Part 2 out of 6
But I had grown too used to the jacket during my incorrigible days
to let a single jacketing injure me. Naturally, it weakened me,
took the life out of me; but I had learned muscular tricks for
stealing a little space while they were lacing me. At the end of
the first hundred hours' bout I was worn and tired, but that was
all. Another bout of this duration they gave me, after a day and a
night to recuperate. And then they gave one hundred and fifty
hours. Much of this time I was physically numb and mentally
delirious. Also, by an effort of will, I managed to sleep away long
Next, Warden Atherton tried a variation. I was given irregular
intervals of jacket and recuperation. I never knew when I was to go
into the jacket. Thus I would have ten hours' recuperation, and do
twenty in the jacket; or I would receive only four hours' rest. At
the most unexpected hours of the night my door would clang open and
the changing guards would lace me. Sometimes rhythms were
instituted. Thus, for three days and nights I alternated eight
hours in the jacket and eight hours out. And then, just as I was
growing accustomed to this rhythm, it was suddenly altered and I was
given two days and nights straight.
And ever the eternal question was propounded to me: Where was the
dynamite? Sometimes Warden Atherton was furious with me. On
occasion, when I had endured an extra severe jacketing, he almost
pleaded with me to confess. Once he even promised me three months
in the hospital of absolute rest and good food, and then the trusty
job in the library.
Dr. Jackson, a weak stick of a creature with a smattering of
medicine, grew sceptical. He insisted that jacketing, no matter how
prolonged, could never kill me; and his insistence was a challenge
to the Warden to continue the attempt.
"These lean college guys 'd fool the devil," he grumbled. "They're
tougher 'n raw-hide. Just the same we'll wear him down. Standing,
you hear me. What you've got ain't a caution to what you're going
to get. You might as well come across now and save trouble. I'm a
man of my word. You've heard me say dynamite or curtains. Well,
that stands. Take your choice."
"Surely you don't think I'm holding out because I enjoy it?" I
managed to gasp, for at the moment Pie-Face Jones was forcing his
foot into my back in order to cinch me tighter, while I was trying
with my muscle to steal slack. "There is nothing to confess. Why,
I'd cut off my right hand right now to be able to lead you to any
"Oh, I've seen your educated kind before," he sneered. "You get
wheels in your head, some of you, that make you stick to any old
idea. You get baulky, like horses. Tighter, Jones; that ain't half
a cinch. Standing, if you don't come across it's curtains. I stick
One compensation I learned. As one grows weaker one is less
susceptible to suffering. There is less hurt because there is less
to hurt. And the man already well weakened grows weaker more
slowly. It is of common knowledge that unusually strong men suffer
more severely from ordinary sicknesses than do women or invalids.
As the reserves of strength are consumed there is less strength to
lose. After all superfluous flesh is gone what is left is stringy
and resistant. In fact, that was what I became--a sort of string-
like organism that persisted in living.
Morrell and Oppenheimer were sorry for me, and rapped me sympathy
and advice. Oppenheimer told me he had gone through it, and worse,
and still lived.
"Don't let them beat you out," he spelled with his knuckles. "Don't
let them kill you, for that would suit them. And don't squeal on
"But there isn't any plant," I rapped back with the edge of the sole
of my shoe against the grating--I was in the jacket at the time and
so could talk only with my feet. "I don't know anything about the
"That's right," Oppenheimer praised. "He's the stuff, ain't he,
Which goes to show what chance I had of convincing Warden Atherton
of my ignorance of the dynamite. His very persistence in the quest
convinced a man like Jake Oppenheimer, who could only admire me for
the fortitude with which I kept a close mouth.
During this first period of the jacket-inquisition I managed to
sleep a great deal. My dreams were remarkable. Of course they were
vivid and real, as most dreams are. What made them remarkable was
their coherence and continuity. Often I addressed bodies of
scientists on abstruse subjects, reading aloud to them carefully
prepared papers on my own researches or on my own deductions from
the researches and experiments of others. When I awakened my voice
would seem still ringing in my ears, while my eyes still could see
typed on the white paper whole sentences and paragraphs that I could
read again and marvel at ere the vision faded. In passing, I call
attention to the fact that at the time I noted that the process of
reasoning employed in these dream speeches was invariably deductive.
Then there was a great farming section, extending north and south
for hundreds of miles in some part of the temperate regions, with a
climate and flora and fauna largely resembling those of California.
Not once, nor twice, but thousands of different times I journeyed
through this dream-region. The point I desire to call attention to
was that it was always the same region. No essential feature of it
ever differed in the different dreams. Thus it was always an eight-
hour drive behind mountain horses from the alfalfa meadows (where I
kept many Jersey cows) to the straggly village beside the big dry
creek, where I caught the little narrow-gauge train. Every land-
mark in that eight-hour drive in the mountain buckboard, every tree,
every mountain, every ford and bridge, every ridge and eroded
hillside was ever the same.
In this coherent, rational farm-region of my strait-jacket dreams
the minor details, according to season and to the labour of men, did
change. Thus on the upland pastures behind my alfalfa meadows I
developed a new farm with the aid of Angora goats. Here I marked
the changes with every dream-visit, and the changes were in
accordance with the time that elapsed between visits.
Oh, those brush-covered slopes! How I can see them now just as when
the goats were first introduced. And how I remembered the
consequent changes--the paths beginning to form as the goats
literally ate their way through the dense thickets; the
disappearance of the younger, smaller bushes that were not too tall
for total browsing; the vistas that formed in all directions through
the older, taller bushes, as the goats browsed as high as they could
stand and reach on their hind legs; the driftage of the pasture
grasses that followed in the wake of the clearing by the goats.
Yes, the continuity of such dreaming was its charm. Came the day
when the men with axes chopped down all the taller brush so as to
give the goats access to the leaves and buds and bark. Came the
day, in winter weather, when the dry denuded skeletons of all these
bushes were gathered into heaps and burned. Came the day when I
moved my goats on to other brush-impregnable hillsides, with
following in their wake my cattle, pasturing knee-deep in the
succulent grasses that grew where before had been only brush. And
came the day when I moved my cattle on, and my plough-men went back
and forth across the slopes' contour--ploughing the rich sod under
to rot to live and crawling humous in which to bed my seeds of crops
Yes, and in my dreams, often, I got off the little narrow-gauge
train where the straggly village stood beside the big dry creek, and
got into the buck-board behind my mountain horses, and drove hour by
hour past all the old familiar landmarks of my alfalfa meadows, and
on to my upland pastures where my rotated crops of corn and barley
and clover were ripe for harvesting and where I watched my men
engaged in the harvest, while beyond, ever climbing, my goats
browsed the higher slopes of brush into cleared, tilled fields.
But these were dreams, frank dreams, fancied adventures of my
deductive subconscious mind. Quite unlike them, as you shall see,
were my other adventures when I passed through the gates of the
living death and relived the reality of the other lives that had
been mine in other days.
In the long hours of waking in the jacket I found that I dwelt a
great deal on Cecil Winwood, the poet-forger who had wantonly put
all this torment on me, and who was even then at liberty out in the
free world again. No; I did not hate him. The word is too weak.
There is no word in the language strong enough to describe my
feelings. I can say only that I knew the gnawing of a desire for
vengeance on him that was a pain in itself and that exceeded all the
bounds of language. I shall not tell you of the hours I devoted to
plans of torture on him, nor of the diabolical means and devices of
torture that I invented for him. Just one example. I was enamoured
of the ancient trick whereby an iron basin, containing a rat, is
fastened to a man's body. The only way out for the rat is through
the man himself. As I say, I was enamoured of this until I realized
that such a death was too quick, whereupon I dwelt long and
favourably on the Moorish trick of--but no, I promised to relate no
further of this matter. Let it suffice that many of my pain-
maddening waking hours were devoted to dreams of vengeance on Cecil
One thing of great value I learned in the long, pain-weary hours of
waking--namely, the mastery of the body by the mind. I learned to
suffer passively, as, undoubtedly, all men have learned who have
passed through the post-graduate courses of strait-jacketing. Oh,
it is no easy trick to keep the brain in such serene repose that it
is quite oblivious to the throbbing, exquisite complaint of some
And it was this very mastery of the flesh by the spirit which I so
acquired that enabled me easily to practise the secret Ed Morrell
told to me.
"Think it is curtains?" Ed Morrell rapped to me one night.
I had just been released from one hundred hours, and I was weaker
than I had ever been before. So weak was I that though my whole
body was one mass of bruise and misery, nevertheless I scarcely was
aware that I had a body.
"It looks like curtains," I rapped back. "They will get me if they
keep it up much longer."
"Don't let them," he advised. "There is a way. I learned it
myself, down in the dungeons, when Massie and I got ours good and
plenty. I pulled through. But Massie croaked. If I hadn't learned
the trick, I'd have croaked along with him. You've got to be pretty
weak first, before you try it. If you try it when you are strong,
you make a failure of it, and then that queers you for ever after.
I made the mistake of telling Jake the trick when he was strong. Of
course, he could not pull it off, and in the times since when he did
need it, it was too late, for his first failure had queered it. He
won't even believe it now. He thinks I am kidding him. Ain't that
And from cell thirteen Jake rapped back, "Don't swallow it, Darrell.
It's a sure fairy story."
"Go on and tell me," I rapped to Morrell.
"That is why I waited for you to get real weak," he continued. "Now
you need it, and I am going to tell you. It's up to you. If you
have got the will you can do it. I've done it three times, and I
"Well, what is it?" I rapped eagerly.
"The trick is to die in the jacket, to will yourself to die. I know
you don't get me yet, but wait. You know how you get numb in the
jacket--how your arm or your leg goes to sleep. Now you can't help
that, but you can take it for the idea and improve on it. Don't
wait for your legs or anything to go to sleep. You lie on your back
as comfortable as you can get, and you begin to use your will.
"And this is the idea you must think to yourself, and that you must
believe all the time you're thinking it. If you don't believe, then
there's nothing to it. The thing you must think and believe is that
your body is one thing and your spirit is another thing. You are
you, and your body is something else that don't amount to shucks.
Your body don't count. You're the boss. You don't need any body.
And thinking and believing all this you proceed to prove it by using
your will. You make your body die.
"You begin with the toes, one at a time. You make your toes die.
You will them to die. And if you've got the belief and the will
your toes will die. That is the big job--to start the dying. Once
you've got the first toe dead, the rest is easy, for you don't have
to do any more believing. You know. Then you put all your will
into making the rest of the body die. I tell you, Darrell, I know.
I've done it three times.
"Once you get the dying started, it goes right along. And the funny
thing is that you are all there all the time. Because your toes are
dead don't make you in the least bit dead. By-and-by your legs are
dead to the knees, and then to the thighs, and you are just the same
as you always were. It is your body that is dropping out of the
game a chunk at a time. And you are just you, the same you were
before you began."
"And then what happens?" I queried.
"Well, when your body is all dead, and you are all there yet, you
just skin out and leave your body. And when you leave your body you
leave the cell. Stone walls and iron doors are to hold bodies in.
They can't hold the spirit in. You see, you have proved it. You
are spirit outside of your body. You can look at your body from
outside of it. I tell you I know because I have done it three
times--looked at my body lying there with me outside of it."
"Ha! ha! ha!" Jake Oppenheimer rapped his laughter thirteen cells
"You see, that's Jake's trouble," Morrell went on. "He can't
believe. That one time he tried it he was too strong and failed.
And now he thinks I am kidding."
"When you die you are dead, and dead men stay dead," Oppenheimer
"I tell you I've been dead three times," Morrell argued.
"And lived to tell us about it," Oppenheimer jeered.
"But don't forget one thing, Darrell," Morrell rapped to me. "The
thing is ticklish. You have a feeling all the time that you are
taking liberties. I can't explain it, but I always had a feeling if
I was away when they came and let my body out of the jacket that I
couldn't get back into my body again. I mean that my body would be
dead for keeps. And I didn't want it to be dead. I didn't want to
give Captain Jamie and the rest that satisfaction. But I tell you,
Darrell, if you can turn the trick you can laugh at the Warden.
Once you make your body die that way it don't matter whether they
keep you in the jacket a month on end. You don't suffer none, and
your body don't suffer. You know there are cases of people who have
slept a whole year at a time. That's the way it will be with your
body. It just stays there in the jacket, not hurting or anything,
just waiting for you to come back.
"You try it. I am giving you the straight steer."
"And if he don't come back?" Oppenheimer, asked.
"Then the laugh will be on him, I guess, Jake," Morrell answered.
"Unless, maybe, it will be on us for sticking round this old dump
when we could get away that easy."
And here the conversation ended, for Pie-Face Jones, waking crustily
from stolen slumber, threatened Morrell and Oppenheimer with a
report next morning that would mean the jacket for them. Me he did
not threaten, for he knew I was doomed for the jacket anyway.
I lay long there in the silence, forgetting the misery of my body
while I considered this proposition Morrell had advanced. Already,
as I have explained, by mechanical self-hypnosis I had sought to
penetrate back through time to my previous selves. That I had
partly succeeded I knew; but all that I had experienced was a
fluttering of apparitions that merged erratically and were without
But Morrell's method was so patently the reverse of my method of
self-hypnosis that I was fascinated. By my method, my consciousness
went first of all. By his method, consciousness persisted last of
all, and, when the body was quite gone, passed into stages so
sublimated that it left the body, left the prison of San Quentin,
and journeyed afar, and was still consciousness.
It was worth a trial, anyway, I concluded. And, despite the
sceptical attitude of the scientist that was mine, I believed. I
had no doubt I could do what Morrell said he had done three times.
Perhaps this faith that so easily possessed me was due to my extreme
debility. Perhaps I was not strong enough to be sceptical. This
was the hypothesis already suggested by Morrell. It was a
conclusion of pure empiricism, and I, too, as you shall see,
demonstrated it empirically.
And above all things, next morning Warden Atherton came into my cell
on murder intent. With him were Captain Jamie, Doctor Jackson, Pie-
Face Jones, and Al Hutchins. Al Hutchins was serving a forty-years'
sentence, and was in hopes of being pardoned out. For four years he
had been head trusty of San Quentin. That this was a position of
great power you will realize when I tell you that the graft alone of
the head trusty was estimated at three thousand dollars a year.
Wherefore Al Hutchins, in possession of ten or twelve thousand
dollars and of the promise of a pardon, could be depended upon to do
the Warden's bidding blind.
I have just said that Warden Atherton came into my cell intent on
murder. His face showed it. His actions proved it.
"Examine him," he ordered Doctor Jackson.
That wretched apology of a creature stripped from me my dirt-
encrusted shirt that I had worn since my entrance to solitary, and
exposed my poor wasted body, the skin ridged like brown parchment
over the ribs and sore-infested from the many bouts with the jacket.
The examination was shamelessly perfunctory.
"Will he stand it?" the Warden demanded.
"Yes," Doctor Jackson answered.
"How's the heart?"
"You think he'll stand ten days of it, Doc.?"
"I don't believe it," the Warden announced savagely. "But we'll try
it just the same.--Lie down, Standing."
I obeyed, stretching myself face-downward on the flat-spread jacket.
The Warden seemed to debate with himself for a moment.
"Roll over," he commanded.
I made several efforts, but was too weak to succeed, and could only
sprawl and squirm in my helplessness.
"Putting it on," was Jackson's comment.
"Well, he won't have to put it on when I'm done with him," said the
Warden. "Lend him a hand. I can't waste any more time on him."
So they rolled me over on my back, where I stared up into Warden
"Standing," he said slowly, "I've given you all the rope I am going
to. I am sick and tired of your stubbornness. My patience is
exhausted. Doctor Jackson says you are in condition to stand ten
days in the jacket. You can figure your chances. But I am going to
give you your last chance now. Come across with the dynamite. The
moment it is in my hands I'll take you out of here. You can bathe
and shave and get clean clothes. I'll let you loaf for six months
on hospital grub, and then I'll put you trusty in the library. You
can't ask me to be fairer with you than that. Besides, you're not
squealing on anybody. You are the only person in San Quentin who
knows where the dynamite is. You won't hurt anybody's feelings by
giving in, and you'll be all to the good from the moment you do give
in. And if you don't--"
He paused and shrugged his shoulders significantly.
"Well, if you don't, you start in the ten days right now."
The prospect was terrifying. So weak was I that I was as certain as
the Warden was that it meant death in the jacket. And then I
remembered Morrell's trick. Now, if ever, was the need of it; and
now, if ever, was the time to practise the faith of it. I smiled up
in the face of Warden Atherton. And I put faith in that smile, and
faith in the proposition I made to him.
"Warden," I said, "do you see the way I am smiling? Well, if, at
the end of the ten days, when you unlace me, I smile up at you in
the same way, will you give a sack of Bull Durham and a package of
brown papers to Morrell and Oppenheimer?"
"Ain't they the crazy ginks, these college guys," Captain Jamie
Warden Atherton was a choleric man, and he took my request for
"Just for that you get an extra cinching," he informed me.
"I made you a sporting proposition, Warden," I said quietly. "You
can cinch me as tight as you please, but if I smile ten days from
now will you give the Bull Durham to Morrell and Oppenheimer?"
"You are mighty sure of yourself," he retorted.
"That's why I made the proposition," I replied.
"Getting religion, eh?" he sneered.
"No," was my answer. "It merely happens that I possess more life
than you can ever reach the end of. Make it a hundred days if you
want, and I'll smile at you when it's over."
"I guess ten days will more than do you, Standing."
"That's your opinion," I said. "Have you got faith in it? If you
have you won't even lose the price of the two five-cents sacks of
tobacco. Anyway, what have you got to be afraid of?"
"For two cents I'd kick the face off of you right now," he snarled.
"Don't let me stop you." I was impudently suave. "Kick as hard as
you please, and I'll still have enough face left with which to
smile. In the meantime, while you are hesitating, suppose you
accept my original proposition."
A man must be terribly weak and profoundly desperate to be able,
under such circumstances, to beard the Warden in solitary. Or he
may be both, and, in addition, he may have faith. I know now that I
had the faith and so acted on it. I believed what Morrell had told
me. I believed in the lordship of the mind over the body. I
believed that not even a hundred days in the jacket could kill me.
Captain Jamie must have sensed this faith that informed me, for he
"I remember a Swede that went crazy twenty years ago. That was
before your time, Warden. He'd killed a man in a quarrel over
twenty-five cents and got life for it. He was a cook. He got
religion. He said that a golden chariot was coming to take him to
heaven, and he sat down on top the red-hot range and sang hymns and
hosannahs while he cooked. They dragged him off, but he croaked two
days afterward in hospital. He was cooked to the bone. And to the
end he swore he'd never felt the heat. Couldn't get a squeal out of
"We'll make Standing squeal," said the Warden.
"Since you are so sure of it, why don't you accept my proposition?"
The Warden was so angry that it would have been ludicrous to me had
I not been in so desperate plight. His face was convulsed. He
clenched his hands, and, for a moment, it seemed that he was about
to fall upon me and give me a beating. Then, with an effort, he
"All right, Standing," he snarled. "I'll go you. But you bet your
sweet life you'll have to go some to smile ten days from now. Roll
him over, boys, and cinch him till you hear his ribs crack.
Hutchins, show him you know how to do it."
And they rolled me over and laced me as I had never been laced
before. The head trusty certainly demonstrated his ability. I
tried to steal what little space I could. Little it was, for I had
long since shed my flesh, while my muscles were attenuated to mere
strings. I had neither the strength nor bulk to steal more than a
little, and the little I stole I swear I managed by sheer expansion
at the joints of the bones of my frame. And of this little I was
robbed by Hutchins, who, in the old days before he was made head
trusty, had learned all the tricks of the jacket from the inside of
You see, Hutchins was a cur at heart, or a creature who had once
been a man, but who had been broken on the wheel. He possessed ten
or twelve thousand dollars, and his freedom was in sight if he
obeyed orders. Later, I learned that there was a girl who had
remained true to him, and who was even then waiting for him. The
woman factor explains many things of men.
If ever a man deliberately committed murder, Al Hutchins did that
morning in solitary at the Warden's bidding. He robbed me of the
little space I stole. And, having robbed me of that, my body was
defenceless, and, with his foot in my back while he drew the lacing
light, he constricted me as no man had ever before succeeded in
doing. So severe was this constriction of my frail frame upon my
vital organs that I felt, there and then, immediately, that death
was upon me. And still the miracle of faith was mine. I did not
believe that I was going to die. I knew--I say I KNEW--that I was
not going to die. My head was swimming, and my heart was pounding
from my toenails to the hair-roots in my scalp.
"That's pretty tight," Captain Jamie urged reluctantly.
"The hell it is," said Doctor Jackson. "I tell you nothing can hurt
him. He's a wooz. He ought to have been dead long ago."
Warden Atherton, after a hard struggle, managed to insert his
forefinger between the lacing and my back. He brought his foot to
bear upon me, with the weight of his body added to his foot, and
pulled, but failed to get any fraction of an inch of slack.
"I take my hat off to you, Hutchins," he said. "You know your job.
Now roll him over and let's look at him."
They rolled me over on my back. I stared up at them with bulging
eyes. This I know: Had they laced me in such fashion the first
time I went into the jacket, I would surely have died in the first
ten minutes. But I was well trained. I had behind me the thousands
of hours in the jacket, and, plus that, I had faith in what Morrell
had told me.
"Now, laugh, damn you, laugh," said the Warden to me. "Start that
smile you've been bragging about.
So, while my lungs panted for a little air, while my heart
threatened to burst, while my mind reeled, nevertheless I was able
to smile up into the Warden's face.
The door clanged, shutting out all but a little light, and I was
left alone on my back. By the tricks I had long since learned in
the jacket, I managed to writhe myself across the floor an inch at a
time until the edge of the sole of my right shoe touched the door.
There was an immense cheer in this. I was not utterly alone. If
the need arose, I could at least rap knuckle talk to Morrell.
But Warden Atherton must have left strict injunctions on the guards,
for, though I managed to call Morrell and tell him I intended trying
the experiment, he was prevented by the guards from replying. Me
they could only curse, for, in so far as I was in the jacket for a
ten days' bout, I was beyond all threat of punishment.
I remember remarking at the time my serenity of mind. The customary
pain of the jacket was in my body, but my mind was so passive that I
was no more aware of the pain than was I aware of the floor beneath
me or the walls around me. Never was a man in better mental and
spiritual condition for such an experiment. Of course, this was
largely due to my extreme weakness. But there was more to it. I
had long schooled myself to be oblivious to pain. I had neither
doubts nor fears. All the content of my mind seemed to be an
absolute faith in the over-lordship of the mind. This passivity was
almost dream-like, and yet, in its way, it was positive almost to a
pitch of exaltation.
I began my concentration of will. Even then my body was numbing and
prickling through the loss of circulation. I directed my will to
the little toe of my right foot, and I willed that toe to cease to
be alive in my consciousness. I willed that toe to die--to die so
far as I, its lord, and a different thing entirely from it, was
concerned. There was the hard struggle. Morrell had warned me that
it would be so. But there was no flicker of doubt to disturb my
faith. I knew that that toe would die, and I knew when it was dead.
Joint by joint it had died under the compulsion of my will.
The rest was easy, but slow, I will admit. Joint by joint, toe by
toe, all the toes of both my feet ceased to be. And joint by joint,
the process went on. Came the time when my flesh below the ankles
had ceased. Came the time when all below my knees had ceased.
Such was the pitch of my perfect exaltation, that I knew not the
slightest prod of rejoicing at my success. I knew nothing save that
I was making my body die. All that was I was devoted to that sole
task. I performed the work as thoroughly as any mason laying
bricks, and I regarded the work as just about as commonplace as
would a brick-mason regard his work.
At the end of an hour my body was dead to the hips, and from the
hips up, joint by joint, I continued to will the ascending death.
It was when I reached the level of my heart that the first blurring
and dizzying of my consciousness' occurred. For fear that I should
lose consciousness, I willed to hold the death I had gained, and
shifted my concentration to my fingers. My brain cleared again, and
the death of my arms to the shoulders was most rapidly accomplished.
At this stage my body was all dead, so far as I was concerned, save
my head and a little patch of my chest. No longer did the pound and
smash of my compressed heart echo in my brain. My heart was beating
steadily but feebly. The joy of it, had I dared joy at such a
moment, would have been the cessation of sensations.
At this point my experience differs from Morrell's. Still willing
automatically, I began to grow dreamy, as one does in that
borderland between sleeping and waking. Also, it seemed as if a
prodigious enlargement of my brain was taking place within the skull
itself that did not enlarge. There were occasional glintings and
flashings of light as if even I, the overlord, had ceased for a
moment and the next moment was again myself, still the tenant of the
fleshly tenement that I was making to die.
Most perplexing was the seeming enlargement of brain. Without
having passed through the wall of skull, nevertheless it seemed to
me that the periphery of my brain was already outside my skull and
still expanding. Along with this was one of the most remarkable
sensations or experiences that I have ever encountered. Time and
space, in so far as they were the stuff of my consciousness,
underwent an enormous extension. Thus, without opening my eyes to
verify, I knew that the walls of my narrow cell had receded until it
was like a vast audience-chamber. And while I contemplated the
matter, I knew that they continued to recede. The whim struck me
for a moment that if a similar expansion were taking place with the
whole prison, then the outer walls of San Quentin must be far out in
the Pacific Ocean on one side and on the other side must be
encroaching on the Nevada desert. A companion whim was that since
matter could permeate matter, then the walls of my cell might well
permeate the prison walls, pass through the prison walls, and thus
put my cell outside the prison and put me at liberty. Of course,
this was pure fantastic whim, and I knew it at the time for what it
The extension of time was equally remarkable. Only at long
intervals did my heart beat. Again a whim came to me, and I counted
the seconds, slow and sure, between my heart-beats. At first, as I
clearly noted, over a hundred seconds intervened between beats. But
as I continued to count the intervals extended so that I was made
weary of counting.
And while this illusion of the extension of time and space persisted
and grew, I found myself dreamily considering a new and profound
problem. Morrell had told me that he had won freedom from his body
by killing his body--or by eliminating his body from his
consciousness, which, of course, was in effect the same thing. Now,
my body was so near to being entirely dead that I knew in all
absoluteness that by a quick concentration of will on the yet-alive
patch of my torso it, too, would cease to be. But--and here was the
problem, and Morrell had not warned me: should I also will my head
to be dead? If I did so, no matter what befell the spirit of
Darrell Standing, would not the body of Darrell Standing be for ever
I chanced the chest and the slow-beating heart. The quick
compulsion of my will was rewarded. I no longer had chest nor
heart. I was only a mind, a soul, a consciousness--call it what you
will--incorporate in a nebulous brain that, while it still centred
inside my skull, was expanded, and was continuing to expand, beyond
And then, with flashings of light, I was off and away. At a bound I
had vaulted prison roof and California sky, and was among the
stars. I say "stars" advisedly. I walked among the stars. I was a
child. I was clad in frail, fleece-like, delicate-coloured robes
that shimmered in the cool starlight. These robes, of course, were
based upon my boyhood observance of circus actors and my boyhood
conception of the garb of young angels.
Nevertheless, thus clad, I trod interstellar space, exalted by the
knowledge that I was bound on vast adventure, where, at the end, I
would find all the cosmic formulae and have made clear to me the
ultimate secret of the universe. In my hand I carried a long glass
wand. It was borne in upon me that with the tip of this wand I must
touch each star in passing. And I knew, in all absoluteness, that
did I but miss one star I should be precipitated into some
unplummeted abyss of unthinkable and eternal punishment and guilt.
Long I pursued my starry quest. When I say "long," you must bear in
mind the enormous extension of time that had occurred in my brain.
For centuries I trod space, with the tip of my wand and with
unerring eye and hand tapping each star I passed. Ever the way grew
brighter. Ever the ineffable goal of infinite wisdom grew nearer.
And yet I made no mistake. This was no other self of mine. This
was no experience that had once been mine. I was aware all the time
that it was I, Darrell Standing, who walked among the stars and
tapped them with a wand of glass. In short, I knew that here was
nothing real, nothing that had ever been nor could ever be. I knew
that it was nothing else than a ridiculous orgy of the imagination,
such as men enjoy in drug dreams, in delirium, or in mere ordinary
And then, as all went merry and well with me on my celestial quest,
the tip of my wand missed a star, and on the instant I knew I had
been guilty of a great crime. And on the instant a knock, vast and
compulsive, inexorable and mandatory as the stamp of the iron hoof
of doom, smote me and reverberated across the universe. The whole
sidereal system coruscated, reeled and fell in flame.
I was torn by an exquisite and disruptive agony. And on the instant
I was Darrell Standing, the life-convict, lying in his strait-jacket
in solitary. And I knew the immediate cause of that summons. It
was a rap of the knuckle by Ed Morrell, in Cell Five, beginning the
spelling of some message.
And now, to give some comprehension of the extension of time and
space that I was experiencing. Many days afterwards I asked Morrell
what he had tried to convey to me. It was a simple message, namely:
"Standing, are you there?" He had tapped it rapidly, while the
guard was at the far end of the corridor into which the solitary
cells opened. As I say, he had tapped the message very rapidly.
And now behold! Between the first tap and the second I was off and
away among the stars, clad in fleecy garments, touching each star as
I passed in my pursuit of the formulae that would explain the last
mystery of life. And, as before, I pursued the quest for centuries.
Then came the summons, the stamp of the hoof of doom, the exquisite
disruptive agony, and again I was back in my cell in San Quentin.
It was the second tap of Ed Morrell's knuckle. The interval between
it and the first tap could have been no more than a fifth of a
second. And yet, so unthinkably enormous was the extension of time
to me, that in the course of that fifth of a second I had been away
star-roving for long ages.
Now I know, my reader, that the foregoing seems all a farrago. I
agree with you. It is farrago. It was experience, however. It was
just as real to me as is the snake beheld by a man in delirium
Possibly, by the most liberal estimate, it may have taken Ed Morrell
two minutes to tap his question. Yet, to me, aeons elapsed between
the first tap of his knuckle and the last. No longer could I tread
my starry path with that ineffable pristine joy, for my way was
beset with dread of the inevitable summons that would rip and tear
me as it jerked me back to my straitjacket hell. Thus my aeons of
star-wandering were aeons of dread.
And all the time I knew it was Ed Morrell's knuckle that thus
cruelly held me earth-bound. I tried to speak to him, to ask him to
cease. But so thoroughly had I eliminated my body from my
consciousness that I was unable to resurrect it. My body lay dead
in the jacket, though I still inhabited the skull. In vain I strove
to will my foot to tap my message to Morrell. I reasoned I had a
foot. And yet, so thoroughly had I carried out the experiment, I
had no foot.
Next--and I know now that it was because Morrell had spelled his
message quite out--I pursued my way among the stars and was not
called back. After that, and in the course of it, I was aware,
drowsily, that I was falling asleep, and that it was delicious
sleep. From time to time, drowsily, I stirred--please, my reader,
don't miss that verb--I STIRRED. I moved my legs, my arms. I was
aware of clean, soft bed linen against my skin. I was aware of
bodily well-being. Oh, it was delicious! As thirsting men on the
desert dream of splashing fountains and flowing wells, so dreamed I
of easement from the constriction of the jacket, of cleanliness in
the place of filth, of smooth velvety skin of health in place of my
poor parchment-crinkled hide. But I dreamed with a difference, as
you shall see.
I awoke. Oh, broad and wide awake I was, although I did not open my
eyes. And please know that in all that follows I knew no surprise
whatever. Everything was the natural and the expected. I was I, be
sure of that. BUT I WAS NOT DARRELL STANDING. Darrell Standing had
no more to do with the being I was than did Darrell Standing's
parchment-crinkled skin have aught to do with the cool, soft skin
that was mine. Nor was I aware of any Darrell Standing--as I could
not well be, considering that Darrell Standing was as yet unborn and
would not be born for centuries. But you shall see.
I lay with closed eyes, lazily listening. From without came the
clacking of many hoofs moving orderly on stone flags. From the
accompanying jingle of metal bits of man-harness and steed-harness I
knew some cavalcade was passing by on the street beneath my windows.
Also, I wondered idly who it was. From somewhere--and I knew where,
for I knew it was from the inn yard--came the ring and stamp of
hoofs and an impatient neigh that I recognized as belonging to my
Came steps and movements--steps openly advertised as suppressed with
the intent of silence and that yet were deliberately noisy with the
secret intent of rousing me if I still slept. I smiled inwardly at
the rascal's trick.
"Pons," I ordered, without opening my eyes, "water, cold water,
quick, a deluge. I drank over long last night, and now my gullet
"And slept over long to-day," he scolded, as he passed me the water,
ready in his hand.
I sat up, opened my eyes, and carried the tankard to my lips with
both my hands. And as I drank I looked at Pons.
Now note two things. I spoke in French; I was not conscious that I
spoke in French. Not until afterward, back in solitary, when I
remembered what I am narrating, did I know that I had spoken in
French--ay, and spoken well. As for me, Darrell Standing, at
present writing these lines in Murderers' Row of Folsom Prison, why,
I know only high school French sufficient to enable me to read the
language. As for my speaking it--impossible. I can scarcely
intelligibly pronounce my way through a menu.
But to return. Pons was a little withered old man. He was born in
our house--I know, for it chanced that mention was made of it this
very day I am describing. Pons was all of sixty years. He was
mostly toothless, and, despite a pronounced limp that compelled him
to go slippity-hop, he was very alert and spry in all his movements.
Also, he was impudently familiar. This was because he had been in
my house sixty years. He had been my father's servant before I
could toddle, and after my father's death (Pons and I talked of it
this day) he became my servant. The limp he had acquired on a
stricken field in Italy, when the horsemen charged across. He had
just dragged my father clear of the hoofs when he was lanced through
the thigh, overthrown, and trampled. My father, conscious but
helpless from his own wounds, witnessed it all. And so, as I say,
Pons had earned such a right to impudent familiarity that at least
there was no gainsaying him by my father's son.
Pons shook his head as I drained the huge draught.
"Did you hear it boil?" I laughed, as I handed back the empty
"Like your father," he said hopelessly. "But your father lived to
learn better, which I doubt you will do."
"He got a stomach affliction," I devilled, "so that one mouthful of
spirits turned it outside in. It were wisdom not to drink when
one's tank will not hold the drink."
While we talked Pons was gathering to my bedside my clothes for the
"Drink on, my master," he answered. "It won't hurt you. You'll die
with a sound stomach."
"You mean mine is an iron-lined stomach?" I wilfully misunderstood
"I mean--" he began with a quick peevishness, then broke off as he
realized my teasing and with a pout of his withered lips draped my
new sable cloak upon a chair-back. "Eight hundred ducats," he
sneered. "A thousand goats and a hundred fat oxen in a coat to keep
you warm. A score of farms on my gentleman's fine back."
"And in that a hundred fine farms, with a castle or two thrown in,
to say nothing, perhaps, of a palace," I said, reaching out my hand
and touching the rapier which he was just in the act of depositing
on the chair.
"So your father won with his good right arm," Pons retorted. "But
what your father won he held."
Here Pons paused to hold up to scorn my new scarlet satin doublet--a
wondrous thing of which I had been extravagant.
"Sixty ducats for that," Pons indicted. "Your father'd have seen
all the tailors and Jews of Christendom roasting in hell before he'd
a-paid such a price."
And while we dressed--that is, while Pons helped me to dress--I
continued to quip with him.
"It is quite clear, Pons, that you have not heard the news," I said
Whereat up pricked his ears like the old gossip he was.
"Late news?" he queried. "Mayhap from the English Court?"
"Nay," I shook my head. "But news perhaps to you, but old news for
all of that. Have you not heard? The philosophers of Greece were
whispering it nigh two thousand years ago. It is because of that
news that I put twenty fat farms on my back, live at Court, and am
become a dandy. You see, Pons, the world is a most evil place, life
is most sad, all men die, and, being dead . . . well, are dead.
Wherefore, to escape the evil and the sadness, men in these days,
like me, seek amazement, insensibility, and the madnesses of
"But the news, master? What did the philosophers whisper about so
"That God was dead, Pons," I replied solemnly. "Didn't you know
that? God is dead, and I soon shall be, and I wear twenty fat farms
on my back."
"God lives," Pons asserted fervently. "God lives, and his kingdom
is at hand. I tell you, master, it is at hand. It may be no later
than to-morrow that the earth shall pass away."
"So said they in old Rome, Pons, when Nero made torches of them to
light his sports."
Pons regarded me pityingly.
"Too much learning is a sickness," he complained. "I was always
opposed to it. But you must have your will and drag my old body
about with you--a-studying astronomy and numbers in Venice, poetry
and all the Italian FOL-DE-ROLS in Florence, and astrology in Pisa,
and God knows what in that madman country of Germany. Pish for the
philosophers! I tell you, master, I, Pons, your servant, a poor old
man who knows not a letter from a pike-staff--I tell you God lives,
and the time you shall appear before him is short." He paused with
sudden recollection, and added: "He is here, the priest you spoke
On the instant I remembered my engagement.
"Why did you not tell me before?" I demanded angrily.
"What did it matter?" Pons shrugged his shoulders. "Has he not been
waiting two hours as it is?"
"Why didn't you call me?"
He regarded me with a thoughtful, censorious eye.
"And you rolling to bed and shouting like chanticleer, 'Sing cucu,
sing cucu, cucu nu nu cucu, sing cucu, sing cucu, sing cucu, sing
He mocked me with the senseless refrain in an ear-jangling falsetto.
Without doubt I had bawled the nonsense out on my way to bed.
"You have a good memory," I commented drily, as I essayed a moment
to drape my shoulders with the new sable cloak ere I tossed it to
Pons to put aside. He shook his head sourly.
"No need of memory when you roared it over and over for the
thousandth time till half the inn was a-knock at the door to spit
you for the sleep-killer you were. And when I had you decently in
the bed, did you not call me to you and command, if the devil
called, to tell him my lady slept? And did you not call me back
again, and, with a grip on my arm that leaves it bruised and black
this day, command me, as I loved life, fat meat, and the warm fire,
to call you not of the morning save for one thing?"
"Which was?" I prompted, unable for the life of me to guess what I
could have said.
"Which was the heart of one, a black buzzard, you said, by name
Martinelli--whoever he may be--for the heart of Martinelli smoking
on a gold platter. The platter must be gold, you said; and you said
I must call you by singing, 'Sing cucu, sing cucu, sing cucu.'
Whereat you began to teach me how to sing, 'Sing cucu, sing cucu,
And when Pons had said the name, I knew it at once for the priest,
Martinelli, who had been knocking his heels two mortal hours in the
When Martinelli was permitted to enter and as he saluted me by title
and name, I knew at once my name and all of it. I was Count
Guillaume de Sainte-Maure. (You see, only could I know then, and
remember afterward, what was in my conscious mind.)
The priest was Italian, dark and small, lean as with fasting or with
a wasting hunger not of this world, and his hands were as small and
slender as a woman's. But his eyes! They were cunning and
trustless, narrow-slitted and heavy-lidded, at one and the same time
as sharp as a ferret's and as indolent as a basking lizard's.
"There has been much delay, Count de Sainte-Maure," he began
promptly, when Pons had left the room at a glance from me. "He whom
I serve grows impatient."
"Change your tune, priest," I broke in angrily. "Remember, you are
not now in Rome."
"My august master--" he began.
"Rules augustly in Rome, mayhap," I again interrupted. "This is
Martinelli shrugged his shoulders meekly and patiently, but his
eyes, gleaming like a basilisk's, gave his shoulders the lie.
"My august master has some concern with the doings of France," he
said quietly. "The lady is not for you. My master has other plans.
. ." He moistened his thin lips with his tongue. "Other plans for
the lady . . . and for you."
Of course, by the lady I knew he referred to the great Duchess
Philippa, widow of Geoffrey, last Duke of Aquitaine. But great
duchess, widow, and all, Philippa was a woman, and young, and gay,
and beautiful, and, by my faith, fashioned for me.
"What are his plans?" I demanded bluntly.
"They are deep and wide, Count Sainte-Maure--too deep and wide for
me to presume to imagine, much less know or discuss with you or any
"Oh, I know big things are afoot and slimy worms squirming
underground," I said.
"They told me you were stubborn-necked, but I have obeyed commands."
Martinelli arose to leave, and I arose with him.
"I said it was useless," he went on. "But the last chance to change
your mind was accorded you. My august master deals more fairly than
"Oh, well, I'll think the matter over," I said airily, as I bowed
the priest to the door.
He stopped abruptly at the threshold.
"The time for thinking is past," he said. "It is decision I came
"I will think the matter over," I repeated, then added, as
afterthought: "If the lady's plans do not accord with mine, then
mayhap the plans of your master may fruit as he desires. For
remember, priest, he is no master of mine."
"You do not know my master," he said solemnly.
"Nor do I wish to know him," I retorted.
And I listened to the lithe, light step of the little intriguing
priest go down the creaking stairs.
Did I go into the minutiae of detail of all that I saw this half a
day and half a night that I was Count Guillaume de Sainte-Maure, not
ten books the size of this I am writing could contain the totality
of the matter. Much I shall skip; in fact, I shall skip almost all;
for never yet have I heard of a condemned man being reprieved in
order that he might complete his memoirs--at least, not in
When I rode out in Paris that day it was the Paris of centuries
agone. The narrow streets were an unsanitary scandal of filth and
slime. But I must skip. And skip I shall, all of the afternoon's
events, all of the ride outside the walls, of the grand fete given
by Hugh de Meung, of the feasting and the drinking in which I took
little part. Only of the end of the adventure will I write, which
begins with where I stood jesting with Philippa herself--ah, dear
God, she was wondrous beautiful. A great lady--ay, but before that,
and after that, and always, a woman.
We laughed and jested lightly enough, as about us jostled the merry
throng; but under our jesting was the deep earnestness of man and
woman well advanced across the threshold of love and yet not too
sure each of the other. I shall not describe her. She was small,
exquisitely slender--but there, I am describing her. In brief, she
was the one woman in the world for me, and little I recked the long
arm of that gray old man in Rome could reach out half across Europe
between my woman and me.
And the Italian, Fortini, leaned to my shoulder and whispered:
"One who desires to speak."
"One who must wait my pleasure," I answered shortly.
"I wait no man's pleasure," was his equally short reply.
And, while my blood boiled, I remembered the priest, Martinelli, and
the gray old man at Rome. The thing was clear. It was deliberate.
It was the long arm. Fortini smiled lazily at me while I thus
paused for the moment to debate, but in his smile was the essence of
This, of all times, was the time I should have been cool. But the
old red anger began to kindle in me. This was the work of the
priest. This was the Fortini, poverished of all save lineage,
reckoned the best sword come up out of Italy in half a score of
years. To-night it was Fortini. If he failed the gray old man's
command to-morrow it would be another sword, the next day another.
And, perchance still failing, then might I expect the common bravo's
steel in my back or the common poisoner's philter in my wine, my
meat, or bread.
"I am busy," I said. "Begone."
"My business with you presses," was his reply.
Insensibly our voices had slightly risen, so that Philippa heard.
"Begone, you Italian hound," I said. "Take your howling from my
door. I shall attend to you presently."
"The moon is up," he said. "The grass is dry and excellent. There
is no dew. Beyond the fish-pond, an arrow's flight to the left, is
an open space, quiet and private."
"Presently you shall have your desire," I muttered impatiently.
But still he persisted in waiting at my shoulder.
"Presently," I said. "Presently I shall attend to you."
Then spoke Philippa, in all the daring spirit and the iron of her.
"Satisfy the gentleman's desire, Sainte-Maure. Attend to him now.
And good fortune go with you." She paused to beckon to her her
uncle, Jean de Joinville, who was passing--uncle on her mother's
side, of the de Joinvilles of Anjou. "Good fortune go with you,"
she repeated, and then leaned to me so that she could whisper: "And
my heart goes with you, Sainte-Maure. Do not be long. I shall
await you in the big hall."
I was in the seventh heaven. I trod on air. It was the first frank
admittance of her love. And with such benediction I was made so
strong that I knew I could kill a score of Fortinis and snap my
fingers at a score of gray old men in Rome.
Jean de Joinville bore Philippa away in the press, and Fortini and I
settled our arrangements in a trice. We separated--he to find a
friend or so, and I to find a friend or so, and all to meet at the
appointed place beyond the fish-pond.
First I found Robert Lanfranc, and, next, Henry Bohemond. But
before I found them I encountered a windlestraw which showed which
way blew the wind and gave promise of a very gale. I knew the
windlestraw, Guy de Villehardouin, a raw young provincial, come up
the first time to Court, but a fiery little cockerel for all of
that. He was red-haired. His blue eyes, small and pinched close to
ether, were likewise red, at least in the whites of them; and his
skin, of the sort that goes with such types, was red and freckled.
He had quite a parboiled appearance.
As I passed him by a sudden movement he jostled me. Oh, of course,
the thing was deliberate. And he flamed at me while his hand
dropped to his rapier.
"Faith," thought I, "the gray old man has many and strange tools,"
while to the cockerel I bowed and murmured, "Your pardon for my
clumsiness. The fault was mine. Your pardon, Villehardouin."
But he was not to be appeased thus easily. And while he fumed and
strutted I glimpsed Robert Lanfranc, beckoned him to us, and
explained the happening.
"Sainte-Maure has accorded you satisfaction," was his judgment. "He
has prayed your pardon."
"In truth, yes," I interrupted in my suavest tones. "And I pray
your pardon again, Villehardouin, for my very great clumsiness. I
pray your pardon a thousand times. The fault was mine, though
unintentioned. In my haste to an engagement I was clumsy, most
woful clumsy, but without intention."
What could the dolt do but grudgingly accept the amends I so freely
proffered him? Yet I knew, as Lanfranc and I hastened on, that ere
many days, or hours, the flame-headed youth would see to it that we
measured steel together on the grass.
I explained no more to Lanfranc than my need of him, and he was
little interested to pry deeper into the matter. He was himself a
lively youngster of no more than twenty, but he had been trained to
arms, had fought in Spain, and had an honourable record on the
grass. Merely his black eyes flashed when he learned what was
toward, and such was his eagerness that it was he who gathered Henry
Bohemond in to our number.
When the three of us arrived in the open space beyond the fish-pond
Fortini and two friends were already waiting us. One was Felix
Pasquini, nephew to the Cardinal of that name, and as close in his
uncle's confidence as was his uncle close in the confidence of the
gray old man. The other was Raoul de Goncourt, whose presence
surprised me, he being too good and noble a man for the company he
We saluted properly, and properly went about the business. It was
nothing new to any of us. The footing was good, as promised. There
was no dew. The moon shone fair, and Fortini's blade and mine were
out and at earnest play.
This I knew: good swordsman as they reckoned me in France, Fortini
was a better. This, too, I knew: that I carried my lady's heart
with me this night, and that this night, because of me, there would
be one Italian less in the world. I say I knew it. In my mind the
issue could not be in doubt. And as our rapiers played I pondered
the manner I should kill him. I was not minded for a long contest.
Quick and brilliant had always been my way. And further, what of my
past gay months of carousal and of singing "Sing cucu, sing cucu,
sing cucu," at ungodly hours, I knew I was not conditioned for a
long contest. Quick and brilliant was my decision.
But quick and brilliant was a difficult matter with so consummate a
swordsman as Fortini opposed to me. Besides, as luck would have it,
Fortini, always the cold one, always the tireless-wristed, always
sure and long, as report had it, in going about such business, on
this night elected, too, the quick and brilliant.
It was nervous, tingling work, for as surely as I sensed his
intention of briefness, just as surely had he sensed mine. I doubt
that I could have done the trick had it been broad day instead of
moonlight. The dim light aided me. Also was I aided by divining,
the moment in advance, what he had in mind. It was the time attack,
a common but perilous trick that every novice knows, that has laid
on his back many a good man who attempted it, and that is so fraught
with danger to the perpetrator that swordsmen are not enamoured of
We had been at work barely a minute, when I knew under all his
darting, flashing show of offence that Fortini meditated this very
time attack. He desired of me a thrust and lunge, not that he might
parry it but that he might time it and deflect it by the customary
slight turn of the wrist, his rapier point directed to meet me as my
body followed in the lunge. A ticklish thing--ay, a ticklish thing
in the best of light. Did he deflect a fraction of a second too
early, I should be warned and saved. Did he deflect a fraction of a
second too late, my thrust would go home to him.
"Quick and brilliant is it?" was my thought. "Very well, my Italian
friend, quick and brilliant shall it be, and especially shall it be
In a way, it was time attack against time attack, but I would fool
him on the time by being over-quick. And I was quick. As I said,
we had been at work scarcely a minute when it happened. Quick?
That thrust and lunge of mine were one. A snap of action it was, an
explosion, an instantaneousness. I swear my thrust and lunge were a
fraction of a second quicker than any man is supposed to thrust and
lunge. I won the fraction of a second. By that fraction of a
second too late Fortini attempted to deflect my blade and impale me
on his. But it was his blade that was deflected. It flashed past
my breast, and I was in--inside his weapon, which extended full
length in the empty air behind me--and my blade was inside of him,
and through him, heart-high, from right side of him to left side of
him and outside of him beyond.
It is a strange thing to do, to spit a live man on a length of
steel. I sit here in my cell, and cease from writing a space, while
I consider the matter. And I have considered it often, that
moonlight night in France of long ago, when I taught the Italian
hound quick and brilliant. It was so easy a thing, that perforation
of a torso. One would have expected more resistance. There would
have been resistance had my rapier point touched bone. As it was,
it encountered only the softness of flesh. Still it perforated so
easily. I have the sensation of it now, in my hand, my brain, as I
write. A woman's hat-pin could go through a plum pudding not more
easily than did my blade go through the Italian. Oh, there was
nothing amazing about it at the time to Guillaume de Sainte-Maure,
but amazing it is to me, Darrell Standing, as I recollect and ponder
it across the centuries. It is easy, most easy, to kill a strong,
live, breathing man with so crude a weapon as a piece of steel.
Why, men are like soft-shell crabs, so tender, frail, and vulnerable
But to return to the moonlight on the grass. My thrust made home,
there was a perceptible pause. Not at once did Fortini fall. Not
at once did I withdraw the blade. For a full second we stood in
pause--I, with legs spread, and arched and tense, body thrown
forward, right arm horizontal and straight out; Fortini, his blade
beyond me so far that hilt and hand just rested lightly against my
left breast, his body rigid, his eyes open and shining.
So statuesque were we for that second that I swear those about us
were not immediately aware of what had happened. Then Fortini
gasped and coughed slightly. The rigidity of his pose slackened.
The hilt and hand against my breast wavered, then the arm drooped to
his side till the rapier point rested on the lawn. By this time
Pasquini and de Goncourt had sprung to him and he was sinking into
their arms. In faith, it was harder for me to withdraw the steel
than to drive it in. His flesh clung about it as if jealous to let
it depart. Oh, believe me, it required a distinct physical effort
to get clear of what I had done.
But the pang of the withdrawal must have stung him back to life and
purpose, for he shook off his friends, straightened himself, and
lifted his rapier into position. I, too, took position, marvelling
that it was possible I had spitted him heart-high and yet missed any
vital spot. Then, and before his friends could catch him, his legs
crumpled under him and he went heavily to grass. They laid him on
his back, but he was already dead, his face ghastly still under the
moon, his right hand still a-clutch of the rapier.
Yes; it is indeed a marvellous easy thing to kill a man.
We saluted his friends and were about to depart, when Felix Pasquini
"Pardon me," I said. "Let it be to-morrow."
"We have but to move a step aside," he urged, "where the grass is
"Let me then wet it for you, Sainte-Maure," Lanfranc asked of me,
eager himself to do for an Italian.
I shook my head.
"Pasquini is mine," I answered. "He shall be first to-morrow."
"Are there others?" Lanfranc demanded.
"Ask de Goncourt," I grinned. "I imagine he is already laying claim
to the honour of being the third."
At this, de Goncourt showed distressed acquiescence. Lanfranc
looked inquiry at him, and de Goncourt nodded.
"And after him I doubt not comes the cockerel," I went on.
And even as I spoke the red-haired Guy de Villehardouin, alone,
strode to us across the moonlit grass.
"At least I shall have him," Lanfranc cried, his voice almost
wheedling, so great was his desire.
"Ask him," I laughed, then turned to Pasquini. "To-morrow," I said.
"Do you name time and place, and I shall be there."
"The grass is most excellent," he teased, "the place is most
excellent, and I am minded that Fortini has you for company this
"'Twere better he were accompanied by a friend," I quipped. "And
now your pardon, for I must go."
But he blocked my path.
"Whoever it be," he said, "let it be now."
For the first time, with him, my anger began to rise.
"You serve your master well," I sneered.
"I serve but my pleasure," was his answer. "Master I have none."
"Pardon me if I presume to tell you the truth," I said.
"Which is?" he queried softly.
"That you are a liar, Pasquini, a liar like all Italians."
He turned immediately to Lanfranc and Bohemond.
"You heard," he said. "And after that you cannot deny me him."
They hesitated and looked to me for counsel of my wishes. But
Pasquini did not wait.
"And if you still have any scruples," he hurried on, "then allow me
to remove them . . . thus."
And he spat in the grass at my feet. Then my anger seized me and
was beyond me. The red wrath I call it--an overwhelming, all-
mastering desire to kill and destroy. I forgot that Philippa waited
for me in the great hall. All I knew was my wrongs--the
unpardonable interference in my affairs by the gray old man, the
errand of the priest, the insolence of Fortini, the impudence of
Villehardouin, and here Pasquini standing in my way and spitting in
the grass. I saw red. I thought red. I looked upon all these
creatures as rank and noisome growths that must be hewn out of my
path, out of the world. As a netted lion may rage against the
meshes, so raged I against these creatures. They were all about me.
In truth, I was in the trap. The one way out was to cut them down,
to crush them into the earth and stamp upon them.
"Very well," I said, calmly enough, although my passion was such
that my frame shook. "You first, Pasquini. And you next, de
Goncourt? And at the end, de Villehardouin?"
Each nodded in turn and Pasquini and I prepared to step aside.
"Since you are in haste," Henry Bohemond proposed to me, "and since
there are three of them and three of us, why not settle it at the
"Yes, yes," was Lanfranc's eager cry. "Do you take de Goncourt. De
Villehardouin for mine."
But I waved my good friends back.
"They are here by command," I explained. "It is I they desire so
strongly that by my faith I have caught the contagion of their
desire, so that now I want them and will have them for myself."
I had observed that Pasquini fretted at my delay of speech-making,
and I resolved to fret him further.
"You, Pasquini," I announced, "I shall settle with in short account.
I would not that you tarried while Fortini waits your companionship.
You, Raoul de Goncourt, I shall punish as you deserve for being in
such bad company. You are getting fat and wheezy. I shall take my
time with you until your fat melts and your lungs pant and wheeze
like leaky bellows. You, de Villehardouin, I have not decided in
what manner I shall kill."
And then I saluted Pasquini, and we were at it. Oh, I was minded to
be rarely devilish this night. Quick and brilliant--that was the
thing. Nor was I unmindful of that deceptive moonlight. As with
Fortini would I settle with him if he dared the time attack. If he
did not, and quickly, then I would dare it.
Despite the fret I had put him in, he was cautious. Nevertheless I
compelled the play to be rapid, and in the dim light, depending less
than usual on sight and more than usual on feel, our blades were in
Barely was the first minute of play past when I did the trick. I
feigned a slight slip of the foot, and, in the recovery, feigned
loss of touch with Pasquini's blade. He thrust tentatively, and
again I feigned, this time making a needlessly wide parry. The
consequent exposure of myself was the bait I had purposely dangled
to draw him on. And draw him on I did. Like a flash he took
advantage of what he deemed an involuntary exposure. Straight and
true was his thrust, and all his will and body were heartily in the
weight of the lunge he made. And all had been feigned on my part
and I was ready for him. Just lightly did my steel meet his as our
blades slithered. And just firmly enough and no more did my wrist
twist and deflect his blade on my basket hilt. Oh, such a slight
deflection, a matter of inches, just barely sufficient to send his
point past me so that it pierced a fold of my satin doublet in
passing. Of course, his body followed his rapier in the lunge,
while, heart-high, right side, my rapier point met his body. And my
outstretched arm was stiff and straight as the steel into which it
elongated, and behind the arm and the steel my body was braced and
Heart-high, I say, my rapier entered Pasquini's side on the right,
but it did not emerge, on the left, for, well-nigh through him, it
met a rib (oh, man-killing is butcher's work!) with such a will that
the forcing overbalanced him, so that he fell part backward and part
sidewise to the ground. And even as he fell, and ere he struck,
with jerk and wrench I cleared my weapon of him.
De Goncourt was to him, but he waved de Goncourt to attend on me.
Not so swiftly as Fortini did Pasquini pass. He coughed and spat,
and, helped by de Villehardouin, propped his elbow under him, rested
his head on hand, and coughed and spat again.
"A pleasant journey, Pasquini," I laughed to him in my red anger.
"Pray hasten, for the grass where you lie is become suddenly wet and
if you linger you will catch your death of cold."
When I made immediately to begin with de Goncourt, Bohemond
protested that I should rest a space.
"Nay," I said. "I have not properly warmed up." And to de
Goncourt, "Now will we have you dance and wheeze--Salute!"
De Goncourt's heart was not in the work. It was patent that he
fought under the compulsion of command. His play was old-fashioned,
as any middle-aged man's is apt to be, but he was not an indifferent
swordsman. He was cool, determined, dogged. But he was not
brilliant, and he was oppressed with foreknowledge of defeat. A
score of times, by quick and brilliant, he was mine. But I
refrained. I have said that I was devilish-minded. Indeed I was.
I wore him down. I backed him away from the moon so that he could
see little of me because I fought in my own shadow. And while I
wore him down until he began to wheeze as I had predicted, Pasquini,
head on hand and watching, coughed and spat out his life.
"Now, de Goncourt," I announced finally. "You see I have you quite
helpless. You are mine in any of a dozen ways. Be ready, brace
yourself, for this is the way I will."
And, so saying, I merely went from carte to tierce, and as he
recovered wildly and parried widely I returned to carte, took the
opening, and drove home heart-high and through and through. And at
sight of the conclusion Pasquini let go his hold on life, buried his
face in the grass, quivered a moment, and lay still.
"Your master will be four servants short this night," I assured de
Villehardouin, in the moment just ere we engaged.
And such an engagement! The boy was ridiculous. In what bucolic
school of fence he had been taught was beyond imagining. He was
downright clownish. "Short work and simple" was my judgment, while
his red hair seemed a-bristle with very rage and while he pressed me
like a madman.
Alas! It was his clownishness that undid me. When I had played
with him and laughed at him for a handful of seconds for the clumsy
boor he was, he became so angered that he forgot the worse than
little fence he knew. With an arm-wide sweep of his rapier, as
though it bore heft and a cutting edge, he whistled it through the
air and rapped it down on my crown. I was in amaze. Never had so
absurd a thing happened to me. He was wide open, and I could have
run him through forthright. But, as I said, I was in amaze, and the
next I knew was the pang of the entering steel as this clumsy
provincial ran me through and charged forward, bull-like, till his
hilt bruised my side and I was borne backward.
As I fell I could see the concern on the faces of Lanfranc and
Bohemond and the glut of satisfaction in the face of de
Villehardouin as he pressed me.
I was falling, but I never reached the grass. Came a blurr of
flashing lights, a thunder in my ears, a darkness, a glimmering of
dim light slowly dawning, a wrenching, racking pain beyond all
describing, and then I heard the voice of one who said:
"I can't feel anything."
I knew the voice. It was Warden Atherton's. And I knew myself for
Darrell Standing, just returned across the centuries to the jacket
hell of San Quentin. And I knew the touch of finger-tips on my neck
was Warden Atherton's. And I knew the finger-tips that displaced
his were Doctor Jackson's. And it was Doctor Jackson's voice that
"You don't know how to take a man's pulse from the neck. There--
right there--put your fingers where mine are. D'ye get it? Ah, I
thought so. Heart weak, but steady as a chronometer."
"It's only twenty-four hours," Captain Jamie said, "and he was never
in like condition before."
"Putting it on, that's what he's doing, and you can stack on that,"
Al Hutchins, the head trusty, interjected.
"I don't know," Captain Jamie insisted. "When a man's pulse is that
low it takes an expert to find it--"
"Aw, I served my apprenticeship in the jacket," Al Hutchins sneered.
"And I've made you unlace me, Captain, when you thought I was
croaking, and it was all I could do to keep from snickering in your
"What do you think, Doc?" Warden Atherton asked.
"I tell you the heart action is splendid," was the answer. "Of
course it is weak. That is only to be expected. I tell you
Hutchins is right. The man is feigning."
With his thumb he turned up one of my eyelids, whereat I opened my
other eye and gazed up at the group bending over me.
"What did I tell you?" was Doctor Jackson's cry of triumph.
And then, although it seemed the effort must crack my face, I
summoned all the will of me and smiled.
They held water to my lips, and I drank greedily. It must be
remembered that all this while I lay helpless on my back, my arms
pinioned along with my body inside the jacket. When they offered me
food--dry prison bread--I shook my head. I closed my eyes in
advertisement that I was tired of their presence. The pain of my
partial resuscitation was unbearable. I could feel my body coming
to life. Down the cords of my neck and into my patch of chest over
the heart darting pains were making their way. And in my brain the
memory was strong that Philippa waited me in the big hall, and I was
desirous to escape away back to the half a day and half a night I
had just lived in old France.
So it was, even as they stood about me, that I strove to eliminate
the live portion of my body from my consciousness. I was in haste
to depart, but Warden Atherton's voice held me back.
"Is there anything you want to complain about?" he asked.
Now I had but one fear, namely, that they would unlace me; so that
it must be understood that my reply was not uttered in braggadocio
but was meant to forestall any possible unlacing.
"You might make the jacket a little tighter," I whispered. "It's
too loose for comfort. I get lost in it. Hutchins is stupid. He
is also a fool. He doesn't know the first thing about lacing the
jacket. Warden, you ought to put him in charge of the loom-room.
He is a more profound master of inefficiency than the present
incumbent, who is merely stupid without being a fool as well. Now
get out, all of you, unless you can think of worse to do to me. In
which case, by all means remain. I invite you heartily to remain,
if you think in your feeble imaginings that you have devised fresh
torture for me."
"He's a wooz, a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool wooz," Doctor Jackson
chanted, with the medico's delight in a novelty.
"Standing, you ARE a wonder," the Warden said. "You've got an iron
will, but I'll break it as sure as God made little apples."
"And you've the heart of a rabbit," I retorted. "One-tenth the
jacketing I have received in San Quentin would have squeezed your
rabbit heart out of your long ears."
Oh, it was a touch, that, for the Warden did have unusual ears.
They would have interested Lombroso, I am sure.
"As for me," I went on, "I laugh at you, and I wish no worse fate to
the loom-room than that you should take charge of it yourself. Why,
you've got me down and worked your wickedness on me, and still I
live and laugh in your face. Inefficient? You can't even kill me.
Inefficient? You couldn't kill a cornered rat with a stick of
dynamite--REAL dynamite, and not the sort you are deluded into
believing I have hidden away."
"Anything more?" he demanded, when I had ceased from my diatribe.
And into my mind flashed what I had told Fortini when he pressed his
insolence on me.
"Begone, you prison cur," I said. "Take your yapping from my door."
It must have been a terrible thing for a man of Warden Atherton's
stripe to be thus bearded by a helpless prisoner. His face whitened
with rage and his voice shook as he threatened:
"By God, Standing, I'll do for you yet."
"There is only one thing you can do," I said. "You can tighten this
distressingly loose jacket. If you won't, then get out. And I
don't care if you fail to come back for a week or for the whole ten
And what can even the Warden of a great prison do in reprisal on a
prisoner upon whom the ultimate reprisal has already been wreaked?
It may be that Warden Atherton thought of some possible threat, for
he began to speak. But my voice had strengthened with the exercise,
and I began to sing, "Sing cucu, sing cucu, sing cucu." And sing I
did until my door clanged and the bolts and locks squeaked and
Now that I had learned the trick the way was easy. And I knew the
way was bound to become easier the more I travelled it. Once
establish a line of least resistance, every succeeding journey along
it will find still less resistance. And so, as you shall see, my
journeys from San Quentin life into other lives were achieved almost
automatically as time went by.
After Warden Atherton and his crew had left me it was a matter of
minutes to will the resuscitated portion of my body back into the
little death. Death in life it was, but it was only the little
death, similar to the temporary death produced by an anaesthetic.
And so, from all that was sordid and vile, from brutal solitary and
jacket hell, from acquainted flies and sweats of darkness and the
knuckle-talk of the living dead, I was away at a bound into time and
Came the duration of darkness, and the slow-growing awareness of
other things and of another self. First of all, in this awareness,
was dust. It was in my nostrils, dry and acrid. It was on my lips.
It coated my face, my hands, and especially was it noticeable on the
finger-tips when touched by the ball of my thumb.
Next I was aware of ceaseless movement. All that was about me
lurched and oscillated. There was jolt and jar, and I heard what I
knew as a matter of course to be the grind of wheels on axles and
the grate and clash of iron tyres against rock and sand. And there
came to me the jaded voices of men, in curse and snarl of slow-
plodding, jaded animals.
I opened my eyes, that were inflamed with dust, and immediately
fresh dust bit into them. On the coarse blankets on which I lay the
dust was half an inch thick. Above me, through sifting dust, I saw
an arched roof of lurching, swaying canvas, and myriads of dust
motes descended heavily in the shafts of sunshine that entered
through holes in the canvas.
I was a child, a boy of eight or nine, and I was weary, as was the
woman, dusty-visaged and haggard, who sat up beside me and soothed a
crying babe in her arms. She was my mother; that I knew as a matter
of course, just as I knew, when I glanced along the canvas tunnel of
the wagon-top, that the shoulders of the man on the driver's seat
were the shoulders of my father.
When I started to crawl along the packed gear with which the wagon
was laden my mother said in a tired and querulous voice, "Can't you
ever be still a minute, Jesse?"
That was my name, Jesse. I did not know my surname, though I heard
my mother call my father John. I have a dim recollection of
hearing, at one time or another, the other men address my father as
Captain. I knew that he was the leader of this company, and that
his orders were obeyed by all.
I crawled out through the opening in the canvas and sat down beside
my father on the seat. The air was stifling with the dust that rose
from the wagons and the many hoofs of the animals. So thick was the
dust that it was like mist or fog in the air, and the low sun shone
through it dimly and with a bloody light.
Not alone was the light of this setting sun ominous, but everything
about me seemed ominous--the landscape, my father's face, the fret
of the babe in my mother's arms that she could not still, the six
horses my father drove that had continually to be urged and that
were without any sign of colour, so heavily had the dust settled on
The landscape was an aching, eye-hurting desolation. Low hills
stretched endlessly away on every hand. Here and there only on
their slopes were occasional scrub growths of heat-parched brush.
For the most part the surface of the hills was naked-dry and
composed of sand and rock. Our way followed the sand-bottoms
between the hills. And the sand-bottoms were bare, save for spots
of scrub, with here and there short tufts of dry and withered grass.
Water there was none, nor sign of water, except for washed gullies
that told of ancient and torrential rains.
My father was the only one who had horses to his wagon. The wagons
went in single file, and as the train wound and curved I saw that
the other wagons were drawn by oxen. Three or four yoke of oxen
strained and pulled weakly at each wagon, and beside them, in the
deep sand, walked men with ox-goads, who prodded the unwilling
beasts along. On a curve I counted the wagons ahead and behind. I
knew that there were forty of them, including our own; for often I
had counted them before. And as I counted them now, as a child will
to while away tedium, they were all there, forty of them, all
canvas-topped, big and massive, crudely fashioned, pitching and
lurching, grinding and jarring over sand and sage-brush and rock.
To right and left of us, scattered along the train, rode a dozen or
fifteen men and youths on horses. Across their pommels were long-
barrelled rifles. Whenever any of them drew near to our wagon I
could see that their faces, under the dust, were drawn and anxious
like my father's. And my father, like them, had a long-barrelled
rifle close to hand as he drove.
Also, to one side, limped a score or more of foot-sore, yoke-galled,
skeleton oxen, that ever paused to nip at the occasional tufts of
withered grass, and that ever were prodded on by the tired-faced
youths who herded them. Sometimes one or another of these oxen
would pause and low, and such lowing seemed as ominous as all else
Far, far away I have a memory of having lived, a smaller lad, by the
tree-lined banks of a stream. And as the wagon jolts along, and I
sway on the seat with my father, I continually return and dwell upon
that pleasant water flowing between the trees. I have a sense that
for an interminable period I have lived in a wagon and travelled on,
ever on, with this present company.
But strongest of all upon me is what is strong upon all the company,
namely, a sense of drifting to doom. Our way was like a funeral
march. Never did a laugh arise. Never did I hear a happy tone of
voice. Neither peace nor ease marched with us. The faces of the
men and youths who outrode the train were grim, set, hopeless. And
as we toiled through the lurid dust of sunset often I scanned my
father's face in vain quest of some message of cheer. I will not
say that my father's face, in all its dusty haggardness, was
hopeless. It was dogged, and oh! so grim and anxious, most anxious.
A thrill seemed to run along the train. My father's head went up.
So did mine. And our horses raised their weary heads, scented the
air with long-drawn snorts, and for the nonce pulled willingly. The
horses of the outriders quickened their pace. And as for the herd
of scarecrow oxen, it broke into a forthright gallop. It was almost
ludicrous. The poor brutes were so clumsy in their weakness and
haste. They were galloping skeletons draped in mangy hide, and they
out-distanced the boys who herded them. But this was only for a
time. Then they fell back to a walk, a quick, eager, shambling,
sore-footed walk; and they no longer were lured aside by the dry
"What is it?" my mother asked from within the wagon.
"Water," was my father's reply. "It must be Nephi."
And my mother: "Thank God! And perhaps they will sell us food."
And into Nephi, through blood-red dust, with grind and grate and
jolt and jar, our great wagons rolled. A dozen scattered dwellings
or shanties composed the place. The landscape was much the same as
that through which we had passed. There were no trees, only scrub
growths and sandy bareness. But here were signs of tilled fields,
with here and there a fence. Also there was water. Down the stream
ran no current. The bed, however, was damp, with now and again a
water-hole into which the loose oxen and the saddle-horses stamped
and plunged their muzzles to the eyes. Here, too, grew an
occasional small willow.
"That must be Bill Black's mill they told us about," my father said,
pointing out a building to my mother, whose anxiousness had drawn
her to peer out over our shoulders.
An old man, with buckskin shirt and long, matted, sunburnt hair,
rode back to our wagon and talked with father. The signal was
given, and the head wagons of the train began to deploy in a circle.
The ground favoured the evolution, and, from long practice, it was
accomplished without a hitch, so that when the forty wagons were
finally halted they formed a circle. All was bustle and orderly
confusion. Many women, all tired-faced and dusty like my mother,
emerged from the wagons. Also poured forth a very horde of
children. There must have been at least fifty children, and it
seemed I knew them all of long time; and there were at least two
score of women. These went about the preparations for cooking
While some of the men chopped sage-brush and we children carried it
to the fires that were kindling, other men unyoked the oxen and let
them stampede for water. Next the men, in big squads, moved the
wagons snugly into place. The tongue of each wagon was on the
inside of the circle, and, front and rear, each wagon was in solid
contact with the next wagon before and behind. The great brakes
were locked fast; but, not content with this, the wheels of all the
wagons were connected with chains. This was nothing new to us
children. It was the trouble sign of a camp in hostile country.
One wagon only was left out of the circle, so as to form a gate to
the corral. Later on, as we knew, ere the camp slept, the animals
would be driven inside, and the gate-wagon would be chained like the
others in place. In the meanwhile, and for hours, the animals would
be herded by men and boys to what scant grass they could find.
While the camp-making went on my father, with several others of the
men, including the old man with the long, sunburnt hair, went away
on foot in the direction of the mill. I remember that all of us,
men, women, and even the children, paused to watch them depart; and
it seemed their errand was of grave import.
While they were away other men, strangers, inhabitants of desert
Nephi, came into camp and stalked about. They were white men, like
us, but they were hard-faced, stern-faced, sombre, and they seemed
angry with all our company. Bad feeling was in the air, and they
said things calculated to rouse the tempers of our men. But the
warning went out from the women, and was passed on everywhere to our
men and youths, that there must be no words.
One of the strangers came to our fire, where my mother was alone,
cooking. I had just come up with an armful of sage-brush, and I
stopped to listen and to stare at the intruder, whom I hated,
because it was in the air to hate, because I knew that every last
person in our company hated these strangers who were white-skinned
like us and because of whom we had been compelled to make our camp
in a circle.
This stranger at our fire had blue eyes, hard and cold and piercing.
His hair was sandy. His face was shaven to the chin, and from under
the chin, covering the neck and extending to the ears, sprouted a
sandy fringe of whiskers well-streaked with gray. Mother did not
greet him, nor did he greet her. He stood and glowered at her for
some time, he cleared his throat and said with a sneer:
"Wisht you was back in Missouri right now I bet."
I saw mother tighten her lips in self-control ere she answered:
"We are from Arkansas."
"I guess you got good reasons to deny where you come from," he next
said, "you that drove the Lord's people from Missouri."
Mother made no reply.
". . . Seein'," he went on, after the pause accorded her, "as you're
now comin' a-whinin' an' a-beggin' bread at our hands that you
Whereupon, and instantly, child that I was, I knew anger, the old,
red, intolerant wrath, ever unrestrainable and unsubduable.
"You lie!" I piped up. "We ain't Missourians. We ain't whinin'.
An' we ain't beggars. We got the money to buy."
"Shut up, Jesse!" my mother cried, landing the back of her hand
stingingly on my mouth. And then, to the stranger, "Go away and let
the boy alone."
"I'll shoot you full of lead, you damned Mormon!" I screamed and
sobbed at him, too quick for my mother this time, and dancing away
around the fire from the back-sweep of her hand.
As for the man himself, my conduct had not disturbed him in the
slightest. I was prepared for I knew not what violent visitation
from this terrible stranger, and I watched him warily while he
considered me with the utmost gravity.
At last he spoke, and he spoke solemnly, with solemn shaking of the
head, as if delivering a judgment.
"Like fathers like sons," he said. "The young generation is as bad
as the elder. The whole breed is unregenerate and damned. There is
no saving it, the young or the old. There is no atonement. Not
even the blood of Christ can wipe out its iniquities."
"Damned Mormon!" was all I could sob at him. "Damned Mormon!
Damned Mormon! Damned Mormon!"
And I continued to damn him and to dance around the fire before my
mother's avenging hand, until he strode away.
When my father, and the men who had accompanied him, returned, camp-
work ceased, while all crowded anxiously about him. He shook his
"They will not sell?" some woman demanded.
Again he shook his head.
A man spoke up, a blue-eyed, blond-whiskered giant of thirty, who
abruptly pressed his way into the centre of the crowd.
"They say they have flour and provisions for three years, Captain,"
he said. "They have always sold to the immigration before. And now
they won't sell. And it ain't our quarrel. Their quarrel's with
the government, an' they're takin' it out on us. It ain't right,
Captain. It ain't right, I say, us with our women an' children, an'
California months away, winter comin' on, an' nothin' but desert in
between. We ain't got the grub to face the desert."
He broke off for a moment to address the whole crowd.
"Why, you-all don't know what desert is. This around here ain't
desert. I tell you it's paradise, and heavenly pasture, an' flowin'
with milk an' honey alongside what we're goin' to face."
"I tell you, Captain, we got to get flour first. If they won't sell
it, then we must just up an' take it."
Many of the men and women began crying out in approval, but my
father hushed them by holding up his hand.
"I agree with everything you say, Hamilton," he began.
But the cries now drowned his voice, and he again held up his hand.
"Except one thing you forgot to take into account, Hamilton--a thing
that you and all of us must take into account. Brigham Young has
declared martial law, and Brigham Young has an army. We could wipe
out Nephi in the shake of a lamb's tail and take all the provisions
we can carry. But we wouldn't carry them very far. Brigham's
Saints would be down upon us and we would be wiped out in another
shake of a lamb's tail. You know it. I know it. We all know it."
His words carried conviction to listeners already convinced. What
he had told them was old news. They had merely forgotten it in a
flurry of excitement and desperate need.
"Nobody will fight quicker for what is right than I will," father
continued. "But it just happens we can't afford to fight now. If
ever a ruction starts we haven't a chance. And we've all got our
women and children to recollect. We've got to be peaceable at any
price, and put up with whatever dirt is heaped on us."
"But what will we do with the desert coming?" cried a woman who
nursed a babe at her breast.
"There's several settlements before we come to the desert," father
answered. "Fillmore's sixty miles south. Then comes Corn Creek.
And Beaver's another fifty miles. Next is Parowan. Then it's
twenty miles to Cedar City. The farther we get away from Salt Lake
the more likely they'll sell us provisions."
"And if they won't?" the same woman persisted.
"Then we're quit of them," said my father. "Cedar City is the last
settlement. We'll have to go on, that's all, and thank our stars we
are quit of them. Two days' journey beyond is good pasture, and
water. They call it Mountain Meadows. Nobody lives there, and
that's the place we'll rest our cattle and feed them up before we
tackle the desert. Maybe we can shoot some meat. And if the worst
comes to the worst, we'll keep going as long as we can, then abandon
the wagons, pack what we can on our animals, and make the last
stages on foot. We can eat our cattle as we go along. It would be
better to arrive in California without a rag to our backs than to
leave our bones here; and leave them we will if we start a ruction."
With final reiterated warnings against violence of speech or act,
the impromptu meeting broke up. I was slow in falling asleep that
night. My rage against the Mormon had left my brain in such a
tingle that I was still awake when my father crawled into the wagon
after a last round of the night-watch. They thought I slept, but I
heard mother ask him if he thought that the Mormons would let us
depart peacefully from their land. His face was turned aside from
her as he busied himself with pulling off a boot, while he answered
her with hearty confidence that he was sure the Mormons would let us
go if none of our own company started trouble.
But I saw his face at that moment in the light of a small tallow
dip, and in it was none of the confidence that was in his voice. So
it was that I fell asleep, oppressed by the dire fate that seemed to
overhang us, and pondering upon Brigham Young who bulked in my child
imagination as a fearful, malignant being, a very devil with horns
and tail and all.
And I awoke to the old pain of the jacket in solitary. About me
were the customary four: Warden Atherton, Captain Jamie, Doctor
Jackson, and Al Hutchins. I cracked my face with my willed smile,
and struggled not to lose control under the exquisite torment of
returning circulation. I drank the water they held to me, waved
aside the proffered bread, and refused to speak. I closed my eyes
and strove to win back to the chain-locked wagon-circle at Nephi.
But so long as my visitors stood about me and talked I could not
One snatch of conversation I could not tear myself away from