Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter IV
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter IV Post by :tcant Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :January 2011 Read :2953

Click below to download : The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter IV (Format : PDF)

The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter IV

Lingard repeated it all to Mrs. Travers. Her courage, her
intelligence, the quickness of her apprehension, the colour of
her eyes and the intrepidity of her glance evoked in him an
admiring enthusiasm. She stood by his side! Every moment that
fatal illusion clung closer to his soul--like a garment of
light--like an armour of fire.

He was unwilling to face the facts. All his life--till that
day--had been a wrestle with events in the daylight of this
world, but now he could not bring his mind to the consideration
of his position. It was Mrs. Travers who, after waiting awhile,
forced on him the pain of thought by wanting to know what bearing
Hassim's news had upon the situation.

Lingard had not the slightest doubt Daman wanted him to know what
had been done with the prisoners. That is why Daman had welcomed
Hassim, and let him hear the decision and had allowed him to
leave the camp on the sandbank. There could be only one object in
this; to let him, Lingard, know that the prisoners had been put
out of his reach as long as he remained in his brig. Now this
brig was his strength. To make him leave his brig was like
removing his hand from his sword.

"Do you understand what I mean, Mrs. Travers?" he asked. "They
are afraid of me because I know how to fight this brig. They fear
the brig because when I am on board her, the brig and I are one.
An armed man--don't you see? Without the brig I am disarmed,
without me she can't strike. So Daman thinks. He does not know
everything but he is not far off the truth. He says to himself
that if I man the boats to go after these whites into the lagoon
then his Illanuns will get the yacht for sure--and perhaps the
brig as well. If I stop here with my brig he holds the two white
men and can talk as big as he pleases. Belarab believes in me no
doubt, but Daman trusts no man on earth. He simply does not know
how to trust any one, because he is always plotting himself. He
came to help me and as soon as he found I was not there he began
to plot with Tengga. Now he has made a move--a clever move; a
cleverer move than he thinks. Why? I'll tell you why. Because I,
Tom Lingard, haven't a single white man aboard this brig I can
trust. Not one. I only just discovered my mate's got the notion I
am some kind of pirate. And all your yacht people think the same.
It is as though you had brought a curse on me in your yacht.
Nobody believes me. Good God! What have I come to! Even those
two--look at them--I say look at them! By all the stars they
doubt me! Me! . . ."

He pointed at Hassim and Immada. The girl seemed frightened.
Hassim looked on calm and intelligent with inexhaustible
patience. Lingard's voice fell suddenly.

"And by heavens they may be right. Who knows? You? Do you know?
They have waited for years. Look. They are waiting with heavy
hearts. Do you think that I don't care? Ought I to have kept it
all in--told no one--no one--not even you? Are they waiting for
what will never come now?"

Mrs. Travers rose and moved quickly round the table. "Can we give
anything to this--this Daman or these other men? We could give
them more than they could think of asking. I--my husband. . . ."

"Don't talk to me of your husband," he said, roughly. "You don't
know what you are doing." She confronted the sombre anger of his
eyes--"But I must," she asserted with heat.--"Must," he mused,
noticing that she was only half a head less tall than himself.
"Must! Oh, yes. Of course, you must. Must! Yes. But I don't want
to hear. Give! What can you give? You may have all the treasures
of the world for all I know. No! You can't give anything. . . ."

"I was thinking of your difficulty when I spoke," she
interrupted. His eyes wandered downward following the line of her
shoulder.--"Of me--of me!" he repeated.

All this was said almost in whispers. The sound of slow footsteps
was heard on deck above their heads. Lingard turned his face to
the open skylight.

"On deck there! Any wind?"

All was still for a moment. Somebody above answered in a
leisurely tone:

"A steady little draught from the northward."

Then after a pause added in a mutter:

"Pitch dark."

"Aye, dark enough," murmured Lingard. He must do something. Now.
At once. The world was waiting. The world full of hopes and fear.
What should he do? Instead of answering that question he traced
the ungleaming coils of her twisted hair and became fascinated by
a stray lock at her neck. What should he do? No one to leave his
brig to. The voice that had answered his question was Carter's
voice. "He is hanging about keeping his eye on me," he said to
Mrs. Travers. She shook her head and tried to smile. The man
above coughed discreetly. "No," said Lingard, "you must
understand that you have nothing to give."

The man on deck who seemed to have lingered by the skylight was
heard saying quietly, "I am at hand if you want me, Mrs.
Travers." Hassim and Immada looked up. "You see," exclaimed
Lingard. "What did I tell you? He's keeping his eye on me! On
board my own ship. Am I dreaming? Am I in a fever? Tell him to
come down," he said after a pause. Mrs. Travers did so and
Lingard thought her voice very commanding and very sweet.
"There's nothing in the world I love so much as this brig," he
went on. " Nothing in the world. If I lost her I would have no
standing room on the earth for my feet. You don't understand
this. You can't."

Carter came in and shut the cabin door carefully. He looked with
serenity at everyone in turn.

"All quiet?" asked Lingard.

"Quiet enough if you like to call it so," he answered. "But if
you only put your head outside the door you'll hear them all on
the quarter-deck snoring against each other, as if there were no
wives at home and no pirates at sea."

"Look here," said Lingard. "I found out that I can't trust my
mate."

"Can't you?" drawled Carter. "I am not exactly surprised. I must
say HE does not snore but I believe it is because he is too crazy
to sleep. He waylaid me on the poop just now and said something
about evil communications corrupting good manners. Seems to me
I've heard that before. Queer thing to say. He tried to make it
out somehow that if he wasn't corrupt it wasn't your fault. As if
this was any concern of mine. He's as mad as he's fat--or else he
puts it on." Carter laughed a little and leaned his shoulders
against a bulkhead.

Lingard gazed at the woman who expected so much from him and in
the light she seemed to shed he saw himself leading a column of
armed boats to the attack of the Settlement. He could burn the
whole place to the ground and drive every soul of them into the
bush. He could! And there was a surprise, a shock, a vague horror
at the thought of the destructive power of his will. He could
give her ever so many lives. He had seen her yesterday, and it
seemed to him he had been all his life waiting for her to make a
sign. She was very still. He pondered a plan of attack. He saw
smoke and flame--and next moment he saw himself alone amongst
shapeless ruins with the whispers, with the sigh and moan of the
Shallows in his ears. He shuddered, and shaking his hand:

"No! I cannot give you all those lives!" he cried.

Then, before Mrs. Travers could guess the meaning of this
outburst, he declared that as the two captives must be saved he
would go alone into the lagoon. He could not think of using
force. "You understand why," he said to Mrs. Travers and she
whispered a faint "Yes." He would run the risk alone. His hope
was in Belarab being able to see where his true interest lay. "If
I can only get at him I would soon make him see," he mused aloud.
"Haven't I kept his power up for these two years past? And he
knows it, too. He feels it." Whether he would be allowed to reach
Belarab was another matter. Lingard lost himself in deep thought.
"He would not dare," he burst out. Mrs. Travers listened with
parted lips. Carter did not move a muscle of his youthful and
self-possessed face; only when Lingard, turning suddenly, came up
close to him and asked with a red flash of eyes and in a lowered
voice, "Could you fight this brig?" something like a smile made a
stir amongst the hairs of his little fair moustache.

"'Could I?" he said. "I could try, anyhow." He paused, and added
hardly above his breath, "For the lady--of course."

Lingard seemed staggered as though he had been hit in the chest.
"I was thinking of the brig," he said, gently.

"Mrs. Travers would be on board," retorted Carter.

"What! on board. Ah yes; on board. Where else?" stammered
Lingard.

Carter looked at him in amazement. "Fight! You ask!" he said,
slowly. "You just try me."

"I shall," ejaculated Lingard. He left the cabin calling out
"serang!" A thin cracked voice was heard immediately answering,
"Tuan!" and the door slammed to.

"You trust him, Mrs. Travers?" asked Carter, rapidly.

"You do not--why?" she answered.

"I can't make him out. If he was another kind of man I would say
he was drunk," said Carter. "Why is he here at all--he, and this
brig of his? Excuse my boldness--but have you promised him
anything?"

"I--I promised!" exclaimed Mrs. Travers in a bitter tone which
silenced Carter for a moment.

"So much the better," he said at last. "Let him show what he can
do first and . . ."

"Here! Take this," said Lingard, who re-entered the cabin
fumbling about his neck. Carter mechanically extended his hand.

"What's this for?" he asked, looking at a small brass key
attached to a thin chain.

"Powder magazine. Trap door under the table. The man who has this
key commands the brig while I am away. The serang understands.
You have her very life in your hand there."

Carter looked at the small key lying in his half-open palm.

"I was just telling Mrs. Travers I didn't trust you--not
altogether. . . ."

"I know all about it," interrupted Lingard, contemptuously. "You
carry a blamed pistol in your pocket to blow my brains out--don't
you? What's that to me? I am thinking of the brig. I think I know
your sort. You will do."

"Well, perhaps I might," mumbled Carter, modestly.

"Don't be rash," said Lingard, anxiously. "If you've got to fight
use your head as well as your hands. If there's a breeze fight
under way. If they should try to board in a calm, trust to the
small arms to hold them off. Keep your head and--" He looked
intensely into Carter's eyes; his lips worked without a sound as
though he had been suddenly struck dumb. "Don't think about me.
What's that to you who I am? Think of the ship," he burst out.
"Don't let her go!--Don't let her go!" The passion in his voice
impressed his hearers who for a time preserved a profound
silence.

"All right," said Carter at last. "I will stick to your brig as
though she were my own; but I would like to see clear through all
this. Look here--you are going off somewhere? Alone, you said?"

"Yes. Alone."

"Very well. Mind, then, that you don't come back with a crowd of
those brown friends of yours--or by the Heavens above us I won't
let you come within hail of your own ship. Am I to keep this
key?"

"Captain Lingard," said Mrs. Travers suddenly. "Would it not be
better to tell him everything?"

"Tell him everything?" repeated Lingard. "Everything! Yesterday
it might have been done. Only yesterday! Yesterday, did I say?
Only six hours ago--only six hours ago I had something to tell.
You heard it. And now it's gone. Tell him! There's nothing to
tell any more." He remained for a time with bowed head, while
before him Mrs. Travers, who had begun a gesture of protest,
dropped her arms suddenly. In a moment he looked up again.

"Keep the key," he said, calmly, "and when the time comes step
forward and take charge. I am satisfied."

"I would like to see clear through all this though," muttered
Carter again. "And for how long are you leaving us, Captain?"
Lingard made no answer. Carter waited awhile. "Come, sir," he
urged. "I ought to have some notion. What is it? Two, three
days?" Lingard started.

"Days," he repeated. "Ah, days. What is it you want to know? Two
. . . three--what did the old fellow say--perhaps for life." This
was spoken so low that no one but Carter heard the last
words.--"Do you mean it?" he murmured. Lingard nodded.--"Wait as
long as you can--then go," he said in the same hardly audible
voice. "Go where?"--"Where you like, nearest port, any
port."--"Very good. That's something plain at any rate,"
commented the young man with imperturbable good humour.

"I go, O Hassim!" began Lingard and the Malay made a slow
inclination of the head which he did not raise again till Lingard
had ceased speaking. He betrayed neither surprise nor any other
emotion while Lingard in a few concise and sharp sentences made
him acquainted with his purpose to bring about singlehanded the
release of the prisoners. When Lingard had ended with the words:
"And you must find a way to help me in the time of trouble, O
Rajah Hassim," he looked up and said:

"Good. You never asked me for anything before."

He smiled at his white friend. There was something subtle in the
smile and afterward an added firmness in the repose of the lips.
Immada moved a step forward. She looked at Lingard with terror in
her black and dilated eyes. She exclaimed in a voice whose
vibration startled the hearts of all the hearers with an
indefinable sense of alarm, "He will perish, Hassim! He will
perish alone!"

"No," said Hassim. "Thy fear is as vain to-night as it was at
sunrise. He shall not perish alone."

Her eyelids dropped slowly. From her veiled eyes the tears fell,
vanishing in the silence. Lingard's forehead became furrowed by
folds that seemed to contain an infinity of sombre thoughts.
"Remember, O Hassim, that when I promised you to take you back to
your country you promised me to be a friend to all white men. A
friend to all whites who are of my people, forever."

"My memory is good, O Tuan," said Hassim; "I am not yet back in
my country, but is not everyone the ruler of his own heart?
Promises made by a man of noble birth live as long as the speaker
endures."

"Good-bye," said Lingard to Mrs. Travers. "You will be safe
here." He looked all around the cabin. " I leave you," he began
again and stopped short. Mrs. Travers' hand, resting lightly on
the edge of the table, began to tremble. "It's for you . . . Yes.
For you alone . . . and it seems it can't be. . . ."

It seemed to him that he was saying good-bye to all the world,
that he was taking a last leave of his own self. Mrs. Travers did
not say a word, but Immada threw herself between them and cried:

"You are a cruel woman! You are driving him away from where his
strength is. You put madness into his heart, O! Blind--without
pity--without shame! . . ."

"Immada," said Hassim's calm voice. Nobody moved.

"What did she say to me?" faltered Mrs. Travers and again
repeated in a voice that sounded hard, "What did she say?"

"Forgive her," said Lingard. "Her fears are for me . . ."--"It's
about your going?" Mrs. Travers interrupted, swiftly.

"Yes, it is--and you must forgive her." He had turned away his
eyes with something that resembled embarrassment but suddenly he
was assailed by an irresistible longing to look again at that
woman. At the moment of parting he clung to her with his glance
as a man holds with his hands a priceless and disputed
possession. The faint blush that overspread gradually Mrs.
Travers' features gave her face an air of extraordinary and
startling animation.

"The danger you run?" she asked, eagerly. He repelled the
suggestion by a slighting gesture of the hand.--"Nothing worth
looking at twice. Don't give it a thought," he said. "I've been
in tighter places." He clapped his hands and waited till he heard
the cabin door open behind his back. "Steward, my pistols." The
mulatto in slippers, aproned to the chin, glided through the
cabin with unseeing eyes as though for him no one there had
existed. . . .--"Is it my heart that aches so?" Mrs. Travers
asked herself, contemplating Lingard's motionless figure. "How
long will this sensation of dull pain last? Will it last forever.
. . ." --"How many changes of clothes shall I put up, sir?" asked
the steward, while Lingard took the pistols from him and eased
the hammers after putting on fresh caps. --"I will take nothing
this time, steward." He received in turn from the mulatto's hands
a red silk handkerchief, a pocket book, a cigar-case. He knotted
the handkerchief loosely round his throat; it was evident he was
going through the routine of every departure for the shore; he
even opened the cigar-case to see whether it had been
filled.--"Hat, sir," murmured the half-caste. Lingard flung it on
his head.--"Take your orders from this lady, steward--till I come
back. The cabin is hers--do you hear?" He sighed ready to go and
seemed unable to lift a foot.--"I am coming with you," declared
Mrs. Travers suddenly in a tone of unalterable decision. He did
not look at her; he did not even look up; he said nothing, till
after Carter had cried: "You can't, Mrs. Travers!"--when without
budging he whispered to himself:--"Of course." Mrs. Travers had
pulled already the hood of her cloak over her head and her face
within the dark cloth had turned an intense and unearthly white,
in which the violet of her eyes appeared unfathomably mysterious.
Carter started forward.--"You don't know this man," he almost
shouted.

"I do know him," she said, and before the reproachfully
unbelieving attitude of the other she added, speaking slowly and
with emphasis: "There is not, I verily believe, a single thought
or act of his life that I don't know."--"It's true--it's true,"
muttered Lingard to himself. Carter threw up his arms with a
groan. "Stand back," said a voice that sounded to him like a
growl of thunder, and he felt a grip on his hand which seemed to
crush every bone. He jerked it away.--"Mrs. Travers! stay," he
cried. They had vanished through the open door and the sound of
their footsteps had already died away. Carter turned about
bewildered as if looking for help.--"Who is he, steward? Who in
the name of all the mad devils is he? "he asked, wildly. He was
confounded by the cold and philosophical tone of the
answer:--"'Tain't my place to trouble about that, sir--nor yours
I guess."--"Isn't it!" shouted Carter. "Why, he has carried the
lady off." The steward was looking critically at the lamp and
after a while screwed the light down.--"That's better," he
mumbled.--"Good God! What is a fellow to do?" continued Carter,
looking at Hassim and Immada who were whispering together and
gave him only an absent glance. He rushed on deck and was struck
blind instantly by the night that seemed to have been lying in
wait for him; he stumbled over something soft, kicked something
hard, flung himself on the rail. "Come back," he cried. "Come
back. Captain! Mrs. Travers!--or let me come, too."

He listened. The breeze blew cool against his cheek. A black
bandage seemed to lie over his eyes. "Gone," he groaned, utterly
crushed. And suddenly he heard Mrs. Travers' voice remote in the
depths of the night.--"Defend the brig," it said, and these
words, pronouncing themselves in the immensity of a lightless
universe, thrilled every fibre of his body by the commanding
sadness of their tone. "Defend, defend the brig." . . . "I am
damned if I do," shouted Carter in despair. "Unless you come
back! . . . Mrs. Travers!"

" . . . as though--I were--on board--myself," went on the rising
cadence of the voice, more distant now, a marvel of faint and
imperious clearness.

Carter shouted no more; he tried to make out the boat for a time,
and when, giving it up, he leaped down from the rail, the heavy
obscurity of the brig's main deck was agitated like a sombre pool
by his jump, swayed, eddied, seemed to break up. Blotches of
darkness recoiled, drifted away, bare feet shuffled hastily,
confused murmurs died out. "Lascars," he muttered, "The crew is
all agog." Afterward he listened for a moment to the faintly
tumultuous snores of the white men sleeping in rows, with their
heads under the break of the poop. Somewhere about his feet, the
yacht's black dog, invisible, and chained to a deck-ringbolt,
whined, rattled the thin links, pattered with his claws in his
distress at the unfamiliar surroundings, begging for the charity
of human notice. Carter stooped impulsively, and was met by a
startling lick in the face.--"Hallo, boy!" He thumped the thick
curly sides, stroked the smooth head--"Good boy, Rover. Down. Lie
down, dog. You don't know what to make of it--do you, boy?" The
dog became still as death. "Well, neither do I," muttered Carter.
But such natures are helped by a cheerful contempt for the
intricate and endless suggestions of thought. He told himself
that he would soon see what was to come of it, and dismissed all
speculation. Had he been a little older he would have felt that
the situation was beyond his grasp; but he was too young to see
it whole and in a manner detached from himself. All these
inexplicable events filled him with deep concern--but then on the
other hand he had the key of the magazine and he could not find
it in his heart to dislike Lingard. He was positive about this at
last, and to know that much after the discomfort of an inward
conflict went a long way toward a solution. When he followed Shaw
into the cabin he could not repress a sense of enjoyment or hide
a faint and malicious smile.

"Gone away--did you say? And carried off the lady with him?"
discoursed Shaw very loud in the doorway. "Did he? Well, I am not
surprised. What can you expect from a man like that, who leaves
his ship in an open roadstead without--I won't say orders--but
without as much as a single word to his next in command? And at
night at that! That just shows you the kind of man. Is this the
way to treat a chief mate? I apprehend he was riled at the little
al-ter-cation we had just before you came on board. I told him a
truth or two--but--never mind. There's the law and that's enough
for me. I am captain as long as he is out of the ship, and if his
address before very long is not in one of Her Majesty's jails or
other I au-tho-rize you to call me a Dutchman. You mark my
words."

He walked in masterfully, sat down and surveyed the cabin in a
leisurely and autocratic manner; but suddenly his eyes became
stony with amazement and indignation; he pointed a fat and
trembling forefinger.

"Niggers," he said, huskily. "In the cuddy! In the cuddy!" He
appeared bereft of speech for a time.

Since he entered the cabin Hassim had been watching him in
thoughtful and expectant silence. "I can't have it," he continued
with genuine feeling in his voice. "Damme! I've too much respect
for myself." He rose with heavy deliberation; his eyes bulged out
in a severe and dignified stare. "Out you go!" he bellowed;
suddenly, making a step forward.--"Great Scott! What are you up
to, mister?" asked in a tone of dispassionate surprise the
steward whose head appeared in the doorway. "These are the
Captain's friends." "Show me a man's friends and . . ." began
Shaw, dogmatically, but abruptly passed into the tone of
admonition. "You take your mug out of the way, bottlewasher. They
ain't friends of mine. I ain't a vagabond. I know what's due to
myself. Quit!" he hissed, fiercely. Hassim, with an alert
movement, grasped the handle of his kris. Shaw puffed out his
cheeks and frowned.--" Look out! He will stick you like a prize
pig," murmured Carter without moving a muscle. Shaw looked round
helplessly.--"And you would enjoy the fun-- wouldn't you?" he
said with slow bitterness. Carter's distant non-committal smile
quite overwhelmed him by its horrid frigidity. Extreme
despondency replaced the proper feeling of racial pride in the
primitive soul of the mate. "My God! What luck! What have I done
to fall amongst that lot?" he groaned, sat down, and took his big
grey head in his hands. Carter drew aside to make room for
Immada, who, in obedience to a whisper from her brother, sought
to leave the cabin. She passed out after an instant of
hesitation, during which she looked up at Carter once. Her
brother, motionless in a defensive attitude, protected her
retreat. She disappeared; Hassim's grip on his weapon relaxed; he
looked in turn at every object in the cabin as if to fix its
position in his mind forever, and following his sister, walked
out with noiseless footfalls.

They entered the same darkness which had received, enveloped, and
hidden the troubled souls of Lingard and Edith, but to these two
the light from which they had felt themselves driven away was now
like the light of forbidden hopes; it had the awful and tranquil
brightness that a light burning on the shore has for an exhausted
swimmer about to give himself up to the fateful sea. They looked
back; it had disappeared; Carter had shut the cabin door behind
them to have it out with Shaw. He wanted to arrive at some kind
of working compromise with the nominal commander, but the mate
was so demoralized by the novelty of the assaults made upon his
respectability that the young defender of the brig could get
nothing from him except lamentations mingled with mild
blasphemies. The brig slept, and along her quiet deck the voices
raised in her cabin--Shaw's appeals and reproaches directed
vociferously to heaven, together with Carter's inflexible drawl
mingled into one deadened, modulated, and continuous murmur. The
lockouts in the waist, motionless and peering into obscurity, one
ear turned to the sea, were aware of that strange resonance like
the ghost of a quarrel that seemed to hover at their backs.
Wasub, after seeing Hassim and Immada into their canoe, prowled
to and fro the whole length of the vessel vigilantly. There was
not a star in the sky and no gleam on the water; there was no
horizon, no outline, no shape for the eye to rest upon, nothing
for the hand to grasp. An obscurity that seemed without limit in
space and time had submerged the universe like a destroying
flood.

A lull of the breeze kept for a time the small boat in the
neighbourhood of the brig. The hoisted sail, invisible, fluttered
faintly, mysteriously, and the boat rising and falling bodily to
the passage of each invisible undulation of the waters seemed to
repose upon a living breast. Lingard, his hand on the tiller, sat
up erect, expectant and silent. Mrs. Travers had drawn her cloak
close around her body. Their glances plunged infinitely deep into
a lightless void, and yet they were still so near the brig that
the piteous whine of the dog, mingled with the angry rattling of
the chain, reached their ears faintly, evoking obscure images of
distress and fury. A sharp bark ending in a plaintive howl that
seemed raised by the passage of phantoms invisible to men, rent
the black stillness, as though the instinct of the brute inspired
by the soul of night had voiced in a lamentable plaint the fear
of the future, the anguish of lurking death, the terror of
shadows. Not far from the brig's boat Hassim and Immada in their
canoe, letting their paddles trail in the water, sat in a silent
and invincible torpor as if the fitful puffs of wind had carried
to their hearts the breath of a subtle poison that, very soon,
would make them die.--"Have you seen the white woman's eyes?"
cried the girl. She struck her palms together loudly and remained
with her arms extended, with her hands clasped. "O Hassim! Have
you seen her eyes shining under her eyebrows like rays of light
darting under the arched boughs in a forest? They pierced me. I
shuddered at the sound of her voice! I saw her walk behind
him--and it seems to me that she does not live on earth--that all
this is witchcraft."

She lamented in the night. Hassim kept silent. He had no
illusions and in any other man but Lingard he would have thought
the proceeding no better than suicidal folly. For him Travers and
d'Alcacer were two powerful Rajahs--probably relatives of the
Ruler of the land of the English whom he knew to be a woman; but
why they should come and interfere with the recovery of his own
kingdom was an obscure problem. He was concerned for Lingard's
safety. That the risk was incurred mostly for his sake--so that
the prospects of the great enterprise should not be ruined by a
quarrel over the lives of these whites--did not strike him so
much as may be imagined. There was that in him which made such an
action on Lingard's part appear all but unavoidable. Was he not
Rajah Hassim and was not the other a man of strong heart, of
strong arm, of proud courage, a man great enough to protect
highborn princes--a friend? Immada's words called out a smile
which, like the words, was lost in the darkness. "Forget your
weariness," he said, gently, "lest, O Sister, we should arrive
too late." The coming day would throw its light on some decisive
event. Hassim thought of his own men who guarded the Emma and he
wished to be where they could hear his voice. He regretted Jaffir
was not there. Hassim was saddened by the absence from his side
of that man who once had carried what he thought would be his
last message to his friend. It had not been the last. He had
lived to cherish new hopes and to face new troubles and,
perchance, to frame another message yet, while death knocked with
the hands of armed enemies at the gate. The breeze steadied; the
succeeding swells swung the canoe smoothly up the unbroken ridges
of water travelling apace along the land. They progressed slowly;
but Immada's heart was more weary than her arms, and Hassim,
dipping the blade of his paddle without a splash, peered right
and left, trying to make out the shadowy forms of islets. A long
way ahead of the canoe and holding the same course, the brig's
dinghy ran with broad lug extended, making for that narrow and
winding passage between the coast and the southern shoals, which
led to the mouth of the creek connecting the lagoon with the sea.

Thus on that starless night the Shallows were peopled by uneasy
souls. The thick veil of clouds stretched over them, cut them off
from the rest of the universe. At times Mrs. Travers had in the
darkness the impression of dizzy speed, and again it seemed to
her that the boat was standing still, that everything in the
world was standing still and only her fancy roamed free from all
trammels. Lingard, perfectly motionless by her side, steered,
shaping his course by the feel of the wind. Presently he
perceived ahead a ghostly flicker of faint, livid light which the
earth seemed to throw up against the uniform blackness of the
sky. The dinghy was approaching the expanse of the Shallows. The
confused clamour of broken water deepened its note.

"How long are we going to sail like this?" asked Mrs. Travers,
gently. She did not recognize the voice that pronounced the word
"Always" in answer to her question. It had the impersonal ring of
a voice without a master. Her heart beat fast.

"Captain Lingard!" she cried.

"Yes. What?" he said, nervously, as if startled out of a dream.

"I asked you how long we were going to sail like this," she
repeated, distinctly.

"If the breeze holds we shall be in the lagoon soon after
daybreak. That will be the right time, too. I shall leave you on
board the hulk with Jorgenson."

"And you? What will you do?" she asked. She had to wait for a
while.

"I will do what I can," she heard him say at last. There was
another pause. "All I can," he added.

The breeze dropped, the sail fluttered.

"I have perfect confidence in you," she said. "But are you
certain of success?"

"No."

The futility of her question came home to Mrs. Travers. In a few
hours of life she had been torn away from all her certitudes,
flung into a world of improbabilities. This thought instead of
augmenting her distress seemed to soothe her. What she
experienced was not doubt and it was not fear. It was something
else. It might have been only a great fatigue.

She heard a dull detonation as if in the depth of the sea. It was
hardly more than a shock and a vibration. A roller had broken
amongst the shoals; the livid clearness Lingard had seen ahead
flashed and flickered in expanded white sheets much nearer to the
boat now. And all this--the wan burst of light, the faint shock
as of something remote and immense falling into ruins, was taking
place outside the limits of her life which remained encircled by
an impenetrable darkness and by an impenetrable silence. Puffs of
wind blew about her head and expired; the sail collapsed,
shivered audibly, stood full and still in turn; and again the
sensation of vertiginous speed and of absolute immobility
succeeding each other with increasing swiftness merged at last
into a bizarre state of headlong motion and profound peace. The
darkness enfolded her like the enervating caress of a sombre
universe. It was gentle and destructive. Its languor seduced her
soul into surrender. Nothing existed and even all her memories
vanished into space. She was content that nothing should exist.

Lingard, aware all the time of their contact in the narrow stern
sheets of the boat, was startled by the pressure of the woman's
head drooping on his shoulder. He stiffened himself still more as
though he had tried on the approach of a danger to conceal his
life in the breathless rigidity of his body. The boat soared
and descended slowly; a region of foam and reefs stretched across
her course hissing like a gigantic cauldron; a strong gust of
wind drove her straight at it for a moment then passed on and
abandoned her to the regular balancing of the swell. The struggle
of the rocks forever overwhelmed and emerging, with the sea
forever victorious and repulsed, fascinated the man. He watched
it as he would have watched something going on within himself
while Mrs. Travers slept sustained by his arm, pressed to his
side, abandoned to his support. The shoals guarding the Shore of
Refuge had given him his first glimpse of success--the solid
support he needed for his action. The Shallows were the shelter
of his dreams; their voice had the power to soothe and exalt his
thoughts with the promise of freedom for his hopes. Never had
there been such a generous friendship. . . . A mass of white foam
whirling about a centre of intense blackness spun silently past
the side of the boat. . . . That woman he held like a captive on
his arm had also been given to him by the Shallows.

Suddenly his eyes caught on a distant sandbank the red gleam of
Daman's camp fire instantly eclipsed like the wink of a
signalling lantern along the level of the waters. It brought to
his mind the existence of the two men--those other captives. If
the war canoe transporting them into the lagoon had left the
sands shortly after Hassim's retreat from Daman's camp, Travers
and d'Alcacer were by this time far away up the creek. Every
thought of action had become odious to Lingard since all he could
do in the world now was to hasten the moment of his separation
from that woman to whom he had confessed the whole secret of his
life.

And she slept. She could sleep! He looked down at her as he would
have looked at the slumbering ignorance of a child, but the life
within him had the fierce beat of supreme moments. Near by, the
eddies sighed along the reefs, the water soughed amongst the
stones, clung round the rocks with tragic murmurs that resembled
promises, good-byes, or prayers. From the unfathomable distances
of the night came the booming of the swell assaulting the seaward
face of the Shallows. He felt the woman's nearness with such
intensity that he heard nothing. . . . Then suddenly he thought
of death.

"Wake up!" he shouted in her ear, swinging round in his seat.
Mrs. Travers gasped; a splash of water flicked her over the eyes
and she felt the separate drops run down her cheeks, she tasted
them on her lips, tepid and bitter like tears. A swishing
undulation tossed the boat on high followed by another and still
another; and then the boat with the breeze abeam glided through
still water, laying over at a steady angle.

"Clear of the reef now," remarked Lingard in a tone of relief.

"Were we in any danger?" asked Mrs. Travers in a whisper.

"Well, the breeze dropped and we drifted in very close to the
rocks," he answered. "I had to rouse you. It wouldn't have done
for you to wake up suddenly struggling in the water."

So she had slept! It seemed to her incredible that she should
have closed her eyes in this small boat, with the knowledge of
their desperate errand, on so disturbed a sea. The man by her
side leaned forward, extended his arm, and the boat going off
before the wind went on faster on an even keel. A motionless
black bank resting on the sea stretched infinitely right in their
way in ominous stillness. She called Lingard's attention to it.
"Look at this awful cloud."

"This cloud is the coast and in a moment we shall be entering the
creek," he said, quietly. Mrs. Travers stared at it. Was it
land--land! It seemed to her even less palpable than a cloud, a
mere sinister immobility above the unrest of the sea, nursing in
its depth the unrest of men who, to her mind, were no more real
than fantastic shadows.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter V The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter V

The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter V
What struck Mrs. Travers most, directly she set eyes on him, wasthe other-world aspect of Jorgenson. He had been buried out ofsight so long that his tall, gaunt body, his unhurried,mechanical movements, his set face and his eyes with an emptygaze suggested an invincible indifference to all the possiblesurprises of the earth. That appearance of a resuscitated man whoseemed to be commanded by a conjuring spell strolled along thedecks of what was even to Mrs. Travers' eyes the mere corpse of aship and turned on her a pair of deep-sunk, expressionless eyeswith an almost unearthly detachment. Mrs. Travers had never beenlooked
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter III The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter III

The Rescue - PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS - Chapter III
A slight change of expression which passed away almost directlyshowed that Lingard heard the passionate cry wrung from her bythe distress of her mind. He made no sign. She perceived clearlythe extreme difficulty of her position. The situation wasdangerous; not so much the facts of it as the feeling of it. Attimes it appeared no more actual than a tradition; and shethought of herself as of some woman in a ballad, who has to begfor the lives of innocent captives. To save the lives of Mr.Travers and Mr. d'Alcacer was more than a duty. It was anecessity, it was an imperative
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT