It was broad daylight when he awoke. Selingman, fully dressed and looking more beaming than ever, was seated upon a ridiculously inadequate camp-stool upon the floor, smoking a cigarette. Norgate stared at him stupidly.
“My young friend,” Herr Selingman declared impressively, “if there is one thing in the world I envy you, it is that capacity for sleep. You all have it, you English. Your heads touch the pillow, and off you go. Do you know that the man is waiting for you to take your coffee?”
Norgate lay quite still for several moments. Beyond a slight headache, he was feeling as usual. He leaned over the side of the bunk.
“How many whiskies and soda did I have last night?” he asked.
Herr Selingman smiled.
“But one only,” he announced. “There was only one to be had. I found a little whisky in my flask. I remembered that I had an English travelling companion, and I sent for some soda-water. You drank yours, and you did sleep. I go now and sit in the corridor while you dress.”
Norgate swung round in his bunk and slipped to the floor.
“Jolly good of you,” he muttered sleepily, “but it was very strong whisky.”
There was a babel of voices as the long train came to a stand-still in the harbour station at Ostend. Selingman, with characteristic forcefulness, pushed his way down the narrow corridor, driving before him passengers of less weight and pertinacity, until finally he descended on to the platform itself. Norgate, who had followed meekly in his wake, stood listening for a moment to the confused stream of explanations. He understood well enough what had happened, but with Selingman at his elbow he assumed an air of non-comprehension.
“It is extraordinary!” the latter exclaimed. “Never do I choose this route but I am visited with some mishap. You hear what has happened?”
“Fellow’s trying to tell me,” Norgate replied, “but his Flemish is worse to understand than German.”
“The steamer,” Selingman announced, “has met with an accident entering the harbour. There will be a delay of at least six hours—possibly more. It is most annoying. My appointments in London have been fixed for days.”
“Bad luck!” Norgate murmured.
“You do not seem much distressed.”
“Why should I be? I really came this way because I was not sure whether I would not stay here for a few days.”
“That is all very well for you,” Selingman declared, as they followed their porters into the shed. “For me, I am a man of affairs. It is different. My business goes by clockwork. All is regulated by rule, with precision, with punctuality. Now I shall be many hours behind my schedule. I shall be compelled to alter my appointments—I, who pride myself always upon altering nothing. But behold! One must make the best of things. What a sunshine! What a sea! We shall meet, without a doubt, upon the Plage. I have friends here. I must seek them. Au revoir, my young travelling companion. To the good fortune!”