Part 6 out of 8
A sailor indeed looks generally into the great distances, but in
Captain Anthony's case there was--as Powell expressed it--something
particular, something purposeful like the avoidance of pain or
temptation. It was very marked once one had become aware of it.
Before, one felt only a pronounced strangeness. Not that the
captain--Powell was careful to explain--didn't see things as a ship-
master should. The proof of it was that on that very occasion he
desired him suddenly after a period of silent pacing, to have all
the staysails sheets eased off, and he was going on with some other
remarks on the subject of these staysails when Mrs. Anthony followed
by her father emerged from the companion. She established herself
in her chair to leeward of the skylight as usual. Thereupon the
captain cut short whatever he was going to say, and in a little
while went down below.
I asked Mr. Powell whether the captain and his wife never conversed
on deck. He said no--or at any rate they never exchanged more than
a couple of words. There was some constraint between them. For
instance, on that very occasion, when Mrs. Anthony came out they did
look at each other; the captain's eyes indeed followed her till she
sat down; but he did not speak to her; he did not approach her; and
afterwards left the deck without turning his head her way after this
first silent exchange of glances.
I asked Mr. Powell what did he do then, the captain being out of the
way. "I went over and talked to Mrs. Anthony. I was thinking that
it must be very dull for her. She seemed to be such a stranger to
"The father was there of course?"
"Always," said Powell. "He was always there sitting on the
skylight, as if he were keeping watch over her. And I think," he
added, "that he was worrying her. Not that she showed it in any
way. Mrs. Anthony was always very quiet and always ready to look
one straight in the face."
"You talked together a lot?" I pursued my inquiries. "She mostly
let me talk to her," confessed Mr. Powell. "I don't know that she
was very much interested--but still she let me. She never cut me
All the sympathies of Mr. Powell were for Flora Anthony nee de
Barral. She was the only human being younger than himself on board
that ship since the Ferndale carried no boys and was manned by a
full crew of able seamen. Yes! their youth had created a sort of
bond between them. Mr. Powell's open countenance must have appeared
to her distinctly pleasing amongst the mature, rough, crabbed or
even inimical faces she saw around her. With the warm generosity of
his age young Powell was on her side, as it were, even before he
knew that there were sides to be taken on board that ship, and what
this taking sides was about. There was a girl. A nice girl. He
asked himself no questions. Flora de Barral was not so much younger
in years than himself; but for some reason, perhaps by contrast with
the accepted idea of a captain's wife, he could not regard her
otherwise but as an extremely youthful creature. At the same time,
apart from her exalted position, she exercised over him the
supremacy a woman's earlier maturity gives her over a young man of
her own age. As a matter of fact we can see that, without ever
having more than a half an hour's consecutive conversation together,
and the distances duly preserved, these two were becoming friends--
under the eye of the old man, I suppose.
How he first got in touch with his captain's wife Powell relates in
this way. It was long before his memorable conversation with the
mate and shortly after getting clear of the channel. It was gloomy
weather; dead head wind, blowing quite half a gale; the Ferndale
under reduced sail was stretching close-hauled across the track of
the homeward bound ships, just moving through the water and no more,
since there was no object in pressing her and the weather looked
threatening. About ten o'clock at night he was alone on the poop,
in charge, keeping well aft by the weather rail and staring to
windward, when amongst the white, breaking seas, under the black
sky, he made out the lights of a ship. He watched them for some
time. She was running dead before the wind of course. She will
pass jolly close--he said to himself; and then suddenly he felt a
great mistrust of that approaching ship. She's heading straight for
us--he thought. It was not his business to get out of the way. On
the contrary. And his uneasiness grew by the recollection of the
forty tons of dynamite in the body of the Ferndale; not the sort of
cargo one thinks of with equanimity in connection with a threatened
collision. He gazed at the two small lights in the dark immensity
filled with the angry noise of the seas. They fascinated him till
their plainness to his sight gave him a conviction that there was
danger there. He knew in his mind what to do in the emergency, but
very properly he felt that he must call the captain out at once.
He crossed the deck in one bound. By the immemorial custom and
usage of the sea the captain's room is on the starboard side. You
would just as soon expect your captain to have his nose at the back
of his head as to have his stateroom on the port side of the ship.
Powell forgot all about the direction on that point given him by the
chief. He flew over as I said, stamped with his foot and then
putting his face to the cowl of the big ventilator shouted down
there: "Please come on deck, sir," in a voice which was not
trembling or scared but which we may call fairly expressive. There
could not be a mistake as to the urgence of the call. But instead
of the expected alert "All right!" and the sound of a rush down
there, he heard only a faint exclamation--then silence.
Think of his astonishment! He remained there, his ear in the cowl
of the ventilator, his eyes fastened on those menacing sidelights
dancing on the gusts of wind which swept the angry darkness of the
sea. It was as though he had waited an hour but it was something
much less than a minute before he fairly bellowed into the wide tube
"Captain Anthony!" An agitated "What is it?" was what he heard down
there in Mrs. Anthony's voice, light rapid footsteps . . . Why
didn't she try to wake him up! "I want the captain," he shouted,
then gave it up, making a dash at the companion where a blue light
was kept, resolved to act for himself.
On the way he glanced at the helmsman whose face lighted up by the
binnacle lamps was calm. He said rapidly to him: "Stand by to spin
that helm up at the first word." The answer "Aye, aye, sir," was
delivered in a steady voice. Then Mr. Powell after a shout for the
watch on deck to "lay aft," ran to the ship's side and struck the
blue light on the rail.
A sort of nasty little spitting of sparks was all that came. The
light (perhaps affected by damp) had failed to ignite. The time of
all these various acts must be counted in seconds. Powell confessed
to me that at this failure he experienced a paralysis of thought, of
voice, of limbs. The unexpectedness of this misfire positively
overcame his faculties. It was the only thing for which his
imagination was not prepared. It was knocked clean over. When it
got up it was with the suggestion that he must do something at once
or there would be a broadside smash accompanied by the explosion of
dynamite, in which both ships would be blown up and every soul on
board of them would vanish off the earth in an enormous flame and
He saw the catastrophe happening and at the same moment, before he
could open his mouth or stir a limb to ward off the vision, a voice
very near his ear, the measured voice of Captain Anthony said:
"Wouldn't light--eh? Throw it down! Jump for the flare-up."
The spring of activity in Mr. Powell was released with great force.
He jumped. The flare-up was kept inside the companion with a box of
matches ready to hand. Almost before he knew he had moved he was
diving under the companion slide. He got hold of the can in the
dark and tried to strike a light. But he had to press the flare-
holder to his breast with one arm, his fingers were damp and stiff,
his hands trembled a little. One match broke. Another went out.
In its flame he saw the colourless face of Mrs. Anthony a little
below him, standing on the cabin stairs. Her eyes which were very
close to his (he was in a crouching posture on the top step) seemed
to burn darkly in the vanishing light. On deck the captain's voice
was heard sudden and unexpectedly sardonic: "You had better look
sharp, if you want to be in time."
"Let me have the box," said Mrs. Anthony in a hurried and familiar
whisper which sounded amused as if they had been a couple of
children up to some lark behind a wall. He was glad of the offer
which seemed to him very natural, and without ceremony -
"Here you are. Catch hold."
Their hands touched in the dark and she took the box while he held
the paraffin soaked torch in its iron holder. He thought of warning
her: "Look out for yourself." But before he had the time to finish
the sentence the flare blazed up violently between them and he saw
her throw herself back with an arm across her face. "Hallo," he
exclaimed; only he could not stop a moment to ask if she was hurt.
He bolted out of the companion straight into his captain who took
the flare from him and held it high above his head.
The fierce flame fluttered like a silk flag, throwing an angry
swaying glare mingled with moving shadows over the poop, lighting up
the concave surfaces of the sails, gleaming on the wet paint of the
white rails. And young Powell turned his eyes to windward with a
catch in his breath.
The strange ship, a darker shape in the night, did not seem to be
moving onwards but only to grow more distinct right abeam, staring
at the Ferndale with one green and one red eye which swayed and
tossed as if they belonged to the restless head of some invisible
monster ambushed in the night amongst the waves. A moment, long
like eternity, elapsed, and, suddenly, the monster which seemed to
take to itself the shape of a mountain shut its green eye without as
much as a preparatory wink.
Mr. Powell drew a free breath. "All right now," said Captain
Anthony in a quiet undertone. He gave the blazing flare to Powell
and walked aft to watch the passing of that menace of destruction
coming blindly with its parti-coloured stare out of a blind night on
the wings of a sweeping wind. Her very form could be distinguished
now black and elongated amongst the hissing patches of foam bursting
along her path.
As is always the case with a ship running before wind and sea she
did not seem to an onlooker to move very fast; but to be progressing
indolently in long leisurely bounds and pauses in the midst of the
overtaking waves. It was only when actually passing the stern
within easy hail of the Ferndale, that her headlong speed became
apparent to the eye. With the red light shut off and soaring like
an immense shadow on the crest of a wave she was lost to view in one
great, forward swing, melting into the lightless space.
"Close shave," said Captain Anthony in an indifferent voice just
raised enough to be heard in the wind. "A blind lot on board that
ship. Put out the flare now."
Silently Mr. Powell inverted the holder, smothering the flame in the
can, bringing about by the mere turn of his wrist the fall of
darkness upon the poop. And at the same time vanished out of his
mind's eye the vision of another flame enormous and fierce shooting
violently from a white churned patch of the sea, lighting up the
very clouds and carrying upwards in its volcanic rush flying spars,
corpses, the fragments of two destroyed ships. It vanished and
there was an immense relief. He told me he did not know how scared
he had been, not generally but of that very thing his imagination
had conjured, till it was all over. He measured it (for fear is a
great tension) by the feeling of slack weariness which came over him
all at once.
He walked to the companion and stooping low to put the flare in its
usual place saw in the darkness the motionless pale oval of Mrs.
Anthony's face. She whispered quietly:
"Is anything going to happen? What is it?"
"It's all over now," he whispered back.
He remained bent low, his head inside the cover staring at that
white ghostly oval. He wondered she had not rushed out on deck.
She had remained quietly there. This was pluck. Wonderful self-
restraint. And it was not stupidity on her part. She knew there
was imminent danger and probably had some notion of its nature.
"You stayed here waiting for what would come," he murmured
"Wasn't that the best thing to do?" she asked.
He didn't know. Perhaps. He confessed he could not have done it.
Not he. His flesh and blood could not have stood it. He would have
felt he must see what was coming. Then he remembered that the flare
might have scorched her face, and expressed his concern.
"A bit. Nothing to hurt. Smell the singed hair?"
There was a sort of gaiety in her tone. She might have been
frightened but she certainly was not overcome and suffered from no
reaction. This confirmed and augmented if possible Mr. Powell's
good opinion of her as a "jolly girl," though it seemed to him
positively monstrous to refer in such terms to one's captain's wife.
"But she doesn't look it," he thought in extenuation and was going
to say something more to her about the lighting of that flare when
another voice was heard in the companion, saying some indistinct
words. Its tone was contemptuous; it came from below, from the
bottom of the stairs. It was a voice in the cabin. And the only
other voice which could be heard in the main cabin at this time of
the evening was the voice of Mrs. Anthony's father. The indistinct
white oval sank from Mr. Powell's sight so swiftly as to take him by
surprise. For a moment he hung at the opening of the companion and
now that her slight form was no longer obstructing the narrow and
winding staircase the voices came up louder but the words were still
indistinct. The old gentleman was excited about something and Mrs.
Anthony was "managing him" as Powell expressed it. They moved away
from the bottom of the stairs and Powell went away from the
companion. Yet he fancied he had heard the words "Lost to me"
before he withdrew his head. They had been uttered by Mr. Smith.
Captain Anthony had not moved away from the taffrail. He remained
in the very position he took up to watch the other ship go by
rolling and swinging all shadowy in the uproar of the following
seas. He stirred not; and Powell keeping near by did not dare speak
to him, so enigmatical in its contemplation of the night did his
figure appear to his young eyes: indistinct--and in its immobility
staring into gloom, the prey of some incomprehensible grief, longing
Why is it that the stillness of a human being is often so
impressive, so suggestive of evil--as if our proper fate were a
ceaseless agitation? The stillness of Captain Anthony became almost
intolerable to his second officer. Mr. Powell loitering about the
skylight wanted his captain off the deck now. "Why doesn't he go
below?" he asked himself impatiently. He ventured a cough.
Whether the effect of the cough or not Captain Anthony spoke. He
did not move the least bit. With his back remaining turned to the
whole length of the ship he asked Mr. Powell with some brusqueness
if the chief mate had neglected to instruct him that the captain was
to be found on the port side.
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Powell approaching his back. "The mate told me
to stamp on the port side when I wanted you; but I didn't remember
at the moment."
"You should remember," the captain uttered with an effort. Then
added mumbling "I don't want Mrs. Anthony frightened. Don't you
see? . . ."
"She wasn't this time," Powell said innocently: "She lighted the
flare-up for me, sir."
"This time," Captain Anthony exclaimed and turned round. "Mrs.
Anthony lighted the flare? Mrs. Anthony! . . . " Powell explained
that she was in the companion all the time.
"All the time," repeated the captain. It seemed queer to Powell
that instead of going himself to see the captain should ask him:
"Is she there now?"
Powell said that she had gone below after the ship had passed clear
of the Ferndale. Captain Anthony made a movement towards the
companion himself, when Powell added the information. "Mr. Smith
called to Mrs. Anthony from the saloon, sir. I believe they are
talking there now."
He was surprised to see the captain give up the idea of going below
He began to walk the poop instead regardless of the cold, of the
damp wind and of the sprays. And yet he had nothing on but his
sleeping suit and slippers. Powell placing himself on the break of
the poop kept a look-out. When after some time he turned his head
to steal a glance at his eccentric captain he could not see his
active and shadowy figure swinging to and fro. The second mate of
the Ferndale walked aft peering about and addressed the seaman who
"Captain gone below?"
"Yes, sir," said the fellow who with a quid of tobacco bulging out
his left cheek kept his eyes on the compass card. "This minute. He
"Laughed," repeated Powell incredulously. "Do you mean the captain
did? You must be mistaken. What would he want to laugh for?"
"Don't know, sir."
The elderly sailor displayed a profound indifference towards human
emotions. However, after a longish pause he conceded a few words
more to the second officer's weakness. "Yes. He was walking the
deck as usual when suddenly he laughed a little and made for the
companion. Thought of something funny all at once."
Something funny! That Mr. Powell could not believe. He did not ask
himself why, at the time. Funny thoughts come to men, though, in
all sorts of situations; they come to all sorts of men.
Nevertheless Mr. Powell was shocked to learn that Captain Anthony
had laughed without visible cause on a certain night. The
impression for some reason was disagreeable. And it was then, while
finishing his watch, with the chilly gusts of wind sweeping at him
out of the darkness where the short sea of the soundings growled
spitefully all round the ship, that it occurred to his
unsophisticated mind that perhaps things are not what they are
confidently expected to be; that it was possible that Captain
Anthony was not a happy man . . . In so far you will perceive he was
to a certain extent prepared for the apoplectic and sensitive
Franklin's lamentations about his captain. And though he treated
them with a contempt which was in a great measure sincere, yet he
admitted to me that deep down within him an inexplicable and uneasy
suspicion that all was not well in that cabin, so unusually cut off
from the rest of the ship, came into being and grew against his
CHAPTER FOUR--ANTHONY AND FLORA
Marlow emerged out of the shadow of the book-case to get himself a
cigar from a box which stood on a little table by my side. In the
full light of the room I saw in his eyes that slightly mocking
expression with which he habitually covers up his sympathetic
impulses of mirth and pity before the unreasonable complications the
idealism of mankind puts into the simple but poignant problem of
conduct on this earth.
He selected and lit the cigar with affected care, then turned upon
me, I had been looking at him silently.
"I suppose," he said, the mockery of his eyes giving a pellucid
quality to his tone, "that you think it's high time I told you
something definite. I mean something about that psychological cabin
mystery of discomfort (for it's obvious that it must be
psychological) which affected so profoundly Mr. Franklin the chief
mate, and had even disturbed the serene innocence of Mr. Powell, the
second of the ship Ferndale, commanded by Roderick Anthony--the son
of the poet, you know."
"You are going to confess now that you have failed to find it out,"
I said in pretended indignation.
"It would serve you right if I told you that I have. But I won't.
I haven't failed. I own though that for a time, I was puzzled.
However, I have now seen our Powell many times under the most
favourable conditions--and besides I came upon a most unexpected
source of information . . . But never mind that. The means don't
concern you except in so far as they belong to the story. I'll
admit that for some time the old-maiden-lady-like occupation of
putting two and two together failed to procure a coherent theory. I
am speaking now as an investigator--a man of deductions. With what
we know of Roderick Anthony and Flora de Barral I could not deduct
an ordinary marital quarrel beautifully matured in less than a year-
-could I? If you ask me what is an ordinary marital quarrel I will
tell you, that it is a difference about nothing; I mean, these
nothings which, as Mr. Powell told us when we first met him, shore
people are so prone to start a row about, and nurse into hatred from
an idle sense of wrong, from perverted ambition, for spectacular
reasons too. There are on earth no actors too humble and obscure
not to have a gallery; that gallery which envenoms the play by
stealthy jeers, counsels of anger, amused comments or words of
perfidious compassion. However, the Anthonys were free from all
demoralizing influences. At sea, you know, there is no gallery.
You hear no tormenting echoes of your own littleness there, where
either a great elemental voice roars defiantly under the sky or else
an elemental silence seems to be part of the infinite stillness of
Remembering Flora de Barral in the depths of moral misery, and
Roderick Anthony carried away by a gust of tempestuous tenderness, I
asked myself, Is it all forgotten already? What could they have
found to estrange them from each other with this rapidity and this
thoroughness so far from all temptations, in the peace of the sea
and in an isolation so complete that if it had not been the jealous
devotion of the sentimental Franklin stimulating the attention of
Powell, there would have been no record, no evidence of it at all.
I must confess at once that it was Flora de Barral whom I suspected.
In this world as at present organized women are the suspected half
of the population. There are good reasons for that. These reasons
are so discoverable with a little reflection that it is not worth my
while to set them out for you. I will only mention this: that the
part falling to women's share being all "influence" has an air of
occult and mysterious action, something not altogether trustworthy
like all natural forces which, for us, work in the dark because of
our imperfect comprehension.
If women were not a force of nature, blind in its strength and
capricious in its power, they would not be mistrusted. As it is one
can't help it. You will say that this force having been in the
person of Flora de Barral captured by Anthony . . . Why yes. He had
dealt with her masterfully. But man has captured electricity too.
It lights him on his way, it warms his home, it will even cook his
dinner for him--very much like a woman. But what sort of conquest
would you call it? He knows nothing of it. He has got to be mighty
careful what he is about with his captive. And the greater the
demand he makes on it in the exultation of his pride the more likely
it is to turn on him and burn him to a cinder . . . "
"A far-fetched enough parallel," I observed coldly to Marlow. He
had returned to the arm-chair in the shadow of the bookcase. "But
accepting the meaning you have in your mind it reduces itself to the
knowledge of how to use it. And if you mean that this ravenous
"Ravenous is good," interrupted Marlow. "He was a-hungering and a-
thirsting for femininity to enter his life in a way no mere feminist
could have the slightest conception of. I reckon that this accounts
for much of Fyne's disgust with him. Good little Fyne. You have no
idea what infernal mischief he had worked during his call at the
hotel. But then who could have suspected Anthony of being a heroic
creature. There are several kinds of heroism and one of them at
least is idiotic. It is the one which wears the aspect of sublime
delicacy. It is apparently the one of which the son of the delicate
poet was capable.
He certainly resembled his father, who, by the way, wore out two
women without any satisfaction to himself, because they did not come
up to his supra-refined standard of the delicacy which is so
perceptible in his verses. That's your poet. He demands too much
from others. The inarticulate son had set up a standard for himself
with that need for embodying in his conduct the dreams, the passion,
the impulses the poet puts into arrangements of verses, which are
dearer to him than his own self--and may make his own self appear
sublime in the eyes of other people, and even in his own eyes.
Did Anthony wish to appear sublime in his own eyes? I should not
like to make that charge; though indeed there are other, less noble,
ambitions at which the world does not dare to smile. But I don't
think so; I do not even think that there was in what he did a
conscious and lofty confidence in himself, a particularly pronounced
sense of power which leads men so often into impossible or equivocal
situations. Looked at abstractedly (the way in which truth is often
seen in its real shape) his life had been a life of solitude and
Chance had thrown that girl in his way; and if we may smile at his
violent conquest of Flora de Barral we must admit also that this
eager appropriation was truly the act of a man of solitude and
desire; a man also, who, unless a complete imbecile, must have been
a man of long and ardent reveries wherein the faculty of sincere
passion matures slowly in the unexplored recesses of the heart. And
I know also that a passion, dominating or tyrannical, invading the
whole man and subjugating all his faculties to its own unique end,
may conduct him whom it spurs and drives, into all sorts of
adventures, to the brink of unfathomable dangers, to the limits of
folly, and madness, and death.
To the man then of a silence made only more impressive by the
inarticulate thunders and mutters of the great seas, an utter
stranger to the clatter of tongues, there comes the muscular little
Fyne, the most marked representative of that mankind whose voice is
so strange to him, the husband of his sister, a personality standing
out from the misty and remote multitude. He comes and throws at him
more talk than he had ever heard boomed out in an hour, and
certainly touching the deepest things Anthony had ever discovered in
himself, and flings words like "unfair" whose very sound is
abhorrent to him. Unfair! Undue advantage! He! Unfair to that
girl? Cruel to her!
No scorn could stand against the impression of such charges advanced
with heat and conviction. They shook him. They were yet vibrating
in the air of that stuffy hotel-room, terrific, disturbing,
impossible to get rid of, when the door opened and Flora de Barral
He did not even notice that she was late. He was sitting on a sofa
plunged in gloom. Was it true? Having himself always said exactly
what he meant he imagined that people (unless they were liars, which
of course his brother-in-law could not be) never said more than they
meant. The deep chest voice of little Fyne was still in his ear.
"He knows," Anthony said to himself. He thought he had better go
away and never see her again. But she stood there before him
accusing and appealing. How could he abandon her? That was out of
the question. She had no one. Or rather she had someone. That
father. Anthony was willing to take him at her valuation. This
father may have been the victim of the most atrocious injustice.
But what could a man coming out of jail do? An old man too. And
then--what sort of man? What would become of them both? Anthony
shuddered slightly and the faint smile with which Flora had entered
the room faded on her lips. She was used to his impetuous
tenderness. She was no longer afraid of it. But she had never seen
him look like this before, and she suspected at once some new
cruelty of life. He got up with his usual ardour but as if sobered
by a momentous resolve and said:
"No. I can't let you out of my sight. I have seen you. You have
told me your story. You are honest. You have never told me you
She waited, saying to herself that he had never given her time, that
he had never asked her! And that, in truth, she did not know!
I am inclined to believe that she did not. As abundance of
experience is not precisely her lot in life, a woman is seldom an
expert in matters of sentiment. It is the man who can and generally
does "see himself" pretty well inside and out. Women's self-
possession is an outward thing; inwardly they flutter, perhaps
because they are, or they feel themselves to be, engaged. All this
speaking generally. In Flora de Barral's particular case ever since
Anthony had suddenly broken his way into her hopeless and cruel
existence she lived like a person liberated from a condemned cell by
a natural cataclysm, a tempest, an earthquake; not absolutely
terrified, because nothing can be worse than the eve of execution,
but stunned, bewildered--abandoning herself passively. She did not
want to make a sound, to move a limb. She hadn't the strength.
What was the good? And deep down, almost unconsciously she was
seduced by the feeling of being supported by this violence. A
sensation she had never experienced before in her life.
She felt as if this whirlwind were calming down somehow! As if this
feeling of support, which was tempting her to close her eyes
deliciously and let herself be carried on and on into the unknown
undefiled by vile experiences, were less certain, had wavered
threateningly. She tried to read something in his face, in that
energetic kindly face to which she had become accustomed so soon.
But she was not yet capable of understanding its expression.
Scared, discouraged on the threshold of adolescence, plunged in
moral misery of the bitterest kind, she had not learned to read--not
that sort of language.
If Anthony's love had been as egoistic as love generally is, it
would have been greater than the egoism of his vanity--or of his
generosity, if you like--and all this could not have happened. He
would not have hit upon that renunciation at which one does not know
whether to grin or shudder. It is true too that then his love would
not have fastened itself upon the unhappy daughter of de Barral.
But it was a love born of that rare pity which is not akin to
contempt because rooted in an overwhelmingly strong capacity for
tenderness--the tenderness of the fiery kind--the tenderness of
silent solitary men, the voluntary, passionate outcasts of their
kind. At the time I am forced to think that his vanity must have
"What big eyes she has," he said to himself amazed. No wonder. She
was staring at him with all the might of her soul awakening slowly
from a poisoned sleep, in which it could only quiver with pain but
could neither expand nor move. He plunged into them breathless and
tense, deep, deep, like a mad sailor taking a desperate dive from
the masthead into the blue unfathomable sea so many men have
execrated and loved at the same time. And his vanity was immense.
It had been touched to the quick by that muscular little feminist,
Fyne. "I! I! Take advantage of her helplessness. I! Unfair to
that creature--that wisp of mist, that white shadow homeless in an
ugly dirty world. I could blow her away with a breath," he was
saying to himself with horror. "Never!" All the supremely refined
delicacy of tenderness, expressed in so many fine lines of verse by
Carleon Anthony, grew to the size of a passion filling with inward
sobs the big frame of the man who had never in his life read a
single one of those famous sonnets singing of the most highly
civilized, chivalrous love, of those sonnets which . . . You know
there's a volume of them. My edition has the portrait of the author
at thirty, and when I showed it to Mr. Powell the other day he
exclaimed: "Wonderful! One would think this the portrait of
Captain Anthony himself if . . ." I wanted to know what that if
was. But Powell could not say. There was something--a difference.
No doubt there was--in fineness perhaps. The father, fastidious,
cerebral, morbidly shrinking from all contacts, could only sing in
harmonious numbers of what the son felt with a dumb and reckless
Possessed by most strong men's touching illusion as to the frailness
of women and their spiritual fragility, it seemed to Anthony that he
would be destroying, breaking something very precious inside that
being. In fact nothing less than partly murdering her. This seems
a very extreme effect to flow from Fyne's words. But Anthony,
unaccustomed to the chatter of the firm earth, never stayed to ask
himself what value these words could have in Fyne's mouth. And
indeed the mere dark sound of them was utterly abhorrent to his
native rectitude, sea-salted, hardened in the winds of wide
horizons, open as the day.
He wished to blurt out his indignation but she regarded him with an
expectant air which checked him. His visible discomfort made her
uneasy. He could only repeat "Oh yes. You are perfectly honest.
You might have, but I dare say you are right. At any rate you have
never said anything to me which you didn't mean."
"Never," she whispered after a pause.
He seemed distracted, choking with an emotion she could not
understand because it resembled embarrassment, a state of mind
inconceivable in that man.
She wondered what it was she had said; remembering that in very
truth she had hardly spoken to him except when giving him the bare
outline of her story which he seemed to have hardly had the patience
to hear, waving it perpetually aside with exclamations of horror and
anger, with fiercely sombre mutters "Enough! Enough!" and with
alarming starts from a forced stillness, as though he meant to rush
out at once and take vengeance on somebody. She was saying to
herself that he caught her words in the air, never letting her
finish her thought. Honest. Honest. Yes certainly she had been
that. Her letter to Mrs. Fyne had been prompted by honesty. But
she reflected sadly that she had never known what to say to him.
That perhaps she had nothing to say.
"But you'll find out that I can be honest too," he burst out in a
menacing tone, she had learned to appreciate with an amused thrill.
She waited for what was coming. But he hung in the wind. He looked
round the room with disgust as if he could see traces on the walls
of all the casual tenants that had ever passed through it. People
had quarrelled in that room; they had been ill in it, there had been
misery in that room, wickedness, crime perhaps--death most likely.
This was not a fit place. He snatched up his hat. He had made up
his mind. The ship--the ship he had known ever since she came off
the stocks, his home--her shelter--the uncontaminated, honest ship,
was the place.
"Let us go on board. We'll talk there," he said. "And you will
have to listen to me. For whatever happens, no matter what they
say, I cannot let you go."
You can't say that (misgivings or no misgivings) she could have done
anything else but go on board. It was the appointed business of
that morning. During the drive he was silent. Anthony was the last
man to condemn conventionally any human being, to scorn and despise
even deserved misfortune. He was ready to take old de Barral--the
convict--on his daughter's valuation without the slightest reserve.
But love like his, though it may drive one into risky folly by the
proud consciousness of its own strength, has a sagacity of its own.
And now, as if lifted up into a higher and serene region by its
purpose of renunciation, it gave him leisure to reflect for the
first time in these last few days. He said to himself: "I don't
know that man. She does not know him either. She was barely
sixteen when they locked him up. She was a child. What will he
say? What will he do? No, he concluded, I cannot leave her behind
with that man who would come into the world as if out of a grave.
They went on board in silence, and it was after showing her round
and when they had returned to the saloon that he assailed her in his
fiery, masterful fashion. At first she did not understand. Then
when she understood that he was giving her her liberty she went
stiff all over, her hand resting on the edge of the table, her face
set like a carving of white marble. It was all over. It was as
that abominable governess had said. She was insignificant,
contemptible. Nobody could love her. Humiliation clung to her like
a cold shroud--never to be shaken off, unwarmed by this madness of
"Yes. Here. Your home. I can't give it to you and go away, but it
is big enough for us two. You need not be afraid. If you say so I
shall not even look at you. Remember that grey head of which you
have been thinking night and day. Where is it going to rest? Where
else if not here, where nothing evil can touch it. Don't you
understand that I won't let you buy shelter from me at the cost of
your very soul. I won't. You are too much part of me. I have
found myself since I came upon you and I would rather sell my own
soul to the devil than let you go out of my keeping. But I must
have the right."
He went away brusquely to shut the door leading on deck and came
back the whole length of the cabin repeating:
"I must have the legal right. Are you ashamed of letting people
think you are my wife?"
He opened his arms as if to clasp her to his breast but mastered the
impulse and shook his clenched hands at her, repeating: "I must
have the right if only for your father's sake. I must have the
right. Where would you take him? To that infernal cardboard box-
maker. I don't know what keeps me from hunting him up in his
virtuous home and bashing his head in. I can't bear the thought.
Listen to me, Flora! Do you hear what I am saying to you? You are
not so proud that you can't understand that I as a man have my pride
He saw a tear glide down her white cheek from under each lowered
eyelid. Then, abruptly, she walked out of the cabin. He stood for
a moment, concentrated, reckoning his own strength, interrogating
his heart, before he followed her hastily. Already she had reached
At the sound of his pursuing footsteps her strength failed her.
Where could she escape from this? From this new perfidy of life
taking upon itself the form of magnanimity. His very voice was
changed. The sustaining whirlwind had let her down, to stumble on
again, weakened by the fresh stab, bereft of moral support which is
wanted in life more than all the charities of material help. She
had never had it. Never. Not from the Fynes. But where to go? Oh
yes, this dock--a placid sheet of water close at hand. But there
was that old man with whom she had walked hand in hand on the parade
by the sea. She seemed to see him coming to meet her, pitiful, a
little greyer, with an appealing look and an extended, tremulous
arm. It was for her now to take the hand of that wronged man more
helpless than a child. But where could she lead him? Where? And
what was she to say to him? What words of cheer, of courage and of
hope? There were none. Heaven and earth were mute, unconcerned at
their meeting. But this other man was coming up behind her. He was
very close now. His fiery person seemed to radiate heat, a tingling
vibration into the atmosphere. She was exhausted, careless, afraid
to stumble, ready to fall. She fancied she could hear his
breathing. A wave of languid warmth overtook her, she seemed to
lose touch with the ground under her feet; and when she felt him
slip his hand under her arm she made no attempt to disengage herself
from that grasp which closed upon her limb, insinuating and firm.
He conducted her through the dangers of the quayside. Her sight was
dim. A moving truck was like a mountain gliding by. Men passed by
as if in a mist; and the buildings, the sheds, the unexpected open
spaces, the ships, had strange, distorted, dangerous shapes. She
said to herself that it was good not to be bothered with what all
these things meant in the scheme of creation (if indeed anything had
a meaning), or were just piled-up matter without any sense. She
felt how she had always been unrelated to this world. She was
hanging on to it merely by that one arm grasped firmly just above
the elbow. It was a captivity. So be it. Till they got out into
the street and saw the hansom waiting outside the gates Anthony
spoke only once, beginning brusquely but in a much gentler tone than
she had ever heard from his lips.
"Of course I ought to have known that you could not care for a man
like me, a stranger. Silence gives consent. Yes? Eh? I don't
want any of that sort of consent. And unless some day you find you
can speak . . . No! No! I shall never ask you. For all the sign I
will give you you may go to your grave with sealed lips. But what I
have said you must do!"
He bent his head over her with tender care. At the same time she
felt her arm pressed and shaken inconspicuously, but in an
undeniable manner. "You must do it." A little shake that no
passer-by could notice; and this was going on in a deserted part of
the dock. "It must be done. You are listening to me--eh? or would
you go again to my sister?"
His ironic tone, perhaps from want of use, had an awful grating
"Would you go to her?" he pursued in the same strange voice. "Your
best friend! And say nicely--I am sorry. Would you? No! You
couldn't. There are things that even you, poor dear lost girl,
couldn't stand. Eh? Die rather. That's it. Of course. Or can
you be thinking of taking your father to that infernal cousin's
house. No! Don't speak. I can't bear to think of it. I would
follow you there and smash the door!"
The catch in his voice astonished her by its resemblance to a sob.
It frightened her too. The thought that came to her head was: "He
mustn't." He was putting her into the hansom. "Oh! He mustn't, he
mustn't." She was still more frightened by the discovery that he
was shaking all over. Bewildered, shrinking into the far off
corner, avoiding his eyes, she yet saw the quivering of his mouth
and made a wild attempt at a smile, which broke the rigidity of her
lips and set her teeth chattering suddenly.
"I am not coming with you," he was saying. "I'll tell the man . . .
I can't. Better not. What is it? Are you cold? Come! What is
it? Only to go to a confounded stuffy room, a hole of an office.
Not a quarter of an hour. I'll come for you--in ten days. Don't
think of it too much. Think of no man, woman or child of all that
silly crowd cumbering the ground. Don't think of me either. Think
of yourself. Ha! Nothing will be able to touch you then--at last.
Say nothing. Don't move. I'll have everything arranged; and as
long as you don't hate the sight of me--and you don't--there's
nothing to be frightened about. One of their silly offices with a
couple of ink-slingers of no consequence; poor, scribbling devils."
The hansom drove away with Flora de Barral inside, without movement,
without thought, only too glad to rest, to be alone and still moving
away without effort, in solitude and silence.
Anthony roamed the streets for hours without being able to remember
in the evening where he had been--in the manner of a happy and
exulting lover. But nobody could have thought so from his face,
which bore no signs of blissful anticipation. Exulting indeed he
was but it was a special sort of exultation which seemed to take him
by the throat like an enemy.
Anthony's last words to Flora referred to the registry office where
they were married ten days later. During that time Anthony saw no
one or anything, though he went about restlessly, here and there,
amongst men and things. This special state is peculiar to common
lovers, who are known to have no eyes for anything except for the
contemplation, actual or inward, of one human form which for them
contains the soul of the whole world in all its beauty, perfection,
variety and infinity. It must be extremely pleasant. But felicity
was denied to Roderick Anthony's contemplation. He was not a common
sort of lover; and he was punished for it as if Nature (which it is
said abhors a vacuum) were so very conventional as to abhor every
sort of exceptional conduct. Roderick Anthony had begun already to
suffer. That is why perhaps he was so industrious in going about
amongst his fellowmen who would have been surprised and humiliated,
had they known how little solidity and even existence they had in
his eyes. But they could not suspect anything so queer. They saw
nothing extraordinary in him during that fortnight. The proof of
this is that they were willing to transact business with him.
Obviously they were; since it is then that the offer of chartering
his ship for the special purpose of proceeding to the Western
Islands was put in his way by a firm of shipbrokers who had no doubt
of his sanity.
He probably looked sane enough for all the practical purposes of
commercial life. But I am not so certain that he really was quite
sane at that time.
However, he jumped at the offer. Providence itself was offering him
this opportunity to accustom the girl to sea-life by a comparatively
short trip. This was the time when everything that happened,
everything he heard, casual words, unrelated phrases, seemed a
provocation or an encouragement, confirmed him in his resolution.
And indeed to be busy with material affairs is the best preservative
against reflection, fears, doubts--all these things which stand in
the way of achievement. I suppose a fellow proposing to cut his
throat would experience a sort of relief while occupied in stropping
his razor carefully.
And Anthony was extremely careful in preparing for himself and for
the luckless Flora, an impossible existence. He went about it with
no more tremors than if he had been stuffed with rags or made of
iron instead of flesh and blood. An existence, mind you, which, on
shore, in the thick of mankind, of varied interests, of
distractions, of infinite opportunities to preserve your distance
from each other, is hardly conceivable; but on board ship, at sea,
en tete-e-tete for days and weeks and months together, could mean
nothing but mental torture, an exquisite absurdity of torment. He
was a simple soul. His hopelessly masculine ingenuousness is
displayed in a touching way by his care to procure some woman to
attend on Flora. The condition of guaranteed perfect respectability
gave him moments of anxious thought. When he remembered suddenly
his steward's wife he must have exclaimed eureka with particular
exultation. One does not like to call Anthony an ass. But really
to put any woman within scenting distance of such a secret and
suppose that she would not track it out!
No woman, however simple, could be as ingenuous as that. I don't
know how Flora de Barral qualified him in her thoughts when he told
her of having done this amongst other things intended to make her
comfortable. I should think that, for all HER simplicity, she must
have been appalled. He stood before her on the appointed day
outwardly calmer than she had ever seen him before. And this very
calmness, that scrupulous attitude which he felt bound in honour to
assume then and for ever, unless she would condescend to make a sign
at some future time, added to the heaviness of her heart innocent of
the most pardonable guile.
The night before she had slept better than she had done for the past
ten nights. Both youth and weariness will assert themselves in the
end against the tyranny of nerve-racking stress. She had slept but
she woke up with her eyes full of tears. There were no traces of
them when she met him in the shabby little parlour downstairs. She
had swallowed them up. She was not going to let him see. She felt
bound in honour to accept the situation for ever and ever unless . .
. Ah, unless . . . She dissembled all her sentiments but it was not
duplicity on her part. All she wanted was to get at the truth; to
see what would come of it.
She beat him at his own honourable game and the thoroughness of her
serenity disconcerted Anthony a bit. It was he who stammered when
it came to talking. The suppressed fierceness of his character
carried him on after the first word or two masterfully enough. But
it was as if they both had taken a bite of the same bitter fruit.
He was thinking with mournful regret not unmixed with surprise:
"That fellow Fyne has been telling me the truth. She does not care
for me a bit." It humiliated him and also increased his compassion
for the girl who in this darkness of life, buffeted and despairing,
had fallen into the grip of his stronger will, abandoning herself to
his arms as on a night of shipwreck. Flora on her side with partial
insight (for women are never blind with the complete masculine
blindness) looked on him with some pity; and she felt pity for
herself too. It was a rejection, a casting out; nothing new to her.
But she who supposed all her sensibility dead by this time,
discovered in herself a resentment of this ultimate betrayal. She
had no resignation for this one. With a sort of mental sullenness
she said to herself: "Well, I am here. I am here without any
nonsense. It is not my fault that I am a mere worthless object of
And these things which she could tell herself with a clear
conscience served her better than the passionate obstinacy of
purpose could serve Roderick Anthony. She was much more sure of
herself than he was. Such are the advantages of mere rectitude over
the most exalted generosity.
And so they went out to get married, the people of the house where
she lodged having no suspicion of anything of the sort. They were
only excited at a "gentleman friend" (a very fine man too) calling
on Miss Smith for the first time since she had come to live in the
house. When she returned, for she did come back alone, there were
allusions made to that outing. She had to take her meals with these
rather vulgar people. The woman of the house, a scraggy, genteel
person, tried even to provoke confidences. Flora's white face with
the deep blue eyes did not strike their hearts as it did the heart
of Captain Anthony, as the very face of the suffering world. Her
pained reserve had no power to awe them into decency.
Well, she returned alone--as in fact might have been expected.
After leaving the Registry Office Flora de Barral and Roderick
Anthony had gone for a walk in a park. It must have been an East-
End park but I am not sure. Anyway that's what they did. It was a
sunny day. He said to her: "Everything I have in the world belongs
to you. I have seen to that without troubling my brother-in-law.
They have no call to interfere."
She walked with her hand resting lightly on his arm. He had offered
it to her on coming out of the Registry Office, and she had accepted
it silently. Her head drooped, she seemed to be turning matters
over in her mind. She said, alluding to the Fynes: "They have been
very good to me." At that he exclaimed:
"They have never understood you. Well, not properly. My sister is
not a bad woman, but . . . "
Flora didn't protest; asking herself whether he imagined that he
himself understood her so much better. Anthony dismissing his
family out of his thoughts went on: "Yes. Everything is yours. I
have kept nothing back. As to the piece of paper we have just got
from that miserable quill-driver if it wasn't for the law, I
wouldn't mind if you tore it up here, now, on this spot. But don't
you do it. Unless you should some day feel that--"
He choked, unexpectedly. She, reflective, hesitated a moment then
making up her mind bravely.
"Neither am I keeping anything back from you."
She had said it! But he in his blind generosity assumed that she
was alluding to her deplorable history and hastened to mutter:
"Of course! Of course! Say no more. I have been lying awake
thinking of it all no end of times."
He made a movement with his other arm as if restraining himself from
shaking an indignant fist at the universe; and she never even
attempted to look at him. His voice sounded strangely, incredibly
lifeless in comparison with these tempestuous accents that in the
broad fields, in the dark garden had seemed to shake the very earth
under her weary and hopeless feet.
She regretted them. Hearing the sigh which escaped her Anthony
instead of shaking his fist at the universe began to pat her hand
resting on his arm and then desisted, suddenly, as though he had
burnt himself. Then after a silence:
"You will have to go by yourself to-morrow. I . . . No, I think I
mustn't come. Better not. What you two will have to say to each
She interrupted him quickly:
"Father is an innocent man. He was cruelly wronged."
"Yes. That's why," Anthony insisted earnestly. "And you are the
only human being that can make it up to him. You alone must
reconcile him with the world if anything can. But of course you
shall. You'll have to find words. Oh you'll know. And then the
sight of you, alone, would soothe--"
"He's the gentlest of men," she interrupted again.
Anthony shook his head. "It would take no end of generosity, no end
of gentleness to forgive such a dead set. For my part I would have
liked better to have been killed and done with at once. It could
not have been worse for you--and I suppose it was of you that he was
thinking most while those infernal lawyers were badgering him in
court. Of you. And now I think of it perhaps the sight of you may
bring it all back to him. All these years, all these years--and you
his child left alone in the world. I would have gone crazy. For
even if he had done wrong--"
"But he hasn't," insisted Flora de Barral with a quite unexpected
fierceness. "You mustn't even suppose it. Haven't you read the
accounts of the trial?"
"I am not supposing anything," Anthony defended himself. He just
remembered hearing of the trial. He assured her that he was away
from England, the second voyage of the Ferndale. He was crossing
the Pacific from Australia at the time and didn't see any papers for
weeks and weeks. He interrupted himself to suggest:
"You had better tell him at once that you are happy."
He had stammered a little, and Flora de Barral uttered a deliberate
and concise "Yes."
A short silence ensued. She withdrew her hand from his arm. They
stopped. Anthony looked as if a totally unexpected catastrophe had
"Ah," he said. "You mind . . . "
"No! I think I had better," she murmured.
"I dare say. I dare say. Bring him along straight on board to-
morrow. Stop nowhere."
She had a movement of vague gratitude, a momentary feeling of peace
which she referred to the man before her. She looked up at Anthony.
His face was sombre. He was miles away and muttered as if to
"Where could he want to stop though?"
"There's not a single being on earth that I would want to look at
his dear face now, to whom I would willingly take him," she said
extending her hand frankly and with a slight break in her voice,
He took that hand, felt it very small and delicate in his broad
"That's right. That's right," he said with a conscious and hasty
heartiness and, as if suddenly ashamed of the sound of his voice,
turned half round and absolutely walked away from the motionless
girl. He even resisted the temptation to look back till it was too
late. The gravel path lay empty to the very gate of the park. She
was gone--vanished. He had an impression that he had missed some
sort of chance. He felt sad. That excited sense of his own conduct
which had kept him up for the last ten days buoyed him no more. He
He strolled on aimlessly a prey to gentle melancholy. He walked and
walked. There were but few people about in this breathing space of
a poor neighbourhood. Under certain conditions of life there is
precious little time left for mere breathing. But still a few here
and there were indulging in that luxury; yet few as they were
Captain Anthony, though the least exclusive of men, resented their
presence. Solitude had been his best friend. He wanted some place
where he could sit down and be alone. And in his need his thoughts
turned to the sea which had given him so much of that congenial
solitude. There, if always with his ship (but that was an integral
part of him) he could always be as solitary as he chose. Yes. Get
out to sea!
The night of the town with its strings of lights, rigid, and crossed
like a net of flames, thrown over the sombre immensity of walls,
closed round him, with its artificial brilliance overhung by an
emphatic blackness, its unnatural animation of a restless,
overdriven humanity. His thoughts which somehow were inclined to
pity every passing figure, every single person glimpsed under a
street lamp, fixed themselves at last upon a figure which certainly
could not have been seen under the lamps on that particular night.
A figure unknown to him. A figure shut up within high unscaleable
walls of stone or bricks till next morning . . . The figure of Flora
de Barral's father. De Barral the financier--the convict.
There is something in that word with its suggestions of guilt and
retribution which arrests the thought. We feel ourselves in the
presence of the power of organized society--a thing mysterious in
itself and still more mysterious in its effect. Whether guilty or
innocent, it was as if old de Barral had been down to the Nether
Regions. Impossible to imagine what he would bring out from there
to the light of this world of uncondemned men. What would he think?
What would he have to say? And what was one to say to him?
Anthony, a little awed, as one is by a range of feelings stretching
beyond one's grasp, comforted himself by the thought that probably
the old fellow would have little to say. He wouldn't want to talk
about it. No man would. It must have been a real hell to him.
And then Anthony, at the end of the day in which he had gone through
a marriage ceremony with Flora de Barral, ceased to think of Flora's
father except, as in some sort, the captive of his triumph. He
turned to the mental contemplation of the white, delicate and
appealing face with great blue eyes which he had seen weep and
wonder and look profoundly at him, sometimes with incredulity,
sometimes with doubt and pain, but always irresistible in the power
to find their way right into his breast, to stir there a deep
response which was something more than love--he said to himself,--as
men understand it. More? Or was it only something other? Yes. It
was something other. More or less. Something as incredible as the
fulfilment of an amazing and startling dream in which he could take
the world in his arms--all the suffering world--not to possess its
pathetic fairness but to console and cherish its sorrow.
Anthony walked slowly to the ship and that night slept without
CHAPTER FIVE--THE GREAT DE BARRAL
Renovated certainly the saloon of the Ferndale was to receive the
"strange woman." The mellowness of its old-fashioned, tarnished
decoration was gone. And Anthony looking round saw the glitter, the
gleams, the colour of new things, untried, unused, very bright--too
bright. The workmen had gone only last night; and the last piece of
work they did was the hanging of the heavy curtains which looped
midway the length of the saloon--divided it in two if released,
cutting off the after end with its companion-way leading direct on
the poop, from the forepart with its outlet on the deck; making a
privacy within a privacy, as though Captain Anthony could not place
obstacles enough between his new happiness and the men who shared
his life at sea. He inspected that arrangement with an approving
eye then made a particular visitation of the whole, ending by
opening a door which led into a large stateroom made of two knocked
into one. It was very well furnished and had, instead of the usual
bedplace of such cabins, an elaborate swinging cot of the latest
pattern. Anthony tilted it a little by way of trial. "The old man
will be very comfortable in here," he said to himself, and stepped
back into the saloon closing the door gently. Then another thought
occurred to him obvious under the circumstances but strangely enough
presenting itself for the first time. "Jove! Won't he get a
shock," thought Roderick Anthony.
He went hastily on deck. "Mr. Franklin, Mr. Franklin." The mate
was not very far. "Oh! Here you are. Miss . . . Mrs. Anthony'll
be coming on board presently. Just give me a call when you see the
Then, without noticing the gloominess of the mate's countenance he
went in again. Not a friendly word, not a professional remark, or a
small joke, not as much as a simple and inane "fine day." Nothing.
Just turned about and went in.
We know that, when the moment came, he thought better of it and
decided to meet Flora's father in that privacy of the main cabin
which he had been so careful to arrange. Why Anthony appeared to
shrink from the contact, he who was sufficiently self-confident not
only to face but to absolutely create a situation almost insane in
its audacious generosity, is difficult to explain. Perhaps when he
came on the poop for a glance he found that man so different
outwardly from what he expected that he decided to meet him for the
first time out of everybody's sight. Possibly the general secrecy
of his relation to the girl might have influenced him. Truly he may
well have been dismayed. That man's coming brought him face to face
with the necessity to speak and act a lie; to appear what he was not
and what he could never be, unless, unless -
In short, we'll say if you like that for various reasons, all having
to do with the delicate rectitude of his nature, Roderick Anthony (a
man of whom his chief mate used to say: he doesn't know what fear
is) was frightened. There is a Nemesis which overtakes generosity
too, like all the other imprudences of men who dare to be lawless
and proud . . . "
"Why do you say this?" I inquired, for Marlow had stopped abruptly
and kept silent in the shadow of the bookcase.
"I say this because that man whom chance had thrown in Flora's way
was both: lawless and proud. Whether he knew anything about it or
not it does not matter. Very likely not. One may fling a glove in
the face of nature and in the face of one's own moral endurance
quite innocently, with a simplicity which wears the aspect of
perfectly Satanic conceit. However, as I have said it does not
matter. It's a transgression all the same and has got to be paid
for in the usual way. But never mind that. I paused because, like
Anthony, I find a difficulty, a sort of dread in coming to grips
with old de Barral.
You remember I had a glimpse of him once. He was not an imposing
personality: tall, thin, straight, stiff, faded, moving with short
steps and with a gliding motion, speaking in an even low voice.
When the sea was rough he wasn't much seen on deck--at least not
walking. He caught hold of things then and dragged himself along as
far as the after skylight where he would sit for hours. Our, then
young, friend offered once to assist him and this service was the
first beginning of a sort of friendship. He clung hard to one--
Powell says, with no figurative intention. Powell was always on the
lookout to assist, and to assist mainly Mrs. Anthony, because he
clung so jolly hard to her that Powell was afraid of her being
dragged down notwithstanding that she very soon became very sure-
footed in all sorts of weather. And Powell was the only one ready
to assist at hand because Anthony (by that time) seemed to be afraid
to come near them; the unforgiving Franklin always looked wrathfully
the other way; the boatswain, if up there, acted likewise but
sheepishly; and any hands that happened to be on the poop (a feeling
spreads mysteriously all over a ship) shunned him as though he had
been the devil.
We know how he arrived on board. For my part I know so little of
prisons that I haven't the faintest notion how one leaves them. It
seems as abominable an operation as the other, the shutting up with
its mental suggestions of bang, snap, crash and the empty silence
outside--where an instant before you were--you WERE--and now no
longer are. Perfectly devilish. And the release! I don't know
which is worse. How do they do it? Pull the string, door flies
open, man flies through: Out you go! Adios! And in the space
where a second before you were not, in the silent space there is a
figure going away, limping. Why limping? I don't know. That's how
I see it. One has a notion of a maiming, crippling process; of the
individual coming back damaged in some subtle way. I admit it is a
fantastic hallucination, but I can't help it. Of course I know that
the proceedings of the best machine-made humanity are employed with
judicious care and so on. I am absurd, no doubt, but still . . . Oh
yes it's idiotic. When I pass one of these places . . . did you
notice that there is something infernal about the aspect of every
individual stone or brick of them, something malicious as if matter
were enjoying its revenge of the contemptuous spirit of man. Did
you notice? You didn't? Eh? Well I am perhaps a little mad on
that point. When I pass one of these places I must avert my eyes.
I couldn't have gone to meet de Barral. I should have shrunk from
the ordeal. You'll notice that it looks as if Anthony (a brave man
indubitably) had shirked it too. Little Fyne's flight of fancy
picturing three people in the fatal four wheeler--you remember?--
went wide of the truth. There were only two people in the four
wheeler. Flora did not shrink. Women can stand anything. The dear
creatures have no imagination when it comes to solid facts of life.
In sentimental regions--I won't say. It's another thing altogether.
There they shrink from or rush to embrace ghosts of their own
creation just the same as any fool-man would.
No. I suppose the girl Flora went on that errand reasonably. And
then, why! This was the moment for which she had lived. It was her
only point of contact with existence. Oh yes. She had been
assisted by the Fynes. And kindly. Certainly. Kindly. But that's
not enough. There is a kind way of assisting our fellow-creatures
which is enough to break their hearts while it saves their outer
envelope. How cold, how infernally cold she must have felt--unless
when she was made to burn with indignation or shame. Man, we know,
cannot live by bread alone but hang me if I don't believe that some
women could live by love alone. If there be a flame in human beings
fed by varied ingredients earthly and spiritual which tinge it in
different hues, then I seem to see the colour of theirs. It is
azure . . . What the devil are you laughing at . . . "
Marlow jumped up and strode out of the shadow as if lifted by
indignation but there was the flicker of a smile on his lips. "You
say I don't know women. Maybe. It's just as well not to come too
close to the shrine. But I have a clear notion of WOMAN. In all of
them, termagant, flirt, crank, washerwoman, blue-stocking, outcast
and even in the ordinary fool of the ordinary commerce there is
something left, if only a spark. And when there is a spark there
can always be a flame . . . "
He went back into the shadow and sat down again.
"I don't mean to say that Flora de Barral was one of the sort that
could live by love alone. In fact she had managed to live without.
But still, in the distrust of herself and of others she looked for
love, any kind of love, as women will. And that confounded jail was
the only spot where she could see it--for she had no reason to
distrust her father.
She was there in good time. I see her gazing across the road at
these walls which are, properly speaking, awful. You do indeed seem
to feel along the very lines and angles of the unholy bulk, the fall
of time, drop by drop, hour by hour, leaf by leaf, with a gentle and
implacable slowness. And a voiceless melancholy comes over one,
invading, overpowering like a dream, penetrating and mortal like
When de Barral came out she experienced a sort of shock to see that
he was exactly as she remembered him. Perhaps a little smaller.
Otherwise unchanged. You come out in the same clothes, you know. I
can't tell whether he was looking for her. No doubt he was.
Whether he recognized her? Very likely. She crossed the road and
at once there was reproduced at a distance of years, as if by some
mocking witchcraft, the sight so familiar on the Parade at Brighton
of the financier de Barral walking with his only daughter. One
comes out of prison in the same clothes one wore on the day of
condemnation, no matter how long one has been put away there. Oh,
they last! They last! But there is something which is preserved by
prison life even better than one's discarded clothing. It is the
force, the vividness of one's sentiments. A monastery will do that
too; but in the unholy claustration of a jail you are thrown back
wholly upon yourself--for God and Faith are not there. The people
outside disperse their affections, you hoard yours, you nurse them
into intensity. What they let slip, what they forget in the
movement and changes of free life, you hold on to, amplify,
exaggerate into a rank growth of memories. They can look with a
smile at the troubles and pains of the past; but you can't. Old
pains keep on gnawing at your heart, old desires, old deceptions,
old dreams, assailing you in the dead stillness of your present
where nothing moves except the irrecoverable minutes of your life.
De Barral was out and, for a time speechless, being led away almost
before he had taken possession of the free world, by his daughter.
Flora controlled herself well. They walked along quickly for some
distance. The cab had been left round the corner--round several
corners for all I know. He was flustered, out of breath, when she
helped him in and followed herself. Inside that rolling box,
turning towards that recovered presence with her heart too full for
words she felt the desire of tears she had managed to keep down
abandon her suddenly, her half-mournful, half-triumphant exultation
subside, every fibre of her body, relaxed in tenderness, go stiff in
the close look she took at his face. He WAS different. There was
something. Yes, there was something between them, something hard
and impalpable, the ghost of these high walls.
How old he was, how unlike!
She shook off this impression, amazed and frightened by it of
course. And remorseful too. Naturally. She threw her arms round
his neck. He returned that hug awkwardly, as if not in perfect
control of his arms, with a fumbling and uncertain pressure. She
hid her face on his breast. It was as though she were pressing it
against a stone. They released each other and presently the cab was
rolling along at a jog-trot to the docks with those two people as
far apart as they could get from each other, in opposite corners.
After a silence given up to mutual examination he uttered his first
coherent sentence outside the walls of the prison.
"What has done for me was envy. Envy. There was a lot of them just
bursting with it every time they looked my way. I was doing too
well. So they went to the Public Prosecutor--"
She said hastily "Yes! Yes! I know," and he glared as if resentful
that the child had turned into a young woman without waiting for him
to come out. "What do you know about it?" he asked. "You were too
young." His speech was soft. The old voice, the old voice! It
gave her a thrill. She recognized its pointless gentleness always
the same no matter what he had to say. And she remembered that he
never had much to say when he came down to see her. It was she who
chattered, chattered, on their walks, while stiff and with a
rigidly-carried head, he dropped a gentle word now and then.
Moved by these recollections waking up within her, she explained to
him that within the last year she had read and studied the report of
"I went through the files of several papers, papa."
He looked at her suspiciously. The reports were probably very
incomplete. No doubt the reporters had garbled his evidence. They
were determined to give him no chance either in court or before the
public opinion. It was a conspiracy . . . "My counsel was a fool
too," he added. "Did you notice? A perfect fool."
She laid her hand on his arm soothingly. "Is it worth while talking
about that awful time? It is so far away now." She shuddered
slightly at the thought of all the horrible years which had passed
over her young head; never guessing that for him the time was but
yesterday. He folded his arms on his breast, leaned back in his
corner and bowed his head. But in a little while he made her jump
by asking suddenly:
"Who has got hold of the Lone Valley Railway? That's what they were
after mainly. Somebody has got it. Parfitts and Co. grabbed it--
eh? Or was it that fellow Warner . . . "
"I--I don't know," she said quite scared by the twitching of his
"Don't know!" he exclaimed softly. Hadn't her cousin told her? Oh
yes. She had left them--of course. Why did she? It was his first
question about herself but she did not answer it. She did not want
to talk of these horrors. They were impossible to describe. She
perceived though that he had not expected an answer, because she
heard him muttering to himself that: "There was half a million's
worth of work done and material accumulated there."
"You mustn't think of these things, papa," she said firmly. And he
asked her with that invariable gentleness, in which she seemed now
to detect some rather ugly shades, what else had he to think about?
Another year or two, if they had only left him alone, he and
everybody else would have been all right, rolling in money; and she,
his daughter, could have married anybody--anybody. A lord.
All this was to him like yesterday, a long yesterday, a yesterday
gone over innumerable times, analysed, meditated upon for years. It
had a vividness and force for that old man of which his daughter who
had not been shut out of the world could have no idea. She was to
him the only living figure out of that past, and it was perhaps in
perfect good faith that he added, coldly, inexpressive and thin-
lipped: "I lived only for you, I may say. I suppose you understand
that. There were only you and me."
Moved by this declaration, wondering that it did not warm her heart
more, she murmured a few endearing words while the uppermost thought
in her mind was that she must tell him now of the situation. She
had expected to be questioned anxiously about herself--and while she
desired it she shrank from the answers she would have to make. But
her father seemed strangely, unnaturally incurious. It looked as if
there would be no questions. Still this was an opening. This
seemed to be the time for her to begin. And she began. She began
by saying that she had always felt like that. There were two of
them, to live for each other. And if he only knew what she had gone
Ensconced in his corner, with his arms folded, he stared out of the
cab window at the street. How little he was changed after all. It
was the unmovable expression, the faded stare she used to see on the
esplanade whenever walking by his side hand in hand she raised her
eyes to his face--while she chattered, chattered. It was the same
stiff, silent figure which at a word from her would turn rigidly
into a shop and buy her anything it occurred to her that she would
like to have. Flora de Barral's voice faltered. He bent on her
that well-remembered glance in which she had never read anything as
a child, except the consciousness of her existence. And that was
enough for a child who had never known demonstrative affection. But
she had lived a life so starved of all feeling that this was no
longer enough for her. What was the good of telling him the story
of all these miseries now past and gone, of all those bewildering
difficulties and humiliations? What she must tell him was difficult
enough to say. She approached it by remarking cheerfully:
"You haven't even asked me where I am taking you." He started like
a somnambulist awakened suddenly, and there was now some meaning in
his stare; a sort of alarmed speculation. He opened his mouth
slowly. Flora struck in with forced gaiety. "You would never,
He waited, still more startled and suspicious. "Guess! Why don't
you tell me?"
He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward towards her. She got hold
of one of his hands. "You must know first . . . " She paused, made
an effort: "I am married, papa."
For a moment they kept perfectly still in that cab rolling on at a
steady jog-trot through a narrow city street full of bustle.
Whatever she expected she did not expect to feel his hand snatched
away from her grasp as if from a burn or a contamination. De Barral
fresh from the stagnant torment of the prison (where nothing
happens) had not expected that sort of news. It seemed to stick in
his throat. In strangled low tones he cried out, "You--married?
You, Flora! When? Married! What for? Who to? Married!"
His eyes which were blue like hers, only faded, without depth,
seemed to start out of their orbits. He did really look as if he
were choking. He even put his hand to his collar . . . "
"You know," continued Marlow out of the shadow of the bookcase and
nearly invisible in the depths of the arm-chair, "the only time I
saw him he had given me the impression of absolute rigidity, as
though he had swallowed a poker. But it seems that he could
collapse. I can hardly picture this to myself. I understand that
he did collapse to a certain extent in his corner of the cab. The
unexpected had crumpled him up. She regarded him perplexed,
pitying, a little disillusioned, and nodded at him gravely: Yes.
Married. What she did not like was to see him smile in a manner far
from encouraging to the devotion of a daughter. There was something
unintentionally savage in it. Old de Barral could not quite command
his muscles, as yet. But he had recovered command of his gentle
"You were just saying that in this wide world there we were, only
you and I, to stick to each other."
She was dimly aware of the scathing intention lurking in these soft
low tones, in these words which appealed to her poignantly. She
defended herself. Never, never for a single moment had she ceased
to think of him. Neither did he cease to think of her, he said,
with as much sinister emphasis as he was capable of.
"But, papa," she cried, "I haven't been shut up like you." She
didn't mind speaking of it because he was innocent. He hadn't been
understood. It was a misfortune of the most cruel kind but no more
disgraceful than an illness, a maiming accident or some other
visitation of blind fate. "I wish I had been too. But I was alone
out in the world, the horrid world, that very world which had used
you so badly."
"And you couldn't go about in it without finding somebody to fall in
love with?" he said. A jealous rage affected his brain like the
fumes of wine, rising from some secret depths of his being so long
deprived of all emotions. The hollows at the corners of his lips
became more pronounced in the puffy roundness of his cheeks.
Images, visions, obsess with particular force, men withdrawn from
the sights and sounds of active life. "And I did nothing but think
of you!" he exclaimed under his breath, contemptuously. "Think of
you! You haunted me, I tell you."
Flora said to herself that there was a being who loved her. "Then
we have been haunting each other," she declared with a pang of
remorse. For indeed he had haunted her nearly out of the world,
into a final and irremediable desertion. "Some day I shall tell you
. . . No. I don't think I can ever tell you. There was a time when
I was mad. But what's the good? It's all over now. We shall
forget all this. There shall be nothing to remind us."
De Barral moved his shoulders.
"I should think you were mad to tie yourself to . . . How long is it
since you are married?"
She answered "Not long" that being the only answer she dared to
make. Everything was so different from what she imagined it would
be. He wanted to know why she had said nothing of it in any of her
letters; in her last letter. She said:
"It was after."
"So recently!" he wondered. "Couldn't you wait at least till I came
out? You could have told me; asked me; consulted me! Let me see--"
She shook her head negatively. And he was appalled. He thought to
himself: Who can he be? Some miserable, silly youth without a
penny. Or perhaps some scoundrel? Without making any expressive
movement he wrung his loosely-clasped hands till the joints cracked.
He looked at her. She was pretty. Some low scoundrel who will cast
her off. Some plausible vagabond . . . "You couldn't wait--eh?"
Again she made a slight negative sign.
"Why not? What was the hurry?" She cast down her eyes. "It had to
be. Yes. It was sudden, but it had to be."
He leaned towards her, his mouth open, his eyes wild with virtuous
anger, but meeting the absolute candour of her raised glance threw
himself back into his corner again.
"So tremendously in love with each other--was that it? Couldn't let
a father have his daughter all to himself even for a day after--
after such a separation. And you know I never had anyone, I had no
friends. What did I want with those people one meets in the City.
The best of them are ready to cut your throat. Yes! Business men,
gentlemen, any sort of men and women--out of spite, or to get
something. Oh yes, they can talk fair enough if they think there's
something to be got out of you . . . " His voice was a mere breath
yet every word came to Flora as distinctly as if charged with all
the moving power of passion . . . "My girl, I looked at them making
up to me and I would say to myself: What do I care for all that! I
am a business man. I am the great Mr. de Barral (yes, yes, some of
them twisted their mouths at it, but I WAS the great Mr. de Barral)
and I have my little girl. I wanted nobody and I have never had
A true emotion had unsealed his lips but the words that came out of
them were no louder than the murmur of a light wind. It died away.
"That's just it," said Flora de Barral under her breath. Without
removing his eyes from her he took off his hat. It was a tall hat.
The hat of the trial. The hat of the thumb-nail sketches in the
illustrated papers. One comes out in the same clothes, but
seclusion counts! It is well known that lurid visions haunt
secluded men, monks, hermits--then why not prisoners? De Barral the
convict took off the silk hat of the financier de Barral and
deposited it on the front seat of the cab. Then he blew out his
cheeks. He was red in the face.
"And then what happens?" he began again in his contained voice.
"Here I am, overthrown, broken by envy, malice and all
uncharitableness. I come out--and what do I find? I find that my
girl Flora has gone and married some man or other, perhaps a fool,
how do I know; or perhaps--anyway not good enough."
"A silly love affair as likely as not," he continued monotonously,
his thin lips writhing between the ill-omened sunk corners. "And a
very suspicious thing it is too, on the part of a loving daughter."
She tried to interrupt him but he went on till she actually clapped
her hand on his mouth. He rolled his eyes a bit but when she took
her hand away he remained silent.
"Wait. I must tell you . . . And first of all, papa, understand
this, for everything's in that: he is the most generous man in the
world. He is . . . "
De Barral very still in his corner uttered with an effort "You are
in love with him."
"Papa! He came to me. I was thinking of you. I had no eyes for
anybody. I could no longer bear to think of you. It was then that
he came. Only then. At that time when--when I was going to give
She gazed into his faded blue eyes as if yearning to be understood,
to be given encouragement, peace--a word of sympathy. He declared
without animation "I would like to break his neck."
She had the mental exclamation of the overburdened.
"Oh my God!" and watched him with frightened eyes. But he did not
appear insane or in any other way formidable. This comforted her.
The silence lasted for some little time. Then suddenly he asked:
"What's your name then?"
For a moment in the profound trouble of the task before her she did
not understand what the question meant. Then, her face faintly
flushing, she whispered: "Anthony."
Her father, a red spot on each cheek, leaned his head back wearily
in the corner of the cab.
"Anthony. What is he? Where did he spring from?"
"Papa, it was in the country, on a road--"
He groaned, "On a road," and closed his eyes.
"It's too long to explain to you now. We shall have lots of time.
There are things I could not tell you now. But some day. Some day.
For now nothing can part us. Nothing. We are safe as long as we
live--nothing can ever come between us."
"You are infatuated with the fellow," he remarked, without opening
his eyes. And she said: "I believe in him," in a low voice. "You
and I must believe in him."
"Who the devil is he?"
"He's the brother of the lady--you know Mrs. Fyne, she knew mother--
who was so kind to me. I was staying in the country, in a cottage,
with Mr. and Mrs. Fyne. It was there that we met. He came on a
visit. He noticed me. I--well--we are married now."
She was thankful that his eyes were shut. It made it easier to talk
of the future she had arranged, which now was an unalterable thing.
She did not enter on the path of confidences. That was impossible.
She felt he would not understand her. She felt also that he
suffered. Now and then a great anxiety gripped her heart with a
mysterious sense of guilt--as though she had betrayed him into the
hands of an enemy. With his eyes shut he had an air of weary and
pious meditation. She was a little afraid of it. Next moment a
great pity for him filled her heart. And in the background there
was remorse. His face twitched now and then just perceptibly. He
managed to keep his eyelids down till he heard that the 'husband'
was a sailor and that he, the father, was being taken straight on
board ship ready to sail away from this abominable world of
treacheries, and scorns and envies and lies, away, away over the
blue sea, the sure, the inaccessible, the uncontaminated and
spacious refuge for wounded souls.
Something like that. Not the very words perhaps but such was the
general sense of her overwhelming argument--the argument of refuge.
I don't think she gave a thought to material conditions. But as
part of that argument set forth breathlessly, as if she were afraid
that if she stopped for a moment she could never go on again, she
mentioned that generosity of a stormy type, which had come to her
from the sea, had caught her up on the brink of unmentionable
failure, had whirled her away in its first ardent gust and could be
trusted now, implicitly trusted, to carry them both, side by side,
into absolute safety.
She believed it, she affirmed it. He understood thoroughly at last,
and at once the interior of that cab, of an aspect so pacific in the
eyes of the people on the pavements, became the scene of a great
agitation. The generosity of Roderick Anthony--the son of the poet-
-affected the ex-financier de Barral in a manner which must have
brought home to Flora de Barral the extreme arduousness of the
business of being a woman. Being a woman is a terribly difficult
trade since it consists principally of dealings with men. This man-
-the man inside the cab--cast oft his stiff placidity and behaved
like an animal. I don't mean it in an offensive sense. What he did
was to give way to an instinctive panic. Like some wild creature
scared by the first touch of a net falling on its back, old de
Barral began to struggle, lank and angular, against the empty air--
as much of it as there was in the cab--with staring eyes and gasping
mouth from which his daughter shrank as far as she could in the
"Stop the cab. Stop him I tell you. Let me get out!" were the
strangled exclamations she heard. Why? What for? To do what? He
would hear nothing. She cried to him "Papa! Papa! What do you
want to do?" And all she got from him was: "Stop. I must get out.
I want to think. I must get out to think."
It was a mercy that he didn't attempt to open the door at once. He
only stuck his head and shoulders out of the window crying to the
cabman. She saw the consequences, the cab stopping, a crowd
collecting around a raving old gentleman . . . In this terrible
business of being a woman so full of fine shades, of delicate
perplexities (and very small rewards) you can never know what rough
work you may have to do, at any moment. Without hesitation Flora
seized her father round the body and pulled back--being astonished
at the ease with which she managed to make him drop into his seat
again. She kept him there resolutely with one hand pressed against
his breast, and leaning across him, she, in her turn put her head
and shoulders out of the window. By then the cab had drawn up to
the curbstone and was stopped. "No! I've changed my mind. Go on
please where you were told first. To the docks."
She wondered at the steadiness of her own voice. She heard a grunt
from the driver and the cab began to roll again. Only then she sank
into her place keeping a watchful eye on her companion. He was
hardly anything more by this time. Except for her childhood's
impressions he was just--a man. Almost a stranger. How was one to
deal with him? And there was the other too. Also almost a
stranger. The trade of being a woman was very difficult. Too
difficult. Flora closed her eyes saying to herself: "If I think
too much about it I shall go mad." And then opening them she asked
her father if the prospect of living always with his daughter and
being taken care of by her affection away from the world, which had
no honour to give to his grey hairs, was such an awful prospect.
"Tell me, is it so bad as that?"
She put that question sadly, without bitterness. The famous--or
notorious--de Barral had lost his rigidity now. He was bent.
Nothing more deplorably futile than a bent poker. He said nothing.
She added gently, suppressing an uneasy remorseful sigh:
"And it might have been worse. You might have found no one, no one
in all this town, no one in all the world, not even me! Poor papa!"
She made a conscience-stricken movement towards him thinking: "Oh!
I am horrible, I am horrible." And old de Barral, scared, tired,
bewildered by the extraordinary shocks of his liberation, swayed
over and actually leaned his head on her shoulder, as if sorrowing
over his regained freedom.
The movement by itself was touching. Flora supporting him lightly
imagined that he was crying; and at the thought that had she smashed
in a quarry that shoulder, together with some other of her bones,
this grey and pitiful head would have had nowhere to rest, she too
gave way to tears. They flowed quietly, easing her overstrained
nerves. Suddenly he pushed her away from him so that her head
struck the side of the cab, pushing himself away too from her as if
something had stung him.
All the warmth went out of her emotion. The very last tears turned
cold on her cheek. But their work was done. She had found courage,
resolution, as women do, in a good cry. With his hand covering the
upper part of his face whether to conceal his eyes or to shut out an
unbearable sight, he was stiffening up in his corner to his usual
poker-like consistency. She regarded him in silence. His thin
obstinate lips moved. He uttered the name of the cousin--the man,
you remember, who did not approve of the Fynes, and whom rightly or
wrongly little Fyne suspected of interested motives, in view of de
Barral having possibly put away some plunder, somewhere before the
I may just as well tell you at once that I don't know anything more
of him. But de Barral was of the opinion, speaking in his low voice
from under his hand, that this relation would have been only too
glad to have secured his guidance.
"Of course I could not come forward in my own name, or person. But
the advice of a man of my experience is as good as a fortune to
anybody wishing to venture into finance. The same sort of thing can
be done again."
He shuffled his feet a little, let fall his hand; and turning
carefully toward his daughter his puffy round cheeks, his round chin
resting on his collar, he bent on her the faded, resentful gaze of
his pale eyes, which were wet.
"The start is really only a matter of judicious advertising.
There's no difficulty. And here you go and . . . "
He turned his face away. "After all I am still de Barral, THE de
Barral. Didn't you remember that?"
"Papa," said Flora; "listen. It's you who must remember that there
is no longer a de Barral . . . " He looked at her sideways
anxiously. "There is Mr. Smith, whom no harm, no trouble, no wicked
lies of evil people can ever touch."
"Mr. Smith," he breathed out slowly. "Where does he belong to?
There's not even a Miss Smith."
"There is your Flora."
"My Flora! You went and . . . I can't bear to think of it. It's
"Yes. It was horrible enough at times," she said with feeling,
because somehow, obscurely, what this man said appealed to her as if
it were her own thought clothed in an enigmatic emotion. "I think
with shame sometimes how I . . . No not yet. I shall not tell you.
At least not now."
The cab turned into the gateway of the dock. Flora handed the tall
hat to her father. "Here, papa. And please be good. I suppose you
love me. If you don't, then I wonder who--"
He put the hat on, and stiffened hard in his corner, kept a sidelong
glance on his girl. "Try to be nice for my sake. Think of the
years I have been waiting for you. I do indeed want support--and
peace. A little peace."
She clasped his arm suddenly with both hands pressing with all her
might as if to crush the resistance she felt in him. "I could not
have peace if I did not have you with me. I won't let you go. Not
after all I went through. I won't." The nervous force of her grip
frightened him a little. She laughed suddenly. "It's absurd. It's
as if I were asking you for a sacrifice. What am I afraid of?
Where could you go? I mean now, to-day, to-night? You can't tell
me. Have you thought of it? Well I have been thinking of it for
the last year. Longer. I nearly went mad trying to find out. I
believe I was mad for a time or else I should never have thought . .
"This was as near as she came to a confession," remarked Marlow in a
changed tone. "The confession I mean of that walk to the top of the
quarry which she reproached herself with so bitterly. And he made
of it what his fancy suggested. It could not possibly be a just
notion. The cab stopped alongside the ship and they got out in the
manner described by the sensitive Franklin. I don't know if they
suspected each other's sanity at the end of that drive. But that is
possible. We all seem a little mad to each other; an excellent
arrangement for the bulk of humanity which finds in it an easy
motive of forgiveness. Flora crossed the quarter-deck with a
rapidity born of apprehension. It had grown unbearable. She wanted
this business over. She was thankful on looking back to see he was
following her. "If he bolts away," she thought, "then I shall know
that I am of no account indeed! That no one loves me, that words
and actions and protestations and everything in the world is false--
and I shall jump into the dock. THAT at least won't lie."
Well I don't know. If it had come to that she would have been most
likely fished out, what with her natural want of luck and the good
many people on the quay and on board. And just where the Ferndale
was moored there hung on a wall (I know the berth) a coil of line, a
pole, and a life-buoy kept there on purpose to save people who
tumble into the dock. It's not so easy to get away from life's
betrayals as she thought. However it did not come to that. He
followed her with his quick gliding walk. Mr. Smith! The liberated
convict de Barral passed off the solid earth for the last time,
vanished for ever, and there was Mr. Smith added to that world of
waters which harbours so many queer fishes. An old gentleman in a
silk hat, darting wary glances. He followed, because mere existence
has its claims which are obeyed mechanically. I have no doubt he
presented a respectable figure. Father-in-law. Nothing more
respectable. But he carried in his heart the confused pain of
dismay and affection, of involuntary repulsion and pity. Very much
like his daughter. Only in addition he felt a furious jealousy of
the man he was going to see.
A residue of egoism remains in every affection--even paternal. And
this man in the seclusion of his prison had thought himself into
such a sense of ownership of that single human being he had to think
about, as may well be inconceivable to us who have not had to serve
a long (and wickedly unjust) sentence of penal servitude. She was
positively the only thing, the one point where his thoughts found a
resting-place, for years. She was the only outlet for his
imagination. He had not much of that faculty to be sure, but there
was in it the force of concentration. He felt outraged, and perhaps
it was an absurdity on his part, but I venture to suggest rather in
degree than in kind. I have a notion that no usual, normal father
is pleased at parting with his daughter. No. Not even when he
rationally appreciates "Jane being taken off his hands" or perhaps
is able to exult at an excellent match. At bottom, quite deep down,
down in the dark (in some cases only by digging), there is to be
found a certain repugnance . . . With mothers of course it is
different. Women are more loyal, not to each other, but to their
common femininity which they behold triumphant with a secret and
The circumstances of that match added to Mr. Smith's indignation.
And if he followed his daughter into that ship's cabin it was as if
into a house of disgrace and only because he was still bewildered by
the suddenness of the thing. His will, so long lying fallow, was
overborne by her determination and by a vague fear of that regained
You will be glad to hear that Anthony, though he did shirk the
welcome on the quay, behaved admirably, with the simplicity of a man
who has no small meannesses and makes no mean reservations. His
eyes did not flinch and his tongue did not falter. He was, I have
it on the best authority, admirable in his earnestness, in his
sincerity and also in his restraint. He was perfect. Nevertheless
the vital force of his unknown individuality addressing him so
familiarly was enough to fluster Mr. Smith. Flora saw her father
trembling in all his exiguous length, though he held himself stiffer
than ever if that was possible. He muttered a little and at last
managed to utter, not loud of course but very distinctly: "I am
here under protest," the corners of his mouth sunk disparagingly,
his eyes stony. "I am here under protest. I have been locked up by
a conspiracy. I--"
He raised his hands to his forehead--his silk hat was on the table
rim upwards; he had put it there with a despairing gesture as he
came in--he raised his hands to his forehead. "It seems to me
unfair. I--" He broke off again. Anthony looked at Flora who
stood by the side of her father.
"Well, sir, you will soon get used to me. Surely you and she must
have had enough of shore-people and their confounded half-and-half
ways to last you both for a life-time. A particularly merciful lot
they are too. You ask Flora. I am alluding to my own sister, her
best friend, and not a bad woman either as they go."
The captain of the Ferndale checked himself. "Lucky thing I was
there to step in. I want you to make yourself at home, and before
The faded stare of the Great de Barral silenced Anthony by its
inexpressive fixity. He signalled with his eyes to Flora towards
the door of the state-room fitted specially to receive Mr. Smith,
the free man. She seized the free man's hat off the table and took
him caressingly under the arm. "Yes! This is home, come and see
your room, papa!"
Anthony himself threw open the door and Flora took care to shut it
carefully behind herself and her father. "See," she began but
desisted because it was clear that he would look at none of the
contrivances for his comfort. She herself had hardly seen them
before. He was looking only at the new carpet and she waited till
he should raise his eyes.
He didn't do that but spoke in his usual voice. "So this is your
husband, that . . . And I locked up!"
"Papa, what's the good of harping on that," she remonstrated no
louder. "He is kind."
"And you went and . . . married him so that he should be kind to me.
Is that it? How did you know that I wanted anybody to be kind to
"How strange you are!" she said thoughtfully.
"It's hard for a man who has gone through what I have gone through
to feel like other people. Has that occurred to you? . . . " He
looked up at last . . . "Mrs. Anthony, I can't bear the sight of
the fellow." She met his eyes without flinching and he added, "You
want to go to him now." His mild automatic manner seemed the effect
of tremendous self-restraint--and yet she remembered him always like
that. She felt cold all over.
"Why, of course, I must go to him," she said with a slight start.
He gnashed his teeth at her and she went out.
Anthony had not moved from the spot. One of his hands was resting
on the table. She went up to him, stopped, then deliberately moved
still closer. "Thank you, Roderick."
"You needn't thank me," he murmured. "It's I who . . . "
"No, perhaps I needn't. You do what you like. But you are doing it
He sighed then hardly above a whisper because they were near the
state-room door, "Upset, eh?"
She made no sign, no sound of any kind. The thorough falseness of
the position weighed on them both. But he was the braver of the
two. "I dare say. At first. Did you think of telling him you were
"He never asked me," she smiled faintly at him. She was
disappointed by his quietness. "I did not say more than I was
absolutely obliged to say--of myself." She was beginning to be
irritated with this man a little. "I told him I had been very
lucky," she said suddenly despondent, missing Anthony's masterful
manner, that something arbitrary and tender which, after the first
scare, she had accustomed herself to look forward to with
pleasurable apprehension. He was contemplating her rather blankly.
She had not taken off her outdoor things, hat, gloves. She was like
a caller. And she had a movement suggesting the end of a not very
satisfactory business call. "Perhaps it would be just as well if we
went ashore. Time yet."
He gave her a glimpse of his unconstrained self in the low vehement
"You dare!" which sprang to his lips and out of them with a most
"You dare . . . What's the matter now?"
These last words were shot out not at her but at some target behind
her back. Looking over her shoulder she saw the bald head with
black bunches of hair of the congested and devoted Franklin (he had
his cap in his hand) gazing sentimentally from the saloon doorway
with his lobster eyes. He was heard from the distance in a tone of
injured innocence reporting that the berthing master was alongside
and that he wanted to move the ship into the basin before the crew
came on board.
His captain growled "Well, let him," and waved away the ulcerated
and pathetic soul behind these prominent eyes which lingered on the
offensive woman while the mate backed out slowly. Anthony turned to
"You could not have meant it. You are as straight as they make
"I am trying to be."