End of the Tether - Joseph Conrad - Страница 1 из 193


THE END OF THE TETHER
By Joseph Conrad
I
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 themselves
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


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