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Authors: Marjorie Moore

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“Your aunt told me you were going out to be married. I hope you’ll be happy.” Patricia held out her hand. “I’d better be going now. I hope I
’ll
hear from Miss Hanny soon and I hope she’ll have me.”

“I’ll make sure of that. You’re coming with me, don’t make any mistake.” As she opened the door for Patricia, Maimie leaned toward her as she stood on the doorstep ready to go, and her voice became more serious. “I hope you find a job out there ... or perhaps a husband. That ought to be
easy enough; you’re very attractive,” she ended candidly.

Patricia’s pale face flushed—she wasn’t sure whether at the suggestion or the compliment, but she knew that her heart was full of conflicting emotions as she hurried down the broad stone steps.

 

CHAPTER SIX

It was not until the boat train was preparing to steam out from St. Pancras that Patricia renewed her acquaintance with Miss Hanny and her niece. True to her word, Maimie had persuaded her aunt to engage Patricia, and, as she had promised, engineered matters so that any further meetings between the two were avoided. Patricia had reason to believe that the Rev. Dare’s reference played no small part in assisting Miss Hanny’s choice of companion for her niece. No sooner had she been in receipt of the letter than Patricia had received an effusive answer engaging her, and enclosing first-class tickets for the journey. As the two girls stood on the platform beside the door of their compartment, Miss Hanny bombarded them with final instructions.

“Now, Maimie dear, mind you cable me the moment you arrive.
I
shan’t have a moment’s peace until I know you are safely there. I suppose Seymour quite understands about meeting you?” she inquired for the hundredth time.


Of course, Auntie,” Maimie repeated patiently. “He understands perfectly. He will be on the quay at Singapore,” she repeated, as if she were explaining to a troublesome child. “I showed you his letter; it was all quite clear.”

“It would be dreadful if he didn’t,” Miss Hanny exclaimed fussily; then, turning to Patricia, who stood silently by Maimie’s side, continued speaking. “Mind you don’t leave Maimie until she is safely married. I explained in my letter, I will pay your expenses while you remain with my niece. You understand my wishes, don’t you?”

“Perfectly, Miss Hanny. I shall remain with your niece until after her wedding,” Patricia promised.

Miss Hanny glanced up and down the crowded platform. “It must be nearly time for the train to leave. Dear me, I can’t really believe you’re going; it seems fantastic! To think it all happened through that stay in Harrogate! I wish I’d never gone near the place,

she exclaimed with agitation.

“Auntie dear,” Maimie pressed the older woman’s arm affectionately, “don’t say that. I expect Seymour and I were intended for one another. Even if you hadn’t taken me to Harrogate, we should have met somewhere.”

“Why you had to fall in love with a man living in such an outlandish place, I can’t understand.” Miss Hanny wiped away a tear. “Surely there are plenty of nice Englishmen about.

“He is English,” Maimie insisted. “People out East usually retire quite young. Seymour and I will buy a nice country house in England and settle there before long; anyway, we’ll be home on leave in two years, and then you’ll see plenty of me,” she added reassuringly.

“Dear me, the platform is emptying; you’d better be getting in the carriage.” Harriet Hanny urged the two girls toward their compartment as the porter began to slam the doors. “You’ll be off in a minute or two. She leaned toward the open window of the carriage and kissed her niece. “Take care of yourself, my dear.” She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. “I hope you’ll be very happy. Mind you cable me, and I’ll expect long letters with all the news.”

Maimie barely had time to return her aunt’s embrace before the train slid into motion. Leaning from the window, she waved her hand until the familiar figure of Harriet Hanny was out of sight, hidden by the crowds of relatives and friends of the other passengers, all waving and calling frantic farewell messages.

“Thank goodness that’s over! I hate saying goodbye, don’t you?” She took a compact from her bag and began to powder her nose with careful precision. “Auntie is such a fusspot. She’s a darling in her way, but really, these last few days she’s been driving me mad with her ‘Mind you don’t do this’ and ‘mind you don’t do that.’ ” She replaced the compact in her handbag. “Really free at last! You can’t imagine what that means, especially after having lived with Auntie.”

Patricia laughed. “Surely she wasn’t as bad as all that? Of course I haven’t seen much of her, and I must say she struck me as a bit Victorian. Going to the expense of paying another fare, for instance, seemed absurd. Why, most girls today would travel anywhere alone.”

‘Of course it’s ridiculous!” Maimie scoffed. “But, then, that’s Auntie all over. She will never recognize that I’ve grown up; she still treats me like a schoolgirl. I’ve never been able to make any friends of my own age simply because I’ve never been allowed to do the things that other girls do. I’ve spent half my life travelling from one health resort to another with Auntie. It was the greatest stroke of luck that I met Seymour.” She leaned toward her companion. “You’ll like him. He’s a dear. He was home on leave, and came to Harrogate for a week’s stay; his invalid mother was there. His mother had got friendly with Auntie, so that’s how we met. I can hardly realize that I’m really on my way to marry him—on my way to the East,” she ended ecstatically.

“It is wonderful. Not the marrying part; I’m not going out to marry.” Patricia laughed. “But I find it just as exciting, the very fact of going out at all!”

“I suppose I can call you Patricia, and please call me Maimie. After all, we’re going to be friends, aren’t we?” Maimie leaned impulsively toward her companion. “I’m awfully glad you are with
me. I hated the idea of a stranger hanging around me, but I like you already.”

“Thanks, and I’m sure I’m going to like you, and I shall always be grateful to you for persuading your aunt to accept me,” Patricia responded with sincerity.


I didn’t have to do a terrible lot of persuasion.” Maimie’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “I think being a clergyman’s daughter did the trick!” Her blue eyes wandered round the compartment. “Aren’t we lucky to have a carriage to ourselves?”

“I don’t think we shall keep it to ourselves; that suitcase on the rack doesn’t belong to us. I believe that paper on the corner seat is meant to be a reservation.” Patricia indicated a folded paper lying on the upholstered seat.

Maimie pouted her scarlet lips. “Bother! I believe you’re right. Some awful old fossil, I suppose. I do hope we get friendly with some nice people on the ship. I believe you can have some wonderful times on board. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been on my own, and I do want to make the most of it.”

“I expect we shall. I hope you won’t find me a spoil sport,” Patricia broke in anxiously. “I’ve always had all the freedom I’ve wanted, but somehow I’ve never had a very gay time, never made very cheery friends.”

“I
can’t imagine you a spoil sport.” Maimie laughed. “You’re quite lovely. I should think you’ve got admirers in plenty. I can’t understand why you’re not engaged.”

“Well, I’m not.” Patricia’s eyes held a far-away look. “Once I thought I was in love. That was ages ago
...

She broke off abruptly and added irrelevantly, “I don’t think I’m very attractive. Muc
h
too black-eyed and sallow.”

“Sallow!” Maimie echoed with undisguised surprise. “You surely don’t call your lovely complexion sallow, and I think your eyes are a wonderful color, so dark and cool looking,” she added admiring
l
y
.

“I’ve never really thought much about it,” Patricia admitted. She took out her cigarette case. “Have a cigarette, or don’t you smoke?”

“Oh, yes, I do.” Maimie took a cigarette from the proffered case. “When Aunt Harriet’s not about. Think of it! I’ll never bother about Auntie’s likes and dislikes again.”

Patricia held a lighted match to the tip of her companion’s cigarette. “You’ll have to mind your P’s an
d
Q’s when next you’re home on leave; don’t develop too many bad habits,” she laughingly warned her companion.

“I’ll be a married woman then. Auntie won’t be able to boss me any more.” Maimie stopped speaking as a tall figure in a burberry entered the compartment from the corridor, and seated himself in the near corner.

The new arrival picked up his newspaper and, unfolding it, buried himself behind the screen. There had scarcely been time for the two girls to take much note of their fellow traveller’s appearance, but even in that moment, they were aware that he was by no means the old fossil that Maimie had predicted, but a man in his early thirties, slightly built but muscular, fair skinned and clean shaven, with a crop of reddish fair hair just visible above the obscuring sheets of the newspaper.

Conversation seemed difficult in the presence of a stranger, so Patricia and Maimie of one accord picked up the magazines Miss Hanny had thoughtfully provided them and made some attempt at reading. Patricia found it quite impossible to concentrate on the opened page before her. Her eyes wandered to the sombre outskirts of Condon visible through the windows, but she was hardly aware of what she saw. Her thoughts sang to the rhythm of the engine; she was on her way to the East, on her way to new sights, new worlds
...
forgetfulness! What awaited her there she dared not ask, dared not for one moment question.

“I wonder what time we are due at Tilbury?” Maimie’s words roused Patricia from her reverie.

“I’ve no idea, but we surely can’t be far from the docks now; the train was only supposed to take just over an hour.”

“You haven’t taken this trip before?” the stranger asked with some curiosity, his eyes straying to Maimie as if for the first time he was aware of the alluring prettiness of his fellow traveller.

“No, neither
of us has ever travelled before—at least, not as far as the East,” Maimie amended, her lips curving provocatively. “We’re both terribly thrilled. Sea travel is wonderful, isn’t it?”

The stranger folded his paper as if preparing to enter into a discussion the length of which would allow no further time for reading. “May I introduce myself, as we shall be seeing quite a lot of one another during the next four weeks? My name is Claud Burny.” His voice was low and resonant.

“I’m Miss Hanny, and my friend,” Maimie indicated Patricia, “Miss Dare.”

“That’s better! Now we know each other.” Claud Burny smiled with easy charm. “I hope we shall all have a very pleasant voyage.”

“I
know
I’m going to,” Maimie said with certainty. “I intend to have the most heavenly time of my life.”

Claud Burny could not resist laughing at Maimie’s childish candor. “That is certainly the spirit!” He turned to Patricia, who had been a silent witness of the little comedy. “Are you also so certain of the future?”

“Not certain but, like Miss Hanny, very hopeful. New things are always exciting, and their very novelty makes them enjoyable.” Patricia smiled.

“You live out East?” Maimie questioned the
fair stranger.

“Yes, I’ve had business interests in Malaya for a good many years. I don’t stay out long at a time, but spend most of the year travelling backwards and forwards. I rather enjoy it.” He smiled at Maimie. “You’re not far wrong; a long sea journey can be most enthralling, and I really think you’ll love it.”

Claud Burny was an excellent conversationalist, and kept both girls amused and interested with his tales of the East, word pictures of the, people he had met, and good-natured witticisms about notabilities living in the part of the world they were about to visit. The rest of the journey seemed to pass in a flash, and Patricia was amazed when their new-found friend pointed out the distant view of the docks and the tall funnels of anchored ships lying alongside. Excitement gripped her afresh and her nerves tingled expectantly.

“I’ll see about your things; they are all labelled, aren’t they? You take your light stuff and get on board.” Claud Burny smiled at Patricia’s doubtful expression. “Don’t worry; hurry along to your cabin and I’ll see that your bags are delivered to you safely.”

“Will you really? Thanks so much,” she murmured as the train drew to a standstill.

I really don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t bother to try.” Claud Burny laughed. “If you really want to show your gratitude, then you and Miss Hanny must join me for a cocktail before dinner tonight. Ask for the cocktail bar—it’s on the upper deck amidships. I’ll be there, seven-thirty sharp.”

“We’d love to.” Maimie picked up her hand case and prepared to alight. “Come on, Patricia. We’ll be able to get on board first while all the other people are looking after their luggage.” She waved her hand negligently to Claud Burny as he stood by the open carriage door beckoning to a porter. “So long, and thanks! See you tonight.”

Patricia murmured a “thank you” and hurried after her friend. Maimie didn’t seem slow in making friends. Claud Burny was certainly charming, and had proved both entertaining and helpful, but somehow she didn’t think, much as she had begun to like Maimie, that she was going to prove an easy person to chaperon.

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