Sunday, April 3, 2011

Joseph Conrad- Secret sharer

Polish-born English novelist Joseph Conrad is one of the great modern writers of England. His novels reflect his concerns with the complex individual, and how sympathy and imagination can blur clear judgment—which is essential to life. The character development in Conrad's books is engaging and powerful.
Childhood in Poland and Russia
Joseph Conrad was born to Joseph Theodore Appollonius Korzeniowski and Evelina Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857, in Berdyczew, Poland. His father was a writer and a translator of the works of William Shakespeare (1564–1616). He was also a member of a movement seeking Polish independence from Russia. In 1862 the family was forced to move to Russia because of his father's political activities. Conrad's mother died three years later in 1865. It was not until 1867 that Conrad and his father were allowed to return to Poland.
In 1868 Conrad attended high school in the Austrian province of Galicia for one year. The following year he and his father moved to Cracow, Poland, where his father died in 1869. From the time spent with his father, Conrad became a lover of literature, especially tales of the sea. After his father's death, his uncle, Thaddus Bobrowski, took Conrad in and raised him.
Merchant marine service and marriage
As a teenager the future novelist began dreaming of going to sea. In 1873, while on vacation in Western Europe, Conrad saw the sea for the first time. In the autumn of 1874 Conrad went to Marseilles, France, where he entered the French marine service. For the next twenty years Conrad led a successful career as a ship's officer. In 1877 he probably took part in the illegal shipment of arms from France to Spain in support of the pretender to the Spanish throne, Don Carlos (1788–1855). At about this time Conrad seems to have fallen in love with a girl who was also a supporter of Carlos. The affair ended in a duel with an American named J. M. K. Blunt. This was the first time Conrad thought of taking his own life.
In June 1878 Conrad went to England for the first time. He worked as a seaman on English ships, and in 1880 he began his career as an officer in the British merchant service, rising from third mate to master. His voyages took him to distant and exotic places such as Australia, India, Singapore, Java, and Borneo, which would provide the background for much of his fiction. In 1886 he became a British citizen. He received his first command in 1888. In 1890 he traveled to the Belgian Congo, Zaire, and Africa, which inspired his great short novel The Heart of Darkness.
In the early 1890s Conrad had begun to think about writing fiction based on his experiences in the East. In 1893 he discussed his work in progress, the novel Almayer's Folly, with a passenger, the novelist John Galsworthy (1867–1933). A year later he retired from the merchant marines and completed Almayer's Folly,which was published in 1895.

It received favorable reviews and Conrad began a new career as a writer.
In 1896 he married Jessie George, an Englishwoman. Two years later, just after the birth of Borys, the first of their two sons, they settled in Kent in the south of England, where Conrad lived for the rest of his life. John Galsworthy was the first of a number of English and American writers who befriended Conrad. Others were Henry James (1843–1916), Arnold Bennett (1867–1931), Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), Stephen Crane (1871–1900), and Ford Madox (Hueffer) Ford (1873–1939), with whom Conrad collaborated on two novels.
Early novels, political novels
From 1896 through 1904 Conrad wrote novels about places he visited as a merchant marine and he explored themes such as the uncertainties of human sympathy. His early novels included An Outcast of the Islands (1896), The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897), The Heart of Darkness (1899), and Lord Jim (1900).
The next three novels reflected Conrad's political side. The theme of Nostromo (1904) was the relationship between man's deepest needs (his psychology) and his public actions and decisions. The description of London, England, in The Secret Agent (1907) was similar to Charles Dickens's works. It portrayed a city of mean streets and shabby lives. In Under Western Eyes (1911) Conrad examined the Russian temperament.
Conrad's next novel, Chance (1914), was a study of solitude and sympathy. Because of its financial success and the efforts of his American publisher, he was able to live without worrying about money for the rest of his life. Victory (1915), his last important novel, further examined the theme of solitude and sympathy. Last novels and death
Although Conrad's last novels, The Shadow Line (1917) and The Rover (1923), were written as a farewell, he received many honors. In 1923 he visited the United States to great fanfare. The year after, he declined an offer of knighthood in England.
On August 3, 1924, Conrad died of a heart attack and was buried at Canterbury, England. His gravestone bears these lines from Edmund Spenser (1552–1599): "Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,/ Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please."
Short story
The Secret Sharer
Joseph Conrad
On my right hand there were lines of fishing stakes
resembling a mysterious system of half-submerged bamboo fences, incomprehensible in its division of the
domain of tropical fishes, and crazy of aspect as if abandoned forever by some nomad tribe of fishermen now
gone to the other end of the ocean; for there was no sign
of human habitation as far as the eye could reach. To
the left a group of barren islets, suggesting ruins of stone
walls, towers, and blockhouses, had its foundations set in
a blue sea that itself looked solid, so still and stable did it
lie below my feet; even the track of light from the westering sun shone smoothly, without that animated glitter
which tells of an imperceptible ripple. And when I turned
my head to take a parting glance at the tug which had
just left us anchored outside the bar, I saw the straight
line of the flat shore joined to the stable sea, edge to
edge, with a perfect and unmarked closeness, in one leveled floor half brown, half blue under the enormous
dome of the sky. Corresponding in their insignificance to
the islets of the sea, two small clumps of trees, one on
each side of the only fault in the impeccable joint,
marked the mouth of the river Meinam we had just left
on the first preparatory stage of our homeward journey;
and, far back on the inland level, a larger and loftier
mass, the grove surrounding the great Paknam pagoda,
was the only thing on which the eye could rest from the
vain task of exploring the monotonous sweep of the horizon. Here and there gleams as of a few scattered pieces
of silver marked the windings of the great river; and on
the nearest of them, just within the bar, the tug steaming
right into the land became lost to my sight, hull and funnel and masts, as though the impassive earth had swallowed her up without an effort, without a tremor. My eye
followed the light cloud of her smoke, now here, now
there, above the plain, according to the devious curves of
the stream, but always fainter and farther away, till I lost
it at last behind the miter-shaped hill of the great
pagoda. And then I was left alone with my ship, anchored
at the head of the Gulf of Siam.
She floated at the starting point of a long journey, very
still in an immense stillness, the shadows of her spars
flung far to the eastward by the setting sun. At that
moment I was alone on her decks. There was not a
sound in her--and around us nothing moved, nothing I 3
lived, not a canoe on the water, not a bird in the air, not a
cloud in the sky. In this breathless pause at the threshold
of a long passage we seemed to be measuring our fitness
for a long and arduous enterprise, the appointed task of
both our existences to be carried out, far from all human
eyes, with only sky and sea for spectators and for
There must have been some glare in the air to interfere
with one's sight, because it was only just before the sun
left us that my roaming eyes made out beyond the highest ridges of the principal islet of the group something
which did away with the solemnity of perfect solitude.
The tide of darkness flowed on swiftly; and with tropical
suddenness a swarm of stars came out above the shadowy earth, while I lingered yet, my hand resting lightly
on my ship's rail as if on the shoulder of a trusted friend.
But, with all that multitude of celestial bodies staring
down at one, the comfort of quiet communion with her
was gone for good. And there were also disturbing
sounds by this time--voices, footsteps forward; the steward flitted along the main-deck, a busily ministering
spirit; a hand bell tinkled urgently under the poop
I found my two officers waiting for me near the supper
table, in the lighted cuddy. We sat down at once, and as
I helped the chief mate, I said:
"Are you aware that there is a ship anchored inside the
islands? I saw her mastheads above the ridge as the sun
went down."
He raised sharply his simple face, overcharged by a terrible growth of whisker, and emitted his usual ejaculations:
"Bless my soul, sir! You don't say so!"
My second mate was a round-cheeked, silent young man,
grave beyond his years, I thought; but as our eyes happened to meet I detected a slight quiver on his lips. I
looked down at once. It was not my part to encourage
sneering on board my ship. It must be said, too, that I
knew very little of my officers. In consequence of certain
events of no particular significance, except to myself, I
had been appointed to the command only a fortnight
before. Neither did I know much of the hands forward. I 4
All these people had been together for eighteen months
or so, and my position was that of the only stranger on
board. I mention this because it has some bearing on
what is to follow. But what I felt most was my being a
stranger to the ship; and if all the truth must be told, I
was somewhat of a stranger to myself. The youngest
man on board (barring the second mate), and untried as
yet by a position of the fullest responsibility, I was willing
to take the adequacy of the others for granted. They had
simply to be equal to their tasks; but I wondered how far
I should turn out faithful to that ideal conception of one's
own personality every man sets up for himself secretly.
Meantime the chief mate, with an almost visible effect of
collaboration on the part of his round eyes and frightful
whiskers, was trying to evolve a theory of the anchored
ship. His dominant trait was to take all things into earnest consideration. He was of a painstaking turn of
mind. As he used to say, he "liked to account to himself"
for practically everything that came in his way, down to a
miserable scorpion he had found in his cabin a week
before. The why and the wherefore of that scorpion--
how it got on board and came to select his room rather
than the pantry (which was a dark place and more what
a scorpion would be partial to), and how on earth it managed to drown itself in the inkwell of his writing desk--
had exercised him infinitely. The ship within the islands
was much more easily accounted for; and just as we
were about to rise from table he made his pronouncement. She was, he doubted not, a ship from home lately
arrived. Probably she drew too much water to cross the
bar except at the top of spring tides. Therefore she went
into that natural harbor to wait for a few days in preference to remaining in an open roadstead.
"That's so," confirmed the second mate, suddenly, in his
slightly hoarse voice. "She draws over twenty feet. She's
the Liverpool ship Sephora with a cargo of coal. Hundred
and twenty-three days from Cardiff."
We looked at him in surprise.
"The tugboat skipper told me when he came on board for
your letters, sir," explained the young man. "He expects
to take her up the river the day after tomorrow." I 5
After thus overwhelming us with the extent of his information he slipped out of the cabin. The mate observed
regretfully that he "could not account for that young fellow's whims." What prevented him telling us all about it
at once, he wanted to know.
I detained him as he was making a move. For the last
two days the crew had had plenty of hard work, and the
night before they had very little sleep. I felt painfully that
I--a stranger--was doing something unusual when I
directed him to let all hands turn in without setting an
anchor watch. I proposed to keep on deck myself till one
o'clock or thereabouts. I would get the second mate to
relieve me at that hour.
"He will turn out the cook and the steward at four," I concluded, "and then give you a call. Of course at the slightest sign of any sort of wind we'll have the hands up and
make a start at once."
He concealed his astonishment. "Very well, sir." Outside
the cuddy he put his head in the second mate's door to
inform him of my unheard-of caprice to take a five hours'
anchor watch on myself. I heard the other raise his voice
incredulously--"What? The Captain himself?" Then a few
more murmurs, a door closed, then another. A few
moments later I went on deck.
My strangeness, which had made me sleepless, had
prompted that unconventional arrangement, as if I had
expected in those solitary hours of the night to get on
terms with the ship of which I knew nothing, manned by
men of whom I knew very little more. Fast alongside a
wharf, littered like any ship in port with a tangle of unrelated things, invaded by unrelated shore people, I had
hardly seen her yet properly. Now, as she lay cleared for
sea, the stretch of her main-deck seemed to me very find
under the stars. Very fine, very roomy for her size, and
very inviting. I descended the poop and paced the waist,
my mind picturing to myself the coming passage through
the Malay Archipelago, down the Indian Ocean, and up
the Atlantic. All its phases were familiar enough to me,
every characteristic, all the alternatives which were likely
to face me on the high seas-- everything! . . . except the
novel responsibility of command. But I took heart from
the reasonable thought that the ship was like other ships, I 6
the men like other men, and that the sea was not likely
to keep any special surprises expressly for my discomfiture.
Arrived at that comforting conclusion, I bethought myself
of a cigar and went below to get it. All was still down
there. Everybody at the after end of the ship was sleeping profoundly. I came out again on the quarter-deck,
agreeably at ease in my sleeping suit on that warm
breathless night, barefooted, a glowing cigar in my teeth,
and, going forward, I was met by the profound silence of
the fore end of the ship. Only as I passed the door of the
forecastle, I heard a deep, quiet, trustful sigh of some
sleeper inside. And suddenly I rejoiced in the great security of the sea as compared with the unrest of the land, in
my choice of that untempted life presenting no disquieting problems, invested with an elementary moral beauty
by the absolute straightforwardness of its appeal and by
the singleness of its purpose.
The riding light in the forerigging burned with a clear,
untroubled, as if symbolic, flame, confident and bright in
the mysterious shades of the night. Passing on my way
aft along the other side of the ship, I observed that the
rope side ladder, put over, no doubt, for the master of the
tug when he came to fetch away our letters, had not
been hauled in as it should have been. I became
annoyed at this, for exactitude in some small matters is
the very soul of discipline. Then I reflected that I had
myself peremptorily dismissed my officers from duty, and
by my own act had prevented the anchor watch being
formally set and things properly attended to. I asked
myself whether it was wise ever to interfere with the
established routine of duties even from the kindest of
motives. My action might have made me appear eccentric. Goodness only knew how that absurdly whiskered
mate would "account" for my conduct, and what the
whole ship thought of that informality of their new captain. I was vexed with myself.
Not from compunction certainly, but, as it were mechanically, I proceeded to get the ladder in myself. Now a side
ladder of that sort is a light affair and comes in easily, yet
my vigorous tug, which should have brought it flying on
board, merely recoiled upon my body in a totally unexpected jerk. What the devil! . . . I was so astounded by I 7
the immovableness of that ladder that I remained stockstill, trying to account for it to myself like that imbecile
mate of mine. In the end, of course, I put my head over
the rail.
The side of the ship made an opaque belt of shadow on
the darkling glassy shimmer of the sea. But I saw at
once something elongated and pale floating very close to
the ladder. Before I could form a guess a faint flash of
phosphorescent light, which seemed to issue suddenly
from the naked body of a man, flickered in the sleeping
water with the elusive, silent play of summer lightning in
a night sky. With a gasp I saw revealed to my stare a
pair of feet, the long legs, a broad livid back immersed
right up to the neck in a greenish cadaverous glow. One
hand, awash, clutched the bottom rung of the ladder. He
was complete but for the head. A headless corpse! The
cigar dropped out of my gaping mouth with a tiny plop
and a short hiss quite audible in the absolute stillness of
all things under heaven. At that I suppose he raised up
his face, a dimly pale oval in the shadow of the ship's
side. But even then I could only barely make out down
there the shape of his black-haired head. However, it was
enough for the horrid, frost-bound sensation which had
gripped me about the chest to pass off. The moment of
vain exclamations was past, too. I only climbed on the
spare spar and leaned over the rail as far as I could, to
bring my eyes nearer to that mystery floating alongside.
As he hung by the ladder, like a resting swimmer, the sea
lightning played about his limbs at every stir; and he
appeared in it ghastly, silvery, fishlike. He remained as
mute as a fish, too. He made no motion to get out of the
water, either. It was inconceivable that he should not
attempt to come on board, and strangely troubling to
suspect that perhaps he did not want to. And my first
words were prompted by just that troubled incertitude.
"What's the matter?" I asked in my ordinary tone,
speaking down to the face upturned exactly under mine.
"Cramp," it answered, no louder. Then slightly anxious,
"I say, no need to call anyone."
"I was not going to," I said. I 8
"Are you alone on deck?"
I had somehow the impression that he was on the point
of letting go the ladder to swim away beyond my ken--
mysterious as he came. But, for the moment, this being
appearing as if he had risen from the bottom of the sea
(it was certainly the nearest land to the ship) wanted
only to know the time. I told him. And he, down there,
"I suppose your captain's turned in?"
"I am sure he isn't," I said.
He seemed to struggle with himself, for I heard something like the low, bitter murmur of doubt. "What's the
good?" His next words came out with a hesitating effort.
"Look here, my man. Could you call him out quietly?"
I thought the time Had come to declare myself.
"I am the captain."
I heard a "By Jove!" whispered at the level of the water.
The phosphorescence flashed in the swirl of the water all
about his limbs, his other hand seized the ladder.
"My name's Leggatt."
The voice was calm and resolute. A good voice. The
self-possession of that man had somehow induced a corresponding state in myself. It was very quietly that I
"You must be a good swimmer."
"Yes. I've been in the water practically since nine
o'clock. The question for me now is whether I am to let
go this ladder and go on swimming till I sink from
exhaustion, or--to come on board here."
I felt this was no mere formula of desperate speech, but
a real alternative in the view of a strong soul. I should I 9
have gathered from this that he was young; indeed, it is
only the young who are ever confronted by such clear
issues. But at the time it was pure intuition on my part. A
mysterious communication was established already
between us two--in the face of that silent, darkened tropical sea. I was young, too; young enough to make no
comment. The man in the water began suddenly to climb
up the ladder, and I hastened away from the rail to fetch
some clothes.
Before entering the cabin I stood still, listening in the
lobby at the foot of the stairs. A faint snore came
through the closed door of the chief mate's room. The
second mate's door was on the hook, but the darkness in
there was absolutely soundless. He, too, was young and
could sleep like a stone. Remained the steward, but he
was not likely to wake up before he was called. I got a
sleeping suit out of my room and, coming back on deck,
saw the naked man from the sea sitting on the main
hatch, glimmering white in the darkness, his elbows on
his knees and his head in his hands. In a moment he
had concealed his damp body in a sleeping suit of the
same gray-stripe pattern as the one I was wearing and
followed me like my double on the poop. Together we
moved right aft, barefooted, silent.
"What is it?" I asked in a deadened voice, taking the
lighted lamp out of the binnacle, and raising it to his
"An ugly business."
He had rather regular features; a good mouth; light eyes
under somewhat heavy, dark eyebrows; a smooth,
square forehead; no growth on his cheeks; a small,
brown mustache, and a well-shaped, round chin. His
expression was concentrated, meditative, under the
inspecting light of the lamp I held up to his face; such as
a man thinking hard in solitude might wear. My sleeping
suit was just right for his size. A well-knit young fellow
of twenty-five at most. He caught his lower lip with the
edge of white, even teeth.
"Yes," I said, replacing the lamp in the binnacle. The
warm, heavy tropical night closed upon his head again. I 10
"There's a ship over there," he murmured.
"Yes, I know. The Sephora. Did you know of us?"
"Hadn't the slightest idea. I am the mate of her--" He
paused and corrected himself. "I should say I WAS."
"Aha! Something wrong?"
"Yes. Very wrong indeed. I've killed a man."
"What do you mean? Just now?"
"No, on the passage. Weeks ago. Thirty-nine south.
When I say a man--"
"Fit of temper," I suggested, confidently.
The shadowy, dark head, like mine, seemed to nod
imperceptibly above the ghostly gray of my sleeping suit.
It was, in the night, as though I had been faced by my
own reflection in the depths of a somber and immense
"A pretty thing to have to own up to for a Conway boy,"
murmured my double, distinctly.
"You're a Conway boy?"
"I am," he said, as if startled. Then, slowly . . . "Perhaps
you too--"
It was so; but being a couple of years older I had left
before he joined. After a quick interchange of dates a
silence fell; and I thought suddenly of my absurd mate
with his terrific whiskers and the "Bless my soul--you
don't say so" type of intellect. My double gave me an
inkling of his thoughts by saying: "My father's a parson in
Norfolk. Do you see me before a judge and jury on that
charge? For myself I can't see the necessity. There are
fellows that an angel from heaven--And I am not that. He
was one of those creatures that are just simmering all
the time with a silly sort of wickedness. Miserable devils
that have no business to live at all. He wouldn't do his
duty and wouldn't let anybody else do theirs. But what's I 11
the good of talking! You know well enough the sort of illconditioned snarling cur--"
He appealed to me as if our experiences had been as
identical as our clothes. And I knew well enough the pestiferous danger of such a character where there are no
means of legal repression. And I knew well enough also
that my double there was no homicidal ruffian. I did not
think of asking him for details, and he told me the story
roughly in brusque, disconnected sentences. I needed no
more. I saw it all going on as though I were myself
inside that other sleeping suit.
"It happened while we were setting a reefed foresail, at
dusk. Reefed foresail! You understand the sort of
weather. The only sail we had left to keep the ship running; so you may guess what it had been like for days.
Anxious sort of job, that. He gave me some of his cursed
insolence at the sheet. I tell you I was overdone with
this terrific weather that seemed to have no end to it.
Terrific, I tell you--and a deep ship. I believe the fellow
himself was half crazed with funk. It was no time for
gentlemanly reproof, so I turned round and felled him
like an ox. He up and at me. We closed just as an awful
sea made for the ship. All hands saw it coming and took
to the rigging, but I had him by the throat, and went on
shaking him like a rat, the men above us yelling, `Look
out! look out!' Then a crash as if the sky had fallen on
my head. They say that for over ten minutes hardly anything was to be seen of the ship--just the three masts
and a bit of the forecastle head and of the poop all awash
driving along in a smother of foam. It was a miracle that
they found us, jammed together behind the forebitts. It's
clear that I meant business, because I was holding him
by the throat still when they picked us up. He was black
in the face. It was too much for them. It seems they
rushed us aft together, gripped as we were, screaming
`Murder!' like a lot of lunatics, and broke into the cuddy.
And the ship running for her life, touch and go all the
time, any minute her last in a sea fit to turn your hair
gray only a-looking at it. I understand that the skipper,
too, started raving like the rest of them. The man had
been deprived of sleep for more than a week, and to
have this sprung on him at the height of a furious gale
nearly drove him out of his mind. I wonder they didn't
fling me overboard after getting the carcass of their pre-I 12
cious shipmate out of my fingers. They had rather a job
to separate us, I've been told. A sufficiently fierce story
to make an old judge and a respectable jury sit up a bit.
The first thing I heard when I came to myself was the
maddening howling of that endless gale, and on that the
voice of the old man. He was hanging on to my bunk,
staring into my face out of his sou'wester.
"`Mr. Leggatt, you have killed a man. You can act no
longer as chief mate of this ship.'"
His care to subdue his voice made it sound monotonous.
He rested a hand on the end of the skylight to steady
himself with, and all that time did not stir a limb, so far
as I could see. "Nice little tale for a quiet tea party," he
concluded in the same tone.
One of my hands, too, rested on the end of the skylight;
neither did I stir a limb, so far as I knew. We stood less
than a foot from each other. It occurred to me that if old
"Bless my soul--you don't say so" were to put his head
up the companion and catch sight of us, he would think
he was seeing double, or imagine himself come upon a
scene of weird witchcraft; the strange captain having a
quiet confabulation by the wheel with his own gray
ghost. I became very much concerned to prevent anything of the sort. I heard the other's soothing undertone.
"My father's a parson in Norfolk," it said. Evidently he
had forgotten he had told me this important fact before.
Truly a nice little tale.
"You had better slip down into my stateroom now," I
said, moving off stealthily. My double followed my movements; our bare feet made no sound; I let him in, closed
the door with care, and, after giving a call to the second
mate, returned on deck for my relief.
"Not much sign of any wind yet," I remarked when he
"No, sir. Not much," he assented, sleepily, in his hoarse
voice, with just enough deference, no more, and barely
suppressing a yawn. I 13
"Well, that's all you have to look out for. You have got
your orders."
"Yes, sir."
I paced a turn or two on the poop and saw him take up
his position face forward with his elbow in the ratlines of
the mizzen rigging before I went below. The mate's faint
snoring was still going on peacefully. The cuddy lamp was
burning over the table on which stood a vase with flowers, a polite attention from the ship's provision merchant-- the last flowers we should see for the next three
months at the very least. Two bunches of bananas hung
from the beam symmetrically, one on each side of the
rudder casing. Everything was as before in the ship--
except that two of her captain's sleeping suits were
simultaneously in use, one motionless in the cuddy, the
other keeping very still in the captain's stateroom.
It must be explained here that my cabin had the form of
the capital letter L, the door being within the angle and
opening into the short part of the letter. A couch was to
the left, the bed place to the right; my writing desk and
the chronometers' table faced the door. But anyone
opening it, unless he stepped right inside, had no view of
what I call the long (or vertical) part of the letter. It contained some lockers surmounted by a bookcase; and a
few clothes, a thick jacket or two, caps, oilskin coat, and
such like, hung on hooks. There was at the bottom of
that part a door opening into my bathroom, which could
be entered also directly from the saloon. But that way
was never used.
The mysterious arrival had discovered the advantage of
this particular shape. Entering my room, lighted strongly
by a big bulkhead lamp swung on gimbals above my
writing desk, I did not see him anywhere till he stepped
out quietly from behind the coats hung in the recessed
"I heard somebody moving about, and went in there at
once," he whispered.
I, too, spoke under my breath. I 14
"Nobody is likely to come in here without knocking and
getting permission."
He nodded. His face was thin and the sunburn faded, as
though he had been ill. And no wonder. He had been, I
heard presently, kept under arrest in his cabin for nearly
seven weeks. But there was nothing sickly in his eyes or
in his expression. He was not a bit like me, really; yet, as
we stood leaning over my bed place, whispering side by
side, with our dark heads together and our backs to the
door, anybody bold enough to open it stealthily would
have been treated to the uncanny sight of a double captain busy talking in whispers with his other self.
"But all this doesn't tell me how you came to hang on to
our side ladder," I inquired, in the hardly audible murmurs we used, after he had told me something more of
the proceedings on board the Sephora once the bad
weather was over.
"When we sighted Java Head I had had time to think all
those matters out several times over. I had six weeks of
doing nothing else, and with only an hour or so every
evening for a tramp on the quarter-deck."
He whispered, his arms folded on the side of my bed
place, staring through the open port. And I could imagine perfectly the manner of this thinking out-- a stubborn
if not a steadfast operation; something of which I should
have been perfectly incapable.
"I reckoned it would be dark before we closed with the
land," he continued, so low that I had to strain my hearing near as we were to each other, shoulder touching
shoulder almost. "So I asked to speak to the old man.
He always seemed very sick when he came to see me--
as if he could not look me in the face. You know, that
foresail saved the ship. She was too deep to have run
long under bare poles. And it was I that managed to set
it for him. Anyway, he came. When I had him in my
cabin--he stood by the door looking at me as if I had the
halter round my neck already-- I asked him right away to
leave my cabin door unlocked at night while the ship was
going through Sunda Straits. There would be the Java
coast within two or three miles, off Angier Point. I I 15
wanted nothing more. I've had a prize for swimming my
second year in the Conway."
"I can believe it," I breathed out.
"God only knows why they locked me in every night. To
see some of their faces you'd have thought they were
afraid I'd go about at night strangling people. Am I a
murdering brute? Do I look it? By Jove! If I had been
he wouldn't have trusted himself like that into my room.
You'll say I might have chucked him aside and bolted out,
there and then--it was dark already. Well, no. And for
the same reason I wouldn't think of trying to smash the
door. There would have been a rush to stop me at the
noise, and I did not mean to get into a confounded
scrimmage. Somebody else might have got killed--for I
would not have broken out only to get chucked back, and
I did not want any more of that work. He refused, looking more sick than ever. He was afraid of the men, and
also of that old second mate of his who had been sailing
with him for years--a gray-headed old humbug; and his
steward, too, had been with him devil knows how long--
seventeen years or more--a dogmatic sort of loafer who
hated me like poison, just because I was the chief mate.
No chief mate ever made more than one voyage in the
Sephora, you know. Those two old chaps ran the ship.
Devil only knows what the skipper wasn't afraid of (all his
nerve went to pieces altogether in that hellish spell of
bad weather we had)--of what the law would do to him--
of his wife, perhaps. Oh, yes! she's on board. Though I
don't think she would have meddled. She would have
been only too glad to have me out of the ship in any way.
The `brand of Cain' business, don't you see. That's all
right. I was ready enough to go off wandering on the face
of the earth-- and that was price enough to pay for an
Abel of that sort. Anyhow, he wouldn't listen to me. 'This
thing must take its course. I represent the law here.' He
was shaking like a leaf. `So you won't?' `No!' 'Then I
hope you will be able to sleep on that,' I said, and turned
my back on him. `I wonder that you can,' cries he, and
locks the door.
"Well after that, I couldn't. Not very well. That was three
weeks ago. We have had a slow passage through the
Java Sea; drifted about Carimata for ten days. When we
anchored here they thought, I suppose, it was all right. I 16
The nearest land (and that's five miles) is the ship's destination; the consul would soon set about catching me;
and there would have been no object in bolding to these
islets there. I don't suppose there's a drop of water on
them. I don't know how it was, but tonight that steward,
after bringing me my supper, went out to let me eat it,
and left the door unlocked. And I ate it--all there was,
too. After I had finished I strolled out on the quarterdeck. I don't know that I meant to do anything. A breath
of fresh air was all I wanted, I believe. Then a sudden
temptation came over me. I kicked off my slippers and
was in the water before I had made up my mind fairly.
Somebody heard the splash and they raised an awful
hullabaloo. `He's gone! Lower the boats! He's committed suicide! No, he's swimming.' Certainly I was swimming. It's not so easy for a swimmer like me to commit
suicide by drowning. I landed on the nearest islet before
the boat left the ship's side. I heard them pulling about in
the dark, hailing, and so on, but after a bit they gave up.
Everything quieted down and the anchorage became still
as death. I sat down on a stone and began to think. I
felt certain they would start searching for me at daylight.
There was no place to hide on those stony things-- and if
there had been, what would have been the good? But
now I was clear of that ship, I was not going back. So
after a while I took off all my clothes, tied them up in a
bundle with a stone inside, and dropped them in the
deep water on the outer side of that islet. That was suicide enough for me. Let them think what they liked, but I
didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank-
-but that's not the same thing. I struck out for another of
these little islands, and it was from that one that I first
saw your riding light. Something to swim for. I went on
easily, and on the way I came upon a flat rock a foot or
two above water. In the daytime, I dare say, you might
make it out with a glass from your poop. I scrambled up
on it and rested myself for a bit. Then I made another
start. That last spell must have been over a mile."
His whisper was getting fainter and fainter, and all the
time he stared straight out through the porthole, in
which there was not even a star to be seen. I had not
interrupted him. There was something that made comment impossible in his narrative, or perhaps in himself; a
sort of feeling, a quality, which I can't find a name for. I 17
And when he ceased, all I found was a futile whisper: "So
you swam for our light?"
"Yes--straight for it. It was something to swim for. I
couldn't see any stars low down because the coast was in
the way, and I couldn't see the land, either. The water
was like glass. One might have been swimming in a confounded thousand-feet deep cistern with no place for
scrambling out anywhere; but what I didn't like was the
notion of swimming round and round like a crazed bullock before I gave out; and as I didn't mean to go back. .
No. Do you see me being hauled back, stark naked, off .
one of these little islands by the scruff of the neck and
fighting like a wild beast? Somebody would have got
killed for certain, and I did not want any of that. So I
went on. Then your ladder--"
"Why didn't you hail the ship?" I asked, a little louder.
He touched my shoulder lightly. Lazy footsteps came
right over our heads and stopped. The second mate had
crossed from the other side of the poop and might have
been hanging over the rail for all we knew.
"He couldn't hear us talking--could he?" My double
breathed into my very ear, anxiously.
His anxiety was in answer, a sufficient answer, to the
question I had put to him. An answer containing all the
difficulty of that situation. I closed the porthole quietly,
to make sure. A louder word might have been overheard.
"Who's that?" he whispered then.
"My second mate. But I don't know much more of the
fellow than you do."
And I told him a little about myself. I had been
appointed to take charge while I least expected anything
of the sort, not quite a fortnight ago. I didn't know either
the ship or the people. Hadn't had the time in port to
look about me or size anybody up. And as to the crew, all
they knew was that I was appointed to take the ship
home. For the rest, I was almost as much of a stranger
on board as himself, I said. And at the moment I felt it I 18
most acutely. I felt that it would take very little to make
me a suspect person in the eyes of the ship's company.
He had turned about meantime; and we, the two strangers in the ship, faced each other in identical attitudes.
"Your ladder--" he murmured, after a silence. "Who'd
have thought of finding a ladder hanging over at night in
a ship anchored out here! I felt just then a very unpleasant faintness. After the life I've been leading for nine
weeks, anybody would have got out of condition. I wasn't
capable of swimming round as far as your rudder chains.
And, lo and behold! there was a ladder to get hold of.
After I gripped it I said to myself, `What's the good?'
When I saw a man's head looking over I thought I would
swim away presently and leave him shouting--in whatever language it was. I didn't mind being looked at. I--I
liked it. And then you speaking to me so quietly--as if
you had expected me--made me hold on a little longer. It
had been a confounded lonely time--I don't mean while
swimming. I was glad to talk a little to somebody that
didn't belong to the Sephora. As to asking for the captain, that was a mere impulse. It could have been no
use, with all the ship knowing about me and the other
people pretty certain to be round here in the morning. I
don't know-- I wanted to be seen, to talk with somebody,
before I went on. I don't know what I would have said. .
".Fine night, isn't it?' or something of the sort` . .
"Do you think they will be round here presently?" I asked
with some incredulity.
"Quite likely," he said, faintly.
"He looked extremely haggard all of a sudden. His head
rolled on his shoulders.
"H'm. We shall see then. Meantime get into that bed," I
whispered. "Want help? There."
It was a rather high bed place with a set of drawers
underneath. This amazing swimmer really needed the lift
I gave him by seizing his leg. He tumbled in, rolled over
on his back, and flung one arm across his eyes. And
then, with his face nearly hidden, he must have looked
exactly as I used to look in that bed. I gazed upon my I 19
other self for a while before drawing across carefully the
two green serge curtains which ran on a brass rod. I
thought for a moment of pinning them together for
greater safety, but I sat down on the couch, and once
there I felt unwilling to rise and hunt for a pin. I would
do it in a moment. I was extremely tired, in a peculiarly
intimate way, by the strain of stealthiness, by the effort
of whispering and the general secrecy of this excitement.
It was three o'clock by now and I had been on my feet
since nine, but I was not sleepy; I could not have gone to
sleep. I sat there, fagged out, looking at the curtains,
trying to clear my mind of the confused sensation of
being in two places at once, and greatly bothered by an
exasperating knocking in my head. It was a relief to discover suddenly that it was not in my head at all, but on
the outside of the door. Before I could collect myself the
words "Come in" were out of my mouth, and the steward
entered with a tray, bringing in my morning coffee. I had
slept, after all, and I was so frightened that I shouted,
"This way! I am here, steward," as though he had been
miles away. He put down the tray on the table next the
couch and only then said, very quietly, "I can see you are
here, sir." I felt him give me a keen look, but I dared not
meet his eyes just then. He must have wondered why I
had drawn the curtains of my bed before going to sleep
on the couch. He went out, hooking the door open as
I heard the crew washing decks above me. I knew I
would have been told at once if there had been any wind.
Calm, I thought, and I was doubly vexed. Indeed, I felt
dual more than ever. The steward reappeared suddenly
in the doorway. I jumped up from the couch so quickly
that he gave a start.
"What do you want here?"
"Close your port, sir--they are washing decks."
"It is closed," I said, reddening.
"Very well, sir." But he did not move from the doorway
and returned my stare in an extraordinary, equivocal
manner for a time. Then his eyes wavered, all his expression changed, and in a voice unusually gentle, almost
coaxingly: I 20
"May I come in to take the empty cup away, sir?"
"Of course!" I turned my back on him while he popped in
and out. Then I unhooked and closed the door and even
pushed the bolt. This sort of thing could not go on very
long. The cabin was as hot as an oven, too. I took a
peep at my double, and discovered that he had not
moved, his arm was still over his eyes; but his chest
heaved; his hair was wet; his chin glistened with perspiration. I reached over him and opened the port.
"I must show myself on deck," I reflected.
Of course, theoretically, I could do what I liked, with no
one to say nay to me within the whole circle of the horizon; but to lock my cabin door and take the key away I
did not dare. Directly I put my head out of the companion I saw the group of my two officers, the second mate
barefooted, the chief mate in long India-rubber boots,
near the break of the poop, and the steward halfway
down the poop ladder talking to them eagerly. He happened to catch sight of me and dived, the second ran
down on the main-deck shouting some order or other,
and the chief mate came to meet me, touching his cap.
There was a sort of curiosity in his eye that I did not like.
I don't know whether the steward had told them that I
was "queer" only, or downright drunk, but I know the
man meant to have a good look at me. I watched him
coming with a smile which, as he got into point-blank
range, took effect and froze his very whiskers. I did not
give him time to open his lips.
"Square the yards by lifts and braces before the hands go
to breakfast."
It was the first particular order I had given on board that
ship; and I stayed on deck to see it executed, too. I had
felt the need of asserting myself without loss of time.
That sneering young cub got taken down a peg or two on
that occasion, and I also seized the opportunity of having
a good look at the face of every foremast man as they
filed past me to go to the after braces. At breakfast time,
eating nothing myself, I presided with such frigid dignity
that the two mates were only too glad to escape from the
cabin as soon as decency permitted; and all the time the I 21
dual working of my mind distracted me almost to the
point of insanity. I was constantly watching myself, my
secret self, as dependent on my actions as my own personality, sleeping in that bed, behind that door which
faced me as I sat at the head of the table. It was very
much like being mad, only it was worse because one was
aware of it.
I had to shake him for a solid minute, but when at last he
opened his eyes it was in the full possession of his
senses, with an inquiring look.
"All's well so far," I whispered. "Now you must vanish
into the bathroom."
He did so, as noiseless as a ghost, and then I rang for the
steward, and facing him boldly, directed him to tidy up
my stateroom while I was having my bath--"and be quick
about it." As my tone admitted of no excuses, he said,
"Yes, sir," and ran off to fetch his dustpan and brushes. I
took a bath and did most of my dressing, splashing, and
whistling softly for the steward's edification, while the
secret sharer of my life stood drawn up bolt upright in
that little space, his face looking very sunken in daylight,
his eyelids lowered under the stern, dark line of his eyebrows drawn together by a slight frown.
When I left him there to go back to my room the steward
was finishing dusting. I sent for the mate and engaged
him in some insignificant conversation. It was, as it
were, trifling with the terrific character of his whiskers;
but my object was to give him an opportunity for a good
look at my cabin. And then I could at last shut, with a
clear conscience, the door of my stateroom and get my
double back into the recessed part. There was nothing
else for it. He had to sit still on a small folding stool, half
smothered by the heavy coats hanging there. We listened to the steward going into the bathroom out of the
saloon, filling the water bottles there, scrubbing the
bath, setting things to rights, whisk, bang, clatter--out
again into the saloon--turn the key--click. Such was my
scheme for keeping my second self invisible. Nothing
better could be contrived under the circumstances. And
there we sat; I at my writing desk ready to appear busy
with some papers, he behind me out of sight of the door.
It would not have been prudent to talk in daytime; and I I 22
could not have stood the excitement of that queer sense
of whispering to myself. Now and then, glancing over my
shoulder, I saw him far back there, sitting rigidly on the
low stool, his bare feet close together, his arms folded,
his head hanging on his breast--and perfectly still. Anybody would have taken him for me.
I was fascinated by it myself. Every moment I had to
glance over my shoulder. I was looking at him when a
voice outside the door said:
"Beg pardon, sir."
"Well! . . . I kept my eyes on him, and so when the voice
outside the door announced, "There's a ship's boat coming our way, sir," I saw him give a start--the first movement he had made for hours. But he did not raise his
bowed head.
"All right. Get the ladder over."
I hesitated. Should I whisper something to him? But
what? His immobility seemed to have been never disturbed. What could I tell him he did not know already? . .
.Finally I went on deck .II 23
The skipper of the Sephora had a thin red whisker all
round his face, and the sort of complexion that goes with
hair of that color; also the particular, rather smeary
shade of blue in the eyes. He was not exactly a showy
figure; his shoulders were high, his stature but middling-
-one leg slightly more bandy than the other. He shook
hands, looking vaguely around. A spiritless tenacity was
his main characteristic, I judged. I behaved with a politeness which seemed to disconcert him. Perhaps he was
shy. He mumbled to me as if he were ashamed of what
he was saying; gave his name (it was something like
Archbold-- but at this distance of years I hardly am
sure), his ship's name, and a few other particulars of that
sort, in the manner of a criminal making a reluctant and
doleful confession. He had had terrible weather on the
passage out--terrible--terrible-- wife aboard, too.
By this time we were seated in the cabin and the steward
brought in a tray with a bottle and glasses. "Thanks!
No." Never took liquor. Would have some water, though.
He drank two tumblerfuls. Terrible thirsty work. Ever
since daylight had been exploring the islands round his
"What was that for--fun?" I asked, with an appearance
of polite interest.
"No!" He sighed. "Painful duty."
As he persisted in his mumbling and I wanted my double
to hear every word, I hit upon the notion of informing
him that I regretted to say I was hard of hearing.
"Such a young man, too!" he nodded, keeping his
smeary blue, unintelligent eyes fastened upon me.
"What was the cause of it-- some disease?" he inquired,
without the least sympathy and as if he thought that, if
so, I'd got no more than I deserved.
"Yes; disease," I admitted in a cheerful tone which
seemed to shock him. But my point was gained, because
he had to raise his voice to give me his tale. It is not
worth while to record his version. It was just over two
months since all this had happened, and he had thought II 24
so much about it that he seemed completely muddled as
to its bearings, but still immensely impressed.
"What would you think of such a thing happening on
board your own ship? I've had the Sephora for these fifteen years. I am a well-known shipmaster."
He was densely distressed--and perhaps I should have
sympathized with him if I had been able to detach my
mental vision from the unsuspected sharer of my cabin
as though he were my second self. There he was on the
other side of the bulkhead, four or five feet from us, no
more, as we sat in the saloon. I looked politely at Captain
Archbold (if that was his name), but it was the other I
saw, in a gray sleeping suit, seated on a low stool, his
bare feet close together, his arms folded, and every word
said between us falling into the ears of his dark head
bowed on his chest.
"I have been at sea now, man and boy, for seven-andthirty years, and I've never heard of such a thing happening in an English ship. And that it should be my ship.
Wife on board, too."
I was hardly listening to him.
"Don't you think," I said, "that the heavy sea which, you
told me, came aboard just then might have killed the
man? I have seen the sheer weight of a sea kill a man
very neatly, by simply breaking his neck."
"Good God!" he uttered, impressively, fixing his smeary
blue eyes on me. "The sea! No man killed by the sea
ever looked like that." He seemed positively scandalized
at my suggestion. And as I gazed at him certainly not
prepared for anything original on his part, he advanced
his head close to mine and thrust his tongue out at me so
suddenly that I couldn't help starting back.
After scoring over my calmness in this graphic way he
nodded wisely. If I had seen the sight, he assured me, I
would never forget it as long as I lived. The weather was
too bad to give the corpse a proper sea burial. So next
day at dawn they took it up on the poop, covering its face
with a bit of bunting; he read a short prayer, and then,
just as it was, in its oilskins and long boots, they II 25
launched it amongst those mountainous seas that
seemed ready every moment to swallow up the ship herself and the terrified lives on board of her.
"That reefed foresail saved you," I threw in.
"Under God--it did," he exclaimed fervently. "It was by a
special mercy, I firmly believe, that it stood some of
those hurricane squalls."
"It was the setting of that sail which--" I began.
"God's own hand in it," he interrupted me. "Nothing less
could have done it. I don't mind telling you that I hardly
dared give the order. It seemed impossible that we could
touch anything without losing it, and then our last hope
would have been gone."
The terror of that gale was on him yet. I let him go on
for a bit, then said, casually--as if returning to a minor
"You were very anxious to give up your mate to the shore
people, I believe?"
He was. To the law. His obscure tenacity on that point
had in it something incomprehensible and a little awful;
something, as it were, mystical, quite apart from his anxiety that he should not be suspected of "countenancing
any doings of that sort." Seven-and-thirty virtuous years
at sea, of which over twenty of immaculate command,
and the last fifteen in the Sephora, seemed to have laid
him under some pitiless obligation.
"And you know," he went on, groping shame-facedly
amongst his feelings, "I did not engage that young fellow. His people had some interest with my owners. I
was in a way forced to take him on. He looked very
smart, very gentlemanly, and all that. But do you know--
I never liked him, somehow. I am a plain man. You see,
he wasn't exactly the sort for the chief mate of a ship like
the Sephora."
I had become so connected in thoughts and impressions
with the secret sharer of my cabin that I felt as if I, personally, were being given to understand that I, too, was II 26
not the sort that would have done for the chief mate of a
ship like the Sephora. I had no doubt of it in my mind.
"Not at all the style of man. You understand," he
insisted, superfluously, looking hard at me.
I smiled urbanely. He seemed at a loss for a while.
"I suppose I must report a suicide."
"Beg pardon?"
"Suicide! That's what I'll have to write to my owners
directly I get in."
"Unless you manage to recover him before tomorrow," I
assented, dispassionately. . . . "I mean, alive."
He mumbled something which I really did not catch, and
I turned my ear to him in a puzzled manner. He fairly
"The land--I say, the mainland is at least seven miles off
my anchorage."
"About that."
My lack of excitement, of curiosity, of surprise, of any
sort of pronounced interest, began to arouse his distrust.
But except for the felicitous pretense of deafness I had
not tried to pretend anything. I had felt utterly incapable
of playing the part of ignorance properly, and therefore
was afraid to try. It is also certain that he had brought
some ready-made suspicions with him, and that he
viewed my politeness as a strange and unnatural phenomenon. And yet how else could I have received him?
Not heartily! That was impossible for psychological reasons, which I need not state here. My only object was to
keep off his inquiries. Surlily? Yes, but surliness might
have provoked a point-blank question. From its novelty
to him and from its nature, punctilious courtesy was the
manner best calculated to restrain the man. But there
was the danger of his breaking through my defense
bluntly. I could not, I think, have met him by a direct lie,
also for psychological (not moral) reasons. If he had
only known how afraid I was of his putting my feeling of II 27
identity with the other to the test! But, strangely
enough--(I thought of it only afterwards)-- I believe that
he was not a little disconcerted by the reverse side of
that weird situation, by something in me that reminded
him of the man he was seeking--suggested a mysterious
similitude to the young fellow he had distrusted and disliked from the first.
However that might have been, the silence was not very
prolonged. He took another oblique step.
"I reckon I had no more than a two-mile pull to your
ship. Not a bit more."
"And quite enough, too, in this awful heat," I said.
Another pause full of mistrust followed. Necessity, they
say, is mother of invention, but fear, too, is not barren of
ingenious suggestions. And I was afraid he would ask me
point-blank for news of my other self.
"Nice little saloon, isn't it?" I remarked, as if noticing for
the first time the way his eyes roamed from one closed
door to the other. "And very well fitted out, too. Here,
for instance," I continued, reaching over the back of my
seat negligently and flinging the door open, "is my bathroom."
He made an eager movement, but hardly gave it a
glance. I got up, shut the door of the bathroom, and
invited him to have a look round, as if I were very proud
of my accomodation. He had to rise and be shown round,
but he went through the business without any raptures
"And now we'll have a look at my stateroom," I declared,
in a voice as loud as I dared to make it, crossing the
cabin to the starboard side with purposely heavy steps.
He followed me in and gazed around. My intelligent double had vanished. I played my part.
"Very convenient--isn't it?"
Very nice. Very comf . . ." He didn't finish and went out
brusquely as if to escape from some unrighteous wiles of II 28
mine. But it was not to be. I had been too frightened not
to feel vengeful; I felt I had him on the run, and I meant
to keep him on the run. My polite insistence must have
had something menacing in it, because he gave in suddenly. And I did not let him off a single item; mate's
room, pantry, storerooms, the very sail locker which was
also under the poop--he had to look into them all. When
at last I showed him out on the quarter-deck he drew a
long, spiritless sigh, and mumbled dismally that he must
really be going back to his ship now. I desired my mate,
who had joined us, to see to the captain's boat.
The man of whiskers gave a blast on the whistle which he
used to wear hanging round his neck, and yelled,
"Sephora's away!" My double down there in my cabin
must have heard, and certainly could not feel more
relieved than I. Four fellows came running out from
somewhere forward and went over the side, while my
own men, appearing on deck too, lined the rail. I
escorted my visitor to the gangway ceremoniously, and
nearly overdid it. He was a tenacious beast. On the very
ladder he lingered, and in that unique, guiltily conscientious manner of sticking to the point:
"I say . . . you . . . you don't think that--"
I covered his voice loudly:
"Certainly not. . . . I am delighted. Good-by."
I had an idea of what he meant to say, and just saved
myself by the privilege of defective hearing. He was too
shaken generally to insist, but my mate, close witness of
that parting, looked mystified and his face took on a
thoughtful cast. As I did not want to appear as if I wished
to avoid all communication with my officers, he had the
opportunity to address me.
"Seems a very nice man. His boat's crew told our chaps
a very extraordinary story, if what I am told by the steward is true. I suppose you had it from the captain, sir?"
"Yes. I had a story from the captain."
"A very horrible affair--isn't it, sir?" II 29
"It is."
"Beats all these tales we hear about murders in Yankee
"I don't think it beats them. I don't think it resembles
them in the least."
"Bless my soul--you don't say so! But of course I've no
acquaintance whatever with American ships, not I so I
couldn't go against your knowledge. It's horrible enough
for me. . . . But the queerest part is that those fellows
seemed to have some idea the man was hidden aboard
here. They had really. Did you ever hear of such a
"Preposterous--isn't it?"
We were walking to and fro athwart the quarter-deck. No
one of the crew forward could be seen (the day was Sunday), and the mate pursued:
"There was some little dispute about it. Our chaps took
offense. `As if we would harbor a thing like that,' they
said. `Wouldn't you like to look for him in our coal-hole?'
Quite a tiff. But they made it up in the end. I suppose he
did drown himself. Don't you, sir?"
"I don't suppose anything."
"You have no doubt in the matter, sir?"
"None whatever."
I left him suddenly. I felt I was producing a bad impression, but with my double down there it was most trying
to be on deck. And it was almost as trying to be below.
Altogether a nerve-trying situation. But on the whole I
felt less torn in two when I was with him. There was no
one in the whole ship whom I dared take into my confidence. Since the hands had got to know his story, it
would have been impossible to pass him off for anyone
else, and an accidental discovery was to be dreaded now
more than ever. . . . II 30
The steward being engaged in laying the table for dinner,
we could talk only with our eyes when I first went down.
Later in the afternoon we had a cautious try at whispering. The Sunday quietness of the ship was against us;
the stillness of air and water around her was against us;
the elements, the men were against us--everything was
against us in our secret partnership; time itself--for this
could not go on forever. The very trust in Providence
was, I suppose, denied to his guilt. Shall I confess that
this thought cast me down very much? And as to the
chapter of accidents which counts for so much in the
book of success, I could only hope that it was closed. For
what favorable accident could be expected?
"Did you hear everything?" were my first words as soon
as we took up our position side by side, leaning over my
bed place.
He had. And the proof of it was his earnest whisper, "The
man told you he hardly dared to give the order."
I understood the reference to be to that saving foresail.
"Yes. He was afraid of it being lost in the setting."
"I assure you he never gave the order. He may think he
did, but he never gave it. He stood there with me on the
break of the poop after the main topsail blew away, and
whimpered about our last hope-- positively whimpered
about it and nothing else--and the night coming on! To
hear one's skipper go on like that in such weather was
enough to drive any fellow out of his mind. It worked me
up into a sort of desperation. I just took it into my own
hands and went away from him, boiling, and--But what's
the use telling you? YOU know! . . . Do you think that if I
had not been pretty fierce with them I should have got
the men to do anything? Not It! The bo's'n perhaps?
Perhaps! It wasn't a heavy sea--it was a sea gone mad!
I suppose the end of the world will be something like
that; and a man may have the heart to see it coming
once and be done with it-- but to have to face it day after
day--I don't blame anybody. I was precious little better
than the rest. Only--I was an officer of that old coal
wagon, anyhow--" II 31
"I quite understand," I conveyed that sincere assurance
into his ear. He was out of breath with whispering; I
could hear him pant slightly. It was all very simple. The
same strung-up force which had given twenty-four men a
chance, at least, for their lives, had, in a sort of recoil,
crushed an unworthy mutinous existence.
But I had no leisure to weigh the merits of the matter--
footsteps in the saloon, a heavy knock. "There's enough
wind to get under way with, sir." Here was the call of a
new claim upon my thoughts and even upon my feelings.
"Turn the hands up," I cried through the door. "I'll be on
deck directly."
I was going out to make the acquaintance of my ship.
Before I left the cabin our eyes met--the eyes of the only
two strangers on board. I pointed to the recessed part
where the little campstool awaited him and laid my finger
on my lips. He made a gesture--somewhat vague--a little
mysterious, accompanied by a faint smile, as if of regret.
This is not the place to enlarge upon the sensations of a
man who feels for the first time a ship move under his
feet to his own independent word. In my case they were
not unalloyed. I was not wholly alone with my command;
for there was that stranger in my cabin. Or rather, I was
not completely and wholly with her. Part of me was
absent. That mental feeling of being in two places at
once affected me physically as if the mood of secrecy had
penetrated my very soul. Before an hour had elapsed
since the ship had begun to move, having occasion to
ask the mate (he stood by my side) to take a compass
bearing of the pagoda, I caught myself reaching up to his
ear in whispers. I say I caught myself, but enough had
escaped to startle the man. I can't describe it otherwise
than by saying that he shied. A grave, preoccupied manner, as though he were in possession of some perplexing
intelligence, did not leave him henceforth. A little later I
moved away from the rail to look at the compass with
such a stealthy gait that the helmsman noticed it-- and I
could not help noticing the unusual roundness of his
eyes. These are trifling instances, though it's to no commander's advantage to be suspected of ludicrous eccentricities. But I was also more seriously affected. There
are to a seaman certain words, gestures, that should in II 32
given conditions come as naturally, as instinctively as the
winking of a menaced eye. A certain order should spring
on to his lips without thinking; a certain sign should get
itself made, so to speak, without reflection. But all
unconscious alertness had abandoned me. I had to make
an effort of will to recall myself back (from the cabin) to
the conditions of the moment. I felt that I was appearing
an irresolute commander to those people who were
watching me more or less critically.
And, besides, there were the scares. On the second day
out, for instance, coming off the deck in the afternoon (I
had straw slippers on my bare feet) I stopped at the
open pantry door and spoke to the steward. He was
doing something there with his back to me. At the sound
of my voice he nearly jumped out of his skin, as the saying is, and incidentally broke a cup.
"What on earth's the matter with you?" I asked, astonished.
He was extremely confused. "Beg your pardon, sir. I
made sure you were in your cabin."
"You see I wasn't."
"No, sir. I could have sworn I had heard you moving in
there not a moment ago. It's most extraordinary . . .
very sorry, sir."
I passed on with an inward shudder. I was so identified
with my secret double that I did not even mention the
fact in those scanty, fearful whispers we exchanged. I
suppose he had made some slight noise of some kind or
other. It would have been miraculous if he hadn't at one
time or another. And yet, haggard as he appeared, he
looked always perfectly self-controlled, more than calm--
almost invulnerable. On my suggestion he remained
almost entirely in the bathroom, which, upon the whole,
was the safest place. There could be really no shadow of
an excuse for anyone ever wanting to go in there, once
the steward had done with it. It was a very tiny place.
Sometimes he reclined on the floor, his legs bent, his
head sustained on one elbow. At others I would find him
on the campstool, sitting in his gray sleeping suit and
with his cropped dark hair like a patient, unmoved con-II 33
vict. At night I would smuggle him into my bed place,
and we would whisper together, with the regular footfalls
of the officer of the watch passing and repassing over our
heads. It was an infinitely miserable time. It was lucky
that some tins of fine preserves were stowed in a locker
in my stateroom; hard bread I could always get hold of;
and so he lived on stewed chicken, PATE DE FOIE GRAS,
asparagus, cooked oysters, sardines-- on all sorts of
abominable sham delicacies out of tins. My early-morning coffee he always drank; and it was all I dared do for
him in that respect.
Every day there was the horrible maneuvering to go
through so that my room and then the bathroom should
be done in the usual way. I came to hate the sight of the
steward, to abhor the voice of that harmless man. I felt
that it was he who would bring on the disaster of discovery. It hung like a sword over our heads.
The fourth day out, I think (we were then working down
the east side of the Gulf of Siam, tack for tack, in light
winds and smooth water)-- the fourth day, I say, of this
miserable juggling with the unavoidable, as we sat at our
evening meal, that man, whose slightest movement I
dreaded, after putting down the dishes ran up on deck
busily. This could not be dangerous. Presently he came
down again; and then it appeared that he had remembered a coat of mine which I had thrown over a rail to
dry after having been wetted in a shower which had
passed over the ship in the afternoon. Sitting stolidly at
the head of the table I became terrified at the sight of
the garment on his arm. Of course he made for my door.
There was no time to lose.
"Steward," I thundered. My nerves were so shaken that
I could not govern my voice and conceal my agitation.
This was the sort of thing that made my terrifically whiskered mate tap his forehead with his forefinger. I had
detected him using that gesture while talking on deck
with a confidential air to the carpenter. It was too far to
hear a word, but I had no doubt that this pantomime
could only refer to the strange new captain.
"Yes, sir," the pale-faced steward turned resignedly to
me. It was this maddening course of being shouted at,
checked without rhyme or reason, arbitrarily chased out II 34
of my cabin, suddenly called into it, sent flying out of his
pantry on incomprehensible errands, that accounted for
the growing wretchedness of his expression.
"Where are you going with that coat?"
"To your room, sir."
"Is there another shower coming?"
"I'm sure I don't know, sir. Shall I go up again and see,
"No! never mind."
My object was attained, as of course my other self in
there would have heard everything that passed. During
this interlude my two officers never raised their eyes off
their respective plates; but the lip of that confounded
cub, the second mate, quivered visibly.
I expected the steward to hook my coat on and come out
at once. He was very slow about it; but I dominated my
nervousness sufficiently not to shout after him. Suddenly I became aware (it could be heard plainly enough)
that the fellow for some reason or other was opening the
door of the bathroom. It was the end. The place was literally not big enough to swing a cat in. My voice died in
my throat and I went stony all over. I expected to hear a
yell of surprise and terror, and made a movement, but
had not the strength to get on my legs. Everything
remained still. Had my second self taken the poor
wretch by the throat? I don't know what I could have
done next moment if I had not seen the steward come
out of my room, close the door, and then stand quietly by
the sideboard.
"Saved," I thought. "But, no! Lost! Gone! He was
I laid my knife and fork down and leaned back in my
chair. My head swam. After a while, when sufficiently
recovered to speak in a steady voice, I instructed my
mate to put the ship round at eight o'clock himself. II 35
"I won't come on deck," I went on. "I think I'll turn in,
and unless the wind shifts I don't want to be disturbed
before midnight. I feel a bit seedy."
"You did look middling bad a little while ago," the chief
mate remarked without showing any great concern.
They both went out, and I stared at the steward clearing
the table. There was nothing to be read on that wretched
man's face. But why did he avoid my eyes, I asked
myself. Then I thought I should like to hear the sound of
his voice.
"Sir!" Startled as usual.
"Where did you hang up that coat?"
"In the bathroom, sir." The usual anxious tone. "It's not
quite dry yet, sir."
For some time longer I sat in the cuddy. Had my double
vanished as he had come? But of his coming there was
an explanation, whereas his disappearance would be
inexplicable. . . . I went slowly into my dark room, shut
the door, lighted the lamp, and for a time dared not turn
round. When at last I did I saw him standing boltupright in the narrow recessed part. It would not be true
to say I had a shock, but an irresistible doubt of his
bodily existence flitted through my mind. Can it be, I
asked myself, that he is not visible to other eyes than
mine? It was like being haunted. Motionless, with a
grave face, he raised his hands slightly at me in a gesture which meant clearly, "Heavens! what a narrow
escape!" Narrow indeed. I think I had come creeping
quietly as near insanity as any man who has not actually
gone over the border. That gesture restrained me, so to
The mate with the terrific whiskers was now putting the
ship on the other tack. In the moment of profound
silence which follows upon the hands going to their stations I heard on the poop his raised voice: "Hard alee!"
and the distant shout of the order repeated on the maindeck. The sails, in that light breeze, made but a faint II 36
fluttering noise. It ceased. The ship was coming round
slowly: I held my breath in the renewed stillness of
expectation; one wouldn't have thought that there was a
single living soul on her decks. A sudden brisk shout,
"Mainsail haul!" broke the spell, and in the noisy cries
and rush overhead of the men running away with the
main brace we two, down in my cabin, came together in
our usual position by the bed place.
He did not wait for my question. "I heard him fumbling
here and just managed to squat myself down in the
bath," he whispered to me. "The fellow only opened the
door and put his arm in to hang the coat up. All the
"I never thought of that," I whispered back, even more
appalled than before at the closeness of the shave, and
marveling at that something unyielding in his character
which was carrying him through so finely. There was no
agitation in his whisper. Whoever was being driven distracted, it was not he. He was sane. And the proof of his
sanity was continued when he took up the whispering
"It would never do for me to come to life again."
It was something that a ghost might have said. But what
he was alluding to was his old captain's reluctant admission of the theory of suicide. It would obviously serve his
turn--if I had understood at all the view which seemed to
govern the unalterable purpose of his action.
"You must maroon me as soon as ever you can get
amongst these islands off the Cambodge shore," he went
"Maroon you! We are not living in a boy's adventure
tale," I protested. His scornful whispering took me up.
"We aren't indeed! There's nothing of a boy's tale in this.
But there's nothing else for it. I want no more. You don't
suppose I am afraid of what can be done to me? Prison
or gallows or whatever they may please. But you don't
see me coming back to explain such things to an old fellow in a wig and twelve respectable tradesmen, do you?
What can they know whether I am guilty or not-- or of II 37
WHAT I am guilty, either? That's my affair. What does
the Bible say? `Driven off the face of the earth.' Very
well, I am off the face of the earth now. As I came at
night so I shall go."
"Impossible!" I murmured. "You can't."
"Can't? . . . Not naked like a soul on the Day of Judgment. I shall freeze on to this sleeping suit. The Last
Day is not yet-- and . . . you have understood thoroughly. Didn't you?"
I felt suddenly ashamed of myself. I may say truly that I
understood-- and my hesitation in letting that man swim
away from my ship's side had been a mere sham sentiment, a sort of cowardice.
"It can't be done now till next night," I breathed out.
"The ship is on the off-shore tack and the wind may fail
"As long as I know that you understand," he whispered.
"But of course you do. It's a great satisfaction to have
got somebody to understand. You seem to have been
there on purpose." And in the same whisper, as if we two
whenever we talked had to say things to each other
which were not fit for the world to hear, he added, "It's
very wonderful."
We remained side by side talking in our secret way-- but
sometimes silent or just exchanging a whispered word or
two at long intervals. And as usual he stared through the
port. A breath of wind came now and again into our
faces. The ship might have been moored in dock, so gently and on an even keel she slipped through the water,
that did not murmur even at our passage, shadowy and
silent like a phantom sea.
At midnight I went on deck, and to my mate's great surprise put the ship round on the other tack. His terrible
whiskers flitted round me in silent criticism. I certainly
should not have done it if it had been only a question of
getting out of that sleepy gulf as quickly as possible. I
believe he told the second mate, who relieved him, that
it was a great want of judgment. The other only yawned.
That intolerable cub shuffled about so sleepily and lolled II 38
against the rails in such a slack, improper fashion that I
came down on him sharply.
"Aren't you properly awake yet?"
"Yes, sir! I am awake."
"Well, then, be good enough to hold yourself as if you
were. And keep a lookout. If there's any current we'll be
closing with some islands before daylight."
The east side of the gulf is fringed with islands, some solitary, others in groups. One the blue background of the
high coast they seem to float on silvery patches of calm
water, arid and gray, or dark green and rounded like
clumps of evergreen bushes, with the larger ones, a mile
or two long, showing the outlines of ridges, ribs of gray
rock under the dark mantle of matted leafage. Unknown
to trade, to travel, almost to geography, the manner of
life they harbor is an unsolved secret. There must be villages-- settlements of fishermen at least--on the largest
of them, and some communication with the world is
probably kept up by native craft. But all that forenoon, as
we headed for them, fanned along by the faintest of
breezes, I saw no sign of man or canoe in the field of the
telescope I kept on pointing at the scattered group.
At noon I have no orders for a change of course, and the
mate's whiskers became much concerned and seemed to
be offering themselves unduly to my notice. At last I
"I am going to stand right in. Quite in--as far as I can
take her."
The stare of extreme surprise imparted an air of ferocity
also to his eyes, and he looked truly terrific for a
"We're not doing well in the middle of the gulf," I continued, casually. "I am going to look for the land breezes
"Bless my soul! Do you mean, sir, in the dark amongst
the lot of all them islands and reefs and shoals?" II 39
"Well--if there are any regular land breezes at all on this
coast one must get close inshore to find them, mustn't
"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed again under his breath. All
that afternoon he wore a dreamy, contemplative appearance which in him was a mark of perplexity. After dinner
I went into my stateroom as if I meant to take some rest.
There we two bent our dark heads over a half-unrolled
chart lying on my bed.
"There," I said. "It's got to be Koh-ring. I've been looking at it ever since sunrise. It has got two hills and a low
point. It must be inhabited. And on the coast opposite
there is what looks like the mouth of a biggish river--with
some towns, no doubt, not far up. It's the best chance
for you that I can see."
"Anything. Koh-ring let it be."
He looked thoughtfully at the chart as if surveying
chances and distances from a lofty height--and following
with his eyes his own figure wandering on the blank land
of Cochin-China, and then passing off that piece of paper
clean out of sight into uncharted regions. And it was as if
the ship had two captains to plan her course for her. I
had been so worried and restless running up and down
that I had not had the patience to dress that day. I had
remained in my sleeping suit, with straw slippers and a
soft floppy hat. The closeness of the heat in the gulf had
been most oppressive, and the crew were used to seeing
me wandering in that airy attire.
"She will clear the south point as she heads now," I whispered into his ear. "Goodness only knows when, though,
but certainly after dark. I'll edge her in to half a mile, as
far as I may be able to judge in the dark--"
"Be careful," he murmured, warningly--and I realized
suddenly that all my future, the only future for which I
was fit, would perhaps go irretrievably to pieces in any
mishap to my first command.
I could not stop a moment longer in the room. I
motioned him to get out of sight and made my way on
the poop. That unplayful cub had the watch. I walked up II 40
and down for a while thinking things out, then beckoned
him over.
"Send a couple of hands to open the two quarter-deck
ports," I said, mildly.
He actually had the impudence, or else so forgot himself
in his wonder at such an incomprehensible order, as to
"Open the quarter-deck ports! What for, sir?"
"The only reason you need concern yourself about is
because I tell you to do so. Have them open wide and
fastened properly."
He reddened and went off, but I believe made some jeering remark to the carpenter as to the sensible practice of
ventilating a ship's quarter-deck. I know he popped into
the mate's cabin to impart the fact to him because the
whiskers came on deck, as it were by chance, and stole
glances at me from below-- for signs of lunacy or drunkenness, I suppose.
A little before supper, feeling more restless than ever, I
rejoined, for a moment, my second self. And to find him
sitting so quietly was surprising, like something against
nature, inhuman.
I developed my plan in a hurried whisper.
"I shall stand in as close as I dare and then put her
round. I will presently find means to smuggle you out of
here into the sail locker, which communicates with the
lobby. But there is an opening, a sort of square for hauling the sails out, which gives straight on the quarterdeck and which is never closed in fine weather, so as to
give air to the sails. When the ship's way is deadened in
stays and all the hands are aft at the main braces you
will have a clear road to slip out and get overboard
through the open quarter-deck port. I've had them both
fastened up. Use a rope's end to lower yourself into the
water so as to avoid a splash--you know. It could be
heard and cause some beastly complication." II 41
He kept silent for a while, then whispered, "I understand."
"I won't be there to see you go," I began with an effort.
"The rest . . . I only hope I have understood, too."
"You have. From first to last"--and for the first time
there seemed to be a faltering, something strained in his
whisper. He caught hold of my arm, but the ringing of the
supper bell made me start. He didn't though; he only
released his grip.
After supper I didn't come below again till well past eight
o'clock. The faint, steady breeze was loaded with dew;
and the wet, darkened sails held all there was of propelling power in it. The night, clear and starry, sparkled
darkly, and the opaque, lightless patches shifting slowly
against the low stars were the drifting islets. On the port
bow there was a big one more distant and shadowily
imposing by the great space of sky it eclipsed.
On opening the door I had a back view of my very own
self looking at a chart. He had come out of the recess
and was standing near the table.
"Quite dark enough," I whispered.
He stepped back and leaned against my bed with a level,
quiet glance. I sat on the couch. We had nothing to say
to each other. Over our heads the officer of the watch
moved here and there. Then I heard him move quickly. I
knew what that meant. He was making for the companion; and presently his voice was outside my door.
"We are drawing in pretty fast, sir. Land looks rather
"Very well," I answered. "I am coming on deck directly."
I waited till he was gone out of the cuddy, then rose. My
double moved too. The time had come to exchange our
last whispers, for neither of us was ever to hear each
other's natural voice.
"Look here!" I opened a drawer and took out three sovereigns. "Take this anyhow. I've got six and I'd give you II 42
the lot, only I must keep a little money to buy some fruit
and vegetables for the crew from native boats as we go
through Sunda Straits."
He shook his head.
"Take it," I urged him, whispering desperately. "No one
can tell what--"
He smiled and slapped meaningly the only pocket of the
sleeping jacket. It was not safe, certainly. But I produced a large old silk handkerchief of mine, and tying the
three pieces of gold in a corner, pressed it on him. He
was touched, I supposed, because he took it at last and
tied it quickly round his waist under the jacket, on his
bare skin.
Our eyes met; several seconds elapsed, till, our glances
still mingled, I extended my hand and turned the lamp
out. Then I passed through the cuddy, leaving the door
of my room wide open. . . . "Steward!"
He was still lingering in the pantry in the greatness of his
zeal, giving a rub-up to a plated cruet stand the last
thing before going to bed. Being careful not to wake up
the mate, whose room was opposite, I spoke in an
He looked round anxiously. "Sir!"
"Can you get me a little hot water from the galley?"
"I am afraid, sir, the galley fire's been out for some time
"Go and see."
He flew up the stairs.
"Now," I whispered, loudly, into the saloon--too loudly,
perhaps, but I was afraid I couldn't make a sound. He
was by my side in an instant--the double captain slipped
past the stairs--through a tiny dark passage . . . a sliding
door. We were in the sail locker, scrambling on our knees
over the sails. A sudden thought struck me. I saw myself
wandering barefooted, bareheaded, the sun beating on II 43
my dark poll. I snatched off my floppy hat and tried hurriedly in the dark to ram it on my other self. He dodged
and fended off silently. I wonder what he thought had
come to me before he understood and suddenly desisted.
Our hands met gropingly, lingered united in a steady,
motionless clasp for a second. . . . No word was breathed
by either of us when they separated.
I was standing quietly by the pantry door when the steward returned.
"Sorry, sir. Kettle barely warm. Shall I light the spirit
"Never mind."
I came out on deck slowly. It was now a matter of conscience to shave the land as close as possible--for now
he must go overboard whenever the ship was put in
stays. Must! There could be no going back for him.
After a moment I walked over to leeward and my heart
flew into my mouth at the nearness of the land on the
bow. Under any other circumstances I would not have
held on a minute longer. The second mate had followed
me anxiously.
I looked on till I felt I could command my voice.
"She will weather," I said then in a quiet tone.
"Are you going to try that, sir?" he stammered out
I took no notice of him and raised my tone just enough to
be heard by the helmsman.
"Keep her good full."
"Good full, sir."
The wind fanned my cheek, the sails slept, the world was
silent. The strain of watching the dark loom of the land
grow bigger and denser was too much for me. I had shut
my eyes--because the ship must go closer. She must!
The stillness was intolerable. Were we standing still? II 44
When I opened my eyes the second view started my
heart with a thump. The black southern hill of Koh-ring
seemed to hang right over the ship like a towering fragment of everlasting night. On that enormous mass of
blackness there was not a gleam to be seen, not a sound
to be heard. It was gliding irresistibly towards us and yet
seemed already within reach of the hand. I saw the
vague figures of the watch grouped in the waist, gazing
in awed silence.
"Are you going on, sir?" inquired an unsteady voice at my
I ignored it. I had to go on.
"Keep her full. Don't check her way. That won't do now,"
I said warningly.
"I can't see the sails very well," the helmsman answered
me, in strange, quavering tones.
Was she close enough? Already she was, I won't say in
the shadow of the land, but in the very blackness of it,
already swallowed up as it were, gone too close to be
recalled, gone from me altogether.
"Give the mate a call," I said to the young man who
stood at my elbow as still as death. "And turn all hands
My tone had a borrowed loudness reverberated from the
height of the land. Several voices cried out together:
"We are all on deck, sir."
Then stillness again, with the great shadow gliding closer,
towering higher, without a light, without a sound. Such a
hush had fallen on the ship that she might have been a
bark of the dead floating in slowly under the very gate of
"My God! Where are we?"
It was the mate moaning at my elbow. He was thunderstruck, and as it were deprived of the moral support of
his whiskers. He clapped his hands and absolutely cried
out, "Lost!" II 45
"Be quiet," I said, sternly.
He lowered his tone, but I saw the shadowy gesture of
his despair. "What are we doing here?"
"Looking for the land wind."
He made as if to tear his hair, and addressed me recklessly.
"She will never get out. You have done it, sir. I knew it'd
end in something like this. She will never weather, and
you are too close now to stay. She'll drift ashore before
she's round. O my God!"
I caught his arm as he was raising it to batter his poor
devoted head, and shook it violently.
"She's ashore already," he wailed, trying to tear himself
"Is she? . . . Keep good full there!"
"Good full, sir," cried the helmsman in a frightened, thin,
childlike voice.
I hadn't let go the mate's arm and went on shaking it.
"Ready about, do you hear? You go forward"--shake--
"and stop there"--shake--"and hold your noise"--shake--
" and see these head-sheets properly overhauled"--
shake, shake--shake.
And all the time I dared not look towards the land lest
my heart should fail me. I released my grip at last and
he ran forward as if fleeing for dear life.
I wondered what my double there in the sail locker
thought of this commotion. He was able to hear everything--and perhaps he was able to understand why, on
my conscience, it had to be thus close--no less. My first
order "Hard alee!" re-echoed ominously under the towering shadow of Koh-ring as if I had shouted in a mountain
gorge. And then I watched the land intently. In that
smooth water and light wind it was impossible to feel the
ship coming-to. No! I could not feel her. And my second II 46
self was making now ready to ship out and lower himself
overboard. Perhaps he was gone already . . . ?
The great black mass brooding over our very mastheads
began to pivot away from the ship's side silently. And
now I forgot the secret stranger ready to depart, and
remembered only that I was a total stranger to the ship.
I did not know her. Would she do it? How was she to be
I swung the mainyard and waited helplessly. She was
perhaps stopped, and her very fate hung in the balance,
with the black mass of Koh-ring like the gate of the everlasting night towering over her taffrail. What would she
do now? Had she way on her yet? I stepped to the side
swiftly, and on the shadowy water I could see nothing
except a faint phosphorescent flash revealing the glassy
smoothness of the sleeping surface. It was impossible to
tell-- and I had not learned yet the feel of my ship. Was
she moving? What I needed was something easily seen,
a piece of paper, which I could throw overboard and
watch. I had nothing on me. To run down for it I didn't
dare. There was no time. All at once my strained, yearning stare distinguished a white object floating within a
yard of the ship's side. White on the black water. A phosphorescent flash passed under it. What was that thing? .
I recognized my own floppy hat. It must have fallen . .
off his head . . . and he didn't bother. Now I had what I
wanted--the saving mark for my eyes. But I hardly
thought of my other self, now gone from the ship, to be
hidden forever from all friendly faces, to be a fugitive and
a vagabond on the earth, with no brand of the curse on
his sane forehead to stay a slaying hand . . . too proud to
And I watched the hat--the expression of my sudden pity
for his mere flesh. It had been meant to save his homeless head from the dangers of the sun. And now--behold-
-it was saving the ship, by serving me for a mark to help
out the ignorance of my strangeness. Ha! It was drifting
forward, warning me just in time that the ship had gathered sternaway.
"Shift the helm," I said in a low voice to the seaman
standing still like a statue. II 47
The man's eyes glistened wildly in the binnacle light as
he jumped round to the other side and spun round the
I walked to the break of the poop. On the over-shadowed deck all hands stood by the forebraces waiting for
my order. The stars ahead seemed to be gliding from
right to left. And all was so still in the world that I heard
the quiet remark, "She's round," passed in a tone of
intense relief between two seamen.
"Let go and haul."
The foreyards ran round with a great noise, amidst
cheery cries. And now the frightful whiskers made themselves heard giving various orders. Already the ship was
drawing ahead. And I was alone with her. Nothing! no
one in the world should stand now between us, throwing
a shadow on the way of silent knowledge and mute affection, the perfect communion of a seaman with his first
Walking to the taffrail, I was in time to make out, on the
very edge of a darkness thrown by a towering black mass
like the very gateway of Erebus--yes, I was in time to
catch an evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind
to mark the spot where the secret sharer of my cabin
and of my thoughts, as though he were my second self,
had lowered himself into the water to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a
new destiny.

Secret Sharer- Summary
An unnamed captain, reflecting on an experience that happened years ago, tells his readers of his first real command - when he was appointed to take a ship home to England, when the crisis of imitation into knowledge of his ship and his crew was complicated by an unforeseen partnership with an escaped criminal. The episode begins in the Gulf of Siam, just off the coast of Cambodia.

As a sailing ship awaits a favorable wind, darkness falls, and the captain surprises the crew by taking the anchor watch himself. As he strolls the silent deck in his sleeping-suit, his serene reverie is broken by his discovery that the rope side-ladder has not been hauled in. The captain is astonished to find that a naked swimmer is floating at the end of the ladder. In the quiet of the sleeping ship, the two talk and the man, named Leggatt, elects to come on board. The captain, sensing "a mysterious communication" has been established between them, provides his intuitively perceived "double" with an identical sleeping-suit.
As the dialogue continues, the captain is startled to learn that Leggatt, a young chief mate, has killed a man at sea and has been held prisoner for weeks aboard the Sephora. As Leggatt relates the particulars of the homicide, the captain finds that the fugitive appeals to him "as if our experiences has been identical as our clothes." Leggatt tells how a seaman panicked during the fury of a storm as they were trying to set a reefed foresail, how he fought the man - and later, when the storm subsided, the seaman was dead and Leggatt was charged with his murder. As the captain listens to the account, his identification with Leggatt deepens "I saw it all going on as though I were myself inside that other sleeping-suit." He takes Leggatt to his stateroom, and the grimly comic game of hosting his "secret sharer" begins.
Part 2 of the tale opens with a visit from Captain Archbold, skipper of the Sephora, who is searching for his fugitive first officer. The narrator later will state that "I could not, I think have met him by a direct lie" - and Ĺ’for psychological (not moral) reasons." But the narrator goes beyond deceptive actions to protect his partner with saving lies. Although Captain Archbold admits that Leggatt's reefed sail saved his ship in the storm, this self-righteous guardian of law and order is determined to give his mate up to the shore authorities. Leggatt's protector goes through the successful charade of showing his suspicious visitor over the ship, and at last Archbold leaves empty-handed.
The ship makes its way down the east side of the Gulf of Siam and at last, among some islands off Cambodia, the captain agrees to help Leggatt swim to freedom. To the surprise of the crew, the captain tacks the ship and sails in dangerously close to the shore. He smuggles Leggatt into the sail locker, and just before they shake hands and part, he places his hat on his "other self."
By now the crewmen are watching in awed silence as the ship moves toward the towering blackness of Koh-ring. The captain, a stranger to his ship, finds it impossible to tell whether she is moving safely away from disaster until in the gathering darkness he detects, floating near the ship's side, the hat he had given to Leggatt. This "saving mark" confirms that the ship is sailing out of danger. With the secret stranger gone, the captain is left alone with his ship at last, enjoying "the perfect communion of a seaman with his first command." He walks to the taffrail and catches a final Ĺ’evanescent glimpse' of the white floppy hat, left behind to mark the spot where the captain's "secret sharer," his "second self," had "lowered himself into the water to take his punishment; a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny."

The story takes place at sea, near the Gulf of Siam, and is told from the perspective of a young nameless Captain. The captain is unfamiliar with both his ship and his crew, having only joined their company a fortnight earlier. The Captain is furthermore unsure of himself, questioning his ability to fulfill the role of such an authoritative figure. These themes are explored through symbols throughout the novella.
The captain soon encounters a naked swimmer holding onto the side ladder of the ship while he is alone at night on look-out duty. He helps the mysterious swimmer onto the boat and hides him in his cabin without the rest of the crew's knowledge. He then learns of the mysterious swimmer's past; his name is Leggatt, and he swam away from a nearby ship, called theSephora, where, as chief mate, he killed another crew member for insolence during a storm.
The captain keeps Leggatt hidden in his quarters, away from the suspicious crew members and a visit from the skipper of the Sephora. Eventually the Captain allows Leggatt to escape by bringing the ship perilously close to land for Leggatt to swim away safely, though this risky sailing maneuver nearly sends the ship into the rocks, testing the Captain's seamanship. He succeeds and leads the ship away.

The story was created (in just 2 weeks) while Conrad was writing Under Western Eyes; he wrote "The Secret Sharer" as a break from his much larger novel that was emotionally difficult for him to write. There are similarities between the two stories, with the Captain and Leggatt becoming Razumov and Haldin respectively. The story originally appeared in Harper's Magazine, under the title "The Secret-Sharer", but Conrad revised the title to make it more ambiguous, making Leggatt secretly share with the captain, rather than merely sharing a secret.
The story contains elements of real events – the chief mate of the Cutty Sark killed another crew-member for insolence during a storm, and was later arrested in London for his murder. Conrad also drew on his own time as captain of the Otago, when his first mate did not trust him, and got a particular scare when Conrad maneuvered the ship dangerously close to rocks in the Gulf of Siam.
Sources: The_Secret_Sharer-09.03.2011

The Secret Sharer
Joseph Conrad
In Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer, a young captain lacks the courage and conviction to command his first ship successfully. He takes on board and hides a renegade, Leggatt, who is both physically and mentally powerful — and the captain's doppelganger (alter ego). Together, the two men make up a perfect commander. Joseph Conrad'sThe Secret Sharer is a profound examination of every person's dual nature and how each person must resolve this duality for the self to grow.

The Secret Sharer
Main Characters
Narrator - A new, young captain assigned to a ship that encounters a murderer on the high seas.
Leggatt - The murderer from the Sephora who escapes to the Narrators ship and is harbored by the narrator allowing him to learn much about himself.
Archbold - The captain of the Sephora who comes aboard the narrators ship in search of Leggatt while providing a contrast to the new, inexperienced narrator.
Chief Mate - An old experienced sailor who looks down towards the new captain because of his inexperience.
Minor Characters
Second Mate - The only sailor on the ship younger than the caption; yet also looks down at the captain.
Achbold’s Wife - The wife of the captain of the Sephora who lives on the Sephora against common convention.
Captain’s cabin - A small L shaped room which contains a bed, a closet, a desk, a bathroom and little else.
Sephora - the ship which Leggatt came from.
Ship - the ship which the narrator pilots.

The young narrator recently became the captain of a ship who’s crew had been together for at least 18 months. He feels insecure about his position and is alienated by the rest of the crew because of his youth and inexperience. One night, after ordering the rest of the crew to go to sleep, he wanders the deck and notices a man, nearly dead, floating besides his ship holding onto the rope ladder. The narrator allows the man on board and takes the stranger to his room where he finds out that they are very much alike in many ways. The stranger’s name is Leggatt and he was the first mate of the Sephora, a ship floating nearby, until he killed a crewman. He was stripped of his position and held captive on the boat. One night, he was able to escape and swim to the narrator’s boat. Because of Leggatt’s precarious position, the narrator keeps silent about him and keeps Leggat in his room. Later, the older, more experienced captain of the Sephora comes aboard the narrator’s ship in search of Leggatt, but leaves after not finding him. Later, the narrator orders his ship near an island in order to allow Leggatt to swim away to that island. The crew is miffed but they sail safely away after the narrator finds the hat which he gave Leggatt in the water serving as a marker of boats direction.
Floppy hat - This is the gift that the narrator gives to Leggatt in order to protect him from the sun while on the island, but is dropped into the water as Leggatt leaves and serves as a marker to protect the narrator from crashing into the shore making this hat a symbol of mutual protection and the relationship between the narrator and Leggatt.
Darkness - This is the darkness in which Leggat was found serving as a symbol for the soul of the narrator in that he could not see what was in his own soul and did not know how to behave towards his new crew. After this darkness is lifted, the narrator finds himself and is able to command his ship with confidence.
Conrad uses a sophisticated form of writing which uses complex sentences and much imagery to paint a vivid story deep with philosophical and emotional meaning. His writing is often poetic and serves to convey to the reader the feelings of the narrator and not merely the actions.

Conrad tells the readers that in order to life with direction and understanding of what is going on around you, one much understand and know what goes on inside himself. Leggatt serves as a mirror to the narrator so that the narrator can learn about himself.

“With a gasp I saw revealed to my stare a pair of feet, the long legs, a broad livid back immersed right up tot he neck in a greenish cadaverous glow.” Page 24. The captain describes his first impression of Leggatt as a corpse immersed in the water.
“I had become so connected in thoughts and impressions with the secret sharer of my cabin that I felt as if I, personally, were being given to understand that I, too, was not the sort that would have done for the chief mate of a ship like the Sephora.” Page 42. The narrator describes a connection that he begins to feel with Leggat by showing that he feels that he has the same characteristics with Leggatt that would make him unfit for the Sephora.
“The mental feeling of being in two places at once affected me physically as if the mood of secrecy had penetrated my very soul.” Page 46. The connection between Leggatt and the narrator heightened enough so that it seems to the narrator that he can actually feel Leggatt even while apart.
“Nothing! No one in the world should stand now between us, throwing a shadow on the way of silent knowledge and mute affection, the perfect communion of a seaman with his first command.” Page 61. After Leggatt leaves, the captain finds himself and is in control of himself and feels confident to command the ship.
As dusk begins to fall, the unnamed narrator of the story stands on the deck of his ship, currently anchored at the mouth of the Meinam River in the Gulf of Siam. The narrator is the Captain of the ship who leaves the deck to eat supper with his mates. The time is approximately eight o'clock.
At supper, the Captain remarks that he saw the masts of a ship anchored amongst some nearby islands. The Chief Mate explains that the ship to which the Captain is referring is probably another English one, waiting for the right moment to sail home with a favorable tide. The Second Mate elaborates: The ship is the Sephora, from Liverpool, and is bound home from Cardiff with a cargo of coal. (He learned this from the skipper of the tugboat who came aboard to fetch the Captain's letters.)
The Captain makes a magnanimous gesture by offering to take the anchor watch himself until one o'clock, after which time he will get the Second Mate to relieve him. Again alone on deck, the Captain meditatively smokes a cigar and again considers his own "strangeness" to the ship and its command. The rest of the crew sleeps soundly.
The Captain notices that the rope side ladder, hung over the side of the ship to accommodate the skipper of the tugboat, has not been brought in. As he begins to pull it, he feels a jerk at the other end and curious, looks over the rail into the sea. He sees a naked man floating in the water and holding the end of the ladder. The man introduces himself as Leggatt. He has been in the water since nine o'clock, which makes the Captain consider his strength and youth. Leggatt climbs up the ladder and the Captain rushes to his cabin to fetch him some clothes. The Captain learns that Leggatt was the chief mate of the Sephora and that he accidentally killed a fellow crewman. Although Leggatt unintentionally murdered the man, the Skipper stripped Leggatt of his title. The Captain tells Leggatt that they should retire to his cabin so as not to be discovered by the Chief Mate. The Captain hides Leggatt in his cabin, returns to the deck, summons the Chief Mate to take over the anchor watch, and returns to his cabin.
Leggatt continues his story: After killing the man, he was placed under arrest and kept in his cabin for almost seven weeks. Approximately six weeks into his confinement, Leggatt asked to see the Skipper and asked him to leave his door unlocked that night, while the Sephora sailed through the Sunda Straits, so that he could jump off and swim to the Java coast. The Skipper refused.
Three weeks later, the Sephora came to its present location, and Leggatt discovered that the ship's steward — wholly by accident — had left the door to his cabin unlocked. Leggatt wandered onto the deck and jumped off into the sea. He swam to a nearby islet while the Sephora's crew lowered a boat to search for him. Leggatt removed his clothes and sank them, determined never to return. He swam to another small island, saw the riding light of the Captain's ship, and swam to it. Eventually, he reached the rope ladder, completely exhausted after swimming over a mile. The Captain helps Leggatt into his bed, where he falls asleep immediately. The Captain eventually falls asleep himself; the next morning, the steward enters the Captain's cabin to bring him his morning coffee. (He does not notice Leggatt because the Captain drew the curtains that separate the bed from the rest of the cabin.) The Captain becomes more paranoid that someone will discover Leggatt and decides that he must show himself on deck. The Captain learns that a ship's boat is coming toward their ship. He orders the ladder to be dropped over the side and leaves Leggatt to meet who he is sure will be the Skipper of the Sephora, searching for Leggatt.


Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”
Commentary by Karen Bernardo

In Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer,” the protagonist, a sea captain who is never named, aids a stowaway on his ship who is being sought for the murder of a seaman on a neighboring vessel. We only get the story through the captain’s eyes, so we have no real way of knowing what the stowaway, Leggatt, is really like -- whether he is really a hardworking, competent seaman or not; whether he was really justified in killing the sailor or not. All we know is that the captain, who from the moment they meet feels a deep kinship with the man he calls his “double”, repeatedly makes excuses for the stowaway’s behavior in his narrative to us, hides the stowaway from the rest of the crew, and toward the end of the story gives the stowaway the hat off his own head, which figures prominently in the story’s climax a few pages later. This hat, in fact, goes far toward explaining not only the relationship of the captain to his strange passenger, but the role of both men in the story as a whole.
One of the story’s most intriguing aspects is this immediate sense of “recognition” which the captain feels for Leggatt, and the tenacious way that it affects his behavior from then on. Conrad does provide some background for this. We learn that the captain has been hired to commandeer this vessel very suddenly, and that his appointment was as much of a shock to him as it was to the men. He had never been on board this ship before; he had never met the seamen or the mates who were to serve beneath him. He is also extremely young; he mentions that the second mate is the only person on board younger than he.
The captain, therefore, clearly feels insecure about his new post. He also feels alien; neither of his mates are individuals he can take to easily, and the rest of the seamen are too far below him on the chain of command. He thinks the first mate -- to whom he typically refers by the man’s favorite expression, “Bless my soul, sir! You don’t say so!” -- is a blithering idiot; his second mate sneers at him. The attitude of the second mate is undoubtedly encouraged by the awkwardness of the captain himself; he observes midway through despite the fact they have been at sea a fortnight, he hasn’t issued a single order.
When, in the middle of the night, he hauls Leggatt on board, the captain is astonished that despite his long stint in the water, his “voice was calm and resolute. . . . The self-possession of that man had somehow induced a corresponding state in myself.” Leggatt tells his story: during a terrible storm, the captain of his own vessel, the Sephora, was too frightened to set the sail, so Leggatt took over the captain’s responsibilities and did it for him. A minor seaman refused to recognize his authority to take over in that manner, and Leggatt decked him. When the sailor leaped up to fight back, however, Leggatt throttled him to death. Since then Leggatt has been under house arrest for murder, pending trial when they reach port.
Our narrator is deeply moved. It would seem that by rights he should have sided with the frightened sea-captain who was too terrified to risk setting the sail, because up till now that would have been his response to a crisis as well. But instead he champions Leggatt. It is as if he instinctively realizes that Leggatt is precisely the type of man he wishes he could be: a born leader, a decisive man who does not hesitate to take matters into his own hands. He makes the decision then and there to ensure that nothing happens to Leggatt until he can get him to safety.

Notice, however, what has just happened. We know that the young captain is very insecure about making decisions of any kind, yet he has just made a really big one. As the story develops, he will have to risk much in order to keep his vow. Nonetheless, when he is with Leggatt, or acting on behalf of Leggatt, the captain feels calm and in control of himself.
Considering some of the predicaments the captain gets into in his efforts to keep Leggatt’s existence a secret, the fact that he feels in control now -- and didn’t before -- is rather remarkable. Prior to Leggatt’s arrival, the rest of the ship simply seemed to think that the young captain was ineffectual and wimpy. After Leggatt arrives, they conclude he’s crazy. In one incident, Leggatt is sleeping in the captain’s bunk, enclosed by the bedcurtains, when the steward knocks perfunctorily and comes into the room. Startled lest the steward fling aside the bedcurtains and find Leggatt, the captain shouts “This way! Here I am, steward!”, thereby misdirecting the steward’s attention from the bed to the couch. The steward, however, has no idea why the captain suddenly shouted at him, since he had never supposed him to be anywhere else.

In another incident, he tells the second mate to go down immediately and open the quarter-deck ports. There is no particular reason for these to be opened -- at least from the mate’s point of view; we know, of course, that Leggatt will be escaping through the open portholes, but the second mate just thinks the captain is crazy. Nonetheless, rather than accept the man’s impudence, the captain says curtly, “The only reason you need concern yourself about is because I tell you to do so. Have them open wide and fastened properly.” He is at last taking command of his ship and his men.
But the incident in which his new-found leadership mettle as a sea captain comes through most clearly concerns the actual escape of Leggatt. The captain has arranged to veer dangerously close to the land in the middle of the night, in order that Leggatt might climb out the quarter-deck ports, drop down into the water, and swim ashore without being observed. On the surface this seems like a ridiculous thing for the captain to do. To begin with, Leggatt is a championship swimmer, who had to swim at least two miles to get from the Sephora to the vessel where he was picked up. He surely could swim that distance again; it would seem that the captain didn’t have to put his ship, his men, and his own reputation as a captain on the line just to get Leggatt within distance of shore.
On the other hand, maybe he did. At the beginning of the tale, his men think he is a pushover, just some figurehead who has been put in charge of the ship long enough to get them back to port, whereupon they will probably get a real captain. This is even before the subterfuge surrounding the hiding of Leggatt causes the crew to conclude their captain is crazy. At that point one would expect the relationship between captain and crew to deteriorate even further -- but it does not.
After Leggatt comes aboard, the captain is forced to assert himself with the men in order to protect his “secret sharer” -- and this makes him more like a real captain than he had ever been before. The calm poise of Leggatt, his ingenuity, his decisiveness, breed similar qualities in the captain. The captain also develops some qualities Leggatt didn’t even have -- compassion, for example, as when he gives Leggatt his floppy old hat to take on his journey to protect his head from the sun.
This hat also comes into play in the plot in another effective way. As the captain steers the ship into dangerously shallow waters, thus allowing Leggatt an opportunity to slip overboard and make it to shore, he realizes that in the complete darkness he has no directional points to guide him; he cannot even tell which way the ship is gliding in the water. He suddenly looks down and sees Leggatt’s hat, which has fallen off and is now floating along in the current; this shows the captain which way the ship is going, and allows him to swing the stern around to prevent it from running aground. Earlier in the story the floppiness of the hat represented the spinelessness of the captain, which is one reason he gives it away when he is no longer “floppy”; but after the hat has fallen into the water it represents Leggatt himself, because he has served as the directional marker by which the captain charts his course.
As the end of the story shows, the captain had to make that risky flirtation with disaster along the coastline, because it showed the crew his seafaring prowess once and for all. Leggatt’s problems on the Sephora arose because he didn’t have the crew’s respect, and although he felt well within his rights to attack the insolent seaman in a time of crisis, this still did not procure the crew’s respect -- in fact, quite the contrary. In the case of the narrator, however, he does not have to seize someone else’s authority and kill to maintain it; he simply has to seize the authority that was his for the taking all the time.


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