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A Set of Six

of a small British Squadron on the West Coast of South America. His book published in
the thirties obtained a certain celebrity and I suppose is to be found still in some libraries.
The curious who may be mistrusting my imagination are referred to that printed
document, Vol. II, I forget the page, but it is somewhere not far from the end. Another
document connected with this story is a letter of a biting and ironic kind from a friend
then in Burma, passing certain strictures upon "the gentleman with the gun on his back"
which I do not intend to make accessible to the public. Yet the gun episode did really
happen, or at least I am bound to believe it because I remember it, described in an
extremely matter-of-fact tone, in some book I read in my boyhood; and I am not going to
discard the beliefs of my boyhood for anybody on earth.
The Brute, which is the only sea-story in the volume, is, like Il Conde, associated with a
direct narrative and based on a suggestion gathered on warm human lips. I will not
disclose the real name of the criminal ship but the first I heard of her homicidal habits
was from the late Captain Blake, commanding a London ship in which I served in 1884
as Second Officer. Captain Blake was, of all my commanders, the one I remember with
the greatest affection. I have sketched in his personality, without however mentioning his
name, in the first paper of The Mirror of the Sea. In his young days he had had a personal
experience of the brute and it is perhaps for that reason that I have put the story into the
mouth of a young man and made of it what the reader will see. The existence of the brute
was a fact. The end of the brute as related in the story is also a fact, well-known at the
time though it really happened to another ship, of great beauty of form and of blameless
character, which certainly deserved a better fate. I have unscrupulously adapted it to the
needs of my story thinking that I had there something in the nature of poetical justice. I
hope that little villainy will not cast a shadow upon the general honesty of my
proceedings as a writer of tales.
Of The Informer and An Anarchist I will say next to nothing. The pedigree of these tales
is hopelessly complicated and not worth disentangling at this distance of time. I found
them and here they are. The discriminating reader will guess that I have found them
within my mind; but how they or their elements came in there I have forgotten for the
most part; and for the rest I really don't see why I should give myself away more than I
have done already.
It remains for me only now to mention The Duel, the longest story in the book. That story
attained the dignity of publication all by itself in a small illustrated volume, under the
title, "The Point of Honour." That was many years ago. It has been since reinstated in its
proper place, which is the place it occupies in this volume, in all the subsequent editions
of my work. Its pedigree is extremely simple. It springs from a ten-line paragraph in a
small provincial paper published in the South of France. That paragraph, occasioned by a
duel with a fatal ending between two well-known Parisian personalities, referred for
some reason or other to the "well-known fact" of two officers in Napoleon's Grand Army
having fought a series of duels in the midst of great wars and on some futile pretext. The
pretext was never disclosed. I had therefore to invent it; and I think that, given the
character of the two officers which I had to invent, too, I have made it sufficiently
convincing by the mere force of its absurdity. The truth is that in my mind the story is
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