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Authors: Celine Conway

Full Tide

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FULL TIDE

Celine Conway

 

 

When Mrs. Browne read Lisa’s tea leaves,
she prophesied two patches of trouble, probably connected with a man. Lisa didn’t
worry. For years she had wanted

things
to
happen
,”
and now, at twenty-two, she was
setting of
f
on a voyage to South Africa and
life seemed exciting and infinitely promising
.
But before she had even set foot aboard ship
she had attracted the unfavourable notice of
the liner’s coldly efficien
t
captain,
and from
then on she found, herself struggling in the
tide of new and strange emotions.

 

CHAPTER ONE

At each
step Nancy pressed first her heel and then the ball of her foot into the thick pile of the corridor carpet.

“It’s like walking on a big rubber sponge,” she said ecstatically. “Aren’t hotels lovely, Lee
!
I’ve never been in one before.”

Lisa Maxwell slipped a
n
arm about the narrow shoulders and squeezed. “Everything’s lovely, Nancy. The ship will be like a huge, floating hotel, only better, because there’ll be heaps of rich food and unusual games to play, as well as a swimming pool. Darling, I’m nearly as excited as you are.”

Which verged on understatement, for Lisa, who looked pale and composed beneath the shining curls of her silver-fair hair, had been off her food and smilingly nervous for days. It wasn’t the responsibility for Nancy; a girl of ten
w
ho is shy and bookish presents no insoluble problems to those she loves, and Lisa had lived with and been fond of the child for three long years.

Yes, they had been long years, or perhaps they had only seemed long because Lisa, at twenty-two, yearned to her very depths for “things to happen.” She had actually taken on the job of being an elder sister to Nancy because it promised, at some future date, a chance of travelling to South Africa and back again.

Three years ago, while working in the records office at the hospital, she had happened to be present at a conversation between Miss Veness and one of her colleagues. Anthea Veness, an efficient radiotherapist, had stated her dilemma. Her brother, a doctor on the staff, was finding it hard to recover front the loss of his wife; he had decided to go abroad. But there was a child who had to be cared for till Dr. Veness could send for her.

“She’s sensitive because she has to wear glasses to correct a squint, and she’s naturally retiring as well. She’d pine in a boarding school. At the moment we’re all living together and have a daily woman who obliges—you know the sort—but it isn’t good for Nancy. What we need is
someone young enough to take an interest in her lessons and teach her games, and always be on hand to soak up her young troubles. But where in the world could you find anyone like that, these days?”

Perhaps it was purely by accident that she had turned her head and met the sympathetic grey eyes of Lisa Maxwell, but there was nothing coincidental about her campaign to wrest Lisa from the records office and install her in the Veness villa at Rich
m
ond.

Lisa had been happy keeping neat and up to date the
files at the hospital.
She liked the other girls with whom she worked and the professional men and
women with whom
she daily had brief contacts. But she had to admit to Anthea
Veness that she was tired of living in the hostel, and a flat, even a shared one,
was entirely beyond
the means of a girl who had no parents
.

After the first couple of months, life with Nancy was not exciting, and Lisa began to miss her erstwhile companions. Dr. Veness had sailed, and Anthea’s absorption
i
n her work often kept her out from morn till midnight.
Unintentionally selfish, the doctor’s sister had left Lisa virtually without any means of entertainment but books and the radio, and as the doctor’s letters contained no request for the presence of his daughter in South Africa, her usually buoyant spirit began to droop.

A year had passed, two years and several more months
.
Nancy had grown tall for her age, and at last was able to discard the spectacles. She looked so bright and eager with the short brown braids and unveiled hazel eyes, that Lisa had taken her to a photographer. It was the portrait of Nancy, sent to Dr. Veness in Durban last Christmas, which had worked the miracle.

In January a letter had arrived. A special one, Nancy had averred before opening it, because he had attached the air mail sticker at a jaunty angle. He wanted Nancy brought to Durban, where he had taken a practice. He had an excellent housekeeper who was on the elderly side, and
h
ad made many friends whose children she could play with. Lisa, both fearful and tense with joy, had gone about her preparations with outward calm. But she couldn’t sleep for the wonder of it. Africa
!
She, Lisa Maxwell,
would actually pass through the tropics and round the Cape of Good Hope, so far familiar only as a milestone in a geography book. She would see sub-tropical Natal, where the Zulus lived, and bathe in the gloriously warm Indian Ocean
...
and so much more!

Well, here they were in Southampton on the first stage of t
h
e journey from Richmond. Tonight they would sleep in this hotel, just two of the many passengers who were gathering here in readiness to embark tomorrow on the
Wentworth
.

Nancy stopped near the window at the end of the corridor. “You can’t see Southampton Water,” she said. “Can’t even see a funnel stuck on a building.”

Accustomed to her literal descriptiveness, Lisa answered, “It’s some way to the docks. The
Queen Mary
is in. If we’re lucky we’ll see her tomorrow.”


Why is a ship always called ‘she

” queried Nancy inconsequently.

“Because to a man it’s as graceful as a woman. Come on. Let’s see if we can find you some supper. And you’d better take off those sunglasses—they’re not a bit appropriate.”

Nancy laughed. She had chosen the white-rimmed sunglasses herself and was contentedly of the opinion that they lent her elegance and sophistication. “I’ll keep them on till we meet someone,” she compromised, “then I’ll drag them off quickly.”

Lisa did not remonstrate with her. It always pleased her when Nancy asserted herself, because she was still prone to dry right up when addressed by other adults. She let the girl go on ahead to the top of the staircase and watched her skip down the wide, shallow stairs to the first landing, just above the entrance lounge.

Here, Nancy paused and looked back with an excited gesture. “Lee, look at all the piles of luggage! That’s ours, over in the corner. There’s our cabin trunk with the red labels, and the grip and your hat
box...”

She gave a startled exclamation and tumbled with several bumps to the bottom of the staircase.

“Nancy!” Lisa shot down after her and
was kneeling beside her. “Where are you hurt?”

Before Nancy could answer someone else was bending over both of them, and two strong, masculine arms were lifting the child.

“All right?”
asked a curt voice
. L
isa looked up to reassure him and discovered that he was exclusively addressing Nancy. Slowly, she straightened.

Nancy was dazedly rubbing one eye. “I’ve ricked my ankle
,
Lee,” in an agonized undertone, “I’ve lost the glasses
!

“We’ll find them. Is the ankle painful?”

“It does hurt a bit.” Politely, she spoke to the tall stranger who still held her shoulder. “Thank you very much for scooping me off the floor.

Lisa was about to echo the thanks, when, in cool, detached accents, the man said to her, “I presume
you’re
in charge of this youngster. It’s a pity you hadn’t the sense to explain that sunglasses are not
s
uitable for indoor wear.
You could have saved her a nasty spill.”

Lisa’s cheeks, so fair of skin that the slightest access of blood was visible, positively flamed. The insufferable creature! How dare he blame her for Nancy’s childish folly! Trying hard to keep a steady voice she replied, “It’s
obvious that you know very little about children.
They delight in the unconventional.”

“But they don’t always know what’s good for them!”

There was more than a suggestion of authority; his tone was crisp and dominating. Fervently, Lisa wished she could summon the feminine equivalent and freeze him out.

Again he was talking to Nancy. “I think you should have a bandage round that ankle. You want to b
e
fit for the ship tomorrow, don’t you?

Either by the fall or by the fact that he was so lacking in emotion, Nancy was temporarily disarmed. Without any of her usual reticence she said, “How do you know we’re going on the boat?”

“Ship,” he corrected her.

Nearly everyone here
is s
ailing
on the
Wentworth
.”

“Are
you
?”

He nodded. “But I’m not staying in the hotel. I called to see friends.” He beckoned to a porter. “Bring a bowl of
cold water, a towel and a wide bandage to the writing room, will you?”

Easily, he swung Nancy into his arms and marched across the lounge. In the deserted writing room he deposited her in a chair and brought forward another upon which to rest her foot.

Fuming because
h
e had so patently expected her to follow him wherever it took his fancy to carry the child, Lisa stood by. She had never before met anyone who could, in a few well-selected syllables, make one feel thoroughly uncomfortable—not a man, anyway—and she had never, cared for the aloof, commanding type.

The porter had acted much more quickly than he would have done for Lisa, and he appeared quite anxious to know if he could help further. But it seemed he wasn’t needed. Nancy’s shoe was off and her ankle wrapped in a portion of wet towel, a procedure which she found absorbing.

“What’s your name?” she enquired in a vastly more amiable tone than she was wont to adopt with strangers. “Kennard,” he replied briefly.

“Kennard what?”

“Mark Kennard. Does that feel easier?”

“Yes, heaps. Shall we see you on the bo
...
ship?”

“I expect so. We’ll drench this once more and then bind it tightly and tomorrow you’ll
h
ardly remember it happened.”

Possibly Nancy was insensitive to the formality and brusqueness of his manner. Lisa, however, prickled with it. If that was the way he felt why did he have to butt in and take charge! Or did he imagine her incapable of handling a strained ankle?”

When he had finished he carelessly squared his shoulders from the stooping position and gave her a glance of appraisal from deep-set ice-blue eyes. The dark lounge suit, which in all fairness she had to admit he carried superbly, did something odd to his mahogany tan, and his high cheekbones had, for Lisa, an almost saturnine austerity.

She felt she was not a woman to him. She was an individual who, with feminine incompetence, had momentarily cluttered his path with a mildly injured child.


Thank you for all you’ve done, Mr. Kennard,” she
s
aid distantly.

“Not at all. I hope you’ll teach the child to be more careful aboard the
Wentworth
.”

“We’ll manage, thanks,” she said stiffly
.

The set lines of
h
is face did not move but the tiniest spark came into his eyes. “Women loathe being lectured—for their own good. The man who attempts it is a fool.”

“I’m sure you don’t mean that. No man is a fool in his own opinion.”

The sparks leapt again; maybe they were a faint sign of amusement. “I believe I’ve annoyed you, but you annoyed me first in allowing the child to take risks.
A s
napped limb and you’d have the postpone the trip to Cape Town.”

“We’re going all the way to Durban,” put in Nancy.
“Lee is taking me to my Daddy.”

He raised an enquiring eyebrow at Lisa. “Are y
o
u travelling alone—just you two?”

“I’m Nancy’s guardian till we meet her father,” she returned a trifle shortly.

“Good heavens,” he said enigmatically. Then: “Ever been overseas before?”

“No.
I’m
a novice.

His mouth drew in sardonically. “I suppose I ought to warn you against the shipboard Romeos, but I don’t think it would do any good. I can only advise you not to take any man seriously. Nights at sea are said to make a playboy out of a judge.”

They certainly wouldn’t make a playboy out of Mr. Kennard, thought Lisa with her hand clenched tight in her jacket pocket—and he wasn’t nearly the age of a judge
. T
hirty-five, she hazarded, or perhaps a little more, but he looked and behaved like a cynical hawk.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said.

“Yes, do.” His tone was suave.

Bon voyage,
ladies.

He crossed to the lounge with a long, easy stride, and
Lisa
was left with several discomfiting sensations. For reassurance in a rocking world, she touched Nancy’s sleekly brushed hair.


Think you can walk now?”

The thin legs swung to the floor. “Of course.” She got
t
o her feet and interestedly, surveyed the bandage before putting a question; “Didn’t you like Mr. Kennard?”

“Not much. Shall we find the dining room?”

“It’s funny,” persisted Nancy. “He was nice to me and nasty to you. Yet you’re pretty and I’m like a stick. Perhaps he thinks that because you’re pretty you haven’t any brain.”

“I’m afraid that’s it.” Lisa put an arm about the other’s waist. “Let’s hope they put on a good dinner here.” But Na
n
cy, once started on a topic, was difficult to side-track till it became exhausted. “Shan’t you talk to him on the boat?”

“Not if it’s in
any way avoidable,” said Lisa flatly. She held back the; door, cast a glance about the lounge to see, thankfully, that Mr
.
Kennard was not among those taking a cocktail, there, and then helped Nancy along to the di
nin
g room.

There happened to be one last query. “Lee, what do you suppose he is?”

“He’s a lawyer,” she answered firmly. “One day he’ll be a snooty, beak-nosed judge!”

An exclamation which drew from Nancy one of her rare, wholehearted chuckles
.

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