ON A BUSINESS BASIS
Captain Horn found Edna at the entrance to the caves, busily employed in filling one of the Rackbirds’ boxes with ship-biscuit.
“Miss Markham,” said he, “I wish to have a little business talk with you before I leave. Where is Ralph?”
“He is down at the boat,” she answered.
“Very good,” said he. “Will you step this way?”
When they were seated together in the shade of some rocks, he stated to Edna what he had planned in case he should lose his life in his intended expedition, and showed her the will he had made, and also the directions for herself and Mrs. Cliff. Edna listened very attentively, occasionally asking for an explanation, but offering no opinion. When he had finished, she was about to say something, but he interrupted her.
“Of course, I want to know your opinion about all this,” he said, “but not yet. I have more to say. There has been a business plan proposed by two members of our party which concerns me, and when anything is told concerning me, I want to know how it is told, or, if possible, tell it myself.”
And then, as concisely as possible, he related to her Maka’s anxiety in regard to the boss question, and his method of disposing of the difficulty, and afterwards Mrs. Cliff’s anxiety about the property, in case of accident to himself, and her method of meeting the contingency.
During this recital Edna Markham said not one word. To portions of the narrative she listened with an eager interest; then her expression became hard, almost stern; and finally her cheeks grew red, but whether with anger or some other emotion the captain did not know. When he had finished, she looked steadily at him for a few moments, and then she said:
“Captain Horn, what you have told me are the plans and opinions of others. It seems to me that you are now called upon to say something for yourself.”
“I am quite ready to do that,” he answered. “A half-hour ago I had never thought of such a scheme as I have laid before you. When I heard it, I considered it absurd, and mentioned it to you only because I was afraid I would be misrepresented. But since putting the matter to you, even while I have been just now talking, I have grown to be entirely in favor of it. But I want you to thoroughly understand my views on the subject. If this marriage is to be performed, it will be strictly a business affair, entered into for the purpose of securing to you and others a fortune, large or small, which, without this marriage, might be taken from you. In other words,” said he, “you are to be looked upon in this affair in the light of my prospective widow.”
For a moment the flush on the face of the young woman faded away, but it quickly returned. Apparently involuntarily, she rose to her feet. Turning to the captain, who also rose, she said: