On the following morning Mr. Coulson received what he termed his mail from America. Locked in his room on the fifth floor of the hotel, he carefully perused the contents of several letters. A little later he rang and ordered his bill. At four o’clock he left the Gare du Nord for London.
Like many other great men, Mr. Coulson was not without his weakness. He was brave, shrewd, and far-seeing. He enjoyed excellent health, and he scarcely knew the meaning of the word nerves. Nevertheless he suffered from seasickness. The first thing he did, therefore, when aboard the boat at Boulogne, was to bespeak a private cabin. The steward to whom he made his application shook his head with regret. The last two had just been engaged. Mr. Coulson tried a tip, and then a larger tip, with equal lack of success. He was about to abandon the effort and retire gloomily to the saloon, when a man who had been standing by, wrapped in a heavy fur overcoat, intervened.
“I am afraid, sir,” he said, “that it is I who have just secured the last cabin. If you care to share it with me, however, I shall be delighted. As a matter of fact, I use it very little myself. The night has turned out so fine that I shall probably promenade all the time.”
“If you will allow me to divide the expense,” Mr. Coulson replied, “I shall be exceedingly obliged to you, and will accept your offer. I am, unfortunately, a bad sailor.”
“That is as you will, sir,” the gentleman answered. “The amount is only trifling.”
The night was a bright one, but there was a heavy sea running, and even in the harbor the boat was rocking. Mr. Coulson groaned as he made his way across the threshold of the cabin.
“I am going to have a horrible time,” he said frankly. “I am afraid you’ll repent your offer before you’ve done with me.”
His new friend smiled.
“I have never been seasick in my life,” he said, “and I only engage a cabin for fear of wet weather. A fine night like this I shall not trouble you, so pray be as ill as you like.”
“It’s nothing to laugh at,” Mr. Coulson remarked gloomily.
“Let me give you a little advice,” his friend said, “and I can assure you that I know something of these matters, for I have been on the sea a great deal. Let me mix you a stiff brandy and soda. Drink it down and eat only a dry biscuit. I have some brandy of my own here.”
“Nothing does me any good,” Mr. Coulson groaned.
“This,” the stranger remarked, producing a flask from his case and dividing the liquor into equal parts, “may send you to sleep. If so, you’ll be across before you wake up. Here’s luck!”
Mr. Coulson drained his glass. His companion was in the act of raising his to his lips when the ship gave a roll, his elbow caught the back of a chair, and the tumbler slipped from his fingers.
“It’s of no consequence,” he declared, ringing for the steward. “I’ll go into the smoking room and get a drink. I was only going to have some to keep you company. As a matter of fact, I prefer whiskey.”