End of the Tether HTML version

Chapter 3
Just at that time the Japanese were casting far and wide for ships of European build,
and he had no difficulty 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 afternoon 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 enclosing 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 cushioning 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
alternated 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. Captain 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
temperament characterized by a scorn of vulgar gentility and by prejudiced views as to
the derogatory nature of certain occupations. For his own part he had always preferred
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. Company's service, with very slender means besides his pen- sion, but with
distinguished connections. He could remember as a boy how frequently waiters at the
inns, country tradesmen and small people of that sort, used to "My lord" the old warrior
on the strength of his appearance.