THE SHEIK’S STRATEGY
Peggy gave the sheik an entrancing smile, followed by a brief glance at the beaming Miss Valentine, who nodded her head approvingly.
“Won’t you give me time to go below and pack my belongings that they may be sent ashore?” she asked naively.
“Thunder!” gasped Monty. “That’s no way to turn him down.”
“What do you mean, Monty Brewster?” she cried, turning upon him with flashing eyes.
“Why, you’re encouraging the old guy,” he protested, disappointment in every inflection.
“And what if I am? Isn’t it my affair? I think I am right in suspecting that he has asked me to be his wife. Isn’t it my privilege to accept him if I wish?”
Brewster’s face was a study. He could not believe that she was in earnest, but there was a ghastly feeling that the joke was being turned on him. The rest of the company stared hard at the flushed Peggy and breathlessly waited developments.
“It won’t do to trifle with this chap, Peggy,” said Monty, coming quite close to her. “Don’t lead him on. He might get nasty if he thinks you’re making sport of him.”
“You are quite absurd, Monty,” she cried, petulantly. “I am not making sport of him.”
“Well, then, why don’t you tell him to go about his business?”
“I don’t see any beads lying around loose,” said “Rip” tormentingly. The sheik impatiently said something to the interpreter and that worthy repeated it for Peggy’s benefit.
“The Son of the Prophet desires that you be as quick as possible, Queen of the World. He tires of waiting and commands you to come with him at once.”
Peggy winced and her eyes shot a brief look of scorn at the scowling sheik. In an instant, however, she was smiling agreeably and was turning toward the steps.
“Holy mackerel! Where are you going, Peggy?” cried Lotless, the first to turn fearful.
“To throw some things into my trunk,” she responded airily. “Will you come with me, Mary?”
“Peggy!” cried Brewster angrily. “This has gone far enough.”
“You should have spoken sooner, Monty,” she said quietly.
“What are you going to do, Margaret?” cried Mrs. Dan, her eyes wide with amazement.
“I am going to marry the Son of the Prophet,” she replied so decidedly that every one gasped. A moment later she was surrounded by a group of excited women, and Captain Perry was calling the “jackies” forward in a voice of thunder.
Brewster pushed his way to her side, his face as white as death.
“This isn’t a joke, Peggy,” he cried. “Go below and I’ll get rid of the sheik.”
Just then the burly Algerian asserted himself. He did not like the way in which his adored one was being handled by the “white dogs,” and with two spearmen he rushed up to Brewster, jabbering angrily.