It was about this time that Heyst became associated with
Morrison on terms about which people were in doubt. Some said he
was a partner, others said he was a sort of paying guest, but the
real truth of the matter was more complex. One day Heyst turned up
in Timor. Why in Timor, of all places in the world, no one knows.
Well, he was mooning about Delli, that highly pestilential place,
possibly in search of some undiscovered facts, when he came in the
street upon Morrison, who, in his way, was also an "enchanted" man.
When you spoke to Morrison of going home—he was from Dorsetshire—he
shuddered. He said it was dark and wet there; that it was like
living with your head and shoulders in a moist gunny-bag. That was
only his exaggerated style of talking. Morrison was "one of us." He
was owner and master of the Capricorn, trading brig, and was
understood to be doing well with her, except for the drawback of
too much altruism. He was the dearly beloved friend of a quantity
of God-forsaken villages up dark creeks and obscure bays, where he
traded for produce. He would often sail, through awfully dangerous
channels up to some miserable settlement, only to find a very
hungry population clamorous for rice, and without so much "produce"
between them as would have filled Morrison's suitcase. Amid general
rejoicings, he would land the rice all the same, explain to the
people that it was an advance, that they were in debt to him now;
would preach to them energy and industry, and make an elaborate
note in a pocket-diary which he always carried; and this would be
the end of that transaction. I don't know if Morrison thought so,
but the villagers had no doubt whatever about it. Whenever a coast
village sighted the brig it would begin to beat all its gongs and
hoist all its streamers, and all its girls would put flowers in
their hair and the crowd would line the river bank, and Morrison
would beam and glitter at all this excitement through his single
eyeglass with an air of intense gratification. He was tall and
lantern-jawed, and clean-shaven, and looked like a barrister who
had thrown his wig to the dogs.
We used to remonstrate with him:
"You will never see any of your advances if you go on like this,
He would put on a knowing air.
"I shall squeeze them yet some day—never you fear. And that
reminds me"—pulling out his inseparable pocketbook—"there's that
So-and-So village. They are pretty well off again; I may just as
well squeeze them to begin with."
He would make a ferocious entry in the pocketbook.
Memo: Squeeze the So-and-So village at the first time of
Then he would stick the pencil back and snap the elastic on with
inflexible finality; but he never began the squeezing. Some men
grumbled at him. He was spoiling the trade. Well, perhaps to a
certain extent; not much. Most of the places he traded with were
unknown not only to geography but also to the traders' special lore
which is transmitted by word of mouth, without ostentation, and
forms the stock of mysterious local knowledge. It was hinted also
that Morrison had a wife in each and every one of them, but the
majority of us repulsed these innuendoes with indignation. He was a
true humanitarian and rather ascetic than otherwise.
When Heyst met him in Delli, Morrison was walking along the
street, his eyeglass tossed over his shoulder, his head down, with
the hopeless aspect of those hardened tramps one sees on our roads
trudging from workhouse to workhouse. Being hailed on the street he
looked up with a wild worried expression. He was really in trouble.
He had come the week before into Delli and the Portuguese
authorities, on some pretence of irregularity in his papers, had
inflicted a fine upon him and had arrested his brig.
Morrison never had any spare cash in hand. With his system of
trading it would have been strange if he had; and all these debts
entered in the pocketbook weren't good enough to raise a millrei
on—let alone a shilling. The Portuguese officials begged him not to
distress himself. They gave him a week's grace, and then proposed
to sell the brig at auction. This meant ruin for Morrison; and when
Heyst hailed him across the street in his usual courtly tone, the
week was nearly out.
Heyst crossed over, and said with a slight bow, and in the
manner of a prince addressing another prince on a private
"What an unexpected pleasure. Would you have any objection to
drink something with me in that infamous wine-shop over there? The
sun is really too strong to talk in the street."
The haggard Morrison followed obediently into a sombre, cool
hovel which he would have distained to enter at any other time. He
was distracted. He did not know what he was doing. You could have
led him over the edge of a precipice just as easily as into that
wine-shop. He sat down like an automaton. He was speechless, but he
saw a glass full of rough red wine before him, and emptied it.
Heyst meantime, politely watchful, had taken a seat opposite.
"You are in for a bout of fever, I fear," he said
Poor Morrison's tongue was loosened at that.
"Fever!" he cried. "Give me fever. Give me plague. They are
diseases. One gets over them. But I am being murdered. I am being
murdered by the Portuguese. The gang here downed me at last among
them. I am to have my throat cut the day after tomorrow."
In the face of this passion Heyst made, with his eyebrows, a
slight motion of surprise which would not have been misplaced in a
drawing-room. Morrison's despairing reserve had broken down. He had
been wandering with a dry throat all over that miserable town of
mud hovels, silent, with no soul to turn to in his distress, and
positively maddened by his thoughts; and suddenly he had stumbled
on a white man, figuratively and actually white—for Morrison
refused to accept the racial whiteness of the Portuguese officials.
He let himself go for the mere relief of violent speech, his elbows
planted on the table, his eyes blood-shot, his voice nearly gone,
the brim of his round pith hat shading an unshaven, livid face. His
white clothes, which he had not taken off for three days, were
dingy. He had already gone to the bad, past redemption. The sight
was shocking to Heyst; but he let nothing of it appear in his
hearing, concealing his impression under that consummate
good-society manner of his. Polite attention, what's due from one
gentleman listening to another, was what he showed; and, as usual,
it was catching; so that Morrison pulled himself together and
finished his narrative in a conversational tone, with a
"It's a villainous plot. Unluckily, one is helpless. That
scoundrel Cousinho—Andreas, you know—has been coveting the brig for
years. Naturally, I would never sell. She is not only my
livelihood; she's my life. So he has hatched this pretty little
plot with the chief of the customs. The sale, of course, will be a
farce. There's no one here to bid. He will get the brig for a
song—no, not even that—a line of a song. You have been some years
now in the islands, Heyst. You know us all; you have seen how we
live. Now you shall have the opportunity to see how some of us end;
for it is the end, for me. I can't deceive myself any longer. You
see it—don't your?"
Morrison had pulled himself together, but one felt the snapping
strain on his recovered self-possession. Heyst was beginning to say
that he "could very well see all the bearings of this unfortunate—"
when Morrison interrupted him jerkily.
"Upon my word, I don't know why I have been telling you all
this. I suppose seeing a thoroughly white man made it impossible to
keep my trouble to myself. Words can't do it justice; but since
I've told you so much I may as well tell you more. Listen. This
morning on board, in my cabin I went down on my knees and prayed
for help. I went down on my knees!"
"You are a believer, Morrison?" asked Heyst with a distinct note
"Surely I am not an infidel."
Morrison was swiftly reproachful in his answer, and there came a
pause, Morrison perhaps interrogating his conscience, and Heyst
preserving a mien of unperturbed, polite interest.
"I prayed like a child, of course. I believe in children
praying—well, women, too, but I rather think God expects men to be
more self-reliant. I don't hold with a man everlastingly bothering
the Almighty with his silly troubles. It seems such cheek. Anyhow,
this morning I—I have never done any harm to any God's creature
knowingly—I prayed. A sudden impulse—I went flop on my knees; so
you may judge—"
They were gazing earnestly into each other's eyes. Poor Morrison
added, as a discouraging afterthought:
"Only this is such a God-forsaken spot."
Heyst inquired with a delicate intonation whether he might know
the amount for which the brig was seized.
Morrison suppressed an oath, and named curtly a sum which was in
itself so insignificant that any other person than Heyst would have
exclaimed at it. And even Heyst could hardly keep incredulity out
of his politely modulated voice as he asked if it was a fact that
Morrison had not that amount in hand.
Morrison hadn't. He had only a little English gold, a few
sovereigns, on board. He had left all his spare cash with the
Tesmans, in Samarang, to meet certain bills which would fall due
while he was away on his cruise. Anyhow, that money would not have
been any more good to him than if it had been in the innermost
depths of the infernal regions. He said all this brusquely. He
looked with sudden disfavour at that noble forehead, at those great
martial moustaches, at the tired eyes of the man sitting opposite
him. Who the devil was he? What was he, Morrison, doing there,
talking like this? Morrison knew no more of Heyst than the rest of
us trading in the Archipelago did. Had the Swede suddenly risen and
hit him on the nose, he could not have been taken more aback than
when this stranger, this nondescript wanderer, said with a little
bow across the table:
"Oh! If that's the case I would be very happy if you'd allow me
to be of use!"
Morrison didn't understand. This was one of those things that
don't happen—unheard of things. He had no real inkling of what it
meant, till Heyst said definitely:
"I can lend you the amount."
"You have the money?" whispered Morrison. "Do you mean here, in
"Yes, on me. Glad to be of use."
Morrison, staring open-mouthed, groped over his shoulder for the
cord of the eyeglass hanging down his back. When he found it, he
stuck it in his eye hastily. It was as if he expected Heyst's usual
white suit of the tropics to change into a shining garment, flowing
down to his toes, and a pair of great dazzling wings to sprout out
on the Swede's shoulders—and didn't want to miss a single detail of
the transformation. But if Heyst was an angle from on high, sent in
answer to prayer, he did not betray his heavenly origin by outward
signs. So, instead of going on his knees, as he felt inclined to
do, Morrison stretched out his hand, which Heyst grasped with
formal alacrity and a polite murmur in which "Trifle—delighted—of
service," could just be distinguished.
"Miracles do happen," thought the awestruck Morrison. To him, as
to all of us in the Islands, this wandering Heyst, who didn't toil
or spin visibly, seemed the very last person to be the agent of
Providence in an affair concerned with money. The fact of his
turning up in Timor or anywhere else was no more wonderful than the
settling of a sparrow on one's window-sill at any given moment. But
that he should carry a sum of money in his pocket seemed somehow
So inconceivable that as they were trudging together through the
sand of the roadway to the custom-house—another mud hovel—to pay
the fine, Morrison broke into a cold sweat, stopped short, and
exclaimed in faltering accents:
"I say! You aren't joking, Heyst?"
"Joking!" Heyst's blue eyes went hard as he turned them on the
discomposed Morrison. "In what way, may I ask?" he continued with
Morrison was abashed.
"Forgive me, Heyst. You must have been sent by God in answer to
my prayer. But I have been nearly off my chump for three days with
worry; and it suddenly struck me: 'What if it's the Devil who has
"I have no connection with the supernatural," said Heyst
graciously, moving on. "Nobody has sent me. I just happened
"I know better," contradicted Morrison. "I may be unworthy, but
I have been heard. I know it. I feel it. For why should you
Heyst inclined his head, as from respect for a conviction in
which he could not share. But he stuck to his point by muttering
that in the presence of an odious fact like this, it was
Later in the day, the fine paid, and the two of them on board
the brig, from which the guard had been removed, Morrison who,
besides, being a gentleman was also an honest fellow began to talk
about repayment. He knew very well his inability to lay by any sum
of money. It was partly the fault of circumstances and partly of
his temperament; and it would have been very difficult to apportion
the responsibility between the two. Even Morrison himself could not
say, while confessing to the fact. With a worried air he ascribed
it to fatality:
"I don't know how it is that I've never been able to save. It's
some sort of curse. There's always a bill or two to meet."
He plunged his hand into his pocket for the famous notebook so
well known in the islands, the fetish of his hopes, and fluttered
the pages feverishly.
"And yet—look," he went on. "There it is—more than five thousand
dollars owing. Surely that's something."
He ceased suddenly. Heyst, who had been all the time trying to
look as unconcerned as he could, made reassuring noises in his
throat. But Morrison was not only honest. He was honourable, too;
and on this stressful day, before this amazing emissary of
Providence and in the revulsion of his feelings, he made his great
renunciation. He cast off the abiding illusion of his
"No. No. They are not good. I'll never be able to squeeze them.
Never. I've been saying for years I would, but I give it up. I
never really believed I could. Don't reckon on that, Heyst. I have
Poor Morrison actually laid his head on the cabin table, and
remained in that crushed attitude while Heyst talked to him
soothingly with the utmost courtesy. The Swede was as much
distressed as Morrison; for he understood the other's feelings
perfectly. No decent feeling was ever scorned by Heyst. But he was
incapable of outward cordiality of manner, and he felt acutely his
defect. Consummate politeness is not the right tonic for an
emotional collapse. They must have had, both of them, a fairly
painful time of it in the cabin of the brig. In the end Morrison,
casting desperately for an idea in the blackness of his
despondency, hit upon the notion of inviting Heyst to travel with
him in his brig and have a share in his trading ventures up to the
amount of his loan.
It is characteristic of Heyst's unattached, floating existence
that he was in a position to accept this proposal. There is no
reason to think that he wanted particularly just then to go poking
aboard the brig into all the holes and corners of the Archipelago
where Morrison picked up most of his trade. Far from it; but he
would have consented to almost any arrangement in order to put an
end to the harrowing scene in the cabin. There was at once a great
transformation act: Morrison raising his diminished head, and
sticking the glass in his eye to looked affectionately at Heyst, a
bottle being uncorked, and so on. It was agreed that nothing should
be said to anyone of this transaction. Morrison, you understand,
was not proud of the episode, and he was afraid of being
"An old bird like me! To let myself be trapped by those damned
Portuguese rascals! I should never hear the last of it. We must
keep it dark."
From quite other motives, among which his native delicacy was
the principal, Heyst was even more anxious to bind himself to
silence. A gentleman would naturally shrink from the part of
heavenly messenger that Morrison would force upon him. It made
Heyst uncomfortable, as it was. And perhaps he did not care that it
should be known that he had some means, whatever they might have
been—sufficient, at any rate, to enable him to lend money to
people. These two had a duet down there, like conspirators in a
comic opera, of "Sh—ssh, shssh! Secrecy! Secrecy!" It must have
been funny, because they were very serious about it.
And for a time the conspiracy was successful in so far that we
all concluded that Heyst was boarding with the good-natured—some
said: sponging on the imbecile—Morrison, in his brig. But you know
how it is with all such mysteries. There is always a leak
somewhere. Morrison himself, not a perfect vessel by any means, was
bursting with gratitude, and under the stress he must have let out
something vague—enough to give the island gossip a chance. And you
know how kindly the world is in its comments on what it does not
understand. A rumour sprang out that Heyst, having obtained some
mysterious hold on Morrison, had fastened himself on him and was
sucking him dry. Those who had traced these mutters back to their
origin were very careful not to believe them. The originator, it
seems, was a certain Schomberg, a big, manly, bearded creature of
the Teutonic persuasion, with an ungovernable tongue which surely
must have worked on a pivot. Whether he was a Lieutenant of the
Reserve, as he declared, I don't know. Out there he was by
profession a hotel-keeper, first in Bangkok, then somewhere else,
and ultimately in Sourabaya. He dragged after him up and down that
section of the tropical belt a silent, frightened, little woman
with long ringlets, who smiled at one stupidly, showing a blue
tooth. I don't know why so many of us patronized his various
establishments. He was a noxious ass, and he satisfied his lust for
silly gossip at the cost of his customers. It was he who, one
evening, as Morrison and Heyst went past the hotel—they were not
his regular patrons—whispered mysteriously to the mixed company
assembled on the veranda:
"The spider and the fly just gone by, gentlemen." Then, very
important and confidential, his thick paw at the side of his mouth:
"We are among ourselves; well, gentlemen, all I can say is, I don't
you ever get mixed up with that Swede. Don't you ever get caught in