3/20/12

The Ebb-Tide

Robert Louis Stevenson led an interesting life.  Poor health figured heavily in it, but by the time he took up residence on Upolu island in Samoa, he felt "there was never any man had so many irons in the fire."
He had already toured the Pacific extensively with his family on a yacht, had made friends with King Kalākaua of Hawaii, and had used his power of the pen to have several European officials recalled, for incompetency. He established a close bond with the Samoans, took the native name of Tusitala ("Storyteller"), and was establishing himself on an extensive estate.
Several South Pacific-themed books joined his other noted books, such as "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped", on the shelf.
"The Ebb-Tide" was one of these. Lloyde Osbourne, the co-author, was his step-son; as they had traveled together and shared their experiences, he was perhaps a natural collaborator. They drew a detailed portrait of three wastrels ashore in Papeete: Herrick, an Englishman who couldn't seem to do anything right in business, Davis, an American ship captain who had managed to lose his last ship but fail to be one of those drowned, and Huish, a Cockney of disreputable background. Driven to extreme measures by extreme penury, Davis arranged for them to crew on a plague ship anchored in the harbor.
Desperation later prompted them to hatch a scheme to steal and sell the champagne cargo and the schooner, but their life of crime was quickly cut off by evidence that the former officers, now dead of smallpox, had had the same idea.
Finally, through misadventures, it appeared that their literal salvation lay through a chance-met Englishman, Attwater, on an uncharted isle. They needed food; Attwater had it. They wanted wealth; Attwater had accumulated ten years output of methodical pearl fishing with dozens of natives. And Attwater in his role as the settlement's preacher had already buried nearly all of the inconvenient natives, as smallpox had reached the isle. No matter what kind of salvation was called for - they all lay through Attwater.
What could three recreants do with such temptation?
I just finished my LibriVox audiobook of "The Ebb-Tide," and it should appear in the catalog in a few days. Please enjoy!

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