“I thought you’d jump at it,” she confessed, with a naivete he could not but question, for he thought he saw a roguish gleam in her eyes.
“My conception of love must differ from yours then,” he said. “I should want a woman to marry me for love of me, and not out of romantic admiration because I was lucky enough to drill a hole in a man’s shoulder with smokeless powder. I tell you I am disgusted with this adventure tomfoolery and rot. I don’t like it. Tudor is a sample of the adventure-kind—picking a quarrel with me and behaving like a monkey, insisting on fighting with me—’to the death,’ he said. It was like a penny dreadful.”
She was biting her lip, and though her eyes were cool and level-looking as ever, the tell-tale angry red was in her cheeks.
“Of course, if you don’t want to marry me—”
“But I do,” he hastily interposed.
“Oh, you do—”
“But don’t you see, little girl, I want you to love me,” he hurried on. “Otherwise, it would be only half a marriage. I don’t want you to marry me simply because by so doing a stop is put to the beach gossip, nor do I want you to marry me out of some foolish romantic notion. I shouldn’t want you . . . that way.”
“Oh, in that case,” she said with assumed deliberateness, and he could have sworn to the roguish gleam, “in that case, since you are willing to consider my offer, let me make a few remarks. In the first place, you needn’t sneer at adventure when you are living it yourself; and you were certainly living it when I found you first, down with fever on a lonely plantation with a couple of hundred wild cannibals thirsting for your life. Then I came along—”
“And what with your arriving in a gale,” he broke in, “fresh from the wreck of the schooner, landing on the beach in a whale-boat full of picturesque Tahitian sailors, and coming into the bungalow with a Baden-Powell on your head, sea-boots on your feet, and a whacking big Colt’s dangling on your hip—why, I am only too ready to admit that you were the quintessence of adventure.”
“Very good,” she cried exultantly. “It’s mere simple arithmetic—the adding of your adventure and my adventure together. So that’s settled, and you needn’t jeer at adventure any more. Next, I don’t think there was anything romantic in Tudor’s attempting to kiss me, nor anything like adventure in this absurd duel. But I do think, now, that it was romantic for you to fall in love with me. And finally, and it is adding romance to romance, I think . . . I think I do love you, Dave—oh, Dave!”
The last was a sighing dove-cry as he caught her up in his arms and pressed her to him.
“But I don’t love you because you played the fool to-day,” she whispered on his shoulder. “White men shouldn’t go around killing each other.”
“Then why do you love me?” he questioned, enthralled after the manner of all lovers in the everlasting query that for ever has remained unanswered.