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Adventure Jack London

As Between A Man And A Woman

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"I know nothing of the sort, sir. And if it is impossible, well, haven't I achieved it?"

"But it cannot continue. Really--"

"Oh, yes, it can. Having achieved it, I can go on achieving it. I intend to remain in the Solomons, but not on Berande. To-morrow I am going to take the whale-boat over to Pari-Sulay. I was talking with Captain Young about it. He says there are at least four hundred acres, and every foot of it good for planting. Being an island, he says I won't have to bother about wild pigs destroying the young trees. All I'll have to do is to keep the weeds hoed until the trees come into bearing. First, I'll buy the island; next, get forty or fifty recruits and start clearing and planting; and at the same time I'll run up a bungalow; and then you'll be relieved of my embarrassing presence--now don't say that it isn't."

"It is embarrassing," he said bluntly. "But you refuse to see my point of view, so there is no use in discussing it. Now please forget all about it, and consider me at your service concerning this . . . this project of yours. I know more about cocoanut-planting than you do. You speak like a capitalist. I don't know how much money you have, but I don't fancy you are rolling in wealth, as you Americans say. But I do know what it costs to clear land. Suppose the government sells you Pari-Sulay at a pound an acre; clearing will cost you at least four pounds more; that is, five pounds for four hundred acres, or, say, ten thousand dollars. Have you that much?"

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She was keenly interested, and he could see that the previous clash between them was already forgotten. Her disappointment was plain as she confessed:

"No; I haven't quite eight thousand dollars."

"Then here's another way of looking at it. You'll need, as you said, at least fifty boys. Not counting premiums, their wages are thirty dollars a year."

"I pay my Tahitians fifteen a month," she interpolated.

"They won't do on straight plantation work. But to return. The wages of fifty boys each year will come to three hundred pounds-- that is, fifteen hundred dollars. Very well. It will be seven years before your trees begin to bear. Seven times fifteen hundred is ten thousand five hundred dollars--more than you possess, and all eaten up by the boys' wages, with nothing to pay for bungalow, building, tools, quinine, trips to Sydney, and so forth."

Sheldon shook his head gravely. "You'll have to abandon the idea."

"But I won't go to Sydney," she cried. "I simply won't. I'll buy in to the extent of my money as a small partner in some other plantation. Let me buy in in Berande!"

"Heaven forbid!" he cried in such genuine dismay that she broke into hearty laughter.

"There, I won't tease you. Really, you know, I'm not accustomed to forcing my presence where it is not desired. Yes, yes; I know you're just aching to point out that I've forced myself upon you ever since I landed, only you are too polite to say so. Yet as you said yourself, it was impossible for me to go away, so I had to stay. You wouldn't let me go to Tulagi. You compelled me to force myself upon you. But I won't buy in as partner with any one. I'll buy Pari-Sulay, but I'll put only ten boys on it and clear slowly. Also, I'll invest in some old ketch and take out a trading license. For that matter, I'll go recruiting on Malaita."

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