Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Adventure
Author: London, Jack, 1876-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Adventure" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcribed from the 1911 Thomas Nelson and Sons edition by David Price,


ADVENTURE


   "We are those fools who could not rest
      In the dull earth we left behind,
   But burned with passion for the West,
      And drank strange frenzy from its wind.
   The world where wise men live at ease
      Fades from our unregretful eyes,
   And blind across uncharted seas
      We stagger on our enterprise."

   "THE SHIP OF FOOLS."



CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Four fella sick too much."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The white man gave a little gasp of delight.

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

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

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

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

"No _Jessie_," he said very quietly.  "That's the _Malakula_."

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

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

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

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

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

"What name?" he cried sharply.

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

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

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



CHAPTER II--SOMETHING IS DONE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Narada!  Billy!" Sheldon called sharply.

Two men slunk unwillingly forward and waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Billy!"

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

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

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

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

"Me savvee law," the savage repeated stubbornly.

"Astoa!"

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

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

"Strong fella tie," he cautioned them.

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

"No," Astoa grunted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III--THE JESSIE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Oleson offered him some whisky.

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

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

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

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

"How many recruits left?" Sheldon asked.

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

Sheldon sighed.

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

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

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

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

"It's going down."

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

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

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

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

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

Sheldon regretted his childishness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV--JOAN LACKLAND


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My dear madame," he began.

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

"But the plantation--"

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

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

"Yes, tell me, please."

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

"Fancy niggers and tinned provisions."

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

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

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

The question disconcerted her for the moment.

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

"Nothing.  I merely thought so."

"Anything further?"

He shook his head.

"Why?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She fixed him coldly with her eyes.

"Is that a joke?" she demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook his head.

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

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

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



CHAPTER V--SHE WOULD A PLANTER BE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know."

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

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

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

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

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

He looked at her with mild amusement.

"What is the matter now?" she queried.

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

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

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

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

"A shopkeeper's assistant, thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Shoot the block off your flag-halyards."

He smiled his unbelief.

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

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

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

She fired, and the block remained intact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ah, let me see--Nevada?"

She shook her head.

"California?"

"Still farther west."

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

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

"The Philippines!" he cried triumphantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded, and her eyes grew soft and moist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How long ago was that?" Sheldon asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"One swallow doesn't make a summer."

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

"I'm trying not to."

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

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

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

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

"And you were left all alone?"

Joan nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Adventure," Joan corrected him.

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

Joan shuddered.

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

"Not one.  Not a white trader even."

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

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

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

"But no self-respecting woman--"

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



CHAPTER VI--TEMPEST


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

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

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

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

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

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

"There is Guvutu," she suggested.

He shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

"But I won't permit it."

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

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

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

The black boy started to obey.

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

"You have presumed, you have dared--"

She choked and swallowed, and could not go on.

Sheldon looked the picture of despair.

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

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

"But what's wrong with that?"

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

"A gentleman is every woman's guardian."

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

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

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

"There you go again," she cried.

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

Joan smiled and sat down again.

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

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

She threw up her hands in mock despair.

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

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

"And the situation annoys you."

"Only for your sake."

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

Sheldon flushed, but remained silent.

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

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

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



CHAPTER VII--A HARD-BITTEN GANG


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Kill 'm," said Bellin-Jama.

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

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

"Me no go," he said.

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

Bellin-Jama glared up belligerently.

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

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

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

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

When Sheldon came up on the veranda, he found Joan collapsed on the
steamer-chair and in tears.  The sight unnerved him as the row just over
could not possibly have done.  A woman in tears was to him an
embarrassing situation; and when that woman was Joan Lackland, from whom
he had grown to expect anything unexpected, he was really frightened.  He
glanced down at her helplessly, and moistened his lips.

"I want to thank you," he began.  "There isn't a doubt but what you saved
my life, and I must say--"

She abruptly removed her hands, showing a wrathful and tear-stained face.

"You brute!  You coward!" she cried.  "You have made me shoot a man, and
I never shot a man in my life before."

"It's only a flesh-wound, and he isn't going to die," Sheldon managed to
interpolate.

"What of that?  I shot him just the same.  There was no need for you to
jump down there that way.  It was brutal and cowardly."

"Oh, now I say--" he began soothingly.

"Go away.  Don't you see I hate you! hate you!  Oh, won't you go away!"

Sheldon was white with anger.

"Then why in the name of common sense did you shoot?" he demanded.

"Be-be-because you were a white man," she sobbed.  "And Dad would never
have left any white man in the lurch.  But it was your fault.  You had no
right to get yourself in such a position.  Besides, it wasn't necessary."

"I am afraid I don't understand," he said shortly, turning away.  "We
will talk it over later on."

"Look how I get on with the boys," she said, while he paused in the
doorway, stiffly polite, to listen.  "There's those two sick boys I am
nursing.  They will do anything for me when they get well, and I won't
have to keep them in fear of their life all the time.  It is not
necessary, I tell you, all this harshness and brutality.  What if they
are cannibals?  They are human beings, just like you and me, and they are
amenable to reason.  That is what distinguishes all of us from the lower
animals."

He nodded and went out.

"I suppose I've been unforgivably foolish," was her greeting, when he
returned several hours later from a round of the plantation.  "I've been
to the hospital, and the man is getting along all right.  It is not a
serious hurt."

Sheldon felt unaccountably pleased and happy at the changed aspect of her
mood.

"You see, you don't understand the situation," he began.  "In the first
place, the blacks have to be ruled sternly.  Kindness is all very well,
but you can't rule them by kindness only.  I accept all that you say
about the Hawaiians and the Tahitians.  You say that they can be handled
that way, and I believe you.  I have had no experience with them.  But
you have had no experience with the blacks, and I ask you to believe me.
They are different from your natives.  You are used to Polynesians.  These
boys are Melanesians.  They're blacks.  They're niggers--look at their
kinky hair.  And they're a whole lot lower than the African niggers.
Really, you know, there is a vast difference."

"They possess no gratitude, no sympathy, no kindliness.  If you are kind
to them, they think you are a fool.  If you are gentle with them they
think you are afraid.  And when they think you are afraid, watch out, for
they will get you.  Just to show you, let me state the one invariable
process in a black man's brain when, on his native heath, he encounters a
stranger.  His first thought is one of fear.  Will the stranger kill him?
His next thought, seeing that he is not killed, is: Can he kill the
stranger?  There was Packard, a Colonial trader, some twelve miles down
the coast.  He boasted that he ruled by kindness and never struck a blow.
The result was that he did not rule at all.  He used to come down in his
whale-boat to visit Hughie and me.  When his boat's crew decided to go
home, he had to cut his visit short to accompany them.  I remember one
Sunday afternoon when Packard had accepted our invitation to stop to
dinner.  The soup was just served, when Hughie saw a nigger peering in
through the door.  He went out to him, for it was a violation of Berande
custom.  Any nigger has to send in word by the house-boys, and to keep
outside the compound.  This man, who was one of Packard's boat's-crew,
was on the veranda.  And he knew better, too.  'What name?' said Hughie.
'You tell 'm white man close up we fella boat's-crew go along.  He no
come now, we fella boy no wait.  We go.'  And just then Hughie fetched
him a clout that knocked him clean down the stairs and off the veranda."

"But it was needlessly cruel," Joan objected.  "You wouldn't treat a
white man that way."

"And that's just the point.  He wasn't a white man.  He was a low black
nigger, and he was deliberately insulting, not alone his own white
master, but every white master in the Solomons.  He insulted me.  He
insulted Hughie.  He insulted Berande."

"Of course, according to your lights, to your formula of the rule of the
strong--"

"Yes," Sheldon interrupted, "but it was according to the formula of the
rule of the weak that Packard ruled.  And what was the result?  I am
still alive.  Packard is dead.  He was unswervingly kind and gentle to
his boys, and his boys waited till one day he was down with fever.  His
head is over on Malaita now.  They carried away two whale-boats as well,
filled with the loot of the store.  Then there was Captain Mackenzie of
the ketch _Minota_.  He believed in kindness.  He also contended that
better confidence was established by carrying no weapons.  On his second
trip to Malaita, recruiting, he ran into Bina, which is near Langa Langa.
The rifles with which the boat's-crew should have been armed, were locked
up in his cabin.  When the whale-boat went ashore after recruits, he
paraded around the deck without even a revolver on him.  He was
tomahawked.  His head remains in Malaita.  It was suicide.  So was
Packard's finish suicide."

"I grant that precaution is necessary in dealing with them," Joan agreed;
"but I believe that more satisfactory results can be obtained by treating
them with discreet kindness and gentleness."

"And there I agree with _you_, but you must understand one thing.
Berande, bar none, is by far the worst plantation in the Solomons so far
as the labour is concerned.  And how it came to be so proves your point.
The previous owners of Berande were not discreetly kind.  They were a
pair of unadulterated brutes.  One was a down-east Yankee, as I believe
they are called, and the other was a guzzling German.  They were slave-
drivers.  To begin with, they bought their labour from Johnny Be-blowed,
the most notorious recruiter in the Solomons.  He is working out a ten
years' sentence in Fiji now, for the wanton killing of a black boy.
During his last days here he had made himself so obnoxious that the
natives on Malaita would have nothing to do with him.  The only way he
could get recruits was by hurrying to the spot whenever a murder or
series of murders occurred.  The murderers were usually only too willing
to sign on and get away to escape vengeance.  Down here they call such
escapes, 'pier-head jumps.'  There is suddenly a roar from the beach, and
a nigger runs down to the water pursued by clouds of spears and arrows.
Of course, Johnny Be-blowed's whale-boat is lying ready to pick him up.
In his last days Johnny got nothing but pier-head jumps.

"And the first owners of Berande bought his recruits--a hard-bitten gang
of murderers.  They were all five-year boys.  You see, the recruiter has
the advantage over a boy when he makes a pier-head jump.  He could sign
him on for ten years did the law permit.  Well, that's the gang of
murderers we've got on our hands now.  Of course some are dead, some have
been killed, and there are others serving sentences at Tulagi.  Very
little clearing did those first owners do, and less planting.  It was war
all the time.  They had one manager killed.  One of the partners had his
shoulder slashed nearly off by a cane-knife.  The other was speared on
two different occasions.  Both were bullies, wherefore there was a streak
of cowardice in them, and in the end they had to give up.  They were
chased away--literally chased away--by their own niggers.  And along came
poor Hughie and me, two new chums, to take hold of that hard-bitten gang.
We did not know the situation, and we had bought Berande, and there was
nothing to do but hang on and muddle through somehow.

"At first we made the mistake of indiscreet kindness.  We tried to rule
by persuasion and fair treatment.  The niggers concluded that we were
afraid.  I blush to think of what fools we were in those first days.  We
were imposed on, and threatened and insulted; and we put up with it,
hoping our square-dealing would soon mend things.  Instead of which
everything went from bad to worse.  Then came the day when Hughie
reprimanded one of the boys and was nearly killed by the gang.  The only
thing that saved him was the number on top of him, which enabled me to
reach the spot in time.

"Then began the rule of the strong hand.  It was either that or quit, and
we had sunk about all our money into the venture, and we could not quit.
And besides, our pride was involved.  We had started out to do something,
and we were so made that we just had to go on with it.  It has been a
hard fight, for we were, and are to this day, considered the worst
plantation in the Solomons from the standpoint of labour.  Do you know,
we have been unable to get white men in.  We've offered the managership
to half a dozen.  I won't say they were afraid, for they were not.  But
they did not consider it healthy--at least that is the way it was put by
the last one who declined our offer.  So Hughie and I did the managing
ourselves."

"And when he died you were prepared to go on all alone!" Joan cried, with
shining eyes.

"I thought I'd muddle through.  And now, Miss Lackland, please be
charitable when I seem harsh, and remember that the situation is
unparalleled down here.  We've got a bad crowd, and we're making them
work.  You've been over the plantation and you ought to know.  And I
assure you that there are no better three-and-four-years-old trees on any
other plantation in the Solomons.  We have worked steadily to change
matters for the better.  We've been slowly getting in new labour.  That
is why we bought the _Jessie_.  We wanted to select our own labour.  In
another year the time will be up for most of the original gang.  You see,
they were recruited during the first year of Berande, and their contracts
expire on different months.  Naturally, they have contaminated the new
boys to a certain extent; but that can soon be remedied, and then Berande
will be a respectable plantation."

Joan nodded but remained silent.  She was too occupied in glimpsing the
vision of the one lone white man as she had first seen him, helpless from
fever, a collapsed wraith in a steamer-chair, who, up to the last heart-
beat, by some strange alchemy of race, was pledged to mastery.

"It is a pity," she said.  "But the white man has to rule, I suppose."

"I don't like it," Sheldon assured her.  "To save my life I can't imagine
how I ever came here.  But here I am, and I can't run away."

"Blind destiny of race," she said, faintly smiling.  "We whites have been
land robbers and sea robbers from remotest time.  It is in our blood, I
guess, and we can't get away from it."

"I never thought about it so abstractly," he confessed.  "I've been too
busy puzzling over why I came here."



CHAPTER VIII--LOCAL COLOUR


At sunset a small ketch fanned in to anchorage, and a little later the
skipper came ashore.  He was a soft-spoken, gentle-voiced young fellow of
twenty, but he won Joan's admiration in advance when Sheldon told her
that he ran the ketch all alone with a black crew from Malaita.  And
Romance lured and beckoned before Joan's eyes when she learned he was
Christian Young, a Norfolk Islander, but a direct descendant of John
Young, one of the original _Bounty_ mutineers.  The blended Tahitian and
English blood showed in his soft eyes and tawny skin; but the English
hardness seemed to have disappeared.  Yet the hardness was there, and it
was what enabled him to run his ketch single-handed and to wring a
livelihood out of the fighting Solomons.

Joan's unexpected presence embarrassed him, until she herself put him at
his ease by a frank, comradely manner that offended Sheldon's sense of
the fitness of things feminine.  News from the world Young had not, but
he was filled with news of the Solomons.  Fifteen boys had stolen rifles
and run away into the bush from Lunga plantation, which was farther east
on the Guadalcanar coast.  And from the bush they had sent word that they
were coming back to wipe out the three white men in charge, while two of
the three white men, in turn, were hunting them through the bush.  There
was a strong possibility, Young volunteered, that if they were not caught
they might circle around and tap the coast at Berande in order to steal
or capture a whale-boat.

"I forgot to tell you that your trader at Ugi has been murdered," he said
to Sheldon.  "Five big canoes came down from Port Adams.  They landed in
the night-time, and caught Oscar asleep.  What they didn't steal they
burned.  The _Flibberty-Gibbet_ got the news at Mboli Pass, and ran down
to Ugi.  I was at Mboli when the news came."

"I think I'll have to abandon Ugi," Sheldon remarked.

"It's the second trader you've lost there in a year," Young concurred.
"To make it safe there ought to be two white men at least.  Those Malaita
canoes are always raiding down that way, and you know what that Port
Adams lot is.  I've got a dog for you.  Tommy Jones sent it up from Neal
Island.  He said he'd promised it to you.  It's a first-class
nigger-chaser.  Hadn't been on board two minutes when he had my whole
boat's-crew in the rigging.  Tommy calls him Satan."

"I've wondered several times why you had no dogs here," Joan said.

"The trouble is to keep them.  They're always eaten by the crocodiles."

"Jack Hanley was killed at Marovo Lagoon two months ago," Young announced
in his mild voice.  "The news just came down on the _Apostle_."

"Where is Marovo Lagoon?" Joan asked.

"New Georgia, a couple of hundred miles to the westward," Sheldon
answered.  "Bougainville lies just beyond."

"His own house-boys did it," Young went on; "but they were put up to it
by the Marovo natives.  His Santa Cruz boat's-crew escaped in the whale-
boat to Choiseul, and Mather, in the _Lily_, sailed over to Marovo.  He
burned a village, and got Hanley's head back.  He found it in one of the
houses, where the niggers had it drying.  And that's all the news I've
got, except that there's a lot of new Lee-Enfields loose on the eastern
end of Ysabel.  Nobody knows how the natives got them.  The government
ought to investigate.  And--oh yes, a war vessel's in the group, the
_Cambrian_.  She burned three villages at Bina--on account of the
_Minota_, you know--and shelled the bush.  Then she went to Sio to
straighten out things there."

The conversation became general, and just before Young left to go on
board Joan asked,--

"How can you manage all alone, Mr. Young?"

His large, almost girlish eyes rested on her for a moment before he
replied, and then it was in the softest and gentlest of voices.

"Oh, I get along pretty well with them.  Of course, there is a bit of
trouble once in a while, but that must be expected.  You must never let
them think you are afraid.  I've been afraid plenty of times, but they
never knew it."

"You would think he wouldn't strike a mosquito that was biting him,"
Sheldon said when Young had gone on board.  "All the Norfolk Islanders
that have descended from the _Bounty_ crowd are that way.  But look at
Young.  Only three years ago, when he first got the _Minerva_, he was
lying in Suu, on Malaita.  There are a lot of returned Queenslanders
there--a rough crowd.  They planned to get his head.  The son of their
chief, old One-Eyed Billy, had recruited on Lunga and died of dysentery.
That meant that a white man's head was owing to Suu--any white man, it
didn't matter who so long as they got the head.  And Young was only a
lad, and they made sure to get his easily.  They decoyed his whale-boat
ashore with a promise of recruits, and killed all hands.  At the same
instant, the Suu gang that was on board the _Minerva_ jumped Young.  He
was just preparing a dynamite stick for fish, and he lighted it and
tossed it in amongst them.  One can't get him to talk about it, but the
fuse was short, the survivors leaped overboard, while he slipped his
anchor and got away.  They've got one hundred fathoms of shell money on
his head now, which is worth one hundred pounds sterling.  Yet he goes
into Suu regularly.  He was there a short time ago, returning thirty boys
from Cape Marsh--that's the Fulcrum Brothers' plantation."

"At any rate, his news to-night has given me a better insight into the
life down here," Joan said.  "And it is colourful life, to say the least.
The Solomons ought to be printed red on the charts--and yellow, too, for
the diseases."

"The Solomons are not always like this," Sheldon answered.  "Of course,
Berande is the worst plantation, and everything it gets is the worst.  I
doubt if ever there was a worse run of sickness than we were just getting
over when you arrived.  Just as luck would have it, the _Jessie_ caught
the contagion as well.  Berande has been very unfortunate.  All the old-
timers shake their heads at it.  They say it has what you Americans call
a _hoodoo_ on it."

"Berande will succeed," Joan said stoutly.  "I like to laugh at
superstition.  You'll pull through and come out the big end of the horn.
The ill luck can't last for ever.  I am afraid, though, the Solomons is
not a white man's climate."

"It will be, though.  Give us fifty years, and when all the bush is
cleared off back to the mountains, fever will be stamped out; everything
will be far healthier.  There will be cities and towns here, for there's
an immense amount of good land going to waste."

"But it will never become a white man's climate, in spite of all that,"
Joan reiterated.  "The white man will always be unable to perform the
manual labour."

"That is true."

"It will mean slavery," she dashed on.

"Yes, like all the tropics.  The black, the brown, and the yellow will
have to do the work, managed by the white men.  The black labour is too
wasteful, however, and in time Chinese or Indian coolies will be
imported.  The planters are already considering the matter.  I, for one,
am heartily sick of black labour."

"Then the blacks will die off?"

Sheldon shrugged his shoulders, and retorted,--

"Yes, like the North American Indian, who was a far nobler type than the
Melanesian.  The world is only so large, you know, and it is filling up--"

"And the unfit must perish?"

"Precisely so.  The unfit must perish."

In the morning Joan was roused by a great row and hullabaloo.  Her first
act was to reach for her revolver, but when she heard Noa Noah, who was
on guard, laughing outside, she knew there was no danger, and went out to
see the fun.  Captain Young had landed Satan at the moment when the
bridge-building gang had started along the beach.  Satan was big and
black, short-haired and muscular, and weighed fully seventy pounds.  He
did not love the blacks.  Tommy Jones had trained him well, tying him up
daily for several hours and telling off one or two black boys at a time
to tease him.  So Satan had it in for the whole black race, and the
second after he landed on the beach the bridge-building gang was
stampeding over the compound fence and swarming up the cocoanut palms.

"Good morning," Sheldon called from the veranda.  "And what do you think
of the nigger-chaser?"

"I'm thinking we have a task before us to train him in to the
house-boys," she called back.

"And to your Tahitians, too.  Look out, Noah!  Run for it!"

Satan, having satisfied himself that the tree-perches were unassailable,
was charging straight for the big Tahitian.

But Noah stood his ground, though somewhat irresolutely, and Satan, to
every one's surprise, danced and frisked about him with laughing eyes and
wagging tail.

"Now, that is what I might call a proper dog," was Joan's comment.  "He
is at least wiser than you, Mr. Sheldon.  He didn't require any teaching
to recognize the difference between a Tahitian and a black boy.  What do
you think, Noah?  Why don't he bite you?  He savvee you Tahitian eh?"

Noa Noah shook his head and grinned.

"He no savvee me Tahitian," he explained.  "He savvee me wear pants all
the same white man."

"You'll have to give him a course in 'Sartor Resartus,'" Sheldon laughed,
as he came down and began to make friends with Satan.

It chanced just then that Adamu Adam and Matauare, two of Joan's sailors,
entered the compound from the far side-gate.  They had been down to the
Balesuna making an alligator trap, and, instead of trousers, were clad in
lava-lavas that flapped gracefully about their stalwart limbs.  Satan saw
them, and advertised his find by breaking away from Sheldon's hands and
charging.

"No got pants," Noah announced with a grin that broadened as Adamu Adam
took to flight.

He climbed up the platform that supported the galvanized iron tanks which
held the water collected from the roof.  Foiled here, Satan turned and
charged back on Matauare.

"Run, Matauare!  Run!" Joan called.

But he held his ground and waited the dog.

"He is the Fearless One--that is what his name means," Joan explained to
Sheldon.

The Tahitian watched Satan coolly, and when that sanguine-mouthed
creature lifted into the air in the final leap, the man's hand shot out.
It was a fair grip on the lower jaw, and Satan described a half circle
and was flung to the rear, turning over in the air and falling heavily on
his back.  Three times he leaped, and three times that grip on his jaw
flung him to defeat.  Then he contented himself with trotting at
Matauare's heels, eyeing him and sniffing him suspiciously.

"It's all right, Satan; it's all right," Sheldon assured him.  "That good
fella belong along me."

But Satan dogged the Tahitian's movements for a full hour before he made
up his mind that the man was an appurtenance of the place.  Then he
turned his attention to the three house-boys, cornering Ornfiri in the
kitchen and rushing him against the hot stove, stripping the lava-lava
from Lalaperu when that excited youth climbed a veranda-post, and
following Viaburi on top the billiard-table, where the battle raged until
Joan managed a rescue.



CHAPTER IX--AS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN


It was Satan's inexhaustible energy and good spirits that most impressed
them.  His teeth seemed perpetually to ache with desire, and in lieu of
black legs he husked the cocoanuts that fell from the trees in the
compound, kept the enclosure clear of intruding hens, and made a hostile
acquaintance with every boss-boy who came to report.  He was unable to
forget the torment of his puppyhood, wherein everlasting hatred of the
black had been woven into the fibres of consciousness; and such a terror
did he make himself that Sheldon was forced to shut him up in the living
room when, for any reason, strange natives were permitted in the
compound.  This always hurt Satan's feelings and fanned his wrath, so
that even the house-boys had to watch out for him when he was first
released.

Christian Young sailed away in the _Minerva_, carrying an invitation
(that would be delivered nobody knew when) to Tommy Jones to drop in at
Berande the next time he was passing.

"What are your plans when you get to Sydney?" Sheldon asked, that night,
at dinner.

"First I've heard that I'm going to Sydney," Joan retorted.  "I suppose
you've received information, by bush-telegraph, that that third assistant
understrapper and ex-sailorman at Tulagi is going to deport me as an
undesirable immigrant."

"Oh, no, nothing of the sort, I assure you," Sheldon began with awkward
haste, fearful of having offended, though he knew not how.  "I was just
wondering, that was all.  You see, with the loss of the schooner and . .
and all the rest . . . you understand . . I was thinking that
if--a--if--hang it all, until you could communicate with your friends, my
agents at Sydney could advance you a loan, temporary you see, why I'd be
only too glad and all the rest, you know.  The proper--"

But his jaw dropped and he regarded her irritably and with apprehension.

"What _is_ the matter?" he demanded, with a show of heat.  "What _have_ I
done now?"

Joan's eyes were bright with battle, the curve of her lips sharp with
mockery.

"Certainly not the unexpected," she said quietly.  "Merely ignored me in
your ordinary, every-day, man-god, superior fashion.  Naturally it
counted for nothing, my telling you that I had no idea of going to
Sydney.  Go to Sydney I must, because you, in your superior wisdom, have
so decreed."

She paused and looked at him curiously, as though he were some strange
breed of animal.

"Of course I am grateful for your offer of assistance; but even that is
no salve to wounded pride.  For that matter, it is no more than one white
man should expect from another.  Shipwrecked mariners are always helped
along their way.  Only this particular mariner doesn't need any help.
Furthermore, this mariner is not going to Sydney, thank you."

"But what do you intend to do?"

"Find some spot where I shall escape the indignity of being patronized
and bossed by the superior sex."

"Come now, that is putting it a bit too strongly."  Sheldon laughed, but
the strain in his voice destroyed the effect of spontaneity.  "You know
yourself how impossible the situation is."

"I know nothing of the sort, sir.  And if it is impossible, well, haven't
I achieved it?"

"But it cannot continue.  Really--"

"Oh, yes, it can.  Having achieved it, I can go on achieving it.  I
intend to remain in the Solomons, but not on Berande.  To-morrow I am
going to take the whale-boat over to Pari-Sulay.  I was talking with
Captain Young about it.  He says there are at least four hundred acres,
and every foot of it good for planting.  Being an island, he says I won't
have to bother about wild pigs destroying the young trees.  All I'll have
to do is to keep the weeds hoed until the trees come into bearing.  First,
I'll buy the island; next, get forty or fifty recruits and start clearing
and planting; and at the same time I'll run up a bungalow; and then
you'll be relieved of my embarrassing presence--now don't say that it
isn't."

"It is embarrassing," he said bluntly.  "But you refuse to see my point
of view, so there is no use in discussing it.  Now please forget all
about it, and consider me at your service concerning this . . . this
project of yours.  I know more about cocoanut-planting than you do.  You
speak like a capitalist.  I don't know how much money you have, but I
don't fancy you are rolling in wealth, as you Americans say.  But I do
know what it costs to clear land.  Suppose the government sells you Pari-
Sulay at a pound an acre; clearing will cost you at least four pounds
more; that is, five pounds for four hundred acres, or, say, ten thousand
dollars.  Have you that much?"

She was keenly interested, and he could see that the previous clash
between them was already forgotten.  Her disappointment was plain as she
confessed:

"No; I haven't quite eight thousand dollars."

"Then here's another way of looking at it.  You'll need, as you said, at
least fifty boys.  Not counting premiums, their wages are thirty dollars
a year."

"I pay my Tahitians fifteen a month," she interpolated.

"They won't do on straight plantation work.  But to return.  The wages of
fifty boys each year will come to three hundred pounds--that is, fifteen
hundred dollars.  Very well.  It will be seven years before your trees
begin to bear.  Seven times fifteen hundred is ten thousand five hundred
dollars--more than you possess, and all eaten up by the boys' wages, with
nothing to pay for bungalow, building, tools, quinine, trips to Sydney,
and so forth."

Sheldon shook his head gravely.  "You'll have to abandon the idea."

"But I won't go to Sydney," she cried.  "I simply won't.  I'll buy in to
the extent of my money as a small partner in some other plantation.  Let
me buy in in Berande!"

"Heaven forbid!" he cried in such genuine dismay that she broke into
hearty laughter.

"There, I won't tease you.  Really, you know, I'm not accustomed to
forcing my presence where it is not desired.  Yes, yes; I know you're
just aching to point out that I've forced myself upon you ever since I
landed, only you are too polite to say so.  Yet as you said yourself, it
was impossible for me to go away, so I had to stay.  You wouldn't let me
go to Tulagi.  You compelled me to force myself upon you.  But I won't
buy in as partner with any one.  I'll buy Pari-Sulay, but I'll put only
ten boys on it and clear slowly.  Also, I'll invest in some old ketch and
take out a trading license.  For that matter, I'll go recruiting on
Malaita."

She looked for protest, and found it in Sheldon's clenched hand and in
every line of his clean-cut face.

"Go ahead and say it," she challenged.  "Please don't mind me.  I'm--I'm
getting used to it, you know.  Really I am."

"I wish I were a woman so as to tell you how preposterously insane and
impossible it is," he blurted out.

She surveyed him with deliberation, and said:

"Better than that, you are a man.  So there is nothing to prevent your
telling me, for I demand to be considered as a man.  I didn't come down
here to trail my woman's skirts over the Solomons.  Please forget that I
am accidentally anything else than a man with a man's living to make."

Inwardly Sheldon fumed and fretted.  Was she making game of him?  Or did
there lurk in her the insidious unhealthfulness of unwomanliness?  Or was
it merely a case of blank, staring, sentimental, idiotic innocence?

"I have told you," he began stiffly, "that recruiting on Malaita is
impossible for a woman, and that is all I care to say--or dare."

"And I tell you, in turn, that it is nothing of the sort.  I've sailed
the _Miele_ here, master, if you please, all the way from Tahiti--even if
I did lose her, which was the fault of your Admiralty charts.  I am a
navigator, and that is more than your Solomons captains are.  Captain
Young told me all about it.  And I am a seaman--a better seaman than you,
when it comes right down to it, and you know it.  I can shoot.  I am not
a fool.  I can take care of myself.  And I shall most certainly buy a
ketch, run her myself, and go recruiting on Malaita."

Sheldon made a hopeless gesture.

"That's right," she rattled on.  "Wash your hands of me.  But as Von used
to say, 'You just watch my smoke!'"

"There's no use in discussing it.  Let us have some music."

He arose and went over to the big phonograph; but before the disc
started, and while he was winding the machine, he heard her saying:

"I suppose you've been accustomed to Jane Eyres all your life.  That's
why you don't understand me.  Come on, Satan; let's leave him to his old
music."

He watched her morosely and without intention of speaking, till he saw
her take a rifle from the stand, examine the magazine, and start for the
door.

"Where are you going?" he asked peremptorily.

"As between man and woman," she answered, "it would be too
terribly--er--indecent for you to tell me why I shouldn't go
alligatoring.  Good-night.  Sleep well."

He shut off the phonograph with a snap, started toward the door after
her, then abruptly flung himself into a chair.

"You're hoping a 'gator catches me, aren't you?" she called from the
veranda, and as she went down the steps her rippling laughter drifted
tantalizingly back through the wide doorway.



CHAPTER X--A MESSAGE FROM BOUCHER


The next day Sheldon was left all alone.  Joan had gone exploring Pari-
Sulay, and was not to be expected back until the late afternoon.  Sheldon
was vaguely oppressed by his loneliness, and several heavy squalls during
the afternoon brought him frequently on to the veranda, telescope in
hand, to scan the sea anxiously for the whale-boat.  Betweenwhiles he
scowled over the plantation account-books, made rough estimates, added
and balanced, and scowled the harder.  The loss of the _Jessie_ had hit
Berande severely.  Not alone was his capital depleted by the amount of
her value, but her earnings were no longer to be reckoned on, and it was
her earnings that largely paid the running expenses of the plantation.

"Poor old Hughie," he muttered aloud, once.  "I'm glad you didn't live to
see it, old man.  What a cropper, what a cropper!"

Between squalls the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ ran in to anchorage, and her
skipper, Pete Oleson (brother to the Oleson of the _Jessie_), ancient,
grizzled, wild-eyed, emaciated by fever, dragged his weary frame up the
veranda steps and collapsed in a steamer-chair.  Whisky and soda kept him
going while he made report and turned in his accounts.

"You're rotten with fever," Sheldon said.  "Why don't you run down to
Sydney for a blow of decent climate?"

The old skipper shook his head.

"I can't.  I've ben in the islands too long.  I'd die.  The fever comes
out worse down there."

"Kill or cure," Sheldon counselled.

"It's straight kill for me.  I tried it three years ago.  The cool
weather put me on my back before I landed.  They carried me ashore and
into hospital.  I was unconscious one stretch for two weeks.  After that
the doctors sent me back to the islands--said it was the only thing that
would save me.  Well, I'm still alive; but I'm too soaked with fever.  A
month in Australia would finish me."

"But what are you going to do?" Sheldon queried.  "You can't stay here
until you die."

"That's all that's left to me.  I'd like to go back to the old country,
but I couldn't stand it.  I'll last longer here, and here I'll stay until
I peg out; but I wish to God I'd never seen the Solomons, that's all."

He declined to sleep ashore, took his orders, and went back on board the
cutter.  A lurid sunset was blotted out by the heaviest squall of the
day, and Sheldon watched the whale-boat arrive in the thick of it.  As
the spritsail was taken in and the boat headed on to the beach, he was
aware of a distinct hurt at sight of Joan at the steering-oar, standing
erect and swaying her strength to it as she resisted the pressures that
tended to throw the craft broadside in the surf.  Her Tahitians leaped
out and rushed the boat high up the beach, and she led her bizarre
following through the gate of the compound.

The first drops of rain were driving like hail-stones, the tall cocoanut
palms were bending and writhing in the grip of the wind, while the thick
cloud-mass of the squall turned the brief tropic twilight abruptly to
night.

Quite unconsciously the brooding anxiety of the afternoon slipped from
Sheldon, and he felt strangely cheered at the sight of her running up the
steps laughing, face flushed, hair flying, her breast heaving from the
violence of her late exertions.

"Lovely, perfectly lovely--Pari-Sulay," she panted.  "I shall buy it.
I'll write to the Commissioner to-night.  And the site for the
bungalow--I've selected it already--is wonderful.  You must come over
some day and advise me.  You won't mind my staying here until I can get
settled?  Wasn't that squall beautiful?  And I suppose I'm late for
dinner.  I'll run and get clean, and be with you in a minute."

And in the brief interval of her absence he found himself walking about
the big living-room and impatiently and with anticipation awaiting her
coming.

"Do you know, I'm never going to squabble with you again," he announced
when they were seated.

"Squabble!" was the retort.  "It's such a sordid word.  It sounds cheap
and nasty.  I think it's much nicer to quarrel."

"Call it what you please, but we won't do it any more, will we?"  He
cleared his throat nervously, for her eyes advertised the immediate
beginning of hostilities.  "I beg your pardon," he hurried on.  "I should
have spoken for myself.  What I mean is that I refuse to quarrel.  You
have the most horrible way, without uttering a word, of making me play
the fool.  Why, I began with the kindest intentions, and here I am now--"

"Making nasty remarks," she completed for him.

"It's the way you have of catching me up," he complained.

"Why, I never said a word.  I was merely sitting here, being sweetly
lured on by promises of peace on earth and all the rest of it, when
suddenly you began to call me names."

"Hardly that, I am sure."

"Well, you said I was horrible, or that I had a horrible way about me,
which is the same thing.  I wish my bungalow were up.  I'd move
to-morrow."

But her twitching lips belied her words, and the next moment the man was
more uncomfortable than ever, being made so by her laughter.

"I was only teasing you.  Honest Injun.  And if you don't laugh I'll
suspect you of being in a temper with me.  That's right, laugh.  But
don't--" she added in alarm, "don't if it hurts you.  You look as though
you had a toothache.  There, there--don't say it.  You know you promised
not to quarrel, while I have the privilege of going on being as hateful
as I please.  And to begin with, there's the _Flibberty-Gibbet_.  I
didn't know she was so large a cutter; but she's in disgraceful
condition.  Her rigging is something queer, and the next sharp squall
will bring her head-gear all about the shop.  I watched Noa Noah's face
as we sailed past.  He didn't say anything.  He just sneered.  And I
don't blame him."

"Her skipper's rotten bad with fever," Sheldon explained.  "And he had to
drop his mate off to take hold of things at Ugi--that's where I lost
Oscar, my trader.  And you know what sort of sailors the niggers are."

She nodded her head judicially, and while she seemed to debate a weighty
judgment he asked for a second helping of tinned beef--not because he was
hungry, but because he wanted to watch her slim, firm fingers, naked of
jewels and banded metals, while his eyes pleasured in the swell of the
forearm, appearing from under the sleeve and losing identity in the
smooth, round wrist undisfigured by the netted veins that come to youth
when youth is gone.  The fingers were brown with tan and looked
exceedingly boyish.  Then, and without effort, the concept came to him.
Yes, that was it.  He had stumbled upon the clue to her tantalizing
personality.  Her fingers, sunburned and boyish, told the story.  No
wonder she had exasperated him so frequently.  He had tried to treat with
her as a woman, when she was not a woman.  She was a mere girl--and a
boyish girl at that--with sunburned fingers that delighted in doing what
boys' fingers did; with a body and muscles that liked swimming and
violent endeavour of all sorts; with a mind that was daring, but that
dared no farther than boys' adventures, and that delighted in rifles and
revolvers, Stetson hats, and a sexless _camaraderie_ with men.

Somehow, as he pondered and watched her, it seemed as if he sat in church
at home listening to the choir-boys chanting.  She reminded him of those
boys, or their voices, rather.  The same sexless quality was there.  In
the body of her she was woman; in the mind of her she had not grown up.
She had not been exposed to ripening influences of that sort.  She had
had no mother.  Von, her father, native servants, and rough island life
had constituted her training.  Horses and rifles had been her toys, camp
and trail her nursery.  From what she had told him, her seminary days had
been an exile, devoted to study and to ceaseless longing for the wild
riding and swimming of Hawaii.  A boy's training, and a boy's point of
view!  That explained her chafe at petticoats, her revolt at what was
only decently conventional.  Some day she would grow up, but as yet she
was only in the process.

Well, there was only one thing for him to do.  He must meet her on her
own basis of boyhood, and not make the mistake of treating her as a
woman.  He wondered if he could love the woman she would be when her
nature awoke; and he wondered if he could love her just as she was and
himself wake her up.  After all, whatever it was, she had come to fill
quite a large place in his life, as he had discovered that afternoon
while scanning the sea between the squalls.  Then he remembered the
accounts of Berande, and the cropper that was coming, and scowled.

He became aware that she was speaking.

"I beg pardon," he said.  "What's that you were saying?"

"You weren't listening to a word--I knew it," she chided.  "I was saying
that the condition of the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ was disgraceful, and that to-
morrow, when you've told the skipper and not hurt his feelings, I am
going to take my men out and give her an overhauling.  We'll scrub her
bottom, too.  Why, there's whiskers on her copper four inches long.  I
saw it when she rolled.  Don't forget, I'm going cruising on the
_Flibberty_ some day, even if I have to run away with her."

While at their coffee on the veranda, Satan raised a commotion in the
compound near the beach gate, and Sheldon finally rescued a mauled and
frightened black and dragged him on the porch for interrogation.

"What fella marster you belong?" he demanded.  "What name you come along
this fella place sun he go down?"

"Me b'long Boucher.  Too many boy belong along Port Adams stop along my
fella marster.  Too much walk about."

The black drew a scrap of notepaper from under his belt and passed it
over.  Sheldon scanned it hurriedly.

"It's from Boucher," he explained, "the fellow who took Packard's place.
Packard was the one I told you about who was killed by his boat's-crew.
He says the Port Adams crowd is out--fifty of them, in big canoes--and
camping on his beach.  They've killed half a dozen of his pigs already,
and seem to be looking for trouble.  And he's afraid they may connect
with the fifteen runaways from Lunga."

"In which case?" she queried.

"In which case Billy Pape will be compelled to send Boucher's successor.
It's Pape's station, you know.  I wish I knew what to do.  I don't like
to leave you here alone."

"Take me along then."

He smiled and shook his head.

"Then you'd better take my men along," she advised.  "They're good shots,
and they're not afraid of anything--except Utami, and he's afraid of
ghosts."

The big bell was rung, and fifty black boys carried the whale-boat down
to the water.  The regular boat's-crew manned her, and Matauare and three
other Tahitians, belted with cartridges and armed with rifles, sat in the
stern-sheets where Sheldon stood at the steering-oar.

"My, I wish I could go with you," Joan said wistfully, as the boat shoved
off.

Sheldon shook his head.

"I'm as good as a man," she urged.

"You really are needed here," he replied.

"There's that Lunga crowd; they might reach the coast right here, and
with both of us absent rush the plantation.  Good-bye.  We'll get back in
the morning some time.  It's only twelve miles."

When Joan started to return to the house, she was compelled to pass among
the boat-carriers, who lingered on the beach to chatter in queer, ape-
like fashion about the events of the night.  They made way for her, but
there came to her, as she was in the midst of them, a feeling of her own
helplessness.  There were so many of them.  What was to prevent them from
dragging her down if they so willed?  Then she remembered that one cry of
hers would fetch Noa Noah and her remaining sailors, each one of whom was
worth a dozen blacks in a struggle.  As she opened the gate, one of the
boys stepped up to her.  In the darkness she could not make him out.

"What name?" she asked sharply.  "What name belong you?"

"Me Aroa," he said.

She remembered him as one of the two sick boys she had nursed at the
hospital.  The other one had died.

"Me take 'm plenty fella medicine too much," Aroa was saying.

"Well, and you all right now," she answered.

"Me want 'm tobacco, plenty fella tobacco; me want 'm calico; me want 'm
porpoise teeth; me want 'm one fella belt."

She looked at him humorously, expecting to see a smile, or at least a
grin, on his face.  Instead, his face was expressionless.  Save for a
narrow breech-clout, a pair of ear-plugs, and about his kinky hair a
chaplet of white cowrie-shells, he was naked.  His body was fresh-oiled
and shiny, and his eyes glistened in the starlight like some wild
animal's.  The rest of the boys had crowded up at his back in a solid
wall.  Some one of them giggled, but the remainder regarded her in morose
and intense silence.

"Well?" she said.  "What for you want plenty fella things?"

"Me take 'm medicine," quoth Aroa.  "You pay me."

And this was a sample of their gratitude, she thought.  It looked as if
Sheldon had been right after all.  Aroa waited stolidly.  A leaping fish
splashed far out on the water.  A tiny wavelet murmured sleepily on the
beach.  The shadow of a flying-fox drifted by in velvet silence overhead.
A light air fanned coolly on her cheek; it was the land-breeze beginning
to blow.

"You go along quarters," she said, starting to turn on her heel to enter
the gate.

"You pay me," said the boy.

"Aroa, you all the same one big fool.  I no pay you.  Now you go."

But the black was unmoved.  She felt that he was regarding her almost
insolently as he repeated:

"I take 'm medicine.  You pay me.  You pay me now."

Then it was that she lost her temper and cuffed his ears so soundly as to
drive him back among his fellows.  But they did not break up.  Another
boy stepped forward.

"You pay me," he said.

His eyes had the querulous, troubled look such as she had noticed in
monkeys; but while he was patently uncomfortable under her scrutiny, his
thick lips were drawn firmly in an effort at sullen determination.

"What for?" she asked.

"Me Gogoomy," he said.  "Bawo brother belong me."

Bawo, she remembered, was the sick boy who had died.

"Go on," she commanded.

"Bawo take 'm medicine.  Bawo finish.  Bawo my brother.  You pay me.
Father belong me one big fella chief along Port Adams.  You pay me."

Joan laughed.

"Gogoomy, you just the same as Aroa, one big fool.  My word, who pay me
for medicine?"

She dismissed the matter by passing through the gate and closing it.  But
Gogoomy pressed up against it and said impudently:

"Father belong me one big fella chief.  You no bang 'm head belong me.  My
word, you fright too much."

"Me fright?" she demanded, while anger tingled all through her.

"Too much fright bang 'm head belong me," Gogoomy said proudly.

And then she reached for him across the gate and got him.  It was a
sweeping, broad-handed slap, so heavy that he staggered sideways and
nearly fell.  He sprang for the gate as if to force it open, while the
crowd surged forward against the fence.  Joan thought rapidly.  Her
revolver was hanging on the wall of her grass house.  Yet one cry would
bring her sailors, and she knew she was safe.  So she did not cry for
help.  Instead, she whistled for Satan, at the same time calling him by
name.  She knew he was shut up in the living room, but the blacks did not
wait to see.  They fled with wild yells through the darkness, followed
reluctantly by Gogoomy; while she entered the bungalow, laughing at
first, but finally vexed to the verge of tears by what had taken place.
She had sat up a whole night with the boy who had died, and yet his
brother demanded to be paid for his life.

"Ugh! the ungrateful beast!" she muttered, while she debated whether or
not she would confess the incident to Sheldon.



CHAPTER XI--THE PORT ADAMS CROWD


"And so it was all settled easily enough," Sheldon was saying.  He was on
the veranda, drinking coffee.  The whale-boat was being carried into its
shed.  "Boucher was a bit timid at first to carry off the situation with
a strong hand, but he did very well once we got started.  We made a play
at holding a court, and Telepasse, the old scoundrel, accepted the
findings.  He's a Port Adams chief, a filthy beggar.  We fined him ten
times the value of the pigs, and made him move on with his mob.  Oh,
they're a sweet lot, I must say, at least sixty of them, in five big
canoes, and out for trouble.  They've got a dozen Sniders that ought to
be confiscated."

"Why didn't you?" Joan asked.

"And have a row on my hands with the Commissioner?  He's terribly touchy
about his black wards, as he calls them.  Well, we started them along
their way, though they went in on the beach to _kai-kai_ several miles
back.  They ought to pass here some time to-day."

Two hours later the canoes arrived.  No one saw them come.  The house-
boys were busy in the kitchen at their own breakfast.  The plantation
hands were similarly occupied in their quarters.  Satan lay sound asleep
on his back under the billiard table, in his sleep brushing at the flies
that pestered him.  Joan was rummaging in the storeroom, and Sheldon was
taking his siesta in a hammock on the veranda.  He awoke gently.  In some
occult, subtle way a warning that all was not well had penetrated his
sleep and aroused him.  Without moving, he glanced down and saw the
ground beneath covered with armed savages.  They were the same ones he
had parted with that morning, though he noted an accession in numbers.
There were men he had not seen before.

He slipped from the hammock and with deliberate slowness sauntered to the
railing, where he yawned sleepily and looked down on them.  It came to
him curiously that it was his destiny ever to stand on this high place,
looking down on unending hordes of black trouble that required control,
bullying, and cajolery.  But while he glanced carelessly over them, he
was keenly taking stock.  The new men were all armed with modern rifles.
Ah, he had thought so.  There were fifteen of them, undoubtedly the Lunga
runaways.  In addition, a dozen old Sniders were in the hands of the
original crowd.  The rest were armed with spears, clubs, bows and arrows,
and long-handled tomahawks.  Beyond, drawn up on the beach, he could see
the big war-canoes, with high and fantastically carved bows and sterns,
ornamented with scrolls and bands of white cowrie shells.  These were the
men who had killed his trader, Oscar, at Ugi.

"What name you walk about this place?" he demanded.

At the same time he stole a glance seaward to where the
_Flibberty-Gibbet_ reflected herself in the glassy calm of the sea.  Not
a soul was visible under her awnings, and he saw the whale-boat was
missing from alongside.  The Tahitians had evidently gone shooting fish
up the Balesuna.  He was all alone in his high place above this trouble,
while his world slumbered peacefully under the breathless tropic noon.

Nobody replied, and he repeated his demand, more of mastery in his voice
this time, and a hint of growing anger.  The blacks moved uneasily, like
a herd of cattle, at the sound of his voice.  But not one spoke.  All
eyes, however, were staring at him in certitude of expectancy.  Something
was about to happen, and they were waiting for it, waiting with the
unanimous, unstable mob-mind for the one of them who would make the first
action that would precipitate all of them into a common action.  Sheldon
looked for this one, for such was the one to fear.  Directly beneath him
he caught sight of the muzzle of a rifle, barely projecting between two
black bodies, that was slowly elevating toward him.  It was held at the
hip by a man in the second row.

"What name you?" Sheldon suddenly shouted, pointing directly at the man
who held the gun, who startled and lowered the muzzle.

Sheldon still held the whip hand, and he intended to keep it.

"Clear out, all you fella boys," he ordered.  "Clear out and walk along
salt water.  Savvee!"

"Me talk," spoke up a fat and filthy savage whose hairy chest was caked
with the unwashed dirt of years.

"Oh, is that you, Telepasse?" the white man queried genially.  "You tell
'm boys clear out, and you stop and talk along me."

"Him good fella boy," was the reply.  "Him stop along."

"Well, what do you want?" Sheldon asked, striving to hide under assumed
carelessness the weakness of concession.

"That fella boy belong along me."  The old chief pointed out Gogoomy,
whom Sheldon recognized.

"White Mary belong you too much no good," Telepasse went on.  "Bang 'm
head belong Gogoomy.  Gogoomy all the same chief.  Bimeby me finish,
Gogoomy big fella chief.  White Mary bang 'm head.  No good.  You pay me
plenty tobacco, plenty powder, plenty calico."

"You old scoundrel," was Sheldon's comment.  An hour before, he had been
chuckling over Joan's recital of the episode, and here, an hour later,
was Telepasse himself come to collect damages.

"Gogoomy," Sheldon ordered, "what name you walk about here?  You get
along quarters plenty quick."

"Me stop," was the defiant answer.

"White Mary b'long you bang 'm head," old Telepasse began again.  "My
word, plenty big fella trouble you no pay."

"You talk along boys," Sheldon said, with increasing irritation.  "You
tell 'm get to hell along beach.  Then I talk with you."

Sheldon felt a slight vibration of the veranda, and knew that Joan had
come out and was standing by his side.  But he did not dare glance at
her.  There were too many rifles down below there, and rifles had a way
of going off from the hip.

Again the veranda vibrated with her moving weight, and he knew that Joan
had gone into the house.  A minute later she was back beside him.  He had
never seen her smoke, and it struck him as peculiar that she should be
smoking now.  Then he guessed the reason.  With a quick glance, he noted
the hand at her side, and in it the familiar, paper-wrapped dynamite.  He
noted, also, the end of fuse, split properly, into which had been
inserted the head of a wax match.

"Telepasse, you old reprobate, tell 'm boys clear out along beach.  My
word, I no gammon along you."

"Me no gammon," said the chief.  "Me want 'm pay white Mary bang 'm head
b'long Gogoomy."

"I'll come down there and bang 'm head b'long you," Sheldon replied,
leaning toward the railing as if about to leap over.

An angry murmur arose, and the blacks surged restlessly.  The muzzles of
many guns were rising from the hips.  Joan was pressing the lighted end
of the cigarette to the fuse.  A Snider went off with the roar of a bomb-
gun, and Sheldon heard a pane of window-glass crash behind him.  At the
same moment Joan flung the dynamite, the fuse hissing and spluttering,
into the thick of the blacks.  They scattered back in too great haste to
do any more shooting.  Satan, aroused by the one shot, was snarling and
panting to be let out.  Joan heard, and ran to let him out; and thereat
the tragedy was averted, and the comedy began.

Rifles and spears were dropped or flung aside in a wild scramble for the
protection of the cocoanut palms.  Satan multiplied himself.  Never had
he been free to tear and rend such a quantity of black flesh before, and
he bit and snapped and rushed the flying legs till the last pair were
above his head.  All were treed except Telepasse, who was too old and
fat, and he lay prone and without movement where he had fallen; while
Satan, with too great a heart to worry an enemy that did not move, dashed
frantically from tree to tree, barking and springing at those who clung
on lowest down.

"I fancy you need a lesson or two in inserting fuses," Sheldon remarked
dryly.

Joan's eyes were scornful.

"There was no detonator on it," she said.  "Besides, the detonator is not
yet manufactured that will explode that charge.  It's only a bottle of
chlorodyne."

She put her fingers into her mouth, and Sheldon winced as he saw her
blow, like a boy, a sharp, imperious whistle--the call she always used
for her sailors, and that always made him wince.

"They're gone up the Balesuna, shooting fish," he explained.  "But there
comes Oleson with his boat's-crew.  He's an old war-horse when he gets
started.  See him banging the boys.  They don't pull fast enough for
him."

"And now what's to be done?" she asked.  "You've treed your game, but you
can't keep it treed."

"No; but I can teach them a lesson."

Sheldon walked over to the big bell.

"It is all right," he replied to her gesture of protest.  "My boys are
practically all bushmen, while these chaps are salt-water men, and
there's no love lost between them.  You watch the fun."

He rang a general call, and by the time the two hundred labourers trooped
into the compound Satan was once more penned in the living-room,
complaining to high heaven at his abominable treatment.  The plantation
hands were dancing war-dances around the base of every tree and filling
the air with abuse and vituperation of their hereditary enemies.  The
skipper of the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ arrived in the thick of it, in the
first throes of oncoming fever, staggering as he walked, and shivering so
severely that he could scarcely hold the rifle he carried.  His face was
ghastly blue, his teeth clicked and chattered, and the violent sunshine
through which he walked could not warm him.

"I'll s-s-sit down, and k-k-keep a guard on 'em," he chattered.  "D-d-dash
it all, I always g-get f-fever when there's any excitement.  W-w-wh-what
are you going to do?"

"Gather up the guns first of all."

Under Sheldon's direction the house-boys and gang-bosses collected the
scattered arms and piled them in a heap on the veranda.  The modern
rifles, stolen from Lunga, Sheldon set aside; the Sniders he smashed into
fragments; the pile of spears, clubs, and tomahawks he presented to Joan.

"A really unique addition to your collection," he smiled; "picked up
right on the battlefield."

Down on the beach he built a bonfire out of the contents of the canoes,
his blacks smashing, breaking, and looting everything they laid hands on.
The canoes themselves, splintered and broken, filled with sand and coral-
boulders, were towed out to ten fathoms of water and sunk.

"Ten fathoms will be deep enough for them to work in," Sheldon said, as
they walked back to the compound.

Here a Saturnalia had broken loose.  The war-songs and dances were more
unrestrained, and, from abuse, the plantation blacks had turned to
pelting their helpless foes with pieces of wood, handfuls of pebbles, and
chunks of coral-rock.  And the seventy-five lusty cannibals clung
stoically to their tree-perches, enduring the rain of missiles and
snarling down promises of vengeance.

"There'll be wars for forty years on Malaita on account of this," Sheldon
laughed.  "But I always fancy old Telepasse will never again attempt to
rush a plantation."

"Eh, you old scoundrel," he added, turning to the old chief, who sat
gibbering in impotent rage at the foot of the steps.  "Now head belong
you bang 'm too.  Come on, Miss Lackland, bang 'm just once.  It will be
the crowning indignity."

"Ugh, he's too dirty.  I'd rather give him a bath.  Here, you, Adamu
Adam, give this devil-devil a wash.  Soap and water!  Fill that wash-tub.
Ornfiri, run and fetch 'm scrub-brush."

The Tahitians, back from their fishing and grinning at the bedlam of the
compound, entered into the joke.

"_Tambo_!  _Tambo_!" shrieked the cannibals from the trees, appalled at
so awful a desecration, as they saw their chief tumbled into the tub and
the sacred dirt rubbed and soused from his body.

Joan, who had gone into the bungalow, tossed down a strip of white
calico, in which old Telepasse was promptly wrapped, and he stood forth,
resplendent and purified, withal he still spat and strangled from the
soap-suds with which Noa Noah had gargled his throat.

The house-boys were directed to fetch handcuffs, and, one by one, the
Lunga runaways were haled down out of their trees and made fast.  Sheldon
ironed them in pairs, and ran a steel chain through the links of the
irons.  Gogoomy was given a lecture for his mutinous conduct and locked
up for the afternoon.  Then Sheldon rewarded the plantation hands with an
afternoon's holiday, and, when they had withdrawn from the compound,
permitted the Port Adams men to descend from the trees.  And all
afternoon he and Joan loafed in the cool of the veranda and watched them
diving down and emptying their sunken canoes of the sand and rocks.  It
was twilight when they embarked and paddled away with a few broken
paddles.  A breeze had sprung up, and the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ had already
sailed for Lunga to return the runaways.



CHAPTER XII--MR. MORGAN AND MR. RAFF


Sheldon was back in the plantation superintending the building of a
bridge, when the schooner _Malakula_ ran in close and dropped anchor.
Joan watched the taking in of sail and the swinging out of the boat with
a sailor's interest, and herself met the two men who came ashore.  While
one of the house-boys ran to fetch Sheldon, she had the visitors served
with whisky and soda, and sat and talked with them.

They seemed awkward and constrained in her presence, and she caught first
one and then the other looking at her with secret curiosity.  She felt
that they were weighing her, appraising her, and for the first time the
anomalous position she occupied on Berande sank sharply home to her.  On
the other hand, they puzzled her.  They were neither traders nor sailors
of any type she had known.  Nor did they talk like gentlemen, despite the
fact that there was nothing offensive in their bearing and that the
veneer of ordinary social nicety was theirs.  Undoubtedly, they were men
of affairs--business men of a sort; but what affairs should they have in
the Solomons, and what business on Berande?  The elder one, Morgan, was a
huge man, bronzed and moustached, with a deep bass voice and an almost
guttural speech, and the other, Raff, was slight and effeminate, with
nervous hands and watery, washed-out gray eyes, who spoke with a faint
indefinable accent that was hauntingly reminiscent of the Cockney, and
that was yet not Cockney of any brand she had ever encountered.  Whatever
they were, they were self-made men, she concluded; and she felt the
impulse to shudder at thought of falling into their hands in a business
way.  There, they would be merciless.

She watched Sheldon closely when he arrived, and divined that he was not
particularly delighted to see them.  But see them he must, and so
pressing was the need that, after a little perfunctory general
conversation, he led the two men into the stuffy office.  Later in the
afternoon, she asked Lalaperu where they had gone.

"My word," quoth Lalaperu; "plenty walk about, plenty look 'm.  Look 'm
tree; look 'm ground belong tree; look 'm all fella bridge; look 'm copra-
house; look 'm grass-land; look 'm river; look 'm whale-boat--my word,
plenty big fella look 'm too much."

"What fella man them two fella?" she queried.

"Big fella marster along white man," was the extent of his description.

But Joan decided that they were men of importance in the Solomons, and
that their examination of the plantation and of its accounts was of
sinister significance.

At dinner no word was dropped that gave a hint of their errand.  The
conversation was on general topics; but Joan could not help noticing the
troubled, absent expression that occasionally came into Sheldon's eyes.
After coffee, she left them; and at midnight, from across the compound,
she could hear the low murmur of their voices and see glowing the fiery
ends of their cigars.  Up early herself, she found they had already
departed on another tramp over the plantation.

"What you think?" she asked Viaburi.

"Sheldon marster he go along finish short time little bit," was the
answer.

"What you think?" she asked Ornfiri.

"Sheldon marster big fella walk about along Sydney.  Yes, me t'ink so.  He
finish along Berande."

All day the examination of the plantation and the discussion went on; and
all day the skipper of the _Malakula_ sent urgent messages ashore for the
two men to hasten.  It was not until sunset that they went down to the
boat, and even then a final talk of nearly an hour took place on the
beach.  Sheldon was combating something--that she could plainly see; and
that his two visitors were not giving in she could also plainly see.

"What name?" she asked lightly, when Sheldon sat down to dinner.

He looked at her and smiled, but it was a very wan and wistful smile.

"My word," she went on.  "One big fella talk.  Sun he go down--talk-talk;
sun he come up--talk-talk; all the time talk-talk.  What name that fella
talk-talk?

"Oh, nothing much."  He shrugged his shoulders.  "They were trying to buy
Berande, that was all."

She looked at him challengingly.

"It must have been more than that.  It was you who wanted to sell."

"Indeed, no, Miss Lackland; I assure you that I am far from desiring to
sell."

"Don't let us fence about it," she urged.  "Let it be straight talk
between us.  You're in trouble.  I'm not a fool.  Tell me.  Besides, I
may be able to help, to--to suggest something."

In the pause that followed, he seemed to debate, not so much whether he
would tell her, as how to begin to tell her.

"I'm American, you see," she persisted, "and our American heritage is a
large parcel of business sense.  I don't like it myself, but I know I've
got it--at least more than you have.  Let us talk it over and find a way
out.  How much do you owe?"

"A thousand pounds, and a few trifles over--small bills, you know.  Then,
too, thirty of the boys finish their time next week, and their balances
will average ten pounds each.  But what is the need of bothering your
head with it?  Really, you know--"

"What is Berande worth?--right now?"

"Whatever Morgan and Raff are willing to pay for it."  A glance at her
hurt expression decided him.  "Hughie and I have sunk eight thousand
pounds in it, and our time.  It is a good property, and worth more than
that.  But it has three years to run before its returns begin to come in.
That is why Hughie and I engaged in trading and recruiting.  The _Jessie_
and our stations came very near to paying the running expenses of
Berande."

"And Morgan and Raff offered you what?"

"A thousand pounds clear, after paying all bills."

"The thieves!" she cried.

"No, they're good business men, that is all.  As they told me, a thing is
worth no more than one is willing to pay or to receive."

"And how much do you need to carry on Berande for three years?" Joan
hurried on.

"Two hundred boys at six pounds a year means thirty-six hundred
pounds--that's the main item."

"My, how cheap labour does mount up!  Thirty-six hundred pounds, eighteen
thousand dollars, just for a lot of cannibals!  Yet the place is good
security.  You could go down to Sydney and raise the money."

He shook his head.

"You can't get them to look at plantations down there.  They've been
taken in too often.  But I do hate to give the place up--more for
Hughie's sake, I swear, than my own.  He was bound up in it.  You see, he
was a persistent chap, and hated to acknowledge defeat.  It--it makes me
uncomfortable to think of it myself.  We were running slowly behind, but
with the _Jessie_ we hoped to muddle through in some fashion."

"You were muddlers, the pair of you, without doubt.  But you needn't sell
to Morgan and Raff.  I shall go down to Sydney on the next steamer, and
I'll come back in a second-hand schooner.  I should be able to buy one
for five or six thousand dollars--"

He held up his hand in protest, but she waved it aside.

"I may manage to freight a cargo back as well.  At any rate, the schooner
will take over the _Jessie's_ business.  You can make your arrangements
accordingly, and have plenty of work for her when I get back.  I'm going
to become a partner in Berande to the extent of my bag of sovereigns--I've
got over fifteen hundred of them, you know.  We'll draw up an agreement
right now--that is, with your permission, and I know you won't refuse
it."

He looked at her with good-natured amusement.

"You know I sailed here all the way from Tahiti in order to become a
planter," she insisted.  "You know what my plans were.  Now I've changed
them, that's all.  I'd rather be a part owner of Berande and get my
returns in three years, than break ground on Pari-Sulay and wait seven
years."

"And this--er--this schooner. . . . "  Sheldon changed his mind and
stopped.

"Yes, go on."

"You won't be angry?" he queried.

"No, no; this is business.  Go on."

"You--er--you would run her yourself?--be the captain, in short?--and go
recruiting on Malaita?"

"Certainly.  We would save the cost of a skipper.  Under an agreement you
would be credited with a manager's salary, and I with a captain's.  It's
quite simple.  Besides, if you won't let me be your partner, I shall buy
Pari-Sulay, get a much smaller vessel, and run her myself.  So what is
the difference?"

"The difference?--why, all the difference in the world.  In the case of
Pari-Sulay you would be on an independent venture.  You could turn
cannibal for all I could interfere in the matter.  But on Berande, you
would be my partner, and then I would be responsible.  And of course I
couldn't permit you, as my partner, to be skipper of a recruiter.  I tell
you, the thing is what I would not permit any sister or wife of mine--"

"But I'm not going to be your wife, thank goodness--only your partner."

"Besides, it's all ridiculous," he held on steadily.  "Think of the
situation.  A man and a woman, both young, partners on an isolated
plantation.  Why, the only practical way out would be that I'd have to
marry you--"

"Mine was a business proposition, not a marriage proposal," she
interrupted, coldly angry.  "I wonder if somewhere in this world there is
one man who could accept me for a comrade."

"But you are a woman just the same," he began, "and there are certain
conventions, certain decencies--"

She sprang up and stamped her foot.

"Do you know what I'd like to say?" she demanded.

"Yes," he smiled, "you'd like to say, 'Damn petticoats!'"

She nodded her head ruefully.

"That's what I wanted to say, but it sounds different on your lips.  It
sounds as though you meant it yourself, and that you meant it because of
me."

"Well, I am going to bed.  But do, please, think over my proposition, and
let me know in the morning.  There's no use in my discussing it now.  You
make me so angry.  You are cowardly, you know, and very egotistic.  You
are afraid of what other fools will say.  No matter how honest your
motives, if others criticized your actions your feelings would be hurt.
And you think more about your own wretched feelings than you do about
mine.  And then, being a coward--all men are at heart cowards--you
disguise your cowardice by calling it chivalry.  I thank heaven that I
was not born a man.  Good-night.  Do think it over.  And don't be
foolish.  What Berande needs is good American hustle.  You don't know
what that is.  You are a muddler.  Besides, you are enervated.  I'm fresh
to the climate.  Let me be your partner, and you'll see me rattle the dry
bones of the Solomons.  Confess, I've rattled yours already."

"I should say so," he answered.  "Really, you know, you have.  I never
received such a dressing-down in my life.  If any one had ever told me
that I'd be a party even to the present situation. . . . Yes, I confess,
you have rattled my dry bones pretty considerably."

"But that is nothing to the rattling they are going to get," she assured
him, as he rose and took her hand.  "Good-night.  And do, do give me a
rational decision in the morning."



CHAPTER XIII--THE LOGIC OF YOUTH


"I wish I knew whether you are merely headstrong, or whether you really
intend to be a Solomon planter," Sheldon said in the morning, at
breakfast.

"I wish you were more adaptable," Joan retorted.  "You have more
preconceived notions than any man I ever met.  Why in the name of common
sense, in the name of . . . fair play, can't you get it into your head
that I am different from the women you have known, and treat me
accordingly?  You surely ought to know I am different.  I sailed my own
schooner here--skipper, if you please.  I came here to make my living.
You know that; I've told you often enough.  It was Dad's plan, and I'm
carrying it out, just as you are trying to carry out your Hughie's plan.
Dad started to sail and sail until he could find the proper islands for
planting.  He died, and I sailed and sailed until I arrived here.
Well,"--she shrugged her shoulders--"the schooner is at the bottom of the
sea.  I can't sail any farther, therefore I remain here.  And a planter I
shall certainly be."

"You see--" he began.

"I haven't got to the point," she interrupted.  "Looking back on my
conduct from the moment I first set foot on your beach, I can see no
false pretence that I have made about myself or my intentions.  I was my
natural self to you from the first.  I told you my plans; and yet you sit
there and calmly tell me that you don't know whether I really intend to
become a planter, or whether it is all obstinacy and pretence.  Now let
me assure you, for the last time, that I really and truly shall become a
planter, thanks to you, or in spite of you.  Do you want me for a
partner?"

"But do you realize that I would be looked upon as the most foolish
jackanapes in the South Seas if I took a young girl like you in with me
here on Berande?" he asked.

"No; decidedly not.  But there you are again, worrying about what idiots
and the generally evil-minded will think of you.  I should have thought
you had learned self-reliance on Berande, instead of needing to lean upon
the moral support of every whisky-guzzling worthless South Sea vagabond."

He smiled, and said,--

"Yes, that is the worst of it.  You are unanswerable.  Yours is the logic
of youth, and no man can answer that.  The facts of life can, but they
have no place in the logic of youth.  Youth must try to live according to
its logic.  That is the only way to learn better."

"There is no harm in trying?" she interjected.

"But there is.  That is the very point.  The facts always smash youth's
logic, and they usually smash youth's heart, too.  It's like platonic
friendships and . . . and all such things; they are all right in theory,
but they won't work in practice.  I used to believe in such things once.
That is why I am here in the Solomons at present."

Joan was impatient.  He saw that she could not understand.  Life was too
clearly simple to her.  It was only the youth who was arguing with him,
the youth with youth's pure-minded and invincible reasoning.  Hers was
only the boy's soul in a woman's body.  He looked at her flushed, eager
face, at the great ropes of hair coiled on the small head, at the rounded
lines of the figure showing plainly through the home-made gown, and at
the eyes--boy's eyes, under cool, level brows--and he wondered why a
being that was so much beautiful woman should be no woman at all.  Why in
the deuce was she not carroty-haired, or cross-eyed, or hare-lipped?

"Suppose we do become partners on Berande," he said, at the same time
experiencing a feeling of fright at the prospect that was tangled with a
contradictory feeling of charm, "either I'll fall in love with you, or
you with me.  Propinquity is dangerous, you know.  In fact, it is
propinquity that usually gives the facer to the logic of youth."

"If you think I came to the Solomons to get married--" she began
wrathfully.  "Well, there are better men in Hawaii, that's all.  Really,
you know, the way you harp on that one string would lead an unprejudiced
listener to conclude that you are prurient-minded--"

She stopped, appalled.  His face had gone red and white with such
abruptness as to startle her.  He was patently very angry.  She sipped
the last of her coffee, and arose, saying,--

"I'll wait until you are in a better temper before taking up the
discussion again.  That is what's the matter with you.  You get angry too
easily.  Will you come swimming?  The tide is just right."

"If she were a man I'd bundle her off the plantation root and crop, whale-
boat, Tahitian sailors, sovereigns, and all," he muttered to himself
after she had left the room.

But that was the trouble.  She was not a man, and where would she go, and
what would happen to her?

He got to his feet, lighted a cigarette, and her Stetson hat, hanging on
the wall over her revolver-belt, caught his eye.  That was the devil of
it, too.  He did not want her to go.  After all, she had not grown up
yet.  That was why her logic hurt.  It was only the logic of youth, but
it could hurt damnably at times.  At any rate, he would resolve upon one
thing: never again would he lose his temper with her.  She was a child;
he must remember that.  He sighed heavily.  But why in reasonableness had
such a child been incorporated in such a woman's form?

And as he continued to stare at her hat and think, the hurt he had
received passed away, and he found himself cudgelling his brains for some
way out of the muddle--for some method by which she could remain on
Berande.  A chaperone!  Why not?  He could send to Sydney on the first
steamer for one.  He could--

Her trilling laughter smote upon his reverie, and he stepped to the
screen-door, through which he could see her running down the path to the
beach.  At her heels ran two of her sailors, Papehara and Mahameme, in
scarlet lava-lavas, with naked sheath-knives gleaming in their belts.  It
was another sample of her wilfulness.  Despite entreaties and commands,
and warnings of the danger from sharks, she persisted in swimming at any
and all times, and by special preference, it seemed to him, immediately
after eating.

He watched her take the water, diving cleanly, like a boy, from the end
of the little pier; and he watched her strike out with single overhand
stroke, her henchmen swimming a dozen feet on either side.  He did not
have much faith in their ability to beat off a hungry man-eater, though
he did believe, implicitly, that their lives would go bravely before hers
in case of an attack.

Straight out they swam, their heads growing smaller and smaller.  There
was a slight, restless heave to the sea, and soon the three heads were
disappearing behind it with greater frequency.  He strained his eyes to
keep them in sight, and finally fetched the telescope on to the veranda.
A squall was making over from the direction of Florida; but then, she and
her men laughed at squalls and the white choppy sea at such times.  She
certainly could swim, he had long since concluded.  That came of her
training in Hawaii.  But sharks were sharks, and he had known of more
than one good swimmer drowned in a tide-rip.

The squall blackened the sky, beat the ocean white where he had last seen
the three heads, and then blotted out sea and sky and everything with its
deluge of rain.  It passed on, and Berande emerged in the bright sunshine
as the three swimmers emerged from the sea.  Sheldon slipped inside with
the telescope, and through the screen-door watched her run up the path,
shaking down her hair as she ran, to the fresh-water shower under the
house.

On the veranda that afternoon he broached the proposition of a chaperone
as delicately as he could, explaining the necessity at Berande for such a
body, a housekeeper to run the boys and the storeroom, and perform divers
other useful functions.  When he had finished, he waited anxiously for
what Joan would say.

"Then you don't like the way I've been managing the house?" was her first
objection.  And next, brushing his attempted explanations aside, "One of
two things would happen.  Either I should cancel our partnership
agreement and go away, leaving you to get another chaperone to chaperone
your chaperone; or else I'd take the old hen out in the whale-boat and
drown her.  Do you imagine for one moment that I sailed my schooner down
here to this raw edge of the earth in order to put myself under a
chaperone?"

"But really . . . er . . . you know a chaperone is a necessary evil," he
objected.

"We've got along very nicely so far without one.  Did I have one on the
_Miele_?  And yet I was the only woman on board.  There are only three
things I am afraid of--bumble-bees, scarlet fever, and chaperones.  Ugh!
the clucking, evil-minded monsters, finding wrong in everything, seeing
sin in the most innocent actions, and suggesting sin--yes, causing sin--by
their diseased imaginings."

"Phew!" Sheldon leaned back from the table in mock fear.

"You needn't worry about your bread and butter," he ventured.  "If you
fail at planting, you would be sure to succeed as a writer--novels with a
purpose, you know."

"I didn't think there were persons in the Solomons who needed such
books," she retaliated.  "But you are certainly one--you and your
custodians of virtue."

He winced, but Joan rattled on with the platitudinous originality of
youth.

"As if anything good were worth while when it has to be guarded and put
in leg-irons and handcuffs in order to keep it good.  Your desire for a
chaperone as much as implies that I am that sort of creature.  I prefer
to be good because it is good to be good, rather than because I can't be
bad because some argus-eyed old frump won't let me have a chance to be
bad."

"But it--it is not that," he put in.  "It is what others will think."

"Let them think, the nasty-minded wretches!  It is because men like you
are afraid of the nasty-minded that you allow their opinions to rule
you."

"I am afraid you are a female Shelley," he replied; "and as such, you
really drive me to become your partner in order to protect you."

"If you take me as a partner in order to protect me . . . I . . . I
shan't be your partner, that's all.  You'll drive me into buying Pari-
Sulay yet."

"All the more reason--" he attempted.

"Do you know what I'll do?" she demanded.  "I'll find some man in the
Solomons who won't want to protect me."

Sheldon could not conceal the shock her words gave him.

"You don't mean that, you know," he pleaded.

"I do; I really do.  I am sick and tired of this protection dodge.  Don't
forget for a moment that I am perfectly able to take care of myself.
Besides, I have eight of the best protectors in the world--my sailors."

"You should have lived a thousand years ago," he laughed, "or a thousand
years hence.  You are very primitive, and equally super-modern.  The
twentieth century is no place for you."

"But the Solomon Islands are.  You were living like a savage when I came
along and found you--eating nothing but tinned meat and scones that would
have ruined the digestion of a camel.  Anyway, I've remedied that; and
since we are to be partners, it will stay remedied.  You won't die of
malnutrition, be sure of that."

"If we enter into partnership," he announced, "it must be thoroughly
understood that you are not allowed to run the schooner.  You can go down
to Sydney and buy her, but a skipper we must have--"

"At so much additional expense, and most likely a whisky-drinking,
irresponsible, and incapable man to boot.  Besides, I'd have the business
more at heart than any man we could hire.  As for capability, I tell you
I can sail all around the average broken captain or promoted able seaman
you find in the South Seas.  And you know I am a navigator."

"But being my partner," he said coolly, "makes you none the less a lady."

"Thank you for telling me that my contemplated conduct is unladylike."

She arose, tears of anger and mortification in her eyes, and went over to
the phonograph.

"I wonder if all men are as ridiculous as you?" she said.

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled.  Discussion was useless--he had
learned that; and he was resolved to keep his temper.  And before the day
was out she capitulated.  She was to go to Sydney on the first steamer,
purchase the schooner, and sail back with an island skipper on board.  And
then she inveigled Sheldon into agreeing that she could take occasional
cruises in the islands, though he was adamant when it came to a
recruiting trip on Malaita.  That was the one thing barred.

And after it was all over, and a terse and business-like agreement (by
her urging) drawn up and signed, Sheldon paced up and down for a full
hour, meditating upon how many different kinds of a fool he had made of
himself.  It was an impossible situation, and yet no more impossible than
the previous one, and no more impossible than the one that would have
obtained had she gone off on her own and bought Pari-Sulay.  He had never
seen a more independent woman who stood more in need of a protector than
this boy-minded girl who had landed on his beach with eight picturesque
savages, a long-barrelled revolver, a bag of gold, and a gaudy
merchandise of imagined romance and adventure.

He had never read of anything to compare with it.  The fictionists, as
usual, were exceeded by fact.  The whole thing was too preposterous to be
true.  He gnawed his moustache and smoked cigarette after cigarette.
Satan, back from a prowl around the compound, ran up to him and touched
his hand with a cold, damp nose.  Sheldon caressed the animal's ears,
then threw himself into a chair and laughed heartily.  What would the
Commissioner of the Solomons think?  What would his people at home think?
And in the one breath he was glad that the partnership had been effected
and sorry that Joan Lackland had ever come to the Solomons.  Then he went
inside and looked at himself in a hand-mirror.  He studied the reflection
long and thoughtfully and wonderingly.



CHAPTER XIV--THE MARTHA


They were deep in a game of billiards the next morning, after the eleven
o'clock breakfast, when Viaburi entered and announced,--

"Big fella schooner close up."

Even as he spoke, they heard the rumble of chain through hawse-pipe, and
from the veranda saw a big black-painted schooner, swinging to her just-
caught anchor.

"It's a Yankee," Joan cried.  "See that bow!  Look at that elliptical
stern!  Ah, I thought so--" as the Stars and Stripes fluttered to the
mast-head.

Noa Noah, at Sheldon's direction, ran the Union Jack up the flagstaff.

"Now what is an American vessel doing down here?" Joan asked.  "It's not
a yacht, though I'll wager she can sail.  Look!  Her name!  What is it?"

"_Martha_, San Francisco," Sheldon read, looking through the telescope.
"It's the first Yankee I ever heard of in the Solomons.  They are coming
ashore, whoever they are.  And, by Jove, look at those men at the oars.
It's an all-white crew.  Now what reason brings them here?"

"They're not proper sailors," Joan commented.  "I'd be ashamed of a crew
of black-boys that pulled in such fashion.  Look at that fellow in the
bow--the one just jumping out; he'd be more at home on a cow-pony."

The boat's-crew scattered up and down the beach, ranging about with eager
curiosity, while the two men who had sat in the stern-sheets opened the
gate and came up the path to the bungalow.  One of them, a tall and
slender man, was clad in white ducks that fitted him like a semi-military
uniform.  The other man, in nondescript garments that were both of the
sea and shore, and that must have been uncomfortably hot, slouched and
shambled like an overgrown ape.  To complete the illusion, his face
seemed to sprout in all directions with a dense, bushy mass of red
whiskers, while his eyes were small and sharp and restless.

Sheldon, who had gone to the head of the steps, introduced them to Joan.
The bewhiskered individual, who looked like a Scotsman, had the Teutonic
name of Von Blix, and spoke with a strong American accent.  The tall man
in the well-fitting ducks, who gave the English name of Tudor--John
Tudor--talked purely-enunciated English such as any cultured American
would talk, save for the fact that it was most delicately and subtly
touched by a faint German accent.  Joan decided that she had been helped
to identify the accent by the short German-looking moustache that did not
conceal the mouth and its full red lips, which would have formed a
Cupid's bow but for some harshness or severity of spirit that had moulded
them masculinely.

Von Blix was rough and boorish, but Tudor was gracefully easy in
everything he did, or looked, or said.  His blue eyes sparkled and
flashed, his clean-cut mobile features were an index to his slightest
shades of feeling and expression.  He bubbled with enthusiasms, and his
faintest smile or lightest laugh seemed spontaneous and genuine.  But it
was only occasionally at first that he spoke, for Von Blix told their
story and stated their errand.

They were on a gold-hunting expedition.  He was the leader, and Tudor was
his lieutenant.  All hands--and there were twenty-eight--were
shareholders, in varying proportions, in the adventure.  Several were
sailors, but the large majority were miners, culled from all the camps
from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.  It was the old and ever-untiring
pursuit of gold, and they had come to the Solomons to get it.  Part of
them, under the leadership of Tudor, were to go up the Balesuna and
penetrate the mountainous heart of Guadalcanar, while the _Martha_, under
Von Blix, sailed away for Malaita to put through similar exploration.

"And so," said Von Blix, "for Mr. Tudor's expedition we must have some
black-boys.  Can we get them from you?"

"Of course we will pay," Tudor broke in.  "You have only to charge what
you consider them worth.  You pay them six pounds a year, don't you?"

"In the first place we can't spare them," Sheldon answered.  "We are
short of them on the plantation as it is."

"_We_?" Tudor asked quickly.  "Then you are a firm or a partnership?  I
understood at Guvutu that you were alone, that you had lost your
partner."

Sheldon inclined his head toward Joan, and as he spoke she felt that he
had become a trifle stiff.

"Miss Lackland has become interested in the plantation since then.  But
to return to the boys.  We can't spare them, and besides, they would be
of little use.  You couldn't get them to accompany you beyond Binu, which
is a short day's work with the boats from here.  They are Malaita-men,
and they are afraid of being eaten.  They would desert you at the first
opportunity.  You could get the Binu men to accompany you another day's
journey, through the grass-lands, but at the first roll of the foothills
look for them to turn back.  They likewise are disinclined to being
eaten."

"Is it as bad as that?" asked Von Blix.

"The interior of Guadalcanar has never been explored," Sheldon explained.
"The bushmen are as wild men as are to be found anywhere in the world to-
day.  I have never seen one.  I have never seen a man who has seen one.
They never come down to the coast, though their scouting parties
occasionally eat a coast native who has wandered too far inland.  Nobody
knows anything about them.  They don't even use tobacco--have never
learned its use.  The Austrian expedition--scientists, you know--got part
way in before it was cut to pieces.  The monument is up the beach there
several miles.  Only one man got back to the coast to tell the tale.  And
now you have all I or any other man knows of the inside of Guadalcanar."

"But gold--have you heard of gold?" Tudor asked impatiently.  "Do you
know anything about gold?"

Sheldon smiled, while the two visitors hung eagerly upon his words.

"You can go two miles up the Balesuna and wash colours from the gravel.
I've done it often.  There is gold undoubtedly back in the mountains."

Tudor and Von Blix looked triumphantly at each other.

"Old Wheatsheaf's yarn was true, then," Tudor said, and Von Blix nodded.
"And if Malaita turns out as well--"

Tudor broke off and looked at Joan.

"It was the tale of this old beachcomber that brought us here," he
explained.  "Von Blix befriended him and was told the secret."  He turned
and addressed Sheldon.  "I think we shall prove that white men have been
through the heart of Guadalcanar long before the time of the Austrian
expedition."

Sheldon shrugged his shoulders.

"We have never heard of it down here," he said simply.  Then he addressed
Von Blix.  "As to the boys, you couldn't use them farther than Binu, and
I'll lend you as many as you want as far as that.  How many of your party
are going, and how soon will you start?"

"Ten," said Tudor; "nine men and myself."

"And you should be able to start day after to-morrow," Von Blix said to
him.  "The boats should practically be knocked together this afternoon.
To-morrow should see the outfit portioned and packed.  As for the
_Martha_, Mr. Sheldon, we'll rush the stuff ashore this afternoon and
sail by sundown."

As the two men returned down the path to their boat, Sheldon regarded
Joan quizzically.

"There's romance for you," he said, "and adventure--gold-hunting among
the cannibals."

"A title for a book," she cried.  "Or, better yet, 'Gold-Hunting Among
the Head-Hunters.'  My! wouldn't it sell!"

"And now aren't you sorry you became a cocoanut planter?" he teased.
"Think of investing in such an adventure."

"If I did," she retorted, "Von Blix wouldn't be finicky about my joining
in the cruise to Malaita."

"I don't doubt but what he would jump at it."

"What do you think of them?" she asked.

"Oh, old Von Blix is all right, a solid sort of chap in his fashion; but
Tudor is fly-away--too much on the surface, you know.  If it came to
being wrecked on a desert island, I'd prefer Von Blix."

"I don't quite understand," Joan objected.  "What have you against
Tudor?"

"You remember Browning's 'Last Duchess'?"

She nodded.

"Well, Tudor reminds me of her--"

"But she was delightful."

"So she was.  But she was a woman.  One expects something different from
a man--more control, you know, more restraint, more deliberation.  A man
must be more solid, more solid and steady-going and less effervescent.  A
man of Tudor's type gets on my nerves.  One demands more repose from a
man."

Joan felt that she did not quite agree with his judgment; and, somehow,
Sheldon caught her feeling and was disturbed.  He remembered noting how
her eyes had brightened as she talked with the newcomer--confound it all,
was he getting jealous? he asked himself.  Why shouldn't her eyes
brighten?  What concern was it of his?

A second boat had been lowered, and the outfit of the shore party was
landed rapidly.  A dozen of the crew put the knocked-down boats together
on the beach.  There were five of these craft--lean and narrow, with
flaring sides, and remarkably long.  Each was equipped with three paddles
and several iron-shod poles.

"You chaps certainly seem to know river-work," Sheldon told one of the
carpenters.

The man spat a mouthful of tobacco-juice into the white sand, and
answered,--

"We use 'em in Alaska.  They're modelled after the Yukon poling-boats,
and you can bet your life they're crackerjacks.  This creek'll be a snap
alongside some of them Northern streams.  Five hundred pounds in one of
them boats, an' two men can snake it along in a way that'd surprise you."

At sunset the _Martha_ broke out her anchor and got under way, dipping
her flag and saluting with a bomb gun.  The Union Jack ran up and down
the staff, and Sheldon replied with his brass signal-cannon.  The miners
pitched their tents in the compound, and cooked on the beach, while Tudor
dined with Joan and Sheldon.

Their guest seemed to have been everywhere and seen everything and met
everybody, and, encouraged by Joan, his talk was largely upon his own
adventures.  He was an adventurer of adventurers, and by his own account
had been born into adventure.  Descended from old New England stock, his
father a consul-general, he had been born in Germany, in which country he
had received his early education and his accent.  Then, still a boy, he
had rejoined his father in Turkey, and accompanied him later to Persia,
his father having been appointed Minister to that country.

Tudor had always been a wanderer, and with facile wit and quick vivid
description he leaped from episode and place to episode and place,
relating his experiences seemingly not because they were his, but for the
sake of their bizarreness and uniqueness, for the unusual incident or the
laughable situation.  He had gone through South American revolutions,
been a Rough Rider in Cuba, a scout in South Africa, a war correspondent
in the Russo-Japanese war.  He had _mushed_ dogs in the Klondike, washed
gold from the sands of Nome, and edited a newspaper in San Francisco.  The
President of the United States was his friend.  He was equally at home in
the clubs of London and the Continent, the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, and
the selector's shanties in the Never-Never country.  He had shot big game
in Siam, pearled in the Paumotus, visited Tolstoy, seen the Passion Play,
and crossed the Andes on mule-back; while he was a living directory of
the fever holes of West Africa.

Sheldon leaned back in his chair on the veranda, sipping his coffee and
listening.  In spite of himself he felt touched by the charm of the man
who had led so varied a life.  And yet Sheldon was not comfortable.  It
seemed to him that the man addressed himself particularly to Joan.  His
words and smiles were directed impartially toward both of them, yet
Sheldon was certain, had the two men of them been alone, that the
conversation would have been along different lines.  Tudor had seen the
effect on Joan and deliberately continued the flow of reminiscence,
netting her in the glamour of romance.  Sheldon watched her rapt
attention, listened to her spontaneous laughter, quick questions, and
passing judgments, and felt grow within him the dawning consciousness
that he loved her.

So he was very quiet and almost sad, though at times he was aware of a
distinct irritation against his guest, and he even speculated as to what
percentage of Tudor's tale was true and how any of it could be proved or
disproved.  In this connection, as if the scene had been prepared by a
clever playwright, Utami came upon the veranda to report to Joan the
capture of a crocodile in the trap they had made for her.

Tudor's face, illuminated by the match with which he was lighting his
cigarette, caught Utami's eye, and Utami forgot to report to his
mistress.

"Hello, Tudor," he said, with a familiarity that startled Sheldon.

The Polynesian's hand went out, and Tudor, shaking it, was staring into
his face.

"Who is it?" he asked.  "I can't see you."

"Utami."

"And who the dickens is Utami?  Where did I ever meet you, my man?"

"You no forget the _Huahine_?" Utami chided.  "Last time _Huahine_ sail?"

Tudor gripped the Tahitian's hand a second time and shook it with genuine
heartiness.

"There was only one kanaka who came out of the _Huahine_ that last
voyage, and that kanaka was Joe.  The deuce take it, man, I'm glad to see
you, though I never heard your new name before."

"Yes, everybody speak me Joe along the _Huahine_.  Utami my name all the
time, just the same."

"But what are you doing here?" Tudor asked, releasing the sailor's hand
and leaning eagerly forward.

"Me sail along Missie Lackalanna her schooner _Miele_.  We go Tahiti,
Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora-Bora, Manua, Tutuila, Apia, Savaii, and Fiji
Islands--plenty Fiji Islands.  Me stop along Missie Lackalanna in
Solomons.  Very soon she catch other schooner."

"He and I were the two survivors of the wreck of the _Huahine_," Tudor
explained to the others.  "Fifty-seven all told on board when we sailed
from Huapa, and Joe and I were the only two that ever set foot on land
again.  Hurricane, you know, in the Paumotus.  That was when I was after
pearls."

"And you never told me, Utami, that you'd been wrecked in a hurricane,"
Joan said reproachfully.

The big Tahitian shifted his weight and flashed his teeth in a
conciliating smile.

"Me no t'ink nothing 't all," he said.

He half-turned, as if to depart, by his manner indicating that he
considered it time to go while yet he desired to remain.

"All right, Utami," Tudor said.  "I'll see you in the morning and have a
yarn."

"He saved my life, the beggar," Tudor explained, as the Tahitian strode
away and with heavy softness of foot went down the steps.  "Swim!  I
never met a better swimmer."

And thereat, solicited by Joan, Tudor narrated the wreck of the
_Huahine_; while Sheldon smoked and pondered, and decided that whatever
the man's shortcomings were, he was at least not a liar.



CHAPTER XV--A DISCOURSE ON MANNERS


The days passed, and Tudor seemed loath to leave the hospitality of
Berande.  Everything was ready for the start, but he lingered on,
spending much time in Joan's company and thereby increasing the dislike
Sheldon had taken to him.  He went swimming with her, in point of
rashness exceeding her; and dynamited fish with her, diving among the
hungry ground-sharks and contesting with them for possession of the
stunned prey, until he earned the approval of the whole Tahitian crew.
Arahu challenged him to tear a fish from a shark's jaws, leaving half to
the shark and bringing the other half himself to the surface; and Tudor
performed the feat, a flip from the sandpaper hide of the astonished
shark scraping several inches of skin from his shoulder.  And Joan was
delighted, while Sheldon, looking on, realized that here was the hero of
her adventure-dreams coming true.  She did not care for love, but he felt
that if ever she did love it would be that sort of a man--"a man who
exhibited," was his way of putting it.

He felt himself handicapped in the presence of Tudor, who had the gift of
making a show of all his qualities.  Sheldon knew himself for a brave
man, wherefore he made no advertisement of the fact.  He knew that just
as readily as the other would he dive among ground-sharks to save a life,
but in that fact he could find no sanction for the foolhardy act of
diving among sharks for the half of a fish.  The difference between them
was that he kept the curtain of his shop window down.  Life pulsed
steadily and deep in him, and it was not his nature needlessly to agitate
the surface so that the world could see the splash he was making.  And
the effect of the other's amazing exhibitions was to make him retreat
more deeply within himself and wrap himself more thickly than ever in the
nerveless, stoical calm of his race.

"You are so stupid the last few days," Joan complained to him.  "One
would think you were sick, or bilious, or something.  You don't seem to
have an idea in your head above black labour and cocoanuts.  What is the
matter?"

Sheldon smiled and beat a further retreat within himself, listening the
while to Joan and Tudor propounding the theory of the strong arm by which
the white man ordered life among the lesser breeds.  As he listened
Sheldon realized, as by revelation, that that was precisely what he was
doing.  While they philosophized about it he was living it, placing the
strong hand of his race firmly on the shoulders of the lesser breeds that
laboured on Berande or menaced it from afar.  But why talk about it? he
asked himself.  It was sufficient to do it and be done with it.

He said as much, dryly and quietly, and found himself involved in a
discussion, with Joan and Tudor siding against him, in which a more
astounding charge than ever he had dreamed of was made against the very
English control and reserve of which he was secretly proud.

"The Yankees talk a lot about what they do and have done," Tudor said,
"and are looked down upon by the English as braggarts.  But the Yankee is
only a child.  He does not know effectually how to brag.  He talks about
it, you see.  But the Englishman goes him one better by not talking about
it.  The Englishman's proverbial lack of bragging is a subtler form of
brag after all.  It is really clever, as you will agree."

"I never thought of it before," Joan cried.  "Of course.  An Englishman
performs some terrifically heroic exploit, and is very modest and
reserved--refuses to talk about it at all--and the effect is that by his
silence he as much as says, 'I do things like this every day.  It is as
easy as rolling off a log.  You ought to see the really heroic things I
could do if they ever came my way.  But this little thing, this little
episode--really, don't you know, I fail to see anything in it remarkable
or unusual.'  As for me, if I went up in a powder explosion, or saved a
hundred lives, I'd want all my friends to hear about it, and their
friends as well.  I'd be prouder than Lucifer over the affair.  Confess,
Mr. Sheldon, don't you feel proud down inside when you've done something
daring or courageous?"

Sheldon nodded.

"Then," she pressed home the point, "isn't disguising that pride under a
mask of careless indifference equivalent to telling a lie?"

"Yes, it is," he admitted.  "But we tell similar lies every day.  It is a
matter of training, and the English are better trained, that is all.  Your
countrymen will be trained as well in time.  As Mr. Tudor said, the
Yankees are young."

"Thank goodness we haven't begun to tell such lies yet!" was Joan's
ejaculation.

"Oh, but you have," Sheldon said quickly.  "You were telling me a lie of
that order only the other day.  You remember when you were going up the
lantern-halyards hand over hand?  Your face was the personification of
duplicity."

"It was no such thing."

"Pardon me a moment," he went on.  "Your face was as calm and peaceful as
though you were reclining in a steamer-chair.  To look at your face one
would have inferred that carrying the weight of your body up a rope hand
over hand was a very commonplace accomplishment--as easy as rolling off a
log.  And you needn't tell me, Miss Lackland, that you didn't make faces
the first time you tried to climb a rope.  But, like any circus athlete,
you trained yourself out of the face-making period.  You trained your
face to hide your feelings, to hide the exhausting effort your muscles
were making.  It was, to quote Mr. Tudor, a subtler exhibition of
physical prowess.  And that is all our English reserve is--a mere matter
of training.  Certainly we are proud inside of the things we do and have
done, proud as Lucifer--yes, and prouder.  But we have grown up, and no
longer talk about such things."

"I surrender," Joan cried.  "You are not so stupid after all."

"Yes, you have us there," Tudor admitted.  "But you wouldn't have had us
if you hadn't broken your training rules."

"How do you mean?"

"By talking about it."

Joan clapped her hands in approval.  Tudor lighted a fresh cigarette,
while Sheldon sat on, imperturbably silent.

"He got you there," Joan challenged.  "Why don't you crush him?"

"Really, I can't think of anything to say," Sheldon said.  "I know my
position is sound, and that is satisfactory enough."

"You might retort," she suggested, "that when an adult is with
kindergarten children he must descend to kindergarten idioms in order to
make himself intelligible.  That was why you broke training rules.  It
was the only way to make us children understand."

"You've deserted in the heat of the battle, Miss Lackland, and gone over
to the enemy," Tudor said plaintively.

But she was not listening.  Instead, she was looking intently across the
compound and out to sea.  They followed her gaze, and saw a green light
and the loom of a vessel's sails.

"I wonder if it's the _Martha_ come back," Tudor hazarded.

"No, the sidelight is too low," Joan answered.  "Besides, they've got the
sweeps out.  Don't you hear them?  They wouldn't be sweeping a big vessel
like the _Martha_."

"Besides, the _Martha_ has a gasoline engine--twenty-five horse-power,"
Tudor added.

"Just the sort of a craft for us," Joan said wistfully to Sheldon.  "I
really must see if I can't get a schooner with an engine.  I might get a
second-hand engine put in."

"That would mean the additional expense of an engineer's wages," he
objected.

"But it would pay for itself by quicker passages," she argued; "and it
would be as good as insurance.  I know.  I've knocked about amongst reefs
myself.  Besides, if you weren't so mediaeval, I could be skipper and
save more than the engineer's wages."

He did not reply to her thrust, and she glanced at him.  He was looking
out over the water, and in the lantern light she noted the lines of his
face--strong, stern, dogged, the mouth almost chaste but firmer and
thinner-lipped than Tudor's.  For the first time she realized the quality
of his strength, the calm and quiet of it, its simple integrity and
reposeful determination.  She glanced quickly at Tudor on the other side
of her.  It was a handsomer face, one that was more immediately pleasing.
But she did not like the mouth.  It was made for kissing, and she
abhorred kisses.  This was not a deliberately achieved concept; it came
to her in the form of a faint and vaguely intangible repulsion.  For the
moment she knew a fleeting doubt of the man.  Perhaps Sheldon was right
in his judgment of the other.  She did not know, and it concerned her
little; for boats, and the sea, and the things and happenings of the sea
were of far more vital interest to her than men, and the next moment she
was staring through the warm tropic darkness at the loom of the sails and
the steady green of the moving sidelight, and listening eagerly to the
click of the sweeps in the rowlocks.  In her mind's eye she could see the
straining naked forms of black men bending rhythmically to the work, and
somewhere on that strange deck she knew was the inevitable master-man,
conning the vessel in to its anchorage, peering at the dim tree-line of
the shore, judging the deceitful night-distances, feeling on his cheek
the first fans of the land breeze that was even then beginning to blow,
weighing, thinking, measuring, gauging the score or more of ever-shifting
forces, through which, by which, and in spite of which he directed the
steady equilibrium of his course.  She knew it because she loved it, and
she was alive to it as only a sailor could be.

Twice she heard the splash of the lead, and listened intently for the cry
that followed.  Once a man's voice spoke, low, imperative, issuing an
order, and she thrilled with the delight of it.  It was only a direction
to the man at the wheel to port his helm.  She watched the slight
altering of the course, and knew that it was for the purpose of enabling
the flat-hauled sails to catch those first fans of the land breeze, and
she waited for the same low voice to utter the one word "Steady!"  And
again she thrilled when it did utter it.  Once more the lead splashed,
and "Eleven fadom" was the resulting cry.  "Let go!" the low voice came
to her through the darkness, followed by the surging rumble of the anchor-
chain.  The clicking of the sheaves in the blocks as the sails ran down,
head-sails first, was music to her; and she detected on the instant the
jamming of a jib-downhaul, and almost saw the impatient jerk with which
the sailor must have cleared it.  Nor did she take interest in the two
men beside her till both lights, red and green, came into view as the
anchor checked the onward way.

Sheldon was wondering as to the identity of the craft, while Tudor
persisted in believing it might be the _Martha_.

"It's the _Minerva_," Joan said decidedly.

"How do you know?" Sheldon asked, sceptical of her certitude.

"It's a ketch to begin with.  And besides, I could tell anywhere the
rattle of her main peak-blocks--they're too large for the halyard."

A dark figure crossed the compound diagonally from the beach gate, where
whoever it was had been watching the vessel.

"Is that you, Utami?" Joan called.

"No, Missie; me Matapuu," was the answer.

"What vessel is it?"

"Me t'ink _Minerva_."

Joan looked triumphantly at Sheldon, who bowed.

"If Matapuu says so it must be so," he murmured.

"But when Joan Lackland says so, you doubt," she cried, "just as you
doubt her ability as a skipper.  But never mind, you'll be sorry some day
for all your unkindness.  There's the boat lowering now, and in five
minutes we'll be shaking hands with Christian Young."

Lalaperu brought out the glasses and cigarettes and the eternal whisky
and soda, and before the five minutes were past the gate clicked and
Christian Young, tawny and golden, gentle of voice and look and hand,
came up the bungalow steps and joined them.



CHAPTER XVI--THE GIRL WHO HAD NOT GROWN UP


News, as usual, Christian Young brought--news of the drinking at Guvutu,
where the men boasted that they drank between drinks; news of the new
rifles adrift on Ysabel, of the latest murders on Malaita, of Tom
Butler's sickness on Santa Ana; and last and most important, news that
the _Matambo_ had gone on a reef in the Shortlands and would be laid off
one run for repairs.

"That means five weeks more before you can sail for Sydney," Sheldon said
to Joan.

"And that we are losing precious time," she added ruefully.

"If you want to go to Sydney, the _Upolu_ sails from Tulagi to-morrow
afternoon," Young said.

"But I thought she was running recruits for the Germans in Samoa," she
objected.  "At any rate, I could catch her to Samoa, and change at Apia
to one of the Weir Line freighters.  It's a long way around, but still it
would save time."

"This time the _Upolu_ is going straight to Sydney," Young explained.
"She's going to dry-dock, you see; and you can catch her as late as five
to-morrow afternoon--at least, so her first officer told me."

"But I've got to go to Guvutu first."  Joan looked at the men with a
whimsical expression.  "I've some shopping to do.  I can't wear these
Berande curtains into Sydney.  I must buy cloth at Guvutu and make myself
a dress during the voyage down.  I'll start immediately--in an hour.
Lalaperu, you bring 'm one fella Adamu Adam along me.  Tell 'm that fella
Ornfiri make 'm _kai-kai_ take along whale-boat."  She rose to her feet,
looking at Sheldon.  "And you, please, have the boys carry down the whale-
boat--my boat, you know.  I'll be off in an hour."

Both Sheldon and Tudor looked at their watches.

"It's an all-night row," Sheldon said.  "You might wait till morning--"

"And miss my shopping?  No, thank you.  Besides, the _Upolu_ is not a
regular passenger steamer, and she is just as liable to sail ahead of
time as on time.  And from what I hear about those Guvutu sybarites, the
best time to shop will be in the morning.  And now you'll have to excuse
me, for I've got to pack."

"I'll go over with you," Sheldon announced.

"Let me run you over in the _Minerva_," said Young.

She shook her head laughingly.

"I'm going in the whale-boat.  One would think, from all your solicitude,
that I'd never been away from home before.  You, Mr. Sheldon, as my
partner, I cannot permit to desert Berande and your work out of a
mistaken notion of courtesy.  If you won't permit me to be skipper, I
won't permit your galivanting over the sea as protector of young women
who don't need protection.  And as for you, Captain Young, you know very
well that you just left Guvutu this morning, that you are bound for
Marau, and that you said yourself that in two hours you are getting under
way again."

"But may I not see you safely across?" Tudor asked, a pleading note in
his voice that rasped on Sheldon's nerves.

"No, no, and again no," she cried.  "You've all got your work to do, and
so have I.  I came to the Solomons to work, not to be escorted about like
a doll.  For that matter, here's my escort, and there are seven more like
him."

Adamu Adam stood beside her, towering above her, as he towered above the
three white men.  The clinging cotton undershirt he wore could not hide
the bulge of his tremendous muscles.

"Look at his fist," said Tudor.  "I'd hate to receive a punch from it."

"I don't blame you."  Joan laughed reminiscently.  "I saw him hit the
captain of a Swedish bark on the beach at Levuka, in the Fijis.  It was
the captain's fault.  I saw it all myself, and it was splendid.  Adamu
only hit him once, and he broke the man's arm.  You remember, Adamu?"

The big Tahitian smiled and nodded, his black eyes, soft and deer-like,
seeming to give the lie to so belligerent a nature.

"We start in an hour in the whale-boat for Guvutu, big brother," Joan
said to him.  "Tell your brothers, all of them, so that they can get
ready.  We catch the _Upolu_ for Sydney.  You will all come along, and
sail back to the Solomons in the new schooner.  Take your extra shirts
and dungarees along.  Plenty cold weather down there.  Now run along, and
tell them to hurry.  Leave the guns behind.  Turn them over to Mr.
Sheldon.  We won't need them."

"If you are really bent upon going--" Sheldon began.

"That's settled long ago," she answered shortly.  "I'm going to pack now.
But I'll tell you what you can do for me--issue some tobacco and other
stuff they want to my men."

An hour later the three men had shaken hands with Joan down on the beach.
She gave the signal, and the boat shoved off, six men at the oars, the
seventh man for'ard, and Adamu Adam at the steering-sweep.  Joan was
standing up in the stern-sheets, reiterating her good-byes--a slim figure
of a woman in the tight-fitting jacket she had worn ashore from the
wreck, the long-barrelled Colt's revolver hanging from the loose belt
around her waist, her clear-cut face like a boy's under the Stetson hat
that failed to conceal the heavy masses of hair beneath.

"You'd better get into shelter," she called to them.  "There's a big
squall coming.  And I hope you've got plenty of chain out, Captain Young.
Good-bye!  Good-bye, everybody!"

Her last words came out of the darkness, which wrapped itself solidly
about the boat.  Yet they continued to stare into the blackness in the
direction in which the boat had disappeared, listening to the steady
click of the oars in the rowlocks until it faded away and ceased.

"She is only a girl," Christian Young said with slow solemnity.  The
discovery seemed to have been made on the spur of the moment.  "She is
only a girl," he repeated with greater solemnity.

"A dashed pretty one, and a good traveller," Tudor laughed.  "She
certainly has spunk, eh, Sheldon?"

"Yes, she is brave," was the reluctant answer for Sheldon did not feel
disposed to talk about her.

"That's the American of it," Tudor went on.  "Push, and go, and energy,
and independence.  What do you think, skipper?"

"I think she is young, very young, only a girl," replied the captain of
the _Minerva_, continuing to stare into the blackness that hid the sea.

The blackness seemed suddenly to increase in density, and they stumbled
up the beach, feeling their way to the gate.

"Watch out for nuts," Sheldon warned, as the first blast of the squall
shrieked through the palms.  They joined hands and staggered up the path,
with the ripe cocoanuts thudding in a monstrous rain all around them.
They gained the veranda, where they sat in silence over their whisky,
each man staring straight out to sea, where the wildly swinging riding-
light of the _Minerva_ could be seen in the lulls of the driving rain.

Somewhere out there, Sheldon reflected, was Joan Lackland, the girl who
had not grown up, the woman good to look upon, with only a boy's mind and
a boy's desires, leaving Berande amid storm and conflict in much the same
manner that she had first arrived, in the stern-sheets of her whale-boat,
Adamu Adam steering, her savage crew bending to the oars.  And she was
taking her Stetson hat with her, along with the cartridge-belt and the
long-barrelled revolver.  He suddenly discovered an immense affection for
those fripperies of hers at which he had secretly laughed when first he
saw them.  He became aware of the sentimental direction in which his
fancy was leading him, and felt inclined to laugh.  But he did not laugh.
The next moment he was busy visioning the hat, and belt, and revolver.
Undoubtedly this was love, he thought, and he felt a tiny glow of pride
in him in that the Solomons had not succeeded in killing all his
sentiment.

An hour later, Christian Young stood up, knocked out his pipe, and
prepared to go aboard and get under way.

"She's all right," he said, apropos of nothing spoken, and yet distinctly
relevant to what was in each of their minds.  "She's got a good boat's-
crew, and she's a sailor herself.  Good-night, Mr. Sheldon.  Anything I
can do for you down Marau-way?"  He turned and pointed to a widening
space of starry sky.  "It's going to be a fine night after all.  With
this favouring bit of breeze she has sail on already, and she'll make
Guvutu by daylight.  Good-night."

"I guess I'll turn in, old man," Tudor said, rising and placing his glass
on the table.  "I'll start the first thing in the morning.  It's been
disgraceful the way I've been hanging on here.  Good-night."

Sheldon, sitting on alone, wondered if the other man would have decided
to pull out in the morning had Joan not sailed away.  Well, there was one
bit of consolation in it: Joan had certainly lingered at Berande for no
man, not even Tudor.  "I start in an hour"--her words rang in his brain,
and under his eyelids he could see her as she stood up and uttered them.
He smiled.  The instant she heard the news she had made up her mind to
go.  It was not very flattering to man, but what could any man count in
her eyes when a schooner waiting to be bought in Sydney was in the wind?
What a creature!  What a creature!

* * * * *

Berande was a lonely place to Sheldon in the days that followed.  In the
morning after Joan's departure, he had seen Tudor's expedition off on its
way up the Balesuna; in the late afternoon, through his telescope, he had
seen the smoke of the _Upolu_ that was bearing Joan away to Sydney; and
in the evening he sat down to dinner in solitary state, devoting more of
his time to looking at her empty chair than to his food.  He never came
out on the veranda without glancing first of all at her grass house in
the corner of the compound; and one evening, idly knocking the balls
about on the billiard table, he came to himself to find himself standing
staring at the nail upon which from the first she had hung her Stetson
hat and her revolver-belt.

Why should he care for her? he demanded of himself angrily.  She was
certainly the last woman in the world he would have thought of choosing
for himself.  Never had he encountered one who had so thoroughly
irritated him, rasped his feelings, smashed his conventions, and violated
nearly every attribute of what had been his ideal of woman.  Had he been
too long away from the world?  Had he forgotten what the race of women
was like?  Was it merely a case of propinquity?  And she wasn't really a
woman.  She was a masquerader.  Under all her seeming of woman, she was a
boy, playing a boy's pranks, diving for fish amongst sharks, sporting a
revolver, longing for adventure, and, what was more, going out in search
of it in her whale-boat, along with her savage islanders and her bag of
sovereigns.  But he loved her--that was the point of it all, and he did
not try to evade it.  He was not sorry that it was so.  He loved her--that
was the overwhelming, astounding fact.

Once again he discovered a big enthusiasm for Berande.  All the bubble-
illusions concerning the life of the tropical planter had been pricked by
the stern facts of the Solomons.  Following the death of Hughie, he had
resolved to muddle along somehow with the plantation; but this resolve
had not been based upon desire.  Instead, it was based upon the inherent
stubbornness of his nature and his dislike to give over an attempted
task.

But now it was different.  Berande meant everything.  It must succeed--not
merely because Joan was a partner in it, but because he wanted to make
that partnership permanently binding.  Three more years and the
plantation would be a splendid-paying investment.  They could then take
yearly trips to Australia, and oftener; and an occasional run home to
England--or Hawaii, would come as a matter of course.

He spent his evenings poring over accounts, or making endless
calculations based on cheaper freights for copra and on the possible
maximum and minimum market prices for that staple of commerce.  His days
were spent out on the plantation.  He undertook more clearing of bush;
and clearing and planting went on, under his personal supervision, at a
faster pace than ever before.  He experimented with premiums for extra
work performed by the black boys, and yearned continually for more of
them to put to work.  Not until Joan could return on the schooner would
this be possible, for the professional recruiters were all under long
contracts to the Fulcrum Brothers, Morgan and Raff, and the Fires, Philp
Company; while the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ was wholly occupied in running
about among his widely scattered trading stations, which extended from
the coast of New Georgia in one direction to Ulava and Sikiana in the
other.  Blacks he must have, and, if Joan were fortunate in getting a
schooner, three months at least must elapse before the first recruits
could be landed on Berande.

A week after the _Upolu's_ departure, the _Malakula_ dropped anchor and
her skipper came ashore for a game of billiards and to gossip until the
land breeze sprang up.  Besides, as he told his super-cargo, he simply
had to come ashore, not merely to deliver the large package of seeds with
full instructions for planting from Joan, but to shock Sheldon with the
little surprise born of information he was bringing with him.

Captain Auckland played the billiards first, and it was not until he was
comfortably seated in a steamer-chair, his second whisky securely in his
hand, that he let off his bomb.

"A great piece, that Miss Lackland of yours," he chuckled.  "Claims to be
a part-owner of Berande.  Says she's your partner.  Is that straight?"

Sheldon nodded coldly.

"You don't say?  That is a surprise!  Well, she hasn't convinced Guvutu
or Tulagi of it.  They're pretty used to irregular things over there,
but--ha! ha!--" he stopped to have his laugh out and to mop his bald head
with a trade handkerchief.  "But that partnership yarn of hers was too
big to swallow, though it gave them the excuse for a few more drinks."

"There is nothing irregular about it.  It is an ordinary business
transaction."  Sheldon strove to act as though such transactions were
quite the commonplace thing on plantations in the Solomons.  "She
invested something like fifteen hundred pounds in Berande--"

"So she said."

"And she has gone to Sydney on business for the plantation."

"Oh, no, she hasn't."

"I beg pardon?" Sheldon queried.

"I said she hasn't, that's all."

"But didn't the _Upolu_ sail?  I could have sworn I saw her smoke last
Tuesday afternoon, late, as she passed Savo."

"The _Upolu_ sailed all right."  Captain Auckland sipped his whisky with
provoking slowness.  "Only Miss Lackland wasn't a passenger."

"Then where is she?"

"At Guvutu, last I saw of her.  She was going to Sydney to buy a
schooner, wasn't she?"

"Yes, yes."

"That's what she said.  Well, she's bought one, though I wouldn't give
her ten shillings for it if a nor'wester blows up, and it's about time we
had one.  This has been too long a spell of good weather to last."

"If you came here to excite my curiosity, old man," Sheldon said, "you've
certainly succeeded.  Now go ahead and tell me in a straightforward way
what has happened.  What schooner?  Where is it?  How did she happen to
buy it?"

"First, the schooner _Martha_," the skipper answered, checking his
replies off on his fingers.  "Second, the _Martha_ is on the outside reef
at Poonga-Poonga, looted clean of everything portable, and ready to go to
pieces with the first bit of lively sea.  And third, Miss Lackland bought
her at auction.  She was knocked down to her for fifty-five quid by the
third-assistant-resident-commissioner.  I ought to know.  I bid fifty
myself, for Morgan and Raff.  My word, weren't they hot!  I told them to
go to the devil, and that it was their fault for limiting me to fifty
quid when they thought the chance to salve the _Martha_ was worth more.
You see, they weren't expecting competition.  Fulcrum Brothers had no
representative present, neither had Fires, Philp Company, and the only
man to be afraid of was Nielsen's agent, Squires, and him they got drunk
and sound asleep over in Guvutu.

"'Twenty,' says I, for my bid.  'Twenty-five,' says the little girl.
'Thirty,' says I.  'Forty,' says she.  'Fifty,' says I.  'Fifty-five,'
says she.  And there I was stuck.  'Hold on,' says I; 'wait till I see my
owners.'  'No, you don't,' says she.  'It's customary,' says I.  'Not
anywhere in the world,' says she.  'Then it's courtesy in the Solomons,'
says I.

"And d'ye know, on my faith I think Burnett'd have done it, only she
pipes up, sweet and pert as you please: 'Mr. Auctioneer, will you kindly
proceed with the sale in the customary manner?  I've other business to
attend to, and I can't afford to wait all night on men who don't know
their own minds.'  And then she smiles at Burnett, as well--you know, one
of those fetching smiles, and damme if Burnett doesn't begin singing out:
'Goin', goin', goin'--last bid--goin', goin' for fifty-five
sovereigns--goin', goin', gone--to you, Miss--er--what name, please?'

"'Joan Lackland,' says she, with a smile to me; and that's how she bought
the _Martha_."

Sheldon experienced a sudden thrill.  The _Martha_!--a finer schooner
than the _Malakula_, and, for that matter, the finest in the Solomons.
She was just the thing for recruits, and she was right on the spot.  Then
he realized that for such a craft to sell at auction for fifty-five
pounds meant that there was small chance for saving her.

"But how did it happen?" he asked.  "Weren't they rather quick in selling
the _Martha_?"

"Had to.  You know the reef at Poonga-Poonga.  She's not worth tuppence
on it if any kind of a sea kicks up, and it's ripe for a nor'wester any
moment now.  The crowd abandoned her completely.  Didn't even dream of
auctioning her.  Morgan and Raff persuaded them to put her up.  They're a
co-operative crowd, you know, an organized business corporation, fore and
aft, all hands and the cook.  They held a meeting and voted to sell."

"But why didn't they stand by and try to save her?"

"Stand by!  You know Malaita.  And you know Poonga-Poonga.  That's where
they cut off the _Scottish Chiefs_ and killed all hands.  There was
nothing to do but take to the boats.  The _Martha_ missed stays going in,
and inside five minutes she was on the reef and in possession.  The
niggers swarmed over her, and they just threw the crew into the boats.  I
talked with some of the men.  They swear there were two hundred war
canoes around her inside half an hour, and five thousand bushmen on the
beach.  Said you couldn't see Malaita for the smoke of the signal fires.
Anyway, they cleared out for Tulagi."

"But why didn't they fight?" Sheldon asked.

"It was funny they didn't, but they got separated.  You see, two-thirds
of them were in the boats, without weapons, running anchors and never
dreaming the natives would attack.  They found out their mistake too
late.  The natives had charge.  That's the trouble of new chums on the
coast.  It would never have happened with you or me or any old-timer."

"But what is Miss Lackland intending to do?" Captain Auckland grinned.

"She's going to try to get the _Martha_ off, I should say.  Or else why
did she pay fifty-five quid for her?  And if she fails, she'll try to get
her money back by saving the gear--spars, you know, and patent steering-
gear, and winches, and such things.  At least that's what I'd do if I was
in her place.  When I sailed, the little girl had chartered the
_Emily_--'I'm going recruiting,' says Munster--he's the skipper and owner
now.  'And how much will you net on the cruise?' asks she.  'Oh, fifty
quid,' says he.  'Good,' says she; 'you bring your _Emily_ along with me
and you'll get seventy-five.'  You know that big ship's anchor and chain
piled up behind the coal-sheds?  She was just buying that when I left.
She's certainly a hustler, that little girl of yours."

"She is my partner," Sheldon corrected.

"Well, she's a good one, that's all, and a cool one.  My word! a white
woman on Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga of all places!  Oh, I forgot to
tell you--she palavered Burnett into lending her eight rifles for her
men, and three cases of dynamite.  You'd laugh to see the way she makes
that Guvutu gang stand around.  And to see them being polite and trying
to give advice!  Lord, Lord, man, that little girl's a wonder, a marvel,
a--a--a catastrophe.  That's what she is, a catastrophe.  She's gone
through Guvutu and Tulagi like a hurricane; every last swine of them in
love with her--except Raff.  He's sore over the auction, and he sprang
his recruiting contract with Munster on her.  And what does she do but
thank him, and read it over, and point out that while Munster was pledged
to deliver all recruits to Morgan and Raff, there was no clause in the
document forbidding him from chartering the _Emily_.

"'There's your contract,' says she, passing it back.  'And a very good
contract it is.  The next time you draw one up, insert a clause that will
fit emergencies like the present one.'  And, Lord, Lord, she had him,
too.

"But there's the breeze, and I'm off.  Good-bye, old man.  Hope the
little girl succeeds.  The _Martha's_ a whacking fine boat, and she'd
take the place of the _Jessie_."



CHAPTER XVII--"YOUR" MISS LACKLAND


The next morning Sheldon came in from the plantation to breakfast, to
find the mission ketch, _Apostle_, at anchor, her crew swimming two mares
and a filly ashore.  Sheldon recognized the animals as belonging to the
Resident Commissioner, and he immediately wondered if Joan had bought
them.  She was certainly living up to her threat of rattling the dry
bones of the Solomons, and he was prepared for anything.

"Miss Lackland sent them," said Welshmere, the missionary doctor,
stepping ashore and shaking hands with him.  "There's also a box of
saddles on board.  And this letter from her.  And the skipper of the
_Flibberty-Gibbet_."

The next moment, and before he could greet him, Oleson stepped from the
boat and began.

"She's stolen the _Flibberty_, Mr. Sheldon.  Run clean away with her.
She's a wild one.  She gave me the fever.  Brought it on by shock.  And
got me drunk, as well--rotten drunk."

Dr. Welshmere laughed heartily.

"Nevertheless, she is not an unmitigated evil, your Miss Lackland.  She's
sworn three men off their drink, or, to the same purpose, shut off their
whisky.  You know them--Brahms, Curtis, and Fowler.  She shipped them on
the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ along with her."

"She's the skipper of the _Flibberty_ now," Oleson broke in.  "And she'll
wreck her as sure as God didn't make the Solomons."

Dr. Welshmere tried to look shocked, but laughed again.

"She has quite a way with her," he said.  "I tried to back out of
bringing the horses over.  Said I couldn't charge freight, that the
_Apostle_ was under a yacht license, that I was going around by Savo and
the upper end of Guadalcanar.  But it was no use.  'Bother the charge,'
said she.  'You take the horses like a good man, and when I float the
_Martha_ I'll return the service some day.'"

"And 'bother your orders,' said she to me," Oleson cried.  "'I'm your
boss now,' said she, 'and you take your orders from me.'  'Look at that
load of ivory nuts,' I said.  'Bother them,' said she; 'I'm playin' for
something bigger than ivory nuts.  We'll dump them overside as soon as we
get under way.'"

Sheldon put his hands to his ears.

"I don't know what has happened, and you are trying to tell me the tale
backwards.  Come up to the house and get in the shade and begin at the
beginning."

"What I want to know," Oleson began, when they were seated, "is _is_ she
your partner or ain't she?  That's what I want to know."

"She is," Sheldon assured him.

"Well, who'd have believed it!"  Oleson glanced appealingly at Dr.
Welshmere, and back again at Sheldon.  "I've seen a few unlikely things
in these Solomons--rats two feet long, butterflies the Commissioner hunts
with a shot-gun, ear-ornaments that would shame the devil, and
head-hunting devils that make the devil look like an angel.  I've seen
them and got used to them, but this young woman of yours--"

"Miss Lackland is my partner and part-owner of Berande," Sheldon
interrupted.

"So she said," the irate skipper dashed on.  "But she had no papers to
show for it.  How was I to know?  And then there was that load of ivory
nuts-eight tons of them."

"For heaven's sake begin at the--" Sheldon tried to interrupt.

"And then she's hired them drunken loafers, three of the worst scoundrels
that ever disgraced the Solomons--fifteen quid a month each--what d'ye
think of that?  And sailed away with them, too!  Phew!--You might give me
a drink.  The missionary won't mind.  I've been on his teetotal hooker
four days now, and I'm perishing."

Dr. Welshmere nodded in reply to Sheldon's look of inquiry, and Viaburi
was dispatched for the whisky and siphons.

"It is evident, Captain Oleson," Sheldon remarked to that refreshed
mariner, "that Miss Lackland has run away with your boat.  Now please
give a plain statement of what occurred."

"Right O; here goes.  I'd just come in on the _Flibberty_.  She was on
board before I dropped the hook--in that whale-boat of hers with her gang
of Tahiti heathens--that big Adamu Adam and the rest.  'Don't drop the
anchor, Captain Oleson,' she sang out.  'I want you to get under way for
Poonga-Poonga.'  I looked to see if she'd been drinking.  What was I to
think?  I was rounding up at the time, alongside the shoal--a ticklish
place--head-sails running down and losing way, so I says, 'Excuse me,
Miss Lackland,' and yells for'ard, 'Let go!'

"'You might have listened to me and saved yourself trouble,' says she,
climbing over the rail and squinting along for'ard and seeing the first
shackle flip out and stop.  'There's fifteen fathom,' says she; 'you may
as well turn your men to and heave up.'

"And then we had it out.  I didn't believe her.  I didn't think you'd
take her on as a partner, and I told her as much and wanted proof.  She
got high and mighty, and I told her I was old enough to be her
grandfather and that I wouldn't take gammon from a chit like her.  And
then I ordered her off the _Flibberty_.  'Captain Oleson,' she says,
sweet as you please, 'I've a few minutes to spare on you, and I've got
some good whisky over on the _Emily_.  Come on along.  Besides, I want
your advice about this wrecking business.  Everybody says you're a
crackerjack sailor-man'--that's what she said, 'crackerjack.'  And I
went, in her whale-boat, Adamu Adam steering and looking as solemn as a
funeral.

"On the way she told me about the _Martha_, and how she'd bought her, and
was going to float her.  She said she'd chartered the _Emily_, and was
sailing as soon as I could get the _Flibberty_ underway.  It struck me
that her gammon was reasonable enough, and I agreed to pull out for
Berande right O, and get your orders to go along to Poonga-Poonga.  But
she said there wasn't a second to be lost by any such foolishness, and
that I was to sail direct for Poonga-Poonga, and that if I couldn't take
her word that she was your partner, she'd get along without me and the
_Flibberty_.  And right there's where she fooled me.

"Down in the _Emily's_ cabin was them three soaks--you know them--Fowler
and Curtis and that Brahms chap.  'Have a drink,' says she.  I thought
they looked surprised when she unlocked the whisky locker and sent a
nigger for the glasses and water-monkey.  But she must have tipped them
off unbeknownst to me, and they knew just what to do.  'Excuse me,' she
says, 'I'm going on deck a minute.'  Now that minute was half an hour.  I
hadn't had a drink in ten days.  I'm an old man and the fever has
weakened me.  Then I took it on an empty stomach, too, and there was them
three soaks setting me an example, they arguing for me to take the
_Flibberty_ to Poonga-Poonga, an' me pointing out my duty to the
contrary.  The trouble was, all the arguments were pointed with drinks,
and me not being a drinking man, so to say, and weak from fever . . .

"Well, anyway, at the end of the half-hour down she came again and took a
good squint at me.  'That'll do nicely,' I remember her saying; and with
that she took the whisky bottles and hove them overside through the
companionway.  'That's the last, she said to the three soaks, 'till the
_Martha_ floats and you're back in Guvutu.  It'll be a long time between
drinks.'  And then she laughed.

"She looked at me and said--not to me, mind you, but to the soaks: 'It's
time this worthy man went ashore'--me! worthy man!  'Fowler,' she
said--you know, just like a straight order, and she didn't _mister_
him--it was plain Fowler--'Fowler,' she said, 'just tell Adamu Adam to
man the whale-boat, and while he's taking Captain Oleson ashore have your
boat put me on the _Flibberty_.  The three of you sail with me, so pack
your dunnage.  And the one of you that shows up best will take the mate's
billet.  Captain Oleson doesn't carry a mate, you know.'

"I don't remember much after that.  All hands got me over the side, and
it seems to me I went to sleep, sitting in the stern-sheets and watching
that Adamu steer.  Then I saw the _Flibberty's_ mainsail hoisting, and
heard the clank of her chain coming in, and I woke up.  'Here, put me on
the _Flibberty_,' I said to Adamu.  'I put you on the beach,' said he.
'Missie Lackalanna say beach plenty good for you.'  Well, I let out a
yell and reached for the steering-sweep.  I was doing my best by my
owners, you see.  Only that Adamu gives me a shove down on the bottom-
boards, puts one foot on me to hold me down, and goes on steering.  And
that's all.  The shock of the whole thing brought on fever.  And now I've
come to find out whether I'm skipper of the _Flibberty_, or that chit of
yours with her pirating, heathen boat's-crew."

"Never mind, skipper.  You can take a vacation on pay."  Sheldon spoke
with more assurance than he felt.  "If Miss Lackland, who is my partner,
has seen fit to take charge of the _Flibberty-Gibbet_, why, it is all
right.  As you will agree, there was no time to be lost if the _Martha_
was to be got off.  It is a bad reef, and any considerable sea would
knock her bottom out.  You settle down here, skipper, and rest up and get
the fever out of your bones.  When the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ comes back,
you'll take charge again, of course."

After Dr. Welshmere and the _Apostle_ departed and Captain Oleson had
turned in for a sleep in a veranda hammock, Sheldon opened Joan's letter.

   DEAR MR. SHELDON,--Please forgive me for stealing the
   _Flibberty-Gibbet_.  I simply had to.  The _Martha_ means everything
   to us.  Think of it, only fifty-five pounds for her, two hundred and
   seventy-five dollars.  If I don't save her, I know I shall be able to
   pay all expenses out of her gear, which the natives will not have
   carried off.  And if I do save her, it is the haul of a life-time.  And
   if I don't save her, I'll fill the _Emily_ and the _Flibberty-Gibbet_
   with recruits.  Recruits are needed right now on Berande more than
   anything else.

   And please, please don't be angry with me.  You said I shouldn't go
   recruiting on the _Flibberty_, and I won't.  I'll go on the _Emily_.

   I bought two cows this afternoon.  That trader at Nogi died of fever,
   and I bought them from his partner, Sam Willis his name is, who agrees
   to deliver them--most likely by the _Minerva_ next time she is down
   that way.  Berande has been long enough on tinned milk.

   And Dr. Welshmere has agreed to get me some orange and lime trees from
   the mission station at Ulava.  He will deliver them the next trip of
   the _Apostle_.  If the Sydney steamer arrives before I get back, plant
   the sweet corn she will bring between the young trees on the high bank
   of the Balesuna.  The current is eating in against that bank, and you
   should do something to save it.

   I have ordered some fig-trees and loquats, too, from Sydney.  Dr.
   Welshmere will bring some mango-seeds.  They are big trees and require
   plenty of room.

   The _Martha_ is registered 110 tons.  She is the biggest schooner in
   the Solomons, and the best.  I saw a little of her lines and guess the
   rest.  She will sail like a witch.  If she hasn't filled with water,
   her engine will be all right.  The reason she went ashore was because
   it was not working.  The engineer had disconnected the feed-pipes to
   clean out the rust.  Poor business, unless at anchor or with plenty of
   sea room.

   Plant all the trees in the compound, even if you have to clean out the
   palms later on.

   And don't plant the sweet corn all at once.  Let a few days elapse
   between plantings.

   JOAN LACKLAND.

He fingered the letter, lingering over it and scrutinizing the writing in
a way that was not his wont.  How characteristic, was his thought, as he
studied the boyish scrawl--clear to read, painfully, clear, but none the
less boyish.  The clearness of it reminded him of her face, of her
cleanly stencilled brows, her straightly chiselled nose, the very
clearness of the gaze of her eyes, the firmly yet delicately moulded
lips, and the throat, neither fragile nor robust, but--but just right, he
concluded, an adequate and beautiful pillar for so shapely a burden.

He looked long at the name.  Joan Lackland--just an assemblage of
letters, of commonplace letters, but an assemblage that generated a
subtle and heady magic.  It crept into his brain and twined and twisted
his mental processes until all that constituted him at that moment went
out in love to that scrawled signature.  A few commonplace letters--yet
they caused him to know in himself a lack that sweetly hurt and that
expressed itself in vague spiritual outpourings and delicious yearnings.
Joan Lackland!  Each time he looked at it there arose visions of her in a
myriad moods and guises--coming in out of the flying smother of the gale
that had wrecked her schooner; launching a whale-boat to go a-fishing;
running dripping from the sea, with streaming hair and clinging garments,
to the fresh-water shower; frightening four-score cannibals with an empty
chlorodyne bottle; teaching Ornfiri how to make bread; hanging her
Stetson hat and revolver-belt on the hook in the living-room; talking
gravely about winning to hearth and saddle of her own, or juvenilely
rattling on about romance and adventure, bright-eyed, her face flushed
and eager with enthusiasm.  Joan Lackland!  He mused over the cryptic
wonder of it till the secrets of love were made clear and he felt a keen
sympathy for lovers who carved their names on trees or wrote them on the
beach-sands of the sea.

Then he came back to reality, and his face hardened.  Even then she was
on the wild coast of Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga, of all villainous and
dangerous portions the worst, peopled with a teeming population of head-
hunters, robbers, and murderers.  For the instant he entertained the rash
thought of calling his boat's-crew and starting immediately in a whale-
boat for Poonga-Poonga.  But the next instant the idea was dismissed.
What could he do if he did go?  First, she would resent it.  Next, she
would laugh at him and call him a silly; and after all he would count for
only one rifle more, and she had many rifles with her.  Three things only
could he do if he went.  He could command her to return; he could take
the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ away from her; he could dissolve their
partnership;--any and all of which he knew would be foolish and futile,
and he could hear her explain in terse set terms that she was legally of
age and that nobody could say come or go to her.  No, his pride would
never permit him to start for Poonga-Poonga, though his heart whispered
that nothing could be more welcome than a message from her asking him to
come and lend a hand.  Her very words--"lend a hand"; and in his fancy,
he could see and hear her saying them.

There was much in her wilful conduct that caused him to wince in the
heart of him.  He was appalled by the thought of her shoulder to shoulder
with the drunken rabble of traders and beachcombers at Guvutu.  It was
bad enough for a clean, fastidious man; but for a young woman, a girl at
that, it was awful.  The theft of the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ was merely
amusing, though the means by which the theft had been effected gave him
hurt.  Yet he found consolation in the fact that the task of making
Oleson drunk had been turned over to the three scoundrels.  And next, and
swiftly, came the vision of her, alone with those same three scoundrels,
on the _Emily_, sailing out to sea from Guvutu in the twilight with
darkness coming on.  Then came visions of Adamu Adam and Noa Noah and all
her brawny Tahitian following, and his anxiety faded away, being replaced
by irritation that she should have been capable of such wildness of
conduct.

And the irritation was still on him as he got up and went inside to stare
at the hook on the wall and to wish that her Stetson hat and revolver-
belt were hanging from it.



CHAPTER XVIII--MAKING THE BOOKS COME TRUE


Several quiet weeks slipped by.  Berande, after such an unusual run of
visiting vessels, drifted back into her old solitude.  Sheldon went on
with the daily round, clearing bush, planting cocoanuts, smoking copra,
building bridges, and riding about his work on the horses Joan had
bought.  News of her he had none.  Recruiting vessels on Malaita left the
Poonga-Poonga coast severely alone; and the _Clansman_, a Samoan
recruiter, dropping anchor one sunset for billiards and gossip, reported
rumours amongst the Sio natives that there had been fighting at Poonga-
Poonga.  As this news would have had to travel right across the big
island, little dependence was to be placed on it.

The steamer from Sydney, the _Kammambo_, broke the quietude of Berande
for an hour, while landing mail, supplies, and the trees and seeds Joan
had ordered.  The _Minerva_, bound for Cape Marsh, brought the two cows
from Nogi.  And the _Apostle_, hurrying back to Tulagi to connect with
the Sydney steamer, sent a boat ashore with the orange and lime trees
from Ulava.  And these several weeks marked a period of perfect weather.
There were days on end when sleek calms ruled the breathless sea, and
days when vagrant wisps of air fanned for several hours from one
direction or another.  The land-breezes at night alone proved regular,
and it was at night that the occasional cutters and ketches slipped by,
too eager to take advantage of the light winds to drop anchor for an
hour.

Then came the long-expected nor'wester.  For eight days it raged, lulling
at times to short durations of calm, then shifting a point or two and
raging with renewed violence.  Sheldon kept a precautionary eye on the
buildings, while the Balesuna, in flood, so savagely attacked the high
bank Joan had warned him about, that he told off all the gangs to battle
with the river.

It was in the good weather that followed, that he left the blacks at
work, one morning, and with a shot-gun across his pommel rode off after
pigeons.  Two hours later, one of the house-boys, breathless and
scratched ran him down with the news that the _Martha_, the _Flibberty-
Gibbet_, and the _Emily_ were heading in for the anchorage.

Coming into the compound from the rear, Sheldon could see nothing until
he rode around the corner of the bungalow.  Then he saw everything at
once--first, a glimpse at the sea, where the _Martha_ floated huge
alongside the cutter and the ketch which had rescued her; and, next, the
ground in front of the veranda steps, where a great crowd of fresh-caught
cannibals stood at attention.  From the fact that each was attired in a
new, snow-white lava-lava, Sheldon knew that they were recruits.  Part
way up the steps, one of them was just backing down into the crowd, while
another, called out by name, was coming up.  It was Joan's voice that had
called him, and Sheldon reined in his horse and watched.  She sat at the
head of the steps, behind a table, between Munster and his white mate,
the three of them checking long lists, Joan asking the questions and
writing the answers in the big, red-covered, Berande labour-journal.

"What name?" she demanded of the black man on the steps.

"Tagari," came the answer, accompanied by a grin and a rolling of curious
eyes; for it was the first white-man's house the black had ever seen.

"What place b'long you?"

"Bangoora."

No one had noticed Sheldon, and he continued to sit his horse and watch.
There was a discrepancy between the answer and the record in the
recruiting books, and a consequent discussion, until Munster solved the
difficulty.

"Bangoora?" he said.  "That's the little beach at the head of the bay out
of Latta.  He's down as a Latta-man--see, there it is, 'Tagari, Latta.'"

"What place you go you finish along white marster?" Joan asked.

"Bangoora," the man replied; and Joan wrote it down.

"Ogu!" Joan called.

The black stepped down, and another mounted to take his place.  But
Tagari, just before he reached the bottom step, caught sight of Sheldon.
It was the first horse the fellow had ever seen, and he let out a
frightened screech and dashed madly up the steps.  At the same moment the
great mass of blacks surged away panic-stricken from Sheldon's vicinity.
The grinning house-boys shouted encouragement and explanation, and the
stampede was checked, the new-caught head-hunters huddling closely
together and staring dubiously at the fearful monster.

"Hello!" Joan called out.  "What do you mean by frightening all my boys?
Come on up."

"What do you think of them?" she asked, when they had shaken hands.  "And
what do you think of her?"--with a wave of the hand toward the _Martha_.
"I thought you'd deserted the plantation, and that I might as well go
ahead and get the men into barracks.  Aren't they beauties?  Do you see
that one with the split nose?  He's the only man who doesn't hail from
the Poonga-Poonga coast; and they said the Poonga-Poonga natives wouldn't
recruit.  Just look at them and congratulate me.  There are no kiddies
and half-grown youths among them.  They're men, every last one of them.  I
have such a long story I don't know where to begin, and I won't begin
anyway till we're through with this and until you have told me that you
are not angry with me."

"Ogu--what place b'long you?" she went on with her catechism.

But Ogu was a bushman, lacking knowledge of the almost universal beche-de-
mer English, and half a dozen of his fellows wrangled to explain.

"There are only two or three more," Joan said to Sheldon, "and then we're
done.  But you haven't told me that you are not angry."

Sheldon looked into her clear eyes as she favoured him with a direct,
untroubled gaze that threatened, he knew from experience, to turn
teasingly defiant on an instant's notice.  And as he looked at her it
came to him that he had never half-anticipated the gladness her return
would bring to him.

"I was angry," he said deliberately.  "I am still angry, very angry--" he
noted the glint of defiance in her eyes and thrilled--"but I forgave, and
I now forgive all over again.  Though I still insist--"

"That I should have a guardian," she interrupted.  "But that day will
never come.  Thank goodness I'm of legal age and able to transact
business in my own right.  And speaking of business, how do you like my
forceful American methods?"

"Mr. Raff, from what I hear, doesn't take kindly to them," he temporized,
"and you've certainly set the dry bones rattling for many a day.  But
what I want to know is if other American women are as successful in
business ventures?"

"Luck, 'most all luck," she disclaimed modestly, though her eyes lighted
with sudden pleasure; and he knew her boy's vanity had been touched by
his trifle of tempered praise.

"Luck be blowed!" broke out the long mate, Sparrowhawk, his face shining
with admiration.  "It was hard work, that's what it was.  We earned our
pay.  She worked us till we dropped.  And we were down with fever half
the time.  So was she, for that matter, only she wouldn't stay down, and
she wouldn't let us stay down.  My word, she's a slave-driver--'Just one
more heave, Mr. Sparrowhawk, and then you can go to bed for a week',--she
to me, and me staggerin' 'round like a dead man, with bilious-green
lights flashing inside my head, an' my head just bustin'.  I was all in,
but I gave that heave right O--and then it was, 'Another heave now, Mr.
Sparrowhawk, just another heave.'  An' the Lord lumme, the way she made
love to old Kina-Kina!"

He shook his head reproachfully, while the laughter died down in his
throat to long-drawn chuckles.

"He was older than Telepasse and dirtier," she assured Sheldon, "and I am
sure much wickeder.  But this isn't work.  Let us get through with these
lists."

She turned to the waiting black on the steps,--

"Ogu, you finish along big marster belong white man, you go Not-Not.--Here
you, Tangari, you speak 'm along that fella Ogu.  He finish he walk about
Not-Not.  Have you got that, Mr. Munster?"

"But you've broken the recruiting laws," Sheldon said, when the new
recruits had marched away to the barracks.  "The licenses for the
_Flibberty_ and the _Emily_ don't allow for one hundred and fifty.  What
did Burnett say?"

"He passed them, all of them," she answered.  "Captain Munster will tell
you what he said--something about being blowed, or words to that effect.
Now I must run and wash up.  Did the Sydney orders arrive?"

"Yours are in your quarters," Sheldon said.  "Hurry, for breakfast is
waiting.  Let me have your hat and belt.  Do, please, allow me.  There's
only one hook for them, and I know where it is."

She gave him a quick scrutiny that was almost woman-like, then sighed
with relief as she unbuckled the heavy belt and passed it to him.

"I doubt if I ever want to see another revolver," she complained.  "That
one has worn a hole in me, I'm sure.  I never dreamed I could get so
weary of one."

Sheldon watched her to the foot of the steps, where she turned and called
back,--

"My!  I can't tell you how good it is to be home again."

And as his gaze continued to follow her across the compound to the tiny
grass house, the realization came to him crushingly that Berande and that
little grass house was the only place in the world she could call "home."

* * * * *

"And Burnett said, 'Well, I'll be damned--I beg your pardon, Miss
Lackland, but you have wantonly broken the recruiting laws and you know
it,'" Captain Munster narrated, as they sat over their whisky, waiting
for Joan to come back.  "And says she to him, 'Mr. Burnett, can you show
me any law against taking the passengers off a vessel that's on a reef?'
'That is not the point,' says he.  'It's the very, precise, particular
point,' says she and you bear it in mind and go ahead and pass my
recruits.  You can report me to the Lord High Commissioner if you want,
but I have three vessels here waiting on your convenience, and if you
delay them much longer there'll be another report go in to the Lord High
Commissioner.'

"'I'll hold you responsible, Captain Munster,' says he to me, mad enough
to eat scrap-iron.  'No, you won't,' says she; 'I'm the charterer of the
_Emily_, and Captain Munster has acted under my orders.'

"What could Burnett do?  He passed the whole hundred and fifty, though
the _Emily_ was only licensed for forty, and the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ for
thirty-five."

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

"This is the way she worked it.  When the _Martha_ was floated, we had to
beach her right away at the head of the bay, and whilst repairs were
going on, a new rudder being made, sails bent, gear recovered from the
niggers, and so forth, Miss Lackland borrows Sparrowhawk to run the
_Flibberty_ along with Curtis, lends me Brahms to take Sparrowhawk's
place, and starts both craft off recruiting.  My word, the niggers came
easy.  It was virgin ground.  Since the _Scottish Chiefs_, no recruiter
had ever even tried to work the coast; and we'd already put the fear of
God into the niggers' hearts till the whole coast was quiet as lambs.
When we filled up, we came back to see how the _Martha_ was progressing."

"And thinking we was going home with our recruits," Sparrowhawk slipped
in.  "Lord lumme, that Miss Lackland ain't never satisfied.  'I'll take
'em on the _Martha_,' says she, 'and you can go back and fill up again.'"

"But I told her it couldn't be done," Munster went on.  "I told her the
_Martha_ hadn't a license for recruiting.  'Oh,' she said, 'it can't be
done, eh?' and she stood and thought a few minutes."

"And I'd seen her think before," cried Sparrowhawk, "and I knew at wunst
that the thing was as good as done."

Munster lighted his cigarette and resumed.

"'You see that spit,' she says to me, 'with the little ripple breaking
around it?  There's a current sets right across it and on it.  And you
see them bafflin' little cat's-paws?  It's good weather and a falling
tide.  You just start to beat out, the two of you, and all you have to do
is miss stays in the same baffling puff and the current will set you
nicely aground.'"

"'That little wash of sea won't more than start a sheet or two of
copper,' says she, when Munster kicked," Sparrowhawk explained.  "Oh,
she's no green un, that girl."

"'Then I'll rescue your recruits and sail away--simple, ain't it?' says
she," Munster continued.  "'You hang up one tide,' says she; 'the next is
the big high water.  Then you kedge off and go after more recruits.
There's no law against recruiting when you're empty.'  'But there is
against starving 'em,' I said; 'you know yourself there ain't any _kai-
kai_ to speak of aboard of us, and there ain't a crumb on the _Martha_.'"

"We'd all been pretty well on native _kai-kai_, as it was," said
Sparrowhawk.

"'Don't let the _kai-kai_ worry you, Captain Munster,' says she; 'if I
can find grub for eighty-four mouths on the _Martha_, the two of you can
do as much by your two vessels.  Now go ahead and get aground before a
steady breeze comes up and spoils the manoeuvre.  I'll send my boats the
moment you strike.  And now, good-day, gentlemen.'"

"And we went and did it," Sparrowhawk said solemnly, and then emitted a
series of chuckling noises.  "We laid over, starboard tack, and I pinched
the _Emily_ against the spit.  'Go about,' Captain Munster yells at me;
'go about, or you'll have me aground!'  He yelled other things, much
worse.  But I didn't mind.  I missed stays, pretty as you please, and the
_Flibberty_ drifted down on him and fouled him, and we went ashore
together in as nice a mess as you ever want to see.  Miss Lackland
transferred the recruits, and the trick was done."

"But where was she during the nor'wester?" Sheldon asked.

"At Langa-Langa.  Ran up there as it was coming on, and laid there the
whole week and traded for grub with the niggers.  When we got to Tulagi,
there she was waiting for us and scrapping with Burnett.  I tell you, Mr.
Sheldon, she's a wonder, that girl, a perfect wonder."

Munster refilled his glass, and while Sheldon glanced across at Joan's
house, anxious for her coming, Sparrowhawk took up the tale.

"Gritty!  She's the grittiest thing, man or woman, that ever blew into
the Solomons.  You should have seen Poonga-Poonga the morning we
arrived--Sniders popping on the beach and in the mangroves, war-drums
booming in the bush, and signal-smokes raising everywhere.  'It's all
up,' says Captain Munster."

"Yes, that's what I said," declared that mariner.

"Of course it was all up.  You could see it with half an eye and hear it
with one ear."

"'Up your granny,' she says to him," Sparrowhawk went on.  "'Why, we
haven't arrived yet, much less got started.  Wait till the anchor's down
before you get afraid.'"

"That's what she said to me," Munster proclaimed.  "And of course it made
me mad so that I didn't care what happened.  We tried to send a boat
ashore for a pow-wow, but it was fired upon.  And every once and a while
some nigger'd take a long shot at us out of the mangroves."

"They was only a quarter of a mile off," Sparrowhawk explained, "and it
was damned nasty.  'Don't shoot unless they try to board,' was Miss
Lackland's orders; but the dirty niggers wouldn't board.  They just lay
off in the bush and plugged away.  That night we held a council of war in
the _Flibberty's_ cabin.  'What we want,' says Miss Lackland, 'is a
hostage.'"

"'That's what they do in books,' I said, thinking to laugh her away from
her folly," Munster interrupted.  "'True,' says she, 'and have you never
seen the books come true?'  I shook my head.  'Then you're not too old to
learn,' says she.  'I'll tell you one thing right now,' says I, 'and that
is I'll be blowed if you catch me ashore in the night-time stealing
niggers in a place like this.'"

"You didn't say blowed," Sparrowhawk corrected.  "You said you'd be
damned."

"That's what I did, and I meant it, too."

"'Nobody asked you to go ashore,' says she, quick as lightning,"
Sparrowhawk grinned.  "And she said more.  She said, 'And if I catch you
going ashore without orders there'll be trouble--understand, Captain
Munster?'"

"Who in hell's telling this, you or me?" the skipper demanded wrathfully.

"Well, she did, didn't she?" insisted the mate.

"Yes, she did, if you want to make so sure of it.  And while you're about
it, you might as well repeat what she said to you when you said you
wouldn't recruit on the Poonga-Poonga coast for twice your screw."

Sparrowhawk's sun-reddened face flamed redder, though he tried to pass
the situation off by divers laughings and chucklings and face-twistings.

"Go on, go on," Sheldon urged; and Munster resumed the narrative.

"'What we need,' says she, 'is the strong hand.  It's the only way to
handle them; and we've got to take hold firm right at the beginning.  I'm
going ashore to-night to fetch Kina-Kina himself on board, and I'm not
asking who's game to go for I've got every man's work arranged with me
for him.  I'm taking my sailors with me, and one white man.'  'Of course,
I'm that white man,' I said; for by that time I was mad enough to go to
hell and back again.  'Of course you're not,' says she.  'You'll have
charge of the covering boat.  Curtis stands by the landing boat.  Fowler
goes with me.  Brahms takes charge of the _Flibberty_, and Sparrowhawk of
the _Emily_.  And we start at one o'clock.'

"My word, it was a tough job lying there in the covering boat.  I never
thought doing nothing could be such hard work.  We stopped about fifty
fathoms off, and watched the other boat go in.  It was so dark under the
mangroves we couldn't see a thing of it.  D'ye know that little, monkey-
looking nigger, Sheldon, on the _Flibberty_--the cook, I mean?  Well, he
was cabin-boy twenty years ago on the _Scottish Chiefs_, and after she
was cut off he was a slave there at Poonga-Poonga.  And Miss Lackland had
discovered the fact.  So he was the guide.  She gave him half a case of
tobacco for that night's work--"

"And scared him fit to die before she could get him to come along,"
Sparrowhawk observed.

"Well, I never saw anything so black as the mangroves.  I stared at them
till my eyes were ready to burst.  And then I'd look at the stars, and
listen to the surf sighing along the reef.  And there was a dog that
barked.  Remember that dog, Sparrowhawk?  The brute nearly gave me heart-
failure when he first began.  After a while he stopped--wasn't barking at
the landing party at all; and then the silence was harder than ever, and
the mangroves grew blacker, and it was all I could do to keep from
calling out to Curtis in there in the landing boat, just to make sure
that I wasn't the only white man left alive.

"Of course there was a row.  It had to come, and I knew it; but it
startled me just the same.  I never heard such screeching and yelling in
my life.  The niggers must have just dived for the bush without looking
to see what was up, while her Tahitians let loose, shooting in the air
and yelling to hurry 'em on.  And then, just as sudden, came the silence
again--all except for some small kiddie that had got dropped in the
stampede and that kept crying in the bush for its mother.

"And then I heard them coming through the mangroves, and an oar strike on
a gunwale, and Miss Lackland laugh, and I knew everything was all right.
We pulled on board without a shot being fired.  And, by God! she had made
the books come true, for there was old Kina-Kina himself being hoisted
over the rail, shivering and chattering like an ape.  The rest was easy.
Kina-Kina's word was law, and he was scared to death.  And we kept him on
board issuing proclamations all the time we were in Poonga-Poonga.

"It was a good move, too, in other ways.  She made Kina-Kina order his
people to return all the gear they'd stripped from the _Martha_.  And
back it came, day after day, steering compasses, blocks and tackles,
sails, coils of rope, medicine chests, ensigns, signal flags--everything,
in fact, except the trade goods and supplies which had already been _kai-
kai'd_.  Of course, she gave them a few sticks of tobacco to keep them in
good humour."

"Sure she did," Sparrowhawk broke forth.  "She gave the beggars five
fathoms of calico for the big mainsail, two sticks of tobacco for the
chronometer, and a sheath-knife worth elevenpence ha'penny for a hundred
fathoms of brand new five-inch manila.  She got old Kina-Kina with that
strong hand on the go off, and she kept him going all the time.  She--here
she comes now."

It was with a shock of surprise that Sheldon greeted her appearance.  All
the time, while the tale of happening at Poonga-Poonga had been going on,
he had pictured her as the woman he had always known, clad roughly, skirt
made out of window-curtain stuff, an undersized man's shirt for a blouse,
straw sandals for foot covering, with the Stetson hat and the eternal
revolver completing her costume.  The ready-made clothes from Sydney had
transformed her.  A simple skirt and shirt-waist of some sort of wash-
goods set off her trim figure with a hint of elegant womanhood that was
new to him.  Brown slippers peeped out as she crossed the compound, and
he once caught a glimpse to the ankle of brown open-work stockings.
Somehow, she had been made many times the woman by these mere extraneous
trappings; and in his mind these wild Arabian Nights adventures of hers
seemed thrice as wonderful.

As they went in to breakfast he became aware that Munster and Sparrowhawk
had received a similar shock.  All their air of _camaraderie_ was
dissipated, and they had become abruptly and immensely respectful.

"I've opened up a new field," she said, as she began pouring the coffee.
"Old Kina-Kina will never forget me, I'm sure, and I can recruit there
whenever I want.  I saw Morgan at Guvutu.  He's willing to contract for a
thousand boys at forty shillings per head.  Did I tell you that I'd taken
out a recruiting license for the _Martha_?  I did, and the _Martha_ can
sign eighty boys every trip."

Sheldon smiled a trifle bitterly to himself.  The wonderful woman who had
tripped across the compound in her Sydney clothes was gone, and he was
listening to the boy come back again.



CHAPTER XIX--THE LOST TOY


"Well," Joan said with a sigh, "I've shown you hustling American methods
that succeed and get somewhere, and here you are beginning your muddling
again."

Five days had passed, and she and Sheldon were standing on the veranda
watching the _Martha_, close-hauled on the wind, laying a tack off shore.
During those five days Joan had never once broached the desire of her
heart, though Sheldon, in this particular instance reading her like a
book, had watched her lead up to the question a score of times in the
hope that he would himself suggest her taking charge of the _Martha_.  She
had wanted him to say the word, and she had steeled herself not to say it
herself.  The matter of finding a skipper had been a hard one.  She was
jealous of the _Martha_, and no suggested man had satisfied her.

"Oleson?" she had demanded.  "He does very well on the _Flibberty_, with
me and my men to overhaul her whenever she's ready to fall to pieces
through his slackness.  But skipper of the _Martha_?  Impossible!"

"Munster?  Yes, he's the only man I know in the Solomons I'd care to see
in charge.  And yet, there's his record.  He lost the _Umbawa_--one
hundred and forty drowned.  He was first officer on the bridge.
Deliberate disobedience to instructions.  No wonder they broke him.

"Christian Young has never had any experience with large boats.  Besides,
we can't afford to pay him what he's clearing on the _Minerva_.
Sparrowhawk is a good man--to take orders.  He has no initiative.  He's
an able sailor, but he can't command.  I tell you I was nervous all the
time he had charge of the _Flibberty_ at Poonga-Poonga when I had to stay
by the _Martha_."

And so it had gone.  No name proposed was satisfactory, and, moreover,
Sheldon had been surprised by the accuracy of her judgments.  A dozen
times she almost drove him to the statement that from the showing she
made of Solomon Islands sailors, she was the only person fitted to
command the _Martha_.  But each time he restrained himself, while her
pride prevented her from making the suggestion.

"Good whale-boat sailors do not necessarily make good schooner-handlers,"
she replied to one of his arguments.  "Besides, the captain of a boat
like the _Martha_ must have a large mind, see things in a large way; he
must have capacity and enterprise."

"But with your Tahitians on board--" Sheldon had begun another argument.

"There won't be any Tahitians on board," she had returned promptly.  "My
men stay with me.  I never know when I may need them.  When I sail, they
sail; when I remain ashore, they remain ashore.  I'll find plenty for
them to do right here on the plantation.  You've seen them clearing bush,
each of them worth half a dozen of your cannibals."

So it was that Joan stood beside Sheldon and sighed as she watched the
_Martha_ beating out to sea, old Kinross, brought over from Savo, in
command.

"Kinross is an old fossil," she said, with a touch of bitterness in her
voice.  "Oh, he'll never wreck her through rashness, rest assured of
that; but he's timid to childishness, and timid skippers lose just as
many vessels as rash ones.  Some day, Kinross will lose the _Martha_
because there'll be only one chance and he'll be afraid to take it.  I
know his sort.  Afraid to take advantage of a proper breeze of wind that
will fetch him in in twenty hours, he'll get caught out in the calm that
follows and spend a whole week in getting in.  The _Martha_ will make
money with him, there's no doubt of it; but she won't make near the money
that she would under a competent master."

She paused, and with heightened colour and sparkling eyes gazed seaward
at the schooner.

"My! but she is a witch!  Look at her eating up the water, and there's no
wind to speak of.  She's not got ordinary white metal either.  It's man-
of-war copper, every inch of it.  I had them polish it with cocoanut
husks when she was careened at Poonga-Poonga.  She was a seal-hunter
before this gold expedition got her.  And seal-hunters had to sail.
They've run away from second class Russian cruisers more than once up
there off Siberia.

"Honestly, if I'd dreamed of the chance waiting for me at Guvutu when I
bought her for less than three hundred dollars, I'd never have gone
partners with you.  And in that case I'd be sailing her right now."

The justice of her contention came abruptly home to Sheldon.  What she
had done she would have done just the same if she had not been his
partner.  And in the saving of the _Martha_ he had played no part.  Single-
handed, unadvised, in the teeth of the laughter of Guvutu and of the
competition of men like Morgan and Raff, she had gone into the adventure
and brought it through to success.

"You make me feel like a big man who has robbed a small child of a
lolly," he said with sudden contrition.

"And the small child is crying for it."  She looked at him, and he noted
that her lip was slightly trembling and that her eyes were moist.  It was
the boy all over, he thought; the boy crying for the wee bit boat with
which to play.  And yet it was a woman, too.  What a maze of
contradiction she was!  And he wondered, had she been all woman and no
boy, if he would have loved her in just the same way.  Then it rushed in
upon his consciousness that he really loved her for what she was, for all
the boy in her and all the rest of her--for the total of her that would
have been a different total in direct proportion to any differing of the
parts of her.

"But the small child won't cry any more for it," she was saying.  "This
is the last sob.  Some day, if Kinross doesn't lose her, you'll turn her
over to your partner, I know.  And I won't nag you any more.  Only I do
hope you know how I feel.  It isn't as if I'd merely bought the _Martha_,
or merely built her.  I saved her.  I took her off the reef.  I saved her
from the grave of the sea when fifty-five pounds was considered a big
risk.  She is mine, peculiarly mine.  Without me she wouldn't exist.  That
big nor'wester would have finished her the first three hours it blew.  And
then I've sailed her, too; and she is a witch, a perfect witch.  Why, do
you know, she'll steer by the wind with half a spoke, give and take.  And
going about!  Well, you don't have to baby her, starting head-sheets,
flattening mainsail, and gentling her with the wheel.  Put your wheel
down, and around she comes, like a colt with the bit in its teeth.  And
you can back her like a steamer.  I did it at Langa-Langa, between that
shoal patch and the shore-reef.  It was wonderful.

"But you don't love boats like I do, and I know you think I'm making a
fool of myself.  But some day I'm going to sail the _Martha_ again.  I
know it.  I know it."

In reply, and quite without premeditation, his hand went out to hers,
covering it as it lay on the railing.  But he knew, beyond the shadow of
a doubt, that it was the boy that returned the pressure he gave, the boy
sorrowing over the lost toy.  The thought chilled him.  Never had he been
actually nearer to her, and never had she been more convincingly remote.
She was certainly not acutely aware that his hand was touching hers.  In
her grief at the departure of the _Martha_ it was, to her, anybody's
hand--at the best, a friend's hand.

He withdrew his hand and walked perturbedly away.

"Why hasn't he got that big fisherman's staysail on her?" she demanded
irritably.  "It would make the old girl just walk along in this breeze.  I
know the sort old Kinross is.  He's the skipper that lies three days
under double-reefed topsails waiting for a gale that doesn't come.  Safe?
Oh, yes, he's safe--dangerously safe."

Sheldon retraced his steps.

"Never mind," he said.  "You can go sailing on the _Martha_ any time you
please--recruiting on Malaita if you want to."

It was a great concession he was making, and he felt that he did it
against his better judgment.  Her reception of it was a surprise to him.

"With old Kinross in command?" she queried.  "No, thank you.  He'd drive
me to suicide.  I couldn't stand his handling of her.  It would give me
nervous prostration.  I'll never step on the _Martha_ again, unless it is
to take charge of her.  I'm a sailor, like my father, and he could never
bear to see a vessel mishandled.  Did you see the way Kinross got under
way?  It was disgraceful.  And the noise he made about it!  Old Noah did
better with the Ark."

"But we manage to get somewhere just the same," he smiled.

"So did Noah."

"That was the main thing."

"For an antediluvian."

She took another lingering look at the _Martha_, then turned to Sheldon.

"You are a slovenly lot down here when it comes to boats--most of you
are, any way.  Christian Young is all right though, Munster has a slap-
dash style about him, and they do say old Nielsen was a crackerjack.  But
with the rest I've seen, there's no dash, no go, no cleverness, no real
sailor's pride.  It's all humdrum, and podgy, and slow-going, any going
so long as you get there heaven knows when.  But some day I'll show you
how the _Martha_ should be handled.  I'll break out anchor and get under
way in a speed and style that will make your head hum; and I'll bring her
alongside the wharf at Guvutu without dropping anchor and running a
line."

She came to a breathless pause, and then broke into laughter, directed,
he could see, against herself.

"Old Kinross is setting that fisherman's staysail," he remarked quietly.

"No!" she cried incredulously, swiftly looking, then running for the
telescope.

She regarded the manoeuvre steadily through the glass, and Sheldon,
watching her face, could see that the skipper was not making a success of
it.

She finally lowered the glass with a groan.

"He's made a mess of it," she said, "and now he's trying it over again.
And a man like that is put in charge of a fairy like the _Martha_!  Well,
it's a good argument against marriage, that's all.  No, I won't look any
more.  Come on in and play a steady, conservative game of billiards with
me.  And after that I'm going to saddle up and go after pigeons.  Will
you come along?"

An hour later, just as they were riding out of the compound, Joan turned
in the saddle for a last look at the _Martha_, a distant speck well over
toward the Florida coast.

"Won't Tudor be surprised when he finds we own the _Martha_?" she
laughed.  "Think of it!  If he doesn't strike pay-dirt he'll have to buy
a steamer-passage to get away from the Solomons."

Still laughing gaily, she rode through the gate.  But suddenly her
laughter broke flatly and she reined in the mare.  Sheldon glanced at her
sharply, and noted her face mottling, even as he looked, and turning
orange and green.

"It's the fever," she said.  "I'll have to turn back."

By the time they were in the compound she was shivering and shaking, and
he had to help her from her horse.

"Funny, isn't it?" she said with chattering teeth.  "Like seasickness--not
serious, but horribly miserable while it lasts.  I'm going to bed.  Send
Noa Noah and Viaburi to me.  Tell Ornfiri to make hot water.  I'll be out
of my head in fifteen minutes.  But I'll be all right by evening.  Short
and sharp is the way it takes me.  Too bad to lose the shooting.  Thank
you, I'm all right."

Sheldon obeyed her instructions, rushed hot-water bottles along to her,
and then sat on the veranda vainly trying to interest himself in a two-
months-old file of Sydney newspapers.  He kept glancing up and across the
compound to the grass house.  Yes, he decided, the contention of every
white man in the islands was right; the Solomons was no place for a
woman.

He clapped his hands, and Lalaperu came running.

"Here, you!" he ordered; "go along barracks, bring 'm black fella Mary,
plenty too much, altogether."

A few minutes later the dozen black women of Berande were ranged before
him.  He looked them over critically, finally selecting one that was
young, comely as such creatures went, and whose body bore no signs of
skin-disease.

"What name, you?" he demanded.  "Sangui?"

"Me Mahua," was the answer.

"All right, you fella Mahua.  You finish cook along boys.  You stop along
white Mary.  All the time you stop along.  You savvee?"

"Me savvee," she grunted, and obeyed his gesture to go to the grass house
immediately.

"What name?" he asked Viaburi, who had just come out of the grass house.

"Big fella sick," was the answer.  "White fella Mary talk 'm too much
allee time.  Allee time talk 'm big fella schooner."

Sheldon nodded.  He understood.  It was the loss of the _Martha_ that had
brought on the fever.  The fever would have come sooner or later, he
knew; but her disappointment had precipitated it.  He lighted a
cigarette, and in the curling smoke of it caught visions of his English
mother, and wondered if she would understand how her son could love a
woman who cried because she could not be skipper of a schooner in the
cannibal isles.



CHAPTER XX--A MAN-TALK


The most patient man in the world is prone to impatience in love--and
Sheldon was in love.  He called himself an ass a score of times a day,
and strove to contain himself by directing his mind in other channels,
but more than a score of times each day his thoughts roved back and dwelt
on Joan.  It was a pretty problem she presented, and he was continually
debating with himself as to what was the best way to approach her.

He was not an adept at love-making.  He had had but one experience in the
gentle art (in which he had been more wooed than wooing), and the affair
had profited him little.  This was another affair, and he assured himself
continually that it was a uniquely different and difficult affair.  Not
only was here a woman who was not bent on finding a husband, but it was a
woman who wasn't a woman at all; who was genuinely appalled by the
thought of a husband; who joyed in boys' games, and sentimentalized over
such things as adventure; who was healthy and normal and wholesome, and
who was so immature that a husband stood for nothing more than an
encumbrance in her cherished scheme of existence.

But how to approach her?  He divined the fanatical love of freedom in
her, the deep-seated antipathy for restraint of any sort.  No man could
ever put his arm around her and win her.  She would flutter away like a
frightened bird.  Approach by contact--that, he realized, was the one
thing he must never do.  His hand-clasp must be what it had always been,
the hand-clasp of hearty friendship and nothing more.  Never by action
must he advertise his feeling for her.  Remained speech.  But what
speech?  Appeal to her love?  But she did not love him.  Appeal to her
brain?  But it was apparently a boy's brain.  All the deliciousness and
fineness of a finely bred woman was hers; but, for all he could discern,
her mental processes were sexless and boyish.  And yet speech it must be,
for a beginning had to be made somewhere, some time; her mind must be
made accustomed to the idea, her thoughts turned upon the matter of
marriage.

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
grass-lands 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 foothills, 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 forearm 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."

"All right, you take them," Sheldon answered, busy with issuing the
ammunition.

They went to the door and down the steps, carrying the eight rifles to
their quarters.  Tudor, with cartridge-belts for rifle and pistol
strapped around him, rifle in hand, stood impatiently waiting.

"Come on, hurry up; we're burning daylight," he urged, as Sheldon
searched after extra clips for his automatic pistol.

Together they passed down the steps and out of the compound to the beach,
where they turned their backs to each other, and each proceeded toward
his destination, their rifles in the hollows of their arms, Tudor walking
toward the Berande and Sheldon toward the Balesuna.



CHAPTER XXVII--MODERN DUELLING


Barely had Sheldon reached the Balesuna, when he heard the faint report
of a distant rifle and knew it was the signal of Tudor, giving notice
that he had reached the Berande, turned about, and was coming back.
Sheldon fired his rifle into the air in answer, and in turn proceeded to
advance.  He moved as in a dream, absent-mindedly keeping to the open
beach.  The thing was so preposterous that he had to struggle to realize
it, and he reviewed in his mind the conversation with Tudor, trying to
find some clue to the common-sense of what he was doing.  He did not want
to kill Tudor.  Because that man had blundered in his love-making was no
reason that he, Sheldon, should take his life.  Then what was it all
about?  True, the fellow had insulted Joan by his subsequent remarks and
been knocked down for it, but because he had knocked him down was no
reason that he should now try to kill him.

In this fashion he covered a quarter of the distance between the two
rivers, when it dawned upon him that Tudor was not on the beach at all.
Of course not.  He was advancing, according to the terms of the
agreement, in the shelter of the cocoanut trees.  Sheldon promptly
swerved to the left to seek similar shelter, when the faint crack of a
rifle came to his ears, and almost immediately the bullet, striking the
hard sand a hundred feet beyond him, ricochetted and whined onward on a
second flight, convincing him that, preposterous and unreal as it was, it
was nevertheless sober fact.  It had been intended for him.  Yet even
then it was hard to believe.  He glanced over the familiar landscape and
at the sea dimpling in the light but steady breeze.  From the direction
of Tulagi he could see the white sails of a schooner laying a tack across
toward Berande.  Down the beach a horse was grazing, and he idly wondered
where the others were.  The smoke rising from the copra-drying caught his
eyes, which roved on over the barracks, the tool-houses, the boat-sheds,
and the bungalow, and came to rest on Joan's little grass house in the
corner of the compound.

Keeping now to the shelter of the trees, he went forward another quarter
of a mile.  If Tudor had advanced with equal speed they should have come
together at that point, and Sheldon concluded that the other was
circling.  The difficulty was to locate him.  The rows of trees, running
at right angles, enabled him to see along only one narrow avenue at a
time.  His enemy might be coming along the next avenue, or the next, to
right or left.  He might be a hundred feet away or half a mile.  Sheldon
plodded on, and decided that the old stereotyped duel was far simpler and
easier than this protracted hide-and-seek affair.  He, too, tried
circling, in the hope of cutting the other's circle; but, without
catching a glimpse of him, he finally emerged upon a fresh clearing where
the young trees, waist-high, afforded little shelter and less hiding.
Just as he emerged, stepping out a pace, a rifle cracked to his right,
and though he did not hear the bullet in passing, the thud of it came to
his ears when it struck a palm-trunk farther on.

He sprang back into the protection of the larger trees.  Twice he had
exposed himself and been fired at, while he had failed to catch a single
glimpse of his antagonist.  A slow anger began to burn in him.  It was
deucedly unpleasant, he decided, this being peppered at; and nonsensical
as it really was, it was none the less deadly serious.  There was no
avoiding the issue, no firing in the air and getting over with it as in
the old-fashioned duel.  This mutual man-hunt must keep up until one got
the other.  And if one neglected a chance to get the other, that
increased the other's chance to get him.  There could be no false
sentiment about it.  Tudor had been a cunning devil when he proposed this
sort of duel, Sheldon concluded, as he began to work along cautiously in
the direction of the last shot.

When he arrived at the spot, Tudor was gone, and only his foot-prints
remained, pointing out the course he had taken into the depths of the
plantation.  Once, ten minutes later, he caught a glimpse of Tudor, a
hundred yards away, crossing the same avenue as himself but going in the
opposite direction.  His rifle half-leaped to his shoulder, but the other
was gone.  More in whim than in hope of result, grinning to himself as he
did so, Sheldon raised his automatic pistol and in two seconds sent eight
shots scattering through the trees in the direction in which Tudor had
disappeared.  Wishing he had a shot-gun, Sheldon dropped to the ground
behind a tree, slipped a fresh clip up the hollow butt of the pistol,
threw a cartridge into the chamber, shoved the safety catch into place,
and reloaded the empty clip.

It was but a short time after that that Tudor tried the same trick on
him, the bullets pattering about him like spiteful rain, thudding into
the palm trunks, or glancing off in whining ricochets.  The last bullet
of all, making a double ricochet from two different trees and losing most
of its momentum, struck Sheldon a sharp blow on the forehead and dropped
at his feet.  He was partly stunned for the moment, but on investigation
found no greater harm than a nasty lump that soon rose to the size of a
pigeon's egg.

The hunt went on.  Once, coming to the edge of the grove near the
bungalow, he saw the house-boys and the cook, clustered on the back
veranda and peering curiously among the trees, talking and laughing with
one another in their queer falsetto voices.  Another time he came upon a
working-gang busy at hoeing weeds.  They scarcely noticed him when he
came up, though they knew thoroughly well what was going on.  It was no
affair of theirs that the enigmatical white men should be out trying to
kill each other, and whatever interest in the proceedings might be theirs
they were careful to conceal it from Sheldon.  He ordered them to
continue hoeing weeds in a distant and out-of-the-way corner, and went on
with the pursuit of Tudor.

Tiring of the endless circling, Sheldon tried once more to advance
directly on his foe, but the latter was too crafty, taking advantage of
his boldness to fire a couple of shots at him, and slipping away on some
changed and continually changing course.  For an hour they dodged and
turned and twisted back and forth and around, and hunted each other among
the orderly palms.  They caught fleeting glimpses of each other and
chanced flying shots which were without result.  On a grassy shelter
behind a tree, Sheldon came upon where Tudor had rested and smoked a
cigarette.  The pressed grass showed where he had sat.  To one side lay
the cigarette stump and the charred match which had lighted it.  In front
lay a scattering of bright metallic fragments.  Sheldon recognized their
significance.  Tudor was notching his steel-jacketed bullets, or cutting
them blunt, so that they would spread on striking--in short, he was
making them into the vicious dum-dum prohibited in modern warfare.
Sheldon knew now what would happen to him if a bullet struck his body.  It
would leave a tiny hole where it entered, but the hole where it emerged
would be the size of a saucer.

He decided to give up the pursuit, and lay down in the grass, protected
right and left by the row of palms, with on either hand the long avenue
extending.  This he could watch.  Tudor would have to come to him or else
there would be no termination of the affair.  He wiped the sweat from his
face and tied the handkerchief around his neck to keep off the stinging
gnats that lurked in the grass.  Never had he felt so great a disgust for
the thing called "adventure."  Joan had been bad enough, with her Baden-
Powell and long-barrelled Colt's; but here was this newcomer also looking
for adventure, and finding it in no other way than by lugging a peace-
loving planter into an absurd and preposterous bush-whacking duel.  If
ever adventure was well damned, it was by Sheldon, sweating in the
windless grass and fighting gnats, the while he kept close watch up and
down the avenue.

Then Tudor came.  Sheldon happened to be looking in his direction at the
moment he came into view, peering quickly up and down the avenue before
he stepped into the open.  Midway he stopped, as if debating what course
to pursue.  He made a splendid mark, facing his concealed enemy at two
hundred yards' distance.  Sheldon aimed at the centre of his chest, then
deliberately shifted the aim to his right shoulder, and, with the
thought, "That will put him out of business," pulled the trigger.  The
bullet, driving with momentum sufficient to perforate a man's body a mile
distant, struck Tudor with such force as to pivot him, whirling him half
around by the shock of its impact and knocking him down.

"'Hope I haven't killed the beggar," Sheldon muttered aloud, springing to
his feet and running forward.

A hundred feet away all anxiety on that score was relieved by Tudor, who
made shift with his left hand, and from his automatic pistol hurled a
rain of bullets all around Sheldon.  The latter dodged behind a palm
trunk, counting the shots, and when the eighth had been fired he rushed
in on the wounded man.  He kicked the pistol out of the other's hand, and
then sat down on him in order to keep him down.

"Be quiet," he said.  "I've got you, so there's no use struggling."

Tudor still attempted to struggle and to throw him off.

"Keep quiet, I tell you," Sheldon commanded.  "I'm satisfied with the
outcome, and you've got to be.  So you might as well give in and call
this affair closed."

Tudor reluctantly relaxed.

"Rather funny, isn't it, these modern duels?"  Sheldon grinned down at
him as he removed his weight.  "Not a bit dignified.  If you'd struggled
a moment longer I'd have rubbed your face in the earth.  I've a good mind
to do it anyway, just to teach you that duelling has gone out of fashion.
Now let us see to your injuries."

"You only got me that last," Tudor grunted sullenly, "lying in ambush
like--"

"Like a wild Indian.  Precisely.  You've caught the idea, old man."
Sheldon ceased his mocking and stood up.  "You lie there quietly until I
send back some of the boys to carry you in.  You're not seriously hurt,
and it's lucky for you I didn't follow your example.  If you had been
struck with one of your own bullets, a carriage and pair would have been
none too large to drive through the hole it would have made.  As it is,
you're drilled clean--a nice little perforation.  All you need is
antiseptic washing and dressing, and you'll be around in a month.  Now
take it easy, and I'll send a stretcher for you."



CHAPTER XXVIII--CAPITULATION


When Sheldon emerged from among the trees he found Joan waiting at the
compound gate, and he could not fail to see that she was visibly
gladdened at the sight of him.

"I can't tell you how glad I am to see you," was her greeting.  "What's
become of Tudor?  That last flutter of the automatic wasn't nice to
listen to.  Was it you or Tudor?"

"So you know all about it," he answered coolly.  "Well, it was Tudor, but
he was doing it left-handed.  He's down with a hole in his shoulder."  He
looked at her keenly.  "Disappointing, isn't it?" he drawled.

"How do you mean?"

"Why, that I didn't kill him."

"But I didn't want him killed just because he kissed me," she cried.

"Oh, he did kiss you!" Sheldon retorted, in evident surprise.  "I thought
you said he hurt your arm."

"One could call it a kiss, though it was only on the end of the nose."
She laughed at the recollection.  "But I paid him back for that myself.  I
boxed his face for him.  And he did hurt my arm.  It's black and blue.
Look at it."

She pulled up the loose sleeve of her blouse, and he saw the bruised
imprints of two fingers.

Just then a gang of blacks came out from among the trees carrying the
wounded man on a rough stretcher.

"Romantic, isn't it?" Sheldon sneered, following Joan's startled gaze.
"And now I'll have to play surgeon and doctor him up.  Funny, this
twentieth-century duelling.  First you drill a hole in a man, and next
you set about plugging the hole up."

They had stepped aside to let the stretcher pass, and Tudor, who had
heard the remark, lifted himself up on the elbow of his sound arm and
said with a defiant grin,--

"If you'd got one of mine you'd have had to plug with a dinner-plate."

"Oh, you wretch!" Joan cried.  "You've been cutting your bullets."

"It was according to agreement," Tudor answered.  "Everything went.  We
could have used dynamite if we wanted to."

"He's right," Sheldon assured her, as they swung in behind.  "Any weapon
was permissible.  I lay in the grass where he couldn't see me, and
bushwhacked him in truly noble fashion.  That's what comes of having
women on the plantation.  And now it's antiseptics and drainage tubes, I
suppose.  It's a nasty mess, and I'll have to read up on it before I
tackle the job."

"I don't see that it's my fault," she began.  "I couldn't help it because
he kissed me.  I never dreamed he would attempt it."

"We didn't fight for that reason.  But there isn't time to explain.  If
you'll get dressings and bandages ready I'll look up 'gun-shot wounds'
and see what's to be done."

"Is he bleeding seriously?" she asked.

"No; the bullet seems to have missed the important arteries.  But that
would have been a pickle."

"Then there's no need to bother about reading up," Joan said.  "And I'm
just dying to hear what it was all about.  The _Apostle_ is lying
becalmed inside the point, and her boats are out to wing.  She'll be at
anchor in five minutes, and Doctor Welshmere is sure to be on board.  So
all we've got to do is to make Tudor comfortable.  We'd better put him in
your room under the mosquito-netting, and send a boat off to tell Dr.
Welshmere to bring his instruments."

An hour afterward, Dr. Welshmere left the patient comfortable and
attended to, and went down to the beach to go on board, promising to come
back to dinner.  Joan and Sheldon, standing on the veranda, watched him
depart.

"I'll never have it in for the missionaries again since seeing them here
in the Solomons," she said, seating herself in a steamer-chair.

She looked at Sheldon and began to laugh.

"That's right," he said.  "It's the way I feel, playing the fool and
trying to murder a guest."

"But you haven't told me what it was all about."

"You," he answered shortly.

"Me?  But you just said it wasn't."

"Oh, it wasn't the kiss."  He walked over to the railing and leaned
against it, facing her.  "But it was about you all the same, and I may as
well tell you.  You remember, I warned you long ago what would happen
when you wanted to become a partner in Berande.  Well, all the beach is
gossiping about it; and Tudor persisted in repeating the gossip to me.  So
you see it won't do for you to stay on here under present conditions.  It
would be better if you went away."

"But I don't want to go away," she objected with rueful countenance.

"A chaperone, then--"

"No, nor a chaperone."

"But you surely don't expect me to go around shooting every slanderer in
the Solomons that opens his mouth?" he demanded gloomily.

"No, nor that either," she answered with quick impulsiveness.  "I'll tell
you what we'll do.  We'll get married and put a stop to it all.  There!"

He looked at her in amazement, and would have believed that she was
making fun of him had it not been for the warm blood that suddenly
suffused her cheeks.

"Do you mean that?" he asked unsteadily.  "Why?"

"To put a stop to all the nasty gossip of the beach.  That's a pretty
good reason, isn't it?"

The temptation was strong enough and sudden enough to make him waver, but
all the disgust came back to him that was his when he lay in the grass
fighting gnats and cursing adventure, and he answered,--

"No; it is worse than no reason at all.  I don't care to marry you as a
matter of expedience--"

"You are the most ridiculous creature!" she broke in, with a flash of her
old-time anger.  "You talk love and marriage to me, very much against my
wish, and go mooning around over the plantation week after week because
you can't have me, and look at me when you think I'm not noticing and
when all the time I'm wondering when you had your last square meal
because of the hungry look in your eyes, and make eyes at my revolver-
belt hanging on a nail, and fight duels about me, and all the
rest--and--and now, when I say I'll marry you, you do yourself the honour
of refusing me."

"You can't make me any more ridiculous than I feel," he answered, rubbing
the lump on his forehead reflectively.  "And if this is the accepted
romantic programme--a duel over a girl, and the girl rushing into the
arms of the winner--why, I shall not make a bigger ass of myself by going
in for it."

"I thought you'd jump at it," she confessed, with a naivete he could not
but question, for he thought he saw a roguish gleam in her eyes.

"My conception of love must differ from yours then," he said.  "I should
want a woman to marry me for love of me, and not out of romantic
admiration because I was lucky enough to drill a hole in a man's shoulder
with smokeless powder.  I tell you I am disgusted with this adventure
tomfoolery and rot.  I don't like it.  Tudor is a sample of the adventure-
kind--picking a quarrel with me and behaving like a monkey, insisting on
fighting with me--'to the death,' he said.  It was like a penny
dreadful."

She was biting her lip, and though her eyes were cool and level-looking
as ever, the tell-tale angry red was in her cheeks.

"Of course, if you don't want to marry me--"

"But I do," he hastily interposed.

"Oh, you do--"

"But don't you see, little girl, I want you to love me," he hurried on.
"Otherwise, it would be only half a marriage.  I don't want you to marry
me simply because by so doing a stop is put to the beach gossip, nor do I
want you to marry me out of some foolish romantic notion.  I shouldn't
want you . . . that way."

"Oh, in that case," she said with assumed deliberateness, and he could
have sworn to the roguish gleam, "in that case, since you are willing to
consider my offer, let me make a few remarks.  In the first place, you
needn't sneer at adventure when you are living it yourself; and you were
certainly living it when I found you first, down with fever on a lonely
plantation with a couple of hundred wild cannibals thirsting for your
life.  Then I came along--"

"And what with your arriving in a gale," he broke in, "fresh from the
wreck of the schooner, landing on the beach in a whale-boat full of
picturesque Tahitian sailors, and coming into the bungalow with a Baden-
Powell on your head, sea-boots on your feet, and a whacking big Colt's
dangling on your hip--why, I am only too ready to admit that you were the
quintessence of adventure."

"Very good," she cried exultantly.  "It's mere simple arithmetic--the
adding of your adventure and my adventure together.  So that's settled,
and you needn't jeer at adventure any more.  Next, I don't think there
was anything romantic in Tudor's attempting to kiss me, nor anything like
adventure in this absurd duel.  But I do think, now, that it was romantic
for you to fall in love with me.  And finally, and it is adding romance
to romance, I think . . . I think I do love you, Dave--oh, Dave!"

The last was a sighing dove-cry as he caught her up in his arms and
pressed her to him.

"But I don't love you because you played the fool to-day," she whispered
on his shoulder.  "White men shouldn't go around killing each other."

"Then why do you love me?" he questioned, enthralled after the manner of
all lovers in the everlasting query that for ever has remained
unanswered.

"I don't know--just because I do, I guess.  And that's all the
satisfaction you gave me when we had that man-talk.  But I have been
loving you for weeks--during all the time you have been so deliciously
and unobtrusively jealous of Tudor."

"Yes, yes, go on," he urged breathlessly, when she paused.

"I wondered when you'd break out, and because you didn't I loved you all
the more.  You were like Dad, and Von.  You could hold yourself in check.
You didn't make a fool of yourself."

"Not until to-day," he suggested.

"Yes, and I loved you for that, too.  It was about time.  I began to
think you were never going to bring up the subject again.  And now that I
have offered myself you haven't even accepted."

With both hands on her shoulders he held her at arm's-length from him and
looked long into her eyes, no longer cool but seemingly pervaded with a
golden flush.  The lids drooped and yet bravely did not droop as she
returned his gaze.  Then he fondly and solemnly drew her to him.

"And how about that hearth and saddle of your own?" he asked, a moment
later.

"I well-nigh won to them.  The grass house is my hearth, and the _Martha_
my saddle, and--and look at all the trees I've planted, to say nothing of
the sweet corn.  And it's all your fault anyway.  I might never have
loved you if you hadn't put the idea into my head."

"There's the _Nongassla_ coming in around the point with her boats out,"
Sheldon remarked irrelevantly.  "And the Commissioner is on board.  He's
going down to San Cristoval to investigate that missionary killing.  We're
in luck, I must say."

"I don't see where the luck comes in," she said dolefully.  "We ought to
have this evening all to ourselves just to talk things over.  I've a
thousand questions to ask you."

"And it wouldn't have been a man-talk either," she added.

"But my plan is better than that."  He debated with himself a moment.
"You see, the Commissioner is the one official in the islands who can
give us a license.  And--there's the luck of it--Doctor Welshmere is here
to perform the ceremony.  We'll get married this evening."

Joan recoiled from him in panic, tearing herself from his arms and going
backward several steps.  He could see that she was really frightened.

"I . . . I thought . . ." she stammered.

Then, slowly, the change came over her, and the blood flooded into her
face in the same amazing blush he had seen once before that day.  Her
cool, level-looking eyes were no longer level-looking nor cool, but
warmly drooping and just unable to meet his, as she came toward him and
nestled in the circle of his arms, saying softly, almost in a whisper,--

"I am ready, Dave."



FOOTNOTES


{1}  Eaten.

{2}  Food.

{3}  Mary--beche-de-mer English for woman.

{4}  _Ngari-ngari_--literally "scratch-scratch"--a vegetable
skin-poisoning that, while not serious, is decidedly uncomfortable.

{5}  Paddle





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Adventure" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home