Chapter 1

TheNellie,acruisingyawl,swungtoheranchorwithoutaflutterofthesails,andwasatrest.Thefloodhadmade,thewindwasnearlycalm,andbeingbounddowntheriver,theonlythingforitwastocometoandwaitfortheturnofthetide.

Thesea-reachoftheThamesstretchedbeforeuslikethebeginningofaninterminablewaterway.Intheoffingtheseaandtheskywereweldedtogetherwithoutajoint,andintheluminousspacethetannedsailsofthebargesdriftingupwiththetideseemedtostandstillinredclustersofcanvassharplypeaked,withgleamsofvarnishedsprits.Ahazerestedonthelowshoresthatranouttoseainvanishingflatness.TheairwasdarkaboveGravesend,andfartherbackstillseemedcondensedintoamournfulgloom,broodingmotionlessoverthebiggest,andthegreatest,townonearth.

TheDirectorofCompanieswasourcaptainandourhost.Wefouraffectionatelywatchedhisbackashestoodinthebowslookingtoseaward.Onthewholerivertherewasnothingthatlookedhalfsonautical.Heresembledapilot,whichtoaseamanistrustworthinesspersonified.Itwasdifficulttorealizehisworkwasnotoutthereintheluminousestuary,butbehindhim,withinthebroodinggloom.

Betweenustherewas,asIhavealreadysaidsomewhere,thebondofthesea.Besidesholdingourheartstogetherthroughlongperiodsofseparation,ithadtheeffectofmakingustolerantofeachother’syarnsandevenconvictions.

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