Forth into Light (The Peter & Charlie Trilogy)

Forth into Light (The Peter & Charlie Trilogy) by Gordon Merrick

Book: Forth into Light (The Peter & Charlie Trilogy) by Gordon Merrick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gordon Merrick
improvement; small boats no longer rowed passengers ashore. The white-uniformed harbor patrol had already taken its stations within the railed enclosure. The idlers who daily constituted themselves a welcoming committee were spreading out along it. He noted again the dead gray look of the sea. The heat was more than oppressive—it felt dangerous, as if its pressure would shatter the atmosphere.
    He had almost given up hoping for Sarah when he caught sight of her and waved.
    “You look almost cool,” he remarked admiringly as she joined him.
    “The sea helped.”
    “Mike’ll probably want to go later.”
    “Yes, you should take him down after lunch. You can sit in the sea and talk your heads off. It’s too hot for naps anyway.”
    “I hope to God we all recognize each other,” he said with a chuckle. “Twelve years is a long time, except that suddenly it doesn’t seem like anything at all.”
    She looked up at him in quick scrutiny and smiled. “You haven’t changed much. More distinguished. Of course, we’re both black as niggers which may confuse him.”
    He took her arm and led her out into the crushing sun and over to a place at the barricade. A dark hungry-eyed boy darted up to them, roughly shoving a smaller boy out of his way as he came.
    “Will you need me?” he demanded, looking as if he would attack anybody who refused his aid.
    “Yes, my child,” George said with a slight smile. “You have your animal? Wait for us. There will probably be baggage.”
    This was the way he hoped Mike’s visit would go—people springing eagerly to serve them, everything working smoothly, all the flaws and fissures with which they had to contend in daily living neatly covered over for this occasion. “I told Chloë to plan for lunch at one-thirty. Does that check with you? I didn’t think we’d want to prolong the drinking hour.”
    “Oh, good,” she said. “That means I’ll—I mean, that means you’ll probably be ready to take Mike for a swim by about three.”
    “Yes,” he agreed. She was really determined to get him into the water. Did she think he was going to need sobering up? He wiped sweat from his forehead and out of his eyes. He felt as if the sun were beating him into the ground.
    “Here she comes,” Sarah announced to the empty sea in what appeared to be a moment of claivoyance. She had scarcely spoken before there was a blast of ship’s whistle and the boat came surging around the steep rocky promontory, pushing its way through the lifeless sea, stirring it to a heavy leaden swell. There was the rumble of reversed engines, lines were thrown, whistles piped, the ship’s telegraph clanged urgent messages below. The boat bumped broadside against the quai and came to rest in a swirl of slapping water. Everybody began to shout. The longshoremen jockeyed the gangplank into position and there was an explosion of humanity. In an instant, the enclosure was packed with pushing, shouting people, baggage, parcels, packing cases, baskets, odd lengths of pipe, toilet bowls, and a baby carriage.
    There was no sign of Mike. People were streaming down the gangplank, but the first flood spent itself quickly. Leighton turned to Sarah. Her eyes were scanning the open upper deck, the wide windows of the first-class lounge.
    “Do you see him?”
    She shook her head and he turned back to the scene of confusion around the gangplank. A final trickle of passengers emerged from somewhere in the depths, an ungainly crate was trundled ashore, there was a flurry of white jackets in the shade of the covered deck and two stewards teetered down the gangplank under a load of handsome matched suitcases. Leighton’s attention quickened. These were worthy of Michael Cochran. Why so many? Was he planning to stay a month?
    Then he was there, framed in the gangway, like the star entrance in a musical comedy, shaking hands with the captain. George burst into laughter of recognition and welcome. He looked so exactly like old

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