Was it a step too far from stowaway to wife, even for a dancer?Julie's journey to become a dancer brings her to the attention of two men who will change her life, Cabbie Barker, an ambitious drug dealer, and Doug Parsloe, a ship's engineer on the Kooyonga and then the Dargo. An illegal voyage from Brisbane to Fremantle and back puts her in one man's debt and delivers her to the other.
Which one will win?
“They didn’t bunker in Port Kembla,” she appeared to be speaking more to herself than to him. “He wasn’t happy about it, even though it gave us more time together.” Her head nodded unconsciously.
“That explains a lot,” Les had his explanation. “You’re seeing him regularly then.”
“I was,” her pain put a quiver in her voice. “My trip on the Kooyonga has spoiled it.”
The girl served Julie’s coffee, giving Les time to digest the hint.
“Somebody threw it in your face,” he guessed. “If it was one of ours, I’ll crucify the bastard.”
“It wasn’t.” Les sensed she needed to talk, but didn’t know how to start.
“Oh,” he understood. “That complicates matters.”
Her smile was lop-sided now, but she didn’t reply, just sat there on the edge of tears.
“What did Doug say?” he coaxed.
“Said it wasn’t important, but he was angry enough to slap MacDonald’s face repeatedly.” Her hands were twisting, one within the other, in an outward sign of her distress.
“Yes, it was him.”
“Those two have a history,” Les found himself telling Julie about the confrontation in the saloon bar of the P&O hotel in Fremantle.
“That would be when he received her father’s letter,” Julie knew more than he did and Doug was unlikely to share his private life lightly. “MacDonald won’t let it go, will he?” She was looking at him intently, waiting for his answer.
“No.” He had to be honest.
The movement of her hands had stilled, and Les glanced at her ring finger. It was bare.
She must have seen his glance, for she fumbled in her purse and drew out a ring. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Left with no choice, Les nodded.
“I’ll have to give it back.” She wasn’t asking a question and Les had a sudden memory of Doug acting in the same manner. These two were like peas in a pod, meant for each other.
“He might have other ideas,” he warned, without hope that it would change anything.
“He probably will,” she agreed. “It won’t change anything though. I made the mistake, not him.”
“You did what you thought you had to do.” Les offered what comfort he could. He admired this young woman.
Julie drained the dregs of her coffee and stood up. “Thank you for the coffee and for listening,” she gestured at the Matador, her smile turned bitter. “Success always has its price.” She stepped clear of the chair and walked away.
Les watched her go, tall, graceful and beautiful, her pride holding her erect. She was a prize worth any price. He’d join the Dargo, even if he had to give the matter a little shove in the right direction.