“But there is another way in which the affair would have to be looked at. Suppose I should not become your widow? Suppose you should not be lost at sea, and should come back safely?”
The captain drew a deep breath, and folded his arms upon his chest. “Miss Markham,” said he, “if this marriage should take place, it would be entirely different from other marriages. If I should not return, and it should be considered legal, it may make you all rich and happy. If it should not hold good, we can only think we have done our best. But as to anything beyond this, or to any question of my return, or any other question in connection with the matter, our minds should be shut and locked. This matter is a business proposition, and as such I lay it before you. If we adopt it, we do so for certain reasons, and beyond those reasons neither of us is qualified to go. We should keep our eyes fixed upon the main point, and think of nothing else.”
“Something else must be looked at,” said Edna. “It is just as likely that you will come back as that you will be lost at sea.”
“This plan is based entirely on the latter supposition,” replied the captain. “It has nothing to do with the other. If we consider it at all, we must consider it in that light.”
“But we must consider it in the other light,” she said. She was now quite pale, and her face had a certain sternness about it.
“I positively refuse to do that,” he said. “I will not think about it, or say one word about it. I will not even refer to any future settlement of that question. The plan I present rests entirely upon my non-return.”
“But if you do return?” persisted Edna.
The captain smiled and shook his head. “You must excuse me,” he said, “but I can say nothing about that.”
She looked steadily at him for a few moments, and then she said: “Very well, we will say nothing about it. As to the plan which has been devised to give us, in case of accident to you, a sound claim to the treasure which has been found here, and to a part of which I consider I have a right, I consent to it. I do this believing that I should share in the wonderful treasures in that cave. I have formed prospects for my future which would make my life a thousand times better worth living than I ever supposed it would be, and I do not wish to interfere with those prospects. I want them to become realities. Therefore, I consent to your proposition, and I will marry you upon a business basis, before you leave.”
“Your hand upon it,” said the captain; and she gave him a hand so cold that it chilled his own. “Now I will go talk to Maka and Cheditafa,” he said. “Of course, we understand that it may be of no advantage to have this coal-black heathen act as officiating clergyman, but it can do no harm, and we must take the chances. I have a good deal to do, and no time to lose if I am to get away on the flood-tide this afternoon. Will it suit you if I get everything ready to start, and we then have the ceremony?”