“But what is Miss Lackland intending to do?” Captain Auckland grinned.
“She’s going to try to get the Martha off, I should say. Or else why did she pay fifty-five quid for her? And if she fails, she’ll try to get her money back by saving the gear—spars, you know, and patent steering-gear, and winches, and such things. At least that’s what I’d do if I was in her place. When I sailed, the little girl had chartered the Emily—’I’m going recruiting,’ says Munster—he’s the skipper and owner now. ‘And how much will you net on the cruise?’ asks she. ’Oh, fifty quid,’ says he. ‘Good,’ says she; ’you bring your Emily along with me and you’ll get seventy-five.’ You know that big ship’s anchor and chain piled up behind the coal-sheds? She was just buying that when I left. She’s certainly a hustler, that little girl of yours.”
“She is my partner,” Sheldon corrected.
“Well, she’s a good one, that’s all, and a cool one. My word! a white woman on Malaita, and at Poonga-Poonga of all places! Oh, I forgot to tell you—she palavered Burnett into lending her eight rifles for her men, and three cases of dynamite. You’d laugh to see the way she makes that Guvutu gang stand around. And to see them being polite and trying to give advice! Lord, Lord, man, that little girl’s a wonder, a marvel, a—a—a catastrophe. That’s what she is, a catastrophe. She’s gone through Guvutu and Tulagi like a hurricane; every last swine of them in love with her—except Raff. He’s sore over the auction, and he sprang his recruiting contract with Munster on her. And what does she do but thank him, and read it over, and point out that while Munster was pledged to deliver all recruits to Morgan and Raff, there was no clause in the document forbidding him from chartering the Emily.
“‘There’s your contract,’ says she, passing it back. ’And a very good contract it is. The next time you draw one up, insert a clause that will fit emergencies like the present one.’ And, Lord, Lord, she had him, too.
“But there’s the breeze, and I’m off. Good-bye, old man. Hope the little girl succeeds. The Martha’s a whacking fine boat, and she’d take the place of the Jessie.”
The next morning Sheldon came in from the plantation to breakfast, to find the mission ketch, Apostle, at anchor, her crew swimming two mares and a filly ashore. Sheldon recognized the animals as belonging to the Resident Commissioner, and he immediately wondered if Joan had bought them. She was certainly living up to her threat of rattling the dry bones of the Solomons, and he was prepared for anything.
“Miss Lackland sent them,” said Welshmere, the missionary doctor, stepping ashore and shaking hands with him. “There’s also a box of saddles on board. And this letter from her. And the skipper of the Flibberty-Gibbet.”