“You seem to be in a hurry,” said the unknown Englishman, falling back a step or two in order to laugh with an unnatural heartiness. “What’s it all about, eh?” Then before MacIan could get past his sprawling and staggering figure he ran forward again and said with a sort of shouting and ear-shattering whisper: “I say, my name is Wilkinson. You know—Wilkinson’s Entire was my grandfather. Can’t drink beer myself. Liver.” And he shook his head with extraordinary sagacity.
“We really are in a hurry, as you say,” said MacIan, summoning a sufficiently pleasant smile, “so if you will let us pass——”
“I’ll tell you what, you fellows,” said the sprawling gentleman, confidentially, while Evan’s agonized ears heard behind him the first paces of the pursuit, “if you really are, as you say, in a hurry, I know what it is to be in a hurry—Lord, what a hurry I was in when we all came out of Cartwright’s rooms—if you really are in a hurry”—and he seemed to steady his voice into a sort of solemnity—“if you are in a hurry, there’s nothing like a good yacht for a man in a hurry.”
“No doubt you’re right,” said MacIan, and dashed past him in despair. The head of the pursuing host was just showing over the top of the hill behind him. Turnbull had already ducked under the intoxicated gentleman’s elbow and fled far in front.
“No, but look here,” said Mr. Wilkinson, enthusiastically running after MacIan and catching him by the sleeve of his coat. “If you want to hurry you should take a yacht, and if”—he said, with a burst of rationality, like one leaping to a further point in logic—“if you want a yacht—you can have mine.”
Evan pulled up abruptly and looked back at him. “We are really in the devil of a hurry,” he said, “and if you really have a yacht, the truth is that we would give our ears for it.”
“You’ll find it in harbour,” said Wilkinson, struggling with his speech. “Left side of harbour—called Gibson Girl—can’t think why, old fellow, I never lent it you before.”
With these words the benevolent Mr. Wilkinson fell flat on his face in the road, but continued to laugh softly, and turned towards his flying companion a face of peculiar peace and benignity. Evan’s mind went through a crisis of instantaneous casuistry, in which it may be that he decided wrongly; but about how he decided his biographer can profess no doubt. Two minutes afterwards he had overtaken Turnbull and told the tale; ten minutes afterwards he and Turnbull had somehow tumbled into the yacht called the Gibson Girl and had somehow pushed off from the Isle of St. Loup.