Part 3 out of 9
of events and the monotony of a worldly existence.
There were things that from the first he had not been able to
understand; for instance, why she should have married Mr.
Travers. It must have been from ambition. He could not help
feeling that such a successful mistake would explain completely
her scorn and also her acquiescence. The meeting in Manila had
been utterly unexpected to him, and he accounted for it to his
uncle, the Governor-General of the colony, by pointing out that
Englishmen, when worsted in the struggle of love or politics,
travel extensively, as if by encompassing a large portion of
earth's surface they hoped to gather fresh strength for a renewed
contest. As to himself, he judged--but did not say--that his
contest with fate was ended, though he also travelled, leaving
behind him in the capitals of Europe a story in which there was
nothing scandalous but the publicity of an excessive feeling, and
nothing more tragic than the early death of a woman whose
brilliant perfections were no better known to the great world
than the discreet and passionate devotion she had innocently
The invitation to join the yacht was the culminating point of
many exchanged civilities, and was mainly prompted by Mr.
Travers' desire to have somebody to talk to. D'Alcacer had
accepted with the reckless indifference of a man to whom one
method of flight from a relentless enemy is as good as another.
Certainly the prospect of listening to long monologues on
commerce, administration, and politics did not promise much
alleviation to his sorrow; and he could not expect much else from
Mr. Travers, whose life and thought, ignorant of human passion,
were devoted to extracting the greatest possible amount of
personal advantage from human institutions. D'Alcacer found,
however, that he could attain a measure of forgetfulness--the
most precious thing for him now--in the society of Edith Travers.
She had awakened his curiosity, which he thought nothing and
nobody on earth could do any more.
These two talked of things indifferent and interesting, certainly
not connected with human institutions, and only very slightly
with human passions; but d'Alcacer could not help being made
aware of her latent capacity for sympathy developed in those who
are disenchanted with life or death. How far she was disenchanted
he did not know, and did not attempt to find out. This restraint
was imposed upon him by the chivalrous respect he had for the
secrets of women and by a conviction that deep feeling is often
impenetrably obscure, even to those it masters for their
inspiration or their ruin. He believed that even she herself
would never know; but his grave curiosity was satisfied by the
observation of her mental state, and he was not sorry that the
stranding of the yacht prolonged his opportunity.
Time passed on that mudbank as well as anywhere else, and it was
not from a multiplicity of events, but from the lapse of time
alone, that he expected relief. Yet in the sameness of days upon
the Shallows, time flowing ceaselessly, flowed imperceptibly;
and, since every man clings to his own, be it joy, be it grief,
he was pleased after the unrest of his wanderings to be able to
fancy the whole universe and even time itself apparently come to
a standstill; as if unwilling to take him away further from his
sorrow, which was fading indeed but undiminished, as things fade,
not in the distance but in the mist.
D'Alcacer was a man of nearly forty, lean and sallow, with hollow
eyes and a drooping brown moustache. His gaze was penetrating and
direct, his smile frequent and fleeting. He observed Lingard with
great interest. He was attracted by that elusive something--a
line, a fold, perhaps the form of the eye, the droop of an
eyelid, the curve of a cheek, that trifling trait which on no two
faces on earth is alike, that in each face is the very foundation
of expression, as if, all the rest being heredity, mystery, or
accident, it alone had been shaped consciously by the soul
Now and then he bent slightly over the slow beat of a red fan in
the curve of the deck chair to say a few words to Mrs. Travers,
who answered him without looking up, without a modulation of tone
or a play of feature, as if she had spoken from behind the veil
of an immense indifference stretched between her and all men,
between her heart and the meaning of events, between her eyes and
the shallow sea which, like her gaze, appeared profound, forever
stilled, and seemed, far off in the distance of a faint horizon,
beyond the reach of eye, beyond the power of hand or voice, to
lose itself in the sky.
Mr. Travers stepped aside, and speaking to Carter, overwhelmed
him with reproaches.
"You misunderstood your instructions," murmured Mr. Travers
rapidly. "Why did you bring this man here? I am surprised--"
"Not half so much as I was last night," growled the young seaman,
without any reverence in his tone, very provoking to Mr. Travers.
"I perceive now you were totally unfit for the mission I
entrusted you with," went on the owner of the yacht.
"It's he who got hold of me," said Carter. "Haven't you heard him
"Nonsense," whispered Mr. Travers, angrily. "Have you any idea
what his intentions may be?"
"I half believe," answered Carter, "that his intention was to
shoot me in his cabin last night if I--"
"That's not the point," interrupted Mr. Travers. "Have you any
opinion as to his motives in coming here?"
Carter raised his weary, bloodshot eyes in a face scarlet and
peeling as though it had been licked by a flame. "I know no more
than you do, sir. Last night when he had me in that cabin of his,
he said he would just as soon shoot me as let me go to look for
any other help. It looks as if he were desperately bent upon
getting a lot of salvage money out of a stranded yacht."
Mr. Travers turned away, and, for a moment, appeared immersed in
deep thought. This accident of stranding upon a deserted coast
was annoying as a loss of time. He tried to minimize it by
putting in order the notes collected during the year's travel in
the East. He had sent off for assistance; his sailing-master,
very crestfallen, made bold to say that the yacht would most
likely float at the next spring tides; d'Alcacer, a person of
undoubted nobility though of inferior principles, was better than
no company, in so far at least that he could play picquet.
Mr. Travers had made up his mind to wait. Then suddenly this
rough man, looking as if he had stepped out from an engraving in
a book about buccaneers, broke in upon his resignation with
mysterious allusions to danger, which sounded absurd yet were
disturbing; with dark and warning sentences that sounded like
Mr. Travers had a heavy and rather long chin which he shaved. His
eyes were blue, a chill, naive blue. He faced Lingard untouched
by travel, without a mark of weariness or exposure, with the air
of having been born invulnerable. He had a full, pale face; and
his complexion was perfectly colourless, yet amazingly fresh, as
if he had been reared in the shade.
"I must put an end to this preposterous hectoring. I won't be
intimidated into paying for services I don't need."
Mr. Travers felt a strong disgust for the impudence of the
attempt; and all at once, incredibly, strangely, as though the
thing, like a contest with a rival or a friend, had been of
profound importance to his career, he felt inexplicably elated at
the thought of defeating the secret purposes of that man.
Lingard, unconscious of everything and everybody, contemplated
the sea. He had grown on it, he had lived with it; it had enticed
him away from home; on it his thoughts had expanded and his hand
had found work to do. It had suggested endeavour, it had made him
owner and commander of the finest brig afloat; it had lulled him
into a belief in himself, in his strength, in his luck--and
suddenly, by its complicity in a fatal accident, it had brought
him face to face with a difficulty that looked like the beginning
He had said all he dared to say--and he perceived that he was not
believed. This had not happened to him for years. It had never
happened. It bewildered him as if he had suddenly discovered that
he was no longer himself. He had come to them and had said: "I
mean well by you. I am Tom Lingard--" and they did not believe!
Before such scepticism he was helpless, because he had never
imagined it possible. He had said: "You are in the way of my
work. You are in the way of what I can not give up for any one;
but I will see you through all safe if you will only trust me--
me, Tom Lingard." And they would not believe him! It was
intolerable. He imagined himself sweeping their disbelief out of
his way. And why not? He did not know them, he did not care for
them, he did not even need to lift his hand against them! All he
had to do was to shut his eyes now for a day or two, and
afterward he could forget that he had ever seen them. It would be
easy. Let their disbelief vanish, their folly disappear, their
bodies perish. . . . It was that--or ruin!
Lingard's gaze, detaching itself from the silent sea, travelled
slowly over the silent figures clustering forward, over the faces
of the seamen attentive and surprised, over the faces never seen
before yet suggesting old days--his youth--other seas--the
distant shores of early memories. Mr. Travers gave a start also,
and the hand which had been busy with his left whisker went into
the pocket of his jacket, as though he had plucked out something
worth keeping. He made a quick step toward Lingard.
"I don't see my way to utilize your services," he said, with cold
Lingard, grasping his beard, looked down at him thoughtfully for
a short time.
"Perhaps it's just as well," he said, very slowly, "because I did
not offer my services. I've offered to take you on board my brig
for a few days, as your only chance of safety. And you asked me
what were my motives. My motives! If you don't see them they are
not for you to know."
And these men who, two hours before had never seen each other,
stood for a moment close together, antagonistic, as if they had
been life-long enemies, one short, dapper and glaring upward, the
other towering heavily, and looking down in contempt and anger.
Mr. d'Alcacer, without taking his eyes off them, bent low over
the deck chair.
"Have you ever seen a man dashing himself at a stone wall?" he
"No," said Mrs. Travers, gazing straight before her above the
slow flutter of the fan. "No, I did not know it was ever done;
men burrow under or slip round quietly while they look the other
"Ah! you define diplomacy," murmured d'Alcacer. "A little of it
here would do no harm. But our picturesque visitor has none of
it. I've a great liking for him."
"Already!" breathed out Mrs. Travers, with a smile that touched
her lips with its bright wing and was flown almost before it
could be seen.
"There is liking at first sight," affirmed d'Alcacer, "as well as
love at first sight--the coup de foudre--you know."
She looked up for a moment, and he went on, gravely: "I think it
is the truest, the most profound of sentiments. You do not love
because of what is in the other. You love because of something
that is in you--something alive--in yourself." He struck his
breast lightly with the tip of one finger. "A capacity in you.
And not everyone may have it--not everyone deserves to be touched
by fire from heaven."
"And die," she said.
He made a slight movement.
"Who can tell? That is as it may be. But it is always a
privilege, even if one must live a little after being burnt."
Through the silence between them, Mr. Travers' voice came
plainly, saying with irritation:
"I've told you already that I do not want you. I've sent a
messenger to the governor of the Straits. Don't be importunate."
Then Lingard, standing with his back to them, growled out
something which must have exasperated Mr. Travers, because his
voice was pitched higher:
"You are playing a dangerous game, I warn you. Sir John, as it
happens, is a personal friend of mine. He will send a cruiser--"
and Lingard interrupted recklessly loud:
"As long as she does not get here for the next ten days, I don't
care. Cruisers are scarce just now in the Straits; and to turn my
back on you is no hanging matter anyhow. I would risk that, and
more! Do you hear? And more!"
He stamped his foot heavily, Mr. Travers stepped back.
"You will gain nothing by trying to frighten me," he said. "I
don't know who you are."
Every eye in the yacht was wide open. The men, crowded upon each
other, stared stupidly like a flock of sheep. Mr. Travers pulled
out a handkerchief and passed it over his forehead. The face of
the sailing-master who leaned against the main mast--as near as
he dared to approach the gentry--was shining and crimson between
white whiskers, like a glowing coal between two patches of snow.
"It is a quarrel, and the picturesque man is angry. He is hurt."
Mrs. Travers' fan rested on her knees, and she sat still as if
waiting to hear more.
"Do you think I ought to make an effort for peace?" asked
She did not answer, and after waiting a little, he insisted:
"What is your opinion? Shall I try to mediate--as a neutral, as a
benevolent neutral? I like that man with the beard."
The interchange of angry phrases went on aloud, amidst general
"I would turn my back on you only I am thinking of these poor
devils here," growled Lingard, furiously. "Did you ask them how
they feel about it?"
"I ask no one," spluttered Mr. Travers. "Everybody here depends
on my judgment."
"I am sorry for them then," pronounced Lingard with sudden
deliberation, and leaning forward with his arms crossed on his
At this Mr. Travers positively jumped, and forgot himself so far
as to shout:
"You are an impudent fellow. I have nothing more to say to you."
D'Alcacer, after muttering to himself, "This is getting serious,"
made a movement, and could not believe his ears when he heard
Mrs. Travers say rapidly with a kind of fervour:
"Don't go, pray; don't stop them. Oh! This is truth--this is
anger--something real at last."
D'Alcacer leaned back at once against the rail.
Then Mr. Travers, with one arm extended, repeated very loudly:
"Nothing more to say. Leave my ship at once!"
And directly the black dog, stretched at his wife's feet, muzzle
on paws and blinking yellow eyes, growled discontentedly at the
noise. Mrs. Travers laughed a faint, bright laugh, that seemed to
escape, to glide, to dart between her white teeth. D'Alcacer,
concealing his amazement, was looking down at her gravely: and
after a slight gasp, she said with little bursts of merriment
between every few words:
"No, but this is--such--such a fresh experience for me to
hear--to see something--genuine and human. Ah! ah! one would
think they had waited all their lives for this opportunity--ah!
ah! ah! All their lives--for this! ah! ah! ah!"
These strange words struck d'Alcacer as perfectly just, as
throwing an unexpected light. But after a smile, he said,
"This reality may go too far. A man who looks so picturesque is
capable of anything. Allow me--" And he left her side, moving
toward Lingard, loose-limbed and gaunt, yet having in his whole
bearing, in his walk, in every leisurely movement, an air of
distinction and ceremony.
Lingard spun round with aggressive mien to the light touch on his
shoulder, but as soon as he took his eyes off Mr. Travers, his
anger fell, seemed to sink without a sound at his feet like a
"Pardon me," said d'Alcacer, composedly. The slight wave of his
hand was hardly more than an indication, the beginning of a
conciliating gesture. "Pardon me; but this is a matter requiring
perfect confidence on both sides. Don Martin, here, who is a
person of importance. . . ."
"I've spoken my mind plainly. I have said as much as I dare. On
my word I have," declared Lingard with an air of good temper.
"Ah!" said d'Alcacer, reflectively, "then your reserve is a
matter of pledged faith--of--of honour?"
Lingard also appeared thoughtful for a moment.
"You may put it that way. And I owe nothing to a man who couldn't
see my hand when I put it out to him as I came aboard."
"You have so much the advantage of us here," replied d'Alcacer,
"that you may well be generous and forget that oversight; and
then just a little more confidence. . . ."
"My dear d'Alcacer, you are absurd," broke in Mr. Travers, in a
calm voice but with white lips. "I did not come out all this way
to shake hands promiscuously and receive confidences from the
first adventurer that comes along."
D'Alcacer stepped back with an almost imperceptible inclination
of the head at Lingard, who stood for a moment with twitching
"I AM an adventurer," he burst out, "and if I hadn't been an
adventurer, I would have had to starve or work at home for such
people as you. If I weren't an adventurer, you would be most
likely lying dead on this deck with your cut throat gaping at the
Mr. Travers waved this speech away. But others also had heard.
Carter listened watchfully and something, some alarming notion
seemed to dawn all at once upon the thick little sailing-master,
who rushed on his short legs, and tugging at Carter's sleeve,
"What's he saying? Who's he? What's up? Are the natives
unfriendly? My book says--'Natives friendly all along this
coast!' My book says--"
Carter, who had glanced over the side, jerked his arm free.
"You go down into the pantry, where you belong, Skipper, and read
that bit about the natives over again," he said to his superior
officer, with savage contempt. "I'll be hanged if some of them
ain't coming aboard now to eat you--book and all. Get out of the
way, and let the gentlemen have the first chance of a row."
Then addressing Lingard, he drawled in his old way:
"That crazy mate of yours has sent your boat back, with a couple
of visitors in her, too."
Before he apprehended plainly the meaning of these words, Lingard
caught sight of two heads rising above the rail, the head of
Hassim and the head of Immada. Then their bodies ascended into
view as though these two beings had gradually emerged from the
Shallows. They stood for a moment on the platform looking down on
the deck as if about to step into the unknown, then descended and
walking aft entered the half-light under the awning shading the
luxurious surroundings, the complicated emotions of the, to them,
Lingard without waiting a moment cried:
"What news, O Rajah?"
Hassim's eyes made the round of the schooner's decks. He had left
his gun in the boat and advanced empty handed, with a tranquil
assurance as if bearing a welcome offering in the faint smile of
his lips. Immada, half hidden behind his shoulder, followed
lightly, her elbows pressed close to her side. The thick fringe
of her eyelashes was dropped like a veil; she looked youthful and
brooding; she had an aspect of shy resolution.
They stopped within arm's length of the whites, and for some time
nobody said a word. Then Hassim gave Lingard a significant
glance, and uttered rapidly with a slight toss of the head that
indicated in a manner the whole of the yacht:
"I see no guns!"
"N--no!" said Lingard, looking suddenly confused. It had occurred
to him that for the first time in two years or more he had
forgotten, utterly forgotten, these people's existence.
Immada stood slight and rigid with downcast eyes. Hassim, at his
ease, scrutinized the faces, as if searching for elusive points
of similitude or for subtle shades of difference.
"What is this new intrusion?" asked Mr. Travers, angrily.
"These are the fisher-folk, sir," broke in the sailing-master,
"we've observed these three days past flitting about in a canoe;
but they never had the sense to answer our hail; and yet a bit of
fish for your breakfast--" He smiled obsequiously, and all at
once, without provocation, began to bellow:
"Hey! Johnnie! Hab got fish? Fish! One peecee fish! Eh? Savee?
Fish! Fish--" He gave it up suddenly to say in a deferential
tone--"Can't make them savages understand anything, sir," and
withdrew as if after a clever feat.
Hassim looked at Lingard.
"Why did the little white man make that outcry?" he asked,
"Their desire is to eat fish," said Lingard in an enraged tone.
Then before the air of extreme surprise which incontinently
appeared on the other's face, he could not restrain a short and
"Eat fish," repeated Hassim, staring. "O you white people! O you
white people! Eat fish! Good! But why make that noise? And why
did you send them here without guns?" After a significant glance
down upon the slope of the deck caused by the vessel being on the
ground, he added with a slight nod at Lingard--"And without
"You should not have come here, O Hassim," said Lingard, testily.
"Here no one understands. They take a rajah for a fisherman--"
"Ya-wa! A great mistake, for, truly, the chief of ten fugitives
without a country is much less than the headman of a fishing
village," observed Hassim, composedly. Immada sighed. "But you,
Tuan, at least know the truth," he went on with quiet irony; then
after a pause --"We came here because you had forgotten to look
toward us, who had waited, sleeping little at night, and in the
day watching with hot eyes the empty water at the foot of the sky
Immada murmured, without lifting her head:
"You never looked for us. Never, never once."
"There was too much trouble in my eyes," explained Lingard with
that patient gentleness of tone and face which, every time he
spoke to the young girl, seemed to disengage itself from his
whole person, enveloping his fierceness, softening his aspect,
such as the dreamy mist that in the early radiance of the morning
weaves a veil of tender charm about a rugged rock in mid-ocean.
"I must look now to the right and to the left as in a time of
sudden danger," he added after a moment and she whispered an
appalled "Why?" so low that its pain floated away in the silence
of attentive men, without response, unheard, ignored, like the
pain of an impalpable thought.
D'Alcacer, standing back, surveyed them all with a profound and
alert attention. Lingard seemed unable to tear himself away from
the yacht, and remained, checked, as it were in the act of going,
like a man who has stopped to think out the last thing to say;
and that stillness of a body, forgotten by the labouring mind,
reminded Carter of that moment in the cabin, when alone he had
seen this man thus wrestling with his thought, motionless and
locked in the grip of his conscience.
Mr. Travers muttered audibly through his teeth:
"How long is this performance going to last? I have desired you
"Think of these poor devils," whispered Lingard, with a quick
glance at the crew huddled up near by.
"You are the kind of man I would be least disposed to trust--in
any case," said Mr. Travers, incisively, very low, and with an
inexplicable but very apparent satisfaction. "You are only
wasting your time here."
"You--You--" He stammered and stared. He chewed with growls some
insulting word and at last swallowed it with an effort. "My time
pays for your life," he said.
He became aware of a sudden stir, and saw that Mrs. Travers had
risen from her chair.
She walked impulsively toward the group on the quarter-deck,
making straight for Immada. Hassim had stepped aside and his
detached gaze of a Malay gentleman passed by her as if she had
She was tall, supple, moving freely. Her complexion was so
dazzling in the shade that it seemed to throw out a halo round
her head. Upon a smooth and wide brow an abundance of pale fair
hair, fine as silk, undulating like the sea, heavy like a helmet,
descended low without a trace of gloss, without a gleam in its
coils, as though it had never been touched by a ray of light; and
a throat white, smooth, palpitating with life, a round neck
modelled with strength and delicacy, supported gloriously that
radiant face and that pale mass of hair unkissed by sunshine.
She said with animation:
"Why, it's a girl!"
Mrs. Travers extorted from d'Alcacer a fresh tribute of
curiosity. A strong puff of wind fluttered the awnings and one of
the screens blowing out wide let in upon the quarter-deck the
rippling glitter of the Shallows, showing to d'Alcacer the
luminous vastness of the sea, with the line of the distant
horizon, dark like the edge of the encompassing night, drawn at
the height of Mrs. Travers' shoulder. . . . Where was it he had
seen her last--a long time before, on the other side of the
world? There was also the glitter of splendour around her then,
and an impression of luminous vastness. The encompassing night,
too, was there, the night that waits for its time to move forward
upon the glitter, the splendour, the men, the women.
He could not remember for the moment, but he became convinced
that of all the women he knew, she alone seemed to be made for
action. Every one of her movements had firmness, ease, the
meaning of a vital fact, the moral beauty of a fearless
expression. Her supple figure was not dishonoured by any
faltering of outlines under the plain dress of dark blue stuff
moulding her form with bold simplicity.
She had only very few steps to make, but before she had stopped,
confronting Immada, d'Alcacer remembered her suddenly as he had
seen her last, out West, far away, impossibly different, as if in
another universe, as if presented by the fantasy of a fevered
memory. He saw her in a luminous perspective of palatial drawing
rooms, in the restless eddy and flow of a human sea, at the foot
of walls high as cliffs, under lofty ceilings that like a
tropical sky flung light and heat upon the shallow glitter of
uniforms, of stars, of diamonds, of eyes sparkling in the weary
or impassive faces of the throng at an official reception.
Outside he had found the unavoidable darkness with its aspect of
patient waiting, a cloudy sky holding back the dawn of a London
morning. It was difficult to believe.
Lingard, who had been looking dangerously fierce, slapped his
thigh and showed signs of agitation.
"By heavens, I had forgotten all about you!" he pronounced in
Mrs. Travers fixed her eyes on Immada. Fairhaired and white she
asserted herself before the girl of olive face and raven locks
with the maturity of perfection, with the superiority of the
flower over the leaf, of the phrase that contains a thought over
the cry that can only express an emotion. Immense spaces and
countless centuries stretched between them: and she looked at her
as when one looks into one's own heart with absorbed curiosity,
with still wonder, with an immense compassion. Lingard murmured,
"Don't touch her."
Mrs. Travers looked at him.
"Do you think I could hurt her?" she asked, softly, and was so
startled to hear him mutter a gloomy "Perhaps," that she
hesitated before she smiled.
"Almost a child! And so pretty! What a delicate face," she said,
while another deep sigh of the sea breeze lifted and let fall the
screens, so that the sound, the wind, and the glitter seemed to
rush in together and bear her words away into space. "I had no
idea of anything so charmingly gentle," she went on in a voice
that without effort glowed, caressed, and had a magic power of
delight to the soul. "So young! And she lives here--does she? On
the sea--or where? Lives--" Then faintly, as if she had been in
the act of speaking, removed instantly to a great distance, she
was heard again: "How does she live?"
Lingard had hardly seen Edith Travers till then. He had seen no
one really but Mr. Travers. .He looked and listened with
something of the stupor of a new sensation.
Then he made a distinct effort to collect his thoughts and said
with a remnant of anger:
"What have you got to do with her? She knows war. Do you know
anything about it? And hunger, too, and thirst, and unhappiness;
things you have only heard about. She has been as near death as I
am to you--and what is all that to any of you here?"
"That child!" she said in slow wonder.
Immada turned upon Mrs. Travers her eyes black as coal, sparkling
and soft like a tropical night; and the glances of the two women,
their dissimilar and inquiring glances met, seemed to touch,
clasp, hold each other with the grip of an intimate contact. They
"What are they come for? Why did you show them the way to this
place?" asked Immada, faintly.
Lingard shook his head in denial.
"Poor girl," said Mrs. Travers. "Are they all so pretty?"
"Who-all?" mumbled Lingard. "There isn't an other one like her if
you were to ransack the islands all round the compass."
"Edith!" ejaculated Mr. Travers in a remonstrating, acrimonious
voice, and everyone gave him a look of vague surprise.
Then Mrs. Travers asked:
"Who is she?"
Lingard very red and grave declared curtly:
Immediately he looked round with suspicion. No one smiled.
D'Alcacer, courteous and nonchalant, lounged up close to Mrs.
"If she is a princess, then this man is a knight," he murmured
with conviction. "A knight as I live! A descendant of the
immortal hidalgo errant upon the sea. It would be good for us to
have him for a friend. Seriously I think that you ought--"
The two stepped aside and spoke low and hurriedly.
"Yes, you ought--"
"How can I?" she interrupted, catching the meaning like a ball.
"By saying something."
"Is it really necessary?" she asked, doubtfully.
"It would do no harm," said d'Alcacer with sudden carelessness;
"a friend is always better than an enemy."
"Always?" she repeated, meaningly. "But what could I say?"
"Some words," he answered; "I should think any words in your
"Or you could perhaps look at him once or twice as though he were
not exactly a robber," he continued.
"Mr. d'Alcacer, are you afraid?"
"Extremely," he said, stooping to pick up the fan at her feet.
"That is the reason I am so anxious to conciliate. And you must
not forget that one of your queens once stepped on the cloak of
perhaps such a man."
Her eyes sparkled and she dropped them suddenly.
"I am not a queen," she said, coldly.
"Unfortunately not," he admitted; "but then the other was a woman
with no charm but her crown."
At that moment Lingard, to whom Hassim had been talking
earnestly, protested aloud:
"I never saw these people before."
Immada caught hold of her brother's arm. Mr. Travers said
"Oblige me by taking these natives away."
"Never before," murmured Immada as if lost in ecstasy. D'Alcacer
glanced at Mrs. Travers and made a step forward.
"Could not the difficulty, whatever it is, be arranged, Captain?"
he said with careful politeness. "Observe that we are not only
"Let them die!" cried Immada, triumphantly.
Though Lingard alone understood the meaning of these words, all
on board felt oppressed by the uneasy silence which followed her
"Ah! He is going. Now, Mrs. Travers," whispered d'Alcacer.
"I hope!" said Mrs. Travers, impulsively, and stopped as if
alarmed at the sound.
Lingard stood still.
"I hope," she began again, "that this poor girl will know happier
days--" She hesitated.
Lingard waited, attentive and serious.
"Under your care," she finished. "And I believe you meant to be
friendly to us."
"Thank you," said Lingard with dignity.
"You and d'Alcacer," observed Mr. Travers, austerely, "are
unnecessarily detaining this--ah--person, and--ah--friends--ah!"
"I had forgotten you--and now--what? One must--it is
hard--hard--" went on Lingard, disconnectedly, while he looked
into Mrs. Travers' violet eyes, and felt his mind overpowered and
troubled as if by the contemplation of vast distances. "I--you
don't know--I--you--cannot . . . Ha! It's all that man's doing,"
he burst out.
For a time, as if beside himself, he glared at Mrs. Travers, then
flung up one arm and strode off toward the gangway, where Hassim
and Immada waited for him, interested and patient. With a single
word "Come," he preceded them down into the boat. Not a sound was
heard on the yacht's deck, while these three disappeared one
after another below the rail as if they had descended into the
The afternoon dragged itself out in silence. Mrs. Travers sat
pensive and idle with her fan on her knees. D'Alcacer, who
thought the incident should have been treated in a conciliatory
spirit, attempted to communicate his view to his host, but that
gentleman, purposely misunderstanding his motive, overwhelmed him
with so many apologies and expressions of regret at the irksome
and perhaps inconvenient delay "which you suffer from through
your good-natured acceptance of our invitation" that the other
was obliged to refrain from pursuing the subject further.
"Even my regard for you, my dear d'Alcacer, could not induce me
to submit to such a bare-faced attempt at extortion," affirmed
Mr. Travers with uncompromising virtue. "The man wanted to force
his services upon me, and then put in a heavy claim for salvage.
That is the whole secret--you may depend on it. I detected him at
once, of course." The eye-glass glittered perspicuously. "He
underrated my intelligence; and what a violent scoundrel! The
existence of such a man in the time we live in is a scandal."
D'Alcacer retired, and, full of vague forebodings, tried in vain
for hours to interest himself in a book. Mr. Travers walked up
and down restlessly, trying to persuade himself that his
indignation was based on purely moral grounds. The glaring day,
like a mass of white-hot iron withdrawn from the fire, was losing
gradually its heat and its glare in a richer deepening of tone.
At the usual time two seamen, walking noiselessly aft in their
yachting shoes, rolled up in silence the quarter-deck screens;
and the coast, the shallows, the dark islets and the snowy
sandbanks uncovered thus day after day were seen once more in
their aspect of dumb watchfulness. The brig, swung end on in the
foreground, her squared yards crossing heavily the soaring
symmetry of the rigging, resembled a creature instinct with life,
with the power of springing into action lurking in the light
grace of its repose.
A pair of stewards in white jackets with brass buttons appeared
on deck and began to flit about without a sound, laying the table
for dinner on the flat top of the cabin skylight. The sun,
drifting away toward other lands, toward other seas, toward other
men; the sun, all red in a cloudless sky raked the yacht with a
parting salvo of crimson rays that shattered themselves into
sparks of fire upon the crystal and silver of the dinner-service,
put a short flame into the blades of knives, and spread a rosy
tint over the white of plates. A trail of purple, like a smear of
blood on a blue shield, lay over the sea.
On sitting down Mr. Travers alluded in a vexed tone to the
necessity of living on preserves, all the stock of fresh
provisions for the passage to Batavia having been already
consumed. It was distinctly unpleasant.
"I don't travel for my pleasure, however," he added; "and the
belief that the sacrifice of my time and comfort will be
productive of some good to the world at large would make up for
any amount of privations."
Mrs. Travers and d'Alcacer seemed unable to shake off a strong
aversion to talk, and the conversation, like an expiring breeze,
kept on dying out repeatedly after each languid gust. The large
silence of the horizon, the profound repose of all things
visible, enveloping the bodies and penetrating the souls with
their quieting influence, stilled thought as well as voice. For a
long time no one spoke. Behind the taciturnity of the masters the
servants hovered without noise.
Suddenly, Mr. Travers, as if concluding a train of thought,
"I own with regret I did in a measure lose my temper; but then
you will admit that the existence of such a man is a disgrace to
This remark was not taken up and he returned for a time to the
nursing of his indignation, at the bottom of which, like a
monster in a fog, crept a bizarre feeling of rancour. He waved
away an offered dish.
"This coast," he began again, "has been placed under the sole
protection of Holland by the Treaty of 1820. The Treaty of 1820
creates special rights and obligations. . . ."
Both his hearers felt vividly the urgent necessity to hear no
more. D'Alcacer, uncomfortable on a campstool, sat stiff and
stared at the glass stopper of a carafe. Mrs. Travers turned a
little sideways and leaning on her elbow rested her head on the
palm of her hand like one thinking about matters of profound
import. Mr. Travers talked; he talked inflexibly, in a harsh
blank voice, as if reading a proclamation. The other two, as if
in a state of incomplete trance, had their ears assailed by
fragments of official verbiage.
"An international understanding--the duty to civilize--failed to
carry out--compact--Canning--" D'Alcacer became attentive for a
moment. "--not that this attempt, almost amusing in its
impudence, influences my opinion. I won't admit the possibility
of any violence being offered to people of our position. It is
the social aspect of such an incident I am desirous of
Here d'Alcacer lost himself again in the recollection of Mrs.
Travers and Immada looking at each other--the beginning and the
end, the flower and the leaf, the phrase and the cry. Mr.
Travers' voice went on dogmatic and obstinate for a long time.
The end came with a certain vehemence.
"And if the inferior race must perish, it is a gain, a step
toward the perfecting of society which is the aim of progress."
He ceased. The sparks of sunset in crystal and silver had gone
out, and around the yacht the expanse of coast and Shallows
seemed to await, unmoved, the coming of utter darkness. The
dinner was over a long time ago and the patient stewards had been
waiting, stoical in the downpour of words like sentries under a
Mrs. Travers rose nervously and going aft began to gaze at the
coast. Behind her the sun, sunk already, seemed to force through
the mass of waters the glow of an unextinguishable fire, and
below her feet, on each side of the yacht, the lustrous sea, as
if reflecting the colour of her eyes, was tinged a sombre violet
D'Alcacer came up to her with quiet footsteps and for some time
they leaned side by side over the rail in silence. Then he
said--"How quiet it is!" and she seemed to perceive that the
quietness of that evening was more profound and more significant
than ever before. Almost without knowing it she murmured--"It's
like a dream." Another long silence ensued; the tranquillity of
the universe had such an August ampleness that the sounds
remained on the lips as if checked by the fear of profanation.
The sky was limpid like a diamond, and under the last gleams of
sunset the night was spreading its veil over the earth. There was
something precious and soothing in the beautifully serene end of
that expiring day, of the day vibrating, glittering and ardent,
and dying now in infinite peace, without a stir, without a
tremor, without a sigh--in the certitude of resurrection.
Then all at once the shadow deepened swiftly, the stars came out
in a crowd, scattering a rain of pale sparks upon the blackness
of the water, while the coast stretched low down, a dark belt
without a gleam. Above it the top-hamper of the brig loomed
indistinct and high.
Mrs. Travers spoke first.
"How unnaturally quiet! It is like a desert of land and water
without a living soul."
"One man at least dwells in it," said d'Alcacer, lightly, "and if
he is to be believed there are other men, full of evil
"Do you think it is true?" Mrs. Travers asked.
Before answering d'Alcacer tried to see the expression of her
face but the obscurity was too profound already.
"How can one see a dark truth on such a dark night?" he said,
evasively. "But it is easy to believe in evil, here or anywhere
She seemed to be lost in thought for a while.
"And that man himself?" she asked.
After some time d'Alcacer began to speak slowly. "Rough,
uncommon, decidedly uncommon of his kind. Not at all what Don
Martin thinks him to be. For the rest--mysterious to me. He is
YOUR countryman after all-- "
She seemed quite surprised by that view.
"Yes," she said, slowly. "But you know, I can not --what shall I
say?--imagine him at all. He has nothing in common with the
mankind I know. There is nothing to begin upon. How does such a
man live? What are his thoughts? His actions? His affections?
"His conventions," suggested d'Alcacer. "That would include
Mr. Travers appeared suddenly behind them with a glowing cigar in
his teeth. He took it between his fingers to declare with
persistent acrimony that no amount of "scoundrelly intimidation"
would prevent him from having his usual walk. There was about
three hundred yards to the southward of the yacht a sandbank
nearly a mile long, gleaming a silvery white in the darkness,
plumetted in the centre with a thicket of dry bushes that rustled
very loud in the slightest stir of the heavy night air. The day
after the stranding they had landed on it "to stretch their legs
a bit," as the sailing-master defined it, and every evening
since, as if exercising a privilege or performing a duty, the
three paced there for an hour backward and forward lost in dusky
immensity, threading at the edge of water the belt of damp sand,
smooth, level, elastic to the touch like living flesh and
sweating a little under the pressure of their feet.
This time d'Alcacer alone followed Mr. Travers. Mrs. Travers
heard them get into the yacht's smallest boat, and the
night-watchman, tugging at a pair of sculls, pulled them off to
the nearest point. Then the man returned. He came up the ladder
and she heard him say to someone on deck:
"Orders to go back in an hour."
His footsteps died out forward, and a somnolent, unbreathing
repose took possession of the stranded yacht.
After a time this absolute silence which she almost could feel
pressing upon her on all sides induced in Mrs. Travers a state of
hallucination. She saw herself standing alone, at the end of
time, on the brink of days. All was unmoving as if the dawn would
never come, the stars would never fade, the sun would never rise
any more; all was mute, still, dead--as if the shadow of the
outer darkness, the shadow of the uninterrupted, of the
everlasting night that fills the universe, the shadow of the
night so profound and so vast that the blazing suns lost in it
are only like sparks, like pin-points of fire, the restless
shadow that like a suspicion of an evil truth darkens everything
upon the earth on its passage, had enveloped her, had stood
arrested as if to remain with her forever.
And there was such a finality in that illusion, such an accord
with the trend of her thought that when she murmured into the
darkness a faint "so be it" she seemed to have spoken one of
those sentences that resume and close a life.
As a young girl, often reproved for her romantic ideas, she had
dreams where the sincerity of a great passion appeared like the
ideal fulfilment and the only truth of life. Entering the world
she discovered that ideal to be unattainable because the world is
too prudent to be sincere. Then she hoped that she could find the
truth of life an ambition which she understood as a lifelong
devotion to some unselfish ideal. Mr. Travers' name was on men's
lips; he seemed capable of enthusiasm and of devotion; he
impressed her imagination by his impenetrability. She married
him, found him enthusiastically devoted to the nursing of his own
career, and had nothing to hope for now.
That her husband should be bewildered by the curious
misunderstanding which had taken place and also permanently
grieved by her disloyalty to his respectable ideals was only
natural. He was, however, perfectly satisfied with her beauty,
her brilliance, and her useful connections. She was admired, she
was envied; she was surrounded by splendour and adulation; the
days went on rapid, brilliant, uniform, without a glimpse of
sincerity or true passion, without a single true emotion --not
even that of a great sorrow. And swiftly and stealthily they had
led her on and on, to this evening, to this coast, to this sea,
to this moment of time and to this spot on the earth's surface
where she felt unerringly that the moving shadow of the unbroken
night had stood still to remain with her forever.
"So be it!" she murmured, resigned and defiant, at the mute and
smooth obscurity that hung before her eyes in a black curtain
without a fold; and as if in answer to that whisper a lantern was
run up to the foreyard-arm of the brig. She saw it ascend
swinging for a. short space, and suddenly remain motionless in
the air, piercing the dense night between the two vessels by its
glance of flame that strong and steady seemed, from afar, to fall
upon her alone.
Her thoughts, like a fascinated moth, went fluttering toward that
light--that man--that girl, who had known war, danger, seen death
near, had obtained evidently the devotion of that man. The
occurrences of the afternoon had been strange in themselves, but
what struck her artistic sense was the vigour of their
presentation. They outlined themselves before her memory with the
clear simplicity of some immortal legend. They were mysterious,
but she felt certain they were absolutely true. They embodied
artless and masterful feelings; such, no doubt, as had swayed
mankind in the simplicity of its youth. She envied, for a moment,
the lot of that humble and obscure sister. Nothing stood between
that girl and the truth of her sensations. She could be sincerely
courageous, and tender and passionate and--well--ferocious. Why
not ferocious? She could know the truth of terror--and of
affection, absolutely, without artificial trammels, without the
pain of restraint.
Thinking of what such life could be Mrs. Travers felt invaded by
that inexplicable exaltation which the consciousness of their
physical capacities so often gives to intellectual beings. She
glowed with a sudden persuasion that she also could be equal to
such an existence; and her heart was dilated with a momentary
longing to know the naked truth of things; the naked truth of
life and passion buried under the growth of centuries.
She glowed and, suddenly, she quivered with the shock of coming
to herself as if she had fallen down from a star. There was a
sound of rippling water and a shapeless mass glided out of the
dark void she confronted. A voice below her feet said:
"I made out your shape--on the sky." A cry of surprise expired on
her lips and she could only peer downward. Lingard, alone in the
brig's dinghy, with another stroke sent the light boat nearly
under the yacht's counter, laid his sculls in, and rose from the
thwart. His head and shoulders loomed up alongside and he had the
appearance of standing upon the sea. Involuntarily Mrs. Travers
made a movement of retreat.
"Stop," he said, anxiously, "don't speak loud. No one must know.
Where do your people think themselves, I wonder? In a dock at
home? And you--"
"My husband is not on board," she interrupted, hurriedly.
She bent a little more over the rail.
"Then you are having us watched. Why?"
"Somebody must watch. Your people keep such a good
look-out--don't they? Yes. Ever since dark one of my boats has
been dodging astern here, in the deep water. I swore to myself I
would never see one of you, never speak to one of you here, that
I would be dumb, blind, deaf. And--here I am!"
Mrs. Travers' alarm and mistrust were replaced by an immense
curiosity, burning, yet quiet, too, as if before the inevitable
work of destiny. She looked downward at Lingard. His head was
bared, and, with one hand upon the ship's side, he seemed to be
"Because you had something more to tell us," Mrs. Travers
"Yes," he said in a low tone and without moving in the least.
"Will you come on board and wait?" she asked.
"Who? I!" He lifted his head so quickly as to startle her. "I
have nothing to say to him; and I'll never put my foot on board
this craft. I've been told to go. That's enough."
"He is accustomed to be addressed deferentially," she said after
a pause, "and you--"
"Who is he?" asked Lingard, simply.
These three words seemed to her to scatter her past in the
air--like smoke. They robbed all the multitude of mankind of
every vestige of importance. She was amazed to find that on this
night, in this place, there could be no adequate answer to the
searching naiveness of that question.
"I didn't ask for much," Lingard began again. "Did I? Only that
you all should come on board my brig for five days. That's all. .
. . Do I look like a liar? There are things I could not tell him.
I couldn't explain--I couldn't--not to him--to no man--to no man
in the world--"
His voice dropped.
"Not to myself," he ended as if in a dream.
"We have remained unmolested so long here," began Mrs. Travers a
little unsteadily, "that it makes it very difficult to believe in
danger, now. We saw no one all these days except those two people
who came for you. If you may not explain--"
"Of course, you can't be expected to see through a wall," broke
in Lingard. "This coast's like a wall, but I know what's on the
other side. . . . A yacht here, of all things that float! When I
set eyes on her I could fancy she hadn't been more than an hour
from home. Nothing but the look of her spars made me think of old
times. And then the faces of the chaps on board. I seemed to know
them all. It was like home coming to me when I wasn't thinking of
it. And I hated the sight of you all."
"If we are exposed to any peril," she said after a pause during
which she tried to penetrate the secret of passion hidden behind
that man's words, "it need not affect you. Our other boat is gone
to the Straits and effective help is sure to come very soon."
"Affect me! Is that precious watchman of yours coming aft? I
don't want anybody to know I came here again begging, even of
you. Is he coming aft? . . . Listen! I've stopped your other
His head and shoulders disappeared as though he had dived into a
denser layer of obscurity floating on the water. The watchman,
who had the intention to stretch himself in one of the deck
chairs, catching sight of the owner's wife, walked straight to
the lamp that hung under the ridge pole of the awning, and after
fumbling with it for a time went away forward with an indolent
"You dared!" Mrs. Travers whispered down in an intense tone; and
directly, Lingard's head emerged again below her with an upturned
"It was dare--or give up. The help from the Straits would have
been too late anyhow if I hadn't the power to keep you safe; and
if I had the power I could see you through it--alone. I expected
to find a reasonable man to talk to. I ought to have known
better. You come from too far to understand these things. Well, I
dared; I've sent after your other boat a fellow who, with me at
his back, would try to stop the governor of the Straits himself.
He will do it. Perhaps it's done already. You have nothing to
hope for. But I am here. You said you believed I meant well--"
"Yes," she murmured.
"That's why I thought I would tell you everything. I had to begin
with this business about the boat. And what do you think of me
now? I've cut you off from the rest of the earth. You people
would disappear like a stone in the water. You left one foreign
port for another. Who's there to trouble about what became of
you? Who would know? Who could guess? It would be months before
they began to stir."
"I understand," she said, steadily, "we are helpless."
"And alone," he added.
After a pause she said in a deliberate, restrained voice:
"What does this mean? Plunder, captivity?"
"It would have meant death if I hadn't been here," he answered.
"But you have the power to--"
""Why, do you think, you are alive yet?" he cried. "Jorgenson has
been arguing with them on shore," he went on, more calmly, with a
swing of his arm toward where the night seemed darkest. "Do you
think he would have kept them back if they hadn't expected me
every day? His words would have been nothing without my fist."
She heard a dull blow struck on the side of the yacht and
concealed in the same darkness that wrapped the unconcern of the
earth and sea, the fury and the pain of hearts; she smiled above
his head, fascinated by the simplicity of images and expressions.
Lingard made a brusque movement, the lively little boat being
unsteady under his feet, and she spoke slowly, absently, as if
her thought had been lost in the vagueness of her sensations.
"And this--this--Jorgenson, you said? Who is he?"
"A man," he answered, "a man like myself."
"Just like myself," he said with strange reluctance, as if
admitting a painful truth. "More sense, perhaps, but less luck.
Though, since your yacht has turned up here, I begin to think
that my luck is nothing much to boast of either."
"Is our presence here so fatal?"
"It may be death to some. It may be worse than death to me. And
it rests with you in a way. Think of that! I can never find such
another chance again. But that's nothing! A man who has saved my
life once and that I passed my word to would think I had thrown
him over. But that's nothing! Listen! As true as I stand here in
my boat talking to you, I believe the girl would die of grief."
"You love her," she said, softly.
"Like my own daughter," he cried, low.
Mrs. Travers said, "Oh!" faintly, and for a moment there was a
silence, then he began again:
"Look here. When I was a boy in a trawler, and looked at you
yacht people, in the Channel ports, you were as strange to me as
the Malays here are strange to you. I left home sixteen years ago
and fought my way all round the earth. I had the time to forget
where I began. What are you to me against these two? If I was to
die here on the spot would you care? No one would care at home.
No one in the whole world--but these two."
"What can I do?" she asked, and waited, leaning over.
He seemed to reflect, then lifting his head, spoke gently:
"Do you understand the danger you are in? Are you afraid?"
"I understand the expression you used, of course. Understand the
danger?" she went on. "No--decidedly no. And-- honestly--I am not
"Aren't you?" he said in a disappointed voice. "Perhaps you don't
believe me? I believed you, though, when you said you were sure I
meant well. I trusted you enough to come here asking for your
help --telling you what no one knows."
"You mistake me," she said with impulsive earnestness. "This is
so extraordinarily unusual--sudden--outside my experience."
"Aye!" he murmured, "what would you know of danger and trouble?
You! But perhaps by thinking it over--"
"You want me to think myself into a fright!" Mrs. Travers laughed
lightly, and in the gloom of his thought this flash of joyous
sound was incongruous and almost terrible. Next moment the night
appeared brilliant as day, warm as sunshine; but when she ceased
the returning darkness gave him pain as if it had struck heavily
against his breast. "I don't think I could do that," she finished
in a serious tone.
"Couldn't you?" He hesitated, perplexed. "Things are bad enough
to make it no shame. I tell you," he said, rapidly, "and I am not
a timid man, I may not be able to do much if you people don't
"You want me to pretend I am alarmed?" she asked, quickly.
"Aye, to pretend--as well you may. It's a lot to ask of you--who
perhaps never had to make-believe a thing in your life--isn't
"It is," she said after a time.
The unexpected bitterness of her tone struck Lingard with dismay.
"Don't be offended," he entreated. "I've got to plan a way out of
this mess. It's no play either. Could you pretend?"
"Perhaps, if I tried very hard. But to what end?"
"You must all shift aboard the brig," he began, speaking quickly,
"and then we may get over this trouble without coming to blows.
Now, if you were to say that you wish it; that you feel unsafe in
the yacht--don't you see?"
"I see," she pronounced, thoughtfully.
"The brig is small but the cuddy is fit for a lady," went on
Lingard with animation.
"Has it not already sheltered a princess?" she commented, coolly.
"And I shall not intrude."
"This is an inducement."
"Nobody will dare to intrude. You needn't even see me."
"This is almost decisive, only--"
"I know my place."
"Only, I might not have the influence," she finished.
"That I can not believe," he said, roughly. "The long and the
short of it is you don't trust me because you think that only
people of your own condition speak the truth always."
"Evidently," she murmured.
"You say to yourself--here's a fellow deep in with pirates,
"To be sure--"
"A man I never saw the like before," went on Lingard, headlong,
He checked himself, full of confusion. After a time he heard her
"You are like other men in this, that you get angry when you can
not have your way at once."
"I angry!" he exclaimed in deadened voice. "You do not
understand. I am thinking of you also--it is hard on me--"
"I mistrust not you, but my own power. You have produced an
unfortunate impression on Mr. Travers."
"Unfortunate impression! He treated me as if I had been a
long-shore loafer. Never mind that. He is your husband. Fear in
those you care for is hard to bear for any man. And so, he--"
"Eh, what did you say?"
"I only wondered where you had observed that. On the sea?"
"Observed what?" he said, absently. Then pursuing his idea--"One
word from you ought to be enough."
"You think so?"
"I am sure of it. Why, even I, myself--"
"Of course," she interrupted. "But don't you think that after
parting with you on such--such--inimical terms, there would be a
difficulty in resuming relations?"
"A man like me would do anything for money--don't you see?"
After a pause she asked:
"And would you care for that argument to be used?"
"As long as you know better!"
His voice vibrated--she drew back disturbed, as if unexpectedly
he had touched her.
"What can there be at stake?" she began, wonderingly.
"A kingdom," said Lingard.
Mrs. Travers leaned far over the rail, staring, and their faces,
one above the other, came very close together.
"Not for yourself?" she whispered.
He felt the touch of her breath on his forehead and remained
still for a moment, perfectly still as if he did not intend to
move or speak any more.
"Those things," he began, suddenly, "come in your way, when you
don't think, and they get all round you before you know what you
mean to do. When I went into that bay in New Guinea I never
guessed where that course would take me to. I could tell you a
story. You would understand! You! You!"
He stammered, hesitated, and suddenly spoke, liberating the
visions of two years into the night where Mrs. Travers could
follow them as if outlined in words of fire.
His tale was as startling as the discovery of a new world. She
was being taken along the boundary of an exciting existence, and
she looked into it through the guileless enthusiasm of the
narrator. The heroic quality of the feelings concealed what was
disproportionate and absurd in that gratitude, in that
friendship, in that inexplicable devotion. The headlong
fierceness of purpose invested his obscure design of conquest
with the proportions of a great enterprise. It was clear that no
vision of a subjugated world could have been more inspiring to
the most famous adventurer of history.
From time to time he interrupted himself to ask, confidently, as
if he had been speaking to an old friend, "What would you have
done?" and hurried on without pausing for approval.
It struck her that there was a great passion in all this, the
beauty of an implanted faculty of affection that had found
itself, its immediate need of an object and the way of expansion;
a tenderness expressed violently; a tenderness that could only be
satisfied by backing human beings against their own destiny.
Perhaps her hatred of convention, trammelling the frankness of
her own impulses, had rendered her more alert to perceive what is
intrinsically great and profound within the forms of human folly,
so simple and so infinitely varied according to the region of the
earth and to the moment of time.
What of it that the narrator was only a roving seaman; the
kingdom of the jungle, the men of the forest, the lives obscure!
That simple soul was possessed by the greatness of the idea;
there was nothing sordid in its flaming impulses. When she once
understood that, the story appealed to the audacity of her
thoughts, and she became so charmed with what she heard that she
forgot where she was. She forgot that she was personally close to
that tale which she saw detached, far away from her, truth or
fiction, presented in picturesque speech, real only by the
response of her emotion.
Lingard paused. In the cessation of the impassioned murmur she
began to reflect. And at first it was only an oppressive notion
of there being some significance that really mattered in this
man's story. That mattered to her. For the first time the shadow
of danger and death crossed her mind. Was that the significance?
Suddenly, in a flash of acute discernment, she saw herself
involved helplessly in that story, as one is involved in a
He was speaking again. He had not been silent more than a minute.
It seemed to Mrs. Travers that years had elapsed, so different
now was the effect of his words. Her mind was agitated as if his
coming to speak and confide in her had been a tremendous
occurrence. It was a fact of her own existence; it was part of
the story also. This was the disturbing thought. She heard him
pronounce several names: Belarab, Daman, Tengga, Ningrat. These
belonged now to her life and she was appalled to find she was
unable to connect these names with any human appearance. They
stood out alone, as if written on the night; they took on a
symbolic shape; they imposed themselves upon her senses. She
whispered as if pondering: "Belarab, Daman, Ningrat," and these
barbarous sounds seemed to possess an exceptional energy, a fatal
aspect, the savour of madness.
"Not one of them but has a heavy score to settle with the whites.
What's that to me! I had somehow to get men who would fight. I
risked my life to get that lot. I made them promises which I
shall keep--or--! Can you see now why I dared to stop your boat?
I am in so deep that I care for no Sir John in the world. When I
look at the work ahead I care for nothing. I gave you one
chance--one good chance. That I had to do. No! I suppose I didn't
look enough of a gentleman. Yes! Yes! That's it. Yet I know what
a gentleman is. I lived with them for years. I chummed with them-
-yes--on gold-fields and in other places where a man has got to
show the stuff that's in him. Some of them write from home to me
here--such as you see me, because I--never mind! And I know what
a gentleman would do. Come! Wouldn't he treat a stranger fairly?
Wouldn't he remember that no man is a liar till you prove him so?
Wouldn't he keep his word wherever given? Well, I am going to do
that. Not a hair of your head shall be touched as long as I
She had regained much of her composure but at these words she
felt that staggering sense of utter insecurity which is given one
by the first tremor of an earthquake. It was followed by an
expectant stillness of sensations. She remained silent. He
thought she did not believe him.
"Come! What on earth do you think brought me here--to--to--talk
like this to you? There was Hassim--Rajah Tulla, I should
say--who was asking me this afternoon: 'What will you do now with
these, your people?' I believe he thinks yet I fetched you here
for some reason. You can't tell what crooked notion they will get
into their thick heads. It's enough to make one swear." He swore.
"My people! Are you? How much? Say--how much? You're no more mine
than I am yours. Would any of you fine folks at home face black
ruin to save a fishing smack's crew from getting drowned?"
Notwithstanding that sense of insecurity which lingered faintly
in her mind she had no image of death before her. She felt
intensely alive. She felt alive in a flush of strength, with an
impression of novelty as though life had been the gift of this
very moment. The danger hidden in the night gave no sign to
awaken her terror, but the workings of a human soul, simple and
violent, were laid bare before her and had the disturbing charm
of an unheard-of experience. She was listening to a man who
concealed nothing. She said, interrogatively:
"And yet you have come?"
"Yes," he answered, "to you--and for you only."
The flood tide running strong over the banks made a placid
trickling sound about the yacht's rudder.
"I would not be saved alone."
"Then you must bring them over yourself," he said in a sombre
tone. "There's the brig. You have me--my men--my guns. You know
what to do.
"I will try," she said.
"Very well. I am sorry for the poor devils forward there if you
fail. But of course you won't. Watch that light on the brig. I
had it hoisted on purpose. The trouble may be nearer than we
think. Two of my boats are gone scouting and if the news they
bring me is bad the light will be lowered. Think what that means.
And I've told you what I have told nobody. Think of my feelings
also. I told you because I--because I had to."
He gave a shove against the yacht's side and glided away from
under her eyes. A rippling sound died out.
She walked away from the rail. The lamp and the skylights shone
faintly along the dark stretch of the decks. This evening was
like the last--like all the evenings before.
"Is all this I have heard possible?" she asked herself. "No--but
it is true."
She sat down in a deck chair to think and found she could only
remember. She jumped up. She was sure somebody was hailing the
yacht faintly. Was that man hailing? She listened, and hearing
nothing was annoyed with herself for being haunted by a voice.
"He said he could trust me. Now, what is this danger? What is
danger?" she meditated.
Footsteps were coming from forward. The figure of the watchman
flitted vaguely over the gangway. He was whistling softly and
vanished. Hollow sounds in the boat were succeeded by a splash of
oars. The night swallowed these slight noises. Mrs. Travers sat
down again and found herself much calmer.
She had the faculty of being able to think her own thoughts--and
the courage. She could take no action of any kind till her
husband's return. Lingard's warnings were not what had impressed
her most. This man had presented his innermost self unclothed by
any subterfuge. There were in plain sight his desires, his
perplexities, affections, doubts, his violence, his folly; and
the existence they made up was lawless but not vile. She had too
much elevation of mind to look upon him from any other but a
strictly human standpoint. If he trusted her (how strange; why
should he? Was he wrong?) she accepted the trust with scrupulous
fairness. And when it dawned upon her that of all the men in the
world this unquestionably was the one she knew best, she had a
moment of wonder followed by an impression of profound sadness.
It seemed an unfortunate matter that concerned her alone.
Her thought was suspended while she listened attentively for the
return of the yacht's boat. She was dismayed at the task before
her. Not a sound broke the stillness and she felt as if she were
lost in empty space. Then suddenly someone amidships yawned
immensely and said: "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" A voice asked: "Ain't
they back yet?" A negative grunt answered.
Mrs. Travers found that Lingard was touching, because he could be
understood. How simple was life, she reflected. She was frank
with herself. She considered him apart from social organization.
She discovered he had no place in it. How delightful! Here was a
human being and the naked truth of things was not so very far
from her notwithstanding the growth of centuries. Then it
occurred to her that this man by his action stripped her at once
of her position, of her wealth, of her rank, of her past. "I am
helpless. What remains?" she asked herself. Nothing! Anybody
there might have suggested: "Your presence." She was too
artificial yet to think of her beauty; and yet the power of
personality is part of the naked truth of things.
She looked over her shoulder, and saw the light at the brig's
foreyard-arm burning with a strong, calm flame in the dust of
starlight suspended above the coast. She heard the heavy bump as
of a boat run headlong against the ladder. They were back! She
rose in sudden and extreme agitation. What should she say? How
much? How to begin? Why say anything? It would be absurd, like
talking seriously about a dream. She would not dare! In a moment
she was driven into a state of mind bordering on distraction. She
heard somebody run up the gangway steps. With the idea of gaining
time she walked rapidly aft to the taffrail. The light of the
brig faced her without a flicker, enormous amongst the suns
scattered in the immensity of the night.
She fixed her eyes on it. She thought: "I shan't tell him
anything. Impossible. No! I shall tell everything." She expected
every moment to hear her husband's voice and the suspense was
intolerable because she felt that then she must decide. Somebody
on deck was babbling excitedly. She devoutly hoped d'Alcacer
would speak first and thus put off the fatal moment. A voice said
roughly: "What's that?" And in the midst of her distress she
recognized Carter's voice, having noticed that young man who was
of a different stamp from the rest of the crew. She came to the
conclusion that the matter could be related jocularly, or--why
not pretend fear? At that moment the brig's yard-arm light she
was looking at trembled distinctly, and she was dumfounded as if
she had seen a commotion in the firmament. With her lips open for
a cry she saw it fall straight down several feet, flicker, and go
out. All perplexity passed from her mind. This first fact of the
danger gave her a thrill of quite a new emotion. Something had to
be done at once. For some remote reason she felt ashamed of her
She moved swiftly forward and under the lamp came face to face
with Carter who was coming aft. Both stopped, staring, the light
fell on their faces, and both were struck by each other's
expression. The four eyes shone wide.
"You have seen?" she asked, beginning to tremble.
"How do you know?" he said, at the same time, evidently
Suddenly she saw that everybody was on deck.
"The light is down," she stammered.
"The gentlemen are lost," said Carter. Then he perceived she did
not seem to understand. "Kidnapped off the sandbank," he
continued, looking at her fixedly to see how she would take it.
She seemed calm. "Kidnapped like a pair of lambs! Not a squeak,"
he burst out with indignation. "But the sandbank is long and they
might have been at the other end. You were on deck, ma'am?" he
"Yes," she murmured. "In the chair here."
"We were all down below. I had to rest a little. When I came up
the watchman was asleep. He swears he wasn't, but I know better.
Nobody heard any noise, unless you did. But perhaps you were
asleep?" he asked, deferentially.
"Yes--no--I must have been," she said, faintly.
Lingard's soul was exalted by his talk with Mrs. Travers, by the
strain of incertitude and by extreme fatigue. On returning on
board he asked after Hassim and was told that the Rajah and his
sister had gone off in their canoe promising to return before
midnight. The boats sent to scout between the islets north and
south of the anchorage had not come back yet. He went into his
cabin and throwing himself on the couch closed his eyes thinking:
"I must sleep or I shall go mad."
At times he felt an unshaken confidence in Mrs. Travers--then he
remembered her face. Next moment the face would fade, he would
make an effort to hold on to the image, fail--and then become
convinced without the shadow of a doubt that he was utterly lost,
unless he let all these people be wiped off the face of the
"They all heard that man order me out of his ship," he thought,
and thereupon for a second or so he contemplated without
flinching the lurid image of a massacre. "And yet I had to tell
her that not a hair of her head shall be touched. Not a hair."
And irrationally at the recollection of these words there seemed
to be no trouble of any kind left in the world. Now and then,
however, there were black instants when from sheer weariness he
thought of nothing at all; and during one of these he fell
asleep, losing the consciousness of external things as suddenly
as if he had been felled by a blow on the head.
When he sat up, almost before he was properly awake, his first
alarmed conviction was that he had slept the night through. There
was a light in the cuddy and through the open door of his cabin
he saw distinctly Mrs. Travers pass out of view across the
"They did come on board after all," he thought--"how is it I
haven't been called!"
He darted into the cuddy. Nobody! Looking up at the clock in the
skylight he was vexed to see it had stopped till his ear caught
the faint beat of the mechanism. It was going then! He could not
have been asleep more than ten minutes. He had not been on board
more than twenty!
So it was only a deception; he had seen no one. And yet he
remembered the turn of the head, the line of the neck, the colour
of the hair, the movement of the passing figure. He returned
spiritlessly to his state-room muttering, "No more sleep for me
to-night," and came out directly, holding a few sheets of paper
covered with a high, angular handwriting.
This was Jorgenson's letter written three days before and
entrusted to Hassim. Lingard had read it already twice, but he
turned up the lamp a little higher and sat down to read it again.
On the red shield above his head the gilt sheaf of thunderbolts
darting between the initials of his name seemed to be aimed
straight at the nape of his neck as he sat with bared elbows
spread on the table, poring over the crumpled sheets. The letter
Hassim and Immada are going out to-night to look for you. You are
behind your time and every passing day makes things worse.
Ten days ago three of Belarab's men, who had been collecting
turtles' eggs on the islets, came flying back with a story of a
ship stranded on the outer mudflats. Belarab at once forbade any
boat from leaving the lagoon. So far good. There was a great
excitement in the village. I judge it must be a schooner--
probably some fool of a trader. However, you will know all about
her when you read this. You may say I might have pulled out to
sea to have a look for myself. But besides Belarab's orders to
the contrary, which I would attend to for the sake of example,
all you are worth in this world, Tom, is here in the Emma, under
my feet, and I would not leave my charge even for half a day.
Hassim attended the council held every evening in the shed
outside Belarab's stockade. That holy man Ningrat was for looting
that vessel. Hassim reproved him saying that the vessel probably
was sent by you because no white men were known to come inside
the shoals. Belarab backed up Hassim. Ningrat was very angry and
reproached Belarab for keeping him, Ningrat, short of opium to
smoke. He began by calling him "O! son," and ended by shouting,
"O! you worse than an unbeliever!" There was a hullabaloo. The
followers of Tengga were ready to interfere and you know how it
is between Tengga and Belarab. Tengga always wanted to oust
Belarab, and his chances were getting pretty good before you
turned up and armed Belarab's bodyguard with muskets. However,
Hassim stopped that row, and no one was hurt that time. Next day,
which was Friday, Ningrat after reading the prayers in the mosque
talked to the people outside. He bleated and capered like an old
goat, prophesying misfortune, ruin, and extermination if these
whites were allowed to get away. He is mad but then they think
him a saint, and he had been fighting the Dutch for years in his
young days. Six of Belarab's guard marched down the village
street carrying muskets at full cock and the crowd cleared out.
Ningrat was spirited away by Tengga's men into their master's
stockade. If it was not for the fear of you turning up any moment
there would have been a party-fight that evening. I think it is a
pity Tengga is not chief of the land instead of Belarab. A brave
and foresighted man, however treacherous at heart, can always be
trusted to a certain extent. One can never get anything clear
from Belarab. Peace! Peace! You know his fad. And this fad makes
him act silly. The peace racket will get him into a row. It may
cost him his life in the end. However, Tengga does not feel
himself strong enough yet to act with his own followers only and
Belarab has, on my advice, disarmed all villagers. His men went
into the houses and took away by force all the firearms and as
many spears as they could lay hands on. The women screamed abuse
of course, but there was no resistance. A few men were seen
clearing out into the forest with their arms. Note this, for it
means there is another power beside Belarab's in the village: the
growing power of Tengga.
One morning--four days ago--I went to see Tengga. I found him by
the shore trimming a plank with a small hatchet while a slave
held an umbrella over his head. He is amusing himself in building
a boat just now. He threw his hatchet down to meet me and led me
by the hand to a shady spot. He told me frankly he had sent out
two good swimmers to observe the stranded vessel. These men stole
down the creek in a canoe and when on the sea coast swam from
sandbank to sandbank until they approached unobserved--I
think--to about fifty yards from that schooner What can that
craft be? I can't make it out. The men reported there were three
chiefs on board. One with a glittering eye, one a lean man in
white, and another without any hair on the face and dressed in a
different style. Could it be a woman? I don't know what to think.
I wish you were here. After a lot of chatter Tengga said: "Six
years ago I was ruler of a country and the Dutch drove me out.
The country was small but nothing is too small for them to take.
They pretended to give it back to my nephew--may he burn! I ran
away or they would have killed me. I am nothing here--but I
remember. These white people out there can not run away and they
are very few. There is perhaps a little to loot. I would give it
to my men who followed me in my calamity because I am their chief
and my father was the chief of their fathers." I pointed out the
imprudence of this. He said: "The dead do not show the way." To
this I remarked that the ignorant do not give information. Tengga
kept quiet for a while, then said: "We must not touch them
because their skin is like yours and to kill them would be wrong,
but at the bidding of you whites we may go and fight with people
of our own skin and our own faith--and that is good. I have
promised to Tuan Lingard twenty men and a prau to make war in
Wajo. The men are good and look at the prau; it is swift and
strong." I must say, Tom, the prau is the best craft of the kind
I have ever seen. I said you paid him well for the help. "And I
also would pay," says he, "if you let me have a few guns and a
little powder for my men. You and I shall share the loot of that
ship outside, and Tuan Lingard will not know. It is only a little
game. You have plenty of guns and powder under your care." He
meant in the Emma. On that I spoke out pretty straight and we got
rather warm until at last he gave me to understand that as he had
about forty followers of his own and I had only nine of Hassim's
chaps to defend the Emma with, he could very well go for me and
get the lot. "And then," says he, "I would be so strong that
everybody would be on my side." I discovered in the course of
further talk that there is a notion amongst many people that you
have come to grief in some way and won't show up here any more.
After this I saw the position was serious and I was in a hurry to
get back to the Emma, but pretending I did not care I smiled and
thanked Tengga for giving me warning of his intentions about me
and the Emma. At this he nearly choked himself with his betel
quid and fixing me with his little eyes, muttered: "Even a lizard
will give a fly the time to say its prayers." I turned my back on
him and was very thankful to get beyond the throw of a spear. I
haven't been out of the Emma since.
The letter went on to enlarge on the intrigues of Tengga, the
wavering conduct of Belarab, and the state of the public mind. It
noted every gust of opinion and every event, with an earnestness
of belief in their importance befitting the chronicle of a crisis
in the history of an empire. The shade of Jorgenson had, indeed,
stepped back into the life of men. The old adventurer looked on
with a perfect understanding of the value of trifles, using his
eyes for that other man whose conscience would have the task to
unravel the tangle. Lingard lived through those days in the
Settlement and was thankful to Jorgenson; only as he lived not
from day to day but from sentence to sentence of the writing,
there was an effect of bewildering rapidity in the succession of
events that made him grunt with surprise sometimes or
growl--"What?" to himself angrily and turn back several lines or
a whole page more than once. Toward the end he had a heavy frown
of perplexity and fidgeted as he read:
--and I began to think I could keep things quiet till you came or
those wretched white people got their schooner off, when Sherif
Daman arrived from the north on the very day he was expected,
with two Illanun praus. He looks like an Arab. It was very
evident to me he can wind the two Illanun pangerans round his
little finger. The two praus are large and armed. They came up
the creek, flags and streamers flying, beating drums and gongs,
and entered the lagoon with their decks full of armed men
brandishing two-handed swords and sounding the war cry. It is a
fine force for you, only Belarab who is a perverse devil would
not receive Sherif Daman at once. So Daman went to see Tengga who
detained him a very long time. Leaving Tengga he came on board
the Emma, and I could see directly there was something up.
He began by asking me for the ammunition and weapons they are to
get from you, saying he was anxious to sail at once toward Wajo,
since it was agreed he was to precede you by a few days. I
replied that that was true enough but that I could not think of
giving him the powder and muskets till you came. He began to talk
about you and hinted that perhaps you will never come. "And no
matter," says he, "here is Rajah Hassim and the Lady Immada and
we would fight for them if no white man was left in the world.
Only we must have something to fight with." He pretended then to
forget me altogether and talked with Hassim while I sat
listening. He began to boast how well he got along the Bruni
coast. No Illanun prau had passed down that coast for years.
Immada wanted me to give the arms he was asking for. The girl is
beside herself with fear of something happening that would put a
stopper on the Wajo expedition. She has set her mind on getting
her country back. Hassim is very reserved but he is very anxious,
too. Daman got nothing from me, and that very evening the praus
were ordered by Belarab to leave the lagoon. He does not trust
the Illanuns--and small blame to him. Sherif Daman went like a
lamb. He has no powder for his guns. As the praus passed by the
Emma he shouted to me he was going to wait for you outside the
creek. Tengga has given him a man who would show him the place.
All this looks very queer to me.
Look out outside then. The praus are dodging amongst the islets.
Daman visits Tengga. Tengga called on me as a good friend to try
and persuade me to give Daman the arms and gunpowder he is so
anxious to get. Somehow or other they tried to get around
Belarab, who came to see me last night and hinted I had better do
so. He is anxious for these Illanuns to leave the neighbourhood.
He thinks that if they loot the schooner they will be off at
once. That's all he wants now. Immada has been to see Belarab's
women and stopped two nights in the stockade. Belarab's youngest
wife--he got married six weeks ago--is on the side of Tengga's
party because she thinks Belarab would get a share of the loot
and she got into her silly head there are jewels and silks in
that schooner. What between Tengga worrying him outside and the
women worrying him at home, Belarab had such a lively time of it
that he concluded he would go to pray at his father's tomb. So
for the last two days he has been away camping in that unhealthy
place. When he comes back he will be down with fever as sure as
fate and then he will be no good for anything. Tengga lights up
smoky fires often. Some signal to Daman. I go ashore with
Hassim's men and put them out. This is risking a fight every
time--for Tengga's men look very black at us. I don't know what
the next move may be. Hassim's as true as steel. Immada is very
unhappy. They will tell you many details I have no time to write.
The last page fluttered on the table out of Lingard's fingers. He
sat very still for a moment looking straight before him, then
went on deck.
"Our boats back yet?" he asked Shaw, whom he saw prowling on the
"No, sir, I wish they were. I am waiting for them to go and turn
in," answered the mate in an aggrieved manner.
"Lower that lantern forward there," cried Lingard, suddenly, in
"This trade isn't fit for a decent man," muttered Shaw to
himself, and he moved away to lean on the rail, looking moodily
to seaward. After a while: "There seems to be commotion on board
that yacht," he said. "I see a lot of lights moving about her
decks. Anything wrong, do you think, sir?"
"No, I know what it is," said Lingard in a tone of elation. She
has done it! he thought.
He returned to the cabin, put away Jorgenson's letter and pulled
out the drawer of the table. It was full of cartridges. He took a
musket down, loaded it, then took another and another. He
hammered at the waddings with fierce joyousness. The ramrods rang
and jumped. It seemed to him he was doing his share of some work
in which that woman was playing her part faithfully. "She has
done it," he repeated, mentally. "She will sit in the cuddy. She
will sleep in my berth. Well, I'm not ashamed of the brig. By
heavens--no! I shall keep away: never come near them as I've
promised. Now there's nothing more to say. I've told her
everything at once. There's nothing more."
He felt a heaviness in his burning breast, in all his limbs as if
the blood in his veins had become molten lead.
"I shall get the yacht off. Three, four days--no, a week."
He found he couldn't do it under a week. It occurred to him he
would see her every day till the yacht was afloat. No, he
wouldn't intrude, but he was master and owner of the brig after
all. He didn't mean to skulk like a whipped cur about his own
"It'll be ten days before the schooner is ready. I'll take every
scrap of ballast out of her. I'll strip her--I'll take her lower
masts out of her, by heavens! I'll make sure. Then another week
to fit out--and--goodbye. Wish I had never seen them.
Good-bye--forever. Home's the place for them. Not for me. On
another coast she would not have listened. Ah, but she is a
woman--every inch of her. I shall shake hands. Yes. I shall take
her hand--just before she goes. Why the devil not? I am master
here after all--in this brig--as good as any one--by heavens,
better than any one--better than any one on earth."
He heard Shaw walk smartly forward above his head hailing:
"What's that--a boat?"
A voice answered indistinctly.
"One of my boats is back," thought Lingard. "News about Daman
perhaps. I don't care if he kicks. I wish he would. I would soon
show her I can fight as well as I can handle the brig. Two praus.
Only two praus. I wouldn't mind if there were twenty. I would
sweep 'em off the sea--I would blow 'em out of the water--I would
make the brig walk over them. 'Now,' I'd say to her, 'you who are
not afraid, look how it's done!'"
He felt light. He had the sensation of being whirled high in the
midst of an uproar and as powerless as a feather in a hurricane.
He shuddered profoundly. His arms hung down, and he stood before
the table staring like a man overcome by some fatal intelligence.
Shaw, going into the waist to receive what he thought was one of
the brig's boats, came against Carter making his way aft
"Hullo! Is it you again?" he said, swiftly, barring the way.