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Title: The Bellman Book of Fiction - 1906-1919
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          [Picture: Book cover]



                               The Bellman
                             Book of Fiction


                         [Picture: Image of star]

                                1906–1919

                                * * * * *

                           Chosen and Edited by
                             WILLIAM C. EDGAR
                        late Editor of The Bellman

                                * * * * *

                        Minneapolis, Minn., U.S.A.
                           The Bellman Company
                                   1921

                                * * * * *

                              Copyright 1921
                                    by
                           The Bellman Company

                                * * * * *

                                    TO
                            FORMER READERS OF
                               The Bellman
                         WHOSE GENEROUS GOOD WILL
                          AND LOYAL SUPPORT MADE
                           ITS SUCCESS POSSIBLE

                                * * * * *



PREFACE


THE kindly reception given to The Bellman Book of Verse is mainly
responsible for the publication of this collection of short stories,
originally printed in The Bellman, and should it find favor equal to that
of its predecessor, it is probable that other volumes of like character
may follow this.

Indeed, the former editor of The Bellman has in mind the publication of a
series of books, uniform in size and appearance with this, including a
second and perhaps a third volume of fiction and, finally, The Bellman’s
Book of Essays, to contain some of the essays and editorials of that
periodical which are esteemed of more than transient value; in all,
perhaps half a dozen small volumes.

Whether this congenial undertaking shall be carried out or abandoned
depends very largely upon the welcome given this, the second book of the
contemplated series.  There is no desire to exploit the files of The
Bellman for commercial purposes, but should it appear that there exists a
sincere demand for such literature it will be the writer’s pleasure to
supply it.

More than two years have passed since The Bellman was discontinued, and
it is most gratifying to its founder, as well as to all those who were
concerned in its publication, to note many continuing evidences of the
regard and appreciation in which it was held by its former readers and to
receive repeated expressions of regret that it has ceased to exist.

The Bellman is no more, but his memory still endures, and evidently a
large number of his loyal old friends continue faithfully to cherish it.

For them, more especially, is this collection published.  The selection
has been made almost at random and does not pretend to be a choice of the
best stories that were printed in The Bellman, but merely a few of those
among the many which appeared under the familiar heading, “The Bellman’s
Tale,” and which the editor considers meritorious and worthy of
perpetuation in book form.

November, 1921.

                                                                 —W. C. E.

                          [Picture: A bell man]



CONTENTS

                                                         PAGE
THE MUTE, _Robert W. Sneddon_                               1
THE LAUGHING DUCHESS, _Virginia Woodward Cloud_            13
LONG, LONG AGO, _Frederick Orin Bartlett_                  34
THE RIGHT WHALES FLUKES, _Ben Ames Williams_               45
WHEN BREATHITT WENT TO BATTLE, _Lewis H.                   70
Kilpatrick_
THE FORGIVER, _Marjorie L. C. Pickthall_                   87
TOLD TO PARSON, _Eden Phillpotts_                         100
IRON, _Randolph Edgar_                                    111
THE PERFECT INTERVAL, _Margaret Adelaide Wilson_          113
THE ARCHBISHOP OF RHEIMS, _Emily W. Scott_                132
THE TRAWNBEIGHS, _Charles Macomb Flandrau_                145
THE LIFE BELT, _J. J. Bell_                               157
AMINA, _Edward Lucas White_                               168
THE SILVER RING, _Frank Swinnerton_                       183
THE SURGEON, _B. W. Mitchell_                             193
THE ’DOPTERS, _Aileen Cleveland Higgins_                  201
PREM SINGH, _John Amid_                                   216
EVEN SO, _Charles Boardman Hawes_                         223
THE CASK ASHORE, _Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch_               243



THE MUTE


Le Muet started as the cold steel of a rifle barrel touched his neck, and
turning his head stumbled to his feet.  Behind him stood four Bavarian
soldiers grinning maliciously at his surprise.  They spoke to him, and he
made no attempt to answer.

“Have you seen the French?” they asked again.

He gaped at them with an empty expression.  One of them seized him by the
arm, and twisted it cruelly.  A low, hoarse, guttural sound came from Le
Muet’s lips, and his face was convulsed with effort.  Shaking himself
loose, he pointed to his ears and mouth, then let his chin sink upon his
breast.  He spread his hands in a gesture of despondency, and shook his
head from side to side.

The soldiers looked at him angrily, then their leader, giving the peasant
a push which sent him upon his knees among the turnips, issued an order
in a low voice, and as silently as they had come the four men
disappeared, with bodies bent low, among the trees of the plantation.

When Le Muet looked again they were out of sight.  His heart was beating,
he trembled, and it seemed as if there was no strength in his limbs and
that the struggle he had made to utter intelligible sounds had left him
exhausted.  For a long time he knelt staring at the woods before he rose
to his feet and shook his fist in the direction in which they had gone.
Then he took to his heels, and ran as quickly as he could to the village.

When all the able-bodied men in the village had gone, there remained only
two, Monsieur the curé and he whom they called Le Muet, a strapping big
fellow with the strength of an ox, to whom, for no fault of his own, had
been denied the gifts of speech and hearing.

Naturally Le Muet was not called upon to do his years in the army.  His
dumb deafness would have broken the heart of any drill sergeant as it did
that of his schoolmaster who, having heard of lip-reading, experimented
with him for a month and then broke his best ruler over the lad’s stupid
head.

Not that Le Muet was stupid except in book learning.  When one is dumb,
one talks to beasts and birds in sounds that they can understand, and as
for hearing, there is no need of that with a dog who speaks with his
eyes, his tail, his body.  And Le Muet had a dog, a shaggy, unkempt
animal with vagabond habits, who disappeared for days at a time, and
returned without explanation from marauding expeditions in the woods.  It
was said that the gamekeeper had sworn to riddle him with shot the first
time he caught him in the act, but, after all, the gamekeeper was a
merciful man, and there is no doubt that he missed many a good chance to
rob Le Muet of his heel companion.  The dog was harmless enough, although
it may well be understood that he would not have hesitated to try his
teeth upon those Bavarian invaders, had he not gone the day before upon a
poaching quest.

There was only one person to whom Le Muet could betake himself in the
hour of need: Monsieur the curé, who had remained behind to look after
the women and children.  The curé was a robust little man, with a brown,
wrinkled face and eyes full of understanding and sympathy: eyes that,
alas, no longer twinkled merrily, but were dulled with a great sadness.
He was standing on the other side of the square from the church, looking
intently at the building as if to commit to memory the position of every
one of its timeworn and hallowed stones, for it was known that even
churches were not spared by the barbarians, and any day they might appear
in the village with fire and sword.

Le Muet hesitated a little, standing with heaving breast, his eyes
bloodshot with his running, before he ventured to lay his hand upon the
sleeve of the black soutane.  The curé, as if roused from a dream, looked
at him, then grew grave with apprehension.  Hastily he looked in the
direction from which Le Muet had come, and pointed.  Le Muet nodded his
head eagerly, and in clumsy pantomime told his tale: four fingers for
four men, the helmets, the barrel upon his neck, the crouching retreat.

The curé, laying his hand upon Le Muet’s arm, patted it gently, and led
the way across the square and into the church.  Near the door he knelt,
and Le Muet followed his example.  For a few seconds they remained thus,
side by side, their faces turned to the altar, then the curé rose to his
feet and let his eyes pass lovingly from window to window, from painted
saint to sculptured and, guiding Le Muet to the door, came out, locked
the carved double door, and descended the steps.

For a moment he stood there with bent head, then set out briskly, going
from house to house, telling the women not to be afraid, but to collect
the children, get food and covering together, and to meet in the square.
Soon they were there, a piteous band, very silent and hushed.  One mother
carried in her arms two children, a baby a few months old and a boy of
three, and as the curé saw her stumble, he reached out and took the boy
into his arms.

As the curé led the way, there was a moment of panic, and some hung back,
but gradually the little band fell in behind him, and at the end came Le
Muet, stepping out with short strides so as not to tread upon any one’s
heels.  They passed through the village street, their eyes straining in
front of them that they might not see the open windows and the doors, the
flowers climbing and crowding about the green shutters, the smoke still
rising from hearths on which the midday meal had been cooking.  An old
woman sank to the ground, and without a word two of the younger raised
her and, supporting her, guided her frail and stumbling feet.

At the crossroads, the curé halted and, standing on the steps of the
cross with its carven figure of the Redeemer, looked over his little
band, and raising his hand blessed them in a trembling voice, then in a
command, ringing out strong and clear like that of a soldier, set them in
motion once more on the road to safety.

All at once Le Muet halted.  What was he doing?  He who had no human kin
had left behind him the one thing he loved: his dog.  His brain was
confused by the excitement of the day, otherwise he would not have
forgotten how often he had been sought out and found by the faithful
creature.  He looked in front of him.  The company of refugees was just
turning the corner.  He must find his dog.  Surely Monsieur the curé
would forgive him; besides, with his long legs, he could easily catch up.
Resolutely he turned on his heel and trudged back the way he had come.

As he passed through the village square, from an open door came a
tempting odor of cooking, and with a sly grunt he stepped inside, filled
a bowl from the soup pot and sat down.  One must eat, whatever comes to
pass, and it is easier to die with a full stomach than an empty one.

He had just sopped up the last drop of cabbage soup with an end of loaf
when, turning his eyes to the open door, he was amazed to see a couple of
horsemen dismounting in front of it.  As if they knew their way, they
tethered their horses to a post and strode into the cottage.

Le Muet rose to his feet, and the intruders covered him with their
rifles.  Suddenly one of them broke into a grin and, turning, spoke to
his companion.  They lowered their rifles, and the first comer nodded in
a friendly fashion to Le Muet and offered him his hand.

In a daze Le Muet accepted the courtesy.  What a surprise!  Here, in a
Uhlan uniform, was the peddler, Woerth, who had travelled the countryside
for many a year.  He had not been seen for a long time, and now—Le Muet
grinned in response.  The peddler had done him many a kindness, and
tramped the woods with him more times than once: a sharp-faced, thin man,
with white-lashed blue eyes.

He sat down at the table again as they dipped their cans into the soup
pot and divided the loaf.  With a careless air the peddler knocked in the
head of the cider cask, and filled three glasses.  Le Muet began to feel
at his ease.  After all, he knew the peddler, and if this was war, surely
it was not an affair of bloodshed; one sat at the table with an old
friend and drank cider.  He could not understand what they were saying,
but he could discover nothing to be afraid of in their looks.

When they had eaten and drunken their fill, the peddler lit his pipe, and
with a smile strolled about the room, opening closet doors, lifting up
the lid of the linen chest, pulling out the drawers of the carved bureau
and scattering the contents on the floor, knocking the walls and stamping
on the floor as if to discover the hiding place of treasure.  But nothing
of value rewarded his search, and he appeared angry, for he swept the few
little china ornaments from the mantel shelf and stamped upon them.

Le Muet rose to his feet.  He must be going.  His dog might be searching
for him, and, besides, if he was to catch up with Monsieur the curé he
must be getting along.  As he walked to the door, the peddler turned
sharply, and taking a couple of quick strides let his hand fall heavily
on his shoulder.  There was no good humor in the peddler’s face now.  He
gave a word of command to his companion, who produced a rope, and putting
a tight knot around Le Muet’s wrist, gave him a shove that propelled him
out of the door.

What was going to happen now, wondered Le Muet.  He was not long left in
doubt.  His captors went from house to house, picking their plunder,
clothes, bric-a-brac, copper cooking utensils, till they had accumulated
two huge bundles tied in blankets.  They were loaded upon Le Muet’s back
and, mounting their horses, the peddler and his comrade rode on slowly,
driving Le Muet like a cow before them.

A dull rage, all the more terrible since it could find no expression,
filled his heart now.  His load lay upon his neck and shoulders like
lead, and the sweat trickled down his face and the furrow of his bent and
tortured hack.  When he stopped, a prod from lance or saber set his
failing legs moving once more, and he ground his teeth in speechless
agony.  So, too, perhaps feel the dumb carriers of burdens, but in the
brain of Le Muet the suffering was intensified.  In his obstinate way he
had set his heart upon finding his dog, and now with every step he took
he might be going further away.

They were going through the plantation now, and approaching the forest.
It was hard going among the low brushwood that caught like so many
grasping hands at his legs and tripped him up.  Would they never stop for
rest?  They were within the woods now.  At last the two horsemen
dismounted, and looked about them as if seeking a landmark.  Seeing a
pile of white stones from the quarry, they nodded their heads, and with a
look at their watches sat down on the edge of the pathway.

Le Muet lay on the ground exhausted, and they let him lie undisturbed,
talking to each other in low tones.  The mute must have slept, for when
he opened his eyes again there were gray uniforms all about him, their
wearers sprawling on the ground in easy attitudes.  Here and there dimly
among the trees he could see others leaning upon their rifles.  He sat up
and looked about him.

The peddler had a map in front of him, and bending over it was a fine
officer; for so he must be, since the peddler nodded servilely whenever
the other spoke.  Le Muet was still staring when the officer raised his
head and caught sight of him.  He turned to the peddler, who laughed and
pointed to his mouth and ears, assuming a stupid expression, and the
officer nodded curtly and bent over the map again.  In a little while he
called some of his men about him and spoke to them.  They disappeared on
either side of the narrow path.  There was no sign of a horse anywhere,
and Le Muet wondered if they were stabled in the quarry, and if their lot
was better than his.

The peddler folded up his map, and coming over to Le Muet pointed to a
clump of brushwood, and with a struggle the weary unfortunate rose to his
feet, shouldered his bundles and followed.  They lay down, the peddler
with his rifle by his side.  In a moment they were joined by the officer
and six of his men.  They reclined quietly, as if listening.

Suddenly the officer raised his pistol.  Something was coming through the
brushwood; but he lowered it with a grim smile as a shaggy head, followed
by a shaggy body, made its appearance.  There was a bound, and Le Muet
felt himself tumbled to earth under the impact of a clumsy body.  A rough
tongue was licking his face.  His dog had found him.

Nothing else mattered now, and with strange, uncouth murmurings he
clasped the shaggy body to his own again and again.  He did not see that
the officer’s face had grown dark with anger or that he had raised his
pistol again only to slip it back into the holster as the peddler touched
his arm and cautiously pointed through an opening in the bushes.  A man
in a blue uniform had just risen to his feet on the path, and was looking
about him with a searching glance.  Nothing stirred in the thickets, and
he walked on.

Le Muet saw the figures beside him stiffen, and rifles raised.  Suddenly
the dog moved uneasily and gave a low whimper.  With a savage indrawing
of his breath the officer turned sharply and, shortening his sword, drove
it into the body of the dog.  A whispered command, and a heavy rifle butt
fell upon its head.

Le Muet sat upright, staring, confused.  He held the quivering body close
against him, dead to all thought but that of this strangely cruel deed.
What was it all about?  In a flash it came to him.  Those about him were
lying in wait to kill, and those whom they would kill were his own:
Frenchmen like himself, like the man who had risen in the clearing and
walked on unconscious of danger.

With a mighty effort he held himself from flinging his weight upon the
officer.  He was not afraid now.  They had killed his dog.  They might
kill him, only there were others coming, unwarned, and he without voice
to warn them: those others who were also of France.

Oh, if only Monsieur the curé were with him.  The curé had shown him
pictures of miracles wrought by God, the blessed mother and the saints:
miracles wherein the sick were healed, the blind were made to see, the
dumb to speak.  Perhaps, if he tried, words would come to his lips, words
would come in time to save those who were about to come into this trap.
Bending his head low, he filled his lungs, he felt the muscles about his
abdomen tighten.  His mind was surging with desire, he was about to speak
at last; and then the breath he had sucked within him filtered through
the passage of his throat in harsh and broken gasps.

A buffet on the mouth from the officer threw him on his back, and for a
moment he lay stunned, but for a moment only; then bounding to his feet,
with a desperate leap that cleared the brush he was out and upon the
path.  Through the trees in front of him he saw the glint of bayonets.
They were coming, coming into the trap.  He must run to them.

All at once he felt arms about his knees.  Two of the Germans had crept
out from the other side of the path and were holding him by the ankles.
With a wrench of his strong legs be loosened himself from the hold: two
swift kicks, and he was free.  To run—he did not notice the rope
stretched across the path at the level of his ankles and with a jerk he
fell upon his face.  At once they were upon him.  He felt a writhing hand
that tore at his throat and, bending his chin, he bit savagely at it with
his firm teeth.  It seemed to him as if he had superhuman power, and that
he had but to open his mouth to send forth a ringing cry.

He was on his knees now, a man upon his back, and bending forward
suddenly he swung the clawing thing over his shoulder to the ground.  His
hands sought the throat.  Then came a sharp, agonizing pain.  The other
had stabbed him in the back, with a wrench and a twist of the bayonet
blade.

He rose to his feet as if by a miracle, one foot uplifted to step
forward, then set his foot down upon the ground.  The earth was trembling
and swaying beneath him.  With his lacerated hands he tore at his throat
as if to pluck the useless vocal cords from their covering of flesh.  A
strange bellowing came from his lips,—now red with a bloody foam,—growing
in volume, and then, as he strained at his throat with compressing hands,
he felt a great joy and triumphant peace come upon him.  He was
speaking—no, it was a shout—so clearly—so easily:

“Back, comrades—a boche trap—” and then, as he sank to his knees, “Vive
la France!”

He did not hear—how could he, the deaf one?—the volleys that passed over
his body as the French halted and in a swift rush deployed to left and
right of the path; the tramping of feet in the brushwood; the dull thud
of rifle butts, and squeal of agony as bayonet found what it sought.

When it was over, the French commander looked grimly and without
compassion at the sullen face of the German captain staring up at him
from the ground, then turned to look down curiously at the body of Le
Muet.

“One of yours?” he asked.  “He wears no uniform.”

“A peasant from the village—captured; he was deaf and dumb,” grunted the
captain with a spasm of pain.

The commander drew himself up sharply.  “Deaf and dumb—nonsense!”

The peddler, lying against a tree endeavoring to staunch a leg wound, saw
the French commander look at him inquiringly.

“Surely, he was a mute.  It was impossible for him to say a word.  I knew
him very well,” he hastened to answer.

The commander looked at him as if astonished, then turned away, with a
murmur.

“I must have been dreaming, but I could have sworn he called out, ‘Vive
la France’”; and then, because he was a poet, he added: “But then, when
every stone of la patrie cries out, why not this dumb peasant?  It is a
war of miracles.”

                                                      _Robert W. Sneddon_.



THE LAUGHING DUCHESS


The optimist, safely outside our own environs, prescribes the old
formulas: “Look Around You and Write; Look Within the Human Heart—”

“But, dear sir, where is the story?”  Usually it is a “Sir,” and this
time it was Felmer Prince.  “Look Around You!”

I mocked: “I defy you to find anything more stirring than old Sam Peters,
driving a moth-eaten mule to the mill.”

“And you and I,” supplemented Felmer.  “The human heart—”

But I retreated behind the gate and barred it upon the “human heart,”
retorting that if the organ disturbed me as it did some people I should
confine my conversation to “Yes” and “No.”

“You are sufficiently expert in the use of the negative,” said Felmer,
switching at a dead brier, and I proceeded: “As for ‘looking within,’
when Martha and I reach the homicidal point I take a walk.”

“How many subscriptions have you gotten for that confounded thing, Enid?”
he asked, abruptly.  I temporized.

“One can live on very little after the habit is formed.”

Felmer shook the gate fiercely.  “I wish that you would listen to
reason!”

“I do, to my own.  I’m thinking of selling—”

“Not the place!” he broke in.  I asked him, as a man and a neighbor, if
he thought that any sane tenant would invest in a left-over colonial,
with roof leaking, paint off, shutters hanging; populated by generations
of bats, and with a frog pond beside which Poe’s Raven was a pæan of joy?

“A place with no remaining virtue—”

“Except beauty,” he added.  I clung to the gate’s bars, my brow upon my
hands, and pain shaking my heart.

“And I’m a fool about it!” I said, miserably.  “Every mossy old
flagstone, and the very wizardry of its black woods against the sky,
means me.  It is psychic with inherited memories.”

“Miss E-enid!  Are your shoes dry?” screamed Martha from the back door.

“To sell?” prodded Prince, relentlessly.

“The ivory Buddha and the Mercury, at the Collectors’ International
Exposition opened up in town.  Now is my chance.”  He nodded.

“But be wary, Enid.  You women—”

I reminded him that the vice president was Cary Penwick, a cousin of my
own, the fear and fascination of childhood’s idolatry.  Prince said
rather gloomily that he had never heard me mention this cousin, which was
not surprising; the last time I saw Cary Penwick he was a wild boy of
fourteen, with hair in his eves and a brain full of adventurous mischief.
I was an imaginative child of eight years, and memory’s tenderest
association with Cary was a mutual and unappeased hunger.

“We roasted corn at the field’s edge and climbed the roof to steal bricks
out of the chimney, to build the oven.”  I marched on, with Cary borne
banner-like before, to relate how the poor boy’s father had been the
family skeleton, grandma’s black sheep son, smirched with disgrace, who
died in Paris.  Finally, Cary’s mother’s family had sent him off to
school, from which he consistently ran away, and we never saw him again.
He had vowed that one day he would return—  At Prince’s laugh, I ended
haughtily: “To get even with me for kicking him, when he carried me
dripping from the frog pond.  I remember that he slapped me.  Now, the
papers call him a famous collector, and I am sure Cary will help me
dispose of the things to advantage.”

Prince dug wells in the mud with his stick.  “Of course, Enid, being a
relative—but it is safer always to have the opinion of more than one
before coming to a settlement.”

And, according to history’s human law, I laughed his caution to the
winds.

                                * * * * *

“Are your feet dry, Miss Enid?”

This being her perennial, I stuck them on the fender and drank tea, while
Martha hovered, hen-like and solicitous.  “Did you get any, miss?”

As on preceding afternoons, I explained that “The World at Home” did not
drag subscribers in with a seine.

“You know that I got one last week, Martha, but the people look for me
now.  Poor Mr. Petty was at the gate with a flaming sword.  I mean, the
shovel.”

“Then he wasn’t sober, miss.”

“Obviously not.  I let sleeping Pettys lie, since he put me out of the
house as ‘them agents.’”

“Eight sticks, some fence rails and three barrels,” chanted Martha, to
the wood-basket on the hearth.

“And the last timber sold for the mortgage,” I ruminated.  “How’s the
caravansary: the food, O faithful Achates?  I can eat less.”

“For the land’s sake, don’t, Miss Enid!  You don’t weigh more’n a sparrow
now.  It’s a long road that’s got no turnin’, but joy cometh in the
mornin’, as the hymn says.”  Martha stood over me, her hands under her
apron, her little shawl crossed and tied behind.  “There’s some corn meal
left—”

“Too fattening.”

“A quart of vinegar—”

“Ah, now we are arriving!  Socrates and the hemlock!”

“No, miss, vinegar.  Half a ham, some rice—”

“And you call it low rations!” I rebuked.  “I’ll bet my hard-earned
subscription that your grandfather wasn’t a highwayman, Martha.”

“My soul, no, miss!  There wasn’t nothin’ of the kind in our family.  He
was a elder.”

“I feared so.  There is nothing of the pirate concealed about you, else
you’d not be toasting starvation with half a ham and a pound of rice in
reserve.  You and Dr. Prince could do ensemble work as star pessimists.
Now, nature contrived me in a perverse and whimsical mood.  Give me a
black night and a star’s twinkle, and I’ll dig for doubloons; a red
sunset and a dark woods converts me into a doughty knight, ready to hew
his way through the thorny hedge of the world!  Eight sticks and half a
ham!  Woman, we’re good for flood or barricade.”

But Martha, hardened to a lifetime of like panegyrics, was not to be
diverted.

“Yes, miss.  So I say.  We must do something.”

“The telephone!  It shall go at the end of the month.”

“And there’s that there Duchess, Miss Enid, sittin’ in there in a gold
frame, not doin’ no good to nobody.  The collector gentleman said it
would bring its price, miss.”

I came to earth with a thud, and retrod the battlefield peopled by ghosts
of past encounters.  The Fierienti Duchess, my grandmother’s
great-great-grandmother, had been the family mascot for generations.
Cary Penwick alone, as grandma’s last surviving male relative, should
have the responsibility of the Laughing Duchess.

“But, don’t forget it’s yours, Miss,” Martha held on.  “Your grandma
says, ‘Martha,’ she says, ‘take care of her always, and keep the Duchess
dusted!’  ‘I will, ma’am,’ says I, ‘long as there’s breath in my veins!’
says I.  ‘Tenny rate, Miss Enid, there’s that there Chinese idol settin’
on his heels, lookin’ enough like Wung Loo at the laundry to be his
brother—”

This of thee, O shade of Buddha!

“—And that boy with wings on his feet, ’stead of skates—”

And thou, immortal Mercury!

“—You could get as high as two hundred for ’em, maybe.”

I admitted the possibility, but was determined to submit the Fierienti
only to the first authority among collectors.

And, at that moment, with the ringing of the telephone, the unexpected
stepped in as stage manager, and gave me a protracted performance for
twenty-four hours.

“I guess Dr. Prince’s ringin’ to see if we’re all right for the night,”
speculated Martha, who invariably gambled upon a letter before opening
it.

“Suppose you go up to town tomorrow, Enid, and consult Penwick,” came
Prince’s kind voice.  “We are instructed to catch opportunity by the
forelock.  And, if you want me to go along—”

I cruelly ignored the eager implication.  I would go alone.

“Collecting becomes an unmoral science,” he went on.  “Knowing your
incredible enthusiasms—”

“Help!  Help!” I interposed.

“—Your incredible enthusiasms, you should not take the antiques with you.
Let a collector come out and value them.”

As I had a vision of starting with eight inches of Buddha and returning
with five hundred cash, I demurred, but he held his point, and finally I
capitulated, and for peace at any price agreed to telephone him which
train to meet.  In the morning, I covered the two miles to the station
with the elation of the adventuress who casts her last two dollars on the
roulette of the railroad, and draws a possible fare to fortune.

In the exposition building, I went from office to committee rooms, only
to discover that the vice president was away for the day, and not
expected to return until evening, and, having dropped forty degrees
mentally, I sat at the end of a corridor, killing time upon the pretense
of examining a telephone register.  Three delegates, obviously wined and
lunched, halted near, talking.

“Yes, yes, smart chap,” said number one, “but keen on the main chance.
Ever hear the story of old Mrs. Mace’s Romney?  Old Mrs. Mace, widow of
his friend, owned a great Romney.  He was hard on its track and sent an
agent, who valued it, as a good copy, at two hundred.  The old lady
indignantly refuses.  The collector goes off to Mexico to investigate the
Talahiti excavations, but sends a second agent, who declares it to be
worth all of three hundred.  The old lady, finally, at the cud of
everything, sells.  The Romney disappears.  When her money goes, the old
lady in despair dies.  Now, his Romney sells high in the thousands.  Not
a nice story, what?”

The chorus admitted that it was not, and I sat petrified, and thankful
that I had a relative among the elect.  Number two spoke:

“There is big betting on his wager with Dantrè.  He swears to better
Dantrè’s exhibits with a gem that will knock them into cockles.  Says he
can produce a genuine original Fierienti.”

“Piffle!” exclaimed number three.  “There were two Fierientis, the
Laughing Duchess, destroyed in the great fire of London, and its copy,
made by Fierienti, now in the Metropolitan.”

Arguing this point they passed on and I sat with face bent over the book,
and with thought rushing tumultuously.  My picture, at Brookchase, was
the original Fierienti, the copy of which was in the Metropolitan.  Of
this there had never been a doubt; the Chevalier de Russy, member of the
French Academy, had vouched for it, when on a visit to grandma.  Besides,
I had its records.  Who, then, was “he”?  And where could “he” find
another original Fierienti?

I was on my feet to follow and find out, when Prince’s words swung back
to me: “Knowing your incredible enthusiasms—”  I sank back, crushing down
impulse, and then, under a desperate desire for action, gave his number
to the local exchange, and entered booth number four.

Inside the booth, through the blurred reflection of my own image upon the
glass, I discerned the outline of a man, in the adjoining booth: a
smooth, dark head bent upon a slender hand, above which was visible an
odd cufflink, two swastikas in red Roman gold.  My call was answered by
Prince’s old housekeeper.

“This is Miss Legree,” I said.  Then came Prince’s voice: “What luck,
Enid?”

“None,” I replied.  “Penwick is away for the day, and I am glad that I
left the Fierienti at home, although I am eager to solve a mystery.  I
overheard something about another Fierienti, whereas I know that there is
no other.  I will be at Brookchase by the four o’clock express, but can
walk to the gate at the crossroads.”

Prince laughed, and as I rang off I clearly heard the voice of the man in
the adjoining booth, repeating his number.  He, in turn then, must have
overheard me.  Dismissing this as irrelevant, I went to the station and
waited morosely until the afternoon express bore me back to the
realization of being the poorer by one railroad fare.

Driving between bare fields, Prince said: “Don’t worry.”

“If a woman loses an eye or has a toothache it is quite intelligible,” I
resented.  “But if she collapses from nerves, or stares nothingness in
the face, men tell her not to worry.  I shall write to Cary Penwick
tomorrow, and hand the Laughing Duchess over to him.  He may sell it for
what he can get.”

Prince flicked the colt to a trot, and said: “Better go slow.  I’ve heard
some queer things about collectors.”

“Things like old Mrs. Mace’s Romney, I suppose,” I said.

He jerked the reins abruptly: “What of it?  There was an old Mrs. Mace in
our home town who owned a Romney.  Jove! I’d forgotten all about that.
Why—” he stopped short, his brows drawn sharply into a frown.  I related
the story I had heard, but added that all collectors were not
pickpockets.  Prince, however, drove in thoughtful silence.  “I wish
you’d let me do more for you,” he began at the gate.  But I ran up the
path, laughing back at him.

At seven o’clock the unexpected again rang the telephone, and thought
instantly visualized the voice as fat, florid and fed.  The revolution
was therefore complete when it said: “Cousin Enid, this is Cary Penwick.
I hope you remember me. . . .  Yes, my dear girl, twenty-five years!  You
would not recognize me.”

“Oh, but I should!” I cried, happily.  “A dark-eyed boy with his hair in
his eyes, and a brain set on adventure. . . .  But your voice does not in
the least sound like you.  Do come out and let me see you.”

He assured me that such had been his intention, but an official banquet
and a directors’ meeting intervened.  Finally, it was decided that he
should motor out after the banquet, and remain at Brookchase for the
night.  “Do not wait up for me.  Your man can meet me.  I shall be there
by twelve,” he said.

Having recovered from the natural effects of hearing that there was no
man, he added: “By the way, Enid, I seem to remember that your
grandmother had some quaint old things.  Were there not several paintings
and a carving or two?  Trifles probably, but I might help you do
something with them.”

“Trifles!  Why, Cary, surely you remember the Laughing Duchess?  It has
been the family treasure for generations, that and the Mercury.  It is
about these things that I want particularly to consult you,” I replied.

“Well, well,” he said, tolerantly, “I vaguely recall the piece.  A very
nice copy, no doubt, of Fierienti’s Duchess.”

“Copy!” I cried.  “Indeed, it is the original from which Fierienti made
his copy.  I can prove it from grandma’s records.  It is the Fierienti
thought to have been destroyed in the London fire.”

He laughed softly.

“I will have a look at it, Enid.  I hate to disillusion you, but old
ladies attach exaggerated value to their treasures.  No doubt your
grandmother believed in it.”

“She was your grandmother, too,” I found myself murmuring.

“Surely, surely,” he continued cheerfully, “but the things are yours, my
dear girl, and it occurred to me as an opportunity now for you to raise a
little something on them.”

He rang off, and I sat with my head in my hands.  The Fierienti a copy!
I could not credit it.  In spite of the disappointment which the mirage
of a fortune almost invariably disguises, this alluring, laughing little
figure’s identity had been family history.  Three centuries had staked
their faiths upon it.  Yet, Cary Penwick was an expert. . . .  I paced
the floor, assuring myself that even experts were not infallible; the
Chevalier de Russy was an authority, whereas Cary had been but a careless
boy when he saw the Fierienti.  My mercurial spirit soared upward again;
I refused to believe the worst until confronted by it; then I would
surrender gracefully.  I ran to tell Martha of the guest’s coming, and
found her poised, Mahomet-like, between the ether of joy and the mundane
condition of the larder.

“There’s enough coffee for one, with corn muffins, rice fritters and
broiled ham—”

“If he asks for truffles, serve the Buddha; if for partridge, bring on
the Mercury!”

“Eight sticks and two barrels,” chanted Martha, “and I say it’s the Lord
who sent him here at this time.  Maybe he’ll buy that there Duchess at
your price, miss.  But, I can’t heat up the library: it would take the
whole woodshed.  Many’s the time, when Mr. Cary wasn’t but ten year old,
he would climb up on them shelves and pitch the books down on me.  And
eat!  Anything this side of a tin can that boy could eat.”

The living room at Brookchase was early Victorian.  Its threadbare,
flowered carpet, high cornices, brass fender and firedogs, with long
mirror over them, its harpbacked chairs, and Dickens at Gadshill, were
free of more modern innovation than a brass lamp and the crashing
contrast of a telephone.

By nine o’clock three of the precious logs crackled on the andirons, and
grandma’s armchair was drawn before them.  On various pretenses Martha
peered in the door, like the prompter in the wings, at every few
revolutions of the minute hand, and latterly found the house owner before
the mirror, adjusting a stray lock of hair.

“That gray does become you, Miss Enid, if ’tis your grandma’s made down,
you being so straight and slim.  But you didn’t put her pin on.  That
weepin’ willer is a grand piece!”

This worshipful object was the cameo of a lachrymose female playing the
harp over a mortuary urn.  “Yet, I don’t know but them amber beads has
more style!” added Martha.  I assured her that unless Mr. Cary had
changed beyond belief, he would be as impervious to beads as to
sackcloth; and at the moment a motor horn sounded in the lane.

“He has come out early!” I cried, catching up a candle and lighting it,
while Martha opened the outer door, like the warden of a castle, sending
a beam of light straight into the eyes of a tall, slender man on the
threshold.

“Cary!  Cary Penwick!” I cried, drawing him into the firelight’s glow,
where he stood, smiling a little behind a dark, Van Dyke beard, and
blinking a little behind horn-rimmed glasses.  Martha hovered with: “Are
your feet dry, Mr. Cary?  I’d best be bringin’ your grandma’s cordial!”

She hurried off, and I proffered the armchair.

“How good of you to leave the banquet early,” I said, conscious now that
an intent, but veiled, gaze was studying me.

“I left it as the lesser attraction,” he said, in a reserved voice that
gave me a sense of baffled surprise.

“Why, you do not in the least resemble your voice over the telephone!” I
told him.  “Telephones are so misleading.”

“What was it like?” he asked.

“Rather fat and—clubby,” I confessed; “but you are really like my
childhood’s vague dream-knight,” I laughed, as Martha reappeared with
cordial, in infinitesimal glasses.  Inside the door she lingered.

“What of the old Deacon, Mr. Cary?  He died, of course, poor creature!  A
body couldn’t help bein’ fond of him, for all his ways.”

“The Deacon, of course”—he looked absently in his glass.  “Well, his
habits killed him, after a while.  He drank too much, you know.”

“Then it wasn’t hydrophobia, sir?  That was a blessing!  I never seen a
dog more devoted than the Deacon was to you, Mr. Cary!”  Martha closed
the door, and my guest stood on the hearth rug, smiling gravely, but with
an expression best described as a listening face.  Glancing from ivory
Buddha to winged Mercury, his look returned to me, and lingered, as in
indecision.

“You are looking for the Fierienti,” I smiled back; “I am immune to the
wiles of collectors.”

“Guilty!” he said, with the same shy aloofness.

“But you must see grandma’s last portrait first.  Brookchase remains
primitive enough for candles.”  I held one under the picture above the
mirror.  “The Chevalier de Russy sketched her in oils, to preserve what
he called the expression ‘angelique,’ and afterwards sent me this from
France.  The eyes always follow one with understanding.  See how they
smile upon you, Cary!  As though she knew that you had fulfilled her
pride and faith, and had become the honorable man she had aimed to make
you in spite—” I stopped.  His eyes were upon mine, in the glass, with
profound questioning.  “In spite of all,” I ended.

“In spite of all!” he repeated, drawn to grandma’s look, and although
aware that when a skeleton is safely locked in its closet, it is wise to
lose the key, I felt the moment to be surcharged with unspoken
confidence.

“You remember that she would not admit inheritance to be a menace to you,
and held that a man’s character lay in his own hands.”

“You mean that because my father happened to be—a rascal, I could
successfully live over the effects?” he asked, impersonally; but the
question in his eyes caused me to motion him to the easy chair, and I sat
beside him.

Prince calls me half irrepressible pagan, and Prince has an aggravating
way of winning out; but there are moments when nothing more romantic than
the protective hen seems uppermost.  Therefore, I attribute the hour
which followed to the subconsciousness, groping to assert its right of
divination.  Back of his impersonality lay an expression of profound
solitariness, an appeal as impassioned as it was naïve: quickly masked,
but revealing some dumb tragedy of soul.  The source mattered nothing to
me.  Words from a modern philosopher swam through my thoughts: “All
tormented souls are not in Inferno.  They sit beside us, smile in our
faces, devoured by the flame of present torture.  Reach to them the drop
of cold water.”

Imagination’s shuttle began to spin its swift, silent threads around this
aloof personality, and I spoke without restraint of grandma’s enduring,
pervasive spirituality, and of his boyhood’s promise.  Gradually, then
eagerly, response came, his restraint unveiling boyishly under the luxury
of sympathy.  He talked glowingly of Italy, of unconfessed adventure in
Egypt, of wandering and wonder in Sahara, of unexplained mystery in
India.  Conversationally, his proved to be a sentient comprehension,
finely imaginative and suggestive, and momentarily revealing an
unsuspected, dual side, alien to the wild boy that I had known in
childhood.  At last, I said:

“Forgive me, but experiencing and appreciating life as you do, is it not
remarkable that you have not married?”

“No.  Some are born to be units,” he paused, “and the women I have known
have not been like you.”

“Ah, now you shall see the Laughing Duchess!” I returned, rising for the
candle.

He smiled down gravely upon me.

“It has been an unusual hour for me.  You have caused me to forget time
and errand.  But, now I must look at your things and go.”

I reminded him of his promise to remain for the night at Brookchase, and
he cast a wistful look around the room, but repeated:

“It is better that I should go.”

Feeling baffled, yet mentally exhilarated, I went into the adjoining
library, but the cold draft blew out my candle.  Groping my way back,
with the little picture, I was arrested by the scene in the room beyond.
My guest stood with arms folded and face lifted to grandma’s portrait, as
though, in a tense moment, he were asking an impassioned question and
receiving a benedictory answer.  When I entered, he turned to examine the
Mercury through his glass, and presently said:

“This is undoubtedly a genuine Benvenuto, Miss Legree.  I believe your
fortune lies here!”

“Miss Legree!” I chided, and be flushed slightly, adding: “Enid.”

I reminded him that grandma owned only originals, and related the history
of the Fierienti; how it had been painted by the great Italian for the
queen, who was godmother to the little Laughing Duchess; how it came into
England with the eldest son of the duchess, and thence into France with a
grandson, an _émigré_ from the Revolution, who was grandma’s father.

“It was her treasure, but you, yourself, prevented us from making a fatal
mistake,” I smiled back to the luring laughter of the picture.  “She
needed money once, almost as badly as—”  I stopped.  In his bladelike
glance of comprehension, quickly sheathed, lay the perception of a
forlorn hope in the shape of half a ham and eight sticks of wood.  “As
many do,” I added, tritely.  “The mortgage was due and I suggested
selling this picture, but the sons of the family had owned it, and she
wished to wait for your coming, that yours might be the decision.  You
may call it an old lady’s over-scrupulous sense of loyalty, but I think
it very sweet.  She sold, instead, the companion to the Buddha, and left
the Duchess to me.  Now, I can, in a measure, fulfill her wish.  Sell the
bronze and ivory, Cary, but do as you will about the Laughing Duchess.”

I put the picture in his hands, and he sat under the lamp examining it
with an expert’s eagerness.  At last he said:

“I believe this to be the original Fierienti.  Will you trust me with it,
irrespective of relationship?”

I said that I would trust him with anything, and he smiled, gravely, and
took out pen and check-book.  “I must feel that you believe me to be
acting for your best interest.  I confess that I came with the intention
of buying the picture.  Its records were hazy where the London fire was
concerned, and it is a gem, but the Cellini Mercury must be valued by the
committee.  I will leave you a deposit to secure both as my property, and
you will receive the maximum value after the final estimate is made.  But
you may withdraw the sale at any time during the coming month, by wiring
to the bank upon which this check is drawn.”

“You are not—” I tried to say.

“Acting merely upon a personal basis?  Not in the least.  I am eager to
own the things, but will hold them at your disposal for a time.”

“Then they are yours,” I said.  “For I confess having intended to sell
them to the first collector tomorrow.  And probably rue it ever
afterwards, like old Mrs. Mace and her Romney.”

He rose, frowning darkly.

“So!  You have heard of that nefarious transaction?  Well,” he added,
cryptically, “you may have cause to thank old Mrs. Mace’s Romney.
Justice has a strange, inexplicable way of working out her problems in
spite of us.”

It was here that the clock struck eleven-thirty.

“I feel like Cinderella,” I said, my hand in a strong clasp which was
folding a check in it.  “I do not want you to go, Cary!”  For something
told me that I should see this brave, elusive personality no more.

“And I astonish myself by not wanting to go,” he said.  “This room, this
hour, will linger like the perfume of a dream.  Adieu, Cinderella!”

His lips touched my hand.  A motor horn sounded sharply.  He caught up
the antiques and his overcoat; there came a rush of cold air, a door
slammed and the motor rolled off.  Then a blinding wave swept over
consciousness, and for a second I saw two lamp flames instead of one.  I
caught at the table, and stood helpless with fact hammering the thing
upon unwilling reason, for, on the cuff, lifted to thrust into his coat
sleeve, I had seen two swastikas, in red Roman gold.

Then, I knew.

The smooth, dark head, the slender hand, the swastikas, belonged to the
man in the adjoining booth who had overheard my conversation with Prince,
even to the Brookchase address.  Thought, like the wireless, was humming
electrically, putting together the sinister puzzle, insisting upon me
that I had been robbed.  My fortune was gone; and at the same time
perverse subconsciousness was whispering: “No!  No!  No!”

Like the heroine of a movie melodrama, Martha advanced from the door,
with face set to tragedy.  She held out a newspaper, uttering hoarsely:

“Look!  ’Tain’t him!”

The front page was lavishly decorated with the heads of officers of the
International Exposition, the center one in large headlines: “Cary
Penwick, vice president.”  Martha pointed dramatically to the
heavy-jowled, baggy-eyed visage, fully illustrating the voice over the
wire.  She looked over her shoulder fearfully, and around the room,
before whispering:

“That’s him!  Then who’s the other one?”

“Oh, he has gone,” I said, hysterically; “quite gone, and everything with
him!”

Martha sank on the nearest chair, and the paper fell fluttering to the
floor.

“I said we’d wake up some mornin’ and find ourselves murdered in our beds
on account of that there Duchess!” she wailed.  I laughed helplessly; so
after all, I was juggled by fate into old Mrs. Mace’s successor!  I
smoothed out the bit of crumpled paper, under the light, and read it
mechanically.

    “To Enid Legree. . . .  Forty thousand dollars. . . .  Signed Ettère
    Dantrè.”

Dantrè! . . .  And Dantrè had a wager on with Penwick. . . .  And
somebody had vowed to exhibit a Fierienti!  And Dantrè had cried out
about old Mrs. Mace’s Romney!  What did it mean? . . .  And that heavy,
shifty-eyed countenance in the paper. . . .  I sprang up, as the
telephone again rang, with hope surging upward.  It was the voice of the
vice president of the Exposition:

“I could not get out tonight, my dear girl. . . . ’Fraid you’d wait up.
I’ll see you in the morning.”

The sharp contrast of that voice’s quality enhanced the memory of the
other.  I thanked him, and proceeded to play the game.

“What should you say an original Fierienti would bring?” I asked.

“Your old copy?  Well, about two-fifty, as it’s you, Enid.”

“And a genuine Cellini Mercury?” I added.

“A Cellini?  Oh, my dear girl, that is nonsense!  No doubt, though, yours
is a nice little imitation that ought to bring you as high as fifty
dollars.”

I thanked him, and rang off.

“Martha,” I said, breathlessly, “something tells me that we are on the
brink of a fortune.”

Martha shook her head.  “You always have been, Miss Enid,” she said.  But
I went to bed with a sense of elation and fearlessness, prompted by the
memory of a voice.

At seven the next morning I had Prince over the wire.

“Are you willing to catch the eight-thirty express, and to stop first and
relieve me of a check for forty thousand dollars?” I asked.  “Stop, you
will hurt the receiver!”

After all, an ideal supplanted is hardly overthrown.  I confess, however,
to a day of apprehension until the rural free delivery handed me a
letter.  It was consistently terse:

    “When you greeted me as another, I knew that it was the only way to
    insure the safety of your valuables.  Had you suspected me you would
    not have trusted a stranger.  Yours is the right to withdraw the
    sale.  Otherwise, a check for the maximum value will go to you.
    Forgive me, Cinderella, and think gently of

                                                                  DANTRÈ.”

Withdraw it? . . .

When I ran to the gate at sunset to hear Prince’s sequel, it was with
high heart, for I felt that the day of the lady agent had waned.  Martha
was joyfully trolling a somber tune in the kitchen; ahead of me was the
radiant vision of a new roof, a basket laden for Mrs. Petty, and sticks
innumerable in the woodshed.  The vision materialized, when Prince
gravely placed a bank-book in my hand.  His measures had been summary.
He went first to Penwick’s hotel, and called him up to say that his
estimate of Miss Legree’s antiques was too low; she had sold them.

“Oh, I am sorry!  After all, he was a relative,” I said, regretfully.

“Stick to the past tense, please,” said Prince, briefly.  “His language
over the wire wasn’t publishable.  He is safer at a distance, and I
implied as much.”

“And—Dantrè?” I ventured.

“Banks conjure by that name.  You did a wonderful stroke of business,
Enid—for a woman.”

Had I?  I hid a smile.

“Dantrè is a Richard Burton for wandering, and an infallible expert.
Collectors swear by him.  I heard an odd thing about the man today.  It
seems that Dantrè is not his name.  His father was a notorious criminal
speculator, and ruined many before he served his time in the
penitentiary, Dantrè is equally keen on the trail of tricksters in
collecting, but the disgrace made a recluse of him.  He has gone again,
and his agent was placing the Fierienti on exhibition today.  I’ve no
doubt that he turned up from the end of the earth just to get even with—”
Prince hesitated.  “You see, Enid, I remembered the name of the collector
who bought old Mrs. Mace’s Romney.  I hated to tell you.  It was Cary
Penwick.”

But memory swung back to a firelit hour and a dark, listening face upon a
slender hand, with two swastikas—

“Oh, I am glad it wasn’t Dantrè!” I breathed to the spring sunset.

                                                _Virginia Woodward Cloud_.



LONG, LONG AGO


When the brakeman swung back the door and with resonant indifference
shouted in Esperanto “Granderantal stashun,” Galbraithe felt like jumping
up and gripping the man’s hand.  It was five years since he had heard
that name pronounced as it should be pronounced, because it was just five
years since he had resigned from the staff of a New York daily and left
to accept the editorship of a small Kansas weekly.  These last years had
been big years, full of the joy of hard work, and though they had left
him younger than when he went, they had been five years away from New
York.  Now he was back again for a brief vacation, eager for a sight of
the old crowd.

When he stepped from the car he was confused for a minute.  In the mining
camp at present substituted for the former terminal he was green as a
tenderfoot.  It took him a second to get his bearings, but as soon as he
found himself fighting for his feet in the dear old stream of commuters
he knew he was at home again.  The heady jostle among familiar types made
him feel that he hadn’t been gone five days, although the way the horde
swept past him proved that he had lost some of his old-time skill and
cunning in a crowd.  But he didn’t mind; he was here on a holiday, and
they were here on business and had their rights.  He recognized every
mother’s son of them.  Neither the young ones nor the old ones were a day
older.

They wore the same clothes, carried the same bundles and passed the same
remarks.  The solid business man weighted with the burden of a Long
Island estate was there; the young man in a broker’s office who pushed
his own lawn mower at New Rochelle was there; the man who got aboard at
One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Street was there.  There was the man with
the Van Dyke, the man with a mustache, and the fat, smooth-shaven man,
and the wives, the sisters and the stenographers of all these.  They were
just as Galbraithe had left them—God bless ’em.

Swept out upon Forty-second Street, he took a long, full breath.  The
same fine New York sky was overhead (the same which roofed Kansas) and
the same New York sun shone down upon him (even as in its gracious bounty
it shone upon Kansas).  The thrill of it made him realize as never before
that, though the intervening years had been good to him, New York was in
his blood.  His eyes seized upon the raw, angular buildings as eagerly as
an exiled hill man greets friendly mountain peaks.  There are no
buildings on earth which look so friendly, once a man gets to know them,
as those about the Grand Central.  Galbraithe noticed some new
structures, but even these looked old.  The total effect was exactly as
he had left it.  That was what he appreciated after his sojourn among the
younger cities of the West.  New York was permanent—as fixed as the pole
star.  It was unalterable.

Galbraithe scorned to take cab, car or bus this morning.  He wanted to
walk—to feel beneath his feet the dear old humpy pavement.  It did his
soul good to find men repairing the streets in the same old places—to
find as ever new buildings going up and old buildings coming down, and
the sidewalks blocked in the same old way.  He was clumsy at his
hurdling, but he relished the exercise.

He saw again with the eyes of a cub reporter every tingling feature of
the stirring street panorama, from gutter to roof top, and thrilled with
the magic and vibrant bigness of it all.  Antlike, men were swarming
everywhere bent upon changing, and yet they changed nothing.  That was
what amazed and comforted him.  He knew that if he allowed five years to
elapse before returning to his home town in Kansas he wouldn’t recognize
the place, but here everything was as he had left it, even to the men on
the corners, even to the passers-by, even to the articles in the store
windows.  Flowers at the florist’s, clothing at the haberdasher’s, jewels
at the jeweler’s, were in their proper places, as though during the
interval nothing had been sold.  It made him feel as eternal as the
Wandering Jew.  The sight of the completed public library restored him to
normal for a moment but, after all, the building looked as though it had
been long finished.  A public library always does.  It is born a century
old.

The old Fifth Avenue Hotel was gone, but he wondered if it had ever been.
He didn’t miss it—hardly noticed any change.  The new building fitted
into its niche as perfectly as though it had been from the first ordained
for that particular spot.  It didn’t look at all the upstart that every
new building in Kansas did.

He hurried on to Park Row, and found himself surrounded by the very
newsboys he had left.  Not one of them had grown a day older.  The lanky
one and the lame one and the little one were there.  Perhaps it was
because they had always been as old as it is possible for a boy to be,
that they were now no older.  They were crying the same news to the same
indifferent horde scurrying past them.  Their noisy shouting made
Galbraithe feel more than ever like a cub reporter.  It was only
yesterday that his head was swirling with the first mad excitement of it.

Across the street the door stood open through which he had passed so many
times.  Above it he saw the weather-beaten sign which had always been
weather-beaten.  The little brick building greeted him as hospitably as
an open fire at home.  He knew every inch of it, from the outside sill to
the city room, and every inch was associated in his mind with some big
success or failure.  If he came back as a vagrant spirit a thousand years
from now he would expect to find it just as it was.  A thousand years
back this spot had been foreordained for it.  Lord, the rooted stability
of this old city!  He had forgotten that he no longer had quarters in
town, and must secure a room.  He was still carrying his dress-suit case,
but he couldn’t resist the temptation of first looking in on the old
crowd and shaking hands.  He hadn’t kept in touch with them except that
he still read religiously every line of the old sheet, but he had
recognized the work of this man and that, and knew from what he had
already seen that nothing inside any more than outside could be changed.
It was about nine o’clock, so he would find Hartson, the city editor,
going over the morning papers, with his keen eyes alert to discover what
had been missed during the night.  As he hurried up the narrow stairs his
heart was as much in his mouth as it had been the first day he was taken
on the staff.  Several new office boys eyed him suspiciously, but he
walked with such an air of familiarity that they allowed him to pass
unquestioned.  At the entrance to the sacred precinct of the city
editor’s room he paused with all his old-time hesitancy.  After working
five years under Hartson and then five years for himself as a managing
editor, be found he had lost nothing of his wholesome respect for the
man.  Hartson’s back was turned when Galbraithe entered, and he waited at
the rail until the man looked up.  Then with a start Galbraithe saw that
this wasn’t Hartson at all.

“I—I beg pardon,” he stammered.

“Well?” demanded the stranger.

“I expected to find Mr. Hartson,” explained Galbraithe.

“Hartson?”

“I used to be on the staff and—”

“Guess you’re in the wrong office,” the stranger shut him off abruptly.

For a moment Galbraithe believed this was possible, but every scarred bit
of furniture was in its place and the dusty clutter of papers in the
corner had not been disturbed.  The new city editor glanced suspiciously
toward Galbraithe’s dress-suit case and reached forward as though to
press a button.  With flushed cheeks Galbraithe retreated, and hurried
down the corridor toward the reportorial rooms.  He must find Billy
Bertram and get the latter to square him with the new city editor.  He
made at once for Billy Bertram’s desk, with hand extended.  Just beyond
was the desk he himself had occupied for five years.  Bertram looked
up—and then Galbraithe saw that it wasn’t Bertram at all.

“What can I do for you, old man?” inquired the stranger.  He was a man of
about Bertram’s age, and a good deal of Bertram’s stamp.

“I was looking for Billy Bertram,” stammered Galbraithe.  “Guess he must
have shifted his desk.”

He glanced hopefully at the other desks in the room, but he didn’t
recognize a face.

“Bertram?” inquired the man who occupied Bertram’s desk.  He turned to
the man next to him.

“Say, Green, any one here by the name of Bertram?”

Green lighted a fresh cigarette, and shook his head.

“Never heard of him,” he replied indifferently.

“He used to sit here,” explained Galbraithe.

“I’ve held down this chair for fifteen months, and before me a chump by
the name of Watson had that honor.  Can’t go back any farther than that.”

Galbraithe put down his suit case, and wiped his forehead.  Every one in
the room took a suspicious glance at the bag.

“Ever hear of Sanderson?” Galbraithe inquired of Green.

“Nope.”

“Ever hear of Wadlin or Jerry Donahue or Cartwright?”

Green kicked a chair toward him.

“Sit down, old man,” he suggested.  “You’ll feel better in a minute.”

“Ever hear of Hartson?  Ever hear of old Jim Hartson?”

“That’s all right,” Green encouraged him.  “If you have a line in that
bag you think will interest us, bring it out.  It’s against office rules,
but—”

Galbraithe tried to recall if, on his way downtown, he had inadvertently
stopped anywhere for a cocktail.  He had no recollection of so doing.
Perhaps he was a victim of a mental lapse—one of those freak blank spaces
of which the alienists were talking so much lately.  He made one more
attempt to place himself.  In his day he had been one of the star
reporters of the staff.

“Ever hear of—of Galbraithe?” he inquired anxiously.

By this time several men had gathered around the two desks as interested
spectators.  Galbraithe scanned their faces, but he didn’t recognize one
of them.

“Haven’t got a card about your person, have you?” inquired Green.

“Why, yes,” answered Galbraithe, fumbling for his case.  The group
watched him with some curiosity, and Harding, the youngest man, scenting
a story, pushed to the front.  With so many eyes upon him Galbraithe grew
so confused that he couldn’t find his card case.

“I’m sure I had it with me,” he apologized.  “Remember where you were
last night?” inquired Green.

“Just got in this morning,” answered Galbraithe.  “I—here it is.”

He drew out a card and handed it to Green.  The group gathered closer and
read it.

“Harvey L. Galbraithe, Moran County Courier.”

Green solemnly extended his hand.

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Galbraithe.  Up here on business, or pleasure?”

“I used to work here,” explained Galbraithe.  “I came up on a vacation to
see the boys.”

“Used to work on this sheet?” exclaimed Green, as though doubting it.

“I left in nineteen seven,” answered Galbraithe.

“Nineteen seven,” exclaimed Green, with a low whistle.  “You are sure
some old-timer.  Let’s see—that’s over fifteen hundred days ago.  When
did you come on?”

“Just before the Spanish War,” answered Galbraithe eagerly.  “Hartson
sent me to Cuba.”

Harding came closer, his eyes burning with new interest.

“Gee,” he exclaimed, “those must have been great days.  Why in thunder
can’t Taft stir up a little trouble like that?  I ran across an old
codger at the Press Club once who had been with Dewey at Manila.”

He spoke as Galbraithe might speak of the Crimean War.  He pressed the
latter for details, and Galbraithe, listening to the sound of his own
voice, allowed himself to be led on.  When he was through he felt
toothless, and as though his hair had turned gray.

“Those were the happy days,” exclaimed Harding.  “The game was worth
playing then—eh, old man?”

“Yes,” mumbled Galbraithe.  “But don’t any of you know what has become of
Hartson?”

“Haydon would probably remember him—”

“Haydon?” broke in Galbraithe.  “Is he here?”

He looked wistfully about the room to the corner where the exchange
editor used to sit.

“He died last spring,” said Green.  “Guess he was the last leaf on the
tree.”

“He came on five years ahead of me,” said Galbraithe.  “He and I did the
barrel murders together.”

“What was that story?” inquired Harding.

Galbraithe looked at Harding to make sure this was not some fool joke.
At the time nothing else had been talked of in New York for a month, and
he and Haydon had made something of a name for themselves for the work
they did on it.  Harding was both serious and interested—there could be
no doubt about that.  That was eight years ago, and it stuck out in
Galbraithe’s mind as fresh as though it were yesterday.  But what he was
just beginning to perceive was that this was so because he had been away
from New York.  To those living on here and still fighting the old game
it had become buried, even as tradition, in the multiplicity of
subsequent stories.  These younger men who had superseded him and his
fellows already had their own big stories.  They came every day between
the dawn and the dark, and then again between the dark and the dawn.  Day
after day they came unceasingly, at the end of a week dozens of them, at
the end of the month hundreds, at the end of a year thousands.  It was
fifteen hundred days ago that he had been observing the manifold
complications of these million people, and since that time a thousand
volumes had been written about as many tragedies enacted in the same old
setting.  Time here was measured in hours, not years.  Only the stage
remained unchanged.

Galbraithe stood up, so dazed that he faltered as though with the palsy.
Harding took his arm.

“Steady, old man,” he cautioned.  “You’d better come out and have a
drink.”

Galbraithe shook his head.  He felt sudden resentment at the part they
were forcing upon him.

“I’m going back home,” he announced.

“Come on,” Harding encouraged him.  “We’ll drink to the old days, eh?”

“Sure,” chimed in Green.  The others, too, rose and sought their hats.

“I won’t,” replied Galbraithe, stubbornly.  “I’m going back home, I tell
you.  And in ten years I’ll be twenty-five years younger than any of
you.”

He spoke with some heat.  Harding laughed, but Green grew sober.  He
placed his hand on Galbraithe’s arm.

“Right,” he said.  “Get out, and God bless you, old man.”

“If only Haydon had been here—” choked Galbraithe.

“I expect he’s younger than any of us,” replied Green, soberly.  “He’s
measuring time by eternities.”

Galbraithe picked up his bag.

“S’long,” he said.

He moved toward the door, and the entire group stood stock still and
without a word saw him go out.  He hurried along the narrow corridor and
past the city editor’s room.  He went down the old stairs, his shoulders
bent and his legs weak.  Fifteen hundred days were upon his shoulders.
He went out upon the street, and for a moment stood there with his ears
buzzing.  About him swarmed the same newsboys he had left five years
before, looking no older by a single day.  Squinting his eyes, he studied
them closely.  There was Red Mick, but as he looked more carefully he saw
that it wasn’t Red Mick at all.  It was probably Red Mick’s younger
brother.  The tall one, the lanky one and the little lame one were there,
but their names were different.  The drama was the same, the setting the
same, but fifteen hundred days had brought a new set of actors for the
same old parts.  It was like seeing Shakespeare with a new cast, but the
play was older by centuries than any of Shakespeare’s.

Galbraithe hailed a taxi.

“Granderantal stash-un,” he ordered.

Peering out the window, he watched the interminable procession on street
and sidewalks.  He gazed at the raw, angular buildings—permanent and
unalterable.  Overhead a Kansas sun shone down upon him—the same which in
its gracious bounty shone down upon New York.

                                                _Frederick Orin Bartlett_.



THE RIGHT WHALE’S FLUKES


    ’Ware th’ sparm whale’s jaw,
    an’ th’ right whale’s flukes!

                                                     —_Old Whaling Maxim_.

In the old whaling museum on Johnny Cake Hill there is a big room with a
fireplace where, on a rainy or stormy day, the whaling captains like to
gather; and when storms or cold keep him from his rocking chair on the
after deck of his Fannie, Cap’n Mark Brackett climbs the hill to the old
museum and establishes himself in a chair before the fire.  From the
windows you may look down a short, steep street to the piers where great
heaps of empty oil casks, brown with the grime of years of service, block
the way.  Tied up to the piers there may be an old square-rigger, her top
hamper removed, and empty so that she rides high in the water and
curtsies to every gust; and you will see squat little auxiliary schooners
preparing for the summer’s cruising off Hatteras; and beyond these the
eye reaches across the lovely harbor to Fair Haven, gleaming in the sun.

The old museum is rich with the treasures of the sea, and this room where
the captains like to gather is the central treasure house.  An enormous
old secretary of mahogany veneer stands against one wall, and in cases
about the room you will find old ship’s papers bearing the names of
presidents a hundred years dead, pie crimpers carved from the solid heart
of a whale’s tooth, a little chest made by one of the Pitcairn Island
mutineers, canes fashioned from a shark’s backbone or the jawbone of the
cachalot, enormous old locks, half a dozen careful models of whaling
craft with the last rope and spar in place, and the famous English
frigate, in its glass case at one side.

I found Cap’n Brackett there one afternoon, in an old chair before the
fire, his black pipe humming like a kettle, his stout body relaxed in
comfortable ease.  He had advised me to read “Moby Dick,” and had loaned
me the book; and when I entered, he looked up, a welcoming twinkle in the
keen old eyes that lurk behind their ambush of leathery wrinkles, and saw
the book in my hand.

“Read it?” he asked, between puffs.

“End to end,” I assured him.

“A great book.  A classic, I say.”

I nodded, and drew up a chair beside him, and opened the volume to glance
again across its pages and to dip here and there into that splendid
chronicle of the hunt for the great white whale.  The old man watched me
over his pipe, and I looked up once and caught his eye.

“He’s stretching it a bit, of course,” I suggested.  “You would never
meet the same whale twice, in all the wastes of the Seven Seas.”

The cap’n’s eyes gleamed faintly.  “Why not?” he asked.

“It’s too much of a coincidence.”

“It happens.”

One certain method to provoke Cap’n Brackett to narration is to pretend
incredulity.  I smiled in a wary fashion, and said nothing.

“There was one whale I saw four times, myself,” he asserted.

“How do you know it was the same?”

“He was marked. . . .  And the hand of Fate was in it, too.”

I turned the leaves of the book, and chuckled provokingly, watching
covertly the captain’s countenance; and, as I expected, he began
presently to tell the story that was in his mind.  His gruff old voice
ran quietly along; the fire puffed and flared as the wind whistled down
the chimney, the snow flurried past the windows and hid the harbor below
us.  Cap’n Brackett’s voice droned on.

“You never heard of Eric Scarf,” the old man thoughtfully began.  “Not
more’n three or four men alive now that knew him.  He were mate of the
Thomas Pownal when I knew him; a big, straight, fiery man, powerful and
strong.  He came of some Northland breed, with a great shock of yellow
hair, and eyes as blue as the sea; but he was not like most Norsemen in
being slow of speech and dull of wit.  Quick he was; quick to speak, and
quick to think, and quick to act; quick to anger, quick to take hurt, and
quick to know Joan for the one woman, when she began that v’y’ge on the
Thomas Pownal.

“James Tobbey was the captain of the Pownal; Joan was his daughter.  She
was a laughing girl, always laughing; a child.  Her hair was fine-spun
and golden, and it curled.  When the fog got into it, it kinked into
ringlets as crisp as blubber scraps.  You wanted to rub them in your
hands, and hear them crinkle and crackle between your palms.  And her
voice, when she laughed, was the same way, crisp and clean and strong;
and her eyes were brown.  Give a girl light curly hair and dark brown
eyes, and any man’s heart will skip a beat or so at seeing her.

“She used to be everywhere about the ship, always laughing; and little
Jem Marvel forever hobbling at her heels.  Jem was a baby, a little
crippled baby, the son of a sister of Joan’s who had died when Jem was
born; and Jem’s father was dead before that, although no one knew it till
the Andrew Thomes came back without him, two years after.

“Thomes had been a hard, bitter man; and little Jem took after him.  The
baby was black—black hair, black eyes, a swart skin; and when he dragged
his withered leg about the deck at Joan’s heels, his face worked and
grimaced with spleen that was terrible to watch.  Maybe six or seven he
was then; and for all Joan tended him like a mother, I’ve known him to
rip out at her black oaths that would rot a grown man’s lips.

“Cap’n Tobbey kept his eyes away from the boy; but Joan loved the little
thing.  None but her could bear with him.

“Eric Scarf was the only man aboard that ever tried to win the baby.
I’ve seen him work for weeks at some dinkus he was making for the boy,
only to have Jem scorn it when it was done.  He put six months of
whittling into a little model of the Pownal, with every rope in place;
and when he gave it to Jem at last, the boy smashed it on the deck, and
stamped upon the splinters.

“Eric but laughed.  The mate was a hard man with men, quick with them;
but with the child he was as gentle as Joan herself.

“He loved Joan.  I loved Joan.  Every man aboard the Pownal loved the
girl; but Eric more than most of us.  He sought ways to please her, and
when he bungled it, it was a fight with him to hide his grief.  One of
the greenies, when the Pownal was but a few days out, bumped against the
girl in the waist of the ship at the lurch of a wave; and Eric knocked
the man halfway to the fo’c’s’le scuttle with one cuff.  But while the
greenie was scrambling to his feet, nursing his mouth with one tooth
gone, Joan flamed at Eric.

“‘Why was that?’ she demanded, her voice very steady and hot.

“‘He bumped you!’ Eric tells her.

“‘I did not complain.  Only a coward hits men who cannot hit back.’

“Eric’s face crimsoned; he whirled to the man.  ‘Here,’ he shouted.
‘Forget I’m the mate.  Do you want the chance to get even?’

“The man stared affrightedly, then ducked down the scuttle like a rabbit,
with Eric glaring after him.  But when Eric turned, Joan had gone aft
without another word, and he was left to grope for understanding of her.

“Scarf was the strongest, quickest man I ever saw.  He was tall and
powerful, and built slim and flat like a whalebone spring.  He was
boiling with his own strength all the time.  He suffered for a vent for
it; and he trod the deck on his toes like a tiger, his fists swinging,
not from any lust for battle so much as from the excess of his own power
and vigor.

“I’ve seen him set his hands to tackle, and brush the fo’mast hands
aside, and do three men’s work himself for the mere peace and joy it gave
him to put forth all his strength for a space; his shoulders and back and
arms would knot and swell and bulge with his efforts, and his lungs would
shout with gladness at the task.

“Eric was never still.  On deck, where others would lean against the rail
with an eye to the ship and their thoughts somewhere off across the
water, he was always moving, pacing up and down, climbing into the
rigging, shifting this and stirring that, restless like a caged beast.
Something drove him.  He could not rest.  The springs of life and energy
in the man would have torn him to bits if you had held him motionless for
an hour.  He had to move, to act, to do; and when he buffeted the men, it
was neither native cruelty nor bullying.  It was but the outburst of his
own impatient, restless power.

“It was a strange thing to see such a man gentling little Jem Marvel, or
wooing the boy to a romp about the deck; and it was strange to see Scarf
stand near Joan, watching her, and the muscles in him twitching and
straining with the agony of inaction.  Eric worshipped Joan; and she
bewildered him.  He used to plan little pleasant surprises for her, and
watch her joy at them and take his reward in watching.  He never spoke
love to her, never so much as touched her hand unless it might be to help
her along the deck when the ship was wallowing; and when the things he
planned failed to delight her, a man watching him could see that his very
soul was writhing.

“I said Scarf was a quick man, quick of thought and quick of deed.  But
where Joan was concerned, he was very dull and slow.  He never could
learn, try as he would, to please her; and his own impotence and his
strength combined to drive him to feats which he meant for wooing, but
which the girl abhorred.

“He trapped a little sea bird once, and made a tiny cage for it, and left
it for her to find; and when the girl discovered it, she cried out with
pity for the captive, and ran on deck with the cage and set the little
creature free.  Eric Scarf saw her, and she knew it was he who had done
it, and pitied him.

“‘I’m really grateful,’ she said, smiling very gently at the big man,
‘but he is so unhappy in a cage.’

“Eric tried to speak, and saw one of the men by the tryworks grinning at
him; so he went forward and drove the man with blows to the knight’s
heads, and Joan scorned him for days thereafter.

“I’ve seen a cock pa’tridge ruffle his feathers and beat and drum with
his wings, all glory and strength and vigor in his wooing; and no doubt
the hen liked it.  But if the pa’tridge had tried such measures in the
courting of a singing thrush, he would only have frighted and dismayed
her whom he sought to please.  It was so with Eric.  His courting would
have pleased some women; Joan it but disgusted and disturbed.

“‘Eric Scarf and I were closer friends than you would think; and I knew
the big, strong man to be as shy and as easy to take hurt as a child.
But it was his way when he was hurt or shamed to strike out at the
nearest, and so to those without understanding he seemed a mere bully,
cruel and exultant in his strength.

“Lucky for us on the Pownal, Scarf delighted in the whaling.  There was
no other task in the world so fitted to the man.  So strong he was that
nothing short of a whale could give him the fierce joy of battle which
soothed him.  He drove his men as he drove himself, and they either broke
under it or became hard-bitten and enduring hands, fit to match him.  His
boat was always first away; and he would strike and kill one whale and
then another while other officers were content with a single catch.  I’ve
known him to do what few attempt: to lower at night when moonlight
revealed a spout, and make his kill, and tow the fish to the ship by
dawn.  Cap’n Tobbey never interfered with Eric, for the mate was too
valuable; and when the mate’s watch was on deck, he would lower and kill
without ever calling the Old Man from his cabin at all.

“I had heard of Scarf before this v’y’ge, but never watched him work
before; and many a time I found myself biting my lip and holding the
breath in my chest at the daring of him.  In any weather short of a gale,
he would lower; and once two boats were swamped in lowering before he
took the third mate’s and got away—and got the whale.

“With such an officer, and decent luck, a quick voyage was sure; and so
it was this time.  Before we’d been out two years, the casks were filled,
oil was stored in everything that would hold it, and the Old Man gave the
word to fly the Blue Peter and put for home.  We threw the bricks of the
tryworks overboard to lighten ship that much, and struck across the South
Pacific, fought our way around the Horn, and took a long slant north’ard
toward Tristan.

“There was no place to store more oil if we had it, and we could not try
out if we had the blubber; so, though we sighted fish now and then, we
let them go—though I could see Eric was fretting at it, and wishing the
ship empty again.

“For months now, Eric had been wooing Joan in his own wild, longing way;
but the girl would have none of him.  He must have known it, and he
bridled his tongue as he could.  But the word was bound to come some day;
and it came at last when we were rocking in a calm, with an island two or
three miles to starboard, and the sun hissing on the sea that sighed and
swelled like the bosom of a sleeping woman whose dreams are troubled and
disturbed.

“The ship was idle, the men squatting forward in what shade they could
discover, and the rigging slatting back and forth as the Pownal rocked on
the long swells.  Eric had the deck, the Old Man was asleep below, and
Joan and the boy, Jem, were sitting aft, the girl sewing at something she
held in her lap.

“Scarf, with nothing in the world to do, fretted and paced about, his
eyes never leaving her, and a worship in them that all the world could
see.  The afternoon droned away, the Pownal creaked and swung in the
cradle of the sea, and the sun burned down endlessly.  Scarf could not
bear it.  He strode across to where the girl sat; and she looked up at
him to see what he had come for, and at the look in his eyes rose quickly
to face him, her face setting hard.

“Eric must have seen; but he blundered blindly on.  The words came
awkwardly.  He lifted no hand to touch her.  ‘I love you.  I love you,’
he said, in a dry, husky voice.  ‘I love you.  I want you to marry me.’

“Black little Jem looked up at them and, with the quick perception of the
child, grinned malignantly.  Joan’s face turned white beneath the soft
bronze the sun and wind had given her cheeks.  She could not help pitying
the big man; but she could not love him.

“‘I’m sorry, Eric,’ she said.  ‘I do not love you.’

“‘I love you,’ he repeated, as though it were an argument he were
advancing.

“‘I’m sorry,’ she told him again.  ‘I’m sorry to hurt you.  I don’t want
to hurt you.  But I don’t love you.’

“His eyes were quivering and trembling like the raw flesh of a wound, but
he stood impassively before her, staring down into her eyes, searching
there for something he would never find.  Little Jem chuckled, and the
sound broke the spell upon the man.  He turned rigidly away; and as it
always was with him when his heart was torn, his great body clamored for
action.  His fingers bit at his palms.

“And then one of the boat steerers, standing in the waist, uttered a low
ejaculation; and Eric turned and saw the man was pointing toward the
shore, where a misty spout was just dissolving against the dark
background of the cliffs that dipped to the water there.

“It was the vent Eric wanted for the torment that was tearing him.
Without a word, he leaped to his boat; and his men, well trained, came
tumbling at his heels.  In a minute’s time, Eric had caught up some gear
that had been removed from the boats when the fishing was finished, and
gave the order to lower.

“Joan came softly to him.  ‘You are not going to kill the whale, are
you?’ she asked.  ‘We have no need for it.’

“Eric did not hear her; for the boat had split the water and was bobbing
there below him, and he dropped with his men and in a moment was away.
Joan, her eyes burning angrily, watched him go; and presently she brought
the glass to see what was to come.

“The whale inshore was lying quietly, but Eric sent the boat along as
though his life hung on success.  He drove the men till the oars bent
like whip-shafts; he drove them and he drove himself; and they ran fair
upon the creature before they realized their speed.  Then, at Eric’s cry,
the boat steerer in the bow leaped up and drove the harpoons home, and
the boat sheered off while Eric changed places with the man.

“They had struck a cow whale, a right whale, with a calf not a week old
tucked under her fin; and the little thing lay there, lifting its tiny
spout against its mother’s side, its fins feebly fanning.

“A cow whale is the easiest of game; and there is no sentiment in the
whaling ships.  If the Pownal had been empty, she would have been counted
clear gain.  With the Pownal full to brimming, this that Eric was doing
was mere murderous slaughter.

“When Eric saw that he was cheated of the battle he had craved, a fury
seized him.  He shouted hoarsely to his boat steerer, and the man swung
them in alongside the whale.  The great mother had not stirred, save for
a trembling shudder of her whole bulk when the irons seized upon her.
The calf was fighting to escape, but the mother’s great fin pinioned it
against her side, soothingly, assuringly, as though she promised it
should be safe there.

“Eric lifted his lance and pierced the mother, driving home the steel for
six feet into the great body; and he withdrew it, and prodded the vitals
of the whale again and again, with a desperate energy, pouring out the
fire of his own strength in his efforts.

“It was like piercing butter with a hatpin; and this dull acquiescence on
the creature’s part only whetted Eric’s blind rage.  When at the last the
great flukes lifted once, his heart leaped with the hope that at the end
there might come the struggle and the opposition for which he hungered;
but agony had lifted the flukes, and the bursting heart of the mother
brought them gently down again, never even disturbing the little creature
at her side.

“She died; a thrust killed the calf.  The boat sheered out; and then the
boat steerer shouted a warning from the stern.

“Eric whirled and saw a great bull whale just emerging from the depths;
and the whale headed for them furiously.

“I do not say the creature was the dead cow’s mate.  It would not be
strange if this were so; but it need not be asserted.  I do not say the
bull attacked the boat.  He was badly gallied, he was running blindly.

“But whatever the explanation, he charged them; and Eric shouted
triumphantly at thought that here was the adversary he had desired.

“The boat steerer swung the boat about to meet the onrush; and Eric
snatched a harpoon.  They swerved out of the path of the bull.  As he
roared past them in a smother of foam, Eric sent the harpoon home.

“But next instant the smashing flukes struck them, and the boat’s whole
bottom was driven away.  Eric chopped the loose line in time to save
them; and in ten seconds from the appearance of the bull, they were to
their necks in water, the boat beneath them.

“The bull charged on and disappeared.  I lowered and went after the men
in the water; and we got them aboard.  Eric was reacting from his fury
now; he was shamed at what he had done; and he looked back once to the
body of the cow, about which sharks were already fighting, with something
like apology in his eyes.

“The men were talking.  ‘Did ye see the cross on the bull’s head?’ the
tub oarsman asked; the steerer assented.

“‘A white scar in the blubber,’ he agreed.

“The others nodded; and Eric looked at me and said quietly: ‘The old bull
was marked.’

“It was when we were all aboard again, and Eric had changed to dry
garments, that Joan came up to where he stood with me.  Her eyes were
blazing; and little Jem, at her heels, was chuckling blackly.

“‘That was murder,’ said the girl, trembling with her own anger.

“Eric flushed, and his head bowed a little.

“‘A cow and a calf—killed uselessly!’ Joan exclaimed.

“The big man, uneasy, shy, not knowing where to turn, saw little Jem
beside him; and he turned to the boy and caught the lad under his arms,
and swung him high in the air.  ‘Up you go!’ he cried, trying to laugh.

“He meant only to start a romp—anything to divert the girl’s searing
scorn; but the malignant spirit of little Jem converted the movement into
black tragedy.  The child screamed indignantly, and kicked down at Eric’s
upturned face with his sound foot.

“Eric was standing a yard from the rail, his back to it.  The kick in his
face made him lose his balance, and he staggered backward, and before I
could stir, with the boy extended above his head, he had fallen
overboard.

“Joan screamed; and together we leaped to the rail.  I reached for a coil
of rope.  The two had sunk in a smother of bubbles; and in the second
that we waited for Eric to fight his way to the surface again, a sinister
shadow shot like fire along the ship’s side, and I saw the flicker of a
silver-white belly, and heard Joan scream again.

“The water turned crimson; and then Eric came to the surface with empty
hands.  He dove instantly, furiously; and I got a boat into the water.
Eric broke to the surface again, his face convulsed with the anguish that
tore him; and two of us grabbed him and dragged him, fighting, into the
boat.

“‘Let go, let go,’ he screamed, and struck us back.  ‘Let me go.  I can
get him.’

“He was mad; and we caught him, and he broke and dropped, sobbing, in the
bottom of the boat.  I saw that one of his arms was rasped raw by the
shark’s rough skin.

“Joan met him like a fury when he stepped upon the deck again, and I
thought she would strike him.  He stood before her, drooping and crushed;
and the girl caught herself.  But I heard the word she said.

“‘Thrice murderer!’ she told him softly.  ‘Thrice murderer!  A mother and
child—and now my baby!  Oh curse you, curse you!  May you be always
accursed until you die!’

“She held him for a moment, and then turned away from the man; and Eric
Scarf drooped sick and weak where he stood, until I dragged him below to
tend his wounded arm.”

The old man paused, and stared into the fire; and when I had waited
fruitlessly for another word from him, I asked:

“Is that all?”

He looked up at me quietly.  “No,” he said.  “No—that is not the whole of
it.”

Still he did not continue, and so I prompted him.  “You said the whale
was seen four times,” I suggested.

He nodded; and so drifted into his story again.  “Aye, four times,” he
agreed.  “The old bull with the cross upon his skull.  Four times.  I’ve
but told the first.”

He puffed silently for a little, shifted his great bulk in the chair,
rose and crossed to the window to look down toward the harbor, and
returned at last to me.

“Joan kept to her cabin much, from that day,” he said.  “She kept to her
cabin; and Eric Scarf did his tasks and held aloof from her.  We came
smoothly northward, and presently were at our pier, unloading the casks
that filled our holds.  Eric had slowly recovered something of the old
strength and power that moved him; and though he avoided the girl, and
though I could see how he suffered and what agony he was enduring, he
kept a steady face to the men, and drove them as he always drove.

“Cap’n Tobbey was a quiet, stern man; but he was just.  He blamed Eric
for taking out the boat, but he knew the other for what it was, an
accident of Fate; and when time came for the next cruise, Eric was too
good a man to stay ashore.  He shipped as mate, and I was second mate
again.

“This time, Joan stayed behind.  She had had enough of the sea for a
lifetime, she told me; and from a girl, she was become a woman.  Lovely
as ever, her laughter as sweet and crisp as a spring wind, yet there was
a depth in her that had not been there before, and at times her eyes
shrank as though they gazed upon awful, tragic happenings.

“She was on the pier the day we sailed; and I saw Eric Scarf watching her
with the hopeless longing in his eyes that tears at the vitals of a man.

“There was a shadow over the mate from the beginning of that cruise.  Any
man could see it; and the fo’mast hands used to watch him, and whisper
among themselves.  Outwardly he was the same; strong and quick and proud,
alive, alert, his body uplifted with the energy it housed.  He trod the
decks lightly, he moved with the quick precision of an animal; and he
plunged into his work in a fashion that would have worn another man to
threads.

“A sprinkling of our old crew was aboard; so Eric’s story was no secret.
But it was never mentioned by him or in his presence.  He seemed to find
a joy in his toil that allowed him to forget; and the man’s eyes
brightened and his cheeks set in their old firm, fine lines as we drove
southward.  There is no better index to a man than the cheeks of him.
Flabbiness of body or soul shows quickest there, and there all other
vices and all virtues first appear.  Eric’s face was neither gaunt nor
round, but it had a chiseled perfection of contour that was like a song.

“There is a deal of superstition that hangs about the sea; and a whaler
has her share of it, and more.  But it is never allowed to interfere with
the work at hand.  And so if the men wished Eric off the ship, they kept
their wishes to themselves; and if they were reluctant to serve in his
boat, they hid this reluctance.  For Eric was a quick man, quick to
anger, with a quick fist to him.  In his place, I should have moved
tremblingly, fearful of a blow from behind during the watch on deck at
night.  But Eric strode fearlessly about the ship; and none laid hand to
him.

“The sea is a grim thing, and inscrutable.  No man can look out across
its smooth bosom day and day, and remember the vast multitude of lives
which go their way beneath that smiling surface, without a sense of the
mystery and wonder of it all.  The sea in a storm may be terrible and
appalling, when its broad expanse is cut up into myriad gulleys and
mountains in which the ship is lost as in a labyrinth; but to me it has
always been even more terrible and menacing when it is calm.  In time of
storm, its fury rages without curb; the worst is with you.  But when the
sea is quiet, all its energies hidden, it is like the smiling mask of
Fate which conceals unguessed and unpredicted blows.

“Thus, when we sailed southward over smooth and smiling seas, I fell
victim to unrest that harassed me.  I rose and looked abroad each day
with eyes that searched eagerly for a threat of the fate that seemed
impending; and even as I watched the sea, in like manner did I watch Eric
Scarf, to discover if I could what it was that hung so threateningly over
the man’s smiling head.

“If Eric felt any uneasiness, he gave no sign at first.  He was as he had
always been, confident, and quick, and strong.  But the day came when a
hint was given us, just as the impalpable atmospheric changes reveal
through the glass the approach of storm.

“We had sighted whales more than once, and made a fair beginning on the
long task ahead of us; and then one day in the South Atlantic, the boats
were lowered for a pod that lay far off to southward.  Eric got fast, and
the third mate likewise.  But the whale I had chosen as my goal took
alarm, and whirled toward us, and then fled before our irons could reach
him.

“There had been time, however, for us to see upon his head a dull scar,
in the form of a cross, and I heard a cry from Eric’s boat, that was just
getting fast, and turned to see Eric staring toward the spot where the
old bull had disappeared.

“Then I remembered what the men had said about the whale which had stove
Eric’s boat after the kill on the other voyage; and when we were aboard
again, the cutting-in done, and the tryworks boiling and smoking, I was
not surprised that Eric came to me.

“‘Mark,’ he whispered huskily, ‘was there a cross on the bull that got
away?’

“I nodded.  ‘On his head.’ I said.  ‘An old scar, gouged into the
blubber.’

“I saw his jaw set hard.  ‘It can’t be!’ he exclaimed, half to himself.
I said nothing; and he looked at me a moment later, with an agony of
doubt in his eyes.

“‘Well, what of it.  Eric?’ I asked, knowing, but thinking that to talk
might ease the man.

“‘It was a scarred bull stove my boat—that day,’ he told me.

“‘Every old bull has his scars,’ I said easily.

“‘Aye—but—this was the same, Mark!’

“‘What matter?’

“He flushed and stammered like a child.  ‘Her curse is on me,’ he
declared.  ‘The old bull is going to wait for me!’

“‘He’ll suffer by it,’ I laughed.  ‘He’s a fat old duke, too.’

“Eric looked forward where the men were working, and looked aft, and then
out across the sea; and then he looked at me at last with an appeal in
his eyes.  ‘Are you calling me “murderer” as she did, Mark?’ he asked.

“I shook my head.  ‘She’s but a girl,’ I told him.  ‘There was no need of
killing the cow.  But what matter for that?  And the other—was no one’s
blame.’

“His hand gripped my arm till I winced.  ‘You mean it?’ he begged,
hungrily.

“I clapped him on the shoulder.  ‘Forget it all,’ I urged.  ‘No harm will
come.’

“‘It is not that I’m afraid,’ he told me swiftly; and I saw that I had
roused him as I hoped to do.

“‘Sure of that?’ I asked.

“His eyes flamed.  ‘I fear nothing, except myself,’ he exclaimed.  ‘But I
hear her word always; and I cannot bear it, Mark.’

“Before more could be said, Cap’n Tobbey came toward us; and Eric laughed
as though at some jest of mine.  His laughter was not a pleasant thing to
hear, and I would have wished to reassure the man.  But thereafter he
gave me no further opportunity.

“I could see the thing was on his mind through the days that followed.
He could not forget it; and he took to standing watch at the masthead
when there was no need.  I asked him once why he did this.

“‘To get the scarred bull, Mark,’ he told me.  ‘That will end it.’

“‘You’ll never see him again!’

“He shook his head, and smiled grimly.  ‘No fear,’ he said.  ‘He’s about
us.’

“And Eric was right; for the day we were finishing the trying out, the
scarred bull was sighted again, this time so near the ship that his mark
could be discerned through the glass as he rose to spout.  Eric was
aloft; and he tumbled down the rigging like a madman, and lowered; but
there was a fog, and in the fog the bull was lost for that time.

“That was thrice he had been seen; and the fourth time came swiftly.

“Eric was never a man to fear or avoid conflict, even with the forces of
the universe itself; and after this third appearance of the scarred bull
whale, he scarce slept at all, but held himself and his boat’s crew ready
for battle the day long.  He was aloft from dawn till dark, endlessly
scouring the seas for a spout that would reveal the creature which
personified to him the thing he was fighting.  He became silent,
thoughtful; and strength flowed into him and nerved him to a hard and
efficient readiness.  He was like an athlete in training for a contest,
every nerve and muscle tuned.

“We sighted the scarred whale for the fourth time on a Sunday morning; a
day when the sea was just rippled by the gentlest breezes, when the sun
shone warmly and comfortingly upon the world, when the boats danced upon
the waves with a soothing and caressing motion.  The water was blue as
turquoise, and the sky above it; and the two met at the horizon with the
sea’s deeper blue below the sky’s, and the whitecaps gleaming like silver
in the wind.

“It was not Eric who sighted the whale, but one of the men on the
fore-t’gallant crosstrees; and his long ‘Blo-o-o-o-o-ow’ came droning
down to us on the decks and snatched each one to his post like machinery.
Cap’n Tobbey turned his glass on the distant spouts, and ordered the
boats away; and Eric’s hard and seasoned men made his boat swing ahead of
the others instantly, and steadily increase the lead.

“There was no way of knowing whether or no this was the old scarred bull;
but his spout told us it was a right whale, and not a sperm whale.
Nevertheless, either Eric knew it was his enemy he went to meet, or else
he was eager to discover whether it was or no, for he drove his men
unsparingly, and was more than a quarter of a mile ahead of us when he
reached the monster, and ran alongside.

“Over the water came to us the sound of his shouted command: ‘Let ’im
have it!’  And I saw the boat steerer, standing in the bow with his knee
in the clumsy-cleat, put all the strength of back and arms into the
stroke, and snatch the second iron and send that home even as the whale
leaped forward.

“While Eric and the boat steerer were changing places, the great whale
up-ended ponderously, his flukes lifting gently toward the sky full
thirty feet clear of the water, and slid down out of sight.  He had
sounded; and I spurred my men to harder efforts so that we might be at
hand to help if need arose.

“Ahead of us, the boat lay idle on the waves.  I could see Eric in the
bow, his hand on the line where it ran through the notch, bending to peer
down into the depths; and I could see he was putting a strain upon the
line, for the bow was down and almost dipping in the waves.

“Then suddenly the bow bobbed up, the strain relaxed; and Eric bent
further over in an effort to pierce the depths below him.  The whale was
coming up; and if by chance he came up under the boat, the fight would be
done, forthwith.  Eric shouted a command; and the men began to haul in
the line desperately, dropping it in a loose coil astern.  The boat
steerer leaned upon his long oar, alert, bending to hear the word from
Eric, and himself looking overside for any sign of the monster who was
rushing up from the depths toward them.

“Then a shout from Eric, the boat swung around as though on a pivot; and
next instant the whale breached between his boat and mine.

“There is no more splendid sight in the world than this; to see the
biggest creature that breathes flinging his four or five score tons clear
out of the water to hang, a black bulk against the sky, for an instant
before he falls resoundingly.  Imagine a leaping trout, magnify the
trout’s size a million-fold or more, and you have some faint notion of
the monstrous majesty and grace of the breaching whale.

“I had seen whales breach before, sometimes with terror, sometimes with
wonder at the beauty of the spectacle; but when this whale leaped clear
into the sky and seemed to hang for an instant fair above us, a thrill of
horror shot through me.

“For as he was in the air, fair for all to see, the scar upon his head
was revealed; a scar like a sunken cross, mark of some ancient wound.  It
was the scarred bull to which Eric’s boat was fast.

“I looked toward him, and saw that Eric had seen the scar; but Eric loved
battle.  He shouted to his men, and even as the great whale fell into the
water again, Eric’s men hauled in till they were alongside the monster,
and Eric drove home his lance.

“The whale, at the prick of steel, redoubled the furious struggle of the
breach; and he rolled away and away from the boat, upon the surface, in a
smother of foam and spray.  The men were forced to loose the line again
to avoid capsizing; but Eric himself set his hand to it, and by his own
strength held the nose of the boat so near the rolling whale that when
the enormous creature straightened out at last to run, half a dozen pulls
brought them again alongside.

“They were in some fashion safer there than elsewhere.  The harpoons had
struck well behind the fin, and the whale’s rolling had wrapped the line
about him in such fashion that when the boat pulled alongside it lay
safely behind the fin, and yet safely forward of the flukes.  If the
whale rolled toward them, they would be crushed beneath his bulk; but
short of such a move, the monster could not shake them off.

“And Eric was working his lance like mad.  I had never seen such frantic
energy.  He sent the six-foot steel to its length into the soft body
again and again, not with a long shove, but with a single stabbing thrust
to each attack.  His target was the whale’s greatest girth, and the lower
part of the body; and although the battle seemed an endless flurry and
strife of bloody foam, it was only a matter of seconds before the whale’s
labored spouting crimsoned—sure sign he had received a mortal wound.

“I caught the sound of an exultant shout from Eric, and his boat sheered
away.  The monster had suddenly halted in its flight; it lay momentarily
motionless, as though testing its own strength against this attack which
had pierced its vitals.  Then in a desperate and panic stricken flurry it
leaped forward and away, the boat, with line running free, trailing
safely behind.

“They drove past where my boat lay; and Eric turned to look toward me.
He was a heroic figure in the bow of the little craft, erect and tall,
his bright hair and his naked torso crimson with the flood from the
whale’s bloody spout.  He was gleaming wet with spray and red foam; and
he waved his long lance as he passed and shouted:

“‘The scarred whale, Mark!  I’ve killed him!’

“Before I could reply, he was beyond the sound of my voice; and then the
great beast whirled and came back toward us.  He must have seen my boat
and supposed it that of his tormentor; for he charged at us, and only the
swiftest swerve took us out of his path in time.  Beyond me, I saw him
wallow over the third mate’s boat and on; and I hurried to pick up the
men in the water.

“Save for their bruises and their drenching, they were uninjured.  We
dragged them aboard, set a waif in the boat, tied its oars to keep it
afloat, and set out after Eric and the whale.  The great creature was
circling in its last flurry; and as we drew near, with a tremendous spasm
it threw its mighty bulk in a swift, short circle, and was still.

“We drove ahead, toward Eric’s boat; and Eric’s countenance was burning
with a splendid triumph.  This last moment of victorious pride Fate
allowed him.

“He was ahead; his boat ran alongside the huge carcass, and Eric bent
over the bow with the short boat spade to cut a hole in the whale’s tail
for towing it to the ship.

“The boat spade is a steel blade, razor sharp, spade-shaped, attached to
a stout wooden handle.  Eric leaned far out and drove it into the tough
fiber of the tail.

“And then the right whale’s flukes whirled in a last, spasmodic struggle;
up they whirled, and over, and down.  They missed the boat by inches; but
from Eric’s strong hands the boat spade was torn.  It twisted in the air,
its steel blade flashing crimson.  Under the blow of the flukes it
twisted and sang, and then chocked home.  The steel struck Eric squarely
in the face; and it split his skull as you split a walnut.”

The old captain leaned forward to knock the dottel from his pipe upon the
andirons, and settled in his chair again.  For a little time we sat
without speaking; but I asked at last:

“Joan—did she forgive him in the end?”

Cap’n Brackett’s grim old countenance softened.  “Oh, aye,” he said.
“She’d forgiven him before.  She warned me when we started on the cruise
to watch over him.”  He filled and lighted his ancient pipe again, then
softly finished: “She’s gone, long since.  But our daughter looks very
like her now.”

                                                      _Ben Ames Williams_.



WHEN BREATHITT WENT TO BATTLE


    “_Bloody_” _Breathitt has been exempted from the draft_.  _So prompt
    and general was the response of her fighting men to the call for
    volunteers_, _that her quota is more than filled_.  _There is no need
    of conscription_.  _Thus does the outlaw mountain county of Kentucky
    vindicate herself in the eyes of the world_, _mocking those who would
    shame her with a record more fanciful than true_.

                                                             —_News Item_.

Breathitt was at peace.

As the Cumberland sun climbed over the eastern hills, bringing the rugged
flush of morning to each crag and ridge and peak, a travel-worn rider,
astride an even more worn mare, drew up at the stile in front of a
four-room log cabin.  On the rider’s smooth, strong features were marks
of a sleepless night, emphasized by a tense foreboding.  As he stopped,
his mare heaved a shuddering sigh of exhaustion and lowered her head in
weary relief; the man bent one booted leg over the pommel of his saddle,
and with an expression of pity gazed at the cabin for some moments before
he called.

“Hallo!”  There was no response from within the chinked walls; only the
snarl of a cur, that skulked near the rickety porch, and the lonesome
tinkle of a cowbell from the barn lot.

Again, “Hallo!”  This time, after half a minute, the heavy front door
opened on its wooden hinges and a mountaineer, with untrimmed, grizzled
mustache, stepped out into the morning sunshine.

“Wal, if hit ain’t Lawyer Todd—howdy!”  The old man’s face glowed with
cordiality as he approached the stile.

“Git off yer mare and come in, lawyer,” he invited.  “We’ve jest ate, but
Lizzie’ll have ye some breakfast in a jiffy.  Leave yer critter right
thar and come on in.”

“Thank you, Seth, but I reckon I won’t for a while.”  Lawyer Todd tried
to smile in answer to the welcome, but his eyes were grave.

He was a man of middle age and some little refinement of appearance, in
spite of the mud that now besplotehed him.  A native of the Kentucky
Mountains, he had taken his degree at a college in the Blue Grass, but
had returned to the hills to practice among his own people.  He was one
of them: he knew their ways, their faults, their virtues, their
peculiarities, and of Seth Brannon he was particularly wise.  Ever since
hanging out his shingle at the county seat, Todd had been his legal
adviser whenever Seth had seen fit to waive the local militant manner of
settling disputes and rely upon the instruments of law and order.
Between the two men there existed a feeling that was more than
professional.  Seth, while many years his senior, made Todd his
confidant, looked up to him with the deference due superior wisdom, and
knew that his trust was not misplaced.  In return Todd gave sympathetic
understanding to this primitive man of the hills, respected his
traditions, and stood by him in time of trouble.

It was this bond between friend and friend, rather than between lawyer
and client, that had drawn Todd over long, hard miles through the most
isolated and inaccessible part of that Kentucky county which bears the
title “Bloody.”

Todd did not dismount from his mare; and old Seth, squatting on the stile
block, regarded him keenly with eyes much used to the analysis of their
fellow-men.

“What’s on yer mind, lawyer?” he inquired.  “’Pears like all ain’t good
news ye’ve brung over the hills with ye.”

He took in at a glance the mud-caked legs and belly of the mare, and the
blue clay drops that had sprayed and dried on the lawyer, from his
leather boots to his gray slouch hat.

“Ye must ’a’ come a long piece, from the looks o’ ye,” Seth resumed with
friendly concern.  “Shorely, now, ye ain’t rid all the way from Jackson
town?”

“Yes,” Todd answered, “that’s what I have.”

“And what fer?”

The lawyer reached to an inside pocket and drew out a yellow envelope,
the flap of which had been torn open.  With a slowness that was almost
hesitancy, he handed the envelope to the old man.

“The operator at Jackson gave that to me, Seth,” said Todd.  “He knew I
sorta attended to matters there in town for you and that I’d see you got
it.  It came just after dark yesterday, and I’ve been riding ever since
to bring it to you—and break the news.”

Seth scratched his mustache with a calloused forefinger, turning the
yellow envelope over and over and looking at it with curiosity.

“What is hit?” he asked.  “Ye know—ye know, lawyer, readin’ ain’t one o’
my strong p’ints, and these here printed things don’t mean nothin’ to me.
What’s hit all about?”

“It’s a telegram, Seth, a telegram—about Jim.”

“About Jim—my Jim?”  The old man groped for a moment.  “Why, lawyer, Jim
knows his pa can’t neither read or write.  What’d Jim send me a teleygram
fer?”

“Jim didn’t send it.  It came through the Canadian War Department, at
Ottawa.”  Todd braced himself in his saddle.  “Seth, when Jim went away,
did you ever reckon you mightn’t see him again?”

The old man’s jaw tightened.  “I didn’t reckon much about hit a-tall,” he
said.  “Fact is, Jim went withouten my lief and agin my best jedgment.”
He paused, but as the lawyer made no reply, went on:

“Ye see, Jim ’as plumb crazy to go to war, soon as he heard hit had broke
loose over yan.  But I says, says I, ‘Jim, this ain’t none o’ our war;
hit’s a-happenin’ way outside o’ these mountings whar we ain’t got no
business.  I’m a ole man and I’ve come to love peace.  Ten year ago,
after we’d fought and fought and finally whopped the Allens, over on
South Fork, I swore thar’d be no more war if I could help hit.  And I’ve
purty well kept my word.  Now, Jim,’ says I, ‘this feller Keeser and his
Germins ain’t hurt we’uns.  I ain’t got nothin’ agin ’em.  And, what’s
more, I don’t want we or no other Brannon o’ the name to be startin’
trouble with sech people.’

“‘Pa,’ says Jim, ‘I ain’t a-goin’ to start trouble.  Keeser’s already
started hit.  He and his Germins done sunk a lot o’ ships and kilt a
whole mess o’ wimmen and chil’ren, some of ’em Amerikin wimmen and
chil’ren too.  The English and the French been a-fightin’ him over thar
fer nigh on two year.  Now hit looks like this country’s a-goin’ to take
a hand.  The army men at Washington says thar jest ain’t no way o’ our
gittin’ ’round fightin’ Keeser; either we got to help lick him over yan
in Eurip or he’ll lick us over here.’

“‘Then let him come on over and try hit,’ says I.  ‘I ain’t shot skunks
and Allens and wildcats all my life fer nothin’,’ says I.  ‘The same ole
rifle-gun my granddaddy brung up from North Calliney and kilt Injuns with
ain’t so rusty and no ’count that I can’t shoot a few shoots at this
Keeser feller and his Germins.

“‘But, Jim,’ I says, ‘Jim, ye know a mounting man fights best on his own
ground.  Hit ain’t in nature fer him to go scrappin’ on furren soil
amongst furreners.  Up a hillside, behind a bunch o’ laurel, is a heap
better place fer a mounting man than in them trenches yer talkin’ about.
Fust o’ all,’ says I, ‘I’m fer peace; but if ye’ve got to fight, then
stay home and fight nigh yer own front door.’

“Them’s exactly the words I spoke to him, lawyer,” continued Seth,
cramming a handful of tobacco into his mouth.  “Wait till somebody’s hit
ye, then hit back and hit back damn hard.  But don’t go meddlin’ ’round
in a country ye don’t know nothin’ about, ’mongst folks what ain’t no kin
to ye.  That’s what I says, jest about them very words.”

“And yet Jim went,” said Todd.  “Those two years you gave him at Berea
College, Seth, made Jim more thoughtful than most boys hereabouts.  He
read war, he studied war; and, impatient at the delay of his own
government in getting into it, he went up to Canada, enlisted in her
armies and shipped to France—”

“Yas, that ’as the way hit was,” assented the old man.  “All his ma and
me could do couldn’t keep that boy from goin’ oncet he’d sot his head on
hit.

“That ’as ’most a year ago.  Course we miss Jim and all that,” Seth
added; “but even if he has gone to war agin’ Keeser and his Germins, the
rest o’ us here ain’t bearin’ no grudge toward ’em so long as they leaves
us in peace.”

“They aren’t leaving you in peace, Seth; that’s just it.”  Todd watched
him closely to see the effect of his words.  “Already when Jim enlisted
Keeser and his Germins’ had killed American citizens by the score.  Since
then they’ve killed other Americans; helpless, unoffending people who
believed as you do that because they hadn’t harmed the Germans, the
Germans wouldn’t harm them.

“You had some reason for opposing Jim’s enlistment.  We weren’t at war
with Germany then.  He was under no personal or patriotic obligation to
fight.  He acted mostly from the urge of conscience, I know, and after
much far-sighted deliberation.  But now it’s different, Seth.  Last week
our men in Washington declared war on Germany.  We’ve got to fight as a
nation whether as individuals we want to fight or not.  Otherwise your
rifle-gun and mine, and all the rifle-guns in these mountains, won’t save
our homes and our women and children once the Germans land in this
country.  Don’t you see how it is, Seth?  Our boys have to go to war, to
save from war those who are left behind.  Don’t you feel differently now
about Jim’s going the way he did?”

The old man shook his head stubbornly.  “I tell ye, lawyer, hit ain’t any
o’ our war.  What happens outside o’ these hills don’t consarn me and my
folks.  ‘What happens amongst these hills we can take care of when hit
comes.  Let them as wants to fight, fight.  We’uns don’t axe nothin’ o’
other folks and other folks ain’t got no business axein’ nothin’ o’ us.
That’s whar hit stands with me, lawyer.”

“Listen, Seth.”  Todd leaned toward him from his saddle.  “You know, the
people outside of Breathitt don’t think much of us who live here.  Not
only in other parts of Kentucky, but in all the other states and even
abroad, they call us ‘Bloody.’  That’s because we’ve been a bit too handy
with our guns.  We’ve killed too many of our own folks.  We haven’t paid
much attention to the law.  Now this war gives us a chance to show the
outside world that there’s more good than bad in us; that we can leave
off fighting each other and use our lead on the Germans.”

Todd leaned closer to the old man, enthusiasm in his voice.  “Listen,
Seth.  The President wants volunteers for the army.  He’s got to have
soldiers, lots of them.  And the best soldier material in the country is
right up here in these hills.  We men of Breathitt are born to the
trigger.  Most of us soldier in a manner all our lives.  Now, I say,
we’ve got to stop aiming our rifle-guns at each other and point ’em
toward the enemy.  I’ve been thinking about it considerably lately and I
want your help in bringing this very thing to pass.

“You, Seth, have more influence with the people than any one man in this
county.  You’re connected by family to every big clan in Breathitt.  When
you say peace, they keep the peace; when you say war, they fight.  For
years now there’s been no general trouble.  That’s because, as you
declared, war don’t pay.  And you’re right, indeed you are, where feud
wars are concerned.  We’ve had enough of them, God knows!”

Todd continued: “Seth, they’re framing a draft bill there in Washington.
They’re going to make men join the army if they won’t join it
voluntarily.  Now our boys never had to be kicked into battle, Seth.
They’ve got the good old Kentucky warrior blood in their veins; and the
better the cause, the harder they fight.  Let’s show the country that
Breathitt isn’t as bad as printer’s ink has painted her.  Let’s not wait
for that draft bill.  Tell your men, Seth, that this is the worst war and
the best war that ever happened.  Tell ’em it’s the most wicked war and
the holiest war in which a Kentuckian was ever privileged to draw a bead.
Say the word, old friend, and every son of Breathitt will rally to the
flag, to wipe the stains from their own hills and help clean the world’s
slate for the universal writing of the name Democracy!”

Again old Seth shook his head.  He waved his hand with a gesture of
finality, then brought his fist to his knee with a dull thud.

“Yer a mighty purty talker, lawyer, and I ’low ye means what ye says—but,
I tells ye, I ain’t got no consarn in this here war.  Keeser and his
Germins ain’t done nothin’ to me and my folks.  Them men o’ Breathitt who
wants to fight, can fight.  I won’t stop ’em.  But, lawyer, I ain’t
a-goin’ to call ’em to war till that feller Keeser makes the fust move
agin one o’ us.  That’s what I says to Jim and that’s what I’m a-sayin’
to ye,” he added defiantly.

Lawyer Todd said nothing.  He knew the mettle of his people.  He believed
in them.  He also knew that old Seth was a victim of isolation and the
teachings of a primitive creed; that his opposition sprang from
ignorance, not disloyalty.  It was the inborn nature of a mountaineer to
prefer battle among his own hills, whose every rock and peak and cove he
had studied with an eye to offense and defense, rather than wage war in
the enemy’s country where he was a stranger.  Besides, as Seth himself
had said, the Brannons and their kin had not yet smelled blood.  “Keeser
and his Germins” must first offer direct injury to one of them before
they could feel the personal touch of war and answer the challenge from
oversea.

With this realization Todd broke the silence in a firm voice, pointing to
the yellow envelope in the old man’s hand.

“Seth, that telegram holds bad news for you folks.”

Seth’s attitude of defiance relaxed.  Taut cords stood out beneath the
dry skin of his throat as the inner man gripped himself.

“Is Jim hurt?”  There was a tremor of paternalism in the question.  The
yellow envelope fluttered to the ground near the mare’s feet.

Todd looked Seth steadily in the eyes.  “Worse than hurt, old friend, yet
better than hurt,” he replied.  “Jim is dead.”

Not a cry, not a tear, not a groan, not even a quiver of the world-worn
mouth and brow.  Only an expression of incredulity that hardened into
sternness.

“Dead?—dead!  My Jim dead.”  Then, after a while, “Hit’ll go plumb hard
with his ma, her Jimmy dead.”  The keen eyes widened and the wrinkled
face was lifted to the hills.

Directly, in a calm, low voice: “Tell me, lawyer, who kilt him?  How was
he kilt, my Jim?”

“He was killed in action, Seth, killed by ‘Keeser and his Germins’ while
bombing an enemy’s trench.”

“Bombing a trench!  Whar in hell was his rifle-gun?”

“He wasn’t using it then.”  Todd drew on his imagination.  “But he sold
out at a high figger, Seth, that boy of yours.  A dozen Germans went down
before they got him.”

The old man’s eyes flashed.  “Ye say they did?  Jim he kilt a dozen of
’em?”  His friend nodded.  “Lord!—now don’t that beat all!”  Seth
chuckled an unhealthy chuckle.  “Kilt a dozen of ’em!”

When he next spoke, however, it was briefly and through lips parched and
drawn.

“Wal, I reckon that settles hit.  Yas, lawyer, I reckon that mighty nigh
settles hit.”  And with shoulders bent forward, his chin in his hand, the
old man lapsed into lonely meditation.

Todd left him there, seated on the stile, and with a sigh of relief that
his mission had been thus far accomplished, rode his mare around to the
barn. The Breathitt country that day vibrated with a silent but
compelling call.  Bare-footed couriers, wizards of short cut and bypath,
slipped through valley and over ridge, up rocky creek bed and down steep
decline, bearing a message from their chief. The lesser clan heads
received the message; and from beneath their clapboard roofs, they in
turn sent forth couriers to their followers.  Along the waters of
Troublesome, Middle Fork, Quicksand and Kentucky River, the word flashed.
A hushed suspense closed over the hills.  Men greeted one another in
undertones, sensing rather than speaking what each had in mind.  Action
was the necessity of the hour; swift, tense action that tarried neither
to question nor to reason, but obeyed.

But little time elapsed after Lawyer Todd left old Seth at the stile,
before the Brannons and their kinsmen began to gather at the cabin of
their chief.  They straggled in by ones and twos and threes, some mounted
and some on foot.  Among them were grandfathers, with stooped shoulders
and snowy beards; others were mere boys.

Most of the men bore modern rifles and revolvers; a few had shotguns.
One, on whom the hookworm had set its blight, had been able to muster
only a pitchfork.  Another was armed with a kitchen knife and a hickory
club.  Besides their weapons all the equipment the men carried was a
bundle of food, done up in a greasy paper, consisting of chunks of corn
bread, a bit of salt and several strips of bacon.

Some of the “neighbor wimmen” had come to Seth’s cabin to tender their
services and sympathies to the bereaved mother.  Old Seth himself sat
alone on the edge of the weather-warped porch, brooding.  His rifle lay
across his knees, and while one hairy hand stroked the polished stock,
his eyes were fastened on the horizon above the eastern hills.  The only
hint of emotion in his face was the dumbness of an emotion too deep for
expression.

The men stood about the yard in little groups.  Out in the barn lot
several of the younger men pitched horseshoes.  Others played mumble-peg
near the stile block, or lounged against the rail fence, whittling.  The
patriarchs of the clan squatted at a respectful distance from their
chief, waiting to be called to council.

And upon them all poured the warming rays of the afternoon sun.  The
pine-fringed mountains, green with the fresh, soft green of spring,
closed in grim but kindly embrace about the little army in the valley
below.  A dove cooed plaintively from a near-by hollow; beneath the cabin
porch the cur whined and howled with a sense of approaching crisis.

After a while old Seth arose, steadying himself against the corner of the
porch.  And silently his followers gathered about him.

“Boys,” he said, “I reckon ye all know why I sent fer ye.  Jim’s been
kilt.  Him that was o’ my flesh and blood, and o’ yer flesh and blood, is
dead.  Keeser and his Germins kilt him, boys.  Nothin’ on this airth that
me or ye can do will bring him back to life.

“When Jim went to war, he went withouten my lief.  I’d fought a lot in my
time and I wanted him to keep outen sech trouble.  But he went; he got
the notion he ought to go, and all I could say wouldn’t stop him.  Jim
says that Keeser and his Germins ’as killin’ wimmen and chil’ren over
yan.  He says this country’d soon be at war and that we folks o’
Breathitt ought to git ready and fight same as the rest o’ the people.  I
studied on hit a heap then—and today I’ve studied on hit some more.

“As Jim ’lowed hit’d be, boys, this here country’s at war.  I don’t
understand all about hit myself, about this de-mocracy we’re a-fightin’
fer or what we’re goin’ to do with the thing after we gits hit.  Lawyer
Todd says hit’s jest another name fer freedom and liberty.  Maybe hit is.
Anyway, boys, since I’ve thought hit over, thar ain’t been a war yet when
us fellers o’ the hills ain’t took a hand.  Some fought fer the Union,
some fer the South.  Some fought in Cuby, and some o’ our kin helped whop
them sassy niggers in the Fillerpines.

“Whenever we’ve fought, boys, we’ve had a reason fer hit, a mighty good
reason.  Do ye remember back thar, several year ago, when Bulger Allen
plugged Hal Brannon in the heart as Hal ’as comin’ home from meetin’ with
his gal?  Do ye recollect how hit riled us and how we got our rifle-guns
and went after them Allens?  They’d kilt one o’ our folks, they’d broke
the peace.  But afore we got through with ’em, they seen hit ’as
healthiest to leave our folks alone and keep their lead to themselves!”

Seth paused, swallowed, then went on:

“Boys, Jim’s been kilt.  Yesterd’y we weren’t holdin’ nothin’ agin’
Keeser and his Germins.  They hadn’t hurt none o’ we’uns.  What devilment
they’d done, they’d done outsider these hills whar we ain’t got no
concarn.  But now hit’s different.  Hit’s jest another case o’ them
Allens, boys.  Hit means we got to draw blood fer blood.  Had Jim been
one o’ ye or yer sons, I’d say the same thing.  A Brannon’s life has been
took: ye and me and all our folks has got to take lives to pay fer
hissen.  That’s the way we do hit up here in these mountings.  That’s the
way we got to do hit with Keeser and his Germins.”

Lawyer Todd, standing on the edge of the company, frowned and bit his
lip.  He had been listening to the speech.  Inwardly he had rejoiced.
But now he felt a pang of disappointment.  Seth, he feared, was about to
overshoot the mark in his newly aroused enthusiasm.  He was reckoning on
personal vengeance against “Keeser and his Germins,” something that could
not be but which would be hard for him to realize.

Todd, trying to attract as little notice as possible, edged through the
crowd until he stood at the old chief’s elbow.  As he paused in his
delivery, the lawyer caught his attention.

“Seth,” he began in an undertone, “Seth, it doesn’t pay to be too hasty
about this thing you’re doing.  You know, those people at Washington
don’t believe in fighting exactly the way we do down here.  They go about
it different.  It’s the young men who are sent to war.  The government
takes only those who are in their prime, and it’s the government that
picks out the guns they’ll shoot and the clothes they’ll wear and tells
’em how to act and what to do.  Don’t misunderstand me, Seth.  It’s all
right for you to want to go to Europe and whip ‘Keeser and his Germins,’
but Seth, you just naturally can’t go.”

The old man looked at the lawyer in surprise.

“Can’t go?” he repeated aloud.  “Ye mean to say I’m too old to go?”
There was wrath in the tone.  Those near by moved closer, listening.
“Why, lawyer, I’m as young in feelin’s as any boy here.  I can tromp as
fer, shoot as straight and stand as much as any sodjer the gover’nent’s
got.”

“Perhaps so,” replied Todd; “that all may be very true.  But it’s only
the young fellows they want.  Lead your men down to Jackson, let the
recruiting officers there pick those who are fit: then you and the rest
come back here to your farms, raise more crops, pray for them that’s
gone, and be good citizens.  That’s your part in the war, old friend.”

“I’ll be damned if hit is!”  Seth threw up his grizzled head in anger.
“I can fight as well as the best of ’em.  I reckon I’m an Amerikin too.
Hit’s my country and my war and my Jim what’s been kilt.  Won’t they let
a pa fight them as murdered his son?  Won’t they let him shoot them as
shot him?  By Gawd! o’ course they will, lawyer, and nothin’ in all
creation can make me stay home!”

Todd stepped back.  He saw the futility of further argument.  He even
doubted the wisdom of his speaking as much as he had.

Seth wrestled with his emotions for some moments in silence.  Then the
passion left his wrinkled features.  He was thoughtful, debating with
himself.  Finally, his selfcontrol regained, he turned to the waiting
multitude before him.

“Maybe Lawyer Todd’s right, boys,” he said with sudden frankness.  “Maybe
hit’s so that we can’t all go to war agin’ them as kilt our Jim.”  He
flashed a friendly glance of reassurance over the heads of his followers
to where the lawyer stood.  “Hit’s different outsider these hills ’an hit
is here.  We ain’t the only ones a-fightin’ Keeser and his Germins.  The
whole nation’s a-got hits dander up.  Lawyer Todd says that afore the
break o’ another spring thar’ll be more’n a million sodjers ’long side o’
us, ready to whop them Germins.  I reckon I spoke kinda hasty jest now.
We can’t have hit all our way.  We’ll jest have to fit in with the rest
wharever we can.  Hit may be a close fit and hit may pinch at times,
boys, but hit’s best.  Lawyer Todd and them army men knows.  We’ll try
and make up our minds to do what they ’lows is fer the good o’ all o’ us.

“So we’ll go down to Jackson town, to that re-cruitin’ office, and axe
them sodjer fellers thar to git us to Eurip.  They’re showin’ others the
way and I reckon they’ll show us.  Some o’ us won’t come back, boys, like
Jim won’t come back.  Some o’ us is liable to lose a arm or a leg.  But
remember this, boys, wharever ye go or whoever ye’re fightin’, that ye’re
men o’ Breathitt.  Remember ve’re not only goin’ to kill Germins but to
kill the bad name that the world ’as give us.  Me and Lawyer Todd stands
together on that.  We’re goin’ to stop wastin’ powder on our own folks.
We’re goin’ to show them people in the Blue Grass and all over the
country, that the men o’ these mountings is men no different from them
when hit comes to shoulderin’ a rifle-gun and pertectin’ their homes and
wimmen and chil’ren.  We’re goin’ to make Breathitt stand fer somethin’
else besides Breathitt blood.”

Old Seth picked up his rifle from where he had leaned it against the
porch wall.  His hand was steady; he pressed the gun over his heart as if
to breathe into its lifeless mechanism a part of his own warrior spirit.

“Boys, time’s up,” he said.  “War’s on.  Jim’s body over yan is callin’
us to come.  Hit’s a-callin’ us men o’ the hills, us men o’ Breathitt.
We’re a-goin’”—he raised his voice.  “Wars on, I say, boys, war’s on; and
Keeser and his Germins is goin’ to catch hell—Breathitt hell—and hell
a-plenty!”

As their chief concluded a wild yell burst from ten score mountain
throats, a weird and ringing yell that surged through the neighboring
valleys, beat against the stolid walls of rock and pine, and bounded
upward and beyond, the answer of the Breathitt folk to humanity’s call to
arms.

Lawyer Todd, a smile lifting the weariness from his face, sat his mare
and watched the departure of the little army.  There was no saying of
farewells to the women and children; there were no handclasps or tears.
Old Seth, astride a long-eared mule, led the way.  The others straggled
after him in irregular order.  Those who had mounts rode them; the rest
followed on foot.  With their packs of food slung over their shoulders,
their guns in the crook of their arms, the men filed out of the cabin
yard and through the valley toward a distant gap in the hills.

“My people, my people!” softly exclaimed Todd, as he moved after them.
“Kentuckians all, Americans all, this day you give the lie to the slander
put upon your mountain race.  My people, my noble people!”

Dry-eyed women, shading their brows with toil-scarred hands, lingered at
their cabin doors, their children clustered about them, and watched their
men go by.  Occasionally one of them waved, and an answering salute came
from among the irregular ranks.

Beyond the western ridges the sun dropped into a saffron sky, crowning
with a halo of gold the reborn feudland, touching with mellow light the
crags and peaks that stood out proudly in the dusk.  High above the misty
valleys a bald eagle circled, forward, backward, forward, backward, over
the country of warrior clans; while through the distant gap marched
mountain men, men of soul and heart and brawn.

Breathitt was at war!

                                                    _Lewis H. Kilpatrick_.



THE FORGIVER


Religion, said the mining man, sometimes puts me in mind of one of those
new blasting powders; there’s no just telling when it’ll go off or whom
it’ll blow up.

I was thinking then of Radway and Billsky: “Bad” Radway, him that beat up
Ellis at Borromeo and shot Fargue O’Leary.  You will have heard of him.
Every one was hearing of him at one time, and then all the talk kind of
faded out.  By and by Radway himself faded out.  It was Billsky that
faded him.

Billsky was a little, serious, hairy fellow, not much higher than
Radway’s elbow; a good little fellow, that never gave any trouble to any
one.  He always seemed, in a meek sort of way, puzzled over existence in
general and his own share in it in particular.  Men liked him.  He was
awful kindhearted, but he’d the same sense of humor as an Apache.
Primitive, that’s what he was.  He was part Russian, and he’d a primitive
sort of name that no one ever tried to pronounce.  Billsky came near
enough.

He scarcely ever came in Rad’s way, though he moved with the same crowd.
Rad was in the center, you see, Billsky just wanderin’ on the outskirts.
They got mixed up pretty close, though, later.

It began with a girl, of course, a girl at Borromeo.  No need for names.
She was a nice girl, and a nice-lookin’ girl, just one of many, thank
God.  No one so much as guessed Billsky was sweet on her till she went
away suddenly and was seen no more, and her folks moved away.  It was put
down to Rad, and he didn’t deny it; sort o’ smiled and looked knowin’.
You know the kind.  Then Billsky heard of it.  He was working up at the
Joyeux then, for that was before the irrigation was put through, and it
was all cattle.  He sent a message through to Radway.  “I’m coming down
to kill you,” said the message, “soon as I can get my time.  Don’t go
away.”

Well, that was Billsky all over, and most men thought it was a great
joke.  Radway did.  “What does the little rat take me for?” he said.  “I
guess he’s in no hurry.  I’ll have some time to wait.”  Most men thought
so, too, but not all.

Meanwhile, Billsky stuck to his job till he could quit without giving
inconvenience.  Then he got his time.  He sunk every dollar of his pay in
a fine pony, a quick goer.  And down he came the eighty miles to
Borromeo, like a fire in grass.

The betting was all on Rad, of course.  It was said he thought Billsky
too good a joke to shoot; he’d just beat him up a bit if he was
troublesome, and let him go.

Twenty miles out of Borromeo, Billsky had to stop at a preacher’s.  And
there he got religion.

Yes, it’s a fact; he got it overnight.  What he told the preacher, or the
preacher said to him, I don’t know.  I don’t begin to know.  But Billsky
went off afoot into the desert, five miles maybe; and it is pretty much
of a desert round there.  He had nothing with him but the gun he was
going to shoot Radway with, and a Bible.  He laid them both under a
sagebush, and all night he knelt in front of them, and waited for the
Lord to begin on him.  There isn’t much in the desert at night, you know,
but stars; and a sky back of ’em that makes even the planets look cheap.
The Lord must have had His way with Billsky, without fear or favor, for
at dawn he came staggering back to the preacher, drenched with sweat and
dew.  He had only the Bible with him.

“I believe,” he said to the preacher, “and as I hope for forgiveness, so
I forgive the man it was in my heart to kill.  Tell him so from me,” he
said; “but it’s laid on me,” said Billsky, “that I’ll never save my soul
till I tell him so myself.  So tell him, too, to wait for me, for I’m
a-coming to forgive him.”  Then he went down in a heap at the preacher’s
feet.

That old man was a real Christian, and he put Billsky to bed and looked
after him like a father.  He’d never had an out-and-out hot-on-the-spot
convert like that before, and he was so worked up and excited over it
that he saddled his old horse and rode into Borromeo himself to give
Radway the message of forgiveness.

I was in Duluth’s, with some of the other fellows, looking at some new
saddles he had in; and Rad was there, too, and there was a good deal of
talk going on of one kind and another.  Some one must have told the old
preacher where Rad was, for he pulled up his old white nag outside
Duluth’s, and “Mr. Radway!” he called, in a high voice, “Mr. Radway!  I
have a message for you.”

“Hello!” said Rad, winking at his cronies,—I wasn’t one,—“Is Billsky
coming with his gun?  I must get ready to hide.”  And there was laughing.

Sitting his old horse straight as an Indian, the old preacher raised his
head and took his hat off.  His white hair shone in the sun.  There
seemed to be more than sun shining on his face.  “Mr. Radway,” says he,
“the message I bring is one of forgiveness.  You have nothing to fear
from Billsky.  He forgives you.  And I was to tell you that he will never
rest until he himself can assure you of that forgiveness.  And may the
Lord have mercy on you,” said the old man, and put on his hat and rode
away.  I give you my word, I never heard Duluth’s so quiet!  There wasn’t
a sound till Radway caught his breath and began to curse.

Funny what’ll get a man’s nerve, eh?  It sent Rad quite wild to think
Billsky wanted to forgive him!

Billsky was sick at the preacher’s some time.  He came into Borromeo
looking queerer and hairier than ever, and simply eaten alive with the
longin’ to forgive Rad.  “’Tisn’t him I’m thinking of,” he explained in
his careful way, “he’ll get what’s coming to him, anyway; it’s me,” he
said.  “How’m I to save my soul if I don’t forgive him?”

“Well, you can’t forgive him just yet,” said the man he was talking to,
sort of soothing.  “He ain’t here.  He’s on a new job: foreman at the
Llindura, and went out last week.”

“Oh!” said Billsky.  He looked all around him, kind of taken aback and
hurt.  “Oh!  Why’d he do that?”

“He didn’t do it because he was afraid of you, old sport,” said the other
man, laughing fit to hurt himself, “if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Billsky looked more hurt than ever.  He’d big collie-dog eyes in his
furry face, and now they fairly filled with tears.  “Why should I think
that?” he said earnestly.  “I only want to forgive him.  I only want to
tell him I forgive him.”  And he went away, all puzzled at the
contrariety of things in general.

He kept pretty small and quiet about Borromeo for a few days; and then I
saw him looking awful pleased with himself.  “Gray Thomas,” he told me,
“he’s going out to the Llindura with some mules, and he’ll take me along.
So now I’ll be able to forgive Radway,” he said, “and get it off my
mind.”

He went out to the Llindura with the mules.  When he got there, he found
Rad had been sent to Sageville with a bunch of calves the day before.

He stayed a week at the Llindura, almost too worried to earn his keep,
waiting for Radway.  Radway didn’t come.  At the end of the week, he lit
out for Sageville.  Halfway there, he met the rest of Rad’s outfit,
coming back.  “Rad’s been bit with the mining fever,” they told Billsky,
“and he’s off into the Altanero country with a man he met in Sageville.
The boss’ll be mad with him.”  Billsky looked more grieved than ever.

“Did he know I was waiting for him?” said he.

“No,” said they, “how should he?”

Well, how should he?  But I believe he did.  You see, Billsky’s
forgiveness had got on his nerves.

It was a close call in Sageville that Radway’d get forgiven in spite of
himself.  He actually rode out one end of the town with his new partner
as Billsky came in at the other.

The fellows laughed at Billsky; but they liked him; and maybe they began
to wonder.  Anyway, Billsky stayed in Sageville a week, selling his pony
and getting an outfit together.  When they asked him what he wanted a
prospectin’ outfit for, he just looked at them in a surprised, hurt sort
of way, and said, “Why, to go after Rad and forgive him, of course.
What’d you think?”  Pretty soon, they stopped laughing.  It was the look
on Billsky’s face stopped them.  You know how queer brown and yellow
faces look to us?  That’s because the expression never changes.  Billsky
began to look queer, like a Chink or an Indian; he’d just one expression
in those days, stamped on his hairy face as if he’d been branded with it.

He got two burros and an outfit of sorts, and off he went at the end of
the week, trailing Radway into the Altanero.  Three days before he went,
a mule wagon pulled out for Seear; it overtook Radway and his partner,
and the driver told him his forgiver was following on.  So, you see, Rad
knew.

Have you ever seen the opening of the Altanero: the Gates of the
Altanero?  There’s desert, and there’s hills, and there’s cañons; and
there’s the Altanero.  This side the Gates, you’re still somebody, with
work to do, and money to get, and girls to kiss: anything, if you go find
it.  Other side the Gates, you’re nobody, nothing.  You just go out.
Yes, you just go out.  It’s like dying while you’re alive.  You don’t
count at all; and quite often you die dead.

Have you ever seen the Gates?  You go on and on in the heat, away from
Sageville, and Seear, and everything you know.  They lie flat behind you,
lost in the heat.  You don’t see ’em if you turn and look.  You don’t see
anything.  Even the sage thins out and goes.  It’s all dust.  Then ahead,
ever so far, you see something gold.  It rises higher, little by
little,—oh so slow! and you see it’s rocks, great golden rocks.  They
lift, and lift, and lift.  One day you find they’re behind you as well as
in front: nothing but golden rocks; unless it’s red rocks or green rocks
or rocks like clear black glass.  I’ve known some queer moments, but
there’s nothing so queer as when it first comes home to you that, for
miles and miles in every direction, there’s just nothing but the
rocks—like a world rough-cut from precious stones and left to die.

There’s few wells in the Altanero: few that are known.  You travel by,
and accordin’ to, the wells.  Radway struck off into the hills from the
Seaar trail, making for the first well.  A week later, there was Billsky
following over the same ground.  Each night he’d camp by one of Radway’s
cold fires; and, each night, he’d kneel in the ashes and pray.  Sometimes
he’d pray an hour, or two hours, or three, under the tremendous stars;
but it was always that he might catch up with Rad quick, and forgive him,
and get it off his mind.  He wasn’t worrying.  He was just eager.  He
knew he was bound to come across Rad sooner or later in the Altanero.
Then he’d sleep, and eat, and off he’d go, singing hymns to the burros:
“Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” most likely.

Once, in the dead ashes, he found a broke-off saucepan handle.  He was so
pleased he carted it along with him, like a mascot.  It seemed to put him
in touch with Radway: to bring the happy moment o’ forgiveness nearer.

And Radway?  Well, there you have me.

The Altanero’s a bad country to travel in if you’ve anything on your
nerves.  I passed through a few miles of it once when I had something on
mine: a sick child two hundred miles away; and I tell you, by the third
day I was seein’ the kid everywhere.  But Radway—I can’t just explain
Radway.  I wonder if he was seein’ the girl that started it.

Billsky made the first water-hole six days behind Rad; he’d gained a day.

Rad and company had used considerable of the water in that hole.  It had
shrunk, and there in the margin, baked hard and white like clay, were
footprints of men and burros.  Billsky picked out Rad’s footprints and
patted ’em, he was so pleased.  He rested by the water a few hours, and
freshened up his burros.  Then he went on.

Between the first water-hole and the second the country opens up.  It
isn’t just a huddle of rocks.  It’s mesas rising from a dead level of
dust like the worn foundations of towers and cathedrals and cities,
banded in rose and violet and gold.  You could no more climb most of ’em
than you could climb the outside of a skyscraper.  But Billsky found one
he could climb, and up he went.  He’d seen some sort of dry, grassy stuff
at the top, and he wanted it for Sarah, one of the burros that was
ailing.  He found more than the grass on top.  He found a grave.  Didn’t
know whose, of course; nobody knows, nor ever will.  He gave the grass to
Sarah; but next day she died.  Billsky was terrible hurt and grieved, he
was always so careful of beasts.  He never realized that Sarah was just
beat out: couldn’t stand the pace.

At the second water-hole he was only four days behind Rad.

He rested up a bit, being worried over his burro; and took out the lost
time in prayer.  Then on he went, at that terrible pace, overhauling Rad
by the mile, achin’ to forgive him.  It’s a long stretch to the third
hole.  Billsky gained two days on it.  I can’t guess how.  He told me he
took short cuts through the cañons, and that they always turned out all
right; and that he sang “Hold the Fort, for I Am Coming,” right along.

He found the third hole fouled and shrunk.  In a stretch of mud, Rad had
written with a stick, “If you follow me any further, I will shoot you on
sight.”  How did he know Billsky was so near?  Maybe he’d seen his fire
the night before.  Billsky read the writing, and was dreadful hurt and
grieved.  “He doesn’t understand,” he said, “that I’m going to forgive
him.  It’s what I’m follerin’ him for.”  He prayed half the night, and
went on quicker than ever next day.

Few have ever been so far into the Altanero as the fourth hole.  It’s
hard to find.  Long before Billsky made it, he saw a speck in the sky; it
was a great bird, sailing round in little, slow circles.  Under it was
the fourth water-hole.

It was quite a pool when Billsky came to it.  There were bushes round it,
and fibrous grass.  There were three burros feeding on the bushes, and a
small tent pitched.  A man came out of the tent, and when he saw Billsky
he held up his hands.

“Don’t shoot,” he said, “I’m not Radway.  You’ve no quarrel with me.”

“Nor with him,” said Billsky.  “I’ve come to forgive him.  Where is he?”

“Gone,” said the man, “gone mad, I guess.  He’s pushed on alone.  Day
before yesterday I took sick.  We was to rest up here, and then cast
round careful, always within reach o’ this water.  This morning he went
out and climbed them rocks there.  Then he came back, and said he must go
on, he couldn’t wait.  I went to stop him, and he laid me out.  See
here.”  The man was most cryin’; he turned his face, and Billsky saw a
great black swelling on his jaw.  “He went on,” he said, “as if the devil
was after him.  And the devil’s you!”

Billsky was the meekest little hairy man; and now he too was fit to cry.
“He don’t know me,” he said, very sad, “but it’ll be all right. . .  .
What’s on there?” he said, pointing beyond.

“God knows, who made it,” said the man, “out of hell’s leftovers.  But no
one else does, for no one’s ever been there.”

“It’ll be all right,” said Billsky again.  “I’ll go on after him, and
forgive him, and bring him back.”

He started out to do it, taking one of Rad’s burros, which were fresher
than his; and bound he’d come up with Rad this time.

I don’t rightly know what happened there, beyond the last water.  One
thing, I never been there.  I gather Billsky just pushed on as usual,
following Rad’s tracks.  He followed ’em easy: the only footsteps within
a hundred miles or so!  As he went he sang “Glory for Me,” because he was
going to be able to forgive Rad at last.

The big bird in the sky, he swung off from the water-hole and followed
Billsky.  There was just them two moving things for him to see: Radway on
ahead, mad to get away from Billsky, and old Billsky, mad to forgive him,
and singing the glory song.

Billsky couldn’t tell me much about this part of it.  He just went on,
and on, and on.  Sometimes, he said, there were stars.  The place was so
still he began to think he could hear ’em shine: a sort of fizzing, like
an arc-light, which, of course, he knew to be foolishness.  Sometimes
there was just the sun, a great fire, like as if it were fastened to the
earth and burning all the life out of it.  There were the rocks, of
course, but he didn’t remember them much: only one great black cleft, and
a glimmer in the walls of it.  The glimmer was gold-veined turquoise,
just sticking out o’ that cliff so you could have pried it loose with a
toothpick.  Billsky couldn’t tell you where it was if you paid him.  He
wasn’t thinking of anything but forgiving Rad.

Then, with a noise, he says, like a roll of rifle-fire, that big bird
dropped out of heaven like a stone, and shot past him, and settled just
ahead.  There was a dead burro there, and an empty water can.  But
Radway, he’d gone on.  Billsky went after him, singing powerful; but his
voice didn’t make much noise.

Then there was a little crack ahead.  Something sang past Billsky, and
flipped a tiny flake off of the side of the cañon.  Billsky stopped and
looked at the flake lying at his feet, just as pretty as a pink
rose-leaf.  He knew a bullet had chipped it off, and that he’d come
within shooting length of Radway.  He let out a yell of joy.  “It’s me,
Rad!” he yelled.  “I’m comin’ to forgive you!”  But Radway didn’t stop.
He went on, as if he was mad; and behind him came the man that was
killin’ him: the man that only wanted to forgive him.

There were more shots.  Billsky said Rad fired at him all that afternoon,
but owing to the refraction, he wasn’t hit once.  Besides, Rad was
breaking up.  Once your nerve goes, you break up quick in the Altanero.

It was evening when Billsky came up with him.

You know evening on the Altanero?  The sun’s down on the edge of things,
as big as a burning house.  All the rocks turn clear as glass for a
minute.  It’s as if the light went clean through them, and came out
colored with their colors: rose, violet, gold.  The air you breathe
glows.  The rosy-red cañon Billsky was in ended sudden in a wall that hit
the sky.  The sunset touched it, and it became like a veil, says Billsky,
a blood-red curtain hung from earth to heaven.  At the foot of it lay Bad
Radway.

Billsky ran at him, trying to yell.  He had his water flask ready.  All
day he’d been saving water to give to Radway, but he was too late.  Rad
just looked at him; and all that had been inside him: all the remorse,
the guilt, the black fear, the unknown damage of the soul that first
drove him to be scared of Billsky, came out in that look.

It struck Billsky to the heart.  “Rad, Rad,” he said, “don’t you be
scared o’ me!  I forgive you, Rad!” he said.

But Bad Radway didn’t hear.  He was dead.

Billsky had done his part, but he was all broke up.  He got back to the
water-hole somehow, after burying Rad at the foot of the cliff.  He and
the other man that had been Rad’s partner lit out for home right away.
They’d had enough of the Altanero.

When I last saw Billsky, he was terrible hurt and grieved because the
other man held him to blame for what had happened to Radway.  “He seems
to think,” said Billsky to me, “that I done something to him!  Me that
follered him all that way just to forgive him!  He seems to think, that
guy does, that I done something!”

Then, in a puzzled, exasperated kind of way, he laughed.  “But come to
think of it,” said Billsky, “it was funny.”

Well, as I said before, religion’s a queer thing to handle; but I don’t
see anything funny in it.

                                               _Marjorie L. C. Pickthall_.



TOLD TO PARSON


A little girl came rushing into the gate of the vicarage at Postbridge,
Dartmoor, and it chanced that she met the minister himself as he bent in
his garden and scattered lime around upspringing seeds.

“These slugs would try the patience of a saint,” he said, hearing
footsteps, and not looking up.  “They have eaten off nearly all my young
larkspurs.  How can one fight them?”

Then a small, breathless voice broke in upon him.

“Please, sir, mother sent me, an’ I’ve runned a’most all the way from our
cottage wi’out stopping once.  ’Tis old Mr. Mundy, please.  He’m dying—so
he told mother when her fetched him his milk this morning—an’ he says
he’ve got something very special to tell anybody as’ll care to come an’
listen to it.  But nobody don’t want to hear his secrets in the village;
so mother said ’twas your job, please, an’ sent me for your honor.”

“My job—yes, so it is, little maid.  I’ll come at once.  An’ they’d
better send for the doctor.  It isn’t his regular visiting day until
Thursday, but probably it’s his job, too.”

“Mother axed the old man that; an’ he said as he didn’t want no doctor,
nor his traade [medicine] neither.  He says h’m nearly a hundred years
old, an’ he won’t be messed about with at his time of life, but just die
easy an’ comfortable.”

In twenty minutes the clergyman had walked a mile and crossed a strip of
the wilderness that stretched round about the little hamlet on Dartmoor
where he labored.  A single cottage separated from the rest by wide
tracts of furze and heather stood here, and near it lay a neglected
garden.  But “Gaffer” Mundy had long ceased to fight the moor or care for
his plot of land.  His patch of the reclaimed earth returned fast to
primitive savagery.  Brake fern sprouted in the potato bed; rush, heather
and briar choked the currant bushes; fearless rabbits nibbled every green
thing.

“Come in, whoever you may be,” said an ancient voice.  So the visitor
obeyed and entered, to find the sufferer, fully dressed, sitting by a
fire of peat.  Noah Mundy was once very tall, but now his height had
vanished and he had been long bent under his burden of years.  A bald,
yellow skull rose above his countenance, and infinite age marked his
face.  As the earth through centuries of cooling has wrinkled into
mountains and flattened into ocean beds between them, so these aged
features, stamped and torn with the fret and fever of long life, had
become as a book whereon time had written many things for those who could
read them.  Very weak was the man, and very thin.  He was toothless and
almost hairless; the scanty beard that fell from his chin was white,
while his mustache had long been dyed with snuff to a lively yellow.  His
eyes remained alive, though one was filmed over with an opaline haze.
But from the other he saw clearly enough for all his needs.  He made it a
boast that he could not write, and he could not read.  There was no book
in his house.

“’Tis you, eh?  I could have wished for a man out of your trade, but it
won’t matter.  I’ve got a thing worth telling; but mark this, I don’t
care a button what you think of it, an’ I don’t want none of your bunkum
an’ lies after I have told it.  Sit down in that thicky chair an’ smoke
your pipe an’ keep cool.  Ban’t no use getting excited now, for what I be
going to tell ’e happened more’n sixty years ago—afore you was born or
thought about.”

“My smoke won’t trouble you?”

“Bah!  I’ve smoked and chewed an’ snuffed for more’n half a century.  I’m
baccy through and through—soaked in it, as you might say.  An’ as for
smoke, if what you tell to church be true, I shall have smoke, an’ fire
too, afore long.  But hell’s only a joke to frighten females.  I don’t
set no store by it.”

“Better leave that, Mr. Mundy.  If you really believe your end is near,
let us be serious.  Yes, I’ll smoke my pipe.  And you must feel very,
very sure, that what you tell me is absolutely sacred, unless you wish it
otherwise.”

“Nought sacred about it, I reckon—all t’ other way.  An’ as for telling,
you can go an’ shout it from top of Bellever Tor you’m minded to.  I
don’t care a farden curse who knows it now.  Wait till I’m out of it;
then do as you please.”

He drank a little milk, remained silent a moment with his eyes upon the
fire, and presently began to tell his life’s strange tale.

“Me an’ my brother was the only children our parents ever had; an’ my
brother was five years older’n me.  My father, Jonas Mundy, got money
through a will, an’ he brought it to Dartymoor, like a fool, an’ rented a
bit of moor from the Duchy of Cornwall, an’ built a farm upon it, an’ set
to work to reclaim the land.  At first he prospered, an’ Aller Bottom
Farm, as my father called it, was a promising place, so long as sweat of
man poured out there without ceasing.  You can see the ruins of it yet,
for when Jonas Mundy died an’ it falled to me, I left it an’ comed up
here; an the chap as took it off my hands—he went bankrupt inside three
year.  ’Tis all falled to pieces now, for none tried again.

“But that’s to overrun the matter.  When I was fifteen an’ my brother,
John James, was twenty, us both failed in love with the same maid.  You
stare; but though fifteen in years, I was twenty-five in understanding,
an’ a very oncoming youth where women were concerned.  Nelly Baker had
turned seventeen, an’ more than once I told her that though a boy of
fifteen couldn’t wed a maid of her age without making folks laugh, even
if he could get a parson to hitch them, yet a chap of three-an’-twenty
might very properly take a girl of five-an’-twenty without the deed
calling for any question.  An’ her loved me truly enough; for though you
only see a worn-out scarecrow afore you now, yet seventy year agone I
filled the eye of more maidens than one, and was a bowerly youth to look
upon—tall, straight, tough, wi’ hair so black as a crow.

“John James he never knowed that I cared a button for Nelly.  I never
showed it to a living soul but her by word or look; an’ she kept
quiet—for fear of being laughed at, no doubt.  Her folks were dead on the
match with John James, an’ he pressed her so hard that she’d have took
him but for me.  He was a pretty fellow too—the Mundys were very
personable as a family.  Quite different, though, from me.  Fair polled,
wi’ flaxen hair, an terrible strong was John James, an’ the best wrastler
on Dartymoor in them days.

“Me an’ her met by appointment a week afore she’d got to give him a final
‘yes’ or ‘no.’  I mind it very well to this hour; an’ yet ’tis
seventy-odd years agone.  On Hartland Tor us sat in the heather unseen,
an’ I put my arms around her an’ loved her, an’ promised to make her a
happy woman.  Then I told her what she’d got to do.  First I made her
prick her finger wi’ a thorn of the furze, an’ draw blood, an’ swear
afore the Living God she’d marry me as soon as I could make her mistress
of a farm.

“She was for joking about the matter at first, but I soon forced her to
grow serious.  She done what I told her, an’ since she believed in the
Living God, I reckoned her oath would bind her fast enough.  As for me, I
laughed out of sight, for I never believed in nothing but myself—not even
when I was a boy under twenty years old.  Next I bade her fall out with
John James.  I put words in her mouth to say to him.  ‘I know the fashion
of man he be—short an’ fiery in his temper,’ I told her.  ‘Be hot an’
quick with him.  Tell him he’s not your sort, an’ never will be—quarrel
with his color, if you like.  Tell him he’m too pink an’ white for ’e.
Say ’tis enough that your own eyes be blue, an’ that you’d never wed a
blue-eyed man.  Make him angry—you ban’t a woman if you don’t know how to
do that.  Then the rest be easy enough.  He’ll flare an’ flae like a tar
barrel on Guy Fawkes Night.  But he’ll trouble you no more, for he’m so
proud as Satan.’

“Nelly Baker took in all I said; an’ inside a week she’d dropped my
brother.  But ’twas what he done after that startled folks, for without a
word to any living soul, he vanished, like the dew of the morning,
four-an’-twenty hours after she’d flinged him over.  I was the last that
seed him.  We were working together out ’pon the land; an’ he was sour
an’ crusty wi’ his trouble, an’ hadn’t a word to fling at me.  Dimpsy
light fell, an’ I went in a tool shed to don my jacket an’ go home.
’Twas autumn, an’ us had been spreading manure upon the meadow.

“‘Be you coming, John James?’ I said.

“‘You go to hell,’ he answered.  ‘I’ll come when I’ve a mind to, an’
maybe I won’t come at all!’

“So home I walked wi’out another word; an’ he never comed; an’ nobody
ever heard a whisper about him again from that day to this.  For a
soldier he went, ’twas thought; but the after history of un never reached
nobody at Postbridge; an’ whether he was shot or whether he gathered
glory in foreign parts none ’pon Dartymoor can tell you.

“A nine days’ wonder it was, an’ it killed my mother; for John James was
the apple of her eye.  Her never cared a button for me, ’cause I was the
living likeness of her brother—my uncle, Silas Bond.  They sent him to
Botany Bay for burning down wheat stacks.  A bad lot he was, no doubt;
an’ a fool to boot, which is worse.  For he got catched an’ punished.
An’ he deserved all he got—for letting ’em catch him.

“With John James out of the way, I comed to be a bit more important in
the house, an’ when my mother died, father got to trust me with his
money.  I was old for my years, you see.  As for Nelly, she kept so true
to me as the bird to her nest—for five years; an’ then I’d got to be
twenty, an’ had saved over three hundred pound for her; an’ she was
twenty-two.  A good many chaps wanted to marry her; but she kept our
secret close, an’ said ‘nay’ to some very snug men, an’ just waited for
me an’ Aller Bottom Farm.

“Then, when I’d reckoned to name the day an’ take her so soon as I comed
of age, Oliver Honeywell turned up from down country an’ rented that old
tenement farm what be called Merripit.  So good land as any ’pon all
Dartymoor goes with it.  An’ he comed wi’ a flourish of trumpets an’
plenty of money.  He was going to larn us all how to farm, an’ how to
make money ’pon weekdays, an’ how to get to heaven Sundays.

“Rot the devil!  I see him now—a smug, sleek, fat, handsome, prosperous
man, with the insolence of a spoilt cat!  He’d preach in the open air of
a Sunday, for there was no parson nor church here in them days.  Strong
as a horse,—a, very practical man,—always right.  Did plenty of good, as
the saying goes, an’ went about like a procession, as if he expected
angels from heaven to be waiting for him at every street corner with a
golden crown.  His right hand was generous, but he took very good care
his left hand knowed it.  He didn’t do his good in secret, nor yet hide
his light under a bushel.

“He was a black-haired man, wi’ scholarship an’ money behind him.  He
knew the better-most folk.  They called upon him, I believe, an’ axed him
to their houses, it was said.  He hunted, and paid money to help three
different packs o’ hounds.  An old mother kept house for him.  He tried
to patronize the whole of Postbridge an’ play the squire an’ vicar rolled
into one.  Men as owed him nought an’ thanked him for nought pulled their
hair to him.  But there be some fools who will always touch their hats to
a pair o’ horses.  There comed to be an idea in people’s minds that
Honeywell was a Godsend, though if you axed them why, they generally
couldn’t tell you.

“An’ my Nelly falled in love with him.

“At least she said so; though Heaven knows that the pompous fool, for all
his fine linen, weren’t a patch on what I was at twenty-one.  Anyway, he
comed courting her, for ’twas not known yet that me an’ Nelly was more’n
friends; an’ then when he heard how we had been secretly tokened for no
less than six years, he comed to see me with a long-winded lie in his
mouth.  An’ the lie was larded wi’ texts from scripture.  Nelly Baker had
misunderstood her feelings about me, he said; her had never knowed what
true love was till she met him; an’ he hoped I’d behave as honestly as he
had—an’ all the rest of it.  In fact, she’d throwed me over for him an’
his money an’ his high position; an’ he comed to let me down gently with
bits from the Bible.  As for her, she always lusted after money and
property.

“Us fought hand to hand, for I flew at him, man, like a dog, an’ I’d have
strangled him an’ tored the liver out of him, but some chaps heard him
howling an’ runned along, an’ pulled me off his throat in time.

“He didn’t have the law of me; but Nelly Baker kept out of my way
afterwards, like as if I was the plague; an’ then six months passed an’
they was axed out in marriage so grand as you please at Widecombe Church.

“I only seed her once more; but after lying in wait for her, weeks an’
weeks, like a fox for a rabbit, it chanced at last that I met her one
evening going home across the moor above Aller Bottom Farm ’pon the edge
of the last of our fields.  Then us had a bit of a tell.  ’Twas only a
fortnight afore she was going to marry Mr. Oliver Honeywell.

“I axed her to change her mind; I spoke to her so gentle as a dove
croons; but she was ice all through—cold an’ hard an’ wicked to me.  Then
I growed savage.  I noticed how mincing her’d growed in her speech since
Honeywell had took her up.  She was changed from a good Devon maid into a
town miss, full o’ airs an’ graces that made me sick to see.  He’d
poisoned her.

“‘Do try an’ be sensible,’ she said.  ‘We were silly children all them
years, you know, Mr. Mundy.  You’ll find somebody much better suited to
you than I am—really you will.  Have you ever thought of Mary Reep, now?
She’s prettier than I am—I am sure she is.’

“Her named the darter of William Reep, a common laborer as worked on
Honeywell’s farm at ten shilling a week.  The devil in me broke loose,
an’ quite right too.

“‘We’ve gone up in the world of late then?  ’Twas always your hope and
prayer to come by a bit of property.  But ’tis a coorious thing,’ I said.
‘Do you know that you’m standing just where my brother, John James, stood
last time ever he was seed by mortal eyes?’

“‘What’s that to me?’ she said.  ‘Let me go by, please, Mr. Mundy.  I’m
late, as it is.’

“‘He was never seed again,’ I told her.  ‘’Tis a coorious thing to me, as
you be stand’—on the same spot at the same time—just as he did, in the
first shadow of night.  His going, you see, made me my father’s heir, an’
rich enough to give you a good home some day.’

“Then her growed a thought pale an’ tried to pass me.

“I went home presently; but from that hour Nelly Baker was seen no more.
None ever knowed I’d been the last to speak with her; an’ none ever
pitied me.  But there was a rare fuss made over Oliver Honeywell.  He
wore black for her; an’ lived a bachelor for five year.  Then he married
a widow; but not till his mother died.

“An’ that’s the story I thought would interest some folks.”

The minister tapped his pipe on the hob, and knocked the ashes out.  He
cleared his throat and spoke.  He had learned nothing that was new to
him.

“It is a strange story indeed, Mr. Mundy, and I am interested to have
heard it from your own lips.  Rumor has not lied, for once.  The tale, as
you tell it, is substantially the same that has been handed down in this
village for two generations.  But no one knows that you were the last to
see Nelly Baker.  Did you ever guess what happened?”

The old man smiled, and showed his empty gums.

“No—I didn’t guess, because I knowed very well without guessing,” he
said.  “All the same I should have thought that you, with your mighty
fine knowledge of human nature, would have guessed very quick.  ’Twas I
killed my brother—broke in the back of his head wi’ a pickax when he was
down on one knee tying his bootlace.  An’ me only fifteen year old!  An’
I killed Nelly Baker—how, it don’t matter.  You’ll find the dust of ’em
side by side in one of them old ‘money pits’ ’pon Bellever Tor.  ’Tis a
place that looks due east, an’ there’s a ring of stones a hundred yards
away from it.  The ‘old men’ buried their dead there once, I’ve heard
tell.  Break down a gert flat slab o’ granite alongside a white thorn
tree, an’ you’ll find what’s left of ’em in a deep hole behind.  So she
never comed by any property after all.”

The ancient sinner’s head fell forward, but his eyes were still open.

“Good God!  After all these years!  Man, man, make your peace!  Confess
your awful crime!” cried the clergyman.

The other answered:

“None of that—none of that rot!  I’d do the same this minute; an’ if
there was anything that comed after—if I meet that damned witch in hell
tomorrow I’d kill her over again, if her still had a body I could shake
the life out of.  Now get you gone, an’ let me pass in peace.”

The reverend gentleman departed at his best speed, but presently
returned, bringing soups and cordials.  With him there came a cottage
woman who performed services for the sick.  But when Mrs. Badger saw Noah
Mundy, she knew that little remained to do.

“He’s gone,” she said, “soft an’ sweet as a baby falls to sleep.  Some
soap an’ water an’ a coffin be all he wants now, your honor; not this
here beautiful broth, nor brandy neither.  So you had best go back along,
Sir, an’ send Old Mother Dawe up to help me, if you please.”

                                                        _Eden Phillpotts_.



IRON


The child Cecily waited until her brother had made a bridge from a fallen
bough, and then clasping her adorably grubby hands about his neck allowed
him to carry her across the stream.

“Which way, little sister?” he asked.

A dragon-fly hovered above the water and then darted away, and Cecily
with a vague idea of following it chose a sunken path that almost traced
the brook in its course.  It was a silent little stream running through
the sleepy meadows, and where it widened among the pond lilies it almost
stopped.  Here and there it eddied self-consciously about the yellow
flowers and further on it almost rippled in shy haste.  And in the golden
afternoon Cecily knew that the boy, so clever at building bridges, so
capable in the midst of barbed wire, and above all, so kind to her, was
wonderful beyond all telling.

                                * * * * *

When three tiny aeroplanes flew above the trenches, it reminded the boy
of the dragon-flies over the brook at home, and once when he crawled
through the mud and helped cut away some barbed wire, the barbed wire
made him think of a bit of the brook which ran through the pasture.  He
remembered the wire had made a breakwater of drifting leaves and that
Cecily had thrown stones at the leaves until they had slowly floated away
in a great clump.  And because he imagined himself a victim of unmanly
sentiment, he detested these memories; so that after a while they
returned no more.

At the training camp he had learned, or thought he had learned, the trick
of withdrawing a bayonet after a supposedly unparried lunge.  But here as
he slipped in the wet snow trying to release the driven bayonet, the
thing caught and tore and ripped the flesh.  And to keep from falling he
crushed and mangled the face beneath him with his heel. . .

                                * * * * *

Cecily in the twilight pressed her face against the window pane.  The
gaunt branch of a tree waved and pointed across the snow, but the little
frozen stream was hidden away.

The child thought that when the boy returned he would still be wonderful.

                                                         _Randolph Edgar_.



THE PERFECT INTERVAL


The sound of the telephone bell brought the tuner’s mild blue eyes from
his plate.

“F sharp,” he remarked.  “Same pitch as the bell in my shop.”

“How extraordinary that you can name the pitch of a sound offhand!”
exclaimed the professor, eyeing him with interest.

“All in the way of business,” replied the tuner placidly.  “No, thank
you, ma’arm, no cream on the pudding.  I never paint the lily, as father
used to say. . . .  I’d not have been tuning pianos all over the world
with a ‘come again’ always behind me if I hadn’t had something of an ear,
would I, now?”

“But accurate to such a degree!  I thought one tuned by chords and
melodies and—and that sort of thing.”

“Chords!  Melodies!” repeated the tuner with professional scorn.  “Of
course some do muddle along that way, but there’s nothing in it.  The
octave, there’s the interval to give the test to a man’s ear.”

“You’re Greek in your preferences,” commented the professor with a smile.
“The Greeks, you know, knew nothing of harmony as we understand it.
Their only interval was the octave—they called it magadizing.”

“Well now, to think of it!” said the tuner.  “I wish I’d known.  There
was a Greek sailor on the Silvershell, and I might have had a chat with
him about his music.”

“I was referring to the ancient Greeks,” the professor explained.  “I am
not familiar with modern Greek music, but I imagine it is very much like
modern music everywhere.”

“Of course,” agreed the tuner cynically.  “Comic operas, chords that give
all ten fingers something to do—that’s music as they write it now.  And
I’m not saying that it hasn’t its place,” he went on.  “It’s human, at
least.  Professionally, I admire the octave, but when I sit down in the
evening for a bit of a rest and me daughter Nora plays ‘Vesper Chimes,’
the way those chords pile up on each other don’t hurt me the way it would
some.  After all, perfection’s apt to be a bit bleak, isn’t it?  There
was Cartwright, for instance.  The octave came to be the only perfect
interval for him—poor Cartwright!”

“Cartwright?” repeated the professor curiously.

“Haven’t I ever told you about Cartwright?  Hm!  Well!”  He pushed his
chair back a little from the table, fixed his eyes thoughtfully on the
antics of a pair of orioles building a nest outside the window, and
meditated for a moment.  We were too wise to break the silence, for we
knew that the tuner was digging up from the storehouse of a rich memory
some fresh chapter in the Odyssey of his wanderings.  After a little he
began his tale.

                                * * * * *

What the professor here said about the Greeks and their octaves set me
thinking about Cartwright.  I haven’t often spoken of him, for there’s
not much to tell that most people would understand.  Molly, now, she
always speaks of him as that poor crazy Mr. Cartwright.  The perfect
interval is nonsense, Molly says.  Red Wing’s good enough for her. . .
but I’d better begin at the beginning.

It was the time Molly and I were taking our wedding trip on the tramp
schooner Silvershell, and we were cruising about the Pacific after copra
and vanilla and all those cargoes that sound so romantic when one’s
young.  One of the ports we were bound for was a place called Taku, down
in the Dangerous Archipelago.  The captain warned us that it would be a
bad trip.

“But you ought to make your fortune there,” he says, “for I’ll lay a
wager you’re the first tuner that’s ever visited the place.  Whether you
get home to spend your money or not, that’s another matter.  That’s on
the knees of the gods,” says the captain, who was an Oxford man and had
picked up some of his expressions there.

When we got in among the islands I saw what he meant.  Coral they were,
and reefs above water and below.  Molly and I slept in our life
preservers night after night, and daytime we could scarcely go down to
meals for wondering how we’d get through that boiling sea of breakers and
hidden peaks of coral.  We’d some narrow shaves, too, but we made Taku,
and anchored one evening in a lagoon that looked as if it might have been
painted on a colored calendar, palms and parrots and native huts and all.

The Silvershell was to be in port some time, and the captain told us to
look about as much as we liked.

“There’s an organ up at the mission,” he says.  “It’s got asthma or
something.  If you can cure it, I’ll gladly foot the bill.  I’m a
church-going man when I’m ashore,” says the captain, who liked his joke,
“but that organ puts me clean off religion.”

Well, I made a good job of the organ, and very grateful the ladies were
for it, too.  Then I went up to the British commissioner’s, where I was
told there was a piano needing attention.  Davidson, the commissioner,
was an uncommonly decent chap, and he put me in the way of two or three
more odd bits of tuning and repairing, besides having his own instrument
put into shape.  The missionary ladies had suggested that Molly and I
stay with them while the Silvershell was in port, so I could put in a
tidy bit of work in a day.  But there were only twenty white families in
the place, and I’d about gone through the work when one afternoon
Davidson stopped me as I was going back to the mission, and asked me to
step up to the house with him, as a friend of his wanted to talk with me
about rather a large job of repairing he wished done.

The friend was Cartwright.  I shall never forget that first sight of him,
not to my dying day.  He was standing in the big music room where I’d
been working for Davidson two or three days before, and as we came in he
turned and gave us such a look!

“Oh, it’s you!” he said, as if he’d expected something terrible to come
in the door.  And then, as Davidson introduced us, he nodded in an
offhand sort of way.  He was the only man I’ve ever called beautiful.
Beautiful was the only word to describe him.  “Golden lads,”—I once heard
an actor spout about them at a play, and now, when I remember that
expression, I think of Cartwright.  He was a golden lad, for all his
haunted, unhappy face.

“I’ve a piano at home that wants looking after,” he says to me after a
moment.  “Rather a large job, but if you are willing to go back with me
in the morning I’ll make it worth your while.”

“If it isn’t too far away,” I said.  “I’m only stopping here while the
Silvershell is in port.”

“Not so far,” says Cartwright.  “I could have you back here in three or
four days.  And I’ll make it worth your while.”  In spite of his
off-handedness, it was plain he was keen on having me come.

Of course I said I’d go, and then Cartwright nodded and said something
about my being at the wharf about five, and left us, just like that.

“But he never told me what was needed for the piano,” I said to Davidson.

“About everything, I fancy,” Davidson answers gruffly.  “It hasn’t been
touched in ten years.”

“Ten years!” I said.  “He’s no business having a piano if he cares no
more for it than that.”

“He cared too much for it, perhaps,” Davidson said in a peculiar tone.
He took out his pipe and fussed with it, then he went on.  “Perhaps I
ought to tell you.  He hasn’t touched the piano since the night his wife
drowned herself. . . .  I was there at the time.  Cartwright and
Charlotte had been singing together.”

“Was Charlotte his wife?”

“His cousin, Sir John Brooke’s daughter.  Sir John is my chief, you know.
They are expected back from England almost any day now.”

Davidson’s face had gone quite red at the mention of the girl’s name, and
all at once I guessed why he had been so keen about having his piano in
shape.  I wondered if it was for this Charlotte’s sake that Cartwright,
too, was preparing.

“Cartwright’s wife was the daughter of old Miakela, the native chief,”
was the surprising information Davidson offered me next.  “She had been
educated at a convent in Manila, and she was very beautiful in a cold,
foreign way.  I think, though, it was her voice that first attracted
Cartwright.  It was perfect; it made other quite nice voices sound coarse
and shrill.  Cartwright had come out to Taku to visit his uncle, and he
met the girl here the evening she came back from Manila.  The next day he
married her—rode over the mountains to ask her father’s permission.  That
old savage—fancy!  There was a huge row with Sir John, and Cartwright
took the girl and went to live on a little atoll about forty miles from
here. . . .  Miss Charlotte hadn’t come out from school in England then.
She came back the next year. . .  That’s how it happened.”

As a matter of fact he really hadn’t told me how it happened at all, but
he began to talk of other things, and after a bit I said good-night, and
went back to tell Molly about my new job.

I wish you could have seen the lagoon the next morning when I went down
to meet Cartwright.  The old coral wharf was flushed with pink that
shaded into mauve below the water, and the mauve went amethyst, and then
violet blue out where the Silvershell slept at her anchor in the middle
of the lagoon.  And still!  Not a ripple anywhere until a high-prowed
native canoe slipped out from a pool of shadow under the palms along the
shore, cutting through the glassy water like a boat in a dream.  As she
neared the wharf the sun jumped up from the sea, and Cartwright, all in
white, stood up in the stern and shaded his eyes with his hand.  He was a
picture, his haunted beauty above the bronzed backs of the rowers.

He apologized for bringing me out so early, then seemed to forget all
about me and sat silent, his eyes on the horizon line.  Not that I
minded.  I wanted to be let alone, so I could look about me as we slipped
along over a sea that seemed to have no end.

Once outside the lagoon, the men bent to their paddles with a will,
breaking into a melody that reminded me of some hymn tune.  They gave it
a foreign twist by ending each line on the octave.

“Wonderful pitch!” I said.

“What’s that?” asked Cartwright, jerking his head round.  I repeated what
I’d said.  He glared at me wildly, then seemed to pull himself together,
and muttered some sort of reply.

“Well, if a simple speech has that effect on you, my lad, I’ll sit
silent,” I said to myself, and silent I did sit the rest of the trip.

About the middle of the morning a bunch of what looked like feather
clusters rose out of the sea in front of us.  Pretty soon I could see a
pinky ridge below, then a line of white.  The men put up a brown sail,
and in another hour we slid between two lines of breakers into the
tiniest lagoon I ever saw, lying in the arms of a crescent-shaped atoll.
The whole thing could not have been more than four or five miles long and
fifty feet high at the ridge.  There was a group of native huts on the
beach and a rambling house above, set in a grove of breadfruit and citron
and scarlet flame trees.  The rest of the island was bare except for a
brush of pandanus along the crest and a group of coconut palms on the
point, their trunks leaning seaward, as if they were looking for
something on the horizon.  A lonely spot, yet with a sharp, gemlike
beauty of its own.

“Won’t you come up and rest a bit?” Cartwright asked.  “You had an early
start this morning.”

I said I’d rather go right to work.  I hadn’t forgotten the way he glared
at me in the boat, and I wasn’t going to put myself in the way of another
look like that.

“Right, then; I’ll show you the piano,” he says.  But he didn’t move,
only stood staring at me with the look of a small boy that had got
himself into some trouble, and was wondering if I could help him out.

Suddenly he started off almost on a run, and led me around the shore to
the point below the coconut palms, where a pavilion stood in a thick
clump of trees.  The place looked as if it hadn’t been visited for years.
The path was choked with undergrowth, and the doorway was almost hidden
by twisted ropes of lianas, growing down serpent fashion from the
branches overhead.

“A sweet place to keep a piano,” I thought to myself.  I could hardly
believe it was the piano he was bringing me to.  But as we reached the
door I saw it in its wrapping of tarpaulin, half hid under forest rubbish
that had filtered through the broken thatch of the roof.  As I lifted one
corner of the cover, something jumped up with a rush of wings and went
screaming past my head.  It gave me a proper fright.

“Just a parrot,” Cartwright said.  “You’ve upset her nest, you see.  Be
careful when you lift the lid.  There may be centipedes inside.”

“If you’ll clear the live stock off the outside, I’ll see to the inside,”
I said.  “I should think a cheaper piano would have done the parrots to
nest in, sir.

“It seems odd to you,” he said meekly, wrinkling his forehead a little.
“I wish I could explain—”

He caught himself up, and I answered never a word, but began examining
the piano.  It was a Broadwood grand, but the state it was in!  I’d hard
work not to give him a further piece of my mind.

For three days I worked at the poor thing.  Hammers eaten off by the
white ants, wires that the sea rust had done for, cracked keys, nothing
really in shape but the sounding board.  And all the time I was working
the parrots kept screaming over my head, the trades blew through the torn
thatch of palms, the surf beat on the pink and purple reefs beyond the
point, and I kept thinking what a queer start it all was and how much I’d
have to tell Molly when I got back.

Now and again Cartwright would stop a few minutes in the doorway and make
jerky conversation, eyeing the piano like a starving man the while.  He
stopped quite a time the third morning.  I was busy tuning and hadn’t
much to say, but gradually he came nearer.

“How’s it coming on?” he asked.

“All in shape but one string,” I said.  “Try the tone of it, sir.”

“I mustn’t touch it, I mustn’t touch it,” he says to himself, but all the
time he was coming closer, as if something was pulling him on.  He put
out his hand and struck B flat octave.

“The upper B is mute!” he cries.

I explained that the string had broken twice, and I hadn’t got around to
putting another in.

“Broken!” he says wildly.  “She’s not going to have it there.  And now
I’ll not get the sound out of my head again!”

I suppose he saw something in my face that made him recollect himself.
It was pitiful to see him pull himself together.

“Do your best with it, old chap,” he says hurriedly.  “I’m depending on
you.  My uncle and cousin are to be back from England soon.  I—I want
everything right when my cousin Charlotte comes.”

He spoke the girl’s name as if it were a charm.

That evening, as we were smoking, he began to talk of his cousin again.
She’d stayed with his people while she was going to school, he told me,
and she and Cartwright had been great friends.

“She was comforting,” he said.  “She made one feel happy and—and normal.”
Then he said, in a tone that sounded as if he expected me to contradict
him: “She had a good ear for music, too.  Not perfect, of course. . . .
Did you ever know any one with an ear so perfect that only the eighth
interval satisfied them?”

“One or two,” I said, wondering what he was driving at now.  “They were
cranks, though.  One should love music in reason, in my opinion.”

“In reason, that’s it,” Cartwright repeated in a low tone.  “My cousin
loved it in reason.  I couldn’t.  Perfection—I was tortured with the
idea.”

I waited, and after a little he went on.

“I’ve never been able to care for things in reason.  I wanted perfection.
Music, love, I longed to lose myself in them, but couldn’t, because
always something jarred, and then I grew cold.  My cousin Charlotte used
to laugh at me.  She had a sweet voice.  Not perfect, though, and
sometimes it would irritate me to madness to hear the flaws that most
people didn’t even notice.  And yet even at sixteen Charlotte was dearer
to me than any other creature on earth.

“Then I came out to Taku, and I met Lulukuila.  She was beautiful beyond
anything I had ever dreamed.  She made other women look clumsy beside
her.  She stayed overnight at my uncle’s, and next day an escort came
from the old chief, her father—six savages in pandanus kilts and
necklaces.  Those creatures came to take the very flower of womanhood
back to uncivilized surroundings.  I can’t tell you how horrible it
seemed to me.  And so I married her.”

Cartwright jumped up, and began walking up and down.  After a while he
switched off on another tack.

“Her voice was as perfect as her face,” he said, “and her sense of pitch
was absolute.  Those first days we used to go out to the point where the
pavilion stands, and sit looking out over the reefs, and I thought I’d
found happiness at last.  I liked to hear her answer a certain note that
the sea sounds in the reefs yonder when the tide is right.  She would
take up the note an octave higher, and it was thrilling, the perfection
of her pitch.  I sent home for the piano, imagining that it would be a
bond between us.  I thought I’d teach her the songs Charlotte and I used
to sing together.

“But she hated the piano,” Cartwright brought out in a muffled voice.  “I
suppose I was rather a fool over it at first.  I was so hungry for
familiar music.  Lulukuila couldn’t bear the music I’d grown up with.  It
brought out alien traits in her, gusts of passion, fits of moodiness.
Octaves, those she’d listen to.  Once when I filled in an octave she
jumped up and caught my hands.  I remember yet how she looked.

“‘You are drawn by the many voices,’ she said.  ‘There should, be only
one for you.’

“She went off to the pavilion then, and when I went to find her she was
singing, following that sound the surf made on the reefs.  The perfection
of her pitch made me shiver.  I began to hate it then.  I saw that
Lulukuila was going to destroy my pleasure in the music I had loved.  She
was robbing me—”

I don’t believe Cartwright was talking to any one in particular by this
time.  His voice dropped, and I missed a lot till I heard him mention his
cousin.  He stopped then, and looked at me for the first time.

“My uncle threw me over when I married Lulukuila,” he said, “but when my
cousin Charlotte came out from England she made her father come over with
her.  She brought Davidson too—good sort, Davidson.

“I must have been homesick, for the sight of them seemed to wake me from
a nightmare.  I remember we were very jolly at dinner.  Afterward
Charlotte and I sang.  I was thinking how good it was to hear the music
of home again, when I caught sight of Lulukuila’s face in a shaft of
light that reached out to where the rest were sitting.  Her face was
white, and her teeth were biting her lip.

“Charlotte stopped playing just then, and asked me why I had broken into
the octave.  The chord, she said, was so much prettier.  I couldn’t tell
her that it was Lulukuila’s interval haunting me.  I hadn’t even known I
was singing an octave,” Cartwright added with a sudden laugh.  Then he
went on.

“We didn’t sing any more, but went out to join the others.  Lulukuila
wasn’t there.  I was just asking Davidson where she had gone, when I
heard a splash down by the lagoon.  All in a flash I remembered how her
face had looked in the lamplight, and I started off down the path. . . .
I got there too late.”

After a while he began muttering in a disconnected sort of way.  “She had
her way.  I’ve never touched the piano since.  Surely I have the right
now, though, now Charlotte’s coming back—a little happiness.”

“That’s the thing to think of now, sir,” I says, wondering if I should
call his man or leave him to talk himself out.  “You weren’t to blame for
what happened.  Think of your cousin now.”

“My cousin, yes,” Cartwright murmured.  He pulled himself up with a sharp
breath.

“I’m afraid I’ve been talking an uncommon lot,” he said in his ordinary
tone.  “It’s late.  You must be wanting to turn in.”

We commented on the sultriness of the night as we parted.  The stars were
hidden in a sort of murk, and the air had grown so still that the beetles
bumping against the banana leaves overhead startled one like the crack of
artillery.

Inside I found Simmons, Cartwright’s servant, tapping the barometer.

“It’s fallen uncommonly fast,” Simmons said to me.  “Just as it did
before the hurricane five years ago.

“The hurricane!” I said.  “Did it do much damage?”

“Not to speak of,” Simmons said.  “Some of the native huts were swept
away when the water backed up into the lagoon, but the people had time to
get up here.  There’s no saying what might have happened if the water had
come up two feet higher.”

“I hope there isn’t going to be a hurricane this time,” I said, thinking
of Molly.

“I hope so, I’m sure,” says Simmons, in an undertaker’s voice.

It took more than a falling barometer to put me off sleep those days, and
I was off sounder than usual that night.  I waked at last in a bedlam of
sound, wailing of wind, cracking of branches, and the thunder of surf
from the barrier reef.

“It’s the hurricane that owl Simmons was wishing on us,” I thought.  I
struck a match to find my clothes, but a gust of wind puffed it out.  I
was just trying for the third time, when Simmons came in, carrying one of
the two ship’s lanterns Cartwright kept by the outer door.

“Do you know where Mr. Cartwright is?” Simmons says.

“I?  No.  Isn’t he in bed?”

Simmons shook his head.  “I’m afraid he’s gone down to the pavilion.  He
began to worry about the piano.  I see the other lantern’s gone.  I must
go after him.”

“I’ll come with you, then,” I said.  “Just hold the light while I find my
clothes.”

Ordinarily that Yorkshire face of Simmons had no more expression than a
granite slab, but he looked human enough now.  If he cared for any
earthly creature it was Cartwright.  I’d not been in the house three days
without finding that out.

I had a start as we passed through the big room, for the floor was
covered with figures stretched out like corpses on the mats.  “From the
huts on the beach,” Simmons explained.  “That’s what makes me think it’s
going to be a bad storm.”

He braced himself to hold the door open for me, and added in a sudden
shout as the roar of the storm came about us: “A little harder than last
time, and the pavilion would go.”

The path to the pavilion ran just above the coral shingle along the foot
of the ridge.  Ordinarily it was ten feet above high tide, but as we
struggled on, hugging the bank to keep from being blown flat by the wind,
I could catch a glimpse of creaming, sullen-looking water not two yards
away.  Slipping up quietly it was, and the soundlessness of its rising
was more uncanny than all the bustle and roar on the reefs outside.

We had a struggle to get on, and Simmons hung on to me to keep me from
being blown into the lagoon.  I began to wish I hadn’t come, and I
thought of the peaceful mission house in Taku and of Molly.

“Mr. Cartwright’s there,” Simmons says suddenly in my ear.  “I see his
light.  Hang tight.  The wind’s worse out here.”

And it was.  An awful clap came, driving us to our knees.  I saw a huge
bulk crash down between us and the pavilion.  The light disappeared.

“The breadfruit tree,” said Simmons, in a hoarse voice.  He clawed his
way over the fallen branches and I managed to follow, shivering to think
of what a misstep would do for me.  At last we made out Cartwright
struggling in the wreckage brought down by the fallen tree.

“You, Simmons?” he cried.  “Quick!  Give a hand with this piano.  We must
get it to higher ground.”

His voice sounded sane enough, but it was the speech of a crazy man.  The
only path up the ridge was a mere goat trail, fully exposed to the wind.
And Cartwright was suggesting our carrying the piano up that!  Simmons
jerked his lantern up to Cartwright’s face.  There was wildness with a
vengeance.  But my word!  How beautiful he looked with his fair, tossed
hair, and his eyes purple black with excitement.

“It’s you we’ve come for, sir,” Simmons says to him.  “The water’s
backing up fast.  There’s no time to lose.”

“We must save the piano first,” Cartwright says insistently.  A lull had
fallen, and his voice sounded very clear.  Simmons made a desperate
gesture.

“It’s gathering for worse,” he muttered.  I took a hand.

“If that wind comes up again we’ll have to scramble to save our skins,” I
shouted.  “It isn’t humanly possible for us to move the piano.  Come,
sir, while there’s time!”

“And desert it again?” he asks with a strange little smile.  “You’re
asking too much of me, old chap.  What about Charlotte?”

“She won’t care a hang about the piano!”  I could have stamped my foot at
him.  “It’s you she’ll be worrying about.  Don’t be an ass.”  That shows
how beyond myself I was, that I could speak to him that way.  A long,
ominous roll shook the silence.

“It’s the surf coming over the reefs,” Simmons says in a hushed voice.

“By Jove, you’re right!” Cartwright exclaims, throwing back his head.
His voice was boyish and energetic.  “Come on, we must make a dash for
it.”  And jerking up the lantern he fairly herded us through the tangle
to the cliff.

There the gale broke loose on us again.  We lay flat on our faces,
clinging for dear life to the stems of the stout little pandanus palms.
It was like a beast, that wind.  It sucked the breath from our mouths, it
pounded us and shrieked at us and mocked us till we were half dead from
the sheer, cruel force of it.  We could scarcely think.  Once I had a
vision of those huddled figures on the mats, and wondered if the house
was still standing, and once I thought of Molly, and hoped she was saying
a prayer for me.  Then all thought was wiped out as, with a shaking of
the very cliff, the surf came racing into the lagoon, sending the spray
up fifty feet, and drenching us where we lay.

“The piano!” Cartwright shouted, struggling to get up.  Simmons hauled
him down, crying to him that it was no use to think of the piano.
Cartwright staved quiet a moment till another of those uncanny silences
fell.

“Now we can go down,” Cartwright said pleadingly.  “I can’t lose my
chance of happiness again.  The piano—”

The words died on his lips.  Through the thunder of the surf came a
single long-drawn note, clear and unearthly sweet.

“B flat,” I said, scarcely knowing that I spoke.  Cartwright gave a wild
laugh.

“You hear it?  The voice from the reefs.  Why doesn’t Lulukuila answer?”

Well, I can only tell you what happened next, and you may believe it or
not.  From below us there came another note, making a perfect octave.
Never before or since have I heard anything so exquisite or so horrible.
Then there was a hideous discord—and silence.

“Lulukuila!” Cartwright cried.  “She is taking it from me—my only chance
of happiness—”

And before we could stop him he was gone.

We tried to follow him, but the wind caught us again at the edge of the
ridge.  I’d have been over and lost if it hadn’t been for Simmons.  I
think I must have fainted from the shock of it.  There’s a blank about
there, though the rest of the night seemed centuries long.

The wind stopped at sunrise, and we made our way home along the ridge,
looking down on a beach swept clean of every human mark, pavilion, grove,
native huts and all.  The house was still standing, but in a wreck of
fallen branches and torn lianas.  Scared servants and ashen-faced women
and children came out to meet us, and began asking for their master.
Simmons, granite faced as ever, did not answer them, but pushed on down
to the beach.

Cartwright had come home ahead of us.  He was lying on the shore,
unscarred except for a faint streak of blue across one temple.  He looked
beautiful as some sleeping creature of the sea.  The wreck of the piano
was just above him.  Simmons’ composure gave way when he saw that.

“You’ve broken the thing he loved, and you’ve killed him, too.  I hope
you’re satisfied at last!” he snarled, shaking his fist at the lagoon.  I
wondered if he was talking to Lulukuila.  It was a terrifying
outburst—from a man like Simmons.

Next morning they came over from Taku to look for us.  The sea was
smiling as ever, and the little launch came dancing over the rose and
amethyst water as if there never had been a storm to ruffle it.  I caught
sight of Molly first, then I noticed another woman, sitting between her
and Davidson.  As she leaned forward to search the shore I was startled
with the likeness of her face to Cartwright’s.  Yet there was a
difference.  Her beauty was gracious and human, and—well, comfortable is
the only word I can think of for it.

As they came near the beach she saw just Simmons and me and the staring
natives.  She cried out sharply and swayed a little.  I saw Davidson put
his arm out as if he would shield her from a blow.  Faithful fellow,
Davidson, and he got his reward at last.

It was Cartwright’s Charlotte, and Cartwright was not there to meet her.
Lulukuila had seen to that.

                                               _Margaret Adelaide Wilson_.



THE ARCHBISHOP OF RHEIMS


It was the Feast of the Assumption, and the archbishop, as he left his
palace and stepped into the summer sunlight, breathed a prayer of
thanksgiving for the brilliance that glowed about him.  For, during the
mass which was about to be celebrated in the great cathedral, the passion
of his life, one of the most impressive moments occurred when the sun
shot its rays with pure and dazzling radiance for the first time into the
middle of the apse.  With exact calculation the architect had arranged
that this took place on the fête day of St. Remi, the patron saint of
Rheims, and when the day was overcast or rain obscured the sun it seemed
to the archbishop that the Almighty was expressing His displeasure of
some negligence or wrongful act on the part of the guardian of this, to
him, most precious and wonderful trust in the world.

But today the sun’s effulgence surpassed in warmth and splendor that of
any August fifteenth in the archbishop’s memory, and brought into his
heart an intense calm and peace which even the knowledge that German guns
were despoiling Belgium, not many leagues away, could not entirely
dispel.  Nevertheless, the remembrance cast a shadow over the
spirituality of his broad brow, and his lips moved in silent supplication
for the suffering inhabitants, and that the onward march of the invaders
would be stayed before their presence desecrated the sacred soil of
France.

In rapt contemplation he stood, kindliness and benevolence radiating from
his mild face, crowned with its silver halo of hair.  His large, gentle
eyes wandered over the massive pile raising its lofty steeples in
eloquent testimony to the omnipotence of God; its slender spires, pointed
portals, and lancet windows indicating the heights to which the thoughts
and lives of men must reach before perfection can be attained.

When the archbishop emerged from the sacristy at the end of the long
procession of choir, acolytes and coped priests, and entered the
cathedral, the voice of the mighty organ was rolling through the edifice
in rushing waves of melody, which ebbed and flowed in and out among the
great columns in a wealth of harmonics, whose exquisite beauty, as they
broke around him, caused a band to tighten about the old man’s throat.

The crossing was filled with a throng of devout worshippers whose faces
wore a look of expectancy, for France, la belle France, was threatened by
a danger greater than even the oldest among them could recall.  War had
always been a horror, but today it transcended, in the vague reports that
reached them from stricken Belgium, the worst the most imaginative of
them could conceive, and the thought haunted them, in spite of their
faith that the Blessed Virgin would not permit such a calamity to befall
France, that notwithstanding their entreaties, the hand of the Hun might
descend on her as it had on her equally innocent and unprovoking
neighbor.

The procession wound slowly to its place in the choir, and the organ
broke into the great, swelling chords of Gounod’s mass, Mors et Vita.
The music, inspired by the sublime grandeur of the sanctuary where it had
partly been composed, proclaimed an unshakable faith in the majesty and
power of the Almighty, whose protecting arm stands between His children
and harm.  Gradually the tense look of alarm on the faces of the
congregation changed to the serenity of souls in the presence of God.

The organ’s voice subsided to a breath, wafted in and out among the
incense-filled recesses of the cathedral like the rustling of angels’
wings, and the deep-toned peal of the great cathedral bell rang through
the tense stillness.  All at once a shaft of pure radiance shot into the
center of the apse from the Angel’s Spire.  Straight as a dart it
descended until it found the jeweled arms of the cross.  Here it rested,
throwing out myriad rays of effulgence, as if through them the Spirit of
the Founder of their faith was renewing His promises of salvation to His
flock.

A breathless hush rested on the congregation until, in an ecstasy of
triumph, the organ burst once more into a pæan of praise.  The procession
receded into the remote spaces of the cathedral, and the worshippers
passed out into the sunlit square.  As they walked by the statue of Joan
of Arc, who sits on her charger before the cathedral, many paused and
spoke in low, reverent tones of the sacrifice she had made for France,
and wondered if the same spirit of loyalty would spring into life if the
land of their adoration stood in need of defense.

Through the great western rose window of the cathedral the sun was
casting quivering masses of rubies, topazes, emeralds, sapphires and
amethysts to the floor below, where they lay in gorgeous profusion,
melting one into the other in extravagant richness of beauty.

An old man stood in contemplation of the splendor of that mighty work of
the ages which for a century and a half had been the especial care of his
forefathers, and to which end, with reverent preparation, each succeeding
generation of his family had been trained.  To the old _vitrier_ the
windows in the sacred structure were not only a holy trust, but a prized
heritage, each separate particle to be watched and studied, as a mother
guards its offspring from possible injury, and passed on to posterity in
as perfect a condition as it was received.

So deep was his absorption in the magnificence of the spectacle before
him that he did not notice the approaching step of the archbishop.  The
ecclesiastic laid his hand on Monneuze’s shoulder.

“Exquisite, is it not, _mon vieux_?” he asked in his resonant voice.  “I
have never seen the colors more superb than they are this afternoon.”

The old glass-maker started, and turned toward him.  The expression of
ecstatic wonder still lingered on his lined face, from which, behind his
heavy glasses, peered eyes round and childlike in their unquestioning
trust.

“The beauty of it passes belief, Monseigneur,” he murmured fervently.
“Oh, that I knew the art of reproducing those marvelous colors!  It is
the sorrow of my life that, try as I may, I can never duplicate the
depth, the richness—” he shook his head dejectedly, and fixed his eyes
once more on the flaming window.

“Ah, Jean,” answered the archbishop a little sadly.  “So it is with all
of us; no matter how hard we strive, we never reach the goal to which we
are pressing.  Our attainments are ever a disappointment to us.  We can
only labor on, and live in the hope that on the Last Day, when we see our
endeavors through the eyes of the Blessed Redeemer, we may find that His
estimate of them, graded on the knowledge of our limitations, will be
higher than ours.  It may be that our efforts and the sincerity of our
motives will be judged instead of the results we were able to achieve.
We must remember that no man can do bigger things than his capacity
allows.”

The _vitrier_ did not reply.  His eyes wavered from the magnificence
above him to the spiritualized countenance at his side.  It surprised him
that the archbishop, renowned alike for his piety and good works, should
speak so slightingly of his life.

The ecclesiastic had turned and was gazing at the representation of the
Almighty on the great rose window of the south transept.  Something of
the sublimity of the conception and execution of the masterpiece was
reflected on his face, over which still hovered an expression of
humility.  His eyes left the window and swept up the vast stretches of
the cathedral, over mighty pillars, great misty aisles, glorious choir,
its beauty half shrouded in the encroaching shadows, until they reached
the very penetralia of the Lady Chapel.

“Ah, Jean,” he went on in a deep, vibrant voice, “great is God’s goodness
that He has seen fit to confide this marvelous structure to our keeping.
May we so live that, when we are called to give an accounting of our
stewardship, we may hear the wondrous words: ‘Well done, good and
faithful servant!’”

The lips of the aged _vitrier_ moved in a murmured “Amen,” and they
watched in silence the sun, as it threw its dying rays through the window
to their feet.  They fell in a great splash of red, like blood, on the
pavement, and a shudder shook the archbishop’s frame.  He passed his hand
over his forehead, and the shadow that had clouded his face in the
morning settled once more on it.  Bidding the old glass-painter good
night, he moved up the dusky nave.

Days and weeks slipped by, and the gray waves of the invaders rolled
nearer to Rheims.  Notwithstanding the heroic, almost superhuman, efforts
of her sons, the vandals swept across her borders into France, ravishing,
desecrating, destroying in a frenzy of frightfulness so terrible that the
world, shocked beyond belief, stood aghast and incredulous at the reports
that reached it.

The archbishop of Rheims, with others who believed that there was good in
the worst of men, at first resolutely declined to credit the rumors that
reached him.  But when, at last, driven before the attacking force, the
refugees, with terror-stricken faces, came breathlessly into the city,
the mothers clutching their babies to their breasts, with little tots
scarce able to toddle clinging to their skirts and, throwing themselves
on his mercy, recounted with white lips, in a dull monotone, the horrors
that had befallen them and theirs, the hopeful trust in the old priest’s
face turned into a crushed look of sadness as the knowledge came home to
him that his faith in man was an illusion of which, at the end of his
life, he was to be bereaved.

He lent such aid as lay in his power to the stricken peasants, and when
the wounded, friend and foe, were brought in and, overflowing hospital
and private dwelling, still clamored for succor, he threw open the great
sanctuary to the Germans with the thought that here they would at least
be safe from the shells that were beginning to fall on the outlying
districts of the city.

Then one night, when the foreboding chill of autumn had replaced summer’s
golden warmth, the archbishop was awakened by a noise, apparently in his
bedroom, which shook the house to its foundations.  He rose hurriedly
and, going to the window, saw that the east was ablaze with light.
Although the dawn was approaching, he realized that the refulgence that
flared across the horizon was man-made, for the rumble of mighty guns
which, when he had retired the night before, had been louder and more
resonant than before, had risen to a threatening roar that forced a
sickening sense of impotence upon him.

Startled by the sudden proximity of the enemy, the archbishop dressed
hurriedly and made his way to the Square, already half filled with
people.  An old woman approached him and, with blanched face, asked
whether he thought the city would be shelled and destroyed, as were the
Belgian towns.  He shook his head despairingly, and his lips framed the
words:

“God forbid!”

As she turned away he prayed fervently that, even though the pillaging
hordes might, in their fury against the inhabitants, devastate the city,
the fact that they claimed the same God as their Savior to whose glory
the cathedral had been erected would prove its safeguard and protection.
But, even as he prayed, a great bomb blazed a trail through the gray
light, and hurled itself on the roof of the sacred edifice.  It exploded
with concentrated fury, tearing off great pieces of the roof and casting
them at his feet.

“They’ve found the range!” excitedly exclaimed a man who stood near the
archbishop.  “Can it be possible that they intend to destroy the
cathedral?”

The archbishop was staring with incredulous eyes at the gaping wound the
shot had made.

“No,” he declared firmly, without removing his eyes.  “It is not
possible.  This injury is an unfortunate mistake.  Sacred edifices are
protected by human and moral laws, and, besides, the Cathedral of Rheims,
because of its perfection, belongs to all time and all peoples.  No one
destroys his own heritage.”

Nevertheless, the remembrance of the destruction of Louvain and the
desecration of many churches by the Germans since their treacherous
entrance into Belgium, when they cast aside men’s faith in their honor,
seared itself across his mind.  Their acts had disproved their vaunted
belief in God which, had it existed, would have shown itself in a
reverent solicitude for His dwelling place.

The words had hardly left his lips when a shower of explosives fell on
and about the massive structure, hewing out huge lumps of the masonry,
which descended in a deluge of stone on the roofs of the adjacent houses.

A glare of light flared behind the great rose-window, throwing for the
last time a blaze of glory into the horror-stricken faces below; then it
burst into a thousand fragments that shivered to pieces on the pavement
of the Square.

Surrounded by the gleaming bits of imprisoned sunshine, Jean Monneuze
gazed with wide, unbelieving eyes at the yawning space in the façade.
The thought took shape in his mind that this act of profanation could not
be true, that it must be some hideous nightmare at which he would scoff
in the morning, and he prayed aloud that the awakening would be soon,
that he might be relieved of the torture he was undergoing.  A voice at
his elbow roused him.

“May God curse the Kaiser, and the rest of his breed, for this
sacrilege!”

The old _vitrier_ turned quickly, the fury of a mother for her ravished
young in his working face.  “Amen!” he exclaimed harshly.

A group of people near him parted, and out of it Jean saw the archbishop
slowly advance.  The look of intense suffering on his face had driven
away the peace that formerly rested there, but his countenance was
untinged by venom or desire for revenge.  His sunken eyes met the
glass-maker’s, and Jean, a sob clutching at his throat, fell on his knees
and began gathering up the gems of shattered glass that lay at his feet.
He rose as the archbishop reached him, and held out the fragments to him.
For a moment they gazed into each other’s eyes without speaking, then a
wistful little smile flitted across the archbishop’s face.

“The Lord hath given—the Lord hath taken away.”  There was a pause while
he waited for the response; but the old _vitrier’s_ chin had sunk on his
breast, and his eyes, swimming with tears, were fastened on the gleaming
bits of glass.  Once more the archbishop’s voice fell on his ears:

“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  There was an accent of surprised
reproach in the patient tones, but only pity shone on the gentle
countenance as he noted the quivering face of the old man who, turning
abruptly away, disappeared into the crowd.

A chorus of voices rose shrilly above the shrieking of the shells:

“The roof is on fire!  It’s burning!”

The words galvanized the archbishop into action.

“The wounded!” he exclaimed.  “They will perish if they remain where they
are!”

“Let ’em!” retorted a thick-set _ouvrier_.  He thrust his hands deep into
the pockets of his trousers.  “They deserve to die, and they’re not fit
to live!”  He turned brusquely away, and stared with sullen eyes at the
smoking roof from which jets of flame were spurting.

A look of anguish crept over the archbishop’s face.  Could it be that his
flock had caught so little of the spirit of his teaching that, when it
was put to the test, it collapsed as the mighty edifice was crumbling
under the demolishing shells?  If this were so, it explained the
destruction of the cathedral as the retribution for the failure of his
ministry.  His life work, as well as his life trust, was disintegrating
before his eyes.  Even Jean Monneuze, the spirituality of whose life, in
daily contact with the inspiring sanctuary they both adored, had faltered
under the supreme test, and if Jean, for whom he would have vouched under
all circumstances, would succumb, how could he expect that the others,
with so incomparably less sustaining spiritual strength in their lives,
would respond to the call.  The bitterness of Gethsemane fell on him, and
his face, lighted by the glare from the burning structure, was drawn with
pain.

A shell hurtled through the air, and fell against the portal.  Rending
from its place the head of the Angel with the Smile, it flung it into the
Square.  Angry mutterings rose from the crowd as the _ouvrier_ picked up
the head and held it aloft for every one to see.

The archbishop stepped up on the base of the pedestal of the statue to
the Maid of Orleans.  He raised his hand impressively.

“My children,” he began in a voice tremulous with emotion.  “The Master
admonishes us to love our enemies, to do good to them that hate us, to
pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us.  If we do good
only to those who love us, how much better are we than the heathen?  Did
you not see that, despite its destruction, the Angel of Rheims smiled
on?”  He spread out his arms in an agony of entreaty.  “Oh my children,”
he pleaded, “do not fail me now!”

The rays of the rising sun shone on his face and illumined it with
unearthly radiance.  The people stood spellbound before him.

Once more he raised his hand and, pointing to the burning cathedral,
cried in a resonant voice that rang like a clarion:

“The wounded!  Who helps me rescue them?”

Still that tense silence hung over the motionless throng which the
crackling of the flames, and the moaning and singing of death as it
whistled through the air, only served to accentuate.

The old _vitrier_ elbowed his way through the crowd and, laying his hand
on the base of the statue, said in a clear, loud voice:

“Monseigneur, I will assist.”

In the uncertain light the two old men stood scanning the quivering,
upturned faces.  Then a sudden change swept over the mass.

“_Au secours_!  _Au secours_!”  The voice of the crowd rose as from one
man in a cry, increasing in volume with each repetition until, in the
archbishop’s ears, it sounded like a shout of victory.  The men turned,
and surged toward the entrance of the cathedral.

The archbishop’s face went white, and he grasped the spurred foot of the
Maid for support.  He closed his eyes, and his lips moved spasmodically.
Then they parted in a smile of such celestial beauty that the old
_vitrier_, standing at his feet, averted his eye as though unable to bear
the sight.

The large central door of the cathedral swung open, and four men,
carrying a litter on which lay a gray, motionless form, emerged.  They
were followed by others in what seemed an endless procession, gently
bearing their burdens through the showers of flying pieces of granite
statuary and structure stone which the shells were cleaving from the
façade.

The flames that were devouring the roof rose in a dull roar; a great bomb
crashed through the hallowed walls, and fell on the palace, where it
exploded with terrific force.

The archbishop looked silently at the ruin of his home, then he
concentrated his attention on the stream of wounded still flowing from
the mutilated pile, and directed and guided the movements of the
rescuers.  When the last of the sufferers had been removed to a place of
safety, he stepped down from the pedestal and, entering a little house on
the other side of the Square, mounted the stairs until he reached a small
room which faced the east.

He entered and, softly closing the door, walked to the window, from which
the glass had fallen.  Kneeling down in the chill morning air he gazed
out at the blackened, smoking husk, his soul in his eyes, as one kneels
by the bedside of all that life holds dear, waiting with bated breath for
the final dissolution of soul from body with the dull knowledge that,
with the passing of that spirit, the light of the world is extinguished.

Still he watches, noting day by day the destruction by wanton shells of
one of man’s most glorious tributes to God, ever with the patient look of
suffering on his face, as though the prayer from ceaseless repetition had
crystallized on his brain:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

                                                         _Emily W. Scott_.



THE TRAWNBEIGHS


The Trawnbeighs were the sort of people who “dressed for dinner” even
when, as sometimes happened, they had no dinner in the house to dress
for.  It is perhaps unnecessary to add that the Trawnbeighs were English.
Indeed, on looking back, I often feel that to my first apparently
flippant statement it is unnecessary to add anything.  For to one who
knew Mr. and Mrs. Trawnbeigh, Edwina, Violet, Maud and Cyril, it was the
first and last word on them; their alpha and omega, together with all
that went between.  Not that the statement is flippant, far from it.
There is in it a seriousness, a profundity, an immense philosophic
import.  At times it has almost moved me to lift my hat, very much as one
does for reason of state, or religion, or death.

This, let me hasten to explain, is not at all the way I feel when I put
on evening clothes myself, which I do at least twice out of my every
three hundred and sixty-five opportunities.  No born American could feel
that way about his own dress coat.  He sometimes thinks he does; he
often—and isn’t it boresome?—pretends he does.  But he really doesn’t.
As a matter of unimportant fact, the born American may have “dressed”
every evening of his grown up life.  But if he found himself on an
isolated, played out Mexican coffee and vanilla _finca_, with a wife,
four children, a tiled roof that leaked whenever there was a norther, an
unveiled _sala_, through the bamboo partitions of which a cold, wet wind
howled sometimes for a week at a time, with no money, no capacity for
making any, no prospects and no cook—under these depressing circumstances
it is impossible to conceive of an American dressing for dinner every
night at a quarter before seven in any spirit but one of ghastly humor.

With the Trawnbeighs’ performance of this sacred rite, however, irony and
humor had nothing to do.  The Trawnbeighs had a robust sense of fun (so,
I feel sure, have pumpkins and turnips and the larger varieties of the
nutritious potato family), but humor, when they didn’t recognize it,
bewildered them, and it always struck them as just a trifle underbred,
when they did.

Trawnbeigh had come over to Mexico—“come out from England,” he would have
expressed it—as a kind of secretary to his cousin, Sir Somebody
Something, who was building a harbor or a railway or a canal (I don’t
believe Trawnbeigh himself ever knew just what it was) for a British
company down in the hot country.

Mrs. Trawnbeigh, with her young, was to follow on the next steamer a
month later; and as she was in mid-ocean when Sir Somebody suddenly died
of yellow fever, she did not learn of this inopportune event until it was
too late to turn back.  Still, I doubt whether she would have turned back
if she could.  For, as Trawnbeigh once explained to me, at a time when
they literally hadn’t enough to eat (a hailstorm had not only destroyed
his coffee crop but had frozen the roots of most of his trees, and the
price of vanilla had fallen from ten cents a bean to three and a half),
leaving England at all had necessitated “burning their bridges behind
them.”  He did not tell me the nature of their bridges nor whether they
had made much of a blaze.  In fact, that one, vague, inflammatory
allusion was the nearest approach to a personal confidence Trawnbeigh was
ever known to make in all his fifteen years of Mexican life.

The situation, when he met Mrs. Trawnbeigh and the children on the dock
at Vera Cruz, was extremely dreary, and at the end of a month it had
grown much worse, although the Trawnbeighs apparently didn’t think so.
They even spoke and wrote as if their affairs were looking up a bit.
For, after a few weeks of visiting among kindly compatriots at Vera Cruz
and Rebozo, Mrs. Trawnbeigh became cook for some English engineers (there
were seven of them) in a sizzling, mosquitoey, feverish mudhole on the
Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The Trawnbeighs didn’t call it cook!  Neither did the seven engineers.  I
don’t believe the engineers even thought of it as cook.  What Mrs.
Trawnbeigh thought of it will never be known.  How could they, when that
lady, after feeding the four little Trawnbeighs (or rather the four young
Trawnbeighs; they had never been little) a meal I think they called “the
nursery tea,” managed every afternoon, within the next two hours, first,
to create out of nothing a perfectly edible dinner for nine persons, and,
secondly, to receive them all at seven forty-five, in a red-striped,
lemon satin ball gown (it looked like poisonous wall paper), eleven
silver bangles, a cameo necklace, with an ostrich tip sprouting from the
top of her head?

Trawnbeigh, too, was in evening clothes; and they didn’t call it cooking;
they spoke of it as “looking after the mess” or “keeping an eye on the
young chaps’ livers.”  Nevertheless, Mrs. Trawnbeigh, daughter of the
late, the Honorable Cyril Cosby Godolphin Dundas and the late Clare
Walpurga Emmeline Moate, cooked—and cooked hard—for almost a year; at the
end of which time she was stricken with what she was pleased to refer to
as “a bad go of fevah.”

Fortunately they were spared having to pass around the hat, although it
would have amounted to that if Trawnbeigh hadn’t, after the pleasant
English fashion, “come into some money.”  In the United States, people
know to a cent what they may expect to inherit; and then they sometimes
don’t get it.  But in England there seems to be an endless succession of
retired and unmarried army officers who die every little while in Jermyn
Street and leave two thousand pounds to a distant relative they have
never met.  Something like this happened to Trawnbeigh, and on the
prospect of his legacy he was able to pull out of the Tehuantepec mudhole
and restore his wife to her usual state of health in the pure and bracing
air of Rebozo.

Various things can be done with two thousand pounds, but just what shall
be done ought to depend very largely on whether they happen to be one’s
first two thousand or one’s last.  Trawnbeigh, however, invested his
(“interred” would be a more accurate term) quite as if they never would
be missed.  The disposition to be a country gentleman was in Trawnbeigh’s
blood.  Indeed, the first impression one received from the family was
that everything they did was in their blood.  It never seemed to me that
Trawnbeigh had immediately sunk the whole of his little fortune in the
old, small, and dilapidated coffee _finca_ so much because he was dazzled
by the glittering financial future the shameless owner (another
Englishman, by the way) predicted for him, as because to own an estate
and live on it was, so to speak, his natural element.

He had tried, while Mrs. Trawnbeigh was cooking on the Isthmus, to get
something to do.  But there was really nothing in Mexico he could do.  He
was splendidly strong, and, in the United States, he very cheerfully and
with no loss of self-respect or point of view would have temporarily
shoveled wheat or coal, or driven a team, or worked on the street force,
as many another Englishman of noble lineage has done before and since,
but in the tropics an Anglo-Saxon cannot be a day laborer.  He can’t
because he can’t.

There was in Mexico no clerical position open to Trawnbeigh, because he
did not know Spanish.  It is significant that after fifteen consecutive
years of residence in the country none of the Trawnbeighs knew Spanish.
To be, somehow and somewhere, an English country gentleman of a
well-known, slightly old-fashioned type was as much Trawnbeigh’s destiny
as it is the destiny of, say, a polar bear to be a polar bear, or a camel
to be a camel.  As soon as he got his two thousand pounds he became one.

When I first met them all he had been one for about ten years.  I had
recently settled in Trawnbeigh’s neighborhood, which in Mexico means that
my ranch was a hard day-and-a-half ride from his, over roads that are not
roads but merely ditches full of liquefied mud on the level stretches,
and ditches full of assorted bowlders on the ascents.  So, although we
looked neighborly on a small map, I might not have had the joy of meeting
the Trawnbeighs for years if my mule hadn’t gone lame one day when I was
making the interminable trip to Rebozo.

Trawnbeigh’s place was seven miles from the main road, and as I happened
to be near the parting of the ways when the off hind leg of Catalina
began to limp, I decided to leave her with my _mozo_ at an Indian village
until a pack train should pass by (there is always some one in a pack
train who can remove a bad shoe), while I proceeded on the _mozo’s_ mule
to the Trawnbeighs’.  My usual stopping place for the night was five
miles farther on, and the Indian village was—well, it was an Indian
village.

He put me up not only that night, but as my _mozo_ didn’t appear until
late the next afternoon, a second night as well.  And when I at last rode
away, it was with the feeling of having learned from the Trawnbeighs a
great lesson.

In the first place they couldn’t have expected me; they couldn’t possibly
have expected any one.  And it was a hot afternoon.  But as it was the
hour at which people at “home” dropped in for tea, Mrs. Trawnbeigh and
her three plain, heavy looking daughters were perfectly prepared to
dispense hospitality to any number of mythical friends.

They had on hideous, but distinctly “dressy” dresses of amazingly stamped
materials known, I believe, as “summer silks,” and they were all four
tightly laced.  Current fashion in Paris, London and New York by no means
insisted on small, smooth, round waists, but the Trawnbeigh women had
them, because (as it gradually dawned on me) to have had any other kind
would have been a concession to anatomy and the weather.  To anything so
compressible as one’s anatomy, or as vulgarly impartial as the weather,
the Trawnbeighs simply did not concede.  I never could get over the
feeling that they all secretly regarded weather in general as a kind of
popular institution, of vital importance only to the middle class.

Cyril, an extremely beautiful young person of twenty-two, who had been
playing tennis (by himself) on the _asoleadero_, was in “flannels,” and
Trawnbeigh admirably looked the part in gray, middle-aged riding things,
although, as I discovered before leaving, their stable at the time
consisted of one senile burro with ingrowing hoofs.

From the first, it all seemed too flawless to be true.  I had never
visited in England, but I doubt if there is another country whose
literature gives one as definite and lasting an impression of its home
life.  Perhaps this is because the life of families of the class to which
the Trawnbeighs belonged proceeds in England by such a series of definite
and traditional episodes.

In a household like theirs, the unexpected must have a devil of a time in
finding a chance to happen.  For, during my visit, absolutely nothing
happened that I hadn’t long since chuckled over when making the
acquaintance of Jane Austen, Thackeray, George Eliot and Anthony
Trollope; not to mention Ouida (it was Cyril, of course, who from time to
time struck the Ouida note), and the more laborious performances of Mrs.
Humphry Ward.  They all of them did at every tick of the clock precisely
what they ought to have done.  They were a page, the least bit crumpled,
torn from “Half Hours With the Best Authors,” and cast, dear Heaven! upon
a hillside in darkest Mexico.

Of course we had tea in the garden.  There wasn’t any garden, but we
nevertheless had tea in it.  The house would have been cooler, less
glaring, and free from the venomous little _rodadoras_ that stung the
backs of my hands full of microscopic polka dots; but we all strolled out
to a spot some fifty yards away where a bench, half a dozen shaky, home
made chairs and a rustic table were most imperfectly shaded by three
tattered banana trees.

“We love to drink tea in the dingle-dangle,” Mrs. Trawnbeigh explained.
How the tea tray itself got to the dingle-dangle I have only a general
suspicion, for when we arrived it was already there, equipped with caddy,
cozy, a plate of buttered toast, a pot of strawberry jam and all the rest
of it.  But, try as I might, I simply could not rid myself of the feeling
that at least two footmen had arranged it all and then discreetly
retired; a feeling that also sought to account for the tray’s subsequent
removal, which took place while Trawnbeigh, Cyril, Edwina and I walked
over to inspect the _asoleadero_ and washing tanks.  I wanted to look
back; but something (the fear, perhaps, of being turned into a pillar of
salt) restrained me.

With most English speaking persons in that part of the world,
conversation has to do with coffee, coffee and—coffee.  The Trawnbeighs,
however, scarcely touched on the insistent topic.  While we sat on the
low wall of the dilapidated little _asoleadero_, we discussed pheasant
shooting, and the best places for haberdashery and “Gladstone Bags.”
Cyril, as if it were but a matter of inclination, said he thought he
might go over for the shooting that year; a cousin had asked him “to make
a seventh.”  I never found out what this meant, and didn’t have the nerve
to ask.

“Bertie shoots the twelfth, doesn’t he?” Edwina here inquired.

To which her brother replied, as if she had shown a distressing ignorance
of some fundamental date in history, like 1066 or 1215: “Bertie always
shoots the twelfth.”

The best place for haberdashery, in Mr. Trawnbeigh’s opinion, was “the
Stores.”  But Cyril preferred a small shop in Bond Street, maintaining
firmly, but with good humor, that it was not merely, as “the pater”
insisted, because the fellow charged more, but because one didn’t “run
the risk of seeing some beastly bounder in a cravat uncommonly like one’s
own.”  Trawnbeigh, as a sedate parent bordering on middle age, felt
obliged to stand up for the more economical “Stores,” but it was evident
that he really admired Cyril’s exclusive principles and approved of them.
Edwina cut short the argument with an abrupt question.

“I say,” she inquired anxiously, “has the dressing bell gone yet?”  The
dressing bell hadn’t gone, but it soon went, for Mr. Trawnbeigh, after
looking at his watch, bustled off to the house and rang it himself.  Then
we withdrew to our respective apartments to dress for dinner.

“I’ve put you in the north wing, old man; there’s always a breeze in the
wing,” my host declared as he ushered me into a bamboo shed they used
apparently for storing corn and iron implements of an agricultural
nature.  But there was also in the room a recently made up cot with real
sheets, a tin bath tub, hot and cold water in two earthenware jars, and
an empty packing case upholstered in oilcloth.  When Trawnbeigh spoke of
this last as a “wash-hand-stand,” I knew I had indeed strayed from life
into the realms of mid-Victorian romance.

The breeze Trawnbeigh had referred to developed in the violent Mexican
way, while I was enjoying the bath tub, into an unmistakable norther.
Water fell on the roof like so much lead, and then sprang off (some of it
did) in thick, round streams from the tin spouts; the wind screamed in
and out of the tiles overhead, and through the north wing’s blurred
window the writhing banana trees of the dingle-dangle looked like strange
things one sees in an aquarium.

As soon as I could get into my clothes again—a bath was as far as I was
able to live up to the Trawnbeigh ideal—I went into the _sala_, where the
dinner table was already set with a really heartrending attempt at
splendor.  I have said that nothing happened with which I had not a sort
of literary acquaintance; but I was wrong.  While I was standing there
wondering how the Trawnbeighs had been able all those years to “keep it
up,” a window in the next room blew open with a bang.  I ran in to shut
it; but before I reached it, I stopped short and, as hastily and quietly
as I could, tiptoed back to the “wing.”  For the next room was the
kitchen, and at one end of it Trawnbeigh, in a shabby but perfectly
fitting dress coat, his trousers rolled up half way to his knees, was
patiently holding an umbrella over his wife’s sacred dinner gown, while
she—be-bangled, be-cameoed, be-plumed, and stripped to the
buff—masterfully cooked our dinner on the _brassero_.

To me it was all extremely wonderful, and the wonder of it did not lessen
during the five years in which, on my way to and from Rebozo, I stopped
over at the Trawnbeighs’ several times a year.  For, although I knew that
they were often financially all but down and out, the endless red tape of
their daily life never struck me as being merely a pathetic bluff.  Their
rising bells and dressing bells, their apparent dependence on all sorts
of pleasant accessories that simply did not exist, their occupations (I
mean those on which I did not have to turn a tactful back, such as
botanizing, crewel work, painting horrible water colors and composing
long lists of British sounding things to be “sent out from the Stores”),
the informality with which we waited on ourselves at luncheon and the
stately, punctilious manner in which we did precisely the same thing at
dinner, the preordained hour at which Mrs. Trawnbeigh and the girls each
took a bedroom candle and said good night, leaving Trawnbeigh, Cyril and
me to smoke a pipe and “do a whisky peg” (Trawnbeigh had spent some years
in India), the whole inflexibly insular scheme of their existence was
more, infinitely more, than a bluff.  It was a placid, tenacious clinging
to the straw of their ideal in a great, deep sea of poverty, discomfort
and desolation.

And it had its reward, for after fourteen years of Mexican life, Cyril
was almost exactly what he would have been had he never seen the place;
and Cyril was the Trawnbeighs’ one asset of immense value.  He was most
agreeable to look at, he was both related to and connected with many of
the most historical sounding ladies and gentlemen in England, and he had
just the limited, selfish, amiable outlook on the world in general that
was sure (granting the other things) to impress Miss Irene Slapp, of
Pittsburgh, as the height of both breeding and distinction.

Irene Slapp had beauty and distinction of her own.  Somehow, although
they all needed the money, I don’t believe Cyril would have married her
if she hadn’t.  Anyhow, one evening in the City of Mexico he took her in
to dinner at the British Legation, where he had been asked to dine as a
matter of course, and before the second entrée Miss Slapp was slightly in
love with him and very deeply in love with the scheme of life, the
standard, the ideal, or whatever you choose to call it, he had inherited
and had been brought up, under staggering difficulties, to represent.

“The young beggar has made a pot of money in the States,” Trawnbeigh
gravely informed me after Cyril had spent seven weeks in
Pittsburgh—whither he had been persuaded to journey on the Slapps’s
private train.

“And, you know, I’ve decided to sell the old place,” he casually remarked
a month or so later.  “Yes, yes,” he went on, “the young people are
beginning to leave us” (I hadn’t noticed any signs of impending flight on
the part of Edwina, Violet and Maud).  “Mrs. Trawnbeigh and I want to end
our days at home.  Slapp believes there’s gold on the place—or would it
be petroleum?  He’s welcome to it.  After all, I’ve never been fearfully
keen on business.”

And I rode away pondering, as I always did, on the great lesson of the
Trawnbeighs.

                                                _Charles Macomb Flandrau_.



THE LIFE BELT


Out of doors, darkness and sleet; within the cottage parlor, a grand fire
and a good supper, the latter, however, no longer in evidence.

Four people sat round the hearth: a woman not so old in years as aged in
looks by what the war had done to her; a burly, bearded, middle-aged man,
her brother; a young, rather stern-visaged fellow, the last of her sons;
and a girl of twenty or so, with a sedate mouth and bright eyes, her
daughter-in-law to be.  The two men were obviously seafarers.  As a
matter of fact, the uncle was skipper of an ancient tramp which had
somehow survived those three years of perilous passages; the nephew, a
fisherman before war, afterwards and until recently in the patrol
service, was now mate on the same old ship, though he had still to make
his first trip on her.

Said Mrs. Cathles, breaking silence, to her brother: “Did ye see any
U-boats comin’ home, Alick?”  Possibly she spoke then just to interrupt
her own thoughts, for it was not like her to introduce such a subject.

The skipper was busy charging his pipe.  “Is it U-boats ye’re askin’
about, Maggie?” he said slowly, in his loud voice.  “I’m tellin’ ye, on
that last home’ard trip, the peeriscopes was like a forest!”

David Cathles winked to his sweetheart; then perceiving that the answer
had scared his mother, he said:

“Come, come, Uncle!  Surely ’twasn’t quite so bad as that.  ‘A forest’ is
a bit thick, isn’t it?”

“Well, there was room for the Hesperus to get through, I’ll allow,” the
skipper said, striking a match extracted from his vest pocket, “otherwise
I wouldn’t be settin’ here tellin’ the blessed truth every time.”  He lay
back and puffed complacently, staring at the fire.

“Never you mind him, Mother,” said the young man.  “’Tis me he’s seekin’
to terrify: he’d just as soon I didn’t sail wi’ him, after all; ’fraid o’
me learnin’ what a poor skipper he is!”

Now David ought to have known better.  People who are good at giving
chaff are seldom good at taking it.  The girl, however, was quick to note
the stiffening of the burly figure.

“Captain Whinn,” she remarked promptly, but without haste, “ye must be a
terrible brave man to ha’ come through all ye ha’ come through, since the
war started.”

“Not at all, my dear,” was the modest reply; “I’m no braver’n several
cases I’ve heard on.”

David, who had seen his own blunder, was grateful to Esther for the
diversion, and sought to carry it further.

“Well, Uncle Whinn,” he said respectfully, “I think we’d all like to hear
what yourself considers the pluckiest bit o’ work done by a chap in the
Merchant Service durin’ the—”

“Haven’t done it yet.”  With a wooden expression of countenance, the
skipper continued to stare at the fire.

Mrs. Cathles spoke.  “Ah, David, ’tis little use tryin’ to pick the
bravest when all is so brave.  But I do think none will ever do braver’n
what that fishin’ skipper did—him we was hearin’ about yesterday.”

“Ay, that was a man!” her son agreed.

“What was it?” the girl inquired, with a veiled glance of indignation at
Captain Whinn, who appeared quite uninterested, if not actually bored.

“You tell it, David,” said the mother.  “Big moniments ha’ been put up
for less.”

“Go on, David,” murmured Esther.

“’Twas something like this,” he began.  “They had hauled the nets and was
makin’ for port in the early mornin’, in hazy weather, when a U-boat
comes up almost alongside.  I reckon they was scared, for at that time
fishin’ boats was bein’ sunk right and left.  Then the commander comes on
deck and asks, in first-class English, which o’ the seven was skipper.
And the skipper he holds up his hand like as if he was a little boy in
the school.  ‘All right,’ says the ’Un, ‘I guess you can navigate
hereabouts—eh?’  The skipper answers slow that he has been navigatin’
thereabouts ’most all his life.  ‘Very well,’ says the ’Un, ‘there’s a
way you can save your boat, and the lives o’ them six fine men, and your
own.’  He waits for a little while; then he says: ‘This is the way.  You
come on board here, and take this ship past the defenses and into —.
That’s all.  I give you three minutes to make up your mind.’

“’Tis said the skipper looked like a dyin’ man then, and all the time one
o’ the U-boat’s guns was trained on the fishin’ boat.  ‘Time’s up,’ says
the ’Un; ‘which is it to be?’  And the skipper says: ‘I’ll do what ye
want.’ I never heard what his mates said; and I should think their
thoughts was sort o’ mixed.  But they puts him on board the U-boat and
clears out, as he told them to do; and the last they see of him was him
standin’ betwixt two ’Uns, each wi’ a revolver handy.  And then him and
the ’Uns goes below, and so does the U-boat.”

“He was surely a coward!” the girl exclaimed.

“Wait a bit,” said David.  “Can’t ye see that he saved the lives o’ his
mates?”

“And his own!” she cried.  “And he took the U-boat in!”

“Ay, he did that—and her commander, too!  Oh, he took her in right
enough—safe into the big steel net! . . .  They found him there wi’ the
dead ’Uns, later on—only he had been murdered.”

Esther clasped her hands.  “None braver’n that!” she said in a whisper.

Mrs. Cathles turned to her brother, who had not altered his attitude,
though he had let his pipe go out.

“Alick,” she said, “what do ye say to that?”

“’Twasn’t so bad,” he said softly, “’twasn’t so bad, Maggie.  Ha’ ye any
matches?”

Shortly afterwards he took his departure, and then David saw Esther home.

On the way she broke a silence by remarking: “David, I wish ye wasn’t
sailin’ wi’ that man.”

“How so?”

“He’s not natural.  Something’s wrong about him.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be sayin’ that, Esther,” said David.  “I allow I can’t
make anything o’ Uncle Whinn nowadays, but the war has turned many a man
queerish.  Still, I never heard him so boastful-like afore tonight—”

“‘’Twasn’t so bad,’” she quoted resentfully, “‘’twasn’t so bad!’—and it
the bravest thing a human man could do?  Oh, David, I do wish ye wasn’t
sailin’ wi’ him, though he is your uncle.  He’s a coward—that’s what he
is, I’m sure.”

“I wouldn’t be sayin’ that, neither,” the young man gently protested.
“He’s maybe feared—I surely doubt he is—but that’s not the same as bein’
a coward—not by a long chalk.”

“He’s got neither wife nor family, and he’s oldish,” she persisted.

“But I s’pose life’s sweet even when a man’s oldish.  As for bein’
feared—out yonder wi’ the patrol, I was seldom anything else,” said David
quietly.

“David Cathles, I don’t believe ye!”

“I’m feared now; I’ll be feared all this comin’ trip.  Uncle Whinn has
got more to be feared o’ ’n me.

“I don’t see that.”

“Well, if a U-boat gets the better o’ the old Hesperus—and she hasn’t got
a gun yet—’tis ten to one the ’Uns make a prisoner o’ Uncle Whinn.
’Tisn’t cheerful to ha’ that on your mind all the time—is it now,
Esther?”

“I grant ye that, David,” she said, with unexpected compunction.  “Only
he shouldn’t be so big about hisself and so small about the pluck o’
other men.  I’d ha’ said he was feared o’ the very sea itself.”

“A common complaint, my dear!  But now ye ha’ touched on a thing which is
maybe only too true, for I could ’most allow my uncle is feared o’ death
in the water—not that his fear is aught to be ashamed on.”

“Not if a man be modest about hisself!”

“Uncle Whinn used to be modest enough, and careless enough, too, about
what happened to him,” said David.  “But when I was on board wi’ him,
this mornin’, I see a thing so queer and strange, it makes me creep yet.”

“David, I knew there was something wrong!”

“And ’twas only a simple matter, after all,” he proceeded.  “’Twas all
about a life belt hangin’ above his bunk, in the chart room, where he
berths nowadays.  ’Twas an ordinary, everyday life belt, but all the time
we was settin’ there smokin’ an’ chattin’, I noticed he never hardly took
his eyes off o’ it.  And at last I gets up and goes over, just to see if
there was anything extra about it.  Well, he was after me like a tiger!
‘Don’t ye put finger on that, my lad!’ he says, not so much as if he was
angered as feared.  And then he draws me back to the table, and says, as
if he was a bit ’shamed o’ hisself: ‘Ye’ll excuse me, David, but I can’t
bear to see that there life belt touched.  T’other day, I was as near as
near to killin’ the cook—the poor sinner said it needed dustin’.  ’Tis my
foolishness, no doubt, but we’ve all got our fancies, and I don’t want
the belt to be missin’ or unhandy when the time comes.  So there it
hangs, an’ I’ll thank ye for your word, here and now, David, that ye
won’t never touch it.’  Of course I give him my word, but wi’ no great
feelin’ o’ pleasure. . . .  What do ye think about it, Esther?”

“’Tis terrible that a great big man should be so feared.  Now I’m sort o’
sorry for him.  I daresay he needs ye badly on his ship, and so I’ll say
no more about it, David.”

“Ye always see things right, once ye let your kind heart go,” he said
tenderly.  “And I can’t think that Uncle Whinn’ll play the coward if ever
he’s really up against it. . . .  And now, what about us two gettin’
married on my next leave?”

                                * * * * *

The Hesperus sailed a couple of days later.  The outward voyage was
completed without mishap or adventure, and she was within a day’s run of
the home port when her end came.

After a brief but havoc-working bombardment, her helpless skipper gave
orders to abandon ship, and signaled the enemy accordingly.  There were
two lifeboats,—the third had been smashed,—and in the natural course of
things David would have been in charge of one of them.  But Captain Whinn
decreed otherwise.

“I want ye wi’ me,” he said to his nephew, as they came down from the
tottering bridge.  “Cast off!” he bawled at the boat whose crew included
the second mate.

He drew David into the chartroom.

When they emerged, a couple of minutes later, he was wearing the belt,
and his countenance was pale.  But the young man’s was ghastly.

Now there were blurs of smoke on the horizon.  Captain Whinn indicated
them, remarking:

“A little bit too late.  Poor old Hesperus!”

The blurs had evidently been observed from the U-boat also, for a “Hurry
up!” came in the form of a shell aimed just high enough to clear the
deck.

Skipper and mate went down the ladder, and the boat was cast off.  At a
safe distance, the rowers, at a sign from the skipper, lay on their oars.
Speedily the U-boat put her victim into a sinking condition.  During the
operation Whinn neither moved nor spoke; seemingly he did not hear the
several remarks softly addressed to him by his nephew.  His face was set;
all the skin blemishes stood out against the tan of many years, upon
which had come a grayish pallor; there was moisture on his brow.

Then through the slightly ruffled sea the U-boat, her gunners’ job over,
moved toward them.  A hail came from the commander, a tall young man with
an unslept, nervous look on his thin face.

“Come alongside, and look sharp about it.  I want the captain,” he
called.

None of the boat’s crew moved, but all at once the elderly cook broke
forth in a voice of grievous exasperation:

“Godalmighty, Cap’n, whatever made ye put on your best duds?  Why the
hell didn’t ye get into some old slops?—an’ then I could ha’ passed for
ye easy!”

The glimmer of a smile appeared in the skipper’s eyes, and his mouth
quivered pathetically just for an instant.  Then he said briefly:

“Get alongside.”

“Maybe they would take me instead,” said David, but again his uncle
seemed not to have heard.

Whinn did not speak again until he was standing on the submarine’s deck.
Then steadily he addressed his nephew:

“Kind love to your mother, David; best respects to your young lady.”

To the crew: “So long, lads,” he said, and gave a little wave of the
hand.

Then he was hurried below, and almost before the Hesperus’ boat was
clear, the great engine of destruction began to submerge.

David sat with his face bowed in his hands, and now and then a shudder
went through him.

                                * * * * *

Two nights later he was back in his mother’s house, seated with Esther at
the parlor fire, which burned as grandly as on that night a month ago.
Mrs. Cathles had gone to the kitchen to make the supper.

There had been a long silence.  Suddenly David’s clasp of the girl’s hand
tightened almost painfully.

“Why, what is it, lad?” she exclaimed.

“Esther, I don’t know what to do. . . .  Ye see, when I was telling you
an’ mother about Uncle Whinn, I kept back something—a lot.  I couldn’t
think how to tell the whole tale—to mother, anyway.”

“Is it—dreadful, David?”

“Ay, dreadful—in a way.  Well, I’ll try and tell yourself now, an’ then,
perhaps—  ’Sh!  I bear her comin’!  ’Twill have to wait.”

Mrs. Cathles came in, but without the expected laden tray.  She crossed
to her accustomed place and seated herself.  Presently she looked over at
her son.

“David, I was thinkin’ just now, and it came on me that ye hadn’t told me
everything about your uncle, my own brother, Alick.  Now, dearie, ye must
not keep aught back.  ’Tis my right to know, and I can bear a lot
nowadays.”  She wetted her lips.  “David, tell me true, what happened to
my brother when they got him on board the U-boat.  Did they—shoot him?”

“No, Mother”—David cleared his throat—“‘’twas far finer’n that! . . .
Ah, well, now I’ll tell everything.  ’Twas this way.  You—we’ll never see
Uncle Whinn again, Mother, but he was a great man.  He stepped on board
that U-boat as brave as a lion, and when the ’Un commander spoke to him,
polite enough, too—he looked at him as if he was dirt.  And then he give
me the messages I ha’ told ye.  And then they took him below.  And then
the U-boat started for to dive—  Now don’t ye be too upset, Mother.”

“Go on, David.”

“Well, then, the U-boat, as I was tellin’ ye, started for to dive. . . .
But she wasn’t half under when—when she blowed up—all to smash—exploded
into little bits, it seemed—our boat was near to bein’ swamped.”  David
ceased abruptly.

In the silence the girl rose and went to the woman, and put her arm about
the bent shoulders.

David spoke again, in little more than a whisper.  “’Tis not all told;
and now comes the worst—and the best, too. . . .  When all was over on
the old Hesperus, and we was makin’ ready to leave her, Uncle Whinn draws
me into the chartroom.  Without sayin’ anything he takes off his old coat
and cap and puts on split new ones.  After that, he takes down the life
belt that hung above his bunk, and puts it on very careful.  Then, at
last, he speaks to me.  ‘David,’ he says, ‘they’re nailin’ us skippers in
these times, so maybe you and me shan’t meet again.’  And he holds out
his hand.  Hardly knowin’ what to say, I says: ‘Even if they do take ye
prisoner, the war won’t last for ever and ever, and maybe ye’ll escape
afore long.’  He shakes his head, smilin’ a little.  ‘If they takes me,
they takes the consequences, and so does I.’  And then he tells me his
secret—  God! to think o’ the man’s pluck!”

David wiped his face.

“My Uncle Whinn says to me: ‘My lad, I thought to tell nobody, but
’twould be too lonesome-like for me to go like that.  But ye needn’t make
a story about it. . . .  This here life belt,’ says he, ‘was my own idea.
’Tisn’t made o’ corks.  T’is made o’ high, powerful explosive—enough to
wreck a battleship.  And all I ha’ got to do is just to pull this little
bit o’ string.’ . . .”

                                                             _J. J. Bell_.



AMINA


Waldo, brought face to face with the actuality of the unbelievable—as he
himself would have worded it—was completely dazed.  In silence he
suffered the consul to lead him from the tepid gloom of the interior,
through the ruinous doorway, out into the hot, stunning brilliance of the
desert landscape.  Hassan followed, with never a look behind him.
Without any word he had taken Waldo’s gun from his nerveless hand and
carried it, with his own and the consul’s.

The consul strode across the gravelly sand, some fifty paces from the
southwest corner of the tomb, to a bit of not wholly ruined wall from
which there was a clear view of the doorway side of the tomb and of the
side with the larger crevice.

“Hassan,” he commanded, “watch here.”

Hassan said something in Persian.

“How many cubs were there?” the consul asked Waldo.

Waldo stared mute.

“How many young ones did you see?” the consul asked again.

“Twenty or more,” Waldo made answer.

“That’s impossible,” snapped the consul.

“There seemed to be sixteen or eighteen,” Waldo reasserted.  Hassan
smiled and grunted.  The consul took from him two guns, handed Waldo his,
and they walked around the tomb to a point about equally distant from the
opposite corner.  There was another bit of ruin, and in front of it, on
the side toward the tomb, was a block of stone mostly in the shadow of
the wall.

“Convenient,” said the consul.  “Sit on that stone and lean against the
wall; make yourself comfortable.  You are a bit shaken, but you will be
all right in a moment.  You should have something to eat, but we have
nothing.  Anyhow, take a good swallow of this.”

He stood by him as Waldo gasped over the raw brandy.

“Hassan will bring you his water bottle before he goes,” the consul went
on; “drink plenty, for you must stay here for some time.  And now, pay
attention to me.  We must extirpate these vermin.  The male, I judge, is
absent.  If he had been anywhere about, you would not now be alive.  The
young cannot be as many as you say, but, I take it, we have to deal with
ten, a full litter.  We must smoke them out.  Hassan will go back to camp
after fuel and the guard.  Meanwhile, you and I must see that none
escape.”

He took Waldo’s gun, opened the breech, shut it, examined the magazine
and handed it back to him.

“Now watch me closely,” he said.  He paced off, looking to his left past
the tomb.  Presently he stopped and gathered several stones together.

“You see these?” he called.

Waldo shouted an affirmation.

The consul came back, passed on in the same line, looking to his right
past the tomb, and presently, at a similar distance, put up another tiny
cairn, shouted again and was again answered.  Again he returned.

“Now you are sure you cannot mistake those two marks I have made?”

“Very sure indeed,” said Waldo.

“It is important,” warned the consul.  “I am going back to where I left
Hassan, to watch there while he is gone.  You will watch here.  You may
pace as often as you like to either of those stone heaps.  From either
you can see me on my beat.  Do not diverge from the line from one to the
other.  For as soon as Hassan is out of sight I shall shoot any moving
thing I see nearer.  Sit here till you see me set up similar limits for
my sentry-go on the farther side, then shoot any moving thing not on my
line of patrol.  Keep a lookout all around you.  There is one chance in a
million that the male might return in daylight—mostly they are nocturnal,
but this lair is evidently exceptional.  Keep a bright lookout.

“And now listen to me.  You must not feel any foolish sentimentalism
about any fancied resemblance of these vermin to human beings.  Shoot,
and shoot to kill.  Not only is it our duty, in general, to abolish them,
but it will be very dangerous for us if we do not.  There is little or no
solidarity in Mohammedan communities, but on the comparatively few points
upon which public opinion exists it acts with amazing promptitude and
vigor.  One matter as to which there is no disagreement is that it is
incumbent upon every man to assist in eradicating these creatures.  The
good old Biblical custom of stoning to death is the mode of lynching
indigenous hereabouts.  These modern Asiatics are quite capable of
applying it to any one believed derelict against any of these inimical
monsters.  If we let one escape and the rumor of it gets about, we may
precipitate an outburst of racial prejudice difficult to cope with.
Shoot, I say, without hesitation or mercy.”

“I understand,” said Waldo.

“I don’t care whether you understand or not,” said the consul.  “I want
you to act.  Shoot if needful, and shoot straight.”  And he tramped off.

Hassan presently appeared, and Waldo drank from his water bottle as
nearly all of its contents as Hassan would permit.  After his departure
Waldo’s first alertness soon gave place to mere endurance of the monotony
of watching and the intensity of the heat.  His discomfort became
suffering, and what with the fury of the dry glare, the pangs of thirst
and his bewilderment of mind, Waldo was moving in a waking dream by the
time Hassan returned with two donkeys and a mule laden with brushwood.
Behind the beasts straggled the guard.

Waldo’s trance became a nightmare when the smoke took effect and the
battle began.  He was, however, not only not required to join in the
killing, but was enjoined to keep back.  He did keep very much in the
background, seeing only so much of the slaughter as his curiosity would
not let him refrain from viewing.  Yet he felt all a murderer as he gazed
at the ten small carcasses laid out arow, and the memory of his vigil and
its end, indeed of the whole day, though it was the day of his most
marvelous adventure, remains to him as the broken recollections of a
phantasmagoria.

                                * * * * *

On the morning of his memorable peril Waldo had waked early.  The
experiences of his sea-voyage, the sights at Gibraltar, at Port Said, in
the canal, at Suez, at Aden, at Muscat, and at Basrah had formed an
altogether inadequate transition from the decorous regularity of house
and school-life in New England to the breathless wonder of the desert
immensities.

Everything seemed unreal, and yet the reality of its strangeness so
besieged him that he could not feel at home in it, he could not sleep
heavily in a tent.  After composing himself to sleep, he lay long
conscious and awakened early, as on this morning, just at the beginning
of the false-dawn.

The consul was fast asleep, snoring loudly.  Waldo dressed quietly and
went out; mechanically, without any purpose or forethought, taking his
gun.  Outside he found Hassan, seated, his gun across his knees, his head
sunk forward, as fast asleep as the consul.  Ali and Ibrahim had left the
camp the day before for supplies.  Waldo was the only waking creature
about; for the guards, camped some little distance off, were but logs
about the ashes of their fire.

When he had begun camp life he had expected to find the consul, that
combination of sportsman, explorer and archæologist, a particularly
easy-going guardian.  He had looked forward to absolutely untrammeled
liberty in the spacious expanse of the limitless wastes.  The reality he
had found exactly the reverse of his preconceptions.  The consul’s first
injunction was:

“Never let yourself get out of sight of me or of Hassan unless he or I
send you off with Ali or Ibrahim.  Let nothing tempt you to roam about
alone.  Even a ramble is dangerous.  You might lose sight of the camp
before you knew it.”

At first Waldo acquiesced, later he protested.  “I have a good pocket
compass.  I know how to use it.  I never lost my way in the Maine woods.”

“No Kourds in the Maine woods,” said the consul.

Yet before long Waldo noticed that the few Kourds they encountered seemed
simple-hearted, peaceful folk.  No semblance of danger or even of
adventure had appeared.  Their armed guard of a dozen greasy
tatterdemalions had passed their time in uneasy loafing.

Likewise Waldo noticed that the consul seemed indifferent to the ruins
they passed by or encamped among, that his feeling for sites and
topography was cooler than lukewarm, that he showed no ardor in the
pursuit of the scanty and uninteresting game.  He had picked up enough of
several dialects to hear repeated conversations about “them.”  “Have you
heard of any about here?”  “Has one been killed?”  “Any traces of them in
this district?”  And such queries he could make out in the various talks
with the natives they met; as to what “they” were he received no
enlightenment.

Then he had questioned Hassan as to why he was so restricted in his
movements.  Hassan spoke some English and regaled him with tales of
Afrits, ghouls, specters and other uncanny legendary presences; of the
jinn of the waste, appearing in human shape, talking all languages, ever
on the alert to ensnare infidels; of the woman whose feet turned the
wrong way at the ankles, luring the unwary to a pool and there drowning
her victims; of the malignant ghosts of dead brigands, more terrible than
their living fellows; of the spirit in the shape of a wild ass, or of a
gazelle, enticing its pursuers to the brink of a precipice and itself
seeming to run ahead upon an expanse of sand, a mere mirage, dissolving
as the victim passed the brink and fell to death; of the sprite in the
semblance of a hare feigning a limp, or of a ground-bird feigning a
broken wing, drawing its pursuer after it till he met death in an unseen
pit or well-shaft.

Ali and Ibrahim spoke no English.  As far as Waldo could understand their
long harangues, they told similar stories or hinted at dangers equally
vague and imaginary.  These childish bogy-tales merely whetted Waldo’s
craving for independence.

Now, as he sat on a rock, longing to enjoy the perfect sky, the clear,
early air, the wide, lonely landscape, along with the sense of having it
to himself, it seemed to him that the consul was merely innately
cautious, over-cautious.  There was no danger.  He would have a fine,
leisurely stroll, kill something perhaps, and certainly be back in camp
before the sun grew hot.  He stood up.

Some hours later he was seated on a fallen coping-stone in the shadow of
a ruined tomb.  All the country they had been traversing is full of tombs
and remains of tombs, prehistoric, Bactrian, old Persian, Parthian,
Sassanian, or Mohammedan, scattered everywhere in groups or solitary.
Vanished utterly are the faintest traces of the cities, towns, and
villages, ephemeral houses or temporary huts, in which had lived the
countless generations of mourners who had reared these tombs.

The tombs, built more durably than mere dwellings of the living,
remained.  Complete or ruinous, or reduced to mere fragments, they were
everywhere.  In that district they were all of one type.  Each was domed
and below was square, its one door facing eastward and opening into a
larger empty room, behind which were the mortuary chambers.

In the shadow of such a tomb Waldo sat.  He had shot nothing, had lost
his way, had no idea of the direction of the camp, was tired, warm and
thirsty.  He had forgotten his water bottle.

He swept his gaze over the vast, desolate prospect, the unvaried
turquoise of the sky arched above the rolling desert.  Far reddish hills
along the skyline hooped in the less distant brown hillocks which,
without diversifying it, hummocked the yellow landscape.  Sand and rocks
with a lean, starved bush or two made up the nearer view, broken here and
there by dazzling white or streaked, grayish, crumbling ruins.  The sun
had not been long above the horizon, yet the whole surface of the desert
was quivering with heat.

As Waldo sat viewing the outlook a woman came round the corner tomb.  All
the village women Waldo had seen had worn yashmaks or some other form of
face-covering or veil.  This woman was bareheaded and unveiled.  She wore
some sort of yellowish-brown garment which enveloped her from neck to
ankles, showing no waist line.  Her feet, in defiance of the blistering
sands, were bare.

At sight of Waldo she stopped and stared at him as he at her.  He
remarked the un-European posture of her feet, not at all turned out, but
with the inner lines parallel.  She wore no anklets, he observed, no
bracelets, no necklace or earrings.  Her bare arms he thought the most
muscular he had ever seen on a human being.  Her nails were pointed and
long, both on her hands and her feet.  Her hair was black, short and
tousled, yet she did not look wild or uncomely.  Her eyes smiled and her
lips had the effect of smiling, though they did not part ever so little,
not showing at all the teeth behind them.

“What a pity,” said Waldo aloud, “that she does not speak English.”

“I do speak English,” said the woman, and Waldo noticed that as she
spoke, her lips did not perceptibly open.  “What does the gentleman
want?”

“You speak English!” Waldo exclaimed, jumping to his feet.  “What luck!
Where did you learn it?”

“At the mission school,” she replied, an amused smile playing about the
corners of her rather wide, unopening mouth.  “What can be done for you?”
She spoke with scarcely any foreign accent, but very slowly and with a
sort of growl running along from syllable to syllable.

“I am thirsty,” said Waldo, “and I have lost my way.”

“Is the gentleman living in a brown tent, shaped like half a melon?” she
inquired, the queer, rumbling note drawling from one word to the next,
her lips barely separated.

“Yes, that is our camp,” said Waldo.

“I could guide the gentleman that way,” she droned; “but it is far, and
there is no water on that side.”

“I want water first,” said Waldo, “or milk.”

“If you mean cow’s milk, we have none.  But we have goat’s milk.  There
is to drink where I dwell,” she said, sing-songing the words.  “It is not
far.  It is the other way.”

“Show me,” said he.

She began to walk, Waldo, his gun under his arm, beside her.  She trod
noiselessly and fast.  Waldo could scarcely keep up with her.  As they
walked he often fell behind and noted how her swathing garments clung to
a lithe, shapely back, neat waist and firm hips.  Each time he hurried
and caught up with her, he scanned her with intermittent glances, puzzled
that her waist, so well-marked at the spine, showed no particular
definition in front; that the outline of her from neck to knees,
perfectly shapeless under her wrappings, was without any waist-line or
suggestion of firmness or undulation.  Likewise he remarked the amused
flicker in her eyes and the compressed line of her red, her too red,
lips.

“How long were you at the mission school?” he inquired.

“Four years,” she replied.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked.

“The Free-folk do not submit to baptism,” she stated simply, but with
rather more of the droning growl between her words.

He felt a queer shiver as he watched the scarcely moved lips through
which the syllables edged their way.

“But you are not veiled,” he could not resist saying.

“The Free-folk,” she rejoined, “are never veiled.”

“Then you are not a Mohammedan?” he ventured.

“The Free-folk are not Moslems.”

“Who are the Free-folk?” he blurted out incautiously.

She shot one baleful glance at him.  Waldo remembered that he had to do
with an Asiatic.  He recalled the three permitted questions.

“What is your name?” he inquired.

“Amina,” she told him.

“That is a name from the ‘Arabian Nights,’” he hazarded.

“From the foolish tales of the believers,” she sneered.  “The Free-folk
know nothing of such follies.”  The unvarying shutness of her speaking
lips, the drawly burr between the syllables, struck him all the more as
her lips curled but did not open.

“You utter your words in a strange way,” he said.

“Your language is not mine,” she replied.

“How is it that you learned my language at the mission school and are not
a Christian?”

“They teach all at the mission school,” she said, “and the maidens of the
Free-folk are like the other maidens they teach, though the Free-folk
when grown are not as town-dwellers are.  Therefore they taught me as any
townbred girl, not knowing me for what I am.”

“They taught you well,” he commented.

“I have the gift of tongues,” she uttered enigmatically, with an odd note
of triumph burring the words through her unmoving lips.

Waldo felt a horrid shudder all over him, not only at her uncanny words,
but also from mere faintness.

“Is it far to your home?” he breathed.

“It is there,” she said, pointing to the doorway of a large tomb just
before them.

The wholly open arch admitted them into a fairly spacious interior, cool
with the abiding temperaturc of thick masonry.  There was no rubbish on
the floor.  Waldo, relieved to escape the blistering glare outside,
seated himself on a block of stone midway between the door and the inner
partition-wall, resting his gun-butt on the floor.  For the moment he was
blinded by the change from the insistent brilliance of the desert morning
to the blurred gray light of the interior.

When his sight cleared he looked about and remarked, opposite the door,
the ragged hole which laid open the desecrated mausoleum.  As his eyes
grew accustomed to the dimness he was so startled that he stood up.  It
seemed to him that from its four corners the room swarmed with naked
children.  To his inexperienced conjecture they seemed about two years
old, but they moved with the assurance of boys of eight or ten.

“Whose are these children?” he exclaimed.

“Mine,” she said.

“All yours?” he protested.

“All mine,” she replied, a curious suppressed boisterousness in her
demeanor.

“But there are twenty of them,” he cried.

“You count badly in the dark,” she told him.  “There are fewer.”

“There certainly are a dozen,” he maintained, spinning round as they
danced and scampered about.

“The Free-people have large families,” she said.

“But they are all of one age,” Waldo exclaimed, his tongue dry against
the roof of his mouth.

She laughed, an unpleasant, mocking laugh, clapping her hands.  She was
between him and the doorway, and as most of the light came from it he
could not see her lips.

“Is not that like a man!  No woman would have made that mistake.”

Waldo was confuted and sat down again.  The children circulated around
him, chattering, laughing, giggling, snickering, making noises indicative
of glee.

“Please get me something cool to drink,” said Waldo, and his tongue was
not only dry but big in his mouth.

“We shall have to drink shortly,” she said, “but it will be warm.”

Waldo began to feel uneasy.  The children pranced around him, jabbering
strange, guttural noises, licking their lips, pointing at him, their eyes
fixed on him, with now and then a glance at their mother.

“Where is the water?”

The woman stood silent, her arms hanging at her sides, and it seemed to
Waldo she was shorter than she had been.

“Where is the water?” he repeated.

“Patience, patience,” she growled, and came a step nearer to him.

The sunlight struck upon her back and made a sort of halo about her hips.
She seemed still shorter than before.  There was a something furtive in
her bearing, and the little ones sniggered evilly.

At that instant two rifle shots rang out almost as one.  The woman fell
face downward on the floor.  The babies shrieked in a shrill chorus.
Then she leapt up from all fours with an explosive suddenness, staggered
in a hurled, lurching rush toward the hole in the wall, and, with a
frightful yell, threw up her arms and whirled backward to the ground,
doubled and contorted like a dying fish, stiffened, shuddered and was
still.  Waldo, his horrified eyes fixed on her face, even in his
amazement noted that her lips did not open.

The children, squealing faint cries of dismay, scrambled through the hole
in the inner wall, vanishing into the inky void beyond.  The last had
hardly gone when the consul appeared in the doorway, his smoking gun in
his hand.

“Not a second too soon, my boy,” he ejaculated.  “She was just going to
spring.”

He cocked his gun and prodded the body with the muzzle.

“Good and dead,” he commented.  “What luck!  Generally it takes three or
four bullets to finish one.  I’ve known one with two bullets through her
lungs to kill a man.”

“Did you murder this woman?” Waldo demanded fiercely.

“Murder?” the consul snorted.  “Murder!  Look at that.”

He knelt down and pulled open the full, close lips, disclosing not human
teeth, but small incisors, cusped grinders, wide-spaced, and long, keen,
overlapping canines, like those of a greyhound: a fierce, deadly,
carnivorous dentition, menacing and combative.

Waldo felt a qualm, yet the face and form still swayed his horrified
sympathy for their humanness.

“Do you shoot women because they have long teeth?” Waldo insisted,
revolted at the horrid death he had watched.

“You are hard to convince,” said the consul sternly.  “Do you call that a
woman?”

He stripped the clothing from the carcass.

Waldo sickened all over.  What he saw was not the front of a woman, but
the body of a female animal, old and flaccid—mother of a pack.

“What kind of a creature is it?” he asked faintly.

“A Ghoul, my boy,” the consul answered solemnly, almost in a whisper.

“I thought they did not exist,” Waldo babbled.  “I thought they were
mythical; I thought there were none.”

“I can very well believe that there are none in Rhode Island,” the consul
said gravely.  “This is in Persia, and Persia is in Asia.”

                                                     _Edward Lucas White_.



THE SILVER RING


Calderon stopped abruptly in the middle of that long road across the
moor.  Something had caught his eye as he walked—the slightest possible
glitter at the side of the road, where the heavy sunlight was making even
the stones throw tiny, dense shadows.  He went back a step, intent upon
discovering what it was that had disturbed his casual glance.  There,
half raised by a small mound of hardened dust, was a ring, a plain silver
ring, the sight of which struck him as a dagger might have done.  As he
picked it gently from the roadway, and dusted it with his handkerchief,
his fingers trembled.  It was his wife’s ring.  He had given it to her
before their marriage, a memento of an exquisitely happy day.  All the
time they had been together she had worn it constantly: there had never
been a time when she had not borne it upon her finger.  The ring was full
of memories for him—of memories that were painful now in their happiness
because they belonged to a broken time.  And these memories pressed upon
his heart, stabbing him, as he stood thoughtfully in the roadway among
the purple heather, gazing at the ring.  His face had grown quite gray
and hard, and his eyes were troubled.

For a moment he could do nothing but gaze at the ring, busy with his
urgent thoughts.  He could not yet wonder how the ring had come there,
upon this lonely road from dale to dale.  Behind him the road was white,
narrowing through the heather, unshadowed by any tree.  To right and left
of him the moor stretched in purple masses until it darkened at the sky
line.  In front, the road began already to decline for the steep descent
into Wensleydale.  The grass could be seen ahead of him; and beyond it,
far in the burning mist of the late afternoon, he saw gleaming, like
quicksilver, a sheet of water.  The wind came at that great height in
powerful gusts, freshening the air, pressing warmly against his face and
hands as pleasantly as water presses against the swimmer.  No other
person was in sight upon the moor: he was alone, with Evelyn’s ring in
his hand, and poignant memories assailing him.

Calderon’s love for his wife had been as intense and as true as any love
could be.  Her love for him, more capricious, more ardent, had been as
great.  Yet in the fifth year of their marriage, such was the conflict of
two strong personalities, they had quarreled vehemently, and had parted.
Both had independent means, and both had many activities.  Calderon had
been working very hard for two years since the quarrel, and they had not
met.  The two or three letters exchanged early in their estrangement had
never suggested a continued correspondence; and although he knew that his
wife had been living in the eastern counties, Calderon had now no idea at
all of her whereabouts.  How strange that he should find upon this lonely
road that precious ring!  Engraved within it he read: “Evelyn:
Maurice”—the inscription she had desired.  Calderon sighed, slipping the
ring into his pocket, and thoughtfully continuing upon his way.  Was
Evelyn before him, or behind him?  Who could tell?  They had never been
together to Yorkshire.  He most go as a blind man.

Then the question came to him: if they met, what had he to say to her?
He knew no more of his journey down into Wensleydale, for the passionate
unreasonings that overwhelmed him.

And then, when he was arrived in the little village to which the road
over the moor leads, he again hesitated.  So much depended upon his
action.  He must find Evelyn this evening, for his return to London was
urgent.  Already the shadows were growing long, and the evening was
heavy.  Which way should he go?  Upon his choice might depend the whole
course of his future life.  For a few moments he halted, irresolute.
Then he went slowly forward to the first inn he saw, his fingers playing
in his waistcoat pocket with the little ring that had suddenly plunged
him into the past.  He thought it certain that the loss of it was
accidental.  She would not have kept the ring for so long, and she could
not have brought it with her to Yorkshire, if she had intended to throw
it away forever.  And yet how came it upon the moorland road?

Calderon stopped outside the comfortable inn.  It attracted him; but, as
though he had put some kind of reliance upon telepathy, he felt sure that
Evelyn was not there.  Should he enter, make inquiry?  No; he knew she
was not there.  His steps led him forward.  As if he were trying to
follow some invisible thread, he went onward, pausing no more, through
the village, over to the other side of the dale, marveling at the heavy
outline of Mount Caburn, silhouetted against the sky.  He found himself
upon a good road, with hedges on both sides.  It was an adventure.  He
was following the bidding of his instinct.  He did not really believe in
it, Calderon told himself; it was too silly.  There would be a
disappointment, a sense of having been “sold”; and the morning would find
him unsatisfied, with his single opportunity gone.  Yet even while his
thoughts poured doubt upon his action he was pursuing his way at a
regular pace.  How curious it was!  It was as though there were two
Calderons—one brain, the other overmastering instinct.

“You’ll see,” he warned himself.  “Nothing will happen.  You’ll have an
uncomfortable night, and a trudge back in the morning.  It’s no good.  No
good!”

Yet he continued upon his way beside the silent hedges, his knapsack upon
his shoulder, his arms swinging, and the silver ring hidden in his
waistcoat pocket.

It was quite dark when he reached Bainbridge.  He knew well the aspect of
the open common, because he had passed through it a dozen years before,
and the place is unforgettable.  There was a large green, he remembered,
and the houses hedged the green, as they did at East Witton.  He smiled
at the memory and at the comparison.  Yorkshire held such variety of
scene, from east to west, that he could pick from among old associations
a pleasant thought of every part of it.  And here at Bainbridge he knew
there was an old inn, quiet and spacious, where he might find Evelyn.
She was not one to seek the smaller inns such as he would himself have
chosen: she would endure the discomforts of loquacious companionship
rather than those of primitive bathing arrangements.  Had it not, then,
been instinct which had led him here?  Had it perhaps been a subconscious
guessing at her inclinations?  Calderon could not discuss that now.  He
was here; it was too late to go farther; he must endure whatever
disappointment might be in store for him.

A bedroom was available; he was supplied with hot water, and he groomed
himself as well as his small store of belongings allowed.  Whimsically he
foresaw a number of women in semi-evening dress, one or two men in
suitably dark clothes, himself the only palpable “tourist.”  There would
be a solitary meal, as dinner time was past; and he would then seek among
the company the owner of the silver ring.  Calderon found himself
laughing rather excitedly, even trembling slightly.  Well, he would see
what happened.  He ventured down the stairs, nervously grinning at the
thought that Evelyn might appear from any one of the doors along that
silent passage.

When he reached the foot of the stairs he went instinctively to the door,
to watch the two or three faint, sudden lights that started across the
green out of a general blackness.  It was a very dark night; clouds had
come swiftly from the southwest, and the sky was entirely hidden.  There
was a wind, and he thought that as soon as it dropped the rain might
begin to patter.

And then, while he was thus prophesying the weather, Calderon was held to
the spot by a new sensation.  Within, from some room which he had not
entered, came an unknown voice, singing.  The voice was sweet, but he did
not listen; only the air that was sung made him follow the voice, words
forming in his mind, as though he were himself singing:

    “The little silver ring that once you gave to me
    Keeps in its narrow band every promise of ours. . . . ”

Surely he was dreaming!  He could not move.  The clouds hurried; the
darkness enwrapped him.  He could not smile at a coincidence, because he
could not believe that the song was really being sung.  It was too much
for him to take in.  If Evelyn were there, what could she be feeling,
thinking?  Calderon was a very honest man, and was considered generally a
very cool, unsentimental one; but he was easily moved by the one love of
his life.  Evelyn was the only woman for him; they were parted; he had
found a ring which held just such associations, “memories of the past,”
as the song pictured.  The ring was more than a ring.  It was not merely
an ornament; it was the material sign of their love.  Calderon was deeply
stirred.

Even as he stood there, not daring to move, he felt that he was not
alone.  Another figure, a woman’s, stood in the doorway.  He could see
her light dress, the whiteness of her neck; and he found himself
breathless, suffocated by the sudden dénouement to his dream.

“Evelyn!” he whispered, moving at last.

There was a quick recoil.  For a moment it seemed to Calderon that
everything was lost, and that he was alone.  Then the woman in the
doorway stood quite still, breathing quickly, half hidden from him by the
doorpost, her face wholly invisible in the murk of the night.

“I didn’t see anybody,” she said unsteadily.  “Who are you?”  It seemed
an unfamiliar voice, rather strangled and more than a little scared.

“Ah!  You’re not Evelyn!” Calderon cried.  Still he could not see her:
only the whiteness glimmered before him.  “I’m—  My name’s Calderon.  I
beg your pardon.  I thought it was my wife.”

“Calderon!” said the voice; and it seemed to him that it was suddenly
filled with a new warmth, as of gayety.  Then: “How funny!” said the
unknown.  He seemed to see her head quickly lowered and averted.  Was she
smiling?  Who could have told, in that foglike darkness?  It was as much
as he could do to see that she was still before him.  But funny?  What
did that mean?

“Funny?” he exclaimed eagerly.  “Is—”  He pulled himself up.  Here was a
complication!  If he asked any question, might he not make a new
difficulty?  He could not ask whether Evelyn was here.  He could guess
how quickly a story would run through a mischievous party of tourists,
unrestrained by any real understanding of the situation, and bent upon
canvassing among themselves, merely to beguile gaps in a mealtime
conversation, the history of an unhappy marriage.  He could not expose
Evelyn to such a company.  So he went no further with his speech.

“Perhaps you’ve heard—” said the voice.  “Perhaps you’ve heard of Alice
Bradshaw.”  She was quite recovered from her shock, and was ready, it
appeared to Calderon, to hold him flirtatiously in the doorway.  “I’ve
known Evelyn for some time—two years.”

“I’ve got an idea—” hesitated Calderon, racking his brains and lying.  It
was getting worse and worse!  How could he go on without showing how
little he knew about Evelyn’s recent movements?  He frowned, and smiled
nervously on the darkness.  He was rather glad of the darkness.  “I—it’s
possible—”

“But not probable!” said the laughing voice.  “Don’t pretend to remember
me, if you don’t!”

“Well, I don’t!” admitted Calderon.  “And that’s quite true.”

“Honest man!” said the voice.  Something made him move forward quickly.
The figure disappeared.  Calderon, putting his hand instinctively forward
to stop her, allowed the little ring to jerk from it.

“Oh!” he cried.  “Here, I say!”

He was down upon his knees, fumbling on the ground.  A match flickered on
his fingers.  He looked quickly up, hoping to see the unknown’s face; but
the match was blown out instantly by the strong wind that was pressing
and fluttering about him as he knelt.

“What have you dropped?” asked the voice.  The mysterious one had
reappeared in the doorway.

“A ring!” Calderon said sharply.

“A ring!”  There was sympathy in the voice.  “What a pity!  Let me look.”

He struck another match, and groped about.  It was unavailing.  The match
went out, and beyond a sudden glimpse of the trodden earth he had seen
nothing.

“It’s really your fault,” Calderon said to the unknown, “for starting
away.”

“Was it on your finger?”

“No.  It isn’t mine.  It’s a silver ring.”

“A silver—”  There was a moment’s startled pause.  “Did you hear the song
just now?”

“Yes—Ah!”  With the third match he had detected the ring.  “Good!”

“Is it your ring?” asked the voice.  “I mean . . .  Evelyn . . . wears
one, doesn’t she?”

“Does she?” Calderon asked drily.  “She did.”

“Oh, she—”

“I found it on the moor.  This is hers.  I brought it—”

Calderon checked himself again.  He was rubbing the ring with his
handkerchief, in case it had been dirtied.

“How did you know we were here?” said the voice, in a tone of piquant
curiosity.

“Then—!” cried Calderon, feeling his face get very hot.  He could have
shouted at this confirmation of his most rosy hopes.  It was with a
terrible effort that be restrained himself.  “Oh,” he said vaguely, “one
does know.”  He heard a real laugh this time, but smothered, as though
the unknown were holding a handkerchief to her mouth.

“Evidently,” she said.  “But how does one know?”

“How do you know that Evelyn didn’t tell me?” he parried.  He felt it was
a master stroke.  “You don’t seem to have exhausted the possibilities.”

“No, of course.  She might have,” admitted the mysterious voice.  There
was the tiniest silence.  “But I don’t think she did.  Of course, I don’t
know.”

“No, of course,” Calderon politely agreed.  “Is she quite well?”

“Oh!” cried the voice, shaking with amusement.  “Don’t you know that?
Hasn’t she told you that?  It’s too bad to keep it from you!”

“What!” Calderon moved nearer.  “She’s not ill!”

“No.  I meant that she was well.”

“She tells me very little about herself—very little,” he explained
ingeniously.  “You’ll have noticed that she doesn’t think of herself at
all.”

A dryness came into the tone of his companion.

“You still idealize her, then?” Calderon heard.

“Yes.  You see . . . it’s an odd thing,” he went on, “and one doesn’t
talk about it.  But you see I’m in love with her.”

There was another pause.  A significant pause.  “I think you’re very
forgiving,” at last said a muffled voice.  “I—”

“What I should like to know,” Calderon answered, as if weighing his
words, “is whether she’s also very forgiving.”

“Oh,” said the voice, now very low.  “You must ask her that.”

“I do,” Calderon ventured.  “Are you?”

“Oh, Maurice, you’re crushing me!” cried the unknown suddenly.  “There .  . .
Alice has finished singing.  She’ll be coming. . . .  Give me my
ring. . . .  Oh, my dear; of course I do!”

The ring was restored, to rest in its old position until memory’s course
should be run.

                                                       _Frank Swinnerton_.



THE SURGEON


“You fellows outside the medical profession have absolutely no conception
of the terrors confronting a prominent physician and of the traps and
snares and pitfalls laid for him at every turn.”

The great surgeon lolled back in his chair, and, raising a glass of
champagne in those delicately formed, yet steel-strong fingers that had
resolved the intricacies of life and death for many a sufferer, he gazed
thoughtfully at the whirling torrent of tiny bubbles and then touched it
lightly to his lips.  It was one of those rare times when the wheel of
Fate had brought together a group of men united by the strongest bond
that friendship can tie, the bond of the college life and love of auld
lang syne.  It was heart to heart here, even as it had been with us a
quarter century before, ere we had parted to go our several ways in the
broad fields of life.

Of us all, Harrington had become the one pre-eminently famous, and his
remark came in reply to a bit of the congratulatory flattery that only
the intimacy of the college chum dare venture with impunity.

“What do you mean, Harrington?” asked Dalbey, the banker.  “Perplexities
of diagnosis, the nervous strain of responsibility, and the like?”

“I think I can say without conceit,” replied the surgeon, “that diagnosis
has become with me almost an intuition.  In that field I have absolute
confidence in myself.  As for nerves, I haven’t any.  I can cut within
the fiftieth of an inch of certain death as coolly as you pare your nail.
No; I mean deliberate wickedness, malice, blackmail.  We are never free
from this danger.  Let me give you an instance, if it won’t bore you.”

There was a chorus of calls, “Go on, go on,” and Jenkins cried, “Never
heard it!” for which he was promptly squelched.

It was just two years ago (Harrington began), and my five gray hairs date
from that night.  I was sitting in my office just after my evening office
hour had ended, and I was pretty well tired out.  The bell rang
furiously, and I heard the attendant saying that my hour was over and
that I could see no one.  There was some very vigorous insistence, and I
caught the words “urgent,” “imperative,” and a few more equally
significant, so I called to the man that I would see the belated visitor.
He entered quickly.  He was evidently a man of wealth and breeding, and
as evidently laboring under great excitement.

“Is this Dr. Harrington?” he asked as he seated himself close by my desk.

“It is,” I answered.

“Dr. James Y. Harrington?”

“Yes.”

In the next second I found myself looking into the muzzle of a revolver.
They say that when a man is in imminent danger, the mental strain is
relieved automatically by trivialities of thought; and, do you know, the
first thing that flamed through my head was, “How many turns does the
rifling take in a barrel of that length?”

“I have come to kill you,” said my visitor in a tone as cold as camphor
ice, yet with a dignified courtesy I could not but admire.  Was I face to
face with a crank?  This question I decided in the negative, and the
situation became so much the more—piquant, shall I say?  Well, I can say
it now, at least.  Perspective adds piquancy, very often.

“Sir,” I said as quietly-as most men could when a very earnest gentleman
has the drop on them, “sir, there is certainly some mistake here.”

It may have been an inane remark; but at least he didn’t pull the
trigger, and that gained time.

“There is none, I am equally certain,” he replied.

“You have me at a decided disadvantage,” I continued, “and as any
movement of attack or alarm on my part would precipitate fatalities, may
I request that before you kill me, you at least tell me why you propose
to do so.  I make this request because, as a physician, I can see that
you are perfectly sane and not the crank I at first thought you.”

I was regaining my nerve, you see; if there is one thing in this world to
give a man nerve and coolness, it’s to put it right up to him to avoid
the next one.  At any rate, the fairness of my request must have appealed
to my visitor, for he said, “Certainly I will tell you, doctor.  That is
only just.  I kill you because you performed a critical operation on my
wife, and she is dying.”

“This is all a fearful error,” I exclaimed eagerly.  “I do not even know
you, have never seen you nor your wife, much less operated upon her.
Surgeons of my standing in the profession—I say this advisedly,
sir—usually know whom they treat.”

“Usually they do, I grant you,” he assented, but he emphasized the wrong
word quite unpleasantly.  “This has been an exception,” he added.

“Why do you believe it was I who operated?” I urged.

“My wife said so; that is sufficient for me.”

“She must surely have made the charge in delirium,” I said.

“She is not delirious, nor has she been.”

“Where was the operation performed?”

“She refuses to tell me.”

I thought very bard for a minute.  What kind of a predicament was this?
I then said to him, “This is a serious and vital matter, sir, for both of
us.  Any mistake could not fail to have momentous consequences.  Suppose
you take me to confront your wife.  It is probably a case of mistaken
identity, and when she sees me, she will most certainly be able readily
to rectify this awful blunder.  And so sure am I of the result that I
pledge you my word to accompany you without violence or outcry.”

After a moment’s reflection he said, “I accept your proposition.”

His carriage was waiting at the door.  Evidently he had been desperate
when he came, and fully prepared to face the consequences of his
desperation.  We drove together to his home.

In my complete certainty of my position I feasted my eyes on the
luxurious furnishings, the costly rugs—I’m a lover of rugs, you know, and
a bit of a connoisseur—and the exquisite bric-a-brac and paintings.
Moreover, I now knew with whom I was dealing, though that fact I
concealed.

We went up to the sickroom.  A beautiful woman, desperately ill and pale
as death itself, lay motionless upon the pillows.  As we softly entered
the room, she turned her eyes toward us, too weak to move her head.

The eyes were dull and listless, but when their glance fell on me, they
literally flashed fire and a hard, determined look came into them.

“Dear,” said her husband, bending tenderly down to her, “who did you say
performed that operation?”

“Dr. Harrington,” she whispered.

“I have brought him here.  Is that the person who operated?”

“Yes.”

My heart just at that moment went as cold as a snowball.  I saw myself
ruined, broken on the wheel of Fate.  The death phase of the situation
didn’t matter.  Worst of all, I now saw the motive.  She was shielding
some bungler, near, or more probably dear, to her—I was the victim
selected by mere horrible chance.

I crossed softly to the bed.  “Madam,” I said to her as gently as my
tumult of feeling would permit, “I implore you to tell the truth.  Did I
perform this operation?”

With absolute self-possession she whispered, “Doctor, you did.”

I was helpless; it was a fine illustration of the terrible power of the
lie as a weapon against right and honor.

“I assure you, before God,” I declared, turning to the husband, “that I
was not the operating surgeon in this case.  You know, possibly, my
reputation for professional skill.  Will you then permit me to take your
wife’s temperature and to make a very brief examination with a view to
determining the probable effect of her condition upon her rational
faculties?”

To my delight, he consented.  With careful formality I prepared a
thermometer, taking and noting the temperature both at mouth and armpit.
The woman exhibited none of the repulsion she ought to have shown, by all
principles of psychology, to being examined by the author of her
misfortune.

I then seated myself by the bed and felt the pulse.  Taking my watch and
detaching it from the chain, I placed it on the white cover of the bed
beside her, where she could not fail to hear the ticking.  I lifted her
hands and applied my finger tips lightly to the arterial beat at the
wrist.  I looked her steadily in the eyes, and apparently gave the most
minute attention to the really faint beating of her pulse.

“Madam,” I said after a long wait, “it is my solemn and painful duty to
inform you that you have but fifteen minutes to live.  My whole
professional life is at stake here.  Ruin, disgrace, and even death stare
me in the face as a result of what you may say.  But I do not urge this
upon you.  I urge you merely for God’s sake to tell the truth.”

“Doctor, you know you did it,” she whispered wearily.

I had expected that.  My bit of work in experimental psychology was just
beginning.  I kept perfectly silent, my fingers still resting upon the
patient’s wrist.  The tomb itself is not more still nor more solemn than
was that room.  I let full five minutes pass without word or movement.

Do you know how long five minutes can be?  Did you ever try a silent wait
of five little minutes, even though life and death were not in the
balance?  Try to guess at five minutes; and if you are not skilled in
counting seconds, you will call time in two.  Five minutes can be an
eternity.  They were so then.

“Madam,” I said again, “you have but ten minutes to live.  I implore you
to right the great wrong you have done.”

Why that man did not throw me out of the room I will never know.  He
seemed fascinated by the fearful experiment.

Again she calmly murmured, “Doctor, it was you.”

I acknowledge that then the room turned black; but I was myself in an
instant.  I resumed my solemn death watch.  This time I deliberately
allowed eight minutes to add themselves to the eternal past.  Then I knew
I was playing my last card.

“Madam,” I said as solemnly and impressively as I could speak the words,
“in two minutes you will be before your God.  Are you willing that your
soul should face its Maker with the black stain upon it of the dreadful
lie you have told?  For your own immortal soul’s sake, I implore you to
tell the truth.”

A feeble gesture called her husband to her side.  I rose and retired
across the room.  He bent over her, shaken by great sobs.  She drew him
down to her, kissed him and whispered, “It was not he.”

I almost fell.  The revulsion of feeling was too great.  Mastering myself
by a supreme effort, I stood to hear the colloquy to the end.

“Who was it?” he asked.

She told him.

“You swear to this?”

“With my dying breath.”

He turned to me with a face of ashen paleness.  “Doctor,” he gasped,
“pardon.”

I snapped shut the case of my watch.  “Madam,” I said, “you will
recover,” and left the room and house unmolested.

No one spoke for a moment.  Then Carvill ejaculated under his breath, “My
God!”

                                                         _B. W. Mitchell_.



THE ’DOPTERS


“Lemmy—oo-hoo—Lemmy—”

Lemmy stopped short in his game of jack-stones, and looked fearfully over
his shoulder.  All about him were the rest of the children, unconcerned,
playing none the quieter for the reposeful afternoon shadow of the gray
cloister-like walls.  At the edge of the yard where the grass was worn
off most he saw the “biggest boys,” now suspending their game of ball to
call to him.  In the general cry he recognized the leading, raucous voice
of Gus Chapman.  Lemmy did not answer.  He turned his back and tried to
fling his jackstones indifferently.  Out of the corner of his eye he
could see Gus approaching.

“The ’Dopters, Lemmy—the ’Dopters are coming!” Gus warned him.

In an instant Lemmy was on his feet.  Panic-stricken, he fled, leaving
his jackstones upon the ground.  He put his hands over his ears to shut
out the hooting, derisive cries of the boys who did not understand his
fear of the ’Dopters—that horde of individuals who lurked about the Home,
a constant menace to his happiness.  They looked harmless enough, to be
sure, in their varied disguises.  Some came as jolly, oldish ladies with
much candy and sometimes fat bunches of raisins in their pockets.  Others
looked for all the world like hearty farmers who might raise apples, both
red and yellow—a very deceptive sort, these farmers, who laughed a great
deal and poked the boys’ muscles and pinched the girls’ cheeks.  Most to
be feared were the ’Dopters in black who hung round more than any of the
rest.  They brought toys hardly worn at all, but they never seemed to
want to let them go at the last minute.  They made a show of crying over
Gracie Peeler and Nannie Bagget, who had curls and knew how to do a
curtsey.  The ’Dopters in black always made off with some one.

Despite the endless variety, it was not hard to tell a ’Dopter if you saw
him in time.  There was something about them.  Most of the children
recognized them instinctively.  Gus was particularly expert at picking
out the ’Dopters from the casual visitors at the Home.  Watching for them
never interfered with his play in the least.  He always saw first.  Lemmy
had learned to trust Gus’s signals of danger, and although he was
overwhelmed by the accompanying teasing, he felt very grateful.  Gus was
his savior—his methods were not to be criticized.  Times innumerable Gus
had saved him from being adopted.

Who knew what it meant—being adopted?  Lemmy could not understand why
most of the children thought that it was something nice.  None of them
seemed to realize that there was any reason to be afraid.  They were
always talking about Tommie Graham, who had been borne off by the
’Dopters.  His friends at the Home had not seen him since his
disappearance, but stories had started somehow about Tommie’s having a
dog with a schooner back and a train of cars which whizzed around when he
pressed a button.  It was also said that there was another button which
Tommie could press and some one would come to take him for a ride in a
sailboat.  But all this was mere hearsay.  There was no telling what had
really befallen Tommie, all because he was foolish enough to sing in the
hearing of the ’Dopters his song about three frogs that sat on a lily
pad.

Lemmy was certain that when a ’Dopter threw off his disguise he was a
dragon of the very worst kind.  It was Simple Simon to believe when they
talked about this and that you could have if you would only come along.
Lemmy knew, for once from behind the office door he had heard them
talking to Miss Border, who wore the white of authority.  Their remarks
about “parental history” and “hereditary instincts” and “psychological
effects of environment” had betrayed them.  Lemmy remembered how ominous
these things had sounded mixed with whoop and halloo from the playground.
And the queer feeling which had shivered through him!  The sensation from
eating a mouthful of green gooseberries was nothing in comparison.

How could the other children believe that likely as not those words meant
something nice?  Lemmy knew better.  After he had overheard that secret
conference with Miss Border, he thought that he understood the ’Dopters
pretty well.  Theirs was a sticky-fly-paper method; there was no end to
the ways they had of fooling you.  They had named him “among the least
promising”—this, Lemmy gathered, on account of his skinny legs, the
result of something “subnormal”; and because of his habit of going off
alone into corners, termed “sulkiness and uncompanionability”; his big
ears had something to do with it too.  One tall lady had said that they
were “not exactly Grecian.”  Altogether he was “undesirable.”  This
classification even Gus took to be aboveboard.

“They don’t wantcha, Lemmy,” Gus repeatedly assured him.  “Yuh needn’t be
so scarey.”  But Gus didn’t fathom the duplicity of the ’Dopters—they
hatched up all sorts of schemes to make you feel easy and then got you
unawares.  Likely as not they knew all the time that he was the littlest
boy in the Home who could hang by his heels, and that he could hold his
breath longer than Gus—and, though it was a secret, that he had a pet
toad named Nippy in the broken wall where it was green and wet.  They
seemed to know everything—the ’Dopters.

The thought of these things made Lemmy’s heels fly faster.  He whisked
behind the spirea bushes and drew from underneath the widespreading
branches a short ladder which he had constructed laboriously from the
odds and ends of dry-goods boxes.  He set up the rickety support and
climbed nimbly to the top of the high, broad wall, where the low elm
trees hid him from view.  He drew the ladder up carefully after him, and
with a breath of relief stretched himself at full length, safe from the
’Dopters for a little while at least.  It was comfort to have such a
place where he could hide, unless the ’Dopters came at mealtime, when no
one could escape.  He would not soon forget the time when Lucy Simmons
was dragged away just as she had started to eat her piece of blackberry
pie.  She never came back to finish it.  One could never be really safe
from the ’Dopters.  There was no let-up to looking out for them.  And
there would always be ’Dopters as long as the Outside remained.  Lemmy
was afraid of the Outside.  He liked to look at it from the top of the
wall; it appeared fascinatingly full of mystery, but it always terrified
him.  There was no place really safe, even bed.  Lemmy sighed and
squinted through the fluttering leaves at a bit of cloud.  After a while
it would be getting pink, as it did when supper time came—baked potatoes
and milk, and maybe jam from the long, dark shelves in the vegetable
cellar.  Lemmy’s thoughts flew to the empty barrel in which he intended
to hide when winter came on and the elm leaves fell to the ground.  It
would be hard to get by Mrs. O’Gorman, who was always puttering about the
basement with a pad and pencil, muttering unintelligible things under her
breath.  Perhaps the linen closet would be safer, only they might come
when Gerda and Lou were putting away the ironed things.

Lemmy’s speculations were interrupted by a deep “Ho-ho-hum” from the
other side of the wall.  The exclamation had a luxurious sound, as if
some one was treating himself to a good rest.  Lemmy peered over the edge
of the wall, and gave a little gasp.

There on the bench beneath was some one who had undoubtedly stepped out
of book covers.  He was a big man, a very big man, with a brown skin
lined with fine wrinkles which told all sorts of things without his
saying a word.  His hair was gray, but he looked somehow very young and
up to anything lively.  His old trousers were turned up, and his coat
with its big buttons, flung wide apart, disclosed a faded blouse.  From
his belt dangled a heavy chain, and from his pocket the end of a jolly
colored handkerchief.  His cap had the look of a cap which had been
through things.  Slowly and comfortably he stretched his long arms, and
as his sleeve slipped back Lemmy caught sight of a tattooed bird, green
and blue and red, above his left wrist.  And then he flung his head back,
and his blue eves twinkled up at Lemmy without a sign of surprise.

“A-hoy, mate,” he called companionably.

“A-hoy, Cap’n,” returned Lemmy, laughing in delight.

“How’s the wind?”

“Southwest,” Lemmy gave back promptly.  “And that’s what stirs the water
up all purply pink—”

“Right-o—”  The Cap’n slapped his knee in approval.

“Wind that makes the lake look like that must come from a place where a
fellah could find out about magic,” Lemmy speculated.

“Magic?  You want to find out about magic, young man?”  The Cap’n sat up
with a great show of interest.  His eyes were very friendly.

“Oh, more’n anything else in the world,” Lemmy burst out impulsively.  “I
want to find out how to make a rosebush pop out of a stovepipe hat and
how to pull fuzzy little chickens out of people’s sleeves and how to pick
gold pieces out of the air the way I saw a man do once to make the
lumbermen laugh at Camp Cusson—that’s where I lived when my Daddy used to
run the lumber camp until he died, and so did my mother of epidemick—”
Lemmy caught his breath.  “I want to learn how to do magic so I can have
fun and make people laugh.”

The Cap’n chuckled and spread his jolly colored handkerchief across his
knees.  From an old, brown wallet he took a coin which he twirled merrily
in his nimble fingers.

“Have a look at this,” he said, reaching up to put the coin into Lemmy’s
hand.

Lemmy looked curiously at the strange piece of money which lay in his
palm.  It was not at all like the dimes and nickels which the ’Dopters
often slid into a fellow’s pocket.  It was shiny and yellow, the color of
the pin which always fastened Miss Border’s collar.  It was gold!  And
there were figures of dragons upon it guarding words which Lemmy could
not read at all, though they were very short.

“Heave it into the hanker,” directed the Cap’n.

Plump into the jolly colored handkerchief Lemmy dropped the coin.
Wide-eyed, he watched the Cap’n tie the handkerchief into a knot and
twist it smartly to make certain that it was secure.  With a fine
flourish he flung it high into the air, caught it again deftly and untied
the tight knot.  Smiling broadly, he spread the handkerchief out upon his
knees again.  Lemmy stared unbelievingly—the gold coin had vanished and
in its place lay a silver dollar.  He blinked at the air in a daze.  Very
quickly the Cap’n retied his handkerchief and tossed it up once more.
When he opened it again, wonder of wonders, there was the gold coin!

A cry of discovery burst from Lemmy’s throat.

“You’re a Majishun!”

The Cap’n beamed and drew from his pocket, one, two, three oranges.  He
took the gold coin again, and carelessly balancing it upon his nose, at
the same time tossed the oranges one after the other into the air,
juggling them with fine precision so that they rose and fell rhythmically
in time to music which the Cap’n alone could hear.

“They’re majicked!” Lemmy whispered spellbound as he eyed the oranges
flashing in the air while the coin remained apparently affixed to the
Cap’n’s nose.

His eyes grew wider yet when suddenly the Cap’n ended his performance by
gathering in oranges and coin with one grand sweep, not dropping a thing.

“Now hold your hands,” the Cap’n invited.

Before Lemmy could say Jack Robinson, there right in his own hands was
one of the magician’s golden balls.

“Shiver my timbers, did you never see an orange before?” the Cap’n cried
as he watched Lemmy’s face.

“Not a Majishun’s orange,” Lemmy answered, fingering his treasure
reverently.

“Taste it, young ’un—”

“O-oh, I couldn’t!”  Lemmy’s voice carried agony.

“The Cap’n’s orders.  Eat it and you get another.”

Still Lemmy hesitated.

“I’ll have one along with you,” the Cap’n urged sociably.  “I can beat
you peeling!”

The Cap’n started to peel one of the erstwhile magic balls.  Lemmy dug
his teeth quickly into his own orange.  The race was on.  Lemmy’s squeal
of victory as he threw down the last bit of rind surprised the Cap’n
amazingly.

“And mine only half peeled,” he exclaimed.  “You are a quick-un.”

Then, quite naturally, Lemmy fell to eating oranges along with the Cap’n.

“Eating oranges with a Majishun—what’d Gus say?” Lemmy murmured, half in
a trance.  “What if I hadn’t run away from the ’Dopters?”

“The ’Dopters?”  The Cap’n put his head on one side and raised his
eyebrows very much puzzled indeed.  “Who are they?”

“Oh, the ’Dopters are always hanging round the Home, trying to carry us
off.  A fellah has to watch out all the time.  They’re sharp as tacks,
always trying to fool us by looking something diff’rent.  Ev’ry time they
come they change their clothes to put us off the track.”

“Oh-ho—so you don’t like ’em, eh?”

“Oh, I’m afraid of ’em, they scare me so!” Lemmy’s voice quivered
pitifully.  “All the time I have to think of ’em.  I’m never, never safe
from the ’Dopters.  I bet they’d poke a fellah’s eyes out once they got
him, or starve him maybe.  Oh, I don’t know what a ’Dopter wouldn’t do!”

The Cap’n listened gravely.  Never once did he laugh as Lemmy poured
forth his miserable fear of the ’Dopters.  The Cap’n understood.  Lemmy
could tell that.  By the time the oranges had disappeared, Lemmy had told
the Cap’n all about the ’Dopters and even confided the existence of
Nippy.

“I’ll show him to you,” Lemmy offered, hustling down the ladder to return
with his pet toad upon a wet leaf for exhibition.

The Cap’n was a gratifying sort.  He saw at once Nippy’s good points—the
beautiful brightness of his eyes, the fine spots upon his back, the
superiority of his intellect.  Nippy in turn winked his approval at the
Cap’n as if they had many a joke in common.

“As fine a toad as ever sat a rock or sailed the sea,” avowed the Cap’n
enthusiastically.  “By the bye, young man, how’d you like to take Nippy
on a cruise with me?”

Lemmy clutched the wall and gazed for one electrical second into the
Cap’n’s eyes.  It wasn’t a joke!

“Can we start now?” Lemmy asked breathlessly.

The Cap’n bestirred himself instantly.

“It’s high time to be off.  Swing yourself down and I’ll catch you.”

Lemmy ensconced Nippy quickly in the little perforated box which he
always kept in his pocket for him; then he swung himself from the wall
straight into the Cap’n’s arms.  It seemed so natural and safe to be
walking along Outside, ahold of a Majishun’s hand.

Lemmy’s legs took on a fine stride.

Down the hill they went with never a look behind at those gray walls, for
their eyes were fixed upon the great lake, Superior, pulsing now under
the wonder touch of the southwest wind, shimmering all the colors of the
opal.  There lay the boats poking up their brightly painted smokestacks
for folks to see.  Down, down, and down, such a short way, and yet, the
wonderful farness of it!

“Here we are at the docks—the Northern Star waiting for us,” the Cap’n
announced presently.

Lemmy swung along a little faster, for there in full sight were the high
ore docks stretching far, far into the water.  Of course they had been
“majicked” there.  Thus the wonder of them was explained.

The Cap’n lifted him to his shoulder and walked along the abutment to one
of the biggest freighters nosing the end of the dock.

“All aboard the Northern Star,” the Cap’n said, giving him a lift up the
ladder.

Lemmy climbed like a little monkey, as fast as he could, for fear he
wouldn’t really get aboard.

Straight up to the bridge the Cap’n took him.  “You can see us load up
from here.  Keep your eyes open and many a sight you’ll see.”  Lemmy
heard the Cap’n’s words as if in a dream.  He looked wonderingly about
him.

On top of the high dock he could see cars full of reddish, yellowish
chunks which the Cap’n called iron ore.  Hurrying about everywhere were
the dock workers, smudged from head to foot with pigment which gave them
the look of pirates.  With quick calls these men loosened the doors in
the bottoms of the cars to let the ore rattle down into the big pockets
in the dock.  But nearer at hand something more engrossing was happening.
Deck-hands aboard the Northern Star were opening the hatches.  All along
the deck of the freighter the hatchways yawned ready for the load of ore.
There was a great rattle of cables from above, and down came the chutes
into the hatchways.  Lemmy could see the men on the dock poking long
poles into the pockets to set the ore sliding.  The first chunks struck
the bottom of the hold thunderingly and then heavy masses came sliding
down the chutes with a steady, rushing sound which thrilled Lemmy like
nothing he had ever heard before.  It was not long before the big
freighter was loaded full of the ore, and one after another the long
chutes were drawn back into place against the dock.  When the men set
about closing the hatchways, the Cap’n took Lemmy below to see his
quarters.

What Lemmy saw first when he entered was an old sea chest.

“Have a look in,” the Cap’n suggested, following Lemmy’s gaze.  “It’s
chock-full of stuff from everywhere.”

He threw back the lid, and Lemmy had a whiff of tar and tobacco and salt,
an indescribable smell, suggesting untold adventure.  “Chock-full” the
chest was of all manner of wonderful things: compasses and shells,
quadrants and gaudy strips of silk, battered old books, squinty-eyed
monkeys carved out of ivory, long strings of many-colored beads, chains,
silver and copper and gold all strung with bangles—there was no end to
the treasure store.

The Cap’n took a cutlass from the chest and balanced it upon his nose as
easily as he had poised the coin there.

“See here, young ’un,” he said suddenly.  “You’re old enough to start
learning magic.”

A golden mist swam before Lemmy’s eyes.

“You—you mean to learn to be a majishun?”

“A sort of A-B-C magician, yes.  Here, take this!”  He thrust into
Lemmy’s hand a carved ebony ring.  “I’ll show you how to make it
disappear.”

Very patiently, the Cap’n initiated Lemmy into the rudiments of magic,
teaching him how to exhibit with a flourish before imaginary spectators,
then with an adroit pass to make it disappear until he chose by a swift
movement to hold it once more in full view between his thumb and finger.
The mastery of the old trick, dependent only upon a little dexterity in
sleight-of-hand, filled Lemmy with enormous pride.  He glowed with
delight at the Cap’n’s applause, mingled with the easily imagined
handclapping from the invisible audience.  He was lifted far, far away
from commonplace things.  He was a novitiate in a new world of unending
mystery and delight.  He tried to say “thank you” to the Cap’n, but his
gratitude overwhelmed him.  He could only press the ring back reverently
into the Cap’n’s hand.  There were no words for a thing such as this.

Then came a noise at the door.  At the Cap’n’s bidding in walked a burly
fellow as big as the Cap’n himself.

“Look at the young ’un, Andy McDonald—he’s off with us tonight,” the
Cap’n informed him.

“Bless my soul,” Andy McDonald exclaimed, tousling Lemmy’s hair, “the
Northern Star’s in luck.”

“Now Andy’ll find you a proper place for Nippy and I’ll be off on a bit
of business before we set out.”  The Cap’n left him with Andy McDonald,
who knew exactly where to catch flies for Nippy and where to get pebbles
to his liking and where to find just the sort of safe, dampish corner
where he could voyage happily.  And McDonald was very ingenious at
devising quarters which would give Nippy plenty of room and yet keep him
in bounds.

“He might jump overboard in his sleep, you know, dreamin’ like,” Andy
McDonald remarked as he screened Nippy in.

As soon as Nippy was settled, Andy gave a shrill whistle which brought
Chink, the rat terrier mascot of the boat, tearing to make Lemmy’s
acquaintance.

“He’s got a collar with spikes on it,” Lemmy cried excitedly.  “And a
piece of his ear’s nipped off!”

“He gets scarred up, Chink does, but he never gets licked.  Don’t let him
get in a row with Nippy.”

How could Lemmy know that during these enchanted moments with Andy
McDonald the Cap’n was talking with Miss Border about “parental history”
and “hereditary instincts” and all the rest of the ’Dopters’ secrets?

It was at table that Lemmy saw the Cap’n again—the head of a feast
befitting a Majishun such as he.  Lemmy tried hard not to gobble, but the
chicken was oh, so tender, and he had never before tasted what the Cap’n
called “kumquats.”  There was so much he couldn’t possibly eat it all.
He finally gave up trying when the Cap’n assured him that there would be
more tomorrow.

Up on the bridge again Lemmy watched the busy engine haul in the cables
which held the freighter to the dock.  A capable little tug, which the
Cap’n called familiarly “Sultana,” came to help them head the boat into
the channel.

“We’re off,” cried the Cap’n as the Sultana chug-chugged away, while with
slow majesty the Northern Star made its way out into the lake.

“Look behind at the Diamond Necklace,” Andy called to him.  Turning to
look back, Lemmy saw the Allouez ore docks glittering, palpitating, in
the fast gathering purple of the night.  Upon the hill electric signs
blazed out fantastically; here a red sun rising over a green hill, and
farther on a multicolored fan opening and closing with a bewildering
flash; then came a comical, twinkling bucket of shiny paint which would
bubble over.  Past the signs came rows and rows of lights set regularly
like soldiers.

The Northern Star was moving faster now, passing between the big piers of
the canal under the Aërial Bridge past the lighthouse with revolving
signals.

A big passenger boat coming into the harbor passed them swiftly, giving
two long whistles by way of greeting.  Lemmy caught the tinkle of music
and the sound of people laughing on board—then suddenly they were gone.

Out—out—past all the lights went the Northern Star straight into the
silver white moon path stretching endlessly across the water.

Lemmy looked up at the winking stars and leaned comfortably back against
the Cap’n’s arm.

“I’m safe now from the ’Dopters,” he whispered exultantly.

“We’ve given them the slip,” the Cap’n assured him.  “They’ll never get
you now.”

Dreamily, with his head upon the Cap’n’s shoulder, Lemmy happily fingered
the ebony ring which had somehow “got majicked” into his pocket.

                                               _Aileen Cleveland Higgins_.



PREM SINGH


Prem Singh had company.  When I went in the gathering dusk to feed the
cow I noticed, instead of the usual solitary figure crouched above the
little camp fire in the open, two lean forms silhouetted against the
dancing flames, while a flow of guttural conversation that broke
occasionally into seemingly excited treble argument mingled with the
fragrant smoke from burning greasewood roots.

“He probably has a letter from India,” I told the Lady of the Castle,
when I went back into the little stone house, “and has rung in a chap
from the gang below to read it to him.”

“From his brother, probably,” said the Lady.  “He’ll be all excited over
it.  You’ll have to do the milking.”

Her surmise as to the letter was correct, though I didn’t have to do the
milking.

“Letter come China country!  My brother!” Prem Singh announced
exultantly, when he came for the milk pail.  “Pretty good!”  He ducked
his head sideways in a delighted nod.  “I go milk now.”

We had known of this brother ever since the Hindu had become our devoted
and isolated adherent.  He was Prem Singh’s family, the only relative he
had in the world.

“My father, mammy, been die,” he had explained to me.  “Both.  My father,
my mammy, two my sister, my little brother: all one time die.  Too much
sick.  All my uncle, my auntie, everybody die.  Too many people.  Just
me, my big brother, live.  Thass all.”  From which we gathered that a
cholera epidemic had left the two boys orphans: Prem Singh, now our
vassal, and Kala Singh, half a dozen years older, at present a British
policeman at Shanghai.

It was a poor life, this brother’s, but highly treasured by the younger
brother, who, curiously enough, proved to be the stable member of the
family.  Kala Singh had left a bad record behind him in India, including
a year’s jail sentence for knifing a co-conspirator in a bank robbery.

“My brother pretty much been marry,” Prem Singh told me one time, his
face clouding over.  “One time twelve hundred, one time fifteen hundred,
dollar—my country rupee.  All go.”  He snapped his fingers to illustrate
the disappearance of the marriage money into thin air.  “Too much drink.
Too much gambler.”

Evidence that the black sheep had never mended his ways was furnished
abundantly in the repeated requests that came for money, which Prem Singh
never refused.

“Mester,” he would usually ask me on the day succeeding the arrival of a
letter from “China country,” “you two hundred dollar today bank take off,
mice.”  I had never been able to teach him the use of the possessive
“mine”; it was invariably mice.  “I send money China country.  My
brother.”  Once or twice I remonstrated with him about this, to no
purpose.  After all, it was his own money: the two dollars a day which,
with practically no outgo, added up month by month in the bank.  A letter
from India, which he told me came from one of his brother’s deserted
wives, proved equally futile, though troubling him for several days.  Its
only ultimate result was to prejudice his young mind still further
against womankind and the institution of marriage.

“Me?  Not any been marry!” he assured me, his eyes flashing.  “Never!
All time too much trouble!  No good.”

Yet he was engaged, one of those betrothals arranged in infancy by Hindu
parents, binding till death.  It hung over Prem Singh like a sword of
Damocles, exiling him forever from his native land.

“This country pretty good,” he told me often.  “Girl wait all time my
country.  Twenty year old now, I guess, maybe.  I stay America!  Pretty
good.  Not any go back!”  He shook his head emphatically.  “Maybe some
time my brother come this country.  Thass good!”  His eyes gleamed at the
pleasant vision.

It was this dream of a reunion with his beloved black sheep of a brother
in the great and good land of America, far from the cloudy danger of
marriage that overhung all India, that more than any other illumined his
long days and lonely evenings on the California mesa.  He kept aloof from
the other Hindus, from the large camps where they congregated, twenty and
thirty together, for the clearing work that in time was to transform mesa
into orchard land.  He preferred to remain alone, apart, as my man.

“You pretty good man, Mester,” he told me.  “I all time stay here,
please.  I your man.  My life!”  Then he smiled.  “Maybe some time my
brother come; then two your men!  Both.  Thass pretty good!”

And now the dream seemed likely to materialize.  When he returned with
the full milk pail, Prem Singh had a question to ask.  He fidgeted
awkwardly about it, remaining in the kitchen an unconscionable length of
time, resting one foot and then the other.  It came out at last with a
rush.

“Mester, how much you think cost ticket, Shanghai this country?”

“I don’t know, Prem Singh.  I’ll find out in Los Angeles, if you want.
Steerage?”

“No, Sair!”  He was indignant.  “Not any!  Maybe my brother come this
country.  Second class, sure.  Thass pretty good.”

I learned the amount, and it went forward on the next boat by money order
to Kala Singh, care Sikh Temple, Shanghai.  Then followed for Prem Singh
a protracted period of pleasant anticipation that ended dismally two
months later when another letter arrived from China country, announcing
that the money was gone.

“Too much gambler, my brother,” Prem Singh confided to me sadly.  “I
guess ticket more better.”

It was a good idea; and the next registered letter carried no additional
money order, but instead a one-way ticket, second class, from Shanghai.

This was efficacious; and when, six weeks later, another letter arrived
from Shanghai, Prem Singh came to the house in a tremble of excitement.

“Mester, you know Salina Cruz?  This country?  Canada?  I guess not.
Meeseeco?  I guess maybe!  My brother come Salina Cruz.  English read.”
He always used the word “read” indiscriminately for read or write,
reading or writing.

Inclosed with the sheet covered with Indian script was a small slip
bearing a message in English.  “Arrive Salina Cruz November 29,” it read.
“Send money.”

“I guess my brother read maybe, himself,” announced Prem Singh, scanning
it closely.  “Pretty smart man, my brother.  English pretty good speak.
My country read easy, English read little.  Me not any.  Not smart, me.”
Then he shook his head.  “I guess this not any my brother read.”

I guessed not either.  It was a very fair handwriting indeed.

“You think all right send money Salina Cruz, Mester?”

I did not think so, emphatically not.  Prem Singh was in doubt.  His
natural caution warned him against such a move.  On the other hand his
affection for his brother, his instinctive generosity, his desire to
hasten in any way possible his brother’s approach to the land of promise,
urged him on.  In the end he decided to wait for a more definite request.

It was not long in coming, arriving in the form of a telegram almost on
the heels of the letter.  “Send seventy dollars, Kala Singh, care British
Consul, Salina Cruz, Mexico,” the message ran.  Evidently this brother
was no fool.

Prem Singh immediately dispatched a hundred by registered mail, bemoaning
only the fact that the telegraph company would not transmit money to that
point.

Followed another period of waiting—anxious this time, for why should
there be so much delay?—and then the end.

It is no easy matter for Hindus to enter this country, though there is as
yet no definite Hindu exclusion act.  The immigration laws already in
existence can be so construed, in accordance with the desires of a
certain rabid element of whites on the Pacific Coast, that it is almost
impossible for a turbaned citizen of Great Britain to enter the United
States.  For the most part those that now drift into this country of ours
land in Canada or Mexico, and straggle across the international line,
running the gauntlet to escape detection.

This Kala Singh attempted.  It was at Christmas time, we learned through
a Hindu who had made the voyage from Shanghai with him.  Landed at Salina
Cruz, they had taken boat again for Ensenada; thence, working overland,
had come to the American border in the vicinity of Yuma.  The pair had
been detected by the border patrol, pursued, captured, and locked up for
the night in a small jail.  Participating, before daylight, with men held
for greater offenses, in a general jail break, they had been ordered to
halt, and fired upon in the darkness.  Kala Singh had been found by a
chance bullet, and killed instantly.

“Isn’t there anything we can do?” the Lady of the Castle asked me when I
told her about it.  “Isn’t there anything?”

I went out to where Prem Singh crouched alone over his little fire of
greasewood roots under the great vault of heaven.

“Hello, Mester!” he called listlessly, as I approached awkwardly.

“Hello, Prem Singh!” I answered.

There was a pause.  “I make my country bread,” he announced at length,
clearing his throat, obviously manufacturing conversation in order to put
me at my ease; and then, after a little: “I think maybe go back my
country pretty soon.”

“Go back to India, Prem Singh?” I was genuinely surprised.

He nodded affirmation.  “Next month, maybe, I go,” he said wearily.
“America not very good.  My country more better.  Maybe bime-by been
marry.”

                                                              _John Amid_.



EVEN SO


It all happened a century ago.  “On this day,” the village minister of
those other years wrote in his slow, regular hand—the pages of his
journal are yellow as saffron now, and the ink is faded brown—“on this
day did Captain Hastings sail in command of the Amaryllis, taking with
him as hitherto, poor Christine Widmer, concerning whom there has been so
much talk.  For my own part I cannot be properly scandalized by their
relation.  Certainly the thought of marriage with one in her condition is
not to be tolerated, and I believe her to be happier with him than
elsewhere.”  Christian charity, indeed!

There have always been men of the Hastings name in the village.  They
came in the days of its first settlement.  There are a score of them
living here at this very minute.  And, like the most of them in the early
years of the republic, Donald Hastings followed the sea.  Holiest,
impetuous, young, as were so many of those sea captains in that golden
era of the early nineteenth century, he left but one shadow on his
memory—perhaps not altogether a shadow.  Therein lies the story.

                                * * * * *

Above the junk the masts and spars of a ship loomed in the moonlight.

Singsong voices swelled to a wild chatter, and the steering sweep was
swung hard over.  But the old junk, clumsy and slow to obey her helm,
remained in the center of the channel.  For a moment, collision was
imminent.  Then from the deck of that Chinese vessel on the Chu Kiang,
one of thousands as like as their yellow masters, came the sharp call:

“Ahoy there!  Bear off!”

“Who’s there below?”  A deep voice from above roared the words in a tone
of amazement.

A rattle of commands came down to the junk, hoarse and loud on the night
air.  The Chinese clamored in ducklike harshness of speech.  Then the
slowly turning junk and the veering ship passed by a margin of inches.
And as they passed, seven men came scrambling over the bulwarks of the
ship to a deck filled with shadowy figures that gathered in a silent
circle.  Then the circle opened and one man, standing out from the rest,
confronted the seven in the near darkness.

“Well,” said he, in a low, deliberate voice, “who and what are you?”

“This,” replied the leader of the seven, with a quick gesture, “is all
that is left of the crew of the Helen of Troy.”

“Ah!”  The voice was cool and noncommittal.  “Of the Helen of Troy.  Do
you know what ship this is?”

“Who are you?” the man from the junk demanded suddenly.

The other laughed shortly.  “I—” he began.

“You are Amos Widmer!”

And Amos Widmer it was.

“Yes, I am Amos Widmer—and you are . . . all that is left of the crew of
the Helen of Troy!”

There was a suggestion of irony in his tone.  He stood there for a time,
smiling queerly in the dusk, and looking past the other, who faced him
with folded arms.  His was not a pleasant smile.

“Boy,” he said at last in a soft, gentle voice, “Captain Hastings, of the
Helen of Troy, will have the unoccupied stateroom.  Show him down, and
put yourself at his service.”

There was one porthole to the stateroom, iron gray it seemed, and a
lantern swung from an overhead beam.  When the boy had gone, Hastings
leaned back and surveyed darkly the narrow confines of the little room.

Then he heard a woman laughing somewhere in the ship, as if a long way
off, and was swept by a flood of conflicting emotions.

In a way, it had all begun long before, when the Helen of Troy slipped
through the narrows of my old New England port on a day in early June,
the wind abeam, and was passed by a ship outward bound under full press
of canvas.  The scene came back to Hastings there in the dim light of the
stateroom; the New England shore dark against the yellow sunset; the
ship, phantom-like, her sails barred by shadows of spar and rigging; then
the rumbling voice of the mate of the Helen of Troy: “The Winnemere, as
I’m alive!  It ain’t in nature to be meeting with her always.  Nagasaki!
Batavia!  Sumatra!  Aye, she sang another tune, though, the night we
passed her in Macassar Strait.”

It seemed to Hastings that he could hear again his own reply, faint and
far off: “There were light winds that night.  But she’s an able craft in
coarse weather.”  Training his glass at the tall figure on the deck of
the outgoing vessel, he had muttered, “Grin, damn ye, grin!” and flung
back his head with an air of elation.  Not in ships alone were Donald
Hastings and Amos Widmer rivals.

So the Winnemere had sailed to meet the oncoming dusk, and the Helen of
Troy had come bravely into port.  And there Donald Hastings had heard an
old story, and like many a better man before him, had gone back to the
sea to forget that he ever had loved.  But one thing he had not been able
to forget.

After a time that faint laughter, breaking the pregnant silence of the
little stateroom, came again to Hastings’ ears.  There was in it a
strange note that puzzled him, an unfamiliarity that overbore the
lingering familiarity of its tone.  Presently, as he stood with parted
lips, the boy came, knocking, and asked him to the captain’s cabin.  As
he traversed the narrow passage he heard the laughter yet again, louder
now, and more than ever was puzzled by it.  For though it reminded him of
Christine Duncan’s voice, it had a penetrating wildness like no laughter
he had heard before.  He entered the door with his hands half raised, as
if to guard against an unexpected attack.  But the gesture was needless.
Amos Widmer, calm as Buddha, was seated already at the oak table.

Smiling softly when his guest appeared, Widmer motioned him to a chair.
“Now then, boy,” he murmured, “what has that black scoundrel in the
galley got ready for us?”

And the boy vanished, flinching in the door.

“I did not expect this honor,” Hastings began.

“The honor is mine.”  Unstopping the decanter on the table, Widmer filled
two wine glasses.  “Your health, sir!” he said.

Hastings fingered the stem of his own glass.  Young and hot-headed,
versed in rough courtesies and frank enmities, he was placed at a
singular disadvantage by this quiet man with the eyes of a devil.  “I did
not expect this honor, sir,” he repeated, “or this pleasure.  Your—” his
pause was almost imperceptible—“wife?”

“She is ailing.”

Of the two, Hastings was the less mature, although perhaps physically the
stronger.  Certainly his face, frank, impetuous, fearless, was the more
wholesome.  But lacking the easy grace and the calm assurance that
characterized the other, he realized a certain want in his own hard
schooling that left him almost powerless in the duel of wits, baffled by
a bewildering subtlety, like a young fencer drilled in the rudiments,
blade to blade, meeting for the first time an opponent who refuses
contact.  There was the same sense of helplessness, the same mental
groping for possible parries and thrusts, without the comforting rasp of
steel on steel, that to the trained hand and wrist reveals more than
sight itself of an antagonist’s intent.  Once an enemy always an enemy,
unless there were reason otherwise, he had supposed.  He breathed deeply.

“I am sorry,” he replied.

Self-possessed, yet watching his uninvited guest between almost
imperceptibly narrowed eyelids, Widmer continued casually, “Yes, she is
ailing.  But of yourself?  How came you here?”

“Our masts were carried away in a typhoon.  The natives came out,
apparently to plunder the waterlogged hull, but, by the grace of God,
human compassion was stirred in their yellow bellies.  The Helen of Troy
was an able ship—” Hastings eyed Widmer with a touch of patronage that
passed apparently unnoticed “—and a rich cargo was under her hatches, but
there was no way to save her.”

“I see.”

Hastings fingered the stem of his glass.  Silence filled the cabin.  Then
the boy appeared with a great tray.

“For some reason,” Widmer began after a time, “I am reminded of a garden,
a garden with honeysuckle in bloom.  There’s a white house by the garden,
three stories high and square as a cube.  Do you remember the house?  A
door with oval-paned side lights?  And the little pillars?”

Hastings’ face whitened, except for a red spot on each cheek.  Shoving
back his chair, he half rose.  “If you—” he cried.

“Ha! ha!  I see you remember the garden.  Surely you would not resent a
mere pleasantry.  That garden!  How many times we have avoided meeting
there, you and I.  Well, it’s all over now.  Don’t hold ill will toward
me, even though I carried off the queen of the garden.  Men have loved
and lost and laid resentment aside before now.  It is a bond between us
that we have loved Christine Duncan.  If only she were stronger, how
gladly she would join me in welcoming you.  It is long since she has been
able to receive guests.”  Widmer’s voice fell, perhaps a trifle more than
was natural.  Certainly his eyes never left the flush on Hastings’ face.
But his voice rose again, lightly, as he resumed.  “Allow me!”  And he
proffered the decanter.

Again the adversary had withdrawn his blade.  Again that baffling sense
of nothing to contend with.

When, late, Hastings returned to his quarters, he heard, in the still
watches of the night, a woman laughing faintly.

Already in the far interior of China the cold fingers of winter were
reaching toward the south, and the northeast monsoon had settled on the
sea.  But where now innumerable steamships are to be met,—tramps, their
iron flanks streaked with rust; trim liners of Japan, the almost
untranslatable Maru coupled with their names; dingy coasters, slattern
traders, and men of war from half the navies of the world, a hundred
years ago there were only the slow junks and the white-sailed ships of
the Occident, with now and then a high-sided, square-sterned Dutchman.

The next evening Hastings came on deck and, standing by the taffrail,
gazed long toward Hainan and the sunset.  No boat was in sight.  Save for
a small island that lay a point abaft the beam, the Winnemere was running
before the wind through an unbroken expanse of water.  Hearing steps, he
turned.

It was Widmer.  “A fine evening,” he remarked in his singularly
restrained voice.

“It is, indeed.”

Silence followed.  Since the seven survivors of the Helen of Troy had
come tumbling over the bulwarks of the Winnemere there had been many such
silent moments.  Always the words exchanged by the two captains were like
those tentative thrusts with which the fencer tries the mettle of his
opponent.

“It is a pleasure to be able to bring home the crew of the Helen of
Troy,” Widmer said, slowly, covertly watching the other’s face.  “I
remember when you left us in Macassar Strait.  The Winnemere was always a
slow craft in light winds.  Your men like to tell the story of that
race.”

Hastings, red of face, made no reply.

“Yes, there was much talk of that race.  You beat us on the run up from
the Horn another time—that story, too, became well known.  Remarkably
well known.”

Looking off at the single island, a dark blot on the shining sea, Widmer
laughed softly.

“There was another race, however: a race by land.  There was a prize for
that race, such a prize!”  Facing about at Hastings, he bit his mustache
angrily.  “Well, though the prize was rotten at the heart, I won it, by
God!” he whispered.

Hastings turned, his fists clenched, but Widmer, the tension of his face
departing like a shadow, raised his hand and stepped two paces back.  “Be
careful, Captain Hastings.  A single blow, and you would find yourself in
the lazarette.  You have the freedom of the ship, but—merely a hint,
Captain Hastings, as from friend to friend—guests on this ship have found
it unwholesome to leave the straight path from their stateroom to the
deck.  Ships have many eyes.”  Widmer paused.  “It will be a rare
pleasure to bring home the captain of the Helen of Troy, but if
necessary—”  Leaving the sentence unfinished, he smiled and strolled
away.

And that night, when he should have been asleep, again Hastings heard the
woman laughing.

The breath of the monsoon stirred the sea from Hie-che-chin to Vanguard
Bank, and leagues and leagues beyond.  In the moonlight the waves came
rolling up in mountains of silver, vanishing again into the farther
darkness, in never-ending succession.  They swept past the Winnemere as,
with all sail set, she bore down the China Sea, past her and away into
the distance like shoals of fish tumbling in the water, and when they had
gone a long journey they came to a derelict hull, and tossed it and
turned it, and bore it on.

When Widmer had gone on deck, Hastings emerged from his narrow quarters
and made his way swiftly through the now familiar cabin, through the
captain’s own stateroom, to the single door beyond.  He heard,
indistinctly from behind the closed door, only a confusion of small
sounds, the rustle of skirts, the faint noise of some wooden object
pushed along the floor, then the murmur of a voice.  “Hush,” it said,
very softly, “little one, . . . little one . . . ”  Then it broke and
rose suddenly to a small, plaintive cry.  “He isn’t here, . . . where can
he be? . . . little one! . . . little one!”

With shaking hand Hastings fumbled for the latch, found it, and pushed,
then pulled, but the oaken door did not yield.

Then from within came that low, strange laughter, and the voice,
singularly restrained now, “little one . . . little one!”

Startled by footsteps on deck just outside the companionway, Hastings
turned back through the darkness to his stateroom, and closed the door
very gently as the companionway was shadowed by the form of some one
descending.

Almost stifled by the confinement of the room, he went on deck, when the
way was clear, and leaned over the weather rail, with the wind and the
flying spray beating hard against his face.  But even so, he felt,
strangely, that the air was close and that he was restricted by something
at once vague, yet paradoxically definite.  By and by, wandering
amidships, he found the second mate, late promoted from the forecastle,
smoking comfortably by the mainmast, and glad of a chance to beguile the
watch with friendly conversation.

So foreign to Hastings’ blunt directness was the finesse of intrigue that
even the unsuspecting mate was not drawn off his guard.  Coming, as he
thought, adroitly to the subject that filled his mind, Hastings was
surprised by the sudden change in the second officer’s attitude.

“I suppose,” he had remarked, in a voice carefully casual, “Captain
Widmer has no children.”

The officer’s attitude seemed all at once a little less friendly.
Raising his eyes to the dark heavens, he remarked, “It’s a raw night, for
all there’s no great of a wind.”

“I suppose,” Hastings repeated, more loudly, “Captain Widmer—”

“It’s al’ays seemed hard lines to me that the Lord didn’t put monsoons in
the north Atlantic.  Think o’ the good they’d do thereabouts!  To be
sure, typhoons is a curse.  But there’s the trades, say.  Now, if the
Lord had only seed fit—”

“Damn the trades, I say.  Did Captain Widmer ever have a child?”

The other took his pipe from his mouth and eyed the master of the Helen
of Troy speculatively.  “It don’t do, sir,” he replied, with a cautious
glance about, “to ask questions aboard this vessel.  A child, you say?
There was a child.  But—” again glancing aft, the man lowered his voice
to a whisper, “I mistrust it warn’t his’n.”

The next day the two captains met for the first time at dinner in the
cabin, Hastings silent, Widmer smiling with his lips, in spite of
mirthless eyes.

For a time neither spoke.  The boy, in mute testimony to the fit of ill
temper that had beset Widmer, scurried hack and forth in obvious terror.
As the ship rolled, the water in the glasses and the wine in the decanter
rocked this way and that.  It was Widmer, as usual, who broke the
silence.  “I have heard,” he said in his low voice, “that some one was
listening outside my door last night.  If any man in my crew were caught
there, I’d have him pitched to the sharks.”

“Do you mean that I—”

“Yes, sir, I’d have him pitched to the sharks.  There is no occasion for
excitement.  Certainly no guest of mine would be guilty of anything like
that.  I should not like to be under the necessity of sending a guest of
mine forward.  But as sure as my name is Amos Widmer, if it comes to
action I’ll act with the best of them—or the worst.”

Then Hastings smiled.  “It would indeed be a singular circumstance that
would force a gentleman—” the stress on the word was ever so slight—“to
take such measures with a guest.”

So deep the silence, as they finished the meal, that each heard twice the
faint ripple of a woman’s laugh.

With all her canvas set, the Winnemere swept on down the long line dotted
on the charts, to Singapore and Malacca Strait; and off among the
islands, with the stumps of her broken masts rising from the seas that
washed her decks, lay the hull of the Helen of Troy.

Evening came, and again the two sat opposite each other at the cabin
table.  But this time Hastings was the more taciturn.  After the manner
of many an outspoken man who becomes all at once aware that he has been
made game of, he withdrew into a silence that, half unwittingly, met
Widmer at his own game.  And Widmer, with that unpleasant light in his
eyes, again masked himself with exaggerated courtesy.

“Who would have thought—” his voice was unnaturally smooth as he repeated
the sentence for the twentieth time, lingering over the irony of each
phrase, “—who would have thought that I should have the honor of bringing
home Captain Hastings, of the Helen of Troy!”  Then he laughed shortly.

Hastings raised his glass, as if unaware that he had been addressed.

“Such an honor!” Widmer continued.  “Think of it.  More than once I’ve
raced the Helen of Troy and been beaten.  And a good many times more than
once I’ve seen Donald Hastings sitting in the garden by the white house,
and have gone away and left him there.  But there was a time when Donald
Hastings found the gate open and the garden empty.  And now the time is
come when all that is left of the crew of the Helen of Troy is right glad
of passage on the Winnemere.”

If there was any indication that Hastings was listening to the other’s
words, it was only in the tension of his fingers as they pressed the
table top, and in the whiteness of his knuckles.

But Widmer, speaking at intervals as if to probe for some most sensitive
nerve center, went on, his eyes fixed on Hastings’ forehead: “An empty
garden—and now the Helen of Troy is gone—it would be an honor indeed to
bring him home, but an empty honor, after all—what if he never came
home—if—!”  Suddenly he lowered his eves until they looked into Hastings’
own.  “My wife, sir,” he said with fierce intensity, “cried the day I
married her, cried at her wedding, shed a bucket of tears.  Tears are no
wedding flummery, sir.  I didn’t know then why it was.  But I know now.
Do you hear?  I _know_, damn it, _know_.”

Once again Hastings felt the rasp of steel, and closed to the combat in a
manner worthy of his opponent’s saner moments.  “If you mean to imply—”

Before his slow speech was past his lips, Widmer interrupted him,
changing his expression so facilely that Hastings felt again that sense
of losing all touch with the blade that maneuvered for his weakness: “I
beg you to pardon me.  I was excited.  Of course I imply nothing.
Nothing that you would be guilty of.”

And Hastings, quicker of hand than of brain, tried again to follow that
baffling change of front.  He was gaining experience in that other school
of fence, and was not so easily evaded now.

Throughout the meal he studied Widmer cautiously.  Thin mouth, cold eyes,
an outward politeness itself threatening by the suggestion of what lay
behind it.  He had known the man’s reputation of old; the ever-present
apprehension of the cabin boy, the servility of the mate, the silence of
the crew, all went to bear it out.

Yes, each knew; and each knew, unconfessed, that the other knew.  All
night the thought haunted Hastings.  He recalled numerous half-spoken
sentences fraught with scarcely concealed meaning, and others, outspoken
and direct, that made no pretense of concealment.  He had come back to
the sea to forget that he ever had loved, but, after all, he could not
forget.  He even doubted if the girl had forgotten.  Such dreams as they
had dreamed together do not vanish overnight.  He saw her on the porch of
the old house, by the slim, white pillars.  He remembered her in the
garden sweet with honeysuckle.  On the wharf, by the church door, here,
there, everywhere, among the familiar scenes of the old town, she
appeared in the eyes of his memory.  Then like a dark cloud came the
memory of a certain night—and the strange laughter, the locked door, and
the words he had heard her say.

At noon next day Widmer was gay.  He laughed and joked, and seemed
unaware of Hastings’ silence.  At night he gave himself up again to a
politeness elaborate and artificial.  But through it all Hastings felt a
certain threatening undertone.  And Widmer, taking no chances, gave
secret orders, quite as if he had not fathomed Hastings and found him
shallow to the lead.

The sun set in a blaze of fire, shooting great beams of light far into
the heavens, and the moon rose in a pale halo.  A junk in the offing
tossed on the long swell that rolled away into the distance, and the
WVinnemere, her braces rattling as they ran, leaned easily before the
wind that swept the gray sea.  The sky changed from blue to scarlet, from
scarlet to flaming gold, and from gold, as the night set in, to sea green
and steel blue.  The ship’s lanterns twinkled in the dusk; the stars came
out thickly overhead; and presently, as the moon climbed above the
horizon, its wan light thinly illuminated the decks of the ship and the
towering structure of masts and spars and canvas and cordage.

Late at night, when all was quiet, Hastings crept out of his berth.  For
a time he could hear only the straining of ropes, the creaking of blocks,
and the whisper of the sea.  Then he heard the sound of some one sobbing.
Then the sound changed to that low laugh.

That laugh!  He had half expected, half feared, to hear it.  He felt
within himself the sharp palpitation stimulated by quick, intense
emotion, that for want of a better name we call leaping of the heart.
With a quick motion he started forward in the darkness, but his feet
struck something soft.  It was the little cabin boy, asleep on a folded
blanket.  Uttering a cry, the lad scrambled to his feet and fled up the
companionway.

For a moment there was silence, heavy and suspicious, then, out of the
dark, came Widmer’s calm challenge.  “What does this mean?”

Again silence ensued.  The slow opening of a shutter, through which a few
rays of light had been struggling feebly, suffused the scene with a dim,
yellow glow.  Hastings, his knees slightly bent, his hands raised as for
attack or defense, his lips parted, was confronted by Amos Widmer, who
stood with folded arms, smiling softly.

“What does this mean?” he repeated, in the same low, calm voice.

Taken at an overwhelming disadvantage, Hastings’ mind, groping, could
summon no reply.

Down the companionway came only the familiar sounds of a ship at sea, the
creaking of blocks and braces, the low voices of the watch, the whisper
of the ocean.

“So, sir, you presume upon my hospitality!”

“There are laws—” Hastings’ voice was thick—“that override the laws of
‘hospitality.’”

“I fear, sir, you are little versed in the customs of gentlemen.”  And
Widmer, measuring the effect of the retort, let the smile creep to his
eyes.

Drawing himself erect, Hastings stepped forward until the shadow of the
casement fell across his face and masked it, but although he said
nothing, Widmer persisted.

“Gentlemen have a code of their own.  And when a man fails to meet that
code, it is sometimes necessary to teach him a painful lesson.”

Another pause followed, then, clearly and distinctly, a shrill laugh from
somewhere beyond the cabin sounded on the night air.

“Gentlemen—” Widmer’s sneering voice began again, but the sentence was
not finished.

An outthrust hand flung back the shutter.  There was a quick movement in
the sudden darkness, a hoarse gasp, a strange sound that frightened the
little cabin boy, who had thrown himself, belly down, by the open hatch
overhead, then from above came the lookout’s voice, sharp with warning.

“Sail ho!”

“Where away?”

“Dead ahead!  Something afloat under the bows!”

“Where—”

“Wear ship—put down your helm!”

A third voice broke into the dialogue: “What’s all this?  There’s nothing
there.”

“I tell you, sir, I see it—  There it lifts, by heaven!”

All at once came a crash and shock that sent the mizzen-topmast by the
board, and hurled men from their feet.  For a moment there was silence,
then that shrill yell sounded, that wrings hearts:

“Man overboard!”

The trample of feet was broken by the voice of the mate:

“All hands on deck!”  Then the voice came down the hatch into the
darkness below: “Captain Widmer!  Captain Widmer!  For God’s sake, come
up!  We’ve run afoul a derelict!”

But from Amos Widmer there was no reply.

Instead, as the boats were launched by the pale light of the crescent
moon, and the Winnemere, listing heavily to port, settled rapidly, the
captain of the Helen of Troy appeared by the after port davits, with a
woman wrapped in a loose cloak.

And when the boats were in the water Donald Hastings and the woman in the
loose cloak sat in the sternsheets of the third to be launched.  And the
men, as they rowed, heard snatches of the woman’s talk, which was about a
child; how some one had cursed it and its father, and how the child was
gone now.  Sometimes the woman laughed a strange laugh that the men did
not like, but they were only sailors, so they rowed on into the night and
asked no questions.

By and by they rested on their oars and, looking back, saw an
extraordinary sight.  Revealed in the faint moonlight, the Winnemere,
sinking by the head, set at defiance the natural laws of ships upon the
sea.  At first it seemed as if her masts were being raked forward, then
her stern rose, then, without sound or sign, she went under with all sail
set.  And from somewhere came a whisper that the derelict with the two
upstanding stumps of masts, which went rolling down the wind, was all
that was left of the Helen of Troy.  All—but victorious.

The first sunrise coming slowly on the track of daylight found the boats,
a little group of dark spots in the vast plain of the sea, held together,
apparently, by something of that same magnetic power that leads two bits
of cork to adhere each to each.  When the sun rose again, they were
scattered over miles of gray ocean.  When the third day broke from a sky
banked with clouds, only two boats were to be seen—two boats and a single
sail small on the horizon.

The sail grew and took shape.  Out of the borderland between sea and sky
came a bark flying the flag of England.  Presently, as she headed into
the wind, the woman, lying in Donald Hastings’ arms, saw dimly the faces
lined above the rail, then was lifted on board and carried into the
cabin.

“Donald,” she whispered in quiet happiness, “Oh, Donald!”  Her voice
changed.  “But the baby!  He was angry about the baby: your baby—our
baby.”  And she laughed that strange laugh.

The sun, forcing its way through the clouds, touched the dark brown
paneling with golden light.  In the silence of the cabin the voices on
deck were distinctly audible.  “He was that cruel to his wife!” some one
was saying.  “All of us was glad enough to see him left.”  But only a
fragment of the narrative came to the little group below.

The woman, oblivious to all but Donald Hastings, raised herself on her
elbow:

“I waited—oh, so long!  And you never came!”

“Don’t!  I came—too late.”  He dropped on his knees beside the berth in
which she had been laid.  “I will!  I will marry you!”

Again she laughed that strange, low laugh.  The captain of the bark, his
medicine chest open before him, shook his head.  “You’ll not marry her,”
he muttered.  “It’ll not be allowed.  You’ve but to hear her to know
that.”

“I will,” Hastings cried, wildly.  “There’s little enough a man can do to
atone for great wrong.”

“You’re overwrought, sir.  You don’t know what you’re saying.”

And Christine Widmer laughed again.

                                * * * * *

There was indeed no wedding.  Not often is the path of atonement made
broad and easy.  Instead, the story of my old New England town came to
pass, the story of a man who provided for his enemy’s wife as if she were
his own.  For in the years to come there sailed with Donald Hastings a
woman who laughed strangely at times, and talked of something other
people pretended to have forgotten.  And Donald Hastings, the marriage
forbidden, gave her the rest of his life, covering her lapses of speech
by quick wit and ever-remembering kindness, making her seem almost like
other women, and placing out of his own reach forever the fellowship of
those who called themselves honest folk.

It all happened a hundred years ago.  Stories, good and bad,—mostly
bad,—were told of them then, and have been told ever since.  Such is the
world’s way.  And of Amos Widmer it was known only that he was lost at
sea when the Winnemere went down.  Who of us can say what accountings are
to be made on that day when the good and evil are balanced, when things
forgotten are remembered, and things unknown are brought to light?

“On this noon,” wrote the village minister in that rare old diary of his,
“did Captain Hastings sail in command of the Amaryllis, taking with him,
as hitherto, poor Christine Widmer.”  Then, in the intimate privacy of
the book, he adds—wise, rash, cautious old man: “I am almost of a mind,
since things are as they are, that it is for the best,—even so.”

                                                 _Charles Boardman Hawes_.



THE CASK ASHORE


At the head of a diminutive creek of the Tamar River, a little above
Saltash on the Cornish shore, stands the village of Botusfleming, or
Bloflemy, and in early summer, when the cherry orchards come into bloom,
you will search far before finding a prettier.

The years have dealt gently with Botusfleming.  As it is today, so, or
nearly so, it was on a certain sunny afternoon in the year 1807, when the
Rev. Edward Spettigew, curate in charge, sat in the garden before his
cottage and smoked his pipe while he meditated a sermon.  That is to say,
he intended to meditate a sermon.  But the afternoon was warm; bumblebees
hummed drowsily among his wallflowers and tulips.  From his bench the eye
followed the vale’s descent between overlapping billows of cherry blossom
to a gap wherein shone the silver Tamar: not, be it understood, the part
called Hamoaze, where lay the warships and the hulks containing the
French prisoners, but an upper reach seldom troubled by shipping.

Parson Spettigew laid the book face downward on his knee while his lips
murmured a part of the text he had chosen: “A place of broad rivers and
streams . . . wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant
ship pass thereby. . . .”  His pipe went out.  The book slipped from his
knee to the ground.  He slumbered . . .

The garden gate rattled, and he awoke with a start.  In the pathway below
him stood a sailor, a middle-sized, middle-aged man, rigged out in best
shore-going clothes: shiny tarpaulin hat, blue coat and waistcoat, shirt
open at the throat, and white duck trousers with broad-buckled waistbelt.

“Beggin’ your reverence’s pardon,” began the visitor, touching the brim
of his hat, and then upon second thought uncovering, “but my name’s Jope,
Ben Jope—”

“Eh?  What can I do for you?” asked Parson Spettigew, a trifle flustered
at being caught napping.

“—of the Vesoovious bomb, bos’n,” pursued Mr. Jope, with a smile that
disarmed annoyance: so ingenuous it was, so friendly, and withal so
respectful; “but paid off at eight this morning.  Maybe your reverence
can tell me whereabouts to find an embalmer in these parts?”

“A—a what?”

“Embalmer.”  Mr. Jope chewed for a moment or two upon a quid of tobacco,
and began a thoughtful explanation.  “Sort of party you’d go to supposin’
your reverence had a corpse by you and wanted to keep it for a
permanency.  You take a lot of gums and spices, and first of all you lays
out the deceased, and next—”

“Yes, yes,” the parson interrupted, hurriedly; “I know the process, of
course.”

“What—to practice it?”  Hope illumined Mr. Jope’s countenance.

“No, most certainly not. . . .  But, my good man, an embalmer!—and at
Botusfleming, of all places!”

The sailor’s face fell.  He sighed patiently.  “That’s what they said at
Saltash, more or less.  I got a sister living there—Sarah Treleaven her
name is—a widow woman, and sells fish.  When I called on her this
morning, ‘Embalmer?’ she said; ‘go and embalm your grandmother!’  Those
were her words, and the rest of the population wasn’t scarcely more
helpful.  But as luck would have it, while I was searchin’, Bill Adams
went for a shave, and inside o’ the barber’s shop what should he see but
a fair-sized otter in a glass case.  Bill began to admire it, careless
like, and it turned out the barber had stuffed the thing.  Maybe your
reverence knows the man?  ‘A. Grigg and Son’ he calls his-self.”

“Grigg?  Yes, to be sure; he stuffed a trout for me last summer.”

“What weight?—making so bold.”

“Seven pounds.”

Mr. Jope’s face fell again.  “Well-a-well,” he suggested, recovering
himself, “I daresay the size don’t matter, once you’ve got the knack.
We’ve brought him along, anyway; an’ what’s more, we’ve made him bring
all his tools.  By his talk, he reckons it to be a shavin’ job, and we
agreed to wait before we undeceived him.”

“But—you’ll excuse me—I don’t quite follow—”

Mr. Jope pressed a forefinger mysterious to his lip, then jerked a thumb
in the direction of the river.  “If your reverence wouldn’ mind steppin’
down to the creek with me?” he suggested, respectfully.

Parson Spettigew fetched his hat, and together the pair descended the
vale beneath the dropping petals of the cherry.  At the foot of it they
came to a creek, which the tide at this hour had flooded and almost
overbrimmed.  Hard by the water’s edge, backed by tall elms, stood a
dilapidated fish store, and below it lay a boat with nose aground on a
beach of flat stones.  Two men were in the boat.  The barber, a slip of a
fellow in rusty top hat and suit of rusty black, sat in the stern sheets
face to face with a large cask: a cask so ample that, to find room for
his knees, he was forced to crook them at a high, uncomfortable angle.
In the bows, boathook in hand, stood a tall sailor, arrayed in
shore-going clothes, similar to Mr. Jope’s.  His face was long, sallow,
and expressive of taciturnity, and he wore a beard, not where beards are
usually worn, but as a fringe beneath his clean-shaven chin and lantern
jaw.

“Well, here we are!” asserted Mr. Jope, cheerfully.  “Your reverence
knows A. Grigg and Son, and the others you can trust in all weathers,
bein’ William Adams, otherwise Bill, and Eli Tonkin: friends o’ mine an’
shipmates both.”

The parson, perplexed, stared at the tall seaman, who touched his hat by
way of acknowledging the introduction.

“But—but I only see one!” he protested.

“This here’s Bill Adams,” said Mr. Jope, and again the tall seaman
touched his hat.  “Is it Eli you’re missin’?  Eli’s in the cask.”

“Oh!”

“We’ll hoick him up to the store, Bill, if you’re ready.  It looks a nice
cool place.  And while you’re prizin’ him open, I’d best explain to his
reverence and the barber.  Here, ship out the shore plank; and you, A.
Grigg and Son, lend a hand to heave. . . .  Aye, you’re right; it weighs
more’n a trifle—bein’ a quarter-puncheon, an’ the best proof sperrits.
Tilt her _this_ way. . . .  Ready? . . .  Then w’y-ho! and away she
goes!”

With a heave and a lurch that canted the boat until the water poured over
her gunwale, the huge tub was rolled overside into shallow water.  With a
run and a tremendous lift they hoisted it up to the turfy plat, whence
Bill Adams steered it with ease through the ruinated doorway of the
store, while Mr. Jope returned, smiling and mopping his brow.

“It’s this-a-way,” he said, addressing the parson.  “Eli Tonkin his name
is, or was; and, as he said, of this parish.”

Here Mr. Jope paused, apparently for confirmation.

“Tonkin?” queried the parson.  “There are no Tonkins surviving in
Botusfleming parish.  The last of them was a poor old widow I laid to
rest the week after Christmas.”

“Belay there! . . .  Dead, is she?”  Mr. Jope’s face exhibited the
liveliest disappointment.  “And after the surprise we’d planned for her!”
he murmured ruefully.  “Hi, Bill!” he called to his shipmate, who, having
stored the cask, was returning to the boat.

“Wot is it?” asked Bill Adams, inattentively.  “Look ’ere, where did we
stow the hammer an’ chisel?”

“Take your head out o’ the boat an’ listen.  The old woman’s dead!”

The tall man absorbed the news slowly.  “That’s a facer,” he said at
length.  “But maybe we can fix her up, too?  I’ll stand my share.”

“She was buried the week after Christmas.”

“Oh!”  Bill scratched his head.  “Then we can’t—not very well.”

“Times an’ again I’ve heard Eli talk of his poor old mother,” said Mr.
Jope, turning to the parson.  “W’ch you’ll hardly believe it, but though
I knowed him for a West-country man, ’twas not till the last I learned
what parish he hailed from.  It happened very curiously—Bill, rout up A.
Grigg and Son, an’ fetch him forra’d here to listen; you’ll find the
tools underneath him in the stern sheets.”

Bill obeyed, and, possessing himself of a hammer and chisel, returned to
the shore.  The little barber drew near and stood at Mr. Jope’s elbow;
his face wore an unhealthy pallor and he smelt potently of strong drink.

“Brandy it is,” apologized Mr. Jope, observing a slight contraction of
the parson’s nostril.  “I reckoned ’twould tauten him a bit for what’s
ahead. . . .  Well, as I was sayin’, it happened very curiously.  This
day fortnight we were beatin’ up an’ across the Bay o’ Biscay, after a
four months’ to-an’-fro game in front of Toolon Harbor.  Blowin’ fresh it
was, an’ we makin’ pretty poor weather of it—the Vesoovious bein’ a
powerful wet tub in anything of a sea, an’ a slug at the best o’ times.
Aboard a bombship everything’s got to be heavy.

“Well, sir, for a couple of days she’d been carryin’ canvas that fairly
smothered us, an’ Cap’n Crang not a man to care how we fared forra’d, so
long’s the water didn’ reach aft to his own quarters.  But at last the
first mate, Mr. Wapshott, took pity on us an’—the Cap’n bein’ below,
a-takin’ a nap after dinner—sends the crew o’ the maintop aloft to take a
reef in the tops’l.  Poor Eli was one. Whereby the men had scarcely
reached the top afore Cap’n Crang comes up from his cabin an’ along the
deck, not troublin’ to cast an eye aloft.  Whereby he missed what was
happenin’.  Whereby he had just come abreast o’ the mainmast, when—sock
at his very feet there drops a man!  ’Twas Eli, that had missed his hold
an’ dropped clean on his skull.  ‘Hallo!’ says the cap’n, ‘an’ where the
deuce might you come from?’  Eli heard it—poor fellow—an’ says he, as I
lifted him, answerin’ very respectful, ‘If you please, sir, from
Botusfleming, three miles t’other side of Saltash.’

“‘Then you’ve had a mighty quick passage, that’s all I can say,’ answers
Cap’n Crang, an’ turns on his heel.

“Well, sir, we all agreed the cap’n might ha’ showed more feelin’,
specially as poor Eli’d broke the base of his skull an’ by eight bells
handed in the number of his mess.  Five or six of us talked it over,
agreein’ as how ’twasn’ hardly human, an’ Eli such a good fellow, too,
let alone bein’ a decent seaman.  Whereby the notion came to me that as
he’d come from Botusfleming—those bein’ his last words—back to
Botusfleming he should go; an’ on that we cooked up a plot.  Bill Adams
bein’ on duty in the sick bay, there wasn’ no difficulty in sewin’ up a
dummy in Eli’s place; an’ the dummy, sir, nex’ day we dooly committed to
the deep,—as the sayin’ goes,—Cap’n Crang hisself readin’ the service.
The real question was what to do with Eli.  Whereby, the purser an’ me
bein’ friends, I goes to him an’ says, ‘Look here,’ I says, ‘we’ll be
paid off in ten days or so, an’ there’s a trifle o’ prize money, too.
What price’ll you sell us a cask o’ the ship’s rum?—say a
quarter-puncheon for choice?’  ‘What for?’ says he.  ‘For shore-going
purposes,’ says I; ‘Bill Adams an’ me got a use for it.’  ‘Well,’ says
the purser,—a decent chap, an’ by name Wilkins,—’I’m an honest man,’ says
he, ‘an’ to oblige a friend you shall have it at store valuation rate.
An’ what’s more,’ says he, ‘I got the wind o’ your little game, an’ll do
what I can to help it along, for I al’ays liked the deceased, an’ in my
opinion Cap’n Crang behaved most unfeelin’.  You tell Bill to bring the
body to me, an’ there’ll be no more trouble about it till I hands you
over the cask at Plymouth.’  Well, sir, the man was as good as his word.
We smuggled the cask ashore last evenin’, an’ hid it in the woods this
side o’ Mount Edgcumbe.  This mornin’ we reshipped it, as you see.  First
along we intended no more than just to break the news to Eli’s mother an’
hand him over to her; but Bill reckoned that to hand him over, cask an’
all, would look careless; for, as he said, ‘’Twasn’t as if you could bury
’im in a cask.’  We allowed your reverence would draw the line at that,
though we hadn’ the pleasure o’ knowin’ you then.”

“Yes,” agreed the parson, as Mr. Jope paused; “I fear it could not be
done without scandal.”

“That’s just how Bill put it.  ‘Well, then,’ says I, thinkin’ it over,
‘why not do the handsome while we’re about it?  You an’ me ain’t the sort
of men,’ I says, ‘to spoil the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar.’  ‘Certainly
we ain’t,’ says Bill, ‘and we’ve done a lot for Eli,’ says I.  ‘We have,’
says Bill.  ‘Well, then,’ says I, ‘let’s put a coat o’ paint on the whole
business an’ have him embalmed!’  Bill was enchanted.”

“I—I beg your pardon?” put in the barber, edging away a pace.

“Bill was enchanted.  Hark to him in the store, there—knockin’ away at
the chisel.”

“But there’s some misunderstanding,” the little man protested, earnestly.
“I understood it was to be a shave.”

“You can shave him, too, if you like.”

“If I th-thought you were s-serious—”

“Have some more brandy.”  Mr. Jope pulled out and proffered a flask.
“Only don’t overdo it, or it’ll make your head shaky.  Serious?  You may
lay to it that Bill’s serious.  He’s that set on the idea, it don’t make
no difference to him—as you may have noticed—Eli’s mother not bein’ alive
to take pleasure in it.  Why, he wanted to embalm her, too!  He’s doin’
this now for his own gratification, is Bill; an’ you may take it from me
when Bill sets his heart on a thing he sees it through.  Don’t you cross
him—that’s my advice.”

“But, but—”

“No, you don’t!”—as the little man made a wild spring to flee up the
beach Mr. Jope shot out a hand and gripped him by the coat collar.  “Now,
look here,” he said very quietly, as the poor wretch would have groveled
at the parson’s feet, “you was boastin’ to Bill, not an hour agone, as
you could stuff anything.”

“Don’t hurt him,” Parson Spettigew interposed, touching Mr. Jope’s arm.

“I’m not hurtin’ him, your reverence, only—Eli?  What’s that?”

All turned their faces toward the store.

“Your friend is calling to you,” said the parson.

“Bad language, too?—that’s not like Bill, as a rule.  Ahoy, there!
Bill!”

“Ahoy!” answered the voice of Mr. Adams.

“What’s up?”  Without waiting for an answer, Mr. Jope ran the barber
before him up the beach to the doorway, the parson following.  “What’s
up?” he demanded again, as he drew breath.

“Take an’ see for yourself,” answered Mr. Adams, darkly, pointing with
his chisel.  A fine fragrance of rum permeated the air of the store.

Mr. Jope advanced and peered into the staved cask.  “Gone?” he exclaimed,
and gazed around blankly.

Bill Adams nodded.

“But where? . . . You don’t say he’s dissolved?”

“It ain’t the usual way o’ rum.  And it is rum?”  Bill appealed to the
parson.

“By the smell, undoubtedly.”

“I tell you what’s happened.  That fool of a Wilkins has made a mistake
in the cask . . . ”

“An’ Eli?—oh Lord!  Eh?” gasped Mr. Jope.

“They’ll have returned Eli to the Victuallin’ Yard before this,” said
Bill, gloomily.

“I overheard Wilkins sayin’ as he was to pass over all stores an’
accounts at nine-thirty this mornin’.”

“An’ once there, who knows where he’s got mixed?  He’ll go the round of
the Fleet, maybe.  Oh, my word! an’ the ship that broaches him!”

Bill Adams opened his mouth and shut it, finding no speech; opened it
again, and: “They’ll reckon they got a lucky bag,” he said, weakly.

“An’ Wilkins paid off with the rest, an’ no address.  Even if he could
help, which I doubt.”

“Eh?  I got a note from Wilkins, as it happens.”  Bill Adams took off his
tarpaulin hat and extracted a paper from the lining of the crown.  “He
passed it down to me this mornin’ as I pushed off from the ship.  Said I
was to keep it, an’ maybe I’d find it useful.  I wondered what he meant
at the time, me takin’ no particular truck with pursers ashore. . . .  It
crossed my mind, as I’d heard he meant to get married, that maybe he
wanted me to stand best man at the weddin’.  W’ich I didn’ open the note
at the time, not likin’ to refuse him after he’d behaved so well to us.”

“Pass it over,” commanded Mr. Jope.  He took the paper and unfolded it,
but either the light was dim within the store, or the handwriting hard to
decipher.

“Would your reverence read it out for us?”

Parson Spettigew carried the paper to the doorway.  He read its contents
aloud and slowly:

    “To Mr. Bill Adams,

                    Capt. of the Fore-top H.M.S. Vesuvius,

    “Sir: It was a dummy Capt. Crang buried.  We cast the last E. Tonkin
    overboard the second night in lat. 46-30, long. 7-15, or thereabouts.
    By which time the feeling aboard had cooled down and it seemed such a
    waste of good spirit.  The rum you paid for is good rum.  Hoping that
    you and Mr. Jope will find a use for it.

                                                   “Your obedient servant,
                                                             “S. WILKINS.”

There was a long pause, through which Mr. Adams could be heard breathing
hard.

“But what are we to do with it?” asked Mr. Jope, scratching his head in
perplexity.

“Drink it.  Wot else?”

“But where?”

“Oh,” said Mr. Adams, “anywhere!”

“That’s all very well,” replied his friend.  “You never had no property,
an’ don’t know its burdens.  We’ll have to hire a house for this, an’
live there till it’s finished.”

                                            _Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch_.





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