The Secret Sharer
The skipper of the Sephora had a thin red whisker all round his face, and the sort of
complexion that goes with hair of that color; also the particular, rather smeary shade of
blue in the eyes. He was not exactly a showy figure; his shoulders were high, his stature
but middling--one leg slightly more bandy than the other. He shook hands, looking
vaguely around. A spiritless tenacity was his main characteristic, I judged. I behaved with
a politeness which seemed to disconcert him. Perhaps he was shy. He mumbled to me as
if he were ashamed of what he was saying; gave his name (it was something like
Archbold-- but at this distance of years I hardly am sure), his ship's name, and a few other
particulars of that sort, in the manner of a criminal making a reluctant and doleful
confession. He had had terrible weather on the passage out--terrible--terrible-- wife
By this time we were seated in the cabin and the steward brought in a tray with a bottle
and glasses. "Thanks! No." Never took liquor. Would have some water, though. He drank
two tumblerfuls. Terrible thirsty work. Ever since daylight had been exploring the islands
round his ship.
"What was that for--fun?" I asked, with an appearance of polite interest.
"No!" He sighed. "Painful duty."
As he persisted in his mumbling and I wanted my double to hear every word, I hit upon
the notion of informing him that I regretted to say I was hard of hearing.
"Such a young man, too!" he nodded, keeping his smeary blue, unintelligent eyes
fastened upon me. "What was the cause of it-- some disease?" he inquired, without the
least sympathy and as if he thought that, if so, I'd got no more than I deserved.
"Yes; disease," I admitted in a cheerful tone which seemed to shock him. But my point
was gained, because he had to raise his voice to give me his tale. It is not worth while to
record his version. It was just over two months since all this had happened, and he had
thought so much about it that he seemed completely muddled as to its bearings, but still
"What would you think of such a thing happening on board your own ship? I've had the
Sephora for these fifteen years. I am a well-known shipmaster."
He was densely distressed--and perhaps I should have sympathized with him if I had been
able to detach my mental vision from the unsuspected sharer of my cabin as though he
were my second self. There he was on the other side of the bulkhead, four or five feet
from us, no more, as we sat in the saloon. I looked politely at Captain Archbold (if that
was his name), but it was the other I saw, in a gray sleeping suit, seated on a low stool,