“Now he’s fast asleep. Marcella, isn’t he making a funny noise?” he added with the queerest cross between amusement and puzzlement on his small face. She suddenly realized what he was saying.
“Oh, you little brave man,” she cried, taking him up in her arms and kissing him. He wriggled down quickly, and stood in the doorway again, on sentry duty. She forgot to take him with her. She had forgotten everything save her instinct to be alone with her misery.
It was not until the Oriana left Port Said that Louis spoke to Marcella again. Three times he wrote to her demanding his money. Three times something got beyond and above the pride that told her to send it to him and have nothing else to say to him, and she refused definitely to give him the money; she asked him to come and talk to her. But he entrenched himself behind the Ole Fred gang and speedily helped to make it the nuisance of the ship. The germ of self-confidence and courage that was entirely missing in his make-up was replaced by bombast under the combined influence of whisky and boredom. Some day, perhaps, the iniquity of fastening up a small world of people in a ship for six weeks with nothing compulsory to do will dawn upon shipping companies, and the passengers will be forced to work, for their own salvation. On board ship people drift; they drift into flirtation which rapidly becomes either love-making or a sex-problem; they drift into drinking or, if they have no such native weakness, they become back-biting and bad tempered.
Marcella found herself drifting like the rest. A letter to Dr. Angus she had begun to write the day after Naples asking him to explain the cause, treatment and cure of drunkenness, still awaited completion. She sat beside Louis’s empty chair, physically too inert from want of strenuous exercise, and mentally too troubled to get a grip on anything. Naples had shown her that Louis had not come into her life merely as a shipboard acquaintance to be forgotten and dropped when they reached Sydney, as she would forget and drop Mrs. Hetherington, the schoolmaster and Biddy. His talk of the coincidence of his coming by the Oriana at all had made a deep dint on her Keltic imagination; his appeal to her for help had squared beautifully with her youthful dreams of Deliverance; the fact that he was the first young man who had ever talked to her probably had more than anything else to do with her preoccupation, though she did not realize it.
At Port Said she and Jimmy spent a stifling morning ashore amid the dust and smells of the native quarter. Turning a corner in the bazaar suddenly they heard Louis’s voice joined with the red-haired man’s in a futile song they sang night and day: it was a song about a man who went to mow a meadow; the second verse was about two men; the third about three and so on, as long as the singer’s voice lasted out. It was the red-haired man’s boast that he had once kept up to five hundred. As Marcella turned the corner she saw them sitting under some palm trees outside a little cafe, bottles and glasses before them. Louis, who looked dirty and unkempt, was facing her. He broke off and darted towards her.