“What?” demanded her father.
Altogether unexpectedly little Eve Edgarton threw back her tousled head and burst out laughing.
“Oh, Father!” she jeered. “Can’t you take a joke?”
“I don’t know as you ever offered me one before,” growled her father a bit ungraciously.
“All the same,” asserted little Eve Edgarton with sudden seriousness—“all the same, Father, he did stop breathing twice. And I worked and I worked and I worked over him!” Slowly her great eyes widened.
“And oh, Father, his skin!” she whispered simply.
“Hush!” snapped her father with a great gust of resentment that he took to be a gust of propriety. “Hush, I say! I tell you it isn’t delicate for a—for a girl to talk about a man’s skin!”
“Oh—but his skin was very delicate,” mused little Eve Edgarton persistently. “There in the lantern light—”
“What lantern light?” demanded her father.
“And the moonlight,” murmured little Eve Edgarton.
“What moonlight?” demanded her father. A trifle quizzically he stepped forward and peered into his daughter’s face. “Personally, Eve,” he said, “I don’t care for the young man. And I certainly don’t wish to hear anything about his skin. Not anything! Do you understand? I’m very glad you saved his life,” he hastened to affirm. “It was very commendable of you, I’m sure, and some one, doubtless, will be very much relieved. But for me personally the incident is closed! Closed, I said. Do you understand?”
Bruskly he turned back toward his own room, and then swung around again suddenly in the doorway.
“Eve,” he frowned. “That was a joke—wasn’t it?—what you said about wanting to keep that young man?”
“Why, of course!” said little Eve Edgarton.
“Well, I must say—it was an exceedingly clumsy one!” growled her father irritably.
“Maybe so,” droned little Eve Edgarton with unruffled serenity. “It was the first joke, you see, that I ever made.” Slowly again her eyes began to widen. “All the same, Father,” she said, “his—”
“Hush!” he ordered, and slammed the door conclusively behind him.
Very thoughtfully for a moment little Eve Edgarton kept right on standing there in the middle of the room. In her eyes was just the faintest possible suggestion of a smile. But there was no smile whatsoever about her lips. Her lips indeed were quite drawn and most flagrantly set with the expression of one who, having something determinate to say, will—yet—say it, somewhere, sometime, somehow, though the skies fall and all the waters of the earth dry up.
Then like the dart of a bird, she flashed to her father’s door and opened it.
“Father!” she whispered. “Father!”
“Yes,” answered the half-muffled, pillowy voice. “What is it?”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you something that happened once—down in Indo-China,” whispered little Eve Edgarton. “Once when you were away,” she confided breathlessly, “I pulled a half-drowned coolie out of a canal.”