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Massy walked hastily from side to side, puffed out his cheeks, suffocated. “Stuck up Dutchman!” And he moaned out feverishly a long tale of griefs. The efforts he had made for all these years to please that man.
This was the return you got for it, eh? Pretty. Write to Schnitzler—let in the green-funnel boats-get an old Hamburg Jew to ruin him. No, really he could laugh. . . He laughed sobbingly. Ha! ha! ha! And make him carry the letter in his own ship presumably.
He stumbled across a grating and swore. He would not hesitate to fling the Dutchman's correspondence overboard—the whole confounded bundle. He had never, never made any charge for that accommodation. But Captain Whalley, his new partner, would not let him probably; besides, it would be only putting off the evil day. For his own part he would make a hole in the water rather than look on tamely at the green funnels overrunning his trade.
He raved aloud. The China boys hung back with the dishes at the foot of the ladder. He yelled from the bridge down at the deck, “ Aren't we going to have any chow this evening at all? ” then turned violently to Captain Whalley, who waited, grave and patient, at the head of the table, smoothing his beard in silence now and then with a forbearing gesture.
“ You don't seem to care what happens to me. Don't you see that this affects your interests as much as mine? It's no joking matter."
He took the foot of the table growling between his teeth.
“ Unless you have a few thousands put away somewhere. I haven't."
Mr. Van Wyk dined in his thoroughly lit-up bungalow, putting a point of splendor in the night of his clearing above the dark bank of the river. Afterwards he sat down to his piano, and in a pause he became aware of slow footsteps passing on the path along the front. A plank or two creaked under a heavy tread; he swung half round on the music-stool, listening with his fingertips at rest on the keyboard. His little terrier barked violently, backing in from the veranda. A deep voice apologized gravely for “ this intrusion.” He walked out quickly.
At the head of the steps the patriarchal figure, who was the new captain of the Sofala apparently (he had seen a round dozen of them, but not one of that sort), towered without advancing. The little dog barked unceasingly, till a flick of Mr. Van Wyk's handkerchief made him spring aside into silence. Captain Whalley, opening the matter, was met by a punctiliously polite but determined opposition.
They carried on their discussion standing where they had come face to face. Mr. Van Wyk observed his visitor with attention. Then at last, as if forced out of his reserve
“I am surprised that you should intercede for such a confounded fool.” This outbreak was almost complimentary, as if its
meaning had been, “ That such a man as you should intercede!” Captain Whalley let it pass by without flinching. One would have thought he had heard nothing. He simply went on to state that he was personally interested in putting things straight between them. Personally
But Mr. Van Wyk, really carried away by his disgust with Massy, became very incisive
Indeed—if I am to be frank with you—his whole character does not seem to me particularly estimable or trustworthy
Captain Whalley, always straight, seemed to grow an inch taller and broader, as if the girth of his chest had suddenly expanded under his beard.
My dear sir, you don't think I came here to discuss
man with whom I am-I am-h’m-closely associated.”
A sort of solemn silence lasted for a moment. He was not used to asking favors, but the importance he attached to this affair had made him willing to try. Mr. Van Wyk, favorably impressed, and suddenly mollified by a desire to laugh, interrupted
“ That's all right if you make it a personal matter; but you can do no less than sit down and smoke a cigar with me."
. A slight pause, then Captain Whalley stepped forward heavily. As to the regularity of the service, for the future he made himself responsible for it; and his name was Whalley—perhaps to a sailor (he was speaking to a sailor, was he not?) not altogether unfamiliar. There
was a lighthouse now, on an island. Maybe Mr. Van
He indicated a chair. How very interesting.
Now that was very interesting.
“ I can look further back even-on a whole halfcentury."
Captain Whalley expanded a bit. The flavor of a good cigar (it was a weakness) had gone straight to his heart, also the civility of that young man. There was something in that accidental contact of which he had been starved in his years of struggle.
The front wall retreating made a square recess furnished like a room. A lamp with a milky glass shade, suspended below the slope of the high roof at the end of a slender brass chain, threw a bright round of light upon a little table bearing an open book and an ivory paper-knife. And, in the translucent shadows beyond, other tables could be seen, a number of easy-chairs of various shapes, with a great profusion of skin rugs strewn on the teakwood planking all over the veranda. The flowering creepers scented the air. Their foliage clipped out between the uprights made as if several frames of thick unstirring leaves reflecting the lamplight in a green glow. Through the opening at his elbow Captain Whalley could see the gangway lantern of the Sofala burning dim by the shore, the shadowy
masses of the town beyond the open lustrous darkness of the river, and, as if hung along the straight edge of the projecting eaves, a narrow black strip of the night sky full of stars—resplendent. The famous cigar in hand he had a moment of complacency.
“A trifle. Somebody must lead the way. I just showed that the thing could be done; but you men brought up to the use of steam cannot conceive the vast importance of my bit of venturesomeness to the Eastern trade of the time. Why, that new route reduced the average time of a southern passage by eleven days for more than half the year. Eleven days! It's on record. But the remarkable thing-speaking to a sailor—I should say was
He talked well, without egotism, professionally. The powerful voice, produced without effort, filled the bungalow even into the empty rooms with a deep and limpid resonance, seemed to make a stillness outside; and Mr. Van Wyk was surprised by the serene quality of its tone, like the perfection of manly gentleness. Nursing one small foot, in a silk sock and a patent leather shoe, on his knee, he was immensely entertained. It was as if nobody could talk like this now, and the overshadowed eyes, the flowing white beard, the big frame, the serenity, the whole temper of the man, were an amazing survival from the prehistoric times of the world coming up to him out of the sea.
Captain Whalley had been also the pioneer of the early trade in the Gulf of Pe-tchi-li. He even found occasion to mention that he had buried his “dear wife " there