If I am not urbane, I am nothing.
He went. Liosha bade me good-bye. She must retire early. The rearrangement of her luggage—“dunnage,” I corrected—would be a lengthy process. She thanked me, in her best Considine manner, for all the trouble I had taken on her account, sent her love to Barbara and to Susan, whose sickness, she trusted, would be transitory, expressed the hope that the care of her belongings would not be too great a strain upon my household—and then, like a flash of lightning, in the very middle of the humming restaurant filled with all the notabilities and respectabilities of Havre, she flung her generous arms around my neck in a great hug, and kissed me, and said: “Dear old Hilary, I do love you!” and marched away magnificently through the staring tables to the inner recesses of the hotel.
Puzzledom reigned in Havre that night. English people are credited in France with any form of eccentricity, so long as it conforms with traditions of le flegme britannique; but there was not much flegme about Liosha’s embrace, and so the good Havrais were mystified.
There was no following Liosha. She had made her exit. To have run after her were an artistic crime; and in real life we are more instinctively artistic and dramatic than the unthinking might suppose. Besides, there was the bill to pay. We sat down again.
“That little chap never seems to have any luck,” said Jaffery. “He’s one of the finest seamen afloat, with a nerve of steel and a damnable way of getting himself obeyed. He ought to be in command of a great liner instead of a rotten old tramp of fifteen hundred tons.”
I beamed. “I’m glad you call it a rotten old tramp. I described it in those terms to Liosha.”
“Oh!” said Jaffery. “Precious lot you know about it.” He yawned cavernously. “I’ll be turning in soon, myself.”
It was not yet ten o’clock. “And what shall I do?” I asked.
“Better turn in, too, if you want to see us off.”
“My dear Jaff,” said I, “you have always bewildered me, and when I contemplate this new caprice I am beyond the phenomenon of bewilderment. But in one respect my mind retains its serene equipoise. Nothing short of an Act of God shall drag me from my bed at half-past four in the morning.”
“I wanted to give you a few last instructions.”
“Give them to me now,” said I.
He handed me the key of his chambers. “If you wouldn’t mind tidying up, some day—I left my papers in a deuce of a mess.”
“All right,” said I.
“And I had better give you a power of attorney, in case anything should crop up.”
He called for writing materials, and scribbled and signed the document, which I put into my letter case.
“And what about letters?”
“Don’t want any. Unless”—said he, after a little pause, frowning in the plenitude of his content—“if you and Barbara can make things right again with Doria—then one of you might drop me a line. I’ll send you a schedule of dates.”