As it was, the business was difficult enough. He had to work one of his arms out after his shoulders and then, twisting round, strain and claw at the smooth overhang of the stern until able to catch the outer lip of the scuppers above.
After that he had to lift and drag the rest of him out through the deadlight and, hanging by fingertips, work his way round, inch by inch, until it seemed possible to drop into the sea and escape hitting the screw.
In point of fact, he barely missed splitting himself in two on the thing, and on coming to the surface clung to it while taking such observations as one might in that befogged blackness.
Impossible to guess which way to strike out: the fog hung low upon the water, greying its smooth, gently heaving black surface, he could see nothing on either beam.
At length, however, he heard through the hissing uproar of escaping steam a mournful bell somewhere off to port, which he at first took for a buoy, then perceived to be tolling with a regularity inconsistent with the eccentric action of waves. Timed by pulsebeats, it struck once every fifteen seconds or thereabouts: undoubtedly the fog signal of some minor light-house.
In confirmation of this conclusion, Lanyard heard, from the deck above, the resonant accents of Captain Monk, clearly articulate in that riot of voices, apparently storming at hapless Mr. Swain.
“Don’t you hear that bell, you ass? Doesn’t that tell you what you’ve done? You’ve piled us on the rocks off the eastern end of Plum Island. And God in Heaven only knows how you managed to get so far off the course!”
Breathing to the night air thanks which would have driven Captain Monk mad could he have heard them, Lanyard let go the bronze blade and struck out for the melancholy bell.
Ten minutes later the fingers of one hand—he was swimming on his side—at the bottom of its stroke touched pebbles.
He lowered his feet and waded through extensive shallows to a wide and sandy beach.
The window of the living-room in his suite at the Walpole, set high in cliff-like walls, commanded a southward vista of Fifth Avenue whose enchantment, clothed in ever changing guises of light and shade, was so potent that Lanyard, on the first day of his tenancy, thought it could never tire. Yet by noon of the third he was viewing it with the eyes of soul-destroying ennui, though the disfavour it had so quickly won in his sight was, he knew, due less to cloying familiarity than to the uncertainty and discontent that were eating out his heart.
Three days before, immediately on arriving in New York and installing himself in this hotel, to whose management he was well known from other days, he had cabled Eve de Montalais and Wertheimer.
The response to the latter—a cheerful request that credit be arranged for him by cable—was as prompt and satisfactory as he had expected it to be.