He declined to sleep ashore, took his orders, and went back on board the cutter. A lurid sunset was blotted out by the heaviest squall of the day, and Sheldon watched the whale-boat arrive in the thick of it. As the spritsail was taken in and the boat headed on to the beach, he was aware of a distinct hurt at sight of Joan at the steering-oar, standing erect and swaying her strength to it as she resisted the pressures that tended to throw the craft broadside in the surf. Her Tahitians leaped out and rushed the boat high up the beach, and she led her bizarre following through the gate of the compound.
The first drops of rain were driving like hail-stones, the tall cocoanut palms were bending and writhing in the grip of the wind, while the thick cloud-mass of the squall turned the brief tropic twilight abruptly to night.
Quite unconsciously the brooding anxiety of the afternoon slipped from Sheldon, and he felt strangely cheered at the sight of her running up the steps laughing, face flushed, hair flying, her breast heaving from the violence of her late exertions.
“Lovely, perfectly lovely—Pari-Sulay,” she panted. “I shall buy it. I’ll write to the Commissioner to-night. And the site for the bungalow—I’ve selected it already—is wonderful. You must come over some day and advise me. You won’t mind my staying here until I can get settled? Wasn’t that squall beautiful? And I suppose I’m late for dinner. I’ll run and get clean, and be with you in a minute.”
And in the brief interval of her absence he found himself walking about the big living-room and impatiently and with anticipation awaiting her coming.
“Do you know, I’m never going to squabble with you again,” he announced when they were seated.
“Squabble!” was the retort. “It’s such a sordid word. It sounds cheap and nasty. I think it’s much nicer to quarrel.”
“Call it what you please, but we won’t do it any more, will we?” He cleared his throat nervously, for her eyes advertised the immediate beginning of hostilities. “I beg your pardon,” he hurried on. “I should have spoken for myself. What I mean is that I refuse to quarrel. You have the most horrible way, without uttering a word, of making me play the fool. Why, I began with the kindest intentions, and here I am now—”
“Making nasty remarks,” she completed for him.
“It’s the way you have of catching me up,” he complained.
“Why, I never said a word. I was merely sitting here, being sweetly lured on by promises of peace on earth and all the rest of it, when suddenly you began to call me names.”
“Hardly that, I am sure.”
“Well, you said I was horrible, or that I had a horrible way about me, which is the same thing. I wish my bungalow were up. I’d move to-morrow.”
But her twitching lips belied her words, and the next moment the man was more uncomfortable than ever, being made so by her laughter.