“Shut up!” cried Betty.
There was a pause.
“Betty,” said Perry finally with a very faint hopefulness, “there’s only one thing to do that will really get us out clear. That’s for you to marry me.”
“Yes. Really it’s the only——”
“You shut up! I wouldn’t marry you if—if——”
“I know. If I were the last man on earth. But if you care anything about your reputation——”
“Reputation!” she cried. “You’re a nice one to think about my reputation now. Why didn’t you think about my reputation before you hired that horrible Jumbo to—to——”
Perry tossed up his hands hopelessly.
“Very well. I’ll do anything you want. Lord knows I renounce all claims!”
“But,” said a new voice, “I don’t.”
Perry and Betty started, and she put her hand to her heart.
“For heaven’s sake, what was that?”
“It’s me,” said the camel’s back.
In a minute Perry had whipped off the camel’s skin, and a lax, limp object, his clothes hanging on him damply, his hand clenched tightly on an almost empty bottle, stood defiantly before them.
“Oh,” cried Betty, tears starting again to her eyes, “you brought that object in here to frighten me! You told me he was deaf—that awful person!”
The ex-camel’s back sat down on a chair with a sigh of satisfaction.
“Don’t talk ’at way about me, lady. I ain’t no person. I’m your husband.”
The cry was wrung simultaneously from Betty and Perry.
“Why, sure. I’m as much your husband as that gink is. The smoke didn’t marry you to the camel’s front. He married you to the whole camel. Why, that’s my ring you got on your finger!”
With a little cry she snatched the ring from her finger and flung it passionately at the floor.
“What’s all this?” demanded Perry dazedly.
“Jes’ that you better fix me an’ fix me right. If you don’t I’m a-gonna have the same claim you got to bein’ married to her!”
“That’s bigamy,” said Perry, turning gravely to Betty.
Then came the supreme moment of Perry’s early life, the ultimate chance on which he risked his fortunes. He rose and looked first at Betty, where she sat weakly, her face aghast at this new complication, and then at the individual who swayed from side to side on his chair, uncertainly yet menacingly.
“Very well,” said Perry slowly to the individual, “you can have her. Betty, I’m going to prove to you that as far as I’m concerned our marriage was entirely accidental. I’m going to renounce utterly my rights to have you as my wife, and give you to—to the man whose ring you wear—your lawful husband.”
There was a pause and four horror-stricken eyes were turned on him.
“Good-by, Betty,” he said brokenly. “Don’t forget me in your new-found happiness. I’m going to leave for the Far West on the morning train. Think of me kindly, Betty.”