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Thursday, 4 October 2012
The Voyage by Gary Walker
John Golding boarded the Bodley at Tilbury
Docks with the intention of murdering Paul Brock before the ship put into port
He intended, if Paul Brock went ashore at Gibralter, to
murder him quickly, simply, in a main street; he did not much care where it
happened, but he had decided to spare his fellow passengers the unpleasantness
of a murder and a suicide on board.
John Golding had made no attempt to avoid recognition by
men among whom he was accustomed to mix. He had booked a suite in the first
class. He was now in his cabin.
In the adjoining cabin was his servant Lu Fung. John
Golding had brought his Chinese valet because, after the murder, Margery would
need help. And he himself wanted Lu Fung near him until the end of the voyage.
It was only a few days ago that Lu Fung had brought him
the little scented note in Margery’s schoolgirl hand. She had said that she had
discovered that she loved Paul Brock, that she was going overland to meet him
at Marseilles, and that they were going to India together. She had added that
she knew she was doing a terrible thing, but she could not resist Paul Brock.
There was a pitiful postscript: Oh, John, forgive me. I cannot help it. It was
meant to be.”
He had not seen her since. She had gone, he supposed, to
Paris. And her lover was now in the Bodley, and he, John Golding, had
made up his mind to murder Paul Brock rather than permit the radiant innocence
of his young wife to be defiled.
He knew Margery too well to suppose that arguments would
be of any permanent effectiveness. She was inexperienced, impressionable, but
extraordinarily strong-willed. He was afraid, too, that to approach Paul Brock
would be simply to be met with an attitude that implied that any husband who
was deserted by his wife had only himself to blame. Yet he felt that he ought
to give Brock one chance to play the game.
Golding believed that in a little while Margery would
recover from the shock of the murder, from the shock of the suicide. Out of so
tragic an experience she would be able eventually to create a new life of
happiness for herself. She was only twenty-three. Before taking his passage he
had seen his lawyer. The settlements he had made on her would provide her with
an ample income. In a year or two she would forget.
Lu Fung had been John Golding’s servant ever since he had
first lived in Hong Kong. Lu Fung was his best friend. Lu Fung adored Margery;
he would be more useful to her at Marseilles than any hastily summoned
hysterical woman. His imperturbable calm would steady Margery.
He could understand Brock’s attraction for women. Brock
was a successful novelist. He had that interesting, unhappy look that appealed
to women, that flirting, inconsequential cynicism that women liked; he had all
the qualities that he himself lacked, and he knew that Margery in her
inexperience could not see the callousness beneath the soft surface.
Golding dined alone at a small table in the large saloon.
He was disinclined to talk. He wanted to make sure that Brock was on board, and
he left the dining-room early for the smoke-room, where as he half expected,
was Brock, standing near the bar, talking in apparently high spirits to a group
It was then that Golding decided to give the man his
chance. He walked up to him, held out his hand, and with a smile he said:
“Well, Brock, this is a nice surprise! I had no idea that
you were on board. What will you have?”
He saw that Brock was profoundly shaken. It was obvious to
those around that Brock had some good reason for not wanting to meet John
Golding. The glass that Brock held fell from his hands and crashed on to the
floor before he recovered himself sufficiently to say.
“How are you, Golding? Thanks a Scotch, I think.”
Some of the company dropped aside. A few, who had appreciated
the momentary tension, stood chattering. But presently Golding found an
opportunity to say:
“Brock, I should like a word with you. Will you come for a
They went out together, and, as the Bodley made her
way through the mouth of the Thames into the open waters of the Channel,
“Brock you are going to Marseilles to meet my wife. I do
not intend that you shall meet her. You have made a big mistake. And if you are
a wise man you will recognize the fact. You can leave the ship at Gibralter. I
shall meet my wife at Marseilles, and explain to her that you realized that you
could not give her the honourable happiness which is her due, and that you
decided to return to England.”
Golding waited. He had never found self-control so difficult.
Through the dark sea-scented air he heard the contempt in
the long drawn breath of the man by his side. And when Brock spoke his was the
voice of the coward and bully.
“Don’t be a fool, Golding. We are not living in the Middle
Ages. Women are free today to please themselves. We have considered your
comfort as far as humanly possible. But Margery has made her choice. If we have
found happiness together by what right can you attempt to ruin it? Nothing you
can say or do will have the slightest effect on either of us, and if you intend
to make a scene at Marseilles – well!” He shrugged his shoulders, and then,
lighting a cigarette, he looked nonchalantly out to sea. But he was not at
“There will be no scene at Marseilles,” Golding said.
“Ah, I couldn’t believe that you meant what you said.”
There was sudden relief in the voice of the lover. “I understand what you feel.
Believe me, Golding, I am sorry for you. But these things happen. We cannot
prevent them. Would it not be better if you left the ship at Gibralter? I
assure you that there is no chance at all that Margery will change her mind.”
He waited eagerly, unaware of the storm that blew in the heart of the man
If you would like to find out how this story unfolds you can can click The Voyage