The fourth bottle went wild, but the fifth exploded six inches in front of the offside wheel and its jagged fragments ripped out the heart of the tire. On the instant of the accompanying blow-out the grey car shied like a frightened horse and swerved off the road, hurtling headlong into a clump of trees. The subsequent crash was like the detonation of a great bomb. Deep shadows masked that tragedy beneath the trees. Lanyard saw the beam of the headlights lift and drill perpendicularly into the zenith before it was blacked out.
He turned and yelled in the ear of Jules: “Slow down! Take your time! They’ve quit!”
Liane Delorme rose from her cramped position on the floor, and stared incredulously back along the empty, moonlit road.
“What has become of them?”
Lanyard offered a vague gesture."... tried to climb a tree,” he replied wearily, and dropping back on the rear seat began to worry the cork out of the last pint bottle of champagne.
He reckoned he had earned a drink if anybody ever had.
Without disclaiming any credit that was rightly his due for making the performance possible, Lanyard felt obliged to concede that Liane’s Delorme’s confidence had been well reposed in the ability of Jules to drive by the clock. For when the touring car made, on a quayside of Cherbourg’s avant port, what was for its passengers its last stop of the night, the hour of eight bells was being sounded aboard the countless vessels that shouldered one another in the twin basins of the commercial harbour or rode at anchor between its granite jetties and the distant bulwark of the Digue.
Nor was Jules disposed to deny himself well-earned applause. Receiving none immediately when he got down from his seat and indulged in one luxurious stretch, “I’ll disseminate the information to the terrestrial universe,” he volunteered, “that was travelling!”
“And now that you have done so,” Liane Delorme suggested, “perhaps you will be good enough to let the stewards know we are waiting.”
If the grin was impudent, the salute she got in acknowledgment was perfection; Jules faced about like a military automaton, strode off briskly, stopped at some distance to light a cigarette, and in effect faded out with the flame of the match.
Lanyard didn’t try to keep track of his going. Committed as he stood to follow the lead of Liane Delorme to the end of this chapter of intrigue (and with his mind at ease as to Monsieur Dupont, for the time being at least) he was largely indifferent to intervening developments.
He had asked no questions of Liane, and his knowledge of Cherbourg was limited to a memory of passing through the place as a boy, with a case-hardened criminal as guide and police at their heels. But assuming that Liane had booked passages for New York by a Cunarder, a White Star or American Line Boat—all three touched regularly at Cherbourg, west bound from Southampton—he expected presently to go aboard a tender and be ferried out to one of the steamers whose riding lights were to be seen in the roadstead. Meanwhile he was lazily content....