Tess hadn't quite believed it, but what a difference even the hope of a long holidayhad made to those weeks she had languished in plaster. A holiday with Clare, of allpeople.5After her father's death, a little over a year ago, Tess had thought she would neversee her stepmother again. There hadn't been enmity between them, but neither had they been friends. Clarewas thirty-six now, fourteen years older than Tess. The distance between themhad not been quite enough, and in any case Clare's nature could never bematernal. She had married twice, the first time an immature young man who hadbored her and the second time James Carlen, who was much older but still notquite what Clare had wanted. During the past year Tess had wondered severaltimes how long that marriage would have lasted if her father hadn't died suddenlywhen it was three years old. Once or twice, when remembering his tired, good-humoured smile and feeling an ache of loss, she had reminded herself,consolingly, that at least he had had Clare right up to the end. He would neverknow that she had sold the house and was presumably squandering the proceedson high living on the Continent and elsewhere; or that Tess had had to find a roomand leave the library to take a job in the book department of a store that paidbetter.Had she misjudged Clare? It seemed so; the tone of both letters had beenaffectionate and full of goodwill. Clare was actually renting a little house, so shemust like Tangier and the people she knew there. Tess was looking forward tomeeting them herself. Eccentrics lived in those places, so she had been told, andsuch types were fascinating. Well, it was the ship's next port of call, the last for Tess.As usual, she had breakfast in her cabin and dressed after it. She was still too thin,she thought critically, surveying her figure in cream cotton with gay stripes aboutthe skirt. The smooth rounded cheeks had gone hollow and her collar-boneshowed, yet her appetite was pretty good. The doctor had said it was shock thathad thinned her down, that a gradual increase in exercise would help her fill out.She hoped he was right. She had always rather fancied herself as tall and serene-looking, but somehow she didn't even look tall, now. Elfin, rather, the dark brownhair with its wind-blown cut emphasising the effect. She looked closely into herhazel eyes. They hadn't changed, had they? How strange it was for Tess Carlen,who knew her book department from end to6end and handled the most difficult customers with poise and carefully acquiredcharm, to have become so uncertain of herself! She really did need a holiday. The steward knocked and came in for the tray. He also brought a message.'Captain would like to see you, miss. In his cabin, if you don't mind.''Now?''Yes, miss.''Only me, or other passengers, too?''Only you, I think. He said at your convenience within the next hour, but I'd gosoon if I was you. Old boy's worried.' 'What about?' 'This woman who's missing.She just scarpered in Lisbon—that was what made us late leaving. We're not a proper passenger boat, see—haven't got the set-up to deal with this kind of lark.''I seem awfully out of touch—been resting too much. I do know the otherpassengers, though. Which woman is missing?'