“But I was curious, and I says, p’inting toward Lobelia’s island:
“‘Ooman your wife?’
“‘No, no, no,’ says he, shaking his head like it would come off, ‘ooman no wife. Wife there,’ and he p’inted about directly opposite from my way. ‘Ooman,’ he goes on, ‘she no wife, she—’
“Just here the Malay come up from the fo’castle, grinning like a chessy cat and hugging a fat jug of this here palm wine that natives make. I don’t know where he got it from—I thought Hammond and me had rummaged that fo’castle pretty well—but, anyhow, there it was.
“Whiskers passed the jug to me and I handed it over to Hammond. He stood up to make a speech.
“‘Feller citizens,’ says he, ’I rise to drink a toast. ’Ere’s to the beautchous Lobelia ’Ankins, and may she long hornament the lovely island where she now—’
“The Malay at the wheel behind us gave an awful screech. We all turned sudden, and there, standing on the companion ladder, with her head and shoulders out of the hatch, was Lobelia ’Ankins, as large as life and twice as natural.
“Hammond dropped the jug and it smashed into finders. We all stood stock-still for a minute, like folks in a tableau. The half-breed skipper stood next to me, and I snum if you couldn’t see him shrivel up like one of them things they call a sensitive plant.
“The tableau lasted while a feller might count five; then things happened. Hammond and me dodged around the deckhouse; the Malays broke and run, one up the main rigging, two down the fo’castle hatch and one out on the jib-boom. But the poor skipper wa’n’t satisfied with any of them places; he started for the lee rail, and Lobelia ’Ankins started after him.
“She caught him as he was going to jump overboard and yanked him back like he was a bag of meal. She shook him, she boxed his ears, she pulled his hair, and all the time he was begging and pleading and she was screeching and jabbering at the top of her lungs. Hammond pulled me by the sleeve.
“‘It’ll be our turn next,’ says he; ‘get into the boat! Quick!’
“The little boat that the crew had come in was towing behind the schooner. We slid over the stern and dropped into it. Hammond cut the towline and we laid to the oars. Long as we was in the hearing of the schooner the powwow and rumpus kept up, but just as we was landing on the little island that the Malays had left, she come about on the port tack and stood off to sea.
“‘Lobelia’s running things again,’ says Hammond.
“Three days after this we was took off by a Dutch gunboat. Most of the time on the island we spent debating how Lobelia come to be on the schooner. Finally we decided that she must have gone aboard to sleep that night, suspecting that we’d try to run away in the schooner just as we had tried to. We talked about Whiskers and his crew and guessed about how they came to abandon their boat in the first place. One thing we was sartin sure of, and that was that they’d left Lobelia aboard on purpose. We knew mighty well that’s what we’d a-done.