“Oh, nothing, only I don’t fancy being eaten by a lot of filthy niggers is the least bit romantic.”
“No, of course not,” she admitted. “But to be among them, controlling them, directing them, two hundred of them, and to escape being eaten by them—that, at least, if it isn’t romantic, is certainly the quintessence of adventure. And adventure and romance are allied, you know.”
“By the same token, to go into a nigger’s stomach should be the quintessence of adventure,” he retorted.
“I don’t think you have any romance in you,” she exclaimed. “You’re just dull and sombre and sordid like the business men at home. I don’t know why you’re here at all. You should be at home placidly vegetating as a banker’s clerk or—or—”
“A shopkeeper’s assistant, thank you.”
“Yes, that—anything. What under the sun are you doing here on the edge of things?”
“Earning my bread and butter, trying to get on in the world.”
“’By the bitter road the younger son must tread, Ere he win to hearth and saddle of his own,’” she quoted. “Why, if that isn’t romantic, then nothing is romantic. Think of all the younger sons out over the world, on a myriad of adventures winning to those same hearths and saddles. And here you are in the thick of it, doing it, and here am I in the thick of it, doing it.”
“I—I beg pardon,” he drawled.
“Well, I’m a younger daughter, then,” she amended; “and I have no hearth nor saddle—I haven’t anybody or anything—and I’m just as far on the edge of things as you are.”
“In your case, then, I’ll admit there is a bit of romance,” he confessed.
He could not help but think of the preceding nights, and of her sleeping in the hammock on the veranda, under mosquito curtains, her bodyguard of Tahitian sailors stretched out at the far corner of the veranda within call. He had been too helpless to resist, but now he resolved she should have his couch inside while he would take the hammock.
“You see, I had read and dreamed about romance all my life,” she was saying, “but I never, in my wildest fancies, thought that I should live it. It was all so unexpected. Two years ago I thought there was nothing left to me but. . . .” She faltered, and made a moue of distaste. “Well, the only thing that remained, it seemed to me, was marriage.”
“And you preferred a cannibal isle and a cartridge-belt?” he suggested.
“I didn’t think of the cannibal isle, but the cartridge-belt was blissful.”
“You wouldn’t dare use the revolver if you were compelled to. Or,” noting the glint in her eyes, “if you did use it, to—well, to hit anything.”
She started up suddenly to enter the house. He knew she was going for her revolver.
“Never mind,” he said, “here’s mine. What can you do with it?”
“Shoot the block off your flag-halyards.”