Summary and Analysis
Part 2: Chapter 4
The business of corrupting Schomberg is accomplished by a guest who arrives one morning from the Celebes. He has, however, been journeying from far places and appears to be a wanderer, even as Heyst. Schomberg, sitting in the stern sheets of his steam launch, sees this visitor first as "a dark sunken stare plunging down at him" from the ship's rail. The cadaverous man favors Schomberg's hotel and boards the launch, together with his "secretary," a burly, pockmarked fellow, and a servant whom his master identifies as "an alligator hunter" from Columbia.
The thin gentleman asks Schomberg how many people he has at his place of an evening. Schomberg admits that he averages twenty or so, and the new guest says he likes a hotel where local people gather. The "secretary" emits a grunt of astonishing ferocity "as if proposing to himself to eat the local people." The gentleman also asks Schomberg if he has women at his hotel. He says women give him the horrors. Schomberg says that his wife is the only woman at the hotel.
On registering his guests, the hotelkeeper discovers their names. The thin gentleman "of depraved distinction" is "plain Mr. Jones," and his pockmarked "secretary" is Martin Ricardo.
They give their occupation as tourists, but Mr. Jones admits that they are sometimes called harder names. The servant is Pedro. "Shall I tell you how I killed his brother in the wilds of Columbia?"
This question, together with Mr. Jones' offhand hardness of manner and his contemptuous tone of voice, troubles Schomberg. He shakes his head in silence and withdraws, not exactly frightened, but puzzled and impressed.
This is an important chapter because it introduces the villains of the story. True, Schomberg is a villain of no small talent, but his petty rages fade into feebleness in comparison with these apparitions from the nether pit. Watch these villains. No more scintillating scoundrels ever invaded the pages of any literary work. They fascinate the reader like unspeakably loathsome insects or foul reptiles never before exposed to the light of human scrutiny.
All hotels in tropical ports such as Sourabaya, Singapore, and Bombay have steam launches which meet all incoming passenger ships in order to persuade guests to come to their hotels. Most hotel managers send trusted servants out with the launch. Since Schomberg went, himself, the reader supposes that his hotel was a small one. This supposition is also supported by the small numbers of guests he reports as regular customers.
Already the characters of the three ruffians begin to emerge. Jones' offhand reference to his murder of Pedro's brother stamps him as a hardened killer.