Wine-Dark Seas and Tropic Skies / Reminiscences and a Romance of the South Seas
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IN this volume of reminiscences and impressions I have endeavoured to express some of the elements of romance that remain in my memory of wanderings in the South Seas.
My characters are all taken from life, both the settlers and the natives. I have striven to give an account of native life, modes and codes, and to describe the general characteristics of certain island tribes that are now extinct.
My attempt is not so much the wanderer’s usual book with its inevitable blemishes, for the reason that it is one voluminous blemish, but I’m hoping that, after a lapse of years, my mind has retained the something that’s worth the recording. Besides, I’ve smashed about so much in this grey, swashbuckling world of Grand Old Liars, knighted thieves, rogues and successful hypocrites, that the background of my life in early boyhood seems a dim fairyland, whereover I roamed at will from wonder to wonder, laden with the wealth of cheek and impudence enormous. Reaping such wonders I fail to find in pages of romance experiences that outrival those of my boyhood, which leads me to imagine that I can paint down, out of the Past, some of the sparkling atmosphere that buoyed me up in the wide travels of my youth.
Wonderful and unsuspected are the unheard harmonies that guide the footsteps of romantic vagabonds. They know not that deep in the heart of their existence bubble the eternal springs of beauty, and, as they tramp on, their footsteps beat to the rhythm of the song they will not hear—until they be older! And stranger still have been my own immediate experiences. I once officiated as chief mourner at the burial of a romantic old trader who had suddenly died through the effects of a great spree! He had a wooden leg, a limb that he had extemporised from good, green wood. We stuck that sad heritage (it was all that he could leave us) over his grave in the forest, having made a cross of it. On visiting the spot about three months afterwards I observed that the old wooden leg had burst into leaf—had blossomed forth into pretty blue flowers! Sure am I that neither our old dead pal, in his wildest and most romantic moods, nor indeed one of us, had dreamed of the hidden potentialities of that wooden leg—how one day it would once more come to the poor body’s assistance, making his very grave in the solitude beautiful.