Bond remembered Mathis's pronouncement when the concierge hurried up to inquire whether he had recovered from his most unfortunate experience of the afternoon. Bond thought it well to say that he still felt a little shaky. He hoped that if the intelligence were relayed, Le Chiffre would at any rate start playing that evening with a basic misinterpretation of his adversary's strength. The concierge proffered glycerine hopes for Bond's recovery.
Leiter's room was on one of the upper floors and they parted company at the lift after arranging to see each other at the Casino at around half past ten or eleven, the usual hour for the high tables to begin play.
CHAPTER 8 - PINK LIGHTS AND CHAMPAGNE
Bond walked up to his room, which again showed no sign of trespass, threw off his clothes, took a long hot bath followed by an ice-cold shower and lay down on his bed. There remained an hour in which to rest and compose his thoughts before he met the girl in the Splendide bar, an hour to examine minutely the details of his plans for the game, and for after the game, in all the various circumstances of victory or defeat. He had to plan the attendant roles of Mathis, Leiter, and the girl and visualize the reactions of the enemy in various contingencies. He closed his eyes and his thoughts pursued his imagination through a series of carefully constructed scenes as if he was watching the tumbling chips of coloured glass in a kaleidoscope.
At twenty minutes to nine he had exhausted all the permutations which might result from his duel with Le Chiffre. He rose and dressed, dismissing the future completely from his mind.
As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical. Not much of Hoagy Carmichael there, thought Bond, as he filled a flat, light gunmetal box with fifty of the Morland cigarettes with the triple gold band. Mathis had told him of the girl's comment.
He slipped the case into his hip pocket and snapped his oxidized Ronson to see if it needed fuel. After pocketing the thin sheaf of ten-mille notes, he opened a drawer and took out a light chamois leather holster and slipped it over his left shoulder so that it hung about three inches below his arm-pit. He then took from under his shirts in another drawer a very flat .25 Beretta automatic with a skeleton grip, extracted the clip and the single round in the barrel and whipped the action to and fro several times, finally pulling the trigger on the empty chamber. He charged the weapon again, loaded it, put up the safety catch and dropped it into the shallow pouch of the shoulder-holster. He looked carefully round the room to see if anything had been forgotten and slipped his single-breasted dinner-jacket coat over his heavy silk evening shirt. He felt cool and comfortable. He verified in the mirror that there was absolutely no sign of the flat gun under his left arm, gave a final pull at his narrow tie and walked out of the door and locked it.
When he turned at the foot of the short stairs towards the bar he heard the lift-door open behind him and a cool voice call 'Good evening'.
It was the girl. She stood and waited for him to come up to her.
He had remembered her beauty exactly. He was not surprised to be thrilled by it again.
Her dress was of black velvet, simple and yet with the touch of splendour that only half a dozen couturiers in the world can achieve. There was a thin necklace of diamonds at her throat and a diamond clip in the low vee which just exposed the jutting swell of her breasts. She carried a plain black evening bag, a flat object which she now held, her arm akimbo, at her waist. Her jet black hair hung straight and simple to the final inward curl below the chin.
She looked quite superb and Bond's heart lifted.
'You look absolutely lovely. Business must be good in the radio world!'
She put her arm through his. 'Do you mind if we go straight into dinner?' she asked. 'I want to make a grand entrance and the truth is there's a horrible secret about black velvet. It marks when you sit down. And, by the way, if you hear me scream tonight, I shall have sat on a cane chair.'
Bond laughed. 'Of course, let's go straight in. We'll have a glass of vodka while we order our dinner.'
She gave him an amused glance and he corrected himself: 'Or a cocktail, of course, if you prefer it. The food here's the best in Royale.'
For an instant he felt nettled at the irony, the light shadow of a snub, with which she had met his decisiveness, and at the way he had risen to her quick glance.
But it was only an infinitesimal clink of foils and as the bowing maŒtre d'h“tel led them through the crowded room, it was forgotten as Bond in her wake watched the heads of the diners turn to look at her.
The fashionable part of the restaurant was beside the wide crescent of window built out like the broad stern of a ship over the hotel gardens, but Bond had chosen a table in one of the mirrored alcoves at the back of the great room. These had survived from the Edwardian days and they were secluded and gay in white and gilt, with the red silk-shaded table and wall lights of the late Empire.
As they deciphered the maze of purple ink which covered the double folio menu, Bond beckoned to the sommelier. He turned to his companion.
'Have you decided?'
'I would love a glass of vodka,' she said simply, and went back to her study of the menu.
'A small carafe of vodka, very cold,' ordered Bond. He said to her abruptly: 'I can't drink the health of your new frock without knowing your Christian name.'
'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'
Bond gave her a look of inquiry.
'It's rather a bore always having to explain, but I was born in the evening, on a very stormy evening according to my parents. Apparently they wanted to remember it.' She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?' He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said. 'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'