Thirteen-year-old Simon Renier has no idea when he boards the M.S. Orion with his cousin Forsyth Phair that their journey to Venezuela will be a dangerous one. His original plan―to return a family heirloom, a portrait of Simon Bolivar, to its rightful place―is sidetracked when cousin Forsyth is found murdered. When the portrait is stolen, all passengers and crew are suspects. Simon's newfound friends, Poly and Charles O'Keefe, and their scientist father help Simon try to find his painting, and his cousin's murderer. But will they succeed before they land? Or will the murderer and thief escape into the jungles of Venezuela?
Release date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Print pages: 304
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Dragons in the Waters
THE FORK LIFT
The M.S. Orion was tied up at Savannah, Georgia.
Simon Renier, hands in the pockets of his old-fashioned grey shorts, looked at the small white ship with mounting excitement. He would be spending the next week on the Orion en route to Venezuela and already, standing on the pier in Savannah, he was farther away from home than he had ever been in his thirteen years.
It was chill this February day, with a thin rain and a biting wind. In a more sheltered part of the dock stood his cousin, Forsyth Phair, with whom he would be traveling, and his great-aunt Leonis Phair, with whom he lived, and who had come with them on the train from Charleston to see them off. Simon looked at the two of them standing under the shelter of the shed and their umbrellas and thought that if he were traveling with Aunt Leonis instead of Cousin Forsyth he would be perfectly happy.
Aunt Leonis was comfort and all-rightness in a precarious world; Cousin Forsyth he had known for barely a month, and while the distinguished-looking middle-aged man was courteous and pleasant he was not outgoing and to Simon he was still a stranger. He lookeddamp and uncomfortable with the rain dripping off his large black umbrella, and the collar to his dark raincoat turned up. Even the corners of his waxed moustache seemed to droop. The old woman, on the other hand, stood straight as an arrow, unperturbed by the downpour.
"Can't you come, too?" Simon had begged her.
"I'm too tired, child," the old woman had said. "At ninety I've earned the right to my rocking chair and my books. Besides, I have to stay home and take care of Boz." The old dog in pointer years was almost as old as Aunt Leonis. His proud skeleton showed under the still-glossy liver-spotted body, and Simon felt a tightening of his stomach muscles as he realized that the old hound might not be there when he returned.
He turned his face into the rain and moved farther away from Aunt Leonis and Cousin Forsyth, past the gangplank of the Orion, and on down the dock. All around him was activity, the tall yellow arms of the Orion swinging sacks of seed and grain and rice up onto the ship, to be stored in the hold. Simon watched in fascination as a large station wagon was carefully hoisted up from the dock, swung loose for a moment high in the air, then was lowered gently onto the foredeck.
On the aft deck stood the passengers who had already embarked at Brooklyn or Baltimore, eagerly watching the business of loading the freighter. A few of them waved at him, and he waved shyly back. Then he turned to watch the orange fork lifts buzzing rapidly up and down the dock, the two long tines of their forks fitting neatly into the small wooden platforms onto which bags and bales were piled. Great yellow arms swung out from the Orion, dropping heavy ropes which were looped around sacks and platform; the crane raised its burden to the ship's foredeck, and the highly mobile fork lift darted away, moving far more easily than an ordinary tractor,turning on a dime to reach for another load. The sailor managing the long-angled pincers from his glassed-in cab high up on the Orion swung the bags and sacks with easy accuracy. Everywhere was bustle, and men's shouting, and the smell of wet wood and the salt wind from the sea. Simon would be almost sorry when they boarded, so fascinating was the loading procedure.
He jumped as he heard a horn, and a Land Rover drove onto the dock, full of children who kept piling out, like clowns out of a car at the circus. Simon found it difficult to keep count, but it appeared to be a mother and father and seven children. After considerable shouting and laughing, the two older children, a girl and a boy, sorted themselves out, managed to get two battered suitcases from the Land Rover, and came to stand not far from Simon. The mother urged the younger children back into the car, out of the rain, and the father, rain dripping off his cap, stood leaning in the window, talking to the mother.
The girl, banging her old suitcase against her knees, dropped it by the gangplank and came on down the dock toward Simon. Her brother followed. She was, Simon guessed, maybe a year older than he was, maybe fourteen, and probably would resent being called a child. The boy looked younger, although he was as tall as Simon, who guessed him to be no more than twelve. Both brother and sister wore yellow slickers and sou'westers, and were considerably drier than Simon, whose fair hair was slicked wetly to his head.
"Hello," the girl said. "Are you going on the Orion?" Her accent was not quite foreign, but it was certainly more precise than the soft Southern speech Simon was accustomed to hearing.
"Yes'm. Are you?"
"Yes. At least, Charles and Daddy and I are." She smiled, a swift spreading of sunlight over her face. "Hownice to have someone our age. Daddy warned us that freighter passengers tend to be ancient. I'm Poly O'Keefe, pronounced Polly but spelled with one /. I'm fourteen. And this is my brother, Charles. He's twelve."
So he had been right. "I'm Simon Renier, and I'm thirteen."
Again Poly smiled, a shaft of light lifting the drab day. "You're not traveling alone, are you?"
He indicated the man and the old woman. Suddenly Cousin Forsyth stepped forward as one of the fork lifts picked up a large flat wooden crate. He watched anxiously as ropes from the Orion were looped around it. "Be very careful," he fussed. "It's extremely valuable. It contains an irreplaceable portrait."
The dock hands nodded indifferently as they went about their business. The fork lift backed away from the crate, which was then lifted up in the air and hung swinging between the ship and the dock.
"What's in there?" Poly asked Simon. "Your father looks as though he's about to have a heart attack." The horn of the Land Rover tooted before Simon could answer or correct her. "We have to say goodbye!" Poly cried. "We'll be back in a minute, Simon!" and she and Charles ran across the dock, dodging loading trucks and fork lifts.
Simon watched rather wistfully while there was a tangle of hugging and kissing goodbye. Then he looked up at the Orion just in time to see the great crate with the portrait being safely lowered onto the deck, and Cousin Forsyth mopping his forehead with his handkerchief as though it were hot.
Aunt Leonis was still standing in the shelter of the shed and her small, not very waterproof umbrella. Simon ran over to her, skidding on the wet boards. "Where's Cousin Forsyth going?"
"He's off to make sure the portrait isn't going to getbanged or crushed. I certainly can't complain about his care of it. He's overzealous, if anything." She put her gnarled old hand on his head. "You're soaking, Simon!"
"You'll be boarding in a minute or two. You're old enough to take care of yourself without me, aren't you?"
"And don't let Forsyth overprotect you. He can keep that for the portrait. I want you to have some fun."
He leaned lightly against her. "I'll miss you."
"It's time you got out of the nest, child. A nonagenarian is hardly a fit companion for a boy. I'm glad there are other young persons on board."
"I'm going now, Simon. I have a train to catch." She was still taller than he was. She bent down, and he kissed her softly on each cheek. For a brief moment she held him to her. Then she stood upright and gave him a little shove. "Run along, now."
Tears filled his eyes. He did not want her to see. Moving in a blur of tears and rain, he crossed the dock. He paused at the gangplank but the tears would not be held back. Poly and Charles had said their goodbyes and were hurrying along the dock toward him.
No one must see him cry.
He moved on past the gangplank, past the stern of the Orion, on to the very end of the dark, slippery dock. He did not see the fork lift, out of control, hurtling toward him.
Someone on deck screamed.
He felt a shove, and then both he and Poly O'Keefe were in the water.
The fork lift ground to a screeching halt, barely avoiding crashing off the dock after them.
The water was icy cold. Their clothes dragged them down.
From the deck of the Orion round orange life preservers were thrown into the water for them, but both Simon and Poly had managed to grab on to the pilings of the dock and were clinging to them safely. Dock hands pulled them up out of the chilling water, and they stood dank and dripping in the February rain.
The driver of the fork lift kept explaining that his accelerator had stuck.
The shivering boy and girl were surrounded by the entire O'Keefe family, by sailors and dock hands. Aunt Leonis used her umbrella to get through the mob to Simon. Through chattering teeth he said, "I'm all right, Aunt Leonis. Please don't miss your train."
The old woman turned her sharp eyes on Poly. "I saw. You saved him. If you hadn't thrown yourself at him and got him out of the path of the fork lift he'd be--" She looked at the vicious prongs of the fork lift and did not finish her sentence. She turned to the father of the family. "You will watch out for him, sir? I am gravely concerned."
Dr. O'Keefe replied, "Of course I'll keep an eye out for him. But I don't think you need worry. It was only an unfortunate accident."
Aunt Leonis looked at him sharply, but all she said was, "Where is Forsyth? If he's going to worry about the portrait to the exclusion of the boy--"
The captain of the ship came running down the gangplank, followed by a youngish man with officer's bars on his dark sleeve. "I am Captain van Leyden, and this is my first officer, Mynheer Boon."
Mynheer Boon smiled and draped heavy blankets over Poly and Simon.
Van Leyden said, "Boon will get the children aboard and help them. Order hot tea, too, please, Boon."
Simon held out his hand. "Goodbye, Aunt Leonis."His voice faltered slightly. He hoped that this would be attributed to the cold.
Aunt Leonis shook his hand formally. Then she said to Dr. O'Keefe, "I do not think that I am being just a foolish old woman." To Poly she said, "I am much obliged to you, Miss--"
"Poly O'Keefe. It wasn't anything."
Aunt Leonis said, "It was."
To Simon's surprise Charles O'Keefe looked directly at the old woman and replied, "Yes. It was."
Miss Leonis's old eyes were clouded with more than age as she watched Simon's dripping, blanket-covered form trudge damply up the gangplank. Poly O'Keefe and her brother and father were ahead of Simon; Forsyth Phair, who had emerged from the ship just in time for farewells, was behind, fussing over Simon in much the same nervous way he had fussed over the portrait. It was apparent that the boy was being taken care of. The nice Dutch officer would see to it that he got hot tea and changed to dry clothes. There was nothing more she could do. She walked slowly along the dark, wet boards of the dock.
Mrs. O'Keefe was trying to herd her excited younger children into the Land Rover. She saw the old woman struggling along, wind tugging at her ancient umbrella. "Is there anywhere I can drop you? A Land Rover's not the most comfortable vehicle in the world, but at least you'll be out of the rain."
Miss Leonis looked at the younger woman, and at the children, who had stopped their chattering and were staring. "Thank you. I should be much obliged if you'd take me to the railroad station. I think I may not have missed my train."
"Sandy, Dennys, help Mrs.--" She paused.
"Phair. Miss Leonis Phair. I can manage quite nicely myself, thank you just the same, young gentlemen." With the help of her now-furled umbrella she pulled herself briskly onto the high seat of the Land Rover.
Mrs. O'Keefe asked, "Can we drive you any farther than the station?"
"Thank you, no. I am taking the train to Charleston."
Mrs. O'Keefe turned around in the car and looked back at her children, then smiled at the old woman. "What with all the excitement at the dock I think it very likely that you've missed your train, and I've been promising the children a visit to Charleston for ages. We'd be delighted to drive you there. Now that my husband has gone off for a month with Poly and Charles, surely everybody else deserves a special treat."
There was a loud noise of agreement.
Miss Leonis looked at Mrs. O'Keefe, who was now smiling serenely. "I am much obliged to you. You are very kind."
"Not at all. It's you who've given us the opportunity for sightseeing, and the weather report promised sun late this afternoon, and the rain's beginning to slacken off already. Do you live right in Charleston?"
"Out in the backwoods." The old woman's next words seemed to be audible thinking, rather than conversation. "I hope I have made the right decision. It is not normal for a young boy to live all alone with an old woman." Then she pulled herself together and spoke briskly, "I would be delighted to give you a conducted tour of Charleston, and then perhaps you will drop me off on your way home--you do live north of Savannah?"
"Yes. Benne Seed Island."
Leonis Phair turned around and stared solemnly at the children. "I hope you young ones have stamina. You may find me difficult to keep up with." There was stifledgiggling as she asked Mrs. O'Keefe, "Your husband will keep an eye on Simon?"
Mrs. O'Keefe turned the car away from the dock area and onto the highway. "Of course he will. He's used to having a mob of children to keep track of."
"It will make me easier in my mind. Simon has never been away from home before. And that was not a propitious beginning."
Mrs. O'Keefe said lightly, "If he and Poly needed an introduction, that was sure-fire. They're probably the best of friends by now."
Miss Leonis was silent for the next mile. Her gnarled hands held the umbrella handle, and she tapped the steel tip thoughtfully on the floorboards. Then she spoke quietly. "Your daughter saved Simon's life. I shall not forget that."
On the M.S. Orion, Simon and Poly in their separate cabins were changing out of their soaking clothes. Simon, alone in the double cabin he was to share with Cousin Forsyth, wondered if Dr. O'Keefe or Charles was helping Poly.
Forsyth Phair had said, "Take a good hot shower, Simon, and wash your hair. That water by the dock in which you chose to swim can hardly have been very clean."
Simon did not reply that the swim had not been of his own choosing.
"And dress in warm clothes. I don't want you coming down with a cold right at the beginning of the trip. I am very susceptible to colds."
"I must go tend to the portrait now. One of the boards on the crate came loose as it was being loaded. Captain van Leyden says that since cabin 5 on the port side of theship is unoccupied until Caracas, the portrait can be stored there. I certainly wouldn't trust it with the rest of the cargo." And off he fussed.
Simon stood for a long time under the hot shower, not so much to wash off the oily waters as for comfort. The noise of loading and unloading continued outside his portholes; the ship was still safely berthed in Savannah but he felt very far from home. What had seemed like a great adventure only a few hours ago now gave him a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach and an ache around his heart.
He wanted Aunt Leonis.
Not that Cousin Forsyth wasn't kind. But Simon found it odd that it was the middle-aged bachelor who had suggested that the boy accompany him on this voyage.
He got out of the shower, dried, and put on his seersucker bathrobe. Cousin Forsyth had said, 'There's no point in packing winter things. After the first or second day at sea it's going to be summer.'
Simon shivered. His soaking blazer was the warmest thing he had. "Come in," he called to a tap on the door.
It opened to a young man, barely out of boyhood, with dark hair and eyes, who was wearing a white coat. He bore a small tray with a pot of steaming tea, and some buttered rusks with Gouda cheese.
Simon smiled his thanks and asked the young man's name.
"Geraldo Enrique Armando José Ramírez. I am the assistant steward, at your service. You are Sim6n Renier?"
"Simon Bolivar Quentin Phair Renier. We have the same number of names. I pronounce Simon the English way instead of the Spanish way."
Geraldo poured tea for Simon, put in lemon and sugar. "But you are named after the great General?"
"Yes," Simon said, and shivered.
Geraldo looked at the boy in his inadequate cotton robe. "You have nothing warmer?"
Simon pawed through his suitcase and pulled out a lightweight sleeveless pullover.
Geraldo shook his head. "That is not enough, and it will be tomorrow before I have your wet things cleaned and pressed." He sounded like an old man. "Drink your tea, please, while it is hot. I will return."
The steaming, lemony tea warmed Simon inside and out. He sipped and unpacked and ate the rusks and cheese and unpacked some more, taking care to leave most of the drawer and wardrobe space for Cousin Forsyth. He knew that Cousin Forsyth would have preferred a single cabin, but when they had booked passage the two single cabins on the Orion were already taken, one by Poly.
There was, however, plenty of room for two. The bunks were divided by a sizable chest of drawers, and Simon took the bottom drawer. Cousin Forsyth had already put his briefcase on the bunk on the inner wall, so Simon had the bunk under the two portholes. This would have been the bunk of his choosing, and he would not have felt free to take it if Cousin Forsyth had not established himself on the other.
The boy knelt on the bunk and peered through the glass. Cabin 3 was on the dock side of the ship. Sacks of grain were still being loaded deep in the hold. Sailors and dock hands shouted back and forth. Fork lifts skittered about like bugs, beetles with long sharp mandibles. He was not feeling very happy about fork lifts and he turned away. He took his small stack of paperback books out of the bottom of his suitcase and arranged them in a rack where they would be easy to reach from his bunk. Then he put out his face cloth, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
Over the two washbasins was a fan, for which therewas no present need. In the radiator the steam was clanking. By the side of each washbasin was a thermos flask in a holder; Simon uncorked his and peered in: ice water. He corked it again, sat down in one of the two small chairs, and poured himself another cup of tea. Then he heard a loud, deep honking: the ship seemed to shake from the vibration, and he realized that the Orion was indeed throbbing; the engines were being revved up; they were about to sail.
He knelt on his bunk again and looked out.
On the dock the longshoremen were unhooking the great ropes which held the Orion to the pier. Two dark-uniformed sailors pulled the gangplank aboard; two others leapt across the dark gap of water between dock and lower deck. Slowly the dock seemed to recede from the ship; the dark expanse of water dividing ship and land grew wider and wider. Sea gulls swooped about, calling in raucous excited voices. Deep within himself Simon felt an echoing response of excitement. He was at sea, on his way to Venezuela.
He began to whistle, softly, a minor, haunting melody, and then to sing,
I met her in Venezuela, A basket on her head . . .
He was still looking out and singing softly when Geraldo returned with a heavy navy-blue sweater and a fisherman's cap. "Mynheer Boon is lending you the sweater till it is warmer. The cap is for you to keep. You will need it to keep the sun off your nose as well as the rain off your head." He knelt on the bunk beside Simon, not much larger than the younger boy, and they looked at the activity on the dock becoming small and almost unreal as Savannah drifted farther and farther away.
In schoolboy Spanish, Simon tried to thank Geraldo,and was interrupted by a bang on the door and Poly's voice, "Here we are, Simon!" and she burst in, wearing a long plaid bathrobe which undoubtedly belonged to her father; her short, carroty hair stuck out in spikes from being rubbed dry. Charles, in jeans and a red turtleneck, followed her.
"All right if we come in?" he asked.
"Oh, please do come in," Simon welcomed them, indicating Geraldo. "Do you know--"
"Oh, yes, Geraldo brought me hot tea, too, like a Herald Angel--that's what Geraldo sounds like. I used to spell it with an H instead of a G." Then she burst into a stream of Spanish so fluent that Simon found it difficult to follow.
Geraldo spoke slowly and carefully to Simon. "You understand that Geraldo begins with a G, which is pronounced like an H in Spanish? And the other passengers are all having tea in the salon. Mr. Phair would like you please to join them as soon as you're dressed."
At Geraldo's grave courtesy, Poly flushed, the red beginning at her neck and moving up her face to her forehead. "I'm sorry, Simon. I didn't think."
Under his breath Charles said, "Don't show off ..."
Poly flung around as though to flash a reply to her brother, then stopped herself.
"It's okay," Simon assured her, "really, it's okay. And just as I was feeling smug about my Spanish, too. Teaches me how nonexistent it really is."
"We used to live in Portugal," Poly explained, "on Gaea, an island off the south coast. If you learn Portuguese, which is a stinker, it's easy to learn Spanish. Whereas it's most difficult for someone who speaks only Spanish to learn Portuguese, and--" She broke off. "Am I showing off again?"
Charles sat down on Cousin Forsyth's bunk. "It's second nature," he said, not unkindly. Then he bestowed asingularly sweet smile on his sister, on Simon and Geraldo, a slow blooming of pleasure quite different from Poly's flash of light. "Did you see us sail? Our cabins are starboard, so we almost missed it, what with you and Poly having been so suddenly in the soup."
Simon glanced at the porthole through which he had watched the land, rather than the ship, move slowly away. "It was exciting. I've never been away from home before. Even coming to Savannah was a journey for me."
"Where's home?" Poly asked.
"Charleston, South Carolina?"
Simon's surprised look said as clearly as words, 'Is there any other?' Then he indicated the sweater and cap. "From Geraldo. He's lending me Mynheer Boon's sweater and he's giving me the cap."
Poly spoke to Geraldo in Spanish, but this time it was slowly and carefully so that Simon would understand. "Geraldo, would you tell them, please, that Simon and I'll dress and be right along. And it's a lovely cap."
"I will tell them, Miss Poly." Then he referred to a slip of paper he pulled out of his pocket. "On the passenger list it says Pol--Polyhymnia."
"Poly, please, Geraldo."
Charles grinned. "Polyhymnia's a muse. The muse of sacred music."
Poly pulled the belt to her father's bathrobe tight in a determined gesture. "If any of you calls me anything but Poly there'll be--there'll be murder."
"Not at the beginning of the trip," Charles said.
Geraldo picked up Simon's tea tray. "I will tell them."
"What?" Charles asked. "That there'll be murder?"
"That you will shortly be in for tea."
"Okay." Poly followed Geraldo out, but turned at the door. "I won't be more than five minutes. Hurry, Simon."
Charles asked, "Shall I stay and talk?"
"Please. Please do." Simon took clean underclothes, navy-blue shorts, and a blue cotton shirt from his drawer and went into the shower to dress.
Charles reclined on Cousin Forsyth's bunk. "If you had all the brothers and sisters Poly and I have, you wouldn't have room for modesty. But you're an Only, aren't you?"
Simon compromised by leaving the bathroom door half open. "Yes."
"How come you and your father are taking this trip?"
"Not my father." Simon pulled on his shirt and emerged.
"I didn't think he seemed terribly fatherly. At least not like our father. I get the feeling he's not used to children."
"I don't think he is." Simon sat on the edge of his bunk and pulled on navy-blue knee socks.
Charles, his hands behind his head, looked up at the ceiling of the cabin. "How do you happen to be traveling with him, then?"
Simon pulled the heavy sweater over his head. The rough wool felt comforting. He pulled Geraldo's cap over his still damp hair. His shoes were with his other wet things, so he took a pair of worn sneakers from the bottom of the wardrobe. "Cousin Forsyth offered me the trip, and Aunt Leonis thought it would be good experience for me, since I'm a country bumpkin. I guess you've done a lot of traveling."
"Oh, some, but mostly we've lived on Gaea--the island; the younger kids were born there. Last year we came back to America and moved to Benne Seed Island, but most of us still think of Portugal as home."
Poly appeared in the doorway, now dressed in a plaid skirt and a burnished-orange sweater which just managed not to conflict with her hair. "Daddy's a marinebiologist, so islands are very good for his work. C'mon. Let's go brave the lions' den."
Charles rose from Cousin Forsyth's bunk and Simon smoothed the coverlet, almost as anxiously as Cousin Forsyth had supervised the loading of the crated portrait.
Poly helped him. "What would he do if he found Charles had sat on his bunk? Beat you or something?"
"No, oh no, he's very kind."
"It's okay." Charles glanced impatiently at the bunk. "You'd never know anybody'd even sat on it. Let's go. We're expected to meet everybody."
In the salon Geraldo was replacing one teapot with a fresh one. Poly led the way in; Charles slipped past her and sat on a sofa beside his father. Simon held back at the doorway, shyly looking at the people sitting on sofas and chairs around the tea table. Cousin Forsyth did not greet him; he seemed concentrated fully on the woman pouring tea, a dark, handsome woman, very Spanish-looking, though she turned out to have the incongruous name of Dr. Wordsworth. She and her traveling companion, Dr. Eisenstein, were professors on sabbatical leave from their university. Dr. Wordsworth taught Spanish--so she must be at least half Spanish, Simon thought.
Cousin Forsyth said, "It was indeed a pleasant surprise for me to find the lovely Inés Wordsworth on the Orion. We knew each other many years ago when we were both young in Caracas."
Dr. Wordsworth replied with distinct chilliness, "It was not that many years ago, and our acquaintance was slight. Very slight."
Cousin Forsyth raised his fine eyebrows, but made no comment, and Dr. Wordsworth went on to explain to the children that Dr. Eisenstein was an anthropologist, going to the Lago de los Dragones in Venezuela, to make what Dr. Wordsworth called an in-depth study of theQuiztano Indians who lived at the far end of the lake.
Poly said with interest, "We're getting off at Puerto de los Dragones, too, and going on to the lake. Daddy's been asked to--" She caught a warning look from her father and hurried on. "I think it's lovely having a town and a lake be places of dragons. I'm very interested in dragons. Of course, one always thinks of St. George and the dragon, and he's my favorite, but did you know that Margaret of Antioch had a dragon, too?" As always when she came close to blundering, she talked too much about something else. "Fork lifts look a little like dragons, don't you think?"
After a slight pause among the company, Cousin Forsyth said dryly, "I hadn't noticed the resemblance."
"Maybe they don't spout fire," Poly said stubbornly, "but they can be as dangerous as dragons. Right, Simon?"
Simon nodded, and continued to observe the passengers and listen to the conversation. He learned that afternoon tea was not usually served on the Orion; this tea party was an impromptu affair; some of the passengers, seeing Geraldo brewing tea for Simon and Poly, had suggested that tea in the salon would be a pleasant and informal way for new and old passengers to meet.
Dr. Wordsworth did not offer tea to the children but began to refill the adult passengers' cups. Simon looked at her hands, which had long, scarlet nails. They were not young hands, and the flashing rings and bright nail polish accented rather than minimized their age. Aunt Leonis did not wear nail polish, and though her nails were horny with age, Simon compared Dr. Wordsworth's hands unfavorably with the old woman's.
Dr. Eisenstein appealed more to Simon--a brown mouse of a woman, brown all over, suit, eyes, the shadows below the eyes; there was considerable brown remaining in the greying hair, which she wore braided ina thin crown on top of her head. Her smile was friendly, Simon thought, and did not exclude the children.
He turned his regard to the three other passengers, two old men and one old woman--all three probably considerably younger than Aunt Leonis, but nevertheless old. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were both plump and beaming; they were from New Hampshire and were en route to visit their granddaughter and great-grandchildren in Costa Rica, and were obviously thrilled at the prospect. Mrs. Smith was knitting a blue baby's bootee, and with her pink cheeks and curly white hair she looked like a magazine illustration of the perfect grandmother.
The last passenger bore the formidable name of Emmanuele Theotocopoulos, and Simon was relieved when they were told to call him Mr. Theo. If Dr. Eisenstein looked like a friendly field mouse, Mr. Theo was small and frail as a sparrow, but he emanated enormous vitality, and he had lively dark eyes and a mop of yellowed white hair which stood out in a thick ruff around his head; he looked, Simon decided, not in the least like a bird, but rather like an aging lion.
Cousin Forsyth's words caught his attention. " ... a portrait of Simon Bolivar which I am taking to Caracas as a gift to the Venezuelan government."
Simon's shyness was overcome by Cousin Forsyth's proprietary air about the painting. "The portrait has been in our family always. It is the greatest portrait ever painted of the General--and I'm
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