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THE COUPLE / Josephine Jacobsen ITWAS MRS. Artworth who first referred to them as The Couple, ehe and Mrs. Lupin were on the Point, and they watched the pair climbing up from the Shell Beach — the man in front, his head bent a little forward by the climb, the child behind him, lugging a string bag. "More like a couple than father and daughter," Mrs. Artworth said to Mrs. Lupin admiringly. "It's wonderful, really." "Y-yes," said Mrs. Lupin. "But shouldn't she have her holiday with other children?" "Well," said Mrs. Artworth, "I expect she has other children up to her ears. And she's very self-reliant. I wonder about the mother, don't you? Dead? Divorced?" "I don't see how one can find out, if neither of them says," said Mrs. Lupin firmly. She raised her voice. "Any interesting shells, Major Drayton?" Now over the crest, Major Drayton smiled at them. "They interest Melissa," he said. Melissa emptied her results carefully on the parched grass. "They're all chipped," she said. "Everysingle one. Except this one." It was a cowrie, with its sea colors still strong. Even in their wet strips of cloth, the Draytons managed to look put-together; Melissa's two bands of faded blue were just the color of the Major's brief trunks. Mrs. Lupin, who after all saw people steadily come and go, thought she had never seen a pair socomposed. The Major's sneakers were always white; at dinner his shoes caught the candlelight. Melissa's sun-streaked hair shone smooth as taffy. In the evening, Melissa regularly wore a small gold brooch — a circle, with a chip of turquoise for an eye — that she never pinned on her dress at any earlier hour. "Are you too wet to play Scrabble? Or do you want to take your shells down first?" her father asked her. They went off to the little game room under the mango tree. "You know, actually, I would think he would be the one hampered," said Mrs. Lupin. "Though she's a charmer." Behind them, Miss Groat had suddenly arrived. Already she was dressed for dinner: bangles swung from her wrist and her eyelashes had appeared. "I don't think it's natural," she said, as though continuing a conversation. "Each of them ought to be with someone their own age." 58 ¦ The Missouri Review Miss Groathadbeen, at first, much taken with the Major. When his taxi driver, bringing him down from the golf course, had been unable — or unwilling, thought Miss Groat— to make change, Miss Groat, carefully passing, had breached her beaded purse for a rumpledE. C. five dollarbill. But, friendly, courteous, theMajorhad already made clear a policy of non-alignment. Furthermore, he had completely forgotten Miss Groat's gesture. Really, after the first day or so, they sawverylittle ofhim, except for his blond head turned toward Melissa's blond head at their small dinner table. The guests had breakfasts on their respective balconies . Lunch was sandwiches at the little bar, but after the first week, when the mini-moke, followed by the sun-fish, arrived, a sort ofpattern emerged. Golfin the morning; a picnic lunch, somewhere off in the mini-moke with Melissa; and afternoons on the sun-fish, with Scrabble after dinner. Miss Groat, to whom Mrs. Lupin felt she had tolisten, since she was a guest of long-standing, thought it was a horrible holiday for an eleven-year-old child. But to Mrs. Lupin's experienced eye, Melissa seemed perfectly content. "She has asthma!" Miss Groat triumphantly discovered. "She told me so herself. He has to travel with a croup kettle." "That's really an allergy, you know," said Mrs. Lupin. "Well, all I can say," said Miss Groat mendaciously, her mind reverting to her E. C. five dollars, "is that a man who is careless in a small thing. . ." ". . .Will be careless in a large thing," interrupted Mrs. Lupin amicably. "I really haven't found that true. And the Bronsons," she added, rather unkindly, in view of seasons past, "don't take up people right and left." Melissa's days at The Plumbago moved as easily as the soft...


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