Part 3 out of 5
Tudor and Von Blix looked triumphantly at each other.
"Old Wheatsheaf's yarn was true, then," Tudor said, and Von Blix
nodded. "And if Malaita turns out as well--"
Tudor broke off and looked at Joan.
"It was the tale of this old beachcomber that brought us here," he
explained. "Von Blix befriended him and was told the secret." He
turned and addressed Sheldon. "I think we shall prove that white
men have been through the heart of Guadalcanar long before the time
of the Austrian expedition."
Sheldon shrugged his shoulders.
"We have never heard of it down here," he said simply. Then he
addressed Von Blix. "As to the boys, you couldn't use them farther
than Binu, and I'll lend you as many as you want as far as that.
How many of your party are going, and how soon will you start?"
"Ten," said Tudor; "nine men and myself."
"And you should be able to start day after to-morrow," Von Blix
said to him. "The boats should practically be knocked together
this afternoon. To-morrow should see the outfit portioned and
packed. As for the Martha, Mr. Sheldon, we'll rush the stuff
ashore this afternoon and sail by sundown."
As the two men returned down the path to their boat, Sheldon
regarded Joan quizzically.
"There's romance for you," he said, "and adventure--gold-hunting
among the cannibals."
"A title for a book," she cried. "Or, better yet, 'Gold-Hunting
Among the Head-Hunters.' My! wouldn't it sell!"
"And now aren't you sorry you became a cocoanut planter?" he
teased. "Think of investing in such an adventure."
"If I did," she retorted, "Von Blix wouldn't be finicky about my
joining in the cruise to Malaita."
"I don't doubt but what he would jump at it."
"What do you think of them?" she asked.
"Oh, old Von Blix is all right, a solid sort of chap in his
fashion; but Tudor is fly-away--too much on the surface, you know.
If it came to being wrecked on a desert island, I'd prefer Von
"I don't quite understand," Joan objected. "What have you against
"You remember Browning's 'Last Duchess'?"
"Well, Tudor reminds me of her--"
"But she was delightful."
"So she was. But she was a woman. One expects something different
from a man--more control, you know, more restraint, more
deliberation. A man must be more solid, more solid and steady-
going and less effervescent. A man of Tudor's type gets on my
nerves. One demands more repose from a man."
Joan felt that she did not quite agree with his judgment; and,
somehow, Sheldon caught her feeling and was disturbed. He
remembered noting how her eyes had brightened as she talked with
the newcomer--confound it all, was he getting jealous? he asked
himself. Why shouldn't her eyes brighten? What concern was it of
A second boat had been lowered, and the outfit of the shore party
was landed rapidly. A dozen of the crew put the knocked-down boats
together on the beach. There were five of these craft--lean and
narrow, with flaring sides, and remarkably long. Each was equipped
with three paddles and several iron-shod poles.
"You chaps certainly seem to know river-work," Sheldon told one of
The man spat a mouthful of tobacco-juice into the white sand, and
"We use 'em in Alaska. They're modelled after the Yukon poling-
boats, and you can bet your life they're crackerjacks. This
creek'll be a snap alongside some of them Northern streams. Five
hundred pounds in one of them boats, an' two men can snake it along
in a way that'd surprise you."
At sunset the Martha broke out her anchor and got under way,
dipping her flag and saluting with a bomb gun. The Union Jack ran
up and down the staff, and Sheldon replied with his brass signal-
cannon. The miners pitched their tents in the compound, and cooked
on the beach, while Tudor dined with Joan and Sheldon.
Their guest seemed to have been everywhere and seen everything and
met everybody, and, encouraged by Joan, his talk was largely upon
his own adventures. He was an adventurer of adventurers, and by
his own account had been born into adventure. Descended from old
New England stock, his father a consul-general, he had been born in
Germany, in which country he had received his early education and
his accent. Then, still a boy, he had rejoined his father in
Turkey, and accompanied him later to Persia, his father having been
appointed Minister to that country.
Tudor had always been a wanderer, and with facile wit and quick
vivid description he leaped from episode and place to episode and
place, relating his experiences seemingly not because they were
his, but for the sake of their bizarreness and uniqueness, for the
unusual incident or the laughable situation. He had gone through
South American revolutions, been a Rough Rider in Cuba, a scout in
South Africa, a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese war. He
had mushed dogs in the Klondike, washed gold from the sands of
Nome, and edited a newspaper in San Francisco. The President of
the United States was his friend. He was equally at home in the
clubs of London and the Continent, the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, and
the selector's shanties in the Never-Never country. He had shot
big game in Siam, pearled in the Paumotus, visited Tolstoy, seen
the Passion Play, and crossed the Andes on mule-back; while he was
a living directory of the fever holes of West Africa.
Sheldon leaned back in his chair on the veranda, sipping his coffee
and listening. In spite of himself he felt touched by the charm of
the man who had led so varied a life. And yet Sheldon was not
comfortable. It seemed to him that the man addressed himself
particularly to Joan. His words and smiles were directed
impartially toward both of them, yet Sheldon was certain, had the
two men of them been alone, that the conversation would have been
along different lines. Tudor had seen the effect on Joan and
deliberately continued the flow of reminiscence, netting her in the
glamour of romance. Sheldon watched her rapt attention, listened
to her spontaneous laughter, quick questions, and passing
judgments, and felt grow within him the dawning consciousness that
he loved her.
So he was very quiet and almost sad, though at times he was aware
of a distinct irritation against his guest, and he even speculated
as to what percentage of Tudor's tale was true and how any of it
could be proved or disproved. In this connection, as if the scene
had been prepared by a clever playwright, Utami came upon the
veranda to report to Joan the capture of a crocodile in the trap
they had made for her.
Tudor's face, illuminated by the match with which he was lighting
his cigarette, caught Utami's eye, and Utami forgot to report to
"Hello, Tudor," he said, with a familiarity that startled Sheldon.
The Polynesian's hand went out, and Tudor, shaking it, was staring
into his face.
"Who is it? " he asked. "I can't see you."
"And who the dickens is Utami? Where did I ever meet you, my man?"
"You no forget the Huahine?" Utami chided. "Last time Huahine
Tudor gripped the Tahitian's hand a second time and shook it with
"There was only one kanaka who came out of the Huahine that last
voyage, and that kanaka was Joe. The deuce take it, man, I'm glad
to see you, though I never heard your new name before."
"Yes, everybody speak me Joe along the Huahine. Utami my name all
the time, just the same."
"But what are you doing here?" Tudor asked, releasing the sailor's
hand and leaning eagerly forward.
"Me sail along Missie Lackalanna her schooner Miele. We go Tahiti,
Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora-Bora, Manua, Tutuila, Apia, Savaii, and Fiji
Islands--plenty Fiji Islands. Me stop along Missie Lackalanna in
Solomons. Very soon she catch other schooner."
"He and I were the two survivors of the wreck of the Huahine,"
Tudor explained to the others. "Fifty-seven all told on board when
we sailed from Huapa, and Joe and I were the only two that ever set
foot on land again. Hurricane, you know, in the Paumotus. That
was when I was after pearls."
"And you never told me, Utami, that you'd been wrecked in a
hurricane," Joan said reproachfully.
The big Tahitian shifted his weight and flashed his teeth in a
"Me no t'ink nothing 't all," he said.
He half-turned, as if to depart, by his manner indicating that he
considered it time to go while yet he desired to remain.
"All right, Utami," Tudor said. "I'll see you in the morning and
have a yarn."
"He saved my life, the beggar," Tudor explained, as the Tahitian
strode away and with heavy softness of foot went down the steps.
"Swim! I never met a better swimmer."
And thereat, solicited by Joan, Tudor narrated the wreck of the
Huahine; while Sheldon smoked and pondered, and decided that
whatever the man's shortcomings were, he was at least not a liar.
CHAPTER XV--A DISCOURSE ON MANNERS
The days passed, and Tudor seemed loath to leave the hospitality of
Berande. Everything was ready for the start, but he lingered on,
spending much time in Joan's company and thereby increasing the
dislike Sheldon had taken to him. He went swimming with her, in
point of rashness exceeding her; and dynamited fish with her,
diving among the hungry ground-sharks and contesting with them for
possession of the stunned prey, until he earned the approval of the
whole Tahitian crew. Arahu challenged him to tear a fish from a
shark's jaws, leaving half to the shark and bringing the other half
himself to the surface; and Tudor performed the feat, a flip from
the sandpaper hide of the astonished shark scraping several inches
of skin from his shoulder. And Joan was delighted, while Sheldon,
looking on, realized that here was the hero of her adventure-dreams
coming true. She did not care for love, but he felt that if ever
she did love it would be that sort of a man--"a man who exhibited,"
was his way of putting it.
He felt himself handicapped in the presence of Tudor, who had the
gift of making a show of all his qualities. Sheldon knew himself
for a brave man, wherefore he made no advertisement of the fact.
He knew that just as readily as the other would he dive among
ground-sharks to save a life, but in that fact he could find no
sanction for the foolhardy act of diving among sharks for the half
of a fish. The difference between them was that he kept the
curtain of his shop window down. Life pulsed steadily and deep in
him, and it was not his nature needlessly to agitate the surface so
that the world could see the splash he was making. And the effect
of the other's amazing exhibitions was to make him retreat more
deeply within himself and wrap himself more thickly than ever in
the nerveless, stoical calm of his race.
"You are so stupid the last few days," Joan complained to him.
"One would think you were sick, or bilious, or something. You
don't seem to have an idea in your head above black labour and
cocoanuts. What is the matter?"
Sheldon smiled and beat a further retreat within himself, listening
the while to Joan and Tudor propounding the theory of the strong
arm by which the white man ordered life among the lesser breeds.
As he listened Sheldon realized, as by revelation, that that was
precisely what he was doing. While they philosophized about it he
was living it, placing the strong hand of his race firmly on the
shoulders of the lesser breeds that laboured on Berande or menaced
it from afar. But why talk about it? he asked himself. It was
sufficient to do it and be done with it.
He said as much, dryly and quietly, and found himself involved in a
discussion, with Joan and Tudor siding against him, in which a more
astounding charge than ever he had dreamed of was made against the
very English control and reserve of which he was secretly proud.
"The Yankees talk a lot about what they do and have done," Tudor
said, "and are looked down upon by the English as braggarts. But
the Yankee is only a child. He does not know effectually how to
brag. He talks about it, you see. But the Englishman goes him one
better by not talking about it. The Englishman's proverbial lack
of bragging is a subtler form of brag after all. It is really
clever, as you will agree."
"I never thought of it before," Joan cried. "Of course. An
Englishman performs some terrifically heroic exploit, and is very
modest and reserved--refuses to talk about it at all--and the
effect is that by his silence he as much as says, 'I do things like
this every day. It is as easy as rolling off a log. You ought to
see the really heroic things I could do if they ever came my way.
But this little thing, this little episode--really, don't you know,
I fail to see anything in it remarkable or unusual.' As for me, if
I went up in a powder explosion, or saved a hundred lives, I'd want
all my friends to hear about it, and their friends as well. I'd be
prouder than Lucifer over the affair. Confess, Mr. Sheldon, don't
you feel proud down inside when you've done something daring or
"Then," she pressed home the point, "isn't disguising that pride
under a mask of careless indifference equivalent to telling a lie?"
"Yes, it is," he admitted. "But we tell similar lies every day.
It is a matter of training, and the English are better trained,
that is all. Your countrymen will be trained as well in time. As
Mr. Tudor said, the Yankees are young."
"Thank goodness we haven't begun to tell such lies yet!" was Joan's
"Oh, but you have," Sheldon said quickly. "You were telling me a
lie of that order only the other day. You remember when you were
going up the lantern-halyards hand over hand? Your face was the
personification of duplicity."
"It was no such thing."
"Pardon me a moment," he went on. "Your face was as calm and
peaceful as though you were reclining in a steamer-chair. To look
at your face one would have inferred that carrying the weight of
your body up a rope hand over hand was a very commonplace
accomplishment--as easy as rolling off a log. And you needn't tell
me, Miss Lackland, that you didn't make faces the first time you
tried to climb a rope. But, like any circus athlete, you trained
yourself out of the face-making period. You trained your face to
hide your feelings, to hide the exhausting effort your muscles were
making. It was, to quote Mr. Tudor, a subtler exhibition of
physical prowess. And that is all our English reserve is--a mere
matter of training. Certainly we are proud inside of the things we
do and have done, proud as Lucifer--yes, and prouder. But we have
grown up, and no longer talk about such things."
"I surrender," Joan cried. "You are not so stupid after all."
"Yes, you have us there," Tudor admitted. "But you wouldn't have
had us if you hadn't broken your training rules."
"How do you mean?"
"By talking about it."
Joan clapped her hands in approval. Tudor lighted a fresh
cigarette, while Sheldon sat on, imperturbably silent.
"He got you there," Joan challenged. "Why don't you crush him?"
"Really, I can't think of anything to say," Sheldon said. "I know
my position is sound, and that is satisfactory enough."
"You might retort," she suggested, "that when an adult is with
kindergarten children he must descend to kindergarten idioms in
order to make himself intelligible. That was why you broke
training rules. It was the only way to make us children
"You've deserted in the heat of the battle, Miss Lackland, and gone
over to the enemy," Tudor said plaintively.
But she was not listening. Instead, she was looking intently
across the compound and out to sea. They followed her gaze, and
saw a green light and the loom of a vessel's sails.
"I wonder if it's the Martha come back," Tudor hazarded.
"No, the sidelight is too low," Joan answered. "Besides, they've
got the sweeps out. Don't you hear them? They wouldn't be
sweeping a big vessel like the Martha."
"Besides, the Martha has a gasoline engine--twenty-five horse-
power," Tudor added.
"Just the sort of a craft for us," Joan said wistfully to Sheldon.
"I really must see if I can't get a schooner with an engine. I
might get a second-hand engine put in."
"That would mean the additional expense of an engineer's wages," he
"But it would pay for itself by quicker passages," she argued; "and
it would be as good as insurance. I know. I've knocked about
amongst reefs myself. Besides, if you weren't so mediaeval, I
could be skipper and save more than the engineer's wages."
He did not reply to her thrust, and she glanced at him. He was
looking out over the water, and in the lantern light she noted the
lines of his face--strong, stern, dogged, the mouth almost chaste
but firmer and thinner-lipped than Tudor's. For the first time she
realized the quality of his strength, the calm and quiet of it, its
simple integrity and reposeful determination. She glanced quickly
at Tudor on the other side of her. It was a handsomer face, one
that was more immediately pleasing. But she did not like the
mouth. It was made for kissing, and she abhorred kisses. This was
not a deliberately achieved concept; it came to her in the form of
a faint and vaguely intangible repulsion. For the moment she knew
a fleeting doubt of the man. Perhaps Sheldon was right in his
judgment of the other. She did not know, and it concerned her
little; for boats, and the sea, and the things and happenings of
the sea were of far more vital interest to her than men, and the
next moment she was staring through the warm tropic darkness at the
loom of the sails and the steady green of the moving sidelight, and
listening eagerly to the click of the sweeps in the rowlocks. In
her mind's eye she could see the straining naked forms of black men
bending rhythmically to the work, and somewhere on that strange
deck she knew was the inevitable master-man, conning the vessel in
to its anchorage, peering at the dim tree-line of the shore,
judging the deceitful night-distances, feeling on his cheek the
first fans of the land breeze that was even then beginning to blow,
weighing, thinking, measuring, gauging the score or more of ever-
shifting forces, through which, by which, and in spite of which he
directed the steady equilibrium of his course. She knew it because
she loved it, and she was alive to it as only a sailor could be.
Twice she heard the splash of the lead, and listened intently for
the cry that followed. Once a man's voice spoke, low, imperative,
issuing an order, and she thrilled with the delight of it. It was
only a direction to the man at the wheel to port his helm. She
watched the slight altering of the course, and knew that it was for
the purpose of enabling the flat-hauled sails to catch those first
fans of the land breeze, and she waited for the same low voice to
utter the one word "Steady!" And again she thrilled when it did
utter it. Once more the lead splashed, and "Eleven fadom" was the
resulting cry. "Let go!" the low voice came to her through the
darkness, followed by the surging rumble of the anchor-chain. The
clicking of the sheaves in the blocks as the sails ran down, head-
sails first, was music to her; and she detected on the instant the
jamming of a jib-downhaul, and almost saw the impatient jerk with
which the sailor must have cleared it. Nor did she take interest
in the two men beside her till both lights, red and green, came
into view as the anchor checked the onward way.
Sheldon was wondering as to the identity of the craft, while Tudor
persisted in believing it might be the Martha.
"It's the Minerva," Joan said decidedly.
"How do you know?" Sheldon asked, sceptical of her certitude.
"It's a ketch to begin with. And besides, I could tell anywhere
the rattle of her main peak-blocks--they're too large for the
A dark figure crossed the compound diagonally from the beach gate,
where whoever it was had been watching the vessel.
"Is that you, Utami?" Joan called.
"No, Missie; me Matapuu," was the answer.
"What vessel is it?"
"Me t'ink Minerva."
Joan looked triumphantly at Sheldon, who bowed.
"If Matapuu says so it must be so," he murmured.
"But when Joan Lackland says so, you doubt," she cried, "just as
you doubt her ability as a skipper. But never mind, you'll be
sorry some day for all your unkindness. There's the boat lowering
now, and in five minutes we'll be shaking hands with Christian
Lalaperu brought out the glasses and cigarettes and the eternal
whisky and soda, and before the five minutes were past the gate
clicked and Christian Young, tawny and golden, gentle of voice and
look and hand, came up the bungalow steps and joined them.
CHAPTER XVI--THE GIRL WHO HAD NOT GROWN UP
News, as usual, Christian Young brought--news of the drinking at
Guvutu, where the men boasted that they drank between drinks; news
of the new rifles adrift on Ysabel, of the latest murders on
Malaita, of Tom Butler's sickness on Santa Ana; and last and most
important, news that the Matambo had gone on a reef in the
Shortlands and would be laid off one run for repairs.
"That means five weeks more before you can sail for Sydney,"
Sheldon said to Joan.
"And that we are losing precious time," she added ruefully.
"If you want to go to Sydney, the Upolu sails from Tulagi to-morrow
afternoon," Young said.
"But I thought she was running recruits for the Germans in Samoa,"
she objected. "At any rate, I could catch her to Samoa, and change
at Apia to one of the Weir Line freighters. It's a long way
around, but still it would save time."
"This time the Upolu is going straight to Sydney," Young explained.
"She's going to dry-dock, you see; and you can catch her as late as
five to-morrow afternoon--at least, so her first officer told me."
"But I've got to go to Guvutu first." Joan looked at the men with
a whimsical expression. "I've some shopping to do. I can't wear
these Berande curtains into Sydney. I must buy cloth at Guvutu and
make myself a dress during the voyage down. I'll start
immediately--in an hour. Lalaperu, you bring 'm one fella Adamu
Adam along me. Tell 'm that fella Ornfiri make 'm kai-kai take
along whale-boat." She rose to her feet, looking at Sheldon. "And
you, please, have the boys carry down the whale-boat--my boat, you
know. I'll be off in an hour."
Both Sheldon and Tudor looked at their watches.
"It's an all-night row," Sheldon said. "You might wait till
"And miss my shopping? No, thank you. Besides, the Upolu is not a
regular passenger steamer, and she is just as liable to sail ahead
of time as on time. And from what I hear about those Guvutu
sybarites, the best time to shop will be in the morning. And now
you'll have to excuse me, for I've got to pack."
"I'll go over with you," Sheldon announced.
"Let me run you over in the Minerva," said Young.
She shook her head laughingly.
"I'm going in the whale-boat. One would think, from all your
solicitude, that I'd never been away from home before. You, Mr.
Sheldon, as my partner, I cannot permit to desert Berande and your
work out of a mistaken notion of courtesy. If you won't permit me
to be skipper, I won't permit your galivanting over the sea as
protector of young women who don't need protection. And as for
you, Captain Young, you know very well that you just left Guvutu
this morning, that you are bound for Marau, and that you said
yourself that in two hours you are getting under way again."
"But may I not see you safely across?" Tudor asked, a pleading note
in his voice that rasped on Sheldon's nerves.
"No, no, and again no," she cried. "You've all got your work to
do, and so have I. I came to the Solomons to work, not to be
escorted about like a doll. For that matter, here's my escort, and
there are seven more like him."
Adamu Adam stood beside her, towering above her, as he towered
above the three white men. The clinging cotton undershirt he wore
could not hide the bulge of his tremendous muscles.
"Look at his fist," said Tudor. "I'd hate to receive a punch from
"I don't blame you." Joan laughed reminiscently. "I saw him hit
the captain of a Swedish bark on the beach at Levuka, in the Fijis.
It was the captain's fault. I saw it all myself, and it was
splendid. Adamu only hit him once, and he broke the man's arm.
You remember, Adamu?"
The big Tahitian smiled and nodded, his black eyes, soft and deer-
like, seeming to give the lie to so belligerent a nature.
"We start in an hour in the whale-boat for Guvutu, big brother,"
Joan said to him. "Tell your brothers, all of them, so that they
can get ready. We catch the Upolu for Sydney. You will all come
along, and sail back to the Solomons in the new schooner. Take
your extra shirts and dungarees along. Plenty cold weather down
there. Now run along, and tell them to hurry. Leave the guns
behind. Turn them over to Mr. Sheldon. We won't need them."
"If you are really bent upon going--" Sheldon began.
"That's settled long ago," she answered shortly. "I'm going to
pack now. But I'll tell you what you can do for me--issue some
tobacco and other stuff they want to my men."
An hour later the three men had shaken hands with Joan down on the
beach. She gave the signal, and the boat shoved off, six men at
the oars, the seventh man for'ard, and Adamu Adam at the steering-
sweep. Joan was standing up in the stern-sheets, reiterating her
good-byes--a slim figure of a woman in the tight-fitting jacket she
had worn ashore from the wreck, the long-barrelled Colt's revolver
hanging from the loose belt around her waist, her clear-cut face
like a boy's under the Stetson hat that failed to conceal the heavy
masses of hair beneath.
"You'd better get into shelter," she called to them. "There's a
big squall coming. And I hope you've got plenty of chain out,
Captain Young. Good-bye! Good-bye, everybody!"
Her last words came out of the darkness, which wrapped itself
solidly about the boat. Yet they continued to stare into the
blackness in the direction in which the boat had disappeared,
listening to the steady click of the oars in the rowlocks until it
faded away and ceased.
"She is only a girl," Christian Young said with slow solemnity.
The discovery seemed to have been made on the spur of the moment.
"She is only a girl," he repeated with greater solemnity.
"A dashed pretty one, and a good traveller," Tudor laughed. "She
certainly has spunk, eh, Sheldon?"
"Yes, she is brave," was the reluctant answer for Sheldon did not
feel disposed to talk about her.
"That's the American of it," Tudor went on. "Push, and go, and
energy, and independence. What do you think, skipper?"
"I think she is young, very young, only a girl," replied the
captain of the Minerva, continuing to stare into the blackness that
hid the sea.
The blackness seemed suddenly to increase in density, and they
stumbled up the beach, feeling their way to the gate.
"Watch out for nuts," Sheldon warned, as the first blast of the
squall shrieked through the palms. They joined hands and staggered
up the path, with the ripe cocoanuts thudding in a monstrous rain
all around them. They gained the veranda, where they sat in
silence over their whisky, each man staring straight out to sea,
where the wildly swinging riding-light of the Minerva could be seen
in the lulls of the driving rain.
Somewhere out there, Sheldon reflected, was Joan Lackland, the girl
who had not grown up, the woman good to look upon, with only a
boy's mind and a boy's desires, leaving Berande amid storm and
conflict in much the same manner that she had first arrived, in the
stern-sheets of her whale-boat, Adamu Adam steering, her savage
crew bending to the oars. And she was taking her Stetson hat with
her, along with the cartridge-belt and the long-barrelled revolver.
He suddenly discovered an immense affection for those fripperies of
hers at which he had secretly laughed when first he saw them. He
became aware of the sentimental direction in which his fancy was
leading him, and felt inclined to laugh. But he did not laugh.
The next moment he was busy visioning the hat, and belt, and
revolver. Undoubtedly this was love, he thought, and he felt a
tiny glow of pride in him in that the Solomons had not succeeded in
killing all his sentiment.
An hour later, Christian Young stood up, knocked out his pipe, and
prepared to go aboard and get under way.
"She's all right," he said, apropos of nothing spoken, and yet
distinctly relevant to what was in each of their minds. "She's got
a good boat's-crew, and she's a sailor herself. Good-night, Mr.
Sheldon. Anything I can do for you down Marau-way?" He turned and
pointed to a widening space of starry sky. "It's going to be a
fine night after all. With this favouring bit of breeze she has
sail on already, and she'll make Guvutu by daylight. Good-night."
"I guess I'll turn in, old man," Tudor said, rising and placing his
glass on the table. "I'll start the first thing in the morning.
It's been disgraceful the way I've been hanging on here. Good-
Sheldon, sitting on alone, wondered if the other man would have
decided to pull out in the morning had Joan not sailed away. Well,
there was one bit of consolation in it: Joan had certainly
lingered at Berande for no man, not even Tudor. "I start in an
hour"--her words rang in his brain, and under his eyelids he could
see her as she stood up and uttered them. He smiled. The instant
she heard the news she had made up her mind to go. It was not very
flattering to man, but what could any man count in her eyes when a
schooner waiting to be bought in Sydney was in the wind? What a
creature! What a creature!
Berande was a lonely place to Sheldon in the days that followed.
In the morning after Joan's departure, he had seen Tudor's
expedition off on its way up the Balesuna; in the late afternoon,
through his telescope, he had seen the smoke of the Upolu that was
bearing Joan away to Sydney; and in the evening he sat down to
dinner in solitary state, devoting more of his time to looking at
her empty chair than to his food. He never came out on the veranda
without glancing first of all at her grass house in the corner of
the compound; and one evening, idly knocking the balls about on the
billiard table, he came to himself to find himself standing staring
at the nail upon which from the first she had hung her Stetson hat
and her revolver-belt.
Why should he care for her? he demanded of himself angrily. She
was certainly the last woman in the world he would have thought of
choosing for himself. Never had he encountered one who had so
thoroughly irritated him, rasped his feelings, smashed his
conventions, and violated nearly every attribute of what had been
his ideal of woman. Had he been too long away from the world? Had
he forgotten what the race of women was like? Was it merely a case
of propinquity? And she wasn't really a woman. She was a
masquerader. Under all her seeming of woman, she was a boy,
playing a boy's pranks, diving for fish amongst sharks, sporting a
revolver, longing for adventure, and, what was more, going out in
search of it in her whale-boat, along with her savage islanders and
her bag of sovereigns. But he loved her--that was the point of it
all, and he did not try to evade it. He was not sorry that it was
so. He loved her--that was the overwhelming, astounding fact.
Once again he discovered a big enthusiasm for Berande. All the
bubble-illusions concerning the life of the tropical planter had
been pricked by the stern facts of the Solomons. Following the
death of Hughie, he had resolved to muddle along somehow with the
plantation; but this resolve had not been based upon desire.
Instead, it was based upon the inherent stubbornness of his nature
and his dislike to give over an attempted task.
But now it was different. Berande meant everything. It must
succeed--not merely because Joan was a partner in it, but because
he wanted to make that partnership permanently binding. Three more
years and the plantation would be a splendid-paying investment.
They could then take yearly trips to Australia, and oftener; and an
occasional run home to England--or Hawaii, would come as a matter
He spent his evenings poring over accounts, or making endless
calculations based on cheaper freights for copra and on the
possible maximum and minimum market prices for that staple of
commerce. His days were spent out on the plantation. He undertook
more clearing of bush; and clearing and planting went on, under his
personal supervision, at a faster pace than ever before. He
experimented with premiums for extra work performed by the black
boys, and yearned continually for more of them to put to work. Not
until Joan could return on the schooner would this be possible, for
the professional recruiters were all under long contracts to the
Fulcrum Brothers, Morgan and Raff, and the Fires, Philp Company;
while the Flibberty-Gibbet was wholly occupied in running about
among his widely scattered trading stations, which extended from
the coast of New Georgia in one direction to Ulava and Sikiana in
the other. Blacks he must have, and, if Joan were fortunate in
getting a schooner, three months at least must elapse before the
first recruits could be landed on Berande.
A week after the Upolu's departure, the Malakula dropped anchor and
her skipper came ashore for a game of billiards and to gossip until
the land breeze sprang up. Besides, as he told his super-cargo, he
simply had to come ashore, not merely to deliver the large package
of seeds with full instructions for planting from Joan, but to
shock Sheldon with the little surprise born of information he was
bringing with him.
Captain Auckland played the billiards first, and it was not until
he was comfortably seated in a steamer-chair, his second whisky
securely in his hand, that he let off his bomb.
"A great piece, that Miss Lackland of yours," he chuckled. "Claims
to be a part-owner of Berande. Says she's your partner. Is that
Sheldon nodded coldly.
"You don't say? That is a surprise! Well, she hasn't convinced
Guvutu or Tulagi of it. They're pretty used to irregular things
over there, but--ha! ha!- " he stopped to have his laugh out and to
mop his bald head with a trade handkerchief. "But that partnership
yarn of hers was too big to swallow, though it gave them the excuse
for a few more drinks."
"There is nothing irregular about it. It is an ordinary business
transaction." Sheldon strove to act as though such transactions
were quite the commonplace thing on plantations in the Solomons.
"She invested something like fifteen hundred pounds in Berande--"
"So she said."
"And she has gone to Sydney on business for the plantation."
"Oh, no, she hasn't."
"I beg pardon?" Sheldon queried.
"I said she hasn't, that's all."
"But didn't the Upolu sail? I could have sworn I saw her smoke
last Tuesday afternoon, late, as she passed Savo."
"The Upolu sailed all right." Captain Auckland sipped his whisky
with provoking slowness. "Only Miss Lackland wasn't a passenger."
"Then where is she?"
"At Guvutu, last I saw of her. She was going to Sydney to buy a
schooner, wasn't she?"
"That's what she said. Well, she's bought one, though I wouldn't
give her ten shillings for it if a nor'wester blows up, and it's
about time we had one. This has been too long a spell of good
weather to last."
"If you came here to excite my curiosity, old man," Sheldon said,
"you've certainly succeeded. Now go ahead and tell me in a
straightforward way what has happened. What schooner? Where is
it? How did she happen to buy it?"
"First, the schooner Martha," the skipper answered, checking his
replies off on his fingers. "Second, the Martha is on the outside
reef at Poonga-Poonga, looted clean of everything portable, and
ready to go to pieces with the first bit of lively sea. And third,
Miss Lackland bought her at auction. She was knocked down to her
for fifty-five quid by the third-assistant-resident-commissioner.
I ought to know. I bid fifty myself, for Morgan and Raff. My
word, weren't they hot! I told them to go to the devil, and that
it was their fault for limiting me to fifty quid when they thought
the chance to salve the Martha was worth more. You see, they
weren't expecting competition. Fulcrum Brothers had no
representative present, neither had Fires, Philp Company, and the
only man to be afraid of was Nielsen's agent, Squires, and him they
got drunk and sound asleep over in Guvutu.
"'Twenty,' says I, for my bid. 'Twenty-five,' says the little
girl. 'Thirty,' says I. 'Forty,' says she. 'Fifty,' says I.
'Fifty-five,' says she. And there I was stuck. 'Hold on,' says I;
'wait till I see my owners.' 'No, you don't,' says she. 'It's
customary,' says I. 'Not anywhere in the world,' says she. 'Then
it's courtesy in the Solomons,' says I.
"And d'ye know, on my faith I think Burnett'd have done it, only
she pipes up, sweet and pert as you please: 'Mr. Auctioneer, will
you kindly proceed with the sale in the customary manner? I've
other business to attend to, and I can't afford to wait all night
on men who don't know their own minds.' And then she smiles at
Burnett, as well--you know, one of those fetching smiles, and damme
if Burnett doesn't begin singing out: 'Goin', goin', goin'--last
bid--goin', goin' for fifty-five sovereigns--goin', goin', gone--to
you, Miss--er--what name, please?'
"'Joan Lackland,' says she, with a smile to me; and that's how she
bought the Martha."
Sheldon experienced a sudden thrill. The Martha!--a finer schooner
than the Malakula, and, for that matter, the finest in the
Solomons. She was just the thing for recruits, and she was right
on the spot. Then he realized that for such a craft to sell at
auction for fifty-five pounds meant that there was small chance for
"But how did it happen?" he asked. "Weren't they rather quick in
selling the Martha?"
"Had to. You know the reef at Poonga-Poonga. She's not worth
tuppence on it if any kind of a sea kicks up, and it's ripe for a
nor'wester any moment now. The crowd abandoned her completely.
Didn't even dream of auctioning her. Morgan and Raff persuaded
them to put her up. They're a co-operative crowd, you know, an
organized business corporation, fore and aft, all hands and the
cook. They held a meeting and voted to sell."
"But why didn't they stand by and try to save her?"
"Stand by! You know Malaita. And you know Poonga-Poonga. That's
where they cut off the Scottish Chiefs and killed all hands. There
was nothing to do but take to the boats. The Martha missed stays
going in, and inside five minutes she was on the reef and in
possession. The niggers swarmed over her, and they just threw the
crew into the boats. I talked with some of the men. They swear
there were two hundred war canoes around her inside half an hour,
and five thousand bushmen on the beach. Said you couldn't see
Malaita for the smoke of the signal fires. Anyway, they cleared
out for Tulagi."
"But why didn't they fight?" Sheldon asked.
"It was funny they didn't, but they got separated. You see, two-
thirds of them were in the boats, without weapons, running anchors
and never dreaming the natives would attack. They found out their
mistake too late. The natives had charge. That's the trouble of
new chums on the coast. It would never have happened with you or
me or any old-timer."
"But what is Miss Lackland intending to do?" Captain Auckland
"She's going to try to get the Martha off, I should say. Or else
why did she pay fifty-five quid for her? And if she fails, she'll
try to get her money back by saving the gear--spars, you know, and
patent steering-gear, and winches, and such things. At least
that's what I'd do if I was in her place. When I sailed, the
little girl had chartered the Emily--'I'm going recruiting,' says
Munster--he's the skipper and owner now. 'And how much will you
net on the cruise?' asks she. 'Oh, fifty quid,' says he. 'Good,'
says she; 'you bring your Emily along with me and you'll get
seventy-five.' You know that big ship's anchor and chain piled up
behind the coal-sheds? She was just buying that when I left.
She's certainly a hustler, that little girl of yours."
"She is my partner," Sheldon corrected.
"Well, she's a good one, that's all, and a cool one. My word! a
white woman on Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga of all places! Oh, I
forgot to tell you--she palavered Burnett into lending her eight
rifles for her men, and three cases of dynamite. You'd laugh to
see the way she makes that Guvutu gang stand around. And to see
them being polite and trying to give advice! Lord, Lord, man, that
little girl's a wonder, a marvel, a--a--a catastrophe. That's what
she is, a catastrophe. She's gone through Guvutu and Tulagi like a
hurricane; every last swine of them in love with her--except Raff.
He's sore over the auction, and he sprang his recruiting contract
with Munster on her. And what does she do but thank him, and read
it over, and point out that while Munster was pledged to deliver
all recruits to Morgan and Raff, there was no clause in the
document forbidding him from chartering the Emily.
"'There's your contract,' says she, passing it back. 'And a very
good contract it is. The next time you draw one up, insert a
clause that will fit emergencies like the present one.' And, Lord,
Lord, she had him, too.
"But there's the breeze, and I'm off. Good-bye, old man. Hope the
little girl succeeds. The Martha's a whacking fine boat, and she'd
take the place of the Jessie."
CHAPTER XVII--"YOUR" MISS LACKLAND
The next morning Sheldon came in from the plantation to breakfast,
to find the mission ketch, Apostle, at anchor, her crew swimming
two mares and a filly ashore. Sheldon recognized the animals as
belonging to the Resident Commissioner, and he immediately wondered
if Joan had bought them. She was certainly living up to her threat
of rattling the dry bones of the Solomons, and he was prepared for
"Miss Lackland sent them," said Welshmere, the missionary doctor,
stepping ashore and shaking hands with him. "There's also a box of
saddles on board. And this letter from her. And the skipper of
The next moment, and before he could greet him, Oleson stepped from
the boat and began.
"She's stolen the Flibberty, Mr. Sheldon. Run clean away with her.
She's a wild one. She gave me the fever. Brought it on by shock.
And got me drunk, as well--rotten drunk."
Dr. Welshmere laughed heartily.
"Nevertheless, she is not an unmitigated evil, your Miss Lackland.
She's sworn three men off their drink, or, to the same purpose,
shut off their whisky. You know them--Brahms, Curtis, and Fowler.
She shipped them on the Flibberty-Gibbet along with her."
"She's the skipper of the Flibberty now," Oleson broke in. "And
she'll wreck her as sure as God didn't make the Solomons."
Dr. Welshmere tried to look shocked, but laughed again.
"She has quite a way with her," he said. "I tried to back out of
bringing the horses over. Said I couldn't charge freight, that the
Apostle was under a yacht license, that I was going around by Savo
and the upper end of Guadalcanar. But it was no use. 'Bother the
charge,' said she. 'You take the horses like a good man, and when
I float the Martha I'll return the service some day.'"
"And 'bother your orders,' said she to me," Oleson cried. "'I'm
your boss now,' said she, 'and you take your orders from me.'
'Look at that load of ivory nuts,' I said. 'Bother them,' said
she; 'I'm playin' for something bigger than ivory nuts. We'll dump
them overside as soon as we get under way.'"
Sheldon put his hands to his ears.
"I don't know what has happened, and you are trying to tell me the
tale backwards. Come up to the house and get in the shade and
begin at the beginning."
"What I want to know," Oleson began, when they were seated, "is IS
she your partner or ain't she? That's what I want to know."
"She is," Sheldon assured him.
"Well, who'd have believed it!" Oleson glanced appealingly at Dr.
Welshmere, and back again at Sheldon. "I've seen a few unlikely
things in these Solomons--rats two feet long, butterflies the
Commissioner hunts with a shot-gun, ear-ornaments that would shame
the devil, and head-hunting devils that make the devil look like an
angel. I've seen them and got used to them, but this young woman
"Miss Lackland is my partner and part-owner of Berande," Sheldon
"So she said," the irate skipper dashed on. "But she had no papers
to show for it. How was I to know? And then there was that load
of ivory nuts-eight tons of them."
"For heaven's sake begin at the--" Sheldon tried to interrupt.
"And then she's hired them drunken loafers, three of the worst
scoundrels that ever disgraced the Solomons--fifteen quid a month
each--what d'ye think of that? And sailed away with them, too!
Phew!--You might give me a drink. The missionary won't mind. I've
been on his teetotal hooker four days now, and I'm perishing."
Dr. Welshmere nodded in reply to Sheldon's look of inquiry, and
Viaburi was dispatched for the whisky and siphons.
"It is evident, Captain Oleson," Sheldon remarked to that refreshed
mariner, "that Miss Lackland has run away with your boat. Now
please give a plain statement of what occurred."
"Right O; here goes. I'd just come in on the Flibberty. She was
on board before I dropped the hook--in that whale-boat of hers with
her gang of Tahiti heathens--that big Adamu Adam and the rest.
'Don't drop the anchor, Captain Oleson,' she sang out. 'I want you
to get under way for Poonga-Poonga.' I looked to see if she'd been
drinking. What was I to think? I was rounding up at the time,
alongside the shoal--a ticklish place--headsails running down and
losing way, so I says, 'Excuse me, Miss Lackland,' and yells
for'ard, 'Let go!'
"'You might have listened to me and saved yourself trouble,' says
she, climbing over the rail and squinting along for'ard and seeing
the first shackle flip out and stop. 'There's fifteen fathom,'
says she; 'you may as well turn your men to and heave up.'
"And then we had it out. I didn't believe her. I didn't think
you'd take her on as a partner, and I told her as much and wanted
proof. She got high and mighty, and I told her I was old enough to
be her grandfather and that I wouldn't take gammon from a chit like
her. And then I ordered her off the Flibberty. 'Captain Oleson,'
she says, sweet as you please, 'I've a few minutes to spare on you,
and I've got some good whisky over on the Emily. Come on along.
Besides, I want your advice about this wrecking business.
Everybody says you're a crackerjack sailor-man'--that's what she
said, 'crackerjack.' And I went, in her whale-boat, Adamu Adam
steering and looking as solemn as a funeral.
"On the way she told me about the Martha, and how she'd bought her,
and was going to float her. She said she'd chartered the Emily,
and was sailing as soon as I could get the Flibberty underway. It
struck me that her gammon was reasonable enough, and I agreed to
pull out for Berande right O, and get your orders to go along to
Poonga-Poonga. But she said there wasn't a second to be lost by
any such foolishness, and that I was to sail direct for Poonga-
Poonga, and that if I couldn't take her word that she was your
partner, she'd get along without me and the Flibberty. And right
there's where she fooled me.
"Down in the Emily's cabin was them three soaks--you know them--
Fowler and Curtis and that Brahms chap. 'Have a drink,' says she.
I thought they looked surprised when she unlocked the whisky locker
and sent a nigger for the glasses and water-monkey. But she must
have tipped them off unbeknownst to me, and they knew just what to
do. 'Excuse me,' she says, 'I'm going on deck a minute.' Now that
minute was half an hour. I hadn't had a drink in ten days. I'm an
old man and the fever has weakened me. Then I took it on an empty
stomach, too, and there was them three soaks setting me an example,
they arguing for me to take the Flibberty to Poonga-Poonga, an' me
pointing out my duty to the contrary. The trouble was, all the
arguments were pointed with drinks, and me not being a drinking
man, so to say, and weak from fever . . .
"Well, anyway, at the end of the half-hour down she came again and
took a good squint at me. 'That'll do nicely,' I remember her
saying; and with that she took the whisky bottles and hove them
overside through the companionway. 'That's the last, she said to
the three soaks, 'till the Martha floats and you're back in Guvutu.
It'll be a long time between drinks.' And then she laughed.
"She looked at me and said--not to me, mind you, but to the soaks:
'It's time this worthy man went ashore'--me! worthy man! 'Fowler,'
she said--you know, just like a straight order, and she didn't
MISTER him--it was plain Fowler--'Fowler,' she said, 'just tell
Adamu Adam to man the whale-boat, and while he's taking Captain
Oleson ashore have your boat put me on the Flibberty. The three of
you sail with me, so pack your dunnage. And the one of you that
shows up best will take the mate's billet. Captain Oleson doesn't
carry a mate, you know.'
"I don't remember much after that. All hands got me over the side,
and it seems to me I went to sleep, sitting in the stern-sheets and
watching that Adamu steer. Then I saw the Flibberty's mainsail
hoisting, and heard the clank of her chain coming in, and I woke
up. 'Here, put me on the Flibberty,' I said to Adamu. 'I put you
on the beach,' said he. 'Missie Lackalanna say beach plenty good
for you.' Well, I let out a yell and reached for the steering-
sweep. I was doing my best by my owners, you see. Only that Adamu
gives me a shove down on the bottom-boards, puts one foot on me to
hold me down, and goes on steering. And that's all. The shock of
the whole thing brought on fever. And now I've come to find out
whether I'm skipper of the Flibberty, or that chit of yours with
her pirating, heathen boat's-crew."
"Never mind, skipper. You can take a vacation on pay." Sheldon
spoke with more assurance than he felt. "If Miss Lackland, who is
my partner, has seen fit to take charge of the Flibberty-Gibbet,
why, it is all right. As you will agree, there was no time to be
lost if the Martha was to be got off. It is a bad reef, and any
considerable sea would knock her bottom out. You settle down here,
skipper, and rest up and get the fever out of your bones. When the
Flibberty-Gibbet comes back, you'll take charge again, of course."
After Dr. Welshmere and the Apostle departed and Captain Oleson had
turned in for a sleep in a veranda hammock, Sheldon opened Joan's
DEAR MR. SHELDON,--Please forgive me for stealing the Flibberty-
Gibbet. I simply had to. The Martha means everything to us.
Think of it, only fifty-five pounds for her, two hundred and
seventy-five dollars. If I don't save her, I know I shall be able
to pay all expenses out of her gear, which the natives will not
have carried off. And if I do save her, it is the haul of a life-
time. And if I don't save her, I'll fill the Emily and the
Flibberty-Gibbet with recruits. Recruits are needed right now on
Berande more than anything else.
And please, please don't be angry with me. You said I shouldn't go
recruiting on the Flibberty, and I won't. I'll go on the Emily.
I bought two cows this afternoon. That trader at Nogi died of
fever, and I bought them from his partner, Sam Willis his name is,
who agrees to deliver them--most likely by the Minerva next time
she is down that way. Berande has been long enough on tinned milk.
And Dr. Welshmere has agreed to get me some orange and lime trees
from the mission station at Ulava. He will deliver them the next
trip of the Apostle. If the Sydney steamer arrives before I get
back, plant the sweet corn she will bring between the young trees
on the high bank of the Balesuna. The current is eating in against
that bank, and you should do something to save it.
I have ordered some fig-trees and loquats, too, from Sydney. Dr.
Welshmere will bring some mango-seeds. They are big trees and
require plenty of room.
The Martha is registered 110 tons. She is the biggest schooner in
the Solomons, and the best. I saw a little of her lines and guess
the rest. She will sail like a witch. If she hasn't filled with
water, her engine will be all right. The reason she went ashore
was because it was not working. The engineer had disconnected the
feed-pipes to clean out the rust. Poor business, unless at anchor
or with plenty of sea room.
Plant all the trees in the compound, even if you have to clean out
the palms later on.
And don't plant the sweet corn all at once. Let a few days elapse
He fingered the letter, lingering over it and scrutinizing the
writing in a way that was not his wont. How characteristic, was
his thought, as he studied the boyish scrawl--clear to read,
painfully, clear, but none the less boyish. The clearness of it
reminded him of her face, of her cleanly stencilled brows, her
straightly chiselled nose, the very clearness of the gaze of her
eyes, the firmly yet delicately moulded lips, and the throat,
neither fragile nor robust, but--but just right, he concluded, an
adequate and beautiful pillar for so shapely a burden.
He looked long at the name. Joan Lackland--just an assemblage of
letters, of commonplace letters, but an assemblage that generated a
subtle and heady magic. It crept into his brain and twined and
twisted his mental processes until all that constituted him at that
moment went out in love to that scrawled signature. A few
commonplace letters--yet they caused him to know in himself a lack
that sweetly hurt and that expressed itself in vague spiritual
outpourings and delicious yearnings. Joan Lackland! Each time he
looked at it there arose visions of her in a myriad moods and
guises--coming in out of the flying smother of the gale that had
wrecked her schooner; launching a whale-boat to go a-fishing;
running dripping from the sea, with streaming hair and clinging
garments, to the fresh-water shower; frightening four-score
cannibals with an empty chlorodyne bottle; teaching Ornfiri how to
make bread; hanging her Stetson hat and revolver-belt on the hook
in the living-room; talking gravely about winning to hearth and
saddle of her own, or juvenilely rattling on about romance and
adventure, bright-eyed, her face flushed and eager with enthusiasm.
Joan Lackland! He mused over the cryptic wonder of it till the
secrets of love were made clear and he felt a keen sympathy for
lovers who carved their names on trees or wrote them on the beach-
sands of the sea.
Then he came back to reality, and his face hardened. Even then she
was on the wild coast of Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga, of all
villainous and dangerous portions the worst, peopled with a teeming
population of head-hunters, robbers, and murderers. For the
instant he entertained the rash thought of calling his boat's-crew
and starting immediately in a whale-boat for Poonga-Poonga. But
the next instant the idea was dismissed. What could he do if he
did go? First, she would resent it. Next, she would laugh at him
and call him a silly; and after all he would count for only one
rifle more, and she had many rifles with her. Three things only
could he do if he went. He could command her to return; he could
take the Flibberty-Gibbet away from her; he could dissolve their
partnership;--any and all of which he knew would be foolish and
futile, and he could hear her explain in terse set terms that she
was legally of age and that nobody could say come or go to her.
No, his pride would never permit him to start for Poonga-Poonga,
though his heart whispered that nothing could be more welcome than
a message from her asking him to come and lend a hand. Her very
words--"lend a hand"; and in his fancy, he could see and hear her
There was much in her wilful conduct that caused him to wince in
the heart of him. He was appalled by the thought of her shoulder
to shoulder with the drunken rabble of traders and beachcombers at
Guvutu. It was bad enough for a clean, fastidious man; but for a
young woman, a girl at that, it was awful. The theft of the
Flibberty-Gibbet was merely amusing, though the means by which the
theft had been effected gave him hurt. Yet he found consolation in
the fact that the task of making Oleson drunk had been turned over
to the three scoundrels. And next, and swiftly, came the vision of
her, alone with those same three scoundrels, on the Emily, sailing
out to sea from Guvutu in the twilight with darkness coming on.
Then came visions of Adamu Adam and Noa Noah and all her brawny
Tahitian following, and his anxiety faded away, being replaced by
irritation that she should have been capable of such wildness of
And the irritation was still on him as he got up and went inside to
stare at the hook on the wall and to wish that her Stetson hat and
revolver-belt were hanging from it.
CHAPTER XVIII--MAKING THE BOOKS COME TRUE
Several quiet weeks slipped by. Berande, after such an unusual run
of visiting vessels, drifted back into her old solitude. Sheldon
went on with the daily round, clearing bush, planting cocoanuts,
smoking copra, building bridges, and riding about his work on the
horses Joan had bought. News of her he had none. Recruiting
vessels on Malaita left the Poonga-Poonga coast severely alone; and
the Clansman, a Samoan recruiter, dropping anchor one sunset for
billiards and gossip, reported rumours amongst the Sio natives that
there had been fighting at Poonga-Poonga. As this news would have
had to travel right across the big island, little dependence was to
be placed on it.
The steamer from Sydney, the Kammambo, broke the quietude of
Berande for an hour, while landing mail, supplies, and the trees
and seeds Joan had ordered. The Minerva, bound for Cape Marsh,
brought the two cows from Nogi. And the Apostle, hurrying back to
Tulagi to connect with the Sydney steamer, sent a boat ashore with
the orange and lime trees from Ulava. And these several weeks
marked a period of perfect weather. There were days on end when
sleek calms ruled the breathless sea, and days when vagrant wisps
of air fanned for several hours from one direction or another. The
land-breezes at night alone proved regular, and it was at night
that the occasional cutters and ketches slipped by, too eager to
take advantage of the light winds to drop anchor for an hour.
Then came the long-expected nor'wester. For eight days it raged,
lulling at times to short durations of calm, then shifting a point
or two and raging with renewed violence. Sheldon kept a
precautionary eye on the buildings, while the Balesuna, in flood,
so savagely attacked the high bank Joan had warned him about, that
he told off all the gangs to battle with the river.
It was in the good weather that followed, that he left the blacks
at work, one morning, and with a shot-gun across his pommel rode
off after pigeons. Two hours later, one of the house-boys,
breathless and scratched ran him down with the news that the
Martha, the Flibberty-Gibbet, and the Emily were heading in for the
Coming into the compound from the rear, Sheldon could see nothing
until he rode around the corner of the bungalow. Then he saw
everything at once--first, a glimpse at the sea, where the Martha
floated huge alongside the cutter and the ketch which had rescued
her; and, next, the ground in front of the veranda steps, where a
great crowd of fresh-caught cannibals stood at attention. From the
fact that each was attired in a new, snow-white lava-lava, Sheldon
knew that they were recruits. Part way up the steps, one of them
was just backing down into the crowd, while another, called out by
name, was coming up. It was Joan's voice that had called him, and
Sheldon reined in his horse and watched. She sat at the head of
the steps, behind a table, between Munster and his white mate, the
three of them checking long lists, Joan asking the questions and
writing the answers in the big, red-covered, Berande labour-
"What name?" she demanded of the black man on the steps.
"Tagari," came the answer, accompanied by a grin and a rolling of
curious eyes; for it was the first white-man's house the black had
"What place b'long you?"
No one had noticed Sheldon, and he continued to sit his horse and
watch. There was a discrepancy between the answer and the record
in the recruiting books, and a consequent discussion, until Munster
solved the difficulty.
"Bangoora?" he said. "That's the little beach at the head of the
bay out of Latta. He's down as a Latta-man--see, there it is,
"What place you go you finish along white marster?" Joan asked.
"Bangoora," the man replied; and Joan wrote it down.
"Ogu!" Joan called.
The black stepped down, and another mounted to take his place. But
Tagari, just before he reached the bottom step, caught sight of
Sheldon. It was the first horse the fellow had ever seen, and he
let out a frightened screech and dashed madly up the steps. At the
same moment the great mass of blacks surged away panic-stricken
from Sheldon's vicinity. The grinning house-boys shouted
encouragement and explanation, and the stampede was checked, the
new-caught head-hunters huddling closely together and staring
dubiously at the fearful monster.
"Hello!" Joan called out. "What do you mean by frightening all my
boys? Come on up."
"What do you think of them?" she asked, when they had shaken hands.
"And what do you think of her?"--with a wave of the hand toward the
Martha. "I thought you'd deserted the plantation, and that I might
as well go ahead and get the men into barracks. Aren't they
beauties? Do you see that one with the split nose? He's the only
man who doesn't hail from the Poonga-Poonga coast; and they said
the Poonga-Poonga natives wouldn't recruit. Just look at them and
congratulate me. There are no kiddies and half-grown youths among
them. They're men, every last one of them. I have such a long
story I don't know where to begin, and I won't begin anyway till
we're through with this and until you have told me that you are not
angry with me."
"Ogu--what place b'long you?" she went on with her catechism.
But Ogu was a bushman, lacking knowledge of the almost universal
beche-de-mer English, and half a dozen of his fellows wrangled to
"There are only two or three more," Joan said to Sheldon, "and then
we're done. But you haven't told me that you are not angry."
Sheldon looked into her clear eyes as she favoured him with a
direct, untroubled gaze that threatened, he knew from experience,
to turn teasingly defiant on an instant's notice. And as he looked
at her it came to him that he had never half-anticipated the
gladness her return would bring to him.
"I was angry," he said deliberately. "I am still angry, very
angry--" he noted the glint of defiance in her eyes and thrilled--
"but I forgave, and I now forgive all over again. Though I still
"That I should have a guardian," she interrupted. "But that day
will never come. Thank goodness I'm of legal age and able to
transact business in my own right. And speaking of business, how
do you like my forceful American methods?"
"Mr. Raff, from what I hear, doesn't take kindly to them," he
temporized, "and you've certainly set the dry bones rattling for
many a day. But what I want to know is if other American women are
as successful in business ventures?"
"Luck, 'most all luck," she disclaimed modestly, though her eyes
lighted with sudden pleasure; and he knew her boy's vanity had been
touched by his trifle of tempered praise.
"Luck be blowed!" broke out the long mate, Sparrowhawk, his face
shining with admiration. "It was hard work, that's what it was.
We earned our pay. She worked us till we dropped. And we were
down with fever half the time. So was she, for that matter, only
she wouldn't stay down, and she wouldn't let us stay down. My
word, she's a slave-driver--'Just one more heave, Mr. Sparrowhawk,
and then you can go to bed for a week',--she to me, and me
staggerin' 'round like a dead man, with bilious-green lights
flashing inside my head, an' my head just bustin'. I was all in,
but I gave that heave right O--and then it was, 'Another heave now,
Mr. Sparrowhawk, just another heave.' An' the Lord lumme, the way
she made love to old Kina-Kina!"
He shook his head reproachfully, while the laughter died down in
his throat to long-drawn chuckles.
"He was older than Telepasse and dirtier," she assured Sheldon,
"and I am sure much wickeder. But this isn't work. Let us get
through with these lists."
She turned to the waiting black on the steps, -
"Ogu, you finish along big marster belong white man, you go Not-
Not.--Here you, Tangari, you speak 'm along that fella Ogu. He
finish he walk about Not-Not. Have you got that, Mr. Munster?"
"But you've broken the recruiting laws," Sheldon said, when the new
recruits had marched away to the barracks. "The licenses for the
Flibberty and the Emily don't allow for one hundred and fifty.
What did Burnett say?"
"He passed them, all of them," she answered. "Captain Munster will
tell you what he said--something about being blowed, or words to
that effect. Now I must run and wash up. Did the Sydney orders
"Yours are in your quarters," Sheldon said. "Hurry, for breakfast
is waiting. Let me have your hat and belt. Do, please, allow me.
There's only one hook for them, and I know where it is."
She gave him a quick scrutiny that was almost woman-like, then
sighed with relief as she unbuckled the heavy belt and passed it to
"I doubt if I ever want to see another revolver," she complained.
"That one has worn a hole in me, I'm sure. I never dreamed I could
get so weary of one."
Sheldon watched her to the foot of the steps, where she turned and
called back, -
"My! I can't tell you how good it is to be home again."
And as his gaze continued to follow her across the compound to the
tiny grass house, the realization came to him crushingly that
Berande and that little grass house was the only place in the world
she could call "home."
"And Burnett said, 'Well, I'll be damned--I beg your pardon, Miss
Lackland, but you have wantonly broken the recruiting laws and you
know it,'" Captain Munster narrated, as they sat over their whisky,
waiting for Joan to come back. "And says she to him, 'Mr. Burnett,
can you show me any law against taking the passengers off a vessel
that's on a reef?' 'That is not the point,' says he. 'It's the
very, precise, particular point,' says she and you bear it in mind
and go ahead and pass my recruits. You can report me to the Lord
High Commissioner if you want, but I have three vessels here
waiting on your convenience, and if you delay them much longer
there'll be another report go in to the Lord High Commissioner.'
"'I'll hold you responsible, Captain Munster,' says he to me, mad
enough to eat scrap-iron. 'No, you won't,' says she; 'I'm the
charterer of the Emily, and Captain Munster has acted under my
"What could Burnett do? He passed the whole hundred and fifty,
though the Emily was only licensed for forty, and the Flibberty-
Gibbet for thirty-five."
"But I don't understand," Sheldon said.
"This is the way she worked it. When the Martha was floated, we
had to beach her right away at the head of the bay, and whilst
repairs were going on, a new rudder being made, sails bent, gear
recovered from the niggers, and so forth, Miss Lackland borrows
Sparrowhawk to run the Flibberty along with Curtis, lends me Brahms
to take Sparrowhawk's place, and starts both craft off recruiting.
My word, the niggers came easy. It was virgin ground. Since the
Scottish Chiefs, no recruiter had ever even tried to work the
coast; and we'd already put the fear of God into the niggers'
hearts till the whole coast was quiet as lambs. When we filled up,
we came back to see how the Martha was progressing."
"And thinking we was going home with our recruits," Sparrowhawk
slipped in. "Lord lumme, that Miss Lackland ain't never satisfied.
'I'll take 'em on the Martha,' says she, 'and you can go back and
fill up again.'"
"But I told her it couldn't be done," Munster went on. "I told her
the Martha hadn't a license for recruiting. 'Oh,' she said, 'it
can't be done, eh?' and she stood and thought a few minutes."
"And I'd seen her think before," cried Sparrowhawk, "and I knew at
wunst that the thing was as good as done."
Munster lighted his cigarette and resumed.
"'You see that spit,' she says to me, 'with the little ripple
breaking around it? There's a current sets right across it and on
it. And you see them bafflin' little cat's-paws? It's good
weather and a falling tide. You just start to beat out, the two of
you, and all you have to do is miss stays in the same baffling puff
and the current will set you nicely aground.'"
"'That little wash of sea won't more than start a sheet or two of
copper,' says she, when Munster kicked," Sparrowhawk explained.
"Oh, she's no green un, that girl."
"'Then I'll rescue your recruits and sail away--simple, ain't it?'
says she," Munster continued. "'You hang up one tide,' says she;
'the next is the big high water. Then you kedge off and go after
more recruits. There's no law against recruiting when you're
empty.' 'But there is against starving 'em,' I said; 'you know
yourself there ain't any kai-kai to speak of aboard of us, and
there ain't a crumb on the Martha.'"
"We'd all been pretty well on native kai-kai, as it was," said
"'Don't let the kai-kai worry you, Captain Munster,' says she; 'if
I can find grub for eighty-four mouths on the Martha, the two of
you can do as much by your two vessels. Now go ahead and get
aground before a steady breeze comes up and spoils the manoeuvre.
I'll send my boats the moment you strike. And now, good-day,
"And we went and did it," Sparrowhawk said solemnly, and then
emitted a series of chuckling noises. "We laid over, starboard
tack, and I pinched the Emily against the spit. 'Go about,'
Captain Munster yells at me; 'go about, or you'll have me aground!'
He yelled other things, much worse. But I didn't mind. I missed
stays, pretty as you please, and the Flibberty drifted down on him
and fouled him, and we went ashore together in as nice a mess as
you ever want to see. Miss Lackland transferred the recruits, and
the trick was done."
"But where was she during the nor'wester?" Sheldon asked.
"At Langa-Langa. Ran up there as it was coming on, and laid there
the whole week and traded for grub with the niggers. When we got
to Tulagi, there she was waiting for us and scrapping with Burnett.
I tell you, Mr. Sheldon, she's a wonder, that girl, a perfect
Munster refilled his glass, and while Sheldon glanced across at
Joan's house, anxious for her coming, Sparrowhawk took up the tale.
"Gritty! She's the grittiest thing, man or woman, that ever blew
into the Solomons. You should have seen Poonga-Poonga the morning
we arrived--Sniders popping on the beach and in the mangroves, war-
drums booming in the bush, and signal-smokes raising everywhere.
'It's all up,' says Captain Munster."
"Yes, that's what I said," declared that mariner.
"Of course it was all up. You could see it with half an eye and
hear it with one ear."
"'Up your granny,' she says to him," Sparrowhawk went on. "'Why,
we haven't arrived yet, much less got started. Wait till the
anchor's down before you get afraid.'"
"That's what she said to me," Munster proclaimed. "And of course
it made me mad so that I didn't care what happened. We tried to
send a boat ashore for a pow-wow, but it was fired upon. And every
once and a while some nigger'd take a long shot at us out of the
"They was only a quarter of a mile off," Sparrowhawk explained,
"and it was damned nasty. 'Don't shoot unless they try to board,'
was Miss Lackland's orders; but the dirty niggers wouldn't board.
They just lay off in the bush and plugged away. That night we held
a council of war in the Flibberty's cabin. 'What we want,' says
Miss Lackland, 'is a hostage.'"
"'That's what they do in books,' I said, thinking to laugh her away
from her folly," Munster interrupted. "'True,' says she, 'and have
you never seen the books come true?' I shook my head. 'Then
you're not too old to learn,' says she. 'I'll tell you one thing
right now,' says I, 'and that is I'll be blowed if you catch me
ashore in the night-time stealing niggers in a place like this.'"
"You didn't say blowed," Sparrowhawk corrected. "You said you'd be
"That's what I did, and I meant it, too."
"'Nobody asked you to go ashore,' says she, quick as lightning,"
Sparrowhawk grinned. "And she said more. She said, 'And if I
catch you going ashore without orders there'll be trouble--
understand, Captain Munster?'"
"Who in hell's telling this, you or me?" the skipper demanded
"Well, she did, didn't she?" insisted the mate.
"Yes, she did, if you want to make so sure of it. And while you're
about it, you might as well repeat what she said to you when you
said you wouldn't recruit on the Poonga-Poonga coast for twice your
Sparrowhawk's sun-reddened face flamed redder, though he tried to
pass the situation off by divers laughings and chucklings and face-
"Go on, go on," Sheldon urged; and Munster resumed the narrative.
"'What we need,' says she, 'is the strong hand. It's the only way
to handle them; and we've got to take hold firm right at the
beginning. I'm going ashore to-night to fetch Kina-Kina himself on
board, and I'm not asking who's game to go for I've got every man's
work arranged with me for him. I'm taking my sailors with me, and
one white man.' 'Of course, I'm that white man,' I said; for by
that time I was mad enough to go to hell and back again. 'Of
course you're not,' says she. 'You'll have charge of the covering
boat. Curtis stands by the landing boat. Fowler goes with me.
Brahms takes charge of the Flibberty, and Sparrowhawk of the Emily.
And we start at one o'clock.'
"My word, it was a tough job lying there in the covering boat. I
never thought doing nothing could be such hard work. We stopped
about fifty fathoms off, and watched the other boat go in. It was
so dark under the mangroves we couldn't see a thing of it. D'ye
know that little, monkey-looking nigger, Sheldon, on the Flibberty-
-the cook, I mean? Well, he was cabin-boy twenty years ago on the
Scottish Chiefs, and after she was cut off he was a slave there at
Poonga-Poonga. And Miss Lackland had discovered the fact. So he
was the guide. She gave him half a case of tobacco for that
"And scared him fit to die before she could get him to come along,"
"Well, I never saw anything so black as the mangroves. I stared at
them till my eyes were ready to burst. And then I'd look at the
stars, and listen to the surf sighing along the reef. And there
was a dog that barked. Remember that dog, Sparrowhawk? The brute
nearly gave me heart-failure when he first began. After a while he
stopped--wasn't barking at the landing party at all; and then the
silence was harder than ever, and the mangroves grew blacker, and
it was all I could do to keep from calling out to Curtis in there
in the landing boat, just to make sure that I wasn't the only white
man left alive.
"Of course there was a row. It had to come, and I knew it; but it
startled me just the same. I never heard such screeching and
yelling in my life. The niggers must have just dived for the bush
without looking to see what was up, while her Tahitians let loose,
shooting in the air and yelling to hurry 'em on. And then, just as
sudden, came the silence again--all except for some small kiddie
that had got dropped in the stampede and that kept crying in the
bush for its mother.
"And then I heard them coming through the mangroves, and an oar
strike on a gunwale, and Miss Lackland laugh, and I knew everything
was all right. We pulled on board without a shot being fired.
And, by God! she had made the books come true, for there was old
Kina-Kina himself being hoisted over the rail, shivering and
chattering like an ape. The rest was easy. Kina-Kina's word was
law, and he was scared to death. And we kept him on board issuing
proclamations all the time we were in Poonga-Poonga.
"It was a good move, too, in other ways. She made Kina-Kina order
his people to return all the gear they'd stripped from the Martha.
And back it came, day after day, steering compasses, blocks and
tackles, sails, coils of rope, medicine chests, ensigns, signal
flags--everything, in fact, except the trade goods and supplies
which had already been kai-kai'd. Of course, she gave them a few
sticks of tobacco to keep them in good humour."
"Sure she did," Sparrowhawk broke forth. "She gave the beggars
five fathoms of calico for the big mainsail, two sticks of tobacco
for the chronometer, and a sheath-knife worth elevenpence ha'penny
for a hundred fathoms of brand new five-inch manila. She got old
Kina-Kina with that strong hand on the go off, and she kept him
going all the time. She--here she comes now."
It was with a shock of surprise that Sheldon greeted her
appearance. All the time, while the tale of happening at Poonga-
Poonga had been going on, he had pictured her as the woman he had
always known, clad roughly, skirt made out of window-curtain stuff,
an undersized man's shirt for a blouse, straw sandals for foot
covering, with the Stetson hat and the eternal revolver completing
her costume. The ready-made clothes from Sydney had transformed
her. A simple skirt and shirt-waist of some sort of wash-goods set
off her trim figure with a hint of elegant womanhood that was new
to him. Brown slippers peeped out as she crossed the compound, and
he once caught a glimpse to the ankle of brown open-work stockings.
Somehow, she had been made many times the woman by these mere
extraneous trappings; and in his mind these wild Arabian Nights
adventures of hers seemed thrice as wonderful.
As they went in to breakfast he became aware that Munster and
Sparrowhawk had received a similar shock. All their air of
camaraderie was dissipated, and they had become abruptly and
"I've opened up a new field," she said, as she began pouring the
coffee. "Old Kina-Kina will never forget me, I'm sure, and I can
recruit there whenever I want. I saw Morgan at Guvutu. He's
willing to contract for a thousand boys at forty shillings per
head. Did I tell you that I'd taken out a recruiting license for
the Martha? I did, and the Martha can sign eighty boys every trip.
Sheldon smiled a trifle bitterly to himself. The wonderful woman
who had tripped across the compound in her Sydney clothes was gone,
and he was listening to the boy come back again.
CHAPTER XIX--THE LOST TOY
"Well," Joan said with a sigh, "I've shown you hustling American
methods that succeed and get somewhere, and here you are beginning
your muddling again."
Five days had passed, and she and Sheldon were standing on the
veranda watching the Martha, close-hauled on the wind, laying a
tack off shore. During those five days Joan had never once
broached the desire of her heart, though Sheldon, in this
particular instance reading her like a book, had watched her lead
up to the question a score of times in the hope that he would
himself suggest her taking charge of the Martha. She had wanted
him to say the word, and she had steeled herself not to say it
herself. The matter of finding a skipper had been a hard one. She
was jealous of the Martha, and no suggested man had satisfied her.
"Oleson?" she had demanded. "He does very well on the Flibberty,
with me and my men to overhaul her whenever she's ready to fall to
pieces through his slackness. But skipper of the Martha?
"Munster? Yes, he's the only man I know in the Solomons I'd care
to see in charge. And yet, there's his record. He lost the
Umbawa--one hundred and forty drowned. He was first officer on the
bridge. Deliberate disobedience to instructions. No wonder they
"Christian Young has never had any experience with large boats.
Besides, we can't afford to pay him what he's clearing on the
Minerva. Sparrowhawk is a good man--to take orders. He has no
initiative. He's an able sailor, but he can't command. I tell you
I was nervous all the time he had charge of the Flibberty at
Poonga-Poonga when I had to stay by the Martha."
And so it had gone. No name proposed was satisfactory, and,
moreover, Sheldon had been surprised by the accuracy of her
judgments. A dozen times she almost drove him to the statement
that from the showing she made of Solomon Islands sailors, she was
the only person fitted to command the Martha. But each time he
restrained himself, while her pride prevented her from making the
"Good whale-boat sailors do not necessarily make good schooner-
handlers," she replied to one of his arguments. "Besides, the
captain of a boat like the Martha must have a large mind, see
things in a large way; he must have capacity and enterprise."
"But with your Tahitians on board--" Sheldon had begun another
"There won't be any Tahitians on board," she had returned promptly.
"My men stay with me. I never know when I may need them. When I
sail, they sail; when I remain ashore, they remain ashore. I'll
find plenty for them to do right here on the plantation. You've
seen them clearing bush, each of them worth half a dozen of your
So it was that Joan stood beside Sheldon and sighed as she watched
the Martha beating out to sea, old Kinross, brought over from Savo,
"Kinross is an old fossil," she said, with a touch of bitterness in
her voice. "Oh, he'll never wreck her through rashness, rest
assured of that; but he's timid to childishness, and timid skippers
lose just as many vessels as rash ones. Some day, Kinross will
lose the Martha because there'll be only one chance and he'll be
afraid to take it. I know his sort. Afraid to take advantage of a
proper breeze of wind that will fetch him in in twenty hours, he'll
get caught out in the calm that follows and spend a whole week in
getting in. The Martha will make money with him, there's no doubt
of it; but she won't make near the money that she would under a
She paused, and with heightened colour and sparkling eyes gazed
seaward at the schooner.
"My! but she is a witch! Look at her eating up the water, and
there's no wind to speak of. She's not got ordinary white metal
either. It's man-of-war copper, every inch of it. I had them
polish it with cocoanut husks when she was careened at Poonga-
Poonga. She was a seal-hunter before this gold expedition got her.
And seal-hunters had to sail. They've run away from second class
Russian cruisers more than once up there off Siberia.
"Honestly, if I'd dreamed of the chance waiting for me at Guvutu
when I bought her for less than three hundred dollars, I'd never
have gone partners with you. And in that case I'd be sailing her
The justice of her contention came abruptly home to Sheldon. What
she had done she would have done just the same if she had not been
his partner. And in the saving of the Martha he had played no
part. Single-handed, unadvised, in the teeth of the laughter of
Guvutu and of the competition of men like Morgan and Raff, she had
gone into the adventure and brought it through to success.
"You make me feel like a big man who has robbed a small child of a
lolly," he said with sudden contrition.
"And the small child is crying for it." She looked at him, and he
noted that her lip was slightly trembling and that her eyes were
moist. It was the boy all over, he thought; the boy crying for the
wee bit boat with which to play. And yet it was a woman, too.
What a maze of contradiction she was! And he wondered, had she
been all woman and no boy, if he would have loved her in just the
same way. Then it rushed in upon his consciousness that he really
loved her for what she was, for all the boy in her and all the rest
of her--for the total of her that would have been a different total
in direct proportion to any differing of the parts of her.
"But the small child won't cry any more for it," she was saying.
"This is the last sob. Some day, if Kinross doesn't lose her,
you'll turn her over to your partner, I know. And I won't nag you
any more. Only I do hope you know how I feel. It isn't as if I'd
merely bought the Martha, or merely built her. I saved her. I
took her off the reef. I saved her from the grave of the sea when
fifty-five pounds was considered a big risk. She is mine,
peculiarly mine. Without me she wouldn't exist. That big
nor'wester would have finished her the first three hours it blew.
And then I've sailed her, too; and she is a witch, a perfect witch.
Why, do you know, she'll steer by the wind with half a spoke, give
and take. And going about! Well, you don't have to baby her,
starting head-sheets, flattening mainsail, and gentling her with
the wheel. Put your wheel down, and around she comes, like a colt
with the bit in its teeth. And you can back her like a steamer. I
did it at Langa-Langa, between that shoal patch and the shore-reef.
It was wonderful.
"But you don't love boats like I do, and I know you think I'm
making a fool of myself. But some day I'm going to sail the Martha
again. I know it. I know it."
In reply, and quite without premeditation, his hand went out to
hers, covering it as it lay on the railing. But he knew, beyond
the shadow of a doubt, that it was the boy that returned the
pressure he gave, the boy sorrowing over the lost toy. The thought
chilled him. Never had he been actually nearer to her, and never
had she been more convincingly remote. She was certainly not
acutely aware that his hand was touching hers. In her grief at the
departure of the Martha it was, to her, anybody's hand--at the
best, a friend's hand.
He withdrew his hand and walked perturbedly away.
"Why hasn't he got that big fisherman's staysail on her?" she
demanded irritably. "It would make the old girl just walk along in
this breeze. I know the sort old Kinross is. He's the skipper
that lies three days under double-reefed topsails waiting for a
gale that doesn't come. Safe? Oh, yes, he's safe--dangerously
Sheldon retraced his steps.
"Never mind," he said. "You can go sailing on the Martha any time
you please--recruiting on Malaita if you want to."
It was a great concession he was making, and he felt that he did it
against his better judgment. Her reception of it was a surprise to
"With old Kinross in command?" she queried. "No, thank you. He'd
drive me to suicide. I couldn't stand his handling of her. It
would give me nervous prostration. I'll never step on the Martha
again, unless it is to take charge of her. I'm a sailor, like my
father, and he could never bear to see a vessel mishandled. Did
you see the way Kinross got under way? It was disgraceful. And
the noise he made about it! Old Noah did better with the Ark."
"But we manage to get somewhere just the same," he smiled.
"So did Noah."
"That was the main thing."
"For an antediluvian."
She took another lingering look at the Martha, then turned to
"You are a slovenly lot down here when it comes to boats--most of
you are, any way. Christian Young is all right though, Munster has
a slap-dash style about him, and they do say old Nielsen was a
crackerjack. But with the rest I've seen, there's no dash, no go,
no cleverness, no real sailor's pride. It's all hum-drum, and
podgy, and slow-going, any going so long as you get there heaven
knows when. But some day I'll show you how the Martha should be
handled. I'll break out anchor and get under way in a speed and
style that will make your head hum; and I'll bring her alongside
the wharf at Guvutu without dropping anchor and running a line."
She came to a breathless pause, and then broke into laughter,
directed, he could see, against herself.
"Old Kinross is setting that fisherman's staysail," he remarked
"No!" she cried incredulously, swiftly looking, then running for
She regarded the manoeuvre steadily through the glass, and Sheldon,
watching her face, could see that the skipper was not making a
success of it.
She finally lowered the glass with a groan.
"He's made a mess of it," she said, "and now he's trying it over
again. And a man like that is put in charge of a fairy like the
Martha! Well, it's a good argument against marriage, that's all.
No, I won't look any more. Come on in and play a steady,
conservative game of billiards with me. And after that I'm going
to saddle up and go after pigeons. Will you come along?"
An hour later, just as they were riding out of the compound, Joan
turned in the saddle for a last look at the Martha, a distant speck
well over toward the Florida coast.
"Won't Tudor be surprised when he finds we own the Martha?" she
laughed. "Think of it! If he doesn't strike pay-dirt he'll have
to buy a steamer-passage to get away from the Solomons."
Still laughing gaily, she rode through the gate. But suddenly her
laughter broke flatly and she reined in the mare. Sheldon glanced
at her sharply, and noted her face mottling, even as he looked, and
turning orange and green.
"It's the fever," she said. "I'll have to turn back."
By the time they were in the compound she was shivering and
shaking, and he had to help her from her horse.
"Funny, isn't it?" she said with chattering teeth. "Like
seasickness--not serious, but horribly miserable while it lasts.
I'm going to bed. Send Noa Noah and Viaburi to me. Tell Ornfiri
to make hot water. I'll be out of my head in fifteen minutes. But
I'll be all right by evening. Short and sharp is the way it takes
me. Too bad to lose the shooting. Thank you, I'm all right."
Sheldon obeyed her instructions, rushed hot-water bottles along to
her, and then sat on the veranda vainly trying to interest himself
in a two-months-old file of Sydney newspapers. He kept glancing up
and across the compound to the grass house. Yes, he decided, the
contention of every white man in the islands was right; the
Solomons was no place for a woman.
He clapped his hands, and Lalaperu came running.
"Here, you!" he ordered; "go along barracks, bring 'm black fella
Mary, plenty too much, altogether."
A few minutes later the dozen black women of Berande were ranged
before him. He looked them over critically, finally selecting one
that was young, comely as such creatures went, and whose body bore
no signs of skin-disease.
"What name, you?" he demanded. "Sangui?"
"Me Mahua," was the answer.
"All right, you fella Mahua. You finish cook along boys. You stop
along white Mary. All the time you stop along. You savvee?"
"Me savvee," she grunted, and obeyed his gesture to go to the grass
"What name?" he asked Viaburi, who had just come out of the grass
"Big fella sick," was the answer. "White fella Mary talk 'm too
much allee time. Allee time talk 'm big fella schooner."
Sheldon nodded. He understood. It was the loss of the Martha that
had brought on the fever. The fever would have come sooner or
later, he knew; but her disappointment had precipitated it. He
lighted a cigarette, and in the curling smoke of it caught visions
of his English mother, and wondered if she would understand how her
son could love a woman who cried because she could not be skipper
of a schooner in the cannibal isles.
CHAPTER XX--A MAN-TALK
The most patient man in the world is prone to impatience in love--
and Sheldon was in love. He called himself an ass a score of times
a day, and strove to contain himself by directing his mind in other
channels, but more than a score of times each day his thoughts
roved back and dwelt on Joan. It was a pretty problem she
presented, and he was continually debating with himself as to what
was the best way to approach her.
He was not an adept at love-making. He had had but one experience
in the gentle art (in which he had been more wooed than wooing),
and the affair had profited him little. This was another affair,
and he assured himself continually that it was a uniquely different
and difficult affair. Not only was here a woman who was not bent
on finding a husband, but it was a woman who wasn't a woman at all;
who was genuinely appalled by the thought of a husband; who joyed
in boys' games, and sentimentalized over such things as adventure;
who was healthy and normal and wholesome, and who was so immature
that a husband stood for nothing more than an encumbrance in her
cherished scheme of existence.
But how to approach her? He divined the fanatical love of freedom
in her, the deep-seated antipathy for restraint of any sort. No
man could ever put his arm around her and win her. She would
flutter away like a frightened bird. Approach by contact--that, he
realized, was the one thing he must never do. His hand-clasp must
be what it had always been, the hand-clasp of hearty friendship and
nothing more. Never by action must he advertise his feeling for
her. Remained speech. But what speech? Appeal to her love? But
she did not love him. Appeal to her brain? But it was apparently
a boy's brain. All the deliciousness and fineness of a finely bred
woman was hers; but, for all he could discern, her mental processes
were sexless and boyish. And yet speech it must be, for a
beginning had to be made somewhere, some time; her mind must be
made accustomed to the idea, her thoughts turned upon the matter of