“Joan and David—partners, eh? Joan and David—partners,” Tudor began to iterate and reiterate in a malicious and scornful chant.
“For heaven’s sake keep quiet, and I’ll let you have your way,” Sheldon cried. “I never saw a fool so bent on his folly. What kind of a duel shall it be? There are no seconds. What weapons shall we use?”
Immediately Tudor’s monkey-like impishness left him, and he was once more the cool, self-possessed man of the world.
“I’ve often thought that the ideal duel should be somewhat different from the conventional one,” he said. “I’ve fought several of that sort, you know—”
“French ones,” Sheldon interrupted.
“Call them that. But speaking of this ideal duel, here it is. No seconds, of course, and no onlookers. The two principals alone are necessary. They may use any weapons they please, from revolvers and rifles to machine guns and pompoms. They start a mile apart, and advance on each other, taking advantage of cover, retreating, circling, feinting—anything and everything permissible. In short, the principals shall hunt each other—”
“Like a couple of wild Indians?”
“Precisely,” cried Tudor, delighted. “You’ve got the idea. And Berande is just the place, and this is just the right time. Miss Lackland will be taking her siesta, and she’ll think we are. We’ve got two hours for it before she wakes. So hurry up and come on. You start out from the Balesuna and I start from the Berande. Those two rivers are the boundaries of the plantation, aren’t they? Very well. The field of the duel will be the plantation. Neither principal must go outside its boundaries. Are you satisfied?”
“Quite. But have you any objections if I leave some orders?”
“Not at all,” Tudor acquiesced, the pink of courtesy now that his wish had been granted.
Sheldon clapped his hands, and the running house-boy hurried away to bring back Adamu Adam and Noa Noah.
“Listen,” Sheldon said to them. “This man and me, we have one big fight to-day. Maybe he die. Maybe I die. If he die, all right. If I die, you two look after Missie Lackalanna. You take rifles, and you look after her daytime and night-time. If she want to talk with Mr. Tudor, all right. If she not want to talk, you make him keep away. Savvee?”
They grunted and nodded. They had had much to do with white men, and had learned never to question the strange ways of the strange breed. If these two saw fit to go out and kill each other, that was their business and not the business of the islanders, who took orders from them. They stepped to the gun-rack, and each picked a rifle.
“Better all Tahitian men have rifles,” suggested Adamu Adam. “Maybe big trouble come.”
“All right, you take them,” Sheldon answered, busy with issuing the ammunition.
They went to the door and down the steps, carrying the eight rifles to their quarters. Tudor, with cartridge-belts for rifle and pistol strapped around him, rifle in hand, stood impatiently waiting.