Sheldon was wondering as to the identity of the craft, while Tudor persisted in believing it might be the Martha.
“It’s the Minerva,” Joan said decidedly.
“How do you know?” Sheldon asked, sceptical of her certitude.
“It’s a ketch to begin with. And besides, I could tell anywhere the rattle of her main peak-blocks—they’re too large for the halyard.”
A dark figure crossed the compound diagonally from the beach gate, where whoever it was had been watching the vessel.
“Is that you, Utami?” Joan called.
“No, Missie; me Matapuu,” was the answer.
“What vessel is it?”
“Me t’ink Minerva.”
Joan looked triumphantly at Sheldon, who bowed.
“If Matapuu says so it must be so,” he murmured.
“But when Joan Lackland says so, you doubt,” she cried, “just as you doubt her ability as a skipper. But never mind, you’ll be sorry some day for all your unkindness. There’s the boat lowering now, and in five minutes we’ll be shaking hands with Christian Young.”
Lalaperu brought out the glasses and cigarettes and the eternal whisky and soda, and before the five minutes were past the gate clicked and Christian Young, tawny and golden, gentle of voice and look and hand, came up the bungalow steps and joined them.
News, as usual, Christian Young brought—news of the drinking at Guvutu, where the men boasted that they drank between drinks; news of the new rifles adrift on Ysabel, of the latest murders on Malaita, of Tom Butler’s sickness on Santa Ana; and last and most important, news that the Matambo had gone on a reef in the Shortlands and would be laid off one run for repairs.
“That means five weeks more before you can sail for Sydney,” Sheldon said to Joan.
“And that we are losing precious time,” she added ruefully.
“If you want to go to Sydney, the Upolu sails from Tulagi to-morrow afternoon,” Young said.
“But I thought she was running recruits for the Germans in Samoa,” she objected. “At any rate, I could catch her to Samoa, and change at Apia to one of the Weir Line freighters. It’s a long way around, but still it would save time.”