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Adventure Jack London

The Martha

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"Ten," said Tudor; "nine men and myself."

"And you should be able to start day after to-morrow," Von Blix said to him. "The boats should practically be knocked together this afternoon. To-morrow should see the outfit portioned and packed. As for the Martha, Mr. Sheldon, we'll rush the stuff ashore this afternoon and sail by sundown."

As the two men returned down the path to their boat, Sheldon regarded Joan quizzically.

"There's romance for you," he said, "and adventure--gold-hunting among the cannibals."

"A title for a book," she cried. "Or, better yet, 'Gold-Hunting Among the Head-Hunters.' My! wouldn't it sell!"

"And now aren't you sorry you became a cocoanut planter?" he teased. "Think of investing in such an adventure."

"If I did," she retorted, "Von Blix wouldn't be finicky about my joining in the cruise to Malaita."

"I don't doubt but what he would jump at it."

"What do you think of them?" she asked.

"Oh, old Von Blix is all right, a solid sort of chap in his fashion; but Tudor is fly-away--too much on the surface, you know. If it came to being wrecked on a desert island, I'd prefer Von Blix."

"I don't quite understand," Joan objected. "What have you against Tudor?"

"You remember Browning's 'Last Duchess'?"

She nodded.

"Well, Tudor reminds me of her--"

"But she was delightful."

"So she was. But she was a woman. One expects something different from a man--more control, you know, more restraint, more deliberation. A man must be more solid, more solid and steady-going and less effervescent. A man of Tudor's type gets on my nerves. One demands more repose from a man."

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Joan felt that she did not quite agree with his judgment; and, somehow, Sheldon caught her feeling and was disturbed. He remembered noting how her eyes had brightened as she talked with the newcomer--confound it all, was he getting jealous? he asked himself. Why shouldn't her eyes brighten? What concern was it of his?

A second boat had been lowered, and the outfit of the shore party was landed rapidly. A dozen of the crew put the knocked-down boats together on the beach. There were five of these craft--lean and narrow, with flaring sides, and remarkably long. Each was equipped with three paddles and several iron-shod poles.

"You chaps certainly seem to know river-work," Sheldon told one of the carpenters.

The man spat a mouthful of tobacco-juice into the white sand, and answered, -

"We use 'em in Alaska. They're modelled after the Yukon poling-boats, and you can bet your life they're crackerjacks. This creek'll be a snap alongside some of them Northern streams. Five hundred pounds in one of them boats, an' two men can snake it along in a way that'd surprise you."

At sunset the Martha broke out her anchor and got under way, dipping her flag and saluting with a bomb gun. The Union Jack ran up and down the staff, and Sheldon replied with his brass signal-cannon. The miners pitched their tents in the compound, and cooked on the beach, while Tudor dined with Joan and Sheldon.

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