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I wanted to do them any harm; but I felt the power in myself. Now, here we sit, friendly like, and that's all right. You aren't in my way. But I am not friendly to you. I just don't care. Some men do say that; but I really don't. You are no more to me one way or another than that fly there. Just so. I'd squash you or leave you alone. I don't care what I do.”
If real force of character consists in overcoming our sudden weaknesses, Schomberg displayed plenty of that quality. At the mention of the fly, he re-enforced the severe dignity of his attitude as one inflates a collapsing toy balloon with a great effort of breath. The easygoing, relaxed attitude of Ricardo was really appalling,
“That's so,” he went on. “I am that sort of fellow. You wouldn't think it, would you? No. You have to be told. So I am telling you, and I dare say you only half believe it. But you can't say to yourself that I am drunk, stare at me as you may. I haven't had anything stronger than a glass of iced water all day. Takes a real gentleman to see through a fellow. Oh, yes-he spotted me. I told you we had a few talks at sea about one thing or another. And I used to watch him down the skylight, playing cards in the cuddy with the others. They had to pass the time away somehow. By the same token he caught me at it once, and it was then that I told him I was fond of cards-and generally lucky in gambling, too. Yes, he had sized me up. Why not? A gentleman's just like any other man—and something more."
It flashed through Schomberg's mind that these two were indeed well matched in their enormous dissimilarity, identical souls in different disguises.
"Says he to me"-Ricardo started again in a gossiping manner-“ 'I'm packed up. It's about time to go, Martin.'
“It was the first time he called me Martin. Says I: “ 'Is that it, sir?'
“'You didn't think I was after that sort of treasure, did you? I wanted to clear out from home quietly. It's a pretty expensive way of getting a passage across, but it has served my turn.'
“I let him know very soon that I was game for anything, from pitch and toss to wilful murder, in his company.
""Wilful murder?' says he in his quiet way. 'What the deuce is that? What are you talking about? People do get killed sometimes when they get in one's way, but that's self-defence—you understand?'
"I told him I did. And then I said I would run below for a minute, to ram a few of my things into a sailor's bag I had. I've never cared for a lot of dunnage; I believed in going about flying light when I was at sea. I came back and found him strolling up and down the deck, as if he were taking a breath of fresh air before turning in, like on any other evening.
"He didn't even look at me. We had had a boat in the water astern ever since we came to anchor in the afternoon. He throws the stump of his cigar overboard.
" "Can you get the captain out on deck?' he asks.
“That was the last thing in the world I should have thought of doing. I lost my tongue for a moment.
“ 'I can try,' says I.
“ 'Well, then, I am going below. You get him up and keep him with you till I come back on deck. Mind! Don't let him go below till I return.'
“I could not help asking why he told me to rouse a sleeping man, when we wanted everybody on board to sleep sweetly till we got clear of the schooner. He laughs a little and says that I didn't see all the bearings of this business.
‘Mind,' he says, 'don't let him leave you till you see
me come up again.' He puts his eyes close to mine. “Keep him with you at all costs.'
“And that means?' says I.
“All costs to him—by every possible or impossible means. I don't want to be interrupted in my business down below. He would give me lots of trouble. I take you with me to save myself trouble in various circumstances; and you've got to enter on your work right away.'
"Just so, sir,' says I; and he slips down the companion.
“With a gentleman you know at once where you are; but it was a ticklish job. The skipper was nothing to me one way or another, any more than you are at this moment, Mr. Schomberg. You may light your cigar or blow your brains out this minute, and I don't care a hang which you do, both or neither. To bring the skipper up was easy enough. I had only to stamp on the deck a few times over his head. I stamped hard. But how to keep him up when he got there?
“'Anything the matter, Mr. Ricardo?' I heard his voice behind me.
“There he was, and I hadn't thought of anything to say to him; so I didn't turn around. The moonlight was brighter than many a day I could remember in the North Sea.
“'Why did you call me? What are you staring at out there, Mr. Ricardo?'
"He was deceived by my keeping my back to him. I wasn't staring at anything, but his mistake gave me a notion.
“'I am staring at something that looks like a canoe over there,' I said very slowly.
“The skipper got concerned at once. It wasn't any danger from the inhabitants, whoever they were.
“ 'Oh, hang it!' says he. 'That's very unfortunate.'
He had hoped that the schooner being on the coast would not get known so very soon. 'Dashed awkward, with the business we've got in hand, to have a lot of niggers watching operations. But are you certain this is a canoe?'
“'It may be a drift-log,' I said; 'but I thought you had better have a look with your own eyes. You may make it out better than I can.'
“His eyes weren't anything as good as mine. But he says:
"Certainly. Certainly. You did quite right.' “And it's a fact I had seen some drift-logs at sunset. I saw what they were then and didn't trouble
head about them, forgot all about it till that very moment. Nothing strange in seeing drift-logs off a coast like that; and I'm hanged if the skipper didn't make one out in the wake of the moon. Strange what a little thing a man's life hangs on sometinies—a single word! Here you are, sitting unsuspicious before me, and you may let out something unbeknown to you that would settle your hash. Not that I have any ill-feeling. I have no feelings. If the skipper had said, 'Oh, bosh!' and had turned his back on me, he would not have gone three steps towards his bed; but he stood there and stared. And now the job was to get him off the deck when he was no longer wanted there.
‘We are just trying to make out if that object there is a canoe or a log,' says he to Mr. Jones.
“Mr. Jones had come up, lounging as carelessly as when he went below. While the skipper was jawing about boats and drifting logs, I asked by signs, from behind, if I hadn't better knock him on the head and drop him quietly overboard. The night was slipping by, and we had to go. It couldn't be put off till- next night no more. No. No more. And do you know why?”
Schomberg made a slight negative sign with his head.
This direct appeal annoyed him, jarred on the induced quietude of a great talker forced into the part of a listener and sunk in it as a man sinks into slumber. Mr. Ricardo struck a note of scorn.
"Don't know why? Can't you guess? No? Because the boss had got hold of the skipper's cash-box by then, See?"