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But much was to do before; And first a single life to be snatched from a deadly place, A life, the root of revenge, surviving plant of the race: And next the race to be raised anew, and the lands of the clan Repeopled. So Rahero designed, a prudent man Even in wrath, and turned for the means of revenge and escape: A boat to be seized by stealth, a wife to be taken by rape.

Still was the dark lagoon; beyond on the coral wall, He saw the breakers shine, he heard them bellow and fall. Alone, on the top of the reef, a man with a flaming brand Walked, gazing and pausing, a fish-spear poised in his hand. The foam boiled to his calf when the mightier breakers came, And the torch shed in the wind scattering tufts of flame. Afar on the dark lagoon a canoe lay idly at wait: A figure dimly guiding it: surely the fisherman's mate. Rahero saw and he smiled. He straightened his mighty thews: Naked, with never a weapon, and covered with scorch and bruise, He straightened his arms, he filled the void of his body with breath, And, strong as the wind in his manhood, doomed the fisher to death.

Silent he entered the water, and silently swam, and came There where the fisher walked, holding on high the flame. Loud on the pier of the reef volleyed the breach of the sea; And hard at the back of the man, Rahero crept to his knee On the coral, and suddenly sprang and seized him, the elder hand Clutching the joint of his throat, the other snatching the brand Ere it had time to fall, and holding it steady and high. Strong was the fisher, brave, and swift of mind and of eye - Strongly he threw in the clutch; but Rahero resisted the strain, And jerked, and the spine of life snapped with a crack in twain, And the man came slack in his hands and tumbled a lump at his feet.

One moment: and there, on the reef, where the breakers whitened and beat, Rahero was standing alone, glowing and scorched and bare, A victor unknown of any, raising the torch in the air. But once he drank of his breath, and instantly set him to fish Like a man intent upon supper at home and a savoury dish. For what should the woman have seen? A man with a torch--and then A moment's blur of the eyes--and a man with a torch again. And the torch had scarcely been shaken. "Ah, surely," Rahero said, "She will deem it a trick of the eyes, a fancy born in the head; But time must be given the fool to nourish a fool's belief." So for a while, a sedulous fisher, he walked the reef, Pausing at times and gazing, striking at times with the spear: - Lastly, uttered the call; and even as the boat drew near, Like a man that was done with its use, tossed the torch in the sea.

Lightly he leaped on the boat beside the woman; and she Lightly addressed him, and yielded the paddle and place to sit; For now the torch was extinguished the night was black as the pit Rahero set him to row, never a word he spoke, And the boat sang in the water urged by his vigorous stroke. - "What ails you?" the woman asked, "and why did you drop the brand? We have only to kindle another as soon as we come to land." Never a word Rahero replied, but urged the canoe. And a chill fell on the woman.--"Atta! speak! is it you? Speak! Why are you silent? Why do you bend aside? Wherefore steer to the seaward?" thus she panted and cried. Never a word from the oarsman, toiling there in the dark; But right for a gate of the reef he silently headed the bark, And wielding the single paddle with passionate sweep on sweep, Drove her, the little fitted, forth on the open deep. And fear, there where she sat, froze the woman to stone: Not fear of the crazy boat and the weltering deep alone; But a keener fear of the night, the dark, and the ghostly hour, And the thing that drove the canoe with more than a mortal's power And more than a mortal's boldness. For much she knew of the dead That haunt and fish upon reefs, toiling, like men, for bread, And traffic with human fishers, or slay them and take their ware, Till the hour when the star of the dead {1o} goes down, and the morning air Blows, and the cocks are singing on shore.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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