Adventure eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 273 pages of information about Adventure.

“No Jessie,” he said very quietly.  “That’s the Malakula.”

He changed his seat for a steamer reclining-chair.  Three hundred feet away the sea broke in a small surf upon the beach.  To the left he could see the white line of breakers that marked the bar of the Balesuna River, and, beyond, the rugged outline of Savo Island.  Directly before him, across the twelve-mile channel, lay Florida Island; and, farther to the right, dim in the distance, he could make out portions of Malaita—­the savage island, the abode of murder, and robbery, and man-eating—­the place from which his own two hundred plantation hands had been recruited.  Between him and the beach was the cane-grass fence of the compound.  The gate was ajar, and he sent the house-boy to close it.  Within the fence grew a number of lofty cocoanut palms.  On either side the path that led to the gate stood two tall flagstaffs.  They were reared on artificial mounds of earth that were ten feet high.  The base of each staff was surrounded by short posts, painted white and connected by heavy chains.  The staffs themselves were like ships’ masts, with topmasts spliced on in true nautical fashion, with shrouds, ratlines, gaffs, and flag-halyards.  From the gaff of one, two gay flags hung limply, one a checkerboard of blue and white squares, the other a white pennant centred with a red disc.  It was the international code signal of distress.

On the far corner of the compound fence a hawk brooded.  The man watched it, and knew that it was sick.  He wondered idly if it felt as bad as he felt, and was feebly amused at the thought of kinship that somehow penetrated his fancy.  He roused himself to order the great bell to be rung as a signal for the plantation hands to cease work and go to their barracks.  Then he mounted his man-horse and made the last round of the day.

In the hospital were two new cases.  To these he gave castor-oil.  He congratulated himself.  It had been an easy day.  Only three had died.  He inspected the copra-drying that had been going on, and went through the barracks to see if there were any sick lying hidden and defying his rule of segregation.  Returned to the house, he received the reports of the boss-boys and gave instructions for next day’s work.  The boat’s crew boss also he had in, to give assurance, as was the custom nightly, that the whale-boats were hauled up and padlocked.  This was a most necessary precaution, for the blacks were in a funk, and a whale-boat left lying on the beach in the evening meant a loss of twenty blacks by morning.  Since the blacks were worth thirty dollars apiece, or less, according to how much of their time had been worked out, Berande plantation could ill afford the loss.  Besides, whale-boats were not cheap in the Solomons; and, also, the deaths were daily reducing the working capital.  Seven blacks had fled into the bush the week before, and four had dragged themselves back, helpless from fever, with the report that two more had been killed and kai-kai’d {1} by the hospitable bushmen.  The seventh man was still at large, and was said to be working along the coast on the lookout to steal a canoe and get away to his own island.

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Adventure from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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