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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVictory - PART THREE - Chapter TEN
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Victory - PART THREE - Chapter TEN Post by :William_Chen Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :June 2011 Read :1348

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Victory - PART THREE - Chapter TEN

PART THREE: CHAPTER TEN


The observer was Martin Ricardo. To him life was not a matter of
passive renunciation, but of a particularly active warfare. He was
not mistrustful of it, he was not disgusted with it, still less was
he inclined to be suspicious of its disenchantments; but he was
vividly aware that it held many possibilities of failure. Though
very far from being a pessimist, he was not a man of foolish
illusions. He did not like failure, not only because of its
unpleasant and dangerous consequences, but also because of its
damaging effect upon his own appreciation of Martin Ricardo. And
this was a special job, of his own contriving, and of considerable
novelty. It was not, so to speak, in his usual line of business--
except, perhaps, from a moral standpoint, about which he was not
likely to trouble his head. For these reasons Martin Ricardo was
unable to sleep.

Mr Jones, after repeated shivering fits, and after drinking much hot
tea, had apparently fallen into deep slumber. He had very
peremptorily discouraged attempts at conversation on the part of his
faithful follower. Ricardo listened to his regular breathing. It
was all very well for the governor. He looked upon it as a sort of
sport. A gentleman naturally would. But this ticklish and
important job had to be pulled off at all costs, both for honour and
for safety. Ricardo rose quietly, and made his way on the veranda.
He could not lie still. He wanted to go out for air, and he had a
feeling that by the force of his eagerness even the darkness and the
silence could be made to yield something to his eyes and ears.

He noted the stars, and stepped back again into the dense darkness.
He resisted the growing impulse to go out and steal towards the
other bungalow. It would have been madness to start prowling in the
dark on unknown ground. And for what end? Unless to relieve the
oppression. Immobility lay on his limbs like a leaden garment. And
yet he was unwilling to give up. He persisted in his objectless
vigil. The man of the island was keeping quiet.

It was at that moment that Ricardo's eyes caught the vanishing red
trail of light made by the cigar--a startling revelation of the
man's wakefulness. He could not suppress a low "Hallo!" and began
to sidle along towards the door, with his shoulders rubbing the
wall. For all he knew, the man might have been out in front by this
time, observing the veranda. As a matter of fact, after flinging
away the cheroot, Heyst had gone indoors with the feeling of a man
who gives up an unprofitable occupation. But Ricardo fancied he
could hear faint footfalls on the open ground, and dodged quickly
into the room. There he drew breath, and meditated for a while.
His next step was to feel for the matches on the tall desk, and to
light the candle. He had to communicate to his governor views and
reflections of such importance that it was absolutely necessary for
him to watch their effect on the very countenance of the hearer. At
first he had thought that these matters could have waited till
daylight; but Heyst's wakefulness, disclosed in that startling way,
made him feel suddenly certain that there could be no sleep for him
that night.

He said as much to his governor. When the little dagger-like flame
had done its best to dispel the darkness, Mr. Jones was to be seen
reposing on a camp bedstead, in a distant part of the room. A
railway rug concealed his spare form up to his very head, which
rested on the other railway rug rolled up for a pillow. Ricardo
plumped himself down cross-legged on the floor, very close to the
low bedstead; so that Mr. Jones--who perhaps had not been so very
profoundly asleep--on opening his eyes found them conveniently
levelled at the face of his secretary.

"Eh? What is it you say? No sleep for you tonight? But why can't
you let ME sleep? Confound your fussiness!"

"Because that there fellow can't sleep--that's why. Dash me if he
hasn't been doing a think just now! What business has he to think
in the middle of the night?"

"How do you know?"

"He was out, sir--up in the middle of the night. My own eyes saw
it."

"But how do you know that he was up to think?" inquired Mr. Jones.
"It might have been anything--toothache, for instance. And you may
have dreamed it for all I know. Didn't you try to sleep?"

"No, sir. I didn't even try to go to sleep."

Ricardo informed his patron of his vigil on the veranda, and of the
revelation which put an end to it. He concluded that a man up with
a cigar in the middle of the night must be doing a think.

Mr Jones raised himself on his elbow. This sign of interest
comforted his faithful henchman.

"Seems to me it's time we did a little think ourselves," added
Ricardo, with more assurance. Long as they had been together the
moods of his governor were still a source of anxiety to his simple
soul.

"You are always making a fuss," remarked Mr. Jones, in a tolerant
tone.

"Ay, but not for nothing, am I? You can't say that, sir. Mine may
not be a gentleman's way of looking round a thing, but it isn't a
fool's way, either. You've admitted that much yourself at odd
times."

Ricardo was growing warmly argumentative. Mr. Jones interrupted him
without heat.

"You haven't roused me to talk about yourself, I presume?"

"No, sir." Ricardo remained silent for a minute, with the tip of
his tongue caught between his teeth. "I don't think I could tell
you anything about myself that you don't know," he continued. There
was a sort of amused satisfaction in his tone which changed
completely as he went on. "It's that man, over there, that's got to
be talked over. I don't like him."

He, failed to observe the flicker of a ghastly smile on his
governor's lips.

"Don't you?" murmured Mr. Jones, whose face, as he reclined on his
elbow, was on a level with the top of his follower's head.

"No, sir," said Ricardo emphatically. The candle from the other
side of the room threw his monstrous black shadow on the wall. "He-
-I don't know how to say it--he isn't hearty-like."

Mr Jones agreed languidly in his own manner:

"He seems to be a very self-possessed man."

"Ay, that's it. Self--" Ricardo choked with indignation. "I would
soon let out some of his self-possession through a hole between his
ribs, if this weren't a special job!"

Mr Jones had been making his own reflections, for he asked:

"Do you think he is suspicious?"

"I don't see very well what he can be suspicious of," pondered
Ricardo. "Yet there he was doing a think. And what could be the
object of it? What made him get out of his bed in the middle of the
night. 'Tain't fleas, surely."

"Bad conscience, perhaps," suggested Mr. Jones jocularly.

His faithful secretary suffered from irritation, and did not see the
joke. In a fretful tone he declared that there was no such thing as
conscience. There was such a thing as funk; but there was nothing
to make that fellow funky in any special way. He admitted, however,
that the man might have been uneasy at the arrival of strangers,
because of all that plunder of his put away somewhere.

Ricardo glanced here and there, as if he were afraid of being
overheard by the heavy shadows cast by the dim light all over the
room. His patron, very quiet, spoke in a calm whisper:

"And perhaps that hotel-keeper has been lying to you about him. He
may be a very poor devil indeed."

Ricardo shook his head slightly. The Schombergian theory of Heyst
had become in him a profound conviction, which he had absorbed as
naturally as a sponge takes up water. His patron's doubts were a
wanton denying of what was self-evident; but Ricardo's voice
remained as before, a soft purring with a snarling undertone.

"I am sup-prised at you, sir! It's the very way them tame ones--the
common 'yporcrits of the world--get on. When it comes to plunder
drifting under one's very nose, there's not one of them that would
keep his hands off. And I don't blame them. It's the way they do
it that sets my back up. Just look at the story of how he got rid
of that pal of his! Send a man home to croak of a cold on the
chest--that's one of your tame tricks. And d'you mean to say, sir,
that a man that's up to it wouldn't bag whatever he could lay his
hands in his 'yporcritical way? What was all that coal business?
Tame citizen dodge; 'yporcrisy--nothing else. No, no, sir! The
thing is to extract it from him as neatly as possible. That's the
job; and it isn't so simple as it looks. I reckon you have looked
at it all round, sir, before you took up the notion of this trip."

"No." Mr. Jones was hardly audible, staring far away from his
couch. "I didn't think about it much. I was bored."

"Ay, that you were--bad. I was feeling pretty desperate that
afternoon, when that bearded softy of a landlord got talking to me
about this fellow here. Quite accidentally, it was. Well, sir,
here we are after a mighty narrow squeak. I feel all limp yet; but
never mind--his swag will pay for the lot!"

"He's all alone here," remarked Mr. Jones in a hollow murmur.

"Ye-es, in a way. Yes, alone enough. Yes, you may say he is."

"There's that Chinaman, though."

"Ay, there's the Chink," assented Ricardo rather absentmindedly.

He was debating in his mind the advisability of making a clean
breast of his knowledge of the girl's existence. Finally he
concluded he wouldn't. The enterprise was difficult enough without
complicating it with an upset to the sensibilities of the gentleman
with whom he had the honour of being associated. Let the discovery
come of itself, he thought, and then he could swear that he had
known nothing of that offensive presence.

He did not need to lie. He had only to hold his tongue.

"Yes," he muttered reflectively, "there's that Chink, certainly."

At bottom, he felt a certain ambiguous respect for his governor's
exaggerated dislike of women, as if that horror of feminine presence
were a sort of depraved morality; but still morality, since he
counted it as an advantage. It prevented many undesirable
complications. He did not pretend to understand it. He did not
even try to investigate this idiosyncrasy of his chief. All he knew
was that he himself was differently inclined, and that it did not
make him any happier or safer. He did not know how he would have
acted if he had been knocking about the world on his own. Luckily
he was a subordinate, not a wage-slave but a follower--which was a
restraint. Yes! The other sort of disposition simplified matters
in general; it wasn't to be gainsaid. But it was clear that it
could also complicate them--as in this most important and, in
Ricardo's view, already sufficiently delicate case. And the worst
of it was that one could not tell exactly in what precise manner it
would act.

It was unnatural, he thought somewhat peevishly. How was one to
reckon up the unnatural? There were no rules for that. The
faithful henchman of plain Mr. Jones, foreseeing many difficulties
of a material order, decided to keep the girl out of the governor's
knowledge, out of his sight, too, for as long a time as it could be
managed. That, alas, seemed to be at most a matter of a few hours;
whereas Ricardo feared that to get the affair properly going would
take some days. Once well started, he was not afraid of his
gentleman failing him. As is often the case with lawless natures,
Ricardo's faith in any given individual was of a simple,
unquestioning character. For man must have some support in life.

Cross-legged, his head drooping a little and perfectly still, he
might have been meditating in a bonze-like attitude upon the sacred
syllable "Om." It was a striking illustration of the untruth of
appearances, for his contempt for the world was of a severely
practical kind. There was nothing oriental about Ricardo but the
amazing quietness of his pose. Mr. Jones was also very quiet. He
had let his head sink on the rolled-up rug, and lay stretched out on
his side with his back to the light. In that position the shadows
gathered in the cavities of his eyes made them look perfectly empty.
When he spoke, his ghostly voice had only to travel a few inches
straight into Ricardo's left ear.

"Why don't you say something, now that you've got me awake?"

"I wonder if you were sleeping as sound as you are trying to make
out, sir," said the unmoved Ricardo.

"I wonder," repeated Mr. Jones. "At any rate, I was resting
quietly!"

"Come, sir!" Ricardo's whisper was alarmed. "You don't mean to say
you're going to be bored?"

"No."

"Quite right!" The secretary was very much relieved. "There's no
occasion to be, I can tell you, sir," he whispered earnestly.
"Anything but that! If I didn't say anything for a bit, it ain't
because there isn't plenty to talk about. Ay, more than enough."

"What's the matter with you?" breathed out his patron. "Are you
going to turn pessimist?"

"Me turn? No, sir! I ain't of those that turn. You may call me
hard names, if you like, but you know very well that I ain't a
croaker." Ricardo changed his tone. "If I said nothing for a
while, it was because I was meditating over the Chink, sir."

"You were? Waste of time, my Martin. A Chinaman is unfathomable."

Ricardo admitted that this might be so. Anyhow, a Chink was neither
here nor there, as a general thing, unfathomable as he might be; but
a Swedish baron wasn't--couldn't be! The woods were full of such
barons.

"I don't know that he is so tame," was Mr. Jones's remark, in a
sepulchral undertone.

"How do you mean, sir? He ain't a rabbit, of course. You couldn't
hypnotize him, as I saw you do to more than one Dago, and other
kinds of tame citizens, when it came to the point of holding them
down to a game."

"Don't you reckon on that," murmured plain Mr. Jones seriously.

"No, sir, I don't, though you have a wonderful power of the eye.
It's a fact."

"I have a wonderful patience," remarked Mr. Jones dryly.

A dim smile flitted over the lips of the faithful Ricardo who never
raised his head.

"I don't want to try you too much, sir, but this is like no other
job we ever turned our minds to."

"Perhaps not. At any rate let us think so."

A weariness with the monotony of life was reflected in the tone of
this qualified assent. It jarred on the nerves of the sanguine
Ricardo.

"Let us think of the way to go to work," he retorted a little
impatiently. "He's a deep one. Just look at the way he treated
that chum of his. Did you ever hear of anything so low? And the
artfulness of the beast--the dirty, tame artfulness!"

"Don't you start moralizing, Martin," said Mr. Jones warningly. "As
far as I can make out the story that German hotel-keeper told you,
it seems to show a certain amount of character;--and independence
from common feelings which is not usual. It's very remarkable, if
true."

"Ay, ay! Very remarkable. It's mighty low down, all the same,"
muttered, Ricardo obstinately. "I must say I am glad to think he
will be paid off for it in a way that'll surprise him!"

The tip of his tongue appeared lively for an instant, as if trying
for the taste of that ferocious retribution on his compressed lips.
For Ricardo was sincere in his indignation before the elementary
principle of loyalty to a chum violated in cold blood, slowly, in a
patient duplicity of years. There are standards in villainy as in
virtue, and the act as he pictured it to himself acquired an
additional horror from the slow pace of that treachery so atrocious
and so tame. But he understood too the educated judgement of his
governor, a gentleman looking on all this with the privileged
detachment of a cultivated mind, of an elevated personality.

"Ay, he's deep--he's artful," he mumbled between his sharp teeth.

"Confound you!" Mr. Jones's calm whisper crept into his ear. "Come
to the point."

Obedient, the secretary shook off his thoughtfulness. There was a
similarity of mind between these two--one the outcast of his vices,
the other inspired by a spirit of scornful defiance, the
aggressiveness of a beast of prey looking upon all the tame
creatures of the earth as its natural victim. Both were astute
enough, however, and both were aware that they had plunged into this
adventure without a sufficient scrutiny of detail. The figure of a
lonely man far from all assistance had loomed up largely,
fascinating and defenceless in the middle of the sea, filling the
whole field of their vision. There had not seemed to be any need
for thinking. As Schomberg had been saying: "Three to one."

But it did not look so simple now in the face of that solitude which
was like an armour for this man. The feeling voiced by the henchman
in his own way--"We don't seem much forwarder now we are here" was
acknowledged by the silence of the patron. It was easy enough to
rip a fellow up or drill a hole in him, whether he was alone or not,
Ricardo reflected in low, confidential tones, but -

"He isn't alone," Mr. Jones said faintly, in his attitude of a man
composed for sleep. "Don't forget that Chinaman." Ricardo started
slightly.

"Oh, ay--the Chink!"

Ricardo had been on the point of confessing about the girl; but no!
He wanted his governor to be unperturbed and steady. Vague
thoughts, which he hardly dared to look in the face, were stirring
his brain in connection with that girl. She couldn't be much
account, he thought. She could be frightened. And there were also
other possibilities. The Chink, however, could be considered
openly.

"What I was thinking about it, sir," he went on earnestly, "is this-
-here we've got a man. He's nothing. If he won't be good, he can
be made quiet. That's easy. But then there's his plunder. He
doesn't carry it in his pocket."

"I hope not," breathed Mr. Jones.

"Same here. It's too big, we know, but if he were alone, he would
not feel worried about it overmuch--I mean the safety of the pieces.
He would just put the lot into any box or drawer that was handy."

"Would he?"

"Yes, sir. He would keep it under his eye, as it were. Why not?
It is natural. A fellow doesn't put his swag underground, unless
there's a very good reason for it."

"A very good reason, eh?"

"Yes, sir. What do you think a fellow is--a mole?"

From his experience, Ricardo declared that man was not a burrowing
beast. Even the misers very seldom buried their hoard, unless for
exceptional reasons. In the given situation of a man alone on an
island, the company of a Chink was a very good reason. Drawers
would not be safe, nor boxes, either, from a prying, slant-eyed
Chink. No, sir, unless a safe--a proper office safe. But the safe
was there in the room.

"Is there a safe in this room? I didn't notice it," whispered Mr.
Jones.

That was because the thing was painted white, like the walls of the
room; and besides, it was tucked away in the shadows of a corner.
Mr. Jones had been too tired to observe anything on his first coming
ashore; but Ricardo had very soon spotted the characteristic form.
He only wished he could believe that the plunder of treachery,
duplicity, and all the moral abominations of Heyst had been there.
But no; the blamed thing was open.

"It might have been there at one time or another," he commented
gloomily, "but it isn't there now."

"The man did not elect to live in this house," remarked Mr. Jones.
"And by the by, what could he have meant by speaking of
circumstances which prevented him lodging us in the other bungalow?
You remember what he said, Martin? Sounded cryptic."

Martin, who remembered and understood the phrase as directly motived
by the existence of the girl, waited a little before saying:

"Some of his artfulness, sir; and not the worst of it either. That
manner of his to us, this asking no questions, is some more of his
artfulness. A man's bound to be curious, and he is; yet he goes on
as if he didn't care. He does care--or else what was he doing up
with a cigar in the middle of the night, doing a think? I don't
like it."

"He may be outside, observing the light here, and saying the very
same thing to himself of our own wakefulness," gravely suggested
Ricardo's governor.

"He may be, sir; but this is too important to be talked over in the
dark. And the light is all right, it can be accounted for. There's
a light in this bungalow in the middle of the night because--why,
because you are not well. Not well, sir--that's what's the matter,
and you will have to act up to it."

The consideration had suddenly occurred to the faithful henchman, in
the light of a felicitous expedient to keep his governor and the
girl apart as long as possible. Mr. Jones received the suggestion
without the slightest stir, even in the deep sockets of his eyes,
where a steady, faint gleam was the only thing telling of life and
attention in his attenuated body. But Ricardo, as soon as he had
enunciated his happy thought, perceived in it other possibilities
more to the point and of greater practical advantage.

"With your looks, sir, it will be easy enough," he went on evenly,
as if no silence had intervened, always respectful, but frank, with
perfect simplicity of purpose. "All you've got to do is just to lie
down quietly. I noticed him looking sort of surprised at you on the
wharf, sir."

At these words, a naive tribute to the aspect of his physique, even
more suggestive of the grave than of the sick-bed, a fold appeared
on that side of the governor's face which was exposed to the dim
light--a deep, shadowy, semicircular fold from the side of the nose
to bottom of the chin--a silent smile. By a side-glance Ricardo had
noted this play of features. He smiled, too, appreciative,
encouraged.

"And you as hard as nails all the time," he went on. "Hang me if
anybody would believe you aren't sick, if I were to swear myself
black in the face! Give us a day or two to look into matters and
size up that 'yporcrit."

Ricardo's eyes remained fixed on his crossed shins. The chief, in
his lifeless accents, approved.

"Perhaps it would be a good idea."

"The Chink, he's nothing. He can be made quiet any time."

One of Ricardo's hands, reposing palm upwards on his folded legs,
made a swift thrusting gesture, repeated by the enormous darting
shadow of an arm very low on the wall. It broke the spell of
perfect stillness in the room. The secretary eyed moodily the wall
from which the shadow had gone. Anybody could be made quiet, he
pointed out. It was not anything that the Chink could do; no, it
was the effect that his company must have produced on the conduct of
the doomed man. A man! What was a man? A Swedish baron could be
ripped up, or else holed by a shot, as easily as any other creature;
but that was exactly what was to be avoided, till one knew where he
had hidden his plunder.

"I shouldn't think it would be some sort of hole in his bungalow,"
argued Ricardo with real anxiety.

No. A house can be burnt--set on fire accidentally, or on purpose,
while a man's asleep. Under the house--or in some crack, cranny, or
crevice? Something told him it wasn't that. The anguish of mental
effort contracted Ricardo's brow. The skin of his head seemed to
move in this travail of vain and tormenting suppositions.

"What did you think a fellow is, sir--a baby?" he said, in answer to
Mr. Jones's objections. "I am trying to find out what I would do
myself. He wouldn't be likely to be cleverer than I am."

"And what do you know about yourself?"

Mr Jones seemed to watch his follower's perplexities with amusement
concealed in a death-like composure.

Ricardo disregarded the question. The material vision of the spoil
absorbed all his faculties. A great vision! He seemed to see it.
A few small canvas bags tied up with thin cord, their distended
rotundity showing the inside pressure of the disk-like forms of
coins--gold, solid, heavy, eminently portable. Perhaps steel cash-
boxes with a chased design, on the covers; or perhaps a black and
brass box with a handle on the top, and full of goodness knows what.
Bank notes? Why not? The fellow had been going home; so it was
surely something worth going home with.

"And he may have put it anywhere outside--anywhere!" cried Ricardo
in a deadened voice, "in the forest--"

That was it! A temporary darkness replaced the dim light of the
room. The darkness of the forest at night and in it the gleam of a
lantern, by which a figure is digging at the foot of a tree-trunk.
As likely as not, another figure holding that lantern--ha, feminine!
The girl!

The prudent Ricardo stifled a picturesque and profane exclamation,
partly joy, partly dismay. Had the girl been trusted or mistrusted
by that man? Whatever it was, it was bound to be wholly! With
women there could be no half-measures. He could not imagine a
fellow half-trusting a woman in that intimate relation to himself,
and in those particular circumstances of conquest and loneliness
where no confidences could appear dangerous since, apparently, there
could be no one she could give him away to. Moreover, in nine cases
out of ten the woman would be trusted. But, trusted or mistrusted,
was her presence a favourable or unfavourable condition of the
problem? That was the question!

The temptation to consult his chief, to talk over the weighty fact,
and get his opinion on it, was great indeed. Ricardo resisted it;
but the agony of his solitary mental conflict was extremely sharp.
A woman in a problem is an incalculable quantity, even if you have
something to go upon in forming your guess. How much more so when
you haven't even once caught sight of her.

Swift as were his mental processes, he felt that a longer silence
was inadvisable. He hastened to speak:

"And do you see us, sir, you and I, with a couple of spades having
to tackle this whole confounded island?"

He allowed himself a slight movement of the arm. The shadow
enlarged it into a sweeping gesture.

"This seems rather discouraging, Martin," murmured the unmoved
governor.

"We mustn't be discouraged--that's all!" retorted his henchman.
"And after what we had to go through in that boat too! Why it would
be--"

He couldn't find the qualifying words. Very calm, faithful, and yet
astute, he expressed his new-born hopes darkly.

"Something's sure to turn up to give us a hint; only this job can't
be rushed. You may depend on me to pick up the least little bit of
a hint; but you, sir--you've got to play him very gently. For the
rest you can trust me."

"Yes; but I ask myself what YOU are trusting to."

"Our luck," said the faithful Ricardo. "Don't say a word against
that. It might spoil the run of it."

"You are a superstitious beggar. No, I won't say anything against
it."

"That's right, sir. Don't you even think lightly of it. Luck's not
to be played with."

"Yes, luck's a delicate thing," assented Mr. Jones in a dreamy
whisper.

A short silence ensued, which Ricardo ended in a discreet and
tentative voice.

"Talking of luck, I suppose he could be made to take a hand with
you, sir--two-handed picket or ekkarty, you being seedy and keeping
indoors--just to pass the time. For all we know, he may be one of
them hot ones once they start--"

"Is it likely?" came coldly from the principal. "Considering what
we know of his history--say with his partner."

"True, sir. He's a cold-blooded beast; a cold-blooded, inhuman--"

"And I'll tell you another thing that isn't likely. He would not be
likely to let himself be stripped bare. We haven't to do with a
young fool that can be led on by chaff or flattery, and in the end
simply overawed. This is a calculating man."

Ricardo recognized that clearly. What he had in his mind was
something on a small scale, just to keep the enemy busy while he,
Ricardo, had time to nose around a bit.

"You could even lose a little money to him, sir," he suggested.

"I could."

Ricardo was thoughtful for a moment.

"He strikes me, too, as the sort of man to start prancing when one
didn't expect it. What do you think, sir? Is he a man that would
prance? That is, if something startled him. More likely to prance
than to run--what?"

The answer came at once, because Mr. Jones understood the peculiar
idiom of his faithful follower.

"Oh, without doubt! Without doubt!"

"It does me good to hear that you think so. He's a prancing beast,
and so we mustn't startle him--not till I have located the stuff.
Afterwards--"

Ricardo paused, sinister in the stillness of his pose. Suddenly he
got up with a swift movement and gazed down at his chief in moody
abstraction. Mr. Jones did not stir.

"There's one thing that's worrying me," began Ricardo in a subdued
voice.

"Only one?" was the faint comment from the motionless body on the
bedstead.

"I mean more than all the others put together."

"That's grave news."

"Ay, grave enough. It's this--how do you feel in yourself, sir?
Are you likely to get bored? I know them fits come on you suddenly;
but surely you can tell--"

"Martin, you are an ass."

The moody face of the secretary brightened up.

"Really, sir? Well, I am quite content to be on these terms--I mean
as long as you don't get bored. It wouldn't do, sir."

For coolness, Ricardo had thrown open his shirt and rolled up his
sleeves. He moved stealthily across the room, bare-footed, towards
the candle, the shadow of his head and shoulders growing bigger
behind him on the opposite wall, to which the face of plain Mr.
Jones was turned. With a feline movement, Ricardo glanced over his
shoulder at the thin back of the spectre reposing on the bed, and
then blew out the candle.

"In fact, I am rather amused, Martin," Mr. Jones said in the dark.

He heard the sound of a slapped thigh and the jubilant exclamation
of his henchman:

"Good! That's the way to talk, sir!"

Content of PART THREE CHAPTER TEN (Joseph Conrad's novel: Victory)

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