Looking back in after years on the six weeks of the voyage Marcella saw them as days and nights coloured by madness and storms through which Jimmy went like a little wistful ghost, hanging on to her hand, the only thing in grey tones amidst splashes of wild colour. Many a time in the sun-drowned days and windless nights Marcella was reminded of those old tales she had heard on Lashnagar from Wullie's lips, of the hot summer when the witch-woman came and men went mad just before the destruction came on the village. It was as though the Oriana went on ploughing through the waters, with the Dog-Star hitched to her masthead inflaming men's blood. Marcella was in a state of puzzlement. She was puzzled at herself, puzzled at Louis, puzzled at the people round her. Men went about barefoot in pyjamas, women in muslin nightdresses all day after Suez; in the Indian Ocean, one blazing day, they ran into the tail of a monsoon; the lower decks were swamped and the steerage passengers were sent on to the upper decks, where Marcella and Louis sat surrounded by half a dozen forlorn children whose parents had succumbed to the pitching of the ship and the heat. Great walls of green, unfoaming water rose sullenly and menacingly higher than the ship, which tossed like a weightless cork; seas came aboard with an effect of silence; down in the saloon glasses, crockery and cutlery crashed to the deck with a momentary fracture of the deadly quiet which seemed all the more silent afterwards: occasionally a child screamed in fright and was hushed by an almost voiceless mother, while stewards went about with trays of iced drinks, slipping to the deck in a dead faint now and again with a momentary smash that was swallowed to silence immediately. Underneath the sulky, heaving water lurked death, silent and sharp, from which the shoals of flying fishes escaped for the moment by soundless, silvery, aimless poising in the blue air, only to fall back exhausted again into the green water and the waiting white jaws. Some of the fishes flopped on board, and were put out of life by the blows of the sailors who dried and stuffed them and sold them afterwards to the passengers. To Marcella everything seemed cruel and mad and preying. The passengers were cruel—to each other and to the stewards; one day, going into the saloon by chance, she found Knollys leaning over a table looking white and sick, as he tried to polish spoons and forks.
"Are you ill?" she asked him.
"There's only two of us—including me—that haven't crocked up," he said; "people don't seem to think it's hot for us, or that we feel fed up at all. That Mrs. Hetherington seems to think I'm a private sort of lady's maid to her alone. All these women do—sitting about in deck chairs calling 'Steward' all day long! In the third class alone there's six stewards in hospital! And only yesterday I caught it from the Chief because the cutlery hadn't been polished—not that that's my job at all, really—"
The next moment Knollys fell over in a dead faint, and copying what she had seen him do when passengers fainted, Marcella fetched a pillow from her cabin, laid it under his back on the floor and left him while she polished the cutlery. Louis found her there and they came near to fighting about it.
"What on earth are you doing?" he asked in amazement.
"Poor Knollys has gone down," she said, thinking that adequate explanation.
Louis looked at him casually. Marcella was coming to understand that he looked upon illness with a certain hardness and lack of pity that surprised her; he was immensely interested in it, he liked to dabble in it, but not from a passion of healing nearly so much as from curiosity and technical interest. To him, in illness, curing the patient mattered infinitely less than beating the disease. He had a queer snobbishness about illness, too, that amazed her. To him Knollys, a steward, ill meant infinitely less than the illness of a member of his own class would have meant. This struck Marcella as illogical. To her it seemed that, in illness at least, all men were brothers.
"There's a stoker just died of heat apoplexy: there'll be a funeral presently," he said coolly. "What on earth are you doing?"
"People are so unkind. Knollys got into trouble yesterday because these silly things were not clean," she said, polishing away furiously.
"But you can't do the work of a servant," he said, aghast.
"I can. Of course I can. I often have. I've worked in the fields with the men, and I've milked the cows and made the butter. Oh, lots of things—"
"Oh well, I suppose a farmer's daughter can do those things, Marcella. But, look here, old girl, when we're married you'll have to be on your dignity a bit."
She flushed a little and the storm light came into her eyes. Louis did not see it. He sat on the edge of the table, and expostulated with her for a long time. But she went on until the last spoon was polished.
"Don't you think we'd better get something for Knollys? Sal volatile or iced water, or something?" she said at last, looking at her black hands.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, leave him alone. It's typical of the servant class to be bowled over on the slightest provocation. I expect, as a matter of fact, he can hear what we're saying now. He's got you taped pretty well and knew that if he worked on your sympathies you'd do his work while he miked about. The working class is always like that—no backbone."
She wondered if he were joking, but she saw from his solemn face that he meant it all, and she gathered that he considered himself very much better than Knollys. He did not see the contemptuous amusement in her face, and went on, stammering a little because he had at last brought himself to say something that had been on his mind for days.
He lit a cigarette nervously, fumbled with a bunch of keys in his trousers pocket and then, looking at her dirty hands, said:
"L-l-look here, old girl. I d-don't w-want to quarrel with you. But I w-want you to f-face things a bit. Y-you s-see—you've been used to a class of society quite different from mine. You know—look here, I say, I don't want you to go making faux pas."
"What do you mean?" she asked ominously.
"That's French for mistakes, don't you know—mistakes in—er—well, what one might call breeding, don't you know. Y-you know—associating with stewards and—and—common people like Jimmy, for instance. He's the very lowest bourgeois type."
"Much lower, I suppose, than Ole Fred, and those drinkers in New Zealand, isn't he?" she said calmly, her eyes glinting. He flushed hotly and looked hurt. Immediately she was sorry.
"There, I'm sorry, Louis. I ought not to have said a thing like that. It was unforgivable. But you do talk like an idiot. How on earth can one make mistakes in breeding? Oh, you and I talk different languages, that's all, and it's not any use at all trying to think and talk the same."
"Well, I know more of the world than you do, and you must let me teach you, Marcella. Oh, I know you're—you're braver and stronger morally than I. But, you know, when we get to Sydney and are married we'll have to stay in hotels and—and—I don't want my wife making faux pas. It'd be just like you—you're such a dear, really—to go doing things servants ought to do—in public, I mean, and make a fool of me."
She looked at him and smiled reminiscently and rather cruelly. But he looked so solemn, so serious that, in sheer mischief, she told him that she would be very careful not to make him conspicuous by her blunders. And then she asked him an unexpected question.
"Louis, did you write and tell your father you didn't want any more money?"
He took out his packet of cigarettes—he never possessed a cigarette case, such things were to be turned into money too easily. His hands were trembling as he struck a match.
"Yes—I—t-told him," he said jerkily.
"What did you say about me?" she asked curiously.
He pondered for a moment. At last he decided to be honest.
"I didn't tell him."
"Didn't you, Louis?" she said, looking hurt. "Why?"
"He'd only think you were a waster. He wouldn't think anyone but a waster would marry me. If I told him you were a Scotch farmer's daughter he'd picture something in short skirts, red cheeks and bare legs that talked like Harry Lauder. Or else he'd think I was lying, and had got off with a barmaid and wasn't married at all, and was living on some girl. They'd always think the worst of me, at home. I'm not even going to tell the Mater—"
She thought for some minutes.
"I don't much care," she said at last. "I think your father's rather a horrible man, but I may be wrong about him. My impressions of him are formed from yours, you see. It seems that no one but a most inhuman man could kick his son out. But then—well, I don't know just how much you worried him. But I'd have liked you to tell your mother. She looked so grieved that day on the tender, and she was crying so miserably. I'd have liked her to know you were taken care of."
"She wouldn't believe it, either, Marcella," he said gloomily. "And you don't know my Mater. The very fact that you were in the steerage would make her think you couldn't possibly be any good in the world. If I told her you cleaned spoons and forks for a steward she'd think you did it from habit because you'd been someone's servant. They've no imagination—"
"All mothers have, I'm sure," she told him. "I'd have liked your mother to be my friend. I'd have liked to write to her about you—"
"God forbid," he said fervently, and once more she gave way.
Later on that day they discussed ways and means. His definite picture of getting married and staying in hotels in Sydney had made the dream concrete. She had hitherto simply seen them both glittering along in an aura of Deliverance. Right at the back of her mind she still clung to pictures of knightly mail, obtained from she had not the slightest idea where. But that fitted badly with hotels in Sydney and conventions he was going to teach her. In the evening they went to their favourite seat on the anchor and watched the phosphorescence shimmering away in ghostly paths to the star-splashed sky.
"Louis," she said hurriedly, "how much does it cost you to get married in Australia?"
"Lord knows, I don't," he said, sitting up sharp. "There's a music-hall song about 'She cost me seven and sixpence; I wish I'd bought a dog.' But that's in England. I've a hazy notion that it's much more expensive in Australia than England. Why?"
"I'm wondering how we're going to do it. We've about eleven shillings in the world—you see, uncle is meeting me in Melbourne. I had a cable at Port Said to say so. And I'm afraid I'll have to do a little evasion. I don't know him at all, but he may think it his duty to see that I go with him to Wooratonga. Or he may enquire into your prospects like uncles do—"
"Good God!" he said, throwing his cigarette overboard and staring straight at her in horror. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Nor had I. It was all just romance till you mentioned it to-day, and then—probably because I was doing such a prosaic thing as cleaning spoons and forks, I saw all the details for the first time. Wedding rings are made of gold. They must cost a tremendous lot of money. And if being married is only seven and sixpence, I don't see how we are going to spare seven and sixpence out of eleven shillings—we've got to eat something, and live somewhere. You can't eat marriage licences, nor use them as shelter. I've seen one once, belonging to Mrs. Mactavish. She kept it sewed inside the lining of her bodice, all among the bits of whalebone that made her stand up straight. It's a crackly thing like a cheque—"
"Oh, do stop talking nonsense," cried Louis, suddenly desperate when faced with a problem. "Marcella, what are we going to do? Oh, why did I spend that money? Why were you such a fool as to pay it back to Fred? He's drunk it all by now. It did him no good, and think how useful it would have been to us!"
"Don't be so idiotic! As if I'd be married with money belonging to him! My goodness! The best thing is not to be married at all, until we've worked for some money."
"Oh yes," he cried bitterly. "Just like a woman, backing out now things are a bit difficult! I tell you, if we're parted when we get to Sydney I'll be in with the first waster that comes along and start the whole beastly pub-crawl again—"
"But—eleven shillings, Louis!" she said, laughing at the absurdity of it.
"We've got to get the money!" he cried wildly. "If I do a burglary! Look here, Marcella, the only thing is for me to get boozed and borrow it! If I had half a dozen whiskies I'd go to the Governor-General himself and get it out of him! But if I were not boozed I couldn't ask—ask even for the job of gorse-grubbing or road sweeping. I haven't even the courage to ask you for a kiss if I'm not boozed."
He looked at her. His eyes were infinitely pathetic.
"Is there anyone about?" she whispered.
"Only the man in the crow's-nest," he said, "why?"
"Never mind him—give me a kiss, Louis. I'm not frightened, if you are!" she whispered softly, and half awkward and shy he held her in his arms, gathering courage as he felt how she trembled, and guessed how his kisses made her soft and helpless in his arms. "Let's forget worries for a while—we'll never be sitting on an anchor in the Indian Ocean again, in a sea of ghost lights, shall we, Louis?"
"Say 'Louis dear,'" he ordered, gathering courage, kissing her hand. She said it, a little hesitatingly.
"We never say words like that at home," she whispered. "Only mother did, because she was English—"
"I'm English, too. I like words like that. Now say 'Louis darling.'"
"It sounds as if you're a baby."
"So I am—Marcella's baby," he whispered. "Say 'Louis darling.'"
"I can't, Louis," she said uneasily, "I can't say love things. I can only do them. I love you—oh, most dreadfully, but I can't talk about it."
She buried her face on his shoulder. Through his thin canvas coat she could feel his heart thumping as hers was.
"I'm going to kiss that funny little hollow place at the bottom of your neck," she whispered in a smothered voice. "What a good thing you don't wear collars in the Indian Ocean! Louis, tell me all the funny Latin names for the bones in your fingers, and I'll kiss them all—I can't say silly words to you like—like Violet could."
After a while he tried to carry his point.
"Now say 'Louis darling,'" he insisted.
She shook her head.
"Why can't you be like an ordinary girl?" he objected, holding her tight so that he could look into her face. "Ordinary girls don't mind calling a chap darling."
"I can't, anyway. I never can talk much, unless I'm simply taken out of myself and made to. I can't imagine what we'll find to talk about all the time when we're married. But—do you know, whenever we get up here in the dark like this, I always wish it was Sydney to-morrow, and we could be married. I hate to be away from you a minute; I wish we could be together all day and all night, without stopping for meal times—"
"You've got the tropics badly, my child," he said, laughing a little forcedly, as he tried to light a cigarette with trembling fingers and finally gave it up.
"Why? Do people love each other more in the tropics?" she asked. "You love me, don't you?"
"Of course I do. But girls are not supposed to talk about it like men do. Girls have to pretend they don't feel all wobbly and anyhow, because it's more fun for a man when a girl doesn't hurl herself at him."
"But why pretend? Why not be honest about it?" she said, her voice a little flat. "You want me to love you, don't you?"
"Course I do. But you're so queer. Most girls let a chap do the love-making. They dress themselves up—all laces and ribbons and things, and pretend they're frightened to make a chap all the keener."
She thought it out, sitting up as straight as possible.
"I couldn't, Louis," she said decidedly. "I've read that in books, years ago. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. And I think it's horrible. Father had a lot of books about those things and I read them to him when he was ill. I was looking one up again the other day—that day you threw the teapot in the sea." And she told him about the "preliminary canter."
"Well, that's absolutely right," he said coolly. "Women are like that. They're specialized for sex. Don't you admit that you've no brains? You've told me so many a time, and your father always said you were an idiot. And don't you admit that when I kiss you—especially here in the tropics where everything is a bit accelerated—you feel different—all wobbly—?"
She nodded, looking startled.
"Well, what does it mean? It simply means you're specialized. Yes you are, Marcella. Specialized as a woman. All this—this liking to be kissed, and feeling wobbly. They're Kraill's preliminary canter."
"Oh no—no!" she cried in horror.
"Oh, yes, yes!" he mocked, laughing at her gently.
"But Louis, how horrible!"
"Well, you're always preaching honesty and facing facts," he said bluntly.
"Yes—" she said thoughtfully. "But—I don't like it. I hate it. I don't believe Kraill thinks like that, really—I've read three of his courses of lectures and in all of them he doesn't seem to approve of women being like that. Just vehicles of existence or bundles of sensation. He seems, to me, to resent women."
"Yes—after many love adventures," he began.
"But—don't you think all the time he was just getting his education? Like I am? A month ago I'd have been horrified at the thought of kissing you. Now I like it. A few months ago I loathed the thought of having a body—and just everything connected with it. Now, ever since that day I was getting my nice frock ready to go with you to Pompeii I've not minded it a bit. All the time, now, I wish I was nicer."
"Because you've fallen in love, my child," he said, smiling in supreme superiority. "And falling in love instructs even fools."
"It's taught me some very lovely things the last few days, Louis," she said dreamily. "It's taught me that I've to be very shining, for you. And it's taught me that I'd die for you very happily. But what you've just said—about kissing—has suddenly taught me something very beastly. I wanted to love you with my soul and my mind. And now you say it's the hot weather!"
"Well, so it is, dearie. Love's not a spiritual nor a mental thing. It's purely physical. A love affair is always a thousand times swifter under the Southern Cross than under the Great Bear. And it's a million times swifter on board ship than anywhere else because people are thrown into such close contact. They've nothing to do and their bodies get slack and pampered, and they eat heaps too much. It's like the Romans in the dying days of Pompeii—eating, drinking and physical love-making. One day I heard Kraill say in a lecture that men and women can't work together, in offices or anything, or scientific laboratories because they—well—they'd get in each other's light and make each other jumpy."
"And do you believe it?"
"Course I do," he said. "Even if you had the brains or the knowledge for—say research work, I couldn't work with you. I'd be thinking of the way your lips look when they're getting ready to kiss me; and of your white shoulders that I can just catch a peep of when you sit a little way behind me, in that white blouse with little fleur-de-lys on the collar. Naturally if I tried to work then, the work would go to pot."
"But—" she tried to control her voice, which shook in spite of herself, "do you—think of those things—about me?"
"Of course. All men do about their women."
"It's horrible," she gasped, frowning at the Southern Cross. "And doesn't it mean that men are specialized, too?"
"Not a bit of it! Men have to do the work of the world. Women are just the softness of life."
"Cushions for men to fall on?" she said mischievously.
"No, half-holidays when he's fed up with work." He looked at her, laughing at her indignant face. "Why be superior, Marcella? You're just as bad as anyone else, only you're not used to it and haven't thought of it before. Who likes being kissed?"
"Oh, but it wouldn't get in the way of my work," she cried, flushing hotly.
"Wait till you try it, dear child. The first time I ever got the fever taught me a lot. It wasn't love, of course."
"When you loved Violet?" she asked in low tones.
"Oh Lord no! This was a little French girl who picked me up when I was squiffed after I'd passed the First. About twenty of us—all from St. Crispin's—had been up for the First. We all passed but two, and we all had to get drunk to buck those two up. We went to the Empire and kicked up such a gory din that we were helped out. A little mamzelle from the Promenade took charge of me. I—I hadn't thought about those things much before. At home they were taboo. I'd always been terrified of girls—If I hadn't been drunk then I'd never have done it. I thought it unutterably beastly. For months after that I was afraid to look the Mater in the face. I thought she was unutterably beastly, as well, just because she was a woman. It made a tremendous dint on me."
Marcella grasped about a tenth of what he meant. The rest sank into her mind to puzzle her later. But something sprang to the top of her consciousness and raised a question.
"Louis," she said quickly, "That night at Naples—when you were naughty. You talked French to me. I don't know what you said, but the schoolmaster looked shocked."
"Yes, I've been told that before. I always do talk French if I meet a girl when I'm boozy. I used to, to Violet, and she was—oh frightfully disgusted. And once I did to my sister! She, unfortunately, understands French. I suppose it's a good thing you don't."
"Louis, do you say—wrong things in French" she whispered. "Things—you know, beastly things?"
He hesitated a moment and an impulse of honesty made him tell her the truth.
"Yes, I believe I say perfectly appalling things. You see—it's like this. I'm a queer inhibited sort of thing, dear. I'm always—till you took me in hand—fighting drink. I'm in a state of fighting and inhibiting. I've always been like that. Even when I was a little kid I was afraid to be natural because I was taught that the natural impulse was the wrong one. I sometimes want to say something frightfully charming to you, and don't for fear it's silly. I'm always wondering what people will think of me—because I'm so often wrong, you know."
"I just don't care what anyone says or thinks," she broke in.
"There's the difference between us, then. Well, you see, being an ordinary, average sort of human being, I think a lot about girls and all that. Only deep down is the puritanical old idea that it's wicked to do so. Really, honestly, Marcella, I'm not pulling your leg—when I first started dissecting at the hospital, I felt horribly indecent. It was a female thigh! I felt as if it ought to be clothed, somehow—I sort of kept thinking the Pater or someone would come into the lab, and round on me for being immoral. If it had been a male thigh I wouldn't have cared a brass tanner!"
"It must be awful to have barriers in your mind," she pondered.
"It was just the same with booze. If I had a beer or a whisky in the club as all the others did, I saw the Pater disembodied before me, and had another to give me the courage necessary to face him. Everything, you see, everything—girls, drink, curiosities, courtesies, kindness—all got lumped together as things to keep in hand. I got in a fever of self-consciousness. I do now. I think everyone is watching and criticizing me. Then, you see, when I'm drunk, the watch I set on myself is turned out to grass and I get a damned good rest. I let myself rip! In my sober moments I daren't go and order tea for the Mater in a bunshop because I'm petrified with terror of the waitress. When I'm drunk I'd barge into a harem. That first affair—with the French girl—was a tremendous thing to me. Most boys have played about with that sort of thing before that age. They looked down on me because I hadn't. But it made such a deep dint on my brain that whisky and sex and French are all mixed up together and the one releases the other."
"I do wish Dr. Angus was here, Louis," she said. "I wish I understood better."
"You understand better than Violet did. She used to stay at our place a good deal, you know, and go with us to the seaside and to Scotland. Even when I was right off whisky she used to drive me to it. Evening dress, you know. Oh, frightfully evening! And—in a queer old place we stayed in in Scotland once there were heaps of mice. She used to run out of her room in the middle of the night saying she was frightened of them. And then I had to carry her back, and rub her feet because they'd got cold. She was rather a maddening sort of person, you know. She'd lead one on to biting one's nails and tearing one's hair and then she'd laugh and kiss her hand and run away with my sister into her bedroom. And they'd both laugh. She understood the value of being a woman, did Violet. And she didn't let herself go cheap—I used to get the key of the tantalus and cart a whole decanter of whisky to bed to get over it. If she'd just have let me kiss her—"
He paused, frowning reminiscently.
Marcella sighed, and laid a cool, firm hand on Louis's.
"Louis—I think I'm—cheap."
"So are air and water, dearie," he cried, with sudden passion that surprised her.
"I don't think I'll ever understand men, though. Wine, women and song they seem to lump together into a sort of tolerated degradation."
"I don't know much about song, but women and wine are certainly to be lumped together. They're both an uncontrollable hunger. And they give you a thick head afterwards! You say that Professor chap in his lectures resents women. Of course he does. Don't you think I resent whisky? Wouldn't any man resent the thing that makes dints in him, makes him undignified, body and soul, and gives him a thick head and a sense of repentance? I guess I look a pretty mucky spectacle when I'm drunk. I see myself afterwards, and can imagine the rest. Well, a man in the throes of a woman orgy is just as undignified—even if he doesn't lurch—oh and slobber! I've never heard that your Professor drinks. That doesn't happen to be his hunger, you see. But if he drank to the same extent as he has love-affairs he'd be in an asylum now; and if he were a woman he'd be on the streets! No woman—even if she were a Grand Duchess—would be tolerated with the same number of sex affairs as a man can have. She'd just have to be a prostitute out and out—without choice—or else keep herself in hand."
"Like Aunt Janet," murmured Marcella to herself, "and come to acid drops."
Aloud she said. "Louis—I wish you wouldn't tell me. I always think of clever men like Kraill as gods and heroes—I hate to think they have holes in them. They have such wonderful thoughts."
"That's the devil of it. I know they have. He has—Kraill. I've been to his lectures and felt inspired to do anything. They most of them think much better than they can do, that's about the size of it! I suppose we all do that more or less, but we don't put it on paper to be used in evidence against us. We think fine things and do smudged ones, and so the world goes on."
There was a long silence. She crept a little closer to him and put her hand into his. He held it tight. It was almost as if her world were shaking about her and even his unsteady hand seemed some support.
At last she said, as if talking to herself.
"Louis—can't something be done for us all? Can't we have these things cut out of us like cancers? Can't we get rid of these horrible desires as we've lost tails and hair and things we don't need? Then in time people would be born without them. Louis—you don't think—think of me like that, do you—as a—a hunger? As something you must have if you don't have whisky, or as something that will drive you to whisky if I go away as Violet did?"
"I'm—I'm afraid I do, old girl," he said. "It's natural—I say, Marcella—you're only a kid. I don't believe you quite realize what you've taken on—in that way."
She looked startled. Then she laughed gaily.
"I'm not afraid of my part of it, Louis," she said, "but I can't help thinking that if I'm to be—as you put it—a sort of hunger substituted for whisky, we're all wrong. Suppose I died, for instance?"
"Marcella, if you die I shall die too. Anything else is unthinkable. I can't face life without you, now. I can't be a pariah again. You're a hunger to me. I'll admit it. But you're more. You're a saviour. And—you don't know anything about it, dearie. But when we're married you will, and I suppose I'll be just the same sort of hunger to you, then. It's no use blinking your eyes to it. And—be damned glad I love you, and am not like some sort of men. Otherwise—well, Lord knows what would have happened to you. You're so honest that you think everyone else is. And yet, transparent little fool that you are, in common-sense things, I know that you're going to keep me straight."
Back came trooping all the visions of Deliverance, a rich pageantry shutting away the footmarks of the beast she had just glimpsed.
As every beat of the engines brought them nearer and nearer to Sydney consideration of ways and means became even more anxious. Louis spent glowering days. Marcella was quite certain that everything would turn out well.
It was in the dull run between Colombo and Fremantle that they decided upon a plan of action. The nights were getting colder now; they had to sit in thick coats in the evenings. This particular evening it was raining greyly, but they could not sit in the saloon because Ole Fred and his gang had started a smoking concert, and Marcella and Louis would have been ejected forcibly.
"You're such a fatuous optimist, Marcella," he said impatiently. "Lord, I wish I'd never started on this business! Everything's against us—I knew it would be! We'll give it up. You go off into the back blocks where you will at least be sure of food and a roof. And I'll go to the devil in the same old way as quickly as possible."
"Oh, I could shake you!" she cried. "You know quite well I'm not going to leave you, if we have to live on eleven shillings for the rest of our lives. It isn't eleven shillings now, either. I gave Jimmy half a crown to spend at Colombo."
"Fool," he muttered gloomily.
"Who spent fifteen pounds?" she retorted.
"I say, I'm sorry, old girl, but my nerves are a bundle of rags! I've never had a wife to worry about before—and I can't see how I'm going to make enough money to make her my wife yet—"
Marcella knew nothing whatever about money. She had a few jewels of her mother, but it did not occur to her that they were worth money. Louis had absolutely nothing of value. Guided by past experience his mother had given him the barest necessities for clothes; his watch and most of his clothes he had sold before he sailed. What made him so irritable with Marcella was the knowledge that he could easily get the money by being drunk. Publicans are proverbially open-handed; most publicans would have lent him ten pounds to spend in their establishment if he had thoroughly and courageously drunk and pitched some tale about expecting money by the English mail. He certainly looked worth ten pounds and his father's name as a publisher was fairly well known even in the Colonies. He had frequently "raised" twenty or thirty pounds in this way in New Zealand. Once or twice he had borrowed a few pounds from a doctor by telling him a pitiful tale, but most doctors recognized his symptoms and refused to help him to hurt himself.
Suddenly Marcella gave a little giggle of sheer amusement.
"I don't see much to laugh at," he growled.
"I'm thinking of how worried you were about my dignity as your wife and afraid I'd disgrace you in hotels by being friendly with the servants," she said. "It doesn't look as if we're going to get a tent even."
He read unkindness into her chaffing words and flushed hotly.
Suddenly his silly pride that had lain asleep, for the most part, since Port Said, gave a little struggle and came to wakefulness again. He could not have her laugh at him however good-naturedly. Just as he had not realized he was lying to her when he told her highly coloured versions of his surgical exploits, so he scarcely realized he was lying, as he said, mysteriously:
"Don't be too sure, my child. You won't be laughing at me soon. I may be a bit of a waster, but I'm not the sort to marry a girl without knowing how I'm going to support her. How do you know you won't be the guest of the Governor-General as soon as he knows I'm in Sydney—"
"Whatever do you mean? Oh, Louis, don't tell me stories! And I don't want to go and see people like Governor-Generals. I want to be alone with you."
"You probably will, my dear girl. But you must remember that a secret service man has to cover up his traces in every way. He has to hide everything, even from his wife."
"Louis," she said in real distress, clutching his arm, "are you really in the secret service? I'll—I'll forget it all, if you're telling me lies. I'll never think of it again. But it so awful to think you are lying to me!"
"Why should I lie, my darling?" he said, looking hurt, but staring at her mouth instead of looking into her eyes.
"You—you told me—never—to believe you, Louis. Oh, you do make it hard for me. I don't know what to believe. If you're in the secret service don't they pay you any money?"
"Of course—they pay me enough to keep myself going. But it's a patriotic work, you know. And as for not believing me, I told you not to believe me about drinking. That was all."
"But Louis, if you have money, why are you so worried about it now? And—didn't you tell me your father sent you out here?"
"Yes, he did, dearie," he said earnestly. "It's quite true. I was a rotter and he got fed up with me. But I've done a lot of secret service work and didn't dare even tell him. I'm under an oath of secrecy. The times I've had to let him think I was out all night, simply too squiffy to get home when in reality I was working—for England—"
"And you really, truly mean it, Louis? Louis, it would break my heart right in two if I thought you were lying now."
"I swear it, on my love for you. I can see, now, that I ought to have told the Pater all about it. But I thought when he was so unbelieving I'd take his bally pound a week. After all, it isn't much. It's what he spends on one dinner often, and it would keep me in cigarettes, at any rate. So I thought I'd stick to it, as well as my secret service screw. Besides—supposing he wasn't my father at all? Supposing he'd been paid by someone—someone very much more exalted than he, to bring me up?"
"Whatever do you mean, Louis?" she cried.
"Oh, never mind, never mind, old girl. But some day, perhaps, you'll know all I've had to go through—"
There was a pause full of strained thinking. At last she burst out nervously, "But you've told your father not to send any more money, haven't you?"
"Yes, of course. I felt I couldn't be married to you on money I didn't earn. But this secret service—it is all so confidential—we have to guard our orders most carefully in case they get anything—"
"They? Who are they?" she asked quickly.
"The enemy—Germans and Chinese. There's quite a conspiracy on foot in Australia," he added, looking important. But he would tell her no more.
"Shall you be at work as soon as we get to Sydney?" she asked.
"It all depends on my orders. If we can stagger through the first few weeks, till I can get some cash—I say, Marcella, why shouldn't you ask your uncle for some money?"
"Because he'd make me go home with him if I did."
"But couldn't you tell him you'd changed your plans, and had a good job in Sydney? We can make up a tale for him. Just think how jolly it will be to be together, darling! I know it isn't nice to ask people for money, but—it's worth it, isn't it? You need never see him again. Anyway, if you went to live with him you'd cost him a considerable amount, wouldn't you? Why shouldn't he give you some money now instead of that? After all, it's up to well-to-do relations to help a girl who's all alone in the world. Your father's dead—"
It took him all the morning to persuade her. It was only when he told her how he went all to pieces if he had to worry about money, and a moment later painted glowing pictures of the month they would have together if his orders permitted, before they attempted to do anything definite, that she consented. He very rapidly sketched a tale for her to tell her uncle; Marcella hated the lies, for they seemed unnecessary until Louis told her that no uncle in his senses would let her marry a man she had only known six weeks.
"But if you talked to him, Louis," she pleaded, "I'm sure he'd like you."
"I'm not. He'd ask what my job is, and if it was known that I'd given away the fact that a secret service agent was in Sydney I might even get shot as a spy," he said earnestly, and at last, in a maze of worry, she gave way.
The night before Melbourne she gave him her father's signet ring—a heavy gold thing that Andrew had given her just before he died, telling her it must never leave her possession. He seemed very pleased with it, and told her laughingly that if they could not afford to buy a ring she would be married with that as a temporary measure.