Книга Adventure. Содержание - CHAPTER IX-AS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN

«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.


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.»

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