The Captain and the Enemy, p.1Graham Greene
About the Book
About the Author
Also by Graham Greene
About the Book
A young boy, Victor, is collected from school by a stranger in a bowler hat - the stranger says he has won Victor in a game of backgammon with Victor’s father. The stranger, known as the Captain, takes Victor to live with the sweet but withdrawn Lisa, where he serves as her conduit to the outside world. From mysterious beginnings, Graham Greene’s final novel becomes a twisting thriller of smuggling, jewel theft and international espionage which culminates in a dramatic showdown in Panama.
About the Author
Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on The Times. He established his reputation with his fourth novel, Stamboul Train. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in Journey Without Maps, and on his return was appointed film critic of the Spectator. In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote The Lawless Roads and, later, his famous novel The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the Spectator. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel The Heart of the Matter, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography – A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape and A World of My Own (published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections Reflections and Mornings in the Dark. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and The Third Man was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.
ALSO BY GRAHAM GREENE
The Man Within
It’s a Battlefield
A Gun for Sale
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The Thid Man
The End of the Affair
The Quiet American
A Burnt-Out Case
Travels With My Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva or
The Bomb Party
The Tenth Man
England Made Me
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Loser Takes All
Our Man in Havana
The Human Factor
The Honorary Consul
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
The Lawless Roads
Journey Without Maps
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Mornings in the Dark
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
World of my Own
Lord Rochester’s Monkey
An Impossible Woman
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine
Graham Greene’s backlist titles are now available as ebooks.
Please visit www.randomhouse.co.uk to find out more.
with all the memories
we share of nearly thirty
The Captain and
‘Will you be sure to know
the good side from the bad,
the Captain from the enemy?’
George A. Birmingham
I AM NOW in my twenty-second year and yet the only birthday which I can clearly distinguish among all the rest is my twelfth, for it was on that damp and misty day in September I met the Captain for the first time. I can still remember the wetness of the gravel under my gym shoes in the school quad and how the blown leaves made the cloisters by the chapel slippery as I ran recklessly to escape from my enemies between one class and the next. I slithered and came to an abrupt halt while my pursuers went whistling away, because there in the middle of the quad stood our formidable headmaster talking to a tall man in a bowler hat, a rare sight already at that date, so that he looked a little like an actor in costume – an impression not so far wrong, for I never saw him in a bowler hat again. He carried a walking-stick over his shoulder at the slope like a soldier with a rifle. I had no idea who he might be, nor, of course, did I know how he had won me the previous night, or so he was to claim, in a backgammon game with my father.
I slid so far that I landed on my knees at the two men’s feet, and when I picked myself up the headmaster was glaring at me from under his heavy eyebrows. I heard him say, ‘I think this is the one you want – Baxter Three. Are you Baxter Three?’
‘Yes, sir,’ I said.
The man, whom I would never come to know by any more permanent name than the Captain, said, ‘What does Three indicate?’
‘He is the youngest of three Baxters,’ the headmaster said, ‘but not one of them is related by blood.’
‘That puts me in a bit of a quandary,’ the Captain said. ‘For which of them is the Baxter I want? The Christian name, unlikely as it may sound, is Victor. Victor Baxter – the names don’t pair very well.’
‘We have little occasion here for Christian names. Are you called Victor Baxter?’ the headmaster inquired of me sharply.
‘Yes, sir,’ I said after some hesitation, for I was reluctant to admit to a name which I had tried unsuccessfully to conceal from my fellows. I knew very well that Victor for some obscure reason was one of the unacceptable names, like Vincent or Marmaduke.
‘Well then, I suppose that this is the Baxter you want, sir. Your face needs washing, boy.’
The stern morality of the school prevented me from telling the headmaster that it had been quite clean until my enemies had splashed it with ink. I saw the Captain regarding me with brown, friendly and what I came to learn later from hearsay, unreliable eyes. He had such deep black hair that it might well have been dyed and a long thin nose which reminded me of a pair of scissors left partly ajar, as though his nose was preparing to trim the military moustache just below it. I thought that he winked at me, but I could hardly believe it. In my experience grown-ups did not wink, except at each other.
‘This gentleman is an old boy, Baxter,’ the headmaster said, ‘a contemporary of your father’s he tells me.’
‘He has asked permission to take you out this afternoon. He has brought me a note from your father, and as today is a half holiday, I see no reason why I shouldn’t give my consent, but you must be back at your house by six. He understands that.’
‘You can go now.’
I turned my back and began to make for the classroom where I was overdue.
‘I meant go with this gentleman, Baxter Three. What class do you miss?’
‘He means Divinity,’ the headmaster told the Captain. He glared at the door across the quad from which wild sounds were emerging, and he swept his black gown back over his shoulder. ‘From what I can hear you will miss little by not attending.’ He began to make great muffled strides towards the door. His boots – he always wore boots – made no more sound than carpet slippers.
‘What’s going on in there?’ the Captain asked.
‘I think they are slaying the Amalekites,’ I said.
‘Are you an Amalekite?’
‘Then we’d better be off.’
He was a stranger, but I felt no fear of him at all. Strangers were not dangerous. They had no such power as the headmaster or my fellow pupils. A stranger is not a permanency. One can easily shed a stranger. My mother had died a few years back – I could not even then have said how long before; time treads at quite a different pace when one is a child. I had seen her on her deathbed, pale and calm, like a figure on a tomb, and when she hadn’t responded to my formal kiss on her forehead, I realized with no great shock of grief that she had gone to join the angels. At that time, before I went to school, my only fear was of my father who, according to what my mother told me, had long since attached himself to the opposing party up there where she had gone. ‘Your father is a devil,’ she was very fond of telling me, and her eyes would lose their habitual boredom and light suddenly up for a moment like a gas cooker.
My father, I do remember that, came to the funeral dressed top to toe in black; he had a beard which went well with the suit, and I looked for the tail under his coat, but I couldn’t perceive one, although this did little to reassure me. I had not seen him very often before the day of the funeral, nor after, for he seldom came to my home, if you could call the flat in a semidetached house named The Laurels near Richmond Park where I began to live after my mother’s death, a home. It was at the buffet party which followed the funeral that I now believe he plied my mother’s sister with sherry until she promised to provide a shelter for me during the school holidays.
My aunt was quite an agreeable but very boring woman and understandably she had never married. She too referred to my father as the Devil on the few occasions when she spoke of him, and I began to feel a distinct respect for him, even though I feared him, for to have a devil in the family was after all a kind of distinction. An angel one had to take on trust, but the Devil in the words of my prayer book ‘roamed the world like a raging lion’, which made me think that perhaps it was for that reason my father spent so much more time in Africa than in Richmond. Now after so many years have passed I begin to wonder whether he was not quite a good man in his own way, something which I would hesitate to say of the Captain who had won me from him at backgammon, or so he said.
‘Where shall we go now?’ the Captain asked me. ‘I hadn’t expected you to be released as easily as all that. I thought there would be a lot of papers to sign – there are nearly always papers to be signed in my experience. It’s too early for lunch,’ he added.
‘It’s nearly twelve,’ I said. Bread, jam and tea at eight always left me hungry.
‘My appetite only begins at one, but my thirst is always there at least half an hour before – however twelve is good enough for me – but you are too young to take into a bar.’ He looked me up and down. ‘You would certainly never pass. Why, you are even small for your age.’
‘We could go for a walk,’ I suggested without enthusiasm because walks were a compulsory feature of school life on Sundays and often entailed the slaughter of some Amalekites.
‘There’s the High Street or the Common or the Castle.’
‘I seem to remember on the way from the station that I saw a pub called the Swiss Cottage.’
‘Yes. By the canal.’
‘You could be trusted, I suppose, to stay outside while I swallowed a gin and tonic. I shan’t be long doing that.’
All the same he was away for nearly half an hour and I think now with the wisdom of the years that he must have swallowed at least three.
I loitered by a timber yard close by and stared at the green weeds of the canal. I felt very happy. I was not puzzled at all by the Captain’s arrival, I accepted it. It had just happened like a fine day between two weeks of rain. It was there because it was there. I wondered whether it would be possible to build a raft out of the planks in the yard and float it down towards the sea. A canal of course was not a river, but yet surely a canal would have to end in a river, for we lived – so I understood from my geography classes – on an island and a river always came eventually to the sea. A sail might be made out of my shirt, but there was also the question of provisions for a long journey …
I was deep in thought when the Captain came out of the Swiss Cottage and asked me abruptly, ‘Have you any money?’
I counted out what was left of my last week’s pocket-money which was always paid by my housemaster on Sundays – perhaps because on that day the shops were all closed and out of the range of temptation; even the school tuckshop was not open on Sunday. He little realized what an opportunity Sunday gave for complicated financial operations, for the payment of debts, for the arrangement of forced loans, the calculations of interest, and for the marketing of unwanted possessions.
‘Three and threepence halfpenny,’ I told the Captain. It was not so small a sum in those days before the metric system when money was still relatively stable. The Captain went back into the pub and I began to consider what foreign coinage I would need to take with me on my voyage. I came to the conclusion that pieces of eight would probably prove the most practical.
‘The landlord had no change,’ the Captain explained when he returned.
It did occur to me then that he might himself have run short of money, but when he said, ‘And now for a good lunch at The Swan,’ I knew I must be wrong. Even my aunt had never taken me to The Swan: she would always arrive at the school with home-made sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and with a thermos full of hot milk. ‘I don’t trust meals cooked by strangers,’ she had often told me, and she would add, ‘and from the prices they charge in restaurants, you can tell that they are not honest meals.’
The bar of The Swan was crowded when we arrived and the Captain installed me at a table in an annexe which apparently counted as a restaurant so that the law allowed me to sit there. I could watch him exchanging a few words with the landlord and his precise and authoritative voice carried through all the rumble-tumble of the bar. ‘Two single rooms for the night,’ I heard him say. For a moment I wondered who was going to join him, but my mind drifted off to more interesting things, for never before had I even been in sight of a bar and I was fascinated. Everyone standing there had so much to say and everyone seemed to be in a good humour. I thought of the raft and the long voyage I had planned, and it seemed to me that I had arrived at the other end of the world, in the romantic city of Valparaiso, and that I was carousing with foreign sailors who had sailed the Seven Seas – true, they all wore collars and ties, but perhaps one had to dress up a little if one went ashore in Valparaiso. My imagination was aided by a small barrel on the bar which I supposed must contain rum, and a sword without a scabbard – undoubtedly a cutlass – which was hanging as a decoration above the landlord’s head.
‘A double gin and tonic at the table,’ the Captain was saying, ‘and something fizzy for the boy.’
I thought wi
‘The only film that’s on,’ the landlord said, ‘is a pretty old one. The Daughter of Tarzan it’s called, and I wouldn’t know if it’s suitable or not. There’s a girl who makes love with an ape I believe …’
‘Is there a matinée?’
‘Yes, today’s Saturday, so there’ll be one at two-thirty.’
The Captain came to me at the table. He picked up the menu and told me, ‘Some smoked salmon, I think, for a start. Afterwards would you rather have a pork chop or a lamb cutlet?’ The landlord himself brought us what I supposed was the gin and tonic and a fizzy drink which proved to be orangeade. After he had gone the Captain gave me a short lecture. ‘Remember that it’s never too late to learn from a man like myself who has been around. If you are a bit short of cash – which will often happen when you are my age – never drink at the bar, unless you’ve booked a room first, for otherwise they want their money straightaway. That orange fizz and my gin go on the price of the meal and the cost of that goes on the price of the room.’ What he said meant nothing at all to me then. It was only later that I appreciated the Captain’s foresight and saw that he was trying in his own way to prepare me for a new life.
It was a very good meal we had, though the salmon made me thirsty, and the Captain, seeing me look a little wistfully at my empty glass, ordered me another orangeade. ‘We’ll have to take a walk,’ he said, ‘if only to let the gas escape.’ I was beginning to lose some of the awe I had felt for him and I ventured on a question. ‘Are you a sea captain?’ But no, he said, he didn’t care for the sea, he was an army man. Remembering his loan from me at the Swiss Cottage I waited with some anxiety to see if he would have trouble in paying, but all he did was to take the bill and write his name on it with a number which he explained to me was the number of his room. I noticed that he wrote ‘J. Victor (Capt.)’. It struck me as an odd coincidence that his surname was the same as my Christian one, but at the same time it gave me a comfortable feeling, a feeling that at last I had found a relative whom I could like – one who was neither an angel nor a devil nor an aunt.
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