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Gabrielle of the Lagoon

GABRIELLE OF THE LAGOON

A ROMANCE OF THE SOUTH SEAS

BY

A. SAFRONI-MIDDLETON

AUTHOR OF "SAILOR AND BEACHCOMBER"

PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 1919

COPYRIGHT 1919, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A

PROLOGUE

Though it was night and there was no moon, a dim, weird light lay over the isle and pierced to the depths of the forests. It was in the Solomons, where the dark, picturesque surroundings of palm and reef, the noise of the distant surfs, made a suitable setting for anything unexpected. Even the silver sea-birds had weird, startled-looking eyes down Felisi beach way. And when the wild brown men crept away from the grave-side of one whom they had just buried in the forest, the winds sighed a fitting music across the primeval heights. But there was nothing strange in that; men must die wherever one goes, and it was a common enough occurrence in that heathen land where the ocean boomed on the one side and inland to the south-west stood the mountains, looking like mighty monuments erected in memory of the first dark ages. Across the skies of Bougainville the stars had been marshalled in the millions. It seemed a veritable heathen faeryland as the night echoed a hollow "_Tarabab!_" But even that heathenish word was only the tribal chief's yell as he stood under the palms conducting the semi-religious tambu ceremony. The tawny maidens and high chiefs, with their feather head-dresses, all in full festival costume, were squatting in front of the secret tambu stage, some mumbling prayer, others beating their hands together as an accompaniment. And still the dusky tambu dancer moved her perfect limbs rhythmically to the rustling of her sarong-like attire, swaying first to the right then to the left as she chanted to the wailings of the bamboo fifes and bone flutes. The orchestral-like moan of the huge bread-fruits, as odorous drifts of hot wind swept in from the tropic seas, seemed to murmur in complete sympathy with the pretty dancer. One might easily have concluded that Oom Pa, the aged high priest, was the "star turn" of the evening as he stood there enjoying his thoughts and performing magnificently on the monster tribal drum.

There was something fascinating and super-primitive about the whole scene. The very scents from decaying forest frangipani and hibiscus blossoms seemed to drift out of the damp gloom of the dark ages. The presence of civilisation in any form seemed the remotest of possibilities. Even the fore-and-aft schooner, with yellowish, hanging canvas sails, lying at anchor just beyond the shore lagoons, looked like some strange-rigged craft that sailed mysterious seas.

But as the assembled tribe once again wildly clamoured for the next dancer to come forward and exhibit her charms, a murmur of surprise rose from the back rows of stalwart, tattooed chiefs--a white girl suddenly ran out of the forest and jumped on to the tambu stage!


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