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South Sea Tales

"Yah! Yah! Yah!"
He was a whiskey-guzzling Scotchman, and he downed his whiskey neat, beginning with
his first tot punctually at six in the morning, and thereafter repeating it at regular intervals
throughout the day till bedtime, which was usually midnight. He slept but five hours out
of the twenty-four, and for the remaining nineteen hours he was quietly and decently
drunk. During the eight weeks I spent with him on Oolong Atoll, I never saw him draw a
sober breath. In fact, his sleep was so short that he never had time to sober up. It was the
most beautiful and orderly perennial drunk I have ever observed.
McAllister was his name. He was an old man, and very shaky on his pins. His hand
trembled as with a palsy, especially noticeable when he poured his whiskey, though I
never knew him to spill a drop. He had been twenty-eight years in Melanesia, ranging
from German New Guinea to the German Solomons, and so thoroughly had he become
identified with that portion of the world, that he habitually spoke in that bastard lingo
called "bech-de-mer." Thus, in conversation with me, SUN HE COME UP meant sunrise;
KAI-KAI HE STOP meant that dinner was served; and BELLY BELONG ME WALK
ABOUT meant that he was sick at his stomach. He was a small man, and a withered one,
burned inside and outside by ardent spirits and ardent sun. He was a cinder, a bit of a
clinker of a man, a little animated clinker, not yet quite cold, that moved stiffly and by
starts and jerks like an automaton. A gust of wind would have blown him away. He
weighed ninety pounds.
But the immense thing about him was the power with which he ruled. Oolong Atoll was
one hundred and forty miles in circumference. One steered by compass course in its
lagoon. It was populated by five thousand Polynesians, all strapping men and women,
many of them standing six feet in height and weighing a couple of hundred pounds.
Oolong was two hundred and fifty miles from the nearest land. Twice a year a little
schooner called to collect copra. The one white man on Oolong was McAllister, petty
trader and unintermittent guzzler; and he ruled Oolong and its six thousand savages with
an iron hand. He said come, and they came, go, and they went. They never questioned his
will nor judgment. He was cantankerous as only an aged Scotchman can be, and
interfered continually in their personal affairs. When Nugu, the king's daughter, wanted
to marry Haunau from the other end of the atoll, her father said yes; but McAllister said
no, and the marriage never came off. When the king wanted to buy a certain islet in the
lagoon from the chief priest, McAllister said no. The king was in debt to the Company to
the tune of 180,000 cocoanuts, and until that was paid he was not to spend a single
cocoanut on anything else.
And yet the king and his people did not love McAllister. In truth, they hated him horribly,
and, to my knowledge, the whole population, with the priests at the head, tried vainly for
three months to pray him to death. The devil-devils they sent after him were awe-
inspiring, but since McAllister did not believe in devil-devils, they were without power
over him. With drunken Scotchmen all signs fail. They gathered up scraps of food which
had touched his lips, an empty whiskey bottle, a cocoanut from which he had drunk, and
 
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