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Chapter 5

He might really be backing a foreign, philanthropic ruler and
State-founder, and a British Foreign Minister, against the rather
sinister Chancellor of the Exchequer that Mr. Gurnard undoubtedly was.
It might suit him; perhaps he had shares in something or other that
depended on the success of the Duc de Mersch's Greenland Protectorate. I
knew well enough, you must remember, that Fox was a big man--one of
those big men that remain permanently behind the curtain, perhaps
because they have a certain lack of comeliness of one sort or another
and don't look well on the stage itself. And I understood now that if he
had abandoned--as he had done--half a dozen enterprises of his own for
the sake of the _Hour_, it must be because it was very well worth his
while. It was not merely a question of the editorship of a paper; there
was something very much bigger in the background. My Dimensionist young
lady, again, might have other shares that depended on the Chancellor of
the Exchequer's blocking the way. In that way she might very well talk
allegorically of herself as in alliance with Gurnard against Fox and
Churchill. I was at sea in that sort of thing--but I understood
vaguely that something of the sort was remotely possible.

I didn't feel called upon to back out of it on that account, yet I very
decidedly wished that the thing could have been otherwise. For myself, I
came into the matter with clean hands--and I was going to keep my hands
clean; otherwise, I was at Fox's disposal.

"I understand," I said, the speech marking my decision, "I shall have
dealings with a good many of the proprietors--I am the scratcher, in
fact, and you don't want me to make a fool of myself."

"Well," he answered, gauging me with his blue, gimlet eyes, "it's just
as well to know."

"It's just as well to know," I echoed. It _was_ just as well to know.


Joseph Conrad

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