Roads of Destiny
Part 5 out of 6
doubt, all the money he had, but--/le jeu vaut la chandelle/--for some
hours he would be once more a Charles of Charleroi. Once again should
the nineteenth of January, that most significant day in the fortunes
of the house of Charles, be fittingly observed. On that date the
French king had seated a Charles by his side at table; on that date
Armand Charles, Marquis de Brasse, landed, like a brilliant meteor, in
New Orleans; it was the date of his mother's wedding; of Grandemont's
birth. Since Grandemont could remember until the breaking up of the
family that anniversary had been the synonym for feasting,
hospitality, and proud commemoration.
Charleroi was the old family plantation, lying some twenty miles down
the river. Years ago the estate had been sold to discharge the debts
of its too-bountiful owners. Once again it had changed hands, and now
the must and mildew of litigation had settled upon it. A question of
heirship was in the courts, and the dwelling house of Charleroi,
unless the tales told of ghostly powdered and laced Charleses haunting
its unechoing chambers were true, stood uninhabited.
Grandemont found the solicitor in chancery who held the keys pending
the decision. He proved to be an old friend of the family. Grandemont
explained briefly that he desired to rent the house for two or three
days. He wanted to give a dinner at his old home to a few friends.
That was all.
"Take it for a week--a month, if you will," said the solicitor; "but
do not speak to me of rental." With a sigh he concluded: "The dinners
I have eaten under that roof, /mon fils/!"
There came to many of the old, established dealers in furniture,
china, silverware, decorations and household fittings at their stores
on Canal, Chartres, St. Charles, and Royal Streets, a quiet young man
with a little bald spot on the top of his head, distinguished manners,
and the eye of a /connoisseur/, who explained what he wanted. To hire
the complete and elegant equipment of a dining-room, hall, reception-
room, and cloak-rooms. The goods were to be packed and sent, by boat,
to the Charleroi landing, and would be returned within three or four
days. All damage or loss to be promptly paid for.
Many of those old merchants knew Grandemont by sight, and the
Charleses of old by association. Some of them were of Creole stock and
felt a thrill of responsive sympathy with the magnificently indiscreet
design of this impoverished clerk who would revive but for a moment
the ancient flame of glory with the fuel of his savings.
"Choose what you want," they said to him. "Handle everything
carefully. See that the damage bill is kept low, and the charges for
the loan will not oppress you."
To the wine merchants next; and here a doleful slice was lopped from
the six hundred. It was an exquisite pleasure to Grandemont once more
to pick among the precious vintages. The champagne bins lured him like
the abodes of sirens, but these he was forced to pass. With his six
hundred he stood before them as a child with a penny stands before a
French doll. But he bought with taste and discretion of other wines--
Chablis, Moselle, Chateau d'Or, Hochheimer, and port of right age and
The matter of the cuisine gave him some studious hours until he
suddenly recollected Andre--Andre, their old /chef/--the most sublime
master of French Creole cookery in the Mississippi Valley. Perhaps he
was yet somewhere about the plantation. The solicitor had told him
that the place was still being cultivated, in accordance with a
compromise agreement between the litigants.
On the next Sunday after the thought Grandemont rode, horseback, down
to Charleroi. The big, square house with its two long ells looked
blank and cheerless with its closed shutters and doors.
The shrubbery in the yard was ragged and riotous. Fallen leaves from
the grove littered the walks and porches. Turning down the lane at the
side of the house, Grandemont rode on to the quarters of the
plantation hands. He found the workers just streaming back from
church, careless, happy, and bedecked in gay yellows, reds, and blues.
Yes, Andre was still there; his wool a little grayer; his mouth as
wide; his laughter as ready as ever. Grandemont told him of his plan,
and the old /chef/ swayed with pride and delight. With a sigh of
relief, knowing that he need have no further concern until the serving
of that dinner was announced, he placed in Andre's hands a liberal sum
for the cost of it, giving /carte blanche/ for its creation.
Among the blacks were also a number of the old house servants.
Absalom, the former major domo, and a half-dozen of the younger men,
once waiters and attaches of the kitchen, pantry, and other domestic
departments crowded around to greet "M'shi Grande." Absalom guaranteed
to marshal, of these, a corps of assistants that would perform with
credit the serving of the dinner.
After distributing a liberal largesse among the faithful, Grandemont
rode back to town well pleased. There were many other smaller details
to think of and provide for, but eventually the scheme was complete,
and now there remained only the issuance of the invitations to his
Along the river within the scope of a score of miles dwelt some half-
dozen families with whose princely hospitality that of the Charleses
had been contemporaneous. They were the proudest and most august of
the old regime. Their small circle had been a brilliant one; their
social relations close and warm; their houses full of rare welcome and
discriminating bounty. Those friends, said Grandemont, should once
more, if never again, sit at Charleroi on a nineteenth of January to
celebrate the festal day of his house.
Grandemont had his cards of invitation engraved. They were expensive,
but beautiful. In one particular their good taste might have been
disputed; but the Creole allowed himself that one feather in the cap
of his fugacious splendour. Might he not be allowed, for the one day
of the /renaissance/, to be "Grandemont du Puy Charles, of Charleroi"?
He sent the invitations out early in January so that the guests might
not fail to receive due notice.
At eight o'clock on the morning of the nineteenth, the lower coast
steamboat /River Belle/ gingerly approached the long unused landing at
Charleroi. The bridge was lowered, and a swarm of the plantation hands
streamed along the rotting pier, bearing ashore a strange assortment
of freight. Great shapeless bundles and bales and packets swathed in
cloth and bound with ropes; tubs and urns of palms, evergreens, and
tropical flowers; tables, mirrors, chairs, couches, carpets, and
pictures--all carefully bound and padded against the dangers of
Grandemont was among them, the busiest there. To the safe conveyance
of certain large hampers eloquent with printed cautions to delicate
handling he gave his superintendence, for they contained the fragile
china and glassware. The dropping of one of those hampers would have
cost him more than he could have saved in a year.
The last article unloaded, the /River Belle/ backed off and continued
her course down stream. In less than an hour everything had been
conveyed to the house. And came then Absalom's task, directing the
placing of the furniture and wares. There was plenty of help, for that
day was always a holiday at Charleroi, and the Negroes did not suffer
the old traditions to lapse. Almost the entire population of the
quarters volunteered their aid. A score of piccaninnies were sweeping
at the leaves in the yard. In the big kitchen at the rear Andre was
lording it with his old-time magnificence over his numerous sub-cooks
and scullions. Shutters were flung wide; dust spun in clouds; the
house echoed to voices and the tread of busy feet. The prince had come
again, and Charleroi woke from its long sleep.
The full moon, as she rose across the river that night and peeped
above the levee saw a sight that had long been missing from her orbit.
The old plantation house shed a soft and alluring radiance from every
window. Of its two-score rooms only four had been refurnished--the
larger reception chamber, the dining hall, and two smaller rooms for
the convenience of the expected guests. But lighted wax candles were
set in the windows of every room.
The dining-hall was the /chef d'oeuvre/. The long table, set with
twenty-five covers, sparkled like a winter landscape with its snowy
napery and china and the icy gleam of crystal. The chaste beauty of
the room had required small adornment. The polished floor burned to a
glowing ruby with the reflection of candle light. The rich wainscoting
reached half way to the ceiling. Along and above this had been set the
relieving lightness of a few water-colour sketches of fruit and
The reception chamber was fitted in a simple but elegant style. Its
arrangement suggested nothing of the fact that on the morrow the room
would again be cleared and abandoned to the dust and the spider. The
entrance hall was imposing with palms and ferns and the light of an
At seven o'clock Grandemont, in evening dress, with pearls--a family
passion--in his spotless linen, emerged from somewhere. The
invitations had specified eight as the dining hour. He drew an
armchair upon the porch, and sat there, smoking cigarettes and half
The moon was an hour high. Fifty years back from the gate stood the
house, under its noble grove. The road ran in front, and then came the
grass-grown levee and the insatiate river beyond. Just above the levee
top a tiny red light was creeping down and a tiny green one was
creeping up. Then the passing steamers saluted, and the hoarse din
startled the drowsy silence of the melancholy lowlands. The stillness
returned, save for the little voices of the night--the owl's
recitative, the capriccio of the crickets, the concerto of the frogs
in the grass. The piccaninnies and the dawdlers from the quarters had
been dismissed to their confines, and the melee of the day was reduced
to an orderly and intelligent silence. The six coloured waiters, in
their white jackets, paced, cat-footed, about the table, pretending to
arrange where all was beyond betterment. Absalom, in black and shining
pumps posed, superior, here and there where the lights set off his
grandeur. And Grandemont rested in his chair, waiting for his guests.
He must have drifted into a dream--and an extravagant one--for he was
master of Charleroi and Adele was his wife. She was coming out to him
now; he could hear her steps; he could feel her hand upon his
"/Pardon moi, M'shi Grande/"--it was Absalom's hand touching him, it
was Absalom's voice, speaking the /patois/ of the blacks--"but it is
Eight o'clock. Grandemont sprang up. In the moonlight he could see the
row of hitching-posts outside the gate. Long ago the horses of the
guests should have stood there. They were vacant.
A chanted roar of indignation, a just, waxing bellow of affront and
dishonoured genius came from Andre's kitchen, filling the house with
rhythmic protest. The beautiful dinner, the pearl of a dinner, the
little excellent superb jewel of a dinner! But one moment more of
waiting and not even the thousand thunders of black pigs of the
quarter would touch it!
"They are a little late," said Grandemont, calmly. "They will come
soon. Tell Andre to hold back dinner. And ask him if, by some chance,
a bull from the pastures has broken, roaring, into the house."
He seated himself again to his cigarettes. Though he had said it, he
scarcely believed Charleroi would entertain company that night. For
the first time in history the invitation of a Charles had been
ignored. So simple in courtesy and honour was Grandemont, and,
perhaps, so serenely confident in the prestige of his name, that the
most likely reasons for the vacant board did not occur to him.
Charleroi stood by a road travelled daily by people from those
plantations whither his invitations had gone. No doubt even on the day
before the sudden reanimation of the old house they had driven past
and observed the evidences of long desertion and decay. They had
looked at the corpse of Charleroi and then at Grandemont's
invitations, and, though the puzzle or tasteless hoax or whatever the
thing meant left them perplexed, they would not seek its solution by
the folly of a visit to that deserted house.
The moon was now above the grove, and the yard was pied with deep
shadows save where they lightened in the tender glow of outpouring
candle light. A crisp breeze from the river hinted at the possibility
of frost when the night should have become older. The grass at one
side of the steps was specked with the white stubs of Grandemont's
cigarettes. The cotton-broker's clerk sat in his chair with the smoke
spiralling above him. I doubt that he once thought of the little
fortune he had so impotently squandered. Perhaps it was compensation
enough for him to sit thus at Charleroi for a few retrieved hours.
Idly his mind wandered in and out many fanciful paths of memory. He
smiled to himself as a paraphrased line of Scripture strayed into his
mind: "A certain /poor/ man made a feast."
He heard the sound of Absalom coughing a note of summons. Grandemont
stirred. This time he had not been asleep--only drowsing.
"Nine o'clock, /M'shi Grande/," said Absalom in the uninflected voice
of a good servant who states a fact unqualified by personal opinion.
Grandemont rose to his feet. In their time all the Charleses had been
proven, and they were gallant losers.
"Serve dinner," he said calmly. And then he checked Absalom's movement
to obey, for something clicked the gate latch and was coming down the
walk toward the house. Something that shuffled its feet and muttered
to itself as it came. It stopped in the current of light at the foot
of the steps and spake, in the universal whine of the gadding
"Kind sir, could you spare a poor, hungry man, out of luck, a little
to eat? And to sleep in the corner of a shed? For"--the thing
concluded, irrelevantly--"I can sleep now. There are no mountains to
dance reels in the night; and the copper kettles are all scoured
bright. The iron band is still round my ankle, and a link, if it is
your desire I should be chained."
It set a foot upon the step and drew up the rags that hung upon the
limb. Above the distorted shoe, caked with the dust of a hundred
leagues, they saw the link and the iron band. The clothes of the tramp
were wreaked to piebald tatters by sun and rain and wear. A mat of
brown, tangled hair and beard covered his head and face, out of which
his eyes stared distractedly. Grandemont noticed that he carried in
one hand a white, square card.
"What is that?" he asked.
"I picked it up, sir, at the side of the road." The vagabond handed
the card to Grandemont. "Just a little to eat, sir. A little parched
corn, a /tortilla/, or a handful of beans. Goat's meat I cannot eat.
When I cut their throats they cry like children."
Grandemont held up the card. It was one of his own invitations to
dinner. No doubt some one had cast it away from a passing carriage
after comparing it with the tenantless house of Charleroi.
"From the hedges and highways bid them come," he said to himself,
softly smiling. And then to Absalom: "Send Louis to me."
Louis, once his own body-servant, came promptly, in his white jacket.
"This gentleman," said Grandemont, "will dine with me. Furnish him
with bath and clothes. In twenty minutes have him ready and dinner
Louis approached the disreputable guest with the suavity due to a
visitor to Charleroi, and spirited him away to inner regions.
Promptly, in twenty minutes, Absalom announced dinner, and, a moment
later, the guest was ushered into the dining hall where Grandemont
waited, standing, at the head of the table. The attentions of Louis
had transformed the stranger into something resembling the polite
animal. Clean linen and an old evening suit that had been sent down
from town to clothe a waiter had worked a miracle with his exterior.
Brush and comb had partially subdued the wild disorder of his hair.
Now he might have passed for no more extravagant a thing than one of
those /poseurs/ in art and music who affect such oddity of guise. The
man's countenance and demeanour, as he approached the table, exhibited
nothing of the awkwardness or confusion to be expected from his
Arabian Nights change. He allowed Absalom to seat him at Grandemont's
right hand with the manner of one thus accustomed to be waited upon.
"It grieves me," said Grandemont, "to be obliged to exchange names
with a guest. My own name is Charles."
"In the mountains," said the wayfarer, "they call me Gringo. Along the
roads they call me Jack."
"I prefer the latter," said Grandemont. "A glass of wine with you, Mr.
Course after course was served by the supernumerous waiters.
Grandemont, inspired by the results of Andre's exquisite skill in
cookery and his own in the selection of wines became the model host,
talkative, witty, and genial. The guest was fitful in conversation.
His mind seemed to be sustaining a seccession of waves of dementia
followed by intervals of comparative lucidity. There was the glassy
brightness of recent fever in his eyes. A long course of it must have
been the cause of his emaciation and weakness, his distracted mind,
and the dull pallor that showed even through the tan of wind and sun.
"Charles," he said to Grandemont--for thus he seemed to interpret his
name--"you never saw the mountains dance, did you?"
"No, Mr. Jack," answered Grandemont, gravely, "the spectacle has been
denied me. But, I assure you, I can understand it must be a diverting
sight. The big ones, you know, white with snow on the tops, waltzing--
/decollete/, we may say."
"You first scour the kettles," said Mr. Jack, leaning toward him
excitedly, "to cook the beans in the morning, and you lie down on a
blanket and keep quite still. Then they come out and dance for you.
You would go out and dance with them but you are chained every night
to the centre pole of the hut. You believe the mountains dance, don't
"I contradict no traveller's tales," said Grandemont, with a smile.
Mr. Jack laughed loudly. He dropped his voice to a confidential
"You are a fool to believe it," he went on. "They don't really
advance. It's the fever in your head. It's the hard work and the bad
water that does it. You are sick for weeks, and there is no medicine.
The fever comes on every evening, and then you are as strong as two
men. One night the /compania/ are lying drunk with /mescal/. They have
brought back sacks of silver dollars from a ride, and they drink to
celebrate. In the night you file the chain in two and go down the
mountain. You walk for miles--hundreds of them. By and by the
mountains are all gone, and you come to the prairies. They do not
dance at night; they are merciful, and you sleep. Then you come to the
river, and it says things to you. You follow it down, down, but you
can't find what you are looking for."
Mr. Jack leaned back in his chair, and his eyes slowly closed. The
food and wine had steeped him in a deep calm. The tense strain had
been smoothed from his face. The languor of repletion was claiming
him. Drowsily he spoke again.
"It's bad manners--I know--to go to sleep--at table--but--that was--
such a good dinner--Grande, old fellow."
/Grande/! The owner of the name started and set down his glass. How
should this wretched tatterdemalion whom he had invited, Caliph-like,
to sit at his feet know his name?
Not at first, but soon, little by little, the suspicion, wild and
unreasonable as it was, stole into his brain. He drew out his watch
with hands that almost balked him by their trembling, and opened the
back case. There was a picture there--a photograph fixed to the inner
Rising, Grandemont shook Mr. Jack by the shoulder. The weary guest
opened his eyes. Grandemont held the watch.
"Look at this picture, Mr. Jack. Have you ever--"
"/My sister Adele/!"
The vagrant's voice rang loud and sudden through the room. He started
to his feet, but Grandemont's arms were about him, and Grandemont was
calling him "Victor!--Victor Fauquier! /Merci, merci, mon Dieu/!"
Too far overcome by sleep and fatigue was the lost one to talk that
night. Days afterward, when the tropic /calentura/ had cooled in his
veins, the disordered fragments he had spoken were completed in shape
and sequence. He told the story of his angry flight, of toils and
calamities on sea and shore, of his ebbing and flowing fortune in
southern lands, and of his latest peril when, held a captive, he
served menially in a stronghold of bandits in the Sonora Mountains of
Mexico. And of the fever that seized him there and his escape and
delirium, during which he strayed, perhaps led by some marvellous
instinct, back to the river on whose bank he had been born. And of the
proud and stubborn thing in his blood that had kept him silent through
all those years, clouding the honour of one, though he knew it not,
and keeping apart two loving hearts. "What a thing is love!" you may
say. And if I grant it, you shall say, with me: "What a thing is
On a couch in the reception chamber Victor lay, with a dawning
understanding in his heavy eyes and peace in his softened countenance.
Absalom was preparing a lounge for the transient master of Charleroi,
who, to-morrow, would be again the clerk of a cotton-broker, but
"To-morrow," Grandemont was saying, as he stood by the couch of his
guest, speaking the words with his face shining as must have shone the
face of Elijah's charioteer when he announced the glories of that
heavenly journey--"To-morrow I will take you to Her."
ON BEHALF OF THE MANAGEMENT
This is the story of the man manager, and how he held his own until
the very last paragraph.
I had it from Sully Magoon, /viva voce/. The words are indeed his; and
if they do not constitute truthful fiction my memory should be taxed
with the blame.
It is not deemed amiss to point out, in the beginning, the stress that
is laid upon the masculinity of the manager. For, according to Sully,
the term when applied to the feminine division of mankind has
precisely an opposite meaning. The woman manager (he says) economizes,
saves, oppresses her household with bargains and contrivances, and
looks sourly upon any pence that are cast to the fiddler for even a
single jig-step on life's arid march. Wherefore her men-folk call her
blessed, and praise her; and then sneak out the backdoor to see the
Gilhooly Sisters to a buck-and-wing dance.
Now, the man manager (I still quote Sully) is a Caesar without a
Brutus. He is an autocrat without responsibility, a player who
imperils no stake of his own. His office is to enact, to reverberate,
to boom, to expand, to out-coruscate--profitably, if he can. Bill-
paying and growing gray hairs over results belong to his principals.
It is his to guide the risk, to be the Apotheosis of Front, the three-
tailed Bashaw of Bluff, the Essential Oil of Razzle-Dazzle.
We sat at luncheon, and Sully Magoon told me. I asked for particulars.
"My old friend Denver Galloway was a born manager," said Sully. He
first saw the light of day in New York at three years of age. He was
born in Pittsburg, but his parents moved East the third summer
"When Denver grew up, he went into the managing business. At the age
of eight he managed a news-stand for the Dago that owned it. After
that he was manager at different times of a skating-rink, a livery-
stable, a policy game, a restaurant, a dancing academy, a walking
match, a burlesque company, a dry-goods store, a dozen hotels and
summer resorts, an insurance company, and a district leader's
campaign. That campaign, when Coughlin was elected on the East Side,
gave Denver a boost. It got him a job as manager of a Broadway hotel,
and for a while he managed Senator O'Grady's campaign in the
"Denver was a New Yorker all over. I think he was out of the city just
twice before the time I'm going to tell you about. Once he went
rabbit-shooting in Yonkers. The other time I met him just landing from
a North River ferry. 'Been out West on a big trip, Sully, old boy,'
says he. 'Gad! Sully, I had no idea we had such a big country. It's
immense. Never conceived of the magnificence of the West before. It's
gorgeous and glorious and infinite. Makes the East seemed cramped and
little. It's a grand thing to travel and get an idea of the extent and
resources of our country.'
"I'd made several little runs out to California and down to Mexico and
up through Alaska, so I sits down with Denver for a chat about the
things he saw.
"'Took in the Yosemite, out there, of course?' I asks.
"'Well--no,' says Denver, 'I don't think so. At least, I don't
recollect it. You see, I only had three days, and I didn't get any
farther west than Youngstown, Ohio.'
"About two years ago I dropped into New York with a little fly-paper
proposition about a Tennessee mica mine that I wanted to spread out in
a nice, sunny window, in the hopes of catching a few. I was coming out
of a printing-shop one afternoon with a batch of fine, sticky
prospectuses when I ran against Denver coming round a corner. I never
saw him looking so much like a tiger-lily. He was as beautiful and new
as a trellis of sweet peas, and as rollicking as a clarinet solo. We
shook hands, and he asked me what I was doing, and I gave him the
outlines of the scandal I was trying to create in mica.
"'Pooh, pooh! for your mica,' says Denver. 'Don't you know better,
Sully, than to bump up against the coffers of little old New York with
anything as transparent as mica? Now, you come with me over to the
Hotel Brunswick. You're just the man I was hoping for. I've got
something there in sepia and curled hair that I want you to look at.'
"'You putting up at the Brunswick?' I asks.
"'Not a cent,' says Denver, cheerful. 'The syndicate that owns the
hotel puts up. I'm manager.'
"The Brunswick wasn't one of them Broadway pot-houses all full of
palms and hyphens and flowers and costumes--kind of a mixture of lawns
and laundries. It was on one of the East Side avenues; but it was a
solid, old-time caravansary such as the Mayor of Skaneatelese or the
Governor of Missouri might stop at. Eight stories high it stalked up,
with new striped awnings, and the electrics had it as light as day.
"'I've been manager here for a year,' says Denver, as we drew nigh.
'When I took charge,' says he, 'nobody nor nothing ever stopped at the
Brunswick. The clock over the clerks' desk used to run for weeks
without winding. A man fell dead with heart-disease on the sidewalk in
front of it one day, and when they went to pick him up he was two
blocks away. I figured out a scheme to catch the West Indies and South
American trade. I persuaded the owners to invest a few more thousands,
and I put every cent of it in electric lights, cayenne papre, gold-
leaf, and garlic. I got a Spanish-speaking force of employees and a
string band; and there was talk going round of a cockfight in the
basement every Sunday. Maybe I didn't catch the nut-brown gang! From
Havana to Patagonia the Don Senors knew about the Brunswick. We get
the highfliers from Cuba and Mexico and the couple of Americas farther
south; and they've simply got the boodle to bombard every bulfinch in
the bush with.'
When we got to the hotel, Denver stops me at the door.
"'There's a little liver-coloured man,' says he, 'sitting in a big
leather chair to your right, inside. You sit down and watch him for a
few minutes, and then tell me what you think.'
"I took a chair, while Denver circulates around in the big rotunda.
The room was about full of curly-headed Cubans and South American
brunettes of different shades; and the atmosphere was international
with cigarette smoke, lit up by diamond rings and edged off with a
whisper of garlic.
"That Denver Galloway was sure a relief to the eye. Six feet two he
was, red-headed and pink-gilled as a sun-perch. And the air he had!
Court of Saint James, Chauncy Olcott, Kentucky colonels, Count of
Monte Cristo, grand opera--all these things he reminded you of when he
was doing the honours. When he raised his finger the hotel porters and
bell-boys skated across the floor like cockroaches, and even the clerk
behind the desk looked as meek and unimportant as Andy Carnegie.
"Denver passed around, shaking hands with his guests, and saying over
the two or three Spanish words he knew until it was like a coronation
rehearsal or a Bryan barbecue in Texas.
"I watched the little man he told me to. 'Twas a little foreign person
in a double-breasted frock-coat, trying to touch the floor with his
toes. He was the colour of vici kid, and his whiskers was like
excelsior made out of mahogany wood. He breathed hard, and he never
once took his eyes off of Denver. There was a look of admiration and
respect on his face like you see on a boy that's following a champion
base-ball team, or the Kaiser William looking at himself in a glass.
"After Denver goes his rounds he takes me into his private office.
"'What's your report on the dingy I told you to watch?' he asks.
"'Well,' says I, 'if you was as big a man as he takes you to be, nine
rooms and bath in the Hall of Fame, rent free till October 1st, would
be about your size.'
"'You've caught the idea,' says Denver. 'I've given him the wizard
grip and the cabalistic eye. The glamour that emanates from yours
truly has enveloped him like a North River fog. He seems to think that
Senor Galloway is the man who. I guess they don't raise 74-inch
sorrel-tops with romping ways down in his precinct. Now, Sully,' goes
on Denver, 'if you was asked, what would you take the little man to
"'Why,' says I, 'the barber around the corner; or, if he's royal, the
king of the boot-blacks.'
"'Never judge by looks,' says Denver; 'he's the dark-horse candidate
for president of a South American republic.'
"'Well,' says I, 'he didn't look quite that bad to me.'
"Then Denver draws his chair up close and gives out his scheme.
"'Sully,' says he, with seriousness and levity, 'I've been a manager
of one thing and another for over twenty years. That's what I was cut
out for--to have somebody else to put up the money and look after the
repairs and the police and taxes while I run the business. I never had
a dollar of my own invested in my life. I wouldn't know how it felt to
have the dealer rake in a coin of mine. But I can handle other
people's stuff and manage other people's enterprises. I've had an
ambition to get hold of something big--something higher than hotels
and lumber-yards and local politics. I want to be manager of something
way up--like a railroad or a diamond trust or an automobile factory.
Now here comes this little man from the tropics with just what I want,
and he's offered me the job.'
"'What job?' I asks. 'Is he going to revive the Georgia Minstrels or
open a cigar store?'
"'He's no 'coon,' says Denver. 'He's General Rompiro--General Josey
Alfonso Sapolio Jew-Ann Rompiro--he has his cards printed by a news-
ticker. He's the real thing, Sully, and he wants me to manage his
campaign--he wants Denver C. Galloway for a president-maker. Think of
that, Sully! Old Denver romping down to the tropics, plucking lotus-
flowers and pineapples with one hand and making presidents with the
other! Won't it make Uncle Mark Hanna mad? And I want you to go too,
Sully. You can help me more than any man I know. I've been herding
that brown man for a month in the hotel so he wouldn't stray down
Fourteenth Street and get roped in by that crowd of refugee tamale-
eaters down there. And he's landed, and D. C. G. is manager of General
J. A. S. J. Rompiro's presidential campaign in the great republic of--
what's its name?'
"Denver gets down an atlas from a shelf, and we have a look at the
afflicted country. 'Twas a dark blue one, on the west coast, about the
size of a special delivery stamp.
"'From what the General tells me,' says Denver, 'and from what I can
gather from the encyclopaedia and by conversing with the janitor of
the Astor Library, it'll be as easy to handle the vote of that country
as it would be for Tammany to get a man named Geoghan appointed on the
White Wings force.'
"'Why don't General Rumptyro stay at home,' says I, 'and manage his
"'You don't understand South American politics,' says Denver, getting
out the cigars. 'It's this way. General Rompiro had the misfortune of
becoming a popular idol. He distinguished himself by leading the army
in pursuit of a couple of sailors who had stolen the plaza--or the
carramba, or something belonging to the government. The people called
him a hero and the government got jealous. The president sends for the
chief of the Department of Public Edifices. "Find me a nice, clean
adobe wall," says he, "and send Senor Rompiro up against it. Then call
out a file of soldiers and--then let him be up against it."
Something,' goes on Denver, 'like the way they've treated Hobson and
Carrie Nation in our country. So the General had to flee. But he was
thoughtful enough to bring along his roll. He's got sinews of war
enough to buy a battleship and float her off in the christening
"'What chance has he got to be president?'
"'Wasn't I just giving you his rating?' says Denver. 'His country is
one of the few in South America where the presidents are elected by
popular ballot. The General can't go there just now. It hurts to be
shot against a wall. He needs a campaign manager to go down and whoop
things up for him--to get the boys in line and the new two-dollar
bills afloat and the babies kissed and the machine in running order.
Sully, I don't want to brag, but you remember how I brought Coughlin
under the wire for leader of the nineteenth? Ours was the banner
district. Don't you suppose I know how to manage a little monkey-cage
of a country like that? Why, with the dough the General's willing to
turn loose I could put two more coats of Japan varnish on him and have
him elected Governor of Georgia. New York has got the finest lot of
campaign managers in the world, Sully, and you give me a feeling of
hauteur when you cast doubts on my ability to handle the political
situation in a country so small that they have to print the names of
the towns in the appendix and footnotes.'
"I argued with Denver some. I told him that politics down in that
tropical atmosphere was bound to be different from the nineteenth
district; but I might just as well have been a Congressman from North
Dakota trying to get an appropriation for a lighthouse and a coast
survey. Denver Galloway had ambitions in the manager line, and what I
said didn't amount to as much as a fig-leaf at the National
Dressmakers' Convention. 'I'll give you three days to cogitate about
going,' says Denver; 'and I'll introduce you to General Rompiro
to-morrow, so you can get his ideas drawn right from the rosewood.'
"I put on my best reception-to-Booker-Washington manner, the next day
and tapped the distinguished rubber-plant for what he knew.
"General Rompiro wasn't so gloomy inside as he appeared on the
surface. He was polite enough; and he exuded a number of sounds that
made a fair stagger at arranging themselves into language. It was
English he aimed at, and when his system of syntax reached your mind
it wasn't past you to understand it. If you took a college professor's
magazine essay and a Chinese laundryman's explanation of a lost shirt
and jumbled 'em together, you'd have about what the General handed you
out for conversation. He told me all about his bleeding country, and
what they were trying to do for it before the doctor came. But he
mostly talked of Denver C. Galloway.
"'Ah, senor,' says he, 'that is the most fine of mans. Never I have
seen one man so magnifico, so gr-r-rand, so conformable to make done
things so swiftly by other mans. He shall make other mans do the acts
and himself to order and regulate, until we arrive at seeing
accomplishments of a suddenly. Oh, yes, senor. In my countree there is
not such mans of so beegness, so good talk, so compliments, so
strongness of sense and such. Ah, that Senor Galloway!'
"'Yes,' says I, 'old Denver is the boy you want. He's managed every
kind of business here except filibustering, and he might as well
complete the list.'
"Before the three days was up I decided to join Denver in his
campaign. Denver got three months' vacation from his hotel owners. For
a week we lived in a room with the General, and got all the pointers
about his country that we could interpret from the noises he made.
When we got ready to start, Denver had a pocket full of memorandums,
and letters from the General to his friends, and a list of names and
addresses of loyal politicians who would help along the boom of the
exiled popular idol. Besides these liabilities we carried assets to
the amount of $20,000 in assorted United States currency. General
Rompiro looked like a burnt effigy, but he was Br'er Fox himself when
it came to the real science of politics.
"'Here is moneys,' says the General, 'of a small amount. There is more
with me--moocho more. Plentee moneys shall you be supplied, Senor
Galloway. More I shall send you at all times that you need. I shall
desire to pay feefty--one hundred thousand pesos, if necessario, to be
elect. How no? Sacramento! If that I am president and do not make one
meelion dolla in the one year you shall keek me on that side!--
"Denver got a Cuban cigar-maker to fix up a little cipher code with
English and Spanish words, and gave the General a copy, so we could
cable him bulletins about the election, or for more money, and then we
were ready to start. General Rompiro escorted us to the steamer. On
the pier he hugged Denver around the waist and sobbed. 'Noble mans,'
says he, 'General Rompiro propels you into his confidence and trust.
Go, in the hands of the saints to do the work for your friend. /Viva
"'Sure,' says Denver. 'And viva la liberality an' la soaperino and
hoch der land of the lotus and the vote us. Don't worry, General.
We'll have you elected as sure as bananas grow upside down.'
"'Make pictures on me,' pleads the General--'make pictures on me for
money as it is needful.'
"'Does he want to be tattooed, would you think?' asks Denver,
wrinkling up his eyes.
"'Stupid!' says I. 'He wants you to draw on him for election expenses.
It'll be worse than tattooing. More like an autopsy.'
"Me and Denver steamed down to Panama, and then hiked across the
Isthmus, and then by steamer again down to the town of Espiritu on the
coast of the General's country.
"That was a town to send J. Howard Payne to the growler. I'll tell you
how you could make one like it. Take a lot of Filipino huts and a
couple of hundred brick-kilns and arrange 'em in squares in a
cemetery. Cart down all the conservatory plants in the Astor and
Vanderbilt greenhouses, and stick 'em about wherever there's room.
Turn all the Bellevue patients and the barbers' convention and the
Tuskegee school loose in the streets, and run the thermometer up to
120 in the shade. Set a fringe of the Rocky Mountains around the rear,
let it rain, and set the whole business on Rockaway Beach in the
middle of January--and you'd have a good imitation of Espiritu.
"It took me and Denver about a week to get acclimated. Denver sent out
the letters the General had given him, and notified the rest of the
gang that there was something doing at the captain's office. We set up
headquarters in an old 'dobe house on a side street where the grass
was waist high. The election was only four weeks off; but there wasn't
any excitement. The home candidate for president was named
Roadrickeys. This town of Esperitu wasn't the capital any more than
Cleveland, Ohio, is the capital of the United States, but it was the
political centre where they cooked up revolutions, and made up the
"At the end of the week Denver says the machine is started running.
"'Sully,' says he, 'we've got a walkover. Just because General Rompiro
ain't Don Juan-on-the-spot the other crowd ain't at work. They're as
full of apathy as a territorial delegate during the chaplain's prayer.
Now, we want to introduce a little hot stuff in the way of
campaigning, and we'll surprise 'em at the polls.'
"'How are you going to go about it?' I asks.
"'Why, the usual way,' says Denver, surprised. 'We'll get the orators
on our side out every night to make speeches in the native lingo, and
have torch-light parades under the shade of the palms, and free
drinks, and buy up all the brass bands, of course, and--well, I'll
turn the baby-kissing over to you, Sully--I've seen a lot of 'em.'
"'What else?' says I.
"'Why, you know,' says Denver. 'We get the heelers out with the
crackly two-spots, and coal-tickets, and orders for groceries, and
have a couple of picnics out under the banyan-trees, and dances in the
Firemen's Hall--and the usual things. But first of all, Sully, I'm
going to have the biggest clam-bake down on the beach that was ever
seen south of the tropic of Capricorn. I figured that out from the
start. We'll stuff the whole town and the jungle folk for miles around
with clams. That's the first thing on the programme. Suppose you go
out now, and make the arrangements for that. I want to look over the
estimates the General made of the vote in the coast districts.'
"I had learned some Spanish in Mexico, so I goes out, as Denver says,
and in fifteen minutes I come back to headquarters.
"'If there ever was a clam in this country nobody ever saw it,' I
"'Great sky-rockets!' says Denver, with his mouth and eyes open. 'No
clams? How in the--who ever saw a country without clams? What kind of
a--how's an election to be pulled off without a clam-bake, I'd like to
know? Are you sure there's no clams, Sully?'
"'Not even a can,' says I.
"'Then for God's sake go out and try to find what the people here do
eat. We've got to fill 'em up with grub of some kind.'
"I went out again. Denver was manager. In half an hour I gets back.
"'They eat,' says I, 'tortillas, cassava, carne de chivo, arroz con
pollo, aquacates, zapates, yucca, and huevos fritos.'
"'A man that would eat them things,' says Denver, getting a little
mad, 'ought to have his vote challenged.'
"In a few more days the campaign managers from the other towns came
sliding into Esperitu. Our headquarters was a busy place. We had an
interpreter, and ice-water, and drinks, and cigars, and Denver flashed
the General's roll so often that it got so small you couldn't have
bought a Republican vote in Ohio with it.
"And then Denver cabled to General Rompiro for ten thousand dollars
more and got it.
"There were a number of Americans in Esperitu, but they were all in
business or grafts of some kind, and wouldn't take any hand in
politics, which was sensible enough. But they showed me and Denver a
fine time, and fixed us up so we could get decent things to eat and
drink. There was one American, named Hicks, used to come and loaf at
the headquarters. Hicks had had fourteen years of Esperitu. He was six
feet four and weighed in at 135. Cocoa was his line; and coast fever
and the climate had taken all the life out of him. They said he hadn't
smiled in eight years. His face was three feet long, and it never
moved except when he opened it to take quinine. He used to sit in our
headquarters and kill fleas and talk sarcastic.
"'I don't take much interest in politics,' says Hicks, one day, 'but
I'd like you to tell me what you're trying to do down here, Galloway?'
"'We're boosting General Rompiro, of course,' says Denver. 'We're
going to put him in the presidential chair. I'm his manager.'
"'Well,' says Hicks, 'if I was you I'd be a little slower about it.
You've got a long time ahead of you, you know.'
"'Not any longer than I need,' says Denver.
"Denver went ahead and worked things smooth. He dealt out money on the
quiet to his lieutenants, and they were always coming after it. There
was free drinks for everybody in town, and bands playing every night,
and fireworks, and there was a lot of heelers going around buying up
votes day and night for the new style of politics in Espiritu, and
everybody liked it.
"The day set for the election was November 4th. On the night before
Denver and me were smoking our pipes in headquarters, and in comes
Hicks and unjoints himself, and sits in a chair, mournful. Denver is
cheerful and confident. 'Rompiro will win in a romp,' says he. 'We'll
carry the country by 10,000. It's all over but the vivas. To-morrow
will tell the tale.'
"'What's going to happen to-morrow?' asks Hicks.
"'Why, the presidential election, of course,' says Denver.
"'Say,' says Hicks, looking kind of funny, 'didn't anybody tell you
fellows that the election was held a week before you came? Congress
changed the date to July 27th. Roadrickeys was elected by 17,000. I
thought you was booming old Rompiro for next term, two years from now.
Wondered if you was going to keep up such a hot lick that long.'
"I dropped my pipe on the floor. Denver bit the stem off of his.
Neither of us said anything.
"And then I heard a sound like somebody ripping a clap-board off of a
barn-roof. 'Twas Hicks laughing for the first time in eight years."
Sully Magoon paused while the waiter poured us a black coffee.
"Your friend was, indeed, something of a manager," I said.
"Wait a minute," said Sully, "I haven't given you any idea of what he
could do yet. That's all to come."
"When we got back to New York there was General Rompiro waiting for us
on the pier. He was dancing like a cinnamon bear, all impatient for
the news, for Denver had just cabled him when we would arrive and
"'Am I elect?' he shouts. 'Am I elect, friend of mine? Is that mine
country have demanded General Rompiro for the president? The last
dollar of mine have I sent you that last time. It is necessario that I
am elect. I have not more money. Am I elect, Senor Galloway?'
"Denver turns to me.
"'Leave me with old Rompey, Sully,' he says. 'I've got to break it to
him gently. 'Twould be indecent for other eyes to witness the
operation. This is the time, Sully,' says he, 'when old Denver has got
to make good as a jollier and a silver-tongued sorcerer, or else give
up all the medals he's earned.'
"A couple of days later I went around to the hotel. There was Denver
in his old place, looking like the hero of two historical novels, and
telling 'em what a fine time he'd had down on his orange plantation in
"'Did you fix things up with the General?' I asks him.
"'Did I?' says Denver. 'Come and see.'
"He takes me by the arm and walks me to the dining-room door. There
was a little chocolate-brown fat man in a dress suit, with his face
shining with joy as he swelled himself and skipped about the floor.
Danged if Denver hadn't made General Rompiro head waiter of the Hotel
"Is Mr. Galloway still in the managing business?" I asked, as Mr.
Sully shook his head.
"Denver married an auburn-haired widow that owns a big hotel in
Harlem. He just helps around the place."
WHISTLING DICK'S CHRISTMAS STOCKING
It was with much caution that Whistling Dick slid back the door of the
box-car, for Article 5716, City Ordinances, authorized (perhaps
unconstitutionally) arrest on suspicion, and he was familiar of old
with this ordinance. So, before climbing out, he surveyed the field
with all the care of a good general.
He saw no change since his last visit to this big, alms-giving, long-
suffering city of the South, the cold weather paradise of the tramps.
The levee where his freight-car stood was pimpled with dark bulks of
merchandise. The breeze reeked with the well-remembered, sickening
smell of the old tarpaulins that covered bales and barrels. The dun
river slipped along among the shipping with an oily gurgle. Far down
toward Chalmette he could see the great bend in the stream outlined by
the row of electric lights. Across the river Algiers lay, a long,
irregular blot, made darker by the dawn which lightened the sky
beyond. An industrious tug or two, coming for some early sailing ship,
gave a few appalling toots, that seemed to be the signal for breaking
day. The Italian luggers were creeping nearer their landing, laden
with early vegetables and shellfish. A vague roar, subterranean in
quality, from dray wheels and street cars, began to make itself heard
and felt; and the ferryboats, the Mary Anns of water craft, stirred
sullenly to their menial morning tasks.
Whistling Dick's red head popped suddenly back into the car. A sight
too imposing and magnificent for his gaze had been added to the scene.
A vast, incomparable policeman rounded a pile of rice sacks and stood
within twenty yards of the car. The daily miracle of the dawn, now
being performed above Algiers, received the flattering attention of
this specimen of municipal official splendour. He gazed with unbiased
dignity at the faintly glowing colours until, at last, he turned to
them his broad back, as if convinced that legal interference was not
needed, and the sunrise might proceed unchecked. So he turned his face
to the rice bags, and, drawing a flat flask from an inside pocket, he
placed it to his lips and regarded the firmament.
Whistling Dick, professional tramp, possessed a half-friendly
acquaintance with this officer. They had met several times before on
the levee at night, for the officer, himself a lover of music, had
been attracted by the exquisite whistling of the shiftless vagabond.
Still, he did not care, under the present circumstances, to renew the
acquaintance. There is a difference between meeting a policeman on a
lonely wharf and whistling a few operatic airs with him, and being
caught by him crawling out of a freight-car. So Dick waited, as even a
New Orleans policeman must move on some time--perhaps it is a
retributive law of nature--and before long "Big Fritz" majestically
disappeared between the trains of cars.
Whistling Dick waited as long as his judgment advised, and then slid
swiftly to the ground. Assuming as far as possible the air of an
honest labourer who seeks his daily toil, he moved across the network
of railway lines, with the intention of making his way by quiet Girod
Street to a certain bench in Lafayette Square, where, according to
appointment, he hoped to rejoin a pal known as "Slick," this
adventurous pilgrim having preceded him by one day in a cattle-car
into which a loose slat had enticed him.
As Whistling Dick picked his way where night still lingered among the
big, reeking, musty warehouses, he gave way to the habit that had won
for him his title. Subdued, yet clear, with each note as true and
liquid as a bobolink's, his whistle tinkled about the dim, cold
mountains of brick like drops of rain falling into a hidden pool. He
followed an air, but it swam mistily into a swirling current of
improvisation. You could cull out the trill of mountain brooks, the
staccato of green rushes shivering above chilly lagoons, the pipe of
Rounding a corner, the whistler collided with a mountain of blue and
"So," observed the mountain calmly, "You are already pack. Und dere
vill not pe frost before two veeks yet! Und you haf forgotten how to
vistle. Dere was a valse note in dot last bar."
"Watcher know about it?" said Whistling Dick, with tentative
familiarity; "you wit yer little Gherman-band nixcumrous chunes.
Watcher know about music? Pick yer ears, and listen agin. Here's de
way I whistled it--see?"
He puckered his lips, but the big policeman held up his hand.
"Shtop," he said, "und learn der right way. Und learn also dot a
rolling shtone can't vistle for a cent."
Big Fritz's heavy moustache rounded into a circle, and from its depths
came a sound deep and mellow as that from a flute. He repeated a few
bars of the air the tramp had been whistling. The rendition was cold,
but correct, and he emphasized the note he had taken exception to.
"Dot p is p natural, und not p vlat. Py der vay, you petter pe glad I
meet you. Von hour later, und I vould half to put you in a gage to
vistle mit der chail pirds. Der orders are to bull all der pums after
"To bull der pums--eferybody mitout fisible means. Dirty days is der
price, or fifteen tollars."
"Is dat straight, or a game you givin' me?"
"It's der pest tip you efer had. I gif it to you pecause I pelief you
are not so bad as der rest. Und pecause you gan visl 'Der Freisechutz'
bezzer dan I myself gan. Don't run against any more bolicemans aroundt
der corners, but go away from town a few tays. Good-pye."
So Madame Orleans had at last grown weary of the strange and ruffled
brood that came yearly to nestle beneath her charitable pinions.
After the big policeman had departed, Whistling Dick stood for an
irresolute minute, feeling all the outraged indignation of a
delinquent tenant who is ordered to vacate his premises. He had
pictured to himself a day of dreamful ease when he should have joined
his pal; a day of lounging on the wharf, munching the bananas and
cocoanuts scattered in unloading the fruit steamers; and then a feast
along the free-lunch counters from which the easy-going owners were
too good-natured or too generous to drive him away, and afterward a
pipe in one of the little flowery parks and a snooze in some shady
corner of the wharf. But here was a stern order to exile, and one that
he knew must be obeyed. So, with a wary eye open from the gleam of
brass buttons, he began his retreat toward a rural refuge. A few days
in the country need not necessarily prove disastrous. Beyond the
possibility of a slight nip of frost, there was no formidable evil to
be looked for.
However, it was with a depressed spirit that Whistling Dick passed the
old French market on his chosen route down the river. For safety's
sake he still presented to the world his portrayal of the part of the
worthy artisan on his way to labour. A stall-keeper in the market,
undeceived, hailed him by the generic name of his ilk, and "Jack"
halted, taken by surprise. The vender, melted by this proof of his own
acuteness, bestowed a foot of Frankfurter and half a loaf, and thus
the problem of breakfast was solved.
When the streets, from topographical reasons, began to shun the river
bank the exile mounted to the top of the levee, and on its well-
trodden path pursued his way. The suburban eye regarded him with cold
suspicion, individuals reflected the stern spirit of the city's
heartless edict. He missed the seclusion of the crowded town and the
safety he could always find in the multitude.
At Chalmette, six miles upon his desultory way, there suddenly menaced
him a vast and bewildering industry. A new port was being established;
the dock was being built, compresses were going up; picks and shovels
and barrows struck at him like serpents from every side. An arrogant
foreman bore down upon him, estimating his muscles with the eye of a
recruiting-sergeant. Brown men and black men all about him were
toiling away. He fled in terror.
By noon he had reached the country of the plantations, the great, sad,
silent levels bordering the mighty river. He overlooked fields of
sugar-cane so vast that their farthest limits melted into the sky. The
sugar-making season was well advanced, and the cutters were at work;
the waggons creaked drearily after them; the Negro teamsters inspired
the mules to greater speed with mellow and sonorous imprecations.
Dark-green groves, blurred by the blue of distance, showed where the
plantation-houses stood. The tall chimneys of the sugar-mills caught
the eye miles distant, like lighthouses at sea.
At a certain point Whistling Dick's unerring nose caught the scent of
frying fish. Like a pointer to a quail, he made his way down the levee
side straight to the camp of a credulous and ancient fisherman, whom
he charmed with song and story, so that he dined like an admiral, and
then like a philosopher annihilated the worst three hours of the day
by a nap under the trees.
When he awoke and again continued his hegira, a frosty sparkle in the
air had succeeded the drowsy warmth of the day, and as this portent of
a chilly night translated itself to the brain of Sir Peregrine, he
lengthened his stride and bethought him of shelter. He travelled a
road that faithfully followed the convolutions of the levee, running
along its base, but whither he knew not. Bushes and rank grass crowded
it to the wheel ruts, and out of this ambuscade the pests of the
lowlands swarmed after him, humming a keen, vicious soprano. And as
the night grew nearer, although colder, the whine of the mosquitoes
became a greedy, petulant snarl that shut out all other sounds. To his
right, against the heavens, he saw a green light moving, and,
accompanying it, the masts and funnels of a big incoming steamer,
moving as upon a screen at a magic-lantern show. And there were
mysterious marshes at his left, out of which came queer gurgling cries
and a choked croaking. The whistling vagrant struck up a merry warble
to offset these melancholy influences, and it is likely that never
before, since Pan himself jigged it on his reeds, had such sounds been
heard in those depressing solitudes.
A distant clatter in the rear quickly developed into the swift beat of
horses' hoofs, and Whistling Dick stepped aside into the dew-wet grass
to clear the track. Turning his head, he saw approaching a fine team
of stylish grays drawing a double surrey. A stout man with a white
moustache occupied the front seat, giving all his attention to the
rigid lines in his hands. Behind him sat a placid, middle-aged lady
and a brilliant-looking girl hardly arrived at young ladyhood. The
lap-robe had slipped partly from the knees of the gentleman driving,
and Whistling Dick saw two stout canvas bags between his feet--bags
such as, while loafing in cities, he had seen warily transferred
between express waggons and bank doors. The remaining space in the
vehicle was filled with parcels of various sizes and shapes.
As the surrey swept even with the sidetracked tramp, the bright-eyed
girl, seized by some merry, madcap impulse, leaned out toward him with
a sweet, dazzling smile, and cried, "Mer-ry Christ-mas!" in a shrill,
Such a thing had not often happened to Whistling Dick, and he felt
handicapped in devising the correct response. But lacking time for
reflection, he let his instinct decide, and snatching off his battered
derby, he rapidly extended it at arm's length, and drew it back with a
continuous motion, and shouted a loud, but ceremonious, "Ah, there!"
after the flying surrey.
The sudden movement of the girl had caused one of the parcels to
become unwrapped, and something limp and black fell from it into the
road. The tramp picked it up, and found it to be a new black silk
stocking, long and fine and slender. It crunched crisply, and yet with
a luxurious softness, between his fingers.
"Ther bloomin' little skeezicks!" said Whistling Dick, with a broad
grin bisecting his freckled face. "W't d' yer think of dat, now!
Mer-ry Chris-mus! Sounded like a cuckoo clock, da'ts what she did. Dem
guys is swells, too, bet yer life, an' der old 'un stacks dem sacks of
dough down under his trotters like dey was common as dried apples.
Been shoppin' for Chrismus, and de kid's lost one of her new socks
w'ot she was goin' to hold up Santy wid. De bloomin' little skeezicks!
Wit' her 'Mer-ry Chris-mus!' W'ot d' yer t'ink! Same as to say,
'Hello, Jack, how goes it?' and as swell as Fift' Av'noo, and as easy
as a blowout in Cincinnat."
Whistling Dick folded the stocking carefully, and stuffed it into his
It was nearly two hours later when he came upon signs of habitation.
The buildings of an extensive plantation were brought into view by a
turn in the road. He easily selected the planter's residence in a
large square building with two wings, with numerous good-sized, well-
lighted windows, and broad verandas running around its full extent. it
was set upon a smooth lawn, which was faintly lit by the far-reaching
rays of the lamps within. A noble grove surrounded it, and old-
fashioned shrubbery grew thickly about the walks and fences. The
quarters of the hands and the mill buildings were situated at a
distance in the rear.
The road was now enclosed on each side by a fence, and presently, as
Whistling Dick drew nearer the house, he suddenly stopped and sniffed
"If dere ain't a hobo stew cookin' somewhere in dis immediate
precint," he said to himself, "me nose as quit tellin' de trut'."
Without hesitation he climbed the fence to windward. He found himself
in an apparently disused lot, where piles of old bricks were stacked,
and rejected, decaying lumber. In a corner he saw the faint glow of a
fire that had become little more than a bed of living coals, and he
thought he could see some dim human forms sitting or lying about it.
He drew nearer, and by the light of a little blaze that suddenly
flared up he saw plainly the fat figure of a ragged man in an old
brown sweater and cap.
"Dat man," said Whistling Dick to himself softly, "is a dead ringer
for Boston Harry. I'll try him wit de high sign."
He whistled one or two bars of a rag-time melody, and the air was
immediately taken up, and then quickly ended with a peculiar run. The
first whistler walked confidently up to the fire. The fat man looked
up, and spake in a loud, asthmatic wheeze:
"Gents, the unexpected but welcome addition to our circle is Mr.
Whistling Dick, an old friend of mine for whom I fully vouches. The
waiter will lay another cover at once. Mr. W. D. will join us at
supper, during which function he will enlighten us in regard to the
circumstances that gave us the pleasure of his company."
"Chewin' de stuffin' out 'n de dictionary, as usual, Boston," said
Whistling Dick; "but t'anks all de same for de invitashun. I guess I
finds meself here about de same way as yous guys. A cop gimme de tip
dis mornin'. Yous workin' on dis farm?"
"A guest," said Boston, sternly, "shouldn't never insult his
entertainers until he's filled up wid grub. 'Tain't good business
sense. Workin'!--but I will restrain myself. We five--me, Deaf Pete,
Blinky, Goggles, and Indiana Tom--got put on to this scheme of Noo
Orleans to work visiting gentlemen upon her dirty streets, and we hit
the road last evening just as the tender hues of twilight had flopped
down upon the daisies and things. Blinky, pass the empty oyster-can at
your left to the empty gentleman at your right."
For the next ten minutes the gang of roadsters paid their undivided
attention to the supper. In an old five-gallon kerosene can they had
cooked a stew of potatoes, meat, and onions, which they partook of
from smaller cans they had found scattered about the vacant lot.
Whistling Dick had known Boston Harry of old, and knew him to be one
of the shrewdest and most successful of his brotherhood. He looked
like a prosperous stock-drover or solid merchant from some country
village. He was stout and hale, with a ruddy, always smoothly shaven
face. His clothes were strong and neat, and he gave special attention
to his decent-appearing shoes. During the past ten years he had
acquired a reputation for working a larger number of successfully
managed confidence games than any of his acquaintances, and he had not
a day's work to be counted against him. It was rumoured among his
associates that he had saved a considerable amount of money. The four
other men were fair specimens of the slinking, ill-clad, noisome genus
who carried their labels of "suspicious" in plain view.
After the bottom of the large can had been scraped, and pipes lit at
the coals, two of the men called Boston aside and spake with him lowly
and mysteriously. He nodded decisively, and then said aloud to
"Listen, sonny, to some plain talky-talk. We five are on a lay. I've
guaranteed you to be square, and you're to come in on the profits
equal with the boys, and you've got to help. Two hundred hands on this
plantation are expecting to be paid a week's wages to-morrow morning.
To-morrow's Christmas, and they want to lay off. Says the boss: 'Work
from five to nine in the morning to get a train load of sugar off, and
I'll pay every man cash down for the week and a day extra.' They say:
'Hooray for the boss! It goes.' He drives to Noo Orleans to-day, and
fetches back the cold dollars. Two thousand and seventy-four fifty is
the amount. I got the figures from a man who talks too much, who got
'em from the bookkeeper. The boss of this plantation thinks he's going
to pay this wealth to the hands. He's got it down wrong; he's going to
pay it to us. It's going to stay in the leisure class, where it
belongs. Now, half of this haul goes to me, and the other half the
rest of you may divide. Why the difference? I represent the brains.
It's my scheme. Here's the way we're going to get it. There's some
company at supper in the house, but they'll leave about nine. They've
just happened in for an hour or so. If they don't go pretty soon,
we'll work the scheme anyhow. We want all night to get away good with
the dollars. They're heavy. About nine o'clock Deaf Pete and Blinky'll
go down the road about a quarter beyond the house, and set fire to a
big cane-field there that the cutters haven't touched yet. The wind's
just right to have it roaring in two minutes. The alarm'll be given,
and every man Jack about the place will be down there in ten minutes,
fighting fire. That'll leave the money sacks and the women alone in
the house for us to handle. You've heard cane burn? Well, there's
mighty few women can screech loud enough to be heard above its
crackling. The thing's dead safe. The only danger is in being caught
before we can get far enough away with the money. Now, if you--"
"Boston," interrupted Whistling Dick, rising to his feet, "T'anks for
the grub yous fellers has given me, but I'll be movin' on now."
"What do you mean?" asked Boston, also rising.
"W'y, you can count me outer dis deal. You oughter know that. I'm on
de bum all right enough, but dat other t'ing don't go wit' me.
Burglary is no good. I'll say good night and many t'anks fer--"
Whistling Dick had moved away a few steps as he spoke, but he stopped
very suddenly. Boston had covered him with a short revolver of roomy
"Take your seat," said the tramp leader. "I'd feel mighty proud of
myself if I let you go and spoil the game. You'll stick right in this
camp until we finish the job. The end of that brick pile is your
limit. You go two inches beyond that, and I'll have to shoot. Better
take it easy, now."
"It's my way of doin'," said Whistling Dick. "Easy goes. You can
depress de muzzle of dat twelve-incher, and run 'er back on de trucks.
I remains, as de newspapers says, 'in yer midst.'"
"All right," said Boston, lowering his piece, as the other returned
and took his seat again on a projecting plank in a pile of timber.
"Don't try to leave; that's all. I wouldn't miss this chance even if I
had to shoot an old acquaintance to make it go. I don't want to hurt
anybody specially, but this thousand dollars I'm going to get will fix
me for fair. I'm going to drop the road, and start a saloon in a
little town I know about. I'm tired of being kicked around."
Boston Harry took from his pocket a cheap silver watch, and held it
near the fire.
"It's a quarter to nine," he said. "Pete, you and Blinky start. Go
down the road past the house, and fire the cane in a dozen places.
Then strike for the levee, and come back on it, instead of the road,
so you won't meet anybody. By the time you get back the men will all
be striking out for the fire, and we'll break for the house and collar
the dollars. Everybody cough up what matches he's got."
The two surly tramps made a collection of all the matches in the
party, Whistling Dick contributing his quota with propitiatory
alacrity, and then they departed in the dim starlight in the direction
of the road.
Of the three remaining vagrants, two, Goggles and Indiana Tom,
reclined lazily upon convenient lumber and regarded Whistling Dick
with undisguised disfavour. Boston, observing that the dissenting
recruit was disposed to remain peaceably, relaxed a little of his
vigilance. Whistling Dick arose presently and strolled leisurely up
and down keeping carefully within the territory assigned him.
"Dis planter chap," he said, pausing before Boston Harry, "w'ot makes
yer t'ink he's got de tin in de house wit' 'im?"
"I'm advised of the facts in the case," said Boston. "He drove to Noo
Orleans and got it, I say, to-day. Want to change your mind now and
"Naw, I was just askin'. Wot kind o' team did de boss drive?"
"Pair of grays."
"Women folks along?"
"Wife and kid. Say, what morning paper are you trying to pump news
"I was just conversin' to pass de time away. I guess dat team passed
me in de road dis evenin'. Dat's all."
As Whistling Dick put his hands in his pockets and continued his
curtailed beat up and down by the fire, he felt the silk stocking he
had picked up in the road.
"Ther bloomin' little skeezicks," he muttered, with a grin.
As he walked up and down he could see, through a sort of natural
opening or lane among the trees, the planter's residence some seventy-
five yards distant. The side of the house toward him exhibited
spacious, well-lighted windows through which a soft radiance streamed,
illuminating the broad veranda and some extent of the lawn beneath.
"What's that you said?" asked Boston, sharply.
"Oh, nuttin' 't all," said Whistling Dick, lounging carelessly, and
kicking meditatively at a little stone on the ground.
"Just as easy," continued the warbling vagrant softly to himself, "an'
sociable an' swell an' sassy, wit' her 'Mer-ry Chris-mus,' Wot d'yer
* * * * *
Dinner, two hours late, was being served in the Bellemeade plantation
The dining-room and all its appurtenances spoke of an old regime that
was here continued rather than suggested to the memory. The plate was
rich to the extent that its age and quaintness alone saved it from
being showy; there were interesting names signed in the corners of the
pictures on the walls; the viands were of the kind that bring a shine
into the eyes of gourmets. The service was swift, silent, lavish, as
in the days when the waiters were assets like the plate. The names by
which the planter's family and their visitors addressed one another
were historic in the annals of two nations. Their manners and
conversation had that most difficult kind of ease--the kind that still
preserves punctilio. The planter himself seemed to be the dynamo that
generated the larger portion of the gaiety and wit. The younger ones
at the board found it more than difficult to turn back on him his guns
of raillery and banter. It is true, the young men attempted to storm
his works repeatedly, incited by the hope of gaining the approbation
of their fair companions; but even when they sped a well-aimed shaft,
the planter forced them to feel defeat by the tremendous discomfiting
thunder of the laughter with which he accompanied his retorts. At the
head of the table, serene, matronly, benevolent, reigned the mistress
of the house, placing here and there the right smile, the right word,
the encouraging glance.
The talk of the party was too desultory, too evanescent to follow, but
at last they came to the subject of the tramp nuisance, one that had
of late vexed the plantations for many miles around. The planter
seized the occasion to direct his good-natured fire of raillery at the
mistress, accusing her of encouraging the plague. "They swarm up and
down the river every winter," he said. "They overrun New Orleans, and
we catch the surplus, which is generally the worst part. And, a day or
two ago, Madame New Orleans, suddenly discovering that she can't go
shopping without brushing her skirts against great rows of the
vagabonds sunning themselves on the banquettes, says to the police:
'Catch 'em all,' and the police catch a dozen or two, and the
remaining three or four thousand overflow up and down the levee, and
madame there,"--pointing tragically with the carving-knife at her--
"feeds them. They won't work; they defy my overseers, and they make
friends with my dogs; and you, madame, feed them before my eyes, and
intimidate me when I would interfere. Tell us, please, how many to-day
did you thus incite to future laziness and depredation?"
"Six, I think," said madame, with a reflective smile; "but you know
two of them offered to work, for you heard them yourself."
The planter's disconcerting laugh rang out again.
"Yes, at their own trades. And one was an artificial-flower maker, and
the other a glass-blower. Oh, they were looking for work! Not a hand
would they consent to lift to labour of any other kind."
"And another one," continued the soft-hearted mistress, "used quite
good language. It was really extraordinary for one of his class. And
he carried a watch. And had lived in Boston. I don't believe they are
all bad. They have always seemed to me to rather lack development. I
always look upon them as children with whom wisdom has remained at a
standstill while whiskers have continued to grow. We passed one this
evening as we were driving home who had a face as good as it was
incompetent. He was whistling the intermezzo from 'Cavalleria' and
blowing the spirit of Mascagni himself into it."
A bright eyed young girl who sat at the left of the mistress leaned
over, and said in a confidential undertone:
"I wonder, mamma, if that tramp we passed on the road found my
stocking, and do you think he will hang it up to-night? Now I can hang
up but one. Do you know why I wanted a new pair of silk stockings when
I have plenty? Well, old Aunt Judy says, if you hang up two that have
never been worn, Santa Claus will fill one with good things, and
Monsieur Pambe will place in the other payment for all the words you
have spoken--good or bad--on the day before Christmas. That's why I've
been unusually nice and polite to everyone to-day. Monsieur Pambe, you
know, is a witch gentleman; he--"
The words of the young girl were interrupted by a startling thing.
Like the wraith of some burned-out shooting star, a black streak came
crashing through the window-pane and upon the table, where it shivered
into fragments a dozen pieces of crystal and china ware, and then
glanced between the heads of the guests to the wall, imprinting
therein a deep, round indentation, at which, to-day, the visitor to
Bellemeade marvels as he gazes upon it and listens to this tale as it
The women screamed in many keys, and the men sprang to their feet, and
would have laid their hands upon their swords had not the verities of
The planter was the first to act; he sprang to the intruding missile,
and held it up to view.
"By Jupiter!" he cried. "A meteoric shower of hosiery! Has
communication at last been established with Mars?"
"I should say--ahem--Venus," ventured a young-gentleman visitor,
looking hopefully for approbation toward the unresponsive young-lady
The planter held at arm's length the unceremonious visitor--a long
dangling black stocking. "It's loaded," he announced.
As he spoke, he reversed the stocking, holding it by the toe, and down
from it dropped a roundish stone, wrapped about by a piece of
yellowish paper. "Now for the first interstellar message of the
century!" he cried; and nodding to the company, who had crowded about
him, he adjusted his glasses with provoking deliberation, and examined
it closely. When he finished, he had changed from the jolly host to
the practical, decisive man of business. He immediately struck a bell,
and said to the silent-footed mulatto man who responded: "Go and tell
Mr. Wesley to get Reeves and Maurice and about ten stout hands they
can rely upon, and come to the hall door at once. Tell him to have the
men arm themselves, and bring plenty of ropes and plough lines. Tell
him to hurry." And then he read aloud from the paper these words:
To the Gent of de Hous:
Dere is five tuff hoboes xcept meself in the vaken lot near de
road war de old brick piles is. Dey got me stuck up wid a gun see
and I taken dis means of communication. 2 of der lads is gone down
to set fire to de cain field below de hous and when yous fellers
goes to turn de hoes on it de hole gang is goin to rob de hous of
de money yoo gotto pay off wit say git a move on ye say de kid
dropt dis sock on der rode tel her mery crismus de same as she
told me. Ketch de bums down de rode first and den sen a relefe
core to get me out of soke youres truly,
There was some quiet, but rapid, mavoeuvring at Bellemeade during the
ensuring half hour, which ended in five disgusted and sullen tramps
being captured, and locked securely in an outhouse pending the coming
of the morning and retribution. For another result, the visiting young
gentlemen had secured the unqualified worship of the visiting young
ladies by their distinguished and heroic conduct. For still another,
behold Whistling Dick, the hero, seated at the planter's table,
feasting upon viands his experience had never before included, and
waited upon by admiring femininity in shapes of such beauty and
"swellness" that even his ever-full mouth could scarcely prevent him
from whistling. He was made to disclose in detail his adventure with
the evil gang of Boston Harry, and how he cunningly wrote the note and
wrapped it around the stone and placed it at the toe of the stocking,
and, watching his chance, sent it silently, with a wonderful
centrifugal momentum, like a comet, at one of the big lighted windows
of the dining-room.
The planter vowed that the wanderer should wander no more; that his
was a goodness and an honesty that should be rewarded, and that a debt
of gratitude had been made that must be paid; for had he not saved
them from a doubtless imminent loss, and maybe a greater calamity? He
assured Whistling Dick that he might consider himself a charge upon
the honour of Bellemeade; that a position suited to his powers would
be found for him at once, and hinted that the way would be heartily
smoothed for him to rise to as high places of emolument and trust as
the plantation afforded.
But now, they said, he must be weary, and the immediate thing to
consider was rest and sleep. So the mistress spoke to a servant, and
Whistling Dick was conducted to a room in the wing of the house
occupied by the servants. To this room, in a few minutes, was brought
a portable tin bathtub filled with water, which was placed on a piece
of oiled cloth upon the floor. There the vagrant was left to pass the
By the light of a candle he examined the room. A bed, with the covers
neatly turned back, revealed snowy pillows and sheets. A worn, but
clean, red carpet covered the floor. There was a dresser with a
beveled mirror, a washstand with a flowered bowl and pitcher; the two
or three chairs were softly upholstered. A little table held books,
papers, and a day-old cluster of roses in a jar. There were towels on
a rack and soap in a white dish.
Whistling Dick set his candle on a chair and placed his hat carefully
under the table. After satisfying what we must suppose to have been
his curiosity by a sober scrutiny, he removed his coat, folded it, and
laid it upon the floor, near the wall, as far as possible from the
unused bathtub. Taking his coat for a pillow, he stretched himself
luxuriously upon the carpet.
When, on Christmas morning, the first streaks of dawn broke above the
marshes, Whistling Dick awoke, and reached instinctively for his hat.
Then he remembered that the skirts of Fortune had swept him into their
folds on the night previous, and he went to the window and raised it,
to let the fresh breath of the morning cool his brow and fix the yet
dream-like memory of his good luck within his brain.
As he stood there, certain dread and ominous sounds pierced the
fearful hollow of his ear.
The force of plantation workers, eager to complete the shortened task
allotted to them, were all astir. The mighty din of the ogre Labour
shook the earth, and the poor tattered and forever disguised Prince in
search of his fortune held tight to the window-sill even in the
enchanted castle, and trembled.
Already from the bosom of the mill came the thunder of rolling barrels
of sugar, and (prison-like sounds) there was a great rattling of
chains as the mules were harried with stimulant imprecations to their
places by the waggon-tongues. A little vicious "dummy" engine, with a
train of flat cars in tow, stewed and fumed on the plantation tap of
the narrow-gauge railroad, and a toiling, hurrying, hallooing stream
of workers were dimly seen in the half darkness loading the train with
the weekly output of sugar. Here was a poem; an epic--nay, a tragedy--
with work, the curse of the world, for its theme.
The December air was frosty, but the sweat broke out upon Whistling
Dick's face. He thrust his head out of the window, and looked down.
Fifteen feet below him, against the wall of the house, he could make
out that a border of flowers grew, and by that token he overhung a bed
of soft earth.
Softly as a burglar goes, he clambered out upon the sill, lowered
himself until he hung by his hands alone, and then dropped safely. No
one seemed to be about upon this side of the house. He dodged low, and
skimmed swiftly across the yard to the low fence. It was an easy
matter to vault this, for a terror urged him such as lifts the gazelle
over the thorn bush when the lion pursues. A crash through the dew-
drenched weeds on the roadside, a clutching, slippery rush up the
grassy side of the levee to the footpath at the summit, and--he was
The east was blushing and brightening. The wind, himself a vagrant
rover, saluted his brother upon the cheek. Some wild geese, high
above, gave cry. A rabbit skipped along the path before him, free to
turn to the right or to the left as his mood should send him. The
river slid past, and certainly no one could tell the ultimate abiding
place of its waters.
A small, ruffled, brown-breasted bird, sitting upon a dog-wood
sapling, began a soft, throaty, tender little piping in praise of the
dew which entices foolish worms from their holes; but suddenly he
stopped, and sat with his head turned sidewise, listening.
From the path along the levee there burst forth a jubilant, stirring,
buoyant, thrilling whistle, loud and keen and clear as the cleanest
notes of the piccolo. The soaring sound rippled and trilled and
arpeggioed as the songs of wild birds do not; but it had a wild free
grace that, in a way, reminded the small, brown bird of something
familiar, but exactly what he could not tell. There was in it the bird
call, or reveille, that all birds know; but a great waste of lavish,
unmeaning things that art had added and arranged, besides, and that
were quite puzzling and strange; and the little brown bird sat with
his head on one side until the sound died away in the distance.
The little bird did not know that the part of that strange warbling
that he understood was just what kept the warbler without his
breakfast; but he knew very well that the part he did not understand
did not concern him, so he gave a little flutter of his wings and
swooped down like a brown bullet upon a big fat worm that was
wriggling along the levee path.
THE HALBERDIER OF THE LITTLE RHEINSCHLOSS
I go sometimes into the /Bierhalle/ and restaurant called Old Munich.
Not long ago it was a resort of interesting Bohemians, but now only
artists and musicians and literary folk frequent it. But the Pilsner
is yet good, and I take some diversion from the conversation of Waiter
For many years the customers of Old Munich have accepted the place as
a faithful copy from the ancient German town. The big hall with its
smoky rafters, rows of imported steins, portrait of Goethe, and verses
painted on the walls--translated into German from the original of the
Cincinnati poets--seems atmospherically correct when viewed through
the bottom of a glass.
But not long ago the proprietors added the room above, called it the
Little Rheinschloss, and built in a stairway. Up there was an
imitation stone parapet, ivy-covered, and the walls were painted to
represent depth and distance, with the Rhine winding at the base of
the vineyarded slopes, and the castle of Ehrenbreitstein looming
directly opposite the entrance. Of course there were tables and
chairs; and you could have beer and food brought you, as you naturally
would on the top of a castle on the Rhine.
I went into Old Munich one afternoon when there were few customers,
and sat at my usual table near the stairway. I was shocked and almost
displeased to perceive that the glass cigar-case by the orchestra
stand had been smashed to smithereens. I did not like things to happen
in Old Munich. Nothing had ever happened there before.
Waiter No. 18 came and breathed on my neck. I was his by right of
discovery. Eighteen's brain was built like a corral. It was full of
ideas which, when he opened the gate, came huddling out like a flock
of sheep that might get together afterward or might not. I did not
shine as a shepherd. As a type Eighteen fitted nowhere. I did not find
out if he had a nationality, family, creed, grievance, hobby, soul,
preference, home, or vote. He only came always to my table and, as
long as his leisure would permit, let words flutter from him like
swallows leaving a barn at daylight.
"How did the cigar-case come to be broken, Eighteen?" I asked, with a
certain feeling of personal grievance.
"I can tell you about that, sir," said he, resting his foot on the
chair next to mine. "Did you ever have anybody hand you a double
handful of good luck while both your hands were full of bad luck, and
stop to notice how your fingers behaved?"
"No riddles, Eighteen," said I. "Leave out palmistry and manicuring."
"You remember," said Eighteen, "the guy in the hammered brass Prince
Albert and the oroide gold pants and the amalgamated copper hat, that
carried the combination meat-axe, ice-pick, and liberty-pole, and used
to stand on the first landing as you go up to the Little Rindslosh."
"Why, yes," said I. "The halberdier. I never noticed him particularly.
I remember he thought he was only a suit of armour. He had a perfect
"He had more than that," said Eighteen. "He was me friend. He was an
advertisement. The boss hired him to stand on the stairs for a kind of
scenery to show there was something doing in the has-been line
upstairs. What did you call him--a what kind of beer?"
"A halberdier," said I. "That was an ancient man-at-arms of many
hundred years ago."
"Some mistake," said Eighteen. "This one wasn't that old. He wasn't
over twenty-three or four.
"It was the boss's idea, rigging a man up in an ante-bellum suit of
tinware and standing him on the landing of the slosh. He bought the
goods at a Fourth Avenue antique store, and hung a sign-out: 'Able-
bodied hal--halberdier wanted. Costume furnished.'
"The same morning a young man with wrecked good clothes and a hungry
look comes in, bringing the sign with him. I was filling the mustard-
pots at my station.
"'I'm it,' says he, 'whatever it is. But I never halberdiered in a
restaurant. Put me on. Is it a masquerade?'
"'I hear talk in the kitchen of a fishball,' says I.
"'Bully for you, Eighteen,' says he. 'You and I'll get on. Show me the
"Well, the boss tries the Harveyized pajamas on him, and they fitted
him like the scales on a baked redsnapper, and he gets the job. You've
seen what it is--he stood straight up in the corner of the first
landing with his halberd to his shoulder, looking right ahead and
guarding the Portugals of the castle. The boss is nutty about having
the true Old-World flavour to his joint. 'Halberdiers goes with
Rindsloshes,' says he, 'just as rats goes with rathskellers and white
cotton stockings with Tyrolean villages.' The boss is a kind of a
antiologist, and is all posted up on data and such information.
"From 8 P.M. to two in the morning was the halberdier's hours. He got
two meals with us help and a dollar an night. I eat with him at the
table. He liked me. He never told his name. He was travelling
impromptu, like kings, I guess. The first time at supper I says to
him: 'Have some more of the spuds, Mr. Frelinghuysen.' 'Oh, don't be
so formal and offish, Eighteen,' says he. 'Call me Hal--that's short
for halberdier.' 'Oh, don't think I wanted to pry for names,' says I.
'I know all about the dizzy fall from wealth and greatness. We've got
a count washing dishes in the kitchen; and the third bartender used to
be a Pullman conductor. And they /work/, Sir Percival,' says I,
"'Eighteen,' says he, 'as a friendly devil in a cabbage-scented hell,
would you mind cutting up this piece of steak for me? I don't say that
it's got more muscle than I have, but--' And then he shows me the
insides of his hands. They was blistered and cut and corned and
swelled up till they looked like a couple of flank steaks criss-
crossed with a knife--the kind the butchers hide and take home,
knowing what is the best.
"'Shoveling coal,' says he, 'and piling bricks and loading drays. But
they gave out, and I had to resign. I was born for a halberdier, and
I've been educated for twenty-four years to fill the position. Now,
quit knocking my profession, and pass along a lot more of that ham.
I'm holding the closing exercises,' says he, 'of a forty-eight-hour
"The second night he was on the job he walks down from his corner to
the cigar-case and calls for cigarettes. The customers at the tables
all snicker out loud to show their acquaintance with history. The boss
"'An'--let's see--oh, yes--'An anachronism,' says the boss.
'Cigarettes was not made at the time when halberdiers was invented.'
"'The ones you sell was,' says Sir Percival. 'Caporal wins from
chronology by the length of a cork tip.' So he gets 'em and lights
one, and puts the box in his brass helmet, and goes back to patroling
"He made a big hit, 'specially with the ladies. Some of 'em would poke
him with their fingers to see if he was real or only a kind of a
stuffed figure like they burn in elegy. And when he'd move they'd
squeak, and make eyes at him as they went up to the slosh. He looked
fine in his halberdashery. He slept at $2 a week in a hall-room on
Third Avenue. He invited me up there one night. He had a little book
on the washstand that he read instead of shopping in the saloons after
hours. 'I'm on to that,' says I, 'from reading about it in novels. All
the heroes on the bum carry the little book. It's either Tantalus or
Liver or Horace, and its printed in Latin, and you're a college man.
And I wouldn't be surprised,' says I, 'if you wasn't educated, too.'
But it was only the batting averages of the League for the last ten
"One night, about half past eleven, there comes in a party of these
high-rollers that are always hunting up new places to eat in and poke
fun at. There was a swell girl in a 40 H.-P. auto tan coat and veil,
and a fat old man with white side-whiskers, and a young chap that
couldn't keep his feet off the tail of the girl's coat, and an oldish
lady that looked upon life as immoral and unnecessary. 'How perfectly
delightful,' they says, 'to sup in a slosh.' Up the stairs they go;
and in half a minute back down comes the girl, her skirts swishing
like the waves on the beach. She stops on the landing and looks our
halberdier in the eye.
"'You!' she says, with a smile that reminded me of lemon sherbet. I
was waiting up-stairs in the slosh, then, and I was right down here by
the door, putting some vinegar and cayenne into an empty bottle of
tabasco, and I heard all they said.
"'It,' says Sir Percival, without moving. 'I'm only local colour. Are
my hauberk, helmet, and halberd on straight?'
"'Is there an explanation to this?' says she. 'Is it a practical joke
such as men play in those Griddle-cake and Lamb Clubs? I'm afraid I
don't see the point. I heard, vaguely, that you were away. For three
months I--we have not seen you or heard from you.'
"'I'm halberdiering for my living,' says the stature. 'I'm working,'
says he. 'I don't suppose you know what work means.'
"'Have you--have you lost your money?' she asks.
"Sir Percival studies a minute.
"'I am poorer,' says he, 'than the poorest sandwich man on the streets
--if I don't earn my living.'
"'You call this work?' says she. 'I thought a man worked with his
hands or his head instead of becoming a mountebank.'
"'The calling of a halberdier,' says he, 'is an ancient and honourable
one. Sometimes,' says he, 'the man-at-arms at the door has saved the
castle while the plumed knights were cake-walking in the banquet-halls
"'I see you're not ashamed,' says she, 'of your peculiar tastes. I
wonder, though, that the manhood I used to think I saw in you didn't
prompt you to draw water or hew wood instead of publicly flaunting
your ignominy in this disgraceful masquerade.'
"Sir Percival kind of rattles his armour and says: 'Helen, will you
suspend sentence in this matter for just a little while? You don't
understand,' says he. 'I've got to hold this job down a little
"'You like being a harlequin--or halberdier, as you call it?' says
"'I wouldn't get thrown of the job just now,' says he, with a grin,
'to be appointed Minister to the Court of St. James's.'
"And then the 40-H.P. girl's eyes sparked as hard as diamonds.
"'Very well,' says she. 'You shall have full run of your serving-man's
tastes this night.' And she swims over to the boss's desk and gives
him a smile that knocks the specks off his nose.
"'I think your Rindslosh,' says she, 'is as beautiful as a dream. It
is a little slice of the Old World set down in New York. We shall have
a nice supper up there; but if you will grant us one favour the
illusion will be perfect--give us your halberdier to wait on our
"That hits the boss's antiology hobby just right. 'Sure,' says he,
'dot vill be fine. Und der orchestra shall blay "Die Wacht am Rhein"
all der time.' And he goes over and tells the halberdier to go
upstairs and hustle the grub at the swells' table.
"'I'm on the job,' says Sir Percival, taking off his helmet and
hanging it on his halberd and leaning 'em in the corner. The girl goes
up and takes her seat and I see her jaw squared tight under her smile.
'We're going to be waited on by a real halberdier,' says she, 'one who
is proud of his profession. Isn't it sweet?'
"'Ripping,' says the swell young man. 'Much prefer a waiter,' says the
fat old gent. 'I hope he doesn't come from a cheap museum,' says the
old lady; 'he might have microbes in his costume.'
"Before he goes to the table, Sir Percival takes me by the arm.
'Eighteen,' he says, 'I've got to pull off this job without a blunder.
You coach me straight or I'll take that halberd and make hash out of
you.' And then he goes up to the table with his coat of mail on and a
napkin over his arm and waits for the order.
"'Why, it's Deering!' says the young swell. 'Hello, old man. What
"'Beg pardon, sir,' interrupts the halberdier, 'I'm waiting on the
"The old man looks at him grim, like a Boston bull. 'So, Deering,' he
says, 'you're at work yet.'
"'Yes, sir,' says Sir Percival, quiet and gentlemanly as I could have
been myself, 'for almost three months, now.' 'You haven't been
discharged during the time?' asks the old man. 'Not once, sir,' says
he, 'though I've had to change my work several times.'
"'Waiter,' orders the girl, short and sharp, 'another napkin.' He
brings her one, respectful.
"I never saw more devil, if I may say it, stirred up in a lady. There
was two bright red spots on her cheeks, and her eyes looked exactly
like a wildcat's I'd seen in the zoo. Her foot kept slapping the floor
all the time.
"'Waiter,' she orders, 'bring me filtered water without ice. Bring me
a footstool. Take away this empty salt-cellar.' She kept him on the
jump. She was sure giving the halberdier his.
"There wasn't but a few customers up in the slosh at that time, so I
hung out near the door so I could help Sir Percival serve.
"He got along fine with the olives and celery and the bluepoints. They
was easy. And then the consomme came up the dumb-waiter all in one big
silver tureen. Instead of serving it from the side-table he picks it
up between his hands and starts to the dining-table with it. When
nearly there he drops the tureen smash on the floor, and the soup
soaks all the lower part of that girl's swell silk dress.
"'Stupid--incompetent,' says she, giving him a look. 'Standing in a
corner with a halberd seems to be your mission in life.'
"'Pardon me, lady,' says he. 'It was just a little bit hotter than
blazes. I couldn't help it.'
"The old man pulls out a memorandum book and hunts in it. 'The 25th of
April, Deering,' says he. 'I know it,' says Sir Percival. 'And ten
minutes to twelve o'clock,' says the old man. 'By Jupiter! you haven't
won yet.' And he pounds the table with his fist and yells to me:
'Waiter, call the manager at once--tell him to hurry here as fast as
he can.' I go after the boss, and old Brockmann hikes up to the slosh
on the jump.
"'I want this man discharged at once,' roads the old guy. 'Look what
he's done. Ruined my daughter's dress. It cost at least $600.
Discharge this awkward lout at once or I'll sue you for the price of
"'Dis is bad pizness,' says the boss. 'Six hundred dollars is much. I
reckon I vill haf to--'
"'Wait a minute, Herr Brockmann,' says Sir Percival, easy and smiling.
But he was worked up under his tin suitings; I could see that. And
then he made the finest, neatest little speech I ever listened to. I
can't give you the words, of course. He give the millionaires a lovely
roast in a sarcastic way, describing their automobiles and opera-boxes
and diamonds; and then he got around to the working-classes and the
kind of grub they eat and the long hours they work--and all that sort
of stuff--bunkum, of course. 'The restless rich,' says he, 'never
content with their luxuries, always prowling among the haunts of the
poor and humble, amusing themselves with the imperfections and
misfortunes of their fellow men and women. And even here, Herr
Brockmann,' he says, 'in this beautiful Rindslosh, a grand and
enlightening reproduction of Old World history and architecture, they
come to disturb its symmetry and picturesqueness by demanding in their
arrogance that the halberdier of the castle wait upon their table! I
have faithfuly and conscientiously,' says he, 'performed my duties as
a halberdier. I know nothing of a waiter's duties. It was the insolent
whim of these transient, pampered aristocrats that I should be
detailed to serve them food. Must I be blamed--must I be deprived of
the means of a livelihood,' he goes on, 'on account of an accident
that was the result of their own presumption and haughtiness? But what
hurts me more than all,' says Sir Percival, 'is the desecration that
has been done to this splendid Rindslosh--the confiscation of its
halberdier to serve menially at the banquet board.'
"Even I could see that this stuff was piffle; but it caught the boss.
"'Mein Gott,' says he, 'you vas right. Ein halberdier have not got der
right to dish up soup. Him I vill not discharge. Have anoder waiter if
you like, und let mein halberdier go back und stand mit his halberd.
But, gentlemen,' he says, pointing to the old man, 'you go ahead and
sue mit der dress. Sue me for $600 or $6,000. I stand der suit.' And
the boss puffs off down-stairs. Old Brockmann was an all-right
"Just then the clock strikes twelve, and the old guy laughs loud. 'You
win, Deering,' says he. 'And let me explain to all,' he goes on. 'Some
time ago Mr. Deering asked me for something that I did not want to
give him.' (I looks at the girl, and she turns as red as a pickled
beet.) 'I told him,' says the old guy, 'if he would earn his own
living for three months without being discharged for incompetence, I
would give him what he wanted. It seems that the time was up at twelve
o'clock to-night. I came near fetching you, though, Deering, on that
soup question,' says the old boy, standing up and grabbing Sir
"The halberdier lets out a yell and jumps three feet high.
"'Look out for those hands,' says he, and he holds 'em up. You never
saw such hands except on a labourer in a limestone quarry.
"'Heavens, boy!' says old side-whiskers, 'what have you been doing to
"'Oh,' says Sir Percival, 'little chores like hauling coal and
excavating rock till they went back on me. And when I couldn't hold a
pick or a whip I took up halberdiering to give 'em a rest. Tureens
full of hot soup don't seem to be a particularly soothing treatment.'
"I would have bet on that girl. That high-tempered kind always go as
far the other way, according to my experience. She whizzes round the
table like a cyclone and catches both his hands in hers. 'Poor hands--
dear hands,' she sings out, and sheds tears on 'em and holds 'em close
to her bosom. Well, sir, with all that Rindslosh scenery it was just
like a play. And the halberdier sits down at the table at the girl's
side, and I served the rest of the supper. And that was about all,
except that when they left he shed his hardware store and went with
I dislike to be side-tracked from an original proposition.
"But you haven't told me, Eighteen," said I, "how the cigar-case came
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