The next moment, and before he could greet him, Oleson stepped from the boat and began.
“She’s stolen the Flibberty, Mr. Sheldon. Run clean away with her. She’s a wild one. She gave me the fever. Brought it on by shock. And got me drunk, as well—rotten drunk.”
Dr. Welshmere laughed heartily.
“Nevertheless, she is not an unmitigated evil, your Miss Lackland. She’s sworn three men off their drink, or, to the same purpose, shut off their whisky. You know them—Brahms, Curtis, and Fowler. She shipped them on the Flibberty-Gibbet along with her.”
“She’s the skipper of the Flibberty now,” Oleson broke in. “And she’ll wreck her as sure as God didn’t make the Solomons.”
Dr. Welshmere tried to look shocked, but laughed again.
“She has quite a way with her,” he said. “I tried to back out of bringing the horses over. Said I couldn’t charge freight, that the Apostle was under a yacht license, that I was going around by Savo and the upper end of Guadalcanar. But it was no use. ‘Bother the charge,’ said she. ’You take the horses like a good man, and when I float the Martha I’ll return the service some day.’”
“And ‘bother your orders,’ said she to me,” Oleson cried. “’I’m your boss now,’ said she, ‘and you take your orders from me.’ ’Look at that load of ivory nuts,’ I said. ‘Bother them,’ said she; ‘I’m playin’ for something bigger than ivory nuts. We’ll dump them overside as soon as we get under way.’”
Sheldon put his hands to his ears.
“I don’t know what has happened, and you are trying to tell me the tale backwards. Come up to the house and get in the shade and begin at the beginning.”
“What I want to know,” Oleson began, when they were seated, “is is she your partner or ain’t she? That’s what I want to know.”
“She is,” Sheldon assured him.
“Well, who’d have believed it!” Oleson glanced appealingly at Dr. Welshmere, and back again at Sheldon. “I’ve seen a few unlikely things in these Solomons—rats two feet long, butterflies the Commissioner hunts with a shot-gun, ear-ornaments that would shame the devil, and head-hunting devils that make the devil look like an angel. I’ve seen them and got used to them, but this young woman of yours—”
“Miss Lackland is my partner and part-owner of Berande,” Sheldon interrupted.
“So she said,” the irate skipper dashed on. “But she had no papers to show for it. How was I to know? And then there was that load of ivory nuts-eight tons of them.”
“For heaven’s sake begin at the—” Sheldon tried to interrupt.
“And then she’s hired them drunken loafers, three of the worst scoundrels that ever disgraced the Solomons—fifteen quid a month each—what d’ye think of that? And sailed away with them, too! Phew!—You might give me a drink. The missionary won’t mind. I’ve been on his teetotal hooker four days now, and I’m perishing.”