Part Four: First Contacts — Trade and Early Observations
The first contact with the Pagu was made by the Spanish captain Juan de Samosa, in the late 1600's. He was attempting to sail from the Philippines to Guam but his ship was blown off course, stripped of its mainmast and lost its rudder in a freakish, unseasonable storm. By the time he stumbled on Big Island most of his crew had died from hunger and scurvy, and all he knew was that he was almost twenty degrees south of the Equator. Not much is known as the ship's log was lost, although there is a persistent rumour that it was subsequently seized by the Primate of Manila as a measure to protect the Faith. Samosa did, however, prepare a chart of Nullenesia which survived, and a few years later wrote a report about his voyage.
He noted first of all that the islands unfortunately possessed no gold or precious metals, but that he was able to obtain timber to effect repairs. He went on to state that the population was an abomination in the sight of God. They were the most licentious and depraved people he had ever encountered, and said he could not find words to describe the debauchery he had witnessed. He thought to name the islands Tierra del Diablo as the place was accursed, and he felt that the souls of his men would be endangered from close contact with the natives. He boasted that he was able to keep his men away from their women despite their lecherous importuning. Samosa's report attracted little interest; the islands' lack of gold, evil reputation and remote location discouraged further exploration.
It wasn't until well over half a century later with the growing demand for whale oil that the potential of the great Southern Sea attracted interest. It was with the hope of filling with oil the casks of his three masted bark, the Puffin, and finding a port where ships could take on fresh provisions, that Captain Rodney Bloughart set out from Bristol in the early 1700's.
Bloughart was a studious, worldly, well read man familiar with both the Bible and the classics, and a believer in the Enlightenment. He considered himself both a scholar and a Christian which often led him to pray for forgiveness. He had over twenty year's experience at sea including four previous trips to the Pacific and had been master of his own ship for five years. He once spent several months in Tahiti and Bora Bora becoming fascinated by their cultures and fancied himself a bit of an authority on the peoples of exotic climes. He had read Samosa's report with interest and was able to obtain a copy of his chart showing the islands of Nullenesia, so named because some even doubted their existence. It is difficult to overestimate Bloughart's contribution to our understanding of Pagunan culture and opening up the islands for profitable intercourse.
Bloughart's diary and his letters to his wife Maggie have been carefully preserved, and they provide the first descriptions of Pagunan masks and some of the ceremonies where they were used, as well as the broader culture of Nullenesia at the time. His are the only extensive chronicles from the early contact period. The log of the Puffin, which could have provided us with more information about trade and exchanges, was unfortunately lost when the Puffin went down during a risky run around Cape Horn in the 1760's.
Captain Bloughart planned his voyage carefully and was not unprepared to deal with the natives of Isla Largo or Big Island. He brought along a few chests of trinkets, mirrors, bolts of cheap English cloth and knives. In Malacca he had taken on a Malay, Tokoy, who could understand most Polynesian dialects, and he expected him to be able to handle any negotiations. The voyage out was uneventful and his diary is replete with speculations about fanciful encounters with strange natives, plentiful whales to fill the Puffin's casks with oil, and handsome profits on his return to England. With steady winds behind them they made landfall at dawn a few days sooner than they expected. By noon they found the break in the reef indicated on Samosa's chart and sailed into a fine natural harbour, a wide bay, protected by a chain of low islands. In a letter to "My dearest darling" his prose waxes poetic:
"I beheld the placid blue and turquoise waters of a wide bay with jagged, deep emerald mountains ascending into pearly clouds, east and west, with a low saddle betwixt. At the water's edge along a golden strand I spied the native town of tall, peaked thatched roofs among the palms, and outriggers somewhat smaller than the Polynesian style pulled up in front. Perhaps only Bora Bora so delights the eye. But nary a sign of life did I see, in the scenery."
Bloughart was surprised; he expected canoes of curious natives eager to trade to welcome him. He recalled that Samosa's report had said that the natives were very naive, apparently unaware that other humans existed, and had greeted them warmly. But then all had not gone well for him; his report is rather vague as to what actually happened there. Afterwards, Samosa had thought to name the place Tierra del Diablo and spoke of the unimaginable debauchery of the population. Bloughart reflects that Samosa was a Catholic with popish ideas and had probably never been to Tahiti.
Bloughart was soon able to make contact with the natives with gifts of trinkets which overcame their apprehension. Language remained a problem as Tokoy, the Malay linguist found very little in common with the languages he knew, and he made very little headway. It was not until the next day that they ascertained that Samosa, they knew the name, had killed several of them with fire sticks. They also got some knives and pieces of steel from Samosa and coveted those of Bloughart's men. Except possibly for the mirrors, knives and blades interested them the most. The Captain, curious as to what the natives might have to offer in trade, took his First Mate Higgins, Tokoy and two armed seamen, and set out to explore the settlement. They caught glimpses of gaily painted children and several youths but the natives generally avoided them.
He saw no signs of precious metals, or any metals for that matter, or precious stones. Breadfruit and other tropical fruits were plentiful as were pigs which seemed to roam freely everywhere. "No doubt for sanitary purposes" he noted. Aside from provisions the only things of interest he found were some long, straight grained yellow timbers which could be useful for replacing masts and spars. Then, on their way back to the beach:
"A skinny, almost naked gray haired native with blue daubed on his forehead approached us. He held out a large mask of the most ferocious countenance, stained purple and a most bilious green. Ugly as it was, it was cleverly made with fine details. The crooked yellowed teeth gave it a quite unwholesome aspect. Higgins was more taken by it than I, and after some pestering gave the man his small knife for it."
Thus began the trade in masks which was the only thing the Pagu had of interest to their visitors beyond water, other provisions, and of course, women. Perhaps because of memories of Samosa and his men many years earlier, the women were kept out of sight. Probably most of the men of the Puffin acquired a mask or two trading knives, pieces of steel, mirrors and other personal items. The ship's wright obtained some fine timbers in exchange for a steel axe.
The problem of women, or the lack of access to them, became threatening as Bloughart's men grew increasingly restive. The natives who called themselves Pagu, meaning the people, were openly promiscuous among themselves without any apparent regard to sex or age. However, although the women seemed to entice the crew by exposing and fondling themselves sexually, they never yielded to the advances of the sex starved men, making what appeared to be unintelligible demands. Bloughart was concerned; he could see trouble brewing. He mostly kept his men aboard the Puffin, allowing only a few ashore at a time, but he heard rumours of talk against him, and Higgins warned him of a possible mutiny which he intended to crush. Bloughart cautioned him about precipitate action. While pondering alternatives another old man just ahead signaled them to follow him and he led them to a house, a somewhat taller and grander one than most. Bloughart climbed a few steps and entered. He saw a huge woman sitting on a long, low bench:
"She was big, over fourteen stone I'd say, her long hair hung down over her bare big dugged bosom. I know better than to guess the age of native women, burdened as they are in these climes but likely no less than forty. Astride her sturdy thighs a young lad, of that there could be no doubt, was mauling her while she petted his tiny prick and whispered in his ear. The playful tête à tête ceased when they noticed me. Out of what decorum I could muster I doffed my hat and made a perfunctory bow, not that it meant anything to them, and she moved the boy off, a look of petulant disappointment crossing his face, and not until she spoke reassuringly and patted his privates briefly did he reluctantly leave."
Neither side knew what the other wanted but with signs, mimes, gestures, and onomatopoeia, along with thoughtful pauses, Tokoy found out that the woman's name was Man Li and that she was something like a Queen, though not one any Englishman would recognize. Bloughart made notes of the Malay's methods. She then produced a nail, one that she must have obtained through someone on the Puffin, and she indicated that she wanted more, many, many more. For what purpose they could not discern, but it seemed sensible, if she was indeed some sort of queen, to make a show of good will. One of the armed seamen waiting outside was dispatched to bring back some nails. Man Li seemed intensely curious about the captain. Ignoring Tokoy, she examines him closely:
"Not only did this savage queen, or whatever she is, feel the cloth of my jacket and britches, but she also tugged on my whiskers quite forcefully, her look gave me the distinct impression she would prefer me without. I cannot recall any Pagu with a beard. She then opened up my mouth and seeing my gold caps elicited a gasp of surprise and regarded me with amazement. Then as if sizing me up she appeared to ask, as if I could be expected to understand, a persistent question. My perplexity brought forth a chanting from her, with each word seemingly a separate question. I could make no sense of it and she repeated the chant. The words were very foreign sounding but I recalled something like wot, heret, rofu, then some sounding like French, and hetig, which had a German ring to it, and others. After she repeated them a third time, thinking it must be some sort of game and tiring of it, I said "rofu". Suddenly her expression turned to one of lechery, if such is indeed possible in a woman, and she began fumbling with the buttons on my britches. As a good Christian and faithful husband I clasped my hands over my privates and recited the Lord's Prayer in my head. The Man Li woman was much too fat and at least ten years older than my good Maggie. She appeared disappointed and luckily just then the seaman arrived back with a box of nails.
He had brought a goodly number, more than I wished to part with, but not wanting to appear ungenerous I placed the box in front of her. She began counting them out in piles of thirteen which I thought very strange, many savages can't even count to ten. After putting away the nails she bade me wait and returned shortly with three young maidens, each of whom bared her charms, caressed my cheeks and mumbled affectionate words among which I detected "rofu". Now I've always had as good an eye for the fair sex as any man, but that be it. I'm a good Christian and not be one to philander. T'is different for me bachelor boys, but I had not once been adulterous since I took my vows. Out of respect for my loving, faithful Maggie, on long voyages I satisfy myself with cabin boys, but when the youngest girl blew in my ear and stroked my flesh, alas, I succumbed. Ah, "rofu", t'was a magic word."
Bloughart did not know what he had discovered but the idea of magic words tickled his fancy. He thought about the other words he could remember. And he thought about his men chaffing under his restrictions and decided to experiment. Back on board the Puffin he gave "hetig" to Higgins, "wot" to his lusty cabin boy, and "heret" to three of his riggers, all in private and none was to tell his word to anyone else. Later he shared "rofu" with a few others, and with these few magic words all his crew on rotation was as sexually sated as they had ever been and each man felt he owed something to his captain. For almost a century after all sailors who visited Nullenesia had only four moon names among them.
Bloughart found himself spending more time in Nullenesia than he had planned. The ship's wright contended that the boom on the jib and two mainmast spars needed replacing, and the men were enjoying themselves before the arduous days ahead hunting whales. He spent several hours a day on shore with Tokoy exploring the settlement and visiting Man Li. Often there were young boys and occasionally girls playing on her generous lap and demanding to be petted. A servant served them fruit, fish and a kind of poi. Tokoy listened keenly and was soon able to understand some of what she said. They learnt that there was to be a big festival replete with carnal pleasures at the coming full moon, something to do with a big wave they didn't grasp. Bloughart decided to contribute the dregs in the rum barrels for the occasion. His men had complained that their tots were a bit murky. Later he found that his gift of dregs, which he'd carefully decanted was both appropriate and appreciated.
During the afternoons Bloughart usually relaxed on the deck catching up the ship's log and frequently being interrupted by native traders wanting to trade rather poor specimens of amethyst, curios and their "infernal masks" for anything made of steel, for which their desire seems unquenchable. Bloughart also noticed natives bringing in great armloads of stinking seaweed that had accumulated after a recent storm:
"They made a series of piles on the beach downwind from the settlement, but I can assure you not downwind from us. Then gangs of boys stripped naked, gathered around the piles grabbing big handfuls of the foul pottage and began twisting, kneading and jabbing it with thumbs. It took them only a few minutes to form the substance into remarkably skull-like disks with big hollow, empty eyes, cheekbones and a lamentably toothless mouth. They would hand these things to small boys who would run to the back of the beach and lay them down in sand to dry in the sun. I would see them, bums up, patting them into shape and later they would return to turn them over.
"At the end of the day they would all plunge into the sea, frolic and bathe themselves and a few of the bolder ones would swim out to the ship. I would invite them aboard and offer the dripping lads a tot to imbibe. They would sputter at first taste, but knowing it was a magical brew, they drained their cups. And then I would offer them another tot before they swam back."
The next day he writes:
"This morning ashore I met Man Li on my stroll and I pointed to the piles of seaweed skulls. I knew there must be thousands for I'd seen men and women burdened with hundreds more trudging into the settlement. As best as I could understand her words, gestures and mime, they were the dead, or for the dead, so they could watch the big bacchanal as I have chosen to call their full moon festivities after Tokoy told me what to expect. I noticed that some masks had cords so they could be worn. Later some little children tied some on, and heads aslant, seemed to ponder me. Natives hung these masks by the hundreds from the spreading limbs of breadfruit trees, and the walls of the lodges and great huts that bordered the square. Many of the masks were small, like the skulls of babes, and all were of a ghostly pale green, the seaweed having been bleached by the sun. They seemed to glisten when caught by the sun's rays filtering through the foliage.
"Around the central square the ground was paved with dressed stones and the low stone walls that provided seating were, I discerned, the foundation of a substantial building larger than any building now extant. There was also a raised stone platform about four yards square. All were weathered and appeared of ancient origin. Curious, I examined the walls some of which had scale like patterns incised in them. They were clearly ancient, and as I had not come across any other stone work, certainly nothing recent, I speculated that there had been an earlier, more advanced civilization in Nullenesia."
What Bloughart had come across was the ruins of the main temple to Lizard. Later investigations indicated that it had been torn down and the stones were used for paving and foundations for house posts. Portions of the idol were found defaced and buried nearby.
"Past noon I saw gangs of young boys, accompanied by some girls, all carrying a few skull face masks, head in the direction of the trail which I learnt crossed over a narrow isthmus, the saddle I'd seen from the sea, to the other side of the island. With a shrug and expression of perplexity I made my curiosity clear. Man Li smiled knowingly and made an obscene wanking motion. I had more questions but no way to ask. I assumed it had to do with the full moon which would rise from that direction, but unless the sky cleared I doubted if they would see it."
This is the earliest reference to a custom that Schwartz believes goes back to pre-cataclysmic times when it may have had the nature of a devotional offering. Most, but not all boys in their year of sexual maturity trekked over to the Sacred Beach to scatter their semen on the pebbles. After setting out the masks so the dead could observe, one or a few at a time would masturbate under the scrutiny of their peers and the intently watching girls. Schwartz speculated that in distant pre-cataclysmic times boys made a ritual offering of their first semen to Lizard in gratitude for being created. Be that as it may, it survived as a boyish coming-out affair.
When all the boys had made their offering they climbed up to the place of the survivors' orgy, that through years of use had become a manicured clearing set amidst tall cedars. Priests' mushrooms, as they were called, were seasonally abundant, as they were everywhere in the uplands and wilds of Nullenesia. The young people made small fires to warm the night and again set out the masks so the dead could watch them frolic and fuck.
Captain Bloughart returned to his diary two days later.
"I saw to it that each member of my crew had another rotation ashore before the celebration of the Big Wave, which I discerned would be a Saturnalian orgy of incomprehensible debauchery that I would not want my men exposed to, and I do regard myself as an open minded man. I left them under Higgin's firm charge whilst towards dusk, I set off alone in a dingy to investigate. I had hoped to run into Man Li but I really didn't need her. My presence in the settlement was no longer a novelty, although I received more than my share of glances and importunities as rofu. I was however not there for carnal pleasures, but out of scholarly concerns for the advancement of human knowledge and understanding.
"Around the square, perhaps eight fires had been lit which were attended by ancient looking men and women who periodically tossed on boughs of cedar which reinvigorated the flames, perfumed the air and sent a fountain of sparks up into the boughs of the trees making the myriad masks of the dead appear to twinkle. Above, it 'twas like an enchanted realm. Below, heaps of soft reeds had been placed about and clusters of natives lay around entwined in promiscuous play and congress of every sort. I've heard that worse transpires amongst the Hindoo. Whole families, or so it seemed, were so engaged with gaily painted children of all ages keenly watching, babbling with their mates and joining in, touching and letting themselves be fondled, giggling and going on and seeking others, apparently delighting in the corruption of their young minds and bodies. The younger ones all had a symbol of one sort or another painted on the bellies. Once again I thanked God I was an Englishman and a Christian. I did, however, make a mental note of all the various acts, positions and combinations, for posterity of course, so that future scholars might have some record of their erotic behaviour before Christians of a more opprobrious ilk put an end to it."
Bloughart was prescient as we shall find out. The belly symbols, the moon names of the children, helped to protect the very young from violations of the prohibitions. He transcribed his "mental notes" into his diary giving us a detailed descriptions of their "carnal practices" with key words latinized for decency's sake. The women for example commonly have, cuntum depilitum. The Puffin left the next day, but stopped briefly in Nullenesia on its way back from a successful whaling expedition in the Southern Sea. The Pagu were busy with their newly acquired knives and steel blades, producing an abundance of masks and curios which the sailors traded for. The ship's wright complained that not only were many of his tools missing but he had hardly any oils, pigments and turpentine left.
Bloughart remained in England the better part of two years, spending and investing his handsome profits from the first voyage, enjoying the company and attention of his dear wife Maggie, and being a father to his two sons. It was an idyllic period and he even had time to pursue his interest in the exotic cultures of India and the Orient. His exploits provided him with local fame and his success led other whalers to exploit the bounty of the Southern Sea, and visit Nullenesia.
Not one to rest on his laurels, and spurred on by the exigencies of Maggie's newly acquired tastes, Bloughart again set sail for Nullenesia. The Puffin made excellent time with favourable winds, but then Billy, his cheerful, willing cabin boy, took sick with a high fever, and on the advice of the ship's doctor the captain left him in the care of a trader in Malacca, an old friend of his who agreed to take care of the boy. Bloughart was deeply affected by this loss, and saying that he had tears in his eyes, he prayed for Billy's swift recovery, and becoming poetic he wrote:
"Alas sweet Billy I shall miss
Thy rosy lips I love to kiss
Thy teasing fingers, thy playful tweaks
An' warm sweet softness o' thy nether cheeks
I pray to God to make me glad
By making well my lusty lad"
However, the next day he mused:
"Rofu, rofu, rofu. A rofuing I shall go
Ah, the belles of Nullenesia quicken my heart so
Rofu, Rofu, Rofu
The very word makes my loins
soar like an albatross"
After the Puffin anchored at Big Island and the crew, which had become tired of each other, had alleviated their frustrations, the captain went off rofuing. He alleviated the pricks in his Christian conscience by reasoning:
"I'm sure the Good Shepherd would not want me to succumb to the sin of Onan, and while my loving Maggie might not understand, it's not as if I were lying with another woman, why they were mere girls young enough to be my daughters."
With provisioning underway and a crew rotation ashore, the captain decided to visit Man Li taking along Tokoy, who was slowly coming to understand more and more Pagu. On the way up from the beach they noticed clusters of excited teenagers finger painting themselves and each other, their customary loin cloths and skirts dispensed with for the occasion. They stopped to admire some of the striking designs, each one original and skillfully executed. A small mirror was passed around so the teens could admire themselves. Bloughart watched and noted that the swirling, stroking fingers were not only creating designs but playfully teasing, especially on the more sensitive parts, and that much giggling and banter accompanied their efforts. Tokoy tried to find out what the preparations were for but was unable to make any sense of their words and gestures, except that the moon was lacking and Bloughart, as a sailor always attuned to the sky, observed that it was time of the new moon. That did not tell them very much.
They also saw some women stitching together large leaves into cloaks and others making gowns of fronds and coarse fiber, and men and boys with muds and paints repairing and touching up a variety of masks including kinds they had not seen before. Some were ghostly pale, others had fibrous hair, and a few were green and reptilian. Many were crudely made but some were finely crafted with intricate details. Before arriving at Man Li's they passed more men and women, burdened with firewood, trudging towards the eastern end of the settlement.
Man Li remembered Bloughart and warmly received him. He recognized the word "rofu" but nothing else. Tokoy, at the captain's suggestion, introduced himself as Tokoy Hetig. The big woman smiled understandingly and repeated the word "hetig". The captain brought out the gifts he had brought for her; a long necklace with big emerald-green glass beads which he placed around her neck, and a large silver framed hand held mirror. The mirror was a strange new object to her and it took her a minute to discover its particular properties which fascinated and delighted her. After indicating her gratitude she called and a skinny old man appeared, and after a few words he left to return with three coconut shells full of a warm beverage. Tokoy told the captain it was kava which he drank politely, soon finding each sip more palatable than the last. With gestures and a few words he had picked up, Tokoy inquired about the preparations he had seen. He learned that they were for the festival of no moon, where anyone can display themselves and perform. It is for things of the head because passions are weakest at this time of the month. Before they left Man Li provided each of them with a choice of nubile young women.
Bloughart arrived at the festival site just as the sun was setting in the sea. In the wide bowl formed by grassy dunes just back of the beach a number of bonfires were being lit to provide light. In the brief but magical tropical twilight Bloughart sees clusters of natives sitting and standing in no particular order with files of gaily painted teenagers, like those he had seen earlier, strutting and displaying themselves. He described it:
"A line of these strutting, prancing peacocks came towards me. They were fair and becoming lads and lassies, the dandies of their tribe no doubt, and in their own way as bedecked as any in London town. The ogling they sought and got, toothless old men and women fawning on their decorated nakedness and fluttering like silly girls, was not to my sensibilities. In every line it seemed there was a piper but what I heard I would not deign to call a tune. All the while, other actors, some in masks and costumes, paraded about among the clusters.
"Then a drumming started, a low, monotonous two-beat like that of a beating heart, and from amongst some near by, two oldsters, a man and a woman shriveled to bones, stood up, and putting on big blue-eyed masks with straggly pale hair, began shuffling to the drum. I thought the hair might be some lichen or seaweed. Ever so often they'd stop a moment, wag their heads and make defiant gestures, before shuffling on to the beat with surprising energy."
Here and there he noticed a man or a woman holding forth with some speech and attracting a few listeners. It reminded him of what he once saw in Hyde Park but then two actors with reptilian masks and scale-like, leaf cloaks began interjecting comments, causing those watching to laugh, although one retreated when three speakers shouted him down. There were so many different things happening around him, the captain could not keep track. He then heard the heartbeat drum again and two more dancers in the blue-eyed defiance masks shuffled close, one an elderly woman tweaking her shriveled dugs and thrusting her hips like some street harlot; the other a boy who danced with a limp. He stopped momentarily in front of Bloughart and displayed a huge ragged scar that ran from his chest to his thigh. Then he jerked his head around and with a triumphant expression he shook his fists at the sky, and shuffled nimbly on. The captain concluded that these are all people who have survived some encounter with death, or who are showing contempt for it. Bloughart, used to the forms and conventions of English public entertainment, was confused by the seemingly chaotic festival:
"I could make no sense of it at all. Actors at odds with each other, and spectators turning actor and sitting down again. I thought I'd seen the worst when a swarm it seemed, but in truth no more than six, of mud smeared little demons in crude, grotesque masks, descended upon us with shrieks and rude gestures, attacking the actors with what I took to be personal insults, and mocking them with insolent parodies, and clearly not all of them were boys. The actors ignored them, but their harassment continued until chased away by ferocious looking big women. Then one of the little demons stopped in front of me, struck a saucy pose, and yelled I know not what. I pretended to ignore him. Then he turned, stuck out his bum and made a rude sound. I looked away, he turned back, raised his mask, stuck out his tongue, and I discovered he was peeing all over my trousers and boots. I lunged at him but he was well away before I was on my feet. By nature I am a gentle sort, loathe to apply the rod, and only chastise my sons at Maggie's prodding and the insistence of my physician who claims it has prophylactic value. But I would have no compunction about flaying this impudent child's backside to the bone. I shall never forget his sneering insolent face."
Bloughart's entries for the next two days mostly concerned preparations for venturing into the Southern Sea, observations about the local dress and customs, effusive praise for the carnal talents of the girls, a couple of prayers soliciting the Almighty's forbearance, and a lengthy, florid passage about how he loves Maggie, and her "lovely pale thighs", more than anyone else. After this voyage he swears that there would be no more rofuing, just cabin boys which reminds him: "Alas, it will be months before I see my sweet Billy", he laments, feeling sorry for himself.
After almost a week of rofuing good times, Captain Bloughart was not looking forward to being alone in bed in the months ahead. Bringing along a Pagunan girl was out of the question, it could cause a mutiny, but a boy, a Pagunan boy? He went off to see Man Li, who was entertaining three small girls on her generous lap. When he entered she dismissed them and bade him sit beside her, and called to her aged servant who appeared a minute later with two coconut shells of warm kava. The captain savoured his this time. With the non-verbal pleasantries over the captain said "rofu", a finger indicating he wanted a male. She gave an amused smile and her eyes lit up with understanding, she rose and signed to him to wait. Man Li returned with a little boy no more than six or seven and the captain gestured that he wanted a bigger boy. After a couple more, she brought in a most handsome lad who appeared about the age and size of Billy. The captain was introduced to Kemi, who studied him curiously. It took quite a while to explain by making many circles with his arm towards the sky that he wanted to take the boy on his ship for many days. Kemi did not seem too keen on the idea. After appearing to ponder the proposal he came right up to Bloughart, examining him closely, pulling at his moustache and poking around in his mouth. After stopping and looking pensive, he tried to remove Bloughart's clothes, but not being familiar with buttons and buckles he was stymied. He sniffed around his body and then managed to get his belt buckle partly undone. Knowing the natives' obsessive habit of bathing daily, something he found quite pleasant himself, the Captain guessed what Kemi was interested in. He helped him with buckles and buttons, and after Kemi had examined his almost naked body and sniffed him all over he appeared satisfied. Bloughart did himself up again, noticing that his jack knife was missing. Kemi had it and pointing to it and then himself, the captain realized that it was no longer his. There was one more thing, as Bloughart explains:
"Kemi began gesturing animatedly, and after a minute I realized that he wanted, insisted would be more correct, to take along a companion. I could understand how hard it would be on the lad away from home with no one who spoke his tongue. Another boy would keep him out of my hair and that of the crew, who might otherwise corrupt him. I could also envision some interesting possibilities with a second lad."
While this was going on Tokoy was persuaded to remain in Nullenesia until the Puffin returned from the Southern Sea. He was not actually a hostage for Kemi's safe return, although that was probably a consideration. Tokoy saw opportunities for himself through learning Pagu and the advantages it would bring in trade, and having once before experienced the cold and storms of the whaling grounds he was not anxious to go again. The Puffin was ready to sail around noon the next day, and in good time a native outrigger appeared with Kemi and a slightly smaller boy as passengers. They scrambled aboard with their small bundles and the captain, who had been watching out of the corner of his eye, was in for a surprise!:
"The smaller lad came up to me, stuck out his tongue, let out the most ungodly screech, and gasped as if to wretch over me. I suddenly realized he was the obnoxious child with the demon mask, who'd pissed on my boots. Enraged, I went for him and don't know what I'd have done if Kemi hadn't burst out laughing and restrained me. He pointed at the boy and said, Suli". The insolent child stood there glowering at me and not until Kemi had whispered something to him did he deign to accept my proffered hand which he took and sniffed. What did I expect from young savages? I led them down to my quarters and left one of my most trusted men to keep an eye on them."
Everything apparently went well for weeks, Bloughart's diary mostly dwelt on shipboard politics, maritime observations, trivia and excursions into philosophy with occasional bits of doggerel. He commented on the boys' insatiable curiosity, their mischieviousness and petty pranks, and their growing grasp of English, particularly profanity and carnal expressions picked up from the crew. Little Suli had become their mascot and the impudent child reveled in the attention and petting he got. The boys had endeared themselves to everyone but Higgins. Almost three weeks out, Bloughart got more personal:
"As for my cabin boy, he's almost more than I can handle. He is by turns passionate, aggressive, affectionate and teasing, but always inexhaustible. And he's shown me tricks I never dreamt existed. There's things I learnt from him and the Big Island girls I'd love to enlighten Maggie about, but how to explain whence I came by them? And after Kemi has me fagged, and I've never known such satiation, I have to listen to endless panting and squeals coming from the hammock he shares with Suli. At times I've half a mind to take them back to England and set up a school for cabin boys with Kemi as the headmaster. My fortune would be made, but when it comes to the mundane duties of cabin boys, I'm afraid he's blithely hopeless. I have to ask a second mate or do things myself. Suli is even more useless, and untouchable to boot. I do not have the magic word for him though it seems others do."
About three weeks out, a no moon day actually, Bloughart lamented:
"Tonight alas, I sleep alone, Kemi unfit for my bed and both lads reeking and in chains. The mischievous little buggers got into the oils and pigments the wright was about to repaint the figurehead with, and they daubed each other gaudy blues and reds making an ungodly mess, and went prancing starkers round the quarterdeck to amuse the crew. They said it was festival day and saw naught amiss. Higgins was itching to string them up and flog them with no further ado, and it took a mighty effort to dissuade him. The Pagu are a gentle folk, not once have I seen a child even scolded. I gave the lads a sternly reprimand and had them swabbed with turpentine to remove the paint, much to the agony of their tender parts. No doubt had they known, they'd druther been beaten. To mollify Higgins and preserve my bed from reek, I had the rascals put in chains overnight."
A month later Bloughart wrote:
"That escapade tamed the boys somewhat and when we reached the Southern Sea with its bitter winds and chilling rain, cold they'd never known, they sit huddled, bundled in cast-offs, and you might not take them for the savages they are. Amazed they were when the great sperms were hauled up, cut and flensed on the deck, having never seen more'n a pig butchered, and curious were they as the blubber was rendered, not minding the slime and blood and stink. Soon they were doing their bit with broom and bucket and glad I was of their compulsion to bathe when Kemi crawled in my bed."
Completing a successful hunt with the Puffin's casks full, they began the journey back to Nullenesia. The crew's spirits were high, but as Bloughart noted:
"Yesterday we had an unfortunate incident of gross subordination, and distasteful as it was I had to order Higgins to flog the man to maintain order aboard. Kemi and Suli watched wide eyed, I think they were shocked. They've been quite subdued ever since and probably consider us barbarians on account. After, I think they understood when I explained how close they came to the same fate when they made the mess with the paint. Kemi was unusually affectionate last night."
The boys were glad as warmth returned on the Puffin's northward journey and Captain Bloughart was in good spirits:
"These be blessed lazy days, the Puffin's scoured and spanking clean, and the warm gentle breezes of the trades carry us nicely nor'west to the line of Capricorn. The lads are happy to doff their cast-offs and go about scant clad again, and climb the rigging as quick as proverbial monkeys. They are practically crew now, playing at work, cursing with the best, and having their tots of rum with the rest. Even Higgins has warmed to them and chides them roundly in jest.
"Being their no moon day I forenoon gave them some red and green inks, colours they love, and showed them how to use quills. I watched them deep in concentration spend hours drawing on each other's bodies, at times a teasing game. I cannot say the patterns were as pleasing as those I'd seen before, but proud they were and paraded around posing for the admiration and amusement of the crew. They now want tattoos and though men would oblige them, I have forbidden it."
Bloughart confessed a growing affection for the boys, especially Kemi, and a respect:
"I knew the lads understood more and more of what I said and wanted, and they in turn could better get their needs across to me, but Kemi, I'd not gone on to engage him in conversation even as captain to cabin boy. But now on these two last easy weeks before we reach Big Island he's started asking me questions, whats and whys, mostly things any English boy would know, and I've begun to see him as more than my carnal companion, an exasperation and occasional amusement. He wanted to know what the whale oil's for and how the harpoons work, and I answered best as I can. He has no English sense of propriety and he asks if my wife pulls out the hairs around her cunt like his mother does. My answer leads him to ask why not? The questions become an interrogation which I found tedious until I realized I could ask him questions and it became my turn to learn.
"I asked him how he learnt his carnal skills. He pondered, and I had to be a bit more explicit, and he asked if I meant peoweoh, and after he gave examples I agreed but it seemed peoweoh was not the acts but the art they were done with. Withal I learnt another word of Pagu, but it seems the only ones I know are a few terms of endearment and some coarse carnal words, but then, what else would you need to know? Or so I thought. Beyond the simple world of objects, direct verbs, commands and wants, the language learning was indeed formidable. I had to pursue my question in several ways before he began to grasp what I wanted. Then he faced the problem of having very few abstract terms in English, or much beyond his everyday life. It emerged that Man Li was his teacher, at least of the finer points of peoweoh, and that she ran a kind of school of sorts where several young boys or girls would come to engage in and learn peoweoh among themselves and with her. He went many times until he began to ejaculate when he had to stop. He said that Man Li was the best tremon, and here I can find no English word equivalent; wisewoman, teacher, counselor? They are all women, who instruct children how to make good peoweoh, counsel families with troubles, advise elders and sometimes work as healers and midwives. He insisted that Man Li was the best and said his father gave her many cowries. I can't complain, she certainly did an excellent job with Kemi."
It seems from Bloughart's account that Kemi tried to tell him more, and talked about the moon and names and mentioned wot, heret, rofu and presumably other Pagunan number names. But Bloughart had his magic words, and did not persevere. Perhaps if he had he might have been the first outsider to figure out their calendar and moon names, but that was a "secret" which perhaps fortunately, eluded outsiders for many years. Nothing of note occurs for the remainder of the voyage to Big Island.
Half a dozen outriggers came out to meet the Puffin and followed her back to where she weighed anchor, two hundred yards from the beach. More boats crowded around her, some were there to watch and welcome, but many had wares, fruit, masks and curios, and a larger boat was set up with chunks of pig roasting over coals. Calls in English; "knife", "steel" and "mirror" were made and the men with the roasting pig optimistically held up a crudely made wooden axe to suggest their price, which after some haggling they got. Crewmen leaned over the rail to barter what they had. Kemi and Suli were ready to disembark, apparently without any good-byes. They lowered their large, heavy bundles into a waiting outrigger. Bloughart observed and wondered what was in them but noted there had been no reports of thefts. "Gifts for favours", he suspected.
The Puffin did not remain long at Big Island. After taking on fresh water and provisions and allowing each man two rotations ashore, Bloughart set sail. The captain paid his respects to Man Li and, with Tokoy interpreting, learned more about the wisewoman, and she told him the legend of Lon Li, Long Tongue who originated the tradition of wisewomen after the Great Wave almost destroyed the Pagu.
Bloughart ran into Kemi and Suli who were busy selling their gifts for cowry shells, and whatever they could get, including masks. Bloughart's fascination with the Pagu had grown since he was last there, and he made a deal with Kemi where he bartered a barrel of rum, for which the boy had developed a fancy, for fifty two of the finest Pagunan masks. Farewells were brief, everyone was anxious to reach England and, after a few days at sea, Bloughart's thoughts turned to his loving, ever faithful wife Maggie. And Billy:
"I trust Billy will be hale and hearty again when we reach Malacca. He's such a good lad, but I'll have to teach him peoweoh for my pleasure and his. And I must not forget to take on a goodly supply of arrack lest the men mutiny when they find I've bartered their rum."
Bloughart never returned to Nullenesia. He became much in demand as a speaker and his investments doubled again and again. After he received his knighthood, Sir Rodney and Lady Margaret made a grand tour of Europe and were received by royalty much to Maggie's delight. However, within a few years, extravagance and poor business judgement left them in financial ruin. The fate of his collection of masks, perhaps the finest ever, is unknown. It may possibly have been sold to pay debts.
Kemi and Suli became rich, the first rich Pagu. They had brought back to Nullenesia something far more valuable than the knives and bits of steel they obtained from the crew — an understanding of English which put them at the center of trade. Kemi was given his name, Tongue Thief, and became very fat and soon had himself covered with tattoos.