Part 3 out of 8
into the woods, with bottles under their arms, and the hampers
strung upon a stick. Till one they feast there, in a very
moderate seclusion, all being within earshot of the band. From
one till four, dancing takes place upon the grass; the bar does a
roaring business; and the honorary steward, who has already
exhausted himself to bring life into the dullest of the messes,
must now indefatigably dance with the plainest of the women.
At four a bugle-call is sounded; and by half-past behold us on
board again, pioneers, corrugated iron bar, empty bottles, and
all; while the honorary steward, free at last, subsides into the
captain's cabin over a brandy and soda and a book. Free at last,
I say; yet there remains before him the frantic leavetakings at
the pier, and a sober journey up to Pinkerton's office with two
policemen and the day's takings in a bag.
What I have here sketched was the routine. But we appealed to
the taste of San Francisco more distinctly in particular fetes.
"Ye Olde Time Pycke-Nycke," largely advertised in hand-bills
beginning "Oyez, Oyez!" and largely frequented by knights,
monks, and cavaliers, was drowned out by unseasonable rain,
and returned to the city one of the saddest spectacles I ever
remember to have witnessed. In pleasing contrast, and
certainly our chief success, was "The Gathering of the Clans,"
or Scottish picnic. So many milk-white knees were never
before simultaneously exhibited in public, and to judge by the
prevalence of "Royal Stewart" and the number of eagle's
feathers, we were a high-born company. I threw forward the
Scottish flank of my own ancestry, and passed muster as a
clansman with applause. There was, indeed, but one small
cloud on this red-letter day. I had laid in a large supply of the
national beverage, in the shape of The "Rob Roy MacGregor
O" Blend, Warranted Old and Vatted; and this must certainly
have been a generous spirit, for I had some anxious work
between four and half-past, conveying on board the inanimate
forms of chieftains.
To one of our ordinary festivities, where he was the life and
soul of his own mess, Pinkerton himself came incognito,
bringing the algebraist on his arm. Miss Mamie proved to be a
well-enough-looking mouse, with a large, limpid eye, very
good manners, and a flow of the most correct expressions I
have ever heard upon the human lip. As Pinkerton's incognito
was strict, I had little opportunity to cultivate the lady's
acquaintance; but I was informed afterwards that she
considered me "the wittiest gentleman she had ever met." "The
Lord mend your taste in wit!" thought I; but I cannot conceal
that such was the general impression. One of my pleasantries
even went the round of San Francisco, and I have heard it
(myself all unknown) bandied in saloons. To be unknown
began at last to be a rare experience; a bustle woke upon my
passage; above all, in humble neighbourhoods. "Who's that?"
one would ask, and the other would cry, "That! Why,
Dromedary Dodd!" or, with withering scorn, "Not know Mr.
Dodd of the Picnics? Well!" and indeed I think it marked a
rather barren destiny; for our picnics, if a trifle vulgar, were as
gay and innocent as the age of gold; I am sure no people divert
themselves so easily and so well: and even with the cares of
my stewardship, I was often happy to be there.
Indeed, there were but two drawbacks in the least considerable.
The first was my terror of the hobbledehoy girls, to whom
(from the demands of my situation) I was obliged to lay myself
so open. The other, if less momentous, was more mortifying.
In early days, at my mother's knee, as a man may say, I had
acquired the unenviable accomplishment (which I have never
since been able to lose) of singing _Just before the Battle._ I
have what the French call a fillet of voice, my best notes scarce
audible about a dinner-table, and the upper register rather to be
regarded as a higher power of silence: experts tell me besides
that I sing flat; nor, if I were the best singer in the world, does
_Just before the Battle_ occur to my mature taste as the song
that I would choose to sing. In spite of all which
considerations, at one picnic, memorably dull, and after I had
exhausted every other art of pleasing, I gave, in desperation, my
one song. From that hour my doom was gone forth. Either we
had a chronic passenger (though I could never detect him), or
the very wood and iron of the steamer must have retained the
tradition. At every successive picnic word went round that Mr.
Dodd was a singer; that Mr. Dodd sang _Just before the
Battle_, and finally that now was the time when Mr. Dodd
sang _Just before the Battle;_ so that the thing became a
fixture like the dropping of the dummy axe, and you are to
conceive me, Sunday after Sunday, piping up my lamentable
ditty and covered, when it was done, with gratuitous applause.
It is a beautiful trait in human nature that I was invariably
offered an encore.
I was well paid, however, even to sing. Pinkerton and I, after
an average Sunday, had five hundred dollars to divide. Nay,
and the picnics were the means, although indirectly, of bringing
me a singular windfall. This was at the end of the season, after
the "Grand Farewell Fancy Dress Gala." Many of the hampers
had suffered severely; and it was judged wiser to save storage,
dispose of them, and lay in a fresh stock when the campaign re-
opened. Among my purchasers was a workingman of the name
of Speedy, to whose house, after several unavailing letters, I
must proceed in person, wondering to find myself once again
on the wrong side, and playing the creditor to some one else's
debtor. Speedy was in the belligerent stage of fear. He could
not pay. It appeared he had already resold the hampers, and he
defied me to do my worst. I did not like to lose my own
money; I hated to lose Pinkerton's; and the bearing of my
creditor incensed me.
"Do you know, Mr. Speedy, that I can send you to the
penitentiary?" said I, willing to read him a lesson.
The dire expression was overheard in the next room. A large,
fresh, motherly Irishwoman ran forth upon the instant, and fell
to besiege me with caresses and appeals. "Sure now, and ye
couldn't have the heart to ut, Mr. Dodd, you, that's so well
known to be a pleasant gentleman; and it's a pleasant face ye
have, and the picture of me own brother that's dead and gone.
It's a truth that he's been drinking. Ye can smell it off of him,
more blame to him. But, indade, and there's nothing in the
house beyont the furnicher, and Thim Stock. It's the stock that
ye'll be taking, dear. A sore penny it has cost me, first and last,
and by all tales, not worth an owld tobacco pipe." Thus
adjured, and somewhat embarrassed by the stern attitude I had
adopted, I suffered myself to be invested with a considerable
quantity of what is called wild-cat stock, in which this excellent
if illogical female had been squandering her hard-earned gold.
It could scarce be said to better my position, but the step
quieted the woman; and, on the other hand, I could not think I
was taking much risk, for the shares in question (they were
those of what I will call the Catamount Silver Mine) had fallen
some time before to the bed-rock quotation, and now lay
perfectly inert, or were only kicked (like other waste paper)
about the kennel of the exchange by bankrupt speculators.
A month or two after, I perceived by the stock-list that
Catamount had taken a bound; before afternoon, "thim stock"
were worth a quite considerable pot of money; and I learned,
upon inquiry, that a bonanza had been found in a condemned
lead, and the mine was now expected to do wonders.
Remarkable to philosophers how bonanzas are found in
condemned leads, and how the stock is always at freezing-point
immediately before! By some stroke of chance the, Speedys
had held on to the right thing; they had escaped the syndicate;
yet a little more, if I had not come to dun them, and Mrs.
Speedy would have been buying a silk dress. I could not bear,
of course, to profit by the accident, and returned to offer
restitution. The house was in a bustle; the neighbours (all
stock-gamblers themselves) had crowded to condole; and Mrs.
Speedy sat with streaming tears, the centre of a sympathetic
group. "For fifteen year I've been at ut," she was lamenting, as
I entered, "and grudging the babes the very milk, more shame
to me! to pay their dhirty assessments. And now, my dears, I
should be a lady, and driving in my coach, if all had their
rights; and a sorrow on that man Dodd! As soon as I set eyes
on him, I seen the divil was in the house."
It was upon these words that I made my entrance, which was
therefore dramatic enough, though nothing to what followed.
For when it appeared that I was come to restore the lost fortune,
and when Mrs. Speedy (after copiously weeping on my bosom)
had refused the restitution, and when Mr. Speedy (summoned
to that end from a camp of the Grand Army of the Republic)
had added his refusal, and when I had insisted, and they had
insisted, and the neighbours had applauded and supported each
of us in turn; and when at last it was agreed we were to hold
the stock together, and share the proceeds in three parts--one
for me, one for Mr. Speedy, and one for his spouse--I will leave
you to conceive the enthusiasm that reigned in that small, bare
apartment, with the sewing-machine in the one corner, and the
babes asleep in the other, and pictures of Garfield and the
Battle of Gettysburg on the yellow walls. Port wine was had in
by a sympathiser, and we drank it mingled with tears.
"And I dhrink to your health, my dear," sobbed Mrs. Speedy,
especially affected by my gallantry in the matter of the third
share; "and I'm sure we all dhrink to his health--Mr. Dodd of
the picnics, no gentleman better known than him; and it's my
prayer, dear, the good God may be long spared to see ye in
health and happiness!"
In the end I was the chief gainer; for I sold my third while it
was worth five thousand dollars, but the Speedys more
adventurously held on until the syndicate reversed the process,
when they were happy to escape with perhaps a quarter of that
sum. It was just as well; for the bulk of the money was (in
Pinkerton's phrase) reinvested; and when next I saw Mrs.
Speedy, she was still gorgeously dressed from the proceeds of
the late success, but was already moist with tears over the new
catastrophe. "We're froze out, me darlin'! All the money we
had, dear, and the sewing-machine, and Jim's uniform, was in
the Golden West; and the vipers has put on a new assessment."
By the end of the year, therefore, this is how I stood. I had
By Catamount Silver Mine.......... $5,000
By the picnics.............................. 3,000
By the lecture............................... 600
By profit and loss on capital
in Pinkerton's business............. 1,350
to which must be added
What remained of my grandfather's
It appears, on the other hand, that
I had spent.................................... 4,000
Which thus left me to the good....... $14,450
A result on which I am not ashamed to say I looked with
gratitude and pride. Some eight thousand (being late conquest)
was liquid and actually tractile in the bank; the rest whirled
beyond reach and even sight (save in the mirror of a balance-
sheet) under the compelling spell of wizard Pinkerton. Dollars
of mine were tacking off the shores of Mexico, in peril of the
deep and the guarda-costas; they rang on saloon-counters in the
city of Tombstone, Arizona; they shone in faro-tents among the
mountain diggings; the imagination flagged in following them,
so wide were they diffused, so briskly they span to the turning
of the wizard's crank. But here, there, or everywhere I could
still tell myself it was all mine, and what was more convincing,
draw substantial dividends. My fortune, I called it; and it
represented, when expressed in dollars, or even British pounds,
an honest pot of money; when extended into francs, a veritable
fortune. Perhaps I have let the cat out of the bag; perhaps you
see already where my hopes were pointing, and begin to blame
my inconsistency. But I must first tell you my excuse, and the
change that had befallen Pinkerton.
About a week after the picnic to which he escorted Mamie,
Pinkerton avowed the state of his affections. From what I had
observed on board the steamer, where methought Mamie
waited on him with her limpid eyes, I encouraged the bashful
lover to proceed; and the very next evening he was carrying me
to call on his affianced.
"You must befriend her, Loudon, as you have always
befriended me," he said, pathetically.
"By saying disagreeable things? I doubt if that be the way to a
young lady's favour," I replied; "and since this picnicking I
begin to be a man of some experience."
"Yes, you do nobly there; I can't describe how I admire you," he
cried. "Not that she will ever need it; she has had every
advantage. God knows what I have done to deserve her. O
man, what a responsibility this is for a rough fellow and not
"Brace up, old man, brace up!" said I.
But when we reached Mamie's boarding-house, it was almost
with tears that he presented me. "Here is Loudon, Mamie,"
were his words. "I want you to love him; he has a grand
"You are certainly no stranger to me, Mr. Dodd," was her
gracious expression. "James is never weary of descanting on
"My dear lady," said I, "when you know our friend a little
better, you will make a large allowance for his warm heart. My
goodness has consisted in allowing him to feed and clothe and
toil for me when he could ill afford it. If I am now alive, it is to
him I owe it; no man had a kinder friend. You must take good
care of him," I added, laying my hand on his shoulder, "and
keep him in good order, for he needs it."
Pinkerton was much affected by this speech, and so, I fear, was
Mamie. I admit it was a tactless performance. "When you
know our friend a little better," was not happily said; and even
"keep him in good order, for he needs it" might be construed
into matter of offence; but I lay it before you in all confidence of
your acquittal: was the general tone of it "patronising"? Even if
such was the verdict of the lady, I cannot but suppose the
blame was neither wholly hers nor wholly mine; I cannot but
suppose that Pinkerton had already sickened the poor woman
of my very name; so that if I had come with the songs of
Apollo, she must still have been disgusted.
Here, however, were two finger-posts to Paris. Jim was going
to be married, and so had the less need of my society. I had not
pleased his bride, and so was, perhaps, better absent. Late one
evening I broached the idea to my friend. It had been a great
day for me; I had just banked my five thousand catamountain
dollars; and as Jim had refused to lay a finger on the stock, risk
and profit were both wholly mine, and I was celebrating the
event with stout and crackers. I began by telling him that if it
caused him any pain or any anxiety about his affairs, he had but
to say the word, and he should hear no more of my proposal.
He was the truest and best friend I ever had or was ever like to
have; and it would be a strange thing if I refused him any
favour he was sure he wanted. At the same time I wished him
to be sure; for my life was wasting in my hands. I was like one
from home; all my true interests summoned me away. I must
remind him, besides, that he was now about to marry and
assume new interests, and that our extreme familiarity might be
even painful to his wife.--"O no, Loudon; I feel you are wrong
there," he interjected warmly; "she DOES appreciate your
nature."--So much the better, then, I continued; and went on to
point out that our separation need not be for long; that, in the
way affairs were going, he might join me in two years with a
fortune, small, indeed, for the States, but in France almost
conspicuous; that we might unite our resources, and have one
house in Paris for the winter and a second near Fontainebleau
for summer, where we could be as happy as the day was long,
and bring up little Pinkertons as practical artistic workmen, far
from the money-hunger of the West. "Let me go then," I
concluded; "not as a deserter, but as the vanguard, to lead the
march of the Pinkerton men."
So I argued and pleaded, not without emotion; my friend sitting
opposite, resting his chin upon his hand and (but for that single
interjection) silent. "I have been looking for this, Loudon," said
he, when I had done. "It does pain me, and that's the fact--I'm
so miserably selfish. And I believe it's a death blow to the
picnics; for it's idle to deny that you were the heart and soul of
them with your wand and your gallant bearing, and wit and
humour and chivalry, and throwing that kind of society
atmosphere about the thing. But for all that, you're right, and
you ought to go. You may count on forty dollars a week; and if
Depew City--one of nature's centres for this State--pan out the
least as I expect, it may be double. But it's forty dollars
anyway; and to think that two years ago you were almost
reduced to beggary!"
"I WAS reduced to it," said I.
"Well, the brutes gave you nothing, and I'm glad of it now!"
cried Jim. "It's the triumphant return I glory in! Think of the
master, and that cold-blooded Myner too! Yes, just let the
Depew City boom get on its legs, and you shall go; and two
years later, day for day, I'll shake hands with you in Paris, with
Mamie on my arm, God bless her!"
We talked in this vein far into the night. I was myself so
exultant in my new-found liberty, and Pinkerton so proud of my
triumph, so happy in my happiness, in so warm a glow about
the gallant little woman of his choice, and the very room so
filled with castles in the air and cottages at Fontainebleau, that
it was little wonder if sleep fled our eyelids, and three had
followed two upon the office clock before Pinkerton unfolded
the mechanism of his patent sofa.
FACES ON THE CITY FRONT.
It is very much the custom to view life as if it were exactly
ruled in two, like sleep and waking; the provinces of play and
business standing separate. The business side of my career in
San Francisco has been now disposed of; I approach the
chapter of diversion; and it will be found they had about an
equal share in building up the story of the Wrecker--a
gentleman whose appearance may be presently expected.
With all my occupations, some six afternoons and two or three
odd evenings remained at my disposal every week: a
circumstance the more agreeable as I was a stranger in a city
singularly picturesque. From what I had once called myself,
The Amateur Parisian, I grew (or declined) into a waterside
prowler, a lingerer on wharves, a frequenter of shy
neighbourhoods, a scraper of acquaintance with eccentric
characters. I visited Chinese and Mexican gambling-hells,
German secret societies, sailors' boarding-houses, and "dives"
of every complexion of the disreputable and dangerous. I have
seen greasy Mexican hands pinned to the table with a knife for
cheating, seamen (when blood-money ran high) knocked down
upon the public street and carried insensible on board short-
handed ships, shots exchanged, and the smoke (and the
company) dispersing from the doors of the saloon. I have heard
cold-minded Polacks debate upon the readiest method of
burning San Francisco to the ground, hot-headed working men
and women bawl and swear in the tribune at the Sandlot, and
Kearney himself open his subscription for a gallows, name the
manufacturers who were to grace it with their dangling bodies,
and read aloud to the delighted multitude a telegram of
adhesion from a member of the State legislature: all which
preparations of proletarian war were (in a moment) breathed
upon and abolished by the mere name and fame of Mr.
Coleman. That lion of the Vigilantes had but to rouse himself
and shake his ears, and the whole brawling mob was silenced.
I could not but reflect what a strange manner of man this was,
to be living unremarked there as a private merchant, and to be
so feared by a whole city; and if I was disappointed, in my
character of looker-on, to have the matter end ingloriously
without the firing of a shot or the hanging of a single
millionnaire, philosophy tried to tell me that this sight was
truly the more picturesque. In a thousand towns and different
epochs I might have had occasion to behold the cowardice and
carnage of street fighting; where else, but only there and then,
could I have enjoyed a view of Coleman (the intermittent
despot) walking meditatively up hill in a quiet part of town,
with a very rolling gait, and slapping gently his great thigh?
Minora Canamus. This historic figure stalks silently through a
corner of the San Francisco of my memory: the rest is bric-a-
brac, the reminiscences of a vagrant sketcher. My delight was
much in slums. Little Italy was a haunt of mine; there I would
look in at the windows of small eating-shops, transported
bodily from Genoa or Naples, with their macaroni, and chianti
flasks, and portraits of Garibaldi, and coloured political
caricatures; or (entering in) hold high debate with some
ear-ringed fisher of the bay as to the designs of "Mr. Owstria"
and "Mr. Rooshia." I was often to be observed (had there been
any to observe me) in that dis-peopled, hill-side solitude of
Little Mexico, with its crazy wooden houses, endless crazy
wooden stairs, and perilous mountain goat-paths in the sand.
Chinatown by a thousand eccentricities drew and held me; I
could never have enough of its ambiguous, interracial
atmosphere, as of a vitalised museum; never wonder enough at
its outlandish, necromantic-looking vegetables set forth to sell
in commonplace American shop-windows, its temple doors
open and the scent of the joss-stick streaming forth on the
American air, its kites of Oriental fashion hanging fouled in
Western telegraph-wires, its flights of paper prayers which the
trade-wind hunts and dissipates along Western gutters. I was a
frequent wanderer on North Beach, gazing at the straits, and
the huge Cape-Horners creeping out to sea, and imminent
Tamalpais. Thence, on my homeward way, I might visit that
strange and filthy shed, earth-paved and walled with the cages
of wild animals and birds, where at a ramshackle counter, amid
the yells of monkeys, and a poignant atmosphere of menagerie,
forty-rod whiskey was administered by a proprietor as dirty as
his beasts. Nor did I even neglect Nob Hill, which is itself a
kind of slum, being the habitat of the mere millionnaire. There
they dwell upon the hill-top, high raised above man's clamour,
and the trade-wind blows between their palaces about deserted
But San Francisco is not herself only. She is not only the most
interesting city in the Union, and the hugest smelting-pot of
races and the precious metals. She keeps, besides, the doors of
the Pacific, and is the port of entry to another world and an
earlier epoch in man's history. Nowhere else shall you observe
(in the ancient phrase) so many tall ships as here convene from
round the Horn, from China, from Sydney, and the Indies; but
scarce remarked amid that crowd of deep-sea giants, another
class of craft, the Island schooner, circulates: low in the water,
with lofty spars and dainty lines, rigged and fashioned like a
yacht, manned with brown-skinned, soft-spoken, sweet-eyed
native sailors, and equipped with their great double-ender boats
that tell a tale of boisterous sea-beaches. These steal out and in
again, unnoted by the world or even the newspaper press, save
for the line in the clearing column, "Schooner So-and-so for
Yap and South Sea Islands"--steal out with nondescript cargoes
of tinned salmon, gin, bolts of gaudy cotton stuff, women's
hats, and Waterbury watches, to return, after a year, piled as
high as to the eaves of the house with copra, or wallowing deep
with the shells of the tortoise or the pearl oyster. To me, in my
character of the Amateur Parisian, this island traffic, and even
the island world, were beyond the bounds of curiosity, and how
much more of knowledge. I stood there on the extreme shore of
the West and of to-day. Seventeen hundred years ago, and
seven thousand miles to the east, a legionary stood, perhaps,
upon the wall of Antoninus, and looked northward toward the
mountains of the Picts. For all the interval of time and space, I,
when I looked from the cliff-house on the broad Pacific, was
that man's heir and analogue: each of us standing on the verge
of the Roman Empire (or, as we now call it, Western
civilization), each of us gazing onward into zones unromanised.
But I was dull. I looked rather backward, keeping a kind eye
on Paris; and it required a series of converging incidents to
change my attitude of nonchalance for one of interest, and even
longing, which I little dreamed that I should live to gratify.
The first of these incidents brought me in acquaintance with a
certain San Francisco character, who had something of a name
beyond the limits of the city, and was known to many lovers of
good English. I had discovered a new slum, a place of
precarious, sandy cliffs, deep, sandy cuttings, solitary, ancient
houses, and the butt-ends of streets. It was already environed.
The ranks of the street-lamps threaded it unbroken. The city,
upon all sides of it, was tightly packed, and growled with
traffic. To-day, I do not doubt the very landmarks are all swept
away; but it offered then, within narrow limits, a delightful
peace, and (in the morning, when I chiefly went there) a
seclusion almost rural. On a steep sand-hill, in this
neighbourhood, toppled, on the most insecure foundation, a
certain row of houses, each with a bit of garden, and all (I have
to presume) inhabited. Thither I used to mount by a crumbling
footpath, and in front of the last of the houses, would sit down
to sketch. The very first day I saw I was observed, out of the
ground-floor window by a youngish, good-looking fellow,
prematurely bald, and with an expression both lively and
engaging. The second, as we were still the only figures in the
landscape, it was no more than natural that we should nod.
The third, he came out fairly from his intrenchments, praised
my sketch, and with the impromptu cordiality of artists carried
me into his apartment; where I sat presently in the midst of a
museum of strange objects,--paddles and battle-clubs and
baskets, rough-hewn stone images, ornaments of threaded
shell, cocoanut bowls, snowy cocoanut plumes--evidences and
examples of another earth, another climate, another race, and
another (if a ruder) culture. Nor did these objects lack a fitting
commentary in the conversation of my new acquaintance.
Doubtless you have read his book. You know already how he
tramped and starved, and had so fine a profit of living, in his
days among the islands; and meeting him, as I did, one artist
with another, after months of offices and picnics, you can
imagine with what charm he would speak, and with what
pleasure I would hear. It was in such talks, which we were
both eager to repeat, that I first heard the names--first fell under
the spell--of the islands; and it was from one of the first of them
that I returned (a happy man) with _Omoo_ under one arm, and
my friend's own adventures under the other.
The second incident was more dramatic, and had, besides, a
bearing on my future. I was standing, one day, near a boat-
landing under Telegraph Hill. A large barque, perhaps of
eighteen hundred tons, was coming more than usually close
about the point to reach her moorings; and I was observing her
with languid inattention, when I observed two men to stride
across the bulwarks, drop into a shore boat, and, violently
dispossessing the boatman of his oars, pull toward the landing
where I stood. In a surprisingly short time they came tearing
up the steps; and I could see that both were too well dressed to
be foremast hands--the first even with research, and both, and
specially the first, appeared under the empire of some strong
"Nearest police office!" cried the leader.
"This way," said I, immediately falling in with their precipitate
pace. "What's wrong? What ship is that?"
"That's the Gleaner," he replied. "I am chief officer, this
gentleman's third; and we've to get in our depositions before the
crew. You see they might corral us with the captain; and that's
no kind of berth for me. I've sailed with some hard cases in my
time, and seen pins flying like sand on a squally day--but never
a match to our old man. It never let up from the Hook to the
Farallones; and the last man was dropped not sixteen hours
ago. Packet rats our men were, and as tough a crowd as ever
sand-bagged a man's head in; but they looked sick enough
when the captain started in with his fancy shooting."
"O, he's done up," observed the other. "He won't go to sea no
"You make me tired," retorted his superior. "If he gets ashore
in one piece and isn't lynched in the next ten minutes, he'll do
yet. The owners have a longer memory than the public; they'll
stand by him; they don't find as smart a captain every day in the
"O, he's a son of a gun of a fine captain; there ain't no doubt of
that," concurred the other, heartily. "Why, I don't suppose
there's been no wages paid aboard that Gleaner for three trips."
"No wages?" I exclaimed, for I was still a novice in maritime
"Not to sailor-men before the mast," agreed the mate. "Men
cleared out; wasn't the soft job they maybe took it for. She isn'
the first ship that never paid wages."
I could not but observe that our pace was progressively
relaxing; and indeed I have often wondered since whether the
hurry of the start were not intended for the gallery alone.
Certain it is at least, that when we had reached the police
office, and the mates had made their deposition, and told their
horrid tale of five men murdered, some with savage passion,
some with cold brutality, between Sandy Hook and San
Francisco, the police were despatched in time to be too late.
Before we arrived, the ruffian had slipped out upon the dock,
had mingled with the crowd, and found a refuge in the house of
an acquaintance; and the ship was only tenanted by his late
victims. Well for him that he had been thus speedy. For when
word began to go abroad among the shore-side characters,
when the last victim was carried by to the hospital, when those
who had escaped (as by miracle) from that floating shambles,
began to circulate and show their wounds in the crowd, it was
strange to witness the agitation that seized and shook that
portion of the city. Men shed tears in public; bosses of
lodging-houses, long inured to brutality, and above all,
brutality to sailors, shook their fists at heaven: if hands could
have been laid on the captain of the Gleaner, his shrift would
have been short. That night (so gossip reports) he was headed
up in a barrel and smuggled across the bay: in two ships
already he had braved the penitentiary and the gallows; and yet,
by last accounts, he now commands another on the Western
As I have said, I was never quite certain whether Mr. Nares
(the mate) did not intend that his superior should escape. It
would have been like his preference of loyalty to law; it would
have been like his prejudice, which was all in favour of the
after-guard. But it must remain a matter of conjecture only.
Well as I came to know him in the sequel, he was never
communicative on that point, nor indeed on any that concerned
the voyage of the Gleaner. Doubtless he had some reason for
his reticence. Even during our walk to the police office, he
debated several times with Johnson, the third officer, whether
he ought not to give up himself, as well as to denounce the
captain. He had decided in the negative, arguing that "it would
probably come to nothing; and even if there was a stink, he had
plenty good friends in San Francisco." And to nothing it came;
though it must have very nearly come to something, for Mr.
Nares disappeared immediately from view and was scarce less
closely hidden than his captain.
Johnson, on the other hand, I often met. I could never learn
this man's country; and though he himself claimed to be
American, neither his English nor his education warranted the
claim. In all likelihood he was of Scandinavian birth and
blood, long pickled in the forecastles of English and American
ships. It is possible that, like so many of his race in similar
positions, he had already lost his native tongue. In mind, at
least, he was quite denationalised; thought only in English--to
call it so; and though by nature one of the mildest, kindest, and
most feebly playful of mankind, he had been so long
accustomed to the cruelty of sea discipline, that his stories (told
perhaps with a giggle) would sometimes turn me chill. In
appearance, he was tall, light of weight, bold and high-bred of
feature, dusky-haired, and with a face of a clean even brown:
the ornament of outdoor men. Seated in a chair, you might
have passed him off for a baronet or a military officer; but let
him rise, and it was Fo'c's'le Jack that came rolling toward you,
crab-like; let him but open his lips, and it was Fo'c's'le Jack
that piped and drawled his ungrammatical gibberish. He had
sailed (among other places) much among the islands; and after
a Cape Horn passage with its snow-squalls and its frozen
sheets, he announced his intention of "taking a turn among
them Kanakas." I thought I should have lost him soon; but
according to the unwritten usage of mariners, he had first to
dissipate his wages. "Guess I'll have to paint this town red,"
was his hyperbolical expression; for sure no man ever
embarked upon a milder course of dissipation, most of his days
being passed in the little parlour behind Black Tom's public
house, with a select corps of old particular acquaintances, all
from the South Seas, and all patrons of a long yarn, a short
pipe, and glasses round.
Black Tom's, to the front, presented the appearance of a fourth-
rate saloon, devoted to Kanaka seamen, dirt, negrohead
tobacco, bad cigars, worse gin, and guitars and banjos in a
state of decline. The proprietor, a powerful coloured man, was
at once a publican, a ward politician, leader of some brigade of
"lambs" or "smashers," at the wind of whose clubs the party
bosses and the mayor were supposed to tremble, and (what hurt
nothing) an active and reliable crimp. His front quarters, then,
were noisy, disreputable, and not even safe. I have seen worse
frequented saloons where there were fewer scandals; for Tom
was often drunk himself; and there is no doubt the Lambs must
have been a useful body, or the place would have been closed.
I remember one day, not long before an election, seeing a blind
man, very well dressed, led up to the counter and remain a long
while in consultation with the negro. The pair looked so ill-
assorted, and the awe with which the drinkers fell back and left
them in the midst of an impromptu privacy was so unusual in
such a place, that I turned to my next neighbour with a
question. He told me the blind man was a distinguished party
boss, called by some the King of San Francisco, but perhaps
better known by his picturesque Chinese nickname of the Blind
White Devil. "The Lambs must be wanted pretty bad, I guess,"
my informant added. I have here a sketch of the Blind White
Devil leaning on the counter; on the next page, and taken the
same hour, a jotting of Black Tom threatening a whole crowd
of customers with a long Smith and Wesson: to such heights
and depths we rose and fell in the front parts of the saloon.
Meanwhile, away in the back quarters, sat the small informal
South Sea club, talking of another world and surely of a
different century. Old schooner captains they were, old South
Sea traders, cooks, and mates: fine creatures, softened by
residence among a softer race: full men besides, though not by
reading, but by strange experience; and for days together I
could hear their yarns with an unfading pleasure. All had
indeed some touch of the poetic; for the beach-comber, when
not a mere ruffian, is the poor relation of the artist. Even
through Johnson's inarticulate speech, his "O yes, there ain't no
harm in them Kanakas," or "O yes, that's a son of a gun of a
fine island, mountainious right down; I didn't never ought to
have left that island," there pierced a certain gusto of
appreciation: and some of the rest were master-talkers. From
their long tales, their traits of character and unpremeditated
landscape, there began to piece itself together in my head some
image of the islands and the island life: precipitous shores,
spired mountain tops, the deep shade of hanging forests, the
unresting surf upon the reef, and the unending peace of the
lagoon; sun, moon, and stars of an imperial brightness; man
moving in these scenes scarce fallen, and woman lovelier than
Eve; the primal curse abrogated, the bed made ready for the
stranger, life set to perpetual music, and the guest welcomed,
the boat urged, and the long night beguiled, with poetry and
choral song. A man must have been an unsuccessful artist; he
must have starved on the streets of Paris; he must have been
yoked to a commercial force like Pinkerton, before he can
conceive the longings that at times assailed me. The draughty,
rowdy city of San Francisco, the bustling office where my
friend Jim paced like a caged lion daily between ten and four,
even (at times) the retrospect of Paris, faded in comparison.
Many a man less tempted would have thrown up all to realise
his visions; but I was by nature unadventurous and uninitiative:
to divert me from all former paths and send me cruising
through the isles of paradise, some force external to myself
must be exerted; Destiny herself must use the fitting wedge;
and little as I deemed it, that tool was already in her hand of
I sat, one afternoon, in the corner of a great, glassy, silvered
saloon, a free lunch at my one elbow, at the other a
"conscientious nude" from the brush of local talent; when, with
the tramp of feet and a sudden buzz of voices, the swing-doors
were flung broadly open and the place carried as by storm. The
crowd which thus entered (mostly seafaring men, and all
prodigiously excited) contained a sort of kernel or general
centre of interest, which the rest merely surrounded and
advertised, as children in the Old World surround and escort
the Punch-and-Judy man; the word went round the bar like
wildfire that these were Captain Trent and the survivors of the
British brig Flying Scud, picked up by a British war-ship on
Midway Island, arrived that morning in San Francisco Bay,
and now fresh from making the necessary declarations.
Presently I had a good sight of them: four brown, seamanlike
fellows, standing by the counter, glass in hand, the centre of a
score of questioners. One was a Kanaka--the cook, I was
informed; one carried a cage with a canary, which occasionally
trilled into thin song; one had his left arm in a sling and looked
gentlemanlike, and somewhat sickly, as though the injury had
been severe and he was scarce recovered; and the captain
himself--a red-faced, blue-eyed, thickset man of five and forty
--wore a bandage on his right hand. The incident struck me; I
was struck particularly to see captain, cook, and foremost
hands walking the street and visiting saloons in company; and,
as when anything impressed me, I got my sketch-book out, and
began to steal a sketch of the four castaways. The crowd,
sympathising with my design, made a clear lane across the
room; and I was thus enabled, all unobserved myself, to
observe with a still-growing closeness the face and the
demeanour of Captain Trent.
Warmed by whiskey and encouraged by the eagerness of the
bystanders, that gentleman was now rehearsing the history of
his misfortune. It was but scraps that reached me: how he
"filled her on the starboard tack," and how "it came up sudden
out of the nor'nor'west," and "there she was, high and dry."
Sometimes he would appeal to one of the men--"That was how
it was, Jack?"--and the man would reply, "That was the way of
it, Captain Trent." Lastly, he started a fresh tide of popular
sympathy by enunciating the sentiment, "Damn all these
Admirality Charts, and that's what I say!" From the nodding of
heads and the murmurs of assent that followed, I could see that
Captain Trent had established himself in the public mind as a
gentleman and a thorough navigator: about which period, my
sketch of the four men and the canary-bird being finished, and
all (especially the canary-bird) excellent likenesses, I buckled
up my book, and slipped from the saloon.
Little did I suppose that I was leaving Act I, Scene I, of the
drama of my life; and yet the scene, or rather the captain's face,
lingered for some time in my memory. I was no prophet, as I
say; but I was something else: I was an observer; and one
thing I knew, I knew when a man was terrified. Captain Trent,
of the British brig Flying Scud, had been glib; he had been
ready; he had been loud; but in his blue eyes I could detect the
chill, and in the lines of his countenance spy the agitation of
perpetual terror. Was he trembling for his certificate? In my
judgment, it was some livelier kind of fear that thrilled in the
man's marrow as he turned to drink. Was it the result of recent
shock, and had he not yet recovered the disaster to his brig? I
remembered how a friend of mine had been in a railway
accident, and shook and started for a month; and although
Captain Trent of the Flying Scud had none of the appearance of
a nervous man, I told myself, with incomplete conviction, that
his must be a similar case.
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD."
The next morning I found Pinkerton, who had risen before me,
seated at our usual table, and deep in the perusal of what I will
call the _Daily Occidental_. This was a paper (I know not if it
be so still) that stood out alone among its brethren in the West;
the others, down to their smallest item, were defaced with
capitals, head-lines, alliterations, swaggering misquotations,
and the shoddy picturesque and unpathetic pathos of the Harry
Millers: the _Occidental_ alone appeared to be written by a
dull, sane, Christian gentleman, singly desirous of
communicating knowledge. It had not only this merit, which
endeared it to me, but was admittedly the best informed on
business matters, which attracted Pinkerton.
"Loudon," said he, looking up from the journal, "you
sometimes think I have too many irons in the fire. My notion,
on the other hand, is, when you see a dollar lying, pick it up!
Well, here I've tumbled over a whole pile of 'em on a reef in the
middle of the Pacific."
"Why, Jim, you miserable fellow!" I exclaimed; "haven't we
Depew City, one of God's green centres for this State? haven't
"Just listen to this," interrupted Jim. "It's miserable copy; these
_Occidental_ reporter fellows have no fire; but the facts are
right enough, I guess." And he began to read:--
"WRECK OF THE BRITISH BRIG, 'FLYING SCUD.'
"H.B.M.S. Tempest, which arrived yesterday at this port, brings
Captain Trent and four men of the British brig Flying Scud,
cast away February 12th on Midway Island, and most
providentially rescued the next day. The Flying Scud was of
200 tons burthen, owned in London, and has been out nearly
two years tramping. Captain Trent left Hong Kong December
8th, bound for this port in rice and a small mixed cargo of silks,
teas, and China notions, the whole valued at $10,000, fully
covered by insurance. The log shows plenty of fine weather,
with light airs, calms, and squalls. In lat. 28 N., long. 177 W.,
his water going rotten, and misled by Hoyt's _North Pacific
Directory_, which informed him there was a coaling station on
the island, Captain Trent put in to Midway Island. He found it
a literal sandbank, surrounded by a coral reef mostly
submerged. Birds were very plenty, there was good fish in the
lagoon, but no firewood; and the water, which could be
obtained by digging, brackish. He found good holding-ground
off the north end of the larger bank in fifteen fathoms water;
bottom sandy, with coral patches. Here he was detained seven
days by a calm, the crew suffering severely from the water,
which was gone quite bad; and it was only on the evening of
the 12th, that a little wind sprang up, coming puffy out of
N.N.E. Late as it was, Captain Trent immediately weighed
anchor and attempted to get out. While the vessel was beating
up to the passage, the wind took a sudden lull, and then veered
squally into N. and even N.N.W., driving the brig ashore on the
sand at about twenty minutes before six o'clock. John Wallen,
a native of Finland, and Charles Holdorsen, a native of
Sweden, were drowned alongside, in attempting to lower a
boat, neither being able to swim, the squall very dark, and the
noise of the breakers drowning everything. At the same time
John Brown, another of the crew, had his arm broken by the
falls. Captain Trent further informed the OCCIDENTAL
reporter, that the brig struck heavily at first bows on, he
supposes upon coral; that she then drove over the obstacle, and
now lies in sand, much down by the head and with a list to
starboard. In the first collision she must have sustained some
damage, as she was making water forward. The rice will
probably be all destroyed: but the more valuable part of the
cargo is fortunately in the afterhold. Captain Trent was
preparing his long-boat for sea, when the providential arrival of
the Tempest, pursuant to Admiralty orders to call at islands in
her course for castaways, saved the gallant captain from all
further danger. It is scarcely necessary to add that both the
officers and men of the unfortunate vessel speak in high terms
of the kindness they received on board the man-of-war. We
print a list of the survivors: Jacob Trent, master, of Hull,
England; Elias Goddedaal, mate, native of Christiansand,
Sweden; Ah Wing, cook, native of Sana, China; John Brown,
native of Glasgow, Scotland; John Hardy, native of London,
England. The Flying Scud is ten years old, and this morning
will be sold as she stands, by order of Lloyd's agent, at public
auction for the benefit of the underwriters. The auction will
take place in the Merchants' Exchange at ten o'clock.
"Farther Particulars.--Later in the afternoon the OCCIDENTAL
reporter found Lieutenant Sebright, first officer of H.B.M.S.
Tempest, at the Palace Hotel. The gallant officer was
somewhat pressed for time, but confirmed the account given by
Captain Trent in all particulars. He added that the Flying Scud
is in an excellent berth, and except in the highly improbable
event of a heavy N.W. gale, might last until next winter."
"You will never know anything of literature," said I, when Jim
had finished. "That is a good, honest, plain piece of work, and
tells the story clearly. I see only one mistake: the cook is not a
Chinaman; he is a Kanaka, and I think a Hawaiian."
"Why, how do you know that?" asked Jim.
"I saw the whole gang yesterday in a saloon," said I. "I even
heard the tale, or might have heard it, from Captain Trent
himself, who struck me as thirsty and nervous."
"Well, that's neither here nor there," cried Pinkerton. "The
point is, how about these dollars lying on a reef?"
"Will it pay?" I asked.
"Pay like a sugar trust!" exclaimed Pinkerton. "Don't you see
what this British officer says about the safety? Don't you see
the cargo's valued at ten thousand? Schooners are begging just
now; I can get my pick of them at two hundred and fifty a
month; and how does that foot up? It looks like three hundred
per cent. to me."
"You forget," I objected, "the captain himself declares the rice
"That's a point, I know," admitted Jim. "But the rice is the
sluggish article, anyway; it's little more account than ballast;
it's the tea and silks that I look to: all we have to find is the
proportion, and one look at the manifest will settle that. I've
rung up Lloyd's on purpose; the captain is to meet me there in
an hour, and then I'll be as posted on that brig as if I built her.
Besides, you've no idea what pickings there are about a wreck
--copper, lead, rigging, anchors, chains, even the crockery,
"You seem to me to forget one trifle," said I. "Before you pick
that wreck, you've got to buy her, and how much will she cost?"
"One hundred dollars," replied Jim, with the promptitude of an
"How on earth do you guess that?" I cried.
"I don't guess; I know it," answered the Commercial Force.
"My dear boy, I may be a galoot about literature, but you'll
always be an outsider in business. How do you suppose I
bought the James L. Moody for two hundred and fifty, her
boats alone worth four times the money? Because my name
stood first in the list. Well it stands there again; I have the
naming of the figure, and I name a small one because of the
distance: but it wouldn't matter what I named; that would be
"It sounds mysterious enough," said I. "Is this public auction
conducted in a subterranean vault? Could a plain citizen--
myself, for instance--come and see?"
"O, everything's open and above board!" he cried indignantly.
"Anybody can come, only nobody bids against us; and if he
did, he would get frozen out. It's been tried before now, and
once was enough. We hold the plant; we've got the connection;
we can afford to go higher than any outsider; there's two
million dollars in the ring; and we stick at nothing. Or suppose
anybody did buy over our head--I tell you, Loudon, he would
think this town gone crazy; he could no more get business
through on the city front than I can dance; schooners, divers,
men--all he wanted--the prices would fly right up and strike
"But how did you get in?" I asked. "You were once an outsider
like your neighbours, I suppose?"
"I took hold of that thing, Loudon, and just studied it up," he
replied. "It took my fancy; it was so romantic, and then I saw
there was boodle in the thing; and I figured on the business till
no man alive could give me points. Nobody knew I had an eye
on wrecks till one fine morning I dropped in upon Douglas B.
Longhurst in his den, gave him all the facts and figures, and
put it to him straight: "Do you want me in this ring? or shall I
start another?" He took half an hour, and when I came back,
"Pink," says he, "I've put your name on." The first time I came
to the top, it was that Moody racket; now it's the Flying Scud."
Whereupon Pinkerton, looking at his watch, uttered an
exclamation, made a hasty appointment with myself for the
doors of the Merchants' Exchange, and fled to examine
manifests and interview the skipper. I finished my cigarette
with the deliberation of a man at the end of many picnics;
reflecting to myself that of all forms of the dollar hunt, this
wrecking had by far the most address to my imagination. Even
as I went down town, in the brisk bustle and chill of the
familiar San Francisco thoroughfares, I was haunted by a
vision of the wreck, baking so far away in the strong sun, under
a cloud of sea-birds; and even then, and for no better reason,
my heart inclined towards the adventure. If not myself,
something that was mine, some one at least in my employment,
should voyage to that ocean-bounded pin-point and descend to
that deserted cabin.
Pinkerton met me at the appointed moment, pinched of lip and
more than usually erect of bearing, like one conscious of great
"Well?" I asked.
"Well," said he, "it might be better, and it might be worse.
This Captain Trent is a remarkably honest fellow--one out of a
thousand. As soon as he knew I was in the market, he owned
up about the rice in so many words. By his calculation, if
there's thirty mats of it saved, it's an outside figure. However,
the manifest was cheerier. There's about five thousand dollars
of the whole value in silks and teas and nut-oils and that, all in
the lazarette, and as safe as if it was in Kearney Street. The
brig was new coppered a year ago. There's upwards of a
hundred and fifty fathom away-up chain. It's not a bonanza,
but there's boodle in it; and we'll try it on."
It was by that time hard on ten o'clock, and we turned at once
into the place of sale. The Flying Scud, although so important
to ourselves, appeared to attract a very humble share of popular
attention. The auctioneer was surrounded by perhaps a score of
lookers-on, big fellows, for the most part, of the true Western
build, long in the leg, broad in the shoulder, and adorned (to a
plain man's taste) with needless finery. A jaunty, ostentatious
comradeship prevailed. Bets were flying, and nicknames.
"The boys" (as they would have called themselves) were very
boyish; and it was plain they were here in mirth, and not on
business. Behind, and certainly in strong contrast to these
gentlemen, I could detect the figure of my friend Captain Trent,
come (as I could very well imagine that a captain would) to
hear the last of his old vessel. Since yesterday, he had rigged
himself anew in ready-made black clothes, not very aptly fitted;
the upper left-hand pocket showing a corner of silk
handkerchief, the lower, on the other side, bulging with papers.
Pinkerton had just given this man a high character. Certainly
he seemed to have been very frank, and I looked at him again to
trace (if possible) that virtue in his face. It was red and broad
and flustered and (I thought) false. The whole man looked sick
with some unknown anxiety; and as he stood there,
unconscious of my observation, he tore at his nails, scowled on
the floor, or glanced suddenly, sharply, and fearfully at
passers-by. I was still gazing at the man in a kind of
fascination, when the sale began.
Some preliminaries were rattled through, to the irreverent,
uninterrupted gambolling of the boys; and then, amid a trifle
more attention, the auctioneer sounded for some two or three
minutes the pipe of the charmer. Fine brig--new copper--
valuable fittings--three fine boats--remarkably choice cargo--
what the auctioneer would call a perfectly safe investment; nay,
gentlemen, he would go further, he would put a figure on it: he
had no hesitation (had that bold auctioneer) in putting it in
figures; and in his view, what with this and that, and one thing
and another, the purchaser might expect to clear a sum equal to
the entire estimated value of the cargo; or, gentlemen, in other
words, a sum of ten thousand dollars. At this modest
computation the roof immediately above the speaker's head (I
suppose, through the intervention of a spectator of ventriloquial
tastes) uttered a clear "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"--whereat all
laughed, the auctioneer himself obligingly joining.
"Now, gentlemen, what shall we say?" resumed that
gentleman, plainly ogling Pinkerton,--"what shall we say for
this remarkable opportunity?"
"One hundred dollars," said Pinkerton.
"One hundred dollars from Mr. Pinkerton," went the
auctioneer, "one hundred dollars. No other gentleman inclined
to make any advance? One hundred dollars, only one hundred
The auctioneer was droning on to some such tune as this, and I,
on my part, was watching with something between sympathy
and amazement the undisguised emotion of Captain Trent,
when we were all startled by the interjection of a bid.
"And fifty," said a sharp voice.
Pinkerton, the auctioneer, and the boys, who were all equally in
the open secret of the ring, were now all equally and
simultaneously taken aback.
"I beg your pardon," said the auctioneer. "Anybody bid?"
"And fifty," reiterated the voice, which I was now able to trace
to its origin, on the lips of a small, unseemly rag of human-
kind. The speaker's skin was gray and blotched; he spoke in a
kind of broken song, with much variety of key; his gestures
seemed (as in the disease called Saint Vitus's dance) to be
imperfectly under control; he was badly dressed; he carried
himself with an air of shrinking assumption, as though he were
proud to be where he was and to do what he was doing, and yet
half expected to be called in question and kicked out. I think I
never saw a man more of a piece; and the type was new to me;
I had never before set eyes upon his parallel, and I thought
instinctively of Balzac and the lower regions of the _Comedie
Pinkerton stared a moment on the intruder with no friendly eye,
tore a leaf from his note-book, and scribbled a line in pencil,
turned, beckoned a messenger boy, and whispered, "To
Longhurst." Next moment the boy had sped upon his errand,
and Pinkerton was again facing the auctioneer.
"Two hundred dollars," said Jim.
"And fifty," said the enemy.
"This looks lively," whispered I to Pinkerton.
"Yes; the little beast means cold drawn biz," returned my
friend. "Well, he'll have to have a lesson. Wait till I see
Longhurst. Three hundred," he added aloud.
"And fifty," came the echo.
It was about this moment when my eye fell again on Captain
Trent. A deeper shade had mounted to his crimson face: the
new coat was unbuttoned and all flying open; the new silk
handkerchief in busy requisition; and the man's eye, of a clear
sailor blue, shone glassy with excitement. He was anxious
still, but now (if I could read a face) there was hope in his
"Jim," I whispered, "look at Trent. Bet you what you please he
was expecting this."
"Yes," was the reply, "there's some blame' thing going on here."
And he renewed his bid.
The figure had run up into the neighbourhood of a thousand
when I was aware of a sensation in the faces opposite, and
looking over my shoulder, saw a very large, bland, handsome
man come strolling forth and make a little signal to the
"One word, Mr. Borden," said he; and then to Jim, "Well, Pink,
where are we up to now?"
Pinkerton gave him the figure. "I ran up to that on my own
responsibility, Mr. Longhurst," he added, with a flush. "I
thought it the square thing."
"And so it was," said Mr. Longhurst, patting him kindly on the
shoulder, like a gratified uncle. "Well, you can drop out now;
we take hold ourselves. You can run it up to five thousand;
and if he likes to go beyond that, he's welcome to the bargain."
"By the by, who is he?" asked Pinkerton. "He looks away
"I've sent Billy to find out." And at the very moment Mr.
Longhurst received from the hands of one of the expensive
young gentlemen a folded paper. It was passed round from one
to another till it came to me, and I read: "Harry D. Bellairs,
Attorney-at-Law; defended Clara Varden; twice nearly
"Well, that gets me!" observed Mr. Longhurst. "Who can have
put up a shyster  like that? Nobody with money, that's a
sure thing. Suppose you tried a big bluff? I think I would,
Pink. Well, ta-ta! Your partner, Mr. Dodd? Happy to have the
pleasure of your acquaintance, sir." And the great man
 A low lawyer.
"Well, what do you think of Douglas B.?" whispered Pinkerton,
looking reverently after him as he departed. "Six foot of perfect
gentleman and culture to his boots."
During this interview the auction had stood transparently
arrested, the auctioneer, the spectators, and even Bellairs, all
well aware that Mr. Longhurst was the principal, and Jim but a
speaking-trumpet. But now that the Olympian Jupiter was
gone, Mr. Borden thought proper to affect severity.
"Come, come, Mr. Pinkerton. Any advance?" he snapped.
And Pinkerton, resolved on the big bluff, replied, "Two
Bellairs preserved his composure. "And fifty," said he. But
there was a stir among the onlookers, and what was of more
importance, Captain Trent had turned pale and visibly gulped.
"Pitch it in again, Jim," said I. "Trent is weakening."
"Three thousand," said Jim.
"And fifty," said Bellairs.
And then the bidding returned to its original movement by
hundreds and fifties; but I had been able in the meanwhile to
draw two conclusions. In the first place, Bellairs had made his
last advance with a smile of gratified vanity; and I could see the
creature was glorying in the kudos of an unusual position and
secure of ultimate success. In the second, Trent had once more
changed colour at the thousand leap, and his relief, when he
heard the answering fifty was manifest and unaffected. Here
then was a problem: both were presumably in the same
interest, yet the one was not in the confidence of the other. Nor
was this all. A few bids later it chanced that my eye
encountered that of Captain Trent, and his, which glittered with
excitement, was instantly, and I thought guiltily, withdrawn.
He wished, then, to conceal his interest? As Jim had said,
there was some blamed thing going on. And for certain, here
were these two men, so strangely united, so strangely divided,
both sharp-set to keep the wreck from us, and that at an
Was the wreck worth more than we supposed? A sudden heat
was kindled in my brain; the bids were nearing Longhurst's
limit of five thousand; another minute, and all would be too
late. Tearing a leaf from my sketch-book, and inspired (I
suppose) by vanity in my own powers of inference and
observation, I took the one mad decision of my life. "If you
care to go ahead," I wrote, "I'm in for all I'm worth."
Jim read and looked round at me like one bewildered; then his
eyes lightened, and turning again to the auctioneer, he bid,
"Five thousand one hundred dollars."
"And fifty," said monotonous Bellairs.
Presently Pinkerton scribbled, "What can it be?" and I
answered, still on paper: "I can't imagine; but there's
something. Watch Bellairs; he'll go up to the ten thousand, see
if he don't."
And he did, and we followed. Long before this, word had gone
abroad that there was battle royal: we were surrounded by a
crowd that looked on wondering; and when Pinkerton had
offered ten thousand dollars (the outside value of the cargo,
even were it safe in San Francisco Bay) and Bellairs, smirking
from ear to ear to be the centre of so much attention, had jerked
out his answering, "And fifty," wonder deepened to excitement.
"Ten thousand one hundred," said Jim; and even as he spoke he
made a sudden gesture with his hand, his face changed, and I
could see that he had guessed, or thought that he had guessed,
the mystery. As he scrawled another memorandum in his note-
book, his hand shook like a telegraph-operator's.
"Chinese ship," ran the legend; and then, in big, tremulous
half-text, and with a flourish that overran the margin, "Opium!"
To be sure! thought I: this must be the secret. I knew that
scarce a ship came in from any Chinese port, but she carried
somewhere, behind a bulkhead, or in some cunning hollow of
the beams, a nest of the valuable poison. Doubtless there was
some such treasure on the Flying Scud. How much was it
worth? We knew not, we were gambling in the dark; but Trent
knew, and Bellairs; and we could only watch and judge.
By this time neither Pinkerton nor I were of sound mind.
Pinkerton was beside himself, his eyes like lamps. I shook in
every member. To any stranger entering (say) in the course of
the fifteenth thousand, we should probably have cut a poorer
figure than Bellairs himself. But we did not pause; and the
crowd watched us, now in silence, now with a buzz of
Seventeen thousand had been reached, when Douglas B.
Longhurst, forcing his way into the opposite row of faces,
conspicuously and repeatedly shook his head at Jim. Jim's
answer was a note of two words: "My racket!" which, when the
great man had perused, he shook his finger warningly and
departed, I thought, with a sorrowful countenance.
Although Mr. Longhurst knew nothing of Bellairs, the shady
lawyer knew all about the Wrecker Boss. He had seen him
enter the ring with manifest expectation; he saw him depart,
and the bids continue, with manifest surprise and
disappointment. "Hullo," he plainly thought, "this is not the
ring I'm fighting, then?" And he determined to put on a spurt.
"Eighteen thousand," said he.
"And fifty," said Jim, taking a leaf out of his adversary's book.
"Twenty thousand," from Bellairs.
"And fifty," from Jim, with a little nervous titter.
And with one consent they returned to the old pace, only now it
was Bellairs who took the hundreds, and Jim who did the fifty
business. But by this time our idea had gone abroad. I could
hear the word "opium" pass from mouth to mouth; and by the
looks directed at us, I could see we were supposed to have
some private information. And here an incident occurred
highly typical of San Francisco. Close at my back there had
stood for some time a stout, middle-aged gentleman, with
pleasant eyes, hair pleasantly grizzled, and a ruddy, pleasing
face. All of a sudden he appeared as a third competitor, skied
the Flying Scud with four fat bids of a thousand dollars each,
and then as suddenly fled the field, remaining thenceforth (as
before) a silent, interested spectator.
Ever since Mr. Longhurst's useless intervention, Bellairs had
seemed uneasy; and at this new attack, he began (in his turn) to
scribble a note between the bids. I imagined naturally enough
that it would go to Captain Trent; but when it was done, and
the writer turned and looked behind him in the crowd, to my
unspeakable amazement, he did not seem to remark the
"Messenger boy, messenger boy!" I heard him say. "Somebody
call me a messenger boy."
At last somebody did, but it was not the captain.
"He's sending for instructions," I wrote to Pinkerton.
"For money," he wrote back. "Shall I strike out? I think this is
"Thirty thousand," said Pinkerton, making a leap of close upon
three thousand dollars.
I could see doubt in Bellairs's eye; then, sudden resolution.
"Thirty-five thousand," said he.
"Forty thousand," said Pinkerton.
There was a long pause, during which Bellairs's countenance
was as a book; and then, not much too soon for the impending
hammer, "Forty thousand and five dollars," said he.
Pinkerton and I exchanged eloquent glances. We were of one
mind. Bellairs had tried a bluff; now he perceived his mistake,
and was bidding against time; he was trying to spin out the sale
until the messenger boy returned.
"Forty-five thousand dollars," said Pinkerton: his voice was like
a ghost's and tottered with emotion.
"Forty-five thousand and five dollars," said Bellairs.
"Fifty thousand," said Pinkerton.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Pinkerton. Did I hear you make an
advance, sir?" asked the auctioneer.
"I--I have a difficulty in speaking," gasped Jim. "It's fifty
thousand, Mr. Borden."
Bellairs was on his feet in a moment. "Auctioneer," he said, "I
have to beg the favour of three moments at the telephone. In
this matter, I am acting on behalf of a certain party to whom I
have just written----"
"I have nothing to do with any of this," said the auctioneer,
brutally. "I am here to sell this wreck. Do you make any
advance on fifty thousand?"
"I have the honour to explain to you, sir," returned Bellairs,
with a miserable assumption of dignity. "Fifty thousand was
the figure named by my principal; but if you will give me the
small favour of two moments at the telephone--"
"O, nonsense!" said the auctioneer. "If you make no advance,
I'll knock it down to Mr. Pinkerton."
"I warn you," cried the attorney, with sudden shrillness. "Have
a care what you're about. You are here to sell for the
underwriters, let me tell you--not to act for Mr. Douglas
Longhurst. This sale has been already disgracefully interrupted
to allow that person to hold a consultation with his minions. It
has been much commented on."
"There was no complaint at the time," said the auctioneer,
manifestly discountenanced. "You should have complained at
"I am not here to conduct this sale," replied Bellairs; "I am not
paid for that."
"Well, I am, you see," retorted the auctioneer, his impudence
quite restored; and he resumed his sing-song. "Any advance on
fifty thousand dollars? No advance on fifty thousand? No
advance, gentlemen? Going at fifty thousand, the wreck of the
brig Flying Scud--going--going--gone!"
"My God, Jim, can we pay the money?" I cried, as the stroke of
the hammer seemed to recall me from a dream.
"It's got to be raised," said he, white as a sheet. "It'll be a hell
of a strain, Loudon. The credit's good for it, I think; but I shall
have to get around. Write me a cheque for your stuff. Meet me
at the Occidental in an hour."
I wrote my cheque at a desk, and I declare I could never have
recognised my signature. Jim was gone in a moment; Trent
had vanished even earlier; only Bellairs remained exchanging
insults with the auctioneer; and, behold! as I pushed my way
out of the exchange, who should run full tilt into my arms, but
the messenger boy?
It was by so near a margin that we became the owners of the
IN WHICH THE CREW VANISH.
At the door of the exchange I found myself along-side of the
short, middle-aged gentleman who had made an appearance, so
vigorous and so brief, in the great battle.
"Congratulate you, Mr. Dodd," he said. "You and your friend
stuck to your guns nobly."
"No thanks to you, sir," I replied, "running us up a thousand at
a time, and tempting all the speculators in San Francisco to
come and have a try."
"O, that was temporary insanity," said he; "and I thank the
higher powers I am still a free man. Walking this way, Mr.
Dodd? I'll walk along with you. It's pleasant for an old fogy
like myself to see the young bloods in the ring; I've done some
pretty wild gambles in my time in this very city, when it was a
smaller place and I was a younger man. Yes, I know you, Mr.
Dodd. By sight, I may say I know you extremely well, you and
your followers, the fellows in the kilts, eh? Pardon me. But I
have the misfortune to own a little box on the Saucelito shore.
I'll be glad to see you there any Sunday--without the fellows in
kilts, you know; and I can give you a bottle of wine, and show
you the best collection of Arctic voyages in the States. Morgan
is my name--Judge Morgan--a Welshman and a forty-niner."
"O, if you're a pioneer," cried I, "come to me and I'll provide
you with an axe."
"You'll want your axes for yourself, I fancy," he returned, with
one of his quick looks. "Unless you have private knowledge,
there will be a good deal of rather violent wrecking to do before
you find that--opium, do you call it?"
"Well, it's either opium, or we are stark, staring mad," I replied.
"But I assure you we have no private information. We went in
(as I suppose you did yourself) on observation."
"An observer, sir?" inquired the judge.
"I may say it is my trade--or, rather, was," said I.
"Well now, and what did you think of Bellairs?" he asked.
"Very little indeed," said I.
"I may tell you," continued the judge, "that to me, the
employment of a fellow like that appears inexplicable. I knew
him; he knows me, too; he has often heard from me in court;
and I assure you the man is utterly blown upon; it is not safe to
trust him with a dollar; and here we find him dealing up to fifty
thousand. I can't think who can have so trusted him, but I am
very sure it was a stranger in San Francisco."
"Some one for the owners, I suppose," said I.
"Surely not!" exclaimed the judge. "Owners in London can
have nothing to say to opium smuggled between Hong Kong
and San Francisco. I should rather fancy they would be the last
to hear of it--until the ship was seized. No; I was thinking of
the captain. But where would he get the money? above all,
after having laid out so much to buy the stuff in China?
Unless, indeed, he were acting for some one in 'Frisco; and in
that case--here we go round again in the vicious circle--Bellairs
would not have been employed."
"I think I can assure you it was not the captain," said I; "for he
and Bellairs are not acquainted."
"Wasn't that the captain with the red face and coloured
handkerchief? He seemed to me to follow Bellairs's game with
the most thrilling interest," objected Mr. Morgan.
"Perfectly true," said I; "Trent is deeply interested; he very
likely knew Bellairs, and he certainly knew what he was there
for; but I can put my hand in the fire that Bellairs didn't know
"Another singularity," observed the judge. "Well, we have had
a capital forenoon. But you take an old lawyer's advice, and get
to Midway Island as fast as you can. There's a pot of money on
the table, and Bellairs and Co. are not the men to stick at
With this parting counsel Judge Morgan shook hands and
made off along Montgomery Street, while I entered the
Occidental Hotel, on the steps of which we had finished our
conversation. I was well known to the clerks, and as soon as it
was understood that I was there to wait for Pinkerton and
lunch, I was invited to a seat inside the counter. Here, then, in
a retired corner, I was beginning to come a little to myself after
these so violent experiences, when who should come hurrying
in, and (after a moment with a clerk) fly to one of the telephone
boxes but Mr. Henry D. Bellairs in person? Call it what you
will, but the impulse was irresistible, and I rose and took a
place immediately at the man's back. It may be some excuse
that I had often practised this very innocent form of
eavesdropping upon strangers, and for fun. Indeed, I scarce
know anything that gives a lower view of man's intelligence
than to overhear (as you thus do) one side of a communication.
"Central," said the attorney, "2241 and 584 B" (or some such
numbers)--"Who's that?--All right--Mr. Bellairs--Occidental;
the wires are fouled in the other place--Yes, about three
minutes--Yes--Yes--Your figure, I am sorry to say--No--I had
no authority--Neither more nor less--I have every reason to
suppose so--O, Pinkerton, Montana Block--Yes--Yes--Very
good, sir--As you will, sir--Disconnect 584 B."
Bellairs turned to leave; at sight of me behind him, up flew his
hands, and he winced and cringed, as though in fear of bodily
attack. "O, it's you!" he cried; and then, somewhat recovered,
"Mr. Pinkerton's partner, I believe? I am pleased to see you,
sir--to congratulate you on your late success." And with that he
was gone, obsequiously bowing as he passed.
And now a madcap humour came upon me. It was plain
Bellairs had been communicating with his principal; I knew the
number, if not the name; should I ring up at once, it was more
than likely he would return in person to the telephone; why
should not I dash (vocally) into the presence of this mysterious
person, and have some fun for my money. I pressed the bell.
"Central," said I, "connect again 2241 and 584 B."
A phantom central repeated the numbers; there was a pause,
and then "Two two four one," came in a tiny voice into my ear--
a voice with the English sing-song--the voice plainly of a
gentleman. "Is that you again, Mr. Bellairs?" it trilled. "I tell
you it's no use. Is that you, Mr. Bellairs? Who is that?"
"I only want to put a single question," said I, civilly. "Why do
you want to buy the Flying Scud?"
No answer came. The telephone vibrated and hummed in
miniature with all the numerous talk of a great city; but the
voice of 2241 was silent. Once and twice I put my question;
but the tiny, sing-song English voice, I heard no more. The
man, then, had fled? fled from an impertinent question? It
scarce seemed natural to me; unless on the principle that the
wicked fleeth when no man pursueth. I took the telephone list
and turned the number up: "2241, Mrs. Keane, res. 942
Mission Street." And that, short of driving to the house and
renewing my impertinence in person, was all that I could do.
Yet, as I resumed my seat in the corner of the office, I was
conscious of a new element of the uncertain, the underhand,
perhaps even the dangerous, in our adventure; and there was
now a new picture in my mental gallery, to hang beside that of
the wreck under its canopy of sea-birds and of Captain Trent
mopping his red brow--the picture of a man with a telephone
dice-box to his ear, and at the small voice of a single question,
struck suddenly as white as ashes.
From these considerations I was awakened by the striking of
the clock. An hour and nearly twenty minutes had elapsed
since Pinkerton departed for the money: he was twenty
minutes behind time; and to me who knew so well his
gluttonous despatch of business and had so frequently admired
his iron punctuality, the fact spoke volumes. The twenty
minutes slowly stretched into an hour; the hour had nearly
extended to a second; and I still sat in my corner of the office,
or paced the marble pavement of the hall, a prey to the most
wretched anxiety and penitence. The hour for lunch was nearly
over before I remembered that I had not eaten. Heaven knows I
had no appetite; but there might still be much to do--it was
needful I should keep myself in proper trim, if it were only to
digest the now too probable bad news; and leaving word at the
office for Pinkerton, I sat down to table and called for soup,
oysters, and a pint of champagne.
I was not long set, before my friend returned. He looked pale
and rather old, refused to hear of food, and called for tea.
"I suppose all's up?" said I, with an incredible sinking.
"No," he replied; "I've pulled it through, Loudon; just pulled it
through. I couldn't have raised another cent in all 'Frisco.
People don't like it; Longhurst even went back on me; said he
wasn't a three-card-monte man."
"Well, what's the odds?" said I. "That's all we wanted, isn't it?"
"Loudon, I tell you I've had to pay blood for that money," cried
my friend, with almost savage energy and gloom. "It's all on
ninety days, too; I couldn't get another day--not another day. If
we go ahead with this affair, Loudon, you'll have to go yourself
and make the fur fly. I'll stay of course--I've got to stay and
face the trouble in this city; though, I tell you, I just long to go.
I would show these fat brutes of sailors what work was; I
would be all through that wreck and out at the other end, before
they had boosted themselves upon the deck! But you'll do your
level best, Loudon; I depend on you for that. You must be all
fire and grit and dash from the word 'go.' That schooner and
the boodle on board of her are bound to be here before three
months, or it's B. U. S. T.--bust."
"I'll swear I'll do my best, Jim; I'll work double tides," said I.
"It is my fault that you are in this thing, and I'll get you out
again or kill myself. But what is that you say? 'If we go
ahead?' Have we any choice, then?"
"I'm coming to that," said Jim. "It isn't that I doubt the
investment. Don't blame yourself for that; you showed a fine,
sound business instinct: I always knew it was in you, but then
it ripped right out. I guess that little beast of an attorney knew
what he was doing; and he wanted nothing better than to go
beyond. No, there's profit in the deal; it's not that; it's these
ninety-day bills, and the strain I've given the credit, for I've
been up and down, borrowing, and begging and bribing to
borrow. I don't believe there's another man but me in 'Frisco,"
he cried, with a sudden fervor of self admiration, "who could
have raised that last ten thousand!--Then there's another thing.
I had hoped you might have peddled that opium through the
islands, which is safer and more profitable. But with this
three-month limit, you must make tracks for Honolulu straight,
and communicate by steamer. I'll try to put up something for
you there; I'll have a man spoken to who's posted on that line of
biz. Keep a bright lookout for him as soon's you make the
islands; for it's on the cards he might pick you up at sea in a
whaleboat or a steam-launch, and bring the dollars right on
It shows how much I had suffered morally during my sojourn
in San Francisco, that even now when our fortunes trembled in
the balance, I should have consented to become a smuggler and
(of all things) a smuggler of opium. Yet I did, and that in
silence; without a protest, not without a twinge.
"And suppose," said I, "suppose the opium is so securely
hidden that I can't get hands on it?"
"Then you will stay there till that brig is kindling-wood, and
stay and split that kindling-wood with your penknife," cried
Pinkerton. "The stuff is there; we know that; and it must be
found. But all this is only the one string to our bow--though I
tell you I've gone into it head-first, as if it was our bottom
dollar. Why, the first thing I did before I'd raised a cent, and
with this other notion in my head already--the first thing I did
was to secure the schooner. The Nora Creina, she is, sixty-four
tons, quite big enough for our purpose since the rice is spoiled,
and the fastest thing of her tonnage out of San Francisco. For a
bonus of two hundred, and a monthly charter of three, I have
her for my own time; wages and provisions, say four hundred
more: a drop in the bucket. They began firing the cargo out of
her (she was part loaded) near two hours ago; and about the
same time John Smith got the order for the stores. That's what
I call business."
"No doubt of that," said I. "But the other notion?"
"Well, here it is," said Jim. "You agree with me that Bellairs
was ready to go higher?"
"I saw where he was coming. "Yes--and why shouldn't he?"
said I. "Is that the line?"
"That's the line, Loudon Dodd," assented Jim. "If Bellairs and
his principal have any desire to go me better, I'm their man."
A sudden thought, a sudden fear, shot into my mind. What if I
had been right? What if my childish pleasantry had frightened
the principal away, and thus destroyed our chance? Shame
closed my mouth; I began instinctively a long course of
reticence; and it was without a word of my meeting with
Bellairs, or my discovery of the address in Mission Street, that I
continued the discussion.
"Doubtless fifty thousand was originally mentioned as a round
sum," said I, "or at least, so Bellairs supposed. But at the same
time it may be an outside sum; and to cover the expenses we
have already incurred for the money and the schooner--I am far
from blaming you; I see how needful it was to be ready for
either event--but to cover them we shall want a rather large
"Bellairs will go to sixty thousand; it's my belief, if he were
properly handled, he would take the hundred," replied
Pinkerton. "Look back on the way the sale ran at the end."
"That is my own impression as regards Bellairs, I admitted.
"The point I am trying to make is that Bellairs himself may be
mistaken; that what he supposed to be a round sum was really
an outside figure."
"Well, Loudon, if that is so," said Jim, with extraordinary
gravity of face and voice, "if that is so, let him take the Flying
Scud at fifty thousand, and joy go with her! I prefer the loss."
"Is that so, Jim? Are we dipped as bad as that?" I cried.
"We've put our hand farther out than we can pull it in again,
Loudon," he replied. "Why, man, that fifty thousand dollars,
before we get clear again, will cost us nearer seventy. Yes, it
figures up overhead to more than ten per cent a month; and I
could do no better, and there isn't the man breathing could have
done as well. It was a miracle, Loudon. I couldn't but admire
myself. O, if we had just the four months! And you know,
Loudon, it may still be done. With your energy and charm, if
the worst comes to the worst, you can run that schooner as you
ran one of your picnics; and we may have luck. And, O, man!
if we do pull it through, what a dashing operation it will be!
What an advertisement! what a thing to talk of, and remember
all our lives! However," he broke off suddenly, "we must try
the safe thing first. Here's for the shyster!"
There was another struggle in my mind, whether I should even
now admit my knowledge of the Mission Street address. But I
had let the favourable moment slip. I had now, which made it
the more awkward, not merely the original discovery, but my
late suppression to confess. I could not help reasoning,
besides, that the more natural course was to approach the
principal by the road of his agent's office; and there weighed
upon my spirits a conviction that we were already too late, and
that the man was gone two hours ago. Once more, then, I held
my peace; and after an exchange of words at the telephone to
assure ourselves he was at home, we set out for the attorney's
The endless streets of any American city pass, from one end to
another, through strange degrees and vicissitudes of splendour
and distress, running under the same name between
monumental warehouses, the dens and taverns of thieves, and
the sward and shrubbery of villas. In San Francisco, the sharp
inequalities of the ground, and the sea bordering on so many
sides, greatly exaggerate these contrasts. The street for which
we were now bound took its rise among blowing sands,
somewhere in view of the Lone Mountain Cemetery; ran for a
term across that rather windy Olympus of Nob Hill, or perhaps
just skirted its frontier; passed almost immediately after
through a stage of little houses, rather impudently painted, and
offering to the eye of the observer this diagnostic peculiarity,
that the huge brass plates upon the small and highly coloured
doors bore only the first names of ladies--Norah or Lily or
Florence; traversed China Town, where it was doubtless
undermined with opium cellars, and its blocks pierced, after the
similitude of rabbit-warrens, with a hundred doors and
passages and galleries; enjoyed a glimpse of high publicity at
the corner of Kearney; and proceeded, among dives and
warehouses, towards the City Front and the region of the water-
rats. In this last stage of its career, where it was both grimy
and solitary, and alternately quiet and roaring to the wheels of
drays, we found a certain house of some pretension to neatness,
and furnished with a rustic outside stair. On the pillar of the
stair a black plate bore in gilded lettering this device: "Harry D.
Bellairs, Attorney-at-law. Consultations, 9 to 6." On ascending
the stairs, a door was found to stand open on the balcony, with
this further inscription, "Mr. Bellairs In."
"I wonder what we do next," said I.
"Guess we sail right in," returned Jim, and suited the action to
The room in which we found ourselves was clean, but
extremely bare. A rather old-fashioned secretaire stood by the
wall, with a chair drawn to the desk; in one corner was a shelf
with half-a-dozen law books; and I can remember literally not
another stick of furniture. One inference imposed itself: Mr.
Bellairs was in the habit of sitting down himself and suffering
his clients to stand. At the far end, and veiled by a curtain of
red baize, a second door communicated with the interior of the
house. Hence, after some coughing and stamping, we elicited
the shyster, who came timorously forth, for all the world like a
man in fear of bodily assault, and then, recognising his guests,
suffered from what I can only call a nervous paroxysm of
"Mr. Pinkerton and partner!" said he. "I will go and fetch you
"Not the least," said Jim. "No time. Much rather stand. This
is business, Mr. Bellairs. This morning, as you know, I bought
the wreck, Flying Scud."
The lawyer nodded.
"And bought her," pursued my friend, "at a figure out of all
proportion to the cargo and the circumstances, as they
"And now you think better of it, and would like to be off with
your bargain? I have been figuring upon this," returned the
lawyer. "My client, I will not hide from you, was displeased
with me for putting her so high. I think we were both too
heated, Mr. Pinkerton: rivalry--the spirit of competition. But I
will be quite frank--I know when I am dealing with gentlemen
--and I am almost certain, if you leave the matter in my hands,
my client would relieve you of the bargain, so as you would
lose"--he consulted our faces with gimlet-eyed calculation--
"nothing," he added shrilly.
And here Pinkerton amazed me.
"That's a little too thin," said he. "I have the wreck. I know
there's boodle in her, and I mean to keep her. What I want is
some points which may save me needless expense, and which
I'm prepared to pay for, money down. The thing for you to
consider is just this: am I to deal with you or direct with your
principal? If you are prepared to give me the facts right off,
why, name your figure. Only one thing!" added Jim, holding a
finger up, "when I say 'money down,' I mean bills payable
when the ship returns, and if the information proves reliable. I
don't buy pigs in pokes."
I had seen the lawyer's face light up for a moment, and then, at
the sound of Jim's proviso, miserably fade. "I guess you know
more about this wreck than I do, Mr. Pinkerton," said he. "I
only know that I was told to buy the thing, and tried, and
"What I like about you, Mr. Bellairs, is that you waste no
time," said Jim. "Now then, your client's name and address."
"On consideration," replied the lawyer, with indescribable
furtivity, "I cannot see that I am entitled to communicate my
client's name. I will sound him for you with pleasure, if you
care to instruct me; but I cannot see that I can give you his
"Very well," said Jim, and put his hat on. "Rather a strong
step, isn't it?" (Between every sentence was a clear pause.) "Not
think better of it? Well, come--call it a dollar?"
"Mr. Pinkerton, sir!" exclaimed the offended attorney; and,
indeed, I myself was almost afraid that Jim had mistaken his
man and gone too far.
"No present use for a dollar?" says Jim. "Well, look here, Mr.
Bellairs: we're both busy men, and I'll go to my outside figure
with you right away--"
"Stop this, Pinkerton," I broke in. "I know the address: 924
I do not know whether Pinkerton or Bellairs was the more
"Why in snakes didn't you say so, Loudon?" cried my friend.
"You didn't ask for it before," said I, colouring to my temples
under his troubled eyes.
It was Bellairs who broke silence, kindly supplying me with all
that I had yet to learn. "Since you know Mr. Dickson's
address," said he, plainly burning to be rid of us, "I suppose I
need detain you no longer."
I do not know how Pinkerton felt, but I had death in my soul as
we came down the outside stair, from the den of this blotched
spider. My whole being was strung, waiting for Jim's first
question, and prepared to blurt out, I believe, almost with tears,
a full avowal. But my friend asked nothing.
"We must hack it," said he, tearing off in the direction of the
nearest stand. "No time to be lost. You saw how I changed
ground. No use in paying the shyster's commission."
Again I expected a reference to my suppression; again I was
disappointed. It was plain Jim feared the subject, and I felt I
almost hated him for that fear. At last, when we were already
in the hack and driving towards Mission Street, I could bear
my suspense no longer.
"You do not ask me about that address," said I.
"No," said he, quickly and timidly. "What was it? I would like
The note of timidity offended me like a buffet; my temper rose
as hot as mustard. "I must request you do not ask me," said I.
"It is a matter I cannot explain."
The moment the foolish words were said, that moment I would
have given worlds to recall them: how much more, when
Pinkerton, patting my hand, replied: "All right, dear boy; not
another word; that's all done. I'm convinced it's perfectly
right." To return upon the subject was beyond my courage; but
I vowed inwardly that I should do my utmost in the future for
this mad speculation, and that I would cut myself in pieces
before Jim should lose one dollar.
We had no sooner arrived at the address than I had other things
to think of.
"Mr. Dickson? He's gone," said the landlady.
Where had he gone?
"I'm sure I can't tell you," she answered. "He was quite a
stranger to me."
"Did he express his baggage, ma'am?" asked Pinkerton.
"Hadn't any," was the reply. "He came last night and left again
to-day with a satchel."
"When did he leave?" I inquired.
"It was about noon," replied the landlady. "Some one rang up
the telephone, and asked for him; and I reckon he got some
news, for he left right away, although his rooms were taken by
the week. He seemed considerable put out: I reckon it was a
My heart sank; perhaps my idiotic jest had indeed driven him
away; and again I asked myself, Why? and whirled for a
moment in a vortex of untenable hypotheses.
"What was he like, ma'am?" Pinkerton was asking, when I
returned to consciousness of my surroundings.
"A clean shaved man," said the woman, and could be led or
driven into no more significant description.
"Pull up at the nearest drug-store," said Pinkerton to the driver;
and when there, the telephone was put in operation, and the
message sped to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's office--
this was in the days before Spreckels had arisen--"When does
the next China steamer touch at Honolulu?"
"The City of Pekin; she cast off the dock to-day, at half-past
one," came the reply.
"It's a clear case of bolt," said Jim. "He's skipped, or my
name's not Pinkerton. He's gone to head us off at Midway
Somehow I was not so sure; there were elements in the case,
not known to Pinkerton--the fears of the captain, for example
--that inclined me otherwise; and the idea that I had terrified
Mr. Dickson into flight, though resting on so slender a
foundation, clung obstinately in my mind. "Shouldn't we see
the list of passengers?" I asked.
"Dickson is such a blamed common name," returned Jim; "and
then, as like as not, he would change it."
At this I had another intuition. A negative of a street scene,
taken unconsciously when I was absorbed in other thought,
rose in my memory with not a feature blurred: a view, from
Bellairs's door as we were coming down, of muddy roadway,
passing drays, matted telegraph wires, a Chinaboy with a
basket on his head, and (almost opposite) a corner grocery with
the name of Dickson in great gilt letters.
"Yes," said I, "you are right; he would change it. And anyway,
I don't believe it was his name at all; I believe he took it from a
corner grocery beside Bellairs's."
"As like as not," said Jim, still standing on the sidewalk with
"Well, what shall we do next?" I asked.
"The natural thing would be to rush the schooner," he replied.
"But I don't know. I telephoned the captain to go at it head
down and heels in air; he answered like a little man; and I
guess he's getting around. I believe, Loudon, we'll give Trent a
chance. Trent was in it; he was in it up to the neck; even if he
couldn't buy, he could give us the straight tip."
"I think so, too," said I. "Where shall we find him?"
"British consulate, of course," said Jim. "And that's another
reason for taking him first. We can hustle that schooner up all
evening; but when the consulate's shut, it's shut."
At the consulate, we learned that Captain Trent had alighted
(such is I believe the classic phrase) at the What Cheer House.
To that large and unaristocratic hostelry we drove, and
addressed ourselves to a large clerk, who was chewing a
toothpick and looking straight before him.
"Captain Jacob Trent?"
"Gone," said the clerk.
"Where has he gone?" asked Pinkerton.
"Cain't say," said the clerk.
"When did he go?" I asked.
"Don't know," said the clerk, and with the simplicity of a
monarch offered us the spectacle of his broad back.
What might have happened next I dread to picture, for
Pinkerton's excitement had been growing steadily, and now
burned dangerously high; but we were spared extremities by
the intervention of a second clerk.
"Why! Mr. Dodd!" he exclaimed, running forward to the
counter. "Glad to see you, sir! Can I do anything in your
How virtuous actions blossom! Here was a young man to
whose pleased ears I had rehearsed _Just before the battle,
mother,_ at some weekly picnic; and now, in that tense
moment of my life, he came (from the machine) to be my
"Captain Trent, of the wreck? O yes, Mr. Dodd; he left about
twelve; he and another of the men. The Kanaka went earlier by
the City of Pekin; I know that; I remember expressing his chest.
Captain Trent? I'll inquire, Mr. Dodd. Yes, they were all here.
Here are the names on the register; perhaps you would care to
look at them while I go and see about the baggage?"