Dressed in Sails
S. Casey Wood
YOU’VE SEEN a gang of youngsters moving along a street. Notice how they string out, with one straggler bringing up the rear? Well, that’s about the way the Freeman Cup race looked in the afternoon when we were halfway from Cobourg to Main Duck Island—with my veteran-class sloop, the Viking, the last yacht of the lot. Of course it’s a time allowance race, but we weren’t saving our time on anyone.
My niece, Linda Williams, swung round from watching the boats in front as if she didn’t like the view. She looked astern over the empty waves, still rolling high despite the moderated wind, then dropped her gaze to Derek Hamilton out on the old-fashioned square stern.
“You’d think we were dragging an anchor,” she said bitterly.
Lake Ontario weather is sometimes worse than anything you can find on the ocean. And I’ve noticed how often it seems to come for the Freeman Cup race the overnight cruise that kicks off the annual Lake Yacht Racing Association regatta. This year we’d been two days in Cobourg Harbor before the judges would let us start, while a gale from the west whipped the lake. Now we were running east along the north shore before a following sea which gave a forward rush to the Viking as each wave passed under her bottom.
Cobourg is almost directly across the lake on the Canadian side from Rochester on the American. Rochester was where we’d finish, but first we had to go east round Main Duck Island, and then back up along the south shore—which is a long race. It’s even longer when the wind’s against you, and it
looked as if it wasn’t going to change and would be dead in our teeth the last part.
By the time the judges had decided to send us out the wind had moderated a lot and the sky was clear, with a watery sun tipping the rollers. But it was plenty dark in the troughs, and there was a threatening feel in the air that I didn’t like.
“If we had a decent spinnaker,” I said to Linda, “we’d do better.” This was true. Without a useful spinnaker, the down-wind racing sail, a boat doesn’t stand much chance before the wind.
“And if the boat was younger, and the mainsail better, and a lot of other ifs,” observed Derek. He was braced back on his elbows, his feet crossed on the deck in front of him, swaying to the motion as we careened down the front of the waves.
“Derek Hamilton—you make me sick,” said Linda.
I smothered a smile. The two of them had been
fighting like that all day, ever since Derek came aboard that morning.
Personally, I felt fine. Which just shows doctors don’t know it all, even if they have a lot of gadgets for telling them what’s Wrong with a man’s insides.
Linda looks wonderful when she’s annoyed, her blue eyes under winged brows snapping with anger and her firm rounded chin stuck out like a belligerent child’s. She’s 20 now, but her sailing rig makes her appear younger, the loose blue sweater with the long sleeves and the dirty sailing pants hiding her graceful figure. As usual she’d pulled a bandanna so close to her face you couldn’t see any of her dark curls, which was a loss I regretted.
“It isn’t the Viking’s fault,” she snapped at Derek. “It’s like Uncle Bill says—we need a decent spinnaker. Whoever heard of a yacht doing anything down-wind without a spinnaker? Just because you usually sail on expensive new boats is no reason to turn up your nose at the Viking! In her day she’s won more races than you’ll ever win— even if you live to be a hundred.”
“Aren’t we mad!” mocked Derek.
Linda sniffed. “Stuffed shirts always make me mad! Especially when they insult the Viking.”
“You shouldn’t have an inferiority complex about the Viking,” Derek answered in a soothing voice.
“I suppose you’re wishing you’d gone across on Sylvia Manners’ power cruiser?” Linda asked.
I knew then she must have caught at least part of the exchange between Derek and Sylvia on
the Cobourg dockside that morning, which I’d overheard while I lashed the outboard motor in our towing dinghy.
SYLVIA MANNERS, who always looks too perfect to be true, had been wearing an expensive white doeskin sailor suit with a whiteand-blue striped jersey that did plenty for her figure. Her gay earrings were all wrong, but her hair was a blond mass of curls under one of those hats they call a beanie.
As soon as she’d seen Derek she’d begun to reproach him for not looking her up right away.
“I was going to later,” he said.
“You’re not afraid of me, are you, Derry?”
“Could be,” he told her evenly.
She laughed. “Still the same old Derry.” “Maybe,” he said.
“I haven’t changed, Derry. I’m still the same— where you’re concerned.”
“Should I be glad of that?”
“Yes,” she said. “You are glad, Derry.”
“I’ve got to go now, Sylvia.”
“Derry—come with me on the Roamer.”
“No,” he said. “I promised Doc Harrison I’d sail on the Viking.”
“That old tub!”
“Yes. Old Man Williams isn’t well. This is his last race—probably the last ever. He’s only got his niece with him—the other man he was depending on has summer flu. He needs someone to help out . . . Perhaps you’ve forgotten that Skipper Williams taught me how to sail when I was a kid — I couldn’t let him down now.”
“I’ll see you in Rochester then,” said Sylvia. “Bye now.”
That’s what I’d heard on the dock. And it left me a bit uneasy, knowing Sylvia Manners.
“Little girls shouldn’t eavesdrop,” Derek told Linda now.
“If you insist on having your love scenes where people can’t help hearing them, what do you expect?” she flashed at him.
“It wasn’t a love scene,” he said easily, his brown eyes lazy and amused.
I felt Linda had been pretty accurate in her description, but I thought it wise to put an end to this before the buttons came off the foils.
“Pull that spinnaker boom aft a foot, will you, Derek?” I said. “Let’s get all we can out of that old sail.”
Derek’s four years in the Air Force hadn’t changed him much. He was older, of course, and his lazy manner was a little more pronounced. But the way he’d hustled up to Cobourg to look for a berth on a boat showed flying hadn’t changed him much. Before the war he’d been top crewman around the club—a member of several Canada Cup crews. His crewing for me in this race did him credit, for he could have picked his boat, and they’d have been glad to get him.
It was as Derek was cleating the after-guy that it happened. The rip started in the skirt of the spinnaker and flashed up to the head, so that the sail was in two pieces before you knew it.
Linda swung her slim legs out of the hatch in a flash and joined Derek at the mast. When they’d taken off the ripped sail and straightened things away they came aft to the cockpit. The Viking is just big enough by two inches to qualify for entry, and her rectangular cockpit is small, so that we were sitting with our knees almost touching.
“Well,” I said. “That’s that! I guess we might as well go straight across now. If we keep on after the others we’ll get in a day behind them.”
“We’ve got to keep on,” said Linda, and banged clenched fists on my knees. “Perhaps I can fix it— have we a needle aboard?”
“Stubborn, isn’t she?” said Derek. “Even thinks she can sew.”
“No,” Linda snapped. “Not stubborn—just not a quitter.”
"Derek Hamilton, you make me sick," said Linda.
It’s one thing to say something to stop a girl crying, and another to have her call you a quitter. Derek flushed as he stood up.
“Dry your eyes, little girl,” he said lightly, as he moved to the hatch and went below. The next moment the small canvas bag he’d brought aboard so carefully that he’d insisted on stowing it himself where it wouldn’t get wet, sailed through the hatch and landed at. our feet. “Open it,” he called from the hatchway.
When Linda dumped the contents on the floor of the cockpit we saw one of t he sweetest spinnakers I’ve ever seen. It had never been used. It was folded the way sailmakers fold their sails for shipment, and a few of the usual clippings of material fell out as I spread it across my knee.
“Only one firm could have made this,” I said.
“It’s a Larsen sail,” said Derek, confirming my
The story of a girl who wasn’t a quitter, a Viking that rode a storm and a spinnaker that made a wedding dress
guess. Larsen is a name to lift your hat to in sailmaking. That family has been in the business in England forever, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn they made the sails for the Golden Hind.
“Who is Larsen?” Linda asked.
“You ignorant whelp!” said Derek. “And you call yourself a sailor!” He gathered up the spinnaker. “Come help me set it.”
That sail rode out from the ship, bellied like a balloon, a high-flying sail, and I could feel the ' Viking take hold of the water as if she was trying to show her pride at wearing a Larsen spinnaker.
“What’s it made of?” Linda asked. “It .isn’t canvas.”
“Parachute silk,” said Derek, and his voice silenced any more questions. It was as if he shut a door in our faces. I’d noticed how careful he’d been of the sail bag—and he’d let us cover half of the down-wind part of the race using our old sail, and going steadily backward. But I’ve always believed in respecting another man’s privacy, so I gave Linda a hard look and she swung round to look ahead.
YOU THINK the wind’s making up any?” I asked Derek a couple of hours later.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve figured so for some time.” Linda said, “Have you noticed the way we’re picking up the rest of the fleet?” There was excitement in her voice. “A while ago I couldn’t even see the black numbers in that boat’s sail—now I can almost read them.”
“We’re sailing over our head,” said Derek. Linda’s back stiffened. “I told you all the Viking needed was a decent spinnaker.”
“Well, she’s got that now.”
She swung round to face him. “Why didn’t you let us use it sooner?”
“None of your business!” Then he added quickly before she could answer, “How about something to eat? We’ll be down on the Ducks in an hour or so— and I don’t like the look of that sky.”
He was right. I didn’t like it either. It had been closing in so gradually that the change was only now noticeable. It was getting on toward dusk, and the horizon behind us was a red streak above the water.
While we ate, Derek said, “The first boats are around. As I thought, they’re heading across for the south shore. That way they’ll tack up in smoother water.”
“We’re right back in this race again,” I said, doing my best to hide my Continued on page 46
Continued from page 11
pleasure in the Viking. But I doubted if I fooled Derek or Linda.
Her fingers bit into my knee. “If only we can keep it up, Uncle Bill.” “We won’t,” said Derek. “She’ll tear apart when we close haul her to run over to the south shore.”
“She always sailed well close to the wind,” I couldn’t help saying. Then I said, “We’d better get set. It’ll be dark in half an hour.”
We were running down the north side of the island now, and the ray from the lighthouse flashed on the mainsail. The trees on the island were bowing hard before the wind, and the green of the foliage was almost black under that lowering sky. Lying in the lee of the island, her portholes showing soft yellow light, was the grey hull of the U. S. Coast Guard cutter. Close to land like this we got a better idea of our speed, and had a feeling of the strength of the wind and the waves that we hadn’t had before.
“Let’s get that spinnaker off before it
gets too dark for the job,” I said.
Derek and Linda had a job keeping their feet on the rolling deck, but they knew what to do.
Then, while Derek heaved in on the mainsail, I rounded the Viking onto a course that would clear the tip of the island with room under our keel. It was blowing harder than I’d realized. The wind heeled us over until the lee rail went under water, and we were taking seas green over the weather bow. We’d be wet below before this night was over, and we were still under the scant shelter of the island. It would be worse outside.
Linda hiked in the working jib. Derek put his head close to mine. “What about the running lights?”
The red and green paraffin identification lamps we hang in the rigging at night were below. “Let’s get clear of the island first,” I said. I was nursing her into the waves as best I could, but the angle was bad and we were getting wet. Without being told, Linda reached below and handed back slickers. As we struggled into them a scud of rain came down and stung our faces. I looked astern and saw that the island was blotted out by the rain and the dark.
“All right,” I said. “We’re clear now —harden her right down.” I’d never felt finer in my life. This was the kind of sailing I loved.
Linda doesn’t know the meaning of fear, and I saw her face into the wind, one hand grasping the backstay, as we pitched and climbed into the waves.
“This is the stuff for the Viking!” The wind tore the words from her lips. “Now we’ll.show them what we can do.”
Superstitious folk would probably say it was her boast that caused it. I wouldn’t know about that—but I do know the weather mast shroud parted with a crack you could have heard a mile away.
Instinct is a wonderful thing, and I had the tiller down and the Viking heading right into the wind’s eye in no time. That’s what saved us from losing the mast. I was glad it was dark so I couldn’t see it bend.
“We’re coming around on the other tack,” I cried. It was a mad scramble in the dark, but we made it, and as we filled away on the other tack, with sound rigging on the weather side of the mast, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were lucky to be out of that mess in one piece.
“Well,” Derek panted, “we showed ’em!”
Linda heard, snapped around to face him.
“Shut up!” she cried. “Shut up!”
There was a catch in her voice, and I knew how she felt. We’d so nearly been back in the race, only to be out of it for good now. You see, we were heading back up the lake, almost directly up the centre, sailing as close as we could to where we wanted to go, but without a chance of making it. On the other course, over to the south shore, we weren’t any closet, but we’d have been under the shelter of the land before too long, and then the going would have been easier.
“Where’s the flashlight?” asked Derek. Then he added, “Sorry, Linda.”
“It’s below,” I said. I knew what he wanted it for. The Coast Guard cutter would be watching these waters through night glasses. “Will you get it for us, Linda?”
She hesitated. “What do you want it for?”
“To signal the Coast Guard to pick us up.”
“Can’t we go on?”
Derek answered. “We can go on sailing up the lake, but we can’t come around to head for Rochester. So the only thing to do is get towed back to the
island until morning.” Then with some of his former spirit, he added, “And don’t call me a quitter again.”
Linda went below, and after a while she stood up in the hatch.
“Find it?” I asked.
The light came on in her hand. It was a good light, shooting a fine concentrated ray. She held it toward me, and as I reached for it she dropped it. Derek lunged for it, and for an instant we saw it gleaming below the water. Then it was gone in our wash.
“That wouldn’t be the only light aboard, would it?” Derek asked in a cold voice.
“Yes,” I said. “That’s all—except for the port and starboard lights. They’re oil, but probably they could see them.”
“We could run down closer,” said Derek. “Then they’d be sure to see us.”
“Before we do anything else,” I said, “I’d like to get that busted shroud tied down so it won’t swing in and out like it is. First thing we know it’ll be splitting the mainsail. That’d be real trouble.”
“Where’s some line?” Derek asked.
“In ‘ the stern locker, behind the tiller,” I told him. He leaned down behind me and began to fumble inside the lazaret hatch. “Find it?”
He grunted. “Yeah. It’s here—but it’s caught on something.” He strained and the line came away, although he had to pull it out slowly, as if it was wrapped around something. Finally he was coiling it in his hand.
He stood up and took off his slicker. This meant he’d get plenty wet, but the lee side of that deck was no place to work with a hindering thing like a slicker around you.
We could barely see his dim shape as he slipped and slid forward. He went down to leeward of the mast, and then I guess he had a time catching the thrashing stay as the masthead whipped it in and out toward him. Finally he got it, and I knew he’d throw a loop in it and fasten the line to it, then tie it in against the mast. I was glad for one thing—it had parted low enough down so that we could get at it.
I drew a deep breath of relief—and the rigging inside my chest got too big for its space. I didn’t seem able to move a muscle. Oh, I knew what it was all right. It had hit me before.
I HEARD Linda’s voice, as if she was a long way off, scream, “Derry— Derry, come here. Something’s wrong with Uncle Bill . . . Hurry!” She had her arm around me, holding me back from the water rushing by so close, but she wasn’t going to be able to hold me long. Then I blacked out.
When I came to I was lying in the leeside of the cockpit, and Derek was leaning down above me. “Feeling better, sir?” he said, and his voice was anxious and gentle.
I tried to sit up, but his hand on my shoulder prevented me. “I’m all right,” I said.
“What did Doc Harrison tell you?” Derek asked. He held a flask against my lips and I swallowed a little. “Come on, skipper,” he said. “Tell me.” Against the slightly lighter shade of the sky I could see the outline of Linda’s head and shoulders. She was handling the tiller, and doing a nice job for a girl in that darkness.
Derek’s hand was still on my shoulder.
“He said my heart wasn’t as good as it used to be. That I should take it pretty easy.”
“That’s all he said?”
“Yes. If I don’t strain it—I’ll be okay for years.” That wasn’t exactly how Doc had put it, but close enough.
“I’m beginning to understand why you were so keen on this race,” Derek said. He straightened and spoke to
Linda. “Can you keep on handling
“Yes. What are you going to do?” “I’m going to fix up a berth below for the skipper first. Once he’s comfortable we can figure out what to do then.”
The water was rushing past me about a foot away on the leeside and I liked the sound. “Tell Linda she’s not keeping the sails full of wind,” I said. “Let’s make all the time we can.” Derek gave her my message and I felt her ease the Viking away from the wind so the sails were full, and we buried our side a little more and went right along.
The minute Derek climbed back out of the hatch I knew there was something wrong. They say these things go in threes. Well, this was the third.
He leaned down close to me and spoke so Linda couldn’t hear. “We got any gasoline aboard?”
“Yes. For the outboard. A goodsized tin.”
“Where is it?”
“In the lazaret hatch—where you got the rope.”
“Remember how that rope caught? Well, the bilge is full of gasoline. I must have fouled the can with the line.” That can has a special safety lid, but if the line had been wedged just right under it, when he pulled it would lift the lid against the spring, and if the tin was tipped—the gas would pour out into the ship.
Derek put the trouble into words. “We daren’t light even a match. The cabin’s full of fumes.”
In the confined space of the cabin those fumes would be dangerous as a load of TNT. I certainly hadn’t figured that my desire to race once more before I went on the beach was going to endanger people’s lives, and that one of those lives would be Linda’s.
“How do you really feel?” Derek asked.
“I’m fine lying like this,” I told him. “Think you could go through the night?”
I began to see what he had in mind. Now there was no hope of signalling for help, he figured on heading on up the lake until we could run into some port.
“I’m fine,” I said. He must have realized I was telling the truth, for he patted my shoulder, and said, “I’ll make you snug, then we’ll see.”
He straightened up, and Linda said, “What is it?”
He hesitated, and she said, “I’ve got to know . . . Don’t you realize that? I’ve got to . . . Is Uncle Bill dying?”
“Nothing like that,” Derek said quietly.
When he told her about the gasoline, she said, “We can’t light a lamp to signal with?”
I dozed through that night under blankets and a slicker, so I missed some of their conversation. But I heard enough to make me wonder, and I noticed again how an accident or some unexpected event will draw people together, giving them a feeling of oneness, of kinship, which otherwise might never be felt. And I noticed they were no longer fighting as they had been during the day, and I puzzled over that as I listened to them speak of old regattas, and of friends they hadn’t seen during the war years.
“Remember the way you’d always dance with me once at the closing parties?” said Linda. “Your duty dance?”
“You were a good dancer as I remember it,” he said.
“You wouldn’t remember.” Linda laughed gently. “You were always looking over my shoulder to see who Sylvia was dancing with. It used to
make me furious.” She laughed again. “I was pretty young.”
“I’m sure I danced more than once with you.”
“Once!” she said positively.
“You’ve grown up since my last regatta,” Derek said. “You’re rid of those freckles and your habit of giggling.”
THE NEXT time I woke, Derek had discovered the wind was hauling. Of course he couldn’t see the compass, but the angle that we were crossing the waves in order to keep the sails full of wind was all an experienced sailor needed. The wind kept shoving us round until we were running almost across the waves, instead of into them. Finally he said, “You know, if we could come around onto the other side, I’ll bet we could lay our course for Rochester.”
I stirred in my blankets. If we could do that, we’d have a wonderful advantage over those who’d gone in on the land. For as the wind favored us, it went against them, adding miles to the distance they’d have to sail.
When Linda answered him she sounded tired, and I knew she was still worried about me, because she wasn’t wild with excitement. “But we can’t come round,” she said. “Not with that broken shroud.”
“Who says so?” said Derek. He’d had the tiller ever since he’d settled me, and although he hadn’t been at a tiller for years we’d been making wonderful time, not wasting an inch. “You sail her, Linda,” he said now.
“What are you going to do?” She slid aft and took the tiller obediently, but her voice was worried.
“I’m going to see if I can fix that stay.” He was shedding his slicker again. “It isn’t blowing as hard as it was. If I can rig that line several times, it should hold.”
I didn’t like the idea of his messing around in the dark up by that mast, but I was a passenger now, so I kept quiet. But when Linda spoke I realized she didn’t like it either.
“No, Derek,” she said. “It’s too dangerous.”
“You want to win the race, don’t you?” he said. “You went pretty far to keep us in the race.”
“Don’t, Derry! Don’t you think I’ve reproached myself enough?” “Look,” he said, and the hardness was gone from his voice. “I’ll be careful. And think what it will mean to Uncle Bill to win.”
“But do you think we can really win?”
“We don’t know if any of the others came out this way. If they did, it won’t make any difference. If they didn’t. . . Well, it’s worth a try.”
“Derry,” Linda called after him. “Derry—Be very careful.”
Derek was gone a long time, and once I heard a muffled thud as he lost his footing on the deck. But like any good sailor he always had one hand for the ship and one for himself. Finally he came back and leaned down to me. “We’re going to come around,” he said. “Think you can slide over to the other side alone?”
“Yes,” I said. “Nice going, son.” “Nuts,” he said. Then he was giving instructions to Linda. The Viking slatted her sails hard, for it was still a plenty fresh wind, but Linda took her round smoothly onto the new course. Now we were heading right into the waves. It was like riding a roller coaster, but the waves were far enough apart so that we didn’t pound, and that little old veteran lugged herself along as if she’d come off the launching ways the day before.
Next time I woke we were still eating along, and they were talking about Derek’s spinnaker.
“Is there a story about that spinnaker?” asked Linda. “I mean it being made out of parachute silk?”
“Yes,” he said, “there’s a story.” She waited for him to continue, and I noticed she was leaning back against bis shoulder as if he’d suggested using him as a rest. She must be pretty tired at that. It had been a long hard day, and this night hadn’t been easy.
“I used that parachute to get down over England once,” he said. “We’d come back from a mission, everything going fine, but I guess some flak must have worked into our gas Une or something. Anyway, all the engines conked out together.” The strain in his voice as he told her about it brought the picture of that moment clearly aboard the boat. I could almost see him, as he and his copilot fought to start those engines again. “It was no dice, so we decided to bail out. We all got out, and we landed pretty close together.” “You weren’t hurt?”
“Who was hurt?”
“Not the sailmaker’s son?” “Grandson, I guess . . . Anyway, he was a Larsen. He was also my best gunner—he could shoot like a mad thing.”
“What happened to him?”
His voice was a harsh sound with no tone at all except bitterness that refused'sympathy. “He broke his back.” Linda was silent. I guess she felt as I did, that Derek wanted nothing said. After a moment he continued: “I used to go and see him in hospital. That’s when he made that sail. He stitched it all by hand.” His voice changed again. “We used to talk about the first time I’d fly it. ‘It must be a high-flying boat,’ he’d say. T like to think of this sail winning the race for a real boat.’ He was a brave kid.”
Linda’s voice almost didn’t reach me. “Where is he now?”
“Dead.” Then he said, “What you need is some sleep. Lean back against me and see if you can catch a few minutes.”
When I woke again it was grey dawn, and I saw that Linda was asleep against his shoulder. It must have been uncomfortable for Derek, but he was braced with one hand on the rail. His eyes met mine, and he smiled.
“How we doing?” I asked. Linda’s long eyelashes were lying soft on her cheek, and she didn’t stir.
“We’re making time,” Derek said quietly.
The voice so close to her wakened Linda. She sat up quickly, and color stained her cheeks as she looked down atme. “How are you, Uncle Bill?” “Fine,” I said. “Just fine. But I’d sure like a cup of coffee.”
“No coffee,” she said. She leaned down and looked to leeward under the mainsail. She gave an excited cry. “Isn’t that the Norseman?”
I turned and looked across the waves. The wind had dropped a lot but the black hull to leeward was hiked over far enough to show her distinctive bottom paint. “It sure is,” I said.
I guess we were all smiling. If we were in as good a position as that with one of the Eight-Meters, We were doing all right!
“There’s the water tower at Rochester,” Derek announced a few minutes later. “Another couple of hours and we’ll be in.”
We did a little better than that, and, although she walked out from under us, the Norseman wasn’t far enough ahead to make any difference. She had to give us an awful lot of time.
YOU CAN imagine the fuss they made over us when the times were worked out and they found we’d won the mug. The feeling of winning was
the medicine I needed. I’d gone ashore as soon as we docked in the basin behind the club, and headed for a hot shower and then came out and sat in a chair on the lawn and absorbed sunshine. I enjoyed watching some of the stragglers come in. It had worked out just as we hoped. They’d gone in on the shore, been headed and lost a lot of wind and ground. Out in the lake we’d had good wind all night, but along the shore it had been lighter all the way. It’s such breaks that make sailing the greatest game in the world for me.
Linda came along to stand by my chair. She was still in her sailing rig, and her face was dirty and she looked tired to death. But she flashed a wonderful smile as she asked me,“What did doc say?”
“He gave me the devil,” I said. “But he says I’m okay. Only—no more sailing.”
“You won’t care so much now, will you?”
“No,” I said, to make her feel better. But right then I was planning how I’d manage it next year. “Where’s Derek?”
“Pumping out the Viking. He won’t let me help him.”
Derek was taking as good care of her as I would. “Here he comes now,” I said.
f He came round the corner of the sail lockers and he was carrying his spinnaker. He dropped it at my feet and I could smell gasoline.
“Oh, Derry!” cried Linda. She went down on her knees and began to unfold the sail. The night hadn’t done it any good. She looked up at him and I saw her eyes were wet. “Larsen’s sail,” she murmured.
Before he could answer a voice broke in. It was Sylvia Manners, and she sounded very gay. I thought how different she looked to Linda, and I felt pretty bad all of a sudden. I knew now why Linda had been so intense about Derek being careful the night before. For a moment, as she looked up from the sail, her eyes had told me plenty.
“Derry,” cried Sylvia, “I’ve been looking for you. We’re due at a party.” She looked at me. “You’ll excuse him, won’t you?” She said it as if she didn’t care what my answer might be. Then she looked at Linda. “Why are you crying?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” said Linda.
Sylvia turned to Derek. “Come on, Derry.”
He patted her shoulder. “Run along, Sylvia,” he said. “I told you I’d changed ... I hope you’ll be very happy.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m no longer your property to boss around,” he said. “I’m free, Sylvia—but it took a war to do it for me.”
She took it as if she didn’t care, and managed a laugh before she went away.
Linda wouldn’t meet Derek’s eyes. “This poor sail,” she said. “I’m glad Larsen can’t see it now—that he didn’t see it being flown for the first time on the Viking.”
Derek dropped on the grass beside her. “Don’t feel that way. He said he wanted it flown on a high-flying boat. That’s a pretty good description of the Viking, isn’t it? She certainly flew last night.”
Linda looked up at me and said, “Will you forgive me, Uncle Bill?”
I didn’t understand her. “Forgive you for what?”
“For dropping the flashlight in the lake. I did it on purpose.”
“Unless I miss my guess, he’ll give you a decoration,” said Derek. “How about it, Uncle Bill?”
“I was trying to figure how I could knock it out of your hand.” I said.
Continued on page 50
Continued from page 49 “What you going to do with that sail, Derek?”
“I’ll never use it again as a spinnaker,” he said.
“Why ever not?” Linda asked in amazement.
He was moving closer to her. “Because I want my girl to have her
wedding dress made out of the parachute that saved my life.”
She tried to get away, but he took her hand. “No! No, Derry. I’m dirty, and I’m crying.”
Derek pulled her to her feet. “I’d like the taste of salt water for a change. But stop crying and come and wash your face.”