THE SEA AGAIN
Once more the swish of spray against the side of a ship, the tang of salt, the lift and fall of the rail against the sea-line on the horizon. And once more a girl, in white from neck to heel, facing into the wind as if she loved it, her crisp skirts flying, her hair blown back from her forehead in damp curls.
And I am not washing down the deck. With all the poise of white flannels and a good cigar, I am lounging in a deck-chair, watching her. Then—
“Come here!” I say.
“I am busy.”
“You are not busy. You are disgracefully idle.”
“Why do you want me?”
She comes closer, and looks down at me. She likes me to sit, so she may look superior and scornful, this being impossible when one looks up. When she has approached—
“Just to show that I can order you about.”
“I shall go back!”—with raised chin. How I remember that raised chin, and how (whisper it) I used to fear it!
“You cannot. I am holding the edge of your skirt.”
“Ralph! And all the other passengers looking!”
“Then sit down—and, before you do, tuck that rug under my feet, will you?”
“Under my feet!”
She does it, under protest, whereon I release her skirts. She is sulky, quite distinctly sulky. I slide my hand under the rug into her lap. She ignores it.
“Now,” I say calmly, “we are even. And you might as well hold my hand. Every one thinks you are.”
She brings her hands hastily from under her rug and puts them over her head. “I don’t know what has got into you,” she says coldly. “And why are we even?”
“For the day you told me the deck was not clean.”
“It wasn’t clean.”
“I think I am going to kiss you.”
“It is coming on. About the time that the bishop gets here, I shall lean over and—”
She eyes me, and sees determination in my face. She changes color.
She rises hastily, and stands looking down at me. I am quite sure at that moment that she detests me, and I rather like it. There are always times when we detest the people we love.
“If you are going to be arbitrary just because you can—”
“Marsh and the rest are in the smoking room. Their sitting-room is empty.”
Quite calmly, as if we are going below for a clean handkerchief or a veil or a cigarette, we stroll down the great staircase of the liner to the Turners’ sitting-room, and close the door.
And—I kiss her.