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0100_005E Adventure Jack London

Mr. Morgan And Mr. Raff

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"What you think?" she asked Ornfiri.

"Sheldon marster big fella walk about along Sydney. Yes, me t'ink so. He finish along Berande."

All day the examination of the plantation and the discussion went on; and all day the skipper of the Malakula sent urgent messages ashore for the two men to hasten. It was not until sunset that they went down to the boat, and even then a final talk of nearly an hour took place on the beach. Sheldon was combating something-- that she could plainly see; and that his two visitors were not giving in she could also plainly see.

"What name?" she asked lightly, when Sheldon sat down to dinner.

He looked at her and smiled, but it was a very wan and wistful smile.

"My word," she went on. "One big fella talk. Sun he go down-- talk-talk; sun he come up--talk-talk; all the time talk-talk. What name that fella talk-talk?

"Oh, nothing much." He shrugged his shoulders. "They were trying to buy Berande, that was all."

She looked at him challengingly.

"It must have been more than that. It was you who wanted to sell."

"Indeed, no, Miss Lackland; I assure you that I am far from desiring to sell."

"Don't let us fence about it," she urged. "Let it be straight talk between us. You're in trouble. I'm not a fool. Tell me. Besides, I may be able to help, to--to suggest something."

In the pause that followed, he seemed to debate, not so much whether he would tell her, as how to begin to tell her.

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"I'm American, you see," she persisted, "and our American heritage is a large parcel of business sense. I don't like it myself, but I know I've got it--at least more than you have. Let us talk it over and find a way out. How much do you owe?"

"A thousand pounds, and a few trifles over--small bills, you know. Then, too, thirty of the boys finish their time next week, and their balances will average ten pounds each. But what is the need of bothering your head with it? Really, you know--"

"What is Berande worth?--right now?"

"Whatever Morgan and Raff are willing to pay for it." A glance at her hurt expression decided him. "Hughie and I have sunk eight thousand pounds in it, and our time. It is a good property, and worth more than that. But it has three years to run before its returns begin to come in. That is why Hughie and I engaged in trading and recruiting. The Jessie and our stations came very near to paying the running expenses of Berande."

"And Morgan and Raff offered you what?"

"A thousand pounds clear, after paying all bills."

"The thieves!" she cried.

"No, they're good business men, that is all. As they told me, a thing is worth no more than one is willing to pay or to receive."

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