"In the Time of Prince Charley" and other stories by Jack London

by Jack London

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. IN THE TIME OF PRINCE CHARLEY (1899) After the decisive Battle of Culloden in 1746 that put an end to Scottish dreams of independance a British officer escorts the captured Prince Charlie through the highlands to a rendezvous with a ship, but opposition from fierce Highlanders and the wiles of a woman have to be dealt with. (5,100 words). [1]

2. THE REJUVENATION OF MAJOR RATHBONE (1899) A chemist shows the narrator a phial of lymph compound that he has developed to prevent the wearing out of cell, nerve and bone tissues, and shows him its effect on his sixteen-year-old dog, who rushes about as lively as a puppy. When the treatment is meted out to his aged Uncle Max and then to Max’s lady friend Aunt Debby, the results were spectacular! (4,000 words) [2].

3. TO REPEL BOARDERS (1902) Two boys in a sailboat are chatting about how adventurous life must have been in the days of the pirates when they’re attacked by fishermen who’re furious with them for having run through their nets. In the fight to repel them the boys quite lose their nostalgia for the excitement of piratical times. (2,300 words). [3]

4. MOON-FACE (1902) The narrator just can’t stand his neighbour because he’s always smiling and happy and openly enjoys life in general, so he undertakes increasingly drastic and ultimately explosive measures to put a stop to this disagreeable (to him) state of affairs. (2,200 words). [4]

5. WHITE AND YELLOW (1905) A possibly-autobiographical account of a raid by the Fish Patrol on a fleet of boats illegally fishing shrimps in San Francisco Bay. The surprise attack works well, but the youthful narrator finds himself in serious difficulty trying to take a boatload of prisoners back to shore. (3,900 words) [5]

6. CHARLEY’S COUP (1905) A resourceful pair of youngsters on the San Francisco Fish Patrol have to try to enforce the local law against salmon-netting on Sundays, but are up against a well-organized band of fish pirates all armed with modern rifles and more than willing to use them. (4,700 words) [6]

7. YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF (1905) The young narrator has finished his two-year stint in the Fish Patrol and is leaving to take up his studies again. But on the way back they run into an illegal shrimp-fishing boat and he has to escort the fish-pirates, led by his mortal enemy, to shore. This last trip turns out to be the worst and scariest of them all. (5,000 words) [7]

8. CREATED HE THEM (1907) A showdown between two brothers, one of whom has come to take the other – whose addiction to whiskey has ruined the life of his wife and children as well as his own – away to an institution for alcoholics for good. (3,700 words). [8]

9. THE GOAT MAN OF FUATINO (1911) The trader David Grief arrives at the island of Fuatino only to be informed that pirates had occupied the island, killed many of the men and captured many of the women. David and his crew provide arms to the surviving natives and launch an all-out attack, but the heavily-armed pirates recoil at nothing. (9,550 words). [9]

10. TOLD IN THE DROOLING WARD (1914) The narrator tells us about life in the Institution, about the time he was adopted and had escaped back to the Institute, about the time he ran away and how happy everyone was when he came back, about his marriage prospects, and more. (3,900 words). [10]

11. THE RED ONE (1916) An enormous peal of cosmic proportions rings out at regular intervals from the unexplored interior of Guadalcanal. A geologist who hears it penetrates into the mountains to investigate, where he eventually discovers that the natives worship a mysterious huge red sphere from where the strange sounds emanate and to where they bring sacrificial victims. (10,000 words). [11]

12. THE BONES OF KAHEKILI (1916) An ancient Hawaiian servant recounts to his ranch-owner a story of pagan bone-worship and ritual murder in the far-away days before the arrival of Western missionaries changed Hawaiian society forever. (8,900 words). [12]


e-books containing all of these stories are available for downloading below




1. IN THE TIME OF PRINCE CHARLEY

"YOU say you love me better than life I don’t believe it."
It is impossible to put to paper the faint, very faint Highland accent–an accent which never ceased to charm my ear; and long afterward often roused me from my sleep, playing the responsive chords of memory like mellow strains from some old song.
"Better than life? No, no, it cannot be."
"I would to God there were a test," I answered, pressing her closer, till, with a sudden impulse, she touched my neck with her lips. "You have but to ask, and I fulfill."
"Suppose, then, just suppose I ask you to be false to your duty?"
"Such would be asking more than life; ’twould be honor."
"But would you?" she persisted. Her warm breath faded from neck as she raised her head and gazed into my eyes.
"Love would not ask it."
"Suppose he were my father?"
Prince Charley her father! I smiled at the supposition, as I answered. "But you have no father. Still, I would not, could not. Now let me suppose. Suppose you were I, and I were you, and he my father." (I did not dare mention the prisoner’s name, for she still thought him Roderick Mackenzie, the unfortunate merchant of Edinburgh.) "Suppose all this, and that I should ask of you such a favor?"
"Then would I say, ’Yours to ask; mine to fulfill.’O you men! Spendthrifts with vows and fine speeches! Yesterday you breathed the sweet phrases in some other lassie’s ear; to-morrow—aye, to-morrow, you may deem them fit for the first snoodless maid you meet."
With glowing cheeks and flashing eyes, she sprang away and faced me. Her years in England and on the continent were flown, and the wild blood of her Highland ancestry sounded the charge. I could almost see the deadly claymore flashing above plaid and tartan, and hear the clangs of the gillies, charging with their chiefs, as I had seen and heard at Preston-Pans. For a moment Aline stood thus, then the fire eloquently melted to a luminous softness. Oh! the seductive abandon! At the instant I was so swayed that hell held no abyss too deep to venture. I had been so long in the field with drunken brawlers, an alien to the better parts of man or woman, that this clean, wholesome maid well-nigh carried me away. But I had gone through a hard school untarnished, and though I loved her dearly, I could not besmirch my plume, even in giddy love-chatter–for such it was.
"O you men!" she went on. "You have passion and honor, but love, ah! love, that is reserved for us. Passion and honor, our dearest hopes, our brightest dreams, are lost, all lost, when we love–no, not lost, but bent to do love’s bidding. When we love, we give all–body and soul–all we possess or ever hope to possess. As Raleigh spread his cloak in the mire, so would I my body, that he, for whom my heart beats, might tread upon it and pass over, dry-shod. O Griffith–you–-I–".
The high-strung creature broke down, bursting into a storm of tears on my shoulder. There she sobbed till a knock from the inner chamber interrupted us. As I had dismissed Jeannie for the night, I must wait upon the prince myself; so I hastily kissed away her dear tears, and went to the door–and just in time, for I could hear my lieutenant’s boots on the stairway.
It were meet that I here set down how I, Griffith Risingham, captain to our good king George II, find myself protagonist (as my old tutor would say) in the scene just described–alternating between hysterical love rhapsodies and gaol duty; now wooing the daughter of a Highland wef, and again tending the wants of my princely prisoner.
From ’42 to ’45 I had served on the Continent with the allied armies, now of Germany and England, now of Holland, Austria and England. Our campaign in Flanders was brought to a close by the defeat of Fontenoy, when because of the threatened French invasion and the Jacobin Uprising in Scotland, King George summoned all his soldiers home.
Of a surety, three years of hard fighting merited a rest; but I was at once dispatched into Scotland with my troop, for the Highlands were aflame and Prince Charley was marching on Edinburgh. The very day I joined Cope came the miserable defeat of Preston-Pans, and my wearied troopers were scattered as chaff before the four winds of heaven. Whatever became of them I do not know, for I barely succeeded in collecting a remnant of five score.
Then came the retreat, then the advance, and the sun shone on our arms at Culloden. Our soldiers fought like demons, and when the Scottish line wavered and broke they gave no quarter, lining the ways as far as Inverness with dead. From this slaughter I was there to the pursuit of the Pretender and the laying waste of the rebellious territory. With fire and sword we harried Prince Charley’s steps, harking back to old scents from the false ones given us by the perfidious mountaineers. With thirty thousand pounds on his head, small wonder we failed to dally by the way.
By the middle of July, though my men were clamorous for hastening to join Campbell and Scot who, with a thousand men, were rumored to have surrounded the prince. At the same time a little incident occurred, which was quickly noised abroad. A half score of my troopers, while beating up the desolate stretch of land known as the Braes of Glenmoriston, came upon a skulker whom they took to be the prince. In a trice they were speeding to Fort Augustus with his head, bent on receiving the thirty thousand pounds. In truth this poor devil was none other than Roderick Mackenzie, a strong Jacobin who was waiting a chance to escape overseas. In consequence of this report, the pursuit languished; and there were few, if any, of the men who had the Pretender surrounded, but believed him to be already taken. It was due to this and his good fortune, that he slipped past the English campfires and headed for the Braes of Glenmoriston, in the hope of meeting Lochiel.
It was thus of a drizzly afternoon I encountered him. And no pleasant sight he was, when one thought of his proud lineage. Little did this barefooted, bewhiskered renegade, in dirty shirt and ragged plaid, resemble Charles Edward, heir-apparent to the worse than worthy crown of James II. He was heavily armed–a gun in his hand and dirk and pistol at his belt–but misery and hardship had broken his spirit, and he gave no trouble; and for private reasons, he so comported self that my troopers never learned his identity, believing him Roderick Mackenzie. Nor was I anxious that they should, for I recollected the treachery of the knaves who had fled to Fort Augustus with their bootless trophy instead of coming to me.
Leaving the pursuit to go on unchecked, I withdrew with my royal prisoner to Colin na Gaugh, a miserable fishing village of several hundred souls, situated on the mainland opposite the Isle of Skye. It was my intention to wait here the coming of the king’s ship, Balmoral, which expected at any moment; for the Highlands were still smoldering, and in this way I deemed it easier to bring my prisoner to England.
The fishers stolidly eyed our entry, and naught but sullen brows and smothered curses served to greet us. Though the prince was unknown to them, they guessed him to be some Jacobin refugee and sympathized accordingly. But as I looked over my sturdy lads, weatherbeaten and battle-scarred by a dozen continental campaigns, I was sure little trouble would be given us; besides, I half forgave the poor devils, for our flag had never gone among them save with fire and sword and the plundering of a licentious soldiery. Verily, they had just cause for bitterness.
For all its dog-hole hovels, the town did a fair coastwise, and as I afterward learned, overseas trade. A very fair hostelry was the result, and in this I purposed quartering, after allotting my men among the villagers.
It was here I met Aline. As we rode up, a crowd about the door of the inn and a hubbub of voices gave sign of some unusual happening. The innkeeper’s face was flushed with anger, while the strident tones of his wife rose higher and higher; but they could not drown the sharp voice of a Lowland woman, who gave her as good as she sent. Right well they fought with their tongues, cutting and thrusting with rare vigor. Red with shame, Aline was vainly trying to draw her duenna away, for such was this Lowland female with acrid tongue. I could see they were strangers, evidently in trouble, so I called a gillie to my stirrup for an explanation. With the aid of the prince, who was better versed in the outlandish gibberish, I learned that they had but lately come into these parts; that they were without money, nobody knew them, and the landlord was putting them out.
I sprang from my saddle. Aline was a lady—a lout could see that, and in trouble. My troopers cleared the street, while I so settled with the knavish landlord that his knees were knocking with fright when I finally dismissed him. Aline and her duenna, a Mrs. Saunders, quickly reinstalled, and I was favored with the former’s presence at the table. She was a frank, winning lass, and threw herself completely on my honor, telling me all the circumstances of her trouble and about herself.
Her father was a certain Lord Kilmarnock, who had died across seas, in exile for the part his clan had played in a previous uprising. The latter part of her childhood had been spent in England; then she had joined her father. It was plain their peregrinations to the various foreign courts had rounded her education and polished her manners; but nevertheless, these sat quaintly upon her-and charmingly so, for never had I yet seen her like.
Her brother, a mere boy who had been wholly reared abroad, had drawn his sword for the Stuarts and crossed with Prince Charley at the commencement of the rebellion. Torn with suspense for his safety, and the knowledge that he must be fleeing for his life somewhere in this bleak wilderness, had decided her. Thus her adventures had begun. First, she had gone through the military prisons; then, convinced that he was still at large and most likely in the neighborhood of the prince, she had taken passage on a lugger up the east coast to the Isle of Skye. Disappointed here, she crossed the mainland in a fishing boat and penetrated the fastnesses of Lochiel’s territory. She had met this great chieftain and he had treated her most courteously, advising her to try in the direction of Colin na Gaugh. He himself was in hiding and powerless to aid her.
Crossing the pass of Ben-Moidart, her servant was killed and she was robbed of everything, even to her father’s brooch, by a band of knaves whose description seemed to tally with my soldiers who had run away with Roderick Mackenzie’s head. She had managed to make Colin na Gaugh, and as to her trouble with the innkeeper, had I not witnessed it myself? Through all these vicissitudes, the faithful Mrs. Saunders had accompanied her; and by this voluble female she had been preserved more than once. Aline had kinsmen in England who were bound to help her she said, and to them I promised to take her, at the same time thanking the gods for the privilege. She had given up finding her brother, who had doubtless already crossed the water, or else was in hiding with the prince. It was apparent she had not seen the prince abroad, or if she had, had forgotten his face.
So this is how Prince Charley, Aline and Mrs. Saunders, my lieutenant and myself, came to take up our abode in the same inn, the which was destined to lead to strange complications.
But a word of Julian Ramsay, my lieutenant. We had been in harness nearly a year now, yet I had not really come to know him. He was of good stock, a gentleman, a good soldier, and brave, but–well, it seemed he had mistaken his calling. He was too stiff, too good, too gloomy for a camp life. In him the church would have found a wonderful servant. Withal, he was a clever swordsman and a handsome fellow, just the sort to break women’s hearts; but his taciturnity and habitual coldness seemed to belie all this. In short, while we made our plans and discussed all moves together, we were not what could be called brothers-in-arms.
I was a little fearful of Aline at first, and was at a loss how to proceed. Hers was such a queer, quaint blend of girlish innocence and of woman’s knowledge of the world. But we soon fell into each other’s ways, and a delightful tenderness began to mark our intercourse,— nay, we became very dear to each other, living only for the present, and shunning all thoughts of the future.
And the gods were propitious. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Saunders gave no trouble, having fallen into a deep study of the New Testament from which she rarely emerged, save to thrill our blood with Calvinistic diatribes on the sins of the flesh and the woes of the spirit. As for the prince, he was a jolly good fellow, sympathizing with us in a fatherly way and playing the role of unfortunate merchant to perfection. Once only did we clash, and that when he spoke of his good friend Louis Quatorze, the advancement a soldier of my ability would gain in his service, and a possible fifty thousand pounds I might receive did I act with discretion. I am afraid I shut him up rather bluntly; but the next morning saw him more affable than ever and he showed no sign of bearing me ill-will.
But Julian Ramsay bothered me not a little. He became sullen, his austerity increased, and he glowered blackly whenever he came upon Aline and myself together. Once I chanced upon him wrestling with the spirit; and the sight of the strong soldier down on the floor, groaning wailing and raising his plaint to heaven, caused a strange fear to come over me. It is not good that a gentleman and a soldier to the king should take upon himself the work of the priest. Another time we had sharp words, for he took our inaction with a very ill grace, and was for heading the troop across the Highlands into England instead of waiting for the Balmoral.
One other thing I must mention, which occurred before the scene I have first described. One evening, returning from a visit to the rumored hiding place of Lochiel, I came upon Aline in conversation with a stalwart-looking Highlander. I caught one fair sight of a bearded face and fierce black eyes. Before I could lay hands upon him he slipped away in the darkness, and though my troopers beat up the moor with care, they could get no sign of the knave.
I did not know what to think. At first I thought of treachery; but Aline frankly confessed, telling me the fellow had brought news of her brother from Lochiel, and that our appearance had frightened him away. On hearing this, I promised her, if she could get word to her brother, and if he came in, that I would do my best and was sure I could gain his pardon. I was safe in this, for I knew my high kinsman could command the power, and would when I turned over my royal prisoner in England.
About the middle of September, word was brought by a fisher of two French ships seen off Moidart, evidently waiting a chance to embark the prince. But so well had his identity been covered that I feared nothing, and several days later brought the Balmoral into harbor.
Since her outbreak Aline had become more tender. Methinks she had grown sadder, too, though always had she a sweet smile and a loving word for me. I once found her in tears, and another time she wept upon my shoulder as though her heart were breaking. However, I attributed it to a girlish sentiment, which was natural, deeming her the sweeter for her pensiveness.
On the day we were to embark, news came that Lochiel was drawing to the coast in an attempt to get away on one of the French ships. He was said to have a large following, so I dispatched Ramsay with nearly the whole troop to intercept him, reserving but half a dozen men for the prince’s guard.
Then Aline began to beg me not to go aboard till next morning, and so well did she plead for just one more quiet hour together that I consented, having been informed by the captain of the Balmoral that the tide would not favor till high noon.
Early in the evening the innkeeper delivered a verbal message he had just received from a gillie belonging to Lochiel’s clan. He said the messenger was a foolish, ignorant lad, so fearful of being carried away in the king’s ship, that he had scurried off at once. The import was that Aline’s brother, having received her word and resolved to come in, had fallen sick not over eight miles away, in the hut of one Dougald, a fisherman. She was overjoyed at the news, and I sent four of my lads to bring him in.
After a rubber of whist the prince retired, leaving us to ourselves; and for a long while we sat in dreamy silence, pleasuring in the mere clasp of hands. Never before had I realized the sweet bliss of such a silence, and never again do I hope to enjoy the like. We heard the ship’s bell strike again and again; but shortly after six bells, one of my remaining men stumbled up the stairway and knocked at the door. A beacon had been lighted on the great bluff back of Colin na Gaugh, and he had come to call my attention to it. It was a signal of some sort. As the disturbed times gave the smugglers the run of the coast, they were not to be thought of.
Perhaps half an hour later I heard steps on the stairs. They could not have returned so soon I thought; but before I could rise Aline sprang into my arms in a frightened manner, almost as though she divined what was coming. I strove to put her aside, but she wound her arms about my neck. Even then I did not understand. It was the tread of many men. The door opened as I sprang to my feet, and I caught a glimpse of the black-bearded Highlander, of French uniforms, and the glint of candlelight on naked claymore and cutlass. I tried to tear Aline away, but she clung the closer, twining her limbs about mine and preventing me drawing my pistol.
"Don’t hurt him!" she cried. "O don’t hurt him!"
But I swore heavily, threw her against the table from where she still cried for them to not hurt me, and backed against the prince’s door. The circle of steel drew closer. Though I saw no hope, I beat back the points fiercely, and would doubtless have left my body on the threshold had not the prince thrown open the door and laid me by the heels. Then the gang swept over me.
“O don’t, please don’t hurt him!" cried Aline again.
Then somebody clouted me over the head with the flat of a cutlass, and I was dragged to one side.
I was not badly stunned, for when I opened my eyes, the prince – just leaving, with a French officer and a chieftain on either hand. I was still so dazed I could not gain my feet. And well I had cause to be, for there, in the black-beard’s arms, lips to lips, nestled Aline. Only a second’s space, then he put her down. She made as though to come to me, but he threw his arm about her waist and dragged her away.
The town was in an uproar, I could hear them beating to quarters on the Balmoral. Then came a roar of hoofs down the rocky street, the rattle of small-arms and clash of steel. Julian Ramsay had returned.
I staggered down the stairs into the inn-yard. In the bright moonlight I could see the last boat push off from the beach, and those on the shore raking them with a sharp fire. The Balmoral began to fire her six-pounders and lower her boats, but as far as we were concerned, the battle was over—over and lost!
"By the saints, you’ve done well! Where’s Aline?"
Ramsay had come up, and the troopers were crowding round. I wiped away the blood which persisted in streaming into my eyes laughed,—aye, loud, and heartily, and bitterly. At another time I would have laid the flat of my sword across his priest’s face for his insolence here, but now he could have wiped his bloody hands on her petticoat and I would still have laughed.
Half a score of prisoners, French sailors, and Lochiel’s Highlander were brought before me.
"Turn them loose," I ordered. "But—"expostulated Ramsay. "Turn them loose," I repeated.
"You’ll reckon dear for this—"
"By God! I’ll have you know I’m captain here!" I burst out, then "Pshaw! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
The soldiers were perplexed, and several on the outskirts began to snicker an accompaniment to my mirth. Then two of them brought Aline. Her lover had evidently lost her in the fight.
"Turn her loose," I commanded.
They saluted and fell back, leaving her alone in the center of circle with Ramsay and myself. I remember the scene perfectly; herj pale face, Ramsay’s flushed with anger, the ring of soldiers, and especially one, engaged in cinching his arm above a great slash on the wrist. He had paused with the knot half drawn, one end of the kerchief between his teeth, his eyes fixed upon me with an amused, expectant look. The blood ran down his saddle and dripped, dripped, on the soggy dirt between his horse’s hoofs.
I was quite calm. The whole trick was clear now, from the innkeeper putting her out of the house, to the bearded Highlander and the escape of Prince Charley. What would my high kinsman say? Thirty thousand pounds, a glorious chance for advancement, a sweetheart, honor—tricked of everything! Yet I was very calm, even curious of the outcome.
She stepped toward me, but I waved her back.
"Griffith—I—if I can explain—"
"If you can explain!" I cried. "There shall come a day when Judas Iscariot shall explain away his thirty pieces of silver, and on that day, so may you your kisses. You told me once what you would do for a man’s sake. I was a fool. I deemed myself that man. So, you lay in my arms, breathed on me your caresses and your lies—pfaugh! you wanton!"
She took it quietly, but when my teeth cut that last, harsh word, she cried, "No! No! Not that!" and reeled softly, as about to fall.
Unwittingly, I stretched forth my arm to catch her, but Ramsay struck me back on the breast.
"Cur!" he said, meanwhile drawing her against him. "But lay your hand on her, and I will forget all things, save that you—"
"Are your captain and a cur." I was minded to pay him, but wished first my say. "Softly, softly, I pray you. So? Another lover? I wot not she wasted many hours on you; aye, perhaps my troopers, too. Hildgart! Come thou here."
The huge fellow slipped from the saddle, strode awkwardly forward, and saluted with a foolish grin on his face.
"Knowest thou this woman? Hast listened to her devil-singing? Hast kissed light kisses from her lips? or rumpled her pretty hair with that bear’s paw of yours? Look closely, belike you may remember. No? Strange, passing strange. Mayhap she overlooked you among so many braw lads. Begone, since thou dost not know her!"
So I had it in mind to say many bitter things and cut her harshly, for my heart was sore; but Ramsay hurled his cap in my face and bade me draw.
"As there is a God above, I am going to kill you, Griffith Risingham."
So spoke Ramsay. He believed it; so did I. I fought carefully, drawing strange satisfaction from prolonging the game. There was nothing to live for. Death seemed even welcome. And he was a clever swordsman, taught in the Italian school. I had no hope, felt that I could not touch him.
The circle widened. Strive as I would, I failed to break his guard. Then I worked him round till the moon shone in his eyes; but he seemed not to mind it, as though sure of the outcome. Right carefully I watched his eyes, for I feared his Italian tricks. Then suddenly, piff!—his hand had not followed his eye, and I, misled, felt my ribs turn aside the steel. I knew I had met my master. It is the devil who can work hand and eye apart.
Twice he pinked me sharply, and I grew weak, losing much blood. At last he worked me into the moonlight. I knew the end was at hand—a feint, a quick cross and engagement, then a twist, and the blade jerked from my hand. Up came his sword for the final pass. I caught a glimpse of Aline over his shoulder. She was praying. I noticed the trooper, with the knot half drawn and the kerchief still in his teeth.
But the gods loved me. His arm fell to his side; a stream of blood gushed from his mouth; and he sank down slowly, O so slowly. Then the circle began to fade away, to grow misty. The trooper drew the knot tight and doubled it. The show was over—the play-actors left the stage.
A year later found me in France on a secret mission. The real history of Prince Charley’s escape had never become known, and the days I held him at Colin na Gaugh he was popularly supposed to have spent in the romantic refuge called the "Cage." Nay, I am told that to-day this place is still pointed out by the Scottish guides. So be it. My high kinsman never knew, and one more blunder may be accredited to history. On my return, the king saw fit to reward me for my services.
Julian Ramsay still sleeps in the bleak fisher-village. As I afterward learned, his death was due to a ball through the lungs, received in the fight on the beach, just before our duel. Poor devil! I was harsh and unjust to him and her that night. If he had loved her, he had kept his secret well. But a bitter heart says bitter things. As for her—I had not seen her again. My surgeon drove her away from me, and the troopers put her out of the inn.
Ah! if I could only forget her! And forgive her? I had forgiven her all but one. As I held my allegiance to King George above love, above all things, just so had she been true to her father, to the cause he died for, and to Prince Charley. I could understand and forgive that, but—that black-bearded Highland lover! Ah, why could I not forget her? Why should I still dream of her, and hear her voice, and see her as in the old days?
So I picked my way along the dark street, forgetting my mission, musing over bygones. It was early evening, and Paris still hummed with life.
I could see ahead of me another pedestrian,—a gentleman and a soldier, if I mistook not his carriage. He walked idly, and I soon overtook him. One glance and we knew each other. It was the Highlander, though his beard was gone.
"Ha! comrade!" he cried gayly in English, holding forth his hand.
"Comrade? Nay; I owe you too much for that," I answered hotly. For I was wroth at this man, permitting, even for his prince, such liberty as he had to Aline.
"Not so," was his reply; "tis I am debtor, and to something like thirty thousand pounds. You lost that. So?—but such is war. Yet had you gained the heart’s desire, had you so willed."
"In your teeth, your cast-off tinsel toys!" I cried. "Your heart’s desires! In my country we do not bandy such things from man to man." (As I wished, this seemed to cut him for he started and looked at me sharply.) "In my country, we treat our toys more wholesomely; but you—if you are a man, draw!"
"Strange, strange; I had not thought of that," he mused, half aloud.
"Come," I sneered; "or must I put the poltroon’s badge upon you?"
"Softly, softly; there is a new edict anent the duello, and Louis does not greatly favor foreign adventurers. Yet will I give you satisfaction; but first my affairs. On my honor, I meditate no wrong. Come with me, that I may say goodbye to one, near of kin. Then I will lead you to a quiet place, where all differences may be meetly settled."
I nodded curtly, and we set off. This Highlander, without the Highland brogue, was no coward. And Aline—was he leading me to her that he might say good-bye? At last we came to broader streets and entered an old-fashioned stone house.
Pausing before a door on the second landing, he said, "I must have a few words with my servant. My sister will entertain you till my return."
He pushed me in and closed the door. And there, bending over an embroidery frame, her face a little thinner, a little sadder than of yore, was Aline. I looked about, as though for a second person. was none.
What a fool I had been! Would she, could she ever forgive me? An hour later he returned.
"Pardon my delay," he said, advancing to me. "We will now step into the courtyard. A very quiet place, I assure you, and—"
But the breach between the House of Stuart and the House of Hanover was forgotten in an embrace, such as is sometimes becoming between men.


2. THE REJUVENATION OF MAJOR RATHBONE

"ALCHEMY was a magnificent dream, fascinating, impossible; but before it passed away there sprang from its loins a more marvelous child, none other than chemistry. More marvelous, because it substituted fact for fancy, and immensely widened man’s realm of achievement. It has turned probability into possibility, and from the ideal it has fashioned the real. Do you follow me?"
Dover absently hunted for a match, at the same time regarding me with a heavy seriousness which instantly called to my mind Old Doc Frawley, our clinical lecturer of but a few years previous. I nodded assent, and he, having appropriately wreathed himself in smoke, went on with his discourse.
"Alchemy has taught us many things, while not a few of its visions have been realized by us in these latter days. The Elixir of Life was absurd, perpetual youth a rank negation of the very principle of life. But—"
Dover here paused with exasperating solemnity.
"But prolongation of life is too common an incident nowadays for any one to question. Not so very long ago, a ’generation’ represented thirty-three years, the average duration of human existence. Today, because of the rapid strides of medicine, sanitation, distribution, and so forth, a ’generation’ is reckoned at thirty-four years. By the time of our great-grandchildren, it may have increased to forty years. Quien sabe? And again, we ourselves may see it actually doubled."
’Ah!" he cried, observing my start. "You see what I am driving at?"
"Yes," I replied. "But—"
"Never mind the ’buts," he burst in autocratically. "You ossified conservatives have always hung back at the coat-tails of science"
"And as often saved it from breaking its neck," I retaliated.
"Just hold your horses a minute, and let me go on. What is life? Schopenhauer has defined it as the affirmation of the will to live, which is a philosophical absurdity, by the way, but with which we have no concern. Now, what is death? Simply the wearing out, the exhaustion, the breaking down, of the cells, tissues, nerves, bones and muscles of the human organism. Surgeons find great difficulty in knitting the broken bones of elderly people. Why? Because the bone, weakened, approaching the stage of dissolution, is no longer able to cast off the mineral deposits thrust in upon it by the natural functions of the body. And how easily such a bone is fractured! Yet, were it possible to remove the large deposits of phosphate, carbonate of soda, and so forth, the bone would regain the spring and rebound which it possessed in its youth.
"Merely apply this process, in varying measures, to the rest of the anatomy, and you have what? Simply the retardation of the system’s break-up, the circumvention of old age, the banishment of senility, and the recapture of giddy youth. If science has prolonged the life of the generation by one year, is it not equally possible that it may prolong that of the individual by many?"
To turn back the dial of life, to reverse the hour-glass of Time and run its golden sands anew—the audacity of it fascinated me. What was to prevent? If one year, why not twenty? Forty?
Pshaw! I was just beginning to smile at my credulity when Dover pulled open the drawer beside him and brought to view a metal-stoppered vial. I confess to a sharp pang of disappointment as I gazed upon the very ordinary liquid it contained a heavy, almost colorless fluid, with none of the brilliant iridescence one would so naturally expect of such a magic compound. He shook it lovingly, almost caressingly; but there was no manifestation of its occult properties. Then he pressed open a black leather case and nodded suggestively at the hypodermic syringe on its velvet bed. The Brown-Sequard Elixir and Koch’s experiments with lymph darted across my mind. I smiled with cheery doubtfulness; but he, divining my thought, made haste to say, "No, they were on the right road, but missed it."
He opened an inner door of the laboratory and called "Hector! Come, old fellow, come on!"
Hector was a superannuated Newfoundland who had for years been utterly worthless for anything save lying around in people’s way, and in this he was an admirable success. Conceive my astonishment when a heavy, burly animal rushed in like a whirlwind and upset things generally till finally quelled by his master. Dover looked eloquently at me, without speaking.
"But that—that isn’t Hector!" I cried, doubting against doubt.
He turned up the under side of the animal’s ear, and I saw two hard-lipped slits, mementoes of his wild young fighting days, when his master and I were mere lads ourselves. I remembered the wounds perfectly.
"Sixteen years old and as lively as a puppy." Dover beamed triumphantly. "I’ve been experimenting on him for two months. Nobody knows as yet, but won’t they open their eyes when Hector runs abroad again! The plain matter of fact is I’ve given new lease of life with the lymph injection—same lymph as that used by earlier investigators, only they failed to clarify their compounds while I have succeeded. What is it? An animal derivative to stay and remove the effects of senility by acting upon the stagnated life-cells of any animal organism. Take the anatomical changes in Hector here, produced by infusion of the lymph compound; in the main they may be characterized as the expulsion from the bones of mineral deposits and an infiltration of the muscular tissues. Of course there are minor considerations; but these I have also overcome, not, however, without the unfortunate demise of several of my earlier animal subjects. I could not bring myself to work on Hector till failure had been eliminated from the problem. And now—"
He rose to his feet and paced excitedly up and down. It was some time before he took up his uncompleted thought.
"And now I am prepared to administer this rejuvenator to humans. And I propose, first of all, to work on one who is very dear to me"
"Not—not—?" I quavered.
Yes, Uncle Max. That’s why I have called in your assistance. I have found discovery capping discovery, till now the process of rejuvenation has become so accelerated that I am afraid of myself. Besides, Uncle Max is so very old that the greatest discretion is necessary. Such crucial transformations in the whole organism of an age-weakened body can only be brought about by the most drastic methods, and there is great need to be careful. As I have said, I have grown afraid of myself, and need another mind to hold me in check. Do you understand? Will you help me?"
I have introduced the above conversation with my friend Dover Wallingford to show by what means I was led into one of the strangest scientific experiences of my life. Of the utterly unheard-of things that followed, the village has not yet ceased to talk upon and wonder. And as the village is unacquainted with the real facts in the case, it has been stirred to its profoundest depths by the untoward happenings. The excitement created was tremendous; three camp-meetings ran simultaneously and with marvelous success; there has been much talk of signs and portents, and not a few otherwise normal members of the community have proclaimed the advent of the latter-day miracles, and even yet their ears are patiently alert for the Trump of Doom, and their eyes lifted that they may witness the rolling up of the heavens as a scroll. As for Major Rathbone, otherwise Dover’s Uncle Max, why he is looked upon by a certain portion of the village as a second Lazarus raised from the dead, as one who has almost seen God; while another portion of the village is equally set in its belief that he has entered into a league with Lucifer, and that some day he will disappear in a whirlwind of brimstone and hell-fire.
But be this as it may, I shall here state the facts as they really are. It is not my intention, however, to go into the details of the case, except as to the results regarding Major Rathbone. Several contingencies have arisen, which must be seen to before we electrify the sleepy old world with the working formula of our wonderful discovery.
Then we shall convene a synod of the nations, and the rejuvenation of mankind will be placed in the hands of competent boards of experts belonging to the several governments. And we here promise that it shall be as free as the air we breathe or the water we drink. Further, in view of our purely altruistic motives, we ask that our present secrecy be respected and not be made the object of invidious reflections by the world we intend befriending.
Now to work. I at once sent for my traps and took up my residence one of the suites adjoining Dover’s laboratory. Major Rathbone, dazzled by the glittering promise of youth, yielded readily to our solicitations. To the world at large he was lying sick unto death; but in reality he was waxing heartier and stronger with every day spent upon him. For three months we devoted ourselves to the task–a task fraught with constant danger, yet so absorbing that we hardly noted the flight of time. The color returned to the Major’s pallid skin, the muscles filled out, and the wrinkles in part disappeared. He had been no mean athlete in his younger days, and having no organic weaknesses, his strength returned to him in a most miraculous manner. The snap and energy he gathered were surprising, and lusty youth so rioted in his blood that toward the last we were often hard put to restrain him. We who had started out to resuscitate a feeble old man, found upon our hands an impetuous young giant. The remarkable part of it was that his snow-white hair and beard remained unchanged. Try as we would, it resisted every effort. Further, the irascibility which had come with advancing years still remained. And this, allied with the natural stubbornness and truculency of his disposition, became a grievous burden to us.
Sometime in the early part of April, because of a red-tape tangle at the express office regarding a shipment of chemicals, both Dover and myself were forced to be away. We had given Michel, Dover’s trusted man, the necessary instructions, so did not apprehend any trouble. But on our return he met us rather shamefacedly at the entrance to the grounds.
"He’s gone!" he gasped. "He’s gone!" he repeated again and again, in his distress. His right arm hung limp and nerveless at his side, and it required no little patience to finally come to an understanding.
"I told him it was the orders that he mustn’t go out. But he bellered like a wild bull, and wanted to know whose orders. And when I told him, he said it was time I should know that he took orders from no man. And when I stood in his way he took me by the arm, so, and just squeezed tight. I’m afraid it’s broken, sir. And then he called Hector and went off across the fields to the village."
"Oh, your arm’s all right," Dover assured him after due examination. "Just crushed the biceps a little, be kind of stiff and sore for a couple of days, that’s all." And then to me, "Come on; we’ve got to find him."
It was a simple matter to follow him to the village. As we came down the main street, a crowd before the post office attracted our attention, and though we arrived at the climax, we could easily divine what had gone before. A bulldog, belonging to a trio of mill-hands, had picked a quarrel with Hector; and as it had been impossible to balance the second puppyhood of Hector with a new set of teeth, it was patent that he had been at a miserable disadvantage in the fight that followed. It was evident that Major Rathbone had intervened in an endeavor to separate the animals, and that the roughs had resented this. Besides, he was such a harmless-looking old gentleman, with his snow-white hair and patriarchal aspect, that they anticipated having a little fun with him.
"Aw, g’wan," we could hear one of the burly fellows saying, at same time shoving the Major back as though he were a little boy.
He protested courteously that the dog was his; but they chose to regard him as a joke and refused to listen. The crowd was composed of a low breed of men, anyway, and they jammed in so closely to see th sport that we had hard work in cleaving a passage.
"Now, nibsy," commanded the mill-hand who had shoved Major Rathbone back, "don’t yer think you’d better chase yerself home to yer mammy? This ain’t no manner o’ place fer leetle boys like you."
The Major was a fighter from the word go. And just then he let go. Before one could count three it was over; a swing under the first ruffian’s ear, a half-jolt on the point of the second one’s chin, and a shrewd block, with fake swing and swift uppercut on the jugular of the third, stretched the three brutes in the muck of the street. The crowd drew back hastily before this ancient prodigy, and we could hear more than one fervently abjuring his eyes.
As he arose from drawing the dogs apart, there was a cheery twinkle in the Major’s eye which disconcerted us. We had approached him in the attitude of keepers recovering a patient: but his thorough sanity and perfect composure took us aback.
"Say," he said jovially, "there’s a little place just round the corner here—best old rye—a-hem!" And he winked significantly as we linked arms like comrades and passed out through the petrified crowd.
From this moment our control was at an end. He always had been a masterful man and from now on he proceeded to demonstrate how capable he was of taking care of himself. His mysterious rejuvenation became, but would not remain, a nine days’ wonder, for it grew and grew from day to day. Morning after morning he could be seen tramping home for breakfast across the dewy fields, with a fair-fill game-bag and Dover’s shotgun. In previous years he had been a devoted horseman. One afternoon we returned from a trip to the city to find half the village hanging over the paddock fence. On closer inspection we discovered the Major breaking in one of the colts which had hitherto defied the stablemen. It was an edifying spectacle—his gray licks and venerable beard the sport of the wind as he dashed round and round on the maddened animal’s back. But conquer the brute he did, till a stable boy led it away, trembling and as abject as a kitten. Another time, taking what had now become his customary afternoon ride, his indomitable spirit was fired by a party of well-mounted young fellows, and he let out with his big black stallion till he gave them his dust all the way down the principal street of the drowsy town.
In short, he took up the reins of life where he had dropped them years before. He was a fiery conservative as regards politics, and the peculiarly distasteful state of affairs then prevailing enticed him again into the arena. A crisis was approaching between the mill-owners and their workingmen, and a turbulent class of "agitators" had drifted into our midst. Not only did the Major oppose them openly, but he thrashed several of the more offensive leaders, nipped the strike in its incipiency, and in a most exciting campaign swept into the mayoralty. The closeness of the count but served to accentuate how bitter had been the struggle. And in the meantime he presided at indignant mass-meetings, and had the whole community shouting "Cuba Libre!" and almost ready to march to her deliverance.
In truth, he rioted about the country like a young Nimrod, and administered the affairs of the town with the wisdom of a Solon. He snorted like an old war-horse at opposition, and woe to them that ventured to stand up against him. Success only stimulated him to greater activity; but, while such activity would have been commendable in a younger man, in one of his advanced years it seemed so inconsistent and inappropriate that his friends and relatives were shocked beyond measure. Dover and I could but hold our hands in helplessness and watch the antics of our hoary marvel.
His fame, or as we chose to call it, his notoriety spread till there was talk in the district of running him for Congress in the coming elections. Sensational space-writers filled columns of Sunday editions with garbled accounts of his doings and of his tremendous vitality. These "yellow-journal" interviewers would have driven us to distraction with their insistent clamor, had not the Major himself taken the matter in hand. For awhile it was his custom to occasionally throw an odd one out of the house before breakfast, and invariably, when he returned home in the evening, to attend similarly to the wants of three or four. A pest of curiosity-mongers and learned professors descended upon our quiet neighborhood. Spectacled gentlemen, usually bald-headed and always urbane, came singly, in pairs, in committees and delegations to note the facts and phenomena of this most remarkable of cases. Mystic enthusiasts, long-haired and wild-eyed, and devotees of countless occult systems haunted our front and back doors, and trampled upon the flowers till the gardener threatened to throw up his position in despair. And I veritably believe a saving of ten per cent on the coal bill could have been compassed by the burning up of unsolicited correspondence.
And to cap the whole business, when the United States declared war against Spain, Major Rathbone at once resigned his mayorship and applied to the war department for a commission. In view of his civil war record and his present superb health, it was highly probable that his request would be granted.
"It seems that before we can foist this rejuvenator upon the world, we must also discover an antidote for it—a sort of emasculator to reduce the friskiness attendant upon the return to youth, you know."
We had sat down, though in seemingly hopeless despondency, to discuss the difficulty and to try and find some way out of it.
"You see," Dover went on, "after revivifying an aged person, that person passes wholly out of our power. We can impose no checks, nor in any way can we tone down whatever excess of youthful spontaneity we may have induced. I see, now, that great care must be exercised in the administration of our lymph—the greatest of care if we should wish to avoid all manner of absurdities in the conduct of the patient. But that isn’t the question at issue. What are we to do with Uncle Max? I confess, beyond gaining delay through the War Office, that I am at the end of my tether."
For the nonce Dover was so helpless that I felt not a little elation unfolding the plan I had been considering for some time.
"You spoke of antidotes," I began tentatively.
"Now, as we happen to know, there are antidotes and antidotes, and yet again are there antidotes, some as a remedy for this evil and for that. Should a babe drink a pint of kerosene, what antidote would you suggest?"
Dover shook his head.
"And since there is no antidote for such an emergency, do we assume that the babe must die? Not at all. We administer an emetic. But of course, an emetic is out of the question in the present case. But again, say for one suffering from uxoriousness, or for a hypochondriac, what remedy should be applied? Certainly, neither of the two I have mentioned will do. Now, for a man, melancholy-mad, what would you prescribe?"
"Change," he replied, instantly. "Something else to withdraw him from himself and his morbid brooding to give him new interest in life, to supply him with a reason for existence."
"Very good," I continued, jubilantly. "You will notice that you have prescribed an antidote, it is true, but instead of a physical or medicinal one, it is intangible and abstract. Now, can you give me a similar remedy for excessive spirits or strength?"
Dover looked puzzled and waited for me to go on.
"Do you remember a certain strong man of the name of Samson? also Delilah, the fair Philistine? Have you ever noted the significance of ’Beauty and the beast’? Do you not know that the strength of the strong has been wilted, dynasties been raised or demolished, and countless nations plunged into or rescued from civil strife, all because of the love of woman?"
"There’s your antidote," I added modestly, as an afterthought.
"Oh!" His eyes flashed hopefully for an instant, but dismay returned as he shook his head sadly and said, "But the eligibles? There are none."
"Do you recollect a certain romance of the Major’s when he was quite a young man, long before the war?"
"You mean Miss Deborah Furbush, your Aunt Debby?"
"Yes; my Aunt Debby. They quarreled, you know, and never made up—"
"Nor spoke to each other since"
"O yes, they have. Ever since his rejuvenation he has called there regularly to pay his respects and ask for her health. Sort of gloats over her, you see. She’s been bedridden a year now; have to carry her up and down stairs, and nothing the matter except simple old age."
"If she’s strong enough," Dover hazarded.
"Strong enough!" I cried. "I tell you, man, it’s genuine senility—nothing in the world to guard against but a very slight valvular weakness of the heart. What d’ye say? Get a couple of months’ delay on his commission, and start in on Aunt Debby at once. What say, old man? What say?
Not only had I grown excited over this solution of our difficulty, but I had at last aroused his enthusiasm. Appreciating the need for haste, we at once gutted the laboratory of all essentials and took up our abode at my home, which in turn, was just over the way from Aunt Debby’s.
By this time we had the whole operation at the ends of our fingers, so were able to proceed with the utmost dispatch. But we were very sly about it, and Major Rathbone had not the slightest idea of what we were up to. A week from the time we began, the Furbush household was startled by Aunt Debby’s rising to give her hand to the Major when he made his usual call. A fortnight later, from a point of vantage in my windmill, we saw them strolling about the garden, and noted a certain new gallantry in the Major’s carriage. And the rapidity with which Aunt Debby breasted the tide of Time was dizzying. She grew visibly younger, day by day, and the roses of youth returned to her cheek, giving her the most beautiful pink and pearl complexion imaginable.
Perhaps ten days after that, he drove up to the door and took her out driving. And how the village talked! Which was nothing to the way it gabbed, when, a month later, the Major’s interest in the war abated and he declined his commission. And when the superannuated lovers walked bravely to the altar and then went off on their honeymoon, it seemed that all tongues wagged till they could wag no more.
As I have said, this lymph is a wonderful discovery.


3. TO REPEL BOARDERS

"No; honest, now, Bob, I’m sure I was born too late. The twentieth century’s no place for me. If I’d had my way——"
"You’d have been born in the sixteenth," I broke in, laughing, "with Drake and Hawkins and Raleigh and the rest of the sea-kings."
"You’re right!" Paul affirmed. He rolled over upon his back on the little after-deck, with a long sigh of dissatisfaction.
It was a little past midnight, and, with the wind nearly astern, we were running down Lower San Francisco Bay to Bay Farm Island. Paul Fairfax and I went to the same school, lived next door to each other, and "chummed it" together. By saving money, by earning more, and by each of us foregoing a bicycle on his birthday, we had collected the purchase-price of the Mist, a beamy twenty-eight-footer, sloop-rigged, with baby topsail and centerboard. Paul’s father was a yachtsman himself, and he had conducted the business for us, poking around, overhauling, sticking his penknife into the timbers, and testing the planks with the greatest care. In fact, it was on his schooner, the Whim, that Paul and I had picked up what we knew about boat-sailing, and now that the Mist was ours, we were hard at work adding to our knowledge.
The Mist, being broad of beam, was comfortable and roomy. A man could stand upright in the cabin, and what with the stove, cooking-utensils, and bunks, we were good for trips in her of a week at a time. And we were just starting out on the first of such trips, and it was because it was the first trip that we were sailing by night. Early in the evening we had beaten out from Oakland, and we were now off the mouth of Alameda Creek, a large salt-water estuary which fills and empties San Leandro Bay.
"Men lived in those days," Paul said, so suddenly as to startle me from my own thoughts. "In the days of the sea-kings, I mean," he explained.
I said "Oh!" sympathetically, and began to whistle "Captain Kidd."
"Now, I’ve my ideas about things," Paul went on. "They talk about romance and adventure and all that, but I say romance and adventure are dead. We’re too civilized. We don’t have adventures in the twentieth century. We go to the circus——"
"But——" I strove to interrupt, though he would not listen to me.
"You look here, Bob," he said. "In all the time you and I’ve gone together what adventures have we had? True, we were out in the hills once, and didn’t get back till late at night, and we were good and hungry, but we weren’t even lost. We knew where we were all the time. It was only a case of walk. What I mean is, we’ve never had to fight for our lives. Understand? We’ve never had a pistol fired at us, or a cannon, or a sword waving over our heads, or—or anything....
"You’d better slack away three or four feet of that main-sheet," he said in a hopeless sort of way, as though it did not matter much anyway. "The wind’s still veering around.
"Why, in the old times the sea was one constant glorious adventure," he continued. "A boy left school and became a midshipman, and in a few weeks was cruising after Spanish galleons or locking yard-arms with a French privateer, or—doing lots of things."
"Well—there are adventures today," I objected.
But Paul went on as though I had not spoken:
"And today we go from school to high school, and from high school to college, and then we go into the office or become doctors and things, and the only adventures we know about are the ones we read in books. Why, just as sure as I’m sitting here on the stern of the sloop Mist, just so sure am I that we wouldn’t know what to do if a real adventure came along. Now, would we?"
"Oh, I don’t know," I answered noncommittally.
"Well, you wouldn’t be a coward, would you?" he demanded.
I was sure I wouldn’t and said so.
"But you don’t have to be a coward to lose your head, do you?"
I agreed that brave men might get excited.
"Well, then," Paul summed up, with a note of regret in his voice, "the chances are that we’d spoil the adventure. So it’s a shame, and that’s all I can say about it."
"The adventure hasn’t come yet," I answered, not caring to see him down in the mouth over nothing. You see, Paul was a peculiar fellow in some things, and I knew him pretty well. He read a good deal, and had a quick imagination, and once in a while he’d get into moods like this one. So I said, "The adventure hasn’t come yet, so there’s no use worrying about its being spoiled. For all we know, it might turn out splendidly."
Paul didn’t say anything for some time, and I was thinking he was out of the mood, when he spoke up suddenly:
"Just imagine, Bob Kellogg, as we’re sailing along now, just as we are, and never mind what for, that a boat should bear down upon us with armed men in it, what would you do to repel boarders? Think you could rise to it?"
"What would you do?" I asked pointedly. "Remember, we haven’t even a single shotgun aboard."
"You would surrender, then?" he demanded angrily. "But suppose they were going to kill you?"
"I’m not saying what I’d do," I answered stiffly, beginning to get a little angry myself. "I’m asking what you’d do, without weapons of any sort?"
"I’d find something," he replied—rather shortly, I thought.
I began to chuckle. "Then the adventure wouldn’t be spoiled, would it? And you’ve been talking rubbish."
Paul struck a match, looked at his watch, and remarked that it was nearly one o’clock—a way he had when the argument went against him. Besides, this was the nearest we ever came to quarreling now, though our share of squabbles had fallen to us in the earlier days of our friendship. I had just seen a little white light ahead when Paul spoke again.
"Anchor-light," he said. "Funny place for people to drop the hook. It may be a scow-schooner with a dinky astern, so you’d better go wide."
I eased the Mist several points, and, the wind puffing up, we went plowing along at a pretty fair speed, passing the light so wide that we could not make out what manner of craft it marked. Suddenly the Mist slacked up in a slow and easy way, as though running upon soft mud. We were both startled. The wind was blowing stronger than ever, and yet we were almost at a standstill.
"Mud-flat out here? Never heard of such a thing!"
So Paul exclaimed with a snort of unbelief, and, seizing an oar, shoved it down over the side. And straight down it went till the water wet his hand. There was no bottom! Then we were dumbfounded. The wind was whistling by, and still the Mist was moving ahead at a snail’s pace. There seemed something dead about her, and it was all I could do at the tiller to keep her from swinging up into the wind.
"Listen!" I laid my hand on Paul’s arm. We could hear the sound of rowlocks, and saw the little white light bobbing up and down and now very close to us. "There’s your armed boat," I whispered in fun. "Beat the crew to quarters and stand by to repel boarders!"
We both laughed, and were still laughing when a wild scream of rage came out of the darkness, and the approaching boat shot under our stern. By the light of the lantern it carried we could see the two men in it distinctly. They were foreign-looking fellows with sun-bronzed faces, and with knitted tam-o’-shanters perched seaman fashion on their heads. Bright-colored woolen sashes were around their waists, and long sea-boots covered their legs. I remember yet the cold chill which passed along my backbone as I noted the tiny gold ear-rings in the ears of one. For all the world they were like pirates stepped out of the pages of romance. And, to make the picture complete, their faces were distorted with anger, and each flourished a long knife. They were both shouting, in high-pitched voices, some foreign jargon we could not understand.
One of them, the smaller of the two, and if anything the more vicious-looking, put his hands on the rail of the Mist and started to come aboard. Quick as a flash Paul placed the end of the oar against the man’s chest and shoved him back into his boat. He fell in a heap, but scrambled to his feet, waving the knife and shrieking:
"You break-a my net-a! You break-a my net-a!"
And he held forth in the jargon again, his companion joining him, and both preparing to make another dash to come aboard the Mist.
"They’re Italian fishermen," I cried, the facts of the case breaking in upon me. "We’ve run over their smelt-net, and it’s slipped along the keel and fouled our rudder. We’re anchored to it."
"Yes, and they’re murderous chaps, too," Paul said, sparring at them with the oar to make them keep their distance.
"Say, you fellows!" he called to them. "Give us a chance and we’ll get it clear for you! We didn’t know your net was there. We didn’t mean to do it, you know!"
"You won’t lose anything!" I added. "We’ll pay the damages!"
But they could not understand what we were saying, or did not care to understand.
"You break-a my net-a! You break-a my net-a!" the smaller man, the one with the earrings, screamed back, making furious gestures. "I fix-a you! You-a see, I fix-a you!"
This time, when Paul thrust him back, he seized the oar in his hands, and his companion jumped aboard. I put my back against the tiller, and no sooner had he landed, and before he had caught his balance, than I met him with another oar, and he fell heavily backward into the boat. It was getting serious, and when he arose and caught my oar, and I realized his strength, I confess that I felt a goodly tinge of fear. But though he was stronger than I, instead of dragging me overboard when he wrenched on the oar, he merely pulled his boat in closer; and when I shoved, the boat was forced away. Besides, the knife, still in his right hand, made him awkward and somewhat counterbalanced the advantage his superior strength gave him. Paul and his enemy were in the same situation—a sort of deadlock, which continued for several seconds, but which could not last. Several times I shouted that we would pay for whatever damage their net had suffered, but my words seemed to be without effect.
Then my man began to tuck the oar under his arm, and to come up along it, slowly, hand over hand. The small man did the same with Paul. Moment by moment they came closer, and closer, and we knew that the end was only a question of time.
"Hard up, Bob!" Paul called softly to me.
I gave him a quick glance, and caught an instant’s glimpse of what I took to be a very pale face and a very set jaw.
"Oh, Bob," he pleaded, "hard up your helm! Hard up your helm, Bob!"
And his meaning dawned upon me. Still holding to my end of the oar, I shoved the tiller over with my back, and even bent my body to keep it over. As it was the Mist was nearly dead before the wind, and this maneuver was bound to force her to jibe her mainsail from one side to the other. I could tell by the "feel" when the wind spilled out of the canvas and the boom tilted up. Paul’s man had now gained a footing on the little deck, and my man was just scrambling up.
"Look out!" I shouted to Paul. "Here she comes!"
Both he and I let go the oars and tumbled into the cockpit. The next instant the big boom and the heavy blocks swept over our heads, the main-sheet whipping past like a great coiling snake and the Mist heeling over with a violent jar. Both men had jumped for it, but in some way the little man either got his knife-hand jammed or fell upon it, for the first sight we caught of him, he was standing in his boat, his bleeding fingers clasped close between his knees and his face all twisted with pain and helpless rage.
"Now’s our chance!" Paul whispered. "Over with you!"
And on either side of the rudder we lowered ourselves into the water, pressing the net down with our feet, till, with a jerk, it went clear, Then it was up and in, Paul at the main-sheet and I at the tiller, the Mist plunging ahead with freedom in her motion, and the little white light astern growing small and smaller.
"Now that you’ve had your adventure, do you feel any better?" I remember asking when we had changed our clothes and were sitting dry and comfortable again in the cockpit.
"Well, if I don’t have the nightmare for a week to come"—Paul paused and puckered his brows in judicial fashion—"it will be because I can’t sleep, that’s one thing sure!"


4. MOON-FACE

John Claverhouse was a moon-faced man. You know the kind, cheek-bones wide apart, chin and forehead melting into the cheeks to complete the perfect round, and the nose, broad and pudgy, equidistant from the circumference, flattened against the very centre of the face like a dough-ball upon the ceiling. Perhaps that is why I hated him, for truly he had become an offense to my eyes, and I believed the earth to be cumbered with his presence. Perhaps my mother may have been superstitious of the moon and looked upon it over the wrong shoulder at the wrong time.
Be that as it may, I hated John Claverhouse. Not that he had done me what society would consider a wrong or an ill turn. Far from it. The evil was of a deeper, subtler sort; so elusive, so intangible, as to defy clear, definite analysis in words. We all experience such things at some period in our lives. For the first time we see a certain individual, one who the very instant before we did not dream existed; and yet, at the first moment of meeting, we say: “I do not like that man.” Why do we not like him? Ah, we do not know why; we know only that we do not. We have taken a dislike, that is all. And so I with John Claverhouse.
What right had such a man to be happy? Yet he was an optimist. He was always gleeful and laughing. All things were always all right, curse him! Ah I how it grated on my soul that he should be so happy! Other men could laugh, and it did not bother me. I even used to laugh myself—before I met John Claverhouse.
But his laugh! It irritated me, maddened me, as nothing else under the sun could irritate or madden me. It haunted me, gripped hold of me, and would not let me go. It was a huge, Gargantuan laugh. Waking or sleeping it was always with me, whirring and jarring across my heart-strings like an enormous rasp. At break of day it came whooping across the fields to spoil my pleasant morning revery. Under the aching noonday glare, when the green things drooped and the birds withdrew to the depths of the forest, and all nature drowsed, his great “Ha! ha!” and “Ho! ho!” rose up to the sky and challenged the sun. And at black midnight, from the lonely cross-roads where he turned from town into his own place, came his plaguey cachinnations to rouse me from my sleep and make me writhe and clench my nails into my palms.
I went forth privily in the night-time, and turned his cattle into his fields, and in the morning heard his whooping laugh as he drove them out again. “It is nothing,” he said; “the poor, dumb beasties are not to be blamed for straying into fatter pastures.”
He had a dog he called “Mars,” a big, splendid brute, part deer-hound and part blood-hound, and resembling both. Mars was a great delight to him, and they were always together. But I bided my time, and one day, when opportunity was ripe, lured the animal away and settled for him with strychnine and beefsteak. It made positively no impression on John Claverhouse. His laugh was as hearty and frequent as ever, and his face as much like the full moon as it always had been.
Then I set fire to his haystacks and his barn. But the next morning, being Sunday, he went forth blithe and cheerful.
“Where are you going?” I asked him, as he went by the cross-roads.
“Trout,” he said, and his face beamed like a full moon. “I just dote on trout.”
Was there ever such an impossible man! His whole harvest had gone up in his haystacks and barn. It was uninsured, I knew. And yet, in the face of famine and the rigorous winter, he went out gayly in quest of a mess of trout, forsooth, because he “doted” on them! Had gloom but rested, no matter how lightly, on his brow, or had his bovine countenance grown long and serious and less like the moon, or had he removed that smile but once from off his face, I am sure I could have forgiven him for existing. But no, he grew only more cheerful under misfortune.
I insulted him. He looked at me in slow and smiling surprise.
“I fight you? Why?” he asked slowly. And then he laughed. “You are so funny! Ho! ho! You’ll be the death of me! He! he! he! Oh! Ho! ho! ho!”
What would you? It was past endurance. By the blood of Judas, how I hated him! Then there was that name—Claverhouse! What a name! Wasn’t it absurd? Claverhouse! Merciful heaven, WHY Claverhouse? Again and again I asked myself that question. I should not have minded Smith, or Brown, or Jones—but CLAVERHOUSE! I leave it to you. Repeat it to yourself—Claverhouse. Just listen to the ridiculous sound of it—Claverhouse! Should a man live with such a name? I ask of you. “No,” you say. And “No” said I.
But I bethought me of his mortgage. What of his crops and barn destroyed, I knew he would be unable to meet it. So I got a shrewd, close-mouthed, tight-fisted money-lender to get the mortgage transferred to him. I did not appear but through this agent I forced the foreclosure, and but few days (no more, believe me, than the law allowed) were given John Claverhouse to remove his goods and chattels from the premises. Then I strolled down to see how he took it, for he had lived there upward of twenty years. But he met me with his saucer-eyes twinkling, and the light glowing and spreading in his face till it was as a full-risen moon.
“Ha! ha! ha!” he laughed. “The funniest tike, that youngster of mine! Did you ever hear the like? Let me tell you. He was down playing by the edge of the river when a piece of the bank caved in and splashed him. ‘O papa!’ he cried; ‘a great big puddle flewed up and hit me.’”
He stopped and waited for me to join him in his infernal glee.
“I don’t see any laugh in it,” I said shortly, and I know my face went sour.
He regarded me with wonderment, and then came the damnable light, glowing and spreading, as I have described it, till his face shone soft and warm, like the summer moon, and then the laugh—“Ha! ha! That’s funny! You don’t see it, eh? He! he! Ho! ho! ho! He doesn’t see it! Why, look here. You know a puddle—”
But I turned on my heel and left him. That was the last. I could stand it no longer. The thing must end right there, I thought, curse him! The earth should be quit of him. And as I went over the hill, I could hear his monstrous laugh reverberating against the sky.
Now, I pride myself on doing things neatly, and when I resolved to kill John Claverhouse I had it in mind to do so in such fashion that I should not look back upon it and feel ashamed. I hate bungling, and I hate brutality. To me there is something repugnant in merely striking a man with one’s naked fist—faugh! it is sickening! So, to shoot, or stab, or club John Claverhouse (oh, that name!) did not appeal to me. And not only was I impelled to do it neatly and artistically, but also in such manner that not the slightest possible suspicion could be directed against me.
To this end I bent my intellect, and, after a week of profound incubation, I hatched the scheme. Then I set to work. I bought a water spaniel bitch, five months old, and devoted my whole attention to her training. Had any one spied upon me, they would have remarked that this training consisted entirely of one thing—RETRIEVING. I taught the dog, which I called “Bellona,” to fetch sticks I threw into the water, and not only to fetch, but to fetch at once, without mouthing or playing with them. The point was that she was to stop for nothing, but to deliver the stick in all haste. I made a practice of running away and leaving her to chase me, with the stick in her mouth, till she caught me. She was a bright animal, and took to the game with such eagerness that I was soon content.
After that, at the first casual opportunity, I presented Bellona to John Claverhouse. I knew what I was about, for I was aware of a little weakness of his, and of a little private sinning of which he was regularly and inveterately guilty.
“No,” he said, when I placed the end of the rope in his hand. “No, you don’t mean it.” And his mouth opened wide and he grinned all over his damnable moon-face.
“I—I kind of thought, somehow, you didn’t like me,” he explained. “Wasn’t it funny for me to make such a mistake?” And at the thought he held his sides with laughter.
“What is her name?” he managed to ask between paroxysms.
“Bellona,” I said.
“He! he!” he tittered. “What a funny name.”
I gritted my teeth, for his mirth put them on edge, and snapped out between them, “She was the wife of Mars, you know.”
Then the light of the full moon began to suffuse his face, until he exploded with: “That was my other dog. Well, I guess she’s a widow now. Oh! Ho! ho! E! he! he! Ho!” he whooped after me, and I turned and fled swiftly over the hill.
The week passed by, and on Saturday evening I said to him, “You go away Monday, don’t you?”
He nodded his head and grinned.
“Then you won’t have another chance to get a mess of those trout you just ‘dote’ on.”
But he did not notice the sneer. “Oh, I don’t know,” he chuckled. “I’m going up to-morrow to try pretty hard.”
Thus was assurance made doubly sure, and I went back to my house hugging myself with rapture.
Early next morning I saw him go by with a dip-net and gunnysack, and Bellona trotting at his heels. I knew where he was bound, and cut out by the back pasture and climbed through the underbrush to the top of the mountain. Keeping carefully out of sight, I followed the crest along for a couple of miles to a natural amphitheater in the hills, where the little river raced down out of a gorge and stopped for breath in a large and placid rock-bound pool. That was the spot! I sat down on the croup of the mountain, where I could see all that occurred, and lighted my pipe.
Ere many minutes had passed, John Claverhouse came plodding up the bed of the stream. Bellona was ambling about him, and they were in high feather, her short, snappy barks mingling with his deeper chest-notes. Arrived at the pool, he threw down the dip-net and sack, and drew from his hip-pocket what looked like a large, fat candle. But I knew it to be a stick of “giant”; for such was his method of catching trout. He dynamited them. He attached the fuse by wrapping the “giant” tightly in a piece of cotton. Then he ignited the fuse and tossed the explosive into the pool.
Like a flash, Bellona was into the pool after it. I could have shrieked aloud for joy. Claverhouse yelled at her, but without avail. He pelted her with clods and rocks, but she swam steadily on till she got the stick of “giant” in her mouth, when she whirled about and headed for shore. Then, for the first time, he realized his danger, and started to run. As foreseen and planned by me, she made the bank and took out after him. Oh, I tell you, it was great! As I have said, the pool lay in a sort of amphitheater. Above and below, the stream could be crossed on stepping-stones. And around and around, up and down and across the stones, raced Claverhouse and Bellona. I could never have believed that such an ungainly man could run so fast. But run he did, Bellona hot-footed after him, and gaining. And then, just as she caught up, he in full stride, and she leaping with nose at his knee, there was a sudden flash, a burst of smoke, a terrific detonation, and where man and dog had been the instant before there was naught to be seen but a big hole in the ground.
“Death from accident while engaged in illegal fishing.” That was the verdict of the coroner’s jury; and that is why I pride myself on the neat and artistic way in which I finished off John Claverhouse. There was no bungling, no brutality; nothing of which to be ashamed in the whole transaction, as I am sure you will agree. No more does his infernal laugh go echoing among the hills, and no more does his fat moon-face rise up to vex me. My days are peaceful now, and my night’s sleep deep.


5. WHITE AND YELLOW

San Francisco Bay is so large that often its storms are more disastrous to ocean-going craft than is the ocean itself in its violent moments. The waters of the bay contain all manner of fish, wherefore its surface is ploughed by the keels of all manner of fishing boats manned by all manner of fishermen. To protect the fish from this motley floating population many wise laws have been passed, and there is a fish patrol to see that these laws are enforced. Exciting times are the lot of the fish patrol: in its history more than one dead patrolman has marked defeat, and more often dead fishermen across their illegal nets have marked success.
Wildest among the fisher-folk may be accounted the Chinese shrimp-catchers. It is the habit of the shrimp to crawl along the bottom in vast armies till it reaches fresh water, when it turns about and crawls back again to the salt. And where the tide ebbs and flows, the Chinese sink great bag-nets to the bottom, with gaping mouths, into which the shrimp crawls and from which it is transferred to the boiling-pot. This in itself would not be bad, were it not for the small mesh of the nets, so small that the tiniest fishes, little new-hatched things not a quarter of an inch long, cannot pass through. The beautiful beaches of Points Pedro and Pablo, where are the shrimp-catchers’ villages, are made fearful by the stench from myriads of decaying fish, and against this wasteful destruction it has ever been the duty of the fish patrol to act.
When I was a youngster of sixteen, a good sloop-sailor and all-round bay-waterman, my sloop, the Reindeer, was chartered by the Fish Commission, and I became for the time being a deputy patrolman. After a deal of work among the Greek fishermen of the Upper Bay and rivers, where knives flashed at the beginning of trouble and men permitted themselves to be made prisoners only after a revolver was thrust in their faces, we hailed with delight an expedition to the Lower Bay against the Chinese shrimp-catchers.
There were six of us, in two boats, and to avoid suspicion we ran down after dark and dropped anchor under a projecting bluff of land known as Point Pinole. As the east paled with the first light of dawn we got under way again, and hauled close on the land breeze as we slanted across the bay toward Point Pedro. The morning mists curled and clung to the water so that we could see nothing, but we busied ourselves driving the chill from our bodies with hot coffee. Also we had to devote ourselves to the miserable task of bailing, for in some incomprehensible way the Reindeer had sprung a generous leak. Half the night had been spent in overhauling the ballast and exploring the seams, but the labor had been without avail. The water still poured in, and perforce we doubled up in the cockpit and tossed it out again.
After coffee, three of the men withdrew to the other boat, a Columbia River salmon boat, leaving three of us in the Reindeer. Then the two craft proceeded in company till the sun showed over the eastern sky-line. Its fiery rays dispelled the clinging vapors, and there, before our eyes, like a picture, lay the shrimp fleet, spread out in a great half-moon, the tips of the crescent fully three miles apart, and each junk moored fast to the buoy of a shrimp-net. But there was no stir, no sign of life.
The situation dawned upon us. While waiting for slack water, in which to lift their heavy nets from the bed of the bay, the Chinese had all gone to sleep below. We were elated, and our plan of battle was swiftly formed.
“Throw each of your two men on to a junk,” whispered Le Grant to me from the salmon boat. “And you make fast to a third yourself. We’ll do the same, and there’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t capture six junks at the least.”
Then we separated. I put the Reindeer about on the other tack, ran up under the lee of a junk, shivered the mainsail into the wind and lost headway, and forged past the stern of the junk so slowly and so near that one of the patrolmen stepped lightly aboard. Then I kept off, filled the mainsail, and bore away for a second junk.
Up to this time there had been no noise, but from the first junk captured by the salmon boat an uproar now broke forth. There was shrill Oriental yelling, a pistol shot, and more yelling.
“It’s all up. They’re warning the others,” said George, the remaining patrolman, as he stood beside me in the cockpit.
By this time we were in the thick of the fleet, and the alarm was spreading with incredible swiftness. The decks were beginning to swarm with half-awakened and half-naked Chinese. Cries and yells of warning and anger were flying over the quiet water, and somewhere a conch shell was being blown with great success. To the right of us I saw the captain of a junk chop away his mooring line with an axe and spring to help his crew at the hoisting of the huge, outlandish lug-sail. But to the left the first heads were popping up from below on another junk, and I rounded up the Reindeer alongside long enough for George to spring aboard.
The whole fleet was now under way. In addition to the sails they had gotten out long sweeps, and the bay was being ploughed in every direction by the fleeing junks. I was now alone in the Reindeer, seeking feverishly to capture a third prize. The first junk I took after was a clean miss, for it trimmed its sheets and shot away surprisingly into the wind. By fully half a point it outpointed the Reindeer, and I began to feel respect for the clumsy craft. Realizing the hopelessness of the pursuit, I filled away, threw out the main-sheet, and drove down before the wind upon the junks to leeward, where I had them at a disadvantage.
The one I had selected wavered indecisively before me, and, as I swung wide to make the boarding gentle, filled suddenly and darted away, the smart Mongols shouting a wild rhythm as they bent to the sweeps. But I had been ready for this. I luffed suddenly. Putting the tiller hard down, and holding it down with my body, I brought the main-sheet in, hand over hand, on the run, so as to retain all possible striking force. The two starboard sweeps of the junk were crumpled up, and then the two boats came together with a crash. The Reindeer’s bowsprit, like a monstrous hand, reached over and ripped out the junk’s chunky mast and towering sail.
This was met by a curdling yell of rage. A big Chinaman, remarkably evil-looking, with his head swathed in a yellow silk handkerchief and face badly pock-marked, planted a pike-pole on the Reindeer’s bow and began to shove the entangled boats apart. Pausing long enough to let go the jib halyards, and just as the Reindeer cleared and began to drift astern, I leaped aboard the junk with a line and made fast. He of the yellow handkerchief and pock-marked face came toward me threateningly, but I put my hand into my hip pocket, and he hesitated. I was unarmed, but the Chinese have learned to be fastidiously careful of American hip pockets, and it was upon this that I depended to keep him and his savage crew at a distance.
I ordered him to drop the anchor at the junk’s bow, to which he replied, “No sabbe.” The crew responded in like fashion, and though I made my meaning plain by signs, they refused to understand. Realizing the inexpediency of discussing the matter, I went forward myself, overran the line, and let the anchor go.
“Now get aboard, four of you,” I said in a loud voice, indicating with my fingers that four of them were to go with me and the fifth was to remain by the junk. The Yellow Handkerchief hesitated; but I repeated the order fiercely (much more fiercely than I felt), at the same time sending my hand to my hip. Again the Yellow Handkerchief was overawed, and with surly looks he led three of his men aboard the Reindeer. I cast off at once, and, leaving the jib down, steered a course for George’s junk. Here it was easier, for there were two of us, and George had a pistol to fall back on if it came to the worst. And here, as with my junk, four Chinese were transferred to the sloop and one left behind to take care of things.
Four more were added to our passenger list from the third junk. By this time the salmon boat had collected its twelve prisoners and came alongside, badly overloaded. To make matters worse, as it was a small boat, the patrolmen were so jammed in with their prisoners that they would have little chance in case of trouble.
“You’ll have to help us out,” said Le Grant.
I looked over my prisoners, who had crowded into the cabin and on top of it. “I can take three,” I answered.
“Make it four,” he suggested, “and I’ll take Bill with me.” (Bill was the third patrolman.) “We haven’t elbow room here, and in case of a scuffle one white to every two of them will be just about the right proportion.”
The exchange was made, and the salmon boat got up its spritsail and headed down the bay toward the marshes off San Rafael. I ran up the jib and followed with the Reindeer. San Rafael, where we were to turn our catch over to the authorities, communicated with the bay by way of a long and tortuous slough, or marshland creek, which could be navigated only when the tide was in. Slack water had come, and, as the ebb was commencing, there was need for hurry if we cared to escape waiting half a day for the next tide.
But the land breeze had begun to die away with the rising sun, and now came only in failing puffs. The salmon boat got out its oars and soon left us far astern. Some of the Chinese stood in the forward part of the cockpit, near the cabin doors, and once, as I leaned over the cockpit rail to flatten down the jib-sheet a bit, I felt some one brush against my hip pocket. I made no sign, but out of the corner of my eye I saw that the Yellow Handkerchief had discovered the emptiness of the pocket which had hitherto overawed him.
To make matters serious, during all the excitement of boarding the junks the Reindeer had not been bailed, and the water was beginning to slush over the cockpit floor. The shrimp-catchers pointed at it and looked to me questioningly.
“Yes,” I said. “Bime by, allee same dlown, velly quick, you no bail now. Sabbe?”
No, they did not “sabbe,” or at least they shook their heads to that effect, though they chattered most comprehendingly to one another in their own lingo. I pulled up three or four of the bottom boards, got a couple of buckets from a locker, and by unmistakable sign-language invited them to fall to. But they laughed, and some crowded into the cabin and some climbed up on top.
Their laughter was not good laughter. There was a hint of menace in it, a maliciousness which their black looks verified. The Yellow Handkerchief, since his discovery of my empty pocket, had become most insolent in his bearing, and he wormed about among the other prisoners, talking to them with great earnestness.
Swallowing my chagrin, I stepped down into the cockpit and began throwing out the water. But hardly had I begun, when the boom swung overhead, the mainsail filled with a jerk, and the Reindeer heeled over. The day wind was springing up. George was the veriest of landlubbers, so I was forced to give over bailing and take the tiller. The wind was blowing directly off Point Pedro and the high mountains behind, and because of this was squally and uncertain, half the time bellying the canvas out and the other half flapping it idly.
George was about the most all-round helpless man I had ever met. Among his other disabilities, he was a consumptive, and I knew that if he attempted to bail, it might bring on a hemorrhage. Yet the rising water warned me that something must be done. Again I ordered the shrimp-catchers to lend a hand with the buckets. They laughed defiantly, and those inside the cabin, the water up to their ankles, shouted back and forth with those on top.
“You’d better get out your gun and make them bail,” I said to George.
But he shook his head and showed all too plainly that he was afraid. The Chinese could see the funk he was in as well as I could, and their insolence became insufferable. Those in the cabin broke into the food lockers, and those above scrambled down and joined them in a feast on our crackers and canned goods.
“What do we care?” George said weakly.
I was fuming with helpless anger. “If they get out of hand, it will be too late to care. The best thing you can do is to get them in check right now.”
The water was rising higher and higher, and the gusts, forerunners of a steady breeze, were growing stiffer and stiffer. And between the gusts, the prisoners, having gotten away with a week’s grub, took to crowding first to one side and then to the other till the Reindeer rocked like a cockle-shell. Yellow Handkerchief approached me, and, pointing out his village on the Point Pedro beach, gave me to understand that if I turned the Reindeer in that direction and put them ashore, they, in turn, would go to bailing. By now the water in the cabin was up to the bunks, and the bed-clothes were sopping. It was a foot deep on the cockpit floor. Nevertheless I refused, and I could see by George’s face that he was disappointed.
“If you don’t show some nerve, they’ll rush us and throw us overboard,” I said to him. “Better give me your revolver, if you want to be safe.”
“The safest thing to do,” he chattered cravenly, “is to put them ashore. I, for one, don’t want to be drowned for the sake of a handful of dirty Chinamen.”
“And I, for another, don’t care to give in to a handful of dirty Chinamen to escape drowning,” I answered hotly.
“You’ll sink the Reindeer under us all at this rate,” he whined. “And what good that’ll do I can’t see.”
“Every man to his taste,” I retorted.
He made no reply, but I could see he was trembling pitifully. Between the threatening Chinese and the rising water he was beside himself with fright; and, more than the Chinese and the water, I feared him and what his fright might impel him to do. I could see him casting longing glances at the small skiff towing astern, so in the next calm I hauled the skiff alongside. As I did so his eyes brightened with hope; but before he could guess my intention, I stove the frail bottom through with a hand-axe, and the skiff filled to its gunwales.
“It’s sink or float together,” I said. “And if you’ll give me your revolver, I’ll have the Reindeer bailed out in a jiffy.”
“They’re too many for us,” he whimpered. “We can’t fight them all.”
I turned my back on him in disgust. The salmon boat had long since passed from sight behind a little archipelago known as the Marin Islands, so no help could be looked for from that quarter. Yellow Handkerchief came up to me in a familiar manner, the water in the cockpit slushing against his legs. I did not like his looks. I felt that beneath the pleasant smile he was trying to put on his face there was an ill purpose. I ordered him back, and so sharply that he obeyed.
“Now keep your distance,” I commanded, “and don’t you come closer!”
“Wha’ fo’?” he demanded indignantly. “I t’ink-um talkee talkee heap good.”
“Talkee talkee,” I answered bitterly, for I knew now that he had understood all that passed between George and me. “What for talkee talkee? You no sabbe talkee talkee.”
He grinned in a sickly fashion. “Yep, I sabbe velly much. I honest Chinaman.”
“All right,” I answered. “You sabbe talkee talkee, then you bail water plenty plenty. After that we talkee talkee.”
He shook his head, at the same time pointing over his shoulder to his comrades. “No can do. Velly bad Chinamen, heap velly bad. I t’ink-um—”
“Stand back!” I shouted, for I had noticed his hand disappear beneath his blouse and his body prepare for a spring.
Disconcerted, he went back into the cabin, to hold a council, apparently, from the way the jabbering broke forth. The Reindeer was very deep in the water, and her movements had grown quite loggy. In a rough sea she would have inevitably swamped; but the wind, when it did blow, was off the land, and scarcely a ripple disturbed the surface of the bay.
“I think you’d better head for the beach,” George said abruptly, in a manner that told me his fear had forced him to make up his mind to some course of action.
“I think not,” I answered shortly.
“I command you,” he said in a bullying tone.
“I was commanded to bring these prisoners into San Rafael,” was my reply.
Our voices were raised, and the sound of the altercation brought the Chinese out of the cabin.
“Now will you head for the beach?”
This from George, and I found myself looking into the muzzle of his revolver—of the revolver he dared to use on me, but was too cowardly to use on the prisoners.
My brain seemed smitten with a dazzling brightness. The whole situation, in all its bearings, was focussed sharply before me—the shame of losing the prisoners, the worthlessness and cowardice of George, the meeting with Le Grant and the other patrol men and the lame explanation; and then there was the fight I had fought so hard, victory wrenched from me just as I thought I had it within my grasp. And out of the tail of my eye I could see the Chinese crowding together by the cabin doors and leering triumphantly. It would never do.
I threw my hand up and my head down. The first act elevated the muzzle, and the second removed my head from the path of the bullet which went whistling past. One hand closed on George’s wrist, the other on the revolver. Yellow Handkerchief and his gang sprang toward me. It was now or never. Putting all my strength into a sudden effort, I swung George’s body forward to meet them. Then I pulled back with equal suddenness, ripping the revolver out of his fingers and jerking him off his feet. He fell against Yellow Handkerchief’s knees, who stumbled over him, and the pair wallowed in the bailing hole where the cockpit floor was torn open. The next instant I was covering them with my revolver, and the wild shrimp-catchers were cowering and cringing away.
But I swiftly discovered that there was all the difference in the world between shooting men who are attacking and men who are doing nothing more than simply refusing to obey. For obey they would not when I ordered them into the bailing hole. I threatened them with the revolver, but they sat stolidly in the flooded cabin and on the roof and would not move.
Fifteen minutes passed, the Reindeer sinking deeper and deeper, her mainsail flapping in the calm. But from off the Point Pedro shore I saw a dark line form on the water and travel toward us. It was the steady breeze I had been expecting so long. I called to the Chinese and pointed it out. They hailed it with exclamations. Then I pointed to the sail and to the water in the Reindeer, and indicated by signs that when the wind reached the sail, what of the water aboard we would capsize. But they jeered defiantly, for they knew it was in my power to luff the helm and let go the main-sheet, so as to spill the wind and escape damage.
But my mind was made up. I hauled in the main-sheet a foot or two, took a turn with it, and bracing my feet, put my back against the tiller. This left me one hand for the sheet and one for the revolver. The dark line drew nearer, and I could see them looking from me to it and back again with an apprehension they could not successfully conceal. My brain and will and endurance were pitted against theirs, and the problem was which could stand the strain of imminent death the longer and not give in.
Then the wind struck us. The main-sheet tautened with a brisk rattling of the blocks, the boom uplifted, the sail bellied out, and the Reindeer heeled over—over, and over, till the lee-rail went under, the cabin windows went under, and the bay began to pour in over the cockpit rail. So violently had she heeled over, that the men in the cabin had been thrown on top of one another into the lee bunk, where they squirmed and twisted and were washed about, those underneath being perilously near to drowning.
The wind freshened a bit, and the Reindeer went over farther than ever. For the moment I thought she was gone, and I knew that another puff like that and she surely would go. While I pressed her under and debated whether I should give up or not, the Chinese cried for mercy. I think it was the sweetest sound I have ever heard. And then, and not until then, did I luff up and ease out the main-sheet. The Reindeer righted very slowly, and when she was on an even keel was so much awash that I doubted if she could be saved.
But the Chinese scrambled madly into the cockpit and fell to bailing with buckets, pots, pans, and everything they could lay hands on. It was a beautiful sight to see that water flying over the side! And when the Reindeer was high and proud on the water once more, we dashed away with the breeze on our quarter, and at the last possible moment crossed the mud flats and entered the slough.
The spirit of the Chinese was broken, and so docile did they become that ere we made San Rafael they were out with the tow-rope, Yellow Handkerchief at the head of the line. As for George, it was his last trip with the fish patrol. He did not care for that sort of thing, he explained, and he thought a clerkship ashore was good enough for him. And we thought so too.


6. CHARLEY’S COUP

Perhaps our most laughable exploit on the fish patrol, and at the same time our most dangerous one, was when we rounded in, at a single haul, an even score of wrathful fishermen. Charley called it a “coop,” having heard Neil Partington use the term; but I think he misunderstood the word, and thought it meant “coop,” to catch, to trap. The fishermen, however, coup or coop, must have called it a Waterloo, for it was the severest stroke ever dealt them by the fish patrol, while they had invited it by open and impudent defiance of the law.
During what is called the “open season” the fishermen might catch as many salmon as their luck allowed and their boats could hold. But there was one important restriction. From sun-down Saturday night to sun-up Monday morning, they were not permitted to set a net. This was a wise provision on the part of the Fish Commission, for it was necessary to give the spawning salmon some opportunity to ascend the river and lay their eggs. And this law, with only an occasional violation, had been obediently observed by the Greek fishermen who caught salmon for the canneries and the market.
One Sunday morning, Charley received a telephone call from a friend in Collinsville, who told him that the full force of fishermen was out with its nets. Charley and I jumped into our salmon boat and started for the scene of the trouble. With a light favoring wind at our back we went through the Carquinez Straits, crossed Suisun Bay, passed the Ship Island Light, and came upon the whole fleet at work.
But first let me describe the method by which they worked. The net used is what is known as a gill-net. It has a simple diamond-shaped mesh which measures at least seven and one-half inches between the knots. From five to seven and even eight hundred feet in length, these nets are only a few feet wide. They are not stationary, but float with the current, the upper edge supported on the surface by floats, the lower edge sunk by means of leaden weights.
This arrangement keeps the net upright in the current and effectually prevents all but the smaller fish from ascending the river. The salmon, swimming near the surface, as is their custom, run their heads through these meshes, and are prevented from going on through by their larger girth of body, and from going back because of their gills, which catch in the mesh. It requires two fishermen to set such a net,—one to row the boat, while the other, standing in the stern, carefully pays out the net. When it is all out, stretching directly across the stream, the men make their boat fast to one end of the net and drift along with it.
As we came upon the fleet of law-breaking fishermen, each boat two or three hundred yards from its neighbors, and boats and nets dotting the river as far as we could see, Charley said:
“I’ve only one regret, lad, and that is that I have’nt a thousand arms so as to be able to catch them all. As it is, we’ll only be able to catch one boat, for while we are tackling that one it will be up nets and away with the rest.”
As we drew closer, we observed none of the usual flurry and excitement which our appearance invariably produced. Instead, each boat lay quietly by its net, while the fishermen favored us with not the slightest attention.
“It’s curious,” Charley muttered. “Can it be they don’t recognize us?”
I said that it was impossible, and Charley agreed; yet there was a whole fleet, manned by men who knew us only too well, and who took no more notice of us than if we were a hay scow or a pleasure yacht.
This did not continue to be the case, however, for as we bore down upon the nearest net, the men to whom it belonged detached their boat and rowed slowly toward the shore. The rest of the boats showed no, sign of uneasiness.
“That’s funny,” was Charley’s remark. “But we can confiscate the net, at any rate.”
We lowered sail, picked up one end of the net, and began to heave it into the boat. But at the first heave we heard a bullet zip-zipping past us on the water, followed by the faint report of a rifle. The men who had rowed ashore were shooting at us. At the next heave a second bullet went zipping past, perilously near. Charley took a turn around a pin and sat down. There were no more shots. But as soon as he began to heave in, the shooting recommenced.
“That settles it,” he said, flinging the end of the net overboard. “You fellows want it worse than we do, and you can have it.”
We rowed over toward the next net, for Charley was intent on finding out whether or not we were face to face with an organized defiance. As we approached, the two fishermen proceeded to cast off from their net and row ashore, while the first two rowed back and made fast to the net we had abandoned. And at the second net we were greeted by rifle shots till we desisted and went on to the third, where the manœuvre was again repeated.
Then we gave it up, completely routed, and hoisted sail and started on the long windward beat back to Benicia. A number of Sundays went by, on each of which the law was persistently violated. Yet, short of an armed force of soldiers, we could do nothing. The fishermen had hit upon a new idea and were using it for all it was worth, while there seemed no way by which we could get the better of them.
About this time Neil Partington happened along from the Lower Bay, where he had been for a number of weeks. With him was Nicholas, the Greek boy who had helped us in our raid on the oyster pirates, and the pair of them took a hand. We made our arrangements carefully. It was planned that while Charley and I tackled the nets, they were to be hidden ashore so as to ambush the fishermen who landed to shoot at us.
It was a pretty plan. Even Charley said it was. But we reckoned not half so well as the Greeks. They forestalled us by ambushing Neil and Nicholas and taking them prisoners, while, as of old, bullets whistled about our ears when Charley and I attempted to take possession of the nets. When we were again beaten off, Neil Partington and Nicholas were released. They were rather shamefaced when they put in an appearance, and Charley chaffed them unmercifully. But Neil chaffed back, demanding to know why Charley’s imagination had not long since overcome the difficulty.
“Just you wait; the idea’ll come all right,” Charley promised.
“Most probably,” Neil agreed. “But I’m afraid the salmon will be exterminated first, and then there will be no need for it when it does come.”
Neil Partington, highly disgusted with his adventure, departed for the Lower Bay, taking Nicholas with him, and Charley and I were left to our own resources. This meant that the Sunday fishing would be left to itself, too, until such time as Charley’s idea happened along. I puzzled my head a good deal to find out some way of checkmating the Greeks, as also did Charley, and we broached a thousand expedients which on discussion proved worthless.
The fishermen, on the other hand, were in high feather, and their boasts went up and down the river to add to our discomfiture. Among all classes of them we became aware of a growing insubordination. We were beaten, and they were losing respect for us. With the loss of respect, contempt began to arise. Charley began to be spoken of as the “olda woman,” and I received my rating as the “pee-wee kid.” The situation was fast becoming unbearable, and we knew that we should have to deliver a stunning stroke at the Greeks in order to regain the old-time respect in which we had stood.
Then one morning the idea came. We were down on Steamboat Wharf, where the river steamers made their landings, and where we found a group of amused long-shoremen and loafers listening to the hard-luck tale of a sleepy-eyed young fellow in long sea-boots. He was a sort of amateur fisherman, he said, fishing for the local market of Berkeley. Now Berkeley was on the Lower Bay, thirty miles away. On the previous night, he said, he had set his net and dozed off to sleep in the bottom of the boat.
The next he knew it was morning, and he opened his eyes to find his boat rubbing softly against the piles of Steamboat Wharf at Benicia. Also he saw the river steamer Apache lying ahead of him, and a couple of deck-hands disentangling the shreds of his net from the paddle-wheel. In short, after he had gone to sleep, his fisherman’s riding light had gone out, and the Apache had run over his net. Though torn pretty well to pieces, the net in some way still remained foul, and he had had a thirty-mile tow out of his course.
Charley nudged me with his elbow. I grasped his thought on the instant, but objected:
“We can’t charter a steamboat.”
“Don’t intend to,” he rejoined. “But let’s run over to Turner’s Shipyard. I’ve something in my mind there that may be of use to us.”
And over we went to the shipyard, where Charley led the way to the Mary Rebecca, lying hauled out on the ways, where she was being cleaned and overhauled. She was a scow-schooner we both knew well, carrying a cargo of one hundred and forty tons and a spread of canvas greater than other schooner on the bay.
“How d’ye do, Ole,” Charley greeted a big blue-shirted Swede who was greasing the jaws of the main gaff with a piece of pork rind.
Ole grunted, puffed away at his pipe, and went on greasing. The captain of a bay schooner is supposed to work with his hands just as well as the men.
Ole Ericsen verified Charley’s conjecture that the Mary Rebecca, as soon as launched, would run up the San Joaquin River nearly to Stockton for a load of wheat. Then Charley made his proposition, and Ole Ericsen shook his head.
“Just a hook, one good-sized hook,” Charley pleaded.
“No, Ay tank not,” said Ole Ericsen. “Der Mary Rebecca yust hang up on efery mud-bank with that hook. Ay don’t want to lose der Mary Rebecca. She’s all Ay got.”
“No, no,” Charley hurried to explain. “We can put the end of the hook through the bottom from the outside, and fasten it on the inside with a nut. After it’s done its work, why, all we have to do is to go down into the hold, unscrew the nut, and out drops the hook. Then drive a wooden peg into the hole, and the Mary Rebecca will be all right again.”
Ole Ericsen was obstinate for a long time; but in the end, after we had had dinner with him, he was brought round to consent.
“Ay do it, by Yupiter!” he said, striking one huge fist into the palm of the other hand. “But yust hurry you up wid der hook. Der Mary Rebecca slides into der water to-night.”
It was Saturday, and Charley had need to hurry. We headed for the shipyard blacksmith shop, where, under Charley’s directions, a most generously curved book of heavy steel was made. Back we hastened to the Mary Rebecca. Aft of the great centre-board case, through what was properly her keel, a hole was bored. The end of the hook was inserted from the outside, and Charley, on the inside, screwed the nut on tightly. As it stood complete, the hook projected over a foot beneath the bottom of the schooner. Its curve was something like the curve of a sickle, but deeper.
In the late afternoon the Mary Rebecca was launched, and preparations were finished for the start up-river next morning. Charley and Ole intently studied the evening sky for signs of wind, for without a good breeze our project was doomed to failure. They agreed that there were all the signs of a stiff westerly wind—not the ordinary afternoon sea-breeze, but a half-gale, which even then was springing up.
Next morning found their predictions verified. The sun was shining brightly, but something more than a half-gale was shrieking up the Carquinez Straits, and the Mary Rebecca got under way with two reefs in her mainsail and one in her foresail. We found it quite rough in the Straits and in Suisun Bay; but as the water grew more land-locked it became calm, though without let-up in the wind.
Off Ship Island Light the reefs were shaken out, and at Charley’s suggestion a big fisherman’s staysail was made all ready for hoisting, and the maintopsail, bunched into a cap at the masthead, was overhauled so that it could be set on an instant’s notice.
We were tearing along, wing-and-wing, before the wind, foresail to starboard and mainsail to port, as we came upon the salmon fleet. There they were, boats and nets, as on that first Sunday when they had bested us, strung out evenly over the river as far as we could see. A narrow space on the right-hand side of the channel was left clear for steamboats, but the rest of the river was covered with the wide-stretching nets. The narrow space was our logical course, but Charley, at the wheel, steered the Mary Rebecca straight for the nets. This did not cause any alarm among the fishermen, because up-river sailing craft are always provided with “shoes” on the ends of their keels, which permit them to slip over the nets without fouling them.
“Now she takes it!” Charley cried, as we dashed across the middle of a line of floats which marked a net. At one end of this line was a small barrel buoy, at the other the two fishermen in their boat. Buoy and boat at once began to draw together, and the fishermen to cry out, as they were jerked after us. A couple of minutes later we hooked a second net, and then a third, and in this fashion we tore straight up through the centre of the fleet.
The consternation we spread among the fishermen was tremendous. As fast as we hooked a net the two ends of it, buoy and boat, came together as they dragged out astern; and so many buoys and boats, coming together at such breakneck speed, kept the fishermen on the jump to avoid smashing into one another. Also, they shouted at us like mad to heave to into the wind, for they took it as some drunken prank on the part of scow-sailors, little dreaming that we were the fish patrol.
The drag of a single net is very heavy, and Charley and Ole Ericsen decided that even in such a wind ten nets were all the Mary Rebecca could take along with her. So when we had hooked ten nets, with ten boats containing twenty men streaming along behind us, we veered to the left out of the fleet and headed toward Collinsville.
We were all jubilant. Charley was handling the wheel as though he were steering the winning yacht home in a race. The two sailors who made up the crew of the Mary Rebecca, were grinning and joking. Ole Ericsen was rubbing his huge hands in child-like glee.
“Ay tank you fish patrol fallers never ban so lucky as when you sail with Ole Ericsen,” he was saying, when a rifle cracked sharply astern, and a bullet gouged along the newly painted cabin, glanced on a nail, and sang shrilly onward into space.
This was too much for Ole Ericsen. At sight of his beloved paintwork thus defaced, he jumped up and shook his fist at the fishermen; but a second bullet smashed into the cabin not six inches from his head, and he dropped down to the deck under cover of the rail.
All the fishermen had rifles, and they now opened a general fusillade. We were all driven to cover—even Charley, who was compelled to desert the wheel. Had it not been for the heavy drag of the nets, we would inevitably have broached to at the mercy of the enraged fishermen. But the nets, fastened to the bottom of the Mary Rebecca well aft, held her stern into the wind, and she continued to plough on, though somewhat erratically.
Charley, lying on the deck, could just manage to reach the lower spokes of the wheel; but while he could steer after a fashion, it was very awkward. Ole Ericsen bethought himself of a large piece of sheet steel in the empty hold.
It was in fact a plate from the side of the New Jersey, a steamer which had recently been wrecked outside the Golden Gate, and in the salving of which the Mary Rebecca had taken part.
Crawling carefully along the deck, the two sailors, Ole, and myself got the heavy plate on deck and aft, where we reared it as a shield between the wheel and the fishermen. The bullets whanged and banged against it till it rang like a bull’s-eye, but Charley grinned in its shelter, and coolly went on steering.
So we raced along, behind us a howling, screaming bedlam of wrathful Greeks, Collinsville ahead, and bullets spat-spatting all around us.
“Ole,” Charley said in a faint voice, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Ole Ericsen, lying on his back close to the rail and grinning upward at the sky, turned over on his side and looked at him. “Ay tank we go into Collinsville yust der same,” he said.
“But we can’t stop,” Charley groaned. “I never thought of it, but we can’t stop.”
A look of consternation slowly overspread Ole Ericsen’s broad face. It was only too true. We had a hornet’s nest on our hands, and to stop at Collinsville would be to have it about our ears.
“Every man Jack of them has a gun,” one of the sailors remarked cheerfully.
“Yes, and a knife, too,” the other sailor added.
It was Ole Ericsen’s turn to groan. “What for a Svaidish faller like me monkey with none of my biziness, I don’t know,” he soliloquized.
A bullet glanced on the stern and sang off to starboard like a spiteful bee. “There’s nothing to do but plump the Mary Rebecca ashore and run for it,” was the verdict of the first cheerful sailor.
“And leaf der Mary Rebecca?” Ole demanded, with unspeakable horror in his voice.
“Not unless you want to,” was the response. “But I don’t want to be within a thousand miles of her when those fellers come aboard”—indicating the bedlam of excited Greeks towing behind.
We were right in at Collinsville then, and went foaming by within biscuit-toss of the wharf.
“I only hope the wind holds out,” Charley said, stealing a glance at our prisoners.
“What of der wind?” Ole demanded disconsolately. “Der river will not hold out, and then . . . and then . . .”
“It’s head for tall timber, and the Greeks take the hindermost,” adjudged the cheerful sailor, while Ole was stuttering over what would happen when we came to the end of the river.
We had now reached a dividing of the ways. To the left was the mouth of the Sacramento River, to the right the mouth of the San Joaquin. The cheerful sailor crept forward and jibed over the foresail as Charley put the helm to starboard and we swerved to the right into the San Joaquin. The wind, from which we had been running away on an even keel, now caught us on our beam, and the Mary Rebecca was pressed down on her port side as if she were about to capsize.
Still we dashed on, and still the fishermen dashed on behind. The value of their nets was greater than the fines they would have to pay for violating the fish laws; so to cast off from their nets and escape, which they could easily do, would profit them nothing. Further, they remained by their nets instinctively, as a sailor remains by his ship. And still further, the desire for vengeance was roused, and we could depend upon it that they would follow us to the ends of the earth, if we undertook to tow them that far.
The rifle-firing had ceased, and we looked astern to see what our prisoners were doing. The boats were strung along at unequal distances apart, and we saw the four nearest ones bunching together. This was done by the boat ahead trailing a small rope astern to the one behind. When this was caught, they would cast off from their net and heave in on the line till they were brought up to the boat in front. So great was the speed at which we were travelling, however, that this was very slow work. Sometimes the men would strain to their utmost and fail to get in an inch of the rope; at other times they came ahead more rapidly.
When the four boats were near enough together for a man to pass from one to another, one Greek from each of three got into the nearest boat to us, taking his rifle with him. This made five in the foremost boat, and it was plain that their intention was to board us. This they undertook to do, by main strength and sweat, running hand over hand the float-line of a net. And though it was slow, and they stopped frequently to rest, they gradually drew nearer.
Charley smiled at their efforts, and said, “Give her the topsail, Ole.”
The cap at the mainmast head was broken out, and sheet and downhaul pulled flat, amid a scattering rifle fire from the boats; and the Mary Rebecca lay over and sprang ahead faster than ever.
But the Greeks were undaunted. Unable, at the increased speed, to draw themselves nearer by means of their hands, they rigged from the blocks of their boat sail what sailors call a “watch-tackle.” One of them, held by the legs by his mates, would lean far over the bow and make the tackle fast to the float-line. Then they would heave in on the tackle till the blocks were together, when the manœuvre would be repeated.
“Have to give her the staysail,” Charley said.
Ole Ericsen looked at the straining Mary Rebecca and shook his head. “It will take der masts out of her,” he said.
“And we’ll be taken out of her if you don’t,” Charley replied.
Ole shot an anxious glance at his masts, another at the boat load of armed Greeks, and consented.
The five men were in the bow of the boat—a bad place when a craft is towing. I was watching the behavior of their boat as the great fisherman’s staysail, far, far larger than the topsail and used only in light breezes, was broken out. As the Mary Rebecca lurched forward with a tremendous jerk, the nose of the boat ducked down into the water, and the men tumbled over one another in a wild rush into the stern to save the boat from being dragged sheer under water.
“That settles them!” Charley remarked, though he was anxiously studying the behavior of the Mary Rebecca, which was being driven under far more canvas than she was rightly able to carry.
“Next stop is Antioch!” announced the cheerful sailor, after the manner of a railway conductor. “And next comes Merryweather!”
“Come here, quick,” Charley said to me.
I crawled across the deck and stood upright beside him in the shelter of the sheet steel.
“Feel in my inside pocket,” he commanded, “and get my notebook. That’s right. Tear out a blank page and write what I tell you.”
And this is what I wrote:
Telephone to Merryweather, to the sheriff, the constable, or the judge. Tell them we are coming and to turn out the town. Arm everybody. Have them down on the wharf to meet us or we are gone gooses.
“Now make it good and fast to that marlin-spike, and stand by to toss it ashore.”
I did as he directed. By then we were close to Antioch. The wind was shouting through our rigging, the Mary Rebecca was half over on her side and rushing ahead like an ocean greyhound. The seafaring folk of Antioch had seen us breaking out topsail and staysail, a most reckless performance in such weather, and had hurried to the wharf-ends in little groups to find out what was the matter.
Straight down the water front we boomed, Charley edging in till a man could almost leap ashore. When he gave the signal I tossed the marlinspike. It struck the planking of the wharf a resounding smash, bounced along fifteen or twenty feet, and was pounced upon by the amazed onlookers.
It all happened in a flash, for the next minute Antioch was behind and we were heeling it up the San Joaquin toward Merryweather, six miles away. The river straightened out here into its general easterly course, and we squared away before the wind, wing-and-wing once more, the foresail bellying out to starboard.
Ole Ericsen seemed sunk into a state of stolid despair. Charley and the two sailors were looking hopeful, as they had good reason to be. Merryweather was a coal-mining town, and, it being Sunday, it was reasonable to expect the men to be in town. Further, the coal-miners had never lost any love for the Greek fishermen, and were pretty certain to render us hearty assistance.
We strained our eyes for a glimpse of the town, and the first sight we caught of it gave us immense relief. The wharves were black with men. As we came closer, we could see them still arriving, stringing down the main street, guns in their hands and on the run. Charley glanced astern at the fishermen with a look of ownership in his eye which till then had been missing. The Greeks were plainly overawed by the display of armed strength and were putting their own rifles away.
We took in topsail and staysail, dropped the main peak, and as we got abreast of the principal wharf jibed the mainsail. The Mary Rebecca shot around into the wind, the captive fishermen describing a great arc behind her, and forged ahead till she lost way, when lines we’re flung ashore and she was made fast. This was accomplished under a hurricane of cheers from the delighted miners.
Ole Ericsen heaved a great sigh. “Ay never tank Ay see my wife never again,” he confessed.
“Why, we were never in any danger,” said Charley.
Ole looked at him incredulously.
“Sure, I mean it,” Charley went on. “All we had to do, any time, was to let go our end—as I am going to do now, so that those Greeks can untangle their nets.”
He went below with a monkey-wrench, unscrewed the nut, and let the hook drop off. When the Greeks had hauled their nets into their boats and made everything shipshape, a posse of citizens took them off our hands and led them away to jail.
“Ay tank Ay ban a great big fool,” said Ole Ericsen. But he changed his mind when the admiring townspeople crowded aboard to shake hands with him, and a couple of enterprising newspaper men took photographs of the Mary Rebecca and her captain.


7. YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF

“I’m not wanting to dictate to you, lad,” Charley said; “but I’m very much against your making a last raid. You’ve gone safely through rough times with rough men, and it would be a shame to have something happen to you at the very end.”
“But how can I get out of making a last raid?” I demanded, with the cocksureness of youth. “There always has to be a last, you know, to anything.”
Charley crossed his legs, leaned back, and considered the problem. “Very true. But why not call the capture of Demetrios Contos the last? You’re back from it safe and sound and hearty, for all your good wetting, and—and—” His voice broke and he could not speak for a moment. “And I could never forgive myself if anything happened to you now.”
I laughed at Charley’s fears while I gave in to the claims of his affection, and agreed to consider the last raid already performed. We had been together for two years, and now I was leaving the fish patrol in order to go back and finish my education. I had earned and saved money to put me through three years at the high school, and though the beginning of the term was several months away, I intended doing a lot of studying for the entrance examinations.
My belongings were packed snugly in a sea-chest, and I was all ready to buy my ticket and ride down on the train to Oakland, when Neil Partington arrived in Benicia. The Reindeer was needed immediately for work far down on the Lower Bay, and Neil said he intended to run straight for Oakland. As that was his home and as I was to live with his family while going to school, he saw no reason, he said, why I should not put my chest aboard and come along.
So the chest went aboard, and in the middle of the afternoon we hoisted the Reindeer’s big mainsail and cast off. It was tantalizing fall weather. The sea-breeze, which had blown steadily all summer, was gone, and in its place were capricious winds and murky skies which made the time of arriving anywhere extremely problematical. We started on the first of the ebb, and as we slipped down the Carquinez Straits, I looked my last for some time upon Benicia and the bight at Turner’s Shipyard, where we had besieged the Lancashire Queen, and had captured Big Alec, the King of the Greeks. And at the mouth of the Straits I looked with not a little interest upon the spot where a few days before I should have drowned but for the good that was in the nature of Demetrios Contos.
A great wall of fog advanced across San Pablo Bay to meet us, and in a few minutes the Reindeer was running blindly through the damp obscurity. Charley, who was steering, seemed to have an instinct for that kind of work. How he did it, he himself confessed that he did not know; but he had a way of calculating winds, currents, distance, time, drift, and sailing speed that was truly marvelous.
“It looks as though it were lifting,” Neil Partington said, a couple of hours after we had entered the fog. “Where do you say we are, Charley?”
Charley looked at his watch, “Six o’clock, and three hours more of ebb,” he remarked casually.
“But where do you say we are?” Neil insisted.
Charley pondered a moment, and then answered, “The tide has edged us over a bit out of our course, but if the fog lifts right now, as it is going to lift, you’ll find we’re not more than a thousand miles off McNear’s Landing.”
“You might be a little more definite by a few miles, anyway,” Neil grumbled, showing by his tone that he disagreed.
“All right, then,” Charley said, conclusively, “not less than a quarter of a mile, not more than a half.”
The wind freshened with a couple of little puffs, and the fog thinned perceptibly.
“McNear’s is right off there,” Charley said, pointing directly into the fog on our weather beam.
The three of us were peering intently in that direction, when the Reindeer struck with a dull crash and came to a standstill. We ran forward, and found her bowsprit entangled in the tanned rigging of a short, chunky mast. She had collided, head on, with a Chinese junk lying at anchor.
At the moment we arrived forward, five Chinese, like so many bees, came swarming out of the little ’tween-decks cabin, the sleep still in their eyes.
Leading them came a big, muscular man, conspicuous for his pock-marked face and the yellow silk handkerchief swathed about his head. It was Yellow Handkerchief, the Chinaman whom we had arrested for illegal shrimp-fishing the year before, and who, at that time, had nearly sunk the Reindeer, as he had nearly sunk it now by violating the rules of navigation.
“What d’ye mean, you yellow-faced heathen, lying here in a fairway without a horn a-going?” Charley cried hotly.
“Mean?” Neil calmly answered. “Just take a look—that’s what he means.”
Our eyes followed the direction indicated by Neil’s finger, and we saw the open amidships of the junk, half filled, as we found on closer examination, with fresh-caught shrimps. Mingled with the shrimps were myriads of small fish, from a quarter of an inch upward in size.
Yellow Handkerchief had lifted the trap-net at high-water slack, and, taking advantage of the concealment offered by the fog, had boldly been lying by, waiting to lift the net again at low-water slack.
“Well,” Neil hummed and hawed, “in all my varied and extensive experience as a fish patrolman, I must say this is the easiest capture I ever made. What’ll we do with them, Charley?”
“Tow the junk into San Rafael, of course,” came the answer. Charley turned to me. “You stand by the junk, lad, and I’ll pass you a towing line. If the wind doesn’t fail us, we’ll make the creek before the tide gets too low, sleep at San Rafael, and arrive in Oakland to-morrow by midday.”
So saying, Charley and Neil returned to the Reindeer and got under way, the junk towing astern. I went aft and took charge of the prize, steering by means of an antiquated tiller and a rudder with large, diamond-shaped holes, through which the water rushed back and forth.
By now the last of the fog had vanished, and Charley’s estimate of our position was confirmed by the sight of McNear’s Landing a short half-mile away. Following along the west shore, we rounded Point Pedro in plain view of the Chinese shrimp villages, and a great to-do was raised when they saw one of their junks towing behind the familiar fish patrol sloop.
The wind, coming off the land, was rather puffy and uncertain, and it would have been more to our advantage had it been stronger. San Rafael Creek, up which we had to go to reach the town and turn over our prisoners to the authorities, ran through wide-stretching marshes, and was difficult to navigate on a falling tide, while at low tide it was impossible to navigate at all. So, with the tide already half-ebbed, it was necessary for us to make time. This the heavy junk prevented, lumbering along behind and holding the Reindeer back by just so much dead weight.
“Tell those coolies to get up that sail,” Charley finally called to me. “We don’t want to hang up on the mud flats for the rest of the night.”
I repeated the order to Yellow Handkerchief, who mumbled it huskily to his men. He was suffering from a bad cold, which doubled him up in convulsive coughing spells and made his eyes heavy and bloodshot. This made him more evil-looking than ever, and when he glared viciously at me I remembered with a shiver the close shave I had had with him at the time of his previous arrest.
His crew sullenly tailed on to the halyards, and the strange, outlandish sail, lateen in rig and dyed a warm brown, rose in the air. We were sailing on the wind, and when Yellow Handkerchief flattened down the sheet the junk forged ahead and the tow-line went slack. Fast as the Reindeer could sail, the junk outsailed her; and to avoid running her down I hauled a little closer on the wind. But the junk likewise outpointed, and in a couple of minutes I was abreast of the Reindeer and to windward. The tow-line had now tautened, at right angles to the two boats, and the predicament was laughable.
“Cast off!” I shouted.
Charley hesitated.
“It’s all right,” I added. “Nothing can happen. We’ll make the creek on this tack, and you’ll be right behind me all the way up to San Rafael.”
At this Charley cast off, and Yellow Handkerchief sent one of his men forward to haul in the line. In the gathering darkness I could just make out the mouth of San Rafael Creek, and by the time we entered it I could barely see its banks. The Reindeer was fully five minutes astern, and we continued to leave her astern as we beat up the narrow, winding channel. With Charley behind us, it seemed I had little to fear from my five prisoners; but the darkness prevented my keeping a sharp eye on them, so I transferred my revolver from my trousers pocket to the side pocket of my coat, where I could more quickly put my hand on it.
Yellow Handkerchief was the one I feared, and that he knew it and made use of it, subsequent events will show. He was sitting a few feet away from me, on what then happened to be the weather side of the junk. I could scarcely see the outlines of his form, but I soon became convinced that he was slowly, very slowly, edging closer to me. I watched him carefully. Steering with my left hand, I slipped my right into my pocket and got hold of the revolver.
I saw him shift along for a couple of inches, and I was just about to order him back—the words were trembling on the tip of my tongue—when I was struck with great force by a heavy figure that had leaped through the air upon me from the lee side. It was one of the crew. He pinioned my right arm so that I could not withdraw my hand from my pocket, and at the same time clapped his other hand over my mouth. Of course, I could have struggled away from him and freed my hand or gotten my mouth clear so that I might cry an alarm, but in a trice Yellow Handkerchief was on top of me.
I struggled around to no purpose in the bottom of the junk, while my legs and arms were tied and my mouth securely bound in what I afterward found to be a cotton shirt. Then I was left lying in the bottom. Yellow Handkerchief took the tiller, issuing his orders in whispers; and from our position at the time, and from the alteration of the sail, which I could dimly make out above me as a blot against the stars, I knew the junk was being headed into the mouth of a small slough which emptied at that point into San Rafael Creek.
In a couple of minutes we ran softly alongside the bank, and the sail was silently lowered. The Chinese kept very quiet. Yellow Handkerchief sat down in the bottom alongside of me, and I could feel him straining to repress his raspy, hacking cough. Possibly seven or eight minutes later I heard Charley’s voice as the Reindeer went past the mouth of the slough.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am,” I could plainly hear him saying to Neil, “that the lad has finished with the fish patrol without accident.”
Here Neil said something which I could not catch, and then Charley’s voice went on:
“The youngster takes naturally to the water, and if, when he finishes high school, he takes a course in navigation and goes deep sea, I see no reason why he shouldn’t rise to be master of the finest and biggest ship afloat.”
It was all very flattering to me, but lying there, bound and gagged by my own prisoners, with the voices growing faint and fainter as the Reindeer slipped on through the darkness toward San Rafael, I must say I was not in quite the proper situation to enjoy my smiling future. With the Reindeer went my last hope. What was to happen next I could not imagine, for the Chinese were a different race from mine, and from what I knew I was confident that fair play was no part of their make-up.
After waiting a few minutes longer, the crew hoisted the lateen sail, and Yellow Handkerchief steered down toward the mouth of San Rafael Creek. The tide was getting lower, and he had difficulty in escaping the mud-banks. I was hoping he would run aground, but he succeeded in making the Bay without accident.
As we passed out of the creek a noisy discussion arose, which I knew related to me. Yellow Handkerchief was vehement, but the other four as vehemently opposed him. It was very evident that he advocated doing away with me and that they were afraid of the consequences. I was familiar enough with the Chinese character to know that fear alone restrained them. But what plan they offered in place of Yellow Handkerchief’s murderous one, I could not make out.
My feelings, as my fate hung in the balance, may be guessed. The discussion developed into a quarrel, in the midst of which Yellow Handkerchief unshipped the heavy tiller and sprang toward me. But his four companions threw themselves between, and a clumsy struggle took place for possession of the tiller. In the end Yellow Handkerchief was overcome, and sullenly returned to the steering, while they soundly berated him for his rashness.
Not long after, the sail was run down and the junk slowly urged forward by means of the sweeps. I felt it ground gently on the soft mud. Three of the Chinese—they all wore long sea-boots—got over the side, and the other two passed me across the rail. With Yellow Handkerchief at my legs and his two companions at my shoulders, they began to flounder along through the mud. After some time their feet struck firmer footing, and I knew they were carrying me up some beach. The location of this beach was not doubtful in my mind. It could be none other than one of the Marin Islands, a group of rocky islets which lay off the Marin County shore.
When they reached the firm sand that marked high tide, I was dropped, and none too gently. Yellow Handkerchief kicked me spitefully in the ribs, and then the trio floundered back through the mud to the junk. A moment later I heard the sail go up and slat in the wind as they drew in the sheet. Then silence fell, and I was left to my own devices for getting free.
I remembered having seen tricksters writhe and squirm out of ropes with which they were bound, but though I writhed and squirmed like a good fellow, the knots remained as hard as ever, and there was no appreciable slack. In the course of my squirming, however, I rolled over upon a heap of clam-shells—the remains, evidently, of some yachting party’s clam-bake. This gave me an idea. My hands were tied behind my back; and, clutching a shell in them, I rolled over and over, up the beach, till I came to the rocks I knew to be there.
Rolling around and searching, I finally discovered a narrow crevice, into which I shoved the shell. The edge of it was sharp, and across the sharp edge I proceeded to saw the rope that bound my wrists. The edge of the shell was also brittle, and I broke it by bearing too heavily upon it. Then I rolled back to the heap and returned with as many shells as I could carry in both hands. I broke many shells, cut my hands a number of times, and got cramps in my legs from my strained position and my exertions.
While I was suffering from the cramps, and resting, I heard a familiar halloo drift across the water. It was Charley, searching for me. The gag in my mouth prevented me from replying, and I could only lie there, helplessly fuming, while he rowed past the island and his voice slowly lost itself in the distance.
I returned to the sawing process, and at the end of half an hour succeeded in severing the rope. The rest was easy. My hands once free, it was a matter of minutes to loosen my legs and to take the gag out of my mouth. I ran around the island to make sure it was an island and not by any chance a portion of the mainland. An island it certainly was, one of the Marin group, fringed with a sandy beach and surrounded by a sea of mud. Nothing remained but to wait till daylight and to keep warm; for it was a cold, raw night for California, with just enough wind to pierce the skin and cause one to shiver.
To keep up the circulation, I ran around the island a dozen times or so, and clambered across its rocky backbone as many times more—all of which was of greater service to me, as I afterward discovered, than merely to warm me up. In the midst of this exercise I wondered if I had lost anything out of my pockets while rolling over and over in the sand. A search showed the absence of my revolver and pocket-knife. The first Yellow Handkerchief had taken; but the knife had been lost in the sand.
I was hunting for it when the sound of rowlocks came to my ears. At first, of course, I thought of Charley; but on second thought I knew Charley would be calling out as he rowed along. A sudden premonition of danger seized me. The Marin Islands are lonely places; chance visitors in the dead of night are hardly to be expected. What if it were Yellow Handkerchief? The sound made by the rowlocks grew more distinct. I crouched in the sand and listened intently. The boat, which I judged a small skiff from the quick stroke of the oars, was landing in the mud about fifty yards up the beach. I heard a raspy, hacking cough, and my heart stood still. It was Yellow Handkerchief. Not to be robbed of his revenge by his more cautious companions, he had stolen away from the village and come back alone.
I did some swift thinking. I was unarmed and helpless on a tiny islet, and a yellow barbarian, whom I had reason to fear, was coming after me. Any place was safer than the island, and I turned instinctively to the water, or rather to the mud. As he began to flounder ashore through the mud, I started to flounder out into it, going over the same course which the Chinese had taken in landing me and in returning to the junk.
Yellow Handkerchief, believing me to be lying tightly bound, exercised no care, but came ashore noisily. This helped me, for, under the shield of his noise and making no more myself than necessary, I managed to cover fifty feet by the time he had made the beach. Here I lay down in the mud. It was cold and clammy, and made me shiver, but I did not care to stand up and run the risk of being discovered by his sharp eyes.
He walked down the beach straight to where he had left me lying, and I had a fleeting feeling of regret at not being able to see his surprise when he did not find me. But it was a very fleeting regret, for my teeth were chattering with the cold.
What his movements were after that I had largely to deduce from the facts of the situation, for I could scarcely see him in the dim starlight. But I was sure that the first thing he did was to make the circuit of the beach to learn if landings had been made by other boats. This he would have known at once by the tracks through the mud.
Convinced that no boat had removed me from the island, he next started to find out what had become of me. Beginning at the pile of clam-shells, he lighted matches to trace my tracks in the sand. At such times I could see his villanous face plainly, and, when the sulphur from the matches irritated his lungs, between the raspy cough that followed and the clammy mud in which I was lying, I confess I shivered harder than ever.
The multiplicity of my footprints puzzled him. Then the idea that I might be out in the mud must have struck him, for he waded out a few yards in my direction, and, stooping, with his eyes searched the dim surface long and carefully. He could not have been more than fifteen feet from me, and had he lighted a match he would surely have discovered me.
He returned to the beach and clambered about, over the rocky backbone, again hunting for me with lighted matches, The closeness of the shave impelled me to further flight. Not daring to wade upright, on account of the noise made by floundering and by the suck of the mud, I remained lying down in the mud and propelled myself over its surface by means of my hands. Still keeping the trail made by the Chinese in going from and to the junk, I held on until I reached the water. Into this I waded to a depth of three feet, and then I turned off to the side on a line parallel with the beach.
The thought came to me of going toward Yellow Handkerchief’s skiff and escaping in it, but at that very moment he returned to the beach, and, as though fearing the very thing I had in mind, he slushed out through the mud to assure himself that the skiff was safe. This turned me in the opposite direction. Half swimming, half wading, with my head just out of water and avoiding splashing, I succeeded in putting about a hundred feet between myself and the spot where the Chinese had begun to wade ashore from the junk. I drew myself out on the mud and remained lying flat.
Again Yellow Handkerchief returned to the beach and made a search of the island, and again he returned to the heap of clam-shells. I knew what was running in his mind as well as he did himself. No one could leave or land without making tracks in the mud. The only tracks to be seen were those leading from his skiff and from where the junk had been. I was not on the island. I must have left it by one or the other of those two tracks. He had just been over the one to his skiff, and was certain I had not left that way. Therefore I could have left the island only by going over the tracks of the junk landing. This he proceeded to verify by wading out over them himself, lighting matches as he came along.
When he arrived at the point where I had first lain, I knew, by the matches he burned and the time he took, that he had discovered the marks left by my body. These he followed straight to the water and into it, but in three feet of water he could no longer see them. On the other hand, as the tide was still falling, he could easily make out the impression made by the junk’s bow, and could have likewise made out the impression of any other boat if it had landed at that particular spot. But there was no such mark; and I knew that he was absolutely convinced that I was hiding somewhere in the mud.
But to hunt on a dark night for a boy in a sea of mud would be like hunting for a needle in a haystack, and he did not attempt it. Instead he went back to the beach and prowled around for some time. I was hoping he would give me up and go, for by this time I was suffering severely from the cold. At last he waded out to his skiff and rowed away. What if this departure of Yellow Handkerchief’s were a sham? What if he had done it merely to entice me ashore?
The more I thought of it the more certain I became that he had made a little too much noise with his oars as he rowed away. So I remained, lying in the mud and shivering. I shivered till the muscles of the small of my back ached and pained me as badly as the cold, and I had need of all my self-control to force myself to remain in my miserable situation.
It was well that I did, however, for, possibly an hour later, I thought I could make out something moving on the beach. I watched intently, but my ears were rewarded first, by a raspy cough I knew only too well. Yellow Handkerchief had sneaked back, landed on the other side of the island, and crept around to surprise me if I had returned.
After that, though hours passed without sign of him, I was afraid to return to the island at all. On the other hand, I was almost equally afraid that I should die of the exposure I was undergoing. I had never dreamed one could suffer so. I grew so cold and numb, finally, that I ceased to shiver. But my muscles and bones began to ache in a way that was agony. The tide had long since begun to rise, and, foot by foot, it drove me in toward the beach. High water came at three o’clock, and at three o’clock I drew myself up on the beach, more dead than alive, and too helpless to have offered any resistance had Yellow Handkerchief swooped down upon me.
But no Yellow Handkerchief appeared. He had given me up and gone back to Point Pedro. Nevertheless, I was in a deplorable, not to say dangerous, condition. I could not stand upon my feet, much less walk. My clammy, muddy garments clung to me like sheets of ice. I thought I should never get them off. So numb and lifeless were my fingers, and so weak was I, that it seemed to take an hour to get off my shoes. I had not the strength to break the porpoise-hide laces, and the knots defied me. I repeatedly beat my hands upon the rocks to get some sort of life into them. Sometimes I felt sure I was going to die.
But in the end,—after several centuries, it seemed to me,—I got off the last of my clothes. The water was now close at hand, and I crawled painfully into it and washed the mud from my naked body. Still, I could not get on my feet and walk and I was afraid to lie still. Nothing remained but to crawl weakly, like a snail, and at the cost of constant pain, up and down the sand. I kept this up as long as possible, but as the east paled with the coming of dawn I began to succumb. The sky grew rosy-red, and the golden rim of the sun, showing above the horizon, found me lying helpless and motionless among the clam-shells.
As in a dream, I saw the familiar mainsail of the Reindeer as she slipped out of San Rafael Creek on a light puff of morning air. This dream was very much broken. There are intervals I can never recollect on looking back over it. Three things, however, I distinctly remember: the first sight of the Reindeer’s mainsail; her lying at anchor a few hundred feet away and a small boat leaving her side; and the cabin stove roaring red-hot, myself swathed all over with blankets, except on the chest and shoulders, which Charley was pounding and mauling unmercifully, and my mouth and throat burning with the coffee which Neil Partington was pouring down a trifle too hot.
But burn or no burn, I tell you it felt good. By the time we arrived in Oakland I was as limber and strong as ever,—though Charlie and Neil Partington were afraid I was going to have pneumonia, and Mrs. Partington, for my first six months of school, kept an anxious eye upon me to discover the first symptoms of consumption.
Time flies. It seems but yesterday that I was a lad of sixteen on the fish patrol. Yet I know that I arrived this very morning from China, with a quick passage to my credit, and master of the barkentine Harvester. And I know that to-morrow morning I shall run over to Oakland to see Neil Partington and his wife and family, and later on up to Benicia to see Charley Le Grant and talk over old times. No; I shall not go to Benicia, now that I think about it. I expect to be a highly interested party to a wedding, shortly to take place. Her name is Alice Partington, and, since Charley has promised to be best man, he will have to come down to Oakland instead.


8. CREATED HE THEM

She met him at the door.
“I did not think you would be so early.”
“It is half past eight.” He looked at his watch. “The train leaves at 9.12.”
He was very businesslike, until he saw her lips tremble as she abruptly turned and led the way.
“It’ll be all right, little woman,” he said soothingly. “Doctor Bodineau’s the man. He’ll pull him through, you’ll see.”
They entered the living-room. His glance quested apprehensively about, then turned to her.
“Where’s Al?”
She did not answer, but with a sudden impulse came close to him and stood motionless. She was a slender, dark-eyed woman, in whose face was stamped the strain and stress of living. But the fine lines and the haunted look in the eyes were not the handiwork of mere worry. He knew whose handiwork it was as he looked upon it, and she knew when she consulted her mirror.
“It’s no use, Mary,” he said. He put his hand on her shoulder. “We’ve tried everything. It’s a wretched business, I know, but what else can we do? You’ve failed. Doctor Bodineau’s all that’s left.”
“If I had another chance...” she began falteringly.
“We’ve threshed that all out,” he answered harshly. “You’ve got to buck up, now. You know what conclusion we arrived at. You know you haven’t the ghost of a hope in another chance.”
She shook her head. “I know it. But it is terrible, the thought of his going away to fight it out alone.”
“He won’t be alone. There’s Doctor Bodineau. And besides, it’s a beautiful place.”
She remained silent.
“It is the only thing,” he said.
“It is the only thing,” she repeated mechanically.
He looked at his watch. “Where’s Al?”
“I’ll send him.”
When the door had closed behind her, he walked over to the window and looked out, drumming absently with his knuckles on the pane.
“Hello.”
He turned and responded to the greeting of the man who had just entered. There was a perceptible drag to the man’s feet as he walked across toward the window and paused irresolutely halfway.
“I’ve changed my mind, George,” he announced hurriedly and nervously. “I’m not going.”
He plucked at his sleeve, shuffled with his feet, dropped his eyes, and with a strong effort raised them again to confront the other.
George regarded him silently, his nostrils distending and his lean fingers unconsciously crooking like an eagle’s talons about to clutch.
In line and feature, there was much of resemblance between the two men; and yet, in the strongest resemblances there was a radical difference. Theirs were the same black eyes, but those of the man at the window were sharp and straight looking, while those of the man in the middle of the room were cloudy and furtive. He could not face the other’s gaze, and continually and vainly struggled with himself to do so. The high cheek bones with the hollows beneath were the same, yet the texture of the hollows seemed different. The thin-lipped mouths were from the same mould, but George’s lips were firm and muscular, while Al’s were soft and loose—the lips of an ascetic turned voluptuary. There was also a sag at the corners. His flesh hinted of grossness, especially so in the eagle-like aquiline nose that must once have been like the other’s, but that had lost the austerity the other’s still retained.
Al fought for steadiness in the middle of the floor. The silence bothered him. He had a feeling that he was about to begin swaying back and forth. He moistened his lips with his tongue.
“I’m going to stay,” he said desperately.
He dropped his eyes and plucked again at his sleeve.
“And you are only twenty-six years old,” George said at last. “You poor, feeble old man.”
“Don’t be so sure of that,” Al retorted, with a flash of belligerence.
“Do you remember when we swam that mile and a half across the channel?”
“Well, and what of it?” A sullen expression was creeping across Al’s face.
“And do you remember when we boxed in the barn after school?”
“I could take all you gave me.”
“All I gave you!” George’s voice rose momentarily to a higher pitch. “You licked me four afternoons out of five. You were twice as strong as I—three times as strong. And now I’d be afraid to land on you with a sofa cushion; you’d crumple up like a last year’s leaf. You’d die, you poor, miserable old man.”
“You needn’t abuse me just because I’ve changed my mind,” the other protested, the hint of a whine in his voice.
His wife entered, and he looked appealingly to her; but the man at the window strode suddenly up to him and burst out—
“You don’t know your own mind for two successive minutes! You haven’t any mind, you spineless, crawling worm!”
“You can’t make me angry.” Al smiled with cunning, and glanced triumphantly at his wife. “You can’t make me angry,” he repeated, as though the idea were thoroughly gratifying to him. “I know your game. It’s my stomach, I tell you. I can’t help it. Before God, I can’t! Isn’t it my stomach, Mary?”
She glanced at George and spoke composedly, though she hid a trembling hand in a fold of her skirt.
“Isn’t it time?” she asked softly.
Her husband turned upon her savagely. “I’m not going to go!” he cried. “That’s just what I’ve been telling... him. And I tell you again, all of you, I’m not going. You can’t bully me.”
“Why, Al, dear, you said—” she began.
“Never mind what I said!” he broke out. “I’ve said something else right now, and you’ve heard it, and that settles it.”
He walked across the room and threw himself with emphasis into a Morris chair. But the other man was swiftly upon him. The talon-like fingers gripped his shoulders, jerked him to his feet, and held him there.
“You’ve reached the limit, Al, and I want you to understand it. I’ve tried to treat you like... like my brother, but hereafter I shall treat you like the thing that you are. Do you understand?”
The anger in his voice was cold. The blaze in his eyes was cold. It was vastly more effective than any outburst, and Al cringed under it and under the clutching hand that was bruising his shoulder muscles.
“It is only because of me that you have this house, that you have the food you eat. Your position? Any other man would have been shown the door a year ago—two years ago. I have held you in it. Your salary has been charity. It has been paid out of my pocket. Mary... her dresses... that gown she has on is made over; she wears the discarded dresses of her sisters, of my wife. Charity—do you understand? Your children—they are wearing the discarded clothes of my children, of the children of my neighbours who think the clothes went to some orphan asylum. And it is an orphan asylum... or it soon will be.”
He emphasized each point with an unconscious tightening of his grip on the shoulder. Al was squirming with the pain of it. The sweat was starting out on his forehead.
“Now listen well to me,” his brother went on. “In three minutes you will tell me that you are going with me. If you don’t, Mary and the children will be taken away from you—to-day. You needn’t ever come to the office. This house will be closed to you. And in six months I shall have the pleasure of burying you. You have three minutes to make up your mind.”
Al made a strangling movement, and reached up with weak fingers to the clutching hand.
“My heart... let me go... you’ll be the death of me,” he gasped.
The hand thrust him down forcibly into the Morris chair and released him.
The clock on the mantle ticked loudly. George glanced at it, and at Mary. She was leaning against the table, unable to conceal her trembling. He became unpleasantly aware of the feeling of his brother’s fingers on his hand. Quite unconsciously he wiped the back of the hand upon his coat. The clock ticked on in the silence. It seemed to George that the room reverberated with his voice. He could hear himself still speaking.
“I’ll go,” came from the Morris chair.
It was a weak and shaken voice, and it was a weak and shaken man that pulled himself out of the Morris chair. He started toward the door.
“Where are you going?” George demanded.
“Suit case,” came the response. “Mary’ll send the trunk later. I’ll be back in a minute.”
The door closed after him. A moment later, struck with sudden suspicion, George was opening the door. He glanced in. His brother stood at a sideboard, in one hand a decanter, in the other hand, bottom up and to his lips, a whisky glass.
Across the glass Al saw that he was observed. It threw him into a panic. Hastily he tried to refill the glass and get it to his lips; but glass and decanter were sent smashing to the floor. He snarled. It was like the sound of a wild beast. But the grip on his shoulder subdued and frightened him. He was being propelled toward the door.
“The suit case,” he gasped. “It’s there in that room. Let me get it.”
“Where’s the key?” his brother asked, when he had brought it.
“It isn’t locked.”
The next moment the suit case was spread open, and George’s hand was searching the contents. From one side it brought out a bottle of whisky, from the other side a flask. He snapped the case to.
“Come on,” he said. “If we miss one car, we miss that train.”
He went out into the hallway, leaving Al with his wife. It was like a funeral, George thought, as he waited.
His brother’s overcoat caught on the knob of the front door and delayed its closing long enough for Mary’s first sob to come to their ears. George’s lips were very thin and compressed as he went down the steps. In one hand he carried the suit case. With the other hand he held his brother’s arm.
As they neared the corner, he heard the electric car a block away, and urged his brother on. Al was breathing hard. His feet dragged and shuffled, and he held back.
“A hell of a brother YOU are,” he panted.
For reply, he received a vicious jerk on his arm. It reminded him of his childhood when he was hurried along by some angry grown-up. And like a child, he had to be helped up the car step. He sank down on an outside seat, panting, sweating, overcome by the exertion. He followed George’s eyes as the latter looked him up and down.
“A hell of a brother YOU are,” was George’s comment when he had finished the inspection.
Moisture welled into Al’s eyes.
“It’s my stomach,” he said with self-pity.
“I don’t wonder,” was the retort. “Burnt out like the crater of a volcano. Fervent heat isn’t a circumstance.”
Thereafter they did not speak. When they arrived at the transfer point, George came to himself with a start. He smiled. With fixed gaze that did not see the houses that streamed across his field of vision, he had himself been sunk deep in self-pity. He helped his brother from the car, and looked up the intersecting street. The car they were to take was not in sight.
Al’s eyes chanced upon the corner grocery and saloon across the way. At once he became restless. His hands passed beyond his control, and he yearned hungrily across the street to the door that swung open even as he looked and let in a happy pilgrim. And in that instant he saw the white-jacketed bartender against an array of glittering glass. Quite unconsciously he started to cross the street.
“Hold on.” George’s hand was on his arm.
“I want some whisky,” he answered.
“You’ve already had some.”
“That was hours ago. Go on, George, let me have some. It’s the last day. Don’t shut off on me until we get there—God knows it will be soon enough.”
George glanced desperately up the street. The car was in sight.
“There isn’t time for a drink,” he said.
“I don’t want a drink. I want a bottle.” Al’s voice became wheedling. “Go on, George. It’s the last, the very last.”
“No.” The denial was as final as George’s thin lips could make it.
Al glanced at the approaching car. He sat down suddenly on the curbstone.
“What’s the matter?” his brother asked, with momentary alarm.
“Nothing. I want some whisky. It’s my stomach.”
“Come on now, get up.”
George reached for him, but was anticipated, for his brother sprawled flat on the pavement, oblivious to the dirt and to the curious glances of the passers-by. The car was clanging its gong at the crossing, a block away.
“You’ll miss it,” Al grinned from the pavement. “And it will be your fault.”
George’s fists clenched tightly.
“For two cents I’d give you a thrashing.”
“And miss the car,” was the triumphant comment from the pavement.
George looked at the car. It was halfway down the block. He looked at his watch. He debated a second longer.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll get it. But you get on that car. If you miss it, I’ll break the bottle over your head.”
He dashed across the street and into the saloon. The car came in and stopped. There were no passengers to get off. Al dragged himself up the steps and sat down. He smiled as the conductor rang the bell and the car started. The swinging door of the saloon burst open. Clutching in his hand the suit case and a pint bottle of whisky, George started in pursuit. The conductor, his hand on the bell cord, waited to see if it would be necessary to stop. It was not. George swung lightly aboard, sat down beside his brother, and passed him the bottle.
“You might have got a quart,” Al said reproachfully.
He extracted the cork with a pocket corkscrew, and elevated the bottle.
“I’m sick... my stomach,” he explained in apologetic tones to the passenger who sat next to him.
In the train they sat in the smoking-car. George felt that it was imperative. Also, having successfully caught the train, his heart softened. He felt more kindly toward his brother, and accused himself of unnecessary harshness. He strove to atone by talking about their mother, and sisters, and the little affairs and interests of the family. But Al was morose, and devoted himself to the bottle. As the time passed, his mouth hung looser and looser, while the rings under his eyes seemed to puff out and all his facial muscles to relax.
“It’s my stomach,” he said, once, when he finished the bottle and dropped it under the seat; but the swift hardening of his brother’s face did not encourage further explanations.
The conveyance that met them at the station had all the dignity and luxuriousness of a private carriage. George’s eyes were keen for the ear marks of the institution to which they were going, but his apprehensions were allayed from moment to moment. As they entered the wide gateway and rolled on through the spacious grounds, he felt sure that the institutional side of the place would not jar upon his brother. It was more like a summer hotel, or, better yet, a country club. And as they swept on through the spring sunshine, the songs of birds in his ears, and in his nostrils the breath of flowers, George sighed for a week of rest in such a place, and before his eyes loomed the arid vista of summer in town and at the office. There was not room in his income for his brother and himself.
“Let us take a walk in the grounds,” he suggested, after they had met Doctor Bodineau and inspected the quarters assigned to Al. “The carriage leaves for the station in half an hour, and we’ll just have time.”
“It’s beautiful,” he remarked a moment later. Under his feet was the velvet grass, the trees arched overhead, and he stood in mottled sunshine. “I wish I could stay for a month.”
“I’ll trade places with you,” Al said quickly.
George laughed it off, but he felt a sinking of the heart.
“Look at that oak!” he cried. “And that woodpecker! Isn’t he a beauty!”
“I don’t like it here,” he heard his brother mutter.
George’s lips tightened in preparation for the struggle, but he said—
“I’m going to send Mary and the children off to the mountains. She needs it, and so do they. And when you’re in shape, I’ll send you right on to join them. Then you can take your summer vacation before you come back to the office.”
“I’m not going to stay in this damned hole, for all you talk about it,” Al announced abruptly.
“Yes you are, and you’re going to get your health and strength back again, so that the look of you will put the colour in Mary’s cheeks where it used to be.”
“I’m going back with you.” Al’s voice was firm. “I’m going to take the same train back. It’s about time for that carriage, I guess.”
“I haven’t told you all my plans,” George tried to go on, but Al cut him off.
“You might as well quit that. I don’t want any of your soapy talking. You treat me like a child. I’m not a child. My mind’s made up, and I’ll show you how long it can stay made up. You needn’t talk to me. I don’t care a rap for what you’re going to say.”
A baleful light was in his eyes, and to his brother he seemed for all the world like a cornered rat, desperate and ready to fight. As George looked at him he remembered back to their childhood, and it came to him that at last was aroused in Al the same old stubborn strain that had enabled him, as a child, to stand against all force and persuasion.
George abandoned hope. He had lost. This creature was not human. The last fine instinct of the human had fled. It was a brute, sluggish and stolid, impossible to move—just the raw stuff of life, combative, rebellious, and indomitable. And as he contemplated his brother he felt in himself the rising up of a similar brute. He became suddenly aware that his fingers were tensing and crooking like a thug’s, and he knew the desire to kill. And his reason, turned traitor at last, counselled that he should kill, that it was the only thing left for him to do.
He was aroused by a servant calling to him through the trees that the carriage was waiting. He answered. Then, looking straight before him, he discovered his brother. He had forgotten it was his brother. It had been only a thing the moment before. He began to talk, and as he talked the way became clear to him. His reason had not turned traitor. The brute in him had merely orientated his reason.
“You are no earthly good, Al,” he said. “You know that. You’ve made Mary’s life a hell. You are a curse to your children. And you have not made life exactly a paradise for the rest of us.”
“There’s no use your talking,” Al interjected. “I’m not going to stay here.”
“That’s what I’m coming to,” George continued. “You don’t have to stay here.” (Al’s face brightened, and he involuntarily made a movement, as though about to start toward the carriage.) “On the other hand, it is not necessary that you should return with me. There is another way.”
George’s hand went to his hip pocket and appeared with a revolver. It lay along his palm, the butt toward Al, and toward Al he extended it. At the same time, with his head, he indicated the near-by thicket.
“You can’t bluff me,” Al snarled.
“It is not a bluff, Al. Look at me. I mean it. And if you don’t do it for yourself, I shall have to do it for you.”
They faced each other, the proffered revolver still extended. Al debated for a moment, then his eyes blazed. With a quick movement he seized the revolver.
“My God! I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll show you what I’ve got in me.”
George felt suddenly sick. He turned away. He did not see his brother enter the thicket, but he heard the passage of his body through the leaves and branches.
“Good-bye, Al,” he called.
“Good-bye,” came from the thicket.
George felt the sweat upon his forehead. He began mopping his face with his handkerchief. He heard, as from a remote distance, the voice of the servant again calling to him that the carriage was waiting. The woodpecker dropped down through the mottled sunshine and lighted on the trunk of a tree a dozen feet away. George felt that it was all a dream, and yet through it all he felt supreme justification. It was the right thing to do. It was the only thing.
His whole body gave a spasmodic start, as though the revolver had been fired. It was the voice of Al, close at his back.
“Here’s your gun,” Al said. “I’ll stay.”
The servant appeared among the trees, approaching rapidly and calling anxiously. George put the weapon in his pocket and caught both his brother’s hands in his own.
“God bless you, old man,” he murmured; “and”—with a final squeeze of the hands—“good luck!”
“I’m coming,” he called to the servant, and turned and ran through the trees toward the carriage.


9. THE GOAT MAN OF FUATINO

I

Of his many schooners, ketches and cutters that nosed about among the coral isles of the South Seas, David Grief loved most the Rattler—a yacht-like schooner of ninety tons with so swift a pair of heels that she had made herself famous, in the old days, opium-smuggling from San Diego to Puget Sound, raiding the seal-rookeries of Bering Sea, and running arms in the Far East. A stench and an abomination to government officials, she had been the joy of all sailormen, and the pride of the shipwrights who built her. Even now, after forty years of driving, she was still the same old Rattler, fore-reaching in the same marvellous manner that compelled sailors to see in order to believe and that punctuated many an angry discussion with words and blows on the beaches of all the ports from Valparaiso to Manila Bay.
On this night, close-hauled, her big mainsail preposterously flattened down, her luffs pulsing emptily on the lift of each smooth swell, she was sliding an easy four knots through the water on the veriest whisper of a breeze. For an hour David Grief had been leaning on the rail at the lee fore-rigging, gazing overside at the steady phosphorescence of her gait. The faint back-draught from the headsails fanned his cheek and chest with a wine of coolness, and he was in an ecstasy of appreciation of the schooner’s qualities.
“Eh!—She’s a beauty, Taute, a beauty,” he said to the Kanaka lookout, at the same time stroking the teak of the rail with an affectionate hand.
“Ay, skipper,” the Kanaka answered in the rich, big-chested tones of Polynesia. “Thirty years I know ships, but never like ’this. On Raiatea we call her Fanauao.”
“The Dayborn,” Grief translated the love-phrase. “Who named her so?”
About to answer, Taute peered ahead with sudden intensity. Grief joined him in the gaze.
“Land,” said Taute.
“Yes; Fuatino,” Grief agreed, his eyes still fixed on the spot where the star-luminous horizon was gouged by a blot of blackness. “It’s all right. I’ll tell the captain.”
The Rattler slid along until the loom of the island could be seen as well as sensed, until the sleepy roar of breakers and the blatting of goats could be heard, until the wind, off the land, was flower-drenched with perfume.
“If it wasn’t a crevice, she could run the passage a night like this,” Captain Glass remarked regretfully, as he watched the wheel lashed hard down by the steersman.
The Rattler, run off shore a mile, had been hove to to wait until daylight ere she attempted the perilous entrance to Fuatino. It was a perfect tropic night, with no hint of rain or squall. For’ard, wherever their tasks left them, the Raiatea sailors sank down to sleep on deck. Aft, the captain and mate and Grief spread their beds with similar languid unconcern. They lay on their blankets, smoking and murmuring sleepy conjectures about Mataara, the Queen of Fuatino, and about the love affair between her daughter, Naumoo, and Motuaro.
“They’re certainly a romantic lot,” Brown, the mate, said. “As romantic as we whites.”
“As romantic as Pilsach,” Grief laughed, “and that is going some. How long ago was it, Captain, that he jumped you?”
“Eleven years,” Captain Glass grunted resentfully.
“Tell me about it,” Brown pleaded. “They say he’s never left Fuatino since. Is that right?”
“Right O,” the captain rumbled. “He’s in love with his wife—the little hussy! Stole him from me, and as good a sailorman as the trade has ever seen—if he is a Dutchman.”
“German,” Grief corrected.
“It’s all the same,” was the retort. “The sea was robbed of a good man that night he went ashore and Notutu took one look at him. I reckon they looked good to each other. Before you could say skat, she’d put a wreath of some kind of white flowers on his head, and in five minutes they were off down the beach, like a couple of kids, holding hands and laughing. I hope he’s blown that big coral patch out of the channel. I always start a sheet or two of copper warping past.”
“Go on with the story,” Brown urged.
“That’s all. He was finished right there. Got married that night. Never came on board again. I looked him up next day. Found him in a straw house in the bush, barelegged, a white savage, all mixed up with flowers and things and playing a guitar. Looked like a bally ass. Told me to send his things ashore. I told him I’d see him damned first. And that’s all. You’ll see her to-morrow. They’ve got three kiddies now—wonderful little rascals. I’ve a phonograph down below for him, and about a million records.”
“And then you made him trader?” the mate inquired of Grief.
“What else could I do? Fuatino is a love island, and Filsach is a lover. He knows the native, too—one of the best traders I’ve got, or ever had. He’s responsible. You’ll see him to-morrow.”
“Look here, young man,” Captain Glass rumbled threateningly at his mate. “Are you romantic? Because if you are, on board you stay. Fuatino’s the island of romantic insanity. Everybody’s in love with somebody. They live on love. It’s in the milk of the cocoa-nuts, or the air, or the sea. The history of the island for the last ten thousand years is nothing but love affairs. I know. I’ve talked with the old men. And if I catch you starting down the beach hand in hand—”
His sudden cessation caused both the other men to look at him. They followed his gaze, which passed across them to the main rigging, and saw what he saw, a brown hand and arm, muscular and wet, being joined from overside by a second brown hand and arm. A head followed, thatched with long elfin locks, and then a face, with roguish black eyes, lined with the marks of wildwood’s laughter.
“My God!” Brown breathed. “It’s a faun—a sea-faun.”
“It’s the Goat Man,” said Glass.
“It is Mauriri,” said Grief. “He is my own blood brother by sacred plight of native custom. His name is mine, and mine is his.”
Broad brown shoulders and a magnificent chest rose above the rail, and, with what seemed effortless ease, the whole grand body followed over the rail and noiselessly trod the deck. Brown, who might have been other things than the mate of an island schooner, was enchanted. All that he had ever gleaned from the books proclaimed indubitably the faun-likeness of this visitant of the deep. “But a sad faun,” was the young man’s judgment, as the golden-brown woods god strode forward to where David Grief sat up with outstretched hand.
“David,” said David Grief.
“Mauriri, Big Brother,” said Mauriri.
And thereafter, in the custom of men who have pledged blood brotherhood, each called the other, not by the other’s name, but by his own. Also, they talked in the Polynesian tongue of Fuatino, and Brown could only sit and guess.
“A long swim to say talofa,” Grief said, as the other sat and streamed water on the deck.
“Many days and nights have I watched for your coming, Big Brother,” Mauriri replied. “I have sat on the Big Rock, where the dynamite is kept, of which I have been made keeper. I saw you come up to the entrance and run back into darkness. I knew you waited till morning, and I followed. Great trouble has come upon us. Mataara has cried these many days for your coming. She is an old woman, and Motauri is dead, and she is sad.”
“Did he marry Naumoo?” Grief asked, after he had shaken his head and sighed by the custom.
“Yes. In the end they ran to live with the goats, till Mataara forgave, when they returned to live with her in the Big House. But he is now dead, and Naumoo soon will die. Great is our trouble, Big Brother. Tori is dead, and Tati-Tori, and Petoo, and Nari, and Pilsach, and others.”
“Pilsach, too!” Grief exclaimed. “Has there been a sickness?”
“There has been much killing. Listen, Big Brother, Three weeks ago a strange schooner came. From the Big Rock I saw her topsails above the sea. She towed in with her boats, but they did not warp by the big patch, and she pounded many times. She is now on the beach, where they are strengthening the broken timbers. There are eight white men on board. They have women from some island far to the east. The women talk a language in many ways like ours, only different. But we can understand. They say they were stolen by the men on the schooner. We do not know, but they sing and dance and are happy.”
“And the men?” Grief interrupted.
“They talk French. I know, for there was a mate on your schooner who talked French long ago. There are two chief men, and they do not look like the others. They have blue eyes like you, and they are devils. One is a bigger devil than the other. The other six are also devils. They do not pay us for our yams, and taro, and breadfruit. They take everything from us, and if we complain they kill us. Thus was killed Tori, and Tati-Tori, and Petoo, and others. We cannot fight, for we have no guns—only two or three old guns.
“They ill-treat our women. Thus was killed Motuaro, who made defence of Naumoo, whom they have now taken on board their schooner. It was because of this that Pilsach was killed. Him the chief of the two chief men, the Big Devil, shot once in his whaleboat, and twice when he tried to crawl up the sand of the beach. Pilsach was a brave man, and Notutu now sits in the house and cries without end. Many of the people are afraid, and have run to live with the goats. But there is not food for all in the high mountains. And the men will not go out and fish, and they work no more in the gardens because of the devils who take all they have. And we are ready to fight.
“Big Brother, we need guns, and much ammunition. I sent word before I swam out to you, and the men are waiting. The strange white men do not know you are come. Give me a boat, and the guns, and I will go back before the sun. And when you come to-morrow we will be ready for the word from you to kill the strange white men. They must be killed. Big Brother, you have ever been of the blood with us, and the men and women have prayed to many gods for your coming. And you are come.”
“I will go in the boat with you,” Grief said.
“No, Big Brother,” was Mauriri’s reply. “You must be with the schooner. The strange white men will fear the schooner, not us. We will have the guns, and they will not know. It is only when they see your schooner come that they will be alarmed. Send the young man there with the boat.”
So it was that Brown, thrilling with all the romance and adventure he had read and guessed and never lived, took his place in the sternsheets of a whaleboat, loaded with rifles and cartridges, rowed by four Baiatea sailors, steered by a golden-brown, sea-swimming faun, and directed through the warm tropic darkness toward the half-mythical love island of Fuatino, which had been invaded by twentieth century pirates.

II

If a line be drawn between Jaluit, in the Marshall Group, and Bougainville, in the Solomons, and if this line be bisected at two degrees south of the equator by a line drawn from Ukuor, in the Carolines, the high island of Fuatino will be raised in that sun-washed stretch of lonely sea. Inhabited by a stock kindred to the Hawaiian, the Samoan, the Tahitian, and the Maori, Fuatino becomes the apex of the wedge driven by Polynesia far to the west and in between Melanesia and Micronesia. And it was Fuatino that David Grief raised next morning, two miles to the east and in direct line with the rising sun. The same whisper of a breeze held, and the Rattler slid through the smooth sea at a rate that would have been eminently proper for an island schooner had the breeze been thrice as strong.
Fuatino was nothing else than an ancient crater, thrust upward from the sea-bottom by some primordial cataclysm. The western portion, broken and crumbled to sea level, was the entrance to the crater itself, which constituted the harbour. Thus, Fuatino was like a rugged horseshoe, the heel pointing to the west. And into the opening at the heel the Rattler steered. Captain Glass, binoculars in hand and peering at the chart made by himself, which was spread on top the cabin, straightened up with an expression on his face that was half alarm, half resignation.
“It’s coming,” he said. “Fever. It wasn’t due till to-morrow. It always hits me hard, Mr. Grief. In five minutes I’ll be off my head. You’ll have to con the schooner in. Boy! Get my bunk ready! Plenty of blankets! Fill that hot-water bottle! It’s so calm, Mr. Grief, that I think you can pass the big patch without warping. Take the leading wind and shoot her. She’s the only craft in the South Pacific that can do it, and I know you know the trick. You can scrape the Big Rock by just watching out for the main boom.”
He had talked rapidly, almost like a drunken man, as his reeling brain battled with the rising shock of the malarial stroke. When he stumbled toward the companionway, his face was purpling and mottling as if attacked by some monstrous inflammation or decay. His eyes were setting in a glassy bulge, his hands shaking, his teeth clicking in the spasms of chill.
“Two hours to get the sweat,” he chattered with a ghastly grin. “And a couple more and I’ll be all right. I know the damned thing to the last minute it runs its course. Y-y-you t-t-take ch-ch-ch-ch——”
His voice faded away in a weak stutter as he collapsed down into the cabin and his employer took charge. The Rattler was just entering the passage. The heels of the horseshoe island were two huge mountains of rock a thousand feet high, each almost broken off from the mainland and connected with it by a low and narrow peninsula. Between the heels was a half-mile stretch, all but blocked by a reef of coral extending across from the south heel. The passage, which Captain Glass had called a crevice, twisted into this reef, curved directly to the north heel, and ran along the base of the perpendicular rock. At this point, with the main-boom almost grazing the rock on the port side, Grief, peering down on the starboard side, could see bottom less than two fathoms beneath and shoaling steeply. With a whaleboat towing for steerage and as a precaution against back-draughts from the cliff, and taking advantage of a fan of breeze, he shook the Rattler full into it and glided by the big coral patch without warping. As it was, he just scraped, but so softly as not to start the copper.
The harbour of Fuatino opened before him. It was a circular sheet of water, five miles in diameter, rimmed with white coral beaches, from which the verdure-clad slopes rose swiftly to the frowning crater walls. The crests of the walls were saw-toothed, volcanic peaks, capped and halo’d with captive trade-wind clouds. Every nook and crevice of the disintegrating lava gave foothold to creeping, climbing vines and trees—a green foam of vegetation. Thin streams of water, that were mere films of mist, swayed and undulated downward in sheer descents of hundreds of feet. And to complete the magic of the place, the warm, moist air was heavy with the perfume of the yellow-blossomed cassi.
Fanning along against light, vagrant airs, the Rattler worked in. Calling the whale-boat on board, Grief searched out the shore with his binoculars. There was no life. In the hot blaze of tropic sun the place slept. There was no sign of welcome. Up the beach, on the north shore, where the fringe of cocoanut palms concealed the village, he could see the black bows of the canoes in the canoe-houses. On the beach, on even keel, rested the strange schooner. Nothing moved on board of her or around her. Not until the beach lay fifty yards away did Grief let go the anchor in forty fathoms. Out in the middle, long years before, he had sounded three hundred fathoms without reaching bottom, which was to be expected of a healthy crater-pit like Fuatino. As the chain roared and surged through the hawse-pipe he noticed a number of native women, lusciously large as only those of Polynesia are, in flowing ahus, flower-crowned, stream out on the deck of the schooner on the beach. Also, and what they did not see, he saw from the galley the squat figure of a man steal for’ard, drop to the sand, and dive into the green screen of bush.
While the sails were furled and gasketed, awnings stretched, and sheets and tackles coiled harbour fashion, David Grief paced the deck and looked vainly for a flutter of life elsewhere than on the strange schooner. Once, beyond any doubt, he heard the distant crack of a rifle in the direction of the Big Rock. There were no further shots, and he thought of it as some hunter shooting a wild goat.
At the end of another hour Captain Glass, under a mountain of blankets, had ceased shivering and was in the inferno of a profound sweat.
“I’ll be all right in half an hour,” he said weakly.
“Very well,” Grief answered. “The place is dead, and I’m going ashore to see Mataara and find out the situation.”
“It’s a tough bunch; keep your eyes open,” the captain warned him. “If you’re not back in an hour, send word off.”
Grief took the steering-sweep, and four of his Raiatea men bent to the oars. As they landed on the beach he looked curiously at the women under the schooner’s awning. He waved his hand tentatively, and they, after giggling, waved back.
Talofa!” he called.
They understood the greeting, but replied, “Iorana,” and he knew they came from the Society Group.
“Huahine,” one of his sailors unhesitatingly named their island. Grief asked them whence they came, and with giggles and laughter they replied, “Huahine.”
“It looks like old Dupuy’s schooner,” Grief said, in Tahitian, speaking in a low voice. “Don’t look too hard. What do you think, eh? Isn’t it the Rattler?”
As the men climbed out and lifted the whale-boat slightly up the beach they stole careless glances at the vessel.
“It is the Rattler,” Taute said. “She carried her topmast away seven years ago. At Papeete they rigged a new one. It was ten feet shorter. That is the one.”
“Go over and talk with the women, you boys. You can almost see Huahine from Raiatea, and you’ll be sure to know some of them. Find out all you can. And if any of the white men show up, don’t start a row.”
An army of hermit crabs scuttled and rustled away before him as he advanced up the beach, but under the palms no pigs rooted and grunted. The cocoanuts lay where they had fallen, and at the copra-sheds there were no signs of curing. Industry and tidiness had vanished. Grass house after grass house he found deserted. Once he came upon an old man, blind, toothless, prodigiously wrinkled, who sat in the shade and babbled with fear when he spoke to him. It was as if the place had been struck with the plague, was Grief’s thought, as he finally approached the Big House. All was desolation and disarray. There were no flower-crowned men and maidens, no brown babies rolling in the shade of the avocado trees. In the doorway, crouched and rocking back and forth, sat Mataara, the old queen. She wept afresh at sight of him, divided between the tale of her woe and regret that no follower was left to dispense to him her hospitality.
“And so they have taken Naumoo,” she finished. “Motauri is dead. My people have fled and are starving with the goats. And there is no one to open for you even a drinking cocoa-nut. O Brother, your white brothers be devils.”
“They are no brothers of mine, Mataara,” Grief consoled. “They are robbers and pigs, and I shall clean the island of them——”
He broke off to whirl half around, his hand flashing to his waist and back again, the big Colt’s levelled at the figure of a man, bent double, that rushed at him from out of the trees. He did not pull the trigger, nor did the man pause till he had flung himself headlong at Grief’s feet and begun to pour forth a stream of uncouth and awful noises. He recognized the creature as the one he had seen steal from the Rattler and dive into the bush; but not until he raised him up and watched the contortions of the hare-lipped mouth could he understand what he uttered.
“Save me, master, save me!” the man yammered, in English, though he was unmistakably a South Sea native. “I know you! Save me!”
And thereat he broke into a wild outpour of incoherence that did not cease until Grief seized him by the shoulders and shook him into silence.
“I know you,” Grief said. “You were cook in the French Hotel at Papeete two years ago. Everybody called you ’Hare-Lip.’”
The man nodded violently.
“I am now cook of the Rattler,” he spat and spluttered, his mouth writhing in a fearful struggle with its defect. “I know you. I saw you at the hotel. I saw you at Lavina’s. I saw you on the Kittiwake. I saw you at the Mariposa wharf. You are Captain Grief, and you will save me. Those men are devils. They killed Captain Dupuy. Me they made kill half the crew. Two they shot from the cross-trees. The rest they shot in the water. I knew them all. They stole the girls from Huahine. They added to their strength with jail-men from Noumea. They robbed the traders in the New Hebrides. They killed the trader at Vanikori, and stole two women there. They——”
But Grief no longer heard. Through the trees, from the direction of the harbour, came a rattle of rifles, and he started on the run for the beach. Pirates from Tahiti and convicts from New Caledonia! A pretty bunch of desperadoes that even now was attacking his schooner. Hare-Lip followed, still spluttering and spitting his tale of the white devils’ doings.
The rifle-firing ceased as abruptly as it had begun, but Grief ran on, perplexed by ominous conjectures, until, in a turn of the path, he encountered Mauriri running toward him from the beach.
“Big Brother,” the Goat Man panted, “I was too late. They have taken your schooner. Come! For now they will seek for you.”
He started back up the path away from the beach.
“Where is Brown?” Grief demanded.
“On the Big Rock. I will tell you afterward. Come now!”
“But my men in the whaleboat?”
Mauriri was in an agony of apprehension.
“They are with the women on the strange schooner. They will not be killed. I tell you true. The devils want sailors. But you they will kill. Listen!” From the water, in a cracked tenor voice, came a French hunting song. “They are landing on the beach. They have taken your schooner—that I saw. Come!”

III

Careless of his own life and skin, nevertheless David Grief was possessed of no false hardihood. He knew when to fight and when to run, and that this was the time for running he had no doubt. Up the path, past the old men sitting in the shade, past Mataara crouched in the doorway of the Big House, he followed at the heels of Mauriri. At his own heels, doglike, plodded Hare-Lip. From behind came the cries of the hunters, but the pace Mauriri led them was heartbreaking. The broad path narrowed, swung to the right, and pitched upward. The last grass house was left, and through high thickets of cassi and swarms of great golden wasps the way rose steeply until it became a goat-track. Pointing upward to a bare shoulder of volcanic rock, Mauriri indicated the trail across its face.
“Past that we are safe, Big Brother,” he said. “The white devils never dare it, for there are rocks we roll down on their heads, and there is no other path. Always do they stop here and shoot when we cross the rock. Come!”
A quarter of an hour later they paused where the trail went naked on the face of the rock.
“Wait, and when you come, come quickly,” Mauriri cautioned.
He sprang into the blaze of sunlight, and from below several rifles pumped rapidly. Bullets smacked about him, and puffs of stone-dust flew out, but he won safely across. Grief followed, and so near did one bullet come that the dust of its impact stung his cheek. Nor was Hare-Lip struck, though he essayed the passage more slowly.
For the rest of the day, on the greater heights, they lay in a lava glen where terraced taro and papaia grew. And here Grief made his plans and learned the fulness of the situation.
“It was ill luck,” Mauriri said. “Of all nights this one night was selected by the white devils to go fishing. It was dark as we came through the passage. They were in boats and canoes. Always do they have their rifles with them. One Raiatea man they shot. Brown was very brave. We tried to get by to the top of the bay, but they headed us off, and we were driven in between the Big Rock and the village. We saved the guns and all the ammunition, but they got the boat. Thus they learned of your coming. Brown is now on this side of the Big Rock with the guns and the ammunition.”
“But why didn’t he go over the top of the Big Rock and give me warning as I came in from the sea?” Grief criticized.
“They knew not the way. Only the goats and I know the way. And this I forgot, for I crept through the bush to gain the water and swim to you. But the devils were in the bush shooting at Brown and the Raiatea men; and me they hunted till daylight, and through the morning they hunted me there in the low-lying land. Then you came in your schooner, and they watched till you went ashore, and I got away through the bush, but you were already ashore.”
“You fired that shot?”
“Yes; to warn you. But they were wise and would not shoot back, and it was my last cartridge.”
“Now you, Hare-Lip?” Grief said to the Rattler’s cook.
His tale was long and painfully detailed. For a year he had been sailing out of Tahiti and through the Paumotus on the Rattler. Old Dupuy was owner and captain. On his last cruise he had shipped two strangers in Tahiti as mate and supercargo. Also, another stranger he carried to be his agent on Fanriki. Raoul Van Asveld and Carl Lepsius were the names of the mate and supercargo.
“They are brothers, I know, for I have heard them talk in the dark, on deck, when they thought no one listened,” Hare-Lip explained.
The Rattler cruised through the Low Islands, picking up shell and pearls at Dupuy’s stations. Frans Amundson, the third stranger, relieved Pierre Gollard at Fanriki. Pierre Gollard came on board to go back to Tahiti. The natives of Fanriki said he had a quart of pearls to turn over to Dupuy. The first night out from Fanriki there was shooting in the cabin. Then the bodies of Dupuy and Pierre Gollard were thrown overboard. The Tahitian sailors fled to the forecastle. For two days, with nothing to eat and the Rattler hove to, they remained below. Then Raoul Van Asveld put poison in the meal he made Hare-Lip cook and carry for’ard. Half the sailors died.
“He had a rifle pointed at me, master; what could I do?” Hare-Lip whimpered. “Of the rest, two went up the rigging and were shot. Fanriki was ten miles away. The others went overboard to swim. They were shot as they swam. I, only, lived, and the two devils; for me they wanted to cook for them. That day, with the breeze, they went back to Fanrika and took on Frans Amundson, for he was one of them.”
Then followed Hare-Lip’s nightmare experiences as the schooner wandered on the long reaches to the westward. He was the one living witness and knew they would have killed him had he not been the cook. At Noumea five convicts had joined them. Hare-Lip was never permitted ashore at any of the islands, and Grief was the first outsider to whom he had spoken.
“And now they will kill me,” Hare-Lip spluttered, “for they will know I have told you. Yet am I not all a coward, and I will stay with you, master, and die with you.”
The Goat Man shook his head and stood up.
“Lie here and rest,” he said to Grief. “It will be a long swim to-night. As for this cook-man, I will take him now to the higher places where my brothers live with the goats.”

IV

“It is well that you swim as a man should, Big Brother,” Mauriri whispered.
From the lava glen they had descended to the head of the bay and taken to the water. They swam softly, without splash, Mauriri in the lead. The black walls of the crater rose about them till it seemed they swam on the bottom of a great bowl. Above was the sky of faintly luminous star-dust. Ahead they could see the light which marked the Rattler, and from her deck, softened by distance, came a gospel hymn played on the phonograph intended for Pilsach.
The two swimmers bore to the left, away from the captured schooner. Laughter and song followed on board after the hymn, then the phonograph started again. Grief grinned to himself at the appositeness of it as “Lead, Kindly Light,” floated out over the dark water.
“We must take the passage and land on the Big Rock,” Mauriri whispered. “The devils are holding the low land. Listen!”
Half a dozen rifle shots, at irregular intervals, attested that Brown still held the Rock and that the pirates had invested the narrow peninsula.
At the end of another hour they swam under the frowning loom of the Big Rock. Mauriri, feeling his way, led the landing in a crevice, up which for a hundred feet they climbed to a narrow ledge.
“Stay here,” said Mauriri. “I go to Brown. In the morning I shall return.”
“I will go with you, Brother,” Grief said.
Mauriri laughed in the darkness.
“Even you, Big Brother, cannot do this thing. I am the Goat Man, and I only, of all Fuatino, can go over the Big Rock in the night. Furthermore, it will be the first time that even I have done it. Put out your hand. You feel it? That is where Pilsach’s dynamite is kept. Lie close beside the wall and you may sleep without falling. I go now.”
And high above the sounding surf, on a narrow shelf beside a ton of dynamite, David Grief planned his campaign, then rested his cheek on his arm and slept.
In the morning, when Mauriri led him over the summit of the Big Rock, David Grief understood why he could not have done it in the night. Despite the accustomed nerve of a sailor for height and precarious clinging, he marvelled that he was able to do it in the broad light of day. There were places, always under minute direction of Mauriri, that he leaned forward, falling, across hundred-foot-deep crevices, until his outstretched hands struck a grip on the opposing wall and his legs could then be drawn across after. Once, there was a ten-foot leap, above half a thousand feet of yawning emptiness and down a fathom’s length to a meagre foothold. And he, despite his cool head, lost it another time on a shelf, a scant twelve inches wide, where all hand-holds seemed to fail him. And Mauriri, seeing him sway, swung his own body far out and over the gulf and passed him, at the same time striking him sharply on the back to brace his reeling brain. Then it was, and forever after, that he fully knew why Mauriri had been named the Goat Man.

V

The defence of the Big Rock had its good points and its defects. Impregnable to assault, two men could hold it against ten thousand. Also, it guarded the passage to open sea. The two schooners, Raoul Van Asveld, and his cutthroat following were bottled up. Grief, with the ton of dynamite, which he had removed higher up the rock, was master. This he demonstrated, one morning, when the schooners attempted to put to sea. The Rattler led, the whaleboat towing her manned by captured Fuatino men. Grief and the Goat Man peered straight down from a safe rock-shelter, three hundred feet above. Their rifles were beside them, also a glowing fire-stick and a big bundle of dynamite sticks with fuses and detonators attached. As the whaleboat came beneath, Mauriri shook his head.
“They are our brothers. We cannot shoot.”
For’ard, on the Rattler, were several of Grief’s own Raiatea sailors. Aft stood another at the wheel. The pirates were below, or on the other schooner, with the exception of one who stood, rifle in hand, amidships. For protection he held Naumoo, the Queen’s daughter, close to him.
“That is the chief devil,” Mauriri whispered, “and his eyes are blue like yours. He is a terrible man. See! He holds Naumoo that we may not shoot him.”
A light air and a slight tide were making into the passage, and the schooner’s progress was slow.
“Do you speak English?” Grief called down.
The man startled, half lifted his rifle to the perpendicular, and looked up. There was something quick and catlike in his movements, and in his burned blond face a fighting eagerness. It was the face of a killer.
“Yes,” he answered. “What do you want?”
“Turn back, or I’ll blow your schooner up,” Grief warned. He blew on the fire-stick and whispered, “Tell Naumoo to break away from him and run aft.”
From the Rattler, close astern, rifles cracked, and bullets spatted against the rock. Van Asveld laughed defiantly, and Mauriri called down in the native tongue to the woman. When directly beneath, Grief, watching, saw her jerk away from the man. On the instant Grief touched the fire-stick to the match-head in the split end of the short fuse, sprang into view on the face of the rock, and dropped the dynamite. Van Asveld had managed to catch the girl and was struggling with her. The Goat Man held a rifle on him and waited a chance. The dynamite struck the deck in a compact package, bounded, and rolled into the port scupper. Van Asveld saw it and hesitated, then he and the girl ran aft for their lives. The Goat Man fired, but splintered the corner of the galley. The spattering of bullets from the Rattler increased, and the two on the rock crouched low for shelter and waited. Mauriri tried to see what was happening below, but Grief held him back.
“The fuse was too long,” he said. “I’ll know better next time.”
It was half a minute before the explosion came. What happened afterward, for some little time, they could not tell, for the Rattler’s marksmen had got the range and were maintaining a steady fire. Once, fanned by a couple of bullets, Grief risked a peep. The Rattler, her port deck and rail torn away, was listing and sinking as she drifted back into the harbour. Climbing on board the Rattler were the men and the Huahine women who had been hidden in the Rattler’s cabin and who had swum for it under the protecting fire. The Fuatino men who had been towing in the whaleboat had cast off the line, dashed back through the passage, and were rowing wildly for the south shore.
From the shore of the peninsula the discharges of four rifles announced that Brown and his men had worked through the jungle to the beach and were taking a hand. The bullets ceased coming, and Grief and Mauriri joined in with their rifles. But they could do no damage, for the men of the Rattler were firing from the shelter of the deck-houses, while the wind and tide carried the schooner farther in.
There was no sign of the Rattler, which had sunk in the deep water of the crater.
Two things Raoul Van Asveld did that showed his keenness and coolness and that elicited Grief’s admiration. Under the Rattler’s rifle fire Raoul compelled the fleeing Fuatino men to come in and surrender. And at the same time, dispatching half his cutthroats in the Rattler’s boat, he threw them ashore and across the peninsula, preventing Brown from getting away to the main part of the island. And for the rest of the morning the intermittent shooting told to Grief how Brown was being driven in to the other side of the Big Rock. The situation was unchanged, with the exception of the loss of the Rattler.

VI

The defects of the position on the Big Rock were vital. There was neither food nor water. For several nights, accompanied by one of the Raiatea men, Mauriri swam to the head of the bay for supplies. Then came the night when lights flared on the water and shots were fired. After that the water-side of the Big Rock was invested as well.
“It’s a funny situation,” Brown remarked, who was getting all the adventure he had been led to believe resided in the South Seas. “We’ve got hold and can’t let go, and Raoul has hold and can’t let go. He can’t get away, and we’re liable to starve to death holding him.”
“If the rain came, the rock-basins would fill,” said Mauriri. It was their first twenty-four hours without water. “Big Brother, to-night you and I will get water. It is the work of strong men.”
That night, with cocoanut calabashes, each of quart capacity and tightly stoppered, he led Grief down to the water from the peninsula side of the Big Rock. They swam out not more than a hundred feet. Beyond, they could hear the occasional click of an oar or the knock of a paddle against a canoe, and sometimes they saw the flare of matches as the men in the guarding boats lighted cigarettes or pipes.
“Wait here,” whispered Mauriri, “and hold the calabashes.”
Turning over, he swam down. Grief, face downward, watched his phosphorescent track glimmer, and dim, and vanish. A long minute afterward Mauriri broke surface noiselessly at Grief’s side.
“Here! Drink!”
The calabash was full, and Grief drank sweet fresh water which had come up from the depths of the salt.
“It flows out from the land,” said Mauriri.
“On the bottom?”
“No. The bottom is as far below as the mountains are above. Fifty feet down it flows. Swim down until you feel its coolness.”
Several times filling and emptying his lungs in diver fashion, Grief turned over and went down through the water. Salt it was to his lips, and warm to his flesh; but at last, deep down, it perceptibly chilled and tasted brackish. Then, suddenly, his body entered the cold, subterranean stream. He removed the small stopper from the calabash, and, as the sweet water gurgled into it, he saw the phosphorescent glimmer of a big fish, like a sea ghost, drift sluggishly by.
Thereafter, holding the growing weight of the calabashes, he remained on the surface, while Mauriri took them down, one by one, and filled them.
“There are sharks,” Grief said, as they swam back to shore.
“Pooh!” was the answer. “They are fish sharks. We of Fuatino are brothers to the fish sharks.”
“But the tiger sharks? I have seen them here.”
“When they come, Big Brother, we will have no more water to drink—unless it rains.”

VII

A week later Mauriri and a Raiatea man swam back with empty calabashes. The tiger sharks had arrived in the harbour. The next day they thirsted on the Big Rock.
“We must take our chance,” said Grief. “Tonight I shall go after water with Mautau. Tomorrow night, Brother, you will go with Tehaa.”
Three quarts only did Grief get, when the tiger sharks appeared and drove them in. There were six of them on the Rock, and a pint a day, in the sweltering heat of the mid-tropics, is not sufficient moisture for a man’s body. The next night Mauriri and Tehaa returned with no water. And the day following Brown learned the full connotation of thirst, when the lips crack to bleeding, the mouth is coated with granular slime, and the swollen tongue finds the mouth too small for residence.
Grief swam out in the darkness with Mautau. Turn by turn, they went down through the salt, to the cool sweet stream, drinking their fill while the calabashes were filling. It was Mau-tau’s turn to descend with the last calabash, and Grief, peering down from the surface, saw the glimmer of sea-ghosts and all the phosphorescent display of the struggle. He swam back alone, but without relinquishing the precious burden of full calabashes.
Of food they had little. Nothing grew on the Rock, and its sides, covered with shellfish at sea level where the surf thundered in, were too precipitous for access. Here and there, where crevices permitted, a few rank shellfish and sea urchins were gleaned. Sometimes frigate birds and other sea birds were snared. Once, with a piece of frigate bird, they succeeded in hooking a shark. After that, with jealously guarded shark-meat for bait, they managed on occasion to catch more sharks.
But water remained their direst need. Mauriri prayed to the Goat God for rain. Taute prayed to the Missionary God, and his two fellow islanders, backsliding, invoked the deities of their old heathen days. Grief grinned and considered. But Brown, wild-eyed, with protruding blackened tongue, cursed. Especially he cursed the phonograph that in the cool twilights ground out gospel hymns from the deck of the Rattler. One hymn in particular, “Beyond the Smiling and the Weeping,” drove him to madness. It seemed a favourite on board the schooner, for it was played most of all. Brown, hungry and thirsty, half out of his head from weakness and suffering, could lie among the rocks with equanimity and listen to the tinkling of ukuleles and guitars, and the hulas and himines of the Huahine women. But when the voices of the Trinity Choir floated over the water he was beside himself. One evening the cracked tenor took up the song with the machine:

“Beyond the smiling and the weeping,
I shall be soon.
Beyond the waking and the sleeping,
Beyond the sowing and the reaping,
I shall be soon,
I shall be soon.”

Then it was that Brown rose up. Again and again, blindly, he emptied his rifle at the schooner. Laughter floated up from the men and women, and from the peninsula came a splattering of return bullets; but the cracked tenor sang on, and Brown continued to fire, until the hymn was played out.
It was that night that Grief and Mauriri came back with but one calabash of water. A patch of skin six inches long was missing from Grief’s shoulder in token of the scrape of the sandpaper hide of a shark whose dash he had eluded.

VIII

In the early morning of another day, before the sun-blaze had gained its full strength, came an offer of a parley from Raoul Van Asveld.
Brown brought the word in from the outpost among the rocks a hundred yards away. Grief was squatted over a small fire, broiling a strip of shark-flesh. The last twenty-four hours had been lucky. Seaweed and sea urchins had been gathered. Tehaa had caught a shark, and Mauriri had captured a fair-sized octopus at the base of the crevice where the dynamite was stored. Then, too, in the darkness they had made two successful swims for water before the tiger sharks had nosed them out.
“Said he’d like to come in and talk with you,” Brown said. “But I know what the brute is after. Wants to see how near starved to death we are.”
“Bring him in,” Grief said.
“And then we will kill him,” the Goat Man cried joyously.
Grief shook his head.
“But he is a killer of men, Big Brother, a beast and a devil,” the Goat Man protested.
“He must not be killed, Brother. It is our way not to break our word.”
“It is a foolish way.”
“Still it is our way,” Grief answered gravely, turning the strip of shark-meat over on the coals and noting the hungry sniff and look of Tehaa. “Don’t do that, Tehaa, when the Big Devil comes. Look as if you and hunger were strangers. Here, cook those sea urchins, you, and you, Big Brother, cook the squid. We will have the Big Devil to feast with us. Spare nothing. Cook all.”
And, still broiling meat, Grief arose as Raoul Van Asveld, followed by a large Irish terrier, strode into camp. Raoul did not make the mistake of holding out his hand.
“Hello!” he said. “I’ve heard of you.”
“I wish I’d never heard of you,” Grief answered.
“Same here,” was the response. “At first, before I knew who it was, I thought I had to deal with an ordinary trading captain. That’s why you’ve got me bottled up.”
“And I am ashamed to say that I underrated you,” Grief smiled. “I took you for a thieving beachcomber, and not for a really intelligent pirate and murderer. Hence, the loss of my schooner. Honours are even, I fancy, on that score.”
Raoul flushed angrily under his sunburn, but he contained himself. His eyes roved over the supply of food and the full water-calabashes, though he concealed the incredulous surprise he felt. His was a tall, slender, well-knit figure, and Grief, studying him, estimated his character from his face. The eyes were keen and strong, but a bit too close together—not pinched, however, but just a trifle near to balance the broad forehead, the strong chin and jaw, and the cheekbones wide apart. Strength! His face was filled with it, and yet Grief sensed in it the intangible something the man lacked.
“We are both strong men,” Raoul said, with a bow. “We might have been fighting for empires a hundred years ago.”
It was Grief’s turn to bow.
“As it is, we are squalidly scrapping over the enforcement of the colonial laws of those empires whose destinies we might possibly have determined a hundred years ago.”
“It all comes to dust,” Raoul remarked sententiously, sitting down. “Go ahead with your meal. Don’t let me interrupt.”
“Won’t you join us?” was Grief’s invitation.
The other looked at him with sharp steadiness, then accepted.
“I’m sticky with sweat,” he said. “Can I wash?”
Grief nodded and ordered Mauriri to bring a calabash. Raoul looked into the Goat Man’s eyes, but saw nothing save languid uninterest as the precious quart of water was wasted on the ground.
“The dog is thirsty,” Raoul said.
Grief nodded, and another calabash was presented to the animal.
Again Raoul searched the eyes of the natives and learned nothing.
“Sorry we have no coffee,” Grief apologized. “You’ll have to drink plain water. A calabash, Tehaa. Try some of this shark. There is squid to follow, and sea urchins and a seaweed salad. I’m sorry we haven’t any frigate bird. The boys were lazy yesterday, and did not try to catch any.”
With an appetite that would not have stopped at wire nails dipped in lard, Grief ate perfunctorily, and tossed the scraps to the dog.
“I’m afraid I haven’t got down to the primitive diet yet,” he sighed, as he sat back. “The tinned goods on the Rattler, now I could make a hearty meal off of them, but this muck——” He took a half-pound strip of broiled shark and flung it to the dog. “I suppose I’ll come to it if you don’t surrender pretty soon.”
Raoul laughed unpleasantly.
“I came to offer terms,” he said pointedly.
Grief shook his head.
“There aren’t any terms. I’ve got you where the hair is short, and I’m not going to let go.”
“You think you can hold me in this hole!” Raoul cried.
“You’ll never leave it alive, except in double irons.” Grief surveyed his guest with an air of consideration. “I’ve handled your kind before. We’ve pretty well cleaned it out of the South Seas. But you are a—how shall I say?—a sort of an anachronism. You’re a throwback, and we’ve got to get rid of you. Personally, I would advise you to go back to the schooner and blow your brains out. It is the only way to escape what you’ve got coming to you.”
The parley, so far as Raoul was concerned, proved fruitless, and he went back into his own lines convinced that the men on the Big Rock could hold out for years, though he would have been swiftly unconvinced could he have observed Tehaa and the Raiateans, the moment his back was turned and he was out of sight, crawling over the rocks and sucking and crunching the scraps his dog had left uneaten.

IX

“We hunger now, Brother,” Grief said, “but it is better than to hunger for many days to come. The Big Devil, after feasting and drinking good water with us in plenty, will not stay long in Fuatino. Even to-morrow may he try to leave. To-night you and I sleep over the top of the Rock, and Tehaa, who shoots well, will sleep with us if he can dare the Rock.”
Tehaa, alone among the Raiateans, was cragsman enough to venture the perilous way, and dawn found him in a rock-barricaded nook, a hundred yards to the right of Grief and Mauriri.
The first warning was the firing of rifles from the peninsula, where Brown and his two Raiateans signalled the retreat and followed the besiegers through the jungle to the beach. From the eyrie on the face of the rock Grief could see nothing for another hour, when the Rattler appeared, making for the passage. As before, the captive Fuatino men towed in the whaleboat. Mauriri, under direction of Grief, called down instructions to them as they passed slowly beneath. By Grief’s side lay several bundles of dynamite sticks, well-lashed together and with extremely short fuses.
The deck of the Rattler was populous. For’ard, rifle in hand, among the Raiatean sailors, stood a desperado whom Mauriri announced was Raoul’s brother. Aft, by the helmsman, stood another. Attached to him, tied waist to waist, with slack, was Mataara, the old Queen. On the other side of the helmsman, his arm in a sling, was Captain Glass. Amidships, as before, was Raoul, and with him, lashed waist to waist, was Naumoo.
“Good morning, Mister David Grief,” Raoul called up.
“And yet I warned you that only in double irons would you leave the island,” Grief murmured down with a sad inflection.
“You can’t kill all your people I have on board,” was the answer.
The schooner, moving slowly, jerk by jerk, as the men pulled in the whaleboat, was almost directly beneath. The rowers, without ceasing, slacked on their oars, and were immediately threatened with the rifle of the man who stood for’ard.
“Throw, Big Brother!” Naumoo called up in the Fuatino tongue. “I am filled with sorrow and am willed to die. His knife is ready with which to cut the rope, but I shall hold him tight. Be not afraid, Big Brother. Throw, and throw straight, and good-bye.”
Grief hesitated, then lowered the fire-stick which he had been blowing bright.
“Throw!” the Goat Man urged.
Still Grief hesitated.
“If they get to sea, Big Brother, Naumoo dies just the same. And there are all the others. What is her life against the many?”
“If you drop any dynamite, or fire a single shot, we’ll kill all on board,” Raoul cried up to them. “I’ve got you, David Grief. You can’t kill these people, and I can. Shut up, you!”
This last was addressed to Naumoo, who was calling up in her native tongue and whom Raoul seized by the neck with one hand to choke to silence. In turn, she locked both arms about him and looked up beseechingly to Grief.
“Throw it, Mr. Grief, and be damned to them,” Captain Glass rumbled in his deep voice. “They’re bloody murderers, and the cabin’s full of them.”
The desperado who was fastened to the old Queen swung half about to menace Captain Glass with his rifle, when Tehaa, from his position farther along the Rock, pulled trigger on him. The rifle dropped from the man’s hand, and on his face was an expression of intense surprise as his legs crumpled under him and he sank down on deck, dragging the Queen with him.
“Port! Hard a port!” Grief cried.
Captain Glass and the Kanaka whirled the wheel over, and the bow of the Rattler headed in for the Rock. Amidships Raoul still struggled with Naumoo. His brother ran from for’ard to his aid, being missed by the fusillade of quick shots from Tehaa and the Goat Man. As Raoul’s brother placed the muzzle of his rifle to Naumoo’s side Grief touched the fire-stick to the match-head in the split end of the fuse. Even as with both hands he tossed the big bundle of dynamite, the rifle went off, and Naumoo’s fall to the deck was simultaneous with the fall of the dynamite. This time the fuse was short enough. The explosion occurred at the instant the deck was reached, and that portion of the Rattler, along with Raoul, his brother, and Naumoo, forever disappeared.
The schooner’s side was shattered, and she began immediately to settle. For’ard, every Raiatean sailor dived overboard. Captain Glass met the first man springing up the companionway from the cabin, with a kick full in the face, but was overborne and trampled on by the rush. Following the desperadoes came the Huahine women, and as they went overboard, the Rattler sank on an even keel close to the base of the Rock. Her cross-trees still stuck out when she reached bottom.
Looking down, Grief could see all that occurred beneath the surface. He saw Mataara, a fathom deep, unfasten herself from the dead pirate and swim upward. As her head emerged she saw Captain Glass, who could not swim, sinking several yards away. The Queen, old woman that she was, but an islander, turned over, swam down to him, and held him up as she struck out for the unsubmerged cross-trees.
Five heads, blond and brown, were mingled with the dark heads of Polynesia that dotted the surface. Grief, rifle in hand, watched for a chance to shoot. The Goat Man, after a minute, was successful, and they saw the body of one man sink sluggishly. But to the Raiatean sailors, big and brawny, half fish, was the vengeance given. Swimming swiftly, they singled out the blond heads and the brown. Those from above watched the four surviving desperadoes, clutched and locked, dragged far down beneath and drowned like curs.
In ten minutes everything was over. The Huahine women, laughing and giggling, were holding on to the sides of the whaleboat which had done the towing. The Raiatean sailors, waiting for orders, were about the cross-tree to which Captain Glass and Mataara clung.
“The poor old Rattler,” Captain Glass lamented.
“Nothing of the sort,” Grief answered. “In a week we’ll have her raised, new timbers amidships, and we’ll be on our way.” And to the Queen, “How is it with you, Sister?”
“Naumoo is gone, and Motauri, Brother, but Fuatino is ours again. The day is young. Word shall be sent to all my people in the high places with the goats. And to-night, once again, and as never before, we shall feast and rejoice in the Big House.”
“She’s been needing new timbers abaft the beam there for years,” quoth Captain Glass. “But the chronometers will be out of commission for the rest of the cruise.”


10. TOLD IN THE DROOLING WARD

Me? I’m not a drooler. I’m the assistant, I don’t know what Miss Jones or Miss Kelsey could do without me. There are fifty-five low-grade droolers in this ward, and how could they ever all be fed if I wasn’t around? I like to feed droolers. They don’t make trouble. They can’t. Something’s wrong with most of their legs and arms, and they can’t talk. They’re very low-grade. I can walk, and talk, and do things. You must be careful with the droolers and not feed them too fast. Then they choke. Miss Jones says I’m an expert. When a new nurse comes I show her how to do it. It’s funny watching a new nurse try to feed them. She goes at it so slow and careful that supper time would be around before she finished shoving down their breakfast. Then I show her, because I’m an expert. Dr. Dalrymple says I am, and he ought to know. A drooler can eat twice as fast if you know how to make him.
My name’s Tom. I’m twenty-eight years old. Everybody knows me in the institution. This is an institution, you know. It belongs to the State of California and is run by politics. I know. I’ve been here a long time. Everybody trusts me. I run errands all over the place, when I’m not busy with the droolers. I like droolers. It makes me think how lucky I am that I ain’t a drooler.
I like it here in the Home. I don’t like the outside. I know. I’ve been around a bit, and run away, and adopted. Me for the Home, and for the drooling ward best of all. I don’t look like a drooler, do I? You can tell the difference soon as you look at me. I’m an assistant, expert assistant. That’s going some for a feeb. Feeb? Oh, that’s feeble-minded. I thought you knew. We’re all feebs in here.
But I’m a high-grade feeb. Dr. Dalrymple says I’m too smart to be in the Home, but I never let on. It’s a pretty good place. And I don’t throw fits like lots of the feebs. You see that house up there through the trees. The high-grade epilecs all live in it by themselves. They’re stuck up because they ain’t just ordinary feebs. They call it the club house, and they say they’re just as good as anybody outside, only they’re sick. I don’t like them much. They laugh at me, when they ain’t busy throwing fits. But I don’t care. I never have to be scared about falling down and busting my head. Sometimes they run around in circles trying to find a place to sit down quick, only they don’t. Low-grade epilecs are disgusting, and high-grade epilecs put on airs. I’m glad I ain’t an epilec. There ain’t anything to them. They just talk big, that’s all.
Miss Kelsey says I talk too much. But I talk sense, and that’s more than the other feebs do. Dr. Dalrymple says I have the gift of language. I know it. You ought to hear me talk when I’m by myself, or when I’ve got a drooler to listen. Sometimes I think I’d like to be a politician, only it’s too much trouble. They’re all great talkers; that’s how they hold their jobs.
Nobody’s crazy in this institution. They’re just feeble in their minds. Let me tell you something funny. There’s about a dozen high-grade girls that set the tables in the big dining room. Sometimes when they’re done ahead of time, they all sit down in chairs in a circle and talk. I sneak up to the door and listen, and I nearly die to keep from laughing. Do you want to know what they talk? It’s like this. They don’t say a word for a long time. And then one says, "Thank God I’m not feeble-minded." And all the rest nod their heads and look pleased. And then nobody says anything for a time. After which the next girl in the circle says, "Thank God I’m not feeble-minded," and they nod their heads all over again. And it goes on around the circle, and they never say anything else. Now they’re real feebs, ain’t they? I leave it to you. I’m not that kind of a feeb, thank God.
Sometimes I don’t think I’m a feeb at all. I play in the band and read music. We’re all supposed to be feebs in the band except the leader. He’s crazy. We know it, but we never talk about it except amongst ourselves. His job is politics, too, and we don’t want him to lose it. I play the drum. They can’t get along without me in this institution. I was sick once, so I know. It’s a wonder the drooling ward didn’t break down while I was in hospital.
I could get out of here if I wanted to. I’m not so feeble as some might think. But I don’t let on. I have too good a time. Besides, everything would run down if I went away. I’m afraid some time they’ll find out I’m not a feeb and send me out into the world to earn my own living. I know the world, and I don’t like it. The Home is fine enough for me.
You see how I grin sometimes. I can’t help that. But I can put it on a lot. I’m not bad, though. I look at myself in the glass. My mouth is funny, I know that, and it lops down, and my teeth are bad. You can tell a feeb anywhere by looking at his mouth and teeth. But that doesn’t prove I’m a feeb. It’s just because I’m lucky that I look like one.
I know a lot. If I told you all I know, you’d be surprised. But when I don’t want to know, or when they want me to do something I don’t want to do, I just let my mouth lop down and laugh and make foolish noises. I watch the foolish noises made by the low-grades, and I can fool anybody. And I know a lot of foolish noises. Miss Kelsey called me a fool the other day. She was very angry, and that was where I fooled her.
Miss Kelsey asked me once why I don’t write a book about feebs. I was telling her what was the matter with little Albert. He’s a drooler, you know, and I can always tell the way he twists his left eye what’s the matter with him. So I was explaining it to Miss Kelsey, and, because she didn’t know, it made her mad. But some day, mebbe, I’ll write that book. Only it’s so much trouble. Besides, I’d sooner talk.
Do you know what a micro is? It’s the kind with the little heads no bigger than your fist. They’re usually droolers, and they live a long time. The hydros don’t drool. They have the big heads, and they’re smarter. But they never grow up. They always die. I never look at one without thinking he’s going to die. Sometimes, when I’m feeling lazy, or the nurse is mad at me, I wish I was a drooler with nothing to do and somebody to feed me. But I guess I’d sooner talk and be what I am.
Only yesterday Doctor Dalrymple said to me, "Tom," he said, "I just don’t know what I’d do without you." And he ought to know, seeing as he’s had the bossing of a thousand feebs for going on two years. Dr. Whatcomb was before him. They get appointed, you know. It’s politics. I’ve seen a whole lot of doctors here in my time. I was here before any of them. I’ve been in this institution twenty-five years. No, I’ve got no complaints. The institution couldn’t be run better.
It’s a snap to be a high-grade feeb. Just look at Doctor Dalrymple. He has troubles. He holds his job by politics. You bet we high-graders talk politics. We know all about it, and it’s bad. An institution like this oughtn’t to be run on politics. Look at Doctor Dalrymple. He’s been here two years and learned a lot. Then politics will come along and throw him out and send a new doctor who don’t know anything about feebs.
I’ve been acquainted with just thousands of nurses in my time. Some of them are nice. But they come and go. Most of the women get married. Sometimes I think I’d like to get married. I spoke to Dr. Whatcomb about it once, but he told me he was very sorry, because feebs ain’t allowed to get married. I’ve been in love. She was a nurse. I won’t tell you her name. She had blue eyes, and yellow hair, and a kind voice, and she liked me. She told me so. And she always told me to be a good boy. And I was, too, until afterward, and then I ran away. You see, she went off and got married, and she didn’t tell me about it.
I guess being married ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Dr. Anglin and his wife used to fight. I’ve seen them. And once I heard her call him a feeb. Now nobody has a right to call anybody a feeb that ain’t. Dr. Anglin got awful mad when she called him that. But he didn’t last long. Politics drove him out, and Doctor Mandeville came. He didn’t have a wife. I heard him talking one time with the engineer. The engineer and his wife fought like cats and dogs, and that day Doctor Mandeville told him he was damn glad he wasn’t tied to no petticoats. A petticoat is a skirt. I knew what he meant, if I was a feeb. But I never let on. You hear lots when you don’t let on.
I’ve seen a lot in my time. Once I was adopted, and went away on the railroad over forty miles to live with a man named Peter Bopp and his wife. They had a ranch. Doctor Anglin said I was strong and bright, and I said I was, too. That was because I wanted to be adopted. And Peter Bopp said he’d give me a good home, and the lawyers fixed up the papers.
But I soon made up my mind that a ranch was no place for me. Mrs. Bopp was scared to death of me and wouldn’t let me sleep in the house. They fixed up the woodshed and made me sleep there. I had to get up at four o’clock and feed the horses, and milk cows, and carry the milk to the neighbours. They called it chores, but it kept me going all day. I chopped wood, and cleaned chicken houses, and weeded vegetables, and did most everything on the place. I never had any fun. I hadn’t no time.
Let me tell you one thing. I’d sooner feed mush and milk to feebs than milk cows with the frost on the ground. Mrs. Bopp was scared to let me play with her children. And I was scared, too. They used to make faces at me when nobody was looking, and call me "Looney." Everybody called me Looney Tom. And the other boys in the neighbourhood threw rocks at me. You never see anything like that in the Home here. The feebs are better behaved.
Mrs. Bopp used to pinch me and pull my hair when she thought I was too slow, and I only made foolish noises and went slower. She said I’d be the death of her some day. I left the boards off the old well in the pasture, and the pretty new calf fell in and got drowned. Then Peter Bopp said he was going to give me a licking. He did, too. He took a strap halter and went at me. It was awful. I’d never had a licking in my life. They don’t do such things in the Home, which is why I say the Home is the place for me.
I know the law, and I knew he had no right to lick me with a strap halter. That was being cruel, and the guardianship papers said he mustn’t be cruel. I didn’t say anything. I just waited, which shows you what kind of a feeb I am. I waited a long time, and got slower, and made more foolish noises; but he wouldn’t, send me back to the Home, which was what I wanted. But one day, it was the first of the month, Mrs. Brown gave me three dollars, which was for her milk bill with Peter Bopp. That was in the morning. When I brought the milk in the evening I was to bring back the receipt. But I didn’t. I just walked down to the station, bought a ticket like any one, and rode on the train back to the Home. That’s the kind of a feeb I am.
Doctor Anglin was gone then, and Doctor Mandeville had his place. I walked right into his office. He didn’t know me. "Hello," he said, "this ain’t visiting day." "I ain’t a visitor," I said. "I’m Tom. I belong here." Then he whistled and showed he was surprised. I told him all about it, and showed him the marks of the strap halter, and he got madder and madder all the time and said he’d attend to Mr. Peter Bopp’s case.
And mebbe you think some of them little droolers weren’t glad to see me.
I walked right into the ward. There was a new nurse feeding little Albert. "Hold on," I said. "That ain’t the way. Don’t you see how he’s twisting that left eye? Let me show you." Mebbe she thought I was a new doctor, for she just gave me the spoon, and I guess I filled little Albert up with the most comfortable meal he’d had since I went away. Droolers ain’t bad when you understand them. I heard Miss Jones tell Miss Kelsey once that I had an amazing gift in handling droolers.
Some day, mebbe, I’m going to talk with Doctor Dalrymple and get him to give me a declaration that I ain’t a feeb. Then I’ll get him to make me a real assistant in the drooling ward, with forty dollars a month and my board. And then I’ll marry Miss Jones and live right on here. And if she won’t have me, I’ll marry Miss Kelsey or some other nurse. There’s lots of them that want to get married. And I won’t care if my wife gets mad and calls me a feeb. What’s the good? And I guess when one’s learned to put up with droolers a wife won’t be much worse.
I didn’t tell you about when I ran away. I hadn’t no idea of such a thing, and it was Charley and Joe who put me up to it. They’re high-grade epilecs, you know. I’d been up to Doctor Wilson’s office with a message, and was going back to the drooling ward, when I saw Charley and Joe hiding around the corner of the gymnasium and making motions to me. I went over to them.
"Hello," Joe said. "How’s droolers?"
"Fine," I said. "Had any fits lately?"
That made them mad, and I was going on, when Joe said, "We’re running away. Come on."
"What for?" I said.
"We’re going up over the top of the mountain," Joe said.
"And find a gold mine," said Charley. "We don’t have fits any more. We’re cured."
"All right," I said. And we sneaked around back of the gymnasium and in among the trees. Mebbe we walked along about ten minutes, when I stopped.
"What’s the matter?" said Joe.
"Wait," I said. "I got to go back."
"What for?" said Joe.
And I said, "To get little Albert."
And they said I couldn’t, and got mad. But I didn’t care. I knew they’d wait. You see, I’ve been here twenty-five years, and I know the back trails that lead up the mountain, and Charley and Joe didn’t know those trails. That’s why they wanted me to come.
So I went back and got little Albert. He can’t walk, or talk, or do anything except drool, and I had to carry him in my arms. We went on past the last hayfield, which was as far as I’d ever gone. Then the woods and brush got so thick, and me not finding any more trail, we followed the cow-path down to a big creek and crawled through the fence which showed where the Home land stopped.
We climbed up the big hill on the other side of the creek. It was all big trees, and no brush, but it was so steep and slippery with dead leaves we could hardly walk. By and by we came to a real bad place. It was forty feet across, and if you slipped you’d fall a thousand feet, or mebbe a hundred. Anyway, you wouldn’t fall—just slide. I went across first, carrying little Albert. Joe came next. But Charley got scared right in the middle and sat down.
"I’m going to have a fit," he said.
"No, you’re not," said Joe. "Because if you was you wouldn’t ’a’ sat down. You take all your fits standing."
"This is a different kind of a fit," said Charley, beginning to cry.
He shook and shook, but just because he wanted to he couldn’t scare up the least kind of a fit.
Joe got mad and used awful language. But that didn’t help none. So I talked soft and kind to Charley. That’s the way to handle feebs. If you get mad, they get worse. I know. I’m that way myself. That’s why I was almost the death of Mrs. Bopp. She got mad.
It was getting along in the afternoon, and I knew we had to be on our way, so I said to Joe:
"Here, stop your cussing and hold Albert. I’ll go back and get him."
And I did, too; but he was so scared and dizzy he crawled along on hands and knees while I helped him. When I got him across and took Albert back in my arms, I heard somebody laugh and looked down. And there was a man and woman on horseback looking up at us. He had a gun on his saddle, and it was her who was laughing.
"Who in hell’s that?" said Joe, getting scared. "Somebody to catch us?"
"Shut up your cussing," I said to him. "That is the man who owns this ranch and writes books."
"How do you do, Mr. Endicott," I said down to him.
"Hello," he said. "What are you doing here?"
"We’re running away," I said.
And he said, "Good luck. But be sure and get back before dark."
"But this is a real running away," I said.
And then both he and his wife laughed.
"All right," he said. "Good luck just the same. But watch out the bears and mountain lions don’t get you when it gets dark."
Then they rode away laughing, pleasant like; but I wished he hadn’t said that about the bears and mountain lions.
After we got around the hill, I found a trail, and we went much faster. Charley didn’t have any more signs of fits, and began laughing and talking about gold mines. The trouble was with little Albert. He was almost as big as me. You see, all the time I’d been calling him little Albert, he’d been growing up. He was so heavy I couldn’t keep up with Joe and Charley. I was all out of breath. So I told them they’d have to take turns in carrying him, which they said they wouldn’t. Then I said I’d leave them and they’d get lost, and the mountain lions and bears would eat them. Charley looked like he was going to have a fit right there, and Joe said, "Give him to me." And after that we carried him in turn.
We kept right on up that mountain. I don’t think there was any gold mine, but we might ’a’ got to the top and found it, if we hadn’t lost the trail, and if it hadn’t got dark, and if little Albert hadn’t tired us all out carrying him. Lots of feebs are scared of the dark, and Joe said he was going to have a fit right there. Only he didn’t. I never saw such an unlucky boy. He never could throw a fit when he wanted to. Some of the feebs can throw fits as quick as a wink.
By and by it got real black, and we were hungry, and we didn’t have no fire. You see, they don’t let feebs carry matches, and all we could do was just shiver. And we’d never thought about being hungry. You see, feebs always have their food ready for them, and that’s why it’s better to be a feeb than earning your living in the world.
And worse than everything was the quiet. There was only one thing worse, and it was the noises. There was all kinds of noises every once in a while, with quiet spells in between. I reckon they were rabbits, but they made noises in the brush like wild animals—you know, rustle rustle, thump, bump, crackle crackle, just like that. First Charley got a fit, a real one, and Joe threw a terrible one. I don’t mind fits in the Home with everybody around. But out in the woods on a dark night is different. You listen to me, and never go hunting gold mines with epilecs, even if they are high-grade.
I never had such an awful night. When Joe and Charley weren’t throwing fits they were making believe, and in the darkness the shivers from the cold which I couldn’t see seemed like fits, too. And I shivered so hard I thought I was getting fits myself. And little Albert, with nothing to eat, just drooled and drooled. I never seen him as bad as that before. Why, he twisted that left eye of his until it ought to have dropped out. I couldn’t see it, but I could tell from the movements he made. And Joe just lay and cussed and cussed, and Charley cried and wished he was back in the Home.
We didn’t die, and next morning we went right back the way we’d come. And little Albert got awful heavy. Doctor Wilson was mad as could be, and said I was the worst feeb in the institution, along with Joe and Charley. But Miss Striker, who was a nurse in the drooling ward then, just put her arms around me and cried, she was that happy I’d got back. I thought right there that mebbe I’d marry her. But only a month afterward she got married to the plumber that came up from the city to fix the gutter-pipes of the new hospital. And little Albert never twisted his eye for two days, it was that tired.
Next time I run away I’m going right over that mountain. But I ain’t going to take epilecs along. They ain’t never cured, and when they get scared or excited they throw fits to beat the band. But I’ll take little Albert. Somehow I can’t get along without him. And anyway, I ain’t going to run away. The drooling ward’s a better snap than gold mines, and I hear there’s a new nurse coming. Besides, little Albert’s bigger than I am now, and I could never carry him over a mountain. And he’s growing bigger every day. It’s astonishing.


11. THE RED ONE

There it was! The abrupt liberation of sound! As he timed it with his watch, Bassett likened it to the trump of an archangel. Walls of cities, he meditated, might well fall down before so vast and compelling a summons. For the thousandth time vainly he tried to analyse the tone-quality of that enormous peal that dominated the land far into the strong-holds of the surrounding tribes. The mountain gorge which was its source rang to the rising tide of it until it brimmed over and flooded earth and sky and air. With the wantonness of a sick man’s fancy, he likened it to the mighty cry of some Titan of the Elder World vexed with misery or wrath. Higher and higher it arose, challenging and demanding in such profounds of volume that it seemed intended for ears beyond the narrow confines of the solar system. There was in it, too, the clamour of protest in that there were no ears to hear and comprehend its utterance.
—Such the sick man’s fancy. Still he strove to analyse the sound. Sonorous as thunder was it, mellow as a golden bell, thin and sweet as a thrummed taut cord of silver—no; it was none of these, nor a blend of these. There were no words nor semblances in his vocabulary and experience with which to describe the totality of that sound.
Time passed. Minutes merged into quarters of hours, and quarters of hours into half-hours, and still the sound persisted, ever changing from its initial vocal impulse yet never receiving fresh impulse—fading, dimming, dying as enormously as it had sprung into being. It became a confusion of troubled mutterings and babblings and colossal whisperings. Slowly it withdrew, sob by sob, into whatever great bosom had birthed it, until it whimpered deadly whispers of wrath and as equally seductive whispers of delight, striving still to be heard, to convey some cosmic secret, some understanding of infinite import and value. It dwindled to a ghost of sound that had lost its menace and promise, and became a thing that pulsed on in the sick man’s consciousness for minutes after it had ceased. When he could hear it no longer, Bassett glanced at his watch. An hour had elapsed ere that archangel’s trump had subsided into tonal nothingness.
Was this, then, his dark tower?—Bassett pondered, remembering his Browning and gazing at his skeleton-like and fever-wasted hands. And the fancy made him smile—of Childe Roland bearing a slug-horn to his lips with an arm as feeble as his was. Was it months, or years, he asked himself, since he first heard that mysterious call on the beach at Ringmanu? To save himself he could not tell. The long sickness had been most long. In conscious count of time he knew of months, many of them; but he had no way of estimating the long intervals of delirium and stupor. And how fared Captain Bateman of the blackbirder Nari? he wondered; and had Captain Bateman’s drunken mate died of delirium tremens yet?
From which vain speculations, Bassett turned idly to review all that had occurred since that day on the beach of Ringmanu when he first heard the sound and plunged into the jungle after it. Sagawa had protested. He could see him yet, his queer little monkeyish face eloquent with fear, his back burdened with specimen cases, in his hands Bassett’s butterfly net and naturalist’s shot-gun, as he quavered, in Bêche-de-mer English: “Me fella too much fright along bush. Bad fella boy, too much stop’m along bush.”
Bassett smiled sadly at the recollection. The little New Hanover boy had been frightened, but had proved faithful, following him without hesitancy into the bush in the quest after the source of the wonderful sound. No fire-hollowed tree-trunk, that, throbbing war through the jungle depths, had been Bassett’s conclusion. Erroneous had been his next conclusion, namely, that the source or cause could not be more distant than an hour’s walk, and that he would easily be back by mid-afternoon to be picked up by the Nari’s whale-boat.
“That big fella noise no good, all the same devil-devil,” Sagawa had adjudged. And Sagawa had been right. Had he not had his head hacked off within the day? Bassett shuddered. Without doubt Sagawa had been eaten as well by the “bad fella boys too much” that stopped along the bush. He could see him, as he had last seen him, stripped of the shot-gun and all the naturalist’s gear of his master, lying on the narrow trail where he had been decapitated barely the moment before. Yes, within a minute the thing had happened. Within a minute, looking back, Bassett had seen him trudging patiently along under his burdens. Then Bassett’s own trouble had come upon him. He looked at the cruelly healed stumps of the first and second fingers of his left hand, then rubbed them softly into the indentation in the back of his skull. Quick as had been the flash of the long handled tomahawk, he had been quick enough to duck away his head and partially to deflect the stroke with his up-flung hand. Two fingers and a hasty scalp-wound had been the price he paid for his life. With one barrel of his ten-gauge shot-gun he had blown the life out of the bushman who had so nearly got him; with the other barrel he had peppered the bushmen bending over Sagawa, and had the pleasure of knowing that the major portion of the charge had gone into the one who leaped away with Sagawa’s head. Everything had occurred in a flash. Only himself, the slain bushman, and what remained of Sagawa, were in the narrow, wild-pig run of a path. From the dark jungle on either side came no rustle of movement or sound of life. And he had suffered distinct and dreadful shock. For the first time in his life he had killed a human being, and he knew nausea as he contemplated the mess of his handiwork.
Then had begun the chase. He retreated up the pig-run before his hunters, who were between him and the beach. How many there were, he could not guess. There might have been one, or a hundred, for aught he saw of them. That some of them took to the trees and travelled along through the jungle roof he was certain; but at the most he never glimpsed more than an occasional flitting of shadows. No bow-strings twanged that he could hear; but every little while, whence discharged he knew not, tiny arrows whispered past him or struck tree-boles and fluttered to the ground beside him. They were bone-tipped and feather shafted, and the feathers, torn from the breasts of humming-birds, iridesced like jewels.
Once—and now, after the long lapse of time, he chuckled gleefully at the recollection—he had detected a shadow above him that came to instant rest as he turned his gaze upward. He could make out nothing, but, deciding to chance it, had fired at it a heavy charge of number five shot. Squalling like an infuriated cat, the shadow crashed down through tree-ferns and orchids and thudded upon the earth at his feet, and, still squalling its rage and pain, had sunk its human teeth into the ankle of his stout tramping boot. He, on the other hand, was not idle, and with his free foot had done what reduced the squalling to silence. So inured to savagery has Bassett since become, that he chuckled again with the glee of the recollection.
What a night had followed! Small wonder that he had accumulated such a virulence and variety of fevers, he thought, as he recalled that sleepless night of torment, when the throb of his wounds was as nothing compared with the myriad stings of the mosquitoes. There had been no escaping them, and he had not dared to light a fire. They had literally pumped his body full of poison, so that, with the coming of day, eyes swollen almost shut, he had stumbled blindly on, not caring much when his head should be hacked off and his carcass started on the way of Sagawa’s to the cooking fire. Twenty-four hours had made a wreck of him—of mind as well as body. He had scarcely retained his wits at all, so maddened was he by the tremendous inoculation of poison he had received. Several times he fired his shot-gun with effect into the shadows that dogged him. Stinging day insects and gnats added to his torment, while his bloody wounds attracted hosts of loathsome flies that clung sluggishly to his flesh and had to be brushed off and crushed off.
Once, in that day, he heard again the wonderful sound, seemingly more distant, but rising imperiously above the nearer war-drums in the bush. Right there was where he had made his mistake. Thinking that he had passed beyond it and that, therefore, it was between him and the beach of Ringmanu, he had worked back toward it when in reality he was penetrating deeper and deeper into the mysterious heart of the unexplored island. That night, crawling in among the twisted roots of a banyan tree, he had slept from exhaustion while the mosquitoes had had their will of him.
Followed days and nights that were vague as nightmares in his memory. One clear vision he remembered was of suddenly finding himself in the midst of a bush village and watching the old men and children fleeing into the jungle. All had fled but one. From close at hand and above him, a whimpering as of some animal in pain and terror had startled him. And looking up he had seen her—a girl, or young woman rather, suspended by one arm in the cooking sun. Perhaps for days she had so hung. Her swollen, protruding tongue spoke as much. Still alive, she gazed at him with eyes of terror. Past help, he decided, as he noted the swellings of her legs which advertised that the joints had been crushed and the great bones broken. He resolved to shoot her, and there the vision terminated. He could not remember whether he had or not, any more than could he remember how he chanced to be in that village, or how he succeeded in getting away from it.
Many pictures, unrelated, came and went in Bassett’s mind as he reviewed that period of his terrible wanderings. He remembered invading another village of a dozen houses and driving all before him with his shot-gun save, for one old man, too feeble to flee, who spat at him and whined and snarled as he dug open a ground-oven and from amid the hot stones dragged forth a roasted pig that steamed its essence deliciously through its green-leaf wrappings. It was at this place that a wantonness of savagery had seized upon him. Having feasted, ready to depart with a hind-quarter of the pig in his hand, he deliberately fired the grass thatch of a house with his burning glass.
But seared deepest of all in Bassett’s brain, was the dank and noisome jungle. It actually stank with evil, and it was always twilight. Rarely did a shaft of sunlight penetrate its matted roof a hundred feet overhead. And beneath that roof was an aerial ooze of vegetation, a monstrous, parasitic dripping of decadent life-forms that rooted in death and lived on death. And through all this he drifted, ever pursued by the flitting shadows of the anthropophagi, themselves ghosts of evil that dared not face him in battle but that knew that, soon or late, they would feed on him. Bassett remembered that at the time, in lucid moments, he had likened himself to a wounded bull pursued by plains’ coyotes too cowardly to battle with him for the meat of him, yet certain of the inevitable end of him when they would be full gorged. As the bull’s horns and stamping hoofs kept off the coyotes, so his shot-gun kept off these Solomon Islanders, these twilight shades of bushmen of the island of Guadalcanal.
Came the day of the grass lands. Abruptly, as if cloven by the sword of God in the hand of God, the jungle terminated. The edge of it, perpendicular and as black as the infamy of it, was a hundred feet up and down. And, beginning at the edge of it, grew the grass—sweet, soft, tender, pasture grass that would have delighted the eyes and beasts of any husbandman and that extended, on and on, for leagues and leagues of velvet verdure, to the backbone of the great island, the towering mountain range flung up by some ancient earth-cataclysm, serrated and gullied but not yet erased by the erosive tropic rains. But the grass! He had crawled into it a dozen yards, buried his face in it, smelled it, and broken down in a fit of involuntary weeping.
And, while he wept, the wonderful sound had pealed forth—if by peal, he had often thought since, an adequate description could be given of the enunciation of so vast a sound melting sweet. Sweet it was, as no sound ever heard. Vast it was, of so mighty a resonance that it might have proceeded from some brazen-throated monster. And yet it called to him across that leagues-wide savannah, and was like a benediction to his long-suffering, pain racked spirit.
He remembered how he lay there in the grass, wet-cheeked but no longer sobbing, listening to the sound and wondering that he had been able to hear it on the beach of Ringmanu. Some freak of air pressures and air currents, he reflected, had made it possible for the sound to carry so far. Such conditions might not happen again in a thousand days or ten thousand days, but the one day it had happened had been the day he landed from the Nari for several hours’ collecting. Especially had he been in quest of the famed jungle butterfly, a foot across from wing-tip to wing-tip, as velvet-dusky of lack of colour as was the gloom of the roof, of such lofty arboreal habits that it resorted only to the jungle roof and could be brought down only by a dose of shot. It was for this purpose that Sagawa had carried the ten-gauge shot-gun.
Two days and nights he had spent crawling across that belt of grass land. He had suffered much, but pursuit had ceased at the jungle-edge. And he would have died of thirst had not a heavy thunderstorm revived him on the second day.
And then had come Balatta. In the first shade, where the savannah yielded to the dense mountain jungle, he had collapsed to die. At first she had squealed with delight at sight of his helplessness, and was for beating his brain out with a stout forest branch. Perhaps it was his very utter helplessness that had appealed to her, and perhaps it was her human curiosity that made her refrain. At any rate, she had refrained, for he opened his eyes again under the impending blow, and saw her studying him intently. What especially struck her about him were his blue eyes and white skin. Coolly she had squatted on her hams, spat on his arm, and with her finger-tips scrubbed away the dirt of days and nights of muck and jungle that sullied the pristine whiteness of his skin.
And everything about her had struck him especially, although there was nothing conventional about her at all. He laughed weakly at the recollection, for she had been as innocent of garb as Eve before the fig-leaf adventure. Squat and lean at the same time, asymmetrically limbed, string-muscled as if with lengths of cordage, dirt-caked from infancy save for casual showers, she was as unbeautiful a prototype of woman as he, with a scientist’s eye, had ever gazed upon. Her breasts advertised at the one time her maturity and youth; and, if by nothing else, her sex was advertised by the one article of finery with which she was adorned, namely a pig’s tail, thrust though a hole in her left ear-lobe. So lately had the tail been severed, that its raw end still oozed blood that dried upon her shoulder like so much candle-droppings. And her face! A twisted and wizened complex of apish features, perforated by upturned, sky-open, Mongolian nostrils, by a mouth that sagged from a huge upper-lip and faded precipitately into a retreating chin, by peering querulous eyes that blinked as blink the eyes of denizens of monkey-cages.
Not even the water she brought him in a forest-leaf, and the ancient and half-putrid chunk of roast pig, could redeem in the slightest the grotesque hideousness of her. When he had eaten weakly for a space, he closed his eyes in order not to see her, although again and again she poked them open to peer at the blue of them. Then had come the sound. Nearer, much nearer, he knew it to be; and he knew equally well, despite the weary way he had come, that it was still many hours distant. The effect of it on her had been startling. She cringed under it, with averted face, moaning and chattering with fear. But after it had lived its full life of an hour, he closed his eyes and fell asleep with Balatta brushing the flies from him.
When he awoke it was night, and she was gone. But he was aware of renewed strength, and, by then too thoroughly inoculated by the mosquito poison to suffer further inflammation, he closed his eyes and slept an unbroken stretch till sun-up. A little later Balatta had returned, bringing with her a half-dozen women who, unbeautiful as they were, were patently not so unbeautiful as she. She evidenced by her conduct that she considered him her find, her property, and the pride she took in showing him off would have been ludicrous had his situation not been so desperate.
Later, after what had been to him a terrible journey of miles, when he collapsed in front of the devil-devil house in the shadow of the breadfruit tree, she had shown very lively ideas on the matter of retaining possession of him. Ngurn, whom Bassett was to know afterward as the devil-devil doctor, priest, or medicine man of the village, had wanted his head. Others of the grinning and chattering monkey-men, all as stark of clothes and bestial of appearance as Balatta, had wanted his body for the roasting oven. At that time he had not understood their language, if by language might be dignified the uncouth sounds they made to represent ideas. But Bassett had thoroughly understood the matter of debate, especially when the men pressed and prodded and felt of the flesh of him as if he were so much commodity in a butcher’s stall.
Balatta had been losing the debate rapidly, when the accident happened. One of the men, curiously examining Bassett’s shot-gun, managed to cock and pull a trigger. The recoil of the butt into the pit of the man’s stomach had not been the most sanguinary result, for the charge of shot, at a distance of a yard, had blown the head of one of the debaters into nothingness.
Even Balatta joined the others in flight, and, ere they returned, his senses already reeling from the oncoming fever-attack, Bassett had regained possession of the gun. Whereupon, although his teeth chattered with the ague and his swimming eyes could scarcely see, he held on to his fading consciousness until he could intimidate the bushmen with the simple magics of compass, watch, burning glass, and matches. At the last, with due emphasis, of solemnity and awfulness, he had killed a young pig with his shot-gun and promptly fainted.
Bassett flexed his arm-muscles in quest of what possible strength might reside in such weakness, and dragged himself slowly and totteringly to his feet. He was shockingly emaciated; yet, during the various convalescences of the many months of his long sickness, he had never regained quite the same degree of strength as this time. What he feared was another relapse such as he had already frequently experienced. Without drugs, without even quinine, he had managed so far to live through a combination of the most pernicious and most malignant of malarial and black-water fevers. But could he continue to endure? Such was his everlasting query. For, like the genuine scientist he was, he would not be content to die until he had solved the secret of the sound.
Supported by a staff, he staggered the few steps to the devil-devil house where death and Ngurn reigned in gloom. Almost as infamously dark and evil-stinking as the jungle was the devil-devil house—in Bassett’s opinion. Yet therein was usually to be found his favourite crony and gossip, Ngurn, always willing for a yarn or a discussion, the while he sat in the ashes of death and in a slow smoke shrewdly revolved curing human heads suspended from the rafters. For, through the months’ interval of consciousness of his long sickness, Bassett had mastered the psychological simplicities and lingual difficulties of the language of the tribe of Ngurn and Balatta and Vngngn—the latter the addle-headed young chief who was ruled by Ngurn, and who, whispered intrigue had it, was the son of Ngurn.
“Will the Red One speak to-day?” Bassett asked, by this time so accustomed to the old man’s gruesome occupation as to take even an interest in the progress of the smoke-curing.
With the eye of an expert Ngurn examined the particular head he was at work upon.
“It will be ten days before I can say ‘finish,’” he said. “Never has any man fixed heads like these.”
Bassett smiled inwardly at the old fellow’s reluctance to talk with him of the Red One. It had always been so. Never, by any chance, had Ngurn or any other member of the weird tribe divulged the slightest hint of any physical characteristic of the Red One. Physical the Red One must be, to emit the wonderful sound, and though it was called the Red One, Bassett could not be sure that red represented the colour of it. Red enough were the deeds and powers of it, from what abstract clues he had gleaned. Not alone, had Ngurn informed him, was the Red One more bestial powerful than the neighbour tribal gods, ever athirst for the red blood of living human sacrifices, but the neighbour gods themselves were sacrificed and tormented before him. He was the god of a dozen allied villages similar to this one, which was the central and commanding village of the federation. By virtue of the Red One many alien villages had been devastated and even wiped out, the prisoners sacrificed to the Red One. This was true to-day, and it extended back into old history carried down by word of mouth through the generations. When he, Ngurn, had been a young man, the tribes beyond the grass lands had made a war raid. In the counter raid, Ngurn and his fighting folk had made many prisoners. Of children alone over five score living had been bled white before the Red One, and many, many more men and women.
The Thunderer was another of Ngurn’s names for the mysterious deity. Also at times was he called The Loud Shouter, The God-Voiced, The Bird-Throated, The One with the Throat Sweet as the Throat of the Honey-Bird, The Sun Singer, and The Star-Born.
Why The Star-Born? In vain Bassett interrogated Ngurn. According to that old devil-devil doctor, the Red One had always been, just where he was at present, for ever singing and thundering his will over men. But Ngurn’s father, wrapped in decaying grass-matting and hanging even then over their heads among the smoky rafters of the devil-devil house, had held otherwise. That departed wise one had believed that the Red One came from out of the starry night, else why—so his argument had run—had the old and forgotten ones passed his name down as the Star-Born? Bassett could not but recognize something cogent in such argument. But Ngurn affirmed the long years of his long life, wherein he had gazed upon many starry nights, yet never had he found a star on grass land or in jungle depth—and he had looked for them. True, he had beheld shooting stars (this in reply to Bassett’s contention); but likewise had he beheld the phosphorescence of fungoid growths and rotten meat and fireflies on dark nights, and the flames of wood-fires and of blazing candle-nuts; yet what were flame and blaze and glow when they had flamed and blazed and glowed? Answer: memories, memories only, of things which had ceased to be, like memories of matings accomplished, of feasts forgotten, of desires that were the ghosts of desires, flaring, flaming, burning, yet unrealized in achievement of easement and satisfaction. Where was the appetite of yesterday? the roasted flesh of the wild pig the hunter’s arrow failed to slay? the maid, unwed and dead ere the young man knew her?
A memory was not a star, was Ngurn’s contention. How could a memory be a star? Further, after all his long life he still observed the starry night-sky unaltered. Never had he noted the absence of a single star from its accustomed place. Besides, stars were fire, and the Red One was not fire—which last involuntary betrayal told Bassett nothing.
“Will the Red One speak to-morrow?” he queried.
Ngurn shrugged his shoulders as who should say.
“And the day after?—and the day after that?” Bassett persisted.
“I would like to have the curing of your head,” Ngurn changed the subject. “It is different from any other head. No devil-devil has a head like it. Besides, I would cure it well. I would take months and months. The moons would come and the moons would go, and the smoke would be very slow, and I should myself gather the materials for the curing smoke. The skin would not wrinkle. It would be as smooth as your skin now.”
He stood up, and from the dim rafters, grimed with the smoking of countless heads, where day was no more than a gloom, took down a matting-wrapped parcel and began to open it.
“It is a head like yours,” he said, “but it is poorly cured.”
Bassett had pricked up his ears at the suggestion that it was a white man’s head; for he had long since come to accept that these jungle-dwellers, in the midmost centre of the great island, had never had intercourse with white men. Certainly he had found them without the almost universal bêche-de-mer English of the west South Pacific. Nor had they knowledge of tobacco, nor of gunpowder. Their few precious knives, made from lengths of hoop-iron, and their few and more precious tomahawks from cheap trade hatchets, he had surmised they had captured in war from the bushmen of the jungle beyond the grass lands, and that they, in turn, had similarly gained them from the salt-water men who fringed the coral beaches of the shore and had contact with the occasional white men.
“The folk in the out beyond do not know how to cure heads,” old Ngurn explained, as he drew forth from the filthy matting and placed in Bassett’s hands an indubitable white man’s head.
Ancient it was beyond question; white it was as the blond hair attested. He could have sworn it once belonged to an Englishman, and to an Englishman of long before by token of the heavy gold circlets still threaded in the withered ear-lobes.
“Now your head . . . ” the devil-devil doctor began on his favourite topic.
“I’ll tell you what,” Bassett interrupted, struck by a new idea. “When I die I’ll let you have my head to cure, if, first, you take me to look upon the Red One.”
“I will have your head anyway when you are dead,” Ngurn rejected the proposition. He added, with the brutal frankness of the savage: “Besides, you have not long to live. You are almost a dead man now. You will grow less strong. In not many months I shall have you here turning and turning in the smoke. It is pleasant, through the long afternoons, to turn the head of one you have known as well as I know you. And I shall talk to you and tell you the many secrets you want to know. Which will not matter, for you will be dead.”
“Ngurn,” Bassett threatened in sudden anger. “You know the Baby Thunder in the Iron that is mine.” (This was in reference to his all-potent and all-awful shotgun.) “I can kill you any time, and then you will not get my head.”
“Just the same, will Vngngn, or some one else of my folk get it,” Ngurn complacently assured him. “And just the same will in the end turn devil-devil house in the smoke. The quicker you slay me with your Baby Thunder, the quicker will your head turn in the smoke.”
And Bassett knew he was beaten in the discussion.
What was the Red One?—Bassett asked himself a thousand times in the succeeding week, while he seemed to grow stronger. What was the source of the wonderful sound? What was this Sun Singer, this Star-Born One, this mysterious deity, as bestial-conducted as the black and kinky-headed and monkey-like human beasts who worshipped it, and whose silver-sweet, bull-mouthed singing and commanding he had heard at the taboo distance for so long?
Ngurn had he failed to bribe with the inevitable curing of his head when he was dead. Vngngn, imbecile and chief that he was, was too imbecilic, too much under the sway of Ngurn, to be considered. Remained Balatta, who, from the time she found him and poked his blue eyes open to recrudescence of her grotesque female hideousness, had continued his adorer. Woman she was, and he had long known that the only way to win from her treason of her tribe was through the woman’s heart of her.
Bassett was a fastidious man. He had never recovered from the initial horror caused by Balatta’s female awfulness. Back in England, even at best the charm of woman, to him, had never been robust. Yet now, resolutely, as only a man can do who is capable of martyring himself for the cause of science, he proceeded to violate all the fineness and delicacy of his nature by making love to the unthinkably disgusting bushwoman.
He shuddered, but with averted face hid his grimaces and swallowed his gorge as he put his arm around her dirt-crusted shoulders and felt the contact of her rancid oily and kinky hair with his neck and chin. But he nearly screamed when she succumbed to that caress so at the very first of the courtship and mowed and gibbered and squealed little, queer, pig-like gurgly noises of delight. It was too much. And the next he did in the singular courtship was to take her down to the stream and give her a vigorous scrubbing.
From then on he devoted himself to her like a true swain as frequently and for as long at a time as his will could override his repugnance. But marriage, which she ardently suggested, with due observance of tribal custom, he balked at. Fortunately, taboo rule was strong in the tribe. Thus, Ngurn could never touch bone, or flesh, or hide of crocodile. This had been ordained at his birth. Vngngn was denied ever the touch of woman. Such pollution, did it chance to occur, could be purged only by the death of the offending female. It had happened once, since Bassett’s arrival, when a girl of nine, running in play, stumbled and fell against the sacred chief. And the girl-child was seen no more. In whispers, Balatta told Bassett that she had been three days and nights in dying before the Red One. As for Balatta, the breadfruit was taboo to her. For which Bassett was thankful. The taboo might have been water.
For himself, he fabricated a special taboo. Only could he marry, he explained, when the Southern Cross rode highest in the sky. Knowing his astronomy, he thus gained a reprieve of nearly nine months; and he was confident that within that time he would either be dead or escaped to the coast with full knowledge of the Red One and of the source of the Red One’s wonderful voice. At first he had fancied the Red One to be some colossal statue, like Memnon, rendered vocal under certain temperature conditions of sunlight. But when, after a war raid, a batch of prisoners was brought in and the sacrifice made at night, in the midst of rain, when the sun could play no part, the Red One had been more vocal than usual, Bassett discarded that hypothesis.
In company with Balatta, sometimes with men and parties of women, the freedom of the jungle was his for three quadrants of the compass. But the fourth quadrant, which contained the Red One’s abiding place, was taboo. He made more thorough love to Balatta—also saw to it that she scrubbed herself more frequently. Eternal female she was, capable of any treason for the sake of love. And, though the sight of her was provocative of nausea and the contact of her provocative of despair, although he could not escape her awfulness in his dream-haunted nightmares of her, he nevertheless was aware of the cosmic verity of sex that animated her and that made her own life of less value than the happiness of her lover with whom she hoped to mate. Juliet or Balatta? Where was the intrinsic difference? The soft and tender product of ultra-civilization, or her bestial prototype of a hundred thousand years before her?—there was no difference.
Bassett was a scientist first, a humanist afterward. In the jungle-heart of Guadalcanal he put the affair to the test, as in the laboratory he would have put to the test any chemical reaction. He increased his feigned ardour for the bushwoman, at the same time increasing the imperiousness of his will of desire over her to be led to look upon the Red One face to face. It was the old story, he recognized, that the woman must pay, and it occurred when the two of them, one day, were catching the unclassified and unnamed little black fish, an inch long, half-eel and half-scaled, rotund with salmon-golden roe, that frequented the fresh water, and that were esteemed, raw and whole, fresh or putrid, a perfect delicacy. Prone in the muck of the decaying jungle-floor, Balatta threw herself, clutching his ankles with her hands kissing his feet and making slubbery noises that chilled his backbone up and down again. She begged him to kill her rather than exact this ultimate love-payment. She told him of the penalty of breaking the taboo of the Red One—a week of torture, living, the details of which she yammered out from her face in the mire until he realized that he was yet a tyro in knowledge of the frightfulness the human was capable of wreaking on the human.
Yet did Bassett insist on having his man’s will satisfied, at the woman’s risk, that he might solve the mystery of the Red One’s singing, though she should die long and horribly and screaming. And Balatta, being mere woman, yielded. She led him into the forbidden quadrant. An abrupt mountain, shouldering in from the north to meet a similar intrusion from the south, tormented the stream in which they had fished into a deep and gloomy gorge. After a mile along the gorge, the way plunged sharply upward until they crossed a saddle of raw limestone which attracted his geologist’s eye. Still climbing, although he paused often from sheer physical weakness, they scaled forest-clad heights until they emerged on a naked mesa or tableland. Bassett recognized the stuff of its composition as black volcanic sand, and knew that a pocket magnet could have captured a full load of the sharply angular grains he trod upon.
And then holding Balatta by the hand and leading her onward, he came to it—a tremendous pit, obviously artificial, in the heart of the plateau. Old history, the South Seas Sailing Directions, scores of remembered data and connotations swift and furious, surged through his brain. It was Mendana who had discovered the islands and named them Solomon’s, believing that he had found that monarch’s fabled mines. They had laughed at the old navigator’s child-like credulity; and yet here stood himself, Bassett, on the rim of an excavation for all the world like the diamond pits of South Africa.
But no diamond this that he gazed down upon. Rather was it a pearl, with the depth of iridescence of a pearl; but of a size all pearls of earth and time, welded into one, could not have totalled; and of a colour undreamed of in any pearl, or of anything else, for that matter, for it was the colour of the Red One. And the Red One himself Bassett knew it to be on the instant. A perfect sphere, full two hundred feet in diameter, the top of it was a hundred feet below the level of the rim. He likened the colour quality of it to lacquer. Indeed, he took it to be some sort of lacquer, applied by man, but a lacquer too marvellously clever to have been manufactured by the bush-folk. Brighter than bright cherry-red, its richness of colour was as if it were red builded upon red. It glowed and iridesced in the sunlight as if gleaming up from underlay under underlay of red.
In vain Balatta strove to dissuade him from descending. She threw herself in the dirt; but, when he continued down the trail that spiralled the pit-wall, she followed, cringing and whimpering her terror. That the red sphere had been dug out as a precious thing, was patent. Considering the paucity of members of the federated twelve villages and their primitive tools and methods, Bassett knew that the toil of a myriad generations could scarcely have made that enormous excavation.
He found the pit bottom carpeted with human bones, among which, battered and defaced, lay village gods of wood and stone. Some, covered with obscene totemic figures and designs, were carved from solid tree trunks forty or fifty feet in length. He noted the absence of the shark and turtle gods, so common among the shore villages, and was amazed at the constant recurrence of the helmet motive. What did these jungle savages of the dark heart of Guadalcanal know of helmets? Had Mendana’s men-at-arms worn helmets and penetrated here centuries before? And if not, then whence had the bush-folk caught the motive?
Advancing over the litter of gods and bones, Balatta whimpering at his heels, Bassett entered the shadow of the Red One and passed on under its gigantic overhang until he touched it with his finger-tips. No lacquer that. Nor was the surface smooth as it should have been in the case of lacquer. On the contrary, it was corrugated and pitted, with here and there patches that showed signs of heat and fusing. Also, the substance of it was metal, though unlike any metal, or combination of metals, he had ever known. As for the colour itself, he decided it to be no application. It was the intrinsic colour of the metal itself.
He moved his finger-tips, which up to that had merely rested, along the surface, and felt the whole gigantic sphere quicken and live and respond. It was incredible! So light a touch on so vast a mass! Yet did it quiver under the finger-tip caress in rhythmic vibrations that became whisperings and rustlings and mutterings of sound—but of sound so different; so elusively thin that it was shimmeringly sibilant; so mellow that it was maddening sweet, piping like an elfin horn, which last was just what Bassett decided would be like a peal from some bell of the gods reaching earthward from across space.
He looked at Balatta with swift questioning; but the voice of the Red One he had evoked had flung her face downward and moaning among the bones. He returned to contemplation of the prodigy. Hollow it was, and of no metal known on earth, was his conclusion. It was right-named by the ones of old-time as the Star-Born. Only from the stars could it have come, and no thing of chance was it. It was a creation of artifice and mind. Such perfection of form, such hollowness that it certainly possessed, could not be the result of mere fortuitousness. A child of intelligences, remote and unguessable, working corporally in metals, it indubitably was. He stared at it in amaze, his brain a racing wild-fire of hypotheses to account for this far-journeyer who had adventured the night of space, threaded the stars, and now rose before him and above him, exhumed by patient anthropophagi, pitted and lacquered by its fiery bath in two atmospheres.
But was the colour a lacquer of heat upon some familiar metal? Or was it an intrinsic quality of the metal itself? He thrust in the blue-point of his pocket-knife to test the constitution of the stuff. Instantly the entire sphere burst into a mighty whispering, sharp with protest, almost twanging goldenly, if a whisper could possibly be considered to twang, rising higher, sinking deeper, the two extremes of the registry of sound threatening to complete the circle and coalesce into the bull-mouthed thundering he had so often heard beyond the taboo distance.
Forgetful of safety, of his own life itself, entranced by the wonder of the unthinkable and unguessable thing, he raised his knife to strike heavily from a long stroke, but was prevented by Balatta. She upreared on her own knees in an agony of terror, clasping his knees and supplicating him to desist. In the intensity of her desire to impress him, she put her forearm between her teeth and sank them to the bone.
He scarcely observed her act, although he yielded automatically to his gentler instincts and withheld the knife-hack. To him, human life had dwarfed to microscopic proportions before this colossal portent of higher life from within the distances of the sidereal universe. As had she been a dog, he kicked the ugly little bushwoman to her feet and compelled her to start with him on an encirclement of the base. Part way around, he encountered horrors. Even, among the others, did he recognize the sun-shrivelled remnant of the nine-years girl who had accidentally broken Chief Vngngn’s personality taboo. And, among what was left of these that had passed, he encountered what was left of one who had not yet passed. Truly had the bush-folk named themselves into the name of the Red One, seeing in him their own image which they strove to placate and please with such red offerings.
Farther around, always treading the bones and images of humans and gods that constituted the floor of this ancient charnel-house of sacrifice, he came upon the device by which the Red One was made to send his call singing thunderingly across the jungle-belts and grass-lands to the far beach of Ringmanu. Simple and primitive was it as was the Red One’s consummate artifice. A great king-post, half a hundred feet in length, seasoned by centuries of superstitious care, carven into dynasties of gods, each superimposed, each helmeted, each seated in the open mouth of a crocodile, was slung by ropes, twisted of climbing vegetable parasites, from the apex of a tripod of three great forest trunks, themselves carved into grinning and grotesque adumbrations of man’s modern concepts of art and god. From the striker king-post, were suspended ropes of climbers to which men could apply their strength and direction. Like a battering ram, this king-post could be driven end-onward against the mighty red-iridescent sphere.
Here was where Ngurn officiated and functioned religiously for himself and the twelve tribes under him. Bassett laughed aloud, almost with madness, at the thought of this wonderful messenger, winged with intelligence across space, to fall into a bushman stronghold and be worshipped by ape-like, man-eating and head-hunting savages. It was as if God’s World had fallen into the muck mire of the abyss underlying the bottom of hell; as if Jehovah’s Commandments had been presented on carved stone to the monkeys of the monkey cage at the Zoo; as if the Sermon on the Mount had been preached in a roaring bedlam of lunatics.
 
The slow weeks passed. The nights, by election, Bassett spent on the ashen floor of the devil-devil house, beneath the ever-swinging, slow-curing heads. His reason for this was that it was taboo to the lesser sex of woman, and therefore, a refuge for him from Balatta, who grew more persecutingly and perilously loverly as the Southern Cross rode higher in the sky and marked the imminence of her nuptials. His days Bassett spent in a hammock swung under the shade of the great breadfruit tree before the devil-devil house. There were breaks in this programme, when, in the comas of his devastating fever-attacks, he lay for days and nights in the house of heads. Ever he struggled to combat the fever, to live, to continue to live, to grow strong and stronger against the day when he would be strong enough to dare the grass-lands and the belted jungle beyond, and win to the beach, and to some labour-recruiting, black-birding ketch or schooner, and on to civilization and the men of civilization, to whom he could give news of the message from other worlds that lay, darkly worshipped by beastmen, in the black heart of Guadalcanal’s midmost centre.
On the other nights, lying late under the breadfruit tree, Bassett spent long hours watching the slow setting of the western stars beyond the black wall of jungle where it had been thrust back by the clearing for the village. Possessed of more than a cursory knowledge of astronomy, he took a sick man’s pleasure in speculating as to the dwellers on the unseen worlds of those incredibly remote suns, to haunt whose houses of light, life came forth, a shy visitant, from the rayless crypts of matter. He could no more apprehend limits to time than bounds to space. No subversive radium speculations had shaken his steady scientific faith in the conservation of energy and the indestructibility of matter. Always and forever must there have been stars. And surely, in that cosmic ferment, all must be comparatively alike, comparatively of the same substance, or substances, save for the freaks of the ferment. All must obey, or compose, the same laws that ran without infraction through the entire experience of man. Therefore, he argued and agreed, must worlds and life be appanages to all the suns as they were appanages to the particular of his own solar system.
Even as he lay here, under the breadfruit tree, an intelligence that stared across the starry gulfs, so must all the universe be exposed to the ceaseless scrutiny of innumerable eyes, like his, though grantedly different, with behind them, by the same token, intelligences that questioned and sought the meaning and the construction of the whole. So reasoning, he felt his soul go forth in kinship with that august company, that multitude whose gaze was forever upon the arras of infinity.
Who were they, what were they, those far distant and superior ones who had bridged the sky with their gigantic, red-iridescent, heaven-singing message? Surely, and long since, had they, too, trod the path on which man had so recently, by the calendar of the cosmos, set his feet. And to be able to send a message across the pit of space, surely they had reached those heights to which man, in tears and travail and bloody sweat, in darkness and confusion of many counsels, was so slowly struggling. And what were they on their heights? Had they won Brotherhood? Or had they learned that the law of love imposed the penalty of weakness and decay? Was strife, life? Was the rule of all the universe the pitiless rule of natural selection? And, and most immediately and poignantly, were their far conclusions, their long-won wisdoms, shut even then in the huge, metallic heart of the Red One, waiting for the first earth-man to read? Of one thing he was certain: No drop of red dew shaken from the lion-mane of some sun in torment, was the sounding sphere. It was of design, not chance, and it contained the speech and wisdom of the stars.
What engines and elements and mastered forces, what lore and mysteries and destiny-controls, might be there! Undoubtedly, since so much could be enclosed in so little a thing as the foundation stone of a public building, this enormous sphere should contain vast histories, profounds of research achieved beyond man’s wildest guesses, laws and formulæ that, easily mastered, would make man’s life on earth, individual and collective, spring up from its present mire to inconceivable heights of purity and power. It was Time’s greatest gift to blindfold, insatiable, and sky-aspiring man. And to him, Bassett, had been vouchsafed the lordly fortune to be the first to receive this message from man’s interstellar kin!
No white man, much less no outland man of the other bush-tribes, had gazed upon the Red One and lived. Such the law expounded by Ngurn to Bassett. There was such a thing as blood brotherhood. Bassett, in return, had often argued in the past. But Ngurn had stated solemnly no. Even the blood brotherhood was outside the favour of the Red One. Only a man born within the tribe could look upon the Red One and live. But now, his guilty secret known only to Balatta, whose fear of immolation before the Red One fast-sealed her lips, the situation was different. What he had to do was to recover from the abominable fevers that weakened him, and gain to civilization. Then would he lead an expedition back, and, although the entire population of Guadalcanal he destroyed, extract from the heart of the Red One the message of the world from other worlds.
But Bassett’s relapses grew more frequent, his brief convalescences less and less vigorous, his periods of coma longer, until he came to know, beyond the last promptings of the optimism inherent in so tremendous a constitution as his own, that he would never live to cross the grass lands, perforate the perilous coast jungle, and reach the sea. He faded as the Southern Cross rose higher in the sky, till even Balatta knew that he would be dead ere the nuptial date determined by his taboo. Ngurn made pilgrimage personally and gathered the smoke materials for the curing of Bassett’s head, and to him made proud announcement and exhibition of the artistic perfectness of his intention when Bassett should be dead. As for himself, Bassett was not shocked. Too long and too deeply had life ebbed down in him to bite him with fear of its impending extinction. He continued to persist, alternating periods of unconsciousness with periods of semi-consciousness, dreamy and unreal, in which he idly wondered whether he had ever truly beheld the Red One or whether it was a nightmare fancy of delirium.
Came the day when all mists and cob-webs dissolved, when he found his brain clear as a bell, and took just appraisement of his body’s weakness. Neither hand nor foot could he lift. So little control of his body did he have, that he was scarcely aware of possessing one. Lightly indeed his flesh sat upon his soul, and his soul, in its briefness of clarity, knew by its very clarity that the black of cessation was near. He knew the end was close; knew that in all truth he had with his eyes beheld the Red One, the messenger between the worlds; knew that he would never live to carry that message to the world—that message, for aught to the contrary, which might already have waited man’s hearing in the heart of Guadalcanal for ten thousand years. And Bassett stirred with resolve, calling Ngurn to him, out under the shade of the breadfruit tree, and with the old devil-devil doctor discussing the terms and arrangements of his last life effort, his final adventure in the quick of the flesh.
“I know the law, O Ngurn,” he concluded the matter. “Whoso is not of the folk may not look upon the Red One and live. I shall not live anyway. Your young men shall carry me before the face of the Red One, and I shall look upon him, and hear his voice, and thereupon die, under your hand, O Ngurn. Thus will the three things be satisfied: the law, my desire, and your quicker possession of my head for which all your preparations wait.”
To which Ngurn consented, adding:
“It is better so. A sick man who cannot get well is foolish to live on for so little a while. Also is it better for the living that he should go. You have been much in the way of late. Not but what it was good for me to talk to such a wise one. But for moons of days we have held little talk. Instead, you have taken up room in the house of heads, making noises like a dying pig, or talking much and loudly in your own language which I do not understand. This has been a confusion to me, for I like to think on the great things of the light and dark as I turn the heads in the smoke. Your much noise has thus been a disturbance to the long-learning and hatching of the final wisdom that will be mine before I die. As for you, upon whom the dark has already brooded, it is well that you die now. And I promise you, in the long days to come when I turn your head in the smoke, no man of the tribe shall come in to disturb us. And I will tell you many secrets, for I am an old man and very wise, and I shall be adding wisdom to wisdom as I turn your head in the smoke.”
So a litter was made, and, borne on the shoulders of half a dozen of the men, Bassett departed on the last little adventure that was to cap the total adventure, for him, of living. With a body of which he was scarcely aware, for even the pain had been exhausted out of it, and with a bright clear brain that accommodated him to a quiet ecstasy of sheer lucidness of thought, he lay back on the lurching litter and watched the fading of the passing world, beholding for the last time the breadfruit tree before the devil-devil house, the dim day beneath the matted jungle roof, the gloomy gorge between the shouldering mountains, the saddle of raw limestone, and the mesa of black volcanic sand.
Down the spiral path of the pit they bore him, encircling the sheening, glowing Red One that seemed ever imminent to iridesce from colour and light into sweet singing and thunder. And over bones and logs of immolated men and gods they bore him, past the horrors of other immolated ones that yet lived, to the three-king-post tripod and the huge king-post striker.
Here Bassett, helped by Ngurn and Balatta, weakly sat up, swaying weakly from the hips, and with clear, unfaltering, all-seeing eyes gazed upon the Red One.
“Once, O Ngurn,” he said, not taking his eyes from the sheening, vibrating surface whereon and wherein all the shades of cherry-red played unceasingly, ever a-quiver to change into sound, to become silken rustlings, silvery whisperings, golden thrummings of cords, velvet pipings of elfland, mellow distances of thunderings.
“I wait,” Ngurn prompted after a long pause, the long-handled tomahawk unassumingly ready in his hand.
“Once, O Ngurn,” Bassett repeated, “let the Red One speak so that I may see it speak as well as hear it. Then strike, thus, when I raise my hand; for, when I raise my hand, I shall drop my head forward and make place for the stroke at the base of my neck. But, O Ngurn, I, who am about to pass out of the light of day for ever, would like to pass with the wonder-voice of the Red One singing greatly in my ears.”
“And I promise you that never will a head be so well cured as yours,” Ngurn assured him, at the same time signalling the tribesmen to man the propelling ropes suspended from the king-post striker. “Your head shall be my greatest piece of work in the curing of heads.”
Bassett smiled quietly to the old one’s conceit, as the great carved log, drawn back through two-score feet of space, was released. The next moment he was lost in ecstasy at the abrupt and thunderous liberation of sound. But such thunder! Mellow it was with preciousness of all sounding metals. Archangels spoke in it; it was magnificently beautiful before all other sounds; it was invested with the intelligence of supermen of planets of other suns; it was the voice of God, seducing and commanding to be heard. And—the everlasting miracle of that interstellar metal! Bassett, with his own eyes, saw colour and colours transform into sound till the whole visible surface of the vast sphere was a-crawl and titillant and vaporous with what he could not tell was colour or was sound. In that moment the interstices of matter were his, and the interfusings and intermating transfusings of matter and force.
Time passed. At the last Bassett was brought back from his ecstasy by an impatient movement of Ngurn. He had quite forgotten the old devil-devil one. A quick flash of fancy brought a husky chuckle into Bassett’s throat. His shot-gun lay beside him in the litter. All he had to do, muzzle to head, was to press the trigger and blow his head into nothingness.
But why cheat him? was Bassett’s next thought. Head-hunting, cannibal beast of a human that was as much ape as human, nevertheless Old Ngurn had, according to his lights, played squarer than square. Ngurn was in himself a forerunner of ethics and contract, of consideration, and gentleness in man. No, Bassett decided; it would be a ghastly pity and an act of dishonour to cheat the old fellow at the last. His head was Ngurn’s, and Ngurn’s head to cure it would be.
And Bassett, raising his hand in signal, bending forward his head as agreed so as to expose cleanly the articulation to his taut spinal cord, forgot Balatta, who was merely a woman, a woman merely and only and undesired. He knew, without seeing, when the razor-edged hatchet rose in the air behind him. And for that instant, ere the end, there fell upon Bassett the shadows of the Unknown, a sense of impending marvel of the rending of walls before the imaginable. Almost, when he knew the blow had started and just ere the edge of steel bit the flesh and nerves it seemed that he gazed upon the serene face of the Medusa, Truth—And, simultaneous with the bite of the steel on the onrush of the dark, in a flashing instant of fancy, he saw the vision of his head turning slowly, always turning, in the devil-devil house beside the breadfruit tree.


12. THE BONES OF KAHEKILI

From over the lofty Koolau Mountains, vagrant wisps of the trade wind drifted, faintly swaying the great, unwhipped banana leaves, rustling the palms, and fluttering and setting up a whispering among the lace-leaved algaroba trees. Only intermittently did the atmosphere so breathe—for breathing it was, the suspiring of the languid, Hawaiian afternoon. In the intervals between the soft breathings, the air grew heavy and balmy with the perfume of flowers and the exhalations of fat, living soil.
Of humans about the low bungalow-like house, there were many; but one only of them slept. The rest were on the tense tiptoes of silence. At the rear of the house a tiny babe piped up a thin blatting wail that the quickly thrust breast could not appease. The mother, a slender hapa-haole (half-white), clad in a loose-flowing holoku of white muslin, hastened away swiftly among the banana and papaia trees to remove the babe’s noise by distance. Other women, hapa-haole and full native, watched her anxiously as she fled.
At the front of the house, on the grass, squatted a score of Hawaiians. Well-muscled, broad-shouldered, they were all strapping men. Brown-skinned, with luminous brown eyes and black, their features large and regular, they showed all the signs of being as good-natured, merry-hearted, and soft-tempered as the climate. To all of which a seeming contradiction was given by the ferociousness of their accoutrement. Into the tops of their rough leather leggings were thrust long knives, the handles projecting. On their heels were huge-rowelled Spanish spurs. They had the appearance of banditti, save for the incongruous wreaths of flowers and fragrant maile that encircled the crowns of their flopping cowboy hats. One of them, deliciously and roguishly handsome as a faun, with the eyes of a faun, wore a flaming double-hibiscus bloom coquettishly tucked over his ear. Above them, casting a shelter of shade from the sun, grew a wide-spreading canopy of Ponciana regia, itself a flame of blossoms, out of each of which sprang pom-poms of feathery stamens. From far off, muffled by distance, came the faint stamping of their tethered horses. The eyes of all were intently fixed upon the solitary sleeper who lay on his back on a lauhala mat a hundred feet away under the monkey-pod trees.
Large as were the Hawaiian cowboys, the sleeper was larger. Also, as his snow-white hair and beard attested, he was much older. The thickness of his wrist and the greatness of his fingers made authentic the mighty frame of him hidden under loose dungaree pants and cotton shirt, buttonless, open from midriff to Adam’s apple, exposing a chest matted with a thatch of hair as white as that of his head and face. The depth and breadth of that chest, its resilience, and its relaxed and plastic muscles, tokened the knotty strength that still resided in him. Further, no bronze and beat of sun and wind availed to hide the testimony of his skin that he was all haole—a white man.
On his back, his great white beard, thrust skyward, untrimmed of barbers, stiffened and subsided with every breath, while with the outblow of every exhalation the white moustache erected perpendicularly like the quills of a porcupine and subsided with each intake. A young girl of fourteen, clad only in a single shift, or muumuu, herself a grand-daughter of the sleeper, crouched beside him and with a feathered fly-flapper brushed away the flies. In her face were depicted solicitude, and nervousness, and awe, as if she attended on a god.
And truly, Hardman Pool, the sleeping whiskery one, was to her, and to many and sundry, a god—a source of life, a source of food, a fount of wisdom, a giver of law, a smiling beneficence, a blackness of thunder and punishment—in short, a man-master whose record was fourteen living and adult sons and daughters, six great-grandchildren, and more grandchildren than could he in his most lucid moments enumerate.
Fifty-one years before, he had landed from an open boat at Laupahoehoe on the windward coast of Hawaii. The boat was the one surviving one of the whaler Black Prince of New Bedford. Himself New Bedford born, twenty years of age, by virtue of his driving strength and ability he had served as second mate on the lost whaleship. Coming to Honolulu and casting about for himself, he had first married Kalama Mamaiopili, next acted as pilot of Honolulu Harbour, after that started a saloon and boarding house, and, finally, on the death of Kalama’s father, engaged in cattle ranching on the broad pasture lands she had inherited.
For over half a century he had lived with the Hawaiians, and it was conceded that he knew their language better than did most of them. By marrying Kalama, he had married not merely her land, but her own chief rank, and the fealty owed by the commoners to her by virtue of her genealogy was also accorded him. In addition, he possessed of himself all the natural attributes of chiefship: the gigantic stature, the fearlessness, the pride; and the high hot temper that could brook no impudence nor insult, that could be neither bullied nor awed by any utmost magnificence of power that walked on two legs, and that could compel service of lesser humans, not by any ignoble purchase by bargaining, but by an unspoken but expected condescending of largesse. He knew his Hawaiians from the outside and the in, knew them better than themselves, their Polynesian circumlocutions, faiths, customs, and mysteries.
And at seventy-one, after a morning in the saddle over the ranges that began at four o’clock, he lay under the monkey-pods in his customary and sacred siesta that no retainer dared to break, nor would dare permit any equal of the great one to break. Only to the King was such a right accorded, and, as the King had early learned, to break Hardman Pool’s siesta was to gain awake a very irritable and grumpy Hardman Pool who would talk straight from the shoulder and say unpleasant but true things that no king would care to hear.
The sun blazed down. The horses stamped remotely. The fading trade-wind wisps sighed and rustled between longer intervals of quiescence. The perfume grew heavier. The woman brought back the babe, quiet again, to the rear of the house. The monkey-pods folded their leaves and swooned to a siesta of their own in the soft air above the sleeper. The girl, breathless as ever from the enormous solemnity of her task, still brushed the flies away; and the score of cowboys still intently and silently watched.
Hardman Pool awoke. The next out-breath, expected of the long rhythm, did not take place. Neither did the white, long moustache rise up. Instead, the cheeks, under the whiskers, puffed; the eyelids lifted, exposing blue eyes, choleric and fully and immediately conscious; the right hand went out to the half-smoked pipe beside him, while the left hand reached the matches.
“Get me my gin and milk,” he ordered, in Hawaiian, of the little maid, who had been startled into a tremble by his awaking.
He lighted the pipe, but gave no sign of awareness of the presence of his waiting retainers until the tumbler of gin and milk had been brought and drunk.
“Well?” he demanded abruptly, and in the pause, while twenty faces wreathed in smiles and twenty pairs of dark eyes glowed luminously with well-wishing pleasure, he wiped the lingering drops of gin and milk from his hairy lips. “What are you hanging around for? What do you want? Come over here.”
Twenty giants, most of them young, uprose and with a great clanking and jangling of spurs and spur-chains strode over to him. They grouped before him in a semicircle, trying bashfully to wedge their shoulders, one behind another’s, their faces a-grin and apologetic, and at the same time expressing a casual and unconscious democraticness. In truth, to them Hardman Pool was more than mere chief. He was elder brother, or father, or patriarch; and to all of them he was related, in one way or another, according to Hawaiian custom, through his wife and through the many marriages of his children and grandchildren. His slightest frown might perturb them, his anger terrify them, his command compel them to certain death; yet, on the other hand, not one of them would have dreamed of addressing him otherwise than intimately by his first name, which name, “Hardman,” was transmuted by their tongues into Kanaka Oolea.
At a nod from him, the semicircle seated itself on the manienie grass, and with further deprecatory smiles waited his pleasure.
“What do you want?” demanded, in Hawaiian, with a brusqueness and sternness they knew were put on.
They smiled more broadly, and deliciously squirmed their broad shoulders and great torsos with the appeasingness of so many wriggling puppies. Hardman Pool singled out one of them.
“Well, Iliiopoi, what do you want?”
“Ten dollars, Kanaka Oolea.”
“Ten dollars!” Pool cried, in apparent shock at mention of so vast a sum. “Does it mean you are going to take a second wife? Remember the missionary teaching. One wife at a time, Iliiopoi; one wife at a time. For he who entertains a plurality of wives will surely go to hell.”
Giggles and flashings of laughing eyes from all greeted the joke.
“No, Kanaka Oolea,” came the reply. “The devil knows I am hard put to get kow-kow for one wife and her several relations.”
Kow-kow?” Pool repeated the Chinese-introduced word for food which the Hawaiians had come to substitute for their own paina. “Didn’t you boys get kow-kow here this noon?”
“Yes, Kanaka Oolea,” volunteered an old, withered native who had just joined the group from the direction of the house. “All of them had kow-kow in the kitchen, and plenty of it. They ate like lost horses brought down from the lava.”
“And what do you want, Kumuhana?” Pool diverted to the old one, at the same time motioning to the little maid to flap flies from the other side of him.
“Twelve dollars,” said Kumuhana. “I want to buy a Jackass and a second-hand saddle and bridle. I am growing too old for my legs to carry me in walking.”
“You wait,” his haole lord commanded. “I will talk with you about the matter, and about other things of importance, when I am finished with the rest and they are gone.”
The withered old one nodded and proceeded to light his pipe.
“The kow-kow in the kitchen was good,” Iliiopoi resumed, licking his lips. “The poi was one-finger, the pig fat, the salmon-belly unstinking, the fish of great freshness and plenty, though the opihis” (tiny, rock-clinging shell-fish) “had been salted and thereby made tough. Never should the opihis be salted. Often have I told you, Kanaka Oolea, that opihis should never be salted. I am full of good kow-kow. My belly is heavy with it. Yet is my heart not light of it because there is no kow-kow in my own house, where is my wife, who is the aunt of your fourth son’s second wife, and where is my baby daughter, and my wife’s old mother, and my wife’s old mother’s feeding child that is a cripple, and my wife’s sister who lives likewise with us along with her three children, the father being dead of a wicked dropsy—”
“Will five dollars save all of you from funerals for a day or several?” Pool testily cut the tale short.
“Yes, Kanaka Oolea, and as well it will buy my wife a new comb and some tobacco for myself.”
From a gold-sack drawn from the hip-pocket of his dungarees, Hardman Pool drew the gold piece and tossed it accurately into the waiting hand.
To a bachelor who wanted six dollars for new leggings, tobacco, and spurs, three dollars were given; the same to another who needed a hat; and to a third, who modestly asked for two dollars, four were given with a flowery-worded compliment anent his prowess in roping a recent wild bull from the mountains. They knew, as a rule, that he cut their requisitions in half, therefore they doubled the size of their requisitions. And Hardman Pool knew they doubled, and smiled to himself. It was his way, and, further, it was a very good way with his multitudinous relatives, and did not reduce his stature in their esteem.
“And you, Ahuhu?” he demanded of one whose name meant “poison-wood.”
“And the price of a pair of dungarees,” Ahuhu concluded his list of needs. “I have ridden much and hard after your cattle, Kanaka Oolea, and where my dungarees have pressed against the seat of the saddle there is no seat to my dungarees. It is not well that it be said that a Kanaka Oolea cowboy, who is also a cousin of Kanaka Oolea’s wife’s half-sister, should be shamed to be seen out of the saddle save that he walks backward from all that behold him.”
“The price of a dozen pairs of dungarees be thine, Ahuhu,” Hardman Pool beamed, tossing to him the necessary sum. “I am proud that my family shares my pride. Afterward, Ahuhu, out of the dozen dungarees you will give me one, else shall I be compelled to walk backward, my own and only dungarees being in like manner well worn and shameful.”
And in laughter of love at their haole chief’s final sally, all the sweet-child-minded and physically gorgeous company of them departed to their waiting horses, save the old withered one, Kumuhana, who had been bidden to wait.
For a full five minutes they sat in silence. Then Hardman Pool ordered the little maid to fetch a tumbler of gin and milk, which, when she brought it, he nodded her to hand to Kumuhana. The glass did not leave his lips until it was empty, whereon he gave a great audible out-breath of “A-a-ah,” and smacked his lips.
“Much awa have I drunk in my time,” he said reflectively. “Yet is the awa but a common man’s drink, while the haole liquor is a drink for chiefs. The awa has not the liquor’s hot willingness, its spur in the ribs of feeling, its biting alive of oneself that is very pleasant since it is pleasant to be alive.”
Hardman Pool smiled, nodded agreement, and old Kumuhana continued.
“There is a warmingness to it. It warms the belly and the soul. It warms the heart. Even the soul and the heart grow cold when one is old.”
“You are old,” Pool conceded. “Almost as old as I.”
Kumuhana shook his head and murmured. “Were I no older than you I would be as young as you.”
“I am seventy-one,” said Pool.
“I do not know ages that way,” was the reply. “What happened when you were born?”
“Let me see,” Pool calculated. “This is 1880. Subtract seventy-one, and it leaves nine. I was born in 1809, which is the year Keliimakai died, which is the year the Scotchman, Archibald Campbell, lived in Honolulu.”
“Then am I truly older than you, Kanaka Oolea. I remember the Scotchman well, for I was playing among the grass houses of Honolulu at the time, and already riding a surf-board in the wahine” (woman) “surf at Waikiki. I can take you now to the spot where was the Scotchman’s grass house. The Seaman’s Mission stands now on the very ground. Yet do I know when I was born. Often my grandmother and my mother told me of it. I was born when Madame Pele” (the Fire Goddess or Volcano Goddess) “became angry with the people of Paiea because they sacrificed no fish to her from their fish-pool, and she sent down a flow of lava from Huulalai and filled up their pond. For ever was the fish-pond of Paiea filled up. That was when I was born.”
“That was in 1801, when James Boyd was building ships for Kamehameha at Hilo,” Pool cast back through the calendar; “which makes you seventy-nine, or eight years older than I. You are very old.”
“Yes, Kanaka Oolea,” muttered Kumuhana, pathetically attempting to swell his shrunken chest with pride.
“And you are very wise.”
“Yes, Kanaka Oolea.”
“And you know many of the secret things that are known only to old men.”
“Yes, Kanaka Oolea.”
“And then you know—” Hardman Pool broke off, the more effectively to impress and hypnotize the other ancient with the set stare of his pale-washed blue eyes. “They say the bones of Kahekili were taken from their hiding-place and lie to-day in the Royal Mausoleum. I have heard it whispered that you alone of all living men truly know.”
“I know,” was the proud answer. “I alone know.”
“Well, do they lie there? Yes or no?”
“Kahekili was an alii” (high chief). “It is from this straight line that your wife Kalama came. She is an alii.” The old retainer paused and pursed his lean lips in meditation. “I belong to her, as all my people before me belonged to her people before her. She only can command the great secrets of me. She is wise, too wise ever to command me to speak this secret. To you, O Kanaka Oolea, I do not answer yes, I do not answer no. This is a secret of the aliis that even the aliis do not know.”
“Very good, Kumuhana,” Hardman Pool commanded. “Yet do you forget that I am an alii, and that what my good Kalama does not dare ask, I command to ask. I can send for her, now, and tell her to command your answer. But such would be a foolishness unless you prove yourself doubly foolish. Tell me the secret, and she will never know. A woman’s lips must pour out whatever flows in through her ears, being so made. I am a man, and man is differently made. As you well know, my lips suck tight on secrets as a squid sucks to the salty rock. If you will not tell me alone, then will you tell Kalama and me together, and her lips will talk, her lips will talk, so that the latest malahini will shortly know what, otherwise, you and I alone will know.”
Long time Kumuhana sat on in silence, debating the argument and finding no way to evade the fact-logic of it.
“Great is your haole wisdom,” he conceded at last.
“Yes? or no?” Hardman Pool drove home the point of his steel.
Kumuhana looked about him first, then slowly let his eyes come to rest on the fly-flapping maid.
“Go,” Pool commanded her. “And come not back without you hear a clapping of my hands.”
Hardman Pool spoke no further, even after the flapper had disappeared into the house; yet his face adamantly looked: “Yes or no?”
Again Kumuhana looked carefully about him, and up into the monkey-pod boughs as if to apprehend a lurking listener. His lips were very dry. With his tongue he moistened them repeatedly. Twice he essayed to speak, but was inarticulately husky. And finally, with bowed head, he whispered, so low and solemnly that Hardman Pool bent his own head to hear: “No.”
Pool clapped his hands, and the little maid ran out of the house to him in tremulous, fluttery haste.
“Bring a milk and gin for old Kumuhana, here,” Pool commanded; and, to Kumuhana: “Now tell me the whole story.”
“Wait,” was the answer. “Wait till the little wahine has come and gone.”
And when the maid was gone, and the gin and milk had travelled the way predestined of gin and milk when mixed together, Hardman Pool waited without further urge for the story. Kumuhana pressed his hand to his chest and coughed hollowly at intervals, bidding for encouragement; but in the end, of himself, spoke out.
“It was a terrible thing in the old days when a great alii died. Kahekili was a great alii. He might have been king had he lived. Who can tell? I was a young man, not yet married. You know, Kanaka Oolea, when Kahekili died, and you can tell me how old I was. He died when Governor Boki ran the Blonde Hotel here in Honolulu. You have heard?”
“I was still on windward Hawaii,” Pool answered. “But I have heard. Boki made a distillery, and leased Manoa lands to grow sugar for it, and Kaahumanu, who was regent, cancelled the lease, rooted out the cane, and planted potatoes. And Boki was angry, and prepared to make war, and gathered his fighting men, with a dozen whaleship deserters and five brass six-pounders, out at Waikiki—”
“That was the very time Kahekili died,” Kumuhana broke in eagerly. “You are very wise. You know many things of the old days better than we old kanakas.”
“It was 1829,” Pool continued complacently. “You were twenty-eight years old, and I was twenty, just coming ashore in the open boat after the burning of the Black Prince.”
“I was twenty-eight,” Kumuhana resumed. “It sounds right. I remember well Boki’s brass guns at Waikiki. Kahekili died, too, at the time, at Waikiki. The people to this day believe his bones were taken to the Hale o Keawe” (mausoleum) “at Honaunau, in Kona—”
“And long afterward were brought to the Royal Mausoleum here in Honolulu,” Pool supplemented.
“Also, Kanaka Oolea, there are some who believe to this day that Queen Alice has them stored with the rest of her ancestral bones in the big jars in her taboo room. All are wrong. I know. The sacred bones of Kahekili are gone and for ever gone. They rest nowhere. They have ceased to be. And many kona winds have whitened the surf at Waikiki since the last man looked upon the last of Kahekili. I alone remain alive of those men. I am the last man, and I was not glad to be at the finish.
“For see! I was a young man, and my heart was white-hot lava for Malia, who was in Kahekili’s household. So was Anapuni’s heart white-hot for her, though the colour of his heart was black, as you shall see. We were at a drinking that night—Anapuni and I—the night that Kahekili died. Anapuni and I were only commoners, as were all of us kanakas and wahines who were at the drinking with the common sailors and whaleship men from before the mast. We were drinking on the mats by the beach at Waikiki, close to the old heiau” (temple) “that is not far from what is now the Wilders’ beach place. I learned then and for ever what quantities of drink haole sailormen can stand. As for us kanakas, our heads were hot and light and rattly as dry gourds with the whisky and the rum.
“It was past midnight, I remember well, when I saw Malia, whom never had I seen at a drinking, come across the wet-hard sand of the beach. My brain burned like red cinders of hell as I looked upon Anapuni look upon her, he being nearest to her by being across from me in the drinking circle. Oh, I know it was whisky and rum and youth that made the heat of me; but there, in that moment, the mad mind of me resolved, if she spoke to him and yielded to dance with him first, that I would put both my hands around his throat and throw him down and under the wahine surf there beside us, and drown and choke out his life and the obstacle of him that stood between me and her. For know, that she had never decided between us, and it was because of him that she was not already and long since mine.
“She was a grand young woman with a body generous as that of a chiefess and more wonderful, as she came upon us, across the wet sand, in the shimmer of the moonlight. Even the haole sailormen made pause of silence, and with open mouths stared upon her. Her walk! I have heard you talk, O Kanaka Oolea, of the woman Helen who caused the war of Troy. I say of Malia that more men would have stormed the walls of hell for her than went against that old-time city of which it is your custom to talk over much and long when you have drunk too little milk and too much gin.
“Her walk! In the moonlight there, the soft glow-fire of the jelly-fishes in the surf like the kerosene-lamp footlights I have seen in the new haole theatre! It was not the walk of a girl, but a woman. She did not flutter forward like rippling wavelets on a reef-sheltered, placid beach. There was that in her manner of walk that was big and queenlike, like the motion of the forces of nature, like the rhythmic flow of lava down the slopes of Kau to the sea, like the movement of the huge orderly trade-wind seas, like the rise and fall of the four great tides of the year that may be like music in the eternal ear of God, being too slow of occurrence in time to make a tune for ordinary quick-pulsing, brief-living, swift-dying man.
“Anapuni was nearest. But she looked at me. Have you ever heard a call, Kanaka Oolea, that is without sound yet is louder than the conches of God? So called she to me across that circle of the drinking. I half arose, for I was not yet full drunken; but Anapuni’s arm caught her and drew her, and I sank back on my elbow and watched and raged. He was for making her sit beside him, and I waited. Did she sit, and, next, dance with him, I knew that ere morning Anapuni would be a dead man, choked and drowned by me in the shallow surf.
“Strange, is it not, Kanaka Oolea, all this heat called ‘love’? Yet it is not strange. It must be so in the time of one’s youth, else would mankind not go on.”
“That is why the desire of woman must be greater than the desire of life,” Pool concurred. “Else would there be neither men nor women.”
“Yes,” said Kumuhana. “But it is many a year now since the last of such heat has gone out of me. I remember it as one remembers an old sunrise—a thing that was. And so one grows old, and cold, and drinks gin, not for madness, but for warmth. And the milk is very nourishing.
“But Malia did not sit beside him. I remember her eyes were wild, her hair down and flying, as she bent over him and whispered in his ear. And her hair covered him about and hid him as she whispered, and the sight of it pounded my heart against my ribs and dizzied my head till scarcely could I half-see. And I willed myself with all the will of me that if, in short minutes, she did not come over to me, I would go across the circle and get her.
“It was one of the things never to be. You remember Chief Konukalani? Himself he strode up to the circle. His face was black with anger. He gripped Malia, not by the arm, but by the hair, and dragged her away behind him and was gone. Of that, even now, can I understand not the half. I, who was for slaying Anapuni because of her, raised neither hand nor voice of protest when Konukalani dragged her away by the hair—nor did Anapuni. Of course, we were common men, and he was a chief. That I know. But why should two common men, mad with desire of woman, with desire of woman stronger in them than desire of life, let any one chief, even the highest in the land, drag the woman away by the hair? Desiring her more than life, why should the two men fear to slay then and immediately the one chief? Here is something stronger than life, stronger than woman, but what is it? and why?”
“I will answer you,” said Hardman Pool. “It is so because most men are fools, and therefore must be taken care of by the few men who are wise. Such is the secret of chiefship. In all the world are chiefs over men. In all the world that has been have there ever been chiefs, who must say to the many fool men: ‘Do this; do not do that. Work, and work as we tell you or your bellies will remain empty and you will perish. Obey the laws we set you or you will be beasts and without place in the world. You would not have been, save for the chiefs before you who ordered and regulated for your fathers. No seed of you will come after you, except that we order and regulate for you now. You must be peace-abiding, and decent, and blow your noses. You must be early to bed of nights, and up early in the morning to work if you would heave beds to sleep in and not roost in trees like the silly fowls. This is the season for the yam-planting and you must plant now. We say now, to-day, and not picnicking and hulaing to-day and yam-planting to-morrow or some other day of the many careless days. You must not kill one another, and you must leave your neighbours’ wives alone. All this is life for you, because you think but one day at a time, while we, your chiefs, think for you all days and for days ahead.’”
“Like a cloud on the mountain-top that comes down and wraps about you and that you dimly see is a cloud, so is your wisdom to me, Kanaka Oolea,” Kumuhana murmured. “Yet is it sad that I should be born a common man and live all my days a common man.”
“That is because you were of yourself common,” Hardman Pool assured him. “When a man is born common, and is by nature uncommon, he rises up and overthrows the chiefs and makes himself chief over the chiefs. Why do you not run my ranch, with its many thousands of cattle, and shift the pastures by the rain-fall, and pick the bulls, and arrange the bargaining and the selling of the meat to the sailing ships and war vessels and the people who live in the Honolulu houses, and fight with lawyers, and help make laws, and even tell the King what is wise for him to do and what is dangerous? Why does not any man do this that I do? Any man of all the men who work for me, feed out of my hand, and let me do their thinking for them—me, who work harder than any of them, who eats no more than any of them, and who can sleep on no more than one lauhala mat at a time like any of them?”
“I am out of the cloud, Kanaka Oolea,” said Kumuhana, with a visible brightening of countenance. “More clearly do I see. All my long years have the aliis I was born under thought for me. Ever, when I was hungry, I came to them for food, as I come to your kitchen now. Many people eat in your kitchen, and the days of feasts when you slay fat steers for all of us are understandable. It is why I come to you this day, an old man whose labour of strength is not worth a shilling a week, and ask of you twelve dollars to buy a jackass and a second-hand saddle and bridle. It is why twice ten fool men of us, under these monkey-pods half an hour ago, asked of you a dollar or two, or four or five, or ten or twelve. We are the careless ones of the careless days who will not plant the yam in season if our alii does not compel us, who will not think one day for ourselves, and who, when we age to worthlessness, know that our alii will think kow-kow into our bellies and a grass thatch over our heads.”
Hardman Pool bowed his appreciation, and urged:
“But the bones of Kahekili. The Chief Konukalani had just dragged away Malia by the hair of the head, and you and Anapuni sat on without protest in the circle of drinking. What was it Malia whispered in Anapuni’s ear, bending over him, her hair hiding the face of him?”
“That Kahekili was dead. That was what she whispered to Anapuni. That Kahekili was dead, just dead, and that the chiefs, ordering all within the house to remain within, were debating the disposal of the bones and meat of him before word of his death should get abroad. That the high priest Eoppo was deciding them, and that she had overheard no less than Anapuni and me chosen as the sacrifices to go the way of Kahekili and his bones and to care for him afterward and for ever in the shadowy other world.”
“The moepuu, the human sacrifice,” Pool commented. “Yet it was nine years since the coming of the missionaries.”
“And it was the year before their coming that the idols were cast down and the taboos broken,” Kumuhana added. “But the chiefs still practised the old ways, the custom of hunakele, and hid the bones of the aliis where no men should find them and make fish-hooks of their jaws or arrow heads of their long bones for the slaying of little mice in sport. Behold, O Kanaka Oolea!”
The old man thrust out his tongue; and, to Pool’s amazement, he saw the surface of that sensitive organ, from root to tip, tattooed in intricate designs.
“That was done after the missionaries came, several years afterward, when Keopuolani died. Also, did I knock out four of my front teeth, and half-circles did I burn over my body with blazing bark. And whoever ventured out-of-doors that night was slain by the chiefs. Nor could a light be shown in a house or a whisper of noise be made. Even dogs and hogs that made a noise were slain, nor all that night were the ships’ bells of the haoles in the harbour allowed to strike. It was a terrible thing in those days when an alii died.
“But the night that Kahekili died. We sat on in the drinking circle after Konukalani dragged Malia away by the hair. Some of the haole sailors grumbled; but they were few in the land in those days and the kanakas many. And never was Malia seen of men again. Konukalani alone knew the manner of her slaying, and he never told. And in after years what common men like Anapuni and me should dare to question him?
“Now she had told Anapuni before she was dragged away. But Anapuni’s heart was black. Me he did not tell. Worthy he was of the killing I had intended for him. There was a giant harpooner in the circle, whose singing was like the bellowing of bulls; and, gazing on him in amazement while he roared some song of the sea, when next I looked across the circle to Anapuni, Anapuni was gone. He had fled to the high mountains where he could hide with the bird-catchers a week of moons. This I learned afterward.
“I? I sat on, ashamed of my desire of woman that had not been so strong as my slave-obedience to a chief. And I drowned my shame in large drinks of rum and whisky, till the world went round and round, inside my head and out, and the Southern Cross danced a hula in the sky, and the Koolau Mountains bowed their lofty summits to Waikiki and the surf of Waikiki kissed them on their brows. And the giant harpooner was still roaring, his the last sounds in my ear, as I fell back on the lauhala mat, and was to all things for the time as one dead.
“When I awoke was at the faint first beginning of dawn. I was being kicked by a hard naked heel in the ribs. What of the enormousness of the drink I had consumed, the feelings aroused in me by the heel were not pleasant. The kanakas and wahines of the drinking were gone. I alone remained among the sleeping sailormen, the giant harpooner snoring like a whale, his head upon my feet.
“More heel-kicks, and I sat up and was sick. But the one who kicked was impatient, and demanded to know where was Anapuni. And I did not know, and was kicked, this time from both sides by two impatient men, because I did not know. Nor did I know that Kahekili was dead. Yet did I guess something serious was afoot, for the two men who kicked me were chiefs, and no common men crouched behind them to do their bidding. One was Aimoku, of Kaneche; the other Humuhumu, of Manoa.
“They commanded me to go with them, and they were not kind in their commanding; and as I uprose, the head of the giant harpooner was rolled off my feet, past the edge of the mat, into the sand. He grunted like a pig, his lips opened, and all of his tongue rolled out of his mouth into the sand. Nor did he draw it back. For the first time I knew how long was a man’s tongue. The sight of the sand on it made me sick for the second time. It is a terrible thing, the next day after a night of drinking. I was afire, dry afire, all the inside of me like a burnt cinder, like aa lava, like the harpooner’s tongue dry and gritty with sand. I bent for a half-drunk drinking coconut, but Aimoku kicked it out of my shaking fingers, and Humuhumu smote me with the heel of his hand on my neck.
“They walked before me, side by side, their faces solemn and black, and I walked at their heels. My mouth stank of the drink, and my head was sick with the stale fumes of it, and I would have cut off my right hand for a drink of water, one drink, a mouthful even. And, had I had it, I know it would have sizzled in my belly like water spilled on heated stones for the roasting. It is terrible, the next day after the drinking. All the life-time of many men who died young has passed by me since the last I was able to do such mad drinking of youth when youth knows not capacity and is undeterred.
“But as we went on, I began to know that some alii was dead. No kanakas lay asleep in the sand, nor stole home from their love-making; and no canoes were abroad after the early fish most catchable then inside the reef at the change of the tide. When we came, past the hoiau” (temple), “to where the Great Kamehameha used to haul out his brigs and schooners, I saw, under the canoe-sheds, that the mat-thatches of Kahekili’s great double canoe had been taken off, and that even then, at low tide, many men were launching it down across the sand into the water. But all these men were chiefs. And, though my eyes swam, and the inside of my head went around and around, and the inside of my body was a cinder athirst, I guessed that the alii who was dead was Kahekili. For he was old, and most likely of the aliis to be dead.”
“It was his death, as I have heard it, more than the intercession of Kekuanaoa, that spoiled Governor Boki’s rebellion,” Hardman Pool observed.
“It was Kahekili’s death that spoiled it,” Kumuhana confirmed. “All commoners, when the word slipped out that night of his death, fled into the shelter of the grass houses, nor lighted fire nor pipes, nor breathed loudly, being therein and thereby taboo from use for sacrifice. And all Governor Boki’s commoners of fighting men, as well as the haole deserters from ships, so fled, so that the brass guns lay unserved and his handful of chiefs of themselves could do nothing.
“Aimoku and Humuhumu made me sit on the sand to the side from the launching of the great double-canoe. And when it was afloat all the chiefs were athirst, not being used to such toil; and I was told to climb the palms beside the canoe-sheds and throw down drink-coconuts. They drank and were refreshed, but me they refused to let drink.
“Then they bore Kahekili from his house to the canoe in a haole coffin, oiled and varnished and new. It had been made by a ship’s carpenter, who thought he was making a boat that must not leak. It was very tight, and over where the face of Kahekili lay was nothing but thin glass. The chiefs had not screwed on the outside plank to cover the glass. Maybe they did not know the manner of haole coffins; but at any rate I was to be glad they did not know, as you shall see.
“‘There is but one moepuu,’ said the priest Eoppo, looking at me where I sat on the coffin in the bottom of the canoe. Already the chiefs were paddling out through the reef.
“‘The other has run into hiding,’ Aimoku answered. ‘This one was all we could get.’
“And then I knew. I knew everything. I was to be sacrificed. Anapuni had been planned for the other sacrifice. That was what Malia had whispered to Anapuni at the drinking. And she had been dragged away before she could tell me. And in his blackness of heart he had not told me.
“‘There should be two,’ said Eoppo. ‘It is the law.’
“Aimoku stopped paddling and looked back shoreward as if to return and get a second sacrifice. But several of the chiefs contended no, saying that all commoners were fled to the mountains or were lying taboo in their houses, and that it might take days before they could catch one. In the end Eoppo gave in, though he grumbled from time to time that the law required two moepuus.
“We paddled on, past Diamond Head and abreast of Koko Head, till we were in the midway of the Molokai Channel. There was quite a sea running, though the trade wind was blowing light. The chiefs rested from their paddles, save for the steersmen who kept the canoes bow-on to the wind and swell. And, ere they proceeded further in the matter, they opened more coconuts and drank.
“‘I do not mind so much being the moepuu,’ I said to Humuhumu; ‘but I should like to have a drink before I am slain.’ I got no drink. But I spoke true. I was too sick of the much whisky and rum to be afraid to die. At least my mouth would stink no more, nor my head ache, nor the inside of me be as dry-hot sand. Almost worst of all, I suffered at thought of the harpooner’s tongue, as last I had seen it lying on the sand and covered with sand. O Kanaka Oolea, what animals young men are with the drink! Not until they have grown old, like you and me, do they control their wantonness of thirst and drink sparingly, like you and me.”
“Because we have to,” Hardman Pool rejoined. “Old stomachs are worn thin and tender, and we drink sparingly because we dare not drink more. We are wise, but the wisdom is bitter.”
“The priest Eoppo sang a long mele about Kahekili’s mother and his mother’s mother, and all their mothers all the way back to the beginning of time,” Kumuhana resumed. “And it seemed I must die of my sand-hot dryness ere he was done. And he called upon all the gods of the under world, the middle world and the over world, to care for and cherish the dead alii about to be consigned to them, and to carry out the curses—they were terrible curses—he laid upon all living men and men to live after who might tamper with the bones of Kahekili to use them in sport of vermin-slaying.
“Do you know, Kanaka Oolea, the priest talked a language largely different, and I know it was the priest language, the old language. Maui he did not name Maui, but Maui-Tiki-Tiki and Maui-Po-Tiki. And Hina, the goddess-mother of Maui, he named Ina. And Maui’s god-father he named sometimes Akalana and sometimes Kanaloa. Strange how one about to die and very thirsty should remember such things! And I remember the priest named Hawaii as Vaii, and Lanai as Ngangai.”
“Those were the Maori names,” Hardman Pool explained, “and the Samoan and Tongan names, that the priests brought with them in their first voyages from the south in the long ago when they found Hawaii and settled to dwell upon it.”
“Great is your wisdom, O Kanaka Oolea,” the old man accorded solemnly. “Ku, our Supporter of the Heavens, the priest named Tu, and also Ru; and La, our God of the Sun, he named Ra—”
“And Ra was a sun-god in Egypt in the long ago,” Pool interrupted with a sparkle of interest. “Truly, you Polynesians have travelled far in time and space since first you began. A far cry it is from Old Egypt, when Atlantis was still afloat, to Young Hawaii in the North Pacific. But proceed, Kumuhana. Do you remember anything also of what the priest Eoppo sang?”
“At the very end,” came the confirming nod, “though I was near dead myself, and nearer to die under the priest’s knife, he sang what I have remembered every word of. Listen! It was thus.”
And in quavering falsetto, with the customary broken-notes, the old man sang.
“A Maori death-chant unmistakable,” Pool exclaimed, “sung by a Hawaiian with a tattooed tongue! Repeat it once again, and I shall say it to you in English.”
And when it had been repeated, he spoke it slowly in English:

“But death is nothing new.
Death is and has been ever since old Maui died.
Then Pata-tai laughed loud
And woke the goblin-god,
Who severed him in two, and shut him in,
So dusk of eve came on.”

“And at the last,” Kumuhana resumed, “I was not slain. Eoppo, the killing knife in hand and ready to lift for the blow, did not lift. And I? How did I feel and think? Often, Kanaka Oolea, have I since laughed at the memory of it. I felt very thirsty. I did not want to die. I wanted a drink of water. I knew I was going to die, and I kept remembering the thousand waterfalls falling to waste down the palis” (precipices) “of the windward Koolau Mountains. I did not think of Anapuni. I was too thirsty. I did not think of Malia. I was too thirsty. But continually, inside my head, I saw the tongue of the harpooner, covered dry with sand, as I had last seen it, lying in the sand. My tongue was like that, too. And in the bottom of the canoe rolled about many drinking nuts. Yet I did not attempt to drink, for these were chiefs and I was a common man.
“‘No,’ said Eoppo, commanding the chiefs to throw overboard the coffin. ‘There are not two moepuus, therefore there shall be none.’
“‘Slay the one,’ the chiefs cried.
“But Eoppo shook his head, and said: ‘We cannot send Kahekili on his way with only the tops of the taro.’
“‘Half a fish is better than none,’ Aimoku said the old saying.
“‘Not at the burying of an alii,’ was the priest’s quick reply. ‘It is the law. We cannot be niggard with Kahekili and cut his allotment of sacrifice in half.’
“So, for the moment, while the coffin went overside, I was not slain. And it was strange that I was glad immediately that I was to live. And I began to remember Malia, and to begin to plot a vengeance on Anapuni. And with the blood of life thus freshening in me, my thirst multiplied on itself tenfold and my tongue and mouth and throat seemed as sanded as the tongue of the harpooner. The coffin being overboard, I was sitting in the bottom of the canoe. A coconut rolled between my legs and I closed them on it. But as I picked it up in my hand, Aimoku smote my hand with the paddle-edge. Behold!”
He held up the hand, showing two fingers crooked from never having been set.
“I had no time to vex over my pain, for worse things were upon me. All the chiefs were crying out in horror. The coffin, head-end up, had not sunk. It bobbed up and down in the sea astern of us. And the canoe, without way on it, bow-on to sea and wind, was drifted down by sea and wind upon the coffin. And the glass of it was to us, so that we could see the face and head of Kahekili through the glass; and he grinned at us through the glass and seemed alive already in the other world and angry with us, and, with other-world power, about to wreak his anger upon us. Up and down he bobbed, and the canoe drifted closer upon him.
“‘Kill him!’ ‘Bleed him!’ ‘Thrust to the heart of him!’ These things the chiefs were crying out to Eoppo in their fear. ‘Over with the taro tops!’ ‘Let the alii have the half of a fish!’
“Eoppo, priest though he was, was likewise afraid, and his reason weakened before the sight of Kahekili in his haole coffin that would not sink. He seized me by the hair, drew me to my feet, and lifted the knife to plunge to my heart. And there was no resistance in me. I knew again only that I was very thirsty, and before my swimming eyes, in mid-air and close up, dangled the sanded tongue of the harpooner.
“But before the knife could fall and drive in, the thing happened that saved me. Akai, half-brother to Governor Boki, as you will remember, was steersman of the canoe, and, therefore, in the stern, was nearest to the coffin and its dead that would not sink. He was wild with fear, and he thrust out with the point of his paddle to fend off the coffined alii that seemed bent to come on board. The point of the paddle struck the glass. The glass broke—”
“And the coffin immediately sank,” Hardman Pool broke in; “the air that floated it escaping through the broken glass.”
“The coffin immediately sank, being builded by the ship’s carpenter like a boat,” Kumuhana confirmed. “And I, who was a moepuu, became a man once more. And I lived, though I died a thousand deaths from thirst before we gained back to the beach at Waikiki.
“And so, O Kanaka Oolea, the bones of Kahekili do not lie in the Royal Mausoleum. They are at the bottom of Molokai Channel, if not, long since, they have become floating dust of slime, or, builded into the bodies of the coral creatures dead and gone, are builded into the coral reef itself. Of men I am the one living who saw the bones of Kahekili sink into the Molokai Channel.”
In the pause that followed, wherein Hardman Pool was deep sunk in meditation, Kumuhana licked his dry lips many times. At the last he broke silence:
“The twelve dollars, Kanaka Oolea, for the jackass and the second-hand saddle and bridle?”
“The twelve dollars would be thine,” Pool responded, passing to the ancient one six dollars and a half, “save that I have in my stable junk the very bridle and saddle for you which I shall give you. These six dollars and a half will buy you the perfectly suitable jackass of the pake” (Chinese) “at Kokako who told me only yesterday that such was the price.”
They sat on, Pool meditating, conning over and over to himself the Maori death-chant he had heard, and especially the line, “So dusk of eve came on,” finding in it an intense satisfaction of beauty; Kumuhana licking his lips and tokening that he waited for something more. At last he broke silence.
“I have talked long, O Kanaka Oolea. There is not the enduring moistness in my mouth that was when I was young. It seems that afresh upon me is the thirst that was mine when tormented by the visioned tongue of the harpooner. The gin and milk is very good, O Kanaka Oolea, for a tongue that is like the harpooner’s.”
A shadow of a smile flickered across Pool’s face. He clapped his hands, and the little maid came running.
“Bring one glass of gin and milk for old Kumuhana,” commanded Hardman Pool.


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