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Typhoon - Chapter 6 Post by :David_C_H Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :April 2011 Read :2791

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Typhoon - Chapter 6

ON A bright sunshiny day, with the breeze chasing her smoke far
ahead, the Nan-Shan came into Fu-chau. Her arrival was at once
noticed on shore, and the seamen in harbour said: "Look! Look at
that steamer. What's that? Siamese -- isn't she? Just look at

She seemed, indeed, to have been used as a running target for the
secondary batteries of a cruiser. A hail of minor shells could
not have given her upper works a more broken, torn, and
devastated aspect: and she had about her the worn, weary air of
ships coming from the far ends of the world -- and indeed with
truth, for in her short passage she had been very far; sighting,
verily, even the coast of the Great Beyond, whence no ship ever
returns to give up her crew to the dust of the earth. She was
incrusted and gray with salt to the trucks of her masts and to
the top of her funnel; as though (as some facetious seaman said)
"the crowd on board had fished her out somewhere from the bottom
of the sea and brought her in here for salvage." And further,
excited by the felicity of his own wit, he offered to give five
pounds for her -- "as she stands."

Before she had been quite an hour at rest, a meagre little man,
with a red-tipped nose and a face cast in an angry mould, landed
from a sampan on the quay of the Foreign Concession, and
incontinently turned to shake his fist at her.

A tall individual, with legs much too thin for a rotund stomach,
and with watery eyes, strolled up and remarked, "Just left her --
eh? Quick work."

He wore a soiled suit of blue flannel with a pair of dirty
cricketing shoes; a dingy gray moustache drooped from his lip,
and daylight could be seen in two places between the rim and the
crown of his hat.

"Hallo! what are you doing here?" asked the exsecond-mate of the
Nan-Shan, shaking hands hurriedly.

"Standing by for a job -- chance worth taking -- got a quiet
hint," explained the man with the broken hat, in jerky, apathetic

The second shook his fist again at the Nan-Shan. "There's a
fellow there that ain't fit to have the command of a scow," he
declared, quivering with passion, while the other looked about

"Is there?"

But he caught sight on the quay of a heavy seaman's chest,
painted brown under a fringed sailcloth cover, and lashed with
new manila line. He eyed it with awakened interest.

"I would talk and raise trouble if it wasn't for that damned
Siamese flag. Nobody to go to -- or I would make it hot for him.
The fraud! Told his chief engineer -- that's another fraud for
you -- I had lost my nerve. The greatest lot of ignorant fools
that ever sailed the seas. No! You can't think . . ."

"Got your money all right?" inquired his seedy acquaintance

"Yes. Paid me off on board," raged the second mate. "'Get your
breakfast on shore,' says he."

"Mean skunk!" commented the tall man, vaguely, and passed his
tongue on his lips. "What about having a drink of some sort?"

"He struck me," hissed the second mate.

"No! Struck! You don't say?" The man in blue began to bustle
about sympathetically. "Can't possibly talk here. I want to
know all about it.

Struck -- eh? Let's get a fellow to carry your chest. I know a
quiet place where they have some bottled beer. . . ."

Mr. Jukes, who had been scanning the shore through a pair of
glasses, informed the chief engineer afterwards that "our late
second mate hasn't been long in finding a friend. A chap looking
uncommonly like a bummer. I saw them walk away together from the

The hammering and banging of the needful repairs did not disturb
Captain MacWhirr. The steward found in the letter he wrote, in a
tidy chart-room, passages of such absorbing interest that twice
he was nearly caught in the act. But Mrs. MacWhirr, in the
drawing-room of the forty-pound house, stifled a yawn -- perhaps
out of self-respect -- for she was alone.

She reclined in a plush-bottomed and gilt hammockchair near a
tiled fireplace, with Japanese fans on the mantel and a glow of
coals in the grate. Lifting her hands, she glanced wearily here
and there into the many pages. It was not her fault they were so
prosy, so completely uninteresting -- from "My darling wife" at
the beginning, to "Your loving husband" at the end. She couldn't
be really expected to understand all these ship affairs. She was
glad, of course, to hear from him, but she had never asked
herself why, precisely.

". . . They are called typhoons . . . The mate did not seem to
like it . . . Not in books . . . Couldn't think of letting it
go on. . . ."

The paper rustled sharply. ". . . . A calm that lasted more
than twenty minutes," she read perfunctorily; and the next words
her thoughtless eyes caught, on the top of another page, were:
"see you and the children again. . . ." She had a movement of
impatience. He was always thinking of coming home. He had never
had such a good salary before. What was the matter now?

It did not occur to her to turn back overleaf to look. She would
have found it recorded there that between 4 and 6 A. M. on
December 25th, Captain MacWhirr did actually think that his ship
could not possibly live another hour in such a sea, and that he
would never see his wife and children again. Nobody was to know
this (his letters got mislaid so quickly) -- nobody whatever but
the steward, who had been greatly impressed by that disclosure.
So much so, that he tried to give the cook some idea of the
"narrow squeak we all had" by saying solemnly, "The old man
himself had a dam' poor opinion of our chance."

"How do you know?" asked, contemptuously, the cook, an old
soldier. "He hasn't told you, maybe?"

"Well, he did give me a hint to that effect," the steward
brazened it out.

"Get along with you! He will be coming to tell me next," jeered
the old cook, over his shoulder.

Mrs. MacWhirr glanced farther, on the alert. ". . . Do what's
fair. . . . Miserable objects . . . . Only three, with a broken
leg each, and one . . . Thought had better keep the matter quiet
. . . hope to have done the fair thing. . . ."

She let fall her hands. No: there was nothing more about coming
home. Must have been merely expressing a pious wish. Mrs.
MacWhirr's mind was set at ease, and a black marble clock, priced
by the local jeweller at £3 18s. 6d., had a discreet
stealthy tick.

The door flew open, and a girl in the long-legged, short-frocked
period of existence, flung into the room.

A lot of colourless, rather lanky hair was scattered over her
shoulders. Seeing her mother, she stood still, and directed her
pale prying eyes upon the letter.

"From father," murmured Mrs. MacWhirr. "What have you done with
your ribbon?"

The girl put her hands up to her head and pouted.

"He's well," continued Mrs. MacWhirr languidly. "At least I think
so. He never says." She had a little laugh. The girl's face
expressed a wandering indifference, and Mrs. MacWhirr surveyed
her with fond pride.

"Go and get your hat," she said after a while. "I am going out
to do some shopping. There is a sale at Linom's."

"Oh, how jolly!" uttered the child, impressively, in unexpectedly
grave vibrating tones, and bounded out of the room.

It was a fine afternoon, with a gray sky and dry sidewalks.
Outside the draper's Mrs. MacWhirr smiled upon a woman in a black
mantle of generous proportions armoured in jet and crowned with
flowers blooming falsely above a bilious matronly countenance.
They broke into a swift little babble of greetings and
exclamations both together, very hurried, as if the street were
ready to yawn open and swallow all that pleasure before it could
be expressed.

Behind them the high glass doors were kept on the swing. People
couldn't pass, men stood aside waiting patiently, and Lydia was
absorbed in poking the end of her parasol between the stone
flags. Mrs. MacWhirr talked rapidly.

"Thank you very much. He's not coming home yet. Of course it's
very sad to have him away, but it's such a comfort to know he
keeps so well." Mrs. MacWhirr drew breath. "The climate there
agrees with him," she added, beamingly, as if poor MacWhirr had
been away touring in China for the sake of his health.

Neither was the chief engineer coming home yet. Mr. Rout knew too
well the value of a good billet.

"Solomon says wonders will never cease," cried Mrs. Rout joyously
at the old lady in her armchair by the fire. Mr. Rout's mother
moved slightly, her withered hands lying in black half-mittens on
her lap.

The eyes of the engineer's wife fairly danced on the paper.
"That captain of the ship he is in -- a rather simple man, you
remember, mother? -- has done something rather clever, Solomon

"Yes, my dear," said the old woman meekly, sitting with bowed
silvery head, and that air of inward stillness characteristic of
very old people who seem lost in watching the last flickers of
life. "I think I remember."

Solomon Rout, Old Sol, Father Sol, the Chief, "Rout, good man" --
Mr. Rout, the condescending and paternal friend of youth, had
been the baby of her many children -- all dead by this time. And
she remembered him best as a boy of ten -- long before he went
away to serve his apprenticeship in some great engineering works
in the North. She had seen so little of him since, she had gone
through so many years, that she had now to retrace her steps very
far back to recognize him plainly in the mist of time. Sometimes
it seemed that her daughter-in-law was talking of some strange

Mrs. Rout junior was disappointed. "H'm. H'm." She turned the
page. "How provoking! He doesn't say what it is. Says I
couldn't understand how much there was in it. Fancy! What could
it be so very clever? What a wretched man not to tell us!"

She read on without further remark soberly, and at last sat
looking into the fire. The chief wrote just a word or two of the
typhoon; but something had moved him to express an increased
longing for the companionship of the jolly woman. "If it hadn't
been that mother must be looked after, I would send you your
passage-money to-day. You could set up a small house out here.
I would have a chance to see you sometimes then. We are not
growing younger. . . ."

"He's well, mother," sighed Mrs. Rout, rousing herself.

"He always was a strong healthy boy," said the old woman,

But Mr. Jukes' account was really animated and very full. His
friend in the Western Ocean trade imparted it freely to the other
officers of his liner. "A chap I know writes to me about an
extraordinary affair that happened on board his ship in that
typhoon -- you know -- that we read of in the papers two months
ago. It's the funniest thing! Just see for yourself what he
says. I'll show you his letter."

There were phrases in it calculated to give the impression of
light-hearted, indomitable resolution. Jukes had written them in
good faith, for he felt thus when he wrote. He described with
lurid effect the scenes in the 'tween-deck. ". . . It struck me
in a flash that those confounded Chinamen couldn't tell we
weren't a desperate kind of robbers. 'Tisn't good to part the
Chinaman from his money if he is the stronger party. We need have
been desperate indeed to go thieving in such weather, but what
could these beggars know of us? So, without thinking of it twice,
I got the hands away in a jiffy. Our work was done -- that the
old man had set his heart on. We cleared out without staying to
inquire how they felt. I am convinced that if they had not been
so unmercifully shaken, and afraid -- each individual one of them
-- to stand up, we would have been torn to pieces. Oh! It was
pretty complete, I can tell you; and you may run to and fro
across the Pond to the end of time before you find yourself with
such a job on your hands."

After this he alluded professionally to the damage done to the
ship, and went on thus:

"It was when the weather quieted down that the situation became
confoundedly delicate. It wasn't made any better by us having
been lately transferred to the Siamese flag; though the skipper
can't see that it makes any difference -- 'as long as we are on
board' -he says. There are feelings that this man simply hasn't
got -- and there's an end of it. You might just as well try to
make a bedpost understand. But apart from this it is an
infernally lonely state for a ship to be going about the China
seas with no proper consuls, not even a gunboat of her own
anywhere, nor a body to go to in case of some trouble.

"My notion was to keep these Johnnies under hatches for another
fifteen hours or so; as we weren't much farther than that from
Fu-chau. We would find there, most likely, some sort of a
man-of-war, and once under her guns we were safe enough; for
surely any skipper of a man-of-war -- English, French or Dutch
-would see white men through as far as row on board goes. We
could get rid of them and their money afterwards by delivering
them to their Mandarin or Taotai, or whatever they call these
chaps in goggles you see being carried about in sedan-chairs
through their stinking streets.

"The old man wouldn't see it somehow. He wanted to keep the
matter quiet. He got that notion into his head, and a steam
windlass couldn't drag it out of him. He wanted as little fuss
made as possible, for the sake of the ship's name and for the
sake of the owners -- 'for the sake of all concerned,' says he,
looking at me very hard.

It made me angry hot. Of course you couldn't keep a thing like
that quiet; but the chests had been secured in the usual manner
and were safe enough for any earthly gale, while this had been an
altogether fiendish business I couldn't give you even an idea of.

"Meantime, I could hardly keep on my feet. None of us had a
spell of any sort for nearly thirty hours, and there the old man
sat rubbing his chin, rubbing the top of his head, and so
bothered he didn't even think of pulling his long boots off.

"'I hope, sir,' says I, 'you won't be letting them out on deck
before we make ready for them in some shape or other.' Not, mind
you, that I felt very sanguine about controlling these beggars if
they meant to take charge. A trouble with a cargo of Chinamen is
no child's play. I was dam' tired, too. 'I wish,' said I, 'you
would let us throw the whole lot of these dollars down to them
and leave them to fight it out amongst themselves, while we get a

"'Now you talk wild, Jukes,' says he, looking up in his slow way
that makes you ache all over, somehow. 'We must plan out
something that would be fair to all parties.'

"I had no end of work on hand, as you may imagine, so I set the
hands going, and then I thought I would turn in a bit. I hadn't
been asleep in my bunk ten minutes when in rushes the steward and
begins to pull at my leg.

"'For God's sake, Mr. Jukes, come out! Come on deck quick, sir.
Oh, do come out!'

"The fellow scared all the sense out of me. I didn't know what
had happened: another hurricane -- or what. Could hear no wind.

"'The Captain's letting them out. Oh, he is letting them out!
Jump on deck, sir, and save us. The chief engineer has just run
below for his revolver.'

"That's what I understood the fool to say. However, Father Rout
swears he went in there only to get a clean pocket-handkerchief.
Anyhow, I made one jump into my trousers and flew on deck aft.
There was certainly a good deal of noise going on forward of the
bridge. Four of the hands with the boss'n were at work abaft. I
passed up to them some of the rifles all the ships on the China
coast carry in the cabin, and led them on the bridge. On the way
I ran against Old Sol, looking startled and sucking at an
unlighted cigar.

"'Come along,' I shouted to him.

"We charged, the seven of us, up to the chart-room. All was over.
There stood the old man with his sea-boots still drawn up to the
hips and in shirt-sleeves -got warm thinking it out, I suppose.
Bun Hin's dandy clerk at his elbow, as dirty as a sweep, was
still green in the face. I could see directly I was in for

"'What the devil are these monkey tricks, Mr. Jukes?' asks the
old man, as angry as ever he could be. I tell you frankly it made
me lose my tongue. 'For God's sake, Mr. Jukes,' says he, 'do
take away these rifles from the men. Somebody's sure to get hurt
before long if you don't. Damme, if this ship isn't worse than
Bedlam! Look sharp now. I want you up here to help me and Bun
Hin's Chinaman to count that money. You wouldn't mind lending a
hand, too, Mr. Rout, now you are here. The more of us the

"He had settled it all in his mind while I was having a snooze.
Had we been an English ship, or only going to land our cargo of
coolies in an English port, like Hong-Kong, for instance, there
would have been no end of inquiries and bother, claims for
damages and so on. But these Chinamen know their officials
better than we do.

"The hatches had been taken off already, and they were all on
deck after a night and a day down below. It made you feel queer
to see so many gaunt, wild faces together. The beggars stared
about at the sky, at the sea, at the ship, as though they had
expected the whole thing to have been blown to pieces. And no
wonder! They had had a doing that would have shaken the soul out
of a white man. But then they say a Chinaman has no soul. He
has, though, something about him that is deuced tough. There was
a fellow (amongst others of the badly hurt) who had had his eye
all but knocked out. It stood out of his head the size of half a
hen's egg. This would have laid out a white man on his back for
a month: and yet there was that chap elbowing here and there in
the crowd and talking to the others as if nothing had been the
matter. They made a great hubbub amongst themselves, and
whenever the old man showed his bald head on the foreside of the
bridge, they would all leave off jawing and look at him from

"It seems that after he had done his thinking he made that Bun
Hin's fellow go down and explain to them the only way they could
get their money back. He told me afterwards that, all the coolies
having worked in the same place and for the same length of time,
he reckoned he would be doing the fair thing by them as near as
possible if he shared all the cash we had picked up equally among
the lot. You couldn't tell one man's dollars from another's, he
said, and if you asked each man how much money he brought on
board he was afraid they would lie, and he would find himself a
long way short. I think he was right there. As to giving up the
money to any Chinese official he could scare up in Fu-chau, he
said he might just as well put the lot in his own pocket at once
for all the good it would be to them. I suppose they thought so,

"We finished the distribution before dark. It was rather a
sight: the sea running high, the ship a wreck to look at, these
Chinamen staggering up on the bridge one by one for their share,
and the old man still booted, and in his shirt-sleeves, busy
paying out at the chartroom door, perspiring like anything, and
now and then coming down sharp on myself or Father Rout about one
thing or another not quite to his mind. He took the share of
those who were disabled himself to them on the No. 2 hatch.
There were three dollars left over, and these went to the three
most damaged coolies, one to each. We turned-to afterwards, and
shovelled out on deck heaps of wet rags, all sorts of fragments
of things without shape, and that you couldn't give a name to,
and let them settle the ownership themselves.

"This certainly is coming as near as can be to keeping the thing
quiet for the benefit of all concerned. What's your opinion, you
pampered mail-boat swell? The old chief says that this was
plainly the only thing that could be done. The skipper remarked
to me the other day, 'There are things you find nothing about in
books.' I think that he got out of it very well for such a
stupid man."

Typhoon, a novel by Joseph Conrad.

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Herland - Chapter 1 - A Not Unnatural Enterprise Herland - Chapter 1 - A Not Unnatural Enterprise

Herland - Chapter 1 - A Not Unnatural Enterprise
This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could havebrought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this wouldbe a very different story. Whole books full of notes, carefullycopied records, firsthand descriptions, and the pictures--that'sthe worst loss. We had some bird's-eyes of the cities and parks;a lot of lovely views of streets, of buildings, outside and in, andsome of those gorgeous gardens, and, most important of all, ofthe women themselves. Nobody will ever believe how they looked. Descriptionsaren't any good when it comes to women, and I never was goodat descriptions anyhow.

Typhoon - Chapter 5 Typhoon - Chapter 5

Typhoon - Chapter 5
HE WAITED. Before his eyes the engines turned with slow labour,that in the moment of going off into a mad fling would stop deadat Mr. Rout's shout, "Look out, Beale!" They paused in anintelligent immobility, stilled in mid-stroke, a heavy crankarrested on the cant, as if conscious of danger and the passageof time. Then, with a "Now, then!" from the chief, and the soundof a breath expelled through clenched teeth, they wouldaccomplish the interrupted revolution and begin another.There was the prudent sagacity of wisdom and the deliberation ofenormous strength in their movements. This was their work -- thispatient