It was in the good weather that followed, that he left the blacks at work, one morning, and with a shot-gun across his pommel rode off after pigeons. Two hours later, one of the house-boys, breathless and scratched ran him down with the news that the Martha, the Flibberty-Gibbet, and the Emily were heading in for the anchorage.
Coming into the compound from the rear, Sheldon could see nothing until he rode around the corner of the bungalow. Then he saw everything at once—first, a glimpse at the sea, where the Martha floated huge alongside the cutter and the ketch which had rescued her; and, next, the ground in front of the veranda steps, where a great crowd of fresh-caught cannibals stood at attention. From the fact that each was attired in a new, snow-white lava-lava, Sheldon knew that they were recruits. Part way up the steps, one of them was just backing down into the crowd, while another, called out by name, was coming up. It was Joan’s voice that had called him, and Sheldon reined in his horse and watched. She sat at the head of the steps, behind a table, between Munster and his white mate, the three of them checking long lists, Joan asking the questions and writing the answers in the big, red-covered, Berande labour-journal.
“What name?” she demanded of the black man on the steps.
“Tagari,” came the answer, accompanied by a grin and a rolling of curious eyes; for it was the first white-man’s house the black had ever seen.
“What place b’long you?”
No one had noticed Sheldon, and he continued to sit his horse and watch. There was a discrepancy between the answer and the record in the recruiting books, and a consequent discussion, until Munster solved the difficulty.
“Bangoora?” he said. “That’s the little beach at the head of the bay out of Latta. He’s down as a Latta-man—see, there it is, ‘Tagari, Latta.’”
“What place you go you finish along white marster?” Joan asked.
“Bangoora,” the man replied; and Joan wrote it down.
“Ogu!” Joan called.
The black stepped down, and another mounted to take his place. But Tagari, just before he reached the bottom step, caught sight of Sheldon. It was the first horse the fellow had ever seen, and he let out a frightened screech and dashed madly up the steps. At the same moment the great mass of blacks surged away panic-stricken from Sheldon’s vicinity. The grinning house-boys shouted encouragement and explanation, and the stampede was checked, the new-caught head-hunters huddling closely together and staring dubiously at the fearful monster.
“Hello!” Joan called out. “What do you mean by frightening all my boys? Come on up.”