End of the Tether HTML version

Chapter 4
Revolving these thoughts, he strolled on near the railings 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, massively 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
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 goodhumored, imperturbable audacity of his
prime into a temper carelessly serene; and the leisurely tapping of his iron-shod stick
accompanied his footfalls with a selfconfident 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 body.
The irrational dread of having to break into his five hundred pounds for personal
expenses in the hotel disturbed 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