Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: She Devil
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0801241.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2008
Date most recently updated: October 2008

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


Title: She Devil
Author: Robert E. Howard



Outside, where dawn was just dispelling the fog-wisps from the South
Pacific waters, the sea was calm, but a typhoon was raging in the
cabin of the Saucy Wench. Most of the thunder was supplied by Captain
Harrigan--vociferous oratory, charged with brimstone and sulphur,
punctuated with resounding bangs of a hairy fist on the table across
which he was bellowing damnation and destruction at Raquel O'Shane,
who screamed back at him. Between them they were making so much noise
they did not hear the sudden shouting that burst forth on deck.

"Shut up!" bawled the captain. He was broad as a door and his
undershirt revealed a chest and arms muscled and hairy as an ape's. A
growth of whiskers bristled his jaws, and his eyes blazed. He was a
spectacle to daunt any woman, even if she had not known him as Bully
Harrigan, smuggler, blackbirder, pearl-thief and pirate, when
opportunity offered itself.

"Shut up!" he repeated. "One more yap out of you, you Spanish-Irish
gutter-snipe, and I'll bend one on your jaw!"

Being a man of primal impulses, he demonstrated his meaning by a
fervent swipe of a mallet-like fist, which Raquel dodged with the
agility of much practice. She was slim and supple, with foamy black
hair, dark eyes that blazed with deviltry, and an ivory-tinted skin,
heritage of her mixed Celtic-Latin blood, that made men's heads swim
at first sight. Her figure agitated by her movements, was a poem of
breath-taking grace.

"Pig!" she screamed. "Don't you dare lay a finger on me!" This was
purely rhetorical; Harrigan had laid a finger on her more than once
during the past weeks, to say nothing of whole fists, belaying pins,
and rope's ends. But she was still untamed.

She too banged the table and cursed in three languages.

"You've treated me like a dog all the way from Brisbane!" she raged.
"Getting tired of me, are you, after taking me away from a good job in
San Francisco--"

"I took you--" The enormity of the accusation choked the captain.
"Why, you Barbary Coast hussy, the first time I ever saw you was that
night you climbed aboard as we were pullin' out and begged me on your
blasted knees to take you to sea and save you from the cops, account
of your knifin' a Wop in that Water Street honky-tonk where you were
workin', you--"

"Don't you call me that!" she shrieked, doing a war-dance. "All I did
in that joint was dance! And I've played square with you, and now--"

"Now I'm sick of your tantrums," quoth Harrigan, downing a horse-sized
snort from a square-faced bottle. "They're too much even for a
good-hearted swab like me. As soon as we raise a civilized port, I'm goin'
to kick you off onto the docks. And you give me any more lip, and I'll
sell you to the first Kanaka chief I meet, you blasted hell-cat!"

That set her off again, like a match to the fuse of a sky-rocket. She
hit the roof, and for a few moments the cabin was so full of
impassioned feminine profanity it even drowned out Harrigan's roars.

"And where are we heading?" she demanded, remembering another
grievance. "I want to know! The crew wants to know! You've told us
nothing since we left Brisbane! We've picked up no cargo, and now
we've gotten into these God-forsaken seas where none of us knows where
we are, except you, and all you do is guzzle booze and study the
blasted chart!"

She snatched it from the table and brandished it accusingly.

"Gimme that!" he bellowed, grabbing wildly. She jumped back agilely,
sensing it was precious to him, and woman-like seizing the advantage.

"I won't! Not till you promise to quit knocking me around! Get back!
I'll throw it out the port-hole if you come any closer!" Her rapid
breathing, her agitation, made her loveliness devastating, but for the
moment, he had no eyes for that.

With a frantic roar Harrigan lunged, upsetting the table with a crash.
Raquel had raised a bigger hurricane than she had expected or
intended. She squealed in alarm and leaped back, the chart waving
wildly in her hand.

"Gimme that!" It was the howl of a lost soul. Harrigan's hair stood
straight up and his eyes bulged. Raquel yelped with terror, too
confused to make her peace by delivering the article requested. She
sprang backward, tripped over a chair and fell on her back, with a
shriek and an involuntary abandon that tossed her bare ivory-tinted
legs revealingly skyward. But Harrigan was blind to this entrancing
display. For as she fell, her arm, thrown out wildly, propelled the
chart through the air; and as the Devil always controls such things,
it sailed through the open port-hole.

Harrigan tore his hair and rushed for the port-hole. On deck an
ear-splitting racket had burst suddenly forth but the occupants of the
cabin ignored it. Harrigan, glaring pop-eyed from the port-hole, was
just in time to see the chart vanish on its way to Davy Jones's
locker, and his agonized howl paled all his previous efforts--so much
so that out in the passageway the bos'n, who had just reached the
cabin door in breathless haste, turned tail, and fled back the way he
had come. Raquel had risen, in apprehensive silence, and was making
some necessary adjustments in her garments. Her lovely eyes dilated at
the red glare in Harrigan's eyes as he wheeled toward her.

"You threw that away on purpose!" he choked. "A million dollars right
through the damn port-hole! I'll fix you--"

He lunged and she skipped back with a squeal, but not quickly enough.
His huge paw closed on a shoulder-strap. There was a shriek, a ripping
sound, and Raquel fled toward the door minus the dress which remained
in Harrigan's hand. He was after her instantly, but panic winged her
small feet. She beat him to the door and slammed it in his face, and
even tried to hold it against him until convinced of her folly by a
big fist which, crashing through the panels, grazed her dainty nose,
filling her eyes with stars and tears. She yipped pitifully, abandoned
the door, and fled up the companion-way, a startling figure in
slippers and pink chemise.

After her came Captain Harrigan, a bellowing, red-eyed, hairy
monstrosity whose only passion was to sweep the deck from poop to
forecastle with that supple, half-naked body.

In their different emotions of fright and fury they were not, even
then, aware of the clamor going on upon the deck, until they came full
on a scene so unique it even checked Harrigan short in his tracks.

Not so Raquel; she scampered across the deck, unnoticed by the mob
milling in the waist, and sprang into the main shrouds before she
turned and stared at the spectacle which had halted Harrigan.

Hemmed in by a ring of blaspheming seamen the mate, Buck Richardson,
was locked in combat with a stranger whose breeches (his only garment)
dripped sea-water. That Mr. Richardson should be battling a stranger
was not unique; what was unique was that Mr. Richardson, the terror of
a thousand ports, bucko deluxe and hazer extraordinary, was getting
the prime essence of hell beaten out of him. His opponent was as big
as he--a broad-shouldered, clean-waisted, heavy-armed man with wetly
plastered black hair, blue eyes that blazed with the joy of mayhem,
and lips that grinned savagely even when, as now, they were smeared
with blood.

He fought with gusto that horrified even his hard-boiled audience.
Continually he plunged in, head down, not blindly like a bull, but
with his eyes open--except the one the mate had closed--hammering the
luckless bucko like a blacksmith pounding an anvil. Richardson was
bleeding like a stuck pig, and spitting pieces of broken teeth. He was
blowing like a porpoise and in his one good eye there was a desperate
gleam.

"Who's that?" demanded Harrigan aghast. "Where'd he come from?"

"We sighted him just as the fog lifted," said the bos'n, spitting
carefully to leeward. "He was driftin' along in a open boat, balin'
and cussin' somethin' fierce. His boat sunk under him before he could
get it to the ship, and he swum for it. A shark tried to scoff him on
the way, but he kicked its brains out or bit it in the neck, or done
somethin' atrocious to it. That's Wild Bill Clanton!"

"The hell it is!" grunted the captain, staring with new interest. Then
he swore as Clanton bashed Mr. Richardson on the snout with appalling
results. "They're bleedin' all over my clean deck!"

"Well," said the bos'n, "as soon as he clumb over the rail he seen the
mate and went for him. From the remarks they passed before they was
too winded to cuss, I gathered that Buck stole a gal from Clanton
once. I went after you, but you seemed busy, so I just let 'em fight."

Bam! Mr. Clanton's left mauler met Mr. Richardson's midriff with an
impact that sounded like the smack of a loose boom against a wet sail.
Bam! A mallet-like right-hander to the jaw and Mr. Richardson went
reeling backward and brought up against the rail with a crack that
would have fractured the skull of anybody except a bucko mate on a
trading schooner.

Clanton went for him with a blood-thirsty yell--then his eyes
encountered Raquel, poised in the ratlines. He stopped short, batted
his eyes, his mouth wide open as he glared wildly at the ivory-tinted
vision posed against the blue, in a sheer wisp of pink silk that
tempted even as it concealed little.

"Holy saints of Hell!" breathed Clanton in awe--and at this instant
Mr. Richardson, a bloody ruin, lurched away from the rail with a
belaying pin. Bam! It crashed on Clanton's head and that warrior bit
the deck. Mr. Richardson croaked gratefully and bestowed himself
lovingly on his victim's bosom, naively intent on beating his brains
out with his trusty belaying pin. But Clanton anticipated his design
by drawing up his legs, after the manner of a panther fighting on its
back, and, receiving the hurtling mate on his feet and knees, he
catapulted Mr. Richardson over his head.

The mate smote the deck headfirst and reverberantly, and this time the
impact was too much even for his adamantine skull. But Clanton,
bounding up, observed some faint signs of life still, and sought to
correct this oversight by leaping ardently and with both feet on the
mate's bosom.

"Grab him!" yelled Harrigan. "He's killin' the mate!"

As no spectacle could have pleased the crew better than Mr.
Richardson's violent demise, they made no move to obey. Harrigan ran
forward blasphemously and tugging forth an enormous revolver thrust it
under the nose of Mr. Clanton who eyed it and its owner without favor.

"Are you the cap'n of this mud-scow?" Clanton demanded.

"I am, by God!" gnashed Mr. Harrigan. "I'm Bully Harrigan! What are
you doin' on board my ship?"

"I've been keepin' a damned sieve of a boat afloat for a day and a
night," retorted the other. "I was mate aboard the Damnation, out of
Bristol. The cap'n didn't like Americans. After I won his share of the
cargo at draw poker, he welshed and put me afloat--with the aid of the
crew."

Harrigan broodingly visualized the battle that must have required!

"Carry the mate to his bunk and bring him to," he ordered the men.
"And for you, Clanton, you'll work for your passage! Get for'ard!"

Clanton ignored the command. He was again staring at the vision
clinging to the ratlines. Raquel peeped at him approvingly, noting the
clean-cut muscular symmetry that was his.

"Who's that?" he inquired, and all turned to stare. Harrigan roared
like a sea-lion with awakened memory.

"Drag her down!" he yelled. "Tie her to the mast! I'll--"

"Don't touch me!" shrieked Raquel. "I'll jump and drown myself!"

She didn't mean that, but she sounded as though she did. Clanton
reached the rail with a tigerish bound, caught her wrist, and whipped
her down onto the deck before she knew what was happening.

"Oh!" she gasped, staring at him with dilated eyes. He was bronzed by
the sun of the Seven Seas, and his torso was ridged with clean hard
cords of muscles. In fierce admiration his gaze devoured her from her
trim ankles to the foamy burnished mass of her hair.

"Good work, Clanton!" roared Harrigan, striding forward. "Hold her!"
Raquel wailed despairfully, but Harrigan, reaching for her, had his
hand knocked aside, and he paused and goggled stupidly at Clanton.

"Avast!" roared Clanton gustily. "That's no way to treat a lady!"

"Lady, hell!" bleated Harrigan. "Do you know what she just did? Threw
away my chart! The only dash-blank chart in the world that could show
me how to find the island of Aragoa!"

"Was we goin' there, cap'n?" asked the bos'n.

"Yes, we was!" yelled Harrigan. "And what for? I'll tell you! Ambegis.
A barrel full! At thirty-two dollars an ounce! You bilge-rats been
grousin' to know where we were sailin' to--all right, I'll tell you!
And then I'm goin' to tie that wench up and skin her stern with a
rope's end!

"A few months ago a blackbirder bound for Australia went on a reef in
a storm, off a desert island, and nobody but the mate got ashore
alive. They'd found a mess of the stuff floatin' on the water, and
filled a big barrel with it--and it floated ashore with him. The mate
stood the solitude of the island as long as he could, and then took to
sea in the ship's boat he'd patched up. He'd salvaged a chart and
marked the island's position. He'd been weeks at sea when I picked him
up, on my last voyage from Honolulu to Brisbane. He was ravin' and let
slip about the ambergris--I mean he was that grateful to me for savin'
him he told me all about it, and gimme the chart for safekeepin', and
right after that he got delirious and fell overboard and drowned--"

Somebody laughed sardonically and Harrigan glared murderously around.

"He called the island Aragoa," he growled. "It ain't on no other
chart. And now that the daughter of Jezebel has fed that chart to the
sharks--"

"Why, hell!" quoth Clanton. "Is that all? Why, I can steer you to
Aragoa without any blasted chart! I've been there a dozen times!"

Harrigan started and looked at him searchingly.

"Are you lyin'?"

"Belay with those insults!" said Clanton heatedly. "I won't take you
anywhere unless you promise not to punish the girl."

"All right," snarled Harrigan, and Raquel sighed in relief. "But!"
brandishing his gun in Clanton's face, "if you're lyin', I'll feed you
to the sharks! Take the wheel and lay a course for Aragoa. You don't
leave the poop till we raise land!"

"I've got to have food," growled Clanton.

"Tell it to the cook. Then get hold of that wheel." Reminded suddenly
of Raquel's lightly-clad condition he roared: "Get below and get some
clothes on, you shameless slut!"

A heavy toe emphasized the command by a direct hit astern, and she
fled squeaking for the companion.

Clanton scowled, descended into the galley, and bullied the Chinese
cook into setting out a feed that would have taxed the capacity of a
horse. Having disposed of this, he swaggered up the poop ladder and
took the wheel. The men watched him with interest, which was shared by
Raquel, peeping from the companion. She had heard of him: who in the
South Seas had not? A wild adventurer roaring on a turbulent career
that included everything from pearl-diving to piracy, he was a man at
least, not a beast like Harrigan.

Her flesh tingled deliciously with the feel of his strong grasp on her
rounded arm; she was consumed with eagerness for more intimate contact
with him, but the opportunity did not come until night had fallen and
the powerful figure stood in solitary grandeur at the wheel.

His shoulders bulked against the South Sea stars as he held the
schooner to her course; he might have posed for the image of intrepid
exploration until a slender figure glided up the poop ladder.

"Does Harrigan know you're out here?" he demanded.

"He sleeps like a pig," she answered, her great dark eyes sad and
wistful in the starlight. "He is a pig." She whimpered a little and
leaned against him as if seeking pity and protection.

"Poor kid," he said with grand compassion, slipping a protecting arm
about her waist--the paternal effect of which was somewhat marred by
his patting of the swelling slope of a firm hip. A luxurious shudder
ran through her supple body and she snuggled closer within the bend of
his muscular arm and pressed her cheek against his shoulder.

"What did Harrigan say was the name of that island?" he asked.

"Aragoa!" she jerked her head back and stared at him, startled. "I
thought you said you knew about it!"

"Never heard of it!" he declared. "I just said that to save you!"

"Oh!" she stood aghast. "What will we do when he finds out you lied?"

"I dunno," he answered. "We're in a jam that requires thought and
concentration. Sneak down and steal me a few bottles of Harrigan's
booze."

She cast him an uncertain glance, but moved away down the ladder,
softly as an ivory-hued shadow, to return presently with an arm-ful of
darkly gleaming bottles that made Clanton's eyes glisten. He lashed
the wheel, casually sighting at a star on the horizon, and sat down by
the rail.

"Set 'em down here," he requested, and when she complied, he grabbed
her before she could straighten and pulled her down on his lap. For
convention's sake she struggled faintly for a moment, and then her
arms went convulsively around his corded neck, and she gave him her
full red lips in a kiss that he felt clear to the tips of his toes.

"Judas!" During the entire course of a roving life he had never
encountered a human volcano like this before. He shook his head to
clear the swimming brain, took a deep breath and dived. When he came
up for air, she was gasping too, quivering from the dynamic impact of
his kisses.

Contentedly he knocked the neck off the bottle, took a deep swig and
held it to her lips. She merely sipped; the night was still young, and
she needed no alcoholic stimulant to drive the hot blood racing
through her veins. It was already breaking all speed records.

Clanton did not need any stimulants either; but drank because he was
thirsty; because liquor was to him what moonlight and perfume are to
some men. At each swig he gulped as though he were trying to see the
bottom.

By the time he had tossed an empty overboard he was saying: "To hell
with Harrigan! If he gets gay with me, I'll kick his teeth out! I
don't believe there's any such damn' place as Aragoa, anyway!"

"Who cares?" she breathed, leaning her supple back against his breast,
and lifting her arms up and back to encircle his brawny neck. He ran
an appreciative hand over a warm, rounded shoulder, and let his other
hand rest on a knee.

Just as grey dawn stole over the sea, a terrific shock ran through the
Saucy Wench. There was a crash in the galley, blasphemy in the
forecastle, as men fell out of their bunks. The schooner lurched
drunkenly--and remained motionless, with a list to starboard. Preceded
by a blue-streaked haze of profanity Harrigan came hurtling from the
companion and pranced up the poop ladder in his drawers.

"What the blitherin' hell?" he screamed. "My God, we're aground!"

From a litter of empty bottles Clanton rose unsteadily, stretched,
yawned, spat and stared appreciatively at the jungle-fringed beach
which--with only a narrow strip of shallow water between--stretched
away from under the port bow.

"There's your island, Bully!" he announced with a magnificent gesture.

Harrigan tore his hair and howled like a wolf. "Did you have to run
her onto the beach, you son of a slut?"

"That could have happened to anybody," asserted Clanton, and added
reprovingly: "Where's your pants?"

But the captain had seen the broken bottles, and his howl had all the
poignancy of a stricken soul. Then he saw something else. Raquel,
awakened by the noise, rose uncertainly, rubbing her eyes childishly.
She made a face, tasting again all the square-face she had guzzled the
night before.

Harrigan turned purple; his arm windmilled, to the fascination of the
crew who watched from the deck below. He found words, lurid and
frenetic.

"You stole my liquor!" he roared. "You had my girl here all night!
You've run my ship aground, and by God, I'm goin' to kill you,
ambergris or no ambergris!"

He reached for his gun, only to discover that he wore neither gun nor
belt. Bellowing he snatched a belaying pin from the rail and made at
Clanton who smote him with such effect that the captain's head
fractured the binnacle as his whole body performed a parabola
backward.

At this moment a frightful figure appeared at the head of the
starboard ladder--Mr. Richardson, bedecked in bandages, and with one
good eye gleaming eerily. Not even such a beating as he'd received
yesterday could long keep a true bucko in his bunk. In his hand was a
revolver, and this he fired point-blank. But Mr. Richardson's one good
eye was bleared, and his aim was not good. His bullet merely burned a
welt across Clanton's ribs, and before he could fire again, Clanton's
foot, striking his breastbone with great violence, catapulted him
headlong down the ladder at the foot of which his head again met the
deck with a force that rendered him temporarily hors-de-combat.

But Captain Harrigan had seized the opportunity to flee down the port
ladder yelling: "Gimme my gun! I'll shoot 'em both!"

"Overboard!" yelled Clanton to Raquel, and then as she hesitated, he
grabbed her around the waist, tossed her over the rail, and leaped
after her.

The plunge into the water snapped her out of her hangover; she
screamed, gasped, and then struck out for the beach, followed by
Clanton. They reached it just as Harrigan appeared on the poop with a
triumphant howl and a Winchester, with which he opened up on them as
they raced across the sands and dived into the trees.

Under cover Clanton paused and looked back. The antics of Harrigan on
the poop moved him to hearty guffaws, smiting his dripping thigh.
Raquel glared at him, wringing out her skirt, and raking back a wet
strand of hair.

"What's so funny about being marooned?" she demanded angrily.

He spanked her jocosely and replied: "Don't worry, kid. When the
schooner sails, we'll be on her. You stay here and watch 'em while I
go inland and look for fruit and fresh water. She's not stuck bad;
they can warp her off."

"All right." She shucked her wet dress and hung it up to dry, while
she lay down on her stomach on the soft dry sand to peer through the
bushes at the ship. She made an alluring picture thus, her pink
chemise dripping from their submersion, fitting her tighter than a
glove. Clanton admired the view for a moment, and then departed
through the trees, striding lightly and softly for so big a man.

Raquel lay there, watching the men piling into boats, with hawsers,
where presently they were employed in yanking the schooner loose,
stern-first, by main strength and profanity. But it was slow work. The
sun rose, and Raquel got impatient. She was hungry and very, very
thirsty.

She donned her dress, now dry, and started out to look for Clanton.
The trees were denser than she had thought, and she soon lost sight of
the beach. Presently she had to climb over a big log, and when she
leaped down on the other side, a bramble bush caught up her skirt,
twisting it high about her ivory thighs. She twisted about in vain,
unable to reach the clinging branch or to free her skirt.

As she squirmed and swore, a light step sounded behind her, and
without looking around she commanded, "Bill, untangle me!"

Obligingly a firm masculine hand grasped her skirt and freed it from
the branch, by the simple process of raising it several inches. But
her rescuer did not then lower the garment; indeed Raquel felt him
pull it up even higher--much higher!

"Quit clowning," she requested, turning her head--and then she opened
her lovely mouth to its widest extent and emitted a yell that startled
the birds in the trees. The man who was holding her skirt in such an
indelicate position was not Clanton. He was a big Kanaka in
breech-clout. Raquel made a convulsive effort to escape, but a big brown
arm encircled her supple waist. In an instant the peaceful glade was a
hurricane-center, punctuated by lusty shrieks that a big hand clapped
over red-lipped mouth could not altogether stifle.

Clanton heard those screams as he glided like a big bronzed tiger
toward the beach. They acted on him like a jolt of electricity. The
next instant he was in full career through the jungle, leaving behind
him a sizzling wake of profanity. Crashing through the bushes, he
burst full onto a scene, striking in its primitive simplicity.

Raquel was defending her virtue as vigorously as civilized nations
defend mythical possessions. Her dress had been torn half off and her
white body and limbs contrasted vividly with the brown skin of her
captor. He wasn't all brown, though; he was red in spots, for she had
bitten him freely. So much so that irritation entered into his ardor,
and, momentarily abandoning his efforts to subdue her by more pleasant
means, he drew back an enormous fist for a clout calculated to waft
her into dreamland.

It was at this moment that Clanton arrived on the scene and his bare
foot, describing a terrific arc, caught the Kanaka under his haunches
and somersaulted him clear over his captive, who scurried to her
protector on her all-fours.

"Didn't I tell you to stay on the beach?" Wham! In his irritation
Clanton emphasized his reproof with a resounding, open-handed slap
where he could reach her easiest. Raquel's shriek was drowned in a
vengeful roar. The Kanaka had regained his feet and was bounding
toward them, swinging a knotty-headed war club he had leaned against a
tree when he stole up on Raquel.

He lunged with a yell and a swing that would have spattered Clanton's
brains all over the glade if it had landed. But it flailed empty air
as Clanton left his feet in a headlong dive that carried him under the
swipe and crashed his shoulders against the Kanaka's legs. Bam! They
hit the earth together and the club flew out of the native's hand.

The next instant they were rolling all over the glade in a desperate
dog-fight, gouging and slugging. Then Clanton, in the midst of their
frantic revolutions, perceived that Raquel had secured the club and
was dancing about, trying to get a swipe at his antagonist. Clanton,
knowing the average accuracy of a woman's aim, was horrified. The
Kanaka had him by the throat, trying to drive thumbs and fingers
through the thick cords of muscle that protected the white man's
wind-pipe and jugular, but it was the risk of being accidentally brained
by a wild swipe of Raquel's club that galvanized Clanton to more
desperate energy.

Fighting for an instant's purchase, he drove his knee into the
Kanaka's groin, and the man gasped and doubled convulsively. Clanton
broke away, kicking him heavily in the belly. Surprisingly the warrior
gave a maddened yell, grabbed the foot and twisted it savagely.
Clanton whirled to save himself a broken leg, and fell to his
all-fours. At the same moment Raquel swung the too-heavy club. She missed
as the Kanaka ducked, and she sprawled on her belly in the sand. Both
men gained their feet simultaneously, but the Kanaka reached for the
club. As he bent over Clanton swung his right over-hand like a hammer
and with about the same effect. It crashed behind the Kanaka's ear
with the impact of a caulking maul. The Kanaka stretched out in the
sand without a quiver.

Raquel leaped up and threw herself hysterically in Clanton's arms. He
shook her loose, with lurid language.

"No time for a pettin' party! There's a whole village of the
illegitimates over toward the other side of the island. I saw it! Come
on!" He grabbed her wrist and fled toward the beach with her, panting:
"Thick brush, men cussin' on the ship. They wouldn't hear the racket
we've made--I hope." She didn't ask why. She clutched her tattered
dress about her as she ran.

They burst onto the beach, and saw that the Saucy Wench was afloat;
she was anchored in clear water off the shore, and Harrigan was oiling
his rifle on the poop, with the be-bandaged Richardson beside him.

"Ahoy!" yelled Clanton from behind a tree. "Harrigan! I've found your
ambergris!"

Harrigan started violently and glared, head-down like a surly bear.

"What's that? Where are you? Show yourself!"

"And get shot? Like hell! But I'll make a trade with you. I've hidden
the stuff where you'll never find it. But I'll lead you to it if
you'll promise to take us aboard and put us ashore at some civilized
port!"

"You fool!" whispered Raquel, kicking his shins. "He'll promise
anything, and then shoot us when he's got the loot!"

But Harrigan was bellowing back across the strip of blue water.

"All right! Let bygones be bygones! I'm comin' ashore!"

A few moments later a boat was making for the beach. Raquel danced in
her nervousness; her torn dress revealed flashing expanses of ivory
flesh.

"Are you crazy? They'll kill us! And that native you knocked out will
come to and get his tribe and--"

He grinned and stepped out on the beach, pulling her with him.

"They won't shoot us till I show them the ambergris! I'll take
Harrigan inland; you wait here at the boat. And let me do the
talkin'!"

She was not in the habit of meekly taking orders, but she lapsed into
sulky and bewildered silence. She was badly scared.

Harrigan and Richardson piled out before the boat grounded. The
captain had a Winchester, the mate a shotgun. They covered Clanton
instantly.

"Stay here!" the captain told the half dozen men who had rowed him
ashore. "Now then, Clanton, lead us to that ambergris, and no tricks!"

"Follow me!" Clanton led them into the jungle while behind at the
boat, Raquel watched with dilated eyes and crawling flesh.

Clanton swung wide of the glade where--he hoped--the Kanaka still lay
senseless. Hardly out of sight of the beach he stumbled over a root
and fell. Sitting up he groaned, cursed and tenderly felt of his
ankle.

"Blast the luck! It's broken! You'll have to rig a stretcher and carry
me!"

"Carry you, hell!!" snorted Harrigan. "Tell us where the loot is, and
we'll go on and find it ourselves."

"Go straight on about three hundred yards." groaned Clanton. "Till you
come to a clump of sago-palms. Then turn to the left and go on till
you come to a pool of fresh water. I rolled the barrel in there."

"All right," grunted Harrigan. "And if we don't find it, we'll shoot
you when we get back."

"And we're goin' to shoot you whether we find it or not!" snarled
Richardson. "That's why we left the men on the beach--didn't want no
witnesses! And we're goin' to leave that wench to starve here with
your skeleton when we sail. How you like that, huh?"

Clanton registered horrified despair, and both men chortled brutally
as they strode away. They vanished among the trees, and Clanton waited
a minute--five--ten--then he sprang up and sprinted for the beach.

He burst onto the beach so suddenly the bos'n nearly shot him.

"Pile in and row for the ship, Quick!" he yelled. "Cannibals! They've
got Harrigan and the mate! Listen!"

Back in the jungle rose a sudden bedlam of shots and blood-freezing
yells. It was enough. No heroic soul proposed a rescuing sortie. In
another instant the boat was scudding for the schooner. Its occupants
swarmed up the side, spurred by the rising clamor that was approaching
through the jungle. Clanton stood on the poop and yelled orders, and
they were obeyed without question.

The anchor came up with a rush, and the Saucy Wench was standing out
to sea by the time the tribesman danced out on the beach. They swarmed
to the water's edge, three or four hundred of them, yelling
vengefully. One waved a blood-splashed shotgun, another a broken
Winchester.

Clanton grinned; the directions he had given his enemies had led them
accurately--straight into the native village! He thumbed his nose at
the baffled barbarians on the beach, and turned and addressed the
crew.

"As the only man aboard who can navigate, and owner of the ship, I'm
assuming the position of cap'n! Do I hear any objections?"

The bos'n demanded: "What you mean, owner of ship?"

"Me and Harrigan matched pennies," asserted Clanton. "My share of the
ambergris against the ship. I won."

"What about the ambergris?" demanded a hardy soul.

Clanton nodded back toward the receding beach. "Anybody that wants to
swim back there and fight those boys for it, is welcome to try!"

In the self-conscious silence that followed, he barked suddenly: "All
right, get to work! Tail onto those lines! There's a breeze makin' and
we're headin' for the Solomons for a load of niggers for Queensland!"

As the crew jumped briskly, Raquel nudged him.

"You didn't find that ambergris," she said, her eyes ablaze with
admiration. "That wasn't even the right island. That was all a lie!"

"I doubt if there ever was any ambergris," quoth he. "The fellow that
made that chart was probably crazy. To hell with it!" He patted her
plump hip possessively and added: "I reckon you go with the ship; that
bein' the case I want to see you down in the cap'n's cabin, right
away!"


THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia