Summary and Analysis
Part 2: Chapter 5
After three weeks of entertaining "plain Mr. Jones" and his secretary, Schomberg decides that he must get rid of these two. He knows they are armed. A week ago, at his insistence, Mrs. Schomberg had searched their luggage and found a supply of knives and revolvers. He curses and blusters trying to make up his mind to confront the unwelcome guests and bid them be gone.
Schomberg still suffers torments when he thinks of the girl who has run off with Heyst. Life, at times, seems scarcely worth living. Would it matter much if the villains did shoot him, he wonders.
In this demoralized condition, he lets matters take their own course. He notices that Jones and Ricardo are engaging guests of the hotel as well as local people in gambling for money. One evening, after the hotel is empty, he questions the men and discovers that they intend to stay at least another month. The men act so menacing that Schomberg is terrified and blurts out that he wants no scandal at his hotel.
"You can't help yourself," Jones says, and threatens him with grave trouble should he try to get rid of them. "You don't think by any chance that you have to do with ordinary people, do you?"
Schomberg tries to put up a courageous appearance, but Jones tells him that Ricardo would think nothing of burning down "this house of entertainment." He remarks that he and Ricardo once held a whole town at bay, in Venezuela, and got away with their plunder, too.
The spectral looks of plain Mr. Jones and the catlike ferocity of "the man ambiguously called Ricardo" frighten the last vestige of courage from the hotelkeeper. He babbles that he cares little what they do and even suggests that they carry his wife "off with you somewhere to the devil." At this mention of Mrs. Schomberg, Mr. Jones has a horrified recoil, "chair and all," as if Schomberg had thrust a "wriggling viper in his face."
The result of Schomberg's brave effort to protect himself is that he hands over the key to his entertainment house to the two desperadoes and allows them to use their own servant, Pedro, to serve drinks to the gamblers who gather there.
Schomberg tries to tell Jones and Ricardo of his trouble with Heyst, but they refuse to listen.
This chapter characterizes the three villains and further develops Schomberg. The effect the three desperadoes have on the hotelkeeper reveals not only their elemental evil but also Schomberg's cowardice. He is "a tame man and none of the three can bear anything tame."
Conrad brings forward all his powers of vivid description and subtle suggestion to exhibit them in the fullness of their satanic splendor.
Mr. Jones: ". . . turned his hollow eyes on one, like an incurious spectre." "He looked remarkably like a corpse for a moment." ". . . two dark caverns under Mr. Jones' devilish eyebrows." ". . . an insolent spectre on leave from Hades, endowed with skin and bones and a subtle power of terror."
Ricardo: ". . . suddenly retracted his lips and exhibited his teeth." ". . . only too anxious to leap upon him with teeth and claws." "His moustaches stirred by themselves in an odd feline manner." ". . . a stealthy, deliberate wildcat turned into a man."
Pedro: ". . . just a simple, straight-forward brute, if a murderous one. Pedro with his fangs, his tangled beard and queer stare of his little bear's eyes was, by comparison, delightfully natural."
The reader learns in this chapter that Ricardo is traveling under an assumed name. Jones is, of course, an alias. Both these rascals have been forced for reasons of self-preservation to change their names.