Captain Nemo and myself.
I closed the book, leaned back with a sigh. Immediately, Raffles’ eyes were upon me from the other armchair, where he was curled up like a cat, his own book discarded on the armrest.
“What did you think?”
His tone was casual; but I knew better, and concealed a smile. It was no secret to me that the book was a personal favourite of his, and had been since long before he could have been able to understand half of it. The copy he had provided me with was the same which used to decorate the shelf in his room back in the old school; and it was, though lovingly preserved, worn at the edges, and had a binding which had the loose quality of having been opened and closed frequently over the years. It was not by chance that he had put this book into my hands when I complained over having nothing to read; and I knew it was no mild interest that lay behind his question now. Luckily, I need not disappoint him.
“I loved it,” I said earnestly.
His eyes lit up.
I contemplated for a moment. He waited patiently.
“Isolating yourself from the structured world,” I said at last, weighing my words, “or, rather, renouncing it; and claiming another for your own… one where you can be your own master, make your own laws, without interference—or nearly without, at least. It is… a fascinating idea.” It had produced a certain feeling of recognition within me, one I found was difficult to pinpoint; but the look in Raffles’ eyes told me that he knew it too. “I can see why it is worth fighting for. Not to mention the adventures,” I added, “and the discoveries they offer. I never before imagined such a rich world within our own.”
Raffles put his hands behind his head and leaned back.
“Ah,” he sighed, “the immeasurable treasures of the ocean. That is something you and I have yet to discover.”
“As amazing at it sounds, I think I’d do better on dry land.”
“I always thought,” said he, “that if I had the chance, I would board that ship within the blink of an eye. Society be damned.”
I looked at him as he lay back, staring up at the ceiling with a dreamy look in his eyes; seeing wonders beyond what was possible, but that were not yet deemed impossibilities in that mind of his.
“He reminded me of you,” said I, before I could stop myself.
He looked at me, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
“No—no.” Rather, I had recognised myself too frequently in the professor. “Nemo.”
Raffles sat up, fixing his eyes on me with a curious look.
“I don’t know, only…” I struggled to find the words. “His pride, I suppose. His determination. Cunning, capability. Grace.” I blushed. “Just… a number of things. Apart from the revenge-seeking part, of course,” I added.
“Apart from that, eh?” An impish smile appeared on his lips. “You don’t think me capable of revenge?”
I stopped to think for a second.
“Well, yes,” I said; then continued eagerly, “but to be so consumed by it, to close yourself off from the world, to sacrifice everything and seek only that—”
“He sought more things.”
“Of course—but still, was happiness one he found? It seems so… pointless.”
Raffles looked at me intently for a moment. His eyes had gone a tranquil blue; the smile was faded.
“I would,” he said then, leaning back again. “Pointless or not—if someone caused you—or anyone else I loved—harm, I would not rest until justice was served. I could not.”
“Justice is one thing,” I said, trying to appear unmoved—though my heart had skipped a beat at the casual confession.
“But you would not go further than that.”
“I don’t think I’m capable.”
“Would you not be capable if you were a desperate man? If all was taken away? If you lost your one true love?”
He made the last part sound like it was said in jest, but I suspected it was quite the opposite. I looked at the raven curls, and into the blue eyes that were deeper than any sea, and held just as many secrets.
“Perhaps I would, after all,” I said at last.
The eyes flickered, before disappearing below dark lashes. He fingered on the spine of the novel beside him for a brief moment; then he looked up, carefree and smiling again.
“Well, let’s hope it never comes to it,” he laughed, “and that we may search the depths in peace.”