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Jerry of the Islands Jack London

Chapter IX

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"My word," Van Horn came back, "too much along this place. Bime by, close up, big fella warship stop 'm along Su'u, knock seven balls outa Su'u."

"What name him big fella warship stop 'm along Solomons?" Ishikola demanded.

"Big fella Cambrian, him fella name belong ship," Van Horn lied, too well aware that no British cruiser had been in the Solomons for the past two years.

The conversation was becoming rather a farcical dissertation upon the relations that should obtain between states, irrespective of size, when it was broken off by a cry from Tambi, who, with another lantern hanging overside at the end of his arm had made a discovery.

"Skipper, gun he stop along canoe!" was his cry.

Van Horn, with a leap, was at the rail and peering down over the barbed wire. Ishikola, despite his twisted body, was only seconds behind him.

"What name that fella gun stop 'm along bottom?" Van Horn indignantly demanded.

The dandy, in the stern, with a careless look upward, tried with his foot to shove over the green leaves so as to cover the out-jutting butts of several rifles, but made the matter worse by exposing them more fully. He bent to rake the leaves over with his hand, but sat swiftly upright when Van Horn roared at him:

"Stand clear! Keep 'm fella hand belong you long way big bit!"

Van Horn turned on Ishikola, and simulated wrath which he did not feel against the ancient and ever-recurrent trick.

"What name you come alongside, gun he stop along canoe belong you?" he demanded.

The old salt-water chief rolled his one eye and blinked a fair simulation of stupidity and innocence.

"My word, me cross along you too much," Van Horn continued. "Ishikola, you plenty bad fella boy. You get 'm to hell overside."

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The old fellow limped across the deck with more agility than he had displayed coming aboard, straddled the barbed wire without assistance, and without assistance dropped into the canoe, cleverly receiving his weight on his uninjured leg. He blinked up for forgiveness and in reassertion of innocence. Van Horn turned his face aside to hide a grin, and then grinned outright when the old rascal, showing his empty pipe, wheedled up:

"Suppose 'm five stick tobacco you give 'm along me?"

While Borckman went below for the tobacco, Van Horn orated to Ishikola on the sacred solemnity of truth and promises. Next, he leaned across the barbed wire and handed down the five sticks of tobacco.

"My word," he threatened. "Somo day, Ishikola, I finish along you altogether. You no good friend stop along salt-water. You big fool stop along bush."

When Ishikola attempted protest, he shut him off with, "My word, you gammon along me too much."

Still the canoe lingered. The dandy's toe strayed privily to feel out the butts of the Sniders under the green leaves, and Ishikola was loth to depart.

"Washee-washee!" Van Horn cried with imperative suddenness.

The paddlers, without command from chief or dandy, involuntarily obeyed, and with deep, strong strokes sent the canoe into the encircling darkness. Just as quickly Van Horn changed his position on deck to the tune of a dozen yards, so that no hazarded bullet might reach him. He crouched low and listened to the wash of paddles fade away in the distance.

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Jerry of the Islands
Jack London

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