"The Pearls of Parlay" and other stories by Jack London

(actualisé le ) by Jack London

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Pluck and Pertinacity (1899) In the words of the author: “The true story of a man who practically achieved the impossible in his hazardous ice-journey in the dead of the Arctic winter. Happily, success crowned the effort.” (1,450 words).

2. The Scorn of Women (1901) Floyd Vanderlip has at last struck it very rich on Bonanza Creek in the Klondike and has sent funds for his young sweetheart down south to come up to Dawson for a wedding. But in the meantime the star dancer at the town’s casino has caught his eye, and Loraine has hit town and begun to snare him with her charms. (8,200 words).

3. Nam-Bok, the Liar (1902) A man arrives by canoe on the shore of a very remote, very poor and very primitive Arctic fishing village and says that he’s Nam-Bok, who’d been lost at sea fishing many years beforehand. But the village people, who have never had any exposure to the outside world, just cannot believe his incredible tales of giant sailing boats, steamships, railways, huge houses and uncountable numbers of people living far away in the south. (5,550 words).

4. The Faith of Men (1903) Two young but millionaire miners who have struck it very rich on the Klondike shake dice to decide which one will return home while the other stays on another year to look after their joint mining operations. Lifelong and very trusted friends, they decide that the winner will bring the other’s fiancée back to the Yukon with him, but fate, false news and an Indian maiden interfere with the planned-for wedding celebration. (5,000 words).

5. The Leopard Man’s Story (1903) A leopard-tamer recounts the terrible revenge wreaked by a jealous circus performer on a lion-tamer who had been eyeing his vivacious young wife too freely. (1,600 words).

6. Local Colour (1903) An erudite, charming, and very talkative tramp tells the narrator, to whose comfortable home he’s always welcome, about his one and only venture into journalism. (5,300 words).

7. Aloha Oe (1908) A subtly powerful evocation of the race-based social divide between the Hawaiian native-born or half-casts, no matter how beautiful or handsome or talented or wealthy, and the white upper crust of Hawaiian society of the time. (2,650 words).

8. The Seed of McCoy (1909) |A cargo ship with a great fire raging below decks puts in at Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific where the captain and crew learn to their dismay that there’a nowhere where they can beach the ship. So they have no alternative but to go on to the nearest island with a suitable lagoon, which is several hundred miles away. (10,850 words).

9. Good-Bye, Jack (1909) One of the richest and most eligible bachelors in Hawaii, a paragon of courage and fortitude, discovers that his lady love is on the point of being interned on the island of Molokai where lepers from all the Hawaiian islands are compounded for life with no hope of ever returning. (3,650 words).

10. Bunches of Knuckles (1910) A couple on a long cruise in the South Seas tries unsuccessfully to cope with the first mate of the ship, an ex-convict whom they have tried to help in spite of misgivings about his past. Things go from bad to tragic until fate lends a helping hand. (5,230 words).

11. The Taste of the Meat (1912) Kit Bellew is a young journalist whose uncle and cousins are setting off the next day to join in the gold rush to the Klondike. Out of shape and rather lazy by temperament, he’s nevertheless determined to live up to his uncle’s strenuous expectations and this is the story of how the soft city boy becomes a hardened “sourdough”. (7,850 words).

12. The Pearls of Parlay (1911) Parlay, who has become the ruler of the atoll of Hikihoho after marrying the queen there, summons the leading traders of the South Seas to his atoll for an auction of the whole of his fabulous collection of pearls. But that day is precisely at the peak of the hurricane season and when their ships have gathered in the atoll’s lagoon the barometer starts going through the floor, as the mother of all hurricanes is on the verge of destroying not only all the ships but the island as well. (9,000 words).

13. The Captain of the Susan Drew (1912) A family of survivors of the shipwreck of their schooner, adrift on the Pacific in a lifeboat, are taken aboard a tramp ship run by a very hairy, very uncouth and very unpleasant semi-pirate captain. (8,200 words).

14. Samuel (1912) On the island of McGill in the north of Ireland a sturdy seventy-two-year old woman works her farm alone, abandoned by her children and estranged from all her neighbours. The narrator learns from one of them how all four of her sons, all named Samuel after a beloved youngest brother, had died accidentally or at sea. (7,950 words).

15. Like Argus of the Ancient Times (1916) The title was the rallying song of the hero of this story when he had set out at the age of twenty-two for the California Gold Rush of 1849, and he chants it again in 1897 when he sets out again at seventy, much to the opposition of his numerous offspring, to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush. (10,100 words).


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1. PLUCK AND PERTINACITY

TO P. T. Barnum is accorded the coinage of the term "stickto-itiveness," a strong synonym for "pertinacity." Now he who possesses pertinacity must also possess pluck, another important element in the achievement of success. A man devoid of this cannot be pertinacious; his resolution melts away in the face of obstacles which require pluck to overcome.
The following story of unyielding adherence to purpose, performed under almost unthinkable hardships and dangers, is a true one, for I was personally aware of most the facts concerned. Some of the incidents, however, were given me by a surgeon travelling into the Yukon country with a detachment of the Northwest mounted police, and still others I obtained from the white trader in charge of the Sixty-Mile Post. The story is of a man who practically achieved the impossible in his hazardous ice-journey in the dead of an Artic winter. Happily, success crowned the effort.
In the fall of 1897, the cry of famine went up from the hungry town of Dawson. Faint-hearted miners turned their backs on the golden lure. Partners, with food for but one, drew straws to ascertain which should remain and which should go. Canadian citizens and American aliens appealed to their respective governments for aid.

In October, with the last water, which was composed chiefly of running ice, a hungry exodus went down the river to Fort Yukon. Then the price of dogs went up to three hundred dollars, and dog-food to a dollar per pound. Flour was not to be had at one hundred and fifty dollars per hundredweight. In November, with the first ice, another stampeded crowd hurried up the river to civilization and safety.
This scare, which so greatly diminished the number of empty mouths, was all that saved Dawson from a bitter winter. As it was, the gold-seekers managed to pinch through; but those that fled in the height of the panic carried a terrible tale with them to salt water. After that the winter settled down and all communication ceased.
For the many faces turned south on the dismal halfthousand miles of trail, there was one that held unerringly to the north. It belonged to a Dutchman, who knew little English and spoke less. His equipment was more meagre than that of those who passed him, and he was heading away from it. He had barely enough food to last himself and dog to Dawson. He had a dog-a bulldog, the short hair of which made it the worst possible choice of a sledge animal in that frosty land.
The refugees looked at his outfit and laughed. By eloquent signs—for misery speaks a common tongue—they explained the lack of food. When that did not startle him, they painted lurid pictures of starvation and death. But he always remained unperturbed. Then they ceased their grim mirth, and pleaded and entreated him to go back. But he invariably pressed on.
Why not? He had started to go to the Klondike, and certainly was going there. True, he had already tried the Stikine route and lost his outfit and three comrades in its treacherous waters; true, he had then gone to St. Michaels, only to get there when the Yukon had frozen and to escape on the last vessel before Bering Sea closed; true, his money was gone and he had but a few weeks’ food,—all true,—but it was also true that he had left a wife and children down in the States, and he must send yellow dust of the north to them before another year had passed.
And yet again—the real stamp of the man he had started to go to the Klondike, and he was going there. For the third time he had ventured it, this time over the dreaded Chilkoot Pass in midwinter.
After untold hardship, he arrived at the Big Salmon River, two hundred and fifty miles from the Chilkoot and an equal distance from Dawson. At that point he encountered a squad of the mounted police of the Northwest Territories. They had strict orders to allow no one to pass who did not possess a thousand pounds of provisions. As he had barely fifty pounds, he was turned back. One of the police, who understood his language, explained the terrible condition of affairs.

All others whom they had turned back had retraced their steps cheerfully. But this man was not made of such mettle. Twice nature had conspired to thwart him, when the trip was half completed, came man. However, he ostensibly started back. But that night he broke a trail through the deep snow and crossed the river, regaining the travelled trail far below the encampment.
The next heard of him was at Little Salmon River, when another detachment of police saw an exhausted man and a bulldog limping painfully down the river. They thought the upper camp had passed him on; so, without suspicion, they cordially invited him to their fire to rest and warm up, but he was afraid, and hobbled on.
The thermometer had gone down and then steadily remained at between fifty and sixty degrees below zero – equivalent to between eighty and ninety degrees of frost. The Dutchman had frozen one of his feet, but still pressed on. He passed fleeing men, young men, with frozen limbs or scurvy-rotted flesh-terrible wrecks of the country; but day by day, rigidly adhering to his object, he plodded into the north.
At Fort Selkirk he was forced to lay up, his frozen foo having become so bad that he could no longer travel. But he had been there only two days, when the surgeon from Big Salmon River arrived. He had sledded a hundred miles down the river with a government dog-team, to amputate the limbs of an unfortunate young man who had been trying to get out of the land. After that, the surgeon had gone on to Fort Selkirk, where he expected to wait till the incoming police picked him up.
He recognized the Dutchman and dressed his foot, the flesh of which had begun to slough away, leaving a raw and festered hole in the sole of the foot almost large enough to thrust one’s fist into. He happened to explain, by signs, that he was awaiting the coming of the police.
That was enough for the sufferer. The police were coming. They would send him back. He cut up a blanket and made a gigantic moccasin, folding thickness upon thickness till it was the size of a water-bucket. That night, he and his bulldog headed down river to Dawson, one hundred and seventy-five miles away.
The exquisite pain the man must have endured from the cold, the toil, the lack of food, and the injured foot, can only be conjectured. And it was not as if he had comrades, for he suffered alone, and ran the dangers of the ice-journey without hope of help in case of accident.
At Stuart River he was almost gone; but his persistence and indomitability seemed limitless. The fear that the police would capture him and send him back drove him on; and he was the kind of man that did not show the meaning of the word "failure." As it was, the police, with their fine trail equipment of dogs and sleds, never did succeed in overtaking him.

At Sixty-Mile, it seemed that he must at last succumb, for the dog had finally become exhausted, as had also the supply of food. But the white trader at that point bought the dog for two hundred dollars and sufficient food to last the man into Dawson, then only fifty miles away.
Barely had he reached his goal when he was sawing wood at fifteen dollars a day, and slowly but surely curing his foot that he might go prospecting. It is no easy task to work all day in the open in such a frosty clime. But he worked steadily through the winter, while other men idled in their cabins and cursed their ill-luck and the country in general. Not only did he manage to earn subsistence, but he got himself a miner’s outfit, and also sent out a snug portion of his earnings to the wife and children down in the States.
In the spring, while the majority of the gold-seekers were preparing to shake the dust of the country from their moccasins, he took part in the stampede to the French Hill benches. A little later, those that passed his claim might have seen a contented-looking man busily engaged in washing out a satisfactory amount of gold a day.
There can be no better way to conclude this narrative of unyielding adherence to purpose, than by stating that one of the first things he did was to hunt up the Sixty-Mile trader and buy back the bulldog that had been the comrade of his hardships and sufferings.

The End


2. THE SCORN OF WOMEN

I

Once Freda and Mrs. Eppingwell clashed.
Now Freda was a Greek girl and a dancer. At least she purported to be Greek; but this was doubted by many, for her classic face had overmuch strength in it, and the tides of hell which rose in her eyes made at rare moments her ethnology the more dubious. To a few—men—this sight had been vouchsafed, and though long years may have passed, they have not forgotten, nor will they ever forget. She never talked of herself, so that it were well to let it go down that when in repose, expurgated, Greek she certainly was. Her furs were the most magnificent in all the country from Chilcoot to St. Michael’s, and her name was common on the lips of men. But Mrs. Eppingwell was the wife of a captain; also a social constellation of the first magnitude, the path of her orbit marking the most select coterie in Dawson, — a coterie captioned by the profane as the "official clique." Sitka Charley had travelled trail with her once, when famine drew tight and a man’s life was less than a cup of flour, and his judgment placed her above all women. Sitka Charley was an Indian; his criteria were primitive; but his word was flat, and his verdict a hall-mark in every camp under the circle.

These two women were man-conquering, man-subduing machines, each in her own way, and their ways were different. Mrs. Eppingwell ruled in her own house, and at the Barracks, where were younger sons galore, to say nothing of the chiefs of the police, the executive, and the judiciary. Freda ruled down in the town; but the men she ruled were the same who functioned socially at the Barracks or were fed tea and canned preserves at the hand of Mrs. Eppingwell in her hillside cabin of rough-hewn logs. Each knew the other existed; but their lives were apart as the Poles, and while they must have heard stray bits of news and were curious, they were never known to ask a question. And there would have been no trouble had not a free lance in the shape of the model-woman come into the land on the first ice, with a spanking dog-team and a cosmopolitan reputation. Loraine Lisznayi—alliterative, dramatic, and Hungarian—precipitated the strife, and because of her Mrs. Eppingwell left her hillside and invaded Freda’s domain, and Freda likewise went up from the town to spread confusion and embarrassment at the Governor’s ball.
All of which may be ancient history so far as the Klondike is concerned, but very few, even in Dawson, know the inner truth of the matter; nor beyond those few are there any fit to measure the wife of the captain or the Greek dancer. And that all are now permitted to understand, let honor be accorded Sitka Charley. From his lips fell the main facts in the screed herewith presented. It ill befits that Freda herself should have waxed confidential to a mere scribbler of words, or that Mrs. Eppingwell made mention of the things which happened. They may have spoken, but it is unlikely.

II

Floyd Vanderlip was a strong man, apparently. Hard work and hard grub had no terrors for him, as his early history in the country attested. In danger he was a lion, and when he held in check half a thousand starving men, as he once did, it was remarked that no cooler eye ever took the glint of sunshine on a rifle-sight. He had but one weakness, and even that, rising from out his strength, was of a negative sort. His parts were strong, but they lacked co-ordination. Now it happened that while his centre of amativeness was pronounced, it had lain mute and passive during the years he lived on moose and salmon and chased glowing Eldorados over chill divides. But when he finally blazed the corner-post and centre-stakes on one of the richest Klondike claims, it began to quicken; and when he took his place in society, a full-fledged Bonanza King, it awoke and took charge of him. He suddenly recollected a girl in the States, and it came to him quite forcibly, not only that she might be waiting for him, but that a wife was a very pleasant acquisition for a man who lived some several degrees north of 53. So he wrote an appropriate note, enclosed a letter of credit generous enough to cover all expenses, including trousseau and chaperon, and addressed it to one Flossie. Flossie? One could imagine the rest. However, after that he built a comfortable cabin on his claim, bought another in Dawson, and broke the news to his friends.
And just here is where the lack of coordination came into play. The waiting was tedious, and having been long denied, the amative element could not brook further delay. Flossie was com ing; but Loraine Lisznayi was here. And not only was Loraine Lisznayi here, but her cosmopolitan reputation was somewhat the worse for wear, and she was not exactly so young as when she posed in the studios of artist queens and received at her door the cards of cardinals and princes. Also, her finances were unhealthy. Having run the gamut in her time, she was now not averse to trying conclusions with a Bonanza King whose wealth was such that he could not guess it within six figures. Like a wise soldier casting about after years of service for a comfortable billet, she had come into the Northland to be married. So, one day, her eyes flashed up into Floyd Vanderlip’s as he was buying table linen for Flossie in the P. C. Company’s store, and the thing was settled out of hand.
When a man is free much may go unquestioned, which, should he be rash enough to cumber himself with domestic ties, society will instantly challenge. Thus it was with Floyd Vanderlip. Flossie was coming, and a low buzz went up when Loraine Lisznayi rode down the main street behind his wolf-dogs. She accompanied the lady reporter of the "Kansas City Star" when photographs were taken of his Bonanza properties, and watched the genesis of a six-column article. At that time they were dined royally in Flossie’s cabin, on Flossie’s table linen. Likewise there were comings and goings, and junketings, all perfectly proper, by the way, which caused the men to say sharp things and the women to be spiteful. Only Mrs. Eppingwell did not hear. The distant hum of wagging tongues rose faintly, but she was prone to believe good of people and to close her ears to evil; so she paid no heed.
Not so with Freda. She had no cause to love men, but, by some strange alchemy of her nature, her heart went out to women,—to women whom she had less cause to love. And her heart went out to Flossie, even then travelling the Long Trail and facing into the bitter North to meet a man who might not wait for her. A shrinking, clinging sort of a girl, Freda pictured her, with weak mouth and pretty pouting lips, blow-away sunkissed hair, and eyes full of the merry shallows and the lesser joys of life. But she also pictured Flossie, face nose-strapped and frost-rimed, stumbling wearily behind the dogs. Wherefore she smiled, dancing one night, upon Floyd Vanderlip.
Few men are so constituted that they may receive the smile of Freda unmoved; nor among them can Floyd Vanderlip be accounted. The grace he had found with the model-woman had caused him to re-measure himself, and by the favor in which he now stood with the Greek dancer he felt himself doubly a man. There were unknown qualities and depths in him, evidently, which they perceived. He did not know exactly what those qualities and depths were, but he had a hazy idea that they were there somewhere, and of them was bred a great pride in himself. A man who could force two women such as these to look upon him a second time, was certainly a most remarkable man. Some day, when he had the time, he would sit down and analyze his strength; but now, just now, he would take what the gods had given him. And a thin little thought began to lift itself, and he fell to wondering whatever under the sun he had seen in Flossie, and to regret exceedingly that he had sent for her. Of course, Freda was out of the running. His dumps were the richest on Bonanza Creek, and they were many, while he was a man of responsibility and position. But Loraine Lisznayi—she was just the woman. Her life had been large; she could do the honors of his establishment and give tone to his dollars.
But Freda smiled, and continued to smile, till he came to spend much time with her. When she, too, rode down the street behind his wolf-dogs, the model-woman found food for thought, and the next time they were together dazzled him with her princes and cardinals and personal little anecdotes of courts and kings. She also showed him dainty missives, superscribed, "My dear Loraine," and ended "Most affectionately yours," and signed by the given name of a real live queen on a throne. And he marvelled in his heart that the great woman should deign to waste so much as a moment upon him. But she played him cleverly, making flattering contrasts and comparisons between him and the noble phantoms she drew mainly from her fancy, till he went away dizzy with self-delight and sorrowing for the world which had been denied him so long. Freda was a more masterful woman. If she flattered, no one knew it. Should she stoop, the stoop were unobserved. If a man felt she thought well of him, so subtly was the feeling conveyed that he could not for the life of him say why or how. So she tightened her grip upon Floyd Vanderlip and rode daily behind his dogs.
And just here is where the mistake occurred. The buzz rose loudly and more definitely, coupled now with the name of the dancer, and Mrs. Eppingwell heard. She, too, thought of Flossie lifting her moccasined feet through the endless hours, and Floyd Vanderlip was invited up the hillside to tea, and invited often. This quite took his breath away, and he became drunken with appreciation of himself. Never was man so maltreated. His soul had become a thing for which three women struggled, while a fourth was on the way to claim it. And three such women!
But Mrs. Eppingwell and the mistake she made. She spoke of the affair, tentatively, to Sitka Charley, who had sold dogs to the Greek girl. But no names were mentioned. The nearest approach to it was when Mrs. Eppingwell said, "This­—er—horrid woman," and Sitka Charley, with the model-woman strong in his thoughts, had echoed,"—er—horrid woman." And he agreed with her, that it was a wicked thing for a woman to come between a man and the girl he was to marry. "A mere girl, Charley," she said, "I am sure she is. And she is coming into a strange country without a friend when she gets here. We must do something." Sitka Charley promised his help, and went away thinking what a wicked woman this Loraine Lisznayi must be, also what noble women Mrs. Eppingwell and Freda were to interest themselves in the welfare of the unknown Flossie.
Now Mrs. Eppingwell was open as the day. To Sitka Charley, who took her once past the Hills of Silence, belongs the glory of having memorialized her clear-searching eyes, her clear-ringing voice, and her utter downright frankness. Her lips had a way of stiffening to command, and she was used to coming straight to the point. Having taken Floyd Vanderlip’s measurement, she did not dare this with him; but she was not afraid to go down into the town to Freda. And down she went, in the bright light of day, to the house of the dancer. She was above silly tongues, as was her husband, the captain. She wished to see this woman and to speak with her, nor was she aware of any reason why she should not. So she stood in the snow at the Greek girl’s door, with the frost at sixty below, and parleyed with the waiting-maid for a full five minutes. She had also the pleasure of being turned away from that door, and of going back up the hill, wroth at heart for the indignity which had been put upon her. "Who was this woman that she should refuse to see her?" she asked herself. One would think it the other way around, and she herself but a dancing girl denied at the door of the wife of a captain. As it was, she knew, had Freda come up the hill to her, —no matter what the errand, —she would have made her welcome at her fire, and they would have sat there as two women, and talked, merely as two women. She had overstepped convention and lowered herself, but she had thought it different with the women down in the town. And she was ashamed that she had laid herself open to such dishonor, and her thoughts of Freda were unkind.
Not that Freda deserved this. Mrs. Eppingwell had descended to meet her who was without caste, while she, strong in the traditions of her own earlier status, had not permitted it. She could worship such a woman, and she would have asked no greater joy than to have had her into the cabin and sat with her, just sat with her, for an hour. But her respect for Mrs. Eppingwell, and her respect for herself, who was beyond respect, had prevented her doing that which she most desired. Though not quite recovered from the recent visit of Mrs. McFee, the wife of the minister, who had descended upon her in a whirlwind of exhortation and brimstone, she could not imagine what had prompted the present visit. She was not aware of any particular wrong she had done, and surely this woman who waited at the door was not concerned with the welfare of her soul. Why had she come? For all the curiosity she could not help but feel, she steeled herself in the pride of those who are without pride, and trembled in the inner room like a maid on the first caress of a lover. If Mrs. Eppingwell suffered going up the hill, she too suffered, lying face downward on the bed, dry-eyed, drymouthed, dumb.
Mrs. Eppingwell’s knowledge of human nature was great. She aimed at universality. She had found it easy to step from the civilized and contemplate things from the barbaric aspect. She could comprehend certain primal and analogous characteristics in a hungry wolf-dog or a starving man, and predicate lines of action to be pursued by either under like conditions. To her, a woman was a woman, whether garbed in purple or the rags of the gutter; Freda was a woman. She would not have been surprised had she been taken into the dancer’s cabin and encountered on common ground; nor surprised had she been taken in and flaunted in prideless arrogance. But to be treated as she had been treated, was unexpected and disappointing. Ergo, she had not caught Freda’s point of view. And this was good. There are some points of view which cannot be gained save through much travail and personal crucifixion, and it were well for the world that its Mrs. Eppingwells should, in certain ways, fall short of universality. One cannot understand defilement without laying hands to pitch, which is very sticky, while there be plenty willing to undertake the experiment. All of which is of small concern, beyond the fact that it gave Mrs. Eppingwell ground for grievance, and bred for her a greater love in the Greek girl’s heart.

III

And in this way things went along for a month, —Mrs. Eppingwell striving to withhold the man from the Greek dancer’s blandishments against the time of Flossie’s coming; Flossie lessening the miles each day on the dreary trail; Freda pitting her strength against the model-woman; the model-woman straining every nerve to land the prize; and the man moving through it all like a flying shuttle, very proud of himself, whom he believed to be a second Don Juan.
It was nobody’s fault except the man’s that Loraine Lisznayi at last landed him. The way of a man with a maid may be too wonderful to know, but the way of a woman with a man passeth all conception; whence the prophet were indeed unwise who would dare forecast Floyd Vanderlip’s course twenty-four hours in advance. Perhaps the model-woman’s attraction lay in that to the eye she was a handsome animal; perhaps she fascinated him with her old-world talk of palaces and princes; leastwise she dazzled him whose life had been worked out in uncultured roughness, and he at last agreed to her suggestion of a run down the river and a marriage at Forty Mile. In token of his intention he bought dogs from Sitka Charley,—more than one sled is necessary when a woman like Loraine Lisznayi takes to the trail, and then went up the creek to give orders for the superintendence of his Bonanza mines during his absence.
He had given it out, rather vaguely, that he needed the animals for sledding lumber from the mill to his sluices, and right here is where Sitka Charley demonstrated his fitness. He agreed to furnish dogs on a given date, but no sooner had Floyd Vanderlip turned his toes up-creek, than Charley hied himself away in perturbation to Loraine Lisznayi. Did she know where Mr. Vanderlip had gone? He had agreed to supply that gentleman with a big string of dogs by a certain time; but that shameless one, the German trader Meyers, had been buying up the brutes and skimped the market. It was very necessary he should see Mr. Vanderlip, because of the shameless one he would be all of a week behindhand in filling the contract. She did know where he had gone? Up-creek? Good! He would strike out after him at once and inform him of the unhappy delay. Did he understand her to say that Mr. Vanderlip needed the dogs on Friday night? that he must have them by that time? It was too bad, but it was the fault of the shameless one who had bid up the prices. They had jumped fifty dollars per head, and should he buy on the rising market he would lose by the contract. He wondered if Mr. Vanderlip would be willing to meet the advance. She knew he would? Being Mr. Vanderlip’s friend, she would even meet the difference herself? And he was to say nothing about it? She was kind to so look to his interests. Friday night, did she say? Good! The dogs would be on hand.
An hour later, Freda knew the elopement was to be pulled off on Friday night; also, that Floyd Vanderlip had gone upcreek, and her hands were tied. On Friday morning, Devereaux, the official courier, bearing despatches from the Governor arrived over the ice. Besides the despatches, he brought news of Flossie. He had passed her camp at Sixty Mile; humans and dogs were in good condition; and she would doubtless be in on the morrow. Mrs. Eppingwell experienced a great relief on hearing this; Floyd Vanderlip was safe up-creek, and ere the Greek girl could again lay hands upon him, his bride would be on the ground. But that afternoon her big St. Bernard, valiantly defending her front stoop, was downed by a foraging party of trail-starved Malemutes. He was buried beneath the hirsute mass for about thirty seconds, when rescued by a couple of axes and as many stout men. Had he remained down two minutes, the chances were large that he would have been roughly apportioned and carried away in the respective bellies of the attacking party; but as it was, it was a mere case of neat and expeditious mangling. Sitka Charley came to repair the damages, especially a right fore-paw which had inadvertently been left a fraction of a second too long in some other dog’s mouth. As he put on his mittens to go, the talk turned upon Flossie and in natural sequence passed on to the—"er horrid woman." Sitka Charley remarked incidentally that she intended jumping out down river that night with Floyd Vanderlip, and further ventured the information that accidents were very likely at that time of year.
So Mrs. Eppingwell’s thoughts of Freda were unkinder than ever. She wrote a note, addressed it to the man in question, and intrusted it to a messenger who lay in wait at the mouth of Bonanza Creek. Another man, bearing a note from Freda, also waited at that strategic point. So it happened that Floyd Vanderlip, riding his sled merrily down with the last daylight, received the notes together. He tore Freda’s across. No, he would not go to see her. There were greater things afoot that night. Besides, she was out of the running. But Mrs. Eppingwell! He would observe her last wish,—or rather, the last wish it would be possible for him to observe,—and meet her at the Governor’s ball to hear what she had to say. From the tone of the writing it was evidently important; perhaps—He smiled fondly, but failed to shape the thought. Confound it all, what a lucky fellow he was with the women any way! Scattering her letter to the frost, he mushed the dogs into a swinging lope and headed for his cabin. It was to be a masquerade, and he had to dig up the costume used at the Opera House a couple of months before. Also, he had to shave and to eat. Thus it was that he, alone of all interested, was unaware of Flossie’s proximity.
"Have them down to the water-hole off the hospital, at midnight, sharp. Don’t fail me," he said to Sitka Charley, who dropped in with the advice that only one dog was lacking to fill the bill, and that that one would be forthcoming in an hour or so. "Here’s the sack. There’s the scales. Weigh out your own dust and don’t bother me. I’ve got to get ready for the ball."
Sitka Charley weighed out his pay and departed, carrying with him a letter to Loraine Lisznayi, the contents of which he correctly imagined to refer to a meeting at the water-hole of the hospital, at midnight, sharp.

IV

Twice Freda sent messengers up to the Barracks, where the dance was in full swing, and as often they came back without answers. Then she did what only Freda could do—put on her furs, masked her face, and went up herself to the Governor’s ball. Now there happened to be a custom—not an original one by any means—to which the official clique had long since become addicted. It was a very wise custom, for it furnished protection to the womankind of the officials and gave greater selectness to their revels. Whenever a masquerade was given, a committee was chosen, the sole function of which was to stand by the door and peep beneath each and every mask. Most men did not clamor to be placed upon this committee, while the very ones who least desired the honor were the ones whose services were most required. The chaplain was not well enough acquainted with the faces and places of the townspeople to know whom to admit and whom to turn away. In like condition were the several other worthy gentlemen who would have asked nothing better than to so serve. To fill the coveted place, Mrs. McFee would have risked her chance of salvation, and did, one night, when a certain trio passed in under her guns and muddled things considerably before their identity was discovered. Thereafter only the fit were chosen, and very ungracefully did they respond.
On this particular night Prince was at the door. Pressure had been brought to bear, and he had not yet recovered from amaze at his having consented to undertake a task which bid fair to lose him half his friends, merely for the sake of pleasing the other half. Three or four of the men he had refused were men whom he had known on creek and trail, good comrades, but not exactly eligible for so select an affair. He was canvassing the expediency of resigning the post there and then, when a woman tripped in under the light. Freda! He could swear it by the furs, did he not know that poise of head so well. The last one to expect in all the world. He had given her better judgment than to thus venture the ignominy of refusal, or, if she passed, the scorn of women. He shook his head, without scrutiny; he knew her too well to be mistaken. But she pressed closer. She lifted the black silk ribbon and as quickly lowered it again. For one flashing, eternal second he looked upon her face. It was not for nothing the saying which had arisen in the country, that Freda played with men as a child with bubbles. Not a word was spoken. Prince stepped aside, and a few moments later might have been seen resigning, with warm incoherence, the post to which he had been unfaithful.

* * *

A woman, flexible of form, slender, yet rhythmic of strength in every movement, now pausing with this group, now scanning that, urged a restless and devious course among the revellers. Men recognized the furs, and marvelled,—men who should have served upon the door committee; but they were not prone to speech. Not so with the women. They had better eyes for the lines of figure and tricks of carriage, and they knew this form to be one with which they were unfamiliar; likewise the furs. Mrs. McFee, emerging from the supper-room where all was in readiness, caught one flash of the blazing, questing eyes through the silken mask-slits, and received a start. She tried to recollect where she had seen the like, and a vivid picture was recalled of a certain proud and rebellious sinner whom she had once encountered on a fruitless errand for the Lord.
So it was that the good woman took the trail in hot and righteous wrath, a trail which brought her ultimately into the company of Mrs. Eppingwell and Floyd Vanderlip. Mrs. Eppingwell had just found the opportunity to talk with the man. She had determined, now that Flossie was so near at hand, to proceed directly to the point, and an incisive little ethical discourse was titillating on the end of her tongue, when the couple became three. She noted, and pleasurably, the faintly foreign accent of the "Beg pardon" with which the furred woman prefaced her immediate appropriation of Floyd Vanderlip; and she courteously bowed her permission for them to draw a little apart.
Then it was that Mrs. McFee’s righteous hand descended, and accompanying it in its descent was a black mask torn from a startled woman. A wonderful face and brilliant eyes were exposed to the quiet curiosity of those who looked that way, and they were everybody. Floyd Vanderlip was rather confused. The situation demanded instant action on the part of a man who was not beyond his depth, while he hardly knew where he was. He stared helplessly about him. Mrs. Eppingwell was perplexed. She could not comprehend. An explanation was forthcoming, somewhere, and Mrs. McFee was equal to it.
"Mrs. Eppingwell," and her Celtic voice rose shrilly, "it is with great pleasure I make you acquainted with Freda Moloof, Miss Freda Moloof, as I understand."
Freda involuntarily turned. With her own face bared, she felt as in a dream, naked, upon her turned the clothed features and gleaming eyes of the masked circle. It seemed, almost, as though a hungry wolf-pack girdled her, ready to drag her down. It might chance that some felt pity for her, she thought, and at the thought, hardened. She would by far prefer their scorn. Strong of heart was she, this woman, and though she had hunted the prey into the midst of the pack, Mrs. Eppingwell or no Mrs. Eppingwell, she could not forego the kill.
But here Mrs. Eppingwell did a strange thing. So this, at last, was Freda, she mused, the dancer and the destroyer of men; the woman from whose door she had been turned. And she, too, felt the imperious creature’s nakedness as though it were her own. Perhaps it was this, her Saxon disinclination to meet a disadvantaged foe, perhaps, forsooth, that it might give her greater strength in the struggle for the man, and it might have been a little of both; but be that as it may, she did do this strange thing. When Mrs. McFee’s thin voice, vibrant with malice, had raised, and Freda turned involuntarily, Mrs. Eppingwell also turned, removed her mask, and inclined her head in acknowledgment.
It was another flashing, eternal second, during which these two women regarded each other. The one, eyes blazing, meteoric; at bay, aggressive; suffering in advance and resenting in advance the scorn and ridicule and insult she had thrown herself open to; a beautiful, burning, bubbling lava cone of flesh and spirit. And the other, calm-eyed, cool-browed, serene; strong in her own integrity, with faith in herself, thoroughly at ease; dispassionate, imperturbable; a figure chiselled from some cold marble quarry. Whatever gulf there might exist, she recognized it not. No bridging, no descending; her attitude was that of perfect equality. She stood tranquilly on the ground of their common womanhood. And this maddened Freda. Not so, had she been of lesser breed; but her soul’s plummet knew not the bottomless, and she could follow the other into the deeps of her deepest depths and read her aright. "Why do you not draw back your garment’s hem?" she was fain to cry out, all in that flashing, dazzling second. "Spit upon me, revile me, and it were greater mercy than this!" She trembled. Her nostrils distended and quivered. But she drew herself in check, returned the inclination of head, and turned to the man.
"Come with me, Floyd," she said simply. "I want you now."
"What the—" he began explosively, and quit as suddenly, discreet enough to not round it off. Where the deuce had his wits gone, anyway? Was ever a man more foolishly placed? He gurgled deep down in his throat and high up in the roof of his mouth, heaved as one his big shoulders and his indecision, and glared appealingly at the two women.
"I beg pardon, just a moment, but may I speak first with Mr. Vanderlip?" Mrs. Eppingwell’s voice, though flute-like and low, predicated will in its every cadence.
The man looked his gratitude. He, at least, was willing enough.
"I’m very sorry," from Freda. "There isn’t time. He must come at once." The conventional phrases dropped easily from her lips, but she could not forbear to smile inwardly at their inadequacy and weakness. She would much rather have shrieked.

"But, Miss Moloof, who are you that you may possess yourself of Mr. Vanderlip and command his actions?"
Whereupon relief brightened his face, and the man beamed his approval. Trust Mrs. Eppingwell to drag him clear. Freda had met her match this time.
"I—I—" Freda hesitated, and then her feminine mind putting on its harness—"and who are you to ask this question?"
"I? I am Mrs. Eppingwell, and—"
"There!" the other broke in sharply. "You are the wife of a captain, who is therefore your husband. I am only a dancing girl. What do you with this man?"
"Such unprecedented behavior!" Mrs. McFee ruffled herself and cleared for action, but Mrs. Eppingwell shut her mouth with a look and developed a new attack.
"Since Miss Moloof appears to hold claims upon you, Mr. Vanderlip, and is in too great haste to grant me a few seconds of your time, I am forced to appeal directly to you. May I speak with you, alone, and now?"
Mrs. McFee’s jaws brought together with a snap. That settled the disgraceful situation.
"Why, er—that is, certainly," the man stammered. "Of course, of course," growing more effusive at the prospect of deliverance.
Men are only gregarious vertebrates, domesticated and evolved, and the chances are large that it was because the Greek girl had in her time dealt with wilder masculine beasts of the human sort; for she turned upon the man with hell’s tides aflood in her blazing eyes, much as a bespangled lady upon a lion which has suddenly imbibed the pernicious theory that he is a free agent. The beast in him fawned to the lash.
"That is to say, ah, afterward. To-morrow, Mrs. Eppingwell; yes, to-morrow. That is what I meant." He solaced himself with the fact, should he remain, that more embarrassment awaited. Also, he had an engagement which he must keep shortly, down by the water-hole off the hospital. Ye gods! he had never given Freda credit! Wasn’t she magnificent!
"I’ll thank you for my mask, Mrs. McFee."
That lady, for the nonce speechless, turned over the article in question.
"Good-night, Miss Moloof." Mrs. Eppingwell was royal even in defeat.
Freda reciprocated, though barely downing the impulse to clasp the other’s knees and beg forgiveness,—no, not forgiveness, but something, she knew not what, but which she none the less greatly desired.
The man was for her taking his arm; but she had made her kill in the midst of the pack, and that which led kings to drag their vanquished at the chariot-tail, led her toward the door alone, Floyd Vanderlip close at heel and striving to re-establish his mental equilibrium.

V

It was bitter cold. As the trail wound, a quarter of a mile brought them to the dancer’s cabin, by which time her moist breath had coated her face frostily, while his had massed his heavy mustache till conversation was painful. By the greenish light of the aurora borealis, the quicksilver showed itself frozen hard in the bulb of the thermometer which hung outside the door. A thousand dogs, in pitiful chorus, wailed their ancient wrongs and claimed mercy from the unheeding stars. Not a breath of air was moving. For them there was no shelter from the cold, no shrewd crawling to leeward in snug nooks. The frost was everywhere, and they lay in the open, ever and anon stretching their trail-stiffened muscles and lifting the long wolfhowl.
They did not talk at first, the man and the woman. While the maid helped Freda off with her wraps, Floyd Vanderlip replenished the fire; and by the time the maid had withdrawn to an inner room, his head over the stove, he was busily thawing out his burdened upper lip. After that he rolled a cigarette and watched her lazily through the fragrant eddies. She stole a glance at the clock. It lacked half an hour of midnight. How was she to hold him? Was he angry for that which she had done? What was his mood? What mood of hers could meet his best? Not that she doubted herself. No, no. Hold him she could, if need be at pistol point, till Sitka Charley’s work was done, and Devereaux’s too.
There were many ways, and with her knowledge of this her contempt for the man increased. As she leaned her head on her hand, a fleeting vision of her own girlhood, with its mournful climacteric and tragic ebb, was vouchsafed her, and for the moment she was minded to read him a lesson from it. God! it must be less than human brute who could not be held by such a tale, told as she could tell it, but—bah! He was not worth it, nor worth the pain to her. The candle was positioned just right, and even as she thought of these things sacredly shameful to her, he was pleasuring in the transparent pinkiness of her ear. She noted his eye, took the cue, and turned her head till the clean profile of the face was presented. Not the least was that profile among her virtues. She could not help the lines upon which she had been builded, and they were very good; but she had long since learned those lines, and though little they needed, was not above advantaging them to the best of her ability. The candle began to flicker. She could not do anything ungracefully, but that did not prevent her improving upon nature a bit, when she reached forth and deftly snuffed the red wick from the midst of the yellow flame. Again she rested head on hand, this time regarding the man thoughtfully, and any man is pleased when thus regarded by a pretty woman.

She was in little haste to begin. If dalliance were to his liking, it was to hers. To him it was very comfortable, soothing his lungs with nicotine and gazing upon her. It was snug and warm here, while down by the water-hole began a trail which he would soon be hitting through the chilly hours. He felt he ought to be angry with Freda for the scene she had created, but somehow he didn’t feel a bit wrathful. Like as not there wouldn’t have been any scene if it hadn’t been for that McFee woman. If he were the Governor, he would put a poll tax of a hundred ounces a quarter upon her and her kind and all gospel sharks and sky pilots. And certainly Freda had behaved very ladylike, held her own with Mrs. Eppingwell besides. Never gave the girl credit for the grit. He looked lingeringly over her, coming back now and again to the eyes, behind the deep earnestness of which he could not guess lay concealed a deeper sneer. And, Jove, wasn’t she well put up! Wonder why she looked at him so? Did she want to marry him, too? Like as not; but she wasn’t the only one. Her looks were in her favor, weren’t they? And young—younger than Loraine Lisznayi. She couldn’t be more than twenty-three or four, twenty-five at most. And she’d never get stout. Anybody could guess that the first time. He couldn’t say it of Loraine, though. She certainly had put on flesh since the day she served as model. Huh! once he got her on trail he’d take it off. Put her on the snowshoes to break ahead of the dogs. Never knew it to fail, yet. But his thought leaped ahead to the palace under the lazy Mediterranean sky—and how would it be with Loraine then? No frost, no trail, no famine now and again to cheer the monotony, and she getting older and piling it on with every sunrise. While this girl Freda—he sighed his unconscious regret that he had missed being born under the flag of the Turk, and came back to Alaska.
"Well?" Both hands of the clock pointed perpendicularly to midnight, and it was high time he was getting down to the water-hole.
"Oh!" Freda started, and she did it prettily, delighting him as his fellows have ever been delighted by their womankind. When a man is made to believe that a woman, looking upon him thoughtfully, has lost herself in meditation over him, that man needs be an extremely cold blooded individual in order to trim his sheets, set a lookout, and steer clear.
"I was just wondering what you wanted to see me about," he xplained, drawing his chair up to hers by the table.
"Floyd," she looked him steadily in the eyes, "I am tired of the whole business. I want to go away. I can’t live it out here till the river breaks. If I try, I’ll die. I am sure of it. I want to quit it all and go away, and I want to do it at once."
She laid her hand in mute appeal upon the back of his, which turned over and became a prison. Another one, he thought, just throwing herself at him. Guess it wouldn’t hurt Loraine to cool her feet by the water-hole a little longer.

"Well?" This time from Freda, but softly and anxiously.
"I don’t know what to say," he hastened to answer, adding to himself that it was coming along quicker than he had expected. "Nothing I’d like better, Freda. You know that well enough." He pressed her hand, palm to palm. She nodded. Could she wonder that she despised the breed?
"But you see, I—I’m engaged. Of course you know that. And the girl’s coming into the country to marry me. Don’t know what was up with me when I asked her, but it was a long while back, and I was all-fired young—"
"I want to go away, out of the land, anywhere," she went on, disregarding the obstacle he had reared up and apologized for. "I have been running over the men I know and reached the conclusion that—that—".
"I was the likeliest of the lot?"
She smiled her gratitude for his having saved her the embarrassment of confession. He drew her head against his shoulder with the free hand, and somehow the scent of her hair got into his nostrils. Then he discovered that a common pulse throbbed, throbbed, throbbed, where their palms were in contact. This phenomenon is easily comprehensible from a physiological standpoint, but to the man who makes the discovery for the first time, it is a most wonderful thing. Floyd Vanderlip had caressed more shovel-handles than women’s hands in his time, so this was an experience quite new and delightfully strange.

And when Freda turned her head against his shoulder, her hair brushing his cheek till his eyes met hers, full and at close range, luminously soft, ay, and tender—why, whose fault was it that he lost his grip utterly? False to Flossie, why not to Loraine? Even if the women did keep bothering him, that was no reason he should make up his mind in a hurry. Why, he had slathers of money, and Freda was just the girl to grace it. A wife she’d make him for other men to envy. But go slow. He must be cautious.
"You don’t happen to care for palaces, do you?" he asked. She shook her head.
"Well, I had a hankering after them myself, till I got to thinking, a while back, and I’ve about sized it up that one’d get fat living in palaces, and soft and lazy."
"Yes, it’s nice for a time, but you soon grow tired of it, I imagine," she hastened to reassure him. "The world is good, but life should be many-sided. Rough and knock about for a while, and then rest up somewhere. Off to the South Seas on a yacht, then a nibble of Paris; a winter in South America and a summer in Norway; a few months in England—"
"Good society?"
"Most certainly—the best; and then, heigho! for the dogs and sleds and the Hudson Bay Country. Change, you know. A strong man like you, full of vitality and go, could not possibly stand a palace for a year. It is all very well for effeminate men, but you weren’t made for such a life. You are masculine, intensely masculine."
"Think so?"
"It does not require thinking. I know. Have you ever noticed that it was easy to make women care for you?"
His dubious innocence was superb.
"It is very easy. And why? Because you are masculine. You strike the deepest chords of a woman’s heart. You are something to cling to, big-muscled, strong, and brave. In short, because you are a man."
She shot a glance at the clock. It was half after the hour. She had given a margin of thirty minutes to Sitka Charley; and it did not matter, now, when Devereaux arrived. Her work was done. She lifted her head, laughed her genuine mirth, slipped her hand clear, and rising to her feet called the maid.
"Alice, help Mr. Vanderlip on with his parka. His mittens are on the sill by the stove."
The man could not understand.
"Let me thank you for your kindness, Floyd. Your time was invaluable to me, and it was indeed good of you. The turning to the left, as you leave the cabin, leads the quickest to the waterhole. Good-night. I am going to bed."
Floyd Vanderlip employed strong words to express his perplexity and disappointment. Alice did not like to hear men swear, so dropped his parka on the floor and tossed his mittens on top of it. Then he made a break for Freda, and she ruined her retreat to the inner room by tripping over the parka. He brought her up standing with a rude grip on the wrist. But she only laughed. She was not afraid of men. Had they not wrought their worst with her, and did she not still endure?
"Don’t be rough," she said finally. "On second thought," here she looked at his detaining hand, "I’ve decided not to go to bed yet a while. Do sit down and be comfortable instead of ridiculous. Any questions?"
"Yes, my lady, and reckoning, too." He still kept his hold. "What do you know about the water-hole? What did you mean by—no, never mind. One question at a time."
"Oh, nothing much. Sitka Charley had an appointment there with somebody you may know, and not being anxious for a man of your known charm to be present, fell back upon me to kindly help him. That’s all. They’re off now, and a good half hour ago."
"Where? Down river and without me? And he an Indian!"
"There’s no accounting for taste, you know, especially in a woman."
"But how do I stand in this deal? I’ve lost four thousand dollars’ worth of dogs and a tidy bit of a woman, and nothing to show for it. Except you," he added as an afterthought, "and cheap you are at the price."
Freda shrugged her shoulders.
"You might as well get ready. I’m going out to borrow a couple of teams of dogs, and we’ll start in as many hours."
"I am very sorry, but I’m going to bed."
"You’ll pack if you know what’s good for you. Go to bed, or not, when I get my dogs outside, so help me, onto the sled you go. Mebbe you fooled with me, but I’ll just see your bluff and take you in earnest. Hear me?"
He closed on her wrist till it hurt, but on her lips a smile was growing, and she seemed to listen intently to some outside sound. There was a jingle of dog bells, and a man’s voice crying "Haw!" as a sled took the turning and drew up at the cabin.
"Now will you let me go to bed?"
As Freda spoke she threw open the door. Into the warm room rushed the frost, and on the threshold, garbed in trail worn furs, knee-deep in the swirling vapor, against a background of flaming borealis, a woman hesitated. She removed her nose-trap and stood blinking blindly in the white candlelight. Floyd Vanderlip stumbled forward.
"Floyd!" she cried, relieved and glad, and met him with a tired bound.
What could he but kiss the armful of furs? And a pretty armful it was, nestling against him wearily, but happy.
"It was good of you," spoke the armful, "to send Mr. Devereaux with fresh dogs after me, else I would not have been in till to-morrow."
The man looked blankly across at Freda, then the light breaking in upon him, "And wasn’t it good of Devereaux to go?"
"Couldn’t wait a bit longer, could you, dear?" Flossie snuggled closer.
"Well, I was getting sort of impatient," he confessed glibly, at the same time drawing her up till her feet left the floor, and getting outside the door.
That same night an inexplicable thing happened to the Reverend James Brown, missionary, who lived among the natives several miles down the Yukon and saw to it that the trails they trod led to the white man’s paradise. He was roused from his sleep by a strange Indian, who gave into his charge not only the soul but the body of a woman, and having done this drove quickly away. This woman was heavy, and handsome, and angry, and in her wrath unclean words fell from her mouth This shocked the worthy man, but he was yet young and her presence would have been pernicious (in the simple eyes of his flock), had she not struck out on foot for Dawson with the first gray of dawn.
The shock to Dawson came many days later, when the summer had come and the population honored a certain royal lady at Windsor by lining the Yukon’s bank and watching Sitka Charley rise up with flashing paddle and drive the first canoe across the line. On this day of the races, Mrs. Eppingwell, who had learned and unlearned numerous things, saw Freda for the first time since the night of the ball. "Publicly, mind you," as Mrs. McFee expressed it, "without regard or respect for the morals of the community," she went up to the dancer and held out her hand. At first, it is remembered by those who saw, the girl shrank back, then words passed between the two, and Freda, great Freda, broke down and wept on the shoulder of the captain’s wife. It was not given to Dawson to know why Mrs. Eppingwell should crave forgiveness of a Greek dancing girl, but she did it publicly, and it was unseemly.
It were well not to forget Mrs. McFee. She took a cabin passage on the first steamer going out. She also took with her a theory which she had achieved in the silent watches of the long dark nights; and it is her conviction that the Northland is unregenerate because it is so cold there. Fear of hell-fire cannot be bred in an ice-box. This may appear dogmatic, but it is Mrs. McFee’s theory.

The End


3. NAM-BOK, THE LIAR

"A bidarka, is it not so? Look! a bidarka, and one man who drives clumsily with a paddle!"
Old Bask-Wah-Wan rose to her knees, trembling with weakness and eagerness, and gazed out over the sea.
"Nam-Bok was ever clumsy at the paddle," she maundered reminiscently, shading the sun from her eyes and staring across the silver-spilled water. "Nam-Bok was ever clumsy. I remember...."
But the women and children laughed loudly, and there was a gentle mockery in their laughter, and her voice dwindled till her lips moved without sound.
Koogah lifted his grizzled head from his bone-carving and followed the path of her eyes. Except when wide yaws took it off its course, a bidarka was heading in for the beach. Its occupant was paddling with more strength than dexterity, and made his approach along the zigzag line of most resistance. Koogah’s head dropped to his work again, and on the ivory tusk between his knees he scratched the dorsal fin of a fish the like of which never swam in the sea.
"It is doubtless the man from the next village," he said finally, "come to consult with me about the marking of things on bone. And the man is a clumsy man. He will never know how."
"It is Nam-Bok," old Bask-Wah-Wan repeated. "Should I not know my son?" she demanded shrilly. "I say, and I say again, it is Nam-Bok."
"And so thou hast said these many summers," one of the women chided softly. "Ever when the ice passed out of the sea hast thou sat and watched through the long day, saying at each chance canoe, ’This is Nam-Bok.’ Nam-Bok is dead, O Bask-Wah-Wan, and the dead do not come back. It cannot be that the dead come back."
"Nam-Bok!" the old woman cried, so loud and clear that the whole village was startled and looked at her.
She struggled to her feet and tottered down the sand. She stumbled over a baby lying in the sun, and the mother hushed its crying and hurled harsh words after the old woman, who took no notice. The children ran down the beach in advance of her, and as the man in the bidarka drew closer, nearly capsizing with one of his ill-directed strokes, the women followed. Koogah dropped his walrus tusk and went also, leaning heavily upon his staff, and after him loitered the men in twos and threes.
The bidarka turned broadside and the ripple of surf threatened to swamp it, only a naked boy ran into the water and pulled the bow high up on the sand. The man stood up and sent a questing glance along the line of villagers. A rainbow sweater, dirty and the worse for wear, clung loosely to his broad shoulders, and a red cotton handkerchief was knotted in sailor fashion about his throat. A fisherman’s tam-o’-shanter on his close-clipped head, and dungaree trousers and heavy brogans, completed his outfit.
But he was none the less a striking personage to these simple fisherfolk of the great Yukon Delta, who, all their lives, had stared out on Bering Sea and in that time seen but two white men,—the census enumerator and a lost Jesuit priest. They were a poor people, with neither gold in the ground nor valuable furs in hand, so the whites had passed them afar. Also, the Yukon, through the thousands of years, had shoaled that portion of the sea with the detritus of Alaska till vessels grounded out of sight of land. So the sodden coast, with its long inside reaches and huge mud-land archipelagoes, was avoided by the ships of men, and the fisherfolk knew not that such things were.
Koogah, the Bone-Scratcher, retreated backward in sudden haste, tripping over his staff and falling to the ground. "Nam-Bok!" he cried, as he scrambled wildly for footing. "Nam-Bok, who was blown off to sea, come back!"
The men and women shrank away, and the children scuttled off between their legs. Only Opee-Kwan was brave, as befitted the head man of the village. He strode forward and gazed long and earnestly at the new-comer.
"It is Nam-Bok," he said at last, and at the conviction in his voice the women wailed apprehensively and drew farther away.
The lips of the stranger moved indecisively, and his brown throat writhed and wrestled with unspoken words.
"La la, it is Nam-Bok," Bask-Wah-Wan croaked, peering up into his face. "Ever did I say Nam-Bok would come back."
"Ay, it is Nam-Bok come back." This time it was Nam-Bok himself who spoke, putting a leg over the side of the bidarka and standing with one foot afloat and one ashore. Again his throat writhed and wrestled as he grappled after forgotten words. And when the words came forth they were strange of sound and a spluttering of the lips accompanied the gutturals. "Greeting, O brothers," he said, "brothers of old time before I went away with the off-shore wind."
He stepped out with both feet on the sand, and Opee-Kwan waved him back.
"Thou art dead, Nam-Bok," he said.
Nam-Bok laughed. "I am fat."
"Dead men are not fat," Opee-Kwan confessed. "Thou hast fared well, but it is strange. No man may mate with the off-shore wind and come back on the heels of the years."
"I have come back," Nam-Bok answered simply.
"Mayhap thou art a shadow, then, a passing shadow of the Nam-Bok that was. Shadows come back."
"I am hungry. Shadows do not eat."
But Opee-Kwan doubted, and brushed his hand across his brow in sore puzzlement. Nam-Bok was likewise puzzled, and as he looked up and down the line found no welcome in the eyes of the fisherfolk. The men and women whispered together. The children stole timidly back among their elders, and bristling dogs fawned up to him and sniffed suspiciously.
"I bore thee, Nam-Bok, and I gave thee suck when thou wast little," Bask-Wah-Wan whimpered, drawing closer; "and shadow though thou be, or no shadow, I will give thee to eat now."
Nam-Bok made to come to her, but a growl of fear and menace warned him back. He said something in a strange tongue which sounded like "Goddam," and added, "No shadow am I, but a man."
"Who may know concerning the things of mystery?" Opee-Kwan demanded, half of himself and half of his tribespeople. "We are, and in a breath we are not. If the man may become shadow, may not the shadow become man? Nam-Bok was, but is not. This we know, but we do not know if this be Nam-Bok or the shadow of Nam-Bok."
Nam-Bok cleared his throat and made answer. "In the old time long ago, thy father’s father, Opee-Kwan, went away and came back on the heels of the years. Nor was a place by the fire denied him. It is said ..." He paused significantly, and they hung on his utterance. "It is said," he repeated, driving his point home with deliberation, "that Sipsip, his klooch, bore him two sons after he came back."
"But he had no doings with the off-shore wind," Opee-Kwan retorted. "He went away into the heart of the land, and it is in the nature of things that a man may go on and on into the land."
"And likewise the sea. But that is neither here nor there. It is said ... that thy father’s father told strange tales of the things he saw."
"Ay, strange tales he told."
"I, too, have strange tales to tell," Nam-Bok stated insidiously. And, as they wavered, "And presents likewise."
He pulled from the bidarka a shawl, marvellous of texture and color, and flung it about his mother’s shoulders. The women voiced a collective sigh of admiration, and old Bask-Wah-Wan ruffled the gay material and patted it and crooned in childish joy.
"He has tales to tell," Koogah muttered. "And presents," a woman seconded.
And Opee-Kwan knew that his people were eager, and further, he was aware himself of an itching curiosity concerning those untold tales. "The fishing has been good," he said judiciously, "and we have oil in plenty. So come, Nam-Bok, let us feast."
Two of the men hoisted the bidarka on their shoulders and carried it up to the fire. Nam-Bok walked by the side of Opee-Kwan, and the villagers followed after, save those of the women who lingered a moment to lay caressing fingers on the shawl.
There was little talk while the feast went on, though many and curious were the glances stolen at the son of Bask-Wah-Wan. This embarrassed him—not because he was modest of spirit, however, but for the fact that the stench of the seal-oil had robbed him of his appetite, and that he keenly desired to conceal his feelings on the subject.
"Eat; thou art hungry," Opee-Kwan commanded, and Nam-Bok shut both his eyes and shoved his fist into the big pot of putrid fish.
"La la, be not ashamed. The seal were many this year, and strong men are ever hungry." And Bask-Wah-Wan sopped a particularly offensive chunk of salmon into the oil and passed it fondly and dripping to her son.
In despair, when premonitory symptoms warned him that his stomach was not so strong as of old, he filled his pipe and struck up a smoke. The people fed on noisily and watched. Few of them could boast of intimate acquaintance with the precious weed, though now and again small quantities and abominable qualities were obtained in trade from the Eskimos to the northward. Koogah, sitting next to him, indicated that he was not averse to taking a draw, and between two mouthfuls, with the oil thick on his lips, sucked away at the amber stem. And thereupon Nam-Bok held his stomach with a shaky hand and declined the proffered return. Koogah could keep the pipe, he said, for he had intended so to honor him from the first. And the people licked their fingers and approved of his liberality.
Opee-Kwan rose to his feet "And now, O Nam-Bok, the feast is ended, and we would listen concerning the strange things you have seen."
The fisherfolk applauded with their hands, and gathering about them their work, prepared to listen. The men were busy fashioning spears and carving on ivory, while the women scraped the fat from the hides of the hair seal and made them pliable or sewed muclucs with threads of sinew. Nam-Bok’s eyes roved over the scene, but there was not the charm about it that his recollection had warranted him to expect. During the years of his wandering he had looked forward to just this scene, and now that it had come he was disappointed. It was a bare and meagre life, he deemed, and not to be compared to the one to which he had become used. Still, he would open their eyes a bit, and his own eyes sparkled at the thought.
"Brothers," he began, with the smug complacency of a man about to relate the big things he has done, "it was late summer of many summers back, with much such weather as this promises to be, when I went away. You all remember the day, when the gulls flew low, and the wind blew strong from the land, and I could not hold my bidarka against it. I tied the covering of the bidarka about me so that no water could get in, and all of the night I fought with the storm. And in the morning there was no land,—only the sea,—and the off-shore wind held me close in its arms and bore me along. Three such nights whitened into dawn and showed me no land, and the off-shore wind would not let me go.
"And when the fourth day came, I was as a madman. I could not dip my paddle for want of food; and my head went round and round, what of the thirst that was upon me. But the sea was no longer angry, and the soft south wind was blowing, and as I looked about me I saw a sight that made me think I was indeed mad."
Nam-Bok paused to pick away a sliver of salmon lodged between his teeth, and the men and women, with idle hands and heads craned forward, waited.
"It was a canoe, a big canoe. If all the canoes I have ever seen were made into one canoe, it would not be so large."
There were exclamations of doubt, and Koogah, whose years were many, shook his head.
"If each bidarka were as a grain of sand," Nam-Bok defiantly continued, "and if there were as many bidarkas as there be grains of sand in this beach, still would they not make so big a canoe as this I saw on the morning of the fourth day. It was a very big canoe, and it was called a schooner. I saw this thing of wonder, this great schooner, coming after me, and on it I saw men—"
"Hold, O Nam-Bok!" Opee-Kwan broke in. "What manner of men were they?—big men?"
"Nay, mere men like you and me."
"Did the big canoe come fast?"
"Ay."
"The sides were tall, the men short." Opee-Kwan stated the premises with conviction. "And did these men dip with long paddles?"
Nam-Bok grinned. "There were no paddles," he said.
Mouths remained open, and a long silence dropped down. Opee-Kwan borrowed Koogah’s pipe for a couple of contemplative sucks. One of the younger women giggled nervously and drew upon herself angry eyes.
"There were no paddles?" Opee-Kwan asked softly, returning the pipe.
"The south wind was behind," Nam-Bok explained.
"But the wind-drift is slow."
"The schooner had wings—thus." He sketched a diagram of masts and sails in the sand, and the men crowded around and studied it. The wind was blowing briskly, and for more graphic elucidation he seized the corners of his mother’s shawl and spread them out till it bellied like a sail. Bask-Wah-Wan scolded and struggled, but was blown down the beach for a score of feet and left breathless and stranded in a heap of driftwood. The men uttered sage grunts of comprehension, but Koogah suddenly tossed back his hoary head.
"Ho! Ho!" he laughed. "A foolish thing, this big canoe! A most foolish thing! The plaything of the wind! Wheresoever the wind goes, it goes too. No man who journeys therein may name the landing beach, for always he goes with the wind, and the wind goes everywhere, but no man knows where."
"It is so," Opee-Kwan supplemented gravely. "With the wind the going is easy, but against the wind a man striveth hard; and for that they had no paddles these men on the big canoe did not strive at all."
"Small need to strive," Nam-Bok cried angrily. "The schooner went likewise against the wind."
"And what said you made the sch—sch—schooner go?" Koogah asked, tripping craftily over the strange word.
"The wind," was the impatient response.
"Then the wind made the sch—sch—schooner go against the wind." Old Koogah dropped an open leer to Opee-Kwan, and, the laughter growing around him, continued: "The wind blows from the south and blows the schooner south. The wind blows against the wind. The wind blows one way and the other at the same time. It is very simple. We understand, Nam-Bok. We clearly understand."
"Thou art a fool!"
"Truth falls from thy lips," Koogah answered meekly. "I was over-long in understanding, and the thing was simple."
But Nam-Bok’s face was dark, and he said rapid words which they had never heard before. Bone-scratching and skin-scraping were resumed, but he shut his lips tightly on the tongue that could not be believed.
"This sch—sch—schooner," Koogah imperturbably asked; "it was made of a big tree?"
"It was made of many trees," Nam-Bok snapped shortly. "It was very big."
He lapsed into sullen silence again, and Opee-Kwan nudged Koogah, who shook his head with slow amazement and murmured, "It is very strange."
Nam-bok took the bait. "That is nothing," he said airily; "you should see the steamer. As the grain of sand is to the bidarka, as the bidarka is to the schooner, so the schooner is to the steamer. Further, the steamer is made of iron. It is all iron."
"Nay, nay, Nam-Bok," cried the head man; "how can that be? Always iron goes to the bottom. For behold, I received an iron knife in trade from the head man of the next village, and yesterday the iron knife slipped from my fingers and went down, down, into the sea. To all things there be law. Never was there one thing outside the law. This we know. And, moreover, we know that things of a kind have the one law, and that all iron has the one law. So unsay thy words, Nam-Bok, that we may yet honor thee."
"It is so," Nam-Bok persisted. "The steamer is all iron and does not sink."
"Nay, nay; this cannot be."
"With my own eyes I saw it."
"It is not in the nature of things."
"But tell me, Nam-Bok," Koogah interrupted, for fear the tale would go no farther, "tell me the manner of these men in finding their way across the sea when there is no land by which to steer."
"The sun points out the path."
"But how?"
"At midday the head man of the schooner takes a thing through which his eye looks at the sun, and then he makes the sun climb down out of the sky to the edge of the earth."
"Now this be evil medicine!" cried Opee-Kwan, aghast at the sacrilege. The men held up their hands in horror, and the women moaned. "This be evil medicine. It is not good to misdirect the great sun which drives away the night and gives us the seal, the salmon, and warm weather."
"What if it be evil medicine?" Nam-Bok demanded truculently. "I, too, have looked through the thing at the sun and made the sun climb down out of the sky."
Those who were nearest drew away from him hurriedly, and a woman covered the face of a child at her breast so that his eye might not fall upon it.
"But on the morning of the fourth day, O Nam-Bok," Koogah suggested; "on the morning of the fourth day when the sch—sch—schooner came after thee?"
"I had little strength left in me and could not run away. So I was taken on board and water was poured down my throat and good food given me. Twice, my brothers, you have seen a white man. These men were all white and as many as have I fingers and toes. And when I saw they were full of kindness, I took heart, and I resolved to bring away with me report of all that I saw. And they taught me the work they did, and gave me good food and a place to sleep.
"And day after day we went over the sea, and each day the head man drew the sun down out of the sky and made it tell where we were. And when the waves were kind, we hunted the fur seal and I marvelled much, for always did they fling the meat and the fat away and save only the skin."
Opee-Kwan’s mouth was twitching violently, and he was about to make denunciation of such waste when Koogah kicked him to be still.
"After a weary time, when the sun was gone and the bite of the frost come into the air, the head man pointed the nose of the schooner south. South and east we travelled for days upon days, with never the land in sight, and we were near to the village from which hailed the men—"
"How did they know they were near?" Opee-Kwan, unable to contain himself longer, demanded. "There was no land to see."
Nam-Bok glowered on him wrathfully. "Did I not say the head man brought the sun down out of the sky?"
Koogah interposed, and Nam-Bok went on.
"As I say, when we were near to that village a great storm blew up, and in the night we were helpless and knew not where we were—"
"Thou hast just said the head man knew—"
"Oh, peace, Opee-Kwan! Thou art a fool and cannot understand. As I say, we were helpless in the night, when I heard, above the roar of the storm, the sound of the sea on the beach. And next we struck with a mighty crash and I was in the water, swimming. It was a rock-bound coast, with one patch of beach in many miles, and the law was that I should dig my hands into the sand and draw myself clear of the surf. The other men must have pounded against the rocks, for none of them came ashore but the head man, and him I knew only by the ring on his finger.
"When day came, there being nothing of the schooner, I turned my face to the land and journeyed into it that I might get food and look upon the faces of the people. And when I came to a house I was taken in and given to eat, for I had learned their speech, and the white men are ever kindly. And it was a house bigger than all the houses built by us and our fathers before us."
"It was a mighty house," Koogah said, masking his unbelief with wonder.
"And many trees went into the making of such a house," Opee-Kwan added, taking the cue.
"That is nothing." Nam-Bok shrugged his shoulders in belittling fashion. "As our houses are to that house, so that house was to the houses I was yet to see."
"And they are not big men?"
"Nay; mere men like you and me," Nam-Bok answered. "I had cut a stick that I might walk in comfort, and remembering that I was to bring report to you, my brothers, I cut a notch in the stick for each person who lived in that house. And I stayed there many days, and worked, for which they gave me money—a thing of which you know nothing, but which is very good.
"And one day I departed from that place to go farther into the land. And as I walked I met many people, and I cut smaller notches in the stick, that there might be room for all. Then I came upon a strange thing. On the ground before me was a bar of iron, as big in thickness as my arm, and a long step away was another bar of iron—"
"Then wert thou a rich man," Opee-Kwan asserted; "for iron be worth more than anything else in the world. It would have made many knives."
"Nay, it was not mine."
"It was a find, and a find be lawful."
"Not so; the white men had placed it there And further, these bars were so long that no man could carry them away—so long that as far as I could see there was no end to them."
"Nam-Bok, that is very much iron," Opee-Kwan cautioned.
"Ay, it was hard to believe with my own eyes upon it; but I could not gainsay my eyes. And as I looked I heard...." He turned abruptly upon the head man. "Opee-Kwan, thou hast heard the sea-lion bellow in his anger. Make it plain in thy mind of as many sea-lions as there be waves to the sea, and make it plain that all these sea-lions be made into one sea-lion, and as that one sea-lion would bellow so bellowed the thing I heard."
The fisherfolk cried aloud in astonishment, and Opee-Kwan’s jaw lowered and remained lowered.
"And in the distance I saw a monster like unto a thousand whales. It was one-eyed, and vomited smoke, and it snorted with exceeding loudness. I was afraid and ran with shaking legs along the path between the bars. But it came with the speed of the wind, this monster, and I leaped the iron bars with its breath hot on my face...."
Opee-Kwan gained control of his jaw again. "And—and then, O Nam-Bok?"
"Then it came by on the bars, and harmed me not; and when my legs could hold me up again it was gone from sight. And it is a very common thing in that country. Even the women and children are not afraid. Men make them to do work, these monsters."
"As we make our dogs do work?" Koogah asked, with sceptic twinkle in his eye.
"Ay, as we make our dogs do work."
"And how do they breed these—these things?" Opee-Kwan questioned.
"They breed not at all. Men fashion them cunningly of iron, and feed them with stone, and give them water to drink. The stone becomes fire, and the water becomes steam, and the steam of the water is the breath of their nostrils, and—"
"There, there, O Nam-Bok," Opee-Kwan interrupted. "Tell us of other wonders. We grow tired of this which we may not understand."
"You do not understand?" Nam-Bok asked despairingly.
"Nay, we do not understand," the men and women wailed back. "We cannot understand."
Nam-Bok thought of a combined harvester, and of the machines wherein visions of living men were to be seen, and of the machines from which came the voices of men, and he knew his people could never understand.
"Dare I say I rode this iron monster through the land?" he asked bitterly.
Opee-Kwan threw up his hands, palms outward, in open incredulity. "Say on; say anything. We listen."
"Then did I ride the iron monster, for which I gave money—"
"Thou saidst it was fed with stone."
"And likewise, thou fool, I said money was a thing of which you know nothing. As I say, I rode the monster through the land, and through many villages, until I came to a big village on a salt arm of the sea. And the houses shoved their roofs among the stars in the sky, and the clouds drifted by them, and everywhere was much smoke. And the roar of that village was like the roar of the sea in storm, and the people were so many that I flung away my stick and no longer remembered the notches upon it."
"Hadst thou made small notches," Koogah reproved, "thou mightst have brought report."
Nam-Bok whirled upon him in anger. "Had I made small notches! Listen, Koogah, thou scratcher of bone! If I had made small notches, neither the stick, nor twenty sticks, could have borne them—nay, not all the driftwood of all the beaches between this village and the next. And if all of you, the women and children as well, were twenty times as many, and if you had twenty hands each, and in each hand a stick and a knife, still the notches could not be cut for the people I saw, so many were they and so fast did they come and go."
"There cannot be so many people in all the world," Opee-Kwan objected, for he was stunned and his mind could not grasp such magnitude of numbers.
"What dost thou know of all the world and how large it is?" Nam-Bok demanded.
"But there cannot be so many people in one place."
"Who art thou to say what can be and what cannot be?"
"It stands to reason there cannot be so many people in one place. Their canoes would clutter the sea till there was no room. And they could empty the sea each day of its fish, and they would not all be fed."
"So it would seem," Nam-Bok made final answer; "yet it was so. With my own eyes I saw, and flung my stick away." He yawned heavily and rose to his feet. "I have paddled far. The day has been long, and I am tired. Now I will sleep, and to-morrow we will have further talk upon the things I have seen."
Bask-Wah-Wan, hobbling fearfully in advance, proud indeed, yet awed by her wonderful son, led him to her igloo and stowed him away among the greasy, ill-smelling furs. But the men lingered by the fire, and a council was held wherein was there much whispering and low-voiced discussion.
An hour passed, and a second, and Nam-Bok slept, and the talk went on. The evening sun dipped toward the northwest, and at eleven at night was nearly due north. Then it was that the head man and the bone-scratcher separated themselves from the council and aroused Nam-Bok. He blinked up into their faces and turned on his side to sleep again. Opee-Kwan gripped him by the arm and kindly but firmly shook his senses back into him.
"Come, Nam-Bok, arise!" he commanded. "It be time."
"Another feast?" Nam-Bok cried. "Nay, I am not hungry. Go on with the eating and let me sleep."
"Time to be gone!" Koogah thundered.
But Opee-Kwan spoke more softly. "Thou wast bidarka-mate with me when we were boys," he said. "Together we first chased the seal and drew the salmon from the traps. And thou didst drag me back to life, Nam-Bok, when the sea closed over me and I was sucked down to the black rocks. Together we hungered and bore the chill of the frost, and together we crawled beneath the one fur and lay close to each other. And because of these things, and the kindness in which I stood to thee, it grieves me sore that thou shouldst return such a remarkable liar. We cannot understand, and our heads be dizzy with the things thou hast spoken. It is not good, and there has been much talk in the council. Wherefore we send thee away, that our heads may remain clear and strong and be not troubled by the unaccountable things."
"These things thou speakest of be shadows," Koogah took up the strain. "From the shadow-world thou hast brought them, and to the shadow-world thou must return them. Thy bidarka be ready, and the tribespeople wait. They may not sleep until thou art gone."
Nam-Bok was perplexed, but hearkened to the voice of the head man.
"If thou art Nam-Bok," Opee-Kwan was saying, "thou art a fearful and most wonderful liar; if thou art the shadow of Nam-Bok, then thou speakest of shadows, concerning which it is not good that living men have knowledge. This great village thou hast spoken of we deem the village of shadows. Therein flutter the souls of the dead; for the dead be many and the living few. The dead do not come back. Never have the dead come back—save thou with thy wonder-tales. It is not meet that the dead come back, and should we permit it, great trouble may be our portion."
Nam-Bok knew his people well and was aware that the voice of the council was supreme. So he allowed himself to be led down to the water’s edge, where he was put aboard his bidarka and a paddle thrust into his hand. A stray wild-fowl honked somewhere to seaward, and the surf broke limply and hollowly on the sand. A dim twilight brooded over land and water, and in the north the sun smouldered, vague and troubled, and draped about with blood-red mists. The gulls were flying low. The off-shore wind blew keen and chill, and the black-massed clouds behind it gave promise of bitter weather.
"Out of the sea thou earnest," Opee-Kwan chanted oracularly, "and back into the sea thou goest. Thus is balance achieved and all things brought to law."
Bask-Wah-Wan limped to the froth-mark and cried, "I bless thee, Nam-Bok, for that thou remembered me."
But Koogah, shoving Nam-Bok clear of the beach, tore the shawl from her shoulders and flung it into the bidarka.
"It is cold in the long nights," she wailed; "and the frost is prone to nip old bones."
"The thing is a shadow," the bone-scratcher answered, "and shadows cannot keep thee warm."
Nam-Bok stood up that his voice might carry. "O Bask-Wah-Wan, mother that bore me!" he called. "Listen to the words of Nam-Bok, thy son. There be room in his bidarka for two, and he would that thou camest with him. For his journey is to where there are fish and oil in plenty. There the frost comes not, and life is easy, and the things of iron do the work of men. Wilt thou come, O Bask-Wah-Wan?"
She debated a moment, while the bidarka drifted swiftly from her, then raised her voice to a quavering treble. "I am old, Nam-Bok, and soon I shall pass down among the shadows. But I have no wish to go before my time. I am old, Nam-Bok, and I am afraid."
A shaft of light shot across the dim-lit sea and wrapped boat and man in a splendor of red and gold. Then a hush fell upon the fisherfolk, and only was heard the moan of the off-shore wind and the cries of the gulls flying low in the air.


4. THE FAITH OF MEN

"Tell you what we’ll do; we’ll shake for it."
"That suits me," said the second man, turning, as he spoke, to the Indian that was mending snowshoes in a corner of the cabin. "Here, you Billebedam, take a run down to Oleson’s cabin like a good fellow, and tell him we want to borrow his dice box."
This sudden request in the midst of a council on wages of men, wood, and grub surprised Billebedam. Besides, it was early in the day, and he had never known white men of the calibre of Pentfield and Hutchinson to dice and play till the day’s work was done. But his face was impassive as a Yukon Indian’s should be, as he pulled on his mittens and went out the door.
Though eight o’clock, it was still dark outside, and the cabin was lighted by a tallow candle thrust into an empty whisky bottle. It stood on the pine-board table in the middle of a disarray of dirty tin dishes. Tallow from innumerable candles had dripped down the long neck of the bottle and hardened into a miniature glacier. The small room, which composed the entire cabin, was as badly littered as the table; while at one end, against the wall, were two bunks, one above the other, with the blankets turned down just as the two men had crawled out in the morning.
Lawrence Pentfield and Corry Hutchinson were millionaires, though they did not look it. There seemed nothing unusual about them, while they would have passed muster as fair specimens of lumbermen in any Michigan camp. But outside, in the darkness, where holes yawned in the ground, were many men engaged in windlassing muck and gravel and gold from the bottoms of the holes where other men received fifteen dollars per day for scraping it from off the bedrock. Each day thousands of dollars’ worth of gold were scraped from bedrock and windlassed to the surface, and it all belonged to Pentfield and Hutchinson, who took their rank among the richest kings of Bonanza.
Pentfield broke the silence that followed on Billebedam’s departure by heaping the dirty plates higher on the table and drumming a tattoo on the cleared space with his knuckles. Hutchinson snuffed the smoky candle and reflectively rubbed the soot from the wick between thumb and forefinger.
"By Jove, I wish we could both go out!" he abruptly exclaimed. "That would settle it all."
Pentfield looked at him darkly.
"If it weren’t for your cursed obstinacy, it’d be settled anyway. All you have to do is get up and go. I’ll look after things, and next year I can go out."
"Why should I go? I’ve no one waiting for me—"
"Your people," Pentfield broke in roughly.
"Like you have," Hutchinson went on. "A girl, I mean, and you know it."
Pentfield shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "She can wait, I guess."
"But she’s been waiting two years now." "And another won’t age her beyond recognition."
"That’d be three years. Think of it, old man, three years in this end of the earth, this falling-off place for the damned!" Hutchinson threw up his arm in an almost articulate groan.
He was several years younger than his partner, not more than twenty-six, and there was a certain wistfulness in his face that comes into the faces of men when they yearn vainly for the things they have been long denied. This same wistfulness was in Pentfield’s face, and the groan of it was articulate in the heave of his shoulders.
"I dreamed last night I was in Zinkand’s," he said. "The music playing, glasses clinking, voices humming, women laughing, and I was ordering eggs—yes, sir, eggs, fried and boiled and poached and scrambled, and in all sorts of ways, and downing them as fast as they arrived."
"I’d have ordered salads and green things," Hutchinson criticized hungrily, "with a big, rare, Porterhouse, and young onions and radishes,—the kind your teeth sink into with a crunch."
"I’d have followed the eggs with them, I guess, if I hadn’t awakened," Pentfield replied.
He picked up a trail-scarred banjo from the floor and began to strum a few wandering notes. Hutchinson winced and breathed heavily.
"Quit it!" he burst out with sudden fury, as the other struck into a gaily lifting swing. "It drives me mad. I can’t stand it"
Pentfield tossed the banjo into a bunk and quoted:
"Hear me babble what the weakest won’t confessI am Memory and Torment—I am Town! I am all that ever went with evening dress!"
The other man winced where he sat and dropped his head forward on the table. Pentfield resumed the monotonous drumming with his knuckles. A loud snap from the door attracted his attention. The frost was creeping up the inside in a white sheet, and he began to hum:

"The flocks are folded, boughs are bare,
The salmon takes the sea;
And oh, my fair, would I somewhere
Might house my heart with thee."

Silence fell and was not again broken till Billebedam arrived and threw the dice box on the table.
"Um much cold," he said. "Oleson um speak to me, um say um Yukon freeze last night."
"Hear that, old man!" Pentfield cried, slapping Hutchinson on the shoulder. "Whoever wins can be hitting the trail for God’s country this time tomorrow morning!"
He picked up the box, briskly rattling the dice. "What’ll it be?"
"Straight poker dice," Hutchinson answered. "Go on and roll them out."
Pentfield swept the dishes from the table with a crash and rolled out the five dice. Both looked tragedy. The shake was without a pair and five-spot high.
"A stiff!" Pentfield groaned.
After much deliberating Pentfield picked up all the five dice and put them in the box.
"I’d shake to the five if I were you," Hutchinson suggested.
"No, you wouldn’t, not when you see this," Pentfield replied, shaking out the dice.
Again they were without a pair, running this time in unbroken sequence from two to six.
"A second stiff!" he groaned. "No use your shaking, Corry. You can’t lose."
The other man gathered up the dice without a word, rattled them, rolled them out on the table with a flourish, and saw that he had likewise shaken a six-high stiff.
"Tied you, anyway, but I’ll have to do better than that," he said, gathering in four of them and shaking to the six. "And here’s what beats you!"
But they rolled out deuce, tray, four, and five—a stiff still and no better nor worse than Pentfield’s throw.
Hutchinson sighed. "Couldn’t happen once in a million times," said.
"Nor in a million lives," Pentfield added, catching up the dice and quickly throwing them out. Three fives appeared, and, after much delay, he was rewarded by a fourth five on the second shake. Hutchinson seemed to have lost his last hope.
But three sixes turned up on his first shake. A great doubt rose in the other’s eyes, and hope returned into his. He had one more shake. Another six and he would go over the ice to salt water and the States.
He rattled the dice in the box, made as though to cast them, hesitated, and continued rattle them.
"Go on! Go on! Don’t take all night about it!" Pentfield cried sharply, bending his nails on the table, so tight was the clutch with which he strove to control himself.
The dice rolled forth, an upturned six meeting their eyes. Both men sat staring at it. There was a long silence. Hutchinson shot a covert glance at his partner, who, still more covertly, caught it, and pursed up his lips in an attempt to advertise his unconcern.
Hutchinson laughed as he got up on his feet. It was a nervous, apprehensive laugh. It was a case where it was more awkward to win than lose. He walked over to his partner, who whirled upon him fiercely:
"Now you just shut up, Corry! I know all you’re going to say—that you’d rather stay in and let me go, and all that; so don’t say it. You’ve your own people in Detroit to see, and that’s enough. Besides, you can do for me the very thing I expected to do if I went out."
"And that is—?"
Pentfield read the full question in his partner’s eyes, and answered:
"Yes, that very thing. You can bring her in to me. The only difference will be a Dawson wedding instead of a San Franciscan one."
"But, man alike!" Corry Hutchinson objected "how under the sun can I bring her in? We’re not exactly brother and sister, seeing that I have not even met her, and it wouldn’t be just the proper thing, you know, for us to travel together. Of course, it would be all right—you and I know that; but think of the looks of it, man!"
Pentfield swore under his breath, consigning the looks of it to a less frigid region than Alaska.
"Now, if you’ll just listen and not get astride that high horse of yours so blamed quick," his partner went on, "you’ll see that the only fair thing under the circumstances is for me to let you go out this year. Next year is only a year away, and then I can take my fling."
Pentfield shook his head, though visibly swayed by the temptation.
"It won’t do, Corry, old man. I appreciate your kindness and all that, but it won’t do. I’d be ashamed every time I thought of you slaving away in here in my place."
A thought seemed suddenly to strike him. Burrowing into his bunk and disrupting it in his eagerness, he secured a writing-pad and pencil, and sitting down at the table, began to write with swiftness and certitude.
"Here," he said, thrusting the scrawled letter into his partner’s hand. "You just deliver that and everything’ll be all right."
Hutchinson ran his eye over it and laid it down.
"How do you know the brother will be willing to make that beastly trip in here?" he demanded.
"Oh, he’ll do it for me—and for his sister," Pentfield replied. "You see, he’s tenderfoot, and I wouldn’t trust her with him alone. But with you along it will be an easy trip and a safe one. As soon as you get out, you’ll go to her and prepare her. Then you can take your run east to your own people, and in the spring she and her brother’ll be ready to start with you. You’ll like her, I know, right from the jump; and from that, you’ll know her as soon as you lay eyes on her."
So saying he opened the back of his watch and exposed a girl’s photograph pasted on the inside of the case. Corry Hutchinson gazed at it with admiration welling up in his eyes.
"Mabel is her name," Pentfield went on. "And it’s just as well you should know how to find the house. Soon as you strike ’Frisco, take a cab, and just say, ’Holmes’s place, Myrdon Avenue’—I doubt if the Myrdon Avenue is necessary. The cabby’ll know where Judge Holmes lives.
"And say," Pentfield continued, after a pause,"it won’t be a bad idea for you to get me a few little things which a—er—"
"A married man should have in his business," Hutchinson blurted out with a grin.
Pentfield grinned back.
"Sure, napkins and tablecloths and sheets and pillowslips, and such things. And you might get a good set of china. You know it’ll come hard for her to settle down to this sort of thing. You can freight them in by steamer around by Bering Sea. And, I say, what’s the matter with a piano?"
Hutchinson seconded the idea heartily. His reluctance had vanished, and he was warming up to his mission.
"By Jove! Lawrence," he said at the conclusion of the council, as they both rose to their feet, "I’ll bring back that girl of yours in style. I’ll do the cooking and take care of the dogs, and all that brother’ll have to do will be to see to her comfort and do for her whatever I’ve forgotten. And I’ll forget damn little, I can tell you."
The next day Lawrence Pentfield shook hands with him for the last time and watched him, running with his dogs, disappear up the frozen Yukon on his way to salt water and the world. Pentfield went back to his Bonanza mine, which was many times more dreary than before, and faced resolutely into the long winter. There was work to be done, men to superintend, and operations to direct in burrowing after the erratic pay streak; but his heart was not in the work. Nor was his heart in any work till the tiered logs of a new cabin began to rise on the hill behind the mine. It was a grand cabin, warmly built and divided into three comfortable rooms. Each log was hand-hewed and squared-an expensive whim when the axemen received a daily wage of fifteen dollars; but to him nothing could be too costly for the home in which Mabel Holmes was to live.
So he went about with the building of the cabin, singing, "And oh, my fair, would I somewhere might house my heart with thee!" Also, he had a calendar pinned on the wall above the table, and his first act each morning was to check off the day and to count the days that were left ere his partner would come booming down the Yukon ice in the spring. Another whim of his was to permit no one to sleep in the new cabin on the hill. It must be as fresh for her occupancy as the square-hewed wood was fresh; and when it stood complete, he put a padlock on the door. No one entered save himself, and he was wont to spend long hours there, and to come forth with his face strangely radiant and in his eyes a glad, warm light.
In December he received a letter from Corry Hutchinson. He had just seen Mabel Holmes. She was all she ought to be, to be Lawrence Pentfield’s wife, he wrote. He was enthusiastic, and his letter sent the blood tingling through Pentfield’s veins. Other letters followed, one on the heels of another, and sometimes two or three together when the mail lumped up. And they were all in the same tenor. Corry had just come from Myrdon Avenue; Corry was just going to Myrdon Avenue; or Corry was at Myrdon Avenue. And he lingered on and on in San Francisco, nor even mentioned his trip to Detroit.
Lawrence Pentfield began to think that his partner was a great deal in the company of Mabel Holmes for a fellow who was going east to see his people. He even caught himself worrying about it at times, though he would have worried more had he not known Mabel and Corry so well. Mabel’s letters, on the other hand, had a great deal to say about Corry. Also, a thread of timidity that was near to disinclination ran through them concerning the trip in over the ice and the Dawson marriage. Pentfield wrote back heartily, laughing at her fears, which he took to be the mere physical ones of danger and hardship rather than those bred of maidenly reserve.
But the long winter and tedious wait, following upon the two previous long winters, were telling upon him. The superintendence of the men and the pursuit of the pay streak could not break the irk of the daily round, and the end of January found him making occasional trips to Dawson, where he could forget his identity for a space at the gambling tables. Because he could afford to lose, he won, and "Pentfield’s luck" became a stock phrase among the faro players.
His luck ran with him till the second week in February. How much farther it might have run is conjectural; for, after one big game, he never played again.
It was in the Opera House that it occurred, and for an hour it had seemed that he could not place his money on a card without making the card a winner. In the lull at the end of a deal, while the game-keeper was shuffling the deck, Nick Inwood the owner of the game, remarked, apropos of nothing:
"I say, Pentfield, I see that partner of yours has been cutting up monkey-shines on the outside."
"Trust Corry to have a good time," Pentfield had answered; "especially when he has earned it."
"Every man to his taste," Nick Inwood laughed; "but I should scarcely call getting married a good time."
"Corry married!" Pentfield cried, incredulous and yet surprised out of himself for the moment.
"Sure," Inwood said. "I saw it in the ’Frisco paper that came in over the ice this morning."
"Well, and who’s the girl?" Pentfield demanded, somewhat with the air of patient fortitude with which one takes the bait of a catch and is aware at the time of the large laugh bound to follow at his expense.
Nick Inwood pulled the newspaper from his pocket and began looking it over, saying:
"I haven’t a remarkable memory for names, but it seems to me it’s something like Mabel—Mabel—oh yes, here it—’Mabel Holmes, daughter of Judge Holmes,—whoever he is."
Lawrence Pentfield never turned a hair, though he wondered how any man in the North could know her name. He glanced coolly from face to face to note any vagrant signs of the game that was being played upon him, but beyond a healthy curiosity the faces betrayed nothing. Then he turned to the gambler and said in cold, even tones:
"Inwood, I’ve got an even five hundred here that says the print of what you have just said is not in that paper."
The gambler looked at him in quizzical surprise. "Go ’way, child. I don’t want your money."
"I thought so," Pentfield sneered, returning to the game and laying a couple of bets.
Nick Inwood’s face flushed, and, as though doubting his senses, he ran careful eyes over the print of a quarter of a column. Then be turned on Lawrence Pentfield.
"Look here, Pentfield," he said, in a quiet, nervous manner; "I can’t allow that, you know."
"Allow what?" Pentfield demanded brutally.
"You implied that I lied."
"Nothing of the sort," came the reply. "I merely implied that you were trying to be clumsily witty."
"Make your bets, gentlemen," the dealer protested.
"But I tell you it’s true," Nick Inwood insisted.
"And I have told you I’ve five hundred that says it’s not in that paper," Pentfield answered, at the same time throwing a heavy sack of dust on the table.
"I am sorry to take your money," was the retort, as Inwood thrust the newspaper into Pentfield’s hand.
Pentfield saw, though he could not quite bring himself to believe. Glancing through the headline, "Young Lochinvar came out of the North," and skimming the article until the names of Mabel Holmes and Corry Hutchinson, coupled together, leaped squarely before his eyes, he turned to the top of the page. It was a San Francisco paper.
"The money’s yours, Inwood," he remarked, with a short laugh. "There’s no telling what that partner of mine will do when he gets started."
Then he returned to the article and read it word for word, very slowly and very carefully. He could no longer doubt. Beyond dispute, Corry Hutchinson had married Mabel Holmes. "One of the Bonanza kings," it described him, "a partner with Lawrence Pentfield (whom San Francisco society has not yet forgotten), and interested with that gentleman in other rich, Klondike properties." Further, and at the end, he read, "It is whispered that Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson will, after a brief trip east to Detroit, make their real honeymoon journey into the fascinating Klondike country."
"I’ll be back again; keep my place for me," Pentfield said, rising to his feet and taking his sack, which meantime had hit the blower and came back lighter by five hundred dollars.
He went down the street and bought a Seattle paper. It contained the same facts, though somewhat condensed. Corry and Mabel were indubitably married. Pentfield returned to the Opera House and resumed his seat in the game. He asked to have the limit removed.
"Trying to get action," Nick Inwood laughed, as he nodded assent to the dealer. "I was going down to the A. C. store, but now I guess I’ll stay and watch you do your worst."
This Lawrence Pentfield did at the end of two hours’ plunging, when the dealer bit the end off a fresh cigar and struck a match as he announced that the bank was broken. Pentfield cashed in for forty thousand, shook hands with Nick Inwood, and stated that it was the last time he would ever play at his game or at anybody’s else’s.
No one knew nor guessed that he had been hit, much less hit hard. There was no apparent change in his manner. For a week he went about his work much as he had always done, when he read an account of the marriage in a Portland paper. Then he called in a friend to take charge of his mine and departed up the Yukon behind his dogs. He held to the Salt Water trail till White River was reached, into which he turned. Five days later he came upon a hunting camp of the White River Indians. In the evening there was a feast, and he sat in honour beside the chief; and next morning he headed his dogs back toward the Yukon. But he no longer travelled alone. A young squaw fed his dogs for him that night and helped to pitch camp. She had been mauled by a bear in her childhood and suffered from a slight limp. Her name was Lashka, and she was diffident at first with the strange white man that had come out of the Unknown, married her with scarcely a look or word, and now was carrying her back with him into the Unknown.
But Lashka’s was better fortune than falls to most Indian girls that mate with white men in the Northland. No sooner was Dawson reached than the barbaric marriage that had joined them was re-solemnized, in the white man’s fashion, before a priest. From Dawson, which to her was all a marvel and a dream, she was taken directly to the Bonanza claim and installed in the square-hewed cabin on the hill.
The nine days’ wonder that followed arose not so much out of the fact of the squaw whom Lawrence Pentfield had taken to bed and board as out of the ceremony that had legalized the tie. The properly sanctioned marriage was the one thing that passed the community’s comprehension. But no one bothered Pentfield about it. So long as a man’s vagaries did no special hurt to the community, the community let the man alone, nor was Pentfield barred from the cabins of men who possessed white wives. The marriage ceremony removed him from the status of squawman and placed him beyond moral reproach, though there were men that challenged his taste where women were concerned.
No more letters arrived from the outside. Six sledloads of mails had been lost at the Big Salmon. Besides, Pentfield knew that Corry and his bride must by that time have started in over the trail. They were even then on their honeymoon trip—the honeymoon trip he had dreamed of for himself through two dreary years. His lip curled with bitterness at the thought; but beyond being kinder to Lashka he gave no sign.
March had passed and April was nearing its end, when, one spring morning, Lashka asked permission to go down the creek several miles to Siwash Pete’s cabin. Pete’s wife, a Stewart River woman, had sent up word that something was wrong with her baby, and Lashka, who was preeminently a mother-woman and who held herself to be truly wise in the matter of infantile troubles, missed no opportunity of nursing the children of other women as yet more fortunate than she.
Pentfield harnessed his dogs, and with Lashka behind took the trail down the creek bed of Bonanza. Spring was in the air. The sharpness had gone out of the bite of the frost and though snow still covered the land, the murmur and trickling of water told that the iron grip of winter was relaxing. The bottom was dropping out of the trail, and here and there a new trail had been broken around open holes. At such a place, where there was not room for two sleds to pass, Pentfield heard the jingle of approaching bells and stopped his dogs.
A team of tired-looking dogs appeared around the narrow bend, followed by a heavily-loaded sled. At the gee-pole was a man who steered in a manner familiar to Pentfield, and behind the sled walked two women. His glance returned to the man at the gee-pole. It was Corry. Pentfield got on his feet and waited. He was glad that Lashka was with him. The meeting could not have come about better had it been planned, he thought. And as he waited he wondered what they would say, what they would be able to say. As for himself there was no need to say anything. The explaining was all on their side, and he was ready to listen to them.
As they drew in abreast, Corry recognized him and halted the dogs. With a "Hello, old man," he held out his hand.
Pentfield shook it, but without warmth or speech. By this time the two women had come up, and he noticed that the second one was Dora Holmes. He doffed his fur cap, the flaps of which were flying, shook hands with her, and turned toward Mabel. She swayed forward, splendid and radiant, but faltered before his outstretched hand. He had intended to say, "How do you do, Mrs. Hutchinson?"—but somehow, the Mrs. Hutchinson had choked him, and all he had managed to articulate was the "How do you do?"
There was all the constraint and awkwardness in the situation he could have wished. Mabel betrayed the agitation appropriate to her position, while Dora, evidently brought along as some sort of peacemaker, was saying:
"Why, what is the matter, Lawrence?"
Before he could answer, Corry plucked him by the sleeve and drew him aside.
"See here, old man, what’s this mean?" Corry demanded in a low tone, indicating Lashka with his eyes.
"I can hardly see, Corry, where you can have any concern in the matter," Pentfield answered mockingly.
But Corry drove straight to the point.
"What is that squaw doing on your sled? A nasty job you’ve given me to explain all this away. I only hope it can be explained away. Who is she? Whose squaw is she?"

Then Lawrence Pentfield delivered his stroke, and he delivered it with a certain calm elation of spirit that seemed somewhat to compensate for the wrong that had been done him.
"She is my squaw," he said; "Mrs. Pentfield, if you please."
Corry Hutchinson gasped, and Pentfield left him and returned to the two women. Mabel, with a worried expression on her face, seemed holding herself aloof. He turned to Dora and asked, quite genially, as though all the world was sunshine:"How did you stand the trip, anyway? Have any trouble to sleep warm?"
"And, how did Mrs. Hutchinson stand it?" he asked next, his eyes on Mabel.
"Oh, you dear ninny!" Dora cried, throwing her arms around him and hugging him. "Then you saw it, too! I thought something was the matter, you were acting so strangely."
"I—I hardly understand," he stammered.
"It was corrected in next day’s paper," Dora chattered on. "We did not dream you would see it. All the other papers had it correctly, and of course that one miserable paper was the very one you saw!"
"Wait a moment! What do you mean?" Pentfield demanded, a sudden fear at his heart, for he felt himself on the verge of a great gulf.
But Dora swept volubly on.
"Why, when it became known that Mabel and I were going to Klondike, Every Other Week said that when we were gone, it would be lovely on Myrdon Avenue, meaning, of course, lonely."
"Then—"
"I am Mrs. Hutchinson," Dora answered. "And you thought it was Mabel all the time—"
"Precisely the way of it," Pentfield replied slowly. "But I can see now. The reporter got the names mixed. The Seattle and Portland paper copied."
He stood silently for a minute. Mabel’s face was turned toward him again, and he could see the glow of expectancy in it. Corry was deeply interested in the ragged toe of one of his moccasins, while Dora was stealing sidelong glances at the immobile face of Lashka sitting on the sled. Lawrence Pentfield stared straight out before him into a dreary future, through the grey vistas of which he saw himself riding on a sled behind running dogs with lame Lashka by his side.
Then he spoke, quite simply, looking Mabel in the eyes.
"I am very sorry. I did not dream it. I thought you had married Corry. That is Mrs. Pentfield sitting on the sled over there."
Mabel Holmes turned weakly toward her sister, as though all the fatigue of her great journey had suddenly descended on her. Dora caught her around the waist. Corry Hutchinson was still occupied with his moccasins. Pentfield glanced quickly from face to face, then turned to his sled.

"Can’t stop here all day, with Pete’s baby waiting," he said to Lashka.
The long whip-lash hissed out, the dogs sprang against the breast bands, and the sled lurched and jerked ahead.
"Oh, I say, Corry," Pentfield called back,"you’d better occupy the old cabin. It’s not been used for some time. I’ve built a new one on the hill."

The End


5. THE LEOPARD MAN’S STORY

He had a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes, and his sad, insistent voice, gentle-spoken as a maid’s, seemed the placid embodiment of some deep-seated melancholy. He was the Leopard Man, but he did not look it. His business in life, whereby he lived, was to appear in a cage of performing leopards before vast audiences, and to thrill those audiences by certain exhibitions of nerve for which his employers rewarded him on a scale commensurate with the thrills he produced.
As I say, he did not look it. He was narrow-hipped, narrow-shouldered, and anaemic, while he seemed not so much oppressed by gloom as by a sweet and gentle sadness, the weight of which was as sweetly and gently borne. For an hour I had been trying to get a story out of him, but he appeared to lack imagination. To him there was no romance in his gorgeous career, no deeds of daring, no thrills—nothing but a gray sameness and infinite boredom.
Lions? Oh, yes! he had fought with them. It was nothing. All you had to do was to stay sober. Anybody could whip a lion to a standstill with an ordinary stick. He had fought one for half an hour once. Just hit him on the nose every time he rushed, and when he got artful and rushed with his head down, why, the thing to do was to stick out your leg. When he grabbed at the leg you drew it back and hit hint on the nose again. That was all.
With the far-away look in his eyes and his soft flow of words he showed me his scars. There were many of them, and one recent one where a tigress had reached for his shoulder and gone down to the bone. I could see the neatly mended rents in the coat he had on. His right arm, from the elbow down, looked as though it had gone through a threshing machine, what of the ravage wrought by claws and fangs. But it was nothing, he said, only the old wounds bothered him somewhat when rainy weather came on.
Suddenly his face brightened with a recollection, for he was really as anxious to give me a story as I was to get it.
“I suppose you’ve heard of the lion-tamer who was hated by another man?” he asked.
He paused and looked pensively at a sick lion in the cage opposite.
“Got the toothache,” he explained. “Well, the lion-tamer’s big play to the audience was putting his head in a lion’s mouth. The man who hated him attended every performance in the hope sometime of seeing that lion crunch down. He followed the show about all over the country. The years went by and he grew old, and the lion-tamer grew old, and the lion grew old. And at last one day, sitting in a front seat, he saw what he had waited for. The lion crunched down, and there wasn’t any need to call a doctor.”
The Leopard Man glanced casually over his finger nails in a manner which would have been critical had it not been so sad.
“Now, that’s what I call patience,” he continued, “and it’s my style. But it was not the style of a fellow I knew. He was a little, thin, sawed-off, sword-swallowing and juggling Frenchman. De Ville, he called himself, and he had a nice wife. She did trapeze work and used to dive from under the roof into a net, turning over once on the way as nice as you please.
“De Ville had a quick temper, as quick as his hand, and his hand was as quick as the paw of a tiger. One day, because the ring-master called him a frog-eater, or something like that and maybe a little worse, he shoved him against the soft pine background he used in his knife-throwing act, so quick the ring-master didn’t have time to think, and there, before the audience, De Ville kept the air on fire with his knives, sinking them into the wood all around the ring-master so close that they passed through his clothes and most of them bit into his skin.
“The clowns had to pull the knives out to get him loose, for he was pinned fast. So the word went around to watch out for De Ville, and no one dared be more than barely civil to his wife. And she was a sly bit of baggage, too, only all hands were afraid of De Ville.
“But there was one man, Wallace, who was afraid of nothing. He was the lion-tamer, and he had the self-same trick of putting his head into the lion’s mouth. He’d put it into the mouths of any of them, though he preferred Augustus, a big, good-natured beast who could always be depended upon.
“As I was saying, Wallace—‘King’ Wallace we called him—was afraid of nothing alive or dead. He was a king and no mistake. I’ve seen him drunk, and on a wager go into the cage of a lion that’d turned nasty, and without a stick beat him to a finish. Just did it with his fist on the nose.
“Madame de Ville—”
At an uproar behind us the Leopard Man turned quietly around. It was a divided cage, and a monkey, poking through the bars and around the partition, had had its paw seized by a big gray wolf who was trying to pull it off by main strength. The arm seemed stretching out longer end longer like a thick elastic, and the unfortunate monkey’s mates were raising a terrible din. No keeper was at hand, so the Leopard Man stepped over a couple of paces, dealt the wolf a sharp blow on the nose with the light cane he carried, and returned with a sadly apologetic smile to take up his unfinished sentence as though there had been no interruption.
“—looked at King Wallace and King Wallace looked at her, while De Ville looked black. We warned Wallace, but it was no use. He laughed at us, as he laughed at De Ville one day when he shoved De Ville’s head into a bucket of paste because he wanted to fight.
“De Ville was in a pretty mess—I helped to scrape him off; but he was cool as a cucumber and made no threats at all. But I saw a glitter in his eyes which I had seen often in the eyes of wild beasts, and I went out of my way to give Wallace a final warning. He laughed, but he did not look so much in Madame de Ville’s direction after that.
“Several months passed by. Nothing had happened and I was beginning to think it all a scare over nothing. We were West by that time, showing in ‘Frisco. It was during the afternoon performance, and the big tent was filled with women and children, when I went looking for Red Denny, the head canvas-man, who had walked off with my pocket-knife.
“Passing by one of the dressing tents I glanced in through a hole in the canvas to see if I could locate him. He wasn’t there, but directly in front of me was King Wallace, in tights, waiting for his turn to go on with his cage of performing lions. He was watching with much amusement a quarrel between a couple of trapeze artists. All the rest of the people in the dressing tent were watching the same thing, with the exception of De Ville whom I noticed staring at Wallace with undisguised hatred. Wallace and the rest were all too busy following the quarrel to notice this or what followed.
“But I saw it through the hole in the canvas. De Ville drew his handkerchief from his pocket, made as though to mop the sweat from his face with it (it was a hot day), and at the same time walked past Wallace’s back. The look troubled me at the time, for not only did I see hatred in it, but I saw triumph as well.
“‘De Ville will bear watching,’ I said to myself, and I really breathed easier when I saw him go out the entrance to the circus grounds and board an electric car for down town. A few minutes later I was in the big tent, where I had overhauled Red Denny. King Wallace was doing his turn and holding the audience spellbound. He was in a particularly vicious mood, and he kept the lions stirred up till they were all snarling, that is, all of them except old Augustus, and he was just too fat and lazy and old to get stirred up over anything.
“Finally Wallace cracked the old lion’s knees with his whip and got him into position. Old Augustus, blinking good-naturedly, opened his mouth and in popped Wallace’s head. Then the jaws came together, CRUNCH, just like that.”
The Leopard Man smiled in a sweetly wistful fashion, and the far-away look came into his eyes.
“And that was the end of King Wallace,” he went on in his sad, low voice. “After the excitement cooled down I watched my chance and bent over and smelled Wallace’s head. Then I sneezed.”
“It... it was...?” I queried with halting eagerness.
“Snuff—that De Ville dropped on his hair in the dressing tent. Old Augustus never meant to do it. He only sneezed.”


6. LOCAL COLOUR

“I do not see why you should not turn this immense amount of unusual information to account,” I told him. “Unlike most men equipped with similar knowledge, YOU have expression. Your style is—”
“Is sufficiently—er—journalese?” he interrupted suavely.
“Precisely! You could turn a pretty penny.”
But he interlocked his fingers meditatively, shrugged his shoulders, and dismissed the subject.
“I have tried it. It does not pay.”
“It was paid for and published,” he added, after a pause. “And I was also honored with sixty days in the Hobo.”
“The Hobo?” I ventured.
“The Hobo—” He fixed his eyes on my Spencer and ran along the titles while he cast his definition. “The Hobo, my dear fellow, is the name for that particular place of detention in city and county jails wherein are assembled tramps, drunks, beggars, and the riff-raff of petty offenders. The word itself is a pretty one, and it has a history. Hautbois—there’s the French of it. Haut, meaning high, and bois, wood. In English it becomes hautboy, a wooden musical instrument of two-foot tone, I believe, played with a double reed, an oboe, in fact. You remember in ‘Henry IV’—

“‘The case of a treble hautboy
Was a mansion for him, a court.’

“From this to ho-boy is but a step, and for that matter the English used the terms interchangeably. But—and mark you, the leap paralyzes one—crossing the Western Ocean, in New York City, hautboy, or ho-boy, becomes the name by which the night-scavenger is known. In a way one understands its being born of the contempt for wandering players and musical fellows. But see the beauty of it! the burn and the brand! The night-scavenger, the pariah, the miserable, the despised, the man without caste! And in its next incarnation, consistently and logically, it attaches itself to the American outcast, namely, the tramp. Then, as others have mutilated its sense, the tramp mutilates its form, and ho-boy becomes exultantly hobo. Wherefore, the large stone and brick cells, lined with double and triple-tiered bunks, in which the Law is wont to incarcerate him, he calls the Hobo. Interesting, isn’t it?”
And I sat back and marvelled secretly at this encyclopaedic-minded man, this Leith Clay-Randolph, this common tramp who made himself at home in my den, charmed such friends as gathered at my small table, outshone me with his brilliance and his manners, spent my spending money, smoked my best cigars, and selected from my ties and studs with a cultivated and discriminating eye.
He absently walked over to the shelves and looked into Loria’s “Economic Foundation of Society.”
“I like to talk with you,” he remarked. “You are not indifferently schooled. You’ve read the books, and your economic interpretation of history, as you choose to call it” (this with a sneer), “eminently fits you for an intellectual outlook on life. But your sociologic judgments are vitiated by your lack of practical knowledge. Now I, who know the books, pardon me, somewhat better than you, know life, too. I have lived it, naked, taken it up in both my hands and looked at it, and tasted it, the flesh and the blood of it, and, being purely an intellectual, I have been biased by neither passion nor prejudice. All of which is necessary for clear concepts, and all of which you lack. Ah! a really clever passage. Listen!”
And he read aloud to me in his remarkable style, paralleling the text with a running criticism and commentary, lucidly wording involved and lumbering periods, casting side and cross lights upon the subject, introducing points the author had blundered past and objections he had ignored, catching up lost ends, flinging a contrast into a paradox and reducing it to a coherent and succinctly stated truth—in short, flashing his luminous genius in a blaze of fire over pages erstwhile dull and heavy and lifeless.
It is long since that Leith Clay-Randolph (note the hyphenated surname) knocked at the back door of Idlewild and melted the heart of Gunda. Now Gunda was cold as her Norway hills, though in her least frigid moods she was capable of permitting especially nice-looking tramps to sit on the back stoop and devour lone crusts and forlorn and forsaken chops. But that a tatterdemalion out of the night should invade the sanctity of her kitchen-kingdom and delay dinner while she set a place for him in the warmest corner, was a matter of such moment that the Sunflower went to see. Ah, the Sunflower, of the soft heart and swift sympathy! Leith Clay-Randolph threw his glamour over her for fifteen long minutes, whilst I brooded with my cigar, and then she fluttered back with vague words and the suggestion of a cast-off suit I would never miss.
“Surely I shall never miss it,” I said, and I had in mind the dark gray suit with the pockets draggled from the freightage of many books—books that had spoiled more than one day’s fishing sport.
“I should advise you, however,” I added, “to mend the pockets first.”
But the Sunflower’s face clouded. “N—o,” she said, “the black one.”
“The black one!” This explosively, incredulously. “I wear it quite often. I—I intended wearing it to-night.”
“You have two better ones, and you know I never liked it, dear,” the Sunflower hurried on. “Besides, it’s shiny—”
“Shiny!”
“It—it soon will be, which is just the same, and the man is really estimable. He is nice and refined, and I am sure he—”
“Has seen better days.”
“Yes, and the weather is raw and beastly, and his clothes are threadbare. And you have many suits—”
“Five,” I corrected, “counting in the dark gray fishing outfit with the draggled pockets.”
“And he has none, no home, nothing—”
“Not even a Sunflower,”—putting my arm around her,—“wherefore he is deserving of all things. Give him the black suit, dear—nay, the best one, the very best one. Under high heaven for such lack there must be compensation!”
“You ARE a dear!” And the Sunflower moved to the door and looked back alluringly. “You are a PERFECT dear.”
And this after seven years, I marvelled, till she was back again, timid and apologetic.
“I—I gave him one of your white shirts. He wore a cheap horrid cotton thing, and I knew it would look ridiculous. And then his shoes were so slipshod, I let him have a pair of yours, the old ones with the narrow caps—”
“Old ones!”
“Well, they pinched horribly, and you know they did.”
It was ever thus the Sunflower vindicated things.
And so Leith Clay-Randolph came to Idlewild to stay, how long I did not dream. Nor did I dream how often he was to come, for he was like an erratic comet. Fresh he would arrive, and cleanly clad, from grand folk who were his friends as I was his friend, and again, weary and worn, he would creep up the brier-rose path from the Montanas or Mexico. And without a word, when his wanderlust gripped him, he was off and away into that great mysterious underworld he called “The Road.”
“I could not bring myself to leave until I had thanked you, you of the open hand and heart,” he said, on the night he donned my good black suit.
And I confess I was startled when I glanced over the top of my paper and saw a lofty-browed and eminently respectable-looking gentleman, boldly and carelessly at ease. The Sunflower was right. He must have known better days for the black suit and white shirt to have effected such a transformation. Involuntarily I rose to my feet, prompted to meet him on equal ground. And then it was that the Clay-Randolph glamour descended upon me. He slept at Idlewild that night, and the next night, and for many nights. And he was a man to love. The Son of Anak, otherwise Rufus the Blue-Eyed, and also plebeianly known as Tots, rioted with him from brier-rose path to farthest orchard, scalped him in the haymow with barbaric yells, and once, with pharisaic zeal, was near to crucifying him under the attic roof beams. The Sunflower would have loved him for the Son of Anak’s sake, had she not loved him for his own. As for myself, let the Sunflower tell, in the times he elected to be gone, of how often I wondered when Leith would come back again, Leith the Lovable. Yet he was a man of whom we knew nothing. Beyond the fact that he was Kentucky-born, his past was a blank. He never spoke of it. And he was a man who prided himself upon his utter divorce of reason from emotion. To him the world spelled itself out in problems. I charged him once with being guilty of emotion when roaring round the den with the Son of Anak pickaback. Not so, he held. Could he not cuddle a sense-delight for the problem’s sake?
He was elusive. A man who intermingled nameless argot with polysyllabic and technical terms, he would seem sometimes the veriest criminal, in speech, face, expression, everything; at other times the cultured and polished gentleman, and again, the philosopher and scientist. But there was something glimmering; there which I never caught—flashes of sincerity, of real feeling, I imagined, which were sped ere I could grasp; echoes of the man he once was, possibly, or hints of the man behind the mask. But the mask he never lifted, and the real man we never knew.
“But the sixty days with which you were rewarded for your journalism?” I asked. “Never mind Loria. Tell me.”
“Well, if I must.” He flung one knee over the other with a short laugh.
“In a town that shall be nameless,” he began, “in fact, a city of fifty thousand, a fair and beautiful city wherein men slave for dollars and women for dress, an idea came to me. My front was prepossessing, as fronts go, and my pockets empty. I had in recollection a thought I once entertained of writing a reconciliation of Kant and Spencer. Not that they are reconcilable, of course, but the room offered for scientific satire—”
I waved my hand impatiently, and he broke off.
“I was just tracing my mental states for you, in order to show the genesis of the action,” he explained. “However, the idea came. What was the matter with a tramp sketch for the daily press? The Irreconcilability of the Constable and the Tramp, for instance? So I hit the drag (the drag, my dear fellow, is merely the street), or the high places, if you will, for a newspaper office. The elevator whisked me into the sky, and Cerberus, in the guise of an anaemic office boy, guarded the door. Consumption, one could see it at a glance; nerve, Irish, colossal; tenacity, undoubted; dead inside the year.
“‘Pale youth,’ quoth I, ‘I pray thee the way to the sanctum-sanctorum, to the Most High Cock-a-lorum.’
“He deigned to look at me, scornfully, with infinite weariness.
“‘G’wan an’ see the janitor. I don’t know nothin’ about the gas.’
“‘Nay, my lily-white, the editor.’
“‘Wich editor?’ he snapped like a young bullterrier. ‘Dramatic? Sportin’? Society? Sunday? Weekly? Daily? Telegraph? Local? News? Editorial? Wich?’
“Which, I did not know. ‘THE Editor,’ I proclaimed stoutly. ‘The ONLY Editor.’
“‘Aw, Spargo!’ he sniffed.
“‘Of course, Spargo,’ I answered. ‘Who else?’
“‘Gimme yer card,’ says he.
“‘My what?’
“‘Yer card—Say! Wot’s yer business, anyway?’
“And the anaemic Cerberus sized me up with so insolent an eye that I reached over and took him out of his chair. I knocked on his meagre chest with my fore knuckle, and fetched forth a weak, gaspy cough; but he looked at me unflinchingly, much like a defiant sparrow held in the hand.
“‘I am the census-taker Time,’ I boomed in sepulchral tones. ‘Beware lest I knock too loud.’
“‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he sneered.
“Whereupon I rapped him smartly, and he choked and turned purplish.
“‘Well, whatcher want?’ he wheezed with returning breath.
“‘I want Spargo, the only Spargo.’
“‘Then leave go, an’ I’ll glide an’ see.’
“‘No you don’t, my lily-white.’ And I took a tighter grip on his collar. ‘No bouncers in mine, understand! I’ll go along.’”
Leith dreamily surveyed the long ash of his cigar and turned to me. “Do you know, Anak, you can’t appreciate the joy of being the buffoon, playing the clown. You couldn’t do it if you wished. Your pitiful little conventions and smug assumptions of decency would prevent. But simply to turn loose your soul to every whimsicality, to play the fool unafraid of any possible result, why, that requires a man other than a householder and law-respecting citizen.
“However, as I was saying, I saw the only Spargo. He was a big, beefy, red-faced personage, full-jowled and double-chinned, sweating at his desk in his shirt-sleeves. It was August, you know. He was talking into a telephone when I entered, or swearing rather, I should say, and the while studying me with his eyes. When he hung up, he turned to me expectantly.
“‘You are a very busy man,’ I said.
“He jerked a nod with his head, and waited.
“‘And after all, is it worth it?’ I went on. ‘What does life mean that it should make you sweat? What justification do you find in sweat? Now look at me. I toil not, neither do I spin—’
“‘Who are you? What are you?’ he bellowed with a suddenness that was, well, rude, tearing the words out as a dog does a bone.
“‘A very pertinent question, sir,’ I acknowledged. ‘First, I am a man; next, a down-trodden American citizen. I am cursed with neither profession, trade, nor expectations. Like Esau, I am pottageless. My residence is everywhere; the sky is my coverlet. I am one of the dispossessed, a sansculotte, a proletarian, or, in simpler phraseology addressed to your understanding, a tramp.’
“‘What the hell—?’
“‘Nay, fair sir, a tramp, a man of devious ways and strange lodgements and multifarious—’
“‘Quit it!’ he shouted. ‘What do you want?’
“‘I want money.’
“He started and half reached for an open drawer where must have reposed a revolver, then bethought himself and growled, ‘This is no bank.’
“‘Nor have I checks to cash. But I have, sir, an idea, which, by your leave and kind assistance, I shall transmute into cash. In short, how does a tramp sketch, done by a tramp to the life, strike you? Are you open to it? Do your readers hunger for it? Do they crave after it? Can they be happy without it?’
“I thought for a moment that he would have apoplexy, but he quelled the unruly blood and said he liked my nerve. I thanked him and assured him I liked it myself. Then he offered me a cigar and said he thought he’d do business with me.
“‘But mind you,’ he said, when he had jabbed a bunch of copy paper into my hand and given me a pencil from his vest pocket, ‘mind you, I won’t stand for the high and flighty philosophical, and I perceive you have a tendency that way. Throw in the local color, wads of it, and a bit of sentiment perhaps, but no slumgullion about political economy nor social strata or such stuff. Make it concrete, to the point, with snap and go and life, crisp and crackling and interesting—tumble?’
“And I tumbled and borrowed a dollar.
“‘Don’t forget the local color!’ he shouted after me through the door.
“And, Anak, it was the local color that did for me.
“The anaemic Cerberus grinned when I took the elevator. ‘Got the bounce, eh?’
“‘Nay, pale youth, so lily-white,’ I chortled, waving the copy paper; ‘not the bounce, but a detail. I’ll be City Editor in three months, and then I’ll make you jump.’
“And as the elevator stopped at the next floor down to take on a pair of maids, he strolled over to the shaft, and without frills or verbiage consigned me and my detail to perdition. But I liked him. He had pluck and was unafraid, and he knew, as well as I, that death clutched him close.”
“But how could you, Leith,” I cried, the picture of the consumptive lad strong before me, “how could you treat him so barbarously?”
Leith laughed dryly. “My dear fellow, how often must I explain to you your confusions? Orthodox sentiment and stereotyped emotion master you. And then your temperament! You are really incapable of rational judgments. Cerberus? Pshaw! A flash expiring, a mote of fading sparkle, a dim-pulsing and dying organism—pouf! a snap of the fingers, a puff of breath, what would you? A pawn in the game of life. Not even a problem. There is no problem in a stillborn babe, nor in a dead child. They never arrived. Nor did Cerberus. Now for a really pretty problem—”
“But the local color?” I prodded him.
“That’s right,” he replied. “Keep me in the running. Well, I took my handful of copy paper down to the railroad yards (for local color), dangled my legs from a side-door Pullman, which is another name for a box-car, and ran off the stuff. Of course I made it clever and brilliant and all that, with my little unanswerable slings at the state and my social paradoxes, and withal made it concrete enough to dissatisfy the average citizen.
“From the tramp standpoint, the constabulary of the township was particularly rotten, and I proceeded to open the eyes of the good people. It is a proposition, mathematically demonstrable, that it costs the community more to arrest, convict, and confine its tramps in jail, than to send them as guests, for like periods of time, to the best hotel. And this I developed, giving the facts and figures, the constable fees and the mileage, and the court and jail expenses. Oh, it was convincing, and it was true; and I did it in a lightly humorous fashion which fetched the laugh and left the sting. The main objection to the system, I contended, was the defraudment and robbery of the tramp. The good money which the community paid out for him should enable him to riot in luxury instead of rotting in dungeons. I even drew the figures so fine as to permit him not only to live in the best hotel but to smoke two twenty-five-cent cigars and indulge in a ten-cent shine each day, and still not cost the taxpayers so much as they were accustomed to pay for his conviction and jail entertainment. And, as subsequent events proved, it made the taxpayers wince.
“One of the constables I drew to the life; nor did I forget a certain Sol Glenhart, as rotten a police judge as was to be found between the seas. And this I say out of a vast experience. While he was notorious in local trampdom, his civic sins were not only not unknown but a crying reproach to the townspeople. Of course I refrained from mentioning name or habitat, drawing the picture in an impersonal, composite sort of way, which none the less blinded no one to the faithfulness of the local color.
“Naturally, myself a tramp, the tenor of the article was a protest against the maltreatment of the tramp. Cutting the taxpayers to the pits of their purses threw them open to sentiment, and then in I tossed the sentiment, lumps and chunks of it. Trust me, it was excellently done, and the rhetoric—say! Just listen to the tail of my peroration:
“‘So, as we go mooching along the drag, with a sharp lamp out for John Law, we cannot help remembering that we are beyond the pale; that our ways are not their ways; and that the ways of John Law with us are different from his ways with other men. Poor lost souls, wailing for a crust in the dark, we know full well our helplessness and ignominy. And well may we repeat after a stricken brother over-seas: “Our pride it is to know no spur of pride.” Man has forgotten us; God has forgotten us; only are we remembered by the harpies of justice, who prey upon our distress and coin our sighs and tears into bright shining dollars.’
“Incidentally, my picture of Sol Glenhart, the police judge, was good. A striking likeness, and unmistakable, with phrases tripping along like this: ‘This crook-nosed, gross-bodied harpy’; ‘this civic sinner, this judicial highwayman’; ‘possessing the morals of the Tenderloin and an honor which thieves’ honor puts to shame’; ‘who compounds criminality with shyster-sharks, and in atonement railroads the unfortunate and impecunious to rotting cells,’—and so forth and so forth, style sophomoric and devoid of the dignity and tone one would employ in a dissertation on ‘Surplus Value,’ or ‘The Fallacies of Marxism,’ but just the stuff the dear public likes.
“‘Humph!’ grunted Spargo when I put the copy in his fist. ‘Swift gait you strike, my man.’
“I fixed a hypnotic eye on his vest pocket, and he passed out one of his superior cigars, which I burned while he ran through the stuff. Twice or thrice he looked over the top of the paper at me, searchingly, but said nothing till he had finished.
“‘Where’d you work, you pencil-pusher?’ he asked.
“‘My maiden effort,’ I simpered modestly, scraping one foot and faintly simulating embarrassment.
“‘Maiden hell! What salary do you want?’
“‘Nay, nay,’ I answered. ‘No salary in mine, thank you most to death. I am a free down-trodden American citizen, and no man shall say my time is his.’
“‘Save John Law,’ he chuckled.
“‘Save John Law,’ said I.
“‘How did you know I was bucking the police department?’ he demanded abruptly.
“‘I didn’t know, but I knew you were in training,’ I answered. ‘Yesterday morning a charitably inclined female presented me with three biscuits, a piece of cheese, and a funereal slab of chocolate cake, all wrapped in the current Clarion, wherein I noted an unholy glee because the Cowbell’s candidate for chief of police had been turned down. Likewise I learned the municipal election was at hand, and put two and two together. Another mayor, and the right kind, means new police commissioners; new police commissioners means new chief of police; new chief of police means Cowbell’s candidate; ergo, your turn to play.’
“He stood up, shook my hand, and emptied his plethoric vest pocket. I put them away and puffed on the old one.
“‘You’ll do,’ he jubilated. ‘This stuff’ (patting my copy) ‘is the first gun of the campaign. You’ll touch off many another before we’re done. I’ve been looking for you for years. Come on in on the editorial.’
“But I shook my head.
“‘Come, now!’ he admonished sharply. ‘No shenanagan! The Cowbell must have you. It hungers for you, craves after you, won’t be happy till it gets you. What say?’
“In short, he wrestled with me, but I was bricks, and at the end of half an hour the only Spargo gave it up.
“‘Remember,’ he said, ‘any time you reconsider, I’m open. No matter where you are, wire me and I’ll send the ducats to come on at once.’
“I thanked him, and asked the pay for my copy—dope, he called it.
“‘Oh, regular routine,’ he said. ‘Get it the first Thursday after publication.’
“‘Then I’ll have to trouble you for a few scad until—’
“He looked at me and smiled. ‘Better cough up, eh?’
“‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Nobody to identify me, so make it cash.’
“And cash it was made, thirty plunks (a plunk is a dollar, my dear Anak), and I pulled my freight... eh?—oh, departed.
“‘Pale youth,’ I said to Cerberus, ‘I am bounced.’ (He grinned with pallid joy.) ‘And in token of the sincere esteem I bear you, receive this little—’ (His eyes flushed and he threw up one hand, swiftly, to guard his head from the expected blow)—‘this little memento.’
“I had intended to slip a fiver into his hand, but for all his surprise, he was too quick for me.
“‘Aw, keep yer dirt,’ he snarled.
“‘I like you still better,’ I said, adding a second fiver. ‘You grow perfect. But you must take it.’
“He backed away growling, but I caught him round the neck, roughed what little wind he had out of him, and left him doubled up with the two fives in his pocket. But hardly had the elevator started, when the two coins tinkled on the roof and fell down between the car and the shaft. As luck had it, the door was not closed, and I put out my hand and caught them. The elevator boy’s eyes bulged.
“‘It’s a way I have,’ I said, pocketing them.
“‘Some bloke’s dropped ‘em down the shaft,’ he whispered, awed by the circumstance.
“‘It stands to reason,’ said I.
“‘I’ll take charge of ‘em,’ he volunteered.
“‘Nonsense!’
“‘You’d better turn ‘em over,’ he threatened, ‘or I stop the works.’
“‘Pshaw!’
“And stop he did, between floors.
“‘Young man,’ I said, ‘have you a mother?’ (He looked serious, as though regretting his act! and further to impress him I rolled up my right sleeve with greatest care.) ‘Are you prepared to die?’ (I got a stealthy crouch on, and put a cat-foot forward.) ‘But a minute, a brief minute, stands between you and eternity.’ (Here I crooked my right hand into a claw and slid the other foot up.) ‘Young man, young man,’ I trumpeted, ‘in thirty seconds I shall tear your heart dripping from your bosom and stoop to hear you shriek in hell.’
“It fetched him. He gave one whoop, the car shot down, and I was on the drag. You see, Anak, it’s a habit I can’t shake off of leaving vivid memories behind. No one ever forgets me.
“I had not got to the corner when I heard a familiar voice at my shoulder:
“‘Hello, Cinders! Which way?’
“It was Chi Slim, who had been with me once when I was thrown off a freight in Jacksonville. ‘Couldn’t see ‘em fer cinders,’ he described it, and the monica stuck by me.... Monica? From monos. The tramp nickname.
“‘Bound south,’ I answered. ‘And how’s Slim?’
“‘Bum. Bulls is horstile.’
“‘Where’s the push?’
“‘At the hang-out. I’ll put you wise.’
“‘Who’s the main guy?’
“‘Me, and don’t yer ferget it.’”
The lingo was rippling from Leith’s lips, but perforce I stopped him. “Pray translate. Remember, I am a foreigner.”
“Certainly,” he answered cheerfully. “Slim is in poor luck. Bull means policeman. He tells me the bulls are hostile. I ask where the push is, the gang he travels with. By putting me wise he will direct me to where the gang is hanging out. The main guy is the leader. Slim claims that distinction.
“Slim and I hiked out to a neck of woods just beyond town, and there was the push, a score of husky hobos, charmingly located on the bank of a little purling stream.
“‘Come on, you mugs!’ Slim addressed them. ‘Throw yer feet! Here’s Cinders, an’ we must do ‘em proud.’
“All of which signifies that the hobos had better strike out and do some lively begging in order to get the wherewithal to celebrate my return to the fold after a year’s separation. But I flashed my dough and Slim sent several of the younger men off to buy the booze. Take my word for it, Anak, it was a blow-out memorable in Trampdom to this day. It’s amazing the quantity of booze thirty plunks will buy, and it is equally amazing the quantity of booze outside of which twenty stiffs will get. Beer and cheap wine made up the card, with alcohol thrown in for the blowd-in-the-glass stiffs. It was great—an orgy under the sky, a contest of beaker-men, a study in primitive beastliness. To me there is something fascinating in a drunken man, and were I a college president I should institute P.G. psychology courses in practical drunkenness. It would beat the books and compete with the laboratory.
“All of which is neither here nor there, for after sixteen hours of it, early next morning, the whole push was copped by an overwhelming array of constables and carted off to jail. After breakfast, about ten o’clock, we were lined upstairs into court, limp and spiritless, the twenty of us. And there, under his purple panoply, nose crooked like a Napoleonic eagle and eyes glittering and beady, sat Sol Glenhart.
“‘John Ambrose!’ the clerk called out, and Chi Slim, with the ease of long practice, stood up.
“‘Vagrant, your Honor,’ the bailiff volunteered, and his Honor, not deigning to look at the prisoner, snapped, ‘Ten days,’ and Chi Slim sat down.
“And so it went, with the monotony of clockwork, fifteen seconds to the man, four men to the minute, the mugs bobbing up and down in turn like marionettes. The clerk called the name, the bailiff the offence, the judge the sentence, and the man sat down. That was all. Simple, eh? Superb!
“Chi Slim nudged me. ‘Give’m a spiel, Cinders. You kin do it.’
“I shook my head.
“‘G’wan,’ he urged. ‘Give ‘m a ghost story The mugs’ll take it all right. And you kin throw yer feet fer tobacco for us till we get out.’
“‘L. C. Randolph!’ the clerk called.
“I stood up, but a hitch came in the proceedings. The clerk whispered to the judge, and the bailiff smiled.
“‘You are a newspaper man, I understand, Mr. Randolph?’ his Honor remarked sweetly.
“It took me by surprise, for I had forgotten the Cowbell in the excitement of succeeding events, and I now saw myself on the edge of the pit I had digged.
“‘That’s yer graft. Work it,’ Slim prompted.
“‘It’s all over but the shouting,’ I groaned back, but Slim, unaware of the article, was puzzled.
“‘Your Honor,’ I answered, ‘when I can get work, that is my occupation.’
“‘You take quite an interest in local affairs, I see.’ (Here his Honor took up the morning’s Cowbell and ran his eye up and down a column I knew was mine.) ‘Color is good,’ he commented, an appreciative twinkle in his eyes; ‘pictures excellent, characterized by broad, Sargent-like effects. Now this...t his judge you have depicted... you, ah, draw from life, I presume?’
“‘Rarely, your I Honor,’ I answered. ‘Composites, ideals, rather ... er, types, I may say.’
“‘But you have color, sir, unmistakable color,’ he continued.
“‘That is splashed on afterward,’ I explained.
“‘This judge, then, is not modelled from life, as one might be led to believe?’
“‘No, your Honor.’
“‘Ah, I see, merely a type of judicial wickedness?’
“‘Nay, more, your Honor,’ I said boldly, ‘an ideal.’
“‘Splashed with local color afterward? Ha! Good! And may I venture to ask how much you received for this bit of work?’
“‘Thirty dollars, your Honor.’
“‘Hum, good!’ And his tone abruptly changed. ‘Young man, local color is a bad thing. I find you guilty of it and sentence you to thirty days’ imprisonment, or, at your pleasure, impose a fine of thirty dollars.’
“‘Alas!’ said I, ‘I spent the thirty dollars in riotous living.’
“‘And thirty days more for wasting your substance.’
“‘Next case!’ said his Honor to the clerk.
“Slim was stunned. ‘Gee!’ he whispered. ‘Gee the push gets ten days and you get sixty. Gee!’”
Leith struck a match, lighted his dead cigar, and opened the book on his knees. “Returning to the original conversation, don’t you find, Anak, that though Loria handles the bipartition of the revenues with scrupulous care, he yet omits one important factor, namely—”
“Yes,” I said absently; “yes.”


7. ALOHA OE

Never are there such departures as from the dock at Honolulu. The great transport lay with steam up, ready to pull out. A thousand persons were on her decks; five thousand stood on the wharf. Up and down the long gangway passed native princes and princesses, sugar kings and the high officials of the Territory. Beyond, in long lines, kept in order by the native police, were the carriages and motor-cars of the Honolulu aristocracy. On the wharf the Royal Hawaiian Band played "Aloha Oe," and when it finished, a stringed orchestra of native musicians on board the transport took up the same sobbing strains, the native woman singer’s voice rising birdlike above the instruments and the hubbub of departure. It was a silver reed, sounding its clear, unmistakable note in the great diapason of farewell.
Forward, on the lower deck, the rail was lined six deep with khakiclad young boys, whose bronzed faces told of three years’ campaigning under the sun. But the farewell was not for them. Nor was it for the white-clad captain on the lofty bridge, remote as the stars, gazing down upon the tumult beneath him. Nor was the farewell for the young officers farther aft, returning from the Philippines, nor for the whitefaced, climate-ravaged women by their sides. Just aft the gangway, on the promenade deck, stood a score of United States Senators with their wives and daughters—the Senatorial junketing party that for a month had been dined and wined, surfeited with statistics and dragged up volcanic hill and down lava dale to behold the glories and resources of Hawaii. It was for the junketing party that the transport had called in at Honolulu, and it was to the junketing party that Honolulu was saying good-bye.
The Senators were garlanded and bedecked with flowers. Senator Jeremy Sambrooke’s stout neck and portly bosom were burdened with a dozen wreaths. Out of this mass of bloom and blossom projected his head and the greater portion of his freshly sunburned and perspiring face. He thought the flowers an abomination, and as he looked out over the multitude on the wharf it was with a statistical eye that saw none of the beauty, but that peered into the labour power, the factories, the railroads, and the plantations that lay back of the multitude and which the multitude expressed. He saw resources and thought development, and he was too busy with dreams of material achievement and empire to notice his daughter at his side, talking with a young fellow in a natty summer suit and straw hat, whose eager eyes seemed only for her and never left her face. Had Senator Jeremy had eyes for his daughter, he would have seen that, in place of the young girl of fifteen he had brought to Hawaii a short month before, he was now taking away with him a woman.
Hawaii has a ripening climate, and Dorothy Sambrooke had been exposed to it under exceptionally ripening circumstances. Slender, pale, with blue eyes a trifle tired from poring over the pages of books and trying to muddle into an understanding of life—such she had been the month before. But now the eyes were warm instead of tired, the cheeks were touched with the sun, and the body gave the first hint and promise of swelling lines. During that month she had left books alone, for she had found greater joy in reading from the book of life. She had ridden horses, climbed volcanoes, and learned surf swimming. The tropics had entered into her blood, and she was aglow with the warmth and colour and sunshine. And for a month she had been in the company of a man—Stephen Knight, athlete, surf-board rider, a bronzed god of the sea who bitted the crashing breakers, leaped upon their backs, and rode them in to shore.
Dorothy Sambrooke was unaware of the change. Her consciousness was still that of a young girl, and she was surprised and troubled by Steve’s conduct in this hour of saying good-bye. She had looked upon him as her playfellow, and for the month he had been her playfellow; but now he was not parting like a playfellow. He talked excitedly and disconnectedly, or was silent, by fits and starts. Sometimes he did not hear what she was saying, or if he did, failed to respond in his wonted manner. She was perturbed by the way he looked at her. She had not known before that he had such blazing eyes. There was something in his eyes that was terrifying. She could not face it, and her own eyes continually drooped before it. Yet there was something alluring about it, as well, and she continually returned to catch a glimpse of that blazing, imperious, yearning something that she had never seen in human eyes before. And she was herself strangely bewildered and excited.
The transport’s huge whistle blew a deafening blast, and the flower-crowned multitude surged closer to the side of the dock. Dorothy Sambrooke’s fingers were pressed to her ears; and as she made a moue of distaste at the outrage of sound, she noticed again the imperious, yearning blaze in Steve’s eyes. He was not looking at her, but at her ears, delicately pink and transparent in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun. Curious and fascinated, she gazed at that strange something in his eyes until he saw that he had been caught. She saw his cheeks flush darkly and heard him utter inarticulately. He was embarrassed, and she was aware of embarrassment herself. Stewards were going about nervously begging shore-going persons to be gone. Steve put out his hand. When she felt the grip of the fingers that had gripped hers a thousand times on surf-boards and lava slopes, she heard the words of the song with a new understanding as they sobbed in the Hawaiian woman’s silver throat:
"Ka halia ko aloha kai hiki mai, Ke hone ae nei i ku’u manawa, O oe no kan aloha A loko e hana nei."
Steve had taught her air and words and meaning—so she had thought, till this instant; and in this instant of the last finger clasp and warm contact of palms she divined for the first time the real meaning of the song. She scarcely saw him go, nor could she note him on the crowded gangway, for she was deep in a memory maze, living over the four weeks just past, rereading events in the light of revelation.

When the Senatorial party had landed, Steve had been one of the committee of entertainment. It was he who had given them their first exhibition of surf riding, out at Waikiki Beach, paddling his narrow board seaward until he became a disappearing speck, and then, suddenly reappearing, rising like a sea-god from out of the welter of spume and churning white-rising swiftly higher and higher, shoulders and chest and loins and limbs, until he stood poised on the smoking crest of a mighty, mile-long billow, his feet buried in the flying foam, hurling beach-ward with the speed of an express train and stepping calmly ashore at their astounded feet. That had been her first glimpse of Steve. He had been the youngest man on the committee, a youth, himself, of twenty. He had not entertained by speechmaking, nor had he shone decoratively at receptions. It was in the breakers at Waikiki, in the wild cattle drive on Manna Kea, and in the breaking yard of the Haleakala Ranch that he had performed his share of the entertaining.
She had not cared for the interminable statistics and eternal speechmaking of the other members of the committee. Neither had Steve. And it was with Steve that she had stolen away from the open-air feast at Hamakua, and from Abe Louisson, the coffee planter, who had talked coffee, coffee, nothing but coffee, for two mortal hours. It was then, as they rode among the tree ferns, that Steve had taught her the words of "Aloha Oe," the song that had been sung to the visiting Senators at every village, ranch, and plantation departure.
Steve and she had been much together from the first. He had been her playfellow. She had taken possession of him while her father had been occupied in taking possession of the statistics of the island territory. She was too gentle to tyrannize over her playfellow, yet she had ruled him abjectly, except when in canoe, or on horse or surf-board, at which times he had taken charge and she had rendered obedience. And now, with this last singing of the song, as the lines were cast off and the big transport began backing slowly out from the dock, she knew that Steve was something more to her than playfellow.

Five thousand voices were singing "Aloha Oe,"—"My love be with you till we meet again,"—and in that first moment of known love she realized that she and Steve were being torn apart. When would they ever meet again? He had taught her those words himself. She remembered listening as he sang them over and over under the hau tree at Waikiki. Had it been prophecy? And she had admired his singing, had told him that he sang with such expression. She laughed aloud, hysterically, at the recollection. With such expression!—when he had been pouring his heart out in his voice. She knew now, and it was too late. Why had he not spoken? Then she realized that girls of her age did not marry. But girls of her age did marry-in Hawaii-was her instant thought. Hawaii had ripened her–Hawaii, where flesh is golden and where all women are ripe and sun-kissed.
Vainly she scanned the packed multitude on the dock. What had become of him? She felt she could pay any price for one more glimpse of him, and she almost hoped that some mortal sickness would strike the lonely captain on the bridge and delay departure. For the first time in her life she looked at her father with a calculating eye, and as she did she noted with newborn fear the lines of will and determination. It would be terrible to oppose him. And what chance would she have in such a struggle? But why had Steve not spoken? Now it was too late. Why had he not spoken under the hau tree at Waikiki?
And then, with a great sinking of the heart, it came to her that she knew why. What was it she had heard one day? Oh, yes, it was at Mrs. Stanton’s tea, that afternoon when the ladies of the "Missionary Crowd" had entertained the ladies of the Senatorial party. It was Mrs. Hodgkins, the tall blonde woman, who had asked the question. The scene came back to her vividly—the broad lanai, the tropic flowers, the noiseless Asiatic attendants, the hum of the voices of the many women and the question Mrs. Hodgkins had asked in the group next to her. Mrs. Hodgkins had been away on the mainland for years, and was evidently inquiring after old island friends of her maiden days. "What has become of Susie Maydwell?" was the question she had asked. "Oh, we never see her any more; she married Willie Kupele," another island woman answered. And Senator Behrend’s wife laughed and wanted to know why matrimony had affected Susie Maydwell’s friendships.
"Hapa-haole," was the answer; "he was a half-caste, you know, and we of the Islands have to think about our children."
Dorothy turned to her father, resolved to put it to the test.
"Papa, if Steve ever comes to the United States, mayn’t he come and see us some time?"
"Who? Steve?"
"Yes, Stephen Knight-you know him. You said good-bye to him not five minutes ago. Mayn’t he, if he happens to be in the United States some time, come and see us?"
"Certainly not," Jeremy Sambrooke answered shortly. "Stephen Knight is a hapa-haole and you know what that means."
"Oh," Dorothy said faintly, while she felt a numb despair creep into her heart.
Steve was not a hapa-haole—she knew that; but she did not know that a quarter-strain of tropic sunshine streamed in his veins, and she knew that that was sufficient to put him outside the marriage pale. It was a strange world. There was the Honourable A. S. Cleghorn, who had married a dusky princess of the Kamehameha blood, yet men considered it an honour to know him, and the most exclusive women of the ultra-exclusive "Missionary Crowd" were to be seen at his afternoon teas. And there was Steve. No one had disapproved of his teaching her to ride a surf-board, nor of his leading her by the hand through the perilous places of the crater of Kilauea. He could have dinner with her and her father, dance with her, and be a member of the entertainment committee; but because there was tropic sunshine in his veins he could not marry her.
And he didn’t show it. One had to be told to know. And he was so good-looking. The picture of him limned itself on her inner vision, and before she was aware she was pleasuring in the memory of the grace of his magnificent body, of his splendid shoulders, of the power in him that tossed her lightly on a horse, bore her safely through the thundering breakers, or towed her at the end of an alpenstock up the stern lava crest of the House of the Sun. There was something subtler and mysterious that she remembered, and that she was even then just beginning to understand—the aura of the male creature that is man, all man, masculine man. She came to herself with a shock of shame at the thoughts she had been thinking. Her cheeks were dyed with the hot blood which quickly receded and left them pale at the thought that she would never see him again. The stem of the transport was already out in the stream, and the promenade deck was passing abreast of the end of the dock.
"There’s Steve now," her father said. "Wave good-bye to him, Dorothy."
Steve was looking up at her with eager eyes, and he saw in her face what he had not seen before. By the rush of gladness into his own face she knew that he knew. The air was throbbing with the song
My love to you. My love be with you till we meet again.
There was no need for speech to tell their story. About her, passengers were flinging their garlands to their friends on the dock. Steve held up his hands and his eyes pleaded. She slipped her own garland over her head, but it had become entangled in the string of Oriental pearls that Mervin, an elderly sugar king, had placed around her neck when he drove her and her father down to the steamer.
She fought with the pearls that clung to the flowers. The transport was moving steadily on. Steve was already beneath her. This was the moment. The next moment and he would be past. She sobbed, and Jeremy Sambrooke glanced at her inquiringly.
"Dorothy!" he cried sharply.
She deliberately snapped the string, and, amid a shower of pearls, the flowers fell to the waiting lover. She gazed at him until the tears blinded her and she buried her face on the shoulder of Jeremy Sambrooke, who forgot his beloved statistics in wonderment at girl babies that insisted on growing up. The crowd sang on, the song growing fainter in the distance, but still melting with the sensuous love-languor of Hawaii, the words biting into her heart like acid because of their untruth.
Aloha oe, Aloha oe, e ke onaona no ho ika lipo, A fond embrace, ahoi ae au, until we meet again.

The End


8. THE SEED OF McCOY

The Pyrenees, her iron sides pressed low in the water by her cargo of wheat, rolled sluggishly, and made it easy for the man who was climbing aboard from out a tiny outrigger canoe. As his eyes came level with the rail, so that he could see inboard, it seemed to him that he saw a dim, almost indiscernible haze. It was more like an illusion, like a blurring film that had spread abruptly over his eyes. He felt an inclination to brush it away, and the same instant he thought that he was growing old and that it was time to send to San Francisco for a pair of spectacles.
As he came over the rail he cast a glance aloft at the tall masts, and, next, at the pumps. They were not working. There seemed nothing the matter with the big ship, and he wondered why she had hoisted the signal of distress. He thought of his happy islanders, and hoped it was not disease. Perhaps the ship was short of water or provisions. He shook hands with the captain whose gaunt face and care-worn eyes made no secret of the trouble, whatever it was. At the same moment the newcomer was aware of a faint, indefinable smell. It seemed like that of burnt bread, but different.
He glanced curiously about him. Twenty feet away a weary-faced sailor was calking the deck. As his eyes lingered on the man, he saw suddenly arise from under his hands a faint spiral of haze that curled and twisted and was gone. By now he had reached the deck. His bare feet were pervaded by a dull warmth that quickly penetrated the thick calluses. He knew now the nature of the ship’s distress. His eyes roved swiftly forward, where the full crew of weary-faced sailors regarded him eagerly. The glance from his liquid brown eyes swept over them like a benediction, soothing them, rapping them about as in the mantle of a great peace. “How long has she been afire, Captain?” he asked in a voice so gentle and unperturbed that it was as the cooing of a dove.
At first the captain felt the peace and content of it stealing in upon him; then the consciousness of all that he had gone through and was going through smote him, and he was resentful. By what right did this ragged beachcomber, in dungaree trousers and a cotton shirt, suggest such a thing as peace and content to him and his overwrought, exhausted soul? The captain did not reason this; it was the unconscious process of emotion that caused his resentment.
“Fifteen days,” he answered shortly. “Who are you?”
“My name is McCoy,” came the answer in tones that breathed tenderness and compassion.
“I mean, are you the pilot?”
McCoy passed the benediction of his gaze over the tall, heavy-shouldered man with the haggard, unshaven face who had joined the captain.
“I am as much a pilot as anybody,” was McCoy’s answer. “We are all pilots here, Captain, and I know every inch of these waters.”
But the captain was impatient.
“What I want is some of the authorities. I want to talk with them, and blame quick.”
“Then I’ll do just as well.”
Again that insidious suggestion of peace, and his ship a raging furnace beneath his feet! The captain’s eyebrows lifted impatiently and nervously, and his fist clenched as if he were about to strike a blow with it.
“Who in hell are you?” he demanded.
“I am the chief magistrate,” was the reply in a voice that was still the softest and gentlest imaginable.
The tall, heavy-shouldered man broke out in a harsh laugh that was partly amusement, but mostly hysterical. Both he and the captain regarded McCoy with incredulity and amazement. That this barefooted beachcomber should possess such high-sounding dignity was inconceivable. His cotton shirt, unbuttoned, exposed a grizzled chest and the fact that there was no undershirt beneath.
A worn straw hat failed to hide the ragged gray hair. Halfway down his chest descended an untrimmed patriarchal beard. In any slop shop, two shillings would have outfitted him complete as he stood before them.
“Any relation to the McCoy of the Bounty?” the captain asked.
“He was my great-grandfather.”
“Oh,” the captain said, then bethought himself. “My name is Davenport, and this is my first mate, Mr. Konig.”
They shook hands.
“And now to business.” The captain spoke quickly, the urgency of a great haste pressing his speech. “We’ve been on fire for over two weeks. She’s ready to break all hell loose any moment. That’s why I held for Pitcairn. I want to beach her, or scuttle her, and save the hull.”
“Then you made a mistake, Captain,” said McCoy. “You should have slacked away for Mangareva. There’s a beautiful beach there, in a lagoon where the water is like a mill pond.”
“But we’re here, ain’t we?” the first mate demanded. “That’s the point. We’re here, and we’ve got to do something.”
McCoy shook his head kindly.
“You can do nothing here. There is no beach. There isn’t even anchorage.”
“Gammon!” said the mate. “Gammon!” he repeated loudly, as the captain signaled him to be more soft spoken. “You can’t tell me that sort of stuff. Where d’ye keep your own boats, hey—your schooner, or cutter, or whatever you have? Hey? Answer me that.”
McCoy smiled as gently as he spoke. His smile was a caress, an embrace that surrounded the tired mate and sought to draw him into the quietude and rest of McCoy’s tranquil soul.
“We have no schooner or cutter,” he replied. “And we carry our canoes to the top of the cliff.”
“You’ve got to show me,” snorted the mate. “How d’ye get around to the other islands, heh? Tell me that.”
“We don’t get around. As governor of Pitcairn, I sometimes go. When I was younger, I was away a great deal—sometimes on the trading schooners, but mostly on the missionary brig. But she’s gone now, and we depend on passing vessels. Sometimes we have had as high as six calls in one year. At other times, a year, and even longer, has gone by without one passing ship. Yours is the first in seven months.”
“And you mean to tell me—” the mate began.
But Captain Davenport interfered.
“Enough of this. We’re losing time. What is to be done, Mr. McCoy?”
The old man turned his brown eyes, sweet as a woman’s, shoreward, and both captain and mate followed his gaze around from the lonely rock of Pitcairn to the crew clustering forward and waiting anxiously for the announcement of a decision. McCoy did not hurry. He thought smoothly and slowly, step by step, with the certitude of a mind that was never vexed or outraged by life.
“The wind is light now,” he said finally. “There is a heavy current setting to the westward.”
“That’s what made us fetch to leeward,” the captain interrupted, desiring to vindicate his seamanship.
“Yes, that is what fetched you to leeward,” McCoy went on. “Well, you can’t work up against this current today. And if you did, there is no beach. Your ship will be a total loss.”
He paused, and captain and mate looked despair at each other.
“But I will tell you what you can do. The breeze will freshen tonight around midnight—see those tails of clouds and that thickness to windward, beyond the point there? That’s where she’ll come from, out of the southeast, hard. It is three hundred miles to Mangareva. Square away for it. There is a beautiful bed for your ship there.”
The mate shook his head.
“Come in to the cabin, and we’ll look at the chart,” said the captain.
McCoy found a stifling, poisonous atmosphere in the pent cabin. Stray waftures of invisible gases bit his eyes and made them sting. The deck was hotter, almost unbearably hot to his bare feet. The sweat poured out of his body. He looked almost with apprehension about him. This malignant, internal heat was astounding. It was a marvel that the cabin did not burst into flames. He had a feeling as if of being in a huge bake oven where the heat might at any moment increase tremendously and shrivel him up like a blade of grass.
As he lifted one foot and rubbed the hot sole against the leg of his trousers, the mate laughed in a savage, snarling fashion.
“The anteroom of hell,” he said. “Hell herself is right down there under your feet.”
“It’s hot!” McCoy cried involuntarily, mopping his face with a bandana handkerchief.
“Here’s Mangareva,” the captain said, bending over the table and pointing to a black speck in the midst of the white blankness of the chart. “And here, in between, is another island. Why not run for that?”
McCoy did not look at the chart.
“That’s Crescent Island,” he answered. “It is uninhabited, and it is only two or three feet above water. Lagoon, but no entrance. No, Mangareva is the nearest place for your purpose.”
“Mangareva it is, then,” said Captain Davenport, interrupting the mate’s growling objection. “Call the crew aft, Mr. Konig.”
The sailors obeyed, shuffling wearily along the deck and painfully endeavoring to make haste. Exhaustion was evident in every movement. The cook came out of his galley to hear, and the cabin boy hung about near him.
When Captain Davenport had explained the situation and announced his intention of running for Mangareva, an uproar broke out. Against a background of throaty rumbling arose inarticulate cries of rage, with here and there a distinct curse, or word, or phrase. A shrill Cockney voice soared and dominated for a moment, crying: “Gawd! After bein’ in ell for fifteen days—an’ now e wants us to sail this floatin’ ell to sea again?”
The captain could not control them, but McCoy’s gentle presence seemed to rebuke and calm them, and the muttering and cursing died away, until the full crew, save here and there an anxious face directed at the captain, yearned dumbly toward the green clad peaks and beetling coast of Pitcairn.
Soft as a spring zephyr was the voice of McCoy:
“Captain, I thought I heard some of them say they were starving.”
“Ay,” was the answer, “and so we are. I’ve had a sea biscuit and a spoonful of salmon in the last two days. We’re on whack. You see, when we discovered the fire, we battened down immediately to suffocate the fire. And then we found how little food there was in the pantry. But it was too late. We didn’t dare break out the lazarette. Hungry? I’m just as hungry as they are.”
He spoke to the men again, and again the throat rumbling and cursing arose, their faces convulsed and animal-like with rage. The second and third mates had joined the captain, standing behind him at the break of the poop. Their faces were set and expressionless; they seemed bored, more than anything else, by this mutiny of the crew. Captain Davenport glanced questioningly at his first mate, and that person merely shrugged his shoulders in token of his helplessness.
“You see,” the captain said to McCoy, “you can’t compel sailors to leave the safe land and go to sea on a burning vessel. She has been their floating coffin for over two weeks now. They are worked out, and starved out, and they’ve got enough of her. We’ll beat up for Pitcairn.”
But the wind was light, the Pyrenees’ bottom was foul, and she could not beat up against the strong westerly current. At the end of two hours she had lost three miles. The sailors worked eagerly, as if by main strength they could compel the PYRENEES against the adverse elements. But steadily, port tack and starboard tack, she sagged off to the westward. The captain paced restlessly up and down, pausing occasionally to survey the vagrant smoke wisps and to trace them back to the portions of the deck from which they sprang. The carpenter was engaged constantly in attempting to locate such places, and, when he succeeded, in calking them tighter and tighter.
“Well, what do you think?” the captain finally asked McCoy, who was watching the carpenter with all a child’s interest and curiosity in his eyes.
McCoy looked shoreward, where the land was disappearing in the thickening haze.
“I think it would be better to square away for Mangareva. With that breeze that is coming, you’ll be there tomorrow evening.”
“But what if the fire breaks out? It is liable to do it any moment.”
“Have your boats ready in the falls. The same breeze will carry your boats to Mangareva if the ship burns out from under.”
Captain Davenport debated for a moment, and then McCoy heard the question he had not wanted to hear, but which he knew was surely coming.
“I have no chart of Mangareva. On the general chart it is only a fly speck. I would not know where to look for the entrance into the lagoon. Will you come along and pilot her in for me?”
McCoy’s serenity was unbroken.
“Yes, Captain,” he said, with the same quiet unconcern with which he would have accepted an invitation to dinner; “I’ll go with you to Mangareva.”
Again the crew was called aft, and the captain spoke to them from the break of the poop.
“We’ve tried to work her up, but you see how we’ve lost ground. She’s setting off in a two-knot current. This gentleman is the Honorable McCoy, Chief Magistrate and Governor of Pitcairn Island. He will come along with us to Mangareva. So you see the situation is not so dangerous. He would not make such an offer if he thought he was going to lose his life. Besides, whatever risk there is, if he of his own free will come on board and take it, we can do no less. What do you say for Mangareva?”
This time there was no uproar. McCoy’s presence, the surety and calm that seemed to radiate from him, had had its effect. They conferred with one another in low voices. There was little urging. They were virtually unanimous, and they shoved the Cockney out as their spokesman. That worthy was overwhelmed with consciousness of the heroism of himself and his mates, and with flashing eyes he cried:
“By Gawd! If ’e will, we will!”
The crew mumbled its assent and started forward.
“One moment, Captain,” McCoy said, as the other was turning to give orders to the mate. “I must go ashore first.”
Mr. Konig was thunderstruck, staring at McCoy as if he were a madman.
“Go ashore!” the captain cried. “What for? It will take you three hours to get there in your canoe.”
McCoy measured the distance of the land away, and nodded.
“Yes, it is six now. I won’t get ashore till nine. The people cannot be assembled earlier than ten. As the breeze freshens up tonight, you can begin to work up against it, and pick me up at daylight tomorrow morning.”
“In the name of reason and common sense,” the captain burst forth, “what do you want to assemble the people for? Don’t you realize that my ship is burning beneath me?”
McCoy was as placid as a summer sea, and the other’s anger produced not the slightest ripple upon it.
“Yes, Captain,” he cooed in his dove-like voice. “I do realize that your ship is burning. That is why I am going with you to Mangareva. But I must get permission to go with you. It is our custom. It is an important matter when the governor leaves the island. The people’s interests are at stake, and so they have the right to vote their permission or refusal. But they will give it, I know that.”
“Are you sure?”
“Quite sure.”
“Then if you know they will give it, why bother with getting it? Think of the delay—a whole night.”
“It is our custom,” was the imperturbable reply. “Also, I am the governor, and I must make arrangements for the conduct of the island during my absence.”
“But it is only a twenty-four hour run to Mangareva,” the captain objected. “Suppose it took you six times that long to return to windward; that would bring you back by the end of a week.”
McCoy smiled his large, benevolent smile.
“Very few vessels come to Pitcairn, and when they do, they are usually from San Francisco or from around the Horn. I shall be fortunate if I get back in six months. I may be away a year, and I may have to go to San Francisco in order to find a vessel that will bring me back. My father once left Pitcairn to be gone three months, and two years passed before he could get back. Then, too, you are short of food. If you have to take to the boats, and the weather comes up bad, you may be days in reaching land. I can bring off two canoe loads of food in the morning. Dried bananas will be best. As the breeze freshens, you beat up against it. The nearer you are, the bigger loads I can bring off. Goodby.”
He held out his hand. The captain shook it, and was reluctant to let go. He seemed to cling to it as a drowning sailor clings to a life buoy.
“How do I know you will come back in the morning?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s it!” cried the mate. “How do we know but what he’s skinning out to save his own hide?”
McCoy did not speak. He looked at them sweetly and benignantly, and it seemed to them that they received a message from his tremendous certitude of soul.
The captain released his hand, and, with a last sweeping glance that embraced the crew in its benediction, McCoy went over the rail and descended into his canoe.
The wind freshened, and the Pyrenees, despite the foulness of her bottom, won half a dozen miles away from the westerly current. At daylight, with Pitcairn three miles to windward, Captain Davenport made out two canoes coming off to him. Again McCoy clambered up the side and dropped over the rail to the hot deck. He was followed by many packages of dried bananas, each package wrapped in dry leaves.
“Now, Captain,” he said, “swing the yards and drive for dear life. You see, I am no navigator,” he explained a few minutes later, as he stood by the captain aft, the latter with gaze wandering from aloft to overside as he estimated the Pyrenees’ speed. “You must fetch her to Mangareva. When you have picked up the land, then I will pilot her in. What do you think she is making?”
“Eleven,” Captain Davenport answered, with a final glance at the water rushing past.
“Eleven. Let me see, if she keeps up that gait, we’ll sight Mangareva between eight and nine o’clock tomorrow morning. I’ll have her on the beach by ten or by eleven at latest. And then your troubles will be all over.”
It almost seemed to the captain that the blissful moment had already arrived, such was the persuasive convincingness of McCoy.
Captain Davenport had been under the fearful strain of navigating his burning ship for over two weeks, and he was beginning to feel that he had had enough.
A heavier flaw of wind struck the back of his neck and whistled by his ears. He measured the weight of it, and looked quickly overside.
“The wind is making all the time,” he announced. “The old girl’s doing nearer twelve than eleven right now. If this keeps up, we’ll be shortening down tonight.”
All day the Pyrenees, carrying her load of living fire, tore across the foaming sea. By nightfall, royals and topgallantsails were in, and she flew on into the darkness, with great, crested seas roaring after her. The auspicious wind had had its effect, and fore and aft a visible brightening was apparent. In the second dog-watch some careless soul started a song, and by eight bells the whole crew was singing.
Captain Davenport had his blankets brought up and spread on top the house.
“I’ve forgotten what sleep is,” he explained to McCoy. “I’m all in. But give me a call at any time you think necessary.”
At three in the morning he was aroused by a gentle tugging at his arm. He sat up quickly, bracing himself against the skylight, stupid yet from his heavy sleep. The wind was thrumming its war song in the rigging, and a wild sea was buffeting the PYRENEES. Amidships she was wallowing first one rail under and then the other, flooding the waist more often than not. McCoy was shouting something he could not hear. He reached out, clutched the other by the shoulder, and drew him close so that his own ear was close to the other’s lips.
“It’s three o’clock,” came McCoy’s voice, still retaining its dovelike quality, but curiously muffled, as if from a long way off. “We’ve run two hundred and fifty. Crescent Island is only thirty miles away, somewhere there dead ahead. There’s no lights on it. If we keep running, we’ll pile up, and lose ourselves as well as the ship.”
“What d’ ye think—heave to?”
“Yes; heave to till daylight. It will only put us back four hours.”
So the Pyrenees, with her cargo of fire, was hove to, bitting the teeth of the gale and fighting and smashing the pounding seas. She was a shell, filled with a conflagration, and on the outside of the shell, clinging precariously, the little motes of men, by pull and haul, helped her in the battle.
“It is most unusual, this gale,” McCoy told the captain, in the lee of the cabin. “By rights there should be no gale at this time of the year. But everything about the weather has been unusual. There has been a stoppage of the trades, and now it’s howling right out of the trade quarter.” He waved his hand into the darkness, as if his vision could dimly penetrate for hundreds of miles. “It is off to the westward. There is something big making off there somewhere—a hurricane or something. We’re lucky to be so far to the eastward. But this is only a little blow,” he added. “It can’t last. I can tell you that much.”
By daylight the gale had eased down to normal. But daylight revealed a new danger. It had come on thick. The sea was covered by a fog, or, rather, by a pearly mist that was fog-like in density, in so far as it obstructed vision, but that was no more than a film on the sea, for the sun shot it through and filled it with a glowing radiance.
The deck of the Pyrenees was making more smoke than on the preceding day, and the cheerfulness of officers and crew had vanished. In the lee of the galley the cabin boy could be heard whimpering. It was his first voyage, and the fear of death was at his heart. The captain wandered about like a lost soul, nervously chewing his mustache, scowling, unable to make up his mind what to do.
“What do you think?” he asked, pausing by the side of McCoy, who was making a breakfast off fried bananas and a mug of water.
McCoy finished the last banana, drained the mug, and looked slowly around. In his eyes was a smile of tenderness as he said:
“Well, Captain, we might as well drive as burn. Your decks are not going to hold out forever. They are hotter this morning. You haven’t a pair of shoes I can wear? It is getting uncomfortable for my bare feet.”
The Pyrenees shipped two heavy seas as she was swung off and put once more before it, and the first mate expressed a desire to have all that water down in the hold, if only it could be introduced without taking off the hatches. McCoy ducked his head into the binnacle and watched the course set.
“I’d hold her up some more, Captain,” he said. “She’s been making drift when hove to.”
“I’ve set it to a point higher already,” was the answer. “Isn’t that enough?”
“I’d make it two points, Captain. This bit of a blow kicked that westerly current ahead faster than you imagine.”
Captain Davenport compromised on a point and a half, and then went aloft, accompanied by McCoy and the first mate, to keep a lookout for land. Sail had been made, so that the Pyrenees was doing ten knots. The following sea was dying down rapidly. There was no break in the pearly fog, and by ten o’clock Captain Davenport was growing nervous. All hands were at their stations, ready, at the first warning of land ahead, to spring like fiends to the task of bringing the Pyrenees up on the wind. That land ahead, a surf-washed outer reef, would be perilously close when it revealed itself in such a fog.
Another hour passed. The three watchers aloft stared intently into the pearly radiance. “What if we miss Mangareva?” Captain Davenport asked abruptly.
McCoy, without shifting his gaze, answered softly:
“Why, let her drive, captain. That is all we can do. All the Paumotus are before us. We can drive for a thousand miles through reefs and atolls. We are bound to fetch up somewhere.”
“Then drive it is.” Captain Davenport evidenced his intention of descending to the deck. “We’ve missed Mangareva. God knows where the next land is. I wish I’d held her up that other half-point,” he confessed a moment later. “This cursed current plays the devil with a navigator.”
“The old navigators called the Paumotus the Dangerous Archipelago,” McCoy said, when they had regained the poop. “This very current was partly responsible for that name.”
“I was talking with a sailor chap in Sydney, once,” said Mr. Konig. “He’d been trading in the Paumotus. He told me insurance was eighteen per cent. Is that right?”
McCoy smiled and nodded.
“Except that they don’t insure,” he explained. “The owners write off twenty per cent of the cost of their schooners each year.”
“My God!” Captain Davenport groaned. “That makes the life of a schooner only five years!” He shook his head sadly, murmuring, “Bad waters! Bad waters!”
Again they went into the cabin to consult the big general chart; but the poisonous vapors drove them coughing and gasping on deck.
“Here is Moerenhout Island,” Captain Davenport pointed it out on the chart, which he had spread on the house. “It can’t be more than a hundred miles to leeward.”
“A hundred and ten.” McCoy shook his head doubtfully. “It might be done, but it is very difficult. I might beach her, and then again I might put her on the reef. A bad place, a very bad place.”
“We’ll take the chance,” was Captain Davenport’s decision, as he set about working out the course.
Sail was shortened early in the afternoon, to avoid running past in the night; and in the second dog-watch the crew manifested its regained cheerfulness. Land was so very near, and their troubles would be over in the morning.
But morning broke clear, with a blazing tropic sun. The southeast trade had swung around to the eastward, and was driving the PYRENEES through the water at an eight-knot clip. Captain Davenport worked up his dead reckoning, allowing generously for drift, and announced Moerenhout Island to be not more than ten miles off. The Pyrenees sailed the ten miles; she sailed ten miles more; and the lookouts at the three mastheads saw naught but the naked, sun-washed sea.
“But the land is there, I tell you,” Captain Davenport shouted to them from the poop.
McCoy smiled soothingly, but the captain glared about him like a madman, fetched his sextant, and took a chronometer sight.
“I knew I was right,” he almost shouted, when he had worked up the observation. “Twenty-one, fifty-five, south; one-thirty-six, two, west. There you are. We’re eight miles to windward yet. What did you make it out, Mr. Konig?”
The first mate glanced at his own figures, and said in a low voice:
“Twenty-one, fifty-five all right; but my longitude’s one-thirty-six, forty-eight. That puts us considerably to leeward—”
But Captain Davenport ignored his figures with so contemptuous a silence as to make Mr. Konig grit his teeth and curse savagely under his breath.
“Keep her off,” the captain ordered the man at the wheel. “Three points—steady there, as she goes!”
Then he returned to his figures and worked them over. The sweat poured from his face. He chewed his mustache, his lips, and his pencil, staring at the figures as a man might at a ghost. Suddenly, with a fierce, muscular outburst, he crumpled the scribbled paper in his fist and crushed it under foot. Mr. Konig grinned vindictively and turned away, while Captain Davenport leaned against the cabin and for half an hour spoke no word, contenting himself with gazing to leeward with an expression of musing hopelessness on his face.
“Mr. McCoy,” he broke silence abruptly. “The chart indicates a group of islands, but not how many, off there to the north’ard, or nor’-nor’westward, about forty miles—the Acteon Islands. What about them?”
“There are four, all low,” McCoy answered. “First to the southeast is Matuerui—no people, no entrance to the lagoon. Then comes Tenarunga. There used to be about a dozen people there, but they may be all gone now. Anyway, there is no entrance for a ship—only a boat entrance, with a fathom of water. Vehauga and Teua-raro are the other two. No entrances, no people, very low. There is no bed for the Pyrenees in that group. She would be a total wreck.”
“Listen to that!” Captain Davenport was frantic. “No people! No entrances! What in the devil are islands good for?
“Well, then,” he barked suddenly, like an excited terrier, “the chart gives a whole mess of islands off to the nor’west. What about them? What one has an entrance where I can lay my ship?”
McCoy calmly considered. He did not refer to the chart. All these islands, reefs, shoals, lagoons, entrances, and distances were marked on the chart of his memory. He knew them as the city dweller knows his buildings, streets, and alleys.
“Papakena and Vanavana are off there to the westward, or west-nor’westward a hundred miles and a bit more,” he said. “One is uninhabited, and I heard that the people on the other had gone off to Cadmus Island. Anyway, neither lagoon has an entrance. Ahunui is another hundred miles on to the nor’west. No entrance, no people.”
“Well, forty miles beyond them are two islands?” Captain Davenport queried, raising his head from the chart.
McCoy shook his head.
“Paros and Manuhungi—no entrances, no people. Nengo-Nengo is forty miles beyond them, in turn, and it has no people and no entrance. But there is Hao Island. It is just the place. The lagoon is thirty miles long and five miles wide. There are plenty of people. You can usually find water. And any ship in the world can go through the entrance.”
He ceased and gazed solicitously at Captain Davenport, who, bending over the chart with a pair of dividers in hand, had just emitted a low groan.
“Is there any lagoon with an entrance anywhere nearer than Hao Island?” he asked.
“No, Captain; that is the nearest.”
“Well, it’s three hundred and forty miles.” Captain Davenport was speaking very slowly, with decision. “I won’t risk the responsibility of all these lives. I’ll wreck her on the Acteons. And she’s a good ship, too,” he added regretfully, after altering the course, this time making more allowance than ever for the westerly current.
An hour later the sky was overcast. The southeast trade still held, but the ocean was a checker board of squalls.
“We’ll be there by one o’clock,” Captain Davenport announced confidently. “By two o’clock at the outside. McCoy, you put her ashore on the one where the people are.”
The sun did not appear again, nor, at one o’clock, was any land to be seen. Captain Davenport looked astern at the Pyrenees’ canting wake.
“Good Lord!” he cried. “An easterly current? Look at that!”
Mr. Konig was incredulous. McCoy was noncommittal, though he said that in the Paumotus there was no reason why it should not be an easterly current. A few minutes later a squall robbed the Pyrenees temporarily of all her wind, and she was left rolling heavily in the trough.
“Where’s that deep lead? Over with it, you there!” Captain Davenport held the lead line and watched it sag off to the northeast. “There, look at that! Take hold of it for yourself.”
McCoy and the mate tried it, and felt the line thrumming and vibrating savagely to the grip of the tidal stream.
“A four-knot current,” said Mr. Konig.
“An easterly current instead of a westerly,” said Captain “Davenport, glaring accusingly at McCoy, as if to cast the blame for it upon him.
“That is one of the reasons, Captain, for insurance being eighteen per cent in these waters,” McCoy answered cheerfully. “You can never tell. The currents are always changing. There was a man who wrote books, I forget his name, in the yacht Casco. He missed Takaroa by thirty miles and fetched Tikei, all because of the shifting currents. You are up to windward now, and you’d better keep off a few points.”
“But how much has this current set me?” the captain demanded irately. “How am I to know how much to keep off?”
“I don’t know, Captain,” McCoy said with great gentleness.
The wind returned, and the PYRENEES, her deck smoking and shimmering in the bright gray light, ran off dead to leeward. Then she worked back, port tack and starboard tack, crisscrossing her track, combing the sea for the Acteon Islands, which the masthead lookouts failed to sight.
Captain Davenport was beside himself. His rage took the form of sullen silence, and he spent the afternoon in pacing the poop or leaning against the weather shrouds. At nightfall, without even consulting McCoy, he squared away and headed into the northwest. Mr. Konig, surreptitiously consulting chart and binnacle, and McCoy, openly and innocently consulting the binnacle, knew that they were running for Hao Island. By midnight the squalls ceased, and the stars came out. Captain Davenport was cheered by the promise of a clear day.
“I’ll get an observation in the morning,” he told McCoy, “though what my latitude is, is a puzzler. But I’ll use the Sumner method, and settle that. Do you know the Sumner line?”
And thereupon he explained it in detail to McCoy.
The day proved clear, the trade blew steadily out of the east, and the Pyrenees just as steadily logged her nine knots. Both the captain and mate worked out the position on a Sumner line, and agreed, and at noon agreed again, and verified the morning sights by the noon sights.
“Another twenty-four hours and we’ll be there,” Captain Davenport assured McCoy. “It’s a miracle the way the old girl’s decks hold out. But they can’t last. They can’t last. Look at them smoke, more and more every day. Yet it was a tight deck to begin with, fresh-calked in Frisco. I was surprised when the fire first broke out and we battened down. Look at that!”
He broke off to gaze with dropped jaw at a spiral of smoke that coiled and twisted in the lee of the mizzenmast twenty feet above the deck.
“Now, how did that get there?” he demanded indignantly.
Beneath it there was no smoke. Crawling up from the deck, sheltered from the wind by the mast, by some freak it took form and visibility at that height. It writhed away from the mast, and for a moment overhung the captain like some threatening portent. The next moment the wind whisked it away, and the captain’s jaw returned to place.
“As I was saying, when we first battened down, I was surprised. It was a tight deck, yet it leaked smoke like a sieve. And we’ve calked and calked ever since. There must be tremendous pressure underneath to drive so much smoke through.”
That afternoon the sky became overcast again, and squally, drizzly weather set in. The wind shifted back and forth between southeast and northeast, and at midnight the Pyrenees was caught aback by a sharp squall from the southwest, from which point the wind continued to blow intermittently.
“We won’t make Hao until ten or eleven,” Captain Davenport complained at seven in the morning, when the fleeting promise of the sun had been erased by hazy cloud masses in the eastern sky. And the next moment he was plaintively demanding, “And what are the currents doing?”
Lookouts at the mastheads could report no land, and the day passed in drizzling calms and violent squalls. By nightfall a heavy sea began to make from the west. The barometer had fallen to 29.50. There was no wind, and still the ominous sea continued to increase. Soon the Pyrenees was rolling madly in the huge waves that marched in an unending procession from out of the darkness of the west. Sail was shortened as fast as both watches could work, and, when the tired crew had finished, its grumbling and complaining voices, peculiarly animal-like and menacing, could be heard in the darkness. Once the starboard watch was called aft to lash down and make secure, and the men openly advertised their sullenness and unwillingness. Every slow movement was a protest and a threat. The atmosphere was moist and sticky like mucilage, and in the absence of wind all hands seemed to pant and gasp for air. The sweat stood out on faces and bare arms, and Captain Davenport for one, his face more gaunt and care-worn than ever, and his eyes troubled and staring, was oppressed by a feeling of impending calamity.
“It’s off to the westward,” McCoy said encouragingly. “At worst, we’ll be only on the edge of it.”
But Captain Davenport refused to be comforted, and by the light of a lantern read up the chapter in his Epitome that related to the strategy of shipmasters in cyclonic storms. From somewhere amidships the silence was broken by a low whimpering from the cabin boy.
“Oh, shut up!” Captain Davenport yelled suddenly and with such force as to startle every man on board and to frighten the offender into a wild wail of terror.
“Mr. Konig,” the captain said in a voice that trembled with rage and nerves, “will you kindly step for’ard and stop that brat’s mouth with a deck mop?”
But it was McCoy who went forward, and in a few minutes had the boy comforted and asleep.
Shortly before daybreak the first breath of air began to move from out the southeast, increasing swiftly to a stiff and stiffer breeze. All hands were on deck waiting for what might be behind it. “We’re all right now, Captain,” said McCoy, standing close to his shoulder. “The hurricane is to the west’ard, and we are south of it. This breeze is the in-suck. It won’t blow any harder. You can begin to put sail on her.”
“But what’s the good? Where shall I sail? This is the second day without observations, and we should have sighted Hao Island yesterday morning. Which way does it bear, north, south, east, or what? Tell me that, and I’ll make sail in a jiffy.”
“I am no navigator, Captain,” McCoy said in his mild way.
“I used to think I was one,” was the retort, “before I got into these Paumotus.”
At midday the cry of “Breakers ahead!” was heard from the lookout. The Pyrenees was kept off, and sail after sail was loosed and sheeted home. The Pyrenees was sliding through the water and fighting a current that threatened to set her down upon the breakers. Officers and men were working like mad, cook and cabin boy, Captain Davenport himself, and McCoy all lending a hand. It was a close shave. It was a low shoal, a bleak and perilous place over which the seas broke unceasingly, where no man could live, and on which not even sea birds could rest. The PYRENEES was swept within a hundred yards of it before the wind carried her clear, and at this moment the panting crew, its work done, burst out in a torrent of curses upon the head of McCoy—of McCoy who had come on board, and proposed the run to Mangareva, and lured them all away from the safety of Pitcairn Island to certain destruction in this baffling and terrible stretch of sea. But McCoy’s tranquil soul was undisturbed. He smiled at them with simple and gracious benevolence, and, somehow, the exalted goodness of him seemed to penetrate to their dark and somber souls, shaming them, and from very shame stilling the curses vibrating in their throats.
“Bad waters! Bad waters!” Captain Davenport was murmuring as his ship forged clear; but he broke off abruptly to gaze at the shoal which should have been dead astern, but which was already on the PYRENEES’ weather-quarter and working up rapidly to windward.
He sat down and buried his face in his hands. And the first mate saw, and McCoy saw, and the crew saw, what he had seen. South of the shoal an easterly current had set them down upon it; north of the shoal an equally swift westerly current had clutched the ship and was sweeping her away.
“I’ve heard of these Paumotus before,” the captain groaned, lifting his blanched face from his hands. “Captain Moyendale told me about them after losing his ship on them. And I laughed at him behind his back. God forgive me, I laughed at him. What shoal is that?” he broke off, to ask McCoy.
“I don’t know, Captain.”
“Why don’t you know?”
“Because I never saw it before, and because I have never heard of it. I do know that it is not charted. These waters have never been thoroughly surveyed.”
“Then you don’t know where we are?”
“No more than you do,” McCoy said gently.
At four in the afternoon cocoanut trees were sighted, apparently growing out of the water. A little later the low land of an atoll was raised above the sea.
“I know where we are now, Captain.” McCoy lowered the glasses from his eyes. “That’s Resolution Island. We are forty miles beyond Hao Island, and the wind is in our teeth.”
“Get ready to beach her then. Where’s the entrance?”
“There’s only a canoe passage. But now that we know where we are, we can run for Barclay de Tolley. It is only one hundred and twenty miles from here, due nor’-nor’west. With this breeze we can be there by nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
Captain Davenport consulted the chart and debated with himself.
“If we wreck her here,” McCoy added, “we’d have to make the run to Barclay de Tolley in the boats just the same.”
The captain gave his orders, and once more the Pyrenees swung off for another run across the inhospitable sea.
And the middle of the next afternoon saw despair and mutiny on her smoking deck. The current had accelerated, the wind had slackened, and the Pyrenees had sagged off to the west. The lookout sighted Barclay de Tolley to the eastward, barely visible from the masthead, and vainly and for hours the PYRENEES tried to beat up to it. Ever, like a mirage, the cocoanut trees hovered on the horizon, visible only from the masthead. From the deck they were hidden by the bulge of the world.
Again Captain Davenport consulted McCoy and the chart. Makemo lay seventy-five miles to the southwest. Its lagoon was thirty miles long, and its entrance was excellent. When Captain Davenport gave his orders, the crew refused duty. They announced that they had had enough of hell fire under their feet. There was the land. What if the ship could not make it? They could make it in the boats. Let her burn, then. Their lives amounted to something to them. They had served faithfully the ship, now they were going to serve themselves.
They sprang to the boats, brushing the second and third mates out of the way, and proceeded to swing the boats out and to prepare to lower away. Captain Davenport and the first mate, revolvers in hand, were advancing to the break of the poop, when McCoy, who had climbed on top of the cabin, began to speak.
He spoke to the sailors, and at the first sound of his dovelike, cooing voice they paused to hear. He extended to them his own ineffable serenity and peace. His soft voice and simple thoughts flowed out to them in a magic stream, soothing them against their wills. Long forgotten things came back to them, and some remembered lullaby songs of childhood and the content and rest of the mother’s arm at the end of the day. There was no more trouble, no more danger, no more irk, in all the world. Everything was as it should be, and it was only a matter of course that they should turn their backs upon the land and put to sea once more with hell fire hot beneath their feet.
McCoy spoke simply; but it was not what he spoke. It was his personality that spoke more eloquently than any word he could utter. It was an alchemy of soul occultly subtile and profoundly deep—a mysterious emanation of the spirit, seductive, sweetly humble, and terribly imperious. It was illumination in the dark crypts of their souls, a compulsion of purity and gentleness vastly greater than that which resided in the shining, death-spitting revolvers of the officers.
The men wavered reluctantly where they stood, and those who had loosed the turns made them fast again. Then one, and then another, and then all of them, began to sidle awkwardly away.
McCoy’s face was beaming with childlike pleasure as he descended from the top of the cabin. There was no trouble. For that matter there had been no trouble averted. There never had been any trouble, for there was no place for such in the blissful world in which he lived.
“You hypnotized em,” Mr. Konig grinned at him, speaking in a low voice.
“Those boys are good,” was the answer. “Their hearts are good. They have had a hard time, and they have worked hard, and they will work hard to the end.”
Mr. Konig had not time to reply. His voice was ringing out orders, the sailors were springing to obey, and the PYRENEES was paying slowly off from the wind until her bow should point in the direction of Makemo.
The wind was very light, and after sundown almost ceased. It was insufferably warm, and fore and aft men sought vainly to sleep. The deck was too hot to lie upon, and poisonous vapors, oozing through the seams, crept like evil spirits over the ship, stealing into the nostrils and windpipes of the unwary and causing fits of sneezing and coughing. The stars blinked lazily in the dim vault overhead; and the full moon, rising in the east, touched with its light the myriads of wisps and threads and spidery films of smoke that intertwined and writhed and twisted along the deck, over the rails, and up the masts and shrouds.
“Tell me,” Captain Davenport said, rubbing his smarting eyes, “what happened with that BOUNTY crowd after they reached Pitcairn? The account I read said they burnt the Bounty, and that they were not discovered until many years later. But what happened in the meantime? I’ve always been curious to know. They were men with their necks in the rope. There were some native men, too. And then there were women. That made it look like trouble right from the jump.”
“There was trouble,” McCoy answered. “They were bad men. They quarreled about the women right away. One of the mutineers, Williams, lost his wife. All the women were Tahitian women. His wife fell from the cliffs when hunting sea birds. Then he took the wife of one of the native men away from him. All the native men were made very angry by this, and they killed off nearly all the mutineers. Then the mutineers that escaped killed off all the native men. The women helped. And the natives killed each other. Everybody killed everybody. They were terrible men.
“Timiti was killed by two other natives while they were combing his hair in friendship. The white men had sent them to do it. Then the white men killed them. The wife of Tullaloo killed him in a cave because she wanted a white man for husband. They were very wicked. God had hidden His face from them. At the end of two years all the native men were murdered, and all the white men except four. They were Young, John Adams, McCoy, who was my great-grandfather, and Quintal. He was a very bad man, too. Once, just because his wife did not catch enough fish for him, he bit off her ear.”
“They were a bad lot!” Mr. Konig exclaimed.
“Yes, they were very bad,” McCoy agreed and went on serenely cooing of the blood and lust of his iniquitous ancestry. “My great-grandfather escaped murder in order to die by his own hand. He made a still and manufactured alcohol from the roots of the ti-plant. Quintal was his chum, and they got drunk together all the time. At last McCoy got delirium tremens, tied a rock to his neck, and jumped into the sea.
“Quintal’s wife, the one whose ear he bit off, also got killed by falling from the cliffs. Then Quintal went to Young and demanded his wife, and went to Adams and demanded his wife. Adams and Young were afraid of Quintal. They knew he would kill them. So they killed him, the two of them together, with a hatchet. Then Young died. And that was about all the trouble they had.”
“I should say so,” Captain Davenport snorted. “There was nobody left to kill.”
“You see, God had hidden His face,” McCoy said.
By morning no more than a faint air was blowing from the eastward, and, unable to make appreciable southing by it, Captain Davenport hauled up full-and-by on the port track. He was afraid of that terrible westerly current which had cheated him out of so many ports of refuge. All day the calm continued, and all night, while the sailors, on a short ration of dried banana, were grumbling. Also, they were growing weak and complaining of stomach pains caused by the straight banana diet. All day the current swept the PYRENEES to the westward, while there was no wind to bear her south. In the middle of the first dogwatch, cocoanut trees were sighted due south, their tufted heads rising above the water and marking the low-lying atoll beneath.
“That is Taenga Island,” McCoy said. “We need a breeze tonight, or else we’ll miss Makemo.”
“What’s become of the southeast trade?” the captain demanded. “Why don’t it blow? What’s the matter?”
“It is the evaporation from the big lagoons—there are so many of them,” McCoy explained. “The evaporation upsets the whole system of trades. It even causes the wind to back up and blow gales from the southwest. This is the Dangerous Archipelago, Captain.”
Captain Davenport faced the old man, opened his mouth, and was about to curse, but paused and refrained. McCoy’s presence was a rebuke to the blasphemies that stirred in his brain and trembled in his larynx. McCoy’s influence had been growing during the many days they had been together. Captain Davenport was an autocrat of the sea, fearing no man, never bridling his tongue, and now he found himself unable to curse in the presence of this old man with the feminine brown eyes and the voice of a dove. When he realized this, Captain Davenport experienced a distinct shock. This old man was merely the seed of McCoy, of McCoy of the BOUNTY, the mutineer fleeing from the hemp that waited him in England, the McCoy who was a power for evil in the early days of blood and lust and violent death on Pitcairn Island.
Captain Davenport was not religious, yet in that moment he felt a mad impulse to cast himself at the other’s feet—and to say he knew not what. It was an emotion that so deeply stirred him, rather than a coherent thought, and he was aware in some vague way of his own unworthiness and smallness in the presence of this other man who possessed the simplicity of a child and the gentleness of a woman.
Of course he could not so humble himself before the eyes of his officers and men. And yet the anger that had prompted the blasphemy still raged in him. He suddenly smote the cabin with his clenched hand and cried:
“Look here, old man, I won’t be beaten. These Paumotus have cheated and tricked me and made a fool of me. I refuse to be beaten. I am going to drive this ship, and drive and drive and drive clear through the Paumotus to China but what I find a bed for her. If every man deserts, I’ll stay by her. I’ll show the Paumotus. They can’t fool me. She’s a good girl, and I’ll stick by her as long as there’s a plank to stand on. You hear me?”
“And I’ll stay with you, Captain,” McCoy said.
During the night, light, baffling airs blew out of the south, and the frantic captain, with his cargo of fire, watched and measured his westward drift and went off by himself at times to curse softly so that McCoy should not hear.
Daylight showed more palms growing out of the water to the south.
“That’s the leeward point of Makemo,” McCoy said. “Katiu is only a few miles to the west. We may make that.”
But the current, sucking between the two islands, swept them to the northwest, and at one in the afternoon they saw the palms of Katiu rise above the sea and sink back into the sea again.
A few minutes later, just as the captain had discovered that a new current from the northeast had gripped the Pyrenees, the masthead lookouts raised cocoanut palms in the northwest.
“It is Raraka,” said McCoy. “We won’t make it without wind. The current is drawing us down to the southwest. But we must watch out. A few miles farther on a current flows north and turns in a circle to the northwest. This will sweep us away from Fakarava, and Fakarava is the place for the Pyrenees to find her bed.”
“They can sweep all they da—all they well please,” Captain Davenport remarked with heat. “We’ll find a bed for her somewhere just the same.”
But the situation on the Pyrenees was reaching a culmination. The deck was so hot that it seemed an increase of a few degrees would cause it to burst into flames. In many places even the heavy-soled shoes of the men were no protection, and they were compelled to step lively to avoid scorching their feet. The smoke had increased and grown more acrid. Every man on board was suffering from inflamed eyes, and they coughed and strangled like a crew of tuberculosis patients. In the afternoon the boats were swung out and equipped. The last several packages of dried bananas were stored in them, as well as the instruments of the officers. Captain Davenport even put the chronometer into the longboat, fearing the blowing up of the deck at any moment.
All night this apprehension weighed heavily on all, and in the first morning light, with hollow eyes and ghastly faces, they stared at one another as if in surprise that the Pyrenees still held together and that they still were alive.
Walking rapidly at times, and even occasionally breaking into an undignified hop-skip-and-run, Captain Davenport inspected his ship’s deck.
“It is a matter of hours now, if not of minutes,” he announced on his return to the poop.
The cry of land came down from the masthead. From the deck the land was invisible, and McCoy went aloft, while the captain took advantage of the opportunity to curse some of the bitterness out of his heart. But the cursing was suddenly stopped by a dark line on the water which he sighted to the northeast. It was not a squall, but a regular breeze—the disrupted trade wind, eight points out of its direction but resuming business once more.
“Hold her up, Captain,” McCoy said as soon as he reached the poop. “That’s the easterly point of Fakarava, and we’ll go in through the passage full-tilt, the wind abeam, and every sail drawing.”
At the end of an hour, the cocoanut trees and the low-lying land were visible from the deck. The feeling that the end of the PYRENEES’ resistance was imminent weighed heavily on everybody. Captain Davenport had the three boats lowered and dropped short astern, a man in each to keep them apart. The Pyrenees closely skirted the shore, the surf-whitened atoll a bare two cable lengths away.
And a minute later the land parted, exposing a narrow passage and the lagoon beyond, a great mirror, thirty miles in length and a third as broad.
“Now, Captain.”
For the last time the yards of the Pyrenees swung around as she obeyed the wheel and headed into the passage. The turns had scarcely been made, and nothing had been coiled down, when the men and mates swept back to the poop in panic terror. Nothing had happened, yet they averred that something was going to happen. They could not tell why. They merely knew that it was about to happen. McCoy started forward to take up his position on the bow in order to con the vessel in; but the captain gripped his arm and whirled him around.
“Do it from here,” he said. “That deck’s not safe. What’s the matter?” he demanded the next instant. “We’re standing still.”
McCoy smiled.
“You are bucking a seven-knot current, Captain,” he said. “That is the way the full ebb runs out of this passage.”
At the end of another hour the Pyrenees had scarcely gained her length, but the wind freshened and she began to forge ahead.
“Better get into the boats, some of you,” Captain Davenport commanded.
His voice was still ringing, and the men were just beginning to move in obedience, when the amidship deck of the Pyrenees, in a mass of flame and smoke, was flung upward into the sails and rigging, part of it remaining there and the rest falling into the sea. The wind being abeam, was what had saved the men crowded aft. They made a blind rush to gain the boats, but McCoy’s voice, carrying its convincing message of vast calm and endless time, stopped them.
“Take it easy,” he was saying. “Everything is all right. Pass that boy down somebody, please.”
The man at the wheel had forsaken it in a funk, and Captain Davenport had leaped and caught the spokes in time to prevent the ship from yawing in the current and going ashore.
“Better take charge of the boats,” he said to Mr. Konig. “Tow one of them short, right under the quarter.... When I go over, it’ll be on the jump.”
Mr. Konig hesitated, then went over the rail and lowered himself into the boat.
“Keep her off half a point, Captain.”
Captain Davenport gave a start. He had thought he had the ship to himself.
“Ay, ay; half a point it is,” he answered.
Amidships the Pyrenees was an open flaming furnace, out of which poured an immense volume of smoke which rose high above the masts and completely hid the forward part of the ship. McCoy, in the shelter of the mizzen-shrouds, continued his difficult task of conning the ship through the intricate channel. The fire was working aft along the deck from the seat of explosion, while the soaring tower of canvas on the mainmast went up and vanished in a sheet of flame. Forward, though they could not see them, they knew that the head-sails were still drawing.
“If only she don’t burn all her canvas off before she makes inside,” the captain groaned.
“She’ll make it,” McCoy assured him with supreme confidence. “There is plenty of time. She is bound to make it. And once inside, we’ll put her before it; that will keep the smoke away from us and hold back the fire from working aft.”
A tongue of flame sprang up the mizzen, reached hungrily for the lowest tier of canvas, missed it, and vanished. From aloft a burning shred of rope stuff fell square on the back of Captain Davenport’s neck. He acted with the celerity of one stung by a bee as he reached up and brushed the offending fire from his skin.
“How is she heading, Captain?”
“Nor’west by west.”
“Keep her west-nor-west.”
Captain Davenport put the wheel up and steadied her.
“West by north, Captain.”
“West by north she is.”
“And now west.”
Slowly, point by point, as she entered the lagoon, the PYRENEES described the circle that put her before the wind; and point by point, with all the calm certitude of a thousand years of time to spare, McCoy chanted the changing course.
“Another point, Captain.”
“A point it is.”
Captain Davenport whirled several spokes over, suddenly reversing and coming back one to check her.
“Steady.”
“Steady she is—right on it.”
Despite the fact that the wind was now astern, the heat was so intense that Captain Davenport was compelled to steal sidelong glances into the binnacle, letting go the wheel now with one hand, now with the other, to rub or shield his blistering cheeks.
McCoy’s beard was crinkling and shrivelling and the smell of it, strong in the other’s nostrils, compelled him to look toward McCoy with sudden solicitude. Captain Davenport was letting go the spokes alternately with his hands in order to rub their blistering backs against his trousers. Every sail on the mizzenmast vanished in a rush of flame, compelling the two men to crouch and shield their faces.
“Now,” said McCoy, stealing a glance ahead at the low shore, “four points up, Captain, and let her drive.”
Shreds and patches of burning rope and canvas were falling about them and upon them. The tarry smoke from a smouldering piece of rope at the captain’s feet set him off into a violent coughing fit, during which he still clung to the spokes.
The Pyrenees struck, her bow lifted and she ground ahead gently to a stop. A shower of burning fragments, dislodged by the shock, fell about them. The ship moved ahead again and struck a second time. She crushed the fragile coral under her keel, drove on, and struck a third time.
“Hard over,” said McCoy. “Hard over?” he questioned gently, a minute later.
“She won’t answer,” was the reply.
“All right. She is swinging around.” McCoy peered over the side. “Soft, white sand. Couldn’t ask better. A beautiful bed.”
As the Pyrenees swung around her stern away from the wind, a fearful blast of smoke and flame poured aft. Captain Davenport deserted the wheel in blistering agony. He reached the painter of the boat that lay under the quarter, then looked for McCoy, who was standing aside to let him go down.
“You first,” the captain cried, gripping him by the shoulder and almost throwing him over the rail. But the flame and smoke were too terrible, and he followed hard after McCoy, both men wriggling on the rope and sliding down into the boat together. A sailor in the bow, without waiting for orders, slashed the painter through with his sheath knife. The oars, poised in readiness, bit into the water, and the boat shot away.
“A beautiful bed, Captain,” McCoy murmured, looking back.
“Ay, a beautiful bed, and all thanks to you,” was the answer.
The three boats pulled away for the white beach of pounded coral, beyond which, on the edge of a cocoanut grove, could be seen a half dozen grass houses and a score or more of excited natives, gazing wide-eyed at the conflagration that had come to land.
The boats grounded and they stepped out on the white beach.
“And now,” said McCoy, “I must see about getting back to Pitcairn.”


9. GOOD-BYE, JACK

Hawaii is a queer place. Everything socially is what I may call topsy-turvy. Not but what things are correct. They are almost too much so. But still things are sort of upside down. The most ultra-exclusive set there is the "Missionary Crowd." It comes with rather a shock to learn that in Hawaii the obscure martyrdom-seeking missionary sits at the head of the table of the moneyed aristocracy. But it is true. The humble New Englanders who came out in the third decade of the nineteenth century, came for the lofty purpose of teaching the kanakas the true religion, the worship of the one only genuine and undeniable God. So well did they succeed in this, and also in civilizing the kanaka, that by the second or third generation he was practically extinct. This being the fruit of the seed of the Gospel, the fruit of the seed of the missionaries (the sons and the grandsons) was the possession of the islands themselves,— of the land, the ports, the town sites, and the sugar plantations: The missionary who came to give the bread of life remained to gobble up the whole heathen feast.
But that is not the Hawaiian queerness I started out to tell. Only one cannot speak of things Hawaiian without mentioning the missionaries. There is Jack Kersdale, the man I wanted to tell about; he came of missionary stock. That is, on his grandmother’s side. His grandfather was old Benjamin Kersdale, a Yankee trader, who got his start for a million in the old days by selling cheap whiskey and square-face gin. There’s another queer thing. The old missionaries and old traders were mortal enemies. You see, their interests conflicted. But their children made it up by intermarrying and dividing the island between them.
Life in Hawaii is a song. That’s the way Stoddard put it in his "Hawaii Noi":

"Thy life is music­—Fate the notes prolong!
Each isle a stanza, and the whole a song."

And he was right. Flesh is golden there. The native women are sunripe Junos, the native men bronzed Apollos. They sing, and dance, and all are flower-bejewelled and flower-crowned. And, outside the rigid "Missionary Crowd," the white men yield to the climate and the sun, and no matter how busy they may be, are prone to dance and sing and wear flowers behind their ears and in their hair. Jack Kersdale was one of these fellows. He was one of the busiest men I ever met. He was a several-times millionaire. He was a sugar-king, a coffee planter, a rubber pioneer, a cattle rancher, and a promoter of three out of every four new enterprises launched in the islands. He was a society man, a club man, a yachtsman, a bachelor, and withal as handsome a man as was ever doted upon by mammas with marriageable daughters. Incidentally, he had finished his education at Yale, and his head was crammed fuller with vital statistics and scholarly information concerning Hawaii Nei than any other islander I ever encountered. He turned off an immense amount of work, and he sang and danced and put flowers in his hair as immensely as any of the idlers. He had grit, and had fought two duels—both, political—when he was no more than a raw youth essaying his first adventures in politics. In fact, he played a most creditable and courageous part in the last revolution, when the native dynasty was overthrown; and he could not have been over sixteen at the time. I am pointing out that he was no coward, in order that you may appreciate what happens later on. I’ve seen him in the breaking yard at the Haleakala Ranch, conquering a four-year-old brute that for two years had defied the pick of Von Tempsky’s cow-boys. And I must tell of one other thing. It was down in Kona,-or up, rather, for the Kona people scorn to live at less than a thousand feet elevation. We were all on the lanai of Doctor Goodhue’s bungalow. I was talking with Dottie Fairchild when it happened. A big centipede—it was seven inches, for we measured it afterwards—fell from the rafters overhead squarely into her coiffure. I confess, the hideousness of it paralysed me. I couldn’t move. My mind refused to work. There, within two feet of me, the ugly venomous devil was writhing in her hair. It threatened at any moment to fall down upon her exposed shoulders—we had just come out from dinner.
"What is it?" she asked, starting to raise her hand to her head. "Don’t!" I cried. "Don’t!"
"But what is it?" she insisted, growing frightened by the fright she read in my eyes and on my stammering lips.
My exclamation attracted Kersdale’s attention. He glanced our way carelessly, but in that glance took in everything. He came over to us, but without haste.
"Please don’t move, Dottie," he said quietly. He never hesitated, nor did he hurry and make a bungle of it. "Allow me," he said.
And with one hand he caught her scarf and drew it tightly around her shoulders so that the centipede could not fall inside her bodice. With the other hand—the right-he reached into her hair, caught the repulsive abomination as near as he was able by the nape of the neck, and held it tightly between thumb and forefinger as he withdrew it from her hair. It was as horrible and heroic a sight as man could wish to see. It made my flesh crawl. The centipede, seven inches of squirming legs, writhed and twisted and dashed itself about his hand, the body twining around the fingers and the legs digging into the skin and scratching as the beast endeavoured to free itself. It bit him twiceI saw it—though he assured the ladies that he was not harmed as he dropped it upon the walk and stamped it into the gravel. But I saw him in the surgery five minutes afterwards, with Doctor Goodhue scarifying the wounds and injecting permanganate of potash. The next morning Kersdale’s arm was as big as a barrel, and it was three weeks before the swelling went down.
All of which has nothing to do with my story, but which I could not avoid giving in order to show that Jack Kersdale was anything but a coward. It was the cleanest exhibition of grit I have ever seen. He never turned a hair. The smile never left his lips. And he dived with thumb and forefinger into Dottie Fairchild’s hair as gaily as if it had been a box of salted almonds. Yet that was the man I was destined to see stricken with a fear a thousand times more hideous even than the fear that was mine when I saw that writhing abomination in Dottie Fairchild’s hair, dangling over her eyes and the trap of her bodice.
I was interested in leprosy, and upon that, as upon every other island subject, Kersdale had encyclopedic knowledge. In fact, leprosy was one of his hobbies. He was an ardent defender of the settlement at Molokai, where all the island lepers were segregated. There was much talk and feeling among the natives, fanned by the demagogues, concerning the cruelties of Molokai, where men and women, not alone banished from friends and family, were compelled to live in perpetual imprisonment until they died. There were no reprieves, no commutations of sentences. "Abandon hope" was written over the portal of Molokai.
"I tell you they are happy there," Kersdale insisted. "And they are infinitely better off than their friends and relatives outside who have nothing the matter with them. The horrors of Molokai are all poppycock. I can take you through any hospital or any slum in any of the great cities of the world and show you a thousand times worse horrors. The living death! The creatures that once were men! Bosh! You ought to see those living deaths racing horses on the Fourth of July. Some of them own boats. One has a gasoline launch. They have nothing to do but have a good time. Food, shelter, clothes, medical attendance, everything, is theirs. They are the wards of the Territory. They have a much finer climate than Honolulu, and the scenery is magnificent. I shouldn’t mind going down there myself for the rest of my days. It is a lovely spot."
So Kersdale on the joyous leper. He was not afraid of leprosy. He said so himself, and that there wasn’t one chance in a million for him or any other white man to catch it, though he confessed afterward that one of his school chums, Alfred Starter, had contracted it, gone to Molokai, and there died.

"You know, in the old days," Kersdale explained, "there was no certain test for leprosy. Anything unusual or abnormal was sufficient to send a fellow to Molokai. The result was that dozens were sent there who were no more lepers than you or I. But they don’t make that mistake now. The Board of Health tests are infallible. The funny thing is that when the test was discovered they immediately went down to Molokai and applied it, and they found a number who were not lepers. These were immediately deported. Happy to get away? They wailed harder at leaving the settlement than when they left Honolulu to go to it. Some refused to leave, and really had to be forced out. One of them even married a leper woman in the last stages and then wrote pathetic letters to the Board of Health, protesting against his expulsion on the ground that no one was so well able as he to take care of his poor old wife."
"What is this infallible test?" I demanded.
"The bacteriological test. There is no getting away from it. Doctor Hervey—he’s our expert, you know—was the first man to apply it here. He is a wizard. He knows more about leprosy than any living man, and if a cure is ever discovered, he’ll be that discoverer. As for the test, it is very simple. They have succeeded in isolating the bacillus leprae and studying it. They know it now when they see it. All they do is to snip a bit of skin from the suspect and subject it to the bacteriological test. A man without any visible symptoms may be chock full of the leprosy bacilli."
"Then you or I, for all we know," I suggested, "may be full of it now." Kersdale shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
"Who can say? It takes seven years for it to incubate. If you have any doubts go and see Doctor Hervey. He’ll just snip out a piece of your skin and let you know in a jiffy."
Later on he introduced me to Dr. Hervey, who loaded me down with Board of Health reports and pamphlets on the subject, and took me out to Kalihi, the Honolulu receiving station, where suspects were examined and confirmed lepers were held for deportation to Molokai.
These deportations occurred about once a month, when, the last goodbyes said, the lepers were marched on board the little steamer, the Noeau, and carried down to the settlement.
One afternoon, writing letters at the club, Jack Kersdale dropped in on me.
"Just the man I want to see," was his greeting. "I’ll show you the saddest aspect of the whole situation—the lepers wailing as they depart for Molokai. The Noeau will be taking them on board in a few minutes. But let me warn you not to let your feelings be harrowed. Real as their grief is, they’d wail a whole sight harder a year hence if the Board of Health tried to take them away from Molokai. We’ve just time for a whiskey and soda. I’ve a carriage outside. It won’t take us five minutes to get down to the wharf."
To the wharf we drove. Some forty sad wretches, amid their mats, blankets, and luggage of various sorts, were squatting on the stringer piece. The Noeau had just arrived and was making fast to a lighter that lay between her and the wharf. A Mr. McVeigh, the superintendent of the settlement, was overseeing the embarkation, and to him I was introduced, also to Dr. Georges, one of the Board of Health physicians whom I had already met at Kalihi. The lepers were a woebegone lot. The faces of the majority were hideous—too horrible for me to describe. But here and there I noticed fairly good-looking persons, with no apparent signs of the fell disease upon them. One, I noticed, a little white girl, not more than twelve, with blue eyes and golden hair. One cheek, however, showed the leprous bloat. On my remarking on the sadness of her alien situation among the brown-skinned afflicted ones, Doctor Georges replied:
"Oh, I don’t know. It’s a happy day in her life. She comes from Kauai. Her father is a brute. And now that she has developed the disease she is going to join her mother at the settlement. Her mother was sent down three years ago—a very bad case."
"You can’t always tell from appearances," Mr. McVeigh explained. "That man there, that big chap, who looks the pink of condition, with nothing the matter with him, I happen to know has a perforating ulcer in his foot and another in his shoulder-blade. Then there are others there, see that girl’s hand, the one who is smoking the cigarette. See her twisted fingers. That’s the anæsthetic form. It attacks the nerves. You could cut her fingers off with a dull knife, or rub them off on a nutmeg grater, and she would not experience the slightest sensation."
"Yes, but that fine-looking woman, there," I persisted; "surely, surely, there can’t be anything the matter with her. She is too glorious and gorgeous altogether."
"A sad case," Mr. McVeigh answered over his shoulder, already turning away to walk down the wharf with Kersdale.
She was a beautiful woman, and she was pure Polynesian. From my meagre knowledge of the race and its types I could not but conclude that she had descended from old chief stock. She could not have been more than twenty-three or four. Her lines and proportions were magnificent, and she was just beginning to show the amplitude of the women of her race.
"It was a blow to all of us," Dr. Georges volunteered. "She gave herself up voluntarily, too. No one suspected. But somehow she had contracted the disease. It broke us all up, I assure you. We’ve kept it out of the papers, though. Nobody but us and her family knows what has become of her. In fact, if you were to ask any man in Honolulu, he’d tell you it was his impression that she was somewhere in Europe. It was at her request that we’ve been so quiet about it. Poor girl, she has a lot of pride."
"But who is she?" I asked. "Certainly, from the way you talk about her, she must be somebody."
"Did you ever hear of Lucy Mokunui?" he asked.
"Lucy Mokunui?" I repeated, haunted by some familiar association. I shook my head. "It seems to me I’ve heard the name, but I’ve forgotten
it."
"Never heard of Lucy Mokunui! The Hawaiian nightingale! I beg your pardon. Of course you are a malahini, (new-comer — Editor) and could not be expected to know. Well, Lucy Mokunui was the best beloved of Honolulu—of all Hawaii, for that matter."
"You say was," I interrupted.
"And I mean it. She is finished." He shrugged his shoulders pityingly. "A dozen haoles—I beg your pardon, white men—have lost their hearts to her at one time or another. And I’m not counting in the ruck. The dozen I refer to were haoles of position and prominence."
"She could have married the son of the Chief Justice if she’d wanted to. You think she’s beautiful, eh? But you should hear her sing. Finest native woman singer in Hawaii Nei. Her throat is pure silver and melted sunshine. We adored her. She toured America first with the Royal Hawaiian Band. After that she made two more trips on her own concert work."
"Oh!" I cried. "I remember now. I heard her two years ago at the Boston Symphony. So that is she. I recognize her now."
I was oppressed by a heavy sadness. Life was a futile thing at best. A short two years and this magnificent creature, at the summit of her magnificent success, was one of the leper squad awaiting deportation to Molokai. Henley’s lines came into my mind:

"The poor old tramp explains his poor old ulcers;
Life is, I think, a blunder and a shame."

I recoiled from my own future. If this awful fate fell to Lucy Mokunui, what might my lot not be?—or anybody’s lot? I was thoroughly aware that in life we are in the midst of death—but to be in the midst of living death, to die and not be dead, to be one of that draft of creatures that once were men, aye, and women, like Lucy Mokunui, the epitome of all Polynesian charms, an artist as well, and well beloved of men—. I am afraid I must have betrayed my perturbation, for Doctor Georges hastened to assure me that they were very happy down in the settlement.
It was all too inconceivably monstrous. I could not bear to look at her. A short distance away, behind a stretched rope guarded by a policeman, were the lepers’ relatives and friends. They were not allowed to come near. There were no last embraces, no kisses of farewell. They called back and forth to one another—last messages, last words of love, last reiterated instructions. And those behind the rope looked with terrible intensity. It was the last time they would behold the faces of their loved ones, for they were the living dead, being carted away in the funeral ship to the graveyard of Molokai.
Doctor Georges gave the command, and the unhappy wretches dragged themselves to their feet and under their burdens of luggage began to stagger across the lighter and aboard the steamer. It was the funeral procession. At once the wailing started from those behind the rope. It was blood-curdling; it was heart-rending. I never heard such woe, and I hope never to again. Kersdale and McVeigh were still at the other end of the wharf, talking earnestly—politics, of course, for both were head-over-heels in that particular game. When Lucy Mokunui passed me, I stole a look at her. She was beautiful. She was beautiful by our standards, as well—one of those rare blossoms that occur but once in generations. And she, of all women, was doomed to Molokai. She straight on board, and aft on the open deck where the lepers huddled by the rail, wailing now, to their dear ones on shore.
The lines were cast off, and the Noeau began to move away from the wharf. The wailing increased. Such grief and despair! I was just resolving that never again would I be a witness to the sailing of the Noeau, when McVeigh and Kersdale returned. The latter’s eyes were sparkling, and his lips could not quite hide the smile of delight that was his. Evidently the politics they had talked had been satisfactory. The rope had been flung aside, and the lamenting relatives now crowded the stringer piece on either side of us.
"That’s her mother," Doctor Georges whispered, indicating an old woman next to me, who was rocking back and forth and gazing at the steamer rail out of tear-blinded eyes. I noticed that Lucy Mokunui was also wailing. She stopped abruptly and gazed at Kersdale. Then she stretched forth her arms in that adorable, sensuous way that Olga Nethersole has of embracing an audience. And with arms outspread, she cried:
"Good-bye, Jack! Good-bye!"
He heard the cry, and looked. Never was a man overtaken by more crushing fear. He reeled on the stringer piece, his face went white to the roots of his hair, and he seemed to shrink and wither away inside his clothes. He threw up his hands and groaned, "My God! My God!" Then he controlled himself by a great effort.
"Good-bye, Lucy! Good-bye!" he called.
And he stood there on the wharf, waving his hands to her till the Noeau was clear away and the faces lining her after-rail were vague and indistinct.
"I thought you knew," said McVeigh, who had been regarding him curiously. "You, of all men, should have known. I thought that was why you were here."
"I know now," Kersdale answered with immense gravity. "Where’s the carriage?"
He walked rapidly-half-ran—to it. I had to half-run myself to keep up with him.
"Drive to Doctor Hervey’s," he told the driver. "Drive as fast as you can."
He sank down in a seat, panting and gasping. The pallor of his face had increased. His lips were compressed and the sweat was standing out on his forehead and upper lip. He seemed in some horrible agony.
"For God’s sake, Martin, make those horses go!" he broke out suddenly. "Lay the whip into them!—do you hear?—lay the whip into them!"
"They’ll break, sir," the driver remonstrated.
"Let them break," Kersdale answered. "I’ll pay your fine and square you with the police. Put it to them. That’s right. Faster! Faster!"
"And I never knew, I never knew," he muttered, sinking back in the seat and with trembling hands wiping the sweat away.
The carriage was bouncing, swaying and lurching around corners at such a wild pace as to make conversation impossible. Besides, there was nothing to say. But I could hear him muttering over and over, "And I never knew. I never knew."

The End


10. BUNCHES OF KNUCKLES

ARRANGEMENTS quite extensive had been made for the celebration of Christmas on the yacht Samoset. Not having been in any civilized port for months, the stock of provisions boasted few delicacies; yet Minnie Duncan had managed to devise real feasts for cabin and forecastle.
“Listen, Boyd,” she told her husband. “Here are the menus. For the cabin, raw bonita native style, turtle soup, omelette à la Samoset—”
“What the dickens?” Boyd Duncan interrupted.
“Well, if you must know, I found a tin of mushrooms and a package of egg-powder which had fallen down behind the locker, and there are other things as well that will go into it. But don’t interrupt. Boiled yam, fried taro, alligator pear salad—there, you’ve got me all mixed, Then I found a last delectable half-pound of dried squid. There will be baked beans Mexican, if I can hammer it into Toyama’s head; also, baked papaia with Marquesan honey, and, lastly, a wonderful pie the secret of which Toyama refuses to divulge.”
“I wonder if it is possible to concoct a punch or a cocktail out of trade rum?” Duncan muttered gloomily.
“Oh! I forgot! Come with me.”
His wife caught his hand and led him through the small connecting door to her tiny stateroom. Still holding his hand, she fished in the depths of a hat-locker and brought forth a pint bottle of champagne.
“The dinner is complete!” he cried.
“Wait.”
She fished again, and was rewarded with a silver-mounted whisky flask. She held it to the light of a port-hole, and the liquor showed a quarter of the distance from the bottom.
“I’ve been saving it for weeks,” she explained. “And there’s enough for you and Captain Dettmar.”
“Two mighty small drinks,” Duncan complained.
“There would have been more, but I gave a drink to Lorenzo when he was sick.”
Duncan growled, “Might have given him rum,” facetiously.
“The nasty stuff! For a sick man? Don’t be greedy, Boyd. And I’m glad there isn’t any more, for Captain Dettmar’s sake. Drinking always makes him irritable. And now for the men’s dinner. Soda crackers, sweet cakes, candy—”
“Substantial, I must say.”
“Do hush. Rice, and curry, yam, taro, bonita, of course, a big cake Toyama is making, young pig—”
“Oh, I say,” he protested.
“It is all right, Boyd. We’ll be in Attu-Attu in three days. Besides, it’s my pig. That old chief what-ever-his-name distinctly presented it to me. You saw him yourself. And then two tins of bullamacow. That’s their dinner. And now about the presents. Shall we wait until tomorrow, or give them this evening?”
“Christmas Eve, by all means,” was the man’s judgment. “We’ll call all hands at eight bells; I’ll give them a tot of rum all around, and then you give the presents. Come on up on deck. It’s stifling down here. I hope Lorenzo has better luck with the dynamo; without the fans there won’t be much sleeping to-night if we’re driven below.”
They passed through the small main-cabin, climbed a steep companion ladder, and emerged on deck. The sun was setting, and the promise was for a clear tropic night. The Samoset, with fore- and main-sail winged out on either side, was slipping a lazy four-knots through the smooth sea. Through the engine-room skylight came a sound of hammering. They strolled aft to where Captain Dettmar, one foot on the rail, was oiling the gear of the patent log. At the wheel stood a tall South Sea Islander, clad in white undershirt and scarlet hip-cloth.
Boyd Duncan was an original. At least that was the belief of his friends. Of comfortable fortune, with no need to do anything but take his comfort, he elected to travel about the world in outlandish and most uncomfortable ways. Incidentally, he had ideas about coral-reefs, disagreed profoundly with Darwin on that subject, had voiced his opinion in several monographs and one book, and was now back at his hobby, cruising the South Seas in a tiny, thirty-ton yacht and studying reef-formations.
His wife, Minnie Duncan, was also declared an original, inasmuch as she joyfully shared his vagabond wanderings. Among other things, in the six exciting years of their marriage she had climbed Chimborazo with him, made a three-thousand-mile winter journey with dogs and sleds in Alaska, ridden a horse from Canada to Mexico, cruised the Mediterranean in a ten-ton yawl, and canoed from Germany to the Black Sea across the heart of Europe. They were a royal pair of wanderlusters, he, big and broad-shouldered, she a small, brunette, and happy woman, whose one hundred and fifteen pounds were all grit and endurance, and withal, pleasing to look upon.
The Samoset had been a trading schooner, when Duncan bought her in San Francisco and made alterations. Her interior was wholly rebuilt, so that the hold became main-cabin and staterooms, while abaft amidships were installed engines, a dynamo, an ice machine, storage batteries, and, far in the stern, gasoline tanks. Necessarily, she carried a small crew. Boyd, Minnie, and Captain Dettmar were the only whites on board, though Lorenzo, the small and greasy engineer, laid a part claim to white, being a Portuguese half-caste. A Japanese served as cook, and a Chinese as cabin boy. Four white sailors had constituted the original crew for’ard, but one by one they had yielded to the charms of palm-waving South Sea isles and been replaced by islanders. Thus, one of the dusky sailors hailed from Easter Island, a second from the Carolines, a third from the Paumotus, while the fourth was a gigantic Samoan. At sea, Boyd Duncan, himself a navigator, stood a mate’s watch with Captain Dettmar, and both of them took a wheel or lookout occasionally. On a pinch, Minnie herself could take a wheel, and it was on pinches that she proved herself more dependable at steering than did the native sailors.
At eight bells, all hands assembled at the wheel, and Boyd Duncan appeared with a black bottle and a mug. The rum he served out himself, half a mug of it to each man. They gulped the stuff down with many facial expressions of delight, followed by loud lip-smackings of approval, though the liquor was raw enough and corrosive enough to burn their mucous membranes. All drank except Lee Goom, the abstemious cabin boy. This rite accomplished, they waited for the next, the present-giving. Generously molded on Polynesian lines, huge-bodied and heavy-muscled, they were nevertheless like so many children, laughing merrily at little things, their eager black eyes flashing in the lantern light as their big bodies swayed to the heave and roll of the ship.
Calling each by name, Minnie gave the presents out, accompanying each presentation with some happy remark that added to the glee. There were trade watches, clasp knives, amazing assortments of fish-hooks in packages, plug tobacco, matches, and gorgeous strips of cotton for loincloths all around. That Boyd Duncan was liked by them was evidenced by the roars of laughter with which they greeted his slightest joking allusion.
Captain Dettmar, white-faced, smiling only when his employer chanced to glance at him, leaned against the wheel-box, looking on. Twice, he left the group and went below, remaining there but a minute each time. Later, in the main cabin, when Lorenzo, Lee Goom and Toyama received their presents, he disappeared into his stateroom twice again. For of all times, the devil that slumbered in Captain Dettmar’s soul chose this particular time of good cheer to awaken. Perhaps it was not entirely the devil’s fault, for Captain Dettmar, privily cherishing a quart of whisky for many weeks, had selected Christmas Eve for broaching it.
It was still early in the evening—two bells had just gone—when Duncan and his wife stood by the cabin companionway, gazing to windward and canvassing the possibility of spreading their beds on deck. A small, dark blot of cloud, slowly forming on the horizon, carried the threat of a rain-squall, and it was this they were discussing when Captain Dettmar, coming from aft and about to go below, glanced at them with sudden suspicion. He paused, his face working spasmodically. Then he spoke:
“You are talking about me.”
His voice was hoarse, and there was an excited vibration in it. Minnie Duncan started, then glanced at her husband’s immobile face, took the cue, and remained silent.
“I say you were talking about me,” Captain Dettmar repeated, this time with almost a snarl.
He did not lurch nor betray the liquor on him in any way save by the convulsive working of his face.
“Minnie, you’d better go down,” Duncan said gently. “Tell Lee Goom we’ll sleep below. It won’t be long before that squall is drenching things.”
She took the hint and left, delaying just long enough to give one anxious glance at the dim faces of the two men.
Duncan puffed at his cigar and waited till his wife’s voice, in talk with the cabin-boy, came up through the open skylight.
“Well?” Duncan demanded in a low voice, but sharply.
“I said you were talking about me. I say it again. Oh, I haven’t been blind. Day after day I’ve seen the two of you talking about me. Why don’t you come out and say it to my face! I know you know. And I know your mind’s made up to discharge me at Attu-Attu.”
“I am sorry you are making such a mess of everything,” was Duncan’s quiet reply.
But Captain Dettmar’s mind was set on trouble.
“You know you are going to discharge me. You think you are too good to associate with the likes of me—you and your wife.”
“Kindly keep her out of this,” Duncan warned. “What do you want?”
“I want to know what you are going to do!”
“Discharge you, after this, at Attu-Attu.”
“You intended to, all along.”
“On the contrary. It is your present conduct that compels me.”
“You can’t give me that sort of talk.”
“I can’t retain a captain who calls me a liar.”
Captain Dettmar for the moment was taken aback. His face and lips worked, but he could say nothing. Duncan coolly pulled at his cigar and glanced aft at the rising cloud of squall.
“Lee Goom brought the mail aboard at Tahiti,” Captain Dettmar began.
“We were hove short then and leaving. You didn’t look at your letters until we were outside, and then it was too late. That’s why you didn’t discharge me at Tahiti. Oh, I know. I saw the long envelope when Lee Goom came over the side. It was from the Governor of California, printed on the corner for any one to see. You’d been working behind my back. Some beachcomber in Honolulu had whispered to you, and you’d written to the Governor to find out. And that was his answer Lee Goom carried out to you. Why didn’t you come to me like a man! No, you must play underhand with me, knowing that this billet was the one chance for me to get on my feet again. And as soon as you read the Governor’s letter your mind was made up to get rid of me. I’ve seen it on your face ever since for all these months.. I’ve seen the two of you, polite as hell to me all the time, and getting away in corners and talking about me and that affair in ’Frisco.”
“Are you done?” Duncan asked, his voice low, and tense. “Quite done?”
Captain Dettmar made no answer.
“Then I’ll tell you a few things. It was precisely because of that affair in ’Frisco that I did not discharge you in Tahiti. God knows you gave me sufficient provocation. I thought that if ever a man needed a chance to rehabilitate himself, you were that man. Had there been no black mark against you, I would have discharged you when I learned how you were robbing me.”
Captain Dettmar showed surprise, started to interrupt, then changed his mind.
“There was that matter of the deck-calking, the bronze rudder-irons, the overhauling of the engine, the new spinnaker boom, the new davits, and the repairs to the whale-boat. You OKd the shipyard bill. It was four thousand one hundred and twenty-two francs. By the regular shipyard charges it ought not to have been a centime over twenty-five hundred francs-”
“If you take the word of those alongshore sharks against mine—’ the other began thickly.
“Save yourself the trouble of further lying,” Duncan went on coldly. “I looked it up. I got Flaubin before the Governor himself, and the old rascal confessed to sixteen hundred overcharge. Said you’d stuck him up for it. Twelve hundred went to you, and his share was four hundred and the job. Don’t interrupt. I’ve got his affidavit below. Then was when I would have put you ashore, except for the cloud you were under. You had to have this one chance or go clean to hell. I gave you the chance. And what have you got to say about it?”
“What did the Governor say?” Captain Dettmar demanded truculently.
“Which governor?”
“Of California. Did he lie to you like all the rest?”
“I’ll tell you what he said. He said that you had been convicted on circumstantial evidence; that was why you had got life imprisonment instead of hanging; that you had always stoutly maintained your innocence; that you were the black sheep of the Maryland Dettmars; that they moved heaven and earth for your pardon; that your prison conduct was most exemplary; that he was prosecuting attorney at the time you were convicted; that after you had served seven years he yielded to your family’s plea and pardoned you; and that in his own mind existed a doubt that you had killed McSweeny.”
There was a pause, during which Duncan went on studying the rising squall, while Captain Dettmar’s face worked terribly.
“Well, the Governor was wrong,” he announced, with a short laugh. “I did kill McSweeny. I did get the watchman drunk that night. I beat McSweeny to death in his bunk. I used the iron belaying pin that appeared in the evidence. He never had a chance. I beat him to a jelly. Do you want the details?”
Duncan looked at him in the curious way one looks at any monstrosity, but made no reply.
“Oh, I’m not afraid to tell you,” Captain Dettmar blustered on. “There are no witnesses. Besides, I am a free man now. I am pardoned, and by God they can never put me back in that hole again. I broke McSweeny’s jaw with the first blow. He was lying on his back asleep. He said, ’My God, Jim! My God!’ It was funny to see his broken jaw wabble as he said it. Then I smashed him... I say, do you want the rest of the details?”
“Is that all you have to say?” was the answer.
“Isn’t it enough?” Captain Dettmar retorted.
“It is enough.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Put you ashore at Attu-Attu.”
“And in the meantime?”
“In the meantime...” Duncan paused. An increase of weight in the wind rippled his hair. The stars overhead vanished, and the Samoset swung four points off her course in the careless steersman’s hands. “In the meantime throw your halyards down on deck and look to your wheel. I’ll call the men.”
The next moment the squall burst upon them. Captain Dettmar, springing aft, lifted the coiled mainsail halyards from their pins and threw them, ready to run, on the deck. The three islanders swarmed from the tiny forecastle, two of them leaping to the halyards and holding by a single turn, while the third fastened down the engineroom, companion and swung the ventilators around. Below, Lee Goom and Toyama were lowering skylight covers and screwing up deadeyes. Duncan pulled shut the cover of the companion scuttle, and held on, waiting, the first drops of rain pelting his face, while the Samoset leaped violently ahead, at the same time heeling first to starboard then to port as the gusty pressures caught her winged-out sails.
All waited. But there was no need to lower away on the run. The power went out of the wind, and the tropic rain poured a deluge over everything. Then it was, the danger past, and as the Kanakas began to coil the halyards back on the pins, that Boyd Duncan went below.
“All right,” he called in cheerily to his wife. “Only a puff.”
“And Captain Dettmar?” she queried.
“Has been drinking, that is all. I shall get rid of him at Attu-Attu.”
But before Duncan climbed into his bunk, he strapped around himself, against the skin and under his pajama coat, a heavy automatic pistol.
He fell asleep almost immediately, for his was the gift of perfect relaxation. He did things tensely, in the way savages do, but the instant the need passed he relaxed, mind and body. So it was that he slept, while the rain still poured on deck and the yacht plunged and rolled in the brief, sharp sea caused by the squall.
He awoke with a feeling of suffocation and heaviness. The electric fans had stopped, and the air was thick and stifling. Mentally cursing all Lorenzos and storage batteries, he heard his wife moving in the adjoining stateroom and pass out into the main cabin. Evidently heading for the fresher air on deck, he thought, and decided it was a good example to imitate. Putting on his slippers and tucking a pillow and a blanket under his arm, he followed her. As he was about to emerge from the companionway, the ship’s clock in the cabin began to strike and he stopped to listen. Four bells sounded. It was two in the morning. From without came the creaking of the gaff-jaw against the mast. The Samoset rolled and righted on a sea, and in the light breeze her canvas gave forth a hollow thrum.
He was just putting his foot out on the damp deck when he heard his wife scream. It was a startled frightened scream that ended in a splash overside. He leaped out and ran aft. In the dim starlight he could make out her head and shoulders disappearing astern in the lazy wake.
“What was it?” Captain Dettmar, who was at the wheel, asked.
“Mrs. Duncan,” was Duncan’s reply, as he tore the life-buoy from its hook and flung it aft. “Jibe over to starboard and come up on the wind!” he commanded.
And then Boyd Duncan made a mistake. He dived overboard.
When he came up, he glimpsed the blue-light on the buoy, which had ignited automatically when it struck the water. He swam for it, and found Minnie had reached it first.
“Hello,” he said. “Just trying to keep cool?”
“Oh, Boyd!” was her answer, and one wet hand reached out and touched his.
The blue light, through deterioration or damage, flickered out. As they lifted on the smooth crest of a wave, Duncan turned to look where the Samoset made a vague blur in the darkness. No lights showed, but there was noise of confusion. He could hear Captain Dettmar’s shouting above the cries of the others.
“I must say he’s taking his time,” Duncan grumbled. “Why doesn’t he jibe? There she goes now.”
They could hear the rattle of the boom tackle blocks as the sail was eased across.
“That was the mainsail,” he muttered. “Jibed to port when I told him starboard.”
Again they lifted on a wave, and again and again, ere they could make out the distant green of the Samoset’s starboard light. But instead of remaining stationary, in token that the yacht was coming toward them, it began moving across their field of vision. Duncan swore.
“What’s the lubber holding over there for!” he demanded. “He’s got his compass. He knows our bearing.”
But the green light, which was all they could see, and which they could see only when they were on top of a wave, moved steadily away from them, withal it was working up to windward, and grew dim and dimmer. Duncan called out loudly and repeatedly, and each time, in the intervals, they could hear, very faintly, the voice of Captain Dettmar shouting orders.
“How can he hear me with such a racket?” Duncan complained.
“He’s doing it so the crew won’t hear you,” was Minnie’s answer.
There was something in the quiet way she said it that caught her husband’s attention.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that he is not trying to pick us up,” she went on in the same composed voice. “He threw me overboard.”
“You are not making a mistake?”
“How could I? I was at the main rigging, looking to see if any more rain threatened. He must have left the wheel and crept behind me. I was holding on to a stay with one hand. He gripped my hand free from behind and threw me over. It’s too bad you didn’t know, or else you would have staid aboard.”
Duncan groaned, but said nothing for several minutes. The green light changed the direction of its course.
“She’s gone about,” he announced. “You are right. He’s deliberately working around us and to windward. Up wind they can never hear me. But here goes.”
He called at minute intervals for a long time. The green light disappeared, being replaced by the red, showing that the yacht had gone about again.
“Minnie,” he said finally, “it pains me to tell you, but you married a fool. Only a fool would have gone overboard as I did.”
“What chance have we of being picked up... by some other vessel, I mean?” she asked.
“About one in ten thousand, or ten thousand million. Not a steamer route nor trade route crosses this stretch of ocean. And there aren’t any whalers knocking about the South Seas. There might be a stray trading schooner running across from Tutuwanga. But I happen to know that island is visited only once a year. A chance in a million is ours.”
“And we’ll play that chance,” she rejoined stoutly.
“You ARE a joy!” His hand lifted hers to his lips. “And Aunt Elizabeth always wondered what I saw in you. Of course we’ll play that chance. And we’ll win it, too. To happen otherwise would be unthinkable. Here goes.”
He slipped the heavy pistol from his belt and let it sink into the sea. The belt, however, he retained.
“Now you get inside the buoy and get some sleep. Duck under.”
She ducked obediently, and came up inside the floating circle. He fastened the straps for her, then, with the pistol belt, buckled himself across one shoulder to the outside of the buoy.
“We’re good for all day to-morrow,” he said. “Thank God the water’s warm. It won’t be a hardship for the first twenty-hour hours, anyway. And if we’re not picked up by nightfall, we’ve just got to hang on for another day, that’s all.”
For half an hour they maintained silence, Duncan, his head resting on the arm that was on the buoy, seemed asleep.
“Boyd?” Minnie said softly.
“Thought you were asleep,” he growled.
“Boyd, if we don’t come through this—”
“Stow that!” he broke in ungallantly. “Of course we’re coming through. There is isn’t a doubt of it. Somewhere on this ocean is a ship that’s heading right for us. You wait and see. Just the same I wish my brain were equipped with wireless. Now I’m going to sleep, if you don’t.”
But for once, sleep baffled him. An hour later he heard Minnie stir and knew she was awake.
“Say, do you know what I’ve been thinking!” she asked.
“No; what?”
“That I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas.”
“By George, I never thought of it. Of course it’s Christmas Day. We’ll have many more of them, too. And do you know what I’ve been thinking? What a confounded shame we’re done out of our Christmas dinner. Wait till I lay hands on Dettmar. I’ll take it out of him. And it won’t be with an iron belaying pin either, Just two bunches of naked knuckles, that’s all.”
Despite his facetiousness, Boyd Duncan had little hope. He knew well enough the meaning of one chance in a million, and was calmly certain that his wife and he had entered upon their last few living hours—hours that were inevitably bound to be black and terrible with tragedy.
The tropic sun rose in a cloudless sky. Nothing was to be seen. The Samoset was beyond the sea-rim. As the sun rose higher, Duncan ripped his pajama trousers in halves and fashioned them into two rude turbans. Soaked in sea-water they offset the heat-rays.
“When I think of that dinner, I’m really angry,” he complained, as he noted an anxious expression threatening to set on his wife’s face. “And I want you to be with me when I settle with Dettmar. I’ve always been opposed to women witnessing scenes of blood, but this is different. It will be a beating.”
“I hope I don’t break my knuckles on him,” he added, after a pause.
Midday came and went, and they floated on, the center of a narrow sea-circle. A gentle breath of the dying trade-wind fanned them, and they rose and fell monotonously on the smooth swells of a perfect summer sea. Once, a gunie spied them, and for half an hour circled about them with majestic sweeps. And, once, a huge rayfish, measuring a score of feet across the tips, passed within a few yards.
By sunset, Minnie began to rave, softly, babblingly, like a child. Duncan’s face grew haggard as he watched and listened, while in his mind he revolved plans of how best to end the hours of agony that were coming. And, so planning, as they rose on a larger swell than usual, he swept the circle of the sea with his eyes, and saw, what made him cry out.
“Minnie!” She did not answer, and he shouted her name again in her ear, with all the voice he could command. Her eyes opened, in them fluttered commingled consciousness and delirium. He slapped her hands and wrists till the sting of the blows roused her.
“There she is, the chance in a million!” he cried.
“A steamer at that, heading straight for us! By George, it’s a cruiser! I have it!—the Annapolis, returning with those astronomers from Tutuwanga.”

United States Consul Lingford was a fussy, elderly gentleman, and in the two years of his service at Attu-Attu had never encountered so unprecedented a case as that laid before him by Boyd Duncan. The latter, with his wife, had been landed there by the Annapolis, which had promptly gone on with its cargo of astronomers to Fiji.
“It was cold-blooded, deliberate attempt to murder,” said Consul Lingford. “The law shall take its course. I don’t know how precisely to deal with this Captain Dettmar, but if he comes to Attu-Attu, depend upon it he shall be dealt with, he—ah—shall be dealt with. In the meantime, I shall read up the law. And now, won’t you and your good lady stop for lunch!”
As Duncan accepted the invitation, Minnie, who had been glancing out of the window at the harbor, suddenly leaned forward and touched her husband’s arm. He followed her gaze, and saw the Samoset, flag at half mast, rounding up and dropping anchor scarcely a hundred yards away.
“There’s my boat now,” Duncan said to the Consul. “And there’s the launch over the side, and Captain Dettmar dropping into it. If I don’t miss my guess, he’s coming to report our deaths to you.”
The launch landed on the white beach, and leaving Lorenzo tinkering with the engine, Captain Dettmar strode across the beach and up the path to the Consulate.
“Let him make his report,” Duncan said. “We’ll just step into this next room and listen.”
And through the partly open door, he and his wife heard Captain Dettmar, with tears in his voice, describe the loss of his owners.
“I jibed over and went back across the very spot,” he concluded. “There was not a sign of them. I called and called, but there was never an answer. I tacked back and forth and wore for two solid hours, then hove to till daybreak, and cruised back and forth all day, two men at the mastheads. It is terrible. I am heartbroken. Mr. Duncan was a splendid man, and I shall never...”
But he never completed the sentence, for at that moment his splendid employer strode out upon him, leaving Minnie standing in the doorway. Captain Dettmar’s white face blanched even whiter.
“I did my best to pick you up, sir,” he began.
Boyd Duncan’s answer was couched in terms of bunched knuckles, two bunches of them, that landed right and left on Captain Dettmar’s face.
Captain Dettmar staggered backward, recovered, and rushed with swinging arms at his employer, only to be met with a blow squarely between the eyes. This time the Captain went down, bearing the typewriter under him as he crashed to the floor.
“This is not permissible,” Consul Lingford spluttered. “I beg of you, I beg of you, to desist.”
“I’ll pay the damages to office furniture,” Duncan answered, and at the same time landing more bunched knuckles on the eyes and nose of Dettmar.
Consul Lingford bobbed around in the turmoil like a wet hen, while his office furniture went to ruin. Once, he caught Duncan by the arm, but was flung back, gasping, half-across the room. Another time he appealed to Minnie.
“Mrs. Duncan, won’t you, please, please, restrain your husband?”
But she, white-faced and trembling, resolutely shook her head and watched the fray with all her eyes.
“It is outrageous,” Consul Lingford cried, dodging the hurtling bodies of the two men. “It is an affront to the Government, to the United States Government. Nor will it be overlooked, I warn you. Oh, do pray desist, Mr. Duncan. You will kill the man. I beg of you. I beg, I beg...”
But the crash of a tall vase filled with crimson hibiscus blossoms left him speechless.
The time came when Captain Dettmar could no longer get up. He got as far as hands and knees, struggled vainly to rise further, then collapsed. Duncan stirred the groaning wreck with his foot.
“He’s all right,” he announced. “I’ve only given him what he has given many a sailor and worse.”
“Great heavens, sir!” Consul Lingford exploded, staring horror-stricken at the man whom he had invited to lunch.
Duncan giggled involuntarily, then controlled himself.
“I apologize, Mr. Lingford, I most heartily apologize. I fear I was slightly carried away by my feelings.”
Consul Lingford gulped and sawed the air speechlessly with his arms.
“Slightly, sir? Slightly?” he managed to articulate.
“Boyd,” Minnie called softly from the doorway.
He turned and looked.
“You ARE a joy,” she said.
“And now, Mr. Lingford, I am done with him,” Duncan said. “I turn over what is left to you and the law.”
“That?” Consul Lingford queried, in accent of horror.
“That,” Boyd Duncan replied, looking ruefully at his battered knuckles.


11. THE TASTE OF THE MEAT

In the beginning he was Christopher Bellew. By the time he was at college he had become Chris Bellew. Later, in the Bohemian crowd of San Francisco, he was called Kit Bellew. And in the end he was known by no other name than Smoke Bellew. And this history of the evolution of his name is the history of his evolution. Nor would it have happened had he not had a fond mother and an iron uncle, and had he not received a letter from Gillet Bellamy.
“I have just seen a copy of The Billow,” Gillet wrote from Paris. “Of course O’Hara will succeed with it. But he’s missing some tricks.” Here followed details in the improvement of the budding society weekly. “Go down and see him. Let him think they’re your own suggestions. Don’t let him know they’re from me. If you do, he’ll make me Paris correspondent, which I can’t afford, because I’m getting real money for my stuff from the big magazines. Above all, don’t forget to make him fire that dub who’s doing the musical and art criticism. Another thing. San Francisco has always had a literature of her own. But she hasn’t any now. Tell him to kick around and get some gink to turn out a live serial, and to put into it the real romance and glamour and colour of San Francisco.”
And down to the office of The Billow went Kit Bellew faithfully to instruct. O’Hara listened. O’Hara debated. O’Hara agreed. O’Hara fired the dub who wrote criticisms. Further, O’Hara had a way with him—the very way that was feared by Gillet in distant Paris. When O’Hara wanted anything, no friend could deny him. He was sweetly and compellingly irresistible. Before Kit Bellew could escape from the office, he had become an associate editor, had agreed to write weekly columns of criticism till some decent pen was found, and had pledged himself to write a weekly instalment of ten thousand words on the San Francisco serial—and all this without pay. The Billow wasn’t paying yet, O’Hara explained; and just as convincingly had he exposited that there was only one man in San Francisco capable of writing the serial and that man Kit Bellew.
“Oh, Lord, I’m the gink!” Kit had groaned to himself afterward on the narrow stairway.
And thereat had begun his servitude to O’Hara and the insatiable columns of The Billow. Week after week he held down an office chair, stood off creditors, wrangled with printers, and turned out twenty-five thousand words of all sorts. Nor did his labours lighten. The Billow was ambitious. It went in for illustration. The processes were expensive. It never had any money to pay Kit Bellew, and by the same token it was unable to pay for any additions to the office staff.
“This is what comes of being a good fellow,” Kit grumbled one day.
“Thank God for good fellows then,” O’Hara cried, with tears in his eyes as he gripped Kit’s hand. “You’re all that’s saved me, Kit. But for you I’d have gone bust. Just a little longer, old man, and things will be easier.”
“Never,” was Kit’s plaint. “I see my fate clearly. I shall be here always.”
A little later he thought he saw his way out. Watching his chance, in O’Hara’s presence, he fell over a chair. A few minutes afterwards he bumped into the corner of the desk, and, with fumbling fingers, capsized a paste pot.
“Out late?” O’Hara queried.
Kit brushed his eyes with his hands and peered about him anxiously before replying.
“No, it’s not that. It’s my eyes. They seem to be going back on me, that’s all.”
For several days he continued to fall over and bump into the office furniture. But O’Hara’s heart was not softened.
“I tell you what, Kit,” he said one day, “you’ve got to see an oculist. There’s Doctor Hassdapple. He’s a crackerjack. And it won’t cost you anything. We can get it for advertizing. I’ll see him myself.”
And, true to his word, he dispatched Kit to the oculist.
“There’s nothing the matter with your eyes,” was the doctor’s verdict, after a lengthy examination. “In fact, your eyes are magnificent—a pair in a million.”
“Don’t tell O’Hara,” Kit pleaded. “And give me a pair of black glasses.”
The result of this was that O’Hara sympathized and talked glowingly of the time when The Billow would be on its feet.
Luckily for Kit Bellew, he had his own income. Small it was, compared with some, yet it was large enough to enable him to belong to several clubs and maintain a studio in the Latin Quarter. In point of fact, since his associate-editorship, his expenses had decreased prodigiously. He had no time to spend money. He never saw the studio any more, nor entertained the local Bohemians with his famous chafing-dish suppers. Yet he was always broke, for The Billow, in perennial distress, absorbed his cash as well as his brains. There were the illustrators, who periodically refused to illustrate, the printers, who periodically refused to print, and the office-boy, who frequently refused to officiate. At such times O’Hara looked at Kit, and Kit did the rest.
When the steamship Excelsior arrived from Alaska, bringing the news of the Klondike strike that set the country mad, Kit made a purely frivolous proposition.
“Look here, O’Hara,” he said. “This gold rush is going to be big—the days of ’49 over again. Suppose I cover it for The Billow? I’ll pay my own expenses.”
O’Hara shook his head.
“Can’t spare you from the office, Kit. Then there’s that serial. Besides, I saw Jackson not an hour ago. He’s starting for the Klondike to-morrow, and he’s agreed to send a weekly letter and photos. I wouldn’t let him get away till he promised. And the beauty of it is, that it doesn’t cost us anything.”
The next Kit heard of the Klondike was when he dropped into the club that afternoon, and, in an alcove off the library, encountered his uncle.
“Hello, avuncular relative,” Kit greeted, sliding into a leather chair and spreading out his legs. “Won’t you join me?”
He ordered a cocktail, but the uncle contented himself with the thin native claret he invariably drank. He glanced with irritated disapproval at the cocktail, and on to his nephew’s face. Kit saw a lecture gathering.
“I’ve only a minute,” he announced hastily. “I’ve got to run and take in that Keith exhibition at Ellery’s and do half a column on it.”
“What’s the matter with you?” the other demanded. “You’re pale. You’re a wreck.”
Kit’s only answer was a groan.
“I’ll have the pleasure of burying you, I can see that.”
Kit shook his head sadly.
“No destroying worm, thank you. Cremation for mine.”
John Bellew came of the old hard and hardy stock that had crossed the plains by ox-team in the fifties, and in him was this same hardness and the hardness of a childhood spent in the conquering of a new land.
“You’re not living right, Christopher. I’m ashamed of you.”
“Primrose path, eh?” Kit chuckled.
The older man shrugged his shoulders.
“Shake not your gory locks at me, avuncular. I wish it were the primrose path. But that’s all cut out. I have no time.”
“Then what in—?”
“Overwork.”
John Bellew laughed harshly and incredulously.
“Honest.”
Again came the laughter.
“Men are the products of their environment,” Kit proclaimed, pointing at the other’s glass. “Your mirth is thin and bitter as your drink.”
“Overwork!” was the sneer. “You never earned a cent in your life.”
“You bet I have—only I never got it. I’m earning five hundred a week right now, and doing four men’s work.”
“Pictures that won’t sell? Or—er—fancy work of some sort? Can you swim?”
“I used to.”
“Sit a horse?”
“I have essayed that adventure.”
John Bellew snorted his disgust. “I’m glad your father didn’t live to see you in all the glory of your gracelessness,” he said. “Your father was a man, every inch of him. Do you get it? A man. I think he’d have whaled all this musical and artistic tom foolery out of you.”
“Alas! these degenerate days,” Kit sighed.
“I could understand it, and tolerate it,” the other went on savagely, “if you succeeded at it. You’ve never earned a cent in your life, nor done a tap of man’s work.”
“Etchings, and pictures, and fans,” Kit contributed unsoothingly.
“You’re a dabbler and a failure. What pictures have you painted? Dinky water-colours and nightmare posters. You’ve never had one exhibited, even here in San Francisco—”
“Ah, you forget. There is one in the jinks room of this very club.”
“A gross cartoon. Music? Your dear fool of a mother spent hundreds on lessons. You’ve dabbled and failed. You’ve never even earned a five-dollar piece by accompanying some one at a concert. Your songs?—rag-time rot that’s never printed and that’s sung only by a pack of fake Bohemians.”
“I had a book published once—those sonnets, you remember,” Kit interposed meekly.
“What did it cost you?”
“Only a couple of hundred.”
“Any other achievements?”
“I had a forest play acted at the summer jinks.”
“What did you get for it?”
“Glory.”
“And you used to swim, and you have essayed to sit a horse!” John Bellew set his glass down with unnecessary violence. “What earthly good are you anyway? You were well put up, yet even at university you didn’t play football. You didn’t row. You didn’t—”
“I boxed and fenced—some.”
“When did you box last?”
“Not since, but I was considered an excellent judge of time and distance, only I was—er—”
“Go on.”
“Considered desultory.”
“Lazy, you mean.”
“I always imagined it was an euphemism.”
“My father, sir, your grandfather, old Isaac Bellew, killed a man with a blow of his fist when he was sixty-nine years old.”
“The man?”
“No, your—you graceless scamp! But you’ll never kill a mosquito at sixty-nine.”
“The times have changed, oh, my avuncular! They send men to prison for homicide now.”
“Your father rode one hundred and eighty-five miles, without sleeping, and killed three horses.”
“Had he lived to-day, he’d have snored over the course in a Pullman.”
The older man was on the verge of choking with wrath, but swallowed it down and managed to articulate:
“How old are you?”
“I have reason to believe—”
“I know. Twenty-seven. You finished college at twenty-two. You’ve dabbled and played and frilled for five years. Before God and man, of what use are you? When I was your age I had one suit of underclothes. I was riding with the cattle in Coluso. I was hard as rocks, and I could sleep on a rock. I lived on jerked beef and bear-meat. I am a better man physically right now than you are. You weigh about one hundred and sixty-five. I can throw you right now, or thrash you with my fists.”
“It doesn’t take a physical prodigy to mop up cocktails or pink tea,” Kit murmured deprecatingly. “Don’t you see, my avuncular, the times have changed. Besides, I wasn’t brought up right. My dear fool of a mother—”
John Bellew started angrily.
“—As you described her, was too good to me; kept me in cotton wool and all the rest. Now, if when I was a youngster I had taken some of those intensely masculine vacations you go in for—I wonder why you didn’t invite me sometimes? You took Hal and Robbie all over the Sierras and on that Mexico trip.”
“I guess you were too Lord-Fauntleroyish.”
“Your fault, avuncular, and my dear—er—mother’s. How was I to know the hard? I was only a chee-ild. What was there left but etchings and pictures and fans? Was it my fault that I never had to sweat?”
The older man looked at his nephew with unconcealed disgust. He had no patience with levity from the lips of softness.
“Well, I’m going to take another one of those what-you-call masculine vacations. Suppose I asked you to come along?”
“Rather belated, I must say. Where is it?”
“Hal and Robert are going in to Klondike, and I’m going to see them across the Pass and down to the Lakes, then return—”
He got no further, for the young man had sprung forward and gripped his hand.
“My preserver!”
John Bellew was immediately suspicious. He had not dreamed the invitation would be accepted.
“You don’t mean it?” he said.
“When do we start?”
“It will be a hard trip. You’ll be in the way.”
“No, I won’t. I’ll work. I’ve learned to work since I went on The Billow.”
“Each man has to take a year’s supplies in with him. There’ll be such a jam the Indian packers won’t be able to handle it. Hal and Robert will have to pack their outfits across themselves. That’s what I’m going along for—to help them pack. If you come you’ll have to do the same.”
“Watch me.”
“You can’t pack,” was the objection.
“When do we start?”
“To-morrow.”
“You needn’t take it to yourself that your lecture on the hard has done it,” Kit said, at parting. “I just had to get away, somewhere, anywhere, from O’Hara.”
“Who is O’Hara? A Jap?”
“No; he’s an Irishman, and a slave-driver, and my best friend. He’s the editor and proprietor and all-round big squeeze of The Billow. What he says goes. He can make ghosts walk.”
That night Kit Bellew wrote a note to O’Hara. “It’s only a several weeks’ vacation,” he explained. “You’ll have to get some gink to dope out instalments for that serial. Sorry, old man, but my health demands it. I’ll kick in twice as hard when I get back.”
Kit Bellew landed through the madness of the Dyea beach, congested with thousand-pound outfits of thousands of men. This immense mass of luggage and food, flung ashore in mountains by the steamers, was beginning slowly to dribble up the Dyea Valley and across Chilkoot. It was a portage of twenty-eight miles, and could be accomplished only on the backs of men. Despite the fact that the Indian packers had jumped the freight from eight cents a pound to forty, they were swamped with the work, and it was plain that winter would catch the major portion of the outfits on the wrong side of the divide.
Tenderest of the tenderfeet was Kit. Like many hundreds of others he carried a big revolver swung on a cartridge-belt. Of this, his uncle, filled with memories of old lawless days, was likewise guilty. But Kit Bellew was romantic. He was fascinated by the froth and sparkle of the gold rush, and viewed its life and movement with an artist’s eye. He did not take it seriously. As he said on the steamer, it was not his funeral. He was merely on a vacation, and intended to peep over the top of the pass for a “look see” and then to return.
Leaving his party on the sand to wait for the putting ashore of the freight, he strolled up the beach toward the old trading-post. He did not swagger, though he noticed that many of the be-revolvered individuals did. A strapping, six-foot Indian passed him, carrying an unusually large pack. Kit swung in behind, admiring the splendid calves of the man, and the grace and ease with which he moved along under his burden. The Indian dropped his pack on the scales in front of the post, and Kit joined the group of admiring gold-rushers who surrounded him. The pack weighed one hundred and twenty-five pounds, which fact was uttered back and forth in tones of awe. It was going some, Kit decided, and he wondered if he could lift such a weight, much less walk off with it.
“Going to Lake Linderman with it, old man?” he asked.
The Indian, swelling with pride, grunted an affirmative.
“How much you make that one pack?”
“Fifty dollar.”
Here Kit slid out of the conversation. A young woman, standing in the doorway, had caught his eye. Unlike other women landing from the steamers, she was neither short-skirted nor bloomer-clad. She was dressed as any woman travelling anywhere would be dressed. What struck him was the justness of her being there, a feeling that somehow she belonged. Moreover, she was young and pretty. The bright beauty and colour of her oval face held him, and he looked over-long—looked till she resented, and her own eyes, long-lashed and dark, met his in cool survey.
From his face they travelled in evident amusement down to the big revolver at his thigh. Then her eyes came back to his, and in them was amused contempt. It struck him like a blow. She turned to the man beside her and indicated Kit. The man glanced him over with the same amused contempt.
“Chechako,” the girl said.
The man, who looked like a tramp in his cheap overalls and dilapidated woollen jacket, grinned dryly, and Kit felt withered, though he knew not why. But anyway she was an unusually pretty girl, he decided, as the two moved off. He noted the way of her walk, and recorded the judgment that he would recognize it over the lapse of a thousand years.
“Did you see that man with the girl?” Kit’s neighbor asked him excitedly. “Know who he is?”
Kit shook his head.
“Cariboo Charley. He was just pointed out to me. He struck it big on Klondike. Old-timer. Been on the Yukon a dozen years. He’s just come out.”
“What’s ’chechako’ mean?” Kit asked.
“You’re one; I’m one,” was the answer.
“Maybe I am, but you’ve got to search me. What does it mean?”
“Tenderfoot.”
On his way back to the beach, Kit turned the phrase over and over. It rankled to be called tenderfoot by a slender chit of a woman.
Going into a corner among the heaps of freight, his mind still filled with the vision of the Indian with the redoubtable pack, Kit essayed to learn his own strength. He picked out a sack of flour which he knew weighed an even hundred pounds. He stepped astride it, reached down, and strove to get it on his shoulder. His first conclusion was that one hundred pounds were real heavy. His next was that his back was weak. His third was an oath, and it occurred at the end of five futile minutes, when he collapsed on top of the burden with which he was wrestling. He mopped his forehead, and across a heap of grub-sacks saw John Bellew gazing at him, wintry amusement in his eyes.
“God!” proclaimed that apostle of the hard. “Out of our loins has come a race of weaklings. When I was sixteen I toyed with things like that.”
“You forget, avuncular,” Kit retorted, “that I wasn’t raised on bear-meat.”
“And I’ll toy with it when I’m sixty.”
“You’ve got to show me.”
John Bellew did. He was forty-eight, but he bent over the sack, applied a tentative, shifting grip that balanced it, and, with a quick heave, stood erect, the somersaulted sack of flour on his shoulder.
“Knack, my boy, knack—and a spine.”
Kit took off his hat reverently.
“You’re a wonder, avuncular, a shining wonder. D’ye think I can learn the knack?”
John Bellew shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll be hitting the back trail before we get started.”
“Never you fear,” Kit groaned. “There’s O’Hara, the roaring lion, down there. I’m not going back till I have to.”
Kit’s first pack was a success. Up to Finnegan’s Crossing they had managed to get Indians to carry the twenty-five-hundred-pound outfit. From that point their own backs must do the work. They planned to move forward at the rate of a mile a day. It looked easy—on paper. Since John Bellew was to stay in camp and do the cooking, he would be unable to make more than an occasional pack; so to each of the three young men fell the task of carrying eight hundred pounds one mile each day. If they made fifty-pound packs, it meant a daily walk of sixteen miles loaded and of fifteen miles light—“Because we don’t back-trip the last time,” Kit explained the pleasant discovery. Eighty-pound packs meant nineteen miles travel each day; and hundred-pound packs meant only fifteen miles.
“I don’t like walking,” said Kit. “Therefore I shall carry one hundred pounds.” He caught the grin of incredulity on his uncle’s face, and added hastily: “Of course I shall work up to it. A fellow’s got to learn the ropes and tricks. I’ll start with fifty.”
He did, and ambled gaily along the trail. He dropped the sack at the next camp-site and ambled back. It was easier than he had thought. But two miles had rubbed off the velvet of his strength and exposed the underlying softness. His second pack was sixty-five pounds. It was more difficult, and he no longer ambled. Several times, following the custom of all packers, he sat down on the ground, resting the pack behind him on a rock or stump. With the third pack he became bold. He fastened the straps to a ninety-five-pound sack of beans and started. At the end of a hundred yards he felt that he must collapse. He sat down and mopped his face.
“Short hauls and short rests,” he muttered. “That’s the trick.”
Sometimes he did not make a hundred yards, and each time he struggled to his feet for another short haul the pack became undeniably heavier. He panted for breath, and the sweat streamed from him. Before he had covered a quarter of a mile he stripped off his woollen shirt and hung it on a tree. A little later he discarded his hat. At the end of half a mile he decided he was finished. He had never exerted himself so in his life, and he knew that he was finished. As he sat and panted, his gaze fell upon the big revolver and the heavy cartridge-belt.
“Ten pounds of junk!” he sneered, as he unbuckled it.
He did not bother to hang it on a tree, but flung it into the underbush. And as the steady tide of packers flowed by him, up trail and down, he noted that the other tenderfeet were beginning to shed their shooting-irons.
His short hauls decreased. At times a hundred feet was all he could stagger, and then the ominous pounding of his heart against his eardrums and the sickening totteriness of his knees compelled him to rest. And his rests grew longer. But his mind was busy. It was a twenty-eight-mile portage, which represented as many days, and this, by all accounts, was the easiest part of it. “Wait till you get to Chilkoot,” others told him as they rested and talked, “where you climb with hands and feet.”
“They ain’t going to be no Chilkoot,” was his answer. “Not for me. Long before that I’ll be at peace in my little couch beneath the moss.”
A slip and a violent, wrenching effort at recovery frightened him. He felt that everything inside him had been torn asunder.
“If ever I fall down with this on my back, I’m a goner,” he told another packer.
“That’s nothing,” came the answer. “Wait till you hit the Canyon. You’ll have to cross a raging torrent on a sixty-foot pine-tree. No guide-ropes, nothing, and the water boiling at the sag of the log to your knees. If you fall with a pack on your back, there’s no getting out of the straps. You just stay there and drown.”
“Sounds good to me,” he retorted; and out of the depths of his exhaustion he almost meant it.
“They drown three or four a day there,” the man assured him. “I helped fish a German out of there. He had four thousand in greenbacks on him.”
“Cheerful, I must say,” said Kit, battling his way to his feet and tottering on.
He and the sack of beans became a perambulating tragedy. It reminded him of the old man of the sea who sat on Sinbad’s neck. And this was one of those intensely masculine vacations, he meditated. Compared with it, the servitude to O’Hara was sweet. Again and again he was nearly seduced by the thought of abandoning the sack of beans in the brush and of sneaking around the camp to the beach and catching a steamer for civilization.
But he didn’t. Somewhere in him was the strain of the hard, and he repeated over and over to himself that what other men could do, he could. It became a nightmare chant, and he gibbered it to those that passed him on the trail. At other times, resting, he watched and envied the stolid, mule-footed Indians that plodded by under heavier packs. They never seemed to rest, but went on and on with a steadiness and certitude that were to him appalling.
He sat and cursed—he had no breath for it when under way—and fought the temptation to sneak back to San Francisco. Before the mile pack was ended he ceased cursing and took to crying. The tears were tears of exhaustion and of disgust with self. If ever a man was a wreck, he was. As the end of the pack came in sight, he strained himself in desperation, gained the camp-site, and pitched forward on his face, the beans on his back. It did not kill him, but he lay for fifteen minutes before he could summon sufficient shreds of strength to release himself from the straps. Then he became deathly sick, and was so found by Robbie, who had similar troubles of his own. It was this sickness of Robbie that braced Kit up.
“What other men can do, we can do,” Kit told Robbie, though down in his heart he wondered whether or not he was bluffing.
“And I am twenty-seven years old and a man,” he privately assured himself many times in the days that followed. There was need for it. At the end of a week, though he had succeeded in moving his eight hundred pounds forward a mile a day, he had lost fifteen pounds of his own weight. His face was lean and haggard. All resilience had gone out of his body and mind. He no longer walked, but plodded. And on the back-trips, travelling light, his feet dragged almost as much as when he was loaded.
He had become a work animal. He fell asleep over his food, and his sleep was heavy and beastly, save when he was aroused, screaming with agony, by the cramps in his legs. Every part of him ached. He tramped on raw blisters; yet even this was easier than the fearful bruising his feet received on the water-rounded rocks of the Dyea Flats, across which the trail led for two miles. These two miles represented thirty-eight miles of travelling. He washed his face once a day. His nails, torn and broken and afflicted with hangnails, were never cleaned. His shoulders and chest, galled by the pack-straps, made him think, and for the first time with understanding, of the horses he had seen on city streets.
One ordeal that nearly destroyed him at first had been the food. The extraordinary amount of work demanded extraordinary stoking, and his stomach was unaccustomed to great quantities of bacon and of the coarse, highly poisonous brown beans. As a result, his stomach went back on him, and for several days the pain and irritation of it and of starvation nearly broke him down. And then came the day of joy when he could eat like a ravenous animal, and, wolf-eyed, ask for more.
When they had moved the outfit across the foot-logs at the mouth of the Canyon, they made a change in their plans. Word had come across the Pass that at Lake Linderman the last available trees for building boats were being cut. The two cousins, with tools, whipsaw, blankets, and grub on their backs, went on, leaving Kit and his uncle to hustle along the outfit. John Bellew now shared the cooking with Kit, and both packed shoulder to shoulder. Time was flying, and on the peaks the first snow was falling. To be caught on the wrong side of the Pass meant a delay of nearly a year. The older man put his iron back under a hundred pounds. Kit was shocked, but he gritted his teeth and fastened his own straps to a hundred pounds. It hurt, but he had learned the knack, and his body, purged of all softness and fat, was beginning to harden up with lean and bitter muscle. Also, he observed and devised. He took note of the head-straps worn by the Indians and manufactured one for himself, which he used in addition to the shoulder-straps. It made things easier, so that he began the practice of piling any light, cumbersome piece of luggage on top. Thus, he was soon able to bend along with a hundred pounds in the straps, fifteen or twenty more lying loosely on top of the pack and against his neck, an axe or a pair of oars in one hand, and in the other the nested cooking-pails of the camp.
But work as they would, the toil increased. The trail grew more rugged; their packs grew heavier; and each day saw the snow-line dropping down the mountains, while freight jumped to sixty cents. No word came from the cousins beyond, so they knew they must be at work chopping down the standing trees and whipsawing them into boat-planks. John Bellew grew anxious. Capturing a bunch of Indians back-tripping from Lake Linderman, he persuaded them to put their straps on the outfit. They charged thirty cents a pound to carry it to the summit of Chilkoot, and it nearly broke him. As it was, some four hundred pounds of clothes-bags and camp outfit were not handled. He remained behind to move it along, dispatching Kit with the Indians. At the summit Kit was to remain, slowly moving his ton until overtaken by the four hundred pounds with which his uncle guaranteed to catch him.
Kit plodded along the trail with his Indian packers. In recognition of the fact that it was to be a long pack, straight to the top of Chilkoot, his own load was only eighty pounds. The Indians plodded under their loads, but it was a quicker gait than he had practised. Yet he felt no apprehension, and by now had come to deem himself almost the equal of an Indian.
At the end of a quarter of a mile he desired to rest. But the Indians kept on. He stayed with them, and kept his place in the line. At the half-mile he was convinced that he was incapable of another step, yet he gritted his teeth, kept his place, and at the end of the mile was amazed that he was still alive. Then, in some strange way, came the thing called second wind, and the next mile was almost easier than the first. The third mile nearly killed him, but, though half delirious with pain and fatigue, he never whimpered. And then, when he felt he must surely faint, came the rest. Instead of sitting in the straps, as was the custom of the white packers, the Indians slipped out of the shoulder- and head-straps and lay at ease, talking and smoking. A full half-hour passed before they made another start. To Kit’s surprise he found himself a fresh man, and “long hauls and long rests” became his newest motto.
The pitch of Chilkoot was all he had heard of it, and many were the occasions when he climbed with hands as well as feet. But when he reached the crest of the divide in the thick of a driving snow-squall, it was in the company of his Indians, and his secret pride was that he had come through with them and never squealed and never lagged. To be almost as good as an Indian was a new ambition to cherish.
When he had paid off the Indians and seen them depart, a stormy darkness was falling, and he was left alone, a thousand feet above timber-line, on the backbone of a mountain. Wet to the waist, famished and exhausted, he would have given a year’s income for a fire and a cup of coffee. Instead, he ate half a dozen cold flapjacks and crawled into the folds of the partly unrolled tent. As he dozed off he had time for only one fleeting thought, and he grinned with vicious pleasure at the picture of John Bellew in the days to follow, masculinely back-tripping his four hundred pounds up Chilcoot. As for himself, even though burdened with two thousand pounds, he was bound down the hill.
In the morning, stiff from his labours and numb with the frost, he rolled out of the canvas, ate a couple of pounds of uncooked bacon, buckled the straps on a hundred pounds, and went down the rocky way. Several hundred yards beneath, the trail led across a small glacier and down to Crater Lake. Other men packed across the glacier. All that day he dropped his packs at the glacier’s upper edge, and, by virtue of the shortness of the pack, he put his straps on one hundred and fifty pounds each load. His astonishment at being able to do it never abated. For two dollars he bought from an Indian three leathery sea-biscuits, and out of these, and a huge quantity of raw bacon, made several meals. Unwashed, unwarmed, his clothing wet with sweat, he slept another night in the canvas.
In the early morning he spread a tarpaulin on the ice, loaded it with three-quarters of a ton, and started to pull. Where the pitch of the glacier accelerated, his load likewise accelerated, overran him, scooped him in on top, and ran away with him.
A hundred packers, bending under their loads, stopped to watch him. He yelled frantic warnings, and those in his path stumbled and staggered clear. Below, on the lower edge of the glacier, was pitched a small tent, which seemed leaping toward him, so rapidly did it grow larger. He left the beaten track where the packers’ trail swerved to the left, and struck a patch of fresh snow. This arose about him in frosty smoke, while it reduced his speed. He saw the tent the instant he struck it, carrying away the corner guys, bursting in the front flaps, and fetching up inside, still on top of the tarpaulin and in the midst of his grub-sacks. The tent rocked drunkenly, and in the frosty vapour he found himself face to face with a startled young woman who was sitting up in her blankets—the very one who had called him a tenderfoot at Dyea.
“Did you see my smoke?” he queried cheerfully.
She regarded him with disapproval.
“Talk about your magic carpets!” he went on.
“Do you mind removing that sack from my foot?” she said coldly.
He looked, and lifted his weight quickly.
“It wasn’t a sack. It was my elbow. Pardon me.”
The information did not perturb her, and her coolness was a challenge.
“It was a mercy you did not overturn the stove,” she said.
He followed her glance and saw a sheet-iron stove and a coffee-pot, attended by a young squaw. He sniffed the coffee and looked back to the girl.
“I’m a chechako,” he said.
Her bored expression told him that he was stating the obvious. But he was unabashed.
“I’ve shed my shooting-irons,” he added.
Then she recognized him, and her eyes lighted. “I never thought you’d get this far,” she informed him.
Again, and greedily, he sniffed the air. “As I live, coffee!” He turned and directly addressed her: “I’ll give you my little finger—cut it right off now; I’ll do anything; I’ll be your slave for a year and a day or any other old time, if you’ll give me a cup out of that pot.”
And over the coffee he gave his name and learned hers—Joy Gastell. Also, he learned that she was an old-timer in the country. She had been born in a trading-post on the Great Slave, and as a child had crossed the Rockies with her father and come down to the Yukon. She was going in, she said, with her father, who had been delayed by business in Seattle, and who had then been wrecked on the ill-fated Chanter and carried back to Puget Sound by the rescuing steamer.
In view of the fact that she was still in her blankets, he did not make it a long conversation, and, heroically declining a second cup of coffee, he removed himself and his heaped and shifted baggage from her tent. Further, he took several conclusions away with him: she had a fetching name and fetching eyes; could not be more than twenty, or twenty-one or -two; her father must be French; she had a will of her own and temperament to burn; and she had been educated elsewhere than on the frontier.
Over the ice-scoured rocks and above the timber-line, the trail ran around Crater Lake and gained the rocky defile that led toward Happy Camp and the first scrub-pines. To pack his heavy outfit around would take days of heart-breaking toil. On the lake was a canvas boat employed in freighting. Two trips with it, in two hours, would see him and his ton across. But he was broke, and the ferryman charged forty dollars a ton.
“You’ve got a gold-mine, my friend, in that dinky boat,” Kit said to the ferryman. “Do you want another gold-mine?”
“Show me,” was the answer.
“I’ll sell it to you for the price of ferrying my outfit. It’s an idea, not patented, and you can jump the deal as soon as I tell you it. Are you game?”
The ferryman said he was, and Kit liked his looks.
“Very well. You see that glacier. Take a pick-axe and wade into it. In a day you can have a decent groove from top to bottom. See the point? The Chilkoot and Crater Lake Consolidated Chute Corporation, Limited. You can charge fifty cents a hundred, get a hundred tons a day, and have no work to do but collect the coin.”
Two hours later, Kit’s ton was across the lake, and he had gained three days on himself. And when John Bellew overtook him, he was well along toward Deep Lake, another volcanic pit filled with glacial water.
The last pack, from Long Lake to Linderman, was three miles, and the trail, if trail it could be called, rose up over a thousand-foot hogback, dropped down a scramble of slippery rocks, and crossed a wide stretch of swamp. John Bellew remonstrated when he saw Kit arise with a hundred pounds in the straps and pick up a fifty-pound sack of flour and place it on top of the pack against the back of his neck.
“Come on, you chunk of the hard,” Kit retorted. “Kick in on your bear-meat fodder and your one suit of underclothes.”
But John Bellew shook his head. “I’m afraid I’m getting old, Christopher.”
“You’re only forty-eight. Do you realize that my grandfather, sir, your father, old Isaac Bellew, killed a man with his fist when he was sixty-nine years old?”
John Bellew grinned and swallowed his medicine.
“Avuncular, I want to tell you something important. I was raised a Lord Fauntleroy, but I can outpack you, outwalk you, put you on your back, or lick you with my fists right now.”
John Bellew thrust out his hand and spoke solemnly. “Christopher, my boy, I believe you can do it. I believe you can do it with that pack on your back at the same time. You’ve made good, boy, though it’s too unthinkable to believe.”
Kit made the round trip of the last pack four times a day, which is to say that he daily covered twenty-four miles of mountain climbing, twelve miles of it under one hundred and fifty pounds. He was proud, hard, and tired, but in splendid physical condition. He ate and slept as he had never eaten and slept in his life, and as the end of the work came in sight, he was almost half sorry.
One problem bothered him. He had learned that he could fall with a hundred-weight on his back and survive; but he was confident, if he fell with that additional fifty pounds across the back of his neck, that it would break it clean. Each trail through the swamp was quickly churned bottomless by the thousands of packers, who were compelled continually to make new trails. It was while pioneering such a new trail, that he solved the problem of the extra fifty.
The soft, lush surface gave way under him; he floundered, and pitched forward on his face. The fifty pounds crushed his face in the mud and went clear without snapping his neck. With the remaining hundred pounds on his back, he arose on hands and knees. But he got no farther. One arm sank to the shoulder, pillowing his cheek in the slush. As he drew this arm clear, the other sank to the shoulder. In this position it was impossible to slip the straps, and the hundred-weight on his back would not let him rise. On hands and knees, sinking first one arm and then the other, he made an effort to crawl to where the small sack of flour had fallen. But he exhausted himself without advancing, and so churned and broke the grass surface, that a tiny pool of water began to form in perilous proximity to his mouth and nose.
He tried to throw himself on his back with the pack underneath, but this resulted in sinking both arms to the shoulders and gave him a foretaste of drowning. With exquisite patience, he slowly withdrew one sucking arm and then the other and rested them flat on the surface for the support of his chin. Then he began to call for help. After a time he heard the sound of feet sucking through the mud as some one advanced from behind.
“Lend a hand, friend,” he said. “Throw out a life-line or something.”
It was a woman’s voice that answered, and he recognized it.
“If you’ll unbuckle the straps I can get up.”
The hundred pounds rolled into the mud with a soggy noise, and he slowly gained his feet.
“A pretty predicament,” Miss Gastell laughed, at sight of his mud-covered face.
“Not at all,” he replied airily. “My favourite physical-exercise stunt. Try it some time. It’s great for the pectoral muscles and the spine.”
He wiped his face, flinging the slush from his hand with a snappy jerk.
“Oh!” she cried in recognition. “It’s Mr.—ah—Mr. Smoke Bellew.”
“I thank you gravely for your timely rescue and for that name,” he answered. “I have been doubly baptized. Henceforth I shall insist always on being called Smoke Bellew. It is a strong name, and not without significance.”
He paused, and then voice and expression became suddenly fierce.
“Do you know what I’m going to do?” he demanded. “I’m going back to the States. I am going to get married. I am going to raise a large family of children. And then, as the evening shadows fall, I shall gather those children about me and relate the sufferings and hardships I endured on the Chilkoot Trail. And if they don’t cry—I repeat, if they don’t cry, I’ll lambaste the stuffing out of them.”
The arctic winter came down apace. Snow that had come to stay lay six inches on the ground, and the ice was forming in quiet ponds, despite the fierce gales that blew. It was in the late afternoon, during a lull in such a gale, that Kit and John Bellew helped the cousins load the boat and watched it disappear down the lake in a snow-squall.
“And now a night’s sleep and an early start in the morning,” said John Bellew. “If we aren’t storm-bound at the summit we’ll make Dyea to-morrow night, and if we have luck in catching a steamer we’ll be in San Francisco in a week.”
“Enjoyed your vacation?” Kit asked absently.
Their camp for that last night at Linderman was a melancholy remnant. Everything of use, including the tent, had been taken by the cousins. A tattered tarpaulin, stretched as a wind-break, partially sheltered them from the driving snow. Supper they cooked on an open fire in a couple of battered and discarded camp utensils. All that was left them were their blankets, and food for several meals.
From the moment of the departure of the boat, Kit had become absent and restless. His uncle noticed his condition, and attributed it to the fact that the end of the hard toil had come. Only once during supper did Kit speak.
“Avuncular,” he said, relevant of nothing, “after this, I wish you’d call me Smoke. I’ve made some smoke on this trail, haven’t I?”
A few minutes later he wandered away in the direction of the village of tents that sheltered the gold-rushers who were still packing or building their boats. He was gone several hours, and when he returned and slipped into his blankets John Bellew was asleep.
In the darkness of a gale-driven morning, Kit crawled out, built a fire in his stocking feet, by which he thawed out his frozen shoes, then boiled coffee and fried bacon. It was a chilly, miserable meal. As soon as it was finished, they strapped their blankets. As John Bellew turned to lead the way toward the Chilcoot Trail, Kit held out his hand.
“Good-bye, avuncular,” he said.
John Bellew looked at him and swore in his surprise.
“Don’t forget, my name’s Smoke,” Kit chided.
“But what are you going to do?”
Kit waved his hand in a general direction northward over the storm-lashed lake.
“What’s the good of turning back after getting this far?” he asked. “Besides, I’ve got my taste of meat, and I like it. I’m going on.”
“You’re broke,” protested John Bellew. “You have no outfit.”
“I’ve got a job. Behold your nephew, Christopher Smoke Bellew! He’s got a job! He’s a gentleman’s man! He’s got a job at a hundred and fifty per month and grub. He’s going down to Dawson with a couple of dudes and another gentleman’s man—camp-cook, boatman, and general all-around hustler. And O’Hara and The Billow can go to the devil. Good-bye.”
But John Bellew was dazed, and could only mutter: “I don’t understand.”
“They say the baldface grizzlies are thick in the Yukon Basin,” Kit explained. “Well, I’ve got only one suit of underclothes, and I’m going after the bear-meat, that’s all.”


12. THE PEARLS OF PARLAY

I

The Kanaka helmsman put the wheel down, and the Malahini slipped into the eye of the wind and righted to an even keel. Her head-sails emptied, there was a rat-tat of reef-points and quick shifting of boom-tackles, and she was heeled over and filled away on the other tack. Though it was early morning and the wind brisk, the five white men who lounged on the poop-deck were scantily clad. David Grief, and his guest, Gregory Mulhall, an Englishman, were still in pajamas, their naked feet thrust into Chinese slippers. The captain and mate were in thin undershirts and unstarched duck pants, while the supercargo still held in his hands the undershirt he was reluctant to put on. The sweat stood out on his forehead, and he seemed to thrust his bare chest thirstily into the wind that did not cool.
“Pretty muggy, for a breeze like this,” he complained.
“And what’s it doing around in the west? That’s what I want to know,” was Grief’s contribution to the general plaint.
“It won’t last, and it ain’t been there long,” said Hermann, the Holland mate. “She is been chop around all night—five minutes here, ten minutes there, one hour somewhere other quarter.”
“Something makin ’, something makin ’,” Captain Warfield croaked, spreading his bushy beard with the fingers of both hands and shoving the thatch of his chin into the breeze in a vain search for coolness. “Weather’s been crazy for a fortnight. Haven’t had the proper trades in three weeks. Everything’s mixed up. Barometer was pumping at sunset last night, and it’s pumping now, though the weather sharps say it don’t mean anything. All the same, I’ve got a prejudice against seeing it pump. Gets on my nerves, sort of, you know. She was pumping that way the time we lost the Lancaster. I was only an apprentice, but I can remember that well enough. Brand new, four-masted steel ship; first voyage; broke the old man’s heart. He’d been forty years in the company. Just faded way and died the next year.”
Despite the wind and the early hour, the heat was suffocating. The wind whispered coolness, but did not deliver coolness. It might have blown off the Sahara, save for the extreme humidity with which it was laden. There was no fog nor mist, nor hint of fog or mist, yet the dimness of distance produced the impression. There were no defined clouds, yet so thickly were the heavens covered by a messy cloud-pall that the sun failed to shine through.
“Ready about!” Captain Warfield ordered with slow sharpness.
The brown, breech-clouted Kanaka sailors moved languidly but quickly to head-sheets and boom-tackles.
“Hard a-lee!”
The helmsman ran the spokes over with no hint of gentling, and the Malahini darted prettily into the wind and about.
“Jove! she’s a witch!” was Mulhall’s appreciation. “I didn’t know you South Sea traders sailed yachts.”
“She was a Gloucester fisherman originally,” Grief explained, “and the Gloucester boats are all yachts when it comes to build, rig, and sailing.”
“But you’re heading right in—why don’t you make it?” came the Englishman’s criticism.
“Try it, Captain Warfield,” Grief suggested. “Show him what a lagoon entrance is on a strong ebb.”
“Close-and-by!” the captain ordered.
“Close-and-by,” the Kanaka repeated, easing half a spoke.
The Malahini laid squarely into the narrow passage which was the lagoon entrance of a large, long, and narrow oval of an atoll. The atoll was shaped as if three atolls, in the course of building, had collided and coalesced and failed to rear the partition walls. Cocoanut palms grew in spots on the circle of sand, and there were many gaps where the sand was too low to the sea for cocoanuts, and through which could be seen the protected lagoon where the water lay flat like the ruffled surface of a mirror. Many square miles of water were in the irregular lagoon, all of which surged out on the ebb through the one narrow channel. So narrow was the channel, so large the outflow of water, that the passage was more like the rapids of a river than the mere tidal entrance to an atoll. The water boiled and whirled and swirled and drove outward in a white foam of stiff, serrated waves. Each heave and blow on her bows of the upstanding waves of the current swung the Malahini off the straight lead and wedged her as with wedges of steel toward the side of the passage. Part way in she was, when her closeness to the coral edge compelled her to go about. On the opposite tack, broadside to the current, she swept seaward with the current’s speed.
“Now’s the time for that new and expensive engine of yours,” Grief jeered good-naturedly.
That the engine was a sore point with Captain Warfield was patent. He had begged and badgered for it, until in the end Grief had given his consent.
“It will pay for itself yet,” the captain retorted, “You wait and see. It beats insurance and you know the underwriters won’t stand for insurance in the Paumotus.”
Grief pointed to a small cutter beating up astern of them on the same course.
“I’ll wager a five-franc piece the little Nuhiva beats us in.”
“Sure,” Captain Warfield agreed. “She’s overpowered. We’re like a liner alongside of her, and we’ve only got forty horsepower. She’s got ten horse, and she’s a little skimming dish. She could skate across the froth of hell, but just the same she can’t buck this current. It’s running ten knots right now.”
And at the rate of ten knots, buffeted and jerkily rolled, the Malahini went out to sea with the tide.
“She’ll slacken in half an hour—then we’ll make headway,” Captain Warfield said, with an irritation explained by his next words. “He has no right to call it Parlay. It’s down on the admiralty charts, and the French charts, too, as Hikihoho. Bougainville discovered it and named it from the natives.”
“What’s the name matter?” the supercargo demanded, taking advantage of speech to pause with arms shoved into the sleeves of the undershirt. “There it is, right under our nose, and old Parlay is there with the pearls.”
“Who see them pearl?” Hermann queried, looking from one to another.
“It’s well known,” was the supercargo’s reply. He turned to the steersman: “Tai-Hotauri, what about old Parlay’s pearls?”
The Kanaka, pleased and self-conscious, took and gave a spoke.
“My brother dive for Parlay three, four month, and he make much talk about pearl. Hikihoho very good place for pearl.”
“And the pearl-buyers have never got him to part with a pearl,” the captain broke in.
“And they say he had a hatful for Armande when he sailed for Tahiti,” the supercargo carried on the tale. “That’s fifteen years ago, and he’s been adding to it ever since—stored the shell as well. Everybody’s seen that—hundreds of tons of it. They say the lagoon’s fished clean now. Maybe that’s why he’s announced the auction.”
“If he really sells, this will be the biggest year’s output of pearls in the Paumotus,” Grief said.
“I say, now, look here!” Mulhall burst forth, harried by the humid heat as much as the rest of them. “What’s it all about? Who’s the old beachcomber anyway? What are all these pearls? Why so secretious about it?”
“Hikihoho belongs to old Parlay,” the supercargo answered. “He’s got a fortune in pearls, saved up for years and years, and he sent the word out weeks ago that he’d auction them off to the buyers to-morrow. See those schooners’ masts sticking up inside the lagoon?”
“Eight, so I see,” said Hermann.
“What are they doing in a dinky atoll like this?” the supercargo went on. “There isn’t a schooner-load of copra a year in the place. They’ve come for the auction. That’s why we’re here. That’s why the little Nuhiva’s bumping along astern there, though what she can buy is beyond me. Narii Herring—he’s an English Jew half-caste—owns and runs her, and his only assets are his nerve, his debts, and his whiskey bills. He’s a genius in such things. He owes so much that there isn’t a merchant in Papeete who isn’t interested in his welfare. They go out of their way to throw work in his way. They’ve got to, and a dandy stunt it is for Narii. Now I owe nobody. What’s the result? If I fell down in a fit on the beach they’d let me lie there and die. They wouldn’t lose anything. But Narii Herring?—what wouldn’t they do if he fell in a fit? Their best wouldn’t be too good for him. They’ve got too much money tied up in him to let him lie. They’d take him into their homes and hand-nurse him like a brother. Let me tell you, honesty in paying bills ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.”
“What’s this Narii chap got to do with it?” was the Englishman’s short-tempered demand. And, turning to Grief, he said, “What’s all this pearl nonsense? Begin at the beginning.”
“You’ll have to help me out,” Grief warned the others, as he began. “Old Parlay is a character. From what I’ve seen of him I believe he’s partly and mildly insane. Anyway, here’s the story: Parlay’s a full-blooded Frenchman. He told me once that he came from Paris. His accent is the true Parisian. He arrived down here in the old days. Went to trading and all the rest. That’s how he got in on Hikihoho. Came in trading when trading was the real thing. About a hundred miserable Paumotans lived on the island. He married the queen—native fashion. When she died, everything was his. Measles came through, and there weren’t more than a dozen survivors. He fed them, and worked them, and was king. Now before the queen died she gave birth to a girl. That’s Armande. When she was three he sent her to the convent at Papeete. When she was seven or eight he sent her to France. You begin to glimpse the situation. The best and most aristocratic convent in France was none too good for the only daughter of a Paumotan island king and capitalist, and you know the old country French draw no colour line. She was educated like a princess, and she accepted herself in much the same way. Also, she thought she was all-white, and never dreamed of a bar sinister.
“Now comes the tragedy. The old man had always been cranky and erratic, and he’d played the despot on Hikihoho so long that he’d got the idea in his head that there was nothing wrong with the king—or the princess either. When Armande was eighteen he sent for her. He had slews and slathers of money, as Yankee Bill would say. He’d built the big house on Hikihoho, and a whacking fine bungalow in Papeete. She was to arrive on the mail boat from New Zealand, and he sailed in his schooner to meet her at Papeete. And he might have carried the situation off, despite the hens and bull-beasts of Papeete, if it hadn’t been for the hurricane. That was the year, wasn’t it, when Manu-Huhi was swept and eleven hundred drowned?”
The others nodded, and Captain Warfield said: “I was in the Magpie that blow, and we went ashore, all hands and the cook, Magpie and all, a quarter of a mile into the cocoanuts at the head of Taiohae Bay—and it a supposedly hurricane-proof harbour.”
“Well,” Grief continued, “old Parlay got caught in the same blow, and arrived in Papeete with his hatful of pearls three weeks too late. He’d had to jack up his schooner and build half a mile of ways before he could get her back into the sea.
“And in the meantime there was Armande at Papeete. Nobody called on her. She did, French fashion, make the initial calls on the Governor and the port doctor. They saw her, but neither of their hen-wives was at home to her nor returned the call. She was out of caste, without caste, though she had never dreamed it, and that was the gentle way they broke the information to her. There was a gay young lieutenant on the French cruiser. He lost his heart to her, but not his head. You can imagine the shock to this young woman, refined, beautiful, raised like an aristocrat, pampered with the best of old France that money could buy. And you can guess the end.” He shrugged his shoulders. “There was a Japanese servant in the bungalow. He saw it. Said she did it with the proper spirit of the Samurai. Took a stiletto—no thrust, no drive, no wild rush for annihilation—took the stiletto, placed the point carefully against her heart, and with both hands, slowly and steadily, pressed home.
“Old Parlay arrived after that with his pearls. There was one single one of them, they say, worth sixty thousand francs. Peter Gee saw it, and has told me he offered that much for it. The old man went clean off for a while. They had him strait-jacketed in the Colonial Club two days——”
“His wife’s uncle, an old Paumotan, cut him out of the jacket and turned him loose,” the supercargo corroborated.
“And then old Parlay proceeded to eat things up,” Grief went on. “Pumped three bullets into the scalawag of a lieutenant——”
“Who lay in sick bay for three months,” Captain Warfield contributed.
“Flung a glass of wine in the Governor’s face; fought a duel with the port doctor; beat up his native servants; wrecked the hospital; broke two ribs and the collarbone of a man nurse, and escaped; and went down to his schooner, a gun in each hand, daring the chief of police and all the gendarmes to arrest him, and sailed for Hikihoho. And they say he’s never left the island since.”
The supercargo nodded. “That was fifteen years ago, and he’s never budged.”
“And added to his pearls,” said the captain. “He’s a blithering old lunatic. Makes my flesh creep. He’s a regular Finn.”
“What’s that?” Mulhall inquired.
“Bosses the weather—that’s what the natives believe, at any rate. Ask Tai-Hotauri there. Hey, Tai-Hotauri! what you think old Parlay do along weather?”
“Just the same one big weather devil,” came the Kanaka’s answer. “I know. He want big blow, he make big blow. He want no wind, no wind come.”
“A regular old Warlock,” said Mulhall.
“No good luck them pearl,” Tai-Hotauri blurted out, rolling his head ominously. “He say he sell. Plenty schooner come. Then he make big hurricane, everybody finish, you see. All native men say so.”
“It’s hurricane season now,” Captain War-field laughed morosely. “They’re not far wrong. It’s making for something right now, and I’d feel better if the Malahini was a thousand miles away from here.”
“He is a bit mad,” Grief concluded. “I’ve tried to get his point of view. It’s—well, it’s mixed. For eighteen years he’d centred everything on Armande. Half the time he believes she’s still alive, not yet come back from France. That’s one of the reasons he held on to the pearls. And all the time he hates white men. He never forgets they killed her, though a great deal of the time he forgets she’s dead. Hello! Where’s your wind?”
The sails bellied emptily overhead, and Captain Warfield grunted his disgust. Intolerable as the heat had been, in the absence of wind it was almost overpowering. The sweat oozed out on all their faces, and now one, and again another, drew deep breaths, involuntarily questing for more air.
“Here she comes again—an eight point haul! Boom-tackles across! Jump!”
The Kanakas sprang to the captain’s orders, and for five minutes the schooner laid directly into the passage and even gained on the current. Again the breeze fell flat, then puffed from the old quarter, compelling a shift back of sheets and tackles.
“Here comes the Nuhiva” Grief said. “She’s got her engine on. Look at her skim.”
“All ready?” the captain asked the engineer, a Portuguese half-caste, whose head and shoulders protruded from the small hatch just for’ard of the cabin, and who wiped the sweat from his face with a bunch of greasy waste.
“Sure,” he replied.
“Then let her go.”
The engineer disappeared into his den, and a moment later the exhaust muffler coughed and spluttered overside. But the schooner could not hold her lead. The little cutter made three feet to her two and was quickly alongside and forging ahead. Only natives were on her deck, and the man steering waved his hand in derisive greeting and farewell.
“That’s Narii Herring,” Grief told Mulhall. “The big fellow at the wheel—the nerviest and most conscienceless scoundrel in the Paumotus.”
Five minutes later a cry of joy from their own Kanakas centred all eyes on the Nuhiva. Her engine had broken down and they were overtaking her. The Malahini’s sailors sprang into the rigging and jeered as they went by; the little cutter heeled over by the wind with a bone in her teeth, going backward on the tide.
“Some engine that of ours,” Grief approved, as the lagoon opened before them and the course was changed across it to the anchorage.
Captain Warfield was visibly cheered, though he merely grunted, “It’ll pay for itself, never fear.”
The Malahini ran well into the centre of the little fleet ere she found swinging room to anchor.
“There’s Isaacs on the Dolly,” Grief observed, with a hand wave of greeting. “And Peter Gee’s on the Roberta. Couldn’t keep him away from a pearl sale like this. And there’s Francini on the Cactus. They’re all here, all the buyers. Old Parlay will surely get a price.”
“They haven’t repaired the engine yet,” Captain Warfield grumbled gleefully.
He was looking across the lagoon to where the Nuhiva’s sails showed through the sparse cocoa-nuts.

II

The house of Parlay was a big two-story frame affair, built of California lumber, with a galvanized iron roof. So disproportionate was it to the slender ring of the atoll that it showed out upon the sand-strip and above it like some monstrous excrescence. They of the Malahini paid the courtesy visit ashore immediately after anchoring. Other captains and buyers were in the big room examining the pearls that were to be auctioned next day. Paumotan servants, natives of Hikihoho, and relatives of the owner, moved about dispensing whiskey and absinthe. And through the curious company moved Parlay himself, cackling and sneering, the withered wreck of what had once been a tall and powerful man. His eyes were deep sunken and feverish, his cheeks fallen in and cavernous. The hair of his head seemed to have come out in patches, and his mustache and imperial had shed in the same lopsided way.
“Jove!” Mulhall muttered under his breath. “A long-legged Napoleon the Third, but burnt out, baked, and fire-crackled. And mangy! No wonder he crooks his head to one side. He’s got to keep the balance.”
“Goin’ to have a blow,” was the old man’s greeting to Grief. “You must think a lot of pearls to come a day like this.”
“They’re worth going to inferno for,” Grief laughed genially back, running his eyes over the surface of the table covered by the display.
“Other men have already made that journey for them,” old Parlay cackled. “See this one!” He pointed to a large, perfect pearl the size of a small walnut that lay apart on a piece of chamois. “They offered me sixty thousand francs for it in Tahiti. They’ll bid as much and more for it to-morrow, if they aren’t blown away. Well, that pearl, it was found by my cousin, my cousin by marriage. He was a native, you see. Also, he was a thief. He hid it. It was mine. His cousin, who was also my cousin—we’re all related here—killed him for it and fled away in a cutter to Noo-Nau. I pursued, but the chief of Noo-Nau had killed him for it before I got there. Oh, yes, there are many dead men represented on the table there. Have a drink, Captain. Your face is not familiar. You are new in the islands?”
“It’s Captain Robinson of the Roberta,” Grief said, introducing them.
In the meantime Mulhall had shaken hands with Peter Gee.
“I never fancied there were so many pearls in the world,” Mulhall said.
“Nor have I ever seen so many together at one time,” Peter Gee admitted.
“What ought they to be worth?”
“Fifty or sixty thousand pounds—and that’s to us buyers. In Paris——” He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyebrows at the incommunicableness of the sum.
Mulhall wiped the sweat from his eyes. All were sweating profusely and breathing hard. There was no ice in the drink that was served, and whiskey and absinthe went down lukewarm.
“Yes, yes,” Parlay was cackling. “Many dead men lie on the table there. I know those pearls, all of them. You see those three! Perfectly matched, aren’t they? A diver from Easter Island got them for me inside a week. Next week a shark got him; took his arm off and blood poison did the business. And that big baroque there—nothing much—if I’m offered twenty francs for it to-morrow I’ll be in luck; it came out of twenty-two fathoms of water. The man was from Raratonga. He broke all diving records. He got it out of twenty-two fathoms. I saw him. And he burst his lungs at the same time, or got the ’bends,’ for he died in two hours. He died screaming. They could hear him for miles. He was the most powerful native I ever saw. Half a dozen of my divers have died of the bends. And more men will die, more men will die.”
“Oh, hush your croaking, Parlay,” chided one of the captains. “It ain’t going to blow.”
“If I was a strong man, I couldn’t get up hook and get out fast enough,” the old man retorted in the falsetto of age. “Not if I was a strong man with the taste for wine yet in my mouth. But not you. You’ll all stay, I wouldn’t advise you if I thought you’d go, You can’t drive buzzards away from the carrion. Have another drink, my brave sailor-men. Well, well, what men will dare for a few little oyster drops! There they are, the beauties! Auction to-morrow, at ten sharp. Old Parlay’s selling out, and the buzzards are gathering—old Parlay who was a stronger man in his day than any of them and who will see most of them dead yet.”
“If he isn’t a vile old beast!” the supercargo of the Malahini whispered to Peter Gee.
“What if she does blow?” said the captain of the Dolly. “Hikihoho’s never been swept.”
“The more reason she will be, then,” Captain Warfield answered back. “I wouldn’t trust her.”
“Who’s croaking now?” Grief reproved.
“I’d hate to lose that new engine before it paid for itself,” Captain Warfield replied gloomily.
Parlay skipped with astonishing nimbleness across the crowded room to the barometer on the wall.
“Take a look, my brave sailormen!” he cried exultantly.
The man nearest read the glass. The sobering effect showed plainly on his face.
“It’s dropped ten,” was all he said, yet every face went anxious, and there was a look as if every man desired immediately to start for the door.
“Listen!” Parlay commanded.
In the silence the outer surf seemed to have become unusually loud. There was a great rumbling roar.
“A big sea is beginning to set,” some one said; and there was a movement to the windows, where all gathered.
Through the sparse cocoanuts they gazed seaward. An orderly succession of huge smooth seas was rolling down upon the coral shore. For some minutes they gazed on the strange sight and talked in low voices, and in those few minutes it was manifest to all that the waves were increasing in size. It was uncanny, this rising sea in a dead calm, and their voices unconsciously sank lower. Old Parlay shocked them with his abrupt cackle.
“There is yet time to get away to sea, brave gentlemen. You can tow across the lagoon with your whaleboats.”
“It’s all right, old man,” said Darling, the mate of the Cactus, a stalwart youngster of twenty-five. “The blow’s to the southward and passing on. We’ll not get a whiff of it.”
An air of relief went through the room. Conversations were started, and the voices became louder. Several of the buyers even went back to the table to continue the examination of the pearls.
Parlay’s shrill cackle rose higher.
“That’s right,” he encouraged. “If the world was coming to an end you’d go on buying.”
“We’ll buy these to-morrow just the same,” Isaacs assured him.
“Then you’ll be doing your buying in hell.”
The chorus of incredulous laughter incensed the old man. He turned fiercely on Darling.
“Since when have children like you come to the knowledge of storms? And who is the man who has plotted the hurricane-courses of the Paumotus? What books will you find it in? I sailed the Paumotus before the oldest of you drew breath. I know. To the eastward the paths of the hurricanes are on so wide a circle they make a straight line. To the westward here they make a sharp curve. Remember your chart. How did it happen the hurricane of ’91 swept Auri and Hiolau? The curve, my brave boy, the curve! In an hour, or two or three at most, will come the wind. Listen to that!”
A vast rumbling crash shook the coral foundations of the atoll. The house quivered to it. The native servants, with bottles of whiskey and absinthe in their hands, shrank together as if for protection and stared with fear through the windows at the mighty wash of the wave lapping far up the beach to the corner of a copra-shed.
Parlay looked at the barometer, giggled, and leered around at his guests. Captain War-field strode across to see.
“29:75,” he read. “She’s gone down five more. By God! the old devil’s right. She’s a-coming, and it’s me, for one, for aboard.”
“It’s growing dark,” Isaacs half whispered.
“Jove! it’s like a stage,” Mulhall said to Grief, looking at his watch. “Ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s like twilight. Down go the lights for the tragedy. Where’s the slow music!”
In answer, another rumbling crash shook the atoll and the house. Almost in a panic the company started for the door. In the dim light their sweaty faces appeared ghastly. Isaacs panted asthmatically in the suffocating heat.
“What’s your haste?” Parlay chuckled and girded at his departing guests. “A last drink, brave gentlemen.” No one noticed him. As they took the shell-bordered path to the beach he stuck his head out the door and called, “Don’t forget, gentlemen, at ten to-morrow old Parlay sells his pearls.”

III

On the beach a curious scene took place. Whaleboat after whaleboat was being hurriedly manned and shoved off. It had grown still darker. The stagnant calm continued, and the sand shook under their feet with each buffet of the sea on the outer shore. Narii Herring walked leisurely along the sand. He grinned at the very evident haste of the captains and buyers. With him were three of his Kanakas, and also Tai-Hotauri.
“Get into the boat and take an oar,” Captain Warfield ordered the latter.
Tai-Hotauri came over jauntily, while Narii Herring and his three Kanakas paused and looked on from forty feet away.
“I work no more for you, skipper,” Tai-Hotauri said insolently and loudly. But his face belied his words, for he was guilty of a prodigious wink. “Fire me, skipper,” he huskily whispered, with a second significant wink.
Captain Warfield took the cue and proceeded to do some acting himself. He raised his fist and his voice.
“Get into that boat,” he thundered, “or I’ll knock seven bells out of you!”
The Kanaka drew back truculently, and Grief stepped between to placate his captain.
“I go to work on the Nuhiva,” Tai-Hotauri said, rejoining the other group.
“Come back here!” the captain threatened.
“He’s a free man, skipper,” Narii Herring spoke up. “He’s sailed with me in the past, and he’s sailing again, that’s all.”
“Come on, we must get on board,” Grief urged. “Look how dark it’s getting.”
Captain Warfield gave in, but as the boat shoved off he stood up in the sternsheets and shook his fist ashore.
“I’ll settle with you yet, Narii,” he cried. “You’re the only skipper in the group that steals other men’s sailors,” He sat down, and in lowered voice queried: “Now what’s Tai-Hotauri up to? He’s on to something, but what is it?”

IV

As the boat came alongside the Malahini, Hermann’s anxious face greeted them over the rail.
“Bottom out fall from barometer,” he announced. “She’s goin’ to blow. I got starboard anchor overhaul.”
“Overhaul the big one, too,” Captain Warfield ordered, taking charge. “And here, some of you, hoist in this boat. Lower her down to the deck and lash her bottom up.”
Men were busy at work on the decks of all the schooners. There was a great clanking of chains being overhauled, and now one craft, and now another, hove in, veered, and dropped a second anchor. Like the Malahini, those that had third anchors were preparing to drop them when the wind showed what quarter it was to blow from.
The roar of the big surf continually grew though the lagoon lay in the mirror-like calm.
There was no sign of life where Parlay’s big house perched on the sand. Boat and copra-sheds and the sheds where the shell was stored were deserted.
“For two cents I’d up anchors and get out,” Grief said. “I’d do it anyway if it were open sea. But those chains of atolls to the north and east have us pocketed. We’ve a better chance right here. What do you think, Captain Warfield?”
“I agree with you, though a lagoon is no mill-pond for riding it out. I wonder where she’s going to start from? Hello! There goes one of Parlay’s copra-sheds.”
They could see the grass-thatched shed lift and collapse, while a froth of foam cleared the crest of the sand and ran down to the lagoon.
“Breached across!” Mulhall exclaimed. “That’s something for a starter. There she comes again!”
The wreck of the shed was now flung up and left on the sand-crest, A third wave buffeted it into fragments which washed down the slope toward the lagoon.
“If she blow I would as be cooler yet,” Hermann grunted. “No longer can I breathe. It is damn hot. I am dry like a stove.”
He chopped open a drinking cocoanut with his heavy sheath-knife and drained the contents. The rest of them followed his example, pausing once to watch one of Parlay’s shell sheds go down in ruin. The barometer now registered 29:50.
“Must be pretty close to the centre of the area of low pressure,” Grief remarked cheerfully. “I was never through the eye of a hurricane before. It will be an experience for you, too, Mulhall. From the speed the barometer’s dropped, it’s going to be a big one.”
Captain Warfield groaned, and all eyes drew to him. He was looking through the glasses down the length of the lagoon to the southeast.
“There she comes,” he said quietly.
They did not need glasses to see. A flying film, strangely marked, seemed drawing over the surface of the lagoon. Abreast of it, along the atoll, travelling with equal speed, was a stiff bending of the cocoanut palms and a blur of flying leaves. The front of the wind on the water was a solid, sharply defined strip of dark-coloured, wind-vexed water. In advance of this strip, like skirmishers, were flashes of windflaws. Behind this strip, a quarter of a mile in width, was a strip of what seemed glassy calm. Next came another dark strip of wind, and behind that the lagoon was all crisping, boiling whiteness.
“What is that calm streak?” Mulhall asked.
“Calm,” Warfield answered.
“But it travels as fast as the wind,” was the other’s objection.
“It has to, or it would be overtaken and it wouldn’t be any calm. It’s a double-header, I saw a big squall like that off Savaii once. A regular double-header. Smash! it hit us, then it lulled to nothing, and smashed us a second time. Stand by and hold on! Here she is on top of us. Look at the Roberta!”
The Roberta, lying nearest to the wind at slack chains, was swept off broadside like a straw. Then her chains brought her up, bow on to the wind, with an astonishing jerk. Schooner after schooner, the Malahini with them, was now sweeping away with the first gust and fetching up on taut chains. Mulhall and several of the Kanakas were taken off their feet when the Malahini jerked to her anchors.
And then there was no wind. The flying calm streak had reached them. Grief lighted a match, and the unshielded flame burned without flickering in the still air. A very dim twilight prevailed. The cloud-sky, lowering as it had been for hours, seemed now to have descended quite down upon the sea.
The Roberta tightened to her chains when the second head of the hurricane hit, as did schooner after schooner in swift succession. The sea, white with fury, boiled in tiny, spitting wavelets. The deck of the Malahini vibrated under the men’s feet. The taut-stretched halyards beat a tattoo against the masts, and all the rigging, as if smote by some mighty hand, set up a wild thrumming. It was impossible to face the wind and breathe. Mulhall, crouching with the others behind the shelter of the cabin, discovered this, and his lungs were filled in an instant with so great a volume of driven air which he could not expel that he nearly strangled ere he could turn his head away.
“It’s incredible,” he gasped, but no one heard him.
Hermann and several Kanakas were crawling for’ard on hands and knees to let go the third anchor. Grief touched Captain Warfield and pointed to the Roberta. She was dragging down upon them. Warfield put his mouth to Grief’s ear and shouted:
“We’re dragging, too!”
Grief sprang to the wheel and put it hard over, veering the Malahini to port. The third anchor took hold, and the Roberta went by, stern-first, a dozen yards away. They waved their hands to Peter Gee and Captain Robinson, who, with a number of sailors, were at work on the bow.
“He’s knocking out the shackles!” Grief shouted. “Going to chance the passage! Got to! Anchors skating!”
“We’re holding now!” came the answering shout. “There goes the Cactus down on the Misi. That settles them!”
The Misi had been holding, but the added windage of the Cactus was too much, and the entangled schooners slid away across the boiling white. Their men could be seen chopping and fighting to get them apart. The Roberta, cleared of her anchors, with a patch of tarpaulin set for’ard, was heading for the passage at the northwestern end of the lagoon. They saw her make it and drive out to sea. But the Misi and Cactus, unable to get clear of each other, went ashore on the atoll half a mile from the passage. The wind merely increased on itself and continued to increase. To face the full blast of it required all one’s strength, and several minutes of crawling on deck against it tired a man to exhaustion. Hermann, with his Kanakas, plodded steadily, lashing and making secure, putting ever more gaskets on the sails. The wind ripped and tore their thin undershirts from their backs. They moved slowly, as if their bodies weighed tons, never releasing a hand-hold until another had been secured. Loose ends of rope stood out stiffly horizontal, and, when a whipping gave, the loose end frazzled and blew away.
Mulhall touched one and then another and pointed to the shore. The grass-sheds had disappeared, and Parlay’s house rocked drunkenly, Because the wind blew lengthwise along the atoll, the house had been sheltered by the miles of cocoanut trees. But the big seas, breaking across from outside, were undermining it and hammering it to pieces. Already tilted down the slope of sand, its end was imminent. Here and there in the cocoanut trees people had lashed themselves. The trees did not sway or thresh about. Bent over rigidly from the wind, they remained in that position and vibrated monstrously. Underneath, across the sand, surged the white spume of the breakers. A big sea was likewise making down the length of the lagoon. It had plenty of room to kick up in the ten-mile stretch from the windward rim of the atoll, and all the schooners were bucking and plunging into it. The Malahini had begun shoving her bow and fo’c’sle head under the bigger ones, and at times her waist was filled rail-high with water.
“Now’s the time for your engine!” Grief bellowed; and Captain Warfield, crawling over to where the engineer lay, shouted emphatic commands.
Under the engine, going full speed ahead, the Malahini behaved better. While she continued to ship seas over her bow, she was not jerked down so fiercely by her anchors. On the other hand, she was unable to get any slack in the chains. The best her forty horsepower could do was to ease the strain.
Still the wind increased. The little Nuhiva, lying abreast of the Malahini and closer in to the beach, her engine still unrepaired and her captain ashore, was having a bad time of it. She buried herself so frequently and so deeply that they wondered each time if she could clear herself of the water. At three in the afternoon buried by a second sea before she could free herself of the preceding one, she did not come up.
Mulhall looked at Grief.
“Burst in her hatches,” was the bellowed answer.
Captain Warfield pointed to the Winifred, a little schooner plunging and burying outside of them, and shouted in Grief’s ear. His voice came in patches of dim words, with intervals of silence when whisked away by the roaring wind.
“Rotten little tub... Anchors hold... But how she holds together... Old as the ark——”
An hour later Hermann pointed to her. Her for’ard bitts, foremast, and most of her bow were gone, having been jerked out of her by her anchors. She swung broadside, rolling in the trough and settling by the head, and in this plight was swept away to leeward.
Five vessels now remained, and of them the Malahini was the only one with an engine. Fearing either the Nuhiva’s or the Winifdred’s fate, two of them followed the Roberta’s example, knocking out the chain-shackles and running for the passage. The Dolly was the first, but her tarpaulin was carried away, and she went to destruction on the lee-rim of the atoll near the Misi and the Cactus. Undeterred by this, the Moana let go and followed with the same result.
“Pretty good engine that, eh?” Captain Warfield yelled to his owner.
Grief put out his hand and shook. “She’s paying for herself!” he yelled back. “The wind’s shifting around to the southward, and we ought to lie easier!”
Slowly and steadily, but with ever-increasing velocity, the wind veered around to the south and the southwest, till the three schooners that were left pointed directly in toward the beach. The wreck of Parlay’s house was picked up, hurled into the lagoon, and blown out upon them. Passing the Malahini, it crashed into the Papara, lying a quarter of a mile astern. There was wild work for’ard on her, and in a quarter of an hour the house went clear, but it had taken the Papara’s foremast and bowsprit with it.
Inshore, on their port bow, lay the Tahaa, slim and yacht-like, but excessively oversparred. Her anchors still held, but her captain, finding no abatement in the wind, proceeded to reduce windage by chopping down his masts.
“Pretty good engine that,” Grief congratulated his skipper, “It will save our sticks for us yet.”
Captain Warfield shook his head dubiously.
The sea on the lagoon went swiftly down with the change of wind, but they were beginning to feel the heave and lift of the outer sea breaking across the atoll. There were not so many trees remaining. Some had been broken short off, others uprooted. One tree they saw snap off halfway up, three persons clinging to it, and whirl away by the wind into the lagoon. Two detached themselves from it and swam to the Tahaa. Not long after, just before darkness, they saw one jump overboard from that schooner’s stern and strike out strongly for the Malahini through the white, spitting wavelets.
“It’s Tai-Hotauri,” was Grief’s judgment. “Now we’ll have the news.”
The Kanaka caught the bobstay, climbed over the bow, and crawled aft. Time was given him to breathe, and then, behind the part shelter of the cabin, in broken snatches and largely by signs, he told his story.
“Narii... damn robber... He want steal... pearls... Kill Parlay... One man kill Parlay... No man know what man... Three Kanakas, Narii, me... Five beans... hat... Narii say one bean black... Nobody know... Kill Parlay... Narii damn liar... All beans black... Five black... Copra-shed dark... Every man get black bean... Big wind come... No chance... Everybody get up tree... No good luck them pearls... I tell you before... No good luck.”
“Where’s Parlay?” Grief shouted.
“Up tree... Three of his Kanakas same tree. Narii and one Kanaka’nother tree... My tree blow to hell, then I come on board.”
“Where’s the pearls?”
“Up tree along Parlay. Mebbe Narii get them pearl yet.”
In the ear of one after another Grief passed on Tai-Hotauri’s story. Captain Warfield was particularly incensed, and they could see him grinding his teeth.
Hermann went below and returned with a riding light, but the moment it was lifted above the level of the cabin wall the wind blew it out. He had better success with the binnacle lamp, which was lighted only after many collective attempts.
“A fine night of wind!” Grief yelled in Mulhall’s ear. “And blowing harder all the time.”
“How hard?”
“A hundred miles an hour... two hundred... I don’t know... Harder than I’ve ever seen it.”
The lagoon grew more and more troubled by the sea that swept across the atoll. Hundreds of leagues of ocean was being backed up by the hurricane, which more than overcame the lowering effect of the ebb tide. Immediately the tide began to rise the increase in the size of the seas was noticeable. Moon and wind were heaping the South Pacific on Hikihoho atoll.
Captain Warfield returned from one of his periodical trips to the engine room with the word that the engineer lay in a faint.
“Can’t let that engine stop!” he concluded helplessly.
“All right!” Grief said, “Bring him on deck. I’ll spell him.”
The hatch to the engine room was battened down, access being gained through a narrow passage from the cabin. The heat and gas fumes were stifling. Grief took one hasty, comprehensive examination of the engine and the fittings of the tiny room, then blew out the oil-lamp. After that he worked in darkness, save for the glow from endless cigars which he went into the cabin to light. Even-tempered as he was, he soon began to give evidences of the strain of being pent in with a mechanical monster that toiled, and sobbed, and slubbered in the shouting dark. Naked to the waist, covered with grease and oil, bruised and skinned from being knocked about by the plunging, jumping vessel, his head swimming from the mixture of gas and air he was compelled to breathe, he laboured on hour after hour, in turns petting, blessing, nursing, and cursing the engine and all its parts. The ignition began to go bad. The feed grew worse. And worst of all, the cylinders began to heat. In a consultation held in the cabin the half-caste engineer begged and pleaded to stop the engine for half an hour in order to cool it and to attend to the water circulation. Captain Warfield was against any stopping. The half-caste swore that the engine would ruin itself and stop anyway and for good. Grief, with glaring eyes, greasy and battered, yelled and cursed them both down and issued commands. Mulhall, the supercargo, and Hermann were set to work in the cabin at double-straining and triple-straining the gasoline. A hole was chopped through the engine room floor, and a Kanaka heaved bilge-water over the cylinders, while Grief continued to souse running parts in oil.
“Didn’t know you were a gasoline expert,” Captain Warfield admired when Grief came into the cabin to catch a breath of little less impure air.
“I bathe in gasoline,” he grated savagely through his teeth. “I eat it.”
What other uses he might have found for it were never given, for at that moment all the men in the cabin, as well as the gasoline being strained, were smashed forward against the bulkhead as the Malahini took an abrupt, deep dive. For the space of several minutes, unable to gain their feet, they rolled back and forth and pounded and hammered from wall to wall. The schooner, swept by three big seas, creaked and groaned and quivered, and from the weight of water on her decks behaved logilly. Grief crept to the engine, while Captain Warfield waited his chance to get through the companion-way and out on deck.
It was half an hour before he came back.
“Whaleboat’s gone!” he reported. “Galley’s gone! Everything gone except the deck and hatches! And if that engine hadn’t been going we’d be gone! Keep up the good work!”
By midnight the engineer’s lungs and head had been sufficiently cleared of gas fumes to let him relieve Grief, who went on deck to get his own head and lungs clear. He joined the others, who crouched behind the cabin, holding on with their hands and made doubly secure by rope-lashings. It was a complicated huddle, for it was the only place of refuge for the Kanakas. Some of them had accepted the skipper’s invitation into the cabin but had been driven out by the fumes. The Malahini was being plunged down and swept frequently, and what they breathed was air and spray and water commingled.
“Making heavy weather of it, Mulhall!” Grief shouted to his guest between immersions.
Mulhall, strangling and choking, could only nod. The scuppers could not carry off the burden of water on the schooner’s deck. She rolled it out and took it in over one rail and the other; and at times, nose thrown skyward, sitting down on her heel, she avalanched it aft. It surged along the poop gangways, poured over the top of the cabin, submerging and bruising those that clung on, and went out over the stern-rail.
Mulhall saw him first, and drew Grief’s attention. It was Narii Herring, crouching and holding on where the dim binnacle light shone upon him. He was quite naked, save for a belt and a bare-bladed knife thrust between it and the skin.
Captain Warfield untied his lashings and made his way over the bodies of the others. When his face became visible in the light from the binnacle it was working with anger. They could see him speak, but the wind tore the sound away. He would not put his lips to Narii’s ear. Instead, he pointed over the side. Narii Herring understood. His white teeth showed in an amused and sneering smile, and he stood up, a magnificent figure of a man.
“It’s murder!” Mulhall yelled to Grief.
“He’d have murdered Old Parlay!” Grief yelled back.
For the moment the poop was clear of water and the Malahini on an even keel. Narii made a bravado attempt to walk to the rail, but was flung down by the wind. Thereafter he crawled, disappearing in the darkness, though there was certitude in all of them that he had gone over the side. The Malahini dived deep, and when they emerged from the flood that swept aft, Grief got Mulhall’s ear.
“Can’t lose him! He’s the Fish Man of Tahiti! He’ll cross the lagoon and land on the other rim of the atoll if there’s any atoll left!”
Five minutes afterward, in another submergence, a mess of bodies poured down on them over the top of the cabin. These they seized and held till the water cleared, when they carried them below and learned their identity. Old Parlay lay oh his back on the floor, with closed eyes and without movement. The other two were his Kanaka cousins. All three were naked and bloody. The arm of one Kanaka hung helpless and broken at his side. The other man bled freely from a hideous scalp wound.
“Narii did that?” Mulhall demanded.
Grief shook his head. “No; it’s from being smashed along the deck and over the house!”
Something suddenly ceased, leaving them in dizzying uncertainty. For the moment it was hard to realize there was no wind. With the absolute abruptness of a sword slash, the wind had been chopped off. The schooner rolled and plunged, fetching up on her anchors with a crash which for the first time they could hear. Also, for the first time they could hear the water washing about on deck. The engineer threw off the propeller and eased the engine down.
“We’re in the dead centre,” Grief said. “Now for the shift. It will come as hard as ever.” He looked at the barometer. “29:32,” he read.
Not in a moment could he tone down the voice which for hours had battled against the wind, and so loudly did he speak that in the quiet it hurt the others’ ears.
“All his ribs are smashed,” the supercargo said, feeling along Parlay’s side. “He’s still breathing, but he’s a goner.”
Old Parlay groaned, moved one arm impotently, and opened his eyes. In them was the light of recognition.
“My brave gentlemen,” he whispered haltingly. “Don’t forget... the auction... at ten o’clock... in hell.”
His eyes dropped shut and the lower jaw threatened to drop, but he mastered the qualms of dissolution long enough to omit one final, loud, derisive cackle.
Above and below pandemonium broke out.
The old familiar roar of the wind was with them. The Malahini, caught broadside, was pressed down almost on her beam ends as she swung the arc compelled by her anchors. They rounded her into the wind, where she jerked to an even keel. The propeller was thrown on, and the engine took up its work again.
“Northwest!” Captain Warfield shouted to Grief when he came on deck. “Hauled eight points like a shot!”
“Narii’ll never get across the lagoon now!” Grief observed.
“Then he’ll blow back to our side, worse luck!”

V

After the passing of the centre the barometer began to rise. Equally rapid was the fall of the wind. When it was no more than a howling gale, the engine lifted up in the air, parted its bed-plates with a last convulsive effort of its forty horsepower, and lay down on its side. A wash of water from the bilge sizzled over it and the steam arose in clouds. The engineer wailed his dismay, but Grief glanced over the wreck affectionately and went into the cabin to swab the grease off his chest and arms with bunches of cotton waste.
The sun was up and the gentlest of summer breezes blowing when he came on deck, after sewing up the scalp of one Kanaka and setting the other’s arm. The Malahini lay close in to the beach. For’ard, Hermann and the crew were heaving in and straightening out the tangle of anchors. The Papara and the Tahaa were gone, and Captain Warfield, through the glasses, was searching the opposite rim of the atoll.
“Not a stick left of them,” he said. “That’s what comes of not having engines. They must have dragged across before the big shift came.”
Ashore, where Parlay’s house had been, was no vestige of any house. For the space of three hundred yards, where the sea had breached, no tree or even stump was left. Here and there, farther along, stood an occasional palm, and there were numbers which had been snapped off above the ground. In the crown of one surviving palm Tai-Hotauri asserted he saw something move. There were no boats left to the Malahini, and they watched him swim ashore and climb the tree.
When he came back, they helped over the rail a young native girl of Parley’s household. But first she passed up to them a battered basket. In it was a litter of blind kittens—all dead save one, that feebly mewed and staggered on awkward legs.
“Hello!” said Mulhall. “Who’s that?”
Along the beach they saw a man walking. He moved casually, as if out for a morning stroll. Captain Warfield gritted his teeth. It was Narii Herring.
“Hello, skipper!” Narii called, when he was abreast of them. “Can I come aboard and get some breakfast?”
Captain Warfield’s face and neck began to swell and turn purple. He tried to speak, but choked.
“For two cents—for two cents——” was all he could manage to articulate.

THE END


13. THE CAPTAIN OF THE SUSAN DREW

I

A SUNSET of gilt and blue and rose palpitated on the horizon. A tapestry of misty rain, draping downward from indefinite clouds, obscured the eastern line of sea and sky. Midway between, slightly nearer to the rain, a painted rainbow reached almost to the zenith. So lofty was its arch that the ends seemed to curve inward to the ocean in a vain attempt to complete the perfect circle. Into this triumphal arch, toward the blue twilight beyond, sailed an open boat.
Nor did ever more strangely freighted boat float on the Pacific. In the sternsheets, on the weather side, a stupid-looking Norwegian sailor, in uniform of a quartermaster, steered with one hand while with the other he held the sheet of the spritsail. From a holster, belted about his waist, peeped the butt of a business-like revolver. His cap lay on his knees, removed for the sake of coolness; and his short flaxen hair was prodigiously ridged over a bruise of recent origin.
Beside the sailor sat two women. The nearer one was comfortably stout and matronly, with large, dark eyes, full, direct, human. Her shoulders were protected against sunburn by a man’s light overcoat. Because of the heat, this was open and unbuttoned, revealing the decollete and rich materials of dinner dress. Jewels glinted in the hair, at the neck, and on the fingers. Beside her was a young woman of two-or three-and-twenty, likewise decollete, sun-shielded by a strip of stained oilskin. Her eyes, as well as the straight, fine nose and the line of the red curve of the not too passionate mouth, advertised the closest relationship with the first woman. In the opposite sternsheet and on the ffst cross-seat, lolled three men in black trousers and dinner jackets. Their heads were protected by small squares of stained oilskin similar to that which lay across the young woman’s shoulders. One, a youngster of eighteen, wore an expression of desperate yearning; the second, half as old again, talked with the daughter; the third, middle-aged and complacent, devoted himself to the mother.
Amidships, on the bottom alongside the centerboard case, sat two dark-eyed women, as evidently maids as their nationality was respectively the one Spanish and the other Italian. On the other side of the centerboard, very straight-backed and erect, was an unmistakable English valet, with gaze always set on the middle-aged gentleman to anticipate any want or order. Forlard of the centerboard and just aft the mast-step, crouched two hard-featured Chinese, both with broken heads swathed in bloody sweat-cloths, both clad in dungaree garments grimed and blackened with oil and coal dust.
When it is considered that hundreds of weary sea-leagues intervened between the open boat and the nearest land, the inappropriateness of costume of half of its occupants may be appreciated.
"Well, brother Willie, what would you rather have or go swimming!" teased the young woman.
"A cigarette, if Harrison were n’t such a pincher," the youth answered bitterly.
"I’ve only four left," Harrison said. "You ’ve smoked the whole case. I’ve had only two."
Temple Harrison was a joker. He winked privily at Patty Gifford, drew a curved silver case from his hip pocket, and carefully counted the four cigarettes. Willie Gifford watched with so ferocious infatuation that his sister cried out:
"B-r-r! Stop it! You make me shiver. You look positively cannibalistic."
"That’s all right for you," was the brother’s retort. "You don’t know what tobacco means, or you’d look cannibalistic yourself. You will, anyway," he concluded ominously, "after a couple of days more. I noticed you were n’t a bit shy of taking a bigger cup of water than the rest when Harrison passed it around. I was n’t asleep."
Patty flushed guiltily. "It was only a sip," she pleaded.

Harrison took out one cigarette, handed it over, and snapped the case shut.
"Blackmailer!" he hissed.
But Willie Gifford was oblivious. Already, with trembling fingers, he had lighted a match and was drawing the first inhalation deep into this lungs. On his face was a vacuous ecstasy.
"Everything will come out all right," Mrs. Gifford was saying to Sedley Brown, who sat opposite her in the sternsheets.
"Certainly; after the miracle of last night, being saved by some passing ship is the merest bagatelle," he agreed. "It was a miracle. I cannot understand now how our party remained intact and got away in the one boat. And if it had n’t been for the purser, Peyton would n’t have been saved, nor your maids."
"Nor would we, if it hadn’t been for dear brave Captain Ashley," Mrs. Gifford took up. "It was he, and the first officer."
"They were heroes," Sedley Brown praised warmly. "But still, there could have been so few saved, I don’t see....."
"I don’t see why you don’t see, with you and mother the heaviest stockholders in the line," Willie Gifford dashed in. "Why shouldn’t they have made a special effort? It was up to them."
Temple Harrison smiled to himself. Between them, Mrs. Gifford and Sedley Brown owned the majority of the stock of the Asiatic Mailthe flourishing steamship line which old Silas Gifford had built for the purpose of feeding his railroad with through-freight from China and Japan. Mrs. Gifford had married his son, Seth, and the stock at the same time.
"I am sure, Willie, we were given no unfair consideration," Mrs. Gifford reproved. "Of course shipwrecks are attended by confusion and disorder, and strong measures are necessary to stay a panic. We were very fortunate, that is all."
"I was n’t asleep," Willie replied. "And all I’ve got to say is it’s up to you to make the board of directors promote Captain Ashley to be Commodore—that is, if he ain’t dead and gone, which I guess he is."
"As I was saying," Mrs. Gifford addressed Sedley Brown, "the worst is past. It is scarcely a matter of hardship ere we shall be rescued. The weather is delightful, and the nights are not the slightest bit chilly. Depend upon it, Willie, Captain Ashley shall not be forgotten, nor the first officer and purser, nor—" here she turned with a smile to the quartermaster—"nor shall Gronwold go unrewarded."
"A penny for your thoughts," Patty challenged Harrison several minutes later.
He startled and looked at her, shook off his absentmindedness with a laugh and declined the offer.
He startled and looked at her, shook off his absentmindedness with a laugh and declined the offer.
"For he had been revisioning the horrors of less than twenty-four hours before. It had happened at dinner. The crash of collision had come just as coffee was serving. Yes, there had been confusion and disorder, if so could be termed the madness of a thousand souls in the face of imminent death. He saw again the silk-gowned Chinese table stewards join in the jam at the foot of the stairway, where blows were already being struck and women and children trampled. He remembered, as his own party, led by Captain Ashley, worked its devious way up from deck to deck, seeing the white officers, engineers, and quartermasters buckling on their revolvers as they ran to their positions. Nor would he ever forget the eruption from the bowels of the great ship of the hundreds of Chinese stokers and trimmers, nor the half a thousand terrified steerage passengers—Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, coolies and land-creatures all stark mad and frantic in desire to live.
Not all the deaths would be due to drowning, he thought grimly, as he recollected the crack of revolvers and sharp barking of automatic pistols, the thuds of clubs and boat-stretchers on heads, and the grunts of men going down under the silent thrusts of sheath-knives.
Mrs. Gifford might believe what she wished to believe, but he, for one, was deeply grateful to his lucky star which made him a member of the only party of passengers that was shown any consideration. Consideration! He could still see the protesting English duke flung neck and crop from the boat deck to the raging steerage fighting up the ladders. And there was number four boat, launched by inexperienced hands, spilling its passengers into the sea and hanging perpendicularly in the davits. The white sailors who belonged to it and should have launched it had been impressed by Captain Ashley. Then there was the American Consul-General to Siam—that was just before the electric lights went out—with wife, nurses, and children, shouting his official importance in Captain Ashley’s face and being directed to number four boat hanging on end.
Yes, Captain Ashley surely deserved the commodoreship of the Asiatic Mail—if he lived. But that he survived, Temple Harrison could not believe. He remembered the outburst of battle—advertisement that the boat deck had been carried—which came just as their boat was lowering away. Of its crew, only Gronwold, with a broken head, was in it. The rest did not slide down the falls, as was intended. Doubtlessly they had gone down before the rush of Asiatics, and so had Captain Ashley, though first he had cut the falls and shouted down to them to shove clear for their lives.
And they had, with a will, shoved clear. Harrison recalled how had pressed the end of an oar against the steel side of the Mingalia and afterward rowed insanely to the accompaniment of leaping bodies falling into the sea astern. And when well clear, he remembered how Gronwold had suddenly stood up and laid about with the heavy tiller overside, until Patty made him desist. Mutely taking the rain of blows on their heads and clinging steadfastly to the gunwale, were the two Chinese stokers who now crouched for’ard by the mast. No; Willie Gifford had not been asleep. He, too, had pressed an oar-blade against the Mingalia’s side and rowed blisters into his soft hands. But Mrs. Gifford was right. There were several things it would be well to forget.

II

Daybreak found the boat rolling on a silken sea. Half the night had been dead calm. The big spritsail had democratically covered coolies, servants, and masters. It was now thrown aside, and Harrison began doling out half-cups of water. Willie, smoking another of the precious cigarettes, looked studiously away when a sip more than the others received was poured for his sister.
A screeched "Santa Cristo!" from Mercedes Martinez, Patty’s maid, startled them. Harrison nearly spilled the water he was passing to Sedley Brown. The two Chinese had set up an excited chatter. Peyton was turning his head stiffly to see what all quickly saw: a large, yacht-like Schooner, with an enormous spread of canvas, becalmed half a mile away. The Chinese were the first to get oars over the side. Peyton delayed, until ordered by Sedley Brown.
"Row, Willie, row—we’re saved," Patty cried.
"Nothing to stop me from getting my drink of water first," replied that imperturbable youth, addressing himself to the forgotten water-breaker and drinking cupful after cupful.
As the boat drew near the schooner, they saw several faces peering at them over the rail in the waist of the ship. On the poop a large, heavy-shouldered man smoked a blackened pipe and surveyed them stolidly.
Sedley Brown did not know the etiquette of being rescued at sea from an open boat; but he felt that this somehow was not the way. It was embarrassing. He resolved to make an effort.
"Good morning," he said politely.
"Good morning," growled the big man in a vast husky voice that seemed to proceed from a scorched throat, and that caused Mercedes and Matilda to jump and cross themselves. "What luck?"
"Finest in the world," Sedley Brown replied brightly. "We’re saved."
"Aw hell!" was the surprising comment. "I thought you was out fishing."
This was too much for Sedley Brown, who retired from the negotiations.
"We’re the sole survivors of the Mingalia, sunk in collision night before last," Willie cried out.
"I suppose I’ll have to let you come aboard," came the coffee-grinder voice."—Harkins!—throw ’em a line there!"
"You don’t seem a bit glad to see us," Mrs. Gifford criticized airily, as she descended on deck from the rail.
"I ain’t, madam, not a damn bit," was the reply of the strange skipper.

III

Mrs. Gifford came up the companion ladder from the stifling cabin, looked vainly about for a deck chair, and collapsed against the low side of the cabin house. Her handsome black eyes were flashing.
"It’s atrocious," she cried. "It is not to be endured. He is an insulting brute. Anything—the open boat–is better than this horrible creature. And it is not as if he did n’t know better. He does it deliberately. It is his way of showing we are not welcome."
"What has he done now?" Patty Gifford asked, from where she stood with Harrison in the shade of the mainsail.
There was no awning, and the pitch oozed from the sizzling dock. From below came the mild protesting accents of Sedley Brown, and squeals and Ave Marias from the maids.
"Done!" Mrs. Gifford exclaimed. "What has he not done? He has insisted on putting Mr. Brown and me into the same stateroom. — They ’re awful little cubby-holes, no ventilation, no conveniences"
She ceased abruptly as Captain Decker emerged from the companion-way and approached her. Patty shuddered and drew closer to Harrison, for the skipper’s brown eyes were a-smoulder.
"You must excuse me, madam," he rumbled at Mrs. Gifford. "How was I to know? I thought you and the gentleman below was married. But it’s all right." His face beamed with a labored benevolence. "I tell you it’s all right. I can splice the two of you legal any time, such bein’ a captain’s authority on the high seas."
"Go away, go away," Mrs. Gifford moaned.
Captain Decker fixed his terrible eyes yearningly on Patty and Harrison.
"I’ve pulled teeth," the skipper began, voluminously husky, "and I ’ve buried corpses, and, once, I sawed off a man’s leg; but damn me if I ’ve ever spliced a couple yet. Now how about the two of you?"
Patty and Harrison shrank instantly apart.
"It might make things more convenient down below," the other was urging, when Sedley Brown arrived on deck.
Him the captain immediately addressed. "Hey—you; don’t you want to get married? I can do it."
Sedley Brown looked involuntarily at Mrs. Gifford and gasped in astonishment.
"No; bless me, no; of course not, certainly not," he declined with embarrassed haste.
Captain Decker’s disappointment was manifest in his coffee-grinder throat.
"All right my bully. Maybe you ain’t seen the cook yet. I won’t say he’s clean, but I will say he’s a Chinaman. You ’ll bunk with him." He turned upon Harrison. "You still got a chance. Say the word an’ I’ll tie you up to the girl tighter ’n all hell."
"And if I don’t?" Harrison demanded. "Why, you’ll bunk with—".
At that moment the cabin boy, a grinning, turbaned, moustached Lascar, passed aft along the poop.
"With the cabin-boy—that’s him," the skipper completed his sentence.
"Then I’ll bunk with the cabin boy," Harrison decided.
"Suit yourself." Captain Decker strode to the companionway and shouted down. "Where’s that mate?..... asleep, hey?..... Rout ’m out. Tell ’m I want ’m.—Jump, you black devil, you! Jump!" He turned about to the survivors of the Mingalia. "Now, here’s the sleepin’ arrangements. Down below there’s six rooms: two starboard, two port, two after under the deck. You two women ’ll bunk in number one port; the two Dago girls in number two port; the cook and his nibs here in port after-room
"I shall not sleep there," Sedley Brown announced. "I shall sleep on the cabin floor." "You ’ll sleep where I tell you to," Captain Decker roared. "Who asked you aboard the Susan Drew? I didn’t. You ’ll sleep with the Chink or I’ll know the reason why, or my name ain’t Bill Decker. That servant of yourn ’ll sleep on the cabin floor." He now addressed Harrison. "You will bunk with the cabin boy in the starboard
after-room. - Where’s that mate?"
A most forbidding individual came up through the companion. He was as large as the skipper and as heavily built. Swarthy skinned and high-cheeked, his features were distinctly mongoloid, despite cut lips, lacerated ears, a blackened eye, and a monstrously swollen nose. He was perplexed, stupid, and in very evident fear of the captain.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the mate of the Susan Drew. He was a beauty once upon a time. He was some man before he run foul of me, which was only yesterday. Look at ’m now. Flat-Nose Russ is his name. An’ take it from me that nose was flat before I landed on it. Flat-Nose, you got to take a bunk mate. —Where’s that young whelp?"
Captain Decker turned and glared at Willie Gifford sauntering aft from the break of the poop, a brown-paper cigarette carelessly stuck to his lower lip.
"Here, you!" Willie stopped short.
"Take that cigarette out of your mouth when I talk to you!" the skipper bellowed.
Willie hesitated, the skipper sprang toward him, and Mrs. Gifford screamed. The cigarette came out with dispatch, and Captain Decker turned on Mrs. Gifford.
"Madam, is there any reason why you and his nibs ought n’t to be married?"
Mrs. Gifford disdained reply.

"Is there any reason you ought?"
She looked appealingly to Patty, who came to her side. The captain returned to Willie.
"That’s right, youngster. Learn to take orders. You see that handsome man by the companionway. That’s Flat-Nose. And that’s what I do to them I don’t love. Throw that cigarette over the side—that’s right—and smoke no more of ’em. Take a pipe if you want to smoke like a man. Now you an’ Flat-Nose are going to bunk together. — Flat-Nose, you’re responsible for ’m. If he cuts up any didoes, spank ’m."
Captain Decker strode the length of the poop and back, studied the cloud-driftage crossing the sky from the northwest, debated a moment, then remarked to the company in general:
"It’s mighty hot on this deck. Now if by chance anybody might want to get married, I guess I could manage to rig up some sort of an awning."

IV

Below, they sat in anxious council. A week had passed, in which everybody had been bullied and variously insulted, while Willie had been rope’s-ended twice for smoking cigarettes and then turned to at holystoning the poop and scrubbing paint-work. Mrs. Gifford and Patty sat at the cabin table, their shoulders and arms at last covered by extemporized shirts of cotton drill. The Susan Drew was in violent motion. The surge and gurgle of the water could be heard through her thin sides, and by her long lifts and lunges it was apparent that she was winged out and running before a stiff breeze.
"He is going to Hawaii," Sedley Brown was reporting to Mrs. Gifford." I charged him with it to his face—told him it must be so, judging by the course he was steering."
"And it is only six days by our steamers, from Honolulu to San Francisco," Patty cried joyously.
"But he refuses to land us," Sedley Brown went on. "He gives no I reason. He merely reiterates that we’ll see neither hair nor hide of the islands any more than he will. I can’t make out this vessel. There is something wrong about her. But what?"
"Begging your pardon, sir," the valet spoke up, "but I know what. This ship is a smuggler, sir."
"Nonsense, Peyton," Mrs. Gifford reproved sharply. "That’s just your imagination. The age of smuggling is past, except among passengers from Europe landing in New York."
"What could he smuggle?" Patty asked. "Opium, Miss, begging your pardon," the valet replied.
"By George, that’s right!" Harrison smote his leg loudly. "The new tariff law’s been in effect over a year now. Opium is way up. I remember jading about it six months ago in the San Francisco papers."
"But what will we do if he is a smuggler and won’t put us ashore?" Mrs. Gifford demanded.
All stared hopelessly. No suggestions were offered.
"Very well then," she said firmly, "I shall speak to this brute myself. I shall pay him to land us. I shall—".
A pair of feet and legs appeared on the companion ladder, and Captain Decker descended.
"Look here, sir," Sedley Brown gallantly sprang into the breach. "We ’ve been discussing the situation"
"What situation?" demanded the skipper.
"We know all about this ship," Mrs. Gifford said sternly. "We know you are smuggling opium into Hawaii, and that is why you refuse to land us. But I will pay you to land us. I will pay you five thousand dollars."
"I wouldn’t if you made it fifty thousand," was the gruff rejection.
"I do make it fifty thousand. I will pay you fifty thousand dollars to put our party ashore anywhere on the Hawaiian Islands."
Captain Decker gave her a searching glance, and seemed convinced that she meant it. But the effect upon him was contrary to what they expected. His smooth-shaven face, harsh and savage, set obstinately.
"You can’t walk over me with your money," he sneered. "Bill Decker ain’t a pauper. Fifty thousand ain’t no more to me than a piece of shavin’ paper. Yes; the Susan Drew is a smuggler, and I don’t give a rap who knows it, an’ I’ll see to it none of you get shore in Hawaii to spread the news. Fifty thousand! Huh! Me and my partners make enough on this one run to retire. I got fifty tons of the dope below. It’s worth fifteen dollars a pound. Figure it out. Think I’d risk a million an’ half just to please you. Why, I’d give fifty thousand myself to get rid of you if there was any way. But there ain’t. Take it from me, madam, I ain’t stuck on you."

V

The days came and went. In vain Harrison and Sedley Brown scanned the sea-line for land. They knew the high peaks of the Hawaiian Islands were often sighted a hundred miles away; but Captain Decker was true to his word and raised neither hide nor hair of them. His rendezvous was a matter of prearranged latitude and longitude in the ocean waste far off from the traveled steamer tracks. One day, after the morning observation, he shortened sail and hove to. Though days and nights of fresh winds blew, the Susan Drew drifted idly. After each morning observation, he would put on sail, regain the lost position, and heave to again.
"Of course—the fox—he is too cunning to venture in to land," Harrison remarked to Patty. "This is the meeting place, where he will transship the opium. He’s made a good passage and is ahead of his time, that is all."
Captain Decker grew more insufferable. He had little manners and less courtesy. He dominated any conversation he engaged in, and rudely broke in upon any conversation in which others chanced to be engaged. His table conduct was abominable. He could never keep out of paint or tar, nor refrain from springing to haul on a rope. He was stronger than any two of the sailors, and it was a splendid sight, swinging on a halyard with a turn under a pin, to see him throw himself back and down till his broad shoulders almost touched the deck. But the effect on his hands of this inveterate sailorizing was not nice—at least for those who sat with him at table. His hands, skinned and scarred, gnarled and I calloused, filthy with dirt grimed deep into the texture of the skin, were anything save appetizing to contemplate. Furthermore, he insisted on serving, and did so with those same members, upon which, during the performance, every eye was glued. Stewed prunes was a prime favorite of his, which graced the table three times daily. When he began on his full saucer, all conversation died away. Every person at the table gazed fascinated at the prunes disappearing into his mouth. But no pits came forth. Toward the last his cheeks would begin to bulge and his eyes to roll. Then, at the end, he would solemnly bow to the empty saucer and I spit out the accumulation in one single, heroic effort.
Mrs. Gifford he made especially uncomfortable. He would gaze at| her for long periods in a curious, speculative way. They even knew him | to break off in the middle of a sentence and so gaze at her, with dropped jaw and puzzling eyes.
"No, you are not my style," he remarked, emerging from one such wown study. "I never did see anything in stout brunettes. Besides, it wouldn’t be legal. A sea captain can splice anybody but himself. He’s like a lighthouse that way."
A lighthouse?" Patty asked, boldly striving to divert the conversation.
"A lighthouse?—oh, a sky-pilot, a parson," was the answer. "When a parson wants to get married he has to get some other parson to do the job. Same with sea captains. Anyway, blonds is what I run to."
With her daughter and Temple Harrison very much occupied in aiding each other to pass the time, Mrs. Gifford was driven more and more by Captain Decker’s persecution to accept the attentions of Sedley Brown.
"Now don’t worry," she told Patty, who had twitted her. "I have n’t the slightest intention of marrying Sedley. He is too much like your dear father. —No, no, nothing invidious. Your father was a dear; but he was too good, too sweet, too mild. I never understood it, either, how such a gentle, non-assertive man could so successfully wield the immense financial power that was his. Of course, Old Silas laid the foundation and built the structure, but your father ably realized all that Silas had planned and not yet achieved. And he did more. The Caledonia and North Shore was entirely his own idea; and in the face of their calling it ’Gifford’s Folly’ for years, look at what it is to-day."
"But I don’t object to Sedley Brown," Patty hastened to disclaim.
"But I do—as a husband," Mrs. Gifford went on. "I know all you would say—our financial interests are so similar, Asiatic Mail, Carmel Consolidated, and all the rest; but....... well, I couldn’t bring myself to marry him, that’s all. He’s a dear, kind friend. As such, I adore him. But as a husband-Patty, dear, if ever I marry again it shall be a man-a big strong man."
"But father was big and strong," Patty defended. "He played football at college. Sedley Brown says so, and says that he weighed nearly two hundred pounds. I scarcely remember him myself. I wasn’t more than four or five years old at the time."
"You’ve seen photographs and portraits of him though. Don’t you remember that ridiculous beard of his?—and on so young a man! Don’t you see, Patty? That beard tells the whole story. He hid his face from men’s eyes. He was not aggressive. He could never nerve himself to walk over the face of things rough-shod. He was an adept at finding peaceful ways around. If ever I marry again, it will be a human man, with spunk, who can raise his voice and swear at least once in a while, and fly off the handle, and if he does play the fool play it with strength. I could even forgive such a man for drinking too much on occasion. Your father, my dear, was too perfect for a commonplace mortal woman like me. But it is all beside the question. I shall never marry. There is no proof of your father’s death,"
"But the law?" Patty interposed.
"Oh, of course, it is legally established, for business purposes. But I want moral proof."
"Yet there was his hat, picked up off Yerba Buena a week after his disappearance," Patty argued. "In my mind, in everybody’s mind, there is n’t the slightest doubt but that he was drowned in San Francisco Bay—"
Through the open skylight from below came squeals of terror from Mercedes and Matilda, the servile tones of Peyton, and the roaring huskiness of Captain Decker’s whiskey-corroded throat.
"Begging your pardon, sir, I don’t understand," Peyton was apologizing.
"Then I say it again," rasped the skipper. "There’s the two skirts. Cast your lamps over ’em. Which’ll you have?—the Dago? or the Eyetalian?"
More squeals and Ave Marias from the two maids, and reiterations on the valet’s part of non-understanding.
"By the tarpaulins of Tartarus!" cursed Captain Decker. "Ain’t it plain as the nose on your face? Ain’t you a man? Ain’t these here women? Ain’t I goin’ to marry you to one or the other?"
"But you can’t, sir,"
"Can’t! Maybe you don’t know the authority of a captain on the high seas? I can do anything! I can mast-head you, I can keel-haul you, I—and I will, if you don’t pick one of them skirts, an’ damn lively about it!"
"But I won’t be a bigamist, sir, begging your pardon," Peyton wailed. "I ’ve got a wife, sir, home in England"
Further explanations were cut short by a snort of rage from the skipper.
"I always thought there was something underhanded about you? you, with your lick-spittlin’ an’ cringin’. An’a married man all the time!"
"Begging your pardon, sir," Peyton stammered, "Mr. Brown, my employer, sir, knows that I am married. You ask him, sir. He knows I send regular remittances home, sir. He can tell you—"
"Ar-r-r-g-g-g!" Captain Decker’s inarticulate disgust was as a coffeegrinder in violent eruption. "Shut up! What are you making all the noise about?"
Mrs. Gifford and Patty heard the skipper’s heavy tread on the companion ladder, and in trepidation awaited his appearance on deck. Instead of an explosion, all he was guilty of was a long stare across the sea, culminating in a woe-begone, "Oh dear, oh dear."

VI

He would have been forty-eight years old, had he lived," Mrs. Gifford was telling Temple Harrison.
Most of the party of survivors were sitting on the lee of the poop, in the shady down-draught of the big mainsail.
"Who would?" Captain Decker demanded with his wonted rudeness, as he stood in the nerve-stabbing sunshine, sextant in hand, taking a meridian observation.
"My husband," Mrs. Gifford answered. The skipper proceeded at once to dominate the conversation. "How old d’ ye think I am?"
Nobody displayed interest, though Willie, on hands and knees, scrubbing paintwork, favored his persecutor with a glare of hatred.
"I am eighteen years old, madam," the skipper continued. He struck his chest with emphasis. "I, me, this man you see before you, for a fact, has lived eighteen years."
"You must have been born man-grown," Sedley Brown observed.
"I was, and with whiskers, sir, and a mustache. I never had a father or mother. I was born, a man, in a ship’s fo’c’s’le."
"How did you get your name, then?" Harrison queried.
"From the ship’s papers. There it was, in black and white, Bill Decker-me. The first thing I did after I was born?"
"Was to wipe up the forecastle with the crew," Harrison interpolated.
"On the contrary, sir. The crew wiped up the fo’c’s’le with me. I was the willingest fighter you ever saw; but I did n’t know how. They licked me singly, an’ by twos and threes; but they couldn’t keep a good man down. I wouldn’t stay licked. If a man batted an eye, I reached for him. Oh, they licked me, but I kept learnin’ the curves while they were doing it; and before the voyage was over I was cock of the fo’c’s’le. I licked every man jack, both bosuns, and the preventer carpenter. I licked the second mate for’ard of the ’midship house the last night before we made Liverpool. And when we got ashore an’ paid off, I caught the first mate in an alley in sailor-town. They carted what was left of him to hospital. He was never the same man again. A broken wreck, madam. His sea days was over, and he was shipped to ’Snug Harbor.’"
Captain Decker detected a shudder on Mrs. Gifford’s part. "And proud of it, madam!" he thundered. "Proud of it!" "But what is the joke. Captain Decker?" Patty asked.
"It ain’t a joke. It’s facts. I first opened my eyes in this world in the fo’c’s’le of the Ermyntrude, eighteen years ago. That’s how old I am! eighteen years. And I fought my way up. When I was one year old I was bosun. Before I was two, I was second mate. By the time I was three, I was mate, an’a proper bucko at that—"
He broke off abruptly. His seaman’s eye, mechanically roving the sea-rim, had lighted upon something.
"Sail ho!" he cried. "Where’s that lookout? —Two points on the ’weather bow, there!—I’ll attend to his case. —Flat-Nose, you! Take the glasses up to the crosstrees and see what you can make of it."

VII

After dinner, that same day, the survivors of the Mingalia were not permitted to come on deck. They remained in the cabin through long, stifling hours, while they listened to boats coming alongside, to strange voices on deck, and to the varied noises that carried the tale of cargo being broken out and hoisted overside. The opium was being transshipped. Willie, who had been released from his paint-scrubbing and sent below, reported no less than four small schooners and sloops which he had seen bearing down on the Susan Drew.
No meal was served that evening, and the prisoners panted and went hungry in the narrow cabin. By eleven o’clock the transfer of the opium was completed, and they could hear Captain Decker roaring out his orders as he put sail on his vessel. Then he came below, poured himself half a tumbler of Scotch, and drank it neat.
"It’s all right now," he said. "You can go on deck if you want. The cook is making coffee, and the cabin-boy will set a cold snack of canned goods."
"Where are you taking us to now?" Mrs. Gifford demanded.
Captain Decker divided a pondering gaze between her and the bottle of Scotch, then silently repeated his half-tumbler dose. Never was his voice more like a coffee-grinder.
"I don’t know, madam. I’m runnin’ westward across the Pacific, and I ’ll drop you somewhere. You see, there’s too many of you to swear to any secret. You ’ve got to stay with me, till all the opium is distributed and safe. I’m not stuck on your company. I run to blonds, as I told you before. But it’s business. That cargo’s got to be made safe. Now if you was a blond"
He ceased speaking and stared at Mrs. Gifford steadily and long, to that lady’s great irritation. His expression was trance-like, and he seemed dreaming far dreams. A curious light began to glow in his eyes; while a grin, unthinkably significant to them, curled across his mouth. Still in his seeming trance, he reached forth his dirty hand and in playful fashion touched her on the shoulder.
"I got you," he said. "Tag! You ’re it."
He returned to himself with startling suddenness, and recoiled from her.
"Why, damn it all, you ain’t a blond, are you?" A step brought him to a chair, into which he sank, burying his face in his hands and moaning, "Oh dear, oh dear."
"Faugh!" Mrs. Gifford enunciated in disgust.
"The brute is drunk," Temple Harrison explained to Patty.

VIII

In the days that followed, while the Susan Drew ran before the Northeast Trades, Captain Decker’s ways did not mend. His hands and nails were grimed with tar and paint, ground in by his inveterate pull and haul on sheet and halyard. He devoured prunes in the same magnificent manner, interrupted conversations, bullied Flat-Nose, rope’s-ended Willie, and drank his half-tumblers of Scotch. With each drink the vastness and voluminousness of his huskiness increased. His trance-like gazes at Mrs. Gifford continued. His protestations of dislike for brunettes did not diminish. And often he would bury his face in his hands and moan, "Oh dear, oh dear."
Worst of all, was his persecution of Mrs. Gifford. He seemed drawn to her continually, and continually he recoiled from her. Patty was tearfully apprehensive. Temple Harrison consoled her. And Sedley Brown grew more than mildly jealous. They were in 18° North and 166° West, and Captain Decker was talking of running them to the south and west and landing them at some outlying trading station of New Britain or New Ireland, when occurred a strange and incomprehensible happening that gave them all pause for thought.
It was at dinner. The conversation had been upon occult matters, and a general disbelief had been expressed concerning such phenomena as telepathy and clairvoyance.
"The content of consciousness is experience," Temple Harrison was saying. "There is no discussion about the existence of the subconscious mind. But it has never been demonstrated that the subconscious mind has known anything outside experience—outside the content of consciousness, I mean, which is experience. Therefore, it is impossible—"
He ceased, for he had lost the attention of his listeners. Captain Decker had begun to eat prunes, and they were watching him with the old, never-failing infatuation. He had received an unusually large serving, and was heroically emptying the saucer. His cheeks bulged more and more with the pouched pits, while his jaws chewed, and the spoon moved back and forth. Also, he was thinking; and, further, he desired to speak. His eyes were rolling, and his ears seemed trying to wiggle, so strong was his desire. At last came the supreme moment. He bowed his head over the saucer and spat out a mighty mouthful of prune-pits, then glared savagely at Temple Harrison.
"Talky-talky, talky-talky—that’s all you know about it," were the skipper’s opening words. "You don’t know. But I do know. I can deliver the goods. I know things outside my experience—things I don’t know, but I know ’em."
"A miracle is no miracle at second hand," Temple Harrison retorted patronizingly. "The drunkard’s snakes are real only to the drunkard. We know they are not snakes. The dreamer’s dream is real—to the dreamer, while he dreams."
"Talky-talky, talky-talky, too much talky along you," Captain Decker went on explosively. "I know real things that I don’t know, I tell you."
"An instance, please," said Sedley Brown.
"All right." The skipper turned his eyes on Mrs. Gifford. "Madam, I know things about you that I have no right to know. That I don’t know. But I know ’em. Do you dast me to tell ’em?"
Mrs. Gifford’s head was poised very haughtily, as she replied, "I am very sure you know nothing about me that I am ashamed to have told."
"Very well, madam." Captain Decker’s gaze burned upon her until lt seemed he must be looking right through her. "Under your left shoulder-blade, midway between it and the hip, is a mole—Ha!"
His exclamation was of triumph, caused by Patty’s instant cry of alarm, and by the tell-tale blood mounting in Mrs. Gifford’s cheeks.
"Now that mole’s outside my experience," he continued. "I never saw it. I leave it to you. Yet I know it."
"Nevertheless, the existence of the mole is not proved," Sedley Brown observed dryly.
"Madam, have you that mole?" the skipper demanded.
Mrs. Gifford disdained reply.
"Very well, then. I ’II tell you some more. You have a corn on the inside of your left little toe. Your arms—and I observed them when you came on board—show no scar of vaccination. Yet you are vaccinated. Oh, and I can tell you other things. For instance—"
"No! No!—don’t!" Mrs. Gifford cried out, while her cheeks flamed confirmatory shame.
Sedley Brown stared at her, mildly suspicious and mildly jealous.
"Well, I guess I know what I don’t know," Captain Decker bragged. "Things outside my experience. I’ve delivered the goods, ain’t I?"
"But you have no right—" Patty began indignantly and brokenly. "Besides, you don’t know. You can’t know."
"No! No! No!" Patty entreated.
"Huh!" Captain Decker shrugged his shoulders, shifting his gaze from one mortified woman to the other. "I guess I ’m some psychologist. I know lots of things outside my experience."
"Why don’t you tell me something about myself?" Temple Harrison challenged, out of pity for Patty and her mother.
"I don’t know anything about you," was the answer. "Maybe I’m not interested."
Afterward, in a secluded moment on deck, Harrison told Patty that the whole thing was impossible.
"But mother has the mole," she replied.
"I am firmly convinced of telepathy," was Mrs. Gifford’s judgment. "But oh, that terrible man! I shall not dare think any thought in his presence. He is able to read my mind like a book."
"I don’t know what to believe," said Sedley Brown. "It is all very strange, I am sure, and I should like to see it cleared up."
His wish was destined to be quickly gratified. That afternoon Captain Decker caught Willie smoking a cigarette in the sail locker and promptly rope’s-ended him. Then he sent him aloft in a bosun’s chair to tar down the main rigging. By this time the skipper was in a nasty temper. He scared the two maids to the verge of hysteria, bullied Peyton into a semi-comatose condition of yammering apology for existing, cursed the cabin-boy, went for’ard to the galley and thrashed the cook among his pots and pans, and, returning to the poop, flew into a proper sea-rage with Flat-Nose Russ. That cowed mariner muttered and mumbled excuses, and cowered away each time the skipper, pacing the deck like a wild animal, passed him.
The survivors of the Mingalia were compelled to listen to this tirade. There was no escaping it by going below, for the skipper’s voice penetrated everywhere. Besides, they had tried that in previous outbursts, and by so doing, had only succeeded in arousing greater ire in Captain Decker. Sedley Brown stood in a passively protecting attitude beside Mrs. Gifford, who was seated in a canvas deck chair. Patty and Temple Harrison had drawn close together, and he was holding her hand. And still Captain Decker raged and roared up and down.
It was Harrison who saw the whole extent of what happened. Chancing to glance aloft at Willie swaying airily in his bosun’s chair, Harrison was amazed at the ferocious hatred that contorted that mild youth’s face.
From the bosun’s chair was suspended a tar pot. As Harrison watched, Willie wrapped his legs about the shrouds, and, both hands free, proceeded to untie the tar pot. Holding it in his hand, he waited. Captain Decker was pacing back and forth beneath him. Harrison saw the youth poise the tar pot, time the captain’s stride, and let go.
Without turning over, bottom downward, the pot struck Captain Decker’s head. He immediately sat down on the deck. None of the tar fell on him. The pot struck his head so squarely that it bounced off and spilled on the deck. Mrs. Gifford, a vision of violent death for her youngest born strong upon her, screamed and fainted. Patty likewise screamed, and was caught about the waist by Harrison. No one moved nor spoke. All gazed upon Captain Decker.
He still sat on the deck, stupidly looking at his hands. On his face was painted a curious disgust. He did not like his hands. He tried to get away from them, to fling them from him. Failing this, as in a dream he contemplated them. He rubbed them together, and into his eyes sprang astonishment, in that sensation told him that they belonged to him. He stared at his clothes, and about him at those who looked on.
"What’ll I do with the boy, sir?" asked Flat-Nose Russ, hovering solicitously near.
Captain Decker looked at his mate and shrank away. He strove to speak, and seemed to fail to manipulate his voice.
"What boy?—What?" he managed to articulate at last, in tones of modulated huskiness unlike anything they had ever heard from his lips. He gazed at the mate long and wonderingly. "Who are you? Please go away. Will you call the police? Something terrible has happened to me."
Aloft, terror-stricken, Willy Gifford peered down. The big mate, perplexed, could only stare and sway to the roll of the schooner. All stared—even the man at the wheel, whose expressionless face was belied by the eager curiosity in his eyes.
"Something terrible has happened," Captain Decker repeated, his voice huskily plaintive.
He started to get to his feet, and shrank away from the mate who helped him. He staggered to the rail and held on to the shrouds, looking in bewilderment at the trade-wind sea.
At this juncture Mrs. Gifford arose from her chair, supported by Sedley Brown’s arm around her waist. The skipper looked at him and startled.
"Why, Sedley," he said. "It is you. But what has happened? You look so old. Have you been sick?" His eyes passed on to Mrs. Gifford. "Amelia!" he cried. The arm around her waist seemed to excite him. "Sedley, are you aware of what you are doing? That is my wife. Kindly remove your arm. —Amelia, I. .... I am surprised."
He stepped toward her, but she cowered away.
"Oh, that terrible man!" she sobbed, and hid her face against Sedley Brown’s shoulder.
"Amelia!—what is the matter?" the skipper pleaded anxiously. "Sedley, please remove your arm from my wife. You will make me very angry."
Patty was the first to divine the situation.
"Father!" she exclaimed. "Oh, father! And we all thought you were dead."
"Dead? Fiddlesticks. I don’t know you. Go away. I am not your father, young woman. I wish to know—"
But here the skipper again caught sight of his hands and tried to fling them from him.
"Mother—don’t you understand?" Patty was now by Mrs. Gifford’s side. "It’s father! Look at him. Speak to him."
Mrs. Gifford stole a shuddering look. Captain Decker was running the tips of his fingers over his face.
Seth—is it you?" she murmured faintly.
"What silliness!" the skipper retorted. "Of course it is I. But my face, my beard....... what has happened. I am smooth shaven..... Amelia, tell me. Who is this young woman? —Sedley, for the third time I ask you to remove your arm."
"Seth! Bless me, it is Seth." Sedley Brown advanced to shake hands, then staggered away to the cabin wall, against which he leaned.
"But why are we out sailing?" Mr. Gifford complained. He looked about, and his eyes lighted on Flat-Nose Russ. "If you are the captain, sir, it will be best for you to put your vessel about at once and return to San Francisco. —Oh, I know. I am beginning to remember. It was an outrage. The police must investigate at once. Last night... I was set upon. I was clubbed on the head repeatedly. It’s a mercy my skull wasn’t broken." He gingerly felt his head until he encountered the welt raised by the tar pot. "There. It is badly swollen. It was at half past eleven, last night......."
"Listen," Patty pleaded. "It was not last night. It was eighteen years ago, I am your little Patty. Don’t you remember her? I am grown up, of course. -Mother, why don’t you kiss him? —Father. Kiss her."
Mrs. Gifford recoiled; nor did Seth Gifford take advantage of the invitation. Again he tried to fling his unrecognizable hands from him.
"I... I need a bath," he muttered, then tottered to the edge of the cabin and sat down. "Oh dear, oh dear," he moaned, and burst into tears.

IX

"Really, you know, he’s the same Seth—not changed a particle in all that time," Mrs. Gifford announced.
She had just come on deck and joined the others in the morning cool.
"But he makes me feel so elderly," she went on. "He has stood still. He is all those years younger."
"I feel as if I had witnessed a murder," said Temple Harrison. "I don’t see why," Patty objected.
"I do. What has become of Captain Bill Decker? He is now dead, isn’t he?"
Patty shook her head.
"There is no corpse," she said. "Captain Bill Decker has merely gone into the silence which father occupied for eighteen years."
"And I hope, I most fervently hope, that Captain Bill Decker stays there," was Sedley Brown’s contribution.
"It is very strange," said Patty. "A miracle," Mrs. Gifford added. "Me—I did it—with my little tar pot," said Willie, brazenly puffing a cigarette to windward of his mother.
All turned to regard the miracle, who was standing by the lee rigging, gazing seaward and unconsciously striving to fling overboard his dirt-grimed hands.

The End


14. SAMUEL

Margaret Henan would have been a striking figure under any circumstances, but never more so than when I first chanced upon her, a sack of grain of fully a hundredweight on her shoulder, as she walked with sure though tottering stride from the cart-tail to the stable, pausing for an instant to gather strength at the foot of the steep steps that led to the grain-bin. There were four of these steps, and she went up them, a step at a time, slowly, unwaveringly, and with so dogged certitude that it never entered my mind that her strength could fail her and let that hundred-weight sack fall from the lean and withered frame that wellnigh doubled under it. For she was patently an old woman, and it was her age that made me linger by the cart and watch.
Six times she went between the cart and the stable, each time with a full sack on her back, and beyond passing the time of day with me she took no notice of my presence. Then, the cart empty, she fumbled for matches and lighted a short clay pipe, pressing down the burning surface of the tobacco with a calloused and apparently nerveless thumb. The hands were noteworthy. They were large-knuckled, sinewy and malformed by labour, rimed with callouses, the nails blunt and broken, and with here and there cuts and bruises, healed and healing, such as are common to the hands of hard-working men. On the back were huge, upstanding veins, eloquent of age and toil. Looking at them, it was hard to believe that they were the hands of the woman who had once been the belle of Island McGill. This last, of course, I learned later. At the time I knew neither her history nor her identity.
She wore heavy man’s brogans. Her legs were stockingless, and I had noticed when she walked that her bare feet were thrust into the crinkly, iron-like shoes that sloshed about her lean ankles at every step. Her figure, shapeless and waistless, was garbed in a rough man’s shirt and in a ragged flannel petticoat that had once been red. But it was her face, wrinkled, withered and weather-beaten, surrounded by an aureole of unkempt and straggling wisps of greyish hair, that caught and held me. Neither drifted hair nor serried wrinkles could hide the splendid dome of a forehead, high and broad without verging in the slightest on the abnormal.
The sunken cheeks and pinched nose told little of the quality of the life that flickered behind those clear blue eyes of hers. Despite the minutiæ of wrinkle-work that somehow failed to weazen them, her eyes were clear as a girl’s—clear, out-looking, and far-seeing, and with an open and unblinking steadfastness of gaze that was disconcerting. The remarkable thing was the distance between them. It is a lucky man or woman who has the width of an eye between, but with Margaret Henan the width between her eyes was fully that of an eye and a half. Yet so symmetrically moulded was her face that this remarkable feature produced no uncanny effect, and, for that matter, would have escaped the casual observer’s notice. The mouth, shapeless and toothless, with down-turned corners and lips dry and parchment-like, nevertheless lacked the muscular slackness so usual with age. The lips might have been those of a mummy, save for that impression of rigid firmness they gave. Not that they were atrophied. On the contrary, they seemed tense and set with a muscular and spiritual determination. There, and in the eyes, was the secret of the certitude with which she carried the heavy sacks up the steep steps, with never a false step or overbalance, and emptied them in the grain-bin.
“You are an old woman to be working like this,” I ventured.
She looked at me with that strange, unblinking gaze, and she thought and spoke with the slow deliberateness that characterized everything about her, as if well aware of an eternity that was hers and in which there was no need for haste. Again I was impressed by the enormous certitude of her. In this eternity that seemed so indubitably hers, there was time and to spare for safe-footing and stable equilibrium—for certitude, in short. No more in her spiritual life than in carrying the hundredweights of grain was there a possibility of a misstep or an overbalancing. The feeling produced in me was uncanny. Here was a human soul that, save for the most glimmering of contacts, was beyond the humanness of me. And the more I learned of Margaret Henan in the weeks that followed the more mysteriously remote she became. She was as alien as a far-journeyer from some other star, and no hint could she nor all the countryside give me of what forms of living, what heats of feeling, or rules of philosophic contemplation actuated her in all that she had been and was.
“I wull be suvunty-two come Guid Friday a fortnight,” she said in reply to my question.
“But you are an old woman to be doing this man’s work, and a strong man’s work at that,” I insisted.
Again she seemed to immerse herself in that atmosphere of contemplative eternity, and so strangely did it affect me that I should not have been surprised to have awaked a century or so later and found her just beginning to enunciate her reply—
“The work hoz tull be done, an’ I am beholden tull no one.”
“But have you no children, no family, relations?”
“Oh, aye, a-plenty o’ them, but they no see fut tull be helpun’ me.”
She drew out her pipe for a moment, then added, with a nod of her head toward the house, “I luv’ wuth meself.”
I glanced at the house, straw-thatched and commodious, at the large stable, and at the large array of fields I knew must belong with the place.
“It is a big bit of land for you to farm by yourself.”
“Oh, aye, a bug but, suvunty acres. Ut kept me old mon buzzy, along wuth a son an’ a hired mon, tull say naught o’ extra honds un the harvest an’ a maid-servant un the house.”
She clambered into the cart, gathered the reins in her hands, and quizzed me with her keen, shrewd eyes.
“Belike ye hail from over the watter—Ameruky, I’m meanun’?”
“Yes, I’m a Yankee,” I answered.
“Ye wull no be findun’ mony Island McGill folk stoppun’ un Ameruky?”
“No; I don’t remember ever meeting one, in the States.”
She nodded her head.
“They are home-luvun’ bodies, though I wull no be sayin’ they are no fair-travelled. Yet they come home ot the last, them oz are no lost ot sea or kult by fevers an’ such-like un foreign parts.”
“Then your sons will have gone to sea and come home again?” I queried.
“Oh, aye, all savun’ Samuel oz was drownded.”
At the mention of Samuel I could have sworn to a strange light in her eyes, and it seemed to me, as by some telepathic flash, that I divined in her a tremendous wistfulness, an immense yearning. It seemed to me that here was the key to her inscrutableness, the clue that if followed properly would make all her strangeness plain. It came to me that here was a contact and that for the moment I was glimpsing into the soul of her. The question was tickling on my tongue, but she forestalled me.
She tchk’d to the horse, and with a “Guid day tull you, sir,” drove off.
 
A simple, homely people are the folk of Island McGill, and I doubt if a more sober, thrifty, and industrious folk is to be found in all the world. Meeting them abroad—and to meet them abroad one must meet them on the sea, for a hybrid seafaring and farmer breed are they—one would never take them to be Irish. Irish they claim to be, speaking of the North of Ireland with pride and sneering at their Scottish brothers; yet Scotch they undoubtedly are, transplanted Scotch of long ago, it is true, but none the less Scotch, with a thousand traits, to say nothing of their tricks of speech and woolly utterance, which nothing less than their Scotch clannishness could have preserved to this late day.
A narrow loch, scarcely half a mile wide, separates Island McGill from the mainland of Ireland; and, once across this loch, one finds himself in an entirely different country. The Scotch impression is strong, and the people, to commence with, are Presbyterians. When it is considered that there is no public-house in all the island and that seven thousand souls dwell therein, some idea may be gained of the temperateness of the community. Wedded to old ways, public opinion and the ministers are powerful influences, while fathers and mothers are revered and obeyed as in few other places in this modern world. Courting lasts never later than ten at night, and no girl walks out with her young man without her parents’ knowledge and consent.
The young men go down to the sea and sow their wild oats in the wicked ports, returning periodically, between voyages, to live the old intensive morality, to court till ten o’clock, to sit under the minister each Sunday, and to listen at home to the same stern precepts that the elders preached to them from the time they were laddies. Much they learned of women in the ends of the earth, these seafaring sons, yet a canny wisdom was theirs and they never brought wives home with them. The one solitary exception to this had been the schoolmaster, who had been guilty of bringing a wife from half a mile the other side of the loch. For this he had never been forgiven, and he rested under a cloud for the remainder of his days. At his death the wife went back across the loch to her own people, and the blot on the escutcheon of Island McGill was erased. In the end the sailor-men married girls of their own homeland and settled down to become exemplars of all the virtues for which the island was noted.
Island McGill was without a history. She boasted none of the events that go to make history. There had never been any wearing of the green, any Fenian conspiracies, any land disturbances. There had been but one eviction, and that purely technical—a test case, and on advice of the tenant’s lawyer. So Island McGill was without annals. History had passed her by. She paid her taxes, acknowledged her crowned rulers, and left the world alone; all she asked in return was that the world should leave her alone. The world was composed of two parts—Island McGill and the rest of it. And whatever was not Island McGill was outlandish and barbarian; and well she knew, for did not her seafaring sons bring home report of that world and its ungodly ways?
 
It was from the skipper of a Glasgow tramp, as passenger from Colombo to Rangoon, that I had first learned of the existence of Island McGill; and it was from him that I had carried the letter that gave me entrance to the house of Mrs. Ross, widow of a master mariner, with a daughter living with her and with two sons, master mariners themselves and out upon the sea. Mrs. Ross did not take in boarders, and it was Captain Ross’s letter alone that had enabled me to get from her bed and board. In the evening, after my encounter with Margaret Henan, I questioned Mrs. Ross, and I knew on the instant that I had in truth stumbled upon mystery.
Like all Island McGill folk, as I was soon to discover, Mrs. Ross was at first averse to discussing Margaret Henan at all. Yet it was from her I learned that evening that Margaret Henan had once been one of the island belles. Herself the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, she had married Thomas Henan, equally well-to-do. Beyond the usual housewife’s tasks she had never been accustomed to work. Unlike many of the island women, she had never lent a hand in the fields.
“But what of her children?” I asked.
“Two o’ the sons, Jamie an’ Timothy uz married an’ be goun’ tull sea. Thot bug house close tull the post office uz Jamie’s. The daughters thot ha’ no married be luvun’ wuth them as dud marry. An’ the rest be dead.”
“The Samuels,” Clara interpolated, with what I suspected was a giggle.
She was Mrs. Ross’s daughter, a strapping young woman with handsome features and remarkably handsome black eyes.
“’Tuz naught to be smuckerun’ ot,” her mother reproved her.
“The Samuels?” I intervened. “I don’t understand.”
“Her four sons thot died.”
“And were they all named Samuel?”
“Aye.”
“Strange,” I commented in the lagging silence.
“Very strange,” Mrs. Ross affirmed, proceeding stolidly with the knitting of the woollen singlet on her knees—one of the countless under-garments that she interminably knitted for her skipper sons.
“And it was only the Samuels that died?” I queried, in further attempt.
“The others luved,” was the answer. “A fine fomuly—no finer on the island. No better lods ever sailed out of Island McGill. The munuster held them up oz models tull pottern after. Nor was ever a whusper breathed again’ the girls.”
“But why is she left alone now in her old age?” I persisted. “Why don’t her own flesh and blood look after her? Why does she live alone? Don’t they ever go to see her or care for her?”
“Never a one un twenty years an’ more now. She fetched ut on tull herself. She drove them from the house just oz she drove old Tom Henan, thot was her husband, tull hus death.”
“Drink?” I ventured.
Mrs. Ross shook her head scornfully, as if drink was a weakness beneath the weakest of Island McGill.
A long pause followed, during which Mrs. Ross knitted stolidly on, only nodding permission when Clara’s young man, mate on one of the Shire Line sailing ships, came to walk out with her. I studied the half-dozen ostrich eggs, hanging in the corner against the wall like a cluster of some monstrous fruit. On each shell were painted precipitous and impossible seas through which full-rigged ships foamed with a lack of perspective only equalled by their sharp technical perfection. On the mantelpiece stood two large pearl shells, obviously a pair, intricately carved by the patient hands of New Caledonian convicts. In the centre of the mantel was a stuffed bird-of-paradise, while about the room were scattered gorgeous shells from the southern seas, delicate sprays of coral sprouting from barnacled pi-pi shells and cased in glass, assegais from South Africa, stone axes from New Guinea, huge Alaskan tobacco-pouches beaded with heraldic totem designs, a boomerang from Australia, divers ships in glass bottles, a cannibal kai-kai bowl from the Marquesas, and fragile cabinets from China and the Indies and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and precious woods.
I gazed at this varied trove brought home by sailor sons, and pondered the mystery of Margaret Henan, who had driven her husband to his death and been forsaken by all her kin. It was not the drink. Then what was it?—some shocking cruelty? some amazing infidelity? or some fearful, old-world peasant-crime?
I broached my theories, but to all Mrs. Ross shook her head.
“Ut was no thot,” she said. “Margaret was a guid wife an’ a guid mother, an’ I doubt she would harm a fly. She brought up her fomuly God-fearin’ an’ decent-minded. Her trouble was thot she took lunatic—turned eediot.”
Mrs. Ross tapped significantly on her forehead to indicate a state of addlement.
“But I talked with her this afternoon,” I objected, “and I found her a sensible woman—remarkably bright for one of her years.”
“Aye, an’ I’m grantun’ all thot you say,” she went on calmly. “But I am no referrun’ tull thot. I am referrun’ tull her wucked-headed an’ vucious stubbornness. No more stubborn woman ever luv’d than Margaret Henan. Ut was all on account o’ Samuel, which was the name o’ her youngest an’ they do say her favourut brother—hum oz died by hus own hond all through the munuster’s mustake un no registerun’ the new church ot Dublin. Ut was a lesson thot the name was musfortunate, but she would no take ut, an’ there was talk when she called her first child Samuel—hum thot died o’ the croup. An’ wuth thot what does she do but call the next one Samuel, an’ hum only three when he fell un tull the tub o’ hot watter an’ was plain cooked tull death. Ut all come, I tell you, o’ her wucked-headed an’ foolush stubbornness. For a Samuel she must hov; an’ ut was the death of the four of her sons. After the first, dudna her own mother go down un the dirt tull her feet, a-beggun’ an’ pleadun’ wuth her no tull name her next one Samuel? But she was no tull be turned from her purpose. Margaret Henan was always set on her ways, an’ never more so thon on thot name Samuel.
“She was fair lunatuc on Samuel. Dudna her neighbours’ an’ all kuth an’ kun savun’ them thot luv’d un the house wuth her, get up an’ walk out ot the christenun’ of the second—hum thot was cooked? Thot they dud, an’ ot the very moment the munuster asked what would the bairn’s name be. ‘Samuel,’ says she; an’ wuth thot they got up an’ walked out an’ left the house. An’ ot the door dudna her Aunt Fannie, her mother’s suster, turn an’ say loud for all tull hear: ‘What for wull she be wantun’ tull murder the wee thing?’ The munuster heard fine, an’ dudna like ut, but, oz he told my Larry afterward, what could he do? Ut was the woman’s wush, an’ there was no law again’ a mother callun’ her child accordun’ tull her wush.
“An’ then was there no the third Samuel? An’ when he was lost ot sea off the Cape, dudna she break all laws o’ nature tull hov a fourth? She was forty-seven, I’m tellun’ ye, an’ she hod a child ot forty-seven. Thunk on ut! Ot forty-seven! Ut was fair scand’lous.”
 
From Clara, next morning, I got the tale of Margaret Henan’s favourite brother; and from here and there, in the week that followed, I pieced together the tragedy of Margaret Henan. Samuel Dundee had been the youngest of Margaret’s four brothers, and, as Clara told me, she had well-nigh worshipped him. He was going to sea at the time, skipper of one of the sailing ships of the Bank Line, when he married Agnes Hewitt. She was described as a slender wisp of a girl, delicately featured and with a nervous organization of the supersensitive order. Theirs had been the first marriage in the “new” church, and after a two-weeks’ honeymoon Samuel had kissed his bride good-bye and sailed in command of the Loughbank, a big four-masted barque.
And it was because of the “new” church that the minister’s blunder occurred. Nor was it the blunder of the minister alone, as one of the elders later explained; for it was equally the blunder of the whole Presbytery of Coughleen, which included fifteen churches on Island McGill and the mainland. The old church, beyond repair, had been torn down and the new one built on the original foundation. Looking upon the foundation-stones as similar to a ship’s keel, it never entered the minister’s nor the Presbytery’s head that the new church was legally any other than the old church.
“An’ three couples was married the first week un the new church,” Clara said. “First of all, Samuel Dundee an’ Agnes Hewitt; the next day Albert Mahan an’ Minnie Duncan; an’ by the week-end Eddie Troy and Flo Mackintosh—all sailor-men, an’ un sux weeks’ time the last of them back tull their ships an’ awa’, an’ no one o’ them dreamin’ of the wuckedness they’d been ot.”
The Imp of the Perverse must have chuckled at the situation. All things favoured. The marriages had taken place in the first week of May, and it was not till three months later that the minister, as required by law, made his quarterly report to the civil authorities in Dublin. Promptly came back the announcement that his church had no legal existence, not being registered according to the law’s demands. This was overcome by prompt registration; but the marriages were not to be so easily remedied. The three sailor husbands were away, and their wives, in short, were not their wives.
“But the munuster was no for alarmin’ the bodies,” said Clara. “He kept hus council an’ bided hus time, waitun’ for the lods tull be back from sea. Oz luck would have ut, he was away across the island tull a christenun’ when Albert Mahan arrives home onexpected, hus shup just docked ot Dublin. Ut’s nine o’clock ot night when the munuster, un hus sluppers an’ dressun’-gown, gets the news. Up he jumps an’ calls for horse an’ saddle, an’ awa’ he goes like the wund for Albert Mahan’s. Albert uz just goun’ tull bed an’ hoz one shoe off when the munuster arrives.
“‘Come wuth me, the pair o’ ye,’ says he, breathless-like. ‘What for, an’ me dead weary an’ goun’ tull bed?’ says Albert. ‘Yull be lawful married,’ says the munuster. Albert looks black an’ says, ‘Now, munuster, ye wull be jokun’,’ but tull humself, oz I’ve heard hum tell mony a time, he uz wonderun’ thot the munuster should a-took tull whusky ot hus time o’ life.
“’We be no married?’ says Minnie. He shook his head. ‘An’ I om no Mussus Mahan?’ ‘No,’ says he, ‘ye are no Mussus Mahan. Ye are plain Muss Duncan.’ ‘But ye married ’us yoursel’,’ says she. ‘I dud an’ I dudna,’ says he. An’ wuth thot he tells them the whole upshot, an’ Albert puts on hus shoe, an’ they go wuth the munuster an’ are married proper an’ lawful, an’ oz Albert Mahan says afterward mony’s the time, ‘’Tus no every mon thot hoz two weddun’ nights on Island McGill.’”
Six months later Eddie Troy came home and was promptly remarried. But Samuel Dundee was away on a three-years’ voyage and his ship fell overdue. Further to complicate the situation, a baby boy, past two years old, was waiting for him in the arms of his wife. The months passed, and the wife grew thin with worrying. “Ut’s no meself I’m thunkun’ on,” she is reported to have said many times, “but ut’s the puir fatherless bairn. Uf aught happened tull Samuel where wull the bairn stond?”
Lloyd’s posted the Loughbank as missing, and the owners ceased the monthly remittance of Samuel’s half-pay to his wife. It was the question of the child’s legitimacy that preyed on her mind, and, when all hope of Samuel’s return was abandoned, she drowned herself and the child in the loch. And here enters the greater tragedy. The Loughbank was not lost. By a series of sea disasters and delays too interminable to relate, she had made one of those long, unsighted passages such as occur once or twice in half a century. How the Imp must have held both his sides! Back from the sea came Samuel, and when they broke the news to him something else broke somewhere in his heart or head. Next morning they found him where he had tried to kill himself across the grave of his wife and child. Never in the history of Island McGill was there so fearful a death-bed. He spat in the minister’s face and reviled him, and died blaspheming so terribly that those that tended on him did so with averted gaze and trembling hands.
And, in the face of all this, Margaret Henan named her first child Samuel.
 
How account for the woman’s stubbornness? Or was it a morbid obsession that demanded a child of hers should be named Samuel? Her third child was a girl, named after herself, and the fourth was a boy again. Despite the strokes of fate that had already bereft her, and despite the loss of friends and relatives, she persisted in her resolve to name the child after her brother. She was shunned at church by those who had grown up with her. Her mother, after a final appeal, left her house with the warning that if the child were so named she would never speak to her again. And though the old lady lived thirty-odd years longer she kept her word. The minister agreed to christen the child any name but Samuel, and every other minister on Island McGill refused to christen it by the name she had chosen. There was talk on the part of Margaret Henan of going to law at the time, but in the end she carried the child to Belfast and there had it christened Samuel.
And then nothing happened. The whole island was confuted. The boy grew and prospered. The schoolmaster never ceased averring that it was the brightest lad he had ever seen. Samuel had a splendid constitution, a tremendous grip on life. To everybody’s amazement he escaped the usual run of childish afflictions. Measles, whooping-cough and mumps knew him not. He was armour-clad against germs, immune to all disease. Headaches and earaches were things unknown. “Never so much oz a boil or a pumple,” as one of the old bodies told me, ever marred his healthy skin. He broke school records in scholarship and athletics, and whipped every boy of his size or years on Island McGill.
It was a triumph for Margaret Henan. This paragon was hers, and it bore the cherished name. With the one exception of her mother, friends and relatives drifted back and acknowledged that they had been mistaken; though there were old crones who still abided by their opinion and who shook their heads ominously over their cups of tea. The boy was too wonderful to last. There was no escaping the curse of the name his mother had wickedly laid upon him. The young generation joined Margaret Henan in laughing at them, but the old crones continued to shake their heads.
Other children followed. Margaret Henan’s fifth was a boy, whom she called Jamie, and in rapid succession followed three girls, Alice, Sara, and Nora, the boy Timothy, and two more girls, Florence and Katie. Katie was the last and eleventh, and Margaret Henan, at thirty-five, ceased from her exertions. She had done well by Island McGill and the Queen. Nine healthy children were hers. All prospered. It seemed her ill-luck had shot its bolt with the deaths of her first two. Nine lived, and one of them was named Samuel.
Jamie elected to follow the sea, though it was not so much a matter of election as compulsion, for the eldest sons on Island McGill remained on the land, while all other sons went to the salt-ploughing. Timothy followed Jamie, and by the time the latter had got his first command, a steamer in the Bay trade out of Cardiff, Timothy was mate of a big sailing ship. Samuel, however, did not take kindly to the soil. The farmer’s life had no attraction for him. His brothers went to sea, not out of desire, but because it was the only way for them to gain their bread; and he, who had no need to go, envied them when, returned from far voyages, they sat by the kitchen fire, and told their bold tales of the wonderlands beyond the sea-rim.
Samuel became a teacher, much to his father’s disgust, and even took extra certificates, going to Belfast for his examinations. When the old master retired, Samuel took over his school. Secretly, however, he studied navigation, and it was Margaret’s delight when he sat by the kitchen fire, and, despite their master’s tickets, tangled up his brothers in the theoretics of their profession. Tom Henan alone was outraged when Samuel, school teacher, gentleman, and heir to the Henan farm, shipped to sea before the mast. Margaret had an abiding faith in her son’s star, and whatever he did she was sure was for the best. Like everything else connected with his glorious personality, there had never been known so swift a rise as in the case of Samuel. Barely with two years’ sea experience before the mast, he was taken from the forecastle and made a provisional second mate. This occurred in a fever port on the West Coast, and the committee of skippers that examined him agreed that he knew more of the science of navigation than they had remembered or forgotten. Two years later he sailed from Liverpool, mate of the Starry Grace, with both master’s and extra-master’s tickets in his possession. And then it happened—the thing the old crones had been shaking their heads over for years.
It was told me by Gavin McNab, bos’n of the Starry Grace at the time, himself an Island McGill man.
“Wull do I remember ut,” he said. “We was runnin’ our Eastun’ down, an’ makun’ heavy weather of ut. Oz fine a sailor-mon oz ever walked was Samuel Henan. I remember the look of hum wull thot last marnun’, a-watch-un’ them bug seas curlun’ up astern, an’ a-watchun’ the old girl an’ seeun’ how she took them—the skupper down below an’ drunkun’ for days. Ut was ot seven thot Henan brought her up on tull the wund, not darun’ tull run longer on thot fearful sea. Ot eight, after havun’ breakfast, he turns un, an’ a half hour after up comes the skupper, bleary-eyed an’ shaky an’ holdun’ on tull the companion. Ut was fair smokun’, I om tellun’ ye, an’ there he stood, blunkun’ an’ noddun’ an’ talkun’ tull humsel’. ‘Keep off,’ says he ot last tull the mon ot the wheel. ‘My God!’ says the second mate, standun’ beside hum. The skupper never looks tull hum ot all, but keeps on mutterun” an’ jabberun’ tull humsel’. All of a suddent-like he straightens up an’ throws hus head back, an’ says: ‘Put your wheel over, me mon—now domn ye! Are ye deef thot ye’ll no be hearun’ me?’
“Ut was a drunken mon’s luck, for the Starry Grace wore off afore thot God-Almighty gale wuthout shuppun’ a bucket o’ watter, the second mate shoutun’ orders an’ the crew jumpun’ like mod. An’ wuth thot the skupper nods contented-like tull humself an’ goes below after more whusky. Ut was plain murder o’ the lives o’ all of us, for ut was no the time for the buggest shup afloat tull be runnun’. Run? Never hov I seen the like! Ut was beyond all thunkun’, an’ me goun’ tull sea, boy an’ men, for forty year. I tell you ut was fair awesome.
“The face o’ the second mate was white oz death, an’ he stood ut alone for half an hour, when ut was too much for hum an’ he went below an’ called Samuel an’ the third. Aye, a fine sailor-mon thot Samuel, but ut was too much for hum. He looked an’ studied, and looked an’ studied, but he could no see hus way. He durst na heave tull. She would ha’ been sweeput o’ all honds an’ stucks an’ everythung afore she could a-fetched up. There was naught tull do but keep on runnun’. An’ uf ut worsened we were lost ony way, for soon or late that overtakun’ sea was sure tull sweep us clear over poop an’ all.
“Dud I say ut was a God-Almighty gale? Ut was worse nor thot. The devil himself must ha’ hod a hond un the brewun’ o’ ut, ut was thot fearsome. I ha’ looked on some sights, but I om no carun’ tull look on the like o’ thot again. No mon dared tull be un hus bunk. No, nor no mon on the decks. All honds of us stood on top the house an’ held on an’ watched. The three mates was on the poop, with two men ot the wheel, an’ the only mon below was thot whusky-blighted captain snorun’ drunk.
“An’ then I see ut comun’, a mile away, risun’ above all the waves like an island un the sea—the buggest wave ever I looked upon. The three mates stood tulgether an’ watched ut comun’, a-prayun’ like we thot she would no break un passun’ us. But ut was no tull be. Ot the last, when she rose up like a mountain, curlun’ above the stern an’ blottun’ out the sky, the mates scattered, the second an’ third runnun’ for the mizzen-shrouds an’ climbun’ up, but the first runnun’ tull the wheel tull lend a hond. He was a brave men, thot Samuel Henan. He run straight un tull the face o’ thot father o’ all waves, no thunkun’ on humself but thunkun’ only o’ the shup. The two men was lashed tull the wheel, but he would be ready tull hond un the case they was kult. An’ then she took ut. We on the house could no see the poop for the thousand tons o’ watter thot hod hut ut. Thot wave cleaned them out, took everythung along wuth ut—the two mates, climbun’ up the mizzen-ruggun’, Samuel Henan runnun’ tull the wheel, the two men ot the wheel, aye, an’ the wheel utself. We never saw aught o’ them, for she broached tull what o’ the wheel goun’, an’ two men o’ us was drownded off the house, no tull mention the carpenter thot we pucked up ot the break o’ the poop wuth every bone o’ hus body broke tull he was like so much jelly.”
And here enters the marvel of it, the miraculous wonder of that woman’s heroic spirit. Margaret Henan was forty-seven when the news came home of the loss of Samuel; and it was not long after that the unbelievable rumour went around Island McGill. I say unbelievable. Island McGill would not believe. Doctor Hall pooh-pooh’d it. Everybody laughed at it as a good joke. They traced back the gossip to Sara Dack, servant to the Henans’, and who alone lived with Margaret and her husband. But Sara Dack persisted in her assertion and was called a low-mouthed liar. One or two dared question Tom Henan himself, but beyond black looks and curses for their presumption they elicited nothing from him.
The rumour died down, and the island fell to discussing in all its ramifications the loss of the Grenoble in the China seas, with all her officers and half her crew born and married on Island McGill. But the rumour would not stay down. Sara Dack was louder in her assertions, the looks Tom Henan cast about him were blacker than ever, and Dr. Hall, after a visit to the Henan house, no longer pooh-pooh’d. Then Island McGill sat up, and there was a tremendous wagging of tongues. It was unnatural and ungodly. The like had never been heard. And when, as time passed, the truth of Sara Dack’s utterances was manifest, the island folk decided, like the bos’n of the Starry Grace, that only the devil could have had a hand in so untoward a happening. And the infatuated woman, so Sara Dack reported, insisted that it would be a boy. “Eleven bairns ha’ I borne,” she said; “sux o’ them lossies an’ five o’ them loddies. An’ sunce there be balance un all thungs, so wull there be balance wuth me. Sux o’ one an’ half a dozen o’ the other—there uz the balance, an’ oz sure oz the sun rises un the marnun’, thot sure wull ut be a boy.”
And boy it was, and a prodigy. Dr. Hall raved about its unblemished perfection and massive strength, and wrote a brochure on it for the Dublin Medical Society as the most interesting case of the sort in his long career. When Sara Dack gave the babe’s unbelievable weight, Island McGill refused to believe and once again called her liar. But when Doctor Hall attested that he had himself weighed it and seen it tip that very notch, Island McGill held its breath and accepted whatever report Sara Dack made of the infant’s progress or appetite. And once again Margaret Henan carried a babe to Belfast and had it christened Samuel.
 
“Oz good oz gold ut was,” said Sara Dack to me.
Sara, at the time I met her, was a buxom, phlegmatic spinster of sixty, equipped with an experience so tragic and unusual that though her tongue ran on for decades its output would still be of imperishable interest to her cronies.
“Oz good oz good,” said Sara Dack. “Ut never fretted. Sut ut down un the sun by the hour an’ never a sound ut would make oz long oz ut was no hungered! An’ thot strong! The grup o’ uts honds was like a mon’s. I mind me, when ut was but hours old, ut grupped me so mighty thot I fetched a scream I was thot frightened. Ut was the punk o’ health. Ut slept an’ ate, an’ grew. Ut never bothered. Never a night’s sleep ut lost tull no one, nor ever a munut’s, an’ thot wuth cuttin’ uts teeth an’ all. An’ Margaret would dandle ut on her knee an’ ask was there ever so fine a loddie un the three Kungdoms.
“The way ut grew! Ut was un keepun’ wuth the way ut ate. Ot a year ut was the size o’ a bairn of two. Ut was slow tull walk an’ talk. Exceptun’ for gurgly noises un uts throat an’ for creepun’ on all fours, ut dudna monage much un the walkun’ an’ talkun’ line. But thot was tull be expected from the way ut grew. Ut all went tull growun’ strong an’ healthy. An’ even old Tom Henan cheered up ot the might of ut an’ said was there ever the like o’ ut un the three Kungdoms. Ut was Doctor Hall thot first suspicioned, I mind me well, though ut was luttle I dreamt what he was up tull ot the time. I seehum holdun’ thungs’ un fronto’ luttle Sammy’s eyes, an’ a-makun’ noises, loud an’ soft, an’ far an’ near, un luttle Sammy’s ears. An’ then I see Doctor Hall go away, wrunklun’ hus eyebrows an’ shakun’ hus head like the bairn was ailun’. But he was no ailun’, oz I could swear tull, me a-seeun’ hum eat an’ grow. But Doctor Hall no said a word tull Margaret an’ I was no for guessun’ the why he was sore puzzled.
“I mind me when luttle Sammy first spoke. He was two years old an’ the size of a child o five, though he could no monage the walkun’ yet but went around on all fours, happy an’ contented-like an’ makun’ no trouble oz long oz he was fed promptly, which was onusual often. I was hangun’ the wash on the line ot the time when out he comes, on all fours, hus bug head waggun’ tull an’ fro an’ blunkun’ un the sun. An’ then, suddent, he talked. I was thot took a-back I near died o’ fright, an’ fine I knew ut then, the shakun’ o’ Doctor Hall’s head. Talked? Never a bairn on Island McGill talked so loud an’ tull such purpose. There was no mustakun’ ut. I stood there all tremblun’ an’ shakun’. Little Sammy was brayun’. I tell you, sir, he was brayun’ like an ass—just like thot,—loud an’ long an’ cheerful tull ut seemed hus lungs ud crack.
“He was a eediot—a great, awful, monster eediot. Ut was after he talked thot Doctor Hall told Margaret, but she would no believe. Ut would all come right, she said. Ut was growun’ too fast for aught else. Guv ut time, said she, an’ we would see. But old Tom Henan knew, an’ he never held up hus head again. He could no abide the thung, an’ would no brung humsel’ tull touch ut, though I om no denyun’ he was fair fascinated by ut. Mony the time, I see hum watchun’ of ut around a corner, lookun’ ot ut tull hus eyes fair bulged wuth the horror; an’ when ut brayed old Tom ud stuck hus fungers tull hus ears an’ look thot miserable I could a-puttied hum.
“An’ bray ut could! Ut was the only thung ut could do besides eat an’ grow. Whenever ut was hungry ut brayed, an’ there was no stoppun’ ut save wuth food. An’ always of a marnun’, when first ut crawled tull the kutchen-door an’ blunked out ot the sun, ut brayed. An’ ut was brayun’ that brought about uts end.
“I mind me well. Ut was three years old an’ oz bug oz a led o’ ten. Old Tom hed been goun’ from bed tull worse, ploughun’ up an’ down the fields an’ talkun’ an’ mutterun’ tull humself. On the marnun’ o’ the day I mind me, he was suttun’ on the bench outside the kutchen, a-futtun’ the handle tull a puck-axe. Unbeknown, the monster eediot crawled tull the door an’ brayed after hus fashion ot the sun. I see old Tom start up an’ look. An’ there was the monster eediot, waggun’ uts bug head an’ blunkun’ an’ brayun’ like the great bug ass ut was. Ut was too much for Tom. Somethun’ went wrong wuth hum suddent-like. He jumped tull hus feet an’ fetched the puck-handle down on the monster eediot’s head. An’ he hut ut again an’ again like ut was a mod dog an’ hum afeard o’ ut. An’ he went straight tull the stable an’ hung humsel’ tull a rafter. An’ I was no for stoppun’ on after such-like, an’ I went tull stay along wuth me suster thot was married tull John Martin an’ comfortable-off.”
 
I sat on the bench by the kitchen door and regarded Margaret Henan, while with her callous thumb she pressed down the live fire of her pipe and gazed out across the twilight-sombred fields. It was the very bench Tom Henan had sat upon that last sanguinary day of life. And Margaret sat in the doorway where the monster, blinking at the sun, had so often wagged its head and brayed. We had been talking for an hour, she with that slow certitude of eternity that so befitted her; and, for the life of me, I could lay no finger on the motives that ran through the tangled warp and woof of her. Was she a martyr to Truth? Did she have it in her to worship at so abstract a shrine? Had she conceived Abstract Truth to be the one high goal of human endeavour on that day of long ago when she named her first-born Samuel? Or was hers the stubborn obstinacy of the ox? the fixity of purpose of the balky horse? the stolidity of the self-willed peasant-mind? Was it whim or fancy?—the one streak of lunacy in what was otherwise an eminently rational mind? Or, reverting, was hers the spirit of a Bruno? Was she convinced of the intellectual rightness of the stand she had taken? Was hers a steady, enlightened opposition to superstition? or—and a subtler thought—was she mastered by some vaster, profounder superstition, a fetish-worship of which the Alpha and the Omega was the cryptic Samuel?
“Wull ye be tellun’ me,” she said, “thot uf the second Samuel hod been named Larry thot he would no hov fell un the hot watter an’ drownded? Atween you an’ me, sir, an’ ye are untellugent-lookun’ tull the eye, would the name hov made ut onyways dufferent? Would the washun’ no be done thot day uf he hod been Larry or Michael? Would hot watter no be hot, an’ would hot watter no burn uf he hod hod ony other name but Samuel?”
I acknowledged the justice of her contention, and she went on.
“Do a wee but of a name change the plans o’ God? Do the world run by hut or muss, an’ be God a weak, shully-shallyun’ creature thot ud alter the fate an’ destiny o’ thungs because the worm Margaret Henan seen fut tull name her bairn Samuel? There be my son Jamie. He wull no sign a Rooshan-Funn un hus crew because o’ believun’ thot Rooshan-Funns do be monajun’ the wunds an’ hov the makun’ o’ bod weather. Wull you be thunkun’ so? Wull you be thunkun’ thot God thot makes the wunds tull blow wull bend Hus head from on high tull lussen tull the word o’ a greasy Rooshan-Funn un some dirty shup’s fo’c’sle?”
I said no, certainly not; but she was not to be set aside from pressing home the point of her argument.
“Then wull you be thunkun’ thot God thot directs the stars un their courses, an’ tull whose mighty foot the world uz but a footstool, wull you be thunkun’ thot He wull take a spite again’ Margaret Henan an’ send a bug wave off the Cape tull wash her son un tull eternity, all because she was for namun’ hum Samuel?”
“But why Samuel?” I asked.
“An’ thot I dinna know. I wantud ut so.”
“But why did you want it so?”
“An’ uz ut me thot would be answerun’ a such-like question? Be there ony mon luvun’ or dead thot can answer? Who can tell the why o’ like? My Jamie was fair daft on buttermilk, he would drunk ut tull, oz he said humself, hus back teeth was awash. But my Tumothy could no abide buttermilk. I like tull lussen tull the thunder growlun’ an’ roarun’, an’ rampajun’. My Katie could no abide the noise of ut, but must scream an’ flutter an’ go runnun’ for the mudmost o’ a feather-bed. Never yet hov I heard the answer tull the why o’ like, God alone hoz thot answer. You an’ me be mortal an’ we canna know. Enough for us tull know what we like an’ what we duslike. I like—thot uz the first word an’ the last. An’ behind thot like no men can go an’ find the why o’ ut. I like Samuel, an’ I like ut well. Ut uz a sweet name, an’ there be a rollun’ wonder un the sound o’ ut thot passes onderstandun’.”
The twilight deepened, and in the silence I gazed upon that splendid dome of a forehead which time could not mar, at the width between the eyes, and at the eyes themselves—clear, out-looking, and wide-seeing. She rose to her feet with an air of dismissing me, saying—
“Ut wull be a dark walk home, an’ there wull be more thon a sprunkle o’ wet un the sky.”
“Have you any regrets, Margaret Henan?” I asked, suddenly and without forethought.
She studied me a moment.
“Aye, thot I no ha’ borne another son.”
“And you would . . .?” I faltered.
“Aye, thot I would,” she answered. “Ut would ha’ been hus name.”
I went down the dark road between the hawthorn hedges puzzling over the why of like, repeating Samuel to myself and aloud and listening to the rolling wonder in its sound that had charmed her soul and led her life in tragic places. Samuel! There was a rolling wonder in the sound. Aye, there was!


15. LIKE ARGUS OF THE ANCIENT TIMES

It was the summer of 1897, and there was trouble in the Tarwater family. Grandfather Tarwater, after remaining properly subdued and crushed for a quiet decade, had broken out again. This time it was the Klondike fever. His first and one unvarying symptom of such attacks was song. One chant only he raised, though he remembered no more than the first stanza and but three lines of that. And the family knew his feet were itching and his brain was tingling with the old madness, when he lifted his hoarse-cracked voice, now falsetto-cracked, in:

Like Argus of the ancient times,
 We leave this modern Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
 To shear the Golden Fleece.

Ten years earlier he had lifted the chant, sung to the air of the “Doxology,” when afflicted with the fever to go gold-mining in Patagonia. The multitudinous family had sat upon him, but had had a hard time doing it. When all else had failed to shake his resolution, they had applied lawyers to him, with the threat of getting out guardianship papers and of confining him in the state asylum for the insane—which was reasonable for a man who had, a quarter of a century before, speculated away all but ten meagre acres of a California principality, and who had displayed no better business acumen ever since.
The application of lawyers to John Tarwater was like the application of a mustard plaster. For, in his judgment, they were the gentry, more than any other, who had skinned him out of the broad Tarwater acres. So, at the time of his Patagonian fever, the very thought of so drastic a remedy was sufficient to cure him. He quickly demonstrated he was not crazy by shaking the fever from him and agreeing not to go to Patagonia.
Next, he demonstrated how crazy he really was, by deeding over to his family, unsolicited, the ten acres on Tarwater Flat, the house, barn, outbuildings, and water-rights. Also did he turn over the eight hundred dollars in bank that was the long-saved salvage of his wrecked fortune. But for this the family found no cause for committal to the asylum, since such committal would necessarily invalidate what he had done.
“Grandfather is sure peeved,” said Mary, his oldest daughter, herself a grandmother, when her father quit smoking.
All he had retained for himself was a span of old horses, a mountain buckboard, and his one room in the crowded house. Further, having affirmed that he would be beholden to none of them, he got the contract to carry the United States mail, twice a week, from Kelterville up over Tarwater Mountain to Old Almaden—which was a sporadically worked quick-silver mine in the upland cattle country. With his old horses it took all his time to make the two weekly round trips. And for ten years, rain or shine, he had never missed a trip. Nor had he failed once to pay his week’s board into Mary’s hand. This board he had insisted on, in the convalescence from his Patagonian fever, and he had paid it strictly, though he had given up tobacco in order to be able to do it.
“Huh!” he confided to the ruined water wheel of the old Tarwater Mill, which he had built from the standing timber and which had ground wheat for the first settlers. “Huh! They’ll never put me in the poor farm so long as I support myself. And without a penny to my name it ain’t likely any lawyer fellows’ll come snoopin’ around after me.”
And yet, precisely because of these highly rational acts, it was held that John Tarwater was mildly crazy!
The first time he had lifted the chant of “Like Argus of the Ancient Times,” had been in 1849, when, twenty-two years’ of age, violently attacked by the Californian fever, he had sold two hundred and forty Michigan acres, forty of it cleared, for the price of four yoke of oxen, and a wagon, and had started across the Plains.
“And we turned off at Fort Hall, where the Oregon emigration went north’ard, and swung south for Californy,” was his way of concluding the narrative of that arduous journey. “And Bill Ping and me used to rope grizzlies out of the underbrush of Cache Slough in the Sacramento Valley.”
Years of freighting and mining had followed, and, with a stake gleaned from the Merced placers, he satisfied the land-hunger of his race and time by settling in Sonoma County.
During the ten years of carrying the mail across Tarwater Township, up Tarwater Valley, and over Tarwater Mountain, most all of which land had once been his, he had spent his time dreaming of winning back that land before he died. And now, his huge gaunt form more erect than it had been for years, with a glinting of blue fires in his small and close-set eyes, he was lifting his ancient chant again.
“There he goes now—listen to him,” said William Tarwater.
“Nobody at home,” laughed Harris Topping, day labourer, husband of Annie Tarwater, and father of her nine children.
The kitchen door opened to admit the old man, returning from feeding his horses. The song had ceased from his lips; but Mary was irritable from a burnt hand and a grandchild whose stomach refused to digest properly diluted cows’ milk.
“Now there ain’t no use you carryin’ on that way, father,” she tackled him. “The time’s past for you to cut and run for a place like the Klondike, and singing won’t buy you nothing.”
“Just the same,” he answered quietly. “I bet I could go to that Klondike place and pick up enough gold to buy back the Tarwater lands.”
“Old fool!” Annie contributed.
“You couldn’t buy them back for less’n three hundred thousand and then some,” was William’s effort at squelching him.
“Then I could pick up three hundred thousand, and then some, if I was only there,” the old man retorted placidly.
“Thank God you can’t walk there, or you’d be startin’, I know,” Mary cried. “Ocean travel costs money.”
“I used to have money,” her father said humbly.
“Well, you ain’t got any now—so forget it,” William advised. “Them times is past, like roping bear with Bill Ping. There ain’t no more bear.”
“Just the same—”
But Mary cut him off. Seizing the day’s paper from the kitchen table, she flourished it savagely under her aged progenitor’s nose.
“What do those Klondikers say? There it is in cold print. Only the young and robust can stand the Klondike. It’s worse than the north pole. And they’ve left their dead a-plenty there themselves. Look at their pictures. You’re forty years older ’n the oldest of them.”
John Tarwater did look, but his eyes strayed to other photographs on the highly sensational front page.
“And look at the photys of them nuggets they brought down,” he said. “I know gold. Didn’t I gopher twenty thousand outa the Merced? And wouldn’t it a-ben a hundred thousand if that cloudburst hadn’t busted my wing-dam? Now if I was only in the Klondike—”
“Crazy as a loon,” William sneered in open aside to the rest.
“A nice way to talk to your father,” Old Man Tarwater censured mildly. “My father’d have walloped the tar out of me with a single-tree if I’d spoke to him that way.”
“But you are crazy, father—” William began.
“Reckon you’re right, son. And that’s where my father wasn’t crazy. He’d a-done it.”
“The old man’s been reading some of them magazine articles about men who succeeded after forty,” Annie jibed.
“And why not, daughter?” he asked. “And why can’t a man succeed after he’s seventy? I was only seventy this year. And mebbe I could succeed if only I could get to the Klondike—”
“Which you ain’t going to get to,” Mary shut him off.
“Oh, well, then,” he sighed, “seein’s I ain’t, I might just as well go to bed.”
He stood up, tall, gaunt, great-boned and gnarled, a splendid ruin of a man. His ragged hair and whiskers were not grey but snowy white, as were the tufts of hair that stood out on the backs of his huge bony fingers. He moved toward the door, opened it, sighed, and paused with a backward look.
“Just the same,” he murmured plaintively, “the bottoms of my feet is itching something terrible.”
Long before the family stirred next morning, his horses fed and harnessed by lantern light, breakfast cooked and eaten by lamp fight, Old Man Tarwater was off and away down Tarwater Valley on the road to Kelterville. Two things were unusual about this usual trip which he had made a thousand and forty times since taking the mail contract. He did not drive to Kelterville, but turned off on the main road south to Santa Rosa. Even more remarkable than this was the paper-wrapped parcel between his feet. It contained his one decent black suit, which Mary had been long reluctant to see him wear any more, not because it was shabby, but because, as he guessed what was at the back of her mind, it was decent enough to bury him in.
And at Santa Rosa, in a second-hand clothes shop, he sold the suit outright for two dollars and a half. From the same obliging shopman he received four dollars for the wedding ring of his long-dead wife. The span of horses and the wagon he disposed of for seventy-five dollars, although twenty-five was all he received down in cash. Chancing to meet Alton Granger on the street, to whom never before had he mentioned the ten dollars loaned him in ’74, he reminded Alton Granger of the little affair, and was promptly paid. Also, of all unbelievable men to be in funds, he so found the town drunkard for whom he had bought many a drink in the old and palmy days. And from him John Tarwater borrowed a dollar. Finally, he took the afternoon train to San Francisco.
A dozen days later, carrying a half-empty canvas sack of blankets and old clothes, he landed on the beach of Dyea in the thick of the great Klondike Rush. The beach was screaming bedlam. Ten thousand tons of outfit lay heaped and scattered, and twice ten thousand men struggled with it and clamoured about it. Freight, by Indian-back, over Chilcoot to Lake Linderman, had jumped from sixteen to thirty cents a pound, which latter was a rate of six hundred dollars a ton. And the sub-arctic winter gloomed near at hand. All knew it, and all knew that of the twenty thousand of them very few would get across the passes, leaving the rest to winter and wait for the late spring thaw.
Such the beach old John Tarwater stepped upon; and straight across the beach and up the trail toward Chilcoot he headed, cackling his ancient chant, a very Grandfather Argus himself, with no outfit worry in the world, for he did not possess any outfit. That night he slept on the flats, five miles above Dyea, at the head of canoe navigation. Here the Dyea River became a rushing mountain torrent, plunging out of a dark canyon from the glaciers that fed it far above.
And here, early next morning, he beheld a little man weighing no more than a hundred, staggering along a foot-log under all of a hundred pounds of flour strapped on his back. Also, he beheld the little man stumble off the log and fall face-downward in a quiet eddy where the water was two feet deep and proceed quietly to drown. It was no desire of his to take death so easily, but the flour on his back weighed as much as he and would not let him up.
“Thank you, old man,” he said to Tarwater, when the latter had dragged him up into the air and ashore.
While he unlaced his shoes and ran the water out, they had further talk. Next, he fished out a ten-dollar gold-piece and offered it to his rescuer.
Old Tarwater shook his head and shivered, for the ice-water had wet him to his knees.
“But I reckon I wouldn’t object to settin’ down to a friendly meal with you.”
“Ain’t had breakfast?” the little man, who was past forty and who had said his name was Anson, queried with a glance frankly curious.
“Nary bite,” John Tarwater answered.
“Where’s your outfit? Ahead?”
“Nary outfit.”
“Expect to buy your grub on the Inside?”
“Nary a dollar to buy it with, friend. Which ain’t so important as a warm bite of breakfast right now.”
In Anson’s camp, a quarter of a mile on, Tarwater found a slender, red-whiskered young man of thirty cursing over a fire of wet willow wood. Introduced as Charles, he transferred his scowl and wrath to Tarwater, who, genially oblivious, devoted himself to the fire, took advantage of the chill morning breeze to create a draught which the other had left stupidly blocked by stones, and soon developed less smoke and more flame. The third member of the party, Bill Wilson, or Big Bill as they called him, came in with a hundred-and-forty-pound pack; and what Tarwater esteemed to be a very rotten breakfast was dished out by Charles. The mush was half cooked and mostly burnt, the bacon was charred carbon, and the coffee was unspeakable.
Immediately the meal was wolfed down the three partners took their empty pack-straps and headed down trail to where the remainder of their outfit lay at the last camp a mile away. And old Tarwater became busy. He washed the dishes, foraged dry wood, mended a broken pack-strap, put an edge on the butcher-knife and camp-axe, and repacked the picks and shovels into a more carryable parcel.
What had impressed him during the brief breakfast was the sort of awe in which Anson and Big Bill stood of Charles. Once, during the morning, while Anson took a breathing spell after bringing in another hundred-pound pack, Tarwater delicately hinted his impression.
“You see, it’s this way,” Anson said. “We’ve divided our leadership. We’ve got specialities. Now I’m a carpenter. When we get to Lake Linderman, and the trees are chopped and whipsawed into planks, I’ll boss the building of the boat. Big Bill is a logger and miner. So he’ll boss getting out the logs and all mining operations. Most of our outfit’s ahead. We went broke paying the Indians to pack that much of it to the top of Chilcoot. Our last partner is up there with it, moving it along by himself down the other side. His name’s Liverpool, and he’s a sailor. So, when the boat’s built, he’s the boss of the outfit to navigate the lakes and rapids to Klondike.
“And Charles—this Mr. Crayton—what might his speciality be?” Tarwater asked.
“He’s the business man. When it comes to business and organization he’s boss.”
“Hum,” Tarwater pondered. “Very lucky to get such a bunch of specialities into one outfit.”
“More than luck,” Anson agreed. “It was all accident, too. Each of us started alone. We met on the steamer coming up from San Francisco, and formed the party.—Well, I got to be goin’. Charles is liable to get kicking because I ain’t packin’ my share’ just the same, you can’t expect a hundred-pound man to pack as much as a hundred-and-sixty-pounder.”
“Stick around and cook us something for dinner,” Charles, on his next load in and noting the effects of the old man’s handiness, told Tarwater.
And Tarwater cooked a dinner that was a dinner, washed the dishes, had real pork and beans for supper, and bread baked in a frying-pan that was so delectable that the three partners nearly foundered themselves on it. Supper dishes washed, he cut shavings and kindling for a quick and certain breakfast fire, showed Anson a trick with foot-gear that was invaluable to any hiker, sang his “Like Argus of the Ancient Times,” and told them of the great emigration across the Plains in Forty-nine.
“My goodness, the first cheerful and hearty-like camp since we hit the beach,” Big Bill remarked as he knocked out his pipe and began pulling off his shoes for bed.
“Kind of made things easy, boys, eh?” Tarwater queried genially.
All nodded. “Well, then, I got a proposition, boys. You can take it or leave it, but just listen kindly to it. You’re in a hurry to get in before the freeze-up. Half the time is wasted over the cooking by one of you that he might be puttin’ in packin’ outfit. If I do the cookin’ for you, you all’ll get on that much faster. Also, the cookin’ ’ll be better, and that’ll make you pack better. And I can pack quite a bit myself in between times, quite a bit, yes, sir, quite a bit.”
Big Bill and Anson were just beginning to nod their heads in agreement, when Charles stopped them.
“What do you expect of us in return?” he demanded of the old man.
“Oh, I leave it up to the boys.”
“That ain’t business,” Charles reprimanded sharply. “You made the proposition. Now finish it.”
“Well, it’s this way—”
“You expect us to feed you all winter, eh?” Charles interrupted.
“No, siree, I don’t. All I reckon is a passage to Klondike in your boat would be mighty square of you.”
“You haven’t an ounce of grub, old man. You’ll starve to death when you get there.”
“I’ve been feedin’ some long time pretty successful,” Old Tarwater replied, a whimsical light in his eyes. “I’m seventy, and ain’t starved to death never yet.”
“Will you sign a paper to the effect that you shift for yourself as soon as you get to Dawson?” the business one demanded.
“Oh, sure,” was the response.
Again Charles checked his two partners’ expressions of satisfaction with the arrangement.
“One other thing, old man. We’re a party of four, and we all have a vote on questions like this. Young Liverpool is ahead with the main outfit. He’s got a say so, and he isn’t here to say it.”
“What kind of a party might he be?” Tarwater inquired.
“He’s a rough-neck sailor, and he’s got a quick, bad temper.”
“Some turbulent,” Anson contributed.
“And the way he can cuss is simply God-awful,” Big Bill testified.
“But he’s square,” Big Bill added.
Anson nodded heartily to this appraisal.
“Well, boys,” Tarwater summed up, “I set out for Californy and I got there. And I’m going to get to Klondike. Ain’t a thing can stop me, ain’t a thing. I’m going to get three hundred thousand outa the ground, too. Ain’t a thing can stop me, ain’t a thing, because I just naturally need the money. I don’t mind a bad temper so long’s the boy is square. I’ll take my chance, an’ I’ll work along with you till we catch up with him. Then, if he says no to the proposition, I reckon I’ll lose. But somehow I just can’t see ’m sayin’ no, because that’d mean too close up to freeze-up and too late for me to find another chance like this. And, as I’m sure going to get to Klondike, it’s just plumb impossible for him to say no.”
Old John Tarwater became a striking figure on a trail unusually replete with striking figures. With thousands of men, each back-tripping half a ton of outfit, retracing every mile of the trail twenty times, all came to know him and to hail him as “Father Christmas.” And, as he worked, ever he raised his chant with his age-falsetto voice. None of the three men he had joined could complain about his work. True, his joints were stiff—he admitted to a trifle of rheumatism. He moved slowly, and seemed to creak and crackle when he moved; but he kept on moving. Last into the blankets at night, he was first out in the morning, so that the other three had hot coffee before their one before-breakfast pack. And, between breakfast and dinner and between dinner and supper, he always managed to back-trip for several packs himself. Sixty pounds was the limit of his burden, however. He could manage seventy-five, but he could not keep it up. Once, he tried ninety, but collapsed on the trail and was seriously shaky for a couple of days afterward.
Work! On a trail where hard-working men learned for the first time what work was, no man worked harder in proportion to his strength than Old Tarwater. Driven desperately on by the near-thrust of winter, and lured madly on by the dream of gold, they worked to their last ounce of strength and fell by the way. Others, when failure made certain, blew out their brains. Some went mad, and still others, under the irk of the man-destroying strain, broke partnerships and dissolved life-time friendships with fellows just as good as themselves and just as strained and mad.
Work! Old Tarwater could shame them all, despite his creaking and crackling and the nasty hacking cough he had developed. Early and late, on trail or in camp beside the trail he was ever in evidence, ever busy at something, ever responsive to the hail of “Father Christmas.” Weary back-trippers would rest their packs on a log or rock alongside of where he rested his, and would say: “Sing us that song of yourn, dad, about Forty-Nine.” And, when he had wheezingly complied, they would arise under their loads, remark that it was real heartening, and hit the forward trail again.
“If ever a man worked his passage and earned it,” Big Bill confided to his two partners, “that man’s our old Skeezicks.”
“You bet,” Anson confirmed. “He’s a valuable addition to the party, and I, for one, ain’t at all disagreeable to the notion of making him a regular partner—”
“None of that!” Charles Crayton cut in. “When we get to Dawson we’re quit of him—that’s the agreement. We’d only have to bury him if we let him stay on with us. Besides, there’s going to be a famine, and every ounce of grub’ll count. Remember, we’re feeding him out of our own supply all the way in. And if we run short in the pinch next year, you’ll know the reason. Steamboats can’t get up grub to Dawson till the middle of June, and that’s nine months away.”
“Well, you put as much money and outfit in as the rest of us,” Big Bill conceded, “and you’ve a say according.”
“And I’m going to have my say,” Charles asserted with increasing irritability. “And it’s lucky for you with your fool sentiments that you’ve got somebody to think ahead for you, else you’d all starve to death. I tell you that famine’s coming. I’ve been studying the situation. Flour will be two dollars a pound, or ten, and no sellers. You mark my words.”
Across the rubble-covered flats, up the dark canyon to Sheep Camp, past the over-hanging and ever-threatening glaciers to the Scales, and from the Scales up the steep pitches of ice-scoured rock where packers climbed with hands and feet, Old Tarwater camp-cooked and packed and sang. He blew across Chilcoot Pass, above timberline, in the first swirl of autumn snow. Those below, without firewood, on the bitter rim of Crater Lake, heard from the driving obscurity above them a weird voice chanting:

“Like Argus of the ancient times,
 We leave this modern Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
 To shear the Golden Fleece.”

And out of the snow flurries they saw appear a tall, gaunt form, with whiskers of flying white that blended with the storm, bending under a sixty-pound pack of camp dunnage.
“Father Christmas!” was the hail. And then: “Three rousing cheers for Father Christmas!”
Two miles beyond Crater Lake lay Happy Camp—so named because here was found the uppermost fringe of the timber line, where men might warm themselves by fire again. Scarcely could it be called timber, for it was a dwarf rock-spruce that never raised its loftiest branches higher than a foot above the moss, and that twisted and grovelled like a pig-vegetable under the moss. Here, on the trail leading into Happy Camp, in the first sunshine of half a dozen days, Old Tarwater rested his pack against a huge boulder and caught his breath. Around this boulder the trail passed, laden men toiling slowly forward and men with empty pack-straps limping rapidly back for fresh loads. Twice Old Tarwater essayed to rise and go on, and each time, warned by his shakiness, sank back to recover more strength. From around the boulder he heard voices in greeting, recognized Charles Crayton’s voice, and realized that at last they had met up with Young Liverpool. Quickly, Charles plunged into business, and Tarwater heard with great distinctness every word of Charles’ unflattering description of him and the proposition to give him passage to Dawson.
“A dam fool proposition,” was Liverpool’s judgment, when Charles had concluded. “An old granddad of seventy! If he’s on his last legs, why in hell did you hook up with him? If there’s going to be a famine, and it looks like it, we need every ounce of grub for ourselves. We only out-fitted for four, not five.”
“It’s all right,” Tarwater heard Charles assuring the other. “Don’t get excited. The old codger agreed to leave the final decision to you when we caught up with you. All you’ve got to do is put your foot down and say no.”
“You mean it’s up to me to turn the old one down, after your encouraging him and taking advantage of his work clear from Dyea here?”
“It’s a hard trail, Liverpool, and only the men that are hard will get through,” Charles strove to palliate.
“And I’m to do the dirty work?” Liverpool complained, while Tarwater’s heart sank.
“That’s just about the size of it,” Charles said. “You’ve got the deciding.”
Then old Tarwater’s heart uprose again as the air was rent by a cyclone of profanity, from the midst of which crackled sentences like:—“Dirty skunks! . . . See you in hell first! . . . My mind’s made up! . . . Hell’s fire and corruption! . . . The old codger goes down the Yukon with us, stack on that, my hearty! . . . Hard? You don’t know what hard is unless I show you! . . . I’ll bust the whole outfit to hell and gone if any of you try to side-track him! . . . Just try to side-track him, that is all, and you’ll think the Day of Judgment and all God’s blastingness has hit the camp in one chunk!”
Such was the invigoratingness of Liverpool’s flow of speech that, quite without consciousness of effort, the old man arose easily under his load and strode on toward Happy Camp.
From Happy Camp to Long Lake, from Long Lake to Deep Lake, and from Deep Lake up over the enormous hog-back and down to Linderman, the man-killing race against winter kept on. Men broke their hearts and backs and wept beside the trail in sheer exhaustion. But winter never faltered. The fall gales blew, and amid bitter soaking rains and ever-increasing snow flurries, Tarwater and the party to which he was attached piled the last of their outfit on the beach.
There was no rest. Across the lake, a mile above a roaring torrent, they located a patch of spruce and built their saw-pit. Here, by hand, with an inadequate whipsaw, they sawed the spruce-trunks into lumber. They worked night and day. Thrice, on the night-shift, underneath in the saw-pit, Old Tarwater fainted. By day he cooked as well, and, in the betweenwhiles, helped Anson in the building of the boat beside the torrent as the green planks came down.
The days grew shorter. The wind shifted into the north and blew unending gales. In the mornings the weary men crawled from their blankets and in their socks thawed out their frozen shoes by the fire Tarwater always had burning for them. Ever arose the increasing tale of famine on the Inside. The last grub steamboats up from Bering Sea were stalled by low water at the beginning of the Yukon Flats hundreds of miles north of Dawson. In fact, they lay at the old Hudson Bay Company’s post at Fort Yukon inside the Arctic Circle. Flour in Dawson was up to two dollars a pound, but no one would sell. Bonanza and Eldorado Kings, with money to burn, were leaving for the Outside because they could buy no grub. Miners’ Committees were confiscating all grub and putting the population on strict rations. A man who held out an ounce of grub was shot like a dog. A score had been so executed already.
And, under a strain which had broken so many younger men, Old Tarwater began to break. His cough had become terrible, and had not his exhausted comrades slept like the dead, he would have kept them awake nights. Also, he began to take chills, so that he dressed up to go to bed. When he had finished so dressing, not a rag of garment remained in his clothes bag. All he possessed was on his back and swathed around his gaunt old form.
“Gee!” said Big Bill. “If he puts all he’s got on now, when it ain’t lower than twenty above, what’ll he do later on when it goes down to fifty and sixty below?”
They lined the rough-made boat down the mountain torrent, nearly losing it a dozen times, and rowed across the south end of Lake Linderman in the thick of a fall blizzard. Next morning they planned to load and start, squarely into the teeth of the north, on their perilous traverse of half a thousand miles of lakes and rapids and box canyons. But before he went to bed that night, Young Liverpool was out over the camp. He returned to find his whole party asleep. Rousing Tarwater, he talked with him in low tones.
“Listen, dad,” he said.—“You’ve got a passage in our boat, and if ever a man earned a passage you have. But you know yourself you’re pretty well along in years, and your health right now ain’t exciting. If you go on with us you’ll croak surer’n hell.—Now wait till I finish, dad. The price for a passage has jumped to five hundred dollars. I’ve been throwing my feet and I’ve hustled a passenger. He’s an official of the Alaska Commercial and just has to get in. He’s bid up to six hundred to go with me in our boat. Now the passage is yours. You sell it to him, poke the six hundred into your jeans, and pull South for California while the goin’s good. You can be in Dyea in two days, and in California in a week more. What d’ye say?”
Tarwater coughed and shivered for a space, ere he could get freedom of breath for speech.
“Son,” he said, “I just want to tell you one thing. I drove my four yoke of oxen across the Plains in Forty-nine and lost nary a one. I drove them plumb to Californy, and I freighted with them afterward out of Sutter’s Fort to American Bar. Now I’m going to Klondike. Ain’t nothing can stop me, ain’t nothing at all. I’m going to ride that boat, with you at the steering sweep, clean to Klondike, and I’m going to shake three hundred thousand out of the moss-roots. That being so, it’s contrary to reason and common sense for me to sell out my passage. But I thank you kindly, son, I thank you kindly.”
The young sailor shot out his hand impulsively and gripped the old man’s.
“By God, dad!” he cried. “You’re sure going to go then. You’re the real stuff.” He looked with undisguised contempt across the sleepers to where Charles Crayton snored in his red beard. “They don’t seem to make your kind any more, dad.”
Into the north they fought their way, although old-timers, coming out, shook their heads and prophesied they would be frozen in on the lakes. That the freeze-up might come any day was patent, and delays of safety were no longer considered. For this reason, Liverpool decided to shoot the rapid stream connecting Linderman to Lake Bennett with the fully loaded boat. It was the custom to line the empty boats down and to portage the cargoes across. Even then many empty boats had been wrecked. But the time was past for such precaution.
“Climb out, dad,” Liverpool commanded as he prepared to swing from the bank and enter the rapids.
Old Tarwater shook his white head.
“I’m sticking to the outfit,” he declared. “It’s the only way to get through. You see, son, I’m going to Klondike. If I stick by the boat, then the boat just naturally goes to Klondike, too. If I get out, then most likely you’ll lose the boat.”
“Well, there’s no use in overloading,” Charles announced, springing abruptly out on the bank as the boat cast off.
“Next time you wait for my orders!” Liverpool shouted ashore as the current gripped the boat. “And there won’t be any more walking around rapids and losing time waiting to pick you up!”
What took them ten minutes by river, took Charles half an hour by land, and while they waited for him at the head of Lake Bennett they passed the time of day with several dilapidated old-timers on their way out. The famine news was graver than ever. The North-west Mounted Police, stationed at the foot of Lake Marsh where the gold-rushers entered Canadian territory, were refusing to let a man past who did not carry with him seven hundred pounds of grub. In Dawson City a thousand men, with dog-teams, were waiting the freeze-up to come out over the ice. The trading companies could not fill their grub-contracts, and partners were cutting the cards to see which should go and which should stay and work the claims.
“That settles it,” Charles announced, when he learned of the action of the mounted police on the boundary. “Old Man, you might as well start back now.”
“Climb aboard!” Liverpool commanded. “We’re going to Klondike, and old dad is going along.”
A shift of gale to the south gave them a fair wind down Lake Bennett, before which they ran under a huge sail made by Liverpool. The heavy weight of outfit gave such ballast that he cracked on as a daring sailor should when moments counted. A shift of four points into the south-west, coming just at the right time as they entered upon Caribou Crossing, drove them down that connecting link to lakes Tagish and Marsh. In stormy sunset and twilight—they made the dangerous crossing of Great Windy Arm, wherein they beheld two other boat-loads of gold-rushers capsize and drown.
Charles was for beaching for the night, but Liverpool held on, steering down Tagish by the sound of the surf on the shoals and by the occasional shore-fires that advertised wrecked or timid argonauts. At four in the morning, he aroused Charles. Old Tarwater, shiveringly awake, heard Liverpool order Crayton aft beside him at the steering-sweep, and also heard the one-sided conversation.
“Just listen, friend Charles, and keep your own mouth shut,” Liverpool began. “I want you to get one thing into your head and keep it there: old dad’s going by the police. Understand? He’s going by. When they examine our outfit, old dad’s got a fifth share in it, savvee? That’ll put us all ’way under what we ought to have, but we can bluff it through. Now get this, and get it hard: there ain’t going to be any fall-down on this bluff—”
“If you think I’d give away on the old codger—” Charles began indignantly.
“You thought that,” Liverpool checked him, “because I never mentioned any such thing. Now—get me and get me hard: I don’t care what you’ve been thinking. It’s what you’re going to think. We’ll make the police post some time this afternoon, and we’ve got to get ready to pull the bluff without a hitch, and a word to the wise is plenty.”
“If you think I’ve got it in my mind—” Charles began again.
“Look here,” Liverpool shut him off. “I don’t know what’s in your mind. I don’t want to know. I want you to know what’s in my mind. If there’s any slip-up, if old dad gets turned back by the police, I’m going to pick out the first quiet bit of landscape and take you ashore on it. And then I’m going to beat you up to the Queen’s taste. Get me, and get me hard. It ain’t going to be any half-way beating, but a real, two-legged, two-fisted, he-man beating. I don’t expect I’ll kill you, but I’ll come damn near to half-killing you.”
“But what can I do?” Charles almost whimpered.
“Just one thing,” was Liverpool’s final word. “You just pray. You pray so hard that old dad gets by the police that he does get by. That’s all. Go back to your blankets.”
Before they gained Lake Le Barge, the land was sheeted with snow that would not melt for half a year. Nor could they lay their boat at will against the bank, for the rim-ice was already forming. Inside the mouth of the river, just ere it entered Lake Le Barge, they found a hundred storm-bound boats of the argonauts. Out of the north, across the full sweep of the great lake, blew an unending snow gale. Three mornings they put out and fought it and the cresting seas it drove that turned to ice as they fell in-board. While the others broke their hearts at the oars, Old Tarwater managed to keep up just sufficient circulation to survive by chopping ice and throwing it overboard.
Each day for three days, beaten to helplessness, they turned tail on the battle and ran back into the sheltering river. By the fourth day, the hundred boats had increased to three hundred, and the two thousand argonauts on board knew that the great gale heralded the freeze-up of Le Barge. Beyond, the rapid rivers would continue to run for days, but unless they got beyond, and immediately, they were doomed to be frozen in for six months to come.
“This day we go through,” Liverpool announced. “We turn back for nothing. And those of us that dies at the oars will live again and go on pulling.”
And they went through, winning half the length of the lake by nightfall and pulling on through all the night hours as the wind went down, falling asleep at the oars and being rapped awake by Liverpool, toiling on through an age-long nightmare while the stars came out and the surface of the lake turned to the unruffledness of a sheet of paper and froze skin-ice that tinkled like broken glass as their oar-blades shattered it.
As day broke clear and cold, they entered the river, with behind them a sea of ice. Liverpool examined his aged passenger and found him helpless and almost gone. When he rounded the boat to against the rim-ice to build a fire and warm up Tarwater inside and out, Charles protested against such loss of time.
“This ain’t business, so don’t you come horning in,” Liverpool informed him. “I’m running the boat trip. So you just climb out and chop firewood, and plenty of it. I’ll take care of dad. You, Anson, make a fire on the bank. And you, Bill, set up the Yukon stove in the boat. Old dad ain’t as young as the rest of us, and for the rest of this voyage he’s going to have a fire on board to sit by.”
All of which came to pass; and the boat, in the grip of the current, like a river steamer with smoke rising from the two joints of stove-pipe, grounded on shoals, hung up on split currents, and charged rapids and canyons, as it drove deeper into the Northland winter. The Big and Little Salmon rivers were throwing mush-ice into the main river as they passed, and, below the riffles, anchor-ice arose from the river bottom and coated the surface with crystal scum. Night and day the rim-ice grew, till, in quiet places, it extended out a hundred yards from shore. And Old Tarwater, with all his clothes on, sat by the stove and kept the fire going. Night and day, not daring to stop for fear of the imminent freeze-up, they dared to run, an increasing mushiness of ice running with them.
“What ho, old hearty?” Liverpool would call out at times.
“Cheer O,” Old Tarwater had learned to respond.
“What can I ever do for you, son, in payment?” Tarwater, stoking the fire, would sometimes ask Liverpool, beating now one released hand and now the other as he fought for circulation where he steered in the freezing stern-sheets.
“Just break out that regular song of yours, old Forty-Niner,” was the invariable reply.
And Tarwater would lift his voice in the cackling chant, as he lifted it at the end, when the boat swung in through driving cake-ice and moored to the Dawson City bank, and all waterfront Dawson pricked its ears to hear the triumphant pæan:

Like Argus of the ancient times,
 We leave this modern Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
 To shear the Golden Fleece.

Charles did it, but he did it so discreetly that none of his party, least of all the sailor, ever learned of it. He saw two great open barges being filled up with men, and, on inquiry, learned that these were grubless ones being rounded up and sent down the Yukon by the Committee of Safety. The barges were to be towed by the last little steamboat in Dawson, and the hope was that Fort Yukon, where lay the stranded steamboats, would be gained before the river froze. At any rate, no matter what happened to them, Dawson would be relieved of their grub-consuming presence. So to the Committee of Safety Charles went, privily to drop a flea in its ear concerning Tarwater’s grubless, moneyless, and aged condition. Tarwater was one of the last gathered in, and when Young Liverpool returned to the boat, from the bank he saw the barges in a run of cake-ice, disappearing around the bend below Moose-hide Mountain.
Running in cake-ice all the way, and several times escaping jams in the Yukon Flats, the barges made their hundreds of miles of progress farther into the north and froze up cheek by jowl with the grub-fleet. Here, inside the Arctic Circle, Old Tarwater settled down to pass the long winter. Several hours’ work a day, chopping firewood for the steamboat companies, sufficed to keep him in food. For the rest of the time there was nothing to do but hibernate in his log cabin.
Warmth, rest, and plenty to eat, cured his hacking cough and put him in as good physical condition as was possible for his advanced years. But, even before Christmas, the lack of fresh vegetables caused scurvy to break out, and disappointed adventurer after disappointed adventurer took to his bunk in abject surrender to this culminating misfortune. Not so Tarwater. Even before the first symptoms appeared on him, he was putting into practice his one prescription, namely, exercise. From the junk of the old trading post he resurrected a number of rusty traps, and from one of the steamboat captains he borrowed a rifle.
Thus equipped, he ceased from wood-chopping, and began to make more than a mere living. Nor was he downhearted when the scurvy broke out on his own body. Ever he ran his trap-lines and sang his ancient chant. Nor could the pessimist shake his surety of the three hundred thousand of Alaskan gold he as going to shake out of the moss-roots.
“But this ain’t gold-country,” they told him.
“Gold is where you find it, son, as I should know who was mining before you was born, ’way back in Forty-Nine,” was his reply. “What was Bonanza Creek but a moose-pasture? No miner’d look at it; yet they washed five-hundred-dollar pans and took out fifty million dollars. Eldorado was just as bad. For all you know, right under this here cabin, or right over the next hill, is millions just waiting for a lucky one like me to come and shake it out.”
At the end of January came his disaster. Some powerful animal that he decided was a bob-cat, managing to get caught in one of his smaller traps, dragged it away. A heavy snow-fall put a stop midway to his pursuit, losing the trail for him and losing himself. There were but several hours of daylight each day between the twenty hours of intervening darkness, and his efforts in the grey light and continually falling snow succeeded only in losing him more thoroughly. Fortunately, when winter snow falls in the Northland the thermometer invariably rises; so, instead of the customary forty and fifty and even sixty degrees below zero, the temperature remained fifteen below. Also, he was warmly clad and had a full matchbox. Further to mitigate his predicament, on the fifth day he killed a wounded moose that weighed over half a ton. Making his camp beside it on a spruce-bottom, he was prepared to last out the winter, unless a searching party found him or his scurvy grew worse.
But at the end of two weeks there had been no sign of search, while his scurvy had undeniably grown worse. Against his fire, banked from outer cold by a shelter-wall of spruce-boughs, he crouched long hours in sleep and long hours in waking. But the waking hours grew less, becoming semi-waking or half-dreaming hours as the process of hibernation worked their way with him. Slowly the sparkle point of consciousness and identity that was John Tarwater sank, deeper and deeper, into the profounds of his being that had been compounded ere man was man, and while he was becoming man, when he, first of all animals, regarded himself with an introspective eye and laid the beginnings of morality in foundations of nightmare peopled by the monsters of his own ethic-thwarted desires.
Like a man in fever, waking to intervals of consciousness, so Old Tarwater awoke, cooked his moose-meat, and fed the fire; but more and more time he spent in his torpor, unaware of what was day-dream and what was sleep-dream in the content of his unconsciousness. And here, in the unforgetable crypts of man’s unwritten history, unthinkable and unrealizable, like passages of nightmare or impossible adventures of lunacy, he encountered the monsters created of man’s first morality that ever since have vexed him into the spinning of fantasies to elude them or do battle with them.
In short, weighted by his seventy years, in the vast and silent loneliness of the North, Old Tarwater, as in the delirium of drug or anæsthetic, recovered within himself, the infantile mind of the child-man of the early world. It was in the dusk of Death’s fluttery wings that Tarwater thus crouched, and, like his remote forebear, the child-man, went to myth-making, and sun-heroizing, himself hero-maker and the hero in quest of the immemorable treasure difficult of attainment.
Either must he attain the treasure—for so ran the inexorable logic of the shadow-land of the unconscious—or else sink into the all-devouring sea, the blackness eater of the light that swallowed to extinction the sun each night . . . the sun that arose ever in rebirth next morning in the east, and that had become to man man’s first symbol of immortality through rebirth. All this, in the deeps of his unconsciousness (the shadowy western land of descending light), was the near dusk of Death down into which he slowly ebbed.
But how to escape this monster of the dark that from within him slowly swallowed him? Too deep-sunk was he to dream of escape or feel the prod of desire to escape. For him reality had ceased. Nor from within the darkened chamber of himself could reality recrudesce. His years were too heavy upon him, the debility of disease and the lethargy and torpor of the silence and the cold were too profound. Only from without could reality impact upon him and reawake within him an awareness of reality. Otherwise he would ooze down through the shadow-realm of the unconscious into the all-darkness of extinction.
But it came, the smash of reality from without, crashing upon his ear drums in a loud, explosive snort. For twenty days, in a temperature that had never risen above fifty below, no breath of wind had blown movement, no slightest sound had broken the silence. Like the smoker on the opium couch refocusing his eyes from the spacious walls of dream to the narrow confines of the mean little room, so Old Tarwater stared vague-eyed before him across his dying fire, at a huge moose that stared at him in startlement, dragging a wounded leg, manifesting all signs of extreme exhaustion; it, too, had been straying blindly in the shadow-land, and had wakened to reality only just ere it stepped into Tarwater’s fire.
He feebly slipped the large fur mitten lined with thickness of wool from his right hand. Upon trial he found the trigger finger too numb for movement. Carefully, slowly, through long minutes, he worked the bare hand inside his blankets, up under his fur parka, through the chest openings of his shirts, and into the slightly warm hollow of his left arm-pit. Long minutes passed ere the finger could move, when, with equal slowness of caution, he gathered his rifle to his shoulder and drew bead upon the great animal across the fire.
At the shot, of the two shadow-wanderers, the one reeled downward to the dark and the other reeled upward to the light, swaying drunkenly on his scurvy-ravaged legs, shivering with nervousness and cold, rubbing swimming eyes with shaking fingers, and staring at the real world all about him that had returned to him with such sickening suddenness. He shook himself together, and realized that for long, how long he did not know, he had bedded in the arms of Death. He spat, with definite intention, heard the spittle crackle in the frost, and judged it must be below and far below sixty below. In truth, that day at Fort Yukon, the spirit thermometer registered seventy-five degrees below zero, which, since freezing-point is thirty-two above, was equivalent to one hundred and seven degrees of frost.
Slowly Tarwater’s brain reasoned to action. Here, in the vast alone, dwelt Death. Here had come two wounded moose. With the clearing of the sky after the great cold came on, he had located his bearings, and he knew that both wounded moose had trailed to him from the east. Therefore, in the east, were men—whites or Indians he could not tell, but at any rate men who might stand by him in his need and help moor him to reality above the sea of dark.
He moved slowly, but he moved in reality, girding himself with rifle, ammunition, matches, and a pack of twenty pounds of moose-meat. Then, an Argus rejuvenated, albeit lame of both legs and tottery, he turned his back on the perilous west and limped into the sun-arising, re-birthing east. . . .
Days later—how many days later he was never to know—dreaming dreams and seeing visions, cackling his old gold-chant of Forty-Nine, like one drowning and swimming feebly to keep his consciousness above the engulfing dark, he came out upon the snow-slope to a canyon and saw below smoke rising and men who ceased from work to gaze at him. He tottered down the hill to them, still singing; and when he ceased from lack of breath they called him variously: Santa Claus, Old Christmas, Whiskers, the Last of the Mohicans, and Father Christmas. And when he stood among them he stood very still, without speech, while great tears welled out of his eyes. He cried silently, a long time, till, as if suddenly bethinking himself, he sat down in the snow with much creaking and crackling of his joints, and from this low vantage point toppled sidewise and fainted calmly and easily away.
In less than a week Old Tarwater was up and limping about the housework of the cabin, cooking and dish-washing for the five men of the creek. Genuine sourdoughs (pioneers) they were, tough and hard-bitten, who had been buried so deeply inside the Circle that they did not know there was a Klondike Strike. The news he brought them was their first word of it. They lived on an almost straight-meat diet of moose, caribou, and smoked salmon, eked out with wild berries and somewhat succulent wild roots they had stocked up with in the summer. They had forgotten the taste of coffee, made fire with a burning glass, carried live fire-sticks with them wherever they travelled, and in their pipes smoked dry leaves that bit the tongue and were pungent to the nostrils.
Three years before, they had prospected from the head-reaches of the Koyokuk northward and clear across to the mouth of the Mackenzie on the Arctic Ocean. Here, on the whaleships, they had beheld their last white men and equipped themselves with the last white man’s grub, consisting principally of salt and smoking tobacco. Striking south and west on the long traverse to the junction of the Yukon and Porcupine at Fort Yukon, they had found gold on this creek and remained over to work the ground.
They hailed the advent of Tarwater with joy, never tired of listening to his tales of Forty-Nine, and rechristened him Old Hero. Also, with tea made from spruce needles, with concoctions brewed from the inner willow bark, and with sour and bitter roots and bulbs from the ground, they dosed his scurvy out of him, so that he ceased limping and began to lay on flesh over his bony framework. Further, they saw no reason at all why he should not gather a rich treasure of gold from the ground.
“Don’t know about all of three hundred thousand,” they told him one morning, at breakfast, ere they departed to their work, “but how’d a hundred thousand do, Old Hero? That’s what we figure a claim is worth, the ground being badly spotted, and we’ve already staked your location notices.”
“Well, boys,” Old Tarwater answered, “and thanking you kindly, all I can say is that a hundred thousand will do nicely, and very nicely, for a starter. Of course, I ain’t goin’ to stop till I get the full three hundred thousand. That’s what I come into the country for.”
They laughed and applauded his ambition and reckoned they’d have to hunt a richer creek for him. And Old Hero reckoned that as the spring came on and he grew spryer, he’d have to get out and do a little snooping around himself.
“For all anybody knows,” he said, pointing to a hillside across the creek bottom, “the moss under the snow there may be plumb rooted in nugget gold.”
He said no more, but as the sun rose higher and the days grew longer and warmer, he gazed often across the creek at the definite bench-formation half way up the hill. And, one day, when the thaw was in full swing, he crossed the stream and climbed to the bench. Exposed patches of ground had already thawed an inch deep. On one such patch he stopped, gathered a bunch of moss in his big gnarled hands, and ripped it out by the roots. The sun smouldered on dully glistening yellow. He shook the handful of moss, and coarse nuggets, like gravel, fell to the ground. It was the Golden Fleece ready for the shearing.
Not entirely unremembered in Alaskan annals is the summer stampede of 1898 from Fort Yukon to the bench diggings of Tarwater Hill. And when Tarwater sold his holdings to the Bowdie interests for a sheer half-million and faced for California, he rode a mule over a new-cut trail, with convenient road houses along the way, clear to the steamboat landing at Fort Yukon.
At the first meal on the ocean-going steamship out of St. Michaels, a waiter, greyish-haired, pain-ravaged of face, scurvy-twisted of body, served him. Old Tarwater was compelled to look him over twice in order to make certain he was Charles Crayton.
“Got it bad, eh, son?” Tarwater queried.
“Just my luck,” the other complained, after recognition and greeting. “Only one of the party that the scurvy attacked. I’ve been through hell. The other three are all at work and healthy, getting grub-stake to prospect up White River this winter. Anson’s earning twenty-five a day at carpentering, Liverpool getting twenty logging for the saw-mill, and Big Bill’s getting forty a day as chief sawyer. I tried my best, and if it hadn’t been for scurvy . . .”
“Sure, son, you done your best, which ain’t much, you being naturally irritable and hard from too much business. Now I’ll tell you what. You ain’t fit to work crippled up this way. I’ll pay your passage with the captain in kind remembrance of the voyage you gave me, and you can lay up and take it easy the rest of the trip. And what are your circumstances when you land at San Francisco?”
Charles Crayton shrugged his shoulders.
“Tell you what,” Tarwater continued. “There’s work on the ranch for you till you can start business again.”
“I could manage your business for you—” Charles began eagerly.
“No, siree,” Tarwater declared emphatically. “But there’s always post-holes to dig, and cordwood to chop, and the climate’s fine . . . ”
Tarwater arrived home a true prodigal grandfather for whom the fatted calf was killed and ready. But first, ere he sat down at table, he must stroll out and around. And sons and daughters of his flesh and of the law needs must go with him fulsomely eating out of the gnarled old hand that had half a million to disburse. He led the way, and no opinion he slyly uttered was preposterous or impossible enough to draw dissent from his following. Pausing by the ruined water wheel which he had built from the standing timber, his face beamed as he gazed across the stretches of Tarwater Valley, and on and up the far heights to the summit of Tarwater Mountain—now all his again.
A thought came to him that made him avert his face and blow his nose in order to hide the twinkle in his eyes. Still attended by the entire family, he strolled on to the dilapidated barn. He picked up an age-weathered single-tree from the ground.
“William,” he said. “Remember that little conversation we had just before I started to Klondike? Sure, William, you remember. You told me I was crazy. And I said my father’d have walloped the tar out of me with a single-tree if I’d spoke to him that way.”
“Aw, but that was only foolin’,” William temporized.
William was a grizzled man of forty-five, and his wife and grown sons stood in the group, curiously watching Grandfather Tarwater take off his coat and hand it to Mary to hold.
“William—come here,” he commanded imperatively.
No matter how reluctantly, William came.
“Just a taste, William, son, of what my father give me often enough,” Old Tarwater crooned, as he laid on his son’s back and shoulders with the single-tree. “Observe, I ain’t hitting you on the head. My father had a gosh-wollickin’ temper and never drew the line at heads when he went after tar.—Don’t jerk your elbows back that way! You’re likely to get a crack on one by accident. And just tell me one thing, William, son: is there nary notion in your head that I’m crazy?”
“No!” William yelped out in pain, as he danced about. “You ain’t crazy, father of course you ain’t crazy!”
“You said it,” Old Tarwater remarked sententiously, tossing the single-tree aside and starting to struggle into his coat. “Now let’s all go in and eat.”

THE END.


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