Mr. Coulson sat down upon the berth. He seemed indisposed for speech.
“I’ll leave you now, then,” his friend said, buttoning his coat around him. “You lie flat down on your back, and I think you’ll find yourself all right.”
“That brandy,” Mr. Coulson muttered, “was infernally—– strong.”
His companion smiled and went out. In a quarter of an hour he returned and locked the door. They were out in the Channel now, and the boat was pitching heavily. Mr. James B. Coulson, however, knew nothing of it. He was sleeping like one who wakes only for the Judgment Day. Over his coat and waistcoat the other man’s fingers travelled with curious dexterity. The oilskin case in which Mr. Coulson was in the habit of keeping his private correspondence was reached in a very few minutes. The stranger turned out the letters and read them, one by one, until he came to the one he sought. He held it for a short time in his hand, looked at the address with a faint smile, and slipped his fingers lightly along the gummed edge of the envelope.
“No seal,” he said softly to himself. “My friend Mr. Coulson plays the game of travelling agent to perfection.”
He glided out of the cabin with the letter in his hand. In about ten minutes he returned. Mr. Coulson was still sleeping. He replaced the letter, pressing down the envelope carefully.
“My friend,” he whispered, looking down upon Mr. Coulson’s uneasy figure, “on the whole, I have been perhaps a little premature. I think you had better deliver this document to its proper destination. If only there was to have been a written answer, we might have met again! It would have been most interesting.”
He slipped the oilskin case back into the exact position in which he had found it, and watched his companion for several minutes in silence. Then he went to his dressing bag and from a phial mixed a little draught. Lifting the sleeping man’s head, he forced it down his throat.
“I think,” he said, “I think, Mr. Coulson, that you had better wake up.”
He unlocked the door and resumed his promenade of the deck. In the bows he stood for some time, leaning with folded arms against a pillar, his eyes fixed upon the line of lights ahead. The great waves now leaped into the moonlight, the wind sang in the rigging and came booming across the waters, the salt spray stung his cheeks. High above his head, the slender mast, with its Marconi attachment, swang and dived, reached out for the stars, and fell away with a shudder. The man who watched, stood and dreamed until the voyage was almost over. Then he turned on his heel and went back to see how his cabin companion was faring.
Mr. Coulson was sitting on the edge of his bunk. He had awakened with a terrible headache and a sense of some hideous indiscretion. It was not until he had examined every paper in his pocket and all his money that he had begun to feel more comfortable. And in the meantime he had forgotten altogether to be seasick.