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Dead Men Tell No Tales

6. The Sole Survivor
A few weeks later I landed in England, I, who no longer desired to set foot on any
land again.
At nine-and-twenty I was gaunt and gray; my nerves were shattered, my heart
was broken; and my face showed it without let or hindrance from the spirit that
was broken too. Pride, will, courage, and endurance, all these had expired in my
long and lonely battle with the sea. They had kept me alive-for this. And now they
left me naked to mine enemies.
For every hand seemed raised against me, though in reality it was the hand of
fellowship that the world stretched out, and the other was the reading of a
jaundiced eye. I could not help it: there was a poison in my veins that made me
all ingratitude and perversity. The world welcomed me back, and I returned the
compliment by sulking like the recaptured runaway I was at heart. The world
showed a sudden interest in me; so I took no further interest in the world, but, on
the contrary, resented its attentions with unreasonable warmth and obduracy;
and my would-be friends I regarded as my very worst enemies. The majority, I
feel sure, meant but well and kindly by the poor survivor. But the survivor could
not forget that his name was still in the newspapers, nor blink the fact that he was
an unworthy hero of the passing hour. And he suffered enough from brazenly
meddlesome and self-seeking folk, from impudent and inquisitive intruders, to
justify some suspicion of old acquaintances suddenly styling themselves old
friends, and of distant connections newly and unduly eager to claim relationship.
Many I misjudged, and have long known it. On the whole, however, I wonder at
that attitude of mine as little as I approve of it.
If I had distinguished myself in any other way, it would have been a different
thing. It was the fussy, sentimental, inconsiderate interest in one thrown into
purely accidental and necessarily painful prominence - the vulgarization of an
unspeakable tragedy - that my soul abhorred. I confess that I regarded it from my
own unique and selfish point of view. What was a thrilling matter to the world was
a torturing memory to me. The quintessence of the torture was, moreover, my
own secret. It was not the loss of the Lady Jermyn that I could not bear to speak
about; it was my own loss; but the one involved the other. My loss apart,
however, it was plain enough to dwell upon experiences so terrible and yet so
recent as those which I had lived to tell. I did what I considered my duty to the
public, but I certainly did no more. My reticence was rebuked in the papers that
made the most of me, but would fain have made more. And yet I do not think that
I was anything but docile with those who had a manifest right to question me; to
the owners, and to other interested persons, with whom I was confronted on one
pretext or another, I told my tale as fully and as freely as I have told it here,
though each telling hurt more than the last. That was necessary and
unavoidable; it was the private intrusions which I resented with all the spleen the
sea had left me in exchange for the qualities it had taken away.
Relatives I had as few as misanthropist could desire; but from self-congratulation
on the fact, on first landing, I soon came to keen regret. They at least would have
 
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