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Munafa ebook

Munafa ebook

Read Ebook: Richard Richard by Mearns Hughes

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Ebook has 2749 lines and 106139 words, and 55 pages




At that hour he was leaning heavily forward, presumably watching the ant-like stevedores loading and unloading the steamer, but he was quite aware of another lone passenger, slowly moving towards him. He had seen her come on at Genoa--anyone would have noticed the clean-cut, tailor-made figure--and on the journey from Genoa to Naples he had noted her once or twice striding the deck alone; but he did not know even so much as her name. He did not know her, but, as she came up to him and lingered at the starboard rail, he knew instinctively that he would borrow money from her.

She stopped beside him for a moment and observed the Italian workers. He did not once look up.

"Do you know how long we stay in Naples?" she asked.

Shipboard etiquette ignores introductions.

"We sail at nine to-night, the Captain says." He turned his head slightly and smiled as if he had really known her. She lounged over the rail and helped him watch the workers. From the dock below this pair looked like familiar companions.

"Gracious!" she exclaimed suddenly. "What time is it now?"

"Eight A.M." He seem amused in a superior way.

"All day in this hot dirty place!" she exclaimed again.

"But it isn't blue," she objected. "It's dirty grey and,"--she looked directly below for an instant--"and it's oily--greasy, too."

"Oh, yes, it is blue," he contradicted firmly; "deep cerulean blue, the blue of sapphire shading off to mother-of-pearl." As he talked he half turned towards her. He was tall--she was not; his face was bronzed, and furrowed with lines--hers was not; so without offence he could assume a schoolmasterly air of genial superiority.

"Quite blue--from the top of that hill."

He pointed above the tiers of grey-tiled roofs to a pleasant prospect of trees. "The blue is there, but you must climb for it. You can't expect the most glorious panorama in the world to present itself to you without some effort on your part."

"What's the name of that hill?" she asked aimlessly.

"I don't know. There's a charming inn there, I suspect."

"You suspect? Don't you know?"


"Haven't you been there yourself?"


"Then how do you know about the 'glorious panorama'?"

"You get a similar sensation from the hill over there," he flourished a hand; "a much smaller hill. So I drew the proper inference."



He stopped so abruptly and smiled so mysteriously that she was attracted to say:

"To the extent of how much? You wouldn't risk a dollar on your 'glorious view'! Now, would you?"

He speculated for a moment. "No," he admitted finally. "I wouldn't risk a dollar on any of my views."

"Ah!" she triumphed.

"A fog might come up," he explained lamely.

"There!" said she. "Naples is over-advertised by sick poets. Look about you. It's incredibly ugly--and smelly."

"What's wrong about the smells?" he inquired mildly.

She laughed. "Garlic, mostly," she took a delicate sniff, "and paint."

"Garlic, I admit," he sniffed in turn, "and paint, and even tar; but they are merely the dominant notes. The overtones give this spot distinction. I'm a connoisseur on smells. It's a lost art."

"Thank goodness!"

"Not at all. We have lost the knowledge of odours; therefore a great part of life is lost. Do you notice now the smell of resin?"


"They're unloading resin in sacks from that schooner with the black sails. Think hard for a moment and you'll get it. It is a delicious scent quite unlike anything else."

"No," she tried, "I don't get it. But I smell oil, horribly."

"That's from the tanker," he pointed. "It should strike your national pride. It's U.S.A.--Standard Oil."

"Standard Oil?" she inquired eagerly and shaded her eyes to spell out the name on the side. "So it is! U-m-m!" she sniffed, "that smells good. I own Standard Oil Stock. U-m! Not much, of course--but--u-m!--enough."

Yes, he would borrow; but now he knew he would not pay back; perhaps not. He let her chatter on while he listened gravely or added a word or question to set her going again. In a short while he knew the main points of her life and some of the details; and she believed--so perfect is the illusion of a one-sided conversation--that he had given as much in exchange. To the woman they seemed infinitely acquainted after the first half-hour. She was very young, one could be sure; she had the frankness, the unsuspicious frankness of twenty-five; which, nevertheless, is very artful and quite conscious of itself. The man did not misjudge her; he knew he was not dealing with a child, but with a thoroughly independent and responsible young person.

And he knew also that he was stony broke.

The half-hours sped as they talked. Two bells followed closely by a single stroke clanged suddenly from the fore part of the ship.

She made a brisk attempt to look at a watch.

"It is half-past nine," he helped, as if it did not matter how the day sped.

"Gracious!" she exclaimed. "Have we wasted an hour and a half just talking?"

"So it seems."

"I won't stay here all day. I've just got to get on land. Why, man, I've never seen Naples or Pompeii or--any of those places," waving a hand about. "If I had my dog here I'd go it alone. I've been in worse places. Why, I believe there's nobody on the ship but us!"

She looked around. It seemed so.

Smudgy-faced members of the crew appeared here and there, the sort that the passengers ordinarily never see on voyage; cooks, vegetable carriers and knife boys called across barriers to one another; and off in the distance an officer could be observed coatless and heavily suspendered.

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