Part 2 out of 5
When Sheldon came up on the veranda, he found Joan collapsed on the
steamer-chair and in tears. The sight unnerved him as the row just
over could not possibly have done. A woman in tears was to him an
embarrassing situation; and when that woman was Joan Lackland, from
whom he had grown to expect anything unexpected, he was really
frightened. He glanced down at her helplessly, and moistened his
"I want to thank you," he began. "There isn't a doubt but what you
saved my life, and I must say--"
She abruptly removed her hands, showing a wrathful and tear-stained
"You brute! You coward!" she cried. "You have made me shoot a
man, and I never shot a man in my life before."
"It's only a flesh-wound, and he isn't going to die," Sheldon
managed to interpolate.
"What of that? I shot him just the same. There was no need for
you to jump down there that way. It was brutal and cowardly."
"Oh, now I say--" he began soothingly.
"Go away. Don't you see I hate you! hate you! Oh, won't you go
Sheldon was white with anger.
"Then why in the name of common sense did you shoot?" he demanded.
"Be-be-because you were a white man," she sobbed. "And Dad would
never have left any white man in the lurch. But it was your fault.
You had no right to get yourself in such a position. Besides, it
"I am afraid I don't understand," he said shortly, turning away.
"We will talk it over later on."
"Look how I get on with the boys," she said, while he paused in the
doorway, stiffly polite, to listen. "There's those two sick boys I
am nursing. They will do anything for me when they get well, and I
won't have to keep them in fear of their life all the time. It is
not necessary, I tell you, all this harshness and brutality. What
if they are cannibals? They are human beings, just like you and
me, and they are amenable to reason. That is what distinguishes
all of us from the lower animals."
He nodded and went out.
"I suppose I've been unforgivably foolish," was her greeting, when
he returned several hours later from a round of the plantation.
"I've been to the hospital, and the man is getting along all right.
It is not a serious hurt."
Sheldon felt unaccountably pleased and happy at the changed aspect
of her mood.
"You see, you don't understand the situation," he began. "In the
first place, the blacks have to be ruled sternly. Kindness is all
very well, but you can't rule them by kindness only. I accept all
that you say about the Hawaiians and the Tahitians. You say that
they can be handled that way, and I believe you. I have had no
experience with them. But you have had no experience with the
blacks, and I ask you to believe me. They are different from your
natives. You are used to Polynesians. These boys are Melanesians.
They're blacks. They're niggers--look at their kinky hair. And
they're a whole lot lower than the African niggers. Really, you
know, there is a vast difference."
"They possess no gratitude, no sympathy, no kindliness. If you are
kind to them, they think you are a fool. If you are gentle with
them they think you are afraid. And when they think you are
afraid, watch out, for they will get you. Just to show you, let me
state the one invariable process in a black man's brain when, on
his native heath, he encounters a stranger. His first thought is
one of fear. Will the stranger kill him? His next thought, seeing
that he is not killed, is: Can he kill the stranger? There was
Packard, a Colonial trader, some twelve miles down the coast. He
boasted that he ruled by kindness and never struck a blow. The
result was that he did not rule at all. He used to come down in
his whale-boat to visit Hughie and me. When his boat's crew
decided to go home, he had to cut his visit short to accompany
them. I remember one Sunday afternoon when Packard had accepted
our invitation to stop to dinner. The soup was just served, when
Hughie saw a nigger peering in through the door. He went out to
him, for it was a violation of Berande custom. Any nigger has to
send in word by the house-boys, and to keep outside the compound.
This man, who was one of Packard's boat's-crew, was on the veranda.
And he knew better, too. 'What name?' said Hughie. 'You tell 'm
white man close up we fella boat's-crew go along. He no come now,
we fella boy no wait. We go.' And just then Hughie fetched him a
clout that knocked him clean down the stairs and off the veranda."
"But it was needlessly cruel," Joan objected. "You wouldn't treat
a white man that way."
"And that's just the point. He wasn't a white man. He was a low
black nigger, and he was deliberately insulting, not alone his own
white master, but every white master in the Solomons. He insulted
me. He insulted Hughie. He insulted Berande."
"Of course, according to your lights, to your formula of the rule
of the strong--"
"Yes," Sheldon interrupted, "but it was according to the formula of
the rule of the weak that Packard ruled. And what was the result?
I am still alive. Packard is dead. He was unswervingly kind and
gentle to his boys, and his boys waited till one day he was down
with fever. His head is over on Malaita now. They carried away
two whale-boats as well, filled with the loot of the store. Then
there was Captain Mackenzie of the ketch Minota. He believed in
kindness. He also contended that better confidence was established
by carrying no weapons. On his second trip to Malaita, recruiting,
he ran into Bina, which is near Langa Langa. The rifles with which
the boat's-crew should have been armed, were locked up in his
cabin. When the whale-boat went ashore after recruits, he paraded
around the deck without even a revolver on him. He was tomahawked.
His head remains in Malaita. It was suicide. So was Packard's
"I grant that precaution is necessary in dealing with them," Joan
agreed; "but I believe that more satisfactory results can be
obtained by treating them with discreet kindness and gentleness."
"And there I agree with YOU, but you must understand one thing.
Berande, bar none, is by far the worst plantation in the Solomons
so far as the labour is concerned. And how it came to be so proves
your point. The previous owners of Berande were not discreetly
kind. They were a pair of unadulterated brutes. One was a down-
east Yankee, as I believe they are called, and the other was a
guzzling German. They were slave-drivers. To begin with, they
bought their labour from Johnny Be-blowed, the most notorious
recruiter in the Solomons. He is working out a ten years' sentence
in Fiji now, for the wanton killing of a black boy. During his
last days here he had made himself so obnoxious that the natives on
Malaita would have nothing to do with him. The only way he could
get recruits was by hurrying to the spot whenever a murder or
series of murders occurred. The murderers were usually only too
willing to sign on and get away to escape vengeance. Down here
they call such escapes, 'pier-head jumps.' There is suddenly a
roar from the beach, and a nigger runs down to the water pursued by
clouds of spears and arrows. Of course, Johnny Be-blowed's whale-
boat is lying ready to pick him up. In his last days Johnny got
nothing but pier-head jumps.
"And the first owners of Berande bought his recruits--a hard-bitten
gang of murderers. They were all five-year boys. You see, the
recruiter has the advantage over a boy when he makes a pier-head
jump. He could sign him on for ten years did the law permit.
Well, that's the gang of murderers we've got on our hands now. Of
course some are dead, some have been killed, and there are others
serving sentences at Tulagi. Very little clearing did those first
owners do, and less planting. It was war all the time. They had
one manager killed. One of the partners had his shoulder slashed
nearly off by a cane-knife. The other was speared on two different
occasions. Both were bullies, wherefore there was a streak of
cowardice in them, and in the end they had to give up. They were
chased away--literally chased away--by their own niggers. And
along came poor Hughie and me, two new chums, to take hold of that
hard-bitten gang. We did not know the situation, and we had bought
Berande, and there was nothing to do but hang on and muddle through
"At first we made the mistake of indiscreet kindness. We tried to
rule by persuasion and fair treatment. The niggers concluded that
we were afraid. I blush to think of what fools we were in those
first days. We were imposed on, and threatened and insulted; and
we put up with it, hoping our square-dealing would soon mend
things. Instead of which everything went from bad to worse. Then
came the day when Hughie reprimanded one of the boys and was nearly
killed by the gang. The only thing that saved him was the number
on top of him, which enabled me to reach the spot in time.
"Then began the rule of the strong hand. It was either that or
quit, and we had sunk about all our money into the venture, and we
could not quit. And besides, our pride was involved. We had
started out to do something, and we were so made that we just had
to go on with it. It has been a hard fight, for we were, and are
to this day, considered the worst plantation in the Solomons from
the standpoint of labour. Do you know, we have been unable to get
white men in. We've offered the managership to half a dozen. I
won't say they were afraid, for they were not. But they did not
consider it healthy--at least that is the way it was put by the
last one who declined our offer. So Hughie and I did the managing
"And when he died you were prepared to go on all alone!" Joan
cried, with shining eyes.
"I thought I'd muddle through. And now, Miss Lackland, please be
charitable when I seem harsh, and remember that the situation is
unparalleled down here. We've got a bad crowd, and we're making
them work. You've been over the plantation and you ought to know.
And I assure you that there are no better three-and-four-years-old
trees on any other plantation in the Solomons. We have worked
steadily to change matters for the better. We've been slowly
getting in new labour. That is why we bought the Jessie. We
wanted to select our own labour. In another year the time will be
up for most of the original gang. You see, they were recruited
during the first year of Berande, and their contracts expire on
different months. Naturally, they have contaminated the new boys
to a certain extent; but that can soon be remedied, and then
Berande will be a respectable plantation."
Joan nodded but remained silent. She was too occupied in glimpsing
the vision of the one lone white man as she had first seen him,
helpless from fever, a collapsed wraith in a steamer-chair, who, up
to the last heart-beat, by some strange alchemy of race, was
pledged to mastery.
"It is a pity," she said. "But the white man has to rule, I
"I don't like it," Sheldon assured her. "To save my life I can't
imagine how I ever came here. But here I am, and I can't run
"Blind destiny of race," she said, faintly smiling. "We whites
have been land robbers and sea robbers from remotest time. It is
in our blood, I guess, and we can't get away from it."
"I never thought about it so abstractly," he confessed. "I've been
too busy puzzling over why I came here."
CHAPTER VIII--LOCAL COLOUR
At sunset a small ketch fanned in to anchorage, and a little later
the skipper came ashore. He was a soft-spoken, gentle-voiced young
fellow of twenty, but he won Joan's admiration in advance when
Sheldon told her that he ran the ketch all alone with a black crew
from Malaita. And Romance lured and beckoned before Joan's eyes
when she learned he was Christian Young, a Norfolk Islander, but a
direct descendant of John Young, one of the original Bounty
mutineers. The blended Tahitian and English blood showed in his
soft eyes and tawny skin; but the English hardness seemed to have
disappeared. Yet the hardness was there, and it was what enabled
him to run his ketch single-handed and to wring a livelihood out of
the fighting Solomons.
Joan's unexpected presence embarrassed him, until she herself put
him at his ease by a frank, comradely manner that offended
Sheldon's sense of the fitness of things feminine. News from the
world Young had not, but he was filled with news of the Solomons.
Fifteen boys had stolen rifles and run away into the bush from
Lunga plantation, which was farther east on the Guadalcanar coast.
And from the bush they had sent word that they were coming back to
wipe out the three white men in charge, while two of the three
white men, in turn, were hunting them through the bush. There was
a strong possibility, Young volunteered, that if they were not
caught they might circle around and tap the coast at Berande in
order to steal or capture a whale-boat.
"I forgot to tell you that your trader at Ugi has been murdered,"
he said to Sheldon. "Five big canoes came down from Port Adams.
They landed in the night-time, and caught Oscar asleep. What they
didn't steal they burned. The Flibberty-Gibbet got the news at
Mboli Pass, and ran down to Ugi. I was at Mboli when the news
"I think I'll have to abandon Ugi," Sheldon remarked.
"It's the second trader you've lost there in a year," Young
concurred. "To make it safe there ought to be two white men at
least. Those Malaita canoes are always raiding down that way, and
you know what that Port Adams lot is. I've got a dog for you.
Tommy Jones sent it up from Neal Island. He said he'd promised it
to you. It's a first-class nigger-chaser. Hadn't been on board
two minutes when he had my whole boat's-crew in the rigging. Tommy
calls him Satan."
"I've wondered several times why you had no dogs here," Joan said.
"The trouble is to keep them. They're always eaten by the
"Jack Hanley was killed at Marovo Lagoon two months ago," Young
announced in his mild voice. "The news just came down on the
"Where is Marovo Lagoon?" Joan asked.
"New Georgia, a couple of hundred miles to the westward," Sheldon
answered. "Bougainville lies just beyond."
"His own house-boys did it," Young went on; "but they were put up
to it by the Marovo natives. His Santa Cruz boat's-crew escaped in
the whale-boat to Choiseul, and Mather, in the Lily, sailed over to
Marovo. He burned a village, and got Hanley's head back. He found
it in one of the houses, where the niggers had it drying. And
that's all the news I've got, except that there's a lot of new Lee-
Enfields loose on the eastern end of Ysabel. Nobody knows how the
natives got them. The government ought to investigate. And--oh
yes, a war vessel's in the group, the Cambrian. She burned three
villages at Bina--on account of the Minota, you know--and shelled
the bush. Then she went to Sio to straighten out things there."
The conversation became general, and just before Young left to go
on board Joan asked, -
"How can you manage all alone, Mr. Young?"
His large, almost girlish eyes rested on her for a moment before he
replied, and then it was in the softest and gentlest of voices.
"Oh, I get along pretty well with them. Of course, there is a bit
of trouble once in a while, but that must be expected. You must
never let them think you are afraid. I've been afraid plenty of
times, but they never knew it."
"You would think he wouldn't strike a mosquito that was biting
him," Sheldon said when Young had gone on board. "All the Norfolk
Islanders that have descended from the Bounty crowd are that way.
But look at Young. Only three years ago, when he first got the
Minerva, he was lying in Suu, on Malaita. There are a lot of
returned Queenslanders there--a rough crowd. They planned to get
his head. The son of their chief, old One-Eyed Billy, had
recruited on Lunga and died of dysentery. That meant that a white
man's head was owing to Suu--any white man, it didn't matter who so
long as they got the head. And Young was only a lad, and they made
sure to get his easily. They decoyed his whale-boat ashore with a
promise of recruits, and killed all hands. At the same instant,
the Suu gang that was on board the Minerva jumped Young. He was
just preparing a dynamite stick for fish, and he lighted it and
tossed it in amongst them. One can't get him to talk about it, but
the fuse was short, the survivors leaped overboard, while he
slipped his anchor and got away. They've got one hundred fathoms
of shell money on his head now, which is worth one hundred pounds
sterling. Yet he goes into Suu regularly. He was there a short
time ago, returning thirty boys from Cape Marsh--that's the Fulcrum
"At any rate, his news to-night has given me a better insight into
the life down here," Joan said. "And it is colourful life, to say
the least. The Solomons ought to be printed red on the charts--and
yellow, too, for the diseases."
"The Solomons are not always like this," Sheldon answered. "Of
course, Berande is the worst plantation, and everything it gets is
the worst. I doubt if ever there was a worse run of sickness than
we were just getting over when you arrived. Just as luck would
have it, the Jessie caught the contagion as well. Berande has been
very unfortunate. All the old-timers shake their heads at it.
They say it has what you Americans call a hoodoo on it."
"Berande will succeed," Joan said stoutly. "I like to laugh at
superstition. You'll pull through and come out the big end of the
horn. The ill luck can't last for ever. I am afraid, though, the
Solomons is not a white man's climate."
"It will be, though. Give us fifty years, and when all the bush is
cleared off back to the mountains, fever will be stamped out;
everything will be far healthier. There will be cities and towns
here, for there's an immense amount of good land going to waste."
"But it will never become a white man's climate, in spite of all
that," Joan reiterated. "The white man will always be unable to
perform the manual labour."
"That is true."
"It will mean slavery," she dashed on.
"Yes, like all the tropics. The black, the brown, and the yellow
will have to do the work, managed by the white men. The black
labour is too wasteful, however, and in time Chinese or Indian
coolies will be imported. The planters are already considering the
matter. I, for one, am heartily sick of black labour."
"Then the blacks will die off?"
Sheldon shrugged his shoulders, and retorted, -
"Yes, like the North American Indian, who was a far nobler type
than the Melanesian. The world is only so large, you know, and it
is filling up--"
"And the unfit must perish?"
"Precisely so. The unfit must perish."
In the morning Joan was roused by a great row and hullabaloo. Her
first act was to reach for her revolver, but when she heard Noa
Noah, who was on guard, laughing outside, she knew there was no
danger, and went out to see the fun. Captain Young had landed
Satan at the moment when the bridge-building gang had started along
the beach. Satan was big and black, short-haired and muscular, and
weighed fully seventy pounds. He did not love the blacks. Tommy
Jones had trained him well, tying him up daily for several hours
and telling off one or two black boys at a time to tease him. So
Satan had it in for the whole black race, and the second after he
landed on the beach the bridge-building gang was stampeding over
the compound fence and swarming up the cocoanut palms.
"Good morning," Sheldon called from the veranda. "And what do you
think of the nigger-chaser?"
"I'm thinking we have a task before us to train him in to the
house-boys," she called back.
"And to your Tahitians, too. Look out, Noah! Run for it!"
Satan, having satisfied himself that the tree-perches were
unassailable, was charging straight for the big Tahitian.
But Noah stood his ground, though somewhat irresolutely, and Satan,
to every one's surprise, danced and frisked about him with laughing
eyes and wagging tail.
"Now, that is what I might call a proper dog," was Joan's comment.
"He is at least wiser than you, Mr. Sheldon. He didn't require any
teaching to recognize the difference between a Tahitian and a black
boy. What do you think, Noah? Why don't he bite you? He savvee
you Tahitian eh?"
Noa Noah shook his head and grinned.
"He no savvee me Tahitian," he explained. "He savvee me wear pants
all the same white man."
"You'll have to give him a course in 'Sartor Resartus,'" Sheldon
laughed, as he came down and began to make friends with Satan.
It chanced just then that Adamu Adam and Matauare, two of Joan's
sailors, entered the compound from the far side-gate. They had
been down to the Balesuna making an alligator trap, and, instead of
trousers, were clad in lava-lavas that flapped gracefully about
their stalwart limbs. Satan saw them, and advertised his find by
breaking away from Sheldon's hands and charging.
"No got pants," Noah announced with a grin that broadened as Adamu
Adam took to flight.
He climbed up the platform that supported the galvanized iron tanks
which held the water collected from the roof. Foiled here, Satan
turned and charged back on Matauare.
"Run, Matauare! Run!" Joan called.
But he held his ground and waited the dog.
"He is the Fearless One--that is what his name means," Joan
explained to Sheldon.
The Tahitian watched Satan coolly, and when that sanguine-mouthed
creature lifted into the air in the final leap, the man's hand shot
out. It was a fair grip on the lower jaw, and Satan described a
half circle and was flung to the rear, turning over in the air and
falling heavily on his back. Three times he leaped, and three
times that grip on his jaw flung him to defeat. Then he contented
himself with trotting at Matauare's heels, eyeing him and sniffing
"It's all right, Satan; it's all right," Sheldon assured him.
"That good fella belong along me."
But Satan dogged the Tahitian's movements for a full hour before he
made up his mind that the man was an appurtenance of the place.
Then he turned his attention to the three house-boys, cornering
Ornfiri in the kitchen and rushing him against the hot stove,
stripping the lava-lava from Lalaperu when that excited youth
climbed a veranda-post, and following Viaburi on top the billiard-
table, where the battle raged until Joan managed a rescue.
CHAPTER IX--AS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN
It was Satan's inexhaustible energy and good spirits that most
impressed them. His teeth seemed perpetually to ache with desire,
and in lieu of black legs he husked the cocoanuts that fell from
the trees in the compound, kept the enclosure clear of intruding
hens, and made a hostile acquaintance with every boss-boy who came
to report. He was unable to forget the torment of his puppyhood,
wherein everlasting hatred of the black had been woven into the
fibres of consciousness; and such a terror did he make himself that
Sheldon was forced to shut him up in the living room when, for any
reason, strange natives were permitted in the compound. This
always hurt Satan's feelings and fanned his wrath, so that even the
house-boys had to watch out for him when he was first released.
Christian Young sailed away in the Minerva, carrying an invitation
(that would be delivered nobody knew when) to Tommy Jones to drop
in at Berande the next time he was passing.
"What are your plans when you get to Sydney?" Sheldon asked, that
night, at dinner.
"First I've heard that I'm going to Sydney," Joan retorted. "I
suppose you've received information, by bush-telegraph, that that
third assistant understrapper and ex-sailorman at Tulagi is going
to deport me as an undesirable immigrant."
"Oh, no, nothing of the sort, I assure you," Sheldon began with
awkward haste, fearful of having offended, though he knew not how.
"I was just wondering, that was all. You see, with the loss of the
schooner and . . and all the rest . . . you understand . . I was
thinking that if--a--if--hang it all, until you could communicate
with your friends, my agents at Sydney could advance you a loan,
temporary you see, why I'd be only too glad and all the rest, you
know. The proper--"
But his jaw dropped and he regarded her irritably and with
"What IS the matter?" he demanded, with a show of heat. "What HAVE
I done now?"
Joan's eyes were bright with battle, the curve of her lips sharp
"Certainly not the unexpected," she said quietly. "Merely ignored
me in your ordinary, every-day, man-god, superior fashion.
Naturally it counted for nothing, my telling you that I had no idea
of going to Sydney. Go to Sydney I must, because you, in your
superior wisdom, have so decreed."
She paused and looked at him curiously, as though he were some
strange breed of animal.
"Of course I am grateful for your offer of assistance; but even
that is no salve to wounded pride. For that matter, it is no more
than one white man should expect from another. Shipwrecked
mariners are always helped along their way. Only this particular
mariner doesn't need any help. Furthermore, this mariner is not
going to Sydney, thank you."
"But what do you intend to do?"
"Find some spot where I shall escape the indignity of being
patronized and bossed by the superior sex."
"Come now, that is putting it a bit too strongly." Sheldon
laughed, but the strain in his voice destroyed the effect of
spontaneity. "You know yourself how impossible the situation is."
"I know nothing of the sort, sir. And if it is impossible, well,
haven't I achieved it?"
"But it cannot continue. Really--"
"Oh, yes, it can. Having achieved it, I can go on achieving it. I
intend to remain in the Solomons, but not on Berande. To-morrow I
am going to take the whale-boat over to Pari-Sulay. I was talking
with Captain Young about it. He says there are at least four
hundred acres, and every foot of it good for planting. Being an
island, he says I won't have to bother about wild pigs destroying
the young trees. All I'll have to do is to keep the weeds hoed
until the trees come into bearing. First, I'll buy the island;
next, get forty or fifty recruits and start clearing and planting;
and at the same time I'll run up a bungalow; and then you'll be
relieved of my embarrassing presence--now don't say that it isn't."
"It is embarrassing," he said bluntly. "But you refuse to see my
point of view, so there is no use in discussing it. Now please
forget all about it, and consider me at your service concerning
this . . . this project of yours. I know more about cocoanut-
planting than you do. You speak like a capitalist. I don't know
how much money you have, but I don't fancy you are rolling in
wealth, as you Americans say. But I do know what it costs to clear
land. Suppose the government sells you Pari-Sulay at a pound an
acre; clearing will cost you at least four pounds more; that is,
five pounds for four hundred acres, or, say, ten thousand dollars.
Have you that much?"
She was keenly interested, and he could see that the previous clash
between them was already forgotten. Her disappointment was plain
as she confessed:
"No; I haven't quite eight thousand dollars."
"Then here's another way of looking at it. You'll need, as you
said, at least fifty boys. Not counting premiums, their wages are
thirty dollars a year."
"I pay my Tahitians fifteen a month," she interpolated.
"They won't do on straight plantation work. But to return. The
wages of fifty boys each year will come to three hundred pounds--
that is, fifteen hundred dollars. Very well. It will be seven
years before your trees begin to bear. Seven times fifteen hundred
is ten thousand five hundred dollars--more than you possess, and
all eaten up by the boys' wages, with nothing to pay for bungalow,
building, tools, quinine, trips to Sydney, and so forth."
Sheldon shook his head gravely. "You'll have to abandon the idea."
"But I won't go to Sydney," she cried. "I simply won't. I'll buy
in to the extent of my money as a small partner in some other
plantation. Let me buy in in Berande!"
"Heaven forbid!" he cried in such genuine dismay that she broke
into hearty laughter.
"There, I won't tease you. Really, you know, I'm not accustomed to
forcing my presence where it is not desired. Yes, yes; I know
you're just aching to point out that I've forced myself upon you
ever since I landed, only you are too polite to say so. Yet as you
said yourself, it was impossible for me to go away, so I had to
stay. You wouldn't let me go to Tulagi. You compelled me to force
myself upon you. But I won't buy in as partner with any one. I'll
buy Pari-Sulay, but I'll put only ten boys on it and clear slowly.
Also, I'll invest in some old ketch and take out a trading license.
For that matter, I'll go recruiting on Malaita."
She looked for protest, and found it in Sheldon's clenched hand and
in every line of his clean-cut face.
"Go ahead and say it," she challenged. "Please don't mind me.
I'm--I'm getting used to it, you know. Really I am."
"I wish I were a woman so as to tell you how preposterously insane
and impossible it is," he blurted out.
She surveyed him with deliberation, and said:
"Better than that, you are a man. So there is nothing to prevent
your telling me, for I demand to be considered as a man. I didn't
come down here to trail my woman's skirts over the Solomons.
Please forget that I am accidentally anything else than a man with
a man's living to make."
Inwardly Sheldon fumed and fretted. Was she making game of him?
Or did there lurk in her the insidious unhealthfulness of
unwomanliness? Or was it merely a case of blank, staring,
sentimental, idiotic innocence?
"I have told you," he began stiffly, "that recruiting on Malaita is
impossible for a woman, and that is all I care to say--or dare."
"And I tell you, in turn, that it is nothing of the sort. I've
sailed the Miele here, master, if you please, all the way from
Tahiti--even if I did lose her, which was the fault of your
Admiralty charts. I am a navigator, and that is more than your
Solomons captains are. Captain Young told me all about it. And I
am a seaman--a better seaman than you, when it comes right down to
it, and you know it. I can shoot. I am not a fool. I can take
care of myself. And I shall most certainly buy a ketch, run her
myself, and go recruiting on Malaita."
Sheldon made a hopeless gesture.
"That's right," she rattled on. "Wash your hands of me. But as
Von used to say, 'You just watch my smoke!'"
"There's no use in discussing it. Let us have some music."
He arose and went over to the big phonograph; but before the disc
started, and while he was winding the machine, he heard her saying:
"I suppose you've been accustomed to Jane Eyres all your life.
That's why you don't understand me. Come on, Satan; let's leave
him to his old music."
He watched her morosely and without intention of speaking, till he
saw her take a rifle from the stand, examine the magazine, and
start for the door.
"Where are you going?" he asked peremptorily.
"As between man and woman," she answered, "it would be too
terribly--er--indecent for you to tell me why I shouldn't go
alligatoring. Good-night. Sleep well."
He shut off the phonograph with a snap, started toward the door
after her, then abruptly flung himself into a chair.
"You're hoping a 'gator catches me, aren't you?" she called from
the veranda, and as she went down the steps her rippling laughter
drifted tantalizingly back through the wide doorway.
CHAPTER X--A MESSAGE FROM BOUCHER
The next day Sheldon was left all alone. Joan had gone exploring
Pari-Sulay, and was not to be expected back until the late
afternoon. Sheldon was vaguely oppressed by his loneliness, and
several heavy squalls during the afternoon brought him frequently
on to the veranda, telescope in hand, to scan the sea anxiously for
the whale-boat. Betweenwhiles he scowled over the plantation
account-books, made rough estimates, added and balanced, and
scowled the harder. The loss of the Jessie had hit Berande
severely. Not alone was his capital depleted by the amount of her
value, but her earnings were no longer to be reckoned on, and it
was her earnings that largely paid the running expenses of the
"Poor old Hughie," he muttered aloud, once. "I'm glad you didn't
live to see it, old man. What a cropper, what a cropper!"
Between squalls the Flibberty-Gibbet ran in to anchorage, and her
skipper, Pete Oleson (brother to the Oleson of the Jessie),
ancient, grizzled, wild-eyed, emaciated by fever, dragged his weary
frame up the veranda steps and collapsed in a steamer-chair.
Whisky and soda kept him going while he made report and turned in
"You're rotten with fever," Sheldon said. "Why don't you run down
to Sydney for a blow of decent climate?"
The old skipper shook his head.
"I can't. I've ben in the islands too long. I'd die. The fever
comes out worse down there."
"Kill or cure," Sheldon counselled.
"It's straight kill for me. I tried it three years ago. The cool
weather put me on my back before I landed. They carried me ashore
and into hospital. I was unconscious one stretch for two weeks.
After that the doctors sent me back to the islands--said it was the
only thing that would save me. Well, I'm still alive; but I'm too
soaked with fever. A month in Australia would finish me."
"But what are you going to do?" Sheldon queried. "You can't stay
here until you die."
"That's all that's left to me. I'd like to go back to the old
country, but I couldn't stand it. I'll last longer here, and here
I'll stay until I peg out; but I wish to God I'd never seen the
Solomons, that's all."
He declined to sleep ashore, took his orders, and went back on
board the cutter. A lurid sunset was blotted out by the heaviest
squall of the day, and Sheldon watched the whale-boat arrive in the
thick of it. As the spritsail was taken in and the boat headed on
to the beach, he was aware of a distinct hurt at sight of Joan at
the steering-oar, standing erect and swaying her strength to it as
she resisted the pressures that tended to throw the craft broadside
in the surf. Her Tahitians leaped out and rushed the boat high up
the beach, and she led her bizarre following through the gate of
The first drops of rain were driving like hail-stones, the tall
cocoanut palms were bending and writhing in the grip of the wind,
while the thick cloud-mass of the squall turned the brief tropic
twilight abruptly to night.
Quite unconsciously the brooding anxiety of the afternoon slipped
from Sheldon, and he felt strangely cheered at the sight of her
running up the steps laughing, face flushed, hair flying, her
breast heaving from the violence of her late exertions.
"Lovely, perfectly lovely--Pari-Sulay," she panted. "I shall buy
it. I'll write to the Commissioner to-night. And the site for the
bungalow--I've selected it already--is wonderful. You must come
over some day and advise me. You won't mind my staying here until
I can get settled? Wasn't that squall beautiful? And I suppose
I'm late for dinner. I'll run and get clean, and be with you in a
And in the brief interval of her absence he found himself walking
about the big living-room and impatiently and with anticipation
awaiting her coming.
"Do you know, I'm never going to squabble with you again," he
announced when they were seated.
"Squabble!" was the retort. "It's such a sordid word. It sounds
cheap and nasty. I think it's much nicer to quarrel."
"Call it what you please, but we won't do it any more, will we?"
He cleared his throat nervously, for her eyes advertised the
immediate beginning of hostilities. "I beg your pardon," he
hurried on. "I should have spoken for myself. What I mean is that
I refuse to quarrel. You have the most horrible way, without
uttering a word, of making me play the fool. Why, I began with the
kindest intentions, and here I am now--"
"Making nasty remarks," she completed for him.
"It's the way you have of catching me up," he complained.
"Why, I never said a word. I was merely sitting here, being
sweetly lured on by promises of peace on earth and all the rest of
it, when suddenly you began to call me names."
"Hardly that, I am sure."
"Well, you said I was horrible, or that I had a horrible way about
me, which is the same thing. I wish my bungalow were up. I'd move
But her twitching lips belied her words, and the next moment the
man was more uncomfortable than ever, being made so by her
"I was only teasing you. Honest Injun. And if you don't laugh
I'll suspect you of being in a temper with me. That's right,
laugh. But don't--" she added in alarm, "don't if it hurts you.
You look as though you had a toothache. There, there--don't say
it. You know you promised not to quarrel, while I have the
privilege of going on being as hateful as I please. And to begin
with, there's the Flibberty-Gibbet. I didn't know she was so large
a cutter; but she's in disgraceful condition. Her rigging is
something queer, and the next sharp squall will bring her head-gear
all about the shop. I watched Noa Noah's face as we sailed past.
He didn't say anything. He just sneered. And I don't blame him."
"Her skipper's rotten bad with fever," Sheldon explained. "And he
had to drop his mate off to take hold of things at Ugi--that's
where I lost Oscar, my trader. And you know what sort of sailors
the niggers are."
She nodded her head judicially, and while she seemed to debate a
weighty judgment he asked for a second helping of tinned beef--not
because he was hungry, but because he wanted to watch her slim,
firm fingers, naked of jewels and banded metals, while his eyes
pleasured in the swell of the forearm, appearing from under the
sleeve and losing identity in the smooth, round wrist undisfigured
by the netted veins that come to youth when youth is gone. The
fingers were brown with tan and looked exceedingly boyish. Then,
and without effort, the concept came to him. Yes, that was it. He
had stumbled upon the clue to her tantalizing personality. Her
fingers, sunburned and boyish, told the story. No wonder she had
exasperated him so frequently. He had tried to treat with her as a
woman, when she was not a woman. She was a mere girl--and a boyish
girl at that--with sunburned fingers that delighted in doing what
boys' fingers did; with a body and muscles that liked swimming and
violent endeavour of all sorts; with a mind that was daring, but
that dared no farther than boys' adventures, and that delighted in
rifles and revolvers, Stetson hats, and a sexless camaraderie with
Somehow, as he pondered and watched her, it seemed as if he sat in
church at home listening to the choir-boys chanting. She reminded
him of those boys, or their voices, rather. The same sexless
quality was there. In the body of her she was woman; in the mind
of her she had not grown up. She had not been exposed to ripening
influences of that sort. She had had no mother. Von, her father,
native servants, and rough island life had constituted her
training. Horses and rifles had been her toys, camp and trail her
nursery. From what she had told him, her seminary days had been an
exile, devoted to study and to ceaseless longing for the wild
riding and swimming of Hawaii. A boy's training, and a boy's point
of view! That explained her chafe at petticoats, her revolt at
what was only decently conventional. Some day she would grow up,
but as yet she was only in the process.
Well, there was only one thing for him to do. He must meet her on
her own basis of boyhood, and not make the mistake of treating her
as a woman. He wondered if he could love the woman she would be
when her nature awoke; and he wondered if he could love her just as
she was and himself wake her up. After all, whatever it was, she
had come to fill quite a large place in his life, as he had
discovered that afternoon while scanning the sea between the
squalls. Then he remembered the accounts of Berande, and the
cropper that was coming, and scowled.
He became aware that she was speaking.
"I beg pardon," he said. "What's that you were saying?"
"You weren't listening to a word--I knew it," she chided. "I was
saying that the condition of the Flibberty-Gibbet was disgraceful,
and that to-morrow, when you've told the skipper and not hurt his
feelings, I am going to take my men out and give her an
overhauling. We'll scrub her bottom, too. Why, there's whiskers
on her copper four inches long. I saw it when she rolled. Don't
forget, I'm going cruising on the Flibberty some day, even if I
have to run away with her."
While at their coffee on the veranda, Satan raised a commotion in
the compound near the beach gate, and Sheldon finally rescued a
mauled and frightened black and dragged him on the porch for
"What fella marster you belong?" he demanded. "What name you come
along this fella place sun he go down?"
"Me b'long Boucher. Too many boy belong along Port Adams stop
along my fella marster. Too much walk about."
The black drew a scrap of notepaper from under his belt and passed
it over. Sheldon scanned it hurriedly.
"It's from Boucher," he explained, "the fellow who took Packard's
place. Packard was the one I told you about who was killed by his
boat's-crew. He says the Port Adams crowd is out--fifty of them,
in big canoes--and camping on his beach. They've killed half a
dozen of his pigs already, and seem to be looking for trouble. And
he's afraid they may connect with the fifteen runaways from Lunga."
"In which case?" she queried.
"In which case Billy Pape will be compelled to send Boucher's
successor. It's Pape's station, you know. I wish I knew what to
do. I don't like to leave you here alone."
"Take me along then."
He smiled and shook his head.
"Then you'd better take my men along," she advised. "They're good
shots, and they're not afraid of anything--except Utami, and he's
afraid of ghosts."
The big bell was rung, and fifty black boys carried the whale-boat
down to the water. The regular boat's-crew manned her, and
Matauare and three other Tahitians, belted with cartridges and
armed with rifles, sat in the stern-sheets where Sheldon stood at
"My, I wish I could go with you," Joan said wistfully, as the boat
Sheldon shook his head.
"I'm as good as a man," she urged.
"You really are needed here," he replied.
"There's that Lunga crowd; they might reach the coast right here,
and with both of us absent rush the plantation. Good-bye. We'll
get back in the morning some time. It's only twelve miles."
When Joan started to return to the house, she was compelled to pass
among the boat-carriers, who lingered on the beach to chatter in
queer, ape-like fashion about the events of the night. They made
way for her, but there came to her, as she was in the midst of
them, a feeling of her own helplessness. There were so many of
them. What was to prevent them from dragging her down if they so
willed? Then she remembered that one cry of hers would fetch Noa
Noah and her remaining sailors, each one of whom was worth a dozen
blacks in a struggle. As she opened the gate, one of the boys
stepped up to her. In the darkness she could not make him out.
"What name?" she asked sharply. "What name belong you?"
"Me Aroa," he said.
She remembered him as one of the two sick boys she had nursed at
the hospital. The other one had died.
"Me take 'm plenty fella medicine too much," Aroa was saying.
"Well, and you all right now," she answered.
"Me want 'm tobacco, plenty fella tobacco; me want 'm calico; me
want 'm porpoise teeth; me want 'm one fella belt."
She looked at him humorously, expecting to see a smile, or at least
a grin, on his face. Instead, his face was expressionless. Save
for a narrow breech-clout, a pair of ear-plugs, and about his kinky
hair a chaplet of white cowrie-shells, he was naked. His body was
fresh-oiled and shiny, and his eyes glistened in the starlight like
some wild animal's. The rest of the boys had crowded up at his
back in a solid wall. Some one of them giggled, but the remainder
regarded her in morose and intense silence.
"Well?" she said. "What for you want plenty fella things?"
"Me take 'm medicine," quoth Aroa. "You pay me."
And this was a sample of their gratitude, she thought. It looked
as if Sheldon had been right after all. Aroa waited stolidly. A
leaping fish splashed far out on the water. A tiny wavelet
murmured sleepily on the beach. The shadow of a flying-fox drifted
by in velvet silence overhead. A light air fanned coolly on her
cheek; it was the land-breeze beginning to blow.
"You go along quarters," she said, starting to turn on her heel to
enter the gate.
"You pay me," said the boy.
"Aroa, you all the same one big fool. I no pay you. Now you go."
But the black was unmoved. She felt that he was regarding her
almost insolently as he repeated:
"I take 'm medicine. You pay me. You pay me now."
Then it was that she lost her temper and cuffed his ears so soundly
as to drive him back among his fellows. But they did not break up.
Another boy stepped forward.
"You pay me," he said.
His eyes had the querulous, troubled look such as she had noticed
in monkeys; but while he was patently uncomfortable under her
scrutiny, his thick lips were drawn firmly in an effort at sullen
"What for?" she asked.
"Me Gogoomy," he said. "Bawo brother belong me."
Bawo, she remembered, was the sick boy who had died.
"Go on," she commanded.
"Bawo take 'm medicine. Bawo finish. Bawo my brother. You pay
me. Father belong me one big fella chief along Port Adams. You
"Gogoomy, you just the same as Aroa, one big fool. My word, who
pay me for medicine?"
She dismissed the matter by passing through the gate and closing
it. But Gogoomy pressed up against it and said impudently:
"Father belong me one big fella chief. You no bang 'm head belong
me. My word, you fright too much."
"Me fright?" she demanded, while anger tingled all through her.
"Too much fright bang 'm head belong me," Gogoomy said proudly.
And then she reached for him across the gate and got him. It was a
sweeping, broad-handed slap, so heavy that he staggered sideways
and nearly fell. He sprang for the gate as if to force it open,
while the crowd surged forward against the fence. Joan thought
rapidly. Her revolver was hanging on the wall of her grass house.
Yet one cry would bring her sailors, and she knew she was safe. So
she did not cry for help. Instead, she whistled for Satan, at the
same time calling him by name. She knew he was shut up in the
living room, but the blacks did not wait to see. They fled with
wild yells through the darkness, followed reluctantly by Gogoomy;
while she entered the bungalow, laughing at first, but finally
vexed to the verge of tears by what had taken place. She had sat
up a whole night with the boy who had died, and yet his brother
demanded to be paid for his life.
"Ugh! the ungrateful beast!" she muttered, while she debated
whether or not she would confess the incident to Sheldon.
CHAPTER XI--THE PORT ADAMS CROWD
"And so it was all settled easily enough," Sheldon was saying. He
was on the veranda, drinking coffee. The whale-boat was being
carried into its shed. "Boucher was a bit timid at first to carry
off the situation with a strong hand, but he did very well once we
got started. We made a play at holding a court, and Telepasse, the
old scoundrel, accepted the findings. He's a Port Adams chief, a
filthy beggar. We fined him ten times the value of the pigs, and
made him move on with his mob. Oh, they're a sweet lot, I must
say, at least sixty of them, in five big canoes, and out for
trouble. They've got a dozen Sniders that ought to be
"Why didn't you?" Joan asked.
"And have a row on my hands with the Commissioner? He's terribly
touchy about his black wards, as he calls them. Well, we started
them along their way, though they went in on the beach to kai-kai
several miles back. They ought to pass here some time to-day."
Two hours later the canoes arrived. No one saw them come. The
house-boys were busy in the kitchen at their own breakfast. The
plantation hands were similarly occupied in their quarters. Satan
lay sound asleep on his back under the billiard table, in his sleep
brushing at the flies that pestered him. Joan was rummaging in the
store-room, and Sheldon was taking his siesta in a hammock on the
veranda. He awoke gently. In some occult, subtle way a warning
that all was not well had penetrated his sleep and aroused him.
Without moving, he glanced down and saw the ground beneath covered
with armed savages. They were the same ones he had parted with
that morning, though he noted an accession in numbers. There were
men he had not seen before.
He slipped from the hammock and with deliberate slowness sauntered
to the railing, where he yawned sleepily and looked down on them.
It came to him curiously that it was his destiny ever to stand on
this high place, looking down on unending hordes of black trouble
that required control, bullying, and cajolery. But while he
glanced carelessly over them, he was keenly taking stock. The new
men were all armed with modern rifles. Ah, he had thought so.
There were fifteen of them, undoubtedly the Lunga runaways. In
addition, a dozen old Sniders were in the hands of the original
crowd. The rest were armed with spears, clubs, bows and arrows,
and long-handled tomahawks. Beyond, drawn up on the beach, he
could see the big war-canoes, with high and fantastically carved
bows and sterns, ornamented with scrolls and bands of white cowrie
shells. These were the men who had killed his trader, Oscar, at
"What name you walk about this place?" he demanded.
At the same time he stole a glance seaward to where the Flibberty-
Gibbet reflected herself in the glassy calm of the sea. Not a soul
was visible under her awnings, and he saw the whale-boat was
missing from alongside. The Tahitians had evidently gone shooting
fish up the Balesuna. He was all alone in his high place above
this trouble, while his world slumbered peacefully under the
breathless tropic noon.
Nobody replied, and he repeated his demand, more of mastery in his
voice this time, and a hint of growing anger. The blacks moved
uneasily, like a herd of cattle, at the sound of his voice. But
not one spoke. All eyes, however, were staring at him in certitude
of expectancy. Something was about to happen, and they were
waiting for it, waiting with the unanimous, unstable mob-mind for
the one of them who would make the first action that would
precipitate all of them into a common action. Sheldon looked for
this one, for such was the one to fear. Directly beneath him he
caught sight of the muzzle of a rifle, barely projecting between
two black bodies, that was slowly elevating toward him. It was
held at the hip by a man in the second row.
"What name you?" Sheldon suddenly shouted, pointing directly at the
man who held the gun, who startled and lowered the muzzle.
Sheldon still held the whip hand, and he intended to keep it.
"Clear out, all you fella boys," he ordered. "Clear out and walk
along salt water. Savvee!"
"Me talk," spoke up a fat and filthy savage whose hairy chest was
caked with the unwashed dirt of years.
"Oh, is that you, Telepasse?" the white man queried genially. "You
tell 'm boys clear out, and you stop and talk along me."
"Him good fella boy," was the reply. "Him stop along."
"Well, what do you want?" Sheldon asked, striving to hide under
assumed carelessness the weakness of concession.
"That fella boy belong along me." The old chief pointed out
Gogoomy, whom Sheldon recognized.
"White Mary belong you too much no good," Telepasse went on. "Bang
'm head belong Gogoomy. Gogoomy all the same chief. Bimeby me
finish, Gogoomy big fella chief. White Mary bang 'm head. No
good. You pay me plenty tobacco, plenty powder, plenty calico."
"You old scoundrel," was Sheldon's comment. An hour before, he had
been chuckling over Joan's recital of the episode, and here, an
hour later, was Telepasse himself come to collect damages.
"Gogoomy," Sheldon ordered, "what name you walk about here? You
get along quarters plenty quick."
"Me stop," was the defiant answer.
"White Mary b'long you bang 'm head," old Telepasse began again.
"My word, plenty big fella trouble you no pay."
"You talk along boys," Sheldon said, with increasing irritation.
"You tell 'm get to hell along beach. Then I talk with you."
Sheldon felt a slight vibration of the veranda, and knew that Joan
had come out and was standing by his side. But he did not dare
glance at her. There were too many rifles down below there, and
rifles had a way of going off from the hip.
Again the veranda vibrated with her moving weight, and he knew that
Joan had gone into the house. A minute later she was back beside
him. He had never seen her smoke, and it struck him as peculiar
that she should be smoking now. Then he guessed the reason. With
a quick glance, he noted the hand at her side, and in it the
familiar, paper-wrapped dynamite. He noted, also, the end of fuse,
split properly, into which had been inserted the head of a wax
"Telepasse, you old reprobate, tell 'm boys clear out along beach.
My word, I no gammon along you."
"Me no gammon," said the chief. "Me want 'm pay white Mary bang 'm
head b'long Gogoomy."
"I'll come down there and bang 'm head b'long you," Sheldon
replied, leaning toward the railing as if about to leap over.
An angry murmur arose, and the blacks surged restlessly. The
muzzles of many guns were rising from the hips. Joan was pressing
the lighted end of the cigarette to the fuse. A Snider went off
with the roar of a bomb-gun, and Sheldon heard a pane of window-
glass crash behind him. At the same moment Joan flung the
dynamite, the fuse hissing and spluttering, into the thick of the
blacks. They scattered back in too great haste to do any more
shooting. Satan, aroused by the one shot, was snarling and panting
to be let out. Joan heard, and ran to let him out; and thereat the
tragedy was averted, and the comedy began.
Rifles and spears were dropped or flung aside in a wild scramble
for the protection of the cocoanut palms. Satan multiplied
himself. Never had he been free to tear and rend such a quantity
of black flesh before, and he bit and snapped and rushed the flying
legs till the last pair were above his head. All were treed except
Telepasse, who was too old and fat, and he lay prone and without
movement where he had fallen; while Satan, with too great a heart
to worry an enemy that did not move, dashed frantically from tree
to tree, barking and springing at those who clung on lowest down.
"I fancy you need a lesson or two in inserting fuses," Sheldon
Joan's eyes were scornful.
"There was no detonator on it," she said. "Besides, the detonator
is not yet manufactured that will explode that charge. It's only a
bottle of chlorodyne."
She put her fingers into her mouth, and Sheldon winced as he saw
her blow, like a boy, a sharp, imperious whistle--the call she
always used for her sailors, and that always made him wince.
"They're gone up the Balesuna, shooting fish," he explained. "But
there comes Oleson with his boat's-crew. He's an old war-horse
when he gets started. See him banging the boys. They don't pull
fast enough for him."
"And now what's to be done?" she asked. "You've treed your game,
but you can't keep it treed."
"No; but I can teach them a lesson."
Sheldon walked over to the big bell.
"It is all right," he replied to her gesture of protest. "My boys
are practically all bushmen, while these chaps are salt-water men,
and there's no love lost between them. You watch the fun."
He rang a general call, and by the time the two hundred labourers
trooped into the compound Satan was once more penned in the living-
room, complaining to high heaven at his abominable treatment. The
plantation hands were dancing war-dances around the base of every
tree and filling the air with abuse and vituperation of their
hereditary enemies. The skipper of the Flibberty-Gibbet arrived in
the thick of it, in the first throes of oncoming fever, staggering
as he walked, and shivering so severely that he could scarcely hold
the rifle he carried. His face was ghastly blue, his teeth clicked
and chattered, and the violent sunshine through which he walked
could not warm him.
"I'll s-s-sit down, and k-k-keep a guard on 'em," he chattered.
"D-d-dash it all, I always g-get f-fever when there's any
excitement. W-w-wh-what are you going to do?"
"Gather up the guns first of all."
Under Sheldon's direction the house-boys and gang-bosses collected
the scattered arms and piled them in a heap on the veranda. The
modern rifles, stolen from Lunga, Sheldon set aside; the Sniders he
smashed into fragments; the pile of spears, clubs, and tomahawks he
presented to Joan.
"A really unique addition to your collection," he smiled; "picked
up right on the battlefield."
Down on the beach he built a bonfire out of the contents of the
canoes, his blacks smashing, breaking, and looting everything they
laid hands on. The canoes themselves, splintered and broken,
filled with sand and coral-boulders, were towed out to ten fathoms
of water and sunk.
"Ten fathoms will be deep enough for them to work in," Sheldon
said, as they walked back to the compound.
Here a Saturnalia had broken loose. The war-songs and dances were
more unrestrained, and, from abuse, the plantation blacks had
turned to pelting their helpless foes with pieces of wood, handfuls
of pebbles, and chunks of coral-rock. And the seventy-five lusty
cannibals clung stoically to their tree-perches, enduring the rain
of missiles and snarling down promises of vengeance.
"There'll be wars for forty years on Malaita on account of this,"
Sheldon laughed. "But I always fancy old Telepasse will never
again attempt to rush a plantation."
"Eh, you old scoundrel," he added, turning to the old chief, who
sat gibbering in impotent rage at the foot of the steps. "Now head
belong you bang 'm too. Come on, Miss Lackland, bang 'm just once.
It will be the crowning indignity."
"Ugh, he's too dirty. I'd rather give him a bath. Here, you,
Adamu Adam, give this devil-devil a wash. Soap and water! Fill
that wash-tub. Ornfiri, run and fetch 'm scrub-brush."
The Tahitians, back from their fishing and grinning at the bedlam
of the compound, entered into the joke.
"Tambo! Tambo!" shrieked the cannibals from the trees, appalled at
so awful a desecration, as they saw their chief tumbled into the
tub and the sacred dirt rubbed and soused from his body.
Joan, who had gone into the bungalow, tossed down a strip of white
calico, in which old Telepasse was promptly wrapped, and he stood
forth, resplendent and purified, withal he still spat and strangled
from the soap-suds with which Noa Noah had gargled his throat.
The house-boys were directed to fetch handcuffs, and, one by one,
the Lunga runaways were haled down out of their trees and made
fast. Sheldon ironed them in pairs, and ran a steel chain through
the links of the irons. Gogoomy was given a lecture for his
mutinous conduct and locked up for the afternoon. Then Sheldon
rewarded the plantation hands with an afternoon's holiday, and,
when they had withdrawn from the compound, permitted the Port Adams
men to descend from the trees. And all afternoon he and Joan
loafed in the cool of the veranda and watched them diving down and
emptying their sunken canoes of the sand and rocks. It was
twilight when they embarked and paddled away with a few broken
paddles. A breeze had sprung up, and the Flibberty-Gibbet had
already sailed for Lunga to return the runaways.
CHAPTER XII--MR. MORGAN AND MR. RAFF
Sheldon was back in the plantation superintending the building of a
bridge, when the schooner Malakula ran in close and dropped anchor.
Joan watched the taking in of sail and the swinging out of the boat
with a sailor's interest, and herself met the two men who came
ashore. While one of the house-boys ran to fetch Sheldon, she had
the visitors served with whisky and soda, and sat and talked with
They seemed awkward and constrained in her presence, and she caught
first one and then the other looking at her with secret curiosity.
She felt that they were weighing her, appraising her, and for the
first time the anomalous position she occupied on Berande sank
sharply home to her. On the other hand, they puzzled her. They
were neither traders nor sailors of any type she had known. Nor
did they talk like gentlemen, despite the fact that there was
nothing offensive in their bearing and that the veneer of ordinary
social nicety was theirs. Undoubtedly, they were men of affairs--
business men of a sort; but what affairs should they have in the
Solomons, and what business on Berande? The elder one, Morgan, was
a huge man, bronzed and moustached, with a deep bass voice and an
almost guttural speech, and the other, Raff, was slight and
effeminate, with nervous hands and watery, washed-out gray eyes,
who spoke with a faint indefinable accent that was hauntingly
reminiscent of the Cockney, and that was yet not Cockney of any
brand she had ever encountered. Whatever they were, they were
self-made men, she concluded; and she felt the impulse to shudder
at thought of falling into their hands in a business way. There,
they would be merciless.
She watched Sheldon closely when he arrived, and divined that he
was not particularly delighted to see them. But see them he must,
and so pressing was the need that, after a little perfunctory
general conversation, he led the two men into the stuffy office.
Later in the afternoon, she asked Lalaperu where they had gone.
"My word," quoth Lalaperu; "plenty walk about, plenty look 'm.
Look 'm tree; look 'm ground belong tree; look 'm all fella bridge;
look 'm copra-house; look 'm grass-land; look 'm river; look 'm
whale-boat--my word, plenty big fella look 'm too much."
"What fella man them two fella?" she queried.
"Big fella marster along white man," was the extent of his
But Joan decided that they were men of importance in the Solomons,
and that their examination of the plantation and of its accounts
was of sinister significance.
At dinner no word was dropped that gave a hint of their errand.
The conversation was on general topics; but Joan could not help
noticing the troubled, absent expression that occasionally came
into Sheldon's eyes. After coffee, she left them; and at midnight,
from across the compound, she could hear the low murmur of their
voices and see glowing the fiery ends of their cigars. Up early
herself, she found they had already departed on another tramp over
"What you think?" she asked Viaburi.
"Sheldon marster he go along finish short time little bit," was the
"What you think?" she asked Ornfiri.
"Sheldon marster big fella walk about along Sydney. Yes, me t'ink
so. He finish along Berande."
All day the examination of the plantation and the discussion went
on; and all day the skipper of the Malakula sent urgent messages
ashore for the two men to hasten. It was not until sunset that
they went down to the boat, and even then a final talk of nearly an
hour took place on the beach. Sheldon was combating something--
that she could plainly see; and that his two visitors were not
giving in she could also plainly see.
"What name?" she asked lightly, when Sheldon sat down to dinner.
He looked at her and smiled, but it was a very wan and wistful
"My word," she went on. "One big fella talk. Sun he go down--
talk-talk; sun he come up--talk-talk; all the time talk-talk. What
name that fella talk-talk?
"Oh, nothing much." He shrugged his shoulders. "They were trying
to buy Berande, that was all."
She looked at him challengingly.
"It must have been more than that. It was you who wanted to sell."
"Indeed, no, Miss Lackland; I assure you that I am far from
desiring to sell."
"Don't let us fence about it," she urged. "Let it be straight talk
between us. You're in trouble. I'm not a fool. Tell me.
Besides, I may be able to help, to--to suggest something."
In the pause that followed, he seemed to debate, not so much
whether he would tell her, as how to begin to tell her.
"I'm American, you see," she persisted, "and our American heritage
is a large parcel of business sense. I don't like it myself, but I
know I've got it--at least more than you have. Let us talk it over
and find a way out. How much do you owe?"
"A thousand pounds, and a few trifles over--small bills, you know.
Then, too, thirty of the boys finish their time next week, and
their balances will average ten pounds each. But what is the need
of bothering your head with it? Really, you know--"
"What is Berande worth?--right now?"
"Whatever Morgan and Raff are willing to pay for it." A glance at
her hurt expression decided him. "Hughie and I have sunk eight
thousand pounds in it, and our time. It is a good property, and
worth more than that. But it has three years to run before its
returns begin to come in. That is why Hughie and I engaged in
trading and recruiting. The Jessie and our stations came very near
to paying the running expenses of Berande."
"And Morgan and Raff offered you what?"
"A thousand pounds clear, after paying all bills."
"The thieves!" she cried.
"No, they're good business men, that is all. As they told me, a
thing is worth no more than one is willing to pay or to receive."
"And how much do you need to carry on Berande for three years?"
Joan hurried on.
"Two hundred boys at six pounds a year means thirty-six hundred
pounds--that's the main item."
"My, how cheap labour does mount up! Thirty-six hundred pounds,
eighteen thousand dollars, just for a lot of cannibals! Yet the
place is good security. You could go down to Sydney and raise the
He shook his head.
"You can't get them to look at plantations down there. They've
been taken in too often. But I do hate to give the place up--more
for Hughie's sake, I swear, than my own. He was bound up in it.
You see, he was a persistent chap, and hated to acknowledge defeat.
It--it makes me uncomfortable to think of it myself. We were
running slowly behind, but with the Jessie we hoped to muddle
through in some fashion."
"You were muddlers, the pair of you, without doubt. But you
needn't sell to Morgan and Raff. I shall go down to Sydney on the
next steamer, and I'll come back in a second-hand schooner. I
should be able to buy one for five or six thousand dollars--"
He held up his hand in protest, but she waved it aside.
"I may manage to freight a cargo back as well. At any rate, the
schooner will take over the Jessie's business. You can make your
arrangements accordingly, and have plenty of work for her when I
get back. I'm going to become a partner in Berande to the extent
of my bag of sovereigns--I've got over fifteen hundred of them, you
know. We'll draw up an agreement right now--that is, with your
permission, and I know you won't refuse it."
He looked at her with good-natured amusement.
"You know I sailed here all the way from Tahiti in order to become
a planter," she insisted. "You know what my plans were. Now I've
changed them, that's all. I'd rather be a part owner of Berande
and get my returns in three years, than break ground on Pari-Sulay
and wait seven years."
"And this--er--this schooner. . . . " Sheldon changed his mind and
"Yes, go on."
"You won't be angry?" he queried.
"No, no; this is business. Go on."
"You--er--you would run her yourself?--be the captain, in short?--
and go recruiting on Malaita?"
"Certainly. We would save the cost of a skipper. Under an
agreement you would be credited with a manager's salary, and I with
a captain's. It's quite simple. Besides, if you won't let me be
your partner, I shall buy Pari-Sulay, get a much smaller vessel,
and run her myself. So what is the difference?"
"The difference?--why, all the difference in the world. In the
case of Pari-Sulay you would be on an independent venture. You
could turn cannibal for all I could interfere in the matter. But
on Berande, you would be my partner, and then I would be
responsible. And of course I couldn't permit you, as my partner,
to be skipper of a recruiter. I tell you, the thing is what I
would not permit any sister or wife of mine--"
"But I'm not going to be your wife, thank goodness--only your
"Besides, it's all ridiculous," he held on steadily. "Think of the
situation. A man and a woman, both young, partners on an isolated
plantation. Why, the only practical way out would be that I'd have
to marry you--"
"Mine was a business proposition, not a marriage proposal," she
interrupted, coldly angry. "I wonder if somewhere in this world
there is one man who could accept me for a comrade."
"But you are a woman just the same," he began, "and there are
certain conventions, certain decencies--"
She sprang up and stamped her foot.
"Do you know what I'd like to say?" she demanded.
"Yes," he smiled, "you'd like to say, 'Damn petticoats!'"
She nodded her head ruefully.
"That's what I wanted to say, but it sounds different on your lips.
It sounds as though you meant it yourself, and that you meant it
because of me."
"Well, I am going to bed. But do, please, think over my
proposition, and let me know in the morning. There's no use in my
discussing it now. You make me so angry. You are cowardly, you
know, and very egotistic. You are afraid of what other fools will
say. No matter how honest your motives, if others criticized your
actions your feelings would be hurt. And you think more about your
own wretched feelings than you do about mine. And then, being a
coward--all men are at heart cowards--you disguise your cowardice
by calling it chivalry. I thank heaven that I was not born a man.
Good-night. Do think it over. And don't be foolish. What Berande
needs is good American hustle. You don't know what that is. You
are a muddler. Besides, you are enervated. I'm fresh to the
climate. Let me be your partner, and you'll see me rattle the dry
bones of the Solomons. Confess, I've rattled yours already."
"I should say so," he answered. "Really, you know, you have. I
never received such a dressing-down in my life. If any one had
ever told me that I'd be a party even to the present situation. . .
. Yes, I confess, you have rattled my dry bones pretty
"But that is nothing to the rattling they are going to get," she
assured him, as he rose and took her hand. "Good-night. And do,
do give me a rational decision in the morning."
CHAPTER XIII--THE LOGIC OF YOUTH
"I wish I knew whether you are merely headstrong, or whether you
really intend to be a Solomon planter," Sheldon said in the
morning, at breakfast.
"I wish you were more adaptable," Joan retorted. "You have more
preconceived notions than any man I ever met. Why in the name of
common sense, in the name of . . . fair play, can't you get it into
your head that I am different from the women you have known, and
treat me accordingly? You surely ought to know I am different. I
sailed my own schooner here--skipper, if you please. I came here
to make my living. You know that; I've told you often enough. It
was Dad's plan, and I'm carrying it out, just as you are trying to
carry out your Hughie's plan. Dad started to sail and sail until
he could find the proper islands for planting. He died, and I
sailed and sailed until I arrived here. Well,"--she shrugged her
shoulders--"the schooner is at the bottom of the sea. I can't sail
any farther, therefore I remain here. And a planter I shall
"You see--" he began.
"I haven't got to the point," she interrupted. "Looking back on my
conduct from the moment I first set foot on your beach, I can see
no false pretence that I have made about myself or my intentions.
I was my natural self to you from the first. I told you my plans;
and yet you sit there and calmly tell me that you don't know
whether I really intend to become a planter, or whether it is all
obstinacy and pretence. Now let me assure you, for the last time,
that I really and truly shall become a planter, thanks to you, or
in spite of you. Do you want me for a partner?"
"But do you realize that I would be looked upon as the most foolish
jackanapes in the South Seas if I took a young girl like you in
with me here on Berande?" he asked.
"No; decidedly not. But there you are again, worrying about what
idiots and the generally evil-minded will think of you. I should
have thought you had learned self-reliance on Berande, instead of
needing to lean upon the moral support of every whisky-guzzling
worthless South Sea vagabond."
He smiled, and said, -
"Yes, that is the worst of it. You are unanswerable. Yours is the
logic of youth, and no man can answer that. The facts of life can,
but they have no place in the logic of youth. Youth must try to
live according to its logic. That is the only way to learn
"There is no harm in trying?" she interjected.
"But there is. That is the very point. The facts always smash
youth's logic, and they usually smash youth's heart, too. It's
like platonic friendships and . . . and all such things; they are
all right in theory, but they won't work in practice. I used to
believe in such things once. That is why I am here in the Solomons
Joan was impatient. He saw that she could not understand. Life
was too clearly simple to her. It was only the youth who was
arguing with him, the youth with youth's pure-minded and invincible
reasoning. Hers was only the boy's soul in a woman's body. He
looked at her flushed, eager face, at the great ropes of hair
coiled on the small head, at the rounded lines of the figure
showing plainly through the home-made gown, and at the eyes--boy's
eyes, under cool, level brows--and he wondered why a being that was
so much beautiful woman should be no woman at all. Why in the
deuce was she not carroty-haired, or cross-eyed, or hare-lipped?
"Suppose we do become partners on Berande," he said, at the same
time experiencing a feeling of fright at the prospect that was
tangled with a contradictory feeling of charm, "either I'll fall in
love with you, or you with me. Propinquity is dangerous, you know.
In fact, it is propinquity that usually gives the facer to the
logic of youth."
"If you think I came to the Solomons to get married--" she began
wrathfully. "Well, there are better men in Hawaii, that's all.
Really, you know, the way you harp on that one string would lead an
unprejudiced listener to conclude that you are prurient-minded--"
She stopped, appalled. His face had gone red and white with such
abruptness as to startle her. He was patently very angry. She
sipped the last of her coffee, and arose, saying, -
"I'll wait until you are in a better temper before taking up the
discussion again. That is what's the matter with you. You get
angry too easily. Will you come swimming? The tide is just
"If she were a man I'd bundle her off the plantation root and crop,
whale-boat, Tahitian sailors, sovereigns, and all," he muttered to
himself after she had left the room.
But that was the trouble. She was not a man, and where would she
go, and what would happen to her?
He got to his feet, lighted a cigarette, and her Stetson hat,
hanging on the wall over her revolver-belt, caught his eye. That
was the devil of it, too. He did not want her to go. After all,
she had not grown up yet. That was why her logic hurt. It was
only the logic of youth, but it could hurt damnably at times. At
any rate, he would resolve upon one thing: never again would he
lose his temper with her. She was a child; he must remember that.
He sighed heavily. But why in reasonableness had such a child been
incorporated in such a woman's form?
And as he continued to stare at her hat and think, the hurt he had
received passed away, and he found himself cudgelling his brains
for some way out of the muddle--for some method by which she could
remain on Berande. A chaperone! Why not? He could send to Sydney
on the first steamer for one. He could -
Her trilling laughter smote upon his reverie, and he stepped to the
screen-door, through which he could see her running down the path
to the beach. At her heels ran two of her sailors, Papehara and
Mahameme, in scarlet lava-lavas, with naked sheath-knives gleaming
in their belts. It was another sample of her wilfulness. Despite
entreaties and commands, and warnings of the danger from sharks,
she persisted in swimming at any and all times, and by special
preference, it seemed to him, immediately after eating.
He watched her take the water, diving cleanly, like a boy, from the
end of the little pier; and he watched her strike out with single
overhand stroke, her henchmen swimming a dozen feet on either side.
He did not have much faith in their ability to beat off a hungry
man-eater, though he did believe, implicitly, that their lives
would go bravely before hers in case of an attack.
Straight out they swam, their heads growing smaller and smaller.
There was a slight, restless heave to the sea, and soon the three
heads were disappearing behind it with greater frequency. He
strained his eyes to keep them in sight, and finally fetched the
telescope on to the veranda. A squall was making over from the
direction of Florida; but then, she and her men laughed at squalls
and the white choppy sea at such times. She certainly could swim,
he had long since concluded. That came of her training in Hawaii.
But sharks were sharks, and he had known of more than one good
swimmer drowned in a tide-rip.
The squall blackened the sky, beat the ocean white where he had
last seen the three heads, and then blotted out sea and sky and
everything with its deluge of rain. It passed on, and Berande
emerged in the bright sunshine as the three swimmers emerged from
the sea. Sheldon slipped inside with the telescope, and through
the screen-door watched her run up the path, shaking down her hair
as she ran, to the fresh-water shower under the house.
On the veranda that afternoon he broached the proposition of a
chaperone as delicately as he could, explaining the necessity at
Berande for such a body, a housekeeper to run the boys and the
storeroom, and perform divers other useful functions. When he had
finished, he waited anxiously for what Joan would say.
"Then you don't like the way I've been managing the house?" was her
first objection. And next, brushing his attempted explanations
aside, "One of two things would happen. Either I should cancel our
partnership agreement and go away, leaving you to get another
chaperone to chaperone your chaperone; or else I'd take the old hen
out in the whale-boat and drown her. Do you imagine for one moment
that I sailed my schooner down here to this raw edge of the earth
in order to put myself under a chaperone?"
"But really . . . er . . . you know a chaperone is a necessary
evil," he objected.
"We've got along very nicely so far without one. Did I have one on
the Miele? And yet I was the only woman on board. There are only
three things I am afraid of--bumble-bees, scarlet fever, and
chaperones. Ugh! the clucking, evil-minded monsters, finding wrong
in everything, seeing sin in the most innocent actions, and
suggesting sin--yes, causing sin--by their diseased imaginings."
"Phew!" Sheldon leaned back from the table in mock fear.
"You needn't worry about your bread and butter," he ventured. "If
you fail at planting, you would be sure to succeed as a writer--
novels with a purpose, you know."
"I didn't think there were persons in the Solomons who needed such
books," she retaliated. "But you are certainly one--you and your
custodians of virtue."
He winced, but Joan rattled on with the platitudinous originality
"As if anything good were worth while when it has to be guarded and
put in leg-irons and handcuffs in order to keep it good. Your
desire for a chaperone as much as implies that I am that sort of
creature. I prefer to be good because it is good to be good,
rather than because I can't be bad because some argus-eyed old
frump won't let me have a chance to be bad."
"But it--it is not that," he put in. "It is what others will
"Let them think, the nasty-minded wretches! It is because men like
you are afraid of the nasty-minded that you allow their opinions to
"I am afraid you are a female Shelley," he replied; "and as such,
you really drive me to become your partner in order to protect
"If you take me as a partner in order to protect me . . . I . . . I
shan't be your partner, that's all. You'll drive me into buying
"All the more reason--" he attempted.
"Do you know what I'll do?" she demanded. "I'll find some man in
the Solomons who won't want to protect me."
Sheldon could not conceal the shock her words gave him.
"You don't mean that, you know," he pleaded.
"I do; I really do. I am sick and tired of this protection dodge.
Don't forget for a moment that I am perfectly able to take care of
myself. Besides, I have eight of the best protectors in the world-
"You should have lived a thousand years ago," he laughed, "or a
thousand years hence. You are very primitive, and equally super-
modern. The twentieth century is no place for you."
"But the Solomon Islands are. You were living like a savage when I
came along and found you--eating nothing but tinned meat and scones
that would have ruined the digestion of a camel. Anyway, I've
remedied that; and since we are to be partners, it will stay
remedied. You won't die of malnutrition, be sure of that."
"If we enter into partnership," he announced, "it must be
thoroughly understood that you are not allowed to run the schooner.
You can go down to Sydney and buy her, but a skipper we must have--
"At so much additional expense, and most likely a whisky-drinking,
irresponsible, and incapable man to boot. Besides, I'd have the
business more at heart than any man we could hire. As for
capability, I tell you I can sail all around the average broken
captain or promoted able seaman you find in the South Seas. And
you know I am a navigator."
"But being my partner," he said coolly, "makes you none the less a
"Thank you for telling me that my contemplated conduct is
She arose, tears of anger and mortification in her eyes, and went
over to the phonograph.
"I wonder if all men are as ridiculous as you?" she said.
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Discussion was useless--he
had learned that; and he was resolved to keep his temper. And
before the day was out she capitulated. She was to go to Sydney on
the first steamer, purchase the schooner, and sail back with an
island skipper on board. And then she inveigled Sheldon into
agreeing that she could take occasional cruises in the islands,
though he was adamant when it came to a recruiting trip on Malaita.
That was the one thing barred.
And after it was all over, and a terse and business-like agreement
(by her urging) drawn up and signed, Sheldon paced up and down for
a full hour, meditating upon how many different kinds of a fool he
had made of himself. It was an impossible situation, and yet no
more impossible than the previous one, and no more impossible than
the one that would have obtained had she gone off on her own and
bought Pari-Sulay. He had never seen a more independent woman who
stood more in need of a protector than this boy-minded girl who had
landed on his beach with eight picturesque savages, a long-
barrelled revolver, a bag of gold, and a gaudy merchandise of
imagined romance and adventure.
He had never read of anything to compare with it. The fictionists,
as usual, were exceeded by fact. The whole thing was too
preposterous to be true. He gnawed his moustache and smoked
cigarette after cigarette. Satan, back from a prowl around the
compound, ran up to him and touched his hand with a cold, damp
nose. Sheldon caressed the animal's ears, then threw himself into
a chair and laughed heartily. What would the Commissioner of the
Solomons think? What would his people at home think? And in the
one breath he was glad that the partnership had been effected and
sorry that Joan Lackland had ever come to the Solomons. Then he
went inside and looked at himself in a hand-mirror. He studied the
reflection long and thoughtfully and wonderingly.
CHAPTER XIV--THE MARTHA
They were deep in a game of billiards the next morning, after the
eleven o'clock breakfast, when Viaburi entered and announced, -
"Big fella schooner close up."
Even as he spoke, they heard the rumble of chain through hawse-
pipe, and from the veranda saw a big black-painted schooner,
swinging to her just-caught anchor.
"It's a Yankee," Joan cried. "See that bow! Look at that
elliptical stern! Ah, I thought so--" as the Stars and Stripes
fluttered to the mast-head.
Noa Noah, at Sheldon's direction, ran the Union Jack up the flag-
"Now what is an American vessel doing down here?" Joan asked.
"It's not a yacht, though I'll wager she can sail. Look! Her
name! What is it?"
"Martha, San Francisco," Sheldon read, looking through the
telescope. "It's the first Yankee I ever heard of in the Solomons.
They are coming ashore, whoever they are. And, by Jove, look at
those men at the oars. It's an all-white crew. Now what reason
brings them here?"
"They're not proper sailors," Joan commented. "I'd be ashamed of a
crew of black-boys that pulled in such fashion. Look at that
fellow in the bow--the one just jumping out; he'd be more at home
on a cow-pony."
The boat's-crew scattered up and down the beach, ranging about with
eager curiosity, while the two men who had sat in the stern-sheets
opened the gate and came up the path to the bungalow. One of them,
a tall and slender man, was clad in white ducks that fitted him
like a semi-military uniform. The other man, in nondescript
garments that were both of the sea and shore, and that must have
been uncomfortably hot, slouched and shambled like an overgrown
ape. To complete the illusion, his face seemed to sprout in all
directions with a dense, bushy mass of red whiskers, while his eyes
were small and sharp and restless.
Sheldon, who had gone to the head of the steps, introduced them to
Joan. The bewhiskered individual, who looked like a Scotsman, had
the Teutonic name of Von Blix, and spoke with a strong American
accent. The tall man in the well-fitting ducks, who gave the
English name of Tudor--John Tudor--talked purely-enunciated English
such as any cultured American would talk, save for the fact that it
was most delicately and subtly touched by a faint German accent.
Joan decided that she had been helped to identify the accent by the
short German-looking moustache that did not conceal the mouth and
its full red lips, which would have formed a Cupid's bow but for
some harshness or severity of spirit that had moulded them
Von Blix was rough and boorish, but Tudor was gracefully easy in
everything he did, or looked, or said. His blue eyes sparkled and
flashed, his clean-cut mobile features were an index to his
slightest shades of feeling and expression. He bubbled with
enthusiasms, and his faintest smile or lightest laugh seemed
spontaneous and genuine. But it was only occasionally at first
that he spoke, for Von Blix told their story and stated their
They were on a gold-hunting expedition. He was the leader, and
Tudor was his lieutenant. All hands--and there were twenty-eight--
were shareholders, in varying proportions, in the adventure.
Several were sailors, but the large majority were miners, culled
from all the camps from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. It was the old
and ever-untiring pursuit of gold, and they had come to the
Solomons to get it. Part of them, under the leadership of Tudor,
were to go up the Balesuna and penetrate the mountainous heart of
Guadalcanar, while the Martha, under Von Blix, sailed away for
Malaita to put through similar exploration.
"And so," said Von Blix, "for Mr. Tudor's expedition we must have
some black-boys. Can we get them from you?"
"Of course we will pay," Tudor broke in. "You have only to charge
what you consider them worth. You pay them six pounds a year,
"In the first place we can't spare them," Sheldon answered. "We
are short of them on the plantation as it is."
"WE?" Tudor asked quickly. "Then you are a firm or a partnership?
I understood at Guvutu that you were alone, that you had lost your
Sheldon inclined his head toward Joan, and as he spoke she felt
that he had become a trifle stiff.
"Miss Lackland has become interested in the plantation since then.
But to return to the boys. We can't spare them, and besides, they
would be of little use. You couldn't get them to accompany you
beyond Binu, which is a short day's work with the boats from here.
They are Malaita-men, and they are afraid of being eaten. They
would desert you at the first opportunity. You could get the Binu
men to accompany you another day's journey, through the grass-
lands, but at the first roll of the foothills look for them to turn
back. They likewise are disinclined to being eaten."
"Is it as bad as that?" asked Von Blix.
"The interior of Guadalcanar has never been explored," Sheldon
explained. "The bushmen are as wild men as are to be found
anywhere in the world to-day. I have never seen one. I have never
seen a man who has seen one. They never come down to the coast,
though their scouting parties occasionally eat a coast native who
has wandered too far inland. Nobody knows anything about them.
They don't even use tobacco--have never learned its use. The
Austrian expedition--scientists, you know--got part way in before
it was cut to pieces. The monument is up the beach there several
miles. Only one man got back to the coast to tell the tale. And
now you have all I or any other man knows of the inside of
"But gold--have you heard of gold?" Tudor asked impatiently. "Do
you know anything about gold?"
Sheldon smiled, while the two visitors hung eagerly upon his words.
"You can go two miles up the Balesuna and wash colours from the
gravel. I've done it often. There is gold undoubtedly back in the