The next day after breakfast she took him by the hand and led him to the little knoll down by the hills. Her manner was resolute; there was a charm in it that thrilled him with expectancy.
“If we are not rescued within a year’s time, it is hardly probable that we will ever be found, is it?” she asked reflectively.
“They may find us to-morrow and they may never see the shores of this island.”
“But as they have not already discovered it, there is certainly some reason. We are in a part of the sea where vessels do not venture, that is evident,” she argued persuasively.
“But why do you ask?”
“Because you want me to be your wife,” she said, looking him frankly in the eye.
“I can only pray that we may be found,” he said wistfully.
“And in case we are never found?”
“I shall probably die an old bachelor,” he laughed grimly. For some moments she was in a deep study, evidently questioning the advisability or propriety of giving expression to what was in her mind.
“Are there not a great many methods of observing the marriage ceremony, Hugh? And are they not all sacred?” she asked seriously.
“What are you trying to get at, dear?”
“I may as well tell you what I have been thinking of since last night. You will not consider me bold and unwomanly, I know, but I want to be your wife. We may never leave this island, but we can be married here.”
“Married here!” he exclaimed. “You mean—”
“I mean that the ceremony of these natives can be made as sacred in the eye of God as any in all the world. Nine-tenths or more of all the marriages in the world are crimes, because man, not God, welds the bonds. Therefore, I say frankly to you, Hugh, that I will marry you some day according to the custom of these people, as sacred to me as that of any land on earth.”
At first he could hardly believe that he had heard aright, but as she progressed and he saw the nobility, the sincerity, of her declaration, a wave of reverential love swept through his heart. The exaltation of a moment before was quelled, destroyed by a sacred, solemn regard for her. There was a lump in his throat as he bent over and gently took her hand in his, lifting it to his lips.
“Are you sure of yourself, darling?” he whispered.
“I could not have spoken had I not been sure. I am very sure of myself. I trust you so fully that I am sure of you as well.”
He kissed her rapturously.
“God bless you. I can hardly breathe for the joy I feel.”
“But you do not say you will marry me,” she smiled.
“You shall be my wife to-day,” he cried.
“I beg your pardon,” she said gaily, “but as the bride I am the arbiter of time. If in a year from now we are still here, I will be your wife.”
“A year! Great heaven! Impossible! I won’t wait that long. Now be sensible, Tennys.”