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
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-
"What name?" she
demanded of the black man on
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.
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.
man replied; and Joan wrote
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
"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
"Ogu--what place b'long you?" she
went on with her catechism.
But Ogu was a bushman, lacking
knowledge of the almost universal
beche-de-mer English, and half
a dozen of his fellows wrangled
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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
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
Burnett do? He passed the whole
fifty, though the Emily was only
licensed for forty, and the Flibberty-
Gibbet for thirty-five."
"But I don't understand," Sheldon
"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
Munster lighted his cigarette
"'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
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,
"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
"But where was she during the
nor'wester?" Sheldon asked.
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
"Who in hell's telling this,
you or me?" the skipper demanded
"Well, she did, didn't she?" insisted
"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."
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
"'What we need,'
says she, 'is the strong hand.
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
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.
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
"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
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.