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Whirligigs by O Henry

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by O. Henry


A favourite dodge to get your story read by the
public is to assert that it is true, and then add that Truth
is stranger than Fiction. I do not know if the yarn I
am anxious for you to read is true; but the Spanish purser
of the fruit steamer El Carrero swore to me by the shrine
of Santa Guadalupe that he had the facts from the U. S.
vice-consul at La Paz - a person who could not possibly
have been cognizant of half of them.

As for the adage quoted above, I take pleasure in punc-
turing it by affirming that I read in a purely fictional
story the other day the line: "'Be it so,' said the police-
man." Nothing so strange has yet cropped out in Truth.

When H. Ferguson Hedges, millionaire promoter,
investor and man-about-New-York, turned his thoughts
upon matters convivial, and word of it went "down the
line," bouncers took a precautionary turn at the Indian
clubs, waiters put ironstone china on his favourite tables,
cab drivers crowded close to the curbstone in front of
all-night cafés, and careful cashiers in his regular haunts
charged up a few bottles to his account by way of preface
and introduction.

As a money power a one-millionaire is of small account
in a city where the man who cuts your slice of beef behind
the free-lunch counter rides to work in his own automobile.
But Hedges spent his money as lavishly, loudly and
showily as though he were only a clerk squandering a
week's wages. And, after all, the bartender takes no
interest in your reserve fund. He would rather look you
up on his cash register than in Bradstreet.

On the evening that the material allegation of facts
begins, Hedges was bidding dull care begone in the com-
pany of five or six good fellows -- acquaintances and
friends who had gathered in his wake.

Among them were two younger men -- Ralph Merriam,
a broker, and Wade, his friend.

Two deep-sea cabmen were chartered. At Columbus
Circle they hove to long enough to revile the statue of the
great navigator, unpatriotically rebuking him for having
voyaged in search of land instead of liquids. Midnight
overtook the party marooned in the rear of a cheap
café far uptown.

Hedges was arrogant, overriding and quarrelsome.
He was burly and tough, iron-gray but vigorous, "good"
for the rest of the night. There was a dispute -- about
nothing that matters -- and the five-fingered words were
passed -- the words that represent the glove cast into
the lists. Merriam played the rôle of the verbal

Hedges rose quickly, seized his chair, swung it once
and smashed wildly dowp at Merriam's head. Merriam
dodged, drew a small revolver and shot Hedges in the
chest. The leading roysterer stumbled, fell in a wry
heap, and lay still.

Wade, a commuter, had formed that habit of prompt-
ness. He juggled Merriam out a side door, walked him to
the corner, ran him a block and caught a hansom. They
rode five minutes and then got out on a dark corner
and dismissed the cab. Across the street the lights of
a small saloon betrayed its hectic hospitality.

"Go in the back room of that saloon," said Wade,
"and wait. I'll go find out what's doing and let you know.
You may take two drinks while I am gone - no more."

At ten minutes to one o'clock Wade returned.
"Brace up, old chap," he said. "The ambulance got
there just as I did. The doctor says he's dead. You
may have one more drink. You let me run this thing
for you. You've got to skip. I don't believe a chair
is legally a deadly weapon. You've got to make tracks,
that's all there is to it."

Merriam complained of the cold querulously, and
asked for another drink. "Did you notice what big
veins he had on the back of his hands?" he said. "I
never could stand -- I never could -- "

"Take one more," said Wade, "and then come on.
I'll see you through."

Wade kept his promise so well that at eleven o'clock
the next morning Merriam, with a new suit case full of
new clothes and hair-brushes, stepped quietly on board
a little 500-ton fruit steamer at an East River pier. The
vessel had brought the season's first cargo of limes from
Port Limon, and was homeward bound. Merriam had his
bank balance of $2,800 in his pocket in large bills, and
brief instructions to pile up as much water as he could
between himself and New York. There was no time for
anything more.

From Port Limon Merriam worked down the coast
by schooner and sloop to Colon, thence across the isthmus
to Panama, where he caught a tramp bound for Callao
and such intermediate ports as might tempt the discursive
skipper from his course.

It was at La Paz that Merriam decided to land -- La
Paz the Beautiful, a little harbourless town smothered
in a living green ribbon that banded the foot of a cloud-
piercing mountain. Here the little steamer stopped
to tread water while the captain's dory took him
ashore that he might feel the pulse of the cocoanut
market. Merriam went too, with his suit case, and

Kalb, the vice-consul, a Græco-Armenian citizen of
the United States, born in Hessen-Darmstadt, and edu-
cated in Cincinnati ward primaries, considered all Ameri-
cans his brothers and bankers. He attached himself
to Merriam's elbow, introduced him to every one in La
Paz who wore shoes, borrowed ten dollars and went
back to his hammock.

There was a little wooden hotel in the edge of a banana
grove, facing the sea, that catered to the tastes of the
few foreigners that had dropped out of the world into the
t,ri,qte Peruvian town. At Kalb's introductory: "Shake
hands with -- ," he had obediently exchanged manual
salutations with a German doctor, one French and two
Italian merchants, and three or four Americans who
were spoken of as gold men, rubber men, mahogany men
-- anything but men of living tissue.

After dinner Merriam sat in a corner of the broad front
galeria with Bibb, a Vermonter interested in hydraulic
mining, and smoked and drank Scotch "smoke." The
moonlit sea, spreading infinitely before him, seemed to
separate him beyond all apprehension from his old life.
The horrid tragedy in which he had played such a disas-
trous part now began, for the first time since he stole on
board the fruiter, a wretched fugitive, to lose its sharper
outlines. Distance lent assuagement to his view. Bibb
had opened the flood-gates of a stream of long-dammed
discourse, overjoyed to have captured an audience that
had not suffered under a hundred repetitions of his views
and theories.

"One year more," said Bibb, "and I'll go back to
God's country. Oh, I know it's pretty here, and you
get dolce far niente banded to you in chunks, but this
country wasn't made for a white man to live in. You've
got to have to plug through snow now and then, and see
a game of baseball and wear a stiff collar and have a
policeman cuss you. Still, La Paz is a good sort of a
pipe-dreamy old hole. And Mrs. Conant is here. When
any of us feels particularly like jumping into the sea we
rush around to her house and propose. It's nicer to be
rejected by Mrs. Conant than it is to be drowned. And
they say drowning is a delightful sensation."

"Many like her here?" asked Merriam.

"Not anywhere," said Bibb, with a comfortable sigh.

She's the only white woman in La Paz. The rest
range from a dappled dun to the colour of a b-flat piano
key. She's been here a year. Comes from -- well, you
know how a woman can talk -- ask 'em to say 'string'
and they'll say 'crow's foot' or 'cat's cradle.' Some-
times you'd think she was from Oshkosh, and again from
Jacksonville, Florida, and the next day from Cape Cod."

"Mystery?" ventured Merriam.

"M -- well, she looks it; but her talk's translucent
enough. But that's a woman. I suppose if the Sphinx
were to begin talking she'd merely say: 'Goodness me!
more visitors coming for dinner, and nothing to eat but the
sand which is here.' But you won't think about that when
you meet her, Merriam. You'll propose to her too."

To make a hard story soft, Merriam did meet her and
propose to her. He found her to be a woman in black
with hair the colour of a bronze turkey's wings, and
mysterious, remembering eyes that - well, that looked as
if she might have been a trained nurse looking on when
Eve was created. Her words and manner, though, were
translucent, as Bibb had said. She spoke, vaguely, of
friends in California and some of the lower parishes in
Louisiana. The tropical climate and indolent life suited
her; she had thought of buying an orange grove later on;
La Paz. all in all, charmed her.

Merriam's courtship of the Sphinx lasted three months,
although be did not know that he was courting her. He
was using her as an antidote for remorse, until he found,
too late, that he had acquired the habit. During that time
he had received no news from home. Wade did not know
where he was; and he was not sure of Wade's exact
address, and was afraid to write. He thought he had
better let matters rest as they were for a while.

One afternoon he and Mrs. Conant hired two ponies
and rode out along the mountain trail as far as the little
cold river that came tumbling down the foothills. There
they stopped for a drink, and Merriam spoke his piece --
he proposed, as Bibb had prophesied.

Mrs. Conant gave him one glance of brilliant tenderness,
and then her face took on such a strange, haggard look
that Merriam was shaken out of his intoxication and
back to his senses.

"I beg your pardon, Florence," he said, releasing her
hand; "but I'll have to hedge on part of what I said. I
can't ask you to marry me, of course. I killed a man
in New York -- a man who was my friend - shot him
down -- in quite a cowardly manner, I understand. Of
course, the drinking didn't excuse it. Well, I couldn't
resist having my say; and I'll always mean it. I'm here
as a fugitive from justice, and -- I suppose that ends
our acquaintance."

Mrs. Conant plucked little leaves assiduously from the
low-hanging branch of a lime tree.

"I suppose so," she said, in low and oddly uneven
tones; "but that depends upon you. I'll be as honest as
you were. I poisoned my husband. I am a self-made
widow. A man cannot love a murderess. So I suppose
that ends our acquaintance."

She looked up at him slowly. His face turned a little
pale, and he stared at her blankly, like a deaf-and-dumb
man who was wondering what it was all about.

She took a swift step toward him, with stiffened arms
and eyes blazing.

"Don't look at me like that!" she cried, as though she
were in acute pain. "Curse me, or turn your back
on me, but don't look that way. Am I a woman to be
beaten? If I could show you -- here on my arms, and
on my back are scars -- and it has been more than a year
-- scars that he made in his brutal rages. A holy nun
would have risen and struck the fiend down. Yes, I
killed him. The foul and horrible words that he hurled
at me that last day are repeated in my ears every night
when I sleep. And then came his blows, and the end of
my endurance. I got the poison that afternoon. It
was his custom to drink every night in the library before
going to bed a hot punch made of rum and wine. Only
from my fair hands would he receive it -- because he knew
the fumes of spirits always sickened me. That night
when the maid brought it to me I sent her downstairs
on an errand. Before taking him his drink I went to my
little private cabinet and poured into it more than a tea-
spoonful of tincture of aconite -- enough to kill three
men, so I had learned. I had drawn $6,000 that I had
in bank, and with that and a few things in a satchel
I left the house without any one seeing me. As I passed
the library I heard him stagger up and fall heavily on a
couch. I took a night train for New Orleans, and from
there I sailed to the Bermudas. I finally cast anchor
in La Paz. And now what have you to say? Can you
open your mouth?"

Merriam came back to life.

"Florence," he said earnestly, "I want you. I don't
care what you've done. If the world -- "

"Ralph," she interrupted, almost with a scream, "be
my world!"

Her eyes melted; she relaxed magnificentlv and swayed
toward Merriam so suddenly that he had to jump to
catch her.

Dear me! in such scenes how the talk runs into artificial
prose. But it can't be helped. It's the subconscious
smell of the footlights' smoke that's in all of us. Stir
the depths of your cook's soul sufficiently and she will
discourse in Bulwer-Lyttonese.

Merriam and Mrs. Conant were very happy. He
announced their engagement at the Hotel Orilla del Mar.
Eight foreigners and four native Astors pounded his back
and shouted insincere congratulations at him. Pedrito,
the Castilian-mannered barkeep, was goaded to extra
duty until his agility would have turned a Boston cherry-
phosphate clerk a pale lilac with envy.

They were both very happy. According to the strange
mathematics of the god of mutual affinity, the shadows
that clouded their pasts when united became only half
as dense instead of darker. They shut the world out
and bolted the doors. Each was the other's world. Mrs.
Conant lived again. The remembering look left her eyes
Merriam was with her every moment that was possible.
On a little plateau under a grove of palms and calabash
trees they were going to build a fairy bungalow. They
were to be married in two months. Many hours of the
day they had their heads together over the house plans.
Their joint capital would set up a business in fruit or
woods that would yield a comfortable support. "Good
night, my world," would say Mrs. Conant every evening
when Merriam left her for his hotel. They were very
happy. Their love had, circumstantially, that element
of melancholy in it that it seems to require to attain
its supremest elevation. And it seemed that their mutual
great misfortune or sin was a bond that nothing could

One day a steamer hove in the offing. Bare-legged and
bare-shouldered La Paz scampered down to the beach,
for the arrival of a steamer was their loop-the-loop,
circus, Emancipation Day and four-o'clock tea.

When the steamer was near enough, wise ones pro-
claimed that she was the Pajaro, bound up-coast from
Callao to Panama.

The Paiaro put on brakes a mile off shore. Soon a
boat came bobbing shoreward. Merriam strolled down
on the beach to look on. In the shallow water the Carib
sailors sprang out and dragged the boat with a mighty
rush to the firm shingle. Out climbed the purser, the
captain and two passengers, ploughing their way through
the deep sand toward the hotel. Merriam glanced toward
them with the mild interest due to strangers. There was
something familiar to him in the walk of one of the pas-
sengers. He looked again, and his blood seemed to turn
to strawberry ice cream in his veins. Burly, arrogant,
debonair as ever, H. Ferguson Hedges, the man he had
killed, was coming toward him ten feet away.

When Hedges saw Merriam his face flushed a dark
red. Then he shouted in his old, bluff way: "Hello,
Merriam. Glad to see you. Didn't expect to find you
out here. Quinby, this is my old friend Merriam, of
New York -- Merriam, Mr. Quinby."

Merriam gave Hedges and then Quinby an ice-cold hand.
"Br-r-r-r!" said Hedges. "But you've got a frappéd
flipper! Man, you're not well. You're as yellow as a
Chinaman. Malarial here? Steer us to a bar if there
is such a thing, and let's take a prophylactic."

Merriam, still half comatose, led them toward the
Hotel Orilla del Mar.

"Quinby and I" explained Hedges, puffing through
the slippery sand, "are looking out along the coast for
some investments. We've just come up from Concepción
and Valparaiso and Lima. The captain of this sub-
sidized ferry boat told us there was some good picking
around here in silver mines. So we got off. Now,
where is that café, Merriam? Oh, in this portable soda
water pavilion?"

Leaving Quinby at the bar, Hedges drew Merriam

"Now, what does this mean?" he said, with gruff
kindness. "Are you sulking about that fool row we had?"

"I thought," stammered Merriam -- "I heard -- they
told me you were -- that I had "

"Well, you didn't, and I'm not," said Hedges. "That
fool young ambulance surgeon told Wade I was a can-
didate for a coffin just because I'd got tired and quit
breathing. I laid up in a private hospital for a month;
but here I am, kicking as hard as ever. Wade and I
tried to find you, but couldn't. Now, Merriam, shake
hands and forget it all. I was as much to blame as you
were; and the shot really did me good -- I came out of
the hospital as healthy and fit as a cab horse. Come on;
that drink's waiting."

"Old man," said Merriam, brokenly, "I don't know
how to thank you -- I -- well, you know -- "

"Oh, forget it," boomed Hedges. "Quinby'll die of
thirst if we don't join him."

Bibb was sitting on the shady side of the gallery waiting
for the eleven-o'clock breakfast. Presently Merriam
came out and joined him. His eye was strangely

"Bibb, my boy," said he, slowly waving his hand, "do
you see those mountains and that sea and sky and sun-
shine? -- they're mine, Bibbsy -- all mine."

"You go in," said Bibb, "and take eight grains of
quinine, right away. It won't do in this climate for a
man to get to thinking he's Rockefeller, or James O'Neill

Inside, the purser was untying a great roll of newspapers,
many of them weeks old, gathered in the lower ports by
the Pajaro to be distributed at casual stopping-places.
Thus do the beneficent voyagers scatter news and enter-
tainment among the prisoners of sea and mountains.
Tio Pancho, the hotel proprietor, set his great silver-
rimmed aiteojos upon his nose and divided the papers
into a number of smaller rolls. A barefooted muchacho
dashed in, desiring the post of messenger.

"Bien venido," said Tio Pancho. "This to Señora
Conant; that to el Doctor S-S-Schlegel -- Dios! what a
name to say! - that to Señor Davis -- one for Don
Alberto. These two for the Casa de Huespedes, Numero
6, en la calle de las Buenas Gracias. And say to them all,
muchacho, that the Pajaro sails for Panama at three this
afternoon. If any have letters to send by the post, let
them come quickly, that they may first pass through the

Mrs. Conant received her roll of newspapers at four
o'clock. The boy was late in delivering them, because
he had been deflected from his duty by an iguana that
crossed his path and to which he immediately gave chase.
But it made no hardship, for she had no letters to send.

She was idling in a hammock in the patio of the house
that she occupied, half awake, half happily dreaming of the
paradise that she and Merriam had created out of the
wrecks of their pasts. She was content now for the horizon
of that shimmering sea to be the horizon of her life. They
had shut out the world and closed the door.

Merriam was coming to her house at seven, after his
dinner at the hotel. She would put on a white dress and
an apricot-coloured lace mantilla, and they would walk
an hour under the cocoanut palms by the lagoon. She
smiled contentedly, and chose a paper at random from
the roll the boy had brought.

At first the words of a certain headline of a Sunday
newspaper meant nothing to her; they conveyed only
a visualized sense of familiarity. The largest type ran
thus: "Lloyd B. Conant secures divorce." And then the
subheadings: "Well-known Saint Louis paint manufac-
turer wins suit, pleading one year's absence of wife."
"Her mysterious disappearance recalled." "Nothing has
been heard of her since."

Twisting herself quickly out of the hammock, Mrs.
Conant's eye soon traversed the half-column of the
"Recall." It ended thus: "It will be remembered that
Mrs. Conant disappeared one evening in March of last
year. It was freely rumoured that her marriage with
Lloyd B. Conant resulted in much unhappiness. Stories
were not wanting to the effect that his cruelty toward
his wife had more than once taken the form of physical
abuse. After her departure a full bottle of tincture of
aconite, a deadly poison, was found in a small medicine
cabinet in her bedroom. This might have been an
indication that she meditated suicide. It is supposed
abandoned such an intention if she possessed
it, and left her home instead."

Mrs. Conant slowly dropped the paper, and sat on a
chair, clasping her hands tightly.

"Let me think -- O God! -- let me think," she whis-
pered. "I took the bottle with me . . . I threw it
out of the window of the train . . . I -- . . .
there was another bottle in the cabinet . . . there
were two, side by side -- the aconite -- and the valerian
that I took when I could not sleep . . . If they
found the aconite bottle full, why -- but, he is alive, of
course -- I gave him only a harmless dose of valerian
. . . I am not a murderess in fact . . . Ralph, I
-- 0 God, don't let this be a dream!"

She went into the part of the house that she rented from
the old Peruvian man and his wife, shut the door, and
walked up and down her room swiftly and feverishly
for half an hour. Merriam's photograph stood in a frame
on a table. She picked it up, looked at it with a smile
of exquisite tenderness, and -- dropped four tears on it.
And Merriam only twenty rods away! Then she stood
still for ten minutes, looking into space. She looked into
space through a slowly opening door. On her side of the
door was the building material for a castle of Romance --
love, an Arcady of waving palms, a lullaby of waves on
the shore of a haven of rest, respite, peace, a lotus land
of dreamy ease and security -- a life of poetry and heart's
ease and refuge. Romanticist, will you tell me what
Mrs. Conant saw on the other side of the door? You
cannot? -- that is, you will not? Very well; then listen.
She saw herself go into a department store and buy five
spools of silk thread and three yards of gingham to make
an apron for the cook. "Shall I charge it, ma'am?"
asked the clerk. As she walked out a lady whom she met
greeted her cordially. "Oh, where did you get the pattern for
those sleeves, dear Mrs. Conant?" she said. At the corner
a policeman helped her across the street and touched his
helmet. "Any callers?" she asked the maid when she
reached home. "Mrs. Waldron," answered the maid,
and the tqvo Misses Jenkinson." "Very well," she said.
You may bring me a cup of tea, Maggie."

Mrs. Conant went to the door and called Angela, the old
Peruvian woman. "If Mateo is there send him to me."
Mateo, a half-breed, shuffling and old but efficient, came.
"Is there a steamer or a vessel of any kind leaving
this coast to-night or to-morrow that I can get passage
on?" she asked.

Mateo considered.

"At Punta Reina, thirty miles down the coast, señora,"
he answered, "there is a small steamer loading with
cinchona and dyewoods. She sails for San Francisco
to-morrow at sunrise. So says my brother, who arrived
in his sloop to-day, passing by Punta Reina."

"You must take me in that sloop to that steamer
to-night. Will you do that?"

"Perhaps -- " Mateo shrugged a suggestive shoul-
der. Mrs. Conant took a handful of money from a
drawer and gave it to him.

"Get the sloop ready behind the little point of land below
the town," she ordered. "Get sailors, and be ready
to sail at six o'clock. In half an hour bring a cart partly
filled with straw into the patio here, and take my trunk
to the sloop. There is more money yet. Now, hurry."

For one time Mateo walked away without shuffling
his feet.

"Angela," cried Mrs. Conant, almost fiercely, "come
and help me pack. I am going away. Out with this
trunk. My clothes first. Stir yourself. Those dark
dresses first. Hurry."

From the first she did not waver from her decision.
Her view was clear and final. Her door had opened
and let the world in. Her love for Merriam was not
lessened; but it now appeared a hopeless and unrealizable
thing. The visions of their future that had seemed so
blissful and complete had vanished. She tried to assure
herself that her renunciation was rather for his sake than
for her own. Now that she was cleared of her burden --
at least, technically -- would not his own weigh too heavily
upon him? If she should cling to him, would not the
difference forever silently mar and corrode their happiness?
Thus she reasoned; but there were a thousand little voices
calling to her that she could feel rather than hear, like the
hum of distant, powerful machinery -- the little voices
of the world, that, when raised in unison, can send their
insistent call through the thickest door.

Once while packing, a brief shadow of the lotus dream
came back to her. She held Merriam's picture to her heart
with one hand, while she threw a pair of shoes into the
trunk with her other.

At six o'clock Mateo returned and reported the sloop
ready. He and his brother lifted the trunk into the cart,
covered it with straw and conveyed it to the point of
embarkation. From there they transferred it on board
in the sloop's dory. Then Mateo returned for additional

Mrs. Conant was ready. She had settled all business
matters with Angela, and was impatiently waiting. She
wore a long, loose black-silk duster that she often walked
about in when the evenino's were chilly. On her head
was a small round hat, and over it the apricot-coloured
lace mantilla.

Dusk had quickly followed the short twilight. Mateo
led her by dark and grass-grown streets toward the point
behind which the sloop was anchored. On turning a
corner they beheld the Hotel Orilla del Mar three streets
away, nebulously aglow with its array of kerosene lamps.

Mrs. Conant paused, with streamin eyes. "I must,
I must see him once before I go," she murmured in
anguish. But even then she did not falter in her decision.
Quickly she invented a plan by which she might speak to
him, and yet make her departure without his knowing.
She would walk past the hotel, ask some one to call him
out and talk a few moments on some trivial excuse,
leaving him expecting to see her at her home at seven.

She unpinned her hat and gave it to Mateo. "Keep
this, and wait here till I come," she ordered. Then she
draped the mantilla over her head as she usually did when
walking after sunset, and went straight to the Orilla del

She was glad to see the bulky, white-clad figure of
Tio Pancho standing alone on the gallery.

"Tio Pancho," she said, with a charming smile, "may
I trouble you to ask Mr. Merriam to come out for just a
few moments that I may speak with him?"

Tio Pancho bowed as an elephant bows.

"Buenas tardes, Señora Conant," he said, as a cavalier
talks. And then he went on, less at his ease:

"But does not the señora know that Señor Merriam
sailed on the Pajaro for Panama at three o'clock of this


NOT many days ago my old friend from the tropics,
J. P. Bridger, United States consul on the island of Ratona,
was in the city. We had wassail and jubilee and saw
the Flatiron building, and missed seeing the Bronxless
menagerie by about a couple of nights. And then, at the
ebb tide, we were walking up a street that parallels and
parodies Broadway.

A woman with a comely and mundane countenance
passed us, holding in leash a wheezing, vicious, waddling,
brute of a yellow pug. The dog entangled himself with
Bridger's legs and mumbled his ankles in a snarling,
peevish, sulky bite. Bridger, with a happy smile, kicked
the breath out of the brute; the woman showered us
with a quick rain of well-conceived adjectives that left
us in no doubt as to our place in her opinion, and we
passed on. Ten yards farther an old woman with dis-
ordered white hair and her bankbook tucked well hidden
beneath her tattered shawl begged. Bridger stopped
and disinterred for her a quarter from his holiday waist-

On the next corner a quarter of a ton of well-clothed
man with a rice-powdered, fat, white jowl, stood holding
the chain of a devil-born bulldog whose forelegs were
strangers by the length of a dachshund. A little woman
in a last-season's hat confronted him and wept, which
was plainly all she could do, while he cursed her in low
sweet, practised tones.

Bridger smiled again -- strictly to himself -- and this
time he took out a little memorandum book and made
a note of it. This he had no right to do without due
explanation, and I said so.

"It's a new theory," said Bridger, "that I picked up
down in Ratona. I've been gathering support for it as I
knock about. The world isn't ripe for it yet, but -- well
I'll tell you; and then you run your mind back along the
people you've known and see what you make of it."

And so I cornered Bridger in a place where they have
artificial palms and wine; and he told me the story which
is here in my words and on his responsibility.

One afternoon at three o'clock, on the island of Ratona,
a boy raced alongthe beach screaming, "Pajaro, ahoy!"

Thus he made known the keenness of his hearing and
the justice of his discrimination in pitch.

He who first heard and made oral proclamation con-
cerning the toot of an approaching steamer's whistle, and
correctly named the steamer, was a small hero in Ratona
-until the' next steamer came. Wherefore, there was
rivalry among the barefoot youth of Ratona, and many
fell victims to the softly blown conch shells of sloops which,
as they enter harbour, sound surprisingly like a distant
steamer's signal. And some could name you the vessel
when its call, in your duller ears, sounded no louder than
the sigh of the wind through the branches of the cocoa-
nut palms.

But to-day he who proclaimed the Pajaro gained his
honours. Ratona bent its ear to listen; and soon the
deep-tongued blast grew louder and nearer, and at length
Ratona saw above the line of palms on the low "joint"
the two black funnels of the fruiter slowly creeping toward
the mouth of the harbour.

You must know that Ratona is an island twenty miles
off the south of a South American republic. It is a port
of that republic; and it sleeps sweetly in a smiling sea,
toiling not nor spinning; fed by the abundant tropics
where all things "ripen, cease and fall toward the grave."

Eight hundred people dream life away in a green-
embowered village that follows the horseshoe curve of
its bijou harbour. They are mostly Spanish and Indian
mestizos, with a shading of San Domingo Negroes, a
lightening of pure-blood Spanish officials and a slight
leavening of the froth of three or four pioneering white
races. No steamers touch at Ratona save the fruit steamers
which take on their banana inspectors there on their way
to the coast. They leave Sunday newspapers, ice, quinine,
bacon, watermelons and vaccine matter at the island and
that is about all the touch Ratona gets with the world.

The Pajaro paused at the mouth of the harbour, roll
ing heavily in the swell that sent the whitecaps racing
beyond the smooth water inside. Already two dories
from the village -- one conveying fruit inspectors, the
other going for what it could get -- were halfway out to
the steamer.

The inspectors' dory was taken on board with them,
and the Pajaro steamed away for the mainland for its
load of fruit.

The other boat returned to Ratona bearing a contri-
bution from the Pajaro's store of ice, the usual roll of
newspapers and one passenger -- Taylor Plunkett, sheriff
of Chatham County, Kentucky.

Bridger, the United States consul at Ratona, was clean-
ing his rifle in the official shanty under a bread-fruit tree
twenty yards from the water of the harbour. The consul
occupied a place somewhat near the tail of his political
party's procession. The music of the band wagon
sounded very faintly to him in the distance. The plums
of office went to others. Bridger's share of the spoils --
the consulship at Ratona -- was little more than a prune
-- a dried prune from the boarding-house department
of the public crib. But $900 yearly was opulence in
Ratona. Besides, Bridger had contracted a passion for
shooting alligators in the lagoons near his consulate, and
was not unhappy.

He looked up from a careful inspection of his rifle lock
a broad man filling his doorway. A broad,
noiseless, slow-moving man, sunburned almost to the
Vandyke. A man of forty-five, neatly clothed in
homespun, with scanty light hair, a close-clipped brown-
and-gray beard and pale-blue eyes expressing mildness

"You are Mr. Bridger, the consul," said the broad
man. "They directed me here. Can you tell me what
those big bunches of things like gourds are in those trees
that look like feather dusters along the edge of the water?"

"Take that chair," said the consul, reoiling his clean-
ing rag. "No, the other one -- that bamboo thing won't
hold you. Why, they're cocoanuts -- green cocoanuts.
The shell of 'em is always a light green before they're

"Much obliged," said the other man, sitting down
carefully. "I didn't quite like to tell the folks at home
they were olives unless I was sure about it. My name
is Plunkett. I'm sheriff of Chatham County, Kentucky.
I've got extradition papers in my pocket authorizing the
arrest of a man on this island. They've been signed by
the President of this country, and they're in correct shape.
The man's name is Wade Williams. He's in the cocoa-
nut raising business. What he's wanted for is the murder
of his wife two years ago. Where can I find him?"

The consul squinted an eye and looked through his
rifle barrel.

"There's nobody on the island who calls himself 'Wil-
liams,'" he remarked.

"Didn't suppose there was," said Plunkett mildly.
"He'll do by any other name."

"Besides myself," said Bridger, "there are only
two Americans on Ratona -- Bob Reeves and Henry

"The man I want sells cocoanuts," suggested Plunkett.

"You see that cocoanut walk extending up to the
point?" said the consul, waving his hand toward the open
door. "That belongs to Bob Reeves. Henry Morgan
owns half the trees to loo'ard on the island."

"One, month ago," said the sheriff, "Wade Williams
wrote a confidential letter to a man in Chatham county,
telling him where he was and how he was getting along.
The letter was lost; and the person that found it gave it
away. They sent me after him, and I've got the papers.
I reckon he's one of your cocoanut men for certain."

"You've got his picture, of course," said Bridger.
"It might be Reeves or Morgan, but I'd hate to think it.
They're both as fine fellows as you'd meet in an all-day
auto ride."

"No," doubtfully answered Plunkett; "there wasn't
any picture of Williams to be had. And I never saw him
myself. I've been sheriff only a year. But I've got a
pretty accurate description of him. About 5 feet 11;
dark-hair and eyes; nose inclined to be Roman; heavy
about the shoulders; strong, white teeth, with none miss-
ing; laughs a good deal, talkative; drinks considerably
but never to intoxication; looks you square in the eye
when talking; age thirty-five. Which one of your men
does that description fit?"

The consul grinned broadly.

"I'll tell you what you do," he said, laying down his
rifle and slipping on his dingy black alpaca coat. "You
come along, Mr. Plunkett, -- and I'll take you up to see
the boys. If you can tell which one of 'em your descrip-
tion fits better than it does the other you have the advan-
tage of me."

Bridger conducted the sheriff out and along the hard
beach close to which the tiny houses of the village were
distributed. Immediately back of the town rose sudden,
small, thickly wooded hills. Up one of these, by means
of steps cut in the hard clay, the consul led Plunkett.
the very verge of an eminence was perched, a two-
room wooden cottage with a thatched roof. A Carib
woman was washing clothes outside. The consul
ushered the sheriff to the door of the room that over-
looked the harbour.

Two men were in the room, about to sit down, in their
shirt sleeves, to a table spread for dinner. They bore
little resemblance one to the other in detail; but the
general description given by Plunkett could have been
justly applied to either. In height, colour of hair, shape
of nose, build and manners each of them tallied with it.
They were fair types of jovial, ready-witted, broad-
gauged Americans who had gravitated together for com-
panionship in an alien land.

"Hello, Bridger" they called in unison at sight Of
the consul. "Come and have dinner with us!" And
then they noticed Plunkett at his heels, and came forward
with hospitable curiosity.

"Gentlemen," said the consul, his voice taking on
unaccustomed formality, "this is Mr. Plunkett. Mr.
Plunkett -- Mr. Reeves and Mr. Morgan."

The cocoanut barons greeted the newcomer joyously.
Reeves seemed about an inch taller than Morgan, but
his laugh was not quite as loud. Morgan's eyes were-
deep brown; Reeves's were black. Reeves was the host
and busied himself with fetching other chairs and calling
to the Carib woman for supplemental table ware. It
was explained that Morgan lived in a bamboo shack to.
loo'ard, but that every day the two friends dined
together. Plunkett stood still during the preparations,
looking about mildly with his pale-blue eyes. Bridger
looked apologetic and uneasy.

At length two other covers were laid and the company-
was assigned to places. Reeves and Morgan stood side
by side across the table from the visitors. Reeves nodded
genially as a signal for all to seat themselves. And then
suddenly Plunkett raised his hand with a gesture of
authority. He was looking straight between Reeves
and Morgan.

"Wade Williams," he said quietly, "you are under
arrest for murder."

Reeves and Morgan instantly exchanged a quick,
bright glance, the quality of which was interrogation,
with a seasoning of surprise. Then, simultaneously
they turned to the speaker with a puzzled and frank depre-
cation in their gaze.

"Can't say that we understand you, Mr. Plunkett,"
said Morgan, cheerfully. "Did you say 'Williams'?"

"What's the joke, Bridgy?" asked Reeves, turning,
to the consul with a smile.

Before Bridger could answer Plunkett spoke again.

"I'll explain," he said, quietly. "One of you don't
need any explanation, but this is for the other one. One
of you is Wade Williams of Chatham County, Kentucky.
You murdered your wife on May 5, two years ago, after
ill-treating and abusing her continually for five years. I
have the proper papers in my pocket for taking you back
with me, and you are going. We will return on the
fruit steamer that comes back by this island to-morrow
to leave its inspectors. I acknowledge, gentlemen, that
I'm not quite sure which one of you is Williams. But
Wade Williams goes back to Chatham County to-morrow.
I want you to understand that."

A great sound of merry laughter from Morgan and
Reeves went out over the still harbour. Two or three
fishermen in the fleet of sloops anchored there looked up
at the house of the diablos Americanos on the hill and

"My dear Mr. Plunkett," cried Morgan, conquering
his mirth, "the dinner is getting, cold. Let us sit down
and eat. I am anxious to get my spoon into that shark-
fin soup. Business afterward."

"Sit down, gentlemen, if you please," added Reeves,
pleasantly. "I am sure Mr. Plunkett will not object.
Perhaps a little time may be of advantage to him in identi-
fying -- the gentlemen he wishes to arrest."

"No objections, I'm sure," said Plunkett, dropping
into his chair heavily. "I'm hungry myself. I didn't
want to accept the hospitality of you folks without giving
you notice; that's all."

Reeves set bottles and glasses on the table.

"There's cognac," he said, "and anisada, and Scotch
'smoke,' and rye. Take your choice."

Bridger chose rye, Reeves poured three fingers of
Scotch for himself, Morgan took the same. The sheriff,
against much protestation, filled his glass from the water

"Here's to the appetite," said Reeves, raising his glass,
"of Mr. Williams!" Morgan's laugh and his drink
encountering sent him into a choking splutter. All began
to pay attention to the dinner, which was well cooked and

"Williams!" called Plunkett, suddenly and sharply.

All looked up wonderingly. Reeves found the sheriff's
mild eye resting upon him. He flushed a little.

"See here," he said, with some asperity, "my name's
Reeves,and I don't want you too -- " But the comedy
of the thing came to his rescue, and he ended with a laugh.

"I suppose, Mr. Plunkett," said Morgan, carefully
seasoning an alligator pear, "that you are aware of the
fact that you will import a good deal of trouble for your-
self into Kentucky if you take back the wrong man --
that is, of course, if you take anybody back?"

"Thank you for the salt," said the sheriff. "Oh, I'll
take somebody back. It'll be one of you two gentlemen.
Yes, I know I'd get stuck for damages if I make a mis-
take. But I'm going to try to get the right man."

"I'll tell you what you do," said Morgan, leaning for-
ward with a jolly twinkle in his eyes. "You take me.
I'll go without any trouble. The cocoanut business hasn't
panned out well this year, and I'd like to make some
extra money out of your bondsmen."

"That's not fair," chimed in Reeves. "I got only
$16 a thousand for my last shipment. Take me, Mr.

"I'll take Wade Williams," said the sheriff, patiently,
"or I'll come pretty close to it."

"It's like dining with a ghost," remarked Morgan,
with a pretended shiver. "The ghost of a murderer, too!
Will somebody pass the toothpicks to the shade of the
naughty Mr. Williams?"

Plunkett seemed as unconcerned as if he were dining
at his own table in Chatham County. He was a gallant
trencherman, and the strange tropic viands tickled his
palate. Heavy, commonplace, almost slothful in his
movements, he appeared to be devoid of all the cunning
and watchfulness of the sleuth. He even ceased to
observe, with any sharpness or attempted discrimination,
the two men, one of whom he had undertaken with sur-
prising self-confidence, to drag away upon the serious
charge of wife-murder. Here, indeed, was a problem
set before him that if wrongly solved would have
amounted to his serious discomfiture, yet there he sat
puzzling his soul (to all appearances) over the novel flavour
of a broiled iguana cutlet.

The consul felt a decided discomfort. Reeves and
Morgan were his friends and pals; yet the sheriff from
Kentucky had a certain right to his official aid and moral
support. So Bridger sat the silentest around the board
and tried to estimate the peculiar situation. His con-
clusion was that both Reeves and Morgan, quickwitted,
as he knew them to be, had conceived at the moment of
Plunkett's disclosure of his mission -- and in the brief
space of a lightning flash -- the idea that the other might
be the guilty Williams; and that each of them had decided
in that moment loyally to protect his comrade against the
doom that threatened him. This was the consul's theory.
and if he had been a bookmaker at a race of wits for life
and liberty he would have offered heavy odds against
the plodding sheriff from Chatham County, Kentucky.

When the meal was concluded the Carib woman came
and removed the dishes and cloth. Reeves strewed them
table with excellent cigars, and Plunkett, with the others,
lighted one of these with evident gratification.

"I may be dull," said Morgan, with a grin and a wink
at Bridger; "but I want to know if I am. Now, I say
this is all a joke of Mr. Plunkett's, concocted to frighten.
two babes-in-the-woods. Is this Williamson to be taken
seriously or not?"

"'Williams,'" corrected Plunkett gravely. "I never
got off any jokes in my life. I know I wouldn't travel
2,000 miles to get off a poor one as this would be if I
didn't take Wade Williams back with me. Gentlemen!"
continued the sheriff, now letting his mild eyes travel
impartially from one of the company to another, "see if
you can find any joke in this case. Wade Williams is
listening to the words I utter now; but out of politeness,
I will speak of him as a third person. For five years he
made his wife lead the life of a dog -- No; I'll take that
back. No dog in Kentucky was ever treated as she was.
He spent the money that she brought him -- spent it at
races, at the card table and on horses and hunting. He
was a good fellow to his friends, but a cold, sullen demon
at home. He wound up the five years of neglect by strik-
ing her with his closed hand -- a hand as hard as a stone
-- when she was ill and weak from suffering. She died
the next day; and he skipped. That's all there is to it.
It's enough. I never saw Williams; but I knew his
wife. I'm not a man to tell half. She and I were keep-
ing company when she met him. She went to Louisville
on a visit and saw him there. I'll admit that he spoilt
my chances in no time. I lived then on the edge of the
Cumberland mountains. I was elected sheriff of Chatham
County a year after Wade Williams killed his wife. My
official duty sends me out here after him; but I'll admit
that there's personal feeling, too. And he's going
back with me. Mr. -- er -- Reeves, will you pass me a

"Awfully imprudent of Williams," said Morgan, putting
his feet up against the wall, "to strike a Kentucky lady.
Seems to me I've heard they were scrappers."

"Bad, bad Williams," said Reeves, pouring out more

The two men spoke lightly, but the consul saw and
felt the tension and the carefulness in their actions and
words. "Good old fellows," he said to himself; "they're
both all right. Each of 'em is standing by the other like
a little brick church."

And then a dog walked into the room where they sat --
a black-and-tan hound, long-eared, lazy, confident of

Plunkett turned his head and looked at the animal,
which halted, confidently, within a few feet of his chair.

Suddenly the sheriff, with a deep-mouthed oath, left
his seat and, bestowed upon the dog a vicious and heavy
kick, with his ponderous shoe.

The hound, heartbroken, astonished, with flapping
ears and incurved tail, uttered a piercing yelp of pain
and surprise.

Reeves and the consul remained in their chairs, say-
ing nothing, but astonished at the unexpected show of
intolerance from the easy-going-man from Chatham

But Morgan, with a suddenly purpling face, leaped,
to his feet and raised a threatening arm above the

"You -- brute!" he shouted, passionately; "why did
you do that?"

Quickly the amenities returned, Plunkett muttered
some indistinct apology and regained his seat. Morgan
with a decided effort controlled his indignation and also
returned to his chair.

And then Plunkett with the spring of a tiger, leaped
around the corner of the table and snapped handcuffs
on the paralyzed Morgan's wrists.

"Hound-lover and woman-killer!" he cried; "get
ready to meet your God."

When Bridger had finished I asked him:

"Did he get the right man?"

"He did," said the Consul.

"And how did he know?" I inquired, being in a kind
of bewilderment.

"When he put Morgan in the dory," answered Bridger,
"the next day to take him aboard the Pajaro, this man
Plunkett stopped to shake hands with me and I asked
him the same question."

"'Mr. Bridger,' said he, 'I'm a Kentuckian, and I've
seen a great deal of both men and animals. And I never
yet saw a man that was overfond of horses and dogs but
what was cruel to women.'"


LAWYER GOOCH bestowed his undivided attention
upon the engrossing arts of his profession. But one
flight of fancy did he allow his mind to entertain. He
was fond of likening his suite of office rooms to the bot-
tom of a ship. The rooms were three in number, with a
door opening from one to another. These doors could
also be closed.

"Ships," Lawyer Gooch would say, "are constructed
for safety, with separate, water-tight compartments in
their bottoms. If one compartment springs a leak it fills
with water; but the good ship goes on unhurt. Were it
not for the separating bulkheads one leak would sink
the vessel. Now it often happens that while I am occu-
pied with clients, other clients with conflicting interests
call. With the assistance of Archibald -- an office boy
with a future -- I cause the dangerous influx to be
diverted into separate compartments, while I sound
with my legal plummet the depth of each. If neces-
sary, they may be haled into the hallway and permitted
to escape by way of the stairs, which we may term the lee
scuppers. Thus the good ship of business is kept afloat;
whereas if the element that supports her were allowed
to mingle freely in her hold we might be swamped -- ha,
ha, ha!

The law is dry. Good jokes are few. Surely it
might be permitted Lawyer Gooch to mitigate the bore
of briefs, the tedium of torts and the prosiness of processes
with even so light a levy upon the good property of humour.

Lawyer Gooch's practice leaned largely to the settle-
ment of marital infelicities. Did matrimony languish
through complications, he mediated, soothed and arbi-
trated. Did it suffer from implications, he readjusted,
defended and championed. Did it arrive at the extremity
of duplications, he always got light sentences for his

But not always was Lawyer Gooch the keen, armed,
wily belligerent, ready with his two-edged sword to lop
off the shackles of Hymen. He had been known to build
up instead of demolishing, to reunite instead of severing,
to lead erring and foolish ones back into the fold instead
of scattering the flock. Often had he by his eloquent
and moving appeals sent husband and wife, weeping, back
into each other's arms. Frequently he had coached
childhood so successfully that, at the psychological
moment (and at a given signal) the plaintive pipe of
"Papa, won't you turn home adain to me and muvver?"
had won the day and upheld the pillars of a tottering home.

Unprejudiced persons admitted that Lawyer Gooch
received as big fees from these revoked clients as would
have been paid him had the cases been contested in court.
Prejudiced ones intimated that his fees were doubled.
because the penitent couples always came back later for
the divorce, anyhow.

There came a season in June when the legal ship of
Lawyer Gooch (to borrow his own figure) was nearly
becalmed. The divorce mill grinds slowly in June. It
is the month of Cupid and Hymen.

Lawyer Gooch, then, sat idle in the middle room of
his clientless suite. A small anteroom connected -- or
rather separated -- this apartment from the hallway.
Here was stationed Archibald, who wrested from visitors
their cards or oral nomenclature which he bore to his
master while they waited.

Suddenly, on this day, there came a great knocking
at the outermost door.

Archibald, opening it, was thrust aside as superfluous
by the visitor, who without due reverence at once pene-
trated to the office of Lawyer Gooch and threw himself
with good-natured insolence into a comfortable chair
facing that gentlemen.

"You are Phineas C. Gooch, attorney-at-law?" said
the visitor, his tone of voice and inflection making his
words at once a question, an assertion and an accusation.

Before committing himself by a reply, the lawyer esti-
mated his possible client in one of his brief but shrewd
and calculating glances.

The man was of the emphatic type -- large-sized, active,
bold and debonair in demeanour, vain beyond a doubt,
slightly swaggering, ready and at ease. He was well-
clothed, but with a shade too much ornateness. He was
seeking a lawyer; but if that fact would seem to saddle
him with troubles they were not patent in his beaming
eye and courageous air.

"My name is Gooch," at length the lawyer admitted.
Upon pressure he would also have confessed to the Phineas
C. But he did not consider it good practice to volunteer
information. "I did not receive your card," he continued,
by way of rebuke, "so I -- "

"I know you didn't," remarked the visitor, coolly;
"And you won't just yet. Light up?" He threw a leg
over an arm of his chair, and tossed a handful of rich-
hued cigars upon the table. Lawyer Gooch knew the
brand. He thawed just enough to accept the invitation
to smoke.

"You are a divorce lawyer," said the cardless visitor.
This time there was no interrogation in his voice. Nor
did his words constitute a simple assertion. They formed
a charge -- a denunciation -- as one would say to a dog:
"You are a dog." Lawyer Gooch was silent under the

"You handle," continued the visitor, "all the various
ramifications of busted-up connubiality. You are a
surgeon, we might saw, who extracts Cupid's darts when
he shoots 'em into the wrong parties. You furnish
patent, incandescent lights for premises where the torch
of Hymen has burned so low you can't light a cigar at it.
Am I right, Mr. Gooch?"

"I have undertaken cases," said the lawyer, guardedly,
"in the line to which your figurative speech seems to refer.
Do you wish to consult me professionally, Mr. -- "
The lawyer paused, with significance.

"Not yet," said the other, with an arch wave of his
cigar, "not just yet. Let us approach the subject with
the caution that should have been used in the original
act that makes this pow-wow necessary. There exists a
matrimonial jumble to be straightened out. But before
I give you names I want your honest -- well, anyhow,
your professional opinion on the merits of the mix-up.
I want you to size up the catastrophe -- abstractly -- you
understand? I'm Mr. Nobody; and I've got a story to tell
you. Then you say what's what. Do you get my wireless?"

"You want to state a hypothetical case?" suggested
Lawyer Gooch.

"That's the word I was after. 'Apothecary' was the
best shot I could make at it in my mind. The hypo-
thetical goes. I'll state the case. Suppose there's a
woman -- a deuced fine-looking woman -- who has run
away from her husband and home? She's badly mashed
on another man who went to her town to work up some
real estate business. Now, we may as well call this
woman's husband Thomas R. Billings, for that's his
name. I'm giving you straight tips on the cognomens.
The Lothario chap is Henry K. Jessup. The Billingses
lived in a little town called Susanville -- a good many
miles from here. Now, Jessup leaves Susanville two
weeks ago. The next day Mrs. Billings follows him.
She's dead gone on this man Jessup; you can bet your
law library on that."

Lawyer Gooch's client said this with such unctuous
satisfaction that even the callous lawyer experienced a
slight ripple of repulsion. He now saw clearly in his
fatuous visitor the conceit of the lady-killer, the egoistic
complacency of the successful trifler.

"Now," continued the visitor, "suppose this Mrs.
Billings wasn't happy at home? We'll say she and her
husband didn't gee worth a cent. They've got incom-
patibility to burn. The things she likes, Billings wouldn't
have as a gift with trading-stamps. It's Tabby and
Rover with them all the time. She's an educated woman
in science and culture, and she reads things out loud at
meetings. Billings is not on. He don't appreciate pro-
gress and obelisks and ethics, and things of that sort. Old
Billings is simply a blink when it comes to such things.
The lady is out and out above his class. Now, lawyer,
don't it look like a fair equalization of rights and wrongs
that a woman like that should be allowed to throw down
Billings and take the man that can appreciate her?

"Incompatibility," said Lawyer Gooch, "is undoubt-
edly the source of much marital discord and unhappiness.
Where it is positively proved, divorce would seem to be
the equitable remedy. Are you -- excuse me -- is this
man Jessup one to whom the lady may safely trust
her future?"

"Oh, you can bet on Jessup," said the client, with a
confident wag of his head. "Jessup's all right. He'll
do the square thing. Why, he left Susanville just to keep
pwple from talking about Mrs. Billings. But she fol-
lowed him up, and now, of course, he'll stick to her.
When she gets a divorce, all legal and proper, Jessup
the proper thing."

"And now," said Lawyer Gooch, "continuing the hypo-
if you prefer, and supposing that my services should
ired in the case, what -- "

The client rose impulsively to his feet.

"Oh, dang the hypothetical business," he exclaimed,
impatiently. "Let's let her drop, and get down to
straight talk. You ought to know who I am by this time.
I want that woman to have her divorce. I'll pay for
it. The day you set Mrs. Billings free I'll pay you five
hundred dollars."

Lawyer Gooch's client banged his fist upon the table
to punctuate his generosity.

"If that is the case -- " began the lawyer.

"Lady to see you, sir," bawled Archibald, bouncing
in from his anteroom. He had orders to always announce
immediately any client that might come. There was no
sense in turning business away.

Lawyer Gooch took client number one by the arm and
led him suavely into one of the adjoining rooms. "Favour
me by remaining here a few minutes, sir," said he. "I
will return and resume our consultation with the least
possible delay. I am rather expecting a visit from a
very wealthy old lady in connection with a will. I will
not keep you waiting long."

The breezy gentleman seated himself with obliging
acquiescence, aud took up a magazine. The lawyer
returned to the middle office, carefully closing behind
him the connecting door.

"Show the lady in, Archibald," he said to the office
boy, who was awaiting the order.

A tall lady, of commanding presence and sternly hand-
some, entered the room. She wore robes -- robes; not
clothes -- ample and fluent. In her eye could be per-
ceived the lambent flame of genius and soul. In her
hand was a green bag of the capacity of a bushel, and an
umbrella that also seemed to wear a robe, ample and
fluent. She accepted a chair.

"Are you Mr. Phineas C. Gooch, the lawyer?" she
asked, in formal and unconciliatory tones.

"I am," answered Lawyer Gooch, without circum-
locution. He never circumlocuted when dealing with
a woman. Women circumlocute. Time is wasted when
both sides in debate employ the same tactics.

"As a lawyer, sir," began the lady, "you may have
acquired some knowledge of the human heart. Do you
believe that the pusillanimous and petty conventions of
our artificial social life should stand as an obstacle in
the way of a noble and affectionate heart when it finds its
true mate among the miserable and worthless wretches
in the world that are called men?"

"Madam," said Lawyer Gooch, in the tone that he
used in curbing his female clients, "this is an office for
conducting the practice of law. I am a lawyer, not a
philosopher, nor the editor of an 'Answers to the
Lovelorn' column of a newspaper. I have other
clients waiting. I will ask you kindly to come to the

"Well, you needn't get so stiff around the gills about
it," said the lady, with a snap of her luminous eves and
a startling gyration of her umbrella. "Business is what
I've come for. I want your opinion in the matter of a
suit for divorce, as the vulgar would call it, but which is
really only the readjustment of the false and ignoble con-
ditions that the short-sihhted laws of man have interposed
between a loving --"

"I beg your pardon, madam," interrupted Lawyer
Gooch, with some impatience, "for reminding you again
that this is a law office. Perhaps Mrs. Wilcox -- "

"Mrs. Wilcox is all right," cut in the lady, with a hint
of asperity. "And so are Tolstoi, and Mrs. Gertrude
Atherton, and Omar Khayyam, and Mr. Edward Bok.
I've read 'em all. I would like to discuss with you the
divine right of the soul as opposed to the freedom-destroy-
ing restrictions of a bigoted and narrow-minded society.
But I will proceed to business. I would prefer to lay
the matter before you in an impersonal way until vou
pass upon its merits. That is to describe it as a sup-
posable instance, without -- "

"You wish to state a hypothetical case?" said Lawyer

"I was going to say that," said the lady, sharply.
"Now, suppose there is a woman who is all soul and
heart and aspirations for a complete existence. This
woman has a husband who is far below her in intellect, in
taste -- in everything. Bah! he is a brute. He despises
literature. He sneers at the lofty thoughts of the world's
great thinkers. He thinks only of real estate and such
sordid things. He is no mate for a woman with soul.
We will say that this unfortunate wife one day meets
with her ideal -a man with brain and heart and force.
She loves him. Although this man feels the thrill of a
new-found affinity he is too noble, too honourable to
declare himself. He flies from the presence of his
beloved. She flies after him, trampling, with superb
indifference, upon the fetters with which an unenlightened
social system would bind her. Now, what will a divorce
cost? Eliza Ann Timmins, the poetess of Sycamore Gap,
got one for three hundred and forty dollars. Can I --
I mean can this lady I speak of get one that cheap?"

"Madam," said Lawyer Gooch, "your last two or
three sentences delight me with their intelligence and
clearness. Can we not now abandon the hypothetical
and come down to names and business?"

"I should say so," exclaimed the lady, adopting the
practical with admirable readiness. "Thomas R. Bil-
lings is the name of the low brute who stands between
the happiness of his legal -- his legal, but not his spiri-
tual -- wife and Henry K. Jessup, the noble man whom
nature intended for her mate. I," concluded the client,
with an air of dramatic revelation, "am Mrs. Billings!"

"Gentlemen to see you, sir," shouted Archibald, invad-
ing the room almost at a handspring. Lawyer Gooch
arose from his chair.

"Mrs. Billings," he said courteously, "allow me to
conduct you into the adjoining office apartment for a few
minutes. I am expecting a very wealthy old gentleman
on busines connected with a will. In a very short while
I will join you, and continue our consultation."

With his accustomed chivalrous manner, Lawyer
Gooch ushered his soulful client into the remaining
unoccupied room, and came out, closing the door with

The next visitor introduced by Archibald was a thin,
nervous, irritable-looking man of middle age, with a
worried and apprehensive expression of countenance.
He carried in one hand a small satchel, which he set down
upon the floor beside the chair which the lawyer placed
for him. His clothing was of good quality, but it was worn
without regard to neatness or style, and appeared to be
covered with the dust of travel.

"You make a specialty of divorce cases," he said, in,
an agitated but business-like tone.

"I may say," began Lawyer Gooch, "that my prac-
tice has not altogether avoided -- "

"I know you do," interrupted client number three.
"You needn't tell me. I've heard all about you. I have
a case to lay before you without necessarily disclosing
any connection that I might have with it -- that is -- "

"You wish," said Lawyer Gooch, "to state a hvpo-
thetical case.

"You may call it that. I am a plain man of business.
I will be as brief as possible. We will first take up
hypothetical woman. We will say she is married uncon-
genially. In many ways she is a superior woman. Phys-
ically she is considered to be handsome. She is devoted
to what she calls literature -- poetry and prose, and
such stuff. Her husband is a plain man in the business
walks of life. Their home has not been happy, although
the husband has tried to make it so. Some time ago a
man -- a stranger -- came to the peaceful town in which
they lived and engaged in some real estate operations.
This woman met him, and became unaccountably infatu-
ated with him. Her attentions became so open that the
man felt the community to be no safe place for him, so
he left it. She abandoned husband and home, and
followed him. She forsook- her home, where she was
provided with every comfort, to follow this man who had
inspired her with such a strange affection. Is there any-
thing more to be deplored," concluded the client, in a
trembling voice, "than the wrecking of a home by a
woman's uncalculating folly?"

Lawyer Gooch delivered the cautious opinion that there
was not.

"This man she has gone to join," resumed the visitor,
"is not the man to make her happy. It is a wild and
foolish self-deception that makes her think he will. Her
husband, in spite of their many disagreements, is the only
one capable of dealing with her sensitive and peculiar
nature. But this she does not realize now."

"Would you consider a divorce the logical cure in the
case you present?" asked Lawyer Gooch, who felt that
the conversation was wandering too far from the field of

"A divorce!" exclaimed the client, feelingly - almost
tearfully. "No, no-not that. I have read, Mr. Gooch,
of many instances where your sympathy and kindly inter-
est led you to act as a mediator between estranged hus-
band and wife, and brought them together again. Let us
drop the hypothetical case -- I need conceal no longer
that it is I who am the sufferer in this sad affair -- the
names you shall have -- Thomas R. Billings and wife --
and Henry K. Jessup, the man with whom she is

Client number three laid his hand upon Mr. Gooch's
arm. Deep emotion was written upon his careworn
face. "For Heaven's sake", he said fervently, "help
me in this hour of trouble. Seek, out Mrs. Billings, and
persuade her to abandon this distressing pursuit of her
lamentable folly. Tell her, Mr. Gooch, that her husband
is willing to receive her back to his heart and home --
promise her anything that will induce her to return. I
have heard of your success in these matters. Mrs. Bil-
lings cannot be very far away. I am worn out with travel
and weariness. Twice during the pursuit I saw her,
but various circumstances prevented our having an inter-
view. Will you undertake this mission for me, Mr.
Gooch, and earn my everlasting gratitude?"

"It is true," said Lawver Gooch, frowning slightly at
the other's last words, but immediately calling up an
expression of virtuous benevolence, "that on a number
of occasions I have been successful in persuading couples
who sought the severing of their matrimonial bonds to
think better of their rash intentions and return to their
homes reconciled. But I assure you that the work is
often exceedingly difficult. The amount of argument,
perseverance, and, if I may be allowed to say it, eloquence
that it requires would astonish you. But this is a case
in which my sympathies would be wholly enlisted. I
feel deeply for you sir, and I would be most happy to see
husband and wife reunited. But my time," concluded
the lawyer, looking at his watch as if suddenly reminded
of the fact, "is valuable."

"I am aware of that," said the client, "and if you
will take the case and persuade Mrs. Billings to return
home and leave the man alone that she is following --
on that day I will pay you the sum of one thousand
dollars. I have made a little money in real estate during
the recent boom in Susanville, and I will not begrudge
that amount."

"Retain your seat for a few moments, please," said
Lawyer Gooch, arising, and again consulting his watch.
"I have another client waiting in an adjoining room whom
I had very nearly forgotten. I will return in the briefest
possible space."

The situation was now one that fully satisfied Lawyer
Gooch's love of intricacy and complication. He revelled
in cases that presented such subtle problems and possi-
bilities. It pleased him to think that he was master of the
happiness and fate of the three individuals who sat, uncon-
cious of one another's presence, within his reach. His
old figure of the ship glided into his mind. But now the
figure failed, for to have filled every compartment of an
actual vessel would have been to endanger her safety;
with his compartments full, his ship of affairs
could but sail on to the advantageous port of a fine, fat
fee. The thing for him to do, of course, was to wring
the best bargain he could from some one of his anxious

First he called to the office boy: "Lock the outer
door, Archibald, and admit no one." Then he moved,
with long, silent strides into the room in which client
number one waited. That gentleman sat, patiently
scanning the pictures in the magazine, with a cigar in his
mouth and his feet upon a table.

"Well," he remarked, cheerfully, as the lawyer entered,
"have you made up your mind? Does five hundred
dollars go for getting the fair lady a divorce?"

"You mean that as a retainer?" asked Lawyer Gooch,
softly interrogative.

"Hey? No; for the whole job. It's enough, ain't

"My fee," said Lawyer Gooch, "would be one thousand
five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars down, and
the remainder upon issuance of the divorce."

A loud whistle came from client number one. His
feet descended to the floor.

"Guess we can't close the deal," he said, arising, "I
cleaned up five hunderd dollars in a little real estate
dicker down in Susanville. I'd do anything I could to
free the lady, but it out-sizes my pile."

"Could you stand one thousand two hundred dollars?"
asked the lawyer, insinuatingly.

"Five hundred is my limit, I tell you. Guess I'll
have to hunt up a cheaper lawyer." The client put on
his hat.

"Out this way, please," said Lawyer Gooch, opening
the door that led into the hallway.

As the gentleman flowed out of the compartment and
down the stairs, Lawyer Gooch smiled to himself. "Exit
Mr. Jessup," he murmured, as he fingered the Henry
Clay tuft of hair at his ear. "And now for the forsaken
husband." He returned to the middle office, and assumed
a businesslike manner.

"I understand," he said to client number three, "that
you agree to pay one thousand dollars if I bring about,
or am instrumental in bringing about, the return of Mrs.
Billings to her home, and her abandonment of her infatu-
ated pursuit of the man for whom she has conceived such
a violent fancy. Also that the case is now unreservedly in
my hands on that basis. Is that correct?"

"Entirely", said the other, eagerly. And I can
produce the cash any time at two hours' notice."

Lawyer Gooch stood up at his full height. His thin
figure seemed to expand. His thumbs sought the arm-
holes of his vest. Upon his face was a look of sym-
pathetic benignity that he always wore during such

"Then, sir," he said, in kindly tones, "I think I can
promise you an early relief from your troubles. I have
that much confidence in my powers of argument and
persuasion, in the natural impulses of the human heart
toward good, and in the strong influence of a husband's
unfaltering love. Mrs. Billinos, sir, is here -- in that
room -- the lawyer's long arm pointed to the door.
"I will call her in at once; and our united pleadings -- "

Lawyer Gooch paused, for client number three had
leaped from his chair as if propelled by steel springs, and
clutched his satchel.

"What the devil," he exclaimed, harshly, "do vou
mean? That woman in there! I thought I shook her
off forty miles back."

He ran to the open window, looked out below, and threw
one leg over the sill.

"Stop!" cried Lawyer Gooch, in amazement. "What
would you do? Come, Mr. Billings, and face your
erring but innocent wife. Our combined entreaties cannot
fail to -- "

"Billings!" shouted the now thoroughly moved client.
"I'll Billings you, you old idiot!"

Turning, he hurled his satchel with fury at the lawyer's
head. It struck that astounded peacemaker between
the eyes, causing him to stagger backward a pace or two.
When Lawyer Gooch recovered his wits he saw that his
client had disappeared. Rushing to the window, he
leaned out, and saw the recreant gathering himself up from
the top of a shed upon which he had dropped from the
second-story window. Without stopping to collect his
hat he then plunged downward the remaining ten feet
to the alley, up which he flew with prodigious celerity
until the surrounding building swallowed him up from

Lawyer Gooch passed his hand tremblingly across his
brow. It was a habitual act with him, serving to clear
his thoughts. Perhaps also it now seemed to soothe the
spot where a very hard alligator-hide satchel had struck.

The satchel lay upon the floor, wide open, with its con-
tents spilled about. Mechanically, Lawyer Gooch stooped
to gather up the articles. The first was a collar; and
the omniscient eye of the man of law perceived, wonder-
ingly, the initials H.K.J. marked upon it. Then came
a comb, a brush, a folded map, and a piece of soap.
lastly, a handful of old business letters, addressed --
every one of them -- to "Henry K. Jessup, Esq."

Lawyer Gooch closed the satchel, and set it upon the
table. He hesitated for a moment, and then put on his hat
and walked into the office boy's anteroom.

"Archibald," he said mildly, as he opened the hall door,
"I am going around to the Supreme Court rooms. In five
minutes you may step into the inner office, and inform the
lady who is waiting there that" -- here Lawyer Gooch
made use of the vernacular -- "that there's nothing


The New York Enterprise sent H. B. Calloway as
special correspondent to the Russo-Japanese-Portsmouth

For two months Calloway hung about Yokohama
and Tokio, shaking dice with the other correspondents
for drinks of 'rickshaws -- oh, no, that's something to
ride in; anyhow, he wasn't earning the salary that his
paper was paying him. But that was not Calloway's
fault. The little brown men who held the strings of
Fate between their fingers were not ready for the readers
of the Enterprise to season their breakfast bacon and
eggs with the battles of the descendants of the gods.

But soon the column of correspondents that were to
go out with the First Army tightened their field-glass
belts and went down to the Yalu with Kuroki. Calloway
was one of these.

Now, this is no history of the battle of the Yalu River.
That has been told in detail by the correspondents who
gazed at the shrapnel smoke rings from a distance of
three miles. But, for justice's sake, let it be understood
that the Japanese commander prohibited a nearer view.

Calloway's feat was accomplished before the battle.
What he did was to furnish the Enterprise with the
biggest beat of the war. That paper published exclu-
sively and in detail the news of the attack on the lines of
the Russian General on the same day that it
was made. No other paper printed a word about it for
two days afterward, except a London paper, whose
account was absolutely incorrect and untrue.

Calloway did this in face of the fact that General Kuroki
was making, his moves and living his plans with the pro-
foundest secrecy, as far as the world outside his camps was
concerned. The correspondents were forbidden to send out
any news whatever of his plans; and every message that
was allowed on the wires was censored -- with rigid severity.

The correspondent for the London paper handed in
a cablegram describing, Kuroki's plans; but as it was
wrong from beginning to end the censor grinned and let
it go through.

So, there they were -- Kuroki on one side of the Yalu
with forty-two thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry,
and one hundred and twenty-four guns. On the other
side, Zassulitch waited for him with only twenty-three
thousand men, and with a long stretch of river to guard.
And Calloway had got hold of some important inside
information that he knew would bring the Enterprise
staff around a cablegram as thick as flies around a Park
Row lemonade stand. If he could only get that message
past the censor -- the new censor who had arrived and
taken his post that day!

Calloway did the obviously proper thing. He lit his pipe
and sat down on a gun carriage to think it over. And
there we must leave him; for the rest of the story belongs
to Vesey, a sixteen-dollar-a-week reporter on the Enterprise.

Calloway's cablegram was handed to the managing editor
at four o'clock in the afternoon. He read it three times; and
then drew a pocket mirror from a pigeon-hole in his desk,
and looked at his reflection carefully. Then he went over to
the desk of Boyd, his assistant (he usually called Boyd when
he wanted him), and laid the cablegram before him.

"It's from Calloway," he said. "See what you make
of it."

The message was dated at Wi-ju, and these were the
words of it:

Foregone preconcerted rash witching goes muffled
rumour mine dark silent unfortunate richmond existing
great hotly brute select mooted parlous beggars ye angel

Boyd read it twice.

"It's either a cipher or a sunstroke," said he.

"Ever hear of anything like a code in the office -- a
secret code?" asked the m. e., who had held his desk
for only two years. Managing editors come and go.

"None except the vernacular that the lady specials write
in," said Boyd. "Couldn't be an acrostic, could it?"

"I thought of that," said the m. e., "but the beginning
letters contain only four vowels. It must be a code of
some sort."

"Try em in groups," suggested Boyd. "Let's see
-- 'Rash witching goes' -- not with me it doesn't. 'Muf-
fled rumour mine' -- must have an underground wire.
'Dark silent unfortunate richmond' -- no reason why he
should knock that town so hard. 'Existing great hotly'
-- no it doesn't pan out I'll call Scott."

The city editor came in a hurry, and tried his luck.
A city editor must know something about everything;
so Scott knew a little about cipher-writing.

"It may be what is called an inverted alphabet cipher,"
said he. "I'll try that. 'R' seems to be the oftenest
used initial letter, with the exception of 'm.' Assuming
'r' to mean 'e', the most frequently used vowel, we
transpose the letters -- so."

Scott worked rapidly with his pencil for two minutes;
and then showed the first word according to his reading
-- the word "Scejtzez."

"Great!" cried Boyd. "It's a charade. My first
is a Russian general. Go on, Scott."

"No, that won't work," said the city editor. "It's
undoubtedly a code. It's impossible to read it without
the key. Has the office ever used a cipher code?"

"Just what I was asking," said the m.e. "Hustle
everybody up that ought to know. We must get at it
some way. Calloway has evidently got hold of some-
thing big, and the censor has put the screws on, or he
wouldn't have cabled in a lot of chop suey like this."

Throughout the office of the Enterprise a dragnet
was sent, hauling in such members of the staff as would
be likely to know of a code, past or present, by reason
of their wisdom, information, natural intelligence, or
length of servitude. They got together in a group in
the city room, with the m. e. in the centre. No one had
heard of a code. All began to explain to the head investi-
gator that newspapers never use a code, anyhow -- that
is, a cipher code. Of course the Associated Press stuff
is a sort of code -- an abbreviation, rather -- but --

The m. e. knew all that, and said so. He asked each man
how long he had worked on the paper. Not one of them
had drawn pay from an Enterprise envelope for longer than
six years. Calloway had been on the paper twelve years.
"Try old Heffelbauer," said the m. e. "He was here
when Park Row was a potato patch."

Heffelbauer was an institution. He was half janitor,
half handy-man about the office, and half watchman --
thus becoming the peer of thirteen and one-half tailors.

Sent for, he came, radiating his nationality.
"Heffelbauer," said the m. e., "did you ever hear of a
code belonging to the office a long time ago - a private
code? You know what a code is, don't you?"

"Yah," said Heffelbauer. "Sure I know vat a code is.
Yah, apout dwelf or fifteen year ago der office had a code.
Der reborters in der city-room haf it here."

"Ah!" said the m. e. "We're getting on the trail now.
Where was it kept, Heffelbauer? What do you know
about it?"

"Somedimes," said the retainer, "dey keep it in der
little room behind der library room."

"Can you find it asked the m. e. eagerly. "Do you
know where it is?"

"Mein Gott!" said Heffelbauer. "How long you
dink a code live? Der reborters call him a maskeet.
But von day he butt mit his head der editor,
und -- "

"Oh, he's talking about a goat," said Boyd. "Get
out, Heffelbauer."

Again discomfited, the concerted wit and resource of
the Enterprise huddled around Calloway's puzzle, con-
sidering its mysterious words in vain.

Then Vesey came in.

Vesey was the youngest reporter. He had a thirty-
two-inch chest and wore a number fourteen collar; but
his bright Scotch plaid suit gave him presence and con-
ferred no obscurity upon his whereabouts. He wore his
hat in such a position that people followed him about to
see him take it off, convinced that it must be hung upon
a peg driven into the back of his head. He was never
without an immense, knotted, hard-wood cane with a
German-silver tip on its crooked handle. Vesey was
the best photograph hustler in the office. Scott said it
was because no living human being could resist the per-
sonal triumph it was to hand his picture over to Vesey.
Vesey always wrote his own news stories, except the big
ones, which were sent to the rewrite men. Add to this
fact that among all the inhabitants, temples, and groves
of the earth nothing existed that could abash Vesey, and
his dim sketch is concluded.

Vesey butted into the circle of cipher readers very much
as Heffelbauer's "code" would have done, and asked
what was up. Some one explained, with the touch of
half-familiar condescension that they always used toward
him. Vesey reached out and took the cablegram from
the m. e.'s hand. Under the protection of some special
Providence, he was always doing appalling things like
that, and coming, off unscathed.

"It's a code," said Vesey. "Anybody got the key?"

"The office has no code," said Boyd, reaching for the
message. Vesey held to it.

"Then old Callowav expects us to read it, anyhow,"
said he. "He's up a tree, or something, and he's made
this up so as to get it by, the censor. It's up to us. Gee!
I wish they had sell, me, too. Say -- we can't afford to
fall down on our end of it. 'Foregone, preconcerted
rash, witching' -- h'm."

Vesey sat down on a table corner and began to whistle
softly, frowning at the cablegram.

"Let's have it, please," said the m. e. "We've got to
get to work on it."

"I believe I've got a line on it," said Vesey. "Give
me ten minutes."

He walked to his desk, threw his hat into a waste-basket,
spread out flat on his chest like a gorgeous lizard, and
started his pencil going. The wit and wisdom of the
Enterprise remained in a loose group, and smiled at one
another, nodding their heads toward Vesey. Then they
began to exchange their theories about the cipher.

It took Vesey exactly fifteen minutes. He brought to
the m. e. a pad with the code-key written on it.

"I felt the swing of it as soon as I saw it," said Vesey.
"Hurrah for old Calloway! He's done the Japs and
every paper in town that prints literature instead of news.
Take a look at that."

Thus had Vesey set forth the reading of the code:

Foregone - conclusion
Preconcerted - arrangement
Rash - act
Witching - hour of midnight
Goes - without saying
Muffled - report
Rumour - hath it

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