Bill Todd -- A Man of Three Names
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 Chapter 20

Sex and Marriage

It was a sort of working lunch. Sandy was still the official match-maker for Susan Gatewood, and Samantha was now her general-purpose counsellor. There was a considerable overlap and an obvious need for consultation. Sandy was amused when Samantha turned up, not only in a suit and middle heels, but with a double strand of pearls at her throat. She commented,

"If you're not careful, you'll look too rich to be a psychologist."

Samantha replied in a voice from which she might have attempted to drain some of the deep south,

"I'm trying to be respectable and professional these days."

"Psychologists are people who work for a living, and the rich tend to class them with their other servants. Housemaids aren't supposed to show up in pearls."

It was fun to tease Samantha about such things. Her basic confusion as to what she should wear on any given occasion was so great that it was always possible to confuse her further. When things settled down, Sandy asked her how things had gone with Susan.

"I started by being as neutral as I could, and I discovered that I don't really dislike her. But, then, when she told me she was in love with Dr. Narrison, I was really floored. I mean, I knew that he was fixated on her, but I never guessed that she'd get gooey over an old man. I had no idea at all what to say, and it's a good thing she went on talking."

"I guess there's no point in matching her with anyone else."

"Not unless this blows over. But I don't think it will. She evidently just can't find an interesting man who wants her anywhere near her own age. Dr. N's certainly interesting. And, on his side, he gets a very attractive and successful young woman. It's too good a deal for him to pass up."

Sandy replied,

"I guess he'll dump Rosie. Susan's much more accomplished."

"Does Susan know about Rosie?"

"Susan thinks he hasn't had a woman in years. I haven't told her otherwise. I also didn't puncture a number of other illusions she has about him. Including his real age. Maybe I should."

"It's you who's her friend, and I guess most people would think that friendship requires such things. But this lady's a natural victim and wants to be deceived. Dr. Narrison's told me quite a lot about his past, and I don't think he takes pleasure in hurting people. If he marries her, he'll think he's pulled off a tremendous coup and be nice to her."

Sandy seemed to acknowledge the point and replied,

"Whereas, if she doesn't marry him, she'll fall prey to some shark who really will victimize her?"

"It's certainly possible."

"Well, Samantha, Dr. Narrison evidently seems enough like a shark to attract Susan. But, still, he's too old to be dangerous. So that might be the best solution for her."

"Yes. In which case, there'd be no need for you, as a friend or matchmaker, to tell her all kinds of things that would disturb her, but which won't make any practical difference."

There was a moment of silence as both women seemed comfortable with the position. Samantha then asked,

"How are things going with your new boy friend?"

"My new old boy friend. He's certainly entertaining, and I'm not too far from finding out the exact nature of Dr. Narrison's war crime."

"But, if you find out from Fred, won't he also be involved in it?"

"Not necessarily. It seems not to have happened in the first war, when they were together. But Dr. Narrison was on his own in the second war, and there's a mysterious patch. It would be there, I think."

"It still seems to me to be unwise for you to get too involved with this Fred man."

"Yes. I won't let it go too far. He's gotten into some of my chothes, but that's it."

"I won't let Calvin get even that far. He's going crazy over it."

"I know. He complains to me. Also, I gather, to Dr. Narrison. I don't know what advice he may have gotten in that quarter."

"What advice do you give him?"

"I counsel patience. He's had his way too easily with too many women, and you might force him to think more seriously what he wants in life."

Samantha smiled and replied,

"Instead of doing that, he may just drop me."

Calvin had discovered, by very slow degrees, that Dr. Narrison's advice was generally sound. It was thus, when his mentor paused, between bites of spaghetti and meatballs, to solve Calvin's problem with Samantha, that he was disposed to listen.

"Calvin, you'd do well to let Rosie entertain you one or two nights a week."

"But I thought she was your lady friend."

"A friend, to be sure. But she also has a solid and limited practice. Paul Hamilton, the man you met last week, goes to see her."

"Well, I did like her. And she's certainly attractive. But Samantha ...."

"A charming young lady. An excellent companion for you."

"She almost broke my jaw when I tried to unbutton her blouse."

Dr. Narrison smiled and replied,

"Quite so. Rosie will let you unbutton anything you want."

"Yes, perhaps I will."

"Victorian gentlemen managed quite well along these lines. Women naturally prefer to be among themselves, and they suffer us men only for adventitious reasons. Some are drawn into marriage in that way, but Samantha's almost impervious to those sorts of inducements. One can nevertheless enjoy her company at, so to speak, a polite distance."

"You mean, she won't ever come closer?"

"I shouldn't think so. Just as well. She'd be difficult as a wife."

"You've never had a wife, have you?"

"No. But I don't fault the institution of marriage on that account. There are probably many women who can be counted on to smile pleasantly over breakfast for days and months on end. Perhaps for years. Some of the nurse's aides at the Green Valley could be placed in that category. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you go out there and marry one. Rosie can also smile pleasantly, and she'd be most surprised if you proposed marriage."

When they got back from lunch, Paul Hamilton was there. He was already doing part-time work around the place, and it was suggested that he help Calvin with the tests. As Calvin took him back to his office to explain things, he was newly impressed by the old man's brilliant white hair.

There was always a problem when it came to explaining the fraudulent aspect of the tests. Sandy had looked askance at him, but Paul seemed to take it as a matter of course. It was as if he had never heard of product tests that weren't faked. When Calvin probed a little further, Paul replied,

"The tests I used to give when I was a teacher were like that, too. I decided in advance what grade each student should get. Then, I gave them a lot of tests. My wife helped me weight them in different ways until we got the desired results."

Calvin was almost shocked. Then, when he inquired how Paul had decided which students should get which grades, the latter replied,

"You can tell a lot by the looks. There are handsome upright young people who don't snicker or cause trouble, and then there are the ones who're always looking sideways, or who have bad teeth or bad hair. It doesn't do to encourage them too much."

"A lot of our subjects are like that. We have to be careful with them. We just get the results and pay them cash on the spot."

Paul seemed to understand perfectly. Then, when they got up, Paul remarked that he was off to see Miss Rosalie Morales. It had never occurred to Calvin that he might have anything in common with a man like Paul Hamilton. But then, amused, he decided that, since they had the same attitudes about testing, they might profitably share some of the same recreations.

Ursula's early morning funeral was quite low-key and brief. Paul Hamilton sat erectly, and a little apart from the others. His face, unusually red with grief, contrasted sharply with his hair, which seemed brighter and whiter than ever. Throughout the service, tears streamed from his boyish blue eyes.

One of the relatives was a cousin named Jemima Osterbrunk who rather resembled Ursula, perhaps five years younger. She was, in fact, coming to the Green Valley to live. She said to Paul and Dr. Narrison,

"I was living in Waukesha with my daughter, but Rebecca said she needed me here."

Jemima immediately took over the vocation of pushing Rebecca's wheel-chair. Although she was somewhat heavy and slow, she explained a couple of days later,

"Rebecca expects someone to be there all the time, ready to push. The aides have other things to do, and, anyhow, Rebecca says I follow instructions much better."

Concerning that explanation, Dr. Narrison later remarked to Paul,

"It's amazing that a person who has a certain capacity for reflection should allow herself to be subjugated to that degree."

"It makes me feel better to have Jemima here. She may not be Ursula, but things seem more normal."

"It may also be that Jemima makes a positive difference in a quiet way. We haven't had any trouble over our bagels since she's been here."

They were presently walking, bagels in hand, toward the culvert in which Ursula had met her end. Paul said,

"One of the things I like about the home is that I'm never under any temptation to betray anyone."

"I don't suppose you've ever betrayed anyone, have you, Paul?"

"Oh yes. In the sixth grade my best friend told me that he still wet his bed occasionally. I waited until we were on the school bus with a lot of other kids, and then I shouted out, 'Dudley still wets his bed, ha ha.' It was awful for him. But he kept on being my friend. Have you ever betrayed anyone, doc?"

Dr. Narrison replied slowly,

"I prefer to say that I've allowed other people to generate expectations about my behavior toward them that were unrealistic."

As an illustration, Dr. Narrison told the story of Captain Gundvun Narveson.

"He was a Norwegian, the captain of a Norwegian ship that we captured and sank in forty one. As in the other cases, we kept the captive crew on board until we had an opportunity to land them. I had made it a practice to be friendly with the captive officers, and so I often invited Captain Narveson to come up on the bridge with me. I could speak his language, which is pretty close to Icelandic, fairly well, and we spent many hours in conversation. He wasn't a man who was used to talking much to people, but, once he started, he told me a great deal about himself."

Captain Narveson had intrigued Captain Thostolfson from the beginning. A large man like himself, and about the same age, Narveson had been inordinately bound up with the loss of his ship, a fast freighter with a nice angled stem. Leif himself had had no regrets about the loss of the HEIKE HEIDLER twenty three years earlier, and he assumed that he would eventually lose his present ship. However, when they set fire to the VIGNIS RASMUSSEN and watched her cargo of paint and turpentine blaze up, her captain had almost collapsed against the rail as he stood beside Leif.

It transpired in the following days and weeks that Captain Narveson had had little but his ship. He had no wife or children, no living siblings, and only a few cousins. On a trade-route between out-of-the-way ports on the west coast of India and equally obscure ports on the Brazil coast, he had little contact even with the natural confidantes of sea captains, other sea captains. Indeed, he allowed to Leif that, when he went ashore, he never met anyone who spoke Norwegian. As Dr. Narrison told Paul,

"He was also the sort of captain who kept his distance from his officers. We allowed the whole captured crew on the after well-deck most of the time, but, whenever I'd look down, I'd see Captain Narveson sitting or standing by himself. I knew that he was still grieving over his ship. He probably had an image in his mind of her hull, white-hot and deformed in the intense heat as she hissed and spat rivets."

"I felt that way about the first car I owned. I saved up and bought a Model A, and I used to spend half my time polishing it. Then, when it was parked right in front of my house, a drunk in a big car ran into it and knocked it up on my lawn. It was on its side and almost every bit of it was twisted in some way."

"It is possible to get attached to pieces of machinery. There were times when I felt like offering Narveson my ship to make up for the one I'd destroyed."

"You must have been quite close to him."

"Part of it was that I was older in that war and wasn't close to any of my own officers. And I still wasn't really a German. Here was a man my age from a kindred country with a similar language who'd also spent his life at sea."

"How did he feel when you captured other ships?"

"We had to lock up the captured crew when we went into action so they couldn't sabotage anything. But I had him up on the bridge with me one time. It was a tanker, and we did the usual routine. That consisted of stopping a ship with a shot across her bow, taking off the crew, and burning her. Narveson stood watching, but he never said anything. Then we had two captured crews on board."

"Could you feed that many people?"

"We were going to land them when we were caught ourselves."

It was difficult to explain to Paul that the then middle-aged Captain Thostolfson had become gallant. It began when he, quite sensibly, recognized that men who served Hitler were likely to suffer reprisals if Hitler lost. The only real antidote for the captain of a surface raider was to develop a reputation for good deeds. He had scrupulously obeyed international law at all points, had avoided killing anyone at all, and had gone far beyond requirements in his treatment of prisoners.

The odd thing was that, in the course of these actions, the captain had himself changed. There were days when, standing on his bridge with Captain Narveson, he felt a certain rosy glow. Indeed, he smiled more frequently than was his custom, and even treated his subordinates with courtesy and consideration. He remembered having been rather surprised at his own transformation. He even remembered a conversation on the subject with Narveson in which the latter had suggested that the Boy Scouts were right in believing that good deeds are addictive.

The most conspicuous good deed was that of coming in to a sparsely populated but enemy-held coast to land the prisoners. The fact that he had chosen Ananalava in Madagascar was symbolic in a way that Captain Thostolfson himself hardly understood. It was most unlikely that Sumita had returned there. But he wondered if her cafe might still be there, or if there might be some remnant of it. This, too, he had explained to Narveson. The Norwegian had been amused.

They were steaming up the Mozambique channel at night, still some eighty miles off Cape Besalampy, when they saw a dark spot in the direction of the moon. The trouble was that, in this war, they had taken a lot of ships. Moreover, the ships all had radios, and most of them had gotten off reports before being captured. The search for the HEIKE HEIDLER's successor was more active, and it was harder to pretend to be an innocent merchant ship from a small country.

There were, in fact, two cruisers. Leif again found his ship illuminated with searchlights and, even worse, a demand for identification was sent by blinker. It was necessary to reply, and Leif claimed to be a Panamanian tramp ship with a general cargo from Durban to Aden. There was a long delay as the English cruisers sent radio messages. During this time, Leif prepared his ship for action. The prisoners were already locked up in their sleeping quarters, and every other man went silently to his station. Meanwhile, they kept steaming north-northeast at ten knots with one English cruiser on the port quarter and the other on the starboard quarter, each distant about a mile.

When the order came to stop and be boarded, Leif gave the command to open the gun flaps. They also turned hard to port with the hope of bringing the torpedo tubes on that side to bear on one of the cruisers.

It was obvious that the English were expecting such a move. Both cruisers opened fire, and, at that range, at least half the shells hit. As Dr. Narrison explained to Paul,

"I was standing on the wing of the bridge toward the cruisers, and I had the sensation of being very safe. It may look heroic to stand there in the open with shells screaming past you, but, in fact, there's extremely little chance of one hitting you."

"What about the explosions."

"They take place within the hull and the superstructure. The bridge is mostly open air, and there's nothing to explode them. So I stood there, holding on to an upright, as the ship was systematically taken to pieces under me. We did get a few shots off before our guns were silenced."

"Did you fire any torpedoes."

"Yes, but the ship was listing by that time and they probably didn't run true. They certainly didn't hit anything. The ship was jumping and shaking with the hits, and fires were breaking out everywhere, but the bridge was unscathed. When we listed about thirty degrees to port with the engines stopped, I ordered the crew to abandon ship. Most had already abandoned their stations, and I could see panic on the decks with men falling over each other and getting caught in the shell-bursts. The bridge-crew went below, and that left me alone on the bridge."

"That was still a good place to be, wasn't it?"

"The only good place. In a situation like that, men don't act rationally. They trample and kill each other in their attempts to get to whatever boats and rafts may be left, particularly if they're still under fire. I had some life- saving materials up on the bridge, and I waited there until it dipped almost to water level. A few shells did explode in the water fairly close to me, but I was uninjured."

"What about the prisoners?"

"It was part of the abandon ship routine to release them, but, with the ship listing, it would have been very difficult for anyone to have made it down to the store-rooms to unlock the doors. Anyhow, everything was in chaos by the time that I gave the order."

Captain Thostolfson had quickly fashioned a raft from floating wreckage, and had even found a plank to use as a paddle. Getting clear of the ship, he had paddled slowly toward the cruisers, keeping himself in the light of their searchlights.

"When the ship went down, one of the cruisers steamed up to search. There might have been men struggling between the patches of burning fuel oil on the water, but they were content to pick up the man who was easy to rescue, the one on the raft. I told them I was Captain Gundvun Narveson, the late master of the VIGNIS RASMUSSEN. They treated me very well. When we eventually got back to England, they gave me another ship to command."

"I guess you must have returned to your normal self by then."

"Very definitely. I saw a lot of action in the remainder of the war, this time from the English side, but I didn't go out of my way to do good deeds."

Bill Todd -- A Man of Three Names
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