Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapter 2
One day, Heyst turns up in Timor and meets, on the streets of Delli, a Dorsetshire Englishman, Captain Morrison of the trading brig Capricorn. Morrison is in grave trouble. The Portuguese port authorities have inflicted a fine on him and arrested his brig. If he fails to raise the money in one week's time, they will sell the Capricorn at auction, ruining Morrison. The week is almost up.
With the utmost courtesy, "as one prince to another," Heyst begs Morrison to allow him to pay the fine. Morrison's intense gratitude and relief embarrass Heyst. Later, onboard the brig, Morrison figures that he can never repay Heyst and declares that he has robbed his benefactor. Heyst is deeply touched.
At last Morrison hits on the plan of taking Heyst with him as a partner on the Capricorn until the debt is paid. Both men agree to keep the matter secret. Morrison is embarrassed and doesn't want to be joked about his trouble with the Portuguese authorities. Heyst's "natural delicacy" makes him eager to maintain silence. Morrison's intense gratitude, however, leads to some small remark which sets the island gossips whispering. An opinion wins wide circulation that Heyst has leached onto the generous Morrison and is sucking him dry.
The origin of these vicious suggestions is Schomberg, the hotelkeeper in Sourabaya, a big, bearded German with a suspicious mind and a slanderous tongue. He styles himself a lieutenant of the Reserve.
On seeing Heyst and Morrison pass his hotel one day, he remarks to his guests, "The Spider and the fly have just gone by, gentlemen." Then he cautions them, in an important and confidential tone, never to get mixed up with "that Swede."
Morrison is "one of us." Heyst is not. Throughout this chapter, Conrad emphasizes Heyst's consummate courtesy:
". . . a prince addressing another prince."
"A slight motion of surprise which would not have been misplaced in a drawing-room . . ."
". . . that consummate good-society manner of his . . . with a delicate intonation . . ."
"His politely modulated voice . . ."
"He continued with austere politeness . . ."
Conrad presents Heyst as a man who masked his detachment from life with princely courtesy and playful politeness. Yet he is a "hollow" man, incapable of real cordiality.
In this chapter, Conrad sets the pattern of behavior which will bring calamity upon Heyst. He comes out of his isolation and is moved by pity to perform a kind act for a fellow human being, but he is able to give only politeness — never real warmth.