Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/118

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MY LIFE AND LOVES.

declared he would find a sailor to carry a note to Jessie next morning if I'd write it.

Besides, he proposed we should occupy the cabin alternate afternoons; for example, he'd take it next day and I mustn't come near it, and if at any time one of us found the door locked, he was to respect his chum's privacy. I agreed to it all with enthusiasm and went to sleep in a fever of hope. Would Jessie risk her father's anger and come to me? Perhaps she would: at any rate I'd write and ask her and I did. In one hour the same sailor came back with her reply. It ran like this: "Dear love, father is mad, we shall have to take great care for two or three days: as soon as it's safe, I'll come—your loving Jess", with a dozen crosses for kisses.

That afternoon, without thinking of my compact with Ponsonby, I went to our cabin and found the door locked: at once our compact came into my head and I went quietly away. Had he succeeded so quickly? and was she with him in bed? The half certainty made my heart beat.

That evening Ponsonby could not conceal his success but as he used it partly to praise his mistress. I forgave him.

"She has the prettiest figure you ever saw", he declared, "and is really a dear. We had just finished when you came to the door. I said it was some mistake and she believed me. She wants me to marry her but I can't marry. If I were rich I'd marry quick enough. It's better than risking some foul disease", and he went on to tell about one of his colleagues, John Lawrence, who got Black Pox, as he called syphilis, caught from a negress.

"He didn't notice it for three months", Ponsonby went on, "and it got into his system; his nose got bad and he was invalided home, poor devil. Those black