'So these two lascars stuck to the helm of that ship without steerage-way, where death would have found them if such had been their destiny. The whites did not give them half a glance, had probably forgotten their existence. Assuredly Jim did not remember it. He remembered he could do nothing; he could do nothing, now he was alone. There was nothing to do but to sink with the ship. No use making a disturbance about it. Was there? He waited upstanding, without a sound, stiffened in the idea of some sort of heroic discretion. The first engineer ran cautiously across the bridge to tug at his sleeve.
'"Come and help! For God's sake, come and help!"
'He ran back to the boat on the points of his toes, and returned directly to worry at his sleeve, begging and cursing at the same time.
'"I believe he would have kissed my hands," said Jim savagely, "and, next moment, he starts foaming and whispering in my face, 'If I had the time I would like to crack your skull for you.' I pushed him away. Suddenly he caught hold of me round the neck. Damn him! I hit him. I hit out without looking. 'Won't you save your own life — you infernal coward?' he sobs. Coward! He called me an infernal coward! Ha! ha! ha! ha! He called me — ha! ha! ha! . . ."
'He had thrown himself back and was shaking with laughter. I had never in my life heard anything so bitter as that noise. It fell like a blight on all the merriment about donkeys, pyramids, bazaars, or what not. Along the whole dim length of the gallery the voices dropped, the pale blotches of faces turned our way with one accord, and the silence became so profound that the clear tinkle of a teaspoon falling on the tesselated floor of the verandah rang out like a tiny and silvery scream.
'"You mustn't laugh like this, with all these people about," I remonstrated. "It isn't nice for them, you know."
'He gave no sign of having heard at first, but after a while, with a stare that, missing me altogether, seemed to probe the heart of some awful vision, he muttered carelessly — "Oh! they'll think I am drunk."
'And after that you would have thought from his appearance he would never make a sound again. But — no fear! He could no more stop telling now than he could have stopped living by the mere exertion of his will.'