We gave him a hand out, and when I looked at him closely I found he was an old acquaintance of mine, a London chap.
was a strange profession. He was a pearl doctor, or more correctly a
pearl surgeon, and rather clever at his work. He had a wooden leg and,
although a thoroughly good fellow, always put me in mind of the cook in
Treasure Island. Eventually, strange to say, he did discover an Isle of Treasure—but not for himself.
was strange, this meeting at such a time and place and in so unexpected
a manner. He explained that he had been waiting for more than two weeks
for the return of some pearling luggers which made this their port and
that he had become fed up with nothing to do. During the day it was too
hot to go out, so he slept. The lovely moonlight night had tempted him
to take a stroll as it had tempted us, but his wooden leg had played
him false, as we had seen.
day after this adventure he repaid me for saving his life by the gift
of a heaped dish of Onslow tomatoes. I have never tasted anything half
as good before or since. They were local grown, and if ever I visit
that coast again I shall leave pearl-buying to others and buy Onslow
As for my friend Leon the pearl doctor, I met him again a year later in Singapore for the last time.
Port Headland I saw camels and Afghan camel-drivers bringing lead and
tin ore from far away inland. I also saw a huge stack of bagged
tantalum ore. The owner did not know what to do with it. No one else
there knew of a use for it. I could have bought the lot for a case of
whisky. But it was my ignorance this time that made me miss my second
chance since coming to Australia.
we came to Broome! Twenty-three years have gone since the day I first
landed in Broome, but my memory of it is still almost photographic: the
gorgeous day, the vessel slowly steaming into the bay, the large almost
festively-arrayed crowd on the long wooden jetty (where later, on most
evenings, I was to seek the cool breezes). They had come to welcome
us, these white, yellow and black folk. What a crowd!