Phinuit knocked the ashes out of a cold pipe at which he had been sucking for some time, rose, and stretched.
“The worst of it is,” he said in a serious turn—“I mean, looking at the thing from my bourgeois viewpoint of 1914—the War, but more particularly the antics of the various governments after the War, turned out several million of men in my frame of mind the world over. We went into the thing deluded by patriotic bunk and the promise that it was a war to end war; we came out to find the old men more firmly entrenched in the seats of the mighty than ever and stubbornly bent on perpetuating precisely the same rotten conditions that make wars inevitable. What Germany did to the treaty that guaranteed Belgium’s neutrality was child’s-play compared to what the governments of the warring nations have done to their covenants with their own people. And if anybody should ask you, you can safely promise them that several million soreheads like myself are what the politicians call ’a menace to the established social order’.”
Clear daylight filled the ports. The traffic on deck nearly deserved the name of din. Commands and calls were being bawled in English, French, and polyglot profanity. A donkey-engine was rumbling, a winch clattering, a capstan-pawl clanking. Alongside a tug was panting hoarsely. The engine room telegraph jangled furiously, the fabric of the Sybarite shuddered and gathered way.
“We’re off,” yawned Phinuit. “Now will you be reasonable and go to bed?”
“You may, monsieur,” said Lanyard, getting up. “For my part, I shall go on deck, if you don’t mind, and stop there till the pilot leaves us.”
“But one moment more. You have been extraordinarily frank, but you have forgotten one element, to me of some importance: you have not told me what my part is in this insane adventure.”
“That’s not my business to tell you,” Phinuit replied promptly. “When anything as important as that comes out, it won’t be through my babbling. Anyhow, Liane may have changed her mind since last reports. And so, as far as I’m concerned, your present status is simply that of her pet protege. What it is to be hereafter you’ll learn from her, I suppose, soon enough.... Le’s go!”
OUT OF SOUNDINGS
When finally Lanyard did consent to seek his stateroom—with the pilot dropped and the Sybarite footing it featly over Channel waters to airs piped by a freshening breeze—it was to sleep once round the clock and something more; for it was nearly six in the afternoon when he came on deck again.
The quarterdeck, a place of Epicurean ease for idle passengers, was deserted but for a couple of deckhands engaged in furling the awning. Lanyard lounged on the rail, revelling in a sense of perfect physical refreshment intensified by the gracious motion of the vessel, the friendly, rhythmic chant of her engines, the sweeping ocean air and the song it sang in the rigging, the vision of blue seas snow-plumed and mirroring in a myriad facets the red gold of the westering sun, and the lift and dip of a far horizon whose banks of violet mist were the fading shores of France.