The Rescue
by Joseph Conrad
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"Yes," said Lingard, averting his eyes. Mrs. Travers followed him into the boat where the Malays stared in silence while Jorgenson, stiff and angular, gave no sign of life, not even so much as a movement of the eyes. Lingard settled her in the stern sheets and sat down by her side. The ardent sunshine devoured all colours. The boat swam forward on the glare heading for the strip of coral beach dazzling like a crescent of metal raised to a white heat. They landed. Gravely, Jorgenson opened above Mrs. Travers' head a big white cotton parasol and she advanced between the two men, dazed, as if in a dream and having no other contact with the earth but through the soles of her feet. Everything was still, empty, incandescent, and fantastic. Then when the gate of the stockade was thrown open she perceived an expectant and still multitude of bronze figures draped in coloured stuffs. They crowded the patches of shade under the three lofty forest trees left within the enclosure between the sun-smitten empty spaces of hard-baked ground. The broad blades of the spears decorated with crimson tufts of horsehair had a cool gleam under the outspread boughs. To the left a group of buildings on piles with long verandahs and immense roofs towered high in the air above the heads of the crowd, and seemed to float in the glare, looking much less substantial than their heavy shadows. Lingard, pointing to one of the smallest, said in an undertone, "I lived there for a fortnight when I first came to see Belarab"; and Mrs. Travers felt more than ever as if walking in a dream when she perceived beyond the rails of its verandah and visible from head to foot two figures in an armour of chain mail with pointed steel helmets crested with white and black feathers and guarding the closed door. A high bench draped in turkey cloth stood in an open space of the great audience shed. Lingard led her up to it, Jorgenson on her other side closed the parasol calmly, and when she sat down between them the whole throng before her eyes sank to the ground with one accord disclosing in the distance of the courtyard a lonely figure leaning against the smooth trunk of a tree. A white cloth was fastened round his head by a yellow cord. Its pointed ends fell on his shoulders, framing a thin dark face with large eyes, a silk cloak striped black and white fell to his feet, and in the distance he looked aloof and mysterious in his erect and careless attitude suggesting assurance and power.

Lingard, bending slightly, whispered into Mrs. Travers' ear that that man, apart and dominating the scene, was Daman, the supreme leader of the Illanuns, the one who had ordered the capture of those gentlemen in order perhaps to force his hand. The two barbarous, half-naked figures covered with ornaments and charms, squatting at his feet with their heads enfolded in crimson and gold handkerchiefs and with straight swords lying across their knees, were the Pangerans who carried out the order, and had brought the captives into the lagoon. But the two men in chain armour on watch outside the door of the small house were Belarab's two particular body-guards, who got themselves up in that way only on very great occasions. They were the outward and visible sign that the prisoners were in Belarab's keeping, and this was good, so far. The pity was that the Great Chief himself was not there. Then Lingard assumed a formal pose and Mrs. Travers stared into the great courtyard and with rows and rows of faces ranged on the ground at her feet felt a little giddy for a moment.

Every movement had died in the crowd. Even the eyes were still under the variegated mass of coloured headkerchiefs: while beyond the open gate a noble palm tree looked intensely black against the glitter of the lagoon and the pale incandescence of the sky. Mrs. Travers gazing that way wondered at the absence of Hassim and Immada. But the girl might have been somewhere within one of the houses with the ladies of Belarab's stockade. Then suddenly Mrs. Travers became aware that another bench had been brought out and was already occupied by five men dressed in gorgeous silks, and embroidered velvets, round-faced and grave. Their hands reposed on their knees; but one amongst them clad in a white robe and with a large nearly black turban on his head leaned forward a little with his chin in his hand. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes remained fixed on the ground as if to avoid looking at the infidel woman.

She became aware suddenly of a soft murmur, and glancing at Lingard she saw him in an attitude of impassive attention. The momentous negotiations had begun, and it went on like this in low undertones with long pauses and in the immobility of all the attendants squatting on the ground, with the distant figure of Daman far off in the shade towering over all the assembly. But in him, too, Mrs. Travers could not detect the slightest movement while the slightly modulated murmurs went on enveloping her in a feeling of peace.

The fact that she couldn't understand anything of what was said soothed her apprehensions. Sometimes a silence fell and Lingard bending toward her would whisper, "It isn't so easy," and the stillness would be so perfect that she would hear the flutter of a pigeon's wing somewhere high up in the great overshadowing trees. And suddenly one of the men before her without moving a limb would begin another speech rendered more mysterious still by the total absence of action or play of feature. Only the watchfulness of the eyes which showed that the speaker was not communing with himself made it clear that this was not a spoken meditation but a flow of argument directed to Lingard who now and then uttered a few words either with a grave or a smiling expression. They were always followed by murmurs which seemed mostly to her to convey assent; and then a reflective silence would reign again and the immobility of the crowd would appear more perfect than before.

When Lingard whispered to her that it was now his turn to make a speech Mrs. Travers expected him to get up and assert himself by some commanding gesture. But he did not. He remained seated, only his voice had a vibrating quality though he obviously tried to restrain it, and it travelled masterfully far into the silence. He spoke for a long time while the sun climbing the unstained sky shifted the diminished shadows of the trees, pouring on the heads of men its heat through the thick and motionless foliage. Whenever murmurs arose he would stop and glancing fearlessly at the assembly, wait till they subsided. Once or twice, they rose to a loud hum and Mrs. Travers could hear on the other side of her Jorgenson muttering something in his moustache. Beyond the rows of heads Daman under the tree had folded his arms on his breast. The edge of the white cloth concealed his forehead and at his feet the two Illanun chiefs, half naked and bedecked with charms and ornaments of bright feathers, of shells, with necklaces of teeth, claws, and shining beads, remained cross-legged with their swords across their knees like two bronze idols. Even the plumes of their head-dresses stirred not.

"Sudah! It is finished!" A movement passed along all the heads, the seated bodies swayed to and fro. Lingard had ceased speaking. He remained seated for a moment looking his audience all over and when he stood up together with Mrs. Travers and Jorgenson the whole assembly rose from the ground together and lost its ordered formation. Some of Belarab's retainers, young broad-faced fellows, wearing a sort of uniform of check-patterned sarongs, black silk jackets and crimson skull-caps set at a rakish angle, swaggered through the broken groups and ranged themselves in two rows before the motionless Daman and his Illanun chiefs in martial array. The members of the council who had left their bench approached the white people with gentle smiles and deferential movements of the hands. Their bearing was faintly propitiatory; only the man in the big turban remained fanatically aloof, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.

"I have done it," murmured Lingard to Mrs. Travers.—"Was it very difficult?" she asked.—"No," he said, conscious in his heart that he had strained to the fullest extent the prestige of his good name and that habit of deference to his slightest wish established by the glamour of his wealth and the fear of his personality in this great talk which after all had done nothing except put off the decisive hour. He offered Mrs. Travers his arm ready to lead her away, but at the last moment did not move.

With an authoritative gesture Daman had parted the ranks of Belarab's young followers with the red skullcaps and was seen advancing toward the whites striking into an astonished silence all the scattered groups in the courtyard. But the broken ranks had closed behind him. The Illanun chiefs, for all their truculent aspect, were much too prudent to attempt to move. They had not needed for that the faint warning murmur from Daman. He advanced alone. The plain hilt of a sword protruded from the open edges of his cloak. The parted edges disclosed also the butts of two flintlock pistols. The Koran in a velvet case hung on his breast by a red cord of silk. He was pious, magnificent, and warlike, with calm movements and a straight glance from under the hem of the simple piece of linen covering his head. He carried himself rigidly and his bearing had a sort of solemn modesty. Lingard said hurriedly to Mrs. Travers that the man had met white people before and that, should he attempt to shake hands with her, she ought to offer her own covered with the end of her scarf.—"Why?" she asked. "Propriety?"—"Yes, it will be better," said Lingard and the next moment Mrs. Travers felt her enveloped hand pressed gently by slender dark fingers and felt extremely Oriental herself when, with her face muffled to the eyes, she encountered the lustrous black stare of the sea-robbers' leader. It was only for an instant, because Daman turned away at once to shake hands with Lingard. In the straight, ample folds of his robes he looked very slender facing the robust white man.

"Great is your power," he said, in a pleasant voice. "The white men are going to be delivered to you."

"Yes, they pass into my keeping," said Lingard, returning the other's bright smile but otherwise looking grim enough with the frown which had settled on his forehead at Daman's approach. He glanced over his shoulder at a group of spearmen escorting the two captives who had come down the steps from the hut. At the sight of Daman barring as it were Lingard's way they had stopped at some distance and had closed round the two white men. Daman also glanced dispassionately that way.

"They were my guests," he murmured. "Please God I shall come soon to ask you for them . . . as a friend," he added after a slight pause.

"And please God you will not go away empty handed," said Lingard, smoothing his brow. "After all you and I were not meant to meet only to quarrel. Would you have preferred to see them pass into Tengga's keeping?"

"Tengga is fat and full of wiles," said Daman, disdainfully, "a mere shopkeeper smitten by a desire to be a chief. He is nothing. But you and I are men that have real power. Yet there is a truth that you and I can confess to each other. Men's hearts grow quickly discontented. Listen. The leaders of men are carried forward in the hands of their followers; and common men's minds are unsteady, their desires changeable, and their thoughts not to be trusted. You are a great chief they say. Do not forget that I am a chief, too, and a leader of armed men."

"I have heard of you, too," said Lingard in a composed voice.

Daman had cast his eyes down. Suddenly he opened them very wide with an effect that startled Mrs. Travers.—"Yes. But do you see?" Mrs. Travers, her hand resting lightly on Lingard's arm, had the sensation of acting in a gorgeously got up play on the brilliantly lighted stage of an exotic opera whose accompaniment was not music but the varied strains of the all-pervading silence.—"Yes, I see," Lingard replied with a surprisingly confidential intonation. "But power, too, is in the hands of a great leader."

Mrs. Travers watched the faint movements of Daman's nostrils as though the man were suffering from some powerful emotion, while under her fingers Lingard's forearm in its white sleeve was as steady as a limb of marble. Without looking at him she seemed to feel that with one movement he could crush that nervous figure in which lived the breath of the great desert haunted by his nomad, camel-riding ancestors.—"Power is in the hand of God," he said, all animation dying out of his face, and paused to wait for Lingard's "Very true," then continued with a fine smile, "but He apportions it according to His will for His own purposes, even to those that are not of the Faith."

"Such being the will of God you should harbour no bitterness against them in your heart."

The low exclamation, "Against those!" and a slight dismissing gesture of a meagre dark hand out of the folds of the cloak were almost understandable to Mrs. Travers in the perfection of their melancholy contempt, and gave Lingard a further insight into the character of the ally secured to him by the diplomacy of Belarab. He was only half reassured by this assumption of superior detachment. He trusted to the man's self-interest more; for Daman no doubt looked to the reconquered kingdom for the reward of dignity and ease. His father and grandfather (the men of whom Jorgenson had written as having been hanged for an example twelve years before) had been friends of Sultans, advisers of Rulers, wealthy financiers of the great raiding expeditions of the past. It was hatred that had turned Daman into a self-made outcast, till Belarab's diplomacy had drawn him out from some obscure and uneasy retreat.

In a few words Lingard assured Daman of the complete safety of his followers as long as they themselves made no attempt to get possession of the stranded yacht. Lingard understood very well that the capture of Travers and d'Alcacer was the result of a sudden fear, a move directed by Daman to secure his own safety. The sight of the stranded yacht shook his confidence completely. It was as if the secrets of the place had been betrayed. After all, it was perhaps a great folly to trust any white man, no matter how much he seemed estranged from his own people. Daman felt he might have been the victim of a plot. Lingard's brig appeared to him a formidable engine of war. He did not know what to think and the motive for getting hold of the two white men was really the wish to secure hostages. Distrusting the fierce impulses of his followers he had hastened to put them into Belarab's keeping. But everything in the Settlement seemed to him suspicious: Belarab's absence, Jorgenson's refusal to make over at once the promised supply of arms and ammunition. And now that white man had by the power of his speech got them away from Belarab's people. So much influence filled Daman with wonder and awe. A recluse for many years in the most obscure corner of the Archipelago he felt himself surrounded by intrigues. But the alliance was a great thing, too. He did not want to quarrel. He was quite willing for the time being to accept Lingard's assurance that no harm should befall his people encamped on the sandbanks. Attentive and slight, he seemed to let Lingard's deliberate words sink into him. The force of that unarmed big man seemed overwhelming. He bowed his head slowly.

"Allah is our refuge," he murmured, accepting the inevitable.

He delighted Mrs. Travers not as a living being but like a clever sketch in colours, a vivid rendering of an artist's vision of some soul, delicate and fierce. His bright half-smile was extraordinary, sharp like clear steel, painfully penetrating. Glancing right and left Mrs. Travers saw the whole courtyard smitten by the desolating fury of sunshine and peopled with shadows, their forms and colours fading in the violence of the light. The very brown tones of roof and wall dazzled the eye. Then Daman stepped aside. He was no longer smiling and Mrs. Travers advanced with her hand on Lingard's arm through a heat so potent that it seemed to have a taste, a feel, a smell of its own. She moved on as if floating in it with Lingard's support.

"Where are they?" she asked.

"They are following us all right," he answered. Lingard was so certain that the prisoners would be delivered to him on the beach that he never glanced back till, after reaching the boat, he and Mrs. Travers turned about.

The group of spearmen parted right and left, and Mr. Travers and d'Alcacer walked forward alone looking unreal and odd like their own day-ghosts. Mr. Travers gave no sign of being aware of his wife's presence. It was certainly a shock to him. But d'Alcacer advanced smiling, as if the beach were a drawing room.

With a very few paddlers the heavy old European-built boat moved slowly over the water that seemed as pale and blazing as the sky above. Jorgenson had perched himself in the bow. The other four white people sat in the stern sheets, the ex-prisoners side by side in the middle. Lingard spoke suddenly.

"I want you both to understand that the trouble is not over yet. Nothing is finished. You are out on my bare word."

While Lingard was speaking Mr. Travers turned his face away but d'Alcacer listened courteously. Not another word was spoken for the rest of the way. The two gentlemen went up the ship's side first. Lingard remained to help Mrs. Travers at the foot of the ladder. She pressed his hand strongly and looking down at his upturned face:

"This was a wonderful success," she said.

For a time the character of his fascinated gaze did not change. It was as if she had said nothing. Then he whispered, admiringly, "You understand everything."

She moved her eyes away and had to disengage her hand to which he clung for a moment, giddy, like a man falling out of the world.


Mrs. Travers, acutely aware of Lingard behind her, remained gazing over the lagoon. After a time he stepped forward and placed himself beside her close to the rail. She went on staring at the sheet of water turned to deep purple under the sunset sky.

"Why have you been avoiding me since we came back from the stockade?" she asked in a deadened voice.

"There is nothing to tell you till Rajah Hassim and his sister Immada return with some news," Lingard answered in the same tone. "Has my friend succeeded? Will Belarab listen to any arguments? Will he consent to come out of his shell? Is he on his way back? I wish I knew! . . . Not a whisper comes from there! He may have started two days ago and he may be now near the outskirts of the Settlement. Or he may have gone into camp half way down, from some whim or other; or he may be already arrived for all I know. We should not have seen him. The road from the hills does not lead along the beach."

He snatched nervously at the long glass and directed it at the dark stockade. The sun had sunk behind the forests leaving the contour of the tree-tops outlined by a thread of gold under a band of delicate green lying across the lower sky. Higher up a faint crimson glow faded into the darkened blue overhead. The shades of the evening deepened over the lagoon, clung to the sides of the Emma and to the forms of the further shore. Lingard laid the glass down.

"Mr. d'Alcacer, too, seems to have been avoiding me," said Mrs. Travers. "You are on very good terms with him, Captain Lingard."

"He is a very pleasant man," murmured Lingard, absently. "But he says funny things sometimes. He inquired the other day if there were any playing cards on board, and when I asked him if he liked card-playing, just for something to say, he told me with that queer smile of his that he had read a story of some people condemned to death who passed the time before execution playing card games with their guards."

"And what did you say?"

"I told him that there were probably cards on board somewhere—Jorgenson would know. Then I asked him whether he looked on me as a gaoler. He was quite startled and sorry for what he said."

"It wasn't very kind of you, Captain Lingard."

"It slipped out awkwardly and we made it up with a laugh."

Mrs. Travers leaned her elbows on the rail and put her head into her hands. Every attitude of that woman surprised Lingard by its enchanting effect upon himself. He sighed, and the silence lasted for a long while.

"I wish I had understood every word that was said that morning."

"That morning," repeated Lingard. "What morning do you mean?"

"I mean the morning when I walked out of Belarab's stockade on your arm, Captain Lingard, at the head of the procession. It seemed to me that I was walking on a splendid stage in a scene from an opera, in a gorgeous show fit to make an audience hold its breath. You can't possibly guess how unreal all this seemed, and how artificial I felt myself. An opera, you know. . . ."

"I know. I was a gold digger at one time. Some of us used to come down to Melbourne with our pockets full of money. I daresay it was poor enough to what you must have seen, but once I went to a show like that. It was a story acted to music. All the people went singing through it right to the very end."

"How it must have jarred on your sense of reality," said Mrs. Travers, still not looking at him. "You don't remember the name of the opera?"

"No. I never troubled my head about it. We—our lot never did."

"I won't ask you what the story was like. It must have appeared to you like the very defiance of all truth. Would real people go singing through their life anywhere except in a fairy tale?"

"These people didn't always sing for joy," said Lingard, simply. "I don't know much about fairy tales."

"They are mostly about princesses," murmured Mrs. Travers.

Lingard didn't quite hear. He bent his ear for a moment but she wasn't looking at him and he didn't ask her to repeat her remark. "Fairy tales are for children, I believe," he said. "But that story with music I am telling you of, Mrs. Travers, was not a tale for children. I assure you that of the few shows I have seen that one was the most real to me. More real than anything in life."

Mrs. Travers, remembering the fatal inanity of most opera librettos, was touched by these words as if there had been something pathetic in this readiness of response; as if she had heard a starved man talking of the delight of a crust of dry bread. "I suppose you forgot yourself in that story, whatever it was," she remarked in a detached tone.

"Yes, it carried me away. But I suppose you know the feeling."

"No. I never knew anything of the kind, not even when I was a chit of a girl." Lingard seemed to accept this statement as an assertion of superiority. He inclined his head slightly. Moreover, she might have said what she liked. What pleased him most was her not looking at him; for it enabled him to contemplate with perfect freedom the curve of her cheek, her small ear half hidden by the clear mesh of fine hair, the fascination of her uncovered neck. And her whole person was an impossible, an amazing and solid marvel which somehow was not so much convincing to the eye as to something within him that was apparently independent of his senses. Not even for a moment did he think of her as remote. Untouchable—possibly! But remote—no. Whether consciously or unconsciously he took her spiritually for granted. It was materially that she was a wonder of the sort that is at the same time familiar and sacred.

"No," Mrs. Travers began again, abruptly. "I never forgot myself in a story. It was not in me. I have not even been able to forget myself on that morning on shore which was part of my own story."

"You carried yourself first rate," said Lingard, smiling at the nape of her neck, her ear, the film of escaped hair, the modelling of the corner of her eye. He could see the flutter of the dark eyelashes: and the delicate flush on her cheek had rather the effect of scent than of colour.

"You approved of my behaviour."

"Just right, I tell you. My word, weren't they all struck of a heap when they made out what you were."

"I ought to feel flattered. I will confess to you that I felt only half disguised and was half angry and wholly uncomfortable. What helped me, I suppose, was that I wanted to please. . . ."

"I don't mean to say that they were exactly pleased," broke in Lingard, conscientiously. "They were startled more."

"I wanted to please you," dropped Mrs. Travers, negligently. A faint, hoarse, and impatient call of a bird was heard from the woods as if calling to the oncoming night. Lingard's face grew hot in the deepening dusk. The delicate lemon yellow and ethereal green tints had vanished from the sky and the red glow darkened menacingly. The sun had set behind the black pall of the forest, no longer edged with a line of gold. "Yes, I was absurdly self-conscious," continued Mrs. Travers in a conversational tone. "And it was the effect of these clothes that you made me put on over some of my European—I almost said disguise; because you know in the present more perfect costume I feel curiously at home; and yet I can't say that these things really fit me. The sleeves of this silk under-jacket are rather tight. My shoulders feel bound, too, and as to the sarong it is scandalously short. According to rule it should have been long enough to fall over my feet. But I like freedom of movement. I have had very little of what I liked in life."

"I can hardly believe that," said Lingard. "If it wasn't for your saying so. . . ."

"I wouldn't say so to everybody," she said, turning her head for a moment to Lingard and turning it away again to the dusk which seemed to come floating over the black lagoon. Far away in its depth a couple of feeble lights twinkled; it was impossible to say whether on the shore or on the edge of the more distant forest. Overhead the stars were beginning to come out, but faint yet, as if too remote to be reflected in the lagoon. Only to the west a setting planet shone through the red fog of the sunset glow. "It was supposed not to be good for me to have much freedom of action. So at least I was told. But I have a suspicion that it was only unpleasing to other people."

"I should have thought," began Lingard, then hesitated and stopped. It seemed to him inconceivable that everybody should not have loved to make that woman happy. And he was impressed by the bitterness of her tone. Mrs. Travers did not seem curious to know what he wanted to say and after a time she added, "I don't mean only when I was a child. I don't remember that very well. I daresay I was very objectionable as a child."

Lingard tried to imagine her as a child. The idea was novel to him. Her perfection seemed to have come into the world complete, mature, and without any hesitation or weakness. He had nothing in his experience that could help him to imagine a child of that class. The children he knew played about the village street and ran on the beach. He had been one of them. He had seen other children, of course, since, but he had not been in touch with them except visually and they had not been English children. Her childhood, like his own, had been passed in England, and that very fact made it almost impossible for him to imagine it. He could not even tell whether it was in town or in the country, or whether as a child she had even seen the sea. And how could a child of that kind be objectionable? But he remembered that a child disapproved of could be very unhappy, and he said:

"I am sorry."

Mrs. Travers laughed a little. Within the muslin cage forms had turned to blurred shadows. Amongst them the form of d'Alcacer arose and moved. The systematic or else the morbid dumbness of Mr. Travers bored and exasperated him, though, as a matter of fact, that gentleman's speeches had never had the power either to entertain or to soothe his mind.

"It's very nice of you. You have a great capacity for sympathy, but after all I am not certain on which side your sympathies lie. With me, or those much-tried people," said Mrs. Travers.

"With the child," said Lingard, disregarding the bantering tone. "A child can have a very bad time of it all to itself."

"What can you know of it?" she asked.

"I have my own feelings," he answered in some surprise.

Mrs. Travers, with her back to him, was covered with confusion. Neither could she depict to herself his childhood as if he, too, had come into the world in the fullness of his strength and his purpose. She discovered a certain naiveness in herself and laughed a little. He made no sound.

"Don't be angry," she said. "I wouldn't dream of laughing at your feelings. Indeed your feelings are the most serious thing that ever came in my way. I couldn't help laughing at myself—at a funny discovery I made."

"In the days of your childhood?" she heard Lingard's deep voice asking after a pause.

"Oh, no. Ages afterward. No child could have made that discovery. Do you know the greatest difference there is between us? It is this: That I have been living since my childhood in front of a show and that I never have been taken in for a moment by its tinsel and its noise or by anything that went on on the stage. Do you understand what I mean, Captain Lingard?"

There was a moment of silence. "What does it matter? We are no children now." There was an infinite gentleness in Lingard's deep tones. "But if you have been unhappy then don't tell me that it has not been made up to you since. Surely you have only to make a sign. A woman like you."

"You think I could frighten the whole world on to its knees?"

"No, not frighten." The suggestion of a laugh in the deadened voice passed off in a catch of the breath. Then he was heard beginning soberly: "Your husband. . . ." He hesitated a little and she took the opportunity to say coldly:

"His name is Mr. Travers."

Lingard didn't know how to take it. He imagined himself to have been guilty of some sort of presumption. But how on earth was he to call the man? After all he was her husband. That idea was disagreeable to him because the man was also inimical in a particularly unreasonable and galling manner. At the same time he was aware that he didn't care a bit for his enmity and had an idea that he would not have cared for his friendship either. And suddenly he felt very much annoyed.

"Yes. That's the man I mean," he said in a contemptuous tone. "I don't particularly like the name and I am sure I don't want to talk about him more than I can help. If he hadn't been your husband I wouldn't have put up with his manners for an hour. Do you know what would have happened to him if he hadn't been your husband?"

"No," said Mrs. Travers. "Do you, Captain Lingard?"

"Not exactly," he admitted. "Something he wouldn't have liked, you may be sure."

"While of course he likes this very much," she observed. Lingard gave an abrupt laugh.

"I don't think it's in my power to do anything that he would like," he said in a serious tone. "Forgive me my frankness, Mrs. Travers, but he makes it very difficult sometimes for me to keep civil. Whatever I have had to put up with in life I have never had to put up with contempt."

"I quite believe that," said Mrs. Travers. "Don't your friends call you King Tom?"

"Nobody that I care for. I have no friends. Oh, yes, they call me that . . ."

"You have no friends?"

"Not I," he said with decision. "A man like me has no chums."

"It's quite possible," murmured Mrs. Travers to herself.

"No, not even Jorgenson. Old crazy Jorgenson. He calls me King Tom, too. You see what that's worth."

"Yes, I see. Or rather I have heard. That poor man has no tone, and so much depends on that. Now suppose I were to call you King Tom now and then between ourselves," Mrs. Travers' voice proposed, distantly tentative in the night that invested her person with a colourless vagueness of form.

She waited in the stillness, her elbows on the rail and her face in her hands as if she had already forgotten what she had said. She heard at her elbow the deep murmur of:

"Let's hear you say it."

She never moved the least bit. The sombre lagoon sparkled faintly with the reflection of the stars.

"Oh, yes, I will let you hear it," she said into the starlit space in a voice of unaccented gentleness which changed subtly as she went on. "I hope you will never regret that you came out of your friendless mystery to speak to me, King Tom. How many days ago it was! And here is another day gone. Tell me how many more of them there must be? Of these blinding days and nights without a sound."

"Be patient," he murmured. "Don't ask me for the impossible."

"How do you or I know what is possible?" she whispered with a strange scorn. "You wouldn't dare guess. But I tell you that every day that passes is more impossible to me than the day before."

The passion of that whisper went like a stab into his breast. "What am I to tell you?" he murmured, as if with despair. "Remember that every sunset makes it a day less. Do you think I want you here?"

A bitter little laugh floated out into the starlight. Mrs. Travers heard Lingard move suddenly away from her side. She didn't change her pose by a hair's breadth. Presently she heard d'Alcacer coming out of the Cage. His cultivated voice asked half playfully:

"Have you had a satisfactory conversation? May I be told something of it?"

"Mr. d'Alcacer, you are curious."

"Well, in our position, I confess. . . . You are our only refuge, remember."

"You want to know what we were talking about," said Mrs. Travers, altering slowly her position so as to confront d'Alcacer whose face was almost undistinguishable. "Oh, well, then, we talked about opera, the realities and illusions of the stage, of dresses, of people's names, and things of that sort."

"Nothing of importance," he said courteously. Mrs. Travers moved forward and he stepped to one side. Inside the Cage two Malay hands were hanging round lanterns, the light of which fell on Mr. Travers' bowed head as he sat in his chair.

When they were all assembled for the evening meal Jorgenson strolled up from nowhere in particular as his habit was, and speaking through the muslin announced that Captain Lingard begged to be excused from joining the company that evening. Then he strolled away. From that moment till they got up from the table and the camp bedsteads were brought in not twenty words passed between the members of the party within the net. The strangeness of their situation made all attempts to exchange ideas very arduous; and apart from that each had thoughts which it was distinctly useless to communicate to the others. Mr. Travers had abandoned himself to his sense of injury. He did not so much brood as rage inwardly in a dull, dispirited way. The impossibility of asserting himself in any manner galled his very soul. D'Alcacer was extremely puzzled. Detached in a sense from the life of men perhaps as much even as Jorgenson himself, he took yet a reasonable interest in the course of events and had not lost all his sense of self-preservation. Without being able to appreciate the exact values of the situation he was not one of those men who are ever completely in the dark in any given set of circumstances. Without being humorous he was a good-humoured man. His habitual, gentle smile was a true expression. More of a European than of a Spaniard he had that truly aristocratic nature which is inclined to credit every honest man with something of its own nobility and in its judgment is altogether independent of class feeling. He believed Lingard to be an honest man and he never troubled his head to classify him, except in the sense that he found him an interesting character. He had a sort of esteem for the outward personality and the bearing of that seaman. He found in him also the distinction of being nothing of a type. He was a specimen to be judged only by its own worth. With his natural gift of insight d'Alcacer told himself that many overseas adventurers of history were probably less worthy because obviously they must have been less simple. He didn't, however, impart those thoughts formally to Mrs. Travers. In fact he avoided discussing Lingard with Mrs. Travers who, he thought, was quite intelligent enough to appreciate the exact shade of his attitude. If that shade was fine, Mrs. Travers was fine, too; and there was no need to discuss the colours of this adventure. Moreover, she herself seemed to avoid all direct discussion of the Lingard element in their fate. D'Alcacer was fine enough to be aware that those two seemed to understand each other in a way that was not obvious even to themselves. Whenever he saw them together he was always much tempted to observe them. And he yielded to the temptation. The fact of one's life depending on the phases of an obscure action authorizes a certain latitude of behaviour. He had seen them together repeatedly, communing openly or apart, and there was in their way of joining each other, in their poses and their ways of separating, something special and characteristic and pertaining to themselves only, as if they had been made for each other.

What he couldn't understand was why Mrs. Travers should have put off his natural curiosity as to her latest conference with the Man of Fate by an incredible statement as to the nature of the conversation. Talk about dresses, opera, people's names. He couldn't take this seriously. She might have invented, he thought, something more plausible; or simply have told him that this was not for him to know. She ought to have known that he would not have been offended. Couldn't she have seen already that he accepted the complexion of mystery in her relation to that man completely, unquestionably; as though it had been something preordained from the very beginning of things? But he was not annoyed with Mrs. Travers. After all it might have been true. She would talk exactly as she liked, and even incredibly, if it so pleased her, and make the man hang on her lips. And likewise she was capable of making the man talk about anything by a power of inspiration for reasons simple or perverse. Opera! Dresses! Yes—about Shakespeare and the musical glasses! For a mere whim or for the deepest purpose. Women worthy of the name were like that. They were very wonderful. They rose to the occasion and sometimes above the occasion when things were bound to occur that would be comic or tragic (as it happened) but generally charged with trouble even to innocent beholders. D'Alcacer thought these thoughts without bitterness and even without irony. With his half-secret social reputation as a man of one great passion in a world of mere intrigues he liked all women. He liked them in their sentiment and in their hardness, in the tragic character of their foolish or clever impulses, at which he looked with a sort of tender seriousness.

He didn't take a favourable view of the position but he considered Mrs. Travers' statement about operas and dresses as a warning to keep off the subject. For this reason he remained silent through the meal.

When the bustle of clearing away the table was over he strolled toward Mrs. Travers and remarked very quietly:

"I think that in keeping away from us this evening the Man of Fate was well inspired. We dined like a lot of Carthusian monks."

"You allude to our silence?"

"It was most scrupulous. If we had taken an eternal vow we couldn't have kept it better."

"Did you feel bored?"

"Pas du tout," d'Alcacer assured her with whimsical gravity. "I felt nothing. I sat in a state of blessed vacuity. I believe I was the happiest of us three. Unless you, too, Mrs. Travers. . . ."

"It's absolutely no use your fishing for my thoughts, Mr. d'Alcacer. If I were to let you see them you would be appalled."

"Thoughts really are but a shape of feelings. Let me congratulate you on the impassive mask you can put on those horrors you say you nurse in your breast. It was impossible to tell anything by your face."

"You will always say flattering things."

"Madame, my flatteries come from the very bottom of my heart. I have given up long ago all desire to please. And I was not trying to get at your thoughts. Whatever else you may expect from me you may count on my absolute respect for your privacy. But I suppose with a mask such as you can make for yourself you really don't care. The Man of Fate, I noticed, is not nearly as good at it as you are."

"What a pretentious name. Do you call him by it to his face, Mr. d'Alcacer?"

"No, I haven't the cheek," confessed d'Alcacer, equably. "And, besides, it's too momentous for daily use. And he is so simple that he might mistake it for a joke and nothing could be further from my thoughts. Mrs. Travers, I will confess to you that I don't feel jocular in the least. But what can he know about people of our sort? And when I reflect how little people of our sort can know of such a man I am quite content to address him as Captain Lingard. It's common and soothing and most respectable and satisfactory; for Captain is the most empty of all titles. What is a Captain? Anybody can be a Captain; and for Lingard it's a name like any other. Whereas what he deserves is something special, significant, and expressive, that would match his person, his simple and romantic person."

He perceived that Mrs. Travers was looking at him intently. They hastened to turn their eyes away from each other.

"He would like your appreciation," Mrs. Travers let drop negligently.

"I am afraid he would despise it."

"Despise it! Why, that sort of thing is the very breath of his nostrils."

"You seem to understand him, Mrs. Travers. Women have a singular capacity for understanding. I mean subjects that interest them; because when their imagination is stimulated they are not afraid of letting it go. A man is more mistrustful of himself, but women are born much more reckless. They push on and on under the protection of secrecy and silence, and the greater the obscurity of what they wish to explore the greater their courage."

"Do you mean seriously to tell me that you consider me a creature of darkness?"

"I spoke in general," remonstrated d'Alcacer. "Anything else would have been an impertinence. Yes, obscurity is women's best friend. Their daring loves it; but a sudden flash of light disconcerts them. Generally speaking, if they don't get exactly at the truth they always manage to come pretty near to it."

Mrs. Travers had listened with silent attention and she allowed the silence to continue for some time after d'Alcacer had ceased. When she spoke it was to say in an unconcerned tone that as to this subject she had had special opportunities. Her self-possessed interlocutor managed to repress a movement of real curiosity under an assumption of conventional interest. "Indeed," he exclaimed, politely. "A special opportunity. How did you manage to create it?"

This was too much for Mrs. Travers. "I! Create it!" she exclaimed, indignantly, but under her breath. "How on earth do you think I could have done it?"

Mr. d'Alcacer, as if communing with himself, was heard to murmur unrepentantly that indeed women seldom knew how they had "done it," to which Mrs. Travers in a weary tone returned the remark that no two men were dense in the same way. To this Mr. d'Alcacer assented without difficulty. "Yes, our brand presents more varieties. This, from a certain point of view, is obviously to our advantage. We interest. . . . Not that I imagine myself interesting to you, Mrs. Travers. But what about the Man of Fate?"

"Oh, yes," breathed out Mrs. Travers.

"I see! Immensely!" said d'Alcacer in a tone of mysterious understanding. "Was his stupidity so colossal?"

"It was indistinguishable from great visions that were in no sense mean and made up for him a world of his own."

"I guessed that much," muttered d'Alcacer to himself. "But that, you know, Mrs. Travers, that isn't good news at all to me. World of dreams, eh? That's very bad, very dangerous. It's almost fatal, Mrs. Travers."

"Why all this dismay? Why do you object to a world of dreams?"

"Because I dislike the prospect of being made a sacrifice of by those Moors. I am not an optimist like our friend there," he continued in a low tone nodding toward the dismal figure of Mr. Travers huddled up in the chair. "I don't regard all this as a farce and I have discovered in myself a strong objection to having my throat cut by those gorgeous barbarians after a lot of fatuous talk. Don't ask me why, Mrs. Travers. Put it down to an absurd weakness."

Mrs. Travers made a slight movement in her chair, raising her hands to her head, and in the dim light of the lanterns d'Alcacer saw the mass of her clear gleaming hair fall down and spread itself over her shoulders. She seized half of it in her hands which looked very white, and with her head inclined a little on one side she began to make a plait.

"You are terrifying," he said after watching the movement of her fingers for a while.

"Yes . . . ?" she accentuated interrogatively.

"You have the awfulness of the predestined. You, too, are the prey of dreams."

"Not of the Moors, then," she uttered, calmly, beginning the other plait. D'Alcacer followed the operation to the end. Close against her, her diaphanous shadow on the muslin reproduced her slightest movements. D'Alcacer turned his eyes away.

"No! No barbarian shall touch you. Because if it comes to that I believe he would be capable of killing you himself."

A minute elapsed before he stole a glance in her direction. She was leaning back again, her hands had fallen on her lap and her head with a plait of hair on each side of her face, her head incredibly changed in character and suggesting something medieval, ascetic, drooped dreamily on her breast.

D'Alcacer waited, holding his breath. She didn't move. In the dim gleam of jewelled clasps, the faint sheen of gold embroideries and the shimmer of silks, she was like a figure in a faded painting. Only her neck appeared dazzlingly white in the smoky redness of the light. D'Alcacer's wonder approached a feeling of awe. He was on the point of moving away quietly when Mrs. Travers, without stirring in the least, let him hear the words:

"I have told him that every day seemed more difficult to live. Don't you see how impossible this is?"

D'Alcacer glanced rapidly across the Cage where Mr. Travers seemed to be asleep all in a heap and presenting a ruffled appearance like a sick bird. Nothing was distinct of him but the bald patch on the top of his head.

"Yes," he murmured, "it is most unfortunate. . . . I understand your anxiety, Mrs. Travers, but . . ."

"I am frightened," she said.

He reflected a moment. "What answer did you get?" he asked, softly.

"The answer was: 'Patience.'"

D'Alcacer laughed a little.—"You may well laugh," murmured Mrs. Travers in a tone of anguish.—"That's why I did," he whispered. "Patience! Didn't he see the horror of it?"—"I don't know. He walked away," said Mrs. Travers. She looked immovably at her hands clasped in her lap, and then with a burst of distress, "Mr. d'Alcacer, what is going to happen?"—"Ah, you are asking yourself the question at last. That will happen which cannot be avoided; and perhaps you know best what it is."—"No. I am still asking myself what he will do."—"Ah, that is not for me to know," declared d'Alcacer. "I can't tell you what he will do, but I know what will happen to him."—"To him, you say! To him!" she cried.—"He will break his heart," said d'Alcacer, distinctly, bending a little over the chair with a slight gasp at his own audacity—and waited.

"Croyez-vous?" came at last from Mrs. Travers in an accent so coldly languid that d'Alcacer felt a shudder run down his spine.

Was it possible that she was that kind of woman, he asked himself. Did she see nothing in the world outside herself? Was she above the commonest kind of compassion? He couldn't suspect Mrs. Travers of stupidity; but she might have been heartless and, like some women of her class, quite unable to recognize any emotion in the world except her own. D'Alcacer was shocked and at the same time he was relieved because he confessed to himself that he had ventured very far. However, in her humanity she was not vulgar enough to be offended. She was not the slave of small meannesses. This thought pleased d'Alcacer who had schooled himself not to expect too much from people. But he didn't know what to do next. After what he had ventured to say and after the manner in which she had met his audacity the only thing to do was to change the conversation. Mrs. Travers remained perfectly still. "I will pretend that I think she is asleep," he thought to himself, meditating a retreat on tip-toe.

He didn't know that Mrs. Travers was simply trying to recover the full command of her faculties. His words had given her a terrible shock. After managing to utter this defensive "croyez-vous" which came out of her lips cold and faint as if in a last effort of dying strength, she felt herself turn rigid and speechless. She was thinking, stiff all over with emotion: "D'Alcacer has seen it! How much more has he been able to see?" She didn't ask herself that question in fear or shame but with a reckless resignation. Out of that shock came a sensation of peace. A glowing warmth passed through all her limbs. If d'Alcacer had peered by that smoky light into her face he might have seen on her lips a fatalistic smile come and go. But d'Alcacer would not have dreamed of doing such a thing, and, besides, his attention just then was drawn in another direction. He had heard subdued exclamations, had noticed a stir on the decks of the Emma, and even some sort of noise outside the ship.

"These are strange sounds," he said.

"Yes, I hear," Mrs. Travers murmured, uneasily.

Vague shapes glided outside the Cage, barefooted, almost noiseless, whispering Malay words secretly.

"It seems as though a boat had come alongside," observed d'Alcacer, lending an attentive ear. "I wonder what it means. In our position. . . ."

"It may mean anything," interrupted Mrs. Travers.

"Jaffir is here," said a voice in the darkness of the after end of the ship. Then there were some more words in which d'Alcacer's attentive ear caught the word "surat."

"A message of some sort has come," he said. "They will be calling Captain Lingard. I wonder what thoughts or what dreams this call will interrupt." He spoke lightly, looking now at Mrs. Travers who had altered her position in the chair; and by their tones and attitudes these two might have been on board the yacht sailing the sea in perfect safety. "You, of course, are the one who will be told. Don't you feel a sort of excitement, Mrs. Travers?"

"I have been lately exhorted to patience," she said in the same easy tone. "I can wait and I imagine I shall have to wait till the morning."

"It can't be very late yet," he said. "Time with us has been standing still for ever so long. And yet this may be the hour of fate."

"Is this the feeling you have at this particular moment?"

"I have had that feeling for a considerable number of moments already. At first it was exciting. Now I am only moderately anxious. I have employed my time in going over all my past life."

"Can one really do that?"

"Yes. I can't say I have been bored to extinction. I am still alive, as you see; but I have done with that and I feel extremely idle. There is only one thing I would like to do. I want to find a few words that could convey to you my gratitude for all your friendliness in the past, at the time when you let me see so much of you in London. I felt always that you took me on my own terms and that so kindly that often I felt inclined to think better of myself. But I am afraid I am wearying you, Mrs. Travers."

"I assure you you have never done that—in the past. And as to the present moment I beg you not to go away. Stay by me please. We are not going to pretend that we are sleepy at this early hour."

D'Alcacer brought a stool close to the long chair and sat down on it. "Oh, yes, the possible hour of fate," he said. "I have a request to make, Mrs. Travers. I don't ask you to betray anything. What would be the good? The issue when it comes will be plain enough. But I should like to get a warning, just something that would give me time to pull myself together, to compose myself as it were. I want you to promise me that if the balance tips against us you will give me a sign. You could, for instance, seize the opportunity when I am looking at you to put your left hand to your forehead like this. It is a gesture that I have never seen you make, and so. . . ."

"Jorgenson!" Lingard's voice was heard forward where the light of a lantern appeared suddenly. Then, after a pause, Lingard was heard again: "Here!"

Then the silent minutes began to go by. Mrs. Travers reclining in her chair and d'Alcacer sitting on the stool waited motionless without a word. Presently through the subdued murmurs and agitation pervading the dark deck of the Emma Mrs. Travers heard a firm footstep, and, lantern in hand, Lingard appeared outside the muslin cage.

"Will you come out and speak to me?" he said, loudly. "Not you. The lady," he added in an authoritative tone as d'Alcacer rose hastily from the stool. "I want Mrs. Travers."

"Of course," muttered d'Alcacer to himself and as he opened the door of the Cage to let Mrs. Travers slip through he whispered to her, "This is the hour of fate."

She brushed past him swiftly without the slightest sign that she had heard the words. On the after deck between the Cage and the deckhouse Lingard waited, lantern in hand. Nobody else was visible about; but d'Alcacer felt in the air the presence of silent and excited beings hovering outside the circle of light. Lingard raised the lantern as Mrs. Travers approached and d'Alcacer heard him say:

"I have had news which you ought to know. Let us go into the deckhouse."

D'Alcacer saw their heads lighted up by the raised lantern surrounded by the depths of shadow with an effect of a marvellous and symbolic vision. He heard Mrs. Travers say "I would rather not hear your news," in a tone that made that sensitive observer purse up his lips in wonder. He thought that she was over-wrought, that the situation had grown too much for her nerves. But this was not the tone of a frightened person. It flashed through his mind that she had become self-conscious, and there he stopped in his speculation. That friend of women remained discreet even in his thoughts. He stepped backward further into the Cage and without surprise saw Mrs. Travers follow Lingard into the deckhouse.


Lingard stood the lantern on the table. Its light was very poor. He dropped on to the sea-chest heavily. He, too, was over-wrought. His flannel shirt was open at the neck. He had a broad belt round his waist and was without his jacket. Before him, Mrs. Travers, straight and tall in the gay silks, cottons, and muslins of her outlandish dress, with the ends of the scarf thrown over her head, hanging down in front of her, looked dimly splendid and with a black glance out of her white face. He said:

"Do you, too, want to throw me over? I tell you you can't do that now."

"I wasn't thinking of throwing you over, but I don't even know what you mean. There seem to be no end of things I can't do. Hadn't you better tell me of something that I could do? Have you any idea yourself what you want from me?"

"You can let me look at you. You can listen to me. You can speak to me."

"Frankly, I have never shirked doing all those things, whenever you wanted me to. You have led me . . ."

"I led you!" cried Lingard.

"Oh! It was my fault," she said, without anger. "I must have dreamed then that it was you who came to me in the dark with the tale of your impossible life. Could I have sent you away?"

"I wish you had. Why didn't you?"

"Do you want me to tell you that you were irresistible? How could I have sent you away? But you! What made you come back to me with your very heart on your lips?"

When Lingard spoke after a time it was in jerky sentences.

"I didn't stop to think. I had been hurt. I didn't think of you people as ladies and gentlemen. I thought of you as people whose lives I held in my hand. How was it possible to forget you in my trouble? It is your face that I brought back with me on board my brig. I don't know why. I didn't look at you more than at anybody else. It took me all my time to keep my temper down lest it should burn you all up. I didn't want to be rude to you people, but I found it wasn't very easy because threats were the only argument I had. Was I very offensive, Mrs. Travers?"

She had listened tense and very attentive, almost stern. And it was without the slightest change of expression that she said:

"I think that you bore yourself appropriately to the state of life to which it has pleased God to call you."

"What state?" muttered Lingard to himself. "I am what I am. They call me Rajah Laut, King Tom, and such like. I think it amused you to hear it, but I can tell you it is no joke to have such names fastened on one, even in fun. And those very names have in them something which makes all this affair here no small matter to anybody."

She stood before him with a set, severe face.—"Did you call me out in this alarming manner only to quarrel with me?"—"No, but why do you choose this time to tell me that my coming for help to you was nothing but impudence in your sight? Well, I beg your pardon for intruding on your dignity."—"You misunderstood me," said Mrs. Travers, without relaxing for a moment her contemplative severity. "Such a flattering thing had never happened to me before and it will never happen to me again. But believe me, King Tom, you did me too much honour. Jorgenson is perfectly right in being angry with you for having taken a woman in tow."—"He didn't mean to be rude," protested Lingard, earnestly. Mrs. Travers didn't even smile at this intrusion of a point of manners into the atmosphere of anguish and suspense that seemed always to arise between her and this man who, sitting on the sea-chest, had raised his eyes to her with an air of extreme candour and seemed unable to take them off again. She continued to look at him sternly by a tremendous effort of will.

"How changed you are," he murmured.

He was lost in the depths of the simplest wonder. She appeared to him vengeful and as if turned forever into stone before his bewildered remorse. Forever. Suddenly Mrs. Travers looked round and sat down in the chair. Her strength failed her but she remained austere with her hands resting on the arms of her seat. Lingard sighed deeply and dropped his eyes. She did not dare relax her muscles for fear of breaking down altogether and betraying a reckless impulse which lurked at the bottom of her dismay, to seize the head of d'Alcacer's Man of Fate, press it to her breast once, fling it far away, and vanish herself, vanish out of life like a wraith. The Man of Fate sat silent and bowed, yet with a suggestion of strength in his dejection. "If I don't speak," Mrs. Travers said to herself, with great inward calmness, "I shall burst into tears." She said aloud, "What could have happened? What have you dragged me in here for? Why don't you tell me your news?"

"I thought you didn't want to hear. I believe you really don't want to. What is all this to you? I believe that you don't care anything about what I feel, about what I do and how I end. I verily believe that you don't care how you end yourself. I believe you never cared for your own or anybody's feelings. I don't think it is because you are hard, I think it is because you don't know, and don't want to know, and are angry with life."

He flourished an arm recklessly, and Mrs. Travers noticed for the first time that he held a sheet of paper in his hand.

"Is that your news there?" she asked, significantly. "It's difficult to imagine that in this wilderness writing can have any significance. And who on earth here could send you news on paper? Will you let me see it? Could I understand it? Is it in English? Come, King Tom, don't look at me in this awful way."

She got up suddenly, not in indignation, but as if at the end of her endurance. The jewelled clasps, the gold embroideries, gleamed elusively amongst the folds of her draperies which emitted a mysterious rustle.

"I can't stand this," she cried. "I can't stand being looked at like this. No woman could stand it. No woman has ever been looked at like this. What can you see? Hatred I could understand. What is it you think me capable of?"

"You are very extraordinary," murmured Lingard, who had regained his self-possession before that outburst.

"Very well, and you are extraordinary, too. That's understood—here we are both under that curse and having to face together whatever may turn up. But who on earth could have sent you this writing?"

"Who?" repeated Lingard. "Why, that young fellow that blundered on my brig in the dark, bringing a boatload of trouble alongside on that quiet night in Carimata Straits. The darkest night I have ever known. An accursed night."

Mrs. Travers bit her lip, waited a little, then asked quietly:

"What difficulty has he got into now?"

"Difficulty!" cried Lingard. "He is immensely pleased with himself, the young fool. You know, when you sent him to talk to me that evening you left the yacht, he came with a loaded pistol in his pocket. And now he has gone and done it."

"Done it?" repeated Mrs. Travers blankly. "Done what?"

She snatched from Lingard's unresisting palm the sheet of paper. While she was smoothing it Lingard moved round and stood close at her elbow. She ran quickly over the first lines, then her eyes steadied. At the end she drew a quick breath and looked up at Lingard. Their faces had never been so close together before and Mrs. Travers had a surprising second of a perfectly new sensation. She looked away.—"Do you understand what this news means?" he murmured. Mrs. Travers let her hand fall by her side. "Yes," she said in a low tone. "The compact is broken."

Carter had begun his letter without any preliminaries:

You cleared out in the middle of the night and took the lady away with you. You left me no proper orders. But as a sailorman I looked upon myself as left in charge of two ships while within half a mile on that sandbank there were more than a hundred piratical cut-throats watching me as closely as so many tigers about to leap. Days went by without a word of you or the lady. To leave the ships outside and go inland to look for you was not to be thought of with all those pirates within springing distance. Put yourself in my place. Can't you imagine my anxiety, my sleepless nights? Each night worse than the night before. And still no word from you. I couldn't sit still and worry my head off about things I couldn't understand. I am a sailorman. My first duty was to the ships. I had to put an end to this impossible situation and I hope you will agree that I have done it in a seamanlike way. One misty morning I moved the brig nearer the sandbank and directly the mist cleared I opened fire on the praus of those savages which were anchored in the channel. We aimed wide at first to give those vagabonds that were on board a chance to clear out and join their friends camped on the sands. I didn't want to kill people. Then we got the long gun to bear and in about an hour we had the bottom knocked out of the two praus. The savages on the bank howled and screamed at every shot. They are mighty angry but I don't care for their anger now, for by sinking their praus I have made them as harmless as a flock of lambs. They needn't starve on their sandbank because they have two or three dugouts hauled up on the sand and they may ferry themselves and their women to the mainland whenever they like.

I fancy I have acted as a seaman and as a seaman I intend to go on acting. Now I have made the ships safe I shall set about without loss of time trying to get the yacht off the mud. When that's done I shall arm the boats and proceed inshore to look for you and the yacht's gentry, and shan't rest till I know whether any or all of you are above the earth yet.

I hope these words will reach you. Just as we had done the business of those praus the man you sent off that night in Carimata to stop our chief officer came sailing in from the west with our first gig in tow and the boat's crew all well. Your serang tells me he is a most trustworthy messenger and that his name is Jaffir. He seems only too anxious to try to get to you as soon as possible. I repeat, ships and men have been made safe and I don't mean to give you up dead or alive.

"You are quick in taking the point," said Lingard in a dull voice, while Mrs. Travers, with the sheet of paper gripped in her hand, looked into his face with anxious eyes. "He has been smart and no mistake."

"He didn't know," murmured Mrs. Travers.

"No, he didn't know. But could I take everybody into my confidence?" protested Lingard in the same low tone. "And yet who else could I trust? It seemed to me that he must have understood without being told. But he is too young. He may well be proud according to his lights. He has done that job outside very smartly—damn his smartness! And here we are with all our lives depending on my word—which is broken now, Mrs. Travers. It is broken."

Mrs. Travers nodded at him slightly.

"They would sooner have expected to see the sun and the moon fall out of the sky," Lingard continued with repressed fire. Next moment it seemed to have gone out of him and Mrs. Travers heard him mutter a disconnected phrase. . . . "The world down about my ears."

"What will you do?" she whispered.

"What will I do?" repeated Lingard, gently. "Oh, yes—do. Mrs. Travers, do you see that I am nothing now? Just nothing."

He had lost himself in the contemplation of her face turned to him with an expression of awed curiosity. The shock of the world coming down about his ears in consequence of Carter's smartness was so terrific that it had dulled his sensibilities in the manner of a great pain or of a great catastrophe. What was there to look at but that woman's face, in a world which had lost its consistency, its shape, and its promises in a moment?

Mrs. Travers looked away. She understood that she had put to Lingard an impossible question. What was presenting itself to her as a problem was to that man a crisis of feeling. Obviously Carter's action had broken the compact entered into with Daman, and she was intelligent enough to understand that it was the sort of thing that could not be explained away. It wasn't horror that she felt, but a sort of consternation, something like the discomfiture of people who have just missed their train. It was only more intense. The real dismay had yet to make its way into her comprehension. To Lingard it was a blow struck straight at his heart.

He was not angry with Carter. The fellow had acted like a seaman. Carter's concern was for the ships. In this fatality Carter was a mere incident. The real cause of the disaster was somewhere else, was other, and more remote. And at the same time Lingard could not defend himself from a feeling that it was in himself, too, somewhere in the unexplored depths of his nature, something fatal and unavoidable. He muttered to himself:

"No. I am not a lucky man."

This was but a feeble expression of the discovery of the truth that suddenly had come home to him as if driven into his breast by a revealing power which had decided that this was to be the end of his fling. But he was not the man to give himself up to the examination of his own sensations. His natural impulse was to grapple with the circumstances and that was what he was trying to do; but he missed now that sense of mastery which is half the battle. Conflict of some sort was the very essence of his life. But this was something he had never known before. This was a conflict within himself. He had to face unsuspected powers, foes that he could not go out to meet at the gate. They were within, as though he had been betrayed by somebody, by some secret enemy. He was ready to look round for that subtle traitor. A sort of blankness fell on his mind and he suddenly thought: "Why! It's myself."

Immediately afterward he had a clear, merciless recollection of Hassim and Immada. He saw them far off beyond the forests. Oh, yes, they existed—within his breast!

"That was a night!" he muttered, looking straight at Mrs. Travers. He had been looking at her all the time. His glance had held her under a spell, but for a whole interminable minute he had not been aware of her at all. At the murmur of his words she made a slight movement and he saw her again.—"What night?" she whispered, timidly, like an intruder. She was astonished to see him smile.—"Not like this one," he said. "You made me notice how quiet and still it was. Yes. Listen how still it is."

Both moved their heads slightly and seemed to lend an ear. There was not a murmur, sigh, rustle, splash, or footfall. No whispers, no tremors, not a sound of any kind. They might have been alone on board the Emma, abandoned even by the ghost of Captain Jorgenson departed to rejoin the Barque Wild Rose on the shore of the Cimmerian sea.—"It's like the stillness of the end," said Mrs. Travers in a low, equable voice.—"Yes, but that, too, is false," said Lingard in the same tone.—"I don't understand," Mrs. Travers began, hurriedly, after a short silence. "But don't use that word. Don't use it, King Tom! It frightens me by its mere sound."

Lingard made no sign. His thoughts were back with Hassim and Immada. The young chief and his sister had gone up country on a voluntary mission to persuade Belarab to return to his stockade and to take up again the direction of affairs. They carried urgent messages from Lingard, who for Belarab was the very embodiment of truth and force, that unquestioned force which had permitted Belarab to indulge in all his melancholy hesitations. But those two young people had also some personal prestige. They were Lingard's heart's friends. They were like his children. But beside that, their high birth, their warlike story, their wanderings, adventures, and prospects had given them a glamour of their own.


The very day that Travers and d'Alcacer had come on board the Emma Hassim and Immada had departed on their mission; for Lingard, of course, could not think of leaving the white people alone with Jorgenson. Jorgenson was all right, but his ineradicable habit of muttering in his moustache about "throwing a lighted match amongst the powder barrels" had inspired Lingard with a certain amount of mistrust. And, moreover, he did not want to go away from Mrs. Travers.

It was the only correct inspiration on Carter's part to send Jaffir with his report to Lingard. That stout-hearted fighter, swimmer, and devoted follower of the princely misfortunes of Hassim and Immada, had looked upon his mission to catch the chief officer of the yacht (which he had received from Lingard in Carimata) as a trifling job. It took him a little longer than he expected but he had got back to the brig just in time to be sent on to Lingard with Carter's letter after a couple of hours' rest. He had the story of all the happenings from Wasub before he left and though his face preserved its grave impassivity, in his heart he did not like it at all.

Fearless and wily, Jaffir was the man for difficult missions and a born messenger—as he expressed it himself—"to bear weighty words between great men." With his unfailing memory he was able to reproduce them exactly, whether soft or hard, in council or in private; for he knew no fear. With him there was no need for writing which might fall into the hands of the enemy. If he died on the way the message would die with him. He had also the gift of getting at the sense of any situation and an observant eye. He was distinctly one of those men from whom trustworthy information can be obtained by the leaders of great enterprises. Lingard did put several questions to him, but in this instance, of course, Jaffir could have only very little to say. Of Carter, whom he called the "young one," he said that he looked as white men look when they are pleased with themselves; then added without waiting for a definite question—"The ships out there are now safe enough, O, Rajah Laut!" There was no elation in his tone.

Lingard looked at him blankly. When the Greatest of White Men remarked that there was yet a price to be paid for that safety, Jaffir assented by a "Yes, by Allah!" without losing for a moment his grim composure. When told that he would be required to go and find his master and the lady Immada who were somewhere in the back country, in Belarab's travelling camp, he declared himself ready to proceed at once. He had eaten his fill and had slept three hours on board the brig and he was not tired. When he was young he used to get tired sometimes; but for many years now he had known no such weakness. He did not require the boat with paddlers in which he had come up into the lagoon. He would go alone in a small canoe. This was no time, he remarked, for publicity and ostentation. His pent-up anxiety burst through his lips. "It is in my mind, Tuan, that death has not been so near them since that night when you came sailing in a black cloud and took us all out of the stockade."

Lingard said nothing but there was in Jaffir a faith in that white man which was not easily shaken.

"How are you going to save them this time, O Rajah Laut?" he asked, simply.

"Belarab is my friend," murmured Lingard.

In his anxiety Jaffir was very outspoken. "A man of peace!" he exclaimed in a low tone. "Who could be safe with a man like that?" he asked, contemptuously.

"There is no war," said Lingard

"There is suspicion, dread, and revenge, and the anger of armed men," retorted Jaffir. "You have taken the white prisoners out of their hands by the force of your words alone. Is that so, Tuan?"

"Yes," said Lingard.

"And you have them on board here?" asked Jaffir, with a glance over his shoulder at the white and misty structure within which by the light of a small oil flame d'Alcacer and Mrs. Travers were just then conversing.

"Yes, I have them here."

"Then, Rajah Laut," whispered Jaffir, "you can make all safe by giving them back."

"Can I do that?" were the words breathed out through Lingard's lips to the faithful follower of Hassim and Immada.

"Can you do anything else?" was the whispered retort of Jaffir the messenger accustomed to speak frankly to the great of the earth. "You are a white man and you can have only one word. And now I go."

A small, rough dug-out belonging to the Emma had been brought round to the ladder. A shadowy calash hovering respectfully in the darkness of the deck had already cleared his throat twice in a warning manner.

"Yes, Jaffir, go," said Lingard, "and be my friend."

"I am the friend of a great prince," said the other, sturdily. "But you, Rajah Laut, were even greater. And great you will remain while you are with us, people of this sea and of this land. But what becomes of the strength of your arms before your own white people? Where does it go to, I say? Well, then, we must trust in the strength of your heart."

"I hope that will never fail," said Lingard, and Jaffir emitted a grunt of satisfaction. "But God alone sees into men's hearts."

"Yes. Our refuge is with Allah," assented Jaffir, who had acquired the habit of pious turns of speech in the frequentation of professedly religious men, of whom there were many in Belarab's stockade. As a matter of fact, he reposed all his trust in Lingard who had with him the prestige of a providential man sent at the hour of need by heaven itself. He waited a while, then: "What is the message I am to take?" he asked.

"Tell the whole tale to the Rajah Hassim," said Lingard. "And tell him to make his way here with the lady his sister secretly and with speed. The time of great trouble has come. Let us, at least, be together."

"Right! Right!" Jaffir approved, heartily. "To die alone under the weight of one's enemies is a dreadful fate."

He stepped back out of the sheen of the lamp by which they had been talking and making his way down into the small canoe he took up a paddle and without a splash vanished on the dark lagoon.

It was then that Mrs. Travers and d'Alcacer heard Lingard call aloud for Jorgenson. Instantly the familiar shadow stood at Lingard's elbow and listened in detached silence. Only at the end of the tale it marvelled audibly: "Here's a mess for you if you like." But really nothing in the world could astonish or startle old Jorgenson. He turned away muttering in his moustache. Lingard remained with his chin in his hand and Jaffir's last words took gradual possession of his mind. Then brusquely he picked up the lamp and went to seek Mrs. Travers. He went to seek her because he actually needed her bodily presence, the sound of her voice, the dark, clear glance of her eyes. She could do nothing for him. On his way he became aware that Jorgenson had turned out the few Malays on board the Emma and was disposing them about the decks to watch the lagoon in all directions. On calling Mrs. Travers out of the Cage Lingard was, in the midst of his mental struggle, conscious of a certain satisfaction in taking her away from d'Alcacer. He couldn't spare any of her attention to any other man, not the least crumb of her time, not the least particle of her thought! He needed it all. To see it withdrawn from him for the merest instant was irritating—seemed a disaster.

D'Alcacer, left alone, wondered at the imperious tone of Lingard's call. To this observer of shades the fact seemed considerable. "Sheer nerves," he concluded, to himself. "The man is overstrung. He must have had some sort of shock." But what could it be—he wondered to himself. In the tense stagnation of those days of waiting the slightest tremor had an enormous importance. D'Alcacer did not seek his camp bedstead. He didn't even sit down. With the palms of his hands against the edge of the table he leaned back against it. In that negligent attitude he preserved an alert mind which for a moment wondered whether Mrs. Travers had not spoiled Lingard a little. Yet in the suddenness of the forced association, where, too, d'Alcacer was sure there was some moral problem in the background, he recognized the extreme difficulty of weighing accurately the imperious demands against the necessary reservations, the exact proportions of boldness and caution. And d'Alcacer admired upon the whole Mrs. Travers' cleverness.

There could be no doubt that she had the situation in her hands. That, of course, did not mean safety. She had it in her hands as one may hold some highly explosive and uncertain compound. D'Alcacer thought of her with profound sympathy and with a quite unselfish interest. Sometimes in a street we cross the path of personalities compelling sympathy and wonder but for all that we don't follow them home. D'Alcacer refrained from following Mrs. Travers any further. He had become suddenly aware that Mr. Travers was sitting up on his camp bedstead. He must have done it very suddenly. Only a moment before he had appeared plunged in the deepest slumber, and the stillness for a long time now had been perfectly unbroken. D'Alcacer was startled enough for an exclamation and Mr. Travers turned his head slowly in his direction. D'Alcacer approached the bedstead with a certain reluctance.

"Awake?" he said.

"A sudden chill," said Mr. Travers. "But I don't feel cold now. Strange! I had the impression of an icy blast."

"Ah!" said d'Alcacer.

"Impossible, of course!" went on Mr. Travers. "This stagnating air never moves. It clings odiously to one. What time is it?"

"Really, I don't know."

"The glass of my watch was smashed on that night when we were so treacherously assailed by the savages on the sandbank," grumbled Mr. Travers.

"I must say I was never so surprised in my life," confessed d'Alcacer. "We had stopped and I was lighting a cigar, you may remember."

"No," said Mr. Travers. "I had just then pulled out my watch. Of course it flew out of my hand but it hung by the chain. Somebody trampled on it. The hands are broken off short. It keeps on ticking but I can't tell the time. It's absurd. Most provoking."

"Do you mean to say," asked d'Alcacer, "that you have been winding it up every evening?"

Mr. Travers looked up from his bedstead and he also seemed surprised. "Why! I suppose I have." He kept silent for a while. "It isn't so much blind habit as you may think. My habits are the outcome of strict method. I had to order my life methodically. You know very well, my dear d'Alcacer, that without strict method I would not have been able to get through my work and would have had no time at all for social duties, which, of course, are of very great importance. I may say that, materially, method has been the foundation of my success in public life. There were never any empty moments in my day. And now this! . . ." He looked all round the Cage. . . . "Where's my wife?" he asked.

"I was talking to her only a moment ago," answered d'Alcacer. "I don't know the time. My watch is on board the yacht; but it isn't late, you know."

Mr. Travers flung off with unwonted briskness the light cotton sheet which covered him. He buttoned hastily the tunic which he had unfastened before lying down, and just as d'Alcacer was expecting him to swing his feet to the deck impetuously, he lay down again on the pillow and remained perfectly still.

D'Alcacer waited awhile and then began to pace the Cage. After a couple of turns he stopped and said, gently:

"I am afraid, Travers, you are not very well."

"I don't know what illness is," answered the voice from the pillow to the great relief of d'Alcacer who really had not expected an answer. "Good health is a great asset in public life. Illness may make you miss a unique opportunity. I was never ill."

All this came out deadened in tone, as if the speaker's face had been buried in the pillow. D'Alcacer resumed his pacing.

"I think I asked you where my wife was," said the muffled voice.

With great presence of mind d'Alcacer kept on pacing the Cage as if he had not heard.—"You know, I think she is mad," went on the muffled voice. "Unless I am."

Again d'Alcacer managed not to interrupt his regular pacing. "Do you know what I think?" he said, abruptly. "I think, Travers, that you don't want to talk about her. I think that you don't want to talk about anything. And to tell you the truth I don't want to, either."

D'Alcacer caught a faint sigh from the pillow and at the same time saw a small, dim flame appear outside the Cage. And still he kept on his pacing. Mrs. Travers and Lingard coming out of the deckhouse stopped just outside the door and Lingard stood the deck-lamp on its roof. They were too far from d'Alcacer to be heard, but he could make them out: Mrs. Travers, as straight as an arrow, and the heavy bulk of the man who faced her with a lowered head. He saw it in profile against the light and as if deferential in its slight droop. They were looking straight at each other. Neither of them made the slightest gesture.

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