Down on the beach he built a bonfire out of the contents of the canoes, his blacks smashing, breaking, and looting everything they laid hands on. The canoes themselves, splintered and broken, filled with sand and coral-boulders, were towed out to ten fathoms of water and sunk.
“Ten fathoms will be deep enough for them to work in,” Sheldon said, as they walked back to the compound.
Here a Saturnalia had broken loose. The war-songs and dances were more unrestrained, and, from abuse, the plantation blacks had turned to pelting their helpless foes with pieces of wood, handfuls of pebbles, and chunks of coral-rock. And the seventy-five lusty cannibals clung stoically to their tree-perches, enduring the rain of missiles and snarling down promises of vengeance.
“There’ll be wars for forty years on Malaita on account of this,” Sheldon laughed. “But I always fancy old Telepasse will never again attempt to rush a plantation.”
“Eh, you old scoundrel,” he added, turning to the old chief, who sat gibbering in impotent rage at the foot of the steps. “Now head belong you bang ’m too. Come on, Miss Lackland, bang ’m just once. It will be the crowning indignity.”
“Ugh, he’s too dirty. I’d rather give him a bath. Here, you, Adamu Adam, give this devil-devil a wash. Soap and water! Fill that wash-tub. Ornfiri, run and fetch ’m scrub-brush.”
The Tahitians, back from their fishing and grinning at the bedlam of the compound, entered into the joke.
“Tambo! Tambo!” shrieked the cannibals from the trees, appalled at so awful a desecration, as they saw their chief tumbled into the tub and the sacred dirt rubbed and soused from his body.
Joan, who had gone into the bungalow, tossed down a strip of white calico, in which old Telepasse was promptly wrapped, and he stood forth, resplendent and purified, withal he still spat and strangled from the soap-suds with which Noa Noah had gargled his throat.
The house-boys were directed to fetch handcuffs, and, one by one, the Lunga runaways were haled down out of their trees and made fast. Sheldon ironed them in pairs, and ran a steel chain through the links of the irons. Gogoomy was given a lecture for his mutinous conduct and locked up for the afternoon. Then Sheldon rewarded the plantation hands with an afternoon’s holiday, and, when they had withdrawn from the compound, permitted the Port Adams men to descend from the trees. And all afternoon he and Joan loafed in the cool of the veranda and watched them diving down and emptying their sunken canoes of the sand and rocks. It was twilight when they embarked and paddled away with a few broken paddles. A breeze had sprung up, and the Flibberty-Gibbet had already sailed for Lunga to return the runaways.
Sheldon was back in the plantation superintending the building of a bridge, when the schooner Malakula ran in close and dropped anchor. Joan watched the taking in of sail and the swinging out of the boat with a sailor’s interest, and herself met the two men who came ashore. While one of the house-boys ran to fetch Sheldon, she had the visitors served with whisky and soda, and sat and talked with them.