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The Red One by Jack London

Part 2 out of 3

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"Old fool!" Annie contributed.

"You couldn't buy them back for less'n three hundred thousand and
then some," was William's effort at squelching him.

"Then I could pick up three hundred thousand, and then some, if I
was only there," the old man retorted placidly.

"Thank God you can't walk there, or you'd be startin', I know,"
Mary cried. "Ocean travel costs money."

"I used to have money," her father said humbly.

"Well, you ain't got any now--so forget it," William advised.
"Them times is past, like roping bear with Bill Ping. There ain't
no more bear."

"Just the same--"

But Mary cut him off. Seizing the day's paper from the kitchen
table, she flourished it savagely under her aged progenitor's nose.

"What do those Klondikers say? There it is in cold print. Only
the young and robust can stand the Klondike. It's worse than the
north pole. And they've left their dead a-plenty there themselves.
Look at their pictures. You're forty years older 'n the oldest of

John Tarwater did look, but his eyes strayed to other photographs
on the highly sensational front page.

"And look at the photys of them nuggets they brought down," he
said. "I know gold. Didn't I gopher twenty thousand outa the
Merced? And wouldn't it a-ben a hundred thousand if that
cloudburst hadn't busted my wing-dam? Now if I was only in the

"Crazy as a loon," William sneered in open aside to the rest.

"A nice way to talk to your father," Old Man Tarwater censured
mildly. "My father'd have walloped the tar out of me with a
single-tree if I'd spoke to him that way."

"But you ARE crazy, father--" William began.

"Reckon you're right, son. And that's where my father wasn't
crazy. He'd a-done it."

"The old man's been reading some of them magazine articles about
men who succeeded after forty," Annie jibed.

"And why not, daughter?" he asked. "And why can't a man succeed
after he's seventy? I was only seventy this year. And mebbe I
could succeed if only I could get to the Klondike--"

"Which you ain't going to get to," Mary shut him off.

"Oh, well, then," he sighed, "seein's I ain't, I might just as well
go to bed."

He stood up, tall, gaunt, great-boned and gnarled, a splendid ruin
of a man. His ragged hair and whiskers were not grey but snowy
white, as were the tufts of hair that stood out on the backs of his
huge bony fingers. He moved toward the door, opened it, sighed,
and paused with a backward look.

"Just the same," he murmured plaintively, "the bottoms of my feet
is itching something terrible."

Long before the family stirred next morning, his horses fed and
harnessed by lantern light, breakfast cooked and eaten by lamp
fight, Old Man Tarwater was off and away down Tarwater Valley on
the road to Kelterville. Two things were unusual about this usual
trip which he had made a thousand and forty times since taking the
mail contract. He did not drive to Kelterville, but turned off on
the main road south to Santa Rosa. Even more remarkable than this
was the paper-wrapped parcel between his feet. It contained his
one decent black suit, which Mary had been long reluctant to see
him wear any more, not because it was shabby, but because, as he
guessed what was at the back of her mind, it was decent enough to
bury him in.

And at Santa Rosa, in a second-hand clothes shop, he sold the suit
outright for two dollars and a half. From the same obliging
shopman he received four dollars for the wedding ring of his long-
dead wife. The span of horses and the wagon he disposed of for
seventy-five dollars, although twenty-five was all he received down
in cash. Chancing to meet Alton Granger on the street, to whom
never before had he mentioned the ten dollars loaned him in '74, he
reminded Alton Granger of the little affair, and was promptly paid.
Also, of all unbelievable men to be in funds, he so found the town
drunkard for whom he had bought many a drink in the old and palmy
days. And from him John Tarwater borrowed a dollar. Finally, he
took the afternoon train to San Francisco.

A dozen days later, carrying a half-empty canvas sack of blankets
and old clothes, he landed on the beach of Dyea in the thick of the
great Klondike Rush. The beach was screaming bedlam. Ten thousand
tons of outfit lay heaped and scattered, and twice ten thousand men
struggled with it and clamoured about it. Freight, by Indian-back,
over Chilcoot to Lake Linderman, had jumped from sixteen to thirty
cents a pound, which latter was a rate of six hundred dollars a
ton. And the sub-arctic winter gloomed near at hand. All knew it,
and all knew that of the twenty thousand of them very few would get
across the passes, leaving the rest to winter and wait for the late
spring thaw.

Such the beach old John Tarwater stepped upon; and straight across
the beach and up the trail toward Chilcoot he headed, cackling his
ancient chant, a very Grandfather Argus himself, with no outfit
worry in the world, for he did not possess any outfit. That night
he slept on the flats, five miles above Dyea, at the head of canoe
navigation. Here the Dyea River became a rushing mountain torrent,
plunging out of a dark canyon from the glaciers that fed it far

And here, early next morning, he beheld a little man weighing no
more than a hundred, staggering along a foot-log under all of a
hundred pounds of flour strapped on his back. Also, he beheld the
little man stumble off the log and fall face-downward in a quiet
eddy where the water was two feet deep and proceed quietly to
drown. It was no desire of his to take death so easily, but the
flour on his back weighed as much as he and would not let him up.

"Thank you, old man," he said to Tarwater, when the latter had
dragged him up into the air and ashore.

While he unlaced his shoes and ran the water out, they had further
talk. Next, he fished out a ten-dollar gold-piece and offered it
to his rescuer.

Old Tarwater shook his head and shivered, for the ice-water had wet
him to his knees.

"But I reckon I wouldn't object to settin' down to a friendly meal
with you."

"Ain't had breakfast?" the little man, who was past forty and who
had said his name was Anson, queried with a glance frankly curious.

"Nary bite," John Tarwater answered.

"Where's your outfit? Ahead?"

"Nary outfit."

"Expect to buy your grub on the Inside?"

"Nary a dollar to buy it with, friend. Which ain't so important as
a warm bite of breakfast right now."

In Anson's camp, a quarter of a mile on, Tarwater found a slender,
red-whiskered young man of thirty cursing over a fire of wet willow
wood. Introduced as Charles, he transferred his scowl and wrath to
Tarwater, who, genially oblivious, devoted himself to the fire,
took advantage of the chill morning breeze to create a draught
which the other had left stupidly blocked by stones, and soon
developed less smoke and more flame. The third member of the
party, Bill Wilson, or Big Bill as they called him, came in with a
hundred-and-forty-pound pack; and what Tarwater esteemed to be a
very rotten breakfast was dished out by Charles. The mush was half
cooked and mostly burnt, the bacon was charred carbon, and the
coffee was unspeakable.

Immediately the meal was wolfed down the three partners took their
empty pack-straps and headed down trail to where the remainder of
their outfit lay at the last camp a mile away. And old Tarwater
became busy. He washed the dishes, foraged dry wood, mended a
broken pack-strap, put an edge on the butcher-knife and camp-axe,
and repacked the picks and shovels into a more carryable parcel.

What had impressed him during the brief breakfast was the sort of
awe in which Anson and Big Bill stood of Charles. Once, during the
morning, while Anson took a breathing spell after bringing in
another hundred-pound pack, Tarwater delicately hinted his

"You see, it's this way," Anson said. "We've divided our
leadership. We've got specialities. Now I'm a carpenter. When we
get to Lake Linderman, and the trees are chopped and whipsawed into
planks, I'll boss the building of the boat. Big Bill is a logger
and miner. So he'll boss getting out the logs and all mining
operations. Most of our outfit's ahead. We went broke paying the
Indians to pack that much of it to the top of Chilcoot. Our last
partner is up there with it, moving it along by himself down the
other side. His name's Liverpool, and he's a sailor. So, when the
boat's built, he's the boss of the outfit to navigate the lakes and
rapids to Klondike.

"And Charles--this Mr. Crayton--what might his speciality be?"
Tarwater asked.

"He's the business man. When it comes to business and organization
he's boss."

"Hum," Tarwater pondered. "Very lucky to get such a bunch of
specialities into one outfit."

"More than luck," Anson agreed. "It was all accident, too. Each
of us started alone. We met on the steamer coming up from San
Francisco, and formed the party.--Well, I got to be goin'. Charles
is liable to get kicking because I ain't packin' my share' just the
same, you can't expect a hundred-pound man to pack as much as a

"Stick around and cook us something for dinner," Charles, on his
next load in and noting the effects of the old man's handiness,
told Tarwater.

And Tarwater cooked a dinner that was a dinner, washed the dishes,
had real pork and beans for supper, and bread baked in a frying-pan
that was so delectable than the three partners nearly foundered
themselves on it. Supper dishes washed, he cut shavings and
kindling for a quick and certain breakfast fire, showed Anson a
trick with foot-gear that was invaluable to any hiker, sang his
"Like Argus of the Ancient Times," and told them of the great
emigration across the Plains in Forty-nine.

"My goodness, the first cheerful and hearty-like camp since we hit
the beach," Big Bill remarked as he knocked out his pipe and began
pulling off his shoes for bed.

"Kind of made things easy, boys, eh?" Tarwater queried genially.

All nodded. "Well, then, I got a proposition, boys. You can take
it or leave it, but just listen kindly to it. You're in a hurry to
get in before the freeze-up. Half the time is wasted over the
cooking by one of you that he might be puttin' in packin' outfit.
If I do the cookin' for you, you all'll get on that much faster.
Also, the cookin' 'll be better, and that'll make you pack better.
And I can pack quite a bit myself in between times, quite a bit,
yes, sir, quite a bit."

Big Bill and Anson were just beginning to nod their heads in
agreement, when Charles stopped them.

"What do you expect of us in return?" he demanded of the old man.

"Oh, I leave it up to the boys."

"That ain't business," Charles reprimanded sharply. "You made the
proposition. Now finish it."

"Well, it's this way--"

"You expect us to feed you all winter, eh?" Charles interrupted.

"No, siree, I don't. All I reckon is a passage to Klondike in your
boat would be mighty square of you."

"You haven't an ounce of grub, old man. You'll starve to death
when you get there."

"I've been feedin' some long time pretty successful," Old Tarwater
replied, a whimsical light in his eyes. "I'm seventy, and ain't
starved to death never yet."

"Will you sign a paper to the effect that you shift for yourself as
soon as you get to Dawson?" the business one demanded.

"Oh, sure," was the response.

Again Charles checked his two partners' expressions of satisfaction
with the arrangement.

"One other thing, old man. We're a party of four, and we all have
a vote on questions like this. Young Liverpool is ahead with the
main outfit. He's got a say so, and he isn't here to say it."

"What kind of a party might he be?" Tarwater inquired.

"He's a rough-neck sailor, and he's got a quick, bad temper."

"Some turbulent," Anson contributed.

"And the way he can cuss is simply God-awful," Big Bill testified.

"But he's square," Big Bill added.

Anson nodded heartily to this appraisal.

"Well, boys," Tarwater summed up, "I set out for Californy and I
got there. And I'm going to get to Klondike. Ain't a thing can
stop me, ain't a thing. I'm going to get three hundred thousand
outa the ground, too. Ain't a thing can stop me, ain't a thing,
because I just naturally need the money. I don't mind a bad temper
so long's the boy is square. I'll take my chance, an' I'll work
along with you till we catch up with him. Then, if he says no to
the proposition, I reckon I'll lose. But somehow I just can't see
'm sayin' no, because that'd mean too close up to freeze-up and too
late for me to find another chance like this. And, as I'm sure
going to get to Klondike, it's just plumb impossible for him to say

Old John Tarwater became a striking figure on a trail unusually
replete with striking figures. With thousands of men, each back-
tripping half a ton of outfit, retracing every mile of the trail
twenty times, all came to know him and to hail him as "Father
Christmas." And, as he worked, ever he raised his chant with his
age-falsetto voice. None of the three men he had joined could
complain about his work. True, his joints were stiff--he admitted
to a trifle of rheumatism. He moved slowly, and seemed to creak
and crackle when he moved; but he kept on moving. Last into the
blankets at night, he was first out in the morning, so that the
other three had hot coffee before their one before-breakfast pack.
And, between breakfast and dinner and between dinner and supper, he
always managed to back-trip for several packs himself. Sixty
pounds was the limit of his burden, however. He could manage
seventy-five, but he could not keep it up. Once, he tried ninety,
but collapsed on the trail and was seriously shaky for a couple of
days afterward.

Work! On a trail where hard-working men learned for the first time
what work was, no man worked harder in proportion to his strength
than Old Tarwater. Driven desperately on by the near-thrust of
winter, and lured madly on by the dream of gold, they worked to
their last ounce of strength and fell by the way. Others, when
failure made certain, blew out their brains. Some went mad, and
still others, under the irk of the man-destroying strain, broke
partnerships and dissolved life-time friendships with fellows just
as good as themselves and just as strained and mad.

Work! Old Tarwater could shame them all, despite his creaking and
crackling and the nasty hacking cough he had developed. Early and
late, on trail or in camp beside the trail he was ever in evidence,
ever busy at something, ever responsive to the hail of "Father
Christmas." Weary back-trippers would rest their packs on a log or
rock alongside of where he rested his, and would say: "Sing us
that song of yourn, dad, about Forty-Nine." And, when he had
wheezingly complied, they would arise under their loads, remark
that it was real heartening, and hit the forward trail again.

"If ever a man worked his passage and earned it," Big Bill confided
to his two partners, "that man's our old Skeezicks."

"You bet," Anson confirmed. "He's a valuable addition to the
party, and I, for one, ain't at all disagreeable to the notion of
making him a regular partner--"

"None of that!" Charles Crayton cut in. "When we get to Dawson
we're quit of him--that's the agreement. We'd only have to bury
him if we let him stay on with us. Besides, there's going to be a
famine, and every ounce of grub'll count. Remember, we're feeding
him out of our own supply all the way in. And if we run short in
the pinch next year, you'll know the reason. Steamboats can't get
up grub to Dawson till the middle of June, and that's nine months

"Well, you put as much money and outfit in as the rest of us," Big
Bill conceded, "and you've a say according."

"And I'm going to have my say," Charles asserted with increasing
irritability. "And it's lucky for you with your fool sentiments
that you've got somebody to think ahead for you, else you'd all
starve to death. I tell you that famine's coming. I've been
studying the situation. Flour will be two dollars a pound, or ten,
and no sellers. You mark my words."

Across the rubble-covered flats, up the dark canyon to Sheep Camp,
past the over-hanging and ever-threatening glaciers to the Scales,
and from the Scales up the steep pitches of ice-scoured rock where
packers climbed with hands and feet, Old Tarwater camp-cooked and
packed and sang. He blew across Chilcoot Pass, above timberline,
in the first swirl of autumn snow. Those below, without firewood,
on the bitter rim of Crater Lake, heard from the driving obscurity
above them a weird voice chanting:

"Like Argus of the ancient times,
We leave this modern Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
To shear the Golden Fleece."

And out of the snow flurries they saw appear a tall, gaunt form,
with whiskers of flying white that blended with the storm, bending
under a sixty-pound pack of camp dunnage.

"Father Christmas!" was the hail. And then: "Three rousing cheers
for Father Christmas!"

Two miles beyond Crater Lake lay Happy Camp--so named because here
was found the uppermost fringe of the timber line, where men might
warm themselves by fire again. Scarcely could it be called timber,
for it was a dwarf rock-spruce that never raised its loftiest
branches higher than a foot above the moss, and that twisted and
grovelled like a pig-vegetable under the moss. Here, on the trail
leading into Happy Camp, in the first sunshine of half a dozen
days, Old Tarwater rested his pack against a huge boulder and
caught his breath. Around this boulder the trail passed, laden men
toiling slowly forward and men with empty pack-straps limping
rapidly back for fresh loads. Twice Old Tarwater essayed to rise
and go on, and each time, warned by his shakiness, sank back to
recover more strength. From around the boulder he heard voices in
greeting, recognized Charles Crayton's voice, and realized that at
last they had met up with Young Liverpool. Quickly, Charles
plunged into business, and Tarwater heard with great distinctness
every word of Charles' unflattering description of him and the
proposition to give him passage to Dawson.

"A dam fool proposition," was Liverpool's judgment, when Charles
had concluded. "An old granddad of seventy! If he's on his last
legs, why in hell did you hook up with him? If there's going to be
a famine, and it looks like it, we need every ounce of grub for
ourselves. We only out-fitted for four, not five."

"It's all right," Tarwater heard Charles assuring the other.
"Don't get excited. The old codger agreed to leave the final
decision to you when we caught up with you. All you've got to do
is put your foot down and say no."

"You mean it's up to me to turn the old one down, after your
encouraging him and taking advantage of his work clear from Dyea

"It's a hard trail, Liverpool, and only the men that are hard will
get through," Charles strove to palliate.

"And I'm to do the dirty work?" Liverpool complained, while
Tarwater's heart sank.

"That's just about the size of it," Charles said. "You've got the

Then old Tarwater's heart uprose again as the air was rent by a
cyclone of profanity, from the midst of which crackled sentences
like: --"Dirty skunks! . . . See you in hell first! . . . My mind's
made up! . . . Hell's fire and corruption! . . . The old codger
goes down the Yukon with us, stack on that, my hearty! . . . Hard?
You don't know what hard is unless I show you! . . . I'll bust the
whole outfit to hell and gone if any of you try to side-track him!
. . . Just try to side-track him, that is all, and you'll think the
Day of Judgment and all God's blastingness has hit the camp in one

Such was the invigoratingness of Liverpool's flow of speech that,
quite without consciousness of effort, the old man arose easily
under his load and strode on toward Happy Camp.

From Happy Camp to Long Lake, from Long Lake to Deep Lake, and from
Deep Lake up over the enormous hog-back and down to Linderman, the
man-killing race against winter kept on. Men broke their hearts
and backs and wept beside the trail in sheer exhaustion. But
winter never faltered. The fall gales blew, and amid bitter
soaking rains and ever-increasing snow flurries, Tarwater and the
party to which he was attached piled the last of their outfit on
the beach.

There was no rest. Across the lake, a mile above a roaring
torrent, they located a patch of spruce and built their saw-pit.
Here, by hand, with an inadequate whipsaw, they sawed the spruce-
trunks into lumber. They worked night and day. Thrice, on the
night-shift, underneath in the saw-pit, Old Tarwater fainted. By
day he cooked as well, and, in the betweenwhiles, helped Anson in
the building of the boat beside the torrent as the green planks
came down.

The days grew shorter. The wind shifted into the north and blew
unending gales. In the mornings the weary men crawled from their
blankets and in their socks thawed out their frozen shoes by the
fire Tarwater always had burning for them. Ever arose the
increasing tale of famine on the Inside. The last grub steamboats
up from Bering Sea were stalled by low water at the beginning of
the Yukon Flats hundreds of miles north of Dawson. In fact, they
lay at the old Hudson Bay Company's post at Fort Yukon inside the
Arctic Circle. Flour in Dawson was up to two dollars a pound, but
no one would sell. Bonanza and Eldorado Kings, with money to burn,
were leaving for the Outside because they could buy no grub.
Miners' Committees were confiscating all grub and putting the
population on strict rations. A man who held out an ounce of grub
was shot like a dog. A score had been so executed already.

And, under a strain which had broken so many younger men, Old
Tarwater began to break. His cough had become terrible, and had
not his exhausted comrades slept like the dead, he would have kept
them awake nights. Also, he began to take chills, so that he
dressed up to go to bed. When he had finished so dressing, not a
rag of garment remained in his clothes bag. All he possessed was
on his back and swathed around his gaunt old form.

"Gee!" said Big Bill. "If he puts all he's got on now, when it
ain't lower than twenty above, what'll he do later on when it goes
down to fifty and sixty below?"

They lined the rough-made boat down the mountain torrent, nearly
losing it a dozen times, and rowed across the south end of Lake
Linderman in the thick of a fall blizzard. Next morning they
planned to load and start, squarely into the teeth of the north, on
their perilous traverse of half a thousand miles of lakes and
rapids and box canyons. But before he went to bed that night,
Young Liverpool was out over the camp. He returned to find his
whole party asleep. Rousing Tarwater, he talked with him in low

"Listen, dad," he said.--"You've got a passage in our boat, and if
ever a man earned a passage you have. But you know yourself you're
pretty well along in years, and your health right now ain't
exciting. If you go on with us you'll croak surer'n hell.--Now
wait till I finish, dad. The price for a passage has jumped to
five hundred dollars. I've been throwing my feet and I've hustled
a passenger. He's an official of the Alaska Commercial and just
has to get in. He's bid up to six hundred to go with me in our
boat. Now the passage is yours. You sell it to him, poke the six
hundred into your jeans, and pull South for California while the
goin's good. You can be in Dyea in two days, and in California in
a week more. What d'ye say?"

Tarwater coughed and shivered for a space, ere he could get freedom
of breath for speech.

"Son," he said, "I just want to tell you one thing. I drove my
four yoke of oxen across the Plains in Forty-nine and lost nary a
one. I drove them plumb to Californy, and I freighted with them
afterward out of Sutter's Fort to American Bar. Now I'm going to
Klondike. Ain't nothing can stop me, ain't nothing at all. I'm
going to ride that boat, with you at the steering sweep, clean to
Klondike, and I'm going to shake three hundred thousand out of the
moss-roots. That being so, it's contrary to reason and common
sense for me to sell out my passage. But I thank you kindly, son,
I thank you kindly."

The young sailor shot out his hand impulsively and gripped the old

"By God, dad!" he cried. "You're sure going to go then. You're
the real stuff." He looked with undisguised contempt across the
sleepers to where Charles Crayton snored in his red beard. "They
don't seem to make your kind any more, dad."

Into the north they fought their way, although old-timers, coming
out, shook their heads and prophesied they would be frozen in on
the lakes. That the freeze-up might come any day was patent, and
delays of safety were no longer considered. For this reason,
Liverpool decided to shoot the rapid stream connecting Linderman to
Lake Bennett with the fully loaded boat. It was the custom to line
the empty boats down and to portage the cargoes across. Even then
many empty boats had been wrecked. But the time was past for such

"Climb out, dad," Liverpool commanded as he prepared to swing from
the bank and enter the rapids.

Old Tarwater shook his white head.

"I'm sticking to the outfit," he declared. "It's the only way to
get through. You see, son, I'm going to Klondike. If I stick by
the boat, then the boat just naturally goes to Klondike, too. If I
get out, then most likely you'll lose the boat."

"Well, there's no use in overloading," Charles announced, springing
abruptly out on the bank as the boat cast off.

"Next time you wait for my orders!" Liverpool shouted ashore as the
current gripped the boat. "And there won't be any more walking
around rapids and losing time waiting to pick you up!"

What took them ten minutes by river, took Charles half an hour by
land, and while they waited for him at the head of Lake Bennett
they passed the time of day with several dilapidated old-timers on
their way out. The famine news was graver than ever. The North-
west Mounted Police, stationed at the foot of Lake Marsh where the
gold-rushers entered Canadian territory, were refusing to let a man
past who did not carry with him seven hundred pounds of grub. In
Dawson City a thousand men, with dog-teams, were waiting the
freeze-up to come out over the ice. The trading companies could
not fill their grub-contracts, and partners were cutting the cards
to see which should go and which should stay and work the claims.

"That settles it," Charles announced, when he learned of the action
of the mounted police on the boundary. "Old Man, you might as well
start back now."

"Climb aboard!" Liverpool commanded. "We're going to Klondike,
and old dad is going along."

A shift of gale to the south gave them a fair wind down Lake
Bennett, before which they ran under a huge sail made by Liverpool.
The heavy weight of outfit gave such ballast that he cracked on as
a daring sailor should when moments counted. A shift of four
points into the south-west, coming just at the right time as they
entered upon Caribou Crossing, drove them down that connecting link
to lakes Tagish and Marsh. In stormy sunset and twilight--they
made the dangerous crossing of Great Windy Arm, wherein they beheld
two other boat-loads of gold-rushers capsize and drown.

Charles was for beaching for the night, but Liverpool held on,
steering down Tagish by the sound of the surf on the shoals and by
the occasional shore-fires that advertised wrecked or timid
argonauts. At four in the morning, he aroused Charles. Old
Tarwater, shiveringly awake, heard Liverpool order Crayton aft
beside him at the steering-sweep, and also heard the one-sided

"Just listen, friend Charles, and keep your own mouth shut,"
Liverpool began. "I want you to get one thing into your head and
GOING BY. When they examine our outfit, old dad's got a fifth
share in it, savvee? That'll put us all 'way under what we ought
to have, but we can bluff it through. Now get this, and get it

"If you think I'd give away on the old codger--" Charles began

"You thought that," Liverpool checked him, "because I never
mentioned any such thing. Now--get me and get me hard: I don't
care what you've been thinking. It's what you're going to think.
We'll make the police post some time this afternoon, and we've got
to get ready to pull the bluff without a hitch, and a word to the
wise is plenty."

"If you think I've got it in my mind--" Charles began again.

"Look here," Liverpool shut him off. "I don't know what's in your
mind. I don't want to know. I want you to know what's in my mind.
If there's any slip-up, if old dad gets turned back by the police,
I'm going to pick out the first quiet bit of landscape and take you
ashore on it. And then I'm going to beat you up to the Queen's
taste. Get me, and get me hard. It ain't going to be any half-way
beating, but a real, two-legged, two-fisted, he-man beating. I
don't expect I'll kill you, but I'll come damn near to half-killing

"But what can I do?" Charles almost whimpered.

"Just one thing," was Liverpool's final word. "You just pray. You
pray so hard that old dad gets by the police that he does get by.
That's all. Go back to your blankets."

Before they gained Lake Le Barge, the land was sheeted with snow
that would not melt for half a year. Nor could they lay their boat
at will against the bank, for the rim-ice was already forming.
Inside the mouth of the river, just ere it entered Lake Le Barge,
they found a hundred storm-bound boats of the argonauts. Out of
the north, across the full sweep of the great lake, blew an
unending snow gale. Three mornings they put out and fought it and
the cresting seas it drove that turned to ice as they fell in-
board. While the others broke their hearts at the oars, Old
Tarwater managed to keep up just sufficient circulation to survive
by chopping ice and throwing it overboard.

Each day for three days, beaten to helplessness, they turned tail
on the battle and ran back into the sheltering river. By the
fourth day, the hundred boats had increased to three hundred, and
the two thousand argonauts on board knew that the great gale
heralded the freeze-up of Le Barge. Beyond, the rapid rivers would
continue to run for days, but unless they got beyond, and
immediately, they were doomed to be frozen in for six months to

"This day we go through," Liverpool announced. "We turn back for
nothing. And those of us that dies at the oars will live again and
go on pulling."

And they went through, winning half the length of the lake by
nightfall and pulling on through all the night hours as the wind
went down, falling asleep at the oars and being rapped awake by
Liverpool, toiling on through an age-long nightmare while the stars
came out and the surface of the lake turned to the unruffledness of
a sheet of paper and froze skin-ice that tinkled like broken glass
as their oar-blades shattered it.

As day broke clear and cold, they entered the river, with behind
them a sea of ice. Liverpool examined his aged passenger and found
him helpless and almost gone. When he rounded the boat to against
the rim-ice to build a fire and warm up Tarwater inside and out,
Charles protested against such loss of time.

"This ain't business, so don't you come horning in," Liverpool
informed him. "I'm running the boat trip. So you just climb out
and chop firewood, and plenty of it. I'll take care of dad. You,
Anson, make a fire on the bank. And you, Bill, set up the Yukon
stove in the boat. Old dad ain't as young as the rest of us, and
for the rest of this voyage he's going to have a fire on board to
sit by."

All of which came to pass; and the boat, in the grip of the
current, like a river steamer with smoke rising from the two joints
of stove-pipe, grounded on shoals, hung up on split currents, and
charged rapids and canyons, as it drove deeper into the Northland
winter. The Big and Little Salmon rivers were throwing mush-ice
into the main river as they passed, and, below the riffles, anchor-
ice arose from the river bottom and coated the surface with crystal
scum. Night and day the rim-ice grew, till, in quiet places, it
extended out a hundred yards from shore. And Old Tarwater, with
all his clothes on, sat by the stove and kept the fire going.
Night and day, not daring to stop for fear of the imminent freeze-
up, they dared to run, an increasing mushiness of ice running with

"What ho, old hearty?" Liverpool would call out at times.

"Cheer O," Old Tarwater had learned to respond.

"What can I ever do for you, son, in payment?" Tarwater, stoking
the fire, would sometimes ask Liverpool, beating now one released
hand and now the other as he fought for circulation where he
steered in the freezing stern-sheets.

"Just break out that regular song of yours, old Forty-Niner," was
the invariable reply.

And Tarwater would lift his voice in the cackling chant, as he
lifted it at the end, when the boat swung in through driving cake-
ice and moored to the Dawson City bank, and all waterfront Dawson
pricked its ears to hear the triumphant paean:

Like Argus of the ancient times,
We leave this modern Greece,
Tum-tum, tum-tum, tum, tum, tum-tum,
To shear the Golden Fleece,

Charles did it, but he did it so discreetly that none of his party,
least of all the sailor, ever learned of it. He saw two great open
barges being filled up with men, and, on inquiry, learned that
these were grubless ones being rounded up and sent down the Yukon
by the Committee of Safety. The barges were to be towed by the
last little steamboat in Dawson, and the hope was that Fort Yukon,
where lay the stranded steamboats, would be gained before the river
froze. At any rate, no matter what happened to them, Dawson would
be relieved of their grub-consuming presence. So to the Committee
of Safety Charles went, privily to drop a flea in its ear
concerning Tarwater's grubless, moneyless, and aged condition.
Tarwater was one of the last gathered in, and when Young Liverpool
returned to the boat, from the bank he saw the barges in a run of
cake-ice, disappearing around the bend below Moose-hide Mountain.

Running in cake-ice all the way, and several times escaping jams in
the Yukon Flats, the barges made their hundreds of miles of
progress farther into the north and froze up cheek by jowl with the
grub-fleet. Here, inside the Arctic Circle, Old Tarwater settled
down to pass the long winter. Several hours' work a day, chopping
firewood for the steamboat companies, sufficed to keep him in food.
For the rest of the time there was nothing to do but hibernate in
his log cabin.

Warmth, rest, and plenty to eat, cured his hacking cough and put
him in as good physical condition as was possible for his advanced
years. But, even before Christmas, the lack of fresh vegetables
caused scurvy to break out, and disappointed adventurer after
disappointed adventurer took to his bunk in abject surrender to
this culminating misfortune. Not so Tarwater. Even before the
first symptoms appeared on him, he was putting into practice his
one prescription, namely, exercise. From the junk of the old
trading post he resurrected a number of rusty traps, and from one
of the steamboat captains he borrowed a rifle.

Thus equipped, he ceased from wood-chopping, and began to make more
than a mere living. Nor was he downhearted when the scurvy broke
out on his own body. Ever he ran his trap-lines and sang his
ancient chant. Nor could the pessimist shake his surety of the
three hundred thousand of Alaskan gold he as going to shake out of
the moss-roots.

"But this ain't gold-country," they told him.

"Gold is where you find it, son, as I should know who was mining
before you was born, 'way back in Forty-Nine," was his reply.
"What was Bonanza Creek but a moose-pasture? No miner'd look at
it; yet they washed five-hundred-dollar pans and took out fifty
million dollars. Eldorado was just as bad. For all you know,
right under this here cabin, or right over the next hill, is
millions just waiting for a lucky one like me to come and shake it

At the end of January came his disaster. Some powerful animal that
he decided was a bob-cat, managing to get caught in one of his
smaller traps, dragged it away. A heavy snow-fall put a stop
midway to his pursuit, losing the trail for him and losing himself.
There were but several hours of daylight each day between the
twenty hours of intervening darkness, and his efforts in the grey
light and continually falling snow succeeded only in losing him
more thoroughly. Fortunately, when winter snow falls in the
Northland the thermometer invariably rises; so, instead of the
customary forty and fifty and even sixty degrees below zero, the
temperature remained fifteen below. Also, he was warmly clad and
had a full matchbox. Further to mitigate his predicament, on the
fifth day he killed a wounded moose that weighed over half a ton.
Making his camp beside it on a spruce-bottom, he was prepared to
last out the winter, unless a searching party found him or his
scurvy grew worse.

But at the end of two weeks there had been no sign of search, while
his scurvy had undeniably grown worse. Against his fire, banked
from outer cold by a shelter-wall of spruce-boughs, he crouched
long hours in sleep and long hours in waking. But the waking hours
grew less, becoming semi-waking or half-dreaming hours as the
process of hibernation worked their way with him. Slowly the
sparkle point of consciousness and identity that was John Tarwater
sank, deeper and deeper, into the profounds of his being that had
been compounded ere man was man, and while he was becoming man,
when he, first of all animals, regarded himself with an
introspective eye and laid the beginnings of morality in
foundations of nightmare peopled by the monsters of his own ethic-
thwarted desires.

Like a man in fever, waking to intervals of consciousness, so Old
Tarwater awoke, cooked his moose-meat, and fed the fire; but more
and more time he spent in his torpor, unaware of what was day-dream
and what was sleep-dream in the content of his unconsciousness.
And here, in the unforgetable crypts of man's unwritten history,
unthinkable and unrealizable, like passages of nightmare or
impossible adventures of lunacy, he encountered the monsters
created of man's first morality that ever since have vexed him into
the spinning of fantasies to elude them or do battle with them.

In short, weighted by his seventy years, in the vast and silent
loneliness of the North, Old Tarwater, as in the delirium of drug
or anaesthetic, recovered within himself, the infantile mind of the
child-man of the early world. It was in the dusk of Death's
fluttery wings that Tarwater thus crouched, and, like his remote
forebear, the child-man, went to myth-making, and sun-heroizing,
himself hero-maker and the hero in quest of the immemorable
treasure difficult of attainment.

Either must he attain the treasure--for so ran the inexorable logic
of the shadow-land of the unconscious--or else sink into the all-
devouring sea, the blackness eater of the light that swallowed to
extinction the sun each night . . . the sun that arose ever in
rebirth next morning in the east, and that had become to man man's
first symbol of immortality through rebirth. All this, in the
deeps of his unconsciousness (the shadowy western land of
descending light), was the near dusk of Death down into which he
slowly ebbed.

But how to escape this monster of the dark that from within him
slowly swallowed him? Too deep-sunk was he to dream of escape or
feel the prod of desire to escape. For him reality had ceased.
Nor from within the darkened chamber of himself could reality
recrudesce. His years were too heavy upon him, the debility of
disease and the lethargy and torpor of the silence and the cold
were too profound. Only from without could reality impact upon him
and reawake within him an awareness of reality. Otherwise he would
ooze down through the shadow-realm of the unconscious into the all-
darkness of extinction.

But it came, the smash of reality from without, crashing upon his
ear drums in a loud, explosive snort. For twenty days, in a
temperature that had never risen above fifty below, no breath of
wind had blown movement, no slightest sound had broken the silence.
Like the smoker on the opium couch refocusing his eyes from the
spacious walls of dream to the narrow confines of the mean little
room, so Old Tarwater stared vague-eyed before him across his dying
fire, at a huge moose that stared at him in startlement, dragging a
wounded leg, manifesting all signs of extreme exhaustion; it, too,
had been straying blindly in the shadow-land, and had wakened to
reality only just ere it stepped into Tarwater's fire.

He feebly slipped the large fur mitten lined with thickness of wool
from his right hand. Upon trial he found the trigger finger too
numb for movement. Carefully, slowly, through long minutes, he
worked the bare hand inside his blankets, up under his fur parka,
through the chest openings of his shirts, and into the slightly
warm hollow of his left arm-pit. Long minutes passed ere the
finger could move, when, with equal slowness of caution, he
gathered his rifle to his shoulder and drew bead upon the great
animal across the fire.

At the shot, of the two shadow-wanderers, the one reeled downward
to the dark and the other reeled upward to the light, swaying
drunkenly on his scurvy-ravaged legs, shivering with nervousness
and cold, rubbing swimming eyes with shaking fingers, and staring
at the real world all about him that had returned to him with such
sickening suddenness. He shook himself together, and realized that
for long, how long he did not know, he had bedded in the arms of
Death. He spat, with definite intention, heard the spittle crackle
in the frost, and judged it must be below and far below sixty
below. In truth, that day at Fort Yukon, the spirit thermometer
registered seventy-five degrees below zero, which, since freezing-
point is thirty-two above, was equivalent to one hundred and seven
degrees of frost.

Slowly Tarwater's brain reasoned to action. Here, in the vast
alone, dwelt Death. Here had come two wounded moose. With the
clearing of the sky after the great cold came on, he had located
his bearings, and he knew that both wounded moose had trailed to
him from the east. Therefore, in the east, were men--whites or
Indians he could not tell, but at any rate men who might stand by
him in his need and help moor him to reality above the sea of dark.

He moved slowly, but he moved in reality, girding himself with
rifle, ammunition, matches, and a pack of twenty pounds of moose-
meat. Then, an Argus rejuvenated, albeit lame of both legs and
tottery, he turned his back on the perilous west and limped into
the sun-arising, re-birthing east. . . .

Days later--how many days later he was never to know--dreaming
dreams and seeing visions, cackling his old gold-chant of Forty-
Nine, like one drowning and swimming feebly to keep his
consciousness above the engulfing dark, he came out upon the snow-
slope to a canyon and saw below smoke rising and men who ceased
from work to gaze at him. He tottered down the hill to them, still
singing; and when he ceased from lack of breath they called him
variously: Santa Claus, Old Christmas, Whiskers, the Last of the
Mohicans, and Father Christmas. And when he stood among them he
stood very still, without speech, while great tears welled out of
his eyes. He cried silently, a long time, till, as if suddenly
bethinking himself, he sat down in the snow with much creaking and
crackling of his joints, and from this low vantage point toppled
sidewise and fainted calmly and easily away.

In less than a week Old Tarwater was up and limping about the
housework of the cabin, cooking and dish-washing for the five men
of the creek. Genuine sourdoughs (pioneers) they were, tough and
hard-bitten, who had been buried so deeply inside the Circle that
they did not know there was a Klondike Strike. The news he brought
them was their first word of it. They lived on an almost straight-
meat diet of moose, caribou, and smoked salmon, eked out with wild
berries and somewhat succulent wild roots they had stocked up with
in the summer. They had forgotten the taste of coffee, made fire
with a burning glass, carried live fire-sticks with them wherever
they travelled, and in their pipes smoked dry leaves that bit the
tongue and were pungent to the nostrils.

Three years before, they had prospected from the head-reaches of
the Koyokuk northward and clear across to the mouth of the
Mackenzie on the Arctic Ocean. Here, on the whaleships, they had
beheld their last white men and equipped themselves with the last
white man's grub, consisting principally of salt and smoking
tobacco. Striking south and west on the long traverse to the
junction of the Yukon and Porcupine at Fort Yukon, they had found
gold on this creek and remained over to work the ground.

They hailed the advent of Tarwater with joy, never tired of
listening to his tales of Forty-Nine, and rechristened him Old
Hero. Also, with tea made from spruce needles, with concoctions
brewed from the inner willow bark, and with sour and bitter roots
and bulbs from the ground, they dosed his scurvy out of him, so
that he ceased limping and began to lay on flesh over his bony
framework. Further, they saw no reason at all why he should not
gather a rich treasure of gold from the ground.

"Don't know about all of three hundred thousand," they told him one
morning, at breakfast, ere they departed to their work, "but how'd
a hundred thousand do, Old Hero? That's what we figure a claim is
worth, the ground being badly spotted, and we've already staked
your location notices."

"Well, boys," Old Tarwater answered, "and thanking you kindly, all
I can say is that a hundred thousand will do nicely, and very
nicely, for a starter. Of course, I ain't goin' to stop till I get
the full three hundred thousand. That's what I come into the
country for."

They laughed and applauded his ambition and reckoned they'd have to
hunt a richer creek for him. And Old Hero reckoned that as the
spring came on and he grew spryer, he'd have to get out and do a
little snooping around himself.

"For all anybody knows," he said, pointing to a hillside across the
creek bottom, "the moss under the snow there may be plumb rooted in
nugget gold."

He said no more, but as the sun rose higher and the days grew
longer and warmer, he gazed often across the creek at the definite
bench-formation half way up the hill. And, one day, when the thaw
was in full swing, he crossed the stream and climbed to the bench.
Exposed patches of ground had already thawed an inch deep. On one
such patch he stopped, gathered a bunch of moss in his big gnarled
hands, and ripped it out by the roots. The sun smouldered on dully
glistening yellow. He shook the handful of moss, and coarse
nuggets, like gravel, fell to the ground. It was the Golden Fleece
ready for the shearing.

Not entirely unremembered in Alaskan annals is the summer stampede
of 1898 from Fort Yukon to the bench diggings of Tarwater Hill.
And when Tarwater sold his holdings to the Bowdie interests for a
sheer half-million and faced for California, he rode a mule over a
new-cut trail, with convenient road houses along the way, clear to
the steamboat landing at Fort Yukon.

At the first meal on the ocean-going steamship out of St. Michaels,
a waiter, greyish-haired, pain-ravaged of face, scurvy-twisted of
body, served him. Old Tarwater was compelled to look him over
twice in order to make certain he was Charles Crayton.

"Got it bad, eh, son?" Tarwater queried.

"Just my luck," the other complained, after recognition and
greeting. "Only one of the party that the scurvy attacked. I've
been through hell. The other three are all at work and healthy,
getting grub-stake to prospect up White River this winter. Anson's
earning twenty-five a day at carpentering, Liverpool getting twenty
logging for the saw-mill, and Big Bill's getting forty a day as
chief sawyer. I tried my best, and if it hadn't been for scurvy .
. ."

"Sure, son, you done your best, which ain't much, you being
naturally irritable and hard from too much business. Now I'll tell
you what. You ain't fit to work crippled up this way. I'll pay
your passage with the captain in kind remembrance of the voyage you
gave me, and you can lay up and take it easy the rest of the trip.
And what are your circumstances when you land at San Francisco?"

Charles Crayton shrugged his shoulders.

"Tell you what," Tarwater continued. "There's work on the ranch
for you till you can start business again."

"I could manage your business for you--" Charles began eagerly.

"No, siree," Tarwater declared emphatically. "But there's always
post-holes to dig, and cordwood to chop, and the climate's fine . .
. "

Tarwater arrived home a true prodigal grandfather for whom the
fatted calf was killed and ready. But first, ere he sat down at
table, he must stroll out and around. And sons and daughters of
his flesh and of the law needs must go with him fulsomely eating
out of the gnarled old hand that had half a million to disburse.
He led the way, and no opinion he slyly uttered was preposterous or
impossible enough to draw dissent from his following. Pausing by
the ruined water wheel which he had built from the standing timber,
his face beamed as he gazed across the stretches of Tarwater
Valley, and on and up the far heights to the summit of Tarwater
Mountain--now all his again.

A thought came to him that made him avert his face and blow his
nose in order to hide the twinkle in his eyes. Still attended by
the entire family, he strolled on to the dilapidated barn. He
picked up an age-weathered single-tree from the ground.

"William," he said. "Remember that little conversation we had just
before I started to Klondike? Sure, William, you remember. You
told me I was crazy. And I said my father'd have walloped the tar
out of me with a single-tree if I'd spoke to him that way."

"Aw, but that was only foolin'," William temporized.

William was a grizzled man of forty-five, and his wife and grown
sons stood in the group, curiously watching Grandfather Tarwater
take off his coat and hand it to Mary to hold.

"William--come here," he commanded imperatively.

No matter how reluctantly, William came.

"Just a taste, William, son, of what my father give me often
enough," Old Tarwater crooned, as he laid on his son's back and
shoulders with the single-tree. "Observe, I ain't hitting you on
the head. My father had a gosh-wollickin' temper and never drew
the line at heads when he went after tar.--Don't jerk your elbows
back that way! You're likely to get a crack on one by accident.
And just tell me one thing, William, son: is there nary notion in
your head that I'm crazy?"

"No!" William yelped out in pain, as he danced about. "You ain't
crazy, father of course you ain't crazy!"

"You said it," Old Tarwater remarked sententiously, tossing the
single-tree aside and starting to struggle into his coat.

"Now let's all go in and eat."

Glen Ellen, California,
September 14, 1916.


A fire burned cheerfully in the jungle camp, and beside the fire
lolled a cheerful-seeming though horrible-appearing man. This was
a hobo jungle, pitched in a thin strip of woods that lay between a
railroad embankment and the bank of a river. But no hobo was the
man. So deep-sunk was he in the social abyss that a proper hobo
would not sit by the same fire with him. A gay-cat, who is an
ignorant new-comer on the "Road," might sit with such as he, but
only long enough to learn better. Even low down bindle-stiffs and
stew-bums, after a once-over, would have passed this man by. A
genuine hobo, a couple of punks, or a bunch of tender-yeared road-
kids might have gone through his rags for any stray pennies or
nickels and kicked him out into the darkness. Even an alki-stiff
would have reckoned himself immeasurably superior.

For this man was that hybrid of tramp-land, an alki-stiff that has
degenerated into a stew-bum, with so little self-respect that he
will never "boil-up," and with so little pride that he will eat out
of a garbage can. He was truly horrible-appearing. He might have
been sixty years of age; he might have been ninety. His garments
might have been discarded by a rag-picker. Beside him, an unrolled
bundle showed itself as consisting of a ragged overcoat and
containing an empty and smoke-blackened tomato can, an empty and
battered condensed milk can, some dog-meat partly wrapped in brown
paper and evidently begged from some butcher-shop, a carrot that
had been run over in the street by a wagon-wheel, three greenish-
cankered and decayed potatoes, and a sugar-bun with a mouthful
bitten from it and rescued from the gutter, as was made patent by
the gutter-filth that still encrusted it.

A prodigious growth of whiskers, greyish-dirty and untrimmed for
years, sprouted from his face. This hirsute growth should have
been white, but the season was summer and it had not been exposed
to a rain-shower for some time. What was visible of the face
looked as if at some period it had stopped a hand-grenade. The
nose was so variously malformed in its healed brokenness that there
was no bridge, while one nostril, the size of a pea, opened
downward, and the other, the size of a robin's egg, tilted upward
to the sky. One eye, of normal size, dim-brown and misty, bulged
to the verge of popping out, and as if from senility wept copiously
and continuously. The other eye, scarcely larger than a squirrel's
and as uncannily bright, twisted up obliquely into the hairy scar
of a bone-crushed eyebrow. And he had but one arm.

Yet was he cheerful. On his face, in mild degree, was depicted
sensuous pleasure as he lethargically scratched his ribs with his
one hand. He pawed over his food-scraps, debated, then drew a
twelve-ounce druggist bottle from his inside coat-pocket. The
bottle was full of a colourless liquid, the contemplation of which
made his little eye burn brighter and quickened his movements.
Picking up the tomato can, he arose, went down the short path to
the river, and returned with the can filled with not-nice river
water. In the condensed milk can he mixed one part of water with
two parts of fluid from the bottle. This colourless fluid was
druggist's alcohol, and as such is known in tramp-land as "alki."

Slow footsteps, coming down the side of the railroad embankment,
alarmed him ere he could drink. Placing the can carefully upon the
ground between his legs, he covered it with his hat and waited
anxiously whatever impended.

Out of the darkness emerged a man as filthy ragged as he. The new-
comer, who might have been fifty, and might have been sixty, was
grotesquely fat. He bulged everywhere. He was composed of bulges.
His bulbous nose was the size and shape of a turnip. His eyelids
bulged and his blue eyes bulged in competition with them. In many
places the seams of his garments had parted across the bulges of
body. His calves grew into his feet, for the broken elastic sides
of his Congress gaiters were swelled full with the fat of him. One
arm only he sported, from the shoulder of which was suspended a
small and tattered bundle with the mud caked dry on the outer
covering from the last place he had pitched his doss. He advanced
with tentative caution, made sure of the harmlessness of the man
beside the fire, and joined him.

"Hello, grandpa," the new-comer greeted, then paused to stare at
the other's flaring, sky-open nostril. "Say, Whiskers, how'd ye
keep the night dew out of that nose o' yourn?"

Whiskers growled an incoherence deep in his throat and spat into
the fire in token that he was not pleased by the question.

"For the love of Mike," the fat man chuckled, "if you got caught
out in a rainstorm without an umbrella you'd sure drown, wouldn't

"Can it, Fatty, can it," Whiskers muttered wearily. "They ain't
nothin' new in that line of chatter. Even the bulls hand it out to

"But you can still drink, I hope"; Fatty at the same time mollified
and invited, with his one hand deftly pulling the slip-knots that
fastened his bundle.

From within the bundle he brought to light a twelve-ounce bottle of
alki. Footsteps coming down the embankment alarmed him, and he hid
the bottle under his hat on the ground between his legs.

But the next comer proved to be not merely one of their own ilk,
but likewise to have only one arm. So forbidding of aspect was he
that greetings consisted of no more than grunts. Huge-boned, tall,
gaunt to cadaverousness, his face a dirty death's head, he was as
repellent a nightmare of old age as ever Dore imagined. His
toothless, thin-lipped mouth was a cruel and bitter slash under a
great curved nose that almost met the chin and that was like a
buzzard's beak. His one hand, lean and crooked, was a talon. The
beady grey eyes, unblinking and unwavering, were bitter as death,
as bleak as absolute zero and as merciless. His presence was a
chill, and Whiskers and Fatty instinctively drew together for
protection against the unguessed threat of him. Watching his
chance, privily, Whiskers snuggled a chunk of rock several pounds
in weigh close to his hand if need for action should arise. Fatty
duplicated the performance.

Then both sat licking their lips, guiltily embarrassed, while the
unblinking eyes of the terrible one bored into them, now into one,
now into another, and then down at the rock-chunks of their

"Huh!" sneered the terrible one, with such dreadfulness of menace
as to cause Whiskers and Fatty involuntarily to close their hands
down on their cave-man's weapons.

"Huh!" the other repeated, reaching his one talon into his side
coat pocket with swift definiteness. "A hell of a chance you two
cheap bums 'd have with me."

The talon emerged, clutching ready for action a six-pound iron

"We ain't lookin' for trouble, Slim," Fatty quavered.

"Who in hell are you to call me 'Slim'?" came the snarling answer.

"Me? I'm just Fatty, an' seein' 's I never seen you before--"

"An' I suppose that's Whiskers, there, with the gay an' festive
lamp tan-going into his eyebrow an' the God-forgive-us nose joy-
riding all over his mug?"

"It'll do, it'll do," Whiskers muttered uncomfortably. "One
monica's as good as another, I find, at my time of life. And
everybody hands it out to me anyway. And I need an umbrella when
it rains to keep from getting drowned, an' all the rest of it."

"I ain't used to company--don't like it," Slim growled. "So if you
guys want to stick around, mind your step, that's all, mind your

He fished from his pocket a cigar stump, self-evidently shot from
the gutter, and prepared to put it in his mouth to chew. Then he
changed his mind, glared at his companions savagely, and unrolled
his bundle. Appeared in his hand a druggist's bottle of alki.

"Well," he snarled, "I suppose I gotta give you cheap skates a
drink when I ain't got more'n enough for a good petrification for

Almost a softening flicker of light was imminent in his withered
face as he beheld the others proudly lift their hats and exhibit
their own supplies.

"Here's some water for the mixin's," Whiskers said, proffering his
tomato-can of river slush. "Stockyards just above," he added
apologetically. "But they say--"

"Huh!" Slim snapped short, mixing the drink. "I've drunk worse'n
stockyards in my time."

Yet when all was ready, cans of alki in their solitary hands, the
three things that had once been men hesitated, as if of old habit,
and next betrayed shame as if at self-exposure.

Whiskers was the first to brazen it.

"I've sat in at many a finer drinking," he bragged.

"With the pewter," Slim sneered.

"With the silver," Whiskers corrected.

Slim turned a scorching eye-interrogation on Fatty.

Fatty nodded.

"Beneath the salt," said Slim.

"Above it," came Fatty's correction. "I was born above it, and
I've never travelled second class. First or steerage, but no
intermediate in mine."

"Yourself?" Whiskers queried of Slim.

"In broken glass to the Queen, God bless her," Slim answered,
solemnly, without snarl or sneer.

"In the pantry?" Fatty insinuated.

Simultaneously Slim reached for his quoit, and Whiskers and Fatty
for their rocks.

"Now don't let's get feverish," Fatty said, dropping his own
weapon. "We aren't scum. We're gentlemen. Let's drink like

"Let it be a real drinking," Whiskers approved.

"Let's get petrified," Slim agreed. "Many a distillery's flowed
under the bridge since we were gentlemen; but let's forget the long
road we've travelled since, and hit our doss in the good old
fashion in which every gentleman went to bed when we were young."

"My father done it--did it," Fatty concurred and corrected, as old
recollections exploded long-sealed brain-cells of connotation and
correct usage.

The other two nodded a descent from similar fathers, and elevated
their tin cans of alcohol.

By the time each had finished his own bottle and from his rags
fished forth a second one, their brains were well-mellowed and a-
glow, although they had not got around to telling their real names.
But their English had improved. They spoke it correctly, while the
argo of tramp-land ceased from their lips.

"It's my constitution," Whiskers was explaining. "Very few men
could go through what I have and live to tell the tale. And I
never took any care of myself. If what the moralists and the
physiologists say were true, I'd have been dead long ago. And it's
the same with you two. Look at us, at our advanced years,
carousing as the young ones don't dare, sleeping out in the open on
the ground, never sheltered from frost nor rain nor storm, never
afraid of pneumonia or rheumatism that would put half the young
ones on their backs in hospital."

He broke off to mix another drink, and Fatty took up the tale.

"And we've had our fun," he boasted, "and speaking of sweethearts
and all," he cribbed from Kipling, "'We've rogued and we've ranged-

"'In our time,'" Slim completed the crib for him.

"I should say so, I should say so," Fatty confirmed. "And been
loved by princesses--at least I have."

"Go on and tell us about it," Whiskers urged. "The night's young,
and why shouldn't we remember back to the roofs of kings?"

Nothing loth, Fatty cleared his throat for the recital and cast
about in his mind for the best way to begin.

"It must be known that I came of good family. Percival Delaney,
let us say, yes, let us say Percival Delaney, was not unknown at
Oxford once upon a time--not for scholarship, I am frank to admit;
but the gay young dogs of that day, if any be yet alive, would
remember him--"

"My people came over with the Conqueror," Whiskers interrupted,
extending his hand to Fatty's in acknowledgment of the

"What name?" Fatty queried. "I did not seem quite to catch it."

"Delarouse, Chauncey Delarouse. The name will serve as well as

Both completed the handshake and glanced to Slim.

"Oh, well, while we're about it . . . " Fatty urged.

"Bruce Cadogan Cavendish," Slim growled morosely. "Go on,
Percival, with your princesses and the roofs of kings."

"Oh, I was a rare young devil," Percival obliged, "after I played
ducks and drakes at home and sported out over the world. And I was
some figure of a man before I lost my shape--polo, steeple-chasing,
boxing. I won medals at buckjumping in Australia, and I held more
than several swimming records from the quarter of a mile up. Women
turned their heads to look when I went by. The women! God bless

And Fatty, alias Percival Delaney, a grotesque of manhood, put his
bulgy hand to his puffed lips and kissed audibly into the starry
vault of the sky.

"And the Princess!" he resumed, with another kiss to the stars.
"She was as fine a figure of a woman as I was a man, as high-
spirited and courageous, as reckless and dare-devilish. Lord,
Lord, in the water she was a mermaid, a sea-goddess. And when it
came to blood, beside her I was parvenu. Her royal line traced
back into the mists of antiquity.

"She was not a daughter of a fair-skinned folk. Tawny golden was
she, with golden-brown eyes, and her hair that fell to her knees
was blue-black and straight, with just the curly tendrilly tendency
that gives to woman's hair its charm. Oh, there were no kinks in
it, any more than were there kinks in the hair of her entire
genealogy. For she was Polynesian, glowing, golden, lovely and
lovable, royal Polynesian."

Again he paused to kiss his hand to the memory of her, and Slim,
alias Bruce Cadogan Cavendish, took advantage to interject:

"Huh! Maybe you didn't shine in scholarship, but at least you
gleaned a vocabulary out of Oxford."

"And in the South Seas garnered a better vocabulary from the
lexicon of Love," Percival was quick on the uptake.

"It was the island of Talofa," he went on, "meaning love, the Isle
of Love, and it was her island. Her father, the king, an old man,
sat on his mats with paralysed knees and drank squareface gin all
day and most of the night, out of grief, sheer grief. She, my
princess, was the only issue, her brother having been lost in their
double canoe in a hurricane while coming up from a voyage to Samoa.
And among the Polynesians the royal women have equal right with the
men to rule. In fact, they trace their genealogies always by the
female line."

To this both Chauncey Delarouse and Bruce Cadogan Cavendish nodded
prompt affirmation.

"Ah," said Percival, "I perceive you both know the South Seas,
wherefore, without undue expenditure of verbiage on my part, I am
assured that you will appreciate the charm of my princess, the
Princess Tui-nui of Talofa, the Princess of the Isle of Love."

He kissed his hand to her, sipped from his condensed milk can a
man-size drink of druggist's alcohol, and to her again kissed her

"But she was coy, and ever she fluttered near to me but never near
enough. When my arm went out to her to girdle her, presto, she was
not there. I knew, as never before, nor since, the thousand dear
and delightful anguishes of love frustrated but ever resilient and
beckoned on by the very goddess of love."

"Some vocabulary," Bruce Cadogan Cavendish muttered in aside to
Chauncey Delarouse. But Percival Delaney was not to be deterred.
He kissed his pudgy hand aloft into the night and held warmly on.

"No fond agonies of rapture deferred that were not lavished upon me
by my dear Princess, herself ever a luring delight of promise
flitting just beyond my reach. Every sweet lover's inferno
unguessed of by Dante she led me through. Ah! Those swooning
tropic nights, under our palm trees, the distant surf a langourous
murmur as from some vast sea shell of mystery, when she, my
Princess, all but melted to my yearning, and with her laughter,
that was as silver strings by buds and blossoms smitten, all but
made lunacy of my lover's ardency.

"It was by my wrestling with the champions of Talofa that I first
interested her. It was by my prowess at swimming that I awoke her.
And it was by a certain swimming deed that I won from her more than
coquettish smiles and shy timidities of feigned retreat.

"We were squidding that day, out on the reef--you know how,
undoubtedly, diving down the face of the wall of the reef, five
fathoms, ten fathoms, any depth within reason, and shoving our
squid-sticks into the likely holes and crannies of the coral where
squid might be lairing. With the squid-stick, bluntly sharp at
both ends, perhaps a foot long, and held crosswise in the hand, the
trick was to gouge any lazying squid until he closed his tentacles
around fist, stick and arm.--Then you had him, and came to the
surface with him, and hit him in the head which is in the centre of
him, and peeled him off into the waiting canoe. . . . And to think
I used to do that!"

Percival Delaney paused a moment, a glimmer of awe on his rotund
face, as he contemplated the mighty picture of his youth.

"Why, I've pulled out a squid with tentacles eight feet long, and
done it under fifty feet of water. I could stay down four minutes.
I've gone down, with a coral-rock to sink me, in a hundred and ten
feet to clear a fouled anchor. And I could back-dive with a once-
over and go in feet-first from eighty feet above the surface--"

"Quit it, delete it, cease it," Chauncey Delarouse admonished
testily. "Tell of the Princess. That's what makes old blood leap
again. Almost can I see her. Was she wonderful?"

Percival Delaney kissed unutterable affirmation.

"I have said she was a mermaid. She was. I know she swam thirty-
six hours before being rescued, after her schooner was capsized in
a double-squall. I have seen her do ninety feet and bring up pearl
shell in each hand. She was wonderful. As a woman she was
ravishing, sublime. I have said she was a sea-goddess. She was.
Oh, for a Phidias or a Praxiteles to have made the wonder of her
body immortal!

"And that day, out for squid on the reef, I was almost sick for
her. Mad--I know I was mad for her. We would step over the side
from the big canoe, and swim down, side by side, into the delicious
depths of cool and colour, and she would look at me, as we swam,
and with her eyes tantalize me to further madness. And at last,
down, far down, I lost myself and reached for her. She eluded me
like the mermaid she was, and I saw the laughter on her face as she
fled. She fled deeper, and I knew I had her for I was between her
and the surface; but in the muck coral sand of the bottom she made
a churning with her squid stick. It was the old trick to escape a
shark. And she worked it on me, rolling the water so that I could
not see her. And when I came up, she was there ahead of me,
clinging to the side of the canoe and laughing.

"Almost I would not be denied. But not for nothing was she a
princess. She rested her hand on my arm and compelled me to
listen. We should play a game, she said, enter into a competition
for which should get the more squid, the biggest squid, and the
smallest squid. Since the wagers were kisses, you can well imagine
I went down on the first next dive with soul aflame.

"I got no squid. Never again in all my life have I dived for
squid. Perhaps we were five fathoms down and exploring the face of
the reefwall for lurking places of our prey, when it happened. I
had found a likely lair and just proved it empty, when I felt or
sensed the nearness of something inimical. I turned. There it
was, alongside of me, and no mere fish-shark. Fully a dozen feet
in length, with the unmistakable phosphorescent cat's eye gleaming
like a drowning star, I knew it for what it was, a tiger shark.

"Not ten feet to the right, probing a coral fissure with her squid
stick, was the Princess, and the tiger shark was heading directly
for her. My totality of thought was precipitated to consciousness
in a single all-embracing flash. The man-eater must be deflected
from her, and what was I, except a mad lover who would gladly fight
and die, or more gladly fight and live, for his beloved? Remember,
she was the woman wonderful, and I was aflame for her.

"Knowing fully the peril of my act, I thrust the blunt-sharp end of
my squid-stick into the side of the shark, much as one would
attract a passing acquaintance with a thumb-nudge in the ribs. And
the man-eater turned on me. You know the South Seas, and you know
that the tiger shark, like the bald-face grizzly of Alaska, never
gives trail. The combat, fathoms deep under the sea, was on--if by
combat may be named such a one-sided struggle.

"The Princess unaware, caught her squid and rose to the surface.
The man-eater rushed me. I fended him off with both hands on his
nose above his thousand-toothed open mouth, so that he backed me
against the sharp coral. The scars are there to this day.
Whenever I tried to rise, he rushed me, and I could not remain down
there indefinitely without air. Whenever he rushed me, I fended
him off with my hands on his nose. And I would have escaped
unharmed, except for the slip of my right hand. Into his mouth it
went to the elbow. His jaws closed, just below the elbow. You
know how a shark's teeth are. Once in they cannot be released.
They must go through to complete the bite, but they cannot go
through heavy bone. So, from just below the elbow he stripped the
bone clean to the articulation of the wrist-joint, where his teeth
met and my good right hand became his for an appetizer.

"But while he was doing this, I drove the thumb of my left hand, to
the hilt into his eye-orifice and popped out his eye. This did not
stop him. The meat had maddened him. He pursued the gushing stump
of my wrist. Half a dozen times I fended with my intact arm. Then
he got the poor mangled arm again, closed down, and stripped the
meat off the bone from the shoulder down to the elbow-joint, where
his teeth met and he was free of his second mouthful of me. But,
at the same time, with my good arm, I thumbed out his remaining

Percival Delaney shrugged his shoulders, ere he resumed.

"From above, those in the canoe had beheld the entire happening and
were loud in praise of my deed. To this day they still sing the
song of me, and tell the tale of me. And the Princess." His pause
was brief but significant. "The Princess married me. . . . Oh,
well-a-day and lack-a-day, the whirligig of time and fortune, the
topsyturviness of luck, the wooden shoe going up and the polished
heel descending a French gunboat, a conquered island kingdom of
Oceania, to-day ruled over by a peasant-born, unlettered, colonial
gendarme, and . . . "

He completed the sentence and the tale by burying his face in the
down-tilted mouth of the condensed milk can and by gurgling the
corrosive drink down his throat in thirsty gulps.

After an appropriate pause, Chauncey Delarouse, otherwise Whiskers,
took up the tale.

"Far be it from me to boast of no matter what place of birth I have
descended from to sit here by this fire with such as . . . as
chance along. I may say, however, that I, too, was once a
considerable figure of a man. I may add that it was horses, plus
parents too indulgent, that exiled me out over the world. I may
still wonder to query: 'Are Dover's cliffs still white?'"

"Huh!" Bruce Cadogan Cavendish sneered. "Next you'll be asking:
'How fares the old Lord Warden?'"

"And I took every liberty, and vainly, with a constitution that was
iron," Whiskers hurried on. "Here I am with my three score and ten
behind me, and back on that long road have I buried many a
youngster that was as rare and devilish as I, but who could not
stand the pace. I knew the worst too young. And now I know the
worst too old. But there was a time, alas all too short, when I
knew, the best.

"I, too, kiss my hand to the Princess of my heart. She was truly a
princess, Polynesian, a thousand miles and more away to the
eastward and the south from Delaney's Isle of Love. The natives of
all around that part of the South Seas called it the Jolly Island.
Their own name, the name of the people who dwelt thereon,
translates delicately and justly into 'The Island of Tranquil
Laughter.' On the chart you will find the erroneous name given to
it by the old navigators to be Manatomana. The seafaring gentry
the round ocean around called it the Adamless Eden. And the
missionaries for a time called it God's Witness--so great had been
their success at converting the inhabitants. As for me, it was,
and ever shall be, Paradise.

"It was MY Paradise, for it was there my Princess lived. John
Asibeli Tungi was king. He was full-blooded native, descended out
of the oldest and highest chief-stock that traced back to Manua
which was the primeval sea home of the race. Also was he known as
John the Apostate. He lived a long life and apostasized
frequently. First converted by the Catholics, he threw down the
idols, broke the tabus, cleaned out the native priests, executed a
few of the recalcitrant ones, and sent all his subjects to church.

"Next he fell for the traders, who developed in him a champagne
thirst, and he shipped off the Catholic priests to New Zealand.
The great majority of his subjects always followed his lead, and,
having no religion at all, ensued the time of the Great
Licentiousness, when by all South Seas missionaries his island, in
sermons, was spoken of as Babylon.

"But the traders ruined his digestion with too much champagne, and
after several years he fell for the Gospel according to the
Methodists, sent his people to church, and cleaned up the beach and
the trading crowd so spick and span that he would not permit them
to smoke a pipe out of doors on Sunday, and, fined one of the chief
traders one hundred gold sovereigns for washing his schooner's
decks on the Sabbath morn.

"That was the time of the Blue Laws, but perhaps it was too
rigorous for King John. Off he packed the Methodists, one fine
day, exiled several hundred of his people to Samoa for sticking to
Methodism, and, of all things, invented a religion of his own, with
himself the figure-head of worship. In this he was aided and
abetted by a renegade Fijian. This lasted five years. Maybe he
grew tired of being God, or maybe it was because the Fijian
decamped with the six thousand pounds in the royal treasury; but at
any rate the Second Reformed Wesleyans got him, and his entire
kingdom went Wesleyan. The pioneer Wesleyan missionary he actually
made prime minister, and what he did to the trading crowd was a
caution. Why, in the end, King John's kingdom was blacklisted and
boycotted by the traders till the revenues diminished to zero, the
people went bankrupt, and King John couldn't borrow a shilling from
his most powerful chief.

"By this time he was getting old, and philosophic, and tolerant,
and spiritually atavistic. He fired out the Second Reformed
Wesleyans, called back the exiles from Samoa, invited in the
traders, held a general love-feast, took the lid off, proclaimed
religious liberty and high tariff, and as for himself went back to
the worship of his ancestors, dug up the idols, reinstated a few
octogenarian priests, and observed the tabus. All of which was
lovely for the traders, and prosperity reigned. Of course, most of
his subjects followed him back into heathen worship. Yet quite a
sprinkling of Catholics, Methodists and Wesleyans remained true to
their beliefs and managed to maintain a few squalid, one-horse
churches. But King John didn't mind, any more than did he the high
times of the traders along the beach. Everything went, so long as
the taxes were paid. Even when his wife, Queen Mamare, elected to
become a Baptist, and invited in a little, weazened, sweet-
spirited, club-footed Baptist missionary, King John did not object.
All he insisted on was that these wandering religions should be
self-supporting and not feed a pennyworth's out of the royal

"And now the threads of my recital draw together in the paragon of
female exquisiteness--my Princess."

Whiskers paused, placed carefully on the ground his half-full
condensed milk can with which he had been absently toying, and
kissed the fingers of his one hand audibly aloft.

"She was the daughter of Queen Mamare. She was the woman
wonderful. Unlike the Diana type of Polynesian, she was almost
ethereal. She WAS ethereal, sublimated by purity, as shy and
modest as a violet, as fragile-slender as a lily, and her eyes,
luminous and shrinking tender, were as asphodels on the sward of
heaven. She was all flower, and fire, and dew. Hers was the
sweetness of the mountain rose, the gentleness of the dove. And
she was all of good as well as all of beauty, devout in her belief
in her mother's worship, which was the worship introduced by
Ebenezer Naismith, the Baptist missionary. But make no mistake.
She was no mere sweet spirit ripe for the bosom of Abraham. All of
exquisite deliciousness of woman was she. She was woman, all
woman, to the last sensitive quivering atom of her -

"And I? I was a wastrel of the beach. The wildest was not so wild
as I, the keenest not so keen, of all that wild, keen trading
crowd. It was esteemed I played the stiffest hand of poker. I was
the only living man, white, brown, or black, who dared run the
Kuni-kuni Passage in the dark. And on a black night I have done it
under reefs in a gale of wind. Well, anyway, I had a bad
reputation on a beach where there were no good reputations. I was
reckless, dangerous, stopped at nothing in fight or frolic; and the
trading captains used to bring boiler-sheeted prodigies from the
vilest holes of the South Pacific to try and drink me under the
table. I remember one, a calcined Scotchman from the New Hebrides.
It was a great drinking. He died of it, and we laded him aboard
ship, pickled in a cask of trade rum, and sent him back to his own
place. A sample, a fair sample, of the antic tricks we cut up on
the beach of Manatomana.

"And of all unthinkable things, what did I up and do, one day, but
look upon the Princess to find her good and to fall in love with
her. It was the real thing. I was as mad as a March hare, and
after that I got only madder. I reformed. Think of that! Think
of what a slip of a woman can do to a busy, roving man!--By the
Lord Harry, it's true. I reformed. I went to church. Hear me! I
became converted. I cleared my soul before God and kept my hands--
I had two then--off the ribald crew of the beach when it laughed at
this, my latest antic, and wanted to know what was my game.

"I tell you I reformed, and gave myself in passion and sincerity to
a religious experience that has made me tolerant of all religion
ever since. I discharged my best captain for immorality. So did I
my cook, and a better never boiled water in Manatomana. For the
same reason I discharged my chief clerk. And for the first time in
the history of trading my schooners to the westward carried Bibles
in their stock. I built a little anchorite bungalow up town on a
mango-lined street squarely alongside the little house occupied by
Ebenezer Naismith. And I made him my pal and comrade, and found
him a veritable honey pot of sweetnesses and goodnesses. And he
was a man, through and through a man. And he died long after like
a man, which I would like to tell you about, were the tale of it
not so deservedly long.

"It was the Princess, more than the missionary, who was responsible
for my expressing my faith in works, and especially in that
crowning work, the New Church, Our Church, the Queen-mother's

"'Our poor church,' she said to me, one night after prayer-meeting.
I had been converted only a fortnight. 'It is so small its
congregation can never grow. And the roof leaks. And King John,
my hard-hearted father, will not contribute a penny. Yet he has a
big balance in the treasury. And Manatomana is not poor. Much
money is made and squandered, I know. I hear the gossip of the
wild ways of the beach. Less than a month ago you lost more in one
night, gambling at cards, than the cost of the upkeep of our poor
church for a year.'

"And I told her it was true, but that it was before I had seen the
light. (I'd had an infernal run of bad luck.) I told her I had
not tasted liquor since, nor turned a card. I told her that the
roof would be repaired at once, by Christian carpenters selected by
her from the congregation. But she was filled with the thought of
a great revival that Ebenezer Naismith could preach--she was a dear
saint--and she spoke of a great church, saying:

"'You are rich. You have many schooners, and traders in far
islands, and I have heard of a great contract you have signed to
recruit labour for the German plantations of Upolu. They say, next
to Sweitzer, you are the richest trader here. I should love to see
some use of all this money placed to the glory of God. It would be
a noble thing to do, and I should be proud to know the man who
would do it.'

"I told her that Ebenezer Naismith would preach the revival, and
that I would build a church great enough in which to house it.

"'As big as the Catholic church?' she asked.

"This was the ruined cathedral, built at the time when the entire
population was converted, and it was a large order; but I was afire
with love, and I told her that the church I would build would be
even bigger.

"'But it will take money,' I explained. 'And it takes time to make

"'You have much,' she said. 'Some say you have more money than my
father, the King.

"'I have more credit,' I explained. 'But you do not understand
money. It takes money to have credit. So, with the money I have,
and the credit I have, I will work to make more money and credit,
and the church shall be built.'

"Work! I was a surprise to myself. It is an amazement, the amount
of time a man finds on his hands after he's given up carousing, and
gambling, and all the time-eating diversions of the beach. And I
didn't waste a second of all my new-found time. Instead I worked
it overtime. I did the work of half a dozen men. I became a
driver. My captains made faster runs than ever and earned bigger
bonuses, as did my supercargoes, who saw to it that my schooners
did not loaf and dawdle along the way. And I saw to it that my
supercargoes did see to it.

"And good! By the Lord Harry I was so good it hurt. My conscience
got so expansive and fine-strung it lamed me across the shoulders
to carry it around with me. Why, I even went back over my accounts
and paid Sweitzer fifty quid I'd jiggered him out of in a deal in
Fiji three years before. And I compounded the interest as well.

"Work! I planted sugar cane--the first commercial planting on
Manatomana. I ran in cargoes of kinky-heads from Malaita, which is
in the Solomons, till I had twelve hundred of the blackbirds
putting in cane. And I sent a schooner clear to Hawaii to bring
back a dismantled sugar mill and a German who said he knew the
field-end of cane. And he did, and he charged me three hundred
dollars screw a month, and I took hold of the mill-end. I
installed the mill myself, with the help of several mechanics I
brought up from Queensland.

"Of course there was a rival. His name was Motomoe. He was the
very highest chief blood next to King John's. He was full native,
a strapping, handsome man, with a glowering way of showing his
dislikes. He certainly glowered at me when I began hanging around
the palace. He went back in my history and circulated the blackest
tales about me. The worst of it was that most of them were true.
He even made a voyage to Apia to find things out--as if he couldn't
find a plenty right there on the beach of Manatomana! And he
sneered at my failing for religion, and at my going to prayer-
meeting, and, most of all, at my sugar-planting. He challenged me
to fight, and I kept off of him. He threatened me, and I learned
in the nick of time of his plan to have me knocked on the head.
You see, he wanted the Princess just as much as I did, and I wanted
her more.

"She used to play the piano. So did I, once. But I never let her
know after I'd heard her play the first time. And she thought her
playing was wonderful, the dear, fond girl! You know the sort, the
mechanical one-two-three tum-tum-tum school-girl stuff. And now
I'll tell you something funnier. Her playing WAS wonderful to me.
The gates of heaven opened to me when she played. I can see myself
now, worn out and dog-tired after the long day, lying on the mats
of the palace veranda and gazing upon her at the piano, myself in a
perfect idiocy of bliss. Why, this idea she had of her fine
playing was the one flaw in her deliciousness of perfection, and I
loved her for it. It kind of brought her within my human reach.
Why, when she played her one-two-three, tum-tum-tum, I was in the
seventh heaven of bliss. My weariness fell from me. I loved her,
and my love for her was clean as flame, clean as my love for God.
And do you know, into my fond lover's fancy continually intruded
the thought that God in most ways must look like her.

"--That's right, Bruce Cadogan Cavendish, sneer as you like. But I
tell you that's love that I've been describing. That's all. It's
love. It's the realest, purest, finest thing that can happen to a
man. And I know what I'm talking about. It happened to me."

Whiskers, his beady squirrel's eye glittering from out his ruined
eyebrow like a live coal in a jungle ambush, broke off long enough
to down a sedative draught from his condensed milk can and to mix

"The cane," he resumed, wiping his prodigious mat of face hair with
the back of his hand. "It matured in sixteen months in that
climate, and I was ready, just ready and no more, with the mill for
the grinding. Naturally, it did not all mature at once, but I had
planted in such succession that I could grind for nine months
steadily, while more was being planted and the ratoons were
springing up.

"I had my troubles the first several days. If it wasn't one thing
the matter with the mill, it was another. On the fourth day,
Ferguson, my engineer, had to shut down several hours in order to
remedy his own troubles. I was bothered by the feeder. After
having the niggers (who had been feeding the cane) pour cream of
lime on the rollers to keep everything sweet, I sent them out to
join the cane-cutting squads. So I was all alone at that end, just
as Ferguson started up the mill, just as I discovered what was the
matter with the feed-rollers, and just as Motomoe strolled up.

"He stood there, in Norfolk jacket, pigskin puttees, and all the
rest of the fashionable get-up out of a bandbox, sneering at me
covered with filth and grease to the eyebrows and looking like a
navvy. And, the rollers now white from the lime, I'd just seen
what was wrong. The rollers were not in plumb. One side crushed
the cane well, but the other side was too open. I shoved my
fingers in on that side. The big, toothed cogs on the rollers did
not touch my fingers. And yet, suddenly, they did. With the grip
of ten thousand devils, my finger-tips were caught, drawn in, and
pulped to--well, just pulp. And, like a slick of cane, I had
started on my way. There was no stopping me. Ten thousand horses
could not have pulled me back. There was nothing to stop me.
Hand, arm, shoulder, head, and chest, down to the toes of me, I was
doomed to feed through.

"It did hurt. It hurt so much it did not hurt me at all. Quite
detached, almost may I say, I looked on my hand being ground up,
knuckle by knuckle, joint by joint, the back of the hand, the
wrist, the forearm, all in order slowly and inevitably feeding in.
O engineer hoist by thine own petard! O sugar-maker crushed by
thine own cane-crusher!

"Motomoe sprang forward involuntarily, and the sneer was chased
from his face by an expression of solicitude. Then the beauty of
the situation dawned on him, and he chuckled and grinned. No, I
didn't expect anything of him. Hadn't he tried to knock me on the
head? What could he do anyway? He didn't know anything about

"I yelled at the top of my lungs to Ferguson to shut off the
engine, but the roar of the machinery drowned my voice. And there
I stood, up to the elbow and feeding right on in. Yes, it did
hurt. There were some astonishing twinges when special nerves were
shredded and dragged out by the roots. But I remember that I was
surprised at the time that it did not hurt worse.

"Motomoe made a movement that attracted my attention. At the same
time he growled out loud, as if he hated himself, 'I'm a fool.'
What he had done was to pick up a cane-knife--you know the kind, as
big as a machete and as heavy. And I was grateful to him in
advance for putting me out of my misery. There wasn't any sense in
slowly feeding in till my head was crushed, and already my arm was
pulped half way from elbow to shoulder, and the pulping was going
right on. So I was grateful, as I bent my head to the blow.

"'Get your head out of the way, you idiot!' he barked at me.

"And then I understood and obeyed. I was a big man, and he took
two hacks to do it; but he hacked my arm off just outside the
shoulder and dragged me back and laid me down on the cane.

"Yes, the sugar paid--enormously; and I built for the Princess the
church of her saintly dream, and . . . she married me."

He partly assuaged his thirst, and uttered his final word.

"Alackaday! Shuttlecock and battle-dore. And this at, the end of
it all, lined with boilerplate that even alcohol will not corrode
and that only alcohol will tickle. Yet have I lived, and I kiss my
hand to the dear dust of my Princess long asleep in the great
mausoleum of King John that looks across the Vale of Manona to the
alien flag that floats over the bungalow of the British Government
House. . . "

Fatty pledged him sympathetically, and sympathetically drank out of
his own small can. Bruce Cadogan Cavendish glared into the fire
with implacable bitterness. He was a man who preferred to drink by
himself. Across the thin lips that composed the cruel slash of his
mouth played twitches of mockery that caught Fatty's eye. And
Fatty, making sure first that his rock-chunk was within reach,

"Well, how about yourself, Bruce Cadogan Cavendish? It's your

The other lifted bleak eyes that bored into Fatty's until he
physically betrayed uncomfortableness.

"I've lived a hard life," Slim grated harshly. "What do I know
about love passages?"

"No man of your build and make-up could have escaped them," Fatty

"And what of it?" Slim snarled. "It's no reason for a gentleman to
boast of amorous triumphs."

"Oh, go on, be a good fellow," Fatty urged. "The night's still
young. We've still some drink left. Delarouse and I have
contributed our share. It isn't often that three real ones like us
get together for a telling. Surely you've got at least one
adventure in love you aren't ashamed to tell about--"

Bruce Cadogan Cavendish pulled forth his iron quoit and seemed to
debate whether or not he should brain the other. He sighed, and
put back the quoit.

"Very well, if you will have it," he surrendered with manifest
reluctance. "Like you two, I have had a remarkable constitution.
And right now, speaking of armour-plate lining, I could drink the
both of you down when you were at your prime. Like you two, my
beginnings were far distant and different. That I am marked with
the hall-mark of gentlehood there is no discussion . . . unless
either of you care to discuss the matter now . . . "

His one hand slipped into his pocket and clutched the quoit.
Neither of his auditors spoke nor betrayed any awareness of his

"It occurred a thousand miles to the westward of Manatomana, on the
island of Tagalag," he continued abruptly, with an air of saturnine
disappointment in that there had been no discussion. "But first I
must tell you of how I got to Tagalag. For reasons I shall not
mention, by paths of descent I shall not describe, in the crown of
my manhood and the prime of my devilishness in which Oxford
renegades and racing younger sons had nothing on me, I found myself
master and owner of a schooner so well known that she shall remain
historically nameless. I was running blackbird labour from the
west South Pacific and the Coral Sea to the plantations of Hawaii
and the nitrate mines of Chili--"

"It was you who cleaned out the entire population of--" Fatty
exploded, ere he could check his speech.

The one hand of Bruce Cadogan Cavendish flashed pocketward and
flashed back with the quoit balanced ripe for business.

"Proceed," Fatty sighed. "I . . . I have quite forgotten what I
was going to say."

"Beastly funny country over that way," the narrator drawled with
perfect casualness. "You've read this Sea Wolf stuff--"

"You weren't the Sea Wolf," Whiskers broke in with involuntary

"No, sir," was the snarling answer. "The Sea Wolf's dead, isn't
he? And I'm still alive, aren't I?"

"Of course, of course," Whiskers conceded. "He suffocated head-
first in the mud off a wharf in Victoria a couple of years back."

"As I was saying--and I don't like interruptions," Bruce Cadogan
Cavendish proceeded, "it's a beastly funny country over that way.
I was at Taki-Tiki, a low island that politically belongs to the
Solomons, but that geologically doesn't at all, for the Solomons
are high islands. Ethnographically it belongs to Polynesia,
Melanesia, and Micronesia, because all the breeds of the South
Pacific have gravitated to it by canoe-drift and intricately,
degeneratively, and amazingly interbred. The scum of the scrapings
of the bottom of the human pit, biologically speaking, resides in
Taka-Tiki. And I know the bottom and whereof I speak.

"It was a beastly funny time of it I had, diving out shell, fishing
beche-de-mer, trading hoop-iron and hatchets for copra and ivory-
nuts, running niggers and all the rest of it. Why, even in Fiji
the Lotu was having a hard time of it and the chiefs still eating
long-pig. To the westward it was fierce--funny little black kinky-
heads, man-eaters the last Jack of them, and the jackpot fat and
spilling over with wealth--"

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