Part 3 out of 6
"Just as yesterday," Doctor Jackson said. "No change one way or the
"Then he can go on standing it?" Warden Atherton queried.
"Without a quiver. The next twenty-four hours as easy as the last.
He's a wooz, I tell you, a perfect wooz. If I didn't know it was
impossible, I'd say he was doped."
"I know his dope," said the Warden. "It's that cursed will of his.
I'd bet, if he made up his mind, that he could walk barefoot across
red-hot stones, like those Kanaka priests from the South Seas."
Now perhaps it was the word "priests" that I carried away with me
through the darkness of another flight in time. Perhaps it was the
cue. More probably it was a mere coincidence. At any rate I awoke,
lying upon a rough rocky floor, and found myself on my back, my arms
crossed in such fashion that each elbow rested in the palm of the
opposite hand. As I lay there, eyes closed, half awake, I rubbed my
elbows with my palms and found that I was rubbing prodigious
calluses. There was no surprise in this. I accepted the calluses
as of long time and a matter of course.
I opened my eyes. My shelter was a small cave, no more than three
feet in height and a dozen in length. It was very hot in the cave.
Perspiration noduled the entire surface of my body. Now and again
several nodules coalesced and formed tiny rivulets. I wore no
clothing save a filthy rag about the middle. My skin was burned to
a mahogany brown. I was very thin, and I contemplated my thinness
with a strange sort of pride, as if it were an achievement to be so
thin. Especially was I enamoured of my painfully prominent ribs.
The very sight of the hollows between them gave me a sense of solemn
elation, or, rather, to use a better word, of sanctification.
My knees were callused like my elbows. I was very dirty. My beard,
evidently once blond, but now a dirt-stained and streaky brown,
swept my midriff in a tangled mass. My long hair, similarly stained
and tangled, was all about my shoulders, while wisps of it
continually strayed in the way of my vision so that sometimes I was
compelled to brush it aside with my hands. For the most part,
however, I contented myself with peering through it like a wild
animal from a thicket.
Just at the tunnel-like mouth of my dim cave the day reared itself
in a wall of blinding sunshine. After a time I crawled to the
entrance, and, for the sake of greater discomfort, lay down in the
burning sunshine on a narrow ledge of rock. It positively baked me,
that terrible sun, and the more it hurt me the more I delighted in
it, or in myself rather, in that I was thus the master of my flesh
and superior to its claims and remonstrances. When I found under me
a particularly sharp, but not too sharp, rock-projection, I ground
my body upon the point of it, rowelled my flesh in a very ecstasy of
mastery and of purification.
It was a stagnant day of heat. Not a breath of air moved over the
river valley on which I sometimes gazed. Hundreds of feet beneath
me the wide river ran sluggishly. The farther shore was flat and
sandy and stretched away to the horizon. Above the water were
scattered clumps of palm-trees.
On my side, eaten into a curve by the river, were lofty, crumbling
cliffs. Farther along the curve, in plain view from my eyrie,
carved out of the living rock, were four colossal figures. It was
the stature of a man to their ankle joints. The four colossi sat,
with hands resting on knees, with arms crumbled quite away, and
gazed out upon the river. At least three of them so gazed. Of the
fourth all that remained were the lower limbs to the knees and the
huge hands resting on the knees. At the feet of this one,
ridiculously small, crouched a sphinx; yet this sphinx was taller
I looked upon these carven images with contempt, and spat as I
looked. I knew not what they were, whether forgotten gods or
unremembered kings. But to me they were representative of the
vanity of earth-men and earth-aspirations.
And over all this curve of river and sweep of water and wide sands
beyond arched a sky of aching brass unflecked by the tiniest cloud.
The hours passed while I roasted in the sun. Often, for quite
decent intervals, I forgot my heat and pain in dreams and visions
and in memories. All this I knew--crumbling colossi and river and
sand and sun and brazen sky--was to pass away in the twinkling of an
eye. At any moment the trumps of the archangels might sound, the
stars fall out of the sky, the heavens roll up as a scroll, and the
Lord God of all come with his hosts for the final judgment.
Ah, I knew it so profoundly that I was ready for such sublime event.
That was why I was here in rags and filth and wretchedness. I was
meek and lowly, and I despised the frail needs and passions of the
flesh. And I thought with contempt, and with a certain
satisfaction, of the far cities of the plain I had known, all
unheeding, in their pomp and lust, of the last day so near at hand.
Well, they would see soon enough, but too late for them. And I
should see. But I was ready. And to their cries and lamentations
would I arise, reborn and glorious, and take my well-earned and
rightful place in the City of God.
At times, between dreams and visions in which I was verily and
before my time in the City of God, I conned over in my mind old
discussions and controversies. Yes, Novatus was right in his
contention that penitent apostates should never again be received
into the churches. Also, there was no doubt that Sabellianism was
conceived of the devil. So was Constantine, the arch-fiend, the
devil's right hand.
Continually I returned to contemplation of the nature of the unity
of God, and went over and over the contentions of Noetus, the
Syrian. Better, however, did I like the contentions of my beloved
teacher, Arius. Truly, if human reason could determine anything at
all, there must have been a time, in the very nature of sonship,
when the Son did not exist. In the nature of sonship there must
have been a time when the Son commenced to exist. A father must be
older than his son. To hold otherwise were a blasphemy and a
belittlement of God.
And I remembered back to my young days when I had sat at the feet of
Arius, who had been a presbyter of the city of Alexandria, and who
had been robbed of the bishopric by the blasphemous and heretical
Alexander. Alexander the Sabellianite, that is what he was, and his
feet had fast hold of hell.
Yes, I had been to the Council of Nicea, and seen it avoid the
issue. And I remembered when the Emperor Constantine had banished
Arius for his uprightness. And I remembered when Constantine
repented for reasons of state and policy and commanded Alexander--
the other Alexander, thrice cursed, Bishop of Constantinople--to
receive Arius into communion on the morrow. And that very night did
not Arius die in the street? They said it was a violent sickness
visited upon him in answer to Alexander's prayer to God. But I
said, and so said all we Arians, that the violent sickness was due
to a poison, and that the poison was due to Alexander himself,
Bishop of Constantinople and devil's poisoner.
And here I ground my body back and forth on the sharp stones, and
muttered aloud, drunk with conviction:
"Let the Jews and Pagans mock. Let them triumph, for their time is
short. And for them there will be no time after time."
I talked to myself aloud a great deal on that rocky shelf
overlooking the river. I was feverish, and on occasion I drank
sparingly of water from a stinking goatskin. This goatskin I kept
hanging in the sun that the stench of the skin might increase and
that there might be no refreshment of coolness in the water. Food
there was, lying in the dirt on my cave-floor--a few roots and a
chunk of mouldy barley-cake; and hungry I was, although I did not
All I did that blessed, livelong day was to sweat and swelter in the
sun, mortify my lean flesh upon the rock, gaze out of the
desolation, resurrect old memories, dream dreams, and mutter my
And when the sun set, in the swift twilight I took a last look at
the world so soon to pass. About the feet of the colossi I could
make out the creeping forms of beasts that laired in the once proud
works of men. And to the snarls of the beasts I crawled into my
hole, and, muttering and dozing, visioning fevered fancies and
praying that the last day come quickly, I ebbed down into the
darkness of sleep.
Consciousness came back to me in solitary, with the quartet of
torturers about me.
"Blasphemous and heretical Warden of San Quentin whose feet have
fast hold of hell," I gibed, after I had drunk deep of the water
they held to my lips. "Let the jailers and the trusties triumph.
Their time is short, and for them there is no time after time."
"He's out of his head," Warden Atherton affirmed.
"He's putting it over on you," was Doctor Jackson's surer judgment.
"But he refuses food," Captain Jamie protested.
"Huh, he could fast forty days and not hurt himself," the doctor
"And I have," I said, "and forty nights as well. Do me the favour
to tighten the jacket and then get out of here."
The head trusty tried to insert his forefinger inside the lacing.
"You couldn't get a quarter of an inch of slack with block and
tackle," he assured them.
"Have you any complaint to make, Standing?" the Warden asked.
"Yes," was my reply. "On two counts."
"What are they?"
"First," I said, "the jacket is abominably loose. Hutchins is an
ass. He could get a foot of slack if he wanted."
"What is the other count?" Warden Atherton asked.
"That you are conceived of the devil, Warden."
Captain Jamie and Doctor Jackson tittered, and the Warden, with a
snort, led the way out of my cell.
Left alone, I strove to go into the dark and gain back to the wagon
circle at Nephi. I was interested to know the outcome of that
doomed drifting of our forty great wagons across a desolate and
hostile land, and I was not at all interested in what came of the
mangy hermit with his rock-roweled ribs and stinking water-skin.
And I gained back, neither to Nephi nor the Nile, but to -
But here I must pause in the narrative, my reader, in order to
explain a few things and make the whole matter easier to your
comprehension. This is necessary, because my time is short in which
to complete my jacket-memoirs. In a little while, in a very little
while, they are going to take me out and hang me. Did I have the
full time of a thousand lifetimes, I could not complete the last
details of my jacket experiences. Wherefore I must briefen the
First of all, Bergson is right. Life cannot be explained in
intellectual terms. As Confucius said long ago: "When we are so
ignorant of life, can we know death?" And ignorant of life we truly
are when we cannot explain it in terms of the understanding. We
know life only phenomenally, as a savage may know a dynamo; but we
know nothing of life noumenonally, nothing of the nature of the
intrinsic stuff of life.
Secondly, Marinetti is wrong when he claims that matter is the only
mystery and the only reality. I say and as you, my reader, realize,
I speak with authority--I say that matter is the only illusion.
Comte called the world, which is tantamount to matter, the great
fetich, and I agree with Comte.
It is life that is the reality and the mystery. Life is vastly
different from mere chemic matter fluxing in high modes of notion.
Life persists. Life is the thread of fire that persists through all
the modes of matter. I know. I am life. I have lived ten thousand
generations. I have lived millions of years. I have possessed many
bodies. I, the possessor of these many bodies, have persisted. I
am life. I am the unquenched spark ever flashing and astonishing
the face of time, ever working my will and wreaking my passion on
the cloddy aggregates of matter, called bodies, which I have
For look you. This finger of mine, so quick with sensation, so
subtle to feel, so delicate in its multifarious dexterities, so firm
and strong to crook and bend or stiffen by means of cunning
leverages--this finger is not I. Cut it off. I live. The body is
mutilated. I am not mutilated. The spirit that is I is whole.
Very well. Cut off all my fingers. I am I. The spirit is entire.
Cut off both hands. Cut off both arms at the shoulder-sockets. Cut
off both legs at the hip-sockets. And I, the unconquerable and
indestructible I, survive. Am I any the less for these mutilations,
for these subtractions of the flesh? Certainly not. Clip my hair.
Shave from me with sharp razors my lips, my nose, my ears--ay, and
tear out the eyes of me by the roots; and there, mewed in that
featureless skull that is attached to a hacked and mangled torso,
there in that cell of the chemic flesh, will still be I,
Oh, the heart still beats. Very well. Cut out the heart, or,
better, fling the flesh-remnant into a machine of a thousand blades
and make mincemeat of it--and I, I, don't you understand, all the
spirit and the mystery and the vital fire and life of me, am off and
away. I have not perished. Only the body has perished, and the
body is not I.
I believe Colonel de Rochas was correct when he asserted that under
the compulsion of his will he sent the girl Josephine, while she was
in hypnotic trance, back through the eighteen years she had lived,
back through the silence and the dark ere she had been born, back to
the light of a previous living when she was a bed-ridden old man,
the ex-artilleryman, Jean-Claude Bourdon. And I believe that
Colonel de Rochas did truly hypnotize this resurrected shade of the
old man and, by compulsion of will, send him back through the
seventy years of his life, back into the dark and through the dark
into the light of day when he had been the wicked old woman,
Already, have I not shown you, my reader, that in previous times,
inhabiting various cloddy aggregates of matter, I have been Count
Guillaume de Sainte-Maure, a mangy and nameless hermit of Egypt, and
the boy Jesse, whose father was captain of forty wagons in the great
westward emigration. And, also, am I not now, as I write these
lines, Darrell Sanding, under sentence of death in Folsom Prison and
one time professor of agronomy in the College of Agriculture of the
University of California?
Matter is the great illusion. That is, matter manifests itself in
form, and form is apparitional. Where, now, are the crumbling rock-
cliffs of old Egypt where once I laired me like a wild beast while I
dreamed of the City of God? Where, now, is the body of Guillaume de
Sainte-Maure that was thrust through on the moonlit grass so long
ago by the flame-headed Guy de Villehardouin? Where, now, are the
forty great wagons in the circle at Nephi, and all the men and women
and children and lean cattle that sheltered inside that circle? All
such things no longer are, for they were forms, manifestations of
fluxing matter ere they melted into the flux again. They have
passed and are not.
And now my argument becomes plain. The spirit is the reality that
endures. I am spirit, and I endure. I, Darrell Standing, the
tenant of many fleshly tenements, shall write a few more lines of
these memoirs and then pass on my way. The form of me that is my
body will fall apart when it has been sufficiently hanged by the
neck, and of it naught will remain in all the world of matter. In
the world of spirit the memory of it will remain. Matter has no
memory, because its forms are evanescent, and what is engraved on
its forms perishes with the forms.
One word more ere I return to my narrative. In all my journeys
through the dark into other lives that have been mine I have never
been able to guide any journey to a particular destination. Thus
many new experiences of old lives were mine before ever I chanced to
return to the boy Jesse at Nephi. Possibly, all told, I have lived
over Jesse's experiences a score of times, sometimes taking up his
career when he was quite small in the Arkansas settlements, and at
least a dozen times carrying on past the point where I left him at
Nephi. It were a waste of time to detail the whole of it; and so,
without prejudice to the verity of my account, I shall skip much
that is vague and tortuous and repetitional, and give the facts as I
have assembled them out of the various times, in whole and part, as
I relived them.
Long before daylight the camp at Nephi was astir. The cattle were
driven out to water and pasture. While the men unchained the wheels
and drew the wagons apart and clear for yoking in, the women cooked
forty breakfasts over forty fires. The children, in the chill of
dawn, clustered about the fires, sharing places, here and there,
with the last relief of the night-watch waiting sleepily for coffee.
It requires time to get a large train such as ours under way, for
its speed is the speed of the slowest. So the sun was an hour high
and the day was already uncomfortably hot when we rolled out of
Nephi and on into the sandy barrens. No inhabitant of the place saw
us off. All chose to remain indoors, thus making our departure as
ominous as they had made our arrival the night before.
Again it was long hours of parching heat and biting dust, sage-brush
and sand, and a land accursed. No dwellings of men, neither cattle
nor fences, nor any sign of human kind, did we encounter all that
day; and at night we made our wagon-circle beside an empty stream,
in the damp sand of which we dug many holes that filled slowly with
Our subsequent journey is always a broken experience to me. We made
camp so many times, always with the wagons drawn in circle, that to
my child mind a weary long time passed after Nephi. But always,
strong upon all of us, was that sense of drifting to an impending
and certain doom.
We averaged about fifteen miles a day. I know, for my father had
said it was sixty miles to Fillmore, the next Mormon settlement, and
we made three camps on the way. This meant four days of travel.
From Nephi to the last camp of which I have any memory we must have
taken two weeks or a little less.
At Fillmore the inhabitants were hostile, as all had been since Salt
Lake. They laughed at us when we tried to buy food, and were not
above taunting us with being Missourians.
When we entered the place, hitched before the largest house of the
dozen houses that composed the settlement were two saddle-horses,
dusty, streaked with sweat, and drooping. The old man I have
mentioned, the one with long, sunburnt hair and buckskin shirt and
who seemed a sort of aide or lieutenant to father, rode close to our
wagon and indicated the jaded saddle-animals with a cock of his
"Not sparin' horseflesh, Captain," he muttered in a low voice. "An'
what in the name of Sam Hill are they hard-riding for if it ain't
But my father had already noted the condition of the two animals,
and my eager eyes had seen him. And I had seen his eyes flash, his
lips tighten, and haggard lines form for a moment on his dusty face.
That was all. But I put two and two together, and knew that the two
tired saddle-horses were just one more added touch of ominousness to
"I guess they're keeping an eye on us, Laban," was my father's sole
It was at Fillmore that I saw a man that I was to see again. He was
a tall, broad-shouldered man, well on in middle age, with all the
evidence of good health and immense strength--strength not alone of
body but of will. Unlike most men I was accustomed to about me, he
was smooth-shaven. Several days' growth of beard showed that he was
already well-grayed. His mouth was unusually wide, with thin lips
tightly compressed as if he had lost many of his front teeth. His
nose was large, square, and thick. So was his face square, wide
between the cheekbones, underhung with massive jaws, and topped with
a broad, intelligent forehead. And the eyes, rather small, a little
more than the width of an eye apart, were the bluest blue I had ever
It was at the flour-mill at Fillmore that I first saw this man.
Father, with several of our company, had gone there to try to buy
flour, and I, disobeying my mother in my curiosity to see more of
our enemies, had tagged along unperceived. This man was one of four
or five who stood in a group with the miller during the interview.
"You seen that smooth-faced old cuss?" Laban said to father, after
we had got outside and were returning to camp.
"Well, that's Lee," Laban continued. "I seen'm in Salt Lake. He's
a regular son-of-a-gun. Got nineteen wives and fifty children, they
all say. An' he's rank crazy on religion. Now, what's he followin'
us up for through this God-forsaken country?"
Our weary, doomed drifting went on. The little settlements,
wherever water and soil permitted, were from twenty to fifty miles
apart. Between stretched the barrenness of sand and alkali and
drought. And at every settlement our peaceful attempts to buy food
were vain. They denied us harshly, and wanted to know who of us had
sold them food when we drove them from Missouri. It was useless on
our part to tell them we were from Arkansas. From Arkansas we truly
were, but they insisted on our being Missourians.
At Beaver, five days' journey south from Fillmore, we saw Lee again.
And again we saw hard-ridden horses tethered before the houses. But
we did not see Lee at Parowan.
Cedar City was the last settlement. Laban, who had ridden on ahead,
came back and reported to father. His first news was significant.
"I seen that Lee skedaddling out as I rid in, Captain. An' there's
more men-folk an' horses in Cedar City than the size of the place 'd
But we had no trouble at the settlement. Beyond refusing to sell us
food, they left us to ourselves. The women and children stayed in
the houses, and though some of the men appeared in sight they did
not, as on former occasions, enter our camp and taunt us.
It was at Cedar City that the Wainwright baby died. I remember Mrs.
Wainwright weeping and pleading with Laban to try to get some cow's
"It may save the baby's life," she said. "And they've got cow's
milk. I saw fresh cows with my own eyes. Go on, please, Laban. It
won't hurt you to try. They can only refuse. But they won't. Tell
them it's for a baby, a wee little baby. Mormon women have mother's
hearts. They couldn't refuse a cup of milk for a wee little baby."
And Laban tried. But, as he told father afterward, he did not get
to see any Mormon women. He saw only the Mormon men, who turned him
This was the last Mormon outpost. Beyond lay the vast desert, with,
on the other side of it, the dream land, ay, the myth land, of
California. As our wagons rolled out of the place in the early
morning I, sitting beside my father on the driver's seat, saw Laban
give expression to his feelings. We had gone perhaps half a mile,
and were topping a low rise that would sink Cedar City from view,
when Laban turned his horse around, halted it, and stood up in the
stirrups. Where he had halted was a new-made grave, and I knew it
for the Wainwright baby's--not the first of our graves since we had
crossed the Wasatch mountains.
He was a weird figure of a man. Aged and lean, long-faced, hollow-
checked, with matted, sunburnt hair that fell below the shoulders of
his buckskin shirt, his face was distorted with hatred and helpless
rage. Holding his long rifle in his bridle-hand, he shook his free
fist at Cedar City.
"God's curse on all of you!" he cried out. "On your children, and
on your babes unborn. May drought destroy your crops. May you eat
sand seasoned with the venom of rattlesnakes. May the sweet water
of your springs turn to bitter alkali. May . . ."
Here his words became indistinct as our wagons rattled on; but his
heaving shoulders and brandishing fist attested that he had only
begun to lay the curse. That he expressed the general feeling in
our train was evidenced by the many women who leaned from the
wagons, thrusting out gaunt forearms and shaking bony, labour-
malformed fists at the last of Mormondom. A man, who walked in the
sand and goaded the oxen of the wagon behind ours, laughed and waved
his goad. It was unusual, that laugh, for there had been no
laughter in our train for many days.
"Give 'm hell, Laban," he encouraged. "Them's my sentiments."
And as our train rolled on I continued to look back at Laban,
standing in his stirrups by the baby's grave. Truly he was a weird
figure, with his long hair, his moccasins, and fringed leggings. So
old and weather-beaten was his buckskin shirt that ragged filaments,
here and there, showed where proud fringes once had been. He was a
man of flying tatters. I remember, at his waist, dangled dirty
tufts of hair that, far back in the journey, after a shower of rain,
were wont to show glossy black. These I knew were Indian scalps,
and the sight of them always thrilled me.
"It will do him good," father commended, more to himself than to me.
"I've been looking for days for him to blow up."
"I wish he'd go back and take a couple of scalps," I volunteered.
My father regarded me quizzically.
"Don't like the Mormons, eh, son?"
I shook my head and felt myself swelling with the inarticulate hate
that possessed me.
"When I grow up," I said, after a minute, "I'm goin' gunning for
"You, Jesse!" came my mother's voice from inside the wagon. "Shut
your mouth instanter." And to my father: "You ought to be ashamed
letting the boy talk on like that."
Two days' journey brought us to Mountain Meadows, and here, well
beyond the last settlement, for the first time we did not form the
wagon-circle. The wagons were roughly in a circle, but there were
many gaps, and the wheels were not chained. Preparations were made
to stop a week. The cattle must be rested for the real desert,
though this was desert enough in all seeming. The same low hills of
sand were about us, but sparsely covered with scrub brush. The flat
was sandy, but there was some grass--more than we had encountered in
many days. Not more than a hundred feet from camp was a weak spring
that barely supplied human needs. But farther along the bottom
various other weak springs emerged from the hillsides, and it was at
these that the cattle watered.
We made camp early that day, and, because of the programme to stay a
week, there was a general overhauling of soiled clothes by the
women, who planned to start washing on the morrow. Everybody worked
till nightfall. While some of the men mended harness others
repaired the frames and ironwork of the wagons. Them was much
heating and hammering of iron and tightening of bolts and nuts. And
I remember coming upon Laban, sitting cross-legged in the shade of a
wagon and sewing away till nightfall on a new pair of moccasins. He
was the only man in our train who wore moccasins and buckskin, and I
have an impression that he had not belonged to our company when it
left Arkansas. Also, he had neither wife, nor family, nor wagon of
his own. All he possessed was his horse, his rifle, the clothes he
stood up in, and a couple of blankets that were hauled in the Mason
Next morning it was that our doom fell. Two days' journey beyond
the last Mormon outpost, knowing that no Indians were about and
apprehending nothing from the Indians on any count, for the first
time we had not chained our wagons in the solid circle, placed
guards on the cattle, nor set a night-watch.
My awakening was like a nightmare. It came as a sudden blast of
sound. I was only stupidly awake for the first moments and did
nothing except to try to analyze and identify the various noises
that went to compose the blast that continued without let up. I
could hear near and distant explosions of rifles, shouts and curses
of men, women screaming, and children bawling. Then I could make
out the thuds and squeals of bullets that hit wood and iron in the
wheels and under-construction of the wagon. Whoever it was that was
shooting, the aim was too low. When I started to rise, my mother,
evidently just in the act of dressing, pressed me down with her
hand. Father, already up and about, at this stage erupted into the
"Out of it!" he shouted. "Quick! To the ground!"
He wasted no time. With a hook-like clutch that was almost a blow,
so swift was it, he flung me bodily out of the rear end of the
wagon. I had barely time to crawl out from under when father,
mother, and the baby came down pell-mell where I had been.
"Here, Jesse!" father shouted to me, and I joined him in scooping
out sand behind the shelter of a wagon-wheel. We worked bare-handed
and wildly. Mother joined in.
"Go ahead and make it deeper, Jesse," father ordered,
He stood up and rushed away in the gray light, shouting commands as
he ran. (I had learned by now my surname. I was Jesse Fancher. My
father was Captain Fancher).
"Lie down!" I could hear him. "Get behind the wagon wheels and
burrow in the sand! Family men, get the women and children out of
the wagons! Hold your fire! No more shooting! Hold your fire and
be ready for the rush when it comes! Single men, join Laban at the
right, Cochrane at the left, and me in the centre! Don't stand up!
Crawl for it!"
But no rush came. For a quarter of an hour the heavy and irregular
firing continued. Our damage had come in the first moments of
surprise when a number of the early-rising men were caught exposed
in the light of the campfires they were building. The Indians--for
Indians Laban declared them to be--had attacked us from the open,
and were lying down and firing at us. In the growing light father
made ready for them. His position was near to where I lay in the
burrow with mother so that I heard him when he cried out:
"Now! all together!"
From left, right, and centre our rifles loosed in a volley. I had
popped my head up to see, and I could make out more than one
stricken Indian. Their fire immediately ceased, and I could see
them scampering back on foot across the open, dragging their dead
and wounded with them.
All was work with us on the instant. While the wagons were being
dragged and chained into the circle with tongues inside--I saw women
and little boys and girls flinging their strength on the wheel
spokes to help--we took toll of our losses. First, and gravest of
all, our last animal had been run off. Next, lying about the fires
they had been building, were seven of our men. Four were dead, and
three were dying. Other men, wounded, were being cared for by the
women. Little Rish Hardacre had been struck in the arm by a heavy
ball. He was no more than six, and I remember looking on with mouth
agape while his mother held him on her lap and his father set about
bandaging the wound. Little Rish had stopped crying. I could see
the tears on his cheeks while he stared wonderingly at a sliver of
broken bone sticking out of his forearm.
Granny White was found dead in the Foxwell wagon. She was a fat and
helpless old woman who never did anything but sit down all the time
and smoke a pipe. She was the mother of Abby Foxwell. And Mrs.
Grant had been killed. Her husband sat beside her body. He was
very quiet. There were no tears in his eyes. He just sat there,
his rifle across his knees, and everybody left him alone.
Under father's directions the company was working like so many
beavers. The men dug a big rifle pit in the centre of the corral,
forming a breastwork out of the displaced sand. Into this pit the
women dragged bedding, food, and all sorts of necessaries from the
wagons. All the children helped. There was no whimpering, and
little or no excitement. There was work to be done, and all of us
were folks born to work.
The big rifle pit was for the women and children. Under the wagons,
completely around the circle, a shallow trench was dug and an
earthwork thrown up. This was for the fighting men.
Laban returned from a scout. He reported that the Indians had
withdrawn the matter of half a mile, and were holding a powwow.
Also he had seen them carry six of their number off the field, three
of which, he said, were deaders.
From time to time, during the morning of that first day, we observed
clouds of dust that advertised the movements of considerable bodies
of mounted men. These clouds of dust came toward us, hemming us in
on all sides. But we saw no living creature. One cloud of dirt
only moved away from us. It was a large cloud, and everybody said
it was our cattle being driven off. And our forty great wagons that
had rolled over the Rockies and half across the continent stood in a
helpless circle. Without cattle they could roll no farther.
At noon Laban came in from another scout. He had seen fresh Indians
arriving from the south, showing that we were being closed in. It
was at this time that we saw a dozen white men ride out on the crest
of a low hill to the east and look down on us.
"That settles it," Laban said to father. "The Indians have been put
up to it."
"They're white like us," I heard Abby Foxwell complain to mother.
"Why don't they come in to us?"
"They ain't whites," I piped up, with a wary eye for the swoop of
mother's hand. "They're Mormons."
That night, after dark, three of our young men stole out of camp. I
saw them go. They were Will Aden, Abel Milliken, and Timothy Grant.
"They are heading for Cedar City to get help," father told mother
while he was snatching a hasty bite of supper.
Mother shook her head.
"There's plenty of Mormons within calling distance of camp," she
said. "If they won't help, and they haven't shown any signs, then
the Cedar City ones won't either."
"But there are good Mormons and bad Mormons--" father began.
"We haven't found any good ones so far," she shut him off.
Not until morning did I hear of the return of Abel Milliken and
Timothy Grant, but I was not long in learning. The whole camp was
downcast by reason of their report. The three had gone only a few
miles when they were challenged by white men. As soon as Will Aden
spoke up, telling that they were from the Fancher Company, going to
Cedar City for help, he was shot down. Milliken and Grant escaped
back with the news, and the news settled the last hope in the hearts
of our company. The whites were behind the Indians, and the doom so
long apprehended was upon us.
This morning of the second day our men, going for water, were fired
upon. The spring was only a hundred feet outside our circle, but
the way to it was commanded by the Indians who now occupied the low
hill to the east. It was close range, for the hill could not have
been more than fifteen rods away. But the Indians were not good
shots, evidently, for our men brought in the water without being
Beyond an occasional shot into camp the morning passed quietly. We
had settled down in the rifle pit, and, being used to rough living,
were comfortable enough. Of course it was bad for the families of
those who had been killed, and there was the taking care of the
wounded. I was for ever stealing away from mother in my insatiable
curiosity to see everything that was going on, and I managed to see
pretty much of everything. Inside the corral, to the south of the
big rifle pit, the men dug a hole and buried the seven men and two
women all together. Only Mrs. Hastings, who had lost her husband
and father, made much trouble. She cried and screamed out, and it
took the other women a long time to quiet her.
On the low hill to the east the Indians kept up a tremendous
powwowing and yelling. But beyond an occasional harmless shot they
"What's the matter with the ornery cusses?" Laban impatiently wanted
to know. "Can't they make up their minds what they're goin' to do,
an' then do it?"
It was hot in the corral that afternoon. The sun blazed down out of
a cloudless sky, and there was no wind. The men, lying with their
rifles in the trench under the wagons, were partly shaded; but the
big rifle pit, in which were over a hundred women and children, was
exposed to the full power of the sun. Here, too, were the wounded
men, over whom we erected awnings of blankets. It was crowded and
stifling in the pit, and I was for ever stealing out of it to the
firing-line, and making a great to-do at carrying messages for
Our grave mistake had been in not forming the wagon-circle so as to
inclose the spring. This had been due to the excitement of the
first attack, when we did not know how quickly it might be followed
by a second one. And now it was too late. At fifteen rods'
distance from the Indian position on the hill we did not dare
unchain our wagons. Inside the corral, south of the graves, we
constructed a latrine, and, north of the rifle pit in the centre, a
couple of men were told off by father to dig a well for water.
In the mid-afternoon of that day, which was the second day, we saw
Lee again. He was on foot, crossing diagonally over the meadow to
the north-west just out of rifle-shot from us. Father hoisted one
of mother's sheets on a couple of ox-goads lashed together. This
was our white flag. But Lee took no notice of it, continuing on his
Laban was for trying a long shot at him, but father stopped him,
saying that it was evident the whites had not made up their minds
what they were going to do with us, and that a shot at Lee might
hurry them into making up their minds the wrong way.
"Here, Jesse," father said to me, tearing a strip from the sheet and
fastening it to an ox-goad. "Take this and go out and try to talk
to that man. Don't tell him anything about what's happened to us.
Just try to get him to come in and talk with us."
As I started to obey, my chest swelling with pride in my mission,
Jed Dunham cried out that he wanted to go with me. Jed was about my
"Dunham, can your boy go along with Jesse?" father asked Jed's
father. "Two's better than one. They'll keep each other out of
So Jed and I, two youngsters of nine, went out under the white flag
to talk with the leader of our enemies. But Lee would not talk.
When he saw us coming he started to sneak away. We never got within
calling distance of him, and after a while he must have hidden in
the brush; for we never laid eyes on him again, and we knew he
couldn't have got clear away.
Jed and I beat up the brush for hundreds of yards all around. They
hadn't told us how long we were to be gone, and since the Indians
did not fire on us we kept on going. We were away over two hours,
though had either of us been alone he would have been back in a
quarter of the time. But Jed was bound to outbrave me, and I was
equally bound to outbrave him.
Our foolishness was not without profit. We walked, boldly about
under our white flag, and learned how thoroughly our camp was
beleaguered. To the south of our train, not more than half a mile
away, we made out a large Indian camp. Beyond, on the meadow, we
could see Indian boys riding hard on their horses.
Then there was the Indian position on the hill to the east. We
managed to climb a low hill so as to look into this position. Jed
and I spent half an hour trying to count them, and concluded, with
much guessing, that there must be at least a couple of hundred.
Also, we saw white men with them and doing a great deal of talking.
North-east of our train, not more than four hundred yards from it,
we discovered a large camp of whites behind a low rise of ground.
And beyond we could see fifty or sixty saddle-horses grazing. And a
mile or so away, to the north, we saw a tiny cloud of dust
approaching. Jed and I waited until we saw a single man, riding
fast, gallop into the camp of the whites.
When we got back into the corral the first thing that happened to me
was a smack from mother for having stayed away so long; but father
praised Jed and me when we gave our report.
"Watch for an attack now maybe, Captain," Aaron Cochrane said to
father. "That man the boys seen has rid in for a purpose. The
whites are holding the Indians till they get orders from higher up.
Maybe that man brung the orders one way or the other. They ain't
sparing horseflesh, that's one thing sure."
Half an hour after our return Laban attempted a scout under a white
flag. But he had not gone twenty feet outside the circle when the
Indians opened fire on him and sent him back on the run.
Just before sundown I was in the rifle pit holding the baby, while
mother was spreading the blankets for a bed. There were so many of
us that we were packed and jammed. So little room was there that
many of the women the night before had sat up and slept with their
heads bowed on their knees. Right alongside of me, so near that
when he tossed his arms about he struck me on the shoulder, Silas
Dunlap was dying. He had been shot in the head in the first attack,
and all the second day was out of his head and raving and singing
doggerel. One of his songs, that he sang over and over, until it
made mother frantic nervous, was:
"Said the first little devil to the second little devil,
'Give me some tobaccy from your old tobaccy box.'
Said the second little devil to the first little devil,
'Stick close to your money and close to your rocks,
An' you'll always have tobaccy in your old tobaccy box.'"
I was sitting directly alongside of him, holding the baby, when the
attack burst on us. It was sundown, and I was staring with all my
eyes at Silas Dunlap who was just in the final act of dying. His
wife, Sarah, had one hand resting on his forehead. Both she and her
Aunt Martha were crying softly. And then it came--explosions and
bullets from hundreds of rifles. Clear around from east to west, by
way of the north, they had strung out in half a circle and were
pumping lead in our position. Everybody in the rifle pit flattened
down. Lots of the younger children set up a-squalling, and it kept
the women busy hushing them. Some of the women screamed at first,
but not many.
Thousands of shots must haven rained in on us in the next few
minutes. How I wanted to crawl out to the trench under the wagons
where our men were keeping up a steady but irregular fire! Each was
shooting on his own whenever he saw a man to pull trigger on. But
mother suspected me, for she made me crouch down and keep right on
holding the baby.
I was just taking a look at Silas Dunlap--he was still quivering--
when the little Castleton baby was killed. Dorothy Castleton,
herself only about ten, was holding it, so that it was killed in her
arms. She was not hurt at all. I heard them talking about it, and
they conjectured that the bullet must have struck high on one of the
wagons and been deflected down into the rifle pit. It was just an
accident, they said, and that except for such accidents we were safe
where we were.
When I looked again Silas Dunlap was dead, and I suffered distinct
disappointment in being cheated out of witnessing that particular
event. I had never been lucky enough to see a man actually die
before my eyes.
Dorothy Castleton got hysterics over what had happened, and yelled
and screamed for a long time and she set Mrs. Hastings going again.
Altogether such a row was raised that father sent Watt Cummings
crawling back to us to find out what was the matter.
Well along into twilight the heavy firing ceased, although there
were scattering shots during the night. Two of our men were wounded
in this second attack, and were brought into the rifle pit. Bill
Tyler was killed instantly, and they buried him, Silas Dunlap, and
the Castleton baby, in the dark alongside of the others.
All during the night men relieved one another at sinking the well
deeper; but the only sign of water they got was damp sand. Some of
the men fetched a few pails of water from the spring, but were fired
upon, and they gave it up when Jeremy Hopkins had his left hand shot
off at the wrist.
Next morning, the third day, it was hotter and dryer than ever. We
awoke thirsty, and there was no cooking. So dry were our mouths
that we could not eat. I tried a piece of stale bread mother gave
me, but had to give it up. The firing rose and fell. Sometimes
there were hundreds shooting into the camp. At other times came
lulls in which not a shot was fired. Father was continually
cautioning our men not to waste shots because we were running short
And all the time the men went on digging the well. It was so deep
that they were hoisting the sand up in buckets. The men who hoisted
were exposed, and one of them was wounded in the shoulder. He was
Peter Bromley, who drove oxen for the Bloodgood wagon, and he was
engaged to marry Jane Bloodgood. She jumped out of the rifle pit
and ran right to him while the bullets were flying and led him back
into shelter. About midday the well caved in, and there was lively
work digging out the couple who were buried in the sand. Amos
Wentworth did not come to for an hour. After that they timbered the
well with bottom boards from the wagons and wagon tongues, and the
digging went on. But all they could get, and they were twenty feet
down, was damp sand. The water would not seep.
By this time the conditions in the rifle pit were terrible. The
children were complaining for water, and the babies, hoarse from
much crying, went on crying. Robert Carr, another wounded man, lay
about ten feet from mother and me. He was out of his head, and kept
thrashing his arms about and calling for water. And some of the
women were almost as bad, and kept raving against the Mormons and
Indians. Some of the women prayed a great deal, and the three grown
Demdike sisters, with their mother, sang gospel hymns. Other women
got damp sand that was hoisted out of the bottom of the well, and
packed it against the bare bodies of the babies to try to cool and
The two Fairfax brothers couldn't stand it any longer, and, with
pails in their hands, crawled out under a wagon and made a dash for
the spring. Giles never got half way, when he went down. Roger
made it there and back without being hit. He brought two pails
part-full, for some splashed out when he ran. Giles crawled back,
and when they helped him into the rifle pit he was bleeding at the
mouth and coughing.
Two part-pails of water could not go far among over a hundred of us,
not counting the, men. Only the babies, and the very little
children, and the wounded men, got any. I did not get a sip,
although mother dipped a bit of cloth into the several spoonfuls she
got for the baby and wiped my mouth out. She did not even do that
for herself, for she left me the bit of damp rag to chew.
The situation grew unspeakably worse in the afternoon. The quiet
sun blazed down through the clear windless air and made a furnace of
our hole in the sand. And all about us were the explosions of
rifles and yells of the Indians. Only once in a while did father
permit a single shot from the trench, and at that only by our best
marksmen, such as Laban and Timothy Grant. But a steady stream of
lead poured into our position all the time. There were no more
disastrous ricochets, however; and our men in the trench, no longer
firing, lay low and escaped damage. Only four were wounded, and
only one of them very badly.
Father came in from the trench during a lull in the firing. He sat
for a few minutes alongside mother and me without speaking. He
seemed to be listening to all the moaning and crying for water that
was going up. Once he climbed out of the rifle pit and went over to
investigate the well. He brought back only damp sand, which he
plastered thick on the chest and shoulders of Robert Carr. Then he
went to where Jed Dunham and his mother were, and sent for Jed's
father to come in from the trench. So closely packed were we that
when anybody moved about inside the rifle pit he had to crawl
carefully over the bodies of those lying down.
After a time father came crawling back to us.
"Jesse, he asked, "are you afraid of the Indians?"
I shook my head emphatically, guessing that I was to be seat on
another proud mission.
"Are you afraid of the damned Mormons?"
"Not of any damned Mormon," I answered, taking advantage of the
opportunity to curse our enemies without fear of the avenging back
of mother's hand.
I noted the little smile that curled his tired lips for the moment
when he heard my reply.
"Well, then, Jesse," he said, "will you go with Jed to the spring
I was all eagerness.
"We're going to dress the two of you up as girls," he continued, "so
that maybe they won't fire on you."
I insisted on going as I was, as a male human that wore pants; but I
surrendered quickly enough when father suggested that he would find
some other boy to dress up and go along with Jed.
A chest was fetched in from the Chattox wagon. The Chattox girls
were twins and of about a size with Jed and me. Several of the
women got around to help. They were the Sunday dresses of the
Chattox twins, and had come in the chest all the way from Arkansas.
In her anxiety mother left the baby with Sarah Dunlap, and came as
far as the trench with me. There, under a wagon and behind the
little breast-work of sand, Jed and I received our last
instructions. Then we crawled out and stood up in the open. We
were dressed precisely alike--white stockings, white dresses, with
big blue sashes, and white sunbonnets. Jed's right and my left hand
were clasped together. In each of our free hands we carried two
"Take it easy," father cautioned, as we began our advance. "Go
slow. Walk like girls."
Not a shot was fired. We made the spring safely, filled our pails,
and lay down and took a good drink ourselves. With a full pail in
each hand we made the return trip. And still not a shot was fired.
I cannot remember how many journeys we made--fully fifteen or
twenty. We walked slowly, always going out with hands clasped,
always coming back slowly with four pails of water. It was
astonishing how thirsty we were. We lay down several times and took
But it was too much for our enemies. I cannot imagine that the
Indians would have withheld their fire for so long, girls or no
girls, had they not obeyed instructions from the whites who were
with them. At any rate Jed and I were just starting on another trip
when a rifle went off from the Indian hill, and then another.
"Come back!" mother cried out.
I looked at Jed, and found him looking at me. I knew he was
stubborn and had made up his mind to be the last one in. So I
started to advance, and at the same instant he started.
"You!--Jesse!" cried my mother. And there was more than a smacking
in the way she said it.
Jed offered to clasp hands, but I shook my head.
"Run for it," I said.
And while we hotfooted it across the sand it seemed all the rifles
on Indian hill were turned loose on us. I got to the spring a
little ahead, so that Jed had to wait for me to fill my pails.
"Now run for it," he told me; and from the leisurely way he went
about filling his own pails I knew he was determined to be in last.
So I crouched down, and, while I waited, watched the puffs of dust
raised by the bullets. We began the return side by side and
"Not so fast," I cautioned him, "or you'll spill half the water."
That stung him, and he slacked back perceptibly. Midway I stumbled
and fell headlong. A bullet, striking directly in front of me,
filled my eyes with sand. For the moment I thought I was shot.
"Done it a-purpose," Jed sneered as I scrambled to my feet. He had
stood and waited for me.
I caught his idea. He thought I had fallen deliberately in order to
spill my water and go back for more. This rivalry between us was a
serious matter--so serious, indeed, that I immediately took
advantage of what he had imputed and raced back to the spring. And
Jed Dunham, scornful of the bullets that were puffing dust all
around him, stood there upright in the open and waited for me. We
came in side by side, with honours even in our boys' foolhardiness.
But when we delivered the water Jed had only one pailful. A bullet
had gone through the other pail close to the bottom.
Mother took it out on me with a lecture on disobedience. She must
have known, after what I had done, that father wouldn't let her
smack me; for, while she was lecturing, father winked at me across
her shoulder. It was the first time he had ever winked at me.
Back in the rifle pit Jed and I were heroes. The women wept and
blessed us, and kissed us and mauled us. And I confess I was proud
of the demonstration, although, like Jed, I let on that I did not
like all such making-over. But Jeremy Hopkins, a great bandage
about the stump of his left wrist, said we were the stuff white men
were made out of--men like Daniel Boone, like Kit Carson, and Davy
Crockett. I was prouder of that than all the rest.
The remainder of the day I seem to have been bothered principally
with the pain of my right eye caused by the sand that had been
kicked into it by the bullet. The eye was bloodshot, mother said;
and to me it seemed to hurt just as much whether I kept it open or
closed. I tried both ways.
Things were quieter in the rifle pit, because all had had water,
though strong upon us was the problem of how the next water was to
be procured. Coupled with this was the known fact that our
ammunition was almost exhausted. A thorough overhauling of the
wagons by father had resulted in finding five pounds of powder. A
very little more was in the flasks of the men.
I remembered the sundown attack of the night before, and anticipated
it this time by crawling to the trench before sunset. I crept into
a place alongside of Laban. He was busy chewing tobacco, and did
not notice me. For some time I watched him, fearing that when he
discovered me he would order me back. He would take a long squint
out between the wagon wheels, chew steadily a while, and then spit
carefully into a little depression he had made in the sand.
"How's tricks?" I asked finally. It was the way he always addressed
"Fine," he answered. "Most remarkable fine, Jesse, now that I can
chew again. My mouth was that dry that I couldn't chew from sun-up
to when you brung the water."
Here a man showed head and shoulders over the top of the little hill
to the north-east occupied by the whites. Laban sighted his rifle
on him for a long minute. Then he shook his head.
"Four hundred yards. Nope, I don't risk it. I might get him, and
then again I mightn't, an' your dad is mighty anxious about the
"What do you think our chances are?" I asked, man-fashion, for,
after my water exploit, I was feeling very much the man.
Laban seemed to consider carefully for a space ere he replied.
"Jesse, I don't mind tellin' you we're in a damned bad hole. But
we'll get out, oh, we'll get out, you can bet your bottom dollar."
"Some of us ain't going to get out," I objected.
"Who, for instance?" he queried.
"Why, Bill Tyler, and Mrs. Grant, and Silas Dunlap, and all the
"Aw, shucks, Jesse--they're in the ground already. Don't you know
everybody has to bury their dead as they traipse along? They've ben
doin' it for thousands of years I reckon, and there's just as many
alive as ever they was. You see, Jesse, birth and death go hand-in-
hand. And they're born as fast as they die--faster, I reckon,
because they've increased and multiplied. Now you, you might a-got
killed this afternoon packin' water. But you're here, ain't you, a-
gassin' with me an' likely to grow up an' be the father of a fine
large family in Californy. They say everything grows large in
This cheerful way of looking at the matter encouraged me to dare
sudden expression of a long covetousness.
"Say, Laban, supposin' you got killed here--"
"Who?--me?" he cried.
"I'm just sayin' supposin'," I explained.
"Oh, all right then. Go on. Supposin' I am killed?"
"Will you give me your scalps?"
"Your ma'll smack you if she catches you a-wearin' them," he
"I don't have to wear them when she's around. Now if you got
killed, Laban, somebody'd have to get them scalps. Why not me?"
"Why not?" he repeated. "That's correct, and why not you? All
right, Jesse. I like you, and your pa. The minute I'm killed the
scalps is yourn, and the scalpin' knife, too. And there's Timothy
Grant for witness. Did you hear, Timothy?"
Timothy said he had heard, and I lay there speechless in the
stifling trench, too overcome by my greatness of good fortune to be
able to utter a word of gratitude.
I was rewarded for my foresight in going to the trench. Another
general attack was made at sundown, and thousands of shots were
fired into us. Nobody on our side was scratched. On the other
hand, although we fired barely thirty shots, I saw Laban and Timothy
Grant each get an Indian. Laban told me that from the first only
the Indians had done the shooting. He was certain that no white had
fired a shot. All of which sorely puzzled him. The whites neither
offered us aid nor attacked us, and all the while were on visiting
terms with the Indians who were attacking us.
Next morning found the thirst harsh upon us. I was out at the first
hint of light. There had been a heavy dew, and men, women, and
children were lapping it up with their tongues from off the wagon-
tongues, brake-blocks, and wheel-tyres.
There was talk that Laban had returned from a scout just before
daylight; that he had crept close to the position of the whites;
that they were already up; and that in the light of their camp-fires
he had seen them praying in a large circle. Also he reported from
what few words he caught that they were praying about us and what
was to be done with us.
"May God send them the light then," I heard one of the Demdike
sisters say to Abby Foxwell.
"And soon," said Abby Foxwell, "for I don't know what we'll do a
whole day without water, and our powder is about gone."
Nothing happened all morning. Not a shot was fired. Only the sun
blazed down through the quiet air. Our thirst grew, and soon the
babies were crying and the younger children whimpering and
complaining. At noon Will Hamilton took two large pails and started
for the spring. But before he could crawl under the wagon Ann
Demdike ran and got her arms around him and tried to hold him back.
But he talked to her, and kissed her, and went on. Not a shot was
fired, nor was any fired all the time he continued to go out and
bring back water.
"Praise God!" cried old Mrs. Demdike. "It is a sign. They have
This was the opinion of many of the women.
About two o'clock, after we had eaten and felt better, a white man
appeared, carrying a white flag. Will Hamilton went out and talked
to him, came back and talked with father and the rest of our men,
and then went out to the stranger again. Farther back we could see
a man standing and looking on, whom we recognized as Lee.
With us all was excitement. The women were so relieved that they
were crying and kissing one another, and old Mrs. Demdike and others
were hallelujahing and blessing God. The proposal, which our men
had accepted, was that we would put ourselves under the flag of
truce and be protected from the Indians.
"We had to do it," I heard father tell mother.
He was sitting, droop-shouldered and dejected, on a wagon-tongue.
"But what if they intend treachery?" mother asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"We've got to take the chance that they don't," he said. "Our
ammunition is gone."
Some of our men were unchaining one of our wagons and rolling it out
of the way. I ran across to see what was happening. In came Lee
himself, followed by two empty wagons, each driven by one man.
Everybody crowded around Lee. He said that they had had a hard time
with the Indians keeping them off of us, and that Major Higbee, with
fifty of the Mormon militia, were ready to take us under their
But what made father and Laban and some of the men suspicious was
when Lee said that we must put all our rifles into one of the wagons
so as not to arouse the animosity of the Indians. By so doing we
would appear to be the prisoners of the Mormon militia.
Father straightened up and was about to refuse when he glanced to
Laban, who replied in an undertone. "They ain't no more use in our
hands than in the wagon, seein' as the powder's gone."
Two of our wounded men who could not walk were put into the wagons,
and along with them were put all the little children. Lee seemed to
be picking them out over eight and under eight. Jed and I were
large for our age, and we were nine besides; so Lee put us with the
older bunch and told us we were to march with the women on foot.
When he took our baby from mother and put it in a wagon she started
to object. Then I saw her lips draw tightly together, and she gave
in. She was a gray-eyed, strong-featured, middle-aged woman, large-
boned and fairly stout. But the long journey and hardship had told
on her, so that she was hollow-cheeked and gaunt, and like all the
women in the company she wore an expression of brooding, never-
It was when Lee described the order of march that Laban came to me.
Lee said that the women and the children that walked should go first
in the line, following behind the two wagons. Then the men, in
single file, should follow the women. When Laban heard this he came
to me, untied the scalps from his belt, and fastened them to my
"But you ain't killed yet," I protested.
"You bet your life I ain't," he answered lightly.
"I've just reformed, that's all. This scalp-wearin' is a vain thing
and heathen." He stopped a moment as if he had forgotten something,
then, as he turned abruptly on his heel to regain the men of our
company, he called over his shoulder, "Well, so long, Jesse."
I was wondering why he should say good-bye when a white man came
riding into the corral. He said Major Higbee had sent him to tell
us to hurry up, because the Indians might attack at any moment.
So the march began, the two wagons first. Lee kept along with the
women and walking children. Behind us, after waiting until we were
a couple of hundred feet in advance, came our men. As we emerged
from the corral we could see the militia just a short distance away.
They were leaning on their rifles and standing in a long line about
six feet apart. As we passed them I could not help noticing how
solemn-faced they were. They looked like men at a funeral. So did
the women notice this, and some of them began to cry.
I walked right behind my mother. I had chosen this position so that
she would not catch-sight of my scalps. Behind me came the three
Demdike sisters, two of them helping the old mother. I could hear
Lee calling all the time to the men who drove the wagons not to go
so fast. A man that one of the Demdike girls said must be Major
Higbee sat on a horse watching us go by. Not an Indian was in
By the time our men were just abreast of the militia--I had just
looked back to try to see where Jed Dunham was--the thing happened.
I heard Major Higbee cry out in a loud voice, "Do your duty!" All
the rifles of the militia seemed to go off at once, and our men were
falling over and sinking down. All the Demdike women went down at
one time. I turned quickly to see how mother was, and she was down.
Right alongside of us, out of the bushes, came hundreds of Indians,
all shooting. I saw the two Dunlap sisters start on the run across
the sand, and took after them, for whites and Indians were all
killing us. And as I ran I saw the driver of one of the wagons
shooting the two wounded men. The horses of the other wagon were
plunging and rearing and their driver was trying to hold them.
It was when the little boy that was I was running after the Dunlap
girls that blackness came upon him. All memory there ceases, for
Jesse Fancher there ceased, and, as Jesse Fancher, ceased for ever.
The form that was Jesse Fancher, the body that was his, being matter
and apparitional, like an apparition passed and was not. But the
imperishable spirit did not cease. It continued to exist, and, in
its next incarnation, became the residing spirit of that
apparitional body known as Darrell Standing's which soon is to be
taken out and hanged and sent into the nothingness whither all
There is a lifer here in Folsom, Matthew Davies, of old pioneer
stock, who is trusty of the scaffold and execution chamber. He is
an old man, and his folks crossed the plains in the early days. I
have talked with him, and he has verified the massacre in which
Jesse Fancher was killed. When this old lifer was a child there was
much talk in his family of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The
children in the wagons, he said, were saved, because they were too
young to tell tales.
All of which I submit. Never, in my life of Darrell Standing, have
I read a line or heard a word spoken of the Fancher Company that
perished at Mountain Meadows. Yet, in the jacket in San Quentin
prison, all this knowledge came to me. I could not create this
knowledge out of nothing, any more than could I create dynamite out
of nothing. This knowledge and these facts I have related have but
one explanation. They are out of the spirit content of me--the
spirit that, unlike matter, does not perish.
In closing this chapter I must state that Matthew Davies also told
me that some years after the massacre Lee was taken by United States
Government officials to the Mountain Meadows and there executed on
the site of our old corral.
When, at the conclusion of my first ten days' term in the jacket, I
was brought back to consciousness by Doctor Jackson's thumb pressing
open an eyelid, I opened both eyes and smiled up into the face of
"Too cussed to live and too mean to die," was his comment.
"The ten days are up, Warden," I whispered.
"Well, we're going to unlace you," he growled.
"It is not that," I said. "You observed my smile. You remember we
had a little wager. Don't bother to unlace me first. Just give the
Bull Durham and cigarette papers to Morrell and Oppenheimer. And
for full measure here's another smile."
"Oh, I know your kind, Standing," the Warden lectured. "But it
won't get you anything. If I don't break you, you'll break all
"He's broken them already," Doctor Jackson said. "Who ever heard of
a man smiling after ten days of it?"
"Well and bluff," Warden Atherton answered. "Unlace him, Hutchins."
"Why such haste?" I queried, in a whisper, of course, for so low had
life ebbed in me that it required all the little strength I
possessed and all the will of me to be able to whisper even. "Why
such haste? I don't have to catch a train, and I am so confounded
comfortable as I am that I prefer not to be disturbed."
But unlace me they did, rolling me out of the fetid jacket and upon
the floor, an inert, helpless thing.
"No wonder he was comfortable," said Captain Jamie. "He didn't feel
anything. He's paralysed."
"Paralysed your grandmother," sneered the Warden. "Get him up on
his feat and you'll see him stand."
Hutchins and the doctor dragged me to my feet.
"Now let go!" the Warden commanded.
Not all at once could life return into the body that had been
practically dead for ten days, and as a result, with no power as yet
over my flesh, I gave at the knees, crumpled, pitched sidewise, and
gashed my forehead against the wall.
"You see," said Captain Jamie.
"Good acting," retorted the Warden. "That man's got nerve to do
"You're right, Warden," I whispered from the floor. "I did it on
purpose. It was a stage fall. Lift me up again, and I'll repeat
it. I promise you lots of fun."
I shall not dwell upon the agony of returning circulation. It was
to become an old story with me, and it bore its share in cutting the
lines in my face that I shall carry to the scaffold.
When they finally left me I lay for the rest of the day stupid and
half-comatose. There is such a thing as anaesthesia of pain,
engendered by pain too exquisite to be borne. And I have known that
By evening I was able to crawl about my cell, but not yet could I
stand up. I drank much water, and cleansed myself as well as I
could; but not until next day could I bring myself to eat, and then
only by deliberate force of my will.
The program me, as given me by Warden Atherton, was that I was to
rest up and recuperate for a few days, and then, if in the meantime
I had not confessed to the hiding-place of the dynamite, I should be
given another ten days in the jacket.
"Sorry to cause you so much trouble, Warden," I had said in reply.
"It's a pity I don't die in the jacket and so put you out of your
At this time I doubt that I weighed an ounce over ninety pounds.
Yet, two years before, when the doors of San Quentin first closed on
me, I had weighed one hundred and sixty-five pounds. It seems
incredible that there was another ounce I could part with and still
live. Yet in the months that followed, ounce by ounce I was reduced
until I know I must have weighed nearer eighty than ninety pounds.
I do know, after I managed my escape from solitary and struck the
guard Thurston on the nose, that before they took me to San Rafael
for trial, while I was being cleaned and shaved I weighed eighty-
There are those who wonder how men grow hard. Warden Atherton was a
hard man. He made me hard, and my very hardness reacted on him and
made him harder. And yet he never succeeded in killing me. It
required the state law of California, a hanging judge, and an
unpardoning governor to send me to the scaffold for striking a
prison guard with my fist. I shall always contend that that guard
had a nose most easily bleedable. I was a bat-eyed, tottery
skeleton at the time. I sometimes wonder if his nose really did
bleed. Of course he swore it did, on the witness stand. But I have
known prison guards take oath to worse perjuries than that.
Ed Morrell was eager to know if I had succeeded with the experiment;
but when he attempted to talk with me he was shut up by Smith, the
guard who happened to be on duty in solitary.
"That's all right, Ed," I rapped to him. "You and Jake keep quiet,
and I'll tell you about it. Smith can't prevent you from listening,
and he can't prevent me from talking. They have done their worst,
and I am still here."
"Cut that out, Standing!" Smith bellowed at me from the corridor on
which all the cells opened.
Smith was a peculiarly saturnine individual, by far the most cruel
and vindictive of our guards. We used to canvass whether his wife
bullied him or whether he had chronic indigestion.
I continued rapping with my knuckles, and he came to the wicket to
glare in at me.
"I told you to out that out," he snarled.
"Sorry," I said suavely. "But I have a sort of premonition that I
shall go right on rapping. And--er--excuse me for asking a personal
question--what are you going to do about it?"
"I'll--" he began explosively, proving, by his inability to conclude
the remark, that he thought in henids.
"Yes?" I encouraged. "Just what, pray?"
"I'll have the Warden here," he said lamely.
"Do, please. A most charming gentleman, to be sure. A shining
example of the refining influences that are creeping into our
prisons. Bring him to me at once. I wish to report you to him."
"Yes, just precisely you," I continued. "You persist, in a rude and
boorish manner, in interrupting my conversation with the other
guests in this hostelry."
And Warden Atherton came. The door was unlocked, and he blustered
into my cell. But oh, I was so safe! He had done his worst. I was
beyond his power.
"I'll shut off your grub," he threatened.
"As you please," I answered. "I'm used to it. I haven't eaten for
ten days, and, do you know, trying to begin to eat again is a
"Oh, ho, you're threatening me, are you? A hunger strike, eh?"
"Pardon me," I said, my voice sulky with politeness. "The
proposition was yours, not mine. Do try and be logical on occasion.
I trust you will believe me when I tell you that your illogic is far
more painful for me to endure than all your tortures."
"Are you going to stop your knuckle-talking?" he demanded.
"No; forgive me for vexing you--for I feel so strong a compulsion to
talk with my knuckles that--"
"For two cents I'll put you back in the jacket," he broke in.
"Do, please. I dote on the jacket. I am the jacket baby. I get
fat in the jacket. Look at that arm." I pulled up my sleeve and
showed a biceps so attenuated that when I flexed it it had the
appearance of a string. "A real blacksmith's biceps, eh, Warden?
Cast your eyes on my swelling chest. Sandow had better look out for
his laurels. And my abdomen--why, man, I am growing so stout that
my case will be a scandal of prison overfeeding. Watch out, Warden,
or you'll have the taxpayers after you."
"Are you going to stop knuckle-talk?" he roared.
"No, thanking you for your kind solicitude. On mature deliberation
I have decided that I shall keep on knuckle-talking."
He stared at me speechlessly for a moment, and then, out of sheer
impotency, turned to go.
"One question, please."
"What is it?" he demanded over his shoulder.
"What are you going to do about it?"
From the choleric exhibition he gave there and then it has been an
unceasing wonder with me to this day that he has not long since died
Hour by hour, after the warden's discomfited departure, I rapped on
and on the tale of my adventures. Not until that night, when Pie-
Face Jones came on duty and proceeded to steal his customary naps,
were Morrell and Oppenheimer able to do any talking.
"Pipe dreams," Oppenheimer rapped his verdict.
Yes, was my thought; our experiences ARE the stuff of our dreams.
"When I was a night messenger I hit the hop once," Oppenheimer
continued. "And I want to tell you you haven't anything on me when
it came to seeing things. I guess that is what all the novel-
writers do--hit the hop so as to throw their imagination into the
But Ed Morrell, who had travelled the same road as I, although with
different results, believed my tale. He said that when his body
died in the jacket, and he himself went forth from prison, he was
never anybody but Ed Morrell. He never experienced previous
existences. When his spirit wandered free, it wandered always in
the present. As he told us, just as he was able to leave his body
and gaze upon it lying in the jacket on the cell floor, so could he
leave the prison, and, in the present, revisit San Francisco and see
what was occurring. In this manner he had visited his mother twice,
both times finding her asleep. In this spirit-roving he said he had
no power over material things. He could not open or close a door,
move any object, make a noise, nor manifest his presence. On the
other hand, material things had no power over him. Walls and doors
were not obstacles. The entity, or the real thing that was he, was
"The grocery store on the corner, half a block from where mother
lived, changed hands," he told us. "I knew it by the different sign
over the place. I had to wait six months after that before I could
write my first letter, but when I did I asked mother about it. And
she said yes, it had changed."
"Did you read that grocery sign?" Jake Oppenheimer asked.
"Sure thing I did," was Morrell's response. "Or how could I have
"All right," rapped Oppenheimer the unbelieving. "You can prove it
easy. Some time, when they shift some decent guards on us that will
give us a peep at a newspaper, you get yourself thrown into the
jacket, climb out of your body, and sashay down to little old
'Frisco. Slide up to Third and Market just about two or three a.m.
when they are running the morning papers off the press. Read the
latest news. Then make a swift sneak for San Quentin, get here
before the newspaper tug crosses the bay, and tell me what you read.
Then we'll wait and get a morning paper, when it comes in, from a
guard. Then, if what you told me is in that paper, I am with you to
It was a good test. I could not but agree with Oppenheimer that
such a proof would be absolute. Morrell said he would take it up
some time, but that he disliked to such an extent the process of
leaving 'his body that he would not make the attempt until such time
that his suffering in the jacket became too extreme to be borne.
"That is the way with all of them--won't come across with the
goods," was Oppenheimer's criticism. "My mother believed in
spirits. When I was a kid she was always seeing them and talking
with them and getting advice from them. But she never come across
with any goods from them. The spirits couldn't tell her where the
old man could nail a job or find a gold-mine or mark an eight-spot
in Chinese lottery. Not on your life. The bunk they told her was
that the old man's uncle had had a goitre, or that the old man's
grandfather had died of galloping consumption, or that we were going
to move house inside four months, which last was dead easy, seeing
as we moved on an average of six times a year."
I think, had Oppenheimer had the opportunity for thorough education,
he would have made a Marinetti or a Haeckel. He was an earth-man in
his devotion to the irrefragable fact, and his logic was admirable
though frosty. "You've got to show me," was the ground rule by
which he considered all things. He lacked the slightest iota of
faith. This was what Morrell had pointed out. Lack of faith had
prevented Oppenheimer from succeeding in achieving the little death
in the jacket.
You will see, my reader, that it was not all hopelessly bad in
solitary. Given three minds such as ours, there was much with which
to while away the time. It might well be that we kept one another
from insanity, although I must admit that Oppenheimer rotted five
years in solitary entirely by himself, ere Morrell joined him, and
yet had remained sane.
On the other hand, do not make the mistake of thinking that life in
solitary was one wild orgy of blithe communion and exhilarating
We had much and terrible pain. Our guards were brutes--your hang-
dogs, citizen. Our surroundings were vile. Our food was filthy,
monotonous, innutritious. Only men, by force of will, could live on
so unbalanced a ration. I know that our prize cattle, pigs, and
sheep on the University Demonstration Farm at Davis would have faded
away and died had they received no more scientifically balanced a
ration than what we received.
We had no books to read. Our very knuckle-talk was a violation of
the rules. The world, so far as we were concerned, practically did
not exist. It was more a ghost-world. Oppenheimer, for instance,
had never seen an automobile or a motor-cycle. News did
occasionally filter in--but such dim, long-after-the-event, unreal
news. Oppenheimer told me he had not learned of the Russo-Japanese
war until two years after it was over.
We were the buried alive, the living dead. Solitary was our tomb,
in which, on occasion, we talked with our knuckles like spirits
rapping at a seance.
News? Such little things were news to us. A change of bakers--we
could tell it by our bread. What made Pie-face Jones lay off a
week? Was it vacation or sickness? Why was Wilson, on the night
shift for only ten days, transferred elsewhere? Where did Smith get
that black eye? We would speculate for a week over so trivial a
thing as the last.
Some convict given a month in solitary was an event. And yet we
could learn nothing from such transient and ofttimes stupid Dantes
who would remain in our inferno too short a time to learn knuckle-
talk ere they went forth again into the bright wide world of the
Still, again, all was not so trivial in our abode of shadows. As
example, I taught Oppenheimer to play chess. Consider how
tremendous such an achievement is--to teach a man, thirteen cells
away, by means of knuckle-raps; to teach him to visualize a
chessboard, to visualize all the pieces, pawns and positions, to
know the various manners of moving; and to teach him it all so
thoroughly that he and I, by pure visualization, were in the end
able to play entire games of chess in our minds. In the end, did I
say? Another tribute to the magnificence of Oppenheimer's mind: in
the end he became my master at the game--he who had never seen a
chessman in his life.
What image of a bishop, for instance, could possibly form in his
mind when I rapped our code-sign for BISHOP? In vain and often I
asked him this very question. In vain he tried to describe in words
that mental image of something he had never seen but which
nevertheless he was able to handle in such masterly fashion as to
bring confusion upon me countless times in the course of play.
I can only contemplate such exhibitions of will and spirit and
conclude, as I so often conclude, that precisely there resides
reality. The spirit only is real. The flesh is phantasmagoria and
apparitional. I ask you how--I repeat, I ask you HOW matter or
flesh in any form can play chess on an imaginary board with
imaginary pieces, across a vacuum of thirteen cell spanned only with
I was once Adam Strang, an Englishman. The period of my living, as
near as I can guess it, was somewhere between 1550 and 1650, and I
lived to a ripe old age, as you shall see. It has been a great
regret to me, ever since Ed Morrell taught me the way of the little
death, that I had not been a more thorough student of history. I
should have been able to identity and place much that is obscure to
me. As it is, I am compelled to grope and guess my way to times and
places of my earlier existences.
A peculiar thing about my Adam Strang existence is that I recollect
so little of the first thirty years of it. Many times, in the
jacket, has Adam Strang recrudesced, but always he springs into
being full-statured, heavy-thewed, a full thirty years of age.
I, Adam Strang, invariably assume my consciousness on a group of
low, sandy islands somewhere under the equator in what must be the
western Pacific Ocean. I am always at home there, and seem to have
been there some time. There are thousands of people on these
islands, although I am the only white man. The natives are a
magnificent breed, big-muscled, broad-shouldered, tall. A six-foot
man is a commonplace. The king, Raa Kook, is at least six inches
above six feet, and though he would weigh fully three hundred
pounds, is so equitably proportioned that one could not call him
fat. Many of his chiefs are as large, while the women are not much
smaller than the men.
There are numerous islands in the group, over all of which Raa Kook
is king, although the cluster of islands to the south is restive and
occasionally in revolt. These natives with whom I live are
Polynesian, I know, because their hair is straight and black. Their
skin is a sun-warm golden-brown. Their speech, which I speak
uncommonly easy, is round and rich and musical, possessing a paucity
of consonants, being composed principally of vowels. They love
flowers, music, dancing, and games, and are childishly simple and
happy in their amusements, though cruelly savage in their angers and
I, Adam Strang, know my past, but do not seem to think much about
it. I live in the present. I brood neither over past nor future.
I am careless, improvident, uncautious, happy out of sheer well-
being and overplus of physical energy. Fish, fruits, vegetables,
and seaweed--a full stomach--and I am content. I am high in place
with Raa Kook, than whom none is higher, not even Abba Taak, who is
highest over the priest. No man dare lift hand or weapon to me. I
am taboo--sacred as the sacred canoe-house under the floor of which
repose the bones of heaven alone knows how many previous kings of
Raa Kook's line.
I know all about how I happened to be wrecked and be there alone of
all my ship's company--it was a great drowning and a great wind; but
I do not moon over the catastrophe. When I think back at all,
rather do I think far back to my childhood at the skirts of my milk-
skinned, flaxen-haired, buxom English mother. It is a tiny village
of a dozen straw-thatched cottages in which I lived. I hear again
blackbirds and thrushes in the hedges, and see again bluebells
spilling out from the oak woods and over the velvet turf like a
creaming of blue water. And most of all I remember a great, hairy-
fetlocked stallion, often led dancing, sidling, and nickering down
the narrow street. I was frightened of the huge beast and always
fled screaming to my mother, clutching her skirts and hiding in them
wherever I might find her.
But enough. The childhood of Adam Strang is not what I set out to
I lived for several years on the islands which are nameless to me,
and upon which I am confident I was the first white man. I was
married to Lei-Lei, the king's sister, who was a fraction over six
feet and only by that fraction topped me. I was a splendid figure
of a man, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, well-set-up. Women of any
race, as you shall see, looked on me with a favouring eye. Under my
arms, sun-shielded, my skin was milk-white as my mother's. My eyes
were blue. My moustache, beard and hair were that golden-yellow
such as one sometimes sees in paintings of the northern sea-kings.
Ay--I must have come of that old stock, long-settled in England,
and, though born in a countryside cottage, the sea still ran so salt
in my blood that I early found my way to ships to become a sea-cuny.
That is what I was--neither officer nor gentleman, but sea-cuny,
hard-worked, hard-bitten, hard-enduring.
I was of value to Raa Kook, hence his royal protection. I could
work in iron, and our wrecked ship had brought the first iron to Raa
Kook's land. On occasion, ten leagues to the north-west, we went in
canoes to get iron from the wreck. The hull had slipped off the
reef and lay in fifteen fathoms. And in fifteen fathoms we brought
up the iron. Wonderful divers and workers under water were these
natives. I learned to do my fifteen fathoms, but never could I
equal them in their fishy exploits. On the land, by virtue of my
English training and my strength, I could throw any of them. Also,
I taught them quarter-staff, until the game became a very contagion
and broken heads anything but novelties.
Brought up from the wreck was a journal, so torn and mushed and
pulped by the sea-water, with ink so run about, that scarcely any of
it was decipherable. However, in the hope that some antiquarian
scholar may be able to place more definitely the date of the events
I shall describe, I here give an extract. The peculiar spelling may
give the clue. Note that while the letter S is used, it more
commonly is replaced by the letter F.
The wind being favourable, gave us an opportunity of examining and
drying some of our provifion, particularly, fome Chinefe hams and
dry filh, which conftituted part of our victualling. Divine service
alfo was performed on deck. In the afternoon the wind was
foutherly, with frefh gales, but dry, fo that we were able the
following morning to clean between decks, and alfo to fumigate the
fhip with gunpowder.
But I must hasten, for my narrative is not of Adam Strang the
shipwrecked sea-cuny on a coral isle, but of Adam Strang, later
named Yi Yong-ik, the Mighty One, who was one time favourite of the
powerful Yunsan, who was lover and husband of the Lady Om of the
princely house of Min, and who was long time beggar and pariah in
all the villages of all the coasts and roads of Cho-Sen. (Ah, ha, I
have you there--Cho-Sen. It means the land of the morning calm. In
modern speech it is called Korea.)
Remember, it was between three and four centuries back that I lived,
the first white man, on the coral isles of Raa Kook. In those
waters, at that time, the keels of ships were rare. I might well
have lived out my days there, in peace and fatness, under the sun
where frost was not, had it not been for the Sparwehr. The Sparwehr
was a Dutch merchantman daring the uncharted seas for Indies beyond
the Indies. And she found me instead, and I was all she found.
Have I not said that I was a gay-hearted, golden, bearded giant of
an irresponsible boy that had never grown up? With scarce a pang,
when the Sparwehrs' water-casks were filled, I left Raa Kook and his
pleasant land, left Lei-Lei and all her flower-garlanded sisters,
and with laughter on my lips and familiar ship-smells sweet in my
nostrils, sailed away, sea-cuny once more, under Captain Johannes
A marvellous wandering, that which followed on the old Sparwehr. We
were in quest of new lands of silk and spices. In truth, we found
fevers, violent deaths, pestilential paradises where death and
beauty kept charnel-house together. That old Johannes Maartens,
with no hint of romance in that stolid face and grizzly square head
of his, sought the islands of Solomon, the mines of Golconda--ay, he
sought old lost Atlantis which he hoped to find still afloat
unscuppered. And he found head-hunting, tree-dwelling anthropophagi
We landed on strange islands, sea-pounded on their shores and
smoking at their summits, where kinky-haired little animal-men made
monkey-wailings in the jungle, planted their forest run-ways with
thorns and stake-pits, and blew poisoned splinters into us from out
the twilight jungle bush. And whatsoever man of us was wasp-stung
by such a splinter died horribly and howling. And we encountered
other men, fiercer, bigger, who faced us on the beaches in open
fight, showering us with spears and arrows, while the great tree
drums and the little tom-toms rumbled and rattled war across the
tree-filled hollows, and all the hills were pillared with signal-
Hendrik Hamel was supercargo and part owner of the Sparwehr
adventure, and what he did not own was the property of Captain
Johannes Maartens. The latter spoke little English, Hendrik Hamel
but little more. The sailors, with whom I gathered, spoke Dutch
only. But trust a sea-cuny to learn Dutch--ay, and Korean, as you
Toward the end we came to the charted country of Japan. But the
people would have no dealings with us, and two sworded officials, in
sweeping robes of silk that made Captain Johannes Maartens' mouth
water, came aboard of us and politely requested us to begone. Under
their suave manners was the iron of a warlike race, and we knew, and
went our way.
We crossed the Straits of Japan and were entering the Yellow Sea on
our way to China, when we laid the Sparwehr on the rocks. She was a
crazy tub the old Sparwehr, so clumsy and so dirty with whiskered
marine-life on her bottom that she could not get out of her own way.
Close-hauled, the closest she could come was to six points of the
wind; and then she bobbed up and down, without way, like a derelict
turnip. Galliots were clippers compared with her. To tack her
about was undreamed of; to wear her required all hands and half a
watch. So situated, we were caught on a lee shore in an eight-point
shift of wind at the height of a hurricane that had beaten our souls
sick for forty-eight hours.
We drifted in upon the land in the chill light of a stormy dawn
across a heartless cross-sea mountain high. It was dead of winter,
and between smoking snow-squalls we could glimpse the forbidding
coast, if coast it might be called, so broken was it. There were
grim rock isles and islets beyond counting, dim snow-covered ranges
beyond, and everywhere upstanding cliffs too steep for snow, outjuts
of headlands, and pinnacles and slivers of rock upthrust from the
There was no name to this country on which we drove, no record of it
ever having been visited by navigators. Its coast-line was only
hinted at in our chart. From all of which we could argue that the
inhabitants were as inhospitable as the little of their land we
The Sparwehr drove in bow-on upon a cliff. There was deep water to
its sheer foot, so that our sky-aspiring bowsprit crumpled at the
impact and snapped short off. The foremast went by the board, with
a great snapping of rope-shrouds and stays, and fell forward against
I have always admired old Johannes Maartens. Washed and rolled off
the high poop by a burst of sea, we were left stranded in the waist
of the ship, whence we fought our way for'ard to the steep-pitched
forecastle-head. Others joined us. We lashed ourselves fast and
counted noses. We were eighteen. The rest had perished.
Johannes Maartens touched me and pointed upward through cascading
salt-water from the back-fling of the cliff. I saw what he desired.
Twenty feet below the truck the foremast ground and crunched against
a boss of the cliff. Above the boss was a cleft. He wanted to know
if I would dare the leap from the mast-head into the cleft.
Sometimes the distance was a scant six feet. At other times it was
a score, for the mast reeled drunkenly to the rolling and pounding
of the hull on which rested its splintered butt.
I began the climb. But they did not wait. One by one they unlashed
themselves and followed me up the perilous mast. There was reason
for haste, for at any moment the Sparwehr might slip off into deep
water. I timed my leap, and made it, landing in the cleft in a
scramble and ready to lend a hand to those who leaped after. It was
slow work. We were wet and half freezing in the wind-drive.
Besides, the leaps had to be timed to the roll of the hull and the
sway of the mast.
The cook was the first to go. He was snapped off the mast-end, and
his body performed cart-wheels in its fall. A fling of sea caught
him and crushed him to a pulp against the cliff. The cabin boy, a
bearded man of twenty-odd, lost hold, slipped, swung around the
mast, and was pinched against the boss of rock. Pinched? The life
squeezed from him on the instant. Two others followed the way of
the cook. Captain Johannes Maartens was the last, completing the
fourteen of us that clung on in the cleft. An hour afterward the
Sparwehr slipped off and sank in deep water.
Two days and nights saw us near to perishing on that cliff, for
there was way neither up nor down. The third morning a fishing-boat
found us. The men were clad entirely in dirt white, with their long
hair done up in a curious knot on their pates--the marriage knot, as
I was afterward to learn, and also, as I was to learn, a handy thing
to clutch hold of with one hand whilst you clouted with the other
when an argument went beyond words.
The boat went back to the village for help, and most of the
villagers, most of their gear, and most of the day were required to
get us down. They were a poor and wretched folk, their food
difficult even for the stomach of a sea-cuny to countenance. Their
rice was brown as chocolate. Half the husks remained in it, along
with bits of chaff, splinters, and unidentifiable dirt which made
one pause often in the chewing in order to stick into his mouth
thumb and forefinger and pluck out the offending stuff. Also, they
ate a sort of millet, and pickles of astounding variety and ungodly
Their houses were earthen-walled and straw-thatched. Under the
floors ran flues through which the kitchen smoke escaped, warming
the sleeping-room in its passage. Here we lay and rested for days,
soothing ourselves with their mild and tasteless tobacco, which we
smoked in tiny bowls at the end of yard-long pipes. Also, there was
a warm, sourish, milky-looking drink, heady only when taken in
enormous doses. After guzzling I swear gallons of it, I got singing
drunk, which is the way of sea-cunies the world over. Encouraged by
my success, the others persisted, and soon we were all a-roaring,
little reeking of the fresh snow gale piping up outside, and little
worrying that we were cast away in an uncharted, God-forgotten land.
Old Johannes Maartens laughed and trumpeted and slapped his thighs
with the best of us. Hendrik Hamel, a cold-blooded, chilly-poised
dark brunette of a Dutchman with beady black eyes, was as rarely
devilish as the rest of us, and shelled out silver like any drunken
sailor for the purchase of more of the milky brew. Our carrying-on
was a scandal; but the women fetched the drink while all the village
that could crowd in jammed the room to witness our antics.
The white man has gone around the world in mastery, I do believe,
because of his unwise uncaringness. That has been the manner of his
going, although, of course, he was driven on by restiveness and lust
for booty. So it was that Captain Johannes Maartens, Hendrik Hamel,
and the twelve sea-cunies of us roystered and bawled in the fisher
village while the winter gales whistled across the Yellow Sea.
From the little we had seen of the land and the people we were not
impressed by Cho-Sen. If these miserable fishers were a fair sample
of the natives, we could understand why the land was unvisited of
navigators. But we were to learn different. The village was on an
in-lying island, and its headmen must have sent word across to the
mainland; for one morning three big two-masted junks with lateens of
rice-matting dropped anchor off the beach.
When the sampans came ashore Captain Johannes Maartens was all
interest, for here were silks again. One strapping Korean, all in
pale-tinted silks of various colours, was surrounded by half a dozen