The ten days of Tudor's convalescence
that followed were peaceful days
on Berande. The work of the plantation
went on like clock- work. With
the crushing of the premature
outbreak of Gogoomy and his following,
all insubordination seemed to
have vanished. Twenty more of
the old-time boys, their term
of service up, were carried away
by the Martha, and the fresh
stock of labour, treated fairly,
was proving of excellent quality.
As Sheldon rode about the plantation,
acknowledging to himself the
comfort and convenience of a
horse and wondering why he had
not thought of getting one himself,
he pondered the various improvements
for which Joan was responsible--the
splendid Poonga-Poonga recruits;
the fruits and vegetables; the
Martha herself, snatched from
the sea for a song and earning
money hand over fist despite
old Kinross's slow and safe method
of running her; and Berande,
once more financially secure,
approaching each day nearer the
dividend-paying time, and growing
each day as the black toilers
cleared the bush, cut the cane-grass,
and planted more cocoanut palms.
In these and a thousand ways
Sheldon was made aware of how
much he was indebted for material
prosperity to Joan--to the slender,
level-browed girl with romance
shining out of her gray eyes
and adventure shouting from the
long-barrelled Colt's on her
hip, who had landed on the beach
that piping gale, along with
her stalwart Tahitian crew, and
who had entered his bungalow
to hang with boy's hands her
revolver-belt and Baden-Powell
hat on the nail by the billiard
table. He forgot all the early
exasperations, remembering only
her charms and sweetnesses and
glorying much in the traits he
at first had disliked most--her
boyishness and adventurousness,
her delight to swim and risk
the sharks, her desire to go
recruiting, her love of the sea
and ships, her sharp authoritative
words when she launched the whale-boat
and, with firestick in one hand
and dynamite-stick in the other,
departed with her picturesque
crew to shoot fish in the Balesuna;
her super-innocent disdain for
the commonest conventions, her
juvenile joy in argument, her
fluttering, wild-bird love of
freedom and mad passion for independence.
All this he now loved, and he
no longer desired to tame and
hold her, though the paradox
was the winning of her without
the taming and the holding.
There were times when he was
dizzy with thought of her and
love of her, when he would stop
his horse and with closed eyes
picture her as he had seen her
that first day, in the stern-sheets
of the whale-boat, dashing madly
in to shore and marching belligerently
along his veranda to remark that
it was pretty hospitality this
letting strangers sink or swim
in his front yard. And as he
opened his eyes and urged his
horse onward, he would ponder
for the ten thousandth time how
possibly he was ever to hold
her when she was so wild and
bird-like that she was bound
to flutter out and away from
under his hand.
It was patent to Sheldon that
Tudor had become interested in
Joan. That convalescent visitor
practically lived on the veranda,
though, while preposterously
weak and shaky in the legs, he
had for some time insisted on
coming in to join them at the
table at meals. The first warning
Sheldon had of the other's growing
interest in the girl was when
Tudor eased down and finally
ceased pricking him with his
habitual sharpness of quip and
speech. This cessation of verbal
sparring was like the breaking
off of diplomatic relations between
countries at the beginning of
war, and, once Sheldon's suspicions
were aroused, he was not long
in finding other confirmations.
Tudor too obviously joyed in
Joan's presence, too obviously
laid himself out to amuse and
fascinate her with his own glorious
and adventurous personality.
Often, after his morning ride
over the plantation, or coming
in from the store or from inspection
of the copra-drying, Sheldon
found the pair of them together
on the veranda, Joan listening,
intent and excited, and Tudor
deep in some recital of personal
adventure at the ends of the
Sheldon noticed, too, the way
Tudor looked at her and followed
her about with his eyes, and
in those eyes he noted a certain
hungry look, and on the face
a certain wistful expression;
and he wondered if on his own
face he carried a similar involuntary
advertisement. He was sure of
several things: first, that Tudor
was not the right man for Joan
and could not possibly make her
permanently happy; next, that
Joan was too sensible a girl
really to fall in love with a
man of such superficial stamp;
and, finally, that Tudor would
blunder his love-making somehow.
And at the same time, with true
lover's anxiety, Sheldon feared
that the other might somehow
fail to blunder, and win the
girl with purely fortuitous and
successful meretricious show.
But of the one thing Sheldon
was sure: Tudor had no intimate
knowledge of her and was unaware
of how vital in her was her wildness
and love of independence. That
was where he would blunder--in
the catching and the holding
of her. And then, in spite of
all his certitude, Sheldon could
not forbear wondering if his
theories of Joan might not be
wrong, and if Tudor was not going
the right way about after all.
The situation was very unsatisfactory
and perplexing. Sheldon played
the difficult part of waiting
and looking on, while his rival
devoted himself energetically
to reaching out and grasping
at the fluttering prize. Then,
again, Tudor had such an irritating
way about him. It had become
quite elusive and intangible,
now that he had tacitly severed
diplomatic relations; but Sheldon
sensed what he deemed a growing
antagonism and promptly magnified
it through the jealous lenses
of his own lover's eyes. The
other was an interloper. He did
not belong to Berande, and now
that he was well and strong again
it was time for him to go. Instead
of which, and despite the calling
in of the mail steamer bound
for Sydney, Tudor had settled
himself down comfortably, resumed
swimming, went dynamiting fish
with Joan, spent hours with her
hunting pigeons, trapping crocodiles,
and at target practice with rifle
But there were certain traditions
of hospitality that prevented
Sheldon from breathing a hint
that it was time for his guest
to take himself off. And in similar
fashion, feeling that it was
not playing the game, he fought
down the temptation to warn Joan.
Had he known anything, not too
serious, to Tudor's detriment,
he would have been unable to
utter it; but the worst of it
was that he knew nothing at all
against the man. That was the
confounded part of it, and sometimes
he was so baffled and overwrought
by his feelings that he assumed
a super-judicial calm and assured
himself that his dislike of Tudor
was a matter of unsubstantial
prejudice and jealousy.
Outwardly, he maintained a
calm and smiling aspect. The
work of the plantation went on.
The Martha and the Flibberty-Gibbet
came and went, as did all the
miscellany of coasting craft
that dropped in to wait for a
breeze and have a gossip, a drink
or two, and a game of billiards.
Satan kept the compound free
of niggers. Boucher came down
regularly in his whale-boat to
pass Sunday. Twice a day, at
breakfast and dinner, Joan and
Sheldon and Tudor met amicably
at table, and the evenings were
as amicably spent on the veranda.
And then it happened. Tudor
made his blunder. Never divining
Joan's fluttering wildness, her
blind hatred of restraint and
compulsion, her abhorrence of
mastery by another, and mistaking
the warmth and enthusiasm in
her eyes (aroused by his latest
tale) for something tender and
acquiescent, he drew her to him,
laid a forcible detaining arm
about her waist, and misapprehended
her frantic revolt for an exhibition
of maidenly reluctance. It occurred
on the veranda, after breakfast,
and Sheldon, within, pondering
a Sydney wholesaler's catalogue
and making up his orders for
next steamer-day, heard the sharp
exclamation of Joan, followed
by the equally sharp impact of
an open hand against a cheek.
Jerking free from the arm that
was all distasteful compulsion,
Joan had slapped Tudor's face
resoundingly and with far more
vim and weight than when she
had cuffed Gogoomy.
Sheldon had half-started up,
then controlled himself and sunk
back in his chair, so that by
the time Joan entered the door
his composure was recovered.
Her right fore-arm 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
He smiled involuntarily. It
was so like her, so like the
boy she was, to come running
to complain of the physical hurt
which had been done her. She
was certainly not a woman versed
in the ways of man and in the
ways of handling man. The resounding
slap she had given Tudor seemed
still echoing in Sheldon's ears,
and as he looked at the girl
before him crying out that her
arm was hurt, his smile grew
It was the smile that did it,
convicting Joan in her own eyes
of the silliness of her cry and
sending over her face the most
amazing blush he had ever seen.
Throat, cheeks, and forehead
flamed with the rush of the shamed
attempted to vindicate her
then whirled abruptly away and
passed out the rear door and
down the steps.
Sheldon sat and mused. He was
a trifle angry, and the more
he dwelt upon the happening the
angrier he grew. If it had been
any woman except Joan it would
have been amusing. But Joan was
the last woman in the world to
attempt to kiss forcibly. The
thing smacked of the back stairs
anyway--a sordid little comedy
perhaps, but to have tried it
on Joan was nothing less than
sacrilege. The man should have
had better sense. Then, too,
Sheldon was personally aggrieved.
He had been filched of something
that he felt was almost his,
and his lover's jealousy was
rampant at thought of this forced
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.
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
"As if that would settle it," was
"I don't understand," Sheldon
"Then it is
because you don't wish to understand."
"Still I don't understand," Sheldon
said in steady, level tones. "All
that is clear to me is that you
are exaggerating your own blunder
into something serious."
Tudor grinned maliciously and
"It would seem
that you are doing the exaggerating,
me to leave in your whale-boat.
It is telling me that Berande
is not big enough for the pair
of us. Now let me tell you that
the Solomon Islands is not big
enough for the pair of us. This
thing's got to be settled between
us, and it may as well be settled
right here and now."
"I can understand your fire-eating
manners as being natural to you," Sheldon
went on wearily, "but why you
should try them on me is what
I can't comprehend. You surely
don't want to quarrel with me."
"But what in
heaven's name for?"
Tudor surveyed him with withering
the soul of a louse. I suppose
any man could
make love to your wife--"
"But I have no wife," Sheldon
"Then you ought
to have. The situation is outrageous.
might at least marry her, as
I am honourably willing to do."
For the first time Sheldon's
rising anger boiled over.
"You--" he began violently,
then abruptly caught control
of himself and went on soothingly, "you'd
better take a drink and think
it over. That's my advice to
you. Of course, when you do get
cool, after talking to me in
this fashion you won't want to
stay on any longer, so while
you're getting that drink I'll
call the boat's- crew and launch
a boat. You'll be in Tulagi by
eight this evening."
He turned toward the door,
as if to put his words into execution,
but the other caught him by the
shoulder and twirled him around.
Sheldon, I told you the Solomons
were too small
for the pair of us, and I meant
"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 persistence. "I've no
quarrel with you. And what quarrel
can you have with me? I have
never interfered with you. You
were my guest. Miss Lackland
is my partner. If you saw fit
to make love to her, and somehow
failed to succeed, why should
you want to fight with me? This
is the twentieth century, my
dear fellow, and duelling went
out of fashion before you and
I were born."
"You began the row," Tudor
doggedly asserted. "You gave
me to understand that it was
time for me to go. You fired
me out of your house, in short.
And then you have the cheek to
want to know why I am starting
the row. It won't do, I tell
you. You started it, and I am
going to see it through."
Sheldon smiled tolerantly and
proceeded to light a cigarette.
But Tudor was not to be turned
"You started this row," he
any row. It takes two to make
a row, and I, for
one, refuse to have anything
to do with such tomfoolery."
it, I say, and I'll tell you
why you started
"I fancy you've been drinking," Sheldon
interposed. "It's the only explanation
I can find for your unreasonableness."
"And I'll tell
you why you started it. It
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
on by all means. I won't quarrel
with you about
it. Make yourself comfortable.
Stay for a year, if you wish."
"She's not your wife," Tudor
continued, as though the other
had not spoken. "A fellow has
the right to make love to her
unless she's your--well, perhaps
it was an error after all, due
to ignorance, perfectly excusable,
on my part. I might have seen
it with half an eye if I'd listened
to the gossip on the beach. All
Guvutu and Tulagi were laughing
about it. I was a fool, and I
certainly made the mistake of
taking the situation on its assumed
innocent face- value."
So angry was Sheldon becoming
that the face and form of the
other seemed to vibrate and oscillate
before his eyes. Yet outwardly
Sheldon was calm and apparently
weary of the discussion.
"Please keep her out of the
conversation," he said.
"But why should I?" was the
demand. "The pair of you trapped
me into making a fool of myself.
How was I to know that everything
was not all right? You and she
acted as if everything were on
the square. But my eyes are open
now. Why, she played the outraged
wife to perfection, slapped the
transgressor and fled to you.
Pretty good proof of what all
the beach has been saying. Partners,
eh?--a business partnership?
Gammon my eye, that's what it
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
Sheldon laughed, and for the
first time with true spontaneity.
The intrinsic ridiculousness
of the situation was too much
for his sense of humour. He made
as if to repeat the blow, but
Tudor, white of face, with arms
hanging resistlessly at his sides,
offered no defence.
"I don't mean a fight with
fists," he said slowly. "I mean
to a finish, to the death. You're
a good shot with revolver and
rifle. So am I. That's the way
we'll settle it."
"You have gone
clean mad. You are a lunatic."
"No, I'm not," Tudor retorted. "I'm
a man in love. And once again
I ask you to go outside and settle
it, with any weapons you choose."
Sheldon regarded him for the
first time with genuine seriousness,
wondering what strange maggots
could be gnawing in his brain
to drive him to such unusual
"But men don't act this way
in real life," Sheldon remarked.
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
"Please keep her name out of
it," Sheldon warned him.
"I will, if
Sheldon threw up his arms despairingly.
"Look out," Sheldon
"Oh, go ahead,
knock me down. But that won't
close my mouth.
You can knock me down all day,
but as fast as I get to my feet
I'll speak of Joan again. Now
will you fight?"
"Listen to me, Tudor," Sheldon
began, with an effort at decisiveness. "I
am not used to taking from men
a tithe of what I've already
taken from you."
"You'll take a lot more before
the day's out," was the answer. "I
tell you, you simply must fight.
I'll give you a fair chance to
kill me, but I'll kill you before
the day's out. This isn't civilization.
It's the Solomon Islands, and
a pretty primitive proposition
for all that. King Edward and
law and order are represented
by the Commissioner at Tulagi
and an occasional visiting gunboat.
And two men and one woman is
an equally primitive proposition.
We'll settle it in the good old
As Sheldon looked at him the
thought came to his mind that
after all there might be something
in the other's wild adventures
over the earth. It required a
man of that calibre, a man capable
of obtruding a duel into orderly
twentieth century life, to find
such wild adventures.
"There's only one way to stop
me," Tudor went on. "I can't
insult you directly, I know.
You are too easy-going, or cowardly,
or both, for that. But I can
narrate for you the talk of the
beach-- ah, that grinds you,
doesn't it? I can tell you what
the beach has to say about you
and this young girl running a
plantation under a business partnership."
"Stop!" Sheldon cried, for
the other was beginning to vibrate
and oscillate before his eyes. "You
want a duel. I'll give it to
you." Then his common-sense and
dislike for the ridiculous asserted
themselves, and he added, "But
it's absurd, impossible."
"Joan and David--partners,
eh? Joan and David--partners," Tudor
began to iterate and reiterate
in a malicious and scornful chant.
"For heaven's sake keep quiet,
and I'll let you have your way," Sheldon
cried. "I never saw a fool so
bent on his folly. What kind
of a duel shall it be? There
are no seconds. What weapons
shall we use?"
Immediately Tudor's monkey-like
impishness left him, and he was
once more the cool, self-possessed
man of the world.
"I've often thought that the
ideal duel should be somewhat
different from the conventional
one," he said. "I've fought several
of that sort, you know--"
"French ones," Sheldon
that. But speaking of this
ideal duel, here it is.
No seconds, of course, and no
onlookers. The two principals
alone are necessary. They may
use any weapons they please,
from revolvers and rifles to
machine guns and pompoms. They
start a mile apart, and advance
on each other, taking advantage
of cover, retreating, circling,
feinting--anything and everything
permissible. In short, the principals
shall hunt each other--"
"Like a couple
of wild Indians?"
"Precisely," cried Tudor, delighted. "You've
got the idea. And Berande is
just the place, and this is just
the right time. Miss Lackland
will be taking her siesta, and
she'll think we are. We've got
two hours for it before she wakes.
So hurry up and come on. You
start out from the Balesuna and
I start from the Berande. Those
two rivers are the boundaries
of the plantation, aren't they?
Very well. The field of the duel
will be the plantation. Neither
principal must go outside its
boundaries. Are you satisfied?"
have you any objections if
I leave some orders?"
"Not at all," Tudor
acquiesced, the pink of courtesy
his wish had been granted.
Sheldon clapped his hands,
and the running house-boy hurried
away to bring back Adamu Adam
and Noa Noah.
"Listen," Sheldon said to them. "This
man and me, we have one big fight
to-day. Maybe he die. Maybe I
die. If he die, all right. If
I die, you two look after Missie
Lackalanna. You take rifles,
and you look after her daytime
and night-time. If she want to
talk with Mr. Tudor, all right.
If she not want to talk, you
make him keep away. Savvee?"
They grunted and nodded. They
had had much to do with white
men, and had learned never to
question the strange ways of
the strange breed. If these two
saw fit to go out and kill each
other, that was their business
and not the business of the islanders,
who took orders from them. They
stepped to the gun-rack, and
each picked a rifle.
"Better all Tahitian men have
rifles," suggested Adamu Adam. "Maybe
big trouble come."
"All right, you take them," Sheldon
answered, busy with issuing the
They went to the door and down
the steps, carrying the eight
rifles to their quarters. Tudor,
with cartridge-belts for rifle
and pistol strapped around him,
rifle in hand, stood impatiently
"Come on, hurry up; we're burning
daylight," he urged, as Sheldon
searched after extra clips for
his automatic pistol.
Together they passed down the
steps and out of the compound
to the beach, where they turned
their backs to each other, and
each proceeded toward his destination,
their rifles in the hollows of
their arms, Tudor walking toward
the Berande and Sheldon toward