Part 3 out of 4
second mate, Matthew Turner, was a true sailor and a man, but George
Dorety did not have the solace of his company, for he ate by himself,
solitary, when they had finished.
On Saturday morning, July 24, George Dorety awoke to a feeling of life
and headlong movement. On deck he found the _Mary Rogers_ running off
before a howling southeaster. Nothing was set but the lower topsails and
the foresail. It was all she could stand, yet she was making fourteen
knots, as Mr. Turner shouted in Dorety's ear when he came on deck. And
it was all westing. She was going around the Horn at last ... if the
wind held. Mr. Turner looked happy. The end of the struggle was in
sight. But Captain Cullen did not look happy. He scowled at Dorety in
passing. Captain Cullen did not want God to know that he was pleased
with that wind. He had a conception of a malicious God, and believed in
his secret soul that if God knew it was a desirable wind, God would
promptly efface it and send a snorter from the west. So he walked softly
before God, smothering his joy down under scowls and muttered curses,
and, so, fooling God, for God was the only thing in the universe of
which Dan Cullen was afraid.
All Saturday and Saturday night the _Mary Rogers_ raced her westing.
Persistently she logged her fourteen knots, so that by Sunday morning
she had covered three hundred and fifty miles. If the wind held, she
would make around. If it failed, and the snorter came from anywhere
between southwest and north, back the _Mary Rogers_ would be hurled and
be no better off than she had been seven weeks before. And on Sunday
morning the wind _was_ failing. The big sea was going down and running
smooth. Both watches were on deck setting sail after sail as fast as the
ship could stand it. And now Captain Cullen went around brazenly before
God, smoking a big cigar, smiling jubilantly, as if the failing wind
delighted him, while down underneath he was raging against God for
taking the life out of the blessed wind. _Make westing_! So he would, if
God would only leave him alone. Secretly, he pledged himself anew to the
Powers of Darkness, if they would let him make westing. He pledged
himself so easily because he did not believe in the Powers of Darkness.
He really believed only in God, though he did not know it. And in his
inverted theology God was really the Prince of Darkness. Captain Cullen
was a devil-worshipper, but he called the devil by another name, that
At midday, after calling eight bells, Captain Cullen ordered the royals
on. The men went aloft faster than they had gone in weeks. Not alone
were they nimble because of the westing, but a benignant sun was shining
down and limbering their stiff bodies. George Dorety stood aft, near
Captain Cullen, less bundled in clothes than usual, soaking in the
grateful warmth as he watched the scene. Swiftly and abruptly the
incident occurred. There was a cry from the foreroyal-yard of "Man
overboard!" Somebody threw a life buoy over the side, and at the same
instant the second mate's voice came aft, ringing and peremptory:--
"Hard down your helm!"
The man at the wheel never moved a spoke. He knew better, for Captain
Dan Cullen was standing alongside of him. He wanted to move a spoke, to
move all the spokes, to grind the wheel down, hard down, for his comrade
drowning in the sea. He glanced at Captain Dan Cullen, and Captain Dan
Cullen gave no sign.
"Down! Hard down!" the second mate roared, as he sprang aft.
But he ceased springing and commanding, and stood still, when he saw Dan
Cullen by the wheel. And big Dan Cullen puffed at his cigar and said
nothing. Astern, and going astern fast, could be seen the sailor. He had
caught the life buoy and was clinging to it. Nobody spoke. Nobody moved.
The men aloft clung to the royal yards and watched with terror stricken
faces. And the _Mary Rogers_ raced on, making her westing. A long,
silent minute passed.
"Who was it!" Captain Cullen demanded.
"Mops, sir," eagerly answered the sailor at the wheel.
Mops topped a wave astern and disappeared temporarily in the trough. It
was a large wave, but it was no graybeard. A small boat could live
easily in such a sea, and in such a sea the _Mary Rogers_ could easily
come to. But she could not come to and make westing at the same time.
For the first time in all his years, George Dorety was seeing a real
drama of life and death--a sordid little drama in which the scales
balanced an unknown sailor named Mops against a few miles of longitude.
At first he had watched the man astern, but now he watched big Dan
Cullen, hairy and black, vested with power of life and death, smoking a
Captain Dan Cullen smoked another long, silent minute. Then he removed
the cigar from his mouth. He glanced aloft at the spars of the _Mary
Rogers_, and overside at the sea.
"Sheet home the royals!" he cried.
Fifteen minutes later they sat at table, in the cabin, with food served
before them. On one side of George Dorety sat Dan Cullen, the tiger, on
the other side, Joshua Higgins, the hyena. Nobody spoke. On deck the men
were sheeting home the skysails. George Dorety could hear their cries,
while a persistent vision haunted him of a man called Mops, alive and
well, clinging to a life buoy miles astern in that lonely ocean. He
glanced at Captain Cullen, and experienced a feeling of nausea, for the
man was eating his food with relish, almost bolting it.
"Captain Cullen," Dorety said, "you are in command of this ship, and it
is not proper for me to comment now upon what you do. But I wish to say
one thing. There is a hereafter, and yours will be a hot one."
Captain Cullen did not even scowl. In his voice was regret as he
said:--"It was blowing a living gale. It was impossible to save the
"He fell from the royal-yard," Dorety cried hotly. "You were setting the
royals at the time. Fifteen minutes afterward you were setting the
"It was a living gale, wasn't it, Mr. Higgins?" Captain Cullen said,
turning to the mate.
"If you'd brought her to, it'd have taken the sticks out of her," was
the mate's answer. "You did the proper thing, Captain Cullen. The man
hadn't a ghost of a show."
George Dorety made no answer, and to the meal's end no one spoke. After
that, Dorety had his meals served in his stateroom. Captain Cullen
scowled at him no longer, though no speech was exchanged between them,
while the _Mary Rogers_ sped north toward warmer latitudes. At the end
of the week, Dan Cullen cornered Dorety on deck.
"What are you going to do when we get to Frisco?" he demanded bluntly.
"I am going to swear out a warrant for your arrest," Dorety answered
quietly. "I am going to charge you with murder, and I am going to see
you hanged for it."
"You're almighty sure of yourself," Captain Cullen sneered, turning on
A second week passed, and one morning found George Dorety standing in
the coach-house companionway at the for'ard end of the long poop, taking
his first gaze around the deck. The _Mary Rogers_ was reaching
full-and-by, in a stiff breeze. Every sail was set and drawing,
including the staysails. Captain Cullen strolled for'ard along the poop.
He strolled carelessly, glancing at the passenger out of the corner of
his eye. Dorety was looking the other way, standing with head and
shoulders outside the companionway, and only the back of his head was to
be seen. Captain Cullen, with swift eye, embraced the mainstaysail-block
and the head and estimated the distance. He glanced about him. Nobody
was looking. Aft, Joshua Higgins, pacing up and down, had just turned
his back and was going the other way. Captain Cullen bent over suddenly
and cast the staysail-sheet off from its pin. The heavy block hurtled
through the air, smashing Dorety's head like an egg-shell and hurtling
on and back and forth as the staysail whipped and slatted in the wind.
Joshua Higgins turned around to see what had carried away, and met the
full blast of the vilest portion of Captain Cullen's profanity.
"I made the sheet fast myself," whimpered the mate in the first lull,
"with an extra turn to make sure. I remember it distinctly."
"Made fast?" the captain snarled back, for the benefit of the watch as
it struggled to capture the flying sail before it tore to ribbons. "You
couldn't make your grandmother fast, you useless scullion. If you made
that sheet fast with an extra turn, why didn't it stay fast? That's what
I want to know. Why didn't it stay fast?"
The mate whined inarticulately.
"Oh, shut up!" was the final word of Captain Cullen.
Half an hour later he was as surprised as any when the body of George
Dorety was found inside the companionway on the floor. In the afternoon,
alone in his room, he doctored up the log.
"_Ordinary seaman, Karl Brun," he wrote, "lost overboard from
foreroyal-yard in a gale of wind. Was running at the time, and for the
safety of the ship did not dare come up to the wind. Nor could a boat
have lived in the sea that was running_."
On another page, he wrote:--
"_Had often warned Mr. Dorety about the danger he ran because of his
carelessness on deck. I told him, once, that some day he would get his
head knocked off by a block. A carelessly fastened mainstaysail sheet
was the cause of the accident, which was deeply to be regretted because
Mr. Dorety was a favorite with all of us_."
Captain Dan Cullen read over his literary effort with admiration,
blotted the page, and closed the log. He lighted a cigar and stared
before him. He felt the _Mary Rogers_ lift, and heel, and surge along,
and knew that she was making nine knots. A smile of satisfaction slowly
dawned on his black and hairy face. Well, anyway, he had made his
westing and fooled God.
I met him first in a hurricane; and though we had gone through the
hurricane on the same schooner, it was not until the schooner had gone
to pieces under us that I first laid eyes on him. Without doubt I had
seen him with the rest of the kanaka crew on board, but I had not
consciously been aware of his existence, for the _Petite Jeanne_ was
rather overcrowded. In addition to her eight or ten kanaka seamen, her
white captain, mate, and supercargo, and her six cabin passengers, she
sailed from Rangiroa with something like eighty-five deck
passengers--Paumotans and Tahitians, men, women, and children each with
a trade box, to say nothing of sleeping-mats, blankets, and
The pearling season in the Paumotus was over, and all hands were
returning to Tahiti. The six of us cabin passengers were pearl-buyers.
Two were Americans, one was Ah Choon (the whitest Chinese I have ever
known), one was a German, one was a Polish Jew, and I completed the half
It had been a prosperous season. Not one of us had cause for complaint,
nor one of the eighty-five deck passengers either. All had done well,
and all were looking forward to a rest-off and a good time in Papeete.
Of course, the _Petite Jeanne_ was overloaded. She was only seventy
tons, and she had no right to carry a tithe of the mob she had on board.
Beneath her hatches she was crammed and jammed with pearl-shell and
copra. Even the trade room was packed full of shell. It was a miracle
that the sailors could work her. There was no moving about the decks.
They simply climbed back and forth along the rails.
In the night-time they walked upon the sleepers, who carpeted the deck,
I'll swear, two deep. Oh! and there were pigs and chickens on deck, and
sacks of yams, while every conceivable place was festooned with strings
of drinking cocoanuts and bunches of bananas. On both sides, between the
fore and main shrouds, guys had been stretched, just low enough for the
foreboom to swing clear; and from each of these guys at least fifty
bunches of bananas were suspended.
It promised to be a messy passage, even if we did make it in the two or
three days that would have been required if the southeast trades had
been blowing fresh. But they weren't blowing fresh. After the first five
hours the trade died away in a dozen or so gasping fans. The calm
continued all that night and the next day--one of those glaring, glassy
calms, when the very thought of opening one's eyes to look at it is
sufficient to cause a headache.
The second day a man died--an Easter Islander, one of the best divers
that season in the lagoon. Smallpox--that is what it was; though how
smallpox could come on board, when there had been no known cases ashore
when we left Rangiroa, is beyond me. There it was, though--smallpox, a
man dead, and three others down on their backs.
There was nothing to be done. We could not segregate the sick, nor could
we care for them. We were packed like sardines. There was nothing to do
but rot or die--that is, there was nothing to do after the night that
followed the first death. On that night, the mate, the supercargo, the
Polish Jew, and four native divers sneaked away in the large whale-boat.
They were never heard of again. In the morning the captain promptly
scuttled the remaining boats, and there we were.
That day there were two deaths; the following day three; then it jumped
to eight. It was curious to see how we took it. The natives, for
instance, fell into a condition of dumb, stolid fear. The
captain--Oudouse, his name was, a Frenchman--became very nervous and
voluble. He actually got the twitches. He was a large, fleshy man,
weighing at least two hundred pounds, and he quickly became a faithful
representation of a quivering jelly-mountain of fat.
The German, the two Americans, and myself bought up all the Scotch
whiskey, and proceeded to stay drunk. The theory was beautiful--namely,
if we kept ourselves soaked in alcohol, every smallpox germ that came
into contact with us would immediately be scorched to a cinder. And the
theory worked, though I must confess that neither Captain Oudouse nor Ah
Choon were attacked by the disease either. The Frenchman did not drink
at all, while Ah Choon restricted himself to one drink daily.
It was a pretty time. The sun, going into northern declination, was
straight overhead. There was no wind, except for frequent squalls, which
blew fiercely for from five minutes to half an hour, and wound up by
deluging us with rain. After each squall, the awful sun would come out,
drawing clouds of steam from the soaked decks.
The steam was not nice. It was the vapor of death, freighted with
millions and millions of germs. We always took another drink when we saw
it going up from the dead and dying, and usually we took two or three
more drinks, mixing them exceptionally stiff. Also, we made it a rule to
take an additional several each time they hove the dead over to the
sharks that swarmed about us.
We had a week of it, and then the whiskey gave out. It is just as well,
or I shouldn't be alive now. It took a sober man to pull through what
followed, as you will see when I mention the little fact that only two
men did pull through. The other man was the heathen--at least, that was
what I heard Captain Oudouse call him at the moment I first became
aware of the heathen's existence. But to come back.
It was at the end of the week, with the whiskey gone, and the
pearl-buyers sober, that I happened to glance at the barometer that hung
in the cabin companionway. Its normal register in the Paumotus was
29.90, and it was quite customary to see it vacillate between 29.85 and
30.00, or even 30.05; but to see it as I saw it, down to 29.62, was
sufficient to sober the most drunken pearl-buyer that ever incinerated
smallpox microbes in Scotch whiskey.
I called Captain Oudouse's attention to it, only to be informed that he
had watched it going down for several hours. There was little to do, but
that little he did very well, considering the circumstances. He took off
the light sails, shortened right down to storm canvas, spread
life-lines, and waited for the wind. His mistake lay in what he did
after the wind came. He hove to on the port tack, which was the right
thing to do south of the Equator, if--and there was the rub--_if_ one
were _not_ in the direct path of the hurricane.
We were in the direct path. I could see that by the steady increase of
the wind and the equally steady fall of the barometer. I wanted him to
turn and run with the wind on the port quarter until the barometer
ceased falling, and then to heave to. We argued till he was reduced to
hysteria, but budge he would not. The worst of it was that I could not
get the rest of the pearl-buyers to back me up. Who was I, anyway, to
know more about the sea and its ways than a properly qualified captain?
was what was in their minds, I knew.
Of course the sea rose with the wind frightfully; and I shall never
forget the first three seas the _Petite Jeanne_ shipped. She had fallen
off, as vessels do at times when hove to, and the first sea made a clean
breach. The life-lines were only for the strong and well, and little
good were they even for them when the women and children, the bananas
and cocoanuts, the pigs and trade boxes, the sick and the dying, were
swept along in a solid, screeching, groaning mass.
The second sea filled the _Petite Jeanne's_ decks flush with the rails;
and, as her stern sank down and her bow tossed skyward, all the
miserable dunnage of life and luggage poured aft. It was a human
torrent. They came head-first, feet-first, sidewise, rolling over and
over, twisting, squirming, writhing, and crumpling up. Now and again one
caught a grip on a stanchion or a rope; but the weight of the bodies
behind tore such grips loose.
One man I noticed fetch up, head on and square on, with the
starboard-bitt. His head cracked like an egg. I saw what was coming,
sprang on top of the cabin, and from there into the mainsail itself. Ah
Choon and one of the Americans tried to follow me, but I was one jump
ahead of them. The American was swept away and over the stern like a
piece of chaff. Ah Choon caught a spoke of the wheel, and swung in
behind it. But a strapping Raratonga vahine (woman)--she must have
weighed two hundred and fifty--brought up against him, and got an arm
around his neck. He clutched the kanaka steersman with his other hand;
and just at that moment the schooner flung down to starboard.
The rush of bodies and sea that was coming along the port runway between
the cabin and the rail turned abruptly and poured to starboard. Away
they went--vahine, Ah Choon, and steersman: and I swear I saw Ah Choon
grin at me with philosophic resignation as he cleared the rail and went
The third sea--the biggest of the three--did not do so much damage. By
the time it arrived nearly everybody was in the rigging. On deck perhaps
a dozen gasping, half-drowned, and half-stunned wretches were rolling
about or attempting to crawl into safety. They went by the board, as did
the wreckage of the two remaining boats. The other pearl-buyers and
myself, between seas, managed to get about fifteen women and children
into the cabin, and battened down. Little good it did the poor creatures
in the end.
Wind? Out of all my experience I could not have believed it possible for
the wind to blow as it did. There is no describing it. How can one
describe a nightmare? It was the same way with that wind. It tore the
clothes off our bodies. I say _tore them off_, and I mean it. I am not
asking you to believe it. I am merely telling something that I saw and
felt. There are times when I do not believe it myself. I went through
it, and that is enough. One could not face that wind and live. It was a
monstrous thing, and the most monstrous thing about it was that it
increased and continued to increase.
Imagine countless millions and billions of tons of sand. Imagine this
sand tearing along at ninety, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or any
other number of miles per hour. Imagine, further, this sand to be
invisible, impalpable, yet to retain all the weight and density of sand.
Do all this, and you may get a vague inkling of what that wind was like.
Perhaps sand is not the right comparison. Consider it mud, invisible,
impalpable, but heavy as mud. Nay, it goes beyond that. Consider every
molecule of air to be a mud-bank in itself. Then try to imagine the
multitudinous impact of mud-banks. No; it is beyond me. Language may be
adequate to express the ordinary conditions of life, but it cannot
possibly express any of the conditions of so enormous a blast of wind.
It would have been better had I stuck by my original intention of not
attempting a description.
I will say this much: The sea, which had risen at first, was beaten down
by that wind. More: it seemed as if the whole ocean had been sucked up
in the maw of the hurricane, and hurled on through that portion of
space which previously had been occupied by the air.
Of course, our canvas had gone long before. But Captain Oudouse had on
the _Petite Jeanne_ something I had never before seen on a South Sea
schooner--a sea-anchor. It was a conical canvas bag, the mouth of which
was kept open by a huge hoop of iron. The sea-anchor was bridled
something like a kite, so that it bit into the water as a kite bites
into the air, but with a difference. The sea-anchor remained just under
the surface of the ocean in a perpendicular position. A long line, in
turn, connected it with the schooner. As a result, the _Petite Jeanne_
rode bow on to the wind and to what sea there was.
The situation really would have been favorable had we not been in the
path of the storm. True, the wind itself tore our canvas out of the
gaskets, jerked out our topmasts, and made a raffle of our running-gear,
but still we would have come through nicely had we not been square in
front of the advancing storm-centre. That was what fixed us. I was in a
state of stunned, numbed, paralyzed collapse from enduring the impact
of the wind, and I think I was just about ready to give up and die when
the centre smote us. The blow we received was an absolute lull. There
was not a breath of air. The effect on one was sickening.
Remember that for hours we had been at terrific muscular tension,
withstanding the awful pressure of that wind. And then, suddenly, the
pressure was removed. I know that I felt as though I was about to
expand, to fly apart in all directions. It seemed as if every atom
composing my body was repelling every other atom and was on the verge of
rushing off irresistibly into space. But that lasted only for a moment.
Destruction was upon us.
In the absence of the wind and pressure the sea rose. It jumped, it
leaped, it soared straight toward the clouds. Remember, from every point
of the compass that inconceivable wind was blowing in toward the centre
of calm. The result was that the seas sprang up from every point of the
compass. There was no wind to check them. They popped up like corks
released from the bottom of a pail of water. There was no system to
them, no stability. They were hollow, maniacal seas. They were eighty
feet high at the least. They were not seas at all. They resembled no sea
a man had ever seen.
They were splashes, monstrous splashes--that is all. Splashes that were
eighty feet high. Eighty! They were more than eighty. They went over our
mastheads. They were spouts, explosions. They were drunken. They fell
anywhere, anyhow. They jostled one another; they collided. They rushed
together and collapsed upon one another, or fell apart like a thousand
waterfalls all at once. It was no ocean any man had ever dreamed of,
that hurricane centre. It was confusion thrice confounded. It was
anarchy. It was a hell-pit of sea-water gone mad.
The _Petite Jeanne_? I don't know. The heathen told me afterward that he
did not know. She was literally torn apart, ripped wide open, beaten
into a pulp, smashed into kindling wood, annihilated. When I came to I
was in the water, swimming automatically, though I was about two-thirds
drowned. How I got there I had no recollection. I remembered seeing the
_Petite Jeanne_ fly to pieces at what must have been the instant that my
own consciousness was buffetted out of me. But there I was, with
nothing to do but make the best of it, and in that best there was little
promise. The wind was blowing again, the sea was much smaller and more
regular, and I knew that I had passed through the centre. Fortunately,
there were no sharks about. The hurricane had dissipated the ravenous
horde that had surrounded the death ship and fed off the dead.
It was about midday when the _Petite Jeanne_ went to pieces, and it must
have been two hours afterward when I picked up with one of her
hatch-covers. Thick rain was driving at the time; and it was the merest
chance that flung me and the hatch-cover together. A short length of
line was trailing from the rope handle; and I knew that I was good for a
day, at least, if the sharks did not return. Three hours later, possibly
a little longer, sticking close to the cover, and, with closed eyes,
concentrating my whole soul upon the task of breathing in enough air to
keep me going and at the same time of avoiding breathing in enough water
to drown me, it seemed to me that I heard voices. The rain had ceased,
and wind and sea were easing marvellously. Not twenty feet away from me
on another hatch-cover, were Captain Oudouse and the heathen. They were
fighting over the possession of the cover--at least, the Frenchman was.
"_Paien noir_!" I heard him scream, and at the same time I saw him kick
Now, Captain Oudouse had lost all his clothes, except his shoes, and
they were heavy brogans. It was a cruel blow, for it caught the heathen
on the mouth and the point of the chin, half stunning him. I looked for
him to retaliate, but he contented himself with swimming about forlornly
a safe ten feet away. Whenever a fling of the sea threw him closer, the
Frenchman, hanging on with his hands, kicked out at him with both feet.
Also, at the moment of delivering each kick, he called the kanaka a
"For two centimes I'd come over there and drown you, you white beast!" I
The only reason I did not go was that I felt too tired. The very thought
of the effort to swim over was nauseating. So I called to the kanaka to
come to me, and proceeded to share the hatch-cover with him. Otoo, he
told me his name was (pronounced o-to-o); also, he told me that he was
a native of Bora Bora, the most westerly of the Society Group. As I
learned afterward, he had got the hatch-cover first, and, after some
time, encountering Captain Oudouse, had offered to share it with him,
and had been kicked off for his pains.
And that was how Otoo and I first came together. He was no fighter. He
was all sweetness and gentleness, a love-creature, though he stood
nearly six feet tall and was muscled like a gladiator. He was no
fighter, but he was also no coward. He had the heart of a lion; and in
the years that followed I have seen him run risks that I would never
dream of taking. What I mean is that while he was no fighter, and while
he always avoided precipitating a row, he never ran away from trouble
when it started. And it was "'Ware shoal!" when once Otoo went into
action. I shall never forget what he did to Bill King. It occurred in
German Samoa. Bill King was hailed the champion heavyweight of the
American Navy. He was a big brute of a man, a veritable gorilla, one of
those hard-hitting, rough-housing chaps, and clever with his fists as
well. He picked the quarrel, and he kicked Otoo twice and struck him
once before Otoo felt it to be necessary to fight. I don't think it
lasted four minutes, at the end of which time Bill King was the unhappy
possessor of four broken ribs, a broken forearm, and a dislocated
shoulder-blade. Otoo knew nothing of scientific boxing. He was merely a
manhandler; and Bill King was something like three months in recovering
from the bit of manhandling he received that afternoon on Apia beach.
But I am running ahead of my yarn. We shared the hatch-cover between us.
We took turn and turn about, one lying flat on the cover and resting,
while the other, submerged to the neck, merely held on with his hands.
For two days and nights, spell and spell, on the cover and in the water,
we drifted over the ocean. Toward the last I was delirious most of the
time; and there were times, too, when I heard Otoo babbling and raving
in his native tongue. Our continuous immersion prevented us from dying
of thirst, though the sea-water and the sunshine gave us the prettiest
imaginable combination of salt pickle and sunburn.
In the end, Otoo saved my life; for I came to lying on the beach twenty
feet from the water, sheltered from the sun by a couple of cocoanut
leaves. No one but Otoo could have dragged me there and stuck up the
leaves for shade. He was lying beside me. I went off again; and the next
time I came round, it was cool and starry night, and Otoo was pressing a
drinking cocoanut to my lips.
We were the sole survivors of the _Petite Jeanne._ Captain Oudouse must
have succumbed to exhaustion, for several days later his hatch-cover
drifted ashore without him. Otoo and I lived with the natives of the
atoll for a week, when we were rescued by a French cruiser and taken to
Tahiti. In the meantime, however, we had performed the ceremony of
exchanging names. In the South Seas such a ceremony binds two men closer
together than blood-brothership. The initiative had been mine; and Otoo
was rapturously delighted when I suggested it.
"It is well," he said, in Tahitian. "For we have been mates together for
two days on the lips of Death."
"But Death stuttered." I smiled.
"It was a brave deed you did, master," he replied, "and Death was not
vile enough to speak."
"Why do you 'master' me?" I demanded, with a show of hurt feelings. "We
have exchanged names. To you I am Otoo. To me you are Charley. And
between you and me, forever and forever, you shall be Charley, and I
shall be Otoo. It is the way of the custom. And when we die, if it does
happen that we live again somewhere beyond the stars and the sky, still
shall you be Charley to me, and I Otoo to you."
"Yes, master," he answered, his eyes luminous and soft with joy.
"There you go!" I cried indignantly.
"What does it matter what my lips utter?" he argued. "They are only my
lips. But I shall think Otoo always. Whenever I think of myself, I shall
think of you. Whenever men call me by name, I shall think of you. And
beyond the sky and beyond the stars, always and forever, you shall be
Otoo to me. Is it well, master?"
I hid my smile, and answered that it was well.
We parted at Papeete. I remained ashore to recuperate; and he went on
in a cutter to his own island, Bora Bora. Six weeks later he was back. I
was surprised, for he had told me of his wife, and said that he was
returning to her, and would give over sailing on far voyages.
"Where do you go, master?" he asked after our first greetings.
I shrugged my shoulders. It was a hard question.
"All the world," was my answer--"all the world, all the sea, and all the
islands that are in the sea."
"I will go with you," he said simply. "My wife is dead."
I never had a brother; but from what I have seen of other men's
brothers, I doubt if any man ever had a brother that was to him what
Otoo was to me. He was brother and father and mother as well. And this I
know: I lived a straighter and better man because of Otoo. I cared
little for other men, but I had to live straight in Otoo's eyes. Because
of him I dared not tarnish myself. He made me his ideal, compounding me,
I fear, chiefly out of his own love and worship; and there were times
when I stood close to the steep pitch of Hades, and would have taken
the plunge had not the thought of Otoo restrained me. His pride in me
entered into me, until it became one of the major rules in my personal
code to do nothing that would diminish that pride of his.
Naturally, I did not learn right away what his feelings were toward me.
He never criticised, never censured; and slowly the exalted place I held
in his eyes dawned upon me, and slowly I grew to comprehend the hurt I
could inflict upon him by being anything less than my best.
For seventeen years we were together; for seventeen years he was at my
shoulder, watching while I slept, nursing me through fever and
wounds--ay, and receiving wounds in fighting for me. He signed on the
same ships with me; and together we ranged the Pacific from Hawaii to
Sydney Head, and from Torres Straits to the Galapagos. We blackbirded
from the New Hebrides and the Line Islands over to the westward clear
through the Louisades, New Britain, New Ireland, and New Hanover. We
were wrecked three times--in the Gilberts, in the Santa Cruz group, and
in the Fijis. And we traded and salved wherever a dollar promised in
the way of pearl and pearl-shell, copra, beche-de-mer, hawkbill
turtle-shell, and stranded wrecks.
It began in Papeete, immediately after his announcement that he was
going with me over all the sea, and the islands in the midst thereof.
There was a club in those days in Papeete, where the pearlers, traders,
captains, and riffraff of South Sea adventurers foregathered. The play
ran high, and the drink ran high; and I am very much afraid that I kept
later hours than were becoming or proper. No matter what the hour was
when I left the club, there was Otoo waiting to see me safely home.
At first I smiled; next I chided him. Then I told him flatly that I
stood in need of no wet-nursing. After that I did not see him when I
came out of the club. Quite by accident, a week or so later, I
discovered that he still saw me home, lurking across the street among
the shadows of the mango-trees. What could I do? I know what I did do.
Insensibly I began to keep better hours. On wet and stormy nights, in
the thick of the folly and the fun, the thought would persist in coming
to me of Otoo keeping his dreary vigil under the dripping mangoes.
Truly, he had made a better man of me. Yet he was not strait-laced. And
he knew nothing of common Christian morality. All the people on Bora
Bora were Christians; but he was a heathen, the only unbeliever on the
island, a gross materialist, who believed that when he died he was dead.
He believed merely in fair play and square dealing. Petty meanness, in
his code, was almost as serious as wanton homicide; and I do believe
that he respected a murderer more than a man given to small practices.
Otoo had my welfare always at heart. He thought ahead for me, weighed my
plans, and took a greater interest in them than I did myself. At first,
when I was unaware of this interest of his in my affairs, he had to
divine my intentions, as, for instance, at Papeete, when I contemplated
going partners with a knavish fellow-countryman on a guano venture. I
did not know he was a knave. Nor did any white man in Papeete. Neither
did Otoo know, but he saw how thick we were getting, and found out for
me, and without my asking him. Native sailors from the ends of the seas
knock about on the beach in Tahiti; and Otoo, suspicious merely, went
among them till he had gathered sufficient data to justify his
suspicions. Oh, it was a nice history, that of Randolph Waters. I
couldn't believe it when Otoo first narrated it; but when I sheeted it
home to Waters he gave in without a murmur, and got away on the first
steamer to Aukland.
At first, I am free to confess, I couldn't help resenting Otoo's poking
his nose into my business. But I knew that he was wholly unselfish; and
soon I had to acknowledge his wisdom and discretion. He had his eyes
open always to my main chance, and he was both keen-sighted and
far-sighted. In time he became my counsellor, until he knew more of my
business than I did myself. He really had my interest at heart more than
I did. Mine was the magnificent carelessness of youth, for I preferred
romance to dollars, and adventure to a comfortable billet with all night
in. So it was well that I had some one to look out for me. I know that
if it had not been for Otoo, I should not be here to-day.
Of numerous instances, let me give one. I had had some experience in
blackbirding before I went pearling in the Paumotus. Otoo and I were in
Samoa--we really were on the beach and hard aground--when my chance came
to go as recruiter on a blackbird brig. Otoo signed on before the mast;
and for the next half-dozen years, in as many ships, we knocked about
the wildest portions of Melanesia. Otoo saw to it that he always pulled
stroke-oar in my boat. Our custom in recruiting labor was to land the
recruiter on the beach. The covering boat always lay on its oars several
hundred feet off shore, while the recruiter's boat, also lying on its
oars, kept afloat on the edge of the beach. When I landed with my
trade-goods, leaving my steering sweep apeak, Otoo left his stroke
position and came into the stern-sheets, where a Winchester lay ready to
hand under a flap of canvas. The boat's crew was also armed, the Sniders
concealed under canvas flaps that ran the length of the gunwales. While
I was busy arguing and persuading the woolly-headed cannibals to come
and labor on the Queensland plantations Otoo kept watch. And often and
often his low voice warned me of suspicious actions and impending
treachery. Sometimes it was the quick shot from his rifle, knocking a
savage over, that was the first warning I received. And in my rush to
the boat his hand was always there to jerk me flying aboard. Once, I
remember, on _Santa Anna_, the boat grounded just as the trouble began.
The covering boat was dashing to our assistance, but the several score
of savages would have wiped us out before it arrived. Otoo took a flying
leap ashore, dug both hands into the trade-goods, and scattered tobacco,
beads, tomahawks, knives, and calicoes in all directions.
This was too much for the woolly-heads. While they scrambled for the
treasures, the boat was shoved clear, and we were aboard and forty feet
away. And I got thirty recruits off that very beach in the next four
The particular instance I have in mind was on Malaita, the most savage
island in the easterly Solomons. The natives had been remarkably
friendly; and how were we to know that the whole village had been taking
up a collection for over two years with which to buy a white man's head?
The beggars are all head-hunters, and they especially esteem a white
man's head. The fellow who captured the head would receive the whole
collection. As I say, they appeared very friendly; and on this day I
was fully a hundred yards down the beach from the boat. Otoo had
cautioned me; and, as usual when I did not heed him, I came to grief.
The first I knew, a cloud of spears sailed out of the mangrove swamp at
me. At least a dozen were sticking into me. I started to run, but
tripped over one that was fast in my calf, and went down. The
woolly-heads made a run for me, each with a long-handled, fantail
tomahawk with which to hack off my head. They were so eager for the
prize that they got in one another's way. In the confusion, I avoided
several hacks by throwing myself right and left on the sand.
Then Otoo arrived--Otoo the manhandler. In some way he had got hold of a
heavy war club, and at close quarters it was a far more efficient weapon
than a rifle. He was right in the thick of them, so that they could not
spear him, while their tomahawks seemed worse than useless. He was
fighting for me, and he was in a true Berserker rage. The way he handled
that club was amazing. Their skulls squashed like overripe oranges. It
was not until he had driven them back, picked me up in his arms, and
started to run, that he received his first wounds. He arrived in the
boat with four spear thrusts, got his Winchester, and with it got a man
for every shot. Then we pulled aboard the schooner and doctored up.
Seventeen years we were together. He made me. I should to-day be a
supercargo, a recruiter, or a memory, if it had not been for him.
"You spend your money, and you go out and get more," he said one day.
"It is easy to get money now. But when you get old, your money will be
spent, and you will not be able to go out and get more. I know, master.
I have studied the way of white men. On the beaches are many old men who
were young once, and who could get money just like you. Now they are
old, and they have nothing, and they wait about for the young men like
you to come ashore and buy drinks for them.
"The black boy is a slave on the plantations. He gets twenty dollars a
year. He works hard. The overseer does not work hard. He rides a horse
and watches the black boy work. He gets twelve hundred dollars a year. I
am a sailor on the schooner. I get fifteen dollars a month. That is
because I am a good sailor. I work hard. The captain has a double
awning, and drinks beer out of long bottles. I have never seen him haul
a rope or pull an oar. He gets one hundred and fifty dollars a month. I
am a sailor. He is a navigator. Master, I think it would be very good
for you to know navigation."
Otoo spurred me on to it. He sailed with me as second mate on my first
schooner, and he was far prouder of my command than I was myself. Later
on it was:
"The captain is well paid, master; but the ship is in his keeping, and
he is never free from the burden. It is the owner who is better
paid--the owner who sits ashore with many servants and turns his money
"True, but a schooner costs five thousand dollars--an old schooner at
that," I objected. "I should be an old man before I saved five thousand
"There be short ways for white men to make money," he went on, pointing
ashore at the cocoanut-fringed beach.
We were in the Solomons at the time, picking up a cargo of ivory-nuts
along the east coast of Guadalcanar.
"Between this river mouth and the next it is two miles," he said. "The
flat land runs far back. It is worth nothing now. Next year--who
knows?--or the year after, men will pay much money for that land. The
anchorage is good. Big steamers can lie close up. You can buy the land
four miles deep from the old chief for ten thousand sticks of tobacco,
ten bottles of square-face, and a Snider, which will cost you, maybe,
one hundred dollars. Then you place the deed with the commissioner; and
the next year, or the year after, you sell and become the owner of a
I followed his lead, and his words came true, though in three years,
instead of two. Next came the grasslands deal on Guadalcanar--twenty
thousand acres, on a governmental nine hundred and ninety-nine years'
lease at a nominal sum. I owned the lease for precisely ninety days,
when I sold it to a company for half a fortune. Always it was Otoo who
looked ahead and saw the opportunity. He was responsible for the salving
of the _Doncaster_--bought in at auction for a hundred pounds, and
clearing three thousand after every expense was paid. He led me into the
Savaii plantation and the cocoa venture on Upolu.
We did not go seafaring so much as in the old days. I was too well off.
I married, and my standard of living rose; but Otoo remained the same
old-time Otoo, moving about the house or trailing through the office,
his wooden pipe in his mouth, a shilling undershirt on his back, and a
four-shilling lava-lava about his loins. I could not get him to spend
money. There was no way of repaying him except with love, and God knows
he got that in full measure from all of us. The children worshipped him;
and if he had been spoilable, my wife would surely have been his
The children! He really was the one who showed them the way of their
feet in the world practical. He began by teaching them to walk. He sat
up with them when they were sick. One by one, when they were scarcely
toddlers, he took them down to the lagoon, and made them into
amphibians. He taught them more than I ever knew of the habits of fish
and the ways of catching them. In the bush it was the same thing. At
seven, Tom knew more woodcraft than I ever dreamed existed. At six, Mary
went over the Sliding Rock without a quiver, and I have seen strong men
balk at that feat. And when Frank had just turned six he could bring up
shillings from the bottom in three fathoms.
"My people in Bora Bora do not like heathen--they are all Christians;
and I do not like Bora Bora Christians," he said one day, when I, with
the idea of getting him to spend some of the money that was rightfully
his, had been trying to persuade him to make a visit to his own island
in one of our schooners--a special voyage which I had hoped to make a
record breaker in the matter of prodigal expense.
I say one of _our_ schooners, though legally at the time they belonged
to me. I struggled long with him to enter into partnership.
"We have been partners from the day the _Petite Jeanne_ went down," he
said at last. "But if your heart so wishes, then shall we become
partners by the law. I have no work to do, yet are my expenses large. I
drink and eat and smoke in plenty--it costs much, I know. I do not pay
for the playing of billiards, for I play on your table; but still the
money goes. Fishing on the reef is only a rich man's pleasure. It is
shocking, the cost of hooks and cotton line. Yes; it is necessary that
we be partners by the law. I need the money. I shall get it from the
head clerk in the office."
So the papers were made out and recorded. A year later I was compelled
"Charley," said I, "you are a wicked old fraud, a miserly skinflint, a
miserable land-crab. Behold, your share for the year in all our
partnership has been thousands of dollars. The head clerk has given me
this paper. It says that in the year you have drawn just eighty-seven
dollars and twenty cents."
"Is there any owing me?" he asked anxiously.
"I tell you thousands and thousands," I answered.
His face brightened, as with an immense relief.
"It is well," he said. "See that the head clerk keeps good account of
it. When I want it, I shall want it, and there must not be a cent
"If there is," he added fiercely, after a pause, "it must come out of
the clerk's wages."
And all the time, as I afterward learned, his will, drawn up by
Carruthers, and making me sole beneficiary, lay in the American consul's
But the end came, as the end must come to all human associations. It
occurred in the Solomons, where our wildest work had been done in the
wild young days, and where we were once more--principally on a holiday,
incidentally to look after our holdings on Florida Island and to look
over the pearling possibilities of the Mboli Pass. We were lying at
Savo, having run in to trade for curios.
Now, Savo is alive with sharks. The custom of the woolly-heads of
burying their dead in the sea did not tend to discourage the sharks from
making the adjacent waters a hang-out. It was my luck to be coming
aboard in a tiny, overloaded, native canoe, when the thing capsized.
There were four woolly-heads and myself in it, or, rather, hanging to
it. The schooner was a hundred yards away. I was just hailing for a boat
when one of the woolly-heads began to scream. Holding on to the end of
the canoe, both he and that portion of the canoe were dragged under
several times. Then he loosed his clutch and disappeared. A shark had
The three remaining savages tried to climb out of the water upon the
bottom of the canoe. I yelled and struck at the nearest with my fist,
but it was no use. They were in a blind funk. The canoe could barely
have supported one of them. Under the three it upended and rolled
sidewise, throwing them back into the water.
I abandoned the canoe and started to swim toward the schooner, expecting
to be picked up by the boat before I got there. One of the savages
elected to come with me, and we swam along silently, side by side, now
and again putting our faces into the water and peering about for sharks.
The screams of the man who stayed by the canoe informed us that he was
taken. I was peering into the water when I saw a big shark pass directly
beneath me. He was fully sixteen feet in length. I saw the whole thing.
He got the woolly-head by the middle, and away he went, the poor devil,
head, shoulders, and arms out of water all the time, screeching in a
heartrending way. He was carried along in this fashion for several
hundred feet, when he was dragged beneath the surface.
I swam doggedly on, hoping that that was the last unattached shark. But
there was another. Whether it was the one that had attacked the natives
earlier, or whether it was one that had made a good meal elsewhere, I do
not know. At any rate, he was not in such haste as the others. I could
not swim so rapidly now, for a large part of my effort was devoted to
keeping track of him. I was watching him when he made his first attack.
By good luck I got both hands on his nose, and, though his momentum
nearly shoved me under, I managed to keep him off. He veered clear, and
began circling about again. A second time I escaped him by the same
maneuver. The third rush was a miss on both sides. He sheered at the
moment my hands should have landed on his nose, but his sandpaper hide
(I had on a sleeveless undershirt) scraped the skin off one arm from
elbow to shoulder.
By this time I was played out, and gave up hope. The schooner was still
two hundred feet away. My face was in the water, and I was watching him
maneuver for another attempt, when I saw a brown body pass between us.
It was Otoo.
"Swim for the schooner, master!" he said. And he spoke gayly, as though
the affair was a mere lark. "I know sharks. The shark is my brother."
I obeyed, swimming slowly on, while Otoo swam about me, keeping always
between me and the shark, foiling his rushes and encouraging me.
"The davit tackle carried away, and they are rigging the falls," he
explained, a minute or so later, and then went under to head off another
By the time the schooner was thirty feet away I was about done for. I
could scarcely move. They were heaving lines at us from on board, but
they continually fell short. The shark, finding that it was receiving no
hurt, had become bolder. Several times it nearly got me, but each time
Otoo was there just the moment before it was too late. Of course, Otoo
could have saved himself any time. But he stuck by me.
"Good-bye, Charley! I'm finished!" I just managed to gasp.
I knew that the end had come, and that the next moment I should throw
up my hands and go down.
But Otoo laughed in my face, saying:
"I will show you a new trick. I will make that shark feel sick!"
He dropped in behind me, where the shark was preparing to come at me.
"A little more to the left!" he next called out. "There is a line there
on the water. To the left, master--to the left!"
I changed my course and struck out blindly. I was by that time barely
conscious. As my hand closed on the line I heard an exclamation from on
board. I turned and looked. There was no sign of Otoo. The next instant
he broke surface. Both hands were off at the wrist, the stumps spouting
"Otoo!" he called softly. And I could see in his gaze the love that
thrilled in his voice.
Then, and then only, at the very last of all our years, he called me by
"Good-by, Otoo!" he called.
Then he was dragged under, and I was hauled aboard, where I fainted in
the captain's arms.
And so passed Otoo, who saved me and made me a man, and who saved me in
the end. We met in the maw of a hurricane, and parted in the maw of a
shark, with seventeen intervening years of comradeship, the like of
which I dare to assert has never befallen two men, the one brown and the
other white. If Jehovah be from His high place watching every sparrow
fall, not least in His kingdom shall be Otoo, the one heathen of Bora
THE HOBO AND THE FAIRY
He lay on his back. So heavy was his sleep that the stamp of hoofs and
cries of the drivers from the bridge that crossed the creek did not
rouse him. Wagon after wagon, loaded high with grapes, passed the bridge
on the way up the valley to the winery, and the coming of each wagon was
like the explosion of sound and commotion in the lazy quiet of the
But the man was undisturbed. His head had slipped from the folded
newspaper, and the straggling, unkempt hair was matted with the foxtails
and burrs of the dry grass on which it lay. He was not a pretty sight.
His mouth was open, disclosing a gap in the upper row where several
teeth at some time had been knocked out. He breathed stertorously, at
times grunting and moaning with the pain of his sleep. Also, he was very
restless, tossing his arms about, making jerky, half-convulsive
movements, and at times rolling his head from side to side in the burrs.
This restlessness seemed occasioned partly by some internal discomfort,
and partly by the sun that streamed down on his face and by the flies
that buzzed and lighted and crawled upon the nose and cheeks and
eyelids. There was no other place for them to crawl, for the rest of the
face was covered with matted beard, slightly grizzled, but greatly
dirt-stained and weather-discolored.
The cheek-bones were blotched with the blood congested by the debauch
that was evidently being slept off. This, too, accounted for the
persistence with which the flies clustered around the mouth, lured by
the alcohol-laden exhalations. He was a powerfully built man,
thick-necked, broad-shouldered, with sinewy wrists and toil-distorted
hands. Yet the distortion was not due to recent toil, nor were the
callouses other than ancient that showed under the dirt of the one palm
upturned. From time to time this hand clenched tightly and
spasmodically into a fist, large, heavy-boned and wicked-looking.
The man lay in the dry grass of a tiny glade that ran down to the
tree-fringed bank of the stream. On either side of the glade was a
fence, of the old stake-and-rider type, though little of it was to be
seen, so thickly was it overgrown by wild blackberry bushes, scrubby
oaks and young madrono trees. In the rear, a gate through a low paling
fence led to a snug, squat bungalow, built in the California Spanish
style and seeming to have been compounded directly from the landscape of
which it was so justly a part. Neat and trim and modestly sweet was the
bungalow, redolent of comfort and repose, telling with quiet certitude
of some one that knew, and that had sought and found.
Through the gate and into the glade came as dainty a little maiden as
ever stepped out of an illustration made especially to show how dainty
little maidens may be. Eight years she might have been, and, possibly, a
trifle more, or less. Her little waist and little black-stockinged
calves showed how delicately fragile she was; but the fragility was of
mould only. There was no hint of anemia in the clear, healthy
complexion nor in the quick, tripping step. She was a little, delicious
blond, with hair spun of gossamer gold and wide blue eyes that were but
slightly veiled by the long lashes. Her expression was of sweetness and
happiness; it belonged by right to any face that sheltered in the
She carried a child's parasol, which she was careful not to tear against
the scrubby branches and bramble bushes as she sought for wild poppies
along the edge of the fence. They were late poppies, a third generation,
which had been unable to resist the call of the warm October sun.
Having gathered along one fence, she turned to cross to the opposite
fence. Midway in the glade she came upon the tramp. Her startle was
merely a startle. There was no fear in it. She stood and looked long and
curiously at the forbidding spectacle, and was about to turn back when
the sleeper moved restlessly and rolled his hand among the burrs. She
noted the sun on his face, and the buzzing flies; her face grew
solicitous, and for a moment she debated with herself. Then she tiptoed
to his side, interposed the parasol between him and the sun, and
brushed away the flies. After a time, for greater ease, she sat down
An hour passed, during which she occasionally shifted the parasol from
one tired hand to the other. At first the sleeper had been restless,
but, shielded from the flies and the sun, his breathing became gentler
and his movements ceased. Several times, however, he really frightened
her. The first was the worst, coming abruptly and without warning.
"Christ! How deep! How deep!" the man murmured from some profound of
dream. The parasol was agitated; but the little girl controlled herself
and continued her self-appointed ministrations.
Another time it was a gritting of teeth, as of some intolerable agony.
So terribly did the teeth crunch and grind together that it seemed they
must crush into fragments. A little later he suddenly stiffened out. The
hands clenched and the face set with the savage resolution of the dream.
The eyelids trembled from the shock of the fantasy, seemed about to
open, but did not. Instead, the lips muttered:
"No; no! And once more no. I won't peach." The lips paused, then went
on. "You might as well tie me up, warden, and cut me to pieces. That's
all you can get outa me--blood. That's all any of you-uns has ever got
outa me in this hole."
After this outburst the man slept gently on, while the little girl still
held the parasol aloft and looked down with a great wonder at the
frowsy, unkempt creature, trying to reconcile it with the little part of
life that she knew. To her ears came the cries of men, the stamp of
hoofs on the bridge, and the creak and groan of wagons heavy laden. It
was a breathless California Indian summer day. Light fleeces of cloud
drifted in the azure sky, but to the west heavy cloud banks threatened
with rain. A bee droned lazily by. From farther thickets came the calls
of quail, and from the fields the songs of meadow larks. And oblivious
to it all slept Ross Shanklin--Ross Shanklin, the tramp and outcast,
ex-convict 4379, the bitter and unbreakable one who had defied all
keepers and survived all brutalities.
Texas-born, of the old pioneer stock that was always tough and stubborn,
he had been unfortunate. At seventeen years of age he had been
apprehended for horse stealing. Also, he had been convicted of stealing
seven horses which he had not stolen, and he had been sentenced to
fourteen years' imprisonment. This was severe under any circumstances,
but with him it had been especially severe, because there had been no
prior convictions against him. The sentiment of the people who believed
him guilty had been that two years was adequate punishment for the
youth, but the county attorney, paid according to the convictions he
secured, had made seven charges against him and earned seven fees. Which
goes to show that the county attorney valued twelve years of Ross
Shanklin's life at less than a few dollars.
Young Ross Shanklin had toiled terribly in jail; he had escaped, more
than once; and he had been caught and sent back to toil in other and
various jails. He had been triced up and lashed till he fainted had been
revived and lashed again. He had been in the dungeon ninety days at a
time. He had experienced the torment of the straightjacket. He knew what
the humming bird was. He had been farmed out as a chattel by the state
to the contractors. He had been trailed through swamps by bloodhounds.
Twice he had been shot. For six years on end he had cut a cord and a
half of wood each day in a convict lumber camp. Sick or well, he had cut
that cord and a half or paid for it under a whip-lash knotted and
And Ross Shanklin had not sweetened under the treatment. He had sneered,
and raved, and defied. He had seen convicts, after the guards had
manhandled them, crippled in body for life, or left to maunder in mind
to the end of their days. He had seen convicts, even his own cell mate,
goaded to murder by their keepers, go to the gallows reviling God. He
had been in a break in which eleven of his kind were shot down. He had
been through a mutiny, where, in the prison yard, with gatling guns
trained upon them, three hundred convicts had been disciplined with pick
handles wielded by brawny guards.
He had known every infamy of human cruelty, and through it all he had
never been broken. He had resented and fought to the last, until,
embittered and bestial, the day came when he was discharged. Five
dollars were given him in payment for the years of his labor and the
flower of his manhood. And he had worked little in the years that
followed. Work he hated and despised. He tramped, begged and stole,
lied or threatened as the case might warrant, and drank to besottedness
whenever he got the chance.
The little girl was looking at him when he awoke. Like a wild animal,
all of him was awake the instant he opened his eyes. The first he saw
was the parasol, strangely obtruded between him and the sky. He did not
start nor move, though his whole body seemed slightly to tense. His eyes
followed down the parasol handle to the tight-clutched little fingers,
and along the arm to the child's face. Straight and unblinking he looked
into her eyes, and she, returning the look, was chilled and frightened
by his glittering eyes, cold and harsh, withal bloodshot, and with no
hint in them of the warm humanness she had been accustomed to see and
feel in human eyes. They were the true prison eyes--the eyes of a man
who had learned to talk little, who had forgotten almost how to talk.
"Hello," he said finally, making no effort to change his position. "What
game are you up to!"
His voice was gruff and husky, and at first it had been harsh; but it
had softened queerly in a feeble attempt at forgotten kindliness.
"How do you do?" she said. "I'm not playing. The sun was on your face,
and mamma says one oughtn't to sleep in the sun."
The sweet clearness of her child's voice was pleasant to him, and he
wondered why he had never noticed it in children's voices before. He sat
up slowly and stared at her. He felt that he ought to say something, but
speech with him was a reluctant thing.
"I hope you slept well," she said gravely.
"I sure did," he answered, never taking his eyes from her, amazed at the
fairness and delicacy of her. "How long was you holdin' that contraption
up over me?"
"O-oh," she debated with herself, "a long, long time. I thought you
would never wake up."
"And I thought you was a fairy when I first seen you."
He felt elated at his contribution to the conversation.
"No, not a fairy," she smiled.
He thrilled in a strange, numb way at the immaculate whiteness of her
small even teeth.
"I was just the good Samaritan," she added.
"I reckon I never heard of that party."
He was cudgelling his brains to keep the conversation going. Never
having been at close quarters with a child since he was man-grown, he
found it difficult.
"What a funny man not to know about the good Samaritan. Don't you
remember? A certain man went down to Jericho----"
"I reckon I've been there," he interrupted.
"I knew you were a traveler!" she cried, clapping her hands. "Maybe you
saw the exact spot."
"Why, where he fell among thieves and was left half dead. And then the
good Samaritan went to him, and bound up his wounds, and poured in oil
and wine--was that olive oil, do you think?"
He shook his head slowly.
"I reckon you got me there. Olive oil is something the dagoes cooks
with. I never heard of it for busted heads."
She considered his statement for a moment.
"Well," she announced, "we use olive oil in _our_ cooking, so we must be
dagoes. I never knew what they were before. I thought it was slang."
"And the Samaritan dumped oil on his head," the tramp muttered
reminiscently. "Seems to me I recollect a sky pilot sayin' something
about that old gent. D'ye know, I've been looking for him off 'n on all
my life, and never scared up hide nor hair of him. They ain't no more
"Wasn't I one!" she asked quickly.
He looked at her steadily, with a great curiosity and wonder. Her ear,
by a movement exposed to the sun, was transparent. It seemed he could
almost see through it. He was amazed at the delicacy of her coloring, at
the blue of her eyes, at the dazzle of the sun-touched golden hair. And
he was astounded by her fragility. It came to him that she was easily
broken. His eye went quickly from his huge, gnarled paw to her tiny hand
in which it seemed to him he could almost see the blood circulate. He
knew the power in his muscles, and he knew the tricks and turns by which
men use their bodies to ill-treat men. In fact, he knew little else, and
his mind for the time ran in its customary channel. It was his way of
measuring the beautiful strangeness of her. He calculated a grip, and
not a strong one, that could grind her little fingers to pulp. He
thought of fist blows he had given to men's heads, and received on his
own head, and felt that the least of them could shatter hers like an
egg-shell. He scanned her little shoulders and slim waist, and knew in
all certitude that with his two hands he could rend her to pieces.
"Wasn't I one?" she insisted again.
He came back to himself with a shock--or away from himself, as the case
happened. He was loath that the conversation should cease.
"What?" he answered. "Oh, yes; you bet you was a Samaritan, even if you
didn't have no olive oil." He remembered what his mind had been dwelling
on, and asked, "But ain't you afraid?"
"Of ... of me?" he added lamely.
She laughed merrily.
"Mamma says never to be afraid of anything. She says that if you're
good, and you think good of other people, they'll be good, too."
"And you was thinkin' good of me when you kept the sun off," he
"But it's hard to think good of bees and nasty crawly things," she
"But there's men that is nasty and crawly things," he argued.
"Mamma says no. She says there's good in everyone.
"I bet you she locks the house up tight at night just the same," he
"But she doesn't. Mamma isn't afraid of anything. That's why she lets me
play out here alone when I want. Why, we had a robber once. Mamma got
right up and found him. And what do you think! He was only a poor hungry
man. And she got him plenty to eat from the pantry, and afterward she
got him work to do."
Ross Shanklin was stunned. The vista shown him of human nature was
unthinkable. It had been his lot to live in a world of suspicion and
hatred, of evil-believing and evil-doing. It had been his experience,
slouching along village streets at nightfall, to see little children,
screaming with fear, run from him to their mothers. He had even seen
grown women shrink aside from him as he passed along the sidewalk.
He was aroused by the girl clapping her hands as she cried out:
"I know what you are! You're an open air crank. That's why you were
sleeping here in the grass."
He felt a grim desire to laugh, but repressed it.
"And that's what tramps are--open air cranks," she continued. "I often
wondered. Mamma believes in the open air. I sleep on the porch at night.
So does she. This is our land. You must have climbed the fence. Mamma
lets me when I put on my climbers--they're bloomers, you know. But you
ought to be told something. A person doesn't know when they snore
because they're asleep. But you do worse than that. You grit your teeth.
That's bad. Whenever you are going to sleep you must think to yourself,
'I won't grit my teeth, I won't grit my teeth,' over and over, just like
that, and by and by you'll get out of the habit.
"All bad things are habits. And so are all good things. And it depends
on us what kind our habits are going to be. I used to pucker my
eyebrows--wrinkle them all up, but mamma said I must overcome that
habit. She said that when my eyebrows were wrinkled it was an
advertisement that my brain was wrinkled inside, and that it wasn't good
to have wrinkles in the brain. And then she smoothed my eyebrows with
her hand and said I must always think _smooth_--_smooth_ inside, and
_smooth_ outside. And do you know, it was easy. I haven't wrinkled my
brows for ever so long. I've heard about filling teeth by thinking. But
I don't believe that. Neither does mamma."
She paused rather out of breath. Nor did he speak. Her flow of talk had
been too much for him. Also, sleeping drunkenly, with open mouth, had
made him very thirsty. But, rather than lose one precious moment, he
endured the torment of his scorching throat and mouth. He licked his dry
lips and struggled for speech.
"What is your name?" he managed at last.
She looked her own question at him, and it was not necessary to voice
"Mine is Ross Shanklin," he volunteered, for the first time in forgotten
years giving his real name.
"I suppose you've traveled a lot."
"I sure have, but not as much as I might have wanted to."
"Papa always wanted to travel, but he was too busy at the office. He
never could get much time. He went to Europe once with mamma. That was
before I was born. It takes money to travel."
Ross Shanklin did not know whether to agree with this statement or not.
"But it doesn't cost tramps much for expenses," she took the thought
away from him. "Is that why you tramp?"
He nodded and licked his lips.
"Mamma says it's too bad that men must tramp to look for work. But
there's lots of work now in the country. All the farmers in the valley
are trying to get men. Have you been working?"
He shook his head, angry with himself that he should feel shame at the
confession when his savage reasoning told him he was right in despising
work. But this was followed by another thought. This beautiful little
creature was some man's child. She was one of the rewards of work.
"I wish I had a little girl like you," he blurted out, stirred by a
sudden consciousness of passion for paternity. "I'd work my hands off. I
... I'd do anything."
She considered his case with fitting gravity.
"Then you aren't married?"
"Nobody would have me."
"Yes, they would, if ..."
She did not turn up her nose, but she favored his dirt and rags with a
look of disapprobation he could not mistake.
"Go on," he half-shouted. "Shoot it into me. If I was washed--if I wore
good clothes--if I was respectable--if I had a job and worked
regular--if I wasn't what I am."
To each statement she nodded.
"Well, I ain't that kind," he rushed on. "I'm no good. I'm a tramp. I
don't want to work, that's what. And I like dirt."
Her face was eloquent with reproach as she said, "Then you were only
making believe when you wished you had a little girl like me?"
This left him speechless, for he knew, in all the depths of his
new-found passion, that that was just what he did want.
With ready tact, noting his discomfort, she sought to change the
"What do you think of God?" she asked. "I ain't never met him. What do
you think about him?"
His reply was evidently angry, and she was frank in her disapproval.
"You are very strange," she said. "You get angry so easily. I never saw
anybody before that got angry about God, or work, or being clean."
"He never done anything for me," he muttered resentfully. He cast back
in quick review of the long years of toil in the convict camps and
mines. "And work never done anything for me neither."
An embarrassing silence fell.
He looked at her, numb and hungry with the stir of the father-love,
sorry for his ill temper, puzzling his brain for something to say. She
was looking off and away at the clouds, and he devoured her with his
eyes. He reached out stealthily and rested one grimy hand on the very
edge of her little dress. It seemed to him that she was the most
wonderful thing in the world. The quail still called from the coverts,
and the harvest sounds seemed abruptly to become very loud. A great
loneliness oppressed him.
"I'm ... I'm no good," he murmured huskily and repentantly.
But, beyond a glance from her blue eyes, she took no notice. The silence
was more embarrassing than ever. He felt that he could give the world
just to touch with his lips that hem of her dress where his hand rested.
But he was afraid of frightening her. He fought to find something to
say, licking his parched lips and vainly attempting to articulate
"This ain't Sonoma Valley," he declared finally. "This is fairy land,
and you're a fairy. Mebbe I'm asleep and dreaming. I don't know. You and
me don't know how to talk together, because, you see, you're a fairy and
don't know nothing but good things, and I'm a man from the bad, wicked
Having achieved this much, he was left gasping for ideas like a stranded
"And you're going to tell me about the bad, wicked world," she cried,
clapping her hands. "I'm just dying to know."
He looked at her, startled, remembering the wreckage of womanhood he
had encountered on the sunken ways of life. She was no fairy. She was
flesh and blood, and the possibilities of wreckage were in her as they
had been in him even when he lay at his mother's breast. And there was
in her eagerness to know.
"Nope," he said lightly, "this man from the bad, wicked world ain't
going to tell you nothing of the kind. He's going to tell you of the
good things in that world. He's going to tell you how he loved hosses
when he was a shaver, and about the first hoss he straddled, and the
first hoss he owned. Hosses ain't like men. They're better. They're
clean--clean all the way through and back again. And, little fairy, I
want to tell you one thing--there sure ain't nothing in the world like
when you're settin' a tired hoss at the end of a long day, and when you
just speak, and that tired animal lifts under you willing and hustles
along. Hosses! They're my long suit. I sure dote on hosses. Yep. I used
to be a cowboy once."
She clapped her hands in the way that tore so delightfully to his heart,
and her eyes were dancing, as she exclaimed:
"A Texas cowboy! I always wanted to see one! I heard papa say once that
cowboys are bow-legged. Are you?"
"I sure was a Texas cowboy," he answered. "But it was a long time ago.
And I'm sure bow-legged. You see, you can't ride much when you're young
and soft without getting the legs bent some. Why, I was only a
three-year-old when I begun. He was a three-year-old, too, fresh-broken.
I led him up alongside the fence, dumb to the top rail, and dropped on.
He was a pinto, and a real devil at bucking, but I could do anything
with him. I reckon he knowed I was only a little shaver. Some hosses
knows lots more 'n' you think."
For half an hour Ross Shanklin rambled on with his horse reminiscences,
never unconscious for a moment of the supreme joy that was his through
the touch of his hand on the hem of her dress. The sun dropped slowly
into the cloud bank, the quail called more insistently, and empty wagon
after empty wagon rumbled back across the bridge. Then came a woman's
"Joan! Joan!" it called. "Where are you, dear?"
The little girl answered, and Ross Shanklin saw a woman, clad in a
soft, clinging gown, come through the gate from the bungalow. She was a
slender, graceful woman, and to his charmed eyes she seemed rather to
float along than walk like ordinary flesh and blood.
"What have you been doing all afternoon?" the woman asked, as she came
"Talking, mamma," the little girl replied. "I've had a very interesting
Ross Shanklin scrambled to his feet and stood watchfully and awkwardly.
The little girl took the mother's hand, and she, in turn, looked at him
frankly and pleasantly, with a recognition of his humanness that was a
new thing to him. In his mind ran the thought: _the woman who ain't
afraid_. Not a hint was there of the timidity he was accustomed to
seeing in women's eyes. And he was quite aware, and never more so, of
his bleary-eyed, forbidding appearance.
"How do you do?" she greeted him sweetly and naturally.
"How do you do, ma'am," he responded, unpleasantly conscious of the
huskiness and rawness of his voice.
"And did you have an interesting time, too!" she smiled.
"Yes, ma'am. I sure did. I was just telling your little girl about
"He was a cowboy, once, mamma," she cried.
The mother smiled her acknowledgment to him, and looked fondly down at
the little girl. The thought that came into Ross Shanklin's mind was the
awfulness of the crime if any one should harm either of the wonderful
pair. This was followed by the wish that some terrible danger should
threaten, so that he could fight, as he well knew how, with all his
strength and life, to defend them.
"You'll have to come along, dear," the mother said. "It's growing late."
She looked at Ross Shanklin hesitantly. "Would you care to have
something to eat?"
"No, ma'am, thanking you kindly just the same. I ... I ain't hungry."
"Then say good-bye, Joan," she counselled.
"Good-bye." The little girl held out her hand, and her eyes lighted
roguishly. "Good-bye, Mr. Man from the bad, wicked world."
To him, the touch of her hand as he pressed it in his was the capstone
of the whole adventure.
"Good-bye, little fairy," he mumbled. "I reckon I got to be pullin'
But he did not pull along. He stood staring after his vision until it
vanished through the gate. The day seemed suddenly empty. He looked
about him irresolutely, then climbed the fence, crossed the bridge, and
slouched along the road. He was in a dream. He did not note his feet nor
the way they led him. At times he stumbled in the dust-filled ruts.
A mile farther on, he aroused at the crossroads. Before him stood the
saloon. He came to a stop and stared at it, licking his lips. He sank
his hand into his pants pocket and fumbled a solitary dime. "God!" he
muttered. "God!" Then, with dragging, reluctant feet, went on along the
He came to a big farm. He knew it must be big, because of the bigness of
the house and the size and number of the barns and outbuildings. On the
porch, in shirt sleeves, smoking a cigar, keen-eyed and middle-aged, was
"What's the chance for a job!" Ross Shanklin asked.
The keen eyes scarcely glanced at him.
"A dollar a day and grub," was the answer.
Ross Shanklin swallowed and braced himself.
"I'll pick grapes all right, or anything. But what's the chance for a
steady job? You've got a big ranch here. I know hosses. I was born on
one. I can drive team, ride, plough, break, do anything that anybody
ever done with hosses."
The other looked him over with an appraising, incredulous eye.
"You don't look it," was the judgment.
"I know I don't. Give me a chance. That's all. I'll prove it."
The farmer considered, casting an anxious glance at the cloud bank into
which the sun had sunk.
"I'm short a teamster, and I'll give you the chance to make good. Go and
get supper with the hands."
Ross Shanklin's voice was very husky, and he spoke with an effort.
"All right. I'll make good. Where can I get a drink of water and wash
He strolled to the corner and glanced up and down the intersecting
street, but saw nothing save the oases of light shed by the street lamps
at the successive crossings. Then he strolled back the way he had come.
He was a shadow of a man sliding noiselessly and without undue movement
through the semi darkness. Also he was very alert, like a wild animal in
the jungle, keenly perceptive and receptive. The movement of another in
the darkness about him would need to have been more shadowy than he to
have escaped him.
In addition to the running advertisement of the state of affairs carried
to him by his senses, he had a subtler perception, a _feel_, of the
atmosphere around him. He knew that the house in front of which he
paused for a moment, contained children. Yet by no willed effort of
perception did he have this knowledge. For that matter, he was not even
aware that he knew, so occult was the impression. Yet, did a moment
arise in which action, in relation to that house, were imperative, he
would have acted on the assumption that it contained children. He was
not aware of all that he knew about the neighborhood.
In the same way, he knew not how, he knew that no danger threatened in
the footfalls that came up the cross street. Before he saw the walker,
he knew him for a belated pedestrian hurrying home. The walker came into
view at the crossing and disappeared on up the street. The man that
watched, noted a light that flared up in the window of a house on the
corner, and as it died down he knew it for an expiring match. This was
conscious identification of familiar phenomena, and through his mind
flitted the thought, "Wanted to know what time." In another house one
room was lighted. The light burned dimly and steadily, and he had the
feel that it was a sick room.
He was especially interested in a house across the street in the middle
of the block. To this house he paid most attention. No matter what way
he looked, nor what way he walked, his looks and his steps always
returned to it. Except for an open window above the porch, there was
nothing unusual about the house. Nothing came in nor out. Nothing
happened. There were no lighted windows, nor had lights appeared and
disappeared in any of the windows. Yet it was the central point of his
consideration. He rallied to it each time after a divination of the
state of the neighborhood.
Despite his feel of things, he was not confident. He was supremely
conscious of the precariousness of his situation. Though unperturbed by
the footfalls of the chance pedestrian, he was as keyed up and sensitive
and ready to be startled as any timorous deer. He was aware of the
possibility of other intelligences prowling about in the
darkness--intelligences similar to his own in movement, perception, and
Far down the street he caught a glimpse of something that moved. And he
knew it was no late home-goer, but menace and danger. He whistled twice
to the house across the street, then faded away shadow-like to the
corner and around the corner. Here he paused and looked about him
carefully. Reassured, he peered back around the corner and studied the
object that moved and that was coming nearer. He had divined aright. It
was a policeman.
The man went down the cross street to the next corner, from the shelter
of which he watched the corner he had just left. He saw the policeman
pass by, going straight on up the street. He paralleled the policeman's
course, and from the next corner again watched him go by; then he
returned the way he had come. He whistled once to the house across the
street, and after a time whistled once again. There was reassurance in
the whistle, just as there had been warning in the previous double
He saw a dark bulk outline itself on the roof of the porch and slowly
descend a pillar. Then it came down the steps, passed through the small
iron gate, and went down the sidewalk, taking on the form of a man. He
that watched kept on his own side the street and moved on abreast to the
corner, where he crossed over and joined the other. He was quite small
alongside the man he accosted.
"How'd you make out, Matt?" he asked.
The other grunted indistinctly, and walked on in silence a few steps.
"I reckon I landed the goods," he said.
Jim chuckled in the darkness, and waited for further information. The
blocks passed by; under their feet, and he grew impatient.
"Well, how about them goods?" he asked. "What kind of a haul did you
"I was too busy to figger it out, but it's fat. I can tell you that
much, Jim, it's fat. I don't dast to think how fat it is. Wait till we
get to the room."
Jim looked at him keenly under the street lamp of the next crossing, and
saw that his face was a trifle grim and that he carried his left arm
"What's the matter with your arm?" he demanded.
"The little cuss bit me. Hope I don't get hydrophoby. Folks gets
hydrophoby from man-bite sometimes, don't they?"
"Gave you a fight, eh!" Jim asked encouragingly.
The other grunted.
"You're certainly bard to get information from," Jim burst out
irritably. "Tell us about it. You ain't goin' to lose money just
a-tellin' a guy."
"I guess I choked him some," came the answer. Then, by way of
explanation, "He woke up on me."
"You did it neat. I never heard a sound."
"Jim," the other said with seriousness, "it's a hangin' matter. I fixed
'm. I had to. He woke up on me. You an' me's got to do some layin' low
for a spell."
Jim gave a low whistle of comprehension.
"Did you hear me whistle!" he asked suddenly.
"Sure. I was all done. I was just comin' out."
"It was a bull. But he wasn't on a little bit. Went right by an' kept
a-paddin' the hoof outa sight. Then I came back an' gave you the
whistle. What made you take so long after that?"
"I was waitin' to make sure," Matt explained.
"I was mighty glad when I heard you whistle again. It's hard work
waitin'. I just sat there an' thought an' thought ... oh, all kinds of
things. It's remarkable what a fellow'll think about. And then there
was a darn cat that kept movin' around the house an' botherin' me with
"An' it's fat!" Jim exclaimed irrelevantly and with joy.
"I'm sure tellin' you, Jim, it's fat. I'm plum' anxious for another look
Unconsciously the two men quickened their pace. Yet they did not relax
from their caution. Twice they changed their course in order to avoid
policemen, and they made very sure that they were not observed when they
dived into the dark hallway of a cheap rooming house down town.
Not until they had gained their own room on the top floor, did they
scratch a match. While Jim lighted a lamp, Matt locked the door and
threw the bolts into place. As he turned, he noticed that his partner
was waiting expectantly. Matt smiled to himself at the other's
"Them search-lights is all right," he said, drawing forth a small pocket
electric lamp and examining it. "But we got to get a new battery. It's
runnin' pretty weak. I thought once or twice it'd leave me in the dark.
Funny arrangements in that house. I near got lost. His room was on the
left, an' that fooled me some."
"I told you it was on the left," Jim interrupted.
"You told me it was on the right," Matt went on. "I guess I know what
you told me, an' there's the map you drew."
Fumbling in his vest pocket, he drew out a folded slip of paper. As he
unfolded it, Jim bent over and looked.
"I did make a mistake," he confessed.
"You sure did. It got me guessin' some for a while."
"But it don't matter now," Jim cried. "Let's see what you got."
"It does matter," Matt retorted. "It matters a lot ... to me. I've got
to run all the risk. I put my head in the trap while you stay on the
street. You got to get on to yourself an' be more careful. All right,
I'll show you."
He dipped loosely into his trousers pocket and brought out a handful of
small diamonds. He spilled them out in a blazing stream on the greasy
table. Jim let out a great oath.
"That's nothing," Matt said with triumphant complacence. "I ain't begun
From one pocket after another he continued bringing forth the spoil.
There were many diamonds wrapped in chamois skin that were larger than
those in the first handful. From one pocket he brought out a handful of
very small cut gems.
"Sun dust," he remarked, as he spilled them on the table in a space by
Jim examined them.
"Just the same, they retail for a couple of dollars each," he said. "Is
"Ain't it enough?" the other demanded in an aggrieved tone.
"Sure it is," Jim answered with unqualified approval. "Better'n I
expected. I wouldn't take a cent less than ten thousan' for the bunch."
"Ten thousan'," Matt sneered. "They're worth twic't that, an' I don't
know anything about joolery, either. Look at that big boy!"
He picked it out from the sparkling heap and held it near to the lamp
with the air of an expert, weighing and judging.
"Worth a thousan' all by its lonely," was Jim's quicker judgment.
"A thousan' your grandmother," was Matt's scornful rejoinder. "You
couldn't buy it for three."
"Wake me up! I'm dreamin'!" The sparkle of the gems was in Jim's eyes,
and he began sorting out the larger diamonds and examining them. "We're
rich men, Matt--we'll be regular swells."
"It'll take years to get rid of 'em," was Matt's more practical thought.
"But think how we'll live! Nothin' to do but spend the money an' go on
gettin' rid of 'em."
Matt's eyes were beginning to sparkle, though sombrely, as his
phlegmatic nature woke up.
"I told you I didn't dast think how fat it was," he murmured in a low
"What a killin'! What a killin'!" was the other's more ecstatic
"I almost forgot," Matt said, thrusting his hand into his inside coat
A string of large pearls emerged from wrappings of tissue paper and
chamois skin. Jim scarcely glanced at them.
"They're worth money," he said, and returned to the diamonds.
A silence fell on the two men. Jim played with the gems, running them
through his fingers, sorting them into piles, and spreading them out
flat and wide. He was a slender, weazened man, nervous, irritable,
high-strung, and anaemic--a typical child of the gutter, with
unbeautiful twisted features, small eyes, with face and mouth
perpetually and feverishly hungry, brutish in a catlike way, stamped to
the core with degeneracy.
Matt did not finger the diamonds. He sat with chin on hands and elbows
on table, blinking heavily at the blazing array. He was in every way a
contrast to the other. No city had bred him. He was heavy muscled and
hairy, gorilla-like in strength and aspect. For him there was no unseen
world. His eyes were full and wide apart, and there seemed in them a
certain bold brotherliness. They inspired confidence. But a closer
inspection would have shown that his eyes were just a trifle too full,
just a shade too wide apart. He exceeded, spilled over the limits of
normality, and his features told lies about the man beneath.
"The bunch is worth fifty thousan'," Jim remarked suddenly.
"A hundred thousan'," Matt said.
The silence returned and endured a long time, to be broken again by Jim.
"What in blazes was he doin' with 'em all at the house?--that's what I
want to know. I'd a-thought he'd kept 'em in the safe down at the
Matt had just been considering the vision of the throttled man as he had
last looked upon him in the dim light of the electric lantern; but he
did not start at the mention of him.
"There's no tellin'," he answered. "He might a-been getting ready to
chuck his pardner. He might a-pulled out in the mornin' for parts
unknown, if we hadn't happened along. I guess there's just as many
thieves among honest men as there is among thieves. You read about such
things in the papers, Jim. Pardners is always knifin' each other."
A queer, nervous look came in the other's eyes. Matt did not betray that
he noted it, though he said:--
"What was you thinkin' about, Jim!"
Jim was a trifle awkward for the moment.
"Nothin'," he answered. "Only I was thinkin' just how funny it was--all
them jools at his house. What made you ask?"
"Nothin'. I was just wonderin', that was all."
The silence settled down, broken by an occasional low and nervous giggle
on the part of Jim. He was overcome by the spread of gems. It was not
that he felt their beauty. He was unaware that they were beautiful in
themselves. But in them his swift imagination visioned the joys of life
they would buy, and all the desires and appetites of his diseased mind
and sickly flesh were tickled by the promise they extended. He builded
wondrous, orgy-haunted castles out of their brilliant fires, and was
appalled at what he builded. Then it was that he giggled. It was all too
impossible to be real. And yet there they blazed on the table before
him, fanning the flame of the lust of him, and he giggled again.
"I guess we might as well count 'em," Matt said suddenly, tearing
himself away from his own visions. "You watch me an' see that it's
square, because you an' me has got to be on the square, Jim.
Jim did not like this, and betrayed it in his eyes, while Matt did not
like what he saw in his partner's eyes.
"Understand!" Matt repeated, almost menacingly.
"Ain't we always been square?" the other replied, on the defensive, what
of the treachery already whispering in him.
"It don't cost nothin', bein' square in hard times," Matt retorted.
"It's bein' square in prosperity that counts. When we ain't got nothin',
we can't help bein' square. We're prosperous now, an' we've got to be
business men--honest business men. Understand?"
"That's the talk for me," Jim approved, but deep down in the meagre soul
of him,--and in spite of him,--wanton and lawless thoughts were stirring
like chained beasts.
Matt stepped to the food shelf behind the two-burner kerosene cooking
stove. He emptied the tea from a paper bag, and from a second bag
emptied some red peppers. Returning to the table with the bags, he put
into them the two sizes of small diamonds. Then he counted the large
gems and wrapped them in their tissue paper and chamois skin.
"Hundred an' forty-seven good-sized ones," was his inventory; "twenty
real big ones; two big boys and one whopper; an' a couple of fistfuls of
teeny ones an' dust."
He looked at Jim.
"Correct," was the response.
He wrote the count out on a slip of memorandum paper, and made a copy of
it, giving one slip to his partner and retaining the other.
"Just for reference," he said.
Again he had recourse to the food shelf, where he emptied the sugar from
a large paper bag. Into this he thrust the diamonds, large and small,
wrapped it up in a bandana handkerchief, and stowed it away under his
pillow. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed and took off his shoes.
"An' you think they're worth a hundred thousan'?" Jim asked, pausing and
looking up from the unlacing of his shoe.
"Sure," was the answer. "I seen a dancer down in Arizona once, with some
big sparklers on her. They wasn't real. She said if they was she
wouldn't be dancin'. Said they'd be worth all of fifty thousan', an'
she didn't have a dozen of 'em all told."
"Who'd work for a livin'?" Jim triumphantly demanded. "Pick an' shovel
work!" he sneered. "Work like a dog all my life, an' save all my wages,
an' I wouldn't have half as much as we got to-night."
"Dish washin's about your measure, an' you couldn't get more'n twenty a
month an' board. Your figgers is 'way off, but your point is well taken.
Let them that likes it, work. I rode range for thirty a month when I was
young an' foolish. Well, I'm older, an' I ain't ridin' range."
He got into bed on one side. Jim put out the light and followed him in
on the other side.
"How's your arm feel?" Jim queried amiably.
Such concern was unusual, and Matt noted it, and replied:--
"I guess there's no danger of hydrophoby. What made you ask?"
Jim felt in himself a guilty stir, and under his breath he cursed the
other's way of asking disagreeable questions; but aloud he answered:
"Nothin', only you seemed scared of it at first. What are you goin' to
do with your share, Matt?"
"Buy a cattle ranch in Arizona an' set down an' pay other men to ride
range for me. There's some several I'd like to see askin' a job from me,
blast them! An' now you shut your face, Jim. It'll be some time before I
buy that ranch. Just now I'm goin' to sleep."
But Jim lay long awake, nervous and twitching, rolling about restlessly
and rolling himself wide awake every time he dozed. The diamonds still
blazed under his eyelids, and the fire of them hurt. Matt, in spite of
his heavy nature, slept lightly, like a wild animal alert in its sleep;
and Jim noticed, every time he moved, that his partner's body moved
sufficiently to show that it had received the impression and that it was
trembling on the verge of awakening. For that matter, Jim did not know
whether or not, frequently, the other was awake. Once, quietly,
betokening complete consciousness, Matt said to him: "Aw, go to sleep,
Jim. Don't worry about them jools. They'll keep." And Jim had thought
that at that particular moment Matt had been surely asleep.
In the late morning Matt was awake with Jim's first movement, and
thereafter he awoke and dozed with him until midday, when they got up
together and began dressing.
"I'm goin' out to get a paper an' some bread," Matt said. "You boil the
As Jim listened, unconsciously his gaze left Matt's face and roved to
the pillow, beneath which was the bundle wrapped in the bandana
handkerchief. On the instant Matt's face became like a wild beast's.
"Look here, Jim," he snarled. "You've got to play square. If you do me
dirt, I'll fix you. Understand? I'd eat you, Jim. You know that. I'd
bite right into your throat an' eat you like that much beefsteak."
His sunburned skin was black with the surge of blood in it, and his
tobacco-stained teeth were exposed by the snarling lips. Jim shivered
and involuntarily cowered. There was death in the man he looked at. Only
the night before that black-faced man had killed another with his hands,
and it had not hurt his sleep. And in his own heart Jim was aware of a
sneaking guilt, of a train of thought that merited all that was
Matt passed out, leaving him still shivering. Then a hatred twisted his
own face, and he softly hurled savage threats at the door. He remembered
the jewels, and hastened to the bed, feeling under the pillow for the
bandana bundle. He crushed it with his fingers to make certain that it
still contained the diamonds. Assured that Matt had not carried them
away, he looked toward the kerosene stove with a guilty start. Then he
hurriedly lighted it, filled the coffee pot at the sink, and put it over
The coffee was boiling when Matt returned, and while the latter cut the
bread and put a slice of butter on the table, Jim poured out the coffee.
It was not until he sat down and had taken a few sips of the coffee,
that Matt pulled out the morning paper from his pocket.
"We was way off," he said. "I told you I didn't dast figger out how fat
it was. Look at that."
He pointed to the head lines on the first page. "SWIFT NEMESIS ON
BUJANNOFF'S TRACK," they read. "MURDERED IN HIS SLEEP AFTER ROBBING HIS
"There you have it!" Matt cried. "He robbed his partner--robbed him
like a dirty thief."
"Half a million of jewels missin'," Jim read aloud. He put the paper
down and stared at Matt.
"That's what I told you," the latter said. "What in thunder do we know
about jools? Half a million!--an' the best I could figger it was a
hundred thousan'. Go on an' read the rest of it."
They read on silently, their heads side by side, the untouched coffee
growing cold; and ever and anon one or the other burst forth with some
salient printed fact.
"I'd like to seen Metzner's face when he opened the safe at the store
this mornin'," Jim gloated.