Authors: Patrick Taylor
“Young man,” Diana said archly, “You’ll go where it’s best for all of us. We’re a family, and a teenager just can’t dash off on his own, now can he?”
The very next day, a special delivery letter came for Diana. She was ecstatic after reading it, shouting to whomever was within earshot, “They are offering me the Anthropology Chair at Cambridge. Queen’s College, actually. Isn’t that wonderful?”
The plans for the wedding were soon underway, with Diana’s mother, as expected, orchestrating. Diana was busy setting up her Department at Cambridge, visiting London on weekends to select her choices from the many items presented by the florists, caterers, dressmakers, and musicians.
The ceremony took place in the spacious rose garden of the family home, on a sunny day in June. High excitement was in the air. Escorted down the carpeted path by her proud father, Diana was an absolute vision in a dazzling
white wedding gown, complete with veil. Fashion reporters later raved about her attire, except for the lack of jewelry, which consisted only of that plain little pendant she invariably wore.
Bobby, as Dan’s
best man, had never seen his mother so beautiful, nor had the awed bridegroom. Those close to him could see, and almost hear, his knees knocking, but the look of loving amazement on his face showed it wasn’t because of fear. The boy was able to steady Dan with a word of encouragement and a firm grip on his arm.
After the reception, the newly married couple embarked on their wedding trip, first to Copenhagen, and then to New York. In 1959, transatlantic air travel was still in its infancy, and ocean liners
still regularly plied the routes between Europe and America. Despite her experience on the
the year before, Diana wanted to give Dan a taste of a leisurely surface voyage before air travel made passenger ships a thing of the past.
It was a bright and cloudless day when they boarded their ship, the
in Copenhagen Harbor for the passage. A modern motor vessel, she was a flawless white, and looked more like a Mediterranean cruise ship than a transatlantic liner. The Swedish-American Line for some reason crewed their ships mostly with young Norwegians. By the look of them as they boarded, the voyage would be enjoyable, a happy crew essential for a good crossing, especially on a honeymoon cruise.
The resplendent ship sported a small fir tree atop its masthead in celebration of Midsummer Night. It was June 21
, a highlight of the Scandinavian calendar. Summer! The longest day of the year was cause for great celebration, especially for those enduring the seemingly endless nights of the frigid northern winter.
So festive was the crew, the couple
happily joined in. The North Atlantic, unusually smooth for the crossing, promised a dream voyage, and soon their initial exuberance gave way to contemplative enjoyment. The days were spent eating, sleeping and making love. Necessarily quick dips in the icy seawater pool, preceded by the heat of the poolside sauna, became a bracing twice-daily routine. The excellent Continental fare at dinner, with Diana and Dan usually at the Captain’s table, served to acquaint them with a number of interesting fellow passengers.
rgasbord, available for luncheon or snacks any time, featured, among a wide variety of Scandinavian favorites, a dozen different varieties of pickled herring, or
How different, and so much better, she thought, than English kippers, which she had often teased Bobby’s father about during the war. The Swedish Akvavit, with its caraway flavor somehow taming the fiery liquor, was a new experience, and went well with the Swedish dishes, especially after the sauna.
On the third night out, she was surprised to find Max at the dining table.
Reminded that he had always had her seduction in mind, she thought it ironic that he should be there on her wedding trip. “Max! What a coincidence to find you onboard. And where is the lady friend you were with at the wedding?”
ith a nervous glance at Dan, Max laughed. “Oh, that one. She took a shine to some English aristocrat type, and I haven’t seen her since.”
When their usual after
-dinner Akvavit had been downed, they excused themselves, leaving Max and the knowing glances of the rest of the diners at the table. He stayed after everyone else had left, refilling his glass several times.
Norwegian humor about Sweden, evident from the beginning, had not let up. Every chance they got, that country and its people were the butt of their
jokes. Diana and Dan thought it strange, considering they were employees on a Swedish ship, but they continued to humorously criticize that nationality until the third night out. Diana sensed that something had changed when the usual fun and games after supper were curtailed.
A solitary waitress was at the dining room door. Diana asked, “Where is the rest of the crew tonight? I’m beginning to miss their usual antics.”
“Oh, you see, Ma’am, most of them are in the ship’s theatre, listening to the fight.”
“Fight?” She asked in surprise. “What is it about a boxing match that makes it so important?”
Giggling, she responded, “Because it’s between the Swede, Ingemar Johansson and America’s Floyd Patterson, for the world heavyweight boxing championship.”
earing that, dragged Diana to the theatre, where the roar of the listeners could be heard half a ship’s length away. “Listen to that crowd,” he said, “Those cheers have to be for Patterson pounding the Swedish champ.”
As they entered, they were greeted by an amazing scene. Three-quarters of the
crew were gathered around a single short-wave radio, laughing and cheering.
Dan found their cabin steward just as Johansson landed a right to Patterson’s jaw, sending him to the canvas for the count. With the sudden end of the bout, pandemonium ensued as crewmembers embraced each other in high exultation, some dancing in wild circles. She was reminded of a similar delirium during the celebration of VE day in London in 1945, when Nazi Germany
Getting the attention of t
heir Norwegian steward with some difficulty, Dan asked, “What’s going on? After all, it was the Swedish boxer who won!”
The Norwegian, looking at him in surprise, answered with a broad smile. “Sure, of c
ourse he won, and by a knockout. We’re all so happy that Johansson is the new world champion!”
d, Dan asked, “But he’s a
. How can you feel that way, when all through our voyage you’ve been joking about them so?”
With a hearty belly laugh, the steward replied, “None of that matters one bit. It’s totally different now. Don’t you see? Tonight we’re all Scandinavians
While appreciating the irony, Diana had to excuse herself. “Danny
, love, I have to go on deck for some fresh air. The smoke in here is so thick one could cut it with a knife.”
“I’ll come with you, sweetheart,” he replied.
“No, I’ll be but a moment, and I know how important athletics are to you, although in my opinion, boxing is more about gladiators than sport.”
On deck, the afterglow of the Atlantic sunset painted the horizon with colors of pink and peach, in lovely contrast to the deep blue of the sea. The ship was gliding silently through the almost nonexistent swells, only the white foam of the
bow wave and the wake disturbing the glassy surface. The scene, combined with the fresh air, did wonders for her, and brought a deepening longing for her new husband. Just then, two arms encircled her waist, enhancing the sense of romance and desire she had just begun to feel.
“Oh, Danny! You read my mind, I need
you now more than ever.” As Diana turned, she was shocked to find herself in Max’s embrace. She screamed, “Max, you drunken fool! Let me go!” Then, as she struggled to escape him, he ripped her blouse open.
“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to bed you, Diana. Surely you must have shared my feelings.
” Biting her on the neck and groping for her breasts, his hand came upon her pendant. He held it up as she struggled to escape his grasp and exclaimed, “And this pendant! You’ve always worn it, even at your wedding. Plain, and as much pottery shard as a jewel. Who would believe what secrets it harbors, and what insights concerning Mars it contains?” Then, roughly cupping her breast with his hand, he whispered into her ear, “And what mysteries your lovely body must hold!”
Diana went limp, encouraging him to think she was yielding to his advances. Then, in a burst of force, she kneed him in the crotch,
taking advantage of his pain to escape his clutches. As she twisted away, her neck was momentarily restrained by his grip on the pendant's chain. As he lost his balance on the deck, the chain broke, and the pendant went flying overboard.
lutching her torn blouse, Diana cried, “You bloody drunken idiot! Do you realize what you’ve done? The last accessible vestige of the Martian landing on earth is sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic!”
As she said that, Dan emerged from the companionway. One look at her was enough. Max didn’t have a chance.
Dan shouted, “You filthy bastard!” His single right cross was all that was needed; his fist struck squarely on the jaw. As his head whipped back, Max fell onto the deck, out for the count. It was Johansson versus Patterson all over again.
While two of the crew
members carried the groaning Max away, Dan tenderly embraced his shaken bride. Her tears of relief at her new husband’s presence became mixed with tears of sadness when she realized the magnitude of her loss.
“That pendant has been in my family for
almost eight hundred years, given to an ancestor by William the Conqueror himself! Since I was a little girl, it has been my inspiration. Somehow I’ve always known its source, and that has always guided me. And now it’s gone forever. Gone with everything else we worked so hard to unearth!”
to soothe her, Dan kissed the top of her head, softly saying, “You still have the papers and the photos you published. It won’t be long before someone perfects deep diving equipment enabling salvage of the
’s cargo. And we’ll get all that confiscated stuff back one way or the other, long before it’s declassified, you can bet on it. You’d be amazed at what a clever CIA spook can accomplish.”
Dan’s encouragement was heartening, despite her vividly visualizing the loss of her precious pendant as it slowly sank into the dark blue depths. Then, turning away from the ship’s broad white wake astern, she began to realize that while the past had been indeed wondrous, the promise of the future was even greater.
She knew then that she would somehow recover the Martian book. And as if beckoning to her that this was a certainty, the
continued knifing its way forward through the smooth, icy waters of the Atlantic toward their destination.