“So I hope history will not repeat, this time,” Liane interjected.
“And did they go?” Monk asked.
“Presently, some of them, ultimately all; for some lingered a few years in French prisons, like that great Popinot, the father of monsieur who has caused us so much trouble.”
“Why,” Lanyard laughed, “I have managed to keep out of jail, so I presume I must have kept my vow to be good.”
“And no backsliding?” Phinuit suggested with a leer.
“Ah! you must not ask me to tell you everything. That is a matter between me and my conscience.”
“Well,” Phinuit hazarded with a good show of confidence, “I guess you won’t tell us to go plumb to hell, will you?”
“No; I promise to be more original than that.”
“Then you refuse!” Liane breathed tensely.
“Oh, I haven’t said that! You must give me time to think this over.”
“I knew that would be his answer,” Monk proclaimed, pride in his perspicuity shaping the set of his eyebrows. “That is why I was firm that we should wait no longer. You have four days in which to make up your mind, monsieur.”
“I shall need them.”
“I don’t see why,” Phinuit argued: “it’s an open and shut proposition, if ever there was one.”
“But you are asking me to renounce something upon which I have set much store for many years, monsieur. I can’t be expected to do that in an hour or even a day.”
You shall have your answer, I promise you, by the time we make our landfall—perhaps before.”
“The sooner, the better.”
“Are you sure, monsieur? But one thought it was the tortoise who won the famous race.”
“Take all the time you need,” Captain Monk conceded generously, “to come to a sensible decision.”
“But how good you are to me, monsieur!”
Singular though the statement may seem, when one remembers the conditions that circumscribed his freedom of action on board the Sybarite, that he stood utterly alone in that company of conspirators and their creatures, alone and unarmed, with never a friend to guard his back or even to whisper him one word of counsel, warning or encouragement, with only his naked wits and hands to fortify and sustain his heart: it is still no exaggeration to say that Lanyard got an extraordinary amount of private diversion out of those last few days.
From the hour when Liane Delorme, Phinuit and Captain Monk, in conclave solemnly assembled at the instance of the one last-named, communicated their collective mind in respect of his interesting self, the man was conscious of implicit confidence in a happy outcome of the business, with a conscientiousness less rational than simply felt, a sort of bubbling exhilaration in his mood that found its most intelligible expression in the phrase, which he was wont often to iterate to himself: Ca va bien—that goes well!