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(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XI; published 1892) Passage 176

“Well,” returned Nares, with the same unamiable reserve, “for a reason, which I guess you know, the cruise may suit me; but there's a point or two to settle. We shall have to talk, Mr. Pinkerton. But whether I go or not, somebody will; there's no sense in losing time; and you might give Mr. Johnson a note, let him take the hands right down, and set to to overhaul the rigging. The beasts look sober,” he added, with an air of great disgust, “and need putting to work to keep them so.”

This being agreed upon, Nares watched his subordinate depart and drew a visible breath. “And now we're alone and can talk,” said he. “What's this thing about? It's been advertised like Barnum's museum; that poster of yours has set the Front talking; that's an objection in itself, for I'm laying a little dark just now; and anyway, before I take the ship, I require to know what I'm going after.”

Thereupon Pinkerton gave him the whole tale, beginning with a businesslike precision, and working himself up, as he went on, to the boiling-point of narrative enthusiasm. Nares sat and smoked, hat still on head, and acknowledged each fresh feature of the story with a frowning nod. But his pale blue eyes betrayed him, and lighted visibly.

What do you take I'm laying a little dark to mean in this context? I think it's slang and it has to be I'm lying a little dark.

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  • 1
    Seems to say "I am sitting in the dark about What's this thing about?" Oct 3, 2023 at 13:19
  • 2
    This might actually need more of Nares' circumstances. I suspect it means "laying low" (keeping a low profile, being secretive) and he's wary of joining a well-publicised expedition. But without knowing what Nares is actually doing (which needs knowledge of the story) it's difficult to say.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 3, 2023 at 13:48
  • Green's dictionary of slang gives a few meanings of "dark": either "ignorant" or "hidden" is possible. The fact that he's worried that people are talking suggests the latter; the fact that he admits to needing to know stuff suggests the former.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 3, 2023 at 14:16

1 Answer 1

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It is the same "Dark" as in

OED Dark II.11.a.

Hidden from view or knowledge; concealed; kept secret. Frequently in to keep (something) dark: to keep (something) concealed; to keep secret.

1608 We will expresse our darker purposes..know we haue diuided In three, our kingdome. W. Shakespeare, King Lear i. 37

1861 He hid himself..kept himself dark. C. Dickens, Great Expectations vol. III. xi. 176

I'm laying a little dark = I am keeping a low profile; I am not drawing attention to myself; I am avoiding being noticed, etc.

The verb to lay is used merely to indicate keeping out of sight - low down.

Little is understatement

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  • @ Greybeard - Thank you very much indeed. "I'm laying a little dark = I am keeping a low profile; I am not drawing attention to myself; I am avoiding being noticed, etc." - Could you post the link of the source of this line, please.
    – philphil
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:24
  • "Could you post the link of the source of this line, please." I am at a loss... what do you mean? You gave the source: From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XI; published 1892
    – Greybeard
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:40
  • @ Greybeard - Sorry, misapprehension :)! I surmised you had found a source yourself, e.g. in the OED. That's what I'm asking for actually.
    – philphil
    Oct 3, 2023 at 23:04
  • @philphil I am still no wiser as to what you want - the source of the answer is the OED - the source of each quote is given.
    – Greybeard
    Oct 4, 2023 at 9:19
  • @ Greybeard - I'm asking for the link to your source - the URL - e.g. of the OED.. There isn't any link in your answer, in particular there isn't any link to the line "I'm laying a little dark = I am keeping a low profile; I am not drawing attention to myself; I am avoiding being noticed, etc."
    – philphil
    Oct 4, 2023 at 10:43

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