Come back Miranda (2b)

FronteCHAPTER TWO

Seguito da Come back Miranda (2a):

She was being more than rocked when she opened her eyes next morning. The ship was not only going up and down, it writhed from side to side in a most disconcerting fashion. To her intense chagrin, Miranda found that getting out of her berth was not to be thought of; she was proving, what she had never expected to be, a very poor sailor. She did not appear again until the evening before they were to make Lisbon; the storm had blown itself out and :hey were in comparatively calm waters. She came in to dinner pale and shadowy-eyed but otherwise restored. Her two elderly friends welcomed her with kindly concern; they had coffee together in the lounge, then Mr. Willison repaired to the smoke room, Mrs. Sangster retired to her cabin and Miranda, drawn by the strains of music, made her way to the ship’s ballroom.

There were a number of young holidaymakers on board, including a sprinkling of American servicemen; better sailors than the unfortunate Miranda they had foregathered while she lay stricken and were now indulging in a gala eve-of-landing party. Rather forlornly, knowing none of them, Miranda sat down to watch; if only she hadn’t been so absurd as to get seasick, she could have made friends, too. She loved to dance, the band was an excellent one, her feet in their little ballet sandals were restless. She saw the blonde Hungarian child dancing with various lithe young partners who executed all manner of intricate steps which she fol­lowed joyously, her face rose-flushed, her curtain of golden hair swinging at every step. Her two compatriots were not in evidence, nor was Sir Frederick Clayton.

They would doubtless presently appear; Miranda wondered whether Freddy would introduce the Radizlos to her and, himself, ask her to dance. He could hardly help doing so, seeing her all alone. She had no desire to dance with Freddy but she did, very much, want to dance with someone. The music was so beguiling—she had been lying still for two long days. The count, if introduced, would probably ask her to dance and he was certain to be a skilled performer…

Then she shook her head. It wouldn’t do. She couldn’t be discovered here by Freddy Clayton, as if she were waiting…

She decided to return to her cabin, finish her packing and go to bed. They were docking next morning and she wanted to be up early in order not to miss the approaches to the unknown coast. She was roused more than once during the night by shouts of laughter and noisy chatter; the young people seemed to be keeping it up until the small hours. But she wakened early, as she had intended, and hurried out on deck. To her disappointment the ship was shrouded in a light mist; there was nothing to be seen as yet but the sun promised to break through and she sat down to await it.

The deck was empty save for herself but she had been there only a few minutes when someone came with rushing, stumbling steps and flopped in to the chair beside her. It was die Hungarian girl. She looked at Miranda, breathing heavily, and smiled, a radiant smile disclosing small milk-white teeth.

“Oh—my,” she gasped, in a tone of weak hilarity. “You are Princess Tamara. aren’t you?” Miranda said. Is anything wrong? Can I help you?” The girl drew a succession of shallow, laboring breaths. “You w had too much to drink.*’ Miranda deduced. “Yes. I think so,”* the other assented.

“It’s rather early to begin, eight o’clock in the morning.” “Yes. I think so” the princess agreed again, sweetly. She got unsteadily out of her chair. “Oh my!”. Miranda was just about to spring up and do something about this when Sir Frederic Clayton appeared. “Is Freddy” Tamara announced, and took a swaying step towards him. He caught the two little outstretched hands steading her.

“What’ the matter, Mara? Got a hangover?”

“Yes I think is hangover. I feel not well this morning and meet Johnnee and he says I must have a hears dog. So he give me a hears dog. I feel lovelee… but I think I come out to the air…”

“I see, the fresh air knocked you. I’d better… oh good!…”

A stewardess carrying a tray someone’s early tea, came along the deck. Freddy beckoned her.

“Will you take this young lady to her cabin and..”

“See to her? Certainly, sir.” The experienced woman had grasped the situation at a glance. She set the tray down and

took the girl gently by the arm.

“Can you—fix her up?” Freddy asked. “She’s getting off at Lisbon.”

“I’ve fixed up a considerable number in my time,” the stewardess returned with asperity. “Some strong black coffee with a tablespoon of lemon juice to start with—I’ll have her right as rain by the time we dock, though probably feeling sorry for herself. I must say, it seems a pity, a girl of her age who’s very likely never tasted spirits before. There’s nothing clever in making a young person tight.” With which parting shot and a severe look at Sir Frederick she led the princess away.

“That was a nasty crack,” Freddy said with a grin. “The good lady appears to hold me responsible.”

“Aren’t you?”

“I?” He stared down at the slender figure in the long chair. “Are you actually suggesting that it was I who made the young person tight?”

“I am only suggesting,” Miranda replied in her clear, unhurried tones, “that as you and she are evidently on intimate terms, you might have taken better care of her last evening.”

“I had nothing to do with it. I was playing bridge all evening and did not see her at all. She must have got in with the American lot—they were hitting it up”

“Why didn’t the others, the count and his wife, look after her?”

“I don’t suppose it occurred to them. They were playing bridge, too, and she was dancing. They could hardly foresee —and in any case there’s no great harm done. Mara had a little too much to drink last night and some misguided young fool gave her a whisky or a brandy first thing this morning. She’ll get over it.” He shrugged, dismissing the subject. “I understand,” he continued civilly, “that you have had a rough passage. Bad luck. Are you breakfasting on deck? Shall I find a steward for you?”

“No, thanks. I am quite recovered now. I just want to wait here until the sun breaks through.”

“Right.”

He gave her a little nod, indifferent rather than unfriendly, and walked away.

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