Thursday, 4 October 2012

Voyage


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 at Marseilles.
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 of friends.
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 stroll?”
They went out together, and, as the Bodley made her way through the mouth of the Thames into the open waters of the Channel, Golding said:
“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 ease.
“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 beside him......

If you would like to find out how this story unfolds you can can click The Voyage