A story of the South Seas, "the girl back home" and a magnificent gesture



A story of the South Seas, "the girl back home" and a magnificent gesture



A story of the South Seas, "the girl back home" and a magnificent gesture


DO YOU mind if I shift my deck chair a little? There’s a shark down there, and I don’t like looking at sharks. Yes, that’s his fin, the black triangular thing like the sail of a toy boat. Oh, I know it’s absurd of me. We’re quite safe up on this deck. All the same, with your permission I’m going to move my chair so that I needn’t see him.

Horror of sharks? I have, and I don’t mind confessing it. I usen’t to mind them, but I’d an adventure with one once when I was pearling in the South Seas, and since then I’ve felt different. Yes, it was a pretty close thing. It's getting on for six years since it happened, but it still comes back to me in dreams.

Would you care to hear the story? I call it the bravest story I know. By the way, have you ever thought what a lot of different sources of courage there are? Hatred, greed, despair, vanity and anger, to mention a few. Rotten things in themselves, but they sometimes make men do uncommonly brave things. Springs of courage, eh? I suppose if you work it out. any strong emotion can be a spring of courage. Even fear itself.

Sorry to meander like this. To get back to the bravest

story I know, I’ll begin by telling about Terence Riley. He was twenty-three when I first met him, as reckless a harumscarum young devil as ever left the Emerald Isle to seek his fortune. He was tall, with black, curly hair, a lilting voice and a laugh that warmed your heart. The sort of fellow I could imagine women going wild about. Well, I know for a fact that they did. White, yellow, brown and black. Terence had only to lift his little finger and they’d have been at his feet.

But he never did lift his little finger. He did what I’ve heard some people say is impossible for a white man in the South Seas—he lived clean. For there was a girl at home. A girl in the County Down who was waiting for him, “where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.”

Do you recognize the quotation? It’s from a song the late Sir Percy French used to sing. There’s a line that goes, “But I'll wait for the wild rose who’s waiting for me, where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.” Terence was forever whistling or singing that song. I think he found it a sort of mascot tune to keep him out of mischief. Anyway, he left women and liquor alone, which wasn’t what you’d have expected from a fellow of his temperament roaming about the South Seas.

T MET him first at a place called Port Evian in the Wallis

Group. He’d been out about two years then, and the little bit of capital he had from selling his estate in Ireland was all but gone. What could you expect? Pearling is like backing horses; even when you know the game from A to Z the odds are still against you. Still, there is a thing common to both called beginner’s luck, and I suppose that was what Terence had banked on.

It hadn’t turned up for him. At Port Evian he had the clothes he stood up in, a year’s lease of the Wild Rose—she was an antiquated pearling schooner he’d chartered from a Chink at Suva, and had rechristened for reasons you can guess-and that was all. But he wasn’t downhearted.

There was that girl waiting for him, and for her sake he meant to make good no matter what combined to stop him.

Funnily enough, it was a shark introduced us in the first instance. I was doing a bit of rod-and-line fishing in Port Evian harbor and Terence was bathing. Suddenly there was a cry of “’Ware shark !” My boat happened to be the nearest and Terence headed for it—swimming for dear life, as if the thing was snapping at his heels. By his face I could see how scared he was. Eyes starting and mouth open. He was too flurried to time his strokes.

He was white under the tan and trembling as I hauled him in. I didn’t laugh at him; I understood. Most men have their own pet aversions to something. With some it’s snakes; with others it’s cats. In the case of Terence, it happened to be sharks. He just couldn't face them. I’ve a horror of them myself now, as you know, but it isn’t an inborn horror like Terence had. Mine’s been grafted onto me by the experience I’m going to tell you about, but his was deeper than that. It was part and parcel of himself— an instinctive dread he couldn’t overcome.

He fainted dead off, once I’d got him in the boat. After he came round he was terribly ashamed of himself. Seemed to think that I’d think him a coward. He needn’t have worried. I know a man when I meet one; besides, I’d heard tales of the daredevil things he’d done sailing the Wild Rose round the Islands.

I liked the boy, and I think he liked me. Anyway, he agreed at once when I suggested we should try a pearling venture together. He’d the Wild Rose, and I’d the experience and just about enough cash to hire a Kanaka crew, and on that basis we formed a partnership.

LUCK didn’t smile on the new combine. The beds I knew * had been skinned by Japs with electric launches, and we had to take to carrying copra and cocoanuts to meet expenses. What we got from the planters just about enabled us to carry on. You see we didn’t mind taking risks.

We sailed the Wild Rose in all weathers, and got a name for bringing cargo home when other ships daren’t leave port.

Living close as we were, we had to become either friends or enemies. We became friends, so close Terence didn’t mind talking to me about the girl he was in love with. Young Joan was what he used to call her. He’d started calling her that first when they were both kids home from school for the holidays, and now they were grown up and secretly engaged he’d kept the name on.

Soon I got to know Young Joan almost as well as I knew Terence. She sounded a lively piece of goods to me. One of those girls who live for hunting and dancing and tennis and racing about in cars. A sports model, you might call her. And I couldn’t help wondering what Terence had seen in her that had sent him risking his neck in the South Seas.

Also, I wondered if she cared about him in the same way he cared about her. If she did, it didn’t show in her letters. He let me read them, and there was no reason why he shouldn’t have. They were all about, the good time she was having in Ireland, the fences she’d jumped, the dances she’d been to, and so on. Letters a sister might have written. If I’d been in Terence’s position, I’d have wanted something more. I’d have liked her to say how she missed me and how she was pining for my return and so forth. Once I remember I put that up to Terence, but he only laughed and said Young Joan was all right, and he understood her better than I did.

He was wrong, as the event proved. But I’m going too fast. Before the nice, kind, sensible, sisterly letter saying she didn’t feel she could marry him after all and he must forgive her and forget her—before that letter arrived, we’d sailed the Wild Rose to a place called Rantong, which is an atoll in the Green Chain. What had sent us there was a

yarn I’d been told by an old Dutch skipper at Port Falcon. He was so drunk that when he swore there were virgin oyster beds in the Rantong lagoon waiting to be stripped by anyone who’d the pluck to go there, there seemed to be a possibility he might be speaking the truth. Anyway,

Terence and I were desperate by that time and ready to jump at any chance.

The old squarehead advised us not to go. For one thing, Rantong was a Japanese Government preserve, and if wre were sighted by a Jap patrol we’d be liable to be sunk at sight or sent for a spell in the Ladrones, which would be worse. For another, it was in a volcanic area where

you might expect a typhoon twice a week, andwhich concerned Terence the most and bothered me not at all— the lagoon was haunted by man-eating sharks. They came over the reef at full tide, and got imprisoned where they hadn’t enough to eat.

That didn’t bother me. I knew, or thought I knew, that a shark never attacks a man in a diving suit. What did bother me was the thought of the Jap gunboats, the typhoons and the dangerous uncharted waters. I put those up to Terence and warned him, as a wise old hand speaking to a novice, that this trip to Rantong might very well see the end of us. I might have saved my breath. With the thought of Young Joan spurring him on, Terence would have sailed the Wild Rose into hell if he’d thought he could get pearls by doing so.

I wasn’t going to let him go to Rantong alone. I realized my last cent, and we fitted up the Wild Rose for our final throw against fate. If this failed we were sunk. It would

be beachcombing for both of us to the end of the chapter.

I won’t enlarge about the trip. It was all the old squarehead had warned us and a lot worse. If Terence hadn’t been with me. I think I’d have given up. But his determination was like a flame, a flame that bum«! up difficulties and dangers.

I can picture him now. As he was when that typhoon hit us. Bearded, stripped to the waist, his muscles rippling as he fought the wheel. Laughing when the wind and sea were at their maddest. Laughing when the Kanakas howled and the Wild Rose spun like a drowning cockchafer. I tell you he was indomitable. If the bottom dropped out of the world, he meant to get to Rantong and find those pearls.

You can’t beat a man like that. It was as if fate realized she had met her match, for one danger cancelled another and a typhoon saved us from a Jap gunboat. Her skipper thought he could sail where the Wild Rose sailed, and her skipper was wrong. He wasn’t a Terence Riley who’d learned seamanship in Carlingford Lough at the age of twelve. Terence had a sailor’s sixth sense. In the teeth of the typhoon he ran the Wild Rose down a channel between two of the Green Chain islands, and the gunboat tried to follow. Dist we saw of her she was breaking up on a submerged reef with the surf bursting round her like a barrage. But we got through.

A mad night that, and one I’m not likely to forget in a hurry. Two days later we limped into Rantong. The poor old Wild Rose was like a i>oodle that’s been mauled in a dog fight. All wounds and patches. We were shorthanded too. One Kanaka had been swept overside in the typhoon, another had a broken leg, and there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t some injury to show.

Still, we’d got there and that was the big thing. Very calm and peaceful Rantong seemed too, after the hammering we’d had. The lagoon where we anchored was like a blue mirror framed with glittering white reefs. Top of the reefs there was a fringe of palm trees shooting up out of a lot of flame-colored foliage. It was all vivid and still like a picture postcard. Very lovely, but the glitter made your eyes ache and the perfumed air never seemed to fill your lungs.

Terence and I were there for pearls, not scenery. First glance, that lagoon didn't lx>k too hopeful to me. The reefs were so high they kept the sun off the water, and you don’t usually find pearl bivalves in shadowed w'ater. Oysters like warmth and a clean bottom where there’s not too much scour. There was weed at the bottom of Rantong lagoon, and the way it waved made me surmise that if there were any oysters they’d have grown too muscular holding on to rocks to develop |x;arls. Even so, it was better than if there’d been no scour at all. If there’s no scour the spawn sinks and rots.

Besides the shadow and the strong scour there was another thing I didn’t like. The lagoon was too deep. Pearl bivalves are usually found at four to five fathoms; at Rantong the average depth was over twelve. liven so, I didn’t lose hope. Experience had taught me that in the pearling game the only certainty is that what you expect

won’t happen.

As soon as we’d straightened out something of the mess the typhoon had made, we started in. The east end of the lagoon seemed the likeliest sjxt to me, so we tried there first. It was too deep for the Kanakas, and we used the suit. I can tell you it wasn’t one of those modern articulated suits either. It hadn't even a telephone and the air pipe was patched and blistered like an old garden hose. But beggars can’t be choosers, and we’d grit it cheap from a Chink dealer at Port Falcon on account of its bad condition. It did us all right. Terence and I used to take turns going down.

One did tender while the other was below. I liked my spells below the best. It was cool and restful on the bottom of the lagoon. Much nicer than frying on deck with the sun clubbing you and the smell of rotting oysters making you ill.

There were oysters all right. Big chaps too, eight inch and ten inch. We picked on an average three or four hundred a day, and got seed pearls by the cupful. But that wasn’t any use to us. After a week we upped anchor and shifted over to the other side.

IT WAS the morning after we’d moved we got another proof that the old squarehead had been no liar. He’d warned us about typhoons and uncharted reefs and Jap gunboats, and that morning we learned that the other thing he’d warned us against hadn’t been any myth either. I mean sharks. Rupert, the best Kanaka diver we liad,

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jungle. With utter disregard he rolled over on his side, grunting, until his trunk tip only protruded from the water, his great body soaking in the cool lave of the stream, the aggravating jungle ticks drowning one by one from the wrinkled folds of his skin, and each in going leaving a deeper and dee|>er peace . . .

TT WAS thus that Kudrat Das first A looked u]x>n Chundra nearly two hours later. Kudrat was a little brown man, lean as a monkey and attired only in a ragged head and loin cloth. I le had Ixen studying the fresh s|xx>r of I lari, the lame tiger, along the river bank when he came upon Chundra in his bath. He was moving cautiously because, only a few days before, the tiger had killed a villager in this vicinity. As he crouched now, parting the foliage to peer, all thought of the tiger was banished from his mind and his lined and wizened face lightened with a singular depth of satisfaction. For back in his river camp a half mile downstream was Mayhew, the animal collector, for whom he worked, eagerly waiting for news of just such a record Íx:ast as this, and eager to pay well for it.

Kudrat Das was a hunter of renown from one of the Gurkha hill trilx's and in his younger days he had been a skilled mahout. There was reason therefore for his admiration as he watched the old titan in his bath, for his schmled eye read things which none but one of the elephant cult might recognize. Chundra, he knew at a glance, was one of the famed Koomeriuh. or king caste, which is the bhxxi royal of the elephant world, and in all his days he liad seen no mightier nor more splendid elephant than this. The straight columnar legs, the clean-cut symmetrical Ixxly, taller by a fcxit than any ordinary bull elephant, and Certain other signs which ran far deeper, told Kudrat he was looking upon a true aristocrat. It was not every season, nor every decade for the matter of that, that one might see such a sjjecimen. What would not the sahib pay for the successful capture of such a beast? Reward enough in all probability to mean wealth for life in his remote hill tribe. Kudrat could almost feel the treasure already in the fold of his loincloth.

And then, pressing still closer to the pool's brink, he became aware of something else. The mighty heaven-horn beast in the water had once been the friend and heljXT of man. Plainly to lx* seen on tire yellowed tusks were the marks of longago bands, and their blunted ends had once been balled. Undoubtedly Chundra had once worn the rich trappings of a rajah's court, many years ago, no doubt, but that mattered not, for an elephant remembered all things.

It had been the Gurkha’s aim to return to camp at once and make plans with the white man for the capture of the bull. Now a bolder plan entered his head, one by which he might possibly double his reward. He crept to the very brink of the i*>ol and squatted there, and presently Chundra heard in the midst of his dreaming an unctuous voice that seemed an actual echo out of the past.

“Most wise, most reverend Raj of Elephants.” intoned the Gurkha in the flowery metaphor in which the Indian mahouts soothe their great charges. “Hast thou not bathed enough? Only stretch forth thy trunk and sample the tender cane thy servant lias cut for thee, most Beautiful of Kingly Mountains. Up now— Tehohr

Chundra heaved upright in the ]xx)l with a tidal surge. His eye took in the little brown man on the bank and he blasted softly. He had no fear of man. His dreams in the sun had taken him far away, and for a space it actually seemed to him that his old mahout of seventy years ago was

speaking to him. Or was it only yesterday after all?

“Oh, Wise and Subtle!” the Gurkha's voice persisted. He was schooled in all elephant lore. With his curved knife he had cut a dozen stalks of tender cane and was holding them forth enticingly. His voice worked a mesmeric spell on the giant brain, and finally Chundra’s trunk tip stretched forth in question, gripped and curled, and presently his huge molars were crushing the ultimate honey-sweet from the sugary stalks while he rocked and rumbled in his great stomach.

A half hour passed. Kudrat’s words droned on and on like a mantra as he extolled Chundra’s great size and strength, his valorous deeds. Chundra lolled, upcurling his trunk to spray his mouth and shoulders. And then somehow he was on the bank, the Gurkha’s hand massaging the folds of skin beneath his lower lip, and as the pink mouth opened in delight something pungent and thrilling suddenly lay upon his tongue. It was a lump of the ginger which even the meanest Indian native usually carries about him. Chundra knew ginger of old. He tucked the morsel between two of his great teeth, enjoying to the full the tang on tongue and throat. More memories. He rocked and gurgled with content.

“Most reverend Kingly Mountain ! Knowest not now thy friend and servant Kudrat Das means thee no harm? Up.” the Gurkha commanded in the vernacular of the elephant cult.

And though it had been seventy years since he had last known man, Chundra obeyed. What mattered it for a time what he did or where he went? Perhaps there would be enticing rewards as of old, arrack and honey cakes and sweet chopped cane.

GOOD WORK, Kudrat Das,” said Mayhew, the hunter, late that aftern<x>n. “Very well done.”

Fie stood in camp with his head man gazing upon old Chundra chained by both hind legs to a great teak at the river bank, looming like a mass of primal matter in the gathering dusk. Beside them also was the memsahib, for Mayhew had brought Joan, his bride of six months, out with him this trip, to see what jungle life was like.

“One felt certain the sahib would appreciate the labors of his servant,” said Kudrat Das in the vernacular. “He is indeed a prince among elephants, as any can see. Of a size and of a kingliness that I have not seen for long and long—not since I was small and I am no child.”

Mayhew glanced down at the wizened hunter and smiled.

“The elephant is also no child,” he said. “Very old.”

“Although not too old.” said Kudrat quickly. He had seen among other things that Chundra was indeed near the end of his days, but as a businessman he had made no mention of the fact. “And already trained, having served men before, as even the memsahib has proved,” artfully referring to the delight Joan had just had in feeding the captive his chopped cane. “Thus we elude the great difficulty of capture, likewise the labor of transferring a wild elephant to the coast,” pursued Kudrat, as if soliloquizing.

“Things which will be remembered upon the reckoning of accounts,” smiled Mayhew, who delighted in probing the transparent perspicacity of the Gurkha.

“The son of truth lives but to dispense justice and generosity,” murmured the old hunter.

Mayhew was no novice in elephant matters. Fie had had misgivings at first concerning Chundra’s age. He knew as well as Kudrat that the great bull was a centenarian, a fact which would greatly diminish his value as a zoological specimen. Yet there were accruing circumstances which changed all that.

No man who had lived in India as long as Mayhew had, could remain immune to the philosophy of that strange land. In former years he had been wont to look

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was taken by one that must have slipped into the lagoon and been made bold by hunger.

Right under our eyes it happened. Terence and 1 were on deck when we heard Rupert's yell. He’d popped overside for a swim, and the shark had chopped him almost as soon as he touched the water. It had him by the middle and was towing him out to the centre. We could see his arms windmilling above the surface and his agonized face, and we could do nothing to help. Then the brute took him under, and there was a sort of swirl and a lot of red foam ...

It upset me. but not as much as it did Terence. As I told you, he’d a horror of sharks, and I guess seeing Rupert taken like that was too much lor him. That day he didn’t go down at all, and I carried on alone. In the evening we opened the previous day’s catch, same as we always did. We couldn’t trust that to the Kanakas. They were good boys, but pearls are

mighty easy things to secrete even when you’re only wearing a waistband. And I don’t believe in tempting anyone, least of all a brown man.

I’d Solomon sores on my hands, so Terence was prizing and I was mushing. You have to knead the oyster carefully between your fingers for it’s easy to miss a pearl. That sounds nasty, but it isn’t really. It’s fascinating. Like a lucky dip.

Terence was lower that evening than I’d ever seen him. When we were three parts through the pile, he began to talk about leaving Rantong.

“I don’t feel I’ll be able to dive again,” I remember he told me. “Call me a coward, but I just can’t face the thought of being taken by a shark. And anyway we know there aren’t any pearls. Let’s quit.”

“So we know there aren’t any pearls, do we?” said I. I was trembling and I’d come out all wet with perspiration.

“We’ve pretty well proved it,” said Terence.

“Have we?” I yelled, and I dropped into his lap what I'd just squeezed out of an oyster. A pearl, the size of a muscatel. Round and flawless. Worth four thousand dollars in any market.

A great moment that ! And a great night that followed. We both cut crazy. I remember Terence waltzing with a big Kanaka in his arms round the deck. He drank whisky that night—first and only time I’ve ever seen him touch liquor. It was Young Joan’s health he drank—we both did. “Here’s to the wild rose who’s waiting for me . . That was how he drank her health.

I GUESS I’m a cynic. Anyway, I wasn’t so very surprised when, about a week later, he got her letter. He got it at Mauru, where we’d gone for fresh provisions. We’d found over a dozen more pearls—none of them as big as the first one, but all sizable—and were feeling on top of the world.

By a coincidence, a Dutch mail boat had put in. Her skipper had heard Terence was in those parts and had brought the letter along on chance. It was the first he’d had for months. I saw his eyes shine as he grabbed it from the purser’s hand. Then he took it off to his cabin on the Wild Rose —like a dog with a bone.

Three hours later I missed him. I’d been drinking with some pilots and telling lies about what we’d been doing. I sensed something was wrong and I went along to his cabin.

When I saw his face I could have thrown that girl to the sharks with pleasure. He looked blank—as if a light had gone out somewhere. He tried to smile, but his lips were quivering.

“I’m through with girls,” he said. “Read that.”

I read it. It was the usual thing—written rather shakily as if she felt ashamed of what she was writing. She couldn’t wait any longer, she felt she could never be his wife and he must forgive and forget her. It was plain to me what had happened. She’d met someone she liked better; someone with more money.

Heartless little jilt! The look on Terence’s face tore my heart, and I said just what I thought of her. He didn’t join in. But he tore her letter into tiny fragments and threw them over the side, where they floated like the petals of a broken wild rose.

“That’s over forever,” he said.

TT’S FUNNY how things work out. If A Terence hadn’t had that letter, I would not be sitting now on the deck of this steamer telling you this yam.

Springs of courage! I believe he liked me as well as one man can like another, but it wasn’t purely for my sake he did what I’m going to tell you about. For what he did was the act of a madman. And he did it because he was crazed with despair.

He was bitter, reckless, too fed up with life to care what happened to him. When a fellow feels like that he’ll dare anything.

I wonder how many Victoria Crosses have been won by men who were really seeking death.

We’d gone back to Rantong. My suggestion of course, for Terence had no wish one way or the other. He’d lost all ambition; that girl had been the mainspring of his life, and now that he'd lost her he was aimless. But I knew the mood wouldn’t last, and I didn’t see why we should lose good pearls because a girl had proved herself a rotter.

I was down picking shell. It lay so thick I’d hardly to walk at all. I’d just to stoop and gather them like potatoes and drop them in a crawl. Automatic work. And then I saw a shark watching me.

A big fellow. Very likely the same that had taken Rupert. He was circling round in an inquisitive sort of way I didn’t like.

I wasn’t scared. I knew sharks never attack men in diving suits. I opened the pressure valve, hoping the bubbles would scare him off. But he didn’t seem to mind. He swam overhead and I saw him nosing at my air pipe.

That decided me to quit. Sharks have been known to mistake air pipes for eels and bite them through. I decided I wouldn’t wait for that to happen. I gave the lifeline one sharp tug. That means. “I’m in danger. Get me up quick.” And your tender knows you’re in too much of a hurry to wait to inflate your suit and float up as you would normally, and he hauls you up pronto.

Terence got my signal okay. The line tightened and swung me up off my feet. Up I went. Mr. Shark came too, circling round me on his side.

I was almost within reach of the ladder when there was a jerk and I dropped a couple of feet. Something like a long black worm went wriggling down past my vision. I didn’t need to be told what had happened. The lifeline, rotten like the rest of the gear, had snapped and I was suspended by the air pipe. If it parted, I was done.

Something brushed against my legs. It was the shark. I fancy he was trying to make up his mind if I was edible or not.

I kicked and he was off like a flicker of black lightning.

The kick had started me revolving. My weight had put a kink in the pipe, and the air wasn’t reaching me as it should have done. I was suffocating, dangling there helpless, and the shark was coming back.

I saw the great curved thing shooting up and I knew he meant to seize me. So did the fellows on the deck of the Wild Rose. They could see much more clearly than I could. My view was limited to what the visor gave me as I spun round. But they could see the shark rising for all the world like a trout about to grab a worm.

That was the situation when Terence dived. Yes, Terence who’d an inborn horror of sharks. He gave one yell, grabbed a knife and went over the rail like an arrow.

I saw his arrival. Somehow one sees very clearly at such moments. And I swear he was laughing as he came up under the shark and swept his knife the length of its belly.

I didn’t see the rest of the fight. They’d lowered another line and I’d grabbed it with the last remaining strength I had. and was too occupied getting hauled up to observe anything. But the Kanakas told me about it later. And even allowing for their exaggeration, it must have been one of the maddest fights ever staged in the South Seas.

Terence fought like a tigress defending her young. Shouting and splashing, he drove the shark away from me. Twice it rushed at him; twice he got his hands against its snout and pushed himself clear. When it came a third time, he played the Kanaka trick and plunged his knife between its snapping jaws.

So the Kanakas assure me. Terence himself says they’re talking nonsense. His version was that the shark was too scared by his splashing to attack. But that does not explain why, when the Kanakas

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hauled him into the canoe, he was raw down one side as if he had been sandpapered. Nor does it explain how, when we caught the shark, bis knife came to be bedded to the hilt in its palate.

Anyway, what does it matter? All I know and care is that he saved my life by an incredibly brave action.

THAT happened nearly six years ago and we are still friends. In fact I am on my way now to visit him at his ranch. I will meet his charming Australian wife, and I will relate to his children the story of how he fought the shark. It’s a story they never tire of hearing—and when I tell it to them I call it the bravest story I know.

But it isn’t. The bravest story I know is one I learned only a year ago, five years after the adventure with the shark. I’d been motoring in Ireland and had had a smash. That landed me with a broken leg in a Dublin orthopedic hospital for cripples, a great quiet house of pain where I learned for the first time in my life what real courage is.

I’d been behaving like a fretful baby. Six weeks on my back seemed more than I could face. Very depressed and sorry for

myself, I was. So to cheer me up the sister put my cot next that of the merriest patient in the hospital one sunny afternoon when we were all wheeled out on the verandah. She was an incurable from the spinal ward.

A girl and pitifully young. But her cheerfulness shamed my manhood. As we chatted I wondered why her face seemed familiar.

When she told me how she came to be there—that five years before a horse had rolled on her in the hunting field and broken her back—I knew. I thought of a photograph Terence had often shown me. And I thought of a letter floating in fragments in Mauru harbor—fragments like the petals of a broken wild rose.

I knew then why she had written that letter. It was to send the man she loved out of her life with a clear conscience to find unfettered happiness elsewhere. She wasn’t going to let Terence be involved in the wreckage of her own life. Better he should go away believing her a heartless jilt.

Springs of courage! From what spring did Young Joan draw hers? You’ll find it in your Bible. A text that begins with the words, “Perfect love.”