“This time the Upolu is going straight to Sydney,” Young explained. “She’s going to dry-dock, you see; and you can catch her as late as five to-morrow afternoon—at least, so her first officer told me.”
“But I’ve got to go to Guvutu first.” Joan looked at the men with a whimsical expression. “I’ve some shopping to do. I can’t wear these Berande curtains into Sydney. I must buy cloth at Guvutu and make myself a dress during the voyage down. I’ll start immediately—in an hour. Lalaperu, you bring ’m one fella Adamu Adam along me. Tell ’m that fella Ornfiri make ’m kai-kai take along whale-boat.” She rose to her feet, looking at Sheldon. “And you, please, have the boys carry down the whale-boat—my boat, you know. I’ll be off in an hour.”
Both Sheldon and Tudor looked at their watches.
“It’s an all-night row,” Sheldon said. “You might wait till morning—”
“And miss my shopping? No, thank you. Besides, the Upolu is not a regular passenger steamer, and she is just as liable to sail ahead of time as on time. And from what I hear about those Guvutu sybarites, the best time to shop will be in the morning. And now you’ll have to excuse me, for I’ve got to pack.”
“I’ll go over with you,” Sheldon announced.
“Let me run you over in the Minerva,” said Young.
She shook her head laughingly.
“I’m going in the whale-boat. One would think, from all your solicitude, that I’d never been away from home before. You, Mr. Sheldon, as my partner, I cannot permit to desert Berande and your work out of a mistaken notion of courtesy. If you won’t permit me to be skipper, I won’t permit your galivanting over the sea as protector of young women who don’t need protection. And as for you, Captain Young, you know very well that you just left Guvutu this morning, that you are bound for Marau, and that you said yourself that in two hours you are getting under way again.”
“But may I not see you safely across?” Tudor asked, a pleading note in his voice that rasped on Sheldon’s nerves.
“No, no, and again no,” she cried. “You’ve all got your work to do, and so have I. I came to the Solomons to work, not to be escorted about like a doll. For that matter, here’s my escort, and there are seven more like him.”
Adamu Adam stood beside her, towering above her, as he towered above the three white men. The clinging cotton undershirt he wore could not hide the bulge of his tremendous muscles.
“Look at his fist,” said Tudor. “I’d hate to receive a punch from it.”
“I don’t blame you.” Joan laughed reminiscently. “I saw him hit the captain of a Swedish bark on the beach at Levuka, in the Fijis. It was the captain’s fault. I saw it all myself, and it was splendid. Adamu only hit him once, and he broke the man’s arm. You remember, Adamu?”
The big Tahitian smiled and nodded, his black eyes, soft and deer-like, seeming to give the lie to so belligerent a nature.