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the novel chance


Chance,byJosephConrad
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Title:Chance
Author:JosephConrad
ReleaseDate:March17,2005[eBook#1476]
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-646-US(US-ASCII)

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Transcribedformthe1914Methuen&Co.editionbyDavidPrice,email
ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



CHANCE—ATALEINTWO
PARTS
ThosethatholdthatallthingsaregovernedbyFortunehadnoterred,had
theynotpersistedthere
SIRTHOMASBROWNE
TOSIRHUGHCLIFFORD,K.C.M.G.WHOSTEADFASTFRIENDSHIPIS
RESPONSIBLEFORTHEEXISTENCEOFTHESEPAGES


PARTI—THEDAMSEL
CHAPTERONE—YOUNGPOWELLANDHISCHANCE
Ibelievehehadseenusoutofthewindowcomingofftodineinthedinghyofa
fourteen-tonyawlbelongingtoMarlowmyhostandskipper.Wehelpedtheboy
wehadwithustohaultheboatuponthelanding-stagebeforewewentuptothe
riversideinn,wherewefoundournewacquaintanceeatinghisdinnerin
dignifiedlonelinessattheheadofalongtable,whiteandinhospitablelikea
snowbank.
Theredtintofhisclear-cutfacewithtrimshortblackwhiskersunderacapof
curlyiron-greyhairwastheonlywarmspotinthedinginessofthatroomcooled
bythecheerlesstablecloth.Weknewhimalreadybysightastheownerofa
littlefive-toncutter,whichhesailedaloneapparently,afellowyachtsmaninthe
unpretendingbandoffanaticswhocruiseatthemouthoftheThames.Butthe
firsttimeheaddressedthewaitersharplyas‘steward’weknewhimatoncefora
sailoraswellasayachtsman.
Presentlyhehadoccasiontoreprovethatsamewaiterfortheslovenlymannerin
whichthedinnerwasserved.Hediditwithconsiderableenergyandthenturned
tous.
“Ifweatsea,”hedeclared,“wentaboutourworkaspeopleashorehighandlow
goabouttheirsweshouldnevermakealiving.Noonewouldemployus.And
moreovernoshipnavigatedandsailedinthehappy-go-luckymannerpeople
conducttheirbusinessonshorewouldeverarriveintoport.”
Sincehehadretiredfromtheseahehadbeenastonishedtodiscoverthatthe
educatedpeoplewerenotmuchbetterthantheothers.Nooneseemedtotake
anyproperprideinhiswork:fromplumberswhoweresimplythievesto,say,
newspapermen(heseemedtothinkthemaspeciallyintellectualclass)who
neverbyanychancegaveacorrectversionofthesimplestaffair.Thisuniversal
inefficiencyofwhathecalled“theshoregang”heascribedingeneraltothe


wantofresponsibilityandtoasenseofsecurity.


“Theysee,”hewenton,“thatnomatterwhattheydothistightlittleislandwon’t
turnturtlewiththemorspringaleakandgotothebottomwiththeirwivesand
children.”
Fromthispointtheconversationtookaspecialturnrelatingexclusivelytosealife.OnthatsubjecthegotquicklyintouchwithMarlowwhoinhistimehad
followedthesea.TheykeptupalivelyexchangeofreminiscenceswhileI
listened.Theyagreedthatthehappiesttimeintheirliveswasasyoungstersin
goodships,withnocareintheworldbutnottoloseawatchbelowwhenatsea
andnotamoment’stimeingoingashoreafterworkhourswheninharbour.
Theyagreedalsoastotheproudestmomenttheyhadknowninthatcalling
whichisneverembracedonrationalandpracticalgrounds,becauseofthe
glamourofitsromanticassociations.Itwasthemomentwhentheyhadpassed
successfullytheirfirstexaminationandlefttheseamanshipExaminerwiththe
littlepreciousslipofbluepaperintheirhands.
“ThatdayIwouldn’thavecalledtheQueenmycousin,”declaredournew
acquaintanceenthusiastically.
AtthattimetheMarineBoardexaminationstookplaceattheSt.Katherine’s
DockHouseonTowerHill,andheinformedusthathehadaspecialaffection
fortheviewofthathistoriclocality,withtheGardenstotheleft,thefrontofthe
Minttotheright,themiserabletumble-downlittlehousesfartheraway,a
cabstand,boot-blackssquattingontheedgeofthepavementandapairofbig
policemengazingwithanairofsuperiorityatthedoorsoftheBlackHorse
public-houseacrosstheroad.Thiswasthepartoftheworld,hesaid,hiseyes
firsttooknoticeof,onthefinestdayofhislife.Hehademergedfromthemain
entranceofSt.Katherine’sDockHouseafull-fledgedsecondmateafterthe
hottesttimeofhislifewithCaptainR-,themostdreadedofthethreeseamanship
Examinerswhoatthetimewereresponsibleforthemerchantserviceofficers
qualifyinginthePortofLondon.
“Weallwhowerepreparingtopass,”hesaid,“usedtoshakeinourshoesatthe
ideaofgoingbeforehim.Hekeptmeforanhourandahalfinthetorture
chamberandbehavedasthoughhehatedme.Hekepthiseyesshadedwithone
ofhishands.Suddenlyheletitdropsaying,“Youwilldo!”BeforeIrealised
whathemeanthewaspushingtheblueslipacrossthetable.Ijumpedupasif
mychairhadcaughtfire.


“Thankyou,sir,”saysI,grabbingthepaper.
“Goodmorning,goodlucktoyou,”hegrowlsatme.
“Theolddoorkeeperfussedoutofthecloak-roomwithmyhat.Theyalways
do.Buthelookedveryhardatmebeforeheventuredtoaskinasortoftimid
whisper:“Gotthroughallright,sir?”ForallanswerIdroppedahalf-crowninto
hissoftbroadpalm.“Well,”sayshewithasuddengrinfromeartoear,“Inever
knewhimkeepanyofyougentlemensolong.Hefailedtwosecondmatesthis
morningbeforeyourturncame.Lessthantwentyminuteseach:that’sabouthis
usualtime.”
“IfoundmyselfdownstairswithoutbeingawareofthestepsasifIhadfloated
downthestaircase.Thefinestdayinmylife.Thedayyougetyourfirst
commandisnothingtoit.Foronethingamanisnotsoyoungthenandfor
anotherwithus,youknow,thereisnothingmuchmoretoexpect.Yes,thefinest
dayofone’slife,nodoubt,butthenitisjustadayandnomore.Whatcomes
afterisaboutthemostunpleasanttimeforayoungster,thetryingtogetan
officer’sberthwithnothingmuchtoshowbutabrand-newcertificate.Itis
surprisinghowuselessyoufindthatpieceofass’sskinthatyouhavebeen
puttingyourselfinsuchastateabout.Itdidn’tstrikemeatthetimethataBoard
ofTradecertificatedoesnotmakeanofficer,notbyalonglongway.Butthe
slippersoftheshipsIwashauntingwithdemandsforajobknewthatverywell.
Idon’twonderatthemnow,andIdon’tblamethemeither.Butthis‘tryingto
getaship’isprettyhardonayoungsterallthesame...”
Hewentonthentotellushowtiredhewasandhowdiscouragedbythislesson
ofdisillusionfollowingswiftlyuponthefinestdayofhislife.Hetoldushowhe
wenttheroundofalltheship-owners’officesintheCitywheresomejunior
clerkwouldfurnishhimwithprintedformsofapplicationwhichhetookhome
tofillupintheevening.Heusedtorunoutjustbeforemidnighttopostthemin
thenearestpillar-box.Andthatwasallthatevercameofit.Inhisownwords:
hemightjustaswellhavedroppedthemallproperlyaddressedandstampedinto
thesewergrating.
Thenoneday,ashewaswendinghiswearywaytothedocks,hemetafriend
andformershipmatealittleolderthanhimselfoutsidetheFenchurchStreet
RailwayStation.
Hecravedforsympathybuthisfriendhadjust“gotaship”thatverymorning
andwashurryinghomeinastateofoutwardjoyandinwarduneasinessusualto


asailorwhoaftermanydaysofwaitingsuddenlygetsaberth.Thisfriendhad
thetimetocondolewithhimbutbriefly.Hemustbemoving.Thenashewas
runningoff,overhisshoulderasitwere,hesuggested:“Whydon’tyougoand
speaktoMr.PowellintheShippingOffice.”Ourfriendobjectedthathedidnot
knowMr.PowellfromAdam.Andtheotheralreadyprettynearroundthe
cornershoutedbackadvice:“GototheprivatedooroftheShippingOfficeand
walkrightuptohim.Hisdeskisbythewindow.GoupboldlyandsayIsent
you.”
Ournewacquaintancelookingfromonetotheotherofusdeclared:“Uponmy
word,IhadgrownsodesperatethatI’dhavegoneboldlyuptothedevilhimself
onthemerehintthathehadasecondmate’sjobtogiveaway.”
Itwasatthispointthatinterruptinghisflowoftalktolighthispipebutholding
uswithhiseyeheinquiredwhetherwehadknownPowell.Marlowwithaslight
reminiscentsmilemurmuredthathe“rememberedhimverywell.”
Thentherewasapause.Ournewacquaintancehadbecomeinvolvedina
vexatiousdifficultywithhispipewhichhadsuddenlybetrayedhistrustand
disappointedhisanticipationofself-indulgence.TokeeptheballrollingIasked
MarlowifthisPowellwasremarkableinanyway.
“Hewasnotexactlyremarkable,”Marlowansweredwithhisusual
nonchalance.“Inageneralwayit’sverydifficultforonetobecome
remarkable.Peoplewon’ttakesufficientnoticeofone,don’tyouknow.I
rememberPowellsowellsimplybecauseasoneoftheShippingMastersinthe
PortofLondonhedispatchedmetoseaonseverallongstagesofmysailor’s
pilgrimage.HeresembledSocrates.Imeanheresembledhimgenuinely:thatis
intheface.Aphilosophicalmindisbutanaccident.Hereproducedexactlythe
familiarbustoftheimmortalsage,ifyouwillimaginethebustwithahightop
hatridingfaronthebackofthehead,andablackcoatovertheshoulders.AsI
neversawhimexceptfromtheothersideofthelongofficialcounterbearingthe
fivewritingdesksofthefiveShippingMasters,Mr.Powellhasremainedabust
tome.”
Ournewacquaintanceadvancednowfromthemantelpiecewithhispipeingood
workingorder.
“WhatwasthemostremarkableaboutPowell,”heenunciateddogmaticallywith
hisheadinacloudofsmoke,“isthatheshouldhavehadjustthatname.You
see,mynamehappenstobePowelltoo.”


Itwasclearthatthisintelligencewasnotimpartedtousforsocialpurposes.It
requirednoacknowledgment.Wecontinuedtogazeathimwithexpectanteyes.
Hegavehimselfuptothevigorousenjoymentofhispipeforasilentminuteor
two.Thenpickingupthethreadofhisstoryhetoldushowhehadstartedhot
footforTowerHill.Hehadnotbeenthatwaysincethedayofhisexamination
—thefinestdayofhislife—thedayofhisoverweeningpride.Itwasvery
differentnow.HewouldnothavecalledtheQueenhiscousin,still,butthistime
itwasfromasenseofprofoundabasement.Hedidn’tthinkhimselfgood
enoughforanybody’skinship.Heenviedthepurple-nosedoldcab-driverson
thestand,theboot-blackboysattheedgeofthepavement,thetwolargebobbies
pacingslowlyalongtheTowerGardensrailingsintheconsciousnessoftheir
infalliblemight,andthebrightscarletsentrieswalkingsmartlytoandfrobefore
theMint.Heenviedthemtheirplacesintheschemeofworld’slabour.Andhe
enviedalsothemiserablesallow,thin-facedloafersblinkingtheirobsceneeyes
andrubbingtheirgreasyshouldersagainstthedoor-jambsoftheBlackHorse
pub,becausetheyweretoofargonetofeeltheirdegradation.
Imustrenderthemanthejusticethatheconveyedverywelltousthesenseof
hisyouthfulhopelessnesssurprisedatnotfindingitsplaceinthesunandno
recognitionofitsrighttolive.
HewentuptheouterstepsofSt.Katherine’sDockHouse,theverystepsfrom
whichhehadsomesixweeksbeforesurveyedthecabstand,thebuildings,the
policemen,theboot-blacks,thepaint,gilt,andplateglassoftheBlackHorse,
withtheeyeofaConqueror.Atthetimehehadbeenatthebottomofhisheart
surprisedthatallthishadnotgreetedhimwithsongsandincense,butnow(he
madenosecretofit)hemadehisentryinaslinkingfashionpastthe
doorkeeper’sglassbox.“Ihadn’tanyhalf-crownstosparefortips,”he
remarkedgrimly.Theman,however,ranoutafterhimasking:“Whatdoyou
require?”butwithagratefulglanceupatthefirstfloorinremembranceof
CaptainR-’sexaminationroom(howeasyanddelightfulallthathadbeen)he
bolteddownaflightleadingtothebasementandfoundhimselfinaplaceof
duskandmysteryandmanydoors.Hehadbeenafraidofbeingstoppedby
someruleofno-admittance.Howeverhewasnotpursued.
ThebasementofSt.Katherine’sDockHouseisvastinextentandconfusingin
itsplan.Paleshaftsoflightslantfromaboveintothegloomofitschilly
passages.PowellwanderedupanddowntherelikeanearlyChristianrefugeein
thecatacombs;butwhatlittlefaithhehadinthesuccessofhisenterprisewas


oozingoutathisfinger-tips.Atadarkturnunderagasbracketwhoseflamewas
halfturneddownhisself-confidenceabandonedhimaltogether.
“Istoodtheretothinkalittle,”hesaid.“Afoolishthingtodobecauseofcourse
Igotscared.Whatcouldyouexpect?Ittakessomenervetotackleastranger
witharequestforafavour.IwishedmynamesakePowellhadbeenthedevil
himself.Ifeltsomehowitwouldhavebeenaneasierjob.Yousee,Inever
believedinthedevilenoughtobescaredofhim;butamancanmakehimself
veryunpleasant.Ilookedatalotofdoors,allshuttight,withagrowing
convictionthatIwouldneverhavetheplucktoopenoneofthem.Thinking’sno
goodforone’snerve.IconcludedIwouldgiveupthewholebusiness.ButI
didn’tgiveupintheend,andI’lltellyouwhatstoppedme.Itwasthe
recollectionofthatconfoundeddoorkeeperwhohadcalledafterme.Ifeltsure
thefellowwouldbeonthelook-outattheheadofthestairs.Ifheaskedme
whatIhadbeenafter,ashehadtherighttodo,Iwouldn’tknowwhattoanswer
thatwouldn’tmakemelooksillyifnoworse.Igotveryhot.Therewasno
chanceofslinkingoutofthisbusiness.
“Ihadlostmybearingssomehowdownthere.Ofthemanydoorsofvarious
sizes,rightandleft,agoodfewhadglazedlightsabove;somehowevermust
haveledmerelyintolumberroomsorsuchlike,becausewhenIbroughtmyself
totryoneortwoIwasdisconcertedtofindthattheywerelocked.Istoodthere
irresoluteanduneasylikeabaffledthief.Theconfoundedbasementwasasstill
asagraveandIbecameawareofmyheartbeats.Veryuncomfortable
sensation.Neverhappenedtomebeforeorsince.Abiggerdoortotheleftof
me,withalargebrasshandlelookedasifitmightleadintotheShippingOffice.
Itriedit,settingmyteeth.“Heregoes!”
“Itcameopenquiteeasily.Andlo!theplaceitopenedintowashardlyany
biggerthanacupboard.Anyhowitwasn’tmorethantenfeetbytwelve;andasI
inawayexpectedtoseethebigshadowycellar-likeextentoftheShipping
OfficewhereIhadbeenonceortwicebefore,Iwasextremelystartled.Agas
brackethungfromthemiddleoftheceilingoveradark,shabbywriting-desk
coveredwithalitterofyellowishdustydocuments.Undertheflameofthe
singleburnerwhichmadetheplaceablazewithlight,aplump,littlemanwas
writinghard,hisnoseverynearthedesk.Hisheadwasperfectlybaldandabout
thesamedrabtintasthepapers.Heappearedprettydustytoo.
“Ididn’tnoticewhethertherewereanycobwebsonhim,butIshouldn’twonder
iftherewerebecausehelookedasthoughhehadbeenimprisonedforyearsin


thatlittlehole.Thewayhedroppedhispenandsatblinkingmywayupsetme
verymuch.Andhisdungeonwashotandmusty;itsmeltofgasand
mushrooms,andseemedtobesomewhere120feetbelowtheground.Solid,
heavystacksofpaperfilledallthecornershalf-wayuptotheceiling.Andwhen
thethoughtflasheduponmethatthesewerethepremisesoftheMarineBoard
andthatthisfellowmustbeconnectedinsomewaywithshipsandsailorsand
thesea,myastonishmenttookmybreathaway.Onecouldn’timaginewhythe
MarineBoardshouldkeepthatbald,fatcreatureslavingdownthere.Forsome
reasonorotherIfeltsorryandashamedtohavefoundhimoutinhiswretched
captivity.Iaskedgentlyandsorrowfully:“TheShippingOffice,please.”
Hepipedupinacontemptuoussqueakyvoicewhichmademestart:“Nothere.
Trythepassageontheotherside.Streetside.ThisistheDockside.You’ve
lostyourway...”
HespokeinsuchaspitefultonethatIthoughthewasgoingtoroundoffwiththe
words:“Youfool”...andperhapshemeantto.Butwhathefinishedsharply
withwas:“Shutthedoorquietlyafteryou.”
AndIdidshutitquietly—youbet.Quickandquiet.Theindomitablespiritof
thatchapimpressedme.Iwondersometimeswhetherhehassucceededin
writinghimselfintolibertyandapensionatlast,orhadtogooutofhisgaslightedgravestraightintothatotherdarkonewherenobodywouldwantto
intrude.Myhumanitywaspleasedtodiscoverhehadsomuchkickleftinhim,
butIwasnotcomfortedintheleast.ItoccurredtomethatifMr.Powellhadthe
samesortoftemper...However,Ididn’tgivemyselftimetothinkandscuttled
acrossthespaceatthefootofthestairsintothepassagewhereI’dbeentoldto
try.AndItriedthefirstdoorIcameto,rightaway,withoutanyhangingback,
becausecomingloudlyfromthehallaboveanamazedandscandalizedvoice
wantedtoknowwhatsortofgameIwasuptodownthere.“Don’tyouknow
there’snoadmittancethatway?”itroared.ButiftherewasanythingmoreIshut
itoutofmyhearingbymeansofadoormarkedPrivateontheoutside.Itletme
intoasix-feetwidestripbetweenalongcounterandthewall,takenoffa
spacious,vaultedroomwithagratedwindowandaglazeddoorgivingdaylight
tothefurtherend.ThefirstthingIsawrightinfrontofmewerethreemiddleagedmenhavingasortofromptogetherroundaboutanotherfellowwithathin,
longneckandslopingshoulderswhostoodupatadeskwritingonalargesheet
ofpaperandtakingnonoticeexceptthathegrinnedquietlytohimself.They
turnedverysouratoncewhentheysawme.Iheardoneofthemmutter‘Hullo!
Whathavewehere?’


“‘IwanttoseeMr.Powell,please,’Isaid,verycivilbutfirm;Iwouldletnothing
scaremeawaynow.ThiswastheShippingOfficerightenough.Itwasafter3
o’clockandthebusinessseemedoverforthedaywiththem.Thelong-necked
fellowwentonwithhiswritingsteadily.Iobservedthathewasnolonger
grinning.Thethreeotherstossedtheirheadsalltogethertowardsthefarendof
theroomwhereafifthmanhadbeenlookingonattheiranticsfromahigh
stool.Iwalkeduptohimasboldlyasifhehadbeenthedevilhimself.Withone
footraisedupandrestingonthecross-barofhisseatheneverstoppedswinging
theotherwhichwaswellclearofthestonefloor.Hehadunbuttonedthetopof
hiswaistcoatandheworehistallhatveryfaratthebackofhishead.Hehada
fullunwrinkledfaceandsuchclear-shiningeyesthathisgreybeardlookedquite
falseonhim,stuckonforadisguise.YousaidjustnowheresembledSocrates
—didn’tyou?Idon’tknowaboutthat.ThisSocrateswasawiseman,I
believe?”
“Hewas,”assentedMarlow.“Andatruefriendofyouth.Helecturedthemina
peculiarlyexasperatingmanner.Itwasawayhehad.”
“ThengivemePowelleverytime,”declaredournewacquaintancesturdily.“He
didn’tlecturemeinanyway.Nothe.Hesaid:‘Howdoyoudo?’quitekindlyto
mymumble.Thensayshelookingveryhardatme:‘Idon’tthinkIknowyou—
doI?’
“No,sir,”Isaidanddownwentmyheartslidingintomyboots,justasthetime
hadcometosummonupallmycheek.There’snothingmeanerintheworldthan
apieceofimpudencethatisn’tcarriedoffwell.Forfearofappearing
shamefacedIstartedaboutitsofreeandeasyasalmosttofrightenmyself.He
listenedforawhilelookingatmyfacewithsurpriseandcuriosityandthenheld
uphishand.Iwasgladenoughtoshutup,Icantellyou.
“Well,youareacoolhand,”sayshe.“Andthatfriendofyourstoo.Hepestered
mecominghereeverydayforafortnighttillacaptainI’macquaintedwithwas
goodenoughtogivehimaberth.Andnosoonerhe’sprovidedforthanheturns
youon.Youyoungstersdon’tseemtomindwhomyougetintotrouble.”
“Itwasmyturnnowtostarewithsurpriseandcuriosity.Hehadn’tbeentalking
loudbutheloweredhisvoicestillmore.
“Don’tyouknowit’sillegal?”
“IwonderedwhathewasdrivingattillIrememberedthatprocuringaberthfora


sailorisapenaloffenceundertheAct.Thatclausewasdirectedofcourse
againsttheswindlingpracticesoftheboarding-housecrimps.Ithadnever
struckmeitwouldapplytoeverybodyalikenomatterwhatthemotive,because
Ibelievedthenthatpeopleonshoredidtheirworkwithcareandforesight.
“Iwasconfoundedattheidea,butMr.PowellmademesoonseethatanActof
Parliamenthasn’tanysenseofitsown.Ithasonlythesensethat’sputintoit;
andthat’spreciouslittlesometimes.Hedidn’tmindhelpingayoungmantoa
shipnowandthen,hesaid,butifwekeptoncomingconstantlyitwouldsoon
getaboutthathewasdoingitformoney.
“Aprettythingthatwouldbe:theSeniorShipping-MasterofthePortofLondon
hauledupinapolicecourtandfinedfiftypounds,”sayshe.“I’veanotherfour
yearstoservetogetmypension.Itcouldbemadetolookveryblackagainstme
anddon’tyoumakeanymistakeaboutit,”hesays.
“Andallthetimewithonekneewelluphewentonswinginghisotherleglikea
boyonagateandlookingatmeverystraightwithhisshiningeyes.Iwas
confoundedItellyou.Itmademesicktohearhimimplythatsomebodywould
makeareportagainsthim.
“Oh!”Iaskedshocked,“whowouldthinkofsuchascurvytrick,sir?”Iwashalf
disgustedwithhimforhavingthemerenotionofit.
“Who?”sayshe,speakingverylow.“Anybody.Oneoftheofficemessengers
maybe.I’verisentobetheSeniorofthisofficeandweareallverygoodfriends
here,butdon’tyouthinkthatmycolleaguethatsitsnexttomewouldn’tliketo
gouptothisdeskbythewindowfouryearsinadvanceoftheregulationtime?
Orevenoneyearforthatmatter.It’shumannature.”
“Icouldnothelpturningmyhead.Thethreefellowswhohadbeenskylarking
whenIcameinwerenowtalkingtogetherverysoberly,andthelong-necked
chapwasgoingonwithhiswritingstill.Heseemedtomethemostdangerous
ofthelot.Isawhimsidefaceandhislipsweresetverytight.Ihadnever
lookedatmankindinthatlightbefore.Whenone’syounghumannatureshocks
one.ButwhatstartledmemostwastoseethedoorIhadcomethroughopen
slowlyandgivepassagetoaheadinauniformcapwithaBoardofTrade
badge.Itwasthatblamedolddoorkeeperfromthehall.Hehadrunmetoearth
andmeanttodigmeouttoo.Hewalkeduptheofficesmirkingcraftily,capin
hand.


“Whatisit,Symons?”askedMr.Powell.
“Iwasonlywonderingwherethis’eregentleman’adgoneto,sir.Heslipped
pastmeupstairs,sir.”
Ifeltmightyuncomfortable.
“That’sallright,Symons.Iknowthegentleman,”saysMr.Powellasseriousas
ajudge.
“Verywell,sir.Ofcourse,sir.Isawthegentlemanrunningracesallby’isself
down’ere,soI...”
“It’sallrightItellyou,”Mr.Powellcuthimshortwithawaveofhishand;and,
astheoldfraudwalkedoffatlast,heraisedhiseyestome.Ididnotknowwhat
todo:staythere,orclearout,orsaythatIwassorry.
“Let’ssee,”sayshe,“whatdidyoutellmeyournamewas?”
“Now,observe,Ihadn’tgivenhimmynameatallandhisquestionembarrassed
meabit.Somehoworotheritdidn’tseemproperformetoflinghisownname
athimasitwere.SoImerelypulledoutmynewcertificatefrommypocketand
putitintohishandunfolded,sothathecouldreadCharlesPowellwrittenvery
plainontheparchment.
“Hedroppedhiseyesontoitandafterawhilelaiditquietlyonthedeskbyhis
side.Ididn’tknowwhetherhemeanttomakeanyremarkonthiscoincidence.
Beforehehadtimetosayanythingtheglassdoorcameopenwithabanganda
tall,activemanrushedinwithgreatstrides.Hisfacelookedveryredbelowhis
highsilkhat.Youcouldseeatoncehewastheskipperofabigship.
“Mr.Powellaftertellingmeinanundertonetowaitalittleaddressedhimina
friendlyway.
“I’vebeenexpectingyouineverymomenttofetchawayyourArticles,Captain.
Heretheyareallreadyforyou.”Andturningtoapileofagreementslyingathis
elbowhetookupthetopmostofthem.FromwhereIstoodIcouldreadthe
words:“ShipFerndale”writteninalargeroundhandonthefirstpage.
“No,Mr.Powell,theyaren’tready,worseluck,”saysthatskipper.“I’vegotto
askyoutostrikeoutmysecondofficer.”Heseemedexcitedandbothered.He
explainedthathissecondmatehadbeenworkingonboardallthemorning.At


oneo’clockhewentouttogetabitofdinneranddidn’tturnupattwoashe
oughttohavedone.Insteadtherecameamessengerfromthehospitalwitha
notesignedbyadoctor.Collarboneandonearmbroken.Lethimselfbe
knockeddownbyapairhorsevanwhilecrossingtheroadoutsidethedockgate,
asifhehadneithereyesnorears.Andtheshipreadytoleavethedockatsix
o’clockto-morrowmorning!
“Mr.Powelldippedhispenandbegantoturntheleavesoftheagreementover.
“Wemustthentakehisnameoff,”hesaysinakindofunconcernedsing-song.
“WhatamItodo?”burstouttheskipper.“Thisofficeclosesatfouro’clock.I
can’tfindamaninhalfanhour.”
“Thisofficeclosesatfour,”repeatsMr.Powellglancingupanddownthepages
andtouchingupaletterhereandtherewithperfectindifference.
“EvenifImanagedtolayholdsometimeto-dayofamanreadytogoatsuch
shortnoticeIcouldn’tshiphimregularlyhere—couldI?”
“Mr.Powellwasbusydrawinghispenthroughtheentriesrelatingtothat
unluckysecondmateandmakinganoteinthemargin.
“Youcouldsignhimonyourselfonboard,”sayshewithoutlookingup.“ButI
don’tthinkyou’llfindeasilyanofficerforsuchapier-headjump.”
“Uponthisthefine-lookingskippergavesignsofdistress.Theshipmustn’t
missthenextmorning’stide.Hehadtotakeonboardfortytonsofdynamite
andahundredandtwentytonsofgunpowderataplacedowntheriverbefore
proceedingtosea.Itwasallarrangedfornextday.Therewouldbenoendof
fussandcomplicationsiftheshipdidn’tturnupintime...Icouldn’thelp
hearingallthis,whilewishinghimtotakehimselfoff,becauseIwantedtoknow
whyMr.Powellhadtoldmetowait.Afterwhathehadbeensayingtheredidn’t
seemanyobjectinmyhangingabout.IfIhadhadmycertificateinmypocketI
shouldhavetriedtoslipawayquietly;butMr.Powellhadturnedaboutintothe
samepositionIfoundhiminatfirstandwasagainswinginghisleg.My
certificateopenonthedeskwasunderhisleftelbowandIcouldn’tverywellgo
upandjerkitaway.
“Idon’tknow,”sayshecarelessly,addressingthehelplesscaptainbutlooking
fixedlyatmewithanexpressionasifIhadn’tbeenthere.“Idon’tknow
whetherIoughttotellyouthatIknowofadisengagedsecondmateathand.”


“Doyoumeanyou’vegothimhere?”shoutstheotherlookingallovertheempty
publicpartoftheofficeasifhewerereadytoflinghimselfbodilyuponanything
resemblingasecondmate.HehadbeensofullofhisdifficultythatIverify
believehehadnevernoticedme.Orperhapsseeingmeinsidehemayhave
thoughtIwassomeunderstrapperbelongingtotheplace.ButwhenMr.Powell
noddedinmydirectionhebecameveryquietandgavemealongstare.Thenhe
stoopedtoMr.Powell’sear—Isupposeheimaginedhewaswhispering,butI
heardhimwellenough.
“Looksveryrespectable.”
“Certainly,”saystheshipping-masterquitecalmandstaringallthetimeatme.
“Hisname’sPowell.”
“Oh,Isee!”saystheskipperasifstruckallofaheap.“Butishereadytojoinat
once?”
“Ihadasortofvisionofmylodgings—intheNorthofLondon,too,beyond
Dalston,awaytothedevil—andallmygearscatteredabout,andmyemptyseachestsomewhereinanouthousethegoodpeopleIwasstayingwithhadatthe
endoftheirsootystripofgarden.IheardtheShippingMastersayinthecoolest
sortofway:
“He’llsleeponboardto-night.”
“Hehadbetter,”saystheCaptainoftheFerndaleverybusinesslike,asifthe
wholethingweresettled.Ican’tsayIwasdumbforjoyasyoumaysuppose.It
wasn’texactlythat.Iwasmorebywayofbeingoutofbreathwiththequickness
ofit.Itdidn’tseempossiblethatthiswashappeningtome.Buttheskipper,
afterhehadtalkedforawhilewithMr.Powell,toolowformetohearbecame
visiblyperplexed.
“IsupposehehadheardIwasfreshlypassedandwithoutexperienceasan
officer,becauseheturnedaboutandlookedmeoverasifIhadbeenexposedfor
sale.
“He’syoung,”hemutters.“Lookssmart,though...You’resmartandwilling
(thistomeverysuddenandloud)andallthat,aren’tyou?”
“Ijustmanagedtoopenandshutmymouth,nomore,beingtakenunawares.
Butitwasenoughforhim.HemadeasifIhaddeafenedhimwithprotestations
ofmysmartnessandwillingness.


“Ofcourse,ofcourse.Allright.”AndthenturningtotheShippingMasterwho
satthereswinginghisleg,hesaidthathecertainlycouldn’tgotoseawithouta
secondofficer.Istoodbyasifallthesethingswerehappeningtosomeother
chapwhomIwasseeingthroughwithit.Mr.Powellstaredatmewiththose
shiningeyesofhis.Butthatbotheredskipperturnsuponmeagainasthoughhe
wantedtosnapmyheadoff.
“Youaren’ttoobigtobetoldhowtodothings—areyou?You’vealottolearn
yetthoughyoumayn’tthinkso.”
“Ihadhalfamindtosavemydignitybytellinghimthatifitwasmyseamanship
hewasalludingtoIwantedhimtounderstandthatafellowwhohadsurvived
beingturnedinsideoutforanhourandahalfbyCaptainR-wasequaltoany
demandhisoldshipwaslikelytomakeonhiscompetence.Howeverhedidn’t
givemeachancetomakethatsortoffoolofmyselfbecausebeforeIcouldopen
mymouthhehadgoneroundonanothertackandwasaddressinghimselfaffably
toMr.Powellwhoswinginghislegnevertookhiseyesoffme.
“I’lltakeyouryoungfriendwillingly,Mr.Powell.Ifyoulethimsignonas
second-mateatonceI’lltaketheArticlesawaywithmenow.”
“ItsuddenlydawneduponmethattheinnocentskipperoftheFerndalehad
takenitforgrantedthatIwasarelativeoftheShippingMaster!Iwasquite
astonishedatthisdiscovery,thoughindeedthemistakewasnaturalenough
underthecircumstances.WhatIoughttohaveadmiredwasthereticencewith
whichthismisunderstandinghadbeenestablishedandactedupon.ButIwastoo
stupidthentoadmireanything.Allmyanxietywasthatthisshouldbecleared
up.IwasassenoughtowonderexceedinglyatMr.Powellfailingtonoticethe
misapprehension.Isawaslighttwitchcomeandgoonhisface;butinsteadof
settingrightthatmistaketheShippingMasterswungroundonhisstooland
addressedmeas‘Charles.’Hedid.AndIdetectedhimtakingahastysquintat
mycertificatejustbefore,becauseclearlytillhedidsohewasnotsureofmy
christianname.“Nowthencomeroundinfrontofthedesk,Charles,”sayshein
aloudvoice.
“Charles!Atfirst,Ideclaretoyou,itdidn’tseempossiblethathewas
addressinghimselftome.IevenlookedroundforthatCharlesbuttherewas
nobodybehindmeexceptthethin-neckedchapstillhardathiswriting,andthe
otherthreeShippingMasterswhowerechangingtheircoatsandreachingfor
theirhats,makingreadytogohome.Itwastheindustriousthin-neckedman


whowithoutlayingdownhispenliftedwithhislefthandaflapnearhisdesk
andsaidkindly:
“Passthisway.”
Iwalkedthroughinatrance,facedMr.Powell,fromwhomIlearnedthatwe
wereboundtoPortElizabethfirst,andsignedmynameontheArticlesofthe
shipFerndaleassecondmate—thevoyagenottoexceedtwoyears.
“Youwon’tfailtojoin—eh?”saysthecaptainanxiously.“Itwouldcausenoend
oftroubleandexpenseifyoudid.You’vegotagoodsixhourstogetyourgear
together,andthenyou’llhavetimetosnatchasleeponboardbeforethecrew
joinsinthemorning.”
“Itwaseasyenoughforhimtotalkofgettingreadyinsixhoursforavoyage
thatwasnottoexceedtwoyears.Hehadn’ttodothattrickhimself,andwithhis
sea-chestlockedupinanouthousethekeyofwhichhadbeenmislaidforaweek
asIremembered.ButneitherwasImuchconcerned.TheideathatIwas
absolutelygoingtoseaatsixo’clocknextmorninghadn’tgotquiteintomyhead
yet.Ithadbeentoosudden.
“Mr.Powell,slippingtheArticlesintoalongenvelope,spokeupwithasortof
coldhalf-laughwithoutlookingateitherofus.
“Mindyoudon’tdisgracethename,Charles.”
“Andtheskipperchimesinverykindly:
“He’lldowellenoughIdaresay.I’lllookafterhimabit.”
“UponthishegrabstheArticles,sayssomethingabouttryingtoruninfora
minutetoseethatpoordevilinthehospital,andoffhegoeswithhisheavy
swingingstepaftertellingmesternly:“Don’tyougolikethatpoorfellowand
getyourselfrunoverbyacartasifyouhadn’teithereyesorears.”
“Mr.Powell,”saysItimidly(therewasbythenonlythethin-neckedmanleftin
theofficewithusandhewasalreadybythedoor,standingononelegtoturnthe
bottomofhistrousersupbeforegoingaway).“Mr.Powell,”saysI,“Ibelieve
theCaptainoftheFerndalewasthinkingallthetimethatIwasarelationof
yours.”
“Iwasratherconcernedabouttheproprietyofit,youknow,butMr.Powell


didn’tseemtobeintheleast.
“Didhe?”sayshe.“That’sfunny,becauseitseemstometoothatI’vebeena
sortofgooduncletoseveralofyouyoungfellowslately.Don’tyouthinkso
yourself?However,ifyoudon’tlikeityoumayputhimright—whenyouget
outtosea.”AtthisIfeltabitqueer.Mr.Powellhadrenderedmeaverygood
service:-becauseit’safactthatwithusmerchantsailorsthefirstvoyageas
officeristherealstartinlife.Hehadgivenmenolessthanthat.Itoldhim
warmlythathehaddoneformemorethatdaythanallmyrelationsputtogether
everdid.
“Oh,no,no,”sayshe.“Iguessit’sthatshipmentofexplosiveswaitingdownthe
riverwhichhasdonemostforyou.Fortytonsofdynamitehavebeenyourbest
friendto-day,youngman.”
“Thatwastruetoo,perhaps.AnywayIsawclearlyenoughthatIhadnothingto
thankmyselffor.ButasItriedtothankhim,hecheckedmystammering.
“Don’tbeinahurrytothankme,”sayshe.“Thevoyageisn’tfinishedyet.”
Ournewacquaintancepaused,thenaddedmeditatively:“Queerman.Asifit
madeanydifference.Queerman.”
“It’scertainlyunwisetoadmitanysortofresponsibilityforouractions,whose
consequencesweareneverabletoforesee,”remarkedMarlowbywayofassent.
“TheconsequenceofhisactionwasthatIgotaship,”saidtheother.“That
couldnotdomuchharm,”headdedwithalaughwhicharguedaprobably
unconsciouscontemptofgeneralideas.
ButMarlowwasnotputoff.Hewaspatientandreflective.Hehadbeenatsea
manyyearsandIverilybelievehelikedsea-lifebecauseuponthewholeitis
favourabletoreflection.Iamspeakingofthenownearlyvanishedsea-life
undersail.TothosewhomaybesurprisedatthestatementIwillpointoutthat
thislifesecuredforthemindofhimwhoembracedittheinestimableadvantages
ofsolitudeandsilence.Marlowhadthehabitofpursuinggeneralideasina
peculiarmanner,betweenjestandearnest.
“Oh,Iwouldn’tsuggest,”hesaid,“thatyournamesakeMr.Powell,theShipping
Master,haddoneyoumuchharm.Suchwashardlyhisintention.Andevenifit
hadbeenhewouldnothavehadthepower.Hewasbutaman,andthe
incapacitytoachieveanythingdistinctlygoodorevilisinherentinourearthly


condition.Mediocrityisourmark.Andperhapsit’sjustaswell,since,forthe
mostpart,wecannotbecertainoftheeffectofouractions.”
“Idon’tknowabouttheeffect,”theotherstooduptoMarlowmanfully.“What
effectdidyouexpectanyhow?Itellyouhedidsomethinguncommonlykind.”
“Hedidwhathecould,”Marlowretortedgently,“andonhisownshowingthat
wasnotaverygreatdeal.Icannothelpthinkingthattherewassomemalicein
thewayheseizedtheopportunitytoserveyou.Hemanagedtomakeyou
uncomfortable.Youwantedtogotosea,buthejumpedatthechanceof
accommodatingyourdesirewithavengeance.Iaminclinedtothinkyourcheek
alarmedhim.Andthiswasanexcellentoccasiontosuppressyoualtogether.
Forifyouacceptedhewasrelievedofyouwitheveryappearanceofhumanity,
andifyoumadeobjections(afterrequestinghisassistance,mindyou)itwas
opentohimtodropyouasasortofimpostor.Youmighthavehadtodecline
thatberthforsomeveryvalidreason.Fromsheernecessityperhaps.Thenotice
wastoouncommonlyshort.Butunderthecircumstancesyou’dhavecovered
yourselfwithignominy.”
Ournewfriendknockedtheashesoutofhispipe.
“Quiteamistake,”hesaid.“Iamnotofthedecliningsort,thoughI’lladmitit
wassomethingliketellingamanthatyouwouldlikeabathandinconsequence
beinginstantlyknockedoverboardtosinkorswimwithyourclotheson.
However,Ididn’tfeelasifIwereindeepwateratfirst.Ilefttheshippingoffice
quietlyandforatimestrolledalongthestreetaseasyasifIhadaweekbefore
metofitmyselfout.ButbyandbyIreflectedthatthenoticewasevenshorter
thanitlooked.Theafternoonwaswelladvanced;Ihadsomethingstoget,alot
ofsmallmatterstoattendto,oneortwopersonstosee.Oneofthemwasan
auntofmine,myonlyrelation,whoquarrelledwithpoorfatheraslongashe
livedaboutsomesillymatterthathadneitherrightnorwrongtoit.Shelefther
moneytomewhenshedied.Iusedalwaystogoandseeherfordecency’s
sake.IhadsomuchtodobeforenightthatIdidn’tknowwheretobegin.Ifelt
inclinedtositdownonthekerbandholdmyheadinmyhands.Itwasasifan
enginehadbeenstartedgoingundermyskull.FinallyIsatdowninthefirstcab
thatcamealonganditwasahardmattertokeeponsittingthereIcantellyou,
whilewerolledupanddownthestreets,pullinguphereandthere,theparcels
accumulatingroundmeandtheengineinmyheadgatheringmorewayevery
minute.Thecomposureofthepeopleonthepavementswasprovokingtoa
degree,andastothepeopleinshops,theywerebenumbed,morethanhalf


frozen—imbecile.Funnyhowitaffectsyoutobeinapeculiarstateofmind:
everybodythatdoesnotactuptoyourexcitementseemssoconfoundedly
unfriendly.Andmystateofmindwhatwiththehurry,theworryandagrowing
exultationwaspeculiarenough.Thatengineinmyheadwentroundatitstop
speedhourafterhourtillelevenataboutatnightitletuponmesuddenlyatthe
entrancetotheDockbeforelargeirongatesinadeadwall.”
*****
Thesegateswereclosedandlocked.Thecabby,aftershootinghisthingsoffthe
roofofhismachineintoyoungPowell’sarms,droveawayleavinghimalone
withhissea-chest,asailclothbagandafewparcelsonthepavementabouthis
feet.Itwasadark,narrowthoroughfarehetoldus.Ameanrowofhouseson
theothersidelookedempty:therewasn’tthesmallestgleamoflightinthem.
Thewhite-hotglareofaginpalaceagoodwayoffmadetheinterveningpieceof
thestreetpitchblack.Somehumanshapesappearingmysteriously,asifthey
hadsprungupfromthedarkground,shunnedtheedgeofthefaintlightthrown
downbythegatewaylamps.Thesefigureswerewaryintheirmovementsand
perfectlysilentoffoot,likebeastsofpreyslinkingaboutacampfire.Powell
gathereduphisbelongingsandhoveredoverthemlikeahenoverherbrood.A
grufflyinsinuatingvoicesaid:
“Let’scarryyourthingsin,Capt’in!I’vegotmypal’ere.”
Hewasatall,bony,grey-hairedruffianwithabulldogjaw,inatorncottonshirt
andmoleskintrousers.Theshadowofhishobnailedbootswasenormousand
coffinlike.Hispal,whodidn’tcomeupmuchhigherthanhiselbow,stepping
forwardexhibitedapalefacewithalongdroopingnoseandnochintospeakof.
Heseemedtohavejustscrambledoutofadust-bininatam-o’shantercapanda
tatteredsoldier’scoatmuchtoolongforhim.Beingsodeadlywhitehelooked
likeahorribledirtyinvalidinaraggeddressinggown.Thecoatflappedopenin
frontandtherestofhisapparelconsistedofonebracewhichcrossedhisnaked,
bonychest,andapairoftrousers.Heblinkedrapidlyasifdazedbythefaint
light,whilehispatron,theoldbandit,gloweredatyoungPowellfromunderhis
beetlingbrow.
“Saytheword,Capt’in.Thebobby’llletusinallright.’Eknowsbothofus.”
“Ididn’tanswerhim,”continuedMr.Powell.“Iwaslisteningtofootstepsonthe
othersideofthegate,echoingbetweenthewallsofthewarehousesasifinan
uninhabitedtownofveryhighbuildingsdarkfrombasementtoroof.Youcould


neverhaveguessedthatwithinastone’sthrowtherewasanopensheetofwater
andbigshipslyingafloat.Thefewgaslampsshowingupabitofbrickwork
hereandthere,appearedintheblacknesslikepennydipsinarangeofcellars—
andthesolitaryfootstepscameon,tramp,tramp.Adockpolicemanstrodeinto
thelightontheothersideofthegate,verybroad-chestedandstern.
“Hallo!What’suphere?”
“Hewasreallysurprised,butaftersomepalaverheletmeintogetherwiththe
twoloaferscarryingmyluggage.Hegrumbledatthemhoweverandslammed
thegateviolentlywithaloudclang.Iwasstartledtodiscoverhowmanynight
prowlershadcollectedinthedarknessofthestreetinsuchashorttimeand
withoutmybeingawareofit.Directlywewerethroughtheycamesurging
againstthebars,silent,likeamobofuglyspectres.Butsuddenly,upthestreet
somewhere,perhapsnearthatpublic-house,arowstartedasifBedlamhad
brokenloose:shouts,yells,anawfulshrillshriek—andatthatnoiseallthese
headsvanishedfrombehindthebars.
“Lookatthis,”marvelledtheconstable.“It’sawondertometheydidn’tmake
offwithyourthingswhileyouwerewaiting.”
“Iwouldhavetakengoodcareofthat,”Isaiddefiantly.Buttheconstable
wasn’timpressed.
“Muchyouwouldhavedone.Thebaggoingoffroundonedarkcorner;the
chestroundanother.Wouldyouhaveruntwowaysatonce?Andanyhow
you’dhavebeentrippedupandjumpeduponbeforeyouhadrunthreeyards.I
tellyouyou’vehadamostextraordinarychancethattherewasn’toneofthem
regularboysaboutto-night,intheHighStreet,totwigyourloadedcabgoby.
Tedhereishonest...Youareonthehonestlay,Ted,ain’tyou?”
“Alwayswas,orficer,”saidthebigruffianwithfeeling.Theotherfrailcreature
seemeddumbandonlyhoppedaboutwiththeedgeofitssoldiercoattouching
theground.
“Ohyes,Idaresay,”saidtheconstable.“Nowthen,forward,march...He’s
thatbecauseheain’tgamefortheotherthing,”heconfidedtome.“Hehasn’t
gotthenerveforit.However,Iain’tgoingtolosesightofthemtwotilltheygo
outthroughthegate.Thatlittlechap’sadevil.He’sgotthenerveforanything,
onlyhehasn’tgotthemuscle.Well!Well!You’vehadachancetogetinwitha
wholeskinandwithallyourthings.”


“Iwasincredulousalittle.Itseemedimpossiblethataftergettingreadywithso
muchhurryandinconvenienceIshouldhavelostmychanceofastartinlife
fromsuchacause.Iasked:
“Doesthatsortofthinghappenoftensonearthedockgates?”
“Often!No!Ofcoursenotoften.Butitain’tofteneitherthatamancomes
alongwithacabloadofthingstojoinashipatthistimeofnight.I’vebeenin
thedockpolicethirteenyearsandhaven’tseenitdoneonce.”
“Meantimewefollowedmysea-chestwhichwasbeingcarrieddownasortof
deepnarrowlane,separatingtwohighwarehouses,betweenhonestTedandhis
littledevilofapalwhohadtokeepupatrottotheother’sstride.Theskirtof
hissoldier’scoatfloatingbehindhimnearlysweptthegroundsothatheseemed
toberunningoncastors.Atthecornerofthegloomypassageariggedjibboom
withadolphin-strikerendinginanarrow-headstuckoutofthenightclosetoa
castironlamp-post.Itwasthequayside.Theysetdowntheirloadinthelight
andhonestTedaskedhoarsely:
“Where’syourship,guv’nor?”
“Ididn’tknow.Theconstablewasinterestedatmyignorance.
“Don’tknowwhereyourshipis?”heaskedwithcuriosity.“Andyouthesecond
officer!Haven’tyoubeenworkingonboardofher?”
“Icouldn’texplainthattheonlyworkconnectedwithmyappointmentwasthe
workofchance.ItoldhimbrieflythatIdidn’tknowheratall.Atthishe
remarked:
“SoIsee.Heresheis,rightbeforeyou.That’sher.”
“Atoncethehead-gearinthegaslightinspiredmewithinterestandrespect;the
sparswerebig,thechainsandropesstoutandthewholethinglookedpowerful
andtrustworthy.Barelytouchedbythelightherbowsrosefaintlyalongsidethe
narrowstripofthequay;therestofherwasablacksmudgeinthedarkness.
HereIwasfacetofacewithmystartinlife.Wewalkedinabodyafewstepson
agreasypavementbetweenhersideandthetoweringwallofawarehouseandI
hitmyshinscruellyagainsttheendofthegangway.Theconstablehailedher
quietlyinabassundertone‘Ferndalethere!’Afeebleanddismalsound,
somethinginthenatureofabuzzinggroan,answeredfrombehindthebulwarks.


“Idistinguishedvaguelyanirregularroundknob,ofwood,perhaps,restingon
therail.Itdidnotmoveintheleast;butasanotherbroken-downbuzzlikeastill
fainterechoofthefirstdismalsoundproceededfromitIconcludeditmustbe
theheadoftheship-keeper.Thestalwartconstablejeeredinamock-official
manner.
“Secondofficercomingtojoin.Moveyourselfabit.”
“Thetruthofthestatementtouchedmeinthepitofthestomach(youknow
that’sthespotwhereemotiongetshomeonaman)foritwasborneuponmethat
reallyandtrulyIwasnothingbutasecondofficerofashipjustlikeanyother
secondofficer,tothatconstable.Iwasmovedbythissolidevidenceofmynew
dignity.Onlyhistoneoffendedme.NeverthelessIgavehimthetiphewas
lookingfor.Thereuponhelostallinterestinme,humorousorotherwise,and
walkedawaydrivingsternlybeforehimthehonestTed,whowentoffgrumbling
tohimselflikeahungryogre,andhishorribledumblittlepalinthesoldier’s
coat,who,fromfirsttolast,neveremittedtheslightestsound.
“ItwasverydarkonthequarterdeckoftheFerndalebetweenthedeepbulwarks
overshadowedbythebreakofthepoopandfrowneduponbythefrontofthe
warehouse.Iplumpeddownontomychestneartheafterhatchasifmylegs
hadbeenjerkedfromunderme.Ifeltsuddenlyverytiredandlanguid.The
ship-keeper,whomIcouldhardlymakeouthungoverthecapstaninafitof
weakpitifulcoughing.Hegaspedoutverylow‘Oh!dear!Oh!dear!’and
struggledforbreathsolongthatIgotupalarmedandirresolute.
“I’vebeentooklikethissincelastChristmastwelvemonth.Itain’tnothing.”
“Heseemedahundredyearsoldatleast.Ineversawhimproperlybecausehe
wasgoneashoreandoutofsightwhenIcameondeckinthemorning;buthe
gavemethenotionofthefeeblestcreaturethateverbreathed.Hisvoicewas
thinlikethebuzzingofamosquito.Asitwouldhavebeencrueltodemand
assistancefromsuchashadowywreckIwenttoworkmyself,draggingmychest
alongapitch-blackpassageunderthepoopdeck,whilehesighedandmoaned
aroundmeasifmyexertionsweremorethanhisweaknesscouldstand.Atlast
asIbangedprettyheavilyagainstthebulkheadshewarnedmeinhisfaint
breathlesswheezetobemorecareful.
“What’sthematter?”Iaskedratherroughly,notrelishingtobeadmonishedby
thisforlornbroken-downghost.


“Nothing!Nothing,sir,”heprotestedsohastilythathelosthispoorbreathagain
andIfeltsorryforhim.“Onlythecaptainandhismissusaresleepingonboard.
She’saladythatmustn’tbedisturbed.Theycameabouthalf-pasteight,andwe
hadapermittohavelightsinthecabintilltento-night.”
“Thisstruckmeasaconsiderablepieceofnews.Ihadneverbeeninaship
wherethecaptainhadhiswifewithhim.I’dheardfellowssaythatcaptains’
wivescouldworkalotofmischiefonboardshipiftheyhappenedtotakea
disliketoanyone;especiallythenewwivesifyoungandpretty.Theoldand
experiencedwivesontheotherhandfanciedtheyknewmoreabouttheshipthan
theskipperhimselfandhadaneyelikeahawk’sforwhatwenton.Theywere
likeanextrachiefmateofaparticularlysharpandunfeelingsortwhomadehis
reportintheevening.Thebestofthemwereanuisance.Inthegeneralopinion
askipperwithhiswifeonboardwasmoredifficulttoplease;butwhetherto
showoffhisauthoritybeforeanadmiringfemaleorfromlovinganxietyforher
safetyorsimplyfromirritationatherpresence—nobodyIeverheardonthe
subjectcouldtellforcertain.
“AfterIhadbundledinmythingssomehowIstruckamatchandhadadazzling
glimpseofmyberth;thenIpitchedtherollofmybeddingintothebunkbuttook
notroubletospreaditout.Iwasn’tsleepynow,neitherwasItired.Andthe
thoughtthatIwasdonewiththeearthformanymanymonthstocomemademe
feelveryquietandself-containedasitwere.SailorswillunderstandwhatI
mean.”
Marlownodded.“Itisastrictlyprofessionalfeeling,”hecommented.“But
otherprofessionsortradesknownothingofit.Itisonlythiscallingwhose
primaryappealliesinthesuggestionofrestlessadventurewhichholdsoutthat
deepsensationtothosewhoembraceit.Itisdifficulttodefine,Iadmit.”
“Ishouldcallitthepeaceofthesea,”saidMr.CharlesPowellinanearnesttone
butlookingatusasthoughheexpectedtobemetbyalaughofderisionand
werehalfpreparedtosalvehisreputationforcommonsensebyjoininginit.But
neitherofuslaughedatMr.CharlesPowellinwhosestartinlifewehadbeen
calledtotakeapart.Hewasluckyinhisaudience.
“Averygoodname,”saidMarlowlookingathimapprovingly.“Asailorfindsa
deepfeelingofsecurityintheexerciseofhiscalling.Theexactinglifeofthe
seahasthisadvantageoverthelifeoftheearththatitsclaimsaresimpleand
cannotbeevaded.”


“Gospeltruth,”assentedMr.Powell.“No!theycannotbeevaded.”
Thatanexcellentunderstandingshouldhaveestablisheditselfbetweenmyold
friendandournewacquaintancewasremarkableenough.Fortheywereexactly
dissimilar—oneindividualityprojectingitselfinlengthandtheotherinbreadth,
whichisalreadyasufficientgroundforirreconcilabledifference.Marlowwho
waslanky,loose,quietlycomposedinvariedshadesofbrownrobbedofevery
vestigeofgloss,hadanarrow,veiledglance,theneutralbearingandthesecret
irritabilitywhichgotogetherwithapredispositiontocongestionoftheliver.
Theother,compact,broadandsturdyoflimb,seemedextremelyfullofsound
organsfunctioningvigorouslyallthetimeinordertokeepupthebrillianceof
hiscolouring,thelightcurlofhiscoal-blackhairandthelustreofhiseyes,
whichassertedthemselvesroundlyinanopen,manlyface.Betweentwosuch
organismsonewouldnothaveexpectedtofindtheslightesttemperamental
accord.ButIhaveobservedthatprofanemenlivinginshipsliketheholymen
gatheredtogetherinmonasteriesdeveloptraitsofprofoundresemblance.This
mustbebecausetheserviceoftheseaandtheserviceofatempleareboth
detachedfromthevanitiesanderrorsofaworldwhichfollowsnosevererule.
Themenoftheseaunderstandeachotherverywellintheirviewofearthly
things,forsimplicityisagoodcounsellorandisolationnotabadeducator.A
turnofmindcomposedofinnocenceandscepticismiscommontothemall,with
theadditionofanunexpectedinsightintomotives,asofdisinterestedlookers-on
atagame.Mr.Powelltookmeasidetosay,
“Ilikethethingshesays.”
“Youunderstandeachotherprettywell,”Iobserved.
“Iknowhissort,”saidPowell,goingtothewindowtolookathiscutterstill
ridingtotheflood.“He’sthesortthat’salwayschasingsomenotionorother
roundandroundhisheadjustforthefunofthething.”
“Keepsthemingoodcondition,”Isaid.
“LivelyenoughIdaresay,”headmitted.
“Wouldyoulikebetteramanwholethisnotionsliecurledup?”
“ThatIwouldn’t,”answeredournewacquaintance.Clearlyhewasnotdifficult
togetonwith.“Ilikehim,verywell,”hecontinued,“thoughitisn’teasyto
makehimout.Heseemstobeuptoathingortwo.What’shedoing?”


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