Nam-Bok, the Unveracious

    Negore, the Coward

    The Night-Born

    A Night’s Swim in Yeddo Bay

    A Northland Miracle

    A Nose For the King

    O Haru

    An Odyssey of the North

    Old Baldy

    An Old Soldier’s Story

    On the Makaloa Mat

    The One Thousand Dozen

    The Passing of Marcus O’Brien

    The Pearls of Parlay

    A Piece of Steak

    The Plague Ship

    Planchette

    Pluck and Pertinacity

    The Priestly Prerogative

    The Princess

    The Prodigal Father

    The Proud Goat of Aloysius Pankburn

    The Race For Number Three

    A Raid On the Oyster Pirates

    The Red One

    The Rejuvenation of Major Rathbone

    A Relic of the Pliocene

    Sakaicho, Hona Asi and Hakadaki

    Samuel

    The Scorn of Women

    The Sea Farmer

    The Seed of Mccoy

    Semper Idem

    The Shadow and the Flash

    The Sheriff of Kona

    Shin-Bones

    Shorty Dreams

    The Sickness of Lone Chief

    Siwash

    A Son of the Sun

    The Sun of the Wolf

    South of the Slot

    The Stampede to Squaw Creek.

    Story of a Typhoon

    The Story of Jees Uck

    The Story of Keesh

    The Strange Experience of a Misogynist

    The Strength of the Strong

    The Sun Dog Trail

    The Sunlanders

    The Taste of the Meat

    The Tears of Ah Kim

    The Terrible Solomons

    The Test: a Clondyke Wooing

    Thanksgiving On Slav Creek

    That Spot

    Their Alcove

    A Thousand Deaths

    To Kill a Man

    To Repel Boarders

    To the Man On the Trail

    Told in the Drooling Ward

    Too Much Gold

    The Town-Site of Tra-Lee

    Trust

    Two Gold Bricks

    Under the Deck Awnings

    The Unexpected

    The Unmasking of a Cad

    The Unparalleled Invasion

    Up The Slide

    War

    The Water Baby

    The Whale Tooth

    When Alice Told Her Soul

    When God Laughs

    When the World Was Young

    Where the Trail Forks

    Which Make Men Remember

    White and Yellow

    The White Man’s Way

    The White Silence

    Whose Business is To Live

    A Wicked Woman

    The Wife of a King

    Winged Blackmail

    The Wisdom of the Trail

    The Wit of Porportuk

    Wonder of Woman

    Yellow Handkerchief

Nam-Bok, the Unveracious

“A bidarka, is it not so? Look! a bidarka, and one man who drives clumsily with a paddle!”

Old Bask-Wah-Wan rose to her knees, trembling with weakness and eagerness, and gazed out over the sea.

“Nam-Bok was ever clumsy at the paddle,” she maundered reminiscently, shading the sun from her eyes and staring across the silver-spilled water. “Nam-Bok was ever clumsy. I remember....”

But the women and children laughed loudly, and there was a gentle mockery in their laughter, and her voice dwindled till her lips moved without sound.

Koogah lifted his grizzled head from his bone-carving and followed the path of her eyes. Except when wide yaws took it off its course, a bidarka was heading in for the beach. Its occupant was paddling with more strength than dexterity, and made his approach along the zigzag line of most resistance. Koogah’s head dropped to his work again, and on the ivory tusk between his knees he scratched the dorsal fin of a fish the like of which never swam in the sea.

“It is doubtless the man from the next village,” he said finally, “come to consult with me about the marking of things on bone. And the man is a clumsy man. He will never know how.”

“It is Nam-Bok,” old Bask-Wah-Wan repeated. “Should I not know my son?” she demanded shrilly. “I say, and I say again, it is Nam-Bok.”

“And so thou hast said these many summers,” one of the women chided softly. “Ever when the ice passed out of the sea hast thou sat and watched through the long day, saying at each chance canoe, ‘This is Nam-Bok.’ Nam-Bok is dead, O Bask-Wah-Wan, and the dead do not come back. It cannot be that the dead come back.”

“Nam-Bok!” the old woman cried, so loud and clear that the whole village was startled and looked at her.

She struggled to her feet and tottered down the sand. She stumbled over a baby lying in the sun, and the mother hushed its crying and hurled harsh words after the old woman, who took no notice. The children ran down the beach in advance of her, and as the man in the bidarka drew closer, nearly capsizing with one of his ill-directed strokes, the women followed. Koogah dropped his walrus tusk and went also, leaning heavily upon his staff, and after him loitered the men in twos and threes.

The bidarka turned broadside and the ripple of surf threatened to swamp it, only a naked boy ran into the water and pulled the bow high up on the sand. The man stood up and sent a questing glance along the line of villagers. A rainbow sweater, dirty and the worse for wear, clung loosely to his broad shoulders, and a red cotton handkerchief was knotted in sailor fashion about his throat. A fisherman’s tam-o’-shanter on his close-clipped head, and dungaree trousers and heavy brogans, completed his outfit.

But he was none the less a striking personage to these simple fisherfolk of the great Yukon Delta, who, all their lives, had stared out on Bering Sea and in that time seen but two white men, — the census enumerator and a lost Jesuit priest. They were a poor people, with neither gold in the ground nor valuable furs in hand, so the whites had passed them afar. Also, the Yukon, through the thousands of years, had shoaled that portion of the sea with the detritus of Alaska till vessels grounded out of sight of land. So the sodden coast, with its long inside reaches and huge mud-land archipelagoes, was avoided by the ships of men, and the fisherfolk knew not that such things were.

Koogah, the Bone-Scratcher, retreated backward in sudden haste, tripping over his staff and falling to the ground. “Nam-Bok!” he cried, as he scrambled wildly for footing. “Nam-Bok, who was blown off to sea, come back!”

The men and women shrank away, and the children scuttled off between their legs. Only Opee-Kwan was brave, as befitted the head man of the village. He strode forward and gazed long and earnestly at the new-comer.

“It is Nam-Bok,” he said at last, and at the conviction in his voice the women wailed apprehensively and drew farther away.

The lips of the stranger moved indecisively, and his brown throat writhed and wrestled with unspoken words.

“La la, it is Nam-Bok,” Bask-Wah-Wan croaked, peering up into his face. “Ever did I say Nam-Bok would come back.”

“Ay, it is Nam-Bok come back.” This time it was Nam-Bok himself who spoke, putting a leg over the side of the bidarka and standing with one foot afloat and one ashore. Again his throat writhed and wrestled as he grappled after forgotten words. And when the words came forth they were strange of sound and a spluttering of the lips accompanied the gutturals. “Greeting, O brothers,” he said, “brothers of old time before I went away with the off-shore wind.”

He stepped out with both feet on the sand, and Opee-Kwan waved him back.

“Thou art dead, Nam-Bok,” he said.

Nam-Bok laughed. “I am fat.”

“Dead men are not fat,” Opee-Kwan confessed. “Thou hast fared well, but it is strange. No man may mate with the off-shore wind and come back on the heels of the years.”

“I have come back,” Nam-Bok answered simply.

“Mayhap thou art a shadow, then, a passing shadow of the Nam-Bok that was. Shadows come back.”

“I am hungry. Shadows do not eat.”

But Opee-Kwan doubted, and brushed his hand across his brow in sore puzzlement. Nam-Bok was likewise puzzled, and as he looked up and down the line found no welcome in the eyes of the fisherfolk. The men and women whispered together. The children stole timidly back among their elders, and bristling dogs fawned up to him and sniffed suspiciously.

“I bore thee, Nam-Bok, and I gave thee suck when thou wast little,” Bask-Wah-Wan whimpered, drawing closer; “and shadow though thou be, or no shadow, I will give thee to eat now.”

Nam-Bok made to come to her, but a growl of fear and menace warned him back. He said something in a strange tongue which sounded like “Goddam,” and added, “No shadow am I, but a man.”

“Who may know concerning the things of mystery?” Opee-Kwan demanded, half of himself and half of his tribespeople. “We are, and in a breath we are not. If the man may become shadow, may not the shadow become man? Nam-Bok was, but is not. This we know, but we do not know if this be Nam-Bok or the shadow of Nam-Bok.”

Nam-Bok cleared his throat and made answer. “In the old time long ago, thy father’s father, Opee-Kwan, went away and came back on the heels of the years. Nor was a place by the fire denied him. It is said ...” He paused significantly, and they hung on his utterance. “It is said,” he repeated, driving his point home with deliberation, “that Sipsip, his klooch, bore him two sons after he came back.”

“But he had no doings with the off-shore wind,” Opee-Kwan retorted. “He went away into the heart of the land, and it is in the nature of things that a man may go on and on into the land.”

“And likewise the sea. But that is neither here nor there. It is said . . . that thy father’s father told strange tales of the things he saw.”

“Ay, strange tales he told.”

“I, too, have strange tales to tell,” Nam-Bok stated insidiously. And, as they wavered, “And presents likewise.”

He pulled from the bidarka a shawl, marvellous of texture and color, and flung it about his mother’s shoulders. The women voiced a collective sigh of admiration, and old Bask-Wah-Wan ruffled the gay material and patted it and crooned in childish joy.

“He has tales to tell,” Koogah muttered. “And presents,” a woman seconded.

And Opee-Kwan knew that his people were eager, and further, he was aware himself of an itching curiosity concerning those untold tales. “The fishing has been good,” he said judiciously, “and we have oil in plenty. So come, Nam-Bok, let us feast.”

Two of the men hoisted the bidarka on their shoulders and carried it up to the fire. Nam-Bok walked by the side of Opee-Kwan, and the villagers followed after, save those of the women who lingered a moment to lay caressing fingers on the shawl.

There was little talk while the feast went on, though many and curious were the glances stolen at the son of Bask-Wah-Wan. This embarrassed him — not because he was modest of spirit, however, but for the fact that the stench of the seal-oil had robbed him of his appetite, and that he keenly desired to conceal his feelings on the subject.

“Eat; thou art hungry,” Opee-Kwan commanded, and Nam-Bok shut both his eyes and shoved his fist into the big pot of putrid fish.

“La la, be not ashamed. The seal were many this year, and strong men are ever hungry.” And Bask-Wah-Wan sopped a particularly offensive chunk of salmon into the oil and passed it fondly and dripping to her son.

In despair, when premonitory symptoms warned him that his stomach was not so strong as of old, he filled his pipe and struck up a smoke. The people fed on noisily and watched. Few of them could boast of intimate acquaintance with the precious weed, though now and again small quantities and abominable qualities were obtained in trade from the Eskimos to the northward. Koogah, sitting next to him, indicated that he was not averse to taking a draw, and between two mouthfuls, with the oil thick on his lips, sucked away at the amber stem. And thereupon Nam-Bok held his stomach with a shaky hand and declined the proffered return. Koogah could keep the pipe, he said, for he had intended so to honor him from the first. And the people licked their fingers and approved of his liberality.

Opee-Kwan rose to his feet “And now, O Nam-Bok, the feast is ended, and we would listen concerning the strange things you have seen.”

The fisherfolk applauded with their hands, and gathering about them their work, prepared to listen. The men were busy fashioning spears and carving on ivory, while the women scraped the fat from the hides of the hair seal and made them pliable or sewed muclucs with threads of sinew. Nam-Bok’s eyes roved over the scene, but there was not the charm about it that his recollection had warranted him to expect. During the years of his wandering he had looked forward to just this scene, and now that it had come he was disappointed. It was a bare and meagre life, he deemed, and not to be compared to the one to which he had become used. Still, he would open their eyes a bit, and his own eyes sparkled at the thought.

“Brothers,” he began, with the smug complacency of a man about to relate the big things he has done, “it was late summer of many summers back, with much such weather as this promises to be, when I went away. You all remember the day, when the gulls flew low, and the wind blew strong from the land, and I could not hold my bidarka against it. I tied the covering of the bidarka about me so that no water could get in, and all of the night I fought with the storm. And in the morning there was no land, — only the sea, — and the off-shore wind held me close in its arms and bore me along. Three such nights whitened into dawn and showed me no land, and the off-shore wind would not let me go.

“And when the fourth day came, I was as a madman. I could not dip my paddle for want of food; and my head went round and round, what of the thirst that was upon me. But the sea was no longer angry, and the soft south wind was blowing, and as I looked about me I saw a sight that made me think I was indeed mad.”

Nam-Bok paused to pick away a sliver of salmon lodged between his teeth, and the men and women, with idle hands and heads craned forward, waited.

“It was a canoe, a big canoe. If all the canoes I have ever seen were made into one canoe, it would not be so large.”

There were exclamations of doubt, and Koogah, whose years were many, shook his head.

“If each bidarka were as a grain of sand,” Nam-Bok defiantly continued, “and if there were as many bidarkas as there be grains of sand in this beach, still would they not make so big a canoe as this I saw on the morning of the fourth day. It was a very big canoe, and it was called a schooner. I saw this thing of wonder, this great schooner, coming after me, and on it I saw men — ”

“Hold, O Nam-Bok!” Opee-Kwan broke in. “What manner of men were they? — big men?”

“Nay, mere men like you and me.”

“Did the big canoe come fast?”

“Ay.”

“The sides were tall, the men short.” Opee-Kwan stated the premises with conviction. “And did these men dip with long paddles?”

Nam-Bok grinned. “There were no paddles,” he said.

Mouths remained open, and a long silence dropped down. Opee-Kwan borrowed Koogah’s pipe for a couple of contemplative sucks. One of the younger women giggled nervously and drew upon herself angry eyes.

“There were no paddles?” Opee-Kwan asked softly, returning the pipe.

“The south wind was behind,” Nam-Bok explained.

“But the wind-drift is slow.”

“The schooner had wings — thus.” He sketched a diagram of masts and sails in the sand, and the men crowded around and studied it. The wind was blowing briskly, and for more graphic elucidation he seized the corners of his mother’s shawl and spread them out till it bellied like a sail. Bask-Wah-Wan scolded and struggled, but was blown down the beach for a score of feet and left breathless and stranded in a heap of driftwood. The men uttered sage grunts of comprehension, but Koogah suddenly tossed back his hoary head.

“Ho! Ho!” he laughed. “A foolish thing, this big canoe! A most foolish thing! The plaything of the wind! Wheresoever the wind goes, it goes too. No man who journeys therein may name the landing beach, for always he goes with the wind, and the wind goes everywhere, but no man knows where.”

“It is so,” Opee-Kwan supplemented gravely. “With the wind the going is easy, but against the wind a man striveth hard; and for that they had no paddles these men on the big canoe did not strive at all.”

“Small need to strive,” Nam-Bok cried angrily. “The schooner went likewise against the wind.”

“And what said you made the sch — sch — schooner go?” Koogah asked, tripping craftily over the strange word.

“The wind,” was the impatient response.

“Then the wind made the sch — sch — schooner go against the wind.” Old Koogah dropped an open leer to Opee-Kwan, and, the laughter growing around him, continued: “The wind blows from the south and blows the schooner south. The wind blows against the wind. The wind blows one way and the other at the same time. It is very simple. We understand, Nam-Bok. We clearly understand.”

“Thou art a fool!”

“Truth falls from thy lips,” Koogah answered meekly. “I was over-long in understanding, and the thing was simple.”

But Nam-Bok’s face was dark, and he said rapid words which they had never heard before. Bone-scratching and skin-scraping were resumed, but he shut his lips tightly on the tongue that could not be believed.

“This sch — sch — schooner,” Koogah imperturbably asked; “it was made of a big tree?”

“It was made of many trees,” Nam-Bok snapped shortly. “It was very big.”

He lapsed into sullen silence again, and Opee-Kwan nudged Koogah, who shook his head with slow amazement and murmured, “It is very strange.”

Nam-bok took the bait. “That is nothing,” he said airily; “you should see the steamer. As the grain of sand is to the bidarka, as the bidarka is to the schooner, so the schooner is to the steamer. Further, the steamer is made of iron. It is all iron.”

“Nay, nay, Nam-Bok,” cried the head man; “how can that be? Always iron goes to the bottom. For behold, I received an iron knife in trade from the head man of the next village, and yesterday the iron knife slipped from my fingers and went down, down, into the sea. To all things there be law. Never was there one thing outside the law. This we know. And, moreover, we know that things of a kind have the one law, and that all iron has the one law. So unsay thy words, Nam-Bok, that we may yet honor thee.”

“It is so,” Nam-Bok persisted. “The steamer is all iron and does not sink.”

“Nay, nay; this cannot be.”

“With my own eyes I saw it.”

“It is not in the nature of things.”

“But tell me, Nam-Bok,” Koogah interrupted, for fear the tale would go no farther, “tell me the manner of these men in finding their way across the sea when there is no land by which to steer.”

“The sun points out the path.”

“But how?”

“At midday the head man of the schooner takes a thing through which his eye looks at the sun, and then he makes the sun climb down out of the sky to the edge of the earth.”

“Now this be evil medicine!” cried Opee-Kwan, aghast at the sacrilege. The men held up their hands in horror, and the women moaned. “This be evil medicine. It is not good to misdirect the great sun which drives away the night and gives us the seal, the salmon, and warm weather.”

“What if it be evil medicine?” Nam-Bok demanded truculently. “I, too, have looked through the thing at the sun and made the sun climb down out of the sky.”

Those who were nearest drew away from him hurriedly, and a woman covered the face of a child at her breast so that his eye might not fall upon it.

“But on the morning of the fourth day, O Nam-Bok,” Koogah suggested; “on the morning of the fourth day when the sch — sch — schooner came after thee?”

“I had little strength left in me and could not run away. So I was taken on board and water was poured down my throat and good food given me. Twice, my brothers, you have seen a white man. These men were all white and as many as have I fingers and toes. And when I saw they were full of kindness, I took heart, and I resolved to bring away with me report of all that I saw. And they taught me the work they did, and gave me good food and a place to sleep.

“And day after day we went over the sea, and each day the head man drew the sun down out of the sky and made it tell where we were. And when the waves were kind, we hunted the fur seal and I marvelled much, for always did they fling the meat and the fat away and save only the skin.”

Opee-Kwan’s mouth was twitching violently, and he was about to make denunciation of such waste when Koogah kicked him to be still.

“After a weary time, when the sun was gone and the bite of the frost come into the air, the head man pointed the nose of the schooner south. South and east we travelled for days upon days, with never the land in sight, and we were near to the village from which hailed the men — ”

“How did they know they were near?” Opee-Kwan, unable to contain himself longer, demanded. “There was no land to see.”

Nam-Bok glowered on him wrathfully. “Did I not say the head man brought the sun down out of the sky?”

Koogah interposed, and Nam-Bok went on.

“As I say, when we were near to that village a great storm blew up, and in the night we were helpless and knew not where we were — ”

“Thou hast just said the head man knew — ”

“Oh, peace, Opee-Kwan! Thou art a fool and cannot understand. As I say, we were helpless in the night, when I heard, above the roar of the storm, the sound of the sea on the beach. And next we struck with a mighty crash and I was in the water, swimming. It was a rock-bound coast, with one patch of beach in many miles, and the law was that I should dig my hands into the sand and draw myself clear of the surf. The other men must have pounded against the rocks, for none of them came ashore but the head man, and him I knew only by the ring on his finger.

“When day came, there being nothing of the schooner, I turned my face to the land and journeyed into it that I might get food and look upon the faces of the people. And when I came to a house I was taken in and given to eat, for I had learned their speech, and the white men are ever kindly. And it was a house bigger than all the houses built by us and our fathers before us.”

“It was a mighty house,” Koogah said, masking his unbelief with wonder.

“And many trees went into the making of such a house,” Opee-Kwan added, taking the cue.

“That is nothing.” Nam-Bok shrugged his shoulders in belittling fashion. “As our houses are to that house, so that house was to the houses I was yet to see.”

“And they are not big men?”

“Nay; mere men like you and me,” Nam-Bok answered. “I had cut a stick that I might walk in comfort, and remembering that I was to bring report to you, my brothers, I cut a notch in the stick for each person who lived in that house. And I stayed there many days, and worked, for which they gave me money — a thing of which you know nothing, but which is very good.

“And one day I departed from that place to go farther into the land. And as I walked I met many people, and I cut smaller notches in the stick, that there might be room for all. Then I came upon a strange thing. On the ground before me was a bar of iron, as big in thickness as my arm, and a long step away was another bar of iron — ”

“Then wert thou a rich man,” Opee-Kwan asserted; “for iron be worth more than anything else in the world. It would have made many knives.”

“Nay, it was not mine.”

“It was a find, and a find be lawful.”

“Not so; the white men had placed it there And further, these bars were so long that no man could carry them away — so long that as far as I could see there was no end to them.”

“Nam-Bok, that is very much iron,” Opee-Kwan cautioned.

“Ay, it was hard to believe with my own eyes upon it; but I could not gainsay my eyes. And as I looked I heard....” He turned abruptly upon the head man. “Opee-Kwan, thou hast heard the sea-lion bellow in his anger. Make it plain in thy mind of as many sea-lions as there be waves to the sea, and make it plain that all these sea-lions be made into one sea-lion, and as that one sea-lion would bellow so bellowed the thing I heard.”

The fisherfolk cried aloud in astonishment, and Opee-Kwan’s jaw lowered and remained lowered.

“And in the distance I saw a monster like unto a thousand whales. It was one-eyed, and vomited smoke, and it snorted with exceeding loudness. I was afraid and ran with shaking legs along the path between the bars. But it came with the speed of the wind, this monster, and I leaped the iron bars with its breath hot on my face. . . .”

Opee-Kwan gained control of his jaw again. “And — and then, O Nam-Bok?”

“Then it came by on the bars, and harmed me not; and when my legs could hold me up again it was gone from sight. And it is a very common thing in that country. Even the women and children are not afraid. Men make them to do work, these monsters.”

“As we make our dogs do work?” Koogah asked, with sceptic twinkle in his eye.

“Ay, as we make our dogs do work.”

“And how do they breed these — these things?” Opee-Kwan questioned.

“They breed not at all. Men fashion them cunningly of iron, and feed them with stone, and give them water to drink. The stone becomes fire, and the water becomes steam, and the steam of the water is the breath of their nostrils, and — ”

“There, there, O Nam-Bok,” Opee-Kwan interrupted. “Tell us of other wonders. We grow tired of this which we may not understand.”

“You do not understand?” Nam-Bok asked despairingly.

“Nay, we do not understand,” the men and women wailed back. “We cannot understand.”

Nam-Bok thought of a combined harvester, and of the machines wherein visions of living men were to be seen, and of the machines from which came the voices of men, and he knew his people could never understand.

“Dare I say I rode this iron monster through the land?” he asked bitterly.

Opee-Kwan threw up his hands, palms outward, in open incredulity. “Say on; say anything. We listen.”

“Then did I ride the iron monster, for which I gave money — ”

“Thou saidst it was fed with stone.”

“And likewise, thou fool, I said money was a thing of which you know nothing. As I say, I rode the monster through the land, and through many villages, until I came to a big village on a salt arm of the sea. And the houses shoved their roofs among the stars in the sky, and the clouds drifted by them, and everywhere was much smoke. And the roar of that village was like the roar of the sea in storm, and the people were so many that I flung away my stick and no longer remembered the notches upon it.”

“Hadst thou made small notches,” Koogah reproved, “thou mightst have brought report.”

Nam-Bok whirled upon him in anger. “Had I made small notches! Listen, Koogah, thou scratcher of bone! If I had made small notches, neither the stick, nor twenty sticks, could have borne them — nay, not all the driftwood of all the beaches between this village and the next. And if all of you, the women and children as well, were twenty times as many, and if you had twenty hands each, and in each hand a stick and a knife, still the notches could not be cut for the people I saw, so many were they and so fast did they come and go.”

“There cannot be so many people in all the world,” Opee-Kwan objected, for he was stunned and his mind could not grasp such magnitude of numbers.

“What dost thou know of all the world and how large it is?” Nam-Bok demanded.

“But there cannot be so many people in one place.”

“Who art thou to say what can be and what cannot be?”

“It stands to reason there cannot be so many people in one place. Their canoes would clutter the sea till there was no room. And they could empty the sea each day of its fish, and they would not all be fed.”

“So it would seem,” Nam-Bok made final answer; “yet it was so. With my own eyes I saw, and flung my stick away.” He yawned heavily and rose to his feet. “I have paddled far. The day has been long, and I am tired. Now I will sleep, and to-morrow we will have further talk upon the things I have seen.”

Bask-Wah-Wan, hobbling fearfully in advance, proud indeed, yet awed by her wonderful son, led him to her igloo and stowed him away among the greasy, ill-smelling furs. But the men lingered by the fire, and a council was held wherein was there much whispering and low-voiced discussion.

An hour passed, and a second, and Nam-Bok slept, and the talk went on. The evening sun dipped toward the northwest, and at eleven at night was nearly due north. Then it was that the head man and the bone-scratcher separated themselves from the council and aroused Nam-Bok. He blinked up into their faces and turned on his side to sleep again. Opee-Kwan gripped him by the arm and kindly but firmly shook his senses back into him.

“Come, Nam-Bok, arise!” he commanded. “It be time.”

“Another feast?” Nam-Bok cried. “Nay, I am not hungry. Go on with the eating and let me sleep.”

“Time to be gone!” Koogah thundered.

But Opee-Kwan spoke more softly. “Thou wast bidarka-mate with me when we were boys,” he said. “Together we first chased the seal and drew the salmon from the traps. And thou didst drag me back to life, Nam-Bok, when the sea closed over me and I was sucked down to the black rocks. Together we hungered and bore the chill of the frost, and together we crawled beneath the one fur and lay close to each other. And because of these things, and the kindness in which I stood to thee, it grieves me sore that thou shouldst return such a remarkable liar. We cannot understand, and our heads be dizzy with the things thou hast spoken. It is not good, and there has been much talk in the council. Wherefore we send thee away, that our heads may remain clear and strong and be not troubled by the unaccountable things.”

“These things thou speakest of be shadows,” Koogah took up the strain. “From the shadow-world thou hast brought them, and to the shadow-world thou must return them. Thy bidarka be ready, and the tribespeople wait. They may not sleep until thou art gone.”

Nam-Bok was perplexed, but hearkened to the voice of the head man.

“If thou art Nam-Bok,” Opee-Kwan was saying, “thou art a fearful and most wonderful liar; if thou art the shadow of Nam-Bok, then thou speakest of shadows, concerning which it is not good that living men have knowledge. This great village thou hast spoken of we deem the village of shadows. Therein flutter the souls of the dead; for the dead be many and the living few. The dead do not come back. Never have the dead come back — save thou with thy wonder-tales. It is not meet that the dead come back, and should we permit it, great trouble may be our portion.”

Nam-Bok knew his people well and was aware that the voice of the council was supreme. So he allowed himself to be led down to the water’s edge, where he was put aboard his bidarka and a paddle thrust into his hand. A stray wild-fowl honked somewhere to seaward, and the surf broke limply and hollowly on the sand. A dim twilight brooded over land and water, and in the north the sun smouldered, vague and troubled, and draped about with blood-red mists. The gulls were flying low. The off-shore wind blew keen and chill, and the black-massed clouds behind it gave promise of bitter weather.

“Out of the sea thou earnest,” Opee-Kwan chanted oracularly, “and back into the sea thou goest. Thus is balance achieved and all things brought to law.”

Bask-Wah-Wan limped to the froth-mark and cried, “I bless thee, Nam-Bok, for that thou remembered me.”

But Koogah, shoving Nam-Bok clear of the beach, tore the shawl from her shoulders and flung it into the bidarka.

“It is cold in the long nights,” she wailed; “and the frost is prone to nip old bones.”

“The thing is a shadow,” the bone-scratcher answered, “and shadows cannot keep thee warm.”

Nam-Bok stood up that his voice might carry. “O Bask-Wah-Wan, mother that bore me!” he called. “Listen to the words of Nam-Bok, thy son. There be room in his bidarka for two, and he would that thou camest with him. For his journey is to where there are fish and oil in plenty. There the frost comes not, and life is easy, and the things of iron do the work of men. Wilt thou come, O Bask-Wah-Wan?”

She debated a moment, while the bidarka drifted swiftly from her, then raised her voice to a quavering treble. “I am old, Nam-Bok, and soon I shall pass down among the shadows. But I have no wish to go before my time. I am old, Nam-Bok, and I am afraid.”

A shaft of light shot across the dim-lit sea and wrapped boat and man in a splendor of red and gold. Then a hush fell upon the fisherfolk, and only was heard the moan of the off-shore wind and the cries of the gulls flying low in the air.

Negore, the Coward

HE had followed the trail of his fleeing people for eleven days, and his pursuit had been in itself a flight; for behind him he knew full well were the dreaded Russians, toiling through the swampy lowlands and over the steep divides, bent on no less than the extermination of all his people. He was travelling light. A rabbit-skin sleeping-robe, a muzzle-loading rifle, and a few pounds of sun-dried salmon constituted his outfit. He would have marvelled that a whole people-women and children and aged — could travel so swiftly, had he not known the terror that drove them on.

It was in the old days of the Russian occupancy of Alaska, when the nineteenth century had run but half its course, that Negore fled after his fleeing tribe and came upon it this summer night by the head waters of the Pee-lat. Though near the midnight hour, it was bright day as he passed through the weary camp. Many saw him, all knew him, but few and cold were the greetings he received.

“Negore, the Coward,” he heard Illiha, a young woman, laugh, and Sun-ne, his sister’s daughter, laughed with her.

Black anger ate at his heart; but he gave no sign, threading his way among the camp-fires until he came to one where sat an old man. A young woman was kneading with skilful fingers the tired muscles of his legs. He raised a sightless face and listened intently as Negore’s foot crackled a dead twig.

“Who comes?” he queried in a thin, tremulous voice.

“Negore,” said the young woman, scarcely looking up from her task.

Negore’s face was expressionless. For many minutes he stood and waited. The old man’s head had sunk back upon his chest. The young woman pressed and prodded the wasted muscles, resting her body on her knees, her bowed head hidden as in a cloud by her black wealth of hair. Negore watched the supple body, bending at the hips as a lynx’s body might bend, pliant as a young willow stalk, and, withal, strong as only youth is strong. He looked, and was aware of a great yearning, akin in sensation to physical hunger. At last he spoke, saying:

“Is there no greeting for Negore, who has been long gone and has but now come back?”

She looked up at him with cold eyes. The old man chuckled to himself after the manner of the old.

“Thou art my woman, Oona,” Negore said, his tones dominant and conveying a hint of menace.

She arose with catlike ease and suddenness to her full height, her eyes flashing, her nostrils quivering like a deer’s.

“I was thy woman to be, Negore, but thou art a coward; the daughter of Old Kinoos mates not with a coward!”

She silenced him with an imperious gesture as he strove to speak.

“Old Kinoos and I came among you from a strange land. Thy people took us in by their fires and made us warm, nor asked whence or why we wandered. It was their thought that Old Kinoos had lost the sight of his eyes from age; nor did Old Kinoos say otherwise, nor did I, his daughter. Old Kinoos is a brave man, but Old Kinoos was never a boaster. And now, when I tell thee of how his blindness came to be, thou wilt know, beyond question, that the daughter of Kinoos cannot mother the children of a coward such as thou art, Negore.”

Again she silenced the speech that rushed up to his tongue.

“Know, Negore, if journey be added unto journey of all thy journeyings through this land, thou wouldst not come to the unknown Sitka on the Great Salt Sea. In that place there be many Russian folk, and their rule is harsh. And from Sitka, Old Kinoos, who was Young Kinoos in those days, fled away with me, a babe in his arms, along the islands in the midst of the sea. My mother dead tells the tale of his wrong; a Russian, dead with a spear through breast and back, tells the tale of the vengeance of Kinoos.

“But wherever we fled, and however far we fled, always did we find the hated Russian folk. Kinoos was unafraid, but the sight of them was a hurt to his eyes; so we fled on and on, through the seas and years, till we came to the Great Fog Sea, Negore, of which thou hast heard, but which thou hast never seen. We lived among many peoples, and I grew to be a woman; but Kinoos, growing old, took to him no other woman, nor did I take a man.

“At last we came to Pastolik, which is where the Yukon drowns itself in the Great Fog Sea. Here we lived long, on the rim of the sea, among a people by whom the Russians were well hated. But sometimes they came, these Russians, in great ships, and made the people of Pastolik show them the way through the islands uncountable of the many-mouthed Yukon. And sometimes the men they took to show them the way never came back, till the people became angry and planned a great plan.

“So, when there came a ship, Old Kinoos stepped forward and said he would show the way. He was an old man then, and his hair was white; but he was unafraid. And he was cunning, for he took the ship to where the sea sucks in to the land and the waves beat white on the mountain called Romanoff. The sea sucked the ship in to where the waves beat white, and it ground upon the rocks and broke open its sides. Then came all the people of Pastolik, (for this was the plan), with their war-spears, and arrows, and some few guns. But first the Russians put out the eyes of Old Kinoos that he might never show the way again, and then they fought, where the waves beat white, with the people of Pastolik.

“Now the head-man of these Russians was Ivan. He it was, with his two thumbs, who drove out the eyes of Kinoos. He it was who fought his way through the white water, with two men left of all his men, and went away along the rim of the Great Fog Sea into the north. Kinoos was wise. He could see no more and was helpless as a child. So he fled away from the sea, up the great, strange Yukon, even to Nulato, and I fled with him.

“This was the deed my father did, Kinoos, an old man. But how did the young man, Negore?”

Once again she silenced him.

“With my own eyes I saw, at Nulato, before the gates of the great fort, and but few days gone. I saw the Russian, Ivan, who thrust out my father’s eyes, lay the lash of his dog-whip upon thee and beat thee like a dog. This I saw, and knew thee for a coward. But I saw thee not, that night, when all thy people-yea, even the boys not yet hunters — fell upon the Russians and slew them all.”

“Not Ivan,” said Negore, quietly. “Even now is he on our heels, and with him many Russians fresh up from the sea.”

Oona made no effort to hide her surprise and chagrin that Ivan was not dead, but went on:

“In the day I saw thee a coward; in the night, when all men fought, even the boys not yet hunters, I saw thee not and knew thee doubly a coward.”

“Thou art done? All done?” Negore asked.

She nodded her head and looked at him askance, as though astonished that he should have aught to say.

“Know then that Negore is no coward,” he said; and his speech was very low and quiet. “Know that when I was yet a boy I journeyed alone down to the place where the Yukon drowns itself in the Great Fog Sea. Even to Pastolik I journeyed, and even beyond, into the north, along the rim of the sea. This I did when I was a boy, and I was no coward. Nor was I coward when I journeyed, a young man and alone, up the Yukon farther than man had ever been, so far that I came to another folk, with white faces, who live in a great fort and talk speech other than that the Russians talk. Also have I killed the great bear of the Tanana country, where no one of my people hath ever been. And I have fought with the Nuklukyets, and the Kaltags, and the Sticks in far regions, even I, and alone. These deeds, whereof no man knows, I speak for myself. Let my people speak for me of things I have done which they know. They will not say Negore is a coward.”

He finished proudly, and proudly waited.

“These be things which happened before I came into the land,” she said, “and I know not of them. Only do I know what I know, and I know I saw thee lashed like a dog in the day; and in the night, when the great fort flamed red and the men killed and were killed, I saw thee not. Also, thy people do call thee Negore, the Coward. It is thy name now, Negore, the Coward.”

“It is not a good name,” Old Kinoos chuckled.

“Thou dost not understand, Kinoos,” Negore said gently. “But I shall make thee understand. Know that I was away on the hunt of the bear, with Kamo-tah, my mother’s son. And Kamo-tah fought with a great bear. We had no meat for three days, and Kamo-tah was not strong of arm nor swift of foot. And the great bear crushed him, so, till his bones cracked like dry sticks. Thus I found him, very sick and groaning upon the ground. And there was no meat, nor could I kill aught that the sick man might eat.

“So I said, ‘I will go to Nulato and bring thee food, also strong men to carry thee to camp.’ And Kamo-tah said, ‘Go thou to Nulato and get food, but say no word of what has befallen me. And when I have eaten, and am grown well and strong, I will kill this bear. Then will I return in honor to Nulato, and no man may laugh and say Kamo-tah was undone by a bear.’

“So I gave heed to my brother’s words; and when I was come to Nulato, and the Russian, Ivan, laid the lash of his dog-whip upon me, I knew I must not fight. For no man knew of Kamo-tah, sick and groaning and hungry; and did I fight with Ivan, and die, then would my brother die, too. So it was, Oona, that thou sawest me beaten like a dog.

“Then I heard the talk of the shamans and chiefs that the Russians had brought strange sicknesses upon the people, and killed our men, and stolen our women, and that the land must be made clean. As I say, I heard the talk, and I knew it for good talk, and I knew that in the night the Russians were to be killed. But there was my brother, Kamo-tah, sick and groaning and with no meat; so I could not stay and fight with the men and the boys not yet hunters.

“And I took with me meat and fish, and the lash-marks of Ivan, and I found Kamo-tah no longer groaning, but dead. Then I went back to Nulato, and, behold, there was no Nulato-only ashes where the great fort had stood, and the bodies of many men. And I saw the Russians come up the Yukon in boats, fresh from the sea, many Russians; and I saw Ivan creep forth from where he lay hid and make talk with them. And the next day I saw Ivan lead them upon the trail of the tribe. Even now are they upon the trail, and I am here, Negore, but no coward.”

“This is a tale I hear,” said Oona, though her voice was gentler than before. “Kamo-tah is dead and cannot speak for thee, and I know only what I know, and I must know thee of my own eyes for no coward.”

Negore made an impatient gesture.

“There be ways and ways,” she added. “Art thou willing to do no less than what Old Kinoos hath done?”

He nodded his head, and waited.

“As thou hast said, they seek for us even now, these Russians. Show them the way, Negore, even as Old Kinoos showed them the way, so that they come, unprepared, to where we wait for them, in a passage up the rocks. Thou knowest the place, where the wall is broken and high. Then will we destroy them, even Ivan. When they cling like flies to the wall, and top is no less near than bottom, our men shall fall upon them from above and either side, with spears, and arrows, and guns. And the women and children, from above, shall loosen the great rocks and hurl them down upon them. It will be a great day, for the Russians will be killed, the land will be made clean, and Ivan, even Ivan who thrust out my father’s eyes and laid the lash of his dog-whip upon thee, will be killed. Like a dog gone mad will he die, his breath crushed out of him beneath the rocks. And when the fighting begins, it is for thee, Negore, to crawl secretly away so that thou be not slain.”

“Even so,” he answered. “Negore will show them the way. And then?”

“And then I shall be thy woman, Negore’s woman, the brave man’s woman. And thou shalt hunt meat for me and Old Kinoos, and I shall cook thy food, and sew thee warm parkas and strong, and make thee moccasins after the way of my people, which is a better way than thy people’s way. And as I say, I shall be thy woman, Negore, always thy woman. And I shall make thy life glad for thee, so that all thy days will be a song and laughter, and thou wilt know the woman Oona as unlike all other women, for she has journeyed far, and lived in strange places, and is wise in the ways of men and in the ways they may be made glad. And in thine old age will she still make thee glad, and thy memory of her in the days of thy strength will be sweet, for thou wilt know always that she was ease to thee, and peace, and rest, and that beyond all women to other men has she been woman to thee.”

“Even so,” said Negore, and the hunger for her ate at his heart, and his arms went out for her as a hungry man’s arms might go out for food.

“When thou hast shown the way, Negore,” she chided him; but her eyes were soft, and warm, and he knew she looked upon him as woman had never looked before.

“It is well”, he said, turning resolutely on his heel. “I go now to make talk with the chiefs, so that they may know I am gone to show the Russians the way.”

“Oh, Negore, my man! my man!” she said to herself, as she watched him go, but she said it so softly that even Old Kinoos did not hear, and his ears were over keen, what of his blindness.

Three days later, having with craft ill-concealed his hiding-place, Negore was dragged forth like a rat and brought before Ivan-“Ivan the Terrible” he was known by the men who marched at his back. Negore was armed with a miserable bone-barbed spear, and he kept his rabbit-skin robe wrapped closely about him, and though the day was warm he shivered as with an ague. He shook his head that he did not understand the speech Ivan put at him, and made that he was very weary and sick, and wished only to sit down and rest, pointing the while to his stomach in sign of his sickness, and shivering fiercely. But Ivan had with him a man from Pastolik who talked the speech of Negore, and many and vain were the questions they asked him concerning his tribe, till the man from Pastolik, who was called Karduk, said:

“It is the word of Ivan that thou shalt be lashed till thou diest if thou dost not speak. And know, strange brother, when I tell thee the word of Ivan is the law, that I am thy friend and no friend of Ivan. For I come not willingly from my country by the sea, and I desire greatly to live; wherefore I obey the will of my master-as thou wilt obey, strange brother, if thou art wise, and wouldst live.”

“Nay, strange brother,” Negore answered, “I know not the way my people are gone, for I was sick, and they fled so fast my legs gave out from under me, and I fell behind.”

Negore waited while Karduk talked with Ivan. Then Negore saw the Russian’s face go dark, and he saw the men step to either side of him, snapping the lashes of their whips. Whereupon he betrayed a great fright, and cried aloud that he was a sick man and knew nothing, but would tell what he knew. And to such purpose did he tell, that Ivan gave the word to his men to march, and on either side of Negore marched the men with the whips, that he might not run away. And when he made that he was weak of his sickness, and stumbled and walked not so fast as they walked, they laid their lashes upon him till he screamed with pain and discovered new strength. And when Karduk told him all would he well with him when they had overtaken his tribe, he asked, “And then may I rest and move not?”

Continually he asked, “And then may I rest and move not?”

And while he appeared very sick and looked about him with dull eyes, he noted the fighting strength of Ivan’s men, and noted with satisfaction that Ivan did not recognize him as the man he had beaten before the gates of the fort. It was a strange following his dull eyes saw. There were Slavonian hunters, fair-skinned and mighty-muscled; short, squat Finns, with flat noses and round faces; Siberian half-breeds, whose noses were more like eagle-beaks; and lean, slant-eyed men, who bore in their veins the Mongol and Tartar blood as well as the blood of the Slav. Wild adventurers they were, forayers and destroyers from the far lands beyond the Sea of Bering, who blasted the new and unknown world with fire and sword and clutched greedily for its wealth of fur and hide. Negore looked upon them with satisfaction, and in his mind’s eye he saw them crushed and lifeless at the passage up the rocks. And ever he saw, waiting for him at the passage up the rocks, the face and the form of Oona, and ever he heard her voice in his ears and felt the soft, warm glow of her eyes. But never did he forget to shiver, nor to stumble where the footing was rough, nor to cry aloud at the bite of the lash. Also, he was afraid of Karduk, for he knew him for no true man. His was a false eye, and an easy tongue — a tongue too easy, he judged, for the awkwardness of honest speech.

All that day they marched. And on the next, when Karduk asked him at command of Ivan, he said he doubted they would meet with his tribe till the morrow. But Ivan, who had once been shown the way by Old Kinoos, and had found that way to lead through the white water and a deadly fight, believed no more in anything. So when they came to a passage up the rocks, he halted his forty men, and through Karduk demanded if the way were clear.

Negore looked at it shortly and carelessly. It was a vast slide that broke the straight wall of a cliff, and was overrun with brush and creeping plants, where a score of tribes could have lain well hidden.

He shook his head. “Nay, there be nothing there,” he said. “The way is clear.”

Again Ivan spoke to Karduk, and Karduk said:

“Know, strange brother, if thy talk be not straight, and if thy people block the way and fall upon Ivan and his men, that thou shalt die, and at once.”

“My talk is straight,” Negore said. “The way is clear.”

Still Ivan doubted, and ordered two of his Slavonian hunters to go up alone. Two other men he ordered to the side of Negore. They placed their guns against his breast and waited. All waited. And Negore knew, should one arrow fly, or one spear be flung, that his death would come upon him. The two Slavonian hunters toiled upward till they grew small and smaller, and when they reached the top and waved their hats that all was well, they were like black specks against the sky.

The guns were lowered from Negore’s breast and Ivan gave the order for his men to go forward. Ivan was silent, lost in thought. For an hour he marched, as though puzzled, and then, through Karduk’s mouth, he said to Negore:

“How didst thou know the way was clear when thou didst look so briefly upon it?”

Negore thought of the little birds he had seen perched among the rocks and upon the bushes, and smiled, it was so simple; but he shrugged his shoulders and made no answer. For he was thinking, likewise, of another passage up the rocks, to which they would soon come, and where the little birds would all be gone. And he was glad that Karduk came from the Great Fog Sea, where there were no trees or bushes, and where men learned water-craft instead of land-craft and wood-craft.

Three hours later, when the sun rode overhead, they came to another passage up the rocks, and Karduk said:

“Look with all thine eyes, strange brother, and see if the way be clear, for Ivan is not minded this time to wait while men go up before.”

Negore looked, and he looked with two men by his side, their guns resting against his breast. He saw that the little birds were all gone, and once he saw the glint of sunlight on a rifle-barrel. And he thought of Oona, and of her words: “And when the fighting begins, it is for thee, Negore, to crawl secretly away so that thou be not slain.”

He felt the two guns pressing on his breast. This was not the way she had planned. There would be no crawling secretly away. He would be the first to die when the fighting began. But he said, and his voice was steady, and he still feigned to see with dull eyes and to shiver from his sickness:

“The way is clear.”

And they started up, Ivan and his forty men from the far lands beyond the Sea of Bering. And there was Karduk, the man from Pastolik, and Negore, with the two guns always upon him. It was a long climb, and they could not go fast; but very fast to Negore they seemed to approach the midway point where top was no less near than bottom.

A gun cracked among the rocks to the right, and Negore heard the war-yell of all his tribe, and for an instant saw the rocks and bushes bristle alive with his kinfolk. Then he felt torn asunder by a burst of flame hot through his being, and as he fell he knew the sharp pangs of life as it wrenches at the flesh to be free.

But he gripped his life with a miser’s clutch and would not let it go. He still breathed the air, which bit his lungs with a painful sweetness; and dimly he saw and heard, with passing spells of blindness and deafness, the flashes of sight and sound again wherein he saw the hunters of Ivan falling to their deaths, and his own brothers fringing the carnage and filling the air with the tumult of their cries and weapons, and, far above, the women and children loosing the great rocks that leaped like things alive and thundered down.

The sun danced above him in the sky, the huge walls reeled and swung, and still he heard and saw dimly. And when the great Ivan fell across his legs, hurled there lifeless and crushed by a down-rushing rock, he remembered the blind eyes of Old Kinoos and was glad.

Then the sounds died down, and the rocks no longer thundered past, and he saw his tribespeople creeping close and closer, spearing the wounded as they came. And near to him he heard the scuffle of a mighty Slavonian hunter, loath to die, and, half uprisen, borne back and down by the thirsty spears.

Then he saw above him the face of Oona, and felt about him the arms of Oona; and for a moment the sun steadied and stood still, and the great walls were upright and moved not.

“Thou art a brave man, Negore,” he heard her say in his ear; “thou art my man, Negore.”

And in that moment he lived all the life of gladness of which she had told him, and the laughter and the song, and as the sun went out of the sky above him, as in his old age, he knew the memory of her was sweet. And as even the memories dimmed and died in the darkness that fell upon him, he knew in her arms the fulfilment of all the ease and rest she had promised him. And as black night wrapped around him, his head upon her breast, he felt a great peace steal about him, and he was aware of the hush of many twilights and the mystery of silence.

The Night-Born

It was in the old Alta-Inyo Club – a warm night for San Francisco – and through the open windows, hushed and far, came the brawl of the streets. The talk had led on from the Graft Prosecution and the latest signs that the town was to be run wide open, down through all the grotesque sordidness and rottenness of manhate and man-meanness, until the name of O’Brien was mentioned – O’Brien, the promising young pugilist who had been killed in the prize-ring the night before. At once the air had seemed to freshen. O’Brien had been a clean-living young man with ideals. He neither drank, smoked, nor swore, and his had been the body of a beautiful young god. He had even carried his prayer-book to the ringside. They found it in his coat pocket in the dressing-room…afterward.

Here was Youth, clean and wholesome, unsullied – the thing of glory and wonder for men to conjure with.…. after it has been lost to them and they have turned middle-aged. And so well did we conjure, that Romance came and for an hour led us far from the man-city and its snarling roar. Bardwell, in a way, started it by quoting from Thoreau; but it was old Trefethan, bald-headed and dewlapped, who took up the quotation and for the hour to come was romance incarnate. At first we wondered how many Scotches he had consumed since dinner, but very soon all that was forgotten.

“It was in 1898 — I was thirty-five then,” he said. “Yes, I know you are adding it up. You’re right. I’m forty-seven now; look ten years more; and the doctors say – damn the doctors anyway!”

He lifted the long glass to his lips and sipped it slowly to soothe away his irritation.

“But I was young…once. I was young twelve years ago, and I had hair on top of my head, and my stomach was lean as a runner’s, and the longest day was none too long for me. I was a husky back there in ‘98. You remember me, Milner. You knew me then. Wasn’t I a pretty good bit of all right?”

Milner nodded and agreed. Like Trefethan, he was another mining engineer who had cleaned up a fortune in the Klondike.

“You certainly were, old man,” Milner said. “I’ll never forget when you cleaned out those lumberjacks in the M. & M. that night that little newspaper man started the row. Slavin was in the country at the time,” — this to us — ”and his manager wanted to get up a match with Trefethan.”

“Well, look at me now,” Trefethan commanded angrily. “That’s what the Goldstead did to me – God knows how many millions, but nothing left in my soul.…. nor in my veins. The good red blood is gone. I am a jellyfish, a huge, gross mass of oscillating protoplasm, a – a …”

But language failed him, and he drew solace from the long glass.

“Women looked at me then; and turned their heads to look a second time. Strange that I never married. But the girl. That’s what I started to tell you about. I met her a thousand miles from anywhere, and then some. And she quoted to me those very words of Thoreau that Bardwell quoted a moment ago – the ones about the day-born gods and the night-born.”

“It was after I had made my locations on Goldstead – and didn’t know what a treasure-pot that that trip creek was going to prove – that I made that trip east over the Rockies, angling across to the Great Up North there the Rockies are something more than a back-bone. They are a boundary, a dividing line, a wall impregnable and unscalable. There is no intercourse across them, though, on occasion, from the early days, wandering trappers have crossed them, though more were lost by the way than ever came through. And that was precisely why I tackled the job. It was a traverse any man would be proud to make. I am prouder of it right now than anything else I have ever done.

“It is an unknown land. Great stretches of it have never been explored. There are big valleys there where the white man has never set foot, and Indian tribes as primitive as ten thousand years …almost, for they have had some contact with the whites. Parties of them come out once in a while to trade, and that is all. Even the Hudson Bay Company failed to find them and farm them.

“And now the girl. I was coming up a stream – you’d call it a river in California – uncharted – and unnamed. It was a noble valley, now shut in by high canyon walls, and again opening out into beautiful stretches, wide and long, with pasture shoulder-high in the bottoms, meadows dotted with flowers, and with clumps of timberspruce – virgin and magnificent. The dogs were packing on their backs, and were sore-footed and played out; while I was looking for any bunch of Indians to get sleds and drivers from and go on with the first snow. It was late fall, but the way those flowers persisted surprised me. I was supposed to be in sub-arctic America, and high up among the buttresses of the Rockies, and yet there was that everlasting spread of flowers. Some day the white settlers will be in there and growing wheat down all that valley.

“And then I lifted a smoke, and heard the barking of the dogs – Indian dogs – and came into camp. There must have been five hundred of them, proper Indians at that, and I could see by the jerking-frames that the fall hunting had been good. And then I met her – Lucy. That was her name. Sign language – that was all we could talk with, till they led me to a big fly – you know, half a tent, open on the one side where a campfire burned. It was all of moose-skins, this fly – moose-skins, smoke-cured, hand-rubbed, and golden-brown. Under it everything was neat and orderly as no Indian camp ever was. The bed was laid on fresh spruce boughs. There were furs galore, and on top of all was a robe of swanskins – white swan-skins – I have never seen anything like that robe. And on top of it, sitting cross-legged, was Lucy. She was nut-brown. I have called her a girl. But she was not. She was a woman, a nut-brown woman, an Amazon, a full-blooded, full-bodied woman, and royal ripe. And her eyes were blue.

“That’s what took me off my feet – her eyes – blue, not China blue, but deep blue, like the sea and sky all melted into one, and very wise. More than that, they had laughter in them – warm laughter, sun-warm and human, very human, and …shall I say feminine? They were. They were a woman’s eyes, a proper woman’s eyes. You know what that means. Can I say more? Also, in those blue eyes were, at the same time, a wild unrest, a wistful yearning, and a repose, an absolute repose, a sort of all-wise and philosophical calm.”

Trefethan broke off abruptly.

“You fellows think I am screwed. I’m not. This is only my fifth since dinner. I am dead sober. I am solemn. I sit here now side by side with my sacred youth. It is not I — ’old’ Trefethan – that talks; it is my youth, and it is my youth that says those were the most wonderful eyes I have ever seen – so very calm, so very restless; so very wise, so very curious; so very old, so very young; so satisfied and yet yearning so wistfully. Boys, I can’t describe them. When I have told you about her, you may know better for yourselves.”

“She did not stand up. But she put out her hand.”

“‘Stranger,’ she said, ‘I’m real glad to see you.’

“I leave it to you – that sharp, frontier, Western tang of speech. Picture my sensations. It was a woman, a white woman, but that tang! It was amazing that it should be a white woman, here, beyond the last boundary of the world – but the tang. I tell you, it hurt. It was like the stab of a flatted note. And yet, let me tell you, that woman was a poet. You shall see.”

“She dismissed the Indians. And, by Jove, they went. They took her orders and followed her blind. She was hi-yu skookam chief. She told the bucks to make a camp for me and to take care of my dogs. And they did, too. And they knew enough not to get away with as much as a moccasin-lace of my outfit. She was a regular She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, and I want to tell you it chilled me to the marrow, sent those little thrills Marathoning up and down my spinal column, meeting a white woman out there at the head of a tribe of savages a thousand miles the other side of No Man’s Land.

“‘Stranger,” she said, ‘I reckon you’re sure the first white that ever set foot in this valley. Set down an’ talk a spell, and then we’ll have a bite to eat. Which way might you be comin’?’

“There it was, that tang again. But from now to the end of the yarn I want you to forget it. I tell you I forgot it, sitting there on the edge of that swan-skin robe and listening and looking at the most wonderful woman that ever stepped out of the pages of Thoreau or of any other man’s book.

“I stayed on there a week. It was on her invitation. She promised to fit me out with dogs and sleds and with Indians that would put me across the best pass of the Rockies in five hundred miles. Her fly was pitched apart from the others, on the high bank by the river, and a couple of Indian girls did her cooking for her and the camp work. And so we talked and talked, while the first snow fell and continued to fall and make a surface for my sleds. And this was her story.

“She was frontier-born, of poor settlers, and you know what that means – work, work, always work, work in plenty and without end.

“‘I never seen the glory of the world,’ she said. ‘I had no time. I knew it was right out there, anywhere, all around the cabin, but there was always the bread to set, the scrubbin’ and the washin’ and the work that was never done. I used to be plumb sick at times, jes’ to get out into it all, especially in the spring when the songs of the birds drove me most clean crazy. I wanted to run out through the long pasture grass, wetting my legs with the dew of it, and to climb the rail fence, and keep on through the timber and up and up over the divide so as to get a look around. Oh, I had all kinds of hankerings – to follow up the canyon beds and slosh around from pool to pool, making friends with the water-dogs and the speckly trout; to peep on the sly and watch the squirrels and rabbits and small furry things and see what they was doing and learn the secrets of their ways. Seemed to me, if I had time, I could crawl among the flowers, and, if I was good and quiet, catch them whispering with themselves, telling all kinds of wise things that mere humans never know.’“

Trefethan paused to see that his glass had been refilled.

“Another time she said: ‘I wanted to run nights like a wild thing, just to run through the moonshine and under the stars, to run white and naked in the darkness that I knew must feel like cool velvet, and to run and run and keep on running. One evening, plumb tuckered out – it had been a dreadful hard hot day, and the bread wouldn’t raise and the churning had gone wrong, and I was all irritated and jerky – well, that evening I made mention to dad of this wanting to run of mine. He looked at me curious-some and a bit scared. And then he gave me two pills to take. Said to go to bed and get a good sleep and I’d be all hunky-dory in the morning. So I never mentioned my hankerings to him, or any one any more.’

“The mountain home broke up – starved out, I imagine – and the family came to Seattle to live. There she worked in a factory – long hours, you know, and all the rest, deadly work. And after a year of that she became waitress in a cheap restaurant – hash-slinger, she called it. “She said to me once, ‘Romance I guess was what I wanted. But there wan’t no romance floating around in dishpans and washtubs, or in factories and hash-joints.’

“When she was eighteen she married – a man who was going up to Juneau to start a restaurant. He had a few dollars saved, and appeared prosperous. She didn’t love him – she was emphatic about that, but she was all tired out, and she wanted to get away from the unending drudgery. Besides, Juneau was in Alaska, and her yearning took the form of a desire to see that wonderland. But little she saw of it. He started the restaurant, a little cheap one, and she quickly learned what he had married her for.…. to save paying wages. She came pretty close to running the joint and doing all the work from waiting to dishwashing. She cooked most of the time as well. And she had four years of it.

“Can’t you picture her, this wild woods creature, quick with every old primitive instinct, yearning for the free open, and mowed up in a vile little hash-joint and toiling and moiling for four mortal years?

“‘There was no meaning in anything,’ she said. ‘What was it all about! Why was I born! Was that all the meaning of life – just to work and work and be always tired — !to go to bed tired and to wake up tired, with every day like every other day unless it was harder?’ She had heard talk of immortal life from the gospel sharps, she said, but she could not reckon that what she was doin’ was a likely preparation for her immortality.

“But she still had her dreams, though more rarely. She had read a few books – what, it is pretty hard to imagine, Seaside Library novels most likely; yet they had been food for fancy. ‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘when I was that dizzy from the heat of the cooking that if I didn’t take a breath of fresh air I’d faint, I’d stick my head out of the kitchen window, and close my eyes and see most wonderful things. All of a sudden I’d be traveling down a country road, and everything clean and quiet, no dust, no dirt; just streams ripplin’ down sweet meadows, and lambs playing, breezes blowing the breath of flowers, and soft sunshine over everything; and lovely cows lazying knee-deep in quiet pools, and young girls bathing in a curve of stream all white and slim and natural – and I’d know I was in Arcady. I’d read about that country once, in a book. And maybe knights, all flashing in the sun, would come riding around a bend in the road, or a lady on a milk-white mare, and in the distance I could see the towers of a castle rising, or I just knew, on the next turn, that I’d come upon some palace, all white and airy and fairy-like, with fountains playing, and flowers all over everything, and peacocks on the lawn.…. and then I’d open my eyes, and the heat of the cooking range would strike on me, and I’d hear Jake sayin’ — he was my husband – I’d hear Jake sayin’, “Why ain’t you served them beans? Think I can wait here all day!” Romance — !I reckon the nearest I ever come to it was when a drunken Armenian cook got the snakes and tried to cut my throat with a potato knife and I got my arm burned on the stove before I could lay him out with the potato stomper.

“‘I wanted easy ways, and lovely things, and Romance and all that; but it just seemed I had no luck nohow and was only and expressly born for cooking and dishwashing. There was a wild crowd in Juneau them days, but I looked at the other women, and their way of life didn’t excite me. I reckon I wanted to be clean. I don’t know why; I just wanted to, I guess; and I reckoned I might as well die dishwashing as die their way.”

Trefethan halted in his tale for a moment, completing to himself some thread of thought.

“And this is the woman I met up there in the Arctic, running a tribe of wild Indians and a few thousand square miles of hunting territory. And it happened, simply enough, though, for that matter, she might have lived and died among the pots and pans. But ‘Came the whisper, came the vision.’ That was all she needed, and she got it.

“‘I woke up one day,’ she said. ‘Just happened on it in a scrap of newspaper. I remember every word of it, and I can give it to you.’ And then she quoted Thoreau’s Cry of the Human:

“‘The young pines springing up, in the corn field from year to year are to me a refreshing fact. We talk of civilizing the Indian, but that is not the name for his improvement. By the wary independence and aloofness of his dim forest life he preserves his intercourse with his native gods and is admitted from time to time to a rare and peculiar society with nature. He has glances of starry recognition, to which our saloons are strangers. The steady illumination of his qenius, dim only because distant, is like the faint but satisfying light of the stars compared with the dazzling but ineffectual and short-lived blaze of candles. The Society Islanders had their day-born gods, but they were not supposed to be of equal antiquity with the.…. night-born gods.’

“That’s what she did, repeated it word for word, and I forgot the tang, for it was solemn, a declaration of religion – pagan, if you will; and clothed in the living garmenture of herself.

“‘And the rest of it was torn away,’ she added, a great emptiness in her voice. ‘It was only a scrap of newspaper. But that Thoreau was a wise man. I wish I knew more about him.’ She stopped a moment, and I swear her face was ineffably holy as she said, ‘I could have made him a good wife.’

“And then she went on. ‘I knew right away, as soon as I read that, what was the matter with me. I was a night-born. I, who had lived all my life with the day-born, was a night-born. That was why I had never been satisfied with cooking and dishwashing; that was why I had hankered to run naked in the moonlight. And I knew that this dirty little Juneau hash-joint was no place for me. And right there and then I said, “I quit.” I packed up my few rags of clothes, and started. Jake saw me and tried to stop me.

“‘What you doing?” he says.

“‘Divorcin’ you and me,’ I says. ‘I’m headin’ for tall timber and where I belong.’“

“‘No you don’t,” he says, reaching for me to stop me. “The cooking has got on your head. You listen to me talk before you up and do anything brash.’“

“‘But I pulled a gun-a little Colt’s forty-four – and says, “This does my talkin’ for me.’“

“‘And I left.’“

Trefethan emptied his glass and called for another.

“Boys, do you know what that girl did? She was twenty-two. She had spent her life over the dish-pan and she knew no more about the world than I do of the fourth dimension, or the fifth. All roads led to her desire. No; she didn’t head for the dance-halls. On the Alaskan Pan-handle it is preferable to travel by water. She went down to the beach. An Indian canoe was starting for Dyea – you know the kind, carved out of a single tree, narrow and deep and sixty feet long. She gave them a couple of dollars and got on board.

“‘Romance?’ she told me. ‘It was Romance from the jump. There were three families altogether in that canoe, and that crowded there wasn’t room to turn around, with dogs and Indian babies sprawling over everything, and everybody dipping a paddle and making that canoe go.’ And all around the great solemn mountains, and tangled drifts of clouds and sunshine. And oh, the silence! the great wonderful silence! And, once, the smoke of a hunter’s camp, away off in the distance, trailing among the trees. It was like a picnic, a grand picnic, and I could see my dreams coming true, and I was ready for something to happen ‘most any time. And it did.

“‘And that first camp, on the island! And the boys spearing fish in the mouth of the creek, and the big deer one of the bucks shot just around the point. And there were flowers everywhere, and in back from the beach the grass was thick and lush and neck-high. And some of the girls went through this with me, and we climbed the hillside behind and picked berries and roots that tasted sour and were good to eat. And we came upon a big bear in the berries making his supper, and he said “Oof!” and ran away as scared as we were. And then the camp, and the camp smoke, and the smell of fresh venison cooking. It was beautiful. I was with the night-born at last, and I knew that was where I belonged. And for the first time in my life, it seemed to me, I went to bed happy that night, looking out under a corner of the canvas at the stars cut off black by a big shoulder of mountain, and listening to the night-noises, and knowing that the same thing would go on next day and forever and ever, for I wasn’t going back. And I never did go back.’

“‘Romance! I got it next day. We had to cross a big arm of the ocean – twelve or fifteen miles, at least; and it came on to blow when we were in the middle. That night I was along on shore, with one wolf-dog, and I was the only one left alive.’

“Picture it yourself,” Trefethan broke off to say. “The canoe was wrecked and lost, and everybody pounded to death on the rocks except her. She went ashore hanging on to a dog’s tail, escaping the rocks and washing up on a tiny beach, the only one in miles.

“‘Lucky for me it was the mainland,’ she said. ‘So I headed right away back, through the woods and over the mountains and straight on anywhere. Seemed I was looking for something and knew I’d find it. I wasn’t afraid. I was night-born, and the big timber couldn’t kill me. And on the second day I found it. I came upon a small clearing and a tumbledown cabin. Nobody had been there for years and years. The roof had fallen in. Rotted blankets lay in the bunks, and pots and pans were on the stove. But that was not the most curious thing. Outside, along the edge of the trees, you can’t guess what I found. The skeletons of eight horses, each tied to a tree. They had starved to death, I reckon, and left only little piles of bones scattered some here and there. And each horse had had a load on its back. There the loads lay, in among the bones – painted canvas sacks, and inside moosehide sacks, and inside the moosehide sacks – what do you think?’“

She stopped, reached under a comer of the bed among the spruce boughs, and pulled out a leather sack. She untied the mouth and ran out into my hand as pretty a stream of gold as I have ever seen – coarse gold, placer gold, some large dust, but mostly nuggets, and it was so fresh and rough that it scarcely showed signs of water-wash.

“‘You say you’re a mining engineer,’ she said, ‘and you know this country. Can you name a pay-creek that has the color of that gold!’

“I couldn’t! There wasn’t a trace of silver. It was almost pure, and I told her so.

“‘You bet,’ she said. ‘I sell that for nineteen dollars an ounce. You can’t get over seventeen for Eldorado gold, and Minook gold don’t fetch quite eighteen. Well, that was what I found among the bones – eight horse-loads of it, one hundred and fifty pounds to the load.’

“‘A quarter of a million dollars!’ I cried out.

“‘That’s what I reckoned it roughly,’ she answered. ‘Talk about Romance! And me a slaving the way I had all the years, when as soon as I ventured out, inside three days, this was what happened. And what became of the men that mined all that gold? Often and often I wonder about it. They left their horses, loaded and tied, and just disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving neither hide nor hair behind them. I never heard tell of them. Nobody knows anything about them. Well, being the night-born, I reckon I was their rightful heir.’

Trefethan stopped to light a cigar.

“Do you know what that girl did? She cached the gold, saving out thirty pounds, which she carried back to the coast. Then she signaled a passing canoe, made her way to Pat Healy’s trading post at Dyea, outfitted, and went over Chilcoot Pass. That was in ‘88 – eight years before the Klondike strike, and the Yukon was a howling wilderness. She was afraid of the bucks, but she took two young squaws with her, crossed the lakes, and went down the river and to all the early camps on the Lower Yukon. She wandered several years over that country and then on in to where I met her. Liked the looks of it, she said, seeing, in her own words, ‘a big bull caribou knee-deep in purple iris on the valley-bottom.’ She hooked up with the Indians, doctored them, gained their confidence, and gradually took them in charge. She had only left that country once, and then, with a bunch of the young bucks, she went over Chilcoot, cleaned up her gold-cache, and brought it back with her.

“‘And here I be, stranger,’ she concluded her yarn, ‘and here’s the most precious thing I own.’

“She pulled out a little pouch of buckskin, worn on her neck like a locket, and opened it. And inside, wrapped in oiled silk, yellowed with age and worn and thumbed, was the original scrap of newspaper containing the quotation from Thoreau.

“‘And are you happy …satisfied?’ I asked her. ‘With a quarter of a million you wouldn’t have to work down in the States. You must miss a lot.’

“‘Not much,’ she answered. ‘I wouldn’t swop places with any woman down in the States. These are my people; this is where I belong. But there are times – and in her eyes smoldered up that hungry yearning I’ve mentioned — ’there are times when I wish most awful bad for that Thoreau man to happen along.’

“‘Why?’ I asked.

“‘So as I could marry him. I do get mighty lonesome at spells. I’m just a woman – a real woman. I’ve heard tell of the other kind of women that gallivanted off like me and did queer things – the sort that become soldiers in armies, and sailors on ships. But those women are queer themselves. They’re more like men than women; they look like men and they don’t have ordinary women’s needs. They don’t want love, nor little children in their arms and around their knees. I’m not that sort. I leave it to you, stranger. Do I look like a man?’

“She didn’t. She was a woman, a beautiful, nut-brown woman, with a sturdy, health-rounded woman’s body and with wonderful deep-blue woman’s eyes.

“‘Ain’t I woman?’ she demanded. ‘I am. I’m ‘most all woman, and then some. And the funny thing is, though I’m night-born in everything else, I’m not when it comes to mating. I reckon that kind likes its own kind best. That’s the way it is with me, anyway, and has been all these years.’

“‘You mean to tell me — ’ I began.

“‘Never,’ she said, and her eyes looked into mine with the straightness of truth. ‘I had one husband, only – him I call the Ox; and I reckon he’s still down in Juneau running the hash-joint. Look him up, if you ever get back, and you’ll find he’s rightly named.’

“And look him up I did, two years afterward. He was all she said – solid and stolid, the Ox – shuffling around and waiting on the tables.

“‘You need a wife to help you,’ I said.

“‘I had one once,’ was his answer.

“‘Widower?’

“‘Yep. She went loco. She always said the heat of the cooking would get her, and it did. Pulled a gun on me one day and ran away with some Siwashes in a canoe. Caught a blow up the coast and all hands drowned.’“

Trefethan devoted himself to his glass and remained silent.

“But the girl?” Milner reminded him.

“You left your story just as it was getting interesting, tender. Did it?”

“It did,” Trefethan replied. “As she said herself, she was savage in everything except mating, and then she wanted her own kind. She was very nice about it, but she was straight to the point. She wanted to marry me.

“‘Stranger,’ she said, ‘I want you bad. You like this sort of life or you wouldn’t be here trying to cross the Rockies in fall weather. It’s a likely spot. You’ll find few likelier. Why not settle down! I’ll make you a good wife.’

“And then it was up to me. And she waited. I don’t mind confessing that I was sorely tempted. I was half in love with her as it was. You know I have never married. And I don’t mind adding, looking back over my life, that she is the only woman that ever affected me that way. But it was too preposterous, the whole thing, and I lied like a gentleman. I told her I was already married.

“‘Is your wife waiting for you?’ she asked.

“I said yes.

“‘And she loves you?’

“I said yes.

“And that was all. She never pressed her point…except once, and then she showed a bit of fire.

“‘All I’ve got to do,’ she said, ‘is to give the word, and you don’t get away from here. If I give the word, you stay on…But I ain’t going to give it. I wouldn’t want you if you didn’t want to be wanted…and if you didn’t want me.’

“She went ahead and outfitted me and started me on my way.

“‘It’s a darned shame, stranger,” she said, at parting. ‘I like your looks, and I like you. If you ever change your mind, come back.’

“Now there was one thing I wanted to do, and that was to kiss her good-bye, but I didn’t know how to go about it nor how she would take it — .I tell you I was half in love with her. But she settled it herself.

“‘Kiss me,’ she said. ‘Just something to go on and remember.’

“And we kissed, there in the snow, in that valley by the Rockies, and I left her standing by the trail and went on after my dogs. I was six weeks in crossing over the pass and coming down to the first post on Great Slave Lake.”

The brawl of the streets came up to us like a distant surf. A steward, moving noiselessly, brought fresh siphons. And in the silence Trefethan’s voice fell like a funeral bell:

“It would have been better had I stayed. Look at me.”

We saw his grizzled mustache, the bald spot on his head, the puff-sacks under his eyes, the sagging cheeks, the heavy dewlap, the general tiredness and staleness and fatness, all the collapse and ruin of a man who had once been strong but who had lived too easily and too well.

“It’s not too late, old man,” Bardwell said, almost in a whisper.

“By God! I wish I weren’t a coward!” was Trefethan’s answering cry. “I could go back to her. She’s there, now. I could shape up and live many a long year…with her…up there. To remain here is to commit suicide. But I am an old man – forty-seven – look at me. The trouble is,” he lifted his glass and glanced at it, “the trouble is that suicide of this sort is so easy. I am soft and tender. The thought of the long day’s travel with the dogs appalls me; the thought of the keen frost in the morning and of the frozen sled-lashings frightens me — ”

Automatically the glass was creeping toward his lips. With a swift surge of anger he made as if to crash it down upon the floor. Next came hesitancy and second thought. The glass moved upward to his lips and paused. He laughed harshly and bitterly, but his words were solemn:

“Well, here’s to the Night-Born. She WAS a wonder.”

A Night’s Swim in Yeddo Bay

“YES, a mighty nice set of people are them Japs, for all their being half civilized, which I deny, and say right here that for smartness, push and energy, learning, honesty, politeness and general good-naturedness, their like can’t be beat. And when it comes to comparing them to our people, for real moral goodness and purity, why, we ain’t in it.” And the speaker, a grizzled, old merchant seaman, drained his glass and set it down on the bar with a slam, as though inviting criticism or controversy. But none dared to oppose him. Good-humoredly glancing round on his little group of listeners, he called for another round of drinks.

“An enterprising people, they are,” he went on, leaning comfortably back against the bar and striking an attitude, without which, as his old chum, Bill Nandts, said, it was impossible for him to spin a yarn.

“They’re always longing to be, as they call it, Europeanized or Americanized. They’re only too quick to discard their old habits and way of doing things for the newer and more improved customs and methods of ours. Why, take the simple matter of dress, for instance. From the lowest beggar in the street to the highest dignitary in the land, they all want to be European in their dress. Pretty near all that can afford it dress like us, and sometimes those who can’t put themselves to pretty shifts in order to do so.

“Why, there isn’t a ship that leaves Yokohama but with a fo’ks’le full of slender, dilapidated wardrobes, the rest of which the Japs have obtained by shrewd trading and sharp tricks. Of course, the curio traders that come aboard while in port get more than a fair share of the spoils; but still, the ‘sam pan’ or boat men do a fair trade in that line.

“God pity the sailor who finds himself down on the pier without the necessary ‘ten sen’ to pay the boatmen’s hire out to his vessel. Unless he can find a shipmate, from whom to borrow the money, he will usually end in parting with his shirt or singlet, or some article of wearing apparel; for the rapacious ‘sam pan’ men just ache to dress like us, though thy can’t do it on the square. They tried that game on me once, but it did not succeed.

“It was my first trip to Yokohama, and I had been ashore half the night, carrying on as only a reckless young rat knows how. I had been up in ‘Bloodtown’, for that is what the low white quarter is called by the natives, because of the many drunken brawls and fights that occur there. Well, it was ‘do in Rome as Rome does’, and, of course, I had got mixed up in a couple of rows and street fights, for I was about half seas under, and did not care a snap for anything. Just about midnight I came wandering down to the little stone pier, or jetty, which was Yokohama’s only apology for the long line of docks to be met with in every seaport. In Yokohama, as you know, all the shipping lays out to anchor or to huge buoys; the work of loading and unloading being carried on by hundreds of lighters and thousands of low class Japanese laborers. I hear, however, that the Government has now erected a splendid steel pier, which cost a couple of million.

“But to return to my yarn. Along I came, taking in the whole street in a way that reminded me of the drunken fishermen, who, with thirty-two points in the compass, steered thirty more. My hat was gone; the sailor’s knot, with which I had tied the silk handkerchief round my neck, had been slipped and drawn tight against my windpipe, nearly choking me; my clothes were all dusty and awry, from where I had been rolling on the ground with two doughty ‘ricksha’ men and a policeman; and, in fact, I must have presented a most charming appearance as I came under the lights of the police station and custom-house.

“About a hundred paces farther on, I came to the stone steps where the ‘sam pans’ clustered, while their owners solicited custom, for all the world like our own cabmen and hotel runners down at the ferries when the overland passengers are due.

“I soon engaged an old codger, who seemed like those battered armors which one sees in museums and such places. He must have been at least sixty years old, and, with great height, he was as lean as a skeleton; while his whole body was nothing but a mass of wrinkles. Here and there, as the light from a brazier, charcoal fire, shone on his sunburned hide, I could see big black and white scars of all descriptions. He was the most battered old hulk one would wish to meet with, and his voice was in harmony with the rest of him. It was as thin and shrill and piping as a child’s, and it made me fidget as he bowed and ducked before me.

“Following him, I climbed aboard the ‘sam pan’, where I made the acquaintance of the rest of his crew. It was as startling a contrast as I ever saw. It was a little lump of a boy, not much larger than a good-sized chaw of tobacco. He was a precocious little youngster, with plump, well-formed body, and the bearing and assurance of a full-grown man. I proceeded to take a seat; but, what with my condition and the shaky, old concern, I came down all in a heap, as though I intended going through the bottom of the rickety craft.

“As I lay there, sprawling, I saw the little shaver glace sharply at me, and then jabber away to the old fellow, who, in turn, stared at me and paused in the very act of shoving the ‘sam pan’ off. I managed to gain my feet, and, irritated at the delay and my own clumsiness, I told them rather sharply to go ahead. They refused to do so. By this time the steps were crowded by the rough watermen, who were all laughing and jeering at me.

“I began to get angry at all this, and was about to shove off myself when the youngster came up to me and said very laconically, as he held out his had, ‘Pay now’. At first I did not understand, so closely were the two words run together; but after he repeated his ‘pay now’ several times, to the great delight of the crowd, I comprehended. Of course, I had no objections as to when I paid; but, digging down into my pocket, I found I was broke. Then I carefully searched every pocket, and the result was the startling knowledge that I hadn’t a ‘sou markee’ to my name.

“When this became apparent, the crowd on the steps fairly howled in their glee, as they chattered away and hurled whole strings of advice and admonitions to my triumphant ‘sam pan’ crew.

“The youngster, after sharply scanning me with his shrewd, black eyes, laid hold of my shirt, which was bran’ new from the slop chest, and said, ‘Gimme shirt’. To this request the crowd signified their approval by sundry had-clappings and with much laughter enjoyed my predicament.

“‘Not by a long-shot’, sez I, and, finding him obstinate, I climbed out on the pier, feeling pretty cheap.

“Well, I fooled around a long while; but not one of all the ‘sam pan’ men would take me out without being paid in advance. To my every appeal, they would answer, ‘Gimme coat’, ‘Gimme shirt’, and so on. I was very obstinate myself in those days and wouldn’t give in.

“I remember getting up on a big block of hewn granite and delivering an impassioned harangue to the motley mob, who cheered and jeered me by turns, not understanding a word of my discourse. Bye and bye I fell off the stone on top of them, nearly mashing two or three.

“Then I wandered down to the police station, and made known my ridiculous plight to the lieutenant. He seemed a very affable, good-natured man, and he went out and addressed the ‘sam pan’ men in choice Japanese. But they still refused to take me unless I parted company with my coat or shirt, or some article of wearing apparel, worth ten times the necessary money.

“Well, to make a long story short, after puzzling my head a little, I decided to swim aboard. As quick as it takes to tell it, I stripped myself, and, telling the lieutenant to take care of my clothes, I started out the pier on the run, closely followed by the ‘sam pan’ men, who seemed to hugely enjoy the queer caper I cut. I started down the stone steps with the tread of a hero; but the tide was out, and slipping on the slimy ooze which covered them, I went heels over head, bumpety bump, all the way down to the bottom. I struck the water with a mighty splash, to the accompaniment of the hoarse shouts of the enthusiastic crowd.

“However, when I came to the surface, they all signified their willingness to take me aboard if I would return. But I was stubborn now. I waved them good-bye, and paddled away in the dark. I had no fear, for I could swim like a fish, and, as it was mid-summer, the water was quite warm. Besides, the freshening effect of the salty brine was rapidly clearing my muddled head.

“Far ahead of me our anchor light burned brightly, and, with a strong, steady stroke, I struck out. It was not much of a swim — hardly a mile — and I soon found myself alongside. Climbing silently on deck, unperceived by the anchor watch, who was no other than my old chum here, Bill Nandts, I made by way to the fo’ks’le. I took my blankets up on the fo’ks’le head, near the catheads, and laid down, for the fo’ks’le was too stifling for a comfortable sleep.

“Before I could close my eyes, I heard a boat come alongside and hail the anchor watch. Then quite a conversation followed, and some one climbed over the side and threw something down on the deck. This Bill Nandts examined. All of a sudden, he jumped to his feet, and exclaimed, ‘My God! They’re Charley’s’

“It was one of the harbor police boats, which had brought my clothes aboard and inquired about my safety. Of course, Bill hadn’t seen me, and, after rousing the fo’ks’le to find me, he made sure that I was drowned. The Captain, aroused by the noise, came on deck. After listening to the story, he ordered a boat over the side to search for me.

“Away both boats pulled, and I could hear Bill Nandts shouting again and again, ‘Charley! O Charley! Where are you?’

“After vainly hunting for me in the water, they inquired of all the ships, thinking that I might have swam aboard one of them in the dark. Before long the whole harbor was in an uproar. The hailing of the anchor watches roused the dogs, which many of the ships carried, and soon every dog in the harbor was baying vigorously. The noise was contagious and spread to the shore, where all their canine friends came in on the grand chorus. And the cocks began to crow and the chickens to cackle, as though the last day had come, while a general alarm of fire was turned in by a nervous watchman; and all Yokohama awoke, thinking the city was being burned down.

“The bay was now swarming with the ‘sam pan’ men, who lent their hoarse cries to swell the tumult. Lights were flashing hither and thither across the water. The police tug, having got up steam by this time, came out to see what was all the uproar was about, and but added to the general confusion. Then the Harbor Master, aroused by some over-zealous official, with a wild tale of disaster, came hurrying out in his six-oared gig. But the scene of excitement had spread so far that he could neither make head nor tail out of it.

“Suddenly he was run down and spilled into the water by the police boat, which was just then engaged in an exciting chase of a poor, bewildered fisherman, to whom, with startling intuition, they had attributed all the trouble. The frightened fisherman, now that he was saved by the accident, lost his head, and fouled the bowsprit of a Norwegian bark, near us, and capsized. Then a whole fleet of custom-house boats, thinking it was a preconcerted plan of the smugglers to land illicit goods during the excitement, came dashing across the harbor in all directions. And how they overhauled the frightened ‘sam pans’ and fishing craft with great fierceness, in the heroic discharge of their duty!

“And to cap the climax, the aged keepers of the two light ships, on either side of the narrow opening in the great breakwater, seeing the lights of a P. and O. steamer approaching, thought it was an invasion of the Chinese. So they hurriedly extinguished both lights, and the big passenger steamer ran aground in the darkness.

“The excitement was intense; but, after an hour’s duration, it died away, and I fell asleep, hugging myself in glee at the great prank I had played.

“The next I knew I was being roughly awakened. Opening my eyes, I found the sun rising in the East. Bill Nandts was a-shaking me like mad, so happy as not to know whether to be angry with me or not. Of course, explanations followed, and it was a long time before I heard the last of it. And as for the ‘sam pan’ men — why, I had the freedom of the harbor. For, ever after, they refused to take money from me, though they would always set up a great jabbering and laughing whenever I hove in sight.”

“Well, boys,” said Bill Nandts when he concluded, “that’s one on me. So come up, all hands, and drink to the health of Long Charley, the best old ‘shell back’ that ever sailed out of Frisco.”

A Northland Miracle

John Thornton of The Call of the Wild is one of the main characters in this story.

THIS is a story of things that happened, which goes to show that there is an eternal core of goodness in the hearts of all men. Bertram Cornell was a bad man, and a failure. In a little English home overseas there had been sorrow unavailing and tears shed in vain for his earthly and spiritual welfare. He was bad, utterly bad. There could be no doubt of it. Thoughtless, careless and uncaring were mild terms with which to brand his weaknesses.

Even in his boyhood he had been strong only for evil. Kind words and pleadings had no effect on him, and he had been callous to the wet eyes of his mother and sisters and the sterner though no less kindly admonitions of his father. So it could hardly have been otherwise, when yet a very young man, that he fled hurriedly out of his home in England, carrying with him something which should have burdened his conscience had he but possessed one, and leaving behind a disgrace on his name for his people to bear. And so it was that those who had known him spoke of him in bitterness and sadness, until the memory of him was dimmed with time. Of what further evils he wrought there was never a whisper, and of his end no one ever heard. In his last hour he made recompense and wiped clean his tarnished page of life. But he did this thing in a far country, where news travels slowly and gets lost upon the way, and where men ofttimes die before they can tell how others died. But this was the way of it. Strong of body and uncaring, he had laughed at the great rough hand of the world and had always done, not what the world demanded, but whatever Bertram Cornell desired. And he had met harsh words with harsher, and stout blows with stouter. He had served as sailor on many seas, as sheepherder on the Australian ranges, as cowboy among the Dakota cattlemen, and as an enrolled private with the Mounted Police of the Northwest Territory. From this last post he had deserted on the discovery of gold in the Klondike and worked his way to the Alaskan coast. Here, because of his frontier experience, he speedily found place to fit into in a party of three other men.

This party was bound for the Klondike, but it had planned to abandon the beaten track and to go into the country over a new and untraveled route. With a pack train of many horses (cayuses from the mountains of eastern Oregon), the four men struck east into the desolate wilderness which lies beyond Mount St. Elias, and then north through the upland region in which the headwaters of the White and Tanana rivers have their source. It was an unexplored domain, marked vaguely on the maps, which was yet to feel the foot of the first white man. So vast and dismal was it that even animal life was scarce, and the tiny Indian tribes few and far between. For days, sometimes, they rode through the silent forest of by the rims of lonely lakes and saw no living thing, heard no sound save the sighing of the wind and the sobbing of the waters. A great solemnity brooded over the land, and the quiet was so profound that they came to hush their voices and to waste few words in idle talk.

As they journeyed on they prospected for the hidden gold, groping in the chill pools of the torrents and panning dirt in the shadows of the mighty glaciers. Once they came upon a body of virgin copper, like a mountain, but they could only shrug their shoulders and pass on. Food for their horses was scarce, and quite often poisonous, and the patient animals died one by one on the strange trail their masters had led them to. Crossing a high divide, the party was overwhelmed by a sleety storm common to such elevations, and, when finally they struggled through to the warmer valley beneath, the last horse had been left behind.

But here, in the sheltered valley, John Thornton cleared back the moss and from the grassroots shook out glittering particles of yellow gold. Bertram Cornell was with him at the time, and that night the twain carried back to camp nuggets which weighed a thousand dollars in the scales. A stop was called, and at the end of a month the four men had mined a treasure far greater than they could carry. But their food supply had been steadily growing less and less, till one man could bend forward and bear it all on his back.

What with the bleak region and fall coming on, it was high time to be going along. Somewhere to the northeast they knew the Klondike lay and the country of the Yukon. How far they did not know, though they thought it could not be more than a hundred miles. So each took about five pounds of gold, or a thousand dollars, and the rest of the great treasure they cached safely against their return. And to return they intended just as soon as they could lay in more grub. Their ammunition having given out, they left their rifles with the gold, burdening themselves only with the camp equipage and the scant supply of food.

So sure were they that they would shortly reach the gold diggings, that they ate unsparingly of the provisions; so that on the tenth day they found but a few miserable pounds remaining. And still before them, in up-heaved earth-waves, range upon range, towered the great grim mountains. Then it was that doubt came, and fear settled upon the men, and Bill Hines began to ration out the food.

They no longer ate at midday, and morning and evening he divided the day’s allowance into four meager portions. It was evenly shared, but it was very little — enough to keep soul and body together, but not enough to furnish the proper strength to healthy toiling men. Their faces grew wan and haggard, and day by day they covered less ground. Often the nausea of emptiness seized them, and their knees shook with weakness, and they reeled and fell. And always, when they had gasped and dragged themselves to the crest of a jagged mountain pass and eagerly looked beyond, another mountain confronted them. And always the brooding peace lay heavy over the land, and there was nothing but the loneliness and silence without end.

One by one, they threw away their blankets and spare clothes. They dropped their axes by the way, and the spare cooking utensils, and even the sacks of gold dust, until at last they staggered onward, half-naked, unburdened save for the pittance of grub that remained. This, Jan Jensen, the Dane, divided by weight into four parts so that the burden might be equally distributed. And each man, by the holy though unwritten and unspoken bonds of comradeship, held sacred that which he carried on his back. The small grub-packs were never opened except by the light of the campfire, where all could see and where just division was made.

Of bacon they possessed one three-pound chunk, which John Thornton carried in addition to a few cups of flour. This one piece they were saving for the very last, when the need would be greatest, and they resolutely refrained from touching it. But Bertram Cornell cast hungry eyes upon it and thought hungry thoughts. And in the night, while his comrades slept the sleep of exhaustion, he unstrapped John Thornton’s pack and robbed it of the bacon; and all through the hours till dawn, taking care lest the unaccustomed quantity turn his stomach, he munched and chewed and swallowed it, bit by bit, till nothing at all of it was left.

On the day which followed he took good care to hide the new strength which had come to him of the night and, if anything, appeared weaker than the rest. It was a very hard day; John Thornton lagged behind and rested often; but by nightfall they had cleared another mountain and beheld the opening of a small river valley beneath, running to the eastward. To the eastward! There lay the Klondike and safety! A few more days, could they but manage to live through them, they would be among white men and grub-caches again.

But, huddled by the fire, the starving men looking greedily on, Bill Hines opened Thornton’s pack to get some flour. In an instant each eye had noted the absence of the bacon. Thornton’s eyes stared in horror, and Hines dropped the pack and sobbed aloud. But Jan Jensen drew his hunting knife and spoke. His voice was low and husky, almost a whisper, but each word fell slowly from his lips, and distinctly.

“My comrades, this is murder. This man has slept with us and shared with us in all fairness. When we divided all the grub by weight, each man carried on his back the lives of his comrades. And so did this man carry our lives on his back. It was a trust, a great trust, a sacred trust. He has not been true to it. Today, when he dropped behind, we thought he was weary. We were mistaken. Behold! He has eaten that which was ours, upon which our very lives were hanging. There is no other name for it than murder. For murder there is one punishment, and only one. Am I not right, my comrades?”

“Ay!” Bill Hines cried; but Bertram Cornell remained silent. He had not expected this.

Jan Jensen raised the long-bladed knife to strike, but Cornell gripped his wrist. “Let me speak,” he demanded.

Thornton staggered slowly to his feet and said, “It is not right that I should die. I did not eat the bacon; nor could I have lost it. I know nothing about it. But I swear solemnly by the most high God that I have neither touched nor tasted the bacon!”

“If you were sneak enough to eat it, certainly you are sneak enough to lie about it now,” Jensen charged, fingering the knife impatiently.

“Leave him alone, I tell you,” threatened Cornell. “We don’t know that he ate it. We know nothing about it. And I warn you, I won’t stand by and see murder done. There is a chance that he is not guilty. Don’t trifle with that chance. You dare not punish him on a chance.”

The angry Dane sheathed the blade, but an hour later, when Thornton happened to speak to him, he turned his back. Bill Hines also refused to hold conversation with the wretched man, while Cornell, already ashamed for the good which had fluttered in him (the first in years), would have nothing to do with him.

The next morning Bill Hines lumped the little remaining food together and redivided it into four parts. From Thornton’s portion he subtracted the equivalent of the bacon, which same he shared among the other three piles. This he did without a word; the act was too significant to need speech.

“And let him carry his own grub,” Jensen growled. “If he wants to eat it all at once, he’s welcome to.”

What John Thornton suffered in the days which followed, only John Thornton knows. Not only did his comrades turn from him with abhorrent faces, but he was judged guilty of the blackest and most cowardly of crimes — that of treason. And further, eating less than they, he was forced to keep up with them or perish. Even then, when he had eaten his very last pinch, they had food left for two days. So he cut the leather tops from his moccasins and boiled them and ate them and during the day chewed the bark of willow-shoots till the pain of his swollen and inflamed mouth nearly drove him mad. And he dragged onward, staggering, falling, crawling, as often in delirium as not.

But the day came when the three other men fell back upon their moccasins and the green shoots of young trees. By this time they had followed the torrent down until it had become a small river, and they were counseling desperately the gathering of the drift-logs into a rickety raft. Then it was that they came unexpectedly upon an Indian village of a dozen lodges. But the Indians had never seen white men before and greeted them with a shower of arrows. “See! The river! Canoes!” Jensen cried. “We’re saved if we can make them! We must make them!”

They ran, drunkenly, toward the bank, the howling tribesmen on their heels and gaining. Suddenly, from behind a tree to one side, a skin-clad warrior stepped forth. He poised his great ivory-pointed spear for a moment, then cast it with perfect aim. Singing and hurtling through the air, it drove full into John Thornton’s hips. He wavered for a second, tripped and fell forward on his face. Hines and Jensen, running just behind him, swerved to the right and left and passed him on either side.

Then the miracle came to pass. The spirit of Goodness fluttered mightily in Bertram Cornell’s breast. Without thought, obeying the inward prompting, he sprang forward on the instant and seized the fleeing men by the arms.

“Come back!” he cried hoarsely. “Carry Thornton to the canoes! I’ll hold the Indians back until you shove clear!”

“Leave go!” the Dane screamed, fumbling for his knife. “I wouldn’t touch the dog to save my life!”

“I stole the bacon. I ate the bacon. Now will you come back?” Cornell saw the doubt in their eyes. “As I hope for mercy at the Judgment Seat, I stole it.” A flight of arrows fell about them like rain. “Hurry! I’ll hold them back!”

In a trice they were staggering toward the canoes with the wounded man between them; but Bertram Cornell faced about and stood still. Surprised by this action, the Indians hesitated and halted, while Cornell, seeing that it was gaining time, made no motion. They discharged a shower of arrows at him. The bone-barbed missiles flew about him like hail.

Half a dozen arrows entered his chest and legs, and one pinned into his neck. But he yet stood upright and still as a carved statue. The warrior who flung the spear at Thornton approached him from the side, and they closed together in each other’s arms. At this the rest of the tribesmen came down upon him in a flood of war.

As they cut and hacked, he heard Jan Jensen shouting from the water, and he knew that his comrades were safe. Then he fought the good fight, the first for a good cause in all his life, and the last. But when all was still, the Indians drew back in superstitious awe. With him lay their chief and six of their fellows.

Though he had lived without honor, thus he died, like a man, brave and repentant, and rectifying evil. Nor was his body dishonored. For that he fought greatly, and slew their own chieftain, they respected him and gave him a warrior’s burial. And because they were a simple people, who had never seen white men, they were wont to speak of him, as the seasons passed, as “the strange god who came down out of the sky to die.”

A Nose For the King

IN the morning calm of Korea, when its peace and tranquillity truly merited its ancient name, “Cho-sen,” there lived a politician by name Yi Chin Ho. He was a man of parts, and--who shall say?--perhaps in no wise worse than politicians the world over. But, unlike his brethren in other lands, Yi Chin Ho was in jail. Not that he had inadvertently diverted to himself public moneys, but that he had inadvertently diverted too much. Excess is to be deplored in all things, even in grafting, and Yi Chin Ho’s excess had brought him to most deplorable straits.

Ten thousand strings of cash he owed the government, and he lay in prison under sentence of death. There was one advantage to the situation--he had plenty of time in which to think. And he thought well. Then called he the jailer to him.

“Most worthy man, you see before you one most wretched,” he began. “Yet all will be well with me if you will but let me go free for one short hour this night. And all will be well with you, for I shall see to your advancement through the years, and you shall come at length to the directorship of all the prisons of Cho-sen.”

“How, now?” demanded the jailer. “What foolishness is this? One short hour, and you but waiting for your head to be chopped off! And I, with an aged and much-to-be-respected mother, not to say anything of a wife and several children of tender years! Out upon you for the scoundrel that you are!”

“From the Sacred City to the ends of all the Eight Coasts there is no place for me to hide,” Yi Chin Ho made reply. “I am a man of wisdom, but of what worth my wisdom here in prison? Were I free, well I know I could seek out and obtain the money wherewith to repay the government. I know of a nose that will save me from all my difficulties.”

“A nose!” cried the jailer.

“A nose,” said Yi Chin Ho. “A remarkable nose, if I may say so, a , most remarkable nose.”

The jailer threw up his hands despairingly. “Ah, what a wag you are, what a wag,” he laughed. “To think that that very admirable wit of yours must go the way of the chopping-block!”

And so saying, he turned and went away. But in the end, being a man soft of head and heart, when the night was well along he permitted Yi Chin Ho to go.

Straight he went to the Governor, catching him alone and arousing him from his sleep.

“Yi Chin Ho, or I’m no Governor!” cried the Governor. “What do you here who should be in prison waiting on the chopping-block?”

“I pray your excellency to listen to me,” said Yi Chin Ho, squatting on his hams by the bedside and lighting his pipe from the fire-box. “A dead man is without value. It is true, I am as a dead man, without value to the government, to your excellency, or to myself. But if, so to say, your excellency were to give me my freedom--“

“Impossible!” cried the Governor. “Besides, you are condemned to death.”

“Your excellency well knows that if I can repay the ten thousand strings of cash, the government will pardon me,’, Yi Chin Ho went on. “So, as I say, 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 I the Governor.

“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 floor.

“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 is rewarded.’

“And so l 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 Chang.

“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 father.”

Pak Chung Chang clasped Yi Chin Ho’s knees and fell to weeping on his sandals.

“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 voice.

“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 nose.”

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-laden ponies.

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-berespected ancestor.

O Haru

“‘WHO is she?’ What, chum, hast been sleeping? ’Tis O Haru — of all geishas, the best, the purest; of all dancers, the matchless, the gracefulest; of all women, the most divinely beautiful, the most alluring. ’Tis O Haru, the dream of the lotus, the equal of Fugi, and the glory of man. Truly hast thou squandered thy last years in America, else wouldst thou have known her, else seen her in our great festival processions, raised aloft on immense dashi and dancing to the admiring multitudes. Call thyself lucky; consider this tea house the shrine of your geisha-girl worship; thank the father that gave thee life that thou art here! Bless the illustrious Lord Sousouchi, who has thrice-blessed thee by bringing thee here! For ’tis O Haru, the spring, the glorious dancer, the heavenly beauty; peer unto none of all geishas and dancers!”

This, amid the hum of admiration and burst applause which succeeded O Haru’s dance. The most illustrious, the most honorific, the Lord Sousouchi, had invited the great British nobleman to a supper with music, singers and dancers, so that he might gain an insight of Japanese pleasures. The most famous geishas, singers and players had been hired for the occasion, nor had his hand been sparing in aught that would diminish its charm and brilliancy. There were perhaps a dozen that partook of Sousouchi’s hospitality and that now vied with each other in applauding O Haru.

The geishas or dancing-girls are the brightest, most intelligent and most accomplished of Japanese women. Chosen for their beauty they are educated from childhood. Not only are they trained in all the seductive graces of the dance and of personal attraction; but also in singing, music, and the intricate etiquette of serving and entertaining; nor are their minds neglected, for in wit, intelligence and repartee, they excell. In short, the whole aim of their education is to make them artistically fascinating. In class, they occupy much the same position as do our actresses, and though many are frail beauties that grace the tea house festivals, here and there will be found gems of the purest luster.

O Haru, as was the custom, now that her dance was finished, attended upon the Lord Sousouchi, and her quick wit, beauty, silvery laughter, and fascinating personality, set the guests a-throb with the pleasure of her presence. To the Occidental she could not but appeal, while to the Japanese, she was the ideal of beauty. Her figure, slender, long-waisted and narrow-hipped, was a marvel of willowy grace, rendered the more bewitching by the ease and charm of her carriage. Her bust was that of a maid’s — no full suggestion of luscious charms beneath the soft fold of her kimono — rather the chaste slimness of virginity. Long, slender, beautifully curved, the neck was but a fitting pedestal for the shapely head, poised so delicately upon it. Her hair, long, straight, and glossy black, was combed back from the clear, high forehead — a wondrous dome to the exquisite oval of the face. High above the long, narrow eyes, arched the brows, seemingly stencilled, so extreme the delicacy of their lines. The nose, while not prominent, aquiline; and the mouth, small, approached lips, full and scarlet-red. Of a clear, ivory white, her complexion pled all innocence of the customary rouge, while in the cheek lay the faintest suggestion of color — color, which could mount to the heights of passion or sink to the imperceptibility of placidity. The expression, never the same, the shifting mirror of every mood, of every thought: now responsive to vivacious, light-hearted gayety; now reflecting the deeper, sterner emotions; now portraying all the true womanly depths of her nature. Truly was she “O Haru, the dream of the lotus, the equal of Fugi and the glory of man!”

The samisens strike up: the drumming girls cease. A group of geishas, clad in robes of scarlet and yellow, dance the pretty dance of maple leaves, shivering and shaking in the autumn wind. But the eyes and souls of the company are bent on O Haru, whose ravishing beauty and inimitable wit bind them her slaves, and even the senility of the Right Honorable Lord Sousouchi vanishes before her irresistible charms. Soon she leaves them to expatiate upon her wondrous self, while she retires to dress for her next dance, her last for the evening.

A burst of music and she appears, clad in the armor and complete war-panoply of the ancient samurai — the samurai of feudal Japan, whose whole duty was embraced within the single term, loyalty; loyalty, so pure, that wife, children, kindred, all human ties, even his gods must be, if needs, sacrificed for his master the diamiõ. It was one of her masterpieces, the interpretation of Oishi, the leader of the “Loyal Rõnins,” plotting the revenge of his master’s death. Oishi, who, that nothing may distract him from his contemplated vengeance, divorces his wife and sends his children away.

Full well she understood her past. Of samurai blood; the daughter of diamiõ’s favorite, who had gone through the fiery ordeal of the shogunate; who had seen the son of heaven come forth from his centuries of seclusion to hurl to earth the proud feudal nobility of old Japan; she was possessed, by heredity and tradition, of all the pride of her race. Fired by the wild rush of her father’s blood, her slender form seemed to vibrate with intensity of Oishi’s emotion, seemed to suffocate with the scorching heat of his passion. A hush of awe fell upon the company, as with martial tread and gesture she personified the oldtime hero. With superstitious reverence and bated breath they followed her in her wildly-graceful pantomime. Vanished the bright lights, the cheery tea house, the laughing geishas, as her audience followed her into the reality of old Japan. Through the depths of melancholy, grief and anguish, up the heights of stormy passion and soul-consuming thirst for vengeance, she led them — on — on — till, in a wild burst of rhythmic motion, the diamiõ is avenged and the consumation all but attained. Then the last scene, the dramatic climax, the hara-kiri. All hopes, all joys of life forgotten, Oishi follows his lord into the nether world. A flash of steel, the simulated death thrust in the abdomen, and the dance is over. No applause, glistening eyes and weeping geishas, and O Haru, with heaving breast and flashing eyes, overcome by the excess of her feeling, forgets to make due obeisance to the Lord Sousouchi, omits the customary sayonara and retires in a tumultuous flood of tears.

Home at last. O Haru sat in the soft halo of the andon, deep-sunk in dreamy reverie. But her thoughts were far away from tea house revels and her soul wandered in strange lands, with the image of one, Toyotomi. Toyotomi the brave, the venturesome; the love her girlhood, the desire of her womanhood.

Strange had been the mingling of their lives. Both of the samurai class, his father had prospered, hers had died, and she, an orphan, had gone into the possession of Saisdashai, the master of a geisha ya. There she had passed her childhood, spent in the cultivation of all the arts and graces of the accomplished geisha; there, in the first bloom of her maturity had she met Toyotomi; there, and in many the tea house he chose to frequent, had she learned to love him.

Peculiar had been their courtship: contrary to all tradition and custom. No fathers or mothers to choose for their children, for his also had journeyed on in quest of that silent Nirvana. Saisdashai opposed, as by law he could, her marriage, for she was his by the contract, his to hire out to the tea house patrons, and well he was paid for her marvelous dancing. But Toyotomi had been hot on the chase and one day — ah well she remembered — selling all his possessions, paid Saisdashai the last yen he could claim on her, and she found herself free — free to love and marry her lover.

But Toyotomi was ambitious. Penniless, he cared not for poverty, so they plighted their troth and she was left to her dancing, while he sailed over the sea to the white barbarians, promising to come back, rich and powerful, and marry her. What his fortune had been she knew not and save for short and infrequent letters, his wanderings were sealed to her. For a decade now, had she waited for him and saving her earnings, she recked not whether he returned rich or poor. She was rich, nay, wealthy — for was she not the most popular geisha, the people’s idol, the noblemen’s despair? And thanks to her lover, she had not to surrender her earnings to a geisha ya master, for she was free, independent. And though dangerous had been the path of her journey, had she not trod it unswervingly? The temptations of her position had been many, and often, most powerful; aye, and many were honorable and of the greatest inducement. There was Hakachio, the rich silk merchant, who had begged and pleaded with her to marry him; and Honondo the lieutentant, and Ueuado the diamiõ’s son, and even Ogushi, the staid professor of the Royal College, who had been bewitched by her charms. Yet had she saved herself for Toyotomi, her girlish sweetheart, her woman’s passion. Always had the lotus been her emblem, the symbol of purity. And glory of glories, he was returning at last: to morrow his steamer came in: to morrow she would take the train and journey down to Yokohama to meet him.

The sweet tears of joy bedimming her eye and moistening her cheek, she opened the camphorwood chest beside her and drew forth a parcel wrapped in many a fold of cotton. Undoing it she held before her an obi, a girdle of beautiful silk. The symbol of woman’s betrothal; Toyotomi’s symbol of her betrothal. Again she opened the chest, this time drawing forth two swords, the swords of her father the samurai. With the deep pride of race and the reverential love of her people she gazed long and earnestly upon them. How near it brought her to him, her father, whom she sometimes forgot for Toyotomi. Her father, the grim old warrior, the chivalrous captain, who had so long upheld his diamiõ’s house with this long sword, and who, when all was lost had saved all with this short one, then sought oblivion through the honorable death by hara-kiri. In the heat of the lotus-time night, she slumbered before these, her most precious of relics, and in the morning, Hohna Asi, her hair-dresser, found her smiling with joy in her sleep.

O Toyotomi! Wild Toyotomi! Cruel Toyotomi! — A year had passed since his return, since their marriage; and what a year! What a marriage! What a return for her years of waiting, for her years of clinging to the lotus-flower emblem!

How handsome and noble he had looked, clad in his barbarian garments, when she met him on the pier at Yokohama. Truly she had thought that her fondest dreams were realized, that the world, in the highest sense of the word, had made a man of him. But alas! How changed! She had not understood then, had not comprehended the customs of the “foreign devils” among whom he had wandered. And he had come back with many of those fiend-begotten customs clinging to him.

Extravagance! It had affrighted her — such lavishness, such unwonted prodigality. She had known that in those far away lands, money was earned so easily; but till now she had not understood the ease with which it was spent. And Toyotomi — ah! he had learned how to spend it. To her economical soul, invested with all the saving Oriental traits of heredity, such extravagance was repulsive, crushing. Her fortune — with trusting faith and wifely obedience she had made it over to him. Ah! The crystallization of her years of labor — how he had spilled it like water! And now, in a year, nothing remained.

Many tricks had he gained in the “white devil” country and now he had become a professional wrestler. A wrestler to be proud of, and one who often made large money; but wrestler, the companion of roughs and jõrõs, the frequenter of low tea houses, and one who had abjured his native sak’e to take those expensive foreign liquors. And now she must go out and dance again, for he never brought a sen home.

O Toyotomi! So great was her love that all this was forgotten; but he was even worse. He had come back with the foreign standard of beauty, and to him she was no longer beautiful. She, the most beautiful of all geishas, the most beautiful of all Japanese women, the personified ideal of the Japanese standard, was no longer beautiful to Toyotomi, her old-time lover. He would come home drunken and surly and critcize her walk, her carriage, her narrow hips, her flat breast, slim face and slanting eyes; then rave in ecstasies of delight over the Occident beauties. Buddha! That such could be! That her Toyotomi could admire those fierce, masculine creatures, that strode, long-stepping, like men; that had great hips and humps like actual deformities. Those repulsive creaturs, with their large mouths, high noses, and eyes, deep-sunk in horrid sockets beneath fierce, heavy brows. Those creatures, so terrible, that when they looked on a Japanese baby it must burst into tears of fright. Those animals, who were loathsome, disgustingly mouthing themselves and their men — Toyotomi called it kissing and had tried to teach her. Ach! How could it be!

And even was he worse than all that: sometimes he had beaten her, and still worse, he loved that half-caste jõrõ from yoshiwari. That girl of the Japanese mother and the English father, whom he thought so bewitching, whom he loved for her resemblance to the “white devil” beauty.

And worst of all, had he not said to day “O Haru, go thou out to night and dance, else will I not only beat but divorce thee.”

“O jizo! Jizo!” she moaned. “That such could be! That such could be!

The pleasurable stillness of the lazy lotus-time afternoon, pressed heavily against O Haru, as she said her prayers to her Shinto gods. But the gods gave no sign: no rest came to her, the young, almost boyish priest gazed curiously at her as she prostrated herself in her devotions. He knew her (who did not), the wonderful dancer, whose life had seemed such a joyous span; but of late she had come to the temple often and he wondered what might burden her. He drew near, and as her prayer ceased, blessed her and spoke soothing words. She was married? Yes. And prayed for children? No. For her ancestors? Yes, as she had always done. Then for what? But she burst into tears and would not answer.

The priest paused and his sensitive, intellectual face clouded in a moment’s thought — she was brighter than most who prayed their in their childish sorrows; she was in trouble, suffered. Why not? Surely she could understand a few slight glimmerings of his esoteric knowledge. His face illumined with the divine compassion of Siddãrtha Guatama. He raised her and led her before the staue of the sitting Buddha: there, in simple language, he told her of the birth, the boyhood, the manhood of Guatama, afterward the Buddha; of his grief for the sorrow of the world; of his discovery of the great truth. Self, the mere clinging to life, was the evil: self was the illusion, whereby the soul endured the pain of countless incarnations: self was to be annihilated, and when destroyed, the soul passed to Nirvana. Nirvana, the highest attainable sphere, where peace and rest and bliss unuttered soothed the soul, weary from many migrations. Thus had the divine Buddha done, thus might she do — annihilate self and gain Nirvana. Then he blessed and left her soothed, soothed, but with too faint a glimmering of his secret wisdom.

She gazed on the sweet, mysterious face of the Buddha, brooding in ineffable calm above her. O the peace, the rest, the awful placidity of his face! And gazing, she repeated the words of the priest: self, the mere clinging to life was evil. Nirvana, the highest sphere where there was naught but rest and bliss unutterable.

Thrice the priest passed by and beheld her still kneeling, still contemplating the wondrous face of the Holy One. More than one curious devotee glanced at her and thrilled on beholding the peaceful expression of holy joy which lighted her face.

The fountain in the courtyard splashed dreamily; the shadows lengthened; the somber silence of the temple deepened: O Haru prostrated herself before the great-hearted Buddha, and rose, soothed and at rest with herself and all the world. She paused on the temple steps, and with her last few coppers, bought of the old woman all her caged sparrows. One by one, she gave them liberty, and with each breathed a prayer — a prayer to attain Nirvana.

“All hail to O Haru, the wandered, the lost one! For she has returned to her tea houses and dancing! All hail to O Haru, the lotus-flower beauty, the dreamy-bewitvhing, the ideally perfect! Blessed are we, her slaves, to behold her! Blessed are we that drink of her sweetness, her beauty! Blessed are we, happiest of mortals! For ’tis O Haru, the wonderful dancer, come once again among us, her bondmen! ’Tis O Haru, the joy and the pride of all mankind, the ruler of beasts, the conquerer of men! O Haru, the dream of rhythmical beauty, of fiery emotion, of terrible passion! O Haru, the wondrous, the queenly, the radiant; the gracefulest, sweetest and purest of dancers! Rejoice O my fellows! For she has returned, come among us! Rejoice! Rejoice! For ’tis O Haru, the spring, the glorious dancer — peer unto none of all geishas and dancers!”

The enthusiasm was boundless. The news had gone abroad that this night she was to dance, and her admirers had flocked to her as they had never before. Triumphant had been her return, but with all the sweet modesty of her nature, not unmingled with a certain sad pride, she received their homage. To accomodate the throng, the whole tea house had been thrown into a single, pavilion-like room, and even then, the crush was suffocating. She was simply superb, totally eclipsing her previous self. Never had she appeared so beautiful, so merry, so witty. In her moments of rest she kept them convulsed with her brilliant repartee and good-natured badinage. With each moment of the growing evening did she discover new graces, charms and glories. And now, in the ecstasies of worship, a hush of expectancy and awe fell upon the audience. She was to close with her favorite, Oishi, the “Loyal Rõnin.”

A wild burst of samisens and the rolling of tom-toms greet her appearance: the dance begins. Again the fierce and haughty samurai blood courses like fire through her veins: again she holds all with the magic sway of her personality: again she leads them with her into the illusory realities of old Japan. She surpassed herself in the force, the vividness, the emotion of her portrayal. With bold confidence she essayed flights hitherto undreamed of, playing the gamut of their feelings with the intrepidity of inspiration. Never before had the sentiment and the dramatic of her nature been so unified, so harmoniously one.

On — on — she led them into chaos of conflicting emotions: yet distinctly grew the picture of true ancient chivalry. Ever they beheld Oishi treading the mighty heights of his true manhood; casting aside all doubts and fears, all human ties; walking of a verity with the gods. Up — up — they forgot their baser selves, were raised to the sublimities of seemingly realized ideals. The climax approaches. But hush! A throb of emotion, intuitive, anticipatory, sways with an audible sob, the anguuished beholders.

O Haru, before the hara-kiri, undergoes a transfiguration. Her face illumines with angelic glory, with a brightness, too dazzling, almost, to gaze upon, she seems a being not of the world. The samisens wail in heart-breaking sorrow: the low crescendo roll of the finale commences: she kisses her father’s sword and the audience shudders expectantly. She is to follow her lord into the nether world, into the silent Nirvana. Her body sways in rhythmical undulations: her face is a-glow with heavenly rapture: she poises for the blow. Now — — the music rolls and crashes — swift, that deft, upward thrust — swift the mighty gush of blood —

And the sweet silence of the lotus-time night is rent with the sobbing agony of many voices:

“Woe! Woe! Woe! O Haru, the divine O Haru is no more!”

An Odyssey of the North

This story was London’s first writing success, receiving him a cheque for $120 from The Atlantic Monthly in 1899.

THE sleds were singing their eternal lament to the creaking of the harnesses and the tinkling bells of the leaders; but the men and dogs were tired and made no sound. The trail was heavy with new-fallen snow, and they had come far, and the runners, burdened with flint-like quarters of frozen moose, clung tenaciously to the unpacked surface and held back with a stubbornness almost human. Darkness was coming on, but there was no camp to pitch that night. The snow fell gently through the pulseless air, not in flakes, but in tiny frost crystals of delicate design. It was very warm,--barely ten below zero,--and the men did not mind. Meyers and Bettles had raised their ear-flaps, while Malemute Kid had even taken off his mittens.

The dogs had been fagged out early in the afternoon, but they now began to show new vigor. Among the more astute there was a certain restlessness,--an impatience at the restraint of the traces, an indecisive quickness of movement, a sniffing of snouts and pricking of ears. These became incensed at their more phlegmatic brothers, urging them on with numerous sly nips on their hinder-quarters. Those, thus chidden, also contracted and helped spread the contagion. At last, the leader of the foremost sled uttered a sharp whine of satisfaction, crouching lower in the snow and throwing himself against the collar. The rest followed suit. There was an ingathering of back-bands, a tightening of traces; the sleds leaped forward, and the men clung to the gee-poles, violently accelerating the uplift of their feet that they might escape going under the runners. The weariness of the day fell from them, and they whooped encouragement to the dogs. The animals responded with joyous yelps. They were swinging through the gathering darkness at a rattling gallop.

“Gee! Gee!” the men cried, each in turn, as their sleds abruptly left the main-trail, heeling over on single runners like luggers on the wind.

Then came a hundred yards’ dash to the lighted parchment window, which told its own story of the home cabin, the roaring Yukon stove, and the steaming pots of tea. But the home cabin had been invaded. Three-score huskies chorused defiance, and as many furry forms precipitated themselves upon the dogs which drew the first sled. The door was flung open, and a man, clad in the scarlet tunic of the Northwest Police, waded knee-deep among the furious brutes, calmly and impartially dispensing soothing justice with the butt end of a dog-whip. After that, the men shook hands; and in this wise was Malemute Kid welcomed to his own cabin by a stranger.

Stanley Prince, who should have welcomed him, and who was responsible for the Yukon stove and hot tea aforementioned, was busy with his guests. There were a dozen or so of them, as nondescript a crowd as ever served the Queen in the enforcement of her laws or the delivery of her mails. They were of many breeds, but their common life had formed of them a certain type,--a lean and wiry type, with trail-hardened muscles, and sun-browned faces, and untroubled souls which gazed frankly forth, clear-eyed and steady. They drove the dogs of the Queen, wrought fear in the hearts of her enemies, ate of her meagre fare, and were happy. They had seen life, and done deeds, and lived romances; but they did not know it.

And they were very much at home. Two of them were sprawled upon Malemute Kid’s bunk, singing chansons which their French forbears sang in the days when first they entered the Northwest-land and mated with its Indian women. Bettles’ bunk had suffered a similar invasion, and three or four lusty voyageurs worked their toes among its blankets as they listened to the tale of one who had served on the boat brigade with Wolseley when he fought his way to Khartoum. And when he tired, a cowboy told of courts and kings and lords and ladies he had seen when Buffalo Bill toured the capitals of Europe. In a corner, two half-breeds, ancient comrades in a lost campaign, mended harnesses and talked of the days when the Northwest flamed with insurrection and Louis Reil was king.

Rough jests and rougher jokes went up and down, and great hazards by trail and river were spoken of in the light of commonplaces, only to be recalled by virtue of some grain of humor or ludicrous happening. Prince was led away by these uncrowned heroes who had seen history made, who regarded the great and the romantic as but the ordinary and the incidental in the routine of life. He passed his precious tobacco among them with lavish disregard, and rusty chains of reminiscence were loosened, and forgotten odysseys resurrected for his especial benefit.

When conversation dropped and the travelers filled the last pipes and unlashed their tight-rolled sleeping-furs, Prince fell back upon his comrade for further information.

“Well, you know what the cowboy is,” Malemute Kid answered, beginning to unlace his moccasins; “and it’s not hard to guess the British blood in his bed-partner. As for the rest, they’re all children of the coureurs du bois, mingled with God knows how many other bloods. The two turning in by the door are the regulation `breeds’ or bois brules. That lad with the worsted breech scarf--notice his eyebrows and the turn of his jaw--shows a Scotchman wept in his mother’s smoky tepee. And that handsome-looking fellow putting the capote under his head is a French half-breed,--you heard him talking; he doesn’t like the two Indians turning in next to him. You see, when the `breeds’ rose under Reil the full-bloods kept the peace, and they’ve not lost much love for one another since.”

“But I say, what’s that glum-looking fellow by the stove? ‘ll swear he can’t talk English. He hasn’t opened his mouth all night.”

“You ‘re wrong. He knows English well enough. Did you follow his eyes when he listened? I did. But he ‘s neither kith nor kin to the others. When they talked their own patois you could see he didn’t understand. I ‘ve been wondering myself what he is. Let’s find out.”

“Fire a couple of sticks into the stove!” Malemute Kid commanded, raising his voice and looking squarely at the man in question.

He obeyed at once.

“Had discipline knocked into him somewhere,” Prince commented in a low tone. Malemute Kid nodded, took off his socks, and picked his way among the recumbent men to the stove. There he hung his damp footgear among a score or so of mates.

“When do you expect to get to Dawson?” he asked tentatively.

The man studied him a moment before replying. “They say seventy-five mile. So? Maybe two days.”

The very slightest accent was perceptible, while there was no awkward hesitancy or groping for words.

“Been in the country before?”

“No.”

“Northwest Territory?”

“Yes.”

“Born there?”

“No.”

“Well, where the devil were you born? You ‘re none of these.” Malemute Kid swept his hand over the dog-drivers, even including the two policemen who had turned into Prince’s bunk. “Where did you come from? I’ve seen faces like yours before, though I can’t remember just where.”

“I know you,” he irrelevantly replied, at once turning the drift of Malemute Kid’s questions.

“Where? Ever see me?”

“No; your partner, him priest, Pastilik, long time ago. Him ask me if I see you, Malemute Kid. Him give me grub. I no stop long. You hear him speak ‘bout me?”

“Oh! you ‘re the fellow that traded the otter skins for the dogs?”

The man nodded, knocked out his pipe, and signified his disinclination for conversation by rolling up in his furs. Malemute Kid blew out the slush-lamp and crawled under the blankets with Prince.

“Well, what is he?”

“Don’t know — turned me off, somehow, and then shut up like a clam. But he ‘s a fellow to whet your curiosity. I’ve heard of him. All the Coast wondered about him eight years ago. Sort of mysterious, you know. He came down out of the North, in the dead of winter, many a thousand miles from here, skirting Bering Sea and traveling as though the devil were after him. No one ever learned where he came from, but he must have come far. He was badly travel-worn when he got food from the Swedish missionary on Golovin Bay and asked the way south. We heard of this afterward. Then he abandoned the shore-line, heading right across Norton Sound. Terrible weather, snowstorms and high winds, but he pulled through where a thousand other men would have died, missing St. Michael’s and making the land at Pastilik. He’d lost all but two dogs, and was nearly gone with starvation.

“He was so anxious to go on that Father Roubeau fitted him out with grub; but he couldn’t let him have any dogs, for he was only waiting my arrival to go on a trip himself. Mr. Ulysses knew too much to start on without animals, and fretted around for several days. He had on his sled a bunch of beautifully cured otter skins, sea-otters, you know, worth their weight in gold. There was also at Pastilik an old Shylock of a Russian trader, who had dogs to kill. Well, they didn’t dicker very long, but when the Strange One headed south again, it was in the rear of a spanking dog-team. Mr. Shylock, by the way, had the otter skins. I saw them, and they were magnificent. We figured it up and found the dogs brought him at least five hundred apiece. And it wasn’t as if the Strange One didn’t know the value of sea-otter; he was an Indian of some sort, and what little he talked showed he’d been among white men.

“After the ice passed out of the Sea, word came up from Nunivak Island that he’d gone in there for grub. Then he dropped from sight, and this is the first heard of him in eight years. Now where did he come from? and what was he doing there? and why did he come from there? He’s Indian, he’s been nobody knows where, and he’s had discipline, which is unusual for an Indian. Another mystery of the North for you to solve, Prince.”

“Thanks, awfully; but I’ve got too many on hand as it is,” he replied.

Malemute Kid was already breathing heavily; but the young mining engineer gazed straight up through the thick darkness, waiting for the strange orgasm which stirred his blood to die away. And when he did sleep, his brain worked on, and for the nonce he, too, wandered through the white unknown, struggled with the dogs on endless trails, and saw men live, and toil, and die like men.

* * *

The next morning, hours before daylight, the dog-drivers and policemen pulled out for Dawson. But the powers that saw to her Majesty’s interests, and ruled the destinies of her lesser creatures, gave the mailmen little rest; for a week later they appeared at Stuart River, heavily burdened with letters for Salt Water. However, their dogs had been replaced by fresh ones; but then, they were dogs.

The men had expected some sort of a lay-over in which to rest up; besides, this Klondike was a new section of the Northland, and they had wished to see a little something of the Golden City where dust flowed like water, and dance halls rang with never ending revelry. But they dried their socks and smoked their evening pipes with much the same gusto as on their former visit, though one or two bold spirits speculated on desertion and the possibility of crossing the unexplored Rockies to the east, and thence, by the Mackenzie Valley, of gaining their old stamping-grounds in the Chippewyan Country. Two or three even decided to return to their homes by that route when their terms of service had expired, and they began to lay plans forthwith, looking forward to the hazardous undertaking in much the same way a city-bred man would to a day’s holiday in the woods.

He of the Otter Skins seemed very restless, though he took little interest in the discussion, and at last he drew Malemute Kid to one side and talked for some time in low tones. Prince cast curious eyes in their direction, and the mystery deepened when they put on caps and mittens, and went outside. When they returned, Malemute Kid placed his gold-scales on the table, weighed out the matter of sixty ounces, and transferred them to the Strange One’s sack. Then the chief of the dog-drivers joined the conclave, and certain business was transacted with him. The next day the gang went on up river, but He of the Otter Skins took several pounds of grub and turned his steps back toward Dawson.

* * *

“Didn’t know what to make of it,” said Malemute Kid in response to Prince’s queries; “but the poor beggar wanted to be quit of the service for some reason or other — at least it seemed a most important one to him, though he wouldn’t let on what. You see, it’s just like the army; he signed for two years, and the only way to get free was to buy himself out. He couldn’t desert and then stay here, and he was just wild to remain in the country. Made up his mind when he got to Dawson, he said; but no one knew him, hadn’t a cent, and I was the only one he’d spoken two words with. So he talked it over with the Lieutenant-Governor, and made arrangements in case he could get the money from me — loan, you know. Said he’d pay back in the year, and if I wanted, would put me onto something rich. Never ‘d seen it, but knew it was rich.

“And talk! why, when he got me outside he was ready to weep. Begged and pleaded; gotdown in the snow to me till I hauled him out of it. Palavered around like a crazy man. Swore he’s worked to this very end for years and years, and couldn’t bear to be disappointed now. Asked him what end, but he wouldn’t say. Said they might keep him on the other half of the trail and he wouldn’t get to Dawson in two years, and then it would be too late. Never saw a man take on so in my life. And when I said I ‘d let him have it, had to yank him out of the snow again. Told him to consider it in the light of a grub-stake. Think he’d have it? No, sir! Swore he ‘d give me all he found, make me rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and all such stuff. Now a man who puts his life and time against a grub-stake ordinarily finds it hard enough to turn over half of what he finds. Something behind all this, Prince; just you make a note of it. We’ll hear of him if he stays in thecountry”--

“And if he doesn’t?”

“Then my good nature gets a shock, and I’m sixty some odd ounces out.”

* * *

The cold weather had come on with the long nights, and the sun had begun to play his ancient game of peekaboo along the southern snow-line ere aught was heard of Malemute Kid’s grub-stake. And then, one bleak morning in early January, a heavily laden dog-train pulled into his cabin below Stuart River. He of the Otter Skins was there, and with him walked a man such as the gods have almost forgotten how to fashion. Men never talked of luck and pluck and five-hundred-dollar dirt without bringing in the name of Axel Gunderson; nor could tales of nerve or strength or daring pass up and down the camp-fire without the summoning of his presence. And when the conversation flagged, it blazed anew at mention of the woman who shared his fortunes.

As has been noted, in the making of Axel Gunderson the gods had remembered their old-time cunning, and cast him after the manner of men who were born when the world was young. Full seven feet he towered in his picturesque costume which marked a king of Eldorado. His chest, neck, and limbs were those of a giant. To bear his three hundred pounds of bone and muscle, his snowshoes were greater by a generous yard than those of other men. Rough-hewn, with rugged brow and massive jaw and unflinching eyes of palest blue, his face told the tale of one who knew but the law of might. Of the yellow of ripe corn silk, his frost-incrusted hair swept like day across the night, and fell far down his coat of bear-skin. A vague tradition of the sea seemed to cling about him, as he swung down the narrow trail in advance of the dogs; and he brought the butt of his dog-whip against Malemute Kid’s door as a Norse sea rover, on southern foray, might thunder for admittance at the castle gate. Prince bared his womanly arms and kneaded sour-dough bread, casting, as he did so, many a glance at the three guests,--three guests the like of which might never come under a man’s roof in a lifetime. The Strange One, whom Malemute Kid had surnamed Ulysses, still fascinated him; but his interest chiefly gravitated between Axel Gunderson and Axel Gunderson’s wife. She felt the day’s journey, for she had softened in comfortable cabins during the many days since her husband mastered the wealth of frozen pay-streaks, and she was tired. She rested against his great breast like a slender flower against a wall, replying lazily to Malemute Kid’s good-natured banter, and stirring Prince’s blood strangely with an occasional sweep of her deep, dark eyes. For Prince was a man, and healthy, and had seen few women in many months. And she was older than he, and an Indian besides. But she was different from all native wives he had met: she had traveled,--had been in his country among others, he gathered from the conversation; and she knew most of the things the women of his own race knew, and much more that it was not in the nature of things for them to know. She could make a meal of sun-dried fish or a bed in the snow; yet she teased them with tantalizing details of many-course dinners, and caused strange internal dissensions to arise at the mention of various quondam dishes which they had well-nigh forgotten. She knew the ways of the moose, the bear, and the little blue fox, and of the wild amphibians of the Northern seas; she was skilled in the lore of the woods and the streams, and the tale writ by man and bird and beast upon the delicate snow crust was to her an open book; yet Prince caught the appreciative twinkle in her eye as she read the Rules of the Camp. These rules had been fathered by the Unquenchable Bettles at a time when his blood ran high, and were remarkable for the terse simplicity of their humor. Prince always turned them to the wall before the arrival of ladies; but who could suspect that this native wife--Well, it was too late now.

This, then, was the wife of Axel Gunderson, a woman whose name and fame had traveled with her husband’s, hand in hand, through all the Northland. At table, Malemute Kid baited her with the assurance of an old friend, and Prince shook off the shyness of first acquaintance and joined in. But she held her own in the unequal contest, while her husband, slower in wit, ventured naught but applause. And he was very proud of her; his every look and action revealed the magnitude of the place she occupied in his life. He of the Otter Skins ate in silence, forgotten in the merry battle; and long ere the others were done he pushed back from the table and went out among the dogs. Yet all too soon his fellow travelers drew on their mittens and parkas, and followed him.

There had been no snow for many days, and the sleds slipped along the hard-packed Yukon trail as easily as if it had been glare ice. Ulysses led the first sled; with the second came Prince and Axel Gunderson’s wife; while Malemute Kid and the yellow-haired giant brought up the third.

“It ‘s only a `hunch,’ Kid,” he said; “but I think it ‘s straight. He’s never been there, but he tells a good story, and shows a map I heard of when I was in the Kootenay country, years ago. I’d like to have you go along; but he ‘s a strange one, and swore point-blank to throw it up if any one was brought in. But when I come back you ‘ll get first tip, and I’ll stake you next to me, and give you a half share in the town site besides.

“No! no!” he cried, as the other strove to interrupt. “I’m running this, and before I’m done it’ll need two heads. If it ‘s all right, why it’ll be a second Cripple Creek, man; do you hear?--a second Cripple Creek! It’s quartz, you know, not placer; and if we work it right we’ll corral the whole thing,--millions upon millions. I’ve heard of the place before, and so have you. We’ll build a town--thousands of workmen--good waterways--steamship lines--big carrying trade--light-draught steamers for head-reaches--survey a railroad, perhaps--sawmills--electric-light plant--do our own banking--commercial company--syndicate--Say! just you hold your hush till I get back!”

The sleds came to a halt where the trail crossed the mouth of Stuart River. An unbroken sea of frost, its wide expanse stretched away into the unknown east. The snowshoes were withdrawn from the lashings of the sleds. Axel Gunderson shook hands and stepped to the fore, his great webbed shoes sinking a fair half yard into the feathery surface and packing the snow so the dogs should not wallow. His wife fell in behind the last sled, betraying long practice in the art of handling the awkward footgear. The stillness was broken with cheery farewells; the dogs whined; and He of the Otter Skins talked with his whip to a recalcitrant wheeler.

An hour later, the train had taken on the likeness of a black pencil crawling in a long, straight line across a mighty sheet of foolscap.

One night, many weeks later, Malemute Kid and Prince fell to solving chess problems from the torn page of an ancient magazine. The Kid had just returned from his Bonanza properties, and was resting up preparatory to a long moose hunt. Prince too had been on creek and trail nearly all winter, and had grown hungry for a blissful week of cabin life.

“Interpose the black knight, and force the king. No, that won’t do. See, the next move”--

“Why advance the pawn two squares? Bound to take it in transit, and with the bishop out of the way”--

“But hold on! That leaves a hole, and”--

“No; it ‘s protected. Go ahead! You’ll see it works.”

It was very interesting. Somebody knocked at the door a second time before Malemute Kid said, “Come in.” The door swung open. Something staggered in. Prince caught one square look, and sprang to his feet. The horror in his eyes caused Malemute Kid to whirl about; and he too was startled, though he had seen bad things before. The thing tottered blindly toward them. Prince edged away till he reached the nail from which hung his Smith & Wesson.

“My God! what is it?” he whispered to Malemute Kid.

“Don’t know. Looks like a case of freezing and no grub,” replied the Kid, sliding away in the opposite direction. “Watch out! It may be mad,” he warned, coming back from closing the door.

The thing advanced to the table. The bright flame of the slush-lamp caught its eye. It was amused, and gave voice to eldritch cackles which betokened mirth. Then, suddenly, he--for it was a man--swayed back, with a hitch to his skin trousers, and began to sing a chanty, such as men lift when they swing around the capstan circle and the sea snorts in their ears:

Pull! my bully boys! Pull!

D’yeh want--to know de captain ru-uns her?

Pull! my bully boys! Pull!

Jon-a-than Jones ob South Caho-li-in-a,

Pull! my bully”--

He broke off abruptly, tottered with a wolfish snarl to the meat-shelf, and before they could intercept was tearing with his teeth at a chunk of raw bacon. The struggle was fierce between him and Malemute Kid; but his mad strength left him as suddenly as it had come, and he weakly surrendered the spoil. Between them they got him upon a stool, where he sprawled with half his body across the table. A small dose of whiskey strengthened him, so that he could dip a spoon into the sugar caddy which Malemute Kid placed before him. After his appetite had been somewhat cloyed, Prince, shuddering as he did so, passed him a mug of weak beef tea.

The creature’s eyes were alight with a sombre frenzy, which blazed and waned with every mouthful. There was very little skin to the face. The face, for that matter, sunken and emaciated, bore very little likeness to human countenance. Frost after frost had bitten deeply, each depositing its stratum of scab upon the half-healed scar that went before. This dry, hard surface was of a bloody-black color, serrated by grievous cracks wherein the raw red flesh peeped forth. His skin garments were dirty and in tatters, and the fur of one side was singed and burned away, showing where he had lain upon his fire.

Malemute Kid pointed to where the sun-tanned hide had been cut away, strip by strip,--the grim signature of famine.

“Who--are--you?” slowly and distinctly enunciated the Kid.

The man paid no heed.

“Where do you come from?”

“Yan-kee ship come down de ri-ib-er,” was the quavering response.

“Don’t doubt the beggar came down the river,” the Kid said, shaking him in an endeavor to start a more lucid flow of talk.

But the man shrieked at the contact, clapping a hand to his side in evident pain. He rose slowly to his feet, half leaning on the table.

“She laughed at me--so--with the hate in her eye; and she--would--not--come.”

His voice died away, and he was sinking back when Malemute Kid gripped him by the wrist, and shouted, “Who? Who would not come?”

“She, Unga. She laughed, and struck at me, so, and so. And then”--

“Yes?”

“And then”--

“And then what?”

“And then he lay very still, in the snow, a long time. He is--still in--the--snow.”

The two men looked at each other helplessly.

“Who is in the snow?”

“She, Unga. She looked at me with the hate in her eye, and then”--

“Yes, yes.”

“And then she took the knife, so; and once, twice--she was weak. I traveled very slow. And there is much gold in that place, very much gold.”

“Where is Unga?” For all Malemute Kid knew, she might be dying a mile away. He shook the man savagely, repeating again and again, “Where is Unga? Who is Unga?”

“She--is--in--the--snow.”

“Go on!” The Kid was pressing his wrist cruelly.

“So--I--would--be--in--the snow--but--I--had--debt--to--pay. It--was--heavy--I--had--a--debt--to--pay--a--debt--to--pay--I--had”--The faltering monosyllables ceased, as he fumbled in his pouch and drew forth a buckskin sack. “A--debt--to--pay--five--pounds--of--gold--grub--stake--Mal--e--mute--Kid--I”--The exhausted head dropped upon the table; nor could Malemute Kid rouse it again.

“It’s Ulysses,” he said quietly, tossing the bag of dust on the table. “Guess it’s all day with Axel Gunderson and the woman. Come on, let ‘s get him between the blankets. He’s Indian; he’ll pull through, and tell a tale besides.”

As they cut his garments from him, near his right breast could be seen two unhealed, hard-lipped knife thrusts.

* * *

“I will talk of the things which were, in my own way; but you will understand. I will begin at the beginning, and tell of myself and the woman, and, after that, of the man.”

He of the Otter Skins drew over to the stove as do men who have been deprived of fire and are afraid the Promethean gift may vanish at any moment. Malemute Kid pricked up the slush-lamp, and placed it so its light might fall upon the face of the narrator. Prince slid his body over the edge of the bunk and joined them.

“I am Naass, a chief, and the son of a chief, born between a sunset and a rising, on the dark seas, in my father’s oomiak. All of a night the men toiled at the paddles, and the women cast out the waves which threw in upon us, and we fought with the storm. The salt spray froze upon my mother’s breast till her breath passed with the passing of the tide. But I,--I raised my voice with the wind and the storm, and lived.

“We dwelt in Akatan”--

“Where?” asked Malemute Kid.

“Akatan, which is in the Aleutians; Akatan, beyond Chignik, beyond Kardalak, beyond Unimak. As I say, we dwelt in Akatan, which lies in the midst of the sea on the edge of the world. We farmed the salt seas for the fish, the seal, and the otter; and our homes shouldered about one another on the rocky strip between the rim of the forest and the yellow beach where our kayaks lay. We were not many, and the world was very small. There were strange lands to the east,--islands like Akatan; so we thought all the world was islands, and did not mind. “I was different from my people. In the sands of the beach were the crooked timbers and wave-warped planks of a boat such as my people never built; and I remember on the point of the island which overlooked the ocean three ways there stood a pine tree which never grew there, smooth and straight and tall. It is said the two men came to that spot, turn about, through many days, and watched with the passing of the light. These two men came from out of the sea in the boat which lay in pieces on the beach. And they were white like you, and weak as the little children when the seal have gone away and the hunters come home empty. I know of these things from the old men and the old women, who got them from their fathers and mothers before them. These strange white men did not take kindly to our ways at first, but they grew strong, what of the fish and the oil, and fierce. And they built them each his own house, and took the pick of our women, and in time children came. Thus he was born who was to become the father of my father’s father.

“As I said, I was different from my people, for I carried the strong, strange blood of this white man who came out of the sea. It is said we had other laws in the days before these men; but they were fierce and quarrelsome, and fought with our men till there were no more left who dared to fight. Then they made themselves chiefs, and took away our old laws and gave us new ones, insomuch that the man was the son of his father, and not his mother, as our way had been. They also ruled that the son, firstborn, should have all things which were his father’s before him, and that the brothers and sisters should shift for themselves. And they gave us other laws. They showed us new ways in the catching of fish and the killing of bear which were thick in the woods; and they taught us to lay by bigger stores for the time of famine. And these things were good.

“But when they had become chiefs, and there were no more men to face their anger, they fought, these strange white men, each with the other. And the one whose blood I carry drove his seal spear the length of an arm through the other’s body. Their children took up the fight, and their children’s children; and there was great hatred between them, and black doings, even to my time, so that in each family but one lived to pass down the blood of them that went before. Of my blood I was alone; of the other man’s there was but a girl, Unga, who lived with her mother. Her father and my father did not come back from the fishing one night; but afterward they washed up to the beach on the big tides, and they held very close to each other.

“The people wondered, because of the hatred between the houses, and the old men shook their heads and said the fight would go on when children were born to her and children to me. They told me this as a boy, till I came to believe, and to look upon Unga as a foe, who was to be the mother of children which were to fight with mine. I thought of these things day by day, and when I grew to a stripling I came to ask why this should be so. And they answered, ‘We do not know, but that in such way your fathers did.’ And I marveled that those which were to come should fight the battles of those that were gone, and in it I could see no right. But the people said it must be, and I was only a stripling.

“And they said I must hurry, that my blood might be the older and grow strong before hers. This was easy, for I was head man, and the people looked up to me because of the deeds and the laws of my fathers, and the wealth which was mine. Any maiden would come to me, but I found none to my liking. And the old men and the mothers of maidens told me to hurry, for even then were the hunters bidding high to the mother of Unga; and should her children grow strong before mine, mine would surely die.

“Nor did I find a maiden till one night coming back from the fishing. The sunlight was lying, so, low and full in the eyes, the wind free, and the kayaks racing with the white seas. Of a sudden the kayak of Unga came driving past me, and she looked upon me, so, with her black hair flying like a cloud of night and the spray wet on her cheek. As say, the sunlight was full in the eyes, and I was a stripling; but somehow it was all clear, and I knew it to be the call of kind to kind. As she whipped ahead she looked back within the space of two strokes,--looked as only the woman Unga could look,--and again I knew it as the call of kind. The people shouted as we ripped past the lazy oomiaks and left them far behind. But she was quick at the paddle, and my heart was like the belly of a sail, and I did not gain. The wind freshened, the sea whitened, and, leaping like the seals on the windward breech, we roared down the golden pathway of the sun.”

Naass was crouched half out of his stool, in the attitude of one driving a paddle, as he ran the race anew. Somewhere across the stove he beheld the tossing kayak and the flying hair of Unga. The voice of the wind was in his ears, and its salt beat fresh upon his nostrils.

“But she made the shore, and ran up the sand, laughing, to the house of her mother. And a great thought came to me that night,--a thought worthy of him that was chief over all the people of Akatan. So, when the moon was up, I went down to the house of her mother, and looked upon the goods of Yash-Noosh, which were piled by the door,--the goods of Yash-Noosh, a strong hunter who had it in mind to be the father of the children of Unga. Other young men had piled their goods there, and taken them away again; and each young man had made a pile greater than the one before.

“And I laughed to the moon and the stars, and went to my own house where my wealth was stored. And many trips I made, till my pile was greater by the fingers of one hand than the pile of Yash-Noosh. There were fish, dried in the sun and smoked; and forty hides of the hair seal, and half as many of the fur, and each hide was tied at the mouth and big-bellied with oil; and ten skins of bear which I killed in the woods when they came out in the spring. And there were beads and blankets and scarlet cloths, such as I got in trade from the people who lived to the east, and who got them in trade from the people who lived still beyond in the east. And I looked upon the pile of Yash-Noosh and laughed; for I was head man in Akatan, and my wealth was greater than the wealth of all my young men, and my fathers had done deeds, and given laws, and put their names for all time in the mouths of the people.

“So, when the morning came, I went down to the beach, casting out of the corner of my eye at the house of the mother of Unga. My offer yet stood untouched. And the women smiled, and said sly things one to the other. I wondered, for never had such a price been offered; and that night I added more to the pile, and put beside it a kayak of well-tanned skins which never yet had swam in the sea. But in the day it was yet there, open to the laughter of all men. The mother of Unga was crafty, and I grew angry at the shame in which I stood before my people. So that night I added till it became a great pile, and I hauled up my oomiak, which was of the value of twenty kayaks. And in the morning there was no pile.

“Then made I preparation for the wedding, and the people that lived even to the east came for the food of the feast and the potlach token. Unga was older than I by the age of four suns in the way we reckoned the years. I was only a stripling; but then I was a chief, and the son of a chief, and it did not matter.

“But a ship shoved her sails above the floor of the ocean, and grew larger with the breath of the wind. From her scuppers she ran clear water, and the men were in haste and worked hard at the pumps. On the bow stood a mighty man, watching the depth of the water and giving commands with a voice of thunder. His eyes were of the pale blue of the deep waters, and his head was maned like that of a sea lion. And his hair was yellow, like the straw of a southern harvest or the manila rope-yarns which sailormen plait.

“Of late years we had seen ships from afar, but this was the first to come to the beach of Akatan. The feast was broken, and the women and children fled to the houses, while we men strung our bows and waited with spears in hand. But when the ship’s forefoot smelt the beach the strange men took no notice of us, being busy with their own work. With the falling of the tide they careened the schooner and patched a great hole in her bottom. So the women crept back, and the feast went on.

“When the tide rose, the sea wanderers kedged the schooner to deep water, and then came among us. They bore presents and were friendly; so I made room for them, and out of the largeness of my heart gave them tokens such as I gave all the guests; for it was my wedding day, and I was head man in Akatan. And he with the mane of the sea lion was there, so tall and strong that one looked to see the earth shake with the fall of his feet. He looked much and straight at Unga, with his arms folded, so, and stayed till the sun went away and the stars came out. Then he went down to his ship. After that I took Unga by the hand and led her to my own house. And there was singing and great laughter, and the women said sly things, after the manner of women at such times. But we did not care. Then the people left us alone and went home.

“The last noise had not died away, when the chief of the sea wanderers came in by the door. And he had with him black bottles, from which we drank and made merry. You see, I was only a stripling, and had lived all my days on the edge of the world. So my blood became as fire, and my heart as light as the froth that flies from the surf to the cliff. Unga sat silent among the skins in the corner, her eyes wide, for she seemed to fear. And he with the mane of the sea lion looked upon her straight and long. Then his men came in with bundles of goods, and he piled before me wealth such as was not in all Akatan. There were guns, both large and small, and powder and shot and shell, and bright axes and knives of steel, and cunning tools, and strange things the like of which I had never seen. When he showed me by sign that it was all mine, I thought him a great man to be so free; but, he showed me also that Unga was to go away with him in his ship. Do you understand?--that Unga was to go away with him in his ship. The blood of my fathers flamed hot on the sudden, and I made to drive him through with my spear. But the spirit of the bottles had stolen the life from my arm, and he took me by the neck, so, and knocked my head against the wall of the house. And I was made weak like a newborn child, and my legs would no more stand under me. Unga screamed, and she laid hold of the things of the house with her hands, till theyfell all about us as he dragged her to the door. Then he took her in his great arms, and when she tore at his yellow hair laughed with a sound like that of the big bull seal in the rut.

“I crawled to the beach and called upon my people; but they were afraid. Only Yash-Noosh was a man, and they struck him on the head with an oar, till he lay with his face in the sand anddid not move. And they raised the sails to the sound of their songs, and the ship went away on the wind.

“The people said it was good, for there would be no more war of the bloods in Akatan; but I said never a word, waiting till the time of the full moon, when I put fish and oil in my kayak, and went away to the east. I saw many islands and many people, and I, who had lived on the edge, saw that the world was very large. I talked by signs; but they had not seen a schooner nor a man with the mane of a sea lion, and they pointed always to the east. And I slept in queer places, and ate odd things, and met strange faces. Many laughed, for they thought me light of head; but sometimes old men turned my face to the light and blessed me, and the eyes of the young women grew soft as they asked me of the strange ship, and Unga, and the men of the sea.

“And in this manner, through rough seas and great storms, came to Unalaska. There were two schooners there, but neither was the one I sought. So I passed on to the east, with the world growing ever larger, and in the Island of Unamok there was no word of the ship, nor in Kadiak, nor in Atognak. And so I came one day to a rocky land, where men dug great holes in the mountain. And there was a schooner, but not my schooner, and men loaded upon it the rocks which they dug. This thought childish, for all the world was made of rocks; but they gave me food and set me to work. When the schooner was deep in the water, the captain gave me money and told me to go; but I asked which way he went, and he pointed south. I made signs that I would go with him; and he laughed at first, but then, being short of men, took me to help work the ship. So I came to talk after their manner, and to heave on ropes, and to reef the stiff sails in sudden squalls, and to take my turn at the wheel. But it was not strange, for the blood of my fathers was the blood of the men of the sea.

“I had thought it an easy task to find him I sought, once I got among his own people; and when we raised the land one day, and passed between a gateway of the sea to a port, I looked for perhaps as many schooners as there were fingers to my hands. But the ships lay against the wharves for miles, packed like so many little fish; and when I went among them to ask for a man with the mane of a sea lion, they laughed, and answered me in the tongues of many peoples. And I found that they hailed from the uttermost parts of the earth.

“And I went into the city to look upon the face of every man. But they were like the cod when they run thick on the banks, and I could not count them. And the noise smote upon me till I could not hear, and my head was dizzy with much movement. So I went on and on, through the lands which sang in the warm sunshine; where the harvests lay rich on the plains; and where great cities were fat with men that lived like women, with false words in their mouths and their hearts black with the lust of gold. And all the while my people of Akatan hunted and fished, and were happy in the thought that the world was small.

“But the look in the eyes of Unga coming home from the fishing was with me always, and I knew I would find her when the time was met. She walked down quiet lanes in the dusk of the evening, or led me chases across the thick fields wet with the morning dew, and there was a promise in her eyes such as only the woman Unga could give.

“So I wandered through a thousand cities. Some were gentle and gave me food, and others laughed, and still others cursed; but I kept my tongue between my teeth, and went strange ways and saw strange sights. Sometimes, I, who was a chief and the son of a chief, toiled for men,--men rough of speech and hard as iron, who wrung gold from the sweat and sorrow of their fellow men. Yet no word did I get of my quest, till came back to the sea like a homing seal to the rookeries. But this was at another port, in another country which lay to the north. And there heard dim tales of the yellow-haired sea wanderer, and I learned that he was a hunter of seals, and that even then he was abroad on the ocean.

“So I shipped on a seal schooner with the lazy Siwashes, and followed his trackless trail to the north where the hunt was then warm. And we were away weary months, and spoke many of the fleet, and heard much of the wild doings of him I sought; but never once did we raise him above the sea. We went north, even to the Pribyloffs, and killed the seals in herds on the beach, and brought their warm bodies aboard till our scuppers ran grease and blood and no man could stand upon the deck. Then were we chased by a ship of slow steam, which fired upon us with great guns. But we put on sail till the sea was over our decks and washed them clean, and lost ourselves in a fog.

“It is said, at this time, while we fled with fear at our hearts, that the yellow-haired sea wanderer put into the Pribyloffs, right to the factory, and while the part of his men held the servants of the company, the rest loaded ten thousand green skins from the salt-houses. I say it is said, but I believe; for in the voyages made on the coast with never a meeting, the northern seas rang with his wildness and daring, till the three nations which have lands there sought him with their ships. And I heard of Unga, for the captains sang loud in her praise, and she was always with him. She had learned the ways of his people, they said, and was happy. But I knew better,--knew that her heart harked back to her own people by the yellow beach of Akatan.

“So, after a long time, I went back to the port which is by a gateway of the sea, and there I learned that he had gone across the girth of the great ocean to hunt for the seal to the east of the warm land which runs south from the Russian Seas. And I, who was become a sailorman, shipped with men of his own race, and went after him in the hunt of the seal. And there were few ships off that new land; but we hung on the flank of the seal pack and harried it north through all the spring of the year. And when the cows were heavy with pup and crossed the Russian line, our men grumbled and were afraid. For there was much fog, and every day men were lost in the boats. They would not work, so the captain turned the ship back toward the way it came. But I knew the yellow-haired sea wanderer was unafraid, and would hang by the pack, even to the Russian Isles, where few men go. So I took a boat, in the black of night, when the lookout dozed on the fok’slehead, and went alone to the warm, long land. And I journeyed south to meet the men by Yeddo Bay, who are wild and unafraid. And the Yoshiwara girls were small, and bright like steel, and good to look upon; but I could not stop, for I knew that Unga rolled on the tossing floor by the rookeries of the north.

“The men by Yeddo Bay had met from the ends of the earth, and had neither gods nor homes, sailing under the flag of the Japanese. And with them I went to the rich beaches of Copper Island, where our salt-piles became high with skins. And in that silent sea we saw no man till we were ready to come away. Then, one day, the fog lifted on the edge of a heavy wind, and there jammed down upon us a schooner, with close in her wake the cloudy funnels of a Russian man-of-war. We fled away on the beam of the wind, with the schooner jamming still closer and plunging ahead three feet to our two. And upon her poop was the man with the mane of the sea lion, pressing the rails under with the canvas and laughing in his strength of life. And Unga was there,--I knew her on the moment,--but he sent her below when the cannons began to talk across the sea. As I say, with three feet to our two, till we saw the rudder lift green at every jump,--and I swinging on to the wheel and cursing, with my back to the Russian shot. For we knew he had it in mind to run before us, that he might get away while we were caught. And they knocked our masts out of us till we dragged into the wind like a wounded gull; but he went on over the edge of the sky-line,--he and Unga.

“What could we? The fresh hides spoke for themselves. So they took us to a Russian port, and after that to a lone country, where they set us to work in the mines to dig salt. And some died, and--and some did not die.”

Naass swept the blanket from his shoulders, disclosing the gnarled and twisted flesh, marked with the unmistakable striations of the knout. Prince hastily covered him, for it was not nice to look upon.

“We were there a weary time; and sometimes men got away to the south, but they always came back. So, when we who hailed from Yeddo Bay rose in the night and took the guns from the guards, we went to the north. And the land was very large, with plains, soggy with water, and great forests. And the cold came, with much snow on the ground, and no man knew the way. Weary months we journeyed through the endless forest,--I do not remember, now, for there was little food and often we lay down to die. But at last we came to the cold sea, and but three were left to look upon it. One had shipped from Yeddo as captain, and he knew in his head the lay of the great lands, and of the place where men may cross from one to the other on the ice. And he led us,--I do not know, it was so long,--till there were but two. When we came to that place we found five of the strange people which live in that country, and they had dogs and skins, and we were very poor. We fought in the snow till they died, and the captain died, and the dogs and skins were mine. Then I crossed on the ice, which was broken, and once drifted till a gale from the west put me upon the shore. And after that, Golovin Bay, Pastilik, and the priest. Then south, south, to the warm sunlands where first I wandered.

“But the sea was no longer fruitful, and those who went upon it after the seal went to little profit and great risk. The fleets scattered, and the captains and the men had no word of those I sought. So I turned away from the ocean which never rests, and went among the lands, where the trees, the houses, and the mountains sit always in one place and do not move. I journeyed far, and came to learn many things, even to the way of reading and writing from books. It was well I should do this, for it came upon me that Unga must know these things, and that some day, when the time was met--we--you understand, when the time was met.

“So I drifted, like those little fish which raise a sail to the wind, but cannot steer. But my eyes and my ears were open always, and went among men who traveled much, for I knew they had but to see those sought, to remember. At last there came a man, fresh from the mountains, with pieces of rock in which the free gold stood to the size of peas, and he had heard, he had met, he knew them. They were rich, he said, and lived in the place where they drew the gold from the ground.

“It was in a wild country, and very far away; but in time came to the camp, hidden between the mountains, where men worked night and day, out of the sight of the sun. Yet the time was not come. listened to the talk of the people. He had gone away,--they had gone away,--to England, it was said, in the matter of bringing men with much money together to form companies. I saw the house they had lived in; more like a palace, such as one sees in the old countries. In the nighttime I crept in through a window that I might see in what manner he treated her. I went from room to room, and in such way thought kings and queens must live, it was all so very good. And they all said he treated her like a queen, and many marveled as to what breed of woman she was; for there was other blood in her veins, and she was different from the women of Akatan, and no one knew her for what she was. Ay, she was a queen; but I was a chief, and the son of a chief, and had paid for her an untold price of skin and boat and bead.

“But why so many words? I was a sailorman, and knew the way of the ships on the seas. I followed to England, and then to other countries. Sometimes I heard of them by word of mouth, sometimes I read of them in the papers; yet never once could I come by them, for they had much money, and traveled fast, while I was a poor man. Then came trouble upon them, and their wealth slipped away, one day, like a curl of smoke. The papers were full of it at the time; but after that nothing was said, and I knew they had gone back where more gold could be got from the ground. “They had dropped out of the world, being now poor; and so wandered from camp to camp, even north to the Kootenay Country, where picked up the cold scent. They had come and gone, some said this way, and some that, and still others that they had gone to the Country of the Yukon. And I went this way, and I went that, ever journeying from place to place, till it seemed I must grow weary of the world which was so large. But in the Kootenay I traveled a bad trail, and a long trail, with a `breed’ of the Northwest, who saw fit to die when the famine pinched. He had been to the Yukon by an unknown way over the mountains, and when he knew his time was near gave me the map and the secret of a place where he swore by his gods there was much gold.

“After that all the world began to flock into the north. I was a poor man; I sold myself to be a driver of dogs. The rest you know. met him and her in Dawson. She did not know me, for I was only a stripling, and her life had been large, so she had no time to remember the one who had paid for her an untold price.

“So? You bought me from my term of service. I went back to bring things about in my own way; for I had waited long, and now that had my hand upon him was in no hurry. As I say, I had it in mind to do my own way; for I read back in my life, through all I had seen and suffered, and remembered the cold and hunger of the endless forest by the Russian Seas. As you know, I led him into the east,--him and Unga,--into the east where many have gone and few returned. I led them to the spot where the bones and the curses of men lie with the gold which they may not have.

“The way was long and the trail unpacked. Our dogs were many and ate much; nor could our sleds carry till the break of spring. We must come back before the river ran free. So here and there we cached grub, that our sleds might be lightened and there be no chance of famine on the back trip. At the McQuestion there were three men, and near them we built a cache, as also did we at the Mayo, where was a hunting-camp of a dozen Pellys which had crossed the divide from the south. After that, as we went on into the east, we saw no men; only the sleeping river, the moveless forest, and the White Silence of the North. As say, the way was long and the trail unpacked. Sometimes, in a day’s toil, we made no more than eight miles, or ten, and at night we slept like dead men. And never once did they dream that I was Naass, head man of Akatan, the righter of wrongs.

“We now made smaller caches, and in the nighttime it was a small matter to go back on the trail we had broken, and change them in such way that one might deem the wolverines the thieves. Again, there be places where there is a fall to the river, and the water is unruly, and the ice makes above and is eaten away beneath. In such a spot the sled I drove broke through, and the dogs; and to him and Unga it was ill luck, but no more. And there was much grub on that sled, and the dogs the strongest. But he laughed, for he was strong of life, and gave the dogs that were left little grub till we cut them from the harnesses, one by one, and fed them to their mates. We would go home light, he said, traveling and eating from cache to cache, with neither dogs nor sleds; which was true, for our grub was very short, and the last dog died in the traces the night we came to the gold and the bones and the curses of men.

“To reach that place,--and the map spoke true,--in the heart of the great mountains, we cut ice steps against the wall of a divide. One looked for a valley beyond, but there was no valley; the snow spread away, level as the great harvest plains, and here and there about us mighty mountains shoved their white heads among the stars. And midway on that strange plain which should have been a valley, the earth and the snow fell away, straight down toward the heart of the world. Had we not been sailormen our heads would have swung round with the sight; but we stood on the dizzy edge that we might see a way to get down. And on one side, and one side only, the wall had fallen away till it was like the slope of the decks in a topsail breeze. I do not know why this thing should be so, but it was so. `It is the mouth of hell,’ he said; `let us go down.’ And we went down.

“And on the bottom there was a cabin, built by some man, of logs which he had cast down from above. It was a very old cabin; for men had died there alone at different times, and on pieces of birch bark which were there we read their last words and their curses. One had died of scurvy; another’s partner had robbed him of his last grub and powder and stolen away; a third had been mauled by a bald-face grizzly; a fourth had hunted for game and starved,--and so it went, and they had been loath to leave the gold, and had died by the side of it in one way or another. And the worthless gold they had gathered yellowed the floor of the cabin like in a dream.

“But his soul was steady, and his head clear, this man I had led thus far. `We have nothing to eat,’ he said, `and we will only look upon this gold, and see whence it comes and how much there be. Then we will go away quick, before it gets into our eyes and steals away our judgment. And in this way we may return in the end, with more grub, and possess it all.’ So we looked upon the great vein, which cut the wall of the pit as a true vein should; and we measured it, and traced it from above and below, and drove the stakes of the claims and blazed the trees in token of our rights. Then, our knees shaking with lack of food, and a sickness in our bellies, and our hearts chugging close to our mouths, we climbed the mighty wall for the last time and turned our faces to the back trip.

“The last stretch we dragged Unga between us, and we fell often, but in the end we made the cache. And lo, there was no grub. It was well done, for he thought it the wolverines, and damned them and his gods in the one breath. But Unga was brave, and smiled, and put her hand in his, till I turned away that I might hold myself. `We will rest by the fire,’ she said, `till morning, and we will gather strength from our moccasins.’ So we cut the tops of our moccasins in strips, and boiled them half of the night, that we might chew them and swallow them. And in the morning we talked of our chance. The next cache was five days’ journey; we could not make it. We must find game.

“`We will go forth and hunt,’ he said.

“ `Yes,’ said I, `we will go forth and hunt.’

“And he ruled that Unga stay by the fire and save her strength. And we went forth, he in quest of the moose, and I to the cache I had changed. But I ate little, so they might not see in me much strength. And in the night he fell many times as he drew into camp. And I too made to suffer great weakness, stumbling over my snowshoes as though each step might be my last. And we gathered strength from our moccasins.

“He was a great man. His soul lifted his body to the last; nor did he cry aloud, save for the sake of Unga. On the second day followed him, that I might not miss the end. And he lay down to rest often. That night he was near gone; but in the morning he swore weakly and went forth again. He was like a drunken man, and I looked many times for him to give up; but his was the strength of the strong, and his soul the soul of a giant, for he lifted his body through all the weary day. And he shot two ptarmigan, but would not eat them. He needed no fire; they meant life; but his thought was for Unga, and he turned toward camp. He no longer walked, but crawled on hand and knee through the snow. I came to him, and read death in his eyes. Even then it was not too late to eat of the ptarmigan. He cast away his rifle, and carried the birds in his mouth like a dog. I walked by his side, upright. And he looked at me during the moments he rested, and wondered that I was so strong. I could see it, though he no longer spoke; and when his lips moved, they moved without sound. As I say, he was a great man, and my heart spoke for softness; but I read back in my life, and remembered the cold and hunger of the endless forest by the Russian Seas. Besides, Unga was mine, and I had paid for her an untold price of skin and boat and bead.

“And in this manner we came through the white forest, with the silence heavy upon us like a damp sea mist. And the ghosts of the past were in the air and all about us; and I saw the yellow beach of Akatan, and the kayaks racing home from the fishing, and the houses on the rim of the forest. And the men who had made themselves chiefs were there, the lawgivers whose blood I bore, and whose blood I had wedded in Unga. Ay, and Yash-Noosh walked with me, the wet sand in his hair, and his war spear, broken as he fell upon it, still in his hand. And I knew the time was met, and saw in the eyes of Unga the promise.

“As I say, we came thus through the forest, till the smell of the camp smoke was in our nostrils. And I bent above him, and tore the ptarmigan from his teeth. He turned on his side and rested, the wonder mounting in his eyes, and the hand which was under slipping slow toward the knife at his hip. But I took it from him, smiling close in his face. Even then he did not understand. So I made to drink from black bottles, and to build high upon the snow a pile of goods, and to live again the things which happened on the night of my marriage. I spoke no word, but he understood. Yet was he unafraid. There was a sneer to his lips, and cold anger, and he gathered new strength with the knowledge. It was not far, but the snow was deep, and he dragged himself very slow. Once, he lay so long, I turned him over and gazed into his eyes. And sometimes he looked forth, and sometimes death. And when I loosed him he struggled on again. In this way we came to the fire. Unga was at his side on the instant. His lips moved, without sound; then he pointed at me, that Unga might understand. And after that he lay in the snow, very still, for a long while. Even now is he there in the snow.

“I said no word till I had cooked the ptarmigan. Then I spoke to her, in her own tongue, which she had not heard in many years. She straightened herself, so, and her eyes were wonder-wide, and she asked who I was, and where I had learned that speech.

“`I am Naass,’ I said.

“ `You?’ she said. `You?’ And she crept close that she might look upon me.

“`Yes,’ I answered; `I am Naass, head man of Akatan, the last of the blood, as you are the last of the blood.’

“And she laughed. By all the things I have seen and the deeds I have done, may I never hear such a laugh again. It put the chill to my soul, sitting there in the White Silence, alone with death and this woman who laughed.

“`Come!’ I said, for I thought she wandered. `Eat of the food and let us be gone. It is a far fetch from here to Akatan.’

“But she shoved her face in his yellow mane, and laughed till it seemed the heavens must fall about our ears. I had thought she would be overjoyed at the sight of me, and eager to go back to the memory of old times; but this seemed a strange form to take.

“`Come!’ I cried, taking her strong by the hand. `The way is long and dark. Let us hurry!’

“`Where?’ she asked, sitting up, and ceasing from her strange mirth.

“`To Akatan,’ I answered, intent on the light to grow on her face at the thought. But it became like his, with a sneer to the lips, and cold anger.

“`Yes,’ she said; `we will go, hand in hand, to Akatan, you and I. And we will live in the dirty huts, and eat of the fish and oil, and bring forth a spawn,--a spawn to be proud of all the days of our life. We will forget the world and be happy, very happy. It is good, most good. Come! Let us hurry. Let us go back to Akatan.’

“And she ran her hand through his yellow hair, and smiled in a way which was not good. And there was no promise in her eyes.

“I sat silent, and marveled at the strangeness of woman. went back to the night when he dragged her from me, and she screamed and tore at his hair,--at his hair which now she played with and would not leave. Then I remembered the price and the long years of waiting; and gripped her close, and dragged her away as he had done. And she held back, even as on that night, and fought like a she-cat for its whelp. And when the fire was between us and the man, I loosed her, and she sat and listened. And I told her of all that lay between, of all that had happened me on strange seas, of all that I had done in strange lands; of my weary quest, and the hungry years, and the promise which had been mine from the first. Ay, I told all, even to what had passed that day between the man and me, and in the days yet young. And as spoke I saw the promise grow in her eyes, full and large like the break of dawn. And I read pity there, the tenderness of woman, the love, the heart and the soul of Unga. And I was a stripling again, for the look was the look of Unga as she ran up the beach, laughing, to the home of her mother. The stern unrest was gone, and the hunger, and the weary waiting. The time was met. I felt the call of her breast, and it seemed there I must pillow my head and forget. She opened her arms to me, and I came against her. Then, sudden, the hate flamed in her eye, her hand was at my hip. And once, twice, she passed the knife.

“`Dog!’ she sneered, as she flung me into the snow. `Swine!’ And then she laughed till the silence cracked, and went back to her dead.

“As I say, once she passed the knife, and twice; but she was weak with hunger, and it was not meant that I should die. Yet was minded to stay in that place, and to close my eyes in the last long sleep with those whose lives had crossed with mine and led my feet on unknown trails. But there lay a debt upon me which would not let me rest.

“And the way was long, the cold bitter, and there was little grub. The Pellys had found no moose, and had robbed my cache. And so had the three white men; but they lay thin and dead in their cabin as passed. After that I do not remember, till I came here, and found food and fire,--much fire.”

As he finished, he crouched closely, even jealously, over the stove. For a long while the slush-lamp shadows played tragedies upon the wall.

“But Unga!” cried Prince, the vision still strong upon him.

“Unga? She would not eat of the ptarmigan. She lay with her arms about his neck, her face deep in his yellow hair. I drew the fire close, that she might not feel the frost; but she crept to the other side. And I built a fire there; yet it was little good, for she would not eat. And in this manner they still lie up there in the snow.”

“And you?” asked Malemute Kid.

“I do not know; but Akatan is small, and I have little wish to go back and live on the edge of the world. Yet is there small use in life. I can go to Constantine, and he will put irons upon me, and one day they will tie a piece of rope, so, and I will sleep good. Yet--no; I do not know.”

“But, Kid,” protested Prince, “this is murder!”

“Hush!” commanded Malemute Kid. “There be things greater than our wisdom, beyond our justice. The right and the wrong of this we cannot say, and it is not for us to judge.”

Naass drew yet closer to the fire. There was a great silence, and in each man’s eyes many pictures came and went.

Old Baldy

“I DECLARE! so the deacon’s goin’ to try his hand on Old Baldy, eh?” Jim Wheeler chuckled gleefully at the news, and rubbed his hands. “Wall, mebbe somethin’ ‘ll happen,” he went on, “an mebbe it won’t, but I sha’n’t be a mite s’prised if Old Baldy comes out a-top.”

“The deacon’s got a right powerful will,” Sim Grimes suggested dubiously. “An’ so has Baldy — powerful’st will in the country, bar none. But critters is critters and — ” And Grimes was just preparing to unload his mind of certain ideas concerning man’s primacy in the physical world, when the other cut him short.

“Now jest look here, Sim Grimes! Have you ever hearn tell of one man what limbered up Old Baldy when Old Baldy wa’n’t so minded? There’s Tucker an’ Smith an’ Johnson, an’ Olsen, an’ Ordway an’ Wellman — didn’t the whole caboodle try their luck at breakin’ Old Baldy’s sperrit, an’ didn’t the whole caboodle give it up? Jest tell me this, Sim Grimes — did you ever in yer born days hear on one man or passel of men gittin’ Old Baldy on his feet when he took it into his head to lay down?”

“Mebbe yer right,” Sim Grimes assented mildly, then his old faith in Deacon Barnes returning, “But the deacon’s got a right powerful will.”

“But Deacon Barnes jined a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals society, didn’t he?” Grimes nodded. “An he don’t b’lieve in whippin’ dumb brutes?”

“Nope.”

“Then how in the land of Goshen kin he make Old Baldy git up when he ain’t in the mood?”

“It’s more’n I kin tell,” Grimes answered, at the same time starting up his horses. But before he was out of earshot he turned and called back, “But the deacon’s got a powerful will!”

The farmers of Selbyville had little use for Old Baldy, and less regard; yet he was one of the finest oxen in the county, and perhaps the largest in the state. A good worker and a splendid yoke-animal, a stranger might have wondered at the celerity with which his various owners rid themselves of him, after having been inveigled into buying him. The same stranger might have worked him a week before he discovered why, and again an hour would have sufficed to unearth the secret. Old Baldy had but one fault — he was stubborn. And he manifested this stubborness in but one way. Whenever things did not exactly go to suit him, he simply lay down in his tracks, there and then, consulting neither his own nor his master’s convenience. And there he would stay. Nothing could move him. Force was useless; persuasion as bad. The heavens might roll up as a scroll, or the stars fall from their seats in the sky, but there Old Baldy would stay until of his own free will he decided to get up and move along. Never from the time yoke was first put upon him had a man succeeded in budging him against his will. it was asserted that he had caused more gray hairs to grow in the heads of the Selbyville farmers than all the mortgages of the past three generations. He always went absurdly cheap, and man after man had bought him in the fond hope of conquering him, and winning not only the approbation of his fellows, but a very good bargain. And man after man sold him for little or nothing, insanely happy at being rid of so much vexation of spirit.

“As stubborn as Old Baldy” became a figure of speech, the common property of the community. Fathers conjured obedience from their sons by its use; the schoolmaster employed it on his stiff-necked pupils; and even the minister, calling sinners to repentance, blanched the cheek of the most unregenerate with its brand. But in the language Deacon Barnes alone, it had no place. It was his wont to smile and chuckle when others made use of the phrase, till people remarked it would be a blessing if he only got the tough old ox once in his hands. And now, after Old Baldy had become thoroughly set in the iniquity of his ways, the deacon had bought him off Joe Westfield for a song. Selbyville looked forward to the struggle with great interest, and sly grins and open skepticism were the order of the day whenever the topic was mentioned. They knew the deacon had a will of iron, but they also knew Old Baldy; and their collective opinion was that the deacon, like everybody else who had tried their hand at it, was bound to get the worst of the bargain.

Deacon Barnes and Old Baldy were coming down the last furrow of the ten-acre patch back of the pasture. Five rods more of the plow and it would be ready for the harrow. Old Baldy had been behaving splendidly and the deacon was jubilant. Besides, Bob, his promising eldest-born, had just run half way across the pasture and shouted that dinner was ready and waiting.

“Comin’!” he shouted back, no more dreaming that he would fail to reach the end of the furrow than that the dinner call was the trumps of judgment. Just then Old Baldy stopped. The deacon looked surprised. Baldy sighed contently. “Get up!” he shouted, and Baldy, with a hurt expression on his bovine countenance, proceeded to lie down.

Deacon Barnes stepped around where he could look into his face, and talked nicely to him, with persuasion and pathos mixed; for he feared greatly for Old Baldy’s well being. Not that he intended whipping him brutally or anything like that, but — well, he was Deacon Barnes, with the ripened will of all the male Barnes that had gone before, and he hadn’t the slightest intention of being beaten by a stubborn old ox. So they just looked each other in the eyes, he talking midly and Baldy listening with complacent interest till Bob shouted a second time across the pasture that dinner was waiting.

“Look here, Baldy,” the deacon said, rising to his feet; “if you want to lay there so mighty bad, ‘tain’t in me to stop you. Only give you fair warnin’ — the sweets of life do cloy, and you kin git too much of a good thing. Layin’ down in the furrer ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, an’ you’ll git a-mighty sick on it before yer done with me.” Baldy gazed at him with stolid impudence, saying as plainly as though he spoke, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

But the deacon never lost his temper. “I’m goin’ to git a bite to eat,” he went on, turning away; “an’ when I come back I’ll give you one more chance. But mark my words, Baldy, it’ll be yer last.”

At the table, Deacon Barnes, instead of being at all irritated, radiated even more geniality than was his wont, and this in the face of the fact that Mrs. Barnes had a mild attack of tantrums because he had kept dinner waiting. Afterwards, when he went out on the porch, he saw Jim Wheeler had pulled up his horses where he could look over the fence at the victorious Baldy. When he passed the house he waved his hand and smiled knowingly at the deacon, and went on to spread the news that the deacon and Old Baldy were “at it.”

But there was a certain unusual exhilaration in the deacon’s face and step as he led off to the barn with Bob following in his footsteps. There he proceeded to load up his eldest-born with numerous iron and wooden pegs and old pieces of chain and rope. Then, with his ax in hand, he headed across the pasture to the scene of mutiny. “Come! Git up, Baldy!” he commanded. “It’s high time we got this furrer finished.”

Baldy regarded him passively, with half-veiled, lazy eyes. “Reckon it be more comfortable where you are, eh? B’lieve in takin’ it easy, eh? All right. You can’t say Deacon Barnes is a hard master.” As he talked, he worked, driving pegs all about the stubborn animal. Then from the pegs he stretched ropes and chains, passing them across Baldy till that worthy was hard and fast to mother earth — so hard and fast that it would have required a steam derrick to get him to his feet. “Jest enjoy yourself, Baldy,” the deacon called, as he started away. “I’ll come up to-morrer after breakfast an’ see how you be.”

True to his word, in the morning the deacon paid his promised visit. But Baldy was yet strong in his will, and he behaved sullenly as animals well know how. He even tried to let on that it was real nice lying out there with nothing to do, and that the deacon worried him with his chatter, and had better go away. But Deacon Barnes stayed a full quarter of an hour, talking pleasantly, with a cheery, whole-souled ring to his voice which vexed Baldy greatly.

In the evening, after supper, he made another visit, Old Baldy was feeling stiff and sore from lying in one position all day with the hot sun beating down upon him. He even betrayed anxiety and interest when he heard his master’s steps approaching, and there was a certain softening and appeal in his eyes. But the deacon made out he didn’t see it, and after talking nicely for a few minutes went home again. In the morning Baldy received another visit. By this time he was not only sore, but hungry and thirsty as well. He was no longer indifferent to his owner’s presence, and he begged so eloquently with his eyes that the deacon was touched, but he hardened his heart and went back to the house again. He had made up his mind to do what all Selbyville during a number of years had failed to accomplish, and now that he had started he was going to do it thoroughly.

When he came out again after dinner, Baldy was abject in his humility. His pleading eyes followed his master about unceasingly, and once, when the deacon turned as though to go away, he actually groaned. “Sweets do cloy, eh?” Deacon Barnes said, coming back. “Even lyin’ in the furrer is vanity and vexation, eh? Well, I guess we’ll finish this furrer now. What d’you say Baldy? And after that you kin have somethin’ to eat an’ a couple o’ buckets of water. Eh? What d’you say?”

It can never be known for a fact as to whether Baldy understood his master’s words or not, but he showed by his actions that he thoroughly understood when the ropes and chains were loosened and removed. “Kind o’ cramped, eh?” the deacon remarked as he helped him to his feet. “Well, g’long now, le’s finish this furrer.”

Baldy finished that furrow, and after that there was never a furrow he commenced that he did not finish. And as for lying down — well, he manifested a new kind of stubborness. He couldn’t be persuaded or bullied into lying down. No sir, he wouldn’t have it. he’d finish the furrow first, and all the furrows all day long. He grew real stubborn when it came to lying down. But the deacon mind. And all Selbyville marveled, and a year afterward more than one farmer, including Jim Wheeler, was offering the deacon far more for Old Baldy than he had paid. But Deacon Barnes knew a bargain when he had got it, and he was just as stubborn in refusing to sell as Old Baldy was in refusing to lie down.

An Old Soldier’s Story

A real incident which occurred in the life of the writer’s father

THE times were strange then, and at the front was not the only place to have adventures. During the war, some of the most stirring scenes I took part in were right at home. You see that old Colt’s revolver which hangs by my sword? I carried it through my five years in the army, and more than once it helped me out of a bad scrape.

In ‘63 I went home on 30 days’ furlough to see my people, also to get recruits. I was quite successful, and by the time my furlough was up, had found between 25 and 30 men who were willing to enlist. There was one young man I had tried hard to get, and though he was willing, his father stubbornly refused to let him go. The only reason he had for refusing was that corn-husking was not yet over and his son Hiram was needed for the work. The only reason which finally caused him to give his consent was the bounty. They were offering a thousand dollars for every man who would join the army, and Hiram promised to turn every cent of it over to his father. So old Zack said he would agree if I would turn in and help with the husking.

My 30 days’ furlough was up, but I was young and thoughtless in those days, and paid no heed to it. I knew the other recruits wished to stay till after corn-husking, and besides, felt that nothing would be done to me when I came back to my regiment with 30 stalwart lads. So I pitched in, and in two weeks all Old Zack’s corn was husked and I was ready to start.

The tickets were bought, and the next morning we were ready to take the train at Rock Island for Quincy. There the men were to be sworn in and would receive their bounties, while our township would be credited with so many recruits. But in overstaying my furlough I had forgotten one thing — the provost marshal. These marshals were men who were looked down upon and despised worse than the dog-catchers. Their duty was to arrest deserters, and since their pay was $25 for every deserter captured, you can see they never let a chance slip. If they had only arrested real deserters, the people would not have dislike them so, but they were always bringing trouble upon good, honest soldiers whose only fault lay in being a little careless and staying too long at home. The provost marshal in our county was shrewd, brave as a lion, and as mean a man as one could meet in a whole day’s travel. Only a short time before, Tommy Jingles had come home from my regiment and thoughtlessly over-stayed his furlough. On the third day, just as he was boarding the train at Rock Island to go back to the army, Davy McGregor captured him and sent him back under arrest. The $25 reward and the expenses were taken from poor Tommy’s pay, and Tommy with never a thought of deserting. And this was not the only instance in which Davy McGregor had behaved so meanly.

But to return to my story. It was my last night at home, and I was dreaming of war and battles. I had been thrown forward with a cloud of skirmishers. The musketry was rattling about like hail, and we were storming the first outpost, when I heard a loud rap at the door and was awake on the instant. “Come out, Simon, I want you.”

It was Davy’s voice, and I well know what he wanted me for. I made no answer, however, and began to silently dress. His knocking soon roused the house, and by the time I was dressed my sister came slipping into the room. I told her in whispers that to do. She went to the door and talked with Davy, but would not open it. He became suspicious, and I could hear him creeping around the house so as to have an eye on the kitchen door. You see, he was certain I was in the house, and thought I would most likely come out that way. Kissing father and mother and sister, I asked them to say good-bye to the boys, and carefully opened the front door. It was moonlight, and Davy was, as I suspected, keeping watch at the rear of the house. With my shoes in my hand, taking advantage of every shadow and scarcely daring to breathe, I crawled to the barn. I saddled father’s big black stallion, and when all was ready, came out of the barn like a cannon shot.

Davy ran to the road and halted me as I came up on the dead lope, my cocked Colt’s in my hand. He blocked my path, ordering me to halt and flourishing his pistols. On I came straight at him, and would surely have run him down, had he not sprung aside, blazing right and left at me as I went by. I knew he would do this, and ducked to the off-side of my horse, but not quickly enough, for a burning pain told me where his first bullet had plowed across my scalp.

On and away, with Rock Island 28 miles before me, I dashed like the wind. Davy, always well mounted, was hot after me. But our horses were evenly matched. At first he took flying shots at me as we rounded the bends, but he soon gave that up. Mile after mile flew by, and I was just beginning to feel sure of escape, when I met with an accident. Dawn was breaking as I plunged into a stretch of woods where it was yet as black as night. The road was heavy at that place, and the horse’s hoofs made no sound. Suddenly, out of the darkness and from the opposite direction, leaped a horse and rider. Too late to avoid the shock, our horses struck breast on. The strange steed and rider were hurled to the ground, while I was not badly hurt. But father’s stallion was strong. He shook himself, groaned, and sprang away on the gallop.

Still he had been badly hurt, and I saw that he was losing his speed. Davy slowly overhauled me. Soon he was alongside, trying to seize my rein. He had emptied his pistols, so could not shoot. Again and again I drew a bead on him with my loaded Colt’s, but he was a brave man, refusing to be frightened. I did not wish to shoot him, but I think I would have done it rather than have the disgrace of deserter put upon me. You see, instead of running away, I was trying to run back to the army — a funny thing for a real deserter to do. But I did not shoot, not intending to use my revolver unless I had to.

Then we galloped, side by side, for at least 10 or 12 miles. Little by little my horse gave out and the last mile he made, Davy had to hold his horse in to keep him from running away from me. Every time he tried to catch my bridle I struck at his hand with my heavy revolver, and he soon gave that up. I felt that the stallion could not last much longer, and know I must do something to escape unearned disgrace. Now I am and always was a mild man, full of pity for dumb animals, but necessity forced me to do what I did. I played a trick I had learned out west. It is called “creasing,” and is often used on wild horses. They shoot them so the bullet just grazes the top of the neck. But it does not hurt the horse. It just stuns him and in a few minutes he is as good as ever.

Quick as a flash I leaned out of the saddle, placed the muzzle of my revolver on the nape of the neck of Davy’s horse, and pulled the trigger. Down he went with a crash, throwing Davy over his head. Yet Davy was on his feet instantly, and my poor horse could barely keep away from him as he ran after me on foot.

I looked at my watch. I could catch the first train, and Rock Island was only five miles away. My horse could not make those five miles and I did not know what to do. Davy gave me the idea, however. Coming around a turn in the road, I barely missed running into a farmer’s wagon going to town. Not 20 feet away was another, going in the same direction. Davy stopped the first one and began to cut the traces — this was the idea. I halted the second one, which was driven by a woman, and explained as I did likewise. And she was willing for she know all about the provost marshal. We finished and mounted at the same time, with myself 20 feet in the lead. Yet fortune seemed to favor him, for his hose was a little the better of the two. But he had neglected to cut the traces quite short though, and the horse, stepping upon them, was thrown.

This gave me several hundred feet, and I was still leading by several lengths when we entered Rock Island. How we startled the city! Down the main street we thundered, while the people, who all hated the provost marshal, cheered me on. We barely missed a dozen collisions, and galloped into the depot, where the train was just ready to start. I rode through the crowd as far as I dared; the dismounted and made a dash for the steps. You can guess how the people gave room for a wild hatless solder, flourishing a huge revolver.

Persevering Davy was right behind, and I had to face about and keep him off with my pistol. It was not loaded, but he did not know that. I backed away from him, threatening to pull the trigger if he laid hand on me. The crowd began to take my part, and to hoot and jeer the provost marshal. “Hurrah for the soldier!” they cried. “Down with the provost marshal!” “Shoot him, soldier, shoot him!” “Who arrested poor Tommy Jingles?” “Davy McGregor, the black-hearted provost.” “Hurrah for the boy in blue!”

So they kept it up, getting in his way and pushing and shoving him about. Then they became rough, and as I backed up the steps to the platform, they were stepping on his toes, pulling his coat-tails and twisting him about like a football. The conductor gave the signal, and with a last cheer from the crowd, the train pulled out for Quincy. There I met my recruits later in the day. And when I brought my sturdy lads into the regiment and told all about it, the colonel said, “Well done, Simon, and at this rate I think you have well earned a second leave of absence.”

On the Makaloa Mat

Unlike the women of most warm races, those of Hawaii age well and nobly. With no pretence of make-up or cunning concealment of time’s inroads, the woman who sat under the hau tree might have been permitted as much as fifty years by a judge competent anywhere over the world save in Hawaii. Yet her children and her grandchildren, and Roscoe Scandwell who had been her husband for forty years, knew that she was sixty-four and would be sixty-five come the next twenty-second day of June. But she did not look it, despite the fact that she thrust reading glasses on her nose as she read her magazine and took them off when her gaze desired to wander in the direction of the half-dozen children playing on the lawn.

It was a noble situation — noble as the ancient hau tree, the size of a house, where she sat as if in a house, so spaciously and comfortably house-like was its shade furnished; noble as the lawn that stretched away landward its plush of green at an appraisement of two hundred dollars a front foot to a bungalow equally dignified, noble, and costly. Seaward, glimpsed through a fringe of hundred-foot coconut palms, was the ocean; beyond the reef a dark blue that grew indigo blue to the horizon, within the reef all the silken gamut of jade and emerald and tourmaline.

And this was but one house of the half-dozen houses belonging to Martha Scandwell. Her town-house, a few miles away in Honolulu, on Nuuanu Drive between the first and second “showers,” was a palace. Hosts of guests had known the comfort and joy of her mountain house on Tantalus, and of her volcano house, her mauka (mountainward) house, and her makai (seaward) house on the big island of Hawaii. Yet this Waikiki house stressed no less than the rest in beauty, in dignity, and in expensiveness of upkeep. Two Japanese yard-boys were trimming hibiscus, a third was engaged expertly with the long hedge of night-blooming cereus that was shortly expectant of unfolding in its mysterious night-bloom. In immaculate ducks, a house Japanese brought out the tea-things, followed by a Japanese maid, pretty as a butterfly in the distinctive garb of her race, and fluttery as a butterfly to attend on her mistress. Another Japanese maid, an array of Turkish towels on her arm, crossed the lawn well to the right in the direction of the bath-houses, from which the children, in swimming suits, were beginning to emerge. Beyond, under the palms at the edge of the sea, two Chinese nursemaids, in their pretty native costume of white yee-shon and-straight-lined trousers, their black braids of hair down their backs, attended each on a baby in a perambulator.

And all these — servants, and nurses, and grandchildren — were Martha Scandwell’s. So likewise was the colour of the skin of the grandchildren — the unmistakable Hawaiian colour, tinted beyond shadow of mistake by exposure to the Hawaiian sun. One-eighth and one-sixteenth Hawaiian were they, which meant that seven-eighths or fifteen-sixteenths white blood informed that skin yet failed to obliterate the modicum of golden tawny brown of Polynesia. But in this, again, only a trained observer would have known that the frolicking children were aught but pure-blooded white. Roscoe Scandwell, grandfather, was pure white; Martha three-quarters white; the many sons and daughters of them seven-eighths white; the grandchildren graded up to fifteen-sixteenths white, or, in the cases when their seven-eighths fathers and mothers had married seven-eighths, themselves fourteen-sixteenths or seven-eighths white. On both sides the stock was good, Roscoe straight descended from the New England Puritans, Martha no less straight descended from the royal chief-stocks of Hawaii whose genealogies were chanted in meles a thousand years before written speech was acquired.

In the distance a machine stopped and deposited a woman whose utmost years might have been guessed as sixty, who walked across the lawn as lightly as a well-cared-for woman of forty, and whose actual calendar age was sixty-eight. Martha rose from her seat to greet her, in the hearty Hawaiian way, arms about, lips on lips, faces eloquent and bodies no less eloquent with sincereness and frank excessiveness of emotion. And it was “Sister Bella,” and “Sister Martha,” back and forth, intermingled with almost incoherent inquiries about each other, and about Uncle This and Brother That and Aunt Some One Else, until, the first tremulousness of meeting over, eyes moist with tenderness of love, they sat gazing at each other across their teacups. Apparently, they had not seen nor embraced for years. In truth, two months marked the interval of their separation. And one was sixty-four, the other sixty-eight. But the thorough comprehension resided in the fact that in each of them one-fourth of them was the sun-warm, love-warm heart of Hawaii.

The children flooded about Aunt Bella like a rising tide and were capaciously hugged and kissed ere they departed with their nurses to the swimming beach.

“I thought I’d run out to the beach for several days — the trades had stopped blowing,” Martha explained.

“You’ve been here two weeks already,” Bella smiled fondly at her younger sister. “Brother Edward told me. He met me at the steamer and insisted on running me out first of all to see Louise and Dorothy and that first grandchild of his. He’s as mad as a silly hatter about it.”

“Mercy!” Martha exclaimed. “Two weeks! I had not thought it that long.”

“Where’s Annie? — and Margaret?” Bella asked.

Martha shrugged her voluminous shoulders with voluminous and forgiving affection for her wayward, matronly daughters who left their children in her care for the afternoon.

“Margaret’s at a meeting of the Out-door Circle — they’re planning the planting of trees and hibiscus all along both sides of Kalakaua Avenue,” she said. “And Annie’s wearing out eighty dollars’ worth of tyres to collect seventy-five dollars for the British Red Cross--this is their tag day, you know.”

“Roscoe must be very proud,” Bella said, and observed the bright glow of pride that appeared in her sister’s eyes. “I got the news in San Francisco of Ho-o-la-a’s first dividend. Remember when I put a thousand in it at seventy-five cents for poor Abbie’s children, and said I’d sell when it went to ten dollars?”

“And everybody laughed at you, and at anybody who bought a share,” Martha nodded. “But Roscoe knew. It’s selling to-day at twenty-four.”

“I sold mine from the steamer by wireless — at twenty even,” Bella continued. “And now Abbie’s wildly dressmaking. She’s going with May and Tootsie to Paris.”

“And Carl?” Martha queried.

“Oh, he’ll finish Yale all right — ”

“Which he would have done anyway, and you know it,” Martha charged, lapsing charmingly into twentieth-century slang.

Bella affirmed her guilt of intention of paying the way of her school friend’s son through college, and added complacently:

“Just the same it was nicer to have Ho-o-la-a pay for it. In a way, you see, Roscoe is doing it, because it was his judgment I trusted to when I made the investment.” She gazed slowly about her, her eyes taking in, not merely the beauty and comfort and repose of all they rested on, but the immensity of beauty and comfort and repose represented by them, scattered in similar oases all over the islands. She sighed pleasantly and observed: “All our husbands have done well by us with what we brought them.”

“And happily . . . “ Martha agreed, then suspended her utterance with suspicious abruptness.

“And happily, all of us, except Sister Bella,” Bella forgivingly completed the thought for her.

“It was too bad, that marriage,” Martha murmured, all softness of sympathy. “You were so young. Uncle Robert should never have made you.”

“I was only nineteen,” Bella nodded. “But it was not George Castner’s fault. And look what he, out of she grave, has done for me. Uncle Robert was wise. He knew George had the far-away vision of far ahead, the energy, and the steadiness. He saw, even then, and that’s fifty years ago, the value of the Nahala water-rights which nobody else valued then. They thought he was struggling to buy the cattle range. He struggled to buy the future of the water--and how well he succeeded you know. I’m almost ashamed to think of my income sometimes. No; whatever else, the unhappiness of our marriage was not due to George. I could have lived happily with him, I know, even to this day, had he lived.” She shook her head slowly. “No; it was not his fault. Nor anybody’s. Not even mine. If it was anybody’s fault — ” The wistful fondness of her smile took the sting out of what she was about to say. “If it was anybody’s fault it was Uncle John’s.”

“Uncle John’s!” Martha cried with sharp surprise. “If it had to be one or the other, I should have said Uncle Robert. But Uncle John!”

Bella smiled with slow positiveness.

“But it was Uncle Robert who made you marry George Castner,” her sister urged.

“That is true,” Bella nodded corroboration. “But it was not the matter of a husband, but of a horse. I wanted to borrow a horse from Uncle John, and Uncle John said yes. That is how it all happened.”

A silence fell, pregnant and cryptic, and, while the voices of the children and the soft mandatory protests of the Asiatic maids drew nearer from the beach, Martha Scandwell felt herself vibrant and tremulous with sudden resolve of daring. She waved the children away.

“Run along, dears, run along, Grandma and Aunt Bella want to talk.”

And as the shrill, sweet treble of child voices ebbed away across the lawn, Martha, with scrutiny of the heart, observed the sadness of the lines graven by secret woe for half a century in her sister’s face. For nearly fifty years had she watched those lines. She steeled all the melting softness of the Hawaiian of her to break the half-century of silence.

“Bella,” she said. “We never know. You never spoke. But we wondered, oh, often and often — ”

“And never asked,” Bella murmured gratefully.

“But I am asking now, at the last. This is our twilight. Listen to them! Sometimes it almost frightens me to think that they are grandchildren, my grandchildren — I, who only the other day, it would seem, was as heart-free, leg-free, care-free a girl as ever bestrode a horse, or swam in the big surf, or gathered opihis at low tide, or laughed at a dozen lovers. And here in our twilight let us forget everything save that I am your dear sister as you are mine.”

The eyes of both were dewy moist. Bella palpably trembled to utterance.

“We thought it was George Castner,” Martha went on; “and we could guess the details. He was a cold man. You were warm Hawaiian. He must have been cruel. Brother Walcott always insisted he must have beaten you — ”

“No! No!” Bella broke in. “George Castner was never a brute, a beast. Almost have I wished, often, that he had been. He never laid hand on me. He never raised hand to me. He never raised his voice to me. Never — oh, can you believe it? — do, please, sister, believe it — did we have a high word nor a cross word. But that house of his, of ours, at Nahala, was grey. All the colour of it was grey and cool, and chill, while I was bright with all colours of sun, and earth, and blood, and birth. It was very cold, grey cold, with that cold grey husband of mine at Nahala. You know he was grey, Martha. Grey like those portraits of Emerson we used to see at school. His skin was grey. Sun and weather and all hours in the saddle could never tan it. And he was as grey inside as out.

“And I was only nineteen when Uncle Robert decided on the marriage. How was I to know? Uncle Robert talked to me. He pointed out how the wealth and property of Hawaii was already beginning to pass into the hands of the haoles” (whites). “The Hawaiian chiefs let their possessions slip away from them. The Hawaiian chiefesses, who married haoles, had their possessions, under the management of their haole husbands, increase prodigiously. He pointed back to the original Grandfather Roger Wilton, who had taken Grandmother Wilton’s poor mauka lands and added to them and built up about them the Kilohana Ranch — ”

“Even then it was second only to the Parker Ranch,” Martha interrupted proudly.

“ — And he told me that had our father, before he died, been as far-seeing as grandfather, half the then Parker holdings would have been added to Kilohana, making Kilohana first. And he said that never, for ever and ever, would beef be cheaper. And he said that the big future of Hawaii would be in sugar. That was fifty years ago, and he has been more than proved right. And he said that the young haole, George Castner, saw far, and would go far, and that there were many girls of us, and that the Kilohana lands ought by rights to go to the boys, and that if I married George my future was assured in the biggest way.

“I was only nineteen. Just back from the Royal Chief School — that was before our girls went to the States for their education. You were among the first, Sister Martha, who got their education on the mainland. And what did I know of love and lovers, much less of marriage? All women married. It was their business in life. Mother and grandmother, all the way back they had married. It was my business in life to marry George Castner. Uncle Robert said so in his wisdom, and I knew he was very wise. And I went to live with my husband in the grey house at Nahala.

“You remember it. No trees, only the rolling grass lands, the high mountains behind, the sea beneath, and the wind! — the Waimea and Nahala winds, we got them both, and the kona wind as well. Yet little would I have minded them, any more than we minded them at Kilohana, or than they minded them at Mana, had not Nahala itself been so grey, and husband George so grey. We were alone. He was managing Nahala for the Glenns, who had gone back to Scotland. Eighteen hundred a year, plus beef, horses, cowboy service, and the ranch house, was what he received — ”

“It was a high salary in those days,” Martha said.

“And for George Castner, and the service he gave, it was very cheap,” Bella defended. “I lived with him for three years. There was never a morning that he was out of his bed later than half-past four. He was the soul of devotion to his employers. Honest to a penny in his accounts, he gave them full measure and more of his time and energy. Perhaps that was what helped make our life so grey. But listen, Martha. Out of his eighteen hundred, he laid aside sixteen hundred each year. Think of it! The two of us lived on two hundred a year. Luckily he did not drink or smoke. Also, we dressed out of it as well. I made my own dresses. You can imagine them. Outside of the cowboys who chored the firewood, I did the work. I cooked, and baked, and scrubbed — ”

“You who had never known anything but servants from the time you were born!” Martha pitied. “Never less than a regiment of them at Kilohana.”

“Oh, but it was the bare, naked, pinching meagreness of it!” Bella cried out. “How far I was compelled to make a pound of coffee go! A broom worn down to nothing before a new one was bought! And beef! Fresh beef and jerky, morning, noon, and night! And porridge! Never since have I eaten porridge or any breakfast food.”

She arose suddenly and walked a dozen steps away to gaze a moment with unseeing eyes at the colour-lavish reef while she composed herself. And she returned to her seat with the splendid, sure, gracious, high-breasted, noble-headed port of which no out-breeding can ever rob the Hawaiian woman. Very haole was Bella Castner, fair-skinned, fine-textured. Yet, as she returned, the high pose of head, the level-lidded gaze of her long brown eyes under royal arches of eyebrows, the softly set lines of her small mouth that fairly sang sweetness of kisses after sixty-eight years — all made her the very picture of a chiefess of old Hawaii full-bursting through her ampleness of haole blood. Taller she was than her sister Martha, if anything more queenly.

“You know we were notorious as poor feeders,” Bella laughed lightly enough. “It was many a mile on either side from Nahala to the next roof. Belated travellers, or storm-bound ones, would, on occasion, stop with us overnight. And you know the lavishness of the big ranches, then and now. How we were the laughing-stock! ‘What do we care!’ George would say. ‘They live to-day and now. Twenty years from now will be our turn, Bella. They will be where they are now, and they will eat out of our hand. We will be compelled to feed them, they will need to be fed, and we will feed them well; for we will be rich, Bella, so rich that I am afraid to tell you. But I know what I know, and you must have faith in me.’

“George was right. Twenty years afterward, though he did not live to see it, my income was a thousand a month. Goodness! I do not know what it is to-day. But I was only nineteen, and I would say to George: ‘Now! now! We live now. We may not be alive twenty years from now. I do want a new broom. And there is a third-rate coffee that is only two cents a pound more than the awful stuff we are using. Why couldn’t I fry eggs in butter — now? I should dearly love at least one new tablecloth. Our linen! I’m ashamed to put a guest between the sheets, though heaven knows they dare come seldom enough.’

“‘Be patient, Bella,’ he would reply. ‘In a little while, in only a few years, those that scorn to sit at our table now, or sleep between our sheets, will be proud of an invitation — those of them who will not be dead. You remember how Stevens passed out last year — free-living and easy, everybody’s friend but his own. The Kohala crowd had to bury him, for he left nothing but debts. Watch the others going the same pace. There’s your brother Hal. He can’t keep it up and live five years, and he’s breaking his uncles’ hearts. And there’s Prince Lilolilo. Dashes by me with half a hundred mounted, able-bodied, roystering kanakas in his train who would be better at hard work and looking after their future, for he will never be king of Hawaii. He will not live to be king of Hawaii.’

“George was right. Brother Hal died. So did Prince Lilolilo. But George was not all right. He, who neither drank nor smoked, who never wasted the weight of his arms in an embrace, nor the touch of his lips a second longer than the most perfunctory of kisses, who was invariably up before cockcrow and asleep ere the kerosene lamp had a tenth emptied itself, and who never thought to die, was dead even more quickly than Brother Hal and Prince Lilolilo.

“‘Be patient, Bella,’ Uncle Robert would say to me. ‘George Castner is a coming man. I have chosen well for you. Your hardships now are the hardships on the way to the promised land. Not always will the Hawaiians rule in Hawaii. Just as they let their wealth slip out of their hands, so will their rule slip out of their hands. Political power and the land always go together. There will be great changes, revolutions no one knows how many nor of what sort, save that in the end the haole will possess the land and the rule. And in that day you may well be first lady of Hawaii, just as surely as George Castner will be ruler of Hawaii. It is written in the books. It is ever so where the haole conflicts with the easier races. I, your Uncle Robert, who am half-Hawaiian and half-haole, know whereof I speak. Be patient, Bella, be patient.’

“‘Dear Bella,’ Uncle John would say; and I knew his heart was tender for me. Thank God, he never told me to be patient. He knew. He was very wise. He was warm human, and, therefore, wiser than Uncle Robert and George Castner, who sought the thing, not the spirit, who kept records in ledgers rather than numbers of heart-beats breast to breast, who added columns of figures rather than remembered embraces and endearments of look and speech and touch. ‘Dear Bella,’ Uncle John would say. He knew. You have heard always how he was the lover of the Princess Naomi. He was a true lover. He loved but the once. After her death they said he was eccentric. He was. He was the one lover, once and always. Remember that taboo inner room of his at Kilohana that we entered only after his death and found it his shrine to her. ‘Dear Bella,’ it was all he ever said to me, but I knew he knew.

“And I was nineteen, and sun-warm Hawaiian in spite of my three-quarters haole blood, and I knew nothing save my girlhood splendours at Kilohana and my Honolulu education at the Royal Chief School, and my grey husband at Nahala with his grey preachments and practices of sobriety and thrift, and those two childless uncles of mine, the one with far, cold vision, the other the broken-hearted, for-ever-dreaming lover of a dead princess.

“Think of that grey house! I, who had known the ease and the delights and the ever-laughing joys of Kilohana, and of the Parkers at old Mana, and of Puuwaawaa! You remember. We did live in feudal spaciousness in those days. Would you, can you, believe it, Martha — at Nahala the only sewing machine I had was one of those the early missionaries brought, a tiny, crazy thing that one cranked around by hand!

“Robert and John had each given Husband George five thousand dollars at my marriage. But he had asked for it to be kept secret. Only the four of us knew. And while I sewed my cheap holokus on that crazy machine, he bought land with the money — the upper Nahala lands, you know — a bit at a time, each purchase a hard-driven bargain, his face the very face of poverty. To-day the Nahala Ditch alone pays me forty thousand a year.

“But was it worth it? I starved. If only once, madly, he had crushed me in his arms! If only once he could have lingered with me five minutes from his own business or from his fidelity to his employers! Sometimes I could have screamed, or showered the eternal bowl of hot porridge into his face, or smashed the sewing machine upon the floor and danced a hula on it, just to make him burst out and lose his temper and be human, be a brute, be a man of some sort instead of a grey, frozen demi-god.”

Bella’s tragic expression vanished, and she laughed outright in sheer genuineness of mirthful recollection.

“And when I was in such moods he would gravely look me over, gravely feel my pulse, examine my tongue, gravely dose me with castor oil, and gravely put me to bed early with hot stove-lids, and assure me that I’d feel better in the morning. Early to bed! Our wildest sitting up was nine o’clock. Eight o’clock was our regular bed-time. It saved kerosene. We did not eat dinner at Nahala — remember the great table at Kilohana where we did have dinner? But Husband George and I had supper. And then he would sit close to the lamp on one side the table and read old borrowed magazines for an hour, while I sat on the other side and darned his socks and underclothing. He always wore such cheap, shoddy stuff. And when he went to bed, I went to bed. No wastage of kerosene with only one to benefit by it. And he went to bed always the same way, winding up his watch, entering the day’s weather in his diary, and taking off his shoes, right foot first invariably, left foot second, and placing them just so, side by side, on the floor, at the foot of the bed, on his side.

“He was the cleanest man I ever knew. He never wore the same undergarment a second time. I did the washing. He was so clean it hurt. He shaved twice a day. He used more water on his body than any kanaka. He did more work than any two haoles. And he saw the future of the Nahala water.”

“And he made you wealthy, but did not make you happy,” Martha observed.

Bella sighed and nodded.

“What is wealth after all, Sister Martha? My new Pierce-Arrow came down on the steamer with me. My third in two years. But oh, all the Pierce-Arrows and all the incomes in the world compared with a lover! — the one lover, the one mate, to be married to, to toil beside and suffer and joy beside, the one male man lover husband — ”

Her voice trailed off, and the sisters sat in soft silence while an ancient crone, staff in hand, twisted, doubled, and shrunken under a hundred years of living, hobbled across the lawn to them. Her eyes, withered to scarcely more than peepholes, were sharp as a mongoose’s, and at Bella’s feet she first sank down, in pure Hawaiian mumbling and chanting a toothless mele of Bella and Bella’s ancestry and adding to it an extemporized welcome back to Hawaii after her absence across the great sea to California. And while she chanted her mele, the old crone’s shrewd fingers lomied or massaged Bella’s silk-stockinged legs from ankle and calf to knee and thigh.

Both Bella’s and Martha’s eyes were luminous-moist, as the old retainer repeated the lomi and the mele to Martha, and as they talked with her in the ancient tongue and asked the immemorial questions about her health and age and great-great-grandchildren — she who had lomied them as babies in the great house at Kilohana, as her ancestresses had lomied their ancestresses back through the unnumbered generations. The brief duty visit over, Martha arose and accompanied her back to the bungalow, putting money into her hand, commanding proud and beautiful Japanese housemaids to wait upon the dilapidated aborigine with poi, which is compounded of the roots of the water lily, with iamaka, which is raw fish, and with pounded kukui nut and limu, which latter is seawood tender to the toothless, digestible and savoury. It was the old feudal tie, the faithfulness of the commoner to the chief, the responsibility of the chief to the commoner; and Martha, three-quarters haole with the Anglo-Saxon blood of New England, was four-quarters Hawaiian in her remembrance and observance of the well-nigh vanished customs of old days.

As she came back across the lawn to the hau tree, Bella’s eyes dwelt upon the moving authenticity of her and of the blood of her, and embraced her and loved her. Shorter than Bella was Martha, a trifle, but the merest trifle, less queenly of port; but beautifully and generously proportioned, mellowed rather than dismantled by years, her Polynesian chiefess figure eloquent and glorious under the satisfying lines of a half-fitting, grandly sweeping, black-silk holoku trimmed with black lace more costly than a Paris gown.

And as both sisters resumed their talk, an observer would have noted the striking resemblance of their pure, straight profiles, of their broad cheek-bones, of their wide and lofty foreheads, of their iron-grey abundance of hair, of their sweet-lipped mouths set with the carriage of decades of assured and accomplished pride, and of their lovely slender eye-rows arched over equally lovely long brown eyes. The hands of both of them, little altered or defaced by age, were wonderful in their slender, tapering finger-tips, love-lomied and love-formed while they were babies by old Hawaiian women like to the one even then eating poi and iamaka and limu in the house.

“I had a year of it,” Bella resumed, “and, do you know, things were beginning to come right. I was beginning to draw to Husband George. Women are so made, I was such a woman at any rate. For he was good. He was just. All the old sterling Puritan virtues were his. I was coming to draw to him, to like him, almost, might I say, to love him. And had not Uncle John loaned me that horse, I know that I would have truly loved him and have lived ever happily with him — in a quiet sort of way, of course.

“You see, I knew nothing else, nothing different, nothing better in the way of men. I came gladly to look across the table at him while he read in the brief interval between supper and bed, gladly to listen for and to catch the beat of his horse’s hoofs coming home at night from his endless riding over the ranch. And his scant praise was praise indeed, that made me tingle with happiness — yes, Sister Martha, I knew what it was to blush under his precise, just praise for the things I had done right or correctly.

“And all would have been well for the rest of our lives together, except that he had to take steamer to Honolulu. It was business. He was to be gone two weeks or longer, first, for the Glenns in ranch affairs, and next for himself, to arrange the purchase of still more of the upper Nahala lands. Do you know! he bought lots of the wilder and up-and-down lands, worthless for aught save water, and the very heart of the watershed, for as low as five and ten cents an acre. And he suggested I needed a change. I wanted to go with him to Honolulu. But, with an eye to expense, he decided Kilohana for me. Not only would it cost him nothing for me to visit at the old home, but he saved the price of the poor food I should have eaten had I remained alone at Nahala, which meant the purchase price of more Nahala acreage. And at Kilohana Uncle John said yes, and loaned me the horse.

“Oh, it was like heaven, getting back, those first several days. It was difficult to believe at first that there was so much food in all the world. The enormous wastage of the kitchen appalled me. I saw waste everywhere, so well trained had I been by Husband George. Why, out in the servants’ quarters the aged relatives and most distant hangers-on of the servants fed better than George and I ever fed. You remember our Kilohana way, same as the Parker way, a bullock killed for every meal, fresh fish by runners from the ponds of Waipio and Kiholo, the best and rarest at all times of everything . . .

“And love, our family way of loving! You know what Uncle John was. And Brother Walcott was there, and Brother Edward, and all the younger sisters save you and Sally away at school. And Aunt Elizabeth, and Aunt Janet with her husband and all her children on a visit. It was arms around, and perpetual endearings, and all that I had missed for a weary twelvemonth. I was thirsty for it. I was like a survivor from the open boat falling down on the sand and lapping the fresh bubbling springs at the roots of the palms.

“And they came, riding up from Kawaihae, where they had landed from the royal yacht, the whole glorious cavalcade of them, two by two, flower-garlanded, young and happy, gay, on Parker Ranch horses, thirty of them in the party, a hundred Parker Ranch cowboys and as many more of their own retainers — a royal progress. It was Princess Lihue’s progress, of course, she flaming and passing as we all knew with the dreadful tuberculosis; but with her were her nephews, Prince Lilolilo, hailed everywhere as the next king, and his brothers, Prince Kahekili and Prince Kamalau. And with the Princess was Ella Higginsworth, who rightly claimed higher chief blood lines through the Kauai descent than belonged to the reigning family, and Dora Niles, and Emily Lowcroft, and . . . oh, why enumerate them all! Ella Higginsworth and I had been room-mates at the Royal Chief School. And there was a great resting time for an hour — no luau, for the luau awaited them at the Parkers’ — but beer and stronger drinks for the men, and lemonade, and oranges, and refreshing watermelon for the women.

“And it was arms around with Ella Higginsworth and me, and the Princess, who remembered me, and all the other girls and women, and Ella spoke to the Princess, and the Princess herself invited me to the progress, joining them at Mana whence they would depart two days later. And I was mad, mad with it all — I, from a twelvemonth of imprisonment at grey Nahala. And I was nineteen yet, just turning twenty within the week.

“Oh, I had not thought of what was to happen. So occupied was I with the women that I did not see Lilolilo, except at a distance, bulking large and tall above the other men. But I had never been on a progress. I had seen them entertained at Kilohana and Mana, but I had been too young to be invited along, and after that it had been school and marriage. I knew what it would be like — two weeks of paradise, and little enough for another twelve months at Nahala.

“And I asked Uncle John to lend me a horse, which meant three horses of course — one mounted cowboy and a pack horse to accompany me. No roads then. No automobiles. And the horse for myself! It was Hilo. You don’t remember him. You were away at school then, and before you came home, the following year, he’d broken his back and his rider’s neck wild-cattle-roping up Mauna Kea. You heard about it — that young American naval officer.”

“Lieutenant Bowsfield,” Martha nodded.

“But Hilo! I was the first woman on his back. He was a three-year-old, almost a four-year, and just broken. So black and in such a vigour of coat that the high lights on him clad him in shimmering silver. He was the biggest riding animal on the ranch, descended from the King’s Sparklingdow with a range mare for dam, and roped wild only two weeks before. I never have seen so beautiful a horse. He had the round, deep-chested, big-hearted, well-coupled body of the ideal mountain pony, and his head and neck were true thoroughbred, slender, yet full, with lovely alert ears not too small to be vicious nor too large to be stubborn mulish. And his legs and feet were lovely too, unblemished, sure and firm, with long springy pasterns that made him a wonder of ease under the saddle.”

“I remember hearing Prince Lilolilo tell Uncle John that you were the best woman rider in all Hawaii,” Martha interrupted to say. “That was two years afterward when I was back from school and while you were still living at Nahala.”

“Lilolilo said that!” Bella cried. Almost as with a blush, her long, brown eyes were illumined, as she bridged the years to her lover near half a century dead and dust. With the gentleness of modesty so innate in the women of Hawaii, she covered her spontaneous exposure of her heart with added panegyric of Hilo.

“Oh, when he ran with me up the long-grass slopes, and down the long-grass slopes, it was like hurdling in a dream, for he cleared the grass at every bound, leaping like a deer, a rabbit, or a fox-terrier — you know how they do. And cut up, and prance, and high life! He was a mount for a general, for a Napoleon or a Kitchener. And he had, not a wicked eye, but, oh, such a roguish eye, intelligent and looking as if it cherished a joke behind and wanted to laugh or to perpetrate it. And I asked Uncle John for Hilo. And Uncle John looked at me, and I looked at him; and, though he did not say it, I knew he was feeling ‘Dear Bella,’ and I knew, somewhere in his seeing of me, was all his vision of the Princess Naomi. And Uncle John said yes. That is how it happened.

“But he insisted that I should try Hilo out — myself, rather — at private rehearsal. He was a handful, a glorious handful. But not vicious, not malicious. He got away from me over and over again, but I never let him know. I was not afraid, and that helped me keep always a feel of him that prevented him from thinking that he was even a jump ahead of me.

“I have often wondered if Uncle John dreamed of what possibly might happen. I know I had no thought of it myself, that day I rode across and joined the Princess at Mana. Never was there such festal time. You know the grand way the old Parkers had of entertaining. The pig-sticking and wild-cattle-shooting, the horse-breaking and the branding. The servants’ quarters overflowing. Parker cowboys in from everywhere. And all the girls from Waimea up, and the girls from Waipio, and Honokaa, and Paauilo — I can see them yet, sitting in long rows on top the stone walls of the breaking pen and making leis (flower garlands) Wfor their cowboy lovers. And the nights, the perfumed nights, the chanting of the meles and the dancing of the hulas, and the big Mana grounds with lovers everywhere strolling two by two under the trees.

“And the Prince . . . “ Bella paused, and for a long minute her small fine teeth, still perfect, showed deep in her underlip as she sought and won control and sent her gaze vacantly out across the far blue horizon. As she relaxed, her eyes came back to her sister.

“He was a prince, Martha. You saw him at Kilohana before . . . after you came home from seminary. He filled the eyes of any woman, yes, and of any man. Twenty-five he was, in all-glorious ripeness of man, great and princely in body as he was great and princely in spirit. No matter how wild the fun, how reckless mad the sport, he never seemed to forget that he was royal, and that all his forebears had been high chiefs even to that first one they sang in the genealogies, who had navigated his double-canoes to Tahiti and Raiatea and back again. He was gracious, sweet, kindly comradely, all friendliness — and severe, and stern, and harsh, if he were crossed too grievously. It is hard to express what I mean. He was all man, man, man, and he was all prince, with a strain of the merry boy in him, and the iron in him that would have made him a good and strong king of Hawaii had he come to the throne.

“I can see him yet, as I saw him that first day and touched his hand and talked with him . . . few words and bashful, and anything but a year-long married woman to a grey haole at grey Nahala. Half a century ago it was, that meeting — you remember how our young men then dressed in white shoes and trousers, white silk shirts, with slashed around the middle the gorgeously colourful Spanish sashes — and for half a century that picture of him has not faded in my heart. He was the centre of a group on the lawn, and I was being brought by Ella Higginsworth to be presented. The Princess Lihue had just called some teasing chaff to her which had made her halt to respond and left me halted a pace in front of her.

“His glance chanced to light on me, alone there, perturbed, embarrassed. Oh, how I see him! — his head thrown back a little, with that high, bright, imperious, and utterly care-free poise that was so usual of him. Our eyes met. His head bent forward, or straightened to me, I don’t know what happened. Did he command? Did I obey? I do not know. I know only that I was good to look upon, crowned with fragrant maile, clad in Princess Naomi’s wonderful holoku loaned me by Uncle John from his taboo room; and I know that I advanced alone to him across the Mana lawn, and that he stepped forth from those about him to meet me half-way. We came to each other across the grass, unattended, as if we were coming to each other across our lives.

“Was I very beautiful, Sister Martha, when I was young? I do not know. I don’t know. But in that moment, with all his beauty and truly royal-manness crossing to me and penetrating to the heart of me, I felt a sudden sense of beauty in myself — how shall I say? — as if in him and from him perfection were engendered and conjured within myself.

“No word was spoken. But, oh, I know I raised my face in frank answer to the thunder and trumpets of the message unspoken, and that, had it been death for that one look and that one moment I could not have refrained from the gift of myself that must have been in my face and eyes, in the very body of me that breathed so high.

“Was I beautiful, very beautiful, Martha, when I was nineteen, just turning into twenty?”

And Martha, three-score and four, looked upon Bella, three-score and eight, and nodded genuine affirmation, and to herself added the appreciation of the instant in what she beheld — Bella’s neck, still full and shapely, longer than the ordinary Hawaiian woman’s neck, a pillar that carried regally her high-cheeked, high-browed, high chiefess face and head; Bella’s hair, high-piled, intact, sparkling the silver of the years, ringleted still and contrasting definitely and sharply with her clean, slim, black brows and deep brown eyes. And Martha’s glance, in modest overwhelming of modesty by what she saw, dropped down the splendid breast of her and generously true lines of body to the feet, silken clad, high-heeled-slippered, small, plump, with an almost Spanish arch and faultlessness of instep.

“When one is young, the one young time!” Bella laughed. “Lilolilo was a prince. I came to know his every feature and their every phase . . . afterward, in our wonder days and nights by the singing waters, by the slumber-drowsy surfs, and on the mountain ways. I knew his fine, brave eyes, with their straight, black brows, the nose of him that was assuredly a Kamehameha nose, and the last, least, lovable curve of his mouth. There is no mouth more beautiful than the Hawaiian, Martha.

“And his body. He was a king of athletes, from his wicked, wayward hair to his ankles of bronzed steel. Just the other day I heard one of the Wilder grandsons referred to as ‘The Prince of Harvard.’ Mercy! What would they, what could they have called my Lilolilo could they have matched him against this Wilder lad and all his team at Harvard!”

Bella ceased and breathed deeply, the while she clasped her fine small hands in her ample silken lap. But her pink fairness blushed faintly through her skin and warmed her eyes as she relived her prince-days.

“Well — you have guessed?” Bella said, with defiant shrug of shoulders and a straight gaze into her sister’s eyes. “We rode out from gay Mana and continued the gay progress — down the lava trails to Kiholo to the swimming and the fishing and the feasting and the sleeping in the warm sand under the palms; and up to Puuwaawaa, and more pig-sticking, and roping and driving, and wild mutton from the upper pasture-lands; and on through Kona, now mauka (mountainward), “now down to the King’s palace at Kailua, and to the swimming at Keauhou, and to Kealakekua Bay, and Napoopoo and Honaunau. And everywhere the people turning out, in their hands gifts of flowers, and fruit, and fish, and pig, in their hearts love and song, their heads bowed in obeisance to the royal ones while their lips ejaculated exclamations of amazement or chanted meles of old and unforgotten days.

“What would you, Sister Martha? You know what we Hawaiians are. You know what we were half a hundred years ago. Lilolilo was wonderful. I was reckless. Lilolilo of himself could make any woman reckless. I was twice reckless, for I had cold, grey Nahala to spur me on. I knew. I had never a doubt. Never a hope. Divorces in those days were undreamed. The wife of George Castner could never be queen of Hawaii, even if Uncle Robert’s prophesied revolutions were delayed, and if Lilolilo himself became king. But I never thought of the throne. What I wanted would have been the queendom of being Lilolilo’s wife and mate. But I made no mistake. What was impossible was impossible, and I dreamed no false dream.

“It was the very atmosphere of love. And Lilolilo was a lover. I was for ever crowned with leis (wreaths) by him, and he had his runners bring me leis all the way from the rose-gardens of Mana — you remember them; fifty miles across the lava and the ranges, dewy fresh as the moment they were plucked, in their jewel-cases of banana bark; yard-long they were, the tiny pink buds like threaded beads of Neapolitan coral. And at the luaus (feasts) the for ever never-ending luaus, I must be seated on Lilolilo’s Makaloa mat, the Prince’s mat, his alone and taboo to any lesser mortal save by his own condescension and desire. And I must dip my fingers into his own pa wai holoi (finger-bowl) where scented flower petals floated in the warm water. Yes, and careless that all should see his extended favour, I must dip into his pa paakai for my pinches of red salt, and limu, and kukui nut and chili pepper; and into his ipu kai (fish sauce dish) of kou wood that the great Kamehameha himself had eaten from on many a similar progress. And it was the same for special delicacies that were for Lilolilo and the Princess alone — for his nelu, and the ake, and the palu, and the alaala. And his kahilis were waved over me, and his attendants were mine, and he was mine; and from my flower-crowned hair to my happy feet I was a woman loved.”

Once again Bella’s small teeth pressed into her underlip, as she gazed vacantly seaward and won control of herself and her memories.

“It was on, and on, through all Kona, and all Kau, from Hoopuloa and Kapua to Honuapo and Punaluu, a life-time of living compressed into two short weeks. A flower blooms but once. That was my time of bloom — Lilolilo beside me, myself on my wonderful Hilo, a queen, not of Hawaii, but of Lilolilo and Love. He said I was a bubble of colour and beauty on the black back of Leviathan; that I was a fragile dewdrop on the smoking crest of a lava flow; that I was a rainbow riding the thunder cloud . . . “

Bella paused for a moment.

“I shall tell you no more of what he said to me,” she declared gravely; “save that the things he said were fire of love and essence of beauty, and that he composed hulas to me, and sang them to me, before all, of nights under the stars as we lay on our mats at the feasting; and I on the Makaloa mat of Lilolilo.

“And it was on to Kilauea — the dream so near its ending; and of course we tossed into the pit of sea-surging lava our offerings to Pele (Fire-Goddess) of maile leis and of fish and hard poi wrapped moist in the ti leaves. And we continued down through old Puna, and feasted and danced and sang at Kohoualea and Kamaili and Opihikao, and swam in the clear, sweet-water pools of Kalapana. And in the end came to Hilo by the sea.

“It was the end. We had never spoken. It was the end recognized and unmentioned. The yacht waited. We were days late. Honolulu called, and the news was that the King had gone particularly pupule (insane), that there were Catholic and Protestant missionary plottings, and that trouble with France was brewing. As they had landed at Kawaihae two weeks before with laughter and flowers and song, so they departed from Hilo. It was a merry

parting, full of fun and frolic and a thousand last messages and reminders and jokes. The anchor was broken out to a song of farewell from Lilolilo’s singing boys on the quarterdeck, while we, in the big canoes and whaleboats, saw the first breeze fill the vessel’s sails and the distance begin to widen.

“Through all the confusion and excitement, Lilolilo, at the rail, who must say last farewells and quip last jokes to many, looked squarely down at me. On his head he wore my ilima lei, which I had made for him and placed there. And into the canoes, to the favoured ones, they on the yacht began tossing their many leis. I had no expectancy of hope . . . And yet I hoped, in a small wistful way that I know did not show in my face, which was as proud and merry as any there. But Lilolilo did what I knew he would do, what I had known from the first he would do. Still looking me squarely and honestly in the eyes, he took my beautiful ilima lei from his head and tore it across. I saw his lips shape, but not utter aloud, the single word pau (finish). Still looking at me, he broke both parts of the lei in two again and tossed the deliberate fragments, not to me, but down overside into the widening water. Pau. It was finished . . . “

For a long space Bella’s vacant gaze rested on the sea horizon. Martha ventured no mere voice expression of the sympathy that moistened her own eyes.

“And I rode on that day, up the old bad trail along the Hamakua coast,” Bella resumed, with a voice at first singularly dry and harsh. “That first day was not so hard. I was numb. I was too full with the wonder of all I had to forget to know that I had to forget it. I spent the night at Laupahoehoe. Do you know, I had expected a sleepless night. Instead, weary from the saddle, still numb, I slept the night through as if I had been dead.

“But the next day, in driving wind and drenching rain! How it blew and poured! The trail was really impassable. Again and again our horses went down. At fist the cowboy Uncle John had loaned me with the horses protested, then he followed stolidly in the rear, shaking his head, and, I know, muttering over and over that I was pupule. The pack horse was abandoned at Kukuihaele. We almost swam up Mud Lane in a river of mud. At Waimea the cowboy had to exchange for a fresh mount. But Hilo lasted through. From daybreak till midnight I was in the saddle, till Uncle John, at Kilohana, took me off my horse, in his arms, and carried me in, and routed the women from their beds to undress me and lomi me, while he plied me with hot toddies and drugged me to sleep and forgetfulness. I know I must have babbled and raved. Uncle John must have guessed. But never to another, nor even to me, did he ever breathe a whisper. Whatever he guessed he locked away in the taboo room of Naomi.

“I do have fleeting memories of some of that day, all a broken-hearted mad rage against fate — of my hair down and whipped wet and stinging about me in the driving rain; of endless tears of weeping contributed to the general deluge, of passionate outbursts and resentments against a world all twisted and wrong, of beatings of my hands upon my saddle pommel, of asperities to my Kilohana cowboy, of spurs into the ribs of poor magnificent Hilo, with a prayer on my lips, bursting out from my heart, that the spurs would so madden him as to make him rear and fall on me and crush my body for ever out of all beauty for man, or topple me off the trail and finish me at the foot of the palis (precipices), writing pau at the end of my name as final as the unuttered pau on Lilolilo’s lips when he tore across my ilima lei and dropped it in the sea. . . .

“Husband George was delayed in Honolulu. When he came back to Nahala I was there waiting for him. And solemnly he embraced me, perfunctorily kissed my lips, gravely examined my tongue, decried my looks and state of health, and sent me to bed with hot stove-lids and a dosage of castor oil. Like entering into the machinery of a clock and becoming one of the cogs or wheels, inevitably and remorselessly turning around and around, so I entered back into the grey life of Nahala. Out of bed was Husband George at half after four every morning, and out of the house and astride his horse at five. There was the eternal porridge, and the horrible cheap coffee, and the fresh beef and jerky. I cooked, and baked, and scrubbed. I ground around the crazy hand sewing machine and made my cheap holokus. Night after night, through the endless centuries of two years more, I sat across the table from him until eight o’clock, mending his cheap socks and shoddy underwear, while he read the years’ old borrowed magazines he was too thrifty to subscribe to. And then it was bed-time — kerosene must be economized — and he wound his watch, entered the weather in his diary, and took off his shoes, the right shoe first, and placed them, just so, side by side, at the foot of the bed on his side.

“But there was no more of my drawing to Husband George, as had been the promise ere the Princess Lihue invited me on the progress and Uncle John loaned me the horse. You see, Sister Martha, nothing would have happened had Uncle John refused me the horse. But I had known love, and I had known Lilolilo; and what chance, after that, had Husband George to win from me heart of esteem or affection? And for two years, at Nahala, I was a dead woman who somehow walked and talked, and baked and scrubbed, and mended socks and saved kerosene. The doctors said it was the shoddy underwear that did for him, pursuing as always the high-mountain Nahala waters in the drenching storms of midwinter.

“When he died, I was not sad. I had been sad too long already. Nor was I glad. Gladness had died at Hilo when Lilolilo dropped my ilima lei into the sea and my feet were never happy again. Lilolilo passed within a month after Husband George. I had never seen him since the parting at Hilo. La, la, suitors a many have I had since; but I was like Uncle John. Mating for me was but once. Uncle John had his Naomi room at Kilohana. I have had my Lilolilo room for fifty years in my heart. You are the first, Sister Martha, whom I have permitted to enter that room . . . “

A machine swung the circle of the drive, and from it, across the lawn, approached the husband of Martha. Erect, slender, grey-haired, of graceful military bearing, Roscoe Scandwell was a member of the “Big Five,” which, by the interlocking of interests, determined the destinies of all Hawaii. Himself pure haole, New England born, he kissed Bella first, arms around, full-hearty, in the Hawaiian way. His alert eye told him that there had been a woman talk, and, despite the signs of all generousness of emotion, that all was well and placid in the twilight wisdom that was theirs.

“Elsie and the younglings are coming — just got a wireless from their steamer,” he announced, after he had kissed his wife. “And they’ll be spending several days with us before they go on to Maui.”

“I was going to put you in the Rose Room, Sister Bella,” Martha Scandwell planned aloud. “But it will be better for her and the children and the nurses and everything there, so you shall have Queen Emma’s Room.”

“I had it last time, and I prefer it,” Bella said.

Roscoe Scandwell, himself well taught of Hawaiian love and love-ways, erect, slender, dignified, between the two nobly proportioned women, an arm around each of their sumptuous waists, proceeded with them toward the house.

WAIKIKI, HAWAII.

June 6, 1916

“One More Unfortunate”

AND this was the end of his art! He saw it all now, and his soul grew sick. The hope of his life lay dead. Clearly, vividly, the shame, the misery of it, burst upon him. He had dreamed his dream, and now must come the awakening — and what an awakening!

Again the curtain rose on the dirt, ill-lighted stage, and again, with trembling, wasted fingers, he turned the pages of the score and mechanically played the prelude. The second violin was atrocious; but its marvelous execution and phenomenal time caused him to smile a bitter smile. The trombone gave vent to excruciating agonies, and the drum persisted in bursting unexpectedly at the most inopportune places, while the piano played or not as it saw fit.

The music jarred upon him, but no less than his surroundings, now that the veil had been torn aside. The prelude finished, he had time to look about him. It was the last scene. A woman, in tawdry finery and indelicate dress, had approached the footlights, and in a strained, cracked voice, she was now attempting to sing, out of her register, a popular song. The pit of the house was filled with workmen, sailors, longshoremen, toughs, — the scum of the metropolis. Waiters hurried from table to table, dispensing drinks and soliciting patronage. The women in the boxes cast bold looks, and their painted faces but served to hide the care and worry of their fierce struggle for existence. The air was rent with oaths, conversation and laughter, that often drowned the singer’s voice, and brought into her face an anxious expression, for well she knew if the encore was not sufficiently loud, her services would be dispensed with — not at the end of the week, but at once.

A drunken sailor in the front row raved unceasingly, and his hoarse, meaningless babble kept fit accompaniment to the shrill treble of the singer. A couple of sturdy waiters toss him into the street; a fight in the back hardly attracts attention; and the woman concludes her song to the applause of one table — evidently friends — and leaves the stage to confront the irate manager.

Again the music strikes up, and the awakened enthusiast for the last time that evening leads his crazy orchestra. It was but the obscure work of some unknown composer, perhaps one like him who had dreamed his dream and awakened; but the beauty of it aroused his latent appreciation unconciously. The discords of his companions became inaudible; the vile surroundings vanished, and the musician in thought returned to his childhood and lived his life again.

Once more he trod the familiar paths of his mountain home; his brothers and sisters were around him — the home circle, complete. His father — dear kind, old man, — with his wrinkled, weather-beaten face, told stories of the Indians, the plains, the war, in his homely language and crude manner. His mother, the younger children clustering round her, heard with maternal solicitude, their little happenings of the day, joyed with their toys, sorrowed with their sorrows. But he beheld with grief, the sharp lines drawn deep about eyes and mouth, that told of hidden worries. Alas! he had not understood their import in those days of long ago. Nor was he forgotten. Many a glance of pride, not unmixed with apprehension, she cast upon as he sat with chair close drawn to kitchen table, drawing music upon paper, as had Signa of yore.

The scenes changed rapidly. Now he crept into the little village church, and the preacher’s daughter, a kindly spinster, stood near him as she practiced on the organ. Now he crept away, his little heart throbbing with ecstacies of delight, and sought the stream, the little stream, that dashed so turbulently down from the snowy peaks beyond. There he listened to its song, heard the wind sighing through the pines, and with the music of all animate nature ringing in his ears, returned to his humble house and was glad. Again, deep in that beloved book of Signa, he raised his wet eyes, and ambition trod with conquering step to fame, while the future, painted with fairy touch, was revealed through the bright vistas of success, and all seemed real to his childish imagination.

Now, tossing restlessly on his bed, he rose, and in the silence of the night, standing in the shadow of the great mountains and listening to the subdued, nocturnal song of nature, felt his genius pulse feverishly within him, and great longings and desires come over him.

What had become of that genius? Certainly the present was not genius. Where and how had he lost it? And he would not answer.

Now, his father in an idle moment made him a willow flute. What dear companions they were! — this flute and he. What shrill harmonies they produced, when of a holiday he fled the boyish sports and lost himself in the dark mazes of the forest! Now the preacher’s daughter gives him his first lessons. Now he plays in the village church.

Oh, happy time! All day following the plow or working in the timber, how he looked forward to night, hurrying to the church, he played to himself and to the dark. Then those improvisations — the villagers all declared it wonderful that he could make such beautiful music; and one day, he remembered, the tourist who told him he had genius, but he was wasting it there. “The city was the place,” he said.

The city! The city! How it rang in his ears and haunted him in waking and sleeping! The city! The city! Yes, he must go to the city. There he could find teachers; there could be found satisfaction of his desires; there fame and fortune awaited him.

“Music! Music!” his soul cried out, and “The city! The city!” was echoed back.

But the city was far away. The time passed by, and he still worked on, hoarding a little store of money that slowly increased. He labored on, patient and uncomplaining, looking forward and planning. But at times the yearning would come so strongly upon him that he could hardly guide the plow, and the keen, bright share would swim and dance before his eye, and even the song of the lark fell flat on his ear.

The maidens cast shy glances at him, but he had no thought of marrying — that would mean adieu to music. So he did not marry, and the country-side wonderful till it grew accustomed to him, and the maidens wedded other and more fortunate swains.

At last the fateful day arrived. He bid good-bye to his mountain home, and, full of hope, turned away to the city. But the portals of success opened not at his knocking. Unknown, a wanderer, he found himself arrayed in the lists against talent, genius and power.

He struggled on. He found teachers — he could not afford the best — and devoted himself to study. He learned more of the world he had aspired to conquer, and found the ladder to fame a colossal structure, whose very shadow awed, and against whose base was crushed the throng that struggled for a footing. To his simple, rustic soul the grandeur was overwhelming, and he was startled at the magnitude of the task before him. But not disheartened, he devoted himself to its accomplishment. Many were the rebuffs he met with, and many a pang and heartache. He struggled on, though many were they who, by wealth and influence and sometimes merit, passed him in the race.

Yet the future brightened. He fought his way into the outer circles, where his unpretentious talent soon received recognition. He had performed on the violin in public several times, and in a small way became quite in demand at musicales and theatricals. The great Padrodini had even complimented him.

But his money growing less, he economized and did not eat so often. Then, through devotion to his music, he was careless and did not take sufficient precaution against wintry weather. One day he remained in bed. A long illness followed, and his money becoming exhausted, he was turned into the street when hardly well. He was too proud to seek assistance from his grand friends.

Oh! how scene after scene flashed before him — weird nightmares, horrid phantoms of cold, and want and sickness. Oh! the misery of it all! Tramping, wearily, those long, cold streets — not a friendly eye or kindly greeting — clothes tattered and torn, and the while tormented by his feverish genius, and filled with terrible longings for his lost music. But worst of all, like an availing mother holding a dying child to her dry breasts, he felt his art growing cold within him. Was it then that it died? he thought, as he remembered the terribly lethargy he finally sank into.

At last, after a weary, weary time, it brightened. Shivering one night outside a music hall to which he had been attracted by the bright lights, he was approached by an attaché of the place. The second violin had been taken suddenly ill; could he play? Ah! it was a haven of refuge to him! How eagerly he accepted! With what joy he felt a violin again quivering in response to his trembling touch! Did his art revive then? He wondered and thought not. No; it was the mechanic, not the soul, that had performed nightly in that ill-lighted hole, year after year.

And those years had not been happy. Often, at first, had the old-time longing come upon him; yet as often had he answered, “Some day.” But that some day never came. Ever, it danced before him, growing fainter and fainter, and ever his pursuit lagged by the wayside, till at last the quarry had been lost to view. To-night he had awakened. He saw and realized it all. He was old. Hope had fled. Grief and remorse clamored at his heart.

The second violin reached the end of the score and stopped. The leader played on. The drummer awakened and spasmodically drummed for a space. The piano threw in a few chords and running passages; then gave up in despair. But the leader played on. His eyes were closed. The violin gave voice to his anguish.

The hum of conversation died away and silence fell on all. The manager looked surprised. The waiters paused from their tasks. The women craned forward. The poised glass remained undrained, and pipe and cigrette went out.

Sad, quivering notes that grieved and sobbed and wept — tremulous, long-drawn strains of agony, that mourned and cried and wailed. Weeping sorrowing, lamenting, mourning, the musician played on, and the house was silent as though icy death had breathed upon them.

Tears of anguish and distress, sighs of remorse, regret, cries of pain and despair trembled on the palpitating air. A world of feeling, unutterable. All the misery of blighted hopes and withered joys. The woe of an expiring genius. A violin and a master, one. The wretchedness and affliction of a wasted life, crying out in its distress.

The music changed, growing weird and awful — tremulous strains, grewsome and terrible — thrilling notes, shrill sounds and piercing cries. Shaking, shuddering, shivering, quivering, the violin shrieked in terror and dismay. Moans, groans, screams — a vortex of emotions — dreadful, terrifying, frightful, wonderful.

A string broke, and with jangling discord the music ceased. The violin fell from the player’s nerveless hand. A woman screamed and fainted in a box; others cried. Save this, the rest were silent — an appreciation more eloquent than the thunders of applause.

The musician staggered blindly out.

“He’s old, and a little bit goes to his head, now,” the waiters said.

The docks, just before dawn. A gloom-enshrouded form, that stands above the turbid tide and murmurs:

“The sea is still and deep;

All things within its bosom sleep;

A single step and all is o’er;

A plunge, a bubble and no more.”

“A plunge, a bubble and no more.”

The One Thousand Dozen

DAVID Rasmunsen was a hustler, and, like many a greater man, a man of the one idea. Wherefore, when the clarion call of the North rang on his ear, he conceived an adventure in eggs and bent all his energy to its achievement. He figured briefly and to the point, and the adventure became iridescent-hued, splendid. That eggs would sell at Dawson for five dollars a dozen was a safe working premise. Whence it was incontrovertible that one thousand dozen would bring, in the Golden Metropolis, five thousand dollars.

On the other hand, expense was to be considered, and he considered it well, for he was a careful man, keenly practical, with a hard head and a heart that imagination never warmed. At fifteen cents a dozen, the initial cost of his thousand dozen would be one hundred and fifty dollars, a mere bagatelle in face of the enormous profit. And suppose, just suppose, to be wildly extravagant for once, that transportation for himself and eggs should run up eight hundred and fifty more; he would still have four thousand clear cash and clean when the last egg was disposed of and the last dust had rippled into his sack.

“You see, Alma,”--he figured it over with his wife, the cosy dining room submerged in a sea of maps, government surveys, guidebooks, and Alaskan itineraries,--“you see, expenses don’t really begin till you make Dyea--fifty dollars’ll cover it with a first-class passage thrown in. Now from Dyea to Lake Linderman, Indian packers take your goods over for twelve cents a pound, twelve dollars a hundred, or one hundred and twenty dollars a thousand. Say I have fifteen hundred pounds, it’ll cost one hundred and eighty dollars--call it two hundred and be safe. I am creditably informed by a Klondiker just come out that I can buy a boat for three hundred. But the same man says I’m sure to get a couple of passengers for one hundred and fifty each, which will give me the boat for nothing, and, further, they can help me manage it. And . . . that’s all; I put my eggs ashore from the boat at Dawson. Now let me see how much is that?”

“Fifty dollars from San Francisco to Dyea, two hundred from Dyea to Linderman, passengers pay for the boat--two hundred and fifty all told,” she summed up swiftly.

“And a hundred for my clothes and personal outfit,” he went on happily; `’that leaves a margin of five hundred for emergencies. And what possible emergencies can arise?”

Alma shrugged her shoulders and elevated her brows. If that vast Northland was capable of swallowing up a man and a thousand dozen eggs, surely there was room and to spare for whatever else he might happen to possess. So she thought, but she said nothing. She knew David Rasmunsen too well to say anything.

“Doubling the time because of chance delays, I should make the trip in two months. Think of it, Alma! Four thousand in two months! Beats the paltry hundred a month I’m getting now. Why, we’ll build further out where we’ll have more space, gas in every room, and a view, and the rent of the cottage’ll pay taxes, insurance, and water, and leave something over. And then there’s always the chance of my striking it and coming out a millionnaire. Now tell me, Alma, don’t you think I’m very moderate ?”

And Alma could hardly think otherwise. Besides, had not her own cousin,--though a remote and distant one to be sure, the black sheep, the harum-scarum, the ne’er-do-well,--had not he come down out of that weird North country with a hundred thousand in yellow dust, to say nothing of a half-ownership in the hole from which it came?

David Rasmunsen’s grocer was surprised when he found him weighing eggs in the scales at the end of the counter, and Rasmunsen himself was more surprised when he found that a dozen eggs weighed a pound and a half--fifteen hundred pounds for his thousand dozen! There would be no weight left for his clothes, blankets, and cooking utensils, to say nothing of the grub he must necessarily consume by the way. His calculations were all thrown out, and he was just proceeding to recast them when he hit upon the idea of weighing small eggs. “For whether they be large or small, a dozen eggs is a dozen eggs,” he observed sagely to himself; and a dozen small ones he found to weigh but a pound and a quarter. Thereat the city of San Francisco was overrun by anxious-eyed emissaries, and commission houses and dairy associations were startled by a sudden demand for eggs running not more than twenty ounces to the dozen.

Rasmunsen mortgaged the little cottage for a thousand dollars, arranged for his wife to make a prolonged stay among her own people, threw up his job, and started North. To keep within his schedule he compromised on a second-class passage, which, because of the rush, was worse than steerage; and in the late summer, a pale and wabbly man, he disembarked with his eggs on the Dyea beach. But it did not take him long to recover his land legs and appetite. His first interview with the Chilkoot packers straightened him up and stiffened his backbone. Forty cents a pound they demanded for the twenty-eight-mile portage, and while he caught his breath and swallowed, the price went up to forty-three. Fifteen husky Indians put the straps on his packs at forty-five, but took them off at an offer of forty-seven from a Skaguay Croesus in dirty shirt and ragged overalls who had lost his horses on the White Pass Trail and was now making a last desperate drive at the country by way of Chilkoot.

But Rasmunsen was clean grit, and at fifty cents found takers, who, two days later, set his eggs down intact at Linderman. But fifty cents a pound is a thousand dollars a ton, and his fifteen hundred pounds had exhausted his emergency fund and left him stranded at the Tantalus point where each day he saw the fresh-whipsawed boats departing for Dawson. Further, a great anxiety brooded over the camp where the boats were built. Men worked frantically, early and late, at the height of their endurance, calking, nailing, and pitching in a frenzy of haste for which adequate explanation was not far to seek. Each day the snowline crept farther down the bleak, rock-shouldered peaks, and gale followed gale, with sleet and slush and snow, and in the eddies and quiet places young ice formed and thickened through the fleeting hours. And each morn, toil-stiffened men turned wan faces across the lake to see if the freeze-up had come. For the freeze-up heralded the death of their hope--the hope that they would be floating down the swift river ere navigation closed on the chain of lakes.

To harrow Rasmunsen’s soul further, he discovered three competitors in the egg business. It was true that one, a little German, had gone broke and was himself forlornly back-tripping the last pack of the portage; but the other two had boats nearly completed and were daily supplicating the god of merchants and traders to stay the iron hand of winter for just another day. But the iron hand closed down over the land. Men were being frozen in the blizzard, which swept Chilkoot, and Rasmunsen frosted his toes ere he was aware. He found a chance to go passenger with his freight in a boat just shoving off through the rubble, but two hundred, hard cash, was required, and he had no money.

““Ay tank you yust wait one leedle w’ile,” said the Swedish boatbuilder, who had struck his Klondike right there and was wise enough to know itÄ”one leedle w’ile und I make you a tam fine skiff boat, sure Pete.”

With this unpledged word to go on, Rasmunsen hit the back trail to Crater Lake, where he fell in with two press correspondents whose tangled baggage was strewn from Stone House, over across the Pass, and as far as Happy Camp.

“Yes,” he said with consequence. “I’ve a thousand dozen eggs at Linderman, and my boat’s just about got the last seam calked. Consider myself in luck to get it. Boats are at a premium, you know, and none to be had.”

Whereupon and almost with bodily violence the correspondents clamored to go with him, fluttered greenbacks before his eyes, and spilled yellow twenties from hand to hand. He could not hear of it, but they overpersuaded him, and he reluctantly consented to take them at three hundred apiece. Also they pressed upon him the passage money in advance. And while they wrote to their respective journals concerning the good Samaritan with the thousand dozen eggs, the good Samaritan was hurrying back to the Swede at Linderman.

“Here, you! Gimme that boat!” was his salutation, his hand jingling the correspondents’ gold pieces and his eyes hungrily bent upon the finished craft.

The Swede regarded him stolidly and shook his head.

“How much is the other fellow paying? Three hundred? Well, here’s four. Take it.”

He tried to press it upon him, but the man backed away.

““Ay tank not. Ay say him get der skiff boat. You yust waitÄ”

“Here’s six hundred. Last call. Take it or leave it. Tell’m it’s a mistake.”

The Swede wavered. ““Ay tank yes,” he finally said, and the last Rasmunsen saw of him his vocabulary was going to wreck in a vain effort to explain the mistake to the other fellows.

The German slipped and broke his ankle on the steep hogback above Deep Lake, sold out his stock for a dollar a dozen, and with the proceeds hired Indian packers to carry him back to Dyea. But on the morning Rasmunsen shoved off with his correspondents, his two rivals followed suit.

“How many you got?” one of them, a lean little New Englander, called out.

“One thousand dozen,” Rasmunsen answered proudly.

“Huh! I’ll go you even stakes I beat you in with my eight hundred.”

The correspondents offered to lend him the money; but Rasmunsen declined, and the Yankee closed with the remaining rival, a brawny son of the sea and sailor of ships and things, who promised to show them all a wrinkle or two when it came to cracking on. And crack on he did, with a large tarpaulin squaresail which pressed the bow half under at every jump. He was the first to run out of Linderman, but, disdaining the portage, piled his loaded boat on the rocks in the boiling rapids. Rasmunsen and the Yankee, who likewise had two passengers, portaged across on their backs and then lined their empty boats down through the bad water to Bennett.

Bennett was a twenty-five-mile lake, narrow and deep, a funnel between the mountains through which storms ever romped. Rasmunsen camped on the sand-pit at its head, where were many men and boats bound north in the teeth of the Arctic winter. He awoke in the morning to find a piping gale from the south, which caught the chill from the whited peaks and glacial valleys and blew as cold as north wind ever blew. But it was fair, and he also found the Yankee staggering past the first bold headland with all sail set. Boat after boat was getting under way, and the correspondents fell to with enthusiasm.

“We’ll catch him before Cariboo Crossing,” they assured Rasmunsen, as they ran up the sail and the Alma took the first icy spray over her bow.

Now Rasmunsen all his life had been prone to cowardice on water, but he clung to the kicking steering-oar with set face and determined jaw. His thousand dozen were there in the boat before his eyes, safely secured beneath the correspondents’ baggage, and somehow, before his eyes, were the little cottage and the mortgage for a thousand dollars.

It was bitter cold. Now and again he hauled in the steering-sweep and put out a fresh one while his passengers chopped the ice from the blade. Wherever the spray struck, it turned instantly to frost, and the dipping boom of the spritsail was quickly fringed with icicles. The Alma strained and hammered through the big seas till the seams and butts began to spread, but in lieu of bailing the correspondents chopped ice and flung it overboard. There was no let-up. The mad race with winter was on, and the boats tore along in a desperate string.

“W-w-we can’t stop to save our souls!” one of the correspondents chattered, from cold, not fright.

“That’s right! Keep her down the middle, old man!” the other encouraged.

Rasmunsen replied with an idiotic grin. The iron-bound shores were in a lather of foam, and even down the middle the only hope was to keep running away from the big seas. To lower sail was to be overtaken and swamped. Time and again they passed boats pounding among the rocks, and once they saw one on the edge of the breakers about to strike. A little craft behind them, with two men, jibed over and turned bottom up.

“Wow-watch out, old man!” cried he of the chattering teeth.

Rasmunsen grinned and tightened his aching grip on the sweep. Scores of times had the send of the sea caught the big square stern of the Alma and thrown her off from dead before it till the after leach of the spritsail fluttered hollowly, and each time, and only with all his strength, had he forced her back. His grin by then had become fixed, and it disturbed the correspondents to look at him.

They roared down past an isolated rock a hundred yards from shore. From its wave-drenched top a man shrieked wildly, for the instant cutting the storm with his voice. But the next instant the Alma was by, and the rock growing a black speck in the troubled froth.

“That settles the Yankee! Where’s the sailor?” shouted one of his passengers.

Rasmunsen shot a glance over his shoulder at a black squaresail. He had seen it leap up out of the gray to windward, and for an hour, off and on, had been watching it grow. The sailor had evidently repaired damages and was making up for lost time.

“Look at him come!”

Both passengers stopped chopping ice to watch. Twenty miles of Bennett were behind them--room and to spare for the sea to toss up its mountains toward the sky. Sinking and soaring like a storm god, the sailor drove by them. The huge sail seemed to grip the boat from the crests of the waves, to tear it bodily out of the water, and fling it crashing and smothering down into the yawning troughs.

“The sea’ll never catch him!”

“But he’ll r-r-run her nose under!”

Even as they spoke, the black tarpaulin swooped from sight behind a big comber. The next wave rolled over the spot, and the next, but the boat did not reappear. The Alma rushed by the place. A little riffraff of oars and boxes was seen. An arm thrust up and a shaggy head broke, surface a score of yards away. For a time there was silence. As the end of the lake came in sight, the waves began to leap aboard with such steady recurrence that the correspondents no longer chopped ice but flung the water out with buckets. Even this would not do, and, after a shouted conference with Rasmunsen, they attacked the baggage. Flour, bacon, beans, blankets, cooking stove, ropes, odds and ends, everything they could get hands on, flew overboard. The boat acknowledged it at once, taking less water and rising more buoyantly.

“That’ll do!” Rasmunsen called sternly, as they applied themselves to the top layer of eggs.

“The in-hell it will!” answered the shivering one, savagely. With the exception of their notes, films, and cameras, they had sacrificed their outfit. He bent over, laid hold of an egg-box, and began to worry it out from under the lashing.

“Drop it! Drop it, I say!”

Rasmunsen had managed to draw his revolver, and with the crook of his arm over the sweep head was taking aim. The correspondent stood up on the thwart, balancing back and forth, his face twisted with menace and speechless anger.

“My God!”

So cried his brother correspondent, hurling himself, face downward, into the bottom of the boat. The Alma, under the divided attention of Rasmunsen, had been caught by a great mass of water and whirled around. The after leach hollowed, the sail emptied and jibed, and the boom, sweeping with terrific force across the boat, carried the angry correspondent overboard with a broken back. Mast and sail had gone over the side as well. A drenching sea followed, as the boat lost headway, and Rasmunsen sprang to the bailing bucket.

Several boats hurtled past them in the next half-hour,Äsmall boats, boats of their own size, boats afraid, unable to do aught but run madly on. Then a ten-ton barge, at imminent risk of destruction, lowered sail to windward and lumbered down upon them.

“Keep off! Keep off!” Rasmunsen screamed.

But his low gunwale ground against the heavy craft, and the remain-ing correspondent clambered aboard. Rasmunsen was over the eggs like a cat and in the bow of the Alma, striving with numb fingers to bend the hauling-lines together.

`’Come on! “ a red-whiskered man yelled at him.

“I’ve a thousand dozen eggs here,” he shouted back. “Gimme a tow! I’ll pay you!”

“Come on! “ they howled in chorus.

A big whitecap broke just beyond, washing over the barge and leaving the Alma half swamped. The men cast off, cursing him as they ran up their sail. Rasmunsen cursed back and fell to bailing. The mast and sail, like a sea anchor, still fast by the halyards, held the boat head on to wind and sea and gave him a chance to fight the water out. Three hours later, numbed, exhausted, blathering like a lunatic, but still bailing, he went ashore on an ice-strewn beach near Cariboo Crossing. Two men, a government courier and a half-breed voyageur, dragged him out of the surf, saved his cargo, and beached the Alma. They were paddling out of the country in a Peterborough, and gave him shelter for the night in their storm-bound camp. Next morning they de-parted, but he elected to stay by his eggs. And thereafter the name and fame of the man with the thousand dozen eggs began to spread through the land. Gold-seekers who made in before the freeze-up carried the news of his coming. Grizzled old-timers of Forty Mile and Circle City, sour doughs with leathern jaws and bean-calloused stomachs, called up dream memories of chickens and green things at mention of his name. Dyea and Skaguay took an interest in his being, and questioned his progress from every man who came over the passes, while Dawson--golden, omeletless Dawson--fretted and worried, and waylaid every chance arrival for word of him.

But of this, Rasmunsen knew nothing. The day after the wreck he patched up the Alma and pulled out. A cruel east wind blew in his teeth from Tagish, but he got the oars over the side and bucked manfully into it, though half the time he was drifting backward and chopping ice from the blades. According to the custom of the country, he was driven ashore at Windy Arm; three times on Tagish saw him swamped and beached; and Lake Marsh held him at the freeze-up. The Alma was crushed in the jamming of the floes, but the eggs were intact. These he back-tripped two miles across the ice to the shore, where he built a cache, which stood for years after and was pointed out by men who knew.

Half a thousand frozen miles stretched between him and Dawson, and the waterway was closed. But Rasmunsen, with a peculiar tense look in his face, struck back up the lakes on foot. What he suffered on that lone trip, with naught but a single blanket, an axe, and a handful of beans, is not given to ordinary mortals to know. Only the Arctic adventurer may understand. Suffice that he was caught in a blizzard on Chilkoot and left two of his toes with the surgeon at Sheep Camp. Yet he stood on his feet and washed dishes in the scullery of the Pawona to the Puget Sound, and from there passed coal on a P. S. boat to San Francisco. It was a haggard, unkempt man who limped across the shining office floor to raise a second mortgage from the bank people. His hollow cheeks betrayed themselves through the scraggly beard, and his eyes seemed to have retired into deep caverns where they burned with cold fires. His hands were grained from exposure and hard work, and the nails were rimmed with tight-packed dirt and coal dust. He spoke vaguely of eggs and ice-packs, winds and tides; but when they declined to let him have more than a second thousand, his talk became incoherent, concerning itself chiefly with the price of dogs and dog-food, and such things as snowshoes and moccasins and winter trails. They let him have fifteen hundred, which was more than the cottage warranted, and breathed easier when he scrawled his signature and passed out the door.

Two weeks later he went over Chilkoot with three dog sleds of five dogs each. One team he drove, the two Indians with him driving the others. At Lake Marsh they broke out the cache and loaded up. But there was no trail. He was the first in over the ice, and to him fell the task of packing the snow and hammering away through the rough river jams. Behind him he often observed a camp-fire smoke trickling thinly up through the quiet air, and he wondered why the people did not overtake him. For he was a stranger to the land and did not understand. Nor could he understand his Indians when they tried to explain. This they conceived to be a hardship, but when they balked and refused to break camp of mornings, he drove them to their work at pistol point.

When he slipped through an ice bridge near the White Horse and froze his foot, tender yet and oversensitive from the previous freezing, the Indians looked for him to lie up. But he sacrificed a blanket, and, with his foot incased in an enormous moccasin, big as a water-bucket, continued to take his regular turn with the front sled. Here was the cruelest work, and they respected him, though on the side they rapped their foreheads with their knuckles and significantly shook their heads. One night they tried to run away, but the zip-zip of his bullets in the snow brought them back, snarling but convinced. Whereupon, being only savage Chilkat men, they put their heads together to kill him; but he slept like a cat, and, waking or sleeping, the chance never came. Often they tried to tell him the import of the smoke wreath in the i rear, but he could not comprehend and grew suspicious of them. And when they sulked or shirked, he was quick to let drive at them between the eyes, and quick to cool their heated souls with sight of his ready revolver.

And so it went--with mutinous men, wild dogs, and a trail that broke the heart. He fought the men to stay with him, fought the dogs to keep them away from the eggs, fought the ice, the cold, and the pain of his foot, which would not heal. As fast as the young tissue renewed, it was bitten and seared by the frost, so that a running sore developed, into which he could almost shove his fist. In the mornings, when he first put his weight upon it, his head went dizzy, and he was near to fainting from the pain; but later on in the day it usually grew numb, to recommence when he crawled into his blankets and tried to sleep. Yet he, who had been a clerk and sat at a desk all his days, toiled till the Indians were exhausted, and even outworked the dogs. How hard he worked, how much he suffered, he did not know. Being a man of the one idea, now that the idea had come, it mastered him. In the foreground of his consciousness was Dawson, in the background his thousand dozen eggs, and midway between the two his ego fluttered, striving alway to draw them together to a glittering golden point. This golden point was the five thousand dollars, the consummation of the idea and the point of departure for whatever new idea might present itself. For the rest, he was a mere automaton. He was unaware of other things, seeing them as through a glass darkly, and giving them no thought. The work of his hands he did with machine-like wisdom; likewise the work of his head. So the look on his face grew very tense, till even the Indians were afraid of it, and marvelled at the strange white man who had made them slaves and forced them to toil with such foolishness.

Then came a snap on Lake Le Barge, when the cold of outer space smote the tip of the planet, and the frost ranged sixty and odd degrees below zero. Here, laboring with open mouth that he might breathe more freely, he chilled his lungs, and for the rest of the trip he was troubled with a dry, hacking cough, especially irritable in smoke of camp or under stress of undue exertion. On the Thirty Mile river he found much open water, spanned by precarious ice bridges and fringed with narrow rim ice, tricky and uncertain. The rim ice was impossible to reckon on, and he dared it without reckoning, falling back on his revolver when his drivers demurred. But on the ice bridges, covered with snow though they were, precautions could be taken. These they crossed on their snowshoes, with long poles, held crosswise in their hands, to which to cling in case of accident. Once over, the dogs were called to follow. And on such a bridge, where the absence of the centre ice was masked by the snow, one of the Indians met his end. He went through as quickly and neatly as a knife through thin cream, and the current swept him from view down under the stream ice.

That night his mate fled away through the pale moonlight, Rasmunsen futilely puncturing the silence with his revolver--a thing that he handled with more celerity than cleverness. Thirty-six hours later the Indian made a police camp on the Big Salmon. “Um--um--um funny mans--what you call?Ätop um head all loose,” the interpreter explained to the puzzled captain. “Eh ? Yep, crazy, much crazy mans. Eggs, eggs, all a time eggs--savvy? Come bime-by.”

It was several days before Rasmunsen arrived, the three sleds lashed together, and all the dogs in a single team. It was awkward, and where the going was bad he was compelled to back-trip it sled by sled, though he managed most of the time, through herculean efforts, to bring all along on the one haul. He did not seem moved when the captain of police told him his man was hitting the high places for Dawson, and was by that time, probably, halfway between Selkirk and Stewart. Nor did he appear interested when informed that the police had broken the trail as far as Pelly; for he had attained to a fatalistic acceptance of all natural dispensations, good or ill. But when they told him that Dawson was in the bitter clutch of famine, he smiled, threw the harness on his dogs, and pulled out.

But it was at his next halt that the mystery of the smoke was explained. With the word at Big Salmon that the trail was broken to Pelly, there was no longer any need for the smoke wreath to linger in his wake; and Rasmunsen, crouching over his lonely fire, saw a motley string of sleds go by. First came the courier and the half-breed who had hauled him out from Bennett; then mail-carriers for Circle City, two sleds of them, and a mixed following of ingoing Klondikers. Dogs and men were fresh and fat, while Rasmunsen and his brutes were jaded and worn down to the skin and bone. They of the smoke wreath had travelled one day in three, resting and reserving their strength for thei dash to come when broken trail was met with; while each day he had plunged and floundered forward, breaking the spirit of his dogs and, robbing them of their mettle.

As for himself, he was unbreakable. They thanked him kindly for his efforts in their behalf, those fat, fresh men,--thanked him kindly, with broad grins and ribald laughter; and now, when he understood, he made no answer. Nor did he cherish silent bitterness. It was immaterial. The idea--the fact behind the idea--was not changed. Here he was and his thousand dozen; there was Dawson; the problem was unaltered.

At the Little Salmon, being short of dog food, the dogs got into his grub, and from there to Selkirk he lived on beans--coarse, brown beans, big beans, grossly nutritive, which griped his stomach and doubled him up at two-hour intervals. But the Factor at Selkirk had a notice on the door of the Post to the effect that no steamer had been up the Yukon for two years, and in consequence grub was beyond price. He offered to swap flour, however, at the rate of a cupful for each egg, but Ras-munsen shook his head and hit the trail. Below the Post he managed to buy frozen horse hide for the dogs, the horses having been slain by the Chilkat cattle men, and the scraps and offal preserved by the Indians. He tackled the hide himself, but the hair worked into the bean sores of his mouth, and was beyond endurance.

Here at Selkirk, he met the forerunners of the hungry exodus of Dawson, and from there on they crept over the trail, a dismal throng. “No grub!” was the song they sang. “No grub, and had to go.” “Every-body holding candles for a rise in the spring.” “Flour dollar’n a half a pound, and no sellers.”

“Eggs?” one of them answered. “Dollar apiece, but they ain’t none.” Rasmunsen made a rapid calculation. “Twelve thousand dollars,” he said aloud.

“Hey?” the man asked.

“Nothing,” he answered, and mushed the dogs along.

When he arrived at Stewart River, seventy miles from Dawson, five of his dogs were gone, and the remainder were falling in the traces. He, also, was in the traces, hauling with what little strength was left in him. Even then he was barely crawling along ten miles a day. His cheekbones and nose, frost-bitten again and again, were turned bloody-black and hideous. The thumb, which was separated from the fingers by the gee-pole, had likewise been nipped and gave him great pain. The monstrous moccasin still incased his foot, and strange pains were beginning to rack the leg. At Sixty Mile, the last beans, which he had been rationing for some time, were finished; yet he steadfastly refused to touch the eggs. He could not reconcile his mind to the legitimacy of it, and staggered and fell along the way to Indian River. Here a fresh-killed moose and an open-handed old-timer gave him and his dogs new strength, and at Ainslie’s he felt repaid for it all when a stampede, ripe from Dawson in five hours, was sure he could get a dollar and a quarter for every egg he possessed.

He came up the steep bank by the Dawson barracks with fluttering heart and shaking knees. The dogs were so weak that he was forced to rest them, and, waiting, he leaned limply against the gee-pole. A man, an eminently decorous-looking man, came sauntering by in a great bearskin coat. He glanced at Rasmunsen curiously, then stopped and ran a speculative eye over the dogs and the three lashed sleds.

“What you got?” he asked.

“Eggs,” Rasmunsen answered huskily, hardly able to pitch his voice above a whisper.

“Eggs! Whoopee! Whoopee!” He sprang up into the air, gyrated madly, and finished with half a dozen war steps. “You don’t say--all of ‘em?”

“All of ‘em.”

“Say, you must be the Egg Man.” He walked around and viewed Rasmunsen from the other side. “Come, now, ain’t you the Egg Man?” Rasmunsen didn’t know, but supposed he was, and the man sobered down a bit.

“What d’ye expect to get for’em?” he asked cautiously.

Rasmunsen became audacious. “Dollar’n a half,” he said.

“Done ! “ the man came back promptly. “Gimme a dozen.”

“I--I mean a dollar’n a half apiece,” Rasmunsen hesitatingly explained.

“Sure. I heard you. Make it two dozen. Here’s the dust.” The man pulled out a healthy gold sack the size of a small sausage and knocked it negligently against the gee-pole. Rasmunsen felt a strange trembling in the pit of his stomach, a tickling of the nostrils, and an almost overwhelming desire to sit down and cry. But a curious, wide-eyed crowd was beginning to collect, and man after man was calling out for eggs. He was without scales, but the man with the bearskin coat fetched a pair and obligingly weighed in the dust while Rasmunsen passed out the goods. Soon there was a pushing and shoving and shouldering, and a great clamor. Everybody wanted to buy and to be served first. And as the excitement grew, Rasmunsen cooled down. This would never do. There must be something behind the fact of their buying so eagerly. It would be wiser if he rested first and sized up the market. Perhaps eggs were worth two dollars apiece. Anyway, whenever he wished to sell, he was sure of a dollar and a half. “Stop!” he cried, when a couple of hundred had been sold. “No more now. I’m played out. I’ve got to get a cabin, and then you can come and see me.”

A groan went up at this, but the man with the bearskin coat approved. Twenty-four of the frozen eggs went rattling in his capacious pockets and he didn’t care whether the rest of the town ate or not. Besides, he could see Rasmunsen was on his last legs.

“There’s a cabin right around the second corner from the Monte Carlo,” he told himÄ”the one with the sody-bottle window. It ain’t mine, but I’ve got charge of it. Rents for ten a day and cheap for the money. You move right in, and I’ll see you later. Don’t forget the sody-bottle window.”

“Tra-la-loo!” he called back a moment later. “I’m goin’ up the hill to eat eggs and dream of home.”

On his way to the cabin, Rasmunsen recollected he was hungry and bought a small supply of provisions at the N. A. T. & T. store--also a beefsteak at the butcher shop and dried salmon for the dogs. He found the cabin without difficulty and left the dogs in the harness while he started the fire and got the coffee under way.

“A dollar’n a half apiece--one thousand dozen--eighteen thousand dollars!” He kept muttering it to himself, over and over, as he went about his work.

As he flopped the steak into the frying-pan the door opened. He turned. It was the man with the bearskin coat. He seemed to come in with determination, as though bound on some explicit errand, but as he looked at Rasmunsen an expression of perplexity came into his face.

“I say--now I sayÄ” he began, then halted.

Rasmunsen wondered if he wanted the rent.

“I say, damn it, you know, them eggs is bad.”

Rasmunsen staggered. He felt as though some one had struck him an astounding blow between the eyes. The walls of the cabin reeled and tilted up. He put out his hand to steady himself and rested it on the stove. The sharp pain and the smell of the burning flesh brought him back to himself.

“I see,” he said slowly, fumbling in his pocket for the sack. “You want your money back.”

“It ain’t the money,” the man said, “but hadn’t you got any eggs--good ?”

Rasmunsen shook his head. “You’d better take the money.”

But the man refused and backed away. “I’ll come back,” he said, “when you’ve taken stock, and get what’s comin’.”

Rasmunsen rolled the chopping-block into the cabin and carried in the eggs. He went about it quite calmly. He took up the hand-axe, and, one by one, chopped the eggs in half. These halves he examined care-fully and let fall to the floor. At first he sampled from the different cases, then deliberately emptied one case at a time. The heap on the floor grew larger. The coffee boiled over and the smoke of the burning beefsteak filled the cabin. He chopped steadfastly and monotonously till the last case was finished.

Somebody knocked at the door, knocked again, and let himself in.

“What a mess!” he remarked, as he paused and surveyed the scene.

The severed eggs were beginning to thaw in the heat of the stove, and a miserable odor was growing stronger.

“Must a-happened on the steamer,” he suggested.

Rasmunsen looked at him long and blankly.

“I’m Murray, Big Jim Murray, everybody knows me,” the man volunteered. “I’m just hearin’ your eggs is rotten, and I’m offerin’ you two hundred for the batch. They ain’t good as salmon, but still they’re fair scoffin’s for dogs.”

Rasmunsen seemed turned to stone. He did not move. “You go to hell,” he said passionlessly.

“Now just consider. I pride myself it’s a decent price for a mess like that, and it’s better’n nothin’. Two hundred. What you say?”

`’You go to hell,” Rasmunsen repeated softly, “and get out of here.”

Murray gaped with a great awe, then went out carefully, backward, with his eyes fixed on the other’s face.

Rasmunsen followed him out and turned the dogs loose. He threw them all the salmon he had bought, and coiled a sled-lashing up in his hand. Then he reentered the cabin and drew the latch in after him. The smoke from the cindered steak made his eyes smart. He stood on the bunk, passed the lashing over the ridge-pole, and measured the swingoff with his eye. It did not seem to satisfy, for he put the stool on the bunk and climbed upon the stool. He drove a noose in the end of the lashing and slipped his head through. The other end he made fast. Then he kicked the stool out from under.

The Passing of Marcus O’Brien

“It is the judgment of this court that you vamose the camp . . . in the customary way, sir, in the customary way.”

Judge Marcus O’Brien was absent-minded, and Mucluc Charley nudged him in the ribs. Marcus O’Brien cleared his throat and went on-

“Weighing the gravity of the offence, sir, and the extenuating circumstances, it is the opinion of this court, and its verdict, that you be outfitted with three days’ grub. That will do, I think.”

Arizona Jack cast a bleak glance out over the Yukon. It was a swollen, chocolate flood, running a mile wide and nobody knew how deep. The earth-bank on which he stood was ordinarily a dozen feet above the water, but the river was now growling at the top of the bank, devouring, instant by instant, tiny portions of the top-standing soil. These portions went into the gaping mouths of the endless army of brown swirls and vanished away. Several inches more, and Red Cow would be flooded.

“It won’t do,” Arizona Jack said bitterly. “Three days’ grub ain’t enough.”

“There was Manchester,” Marcus O’Brien replied gravely. “He didn’t get any grub.”

“And they found his remains grounded on the Lower River an’ half eaten by huskies,” was Arizona Jack’s retort. “And his killin’ was without provocation. Joe Deeves never did nothin’, never warbled once, an’ jes’ because his stomach was out of order, Manchester ups an’ plugs him. You ain’t givin’ me a square deal, O’Brien, I tell you that straight. Give me a week’s grub, and I play even to win out. Three days’ grub, an’ I cash in.”

“What for did you kill Ferguson?” O’Brien demanded. “I haven’t any patience for these unprovoked killings. And they’ve got to stop. Red Cow’s none so populous. It’s a good camp, and there never used to be any killings. Now they’re epidemic. I’m sorry for you, Jack, but you’ve got to be made an example of. Ferguson didn’t provoke enough for a killing.”

“Provoke!” Arizona Jack snorted. “I tell you, O’Brien, you don’t savve. You ain’t got no artistic sensibilities. What for did I kill Ferguson? What for did Ferguson sing ‘Then I wisht I was a little bird’? That’s what I want to know. Answer me that. What for did he sing ‘little bird, little bird’? One little bird was enough. I could a-stood one little bird. But no, he must sing two little birds. I gave ‘m a chanst. I went to him almighty polite and requested him kindly to discard one little bird. I pleaded with him. There was witnesses that testified to that.

“An’ Ferguson was no jay-throated songster,” some one spoke up from the crowd.

O’Brien betrayed indecision.

“Ain’t a man got a right to his artistic feelin’s?” Arizona Jack demanded. “I gave Ferguson warnin’. It was violatin’ my own nature to go on listening to his little birds. Why, there’s music sharps that fine-strung an’ keyed-up they’d kill for heaps less’n I did. I’m willin’ to pay for havin’ artistic feelin’s. I can take my medicine an’ lick the spoon, but three days’ grub is drawin’ it a shade fine, that’s all, an’ I hereby register my kick. Go on with the funeral.”

O’Brien was still wavering. He glanced inquiringly at Mucluc Charley.

“I should say, Judge, that three days’ grub was a mite severe,” the latter suggested; “but you’re runnin’ the show. When we elected you judge of this here trial court, we agreed to abide by your decisions, an’ we’ve done it, too, b’gosh, an’ we’re goin’ to keep on doin’ it.”

“Mebbe I’ve been a trifle harsh, Jack,” O’Brien said apologetically--“I’m that worked up over those killings; an’ I’m willing to make it a week’s grub.” He cleared his throat magisterially and looked briskly about him. “And now we might as well get along and finish up the business. The boat’s ready. You go and get the grub, Leclaire. We’ll settle for it afterward.”

Arizona Jack looked grateful, and, muttering something about “damned little birds,” stepped aboard the open boat that rubbed restlessly against the bank. It was a large skiff, built of rough pine planks that had been sawed by hand from the standing timber of Lake Linderman, a few hundred miles above, at the foot of Chilcoot. In the boat were a pair of oars and Arizona Jack’s blankets. Leclaire brought the grub, tied up in a flour-sack, and put it on board. As he did so, he whispered--“I gave you good measure, Jack. You done it with provocation.”

“Cast her off!” Arizona Jack cried.

Somebody untied the painter and threw it in. The current gripped the boat and whirled it away. The murderer did not bother with the oars, contenting himself with sitting in the stern-sheets and rolling a cigarette. Completing it, he struck a match and lighted up. Those that watched on the bank could see the tiny puffs of smoke. They remained on the bank till the boat swung out of sight around the bend half a mile below. Justice had been done.

The denizens of Red Cow imposed the law and executed sentences without the delays that mark the softness of civilization. There was no law on the Yukon save what they made for themselves. They were compelled to make it for themselves. It was in an early day that Red Cow flourished on the Yukon--1887--and the Klondike and its populous stampedes lay in the unguessed future. The men of Red Cow did not even know whether their camp was situated in Alaska or in the North-west Territory, whether they drew breath under the stars and stripes or under the British flag. No surveyor had ever happened along to give them their latitude and longitude. Red Cow was situated somewhere along the Yukon, and that was sufficient for them. So far as flags were concerned, they were beyond all jurisdiction. So far as the law was concerned, they were in No-Man’s land.

They made their own law, and it was very simple. The Yukon executed their decrees. Some two thousand miles below Red Cow the Yukon flowed into Bering Sea through a delta a hundred miles wide. Every mile of those two thousand miles was savage wilderness. It was true, where the Porcupine flowed into the Yukon inside the Arctic Circle there was a Hudson Bay Company trading post. But that was many hundreds of miles away. Also, it was rumoured that many hundreds of miles farther on there were missions. This last, however, was merely rumour; the men of Red Cow had never been there. They had entered the lone land by way of Chilcoot and the head-waters of the Yukon.

The men of Red Cow ignored all minor offences. To be drunk and disorderly and to use vulgar language were looked upon as natural and inalienable rights. The men of Red Cow were individualists, and recognized as sacred but two things, property and life. There were no women present to complicate their simple morality. There were only three log-cabins in Red Cow--the majority of the population of forty men living in tents or brush shacks; and there was no jail in which to confine malefactors, while the inhabitants were too busy digging gold or seeking gold to take a day off and build a jail. Besides, the paramount question of grub negatived such a procedure. Wherefore, when a man violated the rights of property or life, he was thrown into an open boat and started down the Yukon. The quantity of grub he received was proportioned to the gravity of the offence. Thus, a common thief might get as much as two weeks’ grub; an uncommon thief might get no more than half of that. A murderer got no grub at all. A man found guilty of manslaughter would receive grub for from three days to a week. And Marcus O’Brien had been elected judge, and it was he who apportioned the grub. A man who broke the law took his chances. The Yukon swept him away, and he might or might not win to Bering Sea. A few days’ grub gave him a fighting chance. No grub meant practically capital punishment, though there was a slim chance, all depending on the season of the year.

Having disposed of Arizona Jack and watched him out of sight, the population turned from the bank and went to work on its claims--all except Curly Jim, who ran the one faro layout in all the Northland and who speculated in prospect-holes on the sides. Two things happened that day that were momentous. In the late morning Marcus O’Brien struck it. He washed out a dollar, a dollar and a half, and two dollars, from three successive pans. He had found the streak. Curly Jim looked into the hole, washed a few pans himself, and offered O’Brien ten thousand dollars for all rights--five thousand in dust, and, in lieu of the other five thousand, a half interest in his faro layout. O’Brien refused the offer. He was there to make money out of the earth, he declared with heat, and not out of his fellow-men. And anyway, he didn’t like faro. Besides, he appraised his strike at a whole lot more than ten thousand.

The second event of moment occurred in the afternoon, when Siskiyou Pearly ran his boat into the bank and tied up. He was fresh from the Outside, and had in his possession a four-months-old newspaper. Furthermore, he had half a dozen barrels of whisky, all consigned to Curly Jim. The men of Red Cow quit work. They sampled the whisky--at a dollar a drink, weighed out on Curly’s scales; and they discussed the news. And all would have been well, had not Curly Jim conceived a nefarious scheme, which was, namely, first to get Marcus O’Brien drunk, and next, to buy his mine from him.

The first half of the scheme worked beautifully. It began in the early evening, and by nine o’clock O’Brien had reached the singing stage. He clung with one arm around Curly Jim’s neck, and even essayed the late lamented Ferguson’s song about the little birds. He considered he was quite safe in this, what of the fact that the only man in camp with artistic feelings was even then speeding down the Yukon on the breast of a five-mile current.

But the second half of the scheme failed to connect. No matter how much whisky was poured down his neck, O’Brien could not be brought to realize that it was his bounden and friendly duty to sell his claim. He hesitated, it is true, and trembled now and again on the verge of giving in. Inside his muddled head, however, he was chuckling to himself. He was up to Curly Jim’s game, and liked the hands that were being dealt him. The whisky was good. It came out of one special barrel, and was about a dozen times better than that in the other five barrels.

Siskiyou Pearly was dispensing drinks in the bar-room to the remainder of the population of Red Cow, while O’Brien and Curly had out their business orgy in the kitchen. But there was nothing small about O’Brien. He went into the bar-room and returned with Mucluc Charley and Percy Leclaire.

“Business ‘sociates of mine, business ‘sociates,” he announced, with a broad wink to them and a guileless grin to Curly. “Always trust their judgment, always trust ‘em. They’re all right. Give ’em some fire-water, Curly, an’ le’s talk it over.”

This was ringing in; but Curly Jim, making a swift revaluation of the claim, and remembering that the last pan he washed had turned out seven dollars, decided that it was worth the extra whisky, even if it was selling in the other room at a dollar a drink.

“I’m not likely to consider,” O’Brien was hiccoughing to his two friends in the course of explaining to them the question at issue. “Who? Me?--sell for ten thousand dollars! No indeed. I’ll dig the gold myself, an’ then I’m goin’ down to God’s country--Southern California--that’s the place for me to end my declinin’ days--an’ then I’ll start . . . as I said before, then I’ll start . . . what did I say I was goin’ to start?”

“Ostrich farm,” Mucluc Charley volunteered.

“Sure, just what I’m goin’ to start.” O’Brien abruptly steadied himself and looked with awe at Mucluc Charley. “How did you know? Never said so. Jes’ thought I said so. You’re a min’ reader, Charley. Le’s have another.”

Curly Jim filled the glasses and had the pleasure of seeing four dollars’ worth of whisky disappear, one dollar’s worth of which he punished himself--O’Brien insisted that he should drink as frequently as his guests.

“Better take the money now,” Leclaire argued. “Take you two years to dig it out the hole, an’ all that time you might be hatchin’ teeny little baby ostriches an’ pulling feathers out the big ones.”

O’Brien considered the proposition and nodded approval. Curly Jim looked gratefully at Leclaire and refilled the glasses.

“Hold on there!” spluttered Mucluc Charley, whose tongue was beginning to wag loosely and trip over itself. “As your father confessor--there I go--as your brother--O hell!” He paused and collected himself for another start. “As your frien’--business frien’, I should say, I would suggest, rather--I would take the liberty, as it was, to mention--I mean, suggest, that there may be more ostriches . . . O hell!” He downed another glass, and went on more carefully. “What I’m drivin’ at is . . . what am I drivin’ at?” He smote the side of his head sharply half a dozen times with the heel of his palm to shake up his ideas. “I got it!” he cried jubilantly. “Supposen there’s slathers more’n ten thousand dollars in that hole!”

O’Brien, who apparently was all ready to close the bargain, switched about.

“Great!” he cried. “Splen’d idea. Never thought of it all by myself.” He took Mucluc Charley warmly by the hand. “Good frien’! Good ‘s’ciate!” He turned belligerently on Curly Jim. “Maybe hundred thousand dollars in that hole. You wouldn’t rob your old frien’, would you, Curly? Course you wouldn’t. I know you--better’n yourself, better’n yourself. Le’s have another: We’re good frien’s, all of us, I say, all of us.”

And so it went, and so went the whisky, and so went Curly Jim’s hopes up and down. Now Leclaire argued in favour of immediate sale, and almost won the reluctant O’Brien over, only to lose him to the more brilliant counter-argument of Mucluc Charley. And again, it was Mucluc Charley who presented convincing reasons for the sale and Percy Leclaire who held stubbornly back. A little later it was O’Brien himself who insisted on selling, while both friends, with tears and curses, strove to dissuade him. The more whiskey they downed, the more fertile of imagination they became. For one sober pro or con they found a score of drunken ones; and they convinced one another so readily that they were perpetually changing sides in the argument.

The time came when both Mucluc Charley and Leclaire were firmly set upon the sale, and they gleefully obliterated O’Brien’s objections as fast as he entered them. O’Brien grew desperate. He exhausted his last argument and sat speechless. He looked pleadingly at the friends who had deserted him. He kicked Mucluc Charley’s shins under the table, but that graceless hero immediately unfolded a new and most logical reason for the sale. Curly Jim got pen and ink and paper and wrote out the bill of sale. O’Brien sat with pen poised in hand.

“Le’s have one more,” he pleaded. “One more before I sign away a hundred thousan’ dollars.”

Curly Jim filled the glasses triumphantly. O’Brien downed his drink and bent forward with wobbling pen to affix his signature. Before he had made more than a blot, he suddenly started up, impelled by the impact of an idea colliding with his consciousness. He stood upon his feet and swayed back and forth before them, reflecting in his startled eyes the thought process that was taking place behind. Then he reached his conclusion. A benevolent radiance suffused his countenance. He turned to the faro dealer, took his hand, and spoke solemnly.

“Curly, you’re my frien’. There’s my han’. Shake. Ol’ man, I won’t do it. Won’t sell. Won’t rob a frien’. No son-of-a-gun will ever have chance to say Marcus O’Brien robbed frien’ cause frien’ was drunk. You’re drunk, Curly, an’ I won’t rob you. Jes’ had thought--never thought it before--don’t know what the matter ‘ith me, but never thought it before. Suppose, jes’ suppose, Curly, my ol’ frien’, jes’ suppose there ain’t ten thousan’ in whole damn claim. You’d be robbed. No, sir; won’t do it. Marcus O’Brien makes money out of the groun’, not out of his frien’s.”

Percy Leclaire and Mucluc Charley drowned the faro dealer’s objections in applause for so noble a sentiment. They fell upon O’Brien from either side, their arms lovingly about his neck, their mouths so full of words they could not hear Curly’s offer to insert a clause in the document to the effect that if there weren’t ten thousand in the claim he would be given back the difference between yield and purchase price. The longer they talked the more maudlin and the more noble the discussion became. All sordid motives were banished. They were a trio of philanthropists striving to save Curly Jim from himself and his own philanthropy. They insisted that he was a philanthropist. They refused to accept for a moment that there could be found one ignoble thought in all the world. They crawled and climbed and scrambled over high ethical plateaux and ranges, or drowned themselves in metaphysical seas of sentimentality.

Curly Jim sweated and fumed and poured out the whisky. He found himself with a score of arguments on his hands, not one of which had anything to do with the gold-mine he wanted to buy. The longer they talked the farther away they got from that gold-mine, and at two in the morning Curly Jim acknowledged himself beaten. One by one he led his helpless guests across the kitchen floor and thrust them outside. O’Brien came last, and the three, with arms locked for mutual aid, titubated gravely on the stoop.

“Good business man, Curly,” O’Brien was saying. “Must say like your style--fine an’ generous, free-handed hospital . . . hospital . . . hospitality. Credit to you. Nothin’ base ‘n graspin’ in your make-up. As I was sayin’--“

But just then the faro dealer slammed the door.

The three laughed happily on the stoop. They laughed for a long time. Then Mucluc Charley essayed speech.

“Funny--laughed so hard--ain’t what I want to say. My idea is . . . what wash it? Oh, got it! Funny how ideas slip. Elusive idea--chasin’ elusive idea--great sport. Ever chase rabbits, Percy, my frien’? I had dog--great rabbit dog. Whash ‘is name? Don’t know name--never had no name--forget name--elusive name--chasin’ elusive name--no, idea--elusive idea, but got it--what I want to say was--O hell!”

Thereafter there was silence for a long time. O’Brien slipped from their arms to a sitting posture on the stoop, where he slept gently. Mucluc Charley chased the elusive idea through all the nooks and crannies of his drowning consciousness. Leclaire hung fascinated upon the delayed utterance. Suddenly the other’s hand smote him on the back.

“Got it!” Mucluc Charley cried in stentorian tones.

The shock of the jolt broke the continuity of Leclaire’s mental process.

“How much to the pan?” he demanded.

“Pan nothin’!” Mucluc Charley was angry. “Idea--got it--got leg-hold--ran it down.”

Leclaire’s face took on a rapt, admiring expression, and again he hung upon the other’s lips.

“ . . . O hell!” said Mucluc Charley.

At this moment the kitchen door opened for an instant, and Curly Jim shouted, “Go home!”

“Funny,” said Mucluc Charley. “Shame idea--very shame as mine. Le’s go home.”

They gathered O’Brien up between them and started. Mucluc Charley began aloud the pursuit of another idea. Leclaire followed the pursuit with enthusiasm. But O’Brien did not follow it. He neither heard, nor saw, nor knew anything. He was a mere wobbling automaton, supported affectionately and precariously by his two business associates.

They took the path down by the bank of the Yukon. Home did not lie that way, but the elusive idea did. Mucluc Charley giggled over the idea that he could not catch for the edification of Leclaire. They came to where Siskiyou Pearly’s boat lay moored to the bank. The rope with which it was tied ran across the path to a pine stump. They tripped over it and went down, O’Brien underneath. A faint flash of consciousness lighted his brain. He felt the impact of bodies upon his and struck out madly for a moment with his fists. Then he went to sleep again. His gentle snore arose on the air, and Mucluc Charley began to giggle.

“New idea,” he volunteered, “brand new idea. Jes’ caught it--no trouble at all. Came right up an’ I patted it on the head. It’s mine. ‘Brien’s drunk--beashly drunk. Shame--damn shame--learn’m lesshon. Trash Pearly’s boat. Put ‘Brien in Pearly’s boat. Casht off--let her go down Yukon. ‘Brien wake up in mornin’. Current too strong--can’t row boat ‘gainst current--mush walk back. Come back madder ‘n hatter. You an’ me headin’ for tall timber. Learn ‘m lesshon jes’ shame, learn ‘m lesshon.”

Siskiyou Pearly’s boat was empty, save for a pair of oars. Its gunwale rubbed against the bank alongside of O’Brien. They rolled him over into it. Mucluc Charley cast off the painter, and Leclaire shoved the boat out into the current. Then, exhausted by their labours, they lay down on the bank and slept.

Next morning all Red Cow knew of the joke that had been played on Marcus O’Brien. There were some tall bets as to what would happen to the two perpetrators when the victim arrived back. In the afternoon a lookout was set, so that they would know when he was sighted. Everybody wanted to see him come in. But he didn’t come, though they sat up till midnight. Nor did he come next day, nor the next. Red Cow never saw Marcus O’Brien again, and though many conjectures were entertained, no certain clue was ever gained to dispel the mystery of his passing.

Only Marcus O’Brien knew, and he never came back to tell. He awoke next morning in torment. His stomach had been calcined by the inordinate quantity of whisky he had drunk, and was a dry and raging furnace. His head ached all over, inside and out; and, worse than that, was the pain in his face. For six hours countless thousands of mosquitoes had fed upon him, and their ungrateful poison had swollen his face tremendously. It was only by a severe exertion of will that he was able to open narrow slits in his face through which he could peer. He happened to move his hands, and they hurt. He squinted at them, but failed to recognize them, so puffed were they by the mosquito virus. He was lost, or rather, his identity was lost to him. There was nothing familiar about him, which, by association of ideas, would cause to rise in his consciousness the continuity of his existence. He was divorced utterly from his past, for there was nothing about him to resurrect in his consciousness a memory of that past. Besides, he was so sick and miserable that he lacked energy and inclination to seek after who and what he was.

It was not until he discovered a crook in a little finger, caused by an unset breakage of years before, that he knew himself to be Marcus O’Brien. On the instant his past rushed into his consciousness. When he discovered a blood-blister under a thumb-nail, which he had received the previous week, his self-identification became doubly sure, and he knew that those unfamiliar hands belonged to Marcus O’Brien, or, just as much to the point, that Marcus O’Brien belonged to the hands. His first thought was that he was ill--that he had had river fever. It hurt him so much to open his eyes that he kept them closed. A small floating branch struck the boat a sharp rap. He thought it was some one knocking on the cabin door, and said, “Come in.” He waited for a while, and then said testily, “Stay out, then, damn you.” But just the same he wished they would come in and tell him about his illness.

But as he lay there, the past night began to reconstruct itself in his brain. He hadn’t been sick at all, was his thought; he had merely been drunk, and it was time for him to get up and go to work. Work suggested his mine, and he remembered that he had refused ten thousand dollars for it. He sat up abruptly and squeezed open his eyes. He saw himself in a boat, floating on the swollen brown flood of the Yukon. The spruce-covered shores and islands were unfamiliar. He was stunned for a time. He couldn’t make it out. He could remember the last night’s orgy, but there was no connection between that and his present situation.

He closed his eyes and held his aching head in his hands. What had happened? Slowly the dreadful thought arose in his mind. He fought against it, strove to drive it away, but it persisted: he had killed somebody. That alone could explain why he was in an open boat drifting down the Yukon. The law of Red Cow that he had so long administered had now been administered to him. He had killed some one and been set adrift. But whom? He racked his aching brain for the answer, but all that came was a vague memory of bodies falling upon him and of striking out at them. Who were they? Maybe he had killed more than one. He reached to his belt. The knife was missing from its sheath. He had done it with that undoubtedly. But there must have been some reason for the killing. He opened his eyes and in a panic began to search about the boat. There was no grub, not an ounce of grub. He sat down with a groan. He had killed without provocation. The extreme rigour of the law had been visited upon him.

For half an hour he remained motionless, holding his aching head and trying to think. Then he cooled his stomach with a drink of water from overside and felt better. He stood up, and alone on the wide-stretching Yukon, with naught but the primeval wilderness to hear, he cursed strong drink. After that he tied up to a huge floating pine that was deeper sunk in the current than the boat and that consequently drifted faster. He washed his face and hands, sat down in the stern-sheets, and did some more thinking. It was late in June. It was two thousand miles to Bering Sea. The boat was averaging five miles an hour. There was no darkness in such high latitudes at that time of the year, and he could run the river every hour of the twenty-four. This would mean, daily, a hundred and twenty miles. Strike out the twenty for accidents, and there remained a hundred miles a day. In twenty days he would reach Bering Sea. And this would involve no expenditure of energy; the river did the work. He could lie down in the bottom of the boat and husband his strength.

For two days he ate nothing. Then, drifting into the Yukon Flats, he went ashore on the low-lying islands and gathered the eggs of wild geese and ducks. He had no matches, and ate the eggs raw. They were strong, but they kept him going. When he crossed the Arctic Circle, he found the Hudson Bay Company’s post. The brigade had not yet arrived from the Mackenzie, and the post was completely out of grub. He was offered wild-duck eggs, but he informed them that he had a bushel of the same on the boat. He was also offered a drink of whisky, which he refused with an exhibition of violent repugnance. He got matches, however, and after that he cooked his eggs. Toward the mouth of the river head-winds delayed him, and he was twenty-four days on the egg diet. Unfortunately, while asleep he had drifted by both the missions of St. Paul and Holy Cross. And he could sincerely say, as he afterward did, that talk about missions on the Yukon was all humbug. There weren’t any missions, and he was the man to know.

Once on Bering Sea he exchanged the egg diet for seal diet, and he never could make up his mind which he liked least. In the fall of the year he was rescued by a United States revenue cutter, and the following winter he made quite a hit in San Francisco as a temperance lecturer. In this field he found his vocation. “Avoid the bottle” is his slogan and battle-cry. He manages subtly to convey the impression that in his own life a great disaster was wrought by the bottle. He has even mentioned the loss of a fortune that was caused by that hell-bait of the devil, but behind that incident his listeners feel the loom of some terrible and unguessed evil for which the bottle is responsible. He has made a success in his vocation, and has grown grey and respected in the crusade against strong drink. But on the Yukon the passing of Marcus O’Brien remains tradition. It is a mystery that ranks at par with the disappearance of Sir John Franklin.

The Pearls of Parlay

I

The Kanaka helmsman put the wheel down, and the Malahini slipped into the eye of the wind and righted to an even keel. Her headsails emptied, there was a rat-tat of reef-points and quick shifting of boom-tackles, and she was heeled over and filled away on the other tack. Though it was early morning and the wind brisk, the five white men who lounged on the poop-deck were scantily clad. David Grief, and his guest, Gregory Mulhall, an Englishman, were still in pajamas, their naked feet thrust into Chinese slippers. The captain and mate were in thin undershirts and unstarched duck pants, while the supercargo still held in his hands the undershirt he was reluctant to put on. The sweat stood out on his forehead, and he seemed to thrust his bare chest thirstily into the wind that did not cool.

“Pretty muggy, for a breeze like this,” he complained.

“And what’s it doing around in the west? That’s what I want to know,” was Grief’s contribution to the general plaint.

“It won’t last, and it ain’t been there long,” said Hermann, the Holland mate. “She is been chop around all night — five minutes here, ten minutes there, one hour somewhere other quarter.”

“Something makin’, something makin’,” Captain Warfield croaked, spreading his bushy beard with the fingers of both hands and shoving the thatch of his chin into the breeze in a vain search for coolness. “Weather’s been crazy for a fortnight. Haven’t had the proper trades in three weeks. Everything’s mixed up. Barometer was pumping at sunset last night, and it’s pumping now, though the weather sharps say it don’t mean anything. All the same, I’ve got a prejudice against seeing it pump. Gets on my nerves, sort of, you know. She was pumping that way the time we lost the Lancaster. I was only an apprentice, but I can remember that well enough. Brand new, four-masted steel ship; first voyage; broke the old man’s heart. He’d been forty years in the company. Just faded way and died the next year.”

Despite the wind and the early hour, the heat was suffocating. The wind whispered coolness, but did not deliver coolness. It might have blown off the Sahara, save for the extreme humidity with which it was laden. There was no fog nor mist, nor hint of fog or mist, yet the dimness of distance produced the impression. There were no defined clouds, yet so thickly were the heavens covered by a messy cloud-pall that the sun failed to shine through.

“Ready about!” Captain Warfield ordered with slow sharpness.

The brown, breech-clouted Kanaka sailors moved languidly but quickly to head-sheets and boom-tackles.

“Hard a-lee!”

The helmsman ran the spokes over with no hint of gentling, and the Malahini darted prettily into the wind and about.

“Jove! she’s a witch!” was Mulhall’s appreciation. “I didn’t know you South Sea traders sailed yachts.”

“She was a Gloucester fisherman originally,” Grief explained, “and the Gloucester boats are all yachts when it comes to build, rig, and sailing.”

“But you’re heading right in — why don’t you make it?” came the Englishman’s criticism.

“Try it, Captain Warfield,” Grief suggested. “Show him what a lagoon entrance is on a strong ebb.”

“Close-and-by!” the captain ordered.

“Close-and-by,” the Kanaka repeated, easing half a spoke.

The Malahini laid squarely into the narrow passage which was the lagoon entrance of a large, long, and narrow oval of an atoll. The atoll was shaped as if three atolls, in the course of building, had collided and coalesced and failed to rear the partition walls. Cocoanut palms grew in spots on the circle of sand, and there were many gaps where the sand was too low to the sea for cocoanuts, and through which could be seen the protected lagoon where the water lay flat like the ruffled surface of a mirror. Many square miles of water were in the irregular lagoon, all of which surged out on the ebb through the one narrow channel. So narrow was the channel, so large the outflow of water, that the passage was more-like the rapids of a river than the mere tidal entrance to an atoll. The water boiled and whirled and swirled and drove outward in a white foam of stiff, serrated waves. Each heave and blow on her bows of the upstanding waves of the current swung the Malahini off the straight lead and wedged her as with wedges of steel toward the side of the passage. Part way in she was, when her closeness to the coral edge compelled her to go about. On the opposite tack, broadside to the current, she swept seaward with the current’s speed.

“Now’s the time for that new and expensive engine of yours,” Grief jeered good-naturedly.

That the engine was a sore point with Captain Warfield was patent. He had begged and badgered for it, until in the end Grief had given his consent.

“It will pay for itself yet,” the captain retorted. “You wait and see. It beats insurance and you know the underwriters won’t stand for insurance in the Paumotus.”

Grief pointed to a small cutter beating up astern of them on the same course.

“I’ll wager a five-franc piece the little Nuhiva beats us in.”

“Sure,” Captain Warfield agreed. “She’s overpowered. We’re like a liner alongside of her, and we’ve only got forty horsepower. She’s got ten horse, and she’s a little skimming dish. She could skate across the froth of hell, but just the same she can’t buck this current. It’s running ten knots right now.”

And at the rate of ten knots, buffeted and jerkily rolled, the Malahini went out to sea with the tide.

“She’ll slacken in half an hour — then we’ll make headway,” Captain Warfield said, with an irritation explained by his next words. “He has no right to call it Parlay. It’s down on the admiralty charts, and the French charts, too, as Hikihoho. Bougainville discovered it and named it from the natives.”

“What’s the name matter?” the supercargo demanded, taking advantage of speech to pause with arms shoved into the sleeves of the undershirt. “There it is, right under our nose, and old Parlay is there with the pearls.”

“Who see them pearl?” Hermann queried, looking from one to another.

“It’s well known,” was the supercargo’s reply. He turned to the steersman: “Tai-Hotauri, what about old Parlay’s pearls?”

The Kanaka, pleased and self-conscious, took and gave a spoke.

“My brother dive for Parlay three, four month, and he make much talk about pearl. Hikihoho very good place for pearl.”

“And the pearl-buyers have never got him to part with a pearl,” the captain broke in.

“And they say he had a hatful for Armande when he sailed for Tahiti,” the supercargo carried on the tale. “That’s fifteen years ago, and he’s been adding to it ever since — stored the shell as well. Everybody’s seen that — hundreds of tons of it. They say the lagoon’s fished clean now. Maybe that’s why he’s announced the auction.”

“If he really sells, this will be the biggest year’s output of pearls in the Paumotus,” Grief said.

“I say, now, look here!” Mulhall burst forth, harried by the humid heat as much as the rest of them. “What’s it all about? Who’s the old beachcomber anyway? What are all these pearls? Why so secretious about it?”

“Hikihoho belongs to old Parlay,” the supercargo answered. “He’s got a fortune in pearls, saved up for years and years, and he sent the word out weeks ago that he’d auction them off to the buyers to-morrow. See those schooners’ masts sticking up inside the lagoon?”

“Eight, so I see,” said Hermann.

“What are they doing in a dinky atoll like this?” the supercargo went on. “There isn’t a schooner-load of copra a year in the place. They’ve come for the auction. That’s why we’re here. That’s why the little Nuhiva’s bumping along astern there, though what she can buy is beyond me. Narii Herring — he’s an English Jew half-caste — owns and runs her, and his only assets are his nerve, his debts, and his whiskey bills. He’s a genius in such things. He owes so much that there isn’t a merchant in Papeete who isn’t interested in his welfare. They go out of their way to throw work in his way. They’ve got to, and a dandy stunt it is for Narii. Now I owe nobody. What’s the result? If I fell down in a fit on the beach they’d let me lie there and die. They wouldn’t lose anything. But Narii Herring? — what wouldn’t they do if he fell in a fit? Their best wouldn’t be too good for him. They’ve got too much money tied up in him to let him lie. They’d take him into their homes and hand-nurse him like a brother. Let me tell you, honesty in paying bills ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“What’s this Narii chap got to do with it?” was the Englishman’s short-tempered demand. And, turning to Grief, he said, “What’s all this pearl nonsense? Begin at the beginning.”

“You’ll have to help me out,” Grief warned the others, as he began. “Old Parlay is a character. From what I’ve seen of him I believe he’s partly and mildly insane. Anyway, here’s the story: Parlay’s a full-blooded Frenchman. He told me once that he came from Paris. His accent is the true Parisian. He arrived down here in the old days. Went to trading and all the rest. That’s how he got in on Hikihoho. Came in trading when trading was the real thing. About a hundred miserable Paumotans lived on the island. He married the queen — native fashion. When she died, everything was his. Measles came through, and there weren’t more than a dozen survivors. He fed them, and worked them, and was king. Now before the queen died she gave birth to a girl. That’s Armande. When she was three he sent her to the convent at Papeete. When she was seven or eight he sent her to France. You begin to glimpse the situation. The best and most aristocratic convent in France was none too good for the only daughter of a Paumotan island king and capitalist, and you know the old country French draw no colour line. She was educated like a princess, and she accepted herself in much the same way. Also, she thought she was all-white, and never dreamed of a bar sinister.

“Now comes the tragedy. The old man had always been cranky and erratic, and he’d played the despot on Hikihoho so long that he’d got the idea in his head that there was nothing wrong with the king — or the princess either. When Armande was eighteen he sent for her. He had slews and slathers of money, as Yankee Bill would say. He’d built the big house on Hikihoho, and a whacking fine bungalow in Papeete. She was to arrive on the mail boat from New Zealand, and he sailed in his schooner to meet her at Papeete. And he might have carried the situation off, despite the hens and bull-beasts of Papeete, if it hadn’t been for the hurricane. That was the year, wasn’t it, when Manu-Huhi was swept and eleven hundred drowned?”

The others nodded, and Captain Warfield said: “I was in the Magpie that blow, and we went ashore, all hands and the cook, Magpie and all, a quarter of a mile into the cocoanuts at the head of Taiohae Bay — and it a supposedly hurricane-proof harbour.”

“Well,” Grief continued, “old Parlay got caught in the same blow, and arrived in Papeete with his hatful of pearls three weeks too late. He’d had to jack up his schooner and build half a mile of ways before he could get her back into the sea.

“And in the meantime there was Armande at Papeete. Nobody called on her. She did, French fashion, make the initial calls on the Governor and the port doctor. They saw her, but neither of their hen-wives was at home to her nor returned the call. She was out of caste, without caste, though she had never dreamed it, and that was the gentle way they broke the information to her. There was a gay young lieutenant on the French cruiser. He lost his heart to her, but not his head. You can imagine the shock to this young woman, refined, beautiful, raised like an aristocrat, pampered with the best of old France that money could buy. And you can guess the end.” He shrugged his shoulders. “There was a Japanese servant in the bungalow. He saw it. Said she did it with the proper spirit of the Samurai. Took a stiletto — no thrust, no drive, no wild rush for annihilation — took the stiletto, placed the point carefully against her heart, and with both hands, slowly and steadily, pressed home.

“Old Parlay arrived after that with his pearls. There was one single one of them, they say, worth sixty thousand francs. Peter Gee saw it, and has told me he offered that much for it. The old man went clean off for a while. They had him strait-jacketed in the Colonial Club two days — ”

“His wife’s uncle, an old Paumotan, cut him out of the jacket and turned him loose,” the supercargo corroborated.

“And then old Parlay proceeded to eat things up,” Grief went on. “Pumped three bullets into the scalawag of a lieutenant — ”

“Who lay in sick bay for three months,” Captain Warfield contributed.

“Flung a glass of wine in the Governor’s face; fought a duel with the port doctor; beat up his native servants; wrecked the hospital; broke two ribs and the collarbone of a man nurse, and escaped; and went down to his schooner, a gun in each hand, daring the chief of police and all the gendarmes to arrest him, and sailed for Hikihoho. And they say he’s never left the island since.”

The supercargo nodded. “That was fifteen years ago, and he’s never budged.”

“And added to his pearls,” said the captain. “He’s a blithering old lunatic. Makes my flesh creep. He’s a regular Finn.”

“What’s that?” Mulhall inquired.

“Bosses the weather — that’s what the natives believe, at any rate. Ask Tai-Hotauri there. Hey, Tai-Hotauri ! what you think old Parlay do along weather?”

“Just the same one big weather devil,” came the Kanaka’s answer. “I know. He want big blow, he make big blow. He want no wind, no wind come.”

“A regular old Warlock,” said Mulhall.

“No good luck them pearl,” Tai-Hotauri blurted out, rolling his head ominously. “He say he sell. Plenty schooner come. Then he make big hurricane, everybody finish, you see. All native men say so.”

“It’s hurricane season now,” Captain Warfield laughed morosely. “They’re not far wrong. It’s making for something right now, and I’d feel better if the Malahini was a thousand miles away from here.”

“He is a bit mad,” Grief concluded. “I’ve tried to get his point of view. It’s — well, it’s mixed. For eighteen years he’d centred everything on Armande. Half the time he believes she’s still alive, not yet come back from France. That’s one of the reasons he held on to the pearls. And all the time he hates white men. He never forgets they killed her, though a great deal of the time he forgets she’s dead. Hello! Where’s your wind?”

The sails bellied emptily overhead, and Captain Warfield grunted his disgust. Intolerable as the heat had been, in the absence of wind it was almost overpowering. The sweat oozed out on all their faces, and now one, and again another, drew deep breaths, involuntarily questing for more air.

“Here she comes again — an eight point haul! Boom-tackles across! jump!”

The Kanakas sprang to the captain’s orders, and for five minutes the schooner laid directly into the passage and even gained on the current. Again the breeze fell flat, then puffed from the old quarter, compelling a shift back of sheets and tackles.

“Here comes the Nuhiva,” Grief said. “She’s got her engine on. Look at her skim.”

“All ready?” the captain asked the engineer, a Portuguese half-caste, whose head and shoulders protruded from the small hatch just for’ard of the cabin, and who wiped the sweat from his face with a bunch of greasy waste.

“Sure,” he replied.

“Then let her go.”

The engineer disappeared into his den, and a moment later the exhaust muffler coughed and spluttered overside. But the schooner could not hold her lead. The little cutter made three feet to her two and was quickly alongside and forging ahead. Only natives were on her deck, and the man steering waved his hand in derisive greeting and farewell.

“That’s Narii Herring,” Grief told Mulhall. “The big fellow at the wheel — the nerviest and most conscienceless scoundrel in the Paumotus.”

Five minutes later a cry of joy from their own Kanakas centred all eyes on the Nuhiva. Her engine had broken down and they were overtaking her. The Malahini’s sailors sprang into the rigging and jeered as they went by; the little cutter heeled over by the wind with a bone in her teeth, going backward on the tide.

“Some engine that of ours,” Grief approved, as the lagoon opened before them and the course was changed across it to the anchorage.

Captain Warfield was visibly cheered, though he merely grunted, “It’ll pay for itself, never fear.”

The Malahini ran well into the centre of the little fleet ere she found swinging room to anchor.

“There’s Isaacs on the Dolly,” Grief observed, with a hand wave of greeting. “And Peter Gee’s on the Roberta. Couldn’t keep him away from a pearl sale like this. And there’s Francini on the Cactus. They’re all here, all the buyers. Old Parlay will surely get a price.”

“They haven’t repaired the engine yet,” Captain Warfield grumbled gleefully.

He was looking across the lagoon to where the Nuhiva’s sails showed through the sparse cocoanuts.

II

The house of Parlay was a big two-story frame affair, built of California lumber, with a galvanized iron roof. So disproportionate was it to the slender ring of the atoll that it showed out upon the sand-strip and above it like some monstrous excrescence. They of the Malahini paid the courtesy visit ashore immediately after anchoring. Other captains and buyers were in the big room examining the pearls that were to be auctioned next day. Paumotan servants, natives of Hikihoho, and relatives of the owner, moved about dispensing whiskey and absinthe. And through the curious company moved Parlay himself, cackling and sneering, the withered wreck of what had once been a tall and powerful man. His eyes were deep sunken and feverish, his cheeks fallen in and cavernous. The hair of his head seemed to have come out in patches, and his mustache and imperial had shed in the same lopsided way.

“Jove!” Mulhall muttered under his breath. “A long-legged Napoleon the Third, but burnt out, baked, and fire-crackled. And mangy! No wonder he crooks his head to one side. He’s got to keep the balance.”

“Goin’ to have a blow,” was the old man’s greeting to Grief. “You must think a lot of pearls to come a day like this.”

“They’re worth going to inferno for,” Grief laughed genially back, running his eyes over the surface of the table covered by the display.

“Other men have already made that journey for them,” old Parlay cackled. “See this one!” He pointed to a large, perfect pearl the size of a small walnut that lay apart on a piece of chamois. “They offered me sixty thousand francs for it in Tahiti. They’ll bid as much and more for it to-morrow, if they aren’t blown away. Well, that pearl, it was found by my cousin, my cousin by marriage. He was a native, you see. Also, he was a thief. He hid it. It was mine. His cousin, who was also my cousin--we’re all related here--killed him for it and fled away in a cutter to Noo-Nau. I pursued, but the chief of Noo-Nau had killed him for it before I got there. Oh, yes, there are many dead men represented on the table there. Have a drink, Captain. Your face is not familiar. You are new in the islands?”

“It’s Captain Robinson of the Roberta,” Grief said, introducing them.

In the meantime Mulhall had shaken hands with Peter Gee.

“I never fancied there were so many pearls in the world,” Mulhall said.

“Nor have I ever seen so many together at one time,” Peter Gee admitted.

“What ought they to be worth?”

“Fifty or sixty thousand pounds--and that’s to us buyers. In Paris----“ He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyebrows at the incommunicableness of the sum.

Mulhall wiped the sweat from his eyes. All were sweating profusely and breathing hard. There was no ice in the drink that was served, and whiskey and absinthe went down lukewarm.

“Yes, yes,” Parlay was cackling. “Many dead men lie on the table there. I know those pearls, all of them. You see those three! Perfectly matched, aren’t they? A diver from Easter Island got them for me inside a week. Next week a shark got him; took his arm off and blood poison did the business. And that big baroque there--nothing much--if I’m offered twenty francs for it to-morrow I’ll be in luck; it came out of twenty-two fathoms of water. The man was from Raratonga. He broke all diving records. He got it out of twenty-two fathoms. I saw him. And he burst his lungs at the same time, or got the ‘bends,’ for he died in two hours. He died screaming. They could hear him for miles. He was the most powerful native I ever saw. Half a dozen of my divers have died of the bends. And more men will die, more men will die.”

“Oh, hush your croaking, Parlay,” chided one of the captains. “It ain’t going to blow.”

“If I was a strong man, I couldn’t get up hook and get out fast enough,” the old man retorted in the falsetto of age. “Not if I was a strong man with the taste for wine yet in my mouth. But not you. You’ll all stay, I wouldn’t advise you if I thought you’d go, You can’t drive buzzards away from the carrion. Have another drink, my brave sailor-men. Well, well, what men will dare for a few little oyster drops! There they are, the beauties! Auction to-morrow, at ten sharp. Old Parlay’s selling out, and the buzzards are gathering--old Parlay who was a stronger man in his day than any of them and who will see most of them dead yet.”

“If he isn’t a vile old beast!” the supercargo of the Malahini whispered to Peter Gee.

“What if she does blow?” said the captain of the Dolly. “Hikihoho’s never been swept.”

“The more reason she will be, then,” Captain Warfield answered back. “I wouldn’t trust her.”

“Who’s croaking now?” Grief reproved.

“I’d hate to lose that new engine before it paid for itself,” Captain Warfield replied gloomily.

Parlay skipped with astonishing nimbleness across the crowded room to the barometer on the wall.

“Take a look, my brave sailormen!” he cried exultantly.

The man nearest read the glass. The sobering effect showed plainly on his face.

“It’s dropped ten,” was all he said, yet every face went anxious, and there was a look as if every man desired immediately to start for the door.

“Listen!” Parlay commanded.

In the silence the outer surf seemed to have become unusually loud. There was a great rumbling roar.

“A big sea is beginning to set,” some one said; and there was a movement to the windows, where all gathered.

Through the sparse cocoanuts they gazed seaward. An orderly succession of huge smooth seas was rolling down upon the coral shore. For some minutes they gazed on the strange sight and talked in low voices, and in those few minutes it was manifest to all that the waves were increasing in size. It was uncanny, this rising sea in a dead calm, and their voices unconsciously sank lower. Old Parlay shocked them with his abrupt cackle.

“There is yet time to get away to sea, brave gentlemen. You can tow across the lagoon with your whaleboats.”

“It’s all right, old man,” said Darling, the mate of the Cactus, a stalwart youngster of twenty-five. “The blow’s to the southward and passing on. We’ll not get a whiff of it.”

An air of relief went through the room. Conversations were started, and the voices became louder. Several of the buyers even went back to the table to continue the examination of the pearls.

Parlay’s shrill cackle rose higher.

“That’s right,” he encouraged. “If the world was coming to an end you’d go on buying.”

“We’ll buy these to-morrow just the same,” Isaacs assured him.

“Then you’ll be doing your buying in hell.”

The chorus of incredulous laughter incensed the old man. He turned fiercely on Darling.

“Since when have children like you come to the knowledge of storms? And who is the man who has plotted the hurricane-courses of the Paumotus? What books will you find it in? I sailed the Paumotus before the oldest of you drew breath. I know. To the eastward the paths of the hurricanes are on so wide a circle they make a straight line. To the westward here they make a sharp curve. Remember your chart. How did it happen the hurricane of ‘91 swept Auri and Hiolau? The curve, my brave boy, the curve! In an hour, or two or three at most, will come the wind. Listen to that!”

A vast rumbling crash shook the coral foundations of the atoll. The house quivered to it. The native servants, with bottles of whiskey and absinthe in their hands, shrank together as if for protection and stared with fear through the windows at the mighty wash of the wave lapping far up the beach to the corner of a copra-shed.

Parlay looked at the barometer, giggled, and leered around at his guests. Captain War-field strode across to see.

“29:75,” he read. “She’s gone down five more. By God! the old devil’s right. She’s a-coming, and it’s me, for one, for aboard.”

“It’s growing dark,” Isaacs half whispered.

“Jove! it’s like a stage,” Mulhall said to Grief, looking at his watch. “Ten o’clock in the morning, and it’s like twilight. Down go the lights for the tragedy. Where’s the slow music!”

In answer, another rumbling crash shook the atoll and the house. Almost in a panic the company started for the door. In the dim light their sweaty faces appeared ghastly. Isaacs panted asthmatically in the suffocating heat.

“What’s your haste?” Parlay chuckled and girded at his departing guests. “A last drink, brave gentlemen.” No one noticed him. As they took the shell-bordered path to the beach he stuck his head out the door and called, “Don’t forget, gentlemen, at ten to-morrow old Parlay sells his pearls.”

III

On the beach a curious scene took place. Whaleboat after whaleboat was being hurriedly manned and shoved off. It had grown still darker. The stagnant calm continued, and the sand shook under their feet with each buffet of the sea on the outer shore. Narii Herring walked leisurely along the sand. He grinned at the very evident haste of the captains and buyers. With him were three of his Kanakas, and also Tai-Hotauri.

“Get into the boat and take an oar,” Captain Warfield ordered the latter.

Tai-Hotauri came over jauntily, while Narii Herring and his three Kanakas paused and looked on from forty feet away.

“I work no more for you, skipper,” Tai-Hotauri said insolently and loudly. But his face belied his words, for he was guilty of a prodigious wink. “Fire me, skipper,” he huskily whispered, with a second significant wink.

Captain Warfield took the cue and proceeded to do some acting himself. He raised his fist and his voice.

“Get into that boat,” he thundered, “or I’ll knock seven bells out of you!”

The Kanaka drew back truculently, and Grief stepped between to placate his captain.

“I go to work on the Nuhiva,” Tai-Hotauri said, rejoining the other group.

“Come back here!” the captain threatened.

“He’s a free man, skipper,” Narii Herring spoke up. “He’s sailed with me in the past, and he’s sailing again, that’s all.”

“Come on, we must get on board,” Grief urged. “Look how dark it’s getting.”

Captain Warfield gave in, but as the boat shoved off he stood up in the sternsheets and shook his fist ashore.

“I’ll settle with you yet, Narii,” he cried. “You’re the only skipper in the group that steals other men’s sailors,” He sat down, and in lowered voice queried: “Now what’s Tai-Hotauri up to? He’s on to something, but what is it?”

IV

As the boat came alongside the Malahini, Hermann’s anxious face greeted them over the rail.

“Bottom out fall from barometer,” he announced. “She’s goin’ to blow. I got starboard anchor overhaul.”

“Overhaul the big one, too,” Captain Warfield ordered, taking charge. “And here, some of you, hoist in this boat. Lower her down to the deck and lash her bottom up.”

Men were busy at work on the decks of all the schooners. There was a great clanking of chains being overhauled, and now one craft, and now another, hove in, veered, and dropped a second anchor. Like the Malahini, those that had third anchors were preparing to drop them when the wind showed what quarter it was to blow from.

The roar of the big surf continually grew though the lagoon lay in the mirror-like calm.

There was no sign of life where Parlay’s big house perched on the sand. Boat and copra-sheds and the sheds where the shell was stored were deserted.

“For two cents I’d up anchors and get out,” Grief said. “I’d do it anyway if it were open sea. But those chains of atolls to the north and east have us pocketed. We’ve a better chance right here. What do you think, Captain Warfield?”

“I agree with you, though a lagoon is no mill-pond for riding it out. I wonder where she’s going to start from? Hello! There goes one of Parlay’s copra-sheds.”

They could see the grass-thatched shed lift and collapse, while a froth of foam cleared the crest of the sand and ran down to the lagoon.

“Breached across!” Mulhall exclaimed. “That’s something for a starter. There she comes again!”

The wreck of the shed was now flung up and left on the sand-crest, A third wave buffeted it into fragments which washed down the slope toward the lagoon.

“If she blow I would as be cooler yet,” Hermann grunted. “No longer can I breathe. It is damn hot. I am dry like a stove.”

He chopped open a drinking cocoanut with his heavy sheath-knife and drained the contents. The rest of them followed his example, pausing once to watch one of Parlay’s shell sheds go down in ruin. The barometer now registered 29:50.

“Must be pretty close to the centre of the area of low pressure,” Grief remarked cheerfully. “I was never through the eye of a hurricane before. It will be an experience for you, too, Mulhall. From the speed the barometer’s dropped, it’s going to be a big one.”

Captain Warfield groaned, and all eyes drew to him. He was looking through the glasses down the length of the lagoon to the southeast.

“There she comes,” he said quietly.

They did not need glasses to see. A flying film, strangely marked, seemed drawing over the surface of the lagoon. Abreast of it, along the atoll, travelling with equal speed, was a stiff bending of the cocoanut palms and a blur of flying leaves. The front of the wind on the water was a solid, sharply defined strip of dark-coloured, wind-vexed water. In advance of this strip, like skirmishers, were flashes of windflaws. Behind this strip, a quarter of a mile in width, was a strip of what seemed glassy calm. Next came another dark strip of wind, and behind that the lagoon was all crisping, boiling whiteness.

“What is that calm streak?” Mulhall asked.

“Calm,” Warfield answered.

“But it travels as fast as the wind,” was the other’s objection.

“It has to, or it would be overtaken and it wouldn’t be any calm. It’s a double-header, I saw a big squall like that off Savaii once. A regular double-header. Smash! it hit us, then it lulled to nothing, and smashed us a second time. Stand by and hold on! Here she is on top of us. Look at the Roberta!”

The Roberta, lying nearest to the wind at slack chains, was swept off broadside like a straw. Then her chains brought her up, bow on to the wind, with an astonishing jerk. Schooner after schooner, the Malahini with them, was now sweeping away with the first gust and fetching up on taut chains. Mulhall and several of the Kanakas were taken off their feet when the Malahini jerked to her anchors.

And then there was no wind. The flying calm streak had reached them. Grief lighted a match, and the unshielded flame burned without flickering in the still air. A very dim twilight prevailed. The cloud-sky, lowering as it had been for hours, seemed now to have descended quite down upon the sea.

The Roberta tightened to her chains when the second head of the hurricane hit, as did schooner after schooner in swift succession. The sea, white with fury, boiled in tiny, spitting wavelets. The deck of the Malahini vibrated under the men’s feet. The taut-stretched halyards beat a tattoo against the masts, and all the rigging, as if smote by some mighty hand, set up a wild thrumming. It was impossible to face the wind and breathe. Mulhall, crouching with the others behind the shelter of the cabin, discovered this, and his lungs were filled in an instant with so great a volume of driven air which he could not expel that he nearly strangled ere he could turn his head away.

“It’s incredible,” he gasped, but no one heard him.

Hermann and several Kanakas were crawling for’ard on hands and knees to let go the third anchor. Grief touched Captain Warfield and pointed to the Roberta. She was dragging down upon them. Warfield put his mouth to Grief’s ear and shouted:

“We’re dragging, too!”

Grief sprang to the wheel and put it hard over, veering the Mahhini to port. The third anchor took hold, and the Roberta went by, stern-first, a dozen yards away. They waved their hands to Peter Gee and Captain Robinson, who, with a number of sailors, were at work on the bow.

“He’s knocking out the shackles!” Grief shouted. “Going to chance the passage! Got to! Anchors skating!”

“We’re holding now!” came the answering shout. “There goes the Cactus down on the Misi. That settles them!”

The Misi had been holding, but the added windage of the Cactus was too much, and the entangled schooners slid away across the boiling white. Their men could be seen chopping and fighting to get them apart. The Roberta, cleared of her anchors, with a patch of tarpaulin set for’ard, was heading for the passage at the northwestern end of the lagoon. They saw her make it and drive out to sea. But the Misi and Cactus, unable to get clear of each other, went ashore on the atoll half a mile from the passage. The wind merely increased on itself and continued to increase. To face the full blast of it required all one’s strength, and several minutes of crawling on deck against it tired a man to exhaustion. Hermann, with his Kanakas, plodded steadily, lashing and making secure, putting ever more gaskets on the sails. The wind ripped and tore their thin undershirts from their backs. They moved slowly, as if their bodies weighed tons, never releasing a hand-hold until another had been secured. Loose ends of rope stood out stiffly horizontal, and, when a whipping gave, the loose end frazzled and blew away.

Mulhall touched one and then another and pointed to the shore. The grass-sheds had disappeared, and Parlay’s house rocked drunkenly, Because the wind blew lengthwise along the atoll, the house had been sheltered by the miles of cocoanut trees. But the big seas, breaking across from outside, were undermining it and hammering it to pieces. Already tilted down the slope of sand, its end was imminent. Here and there in the cocoanut trees people had lashed themselves. The trees did not sway or thresh about. Bent over rigidly from the wind, they remained in that position and vibrated monstrously. Underneath, across the sand, surged the white spume of the breakers. A big sea was likewise making down the length of the lagoon. It had plenty of room to kick up in the ten-mile stretch from the windward rim of the atoll, and all the schooners were bucking and plunging into it. The Malahini had begun shoving her bow and fo’c’sle head under the bigger ones, and at times her waist was filled rail-high with water.

“Now’s the time for your engine!” Grief bellowed; and Captain Warfield, crawling over to where the engineer lay, shouted emphatic commands.

Under the engine, going full speed ahead, the Malahini behaved better. While she continued to ship seas over her bow, she was not jerked down so fiercely by her anchors. On the other hand, she was unable to get any slack in the chains. The best her forty horsepower could do was to ease the strain.

Still the wind increased. The little Nuhiva, lying abreast of the Malahini and closer in to the beach, her engine still unrepaired and her captain ashore, was having a bad time of it. She buried herself so frequently and so deeply that they wondered each time if she could clear herself of the water. At three in the afternoon buried by a second sea before she could free herself of the preceding one, she did not come up.

Mulhall looked at Grief.

“Burst in her hatches,” was the bellowed answer.

Captain Warfield pointed to the Winifred, a little schooner plunging and burying outside of them, and shouted in Grief’s ear. His voice came in patches of dim words, with intervals of silence when whisked away by the roaring wind.

“Rotten little tub... Anchors hold... But how she holds together... Old as the ark----“

An hour later Hermann pointed to her. Her for’ard bitts, foremast, and most of her bow were gone, having been jerked out of her by her anchors. She swung broadside, rolling in the trough and settling by the head, and in this plight was swept away to leeward.

Five vessels now remained, and of them the Malahini was the only one with an engine. Fearing either the Nuhiva’s or the Winifdred’s fate, two of them followed the Roberta’s example, knocking out the chain-shackles and running for the passage. The Dolly was the first, but her tarpaulin was carried away, and she went to destruction on the lee-rim of the atoll near the Misi and the Cactus. Undeterred by this, the Moana let go and followed with the same result.

“Pretty good engine that, eh?” Captain Warfield yelled to his owner.

Grief put out his hand and shook. “She’s paying for herself!” he yelled back. “The wind’s shifting around to the southward, and we ought to lie easier!”

Slowly and steadily, but with ever-increasing velocity, the wind veered around to the south and the southwest, till the three schooners that were left pointed directly in toward the beach. The wreck of Parlay’s house was picked up, hurled into the lagoon, and blown out upon them. Passing the Malahini, it crashed into the Papara, lying a quarter of a mile astern. There was wild work for’ard on her, and in a quarter of an hour the house went clear, but it had taken the Papara’s foremast and bowsprit with it.

Inshore, on their port bow, lay the Tahaa, slim and yacht-like, but excessively oversparred. Her anchors still held, but her captain, finding no abatement in the wind, proceeded to reduce windage by chopping down his masts.

“Pretty good engine that,” Grief congratulated his skipper, “It will save our sticks for us yet.”

Captain Warfield shook his head dubiously.

The sea on the lagoon went swiftly down with the change of wind, but they were beginning to feel the heave and lift of the outer sea breaking across the atoll. There were not so many trees remaining. Some had been broken short off, others uprooted. One tree they saw snap off halfway up, three persons clinging to it, and whirl away by the wind into the lagoon. Two detached themselves from it and swam to the Tahaa. Not long after, just before darkness, they saw one jump overboard from that schooner’s stern and strike out strongly for the Malahini through the white, spitting wavelets.

“It’s Tai-Hotauri,” was Grief’s judgment. “Now we’ll have the news.”

The Kanaka caught the bobstay, climbed over the bow, and crawled aft. Time was given him to breathe, and then, behind the part shelter of the cabin, in broken snatches and largely by signs, he told his story.

“Narii... damn robber... He want steal... pearls... Kill Parlay... One man kill Parlay... No man know what man... Three Kanakas, Narii, me... Five beans... hat... Narii say one bean black... Nobody know... Kill Parlay... Narii damn liar... All beans black... Five black... Copra-shed dark... Every man get black bean... Big wind come... No chance... Everybody get up tree... No good luck them pearls... I tell you before... No good luck.”

“Where’s Parlay?” Grief shouted.

“Up tree... Three of his Kanakas same tree. Narii and one Kanaka’nother tree... My tree blow to hell, then I come on board.”

“Where’s the pearls?”

“Up tree along Parlay. Mebbe Narii get them pearl yet.”

In the ear of one after another Grief passed on Tai-Hotauri’s story. Captain Warfield was particularly incensed, and they could see him grinding his teeth.

Hermann went below and returned with a riding light, but the moment it was lifted above the level of the cabin wall the wind blew it out. He had better success with the binnacle lamp, which was lighted only after many collective attempts.

“A fine night of wind!” Grief yelled in Mulhall’s ear. “And blowing harder all the time.”

“How hard?”

“A hundred miles an hour... two hundred... I don’t know... Harder than I’ve ever seen it.”

The lagoon grew more and more troubled by the sea that swept across the atoll. Hundreds of leagues of ocean was being backed up by the hurricane, which more than overcame the lowering effect of the ebb tide. Immediately the tide began to rise the increase in the size of the seas was noticeable. Moon and wind were heaping the South Pacific on Hikihoho atoll.

Captain Warfield returned from one of his periodical trips to the engine room with the word that the engineer lay in a faint.

“Can’t let that engine stop!” he concluded helplessly.

“All right!” Grief said, “Bring him on deck. I’ll spell him.”

The hatch to the engine room was battened down, access being gained through a narrow passage from the cabin. The heat and gas fumes were stifling. Grief took one hasty, comprehensive examination of the engine and the fittings of the tiny room, then blew out the oil-lamp. After that he worked in darkness, save for the glow from endless cigars which he went into the cabin to light. Even-tempered as he was, he soon began to give evidences of the strain of being pent in with a mechanical monster that toiled, and sobbed, and slubbered in the shouting dark. Naked to the waist, covered with grease and oil, bruised and skinned from being knocked about by the plunging, jumping vessel, his head swimming from the mixture of gas and air he was compelled to breathe, he laboured on hour after hour, in turns petting, blessing, nursing, and cursing the engine and all its parts. The ignition began to go bad. The feed grew worse. And worst of all, the cylinders began to heat. In a consultation held in the cabin the half-caste engineer begged and pleaded to stop the engine for half an hour in order to cool it and to attend to the water circulation. Captain Warfield was against any stopping. The half-caste swore that the engine would ruin itself and stop anyway and for good. Grief, with glaring eyes, greasy and battered, yelled and cursed them both down and issued commands. Mulhall, the supercargo, and Hermann were set to work in the cabin at double-straining and triple-straining the gasoline. A hole was chopped through the engine room floor, and a Kanaka heaved bilge-water over the cylinders, while Grief continued to souse running parts in oil.

“Didn’t know you were a gasoline expert,” Captain Warfield admired when Grief came into the cabin to catch a breath of little less impure air.

“I bathe in gasoline,” he grated savagely through his teeth. “I eat it.”

What other uses he might have found for it were never given, for at that moment all the men in the cabin, as well as the gasoline being strained, were smashed forward against the bulkhead as the Malahini took an abrupt, deep dive. For the space of several minutes, unable to gain their feet, they rolled back and forth and pounded and hammered from wall to wall. The schooner, swept by three big seas, creaked and groaned and quivered, and from the weight of water on her decks behaved logily. Grief crept to the engine, while Captain Warfield waited his chance to get through the companion-way and out on deck.

It was half an hour before he came back.

“Whaleboat’s gone!” he reported. “Galley’s gone! Everything gone except the deck and hatches! And if that engine hadn’t been going we’d be gone! Keep up the good work!”

By midnight the engineer’s lungs and head had been sufficiently cleared of gas fumes to let him relieve Grief, who went on deck to get his own head and lungs clear. He joined the others, who crouched behind the cabin, holding on with their hands and made doubly secure by rope-lashings. It was a complicated huddle, for it was the only place of refuge for the Kanakas. Some of them had accepted the skipper’s invitation into the cabin but had been driven out by the fumes. The Malahini was being plunged down and swept frequently, and what they breathed was air and spray and water commingled.

“Making heavy weather of it, Mulhall!” Grief shouted to his guest between immersions.

Mulhall, strangling and choking, could only nod. The scuppers could not carry off the burden of water on the schooner’s deck. She rolled it out and took it in over one rail and the other; and at times, nose thrown skyward, sitting down on her heel, she avalanched it aft. It surged along the poop gangways, poured over the top of the cabin, submerging and bruising those that clung on, and went out over the stern-rail.

Mulhall saw him first, and drew Grief’s attention. It was Narii Herring, crouching and holding on where the dim binnacle light shone upon him. He was quite naked, save for a belt and a bare-bladed knife thrust between it and the skin.

Captain Warfield untied his lashings and made his way over the bodies of the others. When his face became visible in the light from the binnacle it was working with anger. They could see him speak, but the wind tore the sound away. He would not put his lips to Narii’s ear. Instead, he pointed over the side. Narii Herring understood. His white teeth showed in an amused and sneering smile, and he stood up, a magnificent figure of a man.

“It’s murder!” Mulhall yelled to Grief.

“He’d have murdered Old Parlay!” Grief yelled back.

For the moment the poop was clear of water and the Malahini on an even keel. Narii made a bravado attempt to walk to the rail, but was flung down by the wind. Thereafter he crawled, disappearing in the darkness, though there was certitude in all of them that he had gone over the side. The Malahini dived deep, and when they emerged from the flood that swept aft, Grief got Mulhall’s ear.

“Can’t lose him! He’s the Fish Man of Tahiti! He’ll cross the lagoon and land on the other rim of the atoll if there’s any atoll left!”

Five minutes afterward, in another submergence, a mess of bodies poured down on them over the top of the cabin. These they seized and held till the water cleared, when they carried them below and learned their identity. Old Parlay lay oh his back on the floor, with closed eyes and without movement. The other two were his Kanaka cousins. All three were naked and bloody. The arm of one Kanaka hung helpless and broken at his side. The other man bled freely from a hideous scalp wound.

“Narii did that?” Mulhall demanded.

Grief shook his head. “No; it’s from being smashed along the deck and over the house!”

Something suddenly ceased, leaving them in dizzying uncertainty. For the moment it was hard to realize there was no wind. With the absolute abruptness of a sword slash, the wind had been chopped off. The schooner rolled and plunged, fetching up on her anchors with a crash which for the first time they could hear. Also, for the first time they could hear the water washing about on deck. The engineer threw off the propeller and eased the engine down.

“We’re in the dead centre,” Grief said. “Now for the shift. It will come as hard as ever.” He looked at the barometer. “29:32,” he read.

Not in a moment could he tone down the voice which for hours had battled against the wind, and so loudly did he speak that in the quiet it hurt the others’ ears.

“All his ribs are smashed,” the supercargo said, feeling along Parlay’s side. “He’s still breathing, but he’s a goner.”

Old Parlay groaned, moved one arm impotently, and opened his eyes. In them was the light of recognition.

“My brave gentlemen,” he whispered haltingly. “Don’t forget... the auction... at ten o’clock... in hell.”

His eyes dropped shut and the lower jaw threatened to drop, but he mastered the qualms of dissolution long enough to omit one final, loud, derisive cackle.

Above and below pandemonium broke out.

The old familiar roar of the wind was with them. The Malahini, caught broadside, was pressed down almost on her beam ends as she swung the arc compelled by her anchors. They rounded her into the wind, where she jerked to an even keel. The propeller was thrown on, and the engine took up its work again.

“Northwest!” Captain Warfield shouted to Grief when he came on deck. “Hauled eight points like a shot!”

“Narii’ll never get across the lagoon now!” Grief observed.

“Then he’ll blow back to our side, worse luck!”

V

After the passing of the centre the barometer began to rise. Equally rapid was the fall of the wind. When it was no more than a howling gale, the engine lifted up in the air, parted its bed-plates with a last convulsive effort of its forty horsepower, and lay down on its side. A wash of water from the bilge sizzled over it and the steam arose in clouds. The engineer wailed his dismay, but Grief glanced over the wreck affectionately and went into the cabin to swab the grease off his chest and arms with bunches of cotton waste.

The sun was up and the gentlest of summer breezes blowing when he came on deck, after sewing up the scalp of one Kanaka and setting the other’s arm. The Malahini lay close in to the beach. For’ard, Hermann and the crew were heaving in and straightening out the tangle of anchors. The Papara and the Tahaa were gone, and Captain Warfield, through the glasses, was searching the opposite rim of the atoll.

“Not a stick left of them,” he said. “That’s what comes of not having engines. They must have dragged across before the big shift came.”

Ashore, where Parlay’s house had been, was no vestige of any house. For the space of three hundred yards, where the sea had breached, no tree or even stump was left. Here and there, farther along, stood an occasional palm, and there were numbers which had been snapped off above the ground. In the crown of one surviving palm Tai-Hotauri asserted he saw something move. There were no boats left to the Malahini, and they watched him swim ashore and climb the tree.

When he came back, they helped over the rail a young native girl of Parley’s household. But first she passed up to them a battered basket. In it was a litter of blind kittens--all dead save one, that feebly mewed and staggered on awkward legs.

“Hello!” said Mulhall. “Who’s that?”

Along the beach they saw a man walking. He moved casually, as if out for a morning stroll. Captain Warfield gritted his teeth. It was Narii Herring.

“Hello, skipper!” Narii called, when he was abreast of them. “Can I come aboard and get some breakfast?”

Captain Warfield’s face and neck began to swell and turn purple. He tried to speak, but choked.

“For two cents--for two cents----“ was all he could manage to articulate.

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 neighbor 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 resoling 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.

All together, 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 distention 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 not quite — each time, imperceptibly at first, 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 tradesmen.

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. 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.”

TomHe 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-by, 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 was 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 acrawl 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 splendor and excellence in wild insurgence and furious onslaught, overwhelming opposition with its own unlimited glory of strength and desire.

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, overconfident, 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 knockout, 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 maneuvred by King into his own corner so that he could immediately sit down.

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 hotheads 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 vigor 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 slightest 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 knockout 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 him.

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 their man.

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 could rise.

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 outgeneralled him, outfought him, outpointed 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 asked.

“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 way.

TomHe 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.

The Plague Ship

“WHAT’S this! What’s this! Do you wish to kill the man? Such treatment is too heroic. Bah! An emetic of ipecacuanha, fifteen grains of powdered calomel and as many of quinine, and then castor oil! Why my dear madam, you know absolutely nothing about medicine!” and the speaker glared indignantly at her.

She flushed, half hurt, half angry, but smothering her feeling, replied, “What do you take the case to be? Typhus?”

“No. It’s merely a bilious fever, made the more severe by this d — , I beg your pardon, this infernal weather.”

“Bilious fever! Ha! Ha! Ha!” They had withdrawn from the side of the sufferer, and she burst forth into merry peals of laughter.

“Yes, madam, I repeat it. Bilious fever. Bilious fever! Do you hear? Bilious! Bilious! Bilious fever!”

“My dear sir, though I do not know you, from the wondrous knowledge you display I’ll call you doctor. Then doctor, let me ask you if you have ever heard of black vomit, or, if that does not come within your technical nomenclature, yellow fever?”

“What symptoms does the man evince. Madam Know-It-All?”

“Miss Know-It-All, if you please. Languor, chilliness, muscular pains, headache, fa — ”

“Precursors of any febrile attack. You evidently do — ”

“Face flushed, eyes suffused then congested, nostrils and lips red, tongue scarlet, temperature 105, loss — ”

“Loss of appetite, hot skin, thirst, nausea, restlessness, and delirium — all the usual accompaniments of any high fever — go on Miss — Miss — ”

“Miss Know-It-All. But all these militant symptoms have ceased and he is now in a state of prostration and collapse. This, the stadium, is as you know the great characteristic of yellow fever.”

“Collapse! Bah! Convalescence. The man is recovering but weak, and here I find you have given him ipecacuanha, calomel, quinine and castor oil. Where’s the ship’s doctor? I’ll have you out of here!”

“As for the ship’s doctor, he’s sick too, with bilious fever I suppose. And for you, who are you, pray? Don’t rest under the hallucination that you are still walking your hospital, wherever it may be. I am as competent as you; nay, have a diploma as well as you: and as to this case, have had too much experience to be mistaken.”

“Madam — A — A — Miss — I — I — I — I’ll see the captain at once. You’re a-a-a — don’t know your business!” And in choleric wrath he left her in pursuit of the chief officer.

The steamer Caspar had left the West Coast, with a clean bill of health and in first class order, for San Francisco. But fortune had illy favored her and from the first day her voyage had been one of trials and tribulations. She had been fearfully overloaded with both cargo and passengers. So low did she float in the water that she seemed and behaved like a log. All buoyancy was lost: she was dead, plunging through instead of rising to the great seas she had met with. In this condition she had encountered a storm, broken her propeller shaft, and been blown hundreds of miles out of her course into the Pacific. The engineers had worked night and day but could effect no permanent repair. They would manage to run the engines a few hours, then their patches would give away and they would be forced to stop twice as long to again make ineffectual repairs. They were still far out of their course and even the captain did not know when they would get back. To make it worse, they had been blown into an unfrequented portion of the ocean, far from the beaten paths, and could look to no outside source for assistance.

There were 158 first class passengers and only berths for 95. Many of the ladies were forced to sleep on lounges and settees, while the gentlemen literally floored and walled the smoking saloon when bedtime came. While it was thus rather hard on the first class passengers, it was worse on the second, and in the steerage it was frightful. Some of second class berths were directly over the screw and so close to the Chinese quarters as to be rendered almost uninhabitable by the fumes of opium and otherwise abominable stenches. In the after-lower-deck, it was more like a cattle ship. Four Chinese, half a score of Negroes, and quadruple as many white people, the majority of which were seasick, were crowded into this hole. So far down was it, that there was no ventilation save through the ports, which more often were bolted down than otherwise.

And now, in the fierce tropic heat of midsummer, to cap their misery, fever had broken forth. While many were hasty in proclaiming it the terrible yellow jack, the more clear-headed, cognizant of their horrible condition, naturally attributed it to that. The ship’s doctor, a too efficient and too poorly paid man, had been the first to come down, leaving the passengers and men to take care of themselves. Their endeavors had been spasmodic and erratic. A fifth of the crew were down and the rest were on the verge of mutiny, threatening to take to the boats. The firemen and stokers were as bad, no longer yielding subordination to their officers. The Chinese, while none were taken ill, continued to stolidly smoke their opium, turning a deaf ear to the protests of the passengers and the commands of the captain, which they knew could not be enforced. The first officer, in despair, had taken to whiskey and was now locked up in a fit of horrors, while the rest of the officers were nearly crazy in their impotency. The passengers were just beginning to awake to their danger; but as yet, save for the isolated efforts of the couple that quarreled over the diagnosis, had done nothing.

Doctor Chandler, who maintained it was bilious fever, had yet to meet his thirtieth birthday. He was returning from an expedition to Peru, on which he had been absent a year. Long retired, in fact, except for his hospital experience, he had never taken up a practice; for the same hand that educated him, had, on its demise, endowed him with an ample fortune. Possessed of a scientific worship for good sanitation — it was his hobby — to the absence of it he attributed, under various names, the sickness which had fallen on them.

Miss Appleton, while possessed of a diploma, had perhaps not as I much experience in hospitals, but of Southern origin, she had gone I through an epidemic of yellow fever in New Orleans and was familiar with all its symptoms. She was a woman not more than twenty-five, beautiful as the word goes, but owing more to a pleasant, forceful personality than to her physical charms. Traveling with her aunt, as soon as the disease had manifested itself, she deserted her to the attention of a maid and threw herself into the breach. And thus, just as she had attempted her first case, had she encountered Doctor Chandler, who had similarly awakened and who was in search of his first patient.

Several days had elapsed and things were going from bad to worse. At last, everybody had been forced to acknowledge that the disease was yellow fever, even Doctor Chandler, who had become very contrite and usually begged Miss Appleton’s pardon every other time they met. Though rather rash and headstrong, he was really a good fellow at heart, and soon the twain were on the best of footings. He was generous and self-sacrificing to a fault and devoted himself night and day to the struggle. Maud Appleton easily penetrated his brusque exterior and grew to understand and like him. Still, they occasionally quarreled over methods of treatment, nor, it must be confessed, was she always in the right.

In the meanwhile, the ship’s doctor, several of the stewards and cooks, and quite a number of the passengers and crew had succumbed and been given hasty sea burial. The captain had caught the contagion and lay helpless in his stateroom, leaving only the second and third officers to manage the men whom every day saw the more unruly and boisterous. Save the two doctors and the dozen or so that had volunteered as assistants, the passengers were sunk in a state of lethargic horror. At first they had been panic stricken, but that had now subsided and they had become stolidly indifferent to the course of events. They recognized no ties except those of blood, and selfishly struggled for their individual creature-comforts — few, it must be acknowledged, they obtained, for each hour the discipline grew more lax and nothing could be obtained from the stewards and waiters without liberal tipping. In short, the plague ship had become a floating hell in which brute struggled with brute for survival.

Sick and giddy. Miss Appleton had staggered from out the fetid atmosphere below-decks, and now was leaning over the rail in a vain effort to catch some refreshing breeze. The Caspar lay in the trough of the sea idly rolling to the smooth swell. She had no steerage-way; the quartermaster had deserted the wheel; the engineers had given up the struggle; and despair had settled upon the ship. The heat was suffocating, and as Maud panted for breath she was approached by the indefatigable Doctor Chandler, who had new cause of quarrel concerning the treatment of one of her patients. But they quarreled good-naturedly now, more in pleasant badinage and sharp repartee. Amid all their misery, it had become their one source of pleasure — a contest of wit and skill, in which personality was lost in the keenness of professional zeal. Though their methods were quite diverse, he had lost as many patients as she, while in the number of recoveries she was one the better of him — the patient over which they had had their first dispute being now in the last stage of convalescence. This rankled the doctor, in a professional way, and did not in the least abate his faith in his treatment, while he ascribed her success to a phenomenonal streak of luck, which gave her the patients that would have recovered any way.

But while they enjoyed themselves in their merry dispute, affairs of moment were approaching a crisis. The crew had long before deserted their stuffy fore-castle and camped on deck beneath sails spread as awnings. Later they were joined by the stokers, oilers and firemen, who brought along their sea-bags and blankets. Here, in full view of the terrorized passengers, they played cards, fought, cursed God and man, and refused all duty. Too powerful to break, the officers were forced to send their meals to them and to pray that they would not take to the boats. For all their lawlessness, however, they maintained a crude organization and enforced their rules with terrible penalties. Whenever one fell sick, he was carried away to the fore-castle and attended upon by shifts appointed for that purpose. Only this morning, the remainder of the cooks, waiters and mess-boys had deserted and come forward to join them. As the crowd of them, carrying all the paraphernalia for an improvised camp, came marching along the deck, they had received am otherwise than cool reception.

“I say, lads, what the — — are we to do for cooks and mess-byes and grub?” queried one of the tars.

An instant sufficed for the mutineers to grasp the situation. Withj belaying pins and sheath-knives they drove the would be deserters, bag and baggage, back to their duty, incidentally breaking a few heads andj creating a momentary pandemonium. This incident had given the shifty second and third officers their cue, which they were soon to utilize with such disastrous consequence.

The mutineers quickly gave full intimation of their next procedure. They took possession of the boats; saw to it that they were seaworthy; and looting the hold, provisioned them. The passengers crowded the after-decks in a terror-stricken mass, while a few of the more clear-headed, grouped round the officers and placed themselves at their service. As the day proceeded, the panic grew: several mutineers they saw fall to the deck, overcome by the heat and the dread yellow jack. These were quickly carried away to the improvised hospital while their comrades worked the faster in completing their preparations.

Nor was this the only trouble which threatened. The three score Chinese between decks, who till now had manifested no discontent, were ripe for revolt. The contemplated desertion of the cooks and waiters had left them without food for twenty-four hours, and the officers had been forced to lock them in. Left to their fate, their yells and curses penetrated throughout the ship and at any moment they were expected to break forth. To add to the terror, the sick and dying, actuated by some subtle impulse, had broken out in loud cries and wailing.

It was at this moment that the officers put into execution the plan they had conceived. Why not turn these two destructive forces, which threatened them, against each other? The sailors were in just the mood for a fight, and as they never lost any love for their Asiatic brethren, it would not take much to precipitate one. The second officer argued that if they left the ship, those that remained would be at the mercy of the Chinese, and, since they were bound to take to the boats, it were best to be left behind in safety by cleaning the Chinese out. And again, he thought if the conflict were severe enough, the ranks of the mutineers would be so decimated, that he could conquer them with the help of the passengers, engineers, cooks and stewards.

Maud and Doctor Chandler had concluded their quarrel with the customary assurance of good comradeship and an agreement. Each was to choose a patient that had just come down and take exclusive control, brooking no interference and applying their own method in its extremity. As chance had it, they chose a pair which had just taken to their berths: a young Californian and his sister, returning from a visit to their father, an extensive mine-owner in Peru. She selected the young man, and he, the sister. Leaving the deck, they were elbowing their way among the passengers who had been sent below by the second officer. Amid the confusion on every side, as they entered the saloon, anarchy and hell broke forth.

The hub-bub which the Chinese incessantly maintained had ceased tor a space; but now, redoubled in fury, it arose, amid the crashing of heavy bodies and the splintering of wood. They heard the rapid revolver snots of the two engineers set to guard them, followed by terrible oaths anu ^neks of agony. Then the passageways were thronged and the yel-ow devils, inflamed with blood, were upon them. At this juncture, the door of the first officer’s stateroom flew open, and he sprang out, an awful sight to behold. He was evidently suffering the tortures of delirium tremens: his eyes were set and dilated; his gigantic body convulsed with nervous spasms; his mouth a mass of froth and blood. Throwing himself into the doorway, armed with nothing but a huge battle-axe (some curio of his), he held the fiends at bay. The fleeing passengers blocked the other exit while those that remained, beheld a wondrous struggle. Among the Chinese were some of the most redoubtable high-binders and hatchet-men of the coast — mercenary and trained fighters I for the societies to which they owed their allegiance. Unlike the average Chinese, they were not cowardly: murder and bloodshed was their profession.

His battle-axe described flaming circles of steel as it flew back and forth, hither and thither, on its mission of death. At first, the marauders had rushed to their certain fate; but now they drew back, leaving several of their number beneath his feet. Into the narrow passage they knew he dare not pursue for lack of space in which to wield his great weapon. Stepping to the fore, their leader prepared to finish the struggle. It seemed as though David had come forward to face Goliah. His appearance belied his reputation as the wonderful Ah Sen, the fiercest of all hatchet-men: slender and effeminate of form, his delicate face seemed more that of a smooth-faced boy or woman, than that of a notorious desperado. Seizing the proffered knives of his men, thrice he cast one, full at his opponent. They leaped from his hand like rays of glancing light, turning half way round in mid air and burying themselves in the first officer’s breast. Yet he seemed not to feel them. Again he tried; but this time, aiming at the throat, it hurtled past still intent on its mission and sank between the shoulders of one of the ladies, struggling in the press at the other door. The highbinder, evincing not the slightest irritation at his failures, changed the method of attack. Seizing a hatchet, with the speed of the lightning, it pursued the path of its predecessors. Full on the forehead, it struck the giant, who swayed, tottered, sank to his knees: like a cat. Ah Sen followed his weapon to his fate. For one second the giant was endowed with the full vigor of his strength, and in that second, Ah Sen encountered him. There was no struggle. Rising to his feet and totally disregarding the knife which entered his side, he seized the slender-necked celestial by the head with both his hands — once — twice — his body whirled in giddying orbit round his head. There was a snap of bones and rending of flesh and Ah Sen sank to the floor, his neck wrung like a chicken’s. The next instant he was joined by his antagonist, who fell beside him, literally hacked to pieces by a score of knives and hatchets.

In the meantime, the officers had been busy persuading the mutineers to do the one act of mercy before they left the ship. The celerity with which the contagion spread and its malignancy, had put them in a fright, terrible to behold in strong, fearless men. They had been loth to listen, doggedly proceeding with the work of launching the boats, all bent upon their departure, but when the noise of the combat reached them and they knew that the Chinese were up, they forsook their tasks, hastily armed themselves with cutlasses distributed by the first officer, and sprang to the rescue.

Dividing into two parties, after killing a few stragglers which they caught murdering and robbing the passengers, they hemmed the remainder in the great saloon. Here, aided by the firearms of the officers, a short but sanguinary conflict ensued, ending in the complete annihilation of the Asiatics.

Exhilarated by their success; their fiercest passions aroused by the battle and blood; all the brutishness of primeval man burst forth and the sailors were in the mood for any mischief. Bloodstained and panting, they grouped about the ringleader, who, qualified with all the attributes that go to make the sea-lawyer and popular demagogue, addressed them in a short but very trite speech:

“Ho! My lads! We’ve blasted the heathen and saved the ship — never say die says I — we’ve saved the passengers too — ain’t it so? (Interruptions of “Aye, aye, that we have.”) and in saving their bloody necks, we save their treasures too — what say ye? (An’ where do we come off? Aye, that’s the ticket!) Hold your jaw, Jack Gunderson: I’m coming to that. Yes, where do we get off? The company? (Ha! Ha! Ha! The skinflints! They’ll pay us — see us with Davy Jones first!) Aye, my lads, that’s not true enough: they’d see you in hell first, a-simmering like pork-chops in the galley. But here’s the proposition: let the blasted passengers keep their bloomin’ lives and us their treasure. What say ye, mates?” A burst of applause and cries of “A loot! A loot!” signified that it had been answered in the affirmative.

Charybdis had saved the passengers from Scylla to engulf them himself. It was not destruction, however, for quickly overcoming the officers and the remnant of their supporters, they assured the passengers of their good will and desire for suitable reward. The latter they at once I proceeded to appropriate.

The sailors fell to their work with a vengeance, and in the scenes I which followed, there was much mingling of the ludicrous and the tragic. Staterooms were ransacked, baggage of all descriptions turned upside down and inside out, and articles of wearing apparel appropri-1 ated; nor did they hesitate to personally despoil the passengers. Maud’s I aunt, an old lady, yet vigorous in body, mind and invective, led two of I the tars, intent on her magnificent earrings, a merry chase. She finally sought refuge in the stateroom of the Senor Morella, an Honduras patriot, martial of aspect and afflicted with a wooden leg — a memento of his latest insurrection. He lay in his berth, dying, with his artificiall limb unstrapped but near him. Seizing this redoubtable weapon, she laid about her with such will and good purpose, as to down the robbers as fast as they stuck their heads inside. Quite a crowd ceased theiti looting to enjoy the fun. But the “old she-devil,” as they delightfully termed her, held her own against all comers.

As usual, the men broke into the spirit room, and while some became good-natured and jolly, others became the more violent. Fearing injury to her aunt, Maud hurried forward to persuade her into giving up her jewels, accompanied, of course, by Chandler, as protector. He was quickly dispossessed of his gold repeater and diamond links — little incidents which he scarcely heeded, so intent was he on guarding Maud. She, however, failed in her mission, barely missing being brained by her somewhat confused and belligerent relative. Though frustrated as a peacemaker, she well succeeded in involving herself and protector in new troubles. One of the sailors, a big, hulking brute, rendered amorous by the too-frequent caress of certain plainly labeled bottles, threw his arm about her waist and drew her to him. Quick, full on the lips, he kissed her.

In that moment did the doctor become cognizant of a new sensatition — a sensation he knew to be different from any he would have felt, had it been a woman other than her. A swift shoulder-blow, and the man lay in a heap on the floor. The next instant he was on his feet, cursing and glowering malignantly at the doctor, who, in the heat of his anger, made as though to repeat the performance. To Maud, events followed like a flash: the fellow’s cutlass hissed through the air; a comrade interposed another; the blow was broken but still fell upon Chandler’s head; and when she beheld the rush of blood, she experienced a strangely-intense and solicitous anxiety for him.

“A breeze! A breeze! My hearties! Fair wind for Mexico!” came a cry from above. A second saw the mutineers on deck, springing into the boats which lay along side. The Caspar was deserted.

In the bloodstained cabin, amid the weeping and shrieking of women, the wailing of the fever-stricken, and the curses and groans of the dying combatants, Chandler, bathed in a baptism of blood, and Maud, flushed and fainting with what had transpired, sprang or rather tottered and fell into each other’s arms. There, in that moment of horror, with all the hideousness of the present and terror of the future upon them, they confessed their newly-discovered and mutual love.

Many days had elapsed. Helpless, the Caspar drifted about with her cargo of misery and death. No help had come: none was expected, save through the safe arrival of the deserters in Mexico, which was merely problematic. In the absence of this disorderly element, the survivors had settled down to an orderly existence, systematized everything, isolated forward the fever patients, and were getting along far better than might have been expected from people in their condition. As a traveler in Yosemite loses all conception and appreciation of height and distance, so had they lost all horror of their situation. Continually facing death, they had come to fear it not; and great indeed must have been the occurrence which could have surprised them from out their placidity. They had not broken under the strain but merely accustomed themselves to it. In fact, they were progressing finely, and too much could not be attributed to the two doctors, who, while loving, still quarreled over methods.

Meanwhile, Maud and the doctor, while in no wise neglecting their other cases, devoted themselves night and day to the particular ones of the brother and sister. They had been very sick, but never, even in the worst of crises when the toss of a penny would have almost decided life or death, had the two physicians even dreamed of consulting each other. They had put into the fullest operation their favorite methods, and so strong was their professional rivalry, that they abided the result with far more anxiety than is usually the lot of the patient to receive from its physician. In fact, so extreme had the contest become, that they devoted all their spare time to the nursing, scarcely seeing each other, save to quarrel about the merits of their respective schools or to twit each other, as the case might be, on any bad signs which might have been manifested. Still it seemed as though the superiority of either was not to be thus exemplified, for neither patient had died, and both were now fairly convalescent. Never the less, each had been surprised at the zeal displayed by the other, and now, when all danger was past, all doubts vanished, their surprise grew as their zeal flagged not.

The days took their allotted course, slipping silently, imperceptibly, each into the other, while no new incidents or happenings arose to vary the monotony of their existence. In truth, the gods had smiled upon them in their distress. The Caspar encountered no storms while the fierceness of the epidemic began to abate. Perhaps, because everybody, with the miraculous exception of the two physicians, had been either killed or cured. Everything was on the mend: nothing was apprehended I except bad weather, and even in that the Caspar stood a fair show of remaining afloat. In case of storms, small sails had been prepared by which to heave to and ride them out. With the dwindled company and the great boilers, the engineers had no difficulty in maintaining the fresh water supply, while, as part of the cargo was composed of food, little was to be feared from starvation. Slowly the summer dragged on, but quickly the sick list grew smaller, till finally, amid great rejoicing and festivity, it had become totally negated and the ship thoroughly fumigated.

But while everything was so bright, Maud found herself tormented; by strange thoughts and discovered an inconsistent vein in her nature which she had never dreamed of. Again and again she summoned herself to judgement, but always to judge in vain, for in despair, she invariably threw the case out of court. Sometimes she came to herself and was appalled at the thoughts which had risen uncalled in her mind, at the visions she unconsciously contemplated. Her life became one tangled mesh of self-analytical whys and wherefores, its and musts, pros and cons. The more she endeavored to reason with herself the more entangled and confused she became. Cold memories of some possible past mistake caused her to often shudder, to avoid the present, and to fear the future which must be shaped by the impress of that possible wrong-doing. Still she could not find the heart to blame herself: she could only not understand.

As it fared with her, so fared it with Chandler. He also found himself involved in a sea of seeming self-inconsistency. But he behaved differently from Maud — she was a woman. His masculinity and choleric disposition asserted itself, and not only did he clearly see his past mistake, but he grew enraged and waxed indignant at himself, often cursing the son of his father with such sublime abstraction from self as to be truly startling. Still, in the obscurity of his mental vision, he could see so far and no farther. If he could have seen beyond, doubtless he would not have figuratively kicked himself so often, nor would his life had been tinged with savage melancholy which now gnawed at his heart-strings so unceasingly.

With these inward ills tormenting them, their intercourse with each other was not exactly that of fond lovers; and their very cognizance of this but increased the pitch of their misery. They constantly upbraided themselves after the many such unsatisfactory meetings, as being the causes of the same — nor was this the less severe, for each unselfishly and ignorantly pocketed all the blame, deeming the other to have the person injured. Under such circumstances, he became gloomy and irritable, while she well hid hers beneath a mask of gaiety and enthusiasm in all the little social events on shipboard. Very naturally, this diversity of mood drew them the farther apart.

And so, while the collective prospects of the little community went from good to better, their individual affairs traveled with unseemly haste from bad to worse. Logically, this stretching out to the extremes must reach an end sometime, and both, intuitively recognizing this, pondered expectantly over the outcome. To make matters worse, they no longer quarreled: this new state of affairs was imintained with the stiff awkwardness of self-consciousness, from which each suffered the more acutely, never suspecting the other to be in the same dilemma. So affairs rapidly approached a crisis, and one night, when the situation had become almost absolutely unbearable to both parties, the electric search-light of a man of war, sent out in quest of them vaguely foreshadowed to each a cessation of their troubles.

The passengers were crowding the weather rail of the Caspar, devouring the lights of the vessel in the offing and feasting their eyes upon its dim, bulky loom. Amid this scene of boisterous rejoicing, Maud felt strangely out of place. It jarred upon her — this gregarious mass which clustered like bees on every hand. She became aware of a longing for solitude. Yielding to the mood, she slipped away and climbed to the deserted bridge.

Similar had been the feeling of Chandler, and similar the action. He burned from one side as she did from the other. Face to face, with the glare of the search-light shining full upon them, they met, midway on the bridge. The next instant and they were in darkness. He had taken her hand, yet they spoke not as they gazed on the dancing lights, heard the merry scream of the boatswain’s whistles upon the battleship, and dimly discerned a boat as it sprang to the man of warsman stroke. Nearer and nearer it came; but it was with a strange apathy that they watched it. The next moment and it would be alongside. Seemingly, they both resolved and spoke at the same time. What each said seemed to startle the other. Surprise, doubt, assurance, gratification, happiness, in turn were mutually delineated upon their countenances. What was said they only knew, but it was with light steps and joyous faces, all wreathed in smiles, that they joined their companions of the now-to-be-abandoned plague ship.

Extract from the San Francisco Daily Herald of six weeks later: —

At the Palace Hotel, the consummation of a happy romance, strangely connected with the ill-fated Caspar, is about to be attained. Miss Maud Appleton — I an M.D. by the way — of New Orleans, and Doctor Chandler of Boston — the two that rendered such effective service in overcoming the plague on the Caspar — are to marry respectively, Mr. Charles Waldworth, Stanford ‘93, and his sister, the charming Miss Waldworth, of local social note. It is whispered that Mr. and Miss Waldworth, while ill with the fever, were made test cases for a professional contest between the two M.D.s, and so strenuous and successful were their efforts, that the fruition is the happy dual marriage to be celebrated shortly. But more of this anon.

Planchette

IT is my right to know,” the girl said.

Her voice was firm-fibred with determination. There was no hint of pleading in it, yet it was the determination that is reached through a long period of pleading. But in her case it had been pleading, not of speech, but of personality. Her lips had been ever mute, but her face and eyes, and the very attitude of her soul, had been for a long time eloquent with questioning. This the man had known, but he had never answered; and now she was demanding by the spoken word that he answer.

“It is my right,” the girl repeated.

“I know it,” he answered, desperately and helplessly.

She waited, in the silence which followed, her eyes fixed upon the light that filtered down through the lofty boughs and bathed the great redwood trunks in mellow warmth. This light, subdued and colored, seemed almost a radiation from the trunks themselves, so strongly did they saturate it with their hue. The girl saw without seeing, as she heard, without hearing, the deep gurgling of the stream far below on the canyon bottom.

She looked down at the man. “Well?” she asked, with the firmness which feigns belief that obedience will be forthcoming.

She was sitting upright, her back against a fallen tree-trunk, while he lay near to her, on his side, an elbow on the ground and the hand supporting his head.

“Dear, dear Lute,” he murmured.

She shivered at the sound of his voice — not from repulsion, but from struggle against the fascination of its caressing gentleness. She had come to know well the lure of the man — the wealth of easement and rest that was promised by every caressing intonation of his voice, by the mere touch of hand on hand or the faint impact of his breath on neck or cheek. The man could not express himself by word nor look nor touch without weaving into the expression, subtly and occultly, the feeling as of a hand that passed and that in passing stroked softly and soothingly. Nor was this all-pervading caress a something that cloyed with too great sweetness; nor was it sickly sentimental; nor was it maudlin with love’s madness. It was vigorous, compelling, masculine. For that matter, it was largely unconscious on the man’s part. He was only dimly aware of it. It was a part of him, the breath of his soul as it were, involuntary and unpremeditated.

But now, resolved and desperate, she steeled herself against him. He tried to face her, but her gray eyes looked out to him, steadily, from under cool, level brows, and he dropped his head upon her knee. Her hand strayed into his hair softly, and her face melted into solicitude and tenderness. But when he looked up again, her gray eyes were steady, her brows cool and level.

“What more can I tell you?” the man said. He raised his head and met her gaze. “I cannot marry you. I cannot marry any woman. I love you — you know that — better than my own life. I weigh you in the scales against all the dear things of living, and you outweigh everything. I would give everything to possess you, yet I may not. I cannot marry you. I can never marry you.”

Her lips were compressed with the effort of control. His head was sinking back to her knee, when she checked him.

“You are already married, Chris?”

“No! no!” he cried vehemently. “I have never been married. I want to marry only you, and I cannot!”

“Then — ”

“Don’t!” he interrupted. “Don’t ask me!”

“It is my right to know,” she repeated.

“I know it,” he again interrupted. “But I cannot tell you.”

“You have not considered me, Chris,” she went on gently.

“I know, I know,” he broke in.

“You cannot have considered me. You do not know what I have to bear from my people because of you.”

“I did not think they felt so very unkindly toward me,” he said bitterly.

“It is true. They can scarcely tolerate you. They do not show it to you, but they almost hate you. It is I who have had to bear all this. It was not always so, though. They liked you at first as . . . as I liked you. But that was four years ago. The time passed by — a year, two years; and then they began to turn against you. They are not to be blamed. You spoke no word. They felt that you were destroying my life. It is four years, now, and you have never once mentioned marriage to them. What were they to think? What they have thought, that you were destroying my life.”

As she talked, she continued to pass her fingers caressingly through his hair, sorrowful for the pain that she was inflicting.

“They did like you at first. Who can help liking you? You seem to draw affection from all living things, as the trees draw the moisture from the ground. It comes to you as it were your birthright. Aunt Mildred and Uncle Robert thought there was nobody like you. The sun rose and set in you. They thought I was the luckiest girl alive to win the love of a man like you. ‘For it looks very much like it,’ Uncle Robert used to say, wagging his head wickedly at me. Of course they liked you. Aunt Mildred used to sigh, and look across teasingly at Uncle, and say, ‘When I think of Chris, it almost makes me wish I were younger myself.’ And Uncle would answer, ‘I don’t blame you, my dear, not in the least.’ And then the pair of them would beam upon me their congratulations that I had won the love of a man like you.

“And they knew I loved you as well. How could I hide it? — this great, wonderful thing that had entered into my life and swallowed up all my days! For four years, Chris, I have lived only for you. Every moment was yours. Waking, I loved you. Sleeping, I dreamed of you. Every act I have performed was shaped by you, by the thought of you. Even my thoughts were moulded by you, by the invisible presence of you. I had no end, petty or great, that you were not there for me.”

“I had no idea of imposing such slavery,” he muttered.

“You imposed nothing. You always let me have my own way. It was you who were the obedient slave. You did for me without offending me. You forestalled my wishes without the semblance of forestalling; them, so natural and inevitable was everything you did for me. I said, without offending me. You were no dancing puppet. You made no fuss. Don’t you see? You did not seem to do things at all. Somehow they were always there, just done, as a matter of course.

“The slavery was love’s slavery. It was just my love for you that made you swallow up all my days. You did not force yourself into my thoughts. You crept in, always, and you were there always — how much, you will never know.

“But as time went by, Aunt Mildred and Uncle grew to dislike you. They grew afraid. What was to become of me? You were destroying my life. My music? You know how my dream of it has dimmed away. That spring, when I first met you — I was twenty, and I was about to start for Germany. I was going to study hard. That was four years ago, and I am still here in California.

“I had other lovers. You drove them away — No! no! I don’t mean that. It was I that drove them away. What did I care for lovers, for anything, when you were near? But as I said, Aunt Mildred and Uncle grew afraid. There has been talk friends, busybodies, and all the rest. The time went by. You did not speak. I could only wonder, wonder. I knew you loved me. Much was said against you by Uncle at first, and then by Aunt Mildred. They were father and mother to me, you know. I could not defend you. Yet I was loyal to you. I refused to discuss you. I closed up. There was half-estrangement in my home — Uncle Robert with a face like an undertaker, and Aunt Mildred’s heart breaking. But what could I do, Chris? What could I do?”

The man, his head resting on her knee again, groaned, but made no other reply.

“Aunt Mildred was mother to me, yet I went to her no more with my confidences. My childhood’s book was closed. It was a sweet book, Chris. The tears come into my eyes sometimes when I think of it. But never mind that. Great happiness has been mine as well. I am glad I can talk frankly of my love for you. And the attaining of such frankness has been very sweet. I do love you, Chris. I love you . . . I cannot tell you how. You are everything to me, and more besides. You remember that Christmas tree of the children? — when we played blindman’s buff? and you caught me by the arm so, with such a clutching of fingers that I cried out with the hurt? I never told you, but the arm was badly bruised. And such sweet I got of it you could never guess. There, black and blue, was the imprint of your fingers — your fingers, Chris, your fingers. It was the touch of you made visible. It was there a week, and I kissed the marks — oh, so often! I hated to see them go; I wanted to rebruise the arm and make them linger. I was jealous of the returning white that drove the bruise away. Somehow, — oh! I cannot explain, but I loved you so!”

In the silence that fell, she continued her caressing of his hair, while she idly watched a great gray squirrel, boisterous and hilarious, as it scampered back and forth in a distant vista of the redwoods. A crimson-crested woodpecker, energetically drilling a fallen trunk, caught and transferred her gaze. The man did not lift his head. Rather, he crushed his face closer against her knee, while his heaving shoulders marked the hardness with which he breathed.

“You must tell me, Chris,” the girl said gently. “This mystery — it is killing me. I must know why we cannot be married. Are we always to be this way? — merely lovers, meeting often, it is true, and yet with the long absences between the meetings? Is it all the world holds for you and me, Chris? Are we never to be more to each other? Oh, it is good just to love, I know — you have made me madly happy; but one does get so hungry at times for something more! I want more and more of you, Chris. I want all of you. I want all our days to be together. I want all the companionship, the comradeship, which cannot be ours now, and which will be ours when we are married — ” She caught her breath quickly. “But we are never to be married. I forgot. And you must tell me why.”

The man raised his head and looked her in the eyes. It was a way he had with whomever he talked, of looking them in the eyes.

“I have considered you, Lute,” he began doggedly. “I did consider you at the very first. I should never have gone on with it. I should have gone away. I knew it. And I considered you in the light of that knowledge, and yet . . . I did not go away. My God! what was I to do? I loved you. I could not go away. I could not help it. I stayed. I resolved, but I broke my resolves. I was like a drunkard. I was drunk of you. I was weak, I know. I failed. I could not go away. I tried. I went away — you will remember, though you did not know why. You know now. I went away, but I could not remain away. Knowing that we could never marry, I came back to you. I am here, now, with you. Send me away, Lute. I have not the strength to go myself.”

“But why should you go away?” she asked. “Besides, I must know why, before I can send you away.”

“Don’t ask me.”

“Tell me,” she said, her voice tenderly imperative.

“Don’t, Lute; don’t force me,” the man pleaded, and there was appeal in his eyes and voice.

“But you must tell me,” she insisted. “It is justice you owe me.”

The man wavered. “If I do . . .” he began. Then he ended with determination, “I should never be able to forgive myself. No, I cannot tell you. Don’t try to compel me, Lute. You would be as sorry as I.”

“If there is anything . . . if then are, obstacles . . . if this mystery does really prevent . . . “ She was speaking slowly, with long pauses, seeking the more delicate ways of speech for the framing of her thought. “Chris, I do love you. I love you as deeply as it is possible for any woman to love, I am sure. If you were to say to me now ‘Come,’ I would go with you. I would follow wherever you led. I would be your page, as in the days of old when ladies went with their knights to far lands. You are my knight, Chris, and you can do no wrong. Your will is my wish. I was once afraid of the censure of the world. Now that you have come into my life I am no longer afraid. I would laugh at the world and its censure for your sake — for my sake too. I would laugh, for I should have you, and you are more to me than the good will and approval of the world. If you say ‘Come,’ I will — ”

“Don’t! Don’t!” he cried. “It is impossible! Marriage or not, I cannot even say ‘Come.’ I dare not. I’ll show you. I’ll tell you.”

He sat up beside her, the action stamped with resolve. He took her hand in his and held it closely. His lips moved to the verge of speech. The mystery trembled for utterance. The air was palpitant with its presence. As if it were an irrevocable decree, the girl steeled herself to hear. But the man paused, gazing straight out before him. She felt his hand relax in hers, and she pressed it sympathetically, encouragingly. But she felt the rigidity going out of his tensed body, and she knew that spirit and flesh were relaxing together. His resolution was ebbing. He would not speak — she knew it; and she knew, likewise, with the sureness of faith, that it was because he could not.

She gazed despairingly before her, a numb feeling at her heart, as though hope and happiness had died. She watched the sun flickering down through the warm-trunked redwoods. But she watched in a mechanical, absent way. She looked at the scene as from a long way off, without interest, herself an alien, no longer an intimate part of the earth and trees and flowers she loved so well.

So far removed did she seem, that she was aware of a curiosity, strangely impersonal, in what lay around her. Through a near vista she looked at a buckeye tree in full blossom as though her eyes encountered it for the first time. Her eyes paused and dwelt upon a yellow cluster of Diogenes’ lanterns that grew on the edge of an open space. It was the way of flowers always to give her quick pleasure-thrills, but no thrill was hers now. She pondered the flower slowly and thoughtfully, as a hasheesh-eater, heavy with the drug, might ponder some whim-flower that obtruded on his vision. In her ears was the voice of the stream — a hoarse-throated, sleepy old giant, muttering and mumbling his somnolent fancies. But her fancy was not in turn aroused, as was its wont; she knew the sound merely for water rushing over the rocks of the deep canyon-bottom, that and nothing more.

Her gaze wandered on beyond the Diogenes’ lanterns into the open space. Knee-deep in the wild oats of the hillside grazed two horses, chestnut-sorrels the pair of them, perfectly matched, warm and golden in the sunshine, their spring-coats a sheen of high-lights shot through with color-flashes that glowed like fiery jewels. She recognized, almost with a shock, that one of them was hers, Dolly, the companion of her girlhood and womanhood, on whose neck she had sobbed her sorrows and sung her joys. A moistness welled into her eyes at the sight, and she came back from the remoteness of her mood, quick with passion and sorrow, to be part of the world again.

The man sank forward from the hips, relaxing entirely, and with a groan dropped his head on her knee. She leaned over him and pressed her lips softly and lingeringly to his hair.

“Come, let us go,” she said, almost in a whisper.

She caught her breath in a half-sob, then tightened her lips as she rose. His face was white to ghastliness, so shaken was he by the struggle through which he had passed. They did not look at each other, but walked directly to the horses. She leaned against Dolly’s neck while he tightened the girths. Then she gathered the reins in her hand and waited. He looked at her as he bent down, an appeal for forgiveness in his eyes; and in that moment her own eyes answered. Her foot rested in his hands, and from there she vaulted into the saddle. Without speaking, without further looking at each other, they turned the horses’ heads and took the narrow trail that wound down through the sombre redwood aisles and across the open glades to the pasture-lands below. The trail became a cow-path, the cow-path became a wood-road, which later joined with a hay-road; and they rode down through the low-rolling, tawny California hills to where a set of bars let out on the county road which ran along the bottom of the valley. The girl sat her horse while the man dismounted and began taking down the bars.

“No — wait!” she cried, before he had touched the two lower bars.

She urged the mare forward a couple of strides, and then the animal lifted over the bars in a clean little jump. The man’s eyes sparkled, and he clapped his hands.

“You beauty! you beauty!” the girl cried, leaning forward impulsively in the saddle and pressing her cheek to the mare’s neck where it burned flame-color in the sun.

“Let’s trade horses for the ride in,” she suggested, when he had led his horse through and finished putting up the bars. “You’ve never sufficiently appreciated Dolly.”

“No, no,” he protested.

“You think she is too old, too sedate,” Lute insisted. “She’s only sixteen, and she can outrun nine colts out of ten. Only she never cuts up. She’s too steady, and you don’t approve of her — no, don’t deny it, sir. I know. And I know also that she can outrun your vaunted Washoe Ban. There! I challenge you! And furthermore, you may ride her yourself. You know what Ban can do; so you must ride Dolly and see for yourself what she can do.”

They proceeded to exchange the saddles on the horses, glad of the diversion and making the most of it.

“I’m glad I was born in California,” Lute remarked, as she swung astride of Ban. “It’s an outrage both to horse and woman to ride in a sidesaddle.”

“You look like a young Amazon,” the man said approvingly, his eyes passing tenderly over the girl as she swung the horse around.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“All ready!”

“To the old mill,” she called, as the horses sprang forward. “That’s less than a mile.”

“To a finish?” he demanded.

She nodded, and the horses, feeling the urge of the reins, caught the spirit of the race. The dust rose in clouds behind as they tore along the level road. They swung around the bend, horses and riders tilted at sharp angles to the ground, and more than once the riders ducked low to escape the branches of outreaching and overhanging trees. They clattered over the small plank bridges, and thundered over the larger iron ones to an ominous clanking of loose rods.

They rode side by side, saving the animals for the rush at the finish, yet putting them at a pace that drew upon vitality and staying power. Curving around a clump of white oaks, the road straightened out before them for several hundred yards, at the end of which they could see the ruined mill.

“Now for it!” the girl cried.

She urged the horse by suddenly leaning forward with her body, at the same time, for an instant, letting the rein slack and touching the neck with her bridle hand. She began to draw away from the man.

“Touch her on the neck!” she cried to him.

With this, the mare pulled alongside and began gradually to pass the girl. Chris and Lute looked at each other for a moment, the mare still drawing ahead, so that Chris was compelled slowly to turn his head. The mill was a hundred yards away.

“Shall I give him the spurs?” Lute shouted.

The man nodded, and the girl drove the spurs in sharply and quickly, calling upon the horse for its utmost, but watched her own horse forge slowly ahead of her.

“Beaten by three lengths!” Lute beamed triumphantly, as they pulled into a walk. “Confess, sir, confess! You didn’t think the old mare had it in her.”

Lute leaned to the side and rested her hand for a moment on Dolly’s wet neck.

“Ban’s a sluggard alongside of her,” Chris affirmed. “Dolly’s all right, if she is in her Indian Summer.”

Lute nodded approval. “That’s a sweet way of putting it--Indian Summer. It just describes her. But she’s not lazy. She has all the fire and none of the folly. She is very wise, what of her years.”

“That accounts for it,” Chris demurred. “Her folly passed with her youth. Many’s the lively time she’s given you.”

“No,” Lute answered. “I never knew her really to cut up. I think the only trouble she ever gave me was when I was training her to open gates. She was afraid when they swung back upon her — the animal’s fear of the trap, perhaps. But she bravely got over it. And she never was vicious. She never bolted, nor bucked, nor cut up in all her life — never, not once.”

The horses went on at a walk, still breathing heavily from their run. The road wound along the bottom of the valley, now and again crossing the stream. From either side rose the drowsy purr of mowing-machines, punctuated by occasional sharp cries of the men who were gathering the hay-crop. On the western side of the valley the hills rose green and dark, but the eastern side was already burned brown and tan by the sun.

“There is summer, here is spring,” Lute said. “Oh, beautiful Sonoma Valley!”

Her eyes were glistening and her face was radiant with love of the land. Her gaze wandered on across orchard patches and sweeping vineyard stretches, seeking out the purple which seemed to hang like a dim smoke in the wrinkles of the hills and in the more distant canyon gorges. Far up, among the more rugged crests, where the steep slopes were covered with manzanita, she caught a glimpse of a clear space where the wild grass had not yet lost its green.

“Have you ever heard of the secret pasture?” she asked, her eyes still fixed on the remote green.

A snort of fear brought her eyes back to the man beside her. Dolly, upreared, with distended nostrils and wild eyes, was pawing the air madly with her fore legs. Chris threw himself forward against her neck to keep her from falling backward, and at the same time touched her with the spurs to compel her to drop her fore feet to the ground in order to obey the go-ahead impulse of the spurs.

“Why, Dolly, this is most remarkable,” Lute began reprovingly.

But, to her surprise, the mare threw her head down, arched her back as she went up in the air, and, returning, struck the ground stiff-legged and bunched.

“A genuine buck!” Chris called out, and the next moment the mare was rising under him in a second buck.

Lute looked on, astounded at the unprecedented conduct of her mare, and admiring her lover’s horsemanship. He was quite cool, and was himself evidently enjoying the performance. Again and again, half a dozen times, Dolly arched herself into the air and struck, stiffly bunched. Then she threw her head straight up and rose on her hind legs, pivoting about and striking with her fore feet. Lute whirled into safety the horse she was riding, and as she did so caught a glimpse of Dolly’s eyes, with the look in them of blind brute madness, bulging until it seemed they must burst from her head. The faint pink in the white of the eyes was gone, replaced by a white that was like dull marble and that yet flashed as from some inner fire.

A faint cry of fear, suppressed in the instant of utterance, slipped past Lute’s lips. One hind leg of the mare seemed to collapse, and for a moment the whole quivering body, upreared and perpendicular, swayed back and forth, and there was uncertainty as to whether it would fall forward or backward. The man, half-slipping sidewise from the saddle, so as to fall clear if the mare toppled backward, threw his weight to the front and alongside her neck. This overcame the dangerous teetering balance, and the mare struck the ground on her feet again.

But there was no let-up. Dolly straightened out so that the line of the face was almost a continuation of the line of the stretched neck; this position enabled her to master the bit, which she did by bolting straight ahead down the road.

For the first time Lute became really frightened. She spurred Washoe Ban in pursuit, but he could not hold his own with the mad mare, and dropped gradually behind. Lute saw Dolly check and rear in the air again, and caught up just as the mare made a second bolt. As Dolly dashed around a bend, she stopped suddenly, stiff-legged. Lute saw her lover torn out of the saddle, his thigh-grip broken by the sudden jerk. Though he had lost his seat, he had not been thrown, and as the mare dashed on Lute saw him clinging to the side of the horse, a hand in the mane and a leg across the saddle. With a quick cavort he regained his seat and proceeded to fight with the mare for control.

But Dolly swerved from the road and dashed down a grassy slope yellowed with innumerable mariposa lilies. An ancient fence at the bottom was no obstacle. She burst through as though it were filmy spider-web and disappeared in the underbrush. Lute followed unhesitatingly, putting Ban through the gap in the fence and plunging on into the thicket. She lay along his neck, closely, to escape the ripping and tearing of the trees and vines. She felt the horse drop down through leafy branches and into the cool gravel of a stream’s bottom. From ahead came a splashing of water, and she caught a glimpse of Dolly, dashing up the small bank and into a clump of scrub-oaks, against the trunks of which she was trying to scrape off her rider.

Lute almost caught up amongst the trees, but was hopelessly outdistanced on the fallow field adjoining, across which the mare tore with a fine disregard for heavy ground and gopher-holes. When she turned at a sharp angle into the thicket-land beyond, Lute took the long diagonal, skirted the ticket, and reined in Ban at the other side. She had arrived first. From within the thicket she could hear a tremendous crashing of brush and branches. Then the mare burst through and into the open, falling to her knees, exhausted, on the soft earth. She arose and staggered forward, then came limply to a halt. She was in lather-sweat of fear, and stood trembling pitiably.

Chris was still on her back. His shirt was in ribbons. The backs of his hands were bruised and lacerated, while his face was streaming blood from a gash near the temple. Lute had controlled herself well, but now she was aware of a quick nausea and a trembling of weakness.

“Chris!” she said, so softly that it was almost a whisper. Then she sighed, “Thank God.”

“Oh, I’m all right,” he cried to her, putting into his voice all the heartiness he could command, which was not much, for he had himself been under no mean nervous strain.

He showed the reaction he was undergoing, when he swung down out of the saddle. He began with a brave muscular display as he lifted his leg over, but ended, on his feet, leaning against the limp Dolly for support. Lute flashed out of her saddle, and her arms were about him in an embrace of thankfulness.

“I know where there is a spring,” she said, a moment later.

They left the horses standing untethered, and she led her lover into the cool recesses of the thicket to where crystal water bubbled from out the base of the mountain.

“What was that you said about Dolly’s never cutting up?” he asked, when the blood had been stanched and his nerves and pulse-beats were normal again.

“I am stunned,” Lute answered. “I cannot understand it. She never did anything like it in all her life. And all animals like you so — it’s not because of that. Why, she is a child’s horse. I was only a little girl when I first rode her, and to this day — ”

“Well, this day she was everything but a child’s horse,” Chris broke in. “She was a devil. She tried to scrape me off against the trees, and to batter my brains out against the limbs. She tried all the lowest and narrowest places she could find. You should have seen her squeeze through. And did you see those bucks?”

Lute nodded.

“Regular bucking-bronco proposition.”

“But what should she know about bucking?” Lute demanded. “She was never known to buck — never.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Some forgotten instinct, perhaps, long-lapsed and come to life again.”

The girl rose to her feet determinedly. “I’m going to find out,” she said.

They went back to the horses, where they subjected Dolly to a rigid examination that disclosed nothing. Hoofs, legs, bit, mouth, body — everything was as it should be. The saddle and saddle-cloth were innocent of bur or sticker; the back was smooth and unbroken. They searched for sign of snake-bite and sting of fly or insect, but found nothing.

“Whatever it was, it was subjective, that much is certain,” Chris said.

“Obsession,” Lute suggested.

They laughed together at the idea, for both were twentieth-century products, healthy-minded and normal, with souls that delighted in the butterfly-chase of ideals but that halted before the brink where superstition begins.

“An evil spirit,” Chris laughed; “but what evil have I done that I should be so punished?”

“You think too much of yourself, sir,” she rejoined. “It is more likely some evil, I don’t know what, that Dolly has done. You were a mere accident. I might have been on her back at the time, or Aunt Mildred, or anybody.”

As she talked, she took hold of the stirrup-strap and started to shorten it.

“What are you doing?” Chris demanded.

“I’m going to ride Dolly in.”

“No, you’re not,” he announced. “It would be bad discipline. After what has happened I am simply compelled to ride her in myself.”

But it was a very weak and very sick mare he rode, stumbling and halting, afflicted with nervous jerks and recurring muscular spasms — the aftermath of the tremendous orgasm through which she had passed.

“I feel like a book of verse and a hammock, after all that has happened,” Lute said, as they rode into camp.

It was a summer camp of city-tired people, pitched in a grove of towering redwoods through whose lofty boughs the sunshine trickled down, broken and subdued to soft light and cool shadow. Apart from the main camp were the kitchen and the servants’ tents; and midway between was the great dining hall, walled by the living redwood columns, where fresh whispers of air were always to be found, and where no canopy was needed to keep the sun away.

“Poor Dolly, she is really sick,” Lute said that evening, when they had returned from a last look at the mare. “But you weren’t hurt, Chris, and that’s enough for one small woman to be thankful for. I thought I knew, but I really did not know till to-day, how much you meant to me. I could hear only the plunging and struggle in the thicket. I could not see you, nor know how it went with you.”

“My thoughts were of you,” Chris answered, and felt the responsive pressure of the hand that rested on his arm.

She turned her face up to his and met his lips.

“Good night,” she said.

“Dear Lute, dear Lute,” he caressed her with his voice as she moved away among the shadows.

“Who’s going for the mail?” called a woman’s voice through the trees.

Lute closed the book from which they had been reading, and sighed.

“We weren’t going to ride to-day,” she said.

“Let me go,” Chris proposed. “You stay here. I’ll be down and back in no time.”

She shook her head.

“Who’s going for the mail?” the voice insisted.

“Where’s Martin?” Lute called, lifting; her voice in answer.

“I don’t know,” came the voice. “I think Robert took him along somewhere — horse-buying, or fishing, or I don’t know what. There’s really nobody left but Chris and you. Besides, it will give you an appetite for dinner. You’ve been lounging in the hammock all day. And Uncle Robert must have his newspaper.”

“All right, Aunty, we’re starting,” Lute called back, getting out of the hammock.

A few minutes later, in riding-clothes, they were saddling the horses. They rode out on to the county road, where blazed the afternoon sun, and turned toward Glen Ellen. The little town slept in the sun, and the somnolent storekeeper and postmaster scarcely kept his eyes open long enough to make up the packet of letters and newspapers.

An hour later Lute and Chris turned aside from the road and dipped along a cow-path down the high bank to water the horses, before going into camp.

“Dolly looks as though she’d forgotten all about yesterday,” Chris said, as they sat their horses knee-deep in the rushing water. “Look at her.”

The mare had raised her head and cocked her ears at the rustling of a quail in the thicket. Chris leaned over and rubbed around her ears. Dolly’s enjoyment was evident, and she drooped her head over against the shoulder of his own horse.

“Like a kitten,” was Lute’s comment.

“Yet I shall never be able wholly to trust her again,” Chris said. “Not after yesterday’s mad freak.”

“I have a feeling myself that you are safer on Ban,” Lute laughed. “It is strange. My trust in Dolly is as implicit as ever. I feel confident so far as I am concerned, but I should never care to see you on her back again. Now with Ban, my faith is still unshaken. Look at that neck! Isn’t he handsome! He’ll be as wise as Dolly when he is as old as she.”

“I feel the same way,” Chris laughed back. “Ban could never possibly betray me.”

They turned their horses out of the stream. Dolly stopped to brush a fly from her knee with her nose, and Ban urged past into the narrow way of the path. The space was too restricted to make him return, save with much trouble, and Chris allowed him to go on. Lute, riding behind, dwelt with her eyes upon her lover’s back, pleasuring in the lines of the bare neck and the sweep out to the muscular shoulders.

Suddenly she reined in her horse. She could do nothing but look, so brief was the duration of the happening. Beneath and above was the almost perpendicular bank. The path itself was barely wide enough for footing. Yet Washoe Ban, whirling and rearing at the same time, toppled for a moment in the air and fell backward off the path.

So unexpected and so quick was it, that the man was involved in the fall. There had been no time for him to throw himself to the path. He was falling ere he knew it, and he did the only thing possible — slipped the stirrups and threw his body into the air, to the side, and at the same time down. It was twelve feet to the rocks below. He maintained an upright position, his head up and his eyes fixed on the horse above him and falling upon him.

Chris struck like a cat, on his feet, on the instant making a leap to the side. The next instant Ban crashed down beside him. The animal struggled little, but sounded the terrible cry that horses sometimes sound when they have received mortal hurt. He had struck almost squarely on his back, and in that position he remained, his head twisted partly under, his hind legs relaxed and motionless, his fore legs futilely striking the air.

Chris looked up reassuringly.

“I am getting used to it,” Lute smiled down to him. “Of course I need not ask if you are hurt. Can I do anything?”

He smiled back and went over to the fallen beast, letting go the girths of the saddle and getting the head straightened out.

“I thought so,” he said, after a cursory examination. “I thought so at the time. Did you hear that sort of crunching snap?”

She shuddered.

“Well, that was the punctuation of life, the final period dropped at the end of Ban’s usefulness.” He started around to come up by the path. “I’ve been astride of Ban for the last time. Let us go home.”

At the top of the bank Chris turned and looked down.

“Good-by, Washoe Ban!” he called out. “Good-by, old fellow.”

The animal was struggling to lift its head. There were tears in Chris’s eyes as he turned abruptly away, and tears In Lute’s eyes as they met his. She was silent in her sympathy, though the pressure of her hand was firm in his as he walked beside her horse down the dusty road.

“It was done deliberately,” Chris burst forth suddenly. “There was no warning. He deliberately flung himself over backward.”

“There was no warning,” Lute concurred. “I was looking. I saw him. He whirled and threw himself at the same time, just as if you had done it yourself, with a tremendous jerk and backward pull on the bit.”

“It was not my hand, I swear it. I was not even thinking of him. He was going up with a fairly loose rein, as a matter of course.”

“I should have seen it, had you done it,” Lute said. “But it was all done before you had a chance to do anything. It was not your hand, not even your unconscious hand.”

“Then it was some invisible hand, reaching out from I don’t know where.”

He looked up whimsically at the sky and smiled at the conceit.

Martin stepped forward to receive Dolly, when they came into the stable end of the grove, but his face expressed no surprise at sight of Chris coming in on foot. Chris lingered behind Lute for moment.

“Can you shoot a horse?” he asked.

The groom nodded, then added, “Yes, sir,” with a second and deeper nod.

“How do you do it?”

“Draw a line from the eyes to the ears — I mean the opposite ears, sir. And where the lines cross — ”

“That will do,” Chris interrupted. “You know the watering place at: the second bend. You’ll find Ban there with a broken back.”

“Oh, here you are, sir. I have been looking for you everywhere since dinner. You are wanted immediately.”

Chris tossed his cigar away, then went over and pressed his foot on its glowing; fire.

“You haven’t told anybody about it? — Ban?” he queried.

Lute shook her head. “They’ll learn soon enough. Martin will mention it to Uncle Robert tomorrow.”

“But don’t feel too bad about it,” she said, after a moment’s pause, slipping her hand into his.

“He was my colt,” he said. “Nobody has ridden him but you. I broke him myself. I knew him from the time he was born. I knew every bit of him, every trick, every caper, and I would have staked my life that it was impossible for him to do a thing like this. There was no warning, no fighting for the bit, no previous unruliness. I have been thinking it over. He didn’t fight for the bit, for that matter. He wasn’t unruly, nor disobedient. There wasn’t time. It was an impulse, and he acted upon it like lightning. I am astounded now at the swiftness with which it took place. Inside the first second we were over the edge and falling.

“It was deliberate — deliberate suicide. And attempted murder. It was a trap. I was the victim. He had me, and he threw himself over with me. Yet he did not hate me. He loved me . . . as much as it is possible for a horse to love. I am confounded. I cannot understand it any more than you can understand Dolly’s behavior yesterday.”

“But horses go insane, Chris,” Lute said. “You know that. It’s merely coincidence that two horses in two days should have spells under you.”

“That’s the only explanation,” he answered, starting off with her. “But why am I wanted urgently?”

“Planchette.”

“Oh, I remember. It will be a new experience to me. Somehow I missed it when it was all the rage long ago.”

“So did all of us,” Lute replied, “except Mrs. Grantly. It is her favorite phantom, it seems.”

“A weird little thing,” he remarked. “Bundle of nerves and black eyes. I’ll wager she doesn’t weigh ninety pounds, and most of that’s magnetism.”

“Positively uncanny . . . at times.” Lute shivered involuntarily. “She gives me the creeps.”

“Contact of the healthy with the morbid,” he explained dryly. “You will notice it is the healthy that always has the creeps. The morbid never has the creeps. It gives the. That’s its function. Where did you people pick her up, anyway?”

“I don’t know — yes, I do, too. Aunt Mildred met her in Boston, I think — oh, I don’t know. At any rate, Mrs. Grantly came to California, and of course had to visit Aunt Mildred. You know the open house we keep.

They halted where a passageway between two great redwood trunks gave entrance to the dining room. Above, through lacing boughs, could be seen the stars. Candles lighted the tree-columned space. About the table, examining the Planchette contrivance, were four persons. Chris’s gaze roved over them, and he was aware of a guilty sorrow-pang as he paused for a moment on Lute’s Aunt Mildred and Uncle Robert, mellow with ripe middle age and genial with the gentle buffets life had dealt them. He passed amusedly over the black-eyed, frail-bodied Mrs. Grantly, and halted on the fourth person, a portly, massive-headed man, whose gray temples belied the youthful solidity of his face.

“Who’s that?” Chris whispered.

“A Mr. Barton. The train was late. That’s why you didn’t see him at dinner. He’s only a capitalist — water-power-long-distance-electricity-transmitter, or something like that.”

“Doesn’t look as though he could give an ox points on imagination.”

“He can’t. He inherited his money. But he knows enough to hold on to it and hire other men’s brains. He is very conservative.”

“That is to be expected,” was Chris’s comment. His gaze went back to the man and woman who had been father and mother to the girl beside him. “Do you know,” he said, “it came to me with a shock yesterday when you told me that they had turned against me and that I was scarcely tolerated. I met them afterwards, last evening, guiltily, in fear and trembling — and to-day, too. And yet I could see no difference from of old.”

“Dear man,” Lute sighed. “Hospitality is as natural to them as the act of breathing. But it isn’t that, after all. It is all genuine in their dear hearts. No matter how severe the censure they put upon you when you are absent, the moment they are with you they soften and are all kindness and warmth. As soon as their eyes rest on you, affection and love come bubbling up. You are so made. Every animal likes you. All people like you. They can’t help it. You can’t help it. You are universally lovable, and the best of it is that you don’t know it. You don’t know it now. Even as I tell it to you, you don’t realize it, you won’t realize it — and that very incapacity to realize it is one of the reasons why you are so loved. You are incredulous now, and you shake your head; but I know, who am your slave, as all people know, for they likewise are your slaves.

“Why, in a minute we shall go in and join them. Mark the affection, almost maternal, that will well up in Aunt Mildred’s eyes. Listen to the tones of Uncle Robert’s voice when he says, ‘Well, Chris, my boy?’ Watch Mrs. Grantly melt, literally melt, like a dewdrop in the sun.

“Take Mr. Barton, there. You have never seen him before. Why, you will invite him out to smoke a cigar with you when the rest of us have gone to bed — you, a mere nobody, and he a man of many millions, a man of power, a man obtuse and stupid like the ox; and he will follow you about, smoking; the cigar, like a little dog, your little dog, trotting at your back. He will not know he is doing it, but he will be doing it just the same. Don’t I know, Chris? Oh, I have watched you, watched you, so often, and loved you for it, and loved you again for it, because you were so delightfully and blindly unaware of what you were doing.”

“I’m almost bursting with vanity from listening to you,” he laughed, passing his arm around her and drawing her against him.

“Yes,” she whispered, “and in this very moment, when you are laughing at all that I have said, you, the feel of you, your soul, — call it what you will, it is you, — is calling for all the love that is in me.”

She leaned more closely against him, and sighed as with fatigue. He breathed a kiss into her hair and held her with firm tenderness.

Aunt Mildred stirred briskly and looked up from the Planchette board.

“Come, let us begin,” she said. “It will soon grow chilly. Robert, where are those children?”

“Here we are,” Lute called out, disengaging herself.

“Now for a bundle of creeps,” Chris whispered, as they started in.

Lute’s prophecy of the manner in which her lover would be received was realized. Mrs. Grantly, unreal, unhealthy, scintillant with frigid magnetism, warmed and melted as though of truth she were dew and he sun. Mr. Barton beamed broadly upon him, and was colossally gracious. Aunt Mildred greeted him with a glow of fondness and motherly kindness, while Uncle Robert genially and heartily demanded, “Well, Chris, my boy, and what of the riding?”

But Aunt Mildred drew her shawl more closely around her and hastened them to the business in hand. On the table was a sheet of paper. On the paper, rifling on three supports, was a small triangular board. Two of the supports were easily moving casters. The third support, placed at the apex of the triangle, was a lead pencil.

“Who’s first?” Uncle Robert demanded.

There was a moment’s hesitancy, then Aunt Mildred placed her hand on the board, and said: “Some one has always to be the fool for the delectation of the rest.”

“Brave woman,” applauded her husband. “Now, Mrs. Grantly, do your worst.”

“I?” that lady queried. “I do nothing. The power, or whatever you care to think it, is outside of me, as it is outside of all of you. As to what that power is, I will not dare to say. There is such a power. I have had evidences of it. And you will undoubtedly have evidences of it. Now please be quiet, everybody. Touch the board very lightly, but firmly, Mrs. Story; but do nothing of your own volition.”

Aunt Mildred nodded, and stood with her hand on Planchette; while the rest formed about her in a silent and expectant circle. But nothing happened. The minutes ticked away, and Planchette remained motionless.

“Be patient,” Mrs. Grantly counselled. “Do not struggle against any influences you may feel working on you. But do not do anything yourself. The influence will take care of that. You will feel impelled to do things, and such impulses will be practically irresistible.”

“I wish the influence would hurry up,” Aunt Mildred protested at the end of five motionless minutes.

“Just a little longer, Mrs. Story, just a little longer,” Mrs. Grantly said soothingly.

Suddenly Aunt Mildred’s hand began to twitch into movement. A mild concern showed in her face as she observed the movement of her hand and heard the scratching of the pencil-point at the apex of Planchette.

For another five minutes this continued, when Aunt Mildred withdrew her hand with an effort, and said, with a nervous laugh:

“I don’t know whether i did it myself or not. I do know that I was growing nervous, standing there like a psychic fool with all your solemn faces turned upon me.”

“Hen-scratches,” was Uncle Robert’s judgement, when he looked over the paper upon which she had scrawled.

“Quite illegible,” was Mrs. Grantly’s dictum. “It does not resemble writing at all. The influences have not got to working yet. Do you try it, Mr. Barton.”

That gentleman stepped forward, ponderously willing to please, and placed his hand on the board. And for ten solid, stolid minutes he stood there, motionless, like a statue, the frozen personification of the commercial age. Uncle Robert’s face began to work. He blinked, stiffened his mouth, uttered suppressed, throaty sounds, deep down; finally he snorted, lost his self-control, and broke out in a roar of laughter. All joined in this merriment, including Mrs. Grantly. Mr. Barton laughed with them, but he was vaguely nettled.

“You try it, Story,” he said.

Uncle Robert, still laughing, and urged on by Lute and his wife, took the board. Suddenly his face sobered. His hand had begun to move, and the pencil could be heard scratching across the paper.

“By George!” he muttered. “That’s curious. Look at it. I’m not doing it. I know I’m not doing it. look at that hand go! Just look at it!”

“Now, Robert, none of your ridiculousness,” his wife warned him.

“I tell you I’m not doing it,” he replied indignantly. “The force has got hold of me. Ask Mrs. Grantly. Tell her to make it stop, if you want it to stop. I can’t stop it. By George! look at that flourish. I didn’t do that. I never wrote a flourish in my life.”

“Do try to be serious,” Mrs. Grantly warned them. “An atmosphere of levity does not conduce to the best operation of Planchette.”

“There, that will do, I guess,” Uncle Robert said as he took his hand away. “Now let’s see.”

He bent over and adjusted his glasses. “It’s handwriting at any rate, and that’s better than the rest of you did. Here, Lute, your eyes are young.”

“Oh, what flourishes!” Lute exclaimed, as she looked at the paper. “And look there, there are two different handwritings.”

She began to read: “This is the first lecture. Concentrate on this sentence: ‘I am a positive spirit and not negative to any condition.’ Then follow with concentration on positive love. After that peace and harmony will vibrate through and around your body. Your soul — The other writing breaks right in. This is the way it goes: Bullfrog 95, Dixie 16, Golden Anchor 65, Gold Mountain 13, Jim Butler 70, Jumbo 75, North Star 42, Rescue 7, Black Butte 75, Brown Hope 16, Iron Top 3.”

“Iron Top’s pretty low,” Mr. Barton murmured.

“Robert, you’ve been dabbling again!” Aunt Mildred cried accusingly.

“No, I’ve not,” he denied. “I only read the quotations. But how the devil — I beg your pardon — they got there on that piece of paper I’d like to know.”

“Your subconscious mind,” Chris suggested. “You read the quotations in to-day’s paper.”

“No, I didn’t; but last week I glanced over the column.”

“A day or a year is all the same in the subconscious mind,” said Mrs. Grantly. “The subconscious mind never forgets. But I am not saying that this is due to the subconscious mind. I refuse to state to what I think it is due.”

“But how about that other stuff?” Uncle Robert demanded. “Sounds like what I’d think Christian Science ought to sound like.”

“Or theosophy,” Aunt Mildred volunteered. “Some message to a neophyte.”

“Go on, read the rest,” her husband commanded.

“This puts you in touch with the mightier spirits,” Lute read. “You shall become one with us, and your name shall be ‘Arya,’ and you shall — Conqueror 20, Empire 12, Columbia Mountain 18, Midway 140 — and, and that is all. Oh, no! here’s a last flourish, Arya, from Kandor — that must surely be the Mahatma.”

“I’d like to have you explain that theosophy stuff on the basis of the subconscious mind, Chris,” Uncle Robert challenged.

Chris shrugged his shoulders. “No explanation. You must have got a message intended for some one else.”

“Lines were crossed, eh?” Uncle Robert chuckled. “Multiplex spiritual wireless telegraphy, I’d call it.”

“It IS nonsense,” Mrs. Grantly said. “I never knew Planchette to behave so outrageously. There are disturbing influences at work. I felt them from the first. Perhaps it is because you are all making too much fun of it. You are too hilarious.”

“A certain befitting gravity should grace the occasion,” Chris agreed, placing his hand on Planchette. “Let me try. And not one of you must laugh or giggle, or even think ‘laugh’ or ‘giggle.’ And if you dare to snort, even once, Uncle Robert, there is no telling what occult vengeance may be wreaked upon you.”

“I’ll be good,” Uncle Robert rejoined. “But if I really must snort, may I silently slip away?”

Chris nodded. His hand had already begun to work. There had been no preliminary twitchings nor tentative essays at writing. At once his hand had started off, and Planchette was moving swiftly and smoothly across the paper.

“Look at him,” Lute whispered to her aunt. “See how white he is.”

Chris betrayed disturbance at the sound of her voice, and thereafter silence was maintained. Only could be heard the steady scratching of the pencil. Suddenly, as though it had been stung, he jerked his hand away. With a sigh and a yawn he stepped back from the table, then glanced with the curiosity of a newly awakened man at their faces.

“I think I wrote something,” he said.

“I should say you did,” Mrs. Grantly remarked with satisfaction, holding up the sheet of paper and glancing at it.

“Read it aloud,” Uncle Robert said.

“Here it is, then. It begins with ‘beware’ written three times, and in much larger characters than the rest of the writing. BEWARE! BEWARE! BEWARE! Chris Dunbar, I intend to destroy you. I have already made two attempts upon your life, and failed. I shall yet succeed. So sure am I that I shall succeed that I dare to tell you. I do not need to tell you why. In your own heart you know. The wrong you are doing — And here it abruptly ends.”

Mrs. Grantly laid the paper down on the table and looked at Chris, who had already become the centre of all eyes, and who was yawning as from an overpowering drowsiness.

“Quite a sanguinary turn, I should say,” Uncle Robert remarked.

“I have already made two attempts upon your life,” Mrs. Grantly read from the paper, which she was going over a second time.

“0n my life?” Chris demanded between yawns. “Why, my life hasn’t been attempted even once. My! I am sleepy!”

“Ah, my boy, you are thinking of flesh-and-blood men,” Uncle Robert laughed. “But this is a spirit. Your life has been attempted by unseen things. Most likely ghostly hands have tried to throttle you in your sleep.”

“Oh, Chris!” Lute cried impulsively. “This afternoon! The hand you said must have seized your rein!”

“But I was joking,” he objected.

“Nevertheless . . . “ Lute left her thought unspoken.

Mrs. Grantly had become keen on the scent. “What was that about this afternoon? Was your life in danger?”

Chris’s drowsiness had disappeared. “I’m becoming interested myself,” he acknowledged. “We haven’t said anything about it. Ban broke his back this afternoon. He threw himself off the bank, and I ran the risk of being caught underneath.”

“I wonder, I wonder,” Mrs. Grantly communed aloud. “There is something in this. . . . It is a warning . . . Ah! You were hurt yesterday riding Miss Story’s horse! That makes the two attempts!”

She looked triumphantly at them. Planchette had been vindicated.

“Nonsense,” laughed Uncle Robert, but with a slight hint of irritation in his manner. “Such things do not happen these days. This is the twentieth century, my dear madam. The thing, at the very latest, smacks of mediaevalism.”

“I have had such wonderful tests with Planchette,” Mrs. Grantly began, then broke off suddenly to go to the table and place her hand on the board.

“Who are you?” she asked. “What is your name?”

The board immediately began to write. By this time all heads, with the exception of Mr. Barton’s, were bent over the table and following the pencil.

“It’s Dick,” Aunt Mildred cried, a note of the mildly hysterical in her voice.

Her husband straightened up, his face for the first time grave.

“It’s Dick’s signature,” he said. “I’d know his fist in a thousand.”

“‘Dick Curtis,’“ Mrs. Grantly read aloud. “Who is Dick Curtis?”

“By Jove, that’s remarkable!” Mr. Barton broke in. “The handwriting in both instances is the same. Clever, I should say, really clever,” he added admiringly.

“Let me see,” Uncle Robert demanded, taking the paper and examining it. “Yes, it is Dick’s handwriting.”

“But who is Dick?” Mrs. Grantly insisted. “Who is this Dick Curtis?”

“Dick Curtis, why, he was Captain Richard Curtis,” Uncle Robert answered.

“He was Lute’s father,” Aunt Mildred supplemented. “Lute took our name. She never saw him. He died when she was a few weeks old. He was my brother.”

“Remarkable, most remarkable.” Mrs. Grantly was revolving the message in her mind. “There were two attempts on Mr. Dunbar’s life. The subconscious mind cannot explain that, for none of us knew of the accident to-day.”

“I knew,” Chris answered, “and it was I that operated Planchette. The explanation is simple.”

“But the handwriting,” interposed Mr. Barton. “What you wrote and what Mrs. Grantly wrote are identical.”

Chris bent over and compared the handwriting.

“Besides,” Mrs. Grantly cried, “Mr. Story recognizes the handwriting.”

She looked at him for verification.

He nodded his head. “Yes, it is Dick’s fist. I’ll swear to that.”

But to Lute had come a visioning;. While the rest argued pro and con and the air was filled with phrases, — ”psychic phenomena,” “self-hypnotism,” “residuum of unexplained truth,” and “spiritism,” — she was reviving mentally the girlhood pictures she had conjured of this soldier-father she had never seen. She possessed his sword, there were several old-fashioned daguerreotypes, there was much that had been said of him, stories told of him — and all this had constituted the material out of which she had builded him in her childhood fancy.

“There is the possibility of one mind unconsciously suggesting to another mind,” Mrs. Grantly was saying; but through Lute’s mind was trooping her father on his great roan war-horse. Now he was leading his men. She saw him on lonely scouts, or in the midst of the yelling, Indians at Salt Meadows, when of his command he returned with one man in ten. And in the picture she had of him, in the physical semblance she had made of him, was reflected his spiritual nature, reflected by her worshipful artistry in form and feature and expression — his bravery, his quick temper, his impulsive championship, his madness of wrath in a righteous cause, his warm generosity and swift forgiveness, and his chivalry that epitomized codes and ideals primitive as the days of knighthood. And first, last, and always, dominating all, she saw in the face of him the hot passion and quickness of deed that had earned for him the name “Fighting Dick Curtis.”

“Let me put it to the test,” she heard Mrs. Grantly saying;. “Let Miss Story try Planchette. There may be a further message.”

“No, no, I beg of you,” Aunt Mildred interposed. “It is too uncanny. It surely is wrong to tamper with the dead. Besides, I am nervous. Or, better, let me go to bed, leaving you to go on with your experiments. That will be the best way, and you can tell me in the morning.” Mingled with the “Good-nights,” were half-hearted protests from Mrs. Grantly, as Aunt Mildred withdrew.

“Robert can return,” she called back, “as soon as he has seen me to my tent.”

“It would be a shame to give it up now,” Mrs. Grantly said. “There is no telling what we are on the verge of. Won’t you try it, Miss Story?”

Lute obeyed, but when she placed her hand on the board she was conscious of a vague and nameless fear at this toying with the supernatural. She was twentieth-century, and the thing in essence, as her uncle had said, was mediaeval. Yet she could not shake off the instinctive fear that arose in her — man’s inheritance from the wild and howling ages when his hairy, apelike prototype was afraid of the dark and personified the elements into things of fear.

But as the mysterious influence seized her hand and sent it meriting across the paper, all the unusual passed out of the situation and she was unaware of more than a feeble curiosity. For she was intent on another visioning — this time of her mother, who was also unremembered in the flesh. Not sharp and vivid like that of her father, but dim and nebulous was the picture she shaped of her mother — a saint’s head in an aureole of sweetness and goodness and meekness, and withal, shot through with a hint of reposeful determination, of will, stubborn and unobtrusive, that in life had expressed itself mainly in resignation.

Lute’s hand had ceased moving, and Mrs. Grantly was already reading the message that had been written.

“It is a different handwriting,” she said. “A woman’s hand. ‘Martha,’ it is signed. Who is Martha?”

Lute was not surprised. “It is my mother,” she said simply. “What does she say?”

She had not been made sleepy, as Chris had; but the keen edge of her vitality had been blunted, and she was experiencing a sweet and pleasing lassitude. And while the message was being read, in her eyes persisted the vision of her mother.

“Dear child,” Mrs. Grantly read, “do not mind him. He was ever quick of speech and rash. Be no niggard with your love. Love cannot hurt you. To deny love is to sin. Obey your heart and you can do no wrong. Obey worldly considerations, obey pride, obey those that prompt you against your heart’s prompting, and you do sin. Do not mind your father. He is angry now, as was his way in the earth-life; but he will come to see the wisdom of my counsel, for this, too, was his way in the earth-life. Love, my child, and love well. — Martha.”

“Let me see it,” Lute cried, seizing the paper and devouring the handwriting with her eyes. She was thrilling with unexpressed love for the mother she had never seen, and this written speech from the grave seemed to give more tangibility to her having ever existed, than did the vision of her.

“This IS remarkable,” Mrs. Grantly was reiterating. “There was never anything like it. Think of it, my dear, both your father and mother here with us tonight.”

Lute shivered. The lassitude was gone, and she was her natural self again, vibrant with the instinctive fear of things unseen. And it was offensive to her mind that, real or illusion, the presence or the memorized existences of her father and mother should he touched by these two persons who were practically strangers — Mrs. Grantly, unhealthy and morbid, and Mr. Barton, stolid and stupid with a grossness both of the flesh and the spirit. And it further seemed a trespass that these strangers should thus enter into the intimacy between her and Chris.

She could hear the steps of her uncle approaching, and the situation flashed upon her, luminous and clear. She hurriedly folded the sheet of paper and thrust it into her bosom.

“Don’t say anything to him about this second message, Mrs. Grantly, please, and Mr. Barton. Nor to Aunt Mildred. It would only cause them irritation and needless anxiety.”

In her mind there was also the desire to protect her lover, for she knew that the strain of his present standing with her aunt and uncle would be added to, unconsciously in their minds, by the weird message of Planchette.

“And please don’t let us have any more Planchette,” Lute continued hastily. “Let us forget all the nonsense that has occurred.”

“‘Nonsense,’ my dear child?” Mrs. Grantly was indignantly protesting when Uncle Robert strode into the circle.

“Hello!” he demanded. “What’s being done?”

“Too late,” Lute answered lightly. “No more stock quotations for you. Planchette is adjourned, and we’re just winding up the discussion of the theory of it. Do you know how late it is?”

“Well, what did you do last night after we left?”

“Oh, took a stroll,” Chris answered.

Lute’s eyes were quizzical as she asked with a tentativeness that was palpably assumed, “With — a — with Mr. Barton?”

“Why, yes.”

“And a smoke?”

“Yes; and now what’s it all about?”

Lute broke into merry laughter. “Just as I told you that you would do. Am I not a prophet? But I knew before I saw you that my forecast had come true. I have just left Mr. Barton, and I knew he had walked with you last night, for he is vowing by all his fetishes and idols that you are a perfectly splendid young man. I could see it with my eyes shut. The Chris Dunbar glamour has fallen upon him. But I have not finished the catechism by any means. Where have you been all morning?”

“Where I am going to take you this afternoon.”

“You plan well without knowing my wishes.”

“I knew well what your wishes are. It is to see a horse I have found.”

Her voice betrayed her delight, as she cried, “Oh, good!”

“He is a beauty,” Chris said.

But her face had suddenly gone grave, and apprehension brooded in her eyes.

“He’s called Comanche,” Chris went on. “A beauty, a regular beauty, the perfect type of the Californian cow-pony. And his lines — why, what’s the matter?”

Don’t let us ride any more,” Lute said, “at least for a while. Really, I think I am a tiny bit tired of it, too.”

He was looking at her in astonishment, and she was bravely meeting his eyes.

“I see hearses and flowers for you,” he began, “and a funeral oration; I see the end of the world, and the stars falling out of the sky, and the heavens rolling up as a scroll; I see the living and the dead gathered together for the final judgement, the sheep and the goats, the lambs and the rams and all the rest of it, the white-robed saints, the sound of golden harps, and the lost souls howling as they fall into the Pit — all this I see on the day that you, Lute Story, no longer care to ride a horse. A horse, Lute! a horse!”

“For a while, at least,” she pleaded.

“Ridiculous!” he cried. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you well? — you who are always so abominably and adorably well!”

“No, it’s not that,” she answered. “I know it is ridiculous, Chris, I know it, but the doubt will arise. I cannot help it. You always say I am so sanely rooted to the earth and reality and all that, but — perhaps it’s superstition, I don’t know — but the whole occurrence, the messages of Planchette, the possibility of my father’s hand, I know not how, reaching, out to Ban’s rein and hurling him and you to death, the correspondence between my father’s statement that he has twice attempted your life and the fact that in the last two days your life has twice been endangered by horses--my father was a great horseman — all this, I say, causes the doubt to arise in my mind. What if there be something in it? I am not so sure. Science may be too dogmatic in its denial of the unseen. The forces of the unseen, of the spirit, may well be too subtle, too sublimated, for science to lay hold of, and recognize, and formulate. Don’t you see, Chris, that there is rationality in the very doubt? It may be a very small doubt — oh, so small; but I love you too much to run even that slight risk. Besides, I am a woman, and that should in itself fully account for my predisposition toward superstition.

“Yes, yes, I know, call it unreality. But I’ve heard you paradoxing upon the reality of the unreal — the reality of delusion to the mind that is sick. And so with me, if you will; it is delusion and unreal, but to me, constituted as I am, it is very real —-is real as a nightmare is real, in the throes of it, before one awakes.”

“The most logical argument for illogic I have ever heard,” Chris smiled. “It is a good gaming proposition, at any rate. You manage to embrace more chances in your philosophy than do I in mine. It reminds me of Sam — the gardener you had a couple of years ago. I overheard him and Martin arguing in the stable. You know what a bigoted atheist Martin is. Well, Martin had deluged Sam with floods of logic. Sam pondered awhile, and then he said, ‘Foh a fack, Mis’ Martin, you jis’ tawk like a house afire; but you ain’t got de show I has.’ ‘How’s that?’ Martin asked. ‘Well, you see, Mis’ Martin, you has one chance to mah two.’ ‘I don’t see it,’ Martin said. ‘Mis’ Martin, it’s dis way. You has jis’ de chance, lak you say, to become worms foh de fruitification of de cabbage garden. But I’s got de chance to lif’ mah voice to de glory of de Lawd as I go paddin’ dem golden streets — along ‘ith de chance to be jis’ worms along ‘ith you, Mis’ Martin.’“

“You refuse to take me seriously,” Lute said, when she had laughed her appreciation.

“How can I take that Planchette rigmarole seriously?” he asked.

“You don’t explain it — the handwriting of my father, which Uncle Robert recognized — oh, the whole thing, you don’t explain it.”

“I don’t know all the mysteries of mind,” Chris answered. “But I believe such phenomena will all yield to scientific explanation in the not distant future.”

“Just the same, I have a sneaking desire to find out some more from Planchette,” Lute confessed. “The board is still down in the dining room. We could try it now, you and I, and no one would know.”

Chris caught her hand, crying: “Come on! It will be a lark.”

Hand in hand they ran down the path to the tree-pillared room.

“The camp is deserted,” Lute said, as she placed Planchette on the table. “Mrs. Grantly and Aunt Mildred are lying down, and Mr. Barton has gone off with Uncle Robert. There is nobody to disturb us.” She placed her hand on the board. “Now begin.”

For a few minutes nothing happened. Chris started to speak, but she hushed him to silence. The preliminary twitchings had appeared in her hand and arm. Then the pencil began to write. They read the message, word by word, as it was written:

There is wisdom greater than the wisdom of reason. Love proceeds not out of the dry-as-dust way of the mind. Love is of the heart, and is beyond all reason, and logic, and philosophy. Trust your own heart, my daughter. And if your heart bids you have faith in your lover, then laugh at the mind and its cold wisdom, and obey your heart, and have faith in your lover. — Martha.

“But that whole message is the dictate of your own heart,” Chris cried. “Don’t you see, Lute? The thought is your very own, and your subconscious mind has expressed it there on the paper.”

“But there is one thing I don’t see,” she objected.

“And that?”

“Is the handwriting. Look at it. It does not resemble mine at all. It is mincing, it is old-fashioned, it is the old-fashioned feminine of a generation ago.”

“But you don’t mean to tell me that you really believe that this is a message from the dead?” he interrupted.

“I don’t know, Chris,” she wavered. “I am sure I don’t know.”

“It is absurd!” he cried. “These are cobwebs of fancy. When one dies, he is dead. He is dust. He goes to the worms, as Martin says. The dead? I laugh at the dead. They do not exist. They are not. I defy the powers of the grave, the men dead and dust and gone!

“And what have you to say to that?” he challenged, placing his hand on Planchette.

On the instant his hand began to write. Both were startled by the suddenness of it. The message was brief:

BEWARE! BEWARE! BEWARE!

He was distinctly sobered, but he laughed. “It is like a miracle play. Death we have, speaking to us from the grave. But Good Deeds, where art thou? And Kindred? and Joy? and Household Goods? and Friendship? and all the goodly company?”

But Lute did not share his bravado. Her fright showed itself in her face. She laid her trembling hand on his arm.

“Oh, Chris, let us stop. I am sorry we began it. Let us leave the quiet dead to their rest. It is wrong. It must be wrong. I confess I am affected by it. I cannot help it. As my body is trembling, so is my soul. This speech of the grave, this dead man reaching out from the mould of a generation to protect me from you. There is reason in it. There is the living mystery that prevents you from marrying me. Were my father alive, he would protect me from you. Dead, he still strives to protect me. His hands, his ghostly hands, are against your life!”

“Do be calm,” Chris said soothingly. “Listen to me. It is all a lark. We are playing with the subjective forces of our own being, with phenomena which science has not yet explained, that is all. Psychology is so young a science. The subconscious mind has just been discovered, one might say. It is all mystery as yet; the laws of it are yet to he formulated. This is simply unexplained phenomena. But that is no reason that we should immediately account for it by labelling it spiritism. As yet we do not know, that is all. As for Planchette — ”

He abruptly ceased, for at that moment, to enforce his remark, he had placed his hand on Planchette, and at that moment his hand had been seized, as by a paroxysm, and sent dashing, willy-nilly, across the paper, writing as the hand of an angry person would write.

“No, I don’t care for any more of it,” Lute said, when the message was completed. “It is like witnessing a fight between you and my father in the flesh. There is the savor in it of struggle and blows.”

She pointed out a sentence that read: “You cannot escape me nor the just punishment that is yours!”

“Perhaps I visualize too vividly for my own comfort, for I can see his hands at your throat. I know that he is, as you say, dead and dust, but for all that, I can see him as a man that is alive and walks the earth; I see the anger in his face, the anger and the vengeance, and I see it all directed against you.”

She crumpled up the scrawled sheets of paper, and put Planchette away.

“We won’t bother with it any more,” Chris said. “I didn’t think it would affect you so strongly. But it’s all subjective, I’m sure, with possibly a bit of suggestion thrown in--that and nothing more. And the whole strain of our situation has made conditions unusually favorable for striking phenomena.”

“And about our situation,” Lute said, as they went slowly up the path they had run down. “ What we are to do, I don’t know. Are we to go on, as we have gone on? What is best? Have you thought of anything?”

He debated for a few steps. “I have thought of telling your uncle and aunt.”

“What you couldn’t tell me?” she asked quickly.

“No,” he answered slowly; “but just as much as I have told you. I have no right to tell them more than I have told you.”

This time it was she that debated. “No, don’t tell them,” she said finally. “They wouldn’t understand. I don’t understand, for that matter, but I have faith in you, and in the nature of things they are not capable of this same Implicit faith. You raise up before me a mystery that prevents our marriage, and I believe you; but they could not believe you without doubts arising as to the wrong and ill-nature of the mystery. Besides, it would but make their anxieties greater.”

“I should go away, I know I should go away,” he said, half under his breath. “And I can. I am no weakling. Because I have failed to remain away once, is no reason that I shall fail again.”

She caught her breath with a quick gasp. “It is like a bereavement to hear you speak of going away and remaining away. I should never see you again. It is too terrible. And do not reproach yourself for weakness. It is I who am to blame. It is I who prevented you from remaining away before, I know. I wanted you so. I want you so.

“There is nothing to be done, Chris, nothing to be done but to go on with it and let it work itself out somehow. That is one thing we are sure of: it will work out somehow.”

“But it would be easier if I went away,” he suggested.

“I am happier when you are here.”

“The cruelty of circumstance,” he muttered savagely.

“Go or stay — that will be part of the working out. But I do not want you to go, Chris; you know that. And now no more about it. Talk cannot mend it. Let us never mention it again — unless . . . unless some time, some wonderful, happy time, you can come to me and say: ‘Lute, all is well with me. The mystery no longer binds me. I am free.’ Until that time let us bury it, along with Planchette and all the rest, and make the most of the little that is given us.

“And now, to show you how prepared I am to make the most of that little, I am even ready to go with you this afternoon to see the horse — though I wish you wouldn’t ride any more . . . for a few days, anyway, or for a week. What did you say was his name?”

“Comanche,” he answered. “I know you will like him.”

* * * * * * *

Chris lay on his back, his head propped by the bare jutting wall of stone, his gaze attentively directed across the canyon to the opposing tree-covered slope. There was a sound of crashing through underbrush, the ringing of steel-shod hoofs on stone, and an occasional and mossy descent of a dislodged boulder that bounded from the hill and fetched up with a final splash in the torrent that rushed over a wild chaos of rocks beneath him. Now and again he caught glimpses, framed in green foliage, of the golden brown of Lute’s corduroy riding-habit and of the bay horse that moved beneath her.

She rode out into an open space where a loose earth-slide denied lodgement to trees and grass. She halted the horse at the brink of the slide and glanced down it with a measuring eye. Forty feet beneath, the slide terminated in a small, firm-surfaced terrace, the banked accumulation of fallen earth and gravel.

“It’s a good test,” she called across the canyon. “I’m going to put him down it.”

The animal gingerly launched himself on the treacherous footing, irregularly losing and gaining his hind feet, keeping his fore legs stiff, and steadily and calmly, without panic or nervousness, extricating the fore feet as fast as they sank too deep into the sliding earth that surged along in a wave before him. When the firm footing at the bottom was reached, he strode out on the little terrace with a quickness and springiness of gait and with glintings of muscular fires that gave the lie to the calm deliberation of his movements on the slide.

“Bravo!” Chris shouted across the canyon, clapping his hands.

“The wisest-footed, clearest-headed horse I ever saw,” Lute called back, as she turned the animal to the side and dropped down a broken slope of rubble and into the trees again.

Chris followed her by the sound of her progress, and by occasional glimpses where the foliage was more open, as she zigzagged down the steep and trailless descent. She emerged below him at the rugged rim of the torrent, dropped the horse down a three-foot wall, and halted to study the crossing.

Four feet out in the stream, a narrow ledge thrust above the surface of the water. Beyond the ledge boiled an angry pool. But to the left, from the ledge, and several feet lower, was a they bed of gravel. A giant boulder prevented direct access to the gravel bed. The only way to gain it was by first leaping to the ledge of rock. She studied it carefully, and the tightening of her bridle-arm advertised that she had made up her mind.

Chris, in his anxiety, had sat up to observe more closely what she meditated.

“Don’t tackle it,” he called.

“I have faith in Comanche,” she called in return.

“He can’t make that side-jump to the gravel,” Chris warned. “He’ll never keep his legs. He’ll topple over into the pool. Not one horse in a thousand could do that stunt.”

“And Comanche is that very horse,” she answered. “Watch him.”

She gave the animal his head, and he leaped cleanly and accurately to the ledge, striking with feet close together on the narrow space. On the instant he struck, Lute lightly touched his neck with the rein, impelling him to the left; and in that instant, tottering on the insecure footing, with front feet slipping over into the pool beyond, he lifted on his hind legs, with a half turn, sprang to the left, and dropped squarely down to the tiny gravel bed. An easy jump brought him across the stream, and Lute angled him up the bank and halted before her lover.

“Well?” she asked.

“I am all tense,” Chris answered. “I was holding my breath.”

“Buy him, by all means,” Lute said, dismounting. “He is a bargain. I could dare anything on him. I never in my life had such confidence in a horse’s feet.”

“His owner says that he has never been known to lose his feet, that it is impossible to get him down.”

“Buy him, buy him at once,” she counselled, “before the man changes his mind. If you don’t, I shall. Oh, such feet! I feel such confidence in them that when I am on him I don’t consider he has feet at all. And he’s quick as a cat, and instantly obedient. Bridle-wise is no name for it! You could guide him with silken threads. Oh, I know I’m enthusiastic, but if you don’t buy him, Chris. I shall. Remember, I’ve second refusal.”

Chris smiled agreement as he changed the saddles. Meanwhile she compared the two horses.

“Of course he doesn’t match Dolly the way Ban did,” she concluded regretfully; “but his coat is splendid just the same. And think of the horse that is under the coat!”

Chris gave her a hand into the saddle, and followed her up the slope to the county road. She reined in suddenly, saying:

“We won’t go straight back to camp.”

“You forget dinner,” he wanted.

“But I remember Comanche,” she retorted. “We’ll ride directly over to the ranch and buy him. Dinner will keep.”

“But the cook won’t,” Chris laughed. “She’s already threatened to leave, what of our late-comings.”

“Even so,” was the answer. “Aunt Mildred may have to get another cook, but at any rate we shall have got Comanche.”

They turned the horses in the other direction, and took the climb of the Nun Canyon road that led over the divide and down into the Napa Valley. But the climb was hard, the going was slow. Sometimes they topped the bed of the torrent by hundreds of feet, and again they dipped down and crossed and recrossed it twenty times in twice as many rods. They rode through the deep shade of clean-bunked maples and towering redwoods, to emerge on open stretches of mountain shoulder where the earth lay dry and cracked under the sun.

On one such shoulder they emerged, where the road stretched level before them, for a quarter of a mile. On one side rose the huge bulk of the mountain. On the other side the steep wall of the canyon fell away in impossible slopes and sheer drops to the torrent at the bottom. It was an abyss of green beauty and shady depths, pierced by vagrant shafts of the sun and mottled here and there by the sun’s broader blazes. The sound of rushing water ascended on the windless air, and there was a hum of mountain bees.

The horses broke into an easy lope. Chris rock on the outside, looking down into the great depths and pleasuring with his eyes in what he saw. Dissociating itself from the murmur of the bees, a murmur arose of falling water. It grew louder with every stride of the horses.

“Look!” he cried.

Lute leaned well out from her horse to see. Beneath them the water slid foaming down a smooth-faced rock to the lip, whence it leaped clear--a pulsating ribbon of white, a-breath with movement, ever falling and ever remaining, changing its substance but never its form, an aerial waterway as immaterial as gauze and as permanent as the hills, that spanned space and the free air from the lip of the rock to the tops of the trees far below, into whose green screen it disappeared to fall into a secret pool.

They had flashed past. The descending water became a distant murmur that merged again into the murmur of the bees and ceased. Swayed by a common impulse, they looked at each other.

“Oh, Chris, it is good to be alive . . . and to have you here by my side!”

He answered her by the warm light in his eyes.

All things tended to key them to an exquisite pitch — the movement of their bodies, at one with the moving bodies of the animals beneath them; the gently stimulated blood caressing the flesh through and through with the soft vigors of health; the warm air fanning their faces, flowing over the skin with balmy and tonic touch, permeating them and bathing them, subtly, with faint, sensuous delight; and the beauty of the world, more subtly still, flowing upon them and bathing them in the delight that is of the spirit and is personal and holy, that is inexpressible yet communicable by the flash of an eye and the dissolving of the veils of the soul.

So looked they at each other, the horses bounding beneath them, the spring of the world and the spring of their youth astir in their blood, the secret of being trembling in their eyes to the brink of disclosure, as if about to dispel, with one magic word, all the irks and riddles of existence.

The road curved before them, so that the upper reaches of the canyon could be seen, the distant bed of it towering high above their heads. They were rounding the curve, leaning toward the inside, gazing before them at the swift-growing picture. There was no sound of warning. She heard nothing, but even before the horse went down she experienced the feeling that the unison of the two leaping animals was broken. She turned her head, and so quickly that she saw Comanche fall. It was not a stumble nor a trip. He fell as though, abruptly, in midleap, he had died or been struck a stunning blow.

And in that moment she remembered Planchette; it seared her brain as a lightning-flash of all-embracing memory. Her horse was back on its haunches, the weight of her body on the reins; but her head was turned and her eyes were on the falling Comanche. He struck the road-bed squarely, with his legs loose and lifeless beneath him.

It all occurred in one of those age-long seconds that embrace an eternity of happening. There was a slight but perceptible rebound from the impact of Comanche’s body with the earth. The violence with which he struck forced the air from his great lungs in an audible groan. His momentum swept him onward and over the edge. The weight of the rider on his neck turned him over head first as he pitched to the fall.

She was off her horse, she knew not how, and to the edge. Her lover was out of the saddle and clear of Comanche, though held to the animal by his right foot, which was caught in the stirrup. The slope was too steep for them to come to a stop. Earth and small stones, dislodged by their struggles, were rolling down with them and before them in a miniature avalanche. She stood very quietly, holding one hand against her heart and gazing down. But while she saw the real happening, in her eyes was also the vision of her father dealing the spectral blow that had smashed Comanche down in mid-leap and sent horse and rider hurtling over the edge.

Beneath horse and man the steep terminated in an up-and-down wall, from the base of which, in turn, a second slope ran down to a second wall. A third slope terminated in a final wall that based itself on the canyon-bed four hundred feet beneath the point where the girl stood and watched. She could see Chris vainly kicking his leg to free the foot from the trap of the stirrup. Comanche fetched up hard against an outputting point of rock. For a fraction of a second his fall was stopped, and in the slight interval the man managed to grip hold of a young shoot of manzanita. Lute saw him complete the grip with his other hand. Then Comanche’s fall began again. She saw the stirrup-strap draw taut, then her lover’s body and arms. The manzanita shoot yielded its roots, and horse and man plunged over the edge and out of sight.

They came into view on the next slope, together and rolling over and over, with sometimes the man under and sometimes the horse. Chris no longer struggled, and together they dashed over to the third slope. Near the edge of the final wall, Comanche lodged on a buttock of stone. He lay quietly, and near him, still attached to him by the stirrup, face downward, lay his rider.

“If only he will lie quietly,” Lute breathed aloud, her mind at work on the means of rescue.

But she saw Comanche begin to struggle again, and clear on her vision, it seemed, was the spectral arm of her father clutching the reins and dragging the animal over. Comanche floundered across the hummock, the inert body following, and together, horse and man, they plunged from sight. They did not appear again. They had fetched bottom.

Lute looked about her. She stood alone on the world. Her lover was gone. There was naught to show of his existence, save the marks of Comanche’s hoofs on the road and of his body where it had slid over the brink.

“Chris!” she called once, and twice; but she called hopelessly.

Out of the depths, on the windless air, arose only the murmur of bees and of running water

“Chris!” she called yet a third time, and sank slowly down in the dust of the road.

She felt the touch of Dolly’s muzzle on her arm, and she leaned her head against the mare’s neck and waited. She knew not why she waited, nor for what, only there seemed nothing else but waiting left for her to do.

Pluck and Pertinacity

TO P. T. Barnum is accorded the coinage of the term “stick-to-itiveness,” a strong synonym for “pertinacity.” Now he who possesses pertinacity must also possess pluck, another important element in the achievement of success. A man devoid of this cannot be pertinacious; his resolution melts away in the face of obstacles which require pluck to overcome.

The following story of unyielding adherence to purpose, performed under almost unthinkable hardships and dangers, is a true one, for I was personally aware of most the facts concerned. Some of the incidents, however, were given me by a surgeon travelling into the Yukon country with a detachment of the Northwest mounted police, and still others I obtained from the white trader in charge of the Sixty-Mile Post. The story is of a man who practically achieved the impossible in his hazardous ice-journey in the dead of an Artic winter. Happily, success crowned the effort.

In the fall of 1897, the cry of famine went up from the hungry town of Dawson. Faint-hearted miners turned their backs on the golden lure. Partners, with food for but one, drew straws to ascertain which should remain and which should go. Canadian citizens and American aliens appealed to their respective governments for aid.

In October, with the last water, which was composed chiefly of running ice, a hungry exodus went down the river to Fort Yukon. Then the price of dogs went up to three hundred dollars, and dog-food to a dollar per pound. Flour was not to be had at one hundred and fifty dollars per hundredweight. In November, with the first ice, another stampeded crowd hurried up the river to civilization and safety.

This scare, which so greatly diminished the number of empty mouths, was all that saved Dawson from a bitter winter. As it was, the gold-seekers managed to pinch through; but those that fled in the height of the panic carried a terrible tale with them to salt water. After that the winter settled down and all communication ceased.

For the many faces turned south on the dismal half-thousand miles of trail, there was one that held unerringly to the north. It belonged to a Dutchman, who knew little English and spoke less. His equipment was more meagre than that of those who passed him, and he was heading away from it. He had barely enough food to last himself and dog to Dawson. He had a dog — a bulldog, the short hair of which made it the worst possible choice of a sledge animal in that frosty land.

The refugees looked at his outfit and laughed. By eloquent signs — for misery speaks a common tongue — they explained the lack of food. When that did not startle him, they painted lurid pictures of starvation and death. But he always remained unperturbed. Then they ceased their grim mirth, and pleaded and entreated him to go back. But he invariably pressed on.

Why not? He had started to go to the Klondike, and certainly was going there. True, he had already tried the Stikine route and lost his outfit and three comrades in its treacherous waters; true, he had then gone to St. Michaels, only to get there when the Yukon had frozen and to escape on the last vessel before Bering Sea closed; true, his money was gone and he had but a few weeks’ food, — all true, — but it was also true that he had left a wife and children down in the States, and he must send yellow dust of the north to them before another year had passed.

And yet again — the real stamp of the man — he had started to go to the Klondike, and he was going there. For the third time he had ventured it, this time over the dreaded Chilkoot Pass in midwinter.

After untold hardship, he arrived at the Big Salmon River, two hundred and fifty miles from the Chilkoot and an equal distance from Dawson. At that point he encountered a squad of the mounted police of the Northwest Territories. They had strict orders to allow no one to pass who did not possess a thousand pounds of provisions. As he had barely fifty pounds, he was turned back. One of the police, who understood his language, explained the terrible condition of affairs.

All others whom they had turned back had retraced their steps cheerfully. But this man was not made of such mettle. Twice nature had conspired to thwart him, when the trip was half completed, came man. However, he ostensibly started back. But that night he broke a trail through the deep snow and crossed the river, regaining the travelled trail far below the encampment.

The next heard of him was at Little Salmon River, when another detachment of police saw an exhausted man and a bulldog limping painfully down the river. They thought the upper camp had passed him on; so, without suspicion, they cordially invited him to their fire to rest and warm up, but he was afraid, and hobbled on.

The thermometer had gone down and then steadily remained at between fifty and sixty degrees below zero — equivalent to between eighty and ninety degrees of frost. The Dutchman had frozen one of his feet, but still pressed on. He passed fleeing men, young men, with frozen limbs or scurvy-rotted flesh — terrible wrecks of the country; but day by day, rigidly adhering to his object, he plodded into the north.

At Fort Selkirk he was forced to lay up, his frozen foot having become so bad that he could no longer travel. But he had been there only two days, when the surgeon from Big Salmon River arrived. He had sledded a hundred miles down the river with a government dog-team, to amputate the limbs of an unfortunate young man who had been trying to get out of the land. After that, the surgeon had gone on to Fort Selkirk, where he expected to wait till the incoming police picked him up.

He recognized the Dutchman and dressed his foot, the flesh of which had begun to slough away, leaving a raw and festered hole in the sole of the foot almost large enough to thrust one’s fist into. He happened to explain, by signs, that he was awaiting the coming of the police.

That was enough for the sufferer. The police were coming. They would send him back. He cut up a blanket and made a gigantic moccasin, folding thickness upon thickness till it was the size of a water-bucket. That night, he and his bulldog headed down river to Dawson, one hundred and seventy-five miles away.

The exquisite pain the man must have endured from the cold, the toil, the lack of food, and the injured foot, can only be conjectured. And it was not as if he had comrades, for he suffered alone, and ran the dangers of the ice-journey without hope of help in case of accident.

At Stuart River he was almost gone; but his persistence and indomitability seemed limitless. The fear that the police would capture him and send him back drove him on; and he was the kind of man that did not show the meaning of the word “failure.” As it was, the police, with their fine trail equipment of dogs and sleds, never did succeed in overtaking him.

At Sixty-Mile, it seemed the he must at last succumb, for the dog had finally become exhausted, as had also the supply of food. But the white trader at that point bought the dog for two hundred dollars and sufficient food to last the man into Dawson, then only fifty miles away.

Barely had he reached his goal when he was sawing wood at fifteen dollars a day, and slowly but surely curing his foot that he might go prospecting. It is no easy task to work all day in the open in such a frosty clime. But he worked steadily through the winter, while other men idled in their cabins and cursed their ill-luck and the country in general. Not only did he manage to earn subsistence, but he got himself a miner’s outfit, and also sent out a snug portion of his earnings to the wife and children down in the States.

In the spring, while the majority of the gold-seekers were preparing to shake the dust of the country from their moccasins, he took part in the stampede to the French Hill benches. A little later, those that passed his claim might have seen a contented-looking man busily engaged in washing out a satisfactory amount of gold a day.

There can be no better way to conclude this narrative of unyielding adherence to purpose, than by stating that one of the first things he did was to hunt up the Sixty-Mile trader and buy back the bulldog that had been the comrade of his hardships and sufferings.

The Priestly Prerogative

This is the story of a man who did not appreciate his wife; also, of a woman who did him too great an honor when she gave herself to him. Incidentally, it concerns a Jesuit priest who had never been known to lie. He was an appurtenance, and a very necessary one, to the Yukon country; but the presence of the other two was merely accidental. They were specimens of the many strange waifs which ride the breast of a gold rush or come tailing along behind.

Edwin Bentham and Grace Bentham were waifs; they were also tailing along behind, for the Klondike rush of ‘97 had long since swept down the great river and subsided into the famine-stricken city of Dawson. When the Yukon shut up shop and went to sleep under a three-foot ice-sheet, this peripatetic couple found themselves at the Five Finger Rapids, with the City of Gold still a journey of many sleeps to the north.

Many cattle had been butchered at this place in the fall of the year, and the offal made a goodly heap. The three fellow-voyagers of Edwin Bentham and wife gazed upon this deposit, did a little mental arithmetic, caught a certain glimpse of a bonanza, and decided to remain. And all winter they sold sacks of bones and frozen hides to the famished dog-teams. It was a modest price they asked, a dollar a pound, just as it came. Six months later, when the sun came back and the Yukon awoke, they buckled on their heavy moneybelts and journeyed back to the Southland, where they yet live and lie mightily about the Klondike they never saw.

But Edwin Bentham--he was an indolent fellow, and had he not been possessed of a wife, would have gladly joined issued in the dog-meat speculation. As it was, she played upon his vanity, told him how great and strong he was, how a man such as he certainly was could overcome all obstacles and of a surety obtain the Golden Fleece. So he squared his jaw, sold his share in the bones and hides for a sled and one dog, and turned his snowshoes to the north. Needless to state, Grace Bentham’s snowshoes never allowed his tracks to grow cold. Nay, ere their tribulations had seen three days, it was the man who followed in the rear, and the woman who broke trail in advance. Of course, if anybody hove in sight, the position was instantly reversed. Thus did his manhood remain virgin to the travelers who passed like ghosts on the silent trail. There are such men in this world.

How such a man and such a woman came to take each other for better and for worse is unimportant to this narrative. These things are familiar to us all, and those people who do them, or even question them too closely, are apt to lose a beautiful faith which is known as Eternal Fitness.

Edwin Bentham was a boy, thrust by mischance into a man’s body,--a boy who could complacently pluck a butterfly, wing from wing, or cower in abject terror before a lean, nervy fellow, not half his size. He was a selfish cry-baby, hidden behind a man’s mustache and stature, and glossed over with a skin-deep veneer of culture and conventionality. Yes; he was a clubman and a society man,the sort that grace social functions and utter inanities with a charm and unction which is indescribable; the sort that talk big, and cry over a toothache; the sort that put more hell into a woman’s life by marrying her than can the most graceless libertine that ever browsed in forbidden pastures. We meet these men every day, but we rarely know them for what they are. Second to marrying them, the best way to get this knowledge is to eat out of the same pot and crawl under the same blanket with them for-well, say a week; no greater margin is necessary.

To see Grace Bentham, was to see a slender, girlish creature; to know her, was to know a soul which dwarfed your own, yet retained all the elements of the eternal feminine. This was the woman who urged and encouraged her husband in his Northland quest, who broke trail for him when no one was looking, and cried in secret over her weakling woman’s body.

So journeyed this strangely assorted couple down to old Fort Selkirk, then through fivescore miles of dismal wilderness to Stuart River. And when the short day left them, and the man lay down in the snow and blubbered, it was the woman who lashed him to the sled, bit her lips with the pain of her aching limbs, and helped the dog haul him to Malemute Kid’s cabin. Malemute Kid was not at home, but Meyers, the German trader, cooked great moose-steaks and shook up a bed of fresh pine boughs. Lake, Langham, and Parker, were excited, and not unduly so when the cause was taken into account.

‘Oh, Sandy! Say, can you tell a porterhouse from a round? Come out and lend us a hand, anyway!’ This appeal emanated from the cache, where Langham was vainly struggling with divers quarters of frozen moose.

‘Don’t you budge from those dishes!’ commanded Parker.

‘I say, Sandy; there’s a good fellow--just run down to the Missouri Camp and borrow some cinnamon,’ begged Lake.

‘Oh! oh! hurry up! Why don’t-‘ But the crash of meat and boxes, in the cache, abruptly quenched this peremptory summons.

‘Come now, Sandy; it won’t take a minute to go down to the Missouri-‘ ‘You leave him alone,’ interrupted Parker. ‘How am I to mix the biscuits if the table isn’t cleared off?’

Sandy paused in indecision, till suddenly the fact that he was Langham’s ‘man’ dawned upon him. Then he apologetically threw down the greasy dishcloth, and went to his master’s rescue.

These promising scions of wealthy progenitors had come to the Northland in search of laurels, with much money to burn, and a ‘man’ apiece. Luckily for their souls, the other two men were up the White River in search of a mythical quartzledge; so Sandy had to grin under the responsibility of three healthy masters, each of whom was possessed of peculiar cookery ideas. Twice that morning had a disruption of the whole camp been imminent, only averted by immense concessions from one or the other of these knights of the chafing-dish. But at last their mutual creation, a really dainty dinner, was completed.

Then they sat down to a three-cornered game of ‘cut-throat,’--a proceeding which did away with all casus belli for future hostilities, and permitted the victor to depart on a most important mission.

This fortune fell to Parker, who parted his hair in the middle, put on his mittens and bearskin cap, and stepped over to Malemute Kid’s cabin. And when he returned, it was in the company of Grace Bentham and Malemute Kid,--the former very sorry her husband could not share with her their hospitality, for he had gone up to look at the Henderson Creek mines, and the latter still a trifle stiff from breaking trail down the Stuart River.

Meyers had been asked, but had declined, being deeply engrossed in an experiment of raising bread from hops.

Well, they could do without the husband; but a woman--why they had not seen one all winter, and the presence of this one promised a new era in their lives.

They were college men and gentlemen, these three young fellows, yearning for the flesh-pots they had been so long denied. Probably Grace Bentham suffered from a similar hunger; at least, it meant much to her, the first bright hour in many weeks of darkness.

But that wonderful first course, which claimed the versatile Lake for its parent, had no sooner been served than there came a loud knock at the door.

‘Oh! Ah! Won’t you come in, Mr. Bentham?’ said Parker, who had stepped to see who the newcomer might be.

‘Is my wife here?’ gruffly responded that worthy.

‘Why, yes. We left word with Mr. Meyers.’ Parker was exerting his most dulcet tones, inwardly wondering what the deuce it all meant. ‘Won’t you come in? Expecting you at any moment, we reserved a place. And just in time for the first course, too.’ ‘Come in, Edwin, dear,’ chirped Grace Bentham from her seat at the table.

Parker naturally stood aside.

‘I want my wife,’ reiterated Bentham hoarsely, the intonation savoring disagreeably of ownership.

Parker gasped, was within an ace of driving his fist into the face of his boorish visitor, but held himself awkwardly in check. Everybody rose. Lake lost his head and caught himself on the verge of saying, ‘Must you go?’ Then began the farrago of leave-taking. ‘So nice of you-‘ ‘I am awfully sorry’ ‘By Jove! how things did brighten-‘ ‘Really now, you-‘

‘Thank you ever so much-‘ ‘Nice trip to Dawson-‘ etc., etc.

In this wise the lamb was helped into her jacket and led to the slaughter. Then the door slammed, and they gazed woefully upon the deserted table.

‘Damn!’ Langham had suffered disadvantages in his early training, and his oaths were weak and monotonous. ‘Damn!’ he repeated, vaguely conscious of the incompleteness and vainly struggling for a more virile term. It is a clever woman who can fill out the many weak places in an inefficient man, by her own indomitability, re-enforce his vacillating nature, infuse her ambitious soul into his, and spur him on to great achievements. And it is indeed a very clever and tactful woman who can do all this, and do it so subtly that the man receives all the credit and believes in his inmost heart that everything is due to him and him alone.

This is what Grace Bentham proceeded to do. Arriving in Dawson with a few pounds of flour and several letters of introduction, she at once applied herself to the task of pushing her big baby to the fore. It was she who melted the stony heart and wrung credit from the rude barbarian who presided over the destiny of the P. C. Company; yet it was Edwin Bentham to whom the concession was ostensibly granted. It was she who dragged her baby up and down creeks, over benches and divides, and on a dozen wild stampedes; yet everybody remarked what an energetic fellow that Bentham was. It was she who studied maps, and catechised miners, and hammered geography and locations into his hollow head, till everybody marveled at his broad grasp of the country and knowledge of its conditions. Of course, they said the wife was a brick, and only a few wise ones appreciated and pitied the brave little woman.

She did the work; he got the credit and reward. In the Northwest Territory a married woman cannot stake or record a creek, bench, or quartz claim; so Edwin Bentham went down to the Gold Commissioner and filed on Bench Claim 23, second tier, of French Hill. And when April came they were washing out a thousand dollars a day, with many, many such days in prospect.

At the base of French Hill lay Eldorado Creek, and on a creek claim stood the cabin of Clyde Wharton. At present he was not washing out a diurnal thousand dollars; but his dumps grew, shift by shift, and there would come a time when those dumps would pass through his sluice-boxes, depositing in the riffles, in the course of half a dozen days, several hundred thousand dollars. He often sat in that cabin, smoked his pipe, and dreamed beautiful little dreams,--dreams in which neither the dumps nor the half-ton of dust in the P. C. Company’s big safe, played a part.

And Grace Bentham, as she washed tin dishes in her hillside cabin, often glanced down into Eldorado Creek, and dreamed,--not of dumps nor dust, however. They met frequently, as the trail to the one claim crossed the other, and there is much to talk about in the Northland spring; but never once, by the light of an eye nor the slip of a tongue, did they speak their hearts.

This is as it was at first. But one day Edwin Bentham was brutal. All boys are thus; besides, being a French Hill king now, he began to think a great deal of himself and to forget all he owed to his wife. On this day, Wharton heard of it, and waylaid Grace Bentham, and talked wildly. This made her very happy, though she would not listen, and made him promise to not say such things again. Her hour had not come.

But the sun swept back on its northern journey, the black of midnight changed to the steely color of dawn, the snow slipped away, the water dashed again over the glacial drift, and the wash-up began. Day and night the yellow clay and scraped bedrock hurried through the swift sluices, yielding up its ransom to the strong men from the Southland.

And in that time of tumult came Grace Bentham’s hour.

To all of us such hours at some time come,--that is, to us who are not too phlegmatic.

Some people are good, not from inherent love of virtue, but from sheer laziness. But those of us who know weak moments may understand.

Edwin Bentham was weighing dust over the bar of the saloon at the Forks--altogether too much of his dust went over that pine board--when his wife came down the hill and slipped into Clyde Wharton’s cabin. Wharton was not expecting her, but that did not alter the case. And much subsequent misery and idle waiting might have been avoided, had not Father Roubeau seen this and turned aside from the main creek trail. ‘My child,-‘ ‘Hold on, Father Roubeau! Though I’m not of your faith, I respect you; but you can’t come in between this woman and me!’ ‘You know what you are doing?’ ‘Know! Were you God Almighty, ready to fling me into eternal fire, I’d bank my will against yours in this matter.’ Wharton had placed Grace on a stool and stood belligerently before her.

‘You sit down on that chair and keep quiet,’ he continued, addressing the Jesuit. ‘I’ll take my innings now. You can have yours after.’

Father Roubeau bowed courteously and obeyed. He was an easy-going man and had learned to bide his time. Wharton pulled a stool alongside the woman’s, smothering her hand in his.

‘Then you do care for me, and will take me away?’ Her face seemed to reflect the peace of this man, against whom she might draw close for shelter.

‘Dear, don’t you remember what I said before? Of course I-‘ ‘But how can you?--the wash-up?’ ‘Do you think that worries? Anyway, I’ll give the job to Father Roubeau, here.

I can trust him to safely bank the dust with the company.’ ‘To think of it!--I’ll never see him again.’ ‘A blessing!’ ‘And to go--O, Clyde, I can’t! I can’t!’ ‘There, there; of course you can. just let me plan it.--You see, as soon as we get a few traps together, we’ll start, and-‘ ‘Suppose he comes back?’ ‘I’ll break every-‘ ‘No, no! No fighting, Clyde! Promise me that.’ ‘All right! I’ll just tell the men to throw him off the claim. They’ve seen how he’s treated you, and haven’t much love for him.’

‘You mustn’t do that. You mustn’t hurt him.’ ‘What then? Let him come right in here and take you away before my eyes?’ ‘No-o,’ she half whispered, stroking his hand softly.

‘Then let me run it, and don’t worry. I’ll see he doesn’t get hurt. Precious lot he cared whether you got hurt or not! We won’t go back to Dawson. I’ll send word down for a couple of the boys to outfit and pole a boat up the Yukon. We’ll cross the divide and raft down the Indian River to meet them. Then-‘ ‘And then?’ Her head was on his shoulder.

Their voices sank to softer cadences, each word a caress. The Jesuit fidgeted nervously.

‘And then?’ she repeated.

‘Why we’ll pole up, and up, and up, and portage the White Horse Rapids and the Box Canon.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘And the Sixty-Mile River; then the lakes, Chilcoot, Dyea, and Salt Water.’ ‘But, dear, I can’t pole a boat.’ ‘You little goose! I’ll get Sitka Charley; he knows all the good water and best camps, and he is the best traveler I ever met, if he is an Indian. All you’ll have to do, is to sit in the middle of the boat, and sing songs, and play Cleopatra, and fight--no, we’re in luck; too early for mosquitoes.’

‘And then, O my Antony?’ ‘And then a steamer, San Francisco, and the world! Never to come back to this cursed hole again. Think of it! The world, and ours to choose from! I’ll sell out. Why, we’re rich! The Waldworth Syndicate will give me half a million for what’s left in the ground, and I’ve got twice as much in the dumps and with the P. C.

Company. We’ll go to the Fair in Paris in 1900. We’ll go to Jerusalem, if you say so.

We’ll buy an Italian palace, and you can play Cleopatra to your heart’s content. No, you shall be Lucretia, Acte, or anybody your little heart sees fit to become. But you mustn’t, you really mustn’t-‘ ‘The wife of Caesar shall be above reproach.’ ‘Of course, but-‘ ‘But I won’t be your wife, will I, dear?’ ‘I didn’t mean that.’ ‘But you’ll love me just as much, and never even think--oh! I know you’ll be like other men; you’ll grow tired, and--and-‘

‘How can you? I-‘ ‘Promise me.’ ‘Yes, yes; I do promise.’ ‘You say it so easily, dear; but how do you know?--or I know? I have so little to give, yet it is so much, and all I have. O, Clyde! promise me you won’t?’

‘There, there! You musn’t begin to doubt already. Till death do us part, you know.’

‘Think! I once said that to--to him, and now?’ ‘And now, little sweetheart, you’re not to bother about such things any more.

Of course, I never, never will, and-‘ And for the first time, lips trembled against lips.

Father Roubeau had been watching the main trail through the window, but could stand the strain no longer.

He cleared his throat and turned around.

‘Your turn now, Father!’ Wharton’s face was flushed with the fire of his first embrace.

There was an exultant ring to his voice as he abdicated in the other’s favor. He had no doubt as to the result. Neither had Grace, for a smile played about her mouth as she faced the priest.

‘My child,’ he began, ‘my heart bleeds for you. It is a pretty dream, but it cannot be.’

‘And why, Father? I have said yes.’ ‘You knew not what you did. You did not think of the oath you took, before your God, to that man who is your husband. It remains for me to make you realize the sanctity of such a pledge.’ ‘And if I do realize, and yet refuse?’

‘Then God’

‘Which God? My husband has a God which I care not to worship. There must be many such.’ ‘Child! unsay those words! Ah! you do not mean them. I understand. I, too, have had such moments.’ For an instant he was back in his native France, and a wistful, sad-eyed face came as a mist between him and the woman before him.

‘Then, Father, has my God forsaken me? I am not wicked above women. My misery with him has been great. Why should it be greater? Why shall I not grasp at happiness? I cannot, will not, go back to him!’ ‘Rather is your God forsaken. Return. Throw your burden upon Him, and the darkness shall be lifted. O my child,-‘ ‘No; it is useless; I have made my bed and so shall I lie. I will go on. And if God punishes me, I shall bear it somehow. You do not understand. You are not a woman.’ ‘My mother was a woman.’

‘But-‘ ‘And Christ was born of a woman.’ She did not answer. A silence fell. Wharton pulled his mustache impatiently and kept an eye on the trail. Grace leaned her elbow on the table, her face set with resolve. The smile had died away. Father Roubeau shifted his ground.

‘You have children?’

‘At one time I wished--but now--no. And I am thankful.’ ‘And a mother?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘She loves you?’ ‘Yes.’ Her replies were whispers.

And a brother?--no matter, he is a man. But a sister?’ Her head drooped a quavering ‘Yes.’ ‘Younger? Very much?’ ‘Seven years.’ ‘And you have thought well about this matter? About them? About your mother? And your sister? She stands on the threshold of her woman’s life, and this wildness of yours may mean much to her. Could you go before her, look upon her fresh young face, hold her hand in yours, or touch your cheek to hers?’

To his words, her brain formed vivid images, till she cried out, ‘Don’t! don’t!’ and shrank away as do the wolf-dogs from the lash.

‘But you must face all this; and better it is to do it now.’ In his eyes, which she could not see, there was a great compassion, but his face, tense and quivering, showed no relenting.

She raised her head from the table, forced back the tears, struggled for control.

‘I shall go away. They will never see me, and come to forget me. I shall be to them as dead. And--and I will go with Clyde--today.’ It seemed final. Wharton stepped forward, but the priest waved him back.

‘You have wished for children?’ A silent ‘Yes.’ ‘And prayed for them?’ ‘Often.’ ‘And have you thought, if you should have children?’ Father Roubeau’s eyes rested for a moment on the man by the window.

A quick light shot across her face. Then the full import dawned upon her. She raised her hand appealingly, but he went on.

‘Can you picture an innocent babe in your arms,’ A boy? The world is not so hard upon a girl. Why, your very breast would turn to gall! And you could be proud and happy of your boy, as you looked on other children?-‘ ‘O, have pity! Hush!’ ‘A scapegoat-‘

‘Don’t! don’t! I will go back!’ She was at his feet.

‘A child to grow up with no thought of evil, and one day the world to fling a tender name in his face. A child to look back and curse you from whose loins he sprang!’

‘O my God! my God!’ She groveled on the floor. The priest sighed and raised her to her feet.

Wharton pressed forward, but she motioned him away.

‘Don’t come near me, Clyde! I am going back!’ The tears were coursing pitifully down her face, but she made no effort to wipe them away.

‘After all this? You cannot! I will not let you!’ ‘Don’t touch me!’ She shivered and drew back.

‘I will! You are mine! Do you hear? You are mine!’ Then he whirled upon the priest. ‘O what a fool I was to ever let you wag your silly tongue! Thank your God you are not a common man, for I’d--but the priestly prerogative must be exercised, eh? Well, you have exercised it. Now get out of my house, or I’ll forget who and what you are!’ Father Roubeau bowed, took her hand, and started for the door. But Wharton cut them off.

‘Grace! You said you loved me?’ ‘I did.’ ‘And you do now?’ ‘I do.’ ‘Say it again.’

‘I do love you, Clyde; I do.’ ‘There, you priest!’ he cried. ‘You have heard it, and with those words on her lips you would send her back to live a lie and a hell with that man?’

But Father Roubeau whisked the woman into the inner room and closed the door. ‘No words!’ he whispered to Wharton, as he struck a casual posture on a stool. ‘Remember, for her sake,’ he added.

The room echoed to a rough knock at the door; the latch raised and Edwin Bentham stepped in.

‘Seen anything of my wife?’ he asked as soon as salutations had been exchanged.

Two heads nodded negatively.

‘I saw her tracks down from the cabin,’ he continued tentatively, ‘and they broke off, just opposite here, on the main trail.’ His listeners looked bored.

‘And I--I thought-‘

‘She was here!’ thundered Wharton.

The priest silenced him with a look. ‘Did you see her tracks leading up to this cabin, my son?’ Wily Father Roubeau--he had taken good care to obliterate them as he came up the same path an hour before.

‘I didn’t stop to look, I-‘ His eyes rested suspiciously on the door to the other room, then interrogated the priest. The latter shook his head; but the doubt seemed to linger.

Father Roubeau breathed a swift, silent prayer, and rose to his feet. ‘If you doubt me, why-‘ He made as though to open the door.

A priest could not lie. Edwin Bentham had heard this often, and believed it.

‘Of course not, Father,’ he interposed hurriedly. ‘I was only wondering where my wife had gone, and thought maybe--I guess she’s up at Mrs. Stanton’s on French Gulch. Nice weather, isn’t it? Heard the news? Flour’s gone down to forty dollars a hundred, and they say the che-cha-quas are flocking down the river in droves.

But I must be going; so good-by.’ The door slammed, and from the window they watched him take his quest up French Gulch. A few weeks later, just after the June high-water, two men shot a canoe into mid-stream and made fast to a derelict pine. This tightened the painter and jerked the frail craft along as would a tow-boat. Father Roubeau had been directed to leave the Upper Country and return to his swarthy children at Minook. The white men had come among them, and they were devoting too little time to fishing, and too much to a certain deity whose transient habitat was in countless black bottles.

Malemute Kid also had business in the Lower Country, so they journeyed together.

But one, in all the Northland, knew the man Paul Roubeau, and that man was Malemute Kid. Before him alone did the priest cast off the sacerdotal garb and stand naked. And why not? These two men knew each other. Had they not shared the last morsel of fish, the last pinch of tobacco, the last and inmost thought, on the barren stretches of Bering Sea, in the heartbreaking mazes of the Great Delta, on the terrible winter journey from Point Barrow to the Porcupine? Father Roubeau puffed heavily at his trail-worn pipe, and gazed on the reddisked sun, poised somberly on the edge of the northern horizon.

Malemute Kid wound up his watch. It was midnight.

‘Cheer up, old man!’ The Kid was evidently gathering up a broken thread.

‘God surely will forgive such a lie. Let me give you the word of a man who strikes a true note: If She have spoken a word, remember thy lips are sealed, And the brand of the Dog is upon him by whom is the secret revealed.

If there be trouble to Herward, and a lie of the blackest can clear, Lie, while thy lips can move or a man is alive to hear.’

Father Roubeau removed his pipe and reflected. ‘The man speaks true, but my soul is not vexed with that. The lie and the penance stand with God; but--but-‘

‘What then? Your hands are clean.’ ‘Not so. Kid, I have thought much, and yet the thing remains. I knew, and made her go back.’ The clear note of a robin rang out from the wooden bank, a partridge drummed the call in the distance, a moose lunged noisily in the eddy; but the twain smoked on in silence.

The Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We ain’t lookin’ for trouble, Slim,” Fatty quavered.

“Who in hell are you to call me ‘Slim’?” came the snarling answer.

“Me? I’m just Fatty, an’ seein’ ‘s I never seen you before-“

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

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

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

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

“Well,” he snarled, “I suppose I gotta give you cheap skates a drink when I ain’t got more’n enough for a good petrification for myself.”

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

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

“Huh!” Slim snapped short, mixing the drink. “I’ve drunk worse’n stockyards in my time.”

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

Whiskers was the first to brazen it.

“I’ve sat in at many a finer drinking,” he bragged.

“With the pewter,” Slim sneered.

“With the silver,” Whiskers corrected.

Slim turned a scorching eye-interrogation on Fatty.

Fatty nodded.

“Beneath the salt,” said Slim.

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

“Yourself?” Whiskers queried of Slim.

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

“In the pantry?” Fatty insinuated.

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

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

“Let it be a real drinking,” Whiskers approved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And we’ve had our fun,” he boasted, “and speaking of sweethearts and all,” he cribbed from Kipling, “‘We’ve rogued and we’ve ranged-‘“

“‘In our time,’“ Slim completed the crib for him.

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

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

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

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

“My people came over with the Conqueror,” Whiskers interrupted, extending his hand to Fatty’s in acknowledgment of the introduction.

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

“Delarouse, Chauncey Delarouse. The name will serve as well as any.”

Both completed the handshake and glanced to Slim.

“Oh, well, while we’re about it . . . “ Fatty urged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Percival Delaney kissed unutterable affirmation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Percival Delaney shrugged his shoulders, ere he resumed.

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

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

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

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

“Huh!” Bruce Cadogan Cavendish sneered. “Next you’ll be asking: ‘How fares the old Lord Warden?’“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘As big as the Catholic church?’ she asked.

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

“‘But it will take money,’ I explained. ‘And it takes time to make money.’

“‘You have much,’ she said. ‘Some say you have more money than my father, the King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Get your head out of the way, you idiot!’ he barked at me.

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, how about yourself, Bruce Cadogan Cavendish? It’s your turn.”

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

“I’ve lived a hard life,” Slim grated harshly. “What do I know about love passages?”

“No man of your build and make-up could have escaped them,” Fatty wheedled.

“And what of it?” Slim snarled. “It’s no reason for a gentleman to boast of amorous triumphs.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You weren’t the Sea Wolf,” Whiskers broke in with involuntary positiveness.

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

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

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

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

“Jack-pots?” Fatty queried. At sight of an irritable movement, he added: “You see, I never got over to the West like Delarouse and you.”

“They’re all head-hunters. Heads are valuable, especially a white man’s head. They decorate the canoe-houses and devil-devil houses with them. Each village runs a jack-pot, and everybody antes. Whoever brings in a white man’s head takes the pot. If there aren’t openers for a long time, the pot grows to tremendous proportions. Beastly funny, isn’t it?

“I know. Didn’t a Holland mate die on me of blackwater? And didn’t I win a pot myself? It was this way. We were lying at Lango-lui at the time. I never let on, and arranged the affair with Johnny, my boat-steerer. He was a kinky-head himself from Port Moresby. He cut the dead mate’s head off and sneaked ashore in the might, while I whanged away with my rifle as if I were trying to get him. He opened the pot with the mate’s head, and got it, too. Of course, next day I sent in a landing boat, with two covering boats, and fetched him off with the loot.”

“How big was the pot?” Whiskers asked. “I heard of a pot at Orla worth eighty quid.”

“To commence with,” Slim answered, “there were forty fat pigs, each worth a fathom of prime shell-money, and shell-money worth a quid a fathom. That was two hundred dollars right there. There were ninety-eight fathoms of shell-money, which is pretty close to five hundred in itself. And there were twenty-two gold sovereigns. I split it four ways: one-fourth to Johnny, one-fourth to the ship, one-fourth to me as owner, and one-fourth to me as skipper. Johnny never complained. He’d never had so much wealth all at one time in his life. Besides, I gave him a couple of the mate’s old shirts. And I fancy the mate’s head is still there decorating the canoe-house.”

“Not exactly Christian burial of a Christian,” Whiskers observed.

“But a lucrative burial,” Slim retorted. “I had to feed the rest of the mate over-side to the sharks for nothing. Think of feeding an eight-hundred-dollar head along with it. It would have been criminal waste and stark lunacy.

“Well, anyway, it was all beastly funny, over there to the westward. And, without telling you the scrape I got into at Taki-Tiki, except that I sailed away with two hundred kinky-heads for Queensland labour, and for my manner of collecting them had two British ships of war combing the Pacific for me, I changed my course and ran to the westward thinking to dispose of the lot to the Spanish plantations on Bangar.

“Typhoon season. We caught it. The MERRY MIST was my schooner’s name, and I had thought she was stoutly built until she hit that typhoon. I never saw such seas. They pounded that stout craft to pieces, literally so. The sticks were jerked out of her, deckhouses splintered to match-wood, rails ripped off, and, after the worst had passed, the covering boards began to go. We just managed to repair what was left of one boat and keep the schooner afloat only till the sea went down barely enough to get away. And we outfitted that boat in a hurry. The carpenter and I were the last, and we had to jump for it as he went down. There were only four of us-“

“Lost all the niggers?” Whiskers inquired.

“Some of them swam for some time,” Slim replied. “But I don’t fancy they made the land. We were ten days’ in doing it. And we had a spanking breeze most of the way. And what do you think we had in the boat with us? Cases of square-face gin and cases of dynamite. Funny, wasn’t it? Well, it got funnier later on. Oh, there was a small beaker of water, a little salt horse, and some salt-water-soaked sea biscuit-enough to keep us alive to Tagalag.

“Now Tagalag is the disappointingest island I’ve ever beheld. It shows up out of the sea so as you can make its fall twenty miles off. It is a volcano cone thrust up out of deep sea, with a segment of the crater wall broken out. This gives sea entrance to the crater itself, and makes a fine sheltered harbour. And that’s all. Nothing lives there. The outside and the inside of the crater are too steep. At one place, inside, is a patch of about a thousand coconut palms. And that’s all, as I said, saving a few insects. No four-legged thing, even a rat, inhabits the place. And it’s funny, most awful funny, with all those coconuts, not even a coconut crab. The only meat-food living was schools of mullet in the harbour-fattest, finest, biggest mullet I ever laid eyes on.

“And the four of us landed on the little beach and set up housekeeping among the coconuts with a larder full of dynamite and square-face. Why don’t you laugh? It’s funny, I tell you. Try it some time.-Holland gin and straight coconut diet. I’ve never been able to look a confectioner’s window in the face since. Now I’m not strong on religion like Chauncey Delarouse there, but I have some primitive ideas; and my concept of hell is an illimitable coconut plantation, stocked with cases of square-face and populated by ship-wrecked mariners. Funny? It must make the devil scream.

“You know, straight coconut is what the agriculturists call an unbalanced ration. It certainly unbalanced our digestions. We got so that whenever hunger took an extra bite at us, we took another drink of gin. After a couple of weeks of it, Olaf, a squarehead sailor, got an idea. It came when he was full of gin, and we, being in the same fix, just watched him shove a cap and short fuse into a stick of dynamite and stroll down toward the boat.

“It dawned on me that he was going to shoot fish if there were any about; but the sun was beastly hot, and I just reclined there and hoped he’d have luck.

“About half an hour after he disappeared we heard the explosion. But he didn’t come back. We waited till the cool of sunset, and down on the beach found what had become of him. The boat was there all right, grounded by the prevailing breeze, but there was no Olaf. He would never have to eat coconut again. We went back, shakier than ever, and cracked another square-face.

“The next day the cook announced that he would rather take his chance with dynamite than continue trying to exist on coconut, and that, though he didn’t know anything about dynamite, he knew a sight too much about coconut. So we bit the detonator down for him, shoved in a fuse, and picked him a good fire-stick, while he jolted up with a couple more stiff ones of gin.

“It was the same programme as the day before. After a while we heard the explosion and at twilight went down to the boat, from which we scraped enough of the cook for a funeral.

“The carpenter and I stuck it out two days more, then we drew straws for it and it was his turn. We parted with harsh words; for he wanted to take a square-face along to refresh himself by the way, while I was set against running any chance of wasting the gin. Besides, he had more than he could carry then, and he wobbled and staggered as he walked.

“Same thing, only there was a whole lot of him left for me to bury, because he’d prepared only half a stick. I managed to last it out till next day, when, after duly fortifying myself, I got sufficient courage to tackle the dynamite. I used only a third of a stick-you know, short fuse, with the end split so as to hold the head of a safety match. That’s where I mended my predecessors’ methods. Not using the match-head, they’d too-long fuses. Therefore, when they spotted a school of mullet; and lighted the fuse, they had to hold the dynamite till the fuse burned short before they threw it. If they threw it too soon, it wouldn’t go off the instant it hit the water, while the splash of it would frighten the mullet away. Funny stuff dynamite. At any rate, I still maintain mine was the safer method.

“I picked up a school of mullet before I’d been rowing five minutes. Fine big fat ones they were, and I could smell them over the fire. When I stood up, fire-stick in one hand, dynamite stick in the other, my knees were knocking together. Maybe it was the gin, or the anxiousness, or the weakness and the hunger, and maybe it was the result of all of them, but at any rate I was all of a shake. Twice I failed to touch the fire-stick to the dynamite. Then I did, heard the match-head splutter, and let her go.

“Now I don’t know what happened to the others, but I know what I did. I got turned about. Did you ever stem a strawberry and throw the strawberry away and pop the stem into your mouth? That’s what I did. I threw the fire-stick into the water after the mullet and held on to the dynamite. And my arm went off with the stick when it went off. . . . “

Slim investigated the tomato-can for water to mix himself a drink, but found it empty. He stood up.

“Heigh ho,” he yawned, and started down the path to the river.

In several minutes he was back. He mixed the due quantity of river slush with the alcohol, took a long, solitary drink, and stared with bitter moodiness into the fire.

“Yes, but . . . “ Fatty suggested. “What happened then?”

“Oh,” sad Slim. “Then the princess married me, of course.”

“But you were the only person left, and there wasn’t any princess . . . “ Whiskers cried out abruptly, and then let his voice trail away to embarrassed silence.

Slim stared unblinkingly into the fire.

Percival Delaney and Chauncey Delarouse looked at each other. Quietly, in solemn silence, each with his one arm aided the one arm of the other in rolling and tying his bundle. And in silence, bundles slung on shoulders, they went away out of the circle of firelight. Not until they reached the top of the railroad embankment did they speak.

“No gentleman would have done it,” said Whiskers.

“No gentleman would have done it,” Fatty agreed.

Glen Ellen, California,

SEPTEMBER 26, 1916.

The Prodigal Father

I

Josiah Childs was ordinarily an ordinary-appearing, prosperous business man. He wore a sixty-dollar, business-man’s suit, his shoes were comfortable and seemly and made from the current last, his tie, collars and cuffs were just what all prosperous business men wore, and an up-to-date, business-man’s derby was his wildest adventure in head-gear. Oakland, California, is no sleepy country town, and Josiah Childs, as the leading grocer of a rushing Western metropolis of three hundred thousand, appropriately lived, acted, and dressed the part.

But on this morning, before the rush of custom began, his appearance at the store, while it did not cause a riot, was sufficiently startling to impair for half an hour the staff’s working efficiency. He nodded pleasantly to the two delivery drivers loading their wagons for the first trip of the morning, and cast upward the inevitable, complacent glance at the sign that ran across the front of the building — CHILDS’ CASH STORE. The lettering, not too large, was of dignified black and gold, suggestive of noble spices, aristocratic condiments, and everything of the best (which was no more than to be expected of a scale of prices ten per cent. higher than any other grocery in town). But what Josiah Childs did not see as he turned his back on the drivers and entered, was the helpless and mutual fall of surprise those two worthies perpetrated on each other’s necks. They clung together for support.

“Did you catch the kicks, Bill?” one moaned.

“Did you pipe the head-piece?” Bill moaned back.

“Now if he was goin’ to a masquerade ball....”

“Or attendin’ a reunion of the Rough Riders....”

“Or goin’ huntin’ bear....”

“Or swearin’ off his taxes....”

“Instead of goin’ all the way to the effete East — Monkton says he’s going clear to Boston....”

The two drivers held each other apart at arm’s length, and fell limply together again.

For Josiah Childs’ outfit was all their actions connotated. His hat was a light fawn, stiff-rimmed John B. Stetson, circled by a band of Mexican stamped leather. Over a blue flannel shirt, set off by a drooping Windsor tie, was a rough-and-ready coat of large-ribbed corduroy. Pants of the same material were thrust into high-laced shoes of the sort worn by surveyors, explorers, and linemen.

A clerk at a near counter almost petrified at sight of his employer’s bizarre rig. Monkton, recently elevated to the managership, gasped, swallowed, and maintained his imperturbable attentiveness. The lady bookkeeper, glancing down from her glass eyrie on the inside balcony, took one look and buried her giggles in the day book. Josiah Childs saw most of all this, but he did not mind. He was starting on his vacation, and his head and heart were buzzing with plans and anticipations of the most adventurous vacation he had taken in ten years. Under his eyelids burned visions of East Falls, Connecticut, and of all the home scenes he had been born to and brought up in. Oakland, he was thoroughly aware, was more modern than East Falls, and the excitement caused by his garb was only to be expected. Undisturbed by the sensation he knew he was creating among his employés, he moved about, accompanied by his manager, making last suggestions, giving final instructions, and radiating fond, farewell glances at all the loved details of the business he had built out of nothing.

He had a right to be proud of Childs’ Cash Store. Twelve years before he had landed in Oakland with fourteen dollars and forty-three cents. Cents did not circulate so far West, and after the fourteen dollars were gone, he continued to carry the three pennies in his pocket for a weary while. Later, when he had got a job clerking in a small grocery for eleven dollars a week, and had begun sending a small monthly postal order to one, Agatha Childs, East Falls, Connecticut, he invested the three coppers in postage stamps. Uncle Sam could not reject his own lawful coin of the realm.

Having spent all his life in cramped New England, where sharpness and shrewdness had been whetted to razor-edge on the harsh stone of meagre circumstance, he had found himself abruptly in the loose and free-and-easy West, where men thought in thousand-dollar bills and newsboys dropped dead at sight of copper cents. Josiah Childs bit like fresh acid into the new industrial and business conditions. He had vision. He saw so many ways of making money all at once, that at first his brain was in a whirl.

At the same time, being sane and conservative, he had resolutely avoided speculation. The solid and substantial called to him. Clerking at eleven dollars a week, he took note of the lost opportunities, of the openings for safe enterprise, of the countless leaks in the business. If, despite all this, the boss could make a good living, what couldn’t he, Josiah Childs, do with his Connecticut training? It was like a bottle of wine to a thirsty hermit, this coming to the active, generous-spending West after thirty-five years in East Falls, the last fifteen of which had been spent in humdrum clerking in the humdrum East Falls general store. Josiah Childs’ head buzzed with the easy possibilities he saw. But he did not lose his head. No detail was overlooked. He spent his spare hours in studying Oakland, its people, how they made their money, and why they spent it and where. He walked the central streets, watching the drift of the buying crowds, even counting them and compiling the statistics in various notebooks. He studied the general credit system of the trade, and the particular credit systems of the different districts. He could tell to a dot the average wage or salary earned by the householders of any locality, and he made it a point of thoroughness to know every locality from the waterfront slums to the aristocratic Lake Merritt and Piedmont sections, from West Oakland, where dwelt the railroad employés, to the semi-farmers of Fruitvale at the opposite end of the city.

Broadway, on the main street and in the very heart of the shopping district, where no grocer had ever been insane enough to dream of establishing a business, was his ultimate selection. But that required money, while he had to start from the smallest of beginnings. His first store was on lower Filbert, where lived the nail-workers. In half a year, three other little corner groceries went out of business while he was compelled to enlarge his premises. He understood the principle of large sales at small profits, of stable qualities of goods, and of a square deal. He had glimpsed, also, the secret of advertising. Each week he set forth one article that sold at a loss to him. This was not an advertised loss, but an absolute loss. His one clerk prophesied impending bankruptcy when butter, that cost Childs thirty cents, was sold for twenty-five cents, when twenty-two-cent coffee was passed across the counter at eighteen cents. The neighbourhood housewives came for these bargains and remained to buy other articles that sold at a profit. Moreover, the whole neighbourhood came quickly to know Josiah Childs, and the busy crowd of buyers in his store was an attraction in itself.

But Josiah Childs made no mistake. He knew the ultimate foundation on which his prosperity rested. He studied the nail works until he came to know as much about them as the managing directors. Before the first whisper had stirred abroad, he sold his store, and with a modest sum of ready cash went in search of a new location. Six months later the nail works closed down, and closed down forever.

His next store was established on Adeline Street, where lived a comfortable, salaried class. Here, his shelves carried a higher-grade and a more diversified stock. By the same old method, he drew his crowd. He established a delicatessen counter. He dealt directly with the farmers, so that his butter and eggs were not only always dependable but were a shade better than those sold by the finest groceries in the city. One of his specialties was Boston baked beans, and so popular did it become that the Twin Cabin Bakery paid him better than handsomely for the privilege of taking it over. He made time to study the farmers, the very apples they grew, and certain farmers he taught how properly to make cider. As a side-line, his New England apple cider proved his greatest success, and before long, after he had invaded San Francisco, Berkeley, and Alameda, he ran it as an independent business.

But always his eyes were fixed on Broadway. Only one other intermediate move did he make, which was to as near as he could get to the Ashland Park Tract, where every purchaser of land was legally pledged to put up no home that should cost less than four thousand dollars. After that came Broadway. A strange swirl had come in the tide of the crowd. The drift was to Washington Street, where real estate promptly soared while on Broadway it was as if the bottom had fallen out. One big store after another, as the leases expired, moved to Washington.

The crowd will come back, Josiah Childs said, but he said it to himself. He knew the crowd. Oakland was growing, and he knew why it was growing. Washington Street was too narrow to carry the increasing traffic. Along Broadway, in the physical nature of things, the electric cars, ever in greater numbers, would have to run. The realty dealers said that the crowd would never come back, while the leading merchants followed the crowd. And then it was, at a ridiculously low figure, that Josiah Childs got a long lease on a modern, Class A building on Broadway, with a buying option at a fixed price. It was the beginning of the end for Broadway, said the realty dealers, when a grocery was established in its erstwhile sacred midst. Later, when the crowd did come back, they said Josiah Childs was lucky. Also, they whispered among themselves that he had cleared at least fifty thousand on the transaction.

It was an entirely different store from his previous ones. There were no more bargains. Everything was of the superlative best, and superlative best prices were charged. He catered to the most expensive trade in town. Only those who could carelessly afford to pay ten per cent. more than anywhere else, patronised him, and so excellent was his service that they could not afford to go elsewhere. His horses and delivery wagons were more expensive and finer than any one else’s in town. He paid his drivers, and clerks, and bookkeepers higher wages than any other store could dream of paying. As a result, he got more efficient men, and they rendered him and his patrons a more satisfying service. In short, to deal at Childs’ Cash Store became almost the infallible index of social status.

To cap everything, came the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, which caused one hundred thousand people abruptly to come across the Bay and live in Oakland. Not least to profit from so extraordinary a boom, was Josiah Childs. And now, after twelve years’ absence, he was departing on a visit to East Falls, Connecticut. In the twelve years he had not received a letter from Agatha, nor had he seen even a photograph of his and Agatha’s boy.

Agatha and he had never got along together. Agatha was masterful. Agatha had a tongue. She was strong on old-fashioned morality. She was unlovely in her rectitude. Josiah never could quite make out how he had happened to marry her. She was two years his senior, and had long ranked as an old maid She had taught school, and was known by the young generation as the sternest disciplinarian in its experience. She had become set in her ways, and when she married it was merely an exchange of a number of pupils for one. Josiah had to stand the hectoring and nagging that thitherto had been distributed among many. As to how the marriage came about, his Uncle Isaac nearly hit it off one day when he said in confidence: “Josiah, when Agatha married you it was a case of marrying a struggling young man. I reckon you was overpowered. Or maybe you broke your leg and couldn’t get away.”

“Uncle Isaac,” Josiah answered, “I didn’t break my leg. I ran my dangdest, but she just plum run me down and out of breath.”

“Strong in the wind, eh?” Uncle Isaac chuckled.

“We’ve ben married five years now,” Josiah agreed, “and I’ve never known her to lose it.”

“And never will,” Uncle Isaac added.

This conversation had taken place in the last days, and so dismal an outlook proved too much for Josiah Childs. Meek he was, under Agatha’s firm tuition, but he was very healthy, and his promise of life was too long for his patience. He was only thirty-three, and he came of a long-lived stock. Thirty-three more years with Agatha and Agatha’s nagging was too hideous to contemplate. So, between a sunset and a rising, Josiah Childs disappeared from East Falls. And from that day, for twelve years, he had received no letter from her. Not that it was her fault. He had carefully avoided letting her have his address. His first postal money orders were sent to her from Oakland, but in the years that followed he had arranged his remittances so that they bore the scattered postmarks of most of the states west of the Rockies.

But twelve years, and the confidence born of deserved success, had softened his memories. After all, she was the mother of his boy, and it was incontestable that she had always meant well. Besides, he was not working so hard now, and he had more time to think of things besides his business. He wanted to see the boy, whom he had never seen and who had turned three before his father ever learned he was a father. Then, too, homesickness had begun to crawl in him. In a dozen years he had not seen snow, and he was always wondering if New England fruits and berries had not a finer tang than those of California. Through hazy vistas he saw the old New England life, and he wanted to see it again in the flesh before he died.

And, finally, there was duty. Agatha was his wife. He would bring her back with him to the West. He felt that he could stand it. He was a man, now, in the world of men. He ran things, instead of being run, and Agatha would quickly find it out. Nevertheless, he wanted Agatha to come to him for his own sake. So it was that he had put on his frontier rig. He would be the prodigal father, returning as penniless as when he left, and it would be up to her whether or not she killed the fatted calf. Empty of hand, and looking it, he would come back wondering if he could get his old job in the general store. Whatever followed would be Agatha’s affair.

By the time he said good-bye to his staff and emerged on the sidewalk, five more of his delivery wagons were backed up and loading.

He ran his eye proudly over them, took a last fond glance at the black-and-gold letters, and signalled the electric car at the corner.

II

He ran up to East Falls from New York. In the Pullman smoker he became acquainted with several business men. The conversation, turning on the West, was quickly led by him. As president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, he was an authority. His words carried weight, and he knew what he was talking about, whether it was Asiatic trade, the Panama Canal, or the Japanese coolie question. It was very exhilarating, this stimulus of respectful attention accorded him by these prosperous Eastern men, and before he knew it he was at East Falls.

He was the only person who alighted, and the station was deserted. Nobody was there expecting anybody. The long twilight of a January evening was beginning, and the bite of the keen air made him suddenly conscious that his clothing was saturated with tobacco smoke. He shuddered involuntarily. Agatha did not tolerate tobacco. He half-moved to toss the fresh-lighted cigar away, then it was borne in upon him that this was the old East Falls atmosphere overpowering him, and he resolved to combat it, thrusting the cigar between his teeth and gripping it with the firmness of a dozen years of Western resolution.

A few steps brought him into the little main street. The chilly, stilted aspect of it shocked him. Everything seemed frosty and pinched, just as the cutting air did after the warm balminess of California. Only several persons, strangers to his recollection, were abroad, and they favoured him with incurious glances. They were wrapped in an uncongenial and frosty imperviousness. His first impression was surprise at his surprise. Through the wide perspective of twelve years of Western life, he had consistently and steadily discounted the size and importance of East Falls; but this was worse than all discounting. Things were more meagre than he had dreamed. The general store took his breath away. Countless myriads of times he had contrasted it with his own spacious emporium, but now he saw that in justice he had overdone it. He felt certain that it could not accommodate two of his delicatessen counters, and he knew that he could lose all of it in one of his storerooms.

He took the familiar turning to the right at the head of the street, and as he plodded along the slippery walk he decided that one of the first things he must do was to buy sealskin cap and gloves. The thought of sleighing cheered him for a moment, until, now on the outskirts of the village, he was sanitarily perturbed by the adjacency of dwelling houses and barns. Some were even connected. Cruel memories of bitter morning chores oppressed him. The thought of chapped hands and chilblains was almost terrifying, and his heart sank at sight of the double storm-windows, which he knew were solidly fastened and unraisable, while the small ventilating panes, the size of ladies’ handkerchiefs, smote him with sensations of suffocation. Agatha’ll like California, he thought, calling to his mind visions of roses in dazzling sunshine and the wealth of flowers that bloomed the twelve months round.

And then, quite illogically, the years were bridged and the whole leaden weight of East Falls descended upon him like a damp sea fog. He fought it from him, thrusting it off and aside by sentimental thoughts on the “honest snow,” the “fine elms,” the “sturdy New England spirit,” and the “great homecoming.” But at sight of Agatha’s house he wilted. Before he knew it, with a recrudescent guilty pang, he had tossed the half-smoked cigar away and slackened his pace until his feet dragged in the old lifeless, East Falls manner. He tried to remember that he was the owner of Childs’ Cash Store, accustomed to command, whose words were listened to with respect in the Employers’ Association, and who wielded the gavel at the meetings of the Chamber of Commerce. He strove to conjure visions of the letters in black and gold, and of the string of delivery wagons backed up to the sidewalk. But Agatha’s New England spirit was as sharp as the frost, and it travelled to him through solid house-walls and across the intervening hundred yards.

Then he became aware that despite his will he had thrown the cigar away. This brought him an awful vision. He saw himself going out in the frost to the woodshed to smoke. His memory of Agatha he found less softened by the lapse of years than it had been when three thousand miles intervened. It was unthinkable. No; he couldn’t do it. He was too old, too used to smoking all over the house, to do the woodshed stunt now. And everything depended on how he began. He would put his foot down. He would smoke in the house that very night ... in the kitchen, he feebly amended. No, by George, he would smoke now. He would arrive smoking. Mentally imprecating the cold, he exposed his bare hands and lighted another cigar. His manhood seemed to flare up with the match. He would show her who was boss. Right from the drop of the hat he would show her.

Josiah Childs had been born in this house. And it was long before he was born that his father had built it. Across the low stone fence, Josiah could see the kitchen porch and door, the connected woodshed, and the several outbuildings. Fresh from the West, where everything was new and in constant flux, he was astonished at the lack of change. Everything was as it had always been. He could almost see himself, a boy, doing the chores. There, in the woodshed, how many cords of wood had he bucksawed and split! Well, thank the Lord, that was past.

The walk to the kitchen showed signs of recent snow-shovelling. That had been one of his tasks. He wondered who did it now, and suddenly remembered that his own son must be twelve. In another moment he would have knocked at the kitchen door, but the skreek of a bucksaw from the woodshed led him aside. He looked in and saw a boy hard at work. Evidently, this was his son. Impelled by the wave of warm emotion that swept over him, he all but rushed in upon the lad. He controlled himself with an effort.

“Father here?” he asked curtly, though from under the stiff brim of his John B. Stetson he studied the boy closely.

Sizable for his age, he thought. A mite spare in the ribs maybe, and that possibly due to rapid growth. But the face strong and pleasing and the eyes like Uncle Isaac’s. When all was said, a darn good sample.

“No, sir,” the boy answered, resting on the saw-buck.

“Where is he?”

“At sea,” was the answer.

Josiah Childs felt a something very akin to relief and joy tingle through him. Agatha had married again — evidently a seafaring man. Next, came an ominous, creepy sensation. Agatha had committed bigamy. He remembered Enoch Arden, read aloud to the class by the teacher in the old schoolhouse, and began to think of himself as a hero. He would do the heroic. By George, he would. He would sneak away and get the first train for California. She would never know.

But there was Agatha’s New England morality, and her New England conscience. She received a regular remittance. She knew he was alive. It was impossible that she could have done this thing. He groped wildly for a solution. Perhaps she had sold the old home, and this boy was somebody else’s boy.

“What is your name?” Josiah asked.

“Johnnie,” came the reply.

“Last name I mean?”

“Childs, Johnnie Childs.”

“And your father’s name? — first name?”

“Josiah Childs.”

“And he’s away at sea, you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

This set Josiah wondering again.

“What kind of a man is he?”

“Oh, he’s all right — a good provider, Mom says. And he is. He always sends his money home, and he works hard for it, too, Mom says. She says he always was a good worker, and he’s better’n other men she ever saw. He don’t smoke, or drink, or swear, or do anything he oughtn’t. And he never did. He was always that way, Mom says, and she knew him all her life before ever they got married. He’s a very kind man, and never hurts anybody’s feelings. Mom says he’s the most considerate man she ever knew.”

Josiah’s heart went weak. Agatha had done it after all — had taken a second husband when she knew her first was still alive. Well, he had learned charity in the West, and he could be charitable. He would go quietly away. Nobody would ever know. Though it was rather mean of her, the thought flashed through him, that she should go on cashing his remittances when she was married to so model and steady-working a seafaring husband who brought his wages home. He cudgelled his brains in an effort to remember such a man out of all the East Falls men he had known.

“What’s he look like?”

“Don’t know. Never saw him. He’s at sea all the time. But I know how tall he is. Mom says I’m goin’ to be bigger’n him, and he was five feet eleven. There’s a picture of him in the album. His face is thin, and he has whiskers.”

A great illumination came to Josiah. He was himself five feet eleven. He had worn whiskers, and his face had been thin in those days. And Johnnie had said his father’s name was Josiah Childs. He, Josiah, was this model husband who neither smoked, swore, nor drank. He was this seafaring man whose memory had been so carefully shielded by Agatha’s forgiving fiction. He warmed toward her. She must have changed mightily since he left. He glowed with penitence. Then his heart sank as he thought of trying to live up to this reputation Agatha had made for him. This boy with the trusting blue eyes would expect it of him. Well, he’d have to do it. Agatha had been almighty square with him. He hadn’t thought she had it in her.

The resolve he might there and then have taken was doomed never to be, for he heard the kitchen door open to give vent to a woman’s nagging, irritable voice.

“Johnnie! — you!” it cried.

How often had he heard it in the old days: “Josiah! — you!” A shiver went through him. Involuntarily, automatically, with a guilty start, he turned his hand back upward so that the cigar was hidden. He felt himself shrinking and shrivelling as she stepped out on the stoop. It was his unchanged wife, the same shrew wrinkles, with the same sour-drooping corners to the thin-lipped mouth. But there was more sourness, an added droop, the lips were thinner, and the shrew wrinkles were deeper. She swept Josiah with a hostile, withering stare.

“Do you think your father would stop work to talk to tramps?” she demanded of the boy, who visibly quailed, even as Josiah.

“I was only answering his questions,” Johnnie pleaded doggedly but hopelessly. “He wanted to know — ”

“And I suppose you told him,” she snapped. “What business is it of his prying around? No, and he gets nothing to eat. As for you, get to work at once. I’ll teach you, idling at your chores. Your father wa’n’t like that. Can’t I ever make you like him?”

Johnnie bent his back, and the bucksaw resumed its protesting skreek. Agatha surveyed Josiah sourly. It was patent she did not recognise him.

“You be off,” she commanded harshly. “None of your snooping around here.”

Josiah felt the numbness of paralysis creeping over him. He moistened his lips and tried to say something, but found himself bereft of speech.

“You be off, I say,” she rasped in her high-keyed voice, “or I’ll put the constable after you.”

Josiah turned obediently. He heard the door slam as he went down the walk. As in a nightmare he opened the gate he had opened ten thousand times and stepped out on the sidewalk. He felt dazed. Surely it was a dream. Very soon he would wake up with a sigh of relief. He rubbed his forehead and paused indecisively. The monotonous complaint of the bucksaw came to his ears. If that boy had any of the old Childs spirit in him, sooner or later he’d run away. Agatha was beyond the endurance of human flesh. She had not changed, unless for the worse, if such a thing were possible. That boy would surely run for it, maybe soon. Maybe now.

Josiah Childs straightened up and threw his shoulders back. The great-spirited West, with its daring and its carelessness of consequences when mere obstacles stand in the way of its desire, flamed up in him. He looked at his watch, remembered the time table, and spoke to himself, solemnly, aloud. It was an affirmation of faith:

“I don’t care a hang about the law. That boy can’t be crucified. I’ll give her a double allowance, four times, anything, but he goes with me. She can follow on to California if she wants, but I’ll draw up an agreement, in which what’s what, and she’ll sign it, and live up to it, by George, if she wants to stay. And she will,” he added grimly. “She’s got to have somebody to nag.”

He opened the gate and strode back to the woodshed door. Johnnie looked up, but kept on sawing.

“What’d you like to do most of anything in the world?” Josiah demanded in a tense, low voice.

Johnnie hesitated, and almost stopped sawing. Josiah made signs for him to keep it up.

“Go to sea,” Johnnie answered. “Along with my father.”

Josiah felt himself trembling.

“Would you?” he asked eagerly.

“Would I!”

The look of joy on Johnnie’s face decided everything.

“Come here, then. Listen. I’m your father. I’m Josiah Childs. Did you ever want to run away?”

Johnnie nodded emphatically.

“That’s what I did,” Josiah went on. “I ran away.” He fumbled for his watch hurriedly. “We’ve just time to catch the train for California. I live there now. Maybe Agatha, your mother, will come along afterward. I’ll tell you all about it on the train. Come on.”

He gathered the half-frightened, half-trusting boy into his arms for a moment, then, hand in hand, they fled across the yard, out of the gate, and down the street. They heard the kitchen door open, and the last they heard was:

“Johnnie! — you! Why ain’t you sawing? I’ll attend to your case directly!”

The Proper “Girlie”

“GIRLIE” had always been a choice term of endearment with Ralph Ainslie. And it must be confessed he had applied it with great wisdom and discretion — from the little lady who swayed his destinies as a grammar school boy down to Maud. The list of the favored was quite a lengthy one, to be sure; but then a young heart and a roving love are necessarily correlative. Such is the nature of things, and who would alter it? But when the soft madness of the courtship of Maud fell upon him, the phrase had ripened to a fuller significance, and he had thought — at the time — that it would never again be transferred. In return, Maud had called him “Boyo.” Never had sweeter phrases been more sweetly mated. Girlie and Boyo! Well, the two were married and —

Ainslie idly crumbled his toast and gazed across the breakfast table at Maud, blue-eyed and matronly; but the woman’s face pictured on his mind’s retina at the moment was dark-eyed and rebellious. No wifely sedateness in this other, nor calm strength of control; but rather the waywardness of mutable desires, rough-shod imperiousness and strange moods. A creature slight of heart for loyalty, but great of soul for love; well he knew her.

Perhaps it was the unconscious radiation of his present mental attitude, or the sum of his attitudes through many days, that made Maud lonely on her side of the table. At least, she felt depressed and isolated, as if in some way the bonds that once so tightly bound them were undergoing an extraordinary expansion. She had expected that the fervid kisses that so sweetly punctuated their engagement period would change to the staid homage of tried affection, but not that they would become only a meaningless duty, the mere mechanical performance of a function. His whole demeanor had come to lack that subtle seriousness and enthusiasm the absence of which a woman is so quick to detect.

“What’s the matter, Maud?” he asked, presently, observing for the first time how wretchedly the breakfast had passed off, and actuated by a desire to make amends. “What’s the matter?” he repeated, noticing that her dreamy stare continued. “Anything wrong?”

“Ralph,” with feminine irrelevance, “you never call me Girlie any more.” Then, plaintively, “I’m only Maud now.”

“And it’s an age since I’ve heard you say Boyo,” he retorted.

He did not appreciate the hurt flush that suffused her cheek; no more did he know how hard had been her struggle to abandon his pet name after he had ceased his Girlie. For half the tragedies of the world are worked out in the silence of women’s hearts — tragedies that blundering men may never know nor understand.

Her eyes grew misty, but otherwise she made no reply. Ainslie rose and went to her side.

“Oh, Ralph, I don’t know — everything’s wrong, all wrong!” she sobbed on his shoulder.

The scent of her hair was like a caress, but it did not recall the erstwhile pleasant memories that it should, for he frowned unobserved while he patted her shoulder soothingly.

“I have tried so hard to be good and true — to be Ralph’s wife — ” she raised her head bravely and looked him in the eyes — ”but everything seems wrong. Something has come over us — between us. I had pictured everything so different after we were married, and now — I don’t know, I — I cannot understand.”

“There, there,” he murmured, his face a study in surface masculine kindliness, “I’m afraid you are sick, just a little under the weather, you know. You’re not quite yourself. A touch of fever, or cold, or something. I’ll send up Dr. Jermyn on my way down town.

“Perhaps,” he added, with wise forethought, as he kissed her at the door, “perhaps you need a little change of air or something. I think a little run or a week or so down to your mother’s will do you good.”

But she shook her head.

“Now the scenes begin,” he muttered to himself as he boarded his car. “To-day comes the first, then to-morrow another — and they will continue to increase, quantitatively and qualitatively, till even a man’s endurance can no longer stand them. Better put an end to the trouble now than to permit it to grow. I’ll write Bertha at once and settle it out of hand.”

It was with this laudable intention that he seated himself at his desk and invoked the epistolary demon. A peremptory call on the telephone interrupted him. It was an important deal, and Love must ever wait on Business.

“Poor little Maud! It’s not her fault,” he mused, as he stowed the half-finished missive away in a drawer; “only a queer concoction of Midsummer madness and my own brute selfishness. And it’s Bertha who inoculated me, too.”

Half-way down the elevator he had made up his mind to drop the whole thing by returning and destroying the letter; but at the bottom Business shoved Love aside, and he hurried on to meet the directors of the projected company.

By three o’clock the bookkeeper was wondering at Ralph Ainslie’s prolonged absence. At half after Mrs. Ainslie tripped past into her husband’s private office. She had thought it all out, after the delightful fashion of womankind, and reached the conclusion that she knew so very little of men, after all, and that whatever had happened was the result of her own morbid brooding; so she had come there to be nice to her wronged husband and be forgiven. She opened the door of his private office softly, confronted the blank emptiness of the room, and decided to wait.

Her thoughts went back to the golden days of their first housekeeping, when she had run down to the office so often of an afternoon that Ralph declared her a precious little nuisance, and secreted caramels and chocolates in his desk to encourage another visit. With a sentimental fondness and a vague half-pain she tiptoed across the room and drew open a drawer. The upturned sheet and the superscription, “Dear Girlie,” caught her eye. She glanced hurriedly at the upper right-hand corner, taking it for some old forgotten letter to herself, and noted the date with happy surprise. In her delight she did not remark the addressed envelope that was lying half-concealed beneath it. She began to read:

DEAR GIRLIE:

I sometimes think we have not fully understood each other of late. I, at least, know that I may have seemed cold at times, when, in reality, I was perplexed with other things. I have been somewhat worried and not quite myself, for all of which I intend to make full atonement. I shall explain all soon.

Believe me, Girlie, that the love I give you is the true love of my heart. I am making all arrangements so that we may —

“Just his stupid business!” she exclaimed, her dimmed eyes, sparkling joyously. “And I’m sure more business made him break it off where he did. And it’s all my own letter! And he called me Girlie!”

She pressed the scented sheet softly to her lips, just as Ralph Ainslie entered the room.

“Boyo!” she cried, making a little run toward him and throwing her arms around his neck. “You dear, good fellow! And I’ve been behaving like a little wretch, haven’t I? With you worrying so much over your business, and never once complaining! No, no,” she protested, as he made an involuntary gesture of remonstrance, “it’s all true, Boyo, every bit of it. And I’ve been, oh, such a naughty girl!”

Her moist eyes and his shirt front had approached such dangerous proximity that he was permitted to grin his perplexity above her head, unseen. Somehow, the scent of her hair tangled with his thoughts to a purpose, and recalled the golden days that he had well-nigh thrust away. Dear patient, faithful Maud, still as trusting as the first time they had laid lips to lips! And she had mistaken the broken letter for her own! The pathos of blunder softened him and helped consign the other woman to oblivion.

“There, there, Girlie. It’s nobody’s fault in the world but my own. I’ve been working too hard, and — ”

“But it’s my fault. I insist!” she protested.

“Then I must punish you by — ahem! — ”

“Something nice?” Then, recollecting the letter: “And what were we going to do when you finished making the arrangements?”

“Europe,” he lied, laconically. “I say, Girlie,” he added, hurriedly, catching a glimpse of the open drawer and beginning to lead the retreat to the door, “let’s not go home, but have dinner down town — ”

“And after that the theatre!” she cried. “Just like old times!”

“Just a minute, Girlie,” he said, at the elevator shaft. “I’ve forgotten something.”

He hurried back to the office, closing the door carefully behind him. Then he applied a vesta to the envelope that had Bertha Something-or-Other written across its face. He poked the ashes about in the grate and swore softly at something several times, but when he swore it was the dark-eyed woman who was in his thoughts.

The Proud Goat of Aloysius Pankburn

I

Quick eye that he had for the promise of adventure, prepared always for the unexpected to leap out at him from behind the nearest cocoanut tree, nevertheless David Grief received no warning when he laid eyes on Aloysius Pankburn. It was on the little steamer Berthe. Leaving his schooner to follow, Grief had taken passage for the short run across from Raiatea to Papeete. When he first saw Aloysius Pankburn, that somewhat fuddled gentleman was drinking a lonely cocktail at the tiny bar between decks next to the barber shop. And when Grief left the barber’s hands half an hour later Aloysius Pankburn was still hanging over the bar still drinking by himself.

Now it is not good for man to drink alone, and Grief threw sharp scrutiny into his pass-ing glance. He saw a well-built young man of thirty, well-featured, well-dressed, and evidently, in the world’s catalogue, a gentleman. But in the faint hint of slovenliness, in the shaking, eager hand that spilled the liquor, and in the nervous, vacillating eyes, Grief read the unmistakable marks of the chronic alcoholic.

After dinner he chanced upon Pankburn again. This time it was on deck, and the young man, clinging to the rail and peering into the distance at the dim forms of a man and woman in two steamer chairs drawn closely together, was crying, drunkenly. Grief noted that the man’s arm was around the woman’s waist. Aloysius Pankburn looked on and cried.

“Nothing to weep about,” Grief said genially.

Pankburn looked at him, and gushed tears of profound self-pity.

“It’s hard,” he sobbed. “Hard. Hard. That man’s my business manager. I employ him. I pay him a good screw. And that’s how he earns it.”

“In that case, why don’t you put a stop to it?” Grief advised.

“I can’t. She’d shut off my whiskey. She’s my trained nurse.”

“Fire her, then, and drink your head off.”

“I can’t. He’s got all my money. If I did, he wouldn’t give me sixpence to buy a drink with.”

This woful possibility brought a fresh wash of tears. Grief was interested. Of all unique situations he could never have imagined such a one as this.

“They were engaged to take care of me,” Pankburn was blubbering, “to keep me away from the drink. And that’s the way they do it, lollygagging all about the ship and letting me drink myself to death. It isn’t right, I tell you. It isn’t right. They were sent along with me for the express purpose of not letting me drink, and they let me drink to swinishness as long as I leave them alone. If I complain they threaten not to let me have another drop. What can a poor devil do? My death will be on their heads, that’s all. Come on down and join me.”

He released his clutch on the rail, and would have fallen had Grief not caught his arm. He seemed to undergo a transformation, to stiffen physically, to thrust his chin forward aggressively, and to glint harshly in his eyes.

“I won’t let them kill me. And they’ll be sorry. I’ve offered them fifty thousand--later on, of course. They laughed. They don’t know. But I know.” He fumbled in his coat pocket and drew forth an object that flashed in the faint light. “They don’t know the meaning of that. But I do.” He looked at Grief with abrupt suspicion. “What do you make out of it, eh? What do you make out of it?”

David Grief caught a swift vision of an alcoholic degenerate putting a very loving young couple to death with a copper spike, for a copper spike was what he held in his hand, an evident old-fashioned ship-fastening.

“My mother thinks I’m up here to get cured of the booze habit. She doesn’t know. I bribed the doctor to prescribe a voyage. When we get to Papeete my manager is going to charter a schooner and away we’ll sail. But they don’t dream. They think it’s the booze. I know. I only know. Good night, sir. I’m going to bed--unless--er--you’ll join me in a night cap. One last drink, you know.”


II

In the week that followed at Papeete Grief caught numerous and bizarre glimpses of Aloysius Pankburn. So did everybody else in the little island capital; for neither the beach nor Lavina’s boarding house had been so scandalized in years. In midday, bareheaded, clad only in swimming trunks, Aloysius Pankburn ran down the main street from Lavina’s to the water front. He put on the gloves with a fireman from the Berthe in a scheduled four-round bout at the Folies BergËres, and was knocked out in the second round. He tried insanely to drown himself in a two-foot pool of water, dived drunkenly and splendidly from fifty feet up in the rigging of the Mariposa lying at the wharf, and chartered the cutter Toerau at more than her purchase price and was only saved by his manager’s refusal financially to ratify the agreement. He bought out the old blind leper at the market, and sold breadfruit, plantains, and sweet potatoes at such cut-rates that the gendarmes were called out to break the rush of bargain-hunting natives. For that matter, three times the gendarmes arrested him for riotous behaviour, and three times his manager ceased from love-making long enough to pay the fines imposed by a needy colonial administration.

Then the Mariposa sailed for San Francisco, and in the bridal suite were the manager and the trained nurse, fresh-married. Before departing, the manager had thoughtfully bestowed eight five-pound banknotes on Aloysius, with the foreseen result that Aloysius awoke several days later to find himself broke and perilously near to delirium tremens. Lavina, famed for her good heart even among the driftage of South Pacific rogues and scamps, nursed him around and never let it filter into his returning intelligence that there was neither manager nor money to pay his board.

It was several evenings after this that David Grief, lounging under the after deck awning of the Kittiwake and idly scanning the meagre columns of the Papeete Avant-Coureur, sat suddenly up and almost rubbed his eyes. It was unbelievable, but there it was. The old South Seas Romance was not dead. He read:

WANTED--To exchange a half interest in buried treasure,
worth five million francs, for transportation for one to an
unknown island in the Pacific and facilities for carrying
away the loot. Ask for FOLLY, at Lavina’s.

Grief looked at his watch. It was early yet, only eight o’clock.

“Mr. Carlsen,” he called in the direction of a glowing pipe. “Get the crew for the whale-boat. I’m going ashore.”

The husky voice of the Norwegian mate was raised for’ard, and half a dozen strapping Rapa Islanders ceased their singing and manned the boat.

“I came to see Folly, Mr. Folly, I imagine,” David Grief told Lavina.

He noted the quick interest in her eyes as she turned her head and flung a command in native across two open rooms to the outstanding kitchen. A few minutes later a barefooted native girl padded in and shook her head.

Lavina’s disappointment was evident.

“You’re stopping aboard the Kittiwake, aren’t you?” she said. “I’ll tell him you called.”

“Then it is a he?” Grief queried.

Lavina nodded.

“I hope you can do something for him, Captain Grief. I’m only a good-natured woman. I don’t know. But he’s a likable man, and he may be telling the truth; I don’t know. You’ll know. You’re not a soft-hearted fool like me. Can’t I mix you a cocktail?”


III

Back on board his schooner and dozing in a deck chair under a three-months-old magazine, David Grief was aroused by a sobbing, slubbering noise from overside. He opened his eyes. From the Chilian cruiser, a quarter of a mile away, came the stroke of eight bells. It was midnight. From overside came a splash and another slubbering noise. To him it seemed half amphibian, half the sounds of a man crying to himself and querulously chanting his sorrows to the general universe.

A jump took David Grief to the low rail. Beneath, centred about the slubbering noise, was an area of agitated phosphorescence. Leaning over, he locked his hand under the armpit of a man, and, with pull and heave and quick-changing grips, he drew on deck the naked form of Aloysius Pankburn.

“I didn’t have a sou-markee,” he complained. “I had to swim it, and I couldn’t find your gangway. It was very miserable. Pardon me. If you have a towel to put about my middle, and a good stiff drink, I’ll be more myself. I’m Mr. Folly, and you’re the Captain Grief, I presume, who called on me when I was out. No, I’m not drunk. Nor am I cold. This isn’t shivering. Lavina allowed me only two drinks to-day. I’m on the edge of the horrors, that’s all, and I was beginning to see things when I couldn’t find the gangway. If you’ll take me below I’ll be very grateful. You are the only one that answered my advertisement.”

He was shaking pitiably in the warm night, and down in the cabin, before he got his towel, Grief saw to it that a half-tumbler of whiskey was in his hand.

“Now fire ahead,” Grief said, when he had got his guest into a shirt and a pair of duck trousers. “What’s this advertisement of yours? I’m listening.”

Pankburn looked at the whiskey bottle, but Grief shook his head.

“All right, Captain, though I tell you on whatever is left of my honour that I am not drunk--not in the least. Also, what I shall tell you is true, and I shall tell it briefly, for it is clear to me that you are a man of affairs and action. Likewise, your chemistry is good. To you alcohol has never been a million maggots gnawing at every cell of you. You’ve never been to hell. I am there now. I am scorching. Now listen.

“My mother is alive. She is English. I was born in Australia. I was educated at York and Yale. I am a master of arts, a doctor of philosophy, and I am no good. Furthermore, I am an alcoholic. I have been an athlete. I used to swan-dive a hundred and ten feet in the clear. I hold several amateur records. I am a fish. I learned the crawl-stroke from the first of the Cavilles. I have done thirty miles in a rough sea. I have another record. I have punished more whiskey than any man of my years. I will steal sixpence from you for the price of a drink. Finally, I will tell you the truth.

“My father was an American--an Annapolis man. He was a midshipman in the War of the Rebellion. In ‘66 he was a lieutenant on the Suwanee. Her captain was Paul Shirley. In ‘66 the Suwanee coaled at an island in the Pacific which I do not care to mention, under a protectorate which did not exist then and which shall be nameless. Ashore, behind the bar of a public house, my father saw three copper spikes--ship’s spikes.”

David Grief smiled quietly.

“And now I can tell you the name of the coaling station and of the protectorate that came afterward,” he said.

“And of the three spikes?” Pankburn asked with equal quietness. “Go ahead, for they are in my possession now.”

“Certainly. They were behind German Oscar’s bar at Peenoo-Peenee. Johnny Black brought them there from off his schooner the night he died. He was just back from a long cruise to the westward, fishing beche-de-mer and sandalwood trading. All the beach knows the tale.”

Pankburn shook his head.

“Go on,” he urged.

“It was before my time, of course,” Grief explained. “I only tell what I’ve heard. Next came the Ecuadoran cruiser, of all directions, in from the westward, and bound home. Her officers recognized the spikes. Johnny Black was dead. They got hold of his mate and logbook. Away to the westward went she. Six months after, again bound home, she dropped in at Peenoo-Peenee. She had failed, and the tale leaked out.”

“When the revolutionists were marching on Guayaquil,” Pankburn took it up, “the federal officers, believing a defence of the city hopeless, salted down the government treasure chest, something like a million dollars gold, but all in English coinage, and put it on board the American schooner Flirt. They were going to run at daylight. The American captain skinned out in the middle of the night. Go on.”

“It’s an old story,” Grief resumed. “There was no other vessel in the harbour. The federal leaders couldn’t run. They put their backs to the wall and held the city. Rohjas Salced, making a forced march from Quito, raised the siege. The revolution was broken, and the one ancient steamer that constituted the Ecuadoran navy was sent in pursuit of the Flirt. They caught her, between the Banks Group and the New Hebrides, hove to and flying distress signals. The captain had died the day before--blackwater fever.”

“And the mate?” Pankburn challenged.

“The mate had been killed a week earlier by the natives on one of the Banks, when they sent a boat in for water. There were no navigators left. The men were put to the torture. It was beyond international law. They wanted to confess, but couldn’t. They told of the three spikes in the trees on the beach, but where the island was they did not know. To the westward, far to the westward, was all they knew. The tale now goes two ways. One is that they all died under the torture. The other is that the survivors were swung at the yardarm. At any rate, the Ecuadoran cruiser went home without the treasure. Johnny Black brought the three spikes to Peenoo-Peenee, and left them at German Oscar’s, but how and where he found them he never told.”

Pankburn looked hard at the whiskey bottle.

“Just two fingers,” he whimpered.

Grief considered, and poured a meagre drink. Pankburn’s eyes sparkled, and he took new lease of life.

“And this is where I come in with the missing details,” he said. “Johnny Black did tell. He told my father. Wrote him from Levuka, before he came on to die at Peenoo-Peenee. My father had saved his life one rough-house night in Valparaiso. A Chink pearler, out of Thursday Island, prospecting for new grounds to the north of New Guinea, traded for the three spikes with a nigger. Johnny Black bought them for copper weight. He didn’t dream any more than the Chink, but coming back he stopped for hawksbill turtle at the very beach where you say the mate of the Flirt was killed. Only he wasn’t killed. The Banks Islanders held him prisoner, and he was dying of necrosis of the jawbone, caused by an arrow wound in the fight on the beach. Before he died he told the yarn to Johnny Black. Johnny Black wrote my father from Levuka. He was at the end of his rope--cancer. My father, ten years afterward, when captain of the Perry, got the spikes from German Oscar. And from my father, last will and testament, you know, came the spikes and the data. I have the island, the latitude and longitude of the beach where the three spikes were nailed in the trees. The spikes are up at Lavina’s now. The latitude and longitude are in my head. Now what do you think?”

“Fishy,” was Grief’s instant judgment. “Why didn’t your father go and get it himself?”

“Didn’t need it. An uncle died and left him a fortune. He retired from the navy, ran foul of an epidemic of trained nurses in Boston, and my mother got a divorce. Also, she fell heir to an income of something like thirty thousand dollars, and went to live in New Zealand. I was divided between them, half-time New Zealand, half-time United States, until my father’s death last year. Now my mother has me altogether. He left me his money--oh, a couple of millions--but my mother has had guardians appointed on account of the drink. I’m worth all kinds of money, but I can’t touch a penny save what is doled out to me. But the old man, who had got the tip on my drinking, left me the three spikes and the data thereunto pertaining. Did it through his lawyers, unknown to my mother; said it beat life insurance, and that if I had the backbone to go and get it I could drink my back teeth awash until I died. Millions in the hands of my guardians, slathers of shekels of my mother’s that’ll be mine if she beats me to the crematory, another million waiting to be dug up, and in the meantime I’m cadging on Lavina for two drinks a day. It’s hell, isn’t it?--when you consider my thirst.”

“Where’s the island?”

“It’s a long way from here.”

“Name it.”

“Not on your life, Captain Grief. You’re making an easy half-million out of this. You will sail under my directions, and when we’re well to sea and on our way I’ll tell you and not before.”

Grief shrugged his shoulders, dismissing the subject.

“When I’ve given you another drink I’ll send the boat ashore with you,” he said.

Pankburn was taken aback. For at least five minutes he debated with himself, then licked his lips and surrendered.

“If you promise to go, I’ll tell you now.”

“Of course I’m willing to go. That’s why I asked you. Name the island.”

Pankburn looked at the bottle.

“I’ll take that drink now, Captain.”

“No you won’t. That drink was for you if you went ashore. If you are going to tell me the island, you must do it in your sober senses.”

“Francis Island, if you will have it. Bougainville named it Barbour Island.”

“Off there all by its lonely in the Little Coral Sea,” Grief said. “I know it. Lies between New Ireland and New Guinea. A rotten hole now, though it was all right when the Flirt drove in the spikes and the Chink pearler traded for them. The steamship Castor, recruiting labour for the Upolu plantations, was cut off there with all hands two years ago. I knew her captain well. The Germans sent a cruiser, shelled the bush, burned half a dozen villages, killed a couple of niggers and a lot of pigs, and--and that was all. The niggers always were bad there, but they turned really bad forty years ago. That was when they cut off a whaler. Let me see? What was her name?”

He stepped to the bookshelf, drew out the bulky “South Pacific Directory,” and ran through its pages.

“Yes. Here it is. Francis, or Barbour,” he skimmed. “Natives warlike and treacherous--Melanesian--cannibals. Whaleship Western cut off--that was her name. Shoals--points--anchorages--ah, Redscar, Owen Bay, Likikili Bay, that’s more like it; deep indentation, mangrove swamps, good holding in nine fathoms when white scar in bluff bears west-southwest.” Grief looked up. “That’s your beach, Pankburn, I’ll swear.”

“Will you go?” the other demanded eagerly.

Grief nodded.

“It sounds good to me. Now if the story had been of a hundred millions, or some such crazy sum, I wouldn’t look at it for a moment. We’ll sail to-morrow, but under one consideration. You are to be absolutely under my orders.”

His visitor nodded emphatically and joyously.

“And that means no drink.”

“That’s pretty hard,” Pankburn whined.

“It’s my terms. I’m enough of a doctor to see you don’t come to harm. And you are to work--hard work, sailor’s work. You’ll stand regular watches and everything, though you eat and sleep aft with us.”

“It’s a go.” Pankburn put out his hand to ratify the agreement. “If it doesn’t kill me,” he added.

David Grief poured a generous three-fingers into the tumbler and extended it.

“Then here’s your last drink. Take it.”

Pankburn’s hand went halfway out. With a sudden spasm of resolution, he hesitated, threw back his shoulders, and straightened up his head.

“I guess I won’t,” he began, then, feebly surrendering to the gnaw of desire, he reached hastily for the glass, as if in fear that it would be withdrawn.


IV

It is a long traverse from Papeete in the Societies to the Little Coral Sea--from 100 west longitude to 150 east longitude--as the crow flies the equivalent to a voyage across the Atlantic. But the Kittiwake did not go as the crow flies. David Grief’s numerous interests diverted her course many times. He stopped to take a look-in at uninhabited Rose Island with an eye to colonizing and planting cocoa-nuts. Next, he paid his respects to Tui Manua, of Eastern Samoa, and opened an intrigue for a share of the trade monopoly of that dying king’s three islands. From Apia he carried several relief agents and a load of trade goods to the Gilberts. He peeped in at Ontong-Java Atoll, inspected his plantations on Ysabel, and purchased lands from the salt-water chiefs of northwestern Malaita. And all along this devious way he made a man of Aloysius Pankburn.

That thirster, though he lived aft, was compelled to do the work of a common sailor. And not only did he take his wheel and lookout, and heave on sheets and tackles, but the dirtiest and most arduous tasks were appointed him. Swung aloft in a bosun’s chair, he scraped the masts and slushed down. Holystoning the deck or scrubbing it with fresh limes made his back ache and developed the wasted, flabby muscles. When the Kittiwake lay at anchor and her copper bottom was scrubbed with cocoa-nut husks by the native crew, who dived and did it under water, Pankburn was sent down on his shift and as many times as any on the shift.

“Look at yourself,” Grief said. “You are twice the man you were when you came on board. You haven’t had one drink, you didn’t die, and the poison is pretty well worked out of you. It’s the work. It beats trained nurses and business managers. Here, if you’re thirsty. Clap your lips to this.”

With several deft strokes of his heavy-backed sheath-knife, Grief clipped a triangular piece of shell from the end of a husked drinking-cocoa-nut. The thin, cool liquid, slightly milky and effervescent, bubbled to the brim. With a bow, Pankburn took the natural cup, threw his head back, and held it back till the shell was empty. He drank many of these nuts each day. The black steward, a New Hebrides boy sixty years of age, and his assistant, a Lark Islander of eleven, saw to it that he was continually supplied.

Pankburn did not object to the hard work. He devoured work, never shirking and always beating the native sailors in jumping to obey a command. But his sufferings during the period of driving the alcohol out of his system were truly heroic. Even when the last shred of the poison was exuded, the desire, as an obsession, remained in his head. So it was, when, on his honour, he went ashore at Apia, that he attempted to put the public houses out of business by drinking up their stocks in trade. And so it was, at two in the morning, that David Grief found him in front of the Tivoli, out of which he had been disorderly thrown by Charley Roberts. Aloysius, as of old, was chanting his sorrows to the stars. Also, and more concretely, he was punctuating the rhythm with cobbles of coral stone, which he flung with amazing accuracy through Charley Roberts’s windows.

David Grief took him away, but not till next morning did he take him in hand. It was on the deck of the Kittiwake, and there was nothing kindergarten about it. Grief struck him, with bare knuckles, punched him and punished him--gave him the worst thrashing he had ever received.

“For the good of your soul, Pankburn,” was the way he emphasized his blows. “For the good of your mother. For the progeny that will come after. For the good of the world, and the universe, and the whole race of man yet to be. And now, to hammer the lesson home, we’ll do it all over again. That, for the good of your soul; and that, for your mother’s sake; and that, for the little children, undreamed of and unborn, whose mother you’ll love for their sakes, and for love’s sake, in the lease of manhood that will be yours when I am done with you. Come on and take your medicine. I’m not done with you yet. I’ve only begun. There are many other reasons which I shall now proceed to expound.” The brown sailors and the black stewards and cook looked on and grinned. Far from them was the questioning of any of the mysterious and incomprehensible ways of white men. As for Carlsen, the mate, he was grimly in accord with the treatment his employer was administering; while Albright, the supercargo, merely played with his mustache and smiled. They were men of the sea. They lived life in the rough. And alcohol, in themselves as well as in other men, was a problem they had learned to handle in ways not taught in doctors’ schools.

“Boy! A bucket of fresh water and a towel,” Grief ordered, when he had finished. “Two buckets and two towels,” he added, as he surveyed his own hands.

“You’re a pretty one,” he said to Pankburn. “You’ve spoiled everything. I had the poison completely out of you. And now you are fairly reeking with it. We’ve got to begin all over again. Mr. Albright! You know that pile of old chain on the beach at the boat-landing. Find the owner, buy it, and fetch it on board. There must be a hundred and fifty fathoms of it. Pankburn! To-morrow morning you start in pounding the rust off of it. When you’ve done that, you’ll sandpaper it. Then you’ll paint it. And nothing else will you do till that chain is as smooth as new.”

Aloysius Pankburn shook his head.

“I quit. Francis Island can go to hell for all of me. I’m done with your slave-driving. Kindly put me ashore at once. I’m a white man. You can’t treat me this way.”

“Mr. Carlsen, you will see that Mr. Pankburn remains on board.”

“I’ll have you broken for this!” Aloysius screamed. “You can’t stop me.”

“I can give you another licking,” Grief answered. “And let me tell you one thing, you besotted whelp, I’ll keep on licking you as long as my knuckles hold out or until you yearn to hammer chain rust. I’ve taken you in hand, and I’m going to make a man out of you if I have to kill you to do it. Now go below and change your clothes. Be ready to turn to with a hammer this afternoon. Mr. Albright, get that chain aboard pronto. Mr. Carlsen, send the boats ashore after it. Also, keep your eye on Pankburn. If he shows signs of keeling over or going into the shakes, give him a nip--a small one. He may need it after last night.”


V

For the rest of the time the Kittiwake lay in Apia Aloysius Pankburn pounded chain rust. Ten hours a day he pounded. And on the long stretch across to the Gilberts he still pounded.

Then came the sandpapering. One hundred and fifty fathoms is nine hundred feet, and every link of all that length was smoothed and polished as no link ever was before. And when the last link had received its second coat of black paint, he declared himself.

“Come on with more dirty work,” he told Grief. “I’ll overhaul the other chains if you say so. And you needn’t worry about me any more. I’m not going to take another drop. I’m going to train up. You got my proud goat when you beat me, but let me tell you, you only got it temporarily. Train! I’m going to train till I’m as hard all the way through, and clean all the way through, as that chain is. And some day, Mister David Grief, somewhere, somehow, I’m going to be in such shape that I’ll lick you as you licked me. I’m going to pulp your face till your own niggers won’t know you.”

Grief was jubilant.

“Now you’re talking like a man,” he cried. “The only way you’ll ever lick me is to become a man. And then, maybe--“

He paused in the hope that the other would catch the suggestion. Aloysius groped for it, and, abruptly, something akin to illumination shone in his eyes.

“And then I won’t want to, you mean?”

Grief nodded.

“And that’s the curse of it,” Aloysius lamented. “I really believe I won’t want to. I see the point. But I’m going to go right on and shape myself up just the same.”

The warm, sunburn glow in Grief’s face seemed to grow warmer. His hand went out.

“Pankburn, I love you right now for that.”

Aloysius grasped the hand, and shook his head in sad sincerity.

“Grief,” he mourned, “you’ve got my goat, you’ve got my proud goat, and you’ve got it permanently, I’m afraid.”


VI

On a sultry tropic day, when the last flicker of the far southeast trade was fading out and the seasonal change for the northwest monsoon was coming on, the Kittiwake lifted above the sea-rim the jungle-clad coast of Francis Island.

Grief, with compass bearings and binoculars, identified the volcano that marked Redscar, ran past Owen Bay, and lost the last of the breeze at the entrance to Likikili Bay. With the two whaleboats out and towing, and with Carl-sen heaving the lead, the Kittiwake sluggishly entered a deep and narrow indentation. There were no beaches. The mangroves began at the water’s edge, and behind them rose steep jungle, broken here and there by jagged peaks of rock. At the end of a mile, when the white scar on the bluff bore west-southwest, the lead vindicated the “Directory,” and the anchor rumbled down in nine fathoms.

For the rest of that day and until the afternoon of the day following they remained on the Kittiwake and waited. No canoes appeared. There were no signs of human life. Save for the occasional splash of a fish or the screaming of cockatoos, there seemed no other life. Once, however, a huge butterfly, twelve inches from tip to tip, fluttered high over their mastheads and drifted across to the opposing jungle.

“There’s no use in sending a boat in to be cut up,” Grief said.

Pankburn was incredulous, and volunteered to go in alone, to swim it if he couldn’t borrow the dingey.

“They haven’t forgotten the German cruiser,” Grief explained. “And I’ll wager that bush is alive with men right now. What do you think, Mr. Carlsen?”

That veteran adventurer of the islands was emphatic in his agreement.

In the late afternoon of the second day Grief ordered a whaleboat into the water. He took his place in the bow, a live cigarette in his mouth and a short-fused stick of dynamite in his hand, for he was bent on shooting a mess of fish. Along the thwarts half a dozen Winchesters were placed. Albright, who took the steering-sweep, had a Mauser within reach of hand. They pulled in and along the green wall of vegetation. At times they rested on the oars in the midst of a profound silence.

“Two to one the bush is swarming with them--in quids,” Albright whispered.

Pankburn listened a moment longer and took the bet. Five minutes later they sighted a school of mullet. The brown rowers held their oars. Grief touched the short fuse to his cigarette and threw the stick. So short was the fuse that the stick exploded in the instant after it struck the water. And in that same instant the bush exploded into life. There were wild yells of defiance, and black and naked bodies leaped forward like apes through the mangroves.

In the whaleboat every rifle was lifted. Then came the wait. A hundred blacks, some few armed with ancient Sniders, but the greater portion armed with tomahawks, fire-hardened spears, and bone-tipped arrows, clustered on the roots that rose out of the bay. No word was spoken. Each party watched the other across twenty feet of water. An old, one-eyed black, with a bristly face, rested a Snider on his hip, the muzzle directed at Albright, who, in turn, covered him back with the Mauser. A couple of minutes of this tableau endured. The stricken fish rose to the surface or struggled half-stunned in the clear depths.

“It’s all right, boys,” Grief said quietly. “Put down your guns and over the side with you. Mr. Albright, toss the tobacco to that one-eyed brute.”

While the Rapa men dived for the fish, Albright threw a bundle of trade tobacco ashore. The one-eyed man nodded his head and writhed his features in an attempt at amiability. Weapons were lowered, bows unbent, and arrows put back in their quivers.

“They know tobacco,” Grief announced, as they rowed back aboard. “We’ll have visitors. You’ll break out a case of tobacco, Mr. Albright, and a few trade-knives. There’s a canoe now.”

Old One-Eye, as befitted a chief and leader, paddled out alone, facing peril for the rest of the tribe. As Carlsen leaned over the rail to help the visitor up, he turned his head and remarked casually:

“They’ve dug up the money, Mr. Grief. The old beggar’s loaded with it.”

One-Eye floundered down on deck, grinning appeasingly and failing to hide the fear he had overcome but which still possessed him. He was lame of one leg, and this was accounted for by a terrible scar, inches deep, which ran down the thigh from hip to knee. No clothes he wore whatever, not even a string, but his nose, perforated in a dozen places and each perforation the setting for a carved spine of bone, bristled like a porcupine. Around his neck and hanging down on his dirty chest was a string of gold sovereigns. His ears were hung with silver half-crowns, and from the cartilage separating his nostrils depended a big English penny, tarnished and green, but unmistakable.

“Hold on, Grief,” Pankburn said, with perfectly assumed carelessness. “You say they know only beads and tobacco. Very well. You follow my lead. They’ve found the treasure, and we’ve got to trade them out of it. Get the whole crew aside and lecture them that they are to be interested only in the pennies. Savve? Gold coins must be beneath contempt, and silver coins merely tolerated. Pennies are to be the only desirable things.”

Pankburn took charge of the trading. For the penny in One-Eye’s nose he gave ten sticks of tobacco. Since each stick cost David Grief a cent, the bargain was manifestly unfair. But for the half-crowns Pankburn gave only one stick each. The string of sovereigns he refused to consider. The more he refused, the more One-Eye insisted on a trade. At last, with an appearance of irritation and anger, and as a palpable concession, Pankburn gave two sticks for the string, which was composed of ten sovereigns.

“I take my hat off to you,” Grief said to Pankburn that night at dinner. “The situation is patent. You’ve reversed the scale of value. They’ll figure the pennies as priceless possessions and the sovereigns as beneath price. Result: they’ll hang on to the pennies and force us to trade for sovereigns. Pankburn, I drink your health! Boy!--another cup of tea for Mr. Pankburn.”


VII

Followed a golden week. From dawn till dark a row of canoes rested on their paddles two hundred feet away. This was the deadline. Rapa sailors, armed with rifles, maintained it. But one canoe at a time was permitted alongside, and but one black at a time was permitted to come over the rail. Here, under the awning, relieving one another in hourly shifts, the four white men carried on the trade. The rate of exchange was that established by Pankburn with One-Eye. Five sovereigns fetched a stick of tobacco; a hundred sovereigns, twenty sticks. Thus, a crafty-eyed cannibal would deposit on the table a thousand dollars in gold, and go back over the rail, hugely-satisfied, with forty cents’ worth of tobacco in his hand.

“Hope we’ve got enough tobacco to hold out,” Carlsen muttered dubiously, as another case was sawed in half.

Albright laughed.

“We’ve got fifty cases below,” he said, “and as I figure it, three cases buy a hundred thousand dollars. There was only a million dollars buried, so thirty cases ought to get it. Though, of course, we’ve got to allow a margin for the silver and the pennies. That Ecuadoran bunch must have salted down all the coin in sight.”

Very few pennies and shillings appeared, though Pankburn continually and anxiously inquired for them. Pennies were the one thing he seemed to desire, and he made his eyes flash covetously whenever one was produced. True to his theory, the savages concluded that the gold, being of slight value, must be disposed of first. A penny, worth fifty times as much as a sovereign, was something to retain and treasure. Doubtless, in their jungle-lairs, the wise old gray-beards put their heads together and agreed to raise the price on pennies when the worthless gold was all worked off. Who could tell? Mayhap the strange white men could be made to give even twenty sticks for a priceless copper.

By the end of the week the trade went slack. There was only the slightest dribble of gold. An occasional penny was reluctantly disposed of for ten sticks, while several thousand dollars in silver came in.

On the morning of the eighth day no trading was done. The gray-beards had matured their plan and were demanding twenty sticks for a penny, One-Eye delivered the new rate of exchange. The white men appeared to take it with great seriousness, for they stood together debating in low voices. Had One-Eye understood English he would have been enlightened.

“We’ve got just a little over eight hundred thousand, not counting the silver,” Grief said. “And that’s about all there is. The bush tribes behind have most probably got the other two hundred thousand. Return in three months, and the salt-water crowd will have traded back for it; also they will be out of tobacco by that time.”

“It would be a sin to buy pennies,” Albright grinned. “It goes against the thrifty grain of my trader’s soul.”

“There’s a whiff of land-breeze stirring,” Grief said, looking at Pankburn. “What do you say?”

Pankburn nodded.

“Very well.” Grief measured the faintness and irregularity of the wind against his cheek.

“Mr. Carlsen, heave short, and get off the gaskets. And stand by with the whaleboats to tow. This breeze is not dependable.”

He picked up a part case of tobacco, containing six or seven hundred sticks, put it in One-Eye’s hands, and helped that bewildered savage over the rail. As the foresail went up the mast, a wail of consternation arose from the canoes lying along the dead-line. And as the anchor broke out and the Kittiwake’s head paid off in the light breeze, old One-Eye, daring the rifles levelled on him, paddled alongside and made frantic signs of his tribe’s willingness to trade pennies for ten sticks.

“Boy!--a drinking nut,” Pankburn called.

“It’s Sydney Heads for you,” Grief said. “And then what?”

“I’m coming back with you for that two hundred thousand,” Pankburn answered. “In the meantime I’m going to build an island schooner. Also, I’m going to call those guardians of mine before the court to show cause why my father’s money should not be turned over to me. Show cause? I’ll show them cause why it should.”

He swelled his biceps proudly under the thin sleeve, reached for the two black stewards, and put them above his head like a pair of dumbbells.

“Come on! Swing out on that fore-boom-tackle!” Carlsen shouted from aft, where the mainsail was being winged out.

Pankburn dropped the stewards and raced for it, beating a Rapa sailor by two jumps to the hauling part.

The Race For Number Three

“HUH! Get on to the glad rags!”

Shorty surveyed his partner with simulated disapproval, and Smoke, vainly attempting to rub the wrinkles out of the pair of trousers he had just put on, was irritated.

“They sure fit you close for a second-hand buy,” Shorty went on. “What was the tax?”

“One hundred and fifty for the suit,” Smoke answered. “The man was nearly my own size. I thought it was remarkably reasonable. What are you kicking about?”

“Who? Me? Oh, nothin’. I was just thinkin’ it was goin’ some for a meat-eater that hit Dawson in an ice-jam, with no grub, one suit of underclothes, a pair of mangy moccasins, an’ overalls that looked like they’d been through the wreck of the Hesperus. Pretty gay front, pardner. Pretty gay front. Say--?”

“What do you want now?” Smoke demanded testily.

“What’s her name?”

“There isn’t any her, my friend. I’m to have dinner at Colonel Bowie’s, if you want to know. The trouble with you, Shorty, is you’re envious because I’m going into high society and you’re not invited.”

“Ain’t you some late?” Shorty queried with concern.

“What do you mean?”

“For dinner. They’ll be eatin’ supper when you get there.”

Smoke was about to explain with crudely elaborate sarcasm when he caught the twinkle in the other’s eye. He went on dressing, with fingers that had lost their deftness, tying a Windsor tie in a bow-knot at the throat of his soft cotton shirt.

“Wisht I hadn’t sent all my starched shirts to the laundry,” Shorty murmured sympathetically. “I might ‘a’ fitted you out.”

By this time Smoke was straining at a pair of shoes. The woollen socks were too thick to go into them. He looked appealingly at Shorty, who shook his head.

“Nope. If I had thin ones I wouldn’t lend ’em to you. Back to the moccasins, pardner. You’d sure freeze your toes in skimpy-fangled gear like that.”

“I paid fifteen dollars for them, second hand,” Smoke lamented.

“I reckon they won’t be a man not in moccasins.”

“But there are to be women, Shorty. I’m going to sit down and eat with real live women--Mrs. Bowie, and several others, so the Colonel told me.”

“Well, moccasins won’t spoil their appetite none,” was Shorty’s comment. “Wonder what the Colonel wants with you?”

“I don’t know, unless he’s heard about my finding Surprise Lake. It will take a fortune to drain it, and the Guggenheims are out for investment.”

“Reckon that’s it. That’s right, stick to the moccasins. Gee! That coat is sure wrinkled, an’ it fits you a mite too swift. Just peck around at your vittles. If you eat hearty you’ll bust through. An’ if them women folks gets to droppin’ handkerchiefs, just let ’em lay. Don’t do any pickin’ up. Whatever you do, don’t.”

As became a high-salaried expert and the representative of the great house of Guggenheim, Colonel Bowie lived in one of the most magnificent cabins in Dawson. Of squared logs, hand-hewn, it was two stories high, and of such extravagant proportions that it boasted a big living room that was used for a living room and for nothing else.

Here were big bear-skins on the rough board floor, and on the walls horns of moose and caribou. Here roared an open fireplace and a big wood-burning stove. And here Smoke met the social elect of Dawson--not the mere pick-handle millionaires, but the ultra-cream of a mining city whose population had been recruited from all the world--men like Warburton Jones, the explorer and writer; Captain Consadine of the Mounted Police; Haskell, Gold Commissioner of the Northwest Territory; and Baron Von Schroeder, an emperor’s favourite with an international duelling reputation.

And here, dazzling in evening gown, he met Joy Gastell, whom hitherto he had encountered only on trail, befurred and moccasined. At dinner he found himself beside her.

“I feel like a fish out of water,” he confessed. “All you folks are so real grand you know. Besides, I never dreamed such Oriental luxury existed in the Klondike. Look at Von Schroeder there. He’s actually got a dinner jacket, and Consadine’s got a starched shirt. I noticed he wore moccasins just the same. How do you like MY outfit?”

He moved his shoulders about as if preening himself for Joy’s approval.

“It looks as if you’d grown stout since you came over the Pass,” she laughed.

“Wrong. Guess again.”

“It’s somebody else’s.”

“You win. I bought it for a price from one of the clerks at the A. C. Company.”

“It’s a shame clerks are so narrow-shouldered,” she sympathized. “And you haven’t told me what you think of MY outfit.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m out of breath. I’ve been living on trail too long. This sort of thing comes to me with a shock, you know. I’d quite forgotten that women have arms and shoulders. To-morrow morning, like my friend Shorty, I’ll wake up and know it’s all a dream. Now, the last time I saw you on Squaw Creek--“

“I was just a squaw,” she broke in.

“I hadn’t intended to say that. I was remembering that it was on Squaw Creek that I discovered you had feet.”

“And I can never forget that you saved them for me,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to see you ever since to thank you--“ (He shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly). “And that’s why you are here to-night.”

“You asked the Colonel to invite me?”

“No! Mrs. Bowie. And I asked her to let me have you at table. And here’s my chance. Everybody’s talking. Listen, and don’t interrupt. You know Mono Creek?”

“Yes.”

“It has turned out rich--dreadfully rich. They estimate the claims as worth a million and more apiece. It was only located the other day.”

“I remember the stampede.”

“Well, the whole creek was staked to the sky-line, and all the feeders, too. And yet, right now, on the main creek, Number Three below Discovery is unrecorded. The creek was so far away from Dawson that the Commissioner allowed sixty days for recording after location. Every claim was recorded except Number Three below. It was staked by Cyrus Johnson. And that was all. Cyrus Johnson has disappeared. Whether he died, whether he went down river or up, nobody knows. Anyway, in six days, the time for recording will be up. Then the man who stakes it, and reaches Dawson first and records it, gets it.”

“A million dollars,” Smoke murmured.

“Gilchrist, who has the next claim below, has got six hundred dollars in a single pan off bedrock. He’s burned one hole down. And the claim on the other side is even richer. I know.”

“But why doesn’t everybody know?” Smoke queried skeptically.

“They’re beginning to know. They kept it secret for a long time, and it is only now that it’s coming out. Good dog-teams will be at a premium in another twenty-four hours. Now, you’ve got to get away as decently as you can as soon as dinner is over. I’ve arranged it. An Indian will come with a message for you. You read it, let on that you’re very much put out, make your excuses, and get away.”

“I--er--I fail to follow.”

“Ninny!” she exclaimed in a half-whisper. “What you must do is to get out to-night and hustle dog-teams. I know of two. There’s Hanson’s team, seven big Hudson Bay dogs--he’s holding them at four hundred each. That’s top price to-night, but it won’t be to-morrow. And Sitka Charley has eight Malemutes he’s asking thirty-five hundred for. To-morrow he’ll laugh at an offer of five thousand. Then you’ve got your own team of dogs. And you’ll have to buy several more teams. That’s your work to-night. Get the best. It’s dogs as well as men that will win this race. It’s a hundred and ten miles, and you’ll have to relay as frequently as you can.”

“Oh, I see, you want me to go in for it,” Smoke drawled.

“If you haven’t the money for the dogs, I’ll--“ She faltered, but before she could continue, Smoke was speaking.

“I can buy the dogs. But--er--aren’t you afraid this is gambling?”

“After your exploits at roulette in the Elkhorn,” she retorted, “I’m not afraid that you’re afraid. It’s a sporting proposition, if that’s what you mean. A race for a million, and with some of the stiffest dog-mushers and travellers in the country entered against you. They haven’t entered yet, but by this time to-morrow they will, and dogs will be worth what the richest man can afford to pay. Big Olaf is in town. He came up from Circle City last month. He is one of the most terrible dog-mushers in the country, and if he enters he will be your most dangerous man. Arizona Bill is another. He’s been a professional freighter and mail-carrier for years. If he goes in, interest will be centered on him and Big Olaf.”

“And you intend me to come along as a sort of dark horse.”

“Exactly. And it will have its advantages. You will not be supposed to stand a show. After all, you know, you are still classed as a chechako. You haven’t seen the four seasons go around. Nobody will take notice of you until you come into the home stretch in the lead.”

“It’s on the home stretch the dark horse is to show up its classy form, eh?”

She nodded, and continued earnestly: “Remember, I shall never forgive myself for the trick I played on the Squaw Creek stampede unless you win this Mono claim. And if any man can win this race against the old-timers, it’s you.”

It was the way she said it. He felt warm all over, and in his heart and head. He gave her a quick, searching look, involuntary and serious, and for the moment that her eyes met his steadily, ere they fell, it seemed to him that he read something of vaster import than the claim Cyrus Johnson had failed to record.

“I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll win it.”

The glad light in her eyes seemed to promise a greater meed than all the gold in the Mono claim. He was aware of a movement of her hand in her lap next to his. Under the screen of the tablecloth he thrust his own hand across and met a firm grip of woman’s fingers that sent another wave of warmth through him.

“What will Shorty say?” was the thought that flashed whimsically through his mind as he withdrew his hand. He glanced almost jealously at the faces of Von Schroeder and Jones, and wondered if they had not divined the remarkableness and deliciousness of this woman who sat beside him.

He was aroused by her voice, and realized that she had been speaking some moments.

“So you see, Arizona Bill is a white Indian,” she was saying. “And Big Olaf is a bear wrestler, a king of the snows, a mighty savage. He can out-travel and out-endure an Indian, and he’s never known any other life but that of the wild and the frost.”

“Who’s that?” Captain Consadine broke in from across the table.

“Big Olaf,” she answered. “I was just telling Mr. Bellew what a traveller he is.”

“You’re right,” the Captain’s voice boomed. “Big Olaf is the greatest traveller in the Yukon. I’d back him against Old Nick himself for snow-bucking and ice-travel. He brought in the government dispatches in 1895, and he did it after two couriers were frozen on Chilkoot and the third drowned in the open water of Thirty Mile.”

Smoke had travelled in a leisurely fashion up to Mono Creek, fearing to tire his dogs before the big race. Also, he had familiarized himself with every mile of the trail and located his relay camps. So many men had entered the race that the hundred and ten miles of its course was almost a continuous village. Relay camps were everywhere along the trail. Von Schroeder, who had gone in purely for the sport, had no less than eleven dog-teams--a fresh one for every ten miles. Arizona Bill had been forced to content himself with eight teams. Big Olaf had seven, which was the complement of Smoke. In addition, over two score of other men were in the running. Not every day, even in the golden north, was a million dollars the prize for a dog race. The country had been swept of dogs. No animal of speed and endurance escaped the fine-tooth comb that had raked the creeks and camps, and the prices of dogs had doubled and quadrupled in the course of the frantic speculation.

Number Three below Discovery was ten miles up Mono Creek from its mouth. The remaining hundred miles was to be run on the frozen breast of the Yukon. On Number Three itself were fifty tents and over three hundred dogs. The old stakes, blazed and scrawled sixty days before by Cyrus Johnson, still stood, and every man had gone over the boundaries of the claim again and again, for the race with the dogs was to be preceded by a foot and obstacle race. Each man had to relocate the claim for himself, and this meant that he must place two center-stakes and four corner-stakes and cross the creek twice, before he could start for Dawson with his dogs.

Furthermore, there were to be no “sooners.” Not until the stroke of midnight of Friday night was the claim open for relocation, and not until the stroke of midnight could a man plant a stake. This was the ruling of the Gold Commissioner at Dawson, and Captain Consadine had sent up a squad of mounted police to enforce it. Discussion had arisen about the difference between sun-time and police-time, but Consadine had sent forth his fiat that police-time went, and, further, that it was the watch of Lieutenant Pollock that went.

The Mono trail ran along the level creek-bed, and, less than two feet in width, was like a groove, walled on either side by the snowfall of months. The problem of how forty-odd sleds and three hundred dogs were to start in so narrow a course was in everybody’s mind.

“Huh!” said Shorty. “It’s goin’ to be the gosh-dangdest mix-up that ever was. I can’t see no way out, Smoke, except main strength an’ sweat an’ to plow through. If the whole creek was glare-ice they ain’t room for a dozen teams abreast. I got a hunch right now they’s goin’ to be a heap of scrappin’ before they get strung out. An’ if any of it comes our way, you got to let me do the punchin’.”

Smoke squared his shoulders and laughed non-committally.

“No, you don’t!” his partner cried in alarm. “No matter what happens, you don’t dast hit. You can’t handle dogs a hundred miles with a busted knuckle, an’ that’s what’ll happen if you land on somebody’s jaw.”

Smoke nodded his head. “You’re right, Shorty. I couldn’t risk the chance.”

“An’ just remember,” Shorty went on, “that I got to do all the shovin’ for them first ten miles, an’ you got to take it easy as you can. I’ll sure jerk you through to the Yukon. After that it’s up to you an’ the dogs. Say--what d’ye think Schroeder’s scheme is? He’s got his first team a quarter of a mile down the creek, an’ he’ll know it by a green lantern. But we got him skinned. Me for the red flare every time.”

The day had been clear and cold, but a blanket of cloud formed across the face of the sky, and the night came on warm and dark, with the hint of snow impending. The thermometer registered fifteen below zero, and in the Klondike winter fifteen below is esteemed very warm.

At a few minutes before midnight, leaving Shorty with the dogs five hundred yards down the creek, Smoke joined the racers on Number Three. There were forty-five of them waiting the start for the thousand thousand dollars Cyrus Johnson had left lying in the frozen gravel. Each man carried six stakes and a heavy wooden mallet, and was clad in a smock-like parka of heavy cotton drill.

Lieutenant Pollock, in a big bearskin coat, looked at his watch by the light of a fire. It lacked a minute of midnight. “Make ready,” he said, as he raised a revolver in his right hand and watched the second hand tick arutenant Pollock, in a big bearskin coat, looked at his watch by the light of a fire. It lacked a minute of midnight. “Make ready,” he said, as he raised a revolver in his right hand and watched the second hand tick around.

Forty-five hoods were thrown back from the parkas. Forty-five pairs of hands unmittened, and forty-five pairs of moccasins pressed tensely into the packed snow. Also, forty-five stakes were thrust into the snow, and the same number of mallets lifted in the air.

The shot rang out, and the mallets fell. Cyrus Johnson’s right to the million had expired. To prevent confusion, Lieutenant Pollock had insisted that the lower center-stake be driven first, next the south-eastern; and so on around the four sides, including the upper center-stake on the way.

Smoke drove in his stake and was away with the leading dozen. Fires had been lighted at the corners, and by each fire stood a policeman, list in hand, checking off the names of the runners. A man was supposed to call out his name and show his face. There was to be no staking by proxy while the real racer was off and away down the creek.

At the first corner, beside Smoke’s stake, Von Schroeder placed his. The mallets struck at the same instant. As they hammered, more arrived from behind and with such impetuosity as to get in one another’s way and cause jostling and shoving. Squirming through the press and calling his name to the policeman, Smoke saw the Baron, struck in collision by one of the rushers, hurled clean off his feet into the snow. But Smoke did not wait. Others were still ahead of him. By the light of the vanishing fire, he was certain that he saw the back, hugely looming, of Big Olaf, and at the southwestern corner Big Olaf and he drove their stakes side by side.

It was no light work, this preliminary obstacle race. The boundaries of the claim totalled nearly a mile, and most of it was over the uneven surface of a snow-covered, niggerhead flat. All about Smoke men tripped and fell, and several times he pitched forward himself, jarringly, on hands and knees. Once, Big Olaf fell so immediately in front of him as to bring him down on top.

The upper center-stake was driven by the edge of the bank, and down the bank the racers plunged, across the frozen creek-bed, and up the other side. Here, as Smoke clambered, a hand gripped his ankle and jerked him back. In the flickering light of a distant fire, it was impossible to see who had played the trick. But Arizona Bill, who had been treated similarly, rose to his feet and drove his fist with a crunch into the offender’s face. Smoke saw and heard as he was scrambling to his feet, but before he could make another lunge for the bank a fist dropped him half-stunned into the snow. He staggered up, located the man, half-swung a hook for his jaw, then remembered Shorty’s warning and refrained. The next moment, struck below the knees by a hurtling body, he went down again.

It was a foretaste of what would happen when the men reached their sleds. Men were pouring over the other bank and piling into the jam. They swarmed up the bank in bunches, and in bunches were dragged back by their impatient fellows. More blows were struck, curses rose from the panting chests of those who still had wind to spare, and Smoke, curiously visioning the face of Joy Gastell, hoped that the mallets would not be brought into play. Overthrown, trod upon, groping in the snow for his lost stakes, he at last crawled out of the crush and attacked the bank farther along. Others were doing this, and it was his luck to have many men in advance of him in the race for the northwestern corner.

Reaching the fourth corner, he tripped headlong and in the long sprawling fall lost his remaining stake. For five minutes he groped in the darkness before he found it, and all the time the panting runners were passing him. From the last corner to the creek he began overtaking men for whom the mile run had been too much. In the creek itself Bedlam had broken loose. A dozen sleds were piled up and overturned, and nearly a hundred dogs were locked in combat. Among them men struggled, tearing the tangled animals apart, or beating them apart with clubs. In the fleeting glimpse he caught of it, Smoke wondered if he had ever seen a Dore grotesquery to compare.

Leaping down the bank beyond the glutted passage, he gained the hard-footing of the sled-trail and made better time. Here, in packed harbors beside the narrow trail, sleds and men waited for runners that were still behind. From the rear came the whine and rush of dogs, and Smoke had barely time to leap aside into the deep snow. A sled tore past, and he made out the man kneeling and shouting madly. Scarcely was it by when it stopped with a crash of battle. The excited dogs of a harbored sled, resenting the passing animals, had got out of hand and sprung upon them.

Smoke plunged around and by. He could see the green lantern of Von Schroeder and, just below it, the red flare that marked his own team. Two men were guarding Schroeder’s dogs, with short clubs interposed between them and the trail.

“Come on, you Smoke! Come on, you Smoke!” he could hear Shorty calling anxiously.

“Coming!” he gasped.

By the red flare, he could see the snow torn up and trampled, and from the way his partner breathed he knew a battle had been fought. He staggered to the sled, and, in a moment he was falling on it, Shorty’s whip snapped as he yelled: “Mush! you devils! Mush!”

The dogs sprang into the breast-bands, and the sled jerked abruptly ahead. They were big animals--Hanson’s prize team of Hudson Bays--and Smoke had selected them for the first stage, which included the ten miles of Mono, the heavy going of the cut-off across the flat at the mouth, and the first ten miles of the Yukon stretch.

“How many are ahead?” he asked.

“You shut up an’ save your wind,” Shorty answered. “Hi! you brutes! Hit her up! Hit her up!”

He was running behind the sled, towing on a short rope. Smoke could not see him; nor could he see the sled on which he lay at full length. The fires had been left in the rear, and they were tearing through a wall of blackness as fast as the dogs could spring into it. This blackness was almost sticky, so nearly did it take on the seeming of substance.

Smoke felt the sled heel up on one runner as it rounded an invisible curve, and from ahead came the snarls of beasts and the oaths of men. This was known afterward as the Barnes-Slocum Jam. It was the teams of these two men which first collided, and into it, at full career, piled Smoke’s seven big fighters. Scarcely more than semi-domesticated wolves, the excitement of that night on Mono Creek had sent every dog fighting mad. The Klondike dogs, driven without reins, cannot be stopped except by voice, so that there was no stopping this glut of struggle that heaped itself between the narrow rims of the creek. From behind, sled after sled hurled into the turmoil. Men who had their teams nearly extricated were overwhelmed by fresh avalanches of dogs--each animal well fed, well rested, and ripe for battle.

“It’s knock down an’ drag out an’ plow through!” Shorty yelled in his partner’s ear. “An’ watch out for your knuckles! You drag dogs out an’ let me do the punchin’!”

What happened in the next half hour Smoke never distinctly remembered. At the end he emerged exhausted, sobbing for breath, his jaw sore from a fist-blow, his shoulder aching from the bruise of a club, the blood running warmly down one leg from the rip of a dog’s fangs, and both sleeves of his parka torn to shreds. As in a dream, while the battle still raged behind, he helped Shorty reharness the dogs. One, dying, they cut from the traces, and in the darkness they felt their way to the repair of the disrupted harness.

“Now you lie down an’ get your wind back,” Shorty commanded.

And through the darkness the dogs sped, with unabated strength, down Mono Creek, across the long cut-off, and to the Yukon. Here, at the junction with the main river-trail, somebody had lighted a fire, and here Shorty said good-bye. By the light of the fire, as the sled leaped behind the flying dogs, Smoke caught another of the unforgettable pictures of the Northland. It was of Shorty, swaying and sinking down limply in the snow, yelling his parting encouragement, one eye blackened and closed, knuckles bruised and broken, and one arm, ripped and fang-torn, gushing forth a steady stream of blood.

“How many ahead?” Smoke asked, as he dropped his tired Hudson Bays and sprang on the waiting sled at the first relay station.

“I counted eleven,” the man called after him, for he was already away, behind the leaping dogs.

Fifteen miles they were to carry him on the next stage, which would fetch him to the mouth of White River. There were nine of them, but they composed his weakest team. The twenty-five miles between White River and Sixty Mile he had broken into two stages because of ice-jams, and here two of his heaviest, toughest teams were stationed.

He lay on the sled at full length, face-down, holding on with both hands. Whenever the dogs slacked from topmost speed he rose to his knees, and, yelling and urging, clinging precariously with one hand, threw his whip into them. Poor team that it was, he passed two sleds before White River was reached. Here, at the freeze-up, a jam had piled a barrier, allowing the open water, that formed for half a mile below, to freeze smoothly. This smooth stretch enabled the racers to make flying exchanges of sleds, and down all the course they had placed their relays below the jams.

Over the jam and out on to the smooth, Smoke tore along, calling loudly, “Billy! Billy!”

Billy heard and answered, and by the light of the many fires on the ice, Smoke saw a sled swing in from the side and come abreast. Its dogs were fresh and overhauled his. As the sleds swerved toward each other he leaped across, and Billy promptly rolled off.

“Where’s Big Olaf?” Smoke cried.

“Leading!” Billy’s voice answered; and the fires were left behind, and Smoke was again flying through the wall of blackness.

In the jams of that relay, where the way led across a chaos of up-ended ice-cakes, and where Smoke slipped off the forward end of the sled and with a haul-rope toiled behind the wheel-dog, he passed three sleds. Accidents had happened, and he could hear the men cutting out dogs and mending harnesses.

Among the jams of the next short relay into Sixty Mile, he passed two more teams. And that he might know adequately what had happened to them, one of his own dogs wrenched a shoulder, was unable to keep up, and was dragged in the harness. Its teammates, angered, fell upon it with their fangs, and Smoke was forced to club them off with the heavy butt of his whip. As he cut the injured animal out, he heard the whining cries of dogs behind him and the voice of a man that was familiar. It was Von Schroeder. Smoke called a warning to prevent a rear-end collision, and the Baron, hawing his animals and swinging on the gee-pole, went by a dozen feet to the side. Yet so impenetrable was the blackness that Smoke heard him pass but never saw him.

On the smooth stretch of ice beside the trading-post at Sixty Mile, Smoke overtook two more sleds. All had just changed teams, and for five minutes they ran abreast, each man on his knees and pouring whip and voice into the maddened dogs. But Smoke had studied out that portion of the trail, and now marked the tall pine on the bank that showed faintly in the light of the many fires. Below that pine was not merely darkness, but an abrupt cessation of the smooth stretch. There the trail, he knew, narrowed to a single sled-width. Leaning out ahead, he caught the haul-rope and drew his leaping sled up to the wheel-dog. He caught the animal by the hind legs and threw it. With a snarl of rage it tried to slash him with its fangs, but was dragged on by the rest of the team. Its body proved an efficient brake, and the two other teams, still abreast, dashed ahead into the darkness for the narrow way.

Smoke heard the crash and uproar of their collision, released his wheeler, sprang to the gee-pole, and urged his team to the right into the soft snow where the straining animals wallowed to their necks. It was exhausting work, but he won by the tangled teams and gained the hard-packed trail beyond.

On the relay out of Sixty Mile, Smoke had next to his poorest team, and though the going was good, he had set it a short fifteen miles. Two more teams would bring him into Dawson and to the gold-recorder’s office, and Smoke had selected his best animals for the last two stretches. Sitka Charley himself waited with the eight Malemutes that would jerk Smoke along for twenty miles, and for the finish, with a fifteen-mile run, was his own team--the team he had had all winter and which had been with him in the search for Surprise Lake.

The two men he had left entangled at Sixty Mile failed to overtake him, and, on the other hand, his team failed to overtake any of the three that still led. His animals were willing, though they lacked stamina and speed, and little urging was needed to keep them jumping into it at their best. There was nothing for Smoke to do but to lie face downward and hold on. Now and again he would plunge out of the darkness into the circle of light about a blazing fire, catch a glimpse of furred men standing by harnessed and waiting dogs, and plunge into the darkness again. Mile after mile, with only the grind and jar of the runners in his ears, he sped on. Almost automatically he kept his place as the sled bumped ahead or half lifted and heeled on the swings and swerves of the bends. First one, and then another, without apparent rhyme or reason, three faces limned themselves on his consciousness: Joy Gastell’s, laughing and audacious; Shorty’s, battered and exhausted by the struggle down Mono Creek; and John Bellew’s, seamed and rigid, as if cast in iron, so unrelenting was its severity. And sometimes Smoke wanted to shout aloud, to chant a paean of savage exultation, as he remembered the office of The Billow and the serial story of San Francisco which he had left unfinished, along with the other fripperies of those empty days.

The grey twilight of morning was breaking as he exchanged his weary dogs for the eight fresh Malemutes. Lighter animals than Hudson Bays, they were capable of greater speed, and they ran with the supple tirelessness of true wolves. Sitka Charley called out the order of the teams ahead. Big Olaf led, Arizona Bill was second, and Von Schroeder third. These were the three best men in the country. In fact, ere Smoke had left Dawson, the popular betting had placed them in that order. While they were racing for a million, at least half a million had been staked by others on the outcome of the race. No one had bet on Smoke, who, despite his several known exploits, was still accounted a chechako with much to learn.

As daylight strengthened, Smoke caught sight of a sled ahead, and, in half an hour, his own lead-dog was leaping at its tail. Not until the man turned his head to exchange greetings, did Smoke recognize him as Arizona Bill. Von Schroeder had evidently passed him. The trail, hard-packed, ran too narrowly through the soft snow, and for another half-hour Smoke was forced to stay in the rear. Then they topped an ice-jam and struck a smooth stretch below, where were a number of relay camps and where the snow was packed widely. On his knees, swinging his whip and yelling, Smoke drew abreast. He noted that Arizona Bill’s right arm hung dead at his side, and that he was compelled to pour leather with his left hand. Awkward as it was, he had no hand left with which to hold on, and frequently he had to cease from the whip and clutch to save himself from falling off. Smoke remembered the scrimmage in the creek bed at Three Below Discovery, and understood. Shorty’s advice had been sound.

“What’s happened?” Smoke asked, as he began to pull ahead.

“I don’t know,” Arizona Bill answered. “I think I threw my shoulder out in the scrapping.”

He dropped behind very slowly, though when the last relay station was in sight he was fully half a mile in the rear. Ahead, bunched together, Smoke could see Big Olaf and Von Schroeder. Again Smoke arose to his knees, and he lifted his jaded dogs into a burst of speed such as a man only can who has the proper instinct for dog-driving. He drew up close to the tail of Von Schroeder’s sled, and in this order the three sleds dashed out on the smooth going below a jam, where many men and many dogs waited. Dawson was fifteen miles away.

Von Schroeder, with his ten-mile relays, had changed five miles back and would change five miles ahead. So he held on, keeping his dogs at full leap. Big Olaf and Smoke made flying changes, and their fresh teams immediately regained what had been lost to the Baron. Big Olaf led past, and Smoke followed into the narrow trail beyond.

“Still good, but not so good,” Smoke paraphrased Spencer to himself.

Of Von Schroeder, now behind, he had no fear; but ahead was the greatest dog-driver in the country. To pass him seemed impossible. Again and again, many times, Smoke forced his leader to the other’s sled-tail, and each time Big Olaf let out another link and drew away. Smoke contented himself with taking the pace, and hung on grimly. The race was not lost until one or the other won, and in fifteen miles many things could happen.

Three miles from Dawson something did happen. To Smoke’s surprise, Big Olaf rose up and with oaths and leather proceeded to fetch out the last ounce of effort in his animals. It was a spurt that should have been reserved for the last hundred yards instead of being begun three miles from the finish. Sheer dog-killing that it was, Smoke followed. His own team was superb. No dogs on the Yukon had had harder work or were in better condition. Besides, Smoke had toiled with them, and eaten and bedded with them, and he knew each dog as an individual and how best to win in to the animal’s intelligence and extract its last least shred of willingness.

They topped a small jam and struck the smooth going below. Big Olaf was barely fifty feet ahead. A sled shot out from the side and drew in toward him, and Smoke understood Big Olaf’s terrific spurt. He had tried to gain a lead for the change. This fresh team that waited to jerk him down the home stretch had been a private surprise of his. Even the men who had backed him to win had had no knowledge of it.

Smoke strove desperately to pass during the exchange of sleds. Lifting his dogs to the effort, he ate up the intervening fifty feet. With urging and pouring of leather, he went to the side and on until his lead-dog was jumping abreast of Big Olaf’s wheeler. On the other side, abreast, was the relay sled. At the speed they were going, Big Olaf did not dare try the flying leap. If he missed and fell off, Smoke would be in the lead and the race would be lost.

Big Olaf tried to spurt ahead, and he lifted his dogs magnificently, but Smoke’s leader still continued to jump beside Big Olaf’s wheeler. For half a mile the three sleds tore and bounced along side by side. The smooth stretch was nearing its end when Big Olaf took the chance. As the flying sleds swerved toward each other, he leaped, and the instant he struck he was on his knees, with whip and voice spurting the fresh team. The smooth stretch pinched out into the narrow trail, and he jumped his dogs ahead and into it with a lead of barely a yard.

A man was not beaten until he was beaten, was Smoke’s conclusion, and drive no matter how, Big Olaf failed to shake him off. No team Smoke had driven that night could have stood such a killing pace and kept up with fresh dogs--no team save this one. Nevertheless, the pace WAS killing it, and as they began to round the bluff at Klondike City, he could feel the pitch of strength going out of his animals. Almost imperceptibly they lagged behind, and foot by foot Big Olaf drew away until he led by a score of yards.

A great cheer went up from the population of Klondike City assembled on the ice. Here the Klondike entered the Yukon, and half a mile away, across the Klondike, on the north bank, stood Dawson. An outburst of madder cheering arose, and Smoke caught a glimpse of a sled shooting out to him. He recognized the splendid animals that drew it. They were Joy Gastell’s. And Joy Gastell drove them. The hood of her squirrel-skin parka was tossed back, revealing the cameo-like oval of her face outlined against her heavily-massed hair. Mittens had been discarded, and with bare hands she clung to whip and sled.

“Jump!” she cried, as her leader snarled at Smoke’s.

Smoke struck the sled behind her. It rocked violently from the impact of his body, but she was full up on her knees and swinging the whip.

“Hi! You! Mush on! Chook! Chook!” she was crying, and the dogs whined and yelped in eagerness of desire and effort to overtake Big Olaf.

And then, as the lead-dog caught the tail of Big Olaf’s sled, and yard by yard drew up abreast, the great crowd on the Dawson bank went mad. It WAS a great crowd, for the men had dropped their tools on all the creeks and come down to see the outcome of the race, and a dead heat at the end of a hundred and ten miles justified any madness.

“When you’re in the lead I’m going to drop off!” Joy cried out over her shoulder.

Smoke tried to protest.

“And watch out for the dip curve half way up the bank,” she warned.

Dog by dog, separated by half a dozen feet, the two teams were running abreast. Big Olaf, with whip and voice, held his own for a minute. Then, slowly, an inch at a time, Joy’s leader began to forge past.

“Get ready!” she cried to Smoke. “I’m going to leave you in a minute. Get the whip.”

And as he shifted his hand to clutch the whip, they heard Big Olaf roar a warning, but too late. His lead-dog, incensed at being passed, swerved in to the attack. His fangs struck Joy’s leader on the flank. The rival teams flew at one another’s throats. The sleds overran the fighting brutes and capsized. Smoke struggled to his feet and tried to lift Joy up. But she thrust him from her, crying: “Go!”

On foot, already fifty feet in advance, was Big Olaf, still intent on finishing the race. Smoke obeyed, and when the two men reached the foot of the Dawson bank, he was at the other’s heels. But up the bank Big Olaf lifted his body hugely, regaining a dozen feet.

Five blocks down the main street was the gold-recorder’s office. The street was packed as for the witnessing of a parade. Not so easily this time did Smoke gain to his giant rival, and when he did he was unable to pass. Side by side they ran along the narrow aisle between the solid walls of fur-clad, cheering men. Now one, now the other, with great convulsive jerks, gained an inch or so, only to lose it immediately after.

If the pace had been a killing one for their dogs, the one they now set themselves was no less so. But they were racing for a million dollars and greatest honour in Yukon Country. The only outside impression that came to Smoke on that last mad stretch was one of astonishment that there should be so many people in the Klondike. He had never seen them all at once before.

He felt himself involuntarily lag, and Big Olaf sprang a full stride in the lead. To Smoke it seemed that his heart would burst, while he had lost all consciousness of his legs. He knew they were flying under him, but he did not know how he continued to make them fly, nor how he put even greater pressure of will upon them and compelled them again to carry him to his giant competitor’s side.

The open door of the Recorder’s office appeared ahead of them. Both men made a final, futile spurt. Neither could draw away from the other, and side by side they hit the doorway, collided violently, and fell headlong on the office floor.

They sat up, but were too exhausted to rise. Big Olaf, the sweat pouring from him, breathing with tremendous, painful gasps, pawed the air and vainly tried to speak. Then he reached out his hand with unmistakable meaning; Smoke extended his, and they shook.

“It’s a dead heat,” Smoke could hear the Recorder saying, but it was as if in a dream, and the voice was very thin and very far away. “And all I can say is that you both win. You’ll have to divide the claim between you. You’re partners.”

Their two arms pumped up and down as they ratified the decision. Big Olaf nodded his head with great emphasis, and spluttered. At last he got it out.

“You damn chechako,” was what he said, but in the saying of it was admiration. “I don’t know how you done it, but you did.”

Outside, the great crowd was noisily massed, while the office was packing and jamming. Smoke and Big Olaf essayed to rise, and each helped the other to his feet. Smoke found his legs weak under him, and staggered drunkenly. Big Olaf tottered toward him.

“I’m sorry my dogs jumped yours.”

“It couldn’t be helped,” Smoke panted back. “I heard you yell.”

“Say,” Big Olaf went on with shining eyes. “That girl--one damn fine girl, eh?”

“One damn fine girl,” Smoke agreed.

A Raid On the Oyster Pirates

Of the fish patrolmen under whom we served at various times, Charley Le Grant and I were agreed, I think, that Neil Partington was the best. He was neither dishonest nor cowardly; and while he demanded strict obedience when we were under his orders, at the same time our relations were those of easy comradeship, and he permitted us a freedom to which we were ordinarily unaccustomed, as the present story will show.

Neil’s family lived in Oakland, which is on the Lower Bay, not more than six miles across the water from San Francisco. One day, while scouting among the Chinese shrimp-catchers of Point Pedro, he received word that his wife was very ill; and within the hour the Reindeer was bowling along for Oakland, with a stiff northwest breeze astern. We ran up the Oakland Estuary and came to anchor, and in the days that followed, while Neil was ashore, we tightened up the Reindeer’s rigging, overhauled the ballast, scraped down, and put the sloop into thorough shape.

This done, time hung heavy on our hands. Neil’s wife was dangerously ill, and the outlook was a week’s lie-over, awaiting the crisis. Charley and I roamed the docks, wondering what we should do, and so came upon the oyster fleet lying at the Oakland City Wharf. In the main they were trim, natty boats, made for speed and bad weather, and we sat down on the stringer-piece of the dock to study them.

“A good catch, I guess,” Charley said, pointing to the heaps of oysters, assorted in three sizes, which lay upon their decks.

Pedlers were backing their wagons to the edge of the wharf, and from the bargaining and chaffering that went on, I managed to learn the selling price of the oysters.

“That boat must have at least two hundred dollars’ worth aboard,” I calculated. “I wonder how long it took to get the load?”

“Three or four days,” Charley answered. “Not bad wages for two men-twenty-five dollars a day apiece.”

The boat we were discussing, the Ghost, lay directly beneath us. Two men composed its crew. One was a squat, broad-shouldered fellow with remarkably long and gorilla-like arms, while the other was tall and well proportioned, with clear blue eyes and a mat of straight black hair. So unusual and striking was this combination of hair and eyes that Charley and I remained somewhat longer than we intended.

And it was well that we did. A stout, elderly man, with the dress and carriage of a successful merchant, came up and stood beside us, looking down upon the deck of the Ghost. He appeared angry, and the longer he looked the angrier he grew.

“Those are my oysters,” he said at last. “I know they are my oysters. You raided my beds last night and robbed me of them.”

The tall man and the short man on the Ghost looked up.

“Hello, Taft,” the short man said, with insolent familiarity. (Among the bayfarers he had gained the nickname of “The Centipede” on account of his long arms.) “Hello, Taft,” he repeated, with the same touch of insolence. “Wot ‘r you growling about now?”

“Those are my oysters-that’s what I said. You’ve stolen them from my beds.”

“Yer mighty wise, ain’t ye?” was the Centipede’s sneering reply. “S’pose you can tell your oysters wherever you see ‘em?”

“Now, in my experience,” broke in the tall man, “oysters is oysters wherever you find ‘em, an’ they’re pretty much alike all the Bay over, and the world over, too, for that matter. We’re not wantin’ to quarrel with you, Mr. Taft, but we jes’ wish you wouldn’t insinuate that them oysters is yours an’ that we’re thieves an’ robbers till you can prove the goods.”

“I know they’re mine; I’d stake my life on it!” Mr. Taft snorted.

“Prove it,” challenged the tall man, who we afterward learned was known as “The Porpoise” because of his wonderful swimming abilities.

Mr. Taft shrugged his shoulders helplessly. Of course he could not prove the oysters to be his, no matter how certain he might be.

“I’d give a thousand dollars to have you men behind the bars!” he cried. “I’ll give fifty dollars a head for your arrest and conviction, all of you!”

A roar of laughter went up from the different boats, for the rest of the pirates had been listening to the discussion.

“There’s more money in oysters,” the Porpoise remarked dryly.

Mr. Taft turned impatiently on his heel and walked away. From out of the corner of his eye, Charley noted the way he went. Several minutes later, when he had disappeared around a corner, Charley rose lazily to his feet. I followed him, and we sauntered off in the opposite direction to that taken by Mr. Taft.

“Come on! Lively!” Charley whispered, when we passed from the view of the oyster fleet.

Our course was changed at once, and we dodged around corners and raced up and down side-streets till Mr. Taft’s generous form loomed up ahead of us.

“I’m going to interview him about that reward,” Charley explained, as we rapidly over-hauled the oyster-bed owner. “Neil will be delayed here for a week, and you and I might as well be doing something in the meantime. What do you say?”

“Of course, of course,” Mr. Taft said, when Charley had introduced himself and explained his errand. “Those thieves are robbing me of thousands of dollars every year, and I shall be glad to break them up at any price,-yes, sir, at any price. As I said, I’ll give fifty dollars a head, and call it cheap at that. They’ve robbed my beds, torn down my signs, terrorized my watchmen, and last year killed one of them. Couldn’t prove it. All done in the blackness of night. All I had was a dead watchman and no evidence. The detectives could do nothing. Nobody has been able to do anything with those men. We have never succeeded in arresting one of them. So I say, Mr.-What did you say your name was?”

“Le Grant,” Charley answered.

“So I say, Mr. Le Grant, I am deeply obliged to you for the assistance you offer. And I shall be glad, most glad, sir, to co-operate with you in every way. My watchmen and boats are at your disposal. Come and see me at the San Francisco offices any time, or telephone at my expense. And don’t be afraid of spending money. I’ll foot your expenses, whatever they are, so long as they are within reason. The situation is growing desperate, and something must be done to determine whether I or that band of ruffians own those oyster beds.”

“Now we’ll see Neil,” Charley said, when he had seen Mr. Taft upon his train to San Francisco.

Not only did Neil Partington interpose no obstacle to our adventure, but he proved to be of the greatest assistance. Charley and I knew nothing of the oyster industry, while his head was an encyclopaedia of facts concerning it. Also, within an hour or so, he was able to bring to us a Greek boy of seventeen or eighteen who knew thoroughly well the ins and outs of oyster piracy.

At this point I may as well explain that we of the fish patrol were free lances in a way. While Neil Partington, who was a patrolman proper, received a regular salary, Charley and I, being merely deputies, received only what we earned-that is to say, a certain percentage of the fines imposed on convicted violators of the fish laws. Also, any rewards that chanced our way were ours. We offered to share with Partington whatever we should get from Mr. Taft, but the patrolman would not hear of it. He was only too happy, he said, to do a good turn for us, who had done so many for him.

We held a long council of war, and mapped out the following line of action. Our faces were unfamiliar on the Lower Bay, but as the Reindeer was well known as a fish-patrol sloop, the Greek boy, whose name was Nicholas, and I were to sail some innocent-looking craft down to Asparagus Island and join the oyster pirates’ fleet. Here, according to Nicholas’s description of the beds and the manner of raiding, it was possible for us to catch the pirates in the act of stealing oysters, and at the same time to get them in our power. Charley was to be on the shore, with Mr. Taft’s watchmen and a posse of constables, to help us at the right time.

“I know just the boat,” Neil said, at the conclusion of the discussion, “a crazy old sloop that’s lying over at Tiburon. You and Nicholas can go over by the ferry, charter it for a song, and sail direct for the beds.”

“Good luck be with you, boys,” he said at parting, two days later. “Remember, they are dangerous men, so be careful.”

Nicholas and I succeeded in chartering the sloop very cheaply; and between laughs, while getting up sail, we agreed that she was even crazier and older than she had been described. She was a big, flat-bottomed, square-sterned craft, sloop-rigged, with a sprung mast, slack rigging, dilapidated sails, and rotten running-gear, clumsy to handle and uncertain in bringing about, and she smelled vilely of coal tar, with which strange stuff she had been smeared from stem to stern and from cabin-roof to centreboard. And to cap it all, Coal Tar Maggie was printed in great white letters the whole length of either side.

It was an uneventful though laughable run from Tiburon to Asparagus Island, where we arrived in the afternoon of the following day. The oyster pirates, a fleet of a dozen sloops, were lying at anchor on what was known as the “Deserted Beds.” The Coal Tar Maggie came sloshing into their midst with a light breeze astern, and they crowded on deck to see us. Nicholas and I had caught the spirit of the crazy craft, and we handled her in most lubberly fashion.

“Wot is it?” some one called.

“Name it ‘n’ ye kin have it!” called another.

“I swan naow, ef it ain’t the old Ark itself!” mimicked the Centipede from the deck of the Ghost.

“Hey! Ahoy there, clipper ship!” another wag shouted. “Wot’s yer port?”

We took no notice of the joking, but acted, after the manner of greenhorns, as though the Coal Tar Maggie required our undivided attention. I rounded her well to windward of the Ghost, and Nicholas ran for’ard to drop the anchor. To all appearances it was a bungle, the way the chain tangled and kept the anchor from reaching the bottom. And to all appearances Nicholas and I were terribly excited as we strove to clear it. At any rate, we quite deceived the pirates, who took huge delight in our predicament.

But the chain remained tangled, and amid all kinds of mocking advice we drifted down upon and fouled the Ghost, whose bowsprit poked square through our mainsail and ripped a hole in it as big as a barn door. The Centipede and the Porpoise doubled up on the cabin in paroxysms of laughter, and left us to get clear as best we could. This, with much unseaman-like performance, we succeeded in doing, and likewise in clearing the anchor-chain, of which we let out about three hundred feet. With only ten feet of water under us, this would permit the Coal Tar Maggie to swing in a circle six hundred feet in diameter, in which circle she would be able to foul at least half the fleet.

The oyster pirates lay snugly together at short hawsers, the weather being fine, and they protested loudly at our ignorance in putting out such an unwarranted length of anchor-chain. And not only did they protest, for they made us heave it in again, all but thirty feet.

Having sufficiently impressed them with our general lubberliness, Nicholas and I went below to congratulate ourselves and to cook supper. Hardly had we finished the meal and washed the dishes, when a skiff ground against the Coal Tar Maggie’s side, and heavy feet trampled on deck. Then the Centipede’s brutal face appeared in the companionway, and he descended into the cabin, followed by the Porpoise. Before they could seat themselves on a bunk, another skiff came alongside, and another, and another, till the whole fleet was represented by the gathering in the cabin.

“Where’d you swipe the old tub?” asked a squat and hairy man, with cruel eyes and Mexican features.

“Didn’t swipe it,” Nicholas answered, meeting them on their own ground and encouraging the idea that we had stolen the Coal Tar Maggie. “And if we did, what of it?”

“Well, I don’t admire your taste, that’s all,” sneered he of the Mexican features. “I’d rot on the beach first before I’d take a tub that couldn’t get out of its own way.”

“How were we to know till we tried her?” Nicholas asked, so innocently as to cause a laugh. “And how do you get the oysters?” he hurried on. “We want a load of them; that’s what we came for, a load of oysters.”

“What d’ye want ’em for?” demanded the Porpoise.

“Oh, to give away to our friends, of course,” Nicholas retorted. “That’s what you do with yours, I suppose.”

This started another laugh, and as our visitors grew more genial we could see that they had not the slightest suspicion of our identity or purpose.

“Didn’t I see you on the dock in Oakland the other day?” the Centipede asked suddenly of me.

“Yep,” I answered boldly, taking the bull by the horns. “I was watching you fellows and figuring out whether we’d go oystering or not. It’s a pretty good business, I calculate, and so we’re going in for it. That is,” I hastened to add, “if you fellows don’t mind.”

“I’ll tell you one thing, which ain’t two things,” he replied, “and that is you’ll have to hump yerself an’ get a better boat. We won’t stand to be disgraced by any such box as this. Understand?”

“Sure,” I said. “Soon as we sell some oysters we’ll outfit in style.”

“And if you show yerself square an’ the right sort,” he went on, “why, you kin run with us. But if you don’t” (here his voice became stern and menacing), “why, it’ll be the sickest day of yer life. Understand?”

“Sure,” I said.

After that and more warning and advice of similar nature, the conversation became general, and we learned that the beds were to be raided that very night. As they got into their boats, after an hour’s stay, we were invited to join them in the raid with the assurance of “the more the merrier.”

“Did you notice that short, Mexican-looking chap?” Nicholas asked, when they had departed to their various sloops. “He’s Barchi, of the Sporting Life Gang, and the fellow that came with him is Skilling. They’re both out now on five thousand dollars’ bail.”

I had heard of the Sporting Life Gang before, a crowd of hoodlums and criminals that terrorized the lower quarters of Oakland, and two-thirds of which were usually to be found in state’s prison for crimes that ranged from perjury and ballot-box stuffing to murder.

“They are not regular oyster pirates,” Nicholas continued. “They’ve just come down for the lark and to make a few dollars. But we’ll have to watch out for them.”

We sat in the cockpit and discussed the details of our plan till eleven o’clock had passed, when we heard the rattle of an oar in a boat from the direction of the Ghost. We hauled up our own skiff, tossed in a few sacks, and rowed over. There we found all the skiffs assembling, it being the intention to raid the beds in a body.

To my surprise, I found barely a foot of water where we had dropped anchor in ten feet. It was the big June run-out of the full moon, and as the ebb had yet an hour and a half to run, I knew that our anchorage would be dry ground before slack water.

Mr. Taft’s beds were three miles away, and for a long time we rowed silently in the wake of the other boats, once in a while grounding and our oar blades constantly striking bottom. At last we came upon soft mud covered with not more than two inches of water-not enough to float the boats. But the pirates at once were over the side, and by pushing and pulling on the flat-bottomed skiffs, we moved steadily along.

The full moon was partly obscured by high-flying clouds, but the pirates went their way with the familiarity born of long practice. After half a mile of the mud, we came upon a deep channel, up which we rowed, with dead oyster shoals looming high and dry on either side. At last we reached the picking grounds. Two men, on one of the shoals, hailed us and warned us off. But the Centipede, the Porpoise, Barchi, and Skilling took the lead, and followed by the rest of us, at least thirty men in half as many boats, rowed right up to the watchmen.

“You’d better slide outa this here,” Barchi said threateningly, “or we’ll fill you so full of holes you wouldn’t float in molasses.”

The watchmen wisely retreated before so overwhelming a force, and rowed their boat along the channel toward where the shore should be. Besides, it was in the plan for them to retreat.

We hauled the noses of the boats up on the shore side of a big shoal, and all hands, with sacks, spread out and began picking. Every now and again the clouds thinned before the face of the moon, and we could see the big oysters quite distinctly. In almost no time sacks were filled and carried back to the boats, where fresh ones were obtained. Nicholas and I returned often and anxiously to the boats with our little loads, but always found some one of the pirates coming or going.

“Never mind,” he said; “no hurry. As they pick farther and farther away, it will take too long to carry to the boats. Then they’ll stand the full sacks on end and pick them up when the tide comes in and the skiffs will float to them.”

Fully half an hour went by, and the tide had begun to flood, when this came to pass. Leaving the pirates at their work, we stole back to the boats. One by one, and noiselessly, we shoved them off and made them fast in an awkward flotilla. Just as we were shoving off the last skiff, our own, one of the men came upon us. It was Barchi. His quick eye took in the situation at a glance, and he sprang for us; but we went clear with a mighty shove, and he was left floundering in the water over his head. As soon as he got back to the shoal he raised his voice and gave the alarm.

We rowed with all our strength, but it was slow going with so many boats in tow. A pistol cracked from the shoal, a second, and a third; then a regular fusillade began. The bullets spat and spat all about us; but thick clouds had covered the moon, and in the dim darkness it was no more than random firing. It was only by chance that we could be hit.

“Wish we had a little steam launch,” I panted.

“I’d just as soon the moon stayed hidden,” Nicholas panted back.

It was slow work, but every stroke carried us farther away from the shoal and nearer the shore, till at last the shooting died down, and when the moon did come out we were too far away to be in danger. Not long afterward we answered a shoreward hail, and two Whitehall boats, each pulled by three pairs of oars, darted up to us. Charley’s welcome face bent over to us, and he gripped us by the hands while he cried, “Oh, you joys! You joys! Both of you!”

When the flotilla had been landed, Nicholas and I and a watchman rowed out in one of the Whitehalls, with Charley in the stern-sheets. Two other Whitehalls followed us, and as the moon now shone brightly, we easily made out the oyster pirates on their lonely shoal. As we drew closer, they fired a rattling volley from their revolvers, and we promptly retreated beyond range.

“Lot of time,” Charley said. “The flood is setting in fast, and by the time it’s up to their necks there won’t be any fight left in them.”

So we lay on our oars and waited for the tide to do its work. This was the predicament of the pirates: because of the big run-out, the tide was now rushing back like a mill-race, and it was impossible for the strongest swimmer in the world to make against it the three miles to the sloops. Between the pirates and the shore were we, precluding escape in that direction. On the other hand, the water was rising rapidly over the shoals, and it was only a question of a few hours when it would be over their heads.

It was beautifully calm, and in the brilliant white moonlight we watched them through our night glasses and told Charley of the voyage of the Coal Tar Maggie. One o’clock came, and two o’clock, and the pirates were clustering on the highest shoal, waist-deep in water.

“Now this illustrates the value of imagination,” Charley was saying. “Taft has been trying for years to get them, but he went at it with bull strength and failed. Now we used our heads . . .”

Just then I heard a scarcely audible gurgle of water, and holding up my hand for silence, I turned and pointed to a ripple slowly widening out in a growing circle. It was not more than fifty feet from us. We kept perfectly quiet and waited. After a minute the water broke six feet away, and a black head and white shoulder showed in the moonlight. With a snort of surprise and of suddenly expelled breath, the head and shoulder went down.

We pulled ahead several strokes and drifted with the current. Four pairs of eyes searched the surface of the water, but never another ripple showed, and never another glimpse did we catch of the black head and white shoulder.

“It’s the Porpoise,” Nicholas said. “It would take broad daylight for us to catch him.”

At a quarter to three the pirates gave their first sign of weakening. We heard cries for help, in the unmistakable voice of the Centipede, and this time, on rowing closer, we were not fired upon. The Centipede was in a truly perilous plight. Only the heads and shoulders of his fellow-marauders showed above the water as they braced themselves against the current, while his feet were off the bottom and they were supporting him.

“Now, lads,” Charley said briskly, “we have got you, and you can’t get away. If you cut up rough, we’ll have to leave you alone and the water will finish you. But if you’re good we’ll take you aboard, one man at a time, and you’ll all be saved. What do you say?”

“Ay,” they chorused hoarsely between their chattering teeth.

“Then one man at a time, and the short men first.”

The Centipede was the first to be pulled aboard, and he came willingly, though he objected when the constable put the handcuffs on him. Barchi was next hauled in, quite meek and resigned from his soaking. When we had ten in, our boat we drew back, and the second Whitehall was loaded. The third Whitehall received nine prisoners only-a catch of twenty-nine in all.

“You didn’t get the Porpoise,” the Centipede said exultantly, as though his escape materially diminished our success.

Charley laughed. “But we saw him just the same, a-snorting for shore like a puffing pig.”

It was a mild and shivering band of pirates that we marched up the beach to the oyster house. In answer to Charley’s knock, the door was flung open, and a pleasant wave of warm air rushed out upon us.

“You can dry your clothes here, lads, and get some hot coffee,” Charley announced, as they filed in.

And there, sitting ruefully by the fire, with a steaming mug in his hand, was the Porpoise. With one accord Nicholas and I looked at Charley. He laughed gleefully.

“That comes of imagination,” he said. “When you see a thing, you’ve got to see it all around, or what’s the good of seeing it at all? I saw the beach, so I left a couple of constables behind to keep an eye on it. That’s all.”

The Red One

THERE it was! The abrupt liberation of sound! As he timed it with his watch, Bassett likened it to the trump of an archangel. Walls of cities, he meditated, might well fall down before so vast and compelling a summons. For the thousandth time vainly he tried to analyse the tone-quality of that enormous peal that dominated the land far into the strong-holds of the surrounding tribes. The mountain gorge which was its source rang to the rising tide of it until it brimmed over and flooded earth and sky and air. With the wantonness of a sick man’s fancy, he likened it to the mighty cry of some Titan of the Elder World vexed with misery or wrath. Higher and higher it arose, challenging and demanding in such profounds of volume that it seemed intended for ears beyond the narrow confines of the solar system. There was in it, too, the clamour of protest in that there were no ears to hear and comprehend its utterance.

- Such the sick man’s fancy. Still he strove to analyse the sound. Sonorous as thunder was it, mellow as a golden bell, thin and sweet as a thrummed taut cord of silver-no; it was none of these, nor a blend of these. There were no words nor semblances in his vocabulary and experience with which to describe the totality of that sound.

Time passed. Minutes merged into quarters of hours, and quarters of hours into half-hours, and still the sound persisted, ever changing from its initial vocal impulse yet never receiving fresh impulse-fading, dimming, dying as enormously as it had sprung into being. It became a confusion of troubled mutterings and babblings and colossal whisperings. Slowly it withdrew, sob by sob, into whatever great bosom had birthed it, until it whimpered deadly whispers of wrath and as equally seductive whispers of delight, striving still to be heard, to convey some cosmic secret, some understanding of infinite import and value. It dwindled to a ghost of sound that had lost its menace and promise, and became a thing that pulsed on in the sick man’s consciousness for minutes after it had ceased. When he could hear it no longer, Bassett glanced at his watch. An hour had elapsed ere that archangel’s trump had subsided into tonal nothingness.

Was this, then, HIS dark tower?-Bassett pondered, remembering his Browning and gazing at his skeleton-like and fever-wasted hands. And the fancy made him smile-of Childe Roland bearing a slug-horn to his lips with an arm as feeble as his was. Was it months, or years, he asked himself, since he first heard that mysterious call on the beach at Ringmanu? To save himself he could not tell. The long sickness had been most long. In conscious count of time he knew of months, many of them; but he had no way of estimating the long intervals of delirium and stupor. And how fared Captain Bateman of the blackbirder NARI? he wondered; and had Captain Bateman’s drunken mate died of delirium tremens yet?

From which vain speculations, Bassett turned idly to review all that had occurred since that day on the beach of Ringmanu when he first heard the sound and plunged into the jungle after it. Sagawa had protested. He could see him yet, his queer little monkeyish face eloquent with fear, his back burdened with specimen cases, in his hands Bassett’s butterfly net and naturalist’s shot-gun, as he quavered, in Beche-de-mer English: “Me fella too much fright along bush. Bad fella boy, too much stop’m along bush.”

Bassett smiled sadly at the recollection. The little New Hanover boy had been frightened, but had proved faithful, following him without hesitancy into the bush in the quest after the source of the wonderful sound. No fire-hollowed tree-trunk, that, throbbing war through the jungle depths, had been Bassett’s conclusion. Erroneous had been his next conclusion, namely, that the source or cause could not be more distant than an hour’s walk, and that he would easily be back by mid-afternoon to be picked up by the NARI’S whale-boat.

“That big fella noise no good, all the same devil-devil,” Sagawa had adjudged. And Sagawa had been right. Had he not had his head hacked off within the day? Bassett shuddered. Without doubt Sagawa had been eaten as well by the “bad fella boys too much” that stopped along the bush. He could see him, as he had last seen him, stripped of the shot-gun and all the naturalist’s gear of his master, lying on the narrow trail where he had been decapitated barely the moment before. Yes, within a minute the thing had happened. Within a minute, looking back, Bassett had seen him trudging patiently along under his burdens. Then Bassett’s own trouble had come upon him. He looked at the cruelly healed stumps of the first and second fingers of his left hand, then rubbed them softly into the indentation in the back of his skull. Quick as had been the flash of the long handled tomahawk, he had been quick enough to duck away his head and partially to deflect the stroke with his up-flung hand. Two fingers and a hasty scalp-wound had been the price he paid for his life. With one barrel of his ten-gauge shot-gun he had blown the life out of the bushman who had so nearly got him; with the other barrel he had peppered the bushmen bending over Sagawa, and had the pleasure of knowing that the major portion of the charge had gone into the one who leaped away with Sagawa’s head. Everything had occurred in a flash. Only himself, the slain bushman, and what remained of Sagawa, were in the narrow, wild-pig run of a path. From the dark jungle on either side came no rustle of movement or sound of life. And he had suffered distinct and dreadful shock. For the first time in his life he had killed a human being, and he knew nausea as he contemplated the mess of his handiwork.

Then had begun the chase. He retreated up the pig-run before his hunters, who were between him and the beach. How many there were, he could not guess. There might have been one, or a hundred, for aught he saw of them. That some of them took to the trees and travelled along through the jungle roof he was certain; but at the most he never glimpsed more than an occasional flitting of shadows. No bow-strings twanged that he could hear; but every little while, whence discharged he knew not, tiny arrows whispered past him or struck tree-boles and fluttered to the ground beside him. They were bone-tipped and feather shafted, and the feathers, torn from the breasts of humming-birds, iridesced like jewels.

Once-and now, after the long lapse of time, he chuckled gleefully at the recollection-he had detected a shadow above him that came to instant rest as he turned his gaze upward. He could make out nothing, but, deciding to chance it, had fired at it a heavy charge of number five shot. Squalling like an infuriated cat, the shadow crashed down through tree-ferns and orchids and thudded upon the earth at his feet, and, still squalling its rage and pain, had sunk its human teeth into the ankle of his stout tramping boot. He, on the other hand, was not idle, and with his free foot had done what reduced the squalling to silence. So inured to savagery has Bassett since become, that he chuckled again with the glee of the recollection.

What a night had followed! Small wonder that he had accumulated such a virulence and variety of fevers, he thought, as he recalled that sleepless night of torment, when the throb of his wounds was as nothing compared with the myriad stings of the mosquitoes. There had been no escaping them, and he had not dared to light a fire. They had literally pumped his body full of poison, so that, with the coming of day, eyes swollen almost shut, he had stumbled blindly on, not caring much when his head should be hacked off and his carcass started on the way of Sagawa’s to the cooking fire. Twenty-four hours had made a wreck of him-of mind as well as body. He had scarcely retained his wits at all, so maddened was he by the tremendous inoculation of poison he had received. Several times he fired his shot-gun with effect into the shadows that dogged him. Stinging day insects and gnats added to his torment, while his bloody wounds attracted hosts of loathsome flies that clung sluggishly to his flesh and had to be brushed off and crushed off.

Once, in that day, he heard again the wonderful sound, seemingly more distant, but rising imperiously above the nearer war-drums in the bush. Right there was where he had made his mistake. Thinking that he had passed beyond it and that, therefore, it was between him and the beach of Ringmanu, he had worked back toward it when in reality he was penetrating deeper and deeper into the mysterious heart of the unexplored island. That night, crawling in among the twisted roots of a banyan tree, he had slept from exhaustion while the mosquitoes had had their will of him.

Followed days and nights that were vague as nightmares in his memory. One clear vision he remembered was of suddenly finding himself in the midst of a bush village and watching the old men and children fleeing into the jungle. All had fled but one. From close at hand and above him, a whimpering as of some animal in pain and terror had startled him. And looking up he had seen her-a girl, or young woman rather, suspended by one arm in the cooking sun. Perhaps for days she had so hung. Her swollen, protruding tongue spoke as much. Still alive, she gazed at him with eyes of terror. Past help, he decided, as he noted the swellings of her legs which advertised that the joints had been crushed and the great bones broken. He resolved to shoot her, and there the vision terminated. He could not remember whether he had or not, any more than could he remember how he chanced to be in that village, or how he succeeded in getting away from it.

Many pictures, unrelated, came and went in Bassett’s mind as he reviewed that period of his terrible wanderings. He remembered invading another village of a dozen houses and driving all before him with his shot-gun save, for one old man, too feeble to flee, who spat at him and whined and snarled as he dug open a ground-oven and from amid the hot stones dragged forth a roasted pig that steamed its essence deliciously through its green-leaf wrappings. It was at this place that a wantonness of savagery had seized upon him. Having feasted, ready to depart with a hind-quarter of the pig in his hand, he deliberately fired the grass thatch of a house with his burning glass.

But seared deepest of all in Bassett’s brain, was the dank and noisome jungle. It actually stank with evil, and it was always twilight. Rarely did a shaft of sunlight penetrate its matted roof a hundred feet overhead. And beneath that roof was an aerial ooze of vegetation, a monstrous, parasitic dripping of decadent life-forms that rooted in death and lived on death. And through all this he drifted, ever pursued by the flitting shadows of the anthropophagi, themselves ghosts of evil that dared not face him in battle but that knew that, soon or late, they would feed on him. Bassett remembered that at the time, in lucid moments, he had likened himself to a wounded bull pursued by plains’ coyotes too cowardly to battle with him for the meat of him, yet certain of the inevitable end of him when they would be full gorged. As the bull’s horns and stamping hoofs kept off the coyotes, so his shot-gun kept off these Solomon Islanders, these twilight shades of bushmen of the island of Guadalcanal.

Came the day of the grass lands. Abruptly, as if cloven by the sword of God in the hand of God, the jungle terminated. The edge of it, perpendicular and as black as the infamy of it, was a hundred feet up and down. And, beginning at the edge of it, grew the grass-sweet, soft, tender, pasture grass that would have delighted the eyes and beasts of any husbandman and that extended, on and on, for leagues and leagues of velvet verdure, to the backbone of the great island, the towering mountain range flung up by some ancient earth-cataclysm, serrated and gullied but not yet erased by the erosive tropic rains. But the grass! He had crawled into it a dozen yards, buried his face in it, smelled it, and broken down in a fit of involuntary weeping.

And, while he wept, the wonderful sound had pealed forth-if by PEAL, he had often thought since, an adequate description could be given of the enunciation of so vast a sound melting sweet. Sweet it was, as no sound ever heard. Vast it was, of so mighty a resonance that it might have proceeded from some brazen-throated monster. And yet it called to him across that leagues-wide savannah, and was like a benediction to his long-suffering, pain racked spirit.

He remembered how he lay there in the grass, wet-cheeked but no longer sobbing, listening to the sound and wondering that he had been able to hear it on the beach of Ringmanu. Some freak of air pressures and air currents, he reflected, had made it possible for the sound to carry so far. Such conditions might not happen again in a thousand days or ten thousand days, but the one day it had happened had been the day he landed from the NARI for several hours’ collecting. Especially had he been in quest of the famed jungle butterfly, a foot across from wing-tip to wing-tip, as velvet-dusky of lack of colour as was the gloom of the roof, of such lofty arboreal habits that it resorted only to the jungle roof and could be brought down only by a dose of shot. It was for this purpose that Sagawa had carried the ten-gauge shot-gun.

Two days and nights he had spent crawling across that belt of grass land. He had suffered much, but pursuit had ceased at the jungle-edge. And he would have died of thirst had not a heavy thunderstorm revived him on the second day.

And then had come Balatta. In the first shade, where the savannah yielded to the dense mountain jungle, he had collapsed to die. At first she had squealed with delight at sight of his helplessness, and was for beating his brain out with a stout forest branch. Perhaps it was his very utter helplessness that had appealed to her, and perhaps it was her human curiosity that made her refrain. At any rate, she had refrained, for he opened his eyes again under the impending blow, and saw her studying him intently. What especially struck her about him were his blue eyes and white skin. Coolly she had squatted on her hams, spat on his arm, and with her finger-tips scrubbed away the dirt of days and nights of muck and jungle that sullied the pristine whiteness of his skin.

And everything about her had struck him especially, although there was nothing conventional about her at all. He laughed weakly at the recollection, for she had been as innocent of garb as Eve before the fig-leaf adventure. Squat and lean at the same time, asymmetrically limbed, string-muscled as if with lengths of cordage, dirt-caked from infancy save for casual showers, she was as unbeautiful a prototype of woman as he, with a scientist’s eye, had ever gazed upon. Her breasts advertised at the one time her maturity and youth; and, if by nothing else, her sex was advertised by the one article of finery with which she was adorned, namely a pig’s tail, thrust though a hole in her left ear-lobe. So lately had the tail been severed, that its raw end still oozed blood that dried upon her shoulder like so much candle-droppings. And her face! A twisted and wizened complex of apish features, perforated by upturned, sky-open, Mongolian nostrils, by a mouth that sagged from a huge upper-lip and faded precipitately into a retreating chin, by peering querulous eyes that blinked as blink the eyes of denizens of monkey-cages.

Not even the water she brought him in a forest-leaf, and the ancient and half-putrid chunk of roast pig, could redeem in the slightest the grotesque hideousness of her. When he had eaten weakly for a space, he closed his eyes in order not to see her, although again and again she poked them open to peer at the blue of them. Then had come the sound. Nearer, much nearer, he knew it to be; and he knew equally well, despite the weary way he had come, that it was still many hours distant. The effect of it on her had been startling. She cringed under it, with averted face, moaning and chattering with fear. But after it had lived its full life of an hour, he closed his eyes and fell asleep with Balatta brushing the flies from him.

When he awoke it was night, and she was gone. But he was aware of renewed strength, and, by then too thoroughly inoculated by the mosquito poison to suffer further inflammation, he closed his eyes and slept an unbroken stretch till sun-up. A little later Balatta had returned, bringing with her a half-dozen women who, unbeautiful as they were, were patently not so unbeautiful as she. She evidenced by her conduct that she considered him her find, her property, and the pride she took in showing him off would have been ludicrous had his situation not been so desperate.

Later, after what had been to him a terrible journey of miles, when he collapsed in front of the devil-devil house in the shadow of the breadfruit tree, she had shown very lively ideas on the matter of retaining possession of him. Ngurn, whom Bassett was to know afterward as the devil-devil doctor, priest, or medicine man of the village, had wanted his head. Others of the grinning and chattering monkey-men, all as stark of clothes and bestial of appearance as Balatta, had wanted his body for the roasting oven. At that time he had not understood their language, if by LANGUAGE might be dignified the uncouth sounds they made to represent ideas. But Bassett had thoroughly understood the matter of debate, especially when the men pressed and prodded and felt of the flesh of him as if he were so much commodity in a butcher’s stall.

Balatta had been losing the debate rapidly, when the accident happened. One of the men, curiously examining Bassett’s shot-gun, managed to cock and pull a trigger. The recoil of the butt into the pit of the man’s stomach had not been the most sanguinary result, for the charge of shot, at a distance of a yard, had blown the head of one of the debaters into nothingness.

Even Balatta joined the others in flight, and, ere they returned, his senses already reeling from the oncoming fever-attack, Bassett had regained possession of the gun. Whereupon, although his teeth chattered with the ague and his swimming eyes could scarcely see, he held on to his fading consciousness until he could intimidate the bushmen with the simple magics of compass, watch, burning glass, and matches. At the last, with due emphasis, of solemnity and awfulness, he had killed a young pig with his shot-gun and promptly fainted.

Bassett flexed his arm-muscles in quest of what possible strength might reside in such weakness, and dragged himself slowly and totteringly to his feet. He was shockingly emaciated; yet, during the various convalescences of the many months of his long sickness, he had never regained quite the same degree of strength as this time. What he feared was another relapse such as he had already frequently experienced. Without drugs, without even quinine, he had managed so far to live through a combination of the most pernicious and most malignant of malarial and black-water fevers. But could he continue to endure? Such was his everlasting query. For, like the genuine scientist he was, he would not be content to die until he had solved the secret of the sound.

Supported by a staff, he staggered the few steps to the devil-devil house where death and Ngurn reigned in gloom. Almost as infamously dark and evil-stinking as the jungle was the devil-devil house-in Bassett’s opinion. Yet therein was usually to be found his favourite crony and gossip, Ngurn, always willing for a yarn or a discussion, the while he sat in the ashes of death and in a slow smoke shrewdly revolved curing human heads suspended from the rafters. For, through the months’ interval of consciousness of his long sickness, Bassett had mastered the psychological simplicities and lingual difficulties of the language of the tribe of Ngurn and Balatta and Vngngn-the latter the addle-headed young chief who was ruled by Ngurn, and who, whispered intrigue had it, was the son of Ngurn.

“Will the Red One speak to-day?” Bassett asked, by this time so accustomed to the old man’s gruesome occupation as to take even an interest in the progress of the smoke-curing.

With the eye of an expert Ngurn examined the particular head he was at work upon.

“It will be ten days before I can say ‘finish,’“ he said. “Never has any man fixed heads like these.”

Bassett smiled inwardly at the old fellow’s reluctance to talk with him of the Red One. It had always been so. Never, by any chance, had Ngurn or any other member of the weird tribe divulged the slightest hint of any physical characteristic of the Red One. Physical the Red One must be, to emit the wonderful sound, and though it was called the Red One, Bassett could not be sure that red represented the colour of it. Red enough were the deeds and powers of it, from what abstract clues he had gleaned. Not alone, had Ngurn informed him, was the Red One more bestial powerful than the neighbour tribal gods, ever athirst for the red blood of living human sacrifices, but the neighbour gods themselves were sacrificed and tormented before him. He was the god of a dozen allied villages similar to this one, which was the central and commanding village of the federation. By virtue of the Red One many alien villages had been devastated and even wiped out, the prisoners sacrificed to the Red One. This was true to-day, and it extended back into old history carried down by word of mouth through the generations. When he, Ngurn, had been a young man, the tribes beyond the grass lands had made a war raid. In the counter raid, Ngurn and his fighting folk had made many prisoners. Of children alone over five score living had been bled white before the Red One, and many, many more men and women.

The Thunderer was another of Ngurn’s names for the mysterious deity. Also at times was he called The Loud Shouter, The God-Voiced, The Bird-Throated, The One with the Throat Sweet as the Throat of the Honey-Bird, The Sun Singer, and The Star-Born.

Why The Star-Born? In vain Bassett interrogated Ngurn. According to that old devil-devil doctor, the Red One had always been, just where he was at present, for ever singing and thundering his will over men. But Ngurn’s father, wrapped in decaying grass-matting and hanging even then over their heads among the smoky rafters of the devil-devil house, had held otherwise. That departed wise one had believed that the Red One came from out of the starry night, else why-so his argument had run-had the old and forgotten ones passed his name down as the Star-Born? Bassett could not but recognize something cogent in such argument. But Ngurn affirmed the long years of his long life, wherein he had gazed upon many starry nights, yet never had he found a star on grass land or in jungle depth-and he had looked for them. True, he had beheld shooting stars (this in reply to Bassett’s contention); but likewise had he beheld the phosphorescence of fungoid growths and rotten meat and fireflies on dark nights, and the flames of wood-fires and of blazing candle-nuts; yet what were flame and blaze and glow when they had flamed and blazed and glowed? Answer: memories, memories only, of things which had ceased to be, like memories of matings accomplished, of feasts forgotten, of desires that were the ghosts of desires, flaring, flaming, burning, yet unrealized in achievement of easement and satisfaction. Where was the appetite of yesterday? the roasted flesh of the wild pig the hunter’s arrow failed to slay? the maid, unwed and dead ere the young man knew her?

A memory was not a star, was Ngurn’s contention. How could a memory be a star? Further, after all his long life he still observed the starry night-sky unaltered. Never had he noted the absence of a single star from its accustomed place. Besides, stars were fire, and the Red One was not fire-which last involuntary betrayal told Bassett nothing.

“Will the Red One speak to-morrow?” he queried.

Ngurn shrugged his shoulders as who should say.

“And the day after?-and the day after that?” Bassett persisted.

“I would like to have the curing of your head,” Ngurn changed the subject. “It is different from any other head. No devil-devil has a head like it. Besides, I would cure it well. I would take months and months. The moons would come and the moons would go, and the smoke would be very slow, and I should myself gather the materials for the curing smoke. The skin would not wrinkle. It would be as smooth as your skin now.”

He stood up, and from the dim rafters, grimed with the smoking of countless heads, where day was no more than a gloom, took down a matting-wrapped parcel and began to open it.

“It is a head like yours,” he said, “but it is poorly cured.”

Bassett had pricked up his ears at the suggestion that it was a white man’s head; for he had long since come to accept that these jungle-dwellers, in the midmost centre of the great island, had never had intercourse with white men. Certainly he had found them without the almost universal beche-de-mer English of the west South Pacific. Nor had they knowledge of tobacco, nor of gunpowder. Their few precious knives, made from lengths of hoop-iron, and their few and more precious tomahawks from cheap trade hatchets, he had surmised they had captured in war from the bushmen of the jungle beyond the grass lands, and that they, in turn, had similarly gained them from the salt-water men who fringed the coral beaches of the shore and had contact with the occasional white men.

“The folk in the out beyond do not know how to cure heads,” old Ngurn explained, as he drew forth from the filthy matting and placed in Bassett’s hands an indubitable white man’s head.

Ancient it was beyond question; white it was as the blond hair attested. He could have sworn it once belonged to an Englishman, and to an Englishman of long before by token of the heavy gold circlets still threaded in the withered ear-lobes.

“Now your head . . . “ the devil-devil doctor began on his favourite topic.

“I’ll tell you what,” Bassett interrupted, struck by a new idea. “When I die I’ll let you have my head to cure, if, first, you take me to look upon the Red One.”

“I will have your head anyway when you are dead,” Ngurn rejected the proposition. He added, with the brutal frankness of the savage: “Besides, you have not long to live. You are almost a dead man now. You will grow less strong. In not many months I shall have you here turning and turning in the smoke. It is pleasant, through the long afternoons, to turn the head of one you have known as well as I know you. And I shall talk to you and tell you the many secrets you want to know. Which will not matter, for you will be dead.”

“Ngurn,” Bassett threatened in sudden anger. “You know the Baby Thunder in the Iron that is mine.” (This was in reference to his all-potent and all-awful shotgun.) “I can kill you any time, and then you will not get my head.”

“Just the same, will Vngngn, or some one else of my folk get it,” Ngurn complacently assured him. “And just the same will it turn here in the and turn devil-devil house in the smoke. The quicker you slay me with your Baby Thunder, the quicker will your head turn in the smoke.”

And Bassett knew he was beaten in the discussion.

What was the Red One?-Bassett asked himself a thousand times in the succeeding week, while he seemed to grow stronger. What was the source of the wonderful sound? What was this Sun Singer, this Star-Born One, this mysterious deity, as bestial-conducted as the black and kinky-headed and monkey-like human beasts who worshipped it, and whose silver-sweet, bull-mouthed singing and commanding he had heard at the taboo distance for so long?

Ngurn had he failed to bribe with the inevitable curing of his head when he was dead. Vngngn, imbecile and chief that he was, was too imbecilic, too much under the sway of Ngurn, to be considered. Remained Balatta, who, from the time she found him and poked his blue eyes open to recrudescence of her grotesque female hideousness, had continued his adorer. Woman she was, and he had long known that the only way to win from her treason of her tribe was through the woman’s heart of her.

Bassett was a fastidious man. He had never recovered from the initial horror caused by Balatta’s female awfulness. Back in England, even at best the charm of woman, to him, had never been robust. Yet now, resolutely, as only a man can do who is capable of martyring himself for the cause of science, he proceeded to violate all the fineness and delicacy of his nature by making love to the unthinkably disgusting bushwoman.

He shuddered, but with averted face hid his grimaces and swallowed his gorge as he put his arm around her dirt-crusted shoulders and felt the contact of her rancidoily and kinky hair with his neck and chin. But he nearly screamed when she succumbed to that caress so at the very first of the courtship and mowed and gibbered and squealed little, queer, pig-like gurgly noises of delight. It was too much. And the next he did in the singular courtship was to take her down to the stream and give her a vigorous scrubbing.

From then on he devoted himself to her like a true swain as frequently and for as long at a time as his will could override his repugnance. But marriage, which she ardently suggested, with due observance of tribal custom, he balked at. Fortunately, taboo rule was strong in the tribe. Thus, Ngurn could never touch bone, or flesh, or hide of crocodile. This had been ordained at his birth. Vngngn was denied ever the touch of woman. Such pollution, did it chance to occur, could be purged only by the death of the offending female. It had happened once, since Bassett’s arrival, when a girl of nine, running in play, stumbled and fell against the sacred chief. And the girl-child was seen no more. In whispers, Balatta told Bassett that she had been three days and nights in dying before the Red One. As for Balatta, the breadfruit was taboo to her. For which Bassett was thankful. The taboo might have been water.

For himself, he fabricated a special taboo. Only could he marry, he explained, when the Southern Cross rode highest in the sky. Knowing his astronomy, he thus gained a reprieve of nearly nine months; and he was confident that within that time he would either be dead or escaped to the coast with full knowledge of the Red One and of the source of the Red One’s wonderful voice. At first he had fancied the Red One to be some colossal statue, like Memnon, rendered vocal under certain temperature conditions of sunlight. But when, after a war raid, a batch of prisoners was brought in and the sacrifice made at night, in the midst of rain, when the sun could play no part, the Red One had been more vocal than usual, Bassett discarded that hypothesis.

In company with Balatta, sometimes with men and parties of women, the freedom of the jungle was his for three quadrants of the compass. But the fourth quadrant, which contained the Red One’s abiding place, was taboo. He made more thorough love to Balatta-also saw to it that she scrubbed herself more frequently. Eternal female she was, capable of any treason for the sake of love. And, though the sight of her was provocative of nausea and the contact of her provocative of despair, although he could not escape her awfulness in his dream-haunted nightmares of her, he nevertheless was aware of the cosmic verity of sex that animated her and that made her own life of less value than the happiness of her lover with whom she hoped to mate. Juliet or Balatta? Where was the intrinsic difference? The soft and tender product of ultra-civilization, or her bestial prototype of a hundred thousand years before her?-there was no difference.

Bassett was a scientist first, a humanist afterward. In the jungle-heart of Guadalcanal he put the affair to the test, as in the laboratory he would have put to the test any chemical reaction. He increased his feigned ardour for the bushwoman, at the same time increasing the imperiousness of his will of desire over her to be led to look upon the Red One face to face. It was the old story, he recognized, that the woman must pay, and it occurred when the two of them, one day, were catching the unclassified and unnamed little black fish, an inch long, half-eel and half-scaled, rotund with salmon-golden roe, that frequented the fresh water, and that were esteemed, raw and whole, fresh or putrid, a perfect delicacy. Prone in the muck of the decaying jungle-floor, Balatta threw herself, clutching his ankles with her hands kissing his feet and making slubbery noises that chilled his backbone up and down again. She begged him to kill her rather than exact this ultimate love-payment. She told him of the penalty of breaking the taboo of the Red One-a week of torture, living, the details of which she yammered out from her face in the mire until he realized that he was yet a tyro in knowledge of the frightfulness the human was capable of wreaking on the human.

Yet did Bassett insist on having his man’s will satisfied, at the woman’s risk, that he might solve the mystery of the Red One’s singing, though she should die long and horribly and screaming. And Balatta, being mere woman, yielded. She led him into the forbidden quadrant. An abrupt mountain, shouldering in from the north to meet a similar intrusion from the south, tormented the stream in which they had fished into a deep and gloomy gorge. After a mile along the gorge, the way plunged sharply upward until they crossed a saddle of raw limestone which attracted his geologist’s eye. Still climbing, although he paused often from sheer physical weakness, they scaled forest-clad heights until they emerged on a naked mesa or tableland. Bassett recognized the stuff of its composition as black volcanic sand, and knew that a pocket magnet could have captured a full load of the sharply angular grains he trod upon.

And then holding Balatta by the hand and leading her onward, he came to it-a tremendous pit, obviously artificial, in the heart of the plateau. Old history, the South Seas Sailing Directions, scores of remembered data and connotations swift and furious, surged through his brain. It was Mendana who had discovered the islands and named them Solomon’s, believing that he had found that monarch’s fabled mines. They had laughed at the old navigator’s child-like credulity; and yet here stood himself, Bassett, on the rim of an excavation for all the world like the diamond pits of South Africa.

But no diamond this that he gazed down upon. Rather was it a pearl, with the depth of iridescence of a pearl; but of a size all pearls of earth and time, welded into one, could not have totalled; and of a colour undreamed of in any pearl, or of anything else, for that matter, for it was the colour of the Red One. And the Red One himself Bassett knew it to be on the instant. A perfect sphere, full two hundred feet in diameter, the top of it was a hundred feet below the level of the rim. He likened the colour quality of it to lacquer. Indeed, he took it to be some sort of lacquer, applied by man, but a lacquer too marvellously clever to have been manufactured by the bush-folk. Brighter than bright cherry-red, its richness of colour was as if it were red builded upon red. It glowed and iridesced in the sunlight as if gleaming up from underlay under underlay of red.

In vain Balatta strove to dissuade him from descending. She threw herself in the dirt; but, when he continued down the trail that spiralled the pit-wall, she followed, cringing and whimpering her terror. That the red sphere had been dug out as a precious thing, was patent. Considering the paucity of members of the federated twelve villages and their primitive tools and methods, Bassett knew that the toil of a myriad generations could scarcely have made that enormous excavation.

He found the pit bottom carpeted with human bones, among which, battered and defaced, lay village gods of wood and stone. Some, covered with obscene totemic figures and designs, were carved from solid tree trunks forty or fifty feet in length. He noted the absence of the shark and turtle gods, so common among the shore villages, and was amazed at the constant recurrence of the helmet motive. What did these jungle savages of the dark heart of Guadalcanal know of helmets? Had Mendana’s men-at-arms worn helmets and penetrated here centuries before? And if not, then whence had the bush-folk caught the motive?

Advancing over the litter of gods and bones, Balatta whimpering at his heels, Bassett entered the shadow of the Red One and passed on under its gigantic overhang until he touched it with his finger-tips. No lacquer that. Nor was the surface smooth as it should have been in the case of lacquer. On the contrary, it was corrugated and pitted, with here and there patches that showed signs of heat and fusing. Also, the substance of it was metal, though unlike any metal, or combination of metals, he had ever known. As for the colour itself, he decided it to be no application. It was the intrinsic colour of the metal itself.

He moved his finger-tips, which up to that had merely rested, along the surface, and felt the whole gigantic sphere quicken and live and respond. It was incredible! So light a touch on so vast a mass! Yet did it quiver under the finger-tip caress in rhythmic vibrations that became whisperings and rustlings and mutterings of sound-but of sound so different; so elusively thin that it was shimmeringly sibilant; so mellow that it was maddening sweet, piping like an elfin horn, which last was just what Bassett decided would be like a peal from some bell of the gods reaching earthward from across space.

He looked at Balatta with swift questioning; but the voice of the Red One he had evoked had flung her face downward and moaning among the bones. He returned to contemplation of the prodigy. Hollow it was, and of no metal known on earth, was his conclusion. It was right-named by the ones of old-time as the Star-Born. Only from the stars could it have come, and no thing of chance was it. It was a creation of artifice and mind. Such perfection of form, such hollowness that it certainly possessed, could not be the result of mere fortuitousness. A child of intelligences, remote and unguessable, working corporally in metals, it indubitably was. He stared at it in amaze, his brain a racing wild-fire of hypotheses to account for this far-journeyer who had adventured the night of space, threaded the stars, and now rose before him and above him, exhumed by patient anthropophagi, pitted and lacquered by its fiery bath in two atmospheres.

But was the colour a lacquer of heat upon some familiar metal? Or was it an intrinsic quality of the metal itself? He thrust in the blue-point of his pocket-knife to test the constitution of the stuff. Instantly the entire sphere burst into a mighty whispering, sharp with protest, almost twanging goldenly, if a whisper could possibly be considered to twang, rising higher, sinking deeper, the two extremes of the registry of sound threatening to complete the circle and coalesce into the bull-mouthed thundering he had so often heard beyond the taboo distance.

Forgetful of safety, of his own life itself, entranced by the wonder of the unthinkable and unguessable thing, he raised his knife to strike heavily from a long stroke, but was prevented by Balatta. She upreared on her own knees in an agony of terror, clasping his knees and supplicating him to desist. In the intensity of her desire to impress him, she put her forearm between her teeth and sank them to the bone.

He scarcely observed her act, although he yielded automatically to his gentler instincts and withheld the knife-hack. To him, human life had dwarfed to microscopic proportions before this colossal portent of higher life from within the distances of the sidereal universe. As had she been a dog, he kicked the ugly little bushwoman to her feet and compelled her to start with him on an encirclement of the base. Part way around, he encountered horrors. Even, among the others, did he recognize the sun-shrivelled remnant of the nine-years girl who had accidentally broken Chief Vngngn’s personality taboo. And, among what was left of these that had passed, he encountered what was left of one who had not yet passed. Truly had the bush-folk named themselves into the name of the Red One, seeing in him their own image which they strove to placate and please with such red offerings.

Farther around, always treading the bones and images of humans and gods that constituted the floor of this ancient charnel-house of sacrifice, he came upon the device by which the Red One was made to send his call singing thunderingly across the jungle-belts and grass-lands to the far beach of Ringmanu. Simple and primitive was it as was the Red One’s consummate artifice. A great king-post, half a hundred feet in length, seasoned by centuries of superstitious care, carven into dynasties of gods, each superimposed, each helmeted, each seated in the open mouth of a crocodile, was slung by ropes, twisted of climbing vegetable parasites, from the apex of a tripod of three great forest trunks, themselves carved into grinning and grotesque adumbrations of man’s modern concepts of art and god. From the striker king-post, were suspended ropes of climbers to which men could apply their strength and direction. Like a battering ram, this king-post could be driven end-onward against the mighty red-iridescent sphere.

Here was where Ngurn officiated and functioned religiously for himself and the twelve tribes under him. Bassett laughed aloud, almost with madness, at the thought of this wonderful messenger, winged with intelligence across space, to fall into a bushman stronghold and be worshipped by ape-like, man-eating and head-hunting savages. It was as if God’s World had fallen into the muck mire of the abyss underlying the bottom of hell; as if Jehovah’s Commandments had been presented on carved stone to the monkeys of the monkey cage at the Zoo; as if the Sermon on the Mount had been preached in a roaring bedlam of lunatics.

The slow weeks passed. The nights, by election, Bassett spent on the ashen floor of the devil-devil house, beneath the ever-swinging, slow-curing heads. His reason for this was that it was taboo to the lesser sex of woman, and therefore, a refuge for him from Balatta, who grew more persecutingly and perilously loverly as the Southern Cross rode higher in the sky and marked the imminence of her nuptials. His days Bassett spent in a hammock swung under the shade of the great breadfruit tree before the devil-devil house. There were breaks in this programme, when, in the comas of his devastating fever-attacks, he lay for days and nights in the house of heads. Ever he struggled to combat the fever, to live, to continue to live, to grow strong and stronger against the day when he would be strong enough to dare the grass-lands and the belted jungle beyond, and win to the beach, and to some labour-recruiting, black-birding ketch or schooner, and on to civilization and the men of civilization, to whom he could give news of the message from other worlds that lay, darkly worshipped by beastmen, in the black heart of Guadalcanal’s midmost centre.

On the other nights, lying late under the breadfruit tree, Bassett spent long hours watching the slow setting of the western stars beyond the black wall of jungle where it had been thrust back by the clearing for the village. Possessed of more than a cursory knowledge of astronomy, he took a sick man’s pleasure in speculating as to the dwellers on the unseen worlds of those incredibly remote suns, to haunt whose houses of light, life came forth, a shy visitant, from the rayless crypts of matter. He could no more apprehend limits to time than bounds to space. No subversive radium speculations had shaken his steady scientific faith in the conservation of energy and the indestructibility of matter. Always and forever must there have been stars. And surely, in that cosmic ferment, all must be comparatively alike, comparatively of the same substance, or substances, save for the freaks of the ferment. All must obey, or compose, the same laws that ran without infraction through the entire experience of man. Therefore, he argued and agreed, must worlds and life be appanages to all the suns as they were appanages to the particular of his own solar system.

Even as he lay here, under the breadfruit tree, an intelligence that stared across the starry gulfs, so must all the universe be exposed to the ceaseless scrutiny of innumerable eyes, like his, though grantedly different, with behind them, by the same token, intelligences that questioned and sought the meaning and the construction of the whole. So reasoning, he felt his soul go forth in kinship with that august company, that multitude whose gaze was forever upon the arras of infinity.

Who were they, what were they, those far distant and superior ones who had bridged the sky with their gigantic, red-iridescent, heaven-singing message? Surely, and long since, had they, too, trod the path on which man had so recently, by the calendar of the cosmos, set his feet. And to be able to send a message across the pit of space, surely they had reached those heights to which man, in tears and travail and bloody sweat, in darkness and confusion of many counsels, was so slowly struggling. And what were they on their heights? Had they won Brotherhood? Or had they learned that the law of love imposed the penalty of weakness and decay? Was strife, life? Was the rule of all the universe the pitiless rule of natural selection? And, and most immediately and poignantly, were their far conclusions, their long-won wisdoms, shut even then in the huge, metallic heart of the Red One, waiting for the first earth-man to read? Of one thing he was certain: No drop of red dew shaken from the lion-mane of some sun in torment, was the sounding sphere. It was of design, not chance, and it contained the speech and wisdom of the stars.

What engines and elements and mastered forces, what lore and mysteries and destiny-controls, might be there! Undoubtedly, since so much could be enclosed in so little a thing as the foundation stone of a public building, this enormous sphere should contain vast histories, profounds of research achieved beyond man’s wildest guesses, laws and formulae that, easily mastered, would make man’s life on earth, individual and collective, spring up from its present mire to inconceivable heights of purity and power. It was Time’s greatest gift to blindfold, insatiable, and sky-aspiring man. And to him, Bassett, had been vouchsafed the lordly fortune to be the first to receive this message from man’s interstellar kin!

No white man, much less no outland man of the other bush-tribes, had gazed upon the Red One and lived. Such the law expounded by Ngurn to Bassett. There was such a thing as blood brotherhood. Bassett, in return, had often argued in the past. But Ngurn had stated solemnly no. Even the blood brotherhood was outside the favour of the Red One. Only a man born within the tribe could look upon the Red One and live. But now, his guilty secret known only to Balatta, whose fear of immolation before the Red One fast-sealed her lips, the situation was different. What he had to do was to recover from the abominable fevers that weakened him, and gain to civilization. Then would he lead an expedition back, and, although the entire population of Guadalcanal he destroyed, extract from the heart of the Red One the message of the world from other worlds.

But Bassett’s relapses grew more frequent, his brief convalescences less and less vigorous, his periods of coma longer, until he came to know, beyond the last promptings of the optimism inherent in so tremendous a constitution as his own, that he would never live to cross the grass lands, perforate the perilous coast jungle, and reach the sea. He faded as the Southern Cross rose higher in the sky, till even Balatta knew that he would be dead ere the nuptial date determined by his taboo. Ngurn made pilgrimage personally and gathered the smoke materials for the curing of Bassett’s head, and to him made proud announcement and exhibition of the artistic perfectness of his intention when Bassett should be dead. As for himself, Bassett was not shocked. Too long and too deeply had life ebbed down in him to bite him with fear of its impending extinction. He continued to persist, alternating periods of unconsciousness with periods of semi-consciousness, dreamy and unreal, in which he idly wondered whether he had ever truly beheld the Red One or whether it was a nightmare fancy of delirium.

Came the day when all mists and cob-webs dissolved, when he found his brain clear as a bell, and took just appraisement of his body’s weakness. Neither hand nor foot could he lift. So little control of his body did he have, that he was scarcely aware of possessing one. Lightly indeed his flesh sat upon his soul, and his soul, in its briefness of clarity, knew by its very clarity that the black of cessation was near. He knew the end was close; knew that in all truth he had with his eyes beheld the Red One, the messenger between the worlds; knew that he would never live to carry that message to the world-that message, for aught to the contrary, which might already have waited man’s hearing in the heart of Guadalcanal for ten thousand years. And Bassett stirred with resolve, calling Ngurn to him, out under the shade of the breadfruit tree, and with the old devil-devil doctor discussing the terms and arrangements of his last life effort, his final adventure in the quick of the flesh.

“I know the law, O Ngurn,” he concluded the matter. “Whoso is not of the folk may not look upon the Red One and live. I shall not live anyway. Your young men shall carry me before the face of the Red One, and I shall look upon him, and hear his voice, and thereupon die, under your hand, O Ngurn. Thus will the three things be satisfied: the law, my desire, and your quicker possession of my head for which all your preparations wait.”

To which Ngurn consented, adding:

“It is better so. A sick man who cannot get well is foolish to live on for so little a while. Also is it better for the living that he should go. You have been much in the way of late. Not but what it was good for me to talk to such a wise one. But for moons of days we have held little talk. Instead, you have taken up room in the house of heads, making noises like a dying pig, or talking much and loudly in your own language which I do not understand. This has been a confusion to me, for I like to think on the great things of the light and dark as I turn the heads in the smoke. Your much noise has thus been a disturbance to the long-learning and hatching of the final wisdom that will be mine before I die. As for you, upon whom the dark has already brooded, it is well that you die now. And I promise you, in the long days to come when I turn your head in the smoke, no man of the tribe shall come in to disturb us. And I will tell you many secrets, for I am an old man and very wise, and I shall be adding wisdom to wisdom as I turn your head in the smoke.”

So a litter was made, and, borne on the shoulders of half a dozen of the men, Bassett departed on the last little adventure that was to cap the total adventure, for him, of living. With a body of which he was scarcely aware, for even the pain had been exhausted out of it, and with a bright clear brain that accommodated him to a quiet ecstasy of sheer lucidness of thought, he lay back on the lurching litter and watched the fading of the passing world, beholding for the last time the breadfruit tree before the devil-devil house, the dim day beneath the matted jungle roof, the gloomy gorge between the shouldering mountains, the saddle of raw limestone, and the mesa of black volcanic sand.

Down the spiral path of the pit they bore him, encircling the sheening, glowing Red One that seemed ever imminent to iridesce from colour and light into sweet singing and thunder. And over bones and logs of immolated men and gods they bore him, past the horrors of other immolated ones that yet lived, to the three-king-post tripod and the huge king-post striker.

Here Bassett, helped by Ngurn and Balatta, weakly sat up, swaying weakly from the hips, and with clear, unfaltering, all-seeing eyes gazed upon the Red One.

“Once, O Ngurn,” he said, not taking his eyes from the sheening, vibrating surface whereon and wherein all the shades of cherry-red played unceasingly, ever a-quiver to change into sound, to become silken rustlings, silvery whisperings, golden thrummings of cords, velvet pipings of elfland, mellow distances of thunderings.

“I wait,” Ngurn prompted after a long pause, the long-handled tomahawk unassumingly ready in his hand.

“Once, O Ngurn,” Bassett repeated, “let the Red One speak so that I may see it speak as well as hear it. Then strike, thus, when I raise my hand; for, when I raise my hand, I shall drop my head forward and make place for the stroke at the base of my neck. But, O Ngurn, I, who am about to pass out of the light of day for ever, would like to pass with the wonder-voice of the Red One singing greatly in my ears.”

“And I promise you that never will a head be so well cured as yours,” Ngurn assured him, at the same time signalling the tribesmen to man the propelling ropes suspended from the king-post striker. “Your head shall be my greatest piece of work in the curing of heads.”

Bassett smiled quietly to the old one’s conceit, as the great carved log, drawn back through two-score feet of space, was released. The next moment he was lost in ecstasy at the abrupt and thunderous liberation of sound. But such thunder! Mellow it was with preciousness of all sounding metals. Archangels spoke in it; it was magnificently beautiful before all other sounds; it was invested with the intelligence of supermen of planets of other suns; it was the voice of God, seducing and commanding to be heard. And-the everlasting miracle of that interstellar metal! Bassett, with his own eyes, saw colour and colours transform into sound till the whole visible surface of the vast sphere was a-crawl and titillant and vaporous with what he could not tell was colour or was sound. In that moment the interstices of matter were his, and the interfusings and intermating transfusings of matter and force.

Time passed. At the last Bassett was brought back from his ecstasy by an impatient movement of Ngurn. He had quite forgotten the old devil-devil one. A quick flash of fancy brought a husky chuckle into Bassett’s throat. His shot-gun lay beside him in the litter. All he had to do, muzzle to head, was to press the trigger and blow his head into nothingness.

But why cheat him? was Bassett’s next thought. Head-hunting, cannibal beast of a human that was as much ape as human, nevertheless Old Ngurn had, according to his lights, played squarer than square. Ngurn was in himself a forerunner of ethics and contract, of consideration, and gentleness in man. No, Bassett decided; it would be a ghastly pity and an act of dishonour to cheat the old fellow at the last. His head was Ngurn’s, and Ngurn’s head to cure it would be.

And Bassett, raising his hand in signal, bending forward his head as agreed so as to expose cleanly the articulation to his taut spinal cord, forgot Balatta, who was merely a woman, a woman merely and only and undesired. He knew, without seeing, when the razor-edged hatchet rose in the air behind him. And for that instant, ere the end, there fell upon Bassett the shadows of the Unknown, a sense of impending marvel of the rending of walls before the imaginable. Almost, when he knew the blow had started and just ere the edge of steel bit the flesh and nerves it seemed that he gazed upon the serene face of the Medusa, Truth-And, simultaneous with the bite of the steel on the onrush of the dark, in a flashing instant of fancy, he saw the vision of his head turning slowly, always turning, in the devil-devil house beside the breadfruit tree.

The Rejuvenation of Major Rathbone

“ALCHEMY was a magnificent dream, fascinating, impossible; but before it passed away there sprang from its loins a more marvelous child, none other than chemistry. More marvelous, because it substituted fact for fancy, and immensely widened man’s realm of achievement. It has turned probability into possibility, and from the ideal it has fashioned the real. Do you follow me?”

Dover absently hunted for a match, at the same time regarding me with a heavy seriousness which instantly called to my mind Old Doc Frawley, our clinical lecturer of but a few years previous. I nodded assent, and he, having appropriately wreathed himself in smoke, went on with his discourse.

“Alchemy has taught us many things, while not a few of its visions have been realized by us in these latter days. The Elixir of Life was absurd, perpetual youth a rank negation of the very principle of life. But — ”

Dover here paused with exasperating solemnity.

“But prolongation of life is too common an incident nowadays for any one to question. Not so very long ago, a ‘generation’ represented thirty-three years, the average duration of human existence. To-day, because of the rapid strides of medicine, sanitation, distribution, and so forth, a ‘generation’ is reckoned at thirty-four years. By the time of our great-grandchildren, it may have increased to forty years. Quien sabe? And again, we ourselves may see it actually doubled.”

‘Ah!” he cried, observing my start. “You see what I am driving at?”

“Yes,” I replied. “But — ”

“Never mind the ‘buts,’” he burst in autocratically. “You ossified conservatives have always hung back at the coat-tails of science — ”

“And as often saved it from breaking its neck,” I retaliated.

“Just hold your horses a minute, and let me go on. What is life? Schopenhauer has defined it as the affirmation of the will to live, which is a philosophical absurdity, by the way, but with which we have no concern. Now, what is death? Simply the wearing out, the exhaustion, the breaking down, of the cells, tissues, nerves, bones and muscles of the human organism. Surgeons find great difficulty in knitting the broh bones of elderly people. Why? Because the bone, weakened, approaching the stage of dissolution, is no longer able to cast off the mineral deposits thrust in upon it by the natural functions of the body. And how easily such a bone is fractured! Yet, were it possible to remove the large deposits of phosphate, carbonate of soda, and so forth, the bone would regain the spring and rebound which it possessed in its youth.

“Merely apply this process, in varying measures, to the rest of the anatomy, and you have what? Simply the retardation of the system’s break-up, the circumvention of old age, the banishment of senility, and the recapture of giddy youth. If science has prolonged the life of the generation by one year, is it not equally possible that it may prolong that of the individual by many?”

To turn back the dial of life, to reverse the hour-glass of Time and run its golden sands anew — the audacity of it fascinated me. What was to prevent? If one year, why not twenty? Forty?

Pshaw! I was just beginning to smile at my credulity when Dover pulled open the drawer beside him and brought to view a metal-stoppered vial. I confess to a sharp pang of disappointment as I gazed upon the very ordinary liquid it contained — a heavy, almost colorless fluid, with none of the brilliant iridescence one would so naturally expect of such a magic compound. He shook it lovingly, almost caressingly; but there was no manifestation of its occult properties. Then he pressed open a black leather case and nodded suggestively at the hypodermic syringe on its velvet bed. The Brown-Sequard Elixir and Koch’s experiments with lymph darted across my mind. I smiled with cherry doubtfulness; but he, divining my thought, made haste to say, “No, they were on the right road, but missed it.”

He opened an inner door of the laboratory and called “Hector! Come, old fellow, come on!”

Hector was a superannuated Newfoundland who had for years been utterly worthless for anything save lying around in people’s way, and in this he was an admirable success. Conceive my astonishment when a heavy, burly animal rushed in like a whirlwind and upset things generally till finally quelled by his master. Dover looked eloquently at me, without speaking.

“But that — that isn’t Hector!” I cried, doubting against doubt.

He turned up the under side of the animal’s ear, and I saw two hard-lipped slits, mementoes of his wild young fighting days, when his master and I were mere lads ourselves. I remembered the wounds perfectly.

“Sixteen years old and as lively as a puppy.” Dover beamed triumphantly. “I’ve been experimenting on him for two months. Nobody knows as yet, but won’t they open their eyes when Hector runs abroad again! The plain matter of fact is I’ve given new lease of life with the lymph injection — same lymph as that used by earlier investigators, only they failed to clarify their compounds while I have succeeded. What is it? An animal derivative to stay and remove the effects of senility by acting upon the stagnated life-cells of any animal organism. Take the anatomical changes in Hector here, produced by infusion of the lymph compound; in the main they may be characterized as the expulsion from the bones of mineral deposits and an infiltration of the muscular tissues. Of course there are minor considerations; but these I have also overcome, not, however, without the unfortunate demise of several of my earlier animal subjects. I could not bring myself to work on Hector till failure had been eliminated from the problem. And now — ”

He rose to his feet and paced excitedly up and down. It was some time before he took up his uncompleted thought.

“And now I am prepared to administer this rejuvenator to humans. And I propose, first of all, to work on one who is very dear to me — ”

“Not — not — ?” I quavered.

Yes, Uncle Max. That’s why I have called in your assistance. I have found discovery capping discovery, till now the process of rejuvenation has become so accelerated that I am afraid of myself. Besides, Uncle Max is so very old that the greatest discretion is necessary. Such crucial ^nsformations in the whole organism of an age-weakened body can only be brought about by the most drastic methods, and there is great need to be careful. As I have said, I have grown afraid of myself, and need another mind to hold me in check. Do you understand? Will you help me?”

*

I have introduced the above conversation with my friend, Dover Wallingford, to show by what means I was led into one of the strangest scientific experiences of my life. Of the utterly unheard-of things that followed, the village has not yet ceased to talk upon and wonder. And as the village is unacquainted with the real facts in the case, it has been stirred to its profoundest depths by the untoward happenings. The excitement created was tremendous; three camp-meetings ran simultaneously and with marvelous success; there has been much talk of signs and portents, and not a few otherwise normal members of the community have proclaimed the advent of the latter-day miracles, and even yet their ears are patiently alert for the Trump of Doom, and their eyes lifted that they may witness the rolling up of the heavens as a scroll. As for Major Rathbone, otherwise Dover’s Uncle Max, why he is looked upon by a certain portion of the village as a second Lazarus raised from the dead, as one who has almost seen God; while another portion of the village is equally set in its belief that he has entered into a league with Lucifer, and that some day he will disappear in a whirlwind of brimstone and hell-fire.

But be this as it may, I shall here state the facts as they really are. It is not my intention, however, to go into the details of the case, exccept as to the results regarding Major Rathbone. Several contingencies have arisen, which must be seen to before we electrify the sleepy old world with the working formula of our wonderful discovery.

Then we shall convene a synod of the nations, and the rejuvenation of mankind will be placed in the hands of competent boards of experts belonging to the several governments. And we here promise that it shall be as free as the air we breathe or the water we drink. Further, in view of our purely altruistic motives, we ask that our present secrecy be respected and not be made the object of invidious reflections by the world we intend befriending.

Now to work. I at once sent for my traps and took up my residence one of the suites adjoining Dover’s laboratory. Major Rathbone, dazzled by the glittering promise of youth, yielded readily to our solicitations. To the world at large, he was lying sick unto death; but in reality he was waxing heartier and stronger with every day spent upon him. For three months we devoted ourselves to the task — a task fraught with constant danger, yet so absorbing that we hardly noted the flight of time. The color returned to the Major’s pallid skin, the muscles filled out, and the wrinkles in part disappeared. He had been no mean athlete in his younger days, and having no organic weaknesses, his strength returned to him in a most miraculous manner. The snap and energy he gathered were surprising, and lusty youth so rioted in his blood that toward the last we were often hard put to restrain him. We who had started out to resuscitate a feeble old man, found upon our hands an impetuous young giant. The remarkable part of it was that his snow-white hair and beard remained unchanged. Try as we would, it resisted every effort. Further, the irascibility which had come with advancing years still remained. And this, allied with the natural stubbornness and truculency of his disposition, became a grievous burden to us.

Sometime in the early part of April, because of a red-tape tangle at the express office regarding a shipment of chemicals, both Dover and myself were forced to be away. We had given Michel, Dover’s trusted man, the necessary instructions, so did not apprehend any trouble. But on our return he met us rather shame-facedly at the entrance to the grounds.

“He’s gone!” he gasped. “He’s gone!” he repeated again and again, in his distress. His right arm hung limp and nerveless at his side, and it required no little patience to finally come to an understanding.

“I told him it was the orders that he mustn’t go out. But he bellered like a wild bull, and wanted to know whose orders. And when I told him, he said it was time I should know that he took orders from no man. And when I stood in his way he took me by the arm, so, and just squeezed tight. I’m afraid it’s broken, sir. And then he called Hector and went off across the fields to the village.”

“Oh, your arm’s all right,” Dover assured him after due examination. “Just crushed the biceps a little, be kind of stiff and sore for a couple of days, that’s all.” And then to me, “Come on; we’ve got to find him.”

It was a simple matter to follow him to the village. As we came down the main street, a crowd before the post office attracted our attention, and though we arrived at the climax, we could easily divine what had gone before. A bulldog, belonging to a trio of mill-hands, had picked a quarrel with Hector; and as it had been impossible to balance the second puppyhood of Hector with a new set of teeth, it was patent that he had been at a miserable disadvantage in the fight that followed. It was evident that Major Rathbone had intervened in an endeavor to separate the animals, and that the roughs had resented this. Besides, he was such a harmless-looking old gentleman, with his snow-white hair and patriarchal aspect, that they anticipated having a little fun with him.

“Aw, g’wan,” we could hear one of the burly fellows saying, at same time shoving the Major back as though he were a little boy.

He protested courteously that the dog was his; but they chose to regard him as a joke and refused to listen. The crowd was composed of a low breed of men, anyway, and they jammed in so closely to see th sport that we had hard work in cleaving a passage.

“Now, nibsy,” commanded the mill-hand who had shoved Major Rathbone back, “don’t yer think you’d better chase yerself home to yer mammy? This ain’t no manner o’ place fer leetle boys like you.”

The Major was a fighter from the word go. And just then he let go. Before one could count three it was over; a swing under the first rufffian’s ear, a half-jolt on the point of the second one’s chin, and a shrewd block, with fake swing and swift uppercut on the jugular of the third, stretched the three brutes in the muck of the street. The crowd drew back hastily before this ancient prodigy, and we could hear more than one fervently abjuring his eyes.

As he arose from drawing the dogs apart, there was a cheery twinkle in the Major’s eye which disconcerted us. We had approached him in the attitude of keepers recovering a patient: but his thorough sanity and perfect composure took us aback.

“Say,” he said jovially, “there’s a little place just round the corner here — best old rye — a-hem!” And he winked significantly as we linked arms like comrades and passed out through the petrified crowd.

From this moment our control was at an end. He always had be a masterful man, and from now on, he proceeded to demonstrate how capable he was of taking care of himself. His mysterious rejuvenation became, but would not remain, a nine days’ wonder, for it grew and grew from day to day. Morning after morning he could be seen tramping home for breakfast across the dewy fields, with a fair-fill game-bag and Dover’s shotgun. In previous years he had been a devoted horseman. One afternoon we returned from a trip to the city to find half the village hanging over the paddock fence. On closer inspection we discovered the Major breaking in one of the colts which had hitherto defied the stablemen. It was an edifying spectacle — his gray licks and venerable beard the sport of the wind as he dashed round and round on the maddened animal’s back. But conquer the brute he did, till a stable boy led it away, trembling and as abject as a kitten. Another time, taking what had now become his customary afternoon ride, his indomitable spirit was fired by a party of well-mounted young fellows, and he let out with his big black stallion till he gave them his dust all the way down the principal street of the drowsy town.

In short, he took up the reins of life where he had dropped them years before. He was a fiery conservative as regards politics, and the peculiarly distasteful state of affairs then prevailing enticed him again into the arena. A crisis was approaching between the mill-owners and their workingmen, and a turbulent class of “agitators” had drifted into our midst. Not only did the Major oppose them openly, but he thrashed several of the more offensive leaders, nipped the strike in its incipiency, and in a most exciting campaign swept into the mayoralty. The closeness of the count but served to accentuate how bitter had been the struggle. And in the meantime he presided at indignant mass-meetings, and had the whole community shouting “Cuba Libre!” and almost ready to march to her deliverance.

In truth, he rioted about the country like a young Nimrod, and administered the affairs of the town with the wisdom of a Solon. He snorted like an old war-horse at opposition, and woe to them that ventured to stand up against him. Success only stimulated him to greater activity; but, while such activity would have been commendable in a younger man, in one of his advanced years it seemed so inconsistent and inappropriate that his friends and relatives were shocked beyond measure. Dover and I could but hold our hands in helplessness and watch the antics of our hoary marvel.

His fame, or as we chose to call it, his notoriety spread till there was talk in the district of running him for Congress in the coming elections. Sensational space-writers filled columns of Sunday editions with garbled accounts of his doings and of his tremendous vitality. These “yellow-journal” interviewers would have driven us to distraction with their insistent clamor, had not the Major himself taken the matter in hand. For awhile it was his custom to occasionally throw an odd one out of the house before breakfast, and invariably, when he returned home in the evening, to attend similarly to the wants of three or four. A pest of curiosity-mongers and learned professors descended upon our quiet neighborhood. Spectacled gentlemen, usually bald-headed and always urbane, came singly, in pairs, in committees and delegations to note the facts and phenomena of this most remarkable of cases. Mystic enthusiasts, long-haired and wild-eyed, and devotees of countless occult systems haunted our front and back doors, and trampled upon the flowers till the gardener threatened to throw up his position in despair. And I veritably believe a saving of ten per cent on the coal bill could have been compassed by the burning up of unsolicited correspondence.

And to cap the whole business, when the United States declared war against Spain, Major Rathbone at once resigned his mayorship and applied to the war department for a commission. In view of his civil war record and his present superb health, it was highly probable that his request would be granted.

“It seems that before we can foist this rejuvenator upon the world, we must also discover an antidote for it — a sort of emasculator to reduce the friskiness attendant upon the return to youth, you know.”

We had sat down, though in seemingly hopeless despondency, to discuss the difficulty and to try and find some way out of it.

“You see,” Dover went on, “after revivifying an aged person, that person passes wholly out of our power. We can impose no checks, nor in any way can we tone down whatever excess of youthful spontaneity we may have induced. I see, now, that great care must be exercised in the administration of our lymph — the greatest of care if we should wish to avoid all manner of absurdities in the conduct of the patient. But that isn’t the question at issue. What are we to do with Uncle Max? I confess, beyond gaining delay through the War Office, that I am at the end of my tether.”

For the nonce Dover was so helpless that I felt not a little elarior unfolding the plan I had been considering for some time.

“You spoke of antidotes,” I began tentatively.

“Now, as we happen to know, there are antidotes and antidotes, and yet again are there antidotes, some as a remedy for this evil and for that. Should a babe drink a pint of kerosene, what antidote would you suggest?”

Dover shook his head.

“And since there is no antidote for such an emergency, do we assume that the babe must die? Not at all. We administer an emetic. But of course, an emetic is out of the question in the present case. But again, say for one suffering from uxoriousness, or for an hypochondriac, what remedy should be applied? Certainly, neither of the two I have mentioned will do. Now, for a man, melancholy-mad, what would you prescribe?”

“Change,” he replied, instantly. “Something else to withdraw him from himself and his morbid brooding to give him new interest in life, to supply him with a reason for existence.”

“Very good,” I continued, jubilantly. “You will notice that you have prescribed an antidote, it is true, but instead of a physical or medicinal one, it is intangible and abstract. Now, can you give me a similar remedy for excessive spirits or strength?”

Dover looked puzzled and waited for me to go on.

“Do you remember a certain strong man of the name of Samson? also Delilah, the fair Philistine? Have you ever noted the significance of ‘Beauty and the beast’? Do you not know that the strength of the strong has been wilted, dynasties been raised or demolished, and countless nations plunged into or rescued from civil strife, all because of the love of woman?”

“There’s your antidote,” I added modestly, as an afterthought.

“Oh!” His eyes flashed hopefully for an instant, but dismay returned as he shook his head sadly and said, “But the eligibles? There are none.”

“Do you recollect a certain romance of the Major’s when he was quite a young man, long before the war?”

“You mean Miss Deborah Furbush, your Aunt Debby?”

“Yes; my Aunt Debby. They quarreled, you know, and never made up — ”

“Nor spoke to each other since — ”

“O yes, they have. Ever since his rejuvenation he has called there regularly to pay his respects and ask for her health. Sort of gloats over her, you see. She’s been bedridden a year now; have to carry her up and down stairs, and nothing the matter except simple old age.”

“If she’s strong enough,” Dover hazarded.

“Strong enough!” I cried. “I tell you, man, it’s genuine senility — nothing in the world to guard against but a very slight valvular weak¬ness of the heart. What d’ye say? Get a couple of months’ delay on his commission, and start in on Aunt Debby at once. What say, old man? What say?

Not only had I grown excited over this solution of our difficulty, but I had at last aroused his enthusiasm. Appreciating the need for haste, we at once gutted the laboratory of all essentials and took up our abode at my home, which, in turn, was just over the way from Aunt Debby’s.

By this time we had the whole operation at the ends of our fingers, so were able to proceed with the utmost dispatch. But we were very sly about it, and Major Rathbone had not the slightest idea of what we were up to. A week from the time we began, the Furbush household was startled by Aunt Debby’s rising to give her hand to the Major when he made his usual call. A fortnight later, from a coign of vantage in my windmill, we saw them strolling about the garden, and noted a certain new gallantry in the Major’s carriage. And the rapidity with which Aunt Debby breasted the tide of Time was dizzying. She grew visibly younger, day by day, and the roses of youth returned to her cheek, giving her the most beautiful pink and pearl complexion imaginable.

Perhaps ten days after that, he drove up to the door and took her out driving. And how the village talked! Which was nothing to the way it gabbed, when, a month later, the Major’s interest in the war abated and he declined his commission. And when the superannuated lovers walked bravely to the altar and then went off on their honeymoon, it seemed that all tongues wagged till they could wag no more.

As I have said, this lymph is a wonderful discovery.

A Relic of the Pliocene

I wash my hands of him at the start. I cannot father his tales, nor will I be responsible for them. I make these preliminary reservations, observe, as a guard upon my own integrity. I possess a certain definite position in a small way, also a wife; and for the good name of the community that honours my existence with its approval, and for the sake of her posterity and mine, I cannot take the chances I once did, nor foster probabilities with the careless improvidence of youth. So, I repeat, I wash my hands of him, this Nimrod, this mighty hunter, this homely, blue-eyed, freckle-faced Thomas Stevens.

Having been honest to myself, and to whatever prospective olive branches my wife may be pleased to tender me, I can now afford to be generous. I shall not criticize the tales told me by Thomas Stevens, and, further, I shall withhold my judgment. If it be asked why, I can only add that judgment I have none. Long have I pondered, weighed, and balanced, but never have my conclusions been twice the same--forsooth! because Thomas Stevens is a greater man than I. If he have told truths, well and good; if untruths, still well and good. For who can prove? or who disprove? I eliminate myself from the proposition, while those of little faith may do as I have done--go find the same Thomas Stevens, and discuss to his face the various matters which, if fortune serve, I shall relate. As to where he may be found? The directions are simple: anywhere between 53 north latitude and the Pole, on the one hand; and, on the other, the likeliest hunting grounds that lie between the east coast of Siberia and farthermost Labrador. That he is there, somewhere, within that clearly defined territory, I pledge the word of an honourable man whose expectations entail straight speaking and right living.

Thomas Stevens may have toyed prodigiously with truth, but when we first met (it were well to mark this point), he wandered into my camp when I thought myself a thousand miles beyond the outermost post of civilization. At the sight of his human face, the first in weary months, I could have sprung forward and folded him in my arms (and I am not by any means a demonstrative man); but to him his visit seemed the most casual thing under the sun. He just strolled into the light of my camp, passed the time of day after the custom of men on beaten trails, threw my snowshoes the one way and a couple of dogs the other, and so made room for himself by the fire. Said he’d just dropped in to borrow a pinch of soda and to see if I had any decent tobacco. He plucked forth an ancient pipe, loaded it with painstaking care, and, without as much as by your leave, whacked half the tobacco of my pouch into his. Yes, the stuff was fairly good. He sighed with the contentment of the just, and literally absorbed the smoke from the crisping yellow flakes, and it did my smoker’s heart good to behold him.

Hunter? Trapper? Prospector? He shrugged his shoulders No; just sort of knocking round a bit. Had come up from the Great Slave some time since, and was thinking of trapsing over into the Yukon country. The factor of Koshim had spoken about the discoveries on the Klondike, and he was of a mind to run over for a peep. I noticed that he spoke of the Klondike in the archaic vernacular, calling it the Reindeer River--a conceited custom that the Old Timers employ against the CHECHAQUAS and all tenderfeet in general. But he did it so naively and as such a matter of course, that there was no sting, and I forgave him. He also had it in view, he said, before he crossed the divide into the Yukon, to make a little run up Fort o’ Good Hope way.

Now Fort o’ Good Hope is a far journey to the north, over and beyond the Circle, in a place where the feet of few men have trod; and when a nondescript ragamuffin comes in out of the night, from nowhere in particular, to sit by one’s fire and discourse on such in terms of “trapsing” and “a little run,” it is fair time to rouse up and shake off the dream. Wherefore I looked about me; saw the fly and, underneath, the pine boughs spread for the sleeping furs; saw the grub sacks, the camera, the frosty breaths of the dogs circling on the edge of the light; and, above, a great streamer of the aurora, bridging the zenith from south-east to north-west. I shivered. There is a magic in the Northland night, that steals in on one like fevers from malarial marshes. You are clutched and downed before you are aware. Then I looked to the snowshoes, lying prone and crossed where he had flung them. Also I had an eye to my tobacco pouch. Half, at least, of its goodly store had vamosed. That settled it. Fancy had not tricked me after all.

Crazed with suffering, I thought, looking steadfastly at the man--one of those wild stampeders, strayed far from his bearings and wandering like a lost soul through great vastnesses and unknown deeps. Oh, well, let his moods slip on, until, mayhap, he gathers his tangled wits together. Who knows?--the mere sound of a fellow-creature’s voice may bring all straight again.

So I led him on in talk, and soon I marvelled, for he talked of game and the ways thereof. He had killed the Siberian wolf of westernmost Alaska, and the chamois in the secret Rockies. He averred he knew the haunts where the last buffalo still roamed; that he had hung on the flanks of the caribou when they ran by the hundred thousand, and slept in the Great Barrens on the musk-ox’s winter trail.

And I shifted my judgment accordingly (the first revision, but by no account the last), and deemed him a monumental effigy of truth. Why it was I know not, but the spirit moved me to repeat a tale told to me by a man who had dwelt in the land too long to know better. It was of the great bear that hugs the steep slopes of St Elias, never descending to the levels of the gentler inclines. Now God so constituted this creature for its hillside habitat that the legs of one side are all of a foot longer than those of the other. This is mighty convenient, as will be reality admitted. So I hunted this rare beast in my own name, told it in the first person, present tense, painted the requisite locale, gave it the necessary garnishings and touches of verisimilitude, and looked to see the man stunned by the recital.

Not he. Had he doubted, I could have forgiven him. Had he objected, denying the dangers of such a hunt by virtue of the animal’s inability to turn about and go the other way--had he done this, I say, I could have taken him by the hand for the true sportsman that he was. Not he. He sniffed, looked on me, and sniffed again; then gave my tobacco due praise, thrust one foot into my lap, and bade me examine the gear. It was a MUCLUC of the Innuit pattern, sewed together with sinew threads, and devoid of beads or furbelows. But it was the skin itself that was remarkable. In that it was all of half an inch thick, it reminded me of walrus-hide; but there the resemblance ceased, for no walrus ever bore so marvellous a growth of hair. On the side and ankles this hair was well-nigh worn away, what of friction with underbrush and snow; but around the top and down the more sheltered back it was coarse, dirty black, and very thick. I parted it with difficulty and looked beneath for the fine fur that is common with northern animals, but found it in this case to be absent. This, however, was compensated for by the length. Indeed, the tufts that had survived wear and tear measured all of seven or eight inches.

I looked up into the man’s face, and he pulled his foot down and asked, “Find hide like that on your St Elias bear?”

I shook my head. “Nor on any other creature of land or sea,” I answered candidly. The thickness of it, and the length of the hair, puzzled me.

“That,” he said, and said without the slightest hint of impressiveness, “that came from a mammoth.”

“Nonsense!” I exclaimed, for I could not forbear the protest of my unbelief. “The mammoth, my dear sir, long ago vanished from the earth. We know it once existed by the fossil remains that we have unearthed, and by a frozen carcase that the Siberian sun saw fit to melt from out the bosom of a glacier; but we also know that no living specimen exists. Our explorers--“

At this word he broke in impatiently. “Your explorers? Pish! A weakly breed. Let us hear no more of them. But tell me, O man, what you may know of the mammoth and his ways.”

Beyond contradiction, this was leading to a yarn; so I baited my hook by ransacking my memory for whatever data I possessed on the subject in hand. To begin with, I emphasized that the animal was prehistoric, and marshalled all my facts in support of this. I mentioned the Siberian sand-bars that abounded with ancient mammoth bones; spoke of the large quantities of fossil ivory purchased from the Innuits by the Alaska Commercial Company; and acknowledged having myself mined six-and eight-foot tusks from the pay gravel of the Klondike creeks. “All fossils,” I concluded, “found in the midst of debris deposited through countless ages.”

“I remember when I was a kid,” Thomas Stevens sniffed (he had a most confounded way of sniffing), “that I saw a petrified water-melon. Hence, though mistaken persons sometimes delude themselves into thinking that they are really raising or eating them, there are no such things as extant water-melons?”

“But the question of food,” I objected, ignoring his point, which was puerile and without bearing. “The soil must bring forth vegetable life in lavish abundance to support so monstrous creations. Nowhere in the North is the soil so prolific. Ergo, the mammoth cannot exist.”

“I pardon your ignorance concerning many matters of this Northland, for you are a young man and have travelled little; but, at the same time, I am inclined to agree with you on one thing. The mammoth no longer exists. How do I know? I killed the last one with my own right arm.”

Thus spake Nimrod, the mighty Hunter. I threw a stick of firewood at the dogs and bade them quit their unholy howling, and waited. Undoubtedly this liar of singular felicity would open his mouth and requite me for my St. Elias bear.

“It was this way,” he at last began, after the appropriate silence had intervened. “I was in camp one day--“

“Where?” I interrupted.

He waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the north-east, where stretched a TERRA INCOGNITA into which vastness few men have strayed and fewer emerged. “I was in camp one day with Klooch. Klooch was as handsome a little KAMOOKS as ever whined betwixt the traces or shoved nose into a camp kettle. Her father was a full-blood Malemute from Russian Pastilik on Bering Sea, and I bred her, and with understanding, out of a clean-legged bitch of the Hudson Bay stock. I tell you, O man, she was a corker combination. And now, on this day I have in mind, she was brought to pup through a pure wild wolf of the woods--grey, and long of limb, with big lungs and no end of staying powers. Say! Was there ever the like? It was a new breed of dog I had started, and I could look forward to big things.

“As I have said, she was brought neatly to pup, and safely delivered. I was squatting on my hams over the litter--seven sturdy, blind little beggars--when from behind came a bray of trumpets and crash of brass. There was a rush, like the wind-squall that kicks the heels of the rain, and I was midway to my feet when knocked flat on my face. At the same instant I heard Klooch sigh, very much as a man does when you’ve planted your fist in his belly. You can stake your sack I lay quiet, but I twisted my head around and saw a huge bulk swaying above me. Then the blue sky flashed into view and I got to my feet. A hairy mountain of flesh was just disappearing in the underbrush on the edge of the open. I caught a rear-end glimpse, with a stiff tail, as big in girth as my body, standing out straight behind. The next second only a tremendous hole remained in the thicket, though I could still hear the sounds as of a tornado dying quickly away, underbrush ripping and tearing, and trees snapping and crashing.

“I cast about for my rifle. It had been lying on the ground with the muzzle against a log; but now the stock was smashed, the barrel out of line, and the working-gear in a thousand bits. Then I looked for the slut, and--and what do you suppose?”

I shook my head.

“May my soul burn in a thousand hells if there was anything left of her! Klooch, the seven sturdy, blind little beggars--gone, all gone. Where she had stretched was a slimy, bloody depression in the soft earth, all of a yard in diameter, and around the edges a few scattered hairs.”

I measured three feet on the snow, threw about it a circle, and glanced at Nimrod.

“The beast was thirty long and twenty high,” he answered, “and its tusks scaled over six times three feet. I couldn’t believe, myself, at the time, for all that it had just happened. But if my senses had played me, there was the broken gun and the hole in the brush. And there was--or, rather, there was not--Klooch and the pups. O man, it makes me hot all over now when I think of it Klooch! Another Eve! The mother of a new race! And a rampaging, ranting, old bull mammoth, like a second flood, wiping them, root and branch, off the face of the earth! Do you wonder that the blood-soaked earth cried out to high God? Or that I grabbed the hand-axe and took the trail?”

“The hand-axe?” I exclaimed, startled out of myself by the picture. “The hand-axe, and a big bull mammoth, thirty feet long, twenty feet--“

Nimrod joined me in my merriment, chuckling gleefully. “Wouldn’t it kill you?” he cried. “Wasn’t it a beaver’s dream? Many’s the time I’ve laughed about it since, but at the time it was no laughing matter, I was that danged mad, what of the gun and Klooch. Think of it, O man! A brand-new, unclassified, uncopyrighted breed, and wiped out before ever it opened its eyes or took out its intention papers! Well, so be it. Life’s full of disappointments, and rightly so. Meat is best after a famine, and a bed soft after a hard trail.

“As I was saying, I took out after the beast with the hand-axe, and hung to its heels down the valley; but when he circled back toward the head, I was left winded at the lower end. Speaking of grub, I might as well stop long enough to explain a couple of points. Up thereabouts, in the midst of the mountains, is an almighty curious formation. There is no end of little valleys, each like the other much as peas in a pod, and all neatly tucked away with straight, rocky walls rising on all sides. And at the lower ends are always small openings where the drainage or glaciers must have broken out. The only way in is through these mouths, and they are all small, and some smaller than others. As to grub--you’ve slushed around on the rain-soaked islands of the Alaskan coast down Sitka way, most likely, seeing as you’re a traveller. And you know how stuff grows there--big, and juicy, and jungly. Well, that’s the way it was with those valleys. Thick, rich soil, with ferns and grasses and such things in patches higher than your head. Rain three days out of four during the summer months; and food in them for a thousand mammoths, to say nothing of small game for man.

“But to get back. Down at the lower end of the valley I got winded and gave over. I began to speculate, for when my wind left me my dander got hotter and hotter, and I knew I’d never know peace of mind till I dined on roasted mammoth-foot. And I knew, also, that that stood for SKOOKUM MAMOOK PUKAPUK--excuse Chinook, I mean there was a big fight coming. Now the mouth of my valley was very narrow, and the walls steep. High up on one side was one of those big pivot rocks, or balancing rocks, as some call them, weighing all of a couple of hundred tons. Just the thing. I hit back for camp, keeping an eye open so the bull couldn’t slip past, and got my ammunition. It wasn’t worth anything with the rifle smashed; so I opened the shells, planted the powder under the rock, and touched it off with slow fuse. Wasn’t much of a charge, but the old boulder tilted up lazily and dropped down into place, with just space enough to let the creek drain nicely. Now I had him.”

“But how did you have him?” I queried. “Who ever heard of a man killing a mammoth with a hand-axe? And, for that matter, with anything else?”

“O man, have I not told you I was mad?” Nimrod replied, with a slight manifestation of sensitiveness. “Mad clean through, what of Klooch and the gun. Also, was I not a hunter? And was this not new and most unusual game? A hand-axe? Pish! I did not need it. Listen, and you shall hear of a hunt, such as might have happened in the youth of the world when cavemen rounded up the kill with hand-axe of stone. Such would have served me as well. Now is it not a fact that man can outwalk the dog or horse? That he can wear them out with the intelligence of his endurance?”

I nodded.

“Well?”

The light broke in on me, and I bade him continue.

“My valley was perhaps five miles around. The mouth was closed. There was no way to get out. A timid beast was that bull mammoth, and I had him at my mercy. I got on his heels again hollered like a fiend, pelted him with cobbles, and raced him around the valley three times before I knocked off for supper. Don’t you see? A race-course! A man and a mammoth! A hippodrome, with sun, moon, and stars to referee!

“It took me two months to do it, but I did it. And that’s no beaver dream. Round and round I ran him, me travelling on the inner circle, eating jerked meat and salmon berries on the run, and snatching winks of sleep between. Of course, he’d get desperate at times and turn. Then I’d head for soft ground where the creek spread out, and lay anathema upon him and his ancestry, and dare him to come on. But he was too wise to bog in a mud puddle. Once he pinned me in against the walls, and I crawled back into a deep crevice and waited. Whenever he felt for me with his trunk, I’d belt him with the hand-axe till he pulled out, shrieking fit to split my ear drums, he was that mad. He knew he had me and didn’t have me, and it near drove him wild. But he was no man’s fool. He knew he was safe as long as I stayed in the crevice, and he made up his mind to keep me there. And he was dead right, only he hadn’t figured on the commissary. There was neither grub nor water around that spot, so on the face of it he couldn’t keep up the siege. He’d stand before the opening for hours, keeping an eye on me and flapping mosquitoes away with his big blanket ears. Then the thirst would come on him and he’d ramp round and roar till the earth shook, calling me every name he could lay tongue to. This was to frighten me, of course; and when he thought I was sufficiently impressed, he’d back away softly and try to make a sneak for the creek. Sometimes I’d let him get almost there--only a couple of hundred yards away it was--when out I’d pop and back he’d come, lumbering along like the old landslide he was. After I’d done this a few times, and he’d figured it out, he changed his tactics. Grasped the time element, you see. Without a word of warning, away he’d go, tearing for the water like mad, scheming to get there and back before I ran away. Finally, after cursing me most horribly, he raised the siege and deliberately stalked off to the water-hole.

“That was the only time he penned me,--three days of it,--but after that the hippodrome never stopped. Round, and round, and round, like a six days’ go-as-I-please, for he never pleased. My clothes went to rags and tatters, but I never stopped to mend, till at last I ran naked as a son of earth, with nothing but the old hand-axe in one hand and a cobble in the other. In fact, I never stopped, save for peeps of sleep in the crannies and ledges of the cliffs. As for the bull, he got perceptibly thinner and thinner--must have lost several tons at least--and as nervous as a schoolmarm on the wrong side of matrimony. When I’d come up with him and yell, or lain him with a rock at long range, he’d jump like a skittish colt and tremble all over. Then he’d pull out on the run, tail and trunk waving stiff, head over one shoulder and wicked eyes blazing, and the way he’d swear at me was something dreadful. A most immoral beast he was, a murderer, and a blasphemer.

“But towards the end he quit all this, and fell to whimpering and crying like a baby. His spirit broke and he became a quivering jelly-mountain of misery. He’d get attacks of palpitation of the heart, and stagger around like a drunken man, and fall down and bark his shins. And then he’d cry, but always on the run. O man, the gods themselves would have wept with him, and you yourself or any other man. It was pitiful, and there was so I much of it, but I only hardened my heart and hit up the pace. At last I wore him clean out, and he lay down, broken-winded, broken-hearted, hungry, and thirsty. When I found he wouldn’t budge, I hamstrung him, and spent the better part of the day wading into him with the hand-axe, he a-sniffing and sobbing till I worked in far enough to shut him off. Thirty feet long he was, and twenty high, and a man could sling a hammock between his tusks and sleep comfortably. Barring the fact that I had run most of the juices out of him, he was fair eating, and his four feet, alone, roasted whole, would have lasted a man a twelvemonth. I spent the winter there myself.”

“And where is this valley?” I asked

He waved his hand in the direction of the north-east, and said: “Your tobacco is very good. I carry a fair share of it in my pouch, but I shall carry the recollection of it until I die. In token of my appreciation, and in return for the moccasins on your own feet, I will present to you these muclucs. They commemorate Klooch and the seven blind little beggars. They are also souvenirs of an unparalleled event in history, namely, the destruction of the oldest breed of animal on earth, and the youngest. And their chief virtue lies in that they will never wear out.”

Having effected the exchange, he knocked the ashes from his pipe, gripped my hand good-night, and wandered off through the snow. Concerning this tale, for which I have already disclaimed responsibility, I would recommend those of little faith to make a visit to the Smithsonian Institute. If they bring the requisite credentials and do not come in vacation time, they will undoubtedly gain an audience with Professor Dolvidson. The muclucs are in his possession, and he will verify, not the manner in which they were obtained, but the material of which they are composed. When he states that they are made from the skin of the mammoth, the scientific world accepts his verdict. What more would you have?

Sakaicho, Hona Asi and Hakadaki

“JOCK, you likee come see my house? — not far — you come see my wifee — come’ chopee — chopee’ — allesamee good ‘chow.’ “

Ah! the magic of those words! (“chopee chopee!”) Food! Dinner! What a relish they conveyed to me, who was as hungry a sight-seer as had ever trod the by-ways and thoroughfares of Yokohama. All morning I had wandered from tea-house to temple, through bazaar and curio-shop, “up hill and down dale,” till now I was as famished as the most voracious shark that ever cut the blue waters of the tropic sea with his ominous fin, while in search of a breakfast. In fact, I felt like a veritable man-eater, and this unexpected invitation of my jin-riki-sha man was most opportune. And, of course, I accepted.

Away he sped, gradually leaving the crowded streets and entering the poorer and more squalid portion of the native quarter. At last, turning, a hundred feet or so, into a narrow alley, he stopped before an insignificant little house, which he told me, with very evident pride, was his home.

The whole side of the main, or sitting-room, facing the alley, was open, to admit the cooler air from without. To my Occidental eye it seemed a very bare little room. The floor was covered with thin, unpadded mats of rice straw, on which, beside a little table eight inches high, with a half-hemstitched silk handkerchief stretched across it, lay a woman in sound slumber. It was his wife.

As she lay there, one could see, even from a Japanese standpoint, that she was not pretty; neither was she ugly. But the stern lines of care had left their vivid impress on the face, and even as she slept she seemed troubled, and a spasm of pain or worry for a moment contracted her relaxed features.

With a light and tender caress, Sakaicho roused her. At his touch she awoke and greeted him affectionately; but when she beheld me she became suddenly abashed, and retreated across the room. Then ensued a quick conversation, in which Sakaicho probably told her that I was the American who had so graciously patronized him during the past week.

Remembering her duties as a hostess, and full of gratitude for her husband’s patron, with low salaam and blushing countenance, she invited me with a quick motion of her hand to a seat on the floor. Removing my shoes at the threshold, for that is one of the strictest rules of Japanese etiquette, I settled down, tailor fashion, in the middle of the room, opposite Sakaicho.

As his wife pushed the hilbachi and tabako-bon before us, and then retired, humbly, to the background, he made me acquainted with her name, which was Hona Asi. She was only twenty-seven, he said; but she looked at least forty. Toil and worry had stamped her naturally pretty face, and left it wrinkled and sallow.

This I noticed and pondered on, as with deft fingers I rolled the little pellets of fine-cut native tobacco, inserted them in the rectangularly-bent head of the slender pipe, and then ignited them, with a quick puff at the little coal of fire in the hilbachi. A couple of inhalations of the mild, sweet-flavored herb, emitted through the nostrils in true Japanese style, and the thimble-like bowl is emptied. Then, with a quick, sharp tap on the hilbachi, the ashes are expelled and the operation of filling and lighting repeated.

For five minutes we smoked in silence, when the hilbachi and the tabako-bon were removed, and Hona Asi placed before us two cups of weak green tea. As soon as emptied they were taken away, being replaced by a table five inches high and a foot and a half square, bravely lacquered in red and black.

According to Japanese custom, Hona Asi did not eat with us, but waited on the table as a true wife should. She removed the covering from a round wooden box, and with a wooden paddle ladled out two bowls of steaming rice, while Sakaicho uncovered the various bowls on the table and revealed a repast fit for the most fastidious epicure. The savory odors arising from different dishes whetted my appetite, and I was anxious to begin. There was bean soup, boiled fish, stewed leeks, pickles and soy, raw fish, thin sliced and eaten with radishes, kurage, a kind of jellyfish, and tea. The soup we drank like water; the rice we shoveled into our mouths like coals into a Newcastle collier; and the other dishes we both helped ourselves out of with the chopsticks, which by this time I could use quite dexterously. Several times during the meal we laid them aside long enough to sip warm saki (rice wine) from tiny lacquered cups.

By the time we concluded Hona Asi had brought from the little shop round the corner two glasses of ice cream, which she placed before us with a porcelain jar full of green plums, packed in salt. When we had done justice to this, we had resort to the inevitable hilbachi and tabako-bon, presumably to aid digestion.

As a rule, I had found the Japanese a shrewd, money-seeking race; but when, as a matter-of-course, I took out my purse to pay the reckoning, Sakaicho was insulted, while, in the background, Hona Asi threw up her hands deprecatingly, blushed, and nearly fainted with shame. They gave me to understand very emphatically that it was their treat, and I was forced to accept it, though I knew they could ill afford such extravagance.

Soon Sakaicho recovered his good humor. and I enticed him into talking of himself. In his queer broken English he told me of his youth; his struggles, and his hopes and ambitions. His boyhood had been spent as a peasant in the fields, on the sunny slopes of Fujihama; his youth and early manhood as porter and driver of hired jin-riki-shas in Tokio. With great economy he had saved from his slender earnings, till now, having removed to Yokohama, he owned his little home and two jin-riki-shas, one of which he rented out at fifteen cents a day. His wife, a true helpmeet, worked industriously at home hemstitching silk handkerchiefs; sometimes making as high as eighteen cents a day. And all this struggle was for his boy — his only child. He was now sending him to school, and soon, when he would own and rent out several jin-riki-shas, the boy would receive instruction in the higher branches, and mayhap, some day, he would be able to send him to America to complete his education. “Who knows?”

As he told me this his eyes sparkled and his face flushed with pardonable pride, while his whole being seemed ennobled with the loftiness of his aspirations and the depth of his love and self-sacrifice.

Tired of sight-seeing, I passed the afternoon with him, waiting for the boy’s return from school. At last he appeared; a sturdy, rollicking little chap of ten, who enjoyed, as his father said, fishing in the adjacent canal, though he never caught anything, and the water was not deep enough to drown him. Like his mother, the little fellow was very bashful in my presence; but, after a deal of persuasion, he condescended to shake hands with me. As he did so, I slipped a bright Mexican dollar into his sweaty little paw. Great was his delight in its possession, and he was most profuse in his thanks, salaaming low, again and again, as he cried in shrill, childish treble, “Arienti! Arienti!”

A week later, returning from a pleasant trip to Tokio and Fujihama, I missed Sakaicho from his accustomed stand, and so hired a strange jin-riki-sha man. It was my last day ashore, and, resolving to make the best of it, I hurried through the different sights I had not yet seen.

Late in the afternoon I found myself speeding out into the country for a passing glimpse of the native graveyard. Rounding a quick turn in the road, I espied a funeral cortege ahead. Hurrying my panting jin-riki-sha man forward, I soon overtook it. It was a double funeral, I perceived, by the two heavy chests of plain white wood, borne on the shoulders of several stalwart natives. A solitary mourner followed, and in the slender form and bowed head I recognized Sakaicho. But O! how changed! Aroused by my coming he slowly raised his listless head, and, with dull, apathetic glance, returned my greeting.

As we walked reverently in the rear, my strange jin-riki-sha man told me that a destructive fire had swept through Sakaicho’s neighborhood, burning his house and suffocating his wife and child.

Presently the grave was reached, and priests from the buddhist temple near by chanted the requiem with solemn ceremony, while a group of idle natives curiously crowded round. With glassy eye, Sakaicho followed the movements of the priests, and, when the last clod had been thrown on, he erected a memorial stone to his loved ones. Then he turned away, to place among the mementos before his household God two little wooden tablets, marked with the name and date of birth and death of his wife and boy, while I returned in haste to my ship. And, though five thousand miles of heaving ocean now separate us, never will I forget Sakaicho and Hona Asi, nor the love they bore their son Hakadaki.

Samuel

Margaret Henan would have been a striking figure under any circumstances, but never more so than when I first chanced upon her, a sack of grain of fully a hundredweight on her shoulder, as she walked with sure though tottering stride from the cart-tail to the stable, pausing for an instant to gather strength at the foot of the steep steps that led to the grain-bin. There were four of these steps, and she went up them, a step at a time, slowly, unwaveringly, and with so dogged certitude that it never entered my mind that her strength could fail her and let that hundred-weight sack fall from the lean and withered frame that wellnigh doubled under it. For she was patently an old woman, and it was her age that made me linger by the cart and watch.

Six times she went between the cart and the stable, each time with a full sack on her back, and beyond passing the time of day with me she took no notice of my presence. Then, the cart empty, she fumbled for matches and lighted a short clay pipe, pressing down the burning surface of the tobacco with a calloused and apparently nerveless thumb. The hands were noteworthy. They were large-knuckled, sinewy and malformed by labour, rimed with callouses, the nails blunt and broken, and with here and there cuts and bruises, healed and healing, such as are common to the hands of hard-working men. On the back were huge, upstanding veins, eloquent of age and toil. Looking at them, it was hard to believe that they were the hands of the woman who had once been the belle of Island McGill. This last, of course, I learned later. At the time I knew neither her history nor her identity.

She wore heavy man’s brogans. Her legs were stockingless, and I had noticed when she walked that her bare feet were thrust into the crinkly, iron-like shoes that sloshed about her lean ankles at every step. Her figure, shapeless and waistless, was garbed in a rough man’s shirt and in a ragged flannel petticoat that had once been red. But it was her face, wrinkled, withered and weather-beaten, surrounded by an aureole of unkempt and straggling wisps of greyish hair, that caught and held me. Neither drifted hair nor serried wrinkles could hide the splendid dome of a forehead, high and broad without verging in the slightest on the abnormal.

The sunken cheeks and pinched nose told little of the quality of the life that flickered behind those clear blue eyes of hers. Despite the minutiae of wrinkle-work that somehow failed to weazen them, her eyes were clear as a girl’s — clear, out-looking, and far-seeing, and with an open and unblinking steadfastness of gaze that was disconcerting. The remarkable thing was the distance between them. It is a lucky man or woman who has the width of an eye between, but with Margaret Henan the width between her eyes was fully that of an eye and a half. Yet so symmetrically moulded was her face that this remarkable feature produced no uncanny effect, and, for that matter, would have escaped the casual observer’s notice. The mouth, shapeless and toothless, with down-turned corners and lips dry and parchment-like, nevertheless lacked the muscular slackness so usual with age. The lips might have been those of a mummy, save for that impression of rigid firmness they gave. Not that they were atrophied. On the contrary, they seemed tense and set with a muscular and spiritual determination. There, and in the eyes, was the secret of the certitude with which she carried the heavy sacks up the steep steps, with never a false step or overbalance, and emptied them in the grain-bin.

“You are an old woman to be working like this,” I ventured.

She looked at me with that strange, unblinking gaze, and she thought and spoke with the slow deliberateness that characterized everything about her, as if well aware of an eternity that was hers and in which there was no need for haste. Again I was impressed by the enormous certitude of her. In this eternity that seemed so indubitably hers, there was time and to spare for safe-footing and stable equilibrium — for certitude, in short. No more in her spiritual life than in carrying the hundredweights of grain was there a possibility of a misstep or an overbalancing. The feeling produced in me was uncanny. Here was a human soul that, save for the most glimmering of contacts, was beyond the humanness of me. And the more I learned of Margaret Henan in the weeks that followed the more mysteriously remote she became. She was as alien as a far-journeyer from some other star, and no hint could she nor all the countryside give me of what forms of living, what heats of feeling, or rules of philosophic contemplation actuated her in all that she had been and was.

“I wull be suvunty-two come Guid Friday a fortnight,” she said in reply to my question.

“But you are an old woman to be doing this man’s work, and a strong man’s work at that,” I insisted.

Again she seemed to immerse herself in that atmosphere of contemplative eternity, and so strangely did it affect me that I should not have been surprised to have awaked a century or so later and found her just beginning to enunciate her reply —

“The work hoz tull be done, an’ I am beholden tull no one.”

“But have you no children, no family, relations?”

“Oh, aye, a-plenty o’ them, but they no see fut tull be helpun’ me.”

She drew out her pipe for a moment, then added, with a nod of her head toward the house, “I luv’ wuth meself.”

I glanced at the house, straw-thatched and commodious, at the large stable, and at the large array of fields I knew must belong with the place.

“It is a big bit of land for you to farm by yourself.”

“Oh, aye, a bug but, suvunty acres. Ut kept me old mon buzzy, along wuth a son an’ a hired mon, tull say naught o’ extra honds un the harvest an’ a maid-servant un the house.”

She clambered into the cart, gathered the reins in her hands, and quizzed me with her keen, shrewd eyes.

“Belike ye hail from over the watter — Ameruky, I’m meanun’?”

“Yes, I’m a Yankee,” I answered.

“Ye wull no be findun’ mony Island McGill folk stoppun’ un Ameruky?”

“No; I don’t remember ever meeting one, in the States.”

She nodded her head.

“They are home-luvun’ bodies, though I wull no be sayin’ they are no fair-travelled. Yet they come home ot the last, them oz are no lost ot sea or kult by fevers an’ such-like un foreign parts.”

“Then your sons will have gone to sea and come home again?” I queried.

“Oh, aye, all savun’ Samuel oz was drownded.”

At the mention of Samuel I could have sworn to a strange light in her eyes, and it seemed to me, as by some telepathic flash, that I divined in her a tremendous wistfulness, an immense yearning. It seemed to me that here was the key to her inscrutableness, the clue that if followed properly would make all her strangeness plain. It came to me that here was a contact and that for the moment I was glimpsing into the soul of her. The question was tickling on my tongue, but she forestalled me.

She tchk’d to the horse, and with a “Guid day tull you, sir,” drove off.

A simple, homely people are the folk of Island McGill, and I doubt if a more sober, thrifty, and industrious folk is to be found in all the world. Meeting them abroad — and to meet them abroad one must meet them on the sea, for a hybrid sea-faring and farmer breed are they — one would never take them to be Irish. Irish they claim to be, speaking of the North of Ireland with pride and sneering at their Scottish brothers; yet Scotch they undoubtedly are, transplanted Scotch of long ago, it is true, but none the less Scotch, with a thousand traits, to say nothing of their tricks of speech and woolly utterance, which nothing less than their Scotch clannishness could have preserved to this late day.

A narrow loch, scarcely half a mile wide, separates Island McGill from the mainland of Ireland; and, once across this loch, one finds himself in an entirely different country. The Scotch impression is strong, and the people, to commence with, are Presbyterians. When it is considered that there is no public-house in all the island and that seven thousand souls dwell therein, some idea may be gained of the temperateness of the community. Wedded to old ways, public opinion and the ministers are powerful influences, while fathers and mothers are revered and obeyed as in few other places in this modern world. Courting lasts never later than ten at night, and no girl walks out with her young man without her parents’ knowledge and consent.

The young men go down to the sea and sow their wild oats in the wicked ports, returning periodically, between voyages, to live the old intensive morality, to court till ten o’clock, to sit under the minister each Sunday, and to listen at home to the same stern precepts that the elders preached to them from the time they were laddies. Much they learned of women in the ends of the earth, these seafaring sons, yet a canny wisdom was theirs and they never brought wives home with them. The one solitary exception to this had been the schoolmaster, who had been guilty of bringing a wife from half a mile the other side of the loch. For this he had never been forgiven, and he rested under a cloud for the remainder of his days. At his death the wife went back across the loch to her own people, and the blot on the escutcheon of Island McGill was erased. In the end the sailor-men married girls of their own homeland and settled down to become exemplars of all the virtues for which the island was noted.

Island McGill was without a history. She boasted none of the events that go to make history. There had never been any wearing of the green, any Fenian conspiracies, any land disturbances. There had been but one eviction, and that purely technical — a test case, and on advice of the tenant’s lawyer. So Island McGill was without annals. History had passed her by. She paid her taxes, acknowledged her crowned rulers, and left the world alone; all she asked in return was that the world should leave her alone. The world was composed of two parts — Island McGill and the rest of it. And whatever was not Island McGill was outlandish and barbarian; and well she knew, for did not her seafaring sons bring home report of that world and its ungodly ways?

It was from the skipper of a Glasgow tramp, as passenger from Colombo to Rangoon, that I had first learned of the existence of Island McGill; and it was from him that I had carried the letter that gave me entrance to the house of Mrs. Ross, widow of a master mariner, with a daughter living with her and with two sons, master mariners themselves and out upon the sea. Mrs. Ross did not take in boarders, and it was Captain Ross’s letter alone that had enabled me to get from her bed and board. In the evening, after my encounter with Margaret Henan, I questioned Mrs. Ross, and I knew on the instant that I had in truth stumbled upon mystery.

Like all Island McGill folk, as I was soon to discover, Mrs. Ross was at first averse to discussing Margaret Henan at all. Yet it was from her I learned that evening that Margaret Henan had once been one of the island belles. Herself the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, she had married Thomas Henan, equally well-to-do. Beyond the usual housewife’s tasks she had never been accustomed to work. Unlike many of the island women, she had never lent a hand in the fields.

“But what of her children?” I asked.

“Two o’ the sons, Jamie an’ Timothy uz married an’ be goun’ tull sea. Thot bug house close tull the post office uz Jamie’s. The daughters thot ha’ no married be luvun’ wuth them as dud marry. An’ the rest be dead.”

“The Samuels,” Clara interpolated, with what I suspected was a giggle.

She was Mrs. Ross’s daughter, a strapping young woman with handsome features and remarkably handsome black eyes.

“’Tuz naught to be smuckerun’ ot,” her mother reproved her.

“The Samuels?” I intervened. “I don’t understand.”

“Her four sons thot died.”

“And were they all named Samuel?”

“Aye.”

“Strange,” I commented in the lagging silence.

“Very strange,” Mrs. Ross affirmed, proceeding stolidly with the knitting of the woollen singlet on her knees — one of the countless under-garments that she interminably knitted for her skipper sons.

“And it was only the Samuels that died?” I queried, in further attempt.

“The others luved,” was the answer. “A fine fomuly — no finer on the island. No better lods ever sailed out of Island McGill. The munuster held them up oz models tull pottern after. Nor was ever a whusper breathed again’ the girls.”

“But why is she left alone now in her old age?” I persisted. “Why don’t her own flesh and blood look after her? Why does she live alone? Don’t they ever go to see her or care for her?”

“Never a one un twenty years an’ more now. She fetched ut on tull herself. She drove them from the house just oz she drove old Tom Henan, thot was her husband, tull hus death.”

“Drink?” I ventured.

Mrs. Ross shook her head scornfully, as if drink was a weakness beneath the weakest of Island McGill.

A long pause followed, during which Mrs. Ross knitted stolidly on, only nodding permission when Clara’s young man, mate on one of the Shire Line sailing ships, came to walk out with her. I studied the half-dozen ostrich eggs, hanging in the corner against the wall like a cluster of some monstrous fruit. On each shell were painted precipitous and impossible seas through which full-rigged ships foamed with a lack of perspective only equalled by their sharp technical perfection. On the mantelpiece stood two large pearl shells, obviously a pair, intricately carved by the patient hands of New Caledonian convicts. In the centre of the mantel was a stuffed bird-of-paradise, while about the room were scattered gorgeous shells from the southern seas, delicate sprays of coral sprouting from barnacled pi-pi shells and cased in glass, assegais from South Africa, stone axes from New Guinea, huge Alaskan tobacco-pouches beaded with heraldic totem designs, a boomerang from Australia, divers ships in glass bottles, a cannibal kai-kai bowl from the Marquesas, and fragile cabinets from China and the Indies and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and precious woods.

I gazed at this varied trove brought home by sailor sons, and pondered the mystery of Margaret Henan, who had driven her husband to his death and been forsaken by all her kin. It was not the drink. Then what was it? — some shocking cruelty? some amazing infidelity? or some fearful, old-world peasant-crime?

I broached my theories, but to all Mrs. Ross shook her head.

“Ut was no thot,” she said. “Margaret was a guid wife an’ a guid mother, an’ I doubt she would harm a fly. She brought up her fomuly God-fearin’ an’ decent-minded. Her trouble was thot she took lunatic — turned eediot.”

Mrs. Ross tapped significantly on her forehead to indicate a state of addlement.

“But I talked with her this afternoon,” I objected, “and I found her a sensible woman — remarkably bright for one of her years.”

“Aye, an’ I’m grantun’ all thot you say,” she went on calmly. “But I am no referrun’ tull thot. I am referrun’ tull her wucked-headed an’ vucious stubbornness. No more stubborn woman ever luv’d than Margaret Henan. Ut was all on account o’ Samuel, which was the name o’ her youngest an’ they do say her favourut brother — hum oz died by hus own hond all through the munuster’s mustake un no registerun’ the new church ot Dublin. Ut was a lesson thot the name was musfortunate, but she would no take ut, an’ there was talk when she called her first child Samuel — hum thot died o’ the croup. An’ wuth thot what does she do but call the next one Samuel, an’ hum only three when he fell un tull the tub o’ hot watter an’ was plain cooked tull death. Ut all come, I tell you, o’ her wucked-headed an’ foolush stubbornness. For a Samuel she must hov; an’ ut was the death of the four of her sons. After the first, dudna her own mother go down un the dirt tull her feet, a-beggun’ an’ pleadun’ wuth her no tull name her next one Samuel? But she was no tull be turned from her purpose. Margaret Henan was always set on her ways, an’ never more so thon on thot name Samuel.

“She was fair lunatuc on Samuel. Dudna her neighbours’ an’ all kuth an’ kun savun’ them thot luv’d un the house wuth her, get up an’ walk out ot the christenun’ of the second — hum thot was cooked? Thot they dud, an’ ot the very moment the munuster asked what would the bairn’s name be. ‘Samuel,’ says she; an’ wuth thot they got up an’ walked out an’ left the house. An’ ot the door dudna her Aunt Fannie, her mother’s suster, turn an’ say loud for all tull hear: ‘What for wull she be wantun’ tull murder the wee thing?’ The munuster heard fine, an’ dudna like ut, but, oz he told my Larry afterward, what could he do? Ut was the woman’s wush, an’ there was no law again’ a mother callun’ her child accordun’ tull her wush.

“An’ then was there no the third Samuel? An’ when he was lost ot sea off the Cape, dudna she break all laws o’ nature tull hov a fourth? She was forty-seven, I’m tellun’ ye, an’ she hod a child ot forty-seven. Thunk on ut! Ot forty-seven! Ut was fair scand’lous.”

From Clara, next morning, I got the tale of Margaret Henan’s favourite brother; and from here and there, in the week that followed, I pieced together the tragedy of Margaret Henan. Samuel Dundee had been the youngest of Margaret’s four brothers, and, as Clara told me, she had well-nigh worshipped him. He was going to sea at the time, skipper of one of the sailing ships of the Bank Line, when he married Agnes Hewitt. She was described as a slender wisp of a girl, delicately featured and with a nervous organization of the supersensitive order. Theirs had been the first marriage in the “new” church, and after a two-weeks’ honeymoon Samuel had kissed his bride good-bye and sailed in command of the Loughbank, a big four-masted barque.

And it was because of the “new” church that the minister’s blunder occurred. Nor was it the blunder of the minister alone, as one of the elders later explained; for it was equally the blunder of the whole Presbytery of Coughleen, which included fifteen churches on Island McGill and the mainland. The old church, beyond repair, had been torn down and the new one built on the original foundation. Looking upon the foundation-stones as similar to a ship’s keel, it never entered the minister’s nor the Presbytery’s head that the new church was legally any other than the old church.

“An’ three couples was married the first week un the new church,” Clara said. “First of all, Samuel Dundee an’ Agnes Hewitt; the next day Albert Mahan an’ Minnie Duncan; an’ by the week-end Eddie Troy and Flo Mackintosh — all sailor-men, an’ un sux weeks’ time the last of them back tull their ships an’ awa’, an’ no one o’ them dreamin’ of the wuckedness they’d been ot.”

The Imp of the Perverse must have chuckled at the situation. All things favoured. The marriages had taken place in the first week of May, and it was not till three months later that the minister, as required by law, made his quarterly report to the civil authorities in Dublin. Promptly came back the announcement that his church had no legal existence, not being registered according to the law’s demands. This was overcome by prompt registration; but the marriages were not to be so easily remedied. The three sailor husbands were away, and their wives, in short, were not their wives.

“But the munuster was no for alarmin’ the bodies,” said Clara. “He kept hus council an’ bided hus time, waitun’ for the lods tull be back from sea. Oz luck would have ut, he was away across the island tull a christenun’ when Albert Mahan arrives home onexpected, hus shup just docked ot Dublin. Ut’s nine o’clock ot night when the munuster, un hus sluppers an’ dressun’-gown, gets the news. Up he jumps an’ calls for horse an’ saddle, an’ awa’ he goes like the wund for Albert Mahan’s. Albert uz just goun’ tull bed an’ hoz one shoe off when the munuster arrives.

“‘Come wuth me, the pair o’ ye,’ says he, breathless-like. ‘What for, an’ me dead weary an’ goun’ tull bed?’ says Albert. ‘Yull be lawful married,’ says the munuster. Albert looks black an’ says, ‘Now, munuster, ye wull be jokun’,’ but tull humself, oz I’ve heard hum tell mony a time, he uz wonderun’ thot the munuster should a-took tull whusky ot hus time o’ life.

“’We be no married?’ says Minnie. He shook his head. ‘An’ I om no Mussus Mahan?’ ‘No,’ says he, ‘ye are no Mussus Mahan. Ye are plain Muss Duncan.’ ‘But ye married ’us yoursel’,’ says she. ‘I dud an’ I dudna,’ says he. An’ wuth thot he tells them the whole upshot, an’ Albert puts on hus shoe, an’ they go wuth the munuster an’ are married proper an’ lawful, an’ oz Albert Mahan says afterward mony’s the time, ‘’Tus no every mon thot hoz two weddun’ nights on Island McGill.’”

Six months later Eddie Troy came home and was promptly remarried. But Samuel Dundee was away on a three-years’ voyage and his ship fell overdue. Further to complicate the situation, a baby boy, past two years old, was waiting for him in the arms of his wife. The months passed, and the wife grew thin with worrying. “Ut’s no meself I’m thunkun’ on,” she is reported to have said many times, “but ut’s the puir fatherless bairn. Uf aught happened tull Samuel where wull the bairn stond?”

Lloyd’s posted the Loughbank as missing, and the owners ceased the monthly remittance of Samuel’s half-pay to his wife. It was the question of the child’s legitimacy that preyed on her mind, and, when all hope of Samuel’s return was abandoned, she drowned herself and the child in the loch. And here enters the greater tragedy. The Loughbank was not lost. By a series of sea disasters and delays too interminable to relate, she had made one of those long, unsighted passages such as occur once or twice in half a century. How the Imp must have held both his sides! Back from the sea came Samuel, and when they broke the news to him something else broke somewhere in his heart or head. Next morning they found him where he had tried to kill himself across the grave of his wife and child. Never in the history of Island McGill was there so fearful a death-bed. He spat in the minister’s face and reviled him, and died blaspheming so terribly that those that tended on him did so with averted gaze and trembling hands.

And, in the face of all this, Margaret Henan named her first child Samuel.

How account for the woman’s stubbornness? Or was it a morbid obsession that demanded a child of hers should be named Samuel? Her third child was a girl, named after herself, and the fourth was a boy again. Despite the strokes of fate that had already bereft her, and despite the loss of friends and relatives, she persisted in her resolve to name the child after her brother. She was shunned at church by those who had grown up with her. Her mother, after a final appeal, left her house with the warning that if the child were so named she would never speak to her again. And though the old lady lived thirty-odd years longer she kept her word. The minister agreed to christen the child any name but Samuel, and every other minister on Island McGill refused to christen it by the name she had chosen. There was talk on the part of Margaret Henan of going to law at the time, but in the end she carried the child to Belfast and there had it christened Samuel.

And then nothing happened. The whole island was confuted. The boy grew and prospered. The schoolmaster never ceased averring that it was the brightest lad he had ever seen. Samuel had a splendid constitution, a tremendous grip on life. To everybody’s amazement he escaped the usual run of childish afflictions. Measles, whooping-cough and mumps knew him not. He was armour-clad against germs, immune to all disease. Headaches and earaches were things unknown. “Never so much oz a boil or a pumple,” as one of the old bodies told me, ever marred his healthy skin. He broke school records in scholarship and athletics, and whipped every boy of his size or years on Island McGill.

It was a triumph for Margaret Henan. This paragon was hers, and it bore the cherished name. With the one exception of her mother, friends and relatives drifted back and acknowledged that they had been mistaken; though there were old crones who still abided by their opinion and who shook their heads ominously over their cups of tea. The boy was too wonderful to last. There was no escaping the curse of the name his mother had wickedly laid upon him. The young generation joined Margaret Henan in laughing at them, but the old crones continued to shake their heads.

Other children followed. Margaret Henan’s fifth was a boy, whom she called Jamie, and in rapid succession followed three girls, Alice, Sara, and Nora, the boy Timothy, and two more girls, Florence and Katie. Katie was the last and eleventh, and Margaret Henan, at thirty-five, ceased from her exertions. She had done well by Island McGill and the Queen. Nine healthy children were hers. All prospered. It seemed her ill-luck had shot its bolt with the deaths of her first two. Nine lived, and one of them was named Samuel.

Jamie elected to follow the sea, though it was not so much a matter of election as compulsion, for the eldest sons on Island McGill remained on the land, while all other sons went to the salt-ploughing. Timothy followed Jamie, and by the time the latter had got his first command, a steamer in the Bay trade out of Cardiff, Timothy was mate of a big sailing ship. Samuel, however, did not take kindly to the soil. The farmer’s life had no attraction for him. His brothers went to sea, not out of desire, but because it was the only way for them to gain their bread; and he, who had no need to go, envied them when, returned from far voyages, they sat by the kitchen fire, and told their bold tales of the wonderlands beyond the sea-rim.

Samuel became a teacher, much to his father’s disgust, and even took extra certificates, going to Belfast for his examinations. When the old master retired, Samuel took over his school. Secretly, however, he studied navigation, and it was Margaret’s delight when he sat by the kitchen fire, and, despite their master’s tickets, tangled up his brothers in the theoretics of their profession. Tom Henan alone was outraged when Samuel, school teacher, gentleman, and heir to the Henan farm, shipped to sea before the mast. Margaret had an abiding faith in her son’s star, and whatever he did she was sure was for the best. Like everything else connected with his glorious personality, there had never been known so swift a rise as in the case of Samuel. Barely with two years’ sea experience before the mast, he was taken from the forecastle and made a provisional second mate. This occurred in a fever port on the West Coast, and the committee of skippers that examined him agreed that he knew more of the science of navigation than they had remembered or forgotten. Two years later he sailed from Liverpool, mate of the Starry Grace, with both master’s and extra-master’s tickets in his possession. And then it happened — the thing the old crones had been shaking their heads over for years.

It was told me by Gavin McNab, bos’n of the Starry Grace at the time, himself an Island McGill man.

“Wull do I remember ut,” he said. “We was runnin’ our Eastun’ down, an’ makun’ heavy weather of ut. Oz fine a sailor-mon oz ever walked was Samuel Henan. I remember the look of hum wull thot last marnun’, a-watch-un’ them bug seas curlun’ up astern, an’ a-watchun’ the old girl an’ seeun’ how she took them — the skupper down below an’ drunkun’ for days. Ut was ot seven thot Henan brought her up on tull the wund, not darun’ tull run longer on thot fearful sea. Ot eight, after havun’ breakfast, he turns un, an’ a half hour after up comes the skupper, bleary-eyed an’ shaky an’ holdun’ on tull the companion. Ut was fair smokun’, I om tellun’ ye, an’ there he stood, blunkun’ an’ noddun’ an’ talkun’ tull humsel’. ‘Keep off,’ says he ot last tull the mon ot the wheel. ‘My God!’ says the second mate, standun’ beside hum. The skupper never looks tull hum ot all, but keeps on mutterun” an’ jabberun’ tull humsel’. All of a suddent-like he straightens up an’ throws hus head back, an’ says: ‘Put your wheel over, me mon — now domn ye! Are ye deef thot ye’ll no be hearun’ me?’

“Ut was a drunken mon’s luck, for the Starry Grace wore off afore thot God-Almighty gale wuthout shuppun’ a bucket o’ watter, the second mate shoutun’ orders an’ the crew jumpun’ like mod. An’ wuth thot the skupper nods contented-like tull humself an’ goes below after more whusky. Ut was plain murder o’ the lives o’ all of us, for ut was no the time for the buggest shup afloat tull be runnun’. Run? Never hov I seen the like! Ut was beyond all thunkun’, an’ me goun’ tull sea, boy an’ men, for forty year. I tell you ut was fair awesome.

“The face o’ the second mate was white oz death, an’ he stood ut alone for half an hour, when ut was too much for hum an’ he went below an’ called Samuel an’ the third. Aye, a fine sailor-mon thot Samuel, but ut was too much for hum. He looked an’ studied, and looked an’ studied, but he could no see hus way. He durst na heave tull. She would ha’ been sweeput o’ all honds an’ stucks an’ everythung afore she could a-fetched up. There was naught tull do but keep on runnun’. An’ uf ut worsened we were lost ony way, for soon or late that overtakun’ sea was sure tull sweep us clear over poop an’ all.

“Dud I say ut was a God-Almighty gale? Ut was worse nor thot. The devil himself must ha’ hod a hond un the brewun’ o’ ut, ut was thot fearsome. I ha’ looked on some sights, but I om no carun’ tull look on the like o’ thot again. No mon dared tull be un hus bunk. No, nor no mon on the decks. All honds of us stood on top the house an’ held on an’ watched. The three mates was on the poop, with two men ot the wheel, an’ the only mon below was thot whusky-blighted captain snorun’ drunk.

“An’ then I see ut comun’, a mile away, risun’ above all the waves like an island un the sea — the buggest wave ever I looked upon. The three mates stood tulgether an’ watched ut comun’, a-prayun’ like we thot she would no break un passun’ us. But ut was no tull be. Ot the last, when she rose up like a mountain, curlun’ above the stern an’ blottun’ out the sky, the mates scattered, the second an’ third runnun’ for the mizzen-shrouds an’ climbun’ up, but the first runnun’ tull the wheel tull lend a hond. He was a brave men, thot Samuel Henan. He run straight un tull the face o’ thot father o’ all waves, no thunkun’ on humself but thunkun’ only o’ the shup. The two men was lashed tull the wheel, but he would be ready tull hond un the case they was kult. An’ then she took ut. We on the house could no see the poop for the thousand tons o’ watter thot hod hut ut. Thot wave cleaned them out, took everythung along wuth ut — the two mates, climbun’ up the mizzen-ruggun’, Samuel Henan runnun’ tull the wheel, the two men ot the wheel, aye, an’ the wheel utself. We never saw aught o’ them, for she broached tull what o’ the wheel goun’, an’ two men o’ us was drownded off the house, no tull mention the carpenter thot we pucked up ot the break o’ the poop wuth every bone o’ hus body broke tull he was like so much jelly.”

And here enters the marvel of it, the miraculous wonder of that woman’s heroic spirit. Margaret Henan was forty-seven when the news came home of the loss of Samuel; and it was not long after that the unbelievable rumour went around Island McGill. I say unbelievable. Island McGill would not believe. Doctor Hall pooh-pooh’d it. Everybody laughed at it as a good joke. They traced back the gossip to Sara Dack, servant to the Henans’, and who alone lived with Margaret and her husband. But Sara Dack persisted in her assertion and was called a low-mouthed liar. One or two dared question Tom Henan himself, but beyond black looks and curses for their presumption they elicited nothing from him.

The rumour died down, and the island fell to discussing in all its ramifications the loss of the Grenoble in the China seas, with all her officers and half her crew born and married on Island McGill. But the rumour would not stay down. Sara Dack was louder in her assertions, the looks Tom Henan cast about him were blacker than ever, and Dr. Hall, after a visit to the Henan house, no longer pooh-pooh’d. Then Island McGill sat up, and there was a tremendous wagging of tongues. It was unnatural and ungodly. The like had never been heard. And when, as time passed, the truth of Sara Dack’s utterances was manifest, the island folk decided, like the bos’n of the Starry Grace, that only the devil could have had a hand in so untoward a happening. And the infatuated woman, so Sara Dack reported, insisted that it would be a boy. “Eleven bairns ha’ I borne,” she said; “sux o’ them lossies an’ five o’ them loddies. An’ sunce there be balance un all thungs, so wull there be balance wuth me. Sux o’ one an’ half a dozen o’ the other — there uz the balance, an’ oz sure oz the sun rises un the marnun’, thot sure wull ut be a boy.”

And boy it was, and a prodigy. Dr. Hall raved about its unblemished perfection and massive strength, and wrote a brochure on it for the Dublin Medical Society as the most interesting case of the sort in his long career. When Sara Dack gave the babe’s unbelievable weight, Island McGill refused to believe and once again called her liar. But when Doctor Hall attested that he had himself weighed it and seen it tip that very notch, Island McGill held its breath and accepted whatever report Sara Dack made of the infant’s progress or appetite. And once again Margaret Henan carried a babe to Belfast and had it christened Samuel.

“Oz good oz gold ut was,” said Sara Dack to me.

Sara, at the time I met her, was a buxom, phlegmatic spinster of sixty, equipped with an experience so tragic and unusual that though her tongue ran on for decades its output would still be of imperishable interest to her cronies.

“Oz good oz good,” said Sara Dack. “Ut never fretted. Sut ut down un the sun by the hour an’ never a sound ut would make oz long oz ut was no hungered! An’ thot strong! The grup o’ uts honds was like a mon’s. I mind me, when ut was but hours old, ut grupped me so mighty thot I fetched a scream I was thot frightened. Ut was the punk o’ health. Ut slept an’ ate, an’ grew. Ut never bothered. Never a night’s sleep ut lost tull no one, nor ever a munut’s, an’ thot wuth cuttin’ uts teeth an’ all. An’ Margaret would dandle ut on her knee an’ ask was there ever so fine a loddie un the three Kungdoms.

“The way ut grew! Ut was un keepun’ wuth the way ut ate. Ot a year ut was the size o’ a bairn of two. Ut was slow tull walk an’ talk. Exceptun’ for gurgly noises un uts throat an’ for creepun’ on all fours, ut dudna monage much un the walkun’ an’ talkun’ line. But thot was tull be expected from the way ut grew. Ut all went tull growun’ strong an’ healthy. An’ even old Tom Henan cheered up ot the might of ut an’ said was there ever the like o’ ut un the three Kungdoms. Ut was Doctor Hall thot first suspicioned, I mind me well, though ut was luttle I dreamt what he was up tull ot the time. I seehum holdun’ thungs’ un fronto’ luttle Sammy’s eyes, an’ a-makun’ noises, loud an’ soft, an’ far an’ near, un luttle Sammy’s ears. An’ then I see Doctor Hall go away, wrunklun’ hus eyebrows an’ shakun’ hus head like the bairn was ailun’. But he was no ailun’, oz I could swear tull, me a-seeun’ hum eat an’ grow. But Doctor Hall no said a word tull Margaret an’ I was no for guessun’ the why he was sore puzzled.

“I mind me when luttle Sammy first spoke. He was two years old an’ the size of a child o five, though he could no monage the walkun’ yet but went around on all fours, happy an’ contented-like an’ makun’ no trouble oz long oz he was fed promptly, which was onusual often. I was hangun’ the wash on the line ot the time when out he comes, on all fours, hus bug head waggun’ tull an’ fro an’ blunkun’ un the sun. An’ then, suddent, he talked. I was thot took a-back I near died o’ fright, an’ fine I knew ut then, the shakun’ o’ Doctor Hall’s head. Talked? Never a bairn on Island McGill talked so loud an’ tull such purpose. There was no mustakun’ ut. I stood there all tremblun’ an’ shakun’. Little Sammy was brayun’. I tell you, sir, he was brayun’ like an ass — just like thot, — loud an’ long an’ cheerful tull ut seemed hus lungs ud crack.

“He was a eediot — a great, awful, monster eediot. Ut was after he talked thot Doctor Hall told Margaret, but she would no believe. Ut would all come right, she said. Ut was growun’ too fast for aught else. Guv ut time, said she, an’ we would see. But old Tom Henan knew, an’ he never held up hus head again. He could no abide the thung, an’ would no brung humsel’ tull touch ut, though I om no denyun’ he was fair fascinated by ut. Mony the time, I see hum watchun’ of ut around a corner, lookun’ ot ut tull hus eyes fair bulged wuth the horror; an’ when ut brayed old Tom ud stuck hus fungers tull hus ears an’ look thot miserable I could a-puttied hum.

“An’ bray ut could! Ut was the only thung ut could do besides eat an’ grow. Whenever ut was hungry ut brayed, an’ there was no stoppun’ ut save wuth food. An’ always of a marnun’, when first ut crawled tull the kutchen-door an’ blunked out ot the sun, ut brayed. An’ ut was brayun’ that brought about uts end.

“I mind me well. Ut was three years old an’ oz bug oz a led o’ ten. Old Tom hed been goun’ from bed tull worse, ploughun’ up an’ down the fields an’ talkun’ an’ mutterun’ tull humself. On the marnun’ o’ the day I mind me, he was suttun’ on the bench outside the kutchen, a-futtun’ the handle tull a puck-axe. Unbeknown, the monster eediot crawled tull the door an’ brayed after hus fashion ot the sun. I see old Tom start up an’ look. An’ there was the monster eediot, waggun’ uts bug head an’ blunkun’ an’ brayun’ like the great bug ass ut was. Ut was too much for Tom. Somethun’ went wrong wuth hum suddent-like. He jumped tull hus feet an’ fetched the puck-handle down on the monster eediot’s head. An’ he hut ut again an’ again like ut was a mod dog an’ hum afeard o’ ut. An’ he went straight tull the stable an’ hung humsel’ tull a rafter. An’ I was no for stoppun’ on after such-like, an’ I went tull stay along wuth me suster thot was married tull John Martin an’ comfortable-off.”

I sat on the bench by the kitchen door and regarded Margaret Henan, while with her callous thumb she pressed down the live fire of her pipe and gazed out across the twilight-sombred fields. It was the very bench Tom Henan had sat upon that last sanguinary day of life. And Margaret sat in the doorway where the monster, blinking at the sun, had so often wagged its head and brayed. We had been talking for an hour, she with that slow certitude of eternity that so befitted her; and, for the life of me, I could lay no finger on the motives that ran through the tangled warp and woof of her. Was she a martyr to Truth? Did she have it in her to worship at so abstract a shrine? Had she conceived Abstract Truth to be the one high goal of human endeavour on that day of long ago when she named her first-born Samuel? Or was hers the stubborn obstinacy of the ox? the fixity of purpose of the balky horse? the stolidity of the self-willed peasant-mind? Was it whim or fancy? — the one streak of lunacy in what was otherwise an eminently rational mind? Or, reverting, was hers the spirit of a Bruno? Was she convinced of the intellectual rightness of the stand she had taken? Was hers a steady, enlightened opposition to superstition? or — and a subtler thought — was she mastered by some vaster, profounder superstition, a fetish-worship of which the Alpha and the Omega was the cryptic Samuel?

“Wull ye be tellun’ me,” she said, “thot uf the second Samuel hod been named Larry thot he would no hov fell un the hot watter an’ drownded? Atween you an’ me, sir, an’ ye are untellugent-lookun’ tull the eye, would the name hov made ut onyways dufferent? Would the washun’ no be done thot day uf he hod been Larry or Michael? Would hot watter no be hot, an’ would hot watter no burn uf he hod hod ony other name but Samuel?”

I acknowledged the justice of her contention, and she went on.

“Do a wee but of a name change the plans o’ God? Do the world run by hut or muss, an’ be God a weak, shully-shallyun’ creature thot ud alter the fate an’ destiny o’ thungs because the worm Margaret Henan seen fut tull name her bairn Samuel? There be my son Jamie. He wull no sign a Rooshan-Funn un hus crew because o’ believun’ thot Rooshan-Funns do be monajun’ the wunds an’ hov the makun’ o’ bod weather. Wull you be thunkun’ so? Wull you be thunkun’ thot God thot makes the wunds tull blow wull bend Hus head from on high tull lussen tull the word o’ a greasy Rooshan-Funn un some dirty shup’s fo’c’sle?”

I said no, certainly not; but she was not to be set aside from pressing home the point of her argument.

“Then wull you be thunkun’ thot God thot directs the stars un their courses, an’ tull whose mighty foot the world uz but a footstool, wull you be thunkun’ thot He wull take a spite again’ Margaret Henan an’ send a bug wave off the Cape tull wash her son un tull eternity, all because she was for namun’ hum Samuel?”

“But why Samuel?” I asked.

“An’ thot I dinna know. I wantud ut so.”

“But why did you want it so?”

“An’ uz ut me thot would be answerun’ a such-like question? Be there ony mon luvun’ or dead thot can answer? Who can tell the why o’ like? My Jamie was fair daft on buttermilk, he would drunk ut tull, oz he said humself, hus back teeth was awash. But my Tumothy could no abide buttermilk. I like tull lussen tull the thunder growlun’ an’ roarun’, an’ rampajun’. My Katie could no abide the noise of ut, but must scream an’ flutter an’ go runnun’ for the mudmost o’ a feather-bed. Never yet hov I heard the answer tull the why o’ like, God alone hoz thot answer. You an’ me be mortal an’ we canna know. Enough for us tull know what we like an’ what we duslike. I like — thot uz the first word an’ the last. An’ behind thot like no men can go an’ find the why o’ ut. I like Samuel, an’ I like ut well. Ut uz a sweet name, an’ there be a rollun’ wonder un the sound o’ ut thot passes onderstandun’.”

The twilight deepened, and in the silence I gazed upon that splendid dome of a forehead which time could not mar, at the width between the eyes, and at the eyes themselves — clear, out-looking, and wide-seeing. She rose to her feet with an air of dismissing me, saying —

“Ut wull be a dark walk home, an’ there wull be more thon a sprunkle o’ wet un the sky.”

“Have you any regrets, Margaret Henan?” I asked, suddenly and without forethought.

She studied me a moment.

“Aye, thot I no ha’ borne another son.”

“And you would . . .?” I faltered.

“Aye, thot I would,” she answered. “Ut would ha’ been hus name.”

I went down the dark road between the hawthorn hedges puzzling over the why of like, repeating Samuel to myself and aloud and listening to the rolling wonder in its sound that had charmed her soul and led her life in tragic places. Samuel! There was a rolling wonder in the sound. Aye, there was!

The Scorn of Women

Once Freda and Mrs. Eppingwell clashed.

Now Freda was a Greek girl and a dancer. At least she purported to be Greek; but this was doubted by many, for her classic face had over-much strength in it, and the tides of hell which rose in her eyes made at rare moments her ethnology the more dubious. To a few--men--this sight had been vouchsafed, and though long years may have passed, they have not forgotten, nor will they ever forget. She never talked of herself, so that it were well to let it go down that when in repose, expurgated, Greek she certainly was. Her furs were the most magnificent in all the country from Chilcoot to St. Michael’s, and her name was common on the lips of men. But Mrs. Eppingwell was the wife of a captain; also a social constellation of the first magnitude, the path of her orbit marking the most select coterie in Dawson,--a coterie captioned by the profane as the “official clique.” Sitka Charley had travelled trail with her once, when famine drew tight and a man’s life was less than a cup of flour, and his judgment placed her above all women. Sitka Charley was an Indian; his criteria were primitive; but his word was flat, and his verdict a hall-mark in every camp under the circle.

These two women were man-conquering, man-subduing machines, each in her own way, and their ways were different. Mrs. Eppingwell ruled in her own house, and at the Barracks, where were younger sons galore, to say nothing of the chiefs of the police, the executive, and the judiciary. Freda ruled down in the town; but the men she ruled were the same who functioned socially at the Barracks or were fed tea and canned preserves at the hand of Mrs. Eppingwell in her hillside cabin of rough-hewn logs. Each knew the other existed; but their lives were apart as the Poles, and while they must have heard stray bits of news and were curious, they were never known to ask a question. And there would have been no trouble had not a free lance in the shape of the model-woman come into the land on the first ice, with a spanking dog-team and a cosmopolitan reputation. Loraine Lisznayi--alliterative, dramatic, and Hungarian--precipitated the strife, and because of her Mrs. Eppingwell left her hillside and invaded Freda’s domain, and Freda likewise went up from the town to spread confusion and embarrassment at the Governor’s ball.

All of which may be ancient history so far as the Klondike is concerned, but very few, even in Dawson, know the inner truth of the matter; nor beyond those few are there any fit to measure the wife of the captain or the Greek dancer. And that all are now permitted to understand, let honor be accorded Sitka Charley. From his lips fell the main facts in the screed herewith presented. It ill befits that Freda herself should have waxed confidential to a mere scribbler of words, or that Mrs. Eppingwell made mention of the things which happened. They may have spoken, but it is unlikely.

II

Floyd Vanderlip was a strong man, apparently. Hard work and hard grub had no terrors for him, as his early history in the country attested. In danger he was a lion, and when he held in check half a thousand starving men, as he once did, it was remarked that no cooler eye ever took the glint of sunshine on a rifle-sight. He had but one weakness, and even that, rising from out his strength, was of a negative sort. His parts were strong, but they lacked co-ordination. Now it happened that while his centre of amativeness was pronounced, it had lain mute and passive during the years he lived on moose and salmon and chased glowing Eldorados over chill divides. But when he finally blazed the corner-post and centre-stakes on one of the richest Klondike claims, it began to quicken; and when he took his place in society, a full-fledged Bonanza King, it awoke and took charge of him. He suddenly recollected a girl in the States, and it came to him quite forcibly, not only that she might be waiting for him, but that a wife was a very pleasant acquisition for a man who lived some several degrees north of 53. So he wrote an appropriate note, enclosed a letter of credit generous enough to cover all expenses, including trousseau and chaperon, and addressed it to one Flossie. Flossie? One could imagine the rest. However, after that he built a comfortable cabin on his claim, bought another in Dawson, and broke the news to his friends.

And just here is where the lack of co-ordination came into play. The waiting was tedious, and having been long denied, the amative element could not brook further delay. Flossie was coming; but Loraine Lisznayi was here. And not only was Loraine Lisznayi here, but her cosmopolitan reputation was somewhat the worse for wear, and she was not exactly so young as when she posed in the studios of artist queens and received at her door the cards of cardinals and princes. Also, her finances were unhealthy. Having run the gamut in her time, she was now not averse to trying conclusions with a Bonanza King whose wealth was such that he could not guess it within six figures. Like a wise soldier casting about after years of service for a comfortable billet, she had come into the Northland to be married. So, one day, her eyes flashed up into Floyd Vanderlip’s as he was buying table linen for Flossie in the P. C. Company’s store, and the thing was settled out of hand.

When a man is free much may go unquestioned, which, should he be rash enough to cumber himself with domestic ties, society will instantly challenge. Thus it was with Floyd Vanderlip. Flossie was coming, and a low buzz went up when Loraine Lisznayi rode down the main street behind his wolf-dogs. She accompanied the lady reporter of the “Kansas City Star” when photographs were taken of his Bonanza properties, and watched the genesis of a six-column article. At that time they were dined royally in Flossie’s cabin, on Flossie’s table linen. Likewise there were comings and goings, and junketings, all perfectly proper, by the way, which caused the men to say sharp things and the women to be spiteful. Only Mrs. Eppingwell did not hear. The distant hum of wagging tongues rose faintly, but she was prone to believe good of people and to close her ears to evil; so she paid no heed.

Not so with Freda. She had no cause to love men, but, by some strange alchemy of her nature, her heart went out to women,--to women whom she had less cause to love. And her heart went out to Flossie, even then travelling the Long Trail and facing into the bitter North to meet a man who might not wait for her. A shrinking, clinging sort of a girl, Freda pictured her, with weak mouth and pretty pouting lips, blow-away sun-kissed hair, and eyes full of the merry shallows and the lesser joys of life. But she also pictured Flossie, face nose-strapped and frost-rimed, stumbling wearily behind the dogs. Wherefore she smiled, dancing one night, upon Floyd Vanderlip.

Few men are so constituted that they may receive the smile of Freda unmoved; nor among them can Floyd Vanderlip be accounted. The grace he had found with the model-woman had caused him to re-measure himself, and by the favor in which he now stood with the Greek dancer he felt himself doubly a man. There were unknown qualities and depths in him, evidently, which they perceived. He did not know exactly what those qualities and depths were, but he had a hazy idea that they were there somewhere, and of them was bred a great pride in himself. A man who could force two women such as these to look upon him a second time, was certainly a most remarkable man. Some day, when he had the time, he would sit down and analyze his strength; but now, just now, he would take what the gods had given him. And a thin little thought began to lift itself, and he fell to wondering whatever under the sun he had seen in Flossie, and to regret exceedingly that he had sent for her. Of course, Freda was out of the running. His dumps were the richest on Bonanza Creek, and they were many, while he was a man of responsibility and position. But Loraine Lisznayi--she was just the woman. Her life had been large; she could do the honors of his establishment and give tone to his dollars.

But Freda smiled, and continued to smile, till he came to spend much time with her. When she, too, rode down the street behind his wolf-dogs, the model-woman found food for thought, and the next time they were together dazzled him with her princes and cardinals and personal little anecdotes of courts and kings. She also showed him dainty missives, superscribed, “My dear Loraine,” and ended “Most affectionately yours,” and signed by the given name of a real live queen on a throne. And he marvelled in his heart that the great woman should deign to waste so much as a moment upon him. But she played him cleverly, making flattering contrasts and comparisons between him and the noble phantoms she drew mainly from her fancy, till he went away dizzy with self-delight and sorrowing for the world which had been denied him so long. Freda was a more masterful woman. If she flattered, no one knew it. Should she stoop, the stoop were unobserved. If a man felt she thought well of him, so subtly was the feeling conveyed that he could not for the life of him say why or how. So she tightened her grip upon Floyd Vanderlip and rode daily behind his dogs.

And just here is where the mistake occurred. The buzz rose loudly and more definitely, coupled now with the name of the dancer, and Mrs. Eppingwell heard. She, too, thought of Flossie lifting her moccasined feet through the endless hours, and Floyd Vanderlip was invited up the hillside to tea, and invited often. This quite took his breath away, and he became drunken with appreciation of himself. Never was man so maltreated. His soul had become a thing for which three women struggled, while a fourth was on the way to claim it. And three such women!

But Mrs. Eppingwell and the mistake she made. She spoke of the affair, tentatively, to Sitka Charley, who had sold dogs to the Greek girl. But no names were mentioned. The nearest approach to it was when Mrs. Eppingwell said, “This--er--horrid woman,” and Sitka Charley, with the model-woman strong in his thoughts, had echoed, “--er--horrid woman.” And he agreed with her, that it was a wicked thing for a woman to come between a man and the girl he was to marry. “A mere girl, Charley,” she said, “I am sure she is. And she is coming into a strange country without a friend when she gets here. We must do something.” Sitka Charley promised his help, and went away thinking what a wicked woman this Loraine Lisznayi must be, also what noble women Mrs. Eppingwell and Freda were to interest themselves in the welfare of the unknown Flossie.

Now Mrs. Eppingwell was open as the day. To Sitka Charley, who took her once past the Hills of Silence, belongs the glory of having memorialized her clear-searching eyes, her clear-ringing voice, and her utter downright frankness. Her lips had a way of stiffening to command, and she was used to coming straight to the point. Having taken Floyd Vanderlip’s measurement, she did not dare this with him; but she was not afraid to go down into the town to Freda. And down she went, in the bright light of day, to the house of the dancer. She was above silly tongues, as was her husband, the captain. She wished to see this woman and to speak with her, nor was she aware of any reason why she should not. So she stood in the snow at the Greek girl’s door, with the frost at sixty below, and parleyed with the waiting-maid for a full five minutes. She had also the pleasure of being turned away from that door, and of going back up the hill, wroth at heart for the indignity which had been put upon her. “Who was this woman that she should refuse to see her?” she asked herself. One would think it the other way around, and she herself but a dancing girl denied at the door of the wife of a captain. As it was, she knew, had Freda come up the hill to her,--no matter what the errand,--she would have made her welcome at her fire, and they would have sat there as two women, and talked, merely as two women. She had overstepped convention and lowered herself, but she had thought it different with the women down in the town. And she was ashamed that she had laid herself open to such dishonor, and her thoughts of Freda were unkind.

Not that Freda deserved this. Mrs. Eppingwell had descended to meet her who was without caste, while she, strong in the traditions of her own earlier status, had not permitted it. She could worship such a woman, and she would have asked no greater joy than to have had her into the cabin and sat with her, just sat with her, for an hour. But her respect for Mrs. Eppingwell, and her respect for herself, who was beyond respect, had prevented her doing that which she most desired. Though not quite recovered from the recent visit of Mrs. McFee, the wife of the minister, who had descended upon her in a whirlwind of exhortation and brimstone, she could not imagine what had prompted the present visit. She was not aware of any particular wrong she had done, and surely this woman who waited at the door was not concerned with the welfare of her soul. Why had she come? For all the curiosity she could not help but feel, she steeled herself in the pride of those who are without pride, and trembled in the inner room like a maid on the first caress of a lover. If Mrs. Eppingwell suffered going up the hill, she too suffered, lying face downward on the bed, dry-eyed, dry-mouthed, dumb.

Mrs. Eppingwell’s knowledge of human nature was great. She aimed at universality. She had found it easy to step from the civilized and contemplate things from the barbaric aspect. She could comprehend certain primal and analogous characteristics in a hungry wolf-dog or a starving man, and predicate lines of action to be pursued by either under like conditions. To her, a woman was a woman, whether garbed in purple or the rags of the gutter; Freda was a woman. She would not have been surprised had she been taken into the dancer’s cabin and encountered on common ground; nor surprised had she been taken in and flaunted in prideless arrogance. But to be treated as she had been treated, was unexpected and disappointing. Ergo, she had not caught Freda’s point of view. And this was good. There are some points of view which cannot be gained save through much travail and personal crucifixion, and it were well for the world that its Mrs. Eppingwells should, in certain ways, fall short of universality. One cannot understand defilement without laying hands to pitch, which is very sticky, while there be plenty willing to undertake the experiment. All of which is of small concern, beyond the fact that it gave Mrs. Eppingwell ground for grievance, and bred for her a greater love in the Greek girl’s heart.

III

And in this way things went along for a month,--Mrs. Eppingwell striving to withhold the man from the Greek dancer’s blandishments against the time of Flossie’s coming; Flossie lessening the miles each day on the dreary trail; Freda pitting her strength against the model-woman; the model-woman straining every nerve to land the prize; and the man moving through it all like a flying shuttle, very proud of himself, whom he believed to be a second Don Juan.

It was nobody’s fault except the man’s that Loraine Lisznayi at last landed him. The way of a man with a maid may be too wonderful to know, but the way of a woman with a man passeth all conception; whence the prophet were indeed unwise who would dare forecast Floyd Vanderlip’s course twenty-four hours in advance. Perhaps the model-woman’s attraction lay in that to the eye she was a handsome animal; perhaps she fascinated him with her old-world talk of palaces and princes; leastwise she dazzled him whose life had been worked out in uncultured roughness, and he at last agreed to her suggestion of a run down the river and a marriage at Forty Mile. In token of his intention he bought dogs from Sitka Charley,--more than one sled is necessary when a woman like Loraine Lisznayi takes to the trail, and then went up the creek to give orders for the superintendence o