Men, Women, and Boats
Part 3 out of 4
Sunshine beat upon the cobbles, and a lazy summer wind raised yellow
dust which trailed in clouds down the avenue. Clattering trucks moved
with indistinctness through it. The child stood dreamily gazing.
After a time, a little dark-brown dog came trotting with an intent air
down the sidewalk. A short rope was dragging from his neck. Occasionally
he trod upon the end of it and stumbled.
He stopped opposite the child, and the two regarded each other. The dog
hesitated for a moment, but presently he made some little advances with
his tail. The child put out his hand and called him. In an apologetic
manner the dog came close, and the two had an interchange of friendly
pattings and waggles. The dog became more enthusiastic with each moment
of the interview, until with his gleeful caperings he threatened to
overturn the child. Whereupon the child lifted his hand and struck the
dog a blow upon the head.
This thing seemed to overpower and astonish the little dark-brown dog,
and wounded him to the heart. He sank down in despair at the child's
feet. When the blow was repeated, together with an admonition in
childish sentences, he turned over upon his back, and held his paws in a
peculiar manner. At the same time with his ears and his eyes he offered
a small prayer to the child.
He looked so comical on his back, and holding his paws peculiarly, that
the child was greatly amused and gave him little taps repeatedly, to
keep him so. But the little dark-brown dog took this chastisement in the
most serious way and no doubt considered that he had committed some
grave crime, for he wriggled contritely and showed his repentance in
every way that was in his power. He pleaded with the child and
petitioned him, and offered more prayers.
At last the child grew weary of this amusement and turned toward home.
The dog was praying at the time. He lay on his back and turned his eyes
upon the retreating form.
Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child. The
latter wandered in a perfunctory way toward his home, stopping at times
to investigate various matters. During one of these pauses he discovered
the little dark-brown dog who was following him with the air of a
The child beat his pursuer with a small stick he had found. The dog lay
down and prayed until the child had finished, and resumed his journey.
Then he scrambled erect and took up the pursuit again.
On the way to his home the child turned many times and beat the dog,
proclaiming with childish gestures that he held him in contempt as an
unimportant dog, with no value save for a moment. For being this quality
of animal the dog apologized and eloquently expressed regret, but he
continued stealthily to follow the child. His manner grew so very guilty
that he slunk like an assassin.
When the child reached his doorstep, the dog was industriously ambling a
few yards in the rear. He became so agitated with shame when he again
confronted the child that he forgot the dragging rope. He tripped upon
it and fell forward.
The child sat down on the step and the two had another interview. During
it the dog greatly exerted himself to please the child. He performed a
few gambols with such abandon that the child suddenly saw him to be a
valuable thing. He made a swift, avaricious charge and seized the rope.
He dragged his captive into a hall and up many long stairways in a dark
tenement. The dog made willing efforts, but he could not hobble very
skilfully up the stairs because he was very small and soft, and at last
the pace of the engrossed child grew so energetic that the dog became
panic-stricken. In his mind he was being dragged toward a grim unknown.
His eyes grew wild with the terror of it. He began to wiggle his head
frantically and to brace his legs.
The child redoubled his exertions. They had a battle on the stairs. The
child was victorious because he was completely absorbed in his purpose,
and because the dog was very small. He dragged his acquirement to the
door of his home, and finally with triumph across the threshold.
No one was in. The child sat down on the floor and made overtures to the
dog. These the dog instantly accepted. He beamed with affection upon his
new friend. In a short time they were firm and abiding comrades.
When the child's family appeared, they made a great row. The dog was
examined and commented upon and called names. Scorn was leveled at him
from all eyes, so that he became much embarrassed and drooped like a
scorched plant. But the child went sturdily to the center of the floor,
and, at the top of his voice, championed the dog. It happened that he
was roaring protestations, with his arms clasped about the dog's neck,
when the father of the family came in from work.
The parent demanded to know what the blazes they were making the kid
howl for. It was explained in many words that the infernal kid wanted to
introduce a disreputable dog into the family.
A family council was held. On this depended the dog's fate, but he in no
way heeded, being busily engaged in chewing the end of the child's
The affair was quickly ended. The father of the family, it appears, was
in a particularly savage temper that evening, and when he perceived that
it would amaze and anger everybody if such a dog were allowed to remain,
he decided that it should be so. The child, crying softly, took his
friend off to a retired part of the room to hobnob with him, while the
father quelled a fierce rebellion of his wife. So it came to pass that
the dog was a member of the household.
He and the child were associated together at all times save when the
child slept. The child became a guardian and a friend. If the large folk
kicked the dog and threw things at him, the child made loud and violent
objections. Once when the child had run, protesting loudly, with tears
raining down his face and his arms outstretched, to protect his friend,
he had been struck in the head with a very large saucepan from the hand
of his father, enraged at some seeming lack of courtesy in the dog. Ever
after, the family were careful how they threw things at the dog.
Moreover, the latter grew very skilful in avoiding missiles and feet. In
a small room containing a stove, a table, a bureau and some chairs, he
would display strategic ability of a high order, dodging, feinting and
scuttling about among the furniture. He could force three or four people
armed with brooms, sticks and handfuls of coal, to use all their
ingenuity to get in a blow. And even when they did, it was seldom that
they could do him a serious injury or leave any imprint.
But when the child was present these scenes did not occur. It came to be
recognized that if the dog was molested, the child would burst into
sobs, and as the child, when started, was very riotous and practically
unquenchable, the dog had therein a safeguard.
However, the child could not always be near. At night, when he was
asleep, his dark-brown friend would raise from some black corner a wild,
wailful cry, a song of infinite loneliness and despair, that would go
shuddering and sobbing among the buildings of the block and cause people
to swear. At these times the singer would often be chased all over the
kitchen and hit with a great variety of articles.
Sometimes, too, the child himself used to beat the dog, although it is
not known that he ever had what truly could be called a just cause. The
dog always accepted these thrashings with an air of admitted guilt. He
was too much of a dog to try to look to be a martyr or to plot revenge.
He received the blows with deep humility, and furthermore he forgave his
friend the moment the child had finished, and was ready to caress the
child's hand with his little red tongue.
When misfortune came upon the child, and his troubles overwhelmed him,
he would often crawl under the table and lay his small distressed head
on the dog's back. The dog was ever sympathetic. It is not to be
supposed that at such times he took occasion to refer to the unjust
beatings his friend, when provoked, had administered to him.
He did not achieve any notable degree of intimacy with the other members
of the family. He had no confidence in them, and the fear that he would
express at their casual approach often exasperated them exceedingly.
They used to gain a certain satisfaction in underfeeding him, but
finally his friend the child grew to watch the matter with some care,
and when he forgot it, the dog was often successful in secret for
So the dog prospered. He developed a large bark, which came wondrously
from such a small rug of a dog. He ceased to howl persistently at night.
Sometimes, indeed, in his sleep, he would utter little yells, as from
pain, but that occurred, no doubt, when in his dreams he encountered
huge flaming dogs who threatened him direfully.
His devotion to the child grew until it was a sublime thing. He wagged
at his approach; he sank down in despair at his departure. He could
detect the sound of the child's step among all the noises of the
neighborhood. It was like a calling voice to him.
The scene of their companionship was a kingdom governed by this terrible
potentate, the child; but neither criticism nor rebellion ever lived for
an instant in the heart of the one subject. Down in the mystic, hidden
fields of his little dog-soul bloomed flowers of love and fidelity and
The child was in the habit of going on many expeditions to observe
strange things in the vicinity. On these occasions his friend usually
jogged aimfully along behind. Perhaps, though, he went ahead. This
necessitated his turning around every quarter-minute to make sure the
child was coming. He was filled with a large idea of the importance of
these journeys. He would carry himself with such an air! He was proud to
be the retainer of so great a monarch.
One day, however, the father of the family got quite exceptionally
drunk. He came home and held carnival with the cooking utensils, the
furniture and his wife. He was in the midst of this recreation when the
child, followed by the dark-brown dog, entered the room. They were
returning from their voyages.
The child's practised eye instantly noted his father's state. He dived
under the table, where experience had taught him was a rather safe
place. The dog, lacking skill in such matters, was, of course, unaware
of the true condition of affairs. He looked with interested eyes at his
friend's sudden dive. He interpreted it to mean: Joyous gambol. He
started to patter across the floor to join him. He was the picture of a
little dark-brown dog en route to a friend.
The head of the family saw him at this moment. He gave a huge howl of
joy, and knocked the dog down with a heavy coffee-pot. The dog, yelling
in supreme astonishment and fear, writhed to his feet and ran for cover.
The man kicked out with a ponderous foot. It caused the dog to swerve as
if caught in a tide. A second blow of the coffee-pot laid him upon the
Here the child, uttering loud cries, came valiantly forth like a knight.
The father of the family paid no attention to these calls of the child,
but advanced with glee upon the dog. Upon being knocked down twice in
swift succession, the latter apparently gave up all hope of escape. He
rolled over on his back and held his paws in a peculiar manner. At the
same time with his eyes and his ears he offered up a small prayer.
But the father was in a mood for having fun, and it occurred to him that
it would be a fine thing to throw the dog out of the window. So he
reached down and, grabbing the animal by a leg, lifted him, squirming,
up. He swung him two or three times hilariously about his head, and then
flung him with great accuracy through the window.
The soaring dog created a surprise in the block. A woman watering plants
in an opposite window gave an involuntary shout and dropped a flower-
pot. A man in another window leaned perilously out to watch the flight
of the dog. A woman who had been hanging out clothes in a yard began to
caper wildly. Her mouth was filled with clothes-pins, but her arms gave
vent to a sort of exclamation. In appearance she was like a gagged
prisoner. Children ran whooping.
The dark-brown body crashed in a heap on the roof of a shed five stories
below. From thence it rolled to the pavement of an alleyway.
The child in the room far above burst into a long, dirge-like cry, and
toddled hastily out of the room. It took him a long time to reach the
alley, because his size compelled him to go downstairs backward, one
step at a time, and holding with both hands to the step above.
When they came for him later, they found him seated by the body of his
THE PACE OF YOUTH
Stimson stood in a corner and glowered. He was a fierce man and had
indomitable whiskers, albeit he was very small.
"That young tarrier," he whispered to himself. "He wants to quit makin'
eyes at Lizzie. This is too much of a good thing. First thing you know,
he'll get fired."
His brow creased in a frown, he strode over to the huge open doors and
looked at a sign. "Stimson's Mammoth Merry-Go-Round," it read, and the
glory of it was great. Stimson stood and contemplated the sign. It was
an enormous affair; the letters were as large as men. The glow of it,
the grandeur of it was very apparent to Stimson. At the end of his
contemplation, he shook his head thoughtfully, determinedly. "No, no,"
he muttered. "This is too much of a good thing. First thing you know,
he'll get fired."
A soft booming sound of surf, mingled with the cries of bathers, came
from the beach. There was a vista of sand and sky and sea that drew to a
mystic point far away in the northward. In the mighty angle, a girl in a
red dress was crawling slowly like some kind of a spider on the fabric
of nature. A few flags hung lazily above where the bathhouses were
marshalled in compact squares. Upon the edge of the sea stood a ship
with its shadowy sails painted dimly upon the sky, and high overhead in
the still, sun-shot air a great hawk swung and drifted slowly.
Within the Merry-Go-Round there was a whirling circle of ornamental
lions, giraffes, camels, ponies, goats, glittering with varnish and
metal that caught swift reflections from windows high above them. With
stiff wooden legs, they swept on in a never-ending race, while a great
orchestrion clamored in wild speed. The summer sunlight sprinkled its
gold upon the garnet canopies carried by the tireless racers and upon
all the devices of decoration that made Stimson's machine magnificent
and famous. A host of laughing children bestrode the animals, bending
forward like charging cavalrymen, and shaking reins and whooping in
glee. At intervals they leaned out perilously to clutch at iron rings
that were tendered to them by a long wooden arm. At the intense moment
before the swift grab for the rings one could see their little nervous
bodies quiver with eagerness; the laughter rang shrill and excited. Down
in the long rows of benches, crowds of people sat watching the game,
while occasionally a father might arise and go near to shout
encouragement, cautionary commands, or applause at his flying offspring.
Frequently mothers called out: "Be careful, Georgie!" The orchestrion
bellowed and thundered on its platform, filling the ears with its long
monotonous song. Over in a corner, a man in a white apron and behind a
counter roared above the tumult: "Popcorn! Popcorn!"
A young man stood upon a small, raised platform, erected in a manner of
a pulpit, and just without the line of the circling figures. It was his
duty to manipulate the wooden arm and affix the rings. When all were
gone into the hands of the triumphant children, he held forth a basket,
into which they returned all save the coveted brass one, which meant
another ride free and made the holder very illustrious. The young man
stood all day upon his narrow platform, affixing rings or holding forth
the basket. He was a sort of general squire in these lists of childhood.
He was very busy.
And yet Stimson, the astute, had noticed that the young man frequently
found time to twist about on his platform and smile at a girl who shyly
sold tickets behind a silvered netting. This, indeed, was the great
reason of Stimson's glowering. The young man upon the raised platform
had no manner of license to smile at the girl behind the silvered
netting. It was a most gigantic insolence. Stimson was amazed at it. "By
Jiminy," he said to himself again, "that fellow is smiling at my
daughter." Even in this tone of great wrath it could be discerned that
Stimson was filled with wonder that any youth should dare smile at the
daughter in the presence of the august father.
Often the dark-eyed girl peered between the shining wires, and, upon
being detected by the young man, she usually turned her head quickly to
prove to him that she was not interested. At other times, however, her
eyes seemed filled with a tender fear lest he should fall from that
exceedingly dangerous platform. As for the young man, it was plain that
these glances filled him with valor, and he stood carelessly upon his
perch, as if he deemed it of no consequence that he might fall from it.
In all the complexities of his daily life and duties he found
opportunity to gaze ardently at the vision behind the netting.
This silent courtship was conducted over the heads of the crowd who
thronged about the bright machine. The swift eloquent glances of the
young man went noiselessly and unseen with their message. There had
finally become established between the two in this manner a subtle
understanding and companionship. They communicated accurately all that
they felt. The boy told his love, his reverence, his hope in the changes
of the future. The girl told him that she loved him, and she did not
love him, that she did not know if she loved him. Sometimes a little
sign, saying "cashier" in gold letters, and hanging upon the silvered
netting, got directly in range and interfered with the tender message.
The love affair had not continued without anger, unhappiness, despair.
The girl had once smiled brightly upon a youth who came to buy some
tickets for his little sister, and the young man upon the platform,
observing this smile, had been filled with gloomy rage. He stood like a
dark statue of vengeance upon his pedestal and thrust out the basket to
the children with a gesture that was full of scorn for their hollow
happiness, for their insecure and temporary joy. For five hours he did
not once look at the girl when she was looking at him. He was going to
crush her with his indifference; he was going to demonstrate that he had
never been serious. However, when he narrowly observed her in secret he
discovered that she seemed more blythe than was usual with her. When he
found that his apparent indifference had not crushed her he suffered
greatly. She did not love him, he concluded. If she had loved him she
would have been crushed. For two days he lived a miserable existence
upon his high perch. He consoled himself by thinking of how unhappy he
was, and by swift, furtive glances at the loved face. At any rate he was
in her presence, and he could get a good view from his perch when there
was no interference by the little sign: "Cashier."
But suddenly, swiftly, these clouds vanished, and under the imperial
blue sky of the restored confidence they dwelt in peace, a peace that
was satisfaction, a peace that, like a babe, put its trust in the
treachery of the future. This confidence endured until the next day,
when she, for an unknown cause, suddenly refused to look at him.
Mechanically he continued his task, his brain dazed, a tortured victim
of doubt, fear, suspicion. With his eyes he supplicated her to telegraph
an explanation. She replied with a stony glance that froze his blood.
There was a great difference in their respective reasons for becoming
angry. His were always foolish, but apparent, plain as the moon. Hers
were subtle, feminine, as incomprehensible as the stars, as mysterious
as the shadows at night.
They fell and soared and soared and fell in this manner until they knew
that to live without each other would be a wandering in deserts. They
had grown so intent upon the uncertainties, the variations, the
guessings of their affair that the world had become but a huge
immaterial background. In time of peace their smiles were soft and
prayerful, caresses confided to the air. In time of war, their youthful
hearts, capable of profound agony, were wrung by the intricate emotions
of doubt. They were the victims of the dread angel of affectionate
speculation that forces the brain endlessly on roads that lead nowhere.
At night, the problem of whether she loved him confronted the young man
like a spectre, looming as high as a hill and telling him not to delude
himself. Upon the following day, this battle of the night displayed
itself in the renewed fervor of his glances and in their increased
number. Whenever he thought he could detect that she too was suffering,
he felt a thrill of joy.
But there came a time when the young man looked back upon these
contortions with contempt. He believed then that he had imagined his
pain. This came about when the redoubtable Stimson marched forward to
"This has got to stop," Stimson had said to himself, as he stood and
watched them. They had grown careless of the light world that clattered
about them; they were become so engrossed in their personal drama that
the language of their eyes was almost as obvious as gestures. And
Stimson, through his keenness, his wonderful, infallible penetration,
suddenly came into possession of these obvious facts. "Well, of all the
nerves," he said, regarding with a new interest the young man upon the
He was a resolute man. He never hesitated to grapple with a crisis. He
decided to overturn everything at once, for, although small, he was very
fierce and impetuous. He resolved to crush this dreaming.
He strode over to the silvered netting. "Say, you want to quit your
everlasting grinning at that idiot," he said, grimly.
The girl cast down her eyes and made a little heap of quarters into a
stack. She was unable to withstand the terrible scrutiny of her small
and fierce father.
Stimson turned from his daughter and went to a spot beneath the
platform. He fixed his eyes upon the young man and said--
"I've been speakin' to Lizzie. You better attend strictly to your own
business or there'll be a new man here next week." It was as if he had
blazed away with a shotgun. The young man reeled upon his perch. At last
he in a measure regained his composure and managed to stammer: "A--all
right, sir." He knew that denials would be futile with the terrible
Stimson. He agitatedly began to rattle the rings in the basket, and
pretend that he was obliged to count them or inspect them in some way.
He, too, was unable to face the great Stimson.
For a moment, Stimson stood in fine satisfaction and gloated over the
effect of his threat.
"I've fixed them," he said complacently, and went out to smoke a cigar
and revel in himself. Through his mind went the proud reflection that
people who came in contact with his granite will usually ended in quick
and abject submission.
One evening, a week after Stimson had indulged in the proud reflection
that people who came in contact with his granite will usually ended in
quick and abject submission, a young feminine friend of the girl behind
the silvered netting came to her there and asked her to walk on the
beach after "Stimson's Mammoth Merry-Go-Round" was closed for the night.
The girl assented with a nod.
The young man upon the perch holding the rings saw this nod and judged
its meaning. Into his mind came an idea of defeating the watchfulness of
the redoubtable Stimson. When the Merry-Go-Round was closed and the two
girls started for the beach, he wandered off aimlessly in another
direction, but he kept them in view, and as soon as he was assured that
he had escaped the vigilance of Stimson, he followed them.
The electric lights on the beach made a broad band of tremoring light,
extending parallel to the sea, and upon the wide walk there slowly
paraded a great crowd, intermingling, intertwining, sometimes colliding.
In the darkness stretched the vast purple expanse of the ocean, and the
deep indigo sky above was peopled with yellow stars. Occasionally out
upon the water a whirling mass of froth suddenly flashed into view, like
a great ghostly robe appearing, and then vanished, leaving the sea in
its darkness, whence came those bass tones of the water's unknown
emotion. A wind, cool, reminiscent of the wave wastes, made the women
hold their wraps about their throats, and caused the men to grip the
rims of their straw hats. It carried the noise of the band in the
pavilion in gusts. Sometimes people unable to hear the music glanced up
at the pavilion and were reassured upon beholding the distant leader
still gesticulating and bobbing, and the other members of the band with
their lips glued to their instruments. High in the sky soared an
unassuming moon, faintly silver.
For a time the young man was afraid to approach the two girls; he
followed them at a distance and called himself a coward. At last,
however, he saw them stop on the outer edge of the crowd and stand
silently listening to the voices of the sea. When he came to where they
stood, he was trembling in his agitation. They had not seen him.
"Lizzie," he began. "I----"
The girl wheeled instantly and put her hand to her throat.
"Oh, Frank, how you frightened me," she said--inevitably.
"Well, you know, I--I----" he stuttered.
But the other girl was one of those beings who are born to attend at
tragedies. She had for love a reverence, an admiration that was greater
the more that she contemplated the fact that she knew nothing of it.
This couple, with their emotions, awed her and made her humbly wish that
she might be destined to be of some service to them. She was very
When the young man faltered before them, she, in her sympathy, actually
over-estimated the crisis, and felt that he might fall dying at their
feet. Shyly, but with courage, she marched to the rescue.
"Won't you come and walk on the beach with us?" she said.
The young man gave her a glance of deep gratitude which was not without
the patronage which a man in his condition naturally feels for one who
pities it. The three walked on.
Finally, the being who was born to attend at this tragedy said that she
wished to sit down and gaze at the sea, alone.
They politely urged her to walk on with them, but she was obstinate. She
wished to gaze at the sea, alone. The young man swore to himself that he
would be her friend until he died.
And so the two young lovers went on without her. They turned once to
look at her.
"Jennie's awful nice," said the girl.
"You bet she is," replied the young man, ardently.
They were silent for a little time.
At last the girl said--
"You were angry at me yesterday."
"No, I wasn't."
"Yes, you were, too. You wouldn't look at me once all day."
"No, I wasn't angry. I was only putting on."
Though she had, of course, known it, this confession seemed to make her
very indignant. She flashed a resentful glance at him.
"Oh, you were, indeed?" she said with a great air.
For a few minutes she was so haughty with him that he loved her to
madness. And directly this poem, which stuck at his lips, came forth
lamely in fragments.
When they walked back toward the other girl and saw the patience of her
attitude, their hearts swelled in a patronizing and secondary tenderness
They were very happy. If they had been miserable they would have charged
this fairy scene of the night with a criminal heartlessness; but as they
were joyous, they vaguely wondered how the purple sea, the yellow stars,
the changing crowds under the electric lights could be so phlegmatic and
They walked home by the lakeside way, and out upon the water those gay
paper lanterns, flashing, fleeting, and careering, sang to them, sang a
chorus of red and violet, and green and gold; a song of mystic bands of
One day, when business paused during a dull sultry afternoon, Stimson
went up town. Upon his return, he found that the popcorn man, from his
stand over in a corner, was keeping an eye upon the cashier's cage, and
that nobody at all was attending to the wooden arm and the iron rings.
He strode forward like a sergeant of grenadiers.
"Where in thunder is Lizzie?" he demanded, a cloud of rage in his eyes.
The popcorn man, although associated long with Stimson, had never got
over being dazed.
"They've--they've--gone round to th'--th'--house," he said with
difficulty, as if he had just been stunned.
"Whose house?" snapped Stimson.
"Your--your house, I s'pose," said the popcorn man.
Stimson marched round to his home. Kingly denunciations surged, already
formulated, to the tip of his tongue, and he bided the moment when his
anger could fall upon the heads of that pair of children. He found his
wife convulsive and in tears.
And then she burst forth--"Oh--John--John--they've run away, I know they
have. They drove by here not three minutes ago. They must have done it
on purpose to bid me good-bye, for Lizzie waved her hand sadlike; and
then, before I could get out to ask where they were going or what, Frank
whipped up the horse."
Stimson gave vent to a dreadful roar.
"Get my revolver--get a hack--get my revolver, do you hear--what the
devil--" His voice became incoherent.
He had always ordered his wife about as if she were a battalion of
infantry, and despite her misery, the training of years forced her to
spring mechanically to obey; but suddenly she turned to him with a
"Confound it, let go of me!" he roared again, and shook her from him.
He ran hatless upon the street. There were a multitude of hacks at the
summer resort, but it was ages to him before he could find one. Then he
charged it like a bull.
"Uptown!" he yelled, as he tumbled into the rear seat.
The hackman thought of severed arteries. His galloping horse distanced a
large number of citizens who had been running to find what caused such
contortions by the little hatless man.
It chanced as the bouncing hack went along near the lake, Stimson gazed
across the calm grey expanse and recognized a color in a bonnet and a
pose of a head. A buggy was traveling along a highway that led to
Sorington. Stimson bellowed--"There--there--there they are--in that
The hackman became inspired with the full knowledge of the situation. He
struck a delirious blow with the whip. His mouth expanded in a grin of
excitement and joy. It came to pass that this old vehicle, with its
drowsy horse and its dusty-eyed and tranquil driver, seemed suddenly to
awaken, to become animated and fleet. The horse ceased to ruminate on
his state, his air of reflection vanished. He became intent upon his
aged legs and spread them in quaint and ridiculous devices for speed.
The driver, his eyes shining, sat critically in his seat. He watched
each motion of this rattling machine down before him. He resembled an
engineer. He used the whip with judgment and deliberation as the
engineer would have used coal or oil. The horse clacked swiftly upon the
macadam, the wheels hummed, the body of the vehicle wheezed and groaned.
Stimson, in the rear seat, was erect in that impassive attitude that
comes sometimes to the furious man when he is obliged to leave the
battle to others. Frequently, however, the tempest in his breast came to
his face and he howled--
"Go it--go it--you're gaining; pound 'im! Thump the life out of 'im; hit
'im hard, you fool!" His hand grasped the rod that supported the
carriage top, and it was clenched so that the nails were faintly blue.
Ahead, that other carriage had been flying with speed, as from
realization of the menace in the rear. It bowled away rapidly, drawn by
the eager spirit of a young and modern horse. Stimson could see the
buggy-top bobbing, bobbing. That little pane, like an eye, was a
derision to him. Once he leaned forward and bawled angry sentences. He
began to feel impotent; his whole expedition was a tottering of an old
man upon a trail of birds. A sense of age made him choke again with
wrath. That other vehicle, that was youth, with youth's pace; it was
swift-flying with the hope of dreams. He began to comprehend those two
children ahead of him, and he knew a sudden and strange awe, because he
understood the power of their young blood, the power to fly strongly
into the future and feel and hope again, even at that time when his
bones must be laid in the earth. The dust rose easily from the hot road
and stifled the nostrils of Stimson.
The highway vanished far away in a point with a suggestion of
intolerable length. The other vehicle was becoming so small that Stimson
could no longer see the derisive eye.
At last the hackman drew rein to his horse and turned to look at
"No use, I guess," he said.
Stimson made a gesture of acquiescence, rage, despair. As the hackman
turned his dripping horse about, Stimson sank back with the astonishment
and grief of a man who has been defied by the universe. He had been in a
great perspiration, and now his bald head felt cool and uncomfortable.
He put up his hand with a sudden recollection that he had forgotten his
At last he made a gesture. It meant that at any rate he was not
A TENT IN AGONY
A SULLIVAN COUNTY TALE
Four men once came to a wet place in the roadless forest to fish. They
pitched their tent fair upon the brow of a pine-clothed ridge of riven
rocks whence a bowlder could be made to crash through the brush and
whirl past the trees to the lake below. On fragrant hemlock boughs they
slept the sleep of unsuccessful fishermen, for upon the lake alternately
the sun made them lazy and the rain made them wet. Finally they ate the
last bit of bacon and smoked and burned the last fearful and wonderful
Immediately a little man volunteered to stay and hold the camp while the
remaining three should go the Sullivan county miles to a farmhouse for
supplies. They gazed at him dismally. "There's only one of you--the
devil make a twin," they said in parting malediction, and disappeared
down the hill in the known direction of a distant cabin. When it came
night and the hemlocks began to sob they had not returned. The little
man sat close to his companion, the campfire, and encouraged it with
logs. He puffed fiercely at a heavy built brier, and regarded a thousand
shadows which were about to assault him. Suddenly he heard the approach
of the unknown, crackling the twigs and rustling the dead leaves. The
little man arose slowly to his feet, his clothes refused to fit his
back, his pipe dropped from his mouth, his knees smote each other.
"Hah!" he bellowed hoarsely in menace. A growl replied and a bear paced
into the light of the fire. The little man supported himself upon a
sapling and regarded his visitor.
The bear was evidently a veteran and a fighter, for the black of his
coat had become tawny with age. There was confidence in his gait and
arrogance in his small, twinkling eye. He rolled back his lips and
disclosed his white teeth. The fire magnified the red of his mouth. The
little man had never before confronted the terrible and he could not
wrest it from his breast. "Hah!" he roared. The bear interpreted this as
the challenge of a gladiator. He approached warily. As he came near, the
boots of fear were suddenly upon the little man's feet. He cried out and
then darted around the campfire. "Ho!" said the bear to himself, "this
thing won't fight--it runs. Well, suppose I catch it." So upon his
features there fixed the animal look of going--somewhere. He started
intensely around the campfire. The little man shrieked and ran
furiously. Twice around they went.
The hand of heaven sometimes falls heavily upon the righteous. The bear
In desperation the little man flew into the tent. The bear stopped and
sniffed at the entrance. He scented the scent of many men. Finally he
The little man crouched in a distant corner. The bear advanced,
creeping, his blood burning, his hair erect, his jowls dripping. The
little man yelled and rustled clumsily under the flap at the end of the
tent. The bear snarled awfully and made a jump and a grab at his
disappearing game. The little man, now without the tent, felt a
tremendous paw grab his coat tails. He squirmed and wriggled out of his
coat like a schoolboy in the hands of an avenger. The bear bowled
triumphantly and jerked the coat into the tent and took two bites, a
punch and a hug before he, discovered his man was not in it. Then he
grew not very angry, for a bear on a spree is not a black-haired pirate.
He is merely a hoodlum. He lay down on his back, took the coat on his
four paws and began to play uproariously with it. The most appalling,
blood-curdling whoops and yells came to where the little man was crying
in a treetop and froze his blood. He moaned a little speech meant for a
prayer and clung convulsively to the bending branches. He gazed with
tearful wistfulness at where his comrade, the campfire, was giving dying
flickers and crackles. Finally, there was a roar from the tent which
eclipsed all roars; a snarl which it seemed would shake the stolid
silence of the mountain and cause it to shrug its granite shoulders. The
little man quaked and shrivelled to a grip and a pair of eyes. In the
glow of the embers he saw the white tent quiver and fall with a crash.
The bear's merry play had disturbed the center pole and brought a chaos
of canvas upon his head.
Now the little man became the witness of a mighty scene. The tent began
to flounder. It took flopping strides in the direction of the lake.
Marvellous sounds came from within--rips and tears, and great groans and
pants. The little man went into giggling hysterics.
The entangled monster failed to extricate himself before he had walloped
the tent frenziedly to the edge of the mountain. So it came to pass that
three men, clambering up the hill with bundles and baskets, saw their
tent approaching. It seemed to them like a white-robed phantom pursued
by hornets. Its moans riffled the hemlock twigs.
The three men dropped their bundles and scurried to one side, their eyes
gleaming with fear. The canvas avalanche swept past them. They leaned,
faint and dumb, against trees and listened, their blood stagnant. Below
them it struck the base of a great pine tree, where it writhed and
struggled. The three watched its convolutions a moment and then started
terrifically for the top of the hill. As they disappeared, the bear cut
loose with a mighty effort. He cast one dishevelled and agonized look at
the white thing, and then started wildly for the inner recesses of the
The three fear-stricken individuals ran to the rebuilt fire. The little
man reposed by it calmly smoking. They sprang at him and overwhelmed him
with interrogations. He contemplated darkness and took a long, pompous
puff. "There's only one of me--and the devil made a twin," he said.
FOUR MEN IN A CAVE
LIKEWISE FOUR QUEENS, AND A SULLIVAN COUNTY HERMIT
The moon rested for a moment on the top of a tall pine on a hill.
The little man was standing in front of the campfire making orations to
"We can tell a great tale when we get back to the city if we investigate
this thing," said he, in conclusion.
They were won.
The little man was determined to explore a cave, because its black mouth
had gaped at him. The four men took a lighted pine-knot and clambered
over boulders down a hill. In a thicket on the mountainside lay a little
tilted hole. At its side they halted.
"Well?" said the little man.
They fought for last place and the little man was overwhelmed. He tried
to struggle from under by crying that if the fat, pudgy man came after,
he would be corked. But he finally administered a cursing over his
shoulder and crawled into the hole. His companions gingerly followed.
A passage, the floor of damp clay and pebbles, the walls slimy, green-
mossed, and dripping, sloped downward. In the cave atmosphere the
torches became studies in red blaze and black smoke.
"Ho!" cried the little man, stifled and bedraggled, "let's go back." His
companions were not brave. They were last. The next one to the little
man pushed him on, so the little man said sulphurous words and
cautiously continued his crawl.
Things that hung seemed to be on the wet, uneven ceiling, ready to drop
upon the men's bare necks. Under their hands the clammy floor seemed
alive and writhing. When the little man endeavored to stand erect the
ceiling forced him down. Knobs and points came out and punched him. His
clothes were wet and mud-covered, and his eyes, nearly blinded by smoke,
tried to pierce the darkness always before his torch.
"Oh, I say, you fellows, let's go back," cried he. At that moment he
caught the gleam of trembling light in the blurred shadows before him.
"Ho!" he said, "here's another way out."
The passage turned abruptly. The little man put one hand around the
corner, but it touched nothing. He investigated and discovered that the
little corridor took a sudden dip down a hill. At the bottom shone a
The little man wriggled painfully about, and descended feet in advance.
The others followed his plan. All picked their way with anxious care.
The traitorous rocks rolled from beneath the little man's feet and
roared thunderously below him, lesser stone loosened by the men above
him, hit him on the back. He gained seemingly firm foothold, and,
turning halfway about, swore redly at his companions for dolts and
careless fools. The pudgy man sat, puffing and perspiring, high in the
rear of the procession. The fumes and smoke from four pine-knots were in
his blood. Cinders and sparks lay thick in his eyes and hair. The pause
of the little man angered him.
"Go on, you fool!" he shouted. "Poor, painted man, you are afraid."
"Ho!" said the little man. "Come down here and go on yourself,
The pudgy man vibrated with passion. He leaned downward. "Idiot--"
He was interrupted by one of his feet which flew out and crashed into
the man in front of and below. It is not well to quarrel upon a slippery
incline, when the unknown is below. The fat man, having lost the support
of one pillar-like foot, lurched forward. His body smote the next man,
who hurtled into the next man. Then they all fell upon the cursing
They slid in a body down over the slippery, slimy floor of the passage.
The stone avenue must have wibble-wobbled with the rush of this ball of
tangled men and strangled cries. The torches went out with the combined
assault upon the little man. The adventurers whirled to the unknown in
darkness. The little man felt that he was pitching to death, but even in
his convolutions he bit and scratched at his companions, for he was
satisfied that it was their fault. The swirling mass went some twenty
feet, and lit upon a level, dry place in a strong, yellow light of
candles. It dissolved and became eyes.
The four men lay in a heap upon the floor of a grey chamber. A small
fire smoldered in the corner, the smoke disappearing in a crack. In
another corner was a bed of faded hemlock boughs and two blankets.
Cooking utensils and clothes lay about, with boxes and a barrel.
Of these things the four men took small cognisance. The pudgy man did
not curse the little man, nor did the little man swear, in the abstract.
Eight widened eyes were fixed upon the center of the room of rocks.
A great, gray stone, cut squarely, like an altar, sat in the middle of
the floor. Over it burned three candles, in swaying tin cups hung from
the ceiling. Before it, with what seemed to be a small volume clasped in
his yellow fingers, stood a man. He was an infinitely sallow person in
the brown-checked shirt of the ploughs and cows. The rest of his apparel
was boots. A long grey beard dangled from his chin. He fixed glinting,
fiery eyes upon the heap of men, and remained motionless. Fascinated,
their tongues cleaving, their blood cold, they arose to their feet. The
gleaming glance of the recluse swept slowly over the group until it
found the face of the little man. There it stayed and burned.
The little man shrivelled and crumpled as the dried leaf under the
Finally, the recluse slowly, deeply spoke. It was a true voice from a
cave, cold, solemn, and damp.
"It's your ante," he said.
"What?" said the little man.
The hermit tilted his beard and laughed a laugh that was either the
chatter of a banshee in a storm or the rattle of pebbles in a tin box.
His visitors' flesh seemed ready to drop from their bones.
They huddled together and cast fearful eyes over their shoulders. They
"A vampire!" said one.
"A ghoul!" said another.
"A Druid before the sacrifice," murmured another.
"The shade of an Aztec witch doctor," said the little man.
As they looked, the inscrutable face underwent a change. It became a
livid background for his eyes, which blazed at the little man like
impassioned carbuncles. His voice arose to a howl of ferocity. "It's
your ante!" With a panther-like motion he drew a long, thin knife and
advanced, stooping. Two cadaverous hounds came from nowhere, and,
scowling and growling, made desperate feints at the little man's legs.
His quaking companions pushed him forward.
Tremblingly he put his hand to his pocket.
"How much?" he said, with a shivering look at the knife that glittered.
The carbuncles faded.
"Three dollars," said the hermit, in sepulchral tones which rang against
the walls and among the passages, awakening long-dead spirits with
voices. The shaking little man took a roll of bills from a pocket and
placed "three ones" upon the altar-like stone. The recluse looked at the
little volume with reverence in his eyes. It was a pack of playing
Under the three swinging candles, upon the altar-like stone, the grey
beard and the agonized little man played at poker. The three other men
crouched in a corner, and stared with eyes that gleamed with terror.
Before them sat the cadaverous hounds licking their red lips. The
candles burned low, and began to flicker. The fire in the corner
Finally, the game came to a point where the little man laid down his
hand and quavered: "I can't call you this time, sir. I'm dead broke."
"What?" shrieked the recluse. "Not call me! Villain Dastard! Cur! I have
four queens, miscreant." His voice grew so mighty that it could not fit
his throat. He choked wrestling with his lungs for a moment. Then the
power of his body was concentrated in a word: "Go!"
He pointed a quivering, yellow finger at a wide crack in the rock. The
little man threw himself at it with a howl. His erstwhile frozen
companions felt their blood throb again. With great bounds they plunged
after the little man. A minute of scrambling, falling, and pushing
brought them to open air. They climbed the distance to their camp in
The sky in the east was a lurid yellow. In the west the footprints of
departing night lay on the pine trees. In front of their replenished
camp fire sat John Willerkins, the guide.
"Hello!" he shouted at their approach. "Be you fellers ready to go deer
Without replying, they stopped and debated among themselves in whispers.
Finally, the pudgy man came forward.
"John," he inquired, "do you know anything peculiar about this cave
"Yes," said Willerkins at once; "Tom Gardner."
"What?" said the pudgy man.
"Well, you see," said Willerkins slowly, as he took dignified pulls at
his pipe, "Tom Gardner was once a fambly man, who lived in these here
parts on a nice leetle farm. He uster go away to the city orften, and
one time he got a-gamblin' in one of them there dens. He went ter the
dickens right quick then. At last he kum home one time and tol' his
folks he had up and sold the farm and all he had in the worl'. His
leetle wife she died then. Tom he went crazy, and soon after--"
The narrative was interrupted by the little man, who became possessed of
"I wouldn't give a cuss if he had left me 'nough money to get home on
the doggoned, grey-haired red pirate," he shrilled, in a seething
sentence. The pudgy man gazed at the little man calmly and sneeringly.
"Oh, well," he said, "we can tell a great tale when we get back to the
city after having investigated this thing."
"Go to the devil," replied the little man.
THE MESMERIC MOUNTAIN
A TALE OF SULLIVAN COUNTY
On the brow of a pine-plumed hillock there sat a little man with his
back against a tree. A venerable pipe hung from his mouth, and smoke-
wreaths curled slowly skyward, he was muttering to himself with his eyes
fixed on an irregular black opening in the green wall of forest at the
foot of the hill. Two vague wagon ruts led into the shadows. The little
man took his pipe in his hands and addressed the listening pines.
"I wonder what the devil it leads to," said he.
A grey, fat rabbit came lazily from a thicket and sat in the opening.
Softly stroking his stomach with his paw, he looked at the little man in
a thoughtful manner. The little man threw a stone, and the rabbit
blinked and ran through an opening. Green, shadowy portals seemed to
close behind him.
The little man started. "He's gone down that roadway," he said, with
ecstatic mystery to the pines. He sat a long time and contemplated the
door to the forest. Finally, he arose, and awakening his limbs, started
away. But he stopped and looked back.
"I can't imagine what it leads to," muttered he. He trudged over the
brown mats of pine needles, to where, in a fringe of laurel, a tent was
pitched, and merry flames caroused about some logs. A pudgy man was
fuming over a collection of tin dishes. He came forward and waved a
plate furiously in the little man's face.
"I've washed the dishes for three days. What do you think I am--"
He ended a red oration with a roar: "Damned if I do it any more."
The little man gazed dim-eyed away. "I've been wonderin' what it leads
"That road out yonder. I've been wonderin' what it leads to. Maybe, some
discovery or something," said the little man.
The pudgy man laughed. "You're an idiot. It leads to ol' Jim Boyd's over
on the Lumberland Pike."
"Ho!" said the little man, "I don't believe that."
The pudgy man swore. "Fool, what does it lead to, then?"
"I don't know just what, but I'm sure it leads to something great or
something. It looks like it."
While the pudgy man was cursing, two more men came from obscurity with
fish dangling from birch twigs. The pudgy man made an obviously
herculean struggle and a meal was prepared. As he was drinking his cup
of coffee, he suddenly spilled it and swore. The little man was
"He's gone to look at that hole," cried the pudgy man.
The little man went to the edge of the pine-plumed hillock, and, sitting
down, began to make smoke and regard the door to the forest. There was
stillness for an hour. Compact clouds hung unstirred in the sky. The
pines stood motionless, and pondering.
Suddenly the little man slapped his knees and bit his tongue. He stood
up and determinedly filled his pipe, rolling his eye over the bowl to
the doorway. Keeping his eyes fixed he slid dangerously to the foot of
the hillock and walked down the wagon ruts. A moment later he passed
from the noise of the sunshine to the gloom of the woods.
The green portals closed, shutting out live things. The little man
trudged on alone.
Tall tangled grass grew in the roadway, and the trees bended obstructing
branches. The little man followed on over pine-clothed ridges and down
through water-soaked swales. His shoes were cut by rocks of the
mountains, and he sank ankle-deep in mud and moss of swamps. A curve
just ahead lured him miles.
Finally, as he wended the side of a ridge, the road disappeared from
beneath his feet. He battled with hordes of ignorant bushes on his way
to knolls and solitary trees which invited him. Once he came to a tall,
bearded pine. He climbed it, and perceived in the distance a peak. He
uttered an ejaculation and fell out.
He scrambled to his feet, and said: "That's Jones's Mountain, I guess.
It's about six miles from our camp as the crow flies."
He changed his course away from the mountain, and attacked the bushes
again. He climbed over great logs, golden-brown in decay, and was
opposed by thickets of dark-green laurel. A brook slid through the ooze
of a swamp, cedars and hemlocks hung their spray to the edges of pools.
The little man began to stagger in his walk. After a time he stopped and
mopped his brow.
"My legs are about to shrivel up and drop off," he said.... "Still if I
keep on in this direction, I am safe to strike the Lumberland Pike
He dived at a clump of tag-alders, and emerging, confronted Jones's
The wanderer sat down in a clear space and fixed his eyes on the summit.
His mouth opened widely, and his body swayed at times. The little man
and the peak stared in silence.
A lazy lake lay asleep near the foot of the mountain. In its bed of
water-grass some frogs leered at the sky and crooned. The sun sank in
red silence, and the shadows of the pines grew formidable. The expectant
hush of evening, as if some thing were going to sing a hymn, fell upon
the peak and the little man.
A leaping pickerel off on the water created a silver circle that was
lost in black shadows. The little man shook himself and started to his
feet, crying: "For the love of Mike, there's eyes in this mountain! I
feel 'em! Eyes!"
He fell on his face.
When he looked again, he immediately sprang erect and ran.
The mountain was approaching.
The little man scurried, sobbing through the thick growth. He felt his
brain turning to water. He vanquished brambles with mighty bounds.
But after a time he came again to the foot of the mountain.
"God!" he howled, "it's been follerin' me." He grovelled.
Casting his eyes upward made circles swirl in his blood.
"I'm shackled I guess," he moaned. As he felt the heel of the mountain
about to crush his head, he sprang again to his feet. He grasped a
handful of small stones and hurled them.
"Damn you," he shrieked loudly. The pebbles rang against the face of the
The little man then made an attack. He climbed with hands and feet
wildly. Brambles forced him back and stones slid from beneath his feet.
The peak swayed and tottered, and was ever about to smite with a granite
arm. The summit was a blaze of red wrath.
But the little man at last reached the top. Immediately he swaggered
with valor to the edge of the cliff. His hands were scornfully in his
He gazed at the western horizon, edged sharply against a yellow sky.
"Ho!" he said. "There's Boyd's house and the Lumberland Pike."
The mountain under his feet was motionless.
Where the path wended across the ridge, the bushes of huckleberry and
sweet fern swarmed at it in two curling waves until it was a mere
winding line traced through a tangle. There was no interference by
clouds, and as the rays of the sun fell full upon the ridge, they called
into voice innumerable insects which chanted the heat of the summer day
in steady, throbbing, unending chorus.
A man and a dog came from the laurel thickets of the valley where the
white brook brawled with the rocks. They followed the deep line of the
path across the ridges. The dog--a large lemon and white setter--walked,
tranquilly meditative, at his master's heels.
Suddenly from some unknown and yet near place in advance there came a
dry, shrill whistling rattle that smote motion instantly from the limbs
of the man and the dog. Like the fingers of a sudden death, this sound
seemed to touch the man at the nape of the neck, at the top of the
spine, and change him, as swift as thought, to a statue of listening
horror, surprise, rage. The dog, too--the same icy hand was laid upon
him, and he stood crouched and quivering, his jaw dropping, the froth of
terror upon his lips, the light of hatred in his eyes.
Slowly the man moved his hands toward the bushes, but his glance did not
turn from the place made sinister by the warning rattle. His fingers,
unguided, sought for a stick of weight and strength. Presently they
closed about one that seemed adequate, and holding this weapon poised
before him the man moved slowly forward, glaring. The dog with his
nervous nostrils fairly fluttering moved warily, one foot at a time,
after his master.
But when the man came upon the snake, his body underwent a shock as if
from a revelation, as if after all he had been ambushed. With a blanched
face, he sprang forward and his breath came in strained gasps, his chest
heaving as if he were in the performance of an extraordinary muscular
trial. His arm with the stick made a spasmodic, defensive gesture.
The snake had apparently been crossing the path in some mystic travel
when to his sense there came the knowledge of the coming of his foes.
The dull vibration perhaps informed him, and he flung his body to face
the danger. He had no knowledge of paths; he had no wit to tell him to
slink noiselessly into the bushes. He knew that his implacable enemies
were approaching; no doubt they were seeking him, hunting him. And so he
cried his cry, an incredibly swift jangle of tiny bells, as burdened
with pathos as the hammering upon quaint cymbals by the Chinese at war--
for, indeed, it was usually his death-music.
"Beware! Beware! Beware!"
The man and the snake confronted each other. In the man's eyes were
hatred and fear. In the snake's eyes were hatred and fear. These enemies
maneuvered, each preparing to kill. It was to be a battle without mercy.
Neither knew of mercy for such a situation. In the man was all the wild
strength of the terror of his ancestors, of his race, of his kind. A
deadly repulsion had been handed from man to man through long dim
centuries. This was another detail of a war that had begun evidently
when first there were men and snakes. Individuals who do not participate
in this strife incur the investigations of scientists. Once there was a
man and a snake who were friends, and at the end, the man lay dead with
the marks of the snake's caress just over his East Indian heart. In the
formation of devices, hideous and horrible, Nature reached her supreme
point in the making of the snake, so that priests who really paint hell
well fill it with snakes instead of fire. The curving forms, these
scintillant coloring create at once, upon sight, more relentless
animosities than do shake barbaric tribes. To be born a snake is to be
thrust into a place a-swarm with formidable foes. To gain an
appreciation of it, view hell as pictured by priests who are really
As for this snake in the pathway, there was a double curve some inches
back of its head, which, merely by the potency of its lines, made the
man feel with tenfold eloquence the touch of the death-fingers at the
nape of his neck. The reptile's head was waving slowly from side to side
and its hot eyes flashed like little murder-lights. Always in the air
was the dry, shrill whistling of the rattles.
"Beware! Beware! Beware!"
The man made a preliminary feint with his stick. Instantly the snake's
heavy head and neck were bended back on the double curve and instantly
the snake's body shot forward in a low, strait, hard spring. The man
jumped with a convulsive chatter and swung his stick. The blind,
sweeping blow fell upon the snake's head and hurled him so that steel-
colored plates were for a moment uppermost. But he rallied swiftly,
agilely, and again the head and neck bended back to the double curve,
and the steaming, wide-open mouth made its desperate effort to reach its
enemy. This attack, it could be seen, was despairing, but it was
nevertheless impetuous, gallant, ferocious, of the same quality as the
charge of the lone chief when the walls of white faces close upon him in
the mountains. The stick swung unerringly again, and the snake,
mutilated, torn, whirled himself into the last coil.
And now the man went sheer raving mad from the emotions of his
forefathers and from his own. He came to close quarters. He gripped the
stick with his two hands and made it speed like a flail. The snake,
tumbling in the anguish of final despair, fought, bit, flung itself upon
this stick which was taking his life.
At the end, the man clutched his stick and stood watching in silence.
The dog came slowly and with infinite caution stretched his nose
forward, sniffing. The hair upon his neck and back moved and ruffled as
if a sharp wind was blowing, the last muscular quivers of the snake were
causing the rattles to still sound their treble cry, the shrill, ringing
war chant and hymn of the grave of the thing that faces foes at once
countless, implacable, and superior.
"Well, Rover," said the man, turning to the dog with a grin of victory,
"we'll carry Mr. Snake home to show the girls."
His hands still trembled from the strain of the encounter, but he pried
with his stick under the body of the snake and hoisted the limp thing
upon it. He resumed his march along the path, and the dog walked
tranquilly meditative, at his master's heels.
London at first consisted of a porter with the most charming manners in
the world, and a cabman with a supreme intelligence, both observing my
profound ignorance without contempt or humor of any kind observable in
their manners. It was in a great resounding vault of a place where there
were many people who had come home, and I was displeased because they
knew the detail of the business, whereas I was confronting the
inscrutable. This made them appear very stony-hearted to the sufferings
of one of whose existence, to be sure, they were entirely unaware, and I
remember taking great pleasure in disliking them heartily for it. I was
in an agony of mind over my baggage, or my luggage, or my--perhaps it is
well to shy around this terrible international question; but I remember
that when I was a lad I was told that there was a whole nation that said
luggage instead of baggage, and my boyish mind was filled at the time
with incredulity and scorn. In the present case it was a thing that I
understood to involve the most hideous confessions of imbecility on my
part, because I had evidently to go out to some obscure point and espy
it and claim it, and take trouble for it; and I would rather have had my
pockets filled with bread and cheese, and had no baggage at all.
Mind you, this was not at all a homage that I was paying to London. I
was paying homage to a new game. A man properly lazy does not like new
experiences until they become old ones. Moreover, I have been taught
that a man, any man, who has a thousand times more points of information
on a certain thing than I have will bully me because of it, and pour his
advantages upon my bowed head until I am drenched with his superiority.
It was in my education to concede some license of the kind in this case,
but the holy father of a porter and the saintly cabman occupied the
middle distance imperturbably, and did not come down from their hills to
clout me with knowledge. From this fact I experienced a criminal
elation. I lost view of the idea that if I had been brow-beaten by
porters and cabmen from one end of the United States to the other end I
should warmly like it, because in numbers they are superior to me, and
collectively they can have a great deal of fun out of a matter that
would merely afford me the glee of the latent butcher.
This London, composed of a porter and a cabman, stood to me subtly as a
benefactor. I had scanned the drama, and found that I did not believe
that the mood of the men emanated unduly from the feature that there was
probably more shillings to the square inch of me than there were
shillings to the square inch of them. Nor yet was it any manner of
palpable warm-heartedness or other natural virtue. But it was a perfect
artificial virtue; it was drill, plain, simple drill. And now was I glad
of their drilling, and vividly approved of it, because I saw that it was
good for me. Whether it was good or bad for the porter and the cabman I
could not know; but that point, mark you, came within the pale of my
I am sure that it would have been more correct for me to have alighted
upon St. Paul's and described no emotion until I was overcome by the
Thames Embankment and the Houses of Parliament. But as a matter of fact
I did not see them for some days, and at this time they did not concern
me at all. I was born in London at a railroad station, and my new vision
encompassed a porter and a cabman. They deeply absorbed me in new
phenomena, and I did not then care to see the Thames Embankment nor the
Houses of Parliament. I considered the porter and the cabman to be more
The cab finally rolled out of the gas-lit vault into a vast expanse of
gloom. This changed to the shadowy lines of a street that was like a
passage in a monstrous cave. The lamps winking here and there resembled
the little gleams at the caps of the miners. They were not very
competent illuminations at best, merely being little pale flares of gas
that at their most heroic periods could only display one fact concerning
this tunnel--the fact of general direction. But at any rate I should
have liked to have observed the dejection of a search-light if it had
been called upon to attempt to bore through this atmosphere. In it each
man sat in his own little cylinder of vision, so to speak. It was not so
small as a sentry-box nor so large as a circus tent, but the walls were
opaque, and what was passing beyond the dimensions of his cylinder no
It was evident that the paving was very greasy, but all the cabs that
passed through my cylinder were going at a round trot, while the wheels,
shod in rubber, whirred merely like bicycles. The hoofs of the animals
themselves did not make that wild clatter which I knew so well. New York
in fact, roars always like ten thousand devils. We have ingenuous and
simple ways of making a din in New York that cause the stranger to
conclude that each citizen is obliged by statute to provide himself with
a pair of cymbals and a drum. If anything by chance can be turned into a
noise it is promptly turned. We are engaged in the development of a
human creature with very large, sturdy, and doubly, fortified ears.
It was not too late at night, but this London moved with the decorum and
caution of an undertaker. There was a silence, and yet there was no
silence. There was a low drone, perhaps a humming contributed inevitably
by closely-gathered thousands, and yet on second thoughts it was to me
silence. I had perched my ears for the note of London, the sound made
simply by the existence of five million people in one place. I had
imagined something deep, vastly deep, a bass from a mythical organ, but
found as far as I was concerned, only a silence.
New York in numbers is a mighty city, and all day and all night it cries
its loud, fierce, aspiring cry, a noise of men beating upon barrels, a
noise of men beating upon tin, a terrific racket that assails the abject
skies. No one of us seemed to question this row as a certain consequence
of three or four million people living together and scuffling for coin,
with more agility, perhaps, but otherwise in the usual way. However,
after this easy silence of London, which in numbers is a mightier city,
I began to feel that there was a seduction in this idea of necessity.
Our noise in New York was not a consequence of our rapidity at all. It
was a consequence of our bad pavements.
Any brigade of artillery in Europe that would love to assemble its
batteries, and then go on a gallop over the land, thundering and
thundering, would give up the idea of thunder at once if it could hear
Tim Mulligan drive a beer wagon along one of the side streets of cobbled
Finally a great thing came to pass. The cab horse, proceeding at a sharp
trot, found himself suddenly at the top of an incline, where through the
rain the pavement shone like an expanse of ice. It looked to me as if
there was going to be a tumble. In an accident of such a kind a hansom
becomes really a cannon in which a man finds that he has paid shillings
for the privilege of serving as a projectile. I was making a rapid
calculation of the arc that I would describe in my flight, when the
horse met his crisis with a masterly device that I could not have
imagined. He tranquilly braced his four feet like a bundle of stakes,
and then, with a gentle gaiety of demeanor, he slid swiftly and
gracefully to the bottom of the hill as if he had been a toboggan. When
the incline ended he caught his gait again with great dexterity, and
went pattering off through another tunnel.
I at once looked upon myself as being singularly blessed by this sight.
This horse had evidently originated this system of skating as a
diversion, or, more probably, as a precaution against the slippery
pavement; and he was, of course the inventor and sole proprietor--two
terms that are not always in conjunction. It surely was not to be
supposed that there could be two skaters like him in the world. He
deserved to be known and publicly praised for this accomplishment. It
was worthy of many records and exhibitions. But when the cab arrived at
a place where some dipping streets met, and the flaming front of a
music-hall temporarily widened my cylinder, behold there were many cabs,
and as the moment of necessity came the horses were all skaters. They
were gliding in all directions. It might have been a rink. A great
omnibus was hailed by a hand under an umbrella on the side walk, and the
dignified horses bidden to halt from their trot did not waste time in
wild and unseemly spasms. They, too, braced their legs and slid gravely
to the end of their momentum.
It was not the feat, but it was the word which had at this time the
power to conjure memories of skating parties on moonlit lakes, with
laughter ringing over the ice, and a great red bonfire on the shore
among the hemlocks.
A Terrible thing in nature is the fall of a horse in his harness. It is
a tragedy. Despite their skill in skating there was that about the
pavement on the rainy evening which filled me with expectations of
horses going headlong. Finally it happened just in front. There was a
shout and a tangle in the darkness, and presently a prostrate cab horse
came within my cylinder. The accident having been a complete success and
altogether concluded, a voice from the side walk said, "_Look_ out,
now! _Be_ more careful, can't you?"
I remember a constituent of a Congressman at Washington who had tried in
vain to bore this Congressman with a wild project of some kind. The
Congressman eluded him with skill, and his rage and despair ultimately
culminated in the supreme grievance that he could not even get near
enough to the Congressman to tell him to go to Hades.
This cabman should have felt the same desire to strangle this man who
spoke from the sidewalk. He was plainly impotent; he was deprived of the
power of looking out. There was nothing now for which to look out. The
man on the sidewalk had dragged a corpse from a pond and said to it,
"_Be_ more careful, can't you, or you'll drown?" My cabman pulled
up and addressed a few words of reproach to the other. Three or four
figures loomed into my cylinder, and as they appeared spoke to the
author or the victim of the calamity in varied terms of displeasure.
Each of these reproaches was couched in terms that defined the situation
as impending. No blind man could have conceived that the precipitate
phrase of the incident was absolutely closed.
"_Look_ out now, cawn't you?" And there was nothing in his mind
which approached these sentiments near enough to tell them to go to
However, it needed only an ear to know presently that these expressions
were formulae. It was merely the obligatory dance which the Indians had
to perform before they went to war. These men had come to help, but as a
regular and traditional preliminary they had first to display to this
cabman their idea of his ignominy.
The different thing in the affair was the silence of the victim. He
retorted never a word. This, too, to me seemed to be an obedience to a
recognized form. He was the visible criminal, if there was a criminal,
and there was born of it a privilege for them.
They unfastened the proper straps and hauled back the cab. They fetched
a mat from some obscure place of succor, and pushed it carefully under
the prostrate thing. From this panting, quivering mass they suddenly and
emphatically reconstructed a horse. As each man turned to go his way he
delivered some superior caution to the cabman while the latter buckled
There was to be noticed in this band of rescuers a young man in evening
clothes and top-hat. Now, in America a young man in evening clothes and
a top-hat may be a terrible object. He is not likely to do violence, but
he is likely to do impassivity and indifference to the point where they
become worse than violence. There are certain of the more idle phases of
civilization to which America has not yet awakened--and it is a matter
of no moment if she remains unaware. This matter of hats is one of them.
I recall a legend recited to me by an esteemed friend, ex-Sheriff of Tin
Can, Nevada. Jim Cortright, one of the best gun-fighters in town, went
on a journey to Chicago, and while there he procured a top-hat. He was
quite sure how Tin Can would accept this innovation, but he relied on
the celerity with which he could get a six-shooter in action. One Sunday
Jim examined his guns with his usual care, placed the top-hat on the
back of his head, and sauntered coolly out into the streets of Tin Can.
Now, while Jim was in Chicago some progressive citizen had decided that
Tin Can needed a bowling alley. The carpenters went to work the next
morning, and an order for the balls and pins was telegraphed to Denver.
In three days the whole population was concentrated at the new alley
betting their outfits and their lives.
It has since been accounted very unfortunate that Jim Cortright had not
learned of bowling alleys at his mother's knee or even later in the
mines. This portion of his mind was singularly belated. He might have
been an Apache for all he knew of bowling alleys.
In his careless stroll through the town, his hands not far from his belt
and his eyes going sideways in order to see who would shoot first at the
hat, he came upon this long, low shanty where Tin Can was betting itself
hoarse over a game between a team from the ranks of Excelsior Hose
Company No. 1 and a team composed from the _habitues_ of the "Red
Jim, in blank ignorance of bowling phenomena, wandered casually through
a little door into what must always be termed the wrong end of a bowling
alley. Of course, he saw that the supreme moment had come. They were not
only shooting at the hat and at him, but the low-down cusses were using
the most extraordinary and hellish ammunition. Still, perfectly
undaunted, however, Jim retorted with his two Colts, and killed three of
the best bowlers in Tin Can.
The ex-Sheriff vouched for this story. He himself had gone headlong
through the door at the firing of the first shot with that simple
courtesy which leads Western men to donate the fighters plenty of room.
He said that afterwards the hat was the cause of a number of other
fights, and that finally a delegation of prominent citizens was obliged
to wait upon Cortright and ask him if he wouldn't take that thing away
somewhere and bury it. Jim pointed out to them that it was his hat, and
that he would regard it as a cowardly concession if he submitted to
their dictation in the matter of his headgear. He added that he purposed
to continue to wear his top-hat on every occasion when he happened to
feel that the wearing of a top-hat was a joy and a solace to him.
The delegation sadly retired, and announced to the town that Jim
Cortright had openly defied them, and had declared his purpose of
forcing his top-hat on the pained attention of Tin Can whenever he
chose. Jim Cortright's plug hat became a phrase with considerable
meaning to it.
However, the whole affair ended in a great passionate outburst of
popular revolution. Spike Foster was a friend of Cortright, and one day,
when the latter was indisposed, Spike came to him and borrowed the hat.
He had been drinking heavily at the "Red Light," and was in a supremely
reckless mood. With the terrible gear hanging jauntily over his eye and
his two guns drawn, he walked straight out into the middle of the square
in front of the Palace Hotel, and drew the attention of all Tin Can by a
blood-curdling imitation of the yowl of a mountain lion.
This was when the long suffering populace arose as one man. The top-hat
had been flaunted once too often. When Spike Foster's friends came to
carry him away they found nearly a hundred and fifty men shooting busily
at a mark--and the mark was the hat.
My informant told me that he believed he owed his popularity in Tin Can,
and subsequently his election to the distinguished office of Sheriff, to
the active and prominent part he had taken in the proceedings.
The enmity to the top-hat expressed by the convincing anecdote exists in
the American West at present, I think, in the perfection of its
strength; but disapproval is not now displayed by volleys from the
citizens, save in the most aggravating cases. It is at present usually a
matter of mere jibe and general contempt. The East, however, despite a
great deal of kicking and gouging, is having the top-hat stuffed slowly
and carefully down its throat, and there now exist many young men who
consider that they could not successfully conduct their lives without
To speak generally, I should say that the headgear then supplies them
with a kind of ferocity of indifference. There is fire, sword, and
pestilence in the way they heed only themselves. Philosophy should
always know that indifference is a militant thing. It batters down the
walls of cities, and murders the women and children amid flames and the
purloining of altar vessels. When it goes away it leaves smoking ruins,
where lie citizens bayoneted through the throat. It is not a children's
pastime like mere highway robbery.
Consequently in America we may be much afraid of these young men. We
dive down alleys so that we may not kowtow. It is a fearsome thing.
Taught thus a deep fear of the top-hat in its effect upon youth, I was
not prepared for the move of this particular young man when the cab-
horse fell. In fact, I grovelled in my corner that I might not see the
cruel stateliness of his passing. But in the meantime he had crossed the
street, and contributed the strength of his back and some advice, as
well as the formal address, to the cabman on the importance of looking
I felt that I was making a notable collection. I had a new kind of
porter, a cylinder of vision, horses that could skate, and now I added a
young man in a top-hat who would tacitly admit that the beings around
him were alive. He was not walking a churchyard filled with inferior
headstones. He was walking the world, where there were people, many
But later I took him out of the collection. I thought he had rebelled
against the manner of a class, but I soon discovered that the top-hat
was not the property of a class. It was the property of rogues, clerks,
theatrical agents, damned seducers, poor men, nobles, and others. In
fact, it was the universal rigging. It was the only hat; all other forms
might as well be named ham, or chops, or oysters. I retracted my
admiration of the young man because he may have been merely a rogue.
There was a window whereat an enterprising man by dodging two placards
and a calendar was entitled to view a young woman. She was dejectedly
writing in a large book. She was ultimately induced to open the window a
trifle. "What nyme, please?" she said wearily. I was surprised to hear
this language from her. I had expected to be addressed on a submarine
topic. I have seen shell fishes sadly writing in large books at the
bottom of a gloomy acquarium who could not ask me what was my "nyme."
At the end of the hall there was a grim portal marked "lift." I pressed
an electric button and heard an answering tinkle in the heavens. There
was an upholstered settle near at hand, and I discovered the reason. A
deer-stalking peace drooped upon everything, and in it a man could
invoke the passing of a lazy pageant of twenty years of his life. The
dignity of a coffin being lowered into a grave surrounded the ultimate
appearance of the lift. The expert we in America call the elevator-boy
stepped from the car, took three paces forward, faced to attention and
saluted. This elevator boy could not have been less than sixty years of
age; a great white beard streamed towards his belt. I saw that the lift
had been longer on its voyage than I had suspected.
Later in our upward progress a natural event would have been an
establishment of social relations. Two enemies imprisoned together
during the still hours of a balloon journey would, I believe, suffer a
mental amalgamation. The overhang of a common fate, a great principal
fact, can make an equality and a truce between any pair. Yet, when I
disembarked, a final survey of the grey beard made me recall that I had
failed even to ask the boy whether he had not taken probably three trips
on this lift.
My windows overlooked simply a great sea of night, in which were
swimming little gas fishes.
I have of late been led to reflect wistfully that many of the
illustrators are very clever. In an impatience, which was donated by a
certain economy of apparel, I went to a window to look upon day-lit
London. There were the 'buses parading the streets with the miens of
elephants There were the police looking precisely as I had been informed
by the prints. There were the sandwich-men. There was almost everything.
But the artists had not told me the sound of London. Now, in New York
the artists are able to portray sound because in New York a dray is not
a dray at all; it is a great potent noise hauled by two or more horses.
When a magazine containing an illustration of a New York street is sent
to me, I always know it beforehand. I can hear it coming through the
mails. As I have said previously, this which I must call sound of London
was to me only a silence.
Later, in front of the hotel a cabman that I hailed said to me--"Are you
gowing far, sir? I've got a byby here, and want to giv'er a bit of a
blough." This impressed me as being probably a quotation from an early
Egyptian poet, but I learned soon enough that the word "byby" was the
name of some kind or condition of horse. The cabman's next remark was
addressed to a boy who took a perilous dive between the byby's nose and
a cab in front. "That's roight. Put your head in there and get it
jammed--a whackin good place for it, I should think." Although the tone
was low and circumspect, I have never heard a better off-handed
declamation. Every word was cut clear of disreputable alliances with its
neighbors. The whole thing was clean as a row of pewter mugs. The
influence of indignation upon the voice caused me to reflect that we
might devise a mechanical means of inflaming some in that constellation
of mummers which is the heritage of the Anglo-Saxon race.
Then I saw the drilling of vehicles by two policemen. There were four
torrents converging at a point, and when four torrents converge at one
point engineering experts buy tickets for another place.
But here, again, it was drill, plain, simple drill. I must not falter in
saying that I think the management of the traffic--as the phrase goes--
to be distinctly illuminating and wonderful. The police were not ruffled
and exasperated. They were as peaceful as two cows in a pasture.
I can remember once remarking that mankind, with all its boasted modern
progress, had not yet been able to invent a turnstile that will commute
in fractions. I have now learned that 756 rights-of-way cannot operate
simultaneously at one point. Right-of-way, like fighting women, requires
space. Even two rights-of-way can make a scene which is only suited to
the tastes of an ancient public.
This truth was very evidently recognized. There was only one right-of-
way at a time. The police did not look behind them to see if their
orders were to be obeyed; they knew they were to be obeyed. These four
torrents were drilling like four battalions. The two blue-cloth men
maneuvered them in solemn, abiding peace, the silence of London.
I thought at first that it was the intellect of the individual, but I
looked at one constable closely and his face was as afire with
intelligence as a flannel pin-cushion. It was not the police, and it was
not the crowd. It was the police and the crowd. Again, it was drill.
I have never been in the habit of reading signs. I don't like to read
signs. I have never met a man that liked to read signs. I once invented
a creature who could play the piano with a hammer, and I mentioned him
to a professor in Harvard University whose peculiarity was Sanscrit. He
had the same interest in my invention that I have in a certain kind of
mustard. And yet this mustard has become a part of me. Or, I have become
a part of this mustard. Further, I know more of an ink, a brand of hams,
a kind of cigarette, and a novelist than any man living. I went by train
to see a friend in the country, and after passing through a patent
mucilage, some more hams, a South African Investment Company, a Parisian
millinery firm, and a comic journal, I alighted at a new and original
kind of corset. On my return journey the road almost continuously ran
I have accumulated superior information concerning these things, because
I am at their mercy. If I want to know where I am I must find the
definitive sign. This accounts for my glib use of the word mucilage, as
well as the titles of other staples.
I suppose even the Briton in mixing his life must sometimes consult the
labels on 'buses and streets and stations, even as the chemist consults
the labels on his bottles and boxes. A brave man would possibly affirm
that this was suggested by the existence of the labels.
The reason that I did not learn more about hams and mucilage in New York
seems to me to be partly due to the fact that the British advertiser is
allowed to exercise an unbridled strategy in his attack with his new
corset or whatever upon the defensive public. He knows that the
vulnerable point is the informatory sign which the citizen must, of
course, use for his guidance, and then, with horse, foot, guns, corsets,
hams, mucilage, investment companies, and all, he hurls himself at the
Meanwhile I have discovered a way to make the Sanscrit scholar heed my
creature who plays the piano with a hammer.
THE SCOTCH EXPRESS
The entrance to Euston Station is of itself sufficiently imposing. It
is a high portico of brown stone, old and grim, in form a casual
imitation, no doubt, of the front of the temple of Nike Apteros, with a
recollection of the Egyptians proclaimed at the flanks. The frieze,
where of old would prance an exuberant processional of gods, is, in this
case, bare of decoration, but upon the epistyle is written in simple,
stern letters the word "EUSTON." The legend reared high by the gloomy
Pelagic columns stares down a wide avenue, In short, this entrance to a
railway station does not in any way resemble the entrance to a railway
station. It is more the front of some venerable bank. But it has another
dignity, which is not born of form. To a great degree, it is to the
English and to those who are in England the gate to Scotland.
The little hansoms are continually speeding through the gate, dashing
between the legs of the solemn temple; the four-wheelers, their tops
crowded with luggage, roll in and out constantly, and the footways beat
under the trampling of the people. Of course, there are the suburbs and
a hundred towns along the line, and Liverpool, the beginning of an
important sea-path to America, and the great manufacturing cities of the
North; but if one stands at this gate in August particularly, one must
note the number of men with gun-cases, the number of women who surely
have Tam-o'-Shanters and plaids concealed within their luggage, ready
for the moors. There is, during the latter part of that month, a
wholesale flight from London to Scotland which recalls the July throngs
leaving New York for the shore or the mountains.
The hansoms, after passing through this impressive portal of the
station, bowl smoothly across a courtyard which is in the center of the
terminal hotel, an institution dear to most railways in Europe. The
traveler lands amid a swarm of porters, and then proceeds cheerfully to
take the customary trouble for his luggage. America provides a
contrivance in a thousand situations where Europe provides a man or
perhaps a number of men, and the work of our brass check is here done by
porters, directed by the traveler himself. The men lack the memory of
the check; the check never forgets its identity. Moreover, the European
railways generously furnish the porters at the expense of the traveler.
Nevertheless, if these men have not the invincible business precision of
the check, and if they have to be tipped, it can be asserted for those
who care that in Europe one-half of the populace waits on the other half
most diligently and well.
Against the masonry of a platform, under the vaulted arch of the train-
house, lay a long string of coaches. They were painted white on the
bulging part, which led halfway down from the top, and the bodies were a
deep bottle-green. There was a group of porters placing luggage in the
van, and a great many others were busy with the affairs of passengers,
tossing smaller bits of luggage into the racks over the seats, and
bustling here and there on short quests. The guard of the train, a tall
man who resembled one of the first Napoleon's veterans, was caring for
the distribution of passengers into the various bins. There were no
second-class compartments; they were all third and first-class.
The train was at this time engineless, but presently a railway "flier,"
painted a glowing vermilion, slid modestly down and took its place at
the head. The guard walked along the platform, and decisively closed
each door. He wore a dark blue uniform thoroughly decorated with silver
braid in the guise of leaves. The way of him gave to this business the
importance of a ceremony. Meanwhile the fireman had climbed down from
the cab and raised his hand, ready to transfer a signal to the driver,
who stood looking at his watch. In the interval there had something
progressed in the large signal box that stands guard at Euston. This
high house contains many levers, standing in thick, shining ranks. It
perfectly resembles an organ in some great church, if it were not that
these rows of numbered and indexed handles typify something more acutely
human than does a keyboard. It requires four men to play this organ-like
thing, and the strains never cease. Night and day, day and night, these
four men are walking to and fro, from this lever to that lever, and
under their hands the great machine raises its endless hymn of a world
at work, the fall and rise of signals and the clicking swing of
And so as the vermilion engine stood waiting and looking from the shadow
of the curve-roofed station, a man in the signal house had played the
notes that informed the engine of its freedom. The driver saw the fall
of those proper semaphores which gave him liberty to speak to his steel
friend. A certain combination in the economy of the London and
Northwestern Railway, a combination which had spread from the men who
sweep out the carriages through innumerable minds to the general manager
himself, had resulted in the law that the vermilion engine, with its
long string of white and bottle-green coaches, was to start forthwith
Presently the fireman, standing with his face toward the rear, let fall
his hand. "All right," he said. The driver turned a wheel, and as the
fireman slipped back, the train moved along the platform at the pace of
a mouse. To those in the tranquil carriages this starting was probably
as easy as the sliding of one's hand over a greased surface, but in the
engine there was more to it. The monster roared suddenly and loudly, and
sprang forward impetuously. A wrong-headed or maddened draft-horse will
plunge in its collar sometimes when going up a hill. But this load of
burdened carriages followed imperturbably at the gait of turtles. They
were not to be stirred from their way of dignified exit by the impatient
engine. The crowd of porters and transient people stood respectful. They
looked with the indefinite wonder of the railway-station sight-seer upon
the faces at the windows of the passing coaches. This train was off for
Scotland. It had started from the home of one accent to the home of
another accent. It was going from manner to manner, from habit to habit,
and in the minds of these London spectators there surely floated dim
images of the traditional kilts, the burring speech, the grouse, the
canniness, the oat-meal, all the elements of a romantic Scotland.
The train swung impressively around the signal-house, and headed up a
brick-walled cut. In starting this heavy string of coaches, the engine
breathed explosively. It gasped, and heaved, and bellowed; once, for a
moment, the wheels spun on the rails, and a convulsive tremor shook the
great steel frame.
The train itself, however, moved through this deep cut in the body of
London with coolness and precision, and the employees of the railway,
knowing the train's mission, tacitly presented arms at its passing. To
the travelers in the carriages, the suburbs of London must have been one
long monotony of carefully made walls of stone or brick. But after the
hill was climbed, the train fled through pictures of red habitations of
men on a green earth.
But the noise in the cab did not greatly change its measure. Even though
the speed was now high, the tremendous thumping to be heard in the cab
was as alive with strained effort and as slow in beat as the breathing
of a half-drowned man. At the side of the track, for instance, the sound
doubtless would strike the ear in the familiar succession of incredibly
rapid puffs; but in the cab itself, this land-racer breathes very like
its friend, the marine engine. Everybody who has spent time on shipboard
has forever in his head a reminiscence of the steady and methodical
pounding of the engines, and perhaps it is curious that this relative
which can whirl over the land at such a pace, breathes in the leisurely
tones that a man heeds when he lies awake at night in his berth.
There had been no fog in London, but here on the edge of the city a
heavy wind was blowing, and the driver leaned aside and yelled that it
was a very bad day for traveling on an engine. The engine-cabs of
England, as of all Europe, are seldom made for the comfort of the men.
One finds very often this apparent disregard for the man who does the
work--this indifference to the man who occupies a position which for the
exercise of temperance, of courage, of honesty, has no equal at the
altitude of prime ministers. The American engineer is the gilded
occupant of a salon in comparison with his brother in Europe. The man
who was guiding this five-hundred-ton bolt, aimed by the officials of
the railway at Scotland, could not have been as comfortable as a shrill
gibbering boatman of the Orient. The narrow and bare bench at his side
of the cab was not directly intended for his use, because it was so low
that he would be prevented by it from looking out of the ship's port-
hole which served him as a window. The fireman, on his side, had other
difficulties. His legs would have had to straggle over some pipes at the
only spot where there was a prospect, and the builders had also
strategically placed a large steel bolt. Of course it is plain that the
companies consistently believe that the men will do their work better if
they are kept standing. The roof of the cab was not altogether a roof.
It was merely a projection of two feet of metal from the bulkhead which
formed the front of the cab. There were practically no sides to it, and
the large cinders from the soft coal whirled around in sheets. From time
to time the driver took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his
London was now well to the rear. The vermilion engine had been for some
time flying like the wind. This train averages, between London and
Carlisle forty-nine and nine-tenth miles an hour. It is a distance of
299 miles. There is one stop. It occurs at Crewe, and endures five
minutes. In consequence, the block signals flashed by seemingly at the
end of the moment in which they were sighted.
There can be no question of the statement that the road-beds of English
railways are at present immeasurably superior to the American road-beds.
Of course there is a clear reason. It is known to every traveler that
peoples of the Continent of Europe have no right at all to own railways.
Those lines of travel are too childish and trivial for expression. A
correct fate would deprive the Continent of its railways, and give them
to somebody who knew about them.
The continental idea of a railway is to surround a mass of machinery
with forty rings of ultra-military law, and then they believe they have
one complete. The Americans and the English are the railway peoples.
That our road-beds are poorer than the English road-beds is because of
the fact that we were suddenly obliged to build thousands upon thousands
of miles of railway, and the English were obliged to build slowly tens
upon tens of miles. A road-bed from New York to San Francisco, with
stations, bridges, and crossings of the kind that the London and
Northwestern owns from London to Glasgow, would cost a sum large enough
to support the German army for a term of years. The whole way is
constructed with the care that inspired the creators of some of our now
obsolete forts along the Atlantic coast.
An American engineer, with his knowledge of the difficulties he had to
encounter--the wide rivers with variable banks, the mountain chains,
perhaps the long spaces of absolute desert; in fact, all the
perplexities of a vast and somewhat new country--would not dare spend a
respectable portion of his allowance on seventy feet of granite wall
over a gully, when he knew he could make an embankment with little cost
by heaving up the dirt and stones from here and there. But the English
road is all made in the pattern by which the Romans built their
highways. After England is dead, savants will find narrow streaks of
masonry leading from ruin to ruin. Of course this does not always seem
convincingly admirable. It sometimes resembles energy poured into a rat-
hole. There is a vale between expediency and the convenience of
posterity, a mid-ground which enables men surely to benefit the
hereafter people by valiantly advancing the present; and the point is
that, if some laborers live in unhealthy tenements in Cornwall, one is
likely to view with incomplete satisfaction the record of long and
patient labor and thought displayed by an eight-foot drain for a
nonexistent, impossible rivulet in the North. This sentence does not
sound strictly fair, but the meaning one wishes to convey is that if an
English company spies in its dream the ghost of an ancient valley that
later becomes a hill, it would construct for it a magnificent steel
trestle, and consider that a duty had been performed in proper
accordance with the company's conscience. But after all is said of it,
the accidents and the miles of railway operated in England are not in
proportion to the accidents and the miles of railway operated in the
United States. The reason can be divided into three parts--older
conditions, superior caution, the road-bed. And of these, the greatest
is older conditions.
In this flight toward Scotland one seldom encountered a grade crossing.
In nine cases of ten there was either a bridge or a tunnel. The
platforms of even the remote country stations were all of ponderous
masonry in contrast to our constructions of planking. There was always
to be seen, as we thundered toward a station of this kind, a number of
porters in uniform, who requested the retreat of any one who had not the
wit to give us plenty of room. And then, as the shrill warning of the
whistle pierced even the uproar that was about us, came the wild joy of
the rush past a station. It was something in the nature of a triumphal
procession conducted at thrilling speed. Perhaps there was a curve of
infinite grace, a sudden hollow explosive effect made by the passing of
a signal-box that was close to the track, and then the deadly lunge to
shave the edge of a long platform. There were always a number of people
standing afar, with their eyes riveted upon this projectile, and to be
on the engine was to feel their interest and admiration in the terror
and grandeur of this sweep. A boy allowed to ride with the driver of the
band-wagon as a circus parade winds through one of our village streets
could not exceed for egotism the temper of a new man in the cab of a
train like this one. This valkyric journey on the back of the vermilion
engine, with the shouting of the wind, the deep, mighty panting of the
steed, the gray blur at the track-side, the flowing quicksilver ribbon
of the other rails, the sudden clash as a switch intersects, all the din
and fury of this ride, was of a splendor that caused one to look abroad
at the quiet, green landscape and believe that it was of a phlegm quiet
beyond patience. It should have been dark, rain-shot, and windy; thunder
should have rolled across its sky.
It seemed, somehow, that if the driver should for a moment take his
hands from his engine, it might swerve from the track as a horse from
the road. Once, indeed, as he stood wiping his fingers on a bit of
waste, there must have been something ludicrous in the way the solitary
passenger regarded him. Without those finely firm hands on the bridle,
the engine might rear and bolt for the pleasant farms lying in the
sunshine at either side.
This driver was worth contemplation. He was simply a quiet, middle-aged
man, bearded, and with the little wrinkles of habitual geniality and
kindliness spreading from the eyes toward the temple, who stood at his
post always gazing out, through his round window, while, from time to
time, his hands went from here to there over his levers. He seldom
changed either attitude or expression. There surely is no engine-driver
who does not feel the beauty of the business, but the emotion lies deep,
and mainly inarticulate, as it does in the mind of a man who has
experienced a good and beautiful wife for many years. This driver's face
displayed nothing but the cool sanity of a man whose thought was buried
intelligently in his business. If there was any fierce drama in it,
there was no sign upon him. He was so lost in dreams of speed and
signals and steam, that one speculated if the wonder of his tempestuous
charge and its career over England touched him, this impassive rider of
a fiery thing.
It should be a well-known fact that, all over the world, the engine-
driver is the finest type of man that is grown. He is the pick of the
earth. He is altogether more worthy than the soldier, and better than
the men who move on the sea in ships. He is not paid too much; nor do
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