(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Twilight is falling through the window of a long, gloomy room. In the gathering darkness, a woman asks her companion, a man of the sea, for a tale. He begins, awkwardly, deliberately, reminding her that what he is about to relate is a story of duty, war, and horror.

During the early days of the “bad” war, a commanding officer—the narrator himself—is taking his ship past a dangerous rocky coast. The weather is foul, a thick, impenetrable fog obscuring the coast so that the commanding officer can see nothing and can only sense the danger before him. What he can see is small flotsam, perhaps cargo from a ship sunk by an enemy submarine reported to be near. The officer suspects that the cargo may be intended for the enemy, left there for the submarine by another ship. He knows that certain supposedly neutral ships have violated their neutrality for profit and that one of these may be close by.

As the fog thickens, the commanding officer orders the ship to be brought closer to land and to lower anchor in the shadow of the coast and wait for the weather to clear. Here he sees another ship, sitting quietly at anchor, as if in hiding. He begins to wonder if this ship is an innocent neutral or if, indeed, it is guilty of providing the submarine with supplies. Does it intend to sneak out when the fog lifts?

Alarmed yet puzzled by his suspicions, the commanding officer boards the mysterious cargo ship. The master, a Northman, is...

(The entire section is 513 words.)