A Set of Six
Joseph Conrad

Part 3 out of 6

told him curtly that the man's cynicism was simply
"Oh, abominable! abominable!" assented my friend,


effusively. "And then, you know, he likes to have his
little joke sometimes," he added in a confidential tone.
I fail to understand the connection of this last re-
mark. I have been utterly unable to discover where in
all this the joke comes in.


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DODGING in from the rain-swept street, I exchanged
a smile and a glance with Miss Blank in the bar of the
Three Crows. This exchange was effected with ex-
treme propriety. It is a shock to think that, if still
alive, Miss Blank must be something over sixty now.
How time passes!
Noticing my gaze directed inquiringly at the parti-
tion of glass and varnished wood, Miss Blank was good
enough to say, encouragingly:
"Only Mr. Jermyn and Mr. Stonor in the parlour with
another gentleman I've never seen before."
I moved towards the parlour door. A voice dis-
coursing on the other side (it was but a matchboard
partition), rose so loudly that the concluding words
became quite plain in all their atrocity.
"That fellow Wilmot fairly dashed her brains out,
and a good job, too!"
This inhuman sentiment, since there was nothing
profane or improper in it, failed to do as much as to
check the slight yawn Miss Blank was achieving behind
her hand. And she remained gazing fixedly at the
window-panes, which streamed with rain.
As I opened the parlour door the same voice went on
in the same cruel strain:
"I was glad when I heard she got the knock from
somebody at last. Sorry enough for poor Wilmot,
though. That man and I used to be chums at one
time. Of course that was the end of him. A clear



case if there ever was one. No way out of it. None
at all."
The voice belonged to the gentleman Miss Blank had
never seen before. He straddled his long legs on the
hearthrug. Jermyn, leaning forward, held his pocket-
handkerchief spread out before the grate. He looked
back dismally over his shoulder, and as I slipped behind
one of the little wooden tables, I nodded to him. On
the other side of the fire, imposingly calm and large,
sat Mr. Stonor, jammed tight into a capacious Windsor
armchair. There was nothing small about him but
his short, white side-whiskers. Yards and yards of
extra superfine blue cloth (made up into an overcoat)
reposed on a chair by his side. And he must just
have brought some liner from sea, because another
chair was smothered under his black waterproof,
ample as a pall, and made of three-fold oiled silk,
double-stitched throughout. A man's hand-bag of the
usual size looked like a child's toy on the floor near
his feet.
I did not nod to him. He was too big to be nodded
to in that parlour. He was a senior Trinity pilot and
condescended to take his turn in the cutter only during
the summer months. He had been many times in
charge of royal yachts in and out of Port Victoria.
Besides, it's no use nodding to a monument. And he
was like one. He didn't speak, he didn't budge. He
just sat there, holding his handsome old head up,
immovable, and almost bigger than life. It was ex-
tremely fine. Mr. Stonor's presence reduced poor old
Jermyn to a mere shabby wisp of a man, and made the
talkative stranger in tweeds on the hearthrug look
absurdly boyish. The latter must have been a few
years over thirty, and was certainly not the sort of
individual that gets abashed at the sound of his own


voice, because gathering me in, as it were, by a friendly
glance, he kept it going without a check.
"I was glad of it," he repeated, emphatically. "You
may be surprised at it, but then you haven't gone
through the experience I've had of her. I can tell you,
it was something to remember. Of course, I got off scot
free myself -- as you can see. She did her best to break
up my pluck for me tho'. She jolly near drove as fine a
fellow as ever lived into a madhouse. What do you say
to that -- eh?"
Not an eyelid twitched in Mr. Stonor's enormous face.
Monumental! The speaker looked straight into my
"It used to make me sick to think of her going
about the world murdering people."
Jermyn approached the handkerchief a little nearer
to the grate and groaned. It was simply a habit he had.
"I've seen her once," he declared, with mournful in-
difference. "She had a house --"
The stranger in tweeds turned to stare down at him,
"She had three houses," he corrected, authoritatively.
But Jermyn was not to be contradicted.
"She had a house, I say," he repeated, with dismal
obstinacy. "A great, big, ugly, white thing. You could
see it from miles away -- sticking up."
"So you could," assented the other readily. "It was
old Colchester's notion, though he was always threaten-
ing to give her up. He couldn't stand her racket any
more, he declared; it was too much of a good thing for
him; he would wash his hands of her, if he never got
hold of another -- and so on. I daresay he would have
chucked her, only -- it may surprise you -- his missus
wouldn't hear of it. Funny, eh? But with women,
you never know how they will take a thing, and Mrs.


Colchester, with her moustaches and big eyebrows, set
up for being as strong-minded as they make them. She
used to walk about in a brown silk dress, with a great
gold cable flopping about her bosom. You should have
heard her snapping out: 'Rubbish!' or 'Stuff and non-
sense!' I daresay she knew when she was well off.
They had no children, and had never set up a home any-
where. When in England she just made shift to hang
out anyhow in some cheap hotel or boarding-house. I
daresay she liked to get back to the comforts she was
used to. She knew very well she couldn't gain by any
change. And, moreover, Colchester, though a first-
rate man, was not what you may call in his first youth,
and, perhaps, she may have thought that he wouldn't
be able to get hold of another (as he used to say) so
easily. Anyhow, for one reason or another, it was
'Rubbish' and 'Stuff and nonsense' for the good lady.
I overheard once young Mr. Apse himself say to her
confidentially: 'I assure you, Mrs. Colchester, I am
beginning to feel quite unhappy about the name she's
getting for herself.' 'Oh,' says she, with her deep little
hoarse laugh, 'if one took notice of all the silly talk,'
and she showed Apse all her ugly false teeth at once.
'It would take more than that to make me lose my
confidence in her, I assure you,' says she."
At this point, without any change of facial expression,
Mr. Stonor emitted a short, sardonic laugh. It was
very impressive, but I didn't see the fun. I looked from
one to another. The stranger on the hearthrug had an
ugly smile.
"And Mr. Apse shook both Mrs. Colchester's hands,
he was so pleased to hear a good word said for their
favourite. All these Apses, young and old you know,
were perfectly infatuated with that abominable, dan-
gerous --"


"I beg your pardon," I interrupted, for he seemed
to be addressing himself exclusively to me; "but who
on earth are you talking about?"
"I am talking of the Apse family," he answered,
I nearly let out a damn at this. But just then the
respected Miss Blank put her head in, and said that the
cab was at the door, if Mr. Stonor wanted to catch the
eleven three up.
At once the senior pilot arose in his mighty bulk and
began to struggle into his coat, with awe-inspiring up-
heavals. The stranger and I hurried impulsively to his
assistance, and directly we laid our hands on him he
became perfectly quiescent. We had to raise our arms
very high, and to make efforts. It was like caparisoning
a docile elephant. With a "Thanks, gentlemen," he
dived under and squeezed himself through the door in a
great hurry.
We smiled at each other in a friendly way.
"I wonder how he manages to hoist himself up a
ship's side-ladder," said the man in tweeds; and poor
Jermyn, who was a mere North Sea pilot, without official
status or recognition of any sort, pilot only by courtesy,
"He makes eight hundred a year."
"Are you a sailor?" I asked the stranger, who had
gone back to his position on the rug.
"I used to be till a couple of years ago, when I got
married," answered this communicative individual. "I
even went to sea first in that very ship we were speak-
ing of when you came in."
"What ship?" I asked, puzzled. "I never heard
you mention a ship."
"I've just told you her name, my dear sir," he replied.
"The Apse Family. Surely you've heard of the great


firm of Apse & Sons, shipowners. They had a pretty
big fleet. There was the Lucy Apse, and the Harold
, and Anne, John, Malcolm, Clara, Juliet, and so on
-- no end of Apses. Every brother, sister, aunt, cousin,
wife -- and grandmother, too, for all I know -- of the firm
had a ship named after them. Good, solid, old-fashioned
craft they were, too, built to carry and to last. None
of your new-fangled, labour-saving appliances in them,
but plenty of men and plenty of good salt beef and hard
tack put aboard -- and off you go to fight your way out
and home again."
The miserable Jermyn made a sound of approval,
which sounded like a groan of pain. Those were the
ships for him. He pointed out in doleful tones that
you couldn't say to labour-saving appliances: "Jump
lively now, my hearties." No labour-saving appliance
would go aloft on a dirty night with the sands under
your lee.
"No," assented the stranger, with a wink at me.
"The Apses didn't believe in them either, apparently.
They treated their people well -- as people don't get
treated nowadays, and they were awfully proud of their
ships. Nothing ever happened to them. This last one,
the Apse Family, was to be like the others, only she was
to be still stronger, still safer, still more roomy and com-
fortable. I believe they meant her to last for ever.
They had her built composite -- iron, teak-wood, and
greenheart, and her scantling was something fabulous.
If ever an order was given for a ship in a spirit of pride
this one was. Everything of the best. The commodore
captain of the employ was to command her, and they
planned the accommodation for him like a house on
shore under a big, tall poop that went nearly to the
mainmast. No wonder Mrs. Colchester wouldn't let
the old man give her up. Why, it was the best home


she ever had in all her married days. She had a nerve,
that woman.
"The fuss that was made while that ship was build-
ing! Let's have this a little stronger, and that a little
heavier; and hadn't that other thing better be changed
for something a little thicker. The builders entered
into the spirit of the game, and there she was, growing
into the clumsiest, heaviest ship of her size right before
all their eyes, without anybody becoming aware of it
somehow. She was to be 2,000 tons register, or a little
over; no less on any account. But see what happens.
When they came to measure her she turned out 1,999
tons and a fraction. General consternation! And they
say old Mr. Apse was so annoyed when they told him
that he took to his bed and died. The old gentleman
had retired from the firm twenty-five years before, and
was ninety-six years old if a day, so his death wasn't,
perhaps, so surprising. Still Mr. Lucian Apse was con-
vinced that his father would have lived to a hundred.
So we may put him at the head of the list. Next
comes the poor devil of a shipwright that brute caught
and squashed as she went off the ways. They called
it the launch of a ship, but I've heard people say that,
from the wailing and yelling and scrambling out of the
way, it was more like letting a devil loose upon the
river. She snapped all her checks like pack-thread, and
went for the tugs in attendance like a fury. Before
anybody could see what she was up to she sent one
of them to the bottom, and laid up another for three
months' repairs. One of her cables parted, and then,
suddenly -- you couldn't tell why -- she let herself be
brought up with the other as quiet as a lamb.
"That's how she was. You could never be sure
what she would be up to next. There are ships difficult
to handle, but generally you can depend on them behav-


ing rationally. With that ship, whatever you did with
her you never knew how it would end. She was
a wicked beast. Or, perhaps, she was only just in-
He uttered this supposition in so earnest a tone that
I could not refrain from smiling. He left off biting his
lower lip to apostrophize me.
"Eh! Why not? Why couldn't there be something
in her build, in her lines corresponding to -- What's
madness? Only something just a tiny bit wrong in the
make of your brain. Why shouldn't there be a mad
ship -- I mean mad in a ship-like way, so that under no
circumstances could you be sure she would do what any
other sensible ship would naturally do for you. There
are ships that steer wildly, and ships that can't be quite
trusted always to stay; others want careful watching
when running in a gale; and, again, there may be
a ship that will make heavy weather of it in every
little blow. But then you expect her to be always
so. You take it as part of her character, as a ship,
just as you take account of a man's peculiarities of
temper when you deal with him. But with her you
couldn't. She was unaccountable. If she wasn't mad,
then she was the most evil-minded, underhand, savage
brute that ever went afloat. I've seen her run in a heavy
gale beautifully for two days, and on the third broach
to twice in the same afternoon. The first time she
flung the helmsman clean over the wheel, but as she
didn't quite manage to kill him she had another try
about three hours afterwards. She swamped herself
fore and aft, burst all the canvas we had set, scared all
hands into a panic, and even frightened Mrs. Colchester
down there in these beautiful stern cabins that she was
so proud of. When we mustered the crew there was
one man missing. Swept overboard, of course, without


being either seen or heard, poor devil! and I only wonder
more of us didn't go.
"Always something like that. Always. I heard an
old mate tell Captain Colchester once that it had come
to this with him, that he was afraid to open his mouth
to give any sort of order. She was as much of a terror
in harbour as at sea. You could never be certain what
would hold her. On the slightest provocation she would
start snapping ropes, cables, wire hawsers, like carrots.
She was heavy, clumsy, unhandy -- but that does not
quite explain that power for mischief she had. You
know, somehow, when I think of her I can't help re-
membering what we hear of incurable lunatics breaking
loose now and then."
He looked at me inquisitively. But, of course,
I couldn't admit that a ship could be mad.
"In the ports where she was known," he went on,'
"they dreaded the sight of her. She thought nothing of
knocking away twenty feet or so of solid stone facing off
a quay or wiping off the end of a wooden wharf. She
must have lost miles of chain and hundreds of tons of
anchors in her time. When she fell aboard some poor
unoffending ship it was the very devil of a job to haul her
off again. And she never got hurt herself -- just a few
scratches or so, perhaps. They had wanted to have
her strong. And so she was. Strong enough to ram
Polar ice with. And as she began so she went on.
From the day she was launched she never let a year pass
without murdering somebody. I think the owners got
very worried about it. But they were a stiff-necked
generation all these Apses; they wouldn't admit there
could be anything wrong with the Apse Family. They
wouldn't even change her name. 'Stuff and nonsense,'
as Mrs. Colchester used to say. They ought at least to
have shut her up for life in some dry dock or other, away


up the river, and never let her smell salt water again. I
assure you, my dear sir, that she invariably did kill
someone every voyage she made. It was perfectly
well-known. She got a name for it, far and wide."
I expressed my surprise that a ship with such a
deadly reputation could ever get a crew.
"Then, you don't know what sailors are, my dear sir.
Let me just show you by an instance. One day in dock
at home, while loafing on the forecastle head, I noticed
two respectable salts come along, one a middle-aged,
competent, steady man, evidently, the other a smart,
youngish chap. They read the name on the bows and
stopped to look at her. Says the elder man: 'Apse
. That's the sanguinary female dog' (I'm
putting it in that way) 'of a ship, Jack, that kills a
man every voyage. I wouldn't sign in her -- not for
Joe, I wouldn't.' And the other says: 'If she were
mine, I'd have her towed on the mud and set on fire,
blamme if I wouldn't.' Then the first man chimes in:
'Much do they care! Men are cheap, God knows.'
The younger one spat in the water alongside. 'They
won't have me -- not for double wages.'
"They hung about for some time and then walked up
the dock. Half an hour later I saw them both on our
deck looking about for the mate, and apparently very
anxious to be taken on. And they were."
"How do you account for this?" I asked.
"What would you say?" he retorted. "Reckless-
ness ! The vanity of boasting in the evening to all their
chums: 'We've just shipped in that there Apse Family.
Blow her. She ain't going to scare us.' Sheer sailor-
like perversity! A sort of curiosity. Well -- a little of
all that, no doubt. I put the question to them in the
course of the voyage. The answer of the elderly chap


"'A man can die but once.' The younger assured
me in a mocking tone that he wanted to see 'how she
would do it this time.' But I tell you what; there was
a sort of fascination about the brute."
Jermyn, who seemed to have seen every ship in the
world, broke in sulkily:
"I saw her once out of this very window towing up
the river; a great black ugly thing, going along like a
big hearse."
"Something sinister about her looks, wasn't there?"
said the man in tweeds, looking down at old Jermyn
with a friendly eye. "I always had a sort of horror of
her. She gave me a beastly shock when I was no more
than fourteen, the very first day -- nay, hour -- I joined
her. Father came up to see me off, and was to go down
to Gravesend with us. I was his second boy to go to
sea. My big brother was already an officer then. We.
got on board about eleven in the morning, and found the
ship ready to drop out of the basin, stern first. She
had not moved three times her own length when, at
a little pluck the tug gave her to enter the dock gates,
she made one of her rampaging starts, and put such
a weight on the check rope -- a new six-inch hawser
-- that forward there they had no chance to ease it
round in time, and it parted. I saw the broken end
fly up high in the air, and the next moment that brute
brought her quarter against the pier-head with a jar
that staggered everybody about her decks. She didn't
hurt herself. Not she! But one of the boys the mate
had sent aloft on the mizzen to do something, came
down on the poop-deck -- thump -- right in front of me.
He was not much older than myself. We had been
grinning at each other only a few minutes before. He
must have been handling himself carelessly, not expect-
ing to get such a jerk. I heard his startled cry -- Oh! --


in a high treble as he felt himself going, and looked up
in time to see him go limp all over as he fell. Ough!
Poor father was remarkably white about the gills when
we shook hands in Gravesend. 'Are you all right?' he
says, looking hard at me. 'Yes, father.' 'Quite sure?'
'Yes, father.' 'Well, then good-bye, my boy.' He told
me afterwards that for half a word he would have carried
me off home with him there and then. I am the baby
of the family -- you know," added the man in tweeds,
stroking his moustache with an ingenuous smile.
I acknowledged this interesting communication by a
sympathetic murmur. He waved his hand carelessly.
"This might have utterly spoiled a chap's nerve for
going aloft, you know -- utterly. He fell within two
feet of me, cracking his head on a mooring-bitt. Never
moved. Stone dead. Nice looking little fellow, he was.
I had just been thinking we would be great chums.
However, that wasn't yet the worst that brute of a ship
could do. I served in her three years of my time, and
then I got transferred to the Lucy Apse, for a year. The
sailmaker we had in the Apse Family turned up there,
too, and I remember him saying to me one evening, after
we had been a week at sea: Isn't she a meek little
ship?' No wonder we thought the Lucy Apse a dear,
meek, little ship after getting clear of that big, rampag-
ing savage brute. It was like heaven. Her officers
seemed to me the restfullest lot of men on earth. To me
who had known no ship but the Apse Family, the Lucy
was like a sort of magic craft that did what you wanted
her to do of her own accord. One evening we got
caught aback pretty sharply from right ahead. In about
ten minutes we had her full again, sheets aft, tacks down,
decks cleared, and the officer of the watch leaning
against the weather rail peacefully. It seemed simply
marvellous to me. The other would have stuck for half-


an-hour in irons, rolling her decks full of water, knock-
ing the men about -- spars cracking, braces snapping,
yards taking charge, and a confounded scare going on
aft because of her beastly rudder, which she had a way
of flapping about fit to raise your hair on end. I could-
n't get over my wonder for days.
"Well, I finished my last year of apprenticeship in
that jolly little ship -- she wasn't so little either, but
after that other heavy devil she seemed but a plaything
to handle. I finished my time and passed; and then
just as I was thinking of having three weeks of real
good time on shore I got at breakfast a letter asking me
the earliest day I could be ready to join the Apse Family
as third mate. I gave my plate a shove that shot it
into the middle of the table; dad looked up over his
paper; mother raised her hands in astonishment, and I
went out bare-headed into our bit of garden, where I
walked round and round for an hour.
"When I came in again mother was out of the
dining-room, and dad had shifted berth into his big
armchair. The letter was lying on the mantelpiece.
"'It's very creditable to you to get the offer, and
very kind of them to make it,' he said. 'And I see also
that Charles has been appointed chief mate of that ship
for one voyage.'
"There was, over leaf, a P.S. to that effect in Mr.
Apse's own handwriting, which I had overlooked.
Charley was my big brother.
"I don't like very much to have two of my boys
together in one ship,' father goes on, in his deliberate,
solemn way. 'And I may tell you that I would not
mind writing Mr. Apse a letter to that effect.'
"Dear old dad! He was a wonderful father. What
would you have done? The mere notion of going back
(and as an officer, too), to be worried and bothered,


and kept on the jump night and day by that brute, made
me feel sick. But she wasn't a ship you could afford to
fight shy of. Besides, the most genuine excuse could
not be given without mortally offending Apse & Sons.
The firm, and I believe the whole family down to the
old unmarried aunts in Lancashire, had grown desper-
ately touchy about that accursed ship's character. This
was the case for answering 'Ready now' from your
very death-bed if you wished to die in their good graces.
And that's precisely what I did answer -- by wire, to
have it over and done with at once.
"The prospect of being shipmates with my big brother
cheered me up considerably, though it made me a bit
anxious, too. Ever since I remember myself as a little
chap he had been very good to me, and I looked upon
him as the finest fellow in the world. And so he was.
No better officer ever walked the deck of a merchant
ship. And that's a fact. He was a fine, strong, up-
standing, sun-tanned, young fellow, with his brown hair
curling a little, and an eye like a hawk. He was just
splendid. We hadn't seen each other for many years,
and even this time, though he had been in England
three weeks already, he hadn't showed up at home yet,
but had spent his spare time in Surrey somewhere mak-
ing up to Maggie Colchester, old Captain Colchester's
niece. Her father, a great friend of dad's, was in the
sugar-broking business, and Charley made a sort of
second home of their house. I wondered what my big
brother would think of me. There was a sort of stern-
ness about Charley's face which never left it, not even
when he was larking in his rather wild fashion.
"He received me with a great shout of laughter.
He seemed to think my joining as an officer the greatest
joke in the world. There was a difference of ten years
between us, and I suppose he remembered me best in


pinafores. I was a kid of four when he first went to sea.
It surprised me to find how boisterous he could be.
"'Now we shall see what you are made of,' he cried.
And he held me off by the shoulders, and punched my
ribs, and hustled me into his berth. 'Sit down, Ned. I
am glad of the chance of having you with me. I'll put
the finishing touch to you, my young officer, providing
you're worth the trouble. And, first of all, get it well
into your head that we are not going to let this brute
kill anybody this voyage. We'll stop her racket.'
"I perceived he was in dead earnest about it. He
talked grimly of the ship, and how we must be careful
and never allow this ugly beast to catch us napping
with any of her damned tricks.
"He gave me a regular lecture on special seamanship
for the use of the Apse Family; then changing his tone,
he began to talk at large, rattling off the wildest,
funniest nonsense, till my sides ached with laughing. I
could see very well he was a bit above himself with high
spirits. It couldn't be because of my coming. Not to
that extent. But, of course, I wouldn't have dreamt of
asking what was the matter. I had a proper respect
for my big brother, I can tell you. But it was all made
plain enough a day or two afterwards, when I heard
that Miss Maggie Colchester was coming for the voy-
age. Uncle was giving her a sea-trip for the benefit of
her health.
"I don't know what could have been wrong with her
health. She had a beautiful colour, and a deuce of a
lot of fair hair. She didn't care a rap for wind, or rain,
or spray, or sun, or green seas, or anything. She was a
blue-eyed, jolly girl of the very best sort, but the way
she cheeked my big brother used to frighten me. I
always expected it to end in an awful row. However,
nothing decisive happened till after we had been in


Sydney for a week. One day, in the men's dinner hour,
Charley sticks his head into my cabin. I was stretched
out on my back on the settee, smoking in peace.
"'Come ashore with me, Ned,' he says, in his curt
"I jumped up, of course, and away after him down
the gangway and up George Street. He strode along
like a giant, and I at his elbow, panting. It was con-
foundedly hot. 'Where on earth are you rushing me
to, Charley?' I made bold to ask.
"'Here,' he says.
"'Here' was a jeweller's shop. I couldn't imagine
what he could want there. It seemed a sort of mad
freak. He thrusts under my nose three rings, which
looked very tiny on his big, brown palm, growling out --
"'For Maggie! Which?'
"I got a kind of scare at this. I couldn't make a
sound, but I pointed at the one that sparkled white and
blue. He put it in his waistcoat pocket, paid for it with
a lot of sovereigns, and bolted out. When we got on
board I was quite out of breath. 'Shake hands, old
chap,' I gasped out. He gave me a thump on the back.
'Give what orders you like to the boatswain when the
hands turn-to,' says he; 'I am off duty this afternoon.'
"Then he vanished from the deck for a while, but
presently he came out of the cabin with Maggie, and
these two went over the gangway publicly, before all
hands, going for a walk together on that awful, blazing
hot day, with clouds of dust flying about. They came
back after a few hours looking very staid, but didn't
seem to have the slightest idea where they had been.
Anyway, that's the answer they both made to Mrs.
Colchester's question at tea-time.
"And didn't she turn on Charley, with her voice
like an old night cabman's! 'Rubbish. Don't know


where you've been! Stuff and nonsense. You've
walked the girl off her legs. Don't do it again.'
"It's surprising how meek Charley could be with
that old woman. Only on one occasion he whispered to
me, 'I'm jolly glad she isn't Maggie's aunt, except by
marriage. That's no sort of relationship.' But I
think he let Maggie have too much of her own way.
She was hopping all over that ship in her yachting skirt
and a red tam o' shanter like a bright bird on a dead
black tree. The old salts used to grin to themselves
when they saw her coming along, and offered to teach
her knots or splices. I believe she liked the men, for
Charley's sake, I suppose.
"As you may imagine, the fiendish propensities of
that cursed ship were never spoken of on board. Not
in the cabin, at any rate. Only once on the home-
ward passage Charley said, incautiously, something
about bringing all her crew home this time. Captain
Colchester began to look uncomfortable at once, and
that silly, hard-bitten old woman flew out at Charley as
though he had said something indecent. I was quite
confounded myself; as to Maggie, she sat completely
mystified, opening her blue eyes very wide. Of course,
before she was a day older she wormed it all out of me.
She was a very difficult person to lie to.
"'How awful,' she said, quite solemn. 'So many
poor fellows. I am glad the voyage is nearly over. I
won't have a moment's peace about Charley now.'
"I assured her Charley was all right. It took more
than that ship knew to get over a seaman like Charley.
And she agreed with me.
"Next day we got the tug off Dungeness; and when
the tow-rope was fast Charley rubbed his hands and
said to me in an undertone --
"'We've baffled her, Ned.'


'"Looks like it,' I said, with a grin at him. It was
beautiful weather, and the sea as smooth as a millpond.
We went up the river without a shadow of trouble
except once, when off Hole Haven, the brute took a
sudden sheer and nearly had a barge anchored just clear
of the fairway. But I was aft, looking after the steer-
ing, and she did not catch me napping that time.
Charley came up on the poop, looking very concerned.
'Close shave,' says he.
"'Never mind, Charley,' I answered, cheerily.
'You've tamed her.'
"We were to tow right up to the dock. The river
pilot boarded us below Gravesend, and the first words
I heard him say were: 'You may just as well take your
port anchor inboard at once, Mr. Mate.'
"This had been done when I went forward. I saw
Maggie on the forecastle head enjoying the bustle
and I begged her to go aft, but she took no notice of me,
of course. Then Charley, who was very busy with the
head gear, caught sight of her and shouted in his biggest
voice: 'Get off the forecastle head, Maggie. You're in
the way here.' For all answer she made a funny face at
him, and I saw poor Charley turn away, hiding a smile.
She was flushed with the excitement of getting home
again, and her blue eyes seemed to snap electric sparks
as she looked at the river. A collier brig had gone
round just ahead of us, and our tug had to stop her
engines in a hurry to avoid running into her.
"In a moment, as is usually the case, all the shipping
in the reach seemed to get into a hopeless tangle. A
schooner and a ketch got up a small collision all to
themselves right in the middle of the river. It was
exciting to watch, and, meantime, our tug remained
stopped. Any other ship than that brute could have
been coaxed to keep straight for a couple of minutes --


but not she! Her head fell off at once, and she began
to drift down, taking her tug along with her. I noticed
a cluster of coasters at anchor within a quarter of a mile
of us, and I thought I had better speak to the pilot.
'If you let her get amongst that lot,' I said, quietly, 'she
will grind some of them to bits before we get her out
"'Don't I know her!' cries he, stamping his foot
in a perfect fury. And he out with his whistle to
make that bothered tug get the ship's head up again
as quick as possible. He blew like mad, waving his
arm to port, and presently we could see that the tug's
engines had been set going ahead. Her paddles
churned the water, but it was as if she had been trying
to tow a rock -- she couldn't get an inch out of that ship.
Again the pilot blew his whistle, and waved his arm to
port. We could see the tug's paddles turning faster and
faster away, broad on our bow.
"For a moment tug and ship hung motionless in a
crowd of moving shipping, and then the terrific strain
that evil, stony-hearted brute would always put on
everything, tore the towing-chock clean out. The
tow-rope surged over, snapping the iron stanchions of
the head-rail one after another as if they had been
sticks of sealing-wax. It was only then I noticed that
in order to have a better view over our heads, Maggie
had stepped upon the port anchor as it lay flat on the
forecastle deck.
"It had been lowered properly into its hardwood
beds, but there had been no time to take a turn with
it. Anyway, it was quite secure as it was, for going
into dock; but I could see directly that the tow-rope
would sweep under the fluke in another second. My
heart flew up right into my throat, but not before I had
time to yell out: 'Jump clear of that anchor!'


"But I hadn't time to shriek out her name. I don't
suppose she heard me at all. The first touch of the
hawser against the fluke threw her down; she was up
on her feet again quick as lightning, but she was up on
the wrong side. I heard a horrid, scraping sound, and
then that anchor, tipping over, rose up like something
alive; its great, rough iron arm caught Maggie round
the waist, seemed to clasp her close with a dreadful
hug, and flung itself with her over and down in a
terrific clang of iron, followed by heavy ringing blows
that shook the ship from stem to stern -- because the
ring stopper held!"
"How horrible!" I exclaimed.
"I used to dream for years afterwards of anchors
catching hold of girls," said the man in tweeds, a
little wildly. He shuddered. "With a most pitiful
howl Charley was over after her almost on the instant.
But, Lord! he didn't see as much as a gleam of her red
tam o' shanter in the water. Nothing! nothing what-
ever! In a moment there were half-a-dozen boats
around us, and he got pulled into one. I, with the
boatswain and the carpenter, let go the other anchor in
a hurry and brought the ship up somehow. The pilot
had gone silly. He walked up and down the forecastle
head wringing his hands and muttering to himself:
'Killing women, now! Killing women, now!' Not
another word could you get out of him.
"Dusk fell, then a night black as pitch; and peering
upon the river I heard a low, mournful hail, 'Ship,
ahoy!' Two Gravesend watermen came alongside.
They had a lantern in their wherry, and looked up the
ship's side, holding on to the ladder without a word. I
saw in the patch of light a lot of loose, fair hair down
He shuddered again.


"After the tide turned poor Maggie's body had
floated clear of one of them big mooring buoys," he
explained. "I crept aft, feeling half-dead, and managed
to send a rocket up -- to let the other searchers know,
on the river. And then I slunk away forward like
a cur, and spent the night sitting on the heel of the
bowsprit so as to be as far as possible out of Charley's
"Poor fellow!" I murmured.
"Yes. Poor fellow," he repeated, musingly. "That
brute wouldn't let him -- not even him -- cheat her of
her prey. But he made her fast in dock next morning.
He did. We hadn't exchanged a word -- not a single
look for that matter. I didn't want to look at him.
When the last rope was fast he put his hands to his
head and stood gazing down at his feet as if trying to
remember something. The men waited on the main
deck for the words that end the voyage. Perhaps that
is what he was trying to remember. I spoke for him.
'That'll do, men.'
"I never saw a crew leave a ship so quietly. They
sneaked over the rail one after another, taking care not
to bang their sea chests too heavily. They looked our
way, but not one had the stomach to come up and offer
to shake hands with the mate as is usual.
"I followed him all over the empty ship to and fro,
here and there, with no living soul about but the two of
us, because the old ship-keeper had locked himself up
in the galley -- both doors. Suddenly poor Charley
mutters, in a crazy voice: 'I'm done here,' and strides
down the gangway with me at his heels, up the dock,
out at the gate, on towards Tower Hill. He used to
take rooms with a decent old landlady in America
Square, to be near his work.
"All at once he stops short, turns round, and comes


back straight at me. 'Ned,' says he, I am going home.'
I had the good luck to sight a four-wheeler and got him
in just in time. His legs were beginning to give way.
In our hall he fell down on a chair, and I'll never forget
father's and mother's amazed, perfectly still faces as
they stood over him. They couldn't understand what
had happened to him till I blubbered out, 'Maggie got
drowned, yesterday, in the river.'
"Mother let out a little cry. Father looks from him
to me, and from me to him, as if comparing our faces --
for, upon my soul, Charley did not resemble himself at
all. Nobody moved; and the poor fellow raises his big
brown hands slowly to his throat, and with one single
tug rips everything open -- collar, shirt, waistcoat -- a
perfect wreck and ruin of a man. Father and I got him
upstairs somehow, and mother pretty nearly killed her-
self nursing him through a brain fever."
The man in tweeds nodded at me significantly.
"Ah! there was nothing that could be done with that
brute. She had a devil in her."
"Where's your brother?" I asked, expecting to
hear he was dead. But he was commanding a smart
steamer on the China coast, and never came home now.
Jermyn fetched a heavy sigh, and the handkerchief
being now sufficiently dry, put it up tenderly to his red
and lamentable nose.
"She was a ravening beast," the man in tweeds
started again. "Old Colchester put his foot down and
resigned. And would you believe it? Apse & Sons
wrote to ask whether he wouldn't reconsider his de-
cision! Anything to save the good name of the Apse
.' Old Colchester went to the office then and
said that he would take charge again but only to sail her
out into the North Sea and scuttle her there. He was
nearly off his chump. He used to be darkish iron-grey,


but his hair went snow-white in a fortnight. And Mr.
Lucian Apse (they had known each other as young men)
pretended not to notice it. Eh? Here's infatuation
if you like! Here's pride for you!
"They jumped at the first man they could get to
take her, for fear of the scandal of the Apse Family not
being able to find a skipper. He was a festive soul, I
believe, but he stuck to her grim and hard. Wilmot
was his second mate. A harum-scarum fellow, and
pretending to a great scorn for all the girls. The fact is
he was really timid. But let only one of them do as
much as lift her little finger in encouragement, and there
was nothing that could hold the beggar. As apprentice,
once, he deserted abroad after a petticoat, and would
have gone to the dogs then, if his skipper hadn't taken
the trouble to find him and lug him by the ears out of
some house of perdition or other.
"It was said that one of the firm had been heard once
to express a hope that this brute of a ship would get
lost soon. I can hardly credit the tale, unless it might
have been Mr. Alfred Apse, whom the family didn't
think much of. They had him in the office, but he was
considered a bad egg altogether, always flying off to
race meetings and coming home drunk. You would
have thought that a ship so full of deadly tricks would
run herself ashore some day out of sheer cussedness.
But not she! She was going to last for ever. She had
a nose to keep off the bottom."
Jermyn made a grunt of approval.
"A ship after a pilot's own heart, eh?" jeered the
man in tweeds. "Well, Wilmot managed it. He was
the man for it, but even he, perhaps, couldn't have done
the trick without the green-eyed governess, or nurse, or
whatever she was to the children of Mr. and Mrs.


"Those people were passengers in her from Port
Adelaide to the Cape. Well, the ship went out and
anchored outside for the day. The skipper -- hospitable
soul -- had a lot of guests from town to a farewell lunch --
as usual with him. It was five in the evening before
the last shore boat left the side, and the weather looked
ugly and dark in the gulf. There was no reason for him
to get under way. However, as he had told everybody
he was going that day, he imagined it was proper to do
so anyhow. But as he had no mind after all these
festivities to tackle the straits in the dark, with a scant
wind, he gave orders to keep the ship under lower
topsails and foresail as close as she would lie, dodging
along the land till the morning. Then he sought his
virtuous couch. The mate was on deck, having his
face washed very clean with hard rain squalls. Wilmot
relieved him at midnight.
"The Apse Family had, as you observed, a house on
her poop . . ."
"A big, ugly white thing, sticking up," Jermyn mur-
mured, sadly, at the fire.
"That's it: a companion for the cabin stairs and a
sort of chart-room combined. The rain drove in gusts
on the sleepy Wilmot. The ship was then surging
slowly to the southward, close hauled, with the coast
within three miles or so to windward. There was noth-
ing to look out for in that part of the gulf, and Wilmot
went round to dodge the squalls under the lee of that
chart-room, whose door on that side was open. The
night was black, like a barrel of coal-tar. And then
he heard a woman's voice whispering to him.
"That confounded green-eyed girl of the Pamphilius
people had put the kids to bed a long time ago, of
course, but it seems couldn't get to sleep herself. She
heard eight bells struck, and the chief mate come below


to turn in. She waited a bit, then got into her dressing-
gown and stole across the empty saloon and up the
stairs into the chart-room. She sat down on the settee
near the open door to cool herself, I daresay.
"I suppose when she whispered to Wilmot it was as
if somebody had struck a match in the fellow's brain.
I don't know how it was they had got so very thick.
I fancy he had met her ashore a few times before. I
couldn't make it out, because, when telling the story,
Wilmot would break off to swear something awful at
every second word. We had met on the quay in Sydney,
and he had an apron of sacking up to his chin, a big
whip in his hand. A wagon-driver. Glad to do any-
thing not to starve. That's what he had come down to.
"However, there he was, with his head inside the
door, on the girl's shoulder as likely as not -- officer of
the watch! The helmsman, on giving his evidence
afterwards, said that he shouted several times that the
binnacle lamp had gone out. It didn't matter to him,
because his orders were to 'sail her close.' 'I thought
it funny,' he said, 'that the ship should keep on falling
off in squalls, but I luffed her up every time as close
as I was able. It was so dark I couldn't see my hand
before my face, and the rain came in bucketfuls on my
"The truth was that at every squall the wind hauled
aft a little, till gradually the ship came to be heading
straight for the coast, without a single soul in her being
aware of it. Wilmot himself confessed that he had not
been near the standard compass for an hour. He might
well have confessed! The first thing he knew was the
man on the look-out shouting blue murder forward
"He tore his neck free, he says, and yelled back at
him: 'What do you say?'


"'I think I hear breakers ahead, sir,' howled the man,
and came rushing aft with the rest of the watch, in the
'awfullest blinding deluge that ever fell from the sky,'
Wilmot says. For a second or so he was so scared and
bewildered that he could not remember on which side of
the gulf the ship was. He wasn't a good officer, but he
was a seaman all the same. He pulled himself together
in a second, and the right orders sprang to his lips
without thinking. They were to hard up with the helm
and shiver the main and mizzen-topsails.
"It seems that the sails actually fluttered. He
couldn't see them, but he heard them rattling and bang-
ing above his head. 'No use! She was too slow in
going off,' he went on, his dirty face twitching, and the
damn'd carter's whip shaking in his hand. 'She seemed
to stick fast.' And then the flutter of the canvas above
his head ceased. At this critical moment the wind
hauled aft again with a gust, filling the sails and send-
ing the ship with a great way upon the rocks on her
lee bow. She had overreached herself in her last little
game. Her time had come -- the hour, the man, the
black night, the treacherous gust of wind -- the right
woman to put an end to her. The brute deserved
nothing better. Strange are the instruments of Provi-
dence. There's a sort of poetical justice --"
The man in tweeds looked hard at me.
"The first ledge she went over stripped the false keel
off her. Rip! The skipper, rushing out of his berth,
found a crazy woman, in a red flannel dressing-gown,
flying round and round the cuddy, screeching like a
"The next bump knocked her clean under the cabin
table. It also started the stern-post and carried away
the rudder, and then that brute ran up a shelving,
rocky shore, tearing her bottom out, till she stopped.


short, and the foremast dropped over the bows like a
"Anybody lost?" I asked.
"No one, unless that fellow, Wilmot," answered the
gentleman, unknown to Miss Blank, looking round for
his cap. "And his case was worse than drowning for a
man. Everybody got ashore all right. Gale didn't
come on till next day, dead from the West, and broke up
that brute in a surprisingly short time. It was as
though she had been rotten at heart." . . . He
changed his tone, "Rain left off? I must get my bike
and rush home to dinner. I live in Herne Bay -- came
out for a spin this morning."
He nodded at me in a friendly way, and went out
with a swagger.
"Do you know who he is, Jermyn?" I asked.
The North Sea pilot shook his head, dismally.
"Fancy losing a ship in that silly fashion! Oh, dear!
oh dear!" he groaned in lugubrious tones, spreading
his damp handkerchief again like a curtain before the
glowing grate.
On going out I exchanged a glance and a smile
(strictly proper) with the respectable Miss Blank, bar-
maid of the Three Crows.

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[page intentionally blank]


THAT year I spent the best two months of the dry
season on one of the estates -- in fact, on the principal
cattle estate -- of a famous meat-extract manufacturing
B.O.S. Bos. You have seen the three magic letters
on the advertisement pages of magazines and news-
papers, in the windows of provision merchants, and on
calendars for next year you receive by post in the month
of November. They scatter pamphlets also, written in
a sickly enthusiastic style and in several languages,
giving statistics of slaughter and bloodshed enough
to make a Turk turn faint. The "art" illustrating that
"literature" represents in vivid and shining colours a
large and enraged black bull stamping upon a yellow
snake writhing in emerald-green grass, with a cobalt-
blue sky for a background. It is atrocious and it is an
allegory. The snake symbolizes disease, weakness --
perhaps mere hunger, which last is the chronic disease
of the majority of mankind. Of course everybody
knows the B. 0. S. Ltd., with its unrivalled products:
Vinobos, Jellybos, and the latest unequalled perfection,
Tribos, whose nourishment is offered to you not only
highly concentrated, but already half digested. Such
apparently is the love that Limited Company bears to
its fellowmen -- even as the love of the father and mother
penguin for their hungry fledglings.
Of course the capital of a country must be pro-
ductively employed. I have nothing to say against the



company. But being myself animated by feelings of
affection towards my fellow-men, I am saddened by the
modern system of advertising. Whatever evidence it
offers of enterprise, ingenuity, impudence, and resource
in certain individuals, it proves to my mind the wide
prevalence of that form of mental degradation which is
called gullibility.
In various parts of the civilized and uncivilized world
I have had to swallow B. 0. S. with more or less benefit
to myself, though without great pleasure. Prepared
with hot water and abundantly peppered to bring out
the taste, this extract is not really unpalatable. But I
have never swallowed its advertisements. Perhaps
they have not gone far enough. As far as I can re-
member they make no promise of everlasting youth to
the users of B. 0. S., nor yet have they claimed the
power of raising the dead for their estimable products.
Why this austere reserve, I wonder? But I don't think
they would have had me even on these terms. What-
ever form of mental degradation I may (being but hu-
man) be suffering from, it is not the popular form. I
am not gullible.
I have been at some pains to bring out distinctly this
statement about myself in view of the story which
follows. I have checked the facts as far as possible.
I have turned up the files of French newspapers, and I
have also talked with the officer who commands the
military guard on the Ile Royale, when in the course of
my travels I reached Cayenne. I believe the story to be
in the main true. It is the sort of story that no man, I
think, would ever invent about himself, for it is neither
grandiose nor flattering, nor yet funny enough to
gratify a perverted vanity.
It concerns the engineer of the steam-launch belong-
ing to the Marañon cattle estate of the B. 0. S. Co., Ltd.


This estate is also an island -- an island as big as a small
province, lying in the estuary of a great South American
river. It is wild and not beautiful, but the grass grow-
ing on its low plains seems to possess exceptionally
nourishing and flavouring qualities. It resounds with
the lowing of innumerable herds -- a deep and distress-
ing sound under the open sky, rising like a monstrous
protest of prisoners condemned to death. On the
mainland, across twenty miles of discoloured muddy
water, there stands a city whose name, let us say, is
But the most interesting characteristic of this island
(which seems like a sort of penal settlement for con-
demned cattle) consists in its being the only known
habitat of an extremely rare and gorgeous butterfly.
The species is even more rare than it is beautiful, which
is not saying little. I have already alluded to my
travels. I travelled at that time, but strictly for my-
self and with a moderation unknown in our days of
round-the-world tickets. I even travelled with a pur-
pose. As a matter of fact, I am -- "Ha, ha, ha! -- a
desperate butterfly-slayer. Ha, ha, ha!"
This was the tone in which Mr. Harry Gee, the
manager of the cattle station, alluded to my pursuits.
He seemed to consider me the greatest absurdity in the
world. On the other hand, the B. 0. S. Co., Ltd.,
represented to him the acme of the nineteenth century's
achievement. I believe that he slept in his leggings and
spurs. His days he spent in the saddle flying over the
plains, followed by a train of half-wild horsemen, who
called him Don Enrique, and who had no definite idea of
the B. 0. S. Co., Ltd., which paid their wages. He was
an excellent manager, but I don't see why, when we met
at meals, he should have thumped me on the back, with
loud, derisive inquiries: "How's the deadly sport


to-day? Butterflies going strong? Ha, ha, ha!" --
especially as he charged me two dollars per diem for the
hospitality of the B. 0. S. Co., Ltd., (capital £1,500,000,
fully paid up), in whose balance-sheet for that year
those monies are no doubt included. "I don't think I
can make it anything less in justice to my company,"
he had remarked, with extreme gravity, when I was
arranging with him the terms of my stay on the island.
His chaff would have been harmless enough if
intimacy of intercourse in the absence of all friendly
feeling were not a thing detestable in itself. Moreover,
his facetiousness was not very amusing. It consisted
in the wearisome repetition of descriptive phrases
applied to people with a burst of laughter. "Desperate
butterfly-slayer. Ha, ha, ha!" was one sample of his
peculiar wit which he himself enjoyed so much. And in
the same vein of exquisite humour he called my at-
tention to the engineer of the steam-launch, one day, as
we strolled on the path by the side of the creek.
The man's head and shoulders emerged above the
deck, over which were scattered various tools of his
trade and a few pieces of machinery. He was doing
some repairs to the engines. At the sound of our foot-
steps he raised anxiously a grimy face with a pointed
chin and a tiny fair moustache. What could be seen of
his delicate features under the black smudges appeared
to me wasted and livid in the greenish shade of the
enormous tree spreading its foliage over the launch
moored close to the bank.
To my great surprise, Harry Gee addressed him as
"Crocodile," in that half-jeering, half-bullying tone
which is characteristic of self-satisfaction in his delect-
able kind:
"How does the work get on, Crocodile?"
I should have said before that the amiable Harry had


picked up French of a sort somewhere -- in some colony
or other -- and that he pronounced it with a disagreeable
forced precision as though he meant to guy the lan-
guage. The man in the launch answered him quickly in
a pleasant voice. His eyes had a liquid softness and
his teeth flashed dazzlingly white between his thin,
drooping lips. The manager turned to me, very cheer-
ful and loud, explaining:
"I call him Crocodile because he lives half in, half
out of the creek. Amphibious -- see? There's nothing
else amphibious living on the island except crocodiles;
so he must belong to the species -- eh? But in reality
he's nothing less than un citoyen anarchiste de Bar-
"A citizen anarchist from Barcelona?" I repeated,
stupidly, looking down at the man. He had turned to
his work in the engine-well of the launch and presented
his bowed back to us. In that attitude I heard him
protest, very audibly:
"I do not even know Spanish."
"Hey? What? You dare to deny you come from
over there?" the accomplished manager was down on
him truculently.
At this the man straightened himself up, dropping a
spanner he had been using, and faced us; but he trem-
bled in all his limbs.
"I deny nothing, nothing, nothing!" he said, ex-
He picked up the spanner and went to work again
without paying any further attention to us. After
looking at him for a minute or so, we went away.
"Is he really an anarchist?" I asked, when out of
"I don't care a hang what he is," answered the
humorous official of the B. 0. S. Co. "I gave him the


name because it suited me to label him in that way,
It's good for the company."
"For the company!" I exclaimed, stopping short.
"Aha!" he triumphed, tilting up his hairless pug
face and straddling his thin, long legs. "That sur-
prises you. I am bound to do my best for my company.
They have enormous expenses. Why -- our agent in
Horta tells me they spend fifty thousand pounds every
year in advertising all over the world! One can't be
too economical in working the show. Well, just you
listen. When I took charge here the estate had no
steam-launch. I asked for one, and kept on asking
by every mail till I got it; but the man they sent out
with it chucked his job at the end of two months, leav-
ing the launch moored at the pontoon in Horta. Got a
better screw at a sawmill up the river -- blast him! And
ever since it has been the same thing. Any Scotch or
Yankee vagabond that likes to call himself a mechanic
out here gets eighteen pounds a month, and the next
you know he's cleared out, after smashing something
as likely as not. I give you my word that some of the
objects I've had for engine-drivers couldn't tell the
boiler from the funnel. But this fellow understands his
trade, and I don't mean him to clear out. See?"
And he struck me lightly on the chest for emphasis.
Disregarding his peculiarities of manner, I wanted to
know what all this had to do with the man being an
"Come!" jeered the manager. "If you saw suddenly
a barefooted, unkempt chap slinking amongst the
bushes on the sea face of the island, and at the same
time observed less than a mile from the beach, a small
schooner full of niggers hauling off in a hurry, you
wouldn't think the man fell there from the sky, would
you? And it could be nothing else but either that or


Cayenne. I've got my wits about me. Directly I
sighted this queer game I said to myself -- 'Escaped
Convict.' I was as certain of it as I am of seeing you
standing here this minute. So I spurred on straight at
him. He stood his ground for a bit on a sand hillock
crying out: 'Monsieur! Monsieur! Arrêtez!' then at
the last moment broke and ran for life. Says I to
myself, 'I'll tame you before I'm done with you.' So
without a single word I kept on, heading him off here
and there. I rounded him up towards the shore, and at
last I had him corralled on a spit, his heels in the water
and nothing but sea and sky at his back, with my horse
pawing the sand and shaking his head within a yard
of him.
"He folded his arms on his breast then and stuck his
chin up in a sort of desperate way; but I wasn't to be
impressed by the beggar's posturing.
"Says I, 'You're a runaway convict.'
"When he heard French, his chin went down and
his face changed.
"'I deny nothing,' says he, panting yet, for I had
kept him skipping about in front of my horse pretty
smartly. I asked him what he was doing there. He
had got his breath by then, and explained that he had
meant to make his way to a farm which he understood
(from the schooner's people, I suppose) was to be found
in the neighbourhood. At that I laughed aloud and he
got uneasy. Had he been deceived? Was there no
farm within walking distance?
"I laughed more and more. He was on foot, and of
course the first bunch of cattle he came across would
have stamped him to rags under their hoofs. A dis-
mounted man caught on the feeding-grounds hasn't got
the ghost of a chance.
"'My coming upon you like this has certainly saved


your life,' I said. He remarked that perhaps it was so;
but that for his part he had imagined I had wanted to
kill him under the hoofs of my horse. I assured him
that nothing would have been easier had I meant it.
And then we came to a sort of dead stop. For the life
of me I didn't know what to do with this convict, unless
I chucked him into the sea. It occurred to me to ask
him what he had been transported for. He hung his
"'What is it?' says I. 'Theft, murder, rape, or
what?' I wanted to hear what he would have to say
for himself, though of course I expected it would be some
sort of lie. But all he said was --
"'Make it what you like. I deny nothing. It is no
good denying anything.'
"I looked him over carefully and a thought struck
"'They've got anarchists there, too,' I said. 'Per-
haps you're one of them.'
"'I deny nothing whatever, monsieur,' he repeats.
"This answer made me think that perhaps he was not
an anarchist. I believe those damned lunatics are
rather proud of themselves. If he had been one, he
would have probably confessed straight out.
"'What were you before you became a convict?'
"'Ouvrier,' he says. 'And a good workman, too.'
"At that I began to think he must be an anarchist,
after all. That's the class they come mostly from, isn't
it? I hate the cowardly bomb-throwing brutes. I
almost made up my mind to turn my horse short round
and leave him to starve or drown where he was, which-
ever he liked best. As to crossing the island to bother
me again, the cattle would see to that. I don't know
what induced me to ask --
"'What sort of workman?'


"I didn't care a hang whether he answered me or
not. But when he said at once, 'Mécanicien, monsieur,'
I nearly jumped out of the saddle with excitement. The
launch had been lying disabled and idle in the creek for
three weeks. My duty to the company was clear. He
noticed my start, too, and there we were for a minute or
so staring at each other as if bewitched.
"'Get up on my horse behind me,' I told him. 'You
shall put my steam-launch to rights.'"

These are the words in which the worthy manager
of the Marañon estate related to me the coming of the
supposed anarchist. He meant to keep him -- out of a
sense of duty to the company -- and the name he had
given him would prevent the fellow from obtaining
employment anywhere in Horta. The vaqueros of the
estate, when they went on leave, spread it all over the
town. They did not know what an anarchist was, nor
yet what Barcelona meant. They called him Anarchisto
de Barcelona, as if it were his Christian name and sur-
name. But the people in town had been reading in
their papers about the anarchists in Europe and were
very much impressed. Over the jocular addition of
"de Barcelona" Mr. Harry Gee chuckled with immense
satisfaction. "That breed is particularly murderous,
isn't it? It makes the sawmills crowd still more afraid
of having anything to do with him -- see?" he exulted,
candidly. "I hold him by that name better than if I
had him chained up by the leg to the deck of the steam-
"And mark," he added, after a pause, "he does not
deny it. I am not wronging him in any way. He is a
convict of some sort, anyhow."
"But I suppose you pay him some wages, don't you?"
I asked.


"Wages! What does he want with money here?
He gets his food from my kitchen and his clothing from
the store. Of course I'll give him something at the end
of the year, but you don't think I'd employ a convict
and give him the same money I would give an honest
man? I am looking after the interests of my company
first and last."
I admitted that, for a company spending fifty
thousand pounds every year in advertising, the strictest
economy was obviously necessary. The manager of
the Marañon Estancia grunted approvingly.
"And I'll tell you what," he continued: "if I were
certain he's an anarchist and he had the cheek to ask me
for money, I would give him the toe of my boot. How-
ever, let him have the benefit of the doubt. I am per-
fectly willing to take it that he has done nothing worse
than to stick a knife into somebody -- with extenuating
circumstances -- French fashion, don't you know. But
that subversive sanguinary rot of doing away with all
law and order in the world makes my blood boil. It's
simply cutting the ground from under the feet of every
decent, respectable, hard-working person. I tell you
that the consciences of people who have them, like you
or I, must be protected in some way; or else the first
low scoundrel that came along would in every respect be
just as good as myself. Wouldn't he, now? And that's
He glared at me. I nodded slightly and murmured
that doubtless there was much subtle truth in his view.

The principal truth discoverable in the views of Paul
the engineer was that a little thing may bring about the
undoing of a man.
"Il ne faut pas beaucoup pour perdre un homme," he
said to me, thoughtfully, one evening.


report this reflection in French, since the man was
of Paris, not of Barcelona at all. At the Marañon he
lived apart from the station, in a small shed with a metal
roof and straw walls, which he called mon atelier. He
had a work-bench there. They had given him several
horse-blankets and a saddle -- not that he ever had
occasion to ride, but because no other bedding was
used by the working-hands, who were all vaqueros --
cattlemen. And on this horseman's gear, like a son of
the plains, he used to sleep amongst the tools of his
trade, in a litter of rusty scrap-iron, with a portable
forge at his head, under the work-bench sustaining his
grimy mosquito-net.
Now and then I would bring him a few candle ends
saved from the scant supply of the manager's house.
He was very thankful for these. He did not like to lie
awake in the dark, he confessed. He complained that
sleep fled from him. "Le sommeil me fuit," he declared,
with his habitual air of subdued stoicism, which made
him sympathetic and touching. I made it clear to him
that I did not attach undue importance to the fact of his
having been a convict.
Thus it came about that one evening he was led to
talk about himself. As one of the bits of candle on the
edge of the bench burned down to the end, he hastened
to light another.
He had done his military service in a provincial
garrison and returned to Paris to follow his trade. It
was a well-paid one. He told me with some pride that
in a short time he was earning no less than ten francs a
day. He was thinking of setting up for himself by
and by and of getting married.
Here he sighed deeply and paused. Then with a
return to his stoical note:
"It seems I did not know enough about myself."


On his twenty-fifth birthday two of his friends in the
repairing shop where he worked proposed to stand him
a dinner. He was immensely touched by this attention.
"I was a steady man," he remarked, "but I am not
less sociable than any other body."
The entertainment came off in a little café on the
Boulevard de la Chapelle. At dinner they drank some
special wine. It was excellent. Everything was excel-
lent; and the world -- in his own words -- seemed a very
good place to live in. He had good prospects, some
little money laid by, and the affection of two excellent
friends. He offered to pay for all the drinks after
dinner, which was only proper on his part.
They drank more wine; they drank liqueurs, cognac,
beer, then more liqueurs and more cognac. Two
strangers sitting at the next table looked at him, he said,
with so much friendliness, that he invited them to join
the party.
He had never drunk so much in his life. His elation
was extreme, and so pleasurable that whenever it
flagged he hastened to order more drinks.
"It seemed to me," he said, in his quiet tone and
looking on the ground in the gloomy shed full of shad-
ows, "that I was on the point of just attaining a great
and wonderful felicity. Another drink, I felt, would do
it. The others were holding out well with me, glass for
But an extraordinary thing happened. At something
the strangers said his elation fell. Gloomy ideas-- des
idées noires
-- rushed into his head. All the world out-
side the café appeared to him as a dismal evil place
where a multitude of poor wretches had to work and
slave to the sole end that a few individuals should ride in
carriages and live riotously in palaces. He became
ashamed of his happiness. The pity of mankind's cruel


lot wrung his heart. In a voice choked with sorrow he
tried to express these sentiments. He thinks he wept
and swore in turns.
The two new acquaintances hastened to applaud his
humane indignation. Yes. The amount of injustice
in the world was indeed scandalous. There was only
one way of dealing with the rotten state of society.
Demolish the whole sacrée boutique. Blow up the whole
iniquitous show.
Their heads hovered over the table. They whis-
pered to him eloquently; I don't think they quite
expected the result. He was extremely drunk -- mad
drunk. With a howl of rage he leaped suddenly upon
the table. Kicking over the bottles and glasses, he
yelled: "Vive l'anarchie! Death to the capitalists!"
He yelled this again and again. All round him broken
glass was falling, chairs were being swung in the air,
people were taking each other by the throat. The
police dashed in. He hit, bit, scratched and struggled,
till something crashed down upon his head. . . .
He came to himself in a police cell, locked up on
a charge of assault, seditious cries, and anarchist
He looked at me fixedly with his liquid, shining
eyes, that seemed very big in the dim light.
"That was bad. But even then I might have got off
somehow, perhaps," he said, slowly.
I doubt it. But whatever chance he had was done
away with by a young socialist lawyer who volunteered
to undertake his defence. In vain he assured him that
he was no anarchist; that he was a quiet, respectable
mechanic, only too anxious to work ten hours per day at
his trade. He was represented at the trial as the victim
of society and his drunken shoutings as the expression
of infinite suffering. The young lawyer had his way to


make, and this case was just what he wanted for a
start. The speech for the defence was pronounced
The poor fellow paused, swallowed, and brought out
the statement:
"I got the maximum penalty applicable to a first
I made an appropriate murmur. He hung his head
and folded his arms.
"When they let me out of prison," he began, gently,
"I made tracks, of course, for my old workshop. My
patron had a particular liking for me before; but when
he saw me he turned green with fright and showed me
the door with a shaking hand."
While he stood in the street, uneasy and discon-
certed, he was accosted by a middle-aged man who
introduced himself as an engineer's fitter, too. "I know
who you are," he said. "I have attended your trial.
You are a good comrade and your ideas are sound.
But the devil of it is that you won't be able to get work
anywhere now. These bourgeois'll conspire to starve
you. That's their way. Expect no mercy from the
To be spoken to so kindly in the street had com-
forted him very much. His seemed to be the sort of
nature needing support and sympathy. The idea of
not being able to find work had knocked him over
completely. If his patron, who knew him so well for a
quiet, orderly, competent workman, would have noth-
ing to do with him now -- then surely nobody else would.
That was clear. The police, keeping their eye on him,
would hasten to warn every employer inclined to give
him a chance. He felt suddenly very helpless, alarmed
and idle; and he followed the middle-aged man to the
estaminet round the corner where he met some other


good companions. They assured him that he would
not be allowed to starve, work or no work. They had
drinks all round to the discomfiture of all employers of
labour and to the destruction of society.
He sat biting his lower lip.
"That is, monsieur, how I became a compagnon," he
said. The hand he passed over his forehead was
trembling. "All the same, there's something wrong in
a world where a man can get lost for a glass more or
He never looked up, though I could see he was
getting excited under his dejection. He slapped the
bench with his open palm.
"No!" he cried. "It was an impossible existence!
Watched by the police, watched by the comrades, I
did not belong to myself any more! Why, I could not
even go to draw a few francs from my savings-bank
without a comrade hanging about the door to see that
I didn't bolt! And most of them were neither more
nor less than housebreakers. The intelligent, I mean.
They robbed the rich; they were only getting back
their own, they said. When I had had some drink I
believed them. There were also the fools and the mad.
Des exaltés -- quoi! When I was drunk I loved them.
When I got more drink I was angry with the world.
That was the best time. I found refuge from misery in
rage. But one can't be always drunk -- n'est-ce pas,
And when I was sober I was afraid to break
away. They would have stuck me like a pig."
He folded his arms again and raised his sharp chin
with a bitter smile.
"By and by they told me it was time to go to work.
The work was to rob a bank. Afterwards a bomb
would be thrown to wreck the place. My beginner's
part would be to keep watch in a street at the back and


to take care of a black bag with the bomb inside till it
was wanted. After the meeting at which the affair was
arranged a trusty comrade did not leave me an inch.
I had not dared to protest; I was afraid of being done
away with quietly in that room; only, as we were
walking together I wondered whether it would not
be better for me to throw myself suddenly into the
Seine. But while I was turning it over in my mind
we had crossed the bridge, and afterwards I had not
the opportunity."
In the light of the candle end, with his sharp features,
fluffy little moustache, and oval face, he looked at
times delicately and gaily young, and then appeared
quite old, decrepit, full of sorrow, pressing his folded
arms to his breast.
As he remained silent I felt bound to ask:
"Well! And how did it end?"
"Deportation to Cayenne," he answered.
He seemed to think that somebody had given the
plot away. As he was keeping watch in the back
street, bag in hand, he was set upon by the police.
"These imbeciles," had knocked him down without
noticing what he had in his hand. He wondered how the
bomb failed to explode as he fell. But it didn't explode.
"I tried to tell my story in court," he continued.
"The president was amused. There were in the
audience some idiots who laughed."
I expressed the hope that some of his companions
had been caught, too. He shuddered slightly before he
told me that there were two -- Simon, called also Biscuit,
the middle-aged fitter who spoke to him in the street,
and a fellow of the name of Mafile, one of the sym-
pathetic strangers who had applauded his sentiments
and consoled his humanitarian sorrows when he got
drunk in the café.


"Yes," he went on, with an effort, "I had the ad-
vantage of their company over there on St. Joseph's
Island, amongst some eighty or ninety other convicts.
We were all classed as dangerous."
St. Joseph's Island is the prettiest of the Iles de
. It is rocky and green, with shallow ravines,
bushes, thickets, groves of mango-trees, and many
feathery palms. Six warders armed with revolvers and
carbines are in charge of the convicts kept there.
An eight-oared galley keeps up the communication
in the daytime, across a channel a quarter of a mile
wide, with the Ile Royale, where there is a military post.
She makes the first trip at six in the morning. At four
in the afternoon her service is over, and she is then
hauled up into a little dock on the Ile Royale and a
sentry put over her and a few smaller boats. From that
time till next morning the island of St. Joseph remains
cut off from the rest of the world, with the warders
patrolling in turn the path from the warders' house to
the convict huts, and a multitude of sharks patrolling
the waters all round.
Under these circumstances the convicts planned a
mutiny. Such a thing had never been known in the
penitentiary's history before. But their plan was not
without some possibility of success. The warders were
to be taken by surprise and murdered during the night.
Their arms would enable the convicts to shoot down
the people in the galley as she came alongside in the
morning. The galley once in their possession, other
boats were to be captured, and the whole company was
to row away up the coast.
At dusk the two warders on duty mustered the con-
victs as usual. Then they proceeded to inspect the
huts to ascertain that everything was in order. In the
second they entered they were set upon and absolutely


smothered under the numbers of their assailants. The
twilight faded rapidly. It was a new moon; and a heavy
black squall gathering over the coast increased the pro-
found darkness of the night. The convicts assembled in
the open space, deliberating upon the next step to be
taken, argued amongst themselves in low voices.
"You took part in all this?" I asked.
"No. I knew what was going to be done, of course.
But why should I kill these warders? I had nothing
against them. But I was afraid of the others. What-
ever happened, I could not escape from them. I sat
alone on the stump of a tree with my head in my hands,
sick at heart at the thought of a freedom that could be
nothing but a mockery to me. Suddenly I was startled
to perceive the shape of a man on the path near by.
He stood perfectly still, then his form became effaced in
the night. It must have been the chief warder coming
to see what had become of his two men. No one
noticed him. The convicts kept on quarrelling over
their plans. The leaders could not get themselves
obeyed. The fierce whispering of that dark mass of
men was very horrible.
"At last they divided into two parties and moved off.
When they had passed me I rose, weary and hopeless.
The path to the warders' house was dark and silent,
but on each side the bushes rustled slightly. Presently
I saw a faint thread of light before me. The chief
warder, followed by his three men, was approaching
cautiously. But he had failed to close his dark lantern
properly. The convicts had seen that faint gleam, too.
There was an awful savage yell, a turmoil on the dark
path, shots fired, blows, groans: and with the sound of
smashed bushes, the shouts of the pursuers and the
screams of the pursued, the man-hunt, the warder-hunt,
passed by me into the interior of the island. I was


alone. And I assure you, monsieur, I was indifferent
to everything. After standing still for a while, I walked
on along the path till I kicked something hard. I
stooped and picked up a warder's revolver. I felt with
my fingers that it was loaded in five chambers. In
the gusts of wind I heard the convicts calling to each
other far away, and then a roll of thunder would cover
the soughing and rustling of the trees. Suddenly, a big
light ran across my path very low along the ground.
And it showed a woman's skirt with the edge of an
"I knew that the person who carried it must be the
wife of the head warder. They had forgotten all about
her, it seems. A shot rang out in the interior of the
island, and she cried out to herself as she ran. She
passed on. I followed, and presently I saw her again.
She was pulling at the cord of the big bell which hangs
at the end of the landing-pier, with one hand, and with
the other she was swinging the heavy lantern to and
fro. This is the agreed signal for the Ile Royale should
assistance be required at night. The wind carried the
sound away from our island and the light she swung
was hidden on the shore side by the few trees that grow
near the warders' house.
"I came up quite close to her from behind. She
went on without stopping, without looking aside, as
though she had been all alone on the island. A brave
woman, monsieur. I put the revolver inside the breast
of my blue blouse and waited. A flash of lightning and
a clap of thunder destroyed both the sound and the
light of the signal for an instant, but she never faltered,
pulling at the cord and swinging the lantern as regularly
as a machine. She was a comely woman of thirty -- no
more. I thought to myself, 'All that's no good on a
night like this.' And I made up my mind that if a


body of my fellow-convicts came down to the pier --
which was sure to happen soon -- I would shoot her
through the head before I shot myself. I knew the
'comrades' well. This idea of mine gave me quite an.
interest in life, monsieur; and at once, instead of re-
maining stupidly exposed on the pier, I retreated a
little way and crouched behind a bush. I did not in-
tend to let myself be pounced upon unawares and be
prevented perhaps from rendering a supreme service
to at least one human creature before I died myself.
"But we must believe the signal was seen, for the
galley from Ile Royale came over in an astonishingly
short time. The woman kept right on till the light of
her lantern flashed upon the officer in command and
the bayonets of the soldiers in the boat. Then she sat
down and began to cry.
"She didn't need me any more. I did not budge.
Some soldiers were only in their shirt-sleeves, others
without boots, just as the call to arms had found them.
They passed by my bush at the double. The galley had
been sent away for more; and the woman sat all alone
crying at the end of the pier, with the lantern standing
on the ground near her.
"Then suddenly I saw in the light at the end of the
pier the red pantaloons of two more men. I was over-
come with astonishment. They, too, started off at a
run. Their tunics flapped unbuttoned and they were
bare-headed. One of them panted out to the other,
'Straight on, straight on!'
"Where on earth did they spring from, I wondered.
Slowly I walked down the short pier. I saw the
woman's form shaken by sobs and heard her moaning
more and more distinctly, 'Oh, my man! my poor man!
my poor man!' I stole on quietly. She could neither
hear nor see anything. She had thrown her apron over


her head and was rocking herself to and fro in her grief.
But I remarked a small boat fastened to the end of the
"Those two men -- they looked like sous-officiers --
must have come in it, after being too late, I suppose, for
the galley. It is incredible that they should have thus
broken the regulations from a sense of duty. And it
was a stupid thing to do. I could not believe my eyes
in the very moment I was stepping into that boat.
"I pulled along the shore slowly. A black cloud
hung over the Iles de Salut. I heard firing, shouts.
Another hunt had begun -- the convict-hunt. The
oars were too long to pull comfortably. I managed
them with difficulty, though the boat herself was light.
But when I got round to the other side of the island the
squall broke in rain and wind. I was unable to make
head against it. I let the boat drift ashore and secured
"I knew the spot. There was a tumbledown old
hovel standing near the water. Cowering in there I
heard through the noises of the wind and the falling
downpour some people tearing through the bushes.
They came out on the strand. Soldiers perhaps. A
flash of lightning threw everything near me into violent
relief. Two convicts!
"And directly an amazed voice exclaimed. 'It's a
miracle!' It was the voice of Simon, otherwise Biscuit.
"And another voice growled, 'What's a miracle?'
"'Why, there's a boat lying here!'
"'You must be mad, Simon! But there is, after all.
. . . A boat.'
"They seemed awed into complete silence. The
other man was Mafile. He spoke again, cautiously.
"'It is fastened up. There must be somebody here.'
"I spoke to them from within the hovel: 'I am here.'


"They came in then, and soon gave me to understand
that the boat was theirs, not mine. 'There are two of
us,' said Mafile, 'against you alone.'
"I got out into the open to keep clear of them for
fear of getting a treacherous blow on the head. I could
have shot them both where they stood. But I said
nothing. I kept down the laughter rising in my throat.
I made myself very humble and begged to be allowed to
go. They consulted in low tones about my fate, while
with my hand on the revolver in the bosom of my blouse
I had their lives in my power. I let them live. I
meant them to pull that boat. I represented to them
with abject humility that I understood the management
of a boat, and that, being three to pull, we could get a
rest in turns. That decided them at last. It was time.
A little more and I would have gone into screaming fits
at the drollness of it."
At this point his excitement broke out. He jumped
off the bench and gesticulated. The great shadows of
his arms darting over roof and walls made the shed
appear too small to contain his agitation.
"I deny nothing," he burst out. "I was elated,
monsieur. I tasted a sort of felicity. But I kept very
quiet. I took my turns at pulling all through the
night. We made for the open sea, putting our trust in a
passing ship. It was a foolhardy action. I persuaded
them to it. When the sun rose the immensity of water
was calm, and the Iles de Salut appeared only like dark
specks from the top of each swell. I was steering then.
Mafile, who was pulling bow, let out an oath and said,
'We must rest.'
'The time to laugh had come at last. And I took
my fill of it, I can tell you. I held my sides and rolled
in my seat, they had such startled faces. 'What's got
into him, the animal?' cries Mafile.


"And Simon, who was nearest to me, says over his
shoulder to him, 'Devil take me if I don't think he's
gone mad!'
"Then I produced the revolver. Aha! In a mo-
ment they both got the stoniest eyes you can imagine.
Ha, ha! They were frightened. But they pulled.
Oh, yes, they pulled all day, sometimes looking wild and
sometimes looking faint. I lost nothing of it because I
had to keep my eyes on them all the time, or else --
crack! -- they would have been on top of me in a second.
I rested my revolver hand on my knee all ready and
steered with the other. Their faces began to blister.
Sky and sea seemed on fire round us and the sea steamed
in the sun. The boat made a sizzling sound as she went
through the water. Sometimes Mafile foamed at the
mouth and sometimes he groaned. But he pulled. He
dared not stop. His eyes became blood-shot all over,
and he had bitten his lower lip to pieces. Simon was as
hoarse as a crow.
"'Comrade --' he begins.
'"There are no comrades here. I am your pa-
"'Patron, then,' he says, 'in the name of humanity
let us rest.'
"I let them. There was a little rainwater washing
about the bottom of the boat. I permitted them to
snatch some of it in the hollow of their palms. But as I
gave the command, 'En route!' I caught them exchang-
ing significant glances. They thought I would have to
go to sleep sometime! Aha! But I did not want to go
to sleep. I was more awake than ever. It is they who
went to sleep as they pulled, tumbling off the thwarts
head over heels suddenly, one after another. I let them
lie. All the stars were out. It was a quiet world. The
sun rose. Another day. Allez! En route!


"They pulled badly. Their eyes rolled about and
their tongues hung out. In the middle of the forenoon
Mafile croaks out: 'Let us make a rush at him, Simon.
I would just as soon be shot at once as to die of thirst,
hunger, and fatigue at the oar.'
"But while he spoke he pulled; and Simon kept on
pulling too. It made me smile. Ah! They loved
their life these two, in this evil world of theirs, just
as I used to love my life, too, before they spoiled it
for me with their phrases. I let them go on to the
point of exhaustion, and only then I pointed at the
sails of a ship on the horizon.
"Aha! You should have seen them revive and
buckle to their work! For I kept them at it to pull
right across that ship's path. They were changed.
The sort of pity I had felt for them left me. They
looked more like themselves every minute. They
looked at me with the glances I remembered so well.
They were happy. They smiled.
"'Well,' says Simon, 'the energy of that youngster
has saved our lives. If he hadn't made us, we could
never have pulled so far out into the track of ships.
Comrade, I forgive you. I admire you.'
"And Mafile growls from forward: 'We owe you a
famous debt of gratitude, comrade. You are cut out
for a chief.'
"Comrade! Monsieur! Ah, what a good word!
And they, such men as these two, had made it accursed.
I looked at them. I remembered their lies, their
promises, their menaces, and all my days of misery.
Why could they not have left me alone after I came out
of prison? I looked at them and thought that while
they lived I could never be free. Never. Neither I nor
others like me with warm hearts and weak heads. For
I know I have not a strong head, monsieur. A black


rage came upon me -- the rage of extreme intoxication --


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