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The Captain gives Leggatt a gray suit similar to his own to put on. The Captain looks at this man who has just crawled out of the sea with his lantern. He describes him as being about twenty-five years old and quite stern looking, but healthy with good features. The suit he has given him fits him perfectly. When the Captain inquires what brings him here, Leggatt replies, "An ugly business." He then tells the Captain in detail the story of how he killed a member of the ship he was on. The Captain nods his head and says, "Yes, I know. The Sephora." He then goes on to tell him that he had killed the man during a violent storm and that he was not repentant at all for doing it. Although the Captain is somewhat surprised by this revelation, he is not repelled. Since he identifies with this stranger, he can rationalize that Leggatt is not a real murderer. Leggatt begins to describe the murder in detail even though the Captain feels like he was there himself, "inside the other sleeping suit."
Leggatt tells his story in disconnected sentences. He said that it was during a storm that this man's insolence surfaced and Leggatt could not tolerate it. He had caught hold of a man on his ship "Sephora," shaking him fiercely when a large wave rolled on deck. The two did not see it and continued to struggle despite being washed over with water. When Leggatt regained consciousness, he realized that he had strangled the man. He heard the voice of the old man saying, "You can act no more as the chief mate of this ship."
As soon as Leggatt confesses his crime, the Captain murmurs, "A pretty thing to have to own up for a Conway boy." The Captain had left the Conway school very shortly before Leggatt arrived and so he identifies with this man who he sees as a darker yet more confident other as being on the same intellectual and social scale. He feels for Leggatt a mysterious and compelling identification and affinity with him. This allegiance is compounded by several elements: the Captain's extreme youth, the fact that he is embarking on his first command, and that he is feeling isolated on the ship. All of these qualities make him amenable to this repressed side of himself, his secret sharer.
Leggatt's version of the murder reveals his inability to feel any remorse for his actions. By a remote possibility the sailor could have been drowned in the giant wave yet the savagery with which Leggatt strangled the man affirms that he wanted to kill him. Although Leggatt murdered this man, his bravery in setting the foresail saved all the men on board from certain death. Consequently, a question of whether the death of one is balanced by the survival of the remainder should exonerate Leggatt from his crime is a legitimate one. Still, the murder was committed in a fit of temper, a blind rage. This should cause the reader to suspect that there is something wild or savage about Leggatt, which he does not reveal in his version of the story and which the Captain accepts as a matter of course.
That he does not react to Leggatt's crime with unduly moral judgment reveals how he is willing to abandon his ethics in order to assuage his anxieties. Leggatt has gone against the code of honor on the sea by committing a murder. This should be punished by death yet the Captain exonerates and even sympathizes with his plight. Leggatt provides a strong enough argument to persuade the Captain that what he did was right and the Captain fills in the necessary facts to complete the picture of Leggatt's justification for murder. The reader too is swayed by the Captain's sanctioning of this fugitive and gives him the benefit of the doubt.
The emphasis on the psychological phenomena of alter egos is surely the most obvious and important part of the story that Conrad develops. The Captain stresses the resemblance both physically and psychologically between the Captain and the fugitive Leggatt, yet the reader does not know if this is true or if the Captain is projecting these similarities onto Leggatt. The parallel descriptions of the two men, the use of doubling, and affinity between the two that is inexplicable reveals how one must accept one's duality in order to attain a complete sense of self. That Leggatt exists is beyond question as will be seen in the second part with the appearance of the Sephora's captain who is looking for him, but whether or not he is as similar as the Captain ascertains is in doubt. The Captain is lonely as well as anxious and lacking authority among his crewmen as well as within himself, therefore he is vulnerable and seeks solace in Leggatt as they are both "outcasts." His encounter with Leggatt helps him achieve the confidence and understanding that he needs to do his job sufficiently.