She nodded her head ruefully.
“That’s what I wanted to say, but it sounds different on your lips. It sounds as though you meant it yourself, and that you meant it because of me.”
“Well, I am going to bed. But do, please, think over my proposition, and let me know in the morning. There’s no use in my discussing it now. You make me so angry. You are cowardly, you know, and very egotistic. You are afraid of what other fools will say. No matter how honest your motives, if others criticized your actions your feelings would be hurt. And you think more about your own wretched feelings than you do about mine. And then, being a coward—all men are at heart cowards—you disguise your cowardice by calling it chivalry. I thank heaven that I was not born a man. Good-night. Do think it over. And don’t be foolish. What Berande needs is good American hustle. You don’t know what that is. You are a muddler. Besides, you are enervated. I’m fresh to the climate. Let me be your partner, and you’ll see me rattle the dry bones of the Solomons. Confess, I’ve rattled yours already.”
“I should say so,” he answered. “Really, you know, you have. I never received such a dressing-down in my life. If any one had ever told me that I’d be a party even to the present situation. . . . Yes, I confess, you have rattled my dry bones pretty considerably.”
“But that is nothing to the rattling they are going to get,” she assured him, as he rose and took her hand. “Good-night. And do, do give me a rational decision in the morning.”
“I wish I knew whether you are merely headstrong, or whether you really intend to be a Solomon planter,” Sheldon said in the morning, at breakfast.
“I wish you were more adaptable,” Joan retorted. “You have more preconceived notions than any man I ever met. Why in the name of common sense, in the name of . . . fair play, can’t you get it into your head that I am different from the women you have known, and treat me accordingly? You surely ought to know I am different. I sailed my own schooner here—skipper, if you please. I came here to make my living. You know that; I’ve told you often enough. It was Dad’s plan, and I’m carrying it out, just as you are trying to carry out your Hughie’s plan. Dad started to sail and sail until he could find the proper islands for planting. He died, and I sailed and sailed until I arrived here. Well,”—she shrugged her shoulders—“the schooner is at the bottom of the sea. I can’t sail any farther, therefore I remain here. And a planter I shall certainly be.”
“You see—” he began.
“I haven’t got to the point,” she interrupted. “Looking back on my conduct from the moment I first set foot on your beach, I can see no false pretence that I have made about myself or my intentions. I was my natural self to you from the first. I told you my plans; and yet you sit there and calmly tell me that you don’t know whether I really intend to become a planter, or whether it is all obstinacy and pretence. Now let me assure you, for the last time, that I really and truly shall become a planter, thanks to you, or in spite of you. Do you want me for a partner?”