Chance by Joseph Conrad

Chance

A Tale in Two Parts

subjects: Romance

Description

Chance is narrated by Conrad’s regular narrator, Charles Marlow, but is characterised by a complex, nested narrative in which different narrators take up the story at different points and attempt to interpret various episodes in the life of Miss de Barral, the daughter of a convicted swindler named Smith de Barral (though this character is famous in the world of the novel as a criminal, he may, at least at first, have been merely an incompetent banker). Miss de Barral leads a sheltered life while her father is prosperous, then must rely on the generosity of others, who resent her or have agendas for her, before she escapes by marrying one Captain Anthony. Much of the book involves the musing of the various narrators over what she and the Captain expected from this union, and what they actually got from it. When her father is released from prison, he joins them on ship, and the book heads towards its denouement (source: Wikipedia)

Excerpt

I believe he had seen us out of the window coming off to dine in the dinghy of a fourteen–ton yawl belonging to Marlow my host and skipper. We helped the boy we had with us to haul the boat up on the landing–stage before we went up to the riverside inn, where we found our new acquaintance eating his dinner in dignified loneliness at the head of a long table, white and inhospitable like a snow bank.

The red tint of his clear–cut face with trim short black whiskers under a cap of curly iron–grey hair was the only warm spot in the dinginess of that room cooled by the cheerless tablecloth. We knew him already by sight as the owner of a little five–ton cutter, which he sailed alone apparently, a fellow yachtsman in the unpretending band of fanatics who cruise at the mouth of the Thames. But the first time he addressed the waiter sharply as ‘steward’ we knew him at once for a sailor as well as a yachtsman.

Presently he had occasion to reprove that same waiter for the slovenly manner in which the dinner was served. He did it with considerable energy and then turned to us.