“Some other time, messieurs....”
“But please!” Phinuit persisted—“just think for one moment—and do forget that pistol I know you’ve got in a handy pocket. We’re all unarmed here, Mademoiselle Delorme, the skipper and I. We can’t stop your going, if you insist, and we know too much to try. But there are those aboard who might. Jules, for instance: if he saw you making a getaway and knew it might mean a term in a French prison for him.... And if I do say it as shouldn’t of my kid brother, Jules is a dead shot. Then there are others. There’d surely be a scrimmage on the decks; and how could we explain that to the police, who, I am able to assure you from personal observation, are within hail? Why, that you had been caught trying to stow away with your loot, which you dropped in making your escape. D’ye see how bad it would look for you?”
To this there was no immediate response. Sitting with bowed head and sombre eyes, Lanyard thought the matter over a little, indifferent to the looks of triumph being exchanged above his head.
“Obviously, it would seem, you have not gone to all this trouble—lured me aboard this yacht—merely to amuse yourselves at my expense and then knock me on the head.”
“Absurd!” Liane declared indignantly. “As if I would permit such a thing, who owe you so much!”
“Or look at it this way, monsieur,” Monk put in with a courtly gesture: “When one has an adversary whom one respects, one wisely prefers to have him where one can watch him.”
“That’s just it,” Phinuit amended: “Out of our sight, you’d be on our nerves, forever pulling the Popinot stunt, springing some dirty surprise on us. But here, as our guest—!”
“More than that,” said Liane with her most killing glance for Lanyard: “a dear friend.”
But Lanyard was not to be put off by fair words and flattery.
“No,” he said gravely: “but there is some deeper motive...”
He sought Phinuit’s eyes, and Phinuit unexpectedly gave him an open-faced return.
“There is,” he stated frankly.
“Then why not tell me—?”
“All in good time. And there’ll be plenty of that; the Sybarite is no Mauretania. When you know us better and have learned to like us...”
“I make no promises.”
“We ask none. Only your pistol...”
“Well, monsieur: my pistol?”
“It makes our association seem so formal—don’t you think?—so constrained. Come, Mr. Lanyard! be reasonable. What is a pistol between friends?”
Lanyard shrugged, sighed, and produced the weapon.
“Really!” he said, handing it over to Monk—“how could anyone resist such disarming expressions?”
The captain thanked him solemnly and put the weapon away in his safe, together with the steel despatch-box and Liane Delorme’s personal treasure of precious stones.