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End of the Tether by Joseph Conrad

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For a long time after the course of the steamer Sofala
had been altered for the land, the low swampy coast had
retained its appearance of a mere smudge of darkness
beyond a belt of glitter. The sunrays seemed to fall
violently upon the calm sea--seemed to shatter them-
selves upon an adamantine surface into sparkling dust,
into a dazzling vapor of light that blinded the eye and
wearied the brain with its unsteady brightness.

Captain Whalley did not look at it. When his
Serang, approaching the roomy cane arm-chair which
he filled capably, had informed him in a low voice that
the course was to be altered, he had risen at once and
had remained on his feet, face forward, while the head
of his ship swung through a quarter of a circle. He
had not uttered a single word, not even the word to
steady the helm. It was the Serang, an elderly, alert,
little Malay, with a very dark skin, who murmured the
order to the helmsman. And then slowly Captain
Whalley sat down again in the arm-chair on the bridge
and fixed his eyes on the deck between his feet.

He could not hope to see anything new upon this lane
of the sea. He had been on these coasts for the last
three years. From Low Cape to Malantan the distance
was fifty miles, six hours' steaming for the old ship with
the tide, or seven against. Then you steered straight
for the land, and by-and-by three palms would appear
on the sky, tall and slim, and with their disheveled heads
in a bunch, as if in confidential criticism of the dark
mangroves. The Sofala would be headed towards the
somber strip of the coast, which at a given moment, as
the ship closed with it obliquely, would show several
clean shining fractures--the brimful estuary of a river.
Then on through a brown liquid, three parts water and
one part black earth, on and on between the low shores,
three parts black earth and one part brackish water, the
Sofala would plow her way up-stream, as she had
done once every month for these seven years or more,
long before he was aware of her existence, long before
he had ever thought of having anything to do with her
and her invariable voyages. The old ship ought to have
known the road better than her men, who had not been
kept so long at it without a change; better than the
faithful Serang, whom he had brought over from his
last ship to keep the captain's watch; better than he
himself, who had been her captain for the last three
years only. She could always be depended upon to
make her courses. Her compasses were never out. She
was no trouble at all to take about, as if her great age
had given her knowledge, wisdom, and steadiness. She
made her landfalls to a degree of the bearing, and al-
most to a minute of her allowed time. At any moment,
as he sat on the bridge without looking up, or lay sleep-
less in his bed, simply by reckoning the days and the
hours he could tell where he was--the precise spot of the
beat. He knew it well too, this monotonous huckster's
round, up and down the Straits; he knew its order and
its sights and its people. Malacca to begin with, in at
daylight and out at dusk, to cross over with a rigid
phosphorescent wake this highway of the Far East.
Darkness and gleams on the water, clear stars on a black
sky, perhaps the lights of a home steamer keeping her
unswerving course in the middle, or maybe the elusive
shadow of a native craft with her mat sails flitting by
silently--and the low land on the other side in sight
at daylight. At noon the three palms of the next place
of call, up a sluggish river. The only white man re-
siding there was a retired young sailor, with whom he
had become friendly in the course of many voyages.
Sixty miles farther on there was another place of call,
a deep bay with only a couple of houses on the beach.
And so on, in and out, picking up coastwise cargo here
and there, and finishing with a hundred miles' steady
steaming through the maze of an archipelago of small
islands up to a large native town at the end of the beat.
There was a three days' rest for the old ship before
he started her again in inverse order, seeing the same
shores from another bearing, hearing the same voices in
the same places, back again to the Sofala's port of regis-
try on the great highway to the East, where he would
take up a berth nearly opposite the big stone pile of
the harbor office till it was time to start again on the
old round of 1600 miles and thirty days. Not a very
enterprising life, this, for Captain Whalley, Henry
Whalley, otherwise Dare-devil Harry--Whalley of the
Condor, a famous clipper in her day. No. Not a very
enterprising life for a man who had served famous firms,
who had sailed famous ships (more than one or two of
them his own); who had made famous passages, had
been the pioneer of new routes and new trades; who had
steered across the unsurveyed tracts of the South Seas,
and had seen the sun rise on uncharted islands. Fifty
years at sea, and forty out in the East ("a pretty thor-
ough apprenticeship," he used to remark smilingly), had
made him honorably known to a generation of ship-
owners and merchants in all the ports from Bombay clear
over to where the East merges into the West upon the
coast of the two Americas. His fame remained writ,
not very large but plain enough, on the Admiralty
charts. Was there not somewhere between Australia
and China a Whalley Island and a Condor Reef? On
that dangerous coral formation the celebrated clipper
had hung stranded for three days, her captain and crew
throwing her cargo overboard with one hand and with
the other, as it were, keeping off her a flotilla of savage
war-canoes. At that time neither the island nor the reef
had any official existence. Later the officers of her
Majesty's steam vessel Fusilier, dispatched to make a
survey of the route, recognized in the adoption of these
two names the enterprise of the man and the solidity of
the ship. Besides, as anyone who cares may see, the
"General Directory," vol. ii. p. 410, begins the descrip-
tion of the "Malotu or Whalley Passage" with the
words: "This advantageous route, first discovered in
1850 by Captain Whalley in the ship Condor," &c.,
and ends by recommending it warmly to sailing vessels
leaving the China ports for the south in the months
from December to April inclusive.

This was the clearest gain he had out of life. Nothing
could rob him of this kind of fame. The piercing of the
Isthmus of Suez, like the breaking of a dam, had let
in upon the East a flood of new ships, new men, new
methods of trade. It had changed the face of the East-
ern seas and the very spirit of their life; so that his
early experiences meant nothing whatever to the new
generation of seamen.

In those bygone days he had handled many thousands
of pounds of his employers' money and of his own; he
had attended faithfully, as by law a shipmaster is ex-
pected to do, to the conflicting interests of owners,
charterers, and underwriters. He had never lost a ship
or consented to a shady transaction; and he had lasted
well, outlasting in the end the conditions that had gone
to the making of his name. He had buried his wife (in
the Gulf of Petchili), had married off his daughter to
the man of her unlucky choice, and had lost more than
an ample competence in the crash of the notorious Tra-
vancore and Deccan Banking Corporation, whose down-
fall had shaken the East like an earthquake. And he
was sixty-five years old.


His age sat lightly enough on him; and of his ruin
he was not ashamed. He had not been alone to believe
in the stability of the Banking Corporation. Men whose
judgment in matters of finance was as expert as his sea-
manship had commended the prudence of his invest-
ments, and had themselves lost much money in the great
failure. The only difference between him and them was
that he had lost his all. And yet not his all. There
had remained to him from his lost fortune a very pretty
little bark, Fair Maid, which he had bought to occupy
his leisure of a retired sailor--"to play with," as he ex-
pressed it himself.

He had formally declared himself tired of the sea the
year preceding his daughter's marriage. But after the
young couple had gone to settle in Melbourne he found
out that he could not make himself happy on shore. He
was too much of a merchant sea-captain for mere yacht-
ing to satisfy him. He wanted the illusion of affairs;
and his acquisition of the Fair Maid preserved the con-
tinuity of his life. He introduced her to his acquaint-
ances in various ports as "my last command." When
he grew too old to be trusted with a ship, he would
lay her up and go ashore to be buried, leaving directions
in his will to have the bark towed out and scuttled
decently in deep water on the day of the funeral. His
daughter would not grudge him the satisfaction of
knowing that no stranger would handle his last command
after him. With the fortune he was able to leave her,
the value of a 500-ton bark was neither here nor there.
All this would be said with a jocular twinkle in his eye:
the vigorous old man had too much vitality for the sen-
timentalism of regret; and a little wistfully withal, be-
cause he was at home in life, taking a genuine pleasure
in its feelings and its possessions; in the dignity of his
reputation and his wealth, in his love for his daughter,
and in his satisfaction with the ship--the plaything of
his lonely leisure.

He had the cabin arranged in accordance with his
simple ideal of comfort at sea. A big bookcase (he was
a great reader) occupied one side of his stateroom; the
portrait of his late wife, a flat bituminous oil-painting
representing the profile and one long black ringlet of
a young woman, faced his bedplace. Three chronometers
ticked him to sleep and greeted him on waking with
the tiny competition of their beats. He rose at five every
day. The officer of the morning watch, drinking his
early cup of coffee aft by the wheel, would hear through
the wide orifice of the copper ventilators all the splash-
ings, blowings, and splutterings of his captain's toilet.
These noises would be followed by a sustained deep
murmur of the Lord's Prayer recited in a loud earnest
voice. Five minutes afterwards the head and shoulders
of Captain Whalley emerged out of the companion-
hatchway. Invariably he paused for a while on the
stairs, looking all round at the horizon; upwards at the
trim of the sails; inhaling deep draughts of the fresh
air. Only then he would step out on the poop, acknowl-
edging the hand raised to the peak of the cap with a
majestic and benign "Good morning to you." He
walked the deck till eight scrupulously. Sometimes, not
above twice a year, he had to use a thick cudgel-like
stick on account of a stiffness in the hip--a slight touch
of rheumatism, he supposed. Otherwise he knew nothing
of the ills of the flesh. At the ringing of the breakfast
bell he went below to feed his canaries, wind up the
chronometers, and take the head of the table. From
there he had before his eyes the big carbon photographs
of his daughter, her husband, and two fat-legged babies
--his grandchildren--set in black frames into the maple-
wood bulkheads of the cuddy. After breakfast he dusted
the glass over these portraits himself with a cloth, and
brushed the oil painting of his wife with a plumate kept
suspended from a small brass hook by the side of the
heavy gold frame. Then with the door of his state-
room shut, he would sit down on the couch under the
portrait to read a chapter out of a thick pocket Bible
--her Bible. But on some days he only sat there for
half an hour with his finger between the leaves and the
closed book resting on his knees. Perhaps he had re-
membered suddenly how fond of boat-sailing she used
to be.

She had been a real shipmate and a true woman too.
It was like an article of faith with him that there never
had been, and never could be, a brighter, cheerier home
anywhere afloat or ashore than his home under the poop-
deck of the Condor, with the big main cabin all white
and gold, garlanded as if for a perpetual festival with
an unfading wreath. She had decorated the center of
every panel with a cluster of home flowers. It took her
a twelvemonth to go round the cuddy with this labor
of love. To him it had remained a marvel of painting,
the highest achievement of taste and skill; and as to
old Swinburne, his mate, every time he came down to
his meals he stood transfixed with admiration before the
progress of the work. You could almost smell these
roses, he declared, sniffing the faint flavor of turpentine
which at that time pervaded the saloon, and (as he con-
fessed afterwards) made him somewhat less hearty than
usual in tackling his food. But there was nothing of
the sort to interfere with his enjoyment of her singing.
"Mrs. Whalley is a regular out-and-out nightingale,
sir," he would pronounce with a judicial air after listen-
ing profoundly over the skylight to the very end of the
piece. In fine weather, in the second dog-watch, the two
men could hear her trills and roulades going on to the
accompaniment of the piano in the cabin. On the very
day they got engaged he had written to London for the
instrument; but they had been married for over a year
before it reached them, coming out round the Cape.
The big case made part of the first direct general cargo
landed in Hongkong harbor--an event that to the men
who walked the busy quays of to-day seemed as hazily
remote as the dark ages of history. But Captain Whal-
ley could in a half hour of solitude live again all his
life, with its romance, its idyl, and its sorrow. He had
to close her eyes himself. She went away from under
the ensign like a sailor's wife, a sailor herself at heart.
He had read the service over her, out of her own prayer-
book, without a break in his voice. When he raised his
eyes he could see old Swinburne facing him with his cap
pressed to his breast, and his rugged, weather-beaten,
impassive face streaming with drops of water like a
lump of chipped red granite in a shower. It was all
very well for that old sea-dog to cry. He had to read
on to the end; but after the splash he did not remember
much of what happened for the next few days. An
elderly sailor of the crew, deft at needlework, put to-
gether a mourning frock for the child out of one of
her black skirts.

He was not likely to forget; but you cannot dam up
life like a sluggish stream. It will break out and flow
over a man's troubles, it will close upon a sorrow like
the sea upon a dead body, no matter how much love has
gone to the bottom. And the world is not bad. People
had been very kind to him; especially Mrs. Gardner, the
wife of the senior partner in Gardner, Patteson, & Co.,
the owners of the Condor. It was she who volunteered
to look after the little one, and in due course took her
to England (something of a journey in those days,
even by the overland mail route) with her own girls to
finish her education. It was ten years before he saw her

As a little child she had never been frightened of bad
weather; she would beg to be taken up on deck in the
bosom of his oilskin coat to watch the big seas hurling
themselves upon the Condor. The swirl and crash of the
waves seemed to fill her small soul with a breathless de-
light. "A good boy spoiled," he used to say of her in
joke. He had named her Ivy because of the sound of
the word, and obscurely fascinated by a vague associa-
tion of ideas. She had twined herself tightly round his
heart, and he intended her to cling close to her father as
to a tower of strength; forgetting, while she was little,
that in the nature of things she would probably elect
to cling to someone else. But he loved life well enough
for even that event to give him a certain satisfaction,
apart from his more intimate feeling of loss.

After he had purchased the Fair Maid to occupy his
loneliness, he hastened to accept a rather unprofitable
freight to Australia simply for the opportunity of seeing
his daughter in her own home. What made him dis-
satisfied there was not to see that she clung now to some-
body else, but that the prop she had selected seemed on
closer examination "a rather poor stick"--even in the
matter of health. He disliked his son-in-law's studied
civility perhaps more than his method of handling the
sum of money he had given Ivy at her marriage. But
of his apprehensions he said nothing. Only on the day
of his departure, with the hall-door open already, hold-
ing her hands and looking steadily into her eyes, he
had said, "You know, my dear, all I have is for you and
the chicks. Mind you write to me openly." She had
answered him by an almost imperceptible movement of
her head. She resembled her mother in the color of her
eyes, and in character--and also in this, that she under-
stood him without many words.

Sure enough she had to write; and some of these letters
made Captain Whalley lift his white eye-brows. For
the rest he considered he was reaping the true reward of
his life by being thus able to produce on demand what-
ever was needed. He had not enjoyed himself so much
in a way since his wife had died. Characteristically
enough his son-in-law's punctuality in failure caused him
at a distance to feel a sort of kindness towards the man.
The fellow was so perpetually being jammed on a lee
shore that to charge it all to his reckless navigation
would be manifestly unfair. No, no! He knew well
what that meant. It was bad luck. His own had been
simply marvelous, but he had seen in his life too many
good men--seamen and others--go under with the sheer
weight of bad luck not to recognize the fatal signs. For
all that, he was cogitating on the best way of tying up
very strictly every penny he had to leave, when, with a
preliminary rumble of rumors (whose first sound reached
him in Shanghai as it happened), the shock of the big
failure came; and, after passing through the phases of
stupor, of incredulity, of indignation, he had to accept
the fact that he had nothing to speak of to leave.

Upon that, as if he had only waited for this catas-
trophe, the unlucky man, away there in Melbourne, gave
up his unprofitable game, and sat down--in an invalid's
bath-chair at that too. "He will never walk again,"
wrote the wife. For the first time in his life Captain
Whalley was a bit staggered.

The Fair Maid had to go to work in bitter earnest now.
It was no longer a matter of preserving alive the memory
of Dare-devil Harry Whalley in the Eastern Seas, or
of keeping an old man in pocket-money and clothes, with,
perhaps, a bill for a few hundred first-class cigars
thrown in at the end of the year. He would have to
buckle-to, and keep her going hard on a scant allowance
of gilt for the ginger-bread scrolls at her stem and

This necessity opened his eyes to the fundamental
changes of the world. Of his past only the familiar
names remained, here and there, but the things and the
men, as he had known them, were gone. The name of
Gardner, Patteson, & Co. was still displayed on the
walls of warehouses by the waterside, on the brass plates
and window-panes in the business quarters of more than
one Eastern port, but there was no longer a Gardner
or a Patteson in the firm. There was no longer for Cap-
tain Whalley an arm-chair and a welcome in the private
office, with a bit of business ready to be put in the way
of an old friend, for the sake of bygone services. The
husbands of the Gardner girls sat behind the desks in
that room where, long after he had left the employ, he
had kept his right of entrance in the old man's time.
Their ships now had yellow funnels with black tops,
and a time-table of appointed routes like a confounded
service of tramways. The winds of December and June
were all one to them; their captains (excellent young
men he doubted not) were, to be sure, familiar with
Whalley Island, because of late years the Government
had established a white fixed light on the north end (with
a red danger sector over the Condor Reef), but most of
them would have been extremely surprised to hear that
a flesh-and-blood Whalley still existed--an old man
going about the world trying to pick up a cargo here
and there for his little bark.

And everywhere it was the same. Departed the men
who would have nodded appreciatively at the mention
of his name, and would have thought themselves bound
in honor to do something for Dare-devil Harry Whalley.
Departed the opportunities which he would have known
how to seize; and gone with them the white-winged flock
of clippers that lived in the boisterous uncertain life of
the winds, skimming big fortunes out of the foam of
the sea. In a world that pared down the profits to an
irreducible minimum, in a world that was able to count
its disengaged tonnage twice over every day, and in
which lean charters were snapped up by cable three
months in advance, there were no chances of fortune for
an individual wandering haphazard with a little bark
--hardly indeed any room to exist.

He found it more difficult from year to year. He suf-
fered greatly from the smallness of remittances he was
able to send his daughter. Meantime he had given up
good cigars, and even in the matter of inferior cheroots
limited himself to six a day. He never told her of his
difficulties, and she never enlarged upon her struggle
to live. Their confidence in each other needed no ex-
planations, and their perfect understanding endured
without protestations of gratitude or regret. He would
have been shocked if she had taken it into her head to
thank him in so many words, but he found it perfectly
natural that she should tell him she needed two hundred

He had come in with the Fair Maid in ballast to look
for a freight in the Sofala's port of registry, and her
letter met him there. Its tenor was that it was no use
mincing matters. Her only resource was in opening a
boarding-house, for which the prospects, she judged,
were good. Good enough, at any rate, to make her tell
him frankly that with two hundred pounds she could
make a start. He had torn the envelope open, hastily,
on deck, where it was handed to him by the ship-
chandler's runner, who had brought his mail at the mo-
ment of anchoring. For the second time in his life he
was appalled, and remained stock-still at the cabin door
with the paper trembling between his fingers. Open a
boarding-house! Two hundred pounds for a start! The
only resource! And he did not know where to lay his
hands on two hundred pence.

All that night Captain Whalley walked the poop of
his anchored ship, as though he had been about to close
with the land in thick weather, and uncertain of his
position after a run of many gray days without a sight
of sun, moon, or stars. The black night twinkled with
the guiding lights of seamen and the steady straight
lines of lights on shore; and all around the Fair Maid
the riding lights of ships cast trembling trails upon the
water of the roadstead. Captain Whalley saw not a
gleam anywhere till the dawn broke and he found out
that his clothing was soaked through with the heavy

His ship was awake. He stopped short, stroked his
wet beard, and descended the poop ladder backwards,
with tired feet. At the sight of him the chief officer,
lounging about sleepily on the quarterdeck, remained
open-mouthed in the middle of a great early-morning

"Good morning to you," pronounced Captain Whal-
ley solemnly, passing into the cabin. But he checked
himself in the doorway, and without looking back, "By
the bye," he said, "there should be an empty wooden
case put away in the lazarette. It has not been broken
up--has it?"

The mate shut his mouth, and then asked as if dazed,
"What empty case, sir?"

"A big flat packing-case belonging to that painting in
my room. Let it be taken up on deck and tell the
carpenter to look it over. I may want to use it before

The chief officer did not stir a limb till he had heard
the door of the captain's state-room slam within the
cuddy. Then he beckoned aft the second mate with his
forefinger to tell him that there was something "in the

When the bell rang Captain Whalley's authoritative
voice boomed out through a closed door, "Sit down and
don't wait for me." And his impressed officers took their
places, exchanging looks and whispers across the table.
What! No breakfast? And after apparently knock-
ing about all night on deck, too! Clearly, there was
something in the wind. In the skylight above their
heads, bowed earnestly over the plates, three wire cages
rocked and rattled to the restless jumping of the hungry
canaries; and they could detect the sounds of their "old
man's" deliberate movements within his state-room. Cap-
tain Whalley was methodically winding up the chro-
nometers, dusting the portrait of his late wife, getting
a clean white shirt out of the drawers, making himself
ready in his punctilious unhurried manner to go ashore.
He could not have swallowed a single mouthful of food
that morning. He had made up his mind to sell the
Fair Maid.


Just at that time the Japanese were casting far and
wide for ships of European build, and he had no diffi-
culty in finding a purchaser, a speculator who drove a
hard bargain, but paid cash down for the Fair Maid,
with a view to a profitable resale. Thus it came about
that Captain Whalley found himself on a certain after-
noon descending the steps of one of the most important
post-offices of the East with a slip of bluish paper in his
hand. This was the receipt of a registered letter en-
closing a draft for two hundred pounds, and addressed
to Melbourne. Captain Whalley pushed the paper into
his waistcoat-pocket, took his stick from under his arm,
and walked down the street.

It was a recently opened and untidy thoroughfare with
rudimentary side-walks and a soft layer of dust cushion-
ing the whole width of the road. One end touched the
slummy street of Chinese shops near the harbor, the other
drove straight on, without houses, for a couple of miles,
through patches of jungle-like vegetation, to the yard
gates of the new Consolidated Docks Company. The
crude frontages of the new Government buildings alter-
nated with the blank fencing of vacant plots, and the
view of the sky seemed to give an added spaciousness to
the broad vista. It was empty and shunned by natives
after business hours, as though they had expected to
see one of the tigers from the neighborhood of the New
Waterworks on the hill coming at a loping canter down
the middle to get a Chinese shopkeeper for supper. Cap-
tain Whalley was not dwarfed by the solitude of the
grandly planned street. He had too fine a presence for
that. He was only a lonely figure walking purposefully,
with a great white beard like a pilgrim, and with a thick
stick that resembled a weapon. On one side the new
Courts of Justice had a low and unadorned portico of
squat columns half concealed by a few old trees left in
the approach. On the other the pavilion wings of the
new Colonial Treasury came out to the line of the street.
But Captain Whalley, who had now no ship and no
home, remembered in passing that on that very site
when he first came out from England there had stood a
fishing village, a few mat huts erected on piles between
a muddy tidal creek and a miry pathway that went
writhing into a tangled wilderness without any docks or

No ship--no home. And his poor Ivy away there had
no home either. A boarding-house is no sort of home
though it may get you a living. His feelings were
horribly rasped by the idea of the boarding-house. In
his rank of life he had that truly aristocratic tempera-
ment characterized by a scorn of vulgar gentility and
by prejudiced views as to the derogatory nature of cer-
tain occupations. For his own part he had always pre-
ferred sailing merchant ships (which is a straight-
forward occupation) to buying and selling merchandise,
of which the essence is to get the better of somebody in a
bargain--an undignified trial of wits at best. His father
had been Colonel Whalley (retired) of the H. E. I. Com-
pany's service, with very slender means besides his pen-
sion, but with distinguished connections. He could re-
member as a boy how frequently waiters at the inns, coun-
try tradesmen and small people of that sort, used to "My
lord" the old warrior on the strength of his appear-

Captain Whalley himself (he would have entered the
Navy if his father had not died before he was fourteen)
had something of a grand air which would have suited
an old and glorious admiral; but he became lost like a
straw in the eddy of a brook amongst the swarm of
brown and yellow humanity filling a thoroughfare, that
by contrast with the vast and empty avenue he had left
seemed as narrow as a lane and absolutely riotous with
life. The walls of the houses were blue; the shops of
the Chinamen yawned like cavernous lairs; heaps of
nondescript merchandise overflowed the gloom of the
long range of arcades, and the fiery serenity of sunset
took the middle of the street from end to end with a
glow like the reflection of a fire. It fell on the bright
colors and the dark faces of the bare-footed crowd, on
the pallid yellow backs of the half-naked jostling coolies,
on the accouterments of a tall Sikh trooper with a
parted beard and fierce mustaches on sentry before the
gate of the police compound. Looming very big above
the heads in a red haze of dust, the tightly packed car
of the cable tramway navigated cautiously up the hu-
man stream, with the incessant blare of its horn, in the
manner of a steamer groping in a fog.

Captain Whalley emerged like a diver on the other
side, and in the desert shade between the walls of closed
warehouses removed his hat to cool his brow. A certain
disrepute attached to the calling of a landlady of a
boarding-house. These women were said to be rapacious,
unscrupulous, untruthful; and though he contemned no
class of his fellow-creatures--God forbid!--these were
suspicions to which it was unseemly that a Whalley
should lay herself open. He had not expostulated with
her, however. He was confident she shared his feelings;
he was sorry for her; he trusted her judgment; he con-
sidered it a merciful dispensation that he could help her
once more,--but in his aristocratic heart of hearts he
would have found it more easy to reconcile himself to the
idea of her turning seamstress. Vaguely he remembered
reading years ago a touching piece called the "Song of
the Shirt." It was all very well making songs about
poor women. The granddaughter of Colonel Whalley,
the landlady of a boarding-house! Pooh! He replaced
his hat, dived into two pockets, and stopping a moment
to apply a flaring match to the end of a cheap cheroot,
blew an embittered cloud of smoke at a world that could
hold such surprises.

Of one thing he was certain--that she was the own
child of a clever mother. Now he had got over the
wrench of parting with his ship, he perceived clearly
that such a step had been unavoidable. Perhaps he had
been growing aware of it all along with an unconfessed
knowledge. But she, far away there, must have had
an intuitive perception of it, with the pluck to face that
truth and the courage to speak out--all the qualities
which had made her mother a woman of such excellent

It would have had to come to that in the end! It was
fortunate she had forced his hand. In another year or
two it would have been an utterly barren sale. To keep
the ship going he had been involving himself deeper
every year. He was defenseless before the insidious work
of adversity, to whose more open assaults he could pre-
sent a firm front; like a cliff that stands unmoved the
open battering of the sea, with a lofty ignorance of the
treacherous backwash undermining its base. As it was,
every liability satisfied, her request answered, and owing
no man a penny, there remained to him from the pro-
ceeds a sum of five hundred pounds put away safely. In
addition he had upon his person some forty odd dollars
--enough to pay his hotel bill, providing he did not
linger too long in the modest bedroom where he had
taken refuge.

Scantily furnished, and with a waxed floor, it opened
into one of the side-verandas. The straggling building
of bricks, as airy as a bird-cage, resounded with the
incessant flapping of rattan screens worried by the wind
between the white-washed square pillars of the sea-front.
The rooms were lofty, a ripple of sunshine flowed over
the ceilings; and the periodical invasions of tourists from
some passenger steamer in the harbor flitted through the
wind-swept dusk of the apartments with the tumult of
their unfamiliar voices and impermanent presences, like
relays of migratory shades condemned to speed headlong
round the earth without leaving a trace. The babble
of their irruptions ebbed out as suddenly as it had arisen;
the draughty corridors and the long chairs of the ve-
randas knew their sight-seeing hurry or their prostrate
repose no more; and Captain Whalley, substantial and
dignified, left wellnigh alone in the vast hotel by each
light-hearted skurry, felt more and more like a stranded
tourist with no aim in view, like a forlorn traveler with-
out a home. In the solitude of his room he smoked
thoughtfully, gazing at the two sea-chests which held all
that he could call his own in this world. A thick roll of
charts in a sheath of sailcloth leaned in a corner; the
flat packing-case containing the portrait in oils and
the three carbon photographs had been pushed under
the bed. He was tired of discussing terms, of assisting
at surveys, of all the routine of the business. What to
the other parties was merely the sale of a ship was to
him a momentous event involving a radically new view of
existence. He knew that after this ship there would
be no other; and the hopes of his youth, the exercise of
his abilities, every feeling and achievement of his man-
hood, had been indissolubly connected with ships. He
had served ships; he had owned ships; and even the
years of his actual retirement from the sea had been made
bearable by the idea that he had only to stretch out his
hand full of money to get a ship. He had been at
liberty to feel as though he were the owner of all the
ships in the world. The selling of this one was weary
work; but when she passed from him at last, when he
signed the last receipt, it was as though all the ships
had gone out of the world together, leaving him on the
shore of inaccessible oceans with seven hundred pounds
in his hands.

Striding firmly, without haste, along the quay, Captain
Whalley averted his glances from the familiar roadstead.
Two generations of seamen born since his first day at
sea stood between him and all these ships at the anchor-
age. His own was sold, and he had been asking him-
self, What next?

From the feeling of loneliness, of inward emptiness,
--and of loss too, as if his very soul had been taken
out of him forcibly,--there had sprung at first a desire
to start right off and join his daughter. "Here are the
last pence," he would say to her; "take them, my dear.
And here's your old father: you must take him too."

His soul recoiled, as if afraid of what lay hidden at
the bottom of this impulse. Give up! Never! When
one is thoroughly weary all sorts of nonsense come into
one's head. A pretty gift it would have been for a poor
woman--this seven hundred pounds with the incumbrance
of a hale old fellow more than likely to last for years
and years to come. Was he not as fit to die in harness
as any of the youngsters in charge of these anchored
ships out yonder? He was as solid now as ever he had
been. But as to who would give him work to do, that
was another matter. Were he, with his appearance and
antecedents, to go about looking for a junior's berth,
people, he was afraid, would not take him seriously; or
else if he succeeded in impressing them, he would maybe
obtain their pity, which would be like stripping your-
self naked to be kicked. He was not anxious to give
himself away for less than nothing. He had no use
for anybody's pity. On the other hand, a command--
the only thing he could try for with due regard for
common decency--was not likely to be lying in wait for
him at the corner of the next street. Commands don't
go a-begging nowadays. Ever since he had come ashore
to carry out the business of the sale he had kept his
ears open, but had heard no hint of one being vacant
in the port. And even if there had been one, his suc-
cessful past itself stood in his way. He had been his
own employer too long. The only credential he could
produce was the testimony of his whole life. What
better recommendation could anyone require? But
vaguely he felt that the unique document would be
looked upon as an archaic curiosity of the Eastern
waters, a screed traced in obsolete words--in a half-for-
gotten language.


Revolving these thoughts, he strolled on near the rail-
ings of the quay, broad-chested, without a stoop, as
though his big shoulders had never felt the burden of
the loads that must be carried between the cradle and
the grave. No single betraying fold or line of care
disfigured the reposeful modeling of his face. It was
full and untanned; and the upper part emerged, mas-
sively quiet, out of the downward flow of silvery hair,
with the striking delicacy of its clear complexion and
the powerful width of the forehead. The first cast of
his glance fell on you candid and swift, like a boy's;
but because of the ragged snowy thatch of the eyebrows
the affability of his attention acquired the character of
a dark and searching scrutiny. With age he had put
on flesh a little, had increased his girth like an old tree
presenting no symptoms of decay; and even the opulent,
lustrous ripple of white hairs upon his chest seemed an
attribute of unquenchable vitality and vigor.

Once rather proud of his great bodily strength, and
even of his personal appearance, conscious of his worth,
and firm in his rectitude, there had remained to him,
like the heritage of departed prosperity, the tranquil
bearing of a man who had proved himself fit in every
sort of way for the life of his choice. He strode on
squarely under the projecting brim of an ancient Panama
hat. It had a low crown, a crease through its whole
diameter, a narrow black ribbon. Imperishable and a
little discolored, this headgear made it easy to pick him
out from afar on thronged wharves and in the busy
streets. He had never adopted the comparatively modern
fashion of pipeclayed cork helmets. He disliked the
form; and he hoped he could manage to keep a cool
head to the end of his life without all these contrivances
for hygienic ventilation. His hair was cropped close,
his linen always of immaculate whiteness; a suit of thin
gray flannel, worn threadbare but scrupulously brushed,
floated about his burly limbs, adding to his bulk by the
looseness of its cut. The years had mellowed the good-
humored, imperturbable audacity of his prime into a
temper carelessly serene; and the leisurely tapping of
his iron-shod stick accompanied his footfalls with a self-
confident sound on the flagstones. It was impossible to
connect such a fine presence and this unruffled aspect
with the belittling troubles of poverty; the man's whole
existence appeared to pass before you, facile and large,
in the freedom of means as ample as the clothing of his

The irrational dread of having to break into his five
hundred pounds for personal expenses in the hotel dis-
turbed the steady poise of his mind. There was no
time to lose. The bill was running up. He nourished
the hope that this five hundred would perhaps be the
means, if everything else failed, of obtaining some work
which, keeping his body and soul together (not a matter
of great outlay), would enable him to be of use to his
daughter. To his mind it was her own money which he
employed, as it were, in backing her father and solely
for her benefit. Once at work, he would help her with
the greater part of his earnings; he was good for many
years yet, and this boarding-house business, he argued
to himself, whatever the prospects, could not be much of
a gold-mine from the first start. But what work? He
was ready to lay hold of anything in an honest way so
that it came quickly to his hand; because the five hun-
dred pounds must be preserved intact for eventual use.
That was the great point. With the entire five hundred
one felt a substance at one's back; but it seemed to him
that should he let it dwindle to four-fifty or even four-
eighty, all the efficiency would be gone out of the money,
as though there were some magic power in the round
figure. But what sort of work?

Confronted by that haunting question as by an uneasy
ghost, for whom he had no exorcising formula, Captain
Whalley stopped short on the apex of a small bridge
spanning steeply the bed of a canalized creek with
granite shores. Moored between the square blocks a sea-
going Malay prau floated half hidden under the arch
of masonry, with her spars lowered down, without a sound
of life on board, and covered from stem to stern with a
ridge of palm-leaf mats. He had left behind him the
overheated pavements bordered by the stone frontages
that, like the sheer face of cliffs, followed the sweep
of the quays; and an unconfined spaciousness of orderly
and sylvan aspect opened before him its wide plots of
rolled grass, like pieces of green carpet smoothly pegged
out, its long ranges of trees lined up in colossal porticos
of dark shafts roofed with a vault of branches.

Some of these avenues ended at the sea. It was a ter-
raced shore; and beyond, upon the level expanse, pro-
found and glistening like the gaze of a dark-blue eye,
an oblique band of stippled purple lengthened itself in-
definitely through the gap between a couple of verdant
twin islets. The masts and spars of a few ships far
away, hull down in the outer roads, sprang straight from
the water in a fine maze of rosy lines penciled on the
clear shadow of the eastern board. Captain Whalley
gave them a long glance. The ship, once his own, was
anchored out there. It was staggering to think that it
was open to him no longer to take a boat at the jetty
and get himself pulled off to her when the evening came.
To no ship. Perhaps never more. Before the sale was
concluded, and till the purchase-money had been paid,
he had spent daily some time on board the Fair Maid.
The money had been paid this very morning, and now,
all at once, there was positively no ship that he could
go on board of when he liked; no ship that would need
his presence in order to do her work--to live. It seemed
an incredible state of affairs, something too bizarre to
last. And the sea was full of craft of all sorts. There
was that prau lying so still swathed in her shroud of
sewn palm-leaves--she too had her indispensable man.
They lived through each other, this Malay he had never
seen, and this high-sterned thing of no size that seemed
to be resting after a long journey. And of all the ships
in sight, near and far, each was provided with a man,
the man without whom the finest ship is a dead thing,
a floating and purposeless log.

After his one glance at the roadstead he went on, since
there was nothing to turn back for, and the time must
be got through somehow. The avenues of big trees ran
straight over the Esplanade, cutting each other at di-
verse angles, columnar below and luxuriant above. The
interlaced boughs high up there seemed to slumber; not
a leaf stirred overhead: and the reedy cast-iron lamp-
posts in the middle of the road, gilt like scepters,
diminished in a long perspective, with their globes of
white porcelain atop, resembling a barbarous decoration
of ostriches' eggs displayed in a row. The flaming sky
kindled a tiny crimson spark upon the glistening sur-
face of each glassy shell.

With his chin sunk a little, his hands behind his back,
and the end of his stick marking the gravel with a faint
wavering line at his heels, Captain Whalley reflected
that if a ship without a man was like a body without
a soul, a sailor without a ship was of not much more
account in this world than an aimless log adrift upon the
sea. The log might be sound enough by itself, tough
of fiber, and hard to destroy--but what of that! And
a sudden sense of irremediable idleness weighted his feet
like a great fatigue.

A succession of open carriages came bowling along the
newly opened sea-road. You could see across the wide
grass-plots the discs of vibration made by the spokes.
The bright domes of the parasols swayed lightly out-
wards like full-blown blossoms on the rim of a vase; and
the quiet sheet of dark-blue water, crossed by a bar of
purple, made a background for the spinning wheels and
the high action of the horses, whilst the turbaned heads
of the Indian servants elevated above the line of the sea
horizon glided rapidly on the paler blue of the sky. In
an open space near the little bridge each turn-out trotted
smartly in a wide curve away from the sunset; then pull-
ing up sharp, entered the main alley in a long slow-
moving file with the great red stillness of the sky at
the back. The trunks of mighty trees stood all touched
with red on the same side, the air seemed aflame under
the high foliage, the very ground under the hoofs of the
horses was red. The wheels turned solemnly; one after
another the sunshades drooped, folding their colors like
gorgeous flowers shutting their petals at the end of the
day. In the whole half-mile of human beings no voice
uttered a distinct word, only a faint thudding noise went
on mingled with slight jingling sounds, and the motion-
less heads and shoulders of men and women sitting in
couples emerged stolidly above the lowered hoods--as if
wooden. But one carriage and pair coming late did not
join the line.

It fled along in a noiseless roll; but on entering the
avenue one of the dark bays snorted, arching his neck
and shying against the steel-tipped pole; a flake of
foam fell from the bit upon the point of a satiny shoul-
der, and the dusky face of the coachman leaned for-
ward at once over the hands taking a fresh grip of the
reins. It was a long dark-green landau, having a digni-
fied and buoyant motion between the sharply curved
C-springs, and a sort of strictly official majesty in its
supreme elegance. It seemed more roomy than is usual,
its horses seemed slightly bigger, the appointments a
shade more perfect, the servants perched somewhat
higher on the box. The dresses of three women--two
young and pretty, and one, handsome, large, of mature
age--seemed to fill completely the shallow body of the
carriage. The fourth face was that of a man, heavy
lidded, distinguished and sallow, with a somber, thick,
iron-gray imperial and mustaches, which somehow had
the air of solid appendages. His Excellency--

The rapid motion of that one equipage made all the
others appear utterly inferior, blighted, and reduced to
crawl painfully at a snail's pace. The landau distanced
the whole file in a sort of sustained rush; the features
of the occupant whirling out of sight left behind an
impression of fixed stares and impassive vacancy; and
after it had vanished in full flight as it were, notwith-
standing the long line of vehicles hugging the curb at
a walk, the whole lofty vista of the avenue seemed to lie
open and emptied of life in the enlarged impression of
an august solitude.

Captain Whalley had lifted his head to look, and his
mind, disturbed in its meditation, turned with wonder
(as men's minds will do) to matters of no importance.
It struck him that it was to this port, where he had
just sold his last ship, that he had come with the very
first he had ever owned, and with his head full of a plan
for opening a new trade with a distant part of the
Archipelago. The then governor had given him no end
of encouragement. No Excellency he--this Mr. Den-
ham--this governor with his jacket off; a man who
tended night and day, so to speak, the growing pros-
perity of the settlement with the self-forgetful devotion
of a nurse for a child she loves; a lone bachelor who
lived as in a camp with the few servants and his three
dogs in what was called then the Government Bungalow:
a low-roofed structure on the half-cleared slope of a
hill, with a new flagstaff in front and a police orderly
on the veranda. He remembered toiling up that hill
under a heavy sun for his audience; the unfurnished
aspect of the cool shaded room; the long table covered
at one end with piles of papers, and with two guns, a
brass telescope, a small bottle of oil with a feather stuck
in the neck at the other--and the flattering attention
given to him by the man in power. It was an under-
taking full of risk he had come to expound, but a twenty
minutes' talk in the Government Bungalow on the hill
had made it go smoothly from the start. And as he
was retiring Mr. Denham, already seated before the
papers, called out after him, "Next month the Dido
starts for a cruise that way, and I shall request her
captain officially to give you a look in and see how
you get on." The Dido was one of the smart frigates on
the China station--and five-and-thirty years make a big
slice of time. Five-and-thirty years ago an enterprise
like his had for the colony enough importance to be
looked after by a Queen's ship. A big slice of time.
Individuals were of some account then. Men like him-
self; men, too, like poor Evans, for instance, with his
red face, his coal-black whiskers, and his restless eyes,
who had set up the first patent slip for repairing small
ships, on the edge of the forest, in a lonely bay three
miles up the coast. Mr. Denham had encouraged that
enterprise too, and yet somehow poor Evans had ended
by dying at home deucedly hard up. His son, they said,
was squeezing oil out of cocoa-nuts for a living on some
God-forsaken islet of the Indian Ocean; but it was from
that patent slip in a lonely wooded bay that had sprung
the workshops of the Consolidated Docks Company, with
its three graving basins carved out of solid rock, its
wharves, its jetties, its electric-light plant, its steam-
power houses--with its gigantic sheer-legs, fit to lift the
heaviest weight ever carried afloat, and whose head could
be seen like the top of a queer white monument peeping
over bushy points of land and sandy promontories, as
you approached the New Harbor from the west.

There had been a time when men counted: there were
not so many carriages in the colony then, though Mr.
Denham, he fancied, had a buggy. And Captain Whal-
ley seemed to be swept out of the great avenue by the
swirl of a mental backwash. He remembered muddy
shores, a harbor without quays, the one solitary wooden
pier (but that was a public work) jutting out crookedly,
the first coal-sheds erected on Monkey Point, that caught
fire mysteriously and smoldered for days, so that
amazed ships came into a roadstead full of sulphurous
smoke, and the sun hung blood-red at midday. He re-
membered the things, the faces, and something more
besides--like the faint flavor of a cup quaffed to the
bottom, like a subtle sparkle of the air that was not
to be found in the atmosphere of to-day.

In this evocation, swift and full of detail like a flash
of magnesium light into the niches of a dark memorial
hall, Captain Whalley contemplated things once impor-
tant, the efforts of small men, the growth of a great
place, but now robbed of all consequence by the great-
ness of accomplished facts, by hopes greater still; and
they gave him for a moment such an almost physical
grip upon time, such a comprehension of our unchange-
able feelings, that he stopped short, struck the ground
with his stick, and ejaculated mentally, "What the devil
am I doing here!" He seemed lost in a sort of surprise;
but he heard his name called out in wheezy tones once,
twice--and turned on his heels slowly.

He beheld then, waddling towards him autocratically,
a man of an old-fashioned and gouty aspect, with hair
as white as his own, but with shaved, florid cheeks, wear-
ing a necktie--almost a neckcloth--whose stiff ends pro-
jected far beyond his chin; with round legs, round arms,
a round body, a round face--generally producing the
effect of his short figure having been distended by means
of an air-pump as much as the seams of his clothing
would stand. This was the Master-Attendant of the
port. A master-attendant is a superior sort of harbor-
master; a person, out in the East, of some consequence
in his sphere; a Government official, a magistrate for
the waters of the port, and possessed of vast but ill-
defined disciplinary authority over seamen of all classes.
This particular Master-Attendant was reported to con-
sider it miserably inadequate, on the ground that it
did not include the power of life and death. This was
a jocular exaggeration. Captain Eliott was fairly satis-
fied with his position, and nursed no inconsiderable sense
of such power as he had. His conceited and tyrannical
disposition did not allow him to let it dwindle in his
hands for want of use. The uproarious, choleric frank-
ness of his comments on people's character and conduct
caused him to be feared at bottom; though in conversa-
tion many pretended not to mind him in the least, others
would only smile sourly at the mention of his name, and
there were even some who dared to pronounce him "a
meddlesome old ruffian." But for almost all of them
one of Captain Eliott's outbreaks was nearly as distaste-
ful to face as a chance of annihilation.


As soon as he had come up quite close he said, mouth-
ing in a growl--

"What's this I hear, Whalley? Is it true you're sell-
ing the Fair Maid?"

Captain Whalley, looking away, said the thing was
done--money had been paid that morning; and the other
expressed at once his approbation of such an extremely
sensible proceeding. He had got out of his trap to
stretch his legs, he explained, on his way home to dinner.
Sir Frederick looked well at the end of his time. Didn't

Captain Whalley could not say; had only noticed the
carriage going past.

The Master-Attendant, plunging his hands into the
pockets of an alpaca jacket inappropriately short and
tight for a man of his age and appearance, strutted
with a slight limp, and with his head reaching only to
the shoulder of Captain Whalley, who walked easily,
staring straight before him. They had been good com-
rades years ago, almost intimates. At the time when
Whalley commanded the renowned Condor, Eliott had
charge of the nearly as famous Ringdove for the same
owners; and when the appointment of Master-Attendant
was created, Whalley would have been the only other
serious candidate. But Captain Whalley, then in the
prime of life, was resolved to serve no one but his own
auspicious Fortune. Far away, tending his hot irons,
he was glad to hear the other had been successful. There
was a worldly suppleness in bluff Ned Eliott that would
serve him well in that sort of official appointment. And
they were so dissimilar at bottom that as they came
slowly to the end of the avenue before the Cathedral, it
had never come into Whalley's head that he might have
been in that man's place--provided for to the end of
his days.

The sacred edifice, standing in solemn isolation amongst
the converging avenues of enormous trees, as if to put
grave thoughts of heaven into the hours of ease, pre-
sented a closed Gothic portal to the light and glory of
the west. The glass of the rosace above the ogive glowed
like fiery coal in the deep carvings of a wheel of stone.
The two men faced about.

"I'll tell you what they ought to do next, Whalley,"
growled Captain Eliott suddenly.


"They ought to send a real live lord out here when
Sir Frederick's time is up. Eh?"

Captain Whalley perfunctorily did not see why a lord
of the right sort should not do as well as anyone else.
But this was not the other's point of view.

"No, no. Place runs itself. Nothing can stop it now.
Good enough for a lord," he growled in short sentences.
"Look at the changes in our time. We need a lord
here now. They have got a lord in Bombay."

He dined once or twice every year at the Government
House--a many-windowed, arcaded palace upon a hill
laid out in roads and gardens. And lately he had been
taking about a duke in his Master-Attendant's steam-
launch to visit the harbor improvements. Before that
he had "most obligingly" gone out in person to pick
out a good berth for the ducal yacht. Afterwards he
had an invitation to lunch on board. The duchess her-
self lunched with them. A big woman with a red face.
Complexion quite sunburnt. He should think ruined.
Very gracious manners. They were going on to
Japan. . . .

He ejaculated these details for Captain Whalley's edi-
fication, pausing to blow out his cheeks as if with a
pent-up sense of importance, and repeatedly protruding
his thick lips till the blunt crimson end of his nose seemed
to dip into the milk of his mustache. The place ran
itself; it was fit for any lord; it gave no trouble except
in its Marine department--in its Marine department he
repeated twice, and after a heavy snort began to relate
how the other day her Majesty's Consul-General in
French Cochin-China had cabled to him--in his official
capacity--asking for a qualified man to be sent over
to take charge of a Glasgow ship whose master had died
in Saigon.

"I sent word of it to the officers' quarters in the Sailors'
Home," he continued, while the limp in his gait seemed
to grow more accentuated with the increasing irritation
of his voice. "Place's full of them. Twice as many
men as there are berths going in the local trade. All
hungry for an easy job. Twice as many--and--What
d'you think, Whalley? . . ."

He stopped short; his hands clenched and thrust deeply
downwards, seemed ready to burst the pockets of his
jacket. A slight sigh escaped Captain Whalley.

"Hey? You would think they would be falling over
each other. Not a bit of it. Frightened to go home.
Nice and warm out here to lie about a veranda waiting
for a job. I sit and wait in my office. Nobody. What
did they suppose? That I was going to sit there like
a dummy with the Consul-General's cable before me?
Not likely. So I looked up a list of them I keep by
me and sent word for Hamilton--the worst loafer of
them all--and just made him go. Threatened to in-
struct the steward of the Sailors' Home to have him
turned out neck and crop. He did not think the berth
was good enough--if--you--please. 'I've your little
records by me,' said I. 'You came ashore here eighteen
months ago, and you haven't done six months' work
since. You are in debt for your board now at the Home,
and I suppose you reckon the Marine Office will pay in
the end. Eh? So it shall; but if you don't take this
chance, away you go to England, assisted passage, by
the first homeward steamer that comes along. You are
no better than a pauper. We don't want any white
paupers here.' I scared him. But look at the trouble
all this gave me."

"You would not have had any trouble," Captain Whal-
ley said almost involuntarily, "if you had sent for

Captain Eliott was immensely amused; he shook with
laughter as he walked. But suddenly he stopped laugh-
ing. A vague recollection had crossed his mind. Hadn't
he heard it said at the time of the Travancore and Deccan
smash that poor Whalley had been cleaned out com-
pletely. "Fellow's hard up, by heavens!" he thought;
and at once he cast a sidelong upward glance at his
companion. But Captain Whalley was smiling austerely
straight before him, with a carriage of the head incon-
ceivable in a penniless man--and he became reassured.
Impossible. Could not have lost everything. That ship
had been only a hobby of his. And the reflection that
a man who had confessed to receiving that very morning
a presumably large sum of money was not likely to
spring upon him a demand for a small loan put him
entirely at his ease again. There had come a long pause
in their talk, however, and not knowing how to begin
again, he growled out soberly, "We old fellows ought
to take a rest now."

"The best thing for some of us would be to die at the
oar," Captain Whalley said negligently.

"Come, now. Aren't you a bit tired by this time of
the whole show?" muttered the other sullenly.

"Are you?"

Captain Eliott was. Infernally tired. He only hung
on to his berth so long in order to get his pension on the
highest scale before he went home. It would be no better
than poverty, anyhow; still, it was the only thing be-
tween him and the workhouse. And he had a family.
Three girls, as Whalley knew. He gave "Harry, old
boy," to understand that these three girls were a source
of the greatest anxiety and worry to him. Enough to
drive a man distracted.

"Why? What have they been doing now?" asked
Captain Whalley with a sort of amused absent-minded-

"Doing! Doing nothing. That's just it. Lawn-
tennis and silly novels from morning to night. . . ."

If one of them at least had been a boy. But all three!
And, as ill-luck would have it, there did not seem to be
any decent young fellows left in the world. When he
looked around in the club he saw only a lot of conceited
popinjays too selfish to think of making a good woman
happy. Extreme indigence stared him in the face with
all that crowd to keep at home. He had cherished the
idea of building himself a little house in the country--
in Surrey--to end his days in, but he was afraid it was
out of the question, . . . and his staring eyes rolled
upwards with such a pathetic anxiety that Captain Whal-
ley charitably nodded down at him, restraining a sort of
sickening desire to laugh.

"You must know what it is yourself, Harry. Girls
are the very devil for worry and anxiety."

"Ay! But mine is doing well," Captain Whalley pro-
nounced slowly, staring to the end of the avenue.

The Master-Attendant was glad to hear this. Uncom-
monly glad. He remembered her well. A pretty girl
she was.

Captain Whalley, stepping out carelessly, assented as
if in a dream.

"She was pretty."

The procession of carriages was breaking up.

One after another they left the file to go off at a trot,
animating the vast avenue with their scattered life and
movement; but soon the aspect of dignified solitude re-
turned and took possession of the straight wide road.
A syce in white stood at the head of a Burmah pony har-
nessed to a varnished two-wheel cart; and the whole thing
waiting by the curb seemed no bigger than a child's toy
forgotten under the soaring trees. Captain Eliott
waddled up to it and made as if to clamber in, but re-
frained; and keeping one hand resting easily on the
shaft, he changed the conversation from his pension, his
daughters, and his poverty back again to the only other
topic in the world--the Marine Office, the men and the
ships of the port.

He proceeded to give instances of what was expected
of him; and his thick voice drowsed in the still air like
the obstinate droning of an enormous bumble-bee. Cap-
tain Whalley did not know what was the force or the
weakness that prevented him from saying good-night
and walking away. It was as though he had been too
tired to make the effort. How queer. More queer than
any of Ned's instances. Or was it that overpowering
sense of idleness alone that made him stand there and
listen to these stories. Nothing very real had ever
troubled Ned Eliott; and gradually he seemed to detect
deep in, as if wrapped up in the gross wheezy rumble,
something of the clear hearty voice of the young captain
of the Ringdove. He wondered if he too had changed to
the same extent; and it seemed to him that the voice of
his old chum had not changed so very much--that the
man was the same. Not a bad fellow the pleasant, jolly
Ned Eliott, friendly, well up to his business--and always
a bit of a humbug. He remembered how he used to
amuse his poor wife. She could read him like an open
book. When the Condor and the Ringdove happened to
be in port together, she would frequently ask him to
bring Captain Eliott to dinner. They had not met often
since those old days. Not once in five years, perhaps.
He regarded from under his white eyebrows this man
he could not bring himself to take into his confidence
at this juncture; and the other went on with his intimate
outpourings, and as remote from his hearer as though
he had been talking on a hill-top a mile away.

He was in a bit of a quandary now as to the steamer
Sofala. Ultimately every hitch in the port came into
his hands to undo. They would miss him when he was
gone in another eighteen months, and most likely some
retired naval officer had been pitchforked into the ap-
pointment--a man that would understand nothing and
care less. That steamer was a coasting craft having a
steady trade connection as far north as Tenasserim; but
the trouble was she could get no captain to take her
on her regular trip. Nobody would go in her. He
really had no power, of course, to order a man to take
a job. It was all very well to stretch a point on the
demand of a consul-general, but . . .

"What's the matter with the ship?" Captain Whalley
interrupted in measured tones.

"Nothing's the matter. Sound old steamer. Her
owner has been in my office this afternoon tearing his

"Is he a white man?" asked Whalley in an interested

"He calls himself a white man," answered the Master-
Attendant scornfully; "but if so, it's just skin-deep
and no more. I told him that to his face too."

"But who is he, then?"

"He's the chief engineer of her. See THAT, Harry?"

"I see," Captain Whalley said thoughtfully. "The
engineer. I see."

How the fellow came to be a shipowner at the same
time was quite a tale. He came out third in a home
ship nearly fifteen years ago, Captain Eliott remem-
bered, and got paid off after a bad sort of row both
with his skipper and his chief. Anyway, they seemed
jolly glad to get rid of him at all costs. Clearly a mu-
tinous sort of chap. Well, he remained out here, a per-
fect nuisance, everlastingly shipped and unshipped, un-
able to keep a berth very long; pretty nigh went
through every engine-room afloat belonging to the
colony. Then suddenly, "What do you think hap-
pened, Harry?"

Captain Whalley, who seemed lost in a mental effort
as of doing a sum in his head, gave a slight start. He
really couldn't imagine. The Master-Attendant's voice
vibrated dully with hoarse emphasis. The man actually
had the luck to win the second prize in the Manilla lot-
tery. All these engineers and officers of ships took
tickets in that gamble. It seemed to be a perfect mania
with them all.

Everybody expected now that he would take himself
off home with his money, and go to the devil in his own
way. Not at all. The Sofala, judged too small and
not quite modern enough for the sort of trade she was
in, could be got for a moderate price from her owners,
who had ordered a new steamer from Europe. He
rushed in and bought her. This man had never given
any signs of that sort of mental intoxication the mere
fact of getting hold of a large sum of money may pro-
duce--not till he got a ship of his own; but then he
went off his balance all at once: came bouncing into the
Marine Office on some transfer business, with his hat
hanging over his left eye and switching a little cane in
his hand, and told each one of the clerks separately that
"Nobody could put him out now. It was his turn.
There was no one over him on earth, and there never
would be either." He swaggered and strutted between
the desks, talking at the top of his voice, and trembling
like a leaf all the while, so that the current business
of the office was suspended for the time he was in there,
and everybody in the big room stood open-mouthed
looking at his antics. Afterwards he could be seen
during the hottest hours of the day with his face as
red as fire rushing along up and down the quays to look
at his ship from different points of view: he seemed
inclined to stop every stranger he came across just to
let them know "that there would be no longer anyone
over him; he had bought a ship; nobody on earth could
put him out of his engine-room now."

Good bargain as she was, the price of the Sofala took
up pretty near all the lottery-money. He had left him-
self no capital to work with. That did not matter so
much, for these were the halcyon days of steam coasting
trade, before some of the home shipping firms had
thought of establishing local fleets to feed their main
lines. These, when once organized, took the biggest
slices out of that cake, of course; and by-and-by a squad
of confounded German tramps turned up east of Suez
Canal and swept up all the crumbs. They prowled on
the cheap to and fro along the coast and between the
islands, like a lot of sharks in the water ready to snap
up anything you let drop. And then the high old times
were over for good; for years the Sofala had made no
more, he judged, than a fair living. Captain Eliott
looked upon it as his duty in every way to assist an
English ship to hold her own; and it stood to reason
that if for want of a captain the Sofala began to miss
her trips she would very soon lose her trade. There was
the quandary. The man was too impracticable. "Too
much of a beggar on horseback from the first," he ex-
plained. "Seemed to grow worse as the time went on.
In the last three years he's run through eleven skippers;
he had tried every single man here, outside of the regu-
lar lines. I had warned him before that this would not
do. And now, of course, no one will look at the Sofala.
I had one or two men up at my office and talked to
them; but, as they said to me, what was the good of
taking the berth to lead a regular dog's life for a
month and then get the sack at the end of the first trip?
The fellow, of course, told me it was all nonsense; there
has been a plot hatching for years against him. And
now it had come. All the horrid sailors in the port had
conspired to bring him to his knees, because he was an

Captain Eliott emitted a throaty chuckle.

"And the fact is, that if he misses a couple more trips
he need never trouble himself to start again. He won't
find any cargo in his old trade. There's too much com-
petition nowadays for people to keep their stuff lying
about for a ship that does not turn up when she's ex-
pected. It's a bad lookout for him. He swears he will
shut himself on board and starve to death in his cabin
rather than sell her--even if he could find a buyer. And
that's not likely in the least. Not even the Japs would
give her insured value for her. It isn't like selling
sailing-ships. Steamers DO get out of date, besides get-
ting old."

"He must have laid by a good bit of money though,"
observed Captain Whalley quietly.

The Harbor-master puffed out his purple cheeks to
an amazing size.

"Not a stiver, Harry. Not--a--single--sti-ver."

He waited; but as Captain Whalley, stroking his
beard slowly, looked down on the ground without a
word, he tapped him on the forearm, tiptoed, and said
in a hoarse whisper--

"The Manilla lottery has been eating him up."

He frowned a little, nodding in tiny affirmative jerks.
They all were going in for it; a third of the wages
paid to ships' officers ("in my port," he snorted) went
to Manilla. It was a mania. That fellow Massy had
been bitten by it like the rest of them from the first;
but after winning once he seemed to have persuaded
himself he had only to try again to get another big
prize. He had taken dozens and scores of tickets for
every drawing since. What with this vice and his ig-
norance of affairs, ever since he had improvidently
bought that steamer he had been more or less short of

This, in Captain Eliott's opinion, gave an opening
for a sensible sailor-man with a few pounds to step in
and save that fool from the consequences of his folly.
It was his craze to quarrel with his captains. He had
had some really good men too, who would have been
too glad to stay if he would only let them. But no. He
seemed to think he was no owner unless he was kicking
somebody out in the morning and having a row with
the new man in the evening. What was wanted for him
was a master with a couple of hundred or so to take
an interest in the ship on proper conditions. You don't
discharge a man for no fault, only because of the fun
of telling him to pack up his traps and go ashore, when
you know that in that case you are bound to buy back
his share. On the other hand, a fellow with an interest
in the ship is not likely to throw up his job in a huff
about a trifle. He had told Massy that. He had said:
"'This won't do, Mr. Massy. We are getting very
sick of you here in the Marine Office. What you must
do now is to try whether you could get a sailor to join
you as partner. That seems to be the only way.' And
that was sound advice, Harry."

Captain Whalley, leaning on his stick, was perfectly
still all over, and his hand, arrested in the act of strok-
ing, grasped his whole beard. And what did the fellow
say to that?

The fellow had the audacity to fly out at the Master-
Attendant. He had received the advice in a most im-
pudent manner. "I didn't come here to be laughed at,"
he had shrieked. "I appeal to you as an Englishman
and a shipowner brought to the verge of ruin by an
illegal conspiracy of your beggarly sailors, and all you
condescend to do for me is to tell me to go and get a
partner!" . . . The fellow had presumed to stamp
with rage on the floor of the private office. Where was
he going to get a partner? Was he being taken for
a fool? Not a single one of that contemptible lot ashore
at the "Home" had twopence in his pocket to bless
himself with. The very native curs in the bazaar knew
that much. . . . "And it's true enough, Harry," rum-
bled Captain Eliott judicially. "They are much more
likely one and all to owe money to the Chinamen in
Denham Road for the clothes on their backs. 'Well,'
said I, 'you make too much noise over it for my taste,
Mr. Massy. Good morning.' He banged the door after
him; he dared to bang my door, confound his cheek!"

The head of the Marine department was out of breath
with indignation; then recollecting himself as it were,

"I'll end by being late to dinner--yarning with you
here . . . wife doesn't like it."

He clambered ponderously into the trap; leaned out
sideways, and only then wondered wheezily what on
earth Captain Whalley could have been doing with
himself of late. They had had no sight of each other
for years and years till the other day when he had seen
him unexpectedly in the office.

What on earth . . .

Captain Whalley seemed to be smiling to himself in his
white beard.

"The earth is big," he said vaguely.

The other, as if to test the statement, stared all round
from his driving-seat. The Esplanade was very quiet;
only from afar, from very far, a long way from the sea-
shore, across the stretches of grass, through the long
ranges of trees, came faintly the toot--toot--toot of
the cable car beginning to roll before the empty peristyle
of the Public Library on its three-mile journey to the
New Harbor Docks.

"Doesn't seem to be so much room on it," growled the
Master-Attendant, "since these Germans came along
shouldering us at every turn. It was not so in our

He fell into deep thought, breathing stertorously, as
though he had been taking a nap open-eyed. Perhaps
he too, on his side, had detected in the silent pilgrim-
like figure, standing there by the wheel, like an arrested
wayfarer, the buried lineaments of the features belong-
ing to the young captain of the Condor. Good fellow--
Harry Whalley--never very talkative. You never
knew what he was up to--a bit too off-hand with people
of consequence, and apt to take a wrong view of a fel-
low's actions. Fact was he had a too good opinion of
himself. He would have liked to tell him to get in and
drive him home to dinner. But one never knew. Wife
would not like it.

"And it's funny to think, Harry," he went on in a
big, subdued drone, "that of all the people on it there
seems only you and I left to remember this part of the
world as it used to be . . ."

He was ready to indulge in the sweetness of a senti-
mental mood had it not struck him suddenly that Cap-
tain Whalley, unstirring and without a word, seemed
to be awaiting something--perhaps expecting . . . He
gathered the reins at once and burst out in bluff, hearty

"Ha! My dear boy. The men we have known--the
ships we've sailed--ay! and the things we've done . . ."

The pony plunged--the syce skipped out of the way.
Captain Whalley raised his arm.



The sun had set. And when, after drilling a deep hole
with his stick, he moved from that spot the night had
massed its army of shadows under the trees. They
filled the eastern ends of the avenues as if only waiting
the signal for a general advance upon the open spaces
of the world; they were gathering low between the deep
stone-faced banks of the canal. The Malay prau, half-
concealed under the arch of the bridge, had not altered
its position a quarter of an inch. For a long time Cap-
tain Whalley stared down over the parapet, till at last
the floating immobility of that beshrouded thing seemed
to grow upon him into something inexplicable and
alarming. The twilight abandoned the zenith; its re-
flected gleams left the world below, and the water of the
canal seemed to turn into pitch. Captain Whalley
crossed it.

The turning to the right, which was his way to his
hotel, was only a very few steps farther. He stopped
again (all the houses of the sea-front were shut up, the
quayside was deserted, but for one or two figures of
natives walking in the distance) and began to reckon the
amount of his bill. So many days in the hotel at so
many dollars a day. To count the days he used his
fingers: plunging one hand into his pocket, he jingled a
few silver coins. All right for three days more; and
then, unless something turned up, he must break into
the five hundred--Ivy's money--invested in her father.
It seemed to him that the first meal coming out of that
reserve would choke him--for certain. Reason was of
no use. It was a matter of feeling. His feelings had
never played him false.

He did not turn to the right. He walked on, as if
there still had been a ship in the roadstead to which
he could get himself pulled off in the evening. Far
away, beyond the houses, on the slope of an indigo
promontory closing the view of the quays, the slim
column of a factory-chimney smoked quietly straight
up into the clear air. A Chinaman, curled down in the
stern of one of the half-dozen sampans floating off the
end of the jetty, caught sight of a beckoning hand.
He jumped up, rolled his pigtail round his head swiftly,
tucked in two rapid movements his wide dark trousers
high up his yellow thighs, and by a single, noiseless, fin-
like stir of the oars, sheered the sampan alongside the
steps with the ease and precision of a swimming

"Sofala," articulated Captain Whalley from above;
and the Chinaman, a new emigrant probably, stared
upwards with a tense attention as if waiting to see the
queer word fall visibly from the white man's lips.
"Sofala," Captain Whalley repeated; and suddenly his
heart failed him. He paused. The shores, the islets, the
high ground, the low points, were dark: the horizon had
grown somber; and across the eastern sweep of the shore
the white obelisk, marking the landing-place of the
telegraph-cable, stood like a pale ghost on the beach
before the dark spread of uneven roofs, intermingled
with palms, of the native town. Captain Whalley be-
gan again.

"Sofala. Savee So-fa-la, John?"

This time the Chinaman made out that bizarre sound,
and grunted his assent uncouthly, low down in his bare
throat. With the first yellow twinkle of a star that ap-
peared like the head of a pin stabbed deep into the
smooth, pale, shimmering fabric of the sky, the edge
of a keen chill seemed to cleave through the warm air
of the earth. At the moment of stepping into the sam-
pan to go and try for the command of the Sofala Cap-
tain Whalley shivered a little.

When on his return he landed on the quay again Venus,
like a choice jewel set low on the hem of the sky, cast
a faint gold trail behind him upon the roadstead, as
level as a floor made of one dark and polished stone.
The lofty vaults of the avenues were black--all black
overhead--and the porcelain globes on the lamp-posts
resembled egg-shaped pearls, gigantic and luminous,
displayed in a row whose farther end seemed to sink
in the distance, down to the level of his knees. He put
his hands behind his back. He would now consider
calmly the discretion of it before saying the final word
to-morrow. His feet scrunched the gravel loudly--the
discretion of it. It would have been easier to appraise
had there been a workable alternative. The honesty of
it was indubitable: he meant well by the fellow; and
periodically his shadow leaped up intense by his side on
the trunks of the trees, to lengthen itself, oblique and
dim, far over the grass--repeating his stride.

The discretion of it. Was there a choice? He seemed
already to have lost something of himself; to have given
up to a hungry specter something of his truth and dig-
nity in order to live. But his life was necessary. Let
poverty do its worst in exacting its toll of humiliation.
It was certain that Ned Eliott had rendered him, with-
out knowing it, a service for which it would have been
impossible to ask. He hoped Ned would not think there
had been something underhand in his action. He sup-
posed that now when he heard of it he would understand
--or perhaps he would only think Whalley an eccentric
old fool. What would have been the good of telling
him--any more than of blurting the whole tale to that
man Massy? Five hundred pounds ready to invest. Let
him make the best of that. Let him wonder. You want
a captain--I want a ship. That's enough. B-r-r-r-r.
What a disagreeable impression that empty, dark,
echoing steamer had made upon him. . . .

A laid-up steamer was a dead thing and no mistake;
a sailing-ship somehow seems always ready to spring
into life with the breath of the incorruptible heaven;
but a teamer, thought Captain Whalley, with her fires
out, without the warm whiffs from below meeting you on
her decks, without the hiss of steam, the clangs of iron
in her breast--lies there as cold and still and pulseless as
a corpse.

In the solitude of the avenue, all black above and
lighted below, Captain Whalley, considering the dis-
cretion of his course, met, as it were incidentally, the
thought of death. He pushed it aside with dislike and
contempt. He almost laughed at it; and in the un-
quenchable vitality of his age only thought with a kind
of exultation how little he needed to keep body and soul
together. Not a bad investment for the poor woman
this solid carcass of her father. And for the rest--in
case of anything--the agreement should be clear: the
whole five hundred to be paid back to her integrally
within three months. Integrally. Every penny. He
was not to lose any of her money whatever else had
to go--a little dignity--some of his self-respect. He
had never before allowed anybody to remain under any
sort of false impression as to himself. Well, let that
go--for her sake. After all, he had never SAID any-
thing misleading--and Captain Whalley felt himself
corrupt to the marrow of his bones. He laughed a little
with the intimate scorn of his worldly prudence.
Clearly, with a fellow of that sort, and in the peculiar
relation they were to stand to each other, it would not
have done to blurt out everything. He did not like the
fellow. He did not like his spells of fawning loquacity
and bursts of resentfulness. In the end--a poor devil.
He would not have liked to stand in his shoes. Men
were not evil, after all. He did not like his sleek hair,
his queer way of standing at right angles, with his nose
in the air, and glancing along his shoulder at you. No.
On the whole, men were not bad--they were only silly
or unhappy.

Captain Whalley had finished considering the discre-
tion of that step--and there was the whole long night
before him. In the full light his long beard would
glisten like a silver breastplate covering his heart; in
the spaces between the lamps his burly figure passed less
distinct, loomed very big, wandering, and mysterious.
No; there was not much real harm in men: and all the
time a shadow marched with him, slanting on his left
hand--which in the East is a presage of evil.

. . . . . . .

"Can you make out the clump of palms yet, Serang?"
asked Captain Whalley from his chair on the bridge of
the Sofala approaching the bar of Batu Beru.

"No, Tuan. By-and-by see." The old Malay, in a
blue dungaree suit, planted on his bony dark feet under
the bridge awning, put his hands behind his back and
stared ahead out of the innumerable wrinkles at the
corners of his eyes.

Captain Whalley sat still, without lifting his head to
look for himself. Three years--thirty-six times. He
had made these palms thirty-six times from the south-
ward. They would come into view at the proper time.
Thank God, the old ship made her courses and distances
trip after trip, as correct as clockwork. At last he mur-
mured again--

"In sight yet?"

"The sun makes a very great glare, Tuan."

"Watch well, Serang."

"Ya, Tuan."

A white man had ascended the ladder from the deck
noiselessly, and had listened quietly to this short col-
loquy. Then he stepped out on the bridge and began
to walk from end to end, holding up the long cherry-
wood stem of a pipe. His black hair lay plastered in
long lanky wisps across the bald summit of his head;
he had a furrowed brow, a yellow complexion, and a
thick shapeless nose. A scanty growth of whisker did
not conceal the contour of his jaw. His aspect was of
brooding care; and sucking at a curved black mouth-
piece, he presented such a heavy overhanging profile
that even the Serang could not help reflecting sometimes
upon the extreme unloveliness of some white men.

Captain Whalley seemed to brace himself up in his
chair, but gave no recognition whatever to his presence.
The other puffed jets of smoke; then suddenly--

"I could never understand that new mania of yours
of having this Malay here for your shadow, partner."

Captain Whalley got up from the chair in all his im-
posing stature and walked across to the binnacle, hold-
ing such an unswerving course that the other had to
back away hurriedly, and remained as if intimidated,
with the pipe trembling in his hand. "Walk over me
now," he muttered in a sort of astounded and dis-
comfited whisper. Then slowly and distinctly he

"I--am--not--dirt." And then added defiantly, "As
you seem to think."

The Serang jerked out--

"See the palms now, Tuan."

Captain Whalley strode forward to the rail; but his
eyes, instead of going straight to the point, with the
assured keen glance of a sailor, wandered irresolutely
in space, as though he, the discoverer of new routes, had
lost his way upon this narrow sea.

Another white man, the mate, came up on the bridge.
He was tall, young, lean, with a mustache like a
trooper, and something malicious in the eye. He took
up a position beside the engineer. Captain Whalley,
with his back to them, inquired--

"What's on the log?"

"Eighty-five," answered the mate quickly, and nudged
the engineer with his elbow.

Captain Whalley's muscular hands squeezed the iron
rail with an extraordinary force; his eyes glared with
an enormous effort; he knitted his eyebrows, the per-
spiration fell from under his hat,--and in a faint voice
he murmured, "Steady her, Serang--when she is on
the proper bearing."

The silent Malay stepped back, waited a little, and
lifted his arm warningly to the helmsman. The wheel
revolved rapidly to meet the swing of the ship. Again
the made nudged the engineer. But Massy turned upon

"Mr. Sterne," he said violently, "let me tell you--
as a shipowner--that you are no better than a con-
founded fool."


Sterne went down smirking and apparently not at
all disconcerted, but the engineer Massy remained on
the bridge, moving about with uneasy self-assertion.
Everybody on board was his inferior--everyone with-
out exception. He paid their wages and found them in
their food. They ate more of his bread and pocketed
more of his money than they were worth; and they had
no care in the world, while he alone had to meet all the
difficulties of shipowning. When he contemplated his
position in all its menacing entirety, it seemed to him
that he had been for years the prey of a band of para-
sites: and for years he had scowled at everybody con-
nected with the Sofala except, perhaps, at the Chinese
firemen who served to get her along. Their use was
manifest: they were an indispensable part of the ma-
chinery of which he was the master.

When he passed along his decks he shouldered those
he came across brutally; but the Malay deck hands had
learned to dodge out of his way. He had to bring him-
self to tolerate them because of the necessary manual
labor of the ship which must be done. He had to
struggle and plan and scheme to keep the Sofala afloat
--and what did he get for it? Not even enough respect.
They could not have given him enough of that if all
their thoughts and all their actions had been directed
to that end. The vanity of possession, the vainglory
of power, had passed away by this time, and there re-
mained only the material embarrassments, the fear of
losing that position which had turned out not worth
having, and an anxiety of thought which no abject sub-
servience of men could repay.

He walked up and down. The bridge was his own
after all. He had paid for it; and with the stem of
the pipe in his hand he would stop short at times as
if to listen with a profound and concentrated attention
to the deadened beat of the engines (his own engines)
and the slight grinding of the steering chains upon the
continuous low wash of water alongside. But for these
sounds, the ship might have been lying as still as if
moored to a bank, and as silent as if abandoned by every
living soul; only the coast, the low coast of mud and
mangroves with the three palms in a bunch at the back,
grew slowly more distinct in its long straight line, with-
out a single feature to arrest attention. The native
passengers of the Sofala lay about on mats under the
awnings; the smoke of her funnel seemed the only sign
of her life and connected with her gliding motion in a
mysterious manner.

Captain Whalley on his feet, with a pair of binoculars
in his hand and the little Malay Serang at his elbow,
like an old giant attended by a wizened pigmy, was tak-
ing her over the shallow water of the bar.

This submarine ridge of mud, scoured by the stream
out of the soft bottom of the river and heaped up far
out on the hard bottom of the sea, was difficult to get
over. The alluvial coast having no distinguishing
marks, the bearings of the crossing-place had to be
taken from the shape of the mountains inland. The
guidance of a form flattened and uneven at the top like
a grinder tooth, and of another smooth, saddle-backed
summit, had to be searched for within the great un-
clouded glare that seemed to shift and float like a dry
fiery mist, filling the air, ascending from the water,
shrouding the distances, scorching to the eye. In this
veil of light the near edge of the shore alone stood
out almost coal-black with an opaque and motionless
solidity. Thirty miles away the serrated range of the
interior stretched across the horizon, its outlines and
shades of blue, faint and tremulous like a background
painted on airy gossamer on the quivering fabric of an
impalpable curtain let down to the plain of alluvial soil;
and the openings of the estuary appeared, shining
white, like bits of silver let into the square pieces snipped
clean and sharp out of the body of the land bordered
with mangroves.

On the forepart of the bridge the giant and the pigmy
muttered to each other frequently in quiet tones. Be-
hind them Massy stood sideways with an expression of
disdain and suspense on his face. His globular eyes
were perfectly motionless, and he seemed to have for-
gotten the long pipe he held in his hand.

On the fore-deck below the bridge, steeply roofed with
the white slopes of the awnings, a young lascar seaman
had clambered outside the rail. He adjusted quickly
a broad band of sail canvas under his armpits, and
throwing his chest against it, leaned out far over the
water. The sleeves of his thin cotton shirt, cut off close
to the shoulder, bared his brown arm of full rounded
form and with a satiny skin like a woman's. He swung
it rigidly with the rotary and menacing action of a
slinger: the 14-lb. weight hurtled circling in the air,
then suddenly flew ahead as far as the curve of the bow.
The wet thin line swished like scratched silk running
through the dark fingers of the man, and the plunge of
the lead close to the ship's side made a vanishing silvery
scar upon the golden glitter; then after an interval the
voice of the young Malay uplifted and long-drawn de-
clared the depth of the water in his own language.

"Tiga stengah," he cried after each splash and pause,

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