The Rescue
by Joseph Conrad
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The letter went on to enlarge on the intrigues of Tengga, the wavering conduct of Belarab, and the state of the public mind. It noted every gust of opinion and every event, with an earnestness of belief in their importance befitting the chronicle of a crisis in the history of an empire. The shade of Jorgenson had, indeed, stepped back into the life of men. The old adventurer looked on with a perfect understanding of the value of trifles, using his eyes for that other man whose conscience would have the task to unravel the tangle. Lingard lived through those days in the Settlement and was thankful to Jorgenson; only as he lived not from day to day but from sentence to sentence of the writing, there was an effect of bewildering rapidity in the succession of events that made him grunt with surprise sometimes or growl—"What?" to himself angrily and turn back several lines or a whole page more than once. Toward the end he had a heavy frown of perplexity and fidgeted as he read:

—and I began to think I could keep things quiet till you came or those wretched white people got their schooner off, when Sherif Daman arrived from the north on the very day he was expected, with two Illanun praus. He looks like an Arab. It was very evident to me he can wind the two Illanun pangerans round his little finger. The two praus are large and armed. They came up the creek, flags and streamers flying, beating drums and gongs, and entered the lagoon with their decks full of armed men brandishing two-handed swords and sounding the war cry. It is a fine force for you, only Belarab who is a perverse devil would not receive Sherif Daman at once. So Daman went to see Tengga who detained him a very long time. Leaving Tengga he came on board the Emma, and I could see directly there was something up.

He began by asking me for the ammunition and weapons they are to get from you, saying he was anxious to sail at once toward Wajo, since it was agreed he was to precede you by a few days. I replied that that was true enough but that I could not think of giving him the powder and muskets till you came. He began to talk about you and hinted that perhaps you will never come. "And no matter," says he, "here is Rajah Hassim and the Lady Immada and we would fight for them if no white man was left in the world. Only we must have something to fight with." He pretended then to forget me altogether and talked with Hassim while I sat listening. He began to boast how well he got along the Bruni coast. No Illanun prau had passed down that coast for years.

Immada wanted me to give the arms he was asking for. The girl is beside herself with fear of something happening that would put a stopper on the Wajo expedition. She has set her mind on getting her country back. Hassim is very reserved but he is very anxious, too. Daman got nothing from me, and that very evening the praus were ordered by Belarab to leave the lagoon. He does not trust the Illanuns—and small blame to him. Sherif Daman went like a lamb. He has no powder for his guns. As the praus passed by the Emma he shouted to me he was going to wait for you outside the creek. Tengga has given him a man who would show him the place. All this looks very queer to me.

Look out outside then. The praus are dodging amongst the islets. Daman visits Tengga. Tengga called on me as a good friend to try and persuade me to give Daman the arms and gunpowder he is so anxious to get. Somehow or other they tried to get around Belarab, who came to see me last night and hinted I had better do so. He is anxious for these Illanuns to leave the neighbourhood. He thinks that if they loot the schooner they will be off at once. That's all he wants now. Immada has been to see Belarab's women and stopped two nights in the stockade. Belarab's youngest wife—he got married six weeks ago—is on the side of Tengga's party because she thinks Belarab would get a share of the loot and she got into her silly head there are jewels and silks in that schooner. What between Tengga worrying him outside and the women worrying him at home, Belarab had such a lively time of it that he concluded he would go to pray at his father's tomb. So for the last two days he has been away camping in that unhealthy place. When he comes back he will be down with fever as sure as fate and then he will be no good for anything. Tengga lights up smoky fires often. Some signal to Daman. I go ashore with Hassim's men and put them out. This is risking a fight every time—for Tengga's men look very black at us. I don't know what the next move may be. Hassim's as true as steel. Immada is very unhappy. They will tell you many details I have no time to write.

The last page fluttered on the table out of Lingard's fingers. He sat very still for a moment looking straight before him, then went on deck.

"Our boats back yet?" he asked Shaw, whom he saw prowling on the quarter-deck.

"No, sir, I wish they were. I am waiting for them to go and turn in," answered the mate in an aggrieved manner.

"Lower that lantern forward there," cried Lingard, suddenly, in Malay.

"This trade isn't fit for a decent man," muttered Shaw to himself, and he moved away to lean on the rail, looking moodily to seaward. After a while: "There seems to be commotion on board that yacht," he said. "I see a lot of lights moving about her decks. Anything wrong, do you think, sir?"

"No, I know what it is," said Lingard in a tone of elation. She has done it! he thought.

He returned to the cabin, put away Jorgenson's letter and pulled out the drawer of the table. It was full of cartridges. He took a musket down, loaded it, then took another and another. He hammered at the waddings with fierce joyousness. The ramrods rang and jumped. It seemed to him he was doing his share of some work in which that woman was playing her part faithfully. "She has done it," he repeated, mentally. "She will sit in the cuddy. She will sleep in my berth. Well, I'm not ashamed of the brig. By heavens—no! I shall keep away: never come near them as I've promised. Now there's nothing more to say. I've told her everything at once. There's nothing more."

He felt a heaviness in his burning breast, in all his limbs as if the blood in his veins had become molten lead.

"I shall get the yacht off. Three, four days—no, a week."

He found he couldn't do it under a week. It occurred to him he would see her every day till the yacht was afloat. No, he wouldn't intrude, but he was master and owner of the brig after all. He didn't mean to skulk like a whipped cur about his own decks.

"It'll be ten days before the schooner is ready. I'll take every scrap of ballast out of her. I'll strip her—I'll take her lower masts out of her, by heavens! I'll make sure. Then another week to fit out—and—goodbye. Wish I had never seen them. Good-bye—forever. Home's the place for them. Not for me. On another coast she would not have listened. Ah, but she is a woman—every inch of her. I shall shake hands. Yes. I shall take her hand—just before she goes. Why the devil not? I am master here after all—in this brig—as good as any one—by heavens, better than any one—better than any one on earth."

He heard Shaw walk smartly forward above his head hailing:

"What's that—a boat?"

A voice answered indistinctly.

"One of my boats is back," thought Lingard. "News about Daman perhaps. I don't care if he kicks. I wish he would. I would soon show her I can fight as well as I can handle the brig. Two praus. Only two praus. I wouldn't mind if there were twenty. I would sweep 'em off the sea—I would blow 'em out of the water—I would make the brig walk over them. 'Now,' I'd say to her, 'you who are not afraid, look how it's done!'"

He felt light. He had the sensation of being whirled high in the midst of an uproar and as powerless as a feather in a hurricane. He shuddered profoundly. His arms hung down, and he stood before the table staring like a man overcome by some fatal intelligence.

Shaw, going into the waist to receive what he thought was one of the brig's boats, came against Carter making his way aft hurriedly.

"Hullo! Is it you again?" he said, swiftly, barring the way.

"I come from the yacht," began Carter with some impatience.

"Where else could you come from?" said Shaw. "And what might you want now?"

"I want to see your skipper."

"Well, you can't," declared Shaw, viciously. "He's turned in for the night."

"He expects me," said Carter, stamping his foot. "I've got to tell him what happened."

"Don't you fret yourself, young man," said Shaw in a superior manner; "he knows all about it."

They stood suddenly silent in the dark. Carter seemed at a loss what to do. Shaw, though surprised by it, enjoyed the effect he had produced.

"Damn me, if I did not think so," murmured Carter to himself; then drawling coolly asked—"And perhaps you know, too?"

"What do you think? Think I am a dummy here? I ain't mate of this brig for nothing."

"No, you are not," said Carter with a certain bitterness of tone. "People do all kinds of queer things for a living, and I am not particular myself, but I would think twice before taking your billet."

"What? What do you in-si-nu-ate. My billet? You ain't fit for it, you yacht-swabbing brass-buttoned imposter."

"What's this? Any of our boats back?" asked Lingard from the poop. "Let the seacannie in charge come to me at once."

"There's only a message from the yacht," began Shaw, deliberately.

"Yacht! Get the deck lamps along here in the waist! See the ladder lowered. Bear a hand, serang! Mr. Shaw! Burn the flare up aft. Two of them! Give light to the yacht's boats that will be coming alongside. Steward! Where's that steward? Turn him out then."

Bare feet began to patter all round Carter. Shadows glided swiftly.

"Are these flares coming? Where's the quartermaster on duty?" shouted Lingard in English and Malay. "This way, come here! Put it on a rocket stick—can't you? Hold over the side—thus! Stand by with the lines for the boats forward there. Mr. Shaw—we want more light!"

"Aye, aye, sir," called out Shaw, but he did not move, as if dazed by the vehemence of his commander.

"That's what we want," muttered Carter under his breath. "Imposter! What do you call yourself?" he said half aloud to Shaw.

The ruddy glare of the flares disclosed Lingard from head to foot, standing at the break of the poop. His head was bare, his face, crudely lighted, had a fierce and changing expression in the sway of flames.

"What can be his game?" thought Carter, impressed by the powerful and wild aspect of that figure. "He's changed somehow since I saw him first," he reflected. It struck him the change was serious, not exactly for the worse, perhaps—and yet. . . . Lingard smiled at him from the poop.

Carter went up the steps and without pausing informed him of what had happened.

"Mrs. Travers told me to go to you at once. She's very upset as you may guess," he drawled, looking Lingard hard in the face. Lingard knitted his eyebrows. "The hands, too, are scared," Carter went on. "They fancy the savages, or whatever they may be who stole the owner, are going to board the yacht every minute. I don't think so myself but—"

"Quite right—most unlikely," muttered Lingard.

"Aye, I daresay you know all about it," continued Carter, coolly, "the men are startled and no mistake, but I can't blame them very much. There isn't enough even of carving knives aboard to go round. One old signal gun! A poor show for better men than they."

"There's no mistake I suppose about this affair?" asked Lingard.

"Well, unless the gentlemen are having a lark with us at hide and seek. The man says he waited ten minutes at the point, then pulled slowly along the bank looking out, expecting to see them walking back. He made the trunk of a tree apparently stranded on the sand and as he was sculling past he says a man jumped up from behind that log, flung a stick at him and went off running. He backed water at once and began to shout, 'Are you there, sir?' No one answered. He could hear the bushes rustle and some strange noises like whisperings. It was very dark. After calling out several times, and waiting on his oars, he got frightened and pulled back to the yacht. That is clear enough. The only doubt in my mind is if they are alive or not. I didn't let on to Mrs. Travers. That's a kind of thing you keep to yourself, of course."

"I don't think they are dead," said Lingard, slowly, and as if thinking of something else.

"Oh! If you say so it's all right," said Carter with deliberation.

"What?" asked Lingard, absently; "fling a stick, did they? Fling a spear!"

"That's it!" assented Carter, "but I didn't say anything. I only wondered if the same kind of stick hadn't been flung at the owner, that's all. But I suppose you know your business best, Captain."

Lingard, grasping his whole beard, reflected profoundly, erect and with bowed head in the glare of the flares.

"I suppose you think it's my doing?" he asked, sharply, without looking up.

Carter surveyed him with a candidly curious gaze. "Well, Captain, Mrs. Travers did let on a bit to me about our chief-officer's boat. You've stopped it, haven't you? How she got to know God only knows. She was sorry she spoke, too, but it wasn't so much of news to me as she thought. I can put two and two together, sometimes. Those rockets, last night, eh? I wished I had bitten my tongue out before I told you about our first gig. But I was taken unawares. Wasn't I? I put it to you: wasn't I? And so I told her when she asked me what passed between you and me on board this brig, not twenty-four hours ago. Things look different now, all of a sudden. Enough to scare a woman, but she is the best man of them all on board. The others are fairly off the chump because it's a bit dark and something has happened they ain't used to. But she has something on her mind. I can't make her out!" He paused, wriggled his shoulders slightly—"No more than I can make you out," he added.

"That's your trouble, is it?" said Lingard, slowly.

"Aye, Captain. Is it all clear to you? Stopping boats, kidnapping gentlemen. That's fun in a way, only—I am a youngster to you—but is it all clear to you? Old Robinson wasn't particular, you know, and he—"

"Clearer than daylight," cried Lingard, hotly. "I can't give up—"

He checked himself. Carter waited. The flare bearers stood rigid, turning their faces away from the flame, and in the play of gleams at its foot the mast near by, like a lofty column, ascended in the great darkness. A lot of ropes ran up slanting into a dark void and were lost to sight, but high aloft a brace block gleamed white, the end of a yard-arm could be seen suspended in the air and as if glowing with its own light. The sky had clouded over the brig without a breath of wind.

"Give up," repeated Carter with an uneasy shuffle of feet.

"Nobody," finished Lingard. "I can't. It's as clear as daylight. I can't! No! Nothing!"

He stared straight out afar, and after looking at him Carter felt moved by a bit of youthful intuition to murmur, "That's bad," in a tone that almost in spite of himself hinted at the dawning of a befogged compassion.

He had a sense of confusion within him, the sense of mystery without. He had never experienced anything like it all the time when serving with old Robinson in the Ly-e-moon. And yet he had seen and taken part in some queer doings that were not clear to him at the time. They were secret but they suggested something comprehensible. This affair did not. It had somehow a subtlety that affected him. He was uneasy as if there had been a breath of magic on events and men giving to this complication of a yachting voyage a significance impossible to perceive, but felt in the words, in the gestures, in the events, which made them all strangely, obscurely startling.

He was not one who could keep track of his sensations, and besides he had not the leisure. He had to answer Lingard's questions about the people of the yacht. No, he couldn't say Mrs. Travers was what you may call frightened. She seemed to have something in her mind. Oh, yes! The chaps were in a funk. Would they fight? Anybody would fight when driven to it, funk or no funk. That was his experience. Naturally one liked to have something better than a handspike to do it with. Still—In the pause Carter seemed to weigh with composure the chances of men with handspikes.

"What do you want to fight us for?" he asked, suddenly.

Lingard started.

"I don't," he said; "I wouldn't be asking you."

"There's no saying what you would do, Captain," replied Carter; "it isn't twenty-four hours since you wanted to shoot me."

"I only said I would, rather than let you go raising trouble for me," explained Lingard.

"One night isn't like another," mumbled Carter, "but how am I to know? It seems to me you are making trouble for yourself as fast as you can."

"Well, supposing I am," said Lingard with sudden gloominess. "Would your men fight if I armed them properly?"

"What—for you or for themselves?" asked Carter.

"For the woman," burst out Lingard. "You forget there's a woman on board. I don't care that for their carcases."

Carter pondered conscientiously.

"Not to-night," he said at last. "There's one or two good men amongst them, but the rest are struck all of a heap. Not to-night. Give them time to get steady a bit if you want them to fight."

He gave facts and opinions with a mixture of loyalty and mistrust. His own state puzzled him exceedingly. He couldn't make out anything, he did not know what to believe and yet he had an impulsive desire, an inspired desire to help the man. At times it appeared a necessity—at others policy; between whiles a great folly, which perhaps did not matter because he suspected himself of being helpless anyway. Then he had moments of anger. In those moments he would feel in his pocket the butt of a loaded pistol. He had provided himself with the weapon, when directed by Mrs. Travers to go on board the brig.

"If he wants to interfere with me, I'll let drive at him and take my chance of getting away," he had explained hurriedly.

He remembered how startled Mrs. Travers looked. Of course, a woman like that—not used to hear such talk. Therefore it was no use listening to her, except for good manners' sake. Once bit twice shy. He had no mind to be kidnapped, not he, nor bullied either.

"I can't let him nab me, too. You will want me now, Mrs. Travers," he had said; "and I promise you not to fire off the old thing unless he jolly well forces me to."

He was youthfully wise in his resolution not to give way to her entreaties, though her extraordinary agitation did stagger him for a moment. When the boat was already on its way to the brig, he remembered her calling out after him:

"You must not! You don't understand."

Her voice coming faintly in the darkness moved him, it resembled so much a cry of distress.

"Give way, boys, give way," he urged his men.

He was wise, resolute, and he was also youthful enough to almost wish it should "come to it." And with foresight he even instructed the boat's crew to keep the gig just abaft the main rigging of the brig.

"When you see me drop into her all of a sudden, shove off and pull for dear life."

Somehow just then he was not so anxious for a shot, but he held on with a determined mental grasp to his fine resolution, lest it should slip away from him and perish in a sea of doubts.

"Hadn't I better get back to the yacht?" he asked, gently.

Getting no answer he went on with deliberation:

"Mrs. Travers ordered me to say that no matter how this came about she is ready to trust you. She is waiting for some kind of answer, I suppose."

"Ready to trust me," repeated Lingard. His eyes lit up fiercely.

Every sway of flares tossed slightly to and fro the massy shadows of the main deck, where here and there the figure of a man could be seen standing very still with a dusky face and glittering eyeballs.

Carter stole his hand warily into his breast pocket:

"Well, Captain," he said. He was not going to be bullied, let the owner's wife trust whom she liked.

"Have you got anything in writing for me there?" asked Lingard, advancing a pace, exultingly.

Carter, alert, stepped back to keep his distance. Shaw stared from the side; his rubicund cheeks quivered, his round eyes seemed starting out of his head, and his mouth was open as though he had been ready to choke with pent-up curiosity, amazement, and indignation.

"No! Not in writing," said Carter, steadily and low.

Lingard had the air of being awakened by a shout. A heavy and darkening frown seemed to fall out of the night upon his forehead and swiftly passed into the night again, and when it departed it left him so calm, his glance so lucid, his mien so composed that it was difficult to believe the man's heart had undergone within the last second the trial of humiliation and of danger. He smiled sadly:

"Well, young man," he asked with a kind of good-humoured resignation, "what is it you have there? A knife or a pistol?"

"A pistol," said Carter. "Are you surprised, Captain?" He spoke with heat because a sense of regret was stealing slowly within him, as stealthily, as irresistibly as the flowing tide. "Who began these tricks?" He withdrew his hand, empty, and raised his voice. "You are up to something I can't make out. You—you are not straight."

The flares held on high streamed right up without swaying, and in that instant of profound calm the shadows on the brig's deck became as still as the men.

"You think not?" said Lingard, thoughtfully.

Carter nodded. He resented the turn of the incident and the growing impulse to surrender to that man.

"Mrs. Travers trusts me though," went on Lingard with gentle triumph as if advancing an unanswerable argument.

"So she says," grunted Carter; "I warned her. She's a baby. They're all as innocent as babies there. And you know it. And I know it. I've heard of your kind. You would dump the lot of us overboard if it served your turn. That's what I think."

"And that's all."

Carter nodded slightly and looked away. There was a silence. Lingard's eyes travelled over the brig. The lighted part of the vessel appeared in bright and wavering detail walled and canopied by the night. He felt a light breath on his face. The air was stirring, but the Shallows, silent and lost in the darkness, gave no sound of life.

This stillness oppressed Lingard. The world of his endeavours and his hopes seemed dead, seemed gone. His desire existed homeless in the obscurity that had devoured his corner of the sea, this stretch of the coast, his certitude of success. And here in the midst of what was the domain of his adventurous soul there was a lost youngster ready to shoot him on suspicion of some extravagant treachery. Came ready to shoot! That's good, too! He was too weary to laugh—and perhaps too sad. Also the danger of the pistol-shot, which he believed real—the young are rash—irritated him. The night and the spot were full of contradictions. It was impossible to say who in this shadowy warfare was to be an enemy, and who were the allies. So close were the contacts issuing from this complication of a yachting voyage, that he seemed to have them all within his breast.

"Shoot me! He is quite up to that trick—damn him. Yet I would trust him sooner than any man in that yacht."

Such were his thoughts while he looked at Carter, who was biting his lips, in the vexation of the long silence. When they spoke again to each other they talked soberly, with a sense of relief, as if they had come into cool air from an overheated room and when Carter, dismissed, went into his boat, he had practically agreed to the line of action traced by Lingard for the crew of the yacht. He had agreed as if in implicit confidence. It was one of the absurdities of the situation which had to be accepted and could never be understood.

"Do I talk straight now?" had asked Lingard.

"It seems straight enough," assented Carter with an air of reserve; "I will work with you so far anyhow."

"Mrs. Travers trusts me," remarked Lingard again.

"By the Lord Harry!" cried Carter, giving way suddenly to some latent conviction. "I was warning her against you. Say, Captain, you are a devil of a man. How did you manage it?"

"I trusted her," said Lingard.

"Did you?" cried the amazed Carter. "When? How? Where—"

"You know too much already," retorted Lingard, quietly. "Waste no time. I will be after you."

Carter whistled low.

"There's a pair of you I can't make out," he called back, hurrying over the side.

Shaw took this opportunity to approach. Beginning with hesitation: "A word with you, sir," the mate went on to say he was a respectable man. He delivered himself in a ringing, unsteady voice. He was married, he had children, he abhorred illegality. The light played about his obese figure, he had flung his mushroom hat on the deck, he was not afraid to speak the truth. The grey moustache stood out aggressively, his glances were uneasy; he pressed his hands to his stomach convulsively, opened his thick, short arms wide, wished it to be understood he had been chief-officer of home ships, with a spotless character and he hoped "quite up to his work." He was a peaceable man, none more; disposed to stretch a point when it "came to a difference with niggers of some kind—they had to be taught manners and reason" and he was not averse at a pinch to—but here were white people—gentlemen, ladies, not to speak of the crew. He had never spoken to a superior like this before, and this was prudence, his conviction, a point of view, a point of principle, a conscious superiority and a burst of resentment hoarded through years against all the successive and unsatisfactory captains of his existence. There never had been such an opportunity to show he could not be put upon. He had one of them on a string and he was going to lead him a dance. There was courage, too, in it, since he believed himself fallen unawares into the clutches of a particularly desperate man and beyond the reach of law.

A certain small amount of calculation entered the audacity of his remonstrance. Perhaps—it flashed upon him—the yacht's gentry will hear I stood up for them. This could conceivably be of advantage to a man who wanted a lift in the world. "Owner of a yacht—badly scared—a gentleman—money nothing to him." Thereupon Shaw declared with heat that he couldn't be an accessory either after or before the fact. Those that never went home—who had nothing to go to perhaps—he interjected, hurriedly, could do as they liked. He couldn't. He had a wife, a family, a little house—paid for—with difficulty. He followed the sea respectably out and home, all regular, not vagabonding here and there, chumming with the first nigger that came along and laying traps for his betters.

One of the two flare bearers sighed at his elbow, and shifted his weight to the other foot.

These two had been keeping so perfectly still that the movement was as startling as if a statue had changed its pose. After looking at the offender with cold malevolence, Shaw went on to speak of law-courts, of trials, and of the liberty of the subject; then he pointed out the certitude and the inconvenience of being found out, affecting for the moment the dispassionateness of wisdom.

"There will be fifteen years in gaol at the end of this job for everybody," said Shaw, "and I have a boy that don't know his father yet. Fine things for him to learn when he grows up. The innocent are dead certain here to catch it along with you. The missus will break her heart unless she starves first. Home sold up."

He saw a mysterious iniquity in a dangerous relation to himself and began to lose his head. What he really wanted was to have his existence left intact, for his own cherishing and pride. It was a moral aspiration, but in his alarm the native grossness of his nature came clattering out like a devil out of a trap. He would blow the gaff, split, give away the whole show, he would back up honest people, kiss the book, say what he thought, let all the world know . . . and when he paused to draw breath, all around him was silent and still. Before the impetus of that respectable passion his words were scattered like chaff driven by a gale and rushed headlong into the night of the Shallows. And in the great obscurity, imperturbable, it heard him say he "washed his hands of everything."

"And the brig?" asked Lingard, suddenly.

Shaw was checked. For a second the seaman in him instinctively admitted the claim of the ship.

"The brig. The brig. She's right enough," he mumbled. He had nothing to say against the brig—not he. She wasn't like the big ships he was used to, but of her kind the best craft he ever. . . . And with a brusque return upon himself, he protested that he had been decoyed on board under false pretences. It was as bad as being shanghaied when in liquor. It was—upon his soul. And into a craft next thing to a pirate! That was the name for it or his own name was not Shaw. He said this glaring owlishly. Lingard, perfectly still and mute, bore the blows without a sign.

The silly fuss of that man seared his very soul. There was no end to this plague of fools coming to him from the forgotten ends of the earth. A fellow like that could not be told. No one could be told. Blind they came and blind they would go out. He admitted reluctantly, but without doubt, that as if pushed by a force from outside he would have to try and save two of them. To this end he foresaw the probable need of leaving his brig for a time. He would have to leave her with that man. The mate. He had engaged him himself—to make his insurance valid—to be able sometimes to speak—to have near him. Who would have believed such a fool-man could exist on the face of the sea! Who? Leave the brig with him. The brig!

Ever since sunset, the breeze kept off by the heat of the day had been trying to re-establish in the darkness its sway over the Shoals. Its approaches had been heard in the night, its patient murmurs, its foiled sighs; but now a surprisingly heavy puff came in a free rush as if, far away there to the northward, the last defence of the calm had been victoriously carried. The flames borne down streamed bluishly, horizontal and noisy at the end of tall sticks, like fluttering pennants; and behold, the shadows on the deck went mad and jostled each other as if trying to escape from a doomed craft, the darkness, held up dome-like by the brilliant glare, seemed to tumble headlong upon the brig in an overwhelming downfall, the men stood swaying as if ready to fall under the ruins of a black and noiseless disaster. The blurred outlines of the brig, the masts, the rigging, seemed to shudder in the terror of coming extinction—and then the darkness leaped upward again, the shadows returned to their places, the men were seen distinct, swarthy, with calm faces, with glittering eyeballs. The destruction in the breath had passed, was gone.

A discord of three voices raised together in a drawling wail trailed on the sudden immobility of the air.

"Brig ahoy! Give us a rope!"

The first boat-load from the yacht emerged floating slowly into the pool of purple light wavering round the brig on the black water. Two men squeezed in the bows pulled uncomfortably; in the middle, on a heap of seamen's canvas bags, another sat, insecure, propped with both arms, stiff-legged, angularly helpless. The light from the poop brought everything out in lurid detail, and the boat floating slowly toward the brig had a suspicious and pitiful aspect. The shabby load lumbering her looked somehow as if it had been stolen by those men who resembled castaways. In the sternsheets Carter, standing up, steered with his leg. He had a smile of youthful sarcasm.

"Here they are!" he cried to Lingard. "You've got your own way, Captain. I thought I had better come myself with the first precious lot—"

"Pull around the stern. The brig's on the swing," interrupted Lingard.

"Aye, aye! We'll try not to smash the brig. We would be lost indeed if—fend off there, John; fend off, old reliable, if you care a pin for your salty hide. I like the old chap," he said, when he stood by Lingard's side looking down at the boat which was being rapidly cleared by whites and Malays working shoulder to shoulder in silence. "I like him. He don't belong to that yachting lot either. They picked him up on the road somewhere. Look at the old dog—carved out of a ship's timber—as talkative as a fish—grim as a gutted wreck. That's the man for me. All the others there are married, or going to be, or ought to be, or sorry they ain't. Every man jack of them has a petticoat in tow—dash me! Never heard in all my travels such a jabber about wives and kids. Hurry up with your dunnage—below there! Aye! I had no difficulty in getting them to clear out from the yacht. They never saw a pair of gents stolen before—you understand. It upset all their little notions of what a stranding means, hereabouts. Not that mine aren't mixed a bit, too—and yet I've seen a thing or two."

His excitement was revealed in this boyish impulse to talk.

"Look," he said, pointing at the growing pile of bags and bedding on the brig's quarter-deck. "Look. Don't they mean to sleep soft—and dream of home—maybe. Home. Think of that, Captain. These chaps can't get clear away from it. It isn't like you and me—"

Lingard made a movement.

"I ran away myself when so high. My old man's a Trinity pilot. That's a job worth staying at home for. Mother writes sometimes, but they can't miss me much. There's fourteen of us altogether—eight at home yet. No fear of the old country ever getting undermanned—let die who must. Only let it be a fair game, Captain. Let's have a fair show."

Lingard assured him briefly he should have it. That was the very reason he wanted the yacht's crew in the brig, he added. Then quiet and grave he inquired whether that pistol was still in Carter's pocket.

"Never mind that," said the young man, hurriedly. "Remember who began. To be shot at wouldn't rile me so much—it's being threatened, don't you see, that was heavy on my chest. Last night is very far off though—and I will be hanged if I know what I meant exactly when I took the old thing from its nail. There. More I can't say till all's settled one way or another. Will that do?"

Flushing brick red, he suspended his judgment and stayed his hand with the generosity of youth.

. . . . . . .

Apparently it suited Lingard to be reprieved in that form. He bowed his head slowly. It would do. To leave his life to that youngster's ignorance seemed to redress the balance of his mind against a lot of secret intentions. It was distasteful and bitter as an expiation should be. He also held a life in his hand; a life, and many deaths besides, but these were like one single feather in the scales of his conscience. That he should feel so was unavoidable because his strength would at no price permit itself to be wasted. It would not be—and there was an end of it. All he could do was to throw in another risk into the sea of risks. Thus was he enabled to recognize that a drop of water in the ocean makes a great difference. His very desire, unconquered, but exiled, had left the place where he could constantly hear its voice. He saw it, he saw himself, the past, the future, he saw it all, shifting and indistinct like those shapes the strained eye of a wanderer outlines in darker strokes upon the face of the night.


When Lingard went to his boat to follow Carter, who had gone back to the yacht, Wasub, mast and sail on shoulder, preceded him down the ladder. The old man leaped in smartly and busied himself in getting the dinghy ready for his commander.

In that little boat Lingard was accustomed to traverse the Shallows alone. She had a short mast and a lug-sail, carried two easily, floated in a few inches of water. In her he was independent of a crew, and, if the wind failed, could make his way with a pair of sculls taking short cuts over shoal places. There were so many islets and sandbanks that in case of sudden bad weather there was always a lee to be found, and when he wished to land he could pull her up a beach, striding ahead, painter in hand, like a giant child dragging a toy boat. When the brig was anchored within the Shallows it was in her that he visited the lagoon. Once, when caught by a sudden freshening of the sea-breeze, he had waded up a shelving bank carrying her on his head and for two days they had rested together on the sand, while around them the shallow waters raged lividly, and across three miles of foam the brig would time after time dissolve in the mist and re-appear distinct, nodding her tall spars that seemed to touch a weeping sky of lamentable greyness.

Whenever he came into the lagoon tugging with bare arms, Jorgenson, who would be watching the entrance of the creek ever since a muffled detonation of a gun to seaward had warned him of the brig's arrival on the Shore of Refuge, would mutter to himself—"Here's Tom coming in his nutshell." And indeed she was in shape somewhat like half a nutshell and also in the colour of her dark varnished planks. The man's shoulders and head rose high above her gunwales; loaded with Lingard's heavy frame she would climb sturdily the steep ridges, slide squatting into the hollows of the sea, or, now and then, take a sedate leap over a short wave. Her behaviour had a stout trustworthiness about it, and she reminded one of a surefooted mountain-pony carrying over difficult ground a rider much bigger than himself.

Wasub wiped the thwarts, ranged the mast and sail along the side, shipped the rowlocks. Lingard looked down at his old servant's spare shoulders upon which the light from above fell unsteady but vivid. Wasub worked for the comfort of his commander and his singleminded absorption in that task flashed upon Lingard the consolation of an act of friendliness. The elderly Malay at last lifted his head with a deferential murmur; his wrinkled old face with half a dozen wiry hairs pendulous at each corner of the dark lips expressed a kind of weary satisfaction, and the slightly oblique worn eyes stole a discreet upward glance containing a hint of some remote meaning. Lingard found himself compelled by the justice of that obscure claim to murmur as he stepped into the boat:

"These are times of danger."

He sat down and took up the sculls. Wasub held on to the gunwale as to a last hope of a further confidence. He had served in the brig five years. Lingard remembered that very well. This aged figure had been intimately associated with the brig's life and with his own, appearing silently ready for every incident and emergency in an unquestioning expectation of orders; symbolic of blind trust in his strength, of an unlimited obedience to his will. Was it unlimited?

"We shall require courage and fidelity," added Lingard, in a tentative tone.

"There are those who know me," snapped the old man, readily, as if the words had been waiting for a long time. "Observe, Tuan. I have filled with fresh water the little breaker in the bows."

"I know you, too," said Lingard.

"And the wind—and the sea," ejaculated the serang, jerkily. "These also are faithful to the strong. By Allah! I who am a pilgrim and have listened to words of wisdom in many places, I tell you, Tuan, there is strength in the knowledge of what is hidden in things without life, as well as in the living men. Will Tuan be gone long?"

"I come back in a short time—together with the rest of the whites from over there. This is the beginning of many stratagems. Wasub! Daman, the son of a dog, has suddenly made prisoners two of my own people. My face is made black."

"Tse! Tse! What ferocity is that! One should not offer shame to a friend or to a friend's brother lest revenge come sweeping like a flood. Yet can an Illanun chief be other than tyrannical? My old eyes have seen much but they never saw a tiger change its stripes. Ya-wa! The tiger can not. This is the wisdom of us ignorant Malay men. The wisdom of white Tuans is great. They think that by the power of many speeches the tiger may—" He broke off and in a crisp, busy tone said: "The rudder dwells safely under the aftermost seat should Tuan be pleased to sail the boat. This breeze will not die away before sunrise." Again his voice changed as if two different souls had been flitting in and out of his body. "No, no, kill the tiger and then the stripes may be counted without fear—one by one, thus."

He pointed a frail brown finger and, abruptly, made a mirthless dry sound as if a rattle had been sprung in his throat.

"The wretches are many," said Lingard.

"Nay, Tuan. They follow their great men even as we in the brig follow you. That is right."

Lingard reflected for a moment.

"My men will follow me then," he said.

"They are poor calashes without sense," commented Wasub with pitying superiority. "Some with no more comprehension than men of the bush freshly caught. There is Sali, the foolish son of my sister and by your great favour appointed to mind the tiller of this ship. His stupidity is extreme, but his eyes are good—nearly as good as mine that by praying and much exercise can see far into the night."

Lingard laughed low and then looked earnestly at the serang. Above their heads a man shook a flare over the side and a thin shower of sparks floated downward and expired before touching the water.

"So you can see in the night, O serang! Well, then, look and speak. Speak! Fight—or no fight? Weapons or words? Which folly? Well, what do you see?"

"A darkness, a darkness," whispered Wasub at last in a frightened tone. "There are nights—" He shook his head and muttered. "Look. The tide has turned. Ya, Tuan. The tide has turned."

Lingard looked downward where the water could be seen, gliding past the ship's side, moving smoothly, streaked with lines of froth, across the illumined circle thrown round the brig by the lights on her poop. Air bubbles sparkled, lines of darkness, ripples of glitter appeared, glided, went astern without a splash, without a trickle, without a plaint, without a break. The unchecked gentleness of the flow captured the eye by a subtle spell, fastened insidiously upon the mind a disturbing sense of the irretrievable. The ebbing of the sea athwart the lonely sheen of flames resembled the eternal ebb-tide of time; and when at last Lingard looked up, the knowledge of that noiseless passage of the waters produced on his mind a bewildering effect. For a moment the speck of light lost in vast obscurity the brig, the boat, the hidden coast, the Shallows, the very walls and roof of darkness—the seen and the unseen alike seemed to be gliding smoothly onward through the enormous gloom of space. Then, with a great mental effort, he brought everything to a sudden standstill; and only the froth and bubbles went on streaming past ceaselessly, unchecked by the power of his will.

"The tide has turned—you say, serang? Has it—? Well, perhaps it has, perhaps it has," he finished, muttering to himself.

"Truly it has. Can not Tuan see it run under his own eyes?" said Wasub with an alarmed earnestness. "Look. Now it is in my mind that a prau coming from amongst the southern islands, if steered cunningly in the free set of the current, would approach the bows of this, our brig, drifting silently as a shape without a substance."

"And board suddenly—is that it?" said Lingard.

"Daman is crafty and the Illanuns are very bloodthirsty. Night is nothing to them. They are certainly valorous. Are they not born in the midst of fighting and are they not inspired by the evil of their hearts even before they can speak? And their chiefs would be leading them while you, Tuan, are going from us even now—"

"You don't want me to go?" asked Lingard.

For a time Wasub listened attentively to the profound silence.

"Can we fight without a leader?" he began again. "It is the belief in victory that gives courage. And what would poor calashes do, sons of peasants and fishermen, freshly caught—without knowledge? They believe in your strength—and in your power—or else—Will those whites that came so suddenly avenge you? They are here like fish within the stakes. Ya-wa! Who will bring the news and who will come to find the truth and perchance to carry off your body? You go alone, Tuan!"

"There must be no fighting. It would be a calamity," insisted Lingard. "There is blood that must not be spilt."

"Hear, Tuan!" exclaimed Wasub with heat. "The waters are running out now." He punctuated his speech by slight jerks at the dinghy. "The waters go and at the appointed time they shall return. And if between their going and coming the blood of all the men in the world were poured into it, the sea would not rise higher at the full by the breadth of my finger nail."

"But the world would not be the same. You do not see that, serang. Give the boat a good shove."

"Directly," said the old Malay and his face became impassive. "Tuan knows when it is best to go, and death sometimes retreats before a firm tread like a startled snake. Tuan should take a follower with him, not a silly youth, but one who has lived—who has a steady heart—who would walk close behind watchfully—and quietly. Yes. Quietly and with quick eyes—like mine—perhaps with a weapon—I know how to strike."

Lingard looked at the wrinkled visage very near his own and into the peering old eyes. They shone strangely. A tense eagerness was expressed in the squatting figure leaning out toward him. On the other side, within reach of his arm, the night stood like a wall -discouraging—opaque—impenetrable. No help would avail. The darkness he had to combat was too impalpable to be cleft by a blow—too dense to be pierced by the eye; yet as if by some enchantment in the words that made this vain offer of fidelity, it became less overpowering to his sight, less crushing to his thought. He had a moment of pride which soothed his heart for the space of two beats. His unreasonable and misjudged heart, shrinking before the menace of failure, expanded freely with a sense of generous gratitude. In the threatening dimness of his emotions this man's offer made a point of clearness, the glimmer of a torch held aloft in the night. It was priceless, no doubt, but ineffectual; too small, too far, too solitary. It did not dispel the mysterious obscurity that had descended upon his fortunes so that his eyes could no longer see the work of his hands. The sadness of defeat pervaded the world.

"And what could you do, O Wasub?" he said.

"I could always call out—'Take care, Tuan.'"

"And then for these charm-words of mine. Hey? Turn danger aside? What? But perchance you would die all the same. Treachery is a strong magic, too—as you said."

"Yes, indeed! The order might come to your servant. But I—Wasub—the son of a free man, a follower of Rajahs, a fugitive, a slave, a pilgrim—diver for pearls, serang of white men's ships, I have had too many masters. Too many. You are the last." After a silence he said in an almost indifferent voice: "If you go, Tuan, let us go together."

For a time Lingard made no sound.

"No use," he said at last. "No use, serang. One life is enough to pay for a man's folly—and you have a household."

"I have two—Tuan; but it is a long time since I sat on the ladder of a house to talk at ease with neighbours. Yes. Two households; one in—" Lingard smiled faintly. "Tuan, let me follow you."

"No. You have said it, serang—I am alone. That is true, and alone I shall go on this very night. But first I must bring all the white people here. Push."

"Ready, Tuan? Look out!"

Wasub's body swung over the sea with extended arms. Lingard caught up the sculls, and as the dinghy darted away from the brig's side he had a complete view of the lighted poop—Shaw leaning massively over the taffrail in sulky dejection, the flare bearers erect and rigid, the heads along the rail, the eyes staring after him above the bulwarks. The fore-end of the brig was wrapped in a lurid and sombre mistiness; the sullen mingling of darkness and of light; her masts pointing straight up could be tracked by torn gleams and vanished above as if the trucks had been tall enough to pierce the heavy mass of vapours motionless overhead. She was beautifully precious. His loving eyes saw her floating at rest in a wavering halo, between an invisible sky and an invisible sea, like a miraculous craft suspended in the air. He turned his head away as if the sight had been too much for him at the moment of separation, and, as soon as his little boat had passed beyond the limit of the light thrown upon the water, he perceived very low in the black void of the west the stern lantern of the yacht shining feebly like a star about to set, unattainable, infinitely remote—belonging to another universe.



Lingard brought Mrs. Travers away from the yacht, going alone with her in the little boat. During the bustle of the embarkment, and till the last of the crew had left the schooner, he had remained towering and silent by her side. It was only when the murmuring and uneasy voices of the sailors going away in the boats had been completely lost in the distance that his voice was heard, grave in the silence, pronouncing the words—"Follow me." She followed him; their footsteps rang hollow and loud on the empty deck. At the bottom of the steps he turned round and said very low:

"Take care."

He got into the boat and held on. It seemed to him that she was intimidated by the darkness. She felt her arm gripped firmly—"I've got you," he said. She stepped in, headlong, trusting herself blindly to his grip, and sank on the stern seat catching her breath a little. She heard a slight splash, and the indistinct side of the deserted yacht melted suddenly into the body of the night.

Rowing, he faced her, a hooded and cloaked shape, and above her head he had before his eyes the gleam of the stern lantern expiring slowly on the abandoned vessel. When it went out without a warning flicker he could see nothing of the stranded yacht's outline. She had vanished utterly like a dream; and the occurrences of the last twenty-four hours seemed also to be a part of a vanished dream. The hooded and cloaked figure was part of it, too. It spoke not; it moved not; it would vanish presently. Lingard tried to remember Mrs. Travers' features, even as she sat within two feet of him in the boat. He seemed to have taken from that vanished schooner not a woman but a memory—the tormenting recollection of a human being he would see no more.

At every stroke of the short sculls Mrs. Travers felt the boat leap forward with her. Lingard, to keep his direction, had to look over his shoulder frequently—"You will be safe in the brig," he said. She was silent. A dream! A dream! He lay back vigorously; the water slapped loudly against the blunt bows. The ruddy glow thrown afar by the flares was reflected deep within the hood. The dream had a pale visage, the memory had living eyes.

"I had to come for you myself," he said.

"I expected it of you." These were the first words he had heard her say since they had met for the third time.

"And I swore—before you, too—that I would never put my foot on board your craft."

"It was good of you to—" she began.

"I forgot somehow," he said, simply.

"I expected it of you," she repeated. He gave three quick strokes before he asked very gently:

"What more do you expect?"

"Everything," she said. He was rounding then the stern of the brig and had to look away. Then he turned to her.

"And you trust me to—" he exclaimed.

"I would like to trust you," she interrupted, "because—"

Above them a startled voice cried in Malay, "Captain coming." The strange sound silenced her. Lingard laid in his sculls and she saw herself gliding under the high side of the brig. A dark, staring face appeared very near her eyes, black fingers caught the gunwale of the boat. She stood up swaying. "Take care," said Lingard again, but this time, in the light, did not offer to help her. She went up alone and he followed her over the rail.

The quarter-deck was thronged by men of two races. Lingard and Mrs. Travers crossed it rapidly between the groups that moved out of the way on their passage. Lingard threw open the cabin door for her, but remained on deck to inquire about his boats. They had returned while he was on board the yacht, and the two men in charge of them came aft to make their reports. The boat sent north had seen nothing. The boat which had been directed to explore the banks and islets to the south had actually been in sight of Daman's praus. The man in charge reported that several fires were burning on the shore, the crews of the two praus being encamped on a sandbank. Cooking was going on. They had been near enough to hear the voices. There was a man keeping watch on the ridge; they knew this because they heard him shouting to the people below, by the fires. Lingard wanted to know how they had managed to remain unseen. "The night was our hiding place," answered the man in his deep growling voice. He knew nothing of any white men being in Daman's camp. Why should there be? Rajah Hassim and the Lady, his sister, appeared unexpectedly near his boat in their canoe. Rajah Hassim had ordered him then in whispers to go back to the brig at once, and tell Tuan what he had observed. Rajah Hassim said also that he would return to the brig with more news very soon. He obeyed because the Rajah was to him a person of authority, "having the perfect knowledge of Tuan's mind as we all know."—"Enough," cried Lingard, suddenly.

The man looked up heavily for a moment, and retreated forward without another word. Lingard followed him with irritated eyes. A new power had come into the world, had possessed itself of human speech, had imparted to it a sinister irony of allusion. To be told that someone had "a perfect knowledge of his mind" startled him and made him wince. It made him aware that now he did not know his mind himself—that it seemed impossible for him ever to regain that knowledge. And the new power not only had cast its spell upon the words he had to hear, but also upon the facts that assailed him, upon the people he saw, upon the thoughts he had to guide, upon the feelings he had to bear. They remained what they had ever been—the visible surface of life open in the sun to the conquering tread of an unfettered will. Yesterday they could have been discerned clearly, mastered and despised; but now another power had come into the world, and had cast over them all the wavering gloom of a dark and inscrutable purpose.


Recovering himself with a slight start Lingard gave the order to extinguish all the lights in the brig. Now the transfer of the crew from the yacht had been effected there was every advantage in the darkness. He gave the order from instinct, it being the right thing to do in the circumstances. His thoughts were in the cabin of his brig, where there was a woman waiting. He put his hand over his eyes, collecting himself as if before a great mental effort. He could hear about him the excited murmurs of the white men whom in the morning he had so ardently desired to have safe in his keeping. He had them there now; but accident, ill-luck, a cursed folly, had tricked him out of the success of his plan. He would have to go in and talk to Mrs. Travers. The idea dismayed him. Of necessity he was not one of those men who have the mastery of expression. To liberate his soul was for him a gigantic undertaking, a matter of desperate effort, of doubtful success. "I must have it out with her," he murmured to himself as though at the prospect of a struggle. He was uncertain of himself, of her; he was uncertain of everything and everybody; but he was very certain he wanted to look at her.

At the moment he turned to the door of the cabin both flares went out together and the black vault of the night upheld above the brig by the fierce flames fell behind him and buried the deck in sudden darkness. The buzz of strange voices instantly hummed louder with a startled note. "Hallo!"—"Can't see a mortal thing"—"Well, what next?"—insisted a voice—"I want to know what next?"

Lingard checked himself ready to open the door and waited absurdly for the answer as though in the hope of some suggestion. "What's up with you? Think yourself lucky," said somebody.—"It's all very well—for to-night," began the voice.—"What are you fashing yourself for?" remonstrated the other, reasonably, "we'll get home right enough."—"I am not so sure; the second mate he says—" "Never mind what he says; that 'ere man who has got this brig will see us through. The owner's wife will talk to him—she will. Money can do a lot." The two voices came nearer, and spoke more distinctly, close behind Lingard. "Suppose them blooming savages set fire to the yacht. What's to prevent them?"—"And suppose they do. This 'ere brig's good enough to get away in. Ain't she? Guns and all. We'll get home yet all right. What do you say, John?"

"I say nothing and care less," said a third voice, peaceful and faint.

"D'you mean to say, John, you would go to the bottom as soon as you would go home? Come now!"—"To the bottom," repeated the wan voice, composedly. "Aye! That's where we all are going to, in one way or another. The way don't matter."

"Ough! You would give the blues to the funny man of a blooming circus. What would my missus say if I wasn't to turn up never at all?"—"She would get another man; there's always plenty of fools about." A quiet and mirthless chuckle was heard in the pause of shocked silence. Lingard, with his hand on the door, remained still. Further off a growl burst out: "I do hate to be chucked in the dark aboard a strange ship. I wonder where they keep their fresh water. Can't get any sense out of them silly niggers. We don't seem to be more account here than a lot of cattle. Likely as not we'll have to berth on this blooming quarter-deck for God knows how long." Then again very near Lingard the first voice said, deadened discreetly—"There's something curious about this here brig turning up sudden-like, ain't there? And that skipper of her—now? What kind of a man is he—anyhow?"

"Oh, he's one of them skippers going about loose. The brig's his own, I am thinking. He just goes about in her looking for what he may pick up honest or dishonest. My brother-in-law has served two commissions in these seas, and was telling me awful yarns about what's going on in them God-forsaken parts. Likely he lied, though. Them man-of-war's men are a holy terror for yarns. Bless you, what do I care who this skipper is? Let him do his best and don't trouble your head. You won't see him again in your life once we get clear."

"And can he do anything for the owner?" asked the first voice again.—"Can he! We can do nothing—that's one thing certain. The owner may be lying clubbed to death this very minute for all we know. By all accounts these savages here are a crool murdering lot. Mind you, I am sorry for him as much as anybody."—"Aye, aye," muttered the other, approvingly.—"He may not have been ready, poor man," began again the reasonable voice. Lingard heard a deep sigh.—"If there's anything as can be done for him, the owner's wife she's got to fix it up with this 'ere skipper. Under Providence he may serve her turn."

Lingard flung open the cabin door, entered, and, with a slam, shut the darkness out.

"I am, under Providence, to serve your turn," he said after standing very still for a while, with his eyes upon Mrs. Travers. The brig's swing-lamp lighted the cabin with an extraordinary brilliance. Mrs. Travers had thrown back her hood. The radiant brightness of the little place enfolded her so close, clung to her with such force that it might have been part of her very essence. There were no shadows on her face; it was fiercely lighted, hermetically closed, of impenetrable fairness.

Lingard looked in unconscious ecstasy at this vision, so amazing that it seemed to have strayed into his existence from beyond the limits of the conceivable. It was impossible to guess her thoughts, to know her feelings, to understand her grief or her joy. But she knew all that was at the bottom of his heart. He had told her himself, impelled by a sudden thought, going to her in darkness, in desperation, in absurd hope, in incredible trust. He had told her what he had told no one on earth, except perhaps, at times, himself, but without words—less clearly. He had told her and she had listened in silence. She had listened leaning over the rail till at last her breath was on his forehead. He remembered this and had a moment of soaring pride and of unutterable dismay. He spoke, with an effort.

"You've heard what I said just now? Here I am."

"Do you expect me to say something?" she asked. "Is it necessary? Is it possible?"

"No," he answered. "It is said already. I know what you expect from me. Everything."

"Everything," she repeated, paused, and added much lower, "It is the very least." He seemed to lose himself in thought.

"It is extraordinary," he reflected half aloud, "how I dislike that man." She leaned forward a little.

"Remember those two men are innocent," she began.

"So am I—innocent. So is everybody in the world. Have you ever met a man or a woman that was not? They've got to take their chances all the same."

"I expect you to be generous," she said.

"To you?"

"Well—to me. Yes—if you like to me alone."

"To you alone! And you know everything!" His voice dropped. "You want your happiness."

She made an impatient movement and he saw her clench the hand that was lying on the table.

"I want my husband back," she said, sharply.

"Yes. Yes. It's what I was saying. Same thing," he muttered with strange placidity. She looked at him searchingly. He had a large simplicity that filled one's vision. She found herself slowly invaded by this masterful figure. He was not mediocre. Whatever he might have been he was not mediocre. The glamour of a lawless life stretched over him like the sky over the sea down on all sides to an unbroken horizon. Within, he moved very lonely, dangerous and romantic. There was in him crime, sacrifice, tenderness, devotion, and the madness of a fixed idea. She thought with wonder that of all the men in the world he was indeed the one she knew the best and yet she could not foresee the speech or the act of the next minute. She said distinctly:

"You've given me your confidence. Now I want you to give me the life of these two men. The life of two men whom you do not know, whom to-morrow you will forget. It can be done. It must be done. You cannot refuse them to me." She waited.

"Why can't I refuse?" he whispered, gloomily, without looking up.

"You ask!" she exclaimed. He made no sign. He seemed at a loss for words.

"You ask . . . Ah!" she cried. "Don't you see that I have no kingdoms to conquer?"


A slight change of expression which passed away almost directly showed that Lingard heard the passionate cry wrung from her by the distress of her mind. He made no sign. She perceived clearly the extreme difficulty of her position. The situation was dangerous; not so much the facts of it as the feeling of it. At times it appeared no more actual than a tradition; and she thought of herself as of some woman in a ballad, who has to beg for the lives of innocent captives. To save the lives of Mr. Travers and Mr. d'Alcacer was more than a duty. It was a necessity, it was an imperative need, it was an irresistible mission. Yet she had to reflect upon the horrors of a cruel and obscure death before she could feel for them the pity they deserved. It was when she looked at Lingard that her heart was wrung by an extremity of compassion. The others were pitiful, but he, the victim of his own extravagant impulses, appeared tragic, fascinating, and culpable. Lingard lifted his head. Whispers were heard at the door and Hassim followed by Immada entered the cabin.

Mrs. Travers looked at Lingard, because of all the faces in the cabin his was the only one that was intelligible to her. Hassim began to speak at once, and when he ceased Immada's deep sigh was heard in the sudden silence. Then Lingard looked at Mrs. Travers and said:

"The gentlemen are alive. Rajah Hassim here has seen them less than two hours ago, and so has the girl. They are alive and unharmed, so far. And now. . . ."

He paused. Mrs. Travers, leaning on her elbow, shaded her eyes under the glint of suspended thunderbolts.

"You must hate us," she murmured.

"Hate you," he repeated with, as she fancied, a tinge of disdain in his tone. "No. I hate myself."

"Why yourself?" she asked, very low.

"For not knowing my mind," he answered. "For not knowing my mind. For not knowing what it is that's got hold of me since—since this morning. I was angry then. . . . Nothing but very angry. . . ."

"And now?" she murmured.

"I am . . . unhappy," he said. After a moment of silence which gave to Mrs. Travers the time to wonder how it was that this man had succeeded in penetrating into the very depths of her compassion, he hit the table such a blow that all the heavy muskets seemed to jump a little.

Mrs. Travers heard Hassim pronounce a few words earnestly, and a moan of distress from Immada.

"I believed in you before you . . . before you gave me your confidence," she began. "You could see that. Could you not?"

He looked at her fixedly. "You are not the first that believed in me," he said.

Hassim, lounging with his back against the closed door, kept his eye on him watchfully and Immada's dark and sorrowful eyes rested on the face of the white woman. Mrs. Travers felt as though she were engaged in a contest with them; in a struggle for the possession of that man's strength and of that man's devotion. When she looked up at Lingard she saw on his face—which should have been impassive or exalted, the face of a stern leader or the face of a pitiless dreamer—an expression of utter forgetfulness. He seemed to be tasting the delight of some profound and amazing sensation. And suddenly in the midst of her appeal to his generosity, in the middle of a phrase, Mrs. Travers faltered, becoming aware that she was the object of his contemplation.

"Do not! Do not look at that woman!" cried Immada. "O! Master—look away. . . ." Hassim threw one arm round the girl's neck. Her voice sank. "O! Master—look at us." Hassim, drawing her to himself, covered her lips with his hand. She struggled a little like a snared bird and submitted, hiding her face on his shoulder, very quiet, sobbing without noise.

"What do they say to you?" asked Mrs. Travers with a faint and pained smile. "What can they say? It is intolerable to think that their words which have no meaning for me may go straight to your heart. . . ."

"Look away," whispered Lingard without making the slightest movement.

Mrs. Travers sighed.

"Yes, it is very hard to think that I who want to touch you cannot make myself understood as well as they. And yet I speak the language of your childhood, the language of the man for whom there is no hope but in your generosity."

He shook his head. She gazed at him anxiously for a moment. "In your memories then," she said and was surprised by the expression of profound sadness that over-spread his attentive face.

"Do you know what I remember?" he said. "Do you want to know?" She listened with slightly parted lips. "I will tell you. Poverty, hard work—and death," he went on, very quietly. "And now I've told you, and you don't know. That's how it is between us. You talk to me—I talk to you—and we don't know."

Her eyelids dropped.

"What can I find to say?" she went on. "What can I do? I mustn't give in. Think! Amongst your memories there must be some face—some voice—some name, if nothing more. I can not believe that there is nothing but bitterness."

"There's no bitterness," he murmured.

"O! Brother, my heart is faint with fear," whispered Immada. Lingard turned swiftly to that whisper.

"Then, they are to be saved," exclaimed Mrs. Travers. "Ah, I knew. . . ."

"Bear thy fear in patience," said Hassim, rapidly, to his sister.

"They are to be saved. You have said it," Lingard pronounced aloud, suddenly. He felt like a swimmer who, in the midst of superhuman efforts to reach the shore, perceives that the undertow is taking him to sea. He would go with the mysterious current; he would go swiftly—and see the end, the fulfilment both blissful and terrible.

With this state of exaltation in which he saw himself in some incomprehensible way always victorious, whatever might befall, there was mingled a tenacity of purpose. He could not sacrifice his intention, the intention of years, the intention of his life; he could no more part with it and exist than he could cut out his heart and live. The adventurer held fast to his adventure which made him in his own sight exactly what he was.

He considered the problem with cool audacity, backed by a belief in his own power. It was not these two men he had to save; he had to save himself! And looked upon in this way the situation appeared familiar.

Hassim had told him the two white men had been taken by their captors to Daman's camp. The young Rajah, leaving his sister in the canoe, had landed on the sand and had crept to the very edge of light thrown by the fires by which the Illanuns were cooking. Daman was sitting apart by a larger blaze. Two praus rode in shallow water near the sandbank; on the ridge, a sentry walked watching the lights of the brig; the camp was full of quiet whispers. Hassim returned to his canoe, then he and his sister, paddling cautiously round the anchored praus, in which women's voices could be heard, approached the other end of the camp. The light of the big blaze there fell on the water and the canoe skirted it without a splash, keeping in the night. Hassim, landing for the second time, crept again close to the fires. Each prau had, according to the customs of the Illanun rovers when on a raiding expedition, a smaller war-boat and these being light and manageable were hauled up on the sand not far from the big blaze; they sat high on the shelving shore throwing heavy shadows. Hassim crept up toward the largest of them and then standing on tiptoe could look at the camp across the gunwales. The confused talking of the men was like the buzz of insects in a forest. A child wailed on board one of the praus and a woman hailed the shore shrilly. Hassim unsheathed his kris and held it in his hand.

Very soon—he said—he saw the two white men walking amongst the fires. They waved their arms and talked together, stopping from time to time; they approached Daman; and the short man with the hair on his face addressed him earnestly and at great length. Daman sat cross-legged upon a little carpet with an open Koran on his knees and chanted the versets swaying to and fro with his eyes shut.

The Illanun chiefs reclining wrapped in cloaks on the ground raised themselves on their elbows to look at the whites. When the short white man finished speaking he gazed down at them for a while, then stamped his foot. He looked angry because no one understood him. Then suddenly he looked very sad; he covered his face with his hands; the tall man put his hand on the short man's shoulder and whispered into his ear. The dry wood of the fires crackled, the Illanuns slept, cooked, talked, but with their weapons at hand. An armed man or two came up to stare at the prisoners and then returned to their fire. The two whites sank down in the sand in front of Daman. Their clothes were soiled, there was sand in their hair. The tall man had lost his hat; the glass in the eye of the short man glittered very much; his back was muddy and one sleeve of his coat torn up to the elbow.

All this Hassim saw and then retreated undetected to that part of the shore where Immada waited for him, keeping the canoe afloat. The Illanuns, trusting to the sea, kept very bad watch on their prisoners, and had he been able to speak with them Hassim thought an escape could have been effected. But they could not have understood his signs and still less his words. He consulted with his sister. Immada murmured sadly; at their feet the ripple broke with a mournful sound no louder than their voices.

Hassim's loyalty was unshaken, but now it led him on not in the bright light of hopes but in the deepened shadow of doubt. He wanted to obtain information for his friend who was so powerful and who perhaps would know how to be constant. When followed by Immada he approached the camp again—this time openly—their appearance did not excite much surprise. It was well known to the Chiefs of the Illanuns that the Rajah for whom they were to fight—if God so willed—was upon the shoals looking out for the coming of the white man who had much wealth and a store of weapons and who was his servant. Daman, who alone understood the exact relation, welcomed them with impenetrable gravity. Hassim took his seat on the carpet at his right hand. A consultation was being held half-aloud in short and apparently careless sentences, with long intervals of silence between. Immada, nestling close to her brother, leaned one arm on his shoulder and listened with serious attention and with outward calm as became a princess of Wajo accustomed to consort with warriors and statesmen in moments of danger and in the hours of deliberation. Her heart was beating rapidly, and facing her the silent white men stared at these two known faces, as if across a gulf. Four Illanun chiefs sat in a row. Their ample cloaks fell from their shoulders, and lay behind them on the sand in which their four long lances were planted upright, each supporting a small oblong shield of wood, carved on the edges and stained a dull purple. Daman stretched out his arm and pointed at the prisoners. The faces of the white men were very quiet. Daman looked at them mutely and ardently, as if consumed by an unspeakable longing.

The Koran, in a silk cover, hung on his breast by a crimson cord. It rested over his heart and, just below, the plain buffalo-horn handle of a kris, stuck into the twist of his sarong, protruded ready to his hand. The clouds thickening over the camp made the darkness press heavily on the glow of scattered fires. "There is blood between me and the whites," he pronounced, violently. The Illanun chiefs remained impassive. There was blood between them and all mankind. Hassim remarked dispassionately that there was one white man with whom it would be wise to remain friendly; and besides, was not Daman his friend already? Daman smiled with half-closed eyes. He was that white man's friend, not his slave. The Illanuns playing with their sword-handles grunted assent. Why, asked Daman, did these strange whites travel so far from their country? The great white man whom they all knew did not want them. No one wanted them. Evil would follow in their footsteps. They were such men as are sent by rulers to examine the aspects of far-off countries and talk of peace and make treaties. Such is the beginning of great sorrows. The Illanuns were far from their country, where no white man dared to come, and therefore they were free to seek their enemies upon the open waters. They had found these two who had come to see. He asked what they had come to see? Was there nothing to look at in their own country?

He talked in an ironic and subdued tone. The scattered heaps of embers glowed a deeper red; the big blaze of the chief's fire sank low and grew dim before he ceased. Straight-limbed figures rose, sank, moved, whispered on the beach. Here and there a spear-blade caught a red gleam above the black shape of a head.

"The Illanuns seek booty on the sea," cried Daman. "Their fathers and the fathers of their fathers have done the same, being fearless like those who embrace death closely."

A low laugh was heard. "We strike and go," said an exulting voice. "We live and die with our weapons in our hands." The Illanuns leaped to their feet. They stamped on the sand, flourishing naked blades over the heads of their prisoners. A tumult arose.

When it subsided Daman stood up in a cloak that wrapped him to his feet and spoke again giving advice.

The white men sat on the sand and turned their eyes from face to face as if trying to understand. It was agreed to send the prisoners into the lagoon where their fate would be decided by the ruler of the land. The Illanuns only wanted to plunder the ship. They did not care what became of the men. "But Daman cares," remarked Hassim to Lingard, when relating what took place. "He cares, O Tuan!"

Hassim had learned also that the Settlement was in a state of unrest as if on the eve of war. Belarab with his followers was encamped by his father's tomb in the hollow beyond the cultivated fields. His stockade was shut up and no one appeared on the verandahs of the houses within. You could tell there were people inside only by the smoke of the cooking fires. Tengga's followers meantime swaggered about the Settlement behaving tyrannically to those who were peaceable. A great madness had descended upon the people, a madness strong as the madness of love, the madness of battle, the desire to spill blood. A strange fear also had made them wild. The big smoke seen that morning above the forests of the coast was some agreed signal from Tengga to Daman but what it meant Hassim had been unable to find out. He feared for Jorgenson's safety. He said that while one of the war-boats was being made ready to take the captives into the lagoon, he and his sister left the camp quietly and got away in their canoe. The flares of the brig, reflected in a faint loom upon the clouds, enabled them to make straight for the vessel across the banks. Before they had gone half way these flames went out and the darkness seemed denser than any he had known before. But it was no greater than the darkness of his mind—he added. He had looked upon the white men sitting unmoved and silent under the edge of swords; he had looked at Daman, he had heard bitter words spoken; he was looking now at his white friend—and the issue of events he could not see. One can see men's faces but their fate, which is written on their foreheads, one cannot see. He had no more to say, and what he had spoken was true in every word.


Lingard repeated it all to Mrs. Travers. Her courage, her intelligence, the quickness of her apprehension, the colour of her eyes and the intrepidity of her glance evoked in him an admiring enthusiasm. She stood by his side! Every moment that fatal illusion clung closer to his soul—like a garment of light—like an armour of fire.

He was unwilling to face the facts. All his life—till that day—had been a wrestle with events in the daylight of this world, but now he could not bring his mind to the consideration of his position. It was Mrs. Travers who, after waiting awhile, forced on him the pain of thought by wanting to know what bearing Hassim's news had upon the situation.

Lingard had not the slightest doubt Daman wanted him to know what had been done with the prisoners. That is why Daman had welcomed Hassim, and let him hear the decision and had allowed him to leave the camp on the sandbank. There could be only one object in this; to let him, Lingard, know that the prisoners had been put out of his reach as long as he remained in his brig. Now this brig was his strength. To make him leave his brig was like removing his hand from his sword.

"Do you understand what I mean, Mrs. Travers?" he asked. "They are afraid of me because I know how to fight this brig. They fear the brig because when I am on board her, the brig and I are one. An armed man—don't you see? Without the brig I am disarmed, without me she can't strike. So Daman thinks. He does not know everything but he is not far off the truth. He says to himself that if I man the boats to go after these whites into the lagoon then his Illanuns will get the yacht for sure—and perhaps the brig as well. If I stop here with my brig he holds the two white men and can talk as big as he pleases. Belarab believes in me no doubt, but Daman trusts no man on earth. He simply does not know how to trust any one, because he is always plotting himself. He came to help me and as soon as he found I was not there he began to plot with Tengga. Now he has made a move—a clever move; a cleverer move than he thinks. Why? I'll tell you why. Because I, Tom Lingard, haven't a single white man aboard this brig I can trust. Not one. I only just discovered my mate's got the notion I am some kind of pirate. And all your yacht people think the same. It is as though you had brought a curse on me in your yacht. Nobody believes me. Good God! What have I come to! Even those two—look at them—I say look at them! By all the stars they doubt me! Me! . . ."

He pointed at Hassim and Immada. The girl seemed frightened. Hassim looked on calm and intelligent with inexhaustible patience. Lingard's voice fell suddenly.

"And by heavens they may be right. Who knows? You? Do you know? They have waited for years. Look. They are waiting with heavy hearts. Do you think that I don't care? Ought I to have kept it all in—told no one—no one—not even you? Are they waiting for what will never come now?"

Mrs. Travers rose and moved quickly round the table. "Can we give anything to this—this Daman or these other men? We could give them more than they could think of asking. I—my husband. . . ."

"Don't talk to me of your husband," he said, roughly. "You don't know what you are doing." She confronted the sombre anger of his eyes—"But I must," she asserted with heat.—"Must," he mused, noticing that she was only half a head less tall than himself. "Must! Oh, yes. Of course, you must. Must! Yes. But I don't want to hear. Give! What can you give? You may have all the treasures of the world for all I know. No! You can't give anything. . . ."

"I was thinking of your difficulty when I spoke," she interrupted. His eyes wandered downward following the line of her shoulder.—"Of me—of me!" he repeated.

All this was said almost in whispers. The sound of slow footsteps was heard on deck above their heads. Lingard turned his face to the open skylight.

"On deck there! Any wind?"

All was still for a moment. Somebody above answered in a leisurely tone:

"A steady little draught from the northward."

Then after a pause added in a mutter:

"Pitch dark."

"Aye, dark enough," murmured Lingard. He must do something. Now. At once. The world was waiting. The world full of hopes and fear. What should he do? Instead of answering that question he traced the ungleaming coils of her twisted hair and became fascinated by a stray lock at her neck. What should he do? No one to leave his brig to. The voice that had answered his question was Carter's voice. "He is hanging about keeping his eye on me," he said to Mrs. Travers. She shook her head and tried to smile. The man above coughed discreetly. "No," said Lingard, "you must understand that you have nothing to give."

The man on deck who seemed to have lingered by the skylight was heard saying quietly, "I am at hand if you want me, Mrs. Travers." Hassim and Immada looked up. "You see," exclaimed Lingard. "What did I tell you? He's keeping his eye on me! On board my own ship. Am I dreaming? Am I in a fever? Tell him to come down," he said after a pause. Mrs. Travers did so and Lingard thought her voice very commanding and very sweet. "There's nothing in the world I love so much as this brig," he went on. "Nothing in the world. If I lost her I would have no standing room on the earth for my feet. You don't understand this. You can't."

Carter came in and shut the cabin door carefully. He looked with serenity at everyone in turn.

"All quiet?" asked Lingard.

"Quiet enough if you like to call it so," he answered. "But if you only put your head outside the door you'll hear them all on the quarter-deck snoring against each other, as if there were no wives at home and no pirates at sea."

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