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Adventure Jack London

A Man-Talk

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"Yes, go ahead," she said, a trifle impatient at his delay.

"I love to think of the success of Berande," he said; "but that is secondary. It is subordinate to the dearest wish, which is that some day you will share Berande with me in a completer way than that of mere business partnership. It is for you, some day, when you are ready, to be my wife."

She started back from him as if she had been stung. Her face went white on the instant, not from maidenly embarrassment, but from the anger which he could see flaming in her eyes.

"This taking for granted!--this when I am ready!" she cried passionately. Then her voice swiftly became cold and steady, and she talked in the way he imagined she must have talked business with Morgan and Raff at Guvutu. "Listen to me, Mr. Sheldon. I like you very well, though you are slow and a muddler; but I want you to understand, once and for all, that I did not come to the Solomons to get married. That is an affliction I could have accumulated at home, without sailing ten thousand miles after it. I have my own way to make in the world, and I came to the Solomons to do it. Getting married is not making MY way in the world. It may do for some women, but not for me, thank you. When I sit down to talk over the freight on copra, I don't care to have proposals of marriage sandwiched in. Besides--besides--"

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Her voice broke for the moment, and when she went on there was a note of appeal in it that well-nigh convicted him to himself of being a brute.

"Don't you see?--it spoils everything; it makes the whole situation impossible . . . and . . . and I so loved our partnership, and was proud of it. Don't you see?--I can't go on being your partner if you make love to me. And I was so happy."

Tears of disappointment were in her eyes, and she caught a swift sob in her throat.

"I warned you," he said gravely. "Such unusual situations between men and women cannot endure. I told you so at the beginning."

"Oh, yes; it is quite clear to me what you did." She was angry again, and the feminine appeal had disappeared. "You were very discreet in your warning. You took good care to warn me against every other man in the Solomons except yourself."

It was a blow in the face to Sheldon. He smarted with the truth of it, and at the same time he smarted with what he was convinced was the injustice of it. A gleam of triumph that flickered in her eye because of the hit she had made decided him.

"It is not so one-sided as you seem to think it is," he began. "I was doing very nicely on Berande before you came. At least I was not suffering indignities, such as being accused of cowardly conduct, as you have just accused me. Remember--please remember, I did not invite you to Berande. Nor did I invite you to stay on at Berande. It was by staying that you brought about this--to you-- unpleasant situation. By staying you made yourself a temptation, and now you would blame me for it. I did not want you to stay. I wasn't in love with you then. I wanted you to go to Sydney; to go back to Hawaii. But you insisted on staying. You virtually--"

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