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Falk by Joseph Conrad

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Several of us, all more or less connected with the
sea, were dining in a small river-hostelry not more
than thirty miles from London, and less than twenty
from that shallow and dangerous puddle to which
our coasting men give the grandiose name of "Ger-
man Ocean." And through the wide windows we
had a view of the Thames; an enfilading view down
the Lower Hope Reach. But the dinner was exe-
crable, and all the feast was for the eyes.

That flavour of salt-water which for so many of
us had been the very water of life permeated our
talk. He who hath known the bitterness of the
Ocean shall have its taste forever in his mouth. But
one or two of us, pampered by the life of the land,
complained of hunger. It was impossible to swal-
low any of that stuff. And indeed there was a
strange mustiness in everything. The wooden din-
ing-room stuck out over the mud of the shore like
a lacustrine dwelling; the planks of the floor seemed
rotten; a decrepit old waiter tottered pathetically
to and fro before an antediluvian and worm-eaten
sideboard; the chipped plates might have been dis-
interred from some kitchen midden near an inhab-
ited lake; and the chops recalled times more ancient
still. They brought forcibly to one's mind the
night of ages when the primeval man, evolving the
first rudiments of cookery from his dim conscious-
ness, scorched lumps of flesh at a fire of sticks in the
company of other good fellows; then, gorged and
happy, sat him back among the gnawed bones to
tell his artless tales of experience--the tales of hun-
ger and hunt--and of women, perhaps!

But luckily the wine happened to be as old as
the waiter. So, comparatively empty, but upon the
whole fairly happy, we sat back and told our artless
tales. We talked of the sea and all its works. The
sea never changes, and its works for all the talk of
men are wrapped in mystery. But we agreed that
the times were changed. And we talked of old
ships, of sea-accidents, of break-downs, dismast-
ings; and of a man who brought his ship safe to
Liverpool all the way from the River Platte under
a jury rudder. We talked of wrecks, of short ra-
tions and of heroism--or at least of what the news-
papers would have called heroism at sea--a mani-
festation of virtues quite different from the heroism
of primitive times. And now and then falling silent
all together we gazed at the sights of the river.

A P. & O. boat passed bound down. "One gets
jolly good dinners on board these ships," remarked
one of our band. A man with sharp eyes read out
the name on her bows: Arcadia. "What a beauti-
ful model of a ship!" murmured some of us. She
was followed by a small cargo steamer, and the flag
they hauled down aboard while we were looking
showed her to be a Norwegian. She made an awful
lot of smoke; and before it had quite blown away, a
high-sided, short, wooden barque, in ballast and
towed by a paddle-tug, appeared in front of the
windows. All her hands were forward busy setting
up the headgear; and aft a woman in a red hood,
quite alone with the man at the wheel, paced the
length of the poop back and forth, with the grey
wool of some knitting work in her hands.

"German I should think," muttered one. "The
skipper has his wife on board," remarked another;
and the light of the crimson sunset all ablaze behind
the London smoke, throwing a glow of Bengal light
upon the barque's spars, faded away from the Hope

Then one of us, who had not spoken before, a
man of over fifty, that had commanded ships for a
quarter of a century, looking after the barque now
gliding far away, all black on the lustre of the river,

This reminds me of an absurd episode in my life,
now many years ago, when I got first the command
of an iron barque, loading then in a certain Eastern
seaport. It was also the capital of an Eastern king-
dom, lying up a river as might be London lies up
this old Thames of ours. No more need be said of
the place; for this sort of thing might have hap-
pened anywhere where there are ships, skippers,
tugboats, and orphan nieces of indescribable splen-
dour. And the absurdity of the episode concerns
only me, my enemy Falk, and my friend Hermann.

There seemed to be something like peculiar em-
phasis on the words "My friend Hermann," which
caused one of us (for we had just been speaking of
heroism at sea) to say idly and nonchalantly:

"And was this Hermann a hero?"

Not at all, said our grizzled friend. No hero at
all. He was a Schiff-fuhrer: Ship-conductor.
That's how they call a Master Mariner in Germany.
I prefer our way. The alliteration is good, and
there is something in the nomenclature that gives
to us as a body the sense of corporate existence:
Apprentice, Mate, Master, in the ancient and hon-
ourable craft of the sea. As to my friend Hermann,
he might have been a consummate master of the
honourable craft, but he was called officially Schiff-
fuhrer, and had the simple, heavy appearance of a
well-to-do farmer, combined with the good-natured
shrewdness of a small shopkeeper. With his shaven
chin, round limbs, and heavy eyelids he did not look
like a toiler, and even less like an adventurer of the
sea. Still, he toiled upon the seas, in his own way,
much as a shopkeeper works behind his counter.
And his ship was the means by which he maintained
his growing family.

She was a heavy, strong, blunt-bowed affair,
awakening the ideas of primitive solidity, like the
wooden plough of our forefathers. And there were,
about her, other suggestions of a rustic and homely
nature. The extraordinary timber projections
which I have seen in no other vessel made her square
stern resemble the tail end of a miller's waggon.
But the four stern ports of her cabin, glazed with
six little greenish panes each, and framed in wooden
sashes painted brown, might have been the windows
of a cottage in the country. The tiny white cur-
tains and the greenery of flower pots behind the
glass completed the resemblance. On one or two
occasions when passing under stern I had de-
tected from my boat a round arm in the act of tilt-
ing a watering pot, and the bowed sleek head of a
maiden whom I shall always call Hermann's niece,
because as a matter of fact I've never heard her
name, for all my intimacy with the family.

This, however, sprang up later on. Meantime in
common with the rest of the shipping in that East-
ern port, I was left in no doubt as to Hermann's no-
tions of hygienic clothing. Evidently he believed
in wearing good stout flannel next his skin. On
most days little frocks and pinafores could be seen
drying in the mizzen rigging of his ship, or a tiny
row of socks fluttering on the signal halyards; but
once a fortnight the family washing was exhibited
in force. It covered the poop entirely. The after-
noon breeze would incite to a weird and flabby activ-
ity all that crowded mass of clothing, with its vague
suggestions of drowned, mutilated and flattened hu-
manity. Trunks without heads waved at you arms
without hands; legs without feet kicked fantasti-
cally with collapsible flourishes; and there were long
white garments that, taking the wind fairly
through their neck openings edged with lace, be-
came for a moment violently distended as by the
passage of obese and invisible bodies. On these days
you could make out that ship at a great distance
by the multi-coloured grotesque riot going on abaft
her mizzen mast.

She had her berth just ahead of me, and her
name was Diana,--Diana not of Ephesus but of
Bremen. This was proclaimed in white letters a
foot long spaced widely across the stern (somewhat
like the lettering of a shop-sign) under the cottage
windows. This ridiculously unsuitable name struck
one as an impertinence towards the memory of the
most charming of goddesses; for, apart from the
fact that the old craft was physically incapable of
engaging in any sort of chase, there was a gang of
four children belonging to her. They peeped over
the rail at passing boats and occasionally dropped
various objects into them. Thus, sometime before
I knew Hermann to speak to, I received on my hat
a horrid rag-doll belonging to Hermann's eldest
daughter. However, these youngsters were upon
the whole well behaved. They had fair heads, round
eyes, round little knobby noses, and they resembled
their father a good deal.

This Diana of Bremen was a most innocent old
ship, and seemed to know nothing of the wicked sea,
as there are on shore households that know nothing
of the corrupt world. And the sentiments she sug-
gested were unexceptionable and mainly of a do-
mestic order. She was a home. All these dear chil-
dren had learned to walk on her roomy quarter-deck.
In such thoughts there is something pretty, even
touching. Their teeth, I should judge, they had
cut on the ends of her running gear. I have many
times observed the baby Hermann (Nicholas) en-
gaged in gnawing the whipping of the fore-royal
brace. Nicholas' favourite place of residence was
under the main fife-rail. Directly he was let loose
he would crawl off there, and the first seaman who
came along would bring him, carefully held aloft
in tarry hands, back to the cabin door. I fancy
there must have been a standing order to that effect.
In the course of these transportations the baby,
who was the only peppery person in the ship, tried
to smite these stalwart young German sailors on the

Mrs. Hermann, an engaging, stout housewife,
wore on board baggy blue dresses with white dots.
When, as happened once or twice I caught her at an
elegant little wash-tub rubbing hard on white col-
lars, baby's socks, and Hermann's summer neck-
ties, she would blush in girlish confusion, and rais-
ing her wet hands greet me from afar with many
friendly nods. Her sleeves would be rolled up to
the elbows, and the gold hoop of her wedding ring
glittered among the soapsuds. Her voice was
pleasant, she had a serene brow, smooth bands of
very fair hair, and a good-humoured expression of
the eyes. She was motherly and moderately talka-
tive. When this simple matron smiled, youthful
dimples broke out on her fresh broad cheeks. Her-
mann's niece on the other hand, an orphan and very
silent, I never saw attempt a smile. This, however,
was not gloom on her part but the restraint of
youthful gravity.

They had carried her about with them for the
last three years, to help with the children and be
company for Mrs. Hermann, as Hermann men-
tioned once to me. It had been very necessary while
they were all little, he had added in a vexed manner.
It was her arm and her sleek head that I had
glimpsed one morning, through the stern-windows
of the cabin, hovering over the pots of fuchsias and
mignonette; but the first time I beheld her full
length I surrendered to her proportions. They fix
her in my mind, as great beauty, great intelligence,
quickness of wit or kindness of heart might have
made some her other woman equally memorable.

With her it was form and size. It was her physi-
cal personality that had this imposing charm. She
might have been witty, intelligent, and kind to an
exceptional degree. I don't know, and this is not to
the point. All I know is that she was built on a
magnificent scale. Built is the only word. She was
constructed, she was erected, as it were, with a regal
lavishness. It staggered you to see this reckless ex-
penditure of material upon a chit of a girl. She
was youthful and also perfectly mature, as though
she had been some fortunate immortal. She was
heavy too, perhaps, but that's nothing. It only
added to that notion of permanence. She was bare-
ly nineteen. But such shoulders! Such round
arms! Such a shadowing forth of mighty limbs
when with three long strides she pounced across the
deck upon the overturned Nicholas--it's perfectly
indescribable! She seemed a good, quiet girl, vigi-
lant as to Lena's needs, Gustav's tumbles, the state
of Carl's dear little nose--conscientious, hardwork-
ing, and all that. But what magnificent hair she
had! Abundant, long, thick, of a tawny colour.
It had the sheen of precious metals. She wore it
plaited tightly into one single tress hanging girl-
ishly down her back and its end reached down to
her waist. The massiveness of it surprised you.
On my word it reminded one of a club. Her face
was big, comely, of an unruffled expression. She
had a good complexion, and her blue eyes were so
pale that she appeared to look at the world with
the empty white candour of a statue. You could
not call her good-looking. It was something much
more impressive. The simplicity of her apparel,
the opulence of her form, her imposing stature,
and the extraordinary sense of vigorous life that
seemed to emanate from her like a perfume exhaled
by a flower, made her beautiful with a beauty of a
rustic and olympian order. To watch her reaching
up to the clothes-line with both arms raised high
above her head, caused you to fall a musing in a
strain of pagan piety. Excellent Mrs. Hermann's
baggy cotton gowns had some sort of rudimentary
frills at neck and bottom, but this girl's print frocks
hadn't even a wrinkle; nothing but a few straight
folds in the skirt falling to her feet, and these, when
she stood still, had a severe and statuesque quality.
She was inclined naturally to be still whether sit-
ting or standing. However, I don't mean to say
she was statuesque. She was too generously alive;
but she could have stood for an allegoric statue of
the Earth. I don't mean the worn-out earth of our
possession, but a young Earth, a virginal planet
undisturbed by the vision of a future teeming with
the monstrous forms of life and death, clamorous
with the cruel battles of hunger and thought.

The worthy Hermann himself was not very en-
tertaining, though his English was fairly compre-
hensible. Mrs. Hermann, who always let off one
speech at least at me in an hospitable, cordial tone
(and in Platt-Deutsch I suppose) I could not un-
derstand. As to their niece, however satisfactory
to look upon (and she inspired you somehow with
a hopeful view as to the prospects of mankind)
she was a modest and silent presence, mostly en-
gaged in sewing, only now and then, as I observed,
falling over that work into a state of maidenly
meditation. Her aunt sat opposite her, sewing also,
with her feet propped on a wooden footstool. On
the other side of the deck Hermann and I would
get a couple of chairs out of the cabin and settle
down to a smoking match, accompanied at long in-
tervals by the pacific exchange of a few words. I
came nearly every evening. Hermann I would find
in his shirt sleeves. As soon as he returned from
the shore on board his ship he commenced operations
by taking off his coat; then he put on his head an
embroidered round cap with a tassel, and changed
his boots for a pair of cloth slippers. Afterwards
he smoked at the cabin-door, looking at his children
with an air of civic virtue, till they got caught one
after another and put to bed in various staterooms.
Lastly, we would drink some beer in the cabin, which
was furnished with a wooden table on cross legs, and
with black straight-backed chairs--more like a farm
kitchen than a ship's cuddy. The sea and all nauti-
cal affairs seemed very far removed from the hos-
pitality of this exemplary family.

And I liked this because I had a rather worrying
time on board my own ship. I had been appointed
ex-officio by the British Consul to take charge of
her after a man who had died suddenly, leaving for
the guidance of his successor some suspiciously un-
receipted bills, a few dry-dock estimates hinting at
bribery, and a quantity of vouchers for three years'
extravagant expenditure; all these mixed up to-
gether in a dusty old violin-case lined with ruby
velvet. I found besides a large account-book,
which, when opened, hopefully turned out to my
infinite consternation to be filled with verses--page
after page of rhymed doggerel of a jovial and im-
proper character, written in the neatest minute hand
I ever did see. In the same fiddle-case a photograph
of my predecessor, taken lately in Saigon, repre-
sented in front of a garden view, and in company
of a female in strange draperies, an elderly, squat,
rugged man of stern aspect in a clumsy suit of black
broadcloth, and with the hair brushed forward above
the temples in a manner reminding one of a boar's
tusks. Of a fiddle, however, the only trace on board
was the case, its empty husk as it were; but of the
two last freights the ship had indubitably earned
of late, there were not even the husks left. It was
impossible to say where all that money had gone to.
It wasn't on board. It had not been remitted home;
for a letter from the owners, preserved in a desk
evidently by the merest accident, complained mildly
enough that they had not been favoured by a
scratch of the pen for the last eighteen months.
There were next to no stores on board, not an inch
of spare rope or a yard of canvas. The ship had
been run bare, and I foresaw no end of difficulties
before I could get her ready for sea.

As I was young then--not thirty yet--I took
myself and my troubles very seriously. The old
mate, who had acted as chief mourner at the cap-
tain's funeral, was not particularly pleased at my
coming. But the fact is the fellow was not legally
qualified for command, and the Consul was bound,
if at all possible, to put a properly certificated man
on board. As to the second mate, all I can say his
name was Tottersen, or something like that. His
practice was to wear on his head, in that tropical
climate, a mangy fur cap. He was, without excep-
tion, the stupidest man I had ever seen on board
ship. And he looked it too. He looked so con-
foundedly stupid that it was a matter of surprise
for me when he answered to his name.

I drew no great comfort from their company, to
say the least of it; while the prospect of making a
long sea passage with those two fellows was depress-
ing. And my other thoughts in solitude could not
be of a gay complexion. The crew was sickly, the
cargo was coming very slow; I foresaw I would
have lots of trouble with the charterers, and doubted
whether they would advance me enough money for
the ship's expenses. Their attitude towards me was
unfriendly. Altogether I was not getting on. I
would discover at odd times (generally about mid-
night) that I was totally inexperienced, greatly ig-
norant of business, and hopelessly unfit for any
sort of command; and when the steward had to be
taken to the hospital ill with choleraic symptoms I
felt bereaved of the only decent person at the after
end of the ship. He was fully expected to recover,
but in the meantime had to be replaced by some sort
of servant. And on the recommendation of a cer-
tain Schomberg, the proprietor of the smaller of
the two hotels in the place, I engaged a Chinaman.
Schomberg, a brawny, hairy Alsatian, and an awful
gossip, assured me that it was all right. "First-
class boy that. Came in the suite of his Excellency
Tseng the Commissioner--you know. His Excel-
lency Tseng lodged with me here for three weeks."

He mouthed the Chinese Excellency at me with
great unction, though the specimen of the "suite"
did not seem very promising. At the time, however,
I did not know what an untrustworthy humbug
Schomberg was. The "boy" might have been forty
or a hundred and forty for all you could tell--
one of those Chinamen of the death's-head type of
face and completely inscrutable. Before the end of
the third day he had revealed himself as a confirmed
opium-smoker, a gambler, a most audacious thief,
and a first-class sprinter. When he departed at the
top of his speed with thirty-two golden sovereigns
of my own hard-earned savings it was the last straw.
I had reserved that money in case my difficulties
came to the worst. Now it was gone I felt as poor
and naked as a fakir. I clung to my ship, for all
the bother she caused me, but what I could not bear
were the long lonely evenings in her cuddy, where
the atmosphere, made smelly by a leaky lamp, was
agitated by the snoring of the mate. That fellow
shut himself up in his stuffy cabin punctually at
eight, and made gross and revolting noises like a
water-logged trump. It was odious not to be able
to worry oneself in comfort on board one's own
ship. Everything in this world, I reflected, even
the command of a nice little barque, may be made
a delusion and a snare for the unwary spirit of
pride in man.

From such reflections I was glad to make any es-
cape on board that Bremen Diana. There appar-
ently no whisper of the world's iniquities had ever
penetrated. And yet she lived upon the wide sea:
and the sea tragic and comic, the sea with its horrors
and its peculiar scandals, the sea peopled by men
and ruled by iron necessity is indubitably a part of
the world. But that patriarchal old tub, like some
saintly retreat, echoed nothing of it. She was world
proof. Her venerable innocence apparently had
put a restraint on the roaring lusts of the sea. And
yet I have known the sea too long to believe in its
respect for decency. An elemental force is ruthlessly
frank. It may, of course, have been Hermann's
skilful seamanship, but to me it looked as if the al-
lied oceans had refrained from smashing these high
bulwarks, unshipping the lumpy rudder, frighten-
ing the children, and generally opening this fam-
ily's eyes out of sheer reticence. It looked like reti-
cence. The ruthless disclosure was in the end left
for a man to make; a man strong and elemental
enough and driven to unveil some secrets of the sea
by the power of a simple and elemental desire.

This, however, occurred much later, and mean-
time I took sanctuary in that serene old ship early
every evening. The only person on board that
seemed to be in trouble was little Lena, and in due
course I perceived that the health of the rag-doll
was more than delicate. This object led a sort of
"in extremis" existence in a wooden box placed
against the starboard mooring-bitts, tended and
nursed with the greatest sympathy and care by all
the children, who greatly enjoyed pulling long faces
and moving with hushed footsteps. Only the baby
--Nicholas--looked on with a cold, ruffianly leer,
as if he had belonged to another tribe altogether.
Lena perpetually sorrowed over the box, and all of
them were in deadly earnest. It was wonderful the
way these children would work up their compassion
for that bedraggled thing I wouldn't have touched
with a pair of tongs. I suppose they were exercis-
ing and developing their racial sentimentalism by
the means of that dummy. I was only surprised
that Mrs. Hermann let Lena cherish and hug that
bundle of rags to that extent, it was so disreputably
and completely unclean. But Mrs. Hermann would
raise her fine womanly eyes from her needlework to
look on with amused sympathy, and did not seen to
see it, somehow, that this object of affection was a
disgrace to the ship's purity. Purity, not cleanli-
ness, is the word. It was pushed so far that I seemed
to detect in this too a sentimental excess, as if dirt
had been removed in very love. It is impossible to
give you an idea of such a meticulous neatness. It
was as if every morning that ship had been ardu-
ously explored with--with toothbrushes. Her very
bowsprit three times a week had its toilette made
with a cake of soap and a piece of soft flannel. Ar-
rayed--I MUST say arrayed--arrayed artlessly in
dazzling white paint as to wood and dark green as
to ironwork the simple-minded distribution of these
colours evoked the images of simple-minded peace,
of arcadian felicity; and the childish comedy of
disease and sorrow struck me sometimes as an abom-
inably real blot upon that ideal state.

I enjoyed it greatly, and on my part I brought
a little mild excitement into it. Our intimacy arose
from the pursuit of that thief. It was in the even-
ing, and Hermann, who, contrary to his habits, had
stayed on shore late that day, was extricating him-
self backwards out of a little gharry on the river
bank, opposite his ship, when the hunt passed.
Realising the situation as though he had eyes in his
shoulder-blades, he joined us with a leap and took
the lead. The Chinaman fled silent like a rapid
shadow on the dust of an extremely oriental road.
I followed. A long way in the rear my mate
whooped like a savage. A young moon threw a
bashful light on a plain like a monstrous waste
ground: the architectural mass of a Buddhist tem-
ple far away projected itself in dead black on the
sky. We lost the thief of course; but in my disap-
pointment I had to admire Hermann's presence of
mind. The velocity that stodgy man developed in
the interests of a complete stranger earned my
warm gratitude--there was something truly cordial
in his exertions.

He seemed as vexed as myself at our failure, and
would hardly listen to my thanks. He said it was
"nothings," and invited me on the spot to come on
board his ship and drink a glass of beer with him.
We poked sceptically for a while amongst the
bushes, peered without conviction into a ditch or
two. There was not a sound: patches of slime glim-
mered feebly amongst the reeds. Slowly we trudged
back, drooping under the thin sickle of the moon,
and I heard him mutter to himself, "Himmel! Zwei
und dreissig Pfund!" He was impressed by the
figure of my loss. For a long time we had ceased to
hear the mate's whoops and yells.

Then he said to me, "Everybody has his troub-
les," and as we went on remarked that he would
never have known anything of mine hadn't he by an
extraordinary chance been detained on shore by
Captain Falk. He didn't like to stay late ashore--
he added with a sigh. The something doleful in his
tone I put to his sympathy with my misfortune, of

On board the Diana Mrs. Hermann's fine eyes
expressed much interest and commiseration. We
had found the two women sewing face to face under
the open skylight in the strong glare of the lamp.
Hermann walked in first, starting in the very door-
way to pull off his coat, and encouraging me with
loud, hospitable ejaculations: "Come in! This
way! Come in, captain!" At once, coat in hand,
he began to tell his wife all about it. Mrs. Hermann
put the palms of her plump hands together; I
smiled and bowed with a heavy heart: the niece got
up from her sewing to bring Hermann's slippers
and his embroidered calotte, which he assumed pon-
tifically, talking (about me) all the time. Billows
of white stuff lay between the chairs on the cabin
floor; I caught the words "Zwei und dreissig
Pfund" repeated several times, and presently came
the beer, which seemed delicious to my throat,
parched with running and the emotions of the chase.

I didn't get away till well past midnight, long
after the women had retired. Hermann had been
trading in the East for three years or more, carry-
ing freights of rice and timber mostly. His ship
was well known in all the ports from Vladivostok to
Singapore. She was his own property. The profits
had been moderate, but the trade answered well
enough while the children were small yet. In an-
other year or so he hoped he would be able to sell the
old Diana to a firm in Japan for a fair price. He
intended to return home, to Bremen, by mail boat,
second class, with Mrs. Hermann and the children.
He told me all this stolidly, with slow puffs at his
pipe. I was sorry when knocking the ashes out he
began to rub his eyes. I would have sat with him
till morning. What had I to hurry on board my
own ship for? To face the broken rifled drawer in
my state-room. Ugh! The very thought made me
feel unwell.

I became their daily guest, as you know. I think
that Mrs. Hermann from the first looked upon me
as a romantic person. I did not, of course, tear my
hair coram populo over my loss, and she took it for
lordly indifference. Afterwards, I daresay, I did
tell them some of my adventures--such as they were
--and they marvelled greatly at the extent of my
experience. Hermann would translate what he
thought the most striking passages. Getting up on
his legs, and as if delivering a lecture on a phenom-
enon, he addressed himself, with gestures, to the
two women, who would let their sewing sink slowly
on their laps. Meantime I sat before a glass of
Hermann's beer, trying to look modest. Mrs. Her-
mann would glance at me quickly, emit slight
"Ach's!" The girl never made a sound. Never.
But she too would sometimes raise her pale eyes to
look at me in her unseeing gentle way. Her glance
was by no means stupid; it beamed out soft and dif-
fuse as the moon beams upon a landscape--quite
differently from the scrutinising inspection of the
stars. You were drowned in it, and imagined your-
self to appear blurred. And yet this same glance
when turned upon Christian Falk must have been
as efficient as the searchlight of a battle-ship.

Falk was the other assiduous visitor on board,
but from his behaviour he might have been coming
to see the quarter-deck capstan. He certainly used
to stare at it a good deal when keeping us company
outside the cabin door, with one muscular arm
thrown over the back of the chair, and his big
shapely legs, in very tight white trousers, extended
far out and ending in a pair of black shoes as
roomy as punts. On arrival he would shake Her-
mann's hand with a mutter, bow to the women, and
take up his careless and misanthropic attitude by
our side. He departed abruptly, with a jump, go-
ing through the performance of grunts, hand-
shakes, bow, as if in a panic. Sometimes, with a
sort of discreet and convulsive effort, he approached
the women and exchanged a few low words with
them, half a dozen at most. On these occasions Her-
mann's usual stare became positively glassy and
Mrs. Hermann's kind countenance would colour up.
The girl herself never turned a hair.

Falk was a Dane or perhaps a Norwegian, I
can't tell now. At all events he was a Scandinavian
of some sort, and a bloated monopolist to boot. It
is possible he was unacquainted with the word, but
he had a clear perception of the thing itself. His
tariff of charges for towing ships in and out was
the most brutally inconsiderate document of the sort
I had ever seen. He was the commander and owner
of the only tug-boat on the river, a very trim white
craft of 150 tons or more, as elegantly neat as a
yacht, with a round wheel-house rising like a glazed
turret high above her sharp bows, and with one slen-
der varnished pole mast forward. I daresay there
are yet a few shipmasters afloat who remember Falk
and his tug very well. He extracted his pound and
a half of flesh from each of us merchant-skippers
with an inflexible sort of indifference which made
him detested and even feared. Schomberg used to
remark: "I won't talk about the fellow. I don't
think he has six drinks from year's end to year's end
in my place. But my advice is, gentlemen, don't
you have anything to do with him, if you can help

This advice, apart from unavoidable business re-
lations, was easy to follow because Falk intruded
upon no one. It seems absurd to compare a tug-
boat skipper to a centaur: but he reminded me some-
how of an engraving in a little book I had as a boy,
which represented centaurs at a stream, and there
was one, especially in the foreground, prancing bow
and arrows in hand, with regular severe features
and an immense curled wavy beard, flowing down
his breast. Falk's face reminded me of that cen-
taur. Besides, he was a composite creature. Not
a man-horse, it is true, but a man-boat. He lived
on board his tug, which was always dashing up and
down the river from early morn till dewy eve.

In the last rays of the setting sun, you could pick
out far away down the reach his beard borne high
up on the white structure, foaming up stream to
anchor for the night. There was the white-clad
man's body, and the rich brown patch of the hair,
and nothing below the waist but the 'thwart-ship
white lines of the bridge-screens, that lead the eye
to the sharp white lines of the bows cleaving the
muddy water of the river.

Separated from his boat to me at least he seemed
incomplete. The tug herself without his head and
torso on the bridge looked mutilated as it were.
But he left her very seldom. All the time I re-
mained in harbour I saw him only twice on shore.
On the first occasion it was at my charterers, where
he came in misanthropically to get paid for towing
out a French barque the day before. The second
time I could hardly believe my eyes, for I beheld
him reclining under his beard in a cane-bottomed
chair in the billiard-room of Schomberg's hotel.

It was very funny to see Schomberg ignoring
him pointedly. The artificiality of it contrasted
strongly with Falk's natural unconcern. The big
Alsatian talked loudly with his other customers, go-
ing from one little table to the other, and passing
Falk's place of repose with his eyes fixed straight
ahead. Falk sat there with an untouched glass at
his elbow. He must have known by sight and name
every white man in the room, but he never addressed
a word to anybody. He acknowledged my presence
by a drop of his eyelids, and that was all. Sprawl-
ing there in the chair, he would, now and again,
draw the palms of both his hands down his face,
giving at the same time a slight, almost impercepti-
ble, shudder.

It was a habit he had, and of course I was per-
fectly familiar with it, since you could not remain
an hour in his company without being made to won-
der at such a movement breaking some long period
of stillness. it was a passionate and inexplicable
gesture. He used to make it at all sorts of times;
as likely as not after he had been listening to little
Lena's chatter about the suffering doll, for instance.
The Hermann children always besieged him about
his legs closely, though, in a gentle way, he shrank
from them a little. He seemed, however, to feel a
great affection for the whole family. For Hermann
himself especially. He sought his company. In
this case, for instance, he must have been waiting
for him, because as soon as he appeared Falk rose
hastily, and they went out together. Then Schom-
berg expounded in my hearing to three or four
people his theory that Falk was after Captain Her-
mann's niece, and asserted confidently that nothing
would come of it. It was the same last year when
Captain Hermann was loading here, he said.

Naturally, I did not believe Schomberg, but I
own that for a time I observed closely what went
on. All I discovered was some impatience on Her-
mann's part. At the sight of Falk, stepping over
the gangway, the excellent man would begin to
mumble and chew between his teeth something that
sounded like German swear-words. However, as
I've said, I'm not familiar with the language, and
Hermann's soft, round-eyed countenance remained
unchanged. Staring stolidly ahead he greeted
him with, "Wie gehts," or in English, "How are
you?" with a throaty enunciation. The girl would
look up for an instant and move her lips slightly:
Mrs. Hermann let her hands rest on her lap to talk
volubly to him for a minute or so in her pleasant
voice before she went on with her sewing again.
Falk would throw himself into a chair, stretch his
big legs, as like as not draw his hands down his face
passionately. As to myself, he was not pointedly
impertinent: it was rather as though he could not
be bothered with such trifles as my existence; and
the truth is that being a monopolist he was under
no necessity to be amiable. He was sure to get his
own extortionate terms out of me for towage
whether he frowned or smiled. As a matter of fact,
he did neither: but before many days elapsed he
managed to astonish me not a little and to set
Schomberg's tongue clacking more than ever.

It came about in this way. There was a shallow
bar at the mouth of the river which ought to have
been kept down, but the authorities of the State
were piously busy gilding afresh the great Buddhist
Pagoda just then, and I suppose had no money to
spare for dredging operations. I don't know how
it may be now, but at the time I speak of that sand-
bank was a great nuisance to the shipping. One of
its consequences was that vessels of a certain
draught of water, like Hermann's or mine, could not
complete their loading in the river. After taking
in as much as possible of their cargo, they had to
go outside to fill up. The whole procedure was an
unmitigated bore. When you thought you had as
much on board as your ship could carry safely over
the bar, you went and gave notice to your agents.
They, in their turn, notified Falk that so-and-so
was ready to go out. Then Falk (ostensibly when it
fitted in with his other work, but, if the truth were
known, simply when his arbitrary spirit moved
him), after ascertaining carefully in the office that
there was enough money to meet his bill, would
come along unsympathetically, glaring at you with
his yellow eyes from the bridge, and would drag you
out dishevelled as to rigging, lumbered as to the
decks, with unfeeling haste, as if to execution. And
he would force you too to take the end of his own
wire hawser, for the use of which there was of course
an extra charge. To your shouted remonstrances
against that extortion this towering trunk with one
hand on the engine-room telegraph only shook its
bearded head above the splash, the racket, and the
clouds of smoke in which the tug, backing and fill-
ing in the smother of churning paddle-wheels be-
haved like a ferocious and impatient creature. He
had her manned by the cheekiest gang of lascars I
ever did see, whom he allowed to bawl at you inso-
lently, and, once fast, he plucked you out of your
berth as if he did not care what he smashed. Eigh-
teen miles down the river you had to go behind him,
and then three more along the coast to where a
group of uninhabited rocky islets enclosed a shel-
tered anchorage. There you would have to lie at
single anchor with your naked spars showing to
seaward over these barren fragments of land scat-
tered upon a very intensely blue sea. There was
nothing to look at besides but a bare coast, the mud-
dy edge of the brown plain with the sinuosities of
the river you had left, traced in dull green, and the
Great Pagoda uprising lonely and massive with
shining curves and pinnacles like the gorgeous and
stony efflorescence of tropical rocks. You had
nothing to do but to wait fretfully for the balance
of your cargo, which was sent out of the river with
the greatest irregularity. And it was open to you
to console yourself with the thought that, after all,
this stage of bother meant that your departure from
these shores was indeed approaching at last.

We both had to go through that stage, Hermann
and I, and there was a sort of tacit emulation be-
tween the ships as to which should be ready first.
We kept on neck and neck almost to the finish, when
I won the race by going personally to give notice in
the forenoon; whereas Hermann, who was very slow
in making up his mind to go ashore, did not get to
the agents' office till late in the day. They told him
there that my ship was first on turn for next morn-
ing, and I believe he told them he was in no hurry.
It suited him better to go the day after.

That evening, on board the Diana, he sat with
his plump knees well apart, staring and puffing at
the curved mouthpiece of his pipe. Presently he
spoke with some impatience to his niece about put-
ting the children to bed. Mrs. Hermann, who was
talking to Falk, stopped short and looked at her
husband uneasily, but the girl got up at once and
drove the children before her into the cabin. In a
little while Mrs. Hermann had to leave us to quell
what, from the sounds inside, must have been a dan-
gerous mutiny. At this Hermann grumbled to him-
self. For half an hour longer Falk left alone with
us fidgeted on his chair, sighed lightly, then at last,
after drawing his hands down his face, got up, and
as if renouncing the hope of making himself under-
stood (he hadn't opened his mouth once) he said in
English: "Well. . . . Good night, Captain Her-
mann." He stopped for a moment before my chair
and looked down fixedly; I may even say he glared:
and he went so far as to make a deep noise in his
throat. There was in all this something so marked
that for the first time in our limited intercourse of
nods and grunts he excited in me something like
interest. But next moment he disappointed me--
for he strode away hastily without a nod even.

His manner was usually odd it is true, and I cer-
tainly did not pay much attention to it; but that
sort of obscure intention, which seemed to lurk in
his nonchalance like a wary old carp in a pond, had
never before come so near the surface. He had dis-
tinctly aroused my expectations. I would have been
unable to say what it was I expected, but at all
events I did not expect the absurd developments he
sprung upon me no later than the break of the very
next day.

I remember only that there was, on that evening,
enough point in his behaviour to make me, after he
had fled, wonder audibly what he might mean. To
this Hermann, crossing his legs with a swing and
settling himself viciously away from me in his chair,
said: "That fellow don't know himself what he

There might have been some insight in such a
remark. I said nothing, and, still averted, he
added: "When I was here last year he was just
the same." An eruption of tobacco smoke envel-
oped his head as if his temper had exploded like

I had half a mind to ask him point blank whether
he, at least, didn't know why Falk, a notoriously
unsociable man, had taken to visiting his ship with
such assiduity. After all, I reflected suddenly, it
was a most remarkable thing. I wonder now what
Hermann would have said. As it turned out he
didn't let me ask. Forgetting all about Falk ap-
parently, he started a monologue on his plans for
the future: the selling of the ship, the going home;
and falling into a reflective and calculating mood
he mumbled between regular jets of smoke about
the expense. The necessity of disbursing passage
money for all his tribe seemed to disturb him in a
manner that was the more striking because other-
wise he gave no signs of a miserly disposition. And
yet he fussed over the prospect of that voyage home
in a mail boat like a sedentary grocer who has made
up his mind to see the world. He was racially thrifty
I suppose, and for him there must have been a great
novelty in finding himself obliged to pay for travel-
ling--for sea travelling which was the normal state
of life for the family--from the very cradle for
most of them. I could see he grudged prospectively
every single shilling which must be spent so absurd-
ly. It was rather funny. He would become doleful
over it, and then again, with a fretful sigh, he would
suppose there was nothing for it now but to take
three second-class tickets--and there were the four
children to pay for besides. A lot of money that
to spend at once. A big lot of money.

I sat with him listening (not for the first time)
to these heart-searchings till I grew thoroughly
sleepy, and then I left him and turned in on board
my ship. At daylight I was awakened by a yelping
of shrill voices, accompanied by a great commotion
in the water, and the short, bullying blasts of a
steam-whistle. Falk with his tug had come for me.

I began to dress. It was remarkable that the
answering noise on board my ship together with the
patter of feet above my head ceased suddenly. But
I heard more remote guttural cries which seemed to
express surprise and annoyance. Then the voice of
my mate reached me howling expostulations to
somebody at a distance. Other voices joined, ap-
parently indignant; a chorus of something that
sounded like abuse replied. Now and then the
steam-whistle screeched.

Altogether that unnecessary uproar was distract-
ing, but down there in my cabin I took it calmly.
In another moment, I thought, I should be going
down that wretched river, and in another week at
the most I should be totally quit of the odious place
and all the odious people in it.

Greatly cheered by the idea, I seized the hair-
brushes and looking at myself in the glass began to
use them. Suddenly a hush fell upon the noise out-
side, and I heard (the ports of my cabin were thrown
open)--I heard a deep calm voice, not on board my
ship, however, hailing resolutely in English, but
with a strong foreign twang, "Go ahead!"

There may be tides in the affairs of men which
taken at the flood . . . and so on. Personally I
am still on the look out for that important turn.
I am, however, afraid that most of us are fated to
flounder for ever in the dead water of a pool whose
shores are arid indeed. But I know that there are
often in men's affairs unexpectedly--even irration-
ally--illuminating moments when an otherwise in-
significant sound, perhaps only some perfectly com-
monplace gesture, suffices to reveal to us all the
unreason, all the fatuous unreason, of our compla-
cency. "Go ahead" are not particularly striking
words even when pronounced with a foreign accent;
yet they petrified me in the very act of smiling at
myself in the glass. And then, refusing to believe
my ears, but already boiling with indignation, I
ran out of the cabin and up on deck.

It was incredibly true. It was perfectly true. I
had no eyes for anything but the Diana. It was she,
then, was being taken away. She was already out
of her berth and shooting athwart the river. "The
way this loonatic plucked that ship out is a cau-
tion," said the awed voice of my mate close to my
ear. "Hey! Hallo! Falk! Hermann! What's this
infernal trick?" I yelled in a fury.

Nobody heard me. Falk certainly could not hear
me. His tug was turning at full speed away under
the other bank. The wire hawser between her and
the Diana, stretched as taut as a harpstring,
vibrated alarmingly.

The high black craft careened over to the awful
strain. A loud crack came out of her, followed by
the tearing and splintering of wood. "There!"
said the awed voice in my ear. "He's carried away
their towing chock." And then, with enthusiasm,
"Oh! Look! Look! sir, Look! at them Dutchmen
skipping out of the way on the forecastle. I hope
to goodness he'll break a few of their shins before
he's done with 'em."

I yelled my vain protests. The rays of the rising
sun coursing level along the plain warmed my back,
but I was hot enough with rage. I could not have
believed that a simple towing operation could sug-
gest so plainly the idea of abduction, of rape. Falk
was simply running off with the Diana.

The white tug careered out into the middle of the
river. The red floats of her paddle-wheels revolv-
ing with mad rapidity tore up the whole reach into
foam. The Diana in mid-stream waltzed round
with as much grace as an old barn, and flew after
her ravisher. Through the ragged fog of smoke
driving headlong upon the water I had a glimpse
of Falk's square motionless shoulders under a white
hat as big as a cart-wheel, of his red face, his yel-
low staring eyes, his great beard. Instead of keep-
ing a lookout ahead, he was deliberately turning his
back on the river to glare at his tow. The tall
heavy craft, never so used before in her life, seemed
to have lost her senses; she took a wild sheer against
her helm, and for a moment came straight at us,
menacing and clumsy, like a runaway mountain.
She piled up a streaming, hissing, boiling wave
half-way up her blunt stem, my crew let out one
great howl,--and then we held our breaths. It was
a near thing. But Falk had her! He had her in
his clutch. I fancied I could hear the steel hawser
ping as it surged across the Diana's forecastle, with
the hands on board of her bolting away from it in
all directions. It was a near thing. Hermann, with
his hair rumpled, in a snuffy flannel shirt and a pair
of mustard-coloured trousers, had rushed to help
with the wheel. I saw his terrified round face; I
saw his very teeth uncovered by a sort of ghastly
fixed grin; and in a great leaping tumult of water
between the two ships the Diana whisked past so
close that I could have flung a hair-brush at his
head, for, it seems, I had kept them in my hands
all the time. Meanwhile Mrs. Hermann sat placidly
on the skylight, with a woollen shawl on her shoul-
ders. The excellent woman in response to my in-
dignant gesticulations fluttered a handkerchief,
nodding and smiling in the kindest way imagina-
ble. The boys, only half-dressed, were jumping
about the poop in great glee, displaying their
gaudy braces; and Lena in a short scarlet petticoat,
with peaked elbows and thin bare arms, nursed the
rag-doll with devotion. The whole family passed
before my sight as if dragged across a scene of un-
paralleled violence. The last I saw was Hermann's
niece with the baby Hermann in her arms standing
apart from the others. Magnificent in her close-
fitting print frock she displayed something so com-
manding in the manifest perfection of her figure
that the sun seemed to be rising for her alone. The
flood of light brought out the opulence of her form
and the vigour of her youth in a glorifying way.
She went by perfectly motionless and as if lost in
meditation; only the hem of her skirt stirred in the
draught; the sun rays broke on her sleek tawny
hair; that bald-headed ruffian, Nicholas, was whack-
ing her on the shoulder. I saw his tiny fat arm
rise and fall in a workmanlike manner. And then
the four cottage windows of the Diana came into
view retreating swiftly down the river. The sashes
were up, and one of the white calico curtains was
fluttered straight out like a streamer above the agi-
tated water of the wake.

To be thus tricked out of one's turn was an un-
heard of occurrence. In my agent's office, where I
went to complain at once, they protested with apol-
ogies they couldn't understand how the mistake
arose: but Schomberg when I dropped in later to get
some tiffin, though surprised to see me, was perfect-
ly ready with an explanation. I found him seated at
the end of a long narrow table, facing his wife--a
scraggy little woman, with long ringlets and a blue
tooth, who smiled abroad stupidly and looked
frightened when you spoke to her. Between them a
waggling punkah fanned twenty cane-bottomed
chairs and two rows of shiny plates. Three China-
men in white jackets loafed with napkins in their
hands around that desolation. Schomberg's pet
table d'hote was not much of a success that day.
He was feeding himself ferociously and seemed to
overflow with bitterness.

He began by ordering in a brutal voice the chops
to be brought back for me, and turning in his chair:
"Mistake they told you? Not a bit of it! Don't
you believe it for a moment, captain! Falk isn't a
man to make mistakes unless on purpose." His
firm conviction was that Falk had been trying all
along to curry favour on the cheap with Hermann.
"On the cheap--mind you! It doesn't cost him a
cent to put that insult upon you, and Captain Her-
mann gets in a day ahead of your ship. Time's
money! Eh? You are very friendly with Captain
Hermann I believe, but a man is bound to be pleased
at any little advantage he may get. Captain Her-
mann is a good business man, and there's no such
thing as a friend in business. Is there?" He
leaned forward and began to cast stealthy glances
as usual. "But Falk is, and always was, a misera-
ble fellow. I would despise him."

I muttered, grumpily, that I had no particular
respect for Falk.

"I would despise him," he insisted, with an ap-
pearance of anxiety which would have amused me
if I had not been fathoms deep in discontent. To
a young man fairly conscientious and as well-mean-
ing as only the young man can be, the current ill-
usage of life comes with a peculiar cruelty. Youth
that is fresh enough to believe in guilt, in innocence,
and in itself, will always doubt whether it have not
perchance deserved its fate. Sombre of mind and
without appetite, I struggled with the chop while
Mrs. Schomberg sat with her everlasting stupid
grin and Schomberg's talk gathered way like a slide
of rubbish.

"Let me tell you. It's all about that girl. I
don't know what Captain Hermann expects, but if
he asked me I could tell him something about Falk.
He's a miserable fellow. That man is a perfect
slave. That's what I call him. A slave. Last
year I started this table d'hote, and sent cards out
--you know. You think he had one meal in the
house? Give the thing a trial? Not once. He has
got hold now of a Madras cook--a blamed fraud
that I hunted out of my cookhouse with a rattan.
He was not fit to cook for white men. No, not for
the white men's dogs either; but, see, any damned
native that can boil a pot of rice is good enough for
Mr. Falk. Rice and a little fish he buys for a few
cents from the fishing boats outside is what he lives
on. You would hardly credit it--eh? A white
man, too. . . ."

He wiped his lips, using the napkin with indig-
nation, and looking at me. It flashed through my
mind in the midst of my depression that if all the
meat in the town was like these table d'hote chops,
Falk wasn't so far wrong. I was on the point of
saying this, but Schomberg's stare was intimidat-
ing. "He's a vegetarian, perhaps," I murmured

"He's a miser. A miserable miser," affirmed the
hotel-keeper with great force. "The meat here is
not so good as at home--of course. And dear too.
But look at me. I only charge a dollar for the tif-
fin, and one dollar and fifty cents for the dinner.
Show me anything cheaper. Why am I doing it?
There's little profit in this game. Falk wouldn't
look at it. I do it for the sake of a lot of young
white fellows here that hadn't a place where they
could get a decent meal and eat it decently in good
company. There's first-rate company always at
my table."

The convinced way he surveyed the empty chairs
made me feel as if I had intruded upon a tiffin of
ghostly Presences.

"A white man should eat like a white man, dash
it all," he burst out impetuously. "Ought to eat
meat, must eat meat. I manage to get meat for my
patrons all the year round. Don't I? I am not ca-
tering for a dam' lot of coolies: Have another chop
captain. . . . No? You, boy--take away!"

He threw himself back and waited grimly for the
curry. The half-closed jalousies darkened the room
pervaded by the smell of fresh whitewash: a swarm
of flies buzzed and settled in turns, and poor Mrs.
Schomberg's smile seemed to express the quintes-
sence of all the imbecility that had ever spoken, had
ever breathed, had ever been fed on infamous buffalo
meat within these bare walls. Schomberg did not
open his lips till he was ready to thrust therein a
spoonful of greasy rice. He rolled his eyes ridicu-
lously before he swallowed the hot stuff, and only
then broke out afresh.

"It is the most degrading thing. They take the
dish up to the wheelhouse for him with a cover on it,
and he shuts both the doors before he begins to eat.
Fact! Must be ashamed of himself. Ask the engi-
neer. He can't do without an engineer--don't you
see--and as no respectable man can be expected to
put up with such a table, he allows them fifteen dol-
lars a month extra mess money. I assure you it is
so! You just ask Mr. Ferdinand da Costa. That's
the engineer he has now. You may have seen him
about my place, a delicate dark young man, with
very fine eyes and a little moustache. He arrived
here a year ago from Calcutta. Between you and
me, I guess the money-lenders there must have been
after him. He rushes here for a meal every chance
he can get, for just please tell me what satisfaction
is that for a well-educated young fellow to feed all
alone in his cabin--like a wild beast? That's what
Falk expects his engineers to put up with for fifteen
dollars extra. And the rows on board every time a
little smell of cooking gets about the deck! You
wouldn't believe! The other day da Costa got the
cook to fry a steak for him--a turtle steak it was
too, not beef at all--and the fat caught or some-
thing. Young da Costa himself was telling me of
it here in this room. 'Mr. Schomberg'--says he--
'if I had let a cylinder cover blow off through the
skylight by my negligence Captain Falk couldn't
have been more savage. He frightened the cook so
that he won't put anything on the fire for me now.'
Poor da Costa had tears in his eyes. Only try to
put yourself in his place, captain: a sensitive, gen-
tlemanly young fellow. Is he expected to eat his
food raw? But that's your Falk all over. Ask any
one you like. I suppose the fifteen dollars extra he
has to give keep on rankling--in there."

And Schomberg tapped his manly breast. I sat
half stunned by his irrelevant babble. Suddenly
he gripped my forearm in an impressive and cau-
tious manner, as if to lead me into a very cavern of

"It's nothing but enviousness," he said in a low-
ered tone, which had a stimulating effect upon my
wearied hearing. "I don't suppose there is one
person in this town that he isn't envious of. I tell
you he's dangerous. Even I myself am not safe
from him. I know for certain he tried to poi-
son . . . ."

"Oh, come now," I cried, revolted.

"But I know for certain. The people themselves
came and told me of it. He went about saying
everywhere I was a worse pest to this town than the
cholera. He had been talking against me ever since
I opened this hotel. And he poisoned Captain Her-
mann's mind too. Last time the Diana was loading
here Captain Hermann used to come in every day
for a drink or a cigar. This time he hasn't been
here twice in a week. How do you account for

He squeezed my arm till he extorted from me
some sort of mumble.

"He makes ten times the money I do. I've
another hotel to fight against, and there is no other
tug on the river. I am not in his way, am I? He
wouldn't be fit to run an hotel if he tried. But that's
just his nature. He can't bear to think I am mak-
ing a living. I only hope it makes him properly
wretched. He's like that in everything. He
would like to keep a decent table well enough.
But no--for the sake of a few cents. Can't do it.
It's too much for him. That's what I call being a
slave to it. But he's mean enough to kick up a row
when his nose gets tickled a bit. See that? That
just paints him. Miserly and envious. You can't
account for it any other way. Can you? I have
been studying him these three years."

He was anxious I should assent to his theory.
And indeed on thinking it over it would have been
plausible enough if there hadn't been always the
essential falseness of irresponsibility in Schom-
berg's chatter. However, I was not disposed to in-
vestigate the psychology of Falk. I was engaged
just then in eating despondently a piece of stale
Dutch cheese, being too much crushed to care what
I swallowed myself, let along bothering my head
about Falk's ideas of gastronomy. I could expect
from their study no clue to his conduct in matters
of business, which seemed to me totally unrestrained
by morality or even by the commonest sort of de-
cency. How insignificant and contemptible I must
appear, for the fellow to dare treat me like this--I
reflected suddenly, writhing in silent agony. And
I consigned Falk and all his peculiarities to the devil
with so much mental fervour as to forget Schom-
berg's existence, till he grabbed my arm urgently.
"Well, you may think and think till every hair of
your head falls off, captain; but you can't explain
it in any other way."

For the sake of peace and quietness I admitted
hurriedly that I couldn't: persuaded that now he
would leave off. But the only result was to make
his moist face shine with the pride of cunning. He
removed his hand for a moment to scare a black
mass of flies off the sugar-basin and caught hold of
my arm again.

"To be sure. And in the same way everybody is
aware he would like to get married. Only he can't.
Let me quote you an instance. Well, two years ago
a Miss Vanlo, a very ladylike girl, came from home
to keep house for her brother, Fred, who had an en-
gineering shop for small repairs by the water side.
Suddenly Falk takes to going up to their bunga-
low after dinner, and sitting for hours in the veran-
dah saying nothing. The poor girl couldn't tell
for the life of her what to do with such a man, so she
would keep on playing the piano and singing to
him evening after evening till she was ready to
drop. And it wasn't as if she had been a strong
young woman either. She was thirty, and the cli-
mate had been playing the deuce with her. Then--
don't you know--Fred had to sit up with them for
propriety, and during whole weeks on end never got
a single chance to get to bed before midnight.
That was not pleasant for a tired man--was it?
And besides Fred had worries then because his shop
didn't pay and he was dropping money fast. He
just longed to get away from here and try his luck
somewhere else, but for the sake of his sister he
hung on and on till he ran himself into debt over his
ears--I can tell you. I, myself, could show a hand-
ful of his chits for meals and drinks in my drawer.
I could never find out tho' where he found all the
money at last. Can't be but he must have got some-
thing out of that brother of his, a coal merchant in
Port Said. Anyhow he paid everybody before he
left, but the girl nearly broke her heart. Disap-
pointment, of course, and at her age, don't you
know. . . . Mrs. Schomberg here was very friendly
with her, and she could tell you. Awful despair.
Fainting fits. It was a scandal. A notorious scan-
dal. To that extent that old Mr. Siegers--not
your present charterer, but Mr. Siegers the father,
the old gentleman who retired from business on a
fortune and got buried at sea going home, HE had
to interview Falk in his private office. He was a
man who could speak like a Dutch Uncle, and, be-
sides, Messrs. Siegers had been helping Falk with
a good bit of money from the start. In fact you
may say they made him as far as that goes.
It so happened that just at the time he turned up
here, their firm was chartering a lot of sailing ships
every year, and it suited their business that there
should be good towing facilities on the river. See?
. . . Well--there's always an ear at the keyhole--
isn't there? In fact," he lowered his tone confiden-
tially, "in this case a good friend of mine; a man
you can see here any evening; only they conversed
rather low. Anyhow my friend's certain that Falk
was trying to make all sorts of excuses, and old Mr.
Siegers was coughing a lot. And yet Falk wanted
all the time to be married too. Why! It's notorious
the man has been longing for years to make a home
for himself. Only he can't face the expense.
When it comes to putting his hand in his pocket--
it chokes him off. That's the truth and no other.
I've always said so, and everybody agrees with me
by this time. What do you think of that--eh?"

He appealed confidently to my indignation, but
having a mind to annoy him I remarked, "that it
seemed to me very pitiful--if true."

He bounced in his chair as if I had run a pin into
him. I don't know what he might have said, only
at that moment we heard through the half open
door of the billiard-room the footsteps of two men
entering from the verandah, a murmur of two
voices; at the sharp tapping of a coin on a table
Mrs. Schomberg half rose irresolutely. "Sit still,"
he hissed at her, and then, in an hospitable, jovial
tone, contrasting amazingly with the angry glance
that had made his wife sink in her chair, he cried
very loud: "Tiffin still going on in here, gentle-

There was no answer, but the voices dropped sud-
denly. The head Chinaman went out. We heard
the clink of ice in the glasses, pouring sounds, the
shuffling of feet, the scraping of chairs. Schom-
berg, after wondering in a low mutter who the devil
could be there at this time of the day, got up napkin
in hand to peep through the doorway cautiously.
He retreated rapidly on tip-toe, and whispering be-
hind his hand informed me that it was Falk, Falk
himself who was in there, and, what's more, he had
Captain Hermann with him.

The return of the tug from the outer Roads was
unexpected but possible, for Falk had taken away
the Diana at half-past five, and it was now two
o'clock. Schomberg wished me to observe that
neither of these men would spend a dollar on a tiffin,
which they must have wanted. But by the time I
was ready to leave the dining-room Falk had gone.
I heard the last of his big boots on the planks of
the verandah. Hermann was sitting quite alone in
the large, wooden room with the two lifeless billiard
tables shrouded in striped covers, mopping his face
diligently. He wore his best go-ashore clothes, a
stiff collar, black coat, large white waistcoat, grey
trousers. A white cotton sunshade with a cane han-
dle reposed between his legs, his side whiskers were
neatly brushed, his chin had been freshly shaved;
and he only distantly resembled the dishevelled and
terrified man in a snuffy night shirt and ignoble old
trousers I had seen in the morning hanging on to
the wheel of the Diana.

He gave a start at my entrance, and addressed
me at once in some confusion, but with genuine ea-
gerness. He was anxious to make it clear he had
nothing to do with what he called the "tam piz-
ness" of the morning. It was most inconvenient.
He had reckoned upon another day up in town to
settle his bills and sign certain papers. There were
also some few stores to come, and sundry pieces of
"my ironwork," as he called it quaintly, landed for
repairs, had been left behind. Now he would have
to hire a native boat to take all this out to the ship.
It would cost five or six dollars perhaps. He had
had no warning from Falk. Nothing. . . . He
hit the table with his dumpy fist. . . . Der ver-
fluchte Kerl came in the morning like a "tam'
ropper," making a great noise, and took him away.
His mate was not prepared, his ship was moored
fast--he protested it was shameful to come upon
a man in that way. Shameful! Yet such was the
power Falk had on the river that when I suggested
in a chilling tone that he might have simply refused
to have his ship moved, Hermann was quite startled
at the idea. I never realised so well before that this
is an age of steam. The exclusive possession of a
marine boiler had given Falk the whiphand of us
all. Hermann, recovering, put it to me appealingly
that I knew very well how unsafe it was to contra-
dict that fellow. At this I only smiled distantly.

"Der Kerl!" he cried. He was sorry he had not
refused. He was indeed. The damage! The dam-
age! What for all that damage! There was no
occasion for damage. Did I know how much dam-
age he had done? It gave me a certain satisfaction
to tell him that I had heard his old waggon of a
ship crack fore and aft as she went by. "You
passed close enough to me," I added significantly.

He threw both his hands up to heaven at the rec-
ollection. One of them grasped by the middle the
white parasol, and he resembled curiously a carica-
ture of a shopkeeping citizen in one of his own Ger-
man comic papers. "Ach! That was dangerous,"
he cried. I was amused. But directly he added
with an appearance of simplicity, "The side of
your iron ship would have been crushed in like--
like this matchbox."

"Would it?" I growled, much less amused now;
but by the time I had decided that this remark was
not meant for a dig at me he had worked himself
into a high state of resentfulness against Falk.
The inconvenience, the damage, the expense! Gott-
ferdam! Devil take the fellow. Behind the bar
Schomberg with a cigar in his teeth, pretended to
be writing with a pencil on a large sheet of paper;
and as Hermann's excitement increased it made me
comfortingly aware of my own calmness and supe-
riority. But it occurred to me while I listened to
his revilings, that after all the good man had come
up in the tug. There perhaps--since he must come
to town--he had no option. But evidently he had
had a drink with Falk, either accepted or offered.
How was that? So I checked him by saying loftily
that I hoped he would make Falk pay for every
penny of the damage.

"That's it! That's it! Go for him," called out
Schomberg from the bar, flinging his pencil down
and rubbing his hands.

We ignored his noise. But Hermann's excite-
ment suddenly went off the boil as when you remove
a saucepan from the fire. I urged on his considera-
tion that he had done now with Falk and Falk's con-
founded tug. He, Hermann, would not, perhaps,
turn up again in this part of the world for years to
come, since he was going to sell the Diana at the end
of this very trip ("Go home passenger in a mail
boat," he murmured mechanically). He was there-
fore safe from Falk's malice. All he had to do was
to race off to his consignees and stop payment of
the towage bill before Falk had the time to get in
and lift the money.

Nothing could have been less in the spirit of my
advice than the thoughtful way in which he set
about to make his parasol stay propped against the
edge of the table.

While I watched his concentrated efforts with as-
tonishment he threw at me one or two perplexed,
half-shy glances. Then he sat down. "That's all
very well," he said reflectively.

It cannot be doubted that the man had been
thrown off his balance by being hauled out of the
harbour against his wish. His stolidity had been
profoundly stirred, else he would never have made
up his mind to ask me unexpectedly whether I had
not remarked that Falk had been casting eyes upon
his niece. "No more than myself," I answered with
literal truth. The girl was of the sort one necessa-
rily casts eyes at in a sense. She made no noise,
but she filled most satisfactorily a good bit of space.

"But you, captain, are not the same kind of
man," observed Hermann.

I was not, I am happy to say, in a position to
deny this. "What about the lady?" I could not
help asking. At this he gazed for a time into my
face, earnestly, and made as if to change the sub-
ject. I heard him beginning to mutter something
unexpected, about his children growing old enough
to require schooling. He would have to leave them
ashore with their grandmother when he took up that
new command he expected to get in Germany.

This constant harping on his domestic arrange-
ments was funny. I suppose it must have been like
the prospect of a complete alteration in his life. An
epoch. He was going, too, to part with the Diana!
He had served in her for years. He had inherited
her. From an uncle, if I remember rightly. And
the future loomed big before him, occupying his
thought exclusively with all its aspects as on the
eve of a venturesome enterprise. He sat there
frowning and biting his lip, and suddenly he began
to fume and fret.

I discovered to my momentary amusement that
he seemed to imagine I could, should or ought,
have caused Falk in some way to pronounce him-
self. Such a hope was incomprehensible, but funny.
Then the contact with all this foolishness irritated
me. I said crossly that I had seen no symptoms,
but if there were any--since he, Hermann, was so
sure--then it was still worse. What pleasure Falk
found in humbugging people in just that way I
couldn't say. It was, however, my solemn duty to
warn him. It had lately, I said, come to my knowl-
edge that there was a man (not a very long time
ago either) who had been taken in just like this.

All this passed in undertones, and at this point
Schomberg, exasperated at our secrecy, went out
of the room slamming the door with a crash that
positively lifted us in our chairs. This, or else what
I had said, huffed my Hermann, He supposed, with
a contemptuous toss of his head towards the door
which trembled yet, that I had got hold of some of
that man's silly tales. It looked, indeed, as though
his mind had been thoroughly poisoned against
Schomberg. "His tales were--they were," he re-
peated, seeking for the word--"trash." They
were trash, he reiterated, and moreover I was young
yet . . .

This horrid aspersion (I regret I am no longer
exposed to that sort of insult) made me huffy too.
I felt ready in my own mind to back up every asser-
tion of Schomberg's and on any subject. In a mo-
ment, devil only knows why, Hermann and I were
looking at each other most inimically. He caught
up his hat without more ado and I gave myself the
pleasure of calling after him:

"Take my advice and make Falk pay for break-
ing up your ship. You aren't likely to get any-
thing else out of him."

When I got on board my ship later on, the old
mate, who was very full of the events of the morn-
ing, remarked:

"I saw the tug coming back from the outer Roads
just before two P.M." (He never by any chance used
the words morning or afternoon. Always P.M. or
A.M., log-book style.) "Smart work that. Man's
always in a state of hurry. He's a regular
chucker-out, ain't he, sir? There's a few pubs I
know of in the East-end of London that would be
all the better for one of his sort around the bar."
He chuckled at his joke. "A regular chucker-out.
Now he has fired out that Dutchman head over heels,
I suppose our turn's coming to-morrow morning."

We were all on deck at break of day (even the
sick--poor devils--had crawled out) ready to cast
off in the twinkling of an eye. Nothing came.
Falk did not come. At last, when I began to think
that probably something had gone wrong in his
engine-room, we perceived the tug going by, full
pelt, down the river, as if we hadn't existed. For a
moment I entertained the wild notion that he was
going to turn round in the next reach. Afterwards
I watched his smoke appear above the plain, now
here, now there, according to the windings of the
river. It disappeared. Then without a word I
went down to breakfast. I just simply went down
to breakfast.

Not one of us uttered a sound till the mate, after
imbibing--by means of suction out of a saucer--
his second cup of tea, exclaimed: "Where the devil
is the man gone to?"

"Courting!" I shouted, with such a fiendish
laugh that the old chap didn't venture to open his
lips any more.

I started to the office perfectly calm. Calm with
excessive rage. Evidently they knew all about it
already, and they treated me to a show of conster-
nation. The manager, a soft-footed, immensely
obese man, breathing short, got up to meet me,
while all round the room the young clerks, bend-
ing over the papers on their desks, cast upward
glances in my direction. The fat man, without
waiting for my complaint, wheezing heavily and
in a tone as if he himself were incredulous, con-
veyed to me the news that Falk--Captain Falk--
had declined--had absolutely declined--to tow my
ship--to have anything to do with my ship--this
day or any other day. Never!

I did my best to preserve a cool appearance, but,
all the same, I must have shown how much taken
aback I was. We were talking in the middle of the
room. Suddenly behind my back some ass blew
his nose with great force, and at the same time an-
other quill-driver jumped up and went out on the
landing hastily. It occurred to me I was cutting
a foolish figure there. I demanded angrily to see
the principal in his private room.

The skin of Mr. Siegers' head showed dead white
between the iron grey streaks of hair lying plas-
tered cross-wise from ear to ear over the top of his
skull in the manner of a bandage. His narrow
sunken face was of an uniform and permanent ter-
ra-cotta colour, like a piece of pottery. He was
sickly, thin, and short, with wrists like a boy of ten.
But from that debile body there issued a bullying
voice, tremendously loud, harsh and resonant, as
if produced by some powerful mechanical contriv-
ance in the nature of a fog-horn. I do not know
what he did with it in the private life of his home,
but in the larger sphere of business it presented the
advantage of overcoming arguments without the
slightest mental effort, by the mere volume of
sound. We had had several passages of arms. It
took me all I knew to guard the interests of my
owners--whom, nota bene, I had never seen--while
Siegers (who had made their acquaintance some
years before, during a business tour in Australia)
pretended to the knowledge of their innermost
minds, and, in the character of "our very good
friends," threw them perpetually at my head.

He looked at me with a jaundiced eye (there was
no love lost between us), and declared at once that
it was strange, very strange. His pronunciation
of English was so extravagant that I can't even
attempt to reproduce it. For instance, he said
"Fferie strantch." Combined with the bellowing
intonation it made the language of one's childhood
sound weirdly startling, and even if considered
purely as a kind of unmeaning noise it filled you
with astonishment at first. "They had," he con-
tinued, "been acquainted with Captain Falk for
very many years, and never had any reason. . . ."

"That's why I come to you, of course," I inter-
rupted. "I've the right to know the meaning of
this infernal nonsense." In the half light of the
room, which was greenish, because of the tree-tops
screening the window, I saw him writhe his meagre
shoulders. It came into my head, as disconnected
ideas will come at all sorts of times into one's head,
that this, most likely, was the very room where, if
the tale were true, Falk had been lectured by Mr.
Siegers, the father. Mr. Siegers' (the son's) over-
whelming voice, in brassy blasts, as though he had
been trying to articulate his words through a trom-
bone, was expressing his great regret at a conduct
characterised by a very marked want of discre-
tion. . . As I lived I was being lectured too! His
deafening gibberish was difficult to follow, but it
was MY conduct--mine!--that . . . Damn! I
wasn't going to stand this.

"What on earth are you driving at?" I asked
in a passion. I put my hat on my head (he never
offered a seat to anybody), and as he seemed for
the moment struck dumb by my irreverence, I
turned my back on him and marched out. His vo-
cal arrangements blared after me a few threats of
coming down on the ship for the demurrage of the
lighters, and all the other expenses consequent
upon the delays arising from my frivolity.

Once outside in the sunshine my head swam. It
was no longer a question of mere delay. I per-
ceived myself involved in hopeless and humiliating
absurdities that were leading me to something very
like a disaster. "Let us be calm," I muttered to
myself, and ran into the shade of a leprous wall.
From that short side-street I could see the broad
main thoroughfare ruinous and gay, running
away, away between stretches of decaying mason-
ry, bamboo fences, ranges of arcades of brick and
plaster, hovels of lath and mud, lofty temple gates
of carved timber, huts of rotten mats--an im-
mensely wide thoroughfare, loosely packed as far
as the eye could reach with a barefooted and brown
multitude paddling ankle deep in the dust. For a
moment I felt myself about to go out of my mind
with worry and desperation.

Some allowance must be made for the feelings
of a young man new to responsibility. I thought
of my crew. Half of them were ill, and I really
began to think that some of them would end by dy-
ing on board if I couldn't get them out to sea soon.
Obviously I should have to take my ship down the
river, either working under canvas or dredging
with the anchor down; operations which, in com-
mon with many modern sailors, I only knew theo-
retically. And I almost shrank from undertaking
them shorthanded and without local knowledge
of the river bed, which is so necessary for the con-
fident handling of the ship. There were no pilots,
no beacons, no buoys of any sort; but there was a
very devil of a current for anybody to see, no end
of shoal places, and at least two obviously awkward
turns of the channel between me and the sea. But
how dangerous these turns were I would not tell. I
didn't even know what my ship was capable of!
I had never handled her in my life. A misunder-
standing between a man and his ship in a difficult
river with no room to make it up, is bound to end in
trouble for the man. On the other hand, it must
be owned I had not much reason to count upon a
general run of good luck. And suppose I had the
misfortune to pile her up high and dry on some
beastly shoal? That would have been the final un-
doing of that voyage. It was plain that if Falk
refused to tow me out he would also refuse to pull
me off. This meant--what? A day lost at the
very best; but more likely a whole fortnight of
frizzling on some pestilential mudflat, of desperate
work, of discharging cargo; more than likely it
meant borrowing money at an exorbitant rate of
interest--from the Siegers' gang too at that. They
were a power in the port. And that elderly seaman
of mine, Gambril, had looked pretty ghastly when
I went forward to dose him with quinine that morn-
ing. HE would certainly die--not to speak of two
or three others that seemed nearly as bad, and of
the rest of them just ready to catch any tropical
disease going. Horror, ruin and everlasting re-
morse. And no help. None. I had fallen amongst
a lot of unfriendly lunatics!

At any rate, if I must take my ship down myself
it was my duty to procure if possible some local
knowledge. But that was not easy. The only per-
son I could think of for that service was a certain
Johnson, formerly captain of a country ship, but
now spliced to a country wife and gone utterly to
the bad. I had only heard of him in the vaguest
way, as living concealed in the thick of two hundred
thousand natives, and only emerging into the light
of day for the purpose of hunting up some brandy.
I had a notion that if I could lay my hands on him
I would sober him on board my ship and use him
for a pilot. Better than nothing. Once a sailor
always a sailor--and he had known the river for
years. But in our Consulate (where I arrived drip-
ping after a sharp walk) they could tell me noth-
ing. The excellent young men on the staff, though
willing to help me, belonged to a sphere of the
white colony for which that sort of Johnson does
not exist. Their suggestion was that I should hunt
the man up myself with the help of the Consulate's
constable--an ex-sergeant-major of a regiment of

This man, whose usual duty apparently consisted
in sitting behind a little table in an outer room
of Consular offices, when ordered to assist me in
my search for Johnson displayed lots of energy
and a marvellous amount of local knowledge of a
sort. But he did not conceal an immense and scep-
tical contempt for the whole business. We explored
together on that afternoon an infinity of infamous
grog shops, gambling dens, opium dens. We
walked up narrow lanes where our gharry--a tiny
box of a thing on wheels, attached to a jibbing Bur-
mah pony--could by no means have passed. The
constable seemed to be on terms of scornful inti-
macy with Maltese, with Eurasians, with China-
men, with Klings, and with the sweepers attached
to a temple, with whom he talked at the gate. We
interviewed also through a grating in a mud wall
closing a blind alley an immensely corpulent Ital-
ian, who, the ex-sergeant-major remarked to me
perfunctorily, had "killed another man last year."
Thereupon he addressed him as "Antonio" and
"Old Buck," though that bloated carcase, appar-
ently more than half filling the sort of cell where-
in it sat, recalled rather a fat pig in a stye. Fa-
miliar and never unbending, the sergeant chucked
--absolutely chucked--under the chin a horribly
wrinkled and shrivelled old hag propped on a stick,
who had volunteered some sort of information: and
with the same stolid face he kept up an animated
conversation with the groups of swathed brown
women, who sat smoking cheroots on the door-steps
of a long range of clay hovels. We got out of the
gharry and clambered into dwellings airy like
packing crates, or descended into places sinister
like cellars. We got in, we drove on, we got out
again for the sole purpose, as it seemed, of looking
behind a heap of rubble. The sun declined; my
companion was curt and sardonic in his answers,
but it appears we were just missing Johnson all
along. At last our conveyance stopped once more
with a jerk, and the driver jumping down opened
the door.

A black mudhole blocked the lane. A mound of
garbage crowned with the dead body of a dog ar-
rested us not. An empty Australian beef tin
bounded cheerily before the toe of my boot. Sud-
denly we clambered through a gap in a prickly
fence. . . .

It was a very clean native compound: and the
big native woman, with bare brown legs as thick
as bedposts, pursuing on all fours a silver dollar
that came rolling out from somewhere, was Mrs.
Johnson herself. "Your man's at home," said the
ex-sergeant, and stepped aside in complete and
marked indifference to anything that might follow.
Johnson--at home--stood with his back to a native
house built on posts and with its walls made of
mats. In his left hand he held a banana. Out of
the right he dealt another dollar into space. The
woman captured this one on the wing, and there
and then plumped down on the ground to look at
us with greater comfort.

My man was sallow of face, grizzled, unshaven,
muddy on elbows and back; where the seams of his
serge coat yawned you could see his white naked-
ness. The vestiges of a paper collar encircled his
neck. He looked at us with a grave, swaying sur-
prise. "Where do you come from?" he asked.
My heart sank. How could I have been stupid
enough to waste energy and time for this?

But having already gone so far I approached a
little nearer and declared the purpose of my visit.
He would have to come at once with me, sleep on
board my ship, and to-morrow, with the first of the
ebb, he would give me his assistance in getting my
ship down to the sea, without steam. A six-hun-
dred-ton barque, drawing nine feet aft. I pro-
posed to give him eighteen dollars for his local
knowledge; and all the time I was speaking he
kept on considering attentively the various aspects
of the banana, holding first one side up to his eye,
then the other.

"You've forgotten to apologise," he said at last
with extreme precision. "Not being a gentleman
yourself, you don't know apparently when you in-
trude upon a gentleman. I am one. I wish you to
understand that when I am in funds I don't work,
and now . . ."

I would have pronounced him perfectly sober
hadn't he paused in great concern to try and brush
a hole off the knee of his trousers.

"I have money--and friends. Every gentle-
man has. Perhaps you would like to know my
friend? His name is Falk. You could borrow
some money. Try to remember. F-A-L-K, Falk."
Abruptly his tone changed. "A noble heart," he
said muzzily.

"Has Falk been giving you some money?" I
asked, appalled by the detailed finish of the dark

"Lent me, my good man, not given me. Lent,"
he corrected suavely. "Met me taking the air
last evening, and being as usual anxious to oblige
-- Hadn't you better go to the devil out of my

And upon this, without other warning, he let
fly with the banana which missed my head, and took
the constable just under the left eye. He rushed
at the miserable Johnson, stammering with fury.
They fell. . . . But why dwell on the wretched-
ness, the breathlessness, the degradation, the sense-
lessness, the weariness, the ridicule and humiliation
and--and--the perspiration, of these moments? I
dragged the ex-hussar off. He was like a wild
beast. It seems he had been greatly annoyed at
losing his free afternoon on my account. The gar-
den of his bungalow required his personal atten-
tion, and at the slight blow of the banana the brute
in him had broken loose. We left Johnson on his
back, still black in the face, but beginning to kick
feebly. Meantime, the big woman had remained
sitting on the ground, apparently paralysed with
extreme terror.

For half an hour we jolted inside our rolling
box, side by side, in profound silence. The ex-ser-
geant was busy staunching the blood of a long
scratch on his cheek. "I hope you're satisfied," he
said suddenly. "That's what comes of all that
tomfool business. If you hadn't quarrelled with
that tugboat skipper over some girl or other, all
this wouldn't have happened."

"You heard THAT story?" I said.

"Of course I heard. And I shouldn't wonder if
the Consul-General himself doesn't come to hear
of it. How am I to go before him to-morrow with
that thing on my cheek--I want to know. Its
YOU who ought to have got this!"

After that, till the gharry stopped and he
jumped out without leave-taking, he swore to him-
self steadily, horribly; muttering great, purpose-
ful, trooper oaths, to which the worst a sailor can
do is like the prattle of a child. For my part I had
just the strength to crawl into Schomberg's coffee-
room, where I wrote at a little table a note to the
mate instructing him to get everything ready for
dropping down the river next day. I couldn't
face my ship. Well! she had a clever sort of skip-
per and no mistake--poor thing! What a horrid
mess! I took my head between my hands. At
times the obviousness of my innocence would reduce
me to despair. What had I done? If I had done
something to bring about the situation I should at
least have learned not to do it again. But I felt
guiltless to the point of imbecility. The room was
empty yet; only Schomberg prowled round me
goggle-eyed and with a sort of awed respectful cu-
riosity. No doubt he had set the story going him-
self; but he was a good-hearted chap, and I am
really persuaded he participated in all my troubles.
He did what he could for me. He ranged aside the
heavy matchstand, set a chair straight, pushed a
spittoon slightly with his foot--as you show small
attentions to a friend under a great sorrow--
sighed, and at last, unable to hold his tongue:

"Well! I warned you, captain. That's what

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