But There Are Orchids
A romanticist goes a-fishering and learns something about the scaly side of romance
MARTHA BANNING THOMAS
Illustrated by ORISOH MACPHERSOH
PHILLIPA admired strength. She expressed herself often and eloquently on the subject, especially if the strength under discussion were connected with the sea. And now that she had read and pored over and learned by heart the salty poetry of Jan Tanch, she became attractively
detached whenever tides, sea-gulls or whistling buoys were mentioned.
Phillipa’s most frequent remark was that strength was exhilarating. “To whom?” her mother enquired the day her daughter was cannily dressing for a poetry tea. Phillipa answered that everyone who came in contact with true strength was regenerated.
“Indeed!” said her mother, removing her pince-nez to regard her daughter soberly. Then she added. “You are mixing your impressions, Phillipa. You are thinking only of the picturesque strength displayed in the poetry of Jan Tanch. There are all kinds. Besides, just as a footnote, have you smelled fish rotting in the sun at low tide? And the oil pressed from cod livers? The choking
odor coming out of sheds where herring is smoked?” “You would think of those things, mother—and not only think, but mention them.”
“I spent a good many summers near a small fishing village, my dear, and though I grew very fond of the place, I used to gag every time I saw the barrels of brine where they pickle hake. Strength is not romance, Phillipa, in spite of the glamor rhythm casts over realities. The business of fishing is often ugly and heartbreaking.”
“Well, that’s as maybe! Good-by, dear. I’ll come home a changed woman !”
Phillipa, her yellow hat dragged down over one ear, her cheeks very pale, her lips very red, drove her cream-colored car to the poetry tea. She found Mary Sawyer’s apartment a trifle dim after the glare of the streets. Shades were drawn, candles burning, people talking in small groups. The fragrance of tea floated out and mingled with the perfume of flowers. She spoke vaguely to one or two people while her eyes darted here and there, trying to locate the man she felt she would recognize the moment she saw him.
But no head towered above the rest; no voice penetrated the confusion of talk. Maybe he had not come ! Phillipa felt a sick little wave pass over her. Someone plucked at her elbow.
“Come on, Phil, let me introduce you to Jan Tanch. He’s right over here.” It was Rannie. Perhaps of all previous and similar moments when Rannie annoyed her by appearing at the wrong time, this was the one at which she least wanted to see him. She did not wish to be introduced to Jan Tanch. She had planned it quite otherwise. She wished to walk up to him alone and say in a simple, straightforward manner . . .
Rannie insisted. “Why hesitate?” he enquired. “Scared?”
“Rannie, for heaven’s sake!” She braced her feet. “Don’t drag me to his feet like an Egyptian slave.”
And instantly Phillipa was visited by a sudden decision. She would not see Jan Tanch that afternoon. She’d speak to Mary Sawyer, make her adieux, and trust that luck would give her another chance. “Ran, I haven’t time for poets this afternoon; just slipped in on my way to another party ...”
“But I thought you were perfectly mad on the subject of Jan Tanch! You’ve yelped about him for years.”
“Shut up, Rannie, dear! You babble like a radio. Want to go with me to the next party?”
“Then run outside and wait in my car while I say good-by to Mary.” Rannie obeyed. He rather enjoyed obeying Phillipa; you never knew into what scrape her orders would carry you. He climbed into the cream-colored roadster and settled himself on the sun-warmed cushions. He waited. He waited half an hour. He waited threequarters of an hour. He dozed. It never occurred to him to enter the house again to enquire into the nature of Phillipa’s delay. Perhaps it was just as well. She was talking with Jan Tanch.
TO DO her justice she had meant what she said when she told Rannie to run out to wait for her in the car. But she discovered an unguarded avenue in the direction of the poet, and succumbed. She had gone to him in the simple, straightforward way she had planned. They were sitting in a corner holding cups and plates in their laps. Phillipa felt herself going girlish, which was not what she intended. She curbed it as well as possible, but her nerves sang under her skin.
“You don’t look in the least as I had pictured you,” she had said, holding out her hand.
Jan Tanch did not smile. He took her hand, bowed slightly and hardly glanced at her. He was thickset, of medium height, with a crest of sandy-colored hair rising from his brown forehead. His eyes were small, but of a startling blue intensity. His chin was square and belligerent with a deep cleft in the centre. Phillipa grew panicky at the sight of his grim lips. Strength certainly; oh, decidedly plenty of strength!
By the time fifteen minutes had passed she had somehow managed a cup of tea and cakes for them both; she had seated herself and caused to be seated beside her this bleak young man. She continued talking, and after a while Jan Tanch made a statement or two. Then they ■ launched forth on something approaching conversation.
Phillipa delivered herself of garlands of praise of his poetry. Some of the floral tributes she had rehearsed; some bloomed spontaneously in the sunlight of her enthusiasm.
“You are kind,” he replied several times in a low, monotonous voice. He was very formal. Phillipa could see that he had decided to be formal before he came. He was bored; she was frank enough with herself to see that also.
She looked at his hands. They, too, were square with a cloud of yellow hairs growing on the surface; the nails were of more than ordinary size, clean but far from fastidiously tended.
“I love the one beginning The rain hung heavy on the sea,” Phillipa said, “I can just see that heroic little knot of men starting out about dusk.”
The poet turned upon her his startling blue eyes. “Have you ever been fishing, Miss . . .’’he hesitated. “Leigh,” she prompted him, not too pleased.
“Have you ever been fishing?”
“Oh, hundreds of times.”
“I mean in a regular fishing boat—the small motor-run affair the fishermen use in the Bay of Fundy, for instance.”
“No, not exactly. But I have been in motor boats and caught the most stunning cod.”
“Did they smell?”
“Smell?” Phillipa unconsciously sniffed the air. “The boats or the fish?”
He declined to acknowledge her flippance. “Did the boats smell,” he said patiently, “of gurry and hempen rope and general stench salted down with sea-water?”
“No,” admitted Phillipa, “I don’t think so. I can’t remember.”
His lips twitched over a slight smile. He turned from her to look across the room; he seemed to have forgotten her.
Phillipa decided he was a very rude young man. She studied his profile. It was ominous. Yet she knew by instinct that this was no pose to impress the timid. He simply looked as he felt. She thought he appeared a little tired. That made her tender at once. She would be generous; she would ignore his indifference. But she found it difficult to imagine what was going on behind that tanned mask of a face.
“Are you writing much here?” she asked in the low, throaty voice which reduced most men to mental pulp.
“Beg pardon?” Jan Tanch turned abruptly toward her.
She repeated her question.
“No,” he answered shortly. “The sea and fishing in it are all I know.”
“Tell me some more about it, won’t you?” begged the girl. “Where you live and why you write. I’m so frightfully interested.”
The man looked at her. Phillipa felt as if a shutter clicked on a camera. His eyes regarded her with an impersonal directness which sent the color mounting in her pale cheeks. “Shall I really tell you, or try to?” he asked.
“Do,” said [the girl, relieved that she had set him talking.
He told her, or tried to. Phillipa, instead of enjoying the rôle of listener, began to tremble down to her very soul. By the tone of his voice, by his graphic manner of placing one word after another, she gradually came to realize how he loathed his present life, how he bore it for one reason or another (publishers, probably!) with ill-concealed bitterness; how this room, the contents, the people drinking tea were repellent to him. Yet he talked only of the sea, the men who fished on it, their hazards, their foolhardiness, their pitiful wages for danger.
Phillipa felt very small and very silly. She wished she had never come; she wished that she could escape. It hurt, this strong talk of a man who saw his own life clearly and tried to make others understand the splendid futility of courage. “I don’t write,” he explained, “because I like to see rhyme-schemes on paper, or because I have anything arresting to say, or because I think anyone may possibly enjoy my thoughts . . .I’ve written as a blacksmith hammers out a shoe, because I had to shape words to my needs. The brain will rack you to pieces with the thunder of ideas unless you free yourself.”
“Yes,” murmured Phillipa, thinking he need not look quite so bitter under the circumstances.
“It doesn’t much matter what you do, clean fish or trundle pails of gurry up and down the wharves or drag the bottom of the sea for scallops, or fall overboard and drown; you are . . . and you aren’t.”
“But,” protested Phillipa, then lost the gleam of a thought that had come to her.
“It’s an everlasting fight against nature, not with it. You survive for a while, grow enthusiastic on the subject of yourself, get pompous, suffer a dirty crack of misfortune, turn about and see the dreary immensity of life, and either fight on in a rage or succumb sweetly and stop thinking. Haven’t you found it so, Miss Leigh?”
Again the rapier glance which thrust through her flimsy ideas like a sword through chiffon.
Phillipa gathered the rags of courage about her. “No,” she said in a fierce undertone, “You’re wrong, Jan Tanch ! Life is gorgeous. I have found it so. Pain is gorgeous. Battle is gorgeous. Defeat is gorgeous for it gives one the chance to fight again. I’d like to see any fishwife behave more intelligently than I in a wreck. I’d win through with the best of them. Why should strength be drab, why not glorious?”
She looked at him defiantly, her chin lifted and one hand clenching the arm of her chair.
Jan Tanch waggled a foot from side to side. As he glanced down, a lock of sandy hair fell across his forehead casting a deep shadow over his eyes.
“You are physically well,” he said quietly, “you have what are called ‘nice traditions’ behind you, but you are totally inexperienced. Enthusiasm is merely another word for health. Your head is unbowed, but not, Miss Leigh,” he grinned suddenly, and it was as if sun shone through a blizzard, “but not bloody. Don’t talk about defeat until you have met danger.”
Phillipa rose. “You are the rudest young man I have ever seen!”
“Undoubtedly. But you asked me to talk.”
He stood beside her waiting for another outburst. She felt the cold, exhilarating sting of a new current run up her arms. She longed to prick the egotism of this hard young man, annoy him with a sly poke át his smug theories; then with no warning whatever she wondered how it would seem to feel those strong, square hands grasping both her own, pushing them straight down beside her as he leaned forward, his blue eyes blazing with a sort of icy fire.
“Good-by,” said Phillipa stiffly, and fled from the room.
SHE ran down the steps. Her heart smothered her. A poet ! She hated him, the cocksure, brutal fisherman. He belonged on the wharves and in fishing boats, not in tea rooms. The image of her mother removing her pincenez to regard her thoughtfully, rose before the girl’s eyes. She heard again the echo of her words, “the business of fishing is often ugly and heart breaking.”
“Oh, thunder!” muttered Phillipa, and climbed into her car.
Rannie gently called attention to himself by placing one hand over hers when she was about to shift gears. “What the deuce took you so long to say good-by, Phil?” She shook off his hand. “Don’t speak a word to me for twenty minutes,” she said between tight lips “I’m thinking!”
“Right!” answered Rannie cheerfully, and got out his watch. He was too wise to ask any more questions, or even mention the party Phillipa had spoken of some forty minutes back.
They drove far beyond the city. The girl sent the car ahead in smooth, almost noiseless speed. Rannie looked at her occasionally and then pensively consulted his watch. “Fifteen minutes gone,” he once murmured, “might I suggest we . .
“Don’t talk!” snapped the girl, sending the roadster up to sixty.
They made furious time. A yellow scarf of Phillipa whipped against Rannie’s mouth. He kissed it sentimentally until he noticed that he might just as well be kissing the iron dog which stood in the front yard of his grandmother’s place in Connecticut.
“Time’s up,” he finally announced, and replaced his watch in his pocket. “Say, Phil, let’s eat at this Inn near here. I’ve several engagements this evening I don’t mind breaking. Come on, be human, and say something pleasant tô a guy.”
“All right,” she agreed, “I don’t care what we do.”
“Fine” said Rannie, and planned a number of serious sentences to be used with after dinner coffee.
They ate a delicious supper under a vine-covered pergola. The girl was silent and preoccupied. When after dinner coffee was served Rannie tested out a few of his serious sentences.
“Phil, will you tell me any good reason why you won’t marry me? I’m darned fond of you and you know it. I’ve asked you a dozen times already,” the words gushed from his lips with real feeling, “You’ve known me for years,” his tone changed, “I’m kind, good-natured, fond of light wines and beer, and have an old grandmother in Connecticut, who keeps an iron dog in the front yard; she’s bound to die some day, dear old thing, and leave me a tidy income. Please, dear. I hate to see you look as you do tonight. Can’t I help?”
Phillipa tossed her yellow hat to the floor. Elbows on table she rested both chins on her hands. Her cheeks were still hot in memory of her talk with the poet, her eyes misty with the struggle for thought. Her dark hair lay softly about her face in lovely confusion. A pulse in her throat beat so quickly that Rannie noticed it, and turned away his head; somehow the sight of it made him shy.
“I will marry you,” said Phillipa, and dropped her head on her arms and cried.
LATER Rannie telephoned to Mrs.
Leigh saying they had dined in the country, and would be home rather late.
“Where are you?” asked Phillipa’s mother a little nervously.
“Walkin’ all over God’s heaven!” replied Rannie and hung up.
It was twelve when Phillipa let herself in at home. She crept up the stairs, undressed without a light, and lay for hours scarcely moving or closing her eyes.
She felt strangely exhausted. Her body seemed so light that she had the sensation of being dizzily suspended in mid air. Her hair flowed away from her face and spread out on the pillow. She stared and stared at the patch of moonlight reflected from her mirror on the wall. A soft night air stirred the curtains. A tree-toad in the single poplar on the street slurred over several arpeggios and ceased.
Rannie. He had been very sweet, very tender; nothing like the casual youth who made fun of everything and never uttered a syllable which could be remotely accepted as serious. They had walked in a little wood of white birches which stood behind the Inn. He had kissed her. First slowly, then with burning, rapid caresses, “I’ve cared for you so terribly long!” he panted. “Oh, Phil . . . don’t you love me?”
“Yes,” said Phillipa. She leaned against him. Her fine hair swept across his mouth. He bent her head back slowly, and leaned down to kiss the base of her throat. She felt the splash of a tear on her neck.
“Rannie,” she whispered, “do you really care so much?”
“I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” he whispered back. “I’ve waited so long. I love you, Phillipa.”
“Yes,” she murmured, and suddenly saw the sandy lock of hair on Jan Tanch’s forehead, and the shadow it cast over his eyes. “Yes, Rannie. Kiss me again.”
At eleven they started home. “Tell me when we’ll be married, dear,” begged the boy. She saw the lustre of his eyes shining in the dark.
“Any time,” said Phillipa. “Rannie, you are a dear!”
She drove the car along the dim roads as if lost in a dream, a dream which swirled about her and would not let her think. The dark blur of trees, the fences by the side of the road, the fields swept by in delicious ease; she was borne along on a stream of slumbrous emotion. Rannie had kissed her again on the steps. “Sweetheart!” he laughed.
But now she was thoroughly awake, though she had difficulty in separating her thoughts from her feelings. She smelled the fragrance of tea mingled with flowers; she heard Jan Tanch’s bitter voice; she marvelled at Rannie transformed from a silly boy to a tender man. Her heart glowed when she remembered his love-making, then tugged away to cease beating a long moment as she thought of the poet’s grim lips.
“Don’t be a nit-wit,” she told herself ferociously. “Did you or did you not,” she kept her mind steadily to the course and looked at the patch of moonlight, “fall for Rannie because your ego suffered a shock this afternoon, and Rannie made it purr again?”
She visualized the low shoes of the poet, the blue socks wrinkled a bit over the top; she saw his sudden grin blaze out.
“I love Rannie,” she said aloud. “He is my kind of a person.”
She closed her eyes. The tree-toad began a more elaborate trill; it seemed to fall in interpretative cadences. The rain hung heavy on the sea.
Phillipa smiled . . . and fell asleep.
TNID you enjoy Jan Tanch?” asked Mrs.
Leigh next morning.
“Very nice and rude,” said the girl. “He doesn’t wear garters and he has the most extraordinary eyebrows.”
“Fancy!” smiled Mrs. Leigh. “You looked tired, dear. Where were you and Rannie last evening? He seemed very excited about something when he called me on the telephone.”
Phillipa remembered that she was engaged. “We stopped at an Inn outside of town. Rannie was very sweet. He asked me to marry him.”
“'His eyes are the most icy blue, mother. And he is extremely rude.”
Mrs. Leigh took a second piece of toast and said nothing. She also often thought in two strands.
“Rannie is a dear,” the girl shifted to the first subject. “I really think he loves me. I accepted him, and we’ll be married as soon as I can grab off some clothes. Church or home, mother?”
“Wherever you wish, dear.” Mrs. Leigh’s face beamed with pleasure. She liked Rannie, and had hoped Phillipa might sometime come to appreciate him.
There followed a talk of considerable length and earnestness. The engaged girl declared four times that she loved Rannie, that she just discovered it last night, that he was a perfect dear, that she was bored with her stupid life, and that they would travel immediately after the wedding, probably Africa and a lot of small islands not down on the map.
Her mother thought her own thoughts. Phillipa went on to assure her that they wouldn’t marry for a few days yet, anyhow.
“He’s a terribly nice boy,” said her mother. “I shall be glad to see you his wife.”
“Wife?” questioned Phillipa looking startled. Her mother’s eyes rested upon her with a peculiar expression of compassion.
“Guess I’ll go out to the club for some tennis,” decided the girl. “If Rannie calls up, tell him I’m there.”
But the telephone rang before she left the room. “Hey, Phil,” shouted an exuberant voice over the wire. “I can’t get used to this engaged stuff, can you? This morning I feel just as nutty as when we were kids. Has Mary Sawyer called up yet? Well, she’s giving a dinner tomorrow night for that fisherman poet. She said she wanted us to come, because you seemed to be the only one at the tea who could make him talk. She’s putting you next to him and wants you to throw him a trawl or whatever it is they do in Nova Scotia, and haul him into the social net. She’s going to call you up, but I thought I’d warn you first. Let’s cut the confounded dinner and go off by ourselves.” “Ah right, Rannie,” said Phillipa, “And Ran—”
She laughed. He sounded so silly and self-conscious. “It is amusing, isn’t it,
being engaged after practically twenty years? But, Rannie, don’t broadcast it yet. I want a day or two to collect my complexes before the crowd pounces.” “Right! Mum as an oyster. We’ll decide later on the place to eat. Got a date with my room-mate tonight which I can’t break, so if I miss out tomorrow evening I’ll be darned mad.”
But Phillipa did not dine alone with Rannie the next evening. She sat next to Jan Tanch in Mary Sawyer’s beautiful dining room on one of Mary Sawyer’s beautiful old chairs. Rannie was opposite, looking furious and silly at the same time. He telegraphed endless messages to her and acted with such idiotic abandon that she was sure everyone would guess something was up.
Mary had insisted so desperately on her coming that Phillipa could not refuse without seeming very ungracious. So Rannie reluctantly came, too, looking as dismal as a smoky lamp-chimney until this silly fit struck him.
Phillipa had not wanted to come either. She felt safe with Rannie. She liked the security of being engaged; she wanted to deepen it even further by dinner with him alone, and to hear his voice break on a certain note when he told her he loved her.
Jan Tanch flashed her one of his wintry smiles when he saw that she was allotted to him at dinner. Phillipa responded by throwing him the sort of smart talk she knew he despised. Whereupon he shot her one of his incredible looks and shut his lips; nor would have anything to do with the girl on his other side.
Mary Sawyer soon saw how thirgs were going, and tried to warm the very chilly atmosphere of that section of the table by gay remarks tossed from the end. Phillipa caught them and flung them across the board at Rannie. Jan Tanch sat alone among many, a sandy-haired poet with a grim mouth and bitter eyes.
The dinner was a brilliant success with the exception of Phillipa’s trivial attitude toward the guest of honor. At its conclusion she gave her hostess no time for reproofs, but drew Rannie outside for a walk in the tiny city garden. She had turned abruptly away from Jan Tanch the moment it was possible, leaving him to the ingenuous mercies of an innocuous girl in red.
“Rannie,” she whispered, clutching his arm, “let’s have a turn in the garden. It’s so stuffy in here.”
They went out.
“Gosh, Phillipa, but you look stunning tonight. Never saw you have so much color. That gown is a winner !”
She clung to him. “Dear . . .’’she said softly. “Kiss me, Rannie. I’m so cross at having to be here at this stupid party instead of somewhere alone with you.” “You darling!” His voice broke happily on the certain note. “What makes you so awfully sweet to me?” “You know the reason,” she answered. “But it’s happened so suddenly,” said Rannie. “Honestly, I can’t believe in it.” “Isn’t that the best way?” she asked, and her lips smiled at him in a manner which immediately terminated in a caress.
But they were soon haled in for bridge. It developed that Jan Tanch did not play. “Of course he wouldn’t!” thought Phillipa savagely.
Mary Sawyer, with a sinister gleam in her eyes, asked her if she wouldn’t be responsible for the poet’s entertainment. “You were nasty to him at dinner,” she said, “nasty, and you know it. Make up for it now, or my party is ruined. No one else can wrench a syllable out of the man but you. Get out your snood knots and trawl buckets and talk about the big catch.”
“I won’t!” said Phillipa.
“You will.1” replied Mary Sawyer, menacingly. “What the dickens is the matter with you? Given up lion-taming?” “Oh, well, if you’re going to be so poisonous about it—” Continued from page 36 THIILLIPA urged Rannie to play bridge, L and sat down on a low couch with Jan Tanch. The first five minutes went badly. The next five worse. She smiled at Rannie who was signalling again, and then out of sheer need to lighten the strain she asked the poet if he would like to walk in the garden. She regretted her impulse the moment she spoke, but there was nothing to do but go through with it.
“I suppose you find a city moon pretty tepid,” said Phillipa carelessly.
“Yes,” answered Jan Tanch.
In turning from the steps leading to the small gravel path she lost her balance for the fraction of a second. Her arm was suddenly pressed against him. He put his hand out to steady her. She felt his strength grip her wrist and then let go. “Sorry,” he murmured.
“It’s these wretched heels,” she apologized.
They went to the curved stone bench under the copper beech. “You find no beauty here?” she asked.
“I’m not interested in beauty.” “Indeed?” She picked up a branch lying on the ground and slowly broke off one twig after another. “How dare you say such a blasphemous thing?” she challenged.
He made a sound like laughing though she could not be sure. “What have I to do with beauty?”
“Your poetry is filled with it.”
“Just fancy!” he mocked.
Phillipa burned with fury. “What makes you act in this silly bitter way?” she stormed. “No one else does, no matter how hard things have been for them. It makes it very difficult for a hostess and all her friends. I had hoped you were different.”
The man clasped his square hands between his knees. “If you knew what I knew, and thought what I have thought . . dinners and hostesses could only
affect you like dim ships on a horizon.”
“I never saw such an egoist! Since you are among us you might lend yourself to our ways.”
“I wish I could,” he said simply, “but I can’t.”
Phillipa moved an inch or so farther away from him. Even in the misty light of the garden she could see the crest of his hair, the definite outline of his clasped hands.
“Why should the things that you know be more important than what we know. Why should it make you so difficult, so rude to those who not only admire your work but who would enjoy entertaining you.”
“It is useless to explain,” said the man. “There is no explanation you would understand. I am what I am. You are what you are. We cannot help it.”
They sat in the dark, not speaking. “But,” said Phillipa suddenly, “there are orchids . . . !”
“I mean in spite of your bitterness, in spite of your disillusionment and hard work, there are orchids !”
“Not for me.”
“But for others.”
“Possibly.” He kicked a small stone out of the path.
“You are an incorrigible intellectual realist!” cried Phillipa, “I shall leave you.”
“Don’t,” he begged.
They both rose facing one another. The sharp laugh of a girl came from an open window of the house. Jan Tanch made an expressive gesture.
“The laugh of someone who knows nothing. Go where I live and see what I mean,” he said, in a colorless voice. “You haven’t the courage to know what I know. There is no reason that you should. I offer this as my only excuse.”
“I’m not afraid of going anywhere or seeing anything.” She forgot that she was engaged to Rannie, that she was
planning to be married in a short while and visit little-known islands in the Pacific. “I’d love to go where you live and to understand the things that have made you so bitter.”
He took a step nearer. “Would you?” Again Phillipa was stung by that strange, cold current running up her arms. “Why not?” she demanded, lifting her chin.
Jan Tanch stood directly in front of her. He reached for her hands and pressed them down hard at her sides. He bent over her and his blue eyes flashed like cold crystal in the dusk. “ Y ou provoke me to a great audacity,” he spoke in a low hurried voice. “Will you marry me, Miss Leigh?” “Oh,” said Phillipa, “Oh . . . you should not have asked me that !”
She was trembling all over.
“Hey . . . where in thunder are you two? I’m dummy . . . Hey . . . !”
The girl gave a small choked cry. Tears spurted down her cheeks.
“No,” she whispered. “Never!”
She walked quickly toward the boy’s voice. “Here we are, dear.”
She felt sick with deceit. How beastly to have forgotten Rannie! She was sobbing, but she managed to conceal her emotion by the time they reached the house.
“Rannie,” she said on the way home, two hours later, “Jan Tanch asked me to marry him. I’m sorry I let him.”
“But,” expostulated Rannie, “hovir could he help it if he had an eye in hits head?”
This manner of taking her news made her even more ashamed. She must go on and tell him everything. “But for a few minutes, Ran, I forgot we were engaged. It was inexcusable; I had to tell you.” The boy said nothing. Phillipa glanced at him. His face was turned away from her. The line of his jaw looked sharp and set. She saw him swallow once or twice.
“You’re a good sport, Phil,” he said, finally.
She laid her hand on his. “Believe it or not, Rannie, I love you. Jan Tanch is simply a strong gale that will blow itself out.”
“Phillipa, if you do care or should care for him,” Rannie spoke with a light precision, “you’ll tell me?”
“You’re something of a tl oroughbred yourself,” smiled the girl, and leaned sidewise a swift second to imprint a small kiss on his eyebrow. “Don’t worry about Jan Tanch—I hate him!”
' I 'WO days before Phillipa’s wedding she T received a small box from the florist. There was no card. In it she found a single orchid; tied to the stem was a bit of fishline and a hook.
Her mother happened to be present when the box was opened. “What is it, Phillipa?” she enquired, with not too much interest.
“An orchid . . . and a fish hook.”
“An unusual combination, but quite effective, I should say. Well, I must run down to see if I can match that shantung. Your poet has a unique way of underlining silence.”
Phillipa stared at her departing back. “Mother,” she said to herself, “is too darn smart!”
That afternoon Mlle. Maitenon was sent home in a torrent of tears, scattering pins and chiffon as she flew. “Nevair will I enter your ’ouse again, Mees Leigh!” she shrieked, “Your clo’s . . . ah, they will be of a dispair ... !”
Three hats were returned to the shops unopened, and when Phillipa was sure she was alone in the house she snatched a picture off the wall and threw it on the floor. It smashed thoroughly and sent a smile twitching across the girl’s lips. She had always hated that picture. It presumed too prettily upon sentiment. A simpering woman, rosy in ruffles, coquetted at a dark cavalier whose curls drooped to her shoulder as he bent over a garden Continued from page 38 bench. “Who’d ever look twice at that fool!” said Phillipa aloud, as she gathered up the fragments.
Then she examined the orchid. It was of a lavender fragility. It lay in her hand like a lovely challenge. The hook pricked her finger a bit as she turned it over and over. It was not a new hook; rust lay on the prongs and it smelled of fish. “U-um,” mumbled Phillipa, “the conceited idiot!” She threw the orchid into the wastebasket and the hook into a suitcase, adding a few necessary garments hauled out of various closets and drawers. Old shoes, a battered felt hat, raincoat and woollen stockings. Then she sat down to write a note.
“Dear Mother (it read) I’ve got to go and find out myself. I’ll never be happy with Rannie until I prove that I’d be unhappy with Jan Tanch. Please do your best to explain and don’t worry. I’ll wire an address as soon as I have one. I’ll write to Rannie, too. Tearing hurry.
"COG hung over the water. The regular blasts from the fog-horn reverberated in long echoes under the cliffs. The high whine of a bell rang out down near the water, and somewhere rocking on the slow swell a “groaner” emitted its dismal warning. Through heavy mists Phillipa was able to discern the green pointed tops of trees which fringed the high bank above the Bay of Fundy.
She was alone in a small grey shack which clung to a ledge far above the waters of the Bay. Invisible gulls complained out in the fog. Drops of water dripped steadily from the eaves of the roof. Everything was damp and chill. Phillipa was tired and cold. There had been an overnight trip on a boat, followed by a journey on a slow train that trundled along like a baby-carriage. Then an endless wait in a railroad station, another trip in an open boat across rather rough water, and thereafter elaborate arrangements before she could get a car to take her to a certain village. She had found one finally. It was an old vehicle very loath to hurry up and down the narrow road which climbed along the perilous edge of a high hill.
“They’s a cabin up t’ Foley’s,” said the driver. “ ’Tain’t new but it’ll do ye. Right top of the cliff, and a fine view. I know folks has stayed there off and on. Foley’s is terrible nice folks; they’ll do everything to make ye comfortable.”
Phillipa’s excursion was decidedly not for the purpose of being comfortable, but she decided on the cabin until she could look about a little. She’d probably be up here about three weeks in all. Plenty of time to change should there be any reason for doing so.
But she had reckoned without the fog. The thick greyness pressing against the windows dulled the glittering edge of adventure. She felt smothered.
She looked about the small, clean room. There was a cot bed with a snowy white cover and humpy mattress. There was a small stove but no wood. A few hooks on the wall, a red chair, a beautiful hooked rug, an unshaded kerosene lamp, and a very small wooden table completed the list of furnishings.
“But there are orchids!” whispered Phillipa fiercely amid her crude surroundings.
Down in the fog the steady put-putputtering of a motor-boat rattled against the rocks. “Fishermen,” said Phillipa, and again that unexpected sting of intoxication ran through her body.
She was in the village where Jan Tanch was born, where he lived several months of the year, during which time he daily went fishing with the other men. She prayed fervently that she might have whatever experience might be fated for her before he returned. She intended to flaunt it before his eyes, but she did not
care about being observed in the process.
Phillipa unpacked busily. It took her ten minutes. Then she found she had nothing to do. The Foleys had said dinner would be ready at twelve. One hour away. Should she go up to their house and ask for wood to start a fire with? She felt tired, yet she could not bring herself to lie down in this chilly dampness.
Finally she picked up the fish hook and stood a long time turning it over and over in her hand. She smiled at it ánd finally decided to place it over the door on the inside. By pressing hard with her hands she managed to make it stick. “This is the emblem of my crusade,” she said.
In a few moments just as she decided on a walk there came a knock on her door. “Here is some wood, Miss Leigh,” said a gentle voice. A huge man filled the doorway. His arms were piled high with kindling and sticks. He wore no hat and his thick hair was damp with fog. “Thought ye might like a fire.”
“Oh, thanks,” said Phillipa. “Is this Mr. Foley?”
The man smiled. “Yes,” he admitted in the same soft accent, and went about shaving the kindling with his jack-knife into thin curls. He quickly laid the fire and lighted it, saying no more. His movements for all his height and bulk were quick and decisive. Fire blazed up crackling among the curls of wood. “She’ll go now,” stated Mr. Foley, glancing at her with a smile.
“Oh, thank you so much; it was a little chilly,” said Phillipa. “Do you have much fog like this?”
“Oh, not too bad, but considerable. She’ll clear tonight. Wind’s workin’ round to the north. Sort of hard on ye to arrive in this weather.”
“I don’t mind,” replied Phillipa. Something in the man reminded her of someone else—a half-gesture, the way he lifted his eyebrows. “Aren’t you fishing today?” she asked.
“Yes, but the tide’s wrong to go out until later. Anything more ye want?”
“No, I’ll be comfortable now.”
The man left and Phillipa’s spirits shot up to normal. How nice of him to think about a fire. Life wasn’t so bleak after all. Somehow she had looked for surliness, suspicion and silence from these people, yet she was fairly glowing at the kindness of Mr. Foley.
Mrs. Foley served her at noon. She was shy but not embarrassed: she talked in the same gentle voice as her husband. Phillipa rapidly readjusted several of her ideas. Here were no rough people such as Jan Tanch represented in his poetry. If they had had little of worldly advantage, they certainly displayed a disarming sweetness in their manner. Perhaps the poet had roughened his material to make his poems stronger. She would see.
That afternoon she walked, taking a winding road which led by the house. The fog grew lighter, and through it she saw wild roses more brightly colored than any she could remember; the glossy foliage glistened with wet. ©me small spruce was entwined by the brilliant flowers, they hung down from every branch bright as Christmas baubles. Phillipa wondered what sort of a poem Jan Tanch would make of that; perhaps he would not see it.
She came to a house. A large silver mail box supported by a post stood at the gate. It swung outward on hinges. Phillipa’s eyes rested on the name lettered across the side—Ansel Tanch. She stopped involuntarily; could this be the poet’s home? No, she decided, this was too simple. A neat white house enclosed by a neat white gate. Dark blue spires of larkspur rose by the doorstep. There was an outside well and a small vegetable garden. As she passed beyond, a man came around the corner of the house. He was short and carried something on a plate. Phillipa stopped again. “You have beautiful larkspur,” she called.
“Yes, ma’am,” the man answered Continued, from page b0 readily. “But it needs work around here. I been gone a year and things is ahead of me.”
“Oh,” said Phillipa. Nothing under heaven would induce her to enquire about Jan.
“I’m livin’ alone now,” the man laughed and glanced with humor at his plate. “The neighbors been givin’ me some -.upper. You up t’ Foley’s cabin?”
“Yes,” she started on again, then stopped. “Do you know how I could get a chance to go deep-sea fishing?”
“Would ye mean real deep-sea fishin’?” “Yes.”
“The boats is pretty dirty, lady, ye wouldn’t like it. City folks usually goes out in a pleasure boat from the other side. They’s a man takes ’em.”
“No,” insisted the girl, “I want to go with the men here and see how they do it for their regular work.” Then she had an inspiration. “I’m a writer,” she said, “I want to do an article for the paper.”
The man looked at her without speaking. “I see. Well, ye could go with me, lady. I’m out’bout every day. Not much fun fishin’ but folks may enjoy readin’ ’bout it.”
“When shall we go?”
“I’ll let ye know. I go by Foley’s every day. We’ll wait for a better tide. It’s early in the mornin’ now.”
“I wouldn’t mind that in the least.” The man smiled. “Kinda nasty at three a.m. Fog and wet sloppin’ around.”
“I’ll go whenever you say, then.”
THAT nightthesky cleared. Phillipa was wakened by a roar of wind that shook the cabin. The foghorn had stopped blowing; she could not hear the bell under the cliff, only the groaner rocked on the waves and gave forth its dreary wail.
Rannie seemed very far away, like someone she had known in another world. Even her mother walked in the dim mists of distance. But Jan Tanch with his sandy hair and icy-blue eyes grew constantly more vivid. Here was where he belonged; he matched the scenery. Far down on the waters of the bay she heard the curious sound which meant the change of tides. The noise comforted her; it seemed real and necessary.
But Phillipa did not go out deep-sea fishing then, or later. She saw Mr. Ansel Tanch now and again but he always shook his head. The tides were wrong, or the wind didn’t blow from the right direction, or he was doing something else. The girl began wondering about Mr. Tanch and the integrity of his promises.
Nothing happened. The days rolled on, one after the other, pleasant, exhilarating and beautiful. Far away as she felt from everything familiar, her conscience hurt her terribly about Rannie. She thought of him more often than she enjoyed. She rather anticipated his first letter telling her that she was wonderful to take this daring way of finding out her own mind before she married. But no word came save a short note from her mother a week after her arrival.
“You must always do what seems necessary,” she had written. “Let me know if you need money or clothes. Rannie is naturally upset and has gone away. It was sensible of you to want a small wedding: it simplifies everything.”
This note of her mother’s sent a queer ache through her. It made her feel shut out even from home, though she was honest enough to admit she had done exactly as she wanted, even at the expense of Rannie. She was free to make any psychological experiments she wished, but she found herself longing for a few familiar shackles.
One afternoon she went to the second fish wharf to watch the women drying and piling fish. There were twenty of them with white caps on their heads and singing sea chanties as they worked. Phillipa thought it was very picturesque to see their brown arms strew the pickled fish on “the flakes.” Sun beat down on them and they stood for hours doing the same thing over and over again.
She even ventured down to try it herself. It would be fun, she thought, to confound Jan Tanch with her knowledge of this industry. She asked the women diffidently if she could help. They regarded her gravely and nodded. They showed her how, and piled the flat salted hake for her when she forgot to reverse tails and heads. But they sang no more chanties.
“How much are you paid for this?” she enquired.
“Ten cents an hour.”
Phillipa enjoyed the first thirty minutes. She loved the sun and the wind, the sparkle on the blue water, the feeling of working with others. She grew quite accomplished and even beat some of the other women in the number of fish she spread, and those she piled on another rack. But her back soon tired, her arms felt heavy with weariness, her feet ached.
The other women noticed it. “Don’t ye keep to it too long,” they said sympathetically. “You ain’t used to the business.”
“Oh, I’m all right,” Phillipa assured them.
But finally she had to give up. She told them she had an important letter to get into the mail before it left. She had worked an hour and a half and received fifteen cents.
She left them; they smiled good-by, and as she toiled up the steep path leading to the village road she heard them singing again.
“Oh . . well!” said Phillipa.
And the days went on, one very much like the other. Often the girl walked down to the wharf at evening. It was her favorite rendezvous; perhaps she felt that here she might find the key to all Jan Tanch had implied by his grim outlook on life. The men sat about mending their nets and baiting trawls until dark. Many of them greeted her; some did not. They were all submerged into a brown neutrality by the dull color of their clothes; she scarcely knew to whom she spoke.
Here there was a pervading smell compounded of cod livers, salty air and dead fish left rotting on the beach. “Not nearly as bad as mother would have me think,” said Phillipa stubbornly.
Near the wharf was a house bleak and unlovely. There were no blinds at the windows; no white curtains showing inside. No flowers, only a bit of sparse green grass feather against the sides of the house. Just a weather-beaten building. But someone told her a woman lived there with a young boy. Phillipa screwed up her courage to call. She found it exquisitely neat inside but pitifully poor. During her call the woman told her quietly that she had lost four sons at sea; all at one time.
“Yes’m,” she said, placing a glittering chimney on a cheap, glass lamp, “All t’once they was taken. You don’t know what it is waitin’ and watchin’ with your heart in your mouth every time there’s a step at the door, thinkin’ ’tis maybe the men cornin’ with bad news. A snow squall caught ’em. New Year’s Day ’twas. They was all drowned. I only got this little feller left here now. Sheldon, run git momma a cloth. This chimbley has a speck on it.”
Phillipa ached with the tragedy of the woman’s heartbreak, but try as she would she felt wretchedly outside the vital meaning of life in this small fishing village. She often had the sensation of scratching as a dog might at a closed door; it would open for an instant and then slam shut. She had merely glimpsed something which provoked her without satisfying.
Once she asked the woman who lived in the house by the wharf if Tanch were a common name in Cableville.
“Bless you there’s a heap of ’em ! My name was Tanch before I was married.
Phillipa threw her former decision to
the winds. “I met a man a little while ago who said he lived here. He’s a poet and his name was Jan Tanch.”
“Guess I don’t know him,” said the woman slowly. “They’s plenty of Tanches and plenty of Jans, but no two of them goes together. And, of course, no one’s got time to sit down and write pomes.”
And that night Phillipa sat a long time at her small-paned window and watched the gulls flying home to a quiet cove beyond the small Gap.
"KTEXT morning Mr. Foley knocked on her door about half-past seven. “The folks is goin’ across the Basin in me own boat. Ma thought ye might like to come along, bein’s as how ye ain’t been on the water much. They’s a strong breeze runnin’, but guess ye won’t mind if we ship a little water.”
Phillipa was dressed in ten minutes. She ate her breakfast hurriedly and was ready before the rest. They walked down to the wharf and found the water very low. In order to reach the boat it was necessary to climb down a long ladder at the side of the wharf. The tide had left the rungs dark and wet and covered with slippery green sea-weed.
She saw that Mr. Foley took it for granted that she could climb down this ladder. Even Mrs. Foley descended with surprising agility for so large a woman. So Phillipa bravely put her foot on the top rung and began the long drop. She was not afraid but a little excited. She wondered how it would be when she reached the bobbing boat. Could she step on it the exact moment when it reached the lowest rung?
As she went down her nostrils were filled with the smells oozing out of the dark wood. Once she glanced down and saw three pollock swimming lazily in the water. The sun gleamed on their silver scales. She reached the boat and stepped in without mishap, though Mr. Foley was quick to give her a steadying hand.
When she was seated the motor started with a deafening roar and the boat leaped away from the wharf. They went rapidly, and when they reached the Gap small waves curled along the sides. The spray which blew up from them drenched Phillipa’s shoes. Fish-scales covered every inch of the boat, though Mr. Foley said he had cleaned up a little. Mrs. Foley turned up her nose at the smell, but her husband seemed amused at this evidence of fastidiousness.
“She’s goin’ t’breeze some around the point,” warned Mr. Foley. “I s’pose you womenfolks will squeal and act real scared.”
They slapped into a larger wave. The boat trembled and dipped. It was getting rough. Phillipa felt herself rock in three directions at once.
“I like it!” she shouted at Mr. Foley.
The engine gave forth loud, ear-splitting reports. The girl noticed that the accent of the explosions was very uneven. She silently hoped the motor would not give out. Father uncomfortable to be drifting among these large waves. But twenty minutes out the engine spluttered very fast, died away, stuttered again, regained speed and died away altogether.
Mr. Foley did not appear in the least disturbed. He fave a few monosyllabic directions to his wife, placing the rudder in her hands, and came to the centre of the boat where he bent over the engine.
The waves immediately seemed to assume enormous proportions. They gave to Phillipa the impression of great creatures suddenly released, creatures who would do their best to upset their little craft. The boat by this time was riding dizzily up one watery hill to swing down another. She wavered—stood still poised on a crest for a breathless interval —buried her nose in the spray and swooped down, only to rise again with a sickening side swing. The girl could not see the farther shore when they were down in the green valleys of water, yet she felt perched on a mountain when they again rose to the top.
Mrs. Foley looked more disgruntled than afraid. “Too bad to delay like this,” mumbled the owner of the boat. “She’s likely got some dirt in her carburetor.”
This was a mild good-natured statement, but it made Phillipa a trifle anxious. The breeze came in strong and stronger gusts; white caps raced swiftly over the surface of the water. She saw for the first time in her life the lovely terrifying green of water raised against the sun; the lacy veining of spray sliding back from the crests.
Mr. Foley was not able to make the engine start.
“What’s the matter?” yelled his wife.
“Carburetor’s stuck up with dirt, I told ye!”
The girl saw that unmistakably they were being driven nearer shore. There were a great number of picturesque rocks piled up, rocks she had noticed and admired from a certain point of land; they rose a sheer two hundred feet from the water.
“Got an anchor?” again yelled Mrs. Foley.
“No!” shouted her husband testily.
Whereupon Mrs. Foley muttered something not designed for her husband’s ear.
Phillipa felt a distinct uneasiness. From their position they could see people hardly larger than insects walking up and down the thread of a road which clung to the hill; miraculously she even caught a few notes of a whistled tune. Surely nothing could happen to them here within sight of help. She wondered why Mr. Foley did not signal for assistance.
“The Empress’ll be here in a few minutes!” bellowed Mrs. Foley, “Better get clear of the course before she heaves in sight.”
Mr. Foley did not reply. The engine gave a few, feeble sputters; the boat stood bravely out against the waves, they advanced a few feet, then the power died.
“The wind will drive us toward shore before the Empress comes,” said Mr. Foley. “Hi . . .watch out! Here comes a big one ?’
The big one poured down gallons of water on Phillipa’s back. From that moment she gave up any pretense of enjoying herself. Everything got steadily worse. A few drops of rain fell. Squalls of wind rushed over the water, and sent them careering up higher and higher waves. The rocks were very near. Why didn’t Mr. Foley call for help?
She looked at him. His brown face was perfectly impassive. Phillipa began to feel a little weak. Beads of perspiration dampened her forehead. She thought with distaste of the cream she had had on her cereal this morning.
“Ye might just give a hand with the pump,” said Mr. Foley. She looked at him to see if he were speaking to her. He was.
“Yes,” she answered humbly. “How do I do it?”
“Just chug that stick up and down, and she’ll run out of that pipe at the side.”
Phillipa chugged. A steady stream of water poured out of the pipe. She felt as if she were playing an important part in the rescue.
Mr. Foley went back toward his wife. For a moment the wind came from the stern. “She looks kinda white and scared,” she heard him say. “Thought I’d give her something to keep her busy,” Mrs. Foley nodded.
The girl flushed with quick resentment, then she remembered tbe strange indulgent look on Jan Tanch’s face when he bad told her she did not have courage. Here was a small test. She must not show any squeamishness no matter how frightened she might feel.
A whistle shrieked around the point. That must be the Empress. Surely they were not in danger; they had drifted out of mid-channel. Mr. Foley grabbed an oar; his wife did likewise. Neither of them wasted an atom of breath or even expression on anxiety. They rowed together. For all Phillipa could see Mrs. Foley worked with strength equal to her husband’s.
The whistle blew again. Phillipa looked up. The big steamer was approaching rapidly. Mr. Foley bent on his oar. Mrs. Foley did the same. Phillipa chugged at the pump. The feel of the wooden stick in her hand gave her a pitiful sort of comfort. But they made little headway.
Surely they were out of the channel. Phillipa had not reckoned on the tremendous wash of water in the wake of the big vessel.
The black bow of the ship loomed near and nearer. Phillipa could see people leaning over the rails. The white cream of water curving along the sides towered like a wall.
Phillipa saw her mother’s face vividly: she was removing her pince-nez to regard her soberly. Then she wondered about Rannie; how would he feel under the circumstances. She wished desperately that he were with her. She saw the frail orchid in her hand, the rusty fishhook. She set her lips. After all this wasn’t danger; this was nothing but a small emergency; they would be all right presently. Her throat felt tight; she swallowed a sweetish taste in her mouth.
“Hold tight there!” bellowed Mr. Foley at Phillipa. He threw one arm around his wife, still keeping the oar in his other hand.
Phillipa let go of the pump and gripped the sides of the boat. The bulk of the Empiess blotted out the sky. The girl shut her eyes and opened them as quickly. The little boat swept up a translucent hill of water, hung there amid the roar of the Empress’s engines—there were cries on board the big boat—then swooped down, down into crumbling depths of foam.
Water plunged over Phillipa’s knees. Her hands loosed their hold. She thought she heard Mr. Foley shouting at someone; for a crazy instant she saw directly under a gull’s wing high in the sky. Cold water swirled over her breast, her throat.
“Rannie!” she screamed. Water pressed down her eyes. “Rannie!”
Blackness engulfed her.
THAT evening Phillipa lay on her little cot in the grey cabin. A high wind howled fiendishly around the corners. Rain beat on the window panes. A fire crackled cheerfully in the small black stove. She felt as if she had been beaten with rods. v
A short thick-set man was seated on a chair beside her. His hair was sandycolored, his eyes intensely blue. He watched her gravely.
She turned her head to look at him. “Was it you who saved me?” she asked.
He smiled. “I saw you were in difficulties, so I came out in a small row-boat and hauled you aboard. You got swamped with a big wave as the Empress went by. Not much of a rescue.”
“I suppose not,” said Phillipa politely. “Did you enjoy it?” he asked, after a moment, “the small adventure?”
He leaned a little nearer and spoke softly. “You see, you did not hold on tight enough; you did not have sufficient strength, and the wave washed you overboard. The Foleys stayed in all right.” Phillipa received this statement in silence. Then she said. “How long have you been in Cableville?”
“Only two days.”
“Did you know I was here?”
“No, I guessed it, though. I saw you one night when you came down to the wharf. I was mending a net, but it was dusk and I did not look up.”
“Did you come because I was here?” “Not altogether. It was time for me to be back on my fishing job.”
“Oh,” said Phillipa. “Well, thanks anyway for saving me."
“Great pleasure!” laughed Jan Tanch.
He gave a long, infectious yelp. “Poor kid. It was a bit rough on you. I’m glad you weren’t really in danger.”
Phillipa did not join in his mirth. “Are Mr. and Mrs. Foley quite all right?” “Perfectly. They just kept on across the Basin in their own boat.”
“Um-huh. Got the engine started after a while. Just a little dirt in the carburetor.”
A longer silence. The wind was hurling great shoulders against the door. The groaner’s tortured voice rose to a scream on the heavy swell.
“Are you feeling equal to answering ar important question?” asked the poet swinging his hands between his knees in the way Phillipa remembered the night in the garden at Mary Sawyer’s dinner. “Yes.”
“Will you marry me? I ask you again because you have seen a little of this life up here. You won’t have to live in a shack or do your own washing, but I shall probably spend several months fishing as the other men do.”
Phillipa sat up quickly in bed. Her dark hair tumbled about her shoulders. Her eyes were bright with anger.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“I am Jan Tanch, of Cableville, Nova Scotia. I am a fisherman. Now and then I write verse which is occasionally published.”
“No, you are not Jan Tanch! Your name is not that. I called on a woman who has lived here for years and she never had heard of you. ‘Plenty of Jans and plenty of Tanches but never the two together,’ she said.”
The man leaned nearer. His blue eyes plunged into hers. “My mother’s maiden name was Tanch; my father’s name was Foley.”
“I used my mother’s name because they would have no use for me here if they knew I wrote verses.”
“Then you are really Jan Foley?” “Yes.”
“Where do you live in Cableville?” “Sometimes here when no one else uses it; sometimes at the house.”
“This is my shack; I built it.”
Phillipa laughed. “It’s too funny !” Her shoulders shook. She grew almost hysterical. “My experiment is humorous—very, very jolly.”
Then she sobered and placed her two hands on the man’s thick shoulders.
“I like you more than anyone I know,” she said seriously, “I shall continue to think of you all my life, but I love Rannie. I see I don’t belong here and never could. Because there are orchids, you know.” She pointed at the rusty fish hook embedded in the wood above the door. “I shall leave it there for you to remember a foolish girl by.”
The man’s breath was on her cheek. “I love you,” he whispered, and kissed her hard on the mouth.
Then he got up hurriedly and stood by the door. “I’m sorry,” he apologized and left.
PHILLIPA reached home in three days.
Her mother welcomed her rather solemnly. “How are you, dear?” she questioned.
“Fine, darling! Where’s Rannie? I expected him to meet me after my wire telling him I was coming.”
“We have baked peppers stuffed with crab-meat tonight. I ordered it because it was your favorite dish.”
“Where is Rannie?”
“He left as soon as you did. I thought I told you.”
“Where has he g one?” Phillipa looked white.
“He told me he was going to some of those small islands not noted on the map, you remember you spoke of. He expects to be gone three years.”