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
They came out on the village, situated on CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница."
"But they should be taught not to take white men's heads," Sheldon
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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница.
"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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница the polished green of jade,
the sheen of pearl, and the warm red of Oriental gold. The other head,
equally ancient, was a white man's, as the heavy blond moustache, twisted
and askew on the shrivelled upper lip, gave sufficient advertisement; and
Sheldon wondered what forgotten beche-de-mer fisherman or sandalwood
trader had gone to furnish that ghastly trophy.
Telling Binu Charley to remove the ear-rings, and directing the Poonga-
Poonga men to carry out the old fire-tender, Sheldon cleared the devil-
devil house and set fire to it. Soon every house was blazing merrily,
while the ancient CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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
Joan, still shocked by what she had seen, walked on in front of Sheldon,
subdued CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница 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 CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница-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
CHAPTER XXVI--BURNING DAYLIGHT
The ten days of Tudor's convalescence that followed were peaceful days on
Berande. The work of the plantation went on like clock-work. With the
crushing of the premature outbreak of Gogoomy and his following, all
insubordination seemed to have vanished. Twenty more of the old-time
boys, their term of service up, were carried away by the _Martha_, and
the fresh CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница stock of labour, treated fairly, was proving of excellent
quality. As Sheldon rode about the plantation, acknowledging to himself
the comfort and convenience of a horse and wondering why he had not
thought of getting one himself, he pondered the various improvements for
which Joan was responsible--the splendid Poonga-Poonga recruits; the
fruits and vegetables; the _Martha_ herself, snatched from the sea for a
song and earning money hand over fist despite old Kinross's slow and safe
method of running her; and Berande, once more financially secure,
approaching each day nearer the dividend-paying time, and growing each
day as the black toilers cleared the CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница bush, cut the cane-grass, and
planted more cocoanut palms.
In these and a thousand ways Sheldon was made aware of how much he was
indebted for material prosperity to Joan--to the slender, level-browed
girl with romance shining out of her gray eyes and adventure shouting
from the long-barrelled Colt's on her hip, who had landed on the beach
that piping gale, along with her stalwart Tahitian crew, and who had
entered his bungalow to hang with boy's hands her revolver-belt and Baden-
Powell hat on the nail by the billiard table. He forgot all the early
exasperations, remembering only CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница her charms and sweetnesses and glorying
much in the traits he at first had disliked most--her boyishness and
adventurousness, her delight to swim and risk the sharks, her desire to
go recruiting, her love of the sea and ships, her sharp authoritative
words when she launched the whale-boat and, with firestick in one hand
and dynamite-stick in the other, departed with her picturesque crew to
shoot fish in the Balesuna; her super-innocent disdain for the commonest
conventions, her juvenile joy in argument, her fluttering, wild-bird love
of freedom and mad passion for independence. All this he now loved, and
he no longer desired CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница to tame and hold her, though the paradox was the
winning of her without the taming and the holding.
There were times when he was dizzy with thought of her and love of her,
when he would stop his horse and with closed eyes picture her as he had
seen her that first day, in the stern-sheets of the whale-boat, dashing
madly in to shore and marching belligerently along his veranda to remark
that it was pretty hospitality this letting strangers sink or swim in his
front yard. And as he opened his eyes and urged his horse onward, he
would ponder for the CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница ten thousandth time how possibly he was ever to hold
her when she was so wild and bird-like that she was bound to flutter out
and away from under his hand.
It was patent to Sheldon that Tudor had become interested in Joan. That
convalescent visitor practically lived on the veranda, though, while
preposterously weak and shaky in the legs, he had for some time insisted
on coming in to join them at the table at meals. The first warning
Sheldon had of the other's growing interest in the girl was when Tudor
eased down and finally ceased pricking him with his habitual CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница sharpness of
quip and speech. This cessation of verbal sparring was like the breaking
off of diplomatic relations between countries at the beginning of war,
and, once Sheldon's suspicions were aroused, he was not long in finding
other confirmations. Tudor too obviously joyed in Joan's presence, too
obviously laid himself out to amuse and fascinate her with his own
glorious and adventurous personality. Often, after his morning ride over
the plantation, or coming in from the store or from inspection of the
copra-drying, Sheldon found the pair of them together on the veranda,
Joan listening, intent and excited, and Tudor deep in some recital CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница of
personal adventure at the ends of the earth.
Sheldon noticed, too, the way Tudor looked at her and followed her about
with his eyes, and in those eyes he noted a certain hungry look, and on
the face a certain wistful expression; and he wondered if on his own face
he carried a similar involuntary advertisement. He was sure of several
things: first, that Tudor was not the right man for Joan and could not
possibly make her permanently happy; next, that Joan was too sensible a
girl really to fall in love with a man of such superficial stamp; and,
finally, that Tudor CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница would blunder his love-making somehow. And at the
same time, with true lover's anxiety, Sheldon feared that the other might
somehow fail to blunder, and win the girl with purely fortuitous and
successful meretricious show. But of the one thing Sheldon was sure:
Tudor had no intimate knowledge of her and was unaware of how vital in
her was her wildness and love of independence. That was where he would
blunder--in the catching and the holding of her. And then, in spite of
all his certitude, Sheldon could not forbear wondering if his theories of
Joan might not be wrong, and if CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница Tudor was not going the right way about
The situation was very unsatisfactory and perplexing. Sheldon played the
difficult part of waiting and looking on, while his rival devoted himself
energetically to reaching out and grasping at the fluttering prize. Then,
again, Tudor had such an irritating way about him. It had become quite
elusive and intangible, now that he had tacitly severed diplomatic
relations; but Sheldon sensed what he deemed a growing antagonism and
promptly magnified it through the jealous lenses of his own lover's eyes.
The other was an interloper. He did not belong to Berande, and now that
he was well and CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница strong again it was time for him to go. Instead of
which, and despite the calling in of the mail steamer bound for Sydney,
Tudor had settled himself down comfortably, resumed swimming, went
dynamiting fish with Joan, spent hours with her hunting pigeons, trapping
crocodiles, and at target practice with rifle and revolver.
But there were certain traditions of hospitality that prevented Sheldon
from breathing a hint that it was time for his guest to take himself off.
And in similar fashion, feeling that it was not playing the game, he
fought down the temptation to warn Joan. Had he known anything CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница, not too
serious, to Tudor's detriment, he would have been unable to utter it; but
the worst of it was that he knew nothing at all against the man. That
was the confounded part of it, and sometimes he was so baffled and
overwrought by his feelings that he assumed a super-judicial calm and
assured himself that his dislike of Tudor was a matter of unsubstantial
prejudice and jealousy.
Outwardly, he maintained a calm and smiling aspect. The work of the
plantation went on. The _Martha_ and the _Flibberty-Gibbet_ came and
went, as did all the miscellany of coasting craft that dropped in to wait
for a breeze CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница and have a gossip, a drink or two, and a game of billiards.
Satan kept the compound free of niggers. Boucher came down regularly in
his whale-boat to pass Sunday. Twice a day, at breakfast and dinner,
Joan and Sheldon and Tudor met amicably at table, and the evenings were
as amicably spent on the veranda.
And then it happened. Tudor made his blunder. Never divining Joan's
fluttering wildness, her blind hatred of restraint and compulsion, her
abhorrence of mastery by another, and mistaking the warmth and enthusiasm
in her eyes (aroused by his latest tale) for something tender and
acquiescent, he CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница drew her to him, laid a forcible detaining arm about her
waist, and misapprehended her frantic revolt for an exhibition of
maidenly reluctance. It occurred on the veranda, after breakfast, and
Sheldon, within, pondering a Sydney wholesaler's catalogue and making up
his orders for next steamer-day, heard the sharp exclamation of Joan,
followed by the equally sharp impact of an open hand against a cheek.
Jerking free from the arm that was all distasteful compulsion, Joan had
slapped Tudor's face resoundingly and with far more vim and weight than
when she had cuffed Gogoomy.
Sheldon had half-started up, then controlled CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница himself and sunk back in his
chair, so that by the time Joan entered the door his composure was
recovered. Her right forearm was clutched tightly in her left hand,
while the white cheeks, centred with the spots of flaming red, reminded
him of the time he had first seen her angry.
"He hurt my arm," she blurted out, in reply to his look of inquiry.
He smiled involuntarily. It was so like her, so like the boy she was, to
come running to complain of the physical hurt which had been done her.
She was certainly not a woman versed in CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница the ways of man and in the ways
of handling man. The resounding slap she had given Tudor seemed still
echoing in Sheldon's ears, and as he looked at the girl before him crying
out that her arm was hurt, his smile grew broader.
It was the smile that did it, convicting Joan in her own eyes of the
silliness of her cry and sending over her face the most amazing blush he
had ever seen. Throat, cheeks, and forehead flamed with the rush of the
"He--he--" she attempted to vindicate her deeper indignation, then
whirled abruptly away and passed out the rear door CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница and down the steps.
Sheldon sat and mused. He was a trifle angry, and the more he dwelt upon
the happening the angrier he grew. If it had been any woman except Joan
it would have been amusing. But Joan was the last woman in the world to
attempt to kiss forcibly. The thing smacked of the back stairs anyway--a
sordid little comedy perhaps, but to have tried it on Joan was nothing
less than sacrilege. The man should have had better sense. Then, too,
Sheldon was personally aggrieved. He had been filched of something that
he felt was almost his, and his CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница lover's jealousy was rampant at thought
of this forced familiarity.
It was while in this mood that the screen door banged loudly behind the
heels of Tudor, who strode into the room and paused before him. Sheldon
was unprepared, though it was very apparent that the other was furious.
"Well?" Tudor demanded defiantly.
And on the instant speech rushed to Sheldon's lips.
"I hope you won't attempt anything like it again, that's all--except that
I shall be only too happy any time to extend to you the courtesy of my
whale-boat. It will land you in Tulagi in a few CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница hours."
"As if that would settle it," was the retort.
"I don't understand," Sheldon said simply.
"Then it is because you don't wish to understand."
"Still I don't understand," Sheldon said in steady, level tones. "All
that is clear to me is that you are exaggerating your own blunder into
Tudor grinned maliciously and replied,--
"It would seem that you are doing the exaggerating, inviting me to leave
in your whale-boat. It is telling me that Berande is not big enough for
the pair of us. Now let me tell you that the Solomon CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница Islands is not big
enough for the pair of us. This thing's got to be settled between us,
and it may as well be settled right here and now."
"I can understand your fire-eating manners as being natural to you,"
Sheldon went on wearily, "but why you should try them on me is what I
can't comprehend. You surely don't want to quarrel with me."
"I certainly do."
"But what in heaven's name for?"
Tudor surveyed him with withering disgust.
"You haven't the soul of a louse. I suppose any man could make love to
"But CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница I have no wife," Sheldon interrupted.
"Then you ought to have. The situation is outrageous. You might at
least marry her, as I am honourably willing to do."
For the first time Sheldon's rising anger boiled over.
"You--" he began violently, then abruptly caught control of himself and
went on soothingly, "you'd better take a drink and think it over. That's
my advice to you. Of course, when you do get cool, after talking to me
in this fashion you won't want to stay on any longer, so while you're
getting that drink I'll call the boat's-crew CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница and launch a boat. You'll
be in Tulagi by eight this evening."
He turned toward the door, as if to put his words into execution, but the
other caught him by the shoulder and twirled him around.
"Look here, Sheldon, I told you the Solomons were too small for the pair
of us, and I meant it."
"Is that an offer to buy Berande, lock, stock, and barrel?" Sheldon
"No, it isn't. It's an invitation to fight."
"But what the devil do you want to fight with me for?" Sheldon's
irritation was growing at the other's CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница persistence. "I've no quarrel with
you. And what quarrel can you have with me? I have never interfered
with you. You were my guest. Miss Lackland is my partner. If you saw
fit to make love to her, and somehow failed to succeed, why should you
want to fight with me? This is the twentieth century, my dear fellow,
and duelling went out of fashion before you and I were born."
"You began the row," Tudor doggedly asserted. "You gave me to understand
that it was time for me to go. You fired me out of your house, in short.
And then you have the CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница cheek to want to know why I am starting the row. It
won't do, I tell you. You started it, and I am going to see it through."
Sheldon smiled tolerantly and proceeded to light a cigarette. But Tudor
was not to be turned aside.
"You started this row," he urged.
"There isn't any row. It takes two to make a row, and I, for one, refuse
to have anything to do with such tomfoolery."
"You started it, I say, and I'll tell you why you started it."
"I fancy you've been drinking," Sheldon interposed. "It's the CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница only
explanation I can find for your unreasonableness."
"And I'll tell you why you started it. It wasn't silliness on your part
to exaggerate this little trifle of love-making into something serious. I
was poaching on your preserves, and you wanted to get rid of me. It was
all very nice and snug here, you and the girl, until I came along. And
now you're jealous--that's it, jealousy--and want me out of it. But I
"Then stay on by all means. I won't quarrel with you about it. Make
yourself comfortable. Stay CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница for a year, if you wish."
"She's not your wife," Tudor continued, as though the other had not
spoken. "A fellow has the right to make love to her unless she's
your--well, perhaps it was an error after all, due to ignorance,
perfectly excusable, on my part. I might have seen it with half an eye
if I'd listened to the gossip on the beach. All Guvutu and Tulagi were
laughing about it. I was a fool, and I certainly made the mistake of
taking the situation on its assumed innocent face-value."
So angry was Sheldon becoming that the face and form CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница of the other seemed
to vibrate and oscillate before his eyes. Yet outwardly Sheldon was calm
and apparently weary of the discussion.
"Please keep her out of the conversation," he said.
"But why should I?" was the demand. "The pair of you trapped me into
making a fool of myself. How was I to know that everything was not all
right? You and she acted as if everything were on the square. But my
eyes are open now. Why, she played the outraged wife to perfection,
slapped the transgressor and fled to you. Pretty good proof of what all
the beach has been CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница saying. Partners, eh?--a business partnership? Gammon
my eye, that's what it is."
Then it was that Sheldon struck out, coolly and deliberately, with all
the strength of his arm, and Tudor, caught on the jaw, fell sideways,
crumpling as he did so and crushing a chair to kindling wood beneath the
weight of his falling body. He pulled himself slowly to his feet, but
did not offer to rush.
"Now will you fight?" Tudor said grimly.
Sheldon laughed, and for the first time with true spontaneity. The
intrinsic ridiculousness of the situation was too much for his sense of
humour. He made as if CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница to repeat the blow, but Tudor, white of face, with
arms hanging resistlessly at his sides, offered no defence.
"I don't mean a fight with fists," he said slowly. "I mean to a finish,
to the death. You're a good shot with revolver and rifle. So am I.
That's the way we'll settle it."
"You have gone clean mad. You are a lunatic."
"No, I'm not," Tudor retorted. "I'm a man in love. And once again I ask
you to go outside and settle it, with any weapons you choose."
Sheldon regarded him CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница for the first time with genuine seriousness,
wondering what strange maggots could be gnawing in his brain to drive him
to such unusual conduct.
"But men don't act this way in real life," Sheldon remarked.
"You'll find I'm pretty real before you're done with me. I'm going to
kill you to-day."
"Bosh and nonsense, man." This time Sheldon had lost his temper over the
superficial aspects of the situation. "Bosh and nonsense, that's all it
is. Men don't fight duels in the twentieth century. It's--it's
antediluvian, I tell you."
"Speaking of Joan--"
"Please keep her CHAPTER I--SOMETHING TO BE DONE 15 страница name out of it," Sheldon warned him.
"I will, if you'll fight."
Sheldon threw up his arms despairingly.
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