The Belted Seas
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Avinash Kothare, Tom Allen, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE BELTED SEAS
Cold are the feet and forehead of the earth,
Temperate his bosom and his knees,
But huge and hot the midriff of his girth,
Where heaves the laughter of the belted seas,
Where rolls the heavy thunder of his mirth
Around the still unstirred Hesperides.
II. THE "HEBE MAITLAND."
III. THE HOTEL HELEN MAR.
IV. SADLER IN PORTATE.
V. END OF THE HOTEL HELEN MAR.
VI. TORRE ANANIAS. WHY CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM
DID NOT GO BACK TO GREENOUGH
VII. LIEBCHEN AND THE EWIGWEIBLICHE.
THE LOSS OF THE "ANACONDA".
VIII. SADLER IN SALERATUS.
THE GREEN DRAGON PAGODA.
IX. KING JULIUS.
X. THE KIYI PROPOSITION.
XI. THE VOYAGE OF THE "VOODOO".
XII. THE FLANNAGAN AND IMPERIAL.
XIII. FLANNAGAN AND STEVEY TODD.
CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM RETURNS TO GREENOUGH.
XIV. CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM VISITS THE CEMETERY IN ADRIAN.
ANDREW AND MADGE MCCULLOCH AND BILLY CORLISS.
CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM'S NARRATIVE ENDS.
XV. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE.
THE BELTED SEAS
The clock struck one. It was the tall standing clock in the front
room of Pemberton's Hotel, and Pemberton's stands by the highway that
runs by the coast of Long Island Sound. It is near the western edge
of the village of Greenough, the gilt cupola of whose eminent steeple
is noted by far-passing ships. On the beach are flimsy summer
cottages, and hard beside them is the old harbour, guarded by its
stone pier. Whalers and merchantmen used to tie up there a hundred
years ago, where now only fishing boats come. The village lies back
from the shore, and has three divisions, Newport Street, the Green,
and the West End; of which the first is a broad street with double
roads, and there are the post office and the stores; the second
boasts of its gilt-cupolaed church; the third has the two
distinctions of the cemetery and Pemberton's.
The hotel is not so far from the beach but you can sit in the front
room and hear the surf. It was a small hotel when I used to frequent
it, and was kept by Pemberton himself--gone, now, alas! with his
venerable dusty hair and red face, imperturbably amiable. He was no
seaman. Throughout his long life he had anchored to his own
chimneyside, which was a solid and steady chimney, whose red-brick
complexion resembled its owner's. His wife was dead, and he ran the
hotel much alone, except for the company of Uncle Abimelech, Captain
Buckingham, Stevey Todd, and such others as came and went, or
townsfolk who liked the anchorage. But the three I have named were
seamen, and I always found them by Pemberton's chimney. Abe
Dalrimple, or Uncle Abe, was near Pemberton's age, and had lived with
him for years; but Stevey Todd and Captain B. were younger, and, as I
gathered, they had been with Pemberton only for some months past, the
captain boarding, and Stevey Todd maybe boarding as well; I don't
know; but I know Stevey Todd did some of the cooking, and had been a
ship's cook the main part of his life. It seemed to me they acted
like a settled family among them anyway.
Captain Thomas Buckingham was a smallish man of fifty, with a
bronzed face, or you might say iron, with respect to its rusty
colour, and also it was dark and immobile. But now and then there
would come a glimmer and twist in his eyes, sometimes he would start
in talking and flow on like a river, calm, sober, and untiring, and
yet again he would be silent for hours. Some might have thought him
melancholy, for his manner was of the gravest.
We were speaking of hotels, that stormy afternoon when the distant
surf was moaning and the wind heaping the snow against the doors, and
when the clock had struck, he said slowly:
"I kept a hotel once. It was in '72 or a bit before. It's a good
And none of us disputed it was a good trade, as keeping a man
indoors in stormy weather.
"Was it like Pemberton's?"
"No, not like Pemberton's."
"No, inland a bit."
"Aye, summer hotel. Always summer there."
"It must have paid!"
"Aye, she paid. It was in South America."
"Aye, Stevey Todd and I ran her. She was put up in New Bedford by
Smith and Morgan, and Stevey Todd and I ran her in South America."
"How so? Do they export hotels to South America?"
"There ain't any steady trade in 'em." And no more would he say just
then. For he was that kind of a man, Captain Tom, He would talk or he
would not, as suited him.
Uncle Abimelech was tall and old, and had a long white beard, and
was thin in the legs, not to say uncertain on them, and he appeared
to wander in his mind as well as in his legs. Stevey Todd was stout,
with a smooth, fair face, and in temperament fond of arguing, though
cautious about it. For that winter afternoon, when I remarked,
hearing the whistling wind and the thunder of the surf, "It blows
hard, Mr. Todd," Stevey Todd answered cautiously, "If you called it
brisk, I wouldn't maybe argue it, but 'hard' I'd argue," and
Pemberton said agreeably, "Why, when you put it that way, you're
right, not but the meaning was good, ain't a doubt of it;" and Uncle
Abimelech, getting hold of a loose end in his mind, piped up, singing:
"She blows aloft, she blows alow,
Take in your topsails early;"
whereas there was no doubt at all about its blowing hard. But Stevey
Todd was the kind of a man that liked to argue in good order.
The meanwhile Captain Buckingham had said nothing so far that
afternoon, except on the subject of hotel-keeping in South America.
But when Stevey Todd offered to admit that it blew "brisk, but when
you say hard, I argue it;" and when Uncle Abimelech piped:
"She blows aloft, she blows alow,
Take in your topsails early;"
Then Captain Buckingham, who sat leaning forward smoking, with his
elbows on his knees, staring at the fire, at last, without stirring
in his chair, he spoke up, and said, "She blows all right," and we
waited, thinking he might say more.
"Pemberton," he went on, "the seaman follows his profit and luck
around the world. You sit by your chimney and they come to you. And
if I was doing it again, or my old ship, the _Annalee_, was to
come banging and bouncing at this door, saying 'Have a cruise,
Captain Buckingham; rise up!' I'd say: 'You go dock yourself.'"
"She might, if she came overland, maybe," said Stevey Todd, "seeing
it blows brisk, which I admits and I stands by, for she was a tall
sailing ship was the _Annalee_."
"She was that," said Captain Tom; "the best ship I ever sailed in,
barring the _Hebe Maitland_."
Whereat Stevey Todd said, "_There_ was a ship!" and Uncle
Abimelech piped up again, singing these singular words:
"There was a ship
In Bailey's Slip.
One evil day
We sailed away
From Bailey's Slip
We sailed away, with Captain Clyde,
An old, old man with a copper hide,
In the _Hebe Maitland_ sailed, Hooroar!
And fetched the coast of Ecuador."
"Aye," said Captain Tom. "Those were Kid Sadler's verses. There's
many of 'em that Abe can say over, and he can glue a tune to 'em
well, for he's got that kind of a memory that's loose, but stringy
and long, and he always had. There's only Abe and Stevey Todd and me
left of the _Hebe Maitland's_ crew, unless Sadler and Little
Irish maybe, for I left them in Burmah, and they may be there. But
what I was going to say, Pemberton, is, I made a mistake somewhere."
"Why," said Pemberton, "there you may be right."
"For I was that kind of young one," the captain went on, "which if
he's blown up with dynamite, he comes down remarking it's breezy up
there. I was that careless."
Then we drew nearer and knew that Captain Buckingham was hauling up
his anchor, and maybe would take us on a long way, which he surely
did. The afternoon slipped on, hour by hour, and the fire snapped and
cast its red light in our faces, and the kettle sung and the storm
outside kept up its mad business, and the surf its monotone.
"I was so, when I was a lad of eighteen or nineteen," Captain
Buckingham said. "I was a wild one, though not large, but limber and
clipper-built, and happy any side up, and my notion of human life was
that it was something like a cake-walk, and something like a Bartlett
pear, as being juicy anywhere you bit in."
THE "HEBE MAITLAND." CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM'S NARRATIVE.
"I was that way," he said, "full of opinions, like one of those
little terrier pups with his tail sawed off, so he wags with the
stump, same way a clock does with the pendulum when the weight's gone
--pretty chipper. I used to come often from the other end of Newport
Street, where I was born, to Pemberton's. But that wasn't on account
of Pemberton, though he was agreeable, but on account of Madge
Pemberton. Madge and I were agreed, and Pemberton was agreeable, but
I was restless and keyed high in those days, resembling pups, as
"No anchoring to Pemberton's chimney for me," I says. "No digging
clams and fishing for small fry in Long Island Sound for me. I'm
going to sea."
And Madge asks, "Why?" calm and reasonable, and I was near stumped
for reasons, having only the same reason as a lobster has for being
green. It's the nature of him, which he'll change that colour when
he's had experience and learned what's what in the boiling. I fished
around for reasons.
"When I'm rich," I says, "I'll fix up Pemberton's for a swell hotel."
Madge says, "It's nice as it is," and acted low in her mind. But if
she thought the less of me for wanting to go to sea, I couldn't say.
I left Greenough in the year '65, and went to New York, and the
wharves and ships of East River, and didn't expect it would take me
long to get rich.
There were fine ships and many in those days in the East River
slips. South Street was full of folk from all over the world, but I
walked there as cocky as if I owned it, looking for a ship that
pleased me, and I came to one lying at dock with the name _Hebe
Maitland_ in gilt letters on a board that was screwed to her, and
I says, "Now, there's a ship!" Then I heard a man speak up beside me
saying, "Just so," and I turned to look at him.
He didn't seem like a seaman, but was an old man, and grave-looking,
and small, and precise in manner, and not like one trained to the
sea, and wore a long, rusty black coat; and his upper lip was shaven.
"You like her, do ye?" he said. "Now I'm thinking you know a good
one when you see her."
I said I thought I did, speaking rather knowing. But when he asked
if I'd been to sea, I had to say I hadn't; not on the high seas, nor
in any such vessel as the _Hebe Maitland_. She was painted dingy
black, like most of the others, and I judged from her lines that she
was a fleet sailer and built for that purpose, rather than for the
amount of cargo she might carry.
"Why, come aboard," he said, and soon we were seated in a cabin with
shiny panels, and a hinge table that swung down from the wall between
us. He looked at me through half-shut eyes, pursing his dry lips, and
he asked me where I came from.
That was my first meeting with Clyde. I know now that my coming from
Connecticut was a point in my favour; still I judge he must have
taken to me from the start. He surely was good to me always, and that
"You want a job," he says. "You've sailed a bit on fishing smacks in
the Sound. But more'n that, the point with you is you're ambitious,
and not above turning a penny or two in an odd way."
"That depends on the way," I says pretty uppish, and thinking I
wasn't to be inveigled into piracy that way.
"Maybe I've got scruples," I says, and not a bit did I know what I
was talking about. Captain Clyde rapped the table with his knuckles.
"I'm glad to hear you say it. Scruples! That's the word, and a right
word and a good word. I don't allow any vicious goings-on aboard this
ship. Wherever we go we carry the laws of the United States, and we
stand by them laws. We're decent and we stick to our country's laws
as duty is. Why now, I'm thinking of taking you, for I see you're a
likely lad, and one that will argue for his principles. Good wages,
good food, good treatment; will you go?" The last was shot out and
cut off close behind, his lips shutting like a pair of scissors. I
says, "That's what I'll do," and didn't know there was anything odd
about it. It might have been the average way a shipmaster picked up a
man for aught I knew. I shipped on the bark _Hebe Maitland_ as
The shipping news of that week contained this item:
"Sailed, Bark, _Hebe Maitland_, Clyde, Merchandise for Porto
Now, there is such a place as Porto del Rey, for I was there once,
but not till twenty years later.
The _Hebe Maitland_ didn't always go to the place she was
billed for, and when she did she was apt to be a month late, and
likely couldn't have told what she'd been doing in the meantime.
Somebody had been doing something, but it wasn't the _Hebe
Maitland_. Ships may have notions for aught I know, and the
_Hebe Maitland_ was no fool, but if so, I judge she couldn't
have straightened it out without help; and if she argued and got mad
about it, that was no more than appropriate, for we all argued on the
I've spoken of Captain Clyde. The crew, except one man called
"Irish," were all Yankee folk that Clyde had trained, and most of
them had been caught young and sailed with him already some years. I
never saw so odd an acting crew in the way of arguing. I've seen
Clyde and the bos'n with the Bible between them, arguing over it by
the hour. It was a singular crew to argue. Stevey Todd here, who was
cook, was a Baptist and a Democrat, and the mate he was a
Presbyterian and Republican, and the bos'n he was for Women's Rights,
and there was a man named Simms, who was strong on Predestination and
had a theory of trade winds, but he got to arguing once with a man in
Mobile, who didn't understand Predestination and shot him full of
holes, supposing it might be dangerous. It was a singular crew, and
especially in the matter of arguing.
They were all older than I. Stevey Todd was a few years older. I
recognised Abe Dalrimple here, for he came from Adrian, though I'd
seen him but seldom before. Three more I'll name, Kid Sadler, J. R.
Craney, and Jimmy Hagan, who was called Irish; for they were ones
that I had to do with later. I never met another crew like the
_Hebe Maitland's_. I guess there never was one.
Aboard and under Clyde's eye they were a quiet crew, even Sadler,
who wasn't what you'd call submissive by nature, but in port, Clyde
would now and then let them run riotous. He was a little, old, dried
up, and odd man with a vein of piousness in him, and he could handle
men in a way that was very mysterious.
The fourth day out of New York, as I recollect it, was fair, the sun
shining, and everything peaceful except on board the _Hebe
Maitland_. But on the _Hebe Maitland_ the men were running
around with paint pots and hauling out canvas from below. Nobody
seemed to tell me what was the matter. The _Hebe Maitland's_
hull was any kind of a dingy black, but the rails, canvas,
tarpaulins, and companion were all white. By the end of the day
almost everything had modified. They'd got a kind of fore-shortening
out of the bowsprit, and another set of canvas partly up that was
dirty and patched. The boats were shifted and recovered, cupola taken
off the cabin, and the whole look of the ship altered in mid-sea.
Then Clyde came out of his cabin with a board in his hand, and they
unscrewed the _Hebe Maitland's_ name from forward under the
anchor hole, and the _Hebe Maitland_ in gilt was the _Hawk_
I went off and sat down on a coil of rope, and the more I thought it
over, the more I didn't make it out.
After that I heard lively talking forward a little, and there was
Captain Clyde, the bos'n, mate, Stevey Todd, and some others arguing.
The bos'n was saying he hadn't "sworn no allegiance to no country
but the United States, an' there ain't no United States laws," he
says, "against dodging South American customs that I ever see nohow,
and being I never see a South American man that took much stock in
'em either, I ain't so uppish as to differ."
Then Stevey Todd chimed in and made a tidy argument, quoting
Scripture to prove that "actions with intent to deceive, and
deception pursuant," weren't moral, and, moreover, he says: "Shall we
lose our souls because S. A. customs is ridiculous? Tell me that!"
"Shucks!" says the mate; "we're saved by grace!"
Then Captain Clyde took it up and his argument was beautiful. For he
said S. A. customs were oppressive to the poor of that country by
wrongfully preventing them from buying U. S. goods; so that, having
sworn to the U. S., we weren't bound by S. A. laws further than
humanity or the Dago was able to enforce; "which," he says, "I argue
ain't either of 'em the case."
"That's a tart argiment, Captain Clyde," says the bos'n. "I never
heerd you make a tarter."
They went on that way till it made my head ache, and before I knew
it I was arguing hard against the bos'n, the captain egging me on.
I sailed with that crew four years. They were smugglers. I'm free to
say I loved Clyde, and liked the crew. For, granting he was much of a
miser and maybe but a shrewd old man, to be corrupting folks with his
theories, though I'm not so sure about that, not knowing what he
really thought; yet, he was a bold man, and a kind man, and I never
saw one that was keener in judgment. You might say he had made that
crew to suit him, having picked out the material one by one, and they
were most of all like children of his bringing up. I judge he had a
theory about arguments, that so long as they talked up to him and
freed their opinions, there wouldn't be any secret trouble brewing
below, or maybe it was only his humour. It was surely a fact that
they were steady in business and a rare crew to his purpose, explain
it as one may. He taught me navigation, and treated me like a son,
and it's not for me to go back on him. I don't know why he took to me
that way, and different from the rest. He taught me his business and
how he did it. I was the only one who knew. He was absolute owner as
well as captain, and his own buyer and seller as well. He carried no
cargoes but his own, which he made up for the most part in New York
or Philadelphia, and would bill the _Hebe Maitland_ maybe to Rio
Janeiro. Then the _Hawk_ would maybe deliver the biggest part
off the coast of Venezuela in the night, and the _Hebe Maitland_
would, like as not, sail into Rio by-and-by and pay her duty on the
rest, and take a cargo to New York as properly as a lady going to
There were a good many countries in South America to choose from. It
wasn't wise to visit the same one right along, though there was apt
to be a new government when we came again. Clyde knew all about it.
I'm not saying but what an odd official of a government here and
there was acquainted with the merits of a percentage, being
instructed in it by the same. For all that there was excitement. It
was a great life. Sometimes I catch myself heaving a sigh for the old
man that's dead, and saying to myself, "That was a great life yonder."
My recollection is, it was a sub-agent in Cuba who turned evidence
on Clyde at last, for a gunboat missed us by only a few miles coming
down by St. Christopher, as I heard afterward. Then a Spanish cruiser
ran us down, at last, under a corner of a little island among the
Windwards, about thirty miles east of Tobago, where Clyde's
cleverness came to nothing.
It was growing twilight, we driving close off the low shores of the
island. The woods were dark above the shore, and half a mile out was
the black cruiser, with a pennon of smoke against the sky, and the
black water between. I went into Clyde's cabin and found him talking
"We'll be scuttling her, Tom," he says.
With that he gave a jerk at the foot of his bunk, and the footboard
came off, and there underneath were four brown canvas bags tied up
with rope. Now, I never knew before that day that Clyde didn't keep
his money in a bank, same as any other civilised gentleman, and it
shows how little I knew about him, after all. He sat there holding up
eagles and double pesos to the lamplight, with his eyes shining and
his wrinkled old mouth smiling.
"What are you going to do with that?" I says, surprised at the sight
of it, and he kept on smiling.
"I guess you and I will take the shiners ashore," he says; "I'd give
you a writing, but it would do you no good, Tommy. I'm what they
"I don't know what you mean by that," I says. "Scuttled she is, if
you say so. Shall we row for Tobago?"
"Well, I'll tell you how it is, Tommy," he says. "I don't know what
the Dagos will do, and they're pretty likely to get us anyhow, but
we'll give 'em a hunt. But I've got a fancy you ain't got to the end
of your rope yet, lad," and he says no more for a minute or two, and
then he heaves a sigh and says: "The shiners are yours if they cut me
off. I won't give you no more advice, Tommy, but I wish you luck."
But I don't see why he had such a notion that he was near his own end.
It was a hard thing to do, to blow a hole in the bottom of the good
ship. The night was dark now, but the lights of the cruiser in plain
sight, and we knew she'd stand off until morning, or as long as the
_Hebe Maitland's_ lanterns burned at the masts. The crew put off
in three boats to round the island and wait for us, and Clyde and I
took the fourth boat, and stowed the canvas bags, and went ashore,
running up a little reedy inlet to the end. We buried them in the
exact middle of a small triangle of three trees. Then we rowed out,
and I threw the spade in the water, and when we rounded the island,
taking a last look at the _Hebe Maitland_, she was dipping
considerable, as could be seen from the hang of her lanterns. Clyde
changed to another boat and put Sadler, Craney, Irish, Abe Dalrimple,
and Stevey Todd, into mine.
I noticed it as curious about us, that so long as the old man was at
hand, telling us what to do, we all acted chipper and cheerful, but
as soon as we'd drifted apart, we grew quieter, and Stevey Todd began
to act scared and lost, and was for seeing Spanish cruisers drop out
of the air, and for calling the old man continually. Somehow we
dropped apart in the dark.
I've sometimes fancied that Clyde put me in that boat with those men
because it was the lightest boat, and because Sadler, Craney, and
Little Irish were powerful good rowers, and Abe he had this that was
odd about him for a steersman, for though he was always a bit
wandering in his mind, yet he could tell land by the smell. Put him
within twenty miles of land at sea, no matter how small an island,
and he'd smell the direction of it, and steer for it like a bullet,
and that's a thing he don't understand any more than I. I never made
out why Clyde took to me that way, as he surely did, and left me his
shiners as sure as he could, and gave me what chance he could for
getting away, or so I fancied. Just so surely I never saw him again,
when once we'd drifted apart that night among the Windwards.
A New Orleans paper of the week after held an item more or less like
"An incoming steamer from Trinidad, reports the overhauling of a
smuggler, _The Hawk_, by the Spanish cruiser, _Reina Isabella_.
The smugglers scuttled the ship and endeavoured to escape, but
were captured, and are thought to have been all hanged. This summary
action would seem entirely unjustifiable, as smuggling is not a
capital offence under any civilised law. The disturbed state of
affairs under our Spanish-American neighbours may account for it.
_The Hawk_ is stated to be an old offender. No American vessel
of this name and description being known however, it is not likely
that there will be any investigation."
The New York _Shipping News_ of three months later had this:
"The bark, _Hebe Maitland_, Mdse., Clyde, Cap., which left this
port the 9th of April, has not yet been heard from."
So the _Reina Isabella_ thought she got all the crew of the
_Hebe Maitland_, likely she thinks so yet, for I don't know of
anybody that ever dropped around to correct her; but being as we
rowed all night to westward and were picked up next morning by an
English steamer bound for Colon on the Isthmus of Panama, and were
properly landed in course of time, I argue there were some of them
she didn't get. Their names, as standing on Clyde's book, were,
"Robert Sadler, James Hagan, Stephen Todd, Julius R. Craney,
Abimelech Dalrimple, Thomas Buckingham."
Kid Sadler, as he was known there and then and since, was a powerful
man, bony and tall, with a scrawny throat, ragged, dangling
moustache, big hands, little wrinkles around his eyes, and a hoarse
voice. I wouldn't go so far as to say I could give you his character,
for I never made it out; yet I'd say he was given to sentiment, and
to turning out poetry like a corn-shucker, and singing it to misfit
and uneducated tunes, and given to joyfulness and depression by
turns, and to misleading his fellow-man when he was joyful, and
suffering remorse for it afterward pretty regular, taking turns, like
fever and chills; which qualities, when you take them apart, don't
seem likely to fit together again, and I'm not saying they did fit in
Sadler. They appeared to me to project over the edges. I never made
Hagan I never knew to be called any name but "Irish," or "Little
Irish," except by Clyde himself. He was small and chunky in build,
and nervous in his mind, and had red fuzzy hair that stuck up around
his head like an aureole. Generally silent he was, except when
excited, and seemed even then to be settled to his place in this
world, which was to be Sadler's heeler. He followed Sadler all his
after days, so far as I know, same as Stevey Todd did me. I don't
know why, but I'd say as to Irish, that he was a man without much
stiffness or stay-by, if left to himself, whereas Sadler was one that
would rather be in trouble than not, if he had the choice.
As to Craney, I'll say this. When Clyde and I were coming out of the
inlet, he gave me a hundred and forty dollars, and he says,
"Look out for Craney," but I had no notion what he meant by it. Now,
soon after we landed in Colon, Craney and Abe Dalrimple got a chance
for a passage to New York, and my hundred and forty went off
somewhere about the same time. Sadler, Irish, nor Stevey Todd didn't
take it, for they didn't have it, not to speak of other reasons.
Abe's given to wandering in his mind, but he don't wander that way
either. Now, there were thieves enough in Colon, and Craney never
owned to it, but I'll say he showed a weakness afterward for putting
cash into my pocket, that I shouldn't have said was natural to him
without further reasons. But supposing he'd been there before, he
surely put more back in the end than he ever took out. On the other
hand, if I'd had the money in Colon I might have gone back to the
Windwards and to the triangle of three trees, with Sadler, Irish, and
Stevey Todd, and so back to Greenough and Madge Pemberton, and been a
hotel-keeper maybe, which is a good trade in Greenough. Craney was
ambitious and enterprising. He had, as you might say, soaring ideas,
and he'd been a valuable man to Clyde for the complicated schemes he
was always setting up. He was a medium-sized man, with light hair and
eyebrows, and a yellowish face, and a frame lean, though sinewy, and
had only one good eye, the other pale like a fish's. His business eye
always looked like it was boring a hole in some ingenious idea. As an
arguer on the _Hebe Maitland_ his style was airy and gorgeous,
contrary to the style of Stevey Todd, who was a cautious arguer, and
Craney was about forty years old at the time of the _Hebe
Maitland's_ loss, and Sadler about the same.
There were four of us then, left at Colon, after Craney and Abe had
gone. Pretty soon we were badly off. We couldn't seem to get berths,
and not much to eat. One day I up and says:
"I'm going across the Isthmus. Who else?" and Sadler says, "One of
'em's me," and we all went, footing thirty miles the first day, and
slept among the rocks on a hillside.
The fourth day we went down the watershed to the town of Panama.
There we found a ship ready in port that was short of hands, and
shipped on her to go round the Horn. She was named the _Helen
* * * * *
Captain Buckingham paused to fill his pipe again, and Stevey Todd
"'Intent to deceive and deception pursuant,' was my words, and I
never give in," and Uncle Abimelech piped up to a crazy tune:
"You can arguy here and arguy there,
But them that dangles in the air
They surely was mistook somewhere,
They ain't got good foundations."
"Aye," said Captain Buckingham thoughtfully. "It was so. I heard
Sadler tune that to his banjo the night we got to Colon. Abe's got
that kind of a memory, which is loose but gluey. It was so. Sadler
meant old man Clyde."
THE HOTEL HELEN MAR. THE NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
Most ships trading round the Horn to the West Coast in those days
would take a charter on the Gulf Stream to clean them well, on
account of carrying guano. The _Helen Mar_ carried no guano, and
charged freightage accordingly for being clean. Drygoods she'd
brought out from New York, linens, cottons, tinware, shoes, and an
outfit of furniture for a Chilian millionaire's house, including a
half-dozen baby carriages, and a consignment of silk stockings and
patent medicines. Now she was going back, expecting to pick up a
cargo of rubber and cocoa and what not, along the West Coast. Captain
Goodwin was master, and it happened he was short of hands, including
his cook. He hired Stevey Todd for cook, and shipped the rest of us
willing enough. It was in October as I recollect it, and sometime in
November when we came to lie in the harbour of the city of Portate.
Portate is about seven hundred miles below the equator, and has a
harbour at the mouth of a river called the Jiron, and even in those
days it was an important place, as being at the end of a pass over
the Cordilleras. There's a railroad up the pass now, and I hear the
city has trolleys and electric lights, but at that time it hadn't
much excitement except internal rumblings and explosions, meaning it
had politics and volcanoes. Most of the ships that came to anchor
there belonged to one company called the "British-American Transport
Company," which took most of the rubber and cocoa bark, that came
over the pass on mules--trains of mules with bells on their collars.
But the _Helen Mar_ had a consignment promised her. The pack
mules were due by agreement a week before, so they naturally wouldn't
come for a week after. "Manana" is a word said to mean "tomorrow,"
but if you took it to mean "next month" you'd have a better sight on
the intentions of it. That's the way of it in South America with all
but the politics and the climate. The politics and the climate are
like this; when they're quiet, they're asleep; and when they're not,
politics are revolutions and guns, and the climate is letting off
stray volcanoes and shaking up earthquakes.
But it was pleasant to be in the harbour of Portate. Everything
there seemed lazy. You could lie on a bunch of sail cloth, and see
the city, the sand, and the bluffs, and the valley of the Jiron up to
the nearer Andes. You could look up the level river to some low
hills, but what happened to the Jiron there you couldn't tell from
the _Helen Mar_. Beyond were six peaks of the Andes, and four of
them were white, and two blue-black in the distance, with little
white caps of smoke over them. The biggest of the black ones was
named "Sarasara," which was a nasty volcano, so a little old boatman
"Si, senor! Oh, la Sarasara!"
His name was Cuco, and he sold us bananas and mangoes, and was
drowned afterwards. The Sarasara was a gay bird. The mule drivers
called her "The Wicked Grandmother."
It came on the 23d of November. Captain Goodwin and all the crew
were gone ashore, excepting Stevey Todd and me left aboard. Sadler
and Irish had been ashore several days without showing up, for I
remember telling Captain Goodwin that Sadler wouldn't desert, not
being a quitter, at which he didn't seem any more than satisfied. I
was feeling injured too, thinking Sadler was likely to be having more
happiness than he deserved, maybe setting up a centre of insurrection
in Portate, and leaving me out of it. Cuco come out in his boat,
putting it under the ship's side, and crying up to us to buy his
Stevey Todd came out of the galley to tell him his mangoes were no
good, so as to get up an argument, and Cuco laughed.
"Si, senor," he says, "look! Ver' good." Then he nodded towards the
"La Sarasara! Oh, la Sarasara!" laughing and holding up his mangoes.
The smoke-cap over the Sarasara was blacker than usual and uncommon
big it looked to me. Just then it seemed to be going up and spreading
out. Stevey Todd looked over the side, and gave a grunt, and he says,
"Something's a-suckin' the water out of the harbour."
Then I felt the _Helen Mar_ tugging at her anchor, and the
water was going by her like a mill race, and Cuco was gone, and on
shore people were running away from the wharves and the river toward
the upper town.
I saw the trees swaying, though there was no wind, and a building
fell down near the water.
Then Stevey Todd whirled around and flung up his hands.
"Oh!" he says; "Oh! Oh!"
I never saw a scareder cook, for he dropped on the deck, and clapped
his legs around a capstan and screamed, "Lord! Lord!"
For the whole Pacific Ocean appeared to be heaving out its chest and
coming on, eighty feet high. I tied myself around another capstan,
and I says, "Good-night, Tommy!"
The tidal wave broke into surf an eighth of a mile out, and came on
us in a tumble of foam, hissing and roaring like a loose menagerie,
and down she comes on the _Helen Mar_, and up goes the _Helen
Mar_ climbing through the foam. Me, I hung on to the capstan.
The next thing I knew we were shooting past the upper town, up the
valley of the Jiron, and there wasn't any lower town to be seen. We
were bound for the Andes. The crest of the wave was a few rods ahead,
and the air was full of spray. I saw the Sarasara too, having a nice
time spitting things out of her mouth, and it looked to me like she
waggled her head with the fun she was having. But the _Helen
Mar_ was having no fun, nor me, nor Stevey Todd.
It was four miles the _Helen Mar_ went in a few minutes, going
slower toward the end. By-and-by she hit bottom, and keeled over
against a bunch of old fruit trees on the bank of the river, and lay
still, or only swayed a little, the water swashing in her hold. Right
ahead were the foothills of the Cordilleras, and the gorge where the
Jiron came down, and where the mule path came down beside the river.
The big wave went up to the foot of the hills, and now it came back
peaceful. Then it was quiet everywhere, except for the sobbing of the
ebb among the tree trunks, and afterward lower down in the bed of the
river. The ground rose to the foothills there, and the channel of the
river lay deep below, with a sandy bank maybe twenty feet high on
either side, and on the bank above the river lay the _Helen
Mar_, propped up by the fruit trees.
By dusk there was no water except in the river, and some pools, but
there were heaps of wreckage. Stevey Todd and I got down and looked
things over. Down the valley we saw pieces of the town of Portate
lying along, and beyond we saw the Pacific. And Stevey Todd wiped his
face on his sleeves, and he says, "Maybe that's ridiculous, and maybe
it ain't" he says, "but I'd argue it."
We swabbed off the decks of the _Helen Mar_, and scuttled the
bottom of her to let the water out. Then the next day we went down to
Portate. There were a sad lot of people drowned, including Captain
Goodwin and most of the crew. Sadler and Irish we didn't find, and
some others, and there was a man named Pickett who wasn't drowned. He
went south to Lima by-and-by.
Afterwards we did up the ship's papers, and the cash and bills in
the Captain's chest, thinking them proper to go to the ship's owners.
And Stevey Todd says:
"A wreck's a wreck. That river ain't three foot deep. How'd they
float her out of this? You say, for I ain't made up my mind," he
says, which I didn't tell him, not knowing how they'd do it.
For a few days Stevey Todd and I lived high on ship's stores,
loafing and looking down the valley at the damaged city. All the
river front was wrecked. Halfway up the long sloping hill the streets
were sloppy, and any man that had a roof to sleep on, slept drier
there than inside, but the upper city was well enough.
We woke up from sleeping on the shady side of the _Helen Mar_
one afternoon, to hear the jingle of bells, and soon the mule train
pulled up alongside, and the drivers weren't used to seeing ships in
that neighbourhood. They were expecting trouble from the _Helen
Mar_ for their being two weeks late; but still, finding the
_Helen Mar_ up by the foothills looking for them, it appeared to
strike them as impatient and not real ladylike. But what seemed
strange to me was to see Sadler and Irish, that were taken for
drowned beyond further trouble, standing in front of the mule-drivers,
looking down at us, and then up at the _Helen Mar_, and Sadler
seeming like he had a satirical poem on his mind which he was going
I says, "No ghosteses allowed here. You go away."
"Tommy," says Sadler, and he came and anchored alongside us in the
shadow of the _Helen Mar_, "I take it these here's the facts.
Your natural respectfulness to elders was shocked out of you, and you
ain't got over it."
"Why, she must've got tanked up bad," he says. "She must have been
full up and corked before she'd ever have come prancin' up here. My!
my! It's turrible when a decent ship gets an appetite for alcohol.
Here she lies! Shame and propriety forgotten! Immodestly exposed to
"You let the _Helen Mar_ alone," I says pretty mad. "She ain't
so bad as drowned corpses riding mules."
Then Stevey put in cautiously, and said he'd never really made up
his mind, and had doubts of it which he was ready to argue, supposing
Sadler had any facts to put up as bearing on his and Irish's
condition in nature.
Sadler said they had gone up the mule path expecting to climb
Sarasara, but getting near the top of her, she began to act as if she
disliked them, Sarasara did, and she threw rocks vicious and more
than playful; so that they left her, and went on up the pass to look
for the mule train. They didn't know anything had happened in Portate.
We put the mule-drivers up that night and charged them South
American rates. That was the way Stevey Todd and I started keeping
the _Helen Mar_ as a hotel. Sadler and Irish didn't care for the
business. They went down to Portate and got jobs with the Transport
Company, but Stevey Todd and I stayed by the _Helen Mar_, and
ran the hotel.
All the year through or nearly, the mule trains might come jingling
at any day or hour, coming from inland over the pass to the sea, with
the packs and thirsty drivers, who paid their bills sometimes in gum
rubber and Peruvian bark. Tobacco planters stopped there too, going
down to Portate. Men from the ships in the harbour came out, and
carried off advertisements of the hotel, and plastered the coast with
them. I saw an advertisement of the "Hotel Helen Mar" ten years after
in a shipping office in San Francisco, and it read:
"Hotel Helen Mar, Portate, Peru. Mountain and Sea Breezes. Board and
Lodging Good and Reasonable. Sailor's Snug Harbour. Welcome Jolly
Tar. Thomas Buckingham and Stephen Todd."
That was for foreign patronage. The home advertisements were in
Spanish and went up country with the mule trains. Up in the Andes
they knew more about the Hotel Helen Mar than they did of the
Peruvian Government. We ran the hotel to surprise South America.
It was nearly a year before we heard from the ship's owners, though
we sent them the proper papers; and then a man came out, and looked
at the _Helen Mar_, and says:
"I guess she belongs where she is. Running a hotel, are you?" and he
carried off the sails and other rigging.
She was propped up at first only by the bunch of fruit trees, but
by-and-by we bedded her in stones. We painted a sign across her forty
feet long, but cut no doors, because a seaman won't treat a ship that
way. You had to climb ladders to the deck.
Inside she was comfortable. No hotel piazza could equal the _Helen
Mar_'s deck on a warm night, with the old southern stars overhead,
when a bunch of mule-drivers maybe would be forward talking, and I
and Stevey Todd aft with a couple of Spanish planters, or an agent,
or the officers of a warship maybe from England or the States. Over
on the hillside lay Captain Goodwin and most of the crew of the
_Helen Mar_, wishing us well, and close to starboard you heard
all night the tinkle of the Jiron River down in its channel. It was
twenty feet from the deck of the _Helen Mar_ to the ground, and
twenty feet from there to the river.
Portate was a pleasant little city in those days. It had pink-uniformed
soldiery for the city guard, and a fat, warm-tempered Mayor, who
used often to come up to the hotel and cool off when something
had stuck a pin into his dignity that made him feverish. Stevey
Todd was cook and I was manager. Business was good and the
company good at the Hotel Helen Mar.
SADLER IN PORTATE. THE NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
I don't know how Sadler got to be Harbour Master for the Transport
Company, but so he did, and he was a capable harbour master. The
Transport Company thought much of him, only they said he was
reckless, and he surely acted youthful to belie his looks. He used to
go around in a grimy little tugboat called the _Harvest Moon_,
with Irish running the engine below, and himself busy thrashing and
blackguarding roustabouts, joyful like a dewy morn; but at night he'd
be found on the deck of either the _Helen Mar_ or the _Harvest
Moon_, playing a banjo very melancholy, and singing his verses to
tunes that he got from secret sources of sorrow maybe, which the
verses were interesting, but the tunes weren't fortunate. He was
particular about his poetry being accurate to facts, but he'd no gift
as to tunes.
The trouble he got into all came from throwing Pedro Hillary off the
stern of the _Harvest Moon_, so that Pete went out with the
tide, because no one thought him worth fishing out, till it was found
that he was a member of some sort of Masonic Society among the
negroes in Ferdinand Street, and a British subject too, who came from
Jamaica to Portate. But before that time Pete was picked up by a
rowboat, and came back to Portate and Ferdinand Street. He and
Ferdinand Street were very mad. It was a street occupied by negroes,
and Sadler wasn't popular there.
He came up to the _Helen Mar_ the afternoon of the day that
Pete went out of the harbour, and lay in a hammock on deck, where one
could look down past the fruit trees toward the town and the mouth of
the Jiron. He was making a requiem for Pete Hillary, such as he
thought he ought to do under those circumstances, though the requiem
was no good and the tune vicious. "Pete Hillary," it began,
"Pete Hillary, I make for you
This lonesome, sad complaint.
Alive you wa'nt no use, 'tis true,
And dead you prob'ly ain't.
"Pete Hillary, Pete Hillary,
I don't know where you are.
Here's luck to you, Pete Hillary,
Beyond the harbour bar."
Just then Irish came running up the path, and climbed the ladder on
deck, and he cried:
"It's a warrant for ye, Kid I Run! Oh, wirra! What did ye do it
for?" He was distracted.
Sadler paid no attention. He only twanged his banjo, and sang casual
poetry, and Little Irish ran on:
"'Tis Pete Hillary himself was pulled out forninst the sand-bar," he
says, "an' he's back in Ferdinand Street, swearin' for the bucket o'
wather he swallyed. An' 'tis the English consul up to the City Hall
says he come from Jamaica, an' a crowd of naygers from Ferdinand
Street be the docks. Ah, coom, Kid! Coom quick, for the love of God!"
And Sadler says: "Gi'n me a kiss," he says,
"Gi'n me a kiss, sweetheart, says he;
Don't shed no tears for me, says he,
And if I meet a lass as sweet
In Paraguay, in Paraguay,
I'll tell her this: 'Gi'n me a kiss;
You ain't half bad for Paraguay.'"
And Irish says: "An' there's two twin sojers with their guns," he
says, "an' belts full of cartridges on the _Harvest Moon_, an'
the gentlemen at the Transport says, Hide, dom ye! he says, till they
can ship ye wid a cargo to Californy."
"The little islands fall asleep,
The little wavelets wink.
Aye, God's on high; the sea is deep;
Go, Chepa, get some drink.
"_Calm_, Irish! Get _calm!_" he says.
"You mean to say there's twins like that occupying the _Harvest
First I seen her
Underneath an orange-tree--
"They are," says Irish.
"Well--ain't they got nerve!"
"She was swashin'
Suds and washin'
Shirts beneath her orange-tree,"
he says. "Why, I got to go down and spank 'em!" he says, and he
rolled out of the hammock and went off down the road toward Portate
with Irish pattering after him.
We saw no more of them that day, and we didn't hear any news until
the noon following. There was a gale from the northwest in the
morning. I went down to the city in the afternoon, and found the
Plaza boiling with news.
It seemed that Sadler had gone aboard the _Harvest Moon_ and
surprised the two soldiers, and dipped them in the water with their
artillery, and sent them uptown with the wet warrant stuck in the
muzzle of a gun. Then he paraded the _Harvest Moon_ the length
of Portate's water-front, tooting his steam whistle. Then the Jefe
Municipal--that's the Mayor--fell into his warmest temper, and sent
a company of pink soldiery of the City Guard in the morning, packed
close in a tugboat. Then Sadler led them seaward, where the gale was
blowing from the northwest and the seas piled past the harbour; so
most of the pink soldiers were seasick, not being good mariners, and
the gale standing the tugs on their beam-ends, which was no sort of
place for a City Guard. They came back unhappy. The _Harvest
Moon_ was in again, and now anchored in the harbour. I passed the
Jefe myself on the City Hall steps, and heard him b-r-r-ring like a
dynamo. Then I went down to the harbour.
The _Harvest Moon_ lay rolling a half mile out. I took a
rowboat and rowed out. When I drew near, I saw Sadler standing by the
rail with the black nozzle of a hose pipe pushed forward, and shading
his eyes against the glint of the water. When he saw it was me he
took me aboard. But he was thoughtful and depressed. He sat himself
on the rail and dangled his boots over the water and described his
state of mind.
"What makes a man act so?" he says. "There's my fellow-man. Look at
him! I'm sorry for him. Most of him had hard luck to be born, and yet
when he gets in my way I just walk all over him. I can't help it.
He's leathery and he's passive, my fellow-man. He goes to sleep in
the middle of the road. When I ketch one of him, I kicks a hole in
his trousers first, and then it occurs to me, 'My sufferin' brother!
This is too bad!' Why, Pete Hillary was one of the dumbdest and
leatheriest, and here's the Mayor's pink sojers been fillin' me with
joy and sorrow, till I laughed from eleven till twelve, and been
sheddin' tears ever since. Irish's been three times around his rosary
before he got the scare kinks out of him, and between Irish bein'
pathetic, and the Mayor and his sojers comin' out pink and going back
jammed to the colour of canned salmon, my feelin's is worked up to
bust. What makes a man act so? It must be he has cats in him."
He pulled his moustache and looked gloomy, and I judged his remorse
was sincere. I says:
"That's what I don't put together. Why, Kid, look here! If you feel
as bad as that three-for-a-cent requiem to Pete Hillary sounded, it's
cats all right. It's the same kind that light on back fences and feel
sick, and express themselves by clawing faces," I says, "and
blaspheming the moon with sounds that never ought to be. That what
you mean by 'cats in him'?"
"Precise, Tommy, precise."
"Well, I don't put it together," I says. "I wouldn't feel like that
for the satisfaction of drowning all Ferdinand Street. Why, poetical
habits and habits of banging folks don't seem to me to fit. Why," I
says, "a poet he's one thing, and a scrapper he's another, ain't
they? They don't agree. One of 'em feels bad about it, and takes to
laments and requiems nights, same as malaria."
"It's this way," he says. "Those are just two different ways of
statin' that things are interestin'. And yet, you're not far from the
facts. It was a shoemaker in Portland, Maine," he says, "that taught
me to chuck metres when I was a young one, and the shoemaker's son
taught me to fight in the back yard, more because he was bigger than
because he was interested in educatin' me. By-and-by I beat the
shoemaker on metres and the son in the back yard, and then I left
'em, for they was no more use to me. But I never found anything else
so much satisfaction as them two pursuits. But I'll go away, Tommy,"
he says, "I'll leave Portate. I will, honest. I'll be good. I wish
they'd quit puttin' temptations on me. But they won't. They're comin'
out again! Look at 'em! They've borrowed the _Juanita_, and
she's comin' with only the steersman in sight, and a cabin full of
sojers that can't keep their bayonets inside of the windows. My!
ain't they sly!"
He went to the companion way and called Irish, telling him to "start
The _Juanita_ was one of the Transport Company's tugs. She
appeared to be engaged in a stratagem. She passed the _Harvest
Moon_, then swung around and came up, on the other side. The
_Harvest Moon_ made no effort to escape her anchorage, though
the engine below began thumping busily.
Sadler went aft, dragging the long black hose, and sat on the rail
till the _Juanita_ drew in to forty feet away, and through the
deckhouse windows you could see the tufted caps of the suppressed
soldiery. Then he let a steaming arch out of the hose pipe, that
vaulted the distance and soaked the steersman, who howled and lay
down. Then the _Juanita_ ploughed on, and Sadler played his
hose, as she passed, through the windows of the deck house, where
there were crashes and other noises, and Irish's engine kept on
chug-chugging in the chest of the _Harvest Moon_. The _Juanita_
went out of reach, and the soldiery poured out on deck disorderly and
furious, and Sadler pulled me flat beside him, supposing they might
open a volley of musketry on us, but they didn't. Then he got up.
"They give me the colic," he says, and Irish put his head up the
companion way, and says: "The wather was too hot," he says and blew
his fingers, and Sadler gave a groan.
"There's my luck!" he says. "I meant to tell Irish to take the boil
off and forgot it. Now their skins'll peel. You go away, Tommy. You
go ashore. You can't do me no good."
He looked sheepish and troubled. When I pulled away, he sat staring
down, with his back turned, his boots dangling over the water, and
his shoulders bent. He certainly felt bad.
The Superintendent of the Transport Company was named Dorcas, a
bustling, heavy-bearded man that you couldn't hold still and that
talked fast and jerky like a piston rod.
I met him in the Plaza next morning going into the City Hall.
"Come on," he says. "We'll fix it. What? Jefe was stuck. Come to me.
Now then. Got an idea. Suit him first-rate. You see. Struck me this
morning," says Dorcas. "Suit everybody."
We came to the Mayor's office, and found Sadler, sitting alone by
the window and looking moodily down on the Plaza, where the chain
gang from the City Jail was pretending to mend the pavement, but
mostly loafing and quarrelling.
"Got him!" said Dorcas joyfully. "Thumped up the Jefe. First he
cussed, then he calmed. That's his way. Be up pretty soon. Hold on!
Wait for the Jefe."
Sadler nodded, and we sat and watched the chain gang, till the Mayor
came in out of breath. He was a small, stout man with a military
goatee, and his temper was such as kept the resident consuls happy
with their diplomacy. He snorted at Sadler, and sat down.
"Now, Excellency," Dorcas says, "this way. Understand your position.
All right. Reasonable. First, if Pete Hillary is Jamaican, he's no
citizen of Portate. See? No good, anyway. No. British consul, he
don't care, except for the principle. Not really. No. You want to
pacify him, meaning his principle. That's so. Then that Hottentot
Society. Got to fix them. Course you have. Don't want to disoblige
honest voters of Ferdinand Street. No. Third; you got to celebrate
the majesty of laws and municipal guards. Good. Last; the Transport
Company. We don't want the Kid to chew his thumbs in jail for wetting
folks. Good land! No! You want to satisfy us. Complicated, ain't it?
But you're equal to it. You're a good one, Jefe. Sure. Now what's
needed? Something bold. Something skilful. We have it! Get him
banished, Excellency. Get him banished. Executive Edict from the
President. Big gun. Hottentots pleased and scared. Majesty of Great
Britain pacified. Majesty of municipal guards celebrated. Transport
Company don't object. Everybody happy. There, now!"
He put his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, leaned back and beamed.
"Hum! You assist?" says the Mayor.
The Mayor gazed at him fierce for a minute, then he smiled and
patted his knee.
"It is, perhaps, Senor Dorcas, not impossible."
"There now, Kid! Fixed you."
Sadler said nothing, but looked down at the chain gang below. The
Plaza was full of people, women talking under the stiff palms, and
men sitting on wicker chairs on the hotel piazza opposite. The
butcher on the corner was chasing away a dog.
"It won't do," says Sadler mournfully, at last. "It's more
interestin' than I'd suppose you was up to, but comparatively it's
dull. Besides, it ain't safe. I'd have to come back and see how bad I
was banished. That's certain. Not that I'd throw you down this way,
Excellency," he says with sad eyes on the Mayor and a deep voice, "I
wouldn't do it," he says, "without puttin' up another scheme, for it
wouldn't be treating you upright. But makin' a supposition, now,
suppose I was arrested some, and set to bossin' that gang out there
for the benefit of Portate, and quartered, for safe keepin' till the
trial, at the Hotel Republic, as a partial return for being exhibited
in disgrace. And suppose it took me three days to finish that little
job they're potterin' with, by that time I'd be ready to, let's say,
to escape, say, on the steamer that sails for Lima on Thursday. I'm a
broken and tremblin' reed, Jefe. That's me. I shrinks, I fades away.
The majestic law's too much for me. And suppose you was to fix up a
Proclamation subsequent and immejiate, offerin' a reward for me. Now,
as to fugitive, or as to exile, lookin' at it from my standpoint, I
makes my choice. I says, fugitive. It suits me better. It's elegant
and inexpensive. I ain't worthy of an Executive Edict. As a fugitive
I wouldn't have to fidgit to get even with you. But take your
standpoint, Excellency. There's iniquitous limits to you. For
instance, you can't put up an Executive Edict by yourself.
Consequence is, there's no glory in it for you. But you can put up a
Proclamation, runnin' like this: 'Five hundred dollars reward for
capture and return of one Sadler, that committed humiliatin' assault
on one Hillary, and sp'iled the stomachs and b'iled the skins of
patriotic municipal guardsmen, which shameful person is more'n six
feet of iniquity, and his features homely beyond belief, complexion
dilapidated, and conscience dyspeptic.' Of course, Excellency, there
couldn't anybody give you points on a Proclamation. I ain't doin'
that, but I was supposin' it was printed in the national colours,
with a spectacular reward precedin' a festival of language. Printed,
posted, and scattered over Ferdinand Street and the British
Consulate, what happens? British majesty pacified, Ferdinand Street
solid for a Mayor that puts that value on Pete Hillary, Transport
Company don't object. Everybody happy, except me. Don't mind me. I go
my lonesome way."
Sadler turned away, depressed, and looked at the chain gang in the
Plaza. The Mayor's eyes glistened. Dorcas pulled his beard, and he
"There'd be more in it for you, Excellency, that's a fact."
The Mayor came over and patted Sadler on the shoulder, and his voice
"My friend, be not sad. To be sacrificed to public policy is noble."
"Recollect that Proclamation, Excellency," says Sadler. "You can't
describe me too villainous."
"I will remember," says the Mayor in a broken voice. "I will
"And you won't go under five hundred," says Sadler. "It'll be a
tribute to your private respect, just between you and me, as friends
that might never meet again."
"I will remember. My friend! Yet be firm," says the Mayor.
Sadler left the hall with a file of pink soldiers, who acted sly and
kept aside from him, as not knowing in what direction he might be
dangerous. He was put in charge of the chain gang, and introduced
them to sorrow and haste, and he spent his three days at the Hotel
Republic, taking things joyful at the bar at municipal expense. There
were soirees on the hotel piazza and terror in the chain gang.
By the rate the work went on in the Plaza, he was worth the expense.
The only point where he didn't appear scrupulous was going around to
bid people good-bye, which seemed simple-hearted and affecting in a
way, but it harrowed the Mayor's feelings. He said they were
harrowed. He got nervous. For if a man agrees to be a fugitive, and
to escape in a way described by himself as a shrinking and fading
away, it stands to reason he oughtn't to make too much fuss about it;
nor tell the British consul that the Mayor was going to assassinate
him, which was the reason for "these here adieus," to which the
British consul said, "Gammon!" Yet this seemed to be the idea current
in Ferdinand Street, and was why the Hottentot Society were peaceful
for the time being. But it made the Mayor nervous the way Portate was
keyed up for tragedy, and the way Sadler acted as if he wasn't going
to escape real mysterious. For the Mayor had to please the British
consul and Ferdinand Street and the Transport Company; but the
Hottentots were skittish, and the Mayor was nervous.
On Thursday morning the dock was crowded with Sadler's friends, come
to watch him escape, and some who heard he was to try it, and thought
to see him grabbed by the City Guard. They expected a surprise. It
puzzled them when the strip of water widened between the steamer and
Irish wasn't there, though I had supposed he would go with Sadler;
but the British and American consuls were there, and Dorcas, with
others of the Transport Company, people from the Hotel Republic, and
Hillary, and a lot of negroes from Ferdinand Street. I heard the
British consul say to the American consul: "You know, of course,
that's what you call a 'put up job'--one of your Americanisms," he
"Shucks! You don't care," says the American consul.
"But really, you know, it's not decent," says the British consul.
Sadler stood on the after deck of the steamer with his hat off, same
as if he was asking a benediction on Portate.
An hour later the steamer was out of sight and the proclamations
were posted in Ferdinand Street, and the Plaza, and at the
consulates: "Three hundred dollars reward for the capture and return,
dead or alive, of one known as 'Kid Sadler,' a fugitive from public
justice, who committed felonious and insulting assault on Pedro
Hillary, the well-known and respected resident of Ferdinand Street.
It is suspected," says the Proclamation, "that, if still in the city,
he will endeavour to escape by steamer in disguise. Description."----
Which description of him was remarkable for length and scorn.
I heard the American consul say to the British consul; "I'll tell
you what that is, old man. That's a porous plaster. It has some
holes, but it's meant to cover your indecency."
That Thursday night I sat alone on the deck of the Hotel Helen Mar.
It was near ten o'clock. I saw a flamingo rise from the river, and it
flew over the _Helen Mar_, like a ghost, trailing its legs.
And the ladder creaked, and Sadler came over the side. He stepped
soft and long like a ghost.
"How do?" he says, and sat down, and twankled his banjo.
Then I asked, "Why? What for?" I says, "I don't see it," I says. "It
ain't reasonable." It was well enough for a flamingo, but a man has
responsibilities. It's not right for him to be a floating object
that's no such thing. He's got no business to be impossible, unless
he explains himself. I stated that opinion pretty sharp, but Sadler
"Irish hooked the _Harvest Moon_" he says, "and lay outside for
the steamer. I jumped overboard."
"Changed your mind?"
"Well, I'd thought some of enlisting for the Chilian War, but Irish
don't like war. Gives him the fidgits. I made a 'Farewell' going out.
I thought I'd come round and tell it to you." He sang hoarsely as
"Tommy and Dorcas, now adieu;
I drops a briny tear on,
Mayor, my memories of you;
Stevey that brought the beer on;
Farewell across the waters blue,
"Farewell the nights of ba'my smell,
Farewell the alligator,
Special them little ones that dwell
In the muck hole with their mater.
Farewell, Portate, oh, farewell,
"You see," he says, "the point of going to war is this way, because
"The damage you do
Ain't totted to you
But explained by the habits of nations.
"Government pays the bills, commissary, sanitary, and them that's
sent to God Almighty. I guess so. But it'd give Irish the fidgits.
Then the Transport's got a three-master billed for San Francisco, and
she sails to-morrow morning, and we're going on her." He seemed
subdued, and hummed and strummed on his banjo, as if he couldn't get
hold of what he wanted to let out. At last he struck up a monotonous
thing that had no tune, and sang again: "One day," he says,
"One day I struck creation,
And I says in admiration,
'What's this here combination?'
Then I done a heap of sin.
I hain't no education,
"There's something I would say, boys,
Of the life I throwed away, boys,
It cackles, but don't lay, boys,
There's a word that won't come out.
The hell I raised I'll pay, boys,
"Tommy," he says then, "I'm leaving you. You ain't going to have my
sheltering wing no more. Write down these here maxims in your memory,
supposing I never see you no more. Any game is good that'll hold up a
bet. Any sort of life is good so long as it has a good risk in it.
The worth of anything depends on how much you've staked on it. Him
that draws most of the potluck in this world is the same that drops
most in. The man that puts up his last coin as keen as when he put up
his first, he'll sure win in the end. Lastly, Tommy, if you want a
backer inquire for Sadler. So long."
He got up to leave, and stood a moment looking away into the
moonlight. I says:
"The Mayor's Proclamation's out, Kid."
"Yep. I got it somewhere about. I just been to see him."
He had the Proclamation in his hand.
"Durned little runt," he says. "He cut me down two hundred dollars
on that reward, plump! And he'd gi'n me his word! Why, you heard him!
He ought to be ashamed. I told him so. I says, 'You're no lady.' Nor
he ain't. Nor sporty, either. Squeals and wriggles."
"Paid you the reward, did he?"
"Why, of course, he couldn't miss his politics. It took him sudden,
though. He had a series of fits that was painful, painful." Then he
moved away, muttering, "Painful, painful!" climbed over the side, and
down the ladder, and went to California.
END OF THE HOTEL HELEN MAR. CONTINUATION OF CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM'S
Sadler and Irish were gone, but Stevey Todd and I stayed on at
Portate, running the Hotel Helen Mar. Three years we ran her
altogether, and made money. I had a thought that by-and-by I'd go to
the Isthmus, and charter some kind of sloop, and dig out Clyde's
canvas bags, and so go back to Greenough sticky with glory. Whether
it was laziness or ambition kept me so long at Portate I couldn't
say. It was a pleasant life. It's a country where you don't notice
time. Yet its politics are lively, and the very land has malaria, as
you might say; it has periodic shakes, earthquakes, "tremblors," they
call them, or "trembloritos," according to size.
It was early one morning, in the spring of the year '73, that Stevey
Todd woke me up, and he says:
"I'm feeling unsteady like. Seems like the _Helen Mar_ wobbled."
"She's took sick," I says, sarcastic, "she's got the toothache."
The only thing I had against Stevey Todd was, he was timid and had
bad dreams. He rode a tidal wave every two or three nights, according
to account. But it wasn't right to be messing another man's sleep
with tidal waves that didn't belong to the other man. I never set any
tidal waves on him. I spoke up to Stevey Todd that time, and went on
deck, and saw the Sarasara with an umbrella over her head, and I
thought, maybe, there had been a little shake, and maybe she was out
looking for trouble.
It came on the middle of the morning. The drivers that put up with
us that night were gone down the valley with their mules. I heard
Stevey Todd whoop down below, and he came on deck and he says, "She's
wobbling again!" meaning the _Helen Mar_. She was swaying to and
fro. We got down the ladder and stood off to look at her.
Then the land began twisting like snakes under our feet, and cut
figure eights, till I felt like soapsuds, and lay down on my face.
Then I sat up, and looked at the _Helen Mar,_ which shook and
groaned like a live thing. We heard the trees crack and snap behind
her. She seemed to hang a moment as if she hated to go; and over she
went with a shriek and crash. The water splashed and the dust went
up. Stevey Todd and I ran to the bank, and there lay the Hotel Helen
Mar, ridiculous, bottom side up in the Jiron River.
Stevey Todd sat down and cried.
I was disgusted with seeing the hotel standing on her roof-garden
and thinking of the mess there was inside her, all come of a
tremblorito no bigger than enough to cave in the bank and tip the
_Helen Mar_ over, and enough tidal wave to wash the streets of
Portate, which needed it. I saw the Sarasara shaking her old umbrella
at us, and I was mad. I says to Stevey Todd, "Go on! Run your blamed
old hotel standing on your head!" I says, "I'm going to Greenough,"
and I lit out for Portate, leaving him standing on the bank, with the
tears running down his face, like his heart was broken.
When I came to the harbour I found there were two ships in port
bound for California, and one by way of Panama. She was named the
The captain's name was Rickhart, a rough man, and the _Jane
Allen_ was an unclean boat, a brigantine, come from bad weather
around the Horn. I went aboard to look her over, and didn't like her.
I was making up my mind to go and see if the other mightn't be going
by Panama too. And then, coming through the forecastle, some one
spoke to me from a bunk and he says:
"When'd you drop in, Tommy?" and I stopped, and stared, and pretty
soon I made him out. It was Julius R. Craney.
He certainly was sick. He said he had shipped with Rickhart from New
York, to go to California and make his fortune, but thought now he
wouldn't live so far. He had the scurvy and was low in his mind, and
disappointed with fortune. I thought:
"If he took my money at Colon, he hasn't got it now." He was poor
enough then. I guessed we'd have to call that off, and I says:
"The _Jane Allen_ it is. I'll go see the Windwards and
Craney was a yellow-looking man at that time, and glad enough when I
told him I was going to bring him some fruit, and take passage to
Panama, and look after him. Then I bargained with Rickhart for a
passage for two.
The next day I went back up to the _Helen Mar_, and found
Stevey Todd had a board fence in front of her, and was charging
admission, and he had a new advertisement tacked on the fence.
"Unparalleled Spectacle!" says Stevey Todd's bill-poster. "The Hotel
Helen Mar. On her chimneys, with her cellar in the Air! Built in the
United States! Exported to South America! Freighted Inland by a Tidal
Wave! Stood on her Head by an Earthquake! Only 10 cents!" And he was
up on a box himself encouraging the populace, and he seemed to think
he had a good business opening. But I says:
"Stevey," I says, "come off it. We're going to Panama."
He wanted to argue it was an unparallelled show, but I took him by
the suspenders and ran him down to Portate, arguing, and the populace
went in free, and we went aboard the _Jane Allen_. He thought
the _Helen Mar_ was a better boat upside down than the _Jane
Allen_ any side, and he was right there, for the _Jane Allen_
was full of smells and unhealthiness. But Craney was glad to see us.
We hadn't been a week at sea before her cook came down with ship's
fever and died in five days, but Craney picked up a bit for the time.
Rickhart came straight for Stevey Todd, and handed him his passage
"You're no passenger" he says. "You're a cook. You hear me!" Which
appeared like a rash statement, that Stevey Todd wasn't one to take
off-hand like that without argument, but Rickhart shoved him into the
galley before he got his ideas arranged right.
"You're the _Jane Allen's_ cook," says Rickhart, and appeared
to be right, though his style of argument wasn't what Clyde had
trained us to. Stevey Todd had no proper outfit to meet it. The
victuals he had to serve up on the _Jane Allen_ was a worriment
to his conscience too, being tainted and bad, and by-and-by I came
down too with ship's fever, and Craney got sicker again with scurvy.
There's a long promontory, that the coasters see on the West Coast
of South America near the Line, with a square white tower on a bit of
high rock at the head of it. The promontory is called Mituas, and the
point, Punta Ananias. That may be because some one ran aground
sometime on the sand-bar off the end, and thought it deceitful. Some
people say the tower was built as an outlook against pirates long
ago, but I judge the facts are everybody has forgotten who built it
or what he did it for. It's a lighthouse now. If a man doesn't mind a
curve in his view and a few pin-head islands, there's nothing
particular to interrupt his view half round the world. The Andes make
a jagged line on the east, and ten of them are volcanoes. Those snow
mountains and two or three ocean currents got together, and arranged
it with the equator that one part of the year should be a good deal
like another there, and all the months behave respectful, and the
Tower of Ananias have a breeze. It's a handsome position with a
The scurvy is a disease not so common now, but it used to act as if
all the bad salt pork you'd eaten were coming out through the skin,
till you looked like a Stilton cheese, and what you wanted was to be
fed on vegetables, and put ashore so as to get the bilge-water dried
out. Probably that wouldn't be possible, and you'd be sewed up in
canvas, and resemble an exclamation point, and be dropped overboard
to punctuate the end of the story. Chunk! you goes, and that's the
end of you.
Ship's fever is a nautical brand of typhoid, due to bad conditions
aboard. The best thing for it is to get out of those conditions.
Craney had the scurvy, and I had ship's fever. Sometimes I was out of
my head. But when we sighted Punta Ananias, I was clear enough to
tell Captain Rickhart he'd have a burial shortly, or put me on shore.
"I've got no fancy for that," he says, and took a look at me. I
didn't suppose he'd haul up, but he did. He'd buried two men already
down the coast, and the thing must have got on his nerves, for he
anchored overnight, and sent Craney and me to the lighthouse in a boat.
"You forfeit your passage money," he says, and told the mate to buy
what truck he could, and tell the Dago in the lighthouse he could
keep our remains.
Rickhart was a rough man, and his ship was a rotten ship. I never
knew a meaner ship, though I've known meaner men than Rickhart on the
Stevey Todd said he was going with us, and there Rickhart disagreed
with him again, and his argument was the same as before.
"You ain't," he says, and seemed to prove it, though Stevey Todd
claimed he wasn't convinced.
TORRE ANANIAS. WHY CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM DID NOT GO BACK TO GREENOUGH.
When we got under the lee of the lighthouse, the keeper came
stalking down the rocks to meet us. He was a tall man with a long
moustache, and a narrow grey beard, and a black coat and sombrero.
I heard the mate say:
"Here's the King of Castile come to Craney's funeral. Blamed if he
ain't a whole hearse!"
"Without doubt" says the keeper, grave and deep, being asked about
the fruit. Regarding sick boarders, he broke out sharp, "Since when
has my house----But I ask your pardon! You are strange to me. No
more. The gentlemen will do me the honour to be my guests."
Nobody appeared to have anything to say to that, but he looked too
lean to recommend his board. His Spanish wasn't the kind I was used
to. It was neither West Coast nor Mexican. I judged it was just
They left us in canvas hammocks on the ground floor of the Tower of
Ananias. It was three stories high, the top story opened to seaward,
with its lanterns and tin reflectors.
The darkness came on, as its habits are in the tropics, like a lamp
blown out. I could see the stars through the square seaward window of
the tower, and heard the keeper go softly up the stairs, and I went
to sleep, very weak and faint.
When morning came, and I pulled myself up to look through the square
window, and saw the ship making sail, it seemed to me I was some sick
and far away from everybody. I rubbed my eyes and looked around.
The door and stairway filled one side of the room. There were two
wooden benches and a pile of earthen and tin ware on one of them. The
hammocks hung between the windows, and in one of them lay Craney,
looking like mouldy cheese, for his hair, eyebrows, and complexion
were yellowish by nature, and he was some spotted at that time.
Beyond the door was a banana tree, with ten-foot leaves, and a
little black monkey loping around under it, sort of indifferent.
Beyond the banana tree came thick woods. A woman came out of them
with a basket on her head, up the path to the tower. The monkey
yelped and went up the banana tree. "Dios!" says the woman, when she
came to the door, and she put down the basket and ran. The keeper
came down the stone stairs and ran silently after her. The little
black monkey dropped from his tree and loped after the keeper, and
the woods swallowed them all. A sea-breeze was blowing into the
tower, and below I could hear the pound of the surf. Craney slept as
innocent as if he'd been fresh cheese, and I felt better.
Then the keeper came back with the woman, who appeared to be a
scared Indian and screeched some. He said her name was Titiaca, and
she would look after us, but otherwise had no culture. Craney woke up
and took a look at things.
"I have already," the keeper says very solemn, "the advantage of
your honourable names. My own is Gaspero Raphael de Avila y Mituas."
He stated it so, and went up the stairs. I dropped one leg out of the
hammock, and I says thoughtful:
"I always had hard luck. They just named me Tom and chucked me."
Titiaca knocked her head on the floor and screeched, but at that
time I didn't see what for. She appeared to think the keeper was
It was monotonous lying all day in the tower, seeing only Titiaca,
and now and then the black-cloaked keeper, stiff, silent, and solemn,
and polite. But the days went by, and by-and-by we began to crawl out
and lie in the seaward shadow, and sometimes under the banana tree,
where the little black monkey loped around melancholy. We grew
better. Titiaca gossiped, and told us the keeper was a magician, and
master of the winds, and probably the bestower of rain and sunshine,
and certain his light in the tower was connected underground with one
of the volcanoes, so that he could tap different grades of
earthquakes, graded as "motors, trembloritos, and tremblors,"
according to size.
"For, see!" she says; "at night it is the red smoke of the mountain
--all night! it is the light in the tower--all night! it is himself in
the tower--all night--all day! He speaks not. Is it not so? The
ground shivers. He says nothing. It is the magic. Ah-h-h! The magic!"
Craney grew so well and restless after a week or two that he began
strolling, and finally one day he went down the path that Titiaca
came by. For she said there was a village, and, beyond other villages
and cocoa plantations, fishermen along the shore, many people, though
only footpaths ran through the woods. Her gossip lacked variety, and
the little black monkey took no interest in me at all. It appeared to
me things were unnatural dull, and I went to the tower and called.
The keeper answered, and I went up, and hoped I wasn't in his way.
The middle story was like the one below, except for a table, chair,
bed, and a few plain articles.
"On the contrary," he says, "if you will do me the honour to
precede," and motioned to the stair leading to the lantern story,
which was roofed, but open on all sides, and along the seaward wall
was a stone bench.
It's good, now and then, as a man lives on, if something or some one
comes along that gives him a new notion of things. At first it
surprises him; then he thinks there might be something in it; and
then maybe he gets so waterlogged and cosmopolitan as to admit an
oyster's notions might be as reasonable as his.
As near as I could come to it the keeper was a Spaniard of a run-down
family,--at least one branch of it was run down to him. It was old
and uncommon proud, and had different kinds of decorated names.
It began with being a legend; then it seemed to have a deal of
trouble with Moors, and got rich with the results of trouble; then it
owned some of that section of the New World, including twenty to
thirty thousand natives in the property. That was the story of the
family. But what they had they spent, or lost, or had confiscated,
till there was nothing much but the story. Now here's what surprised
me. For the thought of his race was in his bones, same as the sea is
in mine. For instance, it seems to me I'm more to the point than my
ancestors, on account of being alive. I don't much know who they
were. I'm a separate island, with maybe a few other islands, close
by. My continental connections appear to be sort of submerged. That's
the average American way of looking at it, and he wants to be a
credit to himself, if he does to anybody. But the keeper's notion was
to be a credit to all the grandfathers he could find between the fall
of the Roman Empire and the Conquest of Peru. Those of the last
hundred years or so he wasn't particular about, but if they'd been
dead long enough he'd do anything to satisfy them. I didn't seem to
surround the idea so as to find it reasonable, but I got so far as to
see it was a large one, and there was some kind of a handsomeness in
Speaking of points of view, it seemed to me, so long as a man
thought a heap of something besides himself, there was a good deal of
leeway as to what the thing was; maybe his children and the folks
that were coming after him; maybe the folks that went before him;
maybe his country, or a machine he had invented, or a ship and those
aboard he was responsible for, or the copper image of one of his
gods. So long as he stood to stake his life on it, I wasn't prepared
to sniff at him.
For a while he listened to my talk and said nothing. Then he began
and went off like a bottle of beer that's been corked over-long. From
what he said I gathered the facts just stated.
"The stream goes dry," he says slowly at last. "Therefore I came
from Spain. What do I know of the new laws of the colonists, their
republic? These lands are to my race in me, from the point to the
bay, and north twenty leagues; so runs the charter: so witnesses my
name, Mituas, given and decreed by Charles, the king and emperor, to
Juan de Avila y Mituas, the friend of Francisco Pizarro, who was an
upstart indeed, but a valiant man. They say to me: 'There is a
lighthouse on Punta Ananias. For the keeping of the light is paid
this much. Sir, be pleased in this manner to occupy your estate.' Do
I care for their mocking? Is it the buzz of insects that is heard in
Spain? Good, then! I wait for my end. But to hear an Avila mocked at
in Spain I could not endure. You do not understand? It is natural.
You were so kind as to tell me of your life--believe me, most
interesting--a courtesy which has tempted me to fatigue you in this
I thought his yarn a sight more interesting than mine, and said so,
and he looked sort of blank, as if he didn't see how you could get
the stories of an Avila and a Yankee seaman near enough together to
compare them, more than a dozen eggs with a parallel of latitude. But
his manners stayed by him. He said I was so polite as to say so, and
then was silent, sitting on his end of the stone bench and looking
grim at the sea.
"Well," I says, "I've got nothing to speak of,--a little money, no
relations,--but I'd hate to give up the idea of seeing Long Island
Sound again, and the town of Greenough."
"Your hope is a possession excellent," he says very quiet. "I shall
not see again my Madrid, nor those vineyards of Aragon."
By-and-by the keeper seemed too melancholy to be sociable, I went
back to the banana tree.
Titiaca came. She said Craney had gone inland.
He didn't come back that night, and not till late afternoon of the
next day. Then he came out of the woods, strolling along, and sat
down under the banana tree, and acted as if he had something on his
mind. I told him about the keeper, and laid out my theory about his
having a handsome point of view, but one that needed property to keep
cheerful with. Craney was thoughtful.
"Property, Tommy!" he says at last. "This is the remarkablest
community I ever got to. The old man told you right, so far as he
knew. I guess he applied for four hundred square miles of ancestral
estate and they told him he could have the lighthouse job. That's so!
But see here. He don't really know what his job is. Lighthouse
keeper! My galluses and garters! He's the tin god of ten or fifteen
thousand Injuns and half-breeds. I've been holding camp-meetings with
them. Why, he's sitting on a liquid gold mine that's aching to run.
I'll tell you. I went from here to Titiaca's village. It's on the
shore and some of the people are fishermen, and I talked with them.
Then I got a donkey and rode over by plantations where they raise
cocoa, which appears to be a red cucumber full of beans, and growing
on an apple tree. They dry it, and take it in boat-loads up a bay
about forty miles, and get from five cents a pound upwards. I talked
with them. Then I met an old priest, who was fat and slow and
peaceable. I went in a sailboat with him up the coast to his house,
and spent the night. He said the Injuns of this neighbourhood were
more'n half heathen in their minds, but he was too old, and settled
down now, and couldn't help it. It didn't appear to trouble him much.
He wondered if Senor de Avila knew he was that gruesome and
popular; and then he mooned along, talking sort of wandering, till
near midnight. The Injuns don't think his credit with the gods and
the elements amounts to much, anyway. This morning I crossed to the
north shore and saw more villages and plantations, and came back to
Titiaca's village in a catamaran rigged with a sprit-sail. Now, this
is a business opening, Tommy. And look here! The old man's notions,
as he put 'em to you, they're a good thing. I didn't know how he'd
take it, but I guess we can fix it. You see, this section--why, Padre
Filippo says it used to belong to that family more or less, but the
titles were called off when the country set up for itself, and
whether they'd collected rent up to that time he didn't know. He
thought they hadn't regular or much. But the section's grown well-to-do
lately on account of the cocoa trade, and I gather what the Injuns
pay on it now is about ordinary taxes. Now, if the Injuns pay the old
man a sort of blackmail to get him to moderate his earthquakes, and
he calls it his proper rents, why, I say, a rose by any name'll smell
as sweet, supposing the commission for collecting is the same. That's
the idea. Why not? All he's got to do is to stay in his tower, or
look like a cross between the devil and a prophet when he does show
himself, same as usual, and leave us to work his tribute. It's what
his tenth grandfather did. I guess it'll be mostly dried cocoa beans.
The shed where the old man keeps his oil will do for a warehouse."
I says, "What's all this, anyway?"
"Oh," he says, "you'll see it's reasonable by-and-by. Why not? Why,
the campaign's begun. Some of the stuff is coming in to-morrow.
You've no notion how they cottoned to the idea. I says to 'em this
way. 'Course,' I says, 'I'm a stranger, but it stands to reason the
Don won't shake anybody out of bed nights that does his best to
please him. Sure, he'd be reasonable. But here he's lived on the
little end of this country now going on ten years, and what have you
done? Nothing! Here he's been switching fire back and forth from the
Andes,' I says, 'corking up one volcano and letting out another, and
yet he ain't split a single plantation into ribbons so far. Has he,
now? No. Well, ain't it astonishing? Why, he must have this whole
territory riddled with pipe connections. Boys, I don't see how you
can be so reckless,' I says, 'and ungrateful. How long do you expect
him to look out for folks that don't appear to care whether they blow
up or not? First you know, he'll get disgusted and turn the whole
section into cinders. He must have been mighty cautious as it is.
Shook you up a little now and then. Nothing to what he's liable to
do. Suffering saints!' I says; 'can't you take a hint? What do you
suppose he means when the ground wrinkles under your feet? Do you
want him to pitch you all into the sea before you get his idea?' They
said they hadn't thought of that before. Fact is, they surprised me.
They must have some ancestral ideas of their own, so it comes natural
to 'em to pay for their weather. Tell 'em they've got to bribe an
earthquake, and they say, 'All right.' Queer, ain't it? 'Well, I
says, 'tell you what I'll do. I'll arrange it with the Don.' You've
no notion how they liked the idea, they're that scared of him. I
guess they'll put up various amounts. They didn't understand a
percentage. Maybe the details will be complicated. Let's go see the
The keeper was in his lantern story, looking out over the sea very
lonesome. Craney attacked the subject like a drummer selling a bill
of goods, but the keeper didn't seem to understand. "Why," says
Craney, "you see, these people have a sort of mysterious reverence
for you. Maybe you have an idea of the reason." The keeper said it
was probable that the peasantry were not unaware of his rank.
"Now, your ancestors employed agents, didn't they? Yes. Maybe they
got about half the proceeds and the agents stole the rest." The
keeper looked surprised, but thought that was probable too.
"Exactly. Now, we're offering, as a business proposition, to collect
on the same antique terms, only we give you an itemized account this
time. What do you say?"
"Senor Craney," said the keeper slowly, "are you asking me if
I accept the acknowledgment of my rights? I do not understand a
business proposition. I do not understand how the peasants have
arrived suddenly, as you state, at this conviction of their
"Just so," says Craney. "That comes of having a capable agent. I
talked to them and they saw reason. Fact is, though, the idea seems
to have been growing on them for some years."
The keeper looked at me, and I was studying different sides of
Craney's scheme. I began: "It might mean the vineyards of Aragon. All
the same, it's a queer business."
He started and muttered, "The vineyards of Aragon! My Madrid!" and
dropped his head.
Craney winked and we went down.
I've heard it said that Francisco Pizarro was surprised when he
found he'd conquered Peru with only a few objections.
Well, if we had any trouble in this business, it was only Craney
that had it from the start, and he appeared to enjoy himself. He was
off most of the time, pattering around on his shaggy grey donkey, and
left me to take in and stow away those bags of cocoa beans. I used to
sit in front of the shed, which was close to the shore, and smoke and
admire the world. Once a week Craney would come down the coast in a
clumsy catboat, and we'd take a load up to the town, which was called
"Corazon,"--a considerable town forty miles off, where were French
and Spanish agencies in the cocoa trade.
Every day a cautious, stringy-haired Injun, with a loaded donkey,
would come trotting out of the woods to the shed, or maybe several of
them at odd times. They all acted shy, and kept as far from the Torre
Ananias as the space allowed. Sometimes they wouldn't say anything,
except to state that this bag came from such and such plantations,
and to hope Himself would take, note of it. Then they'd look pleased
and peaceful to have it all written down neatly, and maybe they'd
want the item read out, and then they'd nod and smile and trot away
contented. Sometimes they'd hope Himself was feeling good on the
whole. It didn't seem to strike any of them that the keeper's
position, as they understood it, wasn't right and reasonable.
I used to sit in front of the shed and admire the world. I thought
about the primitive mind, and how the civilised was given to playing
it low on the primitive. I seemed to get around part of their point
of view after a while and see it was reasonable. For the Mituans had
got it fixed before we came that the keeper was somehow mixed up in
the earthquakes. And when they'd once taken that idea, it made no
difference if they'd felt little motors every few days all their
lives, and trembloritos and tremblors pretty frequent. As a specimen
of authority, even a little motor earthquake is too much. They happen
along in that neighbourhood every now and then, maybe once a month,
and you grow used to them, but still, they're vivid. If you got it
once in your mind that Himself in the lighthouse was fingering the
bowels of the earth, and Himself was doing it when the jerks came
under you, and your house walls creaked and swayed, you'd give
something to keep Himself amiable. There was no doubt about that.
But then, what made it appear to them that the keeper was inside his
rights to be bothering them that way? They seemed to think no less of
him for it; but rather more. They thought he was a fine thing. It
puzzled me, and I studied it. Then I seemed to get an understanding
of the primitive mind that was surprising.
But then, how did the case stand with Craney and me? As often as
that troubled me, I had only to go up to the lantern story, and hear
the keeper talk about Madrid and the vineyards of Aragon, and about
his longing and his pride. Then I felt better. If the keeper's income
kept up that way it was clear he could go back to Spain by-and-by
with stateliness pretty respectable, and I says to myself:
"Why, the Injuns are happy, and the keeper's going to be, and I'm a
sinner, and Craney can look after his own conscience. Shucks! He
hasn't got any."
It made me feel virtuous to think how Craney had no conscience.
Maybe he hadn't. He was the busiest man in South America for a while.
I never knew of another to make a business asset out of earthquakes
nor his equal for seeing an opening for enterprise. He was a singular
man, Craney, a shrewd one, and yet romantic and given to ingenious
visions. And yet again, when he talked his wildest, you'd find he had
his feet on some rocky facts, and his one good eye would be hard and
bright as a new tack. We used to sit in front of the shed sometimes,
looking down on the sea that was blue and shining like rumpled silk,
Craney smoking cigars and I with my pipe.
"Tommy," he'd say, "the world lies open before us. Everywhere is
chances for a soaring ambition, everywhere is harvests for the man
that's got talents. There's diamonds in rocks, and there's pearls in
oysters. Richness grows out of the ground, and glory drops out of the
clouds. Me, I'm a man of ideals. Give me room to spread. Let me
strike my gait and I'll make the continents sizzle, and governments
have fits. Expand, Tommy! Expand your mind! Small men has small
ambitions. Large men has wings. That's me."
There were a number of heavy shocks, about the time when the eastern
Mituas districts were picking the trees, and some of the Mituans were
mad about it, but they had a big harvest. They brought cocoa-beans in
caravans and boatloads for a while, and they said it was many years
since they'd had such a harvest, or such a tremblor, and Himself was
a great magician.
The time went by. I heard in Corazon one day that Captain Rickhart
had put into port there on his back voyage, and inquired some for us,
but that was a month before. Later Craney had a contract offered by
the French agencies, and had to buy up most of the North Mituas cocoa
crop to fill it.
One day we sat together in front of the shed. He was laying out
different schemes. He said this tribute business was too small, and
there wasn't much enterprise in it. The Injuns were terrible set in
their ideas. He had a number of schemes. One of them for putting up a
supply store in Corazon, running accounts there on the crops, but I
didn't take to it; I was no storekeeper, but a sailor, and getting
nervous to go to Panama.
It was hot by the shed, and we were going up by the banana tree,
when we saw a large catboat coasting down to the point, and by the
hang of her sail it was Padre Filippo's.
The Padre was aboard, and the two Mituans that sailed for him, and
two men besides, one in a cocked hat and uniform. So they came
ashore. Padre Filippo chuckled, and shook his fat finger at Craney.
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