The Queen's Emerald can be found in

Man Stories, May 1931

 A Story of the South Sea Islands 

The Queen's Emerald

by Lee Willenborg

THE rattle of the anchor chain thru the hawse-pipe came across the water of Nangu harbor, and caused Tondo Sam to glance up from his glass with a look of surprise. It was second drink time. He lurched to his feet with more ease than his huge bulk would lead one to expect. The windows gave out over the harbor; but Sam could not read the name of the strange vessel thru the mosquito netting. He went behind the bar and got a field glass. Horace Manly followed him out upon the veranda; and, while Sam gazed and gave utterance to an occasional grunt, Horace stroked his walrus-like mustache, and waited.

Horace was used to waiting; not the waiting that is a part of strategy; but the waiting of failure and futility. Life had not been kind to him. Nor—it might be truthfully said—had he done particularly well with Life. It had painted a record of, hopelessness on the wrinkled brow, and the leathery pouches under the eyes. The only thing Horace didn't wait for was the chance to buy rum or gin when his quarterly remittance came. And his next remittance wasn't due for six weeks; therefore, his waiting this morning had a tinge of chronic boredom in it.

"It's Ben Curry's old hooker, Sea Queen," Sam vouchsafed finally. "Tricked out in white paint, huh! I'll bet she still stinks of shell and copra. What the hell is Ben up to now, I wonder."

"She's an awkward old tub, spite of enamel and brass trimmings," said Horace.

"Yeh," Sam answered, "and she's been in plenty awkward situations, if you ask me."

A LIFE boat with a crew of five Kanakas and two white men lowered smoothly from the davits. The crew caught the water like a racing eight, and came toward the wharf of the South Sea Trading Company, Inc.

Sam remained on the veranda long enough to convince himself that one of the white men was a stranger, and the other one was Captain Ben Curry. Then he went inside. Horace followed; he could wait in Sam's tap-room as easily as anywhere.

Five minutes later, Captain Ben entered.

"This," said he, "is Mr. Roper."

Mr. Roper shook hands with Sam and Horace in turn.

"What's the idear of the white paint and fixin's on the old Sea Queen, Ben?" Sam demanded.

Ben laughed.

"She don't belong to me no more," he explained. "Syndicate of Australian money took her over and remodeled her for passenger service."

Sam snorted contemptuously.

"Passenger service! In this outa-the-way corner of the world? Huh! I reckon you have the pick of the women passengers set at your table, eh? Well, you could tell 'em some things that would make 'em go pale clear thru the paint on their cheeks, and no need to stretch the facts."

"Stow that!" the captain ordered.

His tone was low, but deadly; his eyes gleamed like amber ice.

"Did you get my letter?" Sam demanded.

"I'm here, ain't I?"

"Yeh, tricked out in a fancy rigged boat, with captain's papers, and all that!" Sam sneered. "I don't like it!"

"You damned dumb land-lubber!" the captain retorted. "I been in a dozen deals with you, and you never yet showed a spark of sense. You said, in your letter, that this job meant some travelling, didn't you?"


"Well, there's your transportation," Captain Ben answered, with a gesture toward the anchored Sea Queen. "And be damned thankful she's a sea- worthy old hooker in spite of her white paint." "But your friend here?"

"He's going on to Friday Island," Ben explained. "I gave him a lift this far. If your business takes us to Friday, I'll carry him there. Now, let's get all the facts of this here venture of yours."

"That's for me and you only, Ben," Sam said evenly.

"Nix!" Captain Ben retorted. "Horace here is in on it; that would make you two to one. That's why I brought Roper along."

"I don't know Roper, nor nothing about him."

"You don't need to know," Captain Ben replied. "I vouch for him; if that ain't enough, we'll be on our way."

"I could get any one of a half dozen reliable men that I know."

"Get 'em, then."

"Oh, all right!" Sam said wearily. "Horace, broach a bottle of rum from the ice chest, and a coupla clean glasses."

He led the way to a tiny cubicle of a room with two windows six feet above the floor. A thousand cock-roaches walked hither and yon over the scarred paint of the woodwork; and a coconut palm scratched its fronds irritatingly against one of the windows. In the subdued light, Sam seemed a gros...

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