fingers judiciously steepled, an urbanely sophisticated man entering into the spirit of things. "What is youth, Sir Anthony? I don't know." He smiled across at Charlotte Skouras. "Mrs. Skouras will never be old. As for attractive - well, it's a bit superfluous to ask that. For ten million European men -and for myself - Mrs. Skouras was the most attractive actress of her time."
" Was, Mr. Hunslett? Was ?" Old Skouras was leaning forward in his chair now, the smile a shadow of its former self. "But now, Mr. Hunslett?"
"Mrs. Skouras's producers must have employed the worstcameramen in Europe." Hunslett's dark, saturnine face gave nothing away. He smiled at Charlotte Skouras. "If I may be pardoned so personal a remark."
' If I'd had a sword in my hand and the authority to use it, I'd have knighted Hunslett on the spot. After, of course) having first had a swipe at Skouras.
"The days of chivalry are not yet over," Skouras smiled. I saw MacCallum and Biscarte, the bearded banker, stir uncomfortably in their seats. It was damnably awkward. Skouras went on: "I only meant, my dear, that Charnley and Lavorski here are poor substitutes for sparkling young company like Welshblood, the young American oil man, or Domenico, that Spanish count with the passion for amateur astronomy. The one who used to take you on the afterdeck to point out the stars in the Aigean." He looked again at Charnley and Lavorski. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, you just wouldn't do at all." '
"I don't know if I'm all that insulted," Lavorski said comfortably. "Charnley and I have our points. Um - I haven't seen young Domenico around for quite some time." He'd have made an excellent stage feed man, would Lavorski, trained to say his lines at exactly the right time.
"You won't see him around for a very much longer time," Skouras said grimly. "At least not in my yacht or in any of my houses." A pause. "Or near anything I own. I promised him I'd see the colour of his noble Castilian blood if I ever clapped eyes on him again." He laughed suddenly. "I must apologise for even bringing that nonentity's name into the conversation. Mr. Hunslett, Mr. Petersen. Your glasses are empty."
"You've been very kind, Sir Anthony. We've enjoyed ourselves immensely." Bluff old, stupid old Calvert, too obtuse to notice what was going on. "But we'd like to get back. It's blowing up badly to-night and Hunslett and I would like to move the Firecrest into the shelter of Garve Island." I rose to a window, pulling one of his Afghanistan or whatever curtains to one side. It felt as heavy as a stage fire curtain, no wonder he needed stabilisers with all that topweight on. "That's why we left our riding and cabin lights on. To see if we'd moved. She dragged a fair bit earlier this evening."
"So soon? So soon?" He sounded genuinely disappointed.
"But of course, if you're worried------"He pressed a button, not the one for the steward, and the saloon door opened. Theman who entered was a small weatherbeaten character with two gold stripes on his skeves. Captain Black, the Shangri-la captain. He'd accompanied Skouras when we'd been briefly shown around the Shangri-la after arriving aboard, a tour that had included an inspection of the smashed radio transmitter. No question about it, their radio was well and truly out of action.
"Ah, Captain Black. Have the tender brought alongside at once, will you. Mr. Petersen and Mr. Hunslett are anxious to get back to the Firecrest as soon as possible,"
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid there'll be a certain delay, Sir Anthony."
"Delay?" Old Skouras could put a frown in his voice without putting one on his face.
"The old trouble, I'm afraid," Captain Black said apologetically.
"Those bloody carburettors," Skouras swore. "You were right, Captain Black, you were right. Last tender I'll ever have with petrol engines fitted. Let me know as soon as she's all right. And detail one of the hands to keep an eye on the Firecrest to see that she doesn't lose position. Mr.