Книга Adventure. Содержание - CHAPTER XVIII-MAKING THE BOOKS COME TRUE
And the irritation was still on him as he got up and went inside to stare at the hook on the wall and to wish that her Stetson hat and revolver-belt were hanging from it.
CHAPTER XVIII-MAKING THE BOOKS COME TRUE
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 it.
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– journal.
«What name?» she demanded of the black man on the steps.
«Tagari,» came 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.
«What place b'long you?»
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.
«Bangoora,» the man replied; and Joan wrote it down.
«Ogu!» Joan called.
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 monster.
«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 me.»
«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 to explain.
«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 insist-«
«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 methods?»
«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 ventures?»
«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.»