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dinner. The soup was just served, when Hughie saw a nigger peering in
through the door. He went out to him, for it was a violation of Berande
custom. Any nigger has to send in word by the house-boys, and to keep
outside the compound. This man, who was one of Packard's boat's-crew,
was on the veranda. And he knew better, too. 'What name?' said Hughie.
'You tell 'm white man close up we fella boat's-crew go along. He no
come now, we fella boy no wait. We go.' And just then Hughie fetched
him a clout that knocked him clean down the stairs and off the veranda."

"But it was needlessly cruel," Joan objected. "You wouldn't treat a
white man that way."

"And that's just the point. He wasn't a white man. He was a low black
nigger, and he was deliberately insulting, not alone his own white
master, but every white master in the Solomons. He insulted me. He
insulted Hughie. He insulted Berande."

"Of course, according to your lights, to your formula of the rule of the
strong - "

"Yes," Sheldon interrupted, "but it was according to the formula of the
rule of the weak that Packard ruled. And what was the result? I am
still alive. Packard is dead. He was unswervingly kind and gentle to
his boys, and his boys waited till one day he was down with fever. His
head is over on Malaita now. They carried away two whale-boats as well,
filled with the loot of the store. Then there was Captain Mackenzie of
the ketch _Minota_. He believed in kindness. He also contended that
better confidence was established by carrying no weapons. On his second
trip to Malaita, recruiting, he ran into Bina, which is near Langa Langa.
The rifles with which the boat's-crew should have been armed, were locked
up in his cabin. When the whale-boat went ashore after recruits, he
paraded around the deck without even a revolver on him. He was
tomahawked. His head remains in Malaita. It was suicide. So was
Packard's finish suicide."

"I grant that precaution is necessary in dealing with them," Joan agreed;
"but I believe that more satisfactory results can be obtained by treating
them with discreet kindness and gentleness."

"And there I agree with _you_, but you must understand one thing.
Berande, bar none, is by far the worst plantation in the Solomons so far
as the labour is concerned. And how it came to be so proves your point.
The previous owners of Berande were not discreetly kind. They were a
pair of unadulterated brutes. One was a down-east Yankee, as I believe
they are called, and the other was a guzzling German. They were slave-
drivers. To begin with, they bought their labour from Johnny Be-blowed,
the most notorious recruiter in the Solomons. He is working out a ten
years' sentence in Fiji now, for the wanton killing of a black boy.
During his last days here he had made himself so obnoxious that the
natives on Malaita would have nothing to do with him. The only way he
could get recruits was by hurrying to the spot whenever a murder or
series of murders occurred. The murderers were usually only too willing
to sign on and get away to escape vengeance. Down here they call such
escapes, 'pier-head jumps.' There is suddenly a roar from the beach, and
a nigger runs down to the water pursued by clouds of spears and arrows.
Of course, Johnny Be-blowed's whale-boat is lying ready to pick him up.
In his last days Johnny got nothing but pier-head jumps.

"And the first owners of Berande bought his recruits - a hard-bitten gang
of murderers. They were all five-year boys. You see, the recruiter has
the advantage over a boy when he makes a pier-head jump. He could sign
him on for ten years did the law permit. Well, that's the gang of
murderers we've got on our hands now. Of course some are dead, some have
been killed, and there are others serving sentences at Tulagi. Very
little clearing did those first owners do, and less planting. It was war
all the time. They had one manager killed. One of the partners had his
shoulder slashed nearly off by a cane-knife. The other was speared on
two different occasions. Both were bullies, wherefore there was a streak
of cowardice in them, and in the end they had to give up. They were
chased away - literally chased away - by their own niggers. And along came
poor Hughie and me, two new chums, to take hold of that hard-bitten gang.
We did not know the situation, and we had bought Berande, and there was
nothing to do but hang on and muddle through somehow.

"At first we made the mistake of indiscreet kindness. We tried to rule
by persuasion and fair treatment. The niggers concluded that we were
afraid. I blush to think of what fools we were in those first days. We
were imposed on, and threatened and insulted; and we put up with it,
hoping our square-dealing would soon mend things. Instead of which
everything went from bad to worse. Then came the day when Hughie
reprimanded one of the boys and was nearly killed by the gang. The only
thing that saved him was the number on top of him, which enabled me to
reach the spot in time.

"Then began the rule of the strong hand. It was either that or quit, and
we had sunk about all our money into the venture, and we could not quit.
And besides, our pride was involved. We had started out to do something,
and we were so made that we just had to go on with it. It has been a
hard fight, for we were, and are to this day, considered the worst
plantation in the Solomons from the standpoint of labour. Do you know,
we have been unable to get white men in. We've offered the managership
to half a dozen. I won't say they were afraid, for they were not. But
they did not consider it healthy - at least that is the way it was put by
the last one who declined our offer. So Hughie and I did the managing
ourselves."

"And when he died you were prepared to go on all alone!" Joan cried, with
shining eyes.

"I thought I'd muddle through. And now, Miss Lackland, please be
charitable when I seem harsh, and remember that the situation is
unparalleled down here. We've got a bad crowd, and we're making them
work. You've been over the plantation and you ought to know. And I
assure you that there are no better three-and-four-years-old trees on any
other plantation in the Solomons. We have worked steadily to change
matters for the better. We've been slowly getting in new labour. That
is why we bought the _Jessie_. We wanted to select our own labour. In
another year the time will be up for most of the original gang. You see,
they were recruited during the first year of Berande, and their contracts
expire on different months. Naturally, they have contaminated the new
boys to a certain extent; but that can soon be remedied, and then Berande
will be a respectable plantation."

Joan nodded but remained silent. She was too occupied in glimpsing the
vision of the one lone white man as she had first seen him, helpless from
fever, a collapsed wraith in a steamer-chair, who, up to the last heart-
beat, by some strange alchemy of race, was pledged to mastery.

"It is a pity," she said. "But the white man has to rule, I suppose."

"I don't like it," Sheldon assured her. "To save my life I can't imagine
how I ever came here. But here I am, and I can't run away."

"Blind destiny of race," she said, faintly smiling. "We whites have been
land robbers and sea robbers from remotest time. It is in our blood, I
guess, and we can't get away from it."

"I never thought about it so abstractly," he confessed. "I've been too
busy puzzling over why I came here."




CHAPTER VIII - LOCAL COLOUR


At sunset a small ketch fanned in to anchorage, and a little later the
skipper came ashore. He was a soft-spoken, gentle-voiced young fellow of
twenty, but he won Joan's admiration in advance when Sheldon told her
that he ran the ketch all alone with a black crew from Malaita. And
Romance lured and beckoned before Joan's eyes when she learned he was
Christian Young, a Norfolk Islander, but a direct descendant of John
Young, one of the original _Bounty_ mutineers. The blended Tahitian and
English blood showed in his soft eyes and tawny skin; but the English
hardness seemed to have disappeared. Yet the hardness was there, and it
was what enabled him to run his ketch single-handed and to wring a
livelihood out of the fighting Solomons.

Joan's unexpected presence embarrassed him, until she herself put him at
his ease by a frank, comradely manner that offended Sheldon's sense of
the fitness of things feminine. News from the world Young had not, but
he was filled with news of the Solomons. Fifteen boys had stolen rifles
and run away into the bush from Lunga plantation, which was farther east
on the Guadalcanar coast. And from the bush they had sent word that they
were coming back to wipe out the three white men in charge, while two of
the three white men, in turn, were hunting them through the bush. There
was a strong possibility, Young volunteered, that if they were not caught
they might circle around and tap the coast at Berande in order to steal
or capture a whale-boat.

"I forgot to tell you that your trader at Ugi has been murdered," he said
to Sheldon. "Five big canoes came down from Port Adams. They landed in
the night-time, and caught Oscar asleep. What they didn't steal they
burned. The _Flibberty-Gibbet_ got the news at Mboli Pass, and ran down
to Ugi. I was at Mboli when the news came."

"I think I'll have to abandon Ugi," Sheldon remarked.

"It's the second trader you've lost there in a year," Young concurred.
"To make it safe there ought to be two white men at least. Those Malaita
canoes are always raiding down that way, and you know what that Port
Adams lot is. I've got a dog for you. Tommy Jones sent it up from Neal
Island. He said he'd promised it to you. It's a first-class
nigger-chaser. Hadn't been on board two minutes when he had my whole
boat's-crew in the rigging. Tommy calls him Satan."

"I've wondered several times why you had no dogs here," Joan said.

"The trouble is to keep them. They're always eaten by the crocodiles."

"Jack Hanley was killed at Marovo Lagoon two months ago," Young announced
in his mild voice. "The news just came down on the _Apostle_."

"Where is Marovo Lagoon?" Joan asked.

"New Georgia, a couple of hundred miles to the westward," Sheldon
answered. "Bougainville lies just beyond."

"His own house-boys did it," Young went on; "but they were put up to it
by the Marovo natives. His Santa Cruz boat's-crew escaped in the whale-
boat to Choiseul, and Mather, in the _Lily_, sailed over to Marovo. He
burned a village, and got Hanley's head back. He found it in one of the
houses, where the niggers had it drying. And that's all the news I've
got, except that there's a lot of new Lee-Enfields loose on the eastern
end of Ysabel. Nobody knows how the natives got them. The government
ought to investigate. And - oh yes, a war vessel's in the group, the
_Cambrian_. She burned three villages at Bina - on account of the
_Minota_, you know - and shelled the bush. Then she went to Sio to
straighten out things there."

The conversation became general, and just before Young left to go on
board Joan asked, -

"How can you manage all alone, Mr. Young?"

His large, almost girlish eyes rested on her for a moment before he
replied, and then it was in the softest and gentlest of voices.

"Oh, I get along pretty well with them. Of course, there is a bit of
trouble once in a while, but that must be expected. You must never let
them think you are afraid. I've been afraid plenty of times, but they
never knew it."

"You would think he wouldn't strike a mosquito that was biting him,"
Sheldon said when Young had gone on board. "All the Norfolk Islanders
that have descended from the _Bounty_ crowd are that way. But look at
Young. Only three years ago, when he first got the _Minerva_, he was
lying in Suu, on Malaita. There are a lot of returned Queenslanders
there - a rough crowd. They planned to get his head. The son of their
chief, old One-Eyed Billy, had recruited on Lunga and died of dysentery.
That meant that a white man's head was owing to Suu - any white man, it
didn't matter who so long as they got the head. And Young was only a
lad, and they made sure to get his easily. They decoyed his whale-boat
ashore with a promise of recruits, and killed all hands. At the same
instant, the Suu gang that was on board the _Minerva_ jumped Young. He
was just preparing a dynamite stick for fish, and he lighted it and
tossed it in amongst them. One can't get him to talk about it, but the
fuse was short, the survivors leaped overboard, while he slipped his
anchor and got away. They've got one hundred fathoms of shell money on
his head now, which is worth one hundred pounds sterling. Yet he goes
into Suu regularly. He was there a short time ago, returning thirty boys
from Cape Marsh - that's the Fulcrum Brothers' plantation."

"At any rate, his news to-night has given me a better insight into the
life down here," Joan said. "And it is colourful life, to say the least.
The Solomons ought to be printed red on the charts - and yellow, too, for
the diseases."

"The Solomons are not always like this," Sheldon answered. "Of course,
Berande is the worst plantation, and everything it gets is the worst. I
doubt if ever there was a worse run of sickness than we were just getting
over when you arrived. Just as luck would have it, the _Jessie_ caught
the contagion as well. Berande has been very unfortunate. All the old-
timers shake their heads at it. They say it has what you Americans call
a _hoodoo_ on it."

"Berande will succeed," Joan said stoutly. "I like to laugh at
superstition. You'll pull through and come out the big end of the horn.
The ill luck can't last for ever. I am afraid, though, the Solomons is
not a white man's climate."

"It will be, though. Give us fifty years, and when all the bush is
cleared off back to the mountains, fever will be stamped out; everything
will be far healthier. There will be cities and towns here, for there's
an immense amount of good land going to waste."

"But it will never become a white man's climate, in spite of all that,"
Joan reiterated. "The white man will always be unable to perform the
manual labour."

"That is true."

"It will mean slavery," she dashed on.

"Yes, like all the tropics. The black, the brown, and the yellow will
have to do the work, managed by the white men. The black labour is too
wasteful, however, and in time Chinese or Indian coolies will be
imported. The planters are already considering the matter. I, for one,
am heartily sick of black labour."

"Then the blacks will die off?"

Sheldon shrugged his shoulders, and retorted, -

"Yes, like the North American Indian, who was a far nobler type than the
Melanesian. The world is only so large, you know, and it is filling up - "

"And the unfit must perish?"

"Precisely so. The unfit must perish."

In the morning Joan was roused by a great row and hullabaloo. Her first
act was to reach for her revolver, but when she heard Noa Noah, who was
on guard, laughing outside, she knew there was no danger, and went out to
see the fun. Captain Young had landed Satan at the moment when the
bridge-building gang had started along the beach. Satan was big and
black, short-haired and muscular, and weighed fully seventy pounds. He
did not love the blacks. Tommy Jones had trained him well, tying him up
daily for several hours and telling off one or two black boys at a time
to tease him. So Satan had it in for the whole black race, and the
second after he landed on the beach the bridge-building gang was
stampeding over the compound fence and swarming up the cocoanut palms.

"Good morning," Sheldon called from the veranda. "And what do you think
of the nigger-chaser?"

"I'm thinking we have a task before us to train him in to the
house-boys," she called back.

"And to your Tahitians, too. Look out, Noah! Run for it!"

Satan, having satisfied himself that the tree-perches were unassailable,
was charging straight for the big Tahitian.

But Noah stood his ground, though somewhat irresolutely, and Satan, to
every one's surprise, danced and frisked about him with laughing eyes and
wagging tail.

"Now, that is what I might call a proper dog," was Joan's comment. "He
is at least wiser than you, Mr. Sheldon. He didn't require any teaching
to recognize the difference between a Tahitian and a black boy. What do
you think, Noah? Why don't he bite you? He savvee you Tahitian eh?"

Noa Noah shook his head and grinned.

"He no savvee me Tahitian," he explained. "He savvee me wear pants all
the same white man."

"You'll have to give him a course in 'Sartor Resartus,'" Sheldon laughed,
as he came down and began to make friends with Satan.

It chanced just then that Adamu Adam and Matauare, two of Joan's sailors,
entered the compound from the far side-gate. They had been down to the
Balesuna making an alligator trap, and, instead of trousers, were clad in
lava-lavas that flapped gracefully about their stalwart limbs. Satan saw
them, and advertised his find by breaking away from Sheldon's hands and
charging.

"No got pants," Noah announced with a grin that broadened as Adamu Adam
took to flight.

He climbed up the platform that supported the galvanized iron tanks which
held the water collected from the roof. Foiled here, Satan turned and
charged back on Matauare.

"Run, Matauare! Run!" Joan called.

But he held his ground and waited the dog.

"He is the Fearless One - that is what his name means," Joan explained to
Sheldon.

The Tahitian watched Satan coolly, and when that sanguine-mouthed
creature lifted into the air in the final leap, the man's hand shot out.
It was a fair grip on the lower jaw, and Satan described a half circle
and was flung to the rear, turning over in the air and falling heavily on
his back. Three times he leaped, and three times that grip on his jaw
flung him to defeat. Then he contented himself with trotting at
Matauare's heels, eyeing him and sniffing him suspiciously.

"It's all right, Satan; it's all right," Sheldon assured him. "That good
fella belong along me."

But Satan dogged the Tahitian's movements for a full hour before he made
up his mind that the man was an appurtenance of the place. Then he
turned his attention to the three house-boys, cornering Ornfiri in the
kitchen and rushing him against the hot stove, stripping the lava-lava
from Lalaperu when that excited youth climbed a veranda-post, and
following Viaburi on top the billiard-table, where the battle raged until
Joan managed a rescue.




CHAPTER IX - AS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN


It was Satan's inexhaustible energy and good spirits that most impressed
them. His teeth seemed perpetually to ache with desire, and in lieu of
black legs he husked the cocoanuts that fell from the trees in the
compound, kept the enclosure clear of intruding hens, and made a hostile
acquaintance with every boss-boy who came to report. He was unable to
forget the torment of his puppyhood, wherein everlasting hatred of the
black had been woven into the fibres of consciousness; and such a terror
did he make himself that Sheldon was forced to shut him up in the living
room when, for any reason, strange natives were permitted in the
compound. This always hurt Satan's feelings and fanned his wrath, so
that even the house-boys had to watch out for him when he was first
released.

Christian Young sailed away in the _Minerva_, carrying an invitation
(that would be delivered nobody knew when) to Tommy Jones to drop in at
Berande the next time he was passing.

"What are your plans when you get to Sydney?" Sheldon asked, that night,
at dinner.

"First I've heard that I'm going to Sydney," Joan retorted. "I suppose
you've received information, by bush-telegraph, that that third assistant
understrapper and ex-sailorman at Tulagi is going to deport me as an
undesirable immigrant."

"Oh, no, nothing of the sort, I assure you," Sheldon began with awkward
haste, fearful of having offended, though he knew not how. "I was just
wondering, that was all. You see, with the loss of the schooner and . .
and all the rest . . . you understand . . I was thinking that
if - a - if - hang it all, until you could communicate with your friends, my
agents at Sydney could advance you a loan, temporary you see, why I'd be
only too glad and all the rest, you know. The proper - "

But his jaw dropped and he regarded her irritably and with apprehension.

"What _is_ the matter?" he demanded, with a show of heat. "What _have_ I
done now?"

Joan's eyes were bright with battle, the curve of her lips sharp with
mockery.

"Certainly not the unexpected," she said quietly. "Merely ignored me in
your ordinary, every-day, man-god, superior fashion. Naturally it
counted for nothing, my telling you that I had no idea of going to
Sydney. Go to Sydney I must, because you, in your superior wisdom, have
so decreed."

She paused and looked at him curiously, as though he were some strange
breed of animal.

"Of course I am grateful for your offer of assistance; but even that is
no salve to wounded pride. For that matter, it is no more than one white
man should expect from another. Shipwrecked mariners are always helped
along their way. Only this particular mariner doesn't need any help.
Furthermore, this mariner is not going to Sydney, thank you."

"But what do you intend to do?"

"Find some spot where I shall escape the indignity of being patronized
and bossed by the superior sex."

"Come now, that is putting it a bit too strongly." Sheldon laughed, but
the strain in his voice destroyed the effect of spontaneity. "You know
yourself how impossible the situation is."

"I know nothing of the sort, sir. And if it is impossible, well, haven't
I achieved it?"

"But it cannot continue. Really - "

"Oh, yes, it can. Having achieved it, I can go on achieving it. I
intend to remain in the Solomons, but not on Berande. To-morrow I am
going to take the whale-boat over to Pari-Sulay. I was talking with
Captain Young about it. He says there are at least four hundred acres,
and every foot of it good for planting. Being an island, he says I won't
have to bother about wild pigs destroying the young trees. All I'll have
to do is to keep the weeds hoed until the trees come into bearing. First,
I'll buy the island; next, get forty or fifty recruits and start clearing
and planting; and at the same time I'll run up a bungalow; and then
you'll be relieved of my embarrassing presence - now don't say that it
isn't."

"It is embarrassing," he said bluntly. "But you refuse to see my point
of view, so there is no use in discussing it. Now please forget all
about it, and consider me at your service concerning this . . . this
project of yours. I know more about cocoanut-planting than you do. You
speak like a capitalist. I don't know how much money you have, but I
don't fancy you are rolling in wealth, as you Americans say. But I do
know what it costs to clear land. Suppose the government sells you Pari-
Sulay at a pound an acre; clearing will cost you at least four pounds
more; that is, five pounds for four hundred acres, or, say, ten thousand
dollars. Have you that much?"

She was keenly interested, and he could see that the previous clash
between them was already forgotten. Her disappointment was plain as she
confessed:

"No; I haven't quite eight thousand dollars."

"Then here's another way of looking at it. You'll need, as you said, at
least fifty boys. Not counting premiums, their wages are thirty dollars
a year."

"I pay my Tahitians fifteen a month," she interpolated.

"They won't do on straight plantation work. But to return. The wages of
fifty boys each year will come to three hundred pounds - that is, fifteen
hundred dollars. Very well. It will be seven years before your trees
begin to bear. Seven times fifteen hundred is ten thousand five hundred
dollars - more than you possess, and all eaten up by the boys' wages, with
nothing to pay for bungalow, building, tools, quinine, trips to Sydney,
and so forth."

Sheldon shook his head gravely. "You'll have to abandon the idea."

"But I won't go to Sydney," she cried. "I simply won't. I'll buy in to
the extent of my money as a small partner in some other plantation. Let
me buy in in Berande!"

"Heaven forbid!" he cried in such genuine dismay that she broke into
hearty laughter.

"There, I won't tease you. Really, you know, I'm not accustomed to


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