Men, Women, and Boats
Part 2 out of 4
There were a few moments of silence. The giants were hovering in the
gloom and staring.
Suddenly astonishment exploded the captain.
"Wot th' devil----" he shouted. "Wot th' devil yeh got on?"
"Bathing-suits," said the tall man.
The schooner went on. The two voyagers sat down and watched. After a
time they began to shiver. The soft blackness of the summer night passed
away, and grey mists writhed over the sea. Soon lights of early dawn
went changing across the sky, and the twin beacons on the highlands grew
dim and sparkling faintly, as if a monster were dying. The dawn
penetrated the marrow of the two men in bathing-dress.
The captain used to pause opposite them, hitch one hand in his
suspender, and laugh.
"Well, I be dog-hanged," he frequently said.
The tall man grew furious. He snarled in a mad undertone to his
companion. "This rescue ain't right. If I had known--"
He suddenly paused, transfixed by the captain's suspender. "It's goin'
to break," cried he, in an ecstatic whisper. His eyes grew large with
excitement as he watched the captain laugh. "It'll break in a minute,
But the commander of the schooner recovered, and invited them to drink
and eat. They followed him along the deck, and fell down a square black
hole into the cabin.
It was a little den, with walls of a vanished whiteness. A lamp shed an
orange light. In a sort of recess two little beds were hiding. A wooden
table, immovable, as if the craft had been builded around it, sat in the
middle of the floor. Overhead the square hole was studded with a dozen
stars. A foot-worn ladder led to the heavens.
The captain produced ponderous crackers and some cold broiled ham. Then
he vanished in the firmament like a fantastic comet.
The freckled man sat quite contentedly like a stout squaw in a blanket.
The tall man walked about the cabin and sniffed. He was angered at the
crudeness of the rescue, and his shrinking clothes made him feel too
large. He contemplated his unhappy state.
Suddenly, he broke out. "I won't stand this, I tell you! Heavens and
earth, look at the--say, what in the blazes did you want to get me in
this thing for, anyhow? You're a fine old duffer, you are! Look at that
The freckled man grunted. He seemed somewhat blissful. He was seated
upon a bench, comfortably enwrapped in his bathing-dress.
The tall man stormed about the cabin.
"This is an outrage! I'll see the captain! I'll tell him what I think
He was interrupted by a pair of legs that appeared among the stars. The
captain came down the ladder. He brought a coffee pot from the sky.
The tall man bristled forward. He was going to denounce everything.
The captain was intent upon the coffee pot, balancing it carefully, and
leaving his unguided feet to find the steps of the ladder.
But the wrath of the tall man faded. He twirled his fingers in
excitement, and renewed his ecstatic whisperings to the freckled man.
"It's going to break! Look, quick, look! It'll break in a minute!"
He was transfixed with interest, forgetting his wrongs in staring at the
But the captain arrived on the floor with triumphant suspenders.
"Well," said he, "after yeh have eat, maybe ye'd like t'sleep some! If
so, yeh can sleep on them beds."
The tall man made no reply, save in a strained undertone. "It'll break
in about a minute! Look, Ted, look quick!"
The freckled man glanced in a little bed on which were heaped boots and
oilskins. He made a courteous gesture.
"My dear sir, we could not think of depriving you of your beds. No,
indeed. Just a couple of blankets if you have them, and we'll sleep very
comfortable on these benches."
The captain protested, politely twisting his back and bobbing his head.
The suspenders tugged and creaked. The tall man partially suppressed a
cry, and took a step forward.
The freckled man was sleepily insistent, and shortly the captain gave
over his deprecatory contortions. He fetched a pink quilt with yellow
dots on it to the freckled man, and a black one with red roses on it to
the tall man.
Again he vanished in the firmament. The tall man gazed until the last
remnant of trousers disappeared from the sky. Then he wrapped himself up
in his quilt and lay down. The freckled man was puffing contentedly,
swathed like an infant. The yellow polka-dots rose and fell on the vast
pink of his chest.
The wanderers slept. In the quiet could be heard the groanings of
timbers as the sea seemed to crunch them together. The lapping of water
along the vessel's side sounded like gaspings. A hundred spirits of the
wind had got their wings entangled in the rigging, and, in soft voices,
were pleading to be loosened.
The freckled man was awakened by a foreign noise. He opened his eyes and
saw his companion standing by his couch.
His comrade's face was wan with suffering. His eyes glowed in the
darkness. He raised his arms, spreading them out like a clergyman at a
grave. He groaned deep in his chest.
"Good Lord!" yelled the freckled man, starting up. "Tom, Tom, what's th'
The tall man spoke in a fearful voice. "To New York," he said, "to New
York in our bathing-suits."
The freckled man sank back. The shadows of the cabin threw mysteries
about the figure of the tall man, arrayed like some ancient and potent
astrologer in the black quilt with the red roses on it.
Directly the tall man went and lay down and began to groan.
The freckled man felt the miseries of the world upon him. He grew angry
at the tall man awakening him. They quarrelled.
"Well," said the tall man, finally, "we're in a fix."
"I know that," said the other, sharply.
They regarded the ceiling in silence.
"What in the thunder are we going to do?" demanded the tall man, after a
time. His companion was still silent. "Say," repeated he, angrily, "what
in the thunder are we going to do?"
"I'm sure I don't know," said the freckled man in a dismal voice.
"Well, think of something," roared the other. "Think of something, you
old fool. You don't want to make any more idiots of yourself, do you?"
"I ain't made an idiot of myself."
"Well, think. Know anybody in the city?"
"I know a fellow up in Harlem," said the freckled man.
"You know a fellow up in Harlem," howled the tall man. "Up in Harlem!
How the dickens are we to--say, you're crazy!"
"We can take a cab," cried the other, waxing indignant.
The tall man grew suddenly calm. "Do you know any one else?" he asked,
"I know another fellow somewhere on Park Place."
"Somewhere on Park Place," repeated the tall man in an unnatural manner.
"Somewhere on Park Place." With an air of sublime resignation he turned
his face to the wall.
The freckled man sat erect and frowned in the direction of his
companion. "Well, now, I suppose you are going to sulk. You make me ill!
It's the best we can do, ain't it? Hire a cab and go look that fellow up
on Park--What's that? You can't afford it? What nonsense! You are
getting--Oh! Well, maybe we can beg some clothes of the captain. Eh?
Did I see 'im? Certainly, I saw 'im. Yes, it is improbable that a man
who wears trousers like that can have clothes to lend. No, I won't wear
oilskins and a sou'-wester. To Athens? Of course not! I don't know where
it is. Do you? I thought not. With all your grumbling about other
people, you never know anything important yourself. What? Broadway? I'll
be hanged first. We can get off at Harlem, man alive. There are no cabs
in Harlem. I don't think we can bribe a sailor to take us ashore and
bring a cab to the dock, for the very simple reason that we have nothing
to bribe him with. What? No, of course not. See here, Tom Sharp, don't
you swear at me like that. I won't have it. What's that? I ain't,
either. I ain't. What? I am not. It's no such thing. I ain't. I've got
more than you have, anyway. Well, you ain't doing anything so very
brilliant yourself--just lying there and cussin'." At length the tall
man feigned prodigiously to snore. The freckled man thought with such
vigor that he fell asleep.
After a time he dreamed that he was in a forest where bass drums grew on
trees. There came a strong wind that banged the fruit about like empty
pods. A frightful din was in his ears.
He awoke to find the captain of the schooner standing over him.
"We're at New York now," said the captain, raising his voice above the
thumping and banging that was being done on deck, "an' I s'pose you
fellers wanta go ashore." He chuckled in an exasperating manner. "Jes'
sing out when yeh wanta go," he added, leering at the freckled man.
The tall man awoke, came over and grasped the captain by the throat.
"If you laugh again I'll kill you," he said.
The captain gurgled and waved his legs and arms.
"In the first place," the tall man continued, "you rescued us in a
deucedly shabby manner. It makes me ill to think of it. I've a mind to
mop you 'round just for that. In the second place, your vessel is bound
for Athens, N. Y., and there's no sense in it. Now, will you or will you
not turn this ship about and take us back where our clothes are, or to
Philadelphia, where we belong?"
He furiously shook the captain. Then he eased his grip and awaited a
"I can't," yelled the captain, "I can't. This vessel don't belong to me.
I've got to--"
"Well, then," interrupted the tall man, "can you lend us some clothes?"
"Hain't got none," replied the captain, promptly. His face was red, and
his eyes were glaring.
"Well, then," said the tall man, "can you lend us some money?"
"Hain't got none," replied the captain, promptly. Something overcame him
and he laughed.
"Thunderation," roared the tall man. He seized the captain, who began to
have wriggling contortions. The tall man kneaded him as if he were
biscuits. "You infernal scoundrel," he bellowed, "this whole affair is
some wretched plot, and you are in it. I am about to kill you."
The solitary whisker of the captain did acrobatic feats like a strange
demon upon his chin. His eyes stood perilously from his head. The
suspender wheezed and tugged like the tackle of a sail.
Suddenly the tall man released his hold. Great expectancy sat upon his
features. "It's going to break!" he cried, rubbing his hands.
But the captain howled and vanished in the sky.
The freckled man then came forward. He appeared filled with sarcasm.
"So!" said he. "So, you've settled the matter. The captain is the only
man in the world who can help us, and I daresay he'll do anything he can
"That's all right," said the tall man. "If you don't like the way I run
things you shouldn't have come on this trip at all."
They had another quarrel.
At the end of it they went on deck. The captain stood at the stern
addressing the bow with opprobrious language. When he perceived the
voyagers he began to fling his fists about in the air.
"I'm goin' to put yeh off!" he yelled. The wanderers stared at each
"Hum," said the tall man.
The freckled man looked at his companion. "He's going to put us off, you
see," he said, complacently.
The tall man began to walk about and move his shoulders. "I'd like to
see you do it," he said, defiantly.
The captain tugged at a rope. A boat came at his bidding.
"I'd like to see you do it," the tall man repeated, continually. An
imperturbable man in rubber boots climbed down in the boat and seized
the oars. The captain motioned downward. His whisker had a triumphant
The two wanderers looked at the boat. "I guess we'll have to get in,"
murmured the freckled man.
The tall man was standing like a granite column. "I won't," said he. "I
won't! I don't care what you do, but I won't!"
"Well, but--" expostulated the other. They held a furious debate.
In the meantime the captain was darting about making sinister gestures,
but the back of the tall man held him at bay. The crew, much depleted by
the departure of the imperturbable man into the boat, looked on from the
"You're a fool," the freckled man concluded his argument.
"So?" inquired the tall man, highly exasperated.
"So! Well, if you think you're so bright, we'll go in the boat, and then
He climbed down into the craft and seated himself in an ominous manner
at the stern.
"You'll see," he said to his companion, as the latter floundered heavily
down. "You'll see!"
The man in rubber boots calmly rowed the boat toward the shore. As they
went, the captain leaned over the railing and laughed. The freckled man
was seated very victoriously.
"Well, wasn't this the right thing after all?" he inquired in a pleasant
voice. The tall man made no reply.
As they neared the dock something seemed suddenly to occur to the
"Great heavens!" he murmured. He stared at the approaching shore.
"My, what a plight, Tommy!" he quavered.
"Do you think so?" spoke up the tall man. "Why, I really thought you
liked it." He laughed in a hard voice. "Lord, what a figure you'll cut."
This laugh jarred the freckled man's soul. He became mad.
"Thunderation, turn the boat around!" he roared. "Turn 'er round, quick!
Man alive, we can't--turn 'er round, d'ye hear!"
The tall man in the stern gazed at his companion with glowing eyes.
"Certainly not," he said. "We're going on. You insisted Upon it." He
began to prod his companion with words.
The freckled man stood up and waved his arms.
"Sit down," said the tall man. "You'll tip the boat over."
The other man began to shout.
"Sit down!" said the tall man again.
Words bubbled from the freckled man's mouth. There was a little torrent
of sentences that almost choked him. And he protested passionately with
But the boat went on to the shadow of the docks. The tall man was intent
upon balancing it as it rocked dangerously during his comrade's oration.
"Sit down," he continually repeated.
"I won't," raged the freckled man. "I won't do anything." The boat
wobbled with these words.
"Say," he continued, addressing the oarsman, "just turn this boat round,
will you? Where in the thunder are you taking us to, anyhow?"
The oarsman looked at the sky and thought. Finally he spoke. "I'm doin'
what the cap'n sed."
"Well, what in th' blazes do I care what the cap'n sed?" demanded the
freckled man. He took a violent step. "You just turn this round or--"
The small craft reeled. Over one side water came flashing in. The
freckled man cried out in fear, and gave a jump to the other side. The
tall man roared orders, and the oarsman made efforts. The boat acted for
a moment like an animal on a slackened wire. Then it upset.
"Sit down!" said the tall man, in a final roar as he was plunged into
the water. The oarsman dropped his oars to grapple with the gunwale. He
went down saying unknown words. The freckled man's explanation or
apology was strangled by the water.
Two or three tugs let off whistles of astonishment, and continued on
their paths. A man dozing on a dock aroused and began to caper.
The passengers on a ferry-boat all ran to the near railing. A miraculous
person in a small boat was bobbing on the waves near the piers. He
sculled hastily toward the scene. It was a swirl of waters in the midst
of which the dark bottom of the boat appeared, whale-like.
Two heads suddenly came up.
"839," said the freckled man, chokingly. "That's it! 839!"
"What is?" said the tall man.
"That's the number of that feller on Park Place. I just remembered."
"You're the bloomingest--" the tall man said.
"It wasn't my fault," interrupted his companion. "If you hadn't--" He
tried to gesticulate, but one hand held to the keel of the boat, and the
other was supporting the form of the oarsman. The latter had fought a
battle with his immense rubber boots and had been conquered.
The rescuer in the other small boat came fiercely. As his craft glided
up, he reached out and grasped the tall man by the collar and dragged
him into the boat, interrupting what was, under the circumstances, a
very brilliant flow of rhetoric directed at the freckled man. The
oarsman of the wrecked craft was taken tenderly over the gunwale and
laid in the bottom of the boat. Puffing and blowing, the freckled man
"You'll upset this one before we can get ashore," the other voyager
As they turned toward the land they saw that the nearest dock was lined
with people. The freckled man gave a little moan.
But the staring eyes of the crowd were fixed on the limp form of the man
in rubber boots. A hundred hands reached down to help lift the body up.
On the dock some men grabbed it and began to beat it and roll it. A
policeman tossed the spectators about. Each individual in the heaving
crowd sought to fasten his eyes on the blue-tinted face of the man in
the rubber boots. They surged to and fro, while the policeman beat them
The wanderers came modestly up the dock and gazed shrinkingly at the
throng. They stood for a moment, holding their breath to see the first
finger of amazement levelled at them.
But the crowd bended and surged in absorbing anxiety to view the man in
rubber boots, whose face fascinated them. The sea-wanderers were as
though they were not there.
They stood without the jam and whispered hurriedly.
"839," said the freckled man.
"All right," said the tall man.
Under the pommeling hands the oarsman showed signs of life. The voyagers
watched him make a protesting kick at the leg of the crowd, the while
uttering angry groans.
"He's better," said the tall man, softly; "let's make off."
Together they stole noiselessly up the dock. Directly in front of it
they found a row of six cabs.
The drivers on top were filled with a mighty curiosity. They had driven
hurriedly from the adjacent ferry-house when they had seen the first
running sign of an accident. They were straining on their toes and
gazing at the tossing backs of the men in the crowd.
The wanderers made a little detour, and then went rapidly towards a cab.
They stopped in front of it and looked up.
"Driver," called the tall man, softly.
The man was intent.
"Driver," breathed the freckled man. They stood for a moment and gazed
The cabman suddenly moved his feet. "By Jimmy, I bet he's a gonner," he
said, in an ecstacy, and he again relapsed into a statue.
The freckled man groaned and wrung his hands. The tall man climbed into
"Come in here," he said to his companion. The freckled man climbed in,
and the tall man reached over and pulled the door shut. Then he put his
head out the window.
"Driver," he roared, sternly, "839 Park Place--and quick."
The driver looked down and met the eye of the tall man. "Eh?--Oh--839?
Park Place? Yessir." He reluctantly gave his horse a clump on the back.
As the conveyance rattled off the wanderers huddled back among the
dingy cushions and heaved great breaths of relief.
"Well, it's all over," said the freckled man, finally. "We're about out
of it. And quicker than I expected. Much quicker. It looked to me
sometimes that we were doomed. I am thankful to find it not so. I am
rejoiced. And I hope and trust that you--well, I don't wish to--perhaps
it is not the proper time to--that is, I don't wish to intrude a moral
at an inopportune moment, but, my dear, dear fellow, I think the time is
ripe to point out to you that your obstinacy, your selfishness, your
villainous temper, and your various other faults can make it just as
unpleasant for your ownself, my dear boy, as they frequently do for
other people. You can see what you brought us to, and I most sincerely
hope, my dear, dear fellow, that I shall soon see those signs in you
which shall lead me to believe that you have become a wiser man."
THE END OF THE BATTLE
A sergeant, a corporal, and fourteen men of the Twelfth Regiment of the
Line had been sent out to occupy a house on the main highway. They would
be at least a half of a mile in advance of any other picket of their own
people. Sergeant Morton was deeply angry at being sent on this duty. He
said that he was over-worked. There were at least two sergeants, he
claimed furiously, whose turn it should have been to go on this arduous
mission. He was treated unfairly; he was abused by his superiors; why
did any damned fool ever join the army? As for him he would get out of
it as soon as possible; he was sick of it; the life of a dog. All this
he said to the corporal, who listened attentively, giving grunts of
respectful assent. On the way to this post two privates took occasion to
drop to the rear and pilfer in the orchard of a deserted plantation.
When the sergeant discovered this absence, he grew black with a rage
which was an accumulation of all his irritations. "Run, you!" he howled.
"Bring them here! I'll show them--" A private ran swiftly to the rear.
The remainder of the squad began to shout nervously at the two
delinquents, whose figures they could see in the deep shade of the
orchard, hurriedly picking fruit from the ground and cramming it within
their shirts, next to their skins. The beseeching cries of their
comrades stirred the criminals more than did the barking of the
sergeant. They ran to rejoin the squad, while holding their loaded
bosoms and with their mouths open with aggrieved explanations.
Jones faced the sergeant with a horrible cancer marked in bumps on his
left side. The disease of Patterson showed quite around the front of his
waist in many protuberances. "A nice pair!" said the sergeant, with
sudden frigidity. "You're the kind of soldiers a man wants to choose for
a dangerous outpost duty, ain't you?"
The two privates stood at attention, still looking much aggrieved. "We
only--" began Jones huskily.
"Oh, you 'only!'" cried the sergeant. "Yes, you 'only.' I know all about
that. But if you think you are going to trifle with me--"
A moment later the squad moved on towards its station. Behind the
sergeant's back Jones and Patterson were slyly passing apples and pears
to their friends while the sergeant expounded eloquently to the
corporal. "You see what kind of men are in the army now. Why, when I
joined the regiment it was a very different thing, I can tell you. Then
a sergeant had some authority, and if a man disobeyed orders, he had a
very small chance of escaping something extremely serious. But now! Good
God! If I report these men, the captain will look over a lot of beastly
orderly sheets and say--'Haw, eh, well, Sergeant Morton, these men seem
to have very good records; very good records, indeed. I can't be too
hard on them; no, not too hard.'" Continued the sergeant: "I tell you,
Flagler, the army is no place for a decent man."
Flagler, the corporal, answered with a sincerity of appreciation which
with him had become a science. "I think you are right, sergeant," he
Behind them the privates mumbled discreetly. "Damn this sergeant of
ours. He thinks we are made of wood. I don't see any reason for all this
strictness when we are on active service. It isn't like being at home in
barracks! There is no great harm in a couple of men dropping out to raid
an orchard of the enemy when all the world knows that we haven't had a
decent meal in twenty days."
The reddened face of Sergeant Morton suddenly showed to the rear. "A
little more marching and less talking," he said.
When he came to the house he had been ordered to occupy the sergeant
sniffed with disdain. "These people must have lived like cattle," he
said angrily. To be sure, the place was not alluring. The ground floor
had been used for the housing of cattle, and it was dark and terrible. A
flight of steps led to the lofty first floor, which was denuded but
respectable. The sergeant's visage lightened when he saw the strong
walls of stone and cement. "Unless they turn guns on us, they will never
get us out of here," he said cheerfully to the squad. The men, anxious
to keep him in an amiable mood, all hurriedly grinned and seemed very
appreciative and pleased. "I'll make this into a fortress," he
announced. He sent Jones and Patterson, the two orchard thieves, out on
sentry-duty. He worked the others, then, until he could think of no more
things to tell them to do. Afterwards he went forth, with a major-
general's serious scowl, and examined the ground in front of his
position. In returning he came upon a sentry, Jones, munching an apple.
He sternly commanded him to throw it away.
The men spread their blankets on the floors of the bare rooms, and
putting their packs under their heads and lighting their pipes, they
lived an easy peace. Bees hummed in the garden, and a scent of flowers
came through the open window. A great fan-shaped bit of sunshine smote
the face of one man, and he indolently cursed as he moved his primitive
bed to a shadier place.
Another private explained to a comrade: "This is all nonsense anyhow. No
sense in occupying this post. They--"
"But, of course," said the corporal, "when she told me herself that she
cared more for me than she did for him, I wasn't going to stand any of
his talk--" The corporal's listener was so sleepy that he could only
grunt his sympathy.
There was a sudden little spatter of shooting. A cry from Jones rang
out. With no intermediate scrambling, the sergeant leaped straight to
his feet. "Now," he cried, "let us see what you are made of! If," he
added bitterly, "you are made of anything!"
A man yelled: "Good God, can't you see you're all tangled up in my
Another man yelled: "Keep off my legs! Can't you walk on the floor?"
To the windows there was a blind rush of slumberous men, who brushed
hair from their eyes even as they made ready their rifles. Jones and
Patterson came stumbling up the steps, crying dreadful information.
Already the enemy's bullets were spitting and singing over the house.
The sergeant suddenly was stiff and cold with a sense of the importance
of the thing. "Wait until you see one," he drawled loudly and calmly,
For some moments the enemy's bullets swung swifter than lightning over
the house without anybody being able to discover a target. In this
interval a man was shot in the throat. He gurgled, and then lay down on
the floor. The blood slowly waved down the brown skin of his neck while
he looked meekly at his comrades.
There was a howl. "There they are! There they come!" The rifles
crackled. A light smoke drifted idly through the rooms. There was a
strong odor as if from burnt paper and the powder of firecrackers. The
men were silent. Through the windows and about the house the bullets of
an entirely invisible enemy moaned, hummed, spat, burst, and sang.
The men began to curse. "Why can't we see them?" they muttered through
their teeth. The sergeant was still frigid. He answered soothingly as if
he were directly reprehensible for this behavior of the enemy. "Wait a
moment. You will soon be able to see them. There! Give it to them!" A
little skirt of black figures had appeared in a field. It was really
like shooting at an upright needle from the full length of a ballroom.
But the men's spirits improved as soon as the enemy--this mysterious
enemy--became a tangible thing, and far off. They had believed the foe
to be shooting at them from the adjacent garden.
"Now," said the sergeant ambitiously, "we can beat them off easily if
you men are good enough."
A man called out in a tone of quick, great interest. "See that fellow on
horseback, Bill? Isn't he on horseback? I thought he was on horseback."
There was a fusilade against another side of the house. The sergeant
dashed into the room which commanded the situation. He found a dead
soldier on the floor. He rushed out howling: "When was Knowles killed?
When was Knowles killed? When was Knowles killed? Damn it, when was
Knowles killed?" It was absolutely essential to find out the exact
moment this man died. A blackened private turned upon his sergeant and
demanded: "How in hell do I know?" Sergeant Morton had a sense of anger
so brief that in the next second he cried: "Patterson!" He had even
forgotten his vital interest in the time of Knowles' death.
"Yes?" said Patterson, his face set with some deep-rooted quality of
determination. Still, he was a mere farm boy.
"Go in to Knowles' window and shoot at those people," said the sergeant
hoarsely. Afterwards he coughed. Some of the fumes of the fight had made
way to his lungs.
Patterson looked at the door into this other room. He looked at it as if
he suspected it was to be his death-chamber. Then he entered and stood
across the body of Knowles and fired vigorously into a group of plum
"They can't take this house," declared the sergeant in a contemptuous
and argumentative tone. He was apparently replying to somebody. The man
who had been shot in the throat looked up at him. Eight men were firing
from the windows. The sergeant detected in a corner three wounded men
talking together feebly. "Don't you think there is anything to do?" he
bawled. "Go and get Knowles' cartridges and give them to somebody who
can use them! Take Simpson's too." The man who had been shot in the
throat looked at him. Of the three wounded men who had been talking, one
said: "My leg is all doubled up under me, sergeant." He spoke
Meantime the sergeant was re-loading his rifle. His foot slipped in the
blood of the man who had been shot in the throat, and the military boot
made a greasy red streak on the floor.
"Why, we can hold this place!" shouted the sergeant jubilantly. "Who
says we can't?"
Corporal Flagler suddenly spun away from his window and fell in a heap.
"Sergeant," murmured a man as he dropped to a seat on the floor out of
danger, "I can't stand this. I swear I can't. I think we should run
Morton, with the kindly eyes of a good shepherd, looked at the man. "You
are afraid, Johnston, you are afraid," he said softly. The man struggled
to his feet, cast upon the sergeant a gaze full of admiration, reproach,
and despair, and returned to his post. A moment later he pitched
forward, and thereafter his body hung out of the window, his arms
straight and the fists clenched. Incidentally this corpse was pierced
afterwards by chance three times by bullets of the enemy.
The sergeant laid his rifle against the stonework of the window-frame
and shot with care until his magazine was empty. Behind him a man,
simply grazed on the elbow, was wildly sobbing like a girl. "Damn it,
shut up!" said Morton, without turning his head. Before him was a vista
of a garden, fields, clumps of trees, woods, populated at the time with
little fleeting figures.
He grew furious. "Why didn't he send me orders?" he cried aloud. The
emphasis on the word "he" was impressive. A mile back on the road a
galloper of the Hussars lay dead beside his dead horse.
The man who had been grazed on the elbow still set up his bleat.
Morton's fury veered to this soldier. "Can't you shut up? Can't you shut
up? Can't you shut up? Fight! That's the thing to do. Fight!"
A bullet struck Morton, and he fell upon the man who had been shot in
the throat. There was a sickening moment. Then the sergeant rolled off
to a position upon the bloody floor. He turned himself with a last
effort until he could look at the wounded who were able to look at him.
"Kim up, the Kickers," he said thickly. His arms weakened and he dropped
on his face.
After an interval a young subaltern of the enemy's infantry, followed by
his eager men, burst into this reeking interior. But just over the
threshold he halted before the scene of blood and death. He turned with
a shrug to his sergeant. "God, I should have estimated them at least one
"What will we do now?" said the adjutant, troubled and excited.
"Bury him," said Timothy Lean.
The two officers looked down close to their toes where lay the body of
their comrade. The face was chalk-blue; gleaming eyes stared at the sky.
Over the two upright figures was a windy sound of bullets, and on the
top of the hill Lean's prostrate company of Spitzbergen infantry was
firing measured volleys.
"Don't you think it would be better--" began the adjutant. "We might
leave him until tomorrow."
"No," said Lean. "I can't hold that post an hour longer. I've got to
fall back, and we've got to bury old Bill."
"Of course," said the adjutant, at once. "Your men got intrenching
Lean shouted back to his little line, and two men came slowly, one with
a pick, one with a shovel. They started in the direction of the Rostina
sharp-shooters. Bullets cracked near their ears. "Dig here," said Lean
gruffly. The men, thus caused to lower their glances to the turf, became
hurried and frightened merely because they could not look to see whence
the bullets came. The dull beat of the pick striking the earth sounded
amid the swift snap of close bullets. Presently the other private began
"I suppose," said the adjutant, slowly, "we'd better search his clothes
Lean nodded. Together in curious abstraction they looked at the body.
Then Lean stirred his shoulders suddenly, arousing himself.
"Yes," he said, "we'd better see what he's got." He dropped to his
knees, and his hands approached the body of the dead officer. But his
hands wavered over the buttons of the tunic. The first button was brick-
red with drying blood, and he did not seem to dare touch it.
"Go on," said the adjutant, hoarsely.
Lean stretched his wooden hand, and his fingers fumbled the blood-
stained buttons. At last he rose with ghastly face. He had gathered a
watch, a whistle, a pipe, a tobacco pouch, a handkerchief, a little case
of cards and papers. He looked at the adjutant. There was a silence. The
adjutant was feeling that he had been a coward to make Lean do all the
"Well," said Lean, "that's all, I think. You have his sword and
"Yes," said the adjutant, his face working, and then he burst out in a
sudden strange fury at the two privates. "Why don't you hurry up with
that grave? What are you doing, anyhow? Hurry, do you hear? I never saw
Even as he cried out in his passion the two men were laboring for their
lives. Ever overhead the bullets were spitting.
The grave was finished, It was not a masterpiece--a poor little shallow
thing. Lean and the adjutant again looked at each other in a curious
Suddenly the adjutant croaked out a weird laugh. It was a terrible
laugh, which had its origin in that part of the mind which is first
moved by the singing of the nerves. "Well," he said, humorously to Lean,
"I suppose we had best tumble him in."
"Yes," said Lean. The two privates stood waiting, bent over their
implements. "I suppose," said Lean, "it would be better if we laid him
"Yes," said the adjutant. Then apparently remembering that he had made
Lean search the body, he stooped with great fortitude and took hold of
the dead officer's clothing. Lean joined him. Both were particular that
their fingers should not feel the corpse. They tugged away; the corpse
lifted, heaved, toppled, flopped into the grave, and the two officers,
straightening, looked again at each other--they were always looking at
each other. They sighed with relief.
The adjutant said, "I suppose we should--we should say something. Do you
know the service, Tim?"
"They don't read the service until the grave is filled in," said Lean,
pressing his lips to an academic expression.
"Don't they?" said the adjutant, shocked that he had made the mistake.
"Oh, well," he cried, suddenly, "let us--let us say something--while he
can hear us."
"All right," said Lean. "Do you know the service?"
"I can't remember a line of it," said the adjutant.
Lean was extremely dubious. "I can repeat two lines, but--"
"Well, do it," said the adjutant. "Go as far as you can. That's better
than nothing. And the beasts have got our range exactly."
Lean looked at his two men. "Attention," he barked. The privates came to
attention with a click, looking much aggrieved. The adjutant lowered his
helmet to his knee. Lean, bareheaded, he stood over the grave. The
Rostina sharpshooters fired briskly.
"Oh, Father, our friend has sunk in the deep waters of death, but his
spirit has leaped toward Thee as the bubble arises from the lips of the
drowning. Perceive, we beseech, O Father, the little flying bubble,
Lean, although husky and ashamed, had suffered no hesitation up to this
point, but he stopped with a hopeless feeling and looked at the corpse.
The adjutant moved uneasily. "And from Thy superb heights--" he began,
and then he too came to an end.
"And from Thy superb heights," said Lean.
The adjutant suddenly remembered a phrase in the back part of the
Spitzbergen burial service, and he exploited it with the triumphant
manner of a man who has recalled everything, and can go on.
"Oh, God, have mercy--"
"Oh, God, have mercy--" said Lean.
"Mercy," repeated the adjutant, in quick failure.
"Mercy," said Lean. And then he was moved by some violence of feeling,
for he turned suddenly upon his two men and tigerishly said, "Throw the
The fire of the Rostina sharpshooters was accurate and continuous.
* * * * *
One of the aggrieved privates came forward with his shovel. He lifted
his first shovel-load of earth, and for a moment of inexplicable
hesitation it was held poised above this corpse, which from its chalk-
blue face looked keenly out from the grave. Then the soldier emptied his
shovel on--on the feet.
Timothy Lean felt as if tons had been swiftly lifted from off his
forehead. He had felt that perhaps the private might empty the shovel
on--on the face. It had been emptied on the feet. There was a great
point gained there--ha, ha!--the first shovelful had been emptied on
the feet. How satisfactory!
The adjutant began to babble. "Well, of course--a man we've messed with
all these years--impossible--you can't, you know, leave your intimate
friends rotting on the field. Go on, for God's sake, and shovel, you!"
The man with the shovel suddenly ducked, grabbed his left arm with his
right hand, and looked at his officer for orders. Lean picked the shovel
from the ground. "Go to the rear," he said to the wounded man. He also
addressed the other private. "You get under cover, too; I'll finish this
The wounded man scrambled hard still for the top of the ridge without
devoting any glances to the direction whence the bullets came, and the
other man followed at an equal pace; but he was different, in that he
looked back anxiously three times.
This is merely the way--often--of the hit and unhit.
Timothy Lean filled the shovel, hesitated, and then in a movement which
was like a gesture of abhorrence he flung the dirt into the grave, and
as it landed it made a sound--plop! Lean suddenly stopped and mopped his
brow--a tired laborer.
"Perhaps we have been wrong," said the adjutant. His glance wavered
stupidly. "It might have been better if we hadn't buried him just at
this time. Of course, if we advance to-morrow the body would have
"Damn you," said Lean, "shut your mouth!" He was not the senior officer.
He again filled the shovel and flung the earth. Always the earth made
that sound--plop! For a space Lean worked frantically, like a man
digging himself out of danger.
Soon there was nothing to be seen but the chalk-blue face. Lean filled
the shovel. "Good God," he cried to the adjutant. "Why didn't you turn
him somehow when you put him in? This--" Then Lean began to stutter.
The adjutant understood. He was pale to the lips. "Go on, man," he
cried, beseechingly, almost in a shout. Lean swung back the shovel. It
went forward in a pendulum curve. When the earth landed it made a sound
AN EPISODE OF WAR
The lieutenant's rubber blanket lay on the ground, and upon it he had
poured the company's supply of coffee. Corporals and other
representatives of the grimy and hot-throated men who lined the
breastwork had come for each squad's portion.
The lieutenant was frowning and serious at this task of division. His
lips pursed as he drew with his sword various crevices in the heap until
brown squares of coffee, astoundingly equal in size, appeared on the
blanket. He was on the verge of a great triumph in mathematics, and the
corporals were thronging forward, each to reap a little square, when
suddenly the lieutenant cried out and looked quickly at a man near him
as if he suspected it was a case of personal assault. The others cried
out also when they saw blood upon the lieutenant's sleeve.
He had winced like a man stung, swayed dangerously, and then
straightened. The sound of his hoarse breathing was plainly audible. He
looked sadly, mystically, over the breastwork at the green face of a
wood, where now were many little puffs of white smoke. During this
moment the men about him gazed statue-like and silent, astonished and
awed by this catastrophe which happened when catastrophes were not
expected--when they had leisure to observe it.
As the lieutenant stared at the wood, they too swung their heads, so
that for another instant all hands, still silent, contemplated the
distant forest as if their minds were fixed upon the mystery of a
The officer had, of course, been compelled to take his sword into his
left hand. He did not hold it by the hilt. He gripped it at the middle
of the blade, awkwardly. Turning his eyes from the hostile wood, he
looked at the sword as he held it there, and seemed puzzled as to what
to do with it, where to put it. In short, this weapon had of a sudden
become a strange thing to him. He looked at it in a kind of
stupefaction, as if he had been endowed with a trident, a sceptre, or a
Finally he tried to sheath it. To sheath a sword held by the left hand,
at the middle of the blade, in a scabbard hung at the left hip, is a
feat worthy of a sawdust ring. This wounded officer engaged in a
desperate struggle with the sword and the wobbling scabbard, and during
the time of it he breathed like a wrestler.
But at this instant the men, the spectators, awoke from their stone-like
poses and crowded forward sympathetically. The orderly-sergeant took the
sword and tenderly placed it in the scabbard. At the time, he leaned
nervously backward, and did not allow even his finger to brush the body
of the lieutenant. A wound gives strange dignity to him who bears it.
Well men shy from this new and terrible majesty. It is as if the wounded
man's hand is upon the curtain which hangs before the revelations of all
existence--the meaning of ants, potentates, wars, cities, sunshine,
snow, a feather dropped from a bird's wing; and the power of it sheds
radiance upon a bloody form, and makes the other men understand
sometimes that they are little. His comrades look at him with large eyes
thoughtfully. Moreover, they fear vaguely that the weight of a finger
upon him might send him headlong, precipitate the tragedy, hurl him at
once into the dim, grey unknown. And so the orderly-sergeant, while
sheathing the sword, leaned nervously backward.
There were others who proffered assistance. One timidly presented his
shoulder and asked the lieutenant if he cared to lean upon it, but the
latter waved him away mournfully. He wore the look of one who knows he
is the victim of a terrible disease and understands his helplessness. He
again stared over the breastwork at the forest, and then turning went
slowly rearward. He held his right wrist tenderly in his left hand as if
the wounded arm was made of very brittle glass.
And the men in silence stared at the wood, then at the departing
lieutenant--then at the wood, then at the lieutenant.
As the wounded officer passed from the line of battle, he was enabled to
see many things which as a participant in the fight were unknown to him.
He saw a general on a black horse gazing over the lines of blue infantry
at the green woods which veiled his problems. An aide galloped
furiously, dragged his horse suddenly to a halt, saluted, and presented
a paper. It was, for a wonder, precisely like an historical painting.
To the rear of the general and his staff a group, composed of a bugler,
two or three orderlies, and the bearer of the corps standard, all upon
maniacal horses, were working like slaves to hold their ground,
preserve, their respectful interval, while the shells boomed in the air
about them, and caused their chargers to make furious quivering leaps.
A battery, a tumultuous and shining mass, was swirling toward the right.
The wild thud of hoofs, the cries of the riders shouting blame and
praise, menace and encouragement, and, last the roar of the wheels, the
slant of the glistening guns, brought the lieutenant to an intent pause.
The battery swept in curves that stirred the heart; it made halts as
dramatic as the crash of a wave on the rocks, and when it fled onward,
this aggregation of wheels, levers, motors, had a beautiful unity, as if
it were a missile. The sound of it was a war-chorus that reached into
the depths of man's emotion.
The lieutenant, still holding his arm as if it were of glass, stood
watching this battery until all detail of it was lost, save the figures
of the riders, which rose and fell and waved lashes over the black mass.
Later, he turned his eyes toward the battle where the shooting sometimes
crackled like bush-fires, sometimes sputtered with exasperating
irregularity, and sometimes reverberated like the thunder. He saw the
smoke rolling upward and saw crowds of men who ran and cheered, or stood
and blazed away at the inscrutable distance.
He came upon some stragglers, and they told him how to find the field
hospital. They described its exact location. In fact, these men, no
longer having part in the battle, knew more of it than others. They told
the performance of every corps, every division, the opinion of every
general. The lieutenant, carrying his wounded arm rearward, looked upon
them with wonder.
At the roadside a brigade was making coffee and buzzing with talk like a
girls' boarding-school. Several officers came out to him and inquired
concerning things of which he knew nothing. One, seeing his arm, began
to scold. "Why, man, that's no way to do. You want to fix that thing."
He appropriated the lieutenant and the lieutenant's wound. He cut the
sleeve and laid bare the arm, every nerve of which softly fluttered
under his touch. He bound his handkerchief over the wound, scolding away
in the meantime. His tone allowed one to think that he was in the habit
of being wounded every day. The lieutenant hung his head, feeling, in
this presence, that he did not know how to be correctly wounded.
The low white tents of the hospital were grouped around an old school-
house. There was here a singular commotion. In the foreground two
ambulances interlocked wheels in the deep mud. The drivers were tossing
the blame of it back and forth, gesticulating and berating, while from
the ambulances, both crammed with wounded, there came an occasional
groan. An interminable crowd of bandaged men were coming and going.
Great numbers sat under the trees nursing heads or arms or legs. There
was a dispute of some kind raging on the steps of the school-house.
Sitting with his back against a tree a man with a face as grey as a new
army blanket was serenely smoking a corn-cob pipe. The lieutenant wished
to rush forward and inform him that he was dying.
A busy surgeon was passing near the lieutenant. "Good-morning," he said,
with a friendly smile. Then he caught sight of the lieutenant's arm and
his face at once changed. "Well, let's have a look at it." He seemed
possessed suddenly of a great contempt for the lieutenant. This wound
evidently placed the latter on a very low social plane. The doctor cried
out impatiently, "What mutton-head had tied it up that way anyhow?" The
lieutenant answered, "Oh, a man."
When the wound was disclosed the doctor fingered it disdainfully.
"Humph," he said. "You come along with me and I'll 'tend to you." His
voice contained the same scorn as if he were saying, "You will have to
go to jail."
The lieutenant had been very meek, but now his face flushed, and he
looked into the doctor's eyes. "I guess I won't have it amputated," he
"Nonsense, man! Nonsense! Nonsense!" cried the doctor. "Come along, now.
I won't amputate it. Come along. Don't be a baby."
"Let go of me," said the lieutenant, holding back wrathfully, his glance
fixed upon the door of the old school-house, as sinister to him as the
portals of death.
And this is the story of how the lieutenant lost his arm. When he
reached home, his sisters, his mother, his wife sobbed for a long time
at the sight of the flat sleeve. "Oh, well," he said, standing
shamefaced amid these tears, "I don't suppose it matters so much as all
AN EXPERIMENT IN MISERY
It was late at night, and a fine rain was swirling softly down, causing
the pavements to glisten with hue of steel and blue and yellow in the
rays of the innumerable lights. A youth was trudging slowly, without
enthusiasm, with his hands buried deep in his trousers' pockets, toward
the downtown places where beds can be hired for coppers. He was clothed
in an aged and tattered suit, and his derby was a marvel of dust-covered
crown and torn rim. He was going forth to eat as the wanderer may eat,
and sleep as the homeless sleep. By the time he had reached City Hall
Park he was so completely plastered with yells of "bum" and "hobo," and
with various unholy epithets that small boys had applied to him at
intervals, that he was in a state of the most profound dejection. The
sifting rain saturated the old velvet collar of his overcoat, and as the
wet cloth pressed against his neck, he felt that there no longer could
be pleasure in life. He looked about him searching for an outcast of
highest degree that they too might share miseries, but the lights threw
a quivering glare over rows and circles of deserted benches that
glistened damply, showing patches of wet sod behind them. It seemed that
their usual freights had fled on this night to better things. There were
only squads of well-dressed Brooklyn people who swarmed towards the
The young man loitered about for a time and then went shuffling off down
Park Row. In the sudden descent in style of the dress of the crowd he
felt relief, and as if he were at last in his own country. He began to
see tatters that matched his tatters. In Chatham Square there were
aimless men strewn in front of saloons and lodging-houses, standing
sadly, patiently, reminding one vaguely of the attitudes of chickens in
a storm. He aligned himself with these men, and turned slowly to occupy
himself with the flowing life of the great street.
Through the mists of the cold and storming night, the cable cars went in
silent procession, great affairs shining with red and brass, moving with
formidable power, calm and irresistible, dangerful and gloomy, breaking
silence only by the loud fierce cry of the gong. Two rivers of people
swarmed along the sidewalks, spattered with black mud, which made each
shoe leave a scarlike impression. Overhead elevated trains with a shrill
grinding of the wheels stopped at the station, which upon its leglike
pillars seemed to resemble some monstrous kind of crab squatting over
the street. The quick fat puffings of the engines could be heard. Down
an alley there were somber curtains of purple and black, on which street
lamps dully glittered like embroidered flowers.
A saloon stood with a voracious air on a corner. A sign leaning against
the front of the door-post announced "Free hot soup to-night!" The swing
doors, snapping to and fro like ravenous lips, made gratified smacks as
the saloon gorged itself with plump men, eating with astounding and
endless appetite, smiling in some indescribable manner as the men came
from all directions like sacrifices to a heathenish superstition.
Caught by the delectable sign the young man allowed himself to be
swallowed. A bartender placed a schooner of dark and portentous beer on
the bar. Its monumental form upreared until the froth a-top was above
the crown of the young man's brown derby.
"Soup over there, gents," said the bartender affably. A little yellow
man in rags and the youth grasped their schooners and went with speed
toward a lunch counter, where a man with oily but imposing whiskers
ladled genially from a kettle until he had furnished his two mendicants
with a soup that was steaming hot, and in which there were little
floating suggestions of chicken. The young man, sipping his broth, felt
the cordiality expressed by the warmth of the mixture, and he beamed at
the man with oily but imposing whiskers, who was presiding like a priest
behind an altar. "Have some more, gents?" he inquired of the two sorry
figures before him. The little yellow man accepted with a swift gesture,
but the youth shook his head and went out, following a man whose
wondrous seediness promised that he would have a knowledge of cheap
On the sidewalk he accosted the seedy man. "Say, do you know a cheap
place to sleep?"
The other hesitated for a time, gazing sideways. Finally he nodded in
the direction of the street, "I sleep up there," he said, "when I've got
The young man shook his head dolefully. "That's too rich for me."
At that moment there approached the two a reeling man in strange
garments. His head was a fuddle of bushy hair and whiskers, from which
his eyes peered with a guilty slant. In a close scrutiny it was possible
to distinguish the cruel lines of a mouth which looked as if its lips
had just closed with satisfaction over some tender and piteous morsel.
He appeared like an assassin steeped in crimes performed awkwardly.
But at this time his voice was tuned to the coaxing key of an
affectionate puppy. He looked at the men with wheedling eyes, and began
to sing a little melody for charity.
"Say, gents, can't yeh give a poor feller a couple of cents t' git a
bed? I got five, and I gits anudder two I gits me a bed. Now, on th'
square, gents, can't yeh jest gimme two cents t' git a bed? Now, yeh
know how a respecter'ble gentlem'n feels when he's down on his luck, an'
The seedy man, staring with imperturbable countenance at a train which
clattered overhead, interrupted in an expressionless voice--"Ah, go t'
But the youth spoke to the prayerful assassin in tones of astonishment
and inquiry. "Say, you must be crazy! Why don't yeh strike somebody that
looks as if they had money?"
The assassin, tottering about on his uncertain legs, and at intervals
brushing imaginary obstacles from before his nose, entered into a long
explanation of the psychology of the situation. It was so profound that
it was unintelligible.
When he had exhausted the subject, the young man said to him:
"Let's see th' five cents."
The assassin wore an expression of drunken woe at this sentence, filled
with suspicion of him. With a deeply pained air he began to fumble in
his clothing, his red hands trembling. Presently he announced in a voice
of bitter grief, as if he had been betrayed--"There's on'y four."
"Four," said the young man thoughtfully. "Well, look here, I'm a
stranger here, an' if ye'll steer me to your cheap joint I'll find the
The assassin's countenance became instantly radiant with joy. His
whiskers quivered with the wealth of his alleged emotions. He seized the
young man's hand in a transport of delight and friendliness.
"B' Gawd," he cried, "if ye'll do that, b' Gawd, I'd say yeh was a
damned good fellow, I would, an' I'd remember yeh all m' life, I would,
b' Gawd, an' if I ever got a chance I'd return the compliment"--he spoke
with drunken dignity--"b' Gawd, I'd treat yeh white, I would, an' I'd
allus remember yeh."
The young man drew back, looking at the assassin coldly. "Oh, that's all
right," he said. "You show me th' joint--that's all you've got t' do."
The assassin, gesticulating gratitude, led the young man along a dark
street. Finally he stopped before a little dusty door. He raised his
hand impressively. "Look-a-here," he said, and there was a thrill of
deep and ancient wisdom upon his face, "I've brought yeh here, an'
that's my part, ain't it? If th' place don't suit yeh, yeh needn't git
mad at me, need yeh? There won't be no bad feelin', will there?"
"No," said the young man.
The assassin waved his arm tragically, and led the march up the steep
stairway. On the way the young man furnished the assassin with three
pennies. At the top a man with benevolent spectacles looked at them
through a hole in a board. He collected their money, wrote some names on
a register, and speedily was leading the two men along a gloom-shrouded
Shortly after the beginning of this journey the young man felt his liver
turn white, for from the dark and secret places of the building there
suddenly came to his nostrils strange and unspeakable odors, that
assailed him like malignant diseases with wings. They seemed to be from
human bodies closely packed in dens; the exhalations from a hundred
pairs of reeking lips; the fumes from a thousand bygone debauches; the
expression of a thousand present miseries.
A man, naked save for a little snuff-colored undershirt, was parading
sleepily along the corridor. He rubbed his eyes, and, giving vent to a
prodigious yawn, demanded to be told the time.
The man yawned again. He opened a door, and for a moment his form was
outlined against a black, opaque interior. To this door came the three
men, and as it was again opened the unholy odors rushed out like fiends,
so that the young man was obliged to struggle as against an overpowering
It was some time before the youth's eyes were good in the intense gloom
within, but the man with benevolent spectacles led him skilfully,
pausing but a moment to deposit the limp assassin upon a cot. He took
the youth to a cot that lay tranquilly by the window, and showing him a
tall locker for clothes that stood near the head with the ominous air of
a tombstone, left him.
The youth sat on his cot and peered about him. There was a gas-jet in a
distant part of the room, that burned a small flickering orange-hued
flame. It caused vast masses of tumbled shadows in all parts of the
place, save where, immediately about it, there was a little grey haze.
As the young man's eyes became used to the darkness, he could see upon
the cots that thickly littered the floor the forms of men sprawled out,
lying in deathlike silence, or heaving and snoring with tremendous
effort, like stabbed fish.
The youth locked his derby and his shoes in the mummy case near him, and
then lay down with an old and familiar coat around his shoulders. A
blanket he handed gingerly, drawing it over part of the coat. The cot
was covered with leather, and as cold as melting snow. The youth was
obliged to shiver for some time on this affair, which was like a slab.
Presently, however, his chill gave him peace, and during this period of
leisure from it he turned his head to stare at his friend the assassin,
whom he could dimly discern where he lay sprawled on a cot in the
abandon of a man filled with drink. He was snoring with incredible
vigor. His wet hair and beard dimly glistened, and his inflamed nose
shone with subdued lustre like a red light in a fog.
Within reach of the youth's hand was one who lay with yellow breast and
shoulders bare to the cold drafts. One arm hung over the side of the
cot, and the fingers lay full length upon the wet cement floor of the
room. Beneath the inky brows could be seen the eyes of the man exposed
by the partly opened lids. To the youth it seemed that he and this
corpse-like being were exchanging a prolonged stare, and that the other
threatened with his eyes. He drew back, watching his neighbor from the
shadows of his blanket edge. The man did not move once through the
night, but lay in this stillness as of death like a body stretched out
expectant of the surgeon's knife.
And all through the room could be seen the tawny hues of naked flesh,
limbs thrust into the darkness, projecting beyond the cots; upreared
knees, arms hanging long and thin over the cot edges. For the most part
they were statuesque, carven, dead. With the curious lockers standing
all about like tombstones, there was a strange effect of a graveyard
where bodies were merely flung.
Yet occasionally could be seen limbs wildly tossing in fantastic
nightmare gestures, accompanied by guttural cries, grunts, oaths. And
there was one fellow off in a gloomy corner, who in his dreams was
oppressed by some frightful calamity, for of a sudden he began to utter
long wails that went almost like yells from a hound, echoing wailfully
and weird through this chill place of tombstones where men lay like the
The sound in its high piercing beginnings, that dwindled to final
melancholy moans, expressed a red and grim tragedy of the unfathomable
possibilities of the man's dreams. But to the youth these were not
merely the shrieks of a vision-pierced man: they were an utterance of
the meaning of the room and its occupants. It was to him the protest of
the wretch who feels the touch of the imperturbable granite wheels, and
who then cries with an impersonal eloquence, with a strength not from
him, giving voice to the wail of a whole section, a class, a people.
This, weaving into the young man's brain, and mingling with his views of
the vast and sombre shadows that, like mighty black fingers, curled
around the naked bodies, made the young man so that he did not sleep,
but lay carving the biographies for these men from his meagre
experience. At times the fellow in the corner howled in a writhing agony
of his imaginations.
Finally a long lance-point of grey light shot through the dusty panes of
the window. Without, the young man could see roofs drearily white in the
dawning. The point of light yellowed and grew brighter, until the golden
rays of the morning sun came in bravely and strong. They touched with
radiant color the form of a small fat man, who snored in stuttering
fashion. His round and shiny bald head glowed suddenly with the valor of
a decoration. He sat up, blinked at the sun, swore fretfully, and pulled
his blanket over the ornamental splendors of his head.
The youth contentedly watched this rout of the shadows before the bright
spears of the sun, and presently he slumbered. When he awoke he heard
the voice of the assassin raised in valiant curses. Putting up his head,
he perceived his comrade seated on the side of the cot engaged in
scratching his neck with long finger-nails that rasped like files.
"Hully Jee, dis is a new breed. They've got can-openers on their feet."
He continued in a violent tirade.
The young man hastily unlocked his closet and took out his shoes and
hat. As he sat on the side of the cot lacing his shoes, he glanced about
and saw that daylight had made the room comparatively commonplace and
uninteresting. The men, whose faces seemed stolid, serene or absent,
were engaged in dressing, while a great crackle of bantering
A few were parading in unconcerned nakedness. Here and there were men of
brawn, whose skins shone clear and ruddy. They took splendid poses,
standing massively like chiefs. When they had dressed in their ungainly
garments there was an extraordinary change. They then showed bumps and
deficiencies of all kinds.
There were others who exhibited many deformities. Shoulders were
slanting, humped, pulled this way and pulled that way. And notable among
these latter men was the little fat man who had refused to allow his
head to be glorified. His pudgy form, builded like a pear, bustled to
and fro, while he swore in fishwife fashion. It appeared that some
article of his apparel had vanished.
The young man attired speedily, and went to his friend the assassin. At
first the latter looked dazed at the sight of the youth. This face
seemed to be appealing to him through the cloud wastes of his memory. He
scratched his neck and reflected. At last he grinned, a broad smile
gradually spreading until his countenance was a round illumination.
"Hello, Willie," he cried cheerily.
"Hello," said the young man. "Are yeh ready t' fly?"
"Sure." The assassin tied his shoe carefully with some twine and came
When he reached the street the young man experienced no sudden relief
from unholy atmospheres. He had forgotten all about them, and had been
breathing naturally, and with no sensation of discomfort or distress.
He was thinking of these things as he walked along the street, when he
was suddenly startled by feeling the assassin's hand, trembling with
excitement, clutching his arm, and when the assassin spoke, his voice
went into quavers from a supreme agitation.
"I'll be hully, bloomin' blowed if there wasn't a feller with a
nightshirt on up there in that joint."
The youth was bewildered for a moment, but presently he turned to smile
indulgently at the assassin's humor.
"Oh, you're a d--d liar," he merely said.
Whereupon the assassin began to gesture extravagantly, and take oath by
strange gods. He frantically placed himself at the mercy of remarkable
fates if his tale were not true.
"Yes, he did! I cross m' heart thousan' times!" he protested, and at the
moment his eyes were large with amazement, his mouth wrinkled in
"Yessir! A nightshirt! A hully white nightshirt!"
"No, sir! I hope ter die b'fore I kin git anudder ball if there wasn't a
jay wid a hully, bloomin' white nightshirt!"
His face was filled with the infinite wonder of it. "A hully white
nightshirt," he continually repeated.
The young man saw the dark entrance to a basement restaurant. There was
a sign which read "No mystery about our hash"! and there were other age-
stained and world-battered legends which told him that the place was
within his means. He stopped before it and spoke to the assassin. "I
guess I'll git somethin' t' eat."
At this the assassin, for some reason, appeared to be quite embarrassed.
He gazed at the seductive front of the eating place for a moment. Then
he started slowly up the street. "Well, good-bye, Willie," he said
For an instant the youth studied the departing figure. Then he called
out, "Hol' on a minnet." As they came together he spoke in a certain
fierce way, as if he feared that the other would think him to be
charitable. "Look-a-here, if yeh wanta git some breakfas' I'll lend yeh
three cents t' do it with. But say, look-a-here, you've gota git out an'
hustle. I ain't goin' t' support yeh, or I'll go broke b'fore night. I
ain't no millionaire."
"I take me oath, Willie," said the assassin earnestly, "th' on'y thing I
really needs is a ball. Me t'roat feels like a fryin'-pan. But as I
can't get a ball, why, th' next bes' thing is breakfast, an' if yeh do
that for me, b'Gawd, I say yeh was th' whitest lad I ever see."
They spent a few moments in dexterous exchanges of phrases, in which
they each protested that the other was, as the assassin had originally
said, "a respecter'ble gentlem'n." And they concluded with mutual
assurances that they were the souls of intelligence and virtue. Then
they went into the restaurant.
There was a long counter, dimly lighted from hidden sources. Two or
three men in soiled white aprons rushed here and there.
The youth bought a bowl of coffee for two cents and a roll for one cent.
The assassin purchased the same. The bowls were webbed with brown seams,
and the tin spoons wore an air of having emerged from the first pyramid.
Upon them were black mosslike encrustations of age, and they were bent
and scarred from the attacks of long-forgotten teeth. But over their
repast the wanderers waxed warm and mellow. The assassin grew affable as
the hot mixture went soothingly down his parched throat, and the young
man felt courage flow in his veins.
Memories began to throng in on the assassin, and he brought forth long
tales, intricate, incoherent, delivered with a chattering swiftness as
from an old woman. "--great job out'n Orange. Boss keep yeh hustlin'
though all time. I was there three days, and then I went an' ask 'im t'
lend me a dollar. 'G-g-go ter the devil,' he ses, an' I lose me job."
"South no good. Damn niggers work for twenty-five an' thirty cents a
day. Run white man out. Good grub, though. Easy livin'."
"Yas; useter work little in Toledo, raftin' logs. Make two or three
dollars er day in the spring. Lived high. Cold as ice, though, in the
"I was raised in northern N'York. O-a-ah, yeh jest oughto live there. No
beer ner whisky, though, way off in the woods. But all th' good hot grub
yeh can eat. B'Gawd, I hung around there long as I could till th' ol'
man fired me. 'Git t' hell outa here, yeh wuthless skunk, git t' hell
outa here, an' go die,' he ses. 'You're a hell of a father,' I ses, 'you
are,' an' I quit 'im."
As they were passing from the dim eating place, they encountered an old
man who was trying to steal forth with a tiny package of food, but a
tall man with an indomitable moustache stood dragon fashion, barring the
way of escape. They heard the old man raise a plaintive protest. "Ah,
you always want to know what I take out, and you never see that I
usually bring a package in here from my place of business."
As the wanderers trudged slowly along Park Row, the assassin began to
expand and grow blithe. "B'Gawd, we've been livin' like kings," he said,
smacking appreciative lips.
"Look out, or we'll have t' pay fer it t'night," said the youth with
But the assassin refused to turn his gaze toward the future. He went
with a limping step, into which he injected a suggestion of lamblike
gambols. His mouth was wreathed in a red grin.
In the City Hall Park the two wanderers sat down in the little circle of
benches sanctified by traditions of their class. They huddled in their
old garments, slumbrously conscious of the march of the hours which for
them had no meaning.
The people of the street hurrying hither and thither made a blend of
black figures changing yet frieze-like. They walked in their good
clothes as upon important missions, giving no gaze to the two wanderers
seated upon the benches. They expressed to the young man his infinite
distance from all that he valued. Social position, comfort, the
pleasures of living, were unconquerable kingdoms. He felt a sudden awe.
And in the background a multitude of buildings, of pitiless hues and
sternly high, were to him emblematic of a nation forcing its regal head
into the clouds, throwing no downward glances; in the sublimity of its
aspirations ignoring the wretches who may flounder at its feet. The roar
of the city in his ear was to him the confusion of strange tongues,
babbling heedlessly; it was the clink of coin, the voice if the city's
hopes which were to him no hopes.
He confessed himself an outcast, and his eyes from under the lowered rim
of his hat began to glance guiltily, wearing the criminal expression
that comes with certain convictions.
THE DUEL THAT WAS NOT FOUGHT
Patsy Tulligan was not as wise as seven owls, but his courage could
throw a shadow as long as the steeple of a cathedral. There were men on
Cherry Street who had whipped him five times, but they all knew that
Patsy would be as ready for the sixth time as if nothing had happened.
Once he and two friends had been away up on Eighth Avenue, far out of
their country, and upon their return journey that evening they stopped
frequently in saloons until they were as independent of their
surroundings as eagles, and cared much less about thirty days on
On Lower Sixth Avenue they paused in a saloon where there was a good
deal of lamp-glare and polished wood to be seen from the outside, and
within, the mellow light shone on much furbished brass and more polished
wood. It was a better saloon than they were in the habit of seeing, but
they did not mind it. They sat down at one of the little tables that
were in a row parallel to the bar and ordered beer. They blinked
stolidly at the decorations, the bartender, and the other customers.
When anything transpired they discussed it with dazzling frankness, and
what they said of it was as free as air to the other people in the
At midnight there were few people in the saloon. Patsy and his friends
still sat drinking. Two well-dressed men were at another table, smoking
cigars slowly and swinging back in their chairs. They occupied
themselves with themselves in the usual manner, never betraying by a
wink of an eyelid that they knew that other folk existed. At another
table directly behind Patsy and his companions was a slim little Cuban,
with miraculously small feet and hands, and with a youthful touch of
down upon his lip. As he lifted his cigarette from time to time his
little finger was bended in dainty fashion, and there was a green flash
when a huge emerald ring caught the light. The bartender came often with
his little brass tray. Occasionally Patsy and his two friends
Once this little Cuban happened to make some slight noise and Patsy
turned his head to observe him. Then Patsy made a careless and rather
loud comment to his two friends. He used a word which is no more than
passing the time of day down in Cherry Street, but to the Cuban it was a
dagger-point. There was a harsh scraping sound as a chair was pushed
The little Cuban was upon his feet. His eyes were shining with a rage
that flashed there like sparks as he glared at Patsy. His olive face had
turned a shade of grey from his anger. Withal his chest was thrust out
in portentous dignity, and his hand, still grasping his wine-glass, was
cool and steady, the little finger still bended, the great emerald
gleaming upon it. The others, motionless, stared at him.
"Sir," he began ceremoniously. He spoke gravely and in a slow way, his
tone coming in a marvel of self-possessed cadences from between those
lips which quivered with wrath. "You have insult me. You are a dog, a
hound, a cur. I spit upon you. I must have some of your blood."
Patsy looked at him over his shoulder.
"What's th' matter wi' che?" he demanded. He did not quite understand
the words of this little man who glared at him steadily, but he knew
that it was something about fighting. He snarled with the readiness of
his class and heaved his shoulders contemptuously. "Ah, what's eatin'
yeh? Take a walk! You hain't got nothin' t' do with me, have yeh? Well,
den, go sit on yerself."
And his companions leaned back valorously in their chairs, and
scrutinized this slim young fellow who was addressing Patsy.
"What's de little Dago chewin' about?"
"He wants t' scrap!"
The Cuban listened with apparent composure. It was only when they
laughed that his body cringed as if he was receiving lashes. Presently
he put down his glass and walked over to their table. He proceeded
always with the most impressive deliberation.
"Sir," he began again. "You have insult me. I must have s-s-satisfac-
shone. I must have your body upon the point of my sword. In my country
you would already be dead. I must have s-s-satisfac-shone."
Patsy had looked at the Cuban with a trifle of bewilderment. But at last
his face began to grow dark with belligerency, his mouth curved in that
wide sneer with which he would confront an angel of darkness. He arose
suddenly in his seat and came towards the little Cuban. He was going to
be impressive too.
"Say, young feller, if yeh go shootin' off yer face at me, I'll wipe d'
joint wid yeh. What'cher gaffin' about, hey? Are yeh givin' me er jolly?
Say, if yeh pick me up fer a cinch, I'll fool yeh. Dat's what! Don't
take me fer no dead easy mug." And as he glowered at the little Cuban,
he ended his oration with one eloquent word, "Nit!"
The bartender nervously polished his bar with a towel, and kept his eyes
fastened upon the men. Occasionally he became transfixed with interest,
leaning forward with one hand upon the edge of the bar and the other
holding the towel grabbed in a lump, as if he had been turned into
bronze when in the very act of polishing.
The Cuban did not move when Patsy came toward him and delivered his
oration. At its conclusion he turned his livid face toward where, above
him, Patsy was swaggering and heaving his shoulders in a consummate
display of bravery and readiness. The Cuban, in his clear, tense tones,
spoke one word. It was the bitter insult. It seemed fairly to spin from
his lips and crackle in the air like breaking glass.
Every man save the little Cuban made an electric movement. Patsy roared
a black oath and thrust himself forward until he towered almost directly
above the other man. His fists were doubled into knots of bone and hard
flesh. The Cuban had raised a steady finger.
"If you touch me wis your hand, I will keel you."
The two well-dressed men had come swiftly, uttering protesting cries.
They suddenly intervened in this second of time in which Patsy had
sprung forward and the Cuban had uttered his threat. The four men were
now a tossing, arguing; violent group, one well-dressed man lecturing
the Cuban, and the other holding off Patsy, who was now wild with rage,
loudly repeating the Cuban's threat, and maneuvering and struggling to
get at him for revenge's sake.
The bartender, feverishly scouring away with his towel, and at times
pacing to and fro with nervous and excited tread, shouted out--
"Say, for heaven's sake, don't fight in here. If yeh wanta fight, go out
in the street and fight all yeh please. But don't fight in here."
Patsy knew one only thing, and this he kept repeating:
"Well, he wants t' scrap! I didn't begin dis! He wants t' scrap."
The well-dressed man confronting him continually replied--
"Oh, well, now, look here, he's only a lad. He don't know what he's
doing. He's crazy mad. You wouldn't slug a kid like that."
Patsy and his aroused companions, who cursed and growled, were
persistent with their argument. "Well, he wants t' scrap!" The whole
affair was as plain as daylight when one saw this great fact. The
interference and intolerable discussion brought the three of them
forward, battleful and fierce.
"What's eatin' you, anyhow?" they demanded. "Dis ain't your business, is
it? What business you got shootin' off your face?"
The other peacemaker was trying to restrain the little Cuban, who had
grown shrill and violent.
"If he touch me wis his hand I will keel him. We must fight like
gentlemen or else I keel him when he touch me wis his hand."
The man who was fending off Patsy comprehended these sentences that were
screamed behind his back, and he explained to Patsy.
"But he wants to fight you with swords. With swords, you know."
The Cuban, dodging around the peacemakers, yelled in Patsy's face--
"Ah, if I could get you before me wis my sword! Ah! Ah! A-a-ah!" Patsy
made a furious blow with a swift fist, but the peacemakers bucked
against his body suddenly like football players.
Patsy was greatly puzzled. He continued doggedly to try to get near
enough to the Cuban to punch him. To these attempts the Cuban replied
"If you touch me wis your hand, I will cut your heart in two piece."
At last Patsy said--"Well, if he's so dead stuck on fightin' wid swords,
I'll fight 'im. Soitenly! I'll fight 'im." All this palaver had
evidently tired him, and he now puffed out his lips with the air of a
man who is willing to submit to any conditions if he can only bring on
the row soon enough. He swaggered, "I'll fight 'im wid swords. Let 'im
bring on his swords, an' I'll fight 'im 'til he's ready t' quit."
The two well-dressed men grinned. "Why, look here," they said to Patsy,
"he'd punch you full of holes. Why he's a fencer. You can't fight him
with swords. He'd kill you in 'bout a minute."
"Well, I'll giv' 'im a go at it, anyhow," said Patsy, stouthearted and
resolute. "I'll giv' 'im a go at it, anyhow, an' I'll stay wid 'im as
long as I kin."
As for the Cuban, his lithe body was quivering in an ecstasy of the
muscles. His face radiant with a savage joy, he fastened his glance upon
Patsy, his eyes gleaming with a gloating, murderous light. A most
unspeakable, animal-like rage was in his expression.
"Ah! ah! He will fight me! Ah!" He bended unconsciously in the posture
of a fencer. He had all the quick, springy movements of a skilful
swordsman. "Ah, the b-r-r-rute! The b-r-r-rute! I will stick him like a
The two peacemakers, still grinning broadly, were having a great time
"Why, you infernal idiot, this man would slice you all up. You better
jump off the bridge if you want to commit suicide. You wouldn't stand a
ghost of a chance to live ten seconds."
Patsy was as unshaken as granite. "Well, if he wants t' fight wid
swords, he'll get it. I'll giv' 'im a go at it, anyhow."
One man said--"Well, have you got a sword? Do you know what a sword is?
Have you got a sword?"
"No, I ain't got none," said Patsy honestly, "but I kin git one." Then
he added valiantly--"An' quick, too."
The two men laughed. "Why, can't you understand it would be sure death
to fight a sword duel with this fellow?"
"Dat's all right! See? I know me own business. If he wants t' fight one
of dees d--n duels, I'm in it, understan'"
"Have you ever fought one, you fool?"
"No, I ain't. But I will fight one, dough! I ain't no muff. If he wants
t' fight a duel, by Gawd, I'm wid 'im! D'yeh understan' dat!" Patsy
cocked his hat and swaggered. He was getting very serious.
The little Cuban burst out--"Ah, come on, sirs: come on! We can take
cab. Ah, you big cow, I will stick you, I will stick you. Ah, you will
look very beautiful, very beautiful. Ah, come on, sirs. We will stop at
hotel--my hotel. I there have weapons."
"Yeh will, will yeh? Yeh bloomin' little black Dago!" cried Patsy in
hoarse and maddened reply to the personal part of the Cuban's speech. He
stepped forward. "Git yer d--n swords," he commanded. "Git yer swords.
Git 'em quick! I'll fight wi' che! I'll fight wid anyt'ing, too! See?
I'll fight yeh wid a knife an' fork if yeh say so! I'll fight yer
standin' up er sittin' down!" Patsy delivered this intense oration with
sweeping, intensely emphatic gestures, his hands stretched out
eloquently, his jaw thrust forward, his eyes glaring.
"Ah!" cried the little Cuban joyously. "Ah, you are in very pretty
temper. Ah, how I will cut your heart in two piece, my dear, d-e-a-r
friend." His eyes, too, shone like carbuncles, with a swift, changing
glitter, always fastened upon Patsy's face.
The two peacemakers were perspiring and in despair. One of them blurted
"Well, I'll be blamed if this ain't the most ridiculous thing I ever
The other said--"For ten dollars I'd be tempted to let these two
infernal blockheads have their duel."
Patsy was strutting to and fro, and conferring grandly with his friends.
"He took me for a muff. He t'ought he was goin' t' bluff me out, talkin'
'bout swords. He'll get fooled." He addressed the Cuban--"You're a fine
little dirty picter of a scrapper, ain't che? I'll chew yez up, dat's
what I will!"
There began then some rapid action. The patience of well-dressed men is
not an eternal thing. It began to look as if it would at last be a fight
with six corners to it. The faces of the men were shining red with
anger. They jostled each other defiantly, and almost every one blazed
out at three or four of the others. The bartender had given up
protesting. He swore for a time and banged his glasses. Then he jumped
the bar and ran out of the saloon, cursing sullenly.
When he came back with a policeman, Patsy and the Cuban were preparing
to depart together. Patsy was delivering his last oration--
"I'll fight yer wid swords! Sure I will! Come ahead, Dago! I'll fight
yeh anywheres wid anyt'ing! We'll have a large, juicy scrap, an' don't
yeh forgit dat! I'm right wid yez. I ain't no muff! I scrap with a man
jest as soon as he ses scrap, an' if yeh wanta scrap, I'm yer kitten.
The policeman said sharply--"Come, now; what's all this?" He had a
distinctly business air.
The little Cuban stepped forward calmly. "It is none of your business."
The policeman flushed to his ears. "What?"
One well-dressed man touched the other on the sleeve. "Here's the time
to skip," he whispered. They halted a block away from the saloon and
watched the policeman pull the Cuban through the door. There was a
minute of scuffle on the sidewalk, and into this deserted street at
midnight fifty people appeared at once as if from the sky to watch it.
At last the three Cherry Hill men came from the saloon, and swaggered
with all their old valor toward the peacemakers.
"Ah," said Patsy to them, "he was so hot talkin' about this duel
business, but I would a-given 'im a great scrap, an' don't yeh forgit
For Patsy was not as wise as seven owls, but his courage could throw a
shadow as long as the steeple of a cathedral.
The yellow gaslight that came with an effect of difficulty through the
dust-stained windows on either side of the door gave strange hues to the
faces and forms of the three women who stood gabbling in the hallway of
the tenement. They made rapid gestures, and in the background their
enormous shadows mingled in terrific conflict.
"Aye, she ain't so good as he thinks she is, I'll bet. He can watch over
'er an' take care of 'er all he pleases, but when she wants t' fool 'im,
she'll fool 'im. An' how does he know she ain't foolin' im' now?"
"Oh, he thinks he's keepin' 'er from goin' t' th' bad, he does. Oh, yes.
He ses she's too purty t' let run round alone. Too purty! Huh! My
"Well, he keeps a clost watch on 'er, you bet. On'y las' week, she met
my boy Tim on th' stairs, an' Tim hadn't said two words to 'er b'fore
th' ol' man begin to holler. 'Dorter, dorter, come here, come here!'"
At this moment a young girl entered from the street, and it was evident
from the injured expression suddenly assumed by the three gossipers that
she had been the object of their discussion. She passed them with a
slight nod, and they swung about into a row to stare after her.
On her way up the long flights the girl unfastened her veil. One could
then clearly see the beauty of her eyes, but there was in them a certain
furtiveness that came near to marring the effects. It was a peculiar
fixture of gaze, brought from the street, as of one who there saw a
succession of passing dangers with menaces aligned at every corner.
On the top floor, she pushed open a door and then paused on the
threshold, confronting an interior that appeared black and flat like a
curtain. Perhaps some girlish idea of hobgoblins assailed her then, for
she called in a little breathless voice, "Daddie!"
There was no reply. The fire in the cooking-stove in the room crackled
at spasmodic intervals. One lid was misplaced, and the girl could now
see that this fact created a little flushed crescent upon the ceiling.
Also, a series of tiny windows in the stove caused patches of red upon
the floor. Otherwise, the room was heavily draped with shadows.
The girl called again, "Daddie!"
Yet there was no reply.
Presently she laughed as one familiar with the humors of an old man.
"Oh, I guess yer cussin' mad about yer supper, Dad," she said, and she
almost entered the room, but suddenly faltered, overcome by a feminine
instinct to fly from this black interior, peopled with imagined dangers.
Again she called, "Daddie!" Her voice had an accent of appeal. It was as
if she knew she was foolish but yet felt obliged to insist upon being
reassured. "Oh, Daddie!"
Of a sudden a cry of relief, a feminine announcement that the stars
still hung, burst from her. For, according to some mystic process, the
smoldering coals of the fire went aflame with sudden, fierce brilliance,
splashing parts of the walls, the floor, the crude furniture, with a hue
of blood-red. And in the light of this dramatic outburst of light, the
girl saw her father seated at a table with his back turned toward her.
She entered the room, then, with an aggrieved air, her logic evidently
concluding that somebody was to blame for her nervous fright. "Oh, yer
on'y sulkin' 'bout yer supper. I thought mebbe ye'd gone somewheres."
Her father made no reply. She went over to a shelf in the corner, and,
taking a little lamp, she lit it and put it where it would give her
light as she took off her hat and jacket in front of the tiny mirror.
Presently she began to bustle among the cooking utensils that were
crowded into the sink, and as she worked she rattled talk at her father,
apparently disdaining his mood.
"I'd 'a' come home earlier t'night, Dad, on'y that fly foreman, he kep'
me in th' shop 'til half-past six. What a fool! He came t' me, yeh know,
an' he ses, 'Nell, I wanta give yeh some brotherly advice.' Oh, I know
him an' his brotherly advice. 'I wanta give yeh some brotherly advice.
Yer too purty, Nell,' he ses, 't' be workin' in this shop an' paradin'
through the streets alone, without somebody t' give yeh good brotherly
advice, an' I wanta warn yeh, Nell. I'm a bad man, but I ain't as bad as
some, an' I wanta warn yeh.' 'Oh, g'long 'bout yer business,' I ses. I
know 'im. He's like all of 'em, on'y he's a little slyer. I know 'im.
'You g'long 'bout yer business,' I ses. Well, he ses after a while that
he guessed some evenin' he'd come up an' see me. 'Oh, yeh will,' I ses,
'yeh will? Well, you jest let my ol' man ketch yeh comin' foolin' 'round
our place. Yeh'll wish yeh went t' some other girl t' give brotherly
advice.' 'What th' 'ell do I care fer yer father?' he ses. 'What's he t'
me?' 'If he throws yeh downstairs, yeh'll care for 'im,' I ses. 'Well,'
he ses, 'I'll come when 'e ain't in, b' Gawd, I'll come when 'e ain't
in.' 'Oh, he's allus in when it means takin' care 'o me,' I ses. 'Don't
yeh fergit it, either. When it comes t' takin' care o' his dorter, he's
right on deck every single possible time.'"
After a time, she turned and addressed cheery words to the old man.
"Hurry up th' fire, Daddie! We'll have supper pretty soon."
But still her father was silent, and his form in its sullen posture was
At this, the girl seemed to see the need of the inauguration of a
feminine war against a man out of temper. She approached him breathing
soft, coaxing syllables.
"Daddie! Oh, Daddie! O--o--oh, Daddie!"
It was apparent from a subtle quality of valor in her tones that this
manner of onslaught upon his moods had usually been successful, but to-
night it had no quick effect. The words, coming from her lips, were like
the refrain of an old ballad, but the man remained stolid.
"Daddie! My Daddie! Oh, Daddie, are yeh mad at me, really--truly mad at
She touched him lightly upon the arm. Should he have turned then he
would have seen the fresh, laughing face, with dew-sparkling eyes, close
to his own.
"Oh, Daddie! My Daddie! Pretty Daddie!"
She stole her arm about his neck, and then slowly bended her face toward
his. It was the action of a queen who knows that she reigns
notwithstanding irritations, trials, tempests.
But suddenly, from this position, she leaped backward with the mad
energy of a frightened colt. Her face was in this instant turned to a
grey, featureless thing of horror. A yell, wild and hoarse as a brute-
cry, burst from her. "Daddie!" She flung herself to a place near the
door, where she remained, crouching, her eyes staring at the motionless
figure, spattered by the quivering flashes from the fire. Her arms
extended, and her frantic fingers at once besought and repelled. There
was in them an expression of eagerness to caress and an expression of
the most intense loathing. And the girl's hair that had been a splendor,
was in these moments changed to a disordered mass that hung and swayed
in witchlike fashion.
Again, a terrible cry burst from her. It was more than the shriek of
agony--it was directed, personal, addressed to him in the chair, the
first word of a tragic conversation with the dead.
It seemed that when she had put her arm about its neck, she had jostled
the corpse in such a way that now she and it were face to face. The
attitude expressed an intention of arising from the table. The eyes,
fixed upon hers, were filled with an unspeakable hatred.
* * * * *
The cries of the girl aroused thunders in the tenement. There was a loud
slamming of doors, and presently there was a roar of feet upon the
boards of the stairway. Voices rang out sharply.
"What is it?"
"What's th' matter?"
"He's killin' her!"
"Slug 'im with anythin' yeh kin lay hold of, Jack!"
But over all this came the shrill, shrewish tones of a woman. "Ah, th'
damned ol' fool, he's drivin' 'er inteh th' street--that's what he's
doin'. He's drivin' 'er inteh th' street."
A DARK-BROWN DOG
A child was standing on a street-corner. He leaned with one shoulder
against a high board fence and swayed the other to and fro, the while
kicking carelessly at the gravel.
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