Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 123 of 276

“Wal, as I says, the natives met the things on the little volcanic islet–goin’ thar in canoes with the sacrifices et cet’ry, and bringin’ back any of the gold-like jools as was comin’ to ’em. At fust the things didn’t never go onto the main island, but arter a time they come to want to. Seems they hankered arter mixin’ with the folks, an’ havin’ j’int ceremonies on the big days–May-Eve an’ Hallowe’en. Ye see, they was able to live both in ant aout o’ water–what they call amphibians, I guess. The Kanakys told ’em as haow folks from the other islands might wanta wipe ’an out if they got wind o’ their bein’ thar, but they says they dun’t keer much, because they cud wipe aout the hull brood o’ humans ef they was willin’ to bother–that is, any as didn’t be, sarten signs sech as was used onct by the lost Old Ones, whoever they was. But not wantin’ to bother, they’d lay low when anybody visited the island.

“When it come to matin’ with them toad-lookin’ fishes, the Kanakys kind o’ balked, but finally they larnt something as put a new face on the matter. Seems that human folks has got a kind a’ relation to sech water-beasts–that everything alive come aout o’ the water onct an’ only needs a little change to go back agin. Them things told the Kanakys that ef they mixed bloods there’d be children as ud look human at fust, but later turn more’n more like the things, till finally they’d take to the water an’ jine the main lot o’ things daown har. An’ this is the important part, young feller–them as turned into fish things an’ went into the water wouldn’t never die. Them things never died excep’ they was kilt violent.

“Wal, Sir, it seems by the time Obed knowed them islanders they was all full o’ fish blood from them deep-water things. When they got old an’ begun to shew it, they was kep’ hid until they felt like takin’ to the water an’ quittin’ the place. Some was more teched than others, an’ some never did change quite enough to take to the water; but mosily they turned out jest the way them things said. Them as was born more like the things changed arly, but them as was nearly human sometimes stayed on the island till they was past seventy, though they’d usually go daown under for trial trips afore that. Folks as had took to the water gen’rally come back a good deal to visit, so’s a man ud often be a’talkin’ to his own five-times-great-grandfather who’d left the dry land a couple o’ hundred years or so afore.

“Everybody got aout o’ the idee o’ dyin’–excep’ in canoe wars with the other islanders, or as sacrifices to the sea-gods daown below, or from snakebite or plague or sharp gallopin’ ailments or somethin’ afore they cud take to the water–but simply looked forrad to a kind o’ change that wa’n’t a bit horrible arter a while. They thought what they’d got was well wuth all they’d had to give up–an’ I guess Obed kind o’ come to think the same hisself when he’d chewed over old Walakea’s story a bit. Walakea, though, was one of the few as hadn’t got none of the fish blood–bein’ of a royal line that intermarried with royal lines on other islands.

“Walakea he shewed Obed a lot o’ rites an’ incantations as had to do with the sea things, an’ let him see some o’ the folks in the village as had changed a lot from human shape. Somehaow or other, though, he never would let him see one of the reg’lar things from right aout o’ the water. In the end he give him a funny kind o’ thingumajig made aout o’ lead or something, that he said ud bring up the fish things from any place in the water whar they might be a nest o’ ’em. The idee was to drop it daown with the right kind o’ prayers an’ sech. Walakea allowed as the things was scattered all over the world, so’s anybody that looked abaout cud find a nest an’ bring ’em up ef they was wanted.

“Matt he didn’t like this business at all, an’ wanted Obed shud keep away from the island; but the Cap’n was sharp fer gain, an’ faound he cud get them gold-like things so cheap it ud pay him to make a specialty of them. Things went on that way for years an’ Obed got enough o’ that gold-like stuff to make him start the refinery in Waite’s old run-daown fullin’ mill. He didn’t dass sell the pieces like they was, for folks ud be all the time askin’ questions. All the same his crews ud get a piece an’ dispose of it naow and then, even though they was swore to keep quiet; an’ he let his women-folks wear some o’ the pieces as was more human-like than most.

“Well, come abaout thutty-eight–when I was seven year’ old–Obed he faound the island people all wiped aout between v’yages. Seems the other islanders had got wind o’ what was goin’ on, and had took matters into their own hands. S’pose they must a had, after all, them old magic signs as the sea things says was the only things they was afeard of. No tellin’ what any o’ them Kanakys will chance to git a holt of when the sea-bottom throws up some island with ruins older’n the deluge. Pious cusses, these was–they didn’t leave nothin’ standin’ on either the main island or the little volcanic islet excep’ what parts of the ruins was too big to knock daown. In some places they was little stones strewed abaout–like charms–with somethin’ on ’em like what ye call a swastika naowadays. Prob’ly them was the Old Ones’ signs. Folks all wiped aout no trace o’ no gold-like things an’ none the nearby Kanakys ud breathe a word abaout the matter. Wouldn’t even admit they’d ever ben any people on that island.

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