The Narrow Corner, xxiv

Maugham’s just writing a scene from a play this chapter. The doctor and the captain are playing cards, maybe drinking. Enter Erik the Dane. Through dialogue, the captain unintentionally informs Erik the Dane his presumed betrothed is maybe off cavorting with Fred the fugitive. The doctor watches passively. Once Erik the Dane leaves, the captain points out the doctor finds his callous way of talking about women (and the world in general) amuses the doctor. The doctor doesn’t really disagree. There’s then some more about Fred the fugitive possibly being on the lamb and scene. It’s another nimble chapter, extremely so this time. And it’s hard not to see the captain’s bemused observation about the doctor’s passive watching of the events and his behavior as a commentary on the readers themselves. We’ve gotten to chapter twenty-four and know the captain to be a scoundrel, Fred the fugitive to be possibly worse, and we still allow ourselves to be amused by their antics.

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