Jack London


Part III


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.


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.


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 bche-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.


“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.


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.


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. ”


“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 bche-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 rle 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. ”


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.


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.


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 bche-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.