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Adventure by Jack London

Part 4 out of 5

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And so he rode overseeing about the plantation, with tightly drawn
and puckered brows, puzzling over the problem, and steeling himself
to the first attempt. A dozen ways he planned an intricate leading
up to the first breaking of the ice, and each time some link in the
chain snapped and the talk went off on unexpected and irrelevant
lines. And then one morning, quite fortuitously, the opportunity
came.

"My dearest wish is the success of Berande," Joan had just said,
apropos of a discussion about the cheapening of freights on copra
to market.

"Do you mind if I tell you the dearest wish of my heart?" he
promptly returned. "I long for it. I dream about it. It is my
dearest desire."

He paused and looked at her with intent significance; but it was
plain to him that she thought there was nothing more at issue than
mutual confidences about things in general.

"Yes, go ahead," she said, a trifle impatient at his delay.

"I love to think of the success of Berande," he said; "but that is
secondary. It is subordinate to the dearest wish, which is that
some day you will share Berande with me in a completer way than
that of mere business partnership. It is for you, some day, when
you are ready, to be my wife."

She started back from him as if she had been stung. Her face went
white on the instant, not from maidenly embarrassment, but from the
anger which he could see flaming in her eyes.

"This taking for granted!--this when I am ready!" she cried
passionately. Then her voice swiftly became cold and steady, and
she talked in the way he imagined she must have talked business
with Morgan and Raff at Guvutu. "Listen to me, Mr. Sheldon. I
like you very well, though you are slow and a muddler; but I want
you to understand, once and for all, that I did not come to the
Solomons to get married. That is an affliction I could have
accumulated at home, without sailing ten thousand miles after it.
I have my own way to make in the world, and I came to the Solomons
to do it. Getting married is not making MY way in the world. It
may do for some women, but not for me, thank you. When I sit down
to talk over the freight on copra, I don't care to have proposals
of marriage sandwiched in. Besides--besides--"

Her voice broke for the moment, and when she went on there was a
note of appeal in it that well-nigh convicted him to himself of
being a brute.

"Don't you see?--it spoils everything; it makes the whole situation
impossible . . . and . . . and I so loved our partnership, and was
proud of it. Don't you see?--I can't go on being your partner if
you make love to me. And I was so happy."

Tears of disappointment were in her eyes, and she caught a swift
sob in her throat.

"I warned you," he said gravely. "Such unusual situations between
men and women cannot endure. I told you so at the beginning."

"Oh, yes; it is quite clear to me what you did." She was angry
again, and the feminine appeal had disappeared. "You were very
discreet in your warning. You took good care to warn me against
every other man in the Solomons except yourself."

It was a blow in the face to Sheldon. He smarted with the truth of
it, and at the same time he smarted with what he was convinced was
the injustice of it. A gleam of triumph that flickered in her eye
because of the hit she had made decided him.

"It is not so one-sided as you seem to think it is," he began. "I
was doing very nicely on Berande before you came. At least I was
not suffering indignities, such as being accused of cowardly
conduct, as you have just accused me. Remember--please remember, I
did not invite you to Berande. Nor did I invite you to stay on at
Berande. It was by staying that you brought about this--to you--
unpleasant situation. By staying you made yourself a temptation,
and now you would blame me for it. I did not want you to stay. I
wasn't in love with you then. I wanted you to go to Sydney; to go
back to Hawaii. But you insisted on staying. You virtually--"

He paused for a softer word than the one that had risen to his
lips, and she took it away from him.

"Forced myself on you--that's what you meant to say," she cried,
the flags of battle painting her cheeks. "Go ahead. Don't mind my
feelings."

"All right; I won't," he said decisively, realizing that the
discussion was in danger of becoming a vituperative, schoolboy
argument. "You have insisted on being considered as a man.
Consistency would demand that you talk like a man, and like a man
listen to man-talk. And listen you shall. It is not your fault
that this unpleasantness has arisen. I do not blame you for
anything; remember that. And for the same reason you should not
blame me for anything."

He noticed her bosom heaving as she sat with clenched hands, and it
was all he could do to conquer the desire to flash his arms out and
around her instead of going on with his coolly planned campaign.
As it was, he nearly told her that she was a most adorable boy.
But he checked all such wayward fancies, and held himself rigidly
down to his disquisition.

"You can't help being yourself. You can't help being a very
desirable creature so far as I am concerned. You have made me want
you. You didn't intend to; you didn't try to. You were so made,
that is all. And I was so made that I was ripe to want you. But I
can't help being myself. I can't by an effort of will cease from
wanting you, any more than you by an effort of will can make
yourself undesirable to me."

"Oh, this desire! this want! want! want!" she broke in
rebelliously. "I am not quite a fool. I understand some things.
And the whole thing is so foolish and absurd--and uncomfortable. I
wish I could get away from it. I really think it would be a good
idea for me to marry Noa Noah, or Adamu Adam, or Lalaperu there, or
any black boy. Then I could give him orders, and keep him penned
away from me; and men like you would leave me alone, and not talk
marriage and 'I want, I want.'"

Sheldon laughed in spite of himself, and far from any genuine
impulse to laugh.

"You are positively soulless," he said savagely.

"Because I've a soul that doesn't yearn for a man for master?" she
took up the gage. "Very well, then. I am soulless, and what are
you going to do about it?"

"I am going to ask you why you look like a woman? Why have you the
form of a woman? the lips of a woman? the wonderful hair of a
woman? And I am going to answer: because you are a woman--though
the woman in you is asleep--and that some day the woman will wake
up."

"Heaven forbid!" she cried, in such sudden and genuine dismay as to
make him laugh, and to bring a smile to her own lips against
herself.

"I've got some more to say to you," Sheldon pursued. "I did try to
protect you from every other man in the Solomons, and from yourself
as well. As for me, I didn't dream that danger lay in that
quarter. So I failed to protect you from myself. I failed to
protect you at all. You went your own wilful way, just as though I
didn't exist--wrecking schooners, recruiting on Malaita, and
sailing schooners; one lone, unprotected girl in the company of
some of the worst scoundrels in the Solomons. Fowler! and Brahms!
and Curtis! And such is the perverseness of human nature--I am
frank, you see--I love you for that too. I love you for all of
you, just as you are."

She made a moue of distaste and raised a hand protestingly.

"Don't," he said. "You have no right to recoil from the mention of
my love for you. Remember this is a man-talk. From the point of
view of the talk, you are a man. The woman in you is only
incidental, accidental, and irrelevant. You've got to listen to
the bald statement of fact, strange though it is, that I love you."

"And now I won't bother you any more about love. We'll go on the
same as before. You are better off and safer on Berande, in spite
of the fact that I love you, than anywhere else in the Solomons.
But I want you, as a final item of man-talk, to remember, from time
to time, that I love you, and that it will be the dearest day of my
life when you consent to marry me. I want you to think of it
sometimes. You can't help but think of it sometimes. And now we
won't talk about it any more. As between men, there's my hand."

He held out his hand. She hesitated, then gripped it heartily, and
smiled through her tears.

"I wish--" she faltered, "I wish, instead of that black Mary, you'd
given me somebody to swear for me."

And with this enigmatic utterance she turned away.

CHAPTER XXI--CONTRABAND

Sheldon did not mention the subject again, nor did his conduct
change from what it had always been. There was nothing of the
pining lover, nor of the lover at all, in his demeanour. Nor was
there any awkwardness between them. They were as frank and
friendly in their relations as ever. He had wondered if his
belligerent love declaration might have aroused some womanly self-
consciousness in Joan, but he looked in vain for any sign of it.
She appeared as unchanged as he; and while he knew that he hid his
real feelings, he was firm in his belief that she hid nothing. And
yet the germ he had implanted must be at work; he was confident of
that, though he was without confidence as to the result. There was
no forecasting this strange girl's processes. She might awaken, it
was true; and on the other hand, and with equal chance, he might be
the wrong man for her, and his declaration of love might only more
firmly set her in her views on single blessedness.

While he devoted more and more of his time to the plantation
itself, she took over the house and its multitudinous affairs; and
she took hold firmly, in sailor fashion, revolutionizing the system
and discipline. The labour situation on Berande was improving.
The Martha had carried away fifty of the blacks whose time was up,
and they had been among the worst on the plantation--five-year men
recruited by Billy Be-blowed, men who had gone through the old days
of terrorism when the original owners of Berande had been driven
away. The new recruits, being broken in under the new regime, gave
better promise. Joan had joined with Sheldon from the start in the
programme that they must be gripped with the strong hand, and at
the same time be treated with absolute justice, if they were to
escape being contaminated by the older boys that still remained.

"I think it would be a good idea to put all the gangs at work close
to the house this afternoon," she announced one day at breakfast.
"I've cleaned up the house, and you ought to clean up the barracks.
There is too much stealing going on."

"A good idea," Sheldon agreed. "Their boxes should be searched.
I've just missed a couple of shirts, and my best toothbrush is
gone."

"And two boxes of my cartridges," she added, "to say nothing of
handkerchiefs, towels, sheets, and my best pair of slippers. But
what they want with your toothbrush is more than I can imagine.
They'll be stealing the billiard balls next."

"One did disappear a few weeks before you came," Sheldon laughed.
"We'll search the boxes this afternoon."

And a busy afternoon it was. Joan and Sheldon, both armed, went
through the barracks, house by house, the boss-boys assisting, and
half a dozen messengers, in relay, shouting along the line the
names of the boys wanted. Each boy brought the key to his
particular box, and was permitted to look on while the contents
were overhauled by the boss-boys.

A wealth of loot was recovered. There were fully a dozen cane-
knives--big hacking weapons with razor-edges, capable of
decapitating a man at a stroke. Towels, sheets, shirts, and
slippers, along with toothbrushes, wisp-brooms, soap, the missing
billiard ball, and all the lost and forgotten trifles of many
months, came to light. But most astonishing was the quantity of
ammunition-cartridges for Lee-Metfords, for Winchesters and
Marlins, for revolvers from thirty-two calibre to forty-five, shot-
gun cartridges, Joan's two boxes of thirty-eight, cartridges of
prodigious bore for the ancient Sniders of Malaita, flasks of black
powder, sticks of dynamite, yards of fuse, and boxes of detonators.
But the great find was in the house occupied by Gogoomy and five
Port Adams recruits. The fact that the boxes yielded nothing
excited Sheldon's suspicions, and he gave orders to dig up the
earthen floor. Wrapped in matting, well oiled, free from rust, and
brand new, two Winchesters were first unearthed. Sheldon did not
recognize them. They had not come from Berande; neither had the
forty flasks of black powder found under the corner-post of the
house; and while he could not be sure, he could remember no loss of
eight boxes of detonators. A big Colt's revolver he recognized as
Hughie Drummond's; while Joan identified a thirty-two Ivor and
Johnson as a loss reported by Matapuu the first week he landed at
Berande. The absence of any cartridges made Sheldon persist in the
digging up of the floor, and a fifty-pound flour tin was his
reward. With glowering eyes Gogoomy looked on while Sheldon took
from the tin a hundred rounds each for the two Winchesters and
fully as many rounds more of nondescript cartridges of all sorts
and makes and calibres.

The contraband and stolen property was piled in assorted heaps on
the back veranda of the bungalow. A few paces from the bottom of
the steps were grouped the forty-odd culprits, with behind them, in
solid array, the several hundred blacks of the plantation. At the
head of the steps Joan and Sheldon were seated, while on the steps
stood the gang-bosses. One by one the culprits were called up and
examined. Nothing definite could be extracted from them. They
lied transparently, but persistently, and when caught in one lie
explained it away with half a dozen others. One boy complacently
announced that he had found eleven sticks of dynamite on the beach.
Matapuu's revolver, found in the box of one Kapu, was explained
away by that boy as having been given to him by Lervumie.
Lervumie, called forth to testify, said he had got it from Noni;
Noni had got it from Sulefatoi; Sulefatoi from Choka; Choka from
Ngava; and Ngava completed the circle by stating that it had been
given to him by Kapu. Kapu, thus doubly damned, calmly gave full
details of how it had been given to him by Lervumie; and Lervumie,
with equal wealth of detail, told how he had received it from Noni;
and from Noni to Sulefatoi it went on around the circle again.

Divers articles were traced indubitably to the house-boys, each of
whom steadfastly proclaimed his own innocence and cast doubts on
his fellows. The boy with the billiard ball said that he had never
seen it in his life before, and hazarded the suggestion that it had
got into his box through some mysterious and occultly evil agency.
So far as he was concerned it might have dropped down from heaven
for all he knew how it got there. To the cooks and boats'-crews of
every vessel that had dropped anchor off Berande in the past
several years were ascribed the arrival of scores of the stolen
articles and of the major portion of the ammunition. There was no
tracing the truth in any of it, though it was without doubt that
the unidentified weapons and unfamiliar cartridges had come ashore
off visiting craft.

"Look at it," Sheldon said to Joan. "We've been sleeping over a
volcano. They ought to be whipped--"

"No whip me," Gogoomy cried out from below. "Father belong me big
fella chief. Me whip, too much trouble along you, close up, my
word."

"What name you fella Gogoomy!" Sheldon shouted. "I knock seven
bells out of you. Here, you Kwaque, put 'm irons along that fella
Gogoomy."

Kwaque, a strapping gang-boss, plucked Gogoomy from out of his
following, and, helped by the other gang-bosses; twisted his arms
behind him and snapped on the heavy handcuffs.

"Me finish along you, close up, you die altogether," Gogoomy, with
wrath-distorted face, threatened the boss-boy.

"Please, no whipping," Joan said in a low voice. "If whipping IS
necessary, send them to Tulagi and let the Government do it. Give
them their choice between a fine or an official whipping."

Sheldon nodded and stood up, facing the blacks.

"Manonmie!" he called.

Manonmie stood forth and waited.

"You fella boy bad fella too much," Sheldon charged. "You steal 'm
plenty. You steal 'm one fella towel, one fella cane-knife, two-
ten fella cartridge. My word, plenty bad fella steal 'm you. Me
cross along you too much. S'pose you like 'm, me take 'm one fella
pound along you in big book. S'pose you no like 'm me take 'm one
fella pound, then me send you fella along Tulagi catch 'm one
strong fella government whipping. Plenty New Georgia boys, plenty
Ysabel boys stop along jail along Tulagi. Them fella no like
Malaita boys little bit. My word, they give 'm you strong fella
whipping. What you say?"

"You take 'm one fella pound along me," was the answer.

And Manonmie, patently relieved, stepped back, while Sheldon
entered the fine in the plantation labour journal.

Boy after boy, he called the offenders out and gave them their
choice; and, boy by boy, each one elected to pay the fine imposed.
Some fines were as low as several shillings; while in the more
serious cases, such as thefts of guns and ammunition, the fines
were correspondingly heavy.

Gogoomy and his five tribesmen were fined three pounds each, and at
Gogoomy's guttural command they refused to pay.

"S'pose you go along Tulagi," Sheldon warned him, "you catch 'm
strong fella whipping and you stop along jail three fella year.
Mr. Burnett, he look 'm along Winchester, look 'm along cartridge,
look 'm along revolver, look 'm along black powder, look 'm along
dynamite--my word, he cross too much, he give you three fella year
along jail. S'pose you no like 'm pay three fella pound you stop
along jail. Savvee?"

Gogoomy wavered.

"It's true--that's what Burnett would give them," Sheldon said in
an aside to Joan.

"You take 'm three fella pound along me," Gogoomy muttered, at the
same time scowling his hatred at Sheldon, and transferring half the
scowl to Joan and Kwaque. "Me finish along you, you catch 'm big
fella trouble, my word. Father belong me big fella chief along
Port Adams."

"That will do," Sheldon warned him. "You shut mouth belong you."

"Me no fright," the son of a chief retorted, by his insolence
increasing his stature in the eyes of his fellows.

"Lock him up for to-night," Sheldon said to Kwaque. "Sun he come
up put 'm that fella and five fella belong him along grass-cutting.
Savvee?"

Kwaque grinned.

"Me savvee," he said. "Cut 'm grass, ngari-ngari {4} stop 'm along
grass. My word!"

"There will be trouble with Gogoomy yet," Sheldon said to Joan, as
the boss-boys marshalled their gangs and led them away to their
work. "Keep an eye on him. Be careful when you are riding alone
on the plantation. The loss of those Winchesters and all that
ammunition has hit him harder than your cuffing did. He is dead-
ripe for mischief."

CHAPTER XXII--GOGOOMY FINISHES ALONG KWAQUE ALTOGETHER

"I wonder what has become of Tudor. It's two months since he
disappeared into the bush, and not a word of him after he left
Binu."

Joan Lackland was sitting astride her horse by the bank of the
Balesuna where the sweet corn had been planted, and Sheldon, who
had come across from the house on foot, was leaning against her
horse's shoulder.

"Yes, it is along time for no news to have trickled down," he
answered, watching her keenly from under his hat-brim and wondering
as to the measure of her anxiety for the adventurous gold-hunter;
"but Tudor will come out all right. He did a thing at the start
that I wouldn't have given him or any other man credit for--
persuaded Binu Charley to go along with him. I'll wager no other
Binu nigger has ever gone so far into the bush unless to be kai-
kai'd. As for Tudor--"

"Look! look!" Joan cried in a low voice, pointing across the
narrow stream to a slack eddy where a huge crocodile drifted like a
log awash. "My! I wish I had my rifle."

The crocodile, leaving scarcely a ripple behind, sank down and
disappeared.

"A Binu man was in early this morning--for medicine," Sheldon
remarked. "It may have been that very brute that was responsible.
A dozen of the Binu women were out, and the foremost one stepped
right on a big crocodile. It was by the edge of the water, and he
tumbled her over and got her by the leg. All the other women got
hold of her and pulled. And in the tug of war she lost her leg,
below the knee, he said. I gave him a stock of antiseptics.
She'll pull through, I fancy."

"Ugh--the filthy beasts," Joan gulped shudderingly. "I hate them!
I hate them!"

"And yet you go diving among sharks," Sheldon chided.

"They're only fish-sharks. And as long as there are plenty of fish
there is no danger. It is only when they're famished that they're
liable to take a bite."

Sheldon shuddered inwardly at the swift vision that arose of the
dainty flesh of her in a shark's many-toothed maw.

"I wish you wouldn't, just the same," he said slowly. "You
acknowledge there is a risk."

"But that's half the fun of it," she cried.

A trite platitude about his not caring to lose her was on his lips,
but he refrained from uttering it. Another conclusion he had
arrived at was that she was not to be nagged. Continual, or even
occasional, reminders of his feeling for her would constitute a
tactical error of no mean dimensions.

"Some for the book of verse, some for the simple life, and some for
the shark's belly," he laughed grimly, then added: "Just the same,
I wish I could swim as well as you. Maybe it would beget
confidence such as you have."

"Do you know, I think it would be nice to be married to a man such
as you seem to be becoming," she remarked, with one of her abrupt
changes that always astounded him. "I should think you could be
trained into a very good husband--you know, not one of the
domineering kind, but one who considered his wife was just as much
an individual as himself and just as much a free agent. Really,
you know, I think you are improving."

She laughed and rode away, leaving him greatly cast down. If he
had thought there had been one bit of coyness in her words, one
feminine flutter, one womanly attempt at deliberate lure and
encouragement, he would have been elated. But he knew absolutely
that it was the boy, and not the woman, who had so daringly spoken.

Joan rode on among the avenues of young cocoanut-palms, saw a
hornbill, followed it in its erratic flights to the high forest on
the edge of the plantation, heard the cooing of wild pigeons and
located them in the deeper woods, followed the fresh trail of a
wild pig for a distance, circled back, and took the narrow path for
the bungalow that ran through twenty acres of uncleared cane. The
grass was waist-high and higher, and as she rode along she
remembered that Gogoomy was one of a gang of boys that had been
detailed to the grass-cutting. She came to where they had been at
work, but saw no signs of them. Her unshod horse made no sound on
the soft, sandy footing, and a little further on she heard voices
proceeding from out of the grass. She reined in and listened. It
was Gogoomy talking, and as she listened she gripped her bridle-
rein tightly and a wave of anger passed over her.

"Dog he stop 'm along house, night-time he walk about," Gogoomy was
saying, perforce in beche-de-mer English, because he was talking to
others beside his own tribesmen. "You fella boy catch 'm one fella
pig, put 'm kai-kai belong him along big fella fish-hook. S'pose
dog he walk about catch 'm kai-kai, you fella boy catch 'm dog
allee same one shark. Dog he finish close up. Big fella marster
sleep along big fella house. White Mary sleep along pickaninny
house. One fella Adamu he stop along outside pickaninny house.
You fella boy finish 'm dog, finish 'm Adamu, finish 'm big fella
marster, finish 'm White Mary, finish 'em altogether. Plenty
musket he stop, plenty powder, plenty tomahawk, plenty knife-fee,
plenty porpoise teeth, plenty tobacco, plenty calico--my word, too
much plenty everything we take 'm along whale-boat, washee {5} like
hell, sun he come up we long way too much."

"Me catch 'm pig sun he go down," spoke up one whose thin falsetto
voice Joan recognized as belonging to Cosse, one of Gogoomy's
tribesmen.

"Me catch 'm dog," said another.

"And me catch 'm white fella Mary," Gogoomy cried triumphantly.
"Me catch 'm Kwaque he die along him damn quick."

This much Joan heard of the plan to murder, and then her rising
wrath proved too much for her discretion. She spurred her horse
into the grass, crying, -

"What name you fella boy, eh? What name?"

They arose, scrambling and scattering, and to her surprise she saw
there were a dozen of them. As she looked in their glowering faces
and noted the heavy, two-foot, hacking cane-knives in their hands,
she became suddenly aware of the rashness of her act. If only she
had had her revolver or a rifle, all would have been well. But she
had carelessly ventured out unarmed, and she followed the glance of
Gogoomy to her waist and saw the pleased flash in his eyes as he
perceived the absence of the dreadful man-killing revolver.

The first article in the Solomon Islands code for white men was
never to show fear before a native, and Joan tried to carry off the
situation in cavalier fashion.

"Too much talk along you fella boy," she said severely. "Too much
talk, too little work. Savvee?"

Gogoomy made no reply, but, apparently shifting weight, he slid one
foot forward. The other boys, spread fan-wise about her, were also
sliding forward, the cruel cane-knives in their hands advertising
their intention.

"You cut 'm grass!" she commanded imperatively.

But Gogoomy slid his other foot forward. She measured the distance
with her eye. It would be impossible to whirl her horse around and
get away. She would be chopped down from behind.

And in that tense moment the faces of all of them were imprinted on
her mind in an unforgettable picture--one of them, an old man, with
torn and distended ear-lobes that fell to his chest; another, with
the broad flattened nose of Africa, and with withered eyes so
buried under frowning brows that nothing but the sickly, yellowish-
looking whites could be seen; a third, thick-lipped and bearded
with kinky whiskers; and Gogoomy--she had never realized before how
handsome Gogoomy was in his mutinous and obstinate wild-animal way.
There was a primitive aristocraticness about him that his fellows
lacked. The lines of his figure were more rounded than theirs, the
skin smooth, well oiled, and free from disease. On his chest,
suspended from a single string of porpoise-teeth around his throat,
hung a big crescent carved out of opalescent pearl-shell. A row of
pure white cowrie shells banded his brow. From his hair drooped a
long, lone feather. Above the swelling calf of one leg he wore, as
a garter, a single string of white beads. The effect was dandyish
in the extreme. A narrow gee-string completed his costume.
Another man she saw, old and shrivelled, with puckered forehead and
a puckered face that trembled and worked with animal passion as in
the past she had noticed the faces of monkeys tremble and work.

"Gogoomy," she said sharply, "you no cut 'm grass, my word, I bang
'm head belong you."

His expression became a trifle more disdainful, but he did not
answer. Instead, he stole a glance to right and left to mark how
his fellows were closing about her. At the same moment he casually
slipped his foot forward through the grass for a matter of several
inches.

Joan was keenly aware of the desperateness of the situation. The
only way out was through. She lifted her riding-whip
threateningly, and at the same moment drove in both spurs with her
heels, rushing the startled horse straight at Gogoomy. It all
happened in an instant. Every cane-knife was lifted, and every boy
save Gogoomy leaped for her. He swerved aside to avoid the horse,
at the same time swinging his cane-knife in a slicing blow that
would have cut her in twain. She leaned forward under the flying
steel, which cut through her riding-skirt, through the edge of the
saddle, through the saddle cloth, and even slightly into the horse
itself. Her right hand, still raised, came down, the thin whip
whishing through the air. She saw the white, cooked mark of the
weal clear across the sullen, handsome face, and still what was
practically in the same instant she saw the man with the puckered
face, overridden, go down before her, and she heard his snarling
and grimacing chatter-for all the world like an angry monkey. Then
she was free and away, heading the horse at top speed for the
house.

Out of her sea-training she was able to appreciate Sheldon's
executiveness when she burst in on him with her news. Springing
from the steamer-chair in which he had been lounging while waiting
for breakfast, he clapped his hands for the house-boys; and, while
listening to her, he was buckling on his cartridge-belt and running
the mechanism of his automatic pistol.

"Ornfiri," he snapped out his orders, "you fella ring big fella
bell strong fella plenty. You finish 'm bell, you put 'm saddle on
horse. Viaburi, you go quick house belong Seelee he stop, tell 'm
plenty black fella run away--ten fella two fella black fella boy."
He scribbled a note and handed it to Lalaperu. "Lalaperu, you go
quick house belong white fella Marster Boucher."

"That will head them back from the coast on both sides," he
explained to Joan. "And old Seelee will turn his whole village
loose on their track as well."

In response to the summons of the big bell, Joan's Tahitians were
the first to arrive, by their glistening bodies and panting chests
showing that they had run all the way. Some of the farthest-placed
gangs would be nearly an hour in arriving.

Sheldon proceeded to arm Joan's sailors and deal out ammunition and
handcuffs. Adamu Adam, with loaded rifle, he placed on guard over
the whale-boats. Noa Noah, aided by Matapuu, were instructed to
take charge of the working-gangs as fast as they came in, to keep
them amused, and to guard against their being stampeded into making
a break themselves. The five other Tahitians were to follow Joan
and Sheldon on foot.

"I'm glad we unearthed that arsenal the other day," Sheldon
remarked as they rode out of the compound gate.

A hundred yards away they encountered one of the clearing gangs
coming in. It was Kwaque's gang, but Sheldon looked in vain for
him.

"What name that fella Kwaque he no stop along you?" he demanded.

A babel of excited voices attempted an answer.

"Shut 'm mouth belong you altogether," Sheldon commanded.

He spoke roughly, living up to the role of the white man who must
always be strong and dominant.

"Here, you fella Babatani, you talk 'm mouth belong you."

Babatani stepped forward in all the pride of one singled out from
among his fellows.

"Gogoomy he finish along Kwaque altogether," was Babatani's
explanation. "He take 'm head b'long him run like hell."

In brief words, and with paucity of imagination, he described the
murder, and Sheldon and Joan rode on. In the grass, where Joan had
been attacked, they found the little shrivelled man, still
chattering and grimacing, whom Joan had ridden down. The mare had
plunged on his ankle, completely crushing it, and a hundred yards'
crawl had convinced him of the futility of escape. To the last
clearing-gang, from the farthest edge of the plantation, was given
the task of carrying him in to the house.

A mile farther on, where the runaways' trail led straight toward
the bush, they encountered the body of Kwaque. The head had been
hacked off and was missing, and Sheldon took it on faith that the
body was Kwaque's. He had evidently put up a fight, for a bloody
trail led away from the body.

Once they were well into the thick bush the horses had to be
abandoned. Papehara was left in charge of them, while Joan and
Sheldon and the remaining Tahitians pushed ahead on foot. The way
led down through a swampy hollow, which was overflowed by the
Berande River on occasion, and where the red trail of the murderers
was crossed by a crocodile's trail. They had apparently caught the
creature asleep in the sun and desisted long enough from their
flight to hack him to pieces. Here the wounded man had sat down
and waited until they were ready to go on.

An hour later, following along a wild-pig trail, Sheldon suddenly
halted. The bloody tracks had ceased. The Tahitians cast out in
the bush on either side, and a cry from Utami apprised them of a
find. Joan waited till Sheldon came back.

"It's Mauko," he said. "Kwaque did for him, and he crawled in
there and died. That's two accounted for. There are ten more.
Don't you think you've got enough of it?"

She nodded.

"It isn't nice," she said. "I'll go back and wait for you with the
horses."

"But you can't go alone. Take two of the men."

"Then I'll go on," she said. "It would be foolish to weaken the
pursuit, and I am certainly not tired."

The trail bent to the right as though the runaways had changed
their mind and headed for the Balesuna. But the trail still
continued to bend to the right till it promised to make a loop, and
the point of intersection seemed to be the edge of the plantation
where the horses had been left. Crossing one of the quiet jungle
spaces, where naught moved but a velvety, twelve-inch butterfly,
they heard the sound of shots.

"Eight," Joan counted. "It was only one gun. It must be
Papehara."

They hurried on, but when they reached the spot they were in doubt.
The two horses stood quietly tethered, and Papehara, squatted on
his hams, was having a peaceful smoke. Advancing toward him,
Sheldon tripped on a body that lay in the grass, and as he saved
himself from falling his eyes lighted on a second. Joan recognized
this one. It was Cosse, one of Gogoomy's tribesmen, the one who
had promised to catch at sunset the pig that was to have baited the
hook for Satan.

"No luck, Missie," was Papehara's greeting, accompanied by a
disconsolate shake of the head. "Catch only two boy. I have good
shot at Gogoomy, only I miss."

"But you killed them," Joan chided. "You must catch them alive."

The Tahitian smiled.

"How?" he queried. "I am have a smoke. I think about Tahiti, and
breadfruit, and jolly good time at Bora Bora. Quick, just like
that, ten boy he run out of bush for me. Each boy have long knife.
Gogoomy have long knife one hand, and Kwaque's head in other hand.
I no stop to catch 'm alive. I shoot like hell. How you catch 'm
alive, ten boy, ten long knife, and Kwaque's head?"

The scattered paths of the different boys, where they broke back
after the disastrous attempt to rush the Tahitian, soon led
together. They traced it to the Berande, which the runaways had
crossed with the clear intention of burying themselves in the huge
mangrove swamp that lay beyond.

"There is no use our going any farther," Sheldon said. "Seelee
will turn out his village and hunt them out of that. They'll never
get past him. All we can do is to guard the coast and keep them
from breaking back on the plantation and running amuck. Ah, I
thought so."

Against the jungle gloom of the farther shore, coming from down
stream, a small canoe glided. So silently did it move that it was
more like an apparition. Three naked blacks dipped with noiseless
paddles. Long-hafted, slender, bone-barbed throwing-spears lay
along the gunwale of the canoe, while a quiverful of arrows hung on
each man's back. The eyes of the man-hunters missed nothing. They
had seen Sheldon and Joan first, but they gave no sign. Where
Gogoomy and his followers had emerged from the river, the canoe
abruptly stopped, then turned and disappeared into the deeper
mangrove gloom. A second and a third canoe came around the bend
from below, glided ghostlike to the crossing of the runaways, and
vanished in the mangroves.

"I hope there won't be any more killing," Joan said, as they turned
their horses homeward.

"I don't think so," Sheldon assured her. "My understanding with
old Seelee is that he is paid only for live boys; so he is very
careful."

CHAPTER XXIII--A MESSAGE FROM THE BUSH

Never had runaways from Berande been more zealously hunted. The
deeds of Gogoomy and his fellows had been a bad example for the one
hundred and fifty new recruits. Murder had been planned, a gang-
boss had been killed, and the murderers had broken their contracts
by fleeing to the bush. Sheldon saw how imperative it was to teach
his new-caught cannibals that bad examples were disastrous things
to pattern after, and he urged Seelee on night and day, while with
the Tahitians he practically lived in the bush, leaving Joan in
charge of the plantation. To the north Boucher did good work,
twice turning the fugitives back when they attempted to gain the
coast.

One by one the boys were captured. In the first man-drive through
the mangrove swamp Seelee caught two. Circling around to the
north, a third was wounded in the thigh by Boucher, and this one,
dragging behind in the chase, was later gathered in by Seelee's
hunters. The three captives, heavily ironed, were exposed each day
in the compound, as good examples of what happened to bad examples,
all for the edification of the seven score and ten half-wild
Poonga-Poonga men. Then the Minerva, running past for Tulagi, was
signalled to send a boat, and the three prisoners were carried away
to prison to await trial.

Five were still at large, but escape was impossible. They could
not get down to the coast, nor dared they venture too far inland
for fear of the wild bushmen. Then one of the five came in
voluntarily and gave himself up, and Sheldon learned that Gogoomy
and two others were all that were at large. There should have been
a fourth, but according to the man who had given himself up, the
fourth man had been killed and eaten. It had been fear of a
similar fate that had driven him in. He was a Malu man, from
north-western Malaita, as likewise had been the one that was eaten.
Gogoomy's two other companions were from Port Adams. As for
himself, the black declared his preference for government trial and
punishment to being eaten by his companions in the bush.

"Close up Gogoomy kai-kai me," he said. "My word, me no like boy
kai-kai me."

Three days later Sheldon caught one of the boys, helpless from
swamp fever, and unable to fight or run away. On the same day
Seelee caught the second boy in similar condition. Gogoomy alone
remained at large; and, as the pursuit closed in on him, he
conquered his fear of the bushmen and headed straight in for the
mountainous backbone of the island. Sheldon with four Tahitians,
and Seelee with thirty of his hunters, followed Gogoomy's trail a
dozen miles into the open grass-lands, and then Seelee and his
people lost heart. He confessed that neither he nor any of his
tribe had ever ventured so far inland before, and he narrated, for
Sheldon's benefit, most horrible tales of the horrible bushmen. In
the old days, he said, they had crossed the grasslands and attacked
the salt-water natives; but since the coming of the white men to
the coast they had remained in their interior fastnesses, and no
salt-water native had ever seen them again.

"Gogoomy he finish along them fella bushmen," he assured Sheldon.
"My word, he finish close up, kai-kai altogether."

So the expedition turned back. Nothing could persuade the coast
natives to venture farther, and Sheldon, with his four Tahitians,
knew that it was madness to go on alone. So he stood waist-deep in
the grass and looked regretfully across the rolling savannah and
the soft-swelling foothills to the Lion's Head, a massive peak of
rock that upreared into the azure from the midmost centre of
Guadalcanar, a landmark used for bearings by every coasting
mariner, a mountain as yet untrod by the foot of a white man.

That night, after dinner, Sheldon and Joan were playing billiards,
when Satan barked in the compound, and Lalaperu, sent to see,
brought back a tired and travel-stained native, who wanted to talk
with the "big fella white marster." It was only the man's
insistence that procured him admittance at such an hour. Sheldon
went out on the veranda to see him, and at first glance at the
gaunt features and wasted body of the man knew that his errand was
likely to prove important. Nevertheless, Sheldon demanded roughly,
-

"What name you come along house belong me sun he go down?"

"Me Charley," the man muttered apologetically and wearily. "Me
stop along Binu."

"Ah, Binu Charley, eh? Well, what name you talk along me? What
place big fella marster along white man he stop?"

Joan and Sheldon together listened to the tale Binu Charley had
brought. He described Tudor's expedition up the Balesuna; the
dragging of the boats up the rapids; the passage up the river where
it threaded the grass-lands; the innumerable washings of gravel by
the white men in search of gold; the first rolling foothills; the
man-traps of spear-staked pits in the jungle trails; the first
meeting with the bushmen, who had never seen tobacco, and knew not
the virtues of smoking; their friendliness; the deeper penetration
of the interior around the flanks of the Lion's Head; the bush-
sores and the fevers of the white men, and their madness in
trusting the bushmen.

"Allee time I talk along white fella marster," he said. "Me talk,
'That fella bushman he look 'm eye belong him. He savvee too much.
S'pose musket he stop along you, that fella bushman he too much
good friend along you. Allee time he look sharp eye belong him.
S'pose musket he no stop along you, my word, that fella bushman he
chop 'm off head belong you. He kai-kai you altogether.'"

But the patience of the bushmen had exceeded that of the white men.
The weeks had gone by, and no overt acts had been attempted. The
bushmen swarmed in the camp in increasing numbers, and they were
always making presents of yams and taro, of pig and fowl, and of
wild fruits and vegetables. Whenever the gold-hunters moved their
camp, the bushmen volunteered to carry the luggage. And the white
men waxed ever more careless. They grew weary prospecting, and at
the same time carrying their rifles and the heavy cartridge-belts,
and the practice began of leaving their weapons behind them in
camp.

"I tell 'm plenty fella white marster look sharp eye belong him.
And plenty fella white marster make 'm big laugh along me, say Binu
Charley allee same pickaninny--my word, they speak along me allee
same pickaninny."

Came the morning when Binu Charley noticed that the women and
children had disappeared. Tudor, at the time, was lying in a
stupor with fever in a late camp five miles away, the main camp
having moved on those five miles in order to prospect an outcrop of
likely quartz. Binu Charley was midway between the two camps when
the absence of the women and children struck him as suspicious.

"My word," he said, "me t'ink like hell. Him black Mary, him
pickaninny, walk about long way big bit. What name? Me savvee too
much trouble close up. Me fright like hell. Me run. My word, me
run."

Tudor, quite unconscious, was slung across his shoulder, and
carried a mile down the trail. Here, hiding new trail, Binu
Charley had carried him for a quarter of a mile into the heart of
the deepest jungle, and hidden him in a big banyan tree. Returning
to try to save the rifles and personal outfit, Binu Charley had
seen a party of bushmen trotting down the trail, and had hidden in
the bush. Here, and from the direction of the main camp, he had
heard two rifle shots. And that was all. He had never seen the
white men again, nor had he ventured near their old camp. He had
gone back to Tudor, and hidden with him for a week, living on wild
fruits and the few pigeons and cockatoos he had been able to shoot
with bow and arrow. Then he had journeyed down to Berande to bring
the news. Tudor, he said, was very sick, lying unconscious for
days at a time, and, when in his right mind, too weak to help
himself.

"What name you no kill 'm that big fella marster?" Joan demanded.
"He have 'm good fella musket, plenty calico, plenty tobacco,
plenty knife-fee, and two fella pickaninny musket shoot quick,
bang-bang-bang--just like that."

The black smiled cunningly.

"Me savvee too much. S'pose me kill 'm big fella marster, bimeby
plenty white fella marster walk about Binu cross like hell. 'What
name this fellow musket?' those plenty fella white marster talk 'm
along me. My word, Binu Charley finish altogether. S'pose me kill
'm him, no good along me. Plenty white fella marster cross along
me. S'pose me no kill 'm him, bimeby he give me plenty tobacco,
plenty calico, plenty everything too much."

"There is only the one thing to do," Sheldon said to Joan.

She drummed with her hand and waited, while Binu Charley gazed
wearily at her with unblinking eyes.

"I'll start the first thing in the morning," Sheldon said.

"We'll start," she corrected. "I can get twice as much out of my
Tahitians as you can, and, besides, one white should never be alone
under such circumstances."

He shrugged his shoulders in token, not of consent, but of
surrender, knowing the uselessness of attempting to argue the
question with her, and consoling himself with the reflection that
heaven alone knew what adventures she was liable to engage in if
left alone on Berande for a week. He clapped his hands, and for
the next quarter of an hour the house-boys were kept busy carrying
messages to the barracks. A man was sent to Balesuna village to
command old Seelee's immediate presence. A boat's-crew was started
in a whale-boat with word for Boucher to come down. Ammunition was
issued to the Tahitians, and the storeroom overhauled for a few
days' tinned provisions. Viaburi turned yellow when told that he
was to accompany the expedition, and, to everybody's surprise,
Lalaperu volunteered to take his place.

Seelee arrived, proud in his importance that the great master of
Berande should summon him in the night-time for council, and firm
in his refusal to step one inch within the dread domain of the
bushmen. As he said, if his opinion had been asked when the gold-
hunters started, he would have foretold their disastrous end.
There was only one thing that happened to any one who ventured into
the bushmen's territory, and that was that he was eaten. And he
would further say, without being asked, that if Sheldon went up
into the bush he would be eaten too.

Sheldon sent for a gang-boss and told him to bring ten of the
biggest, best, and strongest Poonga-Poonga men.

"Not salt-water boys," Sheldon cautioned, "but bush boys--leg
belong him strong fella leg. Boy no savvee musket, no good. You
bring 'm boy shoot musket strong fella."

They were ten picked men that filed up on the veranda and stood in
the glare of the lanterns. Their heavy, muscular legs advertised
that they were bushmen. Each claimed long experience in bush-
fighting, most of them showed scars of bullet or spear-thrust in
proof, and all were wild for a chance to break the humdrum monotony
of plantation labour by going on a killing expedition. Killing was
their natural vocation, not wood-cutting; and while they would not
have ventured the Guadalcanar bush alone, with a white man like
Sheldon behind them, and a white Mary such as they knew Joan to be,
they could expect a safe and delightful time. Besides, the great
master had told them that the eight gigantic Tahitians were going
along.

The Poonga-Poonga volunteers stood with glistening eyes and
grinning faces, naked save for their loin-cloths, and barbarously
ornamented. Each wore a flat, turtle-shell ring suspended through
his nose, and each carried a clay pipe in an ear-hole or thrust
inside a beaded biceps armlet. A pair of magnificent boar tusks
graced the chest of one. On the chest of another hung a huge disc
of polished fossil clam-shell.

"Plenty strong fella fight," Sheldon warned them in conclusion.

They grinned and shifted delightedly.

"S'pose bushmen kai-kai along you?" he queried.

"No fear," answered their spokesman, one Koogoo, a strapping,
thick-lipped Ethiopian-looking man. "S'pose Poonga-Poonga boy kai-
kai bush-boy?"

Sheldon shook his head, laughing, and dismissed them, and went to
overhaul the dunnage-room for a small shelter tent for Joan's use.

CHAPTER XXIV--IN THE BUSH

It was quite a formidable expedition that departed from Berande at
break of day next morning in a fleet of canoes and dinghies. There
were Joan and Sheldon, with Binu Charley and Lalaperu, the eight
Tahitians, and the ten Poonga-Poonga men, each proud in the
possession of a bright and shining modern rifle. In addition,
there were two of the plantation boat's-crews of six men each.
These, however, were to go no farther than Carli, where water
transportation ceased and where they were to wait with the boats.
Boucher remained behind in charge of Berande.

By eleven in the morning the expedition arrived at Binu, a cluster
of twenty houses on the river bank. And from here thirty odd Binu
men accompanied them, armed with spears and arrows, chattering and
grimacing with delight at the warlike array. The long quiet
stretches of river gave way to swifter water, and progress was
slower and more dogged. The Balesuna grew shallow as well, and
oftener were the loaded boats bumped along and half-lifted over the
bottom. In places timber-falls blocked the passage of the narrow
stream, and the boats and canoes were portaged around. Night
brought them to Carli, and they had the satisfaction of knowing
that they had accomplished in one day what had required two days
for Tudor's expedition.

Here at Carli, next morning, half-way through the grass-lands, the
boat's-crews were left, and with them the horde of Binu men, the
boldest of which held on for a bare mile and then ran scampering
back. Binu Charley, however, was at the fore, and led the way
onward into the rolling foot-hills, following the trail made by
Tudor and his men weeks before. That night they camped well into
the hills and deep in the tropic jungle. The third day found them
on the run-ways of the bushmen--narrow paths that compelled single
file and that turned and twisted with endless convolutions through
the dense undergrowth. For the most part it was a silent forest,
lush and dank, where only occasionally a wood-pigeon cooed or snow-
white cockatoos laughed harshly in laborious flight.

Here, in the mid-morning, the first casualty occurred. Binu
Charley had dropped behind for a time, and Koogoo, the Poonga-
Poonga man who had boasted that he would eat the bushmen, was in
the lead. Joan and Sheldon heard the twanging thrum and saw Koogoo
throw out his arms, at the same time dropping his rifle, stumble
forward, and sink down on his hands and knees. Between his naked
shoulders, low down and to the left, appeared the bone-barbed head
of an arrow. He had been shot through and through. Cocked rifles
swept the bush with nervous apprehension. But there was no rustle,
no movement; nothing but the humid oppressive silence.

"Bushmen he no stop," Binu Charley called out, the sound of his
voice startling more than one of them. "Allee same damn funny
business. That fella Koogoo no look 'm eye belong him. He no
savvee little bit."

Koogoo's arms had crumpled under him, and he lay quivering where he
had fallen. Even as Binu Charley came to the front the stricken
black's breath passed from him, and with a final convulsive stir he
lay still.

"Right through the heart," Sheldon said, straightening up from the
stooping examination. "It must have been a trap of some sort."

He noticed Joan's white, tense face, and the wide eyes with which
she stared at the wreck of what had been a man the minute before.

"I recruited that boy myself," she said in a whisper. "He came
down out of the bush at Poonga-Poonga and right on board the Martha
and offered himself. And I was proud. He was my very first
recruit--"

"My word! Look 'm that fella," Binu Charley interrupted, brushing
aside the leafy wall of the run-way and exposing a bow so massive
that no one bushman could have bent it.

The Binu man traced out the mechanics of the trap, and exposed the
hidden fibre in the tangled undergrowth that at contact with
Koogoo's foot had released the taut bow.

They were deep in the primeval forest. A dim twilight prevailed,
for no random shaft of sunlight broke through the thick roof of
leaves and creepers overhead. The Tahitians were plainly awed by
the silence and gloom and mystery of the place and happening, but
they showed themselves doggedly unafraid, and were for pushing on.
The Poonga-Poonga men, on the contrary, were not awed. They were
bushmen themselves, and they were used to this silent warfare,
though the devices were different from those employed by them in
their own bush. Most awed of all were Joan and Sheldon, but, being
whites, they were not supposed to be subject to such commonplace
emotions, and their task was to carry the situation off with
careless bravado as befitted "big fella marsters" of the dominant
breed.

Binu Charley took the lead as they pushed on, and trap after trap
yielded its secret lurking-place to his keen scrutiny. The way was
beset with a thousand annoyances, chiefest among which were thorns,
cunningly concealed, that penetrated the bare feet of the invaders.
Once, during the afternoon, Binu Charley barely missed being
impaled in a staked pit that undermined the trail. There were
times when all stood still and waited for half an hour or more
while Binu Charley prospected suspicious parts of the trail.
Sometimes he was compelled to leave the trail and creep and climb
through the jungle so as to approach the man-traps from behind; and
on one occasion, in spite of his precaution, a spring-bow was
discharged, the flying arrow barely clipping the shoulder of one of
the waiting Poonga-Poonga boys.

Where a slight run-way entered the main one, Sheldon paused and
asked Binu Charley if he knew where it led.

"Plenty bush fella garden he stop along there short way little
bit," was the answer. "All right you like 'm go look 'm along."

"'Walk 'm easy," he cautioned, a few minutes later. "Close up,
that fella garden. S'pose some bush fella he stop, we catch 'm."

Creeping ahead and peering into the clearing for a moment, Binu
Charley beckoned Sheldon to come on cautiously. Joan crouched
beside him, and together they peeped out. The cleared space was
fully half an acre in extent and carefully fenced against the wild
pigs. Paw-paw and banana-trees were just ripening their fruit,
while beneath grew sweet potatoes and yams. On one edge of the
clearing was a small grass house, open-sided, a mere rain-shelter.
In front of it, crouched on his hams before a fire, was a gaunt and
bearded bushman. The fire seemed to smoke excessively, and in the
thick of the smoke a round dark object hung suspended. The bushman
seemed absorbed in contemplation of this object.

Warning them not to shoot unless the man was successfully escaping,
Sheldon beckoned the Poonga-Poonga men forward. Joan smiled
appreciatively to Sheldon. It was head-hunters against head-
hunters. The blacks trod noiselessly to their stations, which were
arranged so that they could spring simultaneously into the open.
Their faces were keen and serious, their eyes eloquent with the
ecstasy of living that was upon them--for this was living, this
game of life and death, and to them it was the only game a man
should play, withal they played it in low and cowardly ways,
killing from behind in the dim forest gloom and rarely coming out
into the open.

Sheldon whispered the word, and the ten runners leaped forward--for
Binu Charley ran with them. The bushman's keen ears warned him,
and he sprang to his feet, bow and arrow in hand, the arrow fixed
in the notch and the bow bending as he sprang. The man he let
drive at dodged the arrow, and before he could shoot another his
enemies were upon him. He was rolled over and over and dragged to
his feet, disarmed and helpless.

"Why, he's an ancient Babylonian!" Joan cried, regarding him.
"He's an Assyrian, a Phoenician! Look at that straight nose, that
narrow face, those high cheek-bones--and that slanting, oval
forehead, and the beard, and the eyes, too."

"And the snaky locks," Sheldon laughed.

The bushman was in mortal fear, led by all his training to expect
nothing less than death; yet he did not cower away from them.
Instead, he returned their looks with lean self-sufficiency, and
finally centred his gaze upon Joan, the first white woman he had
ever seen.

"My word, bush fella kai-kai along that fella boy," Binu Charley
remarked.

So stolid was his manner of utterance that Joan turned carelessly
to see what had attracted his attention, and found herself face to
face with Gogoomy. At least, it was the head of Gogoomy--the dark
object they had seen hanging in the smoke. It was fresh--the
smoke-curing had just begun--and, save for the closed eyes, all the
sullen handsomeness and animal virility of the boy, as Joan had
known it, was still to be seen in the monstrous thing that twisted
and dangled in the eddying smoke.

Nor was Joan's horror lessened by the conduct of the Poonga-Poonga
boys. On the instant they recognized the head, and on the instant
rose their wild hearty laughter as they explained to one another in
shrill falsetto voices. Gogoomy's end was a joke. He had been
foiled in his attempt to escape. He had played the game and lost.
And what greater joke could there be than that the bushmen should
have eaten him? It was the funniest incident that had come under
their notice in many a day. And to them there was certainly
nothing unusual nor bizarre in the event. Gogoomy had completed
the life-cycle of the bushman. He had taken heads, and now his own
head had been taken. He had eaten men, and now he had been eaten
by men.

The Poonga-Poonga men's laughter died down, and they regarded the
spectacle with glittering eyes and gluttonous expressions. The
Tahitians, on the other hand, were shocked, and Adamu Adam was
shaking his head slowly and grunting forth his disgust. Joan was
angry. Her face was white, but in each cheek was a vivid spray of
red. Disgust had been displaced by wrath, and her mood was clearly
vengeful.

Sheldon laughed.

"It's nothing to be angry over," he said. "You mustn't forget that
he hacked off Kwaque's head, and that he ate one of his own
comrades that ran away with him. Besides, he was born to it. He
has but been eaten out of the same trough from which he himself has
eaten."

Joan looked at him with lips that trembled on the verge of speech.

"And don't forget," Sheldon added, "that he is the son of a chief,
and that as sure as fate his Port Adams tribesmen will take a white
man's head in payment."

"It is all so ghastly ridiculous," Joan finally said.

"And--er--romantic," he suggested slyly.

She did not answer, and turned away; but Sheldon knew that the
shaft had gone home.

"That fella boy he sick, belly belong him walk about," Binu Charley
said, pointing to the Poonga-Poonga man whose shoulder had been
scratched by the arrow an hour before.

The boy was sitting down and groaning, his arms clasping his bent
knees, his head drooped forward and rolling painfully back and
forth. For fear of poison, Sheldon had immediately scarified the
wound and injected permanganate of potash; but in spite of the
precaution the shoulder was swelling rapidly.

"We'll take him on to where Tudor is lying," Joan said. "The
walking will help to keep up his circulation and scatter the
poison. Adamu Adam, you take hold that boy. Maybe he will want to
sleep. Shake him up. If he sleep he die."

The advance was more rapid now, for Binu Charley placed the captive
bushman in front of him and made him clear the run-way of traps.
Once, at a sharp turn where a man's shoulder would unavoidably
brush against a screen of leaves, the bushman displayed great
caution as he spread the leaves aside and exposed the head of a
sharp-pointed spear, so set that the casual passer-by would receive
at the least a nasty scratch.

"My word," said Binu Charley, "that fella spear allee same devil-
devil."

He took the spear and was examining it when suddenly he made as if
to stick it into the bushman. It was a bit of simulated
playfulness, but the bushman sprang back in evident fright.
Poisoned the weapon was beyond any doubt, and thereafter Binu
Charley carried it threateningly at the prisoner's back.

The sun, sinking behind a lofty western peak, brought on an early
but lingering twilight, and the expedition plodded on through the
evil forest--the place of mystery and fear, of death swift and
silent and horrible, of brutish appetite and degraded instinct, of
human life that still wallowed in the primeval slime, of savagery
degenerate and abysmal. No slightest breezes blew in the gloomy
silence, and the air was stale and humid and suffocating. The
sweat poured unceasingly from their bodies, and in their nostrils
was the heavy smell of rotting vegetation and of black earth that
was a-crawl with fecund life.

They turned aside from the run-way at a place indicated by Binu
Charley, and, sometimes crawling on hands and knees through the
damp black muck, at other times creeping and climbing through the
tangled undergrowth a dozen feet from the ground, they came to an
immense banyan tree, half an acre in extent, that made in the
innermost heart of the jungle a denser jungle of its own. From out
of its black depths came the voice of a man singing in a cracked,
eerie voice.

"My word, that big fella marster he no die!"

The singing stopped, and the voice, faint and weak, called out a
hello. Joan answered, and then the voice explained.

"I'm not wandering. I was just singing to keep my spirits up.
Have you got anything to eat?"

A few minutes saw the rescued man lying among blankets, while fires
were building, water was being carried, Joan's tent was going up,
and Lalaperu was overhauling the packs and opening tins of
provisions. Tudor, having pulled through the fever and started to
mend, was still frightfully weak and very much starved. So badly
swollen was he from mosquito-bites that his face was
unrecognizable, and the acceptance of his identity was largely a
matter of faith. Joan had her own ointments along, and she
prefaced their application by fomenting his swollen features with
hot cloths. Sheldon, with an eye to the camp and the preparations
for the night, looked on and felt the pangs of jealousy at every
contact of her hands with Tudor's face and body. Somehow, engaged
in their healing ministrations, they no longer seemed to him boy's
hands, the hands of Joan who had gazed at Gogoomy's head with pale
cheeks sprayed with angry flame. The hands were now a woman's
hands, and Sheldon grinned to himself as his fancy suggested that
some night he must lie outside the mosquito-netting in order to
have Joan apply soothing fomentations in the morning.

CHAPTER XXV--THE HEAD-HUNTERS

The morning's action had been settled the night before. Tudor was
to stay behind in his banyan refuge and gather strength while the
expedition proceeded. On the far chance that they might rescue
even one solitary survivor of Tudor's party, Joan was fixed in her
determination to push on; and neither Sheldon nor Tudor could
persuade her to remain quietly at the banyan tree while Sheldon
went on and searched. With Tudor, Adamu Adam and Arahu were to
stop as guards, the latter Tahitian being selected to remain
because of a bad foot which had been brought about by stepping on
one of the thorns concealed by the bushmen. It was evidently a
slow poison, and not too strong, that the bushmen used, for the
wounded Poonga-Poonga man was still alive, and though his swollen
shoulder was enormous, the inflammation had already begun to go
down. He, too, remained with Tudor.

Binu Charley led the way, by proxy, however, for, by means of the
poisoned spear, he drove the captive bushman ahead. The run-way
still ran through the dank and rotten jungle, and they knew no
villages would be encountered till rising ground was gained. They
plodded on, panting and sweating in the humid, stagnant air. They
were immersed in a sea of wanton, prodigal vegetation. All about
them the huge-rooted trees blocked their footing, while coiled and
knotted climbers, of the girth of a man's arm, were thrown from
lofty branch to lofty branch, or hung in tangled masses like so
many monstrous snakes. Lush-stalked plants, larger-leaved than the
body of a man, exuded a sweaty moisture from all their surfaces.
Here and there, banyan trees, like rocky islands, shouldered aside
the streaming riot of vegetation between their crowded columns,
showing portals and passages wherein all daylight was lost and only
midnight gloom remained. Tree-ferns and mosses and a myriad other
parasitic forms jostled with gay-coloured fungoid growths for room
to live, and the very atmosphere itself seemed to afford clinging
space to airy fairy creepers, light and delicate as gem-dust,
tremulous with microscopic blooms. Pale-golden and vermilion
orchids flaunted their unhealthy blossoms in the golden, dripping
sunshine that filtered through the matted roof. It was the
mysterious, evil forest, a charnel house of silence, wherein naught
moved save strange tiny birds--the strangeness of them making the
mystery more profound, for they flitted on noiseless wings,
emitting neither song nor chirp, and they were mottled with morbid
colours, having all the seeming of orchids, flying blossoms of
sickness and decay.

He was caught by surprise, fifteen feet in the air above the path,
in the forks of a many-branched tree. All saw him as he dropped
like a shadow, naked as on his natal morn, landing springily on his
bent knees, and like a shadow leaping along the run-way. It was
hard for them to realize that it was a man, for he seemed a weird
jungle spirit, a goblin of the forest. Only Binu Charley was not
perturbed. He flung his poisoned spear over the head of the
captive at the flitting form. It was a mighty cast, well intended,
but the shadow, leaping, received the spear harmlessly between the
legs, and, tripping upon it, was flung sprawling. Before he could
get away, Binu Charley was upon him, clutching him by his snow-
white hair. He was only a young man, and a dandy at that, his face
blackened with charcoal, his hair whitened with wood-ashes, with
the freshly severed tail of a wild pig thrust through his
perforated nose, and two more thrust through his ears. His only
other ornament was a necklace of human finger-bones. At sight of
their other prisoner he chattered in a high querulous falsetto,
with puckered brows and troubled, wild-animal eyes. He was
disposed of along the middle of the line, one of the Poonga-Poonga
men leading him at the end of a length of bark-rope.

The trail began to rise out of the jungle, dipping at times into
festering hollows of unwholesome vegetation, but rising more and
more over swelling, unseen hill-slopes or climbing steep hog-backs
and rocky hummocks where the forest thinned and blue patches of sky
appeared overhead.

"Close up he stop," Binu Charley warned them in a whisper.

Even as he spoke, from high overhead came the deep resonant boom of
a village drum. But the beat was slow, there was no panic in the
sound. They were directly beneath the village, and they could hear
the crowing of roosters, two women's voices raised in brief
dispute, and, once, the crying of a child. The run-way now became
a deeply worn path, rising so steeply that several times the party
paused for breath. The path never widened, and in places the feet
and the rains of generations had scoured it till it was sunken
twenty feet beneath the surface.

"One man with a rifle could hold it against a thousand," Sheldon
whispered to Joan. "And twenty men could hold it with spears and
arrows."

They came out on the village, situated on a small, upland plateau,
grass-covered, and with only occasional trees. There was a wild
chorus of warning cries from the women, who scurried out of the
grass houses, and like frightened quail dived over the opposite
edge of the clearing, gathering up their babies and children as
they ran. At the same time spears and arrows began to fall among
the invaders. At Sheldon's command, the Tahitians and Poonga-
Poonga men got into action with their rifles. The spears and
arrows ceased, the last bushman disappeared, and the fight was over
almost as soon as it had begun. On their own side no one had been
hurt, while half a dozen bushmen had been killed. These alone
remained, the wounded having been carried off. The Tahitians and
Poonga-Poonga men had warmed up and were for pursuit, but this
Sheldon would not permit. To his pleased surprise, Joan backed him
up in the decision; for, glancing at her once during the firing, he
had seen her white face, like a glittering sword in its fighting
intensity, the nostrils dilated, the eyes bright and steady and
shining.

"Poor brutes," she said. "They act only according to their
natures. To eat their kind and take heads is good morality for
them."

"But they should be taught not to take white men's heads," Sheldon
argued.

She nodded approval, and said, "If we find one head we'll burn the
village. Hey, you, Charley! What fella place head he stop?"

"S'pose he stop along devil-devil house," was the answer. "That
big fella house, he devil-devil."

It was the largest house in the village, ambitiously ornamented
with fancy-plaited mats and king-posts carved into obscene and
monstrous forms half-human and half-animal. Into it they went, in
the obscure light stumbling across the sleeping-logs of the village
bachelors and knocking their heads against strings of weird votive-
offerings, dried and shrivelled, that hung from the roof-beams. On
either side were rude gods, some grotesquely carved, others no more
than shapeless logs swathed in rotten and indescribably filthy
matting. The air was mouldy and heavy with decay, while strings of
fish-tails and of half-cleaned dog and crocodile skulls did not add
to the wholesomeness of the place.

In the centre, crouched before a slow-smoking fire, in the littered
ashes of a thousand fires, was an old man who blinked apathetically
at the invaders. He was extremely old--so old that his withered
skin hung about him in loose folds and did not look like skin. His
hands were bony claws, his emaciated face a sheer death's-head.
His task, it seemed, was to tend the fire, and while he blinked at
them he added to it a handful of dead and mouldy wood. And hung in
the smoke they found the object of their search. Joan turned and
stumbled out hastily, deathly sick, reeling into the sunshine and
clutching at the air for support.

"See if all are there," she called back faintly, and tottered
aimlessly on for a few steps, breathing the air in great draughts
and trying to forget the sight she had seen.

Upon Sheldon fell the unpleasant task of tallying the heads. They
were all there, nine of them, white men's heads, the faces of which
he had been familiar with when their owners had camped in Berande
compound and set up the poling-boats. Binu Charley, hugely
interested, lent a hand, turning the heads around for
identification, noting the hatchet-strokes, and remarking the
distorted expressions. The Poonga-Poonga men gloated as usual, and
as usual the Tahitians were shocked and angry, several of them
cursing and muttering in undertones. So angry was Matapuu, that he
strode suddenly over to the fire-tender and kicked him in the ribs,
whereupon the old savage emitted an appalling squeal, pig-like in
its wild-animal fear, and fell face downward in the ashes and lay
quivering in momentary expectation of death.

Other heads, thoroughly sun-dried and smoke-cured, were found in
abundance, but, with two exceptions, they were the heads of blacks.
So this was the manner of hunting that went on in the dark and evil
forest, Sheldon thought, as he regarded them. The atmosphere of
the place was sickening, yet he could not forbear to pause before
one of Binu Charley's finds.

"Me savvee black Mary, me savvee white Mary," quoth Binu Charley.
"Me no savvee that fella Mary. What name belong him?"

Sheldon looked. Ancient and withered, blackened by many years of
the smoke of the devil-devil house, nevertheless the shrunken,
mummy-like face was unmistakably Chinese. How it had come there
was the mystery. It was a woman's head, and he had never heard of
a Chinese woman in the history of the Solomons. From the ears hung
two-inch-long ear-rings, and at Sheldon's direction the Binu man
rubbed away the accretions of smoke and dirt, and from under his
fingers appeared the polished green of jade, the sheen of pearl,
and the warm red of Oriental gold. The other head, equally
ancient, was a white man's, as the heavy blond moustache, twisted
and askew on the shrivelled upper lip, gave sufficient
advertisement; and Sheldon wondered what forgotten beche-de-mer
fisherman or sandalwood trader had gone to furnish that ghastly
trophy.

Telling Binu Charley to remove the ear-rings, and directing the
Poonga-Poonga men to carry out the old fire-tender, Sheldon cleared
the devil-devil house and set fire to it. Soon every house was
blazing merrily, while the ancient fire-tender sat upright in the
sunshine blinking at the destruction of his village. From the
heights above, where were evidently other villages, came the
booming of drums and a wild blowing of war-conchs; but Sheldon had
dared all he cared to with his small following. Besides, his
mission was accomplished. Every member of Tudor's expedition was
accounted for; and it was a long, dark way out of the head-hunters'
country. Releasing their two prisoners, who leaped away like
startled deer, they plunged down the steep path into the steaming
jungle.

Joan, still shocked by what she had seen, walked on in front of
Sheldon, subdued and silent. At the end of half an hour she turned
to him with a wan smile and said, -

"I don't think I care to visit the head-hunters any more. It's
adventure, I know; but there is such a thing as having too much of
a good thing. Riding around the plantation will henceforth be good
enough for me, or perhaps salving another Martha; but the bushmen
of Guadalcanar need never worry for fear that I shall visit them
again. I shall have nightmares for months to come, I know I shall.
Ugh!--the horrid beasts!"

That night found them back in camp with Tudor, who, while improved,
would still have to be carried down on a stretcher. The swelling
of the Poonga-Poonga man's shoulder was going down slowly, but
Arahu still limped on his thorn-poisoned foot.

Two days later they rejoined the boats at Carli; and at high noon
of the third day, travelling with the current and shooting the
rapids, the expedition arrived at Berande. Joan, with a sigh,
unbuckled her revolver-belt and hung it on the nail in the living-
room, while Sheldon, who had been lurking about for the sheer joy
of seeing her perform that particular home-coming act, sighed, too,
with satisfaction. But the home-coming was not all joy to him, for
Joan set about nursing Tudor, and spent much time on the veranda
where he lay in the hammock under the mosquito-netting.

CHAPTER XXVI--BURNING DAYLIGHT

The ten days of Tudor's convalescence that followed were peaceful
days on Berande. The work of the plantation went on like clock-
work. With the crushing of the premature outbreak of Gogoomy and
his following, all insubordination seemed to have vanished. Twenty
more of the old-time boys, their term of service up, were carried
away by the Martha, and the fresh stock of labour, treated fairly,
was proving of excellent quality. As Sheldon rode about the
plantation, acknowledging to himself the comfort and convenience of
a horse and wondering why he had not thought of getting one
himself, he pondered the various improvements for which Joan was
responsible--the splendid Poonga-Poonga recruits; the fruits and
vegetables; the Martha herself, snatched from the sea for a song
and earning money hand over fist despite old Kinross's slow and
safe method of running her; and Berande, once more financially
secure, approaching each day nearer the dividend-paying time, and
growing each day as the black toilers cleared the bush, cut the
cane-grass, and planted more cocoanut palms.

In these and a thousand ways Sheldon was made aware of how much he
was indebted for material prosperity to Joan--to the slender,
level-browed girl with romance shining out of her gray eyes and
adventure shouting from the long-barrelled Colt's on her hip, who
had landed on the beach that piping gale, along with her stalwart
Tahitian crew, and who had entered his bungalow to hang with boy's
hands her revolver-belt and Baden-Powell hat on the nail by the
billiard table. He forgot all the early exasperations, remembering
only her charms and sweetnesses and glorying much in the traits he
at first had disliked most--her boyishness and adventurousness, her
delight to swim and risk the sharks, her desire to go recruiting,
her love of the sea and ships, her sharp authoritative words when
she launched the whale-boat and, with firestick in one hand and
dynamite-stick in the other, departed with her picturesque crew to
shoot fish in the Balesuna; her super-innocent disdain for the
commonest conventions, her juvenile joy in argument, her
fluttering, wild-bird love of freedom and mad passion for
independence. All this he now loved, and he no longer desired to
tame and hold her, though the paradox was the winning of her
without the taming and the holding.

There were times when he was dizzy with thought of her and love of
her, when he would stop his horse and with closed eyes picture her
as he had seen her that first day, in the stern-sheets of the
whale-boat, dashing madly in to shore and marching belligerently
along his veranda to remark that it was pretty hospitality this
letting strangers sink or swim in his front yard. And as he opened
his eyes and urged his horse onward, he would ponder for the ten
thousandth time how possibly he was ever to hold her when she was
so wild and bird-like that she was bound to flutter out and away
from under his hand.

It was patent to Sheldon that Tudor had become interested in Joan.
That convalescent visitor practically lived on the veranda, though,
while preposterously weak and shaky in the legs, he had for some
time insisted on coming in to join them at the table at meals. The
first warning Sheldon had of the other's growing interest in the
girl was when Tudor eased down and finally ceased pricking him with
his habitual sharpness of quip and speech. This cessation of
verbal sparring was like the breaking off of diplomatic relations
between countries at the beginning of war, and, once Sheldon's
suspicions were aroused, he was not long in finding other
confirmations. Tudor too obviously joyed in Joan's presence, too
obviously laid himself out to amuse and fascinate her with his own
glorious and adventurous personality. Often, after his morning
ride over the plantation, or coming in from the store or from
inspection of the copra-drying, Sheldon found the pair of them
together on the veranda, Joan listening, intent and excited, and
Tudor deep in some recital of personal adventure at the ends of the
earth.

Sheldon noticed, too, the way Tudor looked at her and followed her
about with his eyes, and in those eyes he noted a certain hungry
look, and on the face a certain wistful expression; and he wondered
if on his own face he carried a similar involuntary advertisement.
He was sure of several things: first, that Tudor was not the right
man for Joan and could not possibly make her permanently happy;
next, that Joan was too sensible a girl really to fall in love with
a man of such superficial stamp; and, finally, that Tudor would
blunder his love-making somehow. And at the same time, with true
lover's anxiety, Sheldon feared that the other might somehow fail
to blunder, and win the girl with purely fortuitous and successful
meretricious show. But of the one thing Sheldon was sure: Tudor
had no intimate knowledge of her and was unaware of how vital in
her was her wildness and love of independence. That was where he
would blunder--in the catching and the holding of her. And then,
in spite of all his certitude, Sheldon could not forbear wondering
if his theories of Joan might not be wrong, and if Tudor was not
going the right way about after all.

The situation was very unsatisfactory and perplexing. Sheldon
played the difficult part of waiting and looking on, while his
rival devoted himself energetically to reaching out and grasping at
the fluttering prize. Then, again, Tudor had such an irritating
way about him. It had become quite elusive and intangible, now
that he had tacitly severed diplomatic relations; but Sheldon
sensed what he deemed a growing antagonism and promptly magnified
it through the jealous lenses of his own lover's eyes. The other
was an interloper. He did not belong to Berande, and now that he
was well and strong again it was time for him to go. Instead of
which, and despite the calling in of the mail steamer bound for
Sydney, Tudor had settled himself down comfortably, resumed
swimming, went dynamiting fish with Joan, spent hours with her
hunting pigeons, trapping crocodiles, and at target practice with
rifle and revolver.

But there were certain traditions of hospitality that prevented
Sheldon from breathing a hint that it was time for his guest to
take himself off. And in similar fashion, feeling that it was not
playing the game, he fought down the temptation to warn Joan. Had
he known anything, not too serious, to Tudor's detriment, he would
have been unable to utter it; but the worst of it was that he knew
nothing at all against the man. That was the confounded part of
it, and sometimes he was so baffled and overwrought by his feelings
that he assumed a super-judicial calm and assured himself that his
dislike of Tudor was a matter of unsubstantial prejudice and
jealousy.

Outwardly, he maintained a calm and smiling aspect. The work of
the plantation went on. The Martha and the Flibberty-Gibbet came
and went, as did all the miscellany of coasting craft that dropped
in to wait for a breeze and have a gossip, a drink or two, and a
game of billiards. Satan kept the compound free of niggers.
Boucher came down regularly in his whale-boat to pass Sunday.
Twice a day, at breakfast and dinner, Joan and Sheldon and Tudor
met amicably at table, and the evenings were as amicably spent on
the veranda.

And then it happened. Tudor made his blunder. Never divining
Joan's fluttering wildness, her blind hatred of restraint and
compulsion, her abhorrence of mastery by another, and mistaking the
warmth and enthusiasm in her eyes (aroused by his latest tale) for
something tender and acquiescent, he drew her to him, laid a
forcible detaining arm about her waist, and misapprehended her
frantic revolt for an exhibition of maidenly reluctance. It
occurred on the veranda, after breakfast, and Sheldon, within,
pondering a Sydney wholesaler's catalogue and making up his orders
for next steamer-day, heard the sharp exclamation of Joan, followed
by the equally sharp impact of an open hand against a cheek.
Jerking free from the arm that was all distasteful compulsion, Joan
had slapped Tudor's face resoundingly and with far more vim and
weight than when she had cuffed Gogoomy.

Sheldon had half-started up, then controlled himself and sunk back
in his chair, so that by the time Joan entered the door his
composure was recovered. Her right fore-arm was clutched tightly
in her left hand, while the white cheeks, centred with the spots of
flaming red, reminded him of the time he had first seen her angry.

"He hurt my arm," she blurted out, in reply to his look of inquiry.

He smiled involuntarily. It was so like her, so like the boy she
was, to come running to complain of the physical hurt which had
been done her. She was certainly not a woman versed in the ways of
man and in the ways of handling man. The resounding slap she had
given Tudor seemed still echoing in Sheldon's ears, and as he
looked at the girl before him crying out that her arm was hurt, his
smile grew broader.

It was the smile that did it, convicting Joan in her own eyes of
the silliness of her cry and sending over her face the most amazing
blush he had ever seen. Throat, cheeks, and forehead flamed with
the rush of the shamed blood.

"He--he--" she attempted to vindicate her deeper indignation, then
whirled abruptly away and passed out the rear door and down the
steps.

Sheldon sat and mused. He was a trifle angry, and the more he
dwelt upon the happening the angrier he grew. If it had been any
woman except Joan it would have been amusing. But Joan was the
last woman in the world to attempt to kiss forcibly. The thing
smacked of the back stairs anyway--a sordid little comedy perhaps,
but to have tried it on Joan was nothing less than sacrilege. The
man should have had better sense. Then, too, Sheldon was
personally aggrieved. He had been filched of something that he
felt was almost his, and his lover's jealousy was rampant at
thought of this forced familiarity.

It was while in this mood that the screen door banged loudly behind
the heels of Tudor, who strode into the room and paused before him.
Sheldon was unprepared, though it was very apparent that the other
was furious.

"Well?" Tudor demanded defiantly.

And on the instant speech rushed to Sheldon's lips.

"I hope you won't attempt anything like it again, that's all--
except that I shall be only too happy any time to extend to you the
courtesy of my whale-boat. It will land you in Tulagi in a few
hours."

"As if that would settle it," was the retort.

"I don't understand," Sheldon said simply.

"Then it is because you don't wish to understand."

"Still I don't understand," Sheldon said in steady, level tones.
"All that is clear to me is that you are exaggerating your own
blunder into something serious."

Tudor grinned maliciously and replied, -

"It would seem that you are doing the exaggerating, inviting me to
leave in your whale-boat. It is telling me that Berande is not big
enough for the pair of us. Now let me tell you that the Solomon
Islands is not big enough for the pair of us. This thing's got to
be settled between us, and it may as well be settled right here and
now."

"I can understand your fire-eating manners as being natural to
you," Sheldon went on wearily, "but why you should try them on me
is what I can't comprehend. You surely don't want to quarrel with
me."

"I certainly do."

"But what in heaven's name for?"

Tudor surveyed him with withering disgust.

"You haven't the soul of a louse. I suppose any man could make
love to your wife--"

"But I have no wife," Sheldon interrupted.

"Then you ought to have. The situation is outrageous. You might
at least marry her, as I am honourably willing to do."

For the first time Sheldon's rising anger boiled over.

"You--" he began violently, then abruptly caught control of himself
and went on soothingly, "you'd better take a drink and think it
over. That's my advice to you. Of course, when you do get cool,
after talking to me in this fashion you won't want to stay on any
longer, so while you're getting that drink I'll call the boat's-
crew and launch a boat. You'll be in Tulagi by eight this
evening."

He turned toward the door, as if to put his words into execution,
but the other caught him by the shoulder and twirled him around.

"Look here, Sheldon, I told you the Solomons were too small for the
pair of us, and I meant it."

"Is that an offer to buy Berande, lock, stock, and barrel?" Sheldon
queried.

"No, it isn't. It's an invitation to fight."

"But what the devil do you want to fight with me for?" Sheldon's
irritation was growing at the other's persistence. "I've no
quarrel with you. And what quarrel can you have with me? I have
never interfered with you. You were my guest. Miss Lackland is my
partner. If you saw fit to make love to her, and somehow failed to
succeed, why should you want to fight with me? This is the
twentieth century, my dear fellow, and duelling went out of fashion
before you and I were born."

"You began the row," Tudor doggedly asserted. "You gave me to
understand that it was time for me to go. You fired me out of your
house, in short. And then you have the cheek to want to know why I
am starting the row. It won't do, I tell you. You started it, and
I am going to see it through."

Sheldon smiled tolerantly and proceeded to light a cigarette. But
Tudor was not to be turned aside.

"You started this row," he urged.

"There isn't any row. It takes two to make a row, and I, for one,
refuse to have anything to do with such tomfoolery."

"You started it, I say, and I'll tell you why you started it."

"I fancy you've been drinking," Sheldon interposed. "It's the only
explanation I can find for your unreasonableness."

"And I'll tell you why you started it. It wasn't silliness on your
part to exaggerate this little trifle of love-making into something
serious. I was poaching on your preserves, and you wanted to get
rid of me. It was all very nice and snug here, you and the girl,
until I came along. And now you're jealous--that's it, jealousy--
and want me out of it. But I won't go."

"Then stay on by all means. I won't quarrel with you about it.
Make yourself comfortable. Stay for a year, if you wish."

"She's not your wife," Tudor continued, as though the other had not
spoken. "A fellow has the right to make love to her unless she's
your--well, perhaps it was an error after all, due to ignorance,
perfectly excusable, on my part. I might have seen it with half an
eye if I'd listened to the gossip on the beach. All Guvutu and
Tulagi were laughing about it. I was a fool, and I certainly made
the mistake of taking the situation on its assumed innocent face-
value."

So angry was Sheldon becoming that the face and form of the other
seemed to vibrate and oscillate before his eyes. Yet outwardly
Sheldon was calm and apparently weary of the discussion.

"Please keep her out of the conversation," he said.

"But why should I?" was the demand. "The pair of you trapped me
into making a fool of myself. How was I to know that everything
was not all right? You and she acted as if everything were on the
square. But my eyes are open now. Why, she played the outraged
wife to perfection, slapped the transgressor and fled to you.
Pretty good proof of what all the beach has been saying. Partners,
eh?--a business partnership? Gammon my eye, that's what it is."

Then it was that Sheldon struck out, coolly and deliberately, with
all the strength of his arm, and Tudor, caught on the jaw, fell
sideways, crumpling as he did so and crushing a chair to kindling
wood beneath the weight of his falling body. He pulled himself
slowly to his feet, but did not offer to rush.

"Now will you fight?" Tudor said grimly.

Sheldon laughed, and for the first time with true spontaneity. The
intrinsic ridiculousness of the situation was too much for his
sense of humour. He made as if to repeat the blow, but Tudor,
white of face, with arms hanging resistlessly at his sides, offered
no defence.

"I don't mean a fight with fists," he said slowly. "I mean to a
finish, to the death. You're a good shot with revolver and rifle.
So am I. That's the way we'll settle it."

"You have gone clean mad. You are a lunatic."

"No, I'm not," Tudor retorted. "I'm a man in love. And once again
I ask you to go outside and settle it, with any weapons you
choose."

Sheldon regarded him for the first time with genuine seriousness,
wondering what strange maggots could be gnawing in his brain to
drive him to such unusual conduct.

"But men don't act this way in real life," Sheldon remarked.

"You'll find I'm pretty real before you're done with me. I'm going
to kill you to-day."

"Bosh and nonsense, man." This time Sheldon had lost his temper
over the superficial aspects of the situation. "Bosh and nonsense,
that's all it is. Men don't fight duels in the twentieth century.
It's--it's antediluvian, I tell you."

"Speaking of Joan--"

"Please keep her name out of it," Sheldon warned him.

"I will, if you'll fight."

Sheldon threw up his arms despairingly.

"Speaking of Joan--"

"Look out," Sheldon warned again.

"Oh, go ahead, knock me down. But that won't close my mouth. You
can knock me down all day, but as fast as I get to my feet I'll
speak of Joan again. Now will you fight?"

"Listen to me, Tudor," Sheldon began, with an effort at
decisiveness. "I am not used to taking from men a tithe of what
I've already taken from you."

"You'll take a lot more before the day's out," was the answer. "I
tell you, you simply must fight. I'll give you a fair chance to
kill me, but I'll kill you before the day's out. This isn't
civilization. It's the Solomon Islands, and a pretty primitive
proposition for all that. King Edward and law and order are
represented by the Commissioner at Tulagi and an occasional
visiting gunboat. And two men and one woman is an equally
primitive proposition. We'll settle it in the good old primitive
way."

As Sheldon looked at him the thought came to his mind that after
all there might be something in the other's wild adventures over
the earth. It required a man of that calibre, a man capable of
obtruding a duel into orderly twentieth century life, to find such
wild adventures.

"There's only one way to stop me," Tudor went on. "I can't insult
you directly, I know. You are too easy-going, or cowardly, or
both, for that. But I can narrate for you the talk of the beach--
ah, that grinds you, doesn't it? I can tell you what the beach has
to say about you and this young girl running a plantation under a
business partnership."

"Stop!" Sheldon cried, for the other was beginning to vibrate and
oscillate before his eyes. "You want a duel. I'll give it to
you." Then his common-sense and dislike for the ridiculous
asserted themselves, and he added, "But it's absurd, impossible."

"Joan and David--partners, eh? Joan and David--partners," Tudor
began to iterate and reiterate in a malicious and scornful chant.

"For heaven's sake keep quiet, and I'll let you have your way,"
Sheldon cried. "I never saw a fool so bent on his folly. What
kind of a duel shall it be? There are no seconds. What weapons
shall we use?"

Immediately Tudor's monkey-like impishness left him, and he was
once more the cool, self-possessed man of the world.

"I've often thought that the ideal duel should be somewhat
different from the conventional one," he said. "I've fought
several of that sort, you know--"

"French ones," Sheldon interrupted.

"Call them that. But speaking of this ideal duel, here it is. No
seconds, of course, and no onlookers. The two principals alone are
necessary. They may use any weapons they please, from revolvers
and rifles to machine guns and pompoms. They start a mile apart,
and advance on each other, taking advantage of cover, retreating,
circling, feinting--anything and everything permissible. In short,
the principals shall hunt each other--"

"Like a couple of wild Indians?"

"Precisely," cried Tudor, delighted. "You've got the idea. And
Berande is just the place, and this is just the right time. Miss
Lackland will be taking her siesta, and she'll think we are. We've
got two hours for it before she wakes. So hurry up and come on.
You start out from the Balesuna and I start from the Berande.
Those two rivers are the boundaries of the plantation, aren't they?
Very well. The field of the duel will be the plantation. Neither
principal must go outside its boundaries. Are you satisfied?"

"Quite. But have you any objections if I leave some orders?"

"Not at all," Tudor acquiesced, the pink of courtesy now that his
wish had been granted.

Sheldon clapped his hands, and the running house-boy hurried away
to bring back Adamu Adam and Noa Noah.

"Listen," Sheldon said to them. "This man and me, we have one big
fight to-day. Maybe he die. Maybe I die. If he die, all right.
If I die, you two look after Missie Lackalanna. You take rifles,
and you look after her daytime and night-time. If she want to talk
with Mr. Tudor, all right. If she not want to talk, you make him
keep away. Savvee?"

They grunted and nodded. They had had much to do with white men,
and had learned never to question the strange ways of the strange
breed. If these two saw fit to go out and kill each other, that
was their business and not the business of the islanders, who took
orders from them. They stepped to the gun-rack, and each picked a
rifle.

"Better all Tahitian men have rifles," suggested Adamu Adam.
"Maybe big trouble come."

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