Rifles and spears were dropped or flung aside in a wild scramble for the protection of the cocoanut palms. Satan multiplied himself. Never had he been free to tear and rend such a quantity of black flesh before, and he bit and snapped and rushed the flying legs till the last pair were above his head. All were treed except Telepasse, who was too old and fat, and he lay prone and without movement where he had fallen; while Satan, with too great a heart to worry an enemy that did not move, dashed frantically from tree to tree, barking and springing at those who clung on lowest down.
“I fancy you need a lesson or two in inserting fuses,” Sheldon remarked dryly.
Joan’s eyes were scornful.
“There was no detonator on it,” she said. “Besides, the detonator is not yet manufactured that will explode that charge. It’s only a bottle of chlorodyne.”
She put her fingers into her mouth, and Sheldon winced as he saw her blow, like a boy, a sharp, imperious whistle—the call she always used for her sailors, and that always made him wince.
“They’re gone up the Balesuna, shooting fish,” he explained. “But there comes Oleson with his boat’s-crew. He’s an old war-horse when he gets started. See him banging the boys. They don’t pull fast enough for him.”
“And now what’s to be done?” she asked. “You’ve treed your game, but you can’t keep it treed.”
“No; but I can teach them a lesson.”
Sheldon walked over to the big bell.
“It is all right,” he replied to her gesture of protest. “My boys are practically all bushmen, while these chaps are salt-water men, and there’s no love lost between them. You watch the fun.”
He rang a general call, and by the time the two hundred labourers trooped into the compound Satan was once more penned in the living-room, complaining to high heaven at his abominable treatment. The plantation hands were dancing war-dances around the base of every tree and filling the air with abuse and vituperation of their hereditary enemies. The skipper of the Flibberty-Gibbet arrived in the thick of it, in the first throes of oncoming fever, staggering as he walked, and shivering so severely that he could scarcely hold the rifle he carried. His face was ghastly blue, his teeth clicked and chattered, and the violent sunshine through which he walked could not warm him.
“I’ll s-s-sit down, and k-k-keep a guard on ’em,” he chattered. “D-d-dash it all, I always g-get f-fever when there’s any excitement. W-w-wh-what are you going to do?”
“Gather up the guns first of all.”
Under Sheldon’s direction the house-boys and gang-bosses collected the scattered arms and piled them in a heap on the veranda. The modern rifles, stolen from Lunga, Sheldon set aside; the Sniders he smashed into fragments; the pile of spears, clubs, and tomahawks he presented to Joan.
“A really unique addition to your collection,” he smiled; “picked up right on the battlefield.”