CHAPTER IX—AS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN
It was Satan’s inexhaustible energy and good spirits that most impressed them. His teeth seemed perpetually to ache with desire, and in lieu of black legs he husked the cocoanuts that fell from the trees in the compound, kept the enclosure clear of intruding hens, and made a hostile acquaintance with every boss-boy who came to report. He was unable to forget the torment of his puppyhood, wherein everlasting hatred of the black had been woven into the fibres of consciousness; and such a terror did he make himself that Sheldon was forced to shut him up in the living room when, for any reason, strange natives were permitted in the compound. This always hurt Satan’s feelings and fanned his wrath, so that even the house-boys had to watch out for him when he was first released.
Christian Young sailed away in the Minerva, carrying an invitation (that would be delivered nobody knew when) to Tommy Jones to drop in at Berande the next time he was passing.
“What are your plans when you get to Sydney?” Sheldon asked, that night, at dinner.
“First I’ve heard that I’m going to Sydney,” Joan retorted. “I suppose you’ve received information, by bush-telegraph, that that third assistant understrapper and ex-sailorman at Tulagi is going to deport me as an undesirable immigrant.”
“Oh, no, nothing of the sort, I assure you,” Sheldon began with awkward haste, fearful of having offended, though he knew not how. “I was just wondering, that was all. You see, with the loss of the schooner and . . and all the rest . . . you understand . . I was thinking that if—a—if—hang it all, until you could communicate with your friends, my agents at Sydney could advance you a loan, temporary you see, why I’d be only too glad and all the rest, you know. The proper—”
But his jaw dropped and he regarded her irritably and with apprehension.
“What is the matter?” he demanded, with a show of heat. “What have I done now?”
Joan’s eyes were bright with battle, the curve of her lips sharp with mockery.
“Certainly not the unexpected,” she said quietly. “Merely ignored me in your ordinary, every-day, man-god, superior fashion. Naturally it counted for nothing, my telling you that I had no idea of going to Sydney. Go to Sydney I must, because you, in your superior wisdom, have so decreed.”
She paused and looked at him curiously, as though he were some strange breed of animal.
“Of course I am grateful for your offer of assistance; but even that is no salve to wounded pride. For that matter, it is no more than one white man should expect from another. Shipwrecked mariners are always helped along their way. Only this particular mariner doesn’t need any help. Furthermore, this mariner is not going to Sydney, thank you.”