The next morning Sheldon came
in from the plantation to breakfast,
to find the mission ketch, Apostle,
at anchor, her crew swimming
two mares and a filly ashore.
Sheldon recognized the animals
as belonging to the Resident
Commissioner, and he immediately
wondered if Joan had bought them.
She was certainly living up to
her threat of rattling the dry
bones of the Solomons, and he
was prepared for
"Miss Lackland sent them," said
Welshmere, the missionary doctor,
stepping ashore and shaking hands
with him. "There's also a box
of saddles on board. And this
letter from her. And the skipper
of the Flibberty-Gibbet."
The next moment, and before
he could greet him, Oleson stepped
from the boat and began.
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
Dr. Welshmere laughed heartily.
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
"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
Sheldon put his hands to his
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
was on board before I dropped
the hook--in that whale-boat
of hers with her gang of Tahiti
heathens--that big Adamu Adam
and the rest. 'Don't drop the
anchor, Captain Oleson,' she
sang out. 'I want you to get
under way for Poonga-Poonga.'
I looked to see if she'd been
drinking. What was I to think?
I was rounding up at the time,
alongside the shoal--a ticklish
place--headsails running down
and losing way, so I says, 'Excuse
me, Miss Lackland,' and yells
for'ard, 'Let go!'
have listened to me and saved
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
"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
"Down in the
Emily's cabin was them three
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 . . .
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.
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,
"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
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
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
Plant all the trees in the
compound, even if you have to
clean out the palms later on.
And don't plant the sweet corn
all at once. Let a few days elapse
He fingered the letter, lingering
over it and scrutinizing the
writing in a way that was not
his wont. How characteristic,
was his thought, as he studied
the boyish scrawl--clear to read,
painfully, clear, but none the
less boyish. The clearness of
it reminded him of her face,
of her cleanly stencilled brows,
her straightly chiselled nose,
the very clearness of the gaze
of her eyes, the firmly yet delicately
moulded lips, and the throat,
neither fragile nor robust, but--but
just right, he concluded, an
adequate and beautiful pillar
for so shapely a burden.
He looked long at the name.
Joan Lackland--just an assemblage
of letters, of commonplace letters,
but an assemblage that generated
a subtle and heady magic. It
crept into his brain and twined
and twisted his mental processes
until all that constituted him
at that moment went out in love
to that scrawled signature. A
few commonplace letters--yet
they caused him to know in himself
a lack that sweetly hurt and
that expressed itself in vague
spiritual outpourings and delicious
yearnings. Joan Lackland! Each
time he looked at it there arose
visions of her in a myriad moods
and guises--coming in out of
the flying smother of the gale
that had wrecked her schooner;
launching a whale-boat to go
a-fishing; running dripping from
the sea, with streaming hair
and clinging garments, to the
fresh-water shower; frightening
four-score cannibals with an
empty chlorodyne bottle; teaching
Ornfiri how to make bread; hanging
her Stetson hat and revolver-belt
on the hook in the living-room;
talking gravely about winning
to hearth and saddle of her own,
or juvenilely rattling on about
romance and adventure, bright-eyed,
her face flushed and eager with
enthusiasm. Joan Lackland! He
mused over the cryptic wonder
of it till the secrets of love
were made clear and he felt a
keen sympathy for lovers who
carved their names on trees or
wrote them on the beach- sands
of the sea.
Then he came
back to reality, and his face
hardened. Even then
she was on the wild coast of
Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga,
of all villainous and dangerous
portions the worst, peopled with
a teeming population of head-hunters,
robbers, and murderers. For the
instant he entertained the rash
thought of calling his boat's-crew
and starting immediately in a
whale-boat for Poonga-Poonga.
But the next instant the idea
was dismissed. What could he
do if he did go? First, she would
resent it. Next, she would laugh
at him and call him a silly;
and after all he would count
for only one rifle more, and
she had many rifles with her.
Three things only could he do
if he went. He could command
her to return; he could take
the Flibberty-Gibbet away from
her; he could dissolve their
partnership;--any and all of
which he knew would be foolish
and futile, and he could hear
her explain in terse set terms
that she was legally of age and
that nobody could say come or
go to her. No, his pride would
never permit him to start for
Poonga-Poonga, though his heart
whispered that nothing could
be more welcome than a message
from her asking him to come and
lend a hand. Her very words--"lend
a hand"; and in his fancy, he
could see and hear her saying
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.