Part 3 out of 3
if Your Excellency were to give me my freedom for a few days, being a man
of understanding, I should then repay the Government and be in position to
be of service to Your Excellency. I should be in position to be of very
great service to Your Excellency."
"Have you a plan whereby you hope to obtain this money?" asked the
"I have," said Yi Chin Ho.
"Then come with it to me to-morrow night; I would now sleep," said the
Governor, taking up his snore where it had been interrupted.
On the following night, having again obtained leave of absence from the
jailer, Yi Chin Ho presented himself at the Governor's bedside.
"Is it you, Yi Chin Ho?" asked the Governor. "And have you the plan?"
"It is I, Your Excellency," answered Yi Chin Ho, "and the plan is here."
"Speak," commanded the Governor.
"The plan is here," repeated Yi Chin Ho, "here in my hand."
The Governor sat up and opened his eyes. Yi Chin Ho proffered in his hand
a sheet of paper. The Governor held it to the light.
"Nothing but a nose," said he.
"A bit pinched, so, and so, Your Excellency," said Yi Chin Ho.
"Yes, a bit pinched here and there, as you say," said the Governor.
"Withal it is an exceeding corpulent nose, thus, and so, all in one place,
at the end," proceeded Yi Chin Ho. "Your Excellency would seek far and
wide and many a day for that nose and find it not!"
"An unusual nose," admitted the Governor.
"There is a wart upon it," said Yi Chin Ho.
"A most unusual nose," said the Governor. "Never have I seen the like.
But what do you with this nose, Yi Chin Ho?"
"I seek it whereby to repay the money to the Government," said Yi Chin Ho.
"I seek it to be of service to Your Excellency, and I seek it to save my
own worthless head. Further, I seek Your Excellency's seal upon this
picture of the nose."
And the Governor laughed and affixed the seal of State, and Yi Chin Ho
departed. For a month and a day he travelled the King's Road which leads
to the shore of the Eastern Sea; and there, one night, at the gate of the
largest mansion of a wealthy city he knocked loudly for admittance.
"None other than the master of the house will I see," said he fiercely to
the frightened servants. "I travel upon the King's business."
Straightway was he led to an inner room, where the master of the house was
roused from his sleep and brought blinking before him.
"You are Pak Chung Chang, head man of this city," said Yi Chin Ho in tones
that were all-accusing. "I am upon the King's business."
Pak Chung Chang trembled. Well he knew the King's business was ever a
terrible business. His knees smote together, and he near fell to the
"The hour is late," he quavered. "Were it not well to--"
"The King's business never waits!" thundered Yi Chin Ho. "Come apart with
me, and swiftly. I have an affair of moment to discuss with you.
"It is the King's affair," he added with even greater fierceness; so that
Pak Chung Chang's silver pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers and
clattered on the floor.
"Know then," said Yi Chin Ho, when they had gone apart, "that the King is
troubled with an affliction, a very terrible affliction. In that he failed
to cure, the Court physician has had nothing else than his head chopped
off. From all the Eight Provinces have the physicians come to wait upon
the King. Wise consultation have they held, and they have decided that for
a remedy for the King's affliction nothing else is required than a nose, a
certain kind of nose, a very peculiar certain kind of nose.
"Then by none other was I summoned than His Excellency the Prime Minister
himself. He put a paper into my hand. Upon this paper was the very
peculiar kind of nose drawn by the physicians of the Eight Provinces, with
the seal of State upon it.
"'Go,' said His Excellency the Prime Minister. 'Seek out this nose, for
the King's affliction is sore. And wheresoever you find this nose upon the
face of a man, strike it off forthright and bring it in all haste to the
Court, for the King must be cured. Go, and come not back until your search
"And so I departed upon my quest," said Yi Chin Ho. "I have sought out the
remotest corners of the kingdom; I have travelled the Eight Highways,
searched the Eight Provinces, and sailed the seas of the Eight Coasts. And
here I am."
With a great flourish he drew a paper from his girdle, unrolled it with
many snappings and cracklings, and thrust it before the face of Pak Chung
Chang. Upon the paper was the picture of the nose.
Pak Chung Chang stared upon it with bulging eyes.
"Never have I beheld such a nose," he began.
"There is a wart upon it," said Yi Chin Ho.
"Never have I beheld--" Pak Chung Chang began again.
"Bring your father before me," Yi Chin Ho interrupted sternly.
"My ancient and very-much-to-be-respected ancestor sleeps," said Pak Chung
"Why dissemble?" demanded Yi Chin Ho. "You know it is your father's nose.
Bring him before me that I may strike it off and be gone. Hurry, lest I
make bad report of you."
"Mercy!" cried Pak Chung Chang, falling on his knees. "It is impossible!
It is impossible! You cannot strike off my father's nose. He cannot go
down without his nose to the grave. He will become a laughter and a
byword, and all my days and nights will be filled with woe. O reflect!
Report that you have seen no such nose in your travels. You, too, have a
Pak Chung Chang clasped Yi Chin Ho's knees and fell to weeping on his
"My heart softens strangely at your tears," said Yi Chin Ho. "I, too, know
filial piety and regard. But--" He hesitated, then added, as though
thinking aloud, "It is as much as my head is worth."
"How much is your head worth?" asked Pak Chung Chang in a thin, small
"A not remarkable head," said Yi Chin Ho. "An absurdly unremarkable head;
but, such is my great foolishness, I value it at nothing less than one
hundred thousand strings of cash."
"So be it," said Pak Chung Chang, rising to his feet.
"I shall need horses to carry the treasure," said Yi Chin Ho, "and men to
guard it well as I journey through the mountains. There are robbers abroad
in the land."
"There are robbers abroad in the land," said Pak Chung Chang, sadly. "But
it shall be as you wish, so long as my ancient and very-much-to-be-
respected ancestor's nose abide in its appointed place."
"Say nothing to any man of this occurrence," said Yi Chin Ho, "else will
other and more loyal servants than I be sent to strike off your father's
And so Yi Chin Ho departed on his way through the mountains, blithe of
heart and gay of song as he listened to the jingling bells of his treasure-
There is little more to tell. Yi Chin Ho prospered through the years. By
his efforts the jailer attained at length to the directorship of all the
prisons of Cho-sen; the Governor ultimately betook himself to the Sacred
City to be Prime Minister to the King, while Yi Chin Ho became the King's
boon companion and sat at table with him to the end of a round, fat life.
But Pak Chung Chang fell into a melancholy, and ever after he shook his
head sadly, with tears in his eyes, whenever he regarded the expensive nose
of his ancient and very-much-to-be-respected ancestor.
THE "FRANCIS SPAIGHT"
(A TRUE TALE RETOLD)
The Francis Spaight was running before it solely under a mizzentopsail,
when the thing happened. It was not due to carelessness so much as to the
lack of discipline of the crew and to the fact that they were indifferent
seamen at best. The man at the wheel in particular, a Limerick man, had
had no experience with salt water beyond that of rafting timber on the
Shannon between the Quebec vessels and the shore. He was afraid of the
huge seas that rose out of the murk astern and bore down upon him, and he
was more given to cowering away from their threatened impact than he was to
meeting their blows with the wheel and checking the ship's rush to broach
It was three in the morning when his unseamanlike conduct precipitated the
catastrophe. At sight of a sea far larger than its fellows, he crouched
down, releasing his hands from the spokes. The Francis Spaight sheered as
her stern lifted on the sea, receiving the full fling of the cap on her
quarter. The next instant she was in the trough, her lee-rail buried till
the ocean was level with her hatch-coamings, sea after sea breaking over
her weather rail and sweeping what remained exposed of the deck with icy
The men were out of hand, helpless and hopeless, stupid in their
bewilderment and fear, and resolute only in that they would not obey
orders. Some wailed, others clung silently in the weather shrouds, and
still others muttered prayers or shrieked vile imprecations; and neither
captain nor mate could get them to bear a hand at the pumps or at setting
patches of sails to bring the vessel up to the wind and sea. Inside the
hour the ship was over on her beam ends, the lubberly cowards climbing up
her side and hanging on in the rigging. When she went over, the mate was
caught and drowned in the after-cabin, as were two sailors who had sought
refuge in the forecastle.
The mate had been the ablest man on board, and the captain was now scarcely
less helpless than his men. Beyond cursing them for their worthlessness,
he did nothing; and it remained for a man named Mahoney, a Belfast man, and
a boy, O'Brien, of Limerick, to cut away the fore and main masts. This
they did at great risk on the perpendicular wall of the wreck, sending the
mizzentopmast overside along in the general crash. The Francis Spaight
righted, and it was well that she was lumber laden, else she would have
sunk, for she was already water-logged. The mainmast, still fast by the
shrouds, beat like a thunderous sledge-hammer against the ship's side,
every stroke bringing groans from the men.
Day dawned on the savage ocean, and in the cold gray light all that could
be seen of the Francis Spaight emerging from the sea were the poop, the
shattered mizzenmast, and a ragged line of bulwarks. It was midwinter in
the North Atlantic, and the wretched men were half-dead from cold. But
there was no place where they could find rest. Every sea breached clean
over the wreck, washing away the salt incrustations from their bodies and
depositing fresh incrustations. The cabin under the poop was awash to the
knees, but here at least was shelter from the chill wind, and here the
survivors congregated, standing upright, holding on by the cabin
furnishings, and leaning against one another for support.
In vain Mahoney strove to get the men to take turns in watching aloft from
the mizzenmast for any chance vessel. The icy gale was too much for them,
and they preferred the shelter of the cabin. O'Brien, the boy, who was
only fifteen, took turns with Mahoney on the freezing perch. It was the
boy, at three in the afternoon, who called down that he had sighted a sail.
This did bring them from the cabin, and they crowded the poop rail and
weather mizzen shrouds as they watched the strange ship. But its course
did not lie near, and when it disappeared below the skyline, they returned
shivering to the cabin, not one offering to relieve the watch at the mast
By the end of the second day, Mahoney and O'Brien gave up their attempt,
and thereafter the vessel drifted in the gale uncared for and without a
lookout. There were thirteen alive, and for seventy-two hours they stood
knee-deep in the sloshing water on the cabin floor, half-frozen, without
food, and with but three bottles of wine shared among them. All food and
fresh water were below, and there was no getting at such supplies in the
water-logged condition of the wreck. As the days went by, no food whatever
passed their lips. Fresh water, in small quantities, they were able to
obtain by holding a cover of a tureen under the saddle of the mizzenmast.
But the rain fell infrequently, and they were hard put. When it rained,
they also soaked their handkerchiefs, squeezing them out into their mouths
or into their shoes. As the wind and sea went down, they were even able to
mop the exposed portions of the deck that were free from brine and so add
to their water supply. But food they had none, and no way of getting it,
though sea-birds flew repeatedly overhead.
In the calm weather that followed the gale, after having remained on their
feet for ninety-six hours, they were able to find dry planks in the cabin
on which to lie. But the long hours of standing in the salt water had
caused sores to form on their legs. These sores were extremely painful.
The slightest contact or scrape caused severe anguish, and in their weak
condition and crowded situation they were continually hurting one another
in this manner. Not a man could move about without being followed by
volleys of abuse, curses, and groans. So great was their misery that the
strong oppressed the weak, shoving them aside from the dry planks to shift
for themselves in the cold and wet. The boy, O'Brien, was specially
maltreated. Though there were three other boys, it was O'Brien who came in
for most of the abuse. There was no explaining it, except on the ground
that his was a stronger and more dominant spirit than those of the other
boys, and that he stood up more for his rights, resenting the petty
injustices that were meted out to all the boys by the men. Whenever
O'Brien came near the men in search of a dry place to sleep, or merely
moved about, he was kicked and cuffed away. In return, he cursed them for
their selfish brutishness, and blows and kicks and curses were rained upon
him. Miserable as were all of them, he was thus made far more miserable;
and it was only the flame of life, unusually strong in him, that enabled
him to endure.
As the days went by and they grew weaker, their peevishness and ill-temper
increased, which, in turn, increased the ill-treatment and sufferings of
O'Brien. By the sixteenth day all hands were far gone with hunger, and
they stood together in small groups, talking in undertones and occasionally
glancing at O'Brien. It was at high noon that the conference came to a
head. The captain was the spokesman. All were collected on the poop.
"Men," the captain began, "we have been a long time without food--two weeks
and two days it is, though it seems more like two years and two months. We
can't hang out much longer. It is beyond human nature to go on hanging out
with nothing in our stomachs. There is a serious question to consider:
whether it is better for all to die, or for one to die. We are standing
with our feet in our graves. If one of us dies, the rest may live until a
ship is sighted. What say you?"
Michael Behane, the man who had been at the wheel when the Francis Spaight
broached to, called out that it was well. The others joined in the cry.
"Let it be one of the b'ys!" cried Sullivan, a Tarbert man, glancing at the
same time significantly at O'Brien.
"It is my opinion," the captain went on, "that it will be a good deed for
one of us to die for the rest."
"A good deed! A good deed!" the men interjected.
"And it is my opinion that 'tis best for one of the boys to die. They have
no families to support, nor would they be considered so great a loss to
their friends as those who have wives and children."
"'Tis right." "Very right." "Very fit it should be done," the men
muttered one to another.
But the four boys cried out against the injustice of it.
"Our lives is just as dear to us as the rest iv yez," O'Brien protested.
"An' our famblies, too. As for wives an' childer, who is there savin'
meself to care for me old mother that's a widow, as you know well, Michael
Behane, that comes from Limerick? 'Tis not fair. Let the lots be drawn
between all of us, men and b'ys."
Mahoney was the only man who spoke in favour of the boys, declaring that it
was the fair thing for all to share alike. Sullivan and the captain
insisted on the drawing of lots being confined to the boys. There were
high words, in the midst of which Sullivan turned upon O'Brien, snarling--
"'Twould be a good deed to put you out of the way. You deserve it.
'Twould be the right way to serve you, an' serve you we will."
He started toward O'Brien, with intent to lay hands on him and proceed at
once with the killing, while several others likewise shuffled toward him
and reached for him. He stumbled backwards to escape them, at the same
time crying that he would submit to the drawing of the lots among the boys.
The captain prepared four sticks of different lengths and handed them to
"You're thinkin' the drawin'll not be fair," the latter sneered to O'Brien.
"So it's yerself'll do the drawin'."
To this O'Brien agreed. A handkerchief was tied over his eyes,
blindfolding him, and he knelt down on the deck with his back to Sullivan.
"Whoever you name for the shortest stick'll die," the captain said.
Sullivan held up one of the sticks. The rest were concealed in his hand so
that no one could see whether it was the short stick or not.
"An' whose stick will it be?" Sullivan demanded.
"For little Johnny Sheehan," O'Brien answered.
Sullivan laid the stick aside. Those who looked could not tell if it were
the fatal one. Sullivan held up another stick.
"Whose will it be?"
"For George Burns," was the reply.
The stick was laid with the first one, and a third held up.
"An' whose is this wan?"
"For myself," said O'Brien.
With a quick movement, Sullivan threw the four sticks together. No one had
"'Tis for yourself ye've drawn it," Sullivan announced.
"A good deed," several of the men muttered.
O'Brien was very quiet. He arose to his feet, took the bandage off, and
"Where is ut?" he demanded. "The short stick? The wan for me?"
The captain pointed to the four sticks lying on the deck.
"How do you know the stick was mine?" O'Brien questioned. "Did you see ut,
Johnny Sheehan, who was the youngest of the boys, did not answer.
"Did you see ut?" O'Brien next asked Mahoney.
"No, I didn't see ut."
The men were muttering and growling.
"'Twas a fair drawin'," Sullivan said. "Ye had yer chanct an' ye lost,
that's all iv ut."
"A fair drawin'," the captain added. "Didn't I behold it myself? The
stick was yours, O'Brien, an' ye may as well get ready. Where's the cook?
Gorman, come here. Fetch the tureen cover, some of ye. Gorman, do your
duty like a man."
"But how'll I do it," the cook demanded. He was a weak-eyed, weak-chinned,
"'Tis a damned murder!" O'Brien cried out.
"I'll have none of ut," Mahoney announced. "Not a bite shall pass me
"Then 'tis yer share for better men than yerself," Sullivan sneered. "Go
on with yer duty, cook."
"'Tis not me duty, the killin' of b'ys," Gorman protested irresolutely.
"If yez don't make mate for us, we'll be makin' mate of yerself," Behane
threatened. "Somebody must die, an' as well you as another."
Johnny Sheehan began to cry. O'Brien listened anxiously. His face was
pale. His lips trembled, and at times his whole body shook.
"I signed on as cook," Gorman enounced. "An' cook I wud if galley there
was. But I'll not lay me hand to murder. 'Tis not in the articles. I'm
"An' cook ye'll be for wan minute more only," Sullivan said grimly, at the
same moment gripping the cook's head from behind and bending it back till
the windpipe and jugular were stretched taut. "Where's yer knife, Mike?
Pass it along."
At the touch of the steel, Gorman whimpered.
"I'll do ut, if yez'll hold the b'y."
The pitiable condition of the cook seemed in some fashion to nerve up
"It's all right, Gorman," he said. "Go on with ut. 'Tis meself knows yer
not wantin' to do ut. It's all right, sir"--this to the captain, who had
laid a hand heavily on his arm. "Ye won't have to hold me, sir. I'll
"Stop yer blitherin', an' go an' get the tureen cover," Behane commanded
Johnny Sheehan, at the same time dealing him a heavy cuff alongside the
The boy, who was scarcely more than a child, fetched the cover. He crawled
and tottered along the deck, so weak was he from hunger. The tears still
ran down his cheeks. Behane took the cover from him, at the same time
administering another cuff.
O'Brien took off his coat and bared his right arm. His under lip still
trembled, but he held a tight grip on himself. The captain's penknife was
opened and passed to Gorman.
"Mahoney, tell me mother what happened to me, if ever ye get back," O'Brien
"'Tis black murder, black an' damned," he said. "The b'y's flesh'll do
none iv yez anny good. Mark me words. Ye'll not profit by it, none iv
"Get ready," the captain ordered. "You, Sullivan, hold the cover--that's
it--close up. Spill nothing. It's precious stuff."
Gorman made an effort. The knife was dull. He was weak. Besides, his
hand was shaking so violently that he nearly dropped the knife. The three
boys were crouched apart, in a huddle, crying and sobbing. With the
exception of Mahoney, the men were gathered about the victim, craning their
necks to see.
"Be a man, Gorman," the captain cautioned.
The wretched cook was seized with a spasm of resolution, sawing back and
forth with the blade on O'Brien's wrist. The veins were severed. Sullivan
held the tureen cover close underneath. The cut veins gaped wide, but no
ruddy flood gushed forth. There was no blood at all. The veins were dry
and empty. No one spoke. The grim and silent figures swayed in unison
with each heave of the ship. Every eye was turned fixedly upon that
inconceivable and monstrous thing, the dry veins of a creature that was
"'Tis a warnin'," Mahoney cried. "Lave the b'y alone. Mark me words. His
death'll do none iv yez anny good."
"Try at the elbow--the left elbow, 'tis nearer the heart," the captain said
finally, in a dim and husky voice that was unlike his own.
"Give me the knife," O'Brien said roughly, taking it out of the cook's
hand. "I can't be lookin' at ye puttin' me to hurt."
Quite coolly he cut the vein at the left elbow, but, like the cook, he
failed to bring blood.
"This is all iv no use," Sullivan said. "'Tis better to put him out iv his
misery by bleedin' him at the throat."
The strain had been too much for the lad.
"Don't be doin' ut," he cried. "There'll be no blood in me throat. Give
me a little time. 'Tis cold an' weak I am. Be lettin' me lay down an'
slape a bit. Then I'll be warm an' the blood'll flow."
"'Tis no use," Sullivan objected. "As if ye cud be slapin' at a time like
this. Ye'll not slape, and ye'll not warm up. Look at ye now. You've an
"I was sick at Limerick wan night," O'Brien hurried on, "an' the dochtor
cudn't bleed me. But after slapin' a few hours an' gettin' warm in bed the
blood came freely. It's God's truth I'm tellin' yez. Don't be murderin'
"His veins are open now," the captain said. "'Tis no use leavin' him in
his pain. Do it now an' be done with it."
They started to reach for O'Brien, but he backed away.
"I'll be the death iv yez!" he screamed. "Take yer hands off iv me,
Sullivan! I'll come back! I'll haunt yez! Wakin' or slapin', I'll haunt
yez till you die!"
"'Tis disgraceful!" yelled Behane. "If the short stick'd ben mine, I'd a-
let me mates cut the head off iv me an' died happy."
Sullivan leaped in and caught the unhappy lad by the hair. The rest of the
men followed, O'Brien kicked and struggled, snarling and snapping at the
hands that clutched him from every side. Little Johnny Sheehan broke out
into wild screaming, but the men took no notice of him. O'Brien was bent
backward to the deck, the tureen cover under his neck. Gorman was shoved
forward. Some one had thrust a large sheath-knife into his hand.
"Do yer duty! Do yer duty!" the men cried.
The cook bent over, but he caught the boy's eyes and faltered.
"If ye don't, I'll kill ye with me own hands," Behane shouted.
From every side a torrent of abuse and threats poured in upon the cook.
Still he hung back.
"Maybe there'll be more blood in his veins than O'Brien's," Sullivan
Behane caught Gorman by the hair and twisted his head back, while Sullivan
attempted to take possession of the sheath-knife. But Gorman clung to it
"Lave go, an' I'll do ut!" he screamed frantically. "Don't be cuttin' me
throat! I'll do the deed! I'll do the deed!"
"See that you do it, then," the captain threatened him.
Gorman allowed himself to be shoved forward. He looked at the boy, closed
his eyes, and muttered a prayer. Then, without opening his eyes, he did
the deed that had been appointed him. O'Brien emitted a shriek that sank
swiftly to a gurgling sob. The men held him till his struggles ceased,
when he was laid upon the deck. They were eager and impatient, and with
oaths and threats they urged Gorman to hurry with the preparation of the
"Lave ut, you bloody butchers," Mahoney said quietly. "Lave ut, I tell
yez. Ye'll not be needin' anny iv ut now. 'Tis as I said: ye'll not be
profitin' by the lad's blood. Empty ut overside, Behane. Empty ut
Behane, still holding the tureen cover in both his hands, glanced to
windward. He walked to the rail and threw the cover and contents into the
sea. A full-rigged ship was bearing down upon them a short mile away. So
occupied had they been with the deed just committed, that none had had eyes
for a lookout. All hands watched her coming on--the brightly coppered
forefoot parting the water like a golden knife, the headsails flapping
lazily and emptily at each downward surge, and the towering canvas tiers
dipping and curtsying with each stately swing of the sea. No man spoke.
As she hove to, a cable length away, the captain of the Francis Spaight
bestirred himself and ordered a tarpaulin to be thrown over O'Brien's
corpse. A boat was lowered from the stranger's side and began to pull
toward them. John Gorman laughed. He laughed softly at first, but he
accompanied each stroke of the oars with spasmodically increasing glee. It
was this maniacal laughter that greeted the rescue boat as it hauled
alongside and the first officer clambered on board.
A CURIOUS FRAGMENT
[The capitalist, or industrial oligarch, Roger Vanderwater, mentioned in
the narrative, has been identified as the ninth in the line of the
Vanderwaters that controlled for hundreds of years the cotton factories of
the South. This Roger Vanderwater flourished in the last decades of the
twenty-sixth century after Christ, which was the fifth century of the
terrible industrial oligarchy that was reared upon the ruins of the early
From internal evidences we are convinced that the narrative which follows
was not reduced to writing till the twenty-ninth century. Not only was it
unlawful to write or print such matter during that period, but the working-
class was so illiterate that only in rare instances were its members able
to read and write. This was the dark reign of the overman, in whose speech
the great mass of the people were characterized as the "herd animals." All
literacy was frowned upon and stamped out. From the statute-books of the
times may be instanced that black law that made it a capital offence for
any man, no matter of what class, to teach even the alphabet to a member of
the working-class. Such stringent limitation of education to the ruling
class was necessary if that class was to continue to rule.
One result of the foregoing was the development of the professional story-
tellers. These story-tellers were paid by the oligarchy, and the tales
they told were legendary, mythical, romantic, and harmless. But the spirit
of freedom never quite died out, and agitators, under the guise of story-
tellers, preached revolt to the slave class. That the following tale was
banned by the oligarchs we have proof from the records of the criminal
police court of Ashbury, wherein, on January 27, 2734, one John Tourney,
found guilty of telling the tale in a boozing-ken of labourers, was
sentenced to five years' penal servitude in the borax mines of the Arizona
Listen, my brothers, and I will tell you a tale of an arm. It was the arm
of Tom Dixon, and Tom Dixon was a weaver of the first class in a factory of
that hell-hound and master, Roger Vanderwater. This factory was called
"Hell's Bottom" . . . by the slaves who toiled in it, and I guess they
ought to know; and it was situated in Kingsbury, at the other end of the
town from Vanderwater's summer palace. You do not know where Kingsbury is?
There are many things, my brothers, that you do not know, and it is sad.
It is because you do not know that you are slaves. When I have told you
this tale, I should like to form a class among you for the learning of
written and printed speech. Our masters read and write and possess many
books, and it is because of that that they are our masters, and live in
palaces, and do not work. When the toilers learn to read and write--all of
them--they will grow strong; then they will use their strength to break
their bonds, and there will be no more masters and no more slaves.
Kingsbury, my brothers, is in the old State of Alabama. For three hundred
years the Vanderwaters have owned Kingsbury and its slave pens and
factories, and slave pens and factories in many other places and States.
You have heard of the Vanderwaters--who has not?--but let me tell you
things you do not know about them. The first Vanderwater was a slave, even
as you and I. Have you got that? He was a slave, and that was over three
hundred years ago. His father was a machinist in the slave pen of
Alexander Burrell, and his mother was a washerwoman in the same slave pen.
There is no doubt about this. I am telling you truth. It is history. It
is printed, every word of it, in the history books of our masters, which
you cannot read because your masters will not permit you to learn to read.
You can understand why they will not permit you to learn to read, when
there are such things in the books. They know, and they are very wise. If
you did read such things, you might be wanting in respect to your masters,
which would be a dangerous thing . . . to your masters. But I know, for I
can read, and I am telling you what I have read with my own eyes in the
history books of our masters.
The first Vanderwater's name was not Vanderwater; it was Vange--Bill Vange,
the son of Yergis Vange, the machinist, and Laura Carnly, the washerwoman.
Young Bill Vange was strong. He might have remained with the slaves and
led them to freedom; instead, however, he served the masters and was well
rewarded. He began his service, when yet a small child, as a spy in his
home slave pen. He is known to have informed on his own father for
seditious utterance. This is fact. I have read it with my own eyes in the
records. He was too good a slave for the slave pen. Alexander Burrell
took him out, while yet a child, and he was taught to read and write. He
was taught many things, and he was entered in the secret service of the
Government. Of course, he no longer wore the slave dress, except for
disguise at such times when he sought to penetrate the secrets and plots of
the slaves. It was he, when but eighteen years of age, who brought that
great hero and comrade, Ralph Jacobus, to trial and execution in the
electric chair. Of course, you have all heard the sacred name of Ralph
Jacobus, but it is news to you that he was brought to his death by the
first Vanderwater, whose name was Vange. I know. I have read it in the
books. There are many interesting things like that in the books.
And after Ralph Jacobus died his shameful death, Bill Vange's name began
the many changes it was to undergo. He was known as "Sly Vange" far and
wide. He rose high in the secret service, and he was rewarded in grand
ways, but still he was not a member of the master class. The men were
willing that he should become so; it was the women of the master class who
refused to have Sly Vange one of them. Sly Vange gave good service to the
masters. He had been a slave himself, and he knew the ways of the slaves.
There was no fooling him. In those days the slaves were braver than now,
and they were always trying for their freedom. And Sly Vange was
everywhere, in all their schemes and plans, bringing their schemes and
plans to naught and their leaders to the electric chair. It was in 2255
that his name was next changed for him. It was in that year that the Great
Mutiny took place. In that region west of the Rocky Mountains, seventeen
millions of slaves strove bravely to overthrow their masters. Who knows,
if Sly Vange had not lived, but that they would have succeeded? But Sly
Vange was very much alive. The masters gave him supreme command of the
situation. In eight months of fighting, one million and three hundred and
fifty thousand slaves were killed. Vange, Bill Vange, Sly Vange, killed
them, and he broke the Great Mutiny. And he was greatly rewarded, and so
red were his hands with the blood of the slaves that thereafter he was
called "Bloody Vange." You see, my brothers, what interesting things are
to be found in the books when one can read them. And, take my word for it,
there are many other things, even more interesting, in the books. And if
you will but study with me, in a year's time you can read those books for
yourselves--ay, in six months some of you will be able to read those books
Bloody Vange lived to a ripe old age, and always, to the last, was he
received in the councils of the masters; but never was he made a master
himself. He had first opened his eyes, you see, in a slave pen. But oh,
he was well rewarded! He had a dozen palaces in which to live. He, who
was no master, owned thousands of slaves. He had a great pleasure yacht
upon the sea that was a floating palace, and he owned a whole island in the
sea where toiled ten thousand slaves on his coffee plantations. But in his
old age he was lonely, for he lived apart, hated by his brothers, the
slaves, and looked down upon by those he had served and who refused to be
his brothers. The masters looked down upon him because he had been born a
slave. Enormously wealthy he died; but he died horribly, tormented by his
conscience, regretting all he had done and the red stain on his name.
But with his children it was different. They had not been born in the
slave pen, and by the special ruling of the Chief Oligarch of that time,
John Morrison, they were elevated to the master class. And it was then
that the name of Vange disappears from the page of history. It becomes
Vanderwater, and Jason Vange, the son of Bloody Vange, becomes Jason
Vanderwater, the founder of the Vanderwater line. But that was three
hundred years ago, and the Vanderwaters of to-day forget their beginnings
and imagine that somehow the clay of their bodies is different stuff from
the clay in your body and mine and in the bodies of all slaves. And I ask
you, Why should a slave become the master of another slave? And why should
the son of a slave become the master of many slaves? I leave these
questions for you to answer for yourselves, but do not forget that in the
beginning the Vanderwaters were slaves.
And now, my brothers, I come back to the beginning of my tale to tell you
of Tom Dixon's arm. Roger Vanderwater's factory in Kingsbury was rightly
named "Hell's Bottom," but the men who toiled in it were men, as you shall
see. Women toiled there, too, and children, little children. All that
toiled there had the regular slave rights under the law, but only under the
law, for they were deprived of many of their rights by the two overseers of
Hell's Bottom, Joseph Clancy and Adolph Munster.
It is a long story, but I shall not tell all of it to you. I shall tell
only about the arm. It happened that, according to the law, a portion of
the starvation wage of the slaves was held back each month and put into a
fund. This fund was for the purpose of helping such unfortunate fellow-
workmen as happened to be injured by accidents or to be overtaken by
sickness. As you know with yourselves, these funds are controlled by the
overseers. It is the law, and so it was that the fund at Hell's Bottom was
controlled by the two overseers of accursed memory.
Now, Clancy and Munster took this fund for their own use. When accidents
happened to the workmen, their fellows, as was the custom, made grants from
the fund; but the overseers refused to pay over the grants. What could the
slaves do? They had their rights under the law, but they had no access to
the law. Those that complained to the overseers were punished. You know
yourselves what form such punishment takes--the fines for faulty work that
is not faulty; the overcharging of accounts in the Company's store; the
vile treatment of one's women and children; and the allotment to bad
machines whereon, work as one will, he starves.
Once, the slaves of Hell's Bottom protested to Vanderwater. It was the
time of the year when he spent several months in Kingsbury. One of the
slaves could write; it chanced that his mother could write, and she had
secretly taught him as her mother had secretly taught her. So this slave
wrote a round robin, wherein was contained their grievances, and all the
slaves signed by mark. And, with proper stamps upon the envelope, the
round robin was mailed to Roger Vanderwater. And Roger Vanderwater did
nothing, save to turn the round robin over to the two overseers. Clancy
and Munster were angered. They turned the guards loose at night on the
slave pen. The guards were armed with pick handles. It is said that next
day only half of the slaves were able to work in Hell's Bottom. They were
well beaten. The slave who could write was so badly beaten that he lived
only three months. But before he died, he wrote once more, to what purpose
you shall hear.
Four or five weeks afterward, Tom Dixon, a slave, had his arm torn off by a
belt in Hell's Bottom. His fellow-workmen, as usual, made a grant to him
from the fund, and Clancy and Munster, as usual, refused to pay it over
from the fund. The slave who could write, and who even then was dying,
wrote anew a recital of their grievances. And this document was thrust
into the hand of the arm that had been torn from Tom Dixon's body.
Now it chanced that Roger Vanderwater was lying ill in his palace at the
other end of Kingsbury--not the dire illness that strikes down you and me,
brothers; just a bit of biliousness, mayhap, or no more than a bad headache
because he had eaten too heartily or drunk too deeply. But it was enough
for him, being tender and soft from careful rearing. Such men, packed in
cotton wool all their lives, are exceeding tender and soft. Believe me,
brothers, Roger Vanderwater felt as badly with his aching head, or THOUGHT
he felt as badly, as Tom Dixon really felt with his arm torn out by the
It happened that Roger Vanderwater was fond of scientific farming, and that
on his farm, three miles outside of Kingsbury, he had managed to grow a new
kind of strawberry. He was very proud of that new strawberry of his, and
he would have been out to see and pick the first ripe ones, had it not been
for his illness. Because of his illness he had ordered the old farm slave
to bring in personally the first box of the berries. All this was learned
from the gossip of a palace scullion, who slept each night in the slave
pen. The overseer of the plantation should have brought in the berries,
but he was on his back with a broken leg from trying to break a colt. The
scullion brought the word in the night, and it was known that next day the
berries would come in. And the men in the slave pen of Hell's Bottom,
being men and not cowards, held a council.
The slave who could write, and who was sick and dying from the pick-handle
beating, said he would carry Tom Dixon's arm; also, he said he must die
anyway, and that it mattered nothing if he died a little sooner. So five
slaves stole from the slave pen that night after the guards had made their
last rounds. One of the slaves was the man who could write. They lay in
the brush by the roadside until late in the morning, when the old farm
slave came driving to town with the precious fruit for the master. What of
the farm slave being old and rheumatic, and of the slave who could write
being stiff and injured from his beating, they moved their bodies about
when they walked, very much in the same fashion. The slave who could write
put on the other's clothes, pulled the broad-brimmed hat over his eyes,
climbed upon the seat of the wagon, and drove on to town. The old farm
slave was kept tied all day in the bushes until evening, when the others
loosed him and went back to the slave pen to take their punishment for
having broken bounds.
In the meantime, Roger Vanderwater lay waiting for the berries in his
wonderful bedroom--such wonders and such comforts were there that they
would have blinded the eyes of you and me who have never seen such things.
The slave who could write said afterward that it was like a glimpse of
Paradise! And why not? The labour and the lives of ten thousand slaves
had gone to the making of that bedchamber, while they themselves slept in
vile lairs like wild beasts. The slave who could write brought in the
berries on a silver tray or platter--you see, Roger Vanderwater wanted to
speak with him in person about the berries.
The slave who could write tottered his dying body across the wonderful room
and knelt by the couch of Vanderwater, holding out before him the tray.
Large green leaves covered the top of the tray, and these the body-servant
alongside whisked away so that Vanderwater could see. And Roger
Vanderwater, propped upon his elbow, saw. He saw the fresh, wonderful
fruit lying there like precious jewels, and in the midst of it the arm of
Tom Dixon as it had been torn from his body, well washed, of course, my
brothers, and very white against the blood-red fruit. And also he saw,
clutched in the stiff, dead fingers, the petition of his slaves who toiled
in Hell's Bottom.
"Take and read," said the slave who could write. And even as the master
took the petition, the body-servant, who till then had been motionless with
surprise, struck with his fist the kneeling slave upon the mouth. The
slave was dying anyway, and was very weak, and did not mind. He made no
sound, and, having fallen over on his side, he lay there quietly, bleeding
from the blow on the mouth. The physician, who had run for the palace
guards, came back with them, and the slave was dragged upright upon his
feet. But as they dragged him up, his hand clutched Tom Dixon's arm from
where it had fallen on the floor.
"He shall be flung alive to the hounds!" the body-servant was crying in
great wrath. "He shall be flung alive to the hounds!"
But Roger Vanderwater, forgetting his headache, still leaning on his elbow,
commanded silence, and went on reading the petition. And while he read,
there was silence, all standing upright, the wrathful body-servant, the
physician, the palace guards, and in their midst the slave, bleeding at the
mouth and still holding Tom Dixon's arm. And when Roger Vanderwater had
done, he turned upon the slave, saying--
"If in this paper there be one lie, you shall be sorry that you were ever
And the slave said, "I have been sorry all my life that I was born."
Roger Vanderwater looked at him closely, and the slave said--
"You have done your worst to me. I am dying now. In a week I shall be
dead, so it does not matter if you kill me now."
"What do you with that?" the master asked, pointing to the arm; and the
slave made answer--
"I take it back to the pen to give it burial. Tom Dixon was my friend. We
worked beside each other at our looms."
There is little more to my tale, brothers. The slave and the arm were sent
back in a cart to the pen. Nor were any of the slaves punished for what
they had done. Indeed, Roger Vanderwater made investigation and punished
the two overseers, Joseph Clancy and Adolph Munster. Their freeholds were
taken from them. They were branded, each upon the forehead, their right
hands were cut off, and they were turned loose upon the highway to wander
and beg until they died. And the fund was managed rightfully thereafter
for a time--for a time only, my brothers; for after Roger Vanderwater came
his son, Albert, who was a cruel master and half mad.
Brothers, that slave who carried the arm into the presence of the master
was my father. He was a brave man. And even as his mother secretly taught
him to read, so did he teach me. Because he died shortly after from the
pick-handle beating, Roger Vanderwater took me out of the slave pen and
tried to make various better things out of me. I might have become an
overseer in Hell's Bottom, but I chose to become a story-teller, wandering
over the land and getting close to my brothers, the slaves, everywhere.
And I tell you stories like this, secretly, knowing that you will not
betray me; for if you did, you know as well as I that my tongue will be
torn out and that I shall tell stories no more. And my message is,
brothers, that there is a good time coming, when all will be well in the
world and there will be neither masters nor slaves. But first you must
prepare for that good time by learning to read. There is power in the
printed word. And here am I to teach you to read, and as well there are
others to see that you get the books when I am gone along upon my way--the
history books wherein you will learn about your masters, and learn to
become strong even as they.
[EDITOR'S NOTE.--From "Historical Fragments and Sketches," first published
in fifty volumes in 4427, and now, after two hundred years, because of its
accuracy and value, edited and republished by the National Committee on
A PIECE OF STEAK
With the last morsel of bread Tom King wiped his plate clean of the last
particle of flour gravy and chewed the resulting mouthful in a slow and
meditative way. When he arose from the table, he was oppressed by the
feeling that he was distinctly hungry. Yet he alone had eaten. The two
children in the other room had been sent early to bed in order that in
sleep they might forget they had gone supperless. His wife had touched
nothing, and had sat silently and watched him with solicitous eyes. She
was a thin, worn woman of the working-class, though signs of an earlier
prettiness were not wanting in her face. The flour for the gravy she had
borrowed from the neighbour across the hall The last two ha'pennies had
gone to buy the bread.
He sat down by the window on a rickety chair that protested under his
weight, and quite mechanically he put his pipe in his mouth and dipped into
the side pocket of his coat. The absence of any tobacco made him aware of
his action, and, with a scowl for his forgetfulness, he put the pipe away.
His movements were slow, almost hulking, as though he were burdened by the
heavy weight of his muscles. He was a solid-bodied, stolid-looking man,
and his appearance did not suffer from being overprepossessing. His rough
clothes were old and slouchy. The uppers of his shoes were too weak to
carry the heavy re-soling that was itself of no recent date. And his
cotton shirt, a cheap, two shilling affair, showed a frayed collar and
ineradicable paint stains.
But it was Tom King's face that advertised him unmistakably for what he
was. It was the face of a typical prize-fighter; of one who had put in
long years of service in the squared ring and, by that means, developed and
emphasized all the marks of the fighting beast. It was distinctly a
lowering countenance, and, that no feature of it might escape notice, it
was clean-shaven. The lips were shapeless and constituted a mouth harsh to
excess, that was like a gash in his face. The jaw was aggressive, brutal,
heavy. The eyes, slow of movement and heavy-lidded, were almost
expressionless under the shaggy, indrawn brows. Sheer animal that he was,
the eyes were the most animal-like feature about him. They were sleepy,
lion-like--the eyes of a fighting animal. The forehead slanted quickly
back to the hair, which, clipped close, showed every bump of a villainous-
looking head. A nose twice broken and moulded variously by countless
blows, and a cauliflower ear, permanently swollen and distorted to twice
its size, completed his adornment, while the beard, fresh-shaven as it was,
sprouted in the skin and gave the face a blue-black stain.
Altogether, it was the face of a man to be afraid of in a dark alley or
lonely place. And yet Tom King was not a criminal, nor had he ever done
anything criminal. Outside of brawls, common to his walk in life, he had
harmed no one. Nor had he ever been known to pick a quarrel. He was a
professional, and all the fighting brutishness of him was reserved for his
professional appearances. Outside the ring he was slow-going, easy-
natured, and, in his younger days, when money was flush, too open-handed
for his own good. He bore no grudges and had few enemies. Fighting was a
business with him. In the ring he struck to hurt, struck to maim, struck
to destroy; but there was no animus in it. It was a plain business
proposition. Audiences assembled and paid for the spectacle of men
knocking each other out. The winner took the big end of the purse. When
Tom King faced the Woolloomoolloo Gouger, twenty years before, he knew that
the Gouger's jaw was only four months healed after having been broken in a
Newcastle bout. And he had played for that jaw and broken it again in the
ninth round, not because he bore the Gouger any ill-will, but because that
was the surest way to put the Gouger out and win the big end of the purse.
Nor had the Gouger borne him any ill-will for it. It was the game, and
both knew the game and played it.
Tom King had never been a talker, and he sat by the window, morosely
silent, staring at his hands. The veins stood out on the backs of the
hands, large and swollen; and the knuckles, smashed and battered and
malformed, testified to the use to which they had been put. He had never
heard that a man's life was the life of his arteries, but well he knew the
meaning of those big upstanding veins. His heart had pumped too much blood
through them at top pressure. They no longer did the work. He had
stretched the elasticity out of them, and with their distension had passed
his endurance. He tired easily now. No longer could he do a fast twenty
rounds, hammer and tongs, fight, fight, fight, from gong to gong, with
fierce rally on top of fierce rally, beaten to the ropes and in turn
beating his opponent to the ropes, and rallying fiercest and fastest of all
in that last, twentieth round, with the house on its feet and yelling,
himself rushing, striking, ducking, raining showers of blows upon showers
of blows and receiving showers of blows in return, and all the time the
heart faithfully pumping the surging blood through the adequate veins. The
veins, swollen at the time, had always shrunk down again, though each time,
imperceptibly at first, not quite--remaining just a trifle larger than
before. He stared at them and at his battered knuckles, and, for the
moment, caught a vision of the youthful excellence of those hands before
the first knuckle had been smashed on the head of Benny Jones, otherwise
known as the Welsh Terror.
The impression of his hunger came back on him.
"Blimey, but couldn't I go a piece of steak!" he muttered aloud, clenching
his huge fists and spitting out a smothered oath.
"I tried both Burke's an' Sawley's," his wife said half apologetically.
"An' they wouldn't?" he demanded.
"Not a ha'penny. Burke said--" She faltered.
"G'wan! Wot'd he say?"
"As how 'e was thinkin' Sandel ud do ye to-night, an' as how yer score was
comfortable big as it was."
Tom King grunted, but did not reply. He was busy thinking of the bull
terrier he had kept in his younger days to which he had fed steaks without
end. Burke would have given him credit for a thousand steaks--then. But
times had changed. Tom King was getting old; and old men, fighting before
second-rate clubs, couldn't expect to run bills of any size with the
He had got up in the morning with a longing for a piece of steak, and the
longing had not abated. He had not had a fair training for this fight. It
was a drought year in Australia, times were hard, and even the most
irregular work was difficult to find. He had had no sparring partner, and
his food had not been of the best nor always sufficient. He had done a few
days' navvy work when he could get it, and he had run around the Domain in
the early mornings to get his legs in shape. But it was hard, training
without a partner and with a wife and two kiddies that must be fed. Credit
with the tradesmen had undergone very slight expansion when he was matched
with Sandel. The secretary of the Gayety Club had advanced him three
pounds--the loser's end of the purse--and beyond that had refused to go.
Now and again he had managed to borrow a few shillings from old pals, who
would have lent more only that it was a drought year and they were hard put
themselves. No--and there was no use in disguising the fact--his training
had not been satisfactory. He should have had better food and no worries.
Besides, when a man is forty, it is harder to get into condition than when
he is twenty.
"What time is it, Lizzie?" he asked.
His wife went across the hall to inquire, and came back.
"Quarter before eight."
"They'll be startin' the first bout in a few minutes," he said. "Only a
try-out. Then there's a four-round spar 'tween Dealer Wells an' Gridley,
an' a ten-round go 'tween Starlight an' some sailor bloke. I don't come on
for over an hour."
At the end of another silent ten minutes, he rose to his feet.
"Truth is, Lizzie, I ain't had proper trainin'."
He reached for his hat and started for the door. He did not offer to kiss
her--he never did on going out--but on this night she dared to kiss him,
throwing her arms around him and compelling him to bend down to her face.
She looked quite small against the massive bulk of the man.
"Good luck, Tom," she said. "You gotter do 'im."
"Ay, I gotter do 'im," he repeated. "That's all there is to it. I jus'
gotter do 'im."
He laughed with an attempt at heartiness, while she pressed more closely
against him. Across her shoulders he looked around the bare room. It was
all he had in the world, with the rent overdue, and her and the kiddies.
And he was leaving it to go out into the night to get meat for his mate and
cubs--not like a modern working-man going to his machine grind, but in the
old, primitive, royal, animal way, by fighting for it.
"I gotter do 'im," he repeated, this time a hint of desperation in his
voice. "If it's a win, it's thirty quid--an' I can pay all that's owin',
with a lump o' money left over. If it's a lose, I get naught--not even a
penny for me to ride home on the tram. The secretary's give all that's
comin' from a loser's end. Good-bye, old woman. I'll come straight home
if it's a win."
"An' I'll be waitin' up," she called to him along the hall.
It was full two miles to the Gayety, and as he walked along he remembered
how in his palmy days--he had once been the heavyweight champion of New
South Wales--he would have ridden in a cab to the fight, and how, most
likely, some heavy backer would have paid for the cab and ridden with him.
There were Tommy Burns and that Yankee nigger, Jack Johnson--they rode
about in motor-cars. And he walked! And, as any man knew, a hard two
miles was not the best preliminary to a fight. He was an old un, and the
world did not wag well with old uns. He was good for nothing now except
navvy work, and his broken nose and swollen ear were against him even in
that. He found himself wishing that he had learned a trade. It would have
been better in the long run. But no one had told him, and he knew, deep
down in his heart, that he would not have listened if they had. It had
been so easy. Big money--sharp, glorious fights--periods of rest and
loafing in between--a following of eager flatterers, the slaps on the back,
the shakes of the hand, the toffs glad to buy him a drink for the privilege
of five minutes' talk--and the glory of it, the yelling houses, the
whirlwind finish, the referee's "King wins!" and his name in the sporting
columns next day.
Those had been times! But he realized now, in his slow, ruminating way,
that it was the old uns he had been putting away. He was Youth, rising;
and they were Age, sinking. No wonder it had been easy--they with their
swollen veins and battered knuckles and weary in the bones of them from the
long battles they had already fought. He remembered the time he put out
old Stowsher Bill, at Rush-Cutters Bay, in the eighteenth round, and how
old Bill had cried afterward in the dressing-room like a baby. Perhaps old
Bill's rent had been overdue. Perhaps he'd had at home a missus an' a
couple of kiddies. And perhaps Bill, that very day of the fight, had had a
hungering for a piece of steak. Bill had fought game and taken incredible
punishment. He could see now, after he had gone through the mill himself,
that Stowsher Bill had fought for a bigger stake, that night twenty years
ago, than had young Tom King, who had fought for glory and easy money. No
wonder Stowsher Bill had cried afterward in the dressing-room.
Well, a man had only so many fights in him, to begin with. It was the iron
law of the game. One man might have a hundred hard fights in him, another
man only twenty; each, according to the make of him and the quality of his
fibre, had a definite number, and, when he had fought them, he was done.
Yes, he had had more fights in him than most of them, and he had had far
more than his share of the hard, gruelling fights--the kind that worked the
heart and lungs to bursting, that took the elastic out of the arteries and
made hard knots of muscle out of Youth's sleek suppleness, that wore out
nerve and stamina and made brain and bones weary from excess of effort and
endurance overwrought. Yes, he had done better than all of them. There
were none of his old fighting partners left. He was the last of the old
guard. He had seen them all finished, and he had had a hand in finishing
some of them.
They had tried him out against the old uns, and one after another he had
put them away--laughing when, like old Stowsher Bill, they cried in the
dressing-room. And now he was an old un, and they tried out the youngsters
on him. There was that bloke, Sandel. He had come over from New Zealand
with a record behind him. But nobody in Australia knew anything about him,
so they put him up against old Tom King. If Sandel made a showing, he
would be given better men to fight, with bigger purses to win; so it was to
be depended upon that he would put up a fierce battle. He had everything
to win by it--money and glory and career; and Tom King was the grizzled old
chopping-block that guarded the highway to fame and fortune. And he had
nothing to win except thirty quid, to pay to the landlord and the
tradesmen. And, as Tom King thus ruminated, there came to his stolid
vision the form of Youth, glorious Youth, rising exultant and invincible,
supple of muscle and silken of skin, with heart and lungs that had never
been tired and torn and that laughed at limitation of effort. Yes, Youth
was the Nemesis. It destroyed the old uns and recked not that, in so
doing, it destroyed itself. It enlarged its arteries and smashed its
knuckles, and was in turn destroyed by Youth. For Youth was ever youthful.
It was only Age that grew old.
At Castlereagh Street he turned to the left, and three blocks along came to
the Gayety. A crowd of young larrikins hanging outside the door made
respectful way for him, and he heard one say to another: "That's 'im!
That's Tom King!"
Inside, on the way to his dressing-room, he encountered the secretary, a
keen-eyed, shrewd-faced young man, who shook his hand.
"How are you feelin', Tom?" he asked.
"Fit as a fiddle," King answered, though he knew that he lied, and that if
he had a quid, he would give it right there for a good piece of steak.
When he emerged from the dressing-room, his seconds behind him, and came
down the aisle to the squared ring in the centre of the hall, a burst of
greeting and applause went up from the waiting crowd. He acknowledged
salutations right and left, though few of the faces did he know. Most of
them were the faces of kiddies unborn when he was winning his first laurels
in the squared ring. He leaped lightly to the raised platform and ducked
through the ropes to his corner, where he sat down on a folding stool.
Jack Ball, the referee, came over and shook his hand. Ball was a broken-
down pugilist who for over ten years had not entered the ring as a
principal. King was glad that he had him for referee. They were both old
uns. If he should rough it with Sandel a bit beyond the rules, he knew
Ball could be depended upon to pass it by.
Aspiring young heavyweights, one after another, were climbing into the ring
and being presented to the audience by the referee. Also, he issued their
challenges for them.
"Young Pronto," Bill announced, "from North Sydney, challenges the winner
for fifty pounds side bet."
The audience applauded, and applauded again as Sandel himself sprang
through the ropes and sat down in his corner. Tom King looked across the
ring at him curiously, for in a few minutes they would be locked together
in merciless combat, each trying with all the force of him to knock the
other into unconsciousness. But little could he see, for Sandel, like
himself, had trousers and sweater on over his ring costume. His face was
strongly handsome, crowned with a curly mop of yellow hair, while his
thick, muscular neck hinted at bodily magnificence.
Young Pronto went to one corner and then the other, shaking hands with the
principals and dropping down out of the ring. The challenges went on.
Ever Youth climbed through the ropes--Youth unknown, but insatiable--crying
out to mankind that with strength and skill it would match issues with the
winner. A few years before, in his own heyday of invincibleness, Tom King
would have been amused and bored by these preliminaries. But now he sat
fascinated, unable to shake the vision of Youth from his eyes. Always were
these youngsters rising up in the boxing game, springing through the ropes
and shouting their defiance; and always were the old uns going down before
them. They climbed to success over the bodies of the old uns. And ever
they came, more and more youngsters--Youth unquenchable and irresistible--
and ever they put the old uns away, themselves becoming old uns and
travelling the same downward path, while behind them, ever pressing on
them, was Youth eternal--the new babies, grown lusty and dragging their
elders down, with behind them more babies to the end of time--Youth that
must have its will and that will never die.
King glanced over to the press box and nodded to Morgan, of the Sportsman,
and Corbett, of the Referee. Then he held out his hands, while Sid
Sullivan and Charley Bates, his seconds, slipped on his gloves and laced
them tight, closely watched by one of Sandel's seconds, who first examined
critically the tapes on King's knuckles. A second of his own was in
Sandel's corner, performing a like office. Sandel's trousers were pulled
off, and, as he stood up, his sweater was skinned off over his head. And
Tom King, looking, saw Youth incarnate, deep-chested, heavy-thewed, with
muscles that slipped and slid like live things under the white satin skin.
The whole body was a-crawl with life, and Tom King knew that it was a life
that had never oozed its freshness out through the aching pores during the
long fights wherein Youth paid its toll and departed not quite so young as
when it entered.
The two men advanced to meet each other, and, as the gong sounded and the
seconds clattered out of the ring with the folding stools, they shook hands
and instantly took their fighting attitudes. And instantly, like a
mechanism of steel and springs balanced on a hair trigger, Sandel was in
and out and in again, landing a left to the eyes, a right to the ribs,
ducking a counter, dancing lightly away and dancing menacingly back again.
He was swift and clever. It was a dazzling exhibition. The house yelled
its approbation. But King was not dazzled. He had fought too many fights
and too many youngsters. He knew the blows for what they were--too quick
and too deft to be dangerous. Evidently Sandel was going to rush things
from the start. It was to be expected. It was the way of Youth, expending
its splendour and excellence in wild insurgence and furious onslaught,
overwhelming opposition with its own unlimited glory of strength and
Sandel was in and out, here, there, and everywhere, light-footed and eager-
hearted, a living wonder of white flesh and stinging muscle that wove
itself into a dazzling fabric of attack, slipping and leaping like a flying
shuttle from action to action through a thousand actions, all of them
centred upon the destruction of Tom King, who stood between him and
fortune. And Tom King patiently endured. He knew his business, and he
knew Youth now that Youth was no longer his. There was nothing to do till
the other lost some of his steam, was his thought, and he grinned to
himself as he deliberately ducked so as to receive a heavy blow on the top
of his head. It was a wicked thing to do, yet eminently fair according to
the rules of the boxing game. A man was supposed to take care of his own
knuckles, and, if he insisted on hitting an opponent on the top of the
head, he did so at his own peril. King could have ducked lower and let the
blow whiz harmlessly past, but he remembered his own early fights and how
he smashed his first knuckle on the head of the Welsh Terror. He was but
playing the game. That duck had accounted for one of Sandel's knuckles.
Not that Sandel would mind it now. He would go on, superbly regardless,
hitting as hard as ever throughout the fight. But later on, when the long
ring battles had begun to tell, he would regret that knuckle and look back
and remember how he smashed it on Tom King's head.
The first round was all Sandel's, and he had the house yelling with the
rapidity of his whirlwind rushes. He overwhelmed King with avalanches of
punches, and King did nothing. He never struck once, contenting himself
with covering up, blocking and ducking and clinching to avoid punishment.
He occasionally feinted, shook his head when the weight of a punch landed,
and moved stolidly about, never leaping or springing or wasting an ounce of
strength. Sandel must foam the froth of Youth away before discreet Age
could dare to retaliate. All King's movements were slow and methodical,
and his heavy-lidded, slow-moving eyes gave him the appearance of being
half asleep or dazed. Yet they were eyes that saw everything, that had
been trained to see everything through all his twenty years and odd in the
ring. They were eyes that did not blink or waver before an impending blow,
but that coolly saw and measured distance.
Seated in his corner for the minute's rest at the end of the round, he lay
back with outstretched legs, his arms resting on the right angle of the
ropes, his chest and abdomen heaving frankly and deeply as he gulped down
the air driven by the towels of his seconds. He listened with closed eyes
to the voices of the house, "Why don't yeh fight, Tom?" many were crying.
"Yeh ain't afraid of 'im, are yeh?"
"Muscle-bound," he heard a man on a front seat comment. "He can't move
quicker. Two to one on Sandel, in quids."
The gong struck and the two men advanced from their corners. Sandel came
forward fully three-quarters of the distance, eager to begin again; but
King was content to advance the shorter distance. It was in line with his
policy of economy. He had not been well trained, and he had not had enough
to eat, and every step counted. Besides, he had already walked two miles
to the ringside. It was a repetition of the first round, with Sandel
attacking like a whirlwind and with the audience indignantly demanding why
King did not fight. Beyond feinting and several slowly delivered and
ineffectual blows he did nothing save block and stall and clinch. Sandel
wanted to make the pace fast, while King, out of his wisdom, refused to
accommodate him. He grinned with a certain wistful pathos in his ring-
battered countenance, and went on cherishing his strength with the jealousy
of which only Age is capable. Sandel was Youth, and he threw his strength
away with the munificent abandon of Youth. To King belonged the ring
generalship, the wisdom bred of long, aching fights. He watched with cool
eyes and head, moving slowly and waiting for Sandel's froth to foam away.
To the majority of the onlookers it seemed as though King was hopelessly
outclassed, and they voiced their opinion in offers of three to one on
Sandel. But there were wise ones, a few, who knew King of old time, and
who covered what they considered easy money.
The third round began as usual, one-sided, with Sandel doing all the
leading, and delivering all the punishment. A half-minute had passed when
Sandel, over-confident, left an opening. King's eyes and right arm flashed
in the same instant. It was his first real blow--a hook, with the twisted
arch of the arm to make it rigid, and with all the weight of the half-
pivoted body behind it. It was like a sleepy-seeming lion suddenly
thrusting out a lightning paw. Sandel, caught on the side of the jaw, was
felled like a bullock. The audience gasped and murmured awe-stricken
applause. The man was not muscle-bound, after all, and he could drive a
blow like a trip-hammer.
Sandel was shaken. He rolled over and attempted to rise, but the sharp
yells from his seconds to take the count restrained him. He knelt on one
knee, ready to rise, and waited, while the referee stood over him, counting
the seconds loudly in his ear. At the ninth he rose in fighting attitude,
and Tom King, facing him, knew regret that the blow had not been an inch
nearer the point of the jaw. That would have been a knock-out, and he
could have carried the thirty quid home to the missus and the kiddies.
The round continued to the end of its three minutes, Sandel for the first
time respectful of his opponent and King slow of movement and sleepy-eyed
as ever. As the round neared its close, King, warned of the fact by sight
of the seconds crouching outside ready for the spring in through the ropes,
worked the fight around to his own corner. And when the gong struck, he
sat down immediately on the waiting stool, while Sandel had to walk all the
way across the diagonal of the square to his own corner. It was a little
thing, but it was the sum of little things that counted. Sandel was
compelled to walk that many more steps, to give up that much energy, and to
lose a part of the precious minute of rest. At the beginning of every
round King loafed slowly out from his corner, forcing his opponent to
advance the greater distance. The end of every round found the fight
manoeuvred by King into his own corner so that he could immediately sit
Two more rounds went by, in which King was parsimonious of effort and
Sandel prodigal. The latter's attempt to force a fast pace made King
uncomfortable, for a fair percentage of the multitudinous blows showered
upon him went home. Yet King persisted in his dogged slowness, despite the
crying of the young hot-heads for him to go in and fight. Again, in the
sixth round, Sandel was careless, again Tom King's fearful right flashed
out to the jaw, and again Sandel took the nine seconds count.
By the seventh round Sandel's pink of condition was gone, and he settled
down to what he knew was to be the hardest fight in his experience. Tom
King was an old un, but a better old un than he had ever encountered--an
old un who never lost his head, who was remarkably able at defence, whose
blows had the impact of a knotted club, and who had a knockout in either
hand. Nevertheless, Tom King dared not hit often. He never forgot his
battered knuckles, and knew that every hit must count if the knuckles were
to last out the fight. As he sat in his corner, glancing across at his
opponent, the thought came to him that the sum of his wisdom and Sandel's
youth would constitute a world's champion heavyweight. But that was the
trouble. Sandel would never become a world champion. He lacked the
wisdom, and the only way for him to get it was to buy it with Youth; and
when wisdom was his, Youth would have been spent in buying it.
King took every advantage he knew. He never missed an opportunity to
clinch, and in effecting most of the clinches his shoulder drove stiffly
into the other's ribs. In the philosophy of the ring a shoulder was as
good as a punch so far as damage was concerned, and a great deal better so
far as concerned expenditure of effort. Also, in the clinches King rested
his weight on his opponent, and was loath to let go. This compelled the
interference of the referee, who tore them apart, always assisted by
Sandel, who had not yet learned to rest. He could not refrain from using
those glorious flying arms and writhing muscles of his, and when the other
rushed into a clinch, striking shoulder against ribs, and with head resting
under Sandel's left arm, Sandel almost invariably swung his right behind
his own back and into the projecting face. It was a clever stroke, much
admired by the audience, but it was not dangerous, and was, therefore, just
that much wasted strength. But Sandel was tireless and unaware of
limitations, and King grinned and doggedly endured.
Sandel developed a fierce right to the body, which made it appear that King
was taking an enormous amount of punishment, and it was only the old
ringsters who appreciated the deft touch of King's left glove to the
other's biceps just before the impact of the blow. It was true, the blow
landed each time; but each time it was robbed of its power by that touch on
the biceps. In the ninth round, three times inside a minute, King's right
hooked its twisted arch to the jaw; and three times Sandel's body, heavy as
it was, was levelled to the mat. Each time he took the nine seconds
allowed him and rose to his feet, shaken and jarred, but still strong. He
had lost much of his speed, and he wasted less effort. He was fighting
grimly; but he continued to draw upon his chief asset, which was Youth.
King's chief asset was experience. As his vitality had dimmed and his
vigour abated, he had replaced them with cunning, with wisdom born of the
long fights and with a careful shepherding of strength. Not alone had he
learned never to make a superfluous movement, but he had learned how to
seduce an opponent into throwing his strength away. Again and again, by
feint of foot and hand and body he continued to inveigle Sandel into
leaping back, ducking, or countering. King rested, but he never permitted
Sandel to rest. It was the strategy of Age.
Early in the tenth round King began stopping the other's rushes with
straight lefts to the face, and Sandel, grown wary, responded by drawing
the left, then by ducking it and delivering his right in a swinging hook to
the side of the head. It was too high up to be vitally effective; but when
first it landed, King knew the old, familiar descent of the black veil of
unconsciousness across his mind. For the instant, or for the slighest
fraction of an instant, rather, he ceased. In the one moment he saw his
opponent ducking out of his field of vision and the background of white,
watching faces; in the next moment he again saw his opponent and the
background of faces. It was as if he had slept for a time and just opened
his eyes again, and yet the interval of unconsciousness was so
microscopically short that there had been no time for him to fall. The
audience saw him totter and his knees give, and then saw him recover and
tuck his chin deeper into the shelter of his left shoulder.
Several times Sandel repeated the blow, keeping King partially dazed, and
then the latter worked out his defence, which was also a counter. Feinting
with his left he took a half-step backward, at the same time upper cutting
with the whole strength of his right. So accurately was it timed that it
landed squarely on Sandel's face in the full, downward sweep of the duck,
and Sandel lifted in the air and curled backward, striking the mat on his
head and shoulders. Twice King achieved this, then turned loose and
hammered his opponent to the ropes. He gave Sandel no chance to rest or to
set himself, but smashed blow in upon blow till the house rose to its feet
and the air was filled with an unbroken roar of applause. But Sandel's
strength and endurance were superb, and he continued to stay on his feet.
A knock-out seemed certain, and a captain of police, appalled at the
dreadful punishment, arose by the ringside to stop the fight. The gong
struck for the end of the round and Sandel staggered to his corner,
protesting to the captain that he was sound and strong. To prove it, he
threw two back-air-springs, and the police captain gave in.
Tom King, leaning back in his corner and breathing hard, was disappointed.
If the fight had been stopped, the referee, perforce, would have rendered
him the decision and the purse would have been his. Unlike Sandel, he was
not fighting for glory or career, but for thirty quid. And now Sandel
would recuperate in the minute of rest.
Youth will be served--this saying flashed into King's mind, and he
remembered the first time he had heard it, the night when he had put away
Stowsher Bill. The toff who had bought him a drink after the fight and
patted him on the shoulder had used those words. Youth will be served!
The toff was right. And on that night in the long ago he had been Youth.
To-night Youth sat in the opposite corner. As for himself, he had been
fighting for half an hour now, and he was an old man. Had he fought like
Sandel, he would not have lasted fifteen minutes. But the point was that
he did not recuperate. Those upstanding arteries and that sorely tried
heart would not enable him to gather strength in the intervals between the
rounds. And he had not had sufficient strength in him to begin with. His
legs were heavy under him and beginning to cramp. He should not have
walked those two miles to the fight. And there was the steak which he had
got up longing for that morning. A great and terrible hatred rose up in
him for the butchers who had refused him credit. It was hard for an old
man to go into a fight without enough to eat. And a piece of steak was
such a little thing, a few pennies at best; yet it meant thirty quid to
With the gong that opened the eleventh round, Sandel rushed, making a show
of freshness which he did not really possess. King knew it for what it
was--a bluff as old as the game itself. He clinched to save himself, then,
going free, allowed Sandel to get set. This was what King desired. He
feinted with his left, drew the answering duck and swinging upward hook,
then made the half-step backward, delivered the upper cut full to the face
and crumpled Sandel over to the mat. After that he never let him rest,
receiving punishment himself, but inflicting far more, smashing Sandel to
the ropes, hooking and driving all manner of blows into him, tearing away
from his clinches or punching him out of attempted clinches, and ever when
Sandel would have fallen, catching him with one uplifting hand and with the
other immediately smashing him into the ropes where he could not fall.
The house by this time had gone mad, and it was his house, nearly every
voice yelling: "Go it, Tom!" "Get 'im! Get 'im!" "You've got 'im, Tom!
You've got 'im!" It was to be a whirlwind finish, and that was what a
ringside audience paid to see.
And Tom King, who for half an hour had conserved his strength, now expended
it prodigally in the one great effort he knew he had in him. It was his
one chance--now or not at all. His strength was waning fast, and his hope
was that before the last of it ebbed out of him he would have beaten his
opponent down for the count. And as he continued to strike and force,
coolly estimating the weight of his blows and the quality of the damage
wrought, he realized how hard a man Sandel was to knock out. Stamina and
endurance were his to an extreme degree, and they were the virgin stamina
and endurance of Youth. Sandel was certainly a coming man. He had it in
him. Only out of such rugged fibre were successful fighters fashioned.
Sandel was reeling and staggering, but Tom King's legs were cramping and
his knuckles going back on him. Yet he steeled himself to strike the
fierce blows, every one of which brought anguish to his tortured hands.
Though now he was receiving practically no punishment, he was weakening as
rapidly as the other. His blows went home, but there was no longer the
weight behind them, and each blow was the result of a severe effort of
will. His legs were like lead, and they dragged visibly under him; while
Sandel's backers, cheered by this symptom, began calling encouragement to
King was spurred to a burst of effort. He delivered two blows in
succession--a left, a trifle too high, to the solar plexus, and a right
cross to the jaw. They were not heavy blows, yet so weak and dazed was
Sandel that he went down and lay quivering. The referee stood over him,
shouting the count of the fatal seconds in his ear. If before the tenth
second was called, he did not rise, the fight was lost. The house stood in
hushed silence. King rested on trembling legs. A mortal dizziness was
upon him, and before his eyes the sea of faces sagged and swayed, while to
his ears, as from a remote distance, came the count of the referee. Yet he
looked upon the fight as his. It was impossible that a man so punished
Only Youth could rise, and Sandel rose. At the fourth second he rolled
over on his face and groped blindly for the ropes. By the seventh second
he had dragged himself to his knee, where he rested, his head rolling
groggily on his shoulders. As the referee cried "Nine!" Sandel stood
upright, in proper stalling position, his left arm wrapped about his face,
his right wrapped about his stomach. Thus were his vital points guarded,
while he lurched forward toward King in the hope of effecting a clinch and
gaining more time.
At the instant Sandel arose, King was at him, but the two blows he
delivered were muffled on the stalled arms. The next moment Sandel was in
the clinch and holding on desperately while the referee strove to drag the
two men apart. King helped to force himself free. He knew the rapidity
with which Youth recovered, and he knew that Sandel was his if he could
prevent that recovery. One stiff punch would do it. Sandel was his,
indubitably his. He had out-generalled him, out-fought him, out-pointed
him. Sandel reeled out of the clinch, balanced on the hair line between
defeat or survival. One good blow would topple him over and down and out.
And Tom King, in a flash of bitterness, remembered the piece of steak and
wished that he had it then behind that necessary punch he must deliver. He
nerved himself for the blow, but it was not heavy enough nor swift enough.
Sandel swayed, but did not fall, staggering back to the ropes and holding
on. King staggered after him, and, with a pang like that of dissolution,
delivered another blow. But his body had deserted him. All that was left
of him was a fighting intelligence that was dimmed and clouded from
exhaustion. The blow that was aimed for the jaw struck no higher than the
shoulder. He had willed the blow higher, but the tired muscles had not
been able to obey. And, from the impact of the blow, Tom King himself
reeled back and nearly fell. Once again he strove. This time his punch
missed altogether, and, from absolute weakness, he fell against Sandel and
clinched, holding on to him to save himself from sinking to the floor.
King did not attempt to free himself. He had shot his bolt. He was gone.
And Youth had been served. Even in the clinch he could feel Sandel growing
stronger against him. When the referee thrust them apart, there, before
his eyes, he saw Youth recuperate. From instant to instant Sandel grew
stronger. His punches, weak and futile at first, became stiff and
accurate. Tom King's bleared eyes saw the gloved fist driving at his jaw,
and he willed to guard it by interposing his arm. He saw the danger,
willed the act; but the arm was too heavy. It seemed burdened with a
hundredweight of lead. It would not lift itself, and he strove to lift it
with his soul. Then the gloved fist landed home. He experienced a sharp
snap that was like an electric spark, and, simultaneously, the veil of
blackness enveloped him.
When he opened his eyes again he was in his corner, and he heard the
yelling of the audience like the roar of the surf at Bondi Beach. A wet
sponge was being pressed against the base of his brain, and Sid Sullivan
was blowing cold water in a refreshing spray over his face and chest. His
gloves had already been removed, and Sandel, bending over him, was shaking
his hand. He bore no ill-will toward the man who had put him out and he
returned the grip with a heartiness that made his battered knuckles
protest. Then Sandel stepped to the centre of the ring and the audience
hushed its pandemonium to hear him accept young Pronto's challenge and
offer to increase the side bet to one hundred pounds. King looked on
apathetically while his seconds mopped the streaming water from him, dried
his face, and prepared him to leave the ring. He felt hungry. It was not
the ordinary, gnawing kind, but a great faintness, a palpitation at the pit
of the stomach that communicated itself to all his body. He remembered
back into the fight to the moment when he had Sandel swaying and tottering
on the hair-line balance of defeat. Ah, that piece of steak would have
done it! He had lacked just that for the decisive blow, and he had lost.
It was all because of the piece of steak.
His seconds were half-supporting him as they helped him through the ropes.
He tore free from them, ducked through the ropes unaided, and leaped
heavily to the floor, following on their heels as they forced a passage for
him down the crowded centre aisle. Leaving the dressing-room for the
street, in the entrance to the hall, some young fellow spoke to him.
"W'y didn't yuh go in an' get 'im when yuh 'ad 'im?" the young fellow
"Aw, go to hell!" said Tom King, and passed down the steps to the sidewalk.
The doors of the public-house at the corner were swinging wide, and he saw
the lights and the smiling barmaids, heard the many voices discussing the
fight and the prosperous chink of money on the bar. Somebody called to him
to have a drink. He hesitated perceptibly, then refused and went on his
He had not a copper in his pocket, and the two-mile walk home seemed very
long. He was certainly getting old. Crossing the Domain, he sat down
suddenly on a bench, unnerved by the thought of the missus sitting up for
him, waiting to learn the outcome of the fight. That was harder than any
knockout, and it seemed almost impossible to face.
He felt weak and sore, and the pain of his smashed knuckles warned him
that, even if he could find a job at navvy work, it would be a week before
he could grip a pick handle or a shovel. The hunger palpitation at the pit
of the stomach was sickening. His wretchedness overwhelmed him, and into
his eyes came an unwonted moisture. He covered his face with his hands,
and, as he cried, he remembered Stowsher Bill and how he had served him
that night in the long ago. Poor old Stowsher Bill! He could understand
now why Bill had cried in the dressing-room.