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The Tent Entered
By means of thin spaces between the braids of matting, the place was
open to the air, but not to view. There was also a round opening on
one side, only large enough, however, to admit the arm; but this
aperture was partially closed from within. In front, a deep-dyed rug
of osiers, covering the entrance way, was intricately laced to the
standing part of the tent. As I divided this lacing with my cutlass,
there arose an outburst of voices from the Islanders. And they
covered their faces, as the interior was revealed to my gaze.
Before me crouched a beautiful girl. Her hands were drooping. And,
like a saint from a shrine, she looked sadly out from her long, fair
hair. A low wail issued from her lips, and she trembled like a sound.
There were tears on her cheek, and a rose-colored pearl on her bosom.
Did I dream?--A snow-white skin: blue, firmament eyes: Golconda
locks. For an instant spell-bound I stood; while with a slow,
apprehensive movement, and still gazing fixedly, the captive gathered
more closely about her a gauze-like robe. Taking one step within, and
partially dropping the curtain of the tent, I so stood, as to have
both sight and speech of Samoa, who tarried without; while the
maiden, crouching in the farther corner of the retreat, was wholly
screened from all eyes but mine.
Crossing my hands before me, I now stood without speaking. For the
soul of me, I could not link this mysterious creature with the tawny
strangers. She seemed of another race. So powerful was this
impression, that unconsciously, I addressed her in my own
tongue. She started, and bending over, listened intently, as if to
the first faint echo of something dimly remembered. Again I spoke,
when throwing back her hair, the maiden looked up with a piercing,
bewildered gaze. But her eyes soon fell, and bending over once more,
she resumed her former attitude. At length she slowly chanted to
herself several musical words, unlike those of the Islanders; but
though I knew not what they meant, they vaguely seemed familiar.
Impatient to learn her story, I now questioned her in Polynesian. But
with much earnestness, she signed me to address her as before. Soon
perceiving, however, that without comprehending the meaning of the
words I employed, she seemed merely touched by something pleasing in
their sound, I once more addressed her in Polynesian; saying that I
was all eagerness to hear her history.
After much hesitation she complied; starting with alarm at every
sound from without; yet all the while deeply regarding me.
Broken as these disclosures were at the time, they are here presented
in the form in which they were afterward more fully narrated.
So unearthly was the story, that at first I little comprehended it;
and was almost persuaded that the luckless maiden was some beautiful
She declared herself more than mortal, a maiden from Oroolia, the
Island of Delights, somewhere in the paradisiacal archipelago of the
Polynesians. To this isle, while yet an infant, by some mystical
power, she had been spirited from Amma, the place of her nativity.
Her name was Yillah. And hardly had the waters of Oroolia washed
white her olive skin, and tinged her hair with gold, when one day
strolling in the woodlands, she was snared in the tendrils of a vine.
Drawing her into its bowers, it gently transformed her into one of
its blossoms, leaving her conscious soul folded up in the transparent
Here hung Yillah in a trance, the world without all tinged with the
rosy hue of her prison. At length when her spirit was about to burst
forth in the opening flower, the blossom was snapped from its stem;
and borne by a soft wind to the sea; where it fell into the opening
valve of a shell; which in good time was cast upon the beach of the
Island of Amma.
In a dream, these events were revealed to Aleema the priest; who by a
spell unlocking its pearly casket, took forth the bud, which now
showed signs of opening in the reviving air, and bore faint shadowy
revealings, as of the dawn behind crimson clouds. Suddenly expanding,
the blossom exhaled away in perfumes; floating a rosy mist in the
air. Condensing at last, there emerged from this mist the same
radiant young Yillah as before; her locks all moist, and a rose-
colored pearl on her bosom. Enshrined as a goddess, the wonderful
child now tarried in the sacred temple of Apo, buried in a dell;
never beheld of mortal eyes save Aleema's.
Moon after moon passed away, and at last, only four days gone by,
Aleema came to her with a dream; that the spirits in Oroolia had
recalled her home by the way of Tedaidee, on whose coast gurgled up
in the sea an enchanted spring; which streaming over upon the brine,
flowed on between blue watery banks; and, plunging into a vortex,
went round and round, descending into depths unknown. Into this
whirlpool Yillah was to descend in a canoe, at last to well up in an
inland fountain of Oroolia.
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