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Sheldon certainly was not happy. The unconventional state of affairs was too much for his conservative disposition and training. Berande, inhabited by one lone white man, was no place for Joan Lackland. Yet he racked his brain for a way out, and even talked it over with her. In the first place, the steamer from Australia was not due for three weeks.
"One thing is evident: you don't want me here," she said. "I'll man the whale-boat to-morrow and go over to Tulagi."
"But as I told you before, that is impossible," he cried. "There is no one there. The Resident Commissioner is away in Australia. Them is only one white man, a third assistant understrapper and ex-sailor--a common sailor. He is in charge of the government of the Solomons, to say nothing of a hundred or so niggers--prisoners. Besides, he is such a fool that he would fine you five pounds for not having entered at Tulagi, which is the port of entry, you know. He is not a nice man, and, I repeat, it is impossible."
"There is Guvutu," she suggested.
He shook his head.
"There's nothing there but fever and five white men who are drinking themselves to death. I couldn't permit it."
"Oh thank you," she said quietly. "I guess I'll start to-day.-- Viaburi! You go along Noa Noah, speak 'm come along me."
Noa Noah was her head sailor, who had been boatswain of the Miele.
"Where are you going?" Sheldon asked in surprise.--"Vlaburi! You stop."
"To Guvutu--immediately," was her reply.
"But I won't permit it."
"That is why I am going. You said it once before, and it is something I cannot brook."
"What?" He was bewildered by her sudden anger. "If I have offended in any way--"
"Viaburi, you fetch 'm one fella Noa Noah along me," she commanded.
The black boy started to obey.
"Viaburi! You no stop I break 'm head belong you. And now, Miss Lackland, I insist--you must explain. What have I said or done to merit this?"
"You have presumed, you have dared--"
She choked and swallowed, and could not go on.
Sheldon looked the picture of despair.
"I confess my head is going around with it all," he said. "If you could only be explicit."
"As explicit as you were when you told me that you would not permit me to go to Guvutu?"
"But what's wrong with that?"
"But you have no right--no man has the right--to tell me what he will permit or not permit. I'm too old to have a guardian, nor did I sail all the way to the Solomons to find one."
"A gentleman is every woman's guardian."
"Well, I'm not every woman--that's all. Will you kindly allow me to send your boy for Noa Noah? I wish him to launch the whale-boat. Or shall I go myself for him?"
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