Near the end of the afternoon, Rich and Ramona motored in the dinghy back to The Odyssey. They brought with them a basket of mixed fruits and vegetables.
The sun sat below the hills to the west of the cove. There was hardly a ripple on the water. The air was motionless and comfortable.
“How many days from here to Reao?” Ramona said.
“It will be a week or more,” Rich said, “1100 miles.”
“For some reason that does not seem so long,” Ramona said.
“It’s the tropics,” Rich smiled, “it’s finally taken you over. It seems like once you get away from the automobile and telephone, time becomes less important. It makes one wonder what is man’s natural state? These islands kind of tell you.”
“What will you do after taking me to Reao? Ramona said.
“I’ll stay for a few days,” Rich said. “If you want to go back to New Zealand, I’ll take you there personally or see that you get there somehow. I don’t want you to look on Reao as a prison.”
“Do you think I will?” Ramona said.
“No,” Rich said, “but you might feel that way. Neither of us can be sure. Believe me, though, you will be among people who will love you.”
“You know my father well?” Ramona said.
“Not long, but well,” Rich said. “It was his wife who gave me the bag of pearls. She wanted me to give them to you and your mother. She wanted to be certain you were taken care of.”
“She didn’t have to do that,” Ramona said. “She doesn’t even know me.”
“Knowing you are a part of Jean is all she needed to know,” Rich said.
“I cannot wait to see her and tell her personally how grateful I am,” Ramona said. “And I want to meet my father so badly.”
“You have a whole family waiting for you,” Rich said. “They will teach you the islands in no time.”
“Why are you doing this?” Ramona said. “To Americans time is money. Have the ways of the island gotten to you also?”
“It was an impulse,” Rich said. “It seemed like the natural thing to do. It came in an instant; there was no love or future there for me, but I knew love was waiting for you in Reao. If I didn’t do something, I’m afraid it would have plagued me the rest of my life; if I had the ability and time and didn’t.”
“What is in it for you?” Ramona said. “I mean deep inside.”
“I’m not sure there is anything in it for me,” Rich said. “I had little time to do a cost/benefit analysis. If I did, I’m sure a way could have been figured out not to do it. Think about it, saving a girl from a deplorable situation and uniting a daughter with her father, how do you fix a price on that? I wonder what kind of world this might be if every action was out of principle and love only? The kingdom of God”
“That is true,” Ramona approved smiling. “You remembered, let your kingdom come and your will be done. When we do God’s will it is only out of principle.”
“And a good conscience,” Rich said.
“What will you do after you leave Reao?” Ramona said. “I confess, I will worry and wonder.”
“That’s very sweet of you,” Rich said, “but you should never worry or wonder about me.”
“How can I not?” Ramona said. “You will always be a link in my life.”
“That is well put,” Rich said. “And I will never forget you. I will not worry, but I will wonder.”
“We should stay in contact,” Ramona said.
“It will be difficult,” Rich said.
“A man who can come up with a plan how to get a girl from Auckland to Reao will figure out a way to get a message from anywhere to Reao,” Ramona said.
Rich smiled. “Ramona, you must have created a good world in your mind far different from the one you were living.”
“How do you know that?” Ramona said.
“Because you don’t even have a shred of longing for Auckland,” Rich said. “You are not regretting this trip in the least, furthermore I don’t think you ever existed in Auckland, you were always a part of God’s Kingdom.”
“And so to you,” Ramona said.
“Dennis is a friend from Maine who now lives in Australia,” Rich said. “I miss him. Missing someone is the finest tribute to pay another. Before I tell you about him, I confess, I will miss you.”