The ex-Chief Mate of the Sephora, Leggatt is an impulsive man who acts according to his own sense of justice rather than any formalized regulations that attempt to draw a line between right and wrong. While he did kill a man aboard the Sephora, he did so unintentionally after the two became embroiled in a brawl. Because he knows, however, that no judge will spare him the gallows, he decides to escape his confinement on the Sephora and to risk his life searching for a "new destiny."
Conrad draws attention to one of Leggatt's qualities in particular upon his entrance into the story — his physical strength. After being discovered by the Captain (hanging onto the rope ladder), Leggatt informs him that he previously swam to an islet and then to the Captain's ship — a distance of two miles. Conrad's attention to the detail of Leggatt's physical strength reflects his emotional strength as well. Determined never to face an "old fellow in a wig and twelve respectable tradesmen" in court, Leggatt escapes his bondage, fakes his own death, and at the story's end, strikes out for freedom. His strength is inspiring to the Captain, who begins a "secret sharing" of Leggatt's better qualities as the story proceeds.