water and dropped into the canoe. Here the end of its tail was quickly split open and we saw no more of him for the time being.

The Tokelau and Ellice Islanders are much amused
at the white man's method of hauling in a heavy fish
hand _over_ hand. This to them is "_faka fafine_"
--i.e., like a woman.

To capture an eel so soon was looked upon as a lucky omen, to have lost it would have been a presage of ill-fortune for the rest of the day, and the incident put every one in high good humour. By this time the tide was flowing over the flatter parts of the reef and young bonito could be seen jumping out of the water in all directions. Immense bodies were, so I was assured by the natives, now coming into the lagoon from the sea, and would continue to do so till the tide turned, when those in the passage, unable to face a six-knot current, would be carried out again, to make another attempt later on.

By this time every canoe was hauling in large rock-cod almost as quick as the lines could be baited, and the bottom of our own craft presented a gruesome sight--a lather of blood and froth and kicking fish, some of which were over 20 lbs. weight. Telling the two boys to cease fishing awhile and stun some of the liveliest, I unthinkingly began to bale out some of the ensanguined water, when a score of indignant voices bade me cease. Did I want to bring all the sharks in the world around us? I was asked; and old Viliamu, who was a sarcastic old gentleman, made a mock apology for me--

"How should he know any better? The sharks of Tokelau have no teeth, like the people there, for they too are eaters of _fala_."

This evoked a sally of laughter, in which of course I joined. I must explain that the natives of the Tokelau Group, among whom I had lived, through constantly chewing the tough drupes of the fruit of the _fala_ (pandanus palm) wear out their teeth prematurely, and are sometimes termed "toothless" by other natives of the South Pacific. However, I was to have my own little joke at Viliamu's expense later on.

Just at this time a sudden squall, accompanied by torrents of rain, came down upon us from the eastward, and whilst Mareko and his boys kept us head to wind--none of the canoes were anchored--I took the opportunity of getting ready two of my own lines, each treble-hooked, for the boys. Their own were old and rotten, and had parted so often that they were now too short to be of use, and, besides that, the few remaining hooks of soft wire were too small. As soon as the squall was over I showed Mareko what I had done. He nodded and smiled, but said I should try and break off the barbs--his boys did not understand them as well as native-made hooks. This was quickly accomplished with a heavy knife, and the youngsters began to haul up fish two and three at a time at such a rate that the canoe soon became deep in the water outside and very full inside.

"A few more, Mareko," I said, "and then we'll go ashore, unload, and come back again. I want to tease that old man."

We caught all we could possibly carry in another quarter of an hour, and I was confident that our take exceeded that of any other canoe. This was because the natives would carefully watch their stone sinkers descend, and use every care to keep them from being entangled in the coral, whilst my line, which had a 12 oz. leaden sinker, would plump quickly to the bottom in the midst of the hungry fish; consequently, although I lost some hooks by fouling and now and then dragged up a bunch of coral, I was catching more fish than any one else. And I was not going to let my reputation suffer for the sake of a few hooks. So we coiled up our lines on the outrigger platform, and taking up our paddles headed shoreward, taking care to pass near Viliamu's canoe. He hailed me and asked me for a pipe of tobacco.

"I shall give it to you when we return," I said.

"When you return! Why, where are you going?" he asked.

"On shore, you silly old woman! I have been showing these boys how to fish for _gatala_, and we go because the canoe is sinking. When we return these two _tamariki_ (infants) shall show _you_ how to fish now that they have learnt from me."

There was a loud laugh at this, and as the old man took the jest very good-naturedly I brought up alongside, showed him our take, and gave him a stick of tobacco. The astonishment of himself and his crew of three at the quantity of fish we had afforded me much satisfaction, though I could not help feeling that our luck was not due to my own skill alone.

Returning to the islets we were just in time to escape two fierce squalls, which lasted half an hour and raised such a sea that the remaining canoes began to follow us, as they were unable to keep on the ground. During our absence the women and children had been most industrious; the weather-worn, dilapidated huts had been made habitable with freshly-plaited _kapaus_--coarse mats of green coconut leaves, the floors covered with clean white pebbles, sleeping mats in readiness, and heaps of young drinking nuts piled up in every corner, whilst outside smoke was arising from a score of ground ovens in which taro and puraka were being cooked, together with bundles of _atuli_ wrapped in leaves.

Etiquette forbade Mareko and myself counting our fish until the rest of the party returned, although the women had taken them out of the canoe and laid them on the beach, where the pouring rain soon washed them clean and showed them in all their shining beauty. Among them were two or three parrot-fish--rich carmine, striped with bands of bright yellow, boneless fins, and long protruding teeth in the upper jaw showing out from the thick, fleshy lips; and one _afulu_--a species of deep-water sand mullet with purple scales and yellow fins.

Whilst awaiting the rest of the canoes I drew the teacher into our hut and pressed him to take some whisky. He was wet, cold, and shivering, but resolutely declined to take any. "I should like to drink a little," he said frankly, "but I must not. I cannot drink it in secret, and yet I must not set a bad example. Do not ask me, please. But if you like to give some to the old men do so, but only a very little." I did do so. As soon as the rest of the party landed I called up four of the oldest men and gave each of them a stiff nip. They were all nude to the waist, and like all Polynesians who have been exposed to a cold rain squall, were shivering and miserable. After each man had taken his nip and emitted a deep sigh of satisfaction I observed that hundreds of old white men saved their lives by taking a glass of spirits when they were wet through--they had to do so by the doctor's orders.

"That is true," said one old fellow; "when men grow old, and the rain falls upon them it does not run off their skins as it would from the smooth skins of young men. It gets into the wrinkles and stays there. But when the belly is warmed with grog a man does not feel the cold."

"True," I said gravely, as I poured some whisky out for myself; "true, quite true, my dear friends. And in these islands it is very bad for an old man to be exposed to much rain. That is why I am disturbed in my mind. See, there is Mareko, your minister. He, like you, is old; he is wet and cold. And he shivers. And he will not take a mouthful of this _rom_ because he fears scandal. Now if he should become ill and die I should be a disgraced man. This _rom_ is now not _rom_; it is medicine. And Mareko should take some even as you have taken it--to keep away danger."

The four old fellows arose to the occasion. They talked earnestly together for a minute, and then formed themselves into a committee, requested me to head them as a deputation with the whisky, and then waited upon their pastor, who was putting on a dry shirt in another hut. I am glad to say that under our united protests he at last consented to save his life, and felt much better.

Presently the women announced that the ovens were ready to be opened. As soon as the fish were counted, and the rain having ceased, we all gathered round the canoes and watched each one emptied of its load. As I imagined, our party had taken the most fish, and not only the most, but the heaviest as well. Mareko added to my blushing honours by informing the company that as a fisherman and a knowledgable man generally I justified his brother minister's opinion and would prove an acquisition to the community. We then inspected the first eel caught, and a truly huge creature it was, quite nine feet in length, and in girth at its thickest part, as near as I could guess with a piece of line, thirty inches. The line with which it was caught was made of new four-stranded coir-cinnet, as thick as a stout lead pencil, and the hook a piece of 3/6 or 1/2 inch iron with a 6-inch shank, once used as a fish spear, without a barb! The natives seemed much pleased at the interest displayed, and told me that sometimes these eels grew to _elua gafa_ (_i.e._, two fathoms), but were seldom caught, and asked me if I had tackle strong enough for such. Later on I showed them a 27-stranded American cotton line 100 fathoms long, with a 4-inch hook, curved in the shank, as thick as a pencil, and "eyed" for a twisted wire snooding. They had never seen such beautiful tackle before, and were loud in their expressions of admiration, but thought the line too thin for a very heavy fish. I told them that at Nanomaga I had caught _palu_ (a nocturnal feeding fish of great size) in over sixty fathoms with that same line.

"That is true," said one of them politely, "we were told that you and Tiaki (one Jack O'Brien, an old trader) of Funafuti have caught many _palu_ with your long lines; but the _palu_ is a weak fish even when he is a fathom long. And as he comes up he grows weaker and weaker, and sometimes he bursts open when he comes to the surface. Now if a big eel--an eel two fathoms long--"

"If he was three fathoms long he could not break this line," I replied positively.

They laughed and told me that when I hooked even a small eel, one half a fathom in length, I would change my opinion.

Soon after our midday meal was over, and we were preparing to return to our fishing-ground with an ample supply of fresh bait, the sky to windward became black and threatening, and through the breaks in the long line of palms on the weather side of the island, which permitted the horizon to be viewed, we could see that a squall of unusual violence was coming. All the canoes were at once hauled up on the lee-side of the islets, the huts were secured by ropes as quickly as possible, and every one hurried under shelter. In a few minutes the wind was blowing with astonishing fury, and the air was full of leaves, sticks, and other _debris_, whilst the coco-palms and other trees on the islets seemed likely to be torn up by the roots. This lasted about ten minutes. Then came a sudden lull, followed by a terrific and deafening downpour of rain; then more wind, another downpour, and the sun was out again!

As soon as the squall was over, I walked round to the weather side of the islet with some children. We found the beach covered with some thousands of _atuli_ and beautiful little garfish which had been driven on shore by the force of the wind. We were soon joined by women carrying baskets, which they filled with fish and carried back to the camp. On returning, we again launched the canoes and started off again--to meet with some disappointment, for although the _gatala_ still bit freely and several eels were also taken, some scores of the small, pestilent, lagoon sharks were swimming about and played havoc with our lines. These torments are from two to four feet in length, and their mouths, which are quite out of proportion to their insignificant size, are set with rows of teeth of razor-like keenness. The moment a baited hook was seen one of these little wretches would dart at it like lightning, and generally bit the line through just above the hook. So quick were they, that one could seldom even feel a tug unless the hook got fast in their jaws. Taking off my sinker, and bending on a big hook with a wire snood, I abandoned myself to their destruction, and as fast as I hauled one alongside it was stunned, cut into three or four pieces, and thrown overboard to be devoured by its fellows. Many of the Ellice and Tokelau islanders regard these young sharks as a delicacy, as their flesh is very tender, and has not the usual unpleasant smell. In one of these young sea lawyers we found no less than five hooks, with pieces of line attached; these were duly restored to their owners.

Another two hours passed, during which we had fairly good sport, then the rain began to fall so heavily that we gave up for the day. We spent the first part of the evening in the huts, eating, smoking, and talking, and overhauling our tackle for the next day. It had been intended that about midnight we should all go crayfishing in the shallow waters along the shore of the islets, but this idea had to be abandoned in consequence of the rain having soaked the coco palms--the dead branches of which are rolled and plaited into a cylindrical form and used as torches. The method of catching crayfish is very simple: a number of men, each carrying a _kaulama_ torch about 6 feet in length in the left hand, and a small scoop net in the right, walk waist-high through the water; the crayfish, dazed by the brilliant light, are whipped up into the nets and dropped into baskets carried by the women and children who follow. They can only be caught on dark, moonless nights.

* * * * *

When we returned to the village our spoils included besides a great number of fish, a few turtle and some young frigate birds. The latter were captured for the purpose of being tamed. I made many subsequent visits to the two islets, sometimes alone and sometimes with my native friends, and on each occasion I left these lovely little spots with a keen feeling of regret, for they are ideal resting-places to him who possesses a love of nature and the soul of a fisherman.

[The end]
Louis Becke's short story: The Fisher Folk Of Nukufetau