Chance - A Tale in Two Parts
by Joseph Conrad
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He crossed the deck in one bound. By the immemorial custom and usage of the sea the captain's room is on the starboard side. You would just as soon expect your captain to have his nose at the back of his head as to have his state-room on the port side of the ship. Powell forgot all about the direction on that point given him by the chief. He flew over as I said, stamped with his foot and then putting his face to the cowl of the big ventilator shouted down there: "Please come on deck, sir," in a voice which was not trembling or scared but which we may call fairly expressive. There could not be a mistake as to the urgence of the call. But instead of the expected alert "All right!" and the sound of a rush down there, he heard only a faint exclamation—then silence.

Think of his astonishment! He remained there, his ear in the cowl of the ventilator, his eyes fastened on those menacing sidelights dancing on the gusts of wind which swept the angry darkness of the sea. It was as though he had waited an hour but it was something much less than a minute before he fairly bellowed into the wide tube "Captain Anthony!" An agitated "What is it?" was what he heard down there in Mrs Anthony's voice, light rapid footsteps... Why didn't she try to wake him up! "I want the captain," he shouted, then gave it up, making a dash at the companion where a blue light was kept, resolved to act for himself.

On the way he glanced at the helmsman whose face lighted up by the binnacle lamps was calm. He said rapidly to him: "Stand by to spin that helm up at the first word." The answer "Ay, ay, sir," was delivered in a steady voice. Then Mr Powell after a shout for the watch on deck to "lay aft," ran to the ship's side and struck the blue light on the rail.

A sort of nasty little spitting of sparks was all that came. The light (perhaps affected by damp) had failed to ignite. The time of all these various acts must be counted in seconds. Powell confessed to me that at this failure he experienced a paralysis of thought, of voice, of limbs. The unexpectedness of this misfire positively overcame his faculties. It was the only thing for which his imagination was not prepared. It was knocked clean over. When it got up it was with the suggestion that he must do something at once or there would be a broadside smash accompanied by the explosion of dynamite, in which both ships would be blown up and every soul on board of them would vanish off the earth in an enormous flame and uproar.

He saw the catastrophe happening and at the same moment, before he could open his mouth or stir a limb to ward off the vision, a voice very near his ear, the measured voice of Captain Anthony said: "Wouldn't light— eh? Throw it down! Jump for the flare-up."

The spring of activity in Mr Powell was released with great force. He jumped. The flare-up was kept inside the companion with a box of matches ready to hand. Almost before he knew he had moved he was diving under the companion slide. He got hold of the can in the dark and tried to strike a light. But he had to press the flare-holder to his breast with one arm, his fingers were damp and stiff, his hands trembled a little. One match broke. Another went out. In its flame he saw the colourless face of Mrs Anthony a little below him, standing on the cabin stairs. Her eyes which were very close to his (he was in a crouching posture on the top step) seemed to burn darkly in the vanishing light. On deck the captain's voice was heard sudden and unexpectedly sardonic: "You had better look sharp, if you want to be in time."

"Let me have the box," said Mrs Anthony in a hurried and familiar whisper which sounded amused as if they had been a couple of children up to some lark behind a wall. He was glad of the offer which seemed to him very natural, and without ceremony—

"Here you are. Catch hold."

Their hands touched in the dark and she took the box while he held the paraffin soaked torch in its iron holder. He thought of warning her: "Look out for yourself." But before he had the time to finish the sentence the flare blazed up violently between them and he saw her throw herself back with an arm across her face. "Hallo," he exclaimed; only he could not stop a moment to ask if she was hurt. He bolted out of the companion straight into his captain who took the flare from him and held it high above his head.

The fierce flame fluttered like a silk flag, throwing an angry swaying glare mingled with moving shadows over the poop, lighting up the concave surfaces of the sails, gleaming on the wet paint of the white rails. And young Powell turned his eyes to windward with a catch in his breath.

The strange ship, a darker shape in the night, did not seem to be moving onwards but only to grow more distinct right abeam, staring at the Ferndale with one green and one red eye which swayed and tossed as if they belonged to the restless head of some invisible monster ambushed in the night amongst the waves. A moment, long like eternity, elapsed, and, suddenly, the monster which seemed to take to itself the shape of a mountain shut its green eye without as much as a preparatory wink.

Mr Powell drew a free breath. "All right now," said Captain Anthony in a quiet undertone. He gave the blazing flare to Powell and walked aft to watch the passing of that menace of destruction coming blindly with its parti-coloured stare out of a blind night on the wings of a sweeping wind. Her very form could be distinguished now black and elongated amongst the hissing patches of foam bursting along her path.

As is always the case with a ship running before wind and sea she did not seem to an onlooker to move very fast; but to be progressing indolently in long leisurely bounds and pauses in the midst of the overtaking waves. It was only when actually passing the stern within easy hail of the Ferndale that her headlong speed became apparent to the eye. With the red light shut off and soaring like an immense shadow on the crest of a wave she was lost to view in one great, forward swing, melting into the lightless space.

"Close shave," said Captain Anthony in an indifferent voice just raised-enough to be heard in the wind. "A blind lot on board that ship. Put out the flare now."

Silently Mr Powell inverted the holder, smothering the flame in the can, bringing about by the mere turn of his wrist the fall of darkness upon the poop. And at the same time vanished out of his mind's eye the vision of another flame enormous and fierce shooting violently from a white churned patch of the sea, lighting up the very clouds and carrying upwards in its volcanic rush flying spars, corpses, the fragments of two destroyed ships. It vanished and there was an immense relief. He told me he did not know how scared he had been, not generally but of that very thing his imagination had conjured, till it was all over. He measured it (for fear is a great tension) by the feeling of slack weariness which came over him all at once.

He walked to the companion and stooping low to put the flare in its usual place saw in the darkness the motionless pale oval of Mrs Anthony's face. She whispered quietly:

"Is anything going to happen? What is it?"

"It's all over now," he whispered back.

He remained bent low, his head inside the cover staring at that white ghostly oval. He wondered she had not rushed out on deck. She had remained quietly there. This was pluck. Wonderful self-restraint. And it was not stupidity on her part. She knew there was imminent danger and probably had some notion of its nature.

"You stayed here waiting for what would come," he murmured admiringly.

"Wasn't that the best thing to do?" she asked.

He didn't know. Perhaps. He confessed he could not have done it. Not he. His flesh and blood could not have stood it. He would have felt he must see what was coming. Then he remembered that the flare might have scorched her face, and expressed his concern.

"A bit. Nothing to hurt. Smell the singed hair?"

There was a sort of gaiety in her tone. She might have been frightened but she certainly was not overcome and suffered from no reaction. This confirmed and augmented if possible Mr Powell's good opinion of her as a "jolly girl," though it seemed to him positively monstrous to refer in such terms to one's captain's wife. "But she doesn't look it," he thought in extenuation and was going to say something more to her about the lighting of that flare when another voice was heard in the companion, saying some indistinct words. Its tone was contemptuous; it came from below, from the bottom of the stairs. It was a voice in the cabin. And the only other voice which could be heard in the main cabin at this time of the evening was the voice of Mrs Anthony's father. The indistinct white oval sank from Mr Powell's sight so swiftly as to take him by surprise. For a moment he hung at the opening of the companion and now that her slight form was no longer obstructing the narrow and winding staircase the voices came up louder but the words were still indistinct. The old gentleman was excited about something and Mrs Anthony was "managing him" as Powell expressed it. They moved away from the bottom of the stairs and Powell went away from the companion. Yet he fancied he had heard the words "Lost to me" before he withdrew his head. They had been uttered by Mr Smith.

Captain Anthony had not moved away from the taffrail. He remained in the very position he took up to watch the other ship go by rolling and swinging all shadowy in the uproar of the following seas. He stirred not; and Powell keeping near by did not dare speak to him, so enigmatical in its contemplation of the night did his figure appear to his young eyes: indistinct—and in its immobility staring into gloom, the prey of some incomprehensible grief, longing or regret.

Why is it that the stillness of a human being is often so impressive, so suggestive of evil—as if our proper fate were a ceaseless agitation? The stillness of Captain Anthony became almost intolerable to his second officer. Mr Powell loitering about the skylight wanted his captain off the deck now. "Why doesn't he go below?" he asked himself impatiently. He ventured a cough.

Whether the effect of the cough or not Captain Anthony spoke. He did not move the least bit. With his back remaining turned to the whole length of the ship he asked Mr Powell with some brusqueness if the chief mate had neglected to instruct him that the captain was to be found on the port side.

"Yes, sir," said Mr Powell approaching his back. "The mate told me to stamp on the port side when I wanted you; but I didn't remember at the moment."

"You should remember," the captain uttered with an effort. Then added mumbling "I don't want Mrs Anthony frightened. Don't you see?"

"She wasn't this time," Powell said innocently: "She lighted the flare-up for me, sir."

"This time," Captain Anthony exclaimed and turned round. "Mrs Anthony lighted the flare? Mrs Anthony!..." Powell explained that she was in the companion all the time.

"All the time," repeated the captain. It seemed queer to Powell that instead of going himself to see the captain should ask him:

"Is she there now?" Powell said, that she had gone below after the ship had passed clear of the Ferndale. Captain Anthony made a movement towards the companion himself, when Powell added the information. "Mr Smith called to Mrs Anthony from the saloon, sir. I believe they are talking there now."

He was surprised to see the captain give up the idea of going below after all.

He began to walk the poop instead regardless of the cold, of the damp wind and of the sprays. And yet he had nothing on but his sleeping suit and slippers. Powell placing himself on the break of the poop kept a look-out. When after some time he turned his head to steal a glance at his eccentric captain he could not see his active and shadowy figure swinging to and fro. The second mate of the Ferndale walked aft peering about and addressed the seaman who steered.

"Captain gone below?"

"Yes, sir," said the fellow who with a quid of tobacco bulging out his left cheek kept his eyes on the compass card. "This minute. He laughed."

"Laughed," repeated Powell incredulously. "Do you mean the captain did? You must be mistaken. What would he want to laugh for?"

"Don't know, sir."

The elderly sailor displayed a profound indifference towards human emotions. However, after a longish pause he conceded a few words more to the second officer's weakness. "Yes. He was walking the deck as usual when suddenly he laughed a little and made for the companion. Thought of something funny all at once."

Something funny! That Mr Powell could not believe. He did not ask himself why, at the time. Funny thoughts come to men, though, in all sorts of situations; they come to all sorts of men. Nevertheless Mr Powell was shocked to learn that Captain Anthony had laughed without visible cause on a certain night. The impression for some reason was disagreeable. And it was then, while finishing his watch, with the chilly gusts of wind sweeping at him out of the darkness where the short sea of the soundings growled spitefully all round the ship, that it occurred to his unsophisticated mind that perhaps things are not what they are confidently expected to be; that it was possible that Captain Anthony was not a happy man.—In so far you will perceive he was to a certain extent prepared for the apoplectic and sensitive Franklin's lamentations about his captain. And though he treated them with a contempt which was in a great measure sincere, yet he admitted to me that deep down within him an inexplicable and uneasy suspicion that all was not well in that cabin, so unusually cut off from the rest of the ship, came into being and grew against his will...



Marlow emerged out of the shadow of the bookcase to get himself a cigar from a box which stood on a little table by my side. In the full light of the room I saw in his eyes that slightly mocking expression with which he habitually covers up his sympathetic impulses of mirth and pity before the unreasonable complications the idealism of mankind puts into the simple but poignant problem of conduct on this earth.

He selected and lit the cigar with affected care, then turned upon me. I had been looking at him silently.

"I suppose," he said, the mockery of his eyes giving a pellucid quality to his tone, "that you think it's high time I told you something definite. I mean something about that psychological cabin mystery of discomfort (for it's obvious that it must be psychological) which affected so profoundly Mr Franklin the chief mate, and had even disturbed the serene innocence of Mr Powell, the second of the ship Ferndale, commanded by Roderick Anthony—the son of the poet, you know."

"You are going to confess now that you have failed to find it out," I said in pretended indignation.

"It would serve you right if I told you that I have. But I won't. I haven't failed. I own though that for a time, I was puzzled. However, I have now seen our Powell many times under the most favourable conditions—and besides I came upon a most unexpected source of information... But never mind that. The means don't concern you except in so far as they belong to the story. I'll admit that for some time the old-maiden-lady-like occupation of putting two and two together failed to procure a coherent theory. I am speaking now as an investigator—a man of deductions. With what we know of Roderick Anthony and Flora de Barral I could not deduct an ordinary marital quarrel beautifully matured in less than a year—could I. If you ask me what is an ordinary marital quarrel I will tell you, that it is a difference about nothing; I mean, these nothings which, as Mr Powell told us when we first met him, shore people are so prone to start a row about, and nurse into hatred from an idle sense of wrong, from perverted ambition, for spectacular reasons too. There are on earth no actors too humble and obscure not to have a gallery; that gallery which envenoms the play by stealthy jeers, counsels of anger, amused comments or words of perfidious compassion. However, the Anthonys were free from all demoralising influences. At sea, you know, there is no gallery. You hear no tormenting echoes of your own littleness there, where either a great elemental voice roars defiantly under the sky or else an elemental silence seems to be part of the infinite stillness of the universe."

Remembering Flora de Barral in the depths of moral misery, and Roderick Anthony carried away by a gust of tempestuous tenderness, I asked myself, Is it all forgotten already? What could they have found to estrange them from each other with this rapidity and this thoroughness so far from all temptations, in the peace of the sea and in an isolation so complete that if it had not been the jealous devotion of the sentimental Franklin stimulating the attention of Powell, there would have been no record, no evidence of it at all.

I must confess at once that it was Flora de Barral whom I suspected. In this world as at present organised women are the suspected half of the population. There are good reasons for that. These reasons are so discoverable with a little reflection that it is not worth my while to set them out for you. I will only mention this: that the part falling to women's share being all "influence" has an air of occult and mysterious action, something not altogether trustworthy like all natural forces which, for us, work in the dark because of our imperfect comprehension.

"If women were not a force of nature, blind in its strength and capricious in its power, they would not be mistrusted. As it is one can't help it. You will say that this force having been in the person of Flora de Barral captured by Anthony ... Why yes. He had dealt with her masterfully. But man has captured electricity too. It lights him on his way, it warms his home, it will even cook his dinner for him— very much like a woman. But what sort of conquest would you call it? He knows nothing of it. He has got to be mighty careful what he is about with his captive. And the greater the demand he makes on it in the exultation of his pride the more likely it is to turn on him and burn him to a cinder..."

"A far-fetched enough parallel," I observed coldly to Marlow. He had returned to the armchair in the shadow of the bookcase. "But accepting the meaning you have in your mind it reduces itself to the knowledge of how to use it. And if you mean that this ravenous Anthony—"

"Ravenous is good," interrupted Marlow. "He was a-hungering and a-thirsting for femininity to enter his life in a way no mere feminist could have the slightest conception of. I reckon that this accounts for much of Fyne's disgust with him. Good little Fyne. You have no idea what infernal mischief he had worked during his call at the hotel. But then who could have suspected Anthony of being a heroic creature. There are several kinds of heroism and one of them at least is idiotic. It is the one which wears the aspect of sublime delicacy. It is apparently the one of which the son of the delicate poet was capable."

He certainly resembled his father, who, by the way, wore out two women without any satisfaction to himself, because they did not come up to his supra-refined standard of the delicacy which is so perceptible in his verses. That's your poet. He demands too much from others. The inarticulate son had set up a standard for himself with that need for embodying in his conduct the dreams, the passion, the impulses the poet puts into arrangements of verses, which are dearer to him than his own self—and may make his own self appear sublime in the eyes of other people, and even in his own eyes.

Did Anthony wish to appear sublime in his own eyes? I should not like to make that charge; though indeed there are other, less noble, ambitions at which the world does not dare to smile. But I don't think so; I do not even think that there was in what he did a conscious and lofty confidence in himself, a particularly pronounced sense of power which leads men so often into impossible or equivocal situations. Looked at abstractedly (the way in which truth is often seen in its real shape) his life had been a life of solitude and silence—and desire.

Chance had thrown that girl in his way; and if we may smile at his violent conquest of Flora de Barral we must admit also that this eager appropriation was truly the act of a man of solitude and desire; a man also, who, unless a complete imbecile, must have been a man of long and ardent reveries wherein the faculty of sincere passion matures slowly in the unexplored recesses of the heart. And I know also that a passion, dominating or tyrannical, invading the whole man and subjugating all his faculties to its own unique end, may conduct him whom it spurs and drives, into all sorts of adventures, to the brink of unfathomable dangers, to the limits of folly, and madness, and death.

To the man then of a silence made only more impressive by the inarticulate thunders and mutters of the great seas, an utter stranger to the clatter of tongues, there comes the muscular little Fyne, the most marked representative of that mankind whose voice is so strange to him, the husband of his sister, a personality standing out from the misty and remote multitude. He comes and throws at him more talk than he had ever heard boomed out in an hour, and certainly touching the deepest things Anthony had ever discovered in himself, and flings words like "unfair" whose very sound is abhorrent to him. Unfair! Undue advantage! He! Unfair to that girl? Cruel to her!

No scorn could stand against the impression of such charges advanced with heat and conviction. They shook him. They were yet vibrating in the air of that stuffy hotel-room, terrific, disturbing, impossible to get rid of, when the door opened and Flora de Barral entered.

He did not even notice that she was late. He was sitting on a sofa plunged in gloom. Was it true? Having himself always said exactly what he meant he imagined that people (unless they were liars, which of course his brother-in-law could not be) never said more than they meant. The deep chest voice of little Fyne was still in his ear. "He knows," Anthony said to himself. He thought he had better go away and never see her again. But she stood there before him accusing and appealing. How could he abandon her? That was out of the question. She had no one. Or rather she had someone. That father. Anthony was willing to take him at her valuation. This father may have been the victim of the most atrocious injustice. But what could a man coming out of jail do? An old man too. And then—what sort of man? What would become of them both? Anthony shuddered slightly and the faint smile with which Flora had entered the room faded on her lips. She was used to his impetuous tenderness. She was no longer afraid of it. But she had never seen him look like this before, and she suspected at once some new cruelty of life. He got up with his usual ardour but as if sobered by a momentous resolve and said:

"No. I can't let you out of my sight. I have seen you. You have told me your story. You are honest. You have never told me you loved me."

She waited, saying to herself that he had never given her time, that he had never asked her! And that, in truth, she did not know!

I am inclined to believe that she did not. As abundance of experience is not precisely her lot in life, a woman is seldom an expert in matters of sentiment. It is the man who can and generally does "see himself" pretty well inside and out. Women's self-possession is an outward thing; inwardly they flutter, perhaps because they are, or they feel themselves to be, encaged. All this speaking generally. In Flora de Barral's particular case ever since Anthony had suddenly broken his way into her hopeless and cruel existence she lived like a person liberated from a condemned cell by a natural cataclysm, a tempest, an earthquake; not absolutely terrified, because nothing can be worse than the eve of execution, but stunned, bewildered—abandoning herself passively. She did not want to make a sound, to move a limb. She hadn't the strength. What was the good? And deep down, almost unconsciously she was seduced by the feeling of being supported by this violence. A sensation she had never experienced before in her life.

She felt as if this whirlwind were calming down somehow! As if this feeling of support, which was tempting her to close her eyes deliriously and let herself be carried on and on into the unknown undefiled by vile experiences, were less certain, had wavered threateningly. She tried to read something in his face, in that energetic kindly face to which she had become accustomed so soon. But she was not yet capable of understanding its expression. Scared, discouraged on the threshold of adolescence, plunged in moral misery of the bitterest kind, she had not learned to read—not that sort of language.

If Anthony's love had been as egoistic as love generally is, it would have been greater than the egoism of his vanity—or of his generosity, if you like—and all this could not have happened. He would not have hit upon that renunciation at which one does not know whether to grin or shudder. It is true too that then his love would not have fastened itself upon the unhappy daughter of de Barral. But it was a love born of that rare pity which is not akin to contempt because rooted in an overwhelmingly strong capacity for tenderness—the tenderness of the fiery predatory kind—the tenderness of silent solitary men, the voluntary, passionate outcasts of their kind. At the same time I am forced to think that his vanity must have been enormous.

"What big eyes she has," he said to himself amazed. No wonder. She was staring at him with all the might of her soul awakening slowly from a poisoned sleep, in which it could only quiver with pain but could neither expand nor move. He plunged into them breathless and tense, deep, deep, like a mad sailor taking a desperate dive from the masthead into the blue unfathomable sea so many men have execrated and loved at the same time. And his vanity was immense. It had been touched to the quick by that muscular little feminist, Fyne. "I! I! Take advantage of her helplessness. I! Unfair to that creature—that wisp of mist, that white shadow homeless in an ugly dirty world. I could blow her away with a breath," he was saying to himself with horror. "Never!" All the supremely refined delicacy of tenderness, expressed in so many fine lines of verse by Carleon Anthony, grew to the size of a passion filling with inward sobs the big frame of the man who had never in his life read a single one of those famous sonnets singing of the most highly civilised, chivalrous love, of those sonnets which ... You know there's a volume of them. My edition has the portrait of the author at thirty, and when I showed it to Mr Powell the other day he exclaimed: "Wonderful! One would think this the portrait of Captain Anthony himself if..." I wanted to know what that if was. But Powell could not say. There was something—a difference. No doubt there was—in fineness perhaps. The father, fastidious, cerebral, morbidly shrinking from all contacts, could only sing in harmonious numbers of what the son felt with a dumb and reckless sincerity.

Possessed by most strong men's touching illusion as to the frailness of women and their spiritual fragility, it seemed to Anthony that he would be destroying, breaking something very precious inside that being. In fact nothing less than partly murdering her. This seems a very extreme effect to flow from Fyne's words. But Anthony, unaccustomed to the chatter of the firm earth, never stayed to ask himself what value these words could have in Fyne's mouth. And indeed the mere dark sound of them was utterly abhorrent to his native rectitude, sea-salted, hardened in the winds of wide horizons, open as the day.

He wished to blurt out his indignation but she regarded him with an expectant air which checked him. His visible discomfort made her uneasy. He could only repeat "Oh yes. You are perfectly honest. You might have, but I dare say you are right. At any rate you have never said anything to me which you didn't mean."

"Never," she whispered after a pause.

He seemed distracted, choking with an emotion she could not understand because it resembled embarrassment, a state of mind inconceivable in that man.

She wondered what it was she had said; remembering that in very truth she had hardly spoken to him except when giving him the bare outline of her story which he seemed to have hardly had the patience to hear, waving it perpetually aside with exclamations of horror and anger, with fiercely sombre mutters "Enough! Enough!" and with alarming starts from a forced stillness, as though he meant to rush out at once and take vengeance on somebody. She was saying to herself that he caught her words in the air, never letting her finish her thought. Honest. Honest. Yes certainly she had been that. Her letter to Mrs Fyne had been prompted by honesty. But she reflected sadly that she had never known what to say to him. That perhaps she had nothing to say.

"But you'll find out that I can be honest too," he burst out in a menacing tone, she had learned to appreciate with an amused thrill.

She waited for what was coming. But he hung in the wind. He looked round the room with disgust as if he could see traces on the walls of all the casual tenants that had ever passed through it. People had quarrelled in that room; they had been ill in it, there had been misery in that room, wickedness, crime perhaps—death most likely. This was not a fit place. He snatched up his hat. He had made up his mind. The ship—the ship he had known ever since she came off the stocks, his home—her shelter—the uncontaminated, honest ship, was the place.

"Let us go on board. We'll talk there," he said. "And you will have to listen to me. For whatever happens, no matter what they say, I cannot let you go."

You can't say that (misgivings or no misgivings) she could have done anything else but go on board. It was the appointed business of that morning. During the drive he was silent. Anthony was the last man to condemn conventionally any human being, to scorn and despise even deserved misfortune. He was ready to take old de Barral—the convict— on his daughter's valuation without the slightest reserve. But love like his, though it may drive one into risky folly by the proud consciousness of its own strength, has a sagacity of its own. And now, as if lifted up into a higher and serene region by its purpose of renunciation, it gave him leisure to reflect for the first time in these last few days. He said to himself: "I don't know that man. She does not know him either. She was barely sixteen when they locked him up. She was a child. What will he say? What will he do? No, he concluded, I cannot leave her behind with that man who would come into the world as if out of a grave."

They went on board in silence, and it was after showing her round and when they had returned to the saloon that he assailed her in his fiery, masterful fashion. At first she did not understand. Then when she understood that he was giving her her liberty she went stiff all over, her hand resting on the edge of the table, her face set like a carving of white marble. It was all over. It was as that abominable governess had said. She was insignificant, contemptible. Nobody could love her. Humiliation clung to her like a cold shroud—never to be shaken off, unwarmed by this madness of generosity.

"Yes. Here. Your home. I can't give it to you and go away, but it is big enough for us two. You need not be afraid. If you say so I shall not even look at you. Remember that grey head of which you have been thinking night and day. Where is it going to rest? Where else if not here, where nothing evil can touch it. Don't you understand that I won't let you buy shelter from me at the cost of your very soul. I won't. You are too much part of me. I have, found myself since I came upon you and I would rather sell my own soul to the devil than let you go out of my keeping. But I must have the right."

He went away brusquely to shut the door leading on deck and came back the whole length of the cabin repeating:

"I must have the legal right. Are you ashamed of letting people think you are my wife?"

He opened his arms as if to clasp her to his breast but mastered the impulse and shook his clenched hands at her, repeating: "I must have the right if only for your father's sake. I must have the right. Where would you take him? To that infernal cardboard box-maker. I don't know what keeps me from hunting him up in his virtuous home and bashing his head in. I can't bear the thought. Listen to me, Flora! Do you hear what I am saying to you? You are not so proud that you can't understand that I as a man have my pride too?"

He saw a tear glide down her white cheek from under each lowered eyelid. Then, abruptly, she walked out of the cabin. He stood for a moment, concentrated, reckoning his own strength, interrogating his heart, before he followed her hastily. Already she had reached the wharf.

At the sound of his pursuing footsteps her strength failed her. Where could she escape from this? From this new perfidy of life taking upon itself the form of magnanimity. His very voice was changed. The sustaining whirlwind had let her down, to stumble on again, weakened by the fresh stab, bereft of moral support which is wanted in life more than all the charities of material help. She had never had it. Never. Not from the Fynes. But where to go? Oh yes, this dock—a placid sheet of water close at hand. But there was that old man with whom she had walked hand in hand on the parade by the sea. She seemed to see him coming to meet her, pitiful, a little greyer, with an appealing look and an extended, tremulous arm. It was for her now to take the hand of that wronged man more helpless than a child. But where could she lead him? Where? And what was she to say to him? What words of cheer, of courage and of hope? There were none. Heaven and earth were mute, unconcerned at their meeting. But this other man was coming up behind her. He was very close now. His fiery person seemed to radiate heat, a tingling vibration into the atmosphere. She was exhausted, careless, afraid to stumble, ready to fall. She fancied she could hear his breathing. A wave of languid warmth overtook her, she seemed to lose touch with the ground under her feet; and when she felt him slip his hand under her arm she made no attempt to disengage herself from that grasp which closed upon her limb, insinuating and firm.

He conducted her through the dangers of the quayside. Her sight was dim. A moving truck was like a mountain gliding by. Men passed by as if in a mist; and the buildings, the sheds, the unexpected open spaces, the ships, had strange, distorted, dangerous shapes. She said to herself that it was good not to be bothered with what all these things meant in the scheme of creation (if indeed anything had a meaning), or were just piled-up matter without any sense. She felt how she had always been unrelated to this world. She was hanging on to it merely by that one arm grasped firmly just above the elbow. It was a captivity. So be it. Till they got out into the street and saw the hansom waiting outside the gates Anthony spoke only once, beginning brusquely but in a much gentler tone than she had ever heard from his lips.

"Of course I ought to have known that you could not care for a man like me, a stranger. Silence gives consent. Yes? Eh? I don't want any of that sort of consent. And unless some day you find you can speak—No! No! I shall never ask you. For all the sign I will give you you may go to your grave with sealed lips. But what I have said you must do!"

He bent his head over her with tender care. At the same time she felt her arm pressed and shaken inconspicuously, but in an undeniable manner. "You must do it." A little shake that no passer-by could notice; and this was going on in a deserted part of the dock. "It must be done. You are listening to me—eh? or would you go again to my sister?"

His ironic tone, perhaps from want of use, had an awful grating ferocity.

"Would you go to her?" he pursued in the same strange voice. "Your best friend! And say nicely—I am sorry. Would you? No! You couldn't. There are things that even you, poor dear lost girl, couldn't stand. Eh? Die rather. That's it. Of course. Or can you be thinking of taking your father to that infernal cousin's house. No! Don't speak. I can't bear to think of it. I would follow you there and smash the door!"

The catch in his voice astonished her by its resemblance to a sob. It frightened her too. The thought that came to her head was: "He mustn't." He was putting her into the hansom. "Oh! He mustn't, he mustn't." She was still more frightened by the discovery that he was shaking all over. Bewildered, shrinking into the far off corner, avoiding his eyes, she yet saw the quivering of his mouth and made a wild attempt at a smile, which broke the rigidity of her lips and set her teeth chattering suddenly.

"I am not coming with you," he was saying. "I'll tell the man—I can't. Better not. What is it? Are you cold? Come! What is it? Only to go to a confounded stuffy room, a hole of an office. Not a quarter of an hour. I'll come for you—in ten days. Don't think of it too much. Think of no man, woman or child of all that silly crowd cumbering the ground. Don't think of me either. Think of yourself. Ha! Nothing will be able to touch you then—at last. Say nothing. Don't move. I'll have everything arranged; and as long as you don't hate the sight of me—and you don't—there's nothing to be frightened about. One of their silly offices with a couple of ink-slingers of no consequence; poor, scribbling devils."

The hansom drove away with Flora de Barral inside, without movement, without thought, only too glad to rest, to be alone and still moving away without effort, in solitude and silence.

Anthony roamed the streets for hours without being able to remember in the evening where he had been—in the manner of a happy and exulting lover. But nobody could have thought so from his face, which bore no signs of blissful anticipation. Exulting indeed he was but it was a special sort of exultation which seemed to take him by the throat like an enemy.

Anthony's last words to Flora referred to the registry office where they were married ten days later. During that time Anthony saw no one or anything, though he went about restlessly, here and there, amongst men and things. This special state is peculiar to common lovers, who are known to have no eyes for anything except for the contemplation, actual or inward, of one human form which for them contains the soul of the whole world in all its beauty, perfection, variety and infinity. It must be extremely pleasant. But felicity was denied to Roderick Anthony's contemplation. He was not a common sort of lover; and he was punished for it as if Nature (which it is said abhors a vacuum) were so very conventional as to abhor every sort of exceptional conduct. Roderick Anthony had begun already to suffer. That is why perhaps he was so industrious in going about amongst his fellow-men who would have been surprised and humiliated, had they known how little solidity and even existence they had in his eyes. But they could not suspect anything so queer. They saw nothing extraordinary in him during that fortnight. The proof of this is that they were willing to transact business with him. Obviously they were; since it is then that the offer of chartering his ship for the special purpose of proceeding to the Western Islands was put in his way by a firm of shipbrokers who had no doubt of his sanity.

He probably looked sane enough for all the practical purposes of commercial life. But I am not so certain that he really was quite sane at that time.

However, he jumped at the offer. Providence itself was offering him this opportunity to accustom the girl to sea-life by a comparatively short trip. This was the time when everything that happened, everything he heard, casual words, unrelated phrases, seemed a provocation or an encouragement, confirmed him in his resolution. And indeed to be busy with material affairs is the best preservative against reflection, fears, doubts—all these things which stand in the way of achievement. I suppose a fellow proposing to cut his throat would experience a sort of relief while occupied in stropping his razor carefully.

And Anthony was extremely careful in preparing for himself and for the luckless Flora, an impossible existence. He went about it with no more tremors than if he had been stuffed with rags or made of iron instead of flesh and blood. An existence, mind you, which, on shore, in the thick of mankind, of varied interests, of distractions, of infinite opportunities to preserve your distance from each other, is hardly conceivable; but on board ship, at sea, en tete-a-tete for days and weeks and months together, could mean nothing but mental torture, an exquisite absurdity of torment. He was a simple soul. His hopelessly masculine ingenuousness is displayed in a touching way by his care to procure some woman to attend on Flora. The condition of guaranteed perfect respectability gave him moments of anxious thought. When he remembered suddenly his steward's wife he must have exclaimed eureka with particular exultation. One does not like to call Anthony an ass. But really to put any woman within scenting distance of such a secret and suppose that she would not track it out! No woman, however simple, could be as ingenuous as that. I don't know how Flora de Barral qualified him in her thoughts when he told her of having done this amongst other things intended to make her comfortable. I should think that, for all her simplicity, she must have been appalled. He stood before her on the appointed day outwardly calmer than she had ever seen him before. And this very calmness, that scrupulous attitude which he felt bound in honour to assume then and for ever, unless she would condescend to make a sign at some future time, added to the heaviness of her heart innocent of the most pardonable guile.

The night before she had slept better than she had done for the past ten nights. Both youth and weariness will assert themselves in the end against the tyranny of nerve-racking stress. She had slept but she woke up with her eyes full of tears. There were no traces of them when she met him in the shabby little parlour downstairs. She had swallowed them up. She was not going to let him see. She felt bound in honour to accept the situation for ever and ever unless—Ah, unless ... She dissembled all her sentiments but it was not duplicity on her part. All she wanted was to get at the truth; to see what would come of it.

She beat him at his own honourable game and the thoroughness of her serenity disconcerted Anthony a bit. It was he who stammered when it came to talking. The suppressed fierceness of his character carried him on after the first word or two masterfully enough. But it was as if they both had taken a bite of the same bitter fruit. He was thinking with mournful regret not unmixed with surprise: "That fellow Fyne has been telling me the truth. She does not care for me a bit." It humiliated him and also increased his compassion for the girl who in this darkness of life, buffeted and despairing, had fallen into the grip of his stronger will, abandoning herself to his arms as on a night of shipwreck. Flora on her side with partial insight (for women are never blind with the complete masculine blindness) looked on him with some pity; and she felt pity for herself too. It was a rejection, a casting out; nothing new to her. But she who supposed all her sensibility dead by this time, discovered in herself a resentment of this ultimate betrayal. She had no resignation for this one. With a sort of mental sullenness she said to herself: "Well, I am here. I am here without any nonsense. It is not my fault that I am a mere worthless object of pity."

And these things which she could tell herself with a clear conscience served her better than the passionate obstinacy of purpose could serve Roderick Anthony. She was much more sure of herself than he was. Such are the advantages of mere rectitude over the most exalted generosity.

And so they went out to get married, the people of the house where she lodged having no suspicion of anything of the sort. They were only excited at a "gentleman friend" (a very fine man too) calling on Miss Smith for the first time since she had come to live in the house. When she returned, for she did come back alone, there were allusions made to that outing. She had to take her meals with these rather vulgar people. The woman of the house, a scraggy, genteel person, tried even to provoke confidences. Flora's white face with the deep blue eyes did not strike their hearts as it did the heart of Captain Anthony, as the very face of the suffering world. Her pained reserve had no power to awe them into decency.

Well, she returned alone—as in fact might have been expected. After leaving the Registry Office Flora de Barral and Roderick Anthony had gone for a walk in a park. It must have been an East-End park but I am not sure. Anyway that's what they did. It was a sunny day. He said to her: "Everything I have in the world belongs to you. I have seen to that without troubling my brother-in-law. They have no call to interfere."

She walked with her hand resting lightly on his arm. He had offered it to her on coming out of the Registry Office, and she had accepted it silently. Her head drooped, she seemed to be turning matters over in her mind. She said, alluding to the Fynes: "They have been very good to me." At that he exclaimed:

"They have never understood you. Well, not properly. My sister is not a bad woman, but..."

Flora didn't protest; asking herself whether he imagined that he himself understood her so much better. Anthony dismissing his family out of his thoughts went on: "Yes. Everything is yours. I have kept nothing back. As to the piece of paper we have just got from that miserable quill-driver if it wasn't for the law, I wouldn't mind if you tore it up here, now, on this spot. But don't you do it. Unless you should some day feel that—"

He choked, unexpectedly. She, reflective, hesitated a moment then making up her mind bravely.

"Neither am I keeping anything back from you."

She had said it! But he in his blind generosity assumed that she was alluding to her deplorable history and hastened to mutter:

"Of course! Of course! Say no more. I have been lying awake thinking of it all no end of times."

He made a movement with his other arm as if restraining himself from shaking an indignant fist at the universe; and she never even attempted to look at him. His voice sounded strangely, incredibly lifeless in comparison with these tempestuous accents that in the broad fields, in the dark garden had seemed to shake the very earth under her weary and hopeless feet.

She regretted them. Hearing the sigh which escaped her Anthony instead of shaking his fist at the universe began to pat her hand resting on his arm and then desisted, suddenly, as though he had burnt himself. Then after a silence:

"You will have to go by yourself to-morrow. I ... No, I think I mustn't come. Better not. What you two will have to say to each other—"

She interrupted him quickly:

"Father is an innocent man. He was cruelly wronged."

"Yes. That's why," Anthony insisted earnestly. "And you are the only human being that can make it up to him. You alone must reconcile him with the world if anything can. But of course you shall. You'll have to find words. Oh you'll know. And then the sight of you, alone, would soothe—"

"He's the gentlest of men," she interrupted again.

Anthony shook his head. "It would take no end of generosity, no end of gentleness to forgive such a dead set. For my part I, would have liked better to have been killed and done with at once. It could not have been worse for you—and I suppose it was of you that he was thinking most while those infernal lawyers were badgering him in court. Of you. And now I think of it perhaps the sight of you may bring it all back to him. All these years, all these years—and you his child left alone in the world. I would have gone crazy. For even if he had done wrong—"

"But he hasn't," insisted Flora de Barral with a quite unexpected fierceness. "You mustn't even suppose it. Haven't you read the accounts of the trial?"

"I am not supposing anything," Anthony defended himself. He just remembered hearing of the trial. He assured her that he was away from England, the second voyage of the Ferndale. He was crossing the Pacific from Australia at the time and didn't see any papers for weeks and weeks. He interrupted himself to suggest:

"You had better tell him at once that you are happy."

He had stammered a little, and Flora de Barral uttered a deliberate and concise "Yes."

A short silence ensued. She withdrew her hand from his arm. They stopped. Anthony looked as if a totally unexpected catastrophe had happened.

"Ah," he said. "You mind..."

"No! I think I had better," she murmured.

"I dare say. I dare say. Bring him along straight on board to-morrow. Stop nowhere."

She had a movement of vague gratitude, a momentary feeling of peace which she referred to the man before her. She looked up at Anthony. His face was sombre. He was miles away and muttered as if to himself:

"Where could he want to stop though?"

"There's not a single being on earth that I would want to look at his dear face now, to whom I would willingly take him," she said extending her hand frankly and with a slight break in her voice, "but you— Roderick."

He took that hand, felt it very small and delicate in his broad palm.

"That's right. That's right," he said with a conscious and hasty heartiness and, as if suddenly ashamed of the sound of his voice, turned half round and absolutely walked away from the motionless girl. He even resisted the temptation to look back till it was too late. The gravel path lay empty to the very gate of the park. She was gone—vanished. He had an impression that he had missed some sort of chance. He felt sad. That excited sense of his own conduct which had kept him up for the last ten days buoyed him no more. He had succeeded!

He strolled on aimlessly a prey to gentle melancholy. He walked and walked. There were but few people about in this breathing space of a poor neighbourhood. Under certain conditions of life there is precious little time left for mere breathing. But still a few here and there were indulging in that luxury; yet few as they were Captain Anthony, though the least exclusive of men, resented their presence. Solitude had been his best friend. He wanted some place where he could sit down and be alone. And in his need his thoughts turned to the sea which had given him so much of that congenial solitude. There, if always with his ship (but that was an integral part of him) he could always be as solitary as he chose. Yes. Get out to sea!

The night of the town with its strings of lights, rigid, and crossed like a net of flames, thrown over the sombre immensity of walls, closed round him, with its artificial brilliance overhung by an emphatic blackness, its unnatural animation of a restless, overdriven humanity. His thoughts which somehow were inclined to pity every passing figure, every single person glimpsed under a street lamp, fixed themselves at last upon a figure which certainly could not have been seen under the lamps on that particular night. A figure unknown to him. A figure shut up within high unscaleable walls of stone or bricks till next morning ... The figure of Flora de Barral's father. De Barral the financier— the convict.

There is something in that word with its suggestions of guilt and retribution which arrests the thought. We feel ourselves in the presence of the power of organised society—a thing mysterious in itself and still more mysterious in its effect. Whether guilty or innocent, it was as if old de Barral had been down to the Nether Regions. Impossible to imagine what he would bring out from there to the light of this world of uncondemned men. What would he think? What would he have to say? And what was one to say to him?

Anthony, a little awed, as one is by a range of feelings stretching beyond one's grasp, comforted himself by the thought that probably the old fellow would have little to say. He wouldn't want to talk about it. No man would. It must have been a real hell to him.

And then Anthony, at the end of the day in which he had gone through a marriage ceremony with Flora de Barral, ceased to think of Flora's father except, as in some sort, the captive of his triumph. He turned to the mental contemplation of the white, delicate and appealing face with great blue eyes which he had seen weep and wonder and look profoundly at him, sometimes with incredulity, sometimes with doubt and pain, but always irresistible in the power to find their way right into his breast, to stir there a deep response which was something more than love—he said to himself,—as men understand it. More? Or was it only something other? Yes. It was something other. More or less. Something as incredible as the fulfilment of an amazing and startling dream in which he could take the world in his arms—all the suffering world—not to possess its pathetic fairness but to console and cherish its sorrow.

Anthony walked slowly to the ship and that night slept without dreams.



Renovated certainly the saloon of the Ferndale was to receive the "strange woman." The mellowness of its old-fashioned, tarnished decoration was gone. And Anthony looking round saw the glitter, the gleams, the colour of new things, untried, unused, very bright—too bright. The workmen had gone only last night; and the last piece of work they did was the hanging of the heavy curtains which looped midway the length of the saloon—divided it in two if released, cutting off the after-end with its companion-way leading direct on the poop, from the forepart with its outlet on the deck; making a privacy within a privacy, as though Captain Anthony could not place obstacles enough between his new happiness and the men who shared his life at sea. He inspected that arrangement with an approving eye then made a particular visitation of the whole, ending by opening a door which led into a large state-room made of two knocked into one. It was very well furnished and had, instead of the usual bed-place of such cabins, an elaborate swinging cot of the latest pattern. Anthony tilted it a little by way of trial. "The old man will be very comfortable in here," he said to himself, and stepped back into the saloon closing the door gently. Then another thought occurred to him obvious under the circumstances but strangely enough presenting itself for the first time. "Jove! Won't he get a shock," thought Roderick Anthony.

He went hastily on deck. "Mr Franklin, Mr Franklin."

The mate was not very far. "Oh! Here you are. Miss ... Mrs Anthony'll be coming on board presently. Just give me a call when you see the cab."

Then, without noticing the gloominess of the mate's countenance he went in again. Not a friendly word, not a professional remark, or a small joke, not as much as a simple and inane "fine day." Nothing. Just turned about and went in.

We know that, when the moment came, he thought better of it and decided to meet Flora's father in that privacy of the main cabin which he had been so careful to arrange. Why Anthony appeared to shrink from the contact, he who was sufficiently self-confident not only to face but to absolutely create a situation almost insane in its audacious generosity, is difficult to explain. Perhaps when he came on the poop for a glance he found that man so different outwardly from what he expected that he decided to meet him for the first time out of everybody's sight. Possibly the general secrecy of his relation to the girl might have influenced him. Truly he may well have been dismayed. That man's coming brought him face to face with the necessity to speak and act a lie; to appear what he was not and what he could never be, unless, unless—

In short, we'll say if you like that for various reasons, all having to do with the delicate rectitude of his nature, Roderick Anthony (a man of whom his chief mate used to say: he doesn't know what fear is) was frightened. There is a Nemesis which overtakes generosity too, like all the other imprudences of men who dare to be lawless and proud...

"Why do you say this?" I inquired, for Marlow had stopped abruptly and kept silent in the shadow of the bookcase.

"I say this because that man whom chance had thrown in Flora's way was both: lawless and proud. Whether he knew anything about it or not it does not matter. Very likely not. One may fling a glove in the face of nature and in the face of one's own moral endurance quite innocently, with a simplicity which wears the aspect of perfectly Satanic conceit. However, as I have said it does not matter. It's a transgression all the same and has got to be paid for in the usual way. But never mind that. I paused because, like Anthony, I find a difficulty, a sort of dread in coming to grips with old de Barral."

You remember I had a glimpse of him once. He was not an imposing personality: tall, thin, straight, stiff, faded, moving with short steps and with a gliding motion, speaking in an even low voice. When the sea was rough he wasn't much seen on deck—at least not walking. He caught hold of things then and dragged himself along as far as the after skylight where he would sit for hours. Our, then young, friend offered once to assist him and this service was the first beginning of a sort of friendship. He clung hard to one—Powell says, with no figurative intention. Powell was always on the lookout to assist, and to assist mainly Mrs Anthony, because he clung so jolly hard to her that Powell was afraid of her being dragged down notwithstanding that she very soon became very sure-footed in all sorts of weather. And Powell was the only one ready to assist at hand because Anthony (by that time) seemed to be afraid to come near them; the unforgiving Franklin always looked wrathfully the other way; the boatswain, if up there, acted likewise but sheepishly; and any hands that happened to be on the poop (a feeling spreads mysteriously all over a ship) shunned him as though he had been the devil.

We know how he arrived on board. For my part I know so little of prisons that I haven't the faintest notion how one leaves them. It seems as abominable an operation as the other, the shutting up with its mental suggestions of bang, snap, crash and the empty silence outside— where an instant before you were—you were—and now no longer are. Perfectly devilish. And the release! I don't know which is worse. How do they do it? Pull the string, door flies open, man flies through: Out you go! Adios! And in the space where a second before you were not, in the silent space there is a figure going away, limping. Why limping? I don't know. That's how I see it. One has a notion of a maiming, crippling process; of the individual coming back damaged in some subtle way. I admit it is a fantastic hallucination, but I can't help it. Of course I know that the proceedings of the best machine-made humanity are employed with judicious care and so on. I am absurd, no doubt, but still... Oh yes it's idiotic. When I pass one of these places ... did you notice that there is something infernal about the aspect of every individual stone or brick of them, something malicious as if matter were enjoying its revenge of the contemptuous spirit of man. Did you notice? You didn't? Eh? Well I am perhaps a little mad on that point. When I pass one of these places I must avert my eyes. I couldn't have gone to meet de Barral. I should have shrunk from the ordeal. You'll notice that it looks as if Anthony (a brave man indubitably) had shirked it too. Little Fyne's flight of fancy picturing three people in the fatal four-wheeler—you remember?—went wide of the truth. There were only two people in the four-wheeler. Flora did not shrink. Women can stand anything. The dear creatures have no imagination when it comes to solid facts of life. In sentimental regions—I won't say. It's another thing altogether. There they shrink from or rush to embrace ghosts of their own creation just the same as any fool-man would.

"No. I suppose the girl Flora went on that errand reasonably. And then, why! This was the moment for which she had lived. It was her only point of contact with existence. Oh yes. She had been assisted by the Fynes. And kindly. Certainly. Kindly. But that's not enough. There is a kind way of assisting our fellow-creatures which is enough to break their hearts while it saves their outer envelope. How cold, how infernally cold she must have felt—unless when she was made to burn with indignation or shame. Man, we know, cannot live by bread alone but hang me if I don't believe that some women could live by love alone. If there be a flame in human beings fed by varied ingredients earthly and spiritual which tinge it in different hues, then I seem to see the colour of theirs. It is azure ... What the devil are you laughing at..."

Marlow jumped up and strode out of the shadow as if lifted by indignation but there was the flicker of a smile on his lips. "You say I don't know women. Maybe. It's just as well not to come too close to the shrine. But I have a clear notion of woman. In all of them, termagant, flirt, crank, washerwoman, blue-stocking, outcast and even in the ordinary fool of the ordinary commerce there is something left, if only a spark. And when there is a spark there can always be a flame..."

He went back into the shadow and sat down again.

"I don't mean to say that Flora de Barral was one of the sort that could live by love alone. In fact she had managed to live without. But still, in the distrust of herself and of others she looked for love, any kind of love, as women will. And that confounded jail was the only spot where she could see it—for she had no reason to distrust her father."

She was there in good time. I see her gazing across the road at these walls which are, properly speaking, awful. You do indeed seem to feel along the very lines and angles of the unholy bulk, the fall of time, drop by drop, hour by hour, leaf by leaf, with a gentle and implacable slowness. And a voiceless melancholy comes over one, invading, overpowering like a dream, penetrating and mortal like poison.

When de Barral came out she experienced a sort of shock to see that he was exactly as she remembered him. Perhaps a little smaller. Otherwise unchanged. You come out in the same clothes, you know. I can't tell whether he was looking for her. No doubt he was. Whether he recognised her? Very likely. She crossed the road and at once there was reproduced at a distance of years, as if by some mocking witchcraft, the sight so familiar on the Parade at Brighton of the financier de Barral walking with his only daughter. One comes out of prison in the same clothes one wore on the day of condemnation, no matter how long one has been put away there. Oh, they last! They last! But there is something which is preserved by prison life even better than one's discarded clothing. It is the force, the vividness of one's sentiments. A monastery will do that too; but in the unholy claustration of a jail you are thrown back wholly upon yourself—for God and Faith are not there. The people outside disperse their affections, you hoard yours, you nurse them into intensity. What they let slip, what they forget in the movement and changes of free life, you hold on to, amplify, exaggerate into a rank growth of memories. They can look with a smile at the troubles and pains of the past; but you can't. Old pains keep on gnawing at your heart, old desires, old deceptions, old dreams, assailing you in the dead stillness of your present where nothing moves except the irrecoverable minutes of your life.

De Barral was out and, for a time speechless, being led away almost before he had taken possession of the free world, by his daughter. Flora controlled herself well. They walked along quickly for some distance. The cab had been left round the corner—round several corners for all I know. He was flustered, out of breath, when she helped him in and followed herself. Inside that rolling box, turning towards that recovered presence with her heart too full for words she felt the desire of tears she had managed to keep down abandon her suddenly, her half-mournful, half-triumphant exultation subside, every fibre of her body, relaxed in tenderness, go stiff in the close look she took at his face. He was different. There was something. Yes, there was something between them, something hard and impalpable, the ghost of these high walls.

How old he was, how unlike!

She shook off this impression, amazed and frightened by it of course. And remorseful too. Naturally. She threw her arms round his neck. He returned that hug awkwardly, as if not in perfect control of his arms, with a fumbling and uncertain pressure. She hid her face on his breast. It was as though she were pressing it against a stone. They released each other and presently the cab was rolling along at a jog-trot to the docks with those two people as far apart as they could get from each other, in opposite corners.

After a silence given up to mutual examination he uttered his first coherent sentence outside the walls of the prison.

"What has done for me was envy. Envy. There was a lot of them just bursting with it every time they looked my way. I was doing too well. So they went to the Public Prosecutor—"

She said hastily "Yes! Yes! I know," and he glared as if resentful that the child had turned into a young woman without waiting for him to come out. "What do you know about it?" he asked. "You were too young." His speech was soft. The old voice, the old voice! It gave her a thrill. She recognised its pointless gentleness always the same no matter what he had to say. And she remembered that he never had much to say when he came down to see her. It was she who chattered, chattered, on their walks, while stiff and with a rigidly-carried head, he dropped a gentle word now and then.

Moved by these recollections waking up within her, she explained to him that within the last year she had read and studied the report of the trial.

"I went through the files of several papers, papa."

He looked at her suspiciously. The reports were probably very incomplete. No doubt the reporters had garbled his evidence. They were determined to give him no chance either in court or before the public opinion. It was a conspiracy... "My counsel was a fool too," he added. "Did you notice? A perfect fool."

She laid her hand on his arm soothingly. "Is it worth while talking about that awful time? It is so far away now." She shuddered slightly at the thought of all the horrible years which had passed over her young head; never guessing that for him the time was but yesterday. He folded his arms on his breast, leaned back in his corner and bowed his head. But in a little while he made her jump by asking suddenly:

"Who has got hold of the Lone Valley Railway? That's what they were after mainly. Somebody has got it. Parfitts and Co. grabbed it—eh? Or was it that fellow Warner..."

"I—I don't know," she said quite scared by the twitching of his lips.

"Don't know!" he exclaimed softly. Hadn't her cousin told her? Oh yes. She had left them—of course. Why did she? It was his first question about herself but she did not answer it. She did not want to talk of these horrors. They were impossible to describe. She perceived though that he had not expected an answer, because she heard him muttering to himself that: "There was half a million's worth of work done and material accumulated there."

"You mustn't think of these things, papa," she said firmly. And he asked her with that invariable gentleness, in which she seemed now to detect some rather ugly shades, what else had he to think about? Another year or two, if they had only left him alone, he and everybody else would have been all right, rolling in money; and she, his daughter, could have married anybody—anybody. A lord.

All this was to him like yesterday, a long yesterday a yesterday gone over innumerable times, analysed meditated upon for years. It had a vividness and force for that old man of which his daughter who had not been shut out of the world could have no idea. She was to him the only living figure out of that past, and it was perhaps in perfect good faith that he added, coldly, inexpressive and thin-lipped: "I lived only for you, I may say. I suppose you understand that. There were only you and me."

Moved by this declaration, wondering that it did not warm her heart more, she murmured a few endearing words while the uppermost thought in her mind was that she must tell him now of the situation. She had expected to be questioned anxiously about herself—and while she desired it she shrank from the answers she would have to make. But her father seemed strangely, unnaturally incurious. It looked as if there would be no questions. Still this was an opening. This seemed to be the time for her to begin. And she began. She began by saying that she had always felt like that. There were two of them, to live for each other. And if he only knew what she had gone through!

Ensconced in his corner, with his arms folded, he stared out of the cab window at the street. How little he was changed after all. It was the unmovable expression, the faded stare she used to see on the esplanade whenever walking by his side hand in hand she raised her eyes to his face—while she chattered, chattered. It was the same stiff, silent figure which at a word from her would turn rigidly into a shop and buy her anything it occurred to her that she would like to have. Flora de Barral's voice faltered. He bent on her that well-remembered glance in which she had never read anything as a child, except the consciousness of her existence. And that was enough for a child who had never known demonstrative affection. But she had lived a life so starved of all feeling that this was no longer enough for her. What was the good of telling him the story of all these miseries now past and gone, of all those bewildering difficulties and humiliations? What she must tell him was difficult enough to say. She approached it by remarking cheerfully:

"You haven't even asked me where I am taking you."

He started like a somnambulist awakened suddenly, and there was now some meaning in his stare; a sort of alarmed speculation. He opened his mouth slowly. Flora struck in with forced gaiety. "You would never guess."

He waited, still more startled and suspicious. "Guess! Why don't you tell me?"

He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward towards her. She got hold of one of his hands. "You must know first..." She paused, made an effort: "I am married, papa."

For a moment they kept perfectly still in that cab rolling on at a steady jog-trot through a narrow city street full of bustle. Whatever she expected she did not expect to feel his hand snatched away from her grasp as if from a burn or a contamination. De Barral fresh from the stagnant torment of the prison (where nothing happens) had not expected that sort of news. It seemed to stick in his throat. In strangled low tones he cried out, "You—married? You, Flora! When? Married! What for? Who to? Married?"

His eyes which were blue like hers, only faded, without depth, seemed to start out of their orbits. He did really look as if he were choking. He even put his hand to his collar...

"You know," continued Marlow out of the shadow of the bookcase and nearly invisible in the depths of the armchair, "the only time I saw him he had given me the impression of absolute rigidity, as though he had swallowed a poker. But it seems that he could collapse. I can hardly picture this to myself. I understand that he did collapse to a certain extent in his corner of the cab. The unexpected had crumpled him up. She regarded him perplexed, pitying, a little disillusioned, and nodded at him gravely: Yes. Married. What she did not like was to see him smile in a manner far from encouraging to the devotion of a daughter. There was something unintentionally savage in it. Old de Barral could not quite command his muscles, as yet. But he had recovered command of his gentle voice.

"You were just saying that in this wide world there we were, only you and I, to stick to each other."

She was dimly aware of the scathing intention lurking in these soft low tones, in these words which appealed to her poignantly. She defended herself. Never, never for a single moment had she ceased to think of him. Neither did he cease to think of her, he said, with as much sinister emphasis as he was capable of.

"But, papa," she cried, "I haven't been shut up like you." She didn't mind speaking of it because he was innocent. He hadn't been understood. It was a misfortune of the most cruel kind but no more disgraceful than an illness, a maiming accident or some other visitation of blind fate. "I wish I had been too. But I was alone out in the world, the horrid world, that very world which had used you so badly."

"And you couldn't go about in it without finding somebody to fall in love with?" he said. A jealous rage affected his brain like the fumes of wine, rising from some secret depths of his being so long deprived of all emotions. The hollows at the corners of his lips became more pronounced in the puffy roundness of his cheeks. Images, visions, obsess with particular force, men withdrawn from the sights and sounds of active life. "And I did nothing but think of you!" he exclaimed under his breath, contemptuously. "Think of you! You haunted me, I tell you."

Flora said to herself that there was a being who loved her. "Then we have been haunting each other," she declared with a pang of remorse. For indeed he had haunted her nearly out of the world, into a final and irremediable desertion. "Some day I shall tell you... No. I don't think I can ever tell you. There was a time when I was mad. But what's the good? It's all over now. We shall forget all this. There shall be nothing to remind us."

De Barral moved his shoulders.

"I should think you were mad to tie yourself to ... How long is it since you are married?"

She answered "Not long" that being the only answer she dared to make. Everything was so different from what she imagined it would be. He wanted to know why she had said nothing of it in any of her letters; in her last letter. She said:

"It was after."

"So recently!" he wondered. "Couldn't you wait at least till I came out? You could have told me; asked me; consulted me! Let me see—"

She shook her head negatively. And he was appalled. He thought to himself: Who can he be? Some miserable, silly youth without a penny. Or perhaps some scoundrel? Without making any expressive movement he wrung his loosely-clasped hands till the joints cracked. He looked at her. She was pretty. Some low scoundrel who will cast her off. Some plausible vagabond... "You couldn't wait—eh?"

Again she made a slight negative sign.

Why not? What was the hurry? She cast down her eyes. "It had to be. Yes. It was sudden, but it had to be."

He leaned towards her, his mouth open, his eyes wild with virtuous anger, but meeting the absolute candour of her raised glance threw himself back into his corner again.

"So tremendously in love with each other—was that it? Couldn't let a father have his daughter all to himself even for a day after—after such a separation. And you know I never had anyone, I had no friends. What did I want with those people one meets in the City. The best of them are ready to cut your throat. Yes! Business men, gentlemen, any sort of men and women—out of spite, or to get something. Oh yes, they can talk fair enough if they think there's something to be got out of you..." His voice was a mere breath yet every word came to Flora as distinctly as if charged with all the moving power of passion.—"My girl, I looked at them making up to me and I would say to myself: What do I care for all that! I am a business man. I am the great Mr de Barral (yes, yes, some of them twisted their mouths at it, but I was the great Mr de Barral) and I have my little girl. I wanted nobody and I have never had anybody."

A true emotion had unsealed his lips but the words that came out of them were no louder than the murmur of a light wind. It died away.

"That's just it," said Flora de Barral under her breath. Without removing his eyes from her he took off his hat. It was a tall hat. The hat of the trial. The hat of the thumb-nail sketches in the illustrated papers. One comes out in the same clothes, but seclusion counts! It is well-known that lurid visions haunt secluded men, monks, hermits—then why not prisoners? De Barral the convict took off the silk hat of the financier de Barral and deposited it on the front seat of the cab. Then he blew out his cheeks. He was red in the face.

"And then what happens?" he began again in his contained voice. "Here I am, overthrown, broken by envy, malice and all uncharitableness. I come out—and what do I find? I find that my girl Flora has gone and married some man or other, perhaps a fool, how do I know; or perhaps—anyway not good enough."

"Stop, papa."

"A silly love affair as likely as not," he continued monotonously, his thin lips writhing between the ill-omened sunk corners. "And a very suspicious thing it is too, on the part of a loving daughter."

She tried to interrupt him but he went on till she actually clapped her hand on his mouth. He rolled his eyes a bit but when she took her hand away he remained silent.

"Wait. I must tell you... And first of all, papa, understand this, for everything's in that: he is the most generous man in the world. He is..."

De Barral very still in his corner uttered with an effort:

"You are in love with him."

"Papa! He came to me. I was thinking of you. I had no eyes for anybody. I could no longer bear to think of you. It was then that he came. Only then. At that time when—when I was going to give up."

She gazed into his faded blue eyes as if yearning to be understood, to be given encouragement, peace—a word of sympathy. He declared without animation:

"I would like to break his neck."

She had the mental exclamation of the overburdened. "Oh my God!" and watched him with frightened eyes. But he did not appear insane or in any other way formidable. This comforted her. The silence lasted for some little time. Then suddenly he asked:

"What's your name then?"

For a moment in the profound trouble of the task before her she did not understand what the question meant. Then, her face faintly flushing, she whispered: "Anthony."

Her father, a red spot on each cheek, leaned his head back wearily in the corner of the cab.

"Anthony. What is he? Where did he spring from?"

"Papa, it was in the country, on a road—"

He groaned, "On a road," and closed his eyes.

"It's too long to explain to you now. We shall have lots of time. There are things I could not tell you now. But some day. Some day. For now nothing can part us. Nothing. We are safe as long as we live— nothing can ever come between us."

"You are infatuated with the fellow," he remarked, without opening his eyes. And she said: "I believe in him," in a low voice. "You and I must believe in him?"

"Who the devil is he?"

"He's the brother of the lady—you know Mrs Fyne, she knew mother—who was so kind to me. I was staying in the country, in a cottage, with Mr and Mrs Fyne. It was there that we met. He came on a visit. He noticed me. I—well—we are married now."

She was thankful that his eyes were shut. It made it easier to talk of the future she had arranged, which now was an unalterable thing. She did not enter on the path of confidences. That was impossible. She felt he would not understand her. She felt also that he suffered. Now and then a great anxiety gripped her heart with a mysterious sense of guilt—as though she had betrayed him into the hands of an enemy. With his eyes shut he had an air of weary and pious meditation. She was a little afraid of it. Next moment a great pity for him filled her heart. And in the background there was remorse. His face twitched now and then just perceptibly. He managed to keep his eyelids down till he heard that the 'husband' was a sailor and that he, the father, was being taken straight on board ship ready to sail away from this abominable world of treacheries, and scorns and envies and lies, away, away over the blue sea, the sure, the inaccessible, the uncontaminated and spacious refuge for wounded souls.

Something like that. Not the very words perhaps but such was the general sense of her overwhelming argument—the argument of refuge.

I don't think she gave a thought to material conditions. But as part of that argument set forth breathlessly, as if she were afraid that if she stopped for a moment she could never go on again, she mentioned that generosity of a stormy type, which had come to her from the sea, had caught her up on the brink of unmentionable failure, had whirled her away in its first ardent gust and could be trusted now, implicitly trusted, to carry them both, side by side, into absolute safety.

She believed it, she affirmed it. He understood thoroughly at last, and at once the interior of that cab, of an aspect so pacific in the eyes of the people on the pavements, became the scene of a great agitation. The generosity of Roderick Anthony—the son of the poet—affected the ex-financier de Barral in a manner which must have brought home to Flora de Barral the extreme arduousness of the business of being a woman. Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade since it consists principally of dealings with men. This man—the man inside the cab— cast off his stiff placidity and behaved like an animal. I don't mean it in an offensive sense. What he did was to give way to an instinctive panic. Like some wild creature scared by the first touch of a net falling on its back, old de Barral began to struggle, lank and angular, against the empty air—as much of it as there was in the cab—with staring eyes and gasping mouth from which his daughter shrank as far as she could in the confined space.

"Stop the cab. Stop him I tell you. Let me get out!" were the strangled exclamations she heard. Why? What for? To do what? He would hear nothing. She cried to him "Papa! Papa! What do you want to do?" And all she got from him was: "Stop. I must get out. I want to think. I must get out to think."

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