O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1921
Part 3 out of 8
"But he walked part the way from San Antonio. He----"
"He ain't your father," said Adam, "so don't cry. Is there any maple
sugar? The grub on the train was fierce."
Mrs. Egg brought him the tin case of maple sugar. Adam selected a
chunk of the brown stuff and bit a lobe of it. He was silent. Mrs. Egg
marvelled at him. His sisters had hinted that he wasn't clever. She
stood in awe, although her legs ached. Adam finished the lump of maple
sugar and rose. He leaned on the shelves with his narrow waist curved
against them and studied a row of quince-preserve jars. His nose
He asked, "You been fumigatin'?"
"Fumigatin'! Why, Dammy, there ain't been a disease in the house since
you had whoopin' cough."
"Sulphur," Adam drawled.
"Why, Dammy Egg! I never used sulphur for nothin' in my life!"
He took a jar of preserves and ripped off the paraffin wafer that
covered the top. Then he set the jar aside and sat down on the floor.
Mrs. Egg watched him unlace his shoes.
He commanded, "You sit still, Mamma. Be back in a minute."
"Dammy, don't you go near that heathen!"
He swung across the kitchen floor in two strides and bumped his head
on the top of the door. Mrs. Egg winced, but all her body seemed to
move after the boy. Shiverings tossed her. She lifted her skirts and
stepped after him. The veranda was empty. Adam had vanished, although
the moon covered the dooryard with silver. The woman stared and shook.
Then something slid down the nearest pillar and dropped like a black
column to the grass. Adam came up the steps and shoved Mrs. Egg back
to the pantry.
He spread some quince preserve on a slab of bread and stated, "He's
sittin' up readin' a lot of old copybooks, kind of. Got oil all over
his head. It's hair remover. Sulphur in it."
"How could you ever smell that far, Dammy?"
"I wonder what's in those books?" Adam pondered. He sat cross-legged
on the ice chest and ate slowly for a time, then remarked, "You didn't
put up these quinces, Mamma."
"No; they're Sadie's. Think of your noticin'!"
"You got to teach Edie cookin'," he said. "She can't cook fit for a
Cuban. Lots of time, though. Now, Mamma, we can't let this goof stay
here all night. I guess he's a thief. I ain't goin' to let the folks
have a laugh on you. Didn't your father always keep a diary?"
"Think of your rememberin' that, Dammy! Yes, always."
"That's what Frisco's readin' up in. He's smart. Used to do im'tations
of actors and cry like a hose pipe. Spotted that. Where's the
"Right here, Dammy. Dammy, suppose he killed Papa somewheres off and
stole his diaries!"
"Well," said Adam, beginning strawberry jam, "I thought of that. Mebbe
he did. I'd better find out. Y'oughtn't to kill folks even if they're
no good for nothin'."
"I'll go down to the barn and wake some of the boys up," Mrs. Egg
"You won't neither, Mamma. This'd be a joke on you. I ain't goin' to
have folks sayin' you took this guy for your father. Fewer knows it,
the better. This is awful good jam." He grinned and pulled Mrs. Egg
down beside him on the chest. She forgot to be frightened, watching
the marvel eat. She must get larger jars for jam. He reflected: "You
always get enough to eat on a boat, but it ain't satisfyin'. Frisco
prob'ly uses walnut juice to paint his face with. It don't wash off.
Don't talkin' make a person thirsty?"
"Wait till I get you some more cider, Dammy."
Adam thoughtfully drank more pear cider and made a cigarette.
Wonderful ideas must be moving behind the blank brown of his forehead.
His mother adored him and planned a recital of his acts to Egg, who
had accused Adam of being slow witted.
She wanted to justify herself, and muttered: "I just felt he wasn't
Papa all along. He was like one of those awful sorrowful persons in a
"Sure," said Adam, patting her arm. "I wish Edie'd got as nice a
complexion as you, Mamma."
"Mercy, Dammy!" his mother tittered and blushed.
Adam finished a third mug of cider and got up to examine the shelves.
He scratched the rear of one calf with the other toe, and muscles
cavorted in both legs as he reached for a jar of grapefruit marmalade.
He peered through this at the lamp and put the jar back. Mrs. Egg felt
The paragon explained: "Too sour after strawb'ry, Mamma. I'd like some
for breakfast, though. Back in a minute."
He trotted out through the kitchen and vanished on the veranda. She
shivered, being alone.
Adam came back and nodded: "Light's out. Any key to that room?"
"I can always think better when I'm eatin'," he confessed, and lifted
down the plate of spiced cookies, rejected them as too fresh, and
pounced on a covered dish of apple sauce.
This he absorbed in stillness, wriggling his toes on the oilcloth.
Mrs. Egg felt entirely comfortable and real. She could hear the cook
snoring. Behind her the curtain of the pantry window fluttered. The
cool breeze was pleasant on her neck. Adam licked the spoon and said,
"Back in a minute, Mamma," as he started for the veranda door.
Mrs. Egg reposed on the ice chest thinking about Adam. He was like
Egg, in that nothing fattened him. She puzzled over to-morrow's lunch.
Baked ham and sweet potatoes, sugared; creamed asparagus; hot corn
muffins. Dessert perplexed her. Were there any brandied peaches left?
She feared not. They belonged on the upper shelf nearest the ice
chest. Anxiety chewed her. Mrs. Egg climbed the lid by the aid of the
window sill and reached up an arm to the shelf.
Adam said, "Here y'are, Mamma."
The pantry door shut. Mrs. Egg swung about. Adam stood behind a shape
in blue pajamas, a hand locked on either of its elbows. He grinned at
Mrs. Egg over the mummer's shoulder. As the woman panted sulphur
entered her throat. The lamp threw a glare into the dark face, which
"Go on, Frisco," said Adam, about the skull, "tell Mamma about her
A sharp voice answered, "Let go my arms. You're killin' me!"
"Quit kiddin'," Adam growled. "Go on!"
"He ran a joint in San Francisco and gave me a job after I got out the
Navy. Died last fall. I kind of nursed him. Told me to burn all these
books--diaries. I read 'em. He called himself Peterson. Left all his
money to a woman. She shut the joint. I looked some like him so I took
a chance. Leggo my arms, Egg!"
"He'd ought to go to jail, Dammy," said Mrs. Egg. "It's just awful! I
bet the police are lookin' for him right now."
"Mamma, if we put him in jail this'll be all over the county and
you'll never hear the end of it."
She stared at the ape with loathing. There was a star tattooed on one
of his naked insteps. He looked no longer frail, but wiry and
snakelike. The pallor behind his dark tan showed the triangles of
black stain in his cheeks and eye sockets.
"He's too smart to leave loose, Dammy."
"It'll be an awful joke on you, Mamma."
"I can't help it, Dammy. He----"
The prisoner figure toppled back against Adam's breast and the mouth
opened hideously. The lean legs bent.
"You squeezed him too tight, Dammy. He's fainted. Lay him down."
Adam let the figure slide to the floor. It rose in a whirl of blue
linen. Mrs. Egg rocked on the chest.
The man thrust something at Adam's middle and said in a rasp, "Get
your arms up!"
Adam's face turned purple beyond the gleaming skull. His hands rose a
little and his fingers crisped. He drawled,
"Fact. I ought have looked under your duds, you----"
"Stick 'em up!" said the man.
Mrs. Egg saw Adam's arms tremble. His lower lip drew down. He wasn't
going to put his arms up. The man would kill him. She could not
breathe. She fell forward from the ice chest and knew nothing.
She roused with a sense of great cold and was sitting against the
shelves. Adam stopped rubbing her face with a lump of ice and grinned
He cried, "By gee, you did that quick, Mamma! Knocked the wind clear
out of him."
"Where is he, Dammy?"
"Dunno. Took his gun and let him get dressed. He's gone. Say, that was
Mrs. Egg blushed and asked for a drink. Adam dropped the ice into a
mug of pear cider and squatted beside her with a shabby notebook.
"Here's somethin' for October 10, 1919." He read: "'Talked to a man
from Ilium to-day in Palace Bar. Myrtle married to John Egg. Four
children. Egg worth a wad. Dairy and cider business. Going to build
new Presbyterian church.' That's it, Mamma. He doped it all out from
"The dirty dog!" said Mrs. Egg. She ached terribly and put her head on
"I'll put all the diaries up in the attic. Kind of good readin.' Say,
it's after two. You better go to bed."
In her dreams Mrs. Egg beheld a bronze menacing skeleton beside her
pillow. It whispered and rattled. She woke, gulping, in bright
sunlight, and the rattle changed to the noise of a motor halting on
the drive. She gave yesterday a fleet review, rubbing her blackened
elbows, but felt charitable toward Frisco Cooley by connotation; she
had once sat down on a collie pup. But her bedroom clock struck ten
times. Mrs. Egg groaned and rolled out of bed, reaching for a wrapper.
What had the cook given Adam for breakfast? She charged along the
upper hall into a smell of coffee, and heard Adam speaking below. His
sisters made some feeble united interjection.
The hero said sharply: "Of course he was a fake! Mamma knew he was,
all along, but she didn't want to let on she did in front of folks.
That ain't dignified. She just flattened him out and he went away
quiet. You girls always talk like Mamma hadn't as much sense as you.
She's kind of used up this morning. Wait till I give her her
breakfast, and I'll come talk to you."
A tray jingled.
Mrs. Egg retreated into her bedroom, awed. Adam carried in her
breakfast and shut the door with a foot.
He complained: "Went in to breakfast at Edie's. Of course she's only
sixteen, but I could make better biscuits myself. Lay down, Mamma."
He began to butter slices of toast, in silence, expertly. Mrs. Egg
drank her coffee in rapture that rose toward ecstasy as Adam made
himself a sandwich of toast and marmalade and sat down at her feet to
THE VICTIM OF HIS VISION
By GERALD CHITTENDEN
"There's no doubt about it," said the hardware drummer with the
pock-pitted cheeks. He seemed glad that there was no doubt--smacked
his lips over it and went on. "Obeah--that's black magic; and
voodoo--that's snake-worship. The island is rotten with 'em--rotten
He looked sidelong over his empty glass at the Reverend Arthur
Simpson. Many human things were foreign to the clergyman: he was
uneasy about being in the _Arequipa's_ smoke-room at all, for
instance, and especially uneasy about sitting there with the drummer.
"But--human sacrifice!" he protested. "You spoke of human sacrifice."
"And cannibalism. _La chevre sans cornes_--the goat without
horns--that means an unblemished child less than three years old. It's
frequently done. They string it up by its heels, cut its throat, and
drink the blood. Then they eat it. Regular ceremony--the _mamaloi_
"The _mamaloi_--the priestess."
Simpson jerked himself out of his chair and went on deck. Occasionally
his imagination worked loose from control and tormented him as it was
doing now. There was a grizzly vividness in the drummer's description.
It was well toward morning before Simpson grasped again his usual
certainty of purpose and grew able to thank God that he had been born
into a very wicked world. There was much for a missionary to do in
Hayti--he saw that before the night grew thin, and was glad.
Between dawn and daylight the land leaped out of the sea, all clear
blues and purples, incomparably fresh and incomparably 111 wistful in
that one golden hour of the tropic day before the sun has risen very
high--the disembodied spirit of an island. It lay, vague as hope at
first, in a jewel-tinted sea; the ship steamed toward it as through
the mists of creation's third morning, and all good things seemed
possible. Thus had Simpson, reared in an unfriendly land, imagined it,
for beneath the dour Puritanism that had lapped him in its armour
there still stirred the power of wonder and surprise that has so often
through the ages changed Puritans to poets. That glimpse of Hayti
would remain with him, he thought, yet within the hour he was striving
desperately to hold it. For soon the ruffle of the breeze died from
off the sea, and it became gray glass through which the anchor sank
almost without a sound and was lost.
"Sweet place, isn't it, Mr. Simpson?" said Bunsen, the purser, pausing
on his way to the gangway.
"So that," Simpson rejoined slowly--and because it was a port of his
desire his voice shook on the words--"is Port au Prince!"
"That," Bunsen spat into the sea, "is Port au Prince."
He moved away. A dirty little launch full of uniforms was coming
alongside. Until the yellow flag--a polite symbol in that port--should
be hauled down Simpson would be left alone. The uniforms had climbed
to the deck and were chattering in a bastard patois behind him; now
and then the smell of the town struck across the smells of the sea and
the bush like the flick of a snake's tail. Simpson covered his eyes
for a moment, and immediately the vision of the island as he had seen
it at dawn swam in his mind. But he could not keep his eyes forever
shut--there was the necessity of living and of doing his work in the
world to be remembered always. He removed his hand. A bumboat was made
fast below the well of the deck, and a boy with an obscenely twisted
body and a twisted black face was selling pineapples to the sailors.
Simpson watched him for a while, and because his education had been
far too closely specialized he quoted the inevitable:
"Where every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile"
The verse uplifted him unreasonably. He went below to pack his
baggage. He said good-bye to the officers, painfully conscious that
they were grinning behind his back, and was rowed ashore by the
The boy said something in abominable French. He repeated it--Simpson
guessed at its meaning.
"I shall stay a long time," he answered in the same language. "I am a
minister of the gospel--a missionary."
The cripple, bent revoltingly over his oar, suddenly broke out into
laughter, soulless, without meaning. Simpson, stung sharply in his
stiff-necked pride, sprang up and took one step forward, his fist
raised. The boy dropped the oars and writhed to starboard, his neck
askew at an eldritch angle, his eyes glaring upward. But he did not
raise a hand to ward off the blow that he feared, and that was more
The blow never fell. Simpson's hand unclinched and shame reddened in
"Give me the oars," he said. "_Pauvre garcon_--did you think that I
would strike you?"
The boy surrendered the oars and sidled aft like a crab, his eyes
still rolling at his passenger.
"Why should the maimed row the sound?" said Simpson.
He rowed awkwardly. The boy watched him for a moment, then grinned
uncertainly; presently he lolled back in the stern-sheets, personating
dignity. A white man was doing his work--it was splendid, as it should
be, and comic in the extreme. He threw back his head and cackled at
the hot sky.
"Stop that!" Simpson, his nerves raw, spoke in English, but the
laughter jarred to a blunt end. The boy huddled farther away from him,
watching him with unwinking eyes which showed white all around the
pupil. Simpson, labouring with the clumsy oars, tried to forget him.
It was hot--hotter than it had seemed at first; sweat ran into his
eyes and he grew a little dizzy. The quarantine launch with its load
of uniforms, among which the purser's white was conspicuous, passed,
giving them its wake; there was no sound from it, only a blaze of
teeth and eyeballs. Simpson glanced over his shoulder at it. The
purser was standing in the stern, clear of the awning, his head
quizzically on one side and a cigarette in his fingers.
The rowboat came abreast of a worm-eaten jetty.
"_Ici_," said the cripple.
Simpson, inexpert, bumped into it bow on, and sculled the stern
around. The cripple, hideously agile, scrambled out and held the boat;
Simpson gathered up his bag and followed.
A Roman priest, black as the top of a stove, strode down the jetty
"You--you!" he shouted to the cripple when he was yet ten strides
away. His voice rose as he approached. "You let the m'sieu' row you
ashore! You----" A square, heavy boot shot out from beneath his
cassock into the boy's stomach. "_Cochon_!" said the priest, turning
to Simpson. His manner became suddenly suave, grandiose. "These
swine!" he said. "One keeps them in their place. I am Father Antoine.
"Simpson--Arthur Simpson." He said his own name slowly as thought
there was magic in it, magic that would keep him in touch with his
"Simpson?" The priest gave it the French sound; suspicion struggled
for expression on his black mask; his eyes took in the high-cut
waistcoat, the unmistakable clerical look. "You were sent?"
"By the board of foreign missions."
"I do not know it. Not by the archbishop?"
"There is no archbishop in my Church."
"In your Church?" Father Antoine's eyes sprang wide--wide as they had
been when he kicked the boatman. "In your Church? You are not of the
true faith, then?"
Pride of race, unchastened because he had not till that moment been
conscious that it existed in him, swelled in Simpson.
"Are you?" he asked.
Father Antoine stared at him, not as an angry white man stares, but
with head thrown back and mouth partly open, in the manner of his
race. Then, with the unreasoned impetuousness of a charging bull, he
turned and flung shoreward down the pier. The cripple, groaning still,
crawled to Simpson's feet and sat there.
"_Pauvre garcon_!" repeated Simpson dully. "_Pauvre garcon_!"
Suddenly the boy stopped groaning, swung Simpson's kit-bag on his
shoulder, and sidled up the pier. His right leg bent outward at the
knee, and his left inward; his head, inclined away from his burden,
seemed curiously detached from his body; his gait was a halting sort
of shuffle; yet he got along with unexpected speed. Simpson, still
dazed, followed him into the Grand Rue--a street of smells and piled
filth, where gorged buzzards, reeking of the tomb, flapped upward
under his nose from the garbage and offal of their feast. Simpson
paused for a moment at the market-stalls, where negroes of all shades
looked out at him in a silence that seemed devoid of curiosity. The
cripple beckoned him and he hurried on. On the steps of the cathedral
he saw Father Antoine, but, although the priest must have seen him, he
gave no sign as he passed. He kept to what shade there was. Presently
his guide turned down a narrow alley, opened a dilapidated picket
gate, and stood waiting.
"_Maman_!" he called. "_Oh! Maman_!"
Simpson, his curiosity faintly stirring, accepted the invitation of
the open gate, and stepped into an untidy yard, where three or four
pigs and a dozen chickens rooted and scratched among the bayonets of
yucca that clustered without regularity on both sides of the path. The
house had some pretensions; there were two stories, and, although the
blue and red paint had mostly flaked away, the boarding looked sound.
In the yard there was less fetor than there had been outside.
"_Maman_!" called the boy again.
A pot-lid clashed inside the house, and a tall negress, dressed in a
blue-striped Mother Hubbard, came to the door. She stared at Simpson
and at the boy.
"_Qui_?" was all she said.
The boy sidled nearer her and dropped the bag on the threshold.
"_Qui_?" she said again.
Simpson waited in silence. His affairs had got beyond him somehow, and
he seemed to himself but the tool of circumstance. It did occur to
him, though dimly, that he was being introduced to native life rather
The cripple, squatting with his back against the bag, launched into a
stream of patois, of which Simpson could not understand a word.
Gestures explained somewhat; he was reenacting the scenes of the last
half hour. When he had finished, the negress, not so hostile as she
had been but by no means friendly, turned to Simpson and looked at him
a long time without speaking. He had all he could do not to fidget
under her gaze; finally, she stood aside from the door and said,
"_B'en venu. C'est vo' masson_."
Simpson entered automatically. The kitchen, with its hard earth floor
and the sunlight drifting in through the bamboo sides, was not
unclean, and a savoury smell came from the stew-pot on the ramshackle
stove. In one of the bars of sunlight a mango-coloured child of two
years or so was playing with his toes--he was surprisingly clean and
"_Aha, mon petit_!" exclaimed Simpson. He loved children. "He is
handsome," he added, addressing the woman.
"Mine!" She turned the baby gently with her foot; he caught at the hem
of her dress, laughing. But she did not laugh. "Neither spot nor
blemish," she said, and then: "He is not yet three years old."
Simpson shuddered, recalling the pock-marked drummer on the
_Arequipa_. That was momentary--a coincidence, he told himself. The
woman was looking down at the child, her eyes softer than they had
been, and the child was lying on its back and playing with her Mother
The woman lifted the lid from the pot and peered into it through the
"It is ready," she said. She lifted it from the stove and set it on
the earthen floor. The cripple placed a handful of knives and spoons
on the table and three tin plates; he thrust a long fork and a long
spoon into the pot and stood aside.
"Seat yourself," said the woman, without looking at Simpson, "and
She explored the pot with the fork, and stabbed it firmly--there was a
suggestion of ruthlessness about her action that made Simpson shudder
again--into a slab of meat, which she dropped on a plate, using a
callous thumb to disengage it from the tines. She covered it with
gravy and began to eat without further ceremony. The cripple followed
her example, slobbering the gravy noisily; some of it ran down his
chin. Neither of them paid any attention to Simpson.
He took the remaining plate from the table and stood irresolute with
it in his hand. He was hungry, but his essential Puritan
fastidiousness, combined with that pride of race which he knew to be
un-Christian, rendered him reluctant to dip into the common pot or to
eat on equal terms with these people. Besides, the sun and his amazing
introduction to the island had given him a raging headache: he could
not think clearly nor rid himself of the sinister suggestion of the
town, of the house, of its three occupants in particular.
The child touched a ringer to the hot lip of the pot, burned itself,
and began to cry.
"_Taise_," said the woman. Her voice was low but curt, and she did not
raise her eyes from her plate. The child, its finger in its mouth,
stopped crying at once.
Simpson shook himself; his normal point of view was beginning to
assert itself. He must not--must not hold himself superior to the
people he expected to convert; nothing, he insisted to himself, was to
be gained, and much might be lost by a refusal to meet the people "on
their own ground." Chance--he did not call it chance--had favoured him
incredibly thus far, and if he failed to follow the guidance that had
been vouchsafed him he would prove himself but an unworthy vessel. He
took up the long fork--it chattered against the pot as he seized
it--and, overcoming a momentary and inexplicable nausea, impaled the
first piece of meat that rolled to the surface. There were yams also
and a sort of dumpling made of manioc. When he had filled his plate he
rose and turned suddenly; the woman and the cripple had stopped eating
and were watching him. They did not take their eyes away at once but
gave him stare for stare. He sat down; without a word they began to
eat once again.
The stew was good, and once he had begun Simpson ate heartily of it.
The tacit devilry fell away from his surroundings as his hunger grew
less, and his companions became no more than a middle-aged negress in
a turban, a black boy pitifully deformed, and a beautiful child. He
looked at his watch--he had not thought of the time for hours--and
found that it was a little after noon. It was time that he bestirred
himself and found lodgings.
"Is there a hotel?" he asked cheerfully. He had noticed that the
islanders understood legitimate French, though they could not speak
"There is one," said the woman. She pushed away her plate and became
suddenly dourly communicative. "But I doubt if the _proprietaire_
would find room for m'sieu'."
"Has he so many guests, then?"
"But no. M'sieu' has forgotten the priest."
"The priest? What has he to do with it?"
"My son tells me that m'sieu' offended him, and the _proprietaire_ is
a good Catholic. He will close his house to you."
She shaved a splinter to a point with a table knife and picked her
teeth with it, both elbows on the table and her eyes on Simpson.
"There is nowhere else to stay," she said. "Unless--here."
"I should prefer that," said Simpson--quickly, for reluctance and
distrust were rising in him again. "But have you a room?"
She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at a door behind her.
"There," she said. Simpson waited for her to move, saw that she had no
intention of doing so, and opened the door himself.
The room was fairly large, with two windows screened but unglazed; a
canvas cot stood in one corner, a packing-box table and a decrepit
chair in another. Like the kitchen it was surprisingly clean. He
returned to his hostess, who showed no anxiety about his intentions.
"How much by the week?" he asked.
"And you will feed me for how much?"
"I will take it." He forced himself to decision again; had he
hesitated he knew he would have gone elsewhere. The price also--less
than four dollars gold--attracted him, and he could doubtless buy some
furniture in the town. Moreover, experienced missionaries who had
talked before the board had always emphasized the value of living
among the natives.
"_B'en_," said the negress. She rose and emptied the remains from her
plate into a tin pail, sponging the plate with a piece of bread.
"I have a trunk on the steamer," said Simpson. "The boy--can he----"
"He will go with you," the negress interrupted.
The cripple slid from his chair, scraped his plate and Simpson's, put
on his battered straw hat, and shambled into the yard. Simpson
He turned at the gate and looked back. The child had toddled to the
door and was standing there, holding on to the door-post. Inside, the
shadow of the woman flickered across the close bars of bamboo.
Bunsen was standing on the jetty when they reached it talking
excitedly with a tall bowed man of fifty or so whose complexion showed
the stippled pallor of long residence in the tropics.
"Here he is now!" Bunsen exclaimed as Simpson approached. "I was just
getting anxious about you. Stopped at the hotel--you hadn't been
there, they said. Port au Prince is a bad place to get lost in.
Oh--this gentleman is our consul. Mr. Witherbee--Mr. Simpson."
Simpson shook hands. Witherbee's face was just a pair of dull eyes
behind a ragged moustache, but there was unusual vigour in his grip.
"I'll see a lot of you, if you stay long," he said. He looked at
Simpson more closely. "At least, I hope so. But where have you been? I
was getting as anxious as Mr. Bunsen--afraid you'd been sacrificed to
the snake or something."
Simpson raised a clerical hand, protesting. His amazing morning swept
before his mind like a moving-picture film; there were so many things
he could not explain even to himself, much less to these two Gentiles.
"I found lodgings," he said.
"Lodgings?" Witherbee and Bunsen chorused the word. "Where, for
"I don't know the name of the street," Simpson admitted. "I don't even
know the name of my hostess. That"--indicating the cripple--"is her
"Good God!" Witherbee exclaimed. "Madame Picard! The _mamaloi_!"
"The--the what?" But Simpson had heard well enough.
"The _mamaloi_--the _mamaloi_--high priestess of voodoo."
"Her house is fairly clean," Simpson said. He was hardly aware of his
own inconsequence. It was his instinct to defend any one who was
attacked on moral grounds, whether they deserved the attack or not.
"Ye-es," Witherbee drawled. "I dare say it is. It's her company that's
unsavoury. Especially for a parson. Eh? What's the matter now?"
Simpson had flared up at his last words. His mouth set and his eyes
burned suddenly. Bunsen, watching him coolly, wondered that he could
kindle so; until that moment he had seemed but half alive. When he
spoke his words came hurriedly--were almost unintelligible; yet there
was some quality in his voice that compelled attention, affecting the
senses more than the mind.
"Unsavoury company? That's best for a parson. 'I come not to bring the
righteous but sinners to repentance.' And who are you to brand the
woman as common or unclean? If she is a heathen priestess, yet she
worships a god of some sort. Do you?" He stopped suddenly; the
humility which men hated in him again blanketed his fanaticism. "It is
my task to give her a better god--the only true God--Christ."
Bunsen, his legs wide apart, kept his eyes on the sea, for he did not
want to let Simpson see him smiling, and he was smiling. Witherbee,
who had no emotions of any sort, pulled his moustache farther down and
looked at the clergyman as though he were under glass--a curiosity.
"So you're going to convert the whole island?" he said.
"I hope to make a beginning in the Lord's vineyard."
"Humph! The devil's game-preserve, you mean," Bunsen suddenly broke
"The devil's game-preserve, then!" Simpson was defiant.
"The ship calls here every other Saturday," was all Bunsen said to
that. "You may need to know. I'll send your trunk ashore."
He stepped into the cripple's boat and started for the ship. Witherbee
did not speak; Simpson, still raging, left him, strode to the end of
the pier, and stood there, leaning on a pile.
His gust of emotion had left him; a not unfamiliar feeling of
exaltation had taken its place. It is often so with the extreme
Puritan type; control relaxed for however brief a moment sends their
slow blood whirling, and leaves them light-headed as those who breathe
thin air. From boyhood Simpson had been practised in control, until
repression had become a prime tenet of his faith. The cheerful and
generally innocent excursions of other men assumed in his mind the
proportions of crime, of sin against the stern disciplining of the
soul which he conceived to be the goal of life. Probably he had never
in all his days been so shocked as once when a young pagan had scorned
certain views of his, saying; "There's more education--soul education,
if you will have it--in five minutes of sheer joy than in a century of
sorrow." It was an appalling statement, that--more appalling because
he had tried to contradict it and had been unable to do so. He himself
had been too eager to find his work in life--his pre-ordained
work--ever to discover the deep truths that light-heartedness only can
reveal; even when he heard his call to foreign missions--to Hayti, in
particular--he felt no such felicity as a man should feel who has
climbed to his place in the scheme of things. His was rather the
sombre fury of the Covenanters--an intense conviction that his way was
the only way of grace--a conviction that transcended reason and took
flight into the realm of overmastering emotion--the only overmastering
emotion, by the way, that he had ever experienced.
His choice, therefore, was in itself a loss of control and a dangerous
one, for nothing is more perilous to sanity than the certainty that
most other people in the world are wrong. Such conviction leads to a
Jesuitical contempt of means; in cases where the Puritan shell has
grown to be impregnable from the outside it sets up an internal
ferment which sometimes bursts shell and man and all into disastrous
fragments. Until old age kills them, the passions and emotions never
die in man; suppress them how we will, we can never ignore them; they
rise again to mock us when we think we are done with them forever. And
the man of Simpson's type suffers from them most of all, for he dams
against them all normal channels of expression.
Simpson, standing at the pier-end, was suffering from them now. His
exaltation--a thing of a moment, as his fervour had been--had gone out
of him, leaving him limp, uncertain of his own powers, of his own
calling, even--the prey to the discouragement that precedes action,
which is the deepest discouragement of all. Except for himself and
Witherbee the pier was deserted; behind him the filthy town slept in
its filth. Four buzzards wheeled above it, gorged and slow; the
harbour lay before him like a green mirror, so still that the ship was
reflected in it down to the last rope-yarn. Over all, the sun,
colourless and furnace-hot, burned in a sky of steel. There was
insolence in the scorched slopes that shouldered up from the bay, a
threatening permanence in the saw-edged sky-line. The indifference of
it all, its rock-ribbed impenetrability to human influence, laid a
crushing weight on Simpson's soul, so that he almost sank to his knees
in sheer oppression of spirit.
"Do you know much about Hayti?" asked Witherbee, coming up behind him.
"As much as I could learn from books." Simpson wanted to be angry at
the consul--why he could not tell--but Witherbee's voice was so
carefully courteous that he yielded perforce to its persuasion and
swung around, facing him. Suddenly, because he was measuring himself
against man and not against Nature, his weakness left him, and
confidence in himself and his mission flooded back upon him. "As much
as I could get from books." He paused. "You have lived here long?"
"Long enough," Witherbee answered. "Five years."
"You know the natives, then?"
"Can't help knowing them. There are quite a lot of them, you see, and
there's almost no one else. Do you know negroes at all?"
"You'd better study them a bit before you--before you do anything you
have it in mind to do--the Haytian negro in particular. They're not
like white men, you know."
"Like children, you mean?"
"Like some children. I'd hate to have them for nephews and nieces."
"We-ell"--Witherbee, looking sidelong at Simpson, bit off the end of a
cigar--"a number of reasons. They're superstitious, treacherous,
savage, cruel, and--worst of all--emotional. They've gone back.
They've been going back for a hundred years. The West Coast--I've been
there--is not so bad as Hayti. It's never been anything else than what
it is now, you see, and if it moves at all it must move forward.
There's nothing awful about savagery when people have never known
anything else. Hayti has. You know what the island used to be before
"I've read. But just what do you mean by West Coast savagery--here?"
"Snake-worship. Voodoo." Witherbee lit the cigar "Human sacrifice."
"And the Roman Church does nothing!" There was exultation in Simpson's
voice. His distrust of the Roman Church had been aggravated by his
encounter with the black priest that morning.
"The Roman Church does what it can. It's been unfortunate in its
instruments. Especially unfortunate now."
"Father Antoine. You met him?"
"This morning. A brute, and nothing more."
"Just that." Witherbee let a mouthful of smoke drift into the
motionless air. "It's curious," he said.
"Father Antoine will make it unpleasant for you. He may try to have
you knifed, or something."
"Not at all. Human life is worth nothing here. No wonder--it's not
really worth living. But you're safe enough, and that's the curious
"Why am I safe?"
"Because your landlady is who she is." Witherbee glanced over his
shoulder, and, although they were the only people on the pier, from
force of habit he dropped his voice. "The _mamaloi_ has more power
than the Church." He straightened and looked out toward the ship.
"Here's her idiot with your trunk. My office is the first house on the
left after you leave the pier. Don't forget that."
He turned quickly and was gone before the cripple's boat had reached
The town, just stirring out of its siesta as Simpson followed the
cripple through the streets, somehow reassured him. Men like Bunsen
and Witherbee, who smiled at his opinions and remained cold to his
rhapsodies, always oppressed him with a sense of ineffectuality. He
knew them of old--knew them superficially, of course, for, since he
was incapable of talking impersonally about religion, he had never had
the chance to listen to the cool and yet often strangely mystical
opinions which such men hold about it. He knew, in a dim sort of way,
that men not clergymen sometimes speculated about religious matters,
seeking light from each other in long, fragmentary conversations. He
knew that much, and disapproved of it--almost resented it. It seemed
to him wrong to discuss God without becoming angry, and very wrong for
laymen to discuss God at all. When circumstances trapped him into talk
with them about things divine, he felt baffled by their silences and
their reserves, seemed to himself to be scrabbling for entrance to
their souls through some sort of a slippery, impenetrable casing; he
never tried to enter through their minds, where the door stood always
open. The trouble was that he wanted to teach and be listened to;
wherefore he was subtly more at home among the ignorant and in such
streets as he was now traversing than with educated men. He had been
born a few decades too late; here in Hayti he had stepped back a
century or so into the age of credulity. Credulity, he believed, was a
good thing, almost a divine thing, if it were properly used; he did
not carry his processes far enough to realize that credulity could
never become fixed--that it was always open to conviction. A receptive
and not an inquiring mind seemed to him the prerequisite for a
convert. And black people, he had heard, were peculiarly receptive.
The question was, then, where and how to start his work. Hayti
differed from most mission fields, for, so far as he knew, no one had
ever worked in it before him. The first step was to cultivate the
intimacy of the people, and that he found difficult in the extreme. He
had one obvious channel of approach to them; when buying necessary
things for his room, he could enter into conversation with the
shopkeepers and the market-women, but this he found it difficult to
do. They did not want to talk to him, even seemed reluctant to sell
him anything; and when he left their shops or stalls, did not answer
his "Au revoir." He wondered how much the priest had to do with their
attitude. They had little also that he wanted--he shopped for a week
before he found a gaudy pitcher and basin and a strip of matting for
his floor. Chairs, bureaus, bookcases, and tables did not exist. He
said as much to Madame Picard, and gathered from her growled response
that he must find a carpenter. The cripple, his constant companion in
his first days on the island, took him to one--a gray old negro who
wore on a shoe-string about his neck a pouch which Simpson thought at
first to be a scapular, and whom age and his profession had made
approachable. He was garrulous even; he ceased working when at length
he understood what Simpson wanted, sat in his doorway with his head in
the sun and his feet in the shade, and lit a pipe made out of a tiny
cocoanut. Yes--he could build chairs, tables, anything m'sieu' wanted
There was wood also--black palm for drawer-knobs and cedar and
mahogany and rosewood, but especially mahogany. An excellent wood,
pleasant to work in and suave to the touch. Did they use it in the
United States, he wondered?
"A great deal," answered Simpson. "And the San Domingo wood is the
best, I believe."
"San Domingo--but yes," the carpenter said; "the Haytian also--that is
He led Simpson to the yard at the rear of his house and showed him
half a dozen boards, their grain showing where the broad axe had hewed
them smooth. Was it not a beautiful wood? And what furniture did
Simpson had some little skill with his pencil--a real love for drawing
was one of the instincts which his austere obsessions had crushed out
of him. He revolved several styles in his mind, decided at length on
the simplest, and drew his designs on a ragged scrap of wrapping
paper, while the carpenter, leaning down from his chair by the door,
watched him, smoking, and now and then fingering the leather pouch
about his neck. Simpson, looking up occasionally to see that his
sketch was understood, could not keep his eyes away from the
pouch--whatever it was, it was not a scapular. He did not ask about
it, though he wanted to; curiosity, he had heard, should be repressed
when one is dealing with barbarians. But he knew that that was not his
real reason for not asking.
"But it is easy," said the carpenter, picking up the paper and
examining it. "And the seats of the chairs shall be of white hide, is
Simpson assented. He did not leave the shop at once, but remained
seated on the threshold, following his usual policy of picking up
acquaintances where he could.
"M'sieu' is a priest?" the old man asked, squinting at he filled the
cocoanut pipe again and thrust it between his ragged yellow teeth.
"Not a priest. A minister of the gospel."
"_Quoi_?" said the carpenter.
Simpson saw that he must explain. It was difficult. He had on the one
hand to avoid suggesting that the Roman Church was insufficient--that
denunciation he intended to arrive at when he had gained firmer ground
with the people--and on the other to refrain from hinting that Haytian
civilization stood in crying need of uplift. That also could come
later. He wallowed a little in his explanation, and then put the whole
matter on a personal basis.
"I think I have a message--something new to say to you about Christ.
But I have been here a week now and have found none to listen to me."
"Something new?" the carpenter rejoined. "But that is easy if it is
something new. In Hayti we like new things."
"No one will listen to me," Simpson repeated.
The carpenter reflected for a moment, or seemed to be doing so.
"Many men come here about sunset," he said. "We sit and drink a little
rum before dark; it is good against the fever."
"I will come also," said Simpson, rising. "It is every evening?"
"Every evening." The carpenter's right hand rose to the pouch which
was not a scapular and he caressed it.
"Au revoir," said Simpson suddenly.
"'_Voir_," the carpenter replied, still immobile in his chair by the
Up to now a walk through the streets had been a night-mare to Simpson,
for the squalor of them excited to protest every New England nerve in
his body, and the evident hostility of the people constantly
threatened his success with them. He had felt very small and lonely,
like a man who has undertaken to combat a natural force; he did not
like to feel small and lonely, and he did not want to believe in
natural forces. Chosen vessel as he believed himself to be, thus far
the island had successfully defied him, and he had feared more than
once that it would do so to the end. He had compelled himself to
frequent the markets, hoping always that he would find in them the key
to the door that was closed against him; he had not found it, and,
although he recognized that three weeks was but a fractional moment of
eternity, and comforted himself by quoting things about the "mills of
God," he could not approach satisfaction with what he had accomplished
His interview with the carpenter had changed all that, and on his way
home he trod the Grand Rue more lightly than he had ever done. Even
the cathedral, even the company of half-starved conscripts that
straggled past him in the tail of three generals, dismayed him no
longer, for the cathedral was but the symbol of a frozen Christianity
which he need no longer fear, and the conscripts were his
people--his--or soon would be. All that he had wanted was a start; he
had it now, though he deplored the rum which would be drunk at his
first meeting with the natives. One must begin where one could.
Witherbee, sitting in the window of the consulate, called twice before
Simpson heard him.
"You look pretty cheerful," he said. "Things going well?"
"They've just begun to, I think--I think I've found the way to reach
"Ah?" The monosyllable was incredulous though polite. "How's that?"
"I've just been ordering some furniture from a carpenter," Simpson
answered. It was the first time since the day of his arrival that he
had seen Witherbee to speak to, and he found it a relief to speak in
his own language and without calculating the result of his words.
"A carpenter? Vieux Michaud, I suppose?"
"That's his name. You know him?"
"Very well." The consul tipped back his chair and tapped his lips with
a pencil. "Very well. He's a clever workman. He'll follow any design
you give him, and the woods, of course, are excellent."
"Yes. He showed me some. But he's more than a carpenter to me. He's
more--receptive--than most of the natives, and it seems that his shop
is a gathering place--a centre. He asked me to come in the evenings."
"And drink rum?" Witherbee could not resist that.
"Ye-es. He said they drank rum. I sha'n't do that, of course, but one
must begin where one can."
"I suppose so," Witherbee answered slowly. The office was darkened to
just above reading-light, and the consul's face was in the shadow.
Evidently he had more to say, but he allowed a long silence to
intervene before he went on. Simpson, imaging wholesale conversions,
sat quietly; he was hardly aware of his surroundings.
"Don't misunderstand what I'm going to say," the consul began at
length. Simpson straightened, on his guard at once. "It may be of use
to you--in your work," he added quickly. "It's this. Somehow--by
chance perhaps, though I don't think so--you've fallen into strange
company--stranger than any white man I've ever known."
"I am not afraid of voodoo," said Simpson rather scornfully.
"It would be better if you were a little afraid of it. I am--and I
know what I'm talking about. Look what's happened to you. There's the
Picard woman--she's the one who had President Simon Sam under her
thumb. Did you know he carried the symbols of voodoo next his heart?
And now Michaud, who's her right hand and has been for years. Looks
like deep water to me."
"I must not fear for my own body."
"That's not what I mean exactly, though I wish you were a little more
afraid for it. It might save me trouble--possibly save our government
trouble--in the end. But the consequences of letting voodoo acquire
any more power than it has may be far-reaching."
"I am not here to give it more power." Simpson, thoroughly angry, rose
to go. "It is my business to defeat it--to root it out."
"Godspeed to you in that"--Witherbee's voice was ironical. "But
remember what I tell you. The Picard woman is subtle, and Michaud is
subtle." Simpson had crossed the threshold, and only half heard the
consul's next remark. "Voodoo is more subtle than both of them
together. Look out for it."
Witherbee's warning did no more than make Simpson angry; he attributed
it to wrong motives--to jealousy perhaps to hostility certainly, and
neither jealousy nor hostility could speak true words. In spite of all
that he had heard he could not believe that voodoo was so powerful in
the island; this was the twentieth century, he insisted, and the most
enlightened country in the world was less than fifteen hundred miles
away; he forgot that opinions and not figures number the centuries,
and refused to see that distance had nothing to do with the case.
These were a people groping through the dark; when they saw the light
they could not help but welcome it, he thought. The idea that they
preferred their own way of life and their own religion, that they
would not embrace civilization till they were forced to do so at the
point of benevolent bayonets, never entered his head. His own way of
life was so obviously superior. He resolved to have nothing more to do
When he returned to the carpenter's house at about six that evening he
entered the council of elders that he found there with the
determination to place himself on an equality with them. It was to his
credit that he accomplished this feat, but it was not surprising for
the humility of his mind at least was genuine. He joined in their
conversation, somewhat stiffly at first, but perhaps no more so than
became a stranger. Presently, because he saw that he could not refuse
without offending his host, he conquered prejudice and took a little
rum and sugar and water. It went to his head without his knowing it,
as rum has a habit of doing; he became cheerfully familiar with the
old men and made long strides into their friendship--or thought he
did. He did not once mention religion to them at that first meeting,
though he had to exercise considerable self-restraint to prevent
himself from doing so.
On his way home he met Father Antoine not far from Michaud's door. The
priest would have passed with his usual surly look if Simpson had not
"Well?" Antoine demanded.
"Why should we quarrel--you and I?" Simpson asked. "Can we not work
together for these people of yours?"
"Your friends are not my people, heretic!" Father Antoine retorted."
Rot in hell with them!"
He plunged past Simpson and was gone down the darkling alley.
"You are late, m'sieu'," remarked Madame Picard as he came into the
kitchen and sat down in a chair near the cripple. Her manner was less
rough than usual.
"I've been at Michaud's," he answered.
"Ah? But you were there this morning."
"He asked me to come this evening, when his friends came, madame.
There were several there."
"They are often there," she answered. There was nothing significant in
her tone, but Simpson had an uneasy feeling that she had known all the
time of his visit to the carpenter.
"I met Father Antoine on the way home," he said.
"A bad man!" She flamed into sudden violence. "A bad man!"
"I had thought so." Her loquacity this evening was amazing. Simpson
thought he saw an opening to her confidence and plunged in. "And he is
a priest. It is bad, that. Here are sheep without a shepherd."
"Here are many people--all good Christians." Simpson, eager and
hopeful, leaned forward in his chair. His gaunt face with the
down-drawn mouth and the hungry eyes--grown more hungry in the last
three weeks--glowed, took on fervour; his hand shot out expressive
fingers. The woman raised her head slowly, staring at him; more slowly
still she seated herself at the table that stood between them. She
rested her arms on it, and narrowed her eyelids as he spoke till her
eyes glittered through the slits of them.
"All good Christians," Simpson went on; "and there is none to lead
them save a black----" He slurred the word just in time. The woman's
eyes flashed open and narrowed again. "Save a renegade priest,"
Simpson concluded. "It is wrong, is it not? And I knew it was wrong,
though I live far away and came--was led--here to you." His voice,
though it had not been loud, left the room echoing. "It was a real
call." He whispered that.
"You are a Catholic?" asked Madame Picard.
"Yes. Of the English Catholic Church." He suspected that the
qualifying adjective meant nothing to her, but let the ambiguity rest.
"I was not sure," she said slowly, "though you told the boy." Her
eyes, velvet-black in the shadow upcast by the lamp, opened slowly.
"There has been much trouble with Father Antoine, and now small
numbers go to mass or confession." Her voice had the effect of
shrillness though it remained low; her hands flew out, grasping the
table-edge at arms' length with an oddly masculine gesture. "He
deserved that! To tell his _canaille_ that I--that we----He dared! But
now--now--we shall see!"
Her voice rasped in a subdued sort of a shriek; she sprang up from her
chair, and stood for the fraction of a second with her hands raised
and her fists clinched. Simpson, puzzled, amazed, and a little scared
at last, had barely time to notice the position before it dissolved.
The child, frightened, screamed from the floor.
"_Taisez-vous--taisez-vous, mon enfant. Le temps vient_."
She was silent for a long time after that. Simpson sat wondering what
she would do next, aware of an uncanny fascination that emanated from
her. It seemed to him as though there were subterranean fires in the
ground that he walked on.
"You shall teach us," she said in her usual monotone. "You shall teach
us--preach to many people. No house will hold them all." She leaned
down and caressed the child. "_Le temps vient, mon petit. Le temps
Under Simpson's sudden horror quivered an eerie thrill. He mistook it
for joy at the promised fulfilment of his dreams. He stepped to his
own doorway and hesitated there with his hand on the latch.
"To many people? Some time, I hope."
"Soon." She looked up from the child; there was a snakiness in the
angle of her head and neck. "Soon."
He opened the door, slammed it behind him, and dropped on tense knees
beside his bed. In the kitchen the cripple laughed--laughed for a long
time. Simpson's tightly pressed palms could not keep the sound from
Each night the gathering at Vieux Michaud's became larger; it grew too
large for the house, and presently overflowed into the yard behind,
where Michaud kept his lumber. Generally thirty or forty natives
collected between six and seven in the evening, roosting on the piled
boards or sitting on the dusty ground in little groups, their
cigarettes puncturing the blue darkness that clung close to the earth
under the young moon. There were few women among them at first and
fewer young men; Simpson, who knew that youth ought to be more
hospitable to new ideas than age, thought this a little strange and
spoke to Michaud about it.
"But they are my friends, m'sieu'," answered Michaud.
The statement might have been true of the smaller group that Simpson
had first encountered at the carpenter's house; it was not true of the
additions to it, for he was evidently not on intimate terms with them.
Nor did he supply rum for all of them; many brought their own. That
was odd also, if Simpson had only known it; the many _cantinas_
offered attractions which the carpenter's house did not. That fact
occurred to him at length.
"They have heard of you, m'sieu'--and that you have something new to
say to them. We Haytians like new things."
Thus, very quietly, almost as though it had been a natural growth of
interest, did Simpson's ministry begin. He stepped one evening to the
platform that overhung the carpenter's backyard, and began to talk.
Long study had placed the missionary method at his utter command, and
he began with parables and simple tales which they heard eagerly.
Purposely, he eschewed anything striking or startling in this his
first sermon. It was an attempt to establish a sympathetic
understanding between himself and his audience, and not altogether an
unsuccessful one, for his motives were still unmixed. He felt that he
had started well; when he was through speaking small groups gathered
around him as children might have done, and told him inconsequent,
wandering tales of their own--tales which were rather fables, folklore
transplanted from another hemisphere and strangely crossed with
Christianity. He was happy; if it had not been that most of them wore
about their necks the leather pouches that were not scapulars he would
have been happier than any man has a right to be. One of these
pouches, showing through the ragged shirt of an old man with thin lips
and a squint, was ripped at the edge, and the unmistakable sheen of a
snake's scale glistened in the seam. Simpson could not keep his eyes
He dared to be more formal after that, and on the next night preached
from a text--the Macedonian cry, "Come over and help us." That sermon
also was effective: toward the end of it two or three women were
weeping a little, and the sight of their tears warmed him with the
sense of power. In that warmth certain of his prejudices and
inhibitions began to melt away; the display of feelings and
sensibilities could not be wicked or even undesirable if it prepared
the way for the gospel by softening the heart. He began to dabble in
emotion himself, and that was a dangerous matter, for he knew nothing
whatever about it save that, if he felt strongly, he could arouse
strong feeling in others. Day by day he unwittingly became less sure
of the moral beauty of restraint, and ardours which he had never
dreamed of began to flame free of his soul.
He wondered now and then why Madame Picard, who almost from the first
had been a constant attendant at his meetings, watched him so closely,
so secretly--both when he sat with her and the cripple at meals and at
the carpenter's house, where he was never unconscious of her eyes. He
wondered also why she brought her baby with her, and why all who came
fondled it so much and so respectfully. He did not wonder at the
deference, almost the fear, which all men showed her--that seemed
somehow her due. She had shed her taciturnity and was even voluble at
times. But behind her volubility lurked always an inexplicable
intensity of purpose whose cause Simpson could never fathom and was
afraid to seek for. It was there, however--a nervous determination,
not altogether alien to his own, which he associated with religion and
with nothing else in the world. Religiosity, he called it--and he was
not far wrong.
Soon after his first sermon he began little by little to introduce
ritual into the meetings at Michaud's, so that they became decorous;
rum-drinking was postponed till after the concluding prayer, and that
in itself was a triumph. He began to feel the need of hymns, and,
since he could find in French none that had associations for himself,
he set about translating some of the more familiar ones, mostly those
of a militant nature. Some of them, especially "The Son of God goes
forth to war," leaped into immediate popularity and were sung two or
three times in a single service. He liked that repetition; he thought
it laid the groundwork for the enthusiasm which he aroused more and
more as time went on, and which he took more pains to arouse.
Nevertheless, the first time that his feverish eloquence brought tears
and incoherent shoutings from the audience, he became suddenly fearful
before the ecstasies which he had touched to life, he faltered, and
brought his discourse to an abrupt end. As the crowd slowly quieted
and reluctantly began to drift away there flashed on him with blinding
suddenness the realization that his excitement had been as great as
their own; for a moment he wondered if such passion were godly. Only
for a moment, however, of course it was godly, as any rapture informed
by religion must be. He was sorry he had lost courage and stopped so
soon. These were an emotional and not an intellectual people--if they
were to be reached at all, it must be through the channels of their
emotions. Thus far he thought clearly, and that was as far as he did
think, for he was discovering in himself a capacity for religious
excitement that was only in part a reflex of the crowd's fervour, and
the discovery quickened and adorned the memory of the few great
moments of his life. Thus had he felt when he resolved to take orders,
thus, although in a less degree, because he had been doubtful and
afraid, had he felt when he heard the Macedonian cry from this West
Indian island. He had swayed the crowd also as he had always believed
that he could sway crowds if only the spirit would burn in him
brightly enough; he had no doubt that he could sway them again, govern
them completely perhaps. That possibility was cause for prayerful and
lonely consideration, for meditation among the hills, whence he might
draw strength. He hired a pony forthwith and set out for a few days in
It was the most perilous thing he could have done. There is neither
sanctity nor holy calm in the tropic jungle, nothing of the hallowed
quietude that, in northern forests, clears the mind of life's muddle
and leads the soul to God. There lurks instead a poisonous anodyne in
the heavy, scented air--a drug that lulls the spirit to an evil repose
counterfeiting the peacefulness whence alone high thoughts can spring.
In the North, Nature displays a certain restraint even in her most
flamboyant moods: the green fires of spring temper their sensuousness
in chill winds, and autumn is rich in suggestion not of love, but of
gracious age, having the aloof beauty of age and its true estimates of
life. The perception of its loveliness is impersonal and leaves the
line between the aesthetic and the sensuous clearly marked. Beneath a
straighter sun the line is blurred and sometimes vanishes: no
orchid-musk, no azure and distant hill, no tinted bay but accosts the
senses, confusing one with another, mingling all the emotions in a
single cup, persuading man that he knows good from evil as little as
though he lived still in Eden. From such stealthy influences the man
of rigid convictions is often in more danger than the man of no
convictions at all, for rigid convictions rather often indicate
inexperience and imperfect observation; experience,
therefore--especially emotional experience--sometimes warps them into
strange and hideous shapes.
Simpson did not find in the bush the enlightenment that he had hoped
for. He did, however, anaesthetize his mind into the belief that he
had found it. Returning, he approached Port au Prince by a route new
to him. A well-beaten trail aroused his curiosity and he followed it
into a grove of ceiba and mahogany. It was clear under foot, as no
tropic grove uncared for by man can be clear; in the middle of it lay
the ashes of a great fire, and three minaca-palm huts in good repair
huddled almost invisible under the vast trees. The ground, bare of
grass, was trodden hard, as though a multitude had stamped it
down--danced it down, perhaps--and kept it bare by frequent use.
"What a place for a camp-meeting!" thought Simpson as he turned to
leave it. "God's cathedral aisles, and roofed by God's blue sky."
His pony shied and whirled around, a long snake--a
fer-de-lance--flowed across the path.
The desire to hold his services in the grove remained in his mind; the
only reason he did not transfer them there at once was that he was not
yet quite sure of his people. They came eagerly to hear him, they
reflected his enthusiasm at his behest, they wept and praised God.
Yet, underneath all his hopes and all his pride in what he had done
ran a cold current of doubt, an undefined and indefinable fear of
something devilish and malign that might thwart him in the end. He
thrust it resolutely out of his mind.
"I have told your people--your _canaille_," said Father Antoine, "that
I shall excommunicate them all."
The priest had been graver than his wont--more dignified, less
volcanic, as though he was but the mouthpiece of authority, having
none of it himself.
"They are better out of your Church than in it," Simpson answered.
Father Antoine trembled a little; it was the first sign he had given
that his violent personality was still alive under the perplexing new
power that had covered it.
"You are determined?" Simpson nodded with compressed lips. "Their
damnation be on your head, then."
The priest stood aside. Simpson squeezed by him on the narrow
sidewalk; as he did so, Antoine drew aside the skirts of his cassock.
From the beginning Simpson had preached more of hell than of heaven;
he could not help doing so, for he held eternal punishment to be more
imminent than eternal joy, and thought it a finer thing to scare
people into heaven than to attract them thither. He took an inverted
pleasure also in dwelling on the tortures of the damned, and had
combed the minor prophets and Revelation for threatening texts to hurl
at his congregation. Such devil-worship, furthermore, gave him greater
opportunity for oratory, greater immediate results also; he had used
it sometimes against his better judgment, and was not so far gone that
he did not sometimes tremble at the possible consequences of its use.
His encounter with the priest, however, had driven all doubts from his
mind, and that evening he did what he had never done before--he openly
attacked the Roman Church.
"What has it done for you?" he shouted, and his voice rang in the
rafters of the warehouse where a hundred or so Negroes had gathered to
hear him. "What has it done for you? You cultivate your ground, and
its tithes take the food from the mouths of your children. Does the
priest tell you of salvation, which is without money and without
price, for all--for all--for all? Does he live among you as I do? Does
he minister to your bodies? Or your souls?"
There was a stir at the door, and the eyes of the congregation turned
from the platform.
"Father Antoine!" shrieked a voice. It was Madame Picard's; Simpson
could see her in the gloom at the far end of the hall and could see
the child astride of her hip. "Father Antoine! He is here!"
In response to the whip of her voice there was a roar like the roar of
a train in a tunnel. It died away; the crowd eddied back upon the
platform. Father Antoine--he was robed, and there were two acolytes
with him, one with a bell and the other with a candle--began to read
in a voice as thundering as Simpson's own.
The Latin rolled on, sonorous, menacing. It ceased; the candle-flame
snuffed out, the bell tinkled, there was the flash of a cope in the
doorway, and the priest was gone.
"He has excommunicated you!" Simpson shouted, almost shrieked. "Thank
God for that, my people!"
They faced him again; ecstatic, beside himself, he flung at them
incoherent words. But the Latin, mysterious as magic, fateful as a
charm, had frightened them, and they did not yield to Simpson
immediately. Perhaps they would not have yielded to him at all if it
had not been for Madame Picard.
From her corner rose an eerie chant in broken minors; it swelled
louder, and down the lane her people made for her she came dancing.
Her turban was off, her dress torn open to the breasts; she held the
child horizontally and above her in both hands. Her body swayed
rhythmically, but she just did not take up the swing of the votive
African dance that is as old as Africa. Up to the foot of the platform
she wavered, and there the cripple joined her, laughing as always.
Together they shuffled first to the right and then to the left, their
feet marking the earth floor in prints that overlapped like scales.
She laid the baby on the platform, sinking slowly to her knees as she
did so; as though at a signal the wordless chant rumbled upward from
the entire building, rolled over the platform like a wave, engulfing
the white man in its flood.
"Symbolism! Sacrifice!" Simpson yelled. "She offers all to God!"
He bent and raised the child at arm's length above his head. Instantly
the chanting ceased.
"To the grove!" screamed the _mamaloi_. She leaped to the platform,
almost from her knees it seemed, and snatched the child. "To the
The crowd took up the cry; it swelled till Simpson's ears ached under
the impact of it.
"To the grove!"
Doubt assailed him as his mind--a white man's mind--rebelled.
"This is wrong," he said dully; "wrong."
Madame Picard's fingers gripped his arm. Except for the spasms of the
talons which were her fingers she seemed calm.
"No, m'sieu'," she said. "You have them now. Atonement--atonement,
m'sieu'. You have many times spoken of atonement. But they do not
understand what they cannot see. They are behind you--you cannot leave
"The child shall show them--a child shall lead them, m'sieu'. They
must see a _theatre_ of atonement--then they will believe. Come."
Protesting, he was swept into the crowd and forward--forward to the
van of it, into the Grand Rue. Always the thunderous rumble of the mob
continued; high shrieks flickered like lightning above it; the name of
Christ dinned into his ears from foul throats. On one side of him the
cripple appeared; on the other strode the _mamaloi_--the child,
screaming with fear, on her hip. A hymn-tune stirred under the
tumult--rose above it.
"_Le fils de Dieu se va Pen guerre
Son drapeau rouge comme sang_."
Wild quavers adorned the tune obscenely; the mob marched to it,
falling into step. Torches came, flaming high at the edges of the
crowd, flaming wan and lurid on hundreds of black faces.
"_Il va pour gagner sa couronne
Qui est-ce que suit dans son train_?"
"A crusade!" Simpson suddenly shouted. "It is a crusade!"
Yells answered him. Somewhere a drum began, reverberating as though
unfixed in space; now before them, now behind; now, it seemed, in the
air. The sound was maddening A swaying began in the crowd that took on
cadence, became a dance. Simpson, his brain drugged, his senses
perfervid marched on in exultation. These were his people at last.
The drum thundered more loudly, became unbearable. They were clear of
the town and in the bush at last; huge fires gleamed through the
trees, and the mob spilled into the grove. The cripple and the
_mamaloi_ were beside him still.
In the grove, with the drums--more than one of them now--palpitating
unceasingly, the dancing became wilder, more savage. In the light of
the fire the _mamaloi_ swayed, holding the screaming child, and close
to the flames crouched the cripple. The hymn had given place to the
formless chant, through which the minors quivered like the wails of
The scales fell from Simpson's eyes. He rose to his full height and
stretched out his arm, demanding silence; there was some vague hope in
him that even now he might guide them. His only answer was a louder
yell than ever.
It took form. Vieux Michaud sprang from the circle into the full
firelight, feet stamping, eyes glaring.
"_La ch vre_!" he yelled. "_La chevre sans cornes_!"
The drums rolled in menacing crescendo, the fire licked higher. All
sounds melted into one.
"_La chevre sans cornes_!"
The _mamaloi_ tore the child from her neck and held it high by one
leg. Simpson, seeing clearly as men do before they die, flung himself
The cripple's knife, thrust from below, went home between his ribs
just as the _mamaloi's_ blade crossed the throat of the sacrifice.
"So I signed the death-certificate," Witherbee concluded. "Death at
the hands of persons unknown."
"And they'll call him a martyr," said Bunsen.
"Who knows?" the consul responded gravely. "Perhaps he was one."
MARTIN GARRITY GETS EVEN
By COURTNEY RYLEY COOPER and LEO. F. CREAGAN
From _American Magazine_
The entrance of Martin Garrity, superintendent of the Blue Ribbon
Division of the O.R.& T. Railroad, had been attended by all the
niceties of such an occasion, when Martin, grand, handsome, and
magnificent, arrived at his office for the day. True to form, he had
cussed out the office boy, spoken in fatherly fashion to the
trainmaster over the telephone about the lateness of No. 210, remarked
to the stenographer that her last letter had looked like the exquisite
tracks of a cow's hoof--and then he had read two telegrams. A moment
later, white, a bit stooped, a little old in features, he had left the
office, nor had he paused to note the grinning faces of those in his
wake, those who had known hours before!
Home, and stumbling slightly as he mounted the steps of the veranda,
he faced a person in screaming foulard and a red toque, Mrs. Jewel
Garrity, just starting for the morning's assault upon the market.
Wordlessly he poked forward the first of the telegrams as he pulled
her within the hall and shut the door. And with bulging eyes Jewel
read it aloud:
Chicago, April 30.
Effective arrival successor J.P. Aldrich must dispense your valuable
services. Kindly forward resignation by wire confirming this telegram.
Vice-President & General
"And who is this Walker person?" Jewel asked, with a vindictive gasp.
"'Tis me that never heard of him. Why should he sign hisself vice
prisident and giniral manager when the whole world knows Mr. Barstow,
bless his soul, is the----"
"Will ye listen?" Martin bellowed with sorrowful asperity. "Somethin's
happened. And now:
Alabaster abound celebrity conglomerate commensurate constituency
effective arrival successor. Meet me Planters Hotel St. Louis this
LEMUEL C. BARSTOW."
And while Jewel gasped Martin went on:
"'Tis code it is, from Barstow. It says Walker's taken his place--and
Mouth drawn at the corners, hand trembling slightly, Jewel reached for
the message and stared blankly at the railroad code. Then silently she
turned and thumped up the stairs. In a moment she was down again; the
screaming foulard had given place to a house dress; the red toque had
been substituted by a shawl. But the lips were drawn no longer--a
smile was on them, and a soft hand touched Martin's white cheek as she
reached the door.
"'Tis me that's goin' to the cash-carry, Marty darlin'," came quietly.
"I never liked that high-toned market annyhow. About--about that
other, Marty, me bye, 'tis all right, it is, it is. We can always
start over again."
Over again! It had opened the doors of memory for Martin Garrity as,
at the window, he stared after her with eyes that saw in the portly,
middle-aged figure a picture of other days, when the world had centred
about a fluttering honour flag, which flew above a tiny section house
at a bit of a place called Glen Echo, when the rotund form of Jewel
Garrity was slender and graceful, when Martin's freckled face was
thinner and more engaging, and when----
Visions of the old days floated before him, days on the section with
his crew of "snipes" back in the Honour Flag times. Memories returned
to him, of blazing hours in the summer, when even the grease-lizards
panted and died, when the heat rays curled in maddening serpent-like
spirals before his glazed eyes.
And why? Why had he been willing to sacrifice, to work for wages
pitiful indeed, compared to the emoluments of other lines of
endeavour? Why had she, his Jewel, accepted the loneliness, the
impoverishment of those younger days with light-heartedness? He never
had thought of it before. Now, deposed, dethroned, defeated at the
very pinnacle of his life, the answer came, with a force that brought
a lump to his throat and a tear to his eyes. Why? Because they had
loved this great, human, glistening thing of shining steel and
thundering noise, loved it because the Blue Ribbon division had
included the Blue Ribbon section, their section, which they had built
Now, all they had worked for, lived for, longed for, and enjoyed
together had been taken away, without warning, without reason, and
given to another! Martin groaned with the thought of it. Three hours
later he kissed his Jewel good-bye, roaring at her because a tear
stood in each eye--to cover the fact that tears were in his own. That
night, still grim, still white, he faced Lemuel C. Barstow, former
vice-president and general manager of the O.R.& T. in his hotel room
in St. Louis. That person spoke with biting directness.
"Politics, Martin," came his announcement. "They shelved me because I
wouldn't play the tricks of a clique that got into power before I
could stop 'em. You were my pet appointee, so you went, too. It wasn't
because we weren't efficient. They lifted the pin on me, and that
meant you. So here we are. But"--and a fist banged on the
table--"they're going to pay for it! This new crowd knows as much
about railroading as a baby does about chess. I tried to tell that to
the men with the money. They wouldn't listen. So I went to men who
could hear, the Ozark Central. I'm to be the new president of that
"That wooden axle outfit?" Martin squinted. "Sure, Mr. Barstow, I'm
not knockin' the new deal, or----"
"Never mind that." Lemuel C. Barstow smiled genially. "That's where
your part of the job comes in. That's why I need you. But we'll let
that go for the present. Go back to Montgomery City, turn over the
reins to this new fish, who doesn't know an air brake from a boiler
tube, and keep quiet until I send for you."
Then ensued two weeks of nothing to do but wait. Nothing to do but to
pace the floor like some belligerent, red-faced caged animal, daring
his Jewel to feel hurt because sneering remarks had been made about
her husband's downfall. Two weeks--then came the summons.
"Careful now, Martin! No wild throws, remember!" Lemuel Barstow was
giving the final instructions. "We've got a big job ahead. I've
brought you down here because you have the faculty of making men think
they hate you--then going out and working their heads off for you,
because well, to be frank, you're the biggest, blunderingest,
hardest-working blusterer that I ever saw--and you're the only man who
can pull me through. This road's in rotten shape, especially as
concerns the roadbed. The steel and ties are all right, but the
ballast is rotten. You've got to make it the best in Missouri, and
you've got only eight months to do it in. So tear loose. Your job's
that of special superintendent, with no strings on it. Pay no
attention to any one but me. If you need equipment, buy it and tell
the purchasing agent to go to the hot place. By March 1st, and no
later, I want the track from St. Louis to Kansas City to be as smooth
as a ballroom floor."
"And why the rush?"
"Just this: The O.R.& T. treated me like a dirty dog. I'm going to
make 'em pay for it; I'm after my pound of flesh now! There's just one
thing that road prizes above all else--it's St. Louis-Kansas City mail
contracts. The award comes up again in March. The system that can make
the fastest time in the government speed trials gets the plum.
"I do!" answered Martin, with the first real enthusiasm he had known
in weeks. "'Tis me budget I'll be fixin' up immejiate at once. Ye'll
get action, ye will." He departed for a frenzied month. Then he
returned at the request of President Barstow.
"You're doing wonderful work, Martin," said that official. "It's
coming along splendidly. But--but----I understand there's a bit of a
laugh going around among the railroad men about you."
"About me?" Garrity's chest bulged aggressively. "An' who's laughin?"
"Nearly everybody in the railroad game in Missouri. They say you let
some slick salesman sting you for a full set of Rocky Mountain
snow-fighting machinery, even up to a rotary snow plough. I----"
"Sting me?" Martin bellowed the words. "That I did not!"
"Good! I knew----"
"I ordered it of me own free will. And if annybody laughs----"
"But, Martin"--and there was pathos in the voice--"a rotary snow
plough? On a Missouri railroad? Flangers, jull-ploughs, wedge
ploughs--tunnel wideners--and a rotary? Here? Why--I--I thought better
of you than that. We haven't had a snow in Missouri that would require
all of those things, not in the last ten years. What did they cost?"
"Eighty-three thousand, fi'hunnerd an' ten dollars," answered Martin
gloomily. He _had_ pulled a boner. Mr. Barstow figured on a sheet of
"At three dollars a day, that would hire nearly a thousand track
labourers for thirty days. A thousand men could tamp a lot of ballast
in a month, Martin."
"That they could, sir," came dolefully. Then Garrity, the old lump in
his throat, waited to be excused, and backed from the office. That
rotary snow plough had been his own, his pet idea--and it had been
Gloomily he returned to Northport, his headquarters, there to observe
a group of grinning railroad men gathered about a great, bulky object
parked in front of the roundhouse. Behind it were other contraptions
of shining steel, all of which Martin recognized without a second
glance--his snow-fighting equipment, just arrived. Nor did he approach
for a closer view. Faintly he heard jeering remarks from the crowd;
then laughter. He caught the mention of his own name, coupled with
derisive comment. His hands clenched. His red neck bulged. His big
lungs filled--then slowly deflated; and Martin went slowly homeward,
"And is it your liver?" asked Jewel Garrity as they sat at dinner.
"It is not!" bawled Martin. He rose. He pulled his napkin from his
chin with Garrity emphasis and dropped it in the gravy. He thumped
about the table, then stopped.
One big freckled paw reached uncertainly outward and plunked with
intended gentleness upon the woman's shoulder, to rest, trembling
there, a second. Then silently Martin went on upstairs. For that touch
had told her that it was--his heart!
A heart that ached with a throbbing sorrow which could not be downed
as the summer passed and Martin heard again and again the reflexes
brought about by the purchase of his snow ploughs. Vainly he stormed
up and down the line of the Ozark Central with its thousands of
labourers. Vainly he busied himself with a thousand intricacies of
construction, in the hope of forgetfulness. None of it could take from
his mind the fact that railroad men were laughing at him, that
chuckling train-butchers were pointing out the giant machinery to
grinning passengers, that even the railroad journals were printing
funny quips about Barstow's prize superintendent and his mountain snow
plough. Nor could even the news that Aldrich, over on the Blue Ribbon
division, was allowing that once proud bit of rail to degenerate into
an ordinary portion of a railroad bring even a passing cheer. They,
too, were laughing! In a last doglike hope Martin looked up the
precipitation reports. It only brought more gloom. Only four times in
thirty years had there been a snowfall in Missouri that could block a
The summer crept into autumn; autumn to early winter, bringing with it
the transformation of the rickety old Ozark Central to a smooth,
well-cushioned line of gleaming steel, where the trains shot to and
fro with hardly a tremor, where the hollow thunder of culvert and
trestle spoke of sturdy strength, where the trackwalker searched in
vain for loose plates or jutting joints; but to Garrity, it was only
the fulfilment or the work of a mechanical second nature. December was
gliding by in warmth and sunshine. January came, with no more than a
hatful of snow, and once more Martin found himself facing the
"We'll win that contract, Martin!" It almost brought a smile to the
superintendent's face. "I've just been over the road--on the quiet. We
made eighty miles an hour with hardly a jolt!"
"Thankee, sir." A vague sense of joy touched Martin's aching
heart--only to depart.
"By the way, I noticed when I went through Northport that you've still
got that rotary where everybody can see it. I wish you'd move that
stuff--behind the roundhouse, out of sight."
Then Martin, heavier at heart than ever, went back to Northport. There
he said a quaking good-bye to his last hope--and executed the
president's orders, trying not to notice the grins of the "goat" crew
as they shunted the machinery into hiding. That night, after Jewel was
asleep, and the cat outside had ceased yowling, Martin climbed
stealthily out of bed and went on his knees, praying with all the
fervour of his big being for snow. And the prayer was answered----
By the worst rain that a Missouri January had known in years,
scattering the freshly tamped gravel, loosening the piles of trestles,
sending Martin forth once more to bawl his orders with the thunder of
the old days back at Glen Echo, even to leap side by side with the
track labourers, a tamping bar in his big hands, that one more blow
might be struck, one more impression made upon the giant task ahead.
January slid by; February went into the third week before the job was
finished. Martin looked at the sky with hopeful eyes. It was useless.
March the first--and Martin went into St. Louis to make his report,
and to spend an uneasy, restless night with the president in his room
at the hotel.
"It's only a few days off now"--they were in bed the next morning,
finishing the conversation begun the night before--"and I want you to
keep your eyes open every second! The mail marathon agreement reads
that no postponement can be made on account of physical or mechanical
obstacles. If a trestle should happen to go out--that would be our
"I wish"--Martin rolled out of bed and groped for his shoes--"we'd
been workin' with me old Blue Ribbon division. I know every foot o'
"Oh, chase the Blue Ribbon division! Every time I see you you've got
something on your chest about it. Why, man, don't you know it's the
Blue Ribbon division that I'm counting on! Aldrich has let it run down
until it's worse than a hog trail. If they can make forty-five an hour
on it, I'm crazy. You can't win mail contracts with that. So forget
it. Anyhow, you're working for the Ozark Central now."
Martin nodded, then for a long moment crouched silent humiliated, his
thick fingers fumbling with the laces of his shoes. At last, with a
sigh, he poked his shirt into his trousers and thumped across the room
to raise the drawn shades.
He stared. He gulped. He yelped--with an exclamation of joy, of
deliverance, of victory! The outside world was white! A blinding,
swirling veil shrouded even the next building. The street below was
like a stricken thing; the vague forms of the cars seemed to no more
than crawl. Wildly Martin pawed for the telephone and bawled a number.
Barstow sat up in bed.
"Snow!" he gasped. "A blizzard!"
"Order the snow ploughs!" Garrity had got the chief dispatcher, and
was bawling louder than ever. "All of thim! Put an injine on each and
keep thim movin'! Run that rotary till the wheels drop off!"
Then he whirled, grasping wildly at coat, hat, and overcoat.
"And now will ye laugh?" he roared, as he backed to the door. "Now
will ye laugh at me snow plough?"
Twenty-four hours later, when trains were limping into terminals hours
behind time, when call after call was going forth to summon aid for
the stricken systems of Missouri, when double-headers, frost-caked
wheels churning uselessly, bucked the drifts in a constantly losing
battle; when cattle trains were being cut from the schedules, and
every wire was loaded with the messages of frantic officials, someone
happened to wonder what that big boob Garrity was doing with his snow
ploughs. The answer was curt and sharp--there on the announcement
board of the Union Station:
OZARK CENTRAL ALL TRAINS ON TIME
But Martin had only one remark to make, that it still was snowing.
Noon of the third day came, and the Ozark Central became the detour
route of every cross-Missouri mail train. Night, and Martin Garrity,
snow-crusted, his face cut and cracked by the bite of wind and the
sting of splintered, wind-driven ice, his head aching from loss of
sleep, but his heart thumping with happiness, took on the serious
business of moving every St. Louis-Kansas City passenger and express
train, blinked vacuously when someone called him a wizard.
Railroad officials gave him cigars, and slapped him on his snow-caked
shoulders. He cussed them out of the way. The telephone at Northport
clanged and sang with calls from President Barstow; but Martin only
waved a hand in answer as he ground through with the rotary.
"Tell him to send me tilegrams!" he blustered. "Don't he know I'm
Twelve hours more. The snow ceased. The wind died. Ten miles out of
Kansas City Martin gave the homeward-bound order for Northport, then
slumped weakly into a corner. Five minutes before he had heard the
news--news that hurt. The O.R.& T., fighting with every available man
it could summon, had partially opened its line, with the exception of
one division, hopelessly snowed under--his old, his beloved Blue
"Tis me that would have kept 'er open," he mused bitterly. "And they
He nodded and slept. He awoke--and he said the same thing again. He
reached Northport, late at night, to roar at Jewel and the hot water
she had heated for his frost-bitten feet--then to hug her with an
embrace that she had not known since the days when her Marty wore a
"And do ye be hearin?" she asked. "The Blue Ribbon's tied up! Not a
"Will ye shut up?" Martin suddenly had remembered something. The mail
test! Not forty-eight hours away! He blinked. One big hand smacked
into the other. "The pound of flesh!" he bellowed. "Be gar! The pound
"And what are ye talkin' ----"
"Woman, shut up," said Martin Garrity. "'Tis me that's goin' to bed.
See that I'm not disturbed. Not even for Mr. Barstow."
"That I will," said Jewel--but that she didn't. It was Martin himself
who answered the pounding on the door four hours later, then, in the
frigid dining room, stared at the message which the chief dispatcher
had handed him:
GARRITY, NORTHPORT: If line is free of snow assemble all snow-fighting
equipment and necessary locomotives to handle same, delivering same
fully equipped and manned with your own force to Blue Ribbon Division
O.R. & T. Accompany this equipment personally to carry out
instructions as I would like to have them carried out. Everything
depends on your success or failure to open this line.
LEMUEL C. BARSTOW.
So! He was to make the effort; but if he failed that mail contract
came automatically to the one road free to make the test, the Ozark
Central! That was what Barstow meant! Make the effort, appear to fight
with every weapon, that the O.R. & T. might have no claim in the
future of unfairness but to fail! Let it be so! The O.R. & T. had
broken his heart. Now, at last, his turn had come!
He turned to the telephone and gave his orders. Then up the stairs he
clambered and into his clothes. Jewel snorted and awoke.
"Goo'by!" roared Martin as he climbed into his coat. "They've sent for
me to open the Blue Ribbon."
"And have they?" Jewel sat up, her eyes beaming. "I'd been wishin'
it--and ye'll do it, Marty; I've been thinkin' about the old section
snowed under--and all the folks we knew----"
"Will ye shut up?" This was something Martin did not want to hear. Out
of the house he plumped, to the waiting double-header of locomotives
attached to the rotary, and the other engines, parked on the switches,
with their wedge ploughs, jull-ploughs, flangers, and tunnel wideners.
The "high-ball" sounded. At daybreak, boring his way through the
snow-clogged transfer at Missouri City, Martin came out upon the main
line of the O.R. & T.--and to his duty of revenge.
On they went, a slow, deliberate journey, steam hissing, black smoke
curling, whistles tooting, wheels crunching, as the rotary bucked the
bigger drifts and the smaller ploughs eliminated the slighter raises,
a triumphant procession toward that thing which Martin knew he could
attack with all the seeming ferocity of desperation and yet fail--the
fifty-foot thickness of Bander Cut.
Face to face, in the gaunt sun of early morning he saw it--a little
shack, half covered with snow, bleak and forbidding in its loneliness,
yet all in all to the man who stared at it with eyes suddenly
wistful--his little old section house, where once the honour flag had
He gulped. Suddenly his hand tugged at the bell cord. Voices had come
from without, they were calling his name! He sought the door, then
gulped again. The steps and platform of his car were filled with
eager, homely-faced men, men he had known in other days, his old crew
of section "snipes."
All about him they crowded; Martin heard his voice answering their
queries, as though someone were talking far away. His eyes had turned
back to that section house, seeking instinctively the old flag, his
flag. It spoke for a man who gave the best that was in him, who
surpassed because he worked with his heart and with his soul in the
every task before him. But the flag was not there. The pace had not
been maintained. Then the louder tones of a straw boss called him
"You'll sure need that big screw and all the rest of them babies,
Garrity. That ole Bander Cut's full to the sky--and Sni-a-bend Hill!
Good-night! But you'll make 'er. You've got to, Garrity; we've made up
a purse an' bet it down in Montgomery that you'll make 'er!"
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