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datatime: 2022-12-03 10:22:47 Author:QzGVLtAW

In their quarters at night, the crew members disparaged the passengers and made jokes about them. But Jeff admitted to himself that he was envious of them--- their backgrounds, their educations, and their easy manners. They had come from monied families and had attended the best schools. His school had been Uncle Willie and the carnival.

"I'm trying to get this off," she said. "I'm having a problem with the zipper."

And that was the way it began.

"I see. I'm working for you."

One of the carnies had been a professor of archaeology until he was thrown out of college for stealing and selling valuable relics. He and Jeff had had long talks, and the professor had imbued Jeff with an enthusiasm for archaeology. "You can read the whole future of mankind in the past," the professor would say. "Think of it, son. Thousands of years ago there were people just like you and me dreaming dreams, spinning tales, living out their lives, giving birth to our ancestors." His eyes had taken on a faraway look. "Carthage--- that's where I'd like to go on a dig. Long before Christ was born, it was a great city, the Paris of ancient Africa. The people had their games, and baths, and chariot racing. The Circus Maximus was as large as five football fields." He had noted the interest in the boy's eyes. "Do you know how Cato the Elder used to end his speeches in the Roman Senate? He'd say, 'Delenda est cartaga'; 'Carthage must be destroyed.' His wish finally came true. The Romans reduced the place to rubble and came back twenty-five years later to build a great city on its ashes. I wish I could take you there on a dig one day, my boy."

A year later the professor had died of alcoholism, but Jeff had promised himself that one day he would go on a dig. Carthage, first, for the professor.

"Yes. I'm giving a dinner party tomorrow night. Would you like to come?"

She sat up in surprise. "What?"

They made love on the deck, where the soft tropical air caressed their bodies like a blessing. Afterward, they lay on their sides, facing each other. Jeff propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at Louise. "Your daddy's not the sheriff, is he?" Jeff asked.

"Yes. I'm giving a dinner party tomorrow night. Would you like to come?"

She sat up in surprise. "What?"

"Yes. I'm giving a dinner party tomorrow night. Would you like to come?"

And that was the way it began.

"Yes. I'm giving a dinner party tomorrow night. Would you like to come?"

"I don't believe it's any of your business, Miss Hollander, but the answer is no. What I am is choosy."

Louise Hollander had had two husbands before she was twenty-one, and her lawyer had just made a settlement with her third husband when she met Jeff. The second night they were moored at the harbor in Papeete, and as the passengers and crew were going ashore, Jeff received another summons to Louise Hollander's quarters. When Jeff arrived, she was dressed in a colorful silk pareu slit all the way up to the thigh.

"You're the first townie I ever made love to. Uncle Willie used to warn me that their daddies always turned out to be the sheriff."

And that was the way it began.

"You wanted to see me, ma'am?"

"Are you a homosexual, Jeff?"

"I don't believe it's any of your business, Miss Hollander, but the answer is no. What I am is choosy."

"I see. I'm working for you."

"Sometimes," Jeff said agreeably. "Was there anything else, Miss Hollander?"

"You wanted to see me, ma'am?"

They were together every night after that. At first Louise's friends were amused. He's another one of Louise's playthings, they thought. But when she informed them that she intended to marry Jeff, they were frantic.

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