had been a seaman who'd sailed under Klaason in deep waters ten years since, and I'd thought it very big of the Port of London Authority police to admit as much.

I came to a bandstand that projected out from the Prom and hung over the beach. The crowds were particularly dense here even though a dozen notices, fixed all around the bandstand, said that the concerts would not begin until the Saturday. The seaward edge of the beach (which was pebbly, as Howard Fielding had said) was crowded with bathing machines and, as I looked on, one of them rolled forwards, which set the people standing about applauding. A little while after, two men emerged from it, waded a little way out, and began to swim. Some of the crowd clapped again, some cheered, and some laughed in derision for the water must still be freezing.

Won't be for long though, I thought: the day was beautiful, and all the predictions were for a fine summer.

I continued my walk, looking for a lavender coat and a mass of curls under a feathered hat, but most of the ladies wore white that day, and perhaps she did too. Or perhaps she was nowhere near Eastbourne.

I walked easterly until I came to a round fortification sitting on a hummock of grass. It had been built to keep Napoleon off but was now part of a pleasure ground. I bought an ice cream from an Italian with a barrow, and turned around and walked back towards the pier. That seemed promising, being so packed, and as I approached I studied the men and women walking up and down, and the thing in general. The highest of the white wooden buildings on it was crowned with a kind of white, round summer house, and this – as I realised when I approached the pier turnstiles and all the signs announcing the attractions available for my penny – was the famous camera obscura of Eastbourne, being some species of magic lantern that captured scenes from all along the front. I might see her inside there, projected two inches high and flickering in whatever the camera obscura made of the glorious sunlight. But the queues leading up to it were too long.

I walked to the end of the pier and back with no luck.

… Or was it just as well?

On the Grand Parade once again, I was practically trampled to the ground as I took out my pocket book where I'd noted the times of the return trains. It was now nearly four o'clock, and there was one at a quarter after: an express too. I would be in plenty of time for A. K. Chambers and his thoughts on the New Atlantics. But I decided to wander inland a bit, and so, with my suit-coat over my shoulder, I walked for nearly an hour amid the comfortable villas, which all had names: The Chase, The Sycamores, The Grove, The Haven. I had half an eye out for a house called Paradise, but the names in Eastbourne were a cut above that.

I returned to the front thoroughly over-heated, although the sun was now going down and making a golden road running out to sea. I was a good way further east than I had been before, towards Beachy Head and the cliffs, where Eastbourne becomes country. The sounds of the Grand Parade came to me faintly, and I saw that the Promenade here was ail-but deserted. A zig-zag path winding through ornamental gardens brought me down onto it, and looking right I saw her. She was gazing out to sea in a blue dress, a straw boater in her left hand. Well, it would never have fitted on top of her curls, and I believed that she only carried it for form's sake. Something told me she was about to look my way, so I darted towards a laurel bush that stood between us, and when I stepped out again she'd gone; and I found that I could hardly catch my breath because she was alive and looking just as before; because I had seen her; and because I now could not.

I then noticed the shelter on the Prom, made to look old and quaint with white plaster, black beams and a thatched roof. She must be in there. The thing was open at the front and I knew that, short of walking directly up to it, the best way of getting a look inside would be to drop down from the Prom to the beach, and walk a little way towards the sea.

This I did. In fact, I walked right to the water's edge, where two lads stood throwing stones at some rocks a little way out. I faced out to sea with the shelter now behind me, not quite directly and at a distance of, say, forty yards. I half turned and saw her on the bench inside it with legs crossed, kicking her top-most boot. She might be sheltering from the continuing sun, or from the slight breeze that was picking up, or just lazing after a long day of doing not much. I decided that she was most likely not working. She was supposed to be lying low after all, and I knew she was in funds. On my visit with the Chief to Paradise I'd inspected the vanity case and all the other boxes in Fielding's tall chest of drawers, and the forty pounds was nowhere to be seen.

I looked again towards the Prom, but this time the other way, for I had to ration my glances at the shelter… and there was Adam Rickerby, walking.slowly. He looked thinner, though still not right, and he seemed to list as he walked. What was wrong with his face? Was his hat on backwards? That was the effect somehow; there also seemed less of his curls under it, and I knew from the way his sister rose to greet him in the shelter that he was poorly. I wondered whether the bullet was still in him; I hoped not, for where would he find a doctor to take it out? I looked forward again, watching the stones thrown by the two lads into the little waves.

What had I done wrong in the Paradise guest house? As far as everybody else was concerned, it seemed very little. But then I was the only one who knew that I'd fallen for Amanda Rickerby.

What had been the result of my doing so as far as the investigation was concerned? One consequence was that I'd given too little time and thought to Tommy Nugent. I ought to have taken him in hand on the Monday: packed him off home – flatly insisted that he leave Scarborough. But I'd been too keen to get back to Miss Rickerby.

Would I have stopped in the house for that second night had it not been for my feelings towards her? And the thought that something might happen between us? I believed I would have done… Then again, it was my feeling towards her that had finally made me lock the door against her.

Why had she told me to lock the door? I wanted to ask her that, at least. Had she really known of the danger presented by Fielding? In which case, why had she not done more to protect us all? I believed she had been on the point of telling me to lock my door on the first night. She had begun to say it, late on in the kitchen, but she had pulled up. She wanted to make sure of her suspicions, and by flirting with me she was able to approach certainty.

And then again – the question of questions – why had she held my hand in the ship room, having used me for her own purposes for the entire… What had it been? Only an evening and a day; and I'd only been in her presence a fraction of that time. Had she taken my hand to apologise for what had happened, or for what was to come? Or had there been some other reason for it?

'Mister,' one of the lads was saying (and he'd probably been saying it for a while), 'we're aiming for that rock.'

He pointed out to sea.

'Want to try?' he said, and he walked up with a handful of stones.

'I'll only need one,' I said, taking the biggest. I shied it and scored a direct hit, no doubt because of not trying at all.

I turned about and saw Amanda and Adam Rickerby in the shelter, both looking forwards. She, I believed, was smiling.

The first boy was eyeing me in amazement, but the second was a bit of a harder nut: 'Bet you can't do it again,' he said, but I knew from his face that I could rest on my laurels, that no second throw was required. I glanced down at my watch.

'Where are you off to now?' enquired the first lad, doubtless wanting to know what amazing feat the hero of the hour might perform next.

'I'm off to catch a train,' I said.

He nodded, and it evidently seemed the right course of action to him, as it did to me for a dozen different reasons.

Andrew Martin

Вы читаете The Last Train to Scarborough
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