“A Binu man was in early this morning—for medicine,” Sheldon remarked. “It may have been that very brute that was responsible. A dozen of the Binu women were out, and the foremost one stepped right on a big crocodile. It was by the edge of the water, and he tumbled her over and got her by the leg. All the other women got hold of her and pulled. And in the tug of war she lost her leg, below the knee, he said. I gave him a stock of antiseptics. She’ll pull through, I fancy.”
“Ugh—the filthy beasts,” Joan gulped shudderingly. “I hate them! I hate them!”
“And yet you go diving among sharks,” Sheldon chided.
“They’re only fish-sharks. And as long as there are plenty of fish there is no danger. It is only when they’re famished that they’re liable to take a bite.”
Sheldon shuddered inwardly at the swift vision that arose of the dainty flesh of her in a shark’s many-toothed maw.
“I wish you wouldn’t, just the same,” he said slowly. “You acknowledge there is a risk.”
“But that’s half the fun of it,” she cried.
A trite platitude about his not caring to lose her was on his lips, but he refrained from uttering it. Another conclusion he had arrived at was that she was not to be nagged. Continual, or even occasional, reminders of his feeling for her would constitute a tactical error of no mean dimensions.
“Some for the book of verse, some for the simple life, and some for the shark’s belly,” he laughed grimly, then added: “Just the same, I wish I could swim as well as you. Maybe it would beget confidence such as you have.”
“Do you know, I think it would be nice to be married to a man such as you seem to be becoming,” she remarked, with one of her abrupt changes that always astounded him. “I should think you could be trained into a very good husband—you know, not one of the domineering kind, but one who considered his wife was just as much an individual as himself and just as much a free agent. Really, you know, I think you are improving.”
She laughed and rode away, leaving him greatly cast down. If he had thought there had been one bit of coyness in her words, one feminine flutter, one womanly attempt at deliberate lure and encouragement, he would have been elated. But he knew absolutely that it was the boy, and not the woman, who had so daringly spoken.
Joan rode on among the avenues of young cocoanut-palms, saw a hornbill, followed it in its erratic flights to the high forest on the edge of the plantation, heard the cooing of wild pigeons and located them in the deeper woods, followed the fresh trail of a wild pig for a distance, circled back, and took the narrow path for the bungalow that ran through twenty acres of uncleared cane. The grass was waist-high and higher, and as she rode along she remembered that Gogoomy was one of a gang of boys that had been detailed to the grass-cutting. She came to where they had been at work, but saw no signs of them. Her unshod horse made no sound on the soft, sandy footing, and a little further on she heard voices proceeding from out of the grass. She reined in and listened. It was Gogoomy talking, and as she listened she gripped her bridle-rein tightly and a wave of anger passed over her.