“You’re immoral, Wemedge. You’re disgustingly immoral.”
“No, I’m not. I’m honest.” Then, lying with his eyes shut, he said, “Don’t bother me. I’m thinking about her.”
He lay there thinking of his mermaid while Kate’s insteps pressed against his back and she and Odgar talked.
Odgar and Kate talked but he did not hear them. He lay, no longer thinking, quite happy.
Bill and the Ghee had come out of the water farther down the shore, walked down the beach to the car and then backed it out onto the dock. Nick stood up and put on his clothes. Bill and the Ghee were in the front seat, tired from the long swim. Nick got in behind with Kate and Odgar. They leaned back. Bill drove roaring up the hill and turned onto the main road. On the main highway Nick could see the lights of other cars up ahead, going out of sight, then blinding as they mounted a hill, blinking as they came near, then dimmed as Bill passed. The road was high along the shore of the lake. Big cars out from Charlevoix, rich slobs riding behind their chauffeurs, came up and passed, hogging the road and not dimming their lights. They passed like railway trains. Bill flashed the spotlight on cars alongside the road in the trees, making the occupants change their positions. Nobody passed Bill from behind, although a spotlight played on the back of their heads for some time until Bill drew away. Bill slowed, then turned abruptly into the sandy road that ran up through the orchard to the farmhouse. The car, in low gear, moved steadily up through the orchard. Kate put her lips to Nick’s ear.
“In about an hour, Wemedge,” she said. Nick pressed his thigh hard against hers. The car circled at the top of the hill above the orchard and stopped in front of the house.
“Aunty’s asleep. We’ve got to be quiet,” Kate said.
“Good night, men,” Bill whispered. “We’ll stop by in the morning.”
“Good night, Smith,” whispered the Ghee. “Good night, Butstein.”
“Good night, Ghee,” Kate said.
Odgar was staying at the house.
“Good night, men,” Nick said. “See you, Morgen.”
“Night, Wemedge,” Odgar said from the porch.
Nick and the Ghee walked down the road into the orchard. Nick reached up and took an apple from one of the Duchess trees. It was still green but he sucked the acid juice from the bite and spat out the pulp.
“You and the Bird took a long swim, Ghee,” he said.
“Not so long, Wemedge,” the Ghee answered.
They came out from the orchard past the mailbox onto the hard state highway. There was a cold mist in the hollow where the road crossed the creek. Nick stopped on the bridge.
“Come on, Wemedge,” the Ghee said.
“All right,” Nick agreed.
They went on up the hill to where the road turned into the grove of trees around the church. There were no lights in any of the houses they passed. Hortons Bay was asleep. No motor cars had passed them.
“I don’t feel like turning in yet,” Nick said.
“Want me to walk with you?”
“No, Ghee. Don’t bother.”
“I’ll walk up as far as the cottage with you,” Nick said. They unhooked the screen door and went into the kitchen. Nick opened the meat safe and looked around.
“Want some of this, Ghee?” he said.
“I want a piece of pie,” the Ghee said.
“So do I,” Nick said. He wrapped up some fried chicken and two pieces of cherry pie in oiled paper from the top of the icebox.
“I’ll take this with me,” he said. The Ghee washed down his pie with a dipper full of water from the bucket.
“If you want anything to read, Ghee, get it out of my room,” Nick said. The Ghee had been looking at the lunch Nick had wrapped up.
“Don’t be a damn fool, Wemedge,” he said.
“That’s all right, Ghee.”
“All right. Only don’t be a damn fool,” the Ghee said. He opened the screen door and went out across the grass to the cottage. Nick turned off the light and went out, hooking the screen door shut. He had the lunch wrapped up in a newspaper and crossed the wet grass, climbed the fence and went up the road through the town under the big elm trees, past the last cluster of R.F.D. mailboxes at the crossroads and out onto the Charlevoix highway. After crossing the creek he cut across a field, skirted the edge of the orchard, keeping to the edge of the clearing, and climbed the rail fence into the wood lot. In the center of the wood lot four hemlock trees grew close together. The ground was soft with pine needles and there was no dew. The wood lot had never been cut over and the forest floor was dry and warm without underbrush. Nick put the package of lunch by the base of one of the hemlocks and lay down to wait. He saw Kate coming through the trees in the dark but did not move. She did not see him and stood a moment, holding the two blankets in her arms. In the dark it looked like some enormous pregnancy. Nick was shocked. Then it was funny.