Captain Cai’s sea-chest had been conveyed to the Ship Inn, Trafalgar Square (so called—as the landlord, Mr Oke, will inform you—after the famous battle of that name), and there he designed to lodge while his friend and he furnished their new quarters.
His bed, a four-poster, was luxurious indeed after his old bunk in the Hannah Hoo, and he betook himself to it early. Yet he did not sleep well. For some while sleep was forbidden by a confusion of voices in the bar-parlour downstairs; then, after a brief lull, the same voices started exchanging good-nights in the square without; and finally, when the rest had dispersed, two belated townsmen lingered in private conversation, now walking a few paces to and fro on the cobbles, but ever returning to anchorage under a street lamp beneath his window. By-and-by the town lamplighter came along, turned off the gas-jet and wished the two gossips good-night, adding that the weather was extraordinary for the time of year; but still they lingered. Captain Cai, worried by the murmur of their voices, climbed out of bed to close the window. His hand was outstretched to do so when, through the open sash, he caught a few articulate words—a fragment of a sentence.
Said one—speaking low but earnestly—“If I should survive my wife, as I hope to do—”
Unwilling to play the eavesdropper, or to startle them by shutting the window, Captain Cai very delicately withdrew, climbed back into bed, and drew the edge of the bedclothes over his ear. Soon he was asleep; but, even as he dropped off, the absurd phrase wove itself into the midnight chime from the church tower and passed on to weave itself into his dreams and vex them. “If I should survive my wife—” In his dreams he was back in Troy, indeed, and yet among foreigners. They spoke in English, too; but they conversed with one another, not with him, as though he might overhear but could not be expected to understand. One dream—merely ludicrous when he awoke and recalled it—gave him real distress while it lasted. In it he saw half a dozen townsmen—Barber Toy, Landlord Oke, the Quaymaster, and Mr Philp among them—gathered around the mound of sand on the Quay, solemnly playing a child’s game with his tall hat. Mr Philp took it from the Quaymaster’s head, transferred it to his own, and, lifting it by the brim, said reverently, “If I should survive my wife,” &c., to pass it on to the barber, who recited the same formula to the same ritual. In the middle of the sandheap was a pit, which appeared to be somebody’s grave; and somewhere in the background, on the far side of the pit, stood Mrs Bosenna and Tabb’s girl together, the one watching with a queer smile, while the other kept repeating, “He’s going to hell. He couldn’t change his habits, and it’s high time the Quay was improved.”
From this dream Captain Cai awoke in a sweat, and though the rest of the night yielded none so terrifying, his sleep was fitful and unrefreshing. The return of day brought with it a sense of oppression, of a load on his mind, of a task to be performed.