“Piano-player? Do you mean someone who plays for you?”
“No, no; one of those mechanical things you play with your feet. Plays Beethoven, Rubenstein and all those chaps. I’m a bit daffy about music.”
“That sounds funny ... to play it with your feet!”
McClintock laughed. “It’s a pump, like an organ.”
“Oh, I see. What a wonderful world it is!” Music. She shuddered.
“Ay. Well, I’ll be getting this tub under way.”
Ruth walked to the companion. It was one of those old sliding trap affairs, narrow and steep of descent. She went down, feeling rather than seeing the way. The door of cabin 2 was open. Someone had thoughtfully wrapped a bit of tissue paper round the electric bulb.
She did not enter the cabin at once, but paused on the threshold and stared at the silent, recumbent figure in the bunk. In the subdued light she could not tell whether he was asleep or awake. Never again to be alone! To fit herself into this man’s life as a hand into a glove; to use all her skill to force him into the position of depending upon her utterly; to be the spark to the divine fire! He should have his book, even if it had to be written with her heart’s blood.
What she did not know, and what she was never to know, was that the divine fire was hers.
“Ruth?” he called.
She entered and approached the bunk. “I thought you were asleep. Is there anything you want?” She laid her hand on his forehead, and found it without fever. She had worried in fear that the excitement would be too much for him.
“Call me Hoddy. That is what my mother used to call me.”
“Hoddy,” she repeated. “I shall like to call you that. But now you must be quiet; there’s been too much excitement. Knock on the partition if you want anything during the might. I awaken easily. Good night!” She pressed his hand and went out.
For a long time he stared at the empty doorway. He heard the panting of the donkey-engine, then the slithering of the anchor chains. Presently he felt motion. He chuckled. The vast ironic humour of it: he was starting on his honeymoon!
Meanwhile the doctor, upon returning to his office, found Ah Cum in the waiting room. “Why, hello, Ah Cum! What’s the trouble?”
Ah Cum took his hands from his sleeves. “I should like to know where Mr. Spurlock has gone.”
“Did he owe you money?”
“Then why do you wish to know?”
Ah Cum pondered. “I have a client who is very much interested in Mr. Spurlock. He was here shortly after the young man was taken ill.”
“Ah. What was this man?”
“A detective from the States.”
“Why didn’t he arrest Mr. Spurlock then?”
“I imagine that Mr. O’Higgins is rather a kindly man. He couldn’t have taken Mr. Spurlock back to Hong-Kong with him, so he considered it would be needless to give an additional shock. He asked me to watch Mr. Spurlock’s movements and report progress. He admitted that it would bore him to dally here in Canton, with the pleasures of Hong-Kong so close.”