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A short story by Louis Becke

Ema, The Half-Blood

Title:     Ema, The Half-Blood
Author: Louis Becke [More Titles by Becke]


For nearly ten miles on each side of old Jack Swain's trading station on Drummond's Island,{*} the beach trended away in a sweeping curve, unbroken in its monotony except where some dark specks on the bright yellow sand denoted the canoes of a little native village, carried down to the beach in readiness for the evening's flying-fish catching.

* One of the lately annexed Gilbert Group in the South Pacific.

Perhaps of all the thousands of islands that stud the bosom of the North Pacific, from the Paumotus to the Pelews, the Kingsmill and Gilbert Islands are the most uninviting and monotonous in appearance.

The long, endless lines of palms, stretching from one end of an island to the other, present no change or variation in their appearance till, as is often the case, the narrow belt of land on which they so luxuriously thrive becomes, perhaps, but fifty yards in width, and the thick matted undergrowth of creepers that prevail in the wider parts of the island gives place to a barren expanse of wind-swept sand, which yet, however, supports some scattered thousand-rooted palms against the sweeping gusts from the westward in the rainy season, and the steady strain of the southeast trades for the rest of the year.

In such spots as these, where the wild surf on the windward side of the island sometimes leaps over the short, black reef, shelving out abruptly from the shore, and sweeps through the scanty groves of palm and pandanus trees, and, in a frothy, roaring flood, pours across the narrow landbelt into the smooth waters of the lagoon, a permanent channel is made, dry at low water, but running with a swift current when the tide is at flood.


Within an hour's walk from the old trader's house there were many such places, for although Drummond's Island--or Taputeauea, as its wild people call it--is full forty miles in length, it is for the most part so narrow that one can, in a few minutes, walk across from the ceaseless roar and tumult of the surf on the ocean reef to the smooth, sandy inner beach of the lagoon.

Unlike other islands of the group, Drummond's is not circular in its formation, but is merely a long, narrow palm-clad strip of sand, protected from the sea on its leeward side, not by land, but by a continuous sweep of reef, contracted to the shore at the northern end, and widening out to a distance of ten or more miles at its southern extremity. Within this reef the water is placid as a mill-pond.

The day had been very hot, and as the fierce yellow sun blazed westward into the tumbling blue of the sailless ocean, a girl came out from the thick undergrowth fringing the weather-bank of the island, and, walking quietly over the loose slabs of coral covering the shore, made her way towards a narrow channel through which the flowing tide was swiftly sweeping.

Just where the incoming swell of the foaming little breakers from the outer reef plashed up against the sides of the rocky channel, stood a huge coral boulder, and here the girl stopped, and clambering up its rough and jagged face sat down and began to roll a cigarette.

The name of the girl was Ema. She was the half-caste daughter of the old trader. She had come to bathe, but meant to wait awhile and see if some of the native girls from the nearest village, who might be passing along to her father's store, to buy goods or sell native produce, would join her. So, lighting her cigarette with a piece of burning coconut husk that she brought with, her, she spread the towel she carried upon the rock and waited, looking sometimes at the opposite side of the channel to where the path from the village led, and sometimes out to sea.

Somewhat short in stature, the old trader's daughter looked younger than she was, for she was about twenty--and twenty is an age in those tropic climes which puts a girl a long way out of girlhood.

No one would ever say that little Ema Swain was beautiful. She certainly was not. Her freckled face and large mouth "put her out of court," as Captain Peters would sometimes say to his mate. (Captain Peters frequently came to Drummond's, and he and Etna's father would get drunk on such occasions with uniform regularity.) But wait till you spoke to her, and then let her eyes meet yours, and you would forget all about the big mouth and the freckles; and when she smiled it was with such an innocent sweetness that made a man somehow turn away with a feeling in his heart that no coarse passion had ever ruffled her gentle bosom.

And her eyes. Ah! so different from those of most Polynesian half-blooded girls. Theirs, indeed, in most cases, are beautiful eyes; but there is ever in them a bold and daring challenge to a man they like that gives the pall of monotony to the brightness of a glance.

Nearly every white man who had ever seen Ema and heard the magical tones of her voice, or her sweet innocent laugh, was fascinated when she turned upon him those soft orbs that, beneath the long dark lashes, looked like diamonds floating in fluid crystal.

I said "nearly every white man," for sometimes men came to Jack Swain's house whose talk and manner, and unmistakable looks at her, made the girl's slight figure quiver and tremble with fear, and she would hide herself away in another room lest her father and brother might guess the terror that filled her tender bosom. For white-headed Jack was a passionate old fellow, and would have quickly invited any one who tried to harm the girl "to come outside"; Jim, her black-haired, morose and silent brother, would have driven a knife between the offender's ribs.

But the girl's merry, loving disposition would never let her tell her brother nor her father how she dreaded these visits of some of the rough traders from the other islands of the group to the house. Besides that, neither of them noticed Ema; for Jim always got as drunk as his father on such occasions of island harmony and foregathering of kindred spirits.


So for the past ten years the girl had grown up amongst these savage surroundings--a fierce, turbulent, native race, delighting in deeds of bloodshed, and only tolerating the presence of her father among them because of his fair dealing and indomitable courage. In those far back, olden days, when the low sandy islands of the Equatorial Pacific were almost unknown (save to the few wandering white men who had cast their lives among their wild and ferocious inhabitants, and the crews of the American whaling fleet), no one but such a man as he would have dared to dwell alone among the intractable and warlike people of Drummond's Island.

But old Swain had lived for nearly forty years among the islands of the South Seas, roaming from one end of the Pacific to the other, and his bold nature was not one to be daunted. There was money to be made in those times in the oil trade; yet sometimes, when he lay upon his couch smoking his pipe, some vague idea would flit through his mind of going back to the world again and ending his days in civilisation.

But with the coming morning such thoughts would vanish. How could he, a man of sixty, he thought, give up the life he had led for forty years, and take to the ways of white men in some great city? And then there were Jim and Ema. Why, they would be worse off than he, poor things. Neither of them could read or write; no more could he--but then he knew something of the ways of white people, and they didn't. What would they do if he took them to the States, and he died there? No! it wouldn't do. They would all stay together. Jim would look after Em if he died. Yes, Jim would. He was a good boy, and very fond of Em. A good boy! Yes, of course he was, although he was a bit excitable when he came across any grog. He hadn't always been like that, though. Perhaps he learnt it aboard that man-o'-war.

And then the old trader, as he lay back on his rough couch, watching the curling smoke wreaths from his pipe ascend to the thatched roof, recalled to memory one day six years before, when the American cruiser _Saginaw_ had anchored off the village of Utiroa, where Swain then lived, and a group of the officers from the war-ship had stood talking to him on the beach.

Beside him were his son and daughter; the boy staring curiously, but not rudely, at the uniformed officers, the girl, timid and shrinking, holding her father's hand.

"How old is your son?" the commander of the cruiser had asked him kindly; "and why don't you let him see something of the world? Such a fine young lad as he ought not to waste his life down here among these God-forsaken lagoons." And before the trader could frame a reply the boy had stepped out and answered for himself.

"I wan' to go away, sir. I has been two or three voyages in a whaler, sir, but I would like to go in a man-o'-war."

The grey-bearded captain laughed good-naturedly, but the kindly light in his eyes deepened as the girl, with an alarmed look, took her brother by the hand and sought to draw him back.

"Well, we'll talk about it presently, my lad. I don't think this little sister of yours would thank me for taking you away."

And, half an hour afterwards, as the rest of the officers strolled about the native village, the captain and old Jack did talk the matter over, and the end of it was that the stalwart young half-caste was entered on the ship's books, and at sunset Ema and her father saw the cruiser spread her canvas, and then sail away to the westward.

In five years or so Jim would be free to return home again, unless he preferred to remain in the service altogether.


Three years passed, and then, one day, a Hawaiian trading schooner swept round the north end of the island, her white sails bellying out to the lusty trades. A boat was lowered and pulled ashore, and the first man that jumped out of her on to the beach was Jim Swain.

Half-way between his father's house and the beach the old man met him.

"Well, I be darned! Why, Jim, what hez brought you back?"

"Got tired of it, dad," he answered, in his quiet way, but without meeting his father's eye. And then he added, "The fac' is, dad, I bolted from the _Saginaw_ at Valparaiso. Now, don' ask me no more 'bout it."

"Right you are, my boy," said the trader, placidly; "but you'll have to get out o' the way if another cruiser comes along. But that isn't likely to happen for many a year. Come along and see Em. She'll jes' go dancin' mad when she sees you."


For the next twelve months the father and daughter lived at Utiroa, and Jim voyaged to and fro among the islands of the group, returning every few months, and again sailing away on a fresh cruise; but never once had the old man asked him any further questions as to his reasons for deserting from the _Saginaw_. But Em, gentle-hearted Em, knew.

One bright morning there came in sight a lofty-sparred ship, with snow-white canvas, sailing at a distance of two miles from the shore along the reef, from the south end of the island, and Ema Swain rousing her brother from his mid-day slumber, with terror in her eyes, pointed seaward.

Taking his father's glass from the bracket on the wall in the sitting-room, the half-caste walked out of the house to a spot where he could obtain a clear view of the ship. For a minute or so he gazed steadily, then lowered the glass.

"A man-o'-war, Em, right enough; but I don' think she's an American. I'll wait a bit until she gets closer."

"No, no, Jim! What you run such risk for? You go, Jim." And then, in her trembling fear, their mother's tongue came to her aid, and the agitated girl dragged him back into the house, imploring him in the native language to yield to her wishes.

In another two hours they were sailing down the lagoon in the old trader's whaleboat towards a place of safety, for Utiroa was, they knew, the only spot where a man-of-war would anchor.

But long before they reached the village for which they were bound they saw the great ship slowly change her course and bear away to the westward, and leave the low, sandy island astern.

A long, steady look at her told the sailor eye of Jim Swain that he had nothing to fear, even had she kept on and anchored at Utiroa.

"All right, Em," he said, with a low laugh, "we had no need to be scared; she's a Britisher. That's the _Tagus_. I see her 'bout a year ago at Samoa." And then he hauled the boat to the wind and beat back to his father's place.

And so time went by, and the haunting fear of discovery that for the first year or so after his return to the island had so often made the young half-caste start up in his sleep with a wild alarm in his heart when the cry of "Te Kaibuke!"{*} resounded from village to village, slowly died away.

* "A ship!"



Nearly an hour had passed since the girl had left her father's house, and now, as the sun dipped into the ocean, the flowing tide swept through the narrow channel in little waves of seething foam, and Ema, with one last look at the path on the opposite side, descended to the beach, and throwing off her loose bodice of blue print and her short skirt, tied around her waist a native waist-girdle of yellow grass, and stepped into the cold waters of the channel.

For some few minutes she laved herself, singing softly the while to herself as is customary with many Polynesian native women when bathing, when suddenly, through the humming drone of the beating surf on the windward reef, she heard the sound or voices.

"Ah!" she said to herself, "now I will wait and startle these girls from Tabeaue as they come along." And so she sank low down in the water, so that only her dark head showed above the surface.

But amid the sound of native voices she heard the unfamiliar tones of white men, and in an instant she sprang to the shore, and, seizing her clothes, fled to the shelter of the boulder.

In a minute she had dressed herself, and was peering out through the fast-gathering darkness at a group of figures she could just discern on the opposite side of the channel. They had halted, and the girl could hear the natives in the party discussing means as to getting the white men across, for the water was now deep, and the current was swirling through the narrow pass with great velocity.

There were in the party some eight or ten natives and nearly as many white men; and these latter, the girl could see, were in uniform, and carried arms; for presently one of them, who stood a little apart from the others, struck a light and lit a cheroot, and she caught the gleam of musket-barrels in the hands of those who were grouped in the rear.

Wondering how it came about that armed white men were searching through the island at such an hour, the girl was about to call out to the natives--some of whom she recognised--not to attempt the passage without a canoe, when she heard the sound of oars, and looking across the darkening waters of the lagoon she saw a boat, filled with men, pulling rapidly along in the direction of Utiroa.

When just abreast of the passage they ceased rowing, and a figure stood in the stern, and hailed the shore party.

"Are you there, Mr. Fenton?"

"Yes," answered the man who had struck the light. "Come in here, Adams, and take us across. There is a channel here, and though I guess it is not very deep, the current is running like a mill-race."

Still crouching behind the coral boulder the girl saw the boat row in to the shore, a little distance further down, so as to escape the swirling eddies of the passage.

As the man-o'-war cutter--for such was the boat--touched the rocks, a lantern was held up, and by its light the girl saw a short, stout man step out on to the beach and walk up to the officer in charge of the shore party.

"Ah, Adams, is that you? Well, this is a devil of a place. We have crossed at least half a dozen of these cursed gutters, and thought to have crossed this one too, without trouble, but the tide is coming in fast. However, it's the last one--at least so this infernal hang-dog looking native guide tells me. So the sooner we get across in the cutter and get this man-hunting business over the better I'll like it."

"Aye, aye, sir!" answered the man he had addressed as Adams. "It won't take us much longer, I guess. Not a canoe has passed us going down the coast, so we are pretty sure to catch him at home."

"That is what this truculent scoundrel says," and the officer nodded in the direction of a native who had seated himself on the ground only a few yards distant from the rock behind which the girl was hidden. "He tells me that young Swain came home about a week ago from Maiana"--another island of the group--"and the old man induced him to stay at home and help him rig a new boat he has just built."

"We'll catch him, sir," answered Adams, confidently.

Clutching the side of the rough boulder in an agony of terror, the girl saw the two men turn away, and, followed by the rest of the shore party, natives and all, walk down to the boat. Then, standing upright, she watched them get in and the cutter shove off.

That they were in search of her brother she was now only too certain, and dreading that the boat would land the shore party again on her side of the channel and she be discovered and prevented from giving the alarm, she sprang over the loose slabs of coral that strewed the shore between the water and the coconut palms, and fled along the night-enshrouded path towards her father's house.

Ere she had gained the level ground the clattering sound made by the displaced coral stones reached the ears of those in the boat, which was instantly headed for shore, and the officer, with eight or ten bluejackets, leapt out and, led by the native guides, followed in swift pursuit.



Within the trader's house the father and son sat smoking in silence, waiting for the girl's return. A coconut-oil lamp, placed in the centre of a table, showed that the evening meal was in readiness.

"Em's a powerful long time, Jim," said the old man, rising from his seat, and, going to the door, he looked through the serried vista of the palm trunks which showed white and ghostly in the darkness.

"Aye," said Jim, "she is. I'll give her a call."

Just beside the doorway lay a huge conch shell, such as is used by the people of the Equatorial islands either as a summons to assemble or a call to one person only, and the stalwart young half-caste, taking it up, placed the perforated end to his lips and blew a loud, booming note.

A wild clamour of alarm answered the call, and a swarm of noddies and terns, roosting in countless thousands among a thicket of pandanus palms near by, slid from their perches, and with frightened croak and flapping wing whirled and circled around the trader's house, then vanished in the darkness ere the echoes of the conch had died away.

"That'll bring her, Jim," said the old man, turning to the lamp and pricking up the wick with his knife.

Silent Jim nodded.

"Yes, she's comin' now. I can hear her runnin'."

They heard her footsteps over the dead palm branches which strewed the path, and in a few seconds more, with a gasping sob of terror, the girl sprang into the room and almost fell at her brother's feet as she clasped her arms around his neck.

"Ha!" and old Swain, seizing a loaded musket from a number that stood in a corner of the room, stepped to the door. "Jus' what I thought would happen one of these days. Some o' them flash native bucks from the south end has been frightenin' o' her. Quick, Em, who was it?"

For a moment or so the exhausted girl strove to speak in vain, but at last she found her voice.

"No, father, no. But Jim, Jim, it is you they want! Come, Jim, quick, quick! They very close now."

"What in thunder are you talkin' 'bout, Em? An' who wants Jim?" And then, turning to his son, he asked, "Have you been a-thumpin' any o' those south-end natives lately, Jim?"

"No, no," said the girl, rising to her feet, and endeavouring to speak calmly; "you don' know, father. But Jim must go, an' you an' me mus' stay here. Quick, quick, for God's sake, dear, go out at the back an' cross to the windwar' side. Plenty place there for you to hide, Jim, for two or tree day."

A savage light came into the half-caste's eyes, as with an abrupt yet tender gesture he placed his huge brown hand on his sister's curly head; then, without a word, he seized a musket and cutlass, and with a farewell wave of his hand to the wondering old man, opened the door at the back of the house and disappeared among the pandanus thicket.

Leaning his musket against the wall, the old man poured some water into a cup and, putting his arm round the trembling figure of the girl, placed it to her lips.

"Here, take a drink, Em, an' then tell me what all this here means. What's the boy been a doin', an' who's after him?"

With shaking fingers the girl raised the cup to her lips and drank; then, with terror-filled eyes, she placed her hand upon his knee.


"Thar's nothin' outside, Em. What in the worl' has scared ye so, gal?"

"Don' you ask now, father. I carn' tell you now. Jes' you listen; don' you hear people a comin'? Don' you hear people a talkin'?" she answered.

For half a minute they waited and listened, but no sound broke upon the stillness of the island night save the ceaseless hum of the surf, and the quick panting breaths of the girl.

"'Taint nothing, Em, on'y the surf a poundin' on the reef."

"P'raps they're all a comin' in the boat. Dad, there's a lot o' man-o'-war men comin' for Jim. I was bathin', and I heerd 'em talkin'. They'll kill him, dad, if they gets him. Niban, that native that Jim gave a beatin' to onst, was showin' 'em the way here--an' I runned and runned----"

A half-stifled shriek escaped her as she sprang to her feet.

There was a sudden rush of booted feet and the clank of steel. Then a voice rang out--

"Keep your men close up to the back of the house, Adams."

Forcing his trembling daughter down upon her seat, the trader, placing his pipe in his mouth, lit it, and advanced to the open door, to meet, face to face, an officer in the uniform of the American navy.

"Stand back, sir!" and the officer pointed a pistol at the trader's breast; but as the light of the lamp fell upon the old man's wrinkled features and snow-white hair, he lowered his weapon to his side.

"What might your business be, sir, and why are you and your men a-comin' inter my house at night time, an' pointin' a pistol at me?"

Then, still eyeing the officer, he stepped backward, and placed his arm protectingly around his daughter's shoulder.

"Stay outside till I call you, Williams," said the officer, turning to a leading seaman, who, with drawn cutlass, had followed him inside.

Then he came into the room.

"Who else have you here with you?" he began, when he stopped suddenly in his speech, and raised his cap. "This girl is your daughter, I suppose?"

"My daughter, sir. But what is your business, I ask again? What may you want here, anyway?"

The angry light in the old man's eyes, and the sharp tone of his voice, called the officer to his duty.

"I am sorry to be here, Mr. Swain; but be good enough to ask your daughter to leave us alone for a minute or two. My business is such that I can tell it better to you alone."

At a sign from her father the girl rose from her seat and reluctantly walked into her room. The officer watched her retreating figure disappear, then he turned sharply round on his heel.

"I am a lieutenant on the United States ship _Adirondack_ and my business is to arrest a man named James Swain, a deserter from the _Saginaw_ and a murderer as well."

Even in the dim light of the rude lamp the officer saw the rugged bronze of the old trader's face pale to a deathly whiteness, and he leant one hand upon the table to steady himself.

"That's a kinder surprise to me, sir. An' I doesn't believe it, nohow. A deserter my boy Jim might be; but I won't allow he's murdered any one. Maybe you mean he killed a man in a fair fight?"

"I cannot talk this over with you, old man. My orders are to arrest James Swain. He is here, I know; and although it is a painful duty for me to fulfil, you must stand aside and let that duty be done."

"You can look for him, sir; but I can tell you that you won't diskiver him here."

"We shall see about that." And the officer, walking to the door, called out, "Come in, Williams, and search the place. Use no violence, but if the man we want, or any other person in the house, resists, make short work of it."

With a dozen men at his heels, Williams entered the house, and the officer, taking his stand at the back door, leant against it, pistol in hand.

There were but three rooms in the trader's house--the sitting-room, which was also used as a sleeping room by the old man and his son; the trade room, or store; and Ema Swain's bedroom. The first two were at once entered and searched, and in a few minutes Williams, the boatswain's mate, reported that the man they sought for was not there.

"There is but one more room, sir," said old Swain, quietly, from his seat at the table. "Ema, come out, and let these men look in your room." And he glanced defiantly at the officer.

Calmly and quietly she walked into the front room, and, sitting down beside her father, looked on. But although she was outwardly so calm, the girl's heart was beating nigh to bursting, for she had overheard Williams tell one of the bluejackets that some of Adams' men had, long before the main body approached, formed a complete line of guards on both sides of the house, extending from the inner lagoon beach right across the island, which, at this place, was not a quarter of a mile in width. And the girl knew that at the unguarded open ends on either side there was no chance of concealment, for there the coast rose steep-to from the sea, and was bare of verdure.

Presently the boatswain, with two or three bluejackets, re-entered the room.

"There's no place in the girl's room, sir, where a man could hide. He must have cleared out, sir, long before we reached her. I guess that that noise we heard crossing the channel was made by him. I think he's just doubled on us and made down for the south end of the island."

Pressing her father's hand warningly, the girl fixed her dark, dreamy eyes on the officer and spoke.

"Yes, that true. My brother he ran away long time before boat come up. Some one been tell him that 'Merican man-o'-war anchor down at south end. So he run away."

The officer, with an exclamation of disgust, put his pistol back in his belt.

"That lying scoundrel of a native has just fooled us nicely, Williams. Sound a call for Adams and his men to come back, and let us get back to the cutter. We'll have to begin the search again to-morrow."

The boatswain's mate had just stepped outside and placed his whistle to his lips, when the thundering report of a heavy musket-shot echoed through the air. Then silence for a few seconds, followed by the sharper sounds of the rifles of the American bluejackets.

Before any one could stay her Ema Swain darted through the guard of blue-jackets at the door, and disappeared in the direction of the sound of firing; and almost immediately afterwards the officer and his party followed.

But ere Lieutenant Fenton and his men had advanced more than a hundred yards or so into the gloomy shadows of the palm-grove, he called a halt, as the sound of voices came through the gloom.

"Is that you, Adams?" he called.

"Yes, sir," answered a voice from a little distance; "we've got him; he ran right into us; but before we could catch him he shot the native guide through the body."

In a few minutes Adams's party joined that of the officer, and then in silence, with their prisoner in their midst, they marched back to the trader's house.

"Bring the prisoner inside, Adams," said Lieutenant Fenton, briefly.

With hands handcuffed behind his back and a seaman on each side, Jim Swain was marched inside his father's house. A bullet had ploughed through his left cheek, and he was bleeding profusely.

"Stand aside, old man," and the officer held up a warning hand to old Jack. "It is folly for you to attempt to interfere."

And then a blue-jacket, almost as old as the trader himself, placed himself between father and son.

Taking a paper from his pocket the officer read it to himself, glancing every now and then at the prisoner.

"He's the man, sure enough," he muttered. "Poor devil!" Then turning to the man Adams, he asked--"Are you absolutely certain that this is the man, Adams?"

"Certain, sir. That is the man who murdered the boatswain of the _Saginaw_. I took particular notice of him when I served in her, because of his colour and size, and his sulky temper."

"Jim," broke in the old man's voice, quaveringly, "you haven't murdered any one, hev' you?"

The half-caste raised his dark, lowering face and looked at his father, and for a moment or so he breathed heavily.

"Yes, dad. I killed th' man. We had a muss in Valparaiso, an' I knifed him."

Old Swain covered his face with his hands and sank into a seat, and then Lieutenant Fenton walked over to him and placed a kindly hand on his shoulder. Then he withdrew it quickly.

"I have a hard duty, Swain, and the sooner it is over the better. I am ordered to arrest your son, James Swain, for the crime of murder and for deserting from his ship. He will be taken to San Francisco. Whatever you wish to say to him, do so now. In another ten minutes we must be on our way to the ship, and there will be no further opportunity for you to see him."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the old man, huskily, and rising he walked slowly over to his manacled son, and put his trembling hand on his arm.

"You will excuse me, sir, if I talk to him in the native lingo."

Fenton nodded, motioned to the seamen who stood beside the prisoner to move away, and then walked to the further end of the room.

"Jim," said the old trader, quickly, speaking in the native language, "what's to be done? I have only got to send a native along the beach with the shell{*} and we shall have you away from these people in no time."

{*} The conch shell.

"No, no, father, even if every one of them was killed it would do no good. An' they would never let me be taken away from them alive. It is no use, father, to try that. But"--and here he bent his head forward--"if I could free my hands I would make a dash--and be shot. I swear I shall never be hanged. Father, where is Em? I would like to see her before I go."

"She runned away, boy," said the old man, brokenly, and speaking in English; "runned away, jes' as soon as she heerd the firin'. She went to look for you, Jim. Heaven help the gal, Jim, when she comes back an' finds you gone."

For a little while longer they talked, and then Lieutenant Fenton came toward them, and Adams, at a sign from his superior, took the old trader by the arm, and with rough kindness forced him away from his son.

Suddenly, however, he dashed the seaman aside and sprang toward his son, but, strong and active as he was, he was no match for a man like Adams, who threw his arms around him and held him in a vice-like grip.

"That will do, mister," said old Jack, quietly. "I reckon I give in. Th' boy has got to go--an' thet's all about it, an' I ain't agoin' to try an' stop you from takin' him."

And then as the blue-jackets closed around him, Jim Swain turned.

"Goodbye, dad, and say goodbye to Em for me."

"Poor old man!" said Fenton to himself, as the party marched along the narrow, sandy track. "Hang me, if I wouldn't be pleased to see the fellow escape."


The four men who were left in charge of the boat had sprung to their arms the moment they heard the sound of the firing, and for some time they scanned the dark outline of the shore with intense anxiety.

"I guess it's all right," said one of them at last. "I only heard three or four shots. Hullo! here they come along the beach. Shove in."

Tramp, tramp, along the hard sand the landing party marched, and a seaman in the boat, picking up a lantern, held it up to guide them.

Two hundred yards behind was Ema Swain, striving hard to catch up with them and see her brother for the last time in this world, she thought.



"Lift him in carefully," said Lieutenant Fenton, as the boat's bows touched the beach; "he seems pretty weak."

"Thank you, sir!" and the prisoner turned his dark eyes upon the officer. "I am nearly dropping. I got a hard hit in the chest with a musket butt from one of your men, sir."

A couple of men lifted him in, and then as soon as the rest of his people had taken their places the lieutenant followed.

"Push off, Gates."

As the heavy boat slid out from the shore into the still waters of the lagoon, the lieutenant glanced down at the manacled figure of his prisoner.

"Let him sit up, Adams, and take the irons off. He can't lie there like a trussed fowl; and see if one of you can't stop that bleeding."

Adams bent down, and unlocking the handcuffs lifted him up.

Then, quick as thought, Jim Swain, dashing him aside, sprang overboard and dived towards the shore.

"Quick! Show a light," said the officer, standing up in the stern, pistol in hand, waiting for the man to rise.

A long narrow streak of light showed his figure not ten feet away from the beach. In another minute he would touch the shore.

"Stop!" cried the officer. "Swim another yard and you are a dead man."

But the half-caste kept steadily on. Again Fenton's warning cry rang out, then he slowly raised his pistol and fired.

The shot told, for as the half-caste rose to his feet he staggered. And then he sped up the steep beach towards the thick scrub beyond.

As he panted along with the blood streaming from a bullet wound in his side, his sister's hand seized him by the arm.

"Jim, Jim!" she gasped, "only a little more, and we------"

And then half a dozen muskets flashed, and the two figures went down together and lay motionless on the bloodied sand.

Fenton jumped ashore and looked at them. "Both dead," he said, pityingly, to old Swain, who with a number of natives now stood beside him.

"Aye, sir," said the trader, brokenly, "both. An' now let me be with my dead."


But neither Ema nor Jim Swain died, though both were sorely wounded; and a month later they with their father sailed away to Samoa.

[The end]
Louis Becke's short story: Ema, The Half-Blood