It was the law, and Sheldon knew it. But he wanted to live this day and the next day and not to die waiting for the law to operate the next week or the week after.
“Too much talk along you!” he cried angrily. “What name eh? What name?”
“Me savvee law,” the savage repeated stubbornly.
Another man stepped forward in almost a sprightly way and glanced insolently up. Sheldon was selecting the worst characters for the lesson.
“You fella Astoa, you fella Narada, tie up that fella Billy alongside other fella same fella way.”
“Strong fella tie,” he cautioned them.
“You fella Astoa take that fella whip. Plenty strong big fella too much ten fella three times. Savvee!”
“No,” Astoa grunted.
Sheldon picked up the rifle that had leaned against the rail, and cocked it.
“I know you, Astoa,” he said calmly. “You work along Queensland six years.”
“Me fella missionary,” the black interrupted with deliberate insolence.
“Queensland you stop jail one fella year. White fella master damn fool no hang you. You too much bad fella. Queensland you stop jail six months two fella time. Two fella time you steal. All right, you missionary. You savvee one fella prayer?”
“Yes, me savvee prayer,” was the reply.
“All right, then you pray now, short time little bit. You say one fella prayer damn quick, then me kill you.”
Sheldon held the rifle on him and waited. The black glanced around at his fellows, but none moved to aid him. They were intent upon the coming spectacle, staring fascinated at the white man with death in his hands who stood alone on the great veranda. Sheldon has won, and he knew it. Astoa changed his weight irresolutely from one foot to the other. He looked at the white man, and saw his eyes gleaming level along the sights.
“Astoa,” Sheldon said, seizing the psychological moment, “I count three fella time. Then I shoot you fella dead, good-bye, all finish you.”
And Sheldon knew that when he had counted three he would drop him in his tracks. The black knew it, too. That was why Sheldon did not have to do it, for when he had counted one, Astoa reached out his hand and took the whip. And right well Astoa laid on the whip, angered at his fellows for not supporting him and venting his anger with every stroke. From the veranda Sheldon egged him on to strike with strength, till the two triced savages screamed and howled while the blood oozed down their backs. The lesson was being well written in red.
When the last of the gang, including the two howling culprits, had passed out through the compound gate, Sheldon sank down half-fainting on his couch.
“You’re a sick man,” he groaned. “A sick man.”
“But you can sleep at ease to-night,” he added, half an hour later.