Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Partner
by [?]

“And that be hanged for a silly yarn. The boatmen here in Westport have been telling this lie to the summer visitors for years. The sort that gets taken out for a row at a shilling a head–and asks foolish questions–must be told something to pass the time away. D’ye know anything more silly than being pulled in a boat along a beach? . . . It’s like drinking weak lemonade when you aren’t thirsty. I don’t know why they do it! They don’t even get sick.”

A forgotten glass of beer stood at his elbow; the locality was a small respectable smoking-room of a small respectable hotel, and a taste for forming chance acquaintances accounts for my sitting up late with him. His great, flat, furrowed cheeks were shaven; a thick, square wisp of white hairs hung from his chin; its waggling gave additional point to his deep utterance; and his general contempt for mankind with its activities and moralities was expressed in the rakish set of his big soft hat of black felt with a large rim, which he kept always on his head.

His appearance was that of an old adventurer, retired after many unholy experiences in the darkest parts of the earth; but I had every reason to believe that he had never been outside England. From a casual remark somebody dropped I gathered that in his early days he must have been somehow connected with shipping–with ships in docks. Of individuality he had plenty. And it was this which attracted my attention at first. But he was not easy to classify, and before the end of the week I gave him up with the vague definition, “an imposing old ruffian.”

One rainy afternoon, oppressed by infinite boredom, I went into the smoking-room. He was sitting there in absolute immobility, which was really fakir-like and impressive. I began to wonder what could be the associations of that sort of man, his “milieu,” his private connections, his views, his morality, his friends, and even his wife–when to my surprise he opened a conversation in a deep, muttering voice.

I must say that since he had learned from somebody that I was a writer of stories he had been acknowledging my existence by means of some vague growls in the morning.

He was essentially a taciturn man. There was an effect of rudeness in his fragmentary sentences. It was some time before I discovered that what he would be at was the process by which stories–stories for periodicals–were produced.

What could one say to a fellow like that? But I was bored to death; the weather continued impossible; and I resolved to be amiable.

“And so you make these tales up on your own. How do they ever come into your head?” he rumbled.

I explained that one generally got a hint for a tale.

“What sort of hint?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, “I got myself rowed out to the rocks the other day. My boatman told me of the wreck on these rocks nearly twenty years ago. That could be used as a hint for a mainly descriptive bit of story with some such title as ‘In the Channel,’ for instance.”

It was then that he flew out at the boatmen and the summer visitors who listen to their tales. Without moving a muscle of his face he emitted a powerful “Rot,” from somewhere out of the depths of his chest, and went on in his hoarse, fragmentary mumble. “Stare at the silly rocks–nod their silly heads [the visitors, I presume]. What do they think a man is–blown-out paper bag or what?–go off pop like that when he’s hit–Damn silly yarn–Hint indeed! . . . A lie?”

You must imagine this statuesque ruffian enhaloed in the black rim of his hat, letting all this out as an old dog growls sometimes, with his head up and staring-away eyes.