The dodge rarely fails. The boy generally tires of swimming, gets into the boat of his own accord, and goes quietly on board."
Yes, exhaustion is likely to make a boy quiet. If the distressed boy had been the speaker's son, and the captors savages, the speaker would have been surprised to see how differently the thing looked from the new point of view; however, it is not our custom to put ourselves in the other person's place. Somehow there is something pathetic about that disappointed young savage's resignation. I must explain, here, that in the traffic dialect, "boy" does not always mean boy; it means a youth above sixteen years of age. That is by Queensland law the age of consent, though it is held that recruiters allow themselves some latitude in guessing at ages.
Captain Wawn of the free spirit chafes under the annoyance of "cast-iron regulations." They and the missionaries have poisoned his life. He grieves for the good old days, vanished to come no more. See him weep; hear him cuss between the lines!
"For a long time we were allowed to apprehend and detain all deserters who had signed the agreement on board ship, but the 'cast- iron' regulations of the Act of 1884 put a stop to that, allowing the Kanaka to sign the agreement for three years' service, travel about in the ship in receipt of the regular rations, cadge all he could, and leave when he thought fit, so long as he did not extend his pleasure trip to Queensland."
Rev. Mr. Gray calls this same restrictive cast-iron law a "farce." "There is as much cruelty and injustice done to natives by acts that are legal as by deeds unlawful. The regulations that exist are unjust and inadequate--unjust and inadequate they must ever be." He furnishes his reasons for his position, but they are too long for reproduction here.
However, if the most a Kanaka advantages himself by a three-years course in civilization in Queensland, is a necklace and an umbrella and a showy imperfection in the art of swearing, it must be that all the profit of the traffic goes to the white man. This could be twisted into a plausible argument that the traffic ought to be squarely abolished.
However, there is reason for hope that that can be left alone to achieve itself. It is claimed that the traffic will depopulate its sources of supply within the next twenty or thirty years. Queensland is a very healthy place for white people--death-rate 12 in 1,000 of the population- but the Kanaka death-rate is away above that. The vital statistics for 1893 place it at 52; for 1894 (Mackay district), 68. The first six months of the Kanaka's exile are peculiarly perilous for him because of the rigors of the new climate. The death-rate among the new men has reached as high as 180 in the 1,000. In the Kanaka's native home his death-rate is 12 in time of peace, and 15 in time of war. Thus exile to Queensland--with the opportunity to acquire civilization, an umbrella, and a pretty poor quality of profanity--is twelve times as deadly for him as war. Common Christian charity, common humanity, does seem to require, not only that these people be returned to their homes, but that war, pestilence, and famine be introduced among them for their preservation.
Concerning these Pacific isles and their peoples an eloquent prophet spoke long years ago--five and fifty years ago. In fact, he spoke a little too early. Prophecy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks. This prophet was the Right Rev. M. Russell, LL.D., D.C.L., of Edinburgh:
"Is the tide of civilization to roll only to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and is the sun of knowledge to set at last in the waves of the Pacific? No; the mighty day of four thousand years is drawing to its close; the sun of humanity has performed its destined course; but long ere its setting rays are extinguished in the west, its ascending beams have glittered on the isles of the eastern seas . . . . And now we see the race of Japhet setting forth to people the isles, and the seeds of another Europe and a second England sown in the regions of the sun.