Kwaque grinned.

«Me savvee,» he said. «Cut 'm grass, ngari-ngari stop 'm along grass. My word!»

«There will be trouble with Gogoomy yet,» Sheldon said to Joan, as the boss-boys marshalled their gangs and led them away to their work. «Keep an eye on him. Be careful when you are riding alone on the plantation. The loss of those Winchesters and all that ammunition has hit him harder than your cuffing did. He is dead– ripe for mischief.»


«I wonder what has become of Tudor. It's two months since he disappeared into the bush, and not a word of him after he left Binu.»

Joan Lackland was sitting astride her horse by the bank of the Balesuna where the sweet corn had been planted, and Sheldon, who had come across from the house on foot, was leaning against her horse's shoulder.

«Yes, it is along time for no news to have trickled down,» he answered, watching her keenly from under his hat-brim and wondering as to the measure of her anxiety for the adventurous gold-hunter; «but Tudor will come out all right. He did a thing at the start that I wouldn't have given him or any other man credit for– persuaded Binu Charley to go along with him. I'll wager no other Binu nigger has ever gone so far into the bush unless to be kai– kai'd. As for Tudor-«

«Look! look!» Joan cried in a low voice, pointing across the narrow stream to a slack eddy where a huge crocodile drifted like a log awash. «My! I wish I had my rifle.»

The crocodile, leaving scarcely a ripple behind, sank down and disappeared.

«A Binu man was in early this morning-for medicine,» Sheldon remarked. «It may have been that very brute that was responsible. A dozen of the Binu women were out, and the foremost one stepped right on a big crocodile. It was by the edge of the water, and he tumbled her over and got her by the leg. All the other women got hold of her and pulled. And in the tug of war she lost her leg, below the knee, he said. I gave him a stock of antiseptics. She'll pull through, I fancy.»

«Ugh-the filthy beasts,» Joan gulped shudderingly. «I hate them! I hate them!»

«And yet you go diving among sharks,» Sheldon chided.

«They're only fish-sharks. And as long as there are plenty of fish there is no danger. It is only when they're famished that they're liable to take a bite.»

Sheldon shuddered inwardly at the swift vision that arose of the dainty flesh of her in a shark's many-toothed maw.

«I wish you wouldn't, just the same,» he said slowly. «You acknowledge there is a risk.»

«But that's half the fun of it,» she cried.

A trite platitude about his not caring to lose her was on his lips, but he refrained from uttering it. Another conclusion he had arrived at was that she was not to be nagged. Continual, or even occasional, reminders of his feeling for her would constitute a tactical error of no mean dimensions.

«Some for the book of verse, some for the simple life, and some for the shark's belly,» he laughed grimly, then added: «Just the same, I wish I could swim as well as you. Maybe it would beget confidence such as you have.»

«Do you know, I think it would be nice to be married to a man such as you seem to be becoming,» she remarked, with one of her abrupt changes that always astounded him. «I should think you could be trained into a very good husband-you know, not one of the domineering kind, but one who considered his wife was just as much an individual as himself and just as much a free agent. Really, you know, I think you are improving.»

She laughed and rode away, leaving him greatly cast down. If he had thought there had been one bit of coyness in her words, one feminine flutter, one womanly attempt at deliberate lure and encouragement, he would have been elated. But he knew absolutely that it was the boy, and not the woman, who had so daringly spoken.

Joan rode on among the avenues of young cocoanut-palms, saw a hornbill, followed it in its erratic flights to the high forest on the edge of the plantation, heard the cooing of wild pigeons and located them in the deeper woods, followed the fresh trail of a wild pig for a distance, circled back, and took the narrow path for the bungalow that ran through twenty acres of uncleared cane. The grass was waist-high and higher, and as she rode along she remembered that Gogoomy was one of a gang of boys that had been detailed to the grass-cutting. She came to where they had been at work, but saw no signs of them. Her unshod horse made no sound on the soft, sandy footing, and a little further on she heard voices proceeding from out of the grass. She reined in and listened. It was Gogoomy talking, and as she listened she gripped her bridle– rein tightly and a wave of anger passed over her.

«Dog he stop 'm along house, night-time he walk about,» Gogoomy was saying, perforce in beche-de-mer English, because he was talking to others beside his own tribesmen. «You fella boy catch 'm one fella pig, put 'm kai-kai belong him along big fella fish-hook. S'pose dog he walk about catch 'm kai-kai, you fella boy catch 'm dog allee same one shark. Dog he finish close up. Big fella marster sleep along big fella house. White Mary sleep along pickaninny house. One fella Adamu he stop along outside pickaninny house. You fella boy finish 'm dog, finish 'm Adamu, finish 'm big fella marster, finish 'm White Mary, finish 'em altogether. Plenty musket he stop, plenty powder, plenty tomahawk, plenty knife-fee, plenty porpoise teeth, plenty tobacco, plenty calico-my word, too much plenty everything we take 'm along whale-boat, washee like hell, sun he come up we long way too much.»

«Me catch 'm pig sun he go down,» spoke up one whose thin falsetto voice Joan recognized as belonging to Cosse, one of Gogoomy's tribesmen.

«Me catch 'm dog,» said another.

«And me catch 'm white fella Mary,» Gogoomy cried triumphantly. «Me catch 'm Kwaque he die along him damn quick.»

This much Joan heard of the plan to murder, and then her rising wrath proved too much for her discretion. She spurred her horse into the grass, crying, –

«What name you fella boy, eh? What name?»

They arose, scrambling and scattering, and to her surprise she saw there were a dozen of them. As she looked in their glowering faces and noted the heavy, two-foot, hacking cane-knives in their hands, she became suddenly aware of the rashness of her act. If only she had had her revolver or a rifle, all would have been well. But she had carelessly ventured out unarmed, and she followed the glance of Gogoomy to her waist and saw the pleased flash in his eyes as he perceived the absence of the dreadful man-killing revolver.

The first article in the Solomon Islands code for white men was never to show fear before a native, and Joan tried to carry off the situation in cavalier fashion.

«Too much talk along you fella boy,» she said severely. «Too much talk, too little work. Savvee?»

Gogoomy made no reply, but, apparently shifting weight, he slid one foot forward. The other boys, spread fan-wise about her, were also sliding forward, the cruel cane-knives in their hands advertising their intention.

«You cut 'm grass!» she commanded imperatively.

But Gogoomy slid his other foot forward. She measured the distance with her eye. It would be impossible to whirl her horse around and get away. She would be chopped down from behind.

And in that tense moment the faces of all of them were imprinted on her mind in an unforgettable picture-one of them, an old man, with torn and distended ear-lobes that fell to his chest; another, with the broad flattened nose of Africa, and with withered eyes so buried under frowning brows that nothing but the sickly, yellowish– looking whites could be seen; a third, thick-lipped and bearded with kinky whiskers; and Gogoomy-she had never realized before how handsome Gogoomy was in his mutinous and obstinate wild-animal way. There was a primitive aristocraticness about him that his fellows lacked. The lines of his figure were more rounded than theirs, the skin smooth, well oiled, and free from disease. On his chest, suspended from a single string of porpoise-teeth around his throat, hung a big crescent carved out of opalescent pearl-shell. A row of pure white cowrie shells banded his brow. From his hair drooped a long, lone feather. Above the swelling calf of one leg he wore, as a garter, a single string of white beads. The effect was dandyish in the extreme. A narrow gee-string completed his costume. Another man she saw, old and shrivelled, with puckered forehead and a puckered face that trembled and worked with animal passion as in the past she had noticed the faces of monkeys tremble and work.

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