NIGHT THE FIFTEENTH.
About seven weeks later Norgate called on me with evidence that settled the last doubt: a letter from Foe, written from Valparaiso. It was brief enough. It merely announced that he was on the eve of sailing for Sydney and wished to have credit for 600 pounds opened with the Bank of New South Wales. "I have booked a berth on the Eurotas," it concluded, "and go aboard to-night. She's a new ship, owned by a new line, of which you may or may not have heard--the 'Southern Cross Line.' We hear enough about it in this town, the Company having contrived to fall foul of the dock labour here. I don't know the rights or wrongs of it, but some sort of boycott is threatened. However, this sort of dispute usually gets itself settled at the last moment; and anyhow I shall get to Sydney by some means or other. So you may safely mail there. No need to cable. I have plenty of money for immediate purposes."
"What had I best do?" asked Norgate. "Lloyd's are about giving the Eurotas up."
"Cable out and make sure," said I. "If he calls at the Bank, he calls; and if he doesn't, there are no bones broken. Something has gone wrong with the ship; and in the mix-up he may easily have lost his ready cash and be landed at Sydney without a cent."
* * * * *
I should have told you that, about a fortnight before this, Jimmy had solved, or partially solved, the puzzle of that entry "Mr. and Mrs. P. Farrell" on the passenger-list. Jimmy had found a good girl, and as pretty almost as she was good, and yet imprudent enough to consent to marry him. This had the effect of rendering him at once and surprisingly prudent. As the poet puts it, "he had found out a flat for his fair," and as he himself put it, "We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow: but be-shrew me, we never thought of making my bank-manager one of the party, to break him in to our ways; the consequence being that Elinor's maid will have to stick a bedroom-suite priced five-pounds-ten, while the other domestics, unless dividends improve, sleep (poor souls, insecurely) upon bedsteads liable to be spirited from under them at any moment by a Hire System that knows no bowels. . . . By George!" sighed Jimmy. "If we hadn't let Farrell slip through our fingers! Do you know, Otty, I've an idea," he announced. "Why shouldn't I take the Tottenham Court Road to-morrow, visit Farrell's old place of business, and kill two birds with one stone?"
"It sounds a sporting proposition," I agreed, "though sketchily presented."
"Adumbrated," suggested Jimmy. "That's a good word. I found it in yesterday's Observer."
"Adumbrated, then," said I. "The Tottenham Court Road--"
"--And two birds with one stone. No moors for me this year: I'm back on the simple life and the catapult. . . . You just wait."
There really is no resisting Jimmy, nor ever will be. He went up the Tottenham Court Road next day, walked into Farrell's late place of business and demanded to see the General Manager; and--if you'll believe it--that dignitary was fetched amid a hush of awe. "I dropped in," explained Jimmy, "to see one of those cheap bedroom suites you advertise, in pickled walnut--or is it marron glace?-- suitable for a house-parlourmaid. The fact is, I'm going to get married--well, you've guessed that--otherwise, of course, I shouldn't be here. . . . My intended wife--she's a Devonshire lady, by the way--from near Honiton. Anything wrong about Honiton? . . . No? I beg your pardon--I thought you smiled. . . . Well, as I was about to explain, my intended wife, coming as she does from near Honiton-- that's where they make the lace--likes her servants to be comfortable: at least, so she says. Your late Managing Director, had he lived--" Here Jimmy made a pause.
"You knew our Mr. Farrell, sir?" asked the present Managing Director, sympathetically.
"He honoured me with his acquaintance. If he had lived," said Jimmy . . . "But there! . . . By the way . . . that second marriage of his--wasn't it rather sudden? I understood him to be a confirmed widower."
"We know nothing about it, sir: nothing beyond what he conveyed in a letter to our Vice-Chairman. In fact, sir, during the last year or so of his life, when Mr. Farrell took his strange fancy for foreign parts, it seemed to us--well, it seemed to us that, in his strange condition of mind, anything might happen. To this day, sir, we haven't what you might call any certitude of his demise. It is not, up to this moment, legally proven--as they say. Our last letter from him was dated from far up the coast--from a place called San Ramon, which I understand to be in Peru. In it he announced that he was married again, and to a lady (as we gathered) of Peruvian descent. He added that he had never, previously to the time of writing or thereabouts, known complete happiness."
Jimmy brought back this information, having, on top of it, acquired a bedroom suite of painted deal. "And there," said he, "the matter must rest. Foe's gone, and Farrell's gone. Both decent, in their way; and both, but for foolish temper, alive now and hearty."
So it seemed to be, and the book to be closed. I mourned for Jack, yet not as I should have mourned for him a year or two before. Jimmy married and left me, and soon after I moved from our old quarters in the Temple to my present rooms in Jermyn Street.
* * * * *
Four years passed: and then, one fine morning, my door opened, and John Foe called me by name.
"Hallo, Roddy! How goes it?"
I jumped up, in a pretty bad scare. It was the voice that did it: for, my door making an angle with the window, and the day being sunny, he stood there against a strong light--sort of silhouette effect, as you might put it. And there was a something about him, thus gloomed--but we'll talk of that by and by. The voice was Jack Foe's, and none other.
"It's all right," he went on easily. "Pull yourself together. . . . It is the Ancient Mariner come home, but you needn't imitate the Pilot and fall down in a fit. . . . Where's the Pilot's Boy, by the way--young Jimmy Collingwood? You still keep Jephson, I see. . . . I happened on Jephson at your street-door, just returned from posting a letter. Jephson performed the holy Hermit very creditably: he raised his eyes and almost sat down on the doorstep and prayed where he did sit. 'Doctor Foe!' said Jephson. 'Good Lord, send may I never--!'--which amounts to a prayer, eh? . . . He let me in with his latchkey, and I told him I'd run up unannounced. . . . Well?"
He came forward. In the old days Jack and I never shook hands; nor did we now. He set down hat, gloves, and umbrella carelessly on my knee-hole table and dropped into a chair with a long-drawn sigh. "Reminds one--eh?--of the famous stage-direction in The Rovers-- Several soldiers cross the stage wearily, as if returning from the Thirty Years' War. . . . Well? What are you still staring at? . . . Oh, I perceive! It's my clothes. . . . Yes; I should inform you that they are expensive, and the nearest compromise a Valparaiso tailor and I could reach in realising our several ideas of a Harley Street doctor. I am going to open a practice in that neighbourhood, and thought I would lose no time. The hat and umbrella over there are all right, if you'll give yourself the trouble to examine them. I bought them on the way along."
He was right, in a way, about his clothes. (I believe I have already mentioned that Jack had always dressed himself carefully and in good form.) His frock-coat had a fullness of skirt, and his trousers a bluish aggressive tint, that I couldn't pass for metropolitan. His boots were worse--of some wrong sort of patent leather. But they ought not to have altered the man as I felt that he was altered. . . . Yes, cheapened and coarsened, in some indefinable way. His hair had thinned and showed a bald patch: not a large patch: still, there it was. His shape had been rather noticeably slim. I won't say that it had grown pursy, but it had run to seed somehow. Least of all I liked the change in his eyes, which bulged somewhat, showing an unhealthy white glitter. I set down this glitter as due to long weeks at sea: but the explanation couldn't quite satisfy me. When a lost friend returns as it were from the grave--from shipwreck, at any rate, and uncharted travel--you look to find him gaunt, brown, leathery, hollow of cheek and eye, eh? Foe's appearance didn't answer to this conception . . . not one little bit.
"Then you didn't sail in the Eurotas, after all?" said I, finding speech. "We saw your name on the list."
"Oh, yes, I did," he interrupted. "And, by the way, we shall have to talk about her--or, rather, about what I ought to do. . . . Yes, I know what you'll be advising. 'Go straight to Lloyd's,' no doubt."
"Man alive," said I, "why not? If you were aboard of her--and if, as you tell me, you fetched somehow to Sydney--why in God's name hasn't Lloyd's heard of it months ago? There are such things as cables. . . . Unless, to be sure, you have a reason?"
"I have and I haven't," said Jack. "My turning-up doesn't hurt anyone, does it? The Eurotas went down, sure enough: and I didn't scuttle her, if that's what you suspect."
"Please don't be an ass, Jack," I pleaded.
"Well, I don't see," he continued, ruminating, "--I don't see any way but to go to Lloyd's and tell them about it. Yet equally I don't see what good it can do. The underwriters have paid up, eh?"
"More than three years ago," I told him.
"Well, then . . . I was perfectly well prepared to answer any questions at Valparaiso. I landed in my own name. I went back to the same hotel. And 'Foe' is not the most common of names, especially when you write 'Doctor' before it. . . . No, I'm wrong. Farrell had entered our names on the register, and had entered mine as 'Professor.' On my return I wrote it 'John Foe, M.D.' But anyway, not a soul in the hotel recognised me. . . . I think my looks must have altered, somehow. . . . So I let it go. I dare say you won't understand, not knowing the kind of experiences I've been through, nor the number of 'em. But you may understand that after a goodish while as a castaway I was tired beyond the point of answering more questions than I should happen to be asked. . . . So I gave Valparaiso a silent blessing, and came home by the first ship, to consult you and Collingwood. What--let me repeat--have you done with Collingwood?"
"Jimmy?" said I. "He's married, a year since, and is already the father of a bouncing boy. I acted as his best man, by request. He has a delightful and tiny wife who keeps him in order, which he passes on to the County of Warwickshire as Justice of the Peace and Coram. . . . But about the Eurotas?" I persisted. "I don't think you quite realise. There were passengers on board: and for months--"
"Of course there were passengers," Foe agreed. "It won't help their relatives (will it?) to know for certain what they pretty well know already. As I hinted to Norgate in my last letter, there was a labour crisis on when we sailed. Some aggrieved blackguard on the dock, acting on his own or under command of his 'Union,' shovelled half a dozen bombs in with the coal. Simple process. Between seven hundred and a thousand miles out, this particular batch of coal was reached and shovelled into the forward furnaces. I counted four explosions. Two of them blew her bows to pieces, and she sank by the head and was gone in twenty minutes.
"Must I tell it, when I am home and dying to ask questions?--Oh, very well, then. . . . I shall be perfectly truthful so far as the history goes; but I warn you that at a certain point you won't like it, and you'll go on to like it less. You and I have been friends, Roddy, and you naturally suppose that I've come straight to you, as my first friend, to be welcomed and to ask for counsel. But you suppose wrong. I am come asking neither for advice, nor for a sympathy-- which I know I shan't get."
"My dear Jack--" I began to protest.
"Oh, be quiet," said he, "and let me do the talking! I've had no one to talk to, these five months around the Horn, but a Norwegian skipper, a first mate of the same country, a fellow-passenger shipped off as a dipsomaniac for a cure (we lost him somewhere in the worst of it--I've an idea he let himself be swept overboard), and a mixed crew that I helped to cure of beri-beri at St. Helena. So I want to do the talking, with your leave.
"--And I want to say this first, foremost, once and for all. I am come simply to tell you. I understand the devil of a lot about hatred by this time--more than you will ever begin to guess. But you taught me, anyhow, this much about friendship, that I couldn't bear to go along with you without your knowing every atom of the truth. That means, we're going to be clean cuts, when I've done. . . . You'll loathe the tale. But, damn it, you shall respect me for this, that I cut clean, for old sake's sake, and wiped up the account, before we parted as strangers and I started life afresh."
"All this is pretty mysterious, Jack," said I. "You know that, for all the hurt he'd done you, I shied out of helping your pursuit of Farrell. . . . Tell me, what happened to Farrell? Went down in the Eurotas, I guess, and so squared accounts. That's what you mean-- eh?--by your clean cut and starting life afresh? . . . If so, for your sake I'm glad of it."
"He didn't go down in the Eurotas," Foe answered gravely: "As a matter of fact I dragged him on board one of the boats with my own hands."
"What?" said I. "Farrell another survivor?"
"Upon my word," he answered, lighting a cigarette, "I can't swear to Farrell's being alive or dead. Probably he's dead; but anyway I've no further use for him, and that's where the clean cut comes in. I had to quit hold of him because a woman beat me. . . . Now sit quiet and listen."
"Did you know that Farrell had married? . . . Yes, at San Ramon, a little portless place some way down the coast of Peru. The woman was a Peruvian and owned a banana-strip there, left to her by her first husband, a drunkard, in part-compensation for having ill-used and beaten her.
"When I ran Farrell to earth there, after he'd given me the slip for twelve months and more, this woman had married him and almost made a new man of him. In another month or so I don't doubt she'd have converted him into man enough to tell her all the truth, and let her deliver him.
"As it was, he passed me off for his friend--the ass! . . . I shipped with them, and we worked down the coast, by fruit-ship and sloop, to Valparaiso, intending for Sydney. . . . Now at this point I might easily make myself out a calculating villain. Farrell was enamoured to feebleness, and to make love to his Santa was an opportunity cast into my lap by the gods. . . . But actually, before I could even meditate this simple villainy, I had fallen in love with her because I couldn't help it.
"Now I had never been in love before, and I took the disease pretty severely. And I should say that I took it rather curiously: but you shall judge, for I'll set out the credit side of the account just as plainly as the other.
"I hated the man, as you know: I loved the woman, as I've told you. But--here's the puzzle--strange to say, at that time, and for a long while, these two passions did not conflict or even contend at all, as neither did they help. I couldn't hate Farrell any worse than I did already. If I'd hated him just a little less, I might have killed him, to get him out of the way. But I give you my word, I never thought of shortening the chase in that way. Farrell, you may say, had become necessary to me: by this time I couldn't think of living without him. . . . Now I know what's crossing your mind. I might have piled up the torture on Farrell, and at the same time have played on that other passion, by setting myself to debauch Santa. No, I'm not complaining. You shall have as bad to condemn before I've done, so you needn't apologise. But, as it happens, I wasn't that sort of blackguard. Moreover, it wouldn't have worked, anyhow. Santa was as good as her name--
"No, damn it! I will clear myself of that! . . . You'll understand that I loved the woman, and--well, in the old days, as you'll do me the justice to remember, I hated men who played loose among women. As for 'making love' to Santa--oh, I can't explain to you, who never saw her, how utterly that was beyond question on either side. . . . Almost white she was, with the blood of the Incas in her--blood of Castile, too, belike--and yet all of a woman, with funny rustic ways that turned at any moment to royal. . . . And she loved Farrell--my God!
"I wonder now if she guessed--guessed at the time, I mean. They say that women always guess; which in these matters is as good as knowing. . . . But I'm holding up my story."
* * * * *
"The Eurotas went down in something like 36, south latitude, longitude 105 and a half west. That's as near as I make it: that is to say, some three or four hundred miles from any known land save Easter Island, which lay well away north and to windward, for we were down where the main winds set between W. and N. That's as close as I can give it to you. In seafaring matters I leave seamen to their own job, and don't worry about reckonings and day's runs. It's their business to take me, mine to trust their skill. You will own, Roddy, that if fools had only kept their noses out of my job in life, I shouldn't be having to tell you this story.
"Anyhow, Macnaughten--that was the skipper's name--took all the ship's instruments with him on board his own boat, which was the last to quit.
"He was a good man, and I couldn't but admire his behaviour, first and last. The Eurotas went down within half an hour of the first explosion; which had surprised us passengers on deck as we were chatting and watching the sunset. The sea was calm as a pond, with a bank of cloud to northward, all edged with gold on its western fringes.
"I think this calm, resting over sea and sky, may have helped us through the catastrophe. The only irritation I felt was at the slowness of it all, between the moment we knew we were lost and the moment when the vessel went down. Yet every moment between was used to a nicety, almost as if Captain Macnaughten had been preparing for the test. He commanded us, crew and passengers alike. Four stokers had been killed below: another and the engineer officer badly hurt. These two were fetched up while some of us lowered the accommodation-ladder and others swung out the boats on the davits. These two sick men were carried down to the first of the three boats launched. Four women passengers followed; three married, one a spinster. The three husbands were ordered down after them.
"The Eurotas, as I've told you, was a new ship, well found to the last life-buoy. The directors of the Company had lunched on board before she sailed and drunk to her health, having seen that everything answered to advertisement. The boats were staunch, newly painted and smart: the crew as well-picked a lot as the Board could find. So far as I can recall those hurrying minutes, I remember them as being almost intolerably slow. I cannot say how many of them it took before we realised for a certainty that the ship was going down. But I know that as, by order, I went down the ladder to the second boat, I had a sense of irritation at the long time it was taking and the methodical way the skipper was getting out stores and water-breakers and having them hefted down.
"Another thing I must tell you. As I went down the ladder--the ship's bows already beginning to dip steeply--I had a sense of being in no time at all, but in eternity. There around us, spread and placid, stretched the emptiest waste of the Pacific, with God's sun deserting the sky above it, sinking almost as fast as the ship was sinking.
"Santa had wrapped her mantilla over her head. She went down the ladder before me, following Farrell. Our boat was white-painted on thwarts and stern-sheets. . . . I was keeping my foothold with difficulty, loaded with a water-breaker. . . . A man took it from me, all in silence. I gripped Farrell's hand and hoiked him on board. There was a great silence hanging, as it seemed, about those last moments.
"We pushed off a little way. The third and last boat was lowered down, and we saw the last half-dozen, with the captain at their heels, tumbling down in a stampede.
"The Eurotas took her plunge just as we heard them unhook from the davit-blocks."
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