I appreciated Davy as a man, as a humanitarian, as one who knew his fellow men and women. On the first morning in his house, he came to my bedroom, "How did you enjoy your breakfast, Sharkey?" he enquired. I told him that it had been most pleasant and that there had been nothing to return to the kitchen. Antonia had been most keen that cook not be offended by my small appetite. Davy was most interested, "Tell me old man, what did you have?" I ran through the gamut of the breakfast plate, "Egg, bacon, a little bit of ham, oh and there was a bit of kidney, I liked that." Davy nodded, "You're being well looked after old man, that was the cook's breakfast you had, we just had the bacon."

I was aghast, "I ....... ," I began, Davy roared with laughter, "Don't let it bother you Sharkey, if the cook can't look after the ones she cares for it's a pity. You must realise that she has a position to maintain, she is the only woman on the island who is cooking for the man who was bitten by a shark." His entire attitude was one of amused tolerance. As he left the room he turned to say, "I didn't know that animals had kidneys anymore." He was irrepressible.

Mrs Davy suggested that I be taken for a run up Tete Pico, the volcanic mountain at the rear of the house. Permission had to be first obtained from the Military Governor of the island, for all the survivors were confined to the town. Davy obtained the necessary permission, he had the air of a man who got things done.

picotete

Pico Tete

 

We started the trip, with Davy driving. We stopped at the best view points to look over the bay; from the heights the scenery was magnificent.

While on our journey there came round the corner of the road a vision of pure joy, a girl, a native of the island and obviously of Moorish origin. She moved with the inherent grace of the water carrier. As a stag may move, she walked. Her dark tinted skin was livened by two large merry eyes. She was sandal footed and clothed in a bright red dress that clung to her with the knowledge there was nought between to prevent such close embrace. She twirled a parasol and walked the road as proud as a call of bugles, wooed by men, envied by women. Davy slowed the car to a halt, "I say Sharkey, how do you like that?" I had not been unaware of this vision of pure femininity; there was about her an aura of essential woman. My knowledge of my own awareness prompted my retort, "You need not have stopped on my account, sir." Mrs Davy supplied the necessary truth, "Don't worry, he wanted to have a good look at her himself."

Meanwhile this Helena of the heights, knowing she was admired, turned and for reward gave us a gleaming white toothed smile. We went on our way to Orotava.

It is said that all men dream of a desert island, wherein they find a dusky princess who, bathing in a pool, rises naked from the waters, arms outstretched in longing welcome. Such was our island nymph that a hydrophobic would have been tempted to at least try the dog paddle.

If I remember rightly, it was on the second night of my stay at my new abode that I experienced the only few bad moments I had at 'El Nympha'. With my increasing strength and the sense of wellbeing invoked by the careless ease of the Davys, my nerves had begun to relax and the following sequence of events caught them unawares.

I was lying in bed and at peace with the world, I would not sleep for some time yet, having to keep awake on the raft had set its own pattern. As I lay there I could hear in the distance a dog bark and as an echo the cough of a monkey on the plantation on the hill. This was followed by the rattle of a loose piece of tin in the night wind and after this came the tap of a twig on the window. This was just the symphony of the night and brought no fear to anyone, yet here I failed my native senses, for I began to listen for this repetition of sound. The next time it was the rattle of the tin which came first, then the dog barked, the twig tapped and the monkey? ... where was the monkey? ... then at last he coughed.

Here it was that I failed myself, for I listened even more intently in the hope that I had heard right the first time. Once more the pattern of darkness began and this time even more disjointed, I listened again and again and again, the uncouth repetition mocked me, then it was that fear touched me and I was afraid.

In later days I was to wake in the night due to pressure on my leg and dream for a moment that the shark had his teeth around it once more, or I was to awake suddenly and grip the sides of the bed in the half waking thought that I was back on the raft and to fall asleep was to drown. These were just the instant reactions to survive and had no part of fear. This at 'El Nympha' was a man's primeval enemy and I, as many an ancient before me, panicked. I failed to reason my path back along the way I had wandered, I was terribly alone, out there amongst the night sounds, it was a slow crawl back to the lighted bedroom and the night followed me there and stood in silent menace at the foot of my bed and dared me to move.

I needed help, for the first time in many years I could not respond within myself. The bedroom next to mine was Mr Davy's; he would be there, if only I could make it. Davy was a man, in any collection of the male sex he would stand out, here was strength, power of purpose, a fundamental integrity against which night itself would batter impotently.

With the greatest effort I reached for my crutches and almost fell in my haste to stand with them. Having once found the strength to move I dare not pause or I would be chained to that room all night and that I could not bear. I managed to open my door, two paces and I knocked on Davy's door, not daring to pause I opened it and went straight in. Davy must have been awake for as I stood in the door he was already swinging his feet out of bed. He looked at me, "What's the matter Sharkey?" I tried to speak but the sight of a fellow human overwhelmed me with shame at my own weakness. Tears were in my eyes and I could not face him, I turned and hurried as fast as I could back to my own room. As I sat down on my bed Davy was by my side, "Tell me about it old man." I managed eventually to get the story out. His very presence was a comfort and he was big enough not to ridicule my foolishness.

Later I said I would be alright and Davy found a bottle of sleeping tablets, he gave me two and asked me to promise him that I would not take any more that night as they were pretty powerful. I hesitated whether to even take those two but he explained that two would be alright, and so after taking them I relaxed on my pillow and knew no more till morning.

The following night Davy came to my room and again brought the bottle of tablets, I asked him to take them away, "I am leaving them here Sharkey, but I expect to see as many in the bottle tomorrow as there are tonight." I could not argue for I had a momentary fear that I may have need of them, fortunately all went well. The following morning Davy came into my room and picked up the bottle, he said, "I will not count them, if you tell me that you have not taken any then that is good enough." It was a forward step for me that I could look at him and say, "Count them if you will but I slept without them." Davy was the type of man you either told the truth to or kept silent.

Loath as I was to leave, the day eventually arrived when I was fit enough to rejoin my friends in one of the two hotels which housed our survivors.

I was given a good send off from 'El Nympha', first of all Mr Davy, Mr Carr the consul and I went to a football match, back to tea and then on to a Spanish championship boxing match. The Spanish champion boxed an exhibition bout with the local champion. The other bouts were keen if bloody, one of them brought roars from the crowd. A short stocky cruiserweight faced his opposite number, who was six inches taller. Mr Carr fancied the taller man, I fancied the shorter. I wished we had bet on it, my man won.

After the evening's boxing we returned to Davy's for supper, there we were joined by Dr Tomas. The ready laid table was a picture, cook had excelled herself, Antonia had arranged everything to appeal to the eye and Mrs Davy, after seeing that everything was in perfect order had gone out, leaving the four of us to enjoy ourselves.

We wined, dined and talked. Davy proposed a toast to Dr Tomas, "I think we must congratulate him for saving your leg Sharkey." I agreed. The doctor responded by saying that he had had a good patient. After this exchange of mutual respect Davy went on to tell me that I would be going to Spragg's Hotel, this was where George, Frank, Arkinstall and others that I knew were already staying.