In American history it was the British who plied the Natives with beads and shiny baubles. It wasn’t supposed to work the other way around was it?
‘Do not accept any gift, or any food, from a man.’ Stephen spoke in soft tones near my ear. ‘That is, unless you want to become his permanent property.’
He chuckled as my eyes widened.
‘Welcome to the real world, Lassie.’ He winked as he kissed my cheek.
Meanwhile, the Natives were presenting the Captain with bundles of things like shells, plants, etc. I watched as the Captain graciously accepted each item with pure grace and a smile.
‘At the convent, we were told to accept nothing for our services.’ I commented back.
‘It’s different here. Here, there is more involved than just payment for services. These things have barter value for these people. It’s how they get the things they need that their island can’t produce. Captain Marlin is well versed in this. He’ll take the goods to the next island and trade for the things these people need, like medicines and such. He’ll do the same at that island for the next island. It’s how it works in these parts. Captain Marlin has a good reputation and the locals trust him.’
‘I know bartering.’ I noted. And surely, I did.
‘It is alive and well in the world today.’ Stephen smiled.’Just don’t try to do so on your own. If you see something you’d like to trade for, ask the Captain. He’ll trade for you.’
‘Heard, loud and clear. Thanks, Stephen.’
I went back to work. I fully understood the process of bartering. I’d been bartering for the necessities of life ALL my life. It was how I’d survived. It was how I’d had food to eat, clothes to wear, even paper and pencils for school. As I watched the Captain continue his trading, I wondered what items he’d be able to trade for that these people would want. They seemed pretty content with what they had, after all.
Later, with the new sails transferred from the sea plane to the ship, it was time to set sail again. The horizon was clear and the sky was a deep blue sprinkled with stars as we raised anchor and set out.