On the way, he had raided the little islet of Ugi, sacked the store, and taken the head of the solitary trader, a gentle-souled half-caste from Norfolk Island who traced back directly to a Pitcairn ancestry straight from the loins of McCoy of the Bounty. Arrived safely at Malaita, he and his fellows, no longer having any use for the two San Cristobal boys, had taken their heads and eaten their bodies.
“My word, him bad fella boy any amount,” Johnny finished his tale. “Government House, Tulagi, damn glad give ’m twenty pounds along that fella.”
“You blessed Sing Song Silly,” Villa, murmured in Jerry’s ears. “If it hadn’t been for you—”
“Your head and mine would even now be galumping through the bush as Makawao hit the high places for home,” Harley concluded for her. “My word, some fella dog that, any amount,” he added lightly. “And I gave him merry Ned just the other day for nigger-chasing, and he knew his business better than I did all the time.”
“If anybody tries to claim him—” Villa threatened.
Harley confirmed her muttered sentiment with a nod.
“Any way,” he said, with a smile, “there would have been one consolation if your head had gone up into the bush.”
“Consolation!” she cried, throaty with indignation.
“Why, yes; because in that case my head would have gone along.”
“You dear and blessed Husband-Man,” she murmured, a quick cloudiness of moisture in her eyes, as with her eyes she embraced him, her arms still around Jerry, who, sensing the ecstasy of the moment, kissed her fragrant cheek with his ribbon-tongue of love.
When the Ariel cleared from Malu, on the north-west coast of Malaita, Malaita sank down beneath the sea-rim astern and, so far as Jerry’s life was concerned, remained sunk for ever—another vanished world, that, in his consciousness, partook of the ultimate nothingness that had befallen Skipper. For all Jerry might have known, though he pondered it not, Malaita was a universe, beheaded and resting on the knees of some brooding lesser god, himself vastly mightier than Bashti whose knees bore the brooding weight of Skipper’s sun-dried, smoke-cured head, this lesser god vexed and questing, feeling and guessing at the dual twin-mysteries of time and space and of motion and matter, above, beneath, around, and beyond him.
Only, in Jerry’s case, there was no pondering of the problem, no awareness of the existence of such mysteries. He merely accepted Malaita as another world that had ceased to be. He remembered it as he remembered dreams. Himself a live thing, solid and substantial, possessed of weight and dimension, a reality incontrovertible, he moved through the space and place of being, concrete, hard, quick, convincing, an absoluteness of something surrounded by the shades and shadows of the fluxing phantasmagoria of nothing.