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[Pg 94]The thirty natives he had managed to secure before the business suffered a good bit at his hand in return for it. The captain and the mates had not been behindhand; some of the crew had run away, and the schooner was shorthanded; that did not add to their good temper. They tried to make the Solomon Islanders help in the working of the vessel, but these gentry had not engaged themselves for ship work, but plantation work, and they said so. The captain had booted some of them and threatened to shoot others, and generally the schooner seemed to have been a hard ship. There seemed the distinct evidence of a trail of drink over the whole business, and the upshot was death for the afterguard.

Death dealt with belaying pins and an ax wielded by the woolly-headed individual with the squint.

Two natives had been shot dead on the spot, one had been wounded, and had died of his wounds. Then the decks had been swabbed, and the precious crew, without a navigating officer or the faintest notion of their exact position, had made sail, or, rather, made a fair wind that was blowing, trusting to chance to take them somewhere.

They had touched the skirt of the big storm, but they managed to weather it, and, seeing the island in sight, had made for it.

"Well," said Schumer, "I believe you have been telling me the truth. I am here to do justice, and justice shall be done."

He rose up, and drawing Floyd aside, walked a few paces with him along the beach.

"That fellow with the squint was evidently the leader in this business," said he. "I am not thinking so much[Pg 95] of the trouble on board the schooner, for it's pretty evident that the old man and the mates and the recruiter deserved their gruel. What I am thinking of is the time before us. I am going to make these chaps work the fishery, and I don't want a potential murder leader among them. That wouldn't do at all. Besides, they must be shown at once their position in the scheme of things, and that position is laborers working for decent pay, but under a strong hand. Besides, all these fellows have murder on their conscience—or the thing, whatever it is, that serves for their conscience. That will always make them nervous and distrustful of white men. I can't clear their consciences, but I can clear their minds of the fear of consequences, and I am going to do it now.

"You have your revolver in your pocket; get your rifle, also, and come with me. We may have to fight; there's no knowing."

"I shouldn't mind if we have," said Floyd; "rotten murderers!"

"Oh, they are all right! They are only savages, doing according to their lights. They only require firmness to do according to the lights of civilization."

He went to the tent with Floyd, and they got their rifles and some extra ammunition. Then, with the help of Joe, they pushed the boat off.

The fellows on board watched the coming of the boat, evidently suspecting nothing, though they must have seen the rifles.

Schumer was the first to come on board, followed by Floyd.

They walked aft, and Joe, when he had finished securing the boat, followed them.

[Pg 96]Schumer sent him below for two deck chairs which he had seen in the saloon; they were placed close to the wheel, and the white men, taking their seats, and with the rifles across their knees, Schumer threw his old panama hat on the deck about fifteen paces away from where he was sitting, and ordered all hands aft for a palaver.

No man was to take a step beyond the hat.

They came up, some of them still smoking, some chewing, and all evidently wondering what was up, and what the bearded white man with the fixed, determined face had to say to them.

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