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"Then there's no need to bother about reading up," Joan said. "And I'm just dying to hear what it was all about. The Apostle is lying becalmed inside the point, and her boats are out to wing. She'll be at anchor in five minutes, and Doctor Welshmere is sure to be on board. So all we've got to do is to make Tudor comfortable. We'd better put him in your room under the mosquito-netting, and send a boat off to tell Dr. Welshmere to bring his instruments."
An hour afterward, Dr. Welshmere left the patient comfortable and attended to, and went down to the beach to go on board, promising to come back to dinner. Joan and Sheldon, standing on the veranda, watched him depart.
"I'll never have it in for the missionaries again since seeing them here in the Solomons," she said, seating herself in a steamer-chair. She looked at Sheldon and began to laugh.
"That's right," he said. "It's the way I feel, playing the fool and trying to murder a guest."
"But you haven't told me what it was all about."
"You," he answered shortly.
"Me? But you just said it wasn't."
"Oh, it wasn't the kiss." He walked over to the railing and leaned against it, facing her. "But it was about you all the same, and I may as well tell you. You remember, I warned you long ago what would happen when you wanted to become a partner in Berande. Well, all the beach is gossiping about it; and Tudor persisted in repeating the gossip to me. So you see it won't do for you to stay on here under present conditions. It would be better if you went away."
"But I don't want to go away," she objected with rueful countenance.
"A chaperone, then--"
"No, nor a chaperone."
"But you surely don't expect me to go around shooting every slanderer in the Solomons that opens his mouth?" he demanded gloomily.
"No, nor that either," she answered with quick impulsiveness. "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll get married and put a stop to it all. There!"
He looked at her in amazement, and would have believed that she was making fun of him had it not been for the warm blood that suddenly suffused her cheeks.
"Do you mean that?" he asked unsteadily. "Why?"
"To put a stop to all the nasty gossip of the beach. That's a pretty good reason, isn't it?"
The temptation was strong enough and sudden enough to make him waver, but all the disgust came back to him that was his when he lay in the grass fighting gnats and cursing adventure, and he answered, -
"No; it is worse than no reason at all. I don't care to marry you as a matter of expedience--"
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