The deck of the Mauretania, Feb. 12, 1936
Brenda's departure, almost a month after Ralph's, wasn't as precipitate. Like Ralph, she concealed her destination. However, instead of using one of the stories we had conjured up, she simply refused to say where she was going. Thelma took it relatively easily, perhaps because it solved a problem. She had been wondering whether the bride's daughter could or should be the maid of honor at her mother's wedding. When Brenda told her that she was leaving for an unspecified destination, Thelma responded,
"I hope you don't get lost. If you do, try to find a post office and write me. I'll send someone out to find you."
At least, that was what Brenda told me she said. And it wasn't the sort of thing that Brenda could have invented.
The scene on the deck of the Mauretania was much like the last time, but with one less person. She remarked happily,
"This is like one of those clubs that meets whenever a member dies and drinks a toast to him. You'll be the last survivor on the mext passage. If you'd been sociable enough to come with me ..."
She left it hanging there. I had strongly conflicting feelings. On one hand, I was kicking myself. I could have had five days with Brenda, nights dancing with her, and so on. It was more than enough to start my fantasies going. On the other hand, I doubted that her implied promise was a very fulsome one. It might merely have been a ticket to stand and watch while she acquired a new lover. I took much more risk than I ordinarily would have, but, as I thought, not so very much. I replied jokingly,
"I'll come if you make the arrangements. My passport and ticket are on the desk in my apartment."
I really don't think I imagined that she would take it as a challenge. I had underestimated her. She took me to the rail and told me to stay exactly there as she disappeared. A minute later, I caught a glimpse of her, half running in her high heels, as she went down the gangway to the dock.
There was an hour before departure, and Brenda was back before half of it was up, my passport and ticket held up triumphantly. In explanation, she said,
"I called that nice landlady of yours and had her bring them down in a taxi. She's going to pack the rest of your belongings and send them. She wishes you a happy new life."
Still flabbergasted, I protested that my berth was on the voyage two weeks hence. Brenda seemed to think that only the most minor problem.
"I'll fix it with the purser. Just to be on the safe side, I'll wait until we drop the pilot so they can't send you back."
With that, she took my arm and led me on a satiric tour of the leave-taking embraces that were occurring all over the enclosed decks.
It's easy to avert the eyes from all that is mildly embarrassing in life. Being with Brenda was like being with a photographer who specializes in catching people at their least appealing moments. There was a fat woman boo-hoo-hooing with her bosom bouncing so mightily that even her coat didn't conceal it. Further along, there was an old man with a flower in his buttonhole and a furiously angry look on his face. We wondered briefly whether he was fleeing from the Internal Revenue Service, or was incensed only because no one had come to see him off. And then there was a woman in a large hat trying to be madly glamourous and succeeding only in being utterly ridiculous. Brenda put her forefinger to her cheek bone and giggled. Then she spun dramatically, looked alluringly back over her shoulder, and giggled again. The woman so parodied was only a short distance away, but didn't look uncomfortable. Perhaps she thought only that there were present other glamourous women beside herself.
There had been much talk about the gales to be encountered on a winter passage, but the sea was calm and silvery in the late afternoon light as we steamed ponderously through the narrows. We didn't actually see the pilot leave, but, as the Long Island shore faded away, it was obvious that it was too late to send anyone back.
I was happy to let Brenda go down to negotiate while I, feeling very much a stowaway, explored the ship. Unlike the sailboats I was used to, this mass of steel and machinery neither rolled nor pitched in the slightest degree. As far as that went, we could as easily have been on land as on sea. What there was instead of motion was a pattern of vibration.
The ship's engines could be felt everywhere that one went, particularly now that we were working up to full cruising speed. The insistent drumming that was communicated through one's feet, or by a hand touching a rail, wasn't absolutely constant. There were slight qualitative changes and a barely discernible regular cycle. After a few minutes, I realized that the waves, while not capable of moving the ship, buried the propellors deeper at their crests and more shallowly in their troughs. This made a difference to their bite, and determined the shock waves transmitted to the rest of the ship. So there was a way, even standing in the lounge, of feeling the ocean.
It was as well, since all the other arrangements seemed to be designed to positively hide from the passengers, for as long as possible, the fact that they were at sea. Feeling contempt for the grand-hotel-at-sea syndrome, I made my way up to the boat deck.
I emerged just in time to see the setting sun. Unfortunately, it was partly obscured by the greasy black columns of smoke which we trailed almost horizontally behind us. All told, the spectacle might have been put on to illustrate the conquest of nature in the industrial age. The sun, producing no smoke and only a modest orange glow, was zeroed out by the great furnaces below deck, at any moment capable of producing enough smoke to blot out half the heavens.
Turning forward, I struck a heroic pose and faced the black ocean night into which we were accelerating. Unfortunately, even though there was little wind, the ship was steaming fast enough to create a strong cold breeze of its own. Swallowing my nautical pretensions, I soon retreated to the enclosed promenade deck.
It wasn't very long before Brenda was back, with a look on her relatively impassive face that I knew to be a triumphant one. Evidently I wasn't to be put in irons and dragged to the steerage compartment. As she related it,
"They started by being a bit grumpy in their English way, but I told them that we'd just been married. Everything was okay after that. They're putting us in a cabin with two berths. I think they expected me to go for a double berth, but I was afraid you'd mistake me for someone else in the middle of the night. Did you have some sort of woman back there, Thomas? I always wondered."
One could so easily have misinterpreted. There was even the phrase, "some sort of woman", and in the past tense, no less. Brenda, obviously, was a much better sort of woman, and was in the present tense. What could be more promising? And, yet, I knew that, if I touched her in any way that went beyond casual affection, she would put me in my place. Although filled with wild and mixed emotions, I replied in the proper tone.
"Yes. Now and then I have managed to prevail on some poor creature to slip past the landlady and visit me in my rooms."
"Oh Thomas, you make it sound like something out of Dostoyevsky."
"That's how it felt. I always lived in fear that the girl's brothers would catch me and throw me into the Hudson tied to a bear."
"I didn't know they did that even in Dostoyevsky."
"Perhaps it was Tolstoy. Anyway, for those of us below noble rank, taking a ducking in the Neva with a bear seems to have been a normal hazard of life in St. Petersburg."
We chit-chatted for a while until Brenda announced that it was time for her to get ready for dinner. She made me memorize the cabin number and called over her shoulder,
"Give me about an hour. Then come down and we'll see what can be done with you."
Brenda had booked a second class cabin. This surprised me a little, since she had never been the frugal type. Apparently Ralph's predicament had gotten through to her enough to affect her habits. It was a good thing for me, since evening dress was required in the first class dining room, and I had only the brown suit in which I stood. As it was, I didn't look as if I went with Brenda. The dark blue dress she had on as she invited me into the cabin must have been purchased before she had embarked on her economy drive.
I hadn't previously realized that Brenda was quite sensitive about the appearance of the men that she was seen with. Years later, she admitted to me that she had often been ashamed of being seen with Ralph. I, despite certain misconceptions in the area of fashion, have always tried to dress well. Part of the reason is to avoid looking the stereotype of a poet. In that, at any rate, I have succeeded.
On this occasion Brenda kept fussing with me. The steward was summoned to shine my shoes, and she would have had my suit pressed if there had been time. My tie had to be re-tied three times before it was acceptable. I asked, years later, if those Mafia lapels had bothered her. She replied,
"Not so much. You can be a well-dressed Mafia leader just as you can be a well-dressed admiral, even if you do have to wear a funny hat."
I eventually passed muster, and we proceeded to the dining room.
The second class passengers were an oddly assorted lot. There was a solid nucleus of sensible middle-aged people who thought it silly to pay for the first class, and who didn't want to bother with the evening clothes. We didn't meet many of them, but one could see at a glance what they were like. In addition, there were people who would normally have gone either first class or third class, but who had ulterior, or at least special, motives. It was with five such people that we were seated at a round table for seven.
Students, or people of that age, normally went third class. They were put into what were really floating dormitories, and were allowed to take the air on the foredeck amid the great anchors and chains. It was all very convivial and looked fun, at least in good weather.
At our table there were three people of that age. Since there were relatively few students travelling at that time of year, they had doubtless been put together intentionally, together with four miscellaneous other youngish people. It might have been that our table was intended by the chief steward to be the life of the party.
One of the young people, Marshall Sands, was a graduate student in history on his way to Oxford. He was accompanied by his wife, Marcia. Tall and very thin, Marshall looked much younger than Marcia. She wasn't bad looking, and was intellectually accomplished in her own right. She was also quite sure of herself on every topic, and, indeed, had hardly ever been wrong about anything. Her knowledge included, not only abstract principles, but the proper attire for every occasion, and, probably, approved modes of sexual intercourse.
Marshall, who turned out to be a year older than his wife, was, in keeping with his seemingly more youthful status, much less sure of himself. However, he had unexpected conceits. When asked the time, he pulled out a valuable and elaborate gold pocket watch, and then launched into an account of the ancestor from whom he had inherited it. They seemed to have a bit more money than the other students travelling to Europe, and had apparently decided that third class was beneath them. It was a good thing. If they had gone third class, the others, after a half hour of conversation, might have thrown them overboard. We, the more civilized passengers of the second class, had to put up with them.
The third student was, at least at first glance, a considerable improvement over the other two. Monica Mason was a Bryn Mawr student spending her junior year abroad. She had returned briefly, by airplane, for her grandmother's funeral. The flight had been rather gruelling, and she had elected to go back by ship. I had a feeling, however, that that wasn't the only reason. She had a look in the eye, and she was very pretty. I marked her down as a possibility if Brenda deserted me.
Desertion, in fact, appeared imminent. At the table were two single Englishmen, each impressive in his own right. I was sure that Brenda, never shy of entering new territory, was dying to try out an Englishman. Fortunately, I had steeled myself for this outcome. It seemed just possible that, while the two Englishmen competed for Brenda, I might make off with Monica.
Cedric Brunel was the only person at our table, apart from Brenda, who would normally have gone first class. I was sure that it seemed odd to him to dine without a dinner jacket. However, in my long previous stay in England, I had known many such as he, and could tell that something had gone a little wrong. Cedric wasn't an outcast or a black sheep, or anything of that sort. He was still invited to the best places. But he wouldn't be encouraged to converse at great length with the daughter of the house.
There was something, very likely an ugly divorce, which disqualified Cedric as a potential suitor for the kind of woman he would expect. There was no point in his going first class. Apart from the fact that there wouldn't be many young people, the most desirable girls, even the American ones, would have been too closely guarded. While Brenda's presence would have been a fortunate chance anywhere, Monica's was not. It could have been predicted that there would be girls like her in the second class. Well off enough to set herself above her peers, she wasn't rich enough to be protected. She was, in fact, a pretty plum ready for the picking.
Big, muscular, and loud, Cedric was humorous, fairly intelligent, and even rather charming. It wasn't an individual charm, something cultivated through the byways of experience, but the charm possessed by a whole class of people. It was a class who, for centuries, have thought that the ruling of the world is a simple matter of appointing old public school boys as district officers. Any American will be somewhat overwhelmed when he or she first meets a member of that class. Cedric was the first example of his type that these people had seen.
Henry Widdowes was something else again. As a poet, I naturally have an ear for accents. Henry's came from some provincial town, but had been somewhat modifed in the direction of Cedric's. Henry hadn't been content with his original station in life, and was on the move.
Years later, an elderly gentleman in London, a retired brigadier, explained to me the difference between a cad and a bounder.
"A bounder is one who sits in the saloon bar in a loud suit and puts on false airs. He bounds, don't you see? A cad is one who doesn't pay his gambling debts."
In that explanation, instructive as it was, a great deal was assumed. A bounder can be looked on with amused contempt. He's not a gentleman, and could never pass as one. He will fool only the men gathered at the corner pub, and probably not even them. He's not dangerous. A cad, on the other hand, is, regrettably enough, a gentleman. He's been to the right schools and speaks with the right accent. One is, on the whole, lucky if he makes off with no more than a modest amount of one's money.
It would be unfair to suggest that Cedric was a cad and Henry a bounder. Cedric would certainly have paid his gambling debts. But there could have been just the slightest suspicion that, in the case of certain subtle kinds of debts of honor, he might cut a few corners. Thus, while Cedric was less than a cad, Henry was more than a bounder. He was far beyond boasting in pubs. He seemed to have ability, and to have made a certain amount of money. He was no ordinary fake. On the other hand, he was what people of Cedric's sort might have called an "adventurer." That meant, more or less, that he wanted to rise quickly in social class and do it on his own, not as an apprentice to someone who was already a member of the club. It was probably no accident that he had just gone to a country where all English accents are treated equally, and most Englishmen are assumed to be aristocrats.
Cedric and Henry recognized each other's type instantly, and initiated a good-natured competition for the attention of Brenda and Monica. Cedric might have bristled at such a challenge in the first class dining room, but he was both a good and a realistic sportsman. He had entered a terrain in which Henry had as much right as himself, and he knew it. He also knew that the ladies would perceive no class difference between them, and that any attempt to invoke it would backfire among egalitarian Americans.
Cedric and Henry were seated almost opposite one another at the table, and the show they put on was a good one. There was a certain amount of wit, but nothing extraordinary. I could have matched it easily. What I could not have matched was the style. Marcia tried, and failed signally. It wasn't that she was less intelligent. On the contrary, she was probably much smarter than either Cedric or Henry, but it did her no good.
Marshall then had a try. After all, he was going to Oxford, and it seemed safe to assume that the university would command respect. Not a bit of it! Cedric and Henry, both rather vague about their own educations, dismissed Oxford out of hand. It was, they agreed, a place to go through at two in the morning at ninety miles an hour with the police on your tail. Cedric hoped that Marshall wasn't going to Balliol College, according to him Oxford's dumping ground for Americans and other foreigners.
There had been an amusing incident, along those lines, at an Oxford cinema crowded with students. The film, set in a jungle, had shown a long dugout canoe being paddled furiously by cannibals intent on running down their prospective victim. As the canoe disappeared around a bend in the river, a student had stood in the audience and shouted,
"Well rown, Balliol!"
Although Marshall was, indeed, going to Balliol, he had to laugh along with the others. Americans in England seem always to have to laugh at their own discomfiture. I might have tried to analyze the situation if I hadn't been too depressed. It was perfectly obvious who the primary object of all this was. They wouldn't have gone to nearly so much trouble over Monica. I could almost imagine Cedric and Henry slipping off by themselves and flipping a coin over Monica. Brenda ranked far too high to be disposed of in that way.
While Henry was gamely taking on Cedric in circumstances in which, in theory, he had an equal chance, he was also, as we might now say, programmed to lose. In addition to notions of class inferiority that were virtually innate in someone like him, Henry was smaller than Cedric, generally less substantial, and had a voice that lacked the tone of command.
It began just as I had expected. Brenda knew how to deal with male egos of all sorts. With Cedric she supplied more sympathy and support than one would have thought he needed. But she may have known better than I. Perhaps she had soothed just such men when they fell apart in the bedroom.
Half-way through dinner the conversations fragmented, and Brenda turned almost all her attention to Cedric. Recognizing the inevitable, I turned to Monica, on my other side. Unfortunately, Henry had been quicker off the mark, and had her thoroughly monopolized. While seated in what should have been the best possible position, I might as well not have been there at all. There was nothing for it but to converse with Marshall and Marcia across the table.
It was near the end of the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding that I began to realize that something odd was happening. Not on my left, to be sure. Henry had found out that Monica had social pretensions. She had, some time previously, set about tracing her ancestry. Henry knew as well as I did that anyone who does that will find a few dukes and generals among their remote forbears. Monica, on the other hand, seemed to think that she was the only one with such distinguished ancestors. Henry handled it quite beautifully. He was much more modest than a real English aristocrat would have been. He barely mentioned a few noble connections and acquaintances of his own, as if he met them often without thinking much about it. When Monica asked him about the differences between knights, dukes, and earls, he explained easily, probably better than Cedric could have done. He then remarked,
"One doesn't take these honors too seriously. One's glad to get them, of course, but one can't live on them. Perhaps you'd like to meet a few assorted noblemen at my club."
Henry, perhaps not oblivious to my plight, almost winked at me. From Monica's enthusiastic response it was clear that she didn't know that women weren't even admitted to any club in which a nobleman could be found.
Monica seemed also to fail to notice that Henry had changed tone and manner entirely. He had started out gaily, something like Bertie Wooster with Jeeves in the background. But he had seen that Monica didn't want a light-hearted English aristocrat. She was, despite all her youth and prettiness, a serious girl. It had probably occurred to her that the greatest possible feather in her cap would be to bring back from England a husband who was both aristocratic and in a position of power and influence. Henry had quickly become grave and responsible, and added a faint touch of paternalism.
I have long noticed that fakes are much better than the real thing. It's because a good actor can play a character better than that character could play himself. If Monica had, indeed, married Henry and taken him back to Philadelphia, everyone would have been very pleased. He would have been pleasant, engaging, and wouldn't have sneered. That was more than one could have said for Cedric. Whether Monica realized that she would be getting quite good value for her money I don't know. In any case, having swallowed the hook and the line, her modestly painted little mouth was attractively open, all set to gulp the sinker.
As I have said, everything on my left was, in its way, quite correct. It was when I saw Marcia stare that I realized that something was wrong on my right. Cedric looked quite disconcerted and Brenda was trying to placate him. For a second, I wondered if she had offended him with some of her gutter language. But that was absurd. He was hardly a prude. Nor could she have insulted him. He would have made a game out of anything she said, and would have used it to further his program of seduction.
It was only later that I discovered what had happened. Brenda began by cultivating Cedric, as I had seen. She then asked, unaccountably to him, if he had any extra shirts and other clothing that he could spare. He would have agreed to anything at that point. She then told Cedric the same story she had told the purser, and begged the clothing for me. He had suddenly lost Brenda and half his clothing. He was also blocked off from Monica. He must have been swearing under his breath.
There is one thing about Cedric's kind of Englishmen. They believe that ladies have the right to trick them. Instead of fetching them a clip on the side of the head, they dutifully truckle under and do whatever seems to be required. After dinner, Cedric took me to his cabin and outfitted me most generously. I, at least, took the name of his shirtmaker so that I could send him replacements. He complimented me most fulsomely on Brenda, and then excused himself.
"I'll have to find Monica and detach her from Henry before he makes off with her."
Brenda was back at the cabin when I arrived with my ill- gotten gains. She was somewhat shamefaced as she said,
"I suppose I shouldn't have done it. Although he was polite, I could see that he was really upset. I hadn't dreamed that a few shirts would be such a big issue."
"I don't think it was that. By the time you dropped your bomb, he thought he had you. Besides which, he was afraid it was too late for Monica. When I last saw him, he was headed off to pry her loose from Henry. That will take some doing, I should think."
"I hope he succeeds. That'll make it up to him for being so decent about this."
We then set off on a stroll around the promenade deck. It was dimly lit, and the night outside was a clear cold one with good visibility. The deck was almost deserted, and we walked aft to a point from which we could see the wake foaming out with a half moon above it. We there stopped and fell into conversation. I told her that I had been taken in as much as Cedric.
"I assumed that you'd want to try out an Englishman, and he seemed as good a specimen as we were likely to encounter."
"No. I'd already decided to give all that up. I got rid of the last one in New York. I'm not going to have any more lovers."
I was genuinely and utterly surprised. I spoke without tact.
"I thought that was what you lived for."
Brenda laughed and patted me on the arm. She replied,
"I suppose it must often have seemed that way. I realized, though, that I was gradually getting to be an unpaid geisha girl with some whoring thrown in on the side. You've no idea how many men I've comforted and serviced. I've generally got nothing more than a pat on the bottom in return."
"You can be very sympathetic and understanding."
"A bit too much, I think. I'm going to try to be softer outside, but more demanding underneath, just the opposite of what I have been."
"Are you still going to talk about getting married?"
"Yes, Thomas, I probably will. But it seems extremely distant. I can't think of anyone, either real or fictional, that I have the least inclination to marry."
I think I must have been relieved. I wouldn't have her, but I wouldn't have to worry about the Cedrics and Henrys of this world. Sometimes it's more important to deny something to others than to have it oneself.
When we drifted back down to the cabin, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but supposed that it would be something on the order of a mixed campout of Boy and Girl Scouts. As soon as the door closed, Brenda began undoing the many fastenings of her dress. I wasn't sure what she expected me to do. Was I supposed to go into the bathroom or make a show of turning my back? Brenda was facing toward the closet, not looking in my direction, as she continued to loosen her dress. I attempted to follow on in the same casual spirit as I loosened my tie. She then spoke, still offhandedly, but with some animation,
"I have something funny to show you, Thomas."
No one like Brenda had ever taken off her dress in front of me, and the feelings furthest from my mind were ones of amusement. I had no idea what she meant, and, even as she undid her sleeves and lifted her skirt to shake it loose from her slip, I still expected to be sent from the room. Instead, she slid the dress quickly over her head, and stood back-to as she hung it up. I was extraordinarily roused, both physically and mentally. Brenda had on a white slip, prettily ornamented with lace at top and bottom, which was only moderately revealing. I could easily imagine her thinking that she was more covered up than she would have been in a bathing suit. That might have been true, but it missed the point.
With her usual tendency toward paradox, Brenda was treating me as a husband right after announcing that she wouldn't dream of marrying anyone she knew. I couldn't imagine what was supposed to be funny except, perhaps, the position in which I now found myself.
Brenda spun quickly and walked toward me with a pleased expression on her face. Around her neck were a half dozen pendants and chains with every variety of precious stone dangling from them. There were even ruby and diamond rings through which the chains had been threaded. She explained,
"Wilhelmina left me all her jewelry, for which, as you can see, she had a penchant. I don't dare let it off my person, even to put it in the ship's safe. Wouldn't Cedric have had a surprise if he'd gotten me out of my dress?"
As Brenda stood there looking slim, bare, and young, I could have grabbed her and kissed her. Even if the situation had thereafter deteriorated, I would have had an excuse. No man of the people would have hesitated. There are many muscular and forthright poets who would have scooped Brenda onto the bed, and, while stopping far short of rape, would have plighted their troth in a way which might have drawn a favorable response. There is, I suppose, no need to say that a Mafia member would have done.
I did none of these things. It takes more than wide lapels to act with decision and confidence. As for romance, my poetry was of an academic kind, more concerned with the musical qualities of the line than with unmediated passion. I took Brenda's gesture in the spirit in which it seemed to be intended. I laughed in a jolly fashion, and pretended to admire the jewelry while looking in other directions. After a minute, she started to take it off, and I stepped behind her to help with the catches of the chains. By so doing, I at least got to touch the back of her neck.
At that point, we were both standing facing a large mirror, and, looking over Brenda's shoulder, I could see her down to knee level. She had one hand full of jewelry, and with the other, reached inside her slip to adjust the bra which both held and concealed her moderately full breasts. In a burst of daring I remarked that she had a very narrow waist, and moved my hands as if to encircle it as I added,
"If I had the hands of a longshoreman, I could probably put them all the way around."
She felt awfully good, and I kept my hands on her for several seconds. The slip was thin and I could feel her warmth and movement as she drew a breath.
Even now, I'm not exactly sure what happened in those few seconds. Brenda didn't tear herself away, nor did she respond positively. She merely reached to put her handful of jewelry on the bureau. I let her go. She had just said that she was through with affairs. On the other hand, it's possible that she only wanted to put the jewelry down before being seriously embraced.
In the next moment Brenda pulled her slip up to the tops of her stockings, where she had strings of pearls fastened around her garters. She spoke in a tone which was moderately cool and still slightly amused as she sat down and undid them.
"It's a funny feeling to walk along with pearls hanging down your legs, but they're too bulky to go under my collar."
"How much is the whole collection worth?"
"I really don't have any idea. I'm going to sell it when the opportunity arises and re-invest the money. Jewelry like this isn't a good investment in itself is it?"
"It might have been in 1929. It might still be if there's something rare that can only go up in value. We can check on that when we get to London."
Brenda then reached into her suitcase, grabbed something out, and disappeared into the bathroom. When she reappeared, she had on a woolly nightdress that reached down to her ankles. I think I was more relieved than otherwise.
After we were both in bed, we chatted pleasantly for a while. Then Brenda said good night, rolled over, and went to sleep. I remained awake thinking for some time. I had gone through a good many changes that day, including an unexpected departure and several ups and downs with Brenda. In some ways I was exhausted, but, good as the bed felt, not ready for sleep.
As it turned out, all the important questions were settled that first day and night. The succeeding days and nights passed pleasantly with meals, strolls along the decks, and an exciting storm which both Brenda and I enjoyed. We met some other people, enough so that we didn't get bored with each other, but Brenda took no lovers.
Also on that first night, Cedric succeeded in detaching Monica from Henry. I have no idea how he did it, but, by dinner the next evening, Monica was sitting beside Cedric and fairly cooing at him. We came upon them one afternoon in a lounge supposedly reserved for first class passengers. Cedric was attempting to show Monica and another young lady how to levitate horizontally without touching the deck. He called loudly to a passing steward,
"Steward, please show these ladies how to levitate."
We disappeared discreetly.
By the third dinner, Henry had changed his table and disappeared. Brenda and I made some effort to converse with Marshall and Marcia, but were glad to get off by ourselves afterwards.
While the nightly bedtime routine didn't vary in the slightest, Brenda, on the last night, made a few offhand remarks which left me thinking long after she had gone to sleep. I was pretty sure, by this time, that Brenda had a nose for money and the instincts of a good businesswoman. The jewelry would certainly sell for a substantial amount, and that, together with her ninety thousand, would get her off to a good start. Her fortune, while modest, would grow appreciably. In that case, she would have a little circle of people around her. Despite what she said, there would be lovers. But, as before, they would come and go. There would probably be a woman friend or two, and they would remain. There would also be an opening for an older man, one who would offer friendship, and possibly a modicum of love, but, above all, advice. This advice would be partly financial, but would concern many other things as well.
This last position, unlike that of the lovers, would be permanent. I
thought myself admirably suited for it. I had occupied a much less important
position with respect to Wilhelmina Sanderson and her great fortune. It
was appropriate that I play a larger role with respect to Wilhelmina's
grandaughter and the young shoot of a descendent fortune.