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datatime: 2022-12-03 07:54:52 Author:XnvILtjg

"As long as you don't hit anybody it's none of my business how you drive, Lonnie."

If anybody had been in my cabin and gone through my belongings, he'd done it in a very circumspect way. As far as I could recall everything was as I had left it and nothing had been disturbed but, then, a practised searcher rarely left any trace of his passing. Both my cases had elasticised linen pockets in the lids and in each pocket in each lid, holding the lids as nearly horizontal as possible, I placed a small Goin just at the entrance to the pocket. Then I locked the cases. In spite of the trawler's wildly erratic behaviour those coins would remain where they were, held in place by the pressure of the clothes inside but as soon as the lid was opened, the pressure released, and the lid then lifted even partway towards the vertical, the Coins would slide down to the feel? of the pockets. I then locked my medical bag-it was considerably larger and heavier than the average medical bag but then it held a considerably greater amount of equipment -and put it out in the passage. I closed the door behind me, carefully wedging a spent book match between the foot of the door and the sill: that door would have to open only a crack and the match would drop clear. Lonnie, unsurprisingly, was still at his station in the lounge when I reached there.

Hot-foot to the succour of suffering mankind? A new and dreadful epidemic, is it? Your old Uncle Lonnie is proud of you, boy, proud of you. This Hippocratic spirit-" He broke off only to resume almost at once.

"Now that we have touched, inadvertently chanced upon, as one might say, this topic-spirit, the blushful hippocrene-I wonder if by any chance you would care to join me in a thimbleful of the elixir I have here-?'

"And that, my dear boy, is the whole point of the exercise, I don't want to get up tomorrow. The day after tomorrow? Well, yes, if I must, I'll face the day after tomorrow. I don't want to, mind you, for tomorrows, We found, are always distressingly similar to todays. The only good thing you can say about a today is that at any given moment such and such a portion of it is already irrevocably past'-he paused to admire his speech control-"Irrevocably past, as I say, and, with the passing of every moment, so much less of it to come. But all of tomorrow is still to come. Think of it. All of it-the livelong day." He lifted his recharged glass. "Others drink to forget the past. But some of us-very, very few and it would not be right of me to say that we're gifted with a prescience and understanding and intelligence far beyond the normal ken, so I'll just say we're different some of us, I say, drink to forget the future. How, you will ask, can one forget the future? Well, for one thing, it takes practice. And, of course, a little assistance." He drank half his malt in one gulp and intoned: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable-"

"Otto? Do you know something?" Lonnie leaned forward confidentially.

"Aha!" He regarded his empty glass with an air of surprise, then reached out with an unerring hand. "The kindly healer with his bag of tricks.

He stumbled into his cabin, sat heavily on his bed, then moved with remarkable swiftness to one side: I could only conclude that he'd inadvertently sat on a bottle of Scotch. He looked at me, pondering, then said:

"Neither am I being heavy-handed and moralistic. But I have a sensitive nature and I don't want to be around when you find out that your assessment of Otto is a hundred percent wrong." Lonnie came without a single murmur of protest. Clearly, he had his emergency supplies cached in his cabin. On our stumbling descent of the companionway he said:

I don't think he quite meant it in that way, Lonnie. Anyway, doctor's orders and do me a favour-get to hell out of here. Otto will have you drawn and quartered if he finds you here."

Hot-foot to the succour of suffering mankind? A new and dreadful epidemic, is it? Your old Uncle Lonnie is proud of you, boy, proud of you. This Hippocratic spirit-" He broke off only to resume almost at once.

I put the book down and headed for the lee door. She opened her eyes and lifted her head.

Nothing brings out the worst in me more quickly than sweetly smiling suffering. I picked up the rug, did my customary two-step across the heaving deck and draped the rug over her. She looked at me gravely and said nothing.

"I'm sorry, too. I'm not rude," I lied, "just tired. Below. Back in a minute."

"Lonnie," I said, I don't think you're the least little bit like Macbeth."

"As long as you don't hit anybody it's none of my business how you drive, Lonnie."

She nodded, her eyes following me until I closed the door behind me.

"And that, my dear boy, is the whole point of the exercise, I don't want to get up tomorrow. The day after tomorrow? Well, yes, if I must, I'll face the day after tomorrow. I don't want to, mind you, for tomorrows, We found, are always distressingly similar to todays. The only good thing you can say about a today is that at any given moment such and such a portion of it is already irrevocably past'-he paused to admire his speech control-"Irrevocably past, as I say, and, with the passing of every moment, so much less of it to come. But all of tomorrow is still to come. Think of it. All of it-the livelong day." He lifted his recharged glass. "Others drink to forget the past. But some of us-very, very few and it would not be right of me to say that we're gifted with a prescience and understanding and intelligence far beyond the normal ken, so I'll just say we're different some of us, I say, drink to forget the future. How, you will ask, can one forget the future? Well, for one thing, it takes practice. And, of course, a little assistance." He drank half his malt in one gulp and intoned: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable-"

He stumbled into his cabin, sat heavily on his bed, then moved with remarkable swiftness to one side: I could only conclude that he'd inadvertently sat on a bottle of Scotch. He looked at me, pondering, then said:

"I'm not trying to deprive you of the necessities of life," I explained.

"Now that we have touched, inadvertently chanced upon, as one might say, this topic-spirit, the blushful hippocrene-I wonder if by any chance you would care to join me in a thimbleful of the elixir I have here-?'

"Otto's really a very kindly man. I like Otto. He's always been good to me, Otto has. Most people are good, my dear chap, don't you know that? Most people are kind. Lots of them very kind. But none so kind as Otto. Why, I remember-"

"Aha!" He regarded his empty glass with an air of surprise, then reached out with an unerring hand. "The kindly healer with his bag of tricks.

It was after midnight but not yet closing hours in the lounge bar, for Lonnie Gilbert, with a heroically foolhardy disregard for what would surely be Otto's fearful wrath when the crime was discovered, had both glass doors swung open and latched in position, while he himself was ensconced in some state behind the bar itself, a bottle of malt whisky in one hand, a soda syphon in the other. He beamed paternally at me as I passed through and as it seemed late in the day to point out to Lonnie that the better class malts stood in no need of the anaemic assistance of soda I just nodded and went below.

He broke off as I went round the back of the bar, replaced the bottles, locked the doors, placed the keys in his dressing-gown pocket and took his arm.

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