Three Men and a Maid (Chapter 7, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 7

There was a tap at the door. Sam sat up dizzily. He had lost all count of time.

"Who's that?"

"I have a note for you, sir."

It was the level voice of J. B. Midgeley, the steward. The stewards of the White Star Line, besides being the civillest and most obliging body of men in the world, all have soft and pleasant voices. A White Star steward, waking you up at six-thirty, to tell you that your bath is ready, when you wanted to sleep on till twelve, is the nearest human approach to the nightingale.

"A what?"

"A note, sir."

Sam jumped up and switched on the light. He went to the door and took the note from J. B. Midgeley, who, his mission accomplished, retired in an orderly manner down the passage. Sam looked at the letter with a thrill. He had never seen the hand-writing before, but, with the eye of love, he recognized it. It was just the sort of hand he would have expected Billie to write, round and smooth and flowing, the writing of a warm-hearted girl. He tore open the envelope.

"Please come up to the top deck. I want to speak to you."

Sam could not disguise it from himself that he was a little disappointed. I don't know if you see anything wrong with the letter, but the way Sam looked at it was that, for a first love-letter, it might have been longer and perhaps a shade warmer. And, without running any risk of writer's cramp, she might have signed it.

However, these were small matters. No doubt she had been in a hurry and all that sort of thing. The important point was that he was going to see her. When a man's afraid, sings the bard, a beautiful maid is a cheering sight to see; and the same truth holds good when a man has made an exhibition of himself at a ship's concert. A woman's gentle sympathy, that was what Samuel Marlowe wanted more than anything else at the moment. That, he felt, was what the doctor ordered. He scrubbed the burnt cork off his face with all possible speed and changed his clothes and made his way to the upper deck. It was like Billie, he felt, to have chosen this spot for their meeting. It would be deserted and it was hallowed for them both by sacred associations.

She was standing at the rail, looking out over the water. The moon was quite full. Out on the horizon to the south its light shone on the sea, making it look like the silver beach of some distant fairy island. The girl appeared to be wrapped in thought, and it was not till the sharp crack of Sam's head against an overhanging stanchion announced his approach that she turned.

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