It was the doctor who saw Marcella on to the Oriana at Tilbury. Aunt Janet had not suggested coming with her: it had not occurred to her as the sort of thing that was necessary, nor had Marcella given it a thought. Left to herself, she would have taken train blithely from Carlossie to Edinburgh and thence to London-imagining London not very much more formidable than a larger Carlossie. But the doctor made them see that it was quite necessary for someone to see her off safely, and naturally the job fell to him.
The booking of the passage had caused considerable discussion. Aunt Janet had written to the shipping company asking them to reserve a saloon berth by the first mail-boat after a certain date. That it took nearly all the money she had or was likely to have, as far as she could see, for the rest of her days, did not trouble her in the least. She could live on nothing, she told herself-and it was absolutely necessary that Andrew's child should go away, even though she was going to seek the once-refused charity of a relative, with the maximum of dignity and with flags flying. But the doctor had a talk with her about it. He had had three trips as ship's doctor to Australia on P. and O. steamers, and his imagination reeled at the prospect of Marcella in the average saloon on a long-distance liner.
"You see," he said, trying hard to be tactful, "if Marcella travels first class she'll need many clothes. There are no laundries on most of these ships, and it's a six weeks' trip. In the tropics you need to be changing all day if you care a brass farthing for your appearance." He did not tell her that Marcella's frankness and her lack of conventional training would ostracize her among the first-class passengers, half of whom were Government officials and the like going out to Australia or India, while the rest were self-made Australians going back home after expensive visits to the Old Country. They moved in airtight compartments. The exclusive Government folks would not have accepted a place on a raft that held the self-made colonials even at the risk of losing their lives. The self-made folks, snubbed and a little hurt, were rather inclined to be blatantly loud and assertive in self-defence. Between the two Marcella would be a shuttlecock. But she clinched the discussion herself by remarking airily that she was going in the cheapest possible way.
"You shall go second class," said her aunt. "I quite see Dr. Angus's point about the first-class passengers."
"I'm going third, Aunt. I won't spend money that needn't be spent, and the third-class part of the ship gets there just as fast as the first! I'd be uncomfortable among rich folks. I only know poor people, and Dr. Angus-I'll get on better with third-class people."
The doctor laughed at the implication, and was forced to give in. He told Aunt Janet that the third class was quite comfortable, though he really knew nothing about it. He had never been on an emigrant ship in his life. He arranged for a share in a two-berth cabin quite blithely.
Marcella felt solemn when she finally saw the doctor's machine at the door waiting for her in the grey dawn light; Jean cried, and Tammas and Andrew, who were coming in with the tide, seeing the trap crawling along, ran up a little flag on the masthead to cheer her going. But Aunt Janet did not cry. She kissed the girl unemotionally and went into the house, shutting the heavy door with a hollow, echoing clang.
They had some hours to spend in Edinburgh, and got lunch in Princes Street. It all seemed amazingly big and busy to Marcella, who could not imagine the use of so many hundreds of people.
"I can't see what they're all here for, doctor," she said as they sat at a very white and sparkling table in a deep window opposite the Scott Monument, and the people went to and fro in the absorbed, uncommunicative Edinburgh way. "They don't seem to be needed."
The doctor laughed.
"Wait till you see London," he said. "You'll wonder more then."
She got up from the table suddenly and stood in the window while the doctor went on eating philosophically and smiling at her as he wished he could go all the way to Australia with her and watch her growing wonderment at the world.
"You know," she said doubtfully, "it seems so queer-all these people, and then that monument. I don't see the connection, somehow."
"I see you standing there, and a lump of congealing mutton on your plate here," said the doctor, and she sat down and ate a mouthful hurriedly.
"But what is the connection? What are they for?"
The doctor watched her in his precise way with his eyes twinkling at her over his glasses, which he wore on the end of his nose.
"I thought you were such a learned biologist, Marcella. Kraill would tell you they were the caskets of questing cells-seeking about for complementary cells that some day will themselves become the caskets of cells."
"Ugh! That reminds me of all the clouds of flies on the dead fish in summer," she said, pushing her plate away. "Flies-then maggots."
"Exactly!" said the doctor, chuckling.
"But-" she began, and broke off, frowning.
"Don't you see any connection between all yon little people and the monument, though? A crawling mass of folks-and one or two stand out. The others show they realize how these big ones stand out by making monuments for them. It infers, I think, that they'd all like to tower if they could."
"Ah, that's better. But so few tower."
"And that, Marcella, is just what I told you yon day we drove to Pitleathy. They're all patched-or I should say we're all patched. Either bodily, mentally or spiritually there are holes torn in us, and we've to be so busy patching them up from collapsing that we've no time to grow. As time goes on and we learn better there'll be less patching. There'll be more growing up tall and straight-everyone-there'll be giants in those days, Marcella."
"Yes," she said slowly, and saw herself as one of them some day as she drew on her gloves rather awkwardly, for they were the first pair she had ever possessed. "Oh, well-I'm not going to be patched at all, doctor. I simply won't have things tearing holes in me."
London, of course, was even more amazing than Edinburgh. They had a day to spend there, and the doctor took her to Regent Street and Bond Street in the morning. He was enjoying himself in a melancholy sort of fashion. Marcella was tabula rasa. It was interesting to watch the impressions registered on her surface.
The shops gave her none of the acquisitive pleasure he had expected. To her they were interesting as museums might have been. She could not, she did not see the use of them. The women thronging the windows and departments of a great store through which they walked roused her to excited comment.
"What are they buying them all for?" she said, looking at the hats and frocks and the purchasers. "They have such nice ones already."
The doctor asked her if she did not think they were very pretty when he had got over his amusement at the idea of women only buying things because they needed them.
"Oh beautiful!" she cried rapturously. "But you couldn't do very much in frocks like that."
"That's the idea, of course," said the doctor, watching her quizzically. "If you only knew it, Marcella, all these shops are built upon a foundation of what your professor calls 'questing cells.' You see-but let's get out into the air. You've started my bee buzzing now."
They faced about and elbowed their way through an eager-eyed, aimless-footed throng by the doorway.
"Now go on," said Marcella when they were in the street, walking down beside Liberty's. She had one eye on the windows and one ear for the doctor.
"You see, all these women here-they're doing something quite unconsciously when they buy pretty clothes and spend so much time and money on making themselves look so bonny," said the doctor, striding along in his Inverness cape, quite oblivious that he was a very unique figure in Regent Street. "They'll worry tremendously about what colour suits them, what style sets off their beauty best. I don't think that it's really because they like to see something bonny every time they look in their mirror. I don't think it's even that they want admiration, or envy. It's simply that they're ruled by the law of reproduction, if they only knew it. Inside them is new life-these same questing cells. These cells can only find separate existence through complementary cells. So they urge these women on to make themselves charming, capturing-married or single, they are the same, deep down, for natural laws take no count of marriage laws, you know. The men are the same, too. They beg and placate-and all the time deep down, they think they are the choosers, the overlords. And the women tempt them and then run away. Last of all they yield. These cells have it ingrained in them that the woman-thing is only ready to yield after a chase. Very few people do this consciously. A few do-people who have been let into the secret of studying natural laws. Then they either do it for the fun of the chase, or else because they're too morally lazy to fight the urge of the cells. That's when they get holes torn in them."
He walked on for a few steps, and then turned to laugh into Marcella's puzzled face.
"All of which, I'd like to point out, I take no credit for, Marcella. I got it out of Kraill's Edinburgh lectures that have just been published in book form."
"I hate that way of talking," said Marcella abruptly. "I like Wullie's way best. He says lives are the pathway of life, just as you do. But he says it's not just life, it's either God or beasts that walk along it and we've to help God kill the beasts so as to leave the pathway clear for Him. It means the same, but your way of saying it is so-so ungodly."
"I know. But there it is. The way I talk is the way Kraill and his school talk. Of course, there's something in it. There would be a great deal in it if we were only aiming at making bodies. All this tricking out-refinement-it may produce the people who tower over others-like the Greeks with their 'pure beauty' you know-"
He stopped speaking suddenly and they walked on in silence while Marcella looked eagerly from shop window to passers-by and back again.
"It's all wrong, doctor," she said at last. "It's too one-sided."
"Yes. And look at the Greeks now-"
She turned to him with a quick, birdlike glance.
"Do you know what I think?" she said.
"Not quite all of it," said the doctor, watching her face, and thinking how incongruous it looked in Regent Street.
"Well, I think biology's one of the beasts we've to kill before God walks along us. So there! Tropical forests-maggots-women," she added, and the doctor laughed outright.
The chief impression she got of London was its aimlessness. It reminded her irresistibly of an ant-hill she had seen disturbed once. Myriads of tiny creatures had scurried passionately, exhaustingly, after each other to and fro, no whence and no whither; the people thronging out of shops and offices at dusk frightened her: there seemed so many of them, and, looking at their tired, strained faces and their unkingly way of hurrying along, uninterested and uninteresting save in getting to their destination, it seemed to her that they were not thinking of ever "towering": when Dr. Angus reminded her that they were so busy keeping alive that they had no time to think how and why they were alive at all, she was plunged into black depression; at home she had only had less than a hundred people and a few beasts about the farm to pity. Now it came to her with sudden force that all these people, so driven by different forces, were to be pitied. But as soon as she saw the crowd of people at Fenchurch Street station and a chalked notice, "Boat train for the R.M.S. Oriana," she forgot abstract worries.
There seemed to be a good many children, small groups of five or six with father and mother, and piles of inexpensive-looking luggage; there were several young men who looked very much like the lads who worked about the farm at home; there were groups of girls and a more or less heterogeneous collection of people who might be passengers, and might be friends seeing passengers off. But what impressed her immensely was a pile of brightly striped deck-chairs with sun-awnings. They looked exotic, tropical on the grey, gloomy platform; they seemed so pleasantly lazy and luxurious among the piles of utilitarian-looking luggage. The doctor bought one for her and put it among her baggage.
The train was crowded; the doctor stood up to give his seat to a woman and Marcella sprang to her feet, talking incessantly about her impressions and her expectations. She thought London, seen from a railway carriage window, which gave only a view of back gardens, factories, little streets and greyish washing drying, was an appalling place. Three times she said to the doctor, "But what's the use of living at all in such miserable places?" and the second and third time he only smiled at her. The first time he had said:
"Why, either because they don't know there's anything better, or else because they're sure there's something better. Either is a good reason for going on with awful things."
At last they were in the tender, in a drizzling, greyish rain, ploughing through the coffee-coloured water of the Thames towards the Oriana, which seemed surprisingly small. She had several surprises during the journey from Fenchurch Street. To begin with, someone trod on her foot and did not apologize; several people elbowed her out of their way in their rush to get to their luggage; no one smiled at her or spoke to her; no one seemed to realize that she was Marcella Lashcairn, or, if they realized it, it made no impression on them.
"Don't people here seem bad tempered?" said she to the doctor. "They don't seem to care about each other in the least."
"There are so many of them, Marcella-at home, you see, there are so few that they are frightfully interesting and friendly and critical of each other. Among all these people nobody matters very much-"
"They matter to me. I want to be friends with them, take them under my wing," she said, looking round at them, most of them people who would not be very likely to be put under anyone's wing at all. "Don't you feel like that?"
"I don't. They come under my wing fast enough without being asked and lots of them come in the night just when I've got in bed," he said. "I'm a bit tired of people, Marcella. I've seen too much of them. I always get two views of 'em, you know-inside and out. And the inside view is very depressing."
He laughed at her grave face, but once again he had a sharp misgiving about letting her go away alone. It seemed dangerous to turn her, practically an anchorite, loose among so many people. He wished, now, that he had let her brave the freezings of the saloon rather than the thawings of the steerage. But she seemed so confident, so eager, that he could say nothing to damp her spirits, only he was very glad, on going with her to look at her cabin, to find that she was to have it to herself. That, at any rate, prevented a too close intimacy that he suddenly felt might be dangerous.
They found very little to say during the twenty minutes he had to spend with her before the tender took him back to the shore. He was feeling very saddened, and at the same time anxious to give her excellent, fatherly advice, for he suddenly realized her abysmal ignorance when he saw her standing smiling with an air of pleased expectancy among all these strangers, waiting, as she had said, to love them all and take them all under her wing. Twice he started nervously to warn her-and each time she interrupted him joyously.
"Doctor, just come and peep into this door! Look, millions and millions of shiny rods and wheels and things. Oh aren't engines the most beautiful things on earth? Look at them-not an inch to waste in them! I wish I could be an engineer."
The next minute the first bell rang to warn visitors to be getting their farewells over, and he started again, shyly and hesitatingly:
"Marcella-I'd be careful."
He was frightened of women-folk unless they were ill. He could talk to Marcella about impersonal things very interestedly, but suddenly to become fatherly was difficult. His mouth went dry, his face flushed and he wished he had asked Aunt Janet to come with them.
She seized his arm eagerly.
"Oh look at the nice, kind little lifeboats! They're not much bigger than Tammas's boat. Doctor, if we're wrecked isn't it a good thing I can row and swim? Do you think we might get wrecked? I'd have that nice little neat boat the third along and rescue the women and children! If the boat gets full I'll hop out and swim-and if sharks come along I'll tell them what Aunt Janet said about Hoodie. I think I'd be tough, don't you?"
Her face clouded at mention of her aunt and Hoodie and the second bell rang out.
"Only three more minutes," called a steward close to Marcella's side. "All for the shore ready, please!"
"You'll be looking after Aunt Janet, doctor?" she said gravely. "And Wullie? He'll miss me-if you'd make it possible to call and have a few words with him at the hut when you're passing."
"Yes, Marcella," said the doctor, and found his voice strangely husky. "And look here, Marcella-you'll be careful?"
Her eyes were looking into his, very bright with tears as she took his hand in hers and walked towards the gangway with him.
"I couldn't be careful if I tried," she said, laughing, though her eyes got even more damp than ever. "Why should I be careful?"
"You-you might get sea-sick," stammered the doctor despairingly.
"Oh don't be silly! I'm as much at home on the sea as Tammas. Sea-sick indeed! Whatever next?"
The third bell clanged deafeningly and the siren of the little tender hooted at the doctor's efforts to be fatherly.
"Any more for the shore, please?" called one of the ship's officers who stood ready to cast off, and Marcella thought he looked accusingly at the doctor.
"They'll be taking you along, doctor," she said. "Oh I do wish you were coming! Good-bye! Good-bye. Oh dear, I do believe I'm going to cry."
"Good-bye, lassie," said the doctor, taking off his glasses as he stepped on to the gangway and blinked at her. Suddenly she thought he looked so grey and so lonely that it seemed necessary to comfort him and, before the man at the gangway could stop her, she had dashed after him, flung her arms round his neck, kissed him loudly on his ruddy cheek and ran back on deck again, all in a moment. She was looking at the doctor as he stared at her blindly, but she was suddenly conscious of a loud and passionate "Damn!" very close to her. She guessed, rather than realized, that she was standing on someone's foot.
"Oh, I am so sorry," she said, flushing hotly; she gave the owner of the foot, which was in a neat brown shoe, a swift upward glance that stopped at rather bright, downcast brown eyes. The next minute she was waving to the doctor, for the tender had already started and the gap of dirty water was widening.
"You'll take care, Marcella," he called. "And, Marcella, if you're getting unhappy, you'll be coming back home?"
"Of course I'll come back. This is only a crusade," she said, waving her hand to him, feeling that she would begin to dance with excitement in another moment, and at the same time wishing that he could come with her, for, as she saw him through mists slowly getting further and further away while the gap of water widened, she realized how absolutely alone she was.
Next moment she became aware of a tall, grey-haired lady in black clinging to the rail beside the doctor, and crying unrestrainedly as she seemed to be gazing directly at Marcella.
"Louis, you'll remember, won't you?" she cried in a faint, choked voice. "You'll try, won't you?" and Marcella, turning slightly, realized that it was the young man with brown eyes at whom she was looking.
"Yes, Mater, you know I will," said he hoarsely. A crowd of half a dozen men standing on the other side of Dr. Angus began to yell greetings and farewells to the man called Louis while the grey lady's eyes and his held each other for a moment in a passionate glance of appeal and ratification.
"Cheerio, Farne," called someone.
"Farne, don't get wet!" yelled someone else. There was a chorus of cheers and catcalls.
"Buck up, Mater," he called with another long glance. Then, waving his hat to the others he called cheerfully, "Give my respects to Leicester Square, you chaps."
A group of stewards in white jackets began to whistle the song and someone on the boat deck sang it in a high falsetto. Someone behind Marcella was holding a piece of white ribbon that went right across the water to the tender; as the boat's speed accelerated the frail thread snapped and the girl in whose hand it was clasped, a very thin, anaemic looking girl, gave a choking sob.
"My only sister," she said to no one in particular. "There she is, and here am I. They wouldn't pass her for Australia, because they say she's got consumption."
"What a shame!" murmured Marcella, waving frantically to the doctor while from the tender came the deep, gay voices of the students who had cheered Louis singing "We want more Beer" to the tune of "Lead Kindly Light."
The wake of the tender widened out, lapped against the side of the Oriana and rippled away; it was no longer possible to distinguish anything but a blurred mass of pinkish faces and dark clothes, splashed by a crest of white handkerchiefs. Good-byes rang out to the undersong of "We want more Beer." Marcella turned away and looked right into the face of Louis Farne. It was a very red face, unnaturally red and distorted; the brown eyes were bright with tears.
She stared at him in amazement; he really was a phenomenon to her-the first young man she had ever seen, with the exception of the peasant lads. She blinked her own dry eyes and frowned at him reflectively.
"Did it hurt you as much as that? Anyway, I'm very sorry," she said.
"D'you think I'm blubbing for that, idiot?" said the boy in a jerky voice, and, bending almost double, darted down the companion-way.
She stared at him, and turned to the ship's rail again, drowning in surprise. She was surprised at Tilbury now that she had time to look about her. It was so utterly unromantic ashore-docks, wharves, miserable buildings and brown fields, very distant. She remembered that Queen Elizabeth had reviewed her troops at Tilbury when she was getting ready for the Armada to land; she had expected that the glamour of that ancient pageant would hang about Tilbury. And there was no glamour at all-except, perhaps, in the ships that lay at anchor and the barges that glided by; they were glamorous enough with their aura of far lands and strange merchandise.
She became aware that the girl with the consumptive sister was looking at her, and must have heard the boy's remark.
"People here seem very rude," she remarked.
"That they are! Saying she had consumption-I know it was consumption though they wrote it down in funny words. Other folks said she had consumption too-sauce! And now she's all alone there, and I'm here."
"What made you come," asked Marcella, "if you didn't want to leave her?"
"I do' know. Fed up, that's about it," said the girl resignedly. "I wisht I hadn't come an' left her now, though. Her not being strong-mind you, it's all my eye to talk about consumption, but her best friend couldn't say as she was strong. Oh, dear, I do wisht I hadn't left her."
For half an hour the thin girl argued with Marcella-a very one-sided argument-explaining in detail that her sister could not possibly have consumption, but that the doctor who had refused to pass her as an emigrant must have had a spite against her-simply must have had. Otherwise why didn't he pass her? What was it to him? Marcella was very sympathetic but quite unhelpful, and after a while got away and went below to arrange her things in her cabin.
It fascinated her; it was quite the smallest thing she had ever seen, much smaller than Wullie's hut, and the shining whiteness of the new enamel particularly appealed to her, though the smell of it was not very pleasing. The clamps that held the water-bottle and glass gave an exhilarating hint of rough weather; the top bunk, about on the level of her eyes, promised thrilling acrobatic feats at bedtime, and she decided to sleep in that one, leaving the other as a receptacle for her baggage.
In her preparations she lost sight of the lunch hour, and the bell and the sound of feet scurrying down the companion way meant nothing to her. But at three o'clock something extraordinarily exciting happened; she heard the sharp "ting-ting" of a bell, and the ship began to palpitate as if a great heart were beating within it. She hurried on deck as the siren began to cry. As soon as her head appeared above the top of the companion-way she saw the wharves and houses on shore running away in a peculiarly stealthy fashion; a ship much bigger than the Oriana, whose decks were thronged with stewards and deck-hands cheering and calling out greetings, went by; she dipped her flag to the outgoing Oriana, and Marcella thought how nice and chivalrous ships were to each other. Then it dawned on her that they were under weigh-that the heart she felt beating was the ship's engines, and that the extraordinary behaviour of the shore was because the Oriana was going out with the tide.
She wondered then why she had come, and felt very frightened and lonely. In all this big ship was no one who would care if she fell overboard into the muddy water; in all the world except at Lashnagar, which was sliding away from her with every beat of the ship's heart, there was no one who knew her except an unknown, almost legendary, uncle. She sat down on a covered hatchway, suddenly a little weak at the knees.
People passed and repassed, worrying the stewards with foolish and unnecessary questions, which they answered vaguely as they hurried by. The thin girl stood leaning over the rail watching the brown shores that imprisoned her sister: four men who had apparently already made friends came along and sat down by Marcella, exchanging plans. One of them was horribly pock-marked; a younger man with red hair, queer shifty eyes and a habit of gesticulating a great deal when he talked was apparently going out with him. As the mudflats of the Thames glided by dreamily Marcella found their conversation slipping into her consciousness. The man with the red hair was talking: as he waved his right hand she saw that it had the three middle fingers missing. Her eyes followed it as if it hypnotized her.
"Going out to Sydney?" asked the pock-marked man of the two young farm hands who were staring about them open-mouthed. They nodded stupidly.
"Got 'ny tin?" asked the red-haired man. The younger farm hand, a ruddy, clean, foolish boy of twenty, jerked his thumb towards his friend.
"Dick's got it."
"Going to a job?"
"Maybe," said the elder of the two, a little on his guard.
"Well, what I was finkin' was vat vis is a six-weeks' trip, an' if we was to pal in we could have a good time. I've done vis jaunt before, and know ve ropes. I know how to square ve stewards to get drinks out of hours, and little extrys."
The farm lads nodded comprehension, and the younger one began to talk rather loudly of his prospects. The pock-marked man drew a little closer.
"We're going out to start a little business," he began.
"Ole Fred," the red-haired man took up the tale, jerking his head towards his friend, "he's bin runnin' a business down Poplar way-not a business, in a manner o' speaking. It was a kip for sailors. On'y he got acrorst the cops abaht a sailor as disappeared. So him an' me-we've alwiz palled in wiv each ovver-fought we'd make a move over ve water. If we was to pall in togevver vis trip maybe we might do somefing togevver when we hit up in Sydney."
"Put it there, mate," said the pock-marked man, holding out his hand to the farm lads, "and we'll wet it."
They all got up. Ole Fred, noticing Marcella looking at him with frank curiosity as she tried to translate his queer, clipped English, gave her what he imagined to be a friendly smile.
"Coming?" he asked, holding back, while the red-haired man gave a loud guffaw and dug him in the ribs.
"Now, now, Freddy-vat's his great weakness-a little bit o' skirt," he explained to the others, who laughed loudly.
"Coming where?" asked Marcella with pleased interest, though she wished his face was not so appalling. "Is it tea-time?"
"No. Come an' 'ave a drink," he said.
"Oh, can we get one? I am glad. I missed lunch. You were luckier, I suppose, as you have been here before and understand the rules. It's very kind of you."
"I never mind being kind to young ladies," he said, leering at her. "Look here, you sit down here an' I'll bring you a drink. Then we c'n have a little talk and get to know each other better."
She sat down, feeling horrible at hating his face when he was so kind. She heard laughter from the men who had gone a little way up the deck to a doorway, and then Ole Fred came back with a small tumbler in one hand and a large one in the other. The small one he put into Marcella's hand.
"Oh-" she began, looking at it doubtfully.
"What's up?" he asked, sitting down very close to her.
"I'm sorry. I wish I'd asked you to bring tea."
"Oh, you can't get tea. Anyway, ship's tea is rotten. Drink that up, dear. It'll put a bit of go into you. I like young ladies with a bit of go."
She frowned at him. Then the smell of the stuff in the tumbler was wafted to her. The green baize door came before her, almost tangible, and the book-room as it was the night her father died, when last she had smelt whisky as she and Wullie knelt on the floor beside him.
"Here, take it," she cried, starting up wildly. "Take it away! I'd die if I drank it."
"What in hell-" began the man, staring after her.
But she was already down the companion-way and rushing towards her cabin. All the misery of her father's death and illness had swept back upon her. It was quite true, as Aunt Janet had said, that nothing would kill that pain until she had schooled herself not to feel. She felt the literal, physical weight of all that misery as she ran along the alley-way, her eyes swimming, her face flushed.
Her cabin-Number 9-being the one with the porthole, was at the end of the alley-way. The door of Number 8 was open into the passage, but she was too blinded by her emotion to notice it, and blundered into it. It was badly swung, and slammed inwards. She heard a smash inside the cabin, and someone said "Damn!" It was exactly the same "Damn" that had resulted from her headlong flight after Dr. Angus.
She was standing a little breathless by her own door when Number 8 opened and Louis Farne looked out. His hair was rumpled, his expression one of speechless annoyance.
"W-what the d-devil are you up to?" he said, stammering a little. "Th-that's the s-second time."
"Oh, it's you!" she said, speaking breathlessly. "A horrible man gave me whisky, and I was frightened."
"Good Lord!" He gazed at her, and she noticed that he gazed in a queer way, afraid to meet her eyes: it was her chin he saw when he looked at her; she rubbed it with her handkerchief, wondering if a smut had got on it. And he transferred his gaze to her ear.
"And I made you spill your tea! I am sorry! I seem made to do violent things to you. But can't I get you some more?"
"I s-suppose I c-can make some," he said, turning into the cabin.
"Don't they give us tea? Do we have to make our own?"
"Oh no-but I've done this trip before, and know how one w-wants a d-drink in the tropics."
He took the door in his hand and fumbled with the faulty catch as though he would shut it. Then he seemed to shake himself together inside his coat, which was very crumpled, as though he had been lying down inside it. "Look here," he said breathlessly and with an effort, "w-would you like some tea? I can get another c-cup from the steward."
"I would," she said frankly. "Do make some more. I've a cake in my box that's supposed to last me till I get to Australia. But I'll find it, and we'll have it now. I'm horribly hungry."
She went inside her cabin and drew out her trunk, which she had not yet unlocked. She heard him clearing up the broken cup, and then he tapped on her door.
"I can't open it-mine opens inwards, you see," she called. "And my trunk's in the way. What is it?"
"I-I-c-called you an idiot," came his voice, rather low and hesitating.
"So I was," she said bluntly, and heard him laugh.
"St-still-I needn't have mentioned it."
Then his steps grew faint along the alley-way. She sat back on her heels, frowning. She was wondering why he would not look at her, why he flushed and stammered when he spoke to her.
He was back in a few minutes, explaining that he had been to the cook's galley for boiling water to make tea. She had dragged her cabin trunk into the doorway, and laid upon it the tin in which her cake was packed, the two cups he brought with him and the teapot.
"A beneficent shipping company provides one camp stool to each cabin, you'll find-if you're lucky," he said; but there was not one in Marcella's cabin. He sat down on his own, and then, standing up awkwardly as she sat quite casually and comfortably on the floor, offered it to her.
"Oh no-keep it. I always sit on the floor," she explained, and this time he stared at the end of her nose.
He explained the mystery of powdered milk to her; reaching over for the tin to examine it more closely, she tipped it over.
"I keep doing this sort of thing," she explained, "ever since I left Lashnagar. Most things I touch I knock over."
"Weak co-ordination," he said.
"Whatever's that?" She paused in cutting a slice of cake with an enormous clasp-knife Wullie had given her years ago.
He immediately looked consciously learned.
"Like a baby, you know-it grabs for a thing and can't aim at it. It reaches a few inches the other side of it. It means your brain and body are not on speaking terms."
"Oh, my goodness! Am I like that? Does it matter? How do you know all about it?"
"I learnt it at the hospital."
"Oh, are you a doctor then?"
"No. N-not n-now," he stammered, and began to untie and retie his shoe lace very carefully. "I-I was going to be."
"You must be clever," she said admiringly. "What a lot of things we can talk about!"
"Rather! I'm w-wondering what m-makes you like that!-you know what I mean, without co-ordination. Babies and drunkards and that sort of thing usually are."
"Well, I'm neither of those. But I'll tell you why I think it is. It's because I've lived in the open air, where there was nothing to knock over except trees and stones; or else I've lived in an enormous house where everything was so big you couldn't knock it over if you tried. I'm not used to being among things and people."
"Been in prison?" he said, smiling for the first time.
She entered on a vivid description of Lashnagar. He seemed to think it was a fairy tale, though he listened eagerly enough, and once she saw him actually look directly at her face for an instant.
"Are you going to Sydney?" he asked at length.
"I'm booked through to Sydney, but I'm going to live with an uncle right in the backblocks somewhere, and he may meet me at Melbourne. I've never seen him yet. Where are you going?"
"To live there?"
"No, die probably," he said, and his face that had been animated suddenly became morose and gloomy, and his hand shook as he lighted a cigarette. Her eyes opened wider.
"Are you ill, then?" she asked gently. "You don't look ill."
"No, I'm not ill. By the way, do you smoke? It didn't occur to me to offer you a cigarette."
She shook her head, watching him with a puzzled frown. She wondered why his hands gave her such a vague sense of discomfort as she watched him light another cigarette. It was not until she was in her bunk that night that she remembered that his nails were bitten and ragged-one finger was bleeding and inflamed.
"No, I'm not ill. I'm sick, though. The Pater says I want stiffening. This is my third trip in the stiffening process. Like a bally collar in a laundry! Oh, damn life! What's he know about it, anyway? Have you got a deck-chair?"
"I'm going to put mine on the fo'c'sle presently. If we don't peg out claims they'll all go, and the fo'c'sle is the best place in the steerage. Where's yours? I'll t-take it there, if you like."
He had begun to stammer in the last sentence, suddenly self-conscious again. She told him where her chair was on deck, and next minute, without another word, he was half-way along the alley-way, leaving the tea-things where they were. Then he turned back and spoke from several yards away.
"I suppose you're wondering what the devil I'm doing in the steerage, aren't you? A chap like me-a medical student! And I'll t-tell you w-why it is! The p-pater's too mean to pay for me to go decently."
He was looking down at his shoes as he spoke. She noticed that the nice brown eyes were quite far apart; the forces that set them so had not meant them to be shifty. His chin was strong, too, but his mouth was loose and much too mobile. It quivered when he had finished speaking. She reflected that if she had seen him in a train reading, and not speaking to anyone, she would have thought him very nice to look at. Only his nervousness and his mannerisms made him unpleasant.
"He'd go first class himself if he was going to Hades! Steerage is good enough for Louis-as there's no way of letting him run behind like a little dog!" He began to bite his lower lip, and his fingers twisted aimlessly.
"I hadn't thought of the lack of dignity in it," said Marcella calmly. "I said I'd come steerage, and here I am. I'm sure it's going to be jolly."
"I don't suppose you'd notice, being a farmer's daughter," he said.
"I never notice anything, and I never worry about things. I knew perfectly well aunt couldn't afford to pay more for me, and I'm not such a fool as to pretend she could."
"And I'm to consider myself squashed-abso-bally-lutely pestle and mortared?" he said, turning away flushing and biting his lip.
"Quite. I hate pretenders," she said. The next moment he heard her cabin trunk being pushed noisily inside and the door was banged to.
At five o'clock a steward came along to explain that he had looked for her at lunch-time, but could not find her.
"I've reserved you a place at my table, miss," he said. "You'd better get in early and take it. These emigrants, they push and shove so-and expect the best of everything. And mind you, not a penny to be had out of them-not one penny! It's 'Knollys this' and 'Knollys that' all day-my name being Knollys, miss-you'd think I was a dog."
She went along the alley-way with him. He went on, aggrievedly:
"Simply because they've never had anyone to order about before, and they aren't used to it. But anything you want, let me know, miss, and I'll see you all right."
When she got into the dining saloon she found small wars in progress. About a hundred and fifty people were trying to sit down in a hundred seats. The stewards looked harassed as they explained that there was another meal-time half an hour after the first. Knollys was trying, with impassive dignity, to prove mathematically to an old lady that by waiting until six o'clock for her tea to-day and automatically shifting all her meal-times on half an hour she was losing nothing; and, after all, it would all be the same whether she had her tea at five or six or seven a hundred years hence. But she thought there was some catch in it, for she expressed an intention of seeing the captain, and then, thinking better of it, stood behind an already occupied chair with the air of Horatius holding the bridge.
When at last order was restored and Marcella sat down, she found that she was at a long table, one of three that ran from end to end of the saloon. Ole Fred and his three friends were at the same table, a little higher up. He scowled at her, and the three others made some grinning remarks to him which he seemed to resent. Next to her was a little boy of six or seven, who looked at her gravely. Beside him was a man with greying hair and a very red face, who was talking to a small lady of deceptive age-a very pretty, dark, bright-eyed little lady, charmingly dressed, with hair of shining blackness arranged about her head in dozens of little tight curls. She and the elderly man were talking animatedly. The little boy pulled the man's arm several times gently, and said "Father," but he did not notice.
There were piles of sliced bread at intervals up the table, and saucers containing butter and jam. The stewards came to each person with an enormous pair of pots and, murmuring "tea or coffee?" poured something by sleight-of-hand into the thick, unbreakable cups.
"Father!" murmured the little boy again, pulling his father's sleeve. The father shook his arm impatiently, as one jerks away an annoying fly. He went on talking absorbedly. A steward asked if Marcella would have ham or fish.
"Father," said the little boy, with quivering lips.
"What's to do, laddie?" said Marcella.
He stared at her, summed her up and decided.
"I'm thinking, shall I have ham or fish?" he said seriously.
"Which do you like?"
"Fish-only the bones are so worrying."
"I'll see to the bones for you. Have fish because I'm having it, and we can keep each other company," she said. Knollys darted away.
"I'd advise you to make a good tea, miss," said Knollys with a firmly respectful air. "There's nothing until breakfast at eight to-morrow."
Marcella nodded at him. Next minute she heard Ole Fred swearing at him for not being quicker, but Knollys took it all with an impersonally sarcastic air. She cut up the little boy's bread and butter into strips, arranged his fish, and watched, with amusement, his father turn to him with a jerk of remembrance.
"It's good of you to look after young Jimmy," he said, smiling at Marcella. "He misses his mother."
"Is she dead?"
"Yes. He's only me. There are a surprising lot of lonely people in the world, aren't there? The little lady next to me-she's a widow, I find. It's hard when a woman has had a man to depend on and suddenly finds herself left to battle with the world, isn't it? Women are such fragile little flowers to me-they want protecting from the winds."
Marcella looked at him; he was rather fat: the excitement of his talk with the little lady had made his forehead shine; when he smiled his drooping moustache could not hide a row of blackened, broken teeth. He smelt of stale tobacco, as though he carried old pipes in every pocket. He ate quickly and noisily, his eyes on his plate, his shoulders moving.
Jimmy asked timidly if he might have a piece of bread and jam. His father said "Yes, of course," and went on eating. Marcella spread the jam for him, and then turned to his father.
"I don't know many women," she said. "But I'd just like to see a man treat me as a fragile flower."
"Ah, wasteful woman!" said Mr. Peters, smiling fatuously as he wrestled with a hard piece of ham rather too big for his mouth. As soon as he had swallowed it, he went on, "That's the thing a man loves in a woman-a real man, that is! 'Just like the ivy, I cling to thee' should be a woman's motto, a true woman's motto. A woman's weakness, her trust in man is her most womanly characteristic. It appeals to all that is best and chivalrous in a man."
A fragile voice at his elbow said, "Mistah Petahs," and he turned hurriedly towards it. Marcella said, "Pooh!" loudly and very rudely and turned to Jimmy.
"Do you like cake?" she asked.
"Rather! Gran gives me cake."
"Well, you come with me into my little house after tea and we'll have some. What number is your little house?"
"Mine is Number 9 so we are not very far away."
She looked round several times for Louis Farne, wondering if he would consider it beneath his dignity to have his meals with the steerage people, but could not see him. Even after she and Jimmy had explored her cabin, eaten some cake and walked several times up and down the deck talking, while the wind blew keenly in their faces, she saw nothing of him and there was dead silence in his cabin. Her deck-chair, she noticed, was where she had seen it put among a pile of others; later in the day Knollys came along and stencilled her initials.
"If you don't have your name on, some of these blooming emigrants will pinch it, or the deck-hands will hide it till we're a few days out and sell it to someone else."
She began to think Knollys was a very useful person to know, for all his superiority and pessimism.
As it grew dark, lights twinkled out ashore-lights rocked here and there on passing ships and barges: tubes of light projected themselves out from the portholes on to the blackening water, that swished and washed past the sides with a sound of desolation; to the landward an uncoiled serpent glittered out into the water and then seemed to cover itself in a grey veil of darkness as the Oriana passed the pier of some little watering-place. Marcella went slowly along the deck, climbed the fo'c'sle steps and sat down on the anchor. At Lashnagar she had always seen ghosts walking on the sea at nightfall. Now they rose out of the swirling water, passed in and out swaying among the lights of the ship. From under her feet in the crew's quarters came the tinkle of a mandoline playing "La Donna e Mobile."
She had seen ships pass in the darkness at home, out on the horizon, a glimmering blur of light. She had pictured them by daylight, shining in the sunlight with snowy decks and glittering engines; she had no idea that this spirit of desolation would rise out of the waves and possess her. For an hour she sat, dreaming of grey things, for her dreams could admit of no colour. After a while, cold and cramped, she went to her cabin for her coat. She noticed Mr. Peters and the little widow sitting on two deck-chairs in a corner, their faces two blurs in the darkness, the widow's tinkling laugh an oversong to his deep voice. Around the bar some dozen men were laughing and talking loudly; in the dining saloon a few people were playing cards, a few more writing letters, to post in Plymouth next day. The thin girl sat with her elbows on the table, her chin on her hands, crying. The tears were running down her cheeks, over her fingers and dropping on to the table. It seemed less lonely on the dark fo'c'sle, so Marcella went back.
It was quite dark now; the mandoline had stopped. From a ventilator shaft close by came a deep murmur of conversation from the crew's quarters that mingled with her dreams. Aunt Janet, her father, Wullie, Dr. Angus, the restless London crowds came and went like pictures crossing a screen. Jimmy, the thin girl, Ole Fred and Louis Farne followed them, passing on. Suddenly out of the darkness at the other end of the great anchor came a sound that was entangled with the wash of the waves against the bows of the ship. It was a sob, choked back quickly and bursting out again. She crept along the anchor softly. A huddled figure was there, looking out to the black sea.
"What's the matter now? It's you, isn't it, Louis?" she said, for she was quite sure it was he, even in the darkness. "I could sit and cry too, it's so lonely, isn't it?"
"Oh, you're everywhere! And you only poke fun at me," he said in a strangled voice.
"I didn't poke fun at you. I only laughed at your trying to pretend you were such an exalted person you couldn't travel steerage."
"I d-didn't want y-y-you to think my p-people couldn't afford to-to-" he stammered in a low voice.
"Oh, what an idiot you are! My father was always calling me an idiot, but if he'd known you! My goodness-he said I was a double-distilled one! Whatever are you?"
"There you are, you see," he grumbled.
"But, Louis, whatever does it matter? My people couldn't afford to pay more for me, and I don't care who knows it. We'll get there as soon-"
"I-d-don't w-want to g-get there. What's at the end of it? I know very well-I'll throw my damned self overboard, and then they'll see what they've done."
"Who's they? And what is it they've done?" She had no idea that it was an extraordinary thing to take so much interest in a perfect stranger. All her world hitherto had had the claims of friendship upon her.
"They never understood me," he cried passionately. "They were always trying to tie me down-they were always looking for faults. That's enough to make a man go to the devil."
"Is it? Tell me all about it," she said, drawing a little closer.
"Do you know," he cried bitterly, so intent that he forgot his nervousness and did not stammer, "I was the best man in my year. They all told me so, the Dean and everyone-but I never had a chance. I never got a free hand. And now do you know what I am? All because they never understood me?"
She shook her head wonderingly.
"I'm a remittance man."
"Don't you know? They're very picturesque in fiction! You'll find h-h-heaps of them in Australia, spewed out as far as possible from the Old Country! It's the dumping ground, Australia is!"
"I don't understand," she said.
"I went to church with the Mater last Sunday. I suppose she thought it would induce the right atmosphere-something sacrificial, you know. We yawped some psalms-the Mater and Pater are great at that. There was one bit I noticed particularly-'Moab is my washpot, over Edom will I cast my shoe.' That reminds me of Australia. They kick us out, pitch us out over there like old boots."
"But don't you want to go?" she protested, frowning. "I'm just dying to go. It's such adventure."
"Adventure! Perhaps it is, for you. It depends on how much money you've got."
"Ten pounds," she said guilelessly.
"Do you know what they're allowing me? A miserable pound a week! Doled out once a week, mind you! Little Louis must toddle up to the General Post Office in Sydney every English mail day, and if he says 'please' very nicely they'll give him a letter from his mother. It's always from his mother. His father 'cannot trust himself to write in a Christian spirit,' he says. In the letter is a pound order. That's to keep body and soul together."
In his passion of self-pity he forgot to stammer; his words tumbled out wildly, between sobbing catches of his breath.
"But who gives you the pound?"
"The Pater, I tell you-so long as I stop there I'm assured of a pound a week! If I come any nearer to England the money stops. They probably hope I'll commit suicide and save them the expense of the pound a week. It'll even save them the expense of a funeral and buying mourning, won't it? I'll do it in Sydney, you see."
"But I never heard of such a funny thing in my life! Paid to keep away from home! What's the matter with you? What have you done? It's like the lepers in the Bible."
"T-that's what they say I am!" he burst out. "They c-call me a disgrace, a drunkard! They sent me down from the hospital because they said I was a drunkard. The girl I was in love with threw me over because of that. She was married three months ago to someone else. That's why I'm here now. My third remittance trip-"
He stopped, and she was horrified to hear him sobbing-gasping, choking sobs that frightened her.
"I came home-tried my damnedest to get a grip on things, but when she did that trick on me I saw red. They've kicked me out now."
"I am so sorry," she said in a low voice. "You must be so unhappy if you're a drunkard-whisky-"
She broke off. The old farm came gliding over the waves and settled round her with a sense of inevitability. She saw the green baize door; she heard the crying of the wind, the scuttering of the rats: she saw her father's blazing eyes, red-rimmed and mad. And then she heard him, pleading, talking to God. Louis's voice broke in on her dream.
"A drunkard-that's what I am now."
"I didn't think boys were drunkards," she said casually.
"Are you really? All the boys at Lashnagar are grown up when they're twenty-seven. You seem so young. You're so shy and queer. I'm nineteen," she added.
"And you know," he burst out in the midst of her words, "they can't blame me! It isn't my own fault-they know it's in the family, only they haven't the decency to admit it. But I know-different people in my family who are cut by the respectable ones-I've raked them out, and ever since I've felt hopeless."
"Oh no-no," she cried, suddenly throwing out her hands as if to ward off something horrible. Leaning forwards she gripped his shoulder. "It's so silly! Besides, think how cowardly it is to say you must do a thing because someone else has done it."
"It's killed lots of my people, or landed them in asylums-they're not talked about in the family, but I know it," he raved.
"Well, I think you're a perfect idiot," she cried impatiently. "Why, if you saw about twenty people on this ship walk overboard in a procession, that's no reason why you should do it too, is it?"
"That just shows you don't understand the power of suggestion," he said. "At the hospital-I'll never forget it. There was a girl brought in dying of burns. We got it from her that she was very unhappy and had set herself on fire because the woman next door had been burnt to death. Old Professor Hay, our lecturer in psychology, explained it to us. He said the girl was in a weak state of nerves and health generally, owing to family troubles she'd had to shoulder. She was receptive to suggestion, you see. And she was too tired to think logically. Seeing the burnt woman there very peaceful, and people sorry for her-don't you see?"
"I'm pretty sure I'd never have got to this state of things if I'd never known it was in the family. It seems inevitable, as if I'm working out a laid-down law."
"Louis, I'm not very clever. As I told you, father used to call me a double-distilled idiot when he got in a temper. But I do think you're wrong. People are not a part of families nearly so much as they are themselves. Besides-imagine letting anything get you down, and put chains on you like that!" she added scornfully.
"You don't know what you're talking about," he said bitterly. "It simply chews you up, gnaws holes in you."
She thought of what Dr. Angus had said.
"Well then, patch yourself up and go on again."
"But after all, why should you? There's nobody cares tuppence now what happens to me. I'm an outcast."
"Louis, what was that you promised your mother-I heard you on the ship just as the tender was going? Didn't you promise to make yourself better?"
"Yes, but I've been thinking about it. Why should I? What does it really matter to the Mater? She didn't care enough not to have me spewed out of home. She's at home now; they'll be sitting round the dinner-table after a tip-top meal. Presently they'll be playing whist and congratulating themselves that I'm safely out of England. They'll breathe freely now."
"I don't believe it," she said quickly. "Mothers and fathers are not like that."
"That's all you know. All day to-day, after she got back from Tilbury and had powdered the traces of tears from her face she'd be at Harrods or the Stores, buying things. And she'd take just as much interest in matching some silks for embroidery, and getting the exact flavour of cheese the Pater likes as she took in making me promise not to drink. And to-morrow her friends will come, with an air of a funeral about them, and be discreetly sympathetic about the terrible trouble she has been having with Louis-such a pity-after he promised so well! Oh be damned to them all! I'm not going to care any more."
Marcella sat in miserable silence. She did not know enough to say anything helpful. She had no idea what had cured her father. She had seen him a drunkard; she had seen him ill, no longer a drunkard; she had seen him die and guessed dimly that the drinking had killed him. But she suddenly grasped the fact that she had seen effects-whole years of effects; of causes she knew nothing whatever.
The mandoline began to play again "La Donna e Mobile." Louis's voice broke into the music and the lashing water.
"They're cowards, my people, mean little cowards. That's why I'm a coward! I'm a beastly, bally sort of half-breed, don't you know! Do you know why they give me a pound a week? Partly, of course, it's to bribe me to keep away. They've no other weapon but that. But mostly it's because they're so miserably sentimental they can't bear to think of me starving or sleeping out all night! Ough! If they weren't such miserable cowards they'd know I'd be better dead than chained to the end of a row of pound-notes. They'd have kicked me out, and let me either buck up or die."
"But-oh, I do wish Dr. Angus or Wullie were here! I know there's an answer to all that, but I'm such an idiot I can't find it," she cried despairingly.
"I'll do them! I'll get my own back on them! I'm damned if I'll do as they expect me to. If they'd only seen me last time in Auckland," and he gave an ugly laugh. "Do you think I lived on their bally pound a week? Why, I spent that in half a day! Sometimes I wouldn't call for it for five weeks. I'd go past the Post Office every day, knowing it was there, and torturing myself with the thought of what I could buy with it, and leaving it there till I'd got five pounds and could drink myself to hell!"
She shivered. She could hear him grinding his teeth as he sat close to her. She felt the same inarticulate helplessness that she had felt about all the miseries of Lashnagar. She wanted, most passionately, to do something for him. His telling her about it was, in itself, a challenge.
"But how did you live all the time, wasting your money like that?"
He laughed harshly.
"It's easy to live south the line-in Australasia, anyway, if you're a drunkard. There's a lot of money about, you know. Men come from up-country with a big cheque to knock out-shearers and men like that, who live in the backblocks for months, hundreds of miles from hotels. They come down from the backblocks with perhaps a hundred pounds to spend on a week of blissful unconsciousness. Sailors come in and get paid off too. There's a lot of freehandedness. They treat the whole bar. If you won't drink with them, they knock you out of time before you know where you are, sit on your chest and pour it down your neck. Once you're in a pub in Australia you can stay in all day on nothing. And you can get in for threepence-the price of a pint of beer. And you don't get out till you're kicked out drunk."
"Oh-" she gasped.
"The devil of it is getting hold of the threepence. Sometimes you meet a pal and borrow it. Sometimes you pawn something and get it. If the Home boat's in, you go down to the quay, pick out a new chum-that's anyone from the Old Country-offer to show him round a bit, and he naturally treats you. Then you're in the haven."
He spoke cynically, bitterly. She grasped at his sleeve, as though she would pull him back.
"Oh-," she gasped.
"D-don't keep s-saying 'Oh' like that!" he cried impatiently. "S-say s-something s-sensible."
"Does your mother know all about the way you live?" she asked desperately.
"I told her. I enjoyed letting her know what they drove me to. But she doesn't understand. They don't ever understand, these easy, half-alive, untempted folks! She's never been away from a world of afternoon calls, broughams and shopping! I tell her I'm a beer-bum-yes, that's the word for it in Australia! Not a pretty word-not a pretty thing either! I gave the Mater and Pater a picture of myself once-broken shoes tied on with string, trousers tied on with a bit of rope because I'd sold my braces for threepence-slinking along in the gutter outside the Theatre Royal picking up cigarette ends that had been thrown away! Counter lunches! D'you know what counter lunches are?"
She shook her head. It seemed as though he were trying to shock her, as he piled on his miseries to her.
"Three times a day the hotel keeper in Australia covers his counter in all sorts of food-cold meat, bread, cheese, pickles, cakes-oh, just everything there is going. He doesn't want you to go out to get food, you see, and perhaps get caught by some other pub. You don't have to pay. You just eat what you like, so long as you go on buying drinks or having them bought for you. There's a lot more there to eat than you want. You don't want much when you're boozing. I lived on counter lunches once-crayfish and celery mostly, with vinegar and cayenne-for four months. I spent not a single penny on food the whole time. Then I nearly died in hospital. They had me in the padded cell for three days."
"Were you mad?" she whispered, wishing he would tell her no more, but fascinated by the horror of it all, the pity of it. "I think you are mad, really, even now-talking like this, almost as if you're proud of it."
"No, I'm not mad-only the usual pink rat sort of madness. The thing's obvious," he said, shrugging his shoulders. It was not obvious to her; he had put her into a maelstrom of puzzles, but she did not tell him so. She preferred to think it out for herself. But suddenly she coupled her little broken arm and the barrel as effect and cause.
He went on muttering. She had great difficulty in hearing all he said.
"At night, at kicking out time, you can hang on, sometimes, to a man with some cash and get asked to kip with him for the night. You can get a bed for a shilling a night in many places. It isn't a feather-bed. If there is no Good Samaritan about you go and lie down in the Domain-that's the public park, you know-praying to whatever gods there be that it won't rain. You never get a decent wash, and as soon as the hotels are open at six o'clock you start again-if you can get the entrance fee. If you haven't, you cadge round till you have."
He broke off, staring bitterly away from her, his knees drawn up, his chin resting on them.
"And you told your mother about it-and your father?" she said.
"Yes, every word, and more. Things I wouldn't tell you, because you're a girl, and I've still some respect for girls. Things that happened in Rio and Rosario-some of the women there, the rich women-Lord, they're the devil's own!" He reflected grimly. "I told the Pater a few things-opened his eyes. He's a publisher-Sunday school prizes and that sort of thing. Stacks of money! No imagination. Most people have no imagination. They see things in a detached way. They see them, somehow, as if they're in print or going on on a stage. But not really happening. The Pater simply said I ought to be ashamed of myself-as if I'm not!"
He broke off and tried to light a cigarette with fingers that trembled. Three, four matches he struck before he got it lighted and puffing. She sat silent, listening to the murmur of voices and the swishing water.
"Why the devil I'm telling you this I can't imagine," he said at last. "Most girls would have yelled out for help before this."
"I think, you know," she said rather breathless, "I think you're a great idiot! You ask for things, don't you?"
"But what is there for a man to do out there? There's nothing I want to do except medicine, and that's past for ever now. There's nothing to do but get drunk. I've tried, often-got jobs, and all that. But there's no inducement-and I've told you how easy it is not to starve."
"But it's so-so beastly! You might as well be dead-you're not happy."
"That's exactly what I think. That's what I'm going to do. I got ten pounds out of the Mater. She's always ready to give me anything if it happens to be the beginning of the month and she's well off. The Pater solemnly presented me with three pounds-that's ten shillings a week for smokes for the six weeks of the trip. I'll buy bull's-eyes with it, I think. That'd please him. That makes thirteen pounds, and there's ten pounds waiting for me in Sydney. I'll have a damned good bust-up then, and then I'll finish the job for ever."
"Oh, I do think you're mad-raving mad!" she cried, and could say nothing else.
"Of course it's by no means certain I'll have enough courage to kill myself. I rather doubt it! You see, they didn't breed me with courage. They've given me porridge in my veins instead of blood! They press electric buttons for their emotions and keep them down as long as is respectable! They didn't give me grit at all-they gave me convention and respectability. Everything I wanted to do they restrained because so many of the things I wanted to do seemed natural but were not respectable. And in the end they made a first-class liar of me." There was a long, terrible silence.
"To-night, for a bit, I'm stripped bare here," he said in a low voice, "letting you see me. To-morrow I'll be a nervous, stammering fool, hiding all I feel, swanking like hell about my people, myself and everyone I've ever seen, like I was doing to-day when you told me off so beautifully. To-morrow I'll be drunk, and I'll lie to you till all's blue. To-night I'm just honest."
"Why is it that you're honest with me?" she asked him.
"Lord knows! I suppose it's because I'll disintegrate and go over the side in shivers if I can't get something off my chest. You don't seem disgusted with me-Lord, everyone else is! And I'm the loneliest devil on earth."
"I'm glad you told me. Let's be friends, Louis-till we get to Sydney, anyway."
"I never have friends. I lie to them, and they find me out. I borrow money from them and don't pay it back, and then I'm afraid to face them. I make fools of them in public; I'm irritable with them."
"I'm warned," she said with a laugh. "I'm not afraid of you."
Suddenly he turned round. All the time he had been talking his back had been half turned to her. She saw the crimson end of the cigarette glowing. It was flung overboard. He groped for and found both her hands.
"Look here, this is the maddest thing I've ever done yet-but will you take it on, being friends with me?"
"I want to. I'm lonely, you know. I could have cried to-night, really."
"But-look here. I'm begging, yes begging, this of you. When I lie to you, insult me, will you? You'll know. You've seen me honest to-night, but sometimes a thing gets hold of me and I lie like hell! I'll tell you the most amazing, most circumstantial tales-just as you told me this afternoon-and you'll believe me. But I implore you, don't believe me! Heaps of people have lent me money because they've believed what I've told them about my wife or my mother or my child dying. Lord, I'm a waster! But if I can find someone who'll be hard with me, I think I might make a stand. Look here, I promised the Mater, as this was my last week at home, and I haven't had a drink since Monday. That's four days to the good. If I promise you there's a faint chance I won't do it. Do you mind?"
"I'll watch you," she said calmly. "And I'll tell you if you tell me lies. But I don't believe you'll do any such thing!"
"Don't you? Do you believe in me?" he cried.
"Why not? I think you're a fearful duffer, but naturally I believe in you," she said calmly.
"I know why I came by this ship! It's a miracle. I believe I'm going to make a stand now, I really do! It's fate, and nothing else. There's an Anchor boat I was to have gone by-via the Cape, you know. She sailed last week, and I couldn't get off in time. I wanted to wait for the next as I've not been to the Cape. But the Pater couldn't put up with me for another week, so out I came! I know why I came! I came to meet you!"
"Do you think so?" she said wonderingly.
"I do! I've never in all my life told the truth about myself before! If you only knew what that means! I'm too nervous as a rule. But don't you notice the difference? Of course you're not trained, so you wouldn't notice as I should. But I'm not even stammering half so much. It's jolly good of you to listen to me-and it's jolly good for me, because I've no reason to try to get at you, or to get my own back on you, as I have with my people all the time."
Marcella felt very small, very helpless. She had a sudden vision of a man dying in an agony of poisoning while she stood frantic in a doctor's laboratory, antidotes all round her, but no knowledge in her brain of which drug to use. And all the time his agony went on, and death drew nearer. She had not the least idea in the world what to do for Louis Fame. He frightened her, he disgusted her, he made her feel hungrily anxious to help, he made her feel responsible and yet helpless, but at the same time it mattered and challenged her that he had appealed to her at all. She thought of her father, and remembered with a pang that she knew nothing about him except superficially. She thought of his books, but nothing in them seemed helpful. She thought of the Bible, of her poetry, her legends. They were a blur, a mist. Nothing in them held out a hand to hail her. There seemed nothing that she could do.
"Oh," she cried passionately, "I'm such a fool. If only I was clever! If only I knew what to do."
Before she had finished speaking came a flash of insight, and she went on, in the same breath, "But there's one thing that occurs to me. You think about yourself far too much. Old Wullie-I'll tell you about him some day-used to say that if we were quiet and didn't fuss about ourselves too much God would walk along our lives and help us to kill beasts-like whisky-"
"God? Oh, I'm fed up with God! I've had too much of that all my life at home," he said dully.
She had no answer for that, but as she bade him good night at the top of the companion-way she saw herself in armour. Her vague dreams of John the Baptist, of Siegfried and of Britomart suddenly crystallized, and she saw herself, very self-consciously, the Deliverer who would save Louis Fame. It did not occur to her to wonder if he were worth saving. He was imprisoned in the first windmill she had encountered on her Don Quixote quest-and so he was to be rescued.