“My word,” he grinned to Harley, “that fella dog put ’m crimp along me any amount.”
He felt out the wounds of his neck and face, while his eyes embraced the fact that the white master was in possession of his rifle.
“You give ’m musket belong me,” he said impudently.
“I give ’m you bang alongside head,” was Harley’s answer.
“He doesn’t seem to me to be a regular Malaitan,” he told Villa. “In the first place, where would he get a rifle like that? Then think of his nerve. He must have seen us drop anchor, and he must have known our launch was on the beach. Yet he played to take our heads and get away with them back into the bush—”
“What name belong you?” he again demanded.
But not until Johnny and the launch crew arrived breathless from their run, did he learn. Johnny’s eyes gloated when he beheld the prisoner, and he addressed Kennan in evident excitement.
“You give ’m me that fella boy,” he begged. “Eh? You give ’m me that fella boy.”
“What name you want ’m?”
Not for some time would Johnny answer this question, and then only when Kennan told him that there was no harm done and that he intended to let the black go. At this Johnny protested vehemently.
“Maybe you fetch ’m that fella boy along Government House, Tulagi, Government House give ’m you twenty pounds. Him plenty bad fella boy too much. Makawao he name stop along him. Bad fella boy too much. Him Queensland boy—”
“What name Queensland?” Kennan interrupted. “He belong that fella place?”
Johnny shook his head.
“Him belong along Malaita first time. Long time before too much he recruit ’m along schooner go work along Queensland.”
“He’s a return Queenslander,” Harley interpreted to Villa. “You know, when Australia went ‘all white,’ the Queensland plantations had to send all the black birds back. This Makawao is evidently one of them, and a hard case as well, if there’s anything in Johnny’s gammon about twenty pounds reward for him. That’s a big price for a black.”
Johnny continued his explanation which, reduced to flat and sober English, was to the effect that Makawao had always borne a bad character. In Queensland he had served a total of four years in jail for thefts, robberies, and attempted murder. Returned to the Solomons by the Australian government, he had recruited on Buli Plantation for the purpose—as was afterwards proved—of getting arms and ammunition. For an attempt to kill the manager he had received fifty lashes at Tulagi and served a year. Returned to Buli Plantation to finish his labour service, he had contrived to kill the owner in the manager’s absence and to escape in a whaleboat.
In the whaleboat with him he had taken all the weapons and ammunition of the plantation, the owner’s head, ten Malaita recruits, and two recruits from San Cristobal—the two last because they were salt-water men and could handle the whaleboat. Himself and the ten Malaitans, being bushmen, were too ignorant of the sea to dare the long passage from Guadalcanar.