Sixes and Sevens
Part 4 out of 4
fell and jerks out his little pearl-handle, and -- bing! bing! bing! Pedro
gets it three times in special and treasured portions of his carcass. I
saw the dust fly off his clothes every time the bullets hit. Sometimes
them little thirty-twos cause worry at close range.
"The engine bell was ringing, and the train starting off slow. I goes up
to the kid and places him under arrest, and takes away his gun. But the
first thing I knew that _caballard_ of capitalists makes a break for the
train. One of 'em hesitates in front of me for a second, and kind of
smiles and shoves his hand up against my chin, and I sort of laid down on
the platform and took a nap. I never was afraid of guns; but I don't want
any person except a barber to take liberties like that with my face again
. When I woke up, the whole outfit -- train, boy, and all -- was gone. I
asked about Pedro, and they told me the doctor said he would recover
provided his wounds didn't turn out to be fatal.
"When Luke got back three days later, and I told him about it, he was mad
"'Why'n't you telegraph to San Antone,' he asks, 'and have the bunch
"'Oh, well,' says I, 'I always did admire telegraphy; but astronomy was
what I had took up just then.' That capitalist sure knew how to
gesticulate with his hands.
"Luke got madder and madder. He investigates and finds in the depot a
card one of the men had dropped that gives the address of some _hombre_
called Scudder in New York City.
"'Bud,' says Luke, 'I'm going after that bunch. I'm going there and get
the man or boy, as you say he was, and bring him back. I'm sheriff of
Mojada County, and I shall keep law and order in its precincts while I'm
able to draw a gun. And I want you to go with me. No Eastern Yankee can
shoot up a respectable and well-known citizen of Bildad, 'specially with a
thirty-two calibre, and escape the law. Pedro Johnson,' says Luke, 'is
one of our most prominent citizens and business men. I'll appoint Sam Bel
l acting sheriff with penitentiary powers while I'm away, and you and me
will take the six forty-five northbound to-morrow evening and follow up
"'I'm your company,' says I. 'I never see this New York, but I'd like
to. But, Luke,' says I, 'don't you have to have a dispensation or a
habeas corpus or something from the state, when you reach out that far for
rich men and malefactors?'
"'Did I have a requisition,' says Luke, 'when I went over into the Brazos
bottoms and brought back Bill Grimes and two more for holding up the
International? Did me and you have a search warrant or a posse comitatus
when we rounded up them six Mexican cow thieves down in Hidalgo? It's my
business to keep order in Mojada County.'
"'And it's my business as office deputy,' says I, 'to see that business is
carried on according to law. Between us both we ought to keep things
pretty well cleaned up.'
"So, the next day, Luke packs a blanket and some collars and his mileage
book in a haversack, and him and me hits the breeze for New York. It was
a powerful long ride. The seats in the cars was too short for six-footers
like us to sleep comfortable on; and the conductor had to keep us from
getting off at every town that had five-story houses in it. But we got
there finally; and we seemed to see right away that he was right about it.
"'Luke,' says I, 'as office deputy and from a law standpoint, it don't
look to me like this place is properly and legally in the jurisdiction of
Mojada County, Texas.'
"'From the standpoint of order,' says he, 'it's amenable to answer for its
sins to the properly appointed authorities from Bildad to Jerusalem.'
"'Amen,' says I. 'But let's turn our trick sudden, and ride. I don't
like the looks of this place.'
"'Think of Pedro Johnson,' says Luke, 'a friend of mine and yours shot
down by one of these gilded abolitionists at his very door!'
"'It was at the door of the freight depot,' says I. 'But the law will not
be balked at a quibble like that.'
"We put up at one of them big hotels on Broadway. The next morning I goes
down about two miles of stairsteps to the bottom and hunts for Luke. It
ain't no use. It looks like San Jacinto day in San Antone. There's a
thousand folks milling around in a kind of a roofed-over plaza with marble
pavements and trees growing right out of 'em, and I see no more chance of
finding Luke than if we was hunting each other in the big pear flat down
below Old Fort Ewell. But soon Luke and me runs together in one of the
turns of them marble alleys.
"'It ain't no use, Bud,' says he. 'I can't find no place to eat at. I've
been looking for restaurant signs and smelling for ham all over the camp.
But I'm used to going hungry when I have to. Now,' says he, 'I'm going
out and get a hack and ride down to the address on this Scudder card. You
stay here and try to hustle some grub. But I doubt if you'll find it. I
wish we'd brought along some cornmeal and bacon and beans. I'll be back
when I see this Scudder, if the trail ain't wiped out.'
"So I starts foraging for breakfast. For the honour of old Mojada County
I didn't want to seem green to them abolitionists, so every time I turned
a corner in them marble halls I went up to the first desk or counter I see
and looks around for grub. If I didn't see what I wanted I asked for
something else. In about half an hour I had a dozen cigars, five story
magazines, and seven or eight railroad time-tables in my pockets, and
never a smell of coffee or bacon to point out the trail.
"Once a lady sitting at a table and playing a game kind of like pushpin
told me to go into a closet that she called Number 3. I went in and shut
the door, and the blamed thing lit itself up. I set down on a stool
before a shelf and waited. Thinks I, 'This is a private dining-room.' But
no waiter never came. When I got to sweating good and hard, I goes out
"'Did you get what you wanted?' says she.
"'No, ma'am,' says I. 'Not a bite.'
"'Then there's no charge,' says she.
"'Thanky, ma'am,' says I, and I takes up the trail again.
"By and by I thinks I'll shed etiquette; and I picks up one of them boys
with blue clothes and yellow buttons in front, and he leads me to what he
calls the caffay breakfast room. And the first thing I lays my eyes on
when I go in is that boy that had shot Pedro Johnson. He was setting all
alone at a little table, hitting a egg with a spoon like he was afraid
he'd break it.
"I takes the chair across the table from him; and he looks insulted and
makes a move like he was going to get up.
"'Keep still, son,' says I. 'You're apprehended, arrested, and in charge
of the Texas authorities. Go on and hammer that egg some more if it's the
inside of it you want. Now, what did you shoot Mr. Johnson, of Bildad,
"And may I ask who you are?' says he.
"'You may,' says I. 'Go ahead.'
"'I suppose you're on,' says this kid, without batting his eyes. 'But
what are you eating? Here, waiter!' he calls out, raising his finger.
'Take this gentleman's order.
"'A beefsteak,' says I, 'and some fried eggs and a can of peaches and a
quart of coffee will about suffice.'
"We talk awhile about the sundries of life and then he says:
"'What are you going to do about that shooting? I had a right to shoot
that man,' says he. 'He called me names that I couldn't overlook, and
then he struck me. He carried a gun, too. What else could I do?'
"'We'll have to take you back to Texas,' says I.
"'I'd like to go back,' says the boy, with a kind of a grin -- 'if it
wasn't on an occasion of this kind. It's the life I like. I've always
wanted to ride and shoot and live in the open air ever since I can
"'Who was this gang of stout parties you took this trip with?' I asks.
"'My stepfather,' says he, 'and some business partners of his in some
Mexican mining and land schemes.'
"'I saw you shoot Pedro Johnson,' says I, 'and I took that little popgun
away from you that you did it with. And when I did so I noticed three or
four little scars in a row over your right eyebrow. You've been in rookus
before, haven't you?'
"'I've had these scars ever since I can remember,' says he. 'I don't know
how they came there. '
"'Was you ever in Texas before?' says I.
"'Not that I remember of,' says he. 'But I thought I had when we struck
the prairie country. But I guess I hadn't.'
"'Have you got a mother?' I asks.
"'She died five years ago,' says he.
"Skipping over the most of what followed -- when Luke came back I turned
the kid over to him. He had seen Scudder and told him what he wanted; and
it seems that Scudder got active with one of these telephones as soon as
he left. For in about an hour afterward there comes to our hotel some of
these city rangers in everyday clothes that they call detectives, and
marches the whole outfit of us to what they call a magistrate's court.
They accuse Luke of at-tempted kidnapping, and ask him what he has to say.
"'This snipe,' says Luke to the judge, 'shot and wilfully punctured with
malice and forethought one of the most respected and prominent citizens of
the town of Bildad, Texas, Your Honor. And in so doing laid himself
liable to the penitence of law and order. And I hereby make claim and
demand restitution of the State of New York City for the said alleged
criminal; and I know he done it.'
"'Have you the usual and necessary requisition papers from the governor of
your state?' asks the judge.
"'My usual papers,' says Luke, 'was taken away from me at the hotel by
these gentlemen who represent law and order in your city. They was two
Colt's .45's that I've packed for nine years; and if I don't get 'em back,
there'll be more trouble. You can ask anybody in Mojada County about Luke
Summers. I don't usually need any other kind of papers for what I do.'
"I see the judge looks mad, so I steps up and says:
"'Your Honor, the aforesaid defendant, Mr. Luke Summers, sheriff of Mojada
County, Texas, is as fine a man as ever threw a rope or upheld the
statutes and codicils of the greatest state in the Union. But he --'
"The judge hits his table with a wooden hammer and asks who I am.
"Bud Oakley,' says I. 'Office deputy of the sheriff's office of Mojada
County, Texas. Representing,' says I, 'the Law. Luke Summers,' I goes
on, 'represents Order. And if Your Honor will give me about ten minutes
in private talk, I'll explain the whole thing to you, and show you the
equitable and legal requisition papers which I carry in my pocket.'
"The judge kind of half smiles and says he will talk with me in his
private room. In there I put the whole thing up to him in such language
as I had, and when we goes outside, he announces the verdict that the
young man is delivered into the hands of the Texas authorities; and calls
the next case.
"Skipping over much of what happened on the way back, I'll tell you how
the thing wound up in Bildad.
"When we got the prisoner in the sheriff's office, I says to Luke:
"'You, remember that kid of yours -- that two-year old that they stole
away from you when the bust-up come?'
"Luke looks black and angry. He'd never let anybody talk to him about
that business, and he never mentioned it himself.
"'Toe the mark,' says I. 'Do you remember when he was toddling around on
the porch and fell down on a pair of Mexican spurs and cut four little
holes over his right eye? Look at the prisoner,' says I, 'look at his
nose and the shape of his head and -- why, you old fool, don't you know
your own son? -- I knew him,' says I, 'when he perforated Mr. Johnson at
"Luke comes over to me shaking all over. I never saw him lose his nerve
"'Bud,' says he. 'I've never had that boy out of my mind one day or one
night since he was took away. But I never let on. But can we hold him?
-- Can we make him stay? -- I'll make the best man of him that ever put
his foot in a stirrup. Wait a minute,' says he, all excited and out of
his mind -- 'I've got some-thing here in my desk -- I reckon it'll hold
legal yet -- I've looked at it a thousand times -- " Cus-to-dy of the
child," says Luke -- "Cus-to-dy of the child." We can hold him on that,
can't we? Le'me see if I can find that decree.'
"Luke begins to tear his desk to pieces.
"'Hold on,' says I. 'You are Order and I'm Law. You needn't look for
that paper, Luke. It ain't a decree any more. It's requisition papers.
It's on file in that Magistrate's office in New York. I took it along
when we went, because I was office deputy and knew the law.'
"'I've got him back,' says Luke. 'He's mine again. I never thought -- '
"'Wait a minute,' says I. 'We've got to have law and order. You and me
have got to preserve 'em both in Mojada County according to our oath and
conscience. The kid shot Pedro Johnson, one of Bildad's most prominent
"'Oh, hell!' says Luke. 'That don't amount to anything. That fellow was
half Mexican, anyhow.'"
XXII TRANSFORMATION OF MARTIN BURNEY
In behalf of Sir Walter's soothing plant let us look into the case of
They were constructing the Speedway along the west bank of the Harlem
River. The grub-boat of Dennis Corrigan, sub-contractor, was moored to a
tree on the bank. Twenty-two men belonging to the little green island
toiled there at the sinew-cracking labour. One among them, who wrought in
the kitchen of the grub-boat was of the race of the Goths. Over them all
stood the exorbitant Corrigan, harrying them like the captain of a galley
crew. He paid them so little that most of the gang, work as they might, e
arned little more than food and tobacco; many of them were in debt to
him. Corrigan boarded them all in the grub-boat, and gave them good grub,
for he got it back in work.
Martin Burney was furthest behind of all. He was a little man, all
muscles and hands and feet, with a gray-red, stubbly beard. He was too
light for the work, which would have glutted the capacity of a steam
The work was hard. Besides that, the banks of the river were humming with
mosquitoes. As a child in a dark room fixes his regard on the pale light
of a comforting window, these toilers watched the sun that brought around
the one hour of the day that tasted less bitter. After the sundown supper
they would huddle together on the river bank, and send the mosquitoes
whining and eddying back from the malignant puffs of twenty-three reeking
pipes. Thus socially banded against the foe, they wrenched out of the
hour a few well-smoked drops from the cup of joy.
Each week Burney grew deeper in debt. Corrigan kept a small stock of
goods on the boat, which he sold to the men at prices that brought him no
loss. Burney was a good customer at the tobacco counter. One sack when
he went to work in the morning and one when he came in at night, so much
was his account swelled daily. Burney was something of a smoker. Yet it
was not true that he ate his meals with a pipe in his mouth, which had
been said of him. The little man was not discontented. He had plenty to
eat, plenty of tobacco, and a tyrant to curse; so why should not he, an
Irishman, be well satisfied?
One morning as he was starting with the others for work he stopped at the
pine counter for his usual sack of tobacco.
"There's no more for ye," said Corrigan. "Your account's closed. Ye are
a losing investment. No, not even tobaccy, my son. No more tobaccy on
account. If ye want to work on and eat, do so, but the smoke of ye has
all ascended. 'Tis my advice that ye hunt a new job."
"I have no tobaccy to smoke in my pipe this day, Mr. Corrigan," said
Burney, not quite understanding that such a thing could happen to him.
"Earn it," said Corrigan, "and then buy it."
Burney stayed on. He knew of no other job. At first he did not realize
that tobacco had got to be his father and mother, his confessor and
sweetheart, and wife and child.
For three days he managed to fill his pipe from the other men's sacks, and
then they shut him off, one and all. They told him, rough but friendly,
that of all things in the world tobacco must be quickest forthcoming to a
fellow-man desiring it, but that beyond the immediate temporary need
requisition upon the store of a comrade is pressed with great danger to
Then the blackness of the pit arose and filled the heart of Burney.
Sucking the corpse of his deceased dudheen, he staggered through his
duties with his barrowful of stones and dirt, feeling for the first time
that the curse of Adam was upon him. Other men bereft of a pleasure might
have recourse to other delights, but Burney had only two comforts in
life. One was his pipe, the other was an ecstatic hope that there would
be no Speedways to build on the other side of Jordan.
At meal times he would let the other men go first into the grub-boat, and
then he would go down on his hands and knees, grovelling fiercely upon the
ground where they had been sitting, trying to find some stray crumbs of
tobacco. Once he sneaked down the river bank and filled his pipe with
dead willow leaves. At the first whiff of the smoke he spat in the
direction of the boat and put the finest curse he knew on Corrigan -- one
that began with the first Corrigans born on earth and ended with the
Corrigans that shall hear the trumpet of Gabriel blow. He began to hate
Corrigan with all his shaking nerves and soul. Even murder occurred to
him in a vague sort of way. Five days he went without the taste of
tobacco -- he who had smoked all day and thought the night misspent in
which he had not awakened for a pipeful or two under the bedclothes.
One day a man stopped at the boat to say that there was work to be had in
the Bronx Park, where a large number of labourers were required in making
After dinner Burney walked thirty yards down the river bank away from the
maddening smell of the others' pipes. He sat down upon a stone. He was
thinking he would set out for the Bronx. At least he could earn tobacco
there. What if the books did say he owed Corrigan? Any man's work was
worth his keep. But then he hated to go without getting even with the
hard-hearted screw who had put his pipe out. Was there any way to do it?
Softly stepping among the clods came Tony, he of the race of Goths, who
worked in the kitchen. He grinned at Burney's elbow, and that unhappy
man, full of race animosity and holding urbanity in contempt, growled at
him: "What d'ye want, ye -- Dago?"
Tony also contained a grievance -- and a plot. He, too, was a Corrigan
hater, and had been primed to see it in others.
"How you like-a Mr. Corrigan?" he asked. "You think-a him a nice-a man?"
"To hell with 'm," he said. "May his liver turn to water, and the bones
of him crack in the cold of his heart. May dog fennel grow upon his
ancestors' graves, and the grandsons of his children be born without
eyes. May whiskey turn to clabber in his mouth, and every time he sneezes
may he blister the soles of his feet. And the smoke of his pipe -- may it
make his eyes water, and the drops fall on the grass that his cows eat and
poison the butter that he spreads on his bread."
Though Tony remained a stranger to the beauties of this imagery, he
gathered from it the conviction that it was sufficiently anti-Corrigan in
its tendency. So, with the confidence of a fellow-conspirator, he sat by
Burney upon the stone and unfolded his plot.
It was very simple in design. Every day after dinner it was Corrigan's
habit to sleep for an hour in his bunk. At such times it was the duty of
the cook and his helper, Tony, to leave the boat so that no noise might
disturb the autocrat. The cook always spent this hour in walking
exercise. Tony's plan was this: After Corrigan should be asleep he (Tony)
and Burney would cut the mooring ropes that held the boat to the shore.
Tony lacked the nerve to do the deed alone. Then the awkward boat would
swing out into a swift current and surely overturn against a rock there
"Come on and do it," said Burney. "If the back of ye aches from the lick
he gave ye as the pit of me stomach does for the taste of a bit of smoke,
we can't cut the ropes too quick."
"All a-right," said Tony. "But better wait 'bout-a ten minute more.
Give-a Corrigan plenty time get good-a sleep."
They waited, sitting upon the stone. The rest of the men were at work out
of sight around a bend in the road. Everything would have gone well --
except, perhaps, with Corrigan, had not Tony been moved to decorate the
plot with its conventional accompaniment. He was of dramatic blood, and
perhaps he intuitively divined the appendage to villainous machinations as
prescribed by the stage. He pulled from his shirt bosom a long, black,
beautiful, venomous cigar, and handed it to Burney.
"You like-a smoke while we wait?" he asked.
Burney clutched it and snapped off the end as a terrier bites at a rat.
He laid it to his lips like a long-lost sweetheart. When the smoke began
to draw he gave a long, deep sigh, and the bristles of his gray-red
moustache curled down over the cigar like the talons of an eagle. Slowly
the red faded from the whites of his eyes. He fixed his gaze dreamily
upon the hills across the river. The minutes came and went.
"'Bout time to go now," said Tony. "That damn-a Corrigan he be in the
reever very quick."
Burney started out of his trance with a grunt. He turned his head and
gazed with a surprised and pained severity at his accomplice. He took the
cigar partly from his mouth, but sucked it back again immediately, chewed
it lovingly once or twice, and spoke, in virulent puffs, from the corner
of his mouth:
"What is it, ye yaller haythen? Would ye lay contrivances against the
enlightened races of the earth, ye instigator of illegal crimes? Would ye
seek to persuade Martin Burney into the dirty tricks of an indecent Dago?
Would ye be for murderin' your benefactor, the good man that gives ye food
and work? Take that, ye punkin-coloured assassin!"
The torrent of Burney's indignation carried with it bodily assault. The
toe of his shoe sent the would-be cutter of ropes tumbling from his seat.
Tony arose and fled. His vendetta he again relegated to the files of
things that might have been. Beyond the boat he fled and away-away; he
was afraid to remain.
Burney, with expanded chest, watched his late coplotter disappear. Then
he, too, departed, setting his face in the direction of the Bronx.
In his wake was a rank and pernicious trail of noisome smoke that brought
peace to his heart and drove the birds from the roadside into the deepest
XXIII THE CALIPH AND THE CAD
Surely there is no pastime more diverting than that of mingling,
incognito, with persons of wealth and station. Where else but in those
circles can one see life in its primitive, crude state unhampered by the
conventions that bind the dwellers in a lower sphere?
There was a certain Caliph of Bagdad who was accustomed to go down among
the poor and lowly for the solace obtained from the relation of their
tales and histories. Is it not strange that the humble and
poverty-stricken have not availed themselves of the pleasure they might
glean by donning diamonds and silks and playing Caliph among the haunts of
the upper world?
There was one who saw the possibilities of thus turning the tables on
Haroun al Raschid. His name was Corny Brannigan, and he was a truck
driver for a Canal Street importing firm. And if you read further you
will learn how he turned upper Broadway into Bagdad and learned something
about himself that he did not know before.
Many people would have called Corny a snob -- preferably by means of a
telephone. His chief interest in life, his chosen amusement, and his sole
diversion after working hours, was to place himself in juxtaposition --
since he could not hope to mingle -- with people of fashion and means.
Every evening after Corny had put up his team and dined at a lunch-counter
that made immediateness a specialty, he would clothe himself in evening
raiment as correct as any you will see in the palm rooms. Then he would
betake himself to that ravishing, radiant roadway devoted to Thespis,
Thais, and Bacchus.
For a time he would stroll about the lobbies of the best hotels, his soul
steeped in blissful content. Beautiful women, cooing like doves, but
feathered like birds of Paradise, flicked him with their robes as they
passed. Courtly gentlemen attended them, gallant and assiduous. And
Corny's heart within him swelled like Sir Lancelot's, for the mirror spoke
to him as he passed and said: "Corny, lad, there's not a guy among 'em
that looks a bit the sweller than yerself. And you drivin' of a truck and
them swearin' off their taxes and playin' the red in art galleries with
the best in the land!"
And the mirrors spake the truth. Mr. Corny Brannigan had acquired the
outward polish, if nothing more. Long and keen observation of polite
society had gained for him its manner, its genteel air, and -- most
difficult of acquirement -- its repose and ease.
Now and then in the hotels Corny had managed conversation and temporary
acquaintance with substantial, if not distinguished, guests. With many of
these he had exchanged cards, and the ones he received he carefully
treasured for his own use later. Leaving the hotel lobbies, Corny would
stroll leisurely about, lingering at the theatre entrance, dropping into
the fashionable restaurants as if seeking some friend. He rarely
patronized any of these places; he was no bee come to suck honey, but a
butterfly flashing his wings among the flowers whose calyces held no
sweets for him. His wages were not large enough to furnish him with more
than the outside garb of the gentleman. To have been one of the beings he
so cunningly imitated, Corny Brannigan would have given his right hand.
One night Corny had an adventure. After absorbing the delights of an
hour's lounging in the principal hotels along Broadway, he passed up into
the stronghold of Thespis. Cab drivers hailed him as a likely fare, to
his prideful content. Languishing eyes were turned upon him as a hopeful
source of lobsters and the delectable, ascendant globules of
effervescence. These overtures and unconscious compliments Corny
swallowed as manna, and hoped Bill, the off horse, would be less lame in
the left forefoot in the morning.
Beneath a cluster of milky globes of electric light Corny paused to admire
the sheen of his low-cut patent leather shoes. The building occupying the
angle was a pretentious _cafe_. Out of this came a couple, a lady in a
white, cobwebby evening gown, with a lace wrap like a wreath of mist
thrown over it, and a man, tall, faultless, assured -- too assured. They
moved to the edge of the sidewalk and halted. Corny's eye, ever alert for
"pointers" in "swell" behaviour, took them in with a sidelong glance.
"The carriage is not here," said the lady. "You ordered it to wait?"
"I ordered it for nine-thirty," said the man. "It should be here now."
A familiar note in the lady's voice drew a more especial attention from
Corny. It was pitched in a key well known to him. The soft electric
shone upon her face. Sisters of sorrow have no quarters fixed for them.
In the index to the book of breaking hearts you will find that Broadway
follows very soon after the Bowery. This lady's face was sad, and her
voice was attuned with it. They waited, as if for the carriage. Corny
waited too, for it was out of doors, and he was never tired of
accumulating and profiting by knowledge of gentlemanly conduct.
"Jack," said the lady, "don't be angry. I've done everything I could to
please you this evening. Why do you act so?"
"Oh, you're an angel," said the man. "Depend upon woman to throw the
blame upon a man."
"I'm not blaming you. I'm only trying to make you happy."
"You go about it in a very peculiar way."
"You have been cross with me all the evening without any cause."
"Oh, there isn't any cause except -- you make me tired."
Corny took out his card case and looked over his collection. He selected
one that read: "Mr. R. Lionel Whyte-Melville, Bloomsbury Square, London."
This card he had inveigled from a tourist at the King Edward Hotel. Corny
stepped up to the man and presented it with a correctly formal air.
"May I ask why I am selected for the honour?" asked the lady's escort.
Now, Mr. Corny Brannigan had a very wise habit of saying little during his
imitations of the Caliph of Bagdad. The advice of Lord Chesterfield:
"Wear a black coat and hold your tongue," he believed in without having
heard. But now speech was demanded and required of him.
"No gent," said Corny, "would talk to a lady like you done. Fie upon you,
Willie! Even if she happens to be your wife you ought to have more respect
for your clothes than to chin her back that way. Maybe it ain't my
butt-in, but it goes, anyhow -- you strike me as bein' a whole lot to the
The lady's escort indulged in more elegantly expressed but fetching
repartee. Corny, eschewing his truck driver's vocabulary, retorted as
nearly as he could in polite phrases. Then diplomatic relations were
severed; there was a brief but lively set-to with other than oral weapons,
from which Corny came forth easily victor.
A carriage dashed up, driven by a tardy and solicitous coachman.
"Will you kindly open the door for me?" asked the lady. Corny assisted
her to enter, and took off his hat. The escort was beginning to scramble
up from the sidewalk.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Corny, "if he's your man."
"He's no man of mine," said the lady. "Perhaps he -- but there's no
chance of his being now. Drive home, Michael. If you care to take this
-- with my thanks."
Three red roses were thrust out through the carriage window into Corny's
hand. He took them, and the hand for an instant; and then the carriage
Corny gathered his foe's hat and began to brush the dust from his clothes.
"Come along," said Corny, taking the other man by the arm.
His late opponent was yet a little dazed by the hard knocks he had
received. Corny led him carefully into a saloon three doors away.
"The drinks for us," said Corny "me and my friend."
"You're a queer feller," said the lady's late escort -- "lick a man and
then want to set 'em up.
"You're my best friend," said Corny exultantly. "You don't understand?
Well, listen. You just put me wise to somethin'. I been playin' gent a
long time, thinkin' it was just the glad rags I had and nothin' else. Say
-- you're a swell, ain't you? Well, you trot in that class, I guess. I
don't; but I found out one thing -- I'm a gentleman, by -- and I know it
now. What'll you have to drink?"
XXIV THE DIAMOND OF KALI
The original news item concerning the diamond of the goddess Kali was
handed in to the city editor. He smiled and held it for a moment above
the wastebasket. Then he laid it back on his desk and said: "Try the
Sunday people; they might work something out of it."
The Sunday editor glanced the item over and said: "H'm!" Afterward he sent
for a reporter and expanded his comment.
"You might see General Ludlow," he said, "and make a story out of this if
you can. Diamond stories are a drug; but this one is big enough to be
found by a scrubwoman wrapped up in a piece of newspaper and tucked under
the corner of the hall linoleum. Find out first if the General has a
daughter who intends to go on the stage. If not, you can go ahead with
the story. Run cuts of the Kohinoor and J. P. Morgan's collection, and
work in pictures of the Kimberley mines and Barney Barnato. Fill in with
a tabulated comparison of the values of diamonds, radium, and veal cutlets
since the meat strike; and let it run to a half page."
On the following day the reporter turned in his story. The Sunday editor
let his eye sprint along its lines. "H'm!" he said again. This time the
copy went into the waste-basket with scarcely a flutter.
The reporter stiffened a little around the lips; but he was whistling
softly and contentedly between his teeth when I went over to talk with him
about it an hour later.
"I don't blame the 'old man'," said he, magnanimously, "for cutting it
out. It did sound like funny business; but it happened exactly as I wrote
it. Say, why don't you fish that story out of the w.-b. and use it?
Seems to me it's as good as the tommyrot you write."
I accepted the tip, and if you read further you will learn the facts about
the diamond of the goddess Kali as vouched for by one of the most reliable
reporters on the staff.
Gen. Marcellus B. Ludlow lives in one of those decaying but venerated old
red-brick mansions in the West Twenties. The General is a member of an
old New York family that does not advertise. He is a globe-trotter by
birth, a gentleman by predilection, a millionaire by the mercy of Heaven,
and a connoisseur of precious stones by occupation.
The reporter was admitted promptly when he made himself known at the
General's residence at about eight thirty on the evening that he received
the assignment. In the magnificent library he was greeted by the
distinguished traveller and connoisseur, a tall, erect gentleman in the
early fifties, with a nearly white moustache, and a bearing so soldierly
that one perceived in him scarcely a trace of the National Guardsman. His
weather-beaten countenance lit up with a charming smile of interest when
the reporter made known his errand.
"Ah, you have heard of my latest find. I shall be glad to show you what I
conceive to be one of the six most valuable blue diamonds in existence."
The General opened a small safe in a corner of the library and brought
forth a plush-covered box. Opening this, he exposed to the reporter's
bewildered gaze a huge and brilliant diamond -- nearly as large as a
"This stone," said the General, "is something more than a mere jewel. It
once formed the central eye of the three-eyed goddess Kali, who is
worshipped by one of the fiercest and most fanatical tribes of India. If
you will arrange yourself comfortably I will give you a brief history of
it for your paper.
General Ludlow brought a decanter of whiskey and glasses from a cabinet,
and set a comfortable armchair for the lucky scribe.
"The Phansigars, or Thugs, of India," began the General, "are the most
dangerous and dreaded of the tribes of North India. They are extremists
in religion, and worship the horrid goddess Kali in the form of images.
Their rites are interesting and bloody. The robbing and murdering of
travellers are taught as a worthy and obligatory deed by their strange
religious code. Their worship of the three-eyed goddess Kali is conducted
so secretly that no traveller has ever heretofore had the honour of
witnessing the ceremonies. That distinction was reserved for myself.
"While at Sakaranpur, between Delhi and Khelat, I used to explore the
jungle in every direction in the hope of learning something new about
these mysterious Phansigars.
"One evening at twilight I was making my way through a teakwood forest,
when I came upon a deep circular depression in an open space, in the
centre of which was a rude stone temple. I was sure that this was one of
the temples of the Thugs, so I concealed myself in the undergrowth to
"When the moon rose the depression in the clearing was suddenly filled
with hundreds of shadowy, swiftly gliding forms. Then a door opened in
the temple, exposing a brightly illuminated image of the goddess Kali,
before which a white-robed priest began a barbarous incantation, while the
tribe of worshippers prostrated themselves upon the earth.
"But what interested me most was the central eye of the huge wooden idol.
I could see by its flashing brilliancy that it was an immense diamond of
the purest water.
"After the rites were concluded the Thugs slipped away into the forest as
silently as they had come. The priest stood for a few minutes in the door
of the temple enjoying the cool of the night before closing his rather
warm quarters. Suddenly a dark, lithe shadow slipped down into the
hollow, leaped upon the priest; and struck him down with a glittering
knife. Then the murderer sprang at the image of the goddess like a cat
and pried out the glowing central eye of Kali with his weapon. Straight
toward me he ran with his royal prize. When he was within two paces I
rose to my feet and struck him with all my force between the eyes. He
rolled over senseless and the magnificent jewel fell from his hand. That
is the splendid blue diamond you have just seen -- a stone worthy of a
"That's a corking story," said the reporter. "That decanter is exactly
like the one that John W. Gates always sets out during an interview."
"Pardon me," said General Ludlow, "for forgetting hospitality in the
excitement of my narrative. Help yourself."
"Here's looking at you," said the reporter.
"What I am afraid of now," said the General, lowering his voice, "is that
I may be robbed of the diamond. The jewel that formed an eye of their
goddess is their most sacred symbol. Somehow the tribe suspected me of
having it; and members of the band have followed me half around the
earth. They are the most cunning and cruel fanatics in the world, and
their religious vows would compel them to assassinate the unbeliever who
has desecrated their sacred treasure.
"Once in Lucknow three of their agents, disguised as servants in a hotel,
endeavoured to strangle me with a twisted cloth. Again, in London, two
Thugs, made up as street musicians, climbed into my window at night and
attacked me. They have even tracked me to this country. My life is never
safe. A month ago, while I was at a hotel in the Berkshires, three of
them sprang upon me from the roadside weeds. I saved myself then by my
knowledge of their customs."
"How was that, General?" asked the reporter.
"There was a cow grazing near by," said General Ludlow, "a gentle Jersey
cow. I ran to her side and stood. The three Thugs ceased their attack,
knelt and struck the ground thrice with their foreheads. Then, after many
respectful salaams, they departed."
"Afraid the cow would hook?" asked the reporter.
"No; the cow is a sacred animal to the Phansigars. Next to their goddess
they worship the cow. They have never been known to commit any deed of
violence in the presence of the animal they reverence."
"It's a mighty interesting story," said the reporter.
"If you don't mind I'll take another drink, and then a few notes."
"I will join you," said General Ludlow, with a courteous wave of his hand.
"If I were you," advised the reporter, "I'd take that sparkler to Texas.
Get on a cow ranch there, and the Pharisees --"
"Phansigars," corrected the General.
"Oh, yes; the fancy guys would run up against a long horn every time they
made a break."
General Ludlow closed the diamond case and thrust it into his bosom.
"The spies of the tribe have found me out in New York," he said,
straightening his tall figure. "I'm familiar with the East Indian cast of
countenance, and I know that my every movement is watched. They will
undoubtedly attempt to rob and murder me here."
"Here?" exclaimed the reporter, seizing the decanter and pouring out a
liberal amount of its contents.
"At any moment," said the General. "But as a soldier and a connoisseur I
shall sell my life and my diamond as dearly as I can."
At this point of the reporter's story there is a certain vagueness, but it
can be gathered that there was a loud crashing noise at the rear of the
house they were in. General Ludlow buttoned his coat closely and sprang
for the door. But the reporter clutched him firmly with one hand, while
he held the decanter with the other.
"Tell me before we fly," he urged, in a voice thick with some inward
turmoil, "do any of your daughters contemplate going on the stage?"
"I have no daughters -- fly for your life -- the Phansigars are upon us!"
cried the General.
The two men dashed out of the front door of the house.
The hour was late. As their feet struck the side-walk strange men of dark
and forbidding appearance seemed to rise up out of the earth and encompass
them. One with Asiatic features pressed close to the General and droned
in a terrible voice:
"Buy cast clo'!"
Another, dark-whiskered and sinister, sped lithely to his side and began
in a whining voice:
"Say, mister, have yer got a dime fer a poor feller what --"
They hurried on, but only into the arms of a black-eyed, dusky-browed
being, who held out his hat under their noses, while a confederate of
Oriental hue turned the handle of a street organ near by.
Twenty steps farther on General Ludlow and the reporter found themselves
in the midst of half a dozen villainous-looking men with high-turned coat
collars and faces bristling with unshaven beards.
"Run for it!" hissed the General. "They have discovered the possessor of
the diamond of the goddess Kali."
The two men took to their heels. The avengers of the goddess pursued.
"Oh, Lordy!" groaned the reporter, "there isn't a cow this side of
Brooklyn. We're lost!"
When near the corner they both fell over an iron object that rose from the
sidewalk close to the gutter. Clinging to it desperately, they awaited
"If I only had a cow!" moaned the reporter -- "or another nip from that
As soon as the pursuers observed where their victims had found refuge they
suddenly fell back and retreated to a considerable distance.
"They are waiting for reinforcements in order to attack us," said General
But the reporter emitted a ringing laugh, and hurled his hat triumphantly
into the air.
"Guess again," he shouted, and leaned heavily upon the iron object. "Your
old fancy guys or thugs, whatever you call 'em, are up to date. Dear
General, this is a pump we've stranded upon -- same as a cow in New York
(hic!) see? Thas'h why the 'nfuriated smoked guys don't attack us --
see? Sacred an'mal, the pump in N' York, my dear General!"
But further down in the shadows of Twenty-eighth Street the marauders were
holding a parley.
"Come on, Reddy," said one. "Let's go frisk the old 'un. He's been
shown' a sparkler as big as a hen egg all around Eighth Avenue for two
"Not on your silhouette," decided Reddy. "You see 'em rallyin' round The
Pump? They're friends of Bill's. Bill won't stand for nothin' of this
kind in his district since he got that bid to Esopus."
This exhausts the facts concerning the Kali diamond. But it is deemed not
inconsequent to close with the following brief (paid) item that appeared
two days later in a morning paper.
"It is rumored that a niece of Gen. Marcellus B. Ludlow, of New York City,
will appear on the stage next season.
"Her diamonds are said to be extremely valuable and of much historic
XXV THE DAY WE CELEBRATE
"In the tropics" ("Hop-along" Bibb, the bird fancier, was saying to me)
"the seasons, months, fortnights, week-ends, holidays, dog-days, Sundays,
and yesterdays get so jumbled together in the shuffle that you never know
when a year has gone by until you're in the middle of the next one."
"Hop-along" Bibb kept his bird store on lower Fourth Avenue. He was an
ex-seaman and beachcomber who made regular voyages to southern ports and
imported personally conducted invoices of talking parrots and dialectic
paroquets. He had a stiff knee, neck, and nerve. I had gone to him to
buy a parrot to present, at Christmas, to my Aunt Joanna.
"This one," said I, disregarding his homily on the subdivisions of time --
"this one that seems all red, white, and blue -- to what genus of beasts
does he belong? He appeals at once to my patriotism and to my love of
discord in colour schemes."
"That's a cockatoo from Ecuador," said Bibb. "All he has been taught to
say is "Merry Christmas." A seasonable bird. He's only seven dollars; and
I'll bet many a human has stuck you for more money by making the same
speech to you."
And then Bibb laughed suddenly and loudly.
"That bird," he explained, "reminds me. He's got his dates mixed. He
ought to be saying '_E pluri bus unum_,' to match his feathers, instead of
trying to work the Santa Claus graft. It reminds me of the time me and
Liverpool Sam got our ideas of things tangled up on the coast of Costa
Rica on account of the weather and other phenomena to be met with in the
"We were, as it were, stranded on that section of the Spanish main with no
money to speak of and no friends that should be talked about either. We
had stoked and second-cooked ourselves down there on a fruit steamer from
New Orleans to try our luck, which was discharged, after we got there, for
lack of evidence. There was no work suitable to our instincts; so me and
Liverpool began to subsist on the red rum of the country and such fruit as
we could reap where we had not sown. It was an alluvial town, called
Soledad, where there was no harbour or future or recourse. Between
steamers the town slept and drank rum. It only woke up when there were
bananas to ship. It was like a man sleeping through dinner until the
"When me and Liverpool got so low down that the American consul wouldn't
speak to us we knew we'd struck bed rock.
"We boarded with a snuff-brown lady named Chica, who kept a rum-shop and a
ladies' and gents' restaurant in a street called the _calle de los_
Forty-seven Inconsolable Saints. When our credit played out there,
Liverpool, whose stomach overshadowed his sensations of _noblesse oblige_,
married Chica. This kept us in rice and fried plantain for a month; and
then Chica pounded Liverpool one morning sadly and earnestly for fifteen
minutes with a casserole handed down from the stone age, and we knew that
we had out-welcomed our liver. That night we signed an engagement with
Don Jaime McSpinosa, a hybrid banana fancier of the place, to work on his
fruit preserves nine miles out of town. We had to do it or be reduced to
sea water and broken doses of feed and slumber.
"Now, speaking of Liverpool Sam, I don't malign or inexculpate him to you
any more than I would to his face. But in my opinion, when an Englishman
gets as low as he can he's got to dodge so that the dregs of other nations
don't drop ballast on him out of their balloons. And if he's a Liverpool
Englishman, why, fire-damp is what he's got to look out for. Being a
natural American, that's my personal view. But Liverpool and me had much
in common. We were without decorous clothes or ways and means of exist
ence; and, as the saying goes, misery certainly does enjoy the society of
"Our job on old McSpinosa's plantation was chopping down banana stalks and
loading the bunches of fruit on the backs of horses. Then a native
dressed up in an alligator hide belt, a machete, and a pair of AA sheeting
pajamas, drives 'em over to the coast and piles 'em up on the beach.
"You ever been in a banana grove? It's as solemn as a rathskeller at
seven A. M. It's like being lost behind the scenes at one of these
mushroom musical shows. You can't see the sky for the foliage above you;
and the ground is knee deep in rotten leaves; and it's so still that you
can hear the stalks growing again after you chop 'em down.
"At night me and Liverpool herded in a lot of grass huts on the edge of a
lagoon with the red, yellow, and black employes of Don Jaime. There we
lay fighting mosquitoes and listening to the monkeys squalling and the
alligators grunting and splashing in the lagoon until daylight with only
snatches of sleep between times.
"We soon lost all idea of what time of the year it was. It's just about
eighty degrees there in December and June and on Fridays and at midnight
and election day and any other old time. Sometimes it rains more than at
others, and that's all the difference you notice. A man is liable to live
along there without noticing any fugiting of tempus until some day the
undertaker calls in for him just when he's beginning to think about
cutting out the gang and saving up a little to invest in real estate.
"I don't know how long we worked for Don Jaime; but it was through two or
thee rainy spells, eight or ten hair cuts, and the life of thee pairs of
sail-cloth trousers. All the money we earned went for rum and tobacco;
but we ate, and that was something.
"All of a sudden one day me and Liverpool find the trade of committing
surgical operations on banana stalks turning to aloes and quinine in our
mouths. It's a seizure that often comes upon white men in Latin and
geographical countries. We wanted to be addressed again in language and
see the smoke of a steamer and read the real estate transfers and gents'
outfitting ads in an old newspaper. Even Soledad seemed like a centre of
civilization to us, so that evening we put our thumbs on our nose at Don
Jaime's fruit stand and shook his grass burrs off our feet.
"It was only twelve miles to Soledad, but it took me and Liverpool two
days to get there. It was banana grove nearly all the way; and we got
twisted time and again. It was like paging the palm room of a New York
hotel for a man named Smith.
"When we saw the houses of Soledad between the trees all my disinclination
toward this Liverpool Sam rose up in me. I stood him while we were two
white men against the banana brindles; but now, when there were prospects
of my exchanging even cuss words with an American citizen, I put him back
in his proper place. And he was a sight, too, with his rum-painted nose
and his red whiskers and elephant feet with leather sandals strapped to
them. I suppose I looked about the same.
"'It looks to me,' says I, 'like Great Britain ought to be made to keep
such gin-swilling, scurvy, unbecoming mud larks as you at home instead of
sending 'em over here to degrade and taint foreign lands. We kicked you
out of America once and we ought to put on rubber boots and do it again.'
"'Oh, you go to 'ell,' says Liverpool, which was about all the repartee he
"Well, Soledad, looked fine to me after Don Jaime 's plantation.
Liverpool and me walked into it side by side, from force of habit, past
the calabosa and the Hotel Grande, down across the plaza toward Chica's
hut, where we hoped that Liverpool, being a husband of hers, might work
his luck for a meal.
"As we passed the two-story little frame house occupied by the American
Club, we noticed that the balcony had been decorated all around with
wreaths of evergreens and flowers, and the flag was flying from the pole
on the roof. Stanzey, the consul, and Ark-right, a gold-mine owner, were
smoking on the balcony. Me and Liverpool waved our dirty hands toward 'em
and smiled real society smiles; but they turned their backs to us and went
on talking. And we had played whist once with the two of 'em up to the ti
me when Liverpool held all thirteen trumps for four hands in succession.
It was some holiday, we knew; but we didn't know the day nor the year.
"A little further along we saw a reverend man named Pendergast, who had
come to Soledad to build a church, standing under a cocoanut palm with his
little black alpaca coat and green umbrella.
"'Boys, boys!' says he, through his blue spectacles, 'is it as bad as
this? Are you so far reduced?'
"'We're reduced,' says I, 'to very vulgar fractions.'
"'It is indeed sad,' says Pendergast, 'to see my countrymen in such
"'Cut 'arf of that out, old party,' says Liverpool. 'Cawn't you tell a
member of the British upper classes when you see one?'
"'Shut up,' I told Liverpool. 'You're on foreign soil now, or that
portion of it that's not on you.'
"'And on this day, too!' goes on Pendergast, grievous -- 'on this most
glorious day of the year when we should all be celebrating the dawn of
Christian civilization and the downfall of the wicked.'
"'I did notice bunting and bouquets decorating the town, reverend,' says
I, 'but I didn't know what it was for. We've been so long out of touch
with calendars that we didn't know whether it was summer time or Saturday
"'Here is two dollars,' says Pendergast digging up two Chili silver wheels
and handing 'em to me. 'Go, my men, and observe the rest of the day in a
"Me and Liverpool thanked him kindly, and walked away.
"'Shall we eat?' I asks.
"'Oh, 'ell!' says Liverpool. 'What's money for?' "'Very well, then,' I
says, 'since you insist upon it, we'll drink.'
"So we pull up in a rum shop and get a quart of it and go down on the
beach under a cocoanut tree and celebrate.
"Not having eaten anything but oranges in two days, the rum has immediate
effect; and once more I conjure up great repugnance toward the British
"'Stand up here,' I says to Liverpool, 'you scum of a despot limited
monarchy, and have another dose of Bunker Hill. That good man, Mr.
Pendergast,' says I, 'said we were to observe the day in a befitting
manner, and I'm not going to see his money misapplied.'
"'Oh, you go to 'ell!' says Liverpool, and I started in with a fine
left-hander on his right eye.
"Liverpool had been a fighter once, but dissipation and bad company had
taken the nerve out of him. In ten minutes I had him lying on the sand
waving the white flag.
"'Get up,' says I, kicking him in the ribs, 'and come along with me.'
"Liverpool got up and followed behind me because it was his habit, wiping
the red off his face and nose. I led him to Reverend Pendergast's shack
and called him out.
"'Look at this, sir,' says I -- 'look at this thing that was once a proud
Britisher. You gave us two dollars and told us to celebrate the day. The
star-spangled banner still waves. Hurrah for the stars and eagles!'
"'Dear me,' says Pendergast, holding up his hands. 'Fighting on this day
of all days! On Christmas day, when peace on --'
"'Christmas, hell!' says I. 'I thought it was the Fourth of July.'"
"Merry Christmas!" said the red, white, and blue cockatoo.
"Take him for six dollars," said Hop-along Bibb. "He's got his dates and
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