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Adventure Jack London

A Man-Talk

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He paused for a softer word than the one that had risen to his lips, and she took it away from him.

"Forced myself on you--that's what you meant to say," she cried, the flags of battle painting her cheeks. "Go ahead. Don't mind my feelings."

"All right; I won't," he said decisively, realizing that the discussion was in danger of becoming a vituperative, schoolboy argument. "You have insisted on being considered as a man. Consistency would demand that you talk like a man, and like a man listen to man-talk. And listen you shall. It is not your fault that this unpleasantness has arisen. I do not blame you for anything; remember that. And for the same reason you should not blame me for anything."

He noticed her bosom heaving as she sat with clenched hands, and it was all he could do to conquer the desire to flash his arms out and around her instead of going on with his coolly planned campaign. As it was, he nearly told her that she was a most adorable boy. But he checked all such wayward fancies, and held himself rigidly down to his disquisition.

"You can't help being yourself. You can't help being a very desirable creature so far as I am concerned. You have made me want you. You didn't intend to; you didn't try to. You were so made, that is all. And I was so made that I was ripe to want you. But I can't help being myself. I can't by an effort of will cease from wanting you, any more than you by an effort of will can make yourself undesirable to me."

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"Oh, this desire! this want! want! want!" she broke in rebelliously. "I am not quite a fool. I understand some things. And the whole thing is so foolish and absurd--and uncomfortable. I wish I could get away from it. I really think it would be a good idea for me to marry Noa Noah, or Adamu Adam, or Lalaperu there, or any black boy. Then I could give him orders, and keep him penned away from me; and men like you would leave me alone, and not talk marriage and 'I want, I want.'"

Sheldon laughed in spite of himself, and far from any genuine impulse to laugh.

"You are positively soulless," he said savagely.

"Because I've a soul that doesn't yearn for a man for master?" she took up the gage. "Very well, then. I am soulless, and what are you going to do about it?"

"I am going to ask you why you look like a woman? Why have you the form of a woman? the lips of a woman? the wonderful hair of a woman? And I am going to answer: because you are a woman--though the woman in you is asleep--and that some day the woman will wake up."

"Heaven forbid!" she cried, in such sudden and genuine dismay as to make him laugh, and to bring a smile to her own lips against herself.

"I've got some more to say to you," Sheldon pursued. "I did try to protect you from every other man in the Solomons, and from yourself as well. As for me, I didn't dream that danger lay in that quarter. So I failed to protect you from myself. I failed to protect you at all. You went your own wilful way, just as though I didn't exist--wrecking schooners, recruiting on Malaita, and sailing schooners; one lone, unprotected girl in the company of some of the worst scoundrels in the Solomons. Fowler! and Brahms! and Curtis! And such is the perverseness of human nature--I am frank, you see--I love you for that too. I love you for all of you, just as you are."

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