Bond looked quietly at her mouth and then kissed her hard on the lips.
She didn’t respond, but broke away, and her eyes were laughing again. She linked her arm high up in his and turned towards the open doors that led to the lift. “Take me down,” she said. “I must go and rewrite my face, and anyway I want to spend a long time dressing the business for sale.” She paused and then put her mouth close up to his ear. “In case it interests you, James Bond,” she said softly. “I’ve never what you’d call’slept with a man’ in my life.” She tugged at his arm. “And now come on,” she said brusquely. “And anyway it’s time you went and had a Hot Domestic. I suppose that’s part of the subject-language you’ll be wanting me to pick up. You subject-people surely do write up the craziest things in your bathrooms.”
Bond took her to her cabin and then went on to his and had a ‘Hot Salt’ bath followed by a ‘Cold Domestic’ shower. Then he lay on his bed and smiled to himself over some of the things she had said, and thought of her lying in her bath looking at the forest of bath-taps and thinking how crazy the English were.
There was a knock on the door and his steward came in with a small tray which he placed on the table.
“What the hell’s that?” said Bond.
“Just come up from the chef, Sir,” said the Steward and went out and closed the cabin door.
Bond slipped off the bed and went over and examined the contents of the tray. He smiled to himself. There was a quarter bottle of Bellinger, a chafing dish containing four small slivers of steak on toast canapés, and a small bowl of sauce. Beside this was a pencilled note which said ‘This Sauce Béarnaise has been created by Miss T. Case without my assistance,’ Signed ‘The Chef.
Bond filled a glass with champagne and spread a lot of the Béarnaise on a piece of the steak and munched it carefully. Then he went to the telephone.
He heard the low delighted laugh at the other end.
“Well, you can certainly make wonderful Sauce Béarnaise…”
He put the receiver back on its cradle.
THE JOB COMES SECOND
IT is an intoxicating moment in a love-affair when, for the first time, in a public place, in a restaurant or a theatre, the man puts his hand down and lays it on the thigh of the girl and when she slips her hand over his and presses the man’s hand against her. The two gestures say everything that can be said. All is agreed. All the pacts are signed. And there is a long minute of silence during which the blood sings. It was eleven o’clock and there was-only a scattering of people left in the corners of the Veranda Grill, There was a soft sighing from the moonlit sea outside as the great liner scythed the black meadow of the Atlantic and, in the stern, only the slightest lope in her stride indicated a long soft swell, the slow, twelve-a-minute heart-beat of a sleeping ocean, to the two people sitting close together behind the pink-shaded light.
The waiter came with the bill and their hands separated. But now there was all the time in the world and no need for reassurance from words or contact, and the girl laughed happily up into Bond’s face as the waiter drew out the table and they walked towards the door.
They got into the lift for the Promenade Deck. “And now what, James?” said Tiffany. “I’d like some more coffee, and a Stinger made with white Crème de Menthe, while we listen to the Auction Pool. I’ve heard so much about it and we might make a fortune.”
“All right,” said Bond. “Anything you say.” He held her arm close to him as they sauntered through the big lounge where Bingo was still being played and through the waiting ballroom where the musicians were trying out a few chords. “But don’t make me buy a number. It’s a pure gamble and five per cent goes to charity. Nearly as bad as Las Vegas odds. But it’s fun if there’s a good auctioneer, and they tell me there’s plenty of money on board this trip.”
The smoking-room was almost empty and they chose a small table away from the platform where the Chief Steward was laying out the auctioneer’s paraphernalia, the box for the numbered slips, the hammer, the carafe of water.
“In the theatre this is what’s known as ‘dressing a thin house’,” said Tiffany as they sat down amidst the forest of empty chairs and tables. But, as Bond gave his order to the steward, the doors leading to the cinema opened and soon there were nearly a hundred people in the Smoking Room.
The auctioneer, a paunchy, jovial Midlands businessman with a red carnation in the buttonhole of his dinner jacket, rapped on his table for silence and announced that the Captain’s estimate of the next day’s run lay between 720 and 739 miles, that any distance shorter than 720 was the Low Field and anything longer than 739 the High Field. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s see if we can’t break the record for this trip which stands at the impressive figure of £2400 in the Pool” (Applause).
A steward offered the box of folded numbers to the richest-looking woman in the room and then handed up the piece of paper she had drawn to the auctioneer.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we have an exceptionally good number to start with. 738. Right in the top range and since I see a lot of new faces here tonight (laughter) I think we can all agree that the sea is exceptionally calm. Ladies and gentlemen. What am I bid for 738? May I say £50? Will anybody bid me £50 for this lucky number? 20 was it you said, Sir? Well, we’ve got to start somewhere. Any increase… 25. Thank you, madam. And 30. 40 over there, steward. And 45 from my friend Mr Rothblatt. Thank you, Charlie. Any increase on £45 for No738? 50. Thank you, madam, and now we’re all back where we started. (Laughter.) Any increase on £50? Nobody tempted? High number. Calm sea. £50. Will anybody say 55? Going at £50. Going once. Going twice.” And the raised hammer fell with a bang.
“Well, thank heavens he’s a good auctioneer,” said Bond. “That was a good number and cheap if this weather goes on and nobody falls overboard. The High Field’ll cost a packet this evening. Everyone will expect us to do more than 739 miles in this weather.”
“What do you mean by a packet?” asked Tiffany.
“Two hundred pounds. Perhaps more. I expect the ordinary numbers will sell for around a hundred. The first number’s always cheaper than the others. People haven’t warmed up. The only smart thing you can do at this game is buy the first number. Any of them can win, but the first costs less.”
As Bond finished speaking, the next number was knocked down for £90 to a pretty, excited girl who was obviously being staked by her companion, a grey-haired, fresh-cornplexioned man who looked a caricature of an Esquire sugar-daddy.
“Go on. Buy me a number, James,” said Tiffany. “You really don’t treat a girl right. Look at the way that nice man treats his girl.”
“He’s past the age of consent,” said Bond. “He must be sixty. Up to forty, girls cost nothing. After that you have to pay money, or tell a story. Of the two it’s the story that hurts most.” He smiled into her eyes. ”Anyway I’m not forty yet.”
“Don’t be conceited,” said the girl. She looked at his mouth. “They say that older men make much the best lovers. And yet you’re not naturally a tightwad. I bet it’s because gambling’s illegal in subject-ships or something.”
“It’s all right outside the 3-mile limit,” said Bond. “But even so the Cunard have been damn careful not to involve the Company in it. Listen to this.” He picked up an orange card that lay on their table. “Auction Sweepstake on Ship’s Daily Run,” he read. “In view of inquiries it is considered desirable to re-state the Company’s position in connection with the above. It is not the Company’s wish that the Smoke Room Steward or other members of the ship’s personnel should play an active part in organizing sweepstakes on the daily run.” Bond looked up. “You see,” he said. “Playing it pretty close to the chest. And then they go on : ‘The Company suggests that the passengers should elect a Committee from amongst themselves to formulate and control the details… the Smoke Room Steward may, if requested and if his duties permit, render such assistance as the Committee require for auctioning of numbers.’”
“Pretty cagey,” commented Bond. “It’s the committee that holds the baby if there’s any trouble. And listen to this. This is where the trouble comes in.” He read on : “The Company draws special attention to the provisions of the United Kingdom Finance Regulations as affecting the negotiability of sterling cheques and the limitation on the importation of sterling banknotes into the United Kingdom.”
Bond put down the card. “And so forth,” he said. He smiled at Tiffany Case. “So I buy you the number that’s just being auctioned and you win two thousand pounds. That’ll be a pile of dollars and pound notes and cheques. The only way of spending all that sterling, even suppose that those cheques are all good, which is doubtful, would be by smuggling it through under your suspender belt. And there we’d be, back in the same old racket, but now with me on the side of the devil.”
The girl was not impressed. “There used to be a guy in the gangs called Abadaba,” she said. “He was a crooked egg-head who knew all the answers. Worked out the track odds, fixed the percentage on the numbers racket, did all the brain work. They called him “The Wizard of Odds’. Got rubbed out quite by mistake in the Dutch Schultz killing,” she added parenthetically. “I guess you’re just another Abadaba the way you talk yourself out of having to spend some money on a girl. Oh, well,” she shrugged her shoulders resignedly, “will you stake your girl to another Stinger?”
Bond beckoned to the steward. When he had gone she leant over so that her hair brushed his ear and said softly. “I don’t really want it. You have it. I want to stay sober as Sunday tonight.” She sat up straight. “And now what’s going on around here?” she said impatiently. “I want to see some action.”
“Here it comes,” said Bond. The auctioneer raised his voice and there was a hush in the room. “And now, ladies and gentlemen,” he said impressively. “We come to the 64,ooo-dollar question. Who is going to bid me £100 for the choice of High or Low Field? We all know what that means-the option to choose the High Field, which I seem to feel may be the popular choice this evening (laughter) in view of the wonderful weather outside. So who will open the bidding with £100 for the choice of High or Low Field?”
“Thank you, Sir! And no. 120 and 130. Thank you, madam.”
“Hundred and fifty,” said a man’s voice not far from their table.
“A hundred and sixty.” This time it was a woman.
Monotonously the man’s voice called the 170.
“Eighty,” said someone.
“Two hundred pounds.”
Something made Bond turn round and look at the man who had spoken.