And the operator looked up Winter in the passenger list and put the message in an envelope and sent it down to a cabin on A deck, the deck below Bond and the girl, where two men were playing gin-rummy in their shirt-sleeves, and as the steward left the cabin he heard the fat man say cryptically to the man with white hair, “Whaddya know, Booful! It’s twenty Grand for a rub these days, Boy-oh-boy!”

It was not until the third day out that Bond and Tiffany made a date to meet for cocktails in the Observation Lounge and later to have dinner in the Veranda Grill. At midday the weather was dead calm, and after lunch in his cabin Bond had got a peremptory message in a round girlish hand on a sheet of the ship’s writing paper. It said, ‘Fix a rendez-me today. Fail not,’ and Bond’s hand had gone at once to the telephone.

They were thirsty for each other’s company after the three days’ separation, but Tiffany’s defences were up when she joined him at the obscure corner table he had chosen in the gleaming semi-circular cocktail bar in the bows.

“What kind of a table’s this?” she inquired sarcastically. “You ashamed of me or something? Here I put on the best those Hollywood pansies can dream up and you hide me away like I was

Miss Rheingold 1914.1 want to have myself some fun on this old paddleboat and you put me in a corner as if I was catching.”

“That’s about it,”, said Bond. “All you want to do is put the other men’s temperatures up.”

“What d’you expect a girl to do on the Queen Elizabeth? Fish?”

• Bond laughed. He signalled to the waiter and ordered Vodka dry Martinis with lemon peel. “I could give you one alternative.”

“Dear Diary,” said the girl, “having wonderful time with handsome Englishman. Trouble is, he’s after my family jewels. What do I do? Yours truly, puzzled.” Then suddenly she leant over and put her hand on his. “Listen, you Bond person,” she said. “I’m as happy as a cricket. I love being here. I love being with you. And I love this nice dark table where no one can see me holding your hand. Don’t mind my talk. I just can’t get over being so happy. Don’t mind my silly jokes, will you?”

She was wearing a heavy cream Shantung silk shirt and a charcoal skirt in a cotton-and-wool mixture. The neutral colours showed off her café-au-lait sunburn. The small square Carder watch with the black strap was her only jewellery and the short fingernails on the small brown hand that lay over his were un-painted.. The reflected sunlight from outside shone on the pale gold heavy falling swerve of her hair, in the depths of the chatoyant grey eyes, and on the glint of white teeth between the luxurious lips dial were half open with her question.

“No,” said Bond. “No, I won’t mind, Tiffany. Everything about you’s fine.”

She looked into his eyes and was satisfied. The drinks came and she withdrew her hand and observed him quizzically over the rim of her glass.

“Now tell me a few things,” she said. “First of all, what do you do and who are you working for? At the beginning, in the hotel, I thought you were a crook. But somehow as soon as you had gone out the door I knew you weren’t. Guess I should have warned ABC and we’d have avoided a lot of fuss. But I just, didn’t. Come on, James. Start giving.”

“I work for the Government,” said Bond. “They want to stop this diamond smuggling.”

“Sort of secret agent?”

“Just a Civil Servant.”

“Okay. So what are you going to do with me when we get to London? Lock me up?”

“Yes. In the spare room of my flat.”

“That’s better. Shall I become a subject of the Queen like you? I’d rather like to be a subject person.”

“I expect we could fix that.”

“Are you married?” She paused. “Or anything?”

“No. I occasionally have affairs.”

“So you’re one of those old-fashioned men who like sleeping with women. Why haven’t you ever married?”

“I expect because I think I can handle life better on my own. Most marriages don’t add two people together. They subtract one from the other.”

Tiffany Case thought this over. “Maybe there’s something in that,” she said finally. “But it depends what you want to add up to. Something human or something inhuman. You can’t be complete by yourself.”

“What about you?”

The girl hadn’t wanted the question. “Maybe I just settled for the inhuman,” she said shortly. “And who in hell do you think I should have married? Shady Tree?”

“There must have been lots of others.”

“Well, there weren’t,” she said angrily. “Maybe you think I shouldn’t have mixed with these people. Well, I guess I just got off on the wrong step.” The flare of anger died and she looked at him defensively. “It does happen to people, James. It really does. And sometimes it’s really not their fault.”

James Bond put out his hand and held hers tightly. “I know, Tiffany,” he said. “Felix told me a bit about things. That’s why I haven’t asked any questions. Just don’t think about it. It’s here and today now. Not yesterday.” He changed the subject. “Now you give me some facts. For instance, why are you called Tiffany and what’s it like being a dealer at the Tiara? How the hell did you come to be so good? It was brilliant the way you handled those cards. If you can do that you can do anything.”

“Thanks, pal,” said the girl ironically. “Like what? Playing the boats? And the reason I got called Tiffany is because when I was born, dear father Case was so sore I wasn’t a boy he gave my mother a thousand bucks and a powder case from Tiffany’s and walked out. Joined the Marines. In the end he got killed at Iwo Jima. So my mother just called me Tiffany Case and set about earning a living for us both. Started with a string of call-girls and then got more ambitious. Maybe that doesn’t sound so good to you?” She looked at him half defensively and half pleadingly.

“Doesn’t worry me,” said Bond dryly. “You weren’t one of the girls.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Then the place got busted by the gangs.” She paused and drank the rest of her Martini. “And I lit out on my own. The usual jobs a girl takes. Then I found my way to Reno. They’ve got a School of Dealing there and I signed on and worked like hell at it. Took the full course. Majored in craps, roulette and blackjack. You can earn good money dealing. Two hundred a week. The men like to have girls dealing, and it gives the women confidence. They think you’ll be kind to them. Sisters under the skin kind of. The men dealers frighten them. But don’t get the idea it’s fun. It reads better than it lives.”

She paused and smiled up at him. “Now it’s your turn again,” she said. “Buy me another drink and then tell me what sort of a woman you think would add to you.”

Bond gave his order to the steward. He lit a cigarette and turned back to her. “Somebody who can make Sauce Béarnaise as well as love,” he said.

“Holy mackerel! Just any old dumb hag who can cook and lie on her back?”

“Oh, no. She’s got to have all the usual things that all women have.” Bond examined her. “Gold hair. Grey eyes. A sinful mouth. Perfect figure. And of course she’s got to make lots of funny jokes and know how to dress and play cards and so forth. The usual things.”

“And you’d marry this person if you found her?”

“Not necessarily,” said Bond. “Matter of fact I’m almost married already. To a man. Name begins with M. I’d have to divorce him before I tried marrying a woman. And I’m not sure I’d want that. She’d get me handing round canapés in an L-shaped drawing-room. And there’d be all those ghastly ‘Yes, you did-no I didn’t’ rows that seem to go with marriage. It wouldn’t last. I’d get claustrophobia and run out on her. Get myself sent to Japan or somewhere.”

“What about children?”

“Like to have some,” said Bond shortly. “But only when I retire. Not fair on the children otherwise. My job’s not all that secure.” He looked into his drink and swallowed it down. “And what about you, Tiffany?” he said to change the subject.

“I guess every girl would like to come home and find a hat on the hall table,” said Tiffany moodily. “Trouble is I’ve never found the right sort of thing growing under the hat. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough or in the right places. You know how it is when you get in a groove. You get so that you’re quite glad not to look over the edges. In that way I’ve had it good with the Spangs, Always knew where the next meal was coming from. Put some money by. But a girl can’t have friends in that company. You either put up a notice saying ‘No Entry’ or you’re apt to pick up a bad case of round heels. But I guess I’m fed up with being on my own. You know what the chorines say on Broadway? ‘It’s a lonesome wash without a man’s shirt in it’.”

Bond laughed. “Well, you’re out of the groove now,” he said. He looked at her quizzically. “But what about Mister Seraffimo? Those two bedrooms on the Pullman and the champagne supper laid for two…”

Before he could finish, her eyes blazed briefly and she stood up from the table and walked straight out of the bar.

Bond cursed himself. He put some money down on the bill and hurried after her. He caught up with her half way down the Promenade Deck. “Now listen, Tiffany,” he began.

She turned brusquely round and faced him. “How mean can you be?” she said and angry tears glistened on her eyelashes. “Why do you have to spoil everything with an abrasive remark like that? Oh, James,” forlornly she turned to the windows, searching for a handkerchief in her bag. She dabbed her eyes. “You just don’t understand.”

Bond put an arm round her and held her to him. “My darling.” He knew that nothing but the great step of physical love would cure these misunderstandings, but that words and time still had to be wasted. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just wanted to know for certain. That was a bad night on the train and that supper-table hurt me much more than what happened later. I had to ask you.”

She looked up at him doubtfully. “You mean that?” she said searching his face. “You mean you liked me already?”

“Don’t be a goose,” said Bond impatiently. “Don’t you know anything about anything?”

She turned away from him and looked out of the window at the endless blue sea and at the handful of dipping gulls that were keeping company with their wonderfully prodigal ship. After a while she said: “You ever read Alice in Wonderland?”

“Years ago,” said Bond, surprised. “Why?”

“There’s a line there I often think of,” she said. “It says, ‘Oh, Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool of tears? I am very tired of swimming about here, oh Mouse.’ Remember? Well, I thought you were going to tell me the way out. Instead of that you ducked me in the pool. That’s why I got upset.” She glanced up at him. “But I guess you didn’t mean to hurt.” Copyright 2016 - 2024