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Adventure by Jack London

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This etext was prepared by David Price, ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
From the 1911 Thomas Nelson and Sons edition

ADVENTURE

by Jack London

CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE

He was a very sick white man. He rode pick-a-back on a woolly-
headed, black-skinned savage, the lobes of whose ears had been
pierced and stretched until one had torn out, while the other
carried a circular block of carved wood three inches in diameter.
The torn ear had been pierced again, but this time not so
ambitiously, for the hole accommodated no more than a short clay
pipe. The man-horse was greasy and dirty, and naked save for an
exceedingly narrow and dirty loin-cloth; but the white man clung to
him closely and desperately. At times, from weakness, his head
drooped and rested on the woolly pate. At other times he lifted
his head and stared with swimming eyes at the cocoanut palms that
reeled and swung in the shimmering heat. He was clad in a thin
undershirt and a strip of cotton cloth, that wrapped about his
waist and descended to his knees. On his head was a battered
Stetson, known to the trade as a Baden-Powell. About his middle
was strapped a belt, which carried a large-calibred automatic
pistol and several spare clips, loaded and ready for quick work.

The rear was brought up by a black boy of fourteen or fifteen, who
carried medicine bottles, a pail of hot water, and various other
hospital appurtenances. They passed out of the compound through a
small wicker gate, and went on under the blazing sun, winding about
among new-planted cocoanuts that threw no shade. There was not a
breath of wind, and the superheated, stagnant air was heavy with
pestilence. From the direction they were going arose a wild
clamour, as of lost souls wailing and of men in torment. A long,
low shed showed ahead, grass-walled and grass-thatched, and it was
from here that the noise proceeded. There were shrieks and
screams, some unmistakably of grief, others unmistakably of
unendurable pain. As the white man drew closer he could hear a low
and continuous moaning and groaning. He shuddered at the thought
of entering, and for a moment was quite certain that he was going
to faint. For that most dreaded of Solomon Island scourges,
dysentery, had struck Berande plantation, and he was all alone to
cope with it. Also, he was afflicted himself.

By stooping close, still on man-back, he managed to pass through
the low doorway. He took a small bottle from his follower, and
sniffed strong ammonia to clear his senses for the ordeal. Then he
shouted, "Shut up!" and the clamour stilled. A raised platform of
forest slabs, six feet wide, with a slight pitch, extended the full
length of the shed. Alongside of it was a yard-wide run-way.
Stretched on the platform, side by side and crowded close, lay a
score of blacks. That they were low in the order of human life was
apparent at a glance. They were man-eaters. Their faces were
asymmetrical, bestial; their bodies were ugly and ape-like. They
wore nose-rings of clam-shell and turtle-shell, and from the ends
of their noses which were also pierced, projected horns of beads
strung on stiff wire. Their ears were pierced and distended to
accommodate wooden plugs and sticks, pipes, and all manner of
barbaric ornaments. Their faces and bodies were tattooed or
scarred in hideous designs. In their sickness they wore no
clothing, not even loin-cloths, though they retained their shell
armlets, their bead necklaces, and their leather belts, between
which and the skin were thrust naked knives. The bodies of many
were covered with horrible sores. Swarms of flies rose and
settled, or flew back and forth in clouds.

The white man went down the line, dosing each man with medicine.
To some he gave chlorodyne. He was forced to concentrate with all
his will in order to remember which of them could stand
ipecacuanha, and which of them were constitutionally unable to
retain that powerful drug. One who lay dead he ordered to be
carried out. He spoke in the sharp, peremptory manner of a man who
would take no nonsense, and the well men who obeyed his orders
scowled malignantly. One muttered deep in his chest as he took the
corpse by the feet. The white man exploded in speech and action.
It cost him a painful effort, but his arm shot out, landing a back-
hand blow on the black's mouth.

"What name you, Angara?" he shouted. "What for talk 'long you, eh?
I knock seven bells out of you, too much, quick!"

With the automatic swiftness of a wild animal the black gathered
himself to spring. The anger of a wild animal was in his eyes; but
he saw the white man's hand dropping to the pistol in his belt.
The spring was never made. The tensed body relaxed, and the black,
stooping over the corpse, helped carry it out. This time there was
no muttering.

"Swine!" the white man gritted out through his teeth at the whole
breed of Solomon Islanders.

He was very sick, this white man, as sick as the black men who lay
helpless about him, and whom he attended. He never knew, each time
he entered the festering shambles, whether or not he would be able
to complete the round. But he did know in large degree of
certainty that, if he ever fainted there in the midst of the
blacks, those who were able would be at his throat like ravening
wolves.

Part way down the line a man was dying. He gave orders for his
removal as soon as he had breathed his last. A black stuck his
head inside the shed door, saying, -

"Four fella sick too much."

Fresh cases, still able to walk, they clustered about the
spokesman. The white man singled out the weakest, and put him in
the place just vacated by the corpse. Also, he indicated the next
weakest, telling him to wait for a place until the next man died.
Then, ordering one of the well men to take a squad from the field-
force and build a lean-to addition to the hospital, he continued
along the run-way, administering medicine and cracking jokes in
beche-de-mer English to cheer the sufferers. Now and again, from
the far end, a weird wail was raised. When he arrived there he
found the noise was emitted by a boy who was not sick. The white
man's wrath was immediate.

"What name you sing out alla time?" he demanded.

"Him fella my brother belong me," was the answer. "Him fella die
too much."

"You sing out, him fella brother belong you die too much," the
white man went on in threatening tones. "I cross too much along
you. What name you sing out, eh? You fat-head make um brother
belong you die dose up too much. You fella finish sing out,
savvee? You fella no finish sing out I make finish damn quick."

He threatened the wailer with his fist, and the black cowered down,
glaring at him with sullen eyes.

"Sing out no good little bit," the white man went on, more gently.
"You no sing out. You chase um fella fly. Too much strong fella
fly. You catch water, washee brother belong you; washee plenty too
much, bime bye brother belong you all right. Jump!" he shouted
fiercely at the end, his will penetrating the low intelligence of
the black with dynamic force that made him jump to the task of
brushing the loathsome swarms of flies away.

Again he rode out into the reeking heat. He clutched the black's
neck tightly, and drew a long breath; but the dead air seemed to
shrivel his lungs, and he dropped his head and dozed till the house
was reached. Every effort of will was torture, yet he was called
upon continually to make efforts of will. He gave the black he had
ridden a nip of trade-gin. Viaburi, the house-boy, brought him
corrosive sublimate and water, and he took a thorough antiseptic
wash. He dosed himself with chlorodyne, took his own pulse, smoked
a thermometer, and lay back on the couch with a suppressed groan.
It was mid-afternoon, and he had completed his third round that
day. He called the house-boy.

"Take um big fella look along Jessie," he commanded.

The boy carried the long telescope out on the veranda, and searched
the sea.

"One fella schooner long way little bit," he announced. "One fella
Jessie."

The white man gave a little gasp of delight.

"You make um Jessie, five sticks tobacco along you," he said.

There was silence for a time, during which he waited with eager
impatience.

"Maybe Jessie, maybe other fella schooner," came the faltering
admission.

The man wormed to the edge of the couch, and slipped off to the
floor on his knees. By means of a chair he drew himself to his
feet. Still clinging to the chair, supporting most of his weight
on it, he shoved it to the door and out upon the veranda. The
sweat from the exertion streamed down his face and showed through
the undershirt across his shoulders. He managed to get into the
chair, where he panted in a state of collapse. In a few minutes he
roused himself. The boy held the end of the telescope against one
of the veranda scantlings, while the man gazed through it at the
sea. At last he picked up the white sails of the schooner and
studied them.

"No Jessie," he said very quietly. "That's the Malakula."

He changed his seat for a steamer reclining-chair. Three hundred
feet away the sea broke in a small surf upon the beach. To the
left he could see the white line of breakers that marked the bar of
the Balesuna River, and, beyond, the rugged outline of Savo Island.
Directly before him, across the twelve-mile channel, lay Florida
Island; and, farther to the right, dim in the distance, he could
make out portions of Malaita--the savage island, the abode of
murder, and robbery, and man-eating--the place from which his own
two hundred plantation hands had been recruited. Between him and
the beach was the cane-grass fence of the compound. The gate was
ajar, and he sent the house-boy to close it. Within the fence grew
a number of lofty cocoanut palms. On either side the path that led
to the gate stood two tall flagstaffs. They were reared on
artificial mounds of earth that were ten feet high. The base of
each staff was surrounded by short posts, painted white and
connected by heavy chains. The staffs themselves were like ships'
masts, with topmasts spliced on in true nautical fashion, with
shrouds, ratlines, gaffs, and flag-halyards. From the gaff of one,
two gay flags hung limply, one a checkerboard of blue and white
squares, the other a white pennant centred with a red disc. It was
the international code signal of distress.

On the far corner of the compound fence a hawk brooded. The man
watched it, and knew that it was sick. He wondered idly if it felt
as bad as he felt, and was feebly amused at the thought of kinship
that somehow penetrated his fancy. He roused himself to order the
great bell to be rung as a signal for the plantation hands to cease
work and go to their barracks. Then he mounted his man-horse and
made the last round of the day.

In the hospital were two new cases. To these he gave castor-oil.
He congratulated himself. It had been an easy day. Only three had
died. He inspected the copra-drying that had been going on, and
went through the barracks to see if there were any sick lying
hidden and defying his rule of segregation. Returned to the house,
he received the reports of the boss-boys and gave instructions for
next day's work. The boat's crew boss also he had in, to give
assurance, as was the custom nightly, that the whale-boats were
hauled up and padlocked. This was a most necessary precaution, for
the blacks were in a funk, and a whale-boat left lying on the beach
in the evening meant a loss of twenty blacks by morning. Since the
blacks were worth thirty dollars apiece, or less, according to how
much of their time had been worked out, Berande plantation could
ill afford the loss. Besides, whale-boats were not cheap in the
Solomons; and, also, the deaths were daily reducing the working
capital. Seven blacks had fled into the bush the week before, and
four had dragged themselves back, helpless from fever, with the
report that two more had been killed and kai-kai'd {1} by the
hospitable bushmen. The seventh man was still at large, and was
said to be working along the coast on the lookout to steal a canoe
and get away to his own island.

Viaburi brought two lighted lanterns to the white man for
inspection. He glanced at them and saw that they were burning
brightly with clear, broad flames, and nodded his head. One was
hoisted up to the gaff of the flagstaff, and the other was placed
on the wide veranda. They were the leading lights to the Berande
anchorage, and every night in the year they were so inspected and
hung out.

He rolled back on his couch with a sigh of relief. The day's work
was done. A rifle lay on the couch beside him. His revolver was
within reach of his hand. An hour passed, during which he did not
move. He lay in a state of half-slumber, half-coma. He became
suddenly alert. A creak on the back veranda was the cause. The
room was L-shaped; the corner in which stood his couch was dim, but
the hanging lamp in the main part of the room, over the billiard
table and just around the corner, so that it did not shine on him,
was burning brightly. Likewise the verandas were well lighted. He
waited without movement. The creaks were repeated, and he knew
several men lurked outside.

"What name?" he cried sharply.

The house, raised a dozen feet above the ground, shook on its pile
foundations to the rush of retreating footsteps.

"They're getting bold," he muttered. "Something will have to be
done."

The full moon rose over Malaita and shone down on Berande. Nothing
stirred in the windless air. From the hospital still proceeded the
moaning of the sick. In the grass-thatched barracks nearly two
hundred woolly-headed man-eaters slept off the weariness of the
day's toil, though several lifted their heads to listen to the
curses of one who cursed the white man who never slept. On the
four verandas of the house the lanterns burned. Inside, between
rifle and revolver, the man himself moaned and tossed in intervals
of troubled sleep.

CHAPTER II--SOMETHING IS DONE

In the morning David Sheldon decided that he was worse. That he
was appreciably weaker there was no doubt, and there were other
symptoms that were unfavourable. He began his rounds looking for
trouble. He wanted trouble. In full health, the strained
situation would have been serious enough; but as it was, himself
growing helpless, something had to be done. The blacks were
getting more sullen and defiant, and the appearance of the men the
previous night on his veranda--one of the gravest of offences on
Berande--was ominous. Sooner or later they would get him, if he
did not get them first, if he did not once again sear on their dark
souls the flaming mastery of the white man.

He returned to the house disappointed. No opportunity had
presented itself of making an example of insolence or
insubordination--such as had occurred on every other day since the
sickness smote Berande. The fact that none had offended was in
itself suspicious. They were growing crafty. He regretted that he
had not waited the night before until the prowlers had entered.
Then he might have shot one or two and given the rest a new lesson,
writ in red, for them to con. It was one man against two hundred,
and he was horribly afraid of his sickness overpowering him and
leaving him at their mercy. He saw visions of the blacks taking
charge of the plantation, looting the store, burning the buildings,
and escaping to Malaita. Also, one gruesome vision he caught of
his own head, sun-dried and smoke-cured, ornamenting the canoe
house of a cannibal village. Either the Jessie would have to
arrive, or he would have to do something.

The bell had hardly rung, sending the labourers into the fields,
when Sheldon had a visitor. He had had the couch taken out on the
veranda, and he was lying on it when the canoes paddled in and
hauled out on the beach. Forty men, armed with spears, bows and
arrows, and war-clubs, gathered outside the gate of the compound,
but only one entered. They knew the law of Berande, as every
native knew the law of every white man's compound in all the
thousand miles of the far-flung Solomons. The one man who came up
the path, Sheldon recognized as Seelee, the chief of Balesuna
village. The savage did not mount the steps, but stood beneath and
talked to the white lord above.

Seelee was more intelligent than the average of his kind, but his
intelligence only emphasized the lowness of that kind. His eyes,
close together and small, advertised cruelty and craftiness. A
gee-string and a cartridge-belt were all the clothes he wore. The
carved pearl-shell ornament that hung from nose to chin and impeded
speech was purely ornamental, as were the holes in his ears mere
utilities for carrying pipe and tobacco. His broken-fanged teeth
were stained black by betel-nut, the juice of which he spat upon
the ground.

As he talked or listened, he made grimaces like a monkey. He said
yes by dropping his eyelids and thrusting his chin forward. He
spoke with childish arrogance strangely at variance with the
subservient position he occupied beneath the veranda. He, with his
many followers, was lord and master of Balesuna village. But the
white man, without followers, was lord and master of Berande--ay,
and on occasion, single-handed, had made himself lord and master of
Balesuna village as well. Seelee did not like to remember that
episode. It had occurred in the course of learning the nature of
white men and of learning to abominate them. He had once been
guilty of sheltering three runaways from Berande. They had given
him all they possessed in return for the shelter and for promised
aid in getting away to Malaita. This had given him a glimpse of a
profitable future, in which his village would serve as the one
depot on the underground railway between Berande and Malaita.

Unfortunately, he was ignorant of the ways of white men. This
particular white man educated him by arriving at his grass house in
the gray of dawn. In the first moment he had felt amused. He was
so perfectly safe in the midst of his village. But the next
moment, and before he could cry out, a pair of handcuffs on the
white man's knuckles had landed on his mouth, knocking the cry of
alarm back down his throat. Also, the white man's other fist had
caught him under the ear and left him without further interest in
what was happening. When he came to, he found himself in the white
man's whale-boat on the way to Berande. At Berande he had been
treated as one of no consequence, with handcuffs on hands and feet,
to say nothing of chains. When his tribe had returned the three
runaways, he was given his freedom. And finally, the terrible
white man had fined him and Balesuna village ten thousand
cocoanuts. After that he had sheltered no more runaway Malaita
men. Instead, he had gone into the business of catching them. It
was safer. Besides, he was paid one case of tobacco per head. But
if he ever got a chance at that white man, if he ever caught him
sick or stood at his back when he stumbled and fell on a bush-
trail--well, there would be a head that would fetch a price in
Malaita.

Sheldon was pleased with what Seelee told him. The seventh man of
the last batch of runaways had been caught and was even then at the
gate. He was brought in, heavy-featured and defiant, his arms
bound with cocoanut sennit, the dry blood still on his body from
the struggle with his captors.

"Me savvee you good fella, Seelee," Sheldon said, as the chief
gulped down a quarter-tumbler of raw trade-gin. "Fella boy belong
me you catch short time little bit. This fella boy strong fella
too much. I give you fella one case tobacco--my word, one case
tobacco. Then, you good fella along me, I give you three fathom
calico, one fella knife big fella too much."

The tobacco and trade goods were brought from the store-room by two
house-boys and turned over to the chief of Balesuna village, who
accepted the additional reward with a non-committal grunt and went
away down the path to his canoes. Under Sheldon's directions the
house-boys handcuffed the prisoner, by hands and feet, around one
of the pile supports of the house. At eleven o'clock, when the
labourers came in from the field, Sheldon had them assembled in the
compound before the veranda. Every able man was there, including
those who were helping about the hospital. Even the women and the
several pickaninnies of the plantation were lined up with the rest,
two deep--a horde of naked savages a trifle under two hundred
strong. In addition to their ornaments of bead and shell and bone,
their pierced ears and nostrils were burdened with safety-pins,
wire nails, metal hair-pins, rusty iron handles of cooking
utensils, and the patent keys for opening corned beef tins. Some
wore penknives clasped on their kinky locks for safety. On the
chest of one a china door-knob was suspended, on the chest of
another the brass wheel of an alarm clock.

Facing them, clinging to the railing of the veranda for support,
stood the sick white man. Any one of them could have knocked him
over with the blow of a little finger. Despite his firearms, the
gang could have rushed him and delivered that blow, when his head
and the plantation would have been theirs. Hatred and murder and
lust for revenge they possessed to overflowing. But one thing they
lacked, the thing that he possessed, the flame of mastery that
would not quench, that burned fiercely as ever in the disease-
wasted body, and that was ever ready to flare forth and scorch and
singe them with its ire.

"Narada! Billy!" Sheldon called sharply.

Two men slunk unwillingly forward and waited.

Sheldon gave the keys of the handcuffs to a house-boy, who went
under the house and loosed the prisoner.

"You fella Narada, you fella Billy, take um this fella boy along
tree and make fast, hands high up," was Sheldon's command.

While this was being done, slowly, amidst mutterings and
restlessness on the part of the onlookers, one of the house-boys
fetched a heavy-handled, heavy-lashed whip. Sheldon began a
speech.

"This fella Arunga, me cross along him too much. I no steal this
fella Arunga. I no gammon. I say, 'All right, you come along me
Berande, work three fella year.' He say, 'All right, me come along
you work three fella year.' He come. He catch plenty good fella
kai-kai, {2} plenty good fella money. What name he run away? Me
too much cross along him. I knock what name outa him fella. I pay
Seelee, big fella master along Balesuna, one case tobacco catch
that fella Arunga. All right. Arunga pay that fella case tobacco.
Six pounds that fella Arunga pay. Alle same one year more that
fella Arunga work Berande. All right. Now he catch ten fella whip
three times. You fella Billy catch whip, give that fella Arunga
ten fella three times. All fella boys look see, all fella Marys
{3} look see; bime bye, they like run away they think strong fella
too much, no run away. Billy, strong fella too much ten fella
three times."

The house-boy extended the whip to him, but Billy did not take it.
Sheldon waited quietly. The eyes of all the cannibals were fixed
upon him in doubt and fear and eagerness. It was the moment of
test, whereby the lone white man was to live or be lost.

"Ten fella three times, Billy," Sheldon said encouragingly, though
there was a certain metallic rasp in his voice.

Billy scowled, looked up and looked down, but did not move.

"Billy!"

Sheldon's voice exploded like a pistol shot. The savage started
physically. Grins overspread the grotesque features of the
audience, and there was a sound of tittering.

"S'pose you like too much lash that fella Arunga, you take him
fella Tulagi," Billy said. "One fella government agent make plenty
lash. That um fella law. Me savvee um fella law."

It was the law, and Sheldon knew it. But he wanted to live this
day and the next day and not to die waiting for the law to operate
the next week or the week after.

"Too much talk along you!" he cried angrily. "What name eh? What
name?"

"Me savvee law," the savage repeated stubbornly.

"Astoa!"

Another man stepped forward in almost a sprightly way and glanced
insolently up. Sheldon was selecting the worst characters for the
lesson.

"You fella Astoa, you fella Narada, tie up that fella Billy
alongside other fella same fella way."

"Strong fella tie," he cautioned them.

"You fella Astoa take that fella whip. Plenty strong big fella too
much ten fella three times. Savvee!"

"No," Astoa grunted.

Sheldon picked up the rifle that had leaned against the rail, and
cocked it.

"I know you, Astoa," he said calmly. "You work along Queensland
six years."

"Me fella missionary," the black interrupted with deliberate
insolence.

"Queensland you stop jail one fella year. White fella master damn
fool no hang you. You too much bad fella. Queensland you stop
jail six months two fella time. Two fella time you steal. All
right, you missionary. You savvee one fella prayer?"

"Yes, me savvee prayer," was the reply.

"All right, then you pray now, short time little bit. You say one
fella prayer damn quick, then me kill you."

Sheldon held the rifle on him and waited. The black glanced around
at his fellows, but none moved to aid him. They were intent upon
the coming spectacle, staring fascinated at the white man with
death in his hands who stood alone on the great veranda. Sheldon
has won, and he knew it. Astoa changed his weight irresolutely
from one foot to the other. He looked at the white man, and saw
his eyes gleaming level along the sights.

"Astoa," Sheldon said, seizing the psychological moment, "I count
three fella time. Then I shoot you fella dead, good-bye, all
finish you."

And Sheldon knew that when he had counted three he would drop him
in his tracks. The black knew it, too. That was why Sheldon did
not have to do it, for when he had counted one, Astoa reached out
his hand and took the whip. And right well Astoa laid on the whip,
angered at his fellows for not supporting him and venting his anger
with every stroke. From the veranda Sheldon egged him on to strike
with strength, till the two triced savages screamed and howled
while the blood oozed down their backs. The lesson was being well
written in red.

When the last of the gang, including the two howling culprits, had
passed out through the compound gate, Sheldon sank down half-
fainting on his couch.

"You're a sick man," he groaned. "A sick man."

"But you can sleep at ease to-night," he added, half an hour later.

CHAPTER III--THE JESSIE

Two days passed, and Sheldon felt that he could not grow any weaker
and live, much less make his four daily rounds of the hospital.
The deaths were averaging four a day, and there were more new cases
than recoveries. The blacks were in a funk. Each one, when taken
sick, seemed to make every effort to die. Once down on their backs
they lacked the grit to make a struggle. They believed they were
going to die, and they did their best to vindicate that belief.
Even those that were well were sure that it was only a mater of
days when the sickness would catch them and carry them off. And
yet, believing this with absolute conviction, they somehow lacked
the nerve to rush the frail wraith of a man with the white skin and
escape from the charnel house by the whale-boats. They chose the
lingering death they were sure awaited them, rather than the
immediate death they were very sure would pounce upon them if they
went up against the master. That he never slept, they knew. That
he could not be conjured to death, they were equally sure--they had
tried it. And even the sickness that was sweeping them off could
not kill him.

With the whipping in the compound, discipline had improved. They
cringed under the iron hand of the white man. They gave their
scowls or malignant looks with averted faces or when his back was
turned. They saved their mutterings for the barracks at night,
where he could not hear. And there were no more runaways and no
more night-prowlers on the veranda.

Dawn of the third day after the whipping brought the Jessie's white
sails in sight. Eight miles away, it was not till two in the
afternoon that the light air-fans enabled her to drop anchor a
quarter of a mile off the shore. The sight of her gave Sheldon
fresh courage, and the tedious hours of waiting did not irk him.
He gave his orders to the boss-boys and made his regular trips to
the hospital. Nothing mattered now. His troubles were at an end.
He could lie down and take care of himself and proceed to get well.
The Jessie had arrived. His partner was on board, vigorous and
hearty from six weeks' recruiting on Malaita. He could take charge
now, and all would be well with Berande.

Sheldon lay in the steamer-chair and watched the Jessie's whale-
boat pull in for the beach. He wondered why only three sweeps were
pulling, and he wondered still more when, beached, there was so
much delay in getting out of the boat. Then he understood. The
three blacks who had been pulling started up the beach with a
stretcher on their shoulders. A white man, whom he recognized as
the Jessie's captain, walked in front and opened the gate, then
dropped behind to close it. Sheldon knew that it was Hughie
Drummond who lay in the stretcher, and a mist came before his eyes.
He felt an overwhelming desire to die. The disappointment was too
great. In his own state of terrible weakness he felt that it was
impossible to go on with his task of holding Berande plantation
tight-gripped in his fist. Then the will of him flamed up again,
and he directed the blacks to lay the stretcher beside him on the
floor. Hughie Drummond, whom he had last seen in health, was an
emaciated skeleton. His closed eyes were deep-sunken. The
shrivelled lips had fallen away from the teeth, and the cheek-bones
seemed bursting through the skin. Sheldon sent a house-boy for his
thermometer and glanced questioningly at the captain.

"Black-water fever," the captain said. "He's been like this for
six days, unconscious. And we've got dysentery on board. What's
the matter with you?"

"I'm burying four a day," Sheldon answered, as he bent over from
the steamer-chair and inserted the thermometer under his partner's
tongue.

Captain Oleson swore blasphemously, and sent a house-boy to bring
whisky and soda. Sheldon glanced at the thermometer.

"One hundred and seven," he said. "Poor Hughie."

Captain Oleson offered him some whisky.

"Couldn't think of it--perforation, you know," Sheldon said.

He sent for a boss-boy and ordered a grave to be dug, also some of
the packing-cases to be knocked together into a coffin. The blacks
did not get coffins. They were buried as they died, being carted
on a sheet of galvanized iron, in their nakedness, from the
hospital to the hole in the ground. Having given the orders,
Sheldon lay back in his chair with closed eyes.

"It's ben fair hell, sir," Captain Oleson began, then broke off to
help himself to more whisky. "It's ben fair hell, Mr. Sheldon, I
tell you. Contrary winds and calms. We've ben driftin' all about
the shop for ten days. There's ten thousand sharks following us
for the tucker we've ben throwin' over to them. They was snappin'
at the oars when we started to come ashore. I wisht to God a
nor'wester'd come along an' blow the Solomons clean to hell."

"We got it from the water--water from Owga creek. Filled my casks
with it. How was we to know? I've filled there before an' it was
all right. We had sixty recruits-full up; and my crew of fifteen.
We've ben buryin' them day an' night. The beggars won't live, damn
them! They die out of spite. Only three of my crew left on its
legs. Five more down. Seven dead. Oh, hell! What's the good of
talkin'?"

"How many recruits left?" Sheldon asked.

"Lost half. Thirty left. Twenty down, and ten tottering around."

Sheldon sighed.

"That means another addition to the hospital. We've got to get
them ashore somehow.--Viaburi! Hey, you, Viaburi, ring big fella
bell strong fella too much."

The hands, called in from the fields at that unwonted hour, were
split into detachments. Some were sent into the woods to cut
timber for house-beams, others to cutting cane-grass for thatching,
and forty of them lifted a whale-boat above their heads and carried
it down to the sea. Sheldon had gritted his teeth, pulled his
collapsing soul together, and taken Berande plantation into his
fist once more.

"Have you seen the barometer?" Captain Oleson asked, pausing at the
bottom of the steps on his way to oversee the disembarkation of the
sick.

"No," Sheldon answered. "Is it down?"

"It's going down."

"Then you'd better sleep aboard to-night," was Sheldon's judgment.
"Never mind the funeral. I'll see to poor Hughie."

"A nigger was kicking the bucket when I dropped anchor."

The captain made the statement as a simple fact, but obviously
waited for a suggestion. The other felt a sudden wave of
irritation rush through him.

"Dump him over," he cried. "Great God, man! don't you think I've
got enough graves ashore?"

"I just wanted to know, that was all," the captain answered, in no
wise offended.

Sheldon regretted his childishness.

"Oh, Captain Oleson," he called. "If you can see your way to it,
come ashore to-morrow and lend me a hand. If you can't, send the
mate."

"Right O. I'll come myself. Mr. Johnson's dead, sir. I forgot to
tell you--three days ago."

Sheldon watched the Jessie's captain go down the path, with waving
arms and loud curses calling upon God to sink the Solomons. Next,
Sheldon noted the Jessie rolling lazily on the glassy swell, and
beyond, in the north-west, high over Florida Island, an alpine
chain of dark-massed clouds. Then he turned to his partner,
calling for boys to carry him into the house. But Hughie Drummond
had reached the end. His breathing was imperceptible. By mere
touch, Sheldon could ascertain that the dying man's temperature was
going down. It must have been going down when the thermometer
registered one hundred and seven. He had burned out. Sheldon
knelt beside him, the house-boys grouped around, their white
singlets and loin-cloths peculiarly at variance with their dark
skins and savage countenances, their huge ear-plugs and carved and
glistening nose-rings. Sheldon tottered to his feet at last, and
half-fell into the steamer-chair. Oppressive as the heat had been,
it was now even more oppressive. It was difficult to breathe. He
panted for air. The faces and naked arms of the house-boys were
beaded with sweat.

"Marster," one of them ventured, "big fella wind he come, strong
fella too much."

Sheldon nodded his head but did not look. Much as he had loved
Hughie Drummond, his death, and the funeral it entailed, seemed an
intolerable burden to add to what he was already sinking under. He
had a feeling--nay, it was a certitude--that all he had to do was
to shut his eyes and let go, and that he would die, sink into
immensity of rest. He knew it; it was very simple. All he had to
do was close his eyes and let go; for he had reached the stage
where he lived by will alone. His weary body seemed torn by the
oncoming pangs of dissolution. He was a fool to hang on. He had
died a score of deaths already, and what was the use of prolonging
it to two-score deaths before he really died. Not only was he not
afraid to die, but he desired to die. His weary flesh and weary
spirit desired it, and why should the flame of him not go utterly
out?

But his mind that could will life or death, still pulsed on. He
saw the two whale-boats land on the beach, and the sick, on
stretchers or pick-a-back, groaning and wailing, go by in
lugubrious procession. He saw the wind making on the clouded
horizon, and thought of the sick in the hospital. Here was
something waiting his hand to be done, and it was not in his nature
to lie down and sleep, or die, when any task remained undone.

The boss-boys were called and given their orders to rope down the
hospital with its two additions. He remembered the spare anchor-
chain, new and black-painted, that hung under the house suspended
from the floor-beams, and ordered it to be used on the hospital as
well. Other boys brought the coffin, a grotesque patchwork of
packing-cases, and under his directions they laid Hughie Drummond
in it. Half a dozen boys carried it down the beach, while he rode
on the back of another, his arms around the black's neck, one hand
clutching a prayer-book.

While he read the service, the blacks gazed apprehensively at the
dark line on the water, above which rolled and tumbled the racing
clouds. The first breath of the wind, faint and silken, tonic with
life, fanned through his dry-baked body as he finished reading.
Then came the second breath of the wind, an angry gust, as the
shovels worked rapidly, filling in the sand. So heavy was the gust
that Sheldon, still on his feet, seized hold of his man-horse to
escape being blown away. The Jessie was blotted out, and a strange
ominous sound arose as multitudinous wavelets struck foaming on the
beach. It was like the bubbling of some colossal cauldron. From
all about could be heard the dull thudding of falling cocoanuts.
The tall, delicate-trunked trees twisted and snapped about like
whip-lashes. The air seemed filled with their flying leaves, any
one of which, stem-on could brain a man. Then came the rain, a
deluge, a straight, horizontal sheet that poured along like a
river, defying gravitation. The black, with Sheldon mounted on
him, plunged ahead into the thick of it, stooping far forward and
low to the ground to avoid being toppled over backward.

"'He's sleeping out and far to-night,'" Sheldon quoted, as he
thought of the dead man in the sand and the rainwater trickling
down upon the cold clay.

So they fought their way back up the beach. The other blacks
caught hold of the man-horse and pulled and tugged. There were
among them those whose fondest desire was to drag the rider in the
sand and spring upon him and mash him into repulsive nothingness.
But the automatic pistol in his belt with its rattling, quick-
dealing death, and the automatic, death-defying spirit in the man
himself, made them refrain and buckle down to the task of hauling
him to safety through the storm.

Wet through and exhausted, he was nevertheless surprised at the
ease with which he got into a change of clothing. Though he was
fearfully weak, he found himself actually feeling better. The
disease had spent itself, and the mend had begun.

"Now if I don't get the fever," he said aloud, and at the same
moment resolved to go to taking quinine as soon as he was strong
enough to dare.

He crawled out on the veranda. The rain had ceased, but the wind,
which had dwindled to a half-gale, was increasing. A big sea had
sprung up, and the mile-long breakers, curling up to the over-fall
two hundred yards from shore, were crashing on the beach. The
Jessie was plunging madly to two anchors, and every second or third
sea broke clear over her bow. Two flags were stiffly undulating
from the halyards like squares of flexible sheet-iron. One was
blue, the other red. He knew their meaning in the Berande private
code--"What are your instructions? Shall I attempt to land boat?"
Tacked on the wall, between the signal locker and the billiard
rules, was the code itself, by which he verified the signal before
making answer. On the flagstaff gaff a boy hoisted a white flag
over a red, which stood for--"Run to Neal Island for shelter."

That Captain Oleson had been expecting this signal was apparent by
the celerity with which the shackles were knocked out of both
anchor-chains. He slipped his anchors, leaving them buoyed to be
picked up in better weather. The Jessie swung off under her full
staysail, then the foresail, double-reefed, was run up. She was
away like a racehorse, clearing Balesuna Shoal with half a cable-
length to spare. Just before she rounded the point she was
swallowed up in a terrific squall that far out-blew the first.

All that night, while squall after squall smote Berande, uprooting
trees, overthrowing copra-sheds, and rocking the house on its tall
piles, Sheldon slept. He was unaware of the commotion. He never
wakened. Nor did he change his position or dream. He awoke, a new
man. Furthermore, he was hungry. It was over a week since food
had passed his lips. He drank a glass of condensed cream, thinned
with water, and by ten o'clock he dared to take a cup of beef-tea.
He was cheered, also, by the situation in the hospital. Despite
the storm there had been but one death, and there was only one
fresh case, while half a dozen boys crawled weakly away to the
barracks. He wondered if it was the wind that was blowing the
disease away and cleansing the pestilential land.

By eleven a messenger arrived from Balesuna village, dispatched by
Seelee. The Jessie had gone ashore half-way between the village
and Neal Island. It was not till nightfall that two of the crew
arrived, reporting the drowning of Captain Oleson and of the one
remaining boy. As for the Jessie, from what they told him Sheldon
could not but conclude that she was a total loss. Further to
hearten him, he was taken by a shivering fit. In half an hour he
was burning up. And he knew that at least another day must pass
before he could undertake even the smallest dose of quinine. He
crawled under a heap of blankets, and a little later found himself
laughing aloud. He had surely reached the limit of disaster.
Barring earthquake or tidal-wave, the worst had already befallen
him. The Flibberty-Gibbet was certainly safe in Mboli Pass. Since
nothing worse could happen, things simply had to mend. So it was,
shivering under his blankets, that he laughed, until the house-
boys, with heads together, marvelled at the devils that were in
him.

CHAPTER IV--JOAN LACKLAND

By the second day of the northwester, Sheldon was in collapse from
his fever. It had taken an unfair advantage of his weak state, and
though it was only ordinary malarial fever, in forty-eight hours it
had run him as low as ten days of fever would have done when he was
in condition. But the dysentery had been swept away from Berande.
A score of convalescents lingered in the hospital, but they were
improving hourly. There had been but one more death--that of the
man whose brother had wailed over him instead of brushing the flies
away.

On the morning of the fourth day of his fever, Sheldon lay on the
veranda, gazing dimly out over the raging ocean. The wind was
falling, but a mighty sea was still thundering in on Berande beach,
the flying spray reaching in as far as the flagstaff mounds, the
foaming wash creaming against the gate-posts. He had taken thirty
grains of quinine, and the drug was buzzing in his ears like a nest
of hornets, making his hands and knees tremble, and causing a
sickening palpitation of the stomach. Once, opening his eyes, he
saw what he took to be an hallucination. Not far out, and coming
in across the Jessie's anchorage, he saw a whale-boat's nose thrust
skyward on a smoky crest and disappear naturally, as an actual
whale-boat's nose should disappear, as it slid down the back of the
sea. He knew that no whale-boat should be out there, and he was
quite certain no men in the Solomons were mad enough to be abroad
in such a storm.

But the hallucination persisted. A minute later, chancing to open
his eyes, he saw the whale-boat, full length, and saw right into it
as it rose on the face of a wave. He saw six sweeps at work, and
in the stern, clearly outlined against the overhanging wall of
white, a man who stood erect, gigantic, swaying with his weight on
the steering-sweep. This he saw, and an eighth man who crouched in
the bow and gazed shoreward. But what startled Sheldon was the
sight of a woman in the stern-sheets, between the stroke-oar and
the steersman. A woman she was, for a braid of her hair was
flying, and she was just in the act of recapturing it and stowing
it away beneath a hat that for all the world was like his own
"Baden-Powell."

The boat disappeared behind the wave, and rose into view on the
face of the following one. Again he looked into it. The men were
dark-skinned, and larger than Solomon Islanders, but the woman, he
could plainly see, was white. Who she was, and what she was doing
there, were thoughts that drifted vaguely through his
consciousness. He was too sick to be vitally interested, and,
besides, he had a half feeling that it was all a dream; but he
noted that the men were resting on their sweeps, while the woman
and the steersman were intently watching the run of seas behind
them.

"Good boatmen," was Sheldon's verdict, as he saw the boat leap
forward on the face of a huge breaker, the sweeps plying swiftly to
keep her on that front of the moving mountain of water that raced
madly for the shore. It was well done. Part full of water, the
boat was flung upon the beach, the men springing out and dragging
its nose to the gate-posts. Sheldon had called vainly to the
house-boys, who, at the moment, were dosing the remaining patients
in the hospital. He knew he was unable to rise up and go down the
path to meet the newcomers, so he lay back in the steamer-chair,
and watched for ages while they cared for the boat. The woman
stood to one side, her hand resting on the gate. Occasionally
surges of sea water washed over her feet, which he could see were
encased in rubber sea-boots. She scrutinized the house sharply,
and for some time she gazed at him steadily. At last, speaking to
two of the men, who turned and followed her, she started up the
path.

Sheldon attempted to rise, got half up out of his chair, and fell
back helplessly. He was surprised at the size of the men, who
loomed like giants behind her. Both were six-footers, and they
were heavy in proportion. He had never seen islanders like them.
They were not black like the Solomon Islanders, but light brown;
and their features were larger, more regular, and even handsome.

The woman--or girl, rather, he decided--walked along the veranda
toward him. The two men waited at the head of the steps, watching
curiously. The girl was angry; he could see that. Her gray eyes
were flashing, and her lips were quivering. That she had a temper,
was his thought. But the eyes were striking. He decided that they
were not gray after all, or, at least, not all gray. They were
large and wide apart, and they looked at him from under level
brows. Her face was cameo-like, so clear cut was it. There were
other striking things about her--the cowboy Stetson hat, the heavy
braids of brown hair, and the long-barrelled 38 Colt's revolver
that hung in its holster on her hip.

"Pretty hospitality, I must say," was her greeting, "letting
strangers sink or swim in your front yard."

"I--I beg your pardon," he stammered, by a supreme effort dragging
himself to his feet.

His legs wobbled under him, and with a suffocating sensation he
began sinking to the floor. He was aware of a feeble gratification
as he saw solicitude leap into her eyes; then blackness smote him,
and at the moment of smiting him his thought was that at last, and
for the first time in his life, he had fainted.

The ringing of the big bell aroused him. He opened his eyes and
found that he was on the couch indoors. A glance at the clock told
him that it was six, and from the direction the sun's rays streamed
into the room he knew that it was morning. At first he puzzled
over something untoward he was sure had happened. Then on the wall
he saw a Stetson hat hanging, and beneath it a full cartridge-belt
and a long-barrelled 38 Colt's revolver. The slender girth of the
belt told its feminine story, and he remembered the whale-boat of
the day before and the gray eyes that flashed beneath the level
brows. She it must have been who had just rung the bell. The
cares of the plantation rushed upon him, and he sat up in bed,
clutching at the wall for support as the mosquito screen lurched
dizzily around him. He was still sitting there, holding on, with
eyes closed, striving to master his giddiness, when he heard her
voice.

"You'll lie right down again, sir," she said.

It was sharply imperative, a voice used to command. At the same
time one hand pressed him back toward the pillow while the other
caught him from behind and eased him down.

"You've been unconscious for twenty-four hours now," she went on,
"and I have taken charge. When I say the word you'll get up, and
not until then. Now, what medicine do you take?--quinine? Here
are ten grains. That's right. You'll make a good patient."

"My dear madame," he began.

"You musn't speak," she interrupted, "that is, in protest.
Otherwise, you can talk."

"But the plantation--"

"A dead man is of no use on a plantation. Don't you want to know
about ME? My vanity is hurt. Here am I, just through my first
shipwreck; and here are you, not the least bit curious, talking
about your miserable plantation. Can't you see that I am just
bursting to tell somebody, anybody, about my shipwreck?"

He smiled; it was the first time in weeks. And he smiled, not so
much at what she said, as at the way she said it--the whimsical
expression of her face, the laughter in her eyes, and the several
tiny lines of humour that drew in at the corners. He was curiously
wondering as to what her age was, as he said aloud:

"Yes, tell me, please."

"That I will not--not now," she retorted, with a toss of the head.
"I'll find somebody to tell my story to who does not have to be
asked. Also, I want information. I managed to find out what time
to ring the bell to turn the hands to, and that is about all. I
don't understand the ridiculous speech of your people. What time
do they knock off?"

"At eleven--go on again at one."

"That will do, thank you. And now, where do you keep the key to
the provisions? I want to feed my men."

"Your men!" he gasped. "On tinned goods! No, no. Let them go out
and eat with my boys."

Her eyes flashed as on the day before, and he saw again the
imperative expression on her face.

"That I won't; my men are MEN. I've been out to your miserable
barracks and watched them eat. Faugh! Potatoes! Nothing but
potatoes! No salt! Nothing! Only potatoes! I may have been
mistaken, but I thought I understood them to say that that was all
they ever got to eat. Two meals a day and every day in the week?"

He nodded.

"Well, my men wouldn't stand that for a single day, much less a
whole week. Where is the key?"

"Hanging on that clothes-hook under the clock."

He gave it easily enough, but as she was reaching down the key she
heard him say:

"Fancy niggers and tinned provisions."

This time she really was angry. The blood was in her cheeks as she
turned on him.

"My men are not niggers. The sooner you understand that the better
for our acquaintance. As for the tinned goods, I'll pay for all
they eat. Please don't worry about that. Worry is not good for
you in your condition. And I won't stay any longer than I have to-
-just long enough to get you on your feet, and not go away with the
feeling of having deserted a white man."

"You're American, aren't you?" he asked quietly.

The question disconcerted her for the moment.

"Yes," she vouchsafed, with a defiant look. "Why?"

"Nothing. I merely thought so."

"Anything further?"

He shook his head.

"Why?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing. I thought you might have something pleasant to say."

"My name is Sheldon, David Sheldon," he said, with direct
relevance, holding out a thin hand.

Her hand started out impulsively, then checked. "My name is
Lackland, Joan Lackland." The hand went out. "And let us be
friends."

"It could not be otherwise--" he began lamely.

"And I can feed my men all the tinned goods I want?" she rushed on.

"Till the cows come home," he answered, attempting her own
lightness, then adding, "that is, to Berande. You see we don't
have any cows at Berande."

She fixed him coldly with her eyes.

"Is that a joke?" she demanded.

"I really don't know--I--I thought it was, but then, you see, I'm
sick."

"You're English, aren't you?" was her next query.

"Now that's too much, even for a sick man," he cried. "You know
well enough that I am."

"Oh," she said absently, "then you are?"

He frowned, tightened his lips, then burst into laughter, in which
she joined.

"It's my own fault," he confessed. "I shouldn't have baited you.
I'll be careful in the future."

"In the meantime go on laughing, and I'll see about breakfast. Is
there anything you would fancy?"

He shook his head.

"It will do you good to eat something. Your fever has burned out,
and you are merely weak. Wait a moment."

She hurried out of the room in the direction of the kitchen,
tripped at the door in a pair of sandals several sizes too large
for her feet, and disappeared in rosy confusion.

"By Jove, those are my sandals," he thought to himself. "The girl
hasn't a thing to wear except what she landed on the beach in, and
she certainly landed in sea-boots."

CHAPTER V--SHE WOULD A PLANTER BE

Sheldon mended rapidly. The fever had burned out, and there was
nothing for him to do but gather strength. Joan had taken the cook
in hand, and for the first time, as Sheldon remarked, the chop at
Berande was white man's chop. With her own hands Joan prepared the
sick man's food, and between that and the cheer she brought him, he
was able, after two days, to totter feebly out upon the veranda.
The situation struck him as strange, and stranger still was the
fact that it did not seem strange to the girl at all. She had
settled down and taken charge of the household as a matter of
course, as if he were her father, or brother, or as if she were a
man like himself.

"It is just too delightful for anything," she assured him. "It is
like a page out of some romance. Here I come along out of the sea
and find a sick man all alone with two hundred slaves--"

"Recruits," he corrected. "Contract labourers. They serve only
three years, and they are free agents when they enter upon their
contracts."

"Yes, yes," she hurried on. "--A sick man alone with two hundred
recruits on a cannibal island--they are cannibals, aren't they? Or
is it all talk?"

"Talk!" he said, with a smile. "It's a trifle more than that.
Most of my boys are from the bush, and every bushman is a
cannibal."

"But not after they become recruits? Surely, the boys you have
here wouldn't be guilty."

"They'd eat you if the chance afforded."

"Are you just saying so, on theory, or do you really know?" she
asked.

"I know."

"Why? What makes you think so? Your own men here?"

"Yes, my own men here, the very house-boys, the cook that at the
present moment is making such delicious rolls, thanks to you. Not
more than three months ago eleven of them sneaked a whale-boat and
ran for Malaita. Nine of them belonged to Malaita. Two were
bushmen from San Cristoval. They were fools--the two from San
Cristoval, I mean; so would any two Malaita men be who trusted
themselves in a boat with nine from San Cristoval."

"Yes?" she asked eagerly. "Then what happened?"

"The nine Malaita men ate the two from San Cristoval, all except
the heads, which are too valuable for mere eating. They stowed
them away in the stern-locker till they landed. And those two
heads are now in some bush village back of Langa Langa."

She clapped her hands and her eyes sparkled. "They are really and
truly cannibals! And just think, this is the twentieth century!
And I thought romance and adventure were fossilized!"

He looked at her with mild amusement.

"What is the matter now?" she queried.

"Oh, nothing, only I don't fancy being eaten by a lot of filthy
niggers is the least bit romantic."

"No, of course not," she admitted. "But to be among them,
controlling them, directing them, two hundred of them, and to
escape being eaten by them--that, at least, if it isn't romantic,
is certainly the quintessence of adventure. And adventure and
romance are allied, you know."

"By the same token, to go into a nigger's stomach should be the
quintessence of adventure," he retorted.

"I don't think you have any romance in you," she exclaimed.
"You're just dull and sombre and sordid like the business men at
home. I don't know why you're here at all. You should be at home
placidly vegetating as a banker's clerk or--or--"

"A shopkeeper's assistant, thank you."

"Yes, that--anything. What under the sun are you doing here on the
edge of things?"

"Earning my bread and butter, trying to get on in the world."

"'By the bitter road the younger son must tread, Ere he win to
hearth and saddle of his own,'" she quoted. "Why, if that isn't
romantic, then nothing is romantic. Think of all the younger sons
out over the world, on a myriad of adventures winning to those same
hearths and saddles. And here you are in the thick of it, doing
it, and here am I in the thick of it, doing it."

"I--I beg pardon," he drawled.

"Well, I'm a younger daughter, then," she amended; "and I have no
hearth nor saddle--I haven't anybody or anything--and I'm just as
far on the edge of things as you are."

"In your case, then, I'll admit there is a bit of romance," he
confessed.

He could not help but think of the preceding nights, and of her
sleeping in the hammock on the veranda, under mosquito curtains,
her bodyguard of Tahitian sailors stretched out at the far corner
of the veranda within call. He had been too helpless to resist,
but now he resolved she should have his couch inside while he would
take the hammock.

"You see, I had read and dreamed about romance all my life," she
was saying, "but I never, in my wildest fancies, thought that I
should live it. It was all so unexpected. Two years ago I thought
there was nothing left to me but. . . ." She faltered, and made a
moue of distaste. "Well, the only thing that remained, it seemed
to me, was marriage."

"And you preferred a cannibal isle and a cartridge-belt?" he
suggested.

"I didn't think of the cannibal isle, but the cartridge-belt was
blissful."

"You wouldn't dare use the revolver if you were compelled to. Or,"
noting the glint in her eyes, "if you did use it, to--well, to hit
anything."

She started up suddenly to enter the house. He knew she was going
for her revolver.

"Never mind," he said, "here's mine. What can you do with it?"

"Shoot the block off your flag-halyards."

He smiled his unbelief.

"I don't know the gun," she said dubiously.

"It's a light trigger and you don't have to hold down. Draw fine."

"Yes, yes," she spoke impatiently. "I know automatics--they jam
when they get hot--only I don't know yours." She looked at it a
moment. "It's cocked. Is there a cartridge in the chamber?"

She fired, and the block remained intact.

"It's a long shot," he said, with the intention of easing her
chagrin.

But she bit her lip and fired again. The bullet emitted a sharp
shriek as it ricochetted into space. The metal block rattled back
and forth. Again and again she fired, till the clip was emptied of
its eight cartridges. Six of them were hits. The block still
swayed at the gaff-end, but it was battered out of all usefulness.
Sheldon was astonished. It was better than he or even Hughie
Drummond could have done. The women he had known, when they
sporadically fired a rifle or revolver, usually shrieked, shut
their eyes, and blazed away into space.

"That's really good shooting . . . for a woman," he said. "You
only missed it twice, and it was a strange weapon."

"But I can't make out the two misses," she complained. "The gun
worked beautifully, too. Give me another clip and I'll hit it
eight times for anything you wish."

"I don't doubt it. Now I'll have to get a new block. Viaburi!
Here you fella, catch one fella block along store-room."

"I'll wager you can't do it eight out of eight . . . anything you
wish," she challenged.

"No fear of my taking it on," was his answer. "Who taught you to
shoot?"

"Oh, my father, at first, and then Von, and his cowboys. He was a
shot--Dad, I mean, though Von was splendid, too."

Sheldon wondered secretly who Von was, and he speculated as to
whether it was Von who two years previously had led her to believe
that nothing remained for her but matrimony.

"What part of the United States is your home?" he asked. "Chicago
or Wyoming? or somewhere out there? You know you haven't told me a
thing about yourself. All that I know is that you are Miss Joan
Lackland from anywhere."

"You'd have to go farther west to find my stamping grounds."

"Ah, let me see--Nevada?"

She shook her head.

"California?"

"Still farther west."

"It can't be, or else I've forgotten my geography."

"It's your politics," she laughed. "Don't you remember
'Annexation'?"

"The Philippines!" he cried triumphantly.

"No, Hawaii. I was born there. It is a beautiful land. My, I'm
almost homesick for it already. Not that I haven't been away. I
was in New York when the crash came. But I do think it is the
sweetest spot on earth--Hawaii, I mean."

"Then what under the sun are you doing down here in this God-
forsaken place?" he asked. "Only fools come here," he added
bitterly.

"Nielsen wasn't a fool, was he?" she queried. "As I understand, he
made three millions here."

"Only too true, and that fact is responsible for my being here."

"And for me, too," she said. "Dad heard about him in the
Marquesas, and so we started. Only poor Dad didn't get here."

"He--your father--died?" he faltered.

She nodded, and her eyes grew soft and moist.

"I might as well begin at the beginning." She lifted her head with
a proud air of dismissing sadness, after, the manner of a woman
qualified to wear a Baden-Powell and a long-barrelled Colt's. "I
was born at Hilo. That's on the island of Hawaii--the biggest and
best in the whole group. I was brought up the way most girls in
Hawaii are brought up. They live in the open, and they know how to
ride and swim before they know what six-times-six is. As for me, I
can't remember when I first got on a horse nor when I learned to
swim. That came before my A B C's. Dad owned cattle ranches on
Hawaii and Maui--big ones, for the islands. Hokuna had two hundred
thousand acres alone. It extended in between Mauna Koa and Mauna
Loa, and it was there I learned to shoot goats and wild cattle. On
Molokai they have big spotted deer. Von was the manager of Hokuna.
He had two daughters about my own age, and I always spent the hot
season there, and, once, a whole year. The three of us were like
Indians. Not that we ran wild, exactly, but that we were wild to
run wild. There were always the governesses, you know, and
lessons, and sewing, and housekeeping; but I'm afraid we were too
often bribed to our tasks with promises of horses or of cattle
drives.

"Von had been in the army, and Dad was an old sea-dog, and they
were both stern disciplinarians; only the two girls had no mother,
and neither had I, and they were two men after all. They spoiled
us terribly. You see, they didn't have any wives, and they made
chums out of us--when our tasks were done. We had to learn to do
everything about the house twice as well as the native servants did
it--that was so that we should know how to manage some day. And we
always made the cocktails, which was too holy a rite for any
servant. Then, too, we were never allowed anything we could not
take care of ourselves. Of course the cowboys always roped and
saddled our horses, but we had to be able ourselves to go out in
the paddock and rope our horses--"

"What do you mean by ROPE?" Sheldon asked.

"To lariat them, to lasso them. And Dad and Von timed us in the
saddling and made a most rigid examination of the result. It was
the same way with our revolvers and rifles. The house-boys always
cleaned them and greased them; but we had to learn how in order to
see that they did it properly. More than once, at first, one or
the other of us had our rifles taken away for a week just because
of a tiny speck of rust. We had to know how to build fires in the
driving rain, too, out of wet wood, when we camped out, which was
the hardest thing of all--except grammar, I do believe. We learned
more from Dad and Von than from the governesses; Dad taught us
French and Von German. We learned both languages passably well,
and we learned them wholly in the saddle or in camp.

"In the cool season the girls used to come down and visit me in
Hilo, where Dad had two houses, one at the beach, or the three of
us used to go down to our place in Puna, and that meant canoes and
boats and fishing and swimming. Then, too, Dad belonged to the
Royal Hawaiian Yacht Club, and took us racing and cruising. Dad
could never get away from the sea, you know. When I was fourteen I
was Dad's actual housekeeper, with entire power over the servants,
and I am very proud of that period of my life. And when I was
sixteen we three girls were all sent up to California to Mills
Seminary, which was quite fashionable and stifling. How we used to
long for home! We didn't chum with the other girls, who called us
little cannibals, just because we came from the Sandwich Islands,
and who made invidious remarks about our ancestors banqueting on
Captain Cook--which was historically untrue, and, besides, our
ancestors hadn't lived in Hawaii.

"I was three years at Mills Seminary, with trips home, of course,
and two years in New York; and then Dad went smash in a sugar
plantation on Maui. The report of the engineers had not been
right. Then Dad had built a railroad that was called 'Lackland's
Folly,'--it will pay ultimately, though. But it contributed to the
smash. The Pelaulau Ditch was the finishing blow. And nothing
would have happened anyway, if it hadn't been for that big money
panic in Wall Street. Dear good Dad! He never let me know. But I
read about the crash in a newspaper, and hurried home. It was
before that, though, that people had been dinging into my ears that
marriage was all any woman could get out of life, and good-bye to
romance. Instead of which, with Dad's failure, I fell right into
romance."

"How long ago was that?" Sheldon asked.

"Last year--the year of the panic."

"Let me see," Sheldon pondered with an air of gravity. "Sixteen
plus five, plus one, equals twenty-two. You were born in 1887?"

"Yes; but it is not nice of you."

"I am really sorry," he said, "but the problem was so obvious."

"Can't you ever say nice things? Or is it the way you English
have?" There was a snap in her gray eyes, and her lips quivered
suspiciously for a moment. "I should recommend, Mr. Sheldon, that
you read Gertrude Atherton's 'American Wives and English
Husbands.'"

"Thank you, I have. It's over there." He pointed at the
generously filled bookshelves. "But I am afraid it is rather
partisan."

"Anything un-English is bound to be," she retorted. "I never have
liked the English anyway. The last one I knew was an overseer.
Dad was compelled to discharge him."

"One swallow doesn't make a summer."

"But that Englishman made lots of trouble--there! And now please
don't make me any more absurd than I already am."

"I'm trying not to."

"Oh, for that matter--" She tossed her head, opened her mouth to
complete the retort, then changed her mind. "I shall go on with my
history. Dad had practically nothing left, and he decided to
return to the sea. He'd always loved it, and I half believe that
he was glad things had happened as they did. He was like a boy
again, busy with plans and preparations from morning till night.
He used to sit up half the night talking things over with me. That
was after I had shown him that I was really resolved to go along.

"He had made his start, you know, in the South Seas--pearls and
pearl shell--and he was sure that more fortunes, in trove of one
sort and another, were to be picked up. Cocoanut-planting was his
particular idea, with trading, and maybe pearling, along with other
things, until the plantation should come into bearing. He traded
off his yacht for a schooner, the Miele, and away we went. I took
care of him and studied navigation. He was his own skipper. We
had a Danish mate, Mr. Ericson, and a mixed crew of Japanese and
Hawaiians. We went up and down the Line Islands, first, until Dad
was heartsick. Everything was changed. They had been annexed and
divided by one power or another, while big companies had stepped in
and gobbled land, trading rights, fishing rights, everything.

"Next we sailed for the Marquesas. They were beautiful, but the
natives were nearly extinct. Dad was cut up when he learned that
the French charged an export duty on copra--he called it medieval--
but he liked the land. There was a valley of fifteen thousand
acres on Nuka-hiva, half inclosing a perfect anchorage, which he
fell in love with and bought for twelve hundred Chili dollars. But
the French taxation was outrageous (that was why the land was so
cheap), and, worst of all, we could obtain no labour. What kanakas
there were wouldn't work, and the officials seemed to sit up nights
thinking out new obstacles to put in our way.

"Six months was enough for Dad. The situation was hopeless.
'We'll go to the Solomons,' he said, 'and get a whiff of English
rule. And if there are no openings there we'll go on to the
Bismarck Archipelago. I'll wager the Admiraltys are not yet
civilized.' All preparations were made, things packed on board,
and a new crew of Marquesans and Tahitians shipped. We were just
ready to start to Tahiti, where a lot of repairs and refitting for
the Miele were necessary, when poor Dad came down sick and died."

"And you were left all alone?"

Joan nodded.

"Very much alone. I had no brothers nor sisters, and all Dad's
people were drowned in a Kansas cloud-burst. That happened when he
was a little boy. Of course, I could go back to Von. There's
always a home there waiting for me. But why should I go? Besides,
there were Dad's plans, and I felt that it devolved upon me to
carry them out. It seemed a fine thing to do. Also, I wanted to
carry them out. And . . . here I am.

"Take my advice and never go to Tahiti. It is a lovely place, and
so are the natives. But the white people! Now Barabbas lived in
Tahiti. Thieves, robbers, and lairs--that is what they are. The
honest men wouldn't require the fingers of one hand to count. The
fact that I was a woman only simplified matters with them. They
robbed me on every pretext, and they lied without pretext or need.
Poor Mr. Ericson was corrupted. He joined the robbers, and O.K.'d
all their demands even up to a thousand per cent. If they robbed
me of ten francs, his share was three. One bill of fifteen hundred
francs I paid, netted him five hundred francs. All this, of
course, I learned afterward. But the Miele was old, the repairs
had to be made, and I was charged, not three prices, but seven
prices.

"I never shall know how much Ericson got out of it. He lived
ashore in a nicely furnished house. The shipwrights were giving it
to him rent-free. Fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and ice came to
this house every day, and he paid for none of it. It was part of
his graft from the various merchants. And all the while, with
tears in his eyes, he bemoaned the vile treatment I was receiving
from the gang. No, I did not fall among thieves. I went to
Tahiti.

"But when the robbers fell to cheating one another, I got my first
clues to the state of affairs. One of the robbed robbers came to
me after dark, with facts, figures, and assertions. I knew I was
ruined if I went to law. The judges were corrupt like everything
else. But I did do one thing. In the dead of night I went to
Ericson's house. I had the same revolver I've got now, and I made
him stay in bed while I overhauled things. Nineteen hundred and
odd francs was what I carried away with me. He never complained to
the police, and he never came back on board. As for the rest of
the gang, they laughed and snapped their fingers at me. There were
two Americans in the place, and they warned me to leave the law
alone unless I wanted to leave the Miele behind as well.

"Then I sent to New Zealand and got a German mate. He had a
master's certificate, and was on the ship's papers as captain, but
I was a better navigator than he, and I was really captain myself.
I lost her, too, but it's no reflection on my seamanship. We were
drifting four days outside there in dead calms. Then the
nor'wester caught us and drove us on the lee shore. We made sail
and tried to clew off, when the rotten work of the Tahiti
shipwrights became manifest. Our jib-boom and all our head-stays
carried away. Our only chance was to turn and run through the
passage between Florida and Ysabel. And when we were safely
through, in the twilight, where the chart shows fourteen fathoms as
the shoalest water, we smashed on a coral patch. The poor old
Miele struck only once, and then went clear; but it was too much
for her, and we just had time to clear away in the boat when she
went down. The German mate was drowned. We lay all night to a
sea-drag, and next morning sighted your place here."

"I suppose you will go back to Von, now?" Sheldon queried.

"Nothing of the sort. Dad planned to go to the Solomons. I shall
look about for some land and start a small plantation. Do you know
any good land around here? Cheap?"

"By George, you Yankees are remarkable, really remarkable," said
Sheldon. "I should never have dreamed of such a venture."

"Adventure," Joan corrected him.

"That's right--adventure it is. And if you'd gone ashore on
Malaita instead of Guadalcanar you'd have been kai-kai'd long ago,
along with your noble Tahitian sailors."

Joan shuddered.

"To tell the truth," she confessed, "we were very much afraid to
land on Guadalcanar. I read in the 'Sailing Directions' that the
natives were treacherous and hostile. Some day I should like to go
to Malaita. Are there any plantations there?"

"Not one. Not a white trader even."

"Then I shall go over on a recruiting vessel some time."

"Impossible!" Sheldon cried. "It is no place for a woman."

"I shall go just the same," she repeated.

"But no self-respecting woman--"

"Be careful," she warned him. "I shall go some day, and then you
may be sorry for the names you have called me."

CHAPTER VI--TEMPEST

It was the first time Sheldon had been at close quarters with an
American girl, and he would have wondered if all American girls
were like Joan Lackland had he not had wit enough to realize that
she was not at all typical. Her quick mind and changing moods
bewildered him, while her outlook on life was so different from
what he conceived a woman's outlook should be, that he was more
often than not at sixes and sevens with her. He could never
anticipate what she would say or do next. Of only one thing was he
sure, and that was that whatever she said or did was bound to be
unexpected and unsuspected. There seemed, too, something almost
hysterical in her make-up. Her temper was quick and stormy, and
she relied too much on herself and too little on him, which did not
approximate at all to his ideal of woman's conduct when a man was
around. Her assumption of equality with him was disconcerting, and
at times he half-consciously resented the impudence and bizarreness
of her intrusion upon him--rising out of the sea in a howling
nor'wester, fresh from poking her revolver under Ericson's nose,
protected by her gang of huge Polynesian sailors, and settling down
in Berande like any shipwrecked sailor. It was all on a par with
her Baden-Powell and the long 38 Colt's.

At any rate, she did not look the part. And that was what he could
not forgive. Had she been short-haired, heavy-jawed, large-
muscled, hard-bitten, and utterly unlovely in every way, all would
have been well. Instead of which she was hopelessly and
deliciously feminine. Her hair worried him, it was so generously
beautiful. And she was so slenderly and prettily the woman--the
girl, rather--that it cut him like a knife to see her, with quick,
comprehensive eyes and sharply imperative voice, superintend the
launching of the whale-boat through the surf. In imagination he
could see her roping a horse, and it always made him shudder.
Then, too, she was so many-sided. Her knowledge of literature and
art surprised him, while deep down was the feeling that a girl who
knew such things had no right to know how to rig tackles, heave up
anchors, and sail schooners around the South Seas. Such things in
her brain were like so many oaths on her lips. While for such a
girl to insist that she was going on a recruiting cruise around
Malaita was positive self-sacrilege.

He always perturbedly harked back to her feminineness. She could
play the piano far better than his sisters at home, and with far
finer appreciation--the piano that poor Hughie had so heroically
laboured over to keep in condition. And when she strummed the
guitar and sang liquid, velvety Hawaiian hulas, he sat entranced.
Then she was all woman, and the magic of sex kidnapped the
irritations of the day and made him forget the big revolver, the
Baden-Powell, and all the rest. But what right, the next thought
in his brain would whisper, had such a girl to swagger around like
a man and exult that adventure was not dead? Woman that adventured
were adventuresses, and the connotation was not nice. Besides, he
was not enamoured of adventure. Not since he was a boy had it
appealed to him--though it would have driven him hard to explain
what had brought him from England to the Solomons if it had not
been adventure.

Sheldon certainly was not happy. The unconventional state of
affairs was too much for his conservative disposition and training.
Berande, inhabited by one lone white man, was no place for Joan
Lackland. Yet he racked his brain for a way out, and even talked
it over with her. In the first place, the steamer from Australia
was not due for three weeks.

"One thing is evident: you don't want me here," she said. "I'll
man the whale-boat to-morrow and go over to Tulagi."

"But as I told you before, that is impossible," he cried. "There
is no one there. The Resident Commissioner is away in Australia.
Them is only one white man, a third assistant understrapper and ex-
sailor--a common sailor. He is in charge of the government of the
Solomons, to say nothing of a hundred or so niggers--prisoners.
Besides, he is such a fool that he would fine you five pounds for
not having entered at Tulagi, which is the port of entry, you know.
He is not a nice man, and, I repeat, it is impossible."

"There is Guvutu," she suggested.

He shook his head.

"There's nothing there but fever and five white men who are
drinking themselves to death. I couldn't permit it."

"Oh thank you," she said quietly. "I guess I'll start to-day.--
Viaburi! You go along Noa Noah, speak 'm come along me."

Noa Noah was her head sailor, who had been boatswain of the Miele.

"Where are you going?" Sheldon asked in surprise.--"Vlaburi! You
stop."

"To Guvutu--immediately," was her reply.

"But I won't permit it."

"That is why I am going. You said it once before, and it is
something I cannot brook."

"What?" He was bewildered by her sudden anger. "If I have
offended in any way--"

"Viaburi, you fetch 'm one fella Noa Noah along me," she commanded.

The black boy started to obey.

"Viaburi! You no stop I break 'm head belong you. And now, Miss
Lackland, I insist--you must explain. What have I said or done to
merit this?"

"You have presumed, you have dared--"

She choked and swallowed, and could not go on.

Sheldon looked the picture of despair.

"I confess my head is going around with it all," he said. "If you
could only be explicit."

"As explicit as you were when you told me that you would not permit
me to go to Guvutu?"

"But what's wrong with that?"

"But you have no right--no man has the right--to tell me what he
will permit or not permit. I'm too old to have a guardian, nor did
I sail all the way to the Solomons to find one."

"A gentleman is every woman's guardian."

"Well, I'm not every woman--that's all. Will you kindly allow me
to send your boy for Noa Noah? I wish him to launch the whale-
boat. Or shall I go myself for him?"

Both were now on their feet, she with flushed cheeks and angry
eyes, he, puzzled, vexed, and alarmed. The black boy stood like a
statue--a plum-black statue--taking no interest in the transactions
of these incomprehensible whites, but dreaming with calm eyes of a
certain bush village high on the jungle slopes of Malaita, with
blue smoke curling up from the grass houses against the gray
background of an oncoming mountain-squall.

"But you won't do anything so foolish--" he began.

"There you go again," she cried.

"I didn't mean it that way, and you know I didn't." He was
speaking slowly and gravely. "And that other thing, that not
permitting--it is only a manner of speaking. Of course I am not
your guardian. You know you can go to Guvutu if you want to"--"or
to the devil," he was almost tempted to add. "Only, I should
deeply regret it, that is all. And I am very sorry that I should
have said anything that hurt you. Remember, I am an Englishman."

Joan smiled and sat down again.

"Perhaps I have been hasty," she admitted. "You see, I am
intolerant of restraint. If you only knew how I have been
compelled to fight for my freedom. It is a sore point with me,
this being told what I am to do or not do by you self-constituted
lords of creation.-Viaburi I You stop along kitchen. No bring 'm
Noa Noah.--And now, Mr. Sheldon, what am I to do? You don't want
me here, and there doesn't seem to be any place for me to go."

"That is unfair. Your being wrecked here has been a godsend to me.
I was very lonely and very sick. I really am not certain whether
or not I should have pulled through had you not happened along.
But that is not the point. Personally, purely selfishly
personally, I should be sorry to see you go. But I am not
considering myself. I am considering you. It--it is hardly the
proper thing, you know. If I were married--if there were some
woman of your own race here--but as it is--"

She threw up her hands in mock despair.

"I cannot follow you," she said. "In one breath you tell me I must
go, and in the next breath you tell me there is no place to go and
that you will not permit me to go. What is a poor girl to do?"

"That's the trouble," he said helplessly.

"And the situation annoys you."

"Only for your sake."

"Then let me save your feelings by telling you that it does not
annoy me at all--except for the row you are making about it. I
never allow what can't be changed to annoy me. There is no use in
fighting the inevitable. Here is the situation. You are here. I
am here. I can't go elsewhere, by your own account. You certainly
can't go elsewhere and leave me here alone with a whole plantation
and two hundred woolly cannibals on my hands. Therefore you stay,
and I stay. It is very simple. Also, it is adventure. And
furthermore, you needn't worry for yourself. I am not
matrimonially inclined. I came to the Solomons for a plantation,
not a husband."

Sheldon flushed, but remained silent.

"I know what you are thinking," she laughed gaily. "That if I were
a man you'd wring my neck for me. And I deserve it, too. I'm so
sorry. I ought not to keep on hurting your feelings."

"I'm afraid I rather invite it," he said, relieved by the signs of
the tempest subsiding.

"I have it," she announced. "Lend me a gang of your boys for to-
day. I'll build a grass house for myself over in the far corner of
the compound--on piles, of course. I can move in to-night. I'll
be comfortable and safe. The Tahitians can keep an anchor watch
just as aboard ship. And then I'll study cocoanut planting. In
return, I'll run the kitchen end of your household and give you
some decent food to eat. And finally, I won't listen to any of
your protests. I know all that you are going to say and offer--
your giving the bungalow up to me and building a grass house for
yourself. And I won't have it. You may as well consider
everything settled. On the other hand, if you don't agree, I will
go across the river, beyond your jurisdiction, and build a village
for myself and my sailors, whom I shall send in the whale-boat to
Guvutu for provisions. And now I want you to teach me billiards."

CHAPTER VII--A HARD-BITTEN GANG

Joan took hold of the household with no uncertain grip,
revolutionizing things till Sheldon hardly recognized the place.
For the first time the bungalow was clean and orderly. No longer
the house-boys loafed and did as little as they could; while the
cook complained that "head belong him walk about too much," from
the strenuous course in cookery which she put him through. Nor did
Sheldon escape being roundly lectured for his laziness in eating
nothing but tinned provisions. She called him a muddler and a
slouch, and other invidious names, for his slackness and his
disregard of healthful food.

She sent her whale-boat down the coast twenty miles for limes and
oranges, and wanted to know scathingly why said fruits had not long
since been planted at Berande, while he was beneath contempt
because there was no kitchen garden. Mummy apples, which he had
regarded as weeds, under her guidance appeared as appetizing
breakfast fruit, and, at dinner, were metamorphosed into puddings
that elicited his unqualified admiration. Bananas, foraged from
the bush, were served, cooked and raw, a dozen different ways, each
one of which he declared was better than any other. She or her
sailors dynamited fish daily, while the Balesuna natives were paid
tobacco for bringing in oysters from the mangrove swamps. Her
achievements with cocoanuts were a revelation. She taught the cook
how to make yeast from the milk, that, in turn, raised light and
airy bread. From the tip-top heart of the tree she concocted a
delicious salad. From the milk and the meat of the nut she made
various sauces and dressings, sweet and sour, that were served,
according to preparation, with dishes that ranged from fish to
pudding. She taught Sheldon the superiority of cocoanut cream over
condensed cream, for use in coffee. From the old and sprouting
nuts she took the solid, spongy centres and turned them into
salads. Her forte seemed to be salads, and she astonished him with
the deliciousness of a salad made from young bamboo shoots. Wild
tomatoes, which had gone to seed or been remorselessly hoed out
from the beginning of Berande, were foraged for salads, soups, and
sauces. The chickens, which had always gone into the bush and
hidden their eggs, were given laying-bins, and Joan went out
herself to shoot wild duck and wild pigeons for the table.

"Not that I like to do this sort of work," she explained, in
reference to the cookery; "but because I can't get away from Dad's
training."

Among other things, she burned the pestilential hospital,
quarrelled with Sheldon over the dead, and, in anger, set her own
men to work building a new, and what she called a decent, hospital.
She robbed the windows of their lawn and muslin curtains, replacing
them with gaudy calico from the trade-store, and made herself
several gowns. When she wrote out a list of goods and clothing for
herself, to be sent down to Sydney by the first steamer, Sheldon
wondered how long she had made up her mind to stay.

She was certainly unlike any woman he had ever known or dreamed of.
So far as he was concerned she was not a woman at all. She neither
languished nor blandished. No feminine lures were wasted on him.
He might have been her brother, or she his brother, for all sex had
to do with the strange situation. Any mere polite gallantry on his
part was ignored or snubbed, and he had very early given up
offering his hand to her in getting into a boat or climbing over a
log, and he had to acknowledge to himself that she was eminently
fitted to take care of herself. Despite his warnings about
crocodiles and sharks, she persisted in swimming in deep water off
the beach; nor could he persuade her, when she was in the boat, to
let one of the sailors throw the dynamite when shooting fish. She
argued that she was at least a little bit more intelligent than
they, and that, therefore, there was less liability of an accident
if she did the shooting. She was to him the most masculine and at
the same time the most feminine woman he had ever met.

A source of continual trouble between them was the disagreement
over methods of handling the black boys. She ruled by stern
kindness, rarely rewarding, never punishing, and he had to confess
that her own sailors worshipped her, while the house-boys were her
slaves, and did three times as much work for her as he had ever got
out of them. She quickly saw the unrest of the contract labourers,
and was not blind to the danger, always imminent, that both she and
Sheldon ran. Neither of them ever ventured out without a revolver,
and the sailors who stood the night watches by Joan's grass house
were armed with rifles. But Joan insisted that this reign of
terror had been caused by the reign of fear practised by the white
men. She had been brought up with the gentle Hawaiians, who never
were ill-treated nor roughly handled, and she generalized that the
Solomon Islanders, under kind treatment, would grow gentle.

One evening a terrific uproar arose in the barracks, and Sheldon,
aided by Joan's sailors, succeeded in rescuing two women whom the
blacks were beating to death. To save them from the vengeance of
the blacks, they were guarded in the cook-house for the night.
They were the two women who did the cooking for the labourers, and
their offence had consisted of one of them taking a bath in the big
cauldron in which the potatoes were boiled. The blacks were not
outraged from the standpoint of cleanliness; they often took baths
in the cauldrons themselves. The trouble lay in that the bather
had been a low, degraded, wretched female; for to the Solomon
Islander all females are low, degraded, and wretched.

Next morning, Joan and Sheldon, at breakfast, were aroused by a
swelling murmur of angry voices. The first rule of Berande had
been broken. The compound had been entered without permission or
command, and all the two hundred labourers, with the exception of
the boss-boys, were guilty of the offence. They crowded up,
threatening and shouting, close under the front veranda. Sheldon
leaned over the veranda railing, looking down upon them, while Joan
stood slightly back. When the uproar was stilled, two brothers
stood forth. They were large men, splendidly muscled, and with
faces unusually ferocious, even for Solomon Islanders. One was
Carin-Jama, otherwise The Silent; and the other was Bellin-Jama,
The Boaster. Both had served on the Queensland plantations in the
old days, and they were known as evil characters wherever white men
met and gammed.

"We fella boy we want 'm them dam two black fella Mary," said
Bellin-Jama.

"What you do along black fella Mary?" Sheldon asked.

"Kill 'm," said Bellin-Jama.

"What name you fella boy talk along me?" Sheldon demanded, with a
show of rising anger. "Big bell he ring. You no belong along
here. You belong along field. Bime by, big fella bell he ring,
you stop along kai-kai, you come talk along me about two fella
Mary. Now all you boy get along out of here."

The gang waited to see what Bellin-Jama would do, and Bellin-Jama
stood still.

"Me no go," he said.

"You watch out, Bellin-Jama," Sheldon said sharply, "or I send you
along Tulagi one big fella lashing. My word, you catch 'm strong
fella."

Bellin-Jama glared up belligerently.

"You want 'm fight," he said, putting up his fists in approved,
returned-Queenslander style.

Now, in the Solomons, where whites are few and blacks are many, and
where the whites do the ruling, such an offer to fight is the
deadliest insult. Blacks are not supposed to dare so highly as to
offer to fight a white man. At the best, all they can look for is
to be beaten by the white man.

A murmur of admiration at Bellin-Jama's bravery went up from the
listening blacks. But Bellin-Jama's voice was still ringing in the
air, and the murmuring was just beginning, when Sheldon cleared the
rail, leaping straight downward. From the top of the railing to
the ground it was fifteen feet, and Bellin-Jama was directly
beneath. Sheldon's flying body struck him and crushed him to
earth. No blows were needed to be struck. The black had been
knocked helpless. Joan, startled by the unexpected leap, saw
Carin-Jama, The Silent, reach out and seize Sheldon by the throat
as he was half-way to his feet, while the five-score blacks surged
forward for the killing. Her revolver was out, and Carin-Jama let
go his grip, reeling backward with a bullet in his shoulder. In
that fleeting instant of action she had thought to shoot him in the
arm, which, at that short distance, might reasonably have been
achieved. But the wave of savages leaping forward had changed her
shot to the shoulder. It was a moment when not the slightest
chance could be taken.

The instant his throat was released, Sheldon struck out with his
fist, and Carin-Jama joined his brother on the ground. The mutiny
was quelled, and five minutes more saw the brothers being carried
to the hospital, and the mutineers, marshalled by the gang-bosses,
on the way to the fields.

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