My lack of excitement, of curiosity, of surprise, of any sort of
pronounced interest, began to arouse his distrust. But except for the
felicitous pretense of deafness I had not tried to pretend anything. I
had felt utterly incapable of playing the part of ignorance properly,
and therefore was afraid to try. It is also certain that he had brought
some ready-made suspicions with him, and that he viewed my politeness
as a strange and unnatural phenomenon. And yet how else could I have
received him? Not heartily! That was impossible for psychological
reasons, which I need not state here. My only object was to keep off his
inquiries. Surlily? Yes, but surliness might have provoked a point-blank
question. From its novelty to him and from its nature, punctilious
courtesy was the manner best calculated to restrain the man. But there
was the danger of his breaking through my defense bluntly. I could
not, I think, have met him by a direct lie, also for psychological (not
moral) reasons. If he had only known how afraid I was of his putting
my feeling of identity with the other to the test! But, strangely
enough--(I thought of it only afterwards)--I believe that he was not
a little disconcerted by the reverse side of that weird situation, by
something in me that reminded him of the man he was seeking--suggested a
mysterious similitude to the young fellow he had distrusted and disliked
from the first.
However that might have been, the silence was not very prolonged. He
took another oblique step.
"I reckon I had no more than a two-mile pull to your ship. Not a bit
"And quite enough, too, in this awful heat," I said.
Another pause full of mistrust followed. Necessity, they say, is mother
of invention, but fear, too, is not barren of ingenious suggestions. And
I was afraid he would ask me point-blank for news of my other self.