Part 3 out of 4
"Mrs. Duncan, won't you, please, please, restrain your
But she, white-faced and trembling, resolutely shook her head
and watched the fray with all her eyes.
"It is outrageous," Consul Lingford cried, dodging the hurtling
bodies of the two men. "It is an affront to the Government, to
the United States Government. Nor will it be overlooked, I warn
you. Oh, do pray desist, Mr. Duncan. You will kill the man. I
beg of you. I beg, I beg. . ."
But the crash of a tall vase filled with crimson hibiscus
blossoms left him speechless.
The time came when Captain Dettmar could no longer get up. He
got as far as hands and knees, struggled vainly to rise
further, then collapsed. Duncan stirred the groaning wreck with
"He's all right," he announced. "I've only given him what he
has given many a sailor and worse."
"Great heavens, sir!" Consul Lingford exploded, staring
horror-stricken at the man whom he had invited to lunch.
Duncan giggled involuntarily, then controlled himself.
"I apologize, Mr. Lingford, I most heartily apologize. I fear I
was slightly carried away by my feelings."
Consul Lingford gulped and sawed the air speechlessly with his
"Slightly, sir? Slightly?" he managed to articulate.
"Boyd," Minnie called softly from the doorway.
He turned and looked.
"You ARE a joy," she said.
"And now, Mr. Lingford, I am done with him," Duncan said. "I
turn over what is left to you and the law."
"That?" Consul Lingford queried, in accent of horror.
"That," Boyd Duncan replied, looking ruefully at his battered
HE was a young man, not more than twenty-four or five, and he
might have sat his horse with the careless grace of his youth
had he not been so catlike and tense. His black eyes roved
everywhere, catching the movements of twigs and branches where
small birds hopped, questing ever onward through the changing
vistas of trees and brush, and returning always to the clumps
of undergrowth on either side. And as he watched, so did he
listen, though he rode on in silence, save for the boom of
heavy guns from far to the west. This had been sounding
monotonously in his ears for hours, and only its cessation
could have aroused his notice. For he had business closer to
hand. Across his saddle-bow was balanced a carbine.
So tensely was he strung, that a bunch of quail, exploding into
flight from under his horse's nose, startled him to such an
extent that automatically, instantly, he had reined in and
fetched the carbine halfway to his shoulder. He grinned
sheepishly, recovered himself, and rode on. So tense was he, so
bent upon the work he had to do, that the sweat stung his eyes
unwiped, and unheeded rolled down his nose and spattered his
saddle pommel. The band of his cavalryman's hat was
fresh-stained with sweat. The roan horse under him was likewise
wet. It was high noon of a breathless day of heat. Even the
birds and squirrels did not dare the sun, but sheltered in
shady hiding places among the trees.
Man and horse were littered with leaves and dusted with yellow
pollen, for the open was ventured no more than was compulsory.
They kept to the brush and trees, and invariably the man halted
and peered out before crossing a dry glade or naked stretch of
upland pasturage. He worked always to the north, though his way
was devious, and it was from the north that he seemed most to
apprehend that for which he was looking. He was no coward, but
his courage was only that of the average civilized man, and he
was looking to live, not die.
Up a small hillside he followed a cowpath through such dense
scrub that he was forced to dismount and lead his horse. But
when the path swung around to the west, he abandoned it and
headed to the north again along the oak-covered top of the
The ridge ended in a steep descent-so steep that he zigzagged
back and forth across the face of the slope, sliding and
stumbling among the dead leaves and matted vines and keeping a
watchful eye on the horse above that threatened to fall down
upon him. The sweat ran from him, and the pollen-dust, settling
pungently in mouth and nostrils, increased his thirst. Try as
he would, nevertheless the descent was noisy, and frequently he
stopped, panting in the dry heat an d listening for any warning
At the bottom he came out on a flat, so densely forested that
he could not make out its extent. Here the character of the
woods changed, and he was able to remount. Instead of the
twisted hillside oaks, tall straight trees, big-trunked and
prosperous, rose from the damp fat soil. Only here and there
were thickets, easily avoided, while he encountered winding,
park-like glades where the cattle had pastured in the days
before war had run them off.
His progress was more rapid now, as he came down into the
valley, and at the end of half an hour he halted at an ancient
rail fence on the edge of a clearing. He did not like the
openness of it, yet his path lay across to the fringe of trees
that marked the banks of the stream. It was a mere quarter of a
mile across that open, but the thought of venturing out in it
was repugnant. A rifle, a score of them, a thousand, might lurk
in that fringe by the stream.
Twice he essayed to start, and twice he paused. He was appalled
by his own loneliness. The pulse of war that beat from the West
suggested the companionship of battling thousands; here was
naught but silence, and himself, and possible death-dealing
bullets from a myriad ambushes. And yet his task was to find
what he feared to find. He must on, and on, till somewhere,
some time, he encountered another man, or other men, from the
other side, scouting, as he was scouting, to make report, as he
must make report, of having come in touch.
Changing his mind, he skirted inside the woods for a distance,
and again peeped forth. This time, in the middle of the
clearing, he saw a small farmhouse. There were no signs of
life. No smoke curled from the chimney, not a barnyard fowl
clucked and strutted. The kitchen door stood open, and he gazed
so long and hard into the black aperture that it seemed almost
that a farmer's wife must emerge at any moment.
He licked the pollen and dust from his dry lips, stiffened
himself, mind and body, and rode out into the blazing sunshine.
Nothing stirred. He went on past the house, and approached the
wall of trees and bushes by the river's bank. One thought
persisted maddeningly. It was of the crash into his body of a
high-velocity bullet. It made him feel very fragile and
defenseless, and he crouched lower in the saddle.
Tethering his horse in the edge of the wood, he continued a
hundred yards on foot till he came to the stream. Twenty feet
wide it was, without perceptible current, cool and inviting,
and he was very thirsty. But he waited inside his screen of
leafage, his eyes fixed on the screen on the opposite side. To
make the wait endurable, he sat down, his carbine resting on
his knees. The minutes passed, and slowly his tenseness
relaxed. At last he decided there was no danger; but just as he
prepared to part the bushes and bend down to the water, a
movement among the opposite bushes caught his eye.
It might be a bird. But he waited. Again there was an agitation
of the bushes, and then, so suddenly that it almost startled a
cry from him, the bushes parted and a face peered out. It was a
face covered with several weeks' growth of ginger-colored
beard. The eyes were blue and wide apart, with
laughter-wrinkles in the comers that showed despite the tired
and anxious expression of the whole face.
All this he could see with microscopic clearness, for the
distance was no more than twenty feet. And all this he saw in
such brief time, that he saw it as he lifted his carbine to his
shoulder. He glanced along the sights, and knew that he was
gazing upon a man who was as good as dead. It was impossible to
miss at such point blank range.
But he did not shoot. Slowly he lowered the carbine and
watched. A hand, clutching a water-bottle, became visible and
the ginger beard bent downward to fill the bottle. He could
hear the gurgle of the water. Then arm and bottle and ginger
beard disappeared behind the closing bushes. A long time he
waited, when, with thirst unslaked, he crept back to his horse,
rode slowly across the sun-washed clearing, and passed into the
shelter of the woods beyond.
Another day, hot and breathless. A deserted farmhouse, large,
with many outbuildings and an orchard, standing in a clearing.
From the Woods, on a roan horse, carbine across pommel, rode
the young man with the quick black eyes. He breathed with
relief as he gained the house. That a fight had taken place
here earlier in the season was evident. Clips and empty
cartridges, tarnished with verdigris, lay on the ground, which,
while wet, had been torn up by the hoofs of horses. Hard by the
kitchen garden were graves, tagged and numbered. From the oak
tree by the kitchen door, in tattered, weatherbeaten garments,
hung the bodies of two men. The faces, shriveled and defaced,
bore no likeness to the faces of men. The roan horse snorted
beneath them, and the rider caressed and soothed it and tied it
Entering the house, he found the interior a wreck. He trod on
empty cartridges as he walked from room to room to reconnoiter
from the windows. Men had camped and slept everywhere, and on
the floor of one room he came upon stains unmistakable where
the wounded had been laid down.
Again outside, he led the horse around behind the barn and
invaded the orchard. A dozen trees were burdened with ripe
apples. He filled his pockets, eating while he picked. Then a
thought came to him, and he glanced at the sun, calculating the
time of his return to camp. He pulled off his shirt, tying the
sleeves and making a bag. This he proceeded to fill with
As he was about to mount his horse, the animal suddenly pricked
up its ears. The man, too, listened, and heard, faintly, the
thud of hoofs on soft earth. He crept to the corner of the barn
and peered out. A dozen mounted men, strung out loosely,
approaching from the opposite side of the clearing, were only a
matter of a hundred yards or so away. They rode on to the
house. Some dismounted, while others remained in the saddle as
an earnest that their stay would be short. They seemed to be
holding a council, for he could hear them talking excitedly in
the detested tongue of the alien invader. The time passed, but
they seemed unable to reach a decision. He put the carbine away
in its boot, mounted, and waited impatiently, balancing the
shirt of apples on the pommel.
He heard footsteps approaching, and drove his spurs so fiercely
into the roan as to force a surprised groan from the animal as
it leaped forward. At the comer of the barn he saw the
intruder, a mere boy of nineteen or twenty for all of his
uniform jump back to escape being run down. At the same moment
the roan swerved and its rider caught a glimpse of the aroused
men by the house. Some were springing from their horses, and he
could see the rifles going to their shoulders. He passed the
kitchen door and the dried corpses swinging in the shade,
compelling his foes to run around the front of the house. A
rifle cracked, and a second, but he was going fast, leaning
forward, low in the saddle, one hand clutching the shirt of
apples, the other guiding the horse.
The top bar of the fence was four feet high, but he knew his
roan and leaped it at full career to the accompaniment of
several scattered shots. Eight hundred yards straight away were
the woods, and the roan was covering the distance with mighty
strides. Every man was now firing. pumping their guns so
rapidly that he no longer heard individual shots. A bullet went
through his hat, but he was unaware, though he did know when
another tore through the apples on the pommel. And he winced
and ducked even lower when a third bullet, fired low, struck a
stone between his horse's legs and ricochetted off through the
air, buzzing and humming like some incredible insect.
The shots died down as the magazines were emptied, until,
quickly, there was no more shooting. The young man was elated.
Through that astonishing fusillade he had come unscathed. He
glanced back. Yes, they had emptied their magazines. He could
see several reloading. Others were running back behind the
house for their horses. As he looked, two already mounted, came
back into view around the comer, riding hard. And at the same
moment, he saw the man with the unmistakable ginger beard kneel
down on the ground, level his gun, and coolly take his time for
the long shot.
The young man threw his spurs into the horse, crouched very
low, and swerved in his flight in order to distract the other's
aim. And still the shot did not come. With each jump of the
horse, the woods sprang nearer. They were only two hundred
yards away and still the shot was delayed.
And then he heard it, the last thing he was to hear, for he was
dead ere he hit the ground in the long crashing fall from the
saddle. And they, watching at the house, saw him fall, saw his
body bounce when it struck the earth, and saw the burst of
red-cheeked apples that rolled about him. They laughed at the
unexpected eruption of apples, and clapped their hands in
applause of the long shot by the man with the ginger beard.
UNDER THE DECK AWNINGS
"CAN any man--a gentleman, I mean--call a woman a pig?"
The little man flung this challenge forth to the whole group,
then leaned back in his deck chair, sipping lemonade with an
air commingled of certitude and watchful belligerence. Nobody
made answer. They were used to the little man and his sudden
passions and high elevations.
"I repeat, it was in my presence that he said a certain lady,
whom none of you knows, was a pig. He did not say swine. He
grossly said that she was a pig. And I hold that no man who is
a man could possibly make such a remark about any woman."
Dr. Dawson puffed stolidly at his black pipe. Matthews, with
knees hunched up and clasped by his arms, was absorbed in the
flight of a gunie. Sweet, finishing his Scotch and soda, was
questing about with his eyes for a deck steward.
"I ask you, Mr. Treloar, can any man call any woman a pig?"
Treloar, who happened to be sitting next to him, was startled
by the abruptness of the attack, and wondered what grounds he
had ever given the little man to believe that he could call a
woman a pig.
"I should say," he began his hesitant answer, "that
it--er--depends on the--er--the lady."
The little man was aghast.
"You mean . . .?" he quavered.
"That I have seen female humans who were as bad as pigs--and
There was a long pained silence. The little man seemed withered
by the coarse brutality of the reply. In his face was
unutterable hurt and woe.
"You have told of a man who made a not nice remark and you have
classified him," Treloar said in cold, even tones. "I shall now
tell you about a woman--I beg your pardon--a lady, and when I
have finished I shall ask you to classify her. Miss Caruthers I
shall call her, principally for the reason that it is not her
name. It was on a P. & 0. boat, and it occurred neither more
nor less than several years ago.
"Miss Caruthers was charming. No; that is not the word. She was
amazing. She was a young woman, and a lady. Her father was a
certain high official whose name, if I mentioned it, would be
immediately recognized by all of you. She was with her mother
and two maids at the time, going out to join the old gentleman
wherever you like to wish in the East.
"She, and pardon me for repeating, was amazing. It is the one
adequate word. Even the most minor adjectives applicable to her
are bound to be sheer superlatives. There was nothing she could
not do better than any woman and than most men. Sing,
play--bah!--as some rhetorician once said of old Nap,
competition fled from her. Swim! She could have made a fortune
and a name as a public performer. She was one of those rare
women who can strip off all the frills of dress, and in simple
swimming suit be more satisfying beautiful. Dress! She was an
"But her swimming. Physically, she was the perfect woman--you
know what I mean, not in the gross, muscular way of acrobats,
but in all the delicacy of line and fragility of frame and
texture. And combined with this, strength. How she could do it
was the marvel. You know the wonder of a woman's arm--the fore
arm, I mean; the sweet fading away from rounded biceps and hint
of muscle, down through small elbow and firm soft swell to the
wrist, small, unthinkably small and round and strong. This was
hers. And yet, to see her swimming the sharp quick English
overhand stroke, and getting somewhere with it, too, was--well,
I understand anatomy and athletics and such things, and yet it
was a mystery to me how she could do it.
"She could stay under water for two minutes. I have timed her.
No man on board, except Dennitson, could capture as many coins
as she with a single dive. On the forward main-deck was a big
canvas tank with six feet of sea-water. We used to toss small
coins into it. I have seen her dive from the bridge deck--no
mean feat in itself--into that six-feet of water, and fetch up
no less than forty-seven coins, scattered willy-nilly over the
whole bottom of the tank. Dennitson, a quiet young Englishman,
never exceeded her in this, though he made it a point always to
tie her score.
"She was a sea-woman, true. But she was a land-woman, a
horsewoman--a--she was the universal woman. To see her, all
softness of soft dress, surrounded by half a dozen eager men,
languidly careless of them all or flashing brightness and wit
on them and at them and through them, one would fancy she was
good for nothing else in the world. At such moments I have
compelled myself to remember her score of forty-seven coins
from the bottom of the swimming tank. But that was she, the
everlasting, wonder of a woman who did all things well.
"She fascinated every betrousered human around her. She had
me--and I don't mind confessing it--she bad me to heel along
with the rest. Young puppies and old gray dogs who ought to
have known better--oh, they all came up and crawled around her
skirts and whined and fawned when she whistled. They were all
guilty, from young Ardmore, a pink cherub of nineteen outward
bound for some clerkship in the Consular Service, to old
Captain Bentley, grizzled and sea-worn, and as emotional, to
look at, as a Chinese joss. There was a nice middle-aged chap,
Perkins, I believe, who forgot his wife was on board until Miss
Caruthers sent him to the right about and back where he
"Men were wax in her hands. She melted them, or softly molded
them, or incinerated them, as she pleased. There wasn't a
steward, even, grand and remote as she was, who, at her
bidding, would have hesitated to souse the Old Man himself with
a plate of soup. You have all seen such women--a sort of
world's desire to all men. As a man-conqueror she was supreme.
She was a whip-lash, a sting and a flame, an electric spark.
Oh, believe me, at times there were flashes of will that
scorched through her beauty and seduction and smote a victim
into blank and shivering idiocy and fear.
"And don't fail to mark, in the light of what is to come, that
she was a prideful woman. Pride of race, pride of caste, pride
of sex, pride of power--she had it all, a pride strange and
wilful and terrible.
"She ran the ship, she ran the voyage, she ran everything, and
she ran Dennitson. That he had outdistanced the pack even the
least wise of us admitted. That she liked him, and that this
feeling was growing, there was not a doubt. I am certain that
she looked on him with kinder eyes than she had ever looked
with on man before. We still worshiped, and were always hanging
about waiting to be whistled up, though we knew that Dennitson
was laps and laps ahead of us. What might have happened we
shall never know, for we came to Colombo and something else
"You know Colombo, and how the native boys dive for coins in
the shark-infested bay. Of course, it is only among the ground
sharks and fish sharks that they venture. It is almost uncanny
the way they know sharks and can sense the presence of a real
killer--a tiger shark, for instance, or a gray nurse strayed up
from Australian waters. Let such a shark appear, and, long
before the passengers can guess, every mother's son of them is
out of the water in a wild scramble for safety.
"It was after tiffin, and Miss Caruthers was holding her usual
court under the deck-awnings. Old Captain Bentley had just been
whistled up, and had granted her what he never granted before.
. . nor since--permission for the boys to come up on the
promenade deck. You see, Miss Caruthers was a swimmer, and she
was interested. She took up a collection of all our small
change, and herself tossed it overside, singly and in handfuls,
arranging the terms of the contests, chiding a miss, giving
extra rewards to clever wins, in short, managing the whole
"She was especially keen on their jumping. You know, jumping
feet-first from a height, it is very difficult to hold the body
perpendicularly while in the air. The center of gravity of the
male body is high, and the tendency is to overtopple. But the
little beggars employed a method which she declared was new to
her and which she desired to learn. Leaping from the davits of
the boat-deck above, they plunged downward, their faces and
shoulders bowed forward, looking at the water. And only at the
last moment did they abruptly straighten up and enter the water
erect and true.
"It was a pretty sight. Their diving was not so good, though
there was one of them who was excellent at it, as he was in all
the other stunts. Some white man must have taught him, for he
made the proper swan dive and did it as beautifully as I have
ever seen it. You know, headfirst into the water, from a great
height, the problem is to enter the water at the perfect angle.
Miss the angle and it means at the least a twisted back and
injury for life. Also, it has meant death for many a bungler.
But this boy could do it--seventy feet I know he cleared in one
dive from the rigging--clenched hands on chest, head thrown
back, sailing more like a bird, upward and out, and out and
down, body flat on the air so that if it struck the surface in
that position it would be split in half like a herring. But the
moment before the water is reached, the head drops forward, the
hands go out and lock the arms in an arch in advance of the
head, and the body curves gracefully downward and enters the
water just right.
"This the boy did, again and again, to the delight of all of
us, but particularly of Miss Caruthers. He could not have been
a moment over twelve or thirteen, yet he was by far the
cleverest of the gang. He was the favorite of his crowd, and
its leader. Though there were a number older than he, they
acknowledged his chieftaincy. He was a beautiful boy, a lithe
young god in breathing bronze, eyes wide apart, intelligent and
daring, a bubble, a mote, a beautiful flash and sparkle of
life. You have seen. wonderful glorious creatures--animals,
anything, a leopard, a horse-restless, eager, too much alive
ever to be still, silken of muscle, each slightest movement a
benediction of grace, every action wild, untrammeled, and over
all spilling out that intense vitality, that sheen and luster
of living light. The boy had it. Life poured out of him almost
in an effulgence. His skin glowed with it. It burned in his
eyes. I swear I could almost hear it crackle from him. Looking
at him, it was as if a whiff of ozone came to one's
nostrils--so fresh and young was he, so resplendent with
health, so wildly wild.
"This was the boy. And it was he who gave the alarm in the
midst of the sport. The boys made a dash of it for the gangway
platform, swimming the fastest strokes they knew, pellmell,
floundering and splashing, fright in their faces, clambering
out with jumps and surges, any way to get out, lending one
another a hand to safety, till all were strung along the
gangway and peering down into the water.
"'What is the matter?' asked Miss Caruthers.
"'A shark, I fancy,' Captain Bentley answered. 'Lucky little
beggars that he didn't get one of them.'
"'Are they afraid of sharks?' she asked.
"'Aren't you?' he asked back.
She shuddered, looked overside at the water, and made a moue.
"'Not for the world would I venture where a shark might be,'
she said, and shuddered again. 'They are horrible! Horrible!'
"The boys came up on the promenade deck, clustering close to
the rail and worshiping Miss Caruthers who had flung them such
a wealth of backsheesh. The performance being over, Captain
Bentley motioned to them to clear out. But she stopped him.
"'One moment, please, Captain. I have always understood that
the natives are not afraid of sharks.'
"She beckoned the boy of the swan dive nearer to her, and
signed to him to dive over again. He shook his head, and along
with all his crew behind him laughed as if it were a good joke.
"'Shark,' he volunteered, pointing to the water.
"'No,' she said. 'There is no shark.'
"But he nodded his head positively, and the boys behind him
nodded with equal positiveness.
"'No, no, no,' she cried. And then to us, 'Who'll lend me a
half-crown and a sovereign!'
"Immediately the half dozen of us were presenting her with
crowns and sovereigns, and she accepted the two coins from
"She held up the half-crown for the boys to see. But there was
no eager rush to the rail preparatory to leaping. They stood
there grinning sheepishly. She offered the coin to each one
individually, and each, as his turn came, rubbed his foot
against his calf, shook his head, and grinned. Then she tossed
the half-crown overboard. With wistful, regretful faces they
watched its silver flight through the air, but not one moved to
"'Don't do it with the sovereign,' Dennitson said to her in a
"She took no notice, but held up the gold coin before the eyes
of the boy of the swan dive.
"'Don't,' said Captain Bentley. 'I wouldn't throw a sick cat
overside with a shark around.'
"But she laughed, bent on her purpose, and continued to dazzle
"'Don't tempt him,' Dennitson urged. 'It is a fortune to him,
and he might go over after it.'
"'Wouldn't YOU?' she flared at him. 'If I threw it?'
This last more softly.
Dennitson shook his head.
"'Your price is high,' she said. 'For how many sovereigns would
"'There are not enough coined to get me overside,' was his
"She debated a moment, the boy forgotten in her tilt with
"'For me?' she said very softly.
"'To save your life--yes. But not otherwise.'
"She turned back to the boy. Again she held the coin before his
eyes, dazzling him with the vastness of its value. Then she
made as to toss it out, and, involuntarily, he made a
half-movement toward the rail, but was checked by sharp cries
of reproof from his companions. There was anger in their voices
"'I know it is only fooling,' Dennitson said. 'Carry it as far
as you like, but for heaven's sake don't throw it.'
"Whether it was that strange wilfulness of hers, or whether she
doubted the boy could be persuaded, there is no telling. It was
unexpected to all of us. Out from the shade of the awning the
coin flashed golden in the blaze of sunshine and fell toward
the sea in a glittering arch. Before a hand could stay him, the
boy was over the rail and curving beautifully downward after
the coin. Both were in the air at the same time. It was a
pretty sight. The sovereign cut the water sharply, and at the
very spot, almost at the same instant, with scarcely a splash,
the boy entered.
"From the quicker-eyed black boys watching, came an
exclamation. We were all at the railing. Don't tell me it is
necessary for a shark to turn on its back. That one did not. In
the clear water, from the height we were above it, we saw
everything. The shark was a big brute, and with one drive he
cut the boy squarely in half.
"There was a murmur or something from among us--who made it I
did not know; it might have been I. And then there was silence.
Miss Caruthers was the first to speak. Her face was deathly
"'I never dreamed,' she said, and laughed a short, hysterical
All her pride was at work to give her control. She turned
weakly toward Dennitson, and then, on from one to another of
us. In her eyes was a terrible sickness, and her lips were
trembling. We were brutes--oh, I know it, now that I look back
upon it. But we did nothing.
"'Mr. Dennitson,' she said, 'Tom, won't you take me below!'
"He never changed the direction of his gaze, which was the
bleakest I have ever seen in a man's face, nor did he move an
eyelid. He took a cigarette from his case and lighted it.
Captain Bentley made a nasty sound in his throat and spat
overboard. That was all; that and the silence.
"She turned away and started to walk firmly down the deck.
Twenty feet away, she swayed and thrust a hand against the wall
to save herself. And so she went on, supporting herself against
the cabins and walking very slowly."
Treloar ceased. He turned his head and favored the little man
with a look of cold inquiry.
"Well," he said finally. "Classify her."
The little man gulped and swallowed.
"I have nothing to say," he said. "I have nothing whatever to
TO KILL A MAN
THOUGH dim night-lights burned, she moved familiarly through
the big rooms and wide halls, seeking vainly the half-finished
book of verse she had mislaid and only now remembered. When she
turned on the lights in the drawing-room, she disclosed herself
clad in a sweeping negligee gown of soft rose-colored stuff,
throat and shoulders smothered in lace. Her rings were still on
her fingers, her massed yellow hair had not yet been taken
down. She was delicately, gracefully beautiful, with slender,
oval face, red lips, a faint color in the cheeks, and blue eyes
of the chameleon sort that at will stare wide with the
innocence of childhood, go hard and gray and brilliantly cold,
or flame up in hot wilfulness and mastery.
She turned the lights off and passed out and down the hall
toward the morning room. At the entrance she paused and
listened. From farther on had come, not a noise, but an
impression of movement. She could have sworn she had not heard
anything, yet something had been different. The atmosphere of
night quietude had been disturbed. She wondered what servant
could be prowling about. Not the butler, who was nosion.
torious for retiring early save on special occasion. Nor could
it be her maid, whom she had permitted to go that evening.
Passing on to the dining-room, she found the door closed. Why
she opened it and went on in, she did not know, except for the
feeling that the disturbing factor, whatever it might be, was
there. The room was in darkness, and she felt her way to the
button and pressed. As the blaze of light flashed on, she
stepped back and cried out. It was a mere "Oh!" and it was not
Facing her, alongside the button, flat against the wall, was a
man. In his hand, pointed toward her, was a revolver. She
noticed, even in the shock of seeing him, that the weapon was
black and exceedingly long-barreled. She knew black and
exceedingly long it for what it was, a Colt's. He was a
medium-sized man, roughly clad, brown-eyed, and swarthy with
sunburn. He seemed very cool. There was no wabble to the
revolver and it was directed toward her stomach, not from an
outstretched arm, but from the hip, against which the forearm
"Oh," she said. "I beg your pardon. You startled me. What do
"I reckon I want to get out," he answered, with a humorous
twitch to the lips. "I've kind of lost my way in this here
shebang, and if you'll kindly show me the door I'll cause no
trouble and sure vamoose."
"But what are you doing here?" she demanded, her voice touched
with the sharpness of one used to authority.
"Plain robbing, Miss, that's all. I came snooping around to see
what I could gather up. I thought you wan't to home, seein' as
I saw you pull out with your old man in an auto. I reckon that
must a ben your pa, and you're Miss Setliffe."
Mrs. Setliffe saw his mistake, appreciated the naive
compliment, and decided not to undeceive him.
"How do you know I am Miss Setliffe?" she asked.
"This is old Setliffe's house, ain't it?"
"I didn't know he had a daughter, but I reckon you must be her.
And now, if it ain't botherin' you too much, I'd sure be
obliged if you'd show me the way out."
"But why should I? You are a robber, a burglar."
"If I wan't an ornery shorthorn at the business, I'd be
accumulatin' them rings on your fingers instead of being
polite," he retorted.
"I come to make a raise outa old Setliffe, and not to be
robbing women-folks. If you get outa the way, I reckon I can
find my own way out."
Mrs. Setliffe was a keen woman, and she felt that from such a
man there was little to fear. That he was not a typical
criminal, she was certain. From his speech she knew he was not
of the cities, and she seemed to sense the wider, homelier air
of large spaces.
"Suppose I screamed?" she queried curiously. "Suppose I made an
outcry for help? You couldn't shoot me? . . . a woman?"
She noted the fleeting bafflement in his brown eyes. He
answered slowly and thoughtfully, as if working out a difficult
problem. "I reckon, then, I'd have to choke you and maul you
"I'd sure have to," he answered, and she saw his mouth set
"You're only a soft woman, but you see, Miss, I can't afford to
go to jail. No, Miss, I sure can't. There's a friend of mine
waitin' for me out West. He's in a hole, and I've got to help
him out." The mouth shaped even more grimly. "I guess I could
choke you without hurting you much to speak of."
Her eyes took on a baby stare of innocent incredulity as she
"I never met a burglar before," she assured him, "and I can't
begin to tell you how interested I am."
"I'm not a burglar, Miss. Not a real one," he hastened to add
as she looked her amused unbelief. "It looks like it, me being
here in your house. But it's the first time I ever tackled such
a job. I needed the money bad. Besides, I kind of look on it
like collecting what's coming to me."
"I don't understand," she smiled encouragingly. "You came here
to rob, and to rob is to take what is not yours."
"Yes, and no, in this here particular case. But I reckon I'd
better be going now."
He started for the door of the dining-room, but she interposed,
and a very beautiful obstacle she made of herself. His left
hand went out as if to grip her, then hesitated. He was
patently awed by her soft womanhood.
"There!" she cried triumphantly. "I knew you wouldn't."
The man was embarrassed.
"I ain't never manhandled a woman yet," he explained, "and it
don't come easy. But I sure will, if you set to screaming."
"Won't you stay a few minutes and talk?" she urged. "I'm so
interested. I should like to hear you explain how burglary is
collecting what is coming to you."
He looked at her admiringly.
"I always thought women-folks were scairt of robbers," he
confessed. "But you don't seem none."
She laughed gaily.
"There are robbers and robbers, you know. I am not afraid of
you, because I am confident you are not the sort of creature
that would harm a woman. Come, talk with me a while. Nobody
will disturb us. I am all alone. My-- father caught the night
train to New York. The servants are all asleep. I should like
to give you something to eat--women always prepare midnight
suppers for the burglars they catch, at least they do in the
magazine stories. But I don't know where to find the food.
Perhaps you will have something to drink?"
He hesitated, and did not reply; but she could see the
admiration for her growing in his eyes.
"You're not afraid?" she queried. "I won't poison you, I
promise. I'll drink with you to show you it is all right."
"You sure are a surprise package of all right," he declared,
for the first time lowering the weapon and letting it hang at
his side. "No one don't need to tell me ever again that
women-folks in cities is afraid. You ain't much--just a little
soft pretty thing. But you've sure got the spunk. And you're
trustful on top of it. There ain't many women, or men either.
who'd treat a man with a gun the way you're treating me."
She smiled her pleasure in the compliment, and her face, was
very earnest as she said:
"That is because I like your appearance. You are too
decent-looking a man to be a robber. You oughtn't to do such
things. If you are in bad luck you should go to work. Come, put
away that nasty revolver and let us talk it over. The thing for
you to do is to work."
"Not in this burg," he commented bitterly. "I've walked two
inches off the bottom of my legs trying to find a job. Honest,
I was a fine large man once. . . before I started looking for a
The merry laughter with which she greeted his sally obviously
pleased him, and she was quick to note and take advantage of
it. She moved directly away from the door and toward the
"Come, you must tell me all about it while I get that drink for
you. What will it be? Whisky?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said, as he followed her, though he still
carried the big revolver at his side, and though he glanced
reluctantly at the unguarded open door.
She filled a glass for him at the sideboard.
"I promised to drink with you," she said hesitatingly. "But I
don't like whisky. I . . . I prefer sherry."
She lifted the sherry bottle tentatively for his consent.
"Sure," he answered, with a nod. "Whisky's a man's drink. I
never like to see women at it. Wine's more their stuff."
She raised her glass to his, her eyes meltingly sympathetic.
"Here's to finding you a good position--"
But she broke off at sight of the expression of surprised
disgust on his face. The glass, barely touched, was removed
from his wry lips.
"What is the matter!" she asked anxiously. "Don't you like it?
Have I made a mistake?"
"It's sure funny whisky. Tastes like it got burned and smoked
in the making."
"Oh! How silly of me! I gave you Scotch. Of course you are
accustomed to rye. Let me change it."
She was almost solicitiously maternal, as she replaced the
glass with another and sought and found the proper bottle.
"Better?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. No smoke in it. It's sure the real good stuff. I
ain't had a drink in a week. Kind of slick, that; oily, you
know; not made in a chemical factory."
"You are a drinking man?" It was half a question, half a
"No, ma'am, not to speak of. I HAVE rared up and ripsnorted at
spells, but most unfrequent. But there is times when a good
stiff jolt lands on the right spot kerchunk, and this is sure
one of them. And now, thanking you for your kindness, ma'am,
I'll just be a pulling along."
But Mrs. Setliffe did not want to lose her burglar. She was too
poised a woman to possess much romance, but there was a thrill
about the present situation that delighted her. Besides, she
knew there was no danger. The man, despite his jaw and the
steady brown eyes, was eminently tractable. Also, farther back
in her consciousness glimmered the thought of an audience of
admiring friends. It was too bad not to have that audience.
"You haven't explained how burglary, in your case, is merely
collecting what is your own," she said. "Come, sit down, and
tell me about it here at the table."
She maneuvered for her own seat, and placed him across the
corner from her. His alertness had not deserted him, as she
noted, and his eyes roved sharply about, returning always with
smoldering admiration to hers, but never resting long. And she
noted likewise that while she spoke he was intent on listening
for other sounds than those of her voice. Nor had he
relinquished the revolver, which lay at the corner of the table
between them, the butt close to his right hand.
But he was in a new habitat which he did not know. This man
from the West, cunning in woodcraft and plainscraft, with eyes
and ears open, tense and suspicious, did not know that under
the table, close to her foot, was the push button of an
electric bell. He had never heard of such a contrivance, and
his keenness and wariness went for naught.
"It's like this, Miss," he began, in response to her urging.
"Old Setliffe done me up in a little deal once. It was raw, but
it worked. Anything will work full and legal when it's got few
hundred million behind it. I'm not squealin', and I ain't
taking a slam at your pa. He don't know me from Adam, and I
reckon he don't know he done me outa anything. He's too big,
thinking and dealing in millions, to ever hear of a small
potato like me. He's an operator. He's got all kinds of experts
thinking and planning and working for him, some of them, I
hear, getting more cash salary than the President of the United
States. I'm only one of thousands that have been done up by
your pa, that's all.
"You see, ma'am, I had a little hole in the ground--a dinky,
hydraulic, one-horse outfit of a mine. And when the Setliffe
crowd shook down Idaho, and reorganized the smelter trust, and
roped in the rest of the landscape, and put through the big
hydraulic scheme at Twin Pines, why I sure got squeezed. I
never had a run for my money. I was scratched off the card
before the first heat. And so, to-night, being broke and my
friend needing me bad, I just dropped around to make a raise
outa your pa. Seeing as I needed it, it kinda was coming to
"Granting all that you say is so," she said, "nevertheless it
does not make house-breaking any the less house-breaking. You
couldn't make such a defense in a court of law."
"I know that," he confessed meekly. "What's right ain't always
legal. And that's why I am so uncomfortable a-settin' here and
talking with you. Not that I ain't enjoying your company--I
sure do enjoy it--but I just can't afford to be caught. I know
what they'd do to me in this here city. There was a young
fellow that got fifty years only last week for holding a man up
on the street for two dollars and eighty-five cents. I read
about it in the paper. When times is hard and they ain't no
work, men get desperate. And then the other men who've got
something to be robbed of get desperate, too, and they just
sure soak it to the other fellows. If I got caught, I reckon I
wouldn't get a mite less than ten years. That's why I'm
hankering to be on my way."
"No; wait." She lifted a detaining hand, at the same time
removing her foot from the bell, which she had been pressing
intermittently. "You haven't told me your name yet."
"Call me Dave."
"Then . . . Dave," she laughed with pretty confusion.
"Something must be done for you. You are a young man, and you
are just at the beginning of a bad start. If you begin by
attempting to collect what you think is coming to you, later on
you will be collecting what you are perfectly sure isn't coming
to you. And you know what the end will be. Instead of this, we
must find something honorable for you to do."
"I need the money, and I need it now," he replied doggedly.
"It's not for myself, but for that friend I told you about.
He's in a peck of trouble, and he's got to get his lift now or
not at all."
"I can find you a position," she said quickly. "And--yes, the
very thing!--I'll lend you the money you want to send to your
friend. This you can pay back out of your salary."
"About three hundred would do," he said slowly. "Three hundred
would pull him through. I'd work my fingers off for a year for
that, and my keep, and a few cents to buy Bull Durham with."
"Ah! You smoke! I never thought of it."
Her hand went out over the revolver toward his hand, as she
pointed to the tell-tale yellow stain on his fingers. At the
same time her eyes measured the nearness of her own hand and of
his to the weapon. She ached to grip it in one swift movement.
She was sure she could do it, and yet she was not sure; and so
it was that she refrained as she withdrew her hand.
"Won't you smoke?" she invited.
"I'm 'most dying to."
"Then do so. I don't mind. I really like it--cigarettes, I
With his left band he dipped into his side pocket, brought out
a loose wheat-straw paper and shifted it to his right hand
close by the revolver. Again he dipped, transferring to the
paper a pinch of brown, flaky tobacco. Then he proceeded, both
hands just over the revolver, to roll the cigarette.
"From the way you hover close to that nasty weapon, you seem to
be afraid of me," she challenged.
"Not exactly afraid of you, ma'am, but, under the
circumstances, just a mite timid."
"But I've not been afraid of you."
"You've got nothing to lose."
"My life," she retorted.
"That's right," he acknowledged promptly, "and you ain't been
scairt of me. Mebbe I am over anxious."
"I wouldn't cause you any harm."
Even as she spoke, her slipper felt for the bell and pressed
it. At the same time her eyes were earnest with a plea of
"You are a judge of men. I know it. And of women. Surely, when
I am trying to persuade you from a criminal life and to get you
honest work to do . . . .?"
He was immediately contrite.
"I sure beg your pardon, ma'am," he said. "I reckon my
nervousness ain't complimentary."
As he spoke, he drew his right hand from the table, and after
lighting the cigarette, dropped it by his side.
"Thank you for your confidence," she breathed softly,
resolutely keeping her eyes from measuring the distance to the
revolver, and keeping her foot pressed firmly on the bell.
"About that three hundred," he began. "I can telegraph it West
to-night. And I'll agree to work a year for it and my keep."
"You will earn more than that. I can promise seventy-five
dollars a month at the least. Do you know horses?"
His face lighted up and his eyes sparkled.
"Then go to work for me--or for my father, rather, though I
engage all the servants. I need a second coachman--"
"And wear a uniform?" he interrupted sharply, the sneer of the
free-born West in his voice and on his lips.
She smiled tolerantly.
"Evidently that won't do. Let me think. Yes. Can you break and
"We have a stock farm, and there's room for just such a man as
you. Will you take it?"
"Will I, ma'am?" His voice was rich with gratitude and
enthusiasm. "Show me to it. I'll dig right in to-morrow. And I
can sure promise you one thing, ma'am. You'll never be sorry
for lending Hughie Luke a hand in his trouble--"
"I thought you said to call you Dave," she chided forgivingly.
"I did, ma'am. I did. And I sure beg your pardon. It was just
plain bluff. My real name is Hughie Luke. And if you'll give me
the address of that stock farm of yours, and the railroad fare,
I head for it first thing in the morning."
Throughout the conversation she had never relaxed her attempts
on the bell. She had pressed it in every alarming way--three
shorts and a long, two and a long, and five. She had tried long
series of shorts, and, once, she had held the button down for a
solid three minutes. And she had been divided between
objurgation of the stupid, heavy-sleeping butler and doubt if
the bell were in order.
"I am so glad," she said; "so glad that you are willing. There
won't be much to arrange. But you will first have to trust me
while I go upstairs for my purse."
She saw the doubt flicker momentarily in his eyes, and added
hastily, "But you see I am trusting you with the three hundred
"I believe you, ma'am," he came back gallantly. "Though I just
can't help this nervousness."
"Shall I go and get it?"
But before she could receive consent, a slight muffled jar from
the distance came to her ear. She knew it for the swing-door of
the butler's pantry. But so slight was it--more a faint
vibration than a sound--that she would not have heard had not
her ears been keyed and listening for it. Yet the man had
heard. He was startled in his composed way.
"What was that?" he demanded.
For answer, her left hand flashed out to the revolver and
brought it back. She had had the start of him, and she needed
it, for the next instant his hand leaped up from his side,
clutching emptiness where the revolver had been.
"Sit down!" she commanded sharply, in a voice new to him.
"Don't move. Keep your hands on the table."
She had taken a lesson from him. Instead of holding the heavy
weapon extended, the butt of it and her forearm rested on the
table, the muzzle pointed, not at his head, but his chest. And
he, looking coolly and obeying her commands, knew there was no
chance of the kick-up of the recoil producing a miss. Also, he
saw that the revolver did not wabble, nor the hand shake, and
he was thoroughly conversant with the size of hole the
soft-nosed bullets could make. He had eyes, not for her, but
for the hammer, which had risen under the pressure of her
forefinger on the trigger.
"I reckon I'd best warn you that that there trigger-pull is
filed dreadful fine. Don't press too hard, or I'll have a hole
in me the size of a walnut."
She slacked the hammer partly down.
"That's better," he commented. "You'd best put it down all the
way. You see how easy it works. If you want to, a quick light
pull will jiffy her up and back and make a pretty mess all over
your nice floor."
A door opened behind him, and he heard somebody enter the room.
But he did not turn his bead. He was looking at her, and he
found it the face of another woman--hard, cold, pitiless yet
brilliant in its beauty. The eyes, too, were hard, though
blazing with a cold light.
"Thomas," she commanded, "go to the telephone and call the
police. Why were you so long in answering?"
"I came as soon as I heard the bell, madam," was the answer.
The robber never took his eyes from hers, nor did she from his,
but at mention of the bell she noticed that his eyes were
puzzled for the moment.
"Beg your pardon," said the butler from behind, "but wouldn't
it be better for me to get a weapon and arouse the servants?"
"No; ring for the police. I can hold this man. Go and do
The butler slippered out of the room, and the man and the woman
sat on, gazing into each other's eyes. To her it was an
experience keen with enjoyment, and in her mind was the gossip
of her crowd, and she saw notes in the society weeklies of the
beautiful young Mrs. Setliffe capturing an armed robber
single-handed. It would create a sensation, she was sure.
"When you get that sentence you mentioned," she said coldly,
"you will have time to meditate upon what a fool you have been,
taking other persons' property and threatening women with
revolvers. You will have time to learn your lesson thoroughly.
Now tell the truth. You haven't any friend in trouble. All that
you told me was lies."
He did not reply. Though his eyes were upon her, they seemed
blank. In truth, for the instant she was veiled to him, and
what he saw was the wide sunwashed spaces of the West, where
men and women were bigger than the rotten denizens, as he had
encountered them, of the thrice rotten cities of the East.
"Go on. Why don't you speak? Why don't you lie some more? Why
don't you beg to be let off?"
"I might," he answered, licking his dry lips. "I might ask to
be let off if . . . "
"If what?" she demanded peremptorily, as he paused.
"I was trying to think of a word you reminded me of. As I was
saying, I might if you was a decent woman."
Her face paled.
"Be careful," she warned.
"You don't dast kill me," he sneered. "The world's a pretty low
down place to have a thing like you prowling around in it, but
it ain't so plumb low down, I reckon, as to let you put a hole
in me. You're sure bad, but the trouble with you is that you're
weak in your badness. It ain't much to kill a man, but you
ain't got it in you. There's where you lose out."
"Be careful of what you say," she repeated. "Or else, I warn
you, it will go hard with you. It can be seen to whether your
sentence is light or heavy."
"Something's the matter with God," he remarked irrelevantly,
"to be letting you around loose. It's clean beyond me what he's
up to, playing such-like tricks on poor humanity. Now if I was
His further opinion was interrupted by the entrance of the
"Something is wrong with the telephone, madam," he announced.
"The wires are crossed or something, because I can't get
"Go and call one of the servants," she ordered. "Send him out
for an officer, and then return here."
Again the pair was left alone.
"Will you kindly answer one question, ma'am?" the man said.
"That servant fellow said something about a bell. I watched you
like a cat, and you sure rung no bell."
"It was under the table, you poor fool. I pressed it with my
"Thank you, ma'am. I reckoned I'd seen your kind before, and
now I sure know I have. I spoke to you true and trusting, and
all the time you was lying like hell to me."
She laughed mockingly.
"Go on. Say what you wish. It is very interesting."
"You made eyes at me, looking soft and kind, playing up all the
time the fact that you wore skirts instead of pants--and all
the time with your foot on the bell under the table. Well,
there's some consolation. I'd sooner be poor Hughie Luke, doing
his ten years, than be in your skin. Ma'am, hell is full of
women like you."
There was silence for a space, in which the man, never taking
his eyes from her, studying her, was making up his mind.
"Go on," she urged. "Say something."
"Yes, ma'am, I'll say something. I'll sure say something. Do
you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get right up from
this chair and walk out that door. I'd take the gun from you,
only you might turn foolish and let it go off. You can have the
gun. It's a good one. As I was saying, I am going right out
that door. And you ain't going to pull that gun off either. It
takes guts to shoot a man, and you sure ain't got them. Now get
ready and see if you can pull that trigger. I ain't going to
harm you. I'm going out that door, and I'm starting."
Keeping his eyes fixed on her, he pushed back the chair and
slowly stood erect. The hammer rose halfway. She watched it. So
"Pull harder," he advised. "It ain't half up yet. Go on and
pull it and kill a man. That's what I said, kill a man, spatter
his brains out on the floor, or slap a hole into him the size
of your. fist. That's what killing a man means."
The hammer lowered jerkily but gently. The man turned his back
and walked slowly to the door. She swung the revolver around so
that it bore on his back. Twice again the hammer came up
halfway and was reluctantly eased down.
At the door the man turned for a moment before passing on. A
sneer was on his lips. He spoke to her in a low voice, almost
drawling, but in it was the quintessence of all loathing, as he
called her a name unspeakable and vile.
NOBODY knew his history-- they of the Junta least of all. He
was their "little mystery," their "big patriot," and in his way
he worked as hard for the coming Mexican Revolution as did
they. They were tardy in recognizing this, for not one of the
Junta liked him. The day he first drifted into their crowded,
busy rooms, they all suspected him of being a spy--one of the
bought tools of the Diaz secret service. Too many of the
comrades were in civil an military prisons scattered over the
United States, and others of them, in irons, were even then
being taken across the border to be lined up against adobe
walls and shot.
At the first sight the boy did not impress them favorably. Boy
he was, not more than eighteen and not over large for his
years. He announced that he was Felipe Rivera, and that it was
his wish to work for the Revolution. That was all--not a wasted
word, no further explanation. He stood waiting. There was no
smile on his lips, no geniality in his eyes. Big dashing
Paulino Vera felt an inward shudder. Here was something
forbidding, terrible, inscrutable. There was something venomous
and snakelike in the boy's black eyes. They burned like cold
fire, as with a vast, concentrated bitterness. He flashed them
from the faces of the conspirators to the typewriter which
little Mrs. Sethby was industriously operating. His eyes rested
on hers but an instant--she had chanced to look up--and she,
too, sensed the nameless something that made her pause. She was
compelled to read back in order to regain the swing of the
letter she was writing.
Paulino Vera looked questioningly at Arrellano and Ramos, and
questioningly they looked back and to each other. The
indecision of doubt brooded in their eyes. This slender boy was
the Unknown, vested with all the menace of the Unknown. He was
unrecognizable, something quite beyond the ken of honest,
ordinary revolutionists whose fiercest hatred for Diaz and his
tyranny after all was only that of honest and ordinary
patriots. Here was something else, they knew not what. But
Vera, always the most impulsive, the quickest to act, stepped
into the breach.
"Very well," he said coldly. "You say you want to work for the
Revolution. Take off your coat. Hang it over there. I will show
you, come--where are the buckets and cloths. The floor is
dirty. You will begin by scrubbing it, and by scrubbing the
floors of the other rooms. The spittoons need to be cleaned.
Then there are the windows."
"Is it for the Revolution?" the boy asked.
"It is for the Revolution," Vera answered.
Rivera looked cold suspicion at all of them, then proceeded to
take off his coat.
"It is well," he said.
And nothing more. Day after day he came to his work--sweeping,
scrubbing, cleaning. He emptied the ashes from the stoves,
brought up the coal and kindling, and lighted the fires before
the most energetic one of them was at his desk.
"Can I sleep here?" he asked once.
Ah, ha! So that was it--the hand of Diaz showing through! To
sleep in the rooms of the Junta meant access to their secrets,
to the lists of names, to the addresses of comrades down on
Mexican soil. The request was denied, and Rivera never spoke of
it again. He slept they knew not where, and ate they knew not
where nor how. Once, Arrellano offered him a couple of dollars.
Rivera declined the money with a shake of the head. When Vera
joined in and tried to press it upon him, he said:
"I am working for the Revolution."
It takes money to raise a modern revolution. and always the
Junta was pressed. The members starved and toiled, and the
longest day was none too long, and yet there were times when it
appeared as if the Revolution stood or fell on no more than the
matter of a few dollars. Once, the first time, when the rent of
the house was two months behind and the landlord was
threatening dispossession, it was Felipe Rivera, the scrub-boy
in the poor, cheap clothes, worn and threadbare, who laid sixty
dollars in gold on May Sethby's desk. There were other times.
Three hundred letters, clicked out on the busy typewriters
(appeals for assistance, for sanctions from the organized labor
groups, requests for square news deals to the editors of
newspapers, protests against the high-handed treatment of
revolutionists by the United States courts), lay unmailed,
awaiting postage. Vera's watch had disappeared--the
old-fashioned gold repeater that had been his father's.
Likewise had gone the plain gold band from May Setbby's third
finger. Things were desperate. Ramos and Arrellano pulled their
long mustaches in despair. The letters must go off, and the
Post Office allowed no credit to purchasers of stamps. Then it
was that Rivera put on his hat and went out. When he came back
he laid a thousand two-cent stamps on May Sethby's desk.
"I wonder if it is the cursed gold of Diaz?" said Vera to the
They elevated their brows and could not decide. And Felipe
Rivera, the scrubber for the Revolution, continued, as occasion
arose, to lay down gold and silver for the Junta's use.
And still they could not bring themselves to like him. They did
not know him. His ways were not theirs. He gave no confidences.
He repelled all probing. Youth that he was, they could never
nerve themselves to dare to question him.
"A great and lonely spirit, perhaps, I do not know, I do not
know," Arrellano said helplessly.
"He is not human," said Ramos.
"His soul has been seared," said May Sethby. "Light and
laughter have been burned out of him. He is like one dead, and
yet he is fearfully alive."
"He has been through hell," said Vera. "No man could look like
that who has not been through hell--and he is only a boy."
Yet they could not like him. He never talked, never inquired,
never suggested. He would stand listening, expressionless, a
thing dead, save for his eyes, coldly burning, while their talk
of the Revolution ran high and warm. From face to face and
speaker to speaker his eyes would turn, boring like gimlets of
incandescent ice, disconcerting and perturbing.
"He is no spy," Vera confided to May Sethby. "He is a
patriot--mark me, the greatest patriot of us all. I know it, I
feel it, here in my heart and head I feel it. But him I know
not at all."
"He has a bad temper," said May Sethby.
"I know," said Vera, with a shudder. "He has looked at me with
those eyes of his. They do not love; they threaten; they are
savage as a wild tiger's. I know, if I should prove unfaithful
to the Cause, that he would kill me. He has no heart. He is
pitiless as steel, keen and cold as frost. He is like moonshine
in a winter night when a man freezes to death on some lonely
mountain top. I am not afraid of Diaz and all his killers; but
this boy, of him am I afraid. I tell you true. I am afraid. He
is the breath of death."
Yet Vera it was who persuaded the others to give the first
trust to Rivera. The line of communication between Los Angeles
and Lower California had broken down. Three of the comrades had
dug their own graves and been shot into them. Two more were
United States prisoners in Los Angeles. Juan Alvarado, the
Federal commander, was a monster. All their plans did he
checkmate. They could no longer gain access to the active
revolutionists, and the incipient ones, in Lower California.
Young Rivera was given his instructions and dispatched south.
When he returned, the line of communication was reestablished,
and Juan Alvarado was dead. He had been found in bed, a knife
hilt-deep in his breast. This had exceeded Rivera's
instructions, but they of the Junta knew the times of his
movements. They did not ask him. He said nothing. But they
looked at one another and conjectured.
"I have told you," said Vera. "Diaz has more to fear from this
youth than from any man. He is implacable. He is the hand of
The bad temper, mentioned by May Sethby, and sensed by them
all, was evidenced by physical proofs. Now he appeared with a
cut lip, a blackened cheek, or a swollen ear. It was patent
that he brawled, somewhere in that outside world where he ate
and slept, gained money, and moved in ways unknown to them. As
the time passed, he had come to set type for the little
revolutionary sheet they published weekly. There were occasions
when he was unable to set type, when his knuckles were bruised
and battered, when his thumbs were injured and helpless, when
one arm or the other hung wearily at his side while his face
was drawn with unspoken pain.
"A wastrel," said Arrellano.
"A frequenter of low places," said Ramos.
"But where does he get the money?" Vera demanded. "Only to-day,
just now, have I learned that he paid the bill for white
paper--one hundred and forty dollars."
"There are his absences," said May Sethby. "He never explains
"We should set a spy upon him," Ramos propounded.
"I should not care to be that spy," said Vera. "I fear you
would never see me again, save to bury me. He has a terrible
passion. Not even God would he permit to stand between him and
the way of his passion."
"I feel like a child before him," Ramos confessed.
"To me he is power--he is the primitive, the wild wolf, the
striking rattlesnake, the stinging centipede," said Arrellano.
"He is the Revolution incarnate," said Vera. "He is the flame
and the spirit of it, the insatiable cry for vengeance that
makes no cry but that slays noiselessly. He is a destroying
angel in moving through the still watches of the night."
"I could weep over him," said May Sethby. "He knows nobody. He
hates all people. Us he tolerates, for we are the way of his
desire. He is alone. . . . lonely." Her voice broke in a half
sob and there was dimness in her eyes.
Rivera's ways and times were truly mysterious. There were
periods when they did not see him for a week at a time. Once,
he was away a month. These occasions were always capped by his
return, when, without advertisement or speech, he laid gold
coins on May Sethby's desk. Again, for days and weeks, he spent
all his time with the Junta. And yet again, for irregular
periods, he would disappear through the heart of each day, from
early morning until late afternoon. At such times he came early
and remained late. Arrellano had found him at midnight, setting
type with fresh swollen knuckles, or mayhap it was his lip,
new-split, that still bled.
The time of the crisis approached. Whether or not the
Revolution would be depended upon the Junta, and the Junta was
hard-pressed. The need for money was greater than ever before,
while money was harder to get. Patriots had given their last
cent and now could give no more. Section gang laborers-fugitive
peons from Mexico--were contributing half their scanty wages.
But more than that was needed. The heart-breaking, conspiring,
undermining toil of years approached fruition. The time was
ripe. The Revolution hung on the balance. One shove more, one
last heroic effort, and it would tremble across the scales to
victory. They knew their Mexico. Once started, the Revolution
would take care of itself. The whole Diaz machine would go down
like a house of cards. The border was ready to rise. One
Yankee, with a hundred I.W.W. men, waited the word to cross
over the border and begin the conquest of Lower California. But
he needed guns. And clear across to the Atlantic, the Junta in
touch with them all and all of them needing guns, mere
adventurers, soldiers of fortune, bandits, disgruntled American
union men, socialists, anarchists, rough-necks, Mexican exiles,
peons escaped from bondage, whipped miners from the bull-pens
of Coeur d'Alene and Colorado who desired only the more
vindictively to fight--all the flotsam and jetsam of wild
spirits from the madly complicated modern world. And it was
guns and ammunition, ammunition and guns--the unceasing and
Fling this heterogeneous, bankrupt, vindictive mass across the
border, and the Revolution was on. The custom house, the
northern ports of entry, would be captured. Diaz could not
resist. He dared not throw the weight of his armies against
them, for he must hold the south. And through the south the
flame would spread despite. The people would rise. The defenses
of city after city would crumple up. State after state would
totter down. And at last, from every side, the victorious
armies of the Revolution would close in on the City of Mexico
itself, Diaz's last stronghold.
But the money. They had the men, impatient and urgent, who
would use the guns. They knew the traders who would sell and
deliver the guns. But to culture the Revolution thus far had
exhausted the Junta. The last dollar had been spent, the last
resource and the last starving patriot milked dry, and the
great adventure still trembled on the scales. Guns and
ammunition! The ragged battalions must be armed. But how? Ramos
lamented his confiscated estates. Arrellano wailed the
spendthriftness of his youth. May Sethby wondered if it would
have been different had they of the Junta been more economical
in the past.
"To think that the freedom of Mexico should stand or fall on a
few paltry thousands of dollars," said Paulino Vera.
Despair was in all their faces. Jose Amarillo, their last hope,
a recent convert, who had promised money, had been apprehended
at his hacienda in Chihuahua and shot against his own stable
wall. The news had just come through.
Rivera, on his knees, scrubbing, looked up, with suspended
brush, his bare arms flecked with soapy, dirty water.
"Will five thousand do it?" he asked.
They looked their amazement. Vera nodded and swallowed. He
could not speak, but he was on the instant invested with a vast
"Order the guns," Rivera said, and thereupon was guilty of the
longest flow of words they had ever heard him utter. "The time
is short. In three weeks I shall bring you the five thousand.
It is well. The weather will be warmer for those who fight.
Also, it is the best I can do."
Vera fought his faith. It was incredible. Too many fond hopes
had been shattered since he had begun to play the revolution
game. He believed this threadbare scrubber of the Revolution,
and yet he dared not believe.
"You are crazy," he said.
"In three weeks," said Rivera. "Order the guns."
He got up, rolled down his sleeves, and put on his coat.
"Order the guns," he said.
"I am going now."
After hurrying and scurrying, much telephoning and bad
language, a night session was held in Kelly's office. Kelly was
rushed with business; also, he was unlucky. He had brought
Danny Ward out from New York, arranged the fight for him with
Billy Carthey, the date was three weeks away, and for two days
now, carefully concealed from the sporting writers, Carthey had
been lying up, badly injured. There was no one to take his
place. Kelly had been burning the wires East to every eligible
lightweight, but they were tied up with dates and contracts.
And now hope had revived, though faintly.
"You've got a hell of a nerve," Kelly addressed Rivera, after
one look, as soon as they got together.
Hate that was malignant was in Rivera's eyes, but his face
"I can lick Ward," was all he said.
"How do you know? Ever see him fight?"
Rivera shook his head.
"He can beat you up with one hand and both eyes closed."
Rivera shrugged his shoulders.
"Haven't you got anything to say?" the fight promoter snarled.
"I can lick him."
"Who'd you ever fight, anyway!" Michael Kelly demanded. Michael
was the promotor's brother, and ran the Yellowstone pool rooms
where he made goodly sums on the fight game.
Rivera favored him with a bitter, unanswering stare.
The promoter's secretary, a distinctively sporty young man,
"Well, you know Roberts," Kelly broke the hostile silence. "He
ought to be here. I've sent for him. Sit down and wait, though
f rom the looks of you, you haven't got a chance. I can't throw
the public down with a bum fight. Ringside seats are selling at
fifteen dollars, you know that."
When Roberts arrived, it was patent that he was mildly drunk.
He was a tall, lean, slack-jointed individual, and his walk,
like his talk, was a smooth and languid drawl.
Kelly went straight to the point.
"Look here, Roberts, you've been bragging you discovered this
little Mexican. You know Carthey's broke his arm. Well, this
little yellow streak has the gall to blow in to-day and say
he'll take Carthey's place. What about it?"
"It's all right, Kelly," came the slow response. "He can put up
"I suppose you'll be sayin' next that he can lick Ward," Kelly
Roberts considered judicially.
"No, I won't say that. Ward's a top-notcher and a ring general.
But he can't hashhouse Rivera in short order. I know Rivera.
Nobody can get his goat. He ain't got a goat that I could ever
discover. And he's a two-handed fighter. He can throw in the
sleep-makers from any position."
"Never mind that. What kind of a show can he put up? You've
been conditioning and training fighters all your life. I take
off my hat to your judgment. Can he give the public a run for
"He sure can, and he'll worry Ward a mighty heap on top of it.
You don't know that boy. I do. I discovered him. He ain't got a
goat. He's a devil. He's a wizzy-wooz if anybody should ask
you. He'll make Ward sit up with a show of local talent that'll
make the rest of you sit up. I won't say he'll lick Ward, but
he'll put up such a show that you'll all know he's a comer."
"All right." Kelly turned to his secretary. "Ring up Ward. I
warned him to show up if I thought it worth while. He's right
across at the Yellowstone, throwin' chests and doing the
Kelly turned back to the conditioner. "Have a drink?"
Roberts sipped his highball and unburdened himself.
"Never told you how I discovered the little cuss. It was a
couple of years ago he showed up out at the quarters. I was
getting Prayne ready for his fight with Delaney. Prayne's
wicked. He ain't got a tickle of mercy in his make-up. I
chopped up his pardner's something cruel, and I couldn't find a
willing boy that'd work with him. I'd noticed this little
starved Mexican kid hanging around, and I was desperate. So I
grabbed him, shoved on the gloves and put him in. He was
tougher'n rawhide, but weak. And he didn't know the first
letter in the alphabet of boxing. Prayne chopped him to
ribbons. But he hung on for two sickening rounds, when he
fainted. Starvation, that was all. Battered! You couldn't have
recognized him. I gave him half a dollar and a square meal. You
oughta seen him wolf it down. He hadn't had the end of a bite
for a couple of days. That's the end of him, thinks I. But next
day he showed up, stiff an' sore, ready for another half and a
square meal. And he done better as time went by. Just a born
fighter, and tough beyond belief. He hasn't a heart. He's a
piece of ice. And he never talked eleven words in a string
since I know him. He saws wood and does his work."
"I've seen 'm," the secretary said. "He's worked a lot for you."
"All the big little fellows has tried out on him," Roberts
answered. "And he's learned from 'em. I've seen some of them he
could lick. But his heart wasn't in it. I reckoned he never
liked the game. He seemed to act that way."
"He's been fighting some before the little clubs the last few
months," Kelly said.
"Sure. But I don't know what struck 'm. All of a sudden his
heart got into it. He just went out like a streak and cleaned
up all the little local fellows. Seemed to want the money, and
he's won a bit, though his clothes don't look it. He's
peculiar. Nobody knows his business. Nobody knows how he spends
his time. Even when he's on the job, he plumb up and disappears
most of each day soon as his work is done. Sometimes he just
blows away for weeks at a time. But he don't take advice.
There's a fortune in it for the fellow that gets the job of
managin' him, only he won't consider it. And you watch him hold
out for the cash money when you get down to terms."
It was at this stage that Danny Ward arrived. Quite a party it
was. His manager and trainer were with him, and he breezed in
like a gusty draught of geniality, good-nature, and
all-conqueringness. Greetings flew about, a joke here, a retort
there, a smile or a laugh for everybody. Yet it was his way,
and only partly sincere. He was a good actor, and he had found
geniality a most valuable asset in the game of getting on in
the world. But down underneath he was the deliberate,
cold-blooded fighter and business man. The rest was a mask.
Those who knew him or trafficked with him said that when it
came to brass tacks he was Danny-on-the-Spot. He was invariably
present at all business discussions, and it was urged by some
that his manager was a blind whose only function was to serve
as Danny's mouth-piece.
Rivera's way was different. Indian blood, as well as Spanish,
was in his veins, and he sat back in a corner, silent,
immobile, only his black eyes passing from face to face and
"So that's the guy," Danny said, running an appraising eye over
his proposed antagonist. "How de do, old chap."
Rivera's eyes burned venomously, but he made no sign of
acknowledgment. He disliked all Gringos, but this Gringo he
hated with an immediacy that was unusual even in him.
"Gawd!" Danny protested facetiously to the promoter. "You ain't
expectin' me to fight a deef mute." When the laughter subsided,
he made another hit. "Los Angeles must be on the dink when this
is the best you can scare up. What kindergarten did you get 'm
"He's a good little boy, Danny, take it from me," Roberts
defended. "Not as easy as he looks."
"And half the house is sold already," Kelly pleaded. "You'll
have to take 'm on, Danny. It is the best we can do."
Danny ran another careless and unflattering glance over Rivera
"I gotta be easy with 'm, I guess. If only he don't blow up."
"You gotta be careful," Danny's manager warned. "No taking
chances with a dub that's likely to sneak a lucky one across."
"Oh, I'll be careful all right, all right," Danny smiled. "I'll
get in at the start an' nurse 'im along for the dear public's
sake. What d' ye say to fifteen rounds, Kelly--an' then the hay
"That'll do," was the answer. "As long as you make it
"Then let's get down to biz." Danny paused and calculated. "Of
course, sixty-five per cent of the gate receipts, same as with
Carthey. But the split'll be different. Eighty will just about
suit me." And to his manager, "That right?"
The manager nodded.
"Here, you, did you get that?" Kelly asked Rivera.
Rivera shook his head.
"Well, it is this way," Kelly exposited. "The purse'll be
sixty-five per cent of the gate receipts. You're a dub, and an
unknown. You and Danny split, twenty per cent goin' to you, an'
eighty to Danny. That's fair, isn't it, Roberts?"
"Very fair, Rivera," Roberts agreed.
"You see, you ain't got a reputation yet."
"What will sixty-five per cent of the gate receipts be?" Rivera
"Oh, maybe five thousand, maybe as high as eight thousand,"
Danny broke in to explain. "Something like that. Your share'll
come to something like a thousand or sixteen hundred. Pretty
good for takin' a licking from a guy with my reputation. What
d' ye say?"
Then Rivera took their breaths away. "Winner takes all," he
said with finality.
A dead silence prevailed.
"It's like candy from a baby," Danny's manager proclaimed.
Danny shook his head.
"I've been in the game too long," he explained.
"I'm not casting reflections on the referee, or the present
company. I'm not sayin' nothing about book-makers an' frame-ups
that sometimes happen. But what I do say is that it's poor
business for a fighter like me. I play safe. There's no
tellin'. Mebbe I break my arm, eh? Or some guy slips me a bunch
of dope?" He shook his head solemnly. "Win or lose, eighty is
my split. What d' ye say, Mexican?"
Rivera shook his head.
Danny exploded. He was getting down to brass tacks now.
"Why, you dirty little greaser! I've a mind to knock your block
off right now."
Roberts drawled his body to interposition between hostilities.
"Winner takes all," Rivera repeated sullenly.
"Why do you stand out that way?" Danny asked.
"I can lick you," was the straight answer.
Danny half started to take off his coat. But, as his manager
knew, it was a grand stand play. The coat did not come off, and
Danny allowed himself to be placated by the group. Everybody
sympathized with him. Rivera stood alone.
"Look here, you little fool," Kelly took up the argument.
"You're nobody. We know what you ve been doing the last few
months--putting away little local fighters. But Danny is class.
His next fight after this will be for the championship. And
you're unknown. Nobody ever heard of you out of Los Angeles."
"They will," Rivera answered with a shrug, "after this fight."
"You think for a second you can lick me?" Danny blurted in.
"Oh, come; listen to reason," Kelly pleaded. "Think of the
"I want the money," was Rivera's answer.
"You couldn't win from me in a thousand years," Danny assured
"Then what are you holdin' out for?" Rivera countered. "If the
money's that easy, why don't you go after it?"
"I will, so help me!" Danny cried with abrupt conviction. "I'Il
beat you to death in the ring, my boy--you monkeyin' with me
this way. Make out the articles, Kelly. Winner take all. Play
it up in the sportin' columns. Tell 'em it's a grudge fight.
I'll show this fresh kid a few."
Kelly's secretary had begun to write, when Danny interrupted.
"Hold on!" He turned to Rivera.
"Ringside," came the answer.
"Not on your life, Fresh Kid. If winner takes all, we weigh in
at ten A.M."
"And winner takes all?" Rivera queried.
Danny nodded. That settled it. He would enter the ring in his
full ripeness of strength.
"Weigh in at ten," Rivera said.
The secretary's pen went on scratching.
"It means five pounds," Roberts complained to Rivera.
"You've given too much away. You've thrown the fight right
there. Danny'll lick you sure. He'll be as strong as a bull.
You're a fool. You ain't got the chance of a dewdrop in hell."
Rivera's answer was a calculated look of hatred. Even this
Gringo he despised, and him had he found the whitest Gringo of
Barely noticed was Rivera as he entered the ring. Only a very
slight and very scattering ripple of half-hearted hand-clapping
greeted him. The house did not believe in him. He was the lamb
led to slaughter at the hands of the great Danny. Besides, the
house was disappointed. It had expected a rushing battle
between Danny Ward and Billy Carthey, and here it must put up
with this poor little tyro. Still further, it had manifested
its disapproval of the change by betting two, and even three,
to one on Danny. And where a betting audience's money is, there
is its heart.
The Mexican boy sat down in his corner and waited. The slow
minutes lagged by. Danny was making him wait. It was an old
trick, but ever it worked on the young, new fighters. They grew
frightened, sitting thus and facing their own apprehensions and
a callous, tobacco-smoking audience. But for once the trick
failed. Roberts was right. Rivera had no goat. He, who was more
delicately coordinated, more finely nerved and strung than any
of them, had no nerves of this sort. The atmosphere of
foredoomed defeat in his own corner had no effect on him. His
handlers were Gringos and strangers. Also they were scrubs--the
dirty driftage of the fight game, without honor, without
efficiency. And they were chilled, as well, with certitude that
theirs was the losing corner.
"Now you gotta be careful," Spider Hagerty warned him. Spider
was his chief second. "Make it last as long as you can--them's
my instructions from Kelly. If you don't, the papers'll call it
another bum fight and give the game a bigger black eye in Los
All of which was not encouraging. But Rivera took no notice. He
despised prize fighting. It was the hated game of the hated
Gringo. He had taken up with it, as a chopping block for others
in the training quarters, solely because he was starving. The
fact that he was marvelously made for it had meant nothing. He
hated it. Not until he had come in to the Junta, had he fought
for money, and he had found the money easy. Not first among the
sons of men had he been to find himself successful at a
He did not analyze. He merely knew that he must win this fight.
There could be no other outcome. For behind him, nerving him to
this belief, were profounder forces than any the crowded house
dreamed. Danny Ward fought for money, and for the easy ways of
life that money would bring. But the things Rivera fought for
burned in his brain--blazing and terrible visions, that, with
eyes wide open, sitting lonely in the corner of the ring and
waiting for his tricky antagonist, he saw as clearly as he had
He saw the white-walled, water-power factories of Rio Blanco.
He saw the six thousand workers, starved and wan, and the
little children, seven and eight years of age, who toiled long
shifts for ten cents a day. He saw the perambulating corpses,
the ghastly death's heads of men who labored in the dye-rooms.
He remembered that he had heard his father call the dye-rooms
the "suicide-holes," where a year was death. He saw the little
patio, and his mother cooking and moiling at crude housekeeping
and finding time to caress and love him. And his father he saw,
large, big-moustached and deep-chested, kindly above all men,
who loved all men and whose heart was so large that there was
love to overflowing still left for the mother and the little
muchacho playing in the corner of the patio. In those days his
name had not been Felipe Rivera. It had been Fernandez, his
father's and mother's name. Him had they called Juan. Later, he
had changed it himself, for he had found the name of Fernandez
hated by prefects of police, jefes politicos, and rurales.
Big, hearty Joaquin Fernandez! A large place he occupied in
Rivera's visions. He had not understood at the time, but
looking back he could understand. He could see him setting type