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On the eighteenth day out from Sydney, we were cruising under the lee of Erromanga—of course you know Erromanga, an isolated island between the New Hebrides and the Loyalty group—when suddenly our dusky Polynesian boy, Nassaline, who was at the masthead on the lookout, gave a surprised cry of "Boat ahoy!" and pointed with his skinny black finger to a dark dot away southward on the horizon, in the direction of Fiji.
I strained my eyes and saw—well, a barrel or something. For myself, I should never have [pg 10] made out it was a boat at all, being somewhat slow of vision at great distances; but, bless your heart! these Kanaka lads have eyes like hawks for pouncing down upon a canoe or a sail no bigger than a speck afar off; so when Nassaline called out confidently, "Boat ahoy!" in his broken English, I took out my binocular, and focused it full on the spot towards which the skinny black finger pointed. Probably, thought I to myself, a party of natives, painted red, on the war-trail against their enemies in some neighboring island; or perhaps a "labor vessel," doing a veiled slave-trade in "indentured apprentices" for New Caledonia or the Queensland planters.
To my great surprise, however, I found out, when I got my glasses fixed full upon it, it was neither of these, but an open English row-boat, apparently, making signs of distress, and alone in the midst of the wide Pacific.