Книга Adventure. Содержание - CHAPTER XVII-«YOUR» MISS LACKLAND

«She is my partner,» Sheldon corrected.

«Well, she's a good one, that's all, and a cool one. My word! a white woman on Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga of all places! Oh, I forgot to tell you-she palavered Burnett into lending her eight rifles for her men, and three cases of dynamite. You'd laugh to see the way she makes that Guvutu gang stand around. And to see them being polite and trying to give advice! Lord, Lord, man, that little girl's a wonder, a marvel, a-a-a catastrophe. That's what she is, a catastrophe. She's gone through Guvutu and Tulagi like a hurricane; every last swine of them in love with her-except Raff. He's sore over the auction, and he sprang his recruiting contract with Munster on her. And what does she do but thank him, and read it over, and point out that while Munster was pledged to deliver all recruits to Morgan and Raff, there was no clause in the document forbidding him from chartering the Emily.

«'There's your contract,' says she, passing it back. 'And a very good contract it is. The next time you draw one up, insert a clause that will fit emergencies like the present one.' And, Lord, Lord, she had him, too.

«But there's the breeze, and I'm off. Good-bye, old man. Hope the little girl succeeds. The Martha's a whacking fine boat, and she'd take the place of the Jessie.»


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 anything.

«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.

«She's stolen 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 drunk.»

Dr. Welshmere laughed heartily.

«Nevertheless, 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 day.'»

«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 way.'»

Sheldon put his hands to his ears.

«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 assured him.

«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 interrupted.

«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 of them.»

«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 perishing.»

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 Flibberty. She 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!'

«'You might have listened to me and saved yourself trouble,' 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 up.'

«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 me.

«Down in the Emily's cabin was them three soaks-you know 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 . . .

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