I HAVE said that the story of Flora de Barral was imparted to me in stages. At this stage I did not see Marlow for some time. At last, one evening rather early, very soon after dinner, he turned up in my rooms.
I had been waiting for his call primed with a remark which had not occurred to me till after he had gone away.
"I say," I tackled him at once, "how can you be certain that Flora de Barral ever went to sea? After all, the wife of the Captain of the Ferndale--' the lady that mustn't be disturbed' of the old ship-keeper--may not have been Flora."
"Well, I do know," he said, "if only because I have been keeping in touch with Mr. Powell."
"You have!" I cried. "This is the first I hear of it. And since when?"
"Why, since the first day. You went up to town leaving me in the inn. I slept ashore. In the morning Mr. Powell came in for breakfast; and after the first awkwardness of meeting a man you have been yarning with over-night had worn off, we discovered a liking for each other."
As I had discovered the fact of their mutual liking before either of them, I was not surprised.
"And so you kept in touch," I said.
"It was not so very difficult. As he was always knocking about the river I hired Dingle's sloop-rigged three-tonner to be more on an equality. Powell was