“It is a pity,” she said. “But the white man has to rule, I suppose.”
“I don’t like it,” Sheldon assured her. “To save my life I can’t imagine how I ever came here. But here I am, and I can’t run away.”
“Blind destiny of race,” she said, faintly smiling. “We whites have been land robbers and sea robbers from remotest time. It is in our blood, I guess, and we can’t get away from it.”
“I never thought about it so abstractly,” he confessed. “I’ve been too busy puzzling over why I came here.”
CHAPTER VIII—LOCAL COLOUR
At sunset a small ketch fanned in to anchorage, and a little later the skipper came ashore. He was a soft-spoken, gentle-voiced young fellow of twenty, but he won Joan’s admiration in advance when Sheldon told her that he ran the ketch all alone with a black crew from Malaita. And Romance lured and beckoned before Joan’s eyes when she learned he was Christian Young, a Norfolk Islander, but a direct descendant of John Young, one of the original Bounty mutineers. The blended Tahitian and English blood showed in his soft eyes and tawny skin; but the English hardness seemed to have disappeared. Yet the hardness was there, and it was what enabled him to run his ketch single-handed and to wring a livelihood out of the fighting Solomons.
Joan’s unexpected presence embarrassed him, until she herself put him at his ease by a frank, comradely manner that offended Sheldon’s sense of the fitness of things feminine. News from the world Young had not, but he was filled with news of the Solomons. Fifteen boys had stolen rifles and run away into the bush from Lunga plantation, which was farther east on the Guadalcanar coast. And from the bush they had sent word that they were coming back to wipe out the three white men in charge, while two of the three white men, in turn, were hunting them through the bush. There was a strong possibility, Young volunteered, that if they were not caught they might circle around and tap the coast at Berande in order to steal or capture a whale-boat.
“I forgot to tell you that your trader at Ugi has been murdered,” he said to Sheldon. “Five big canoes came down from Port Adams. They landed in the night-time, and caught Oscar asleep. What they didn’t steal they burned. The Flibberty-Gibbet got the news at Mboli Pass, and ran down to Ugi. I was at Mboli when the news came.”
“I think I’ll have to abandon Ugi,” Sheldon remarked.
“It’s the second trader you’ve lost there in a year,” Young concurred. “To make it safe there ought to be two white men at least. Those Malaita canoes are always raiding down that way, and you know what that Port Adams lot is. I’ve got a dog for you. Tommy Jones sent it up from Neal Island. He said he’d promised it to you. It’s a first-class nigger-chaser. Hadn’t been on board two minutes when he had my whole boat’s-crew in the rigging. Tommy calls him Satan.”