The Belted Seas
Part 3 out of 3
inland. It made a straight line between the water reeds leading up to
a triangle of three trees. There was a little white house in the
middle of the triangle, with two lit windows.
I says: "Monson! Somebody's squatted on it!"
"What!" he says.
Somebody was singing in the house. Monson looked around from his
rowing, and found it very funny to his mind, for he laughed with a
roar, and the singing stopped short.
"Turn into the reeds!" I says, and we crouched there in the boat.
"It's just where the house is," I says, "or it was. There wasn't any
Monson shook with laughter though he kept it quiet, and I don't know
what pleased him. It would have pleased me then to see him dead, I
was that savage for the people in the house. One spot on a mean
little island, and they'd squatted on it! Yet it was plain enough,
for the inlet led up to the three trees, which seemed to invite a man
to do there whatever he had planned to do.
"Stuff 'em up their chimney," says Monson. "Tip the hut into the
creek. That joke's on them, ain't it?"
I didn't see how the joke was on them.
"Why, I never knew an Injy islander to dig a cellar," he says: "They
lie on the ground and get ague. Course, they might dig a hole."
The door of the little house was closed, when we came soft along the
muddy shore and crept up to the window. There were five men inside,
around a table, leaning forward, whispering together and drinking
aguardiente. That's what Kid Sadler on the _Hebe Maitland_ used
to call "affectionate water." They were small men, but fierce-looking
and black-eyed, and they appeared as if they were talking state
secrets, or each explaining his special brand of crime. Monson roared
out and struck the door with his fist, and they disappeared. Three of
them went under the table.
Monson had to bend his head to enter, and his shaggy hair pressed
along the ceiling. He pulled some by their legs from under the table,
and one from a bench in a dark corner by the hair, whom he left
suddenly, for it was a woman, and the two others he hauled from a
"Bring us some more!" he shouted in Spanish, laughing uproariously.
I don't know, or forget, how he quieted them, but pretty soon we
were seven men about the table, and the woman was serving us with
"affectionate water." One of them, with the woman, was owner of the
house, and the others, it seemed, lived across the island. They had
heard Monson's laugh, and afterward, hearing and seeing nothing more,
they'd taken it to be ghosts and were afraid. They were fierce-looking
little men, but pleasant enough and simple-minded. "Doubtless,"
they said, "the senores were distinguished persons, who had come
on a ship and would buy tobacco." We arranged that the four,
who lived across the island, should come back in the morning with
their tobacco. So the four went away affectionate with aguardiente,
and we were left alone with the fifth. His name was Pedronez and
his wife's Lucina. Then I asked how long they'd lived there.
"One year, six months," he says, counting on his fingers.
"Build the house?"
"Si, senor. A noble house! A miracle!"
"Ever dig a hole here?"
"A hole! But why a hole? In the ground of the noble house! Ah, no!
By no means!"
Monson roared again, to the fright of Pedronez and Lucina, who
flattened herself against the wall. He went out and brought in the
spade, and the bags. I guarded the door, and Monson dug where I
pointed in the hard trodden earth of the floor. Pedronez and Lucina
backed into corners and chattered crazy. They seemed to think the
hole was for them, and Monson meant to bury them in it, which had as
reasonable a look as anything.
Clyde's money was there still, lying no more than two feet from
where Pedronez and Lucina had walked over it eighteen months,
grubbing out a poor living. The brown bags were all rotted away and
the coin was sticky with clay. I laid a handful on the table, and
told Pedronez to buy the tobacco of the others in the morning, but I
didn't suppose he would. It seemed a hard sort of joke played by luck
on the little Windward Islander, Clyde's money lying there so long,
twenty-four inches from the soles of his feet. I remember how
Pedronez clutched his throat and shrieked after us into the night. He
had shiny black eyes and skin wrinkled about the mouth, and Lucina
was draggled-looking. When we were out of the inlet we could hear him
yelling, and I had an idea he and Lucina took to fighting to ease up
We came under the dark of the ship's side. One of the negroes leaned
over above us, and Monson told him to turn in, so short that he
scuttled away with a grunt. We heaved the stuff aboard, and took it
below, and stowed the whole four meal bags under my bunk. We got up
sail before daybreak and slipped away while the stars were still
Now, I took Monson to be a simple man, though sudden in action, and
a man with an open mind, and sure to blow up with anything it was
charged with, and in that way safe, as not having the gifts to
deceive. I don't say the estimate was all gone wrong, but I'd say a
man may act so simple as to take in a cleverer man than me. He came
to me the next day and took me down below, acting mysterious, and he
put on an expression that was like a full moon trying to look like a
horse trader, which wasn't a success. Then he jerked his beard, and
"Why," he says, "it's this way. I think I'll have half that pile,
don't you see?"
I says: "What?"
I felt like an empty meal bag with surprise. Then I says, "Of course
I was meaning to make you a present, Captain,"
"No," he says. "That's not it. It's this way. The niggers is so
tricky, they'd drop you overboard, tied to a chunk of iron, if I told
'em they might, don't you see? And if I don't tell them they might,
seems as if I ought to have half. Because," he says, "they'd love to
do it, because they're that way, those niggers, and it seems that
way, as if I'd ought to have half, don't it?"
"Why don't you take it all?" I says, sarcastic and mad.
"Why?" he says, looking like a full moon that was shocked. "No! That
wouldn't be fair, don't you see?"
I kept still a while, and then I thought maybe there'd be a way or
two out, and I spoke mild.
"There's some reason in it, when you put it that way."
"That's right," he says, and acted joyful and free. "It's that way;"
and he went above, and I heard him banging the negroes, likely for
the wickedness they were capable of. I sat on my bunk and wondered
why a man like me was always having trouble.
Then I took a lantern and went exploring down in the hold of the
ship, which was pretty much empty of cargo, and foul, and smelt as if
things had rotted there a hundred years. There were barrels and boxes
and old canvas, and heaps of scrap iron, and some lead pipe, and
coils of bad rope. Afterward I came on deck, and had supper and
talked with Monson. He kept nudging me now and then, and saying,
"It's that way;" and me answering, "There's reason in it, when it's
put that way."
About nine o'clock I went below. By ten Monson and all the negroes
were asleep, except two with the other white man on watch. I waited
an hour, and then took a saw and a lantern, and crept from the cabin
down the ladder to the hold. The sea was easy, though moving some,
and slapping the ship's sides and the hold was full of loud echoes,
smelling bad, and very black beyond the space of lantern light, a
slimy cold place, and full of sudden noises. I worked till far in the
morning, sawing lead pipe into thin sections of maybe an eighth of an
inch thick, and thinking about Monson and whether he was deep or not.
I thought he was right about the negroes, but I thought Monson wasn't
deep, but simple by nature. It was the same as when one small boy
says to another, "You give me your jackknife and I won't tell anybody
to lick you." That gives him a sense of good morals that's
comfortable inside him.
I carried up maybe thirty pounds of lead pipe in eighth-inch
sections, and emptied out two of the bags, and shovelled in the lead
pipe. I put in enough sticky coin on top to cover it well, and the
rest I put some in the other two bags, but most in a leather satchel
under some clothes. Then I tied up the bags and shoved them under the
bunk, with the lead pipe ones in front. Eighth inch sections of lead
pipe aren't so different from gold coin, so long as they're in a meal
bag with the proper deceptiveness on top. Then I turned in and went
In the morning I went to Monson and said, as glum as I could, that I
guessed he'd do as he liked, and as to the negroes dropping me
overboard he was probably right. Then he acted shy and timid. He
followed me back to my cabin, and stood around like he was part
ashamed and part confused, kicking his heels together nervous, and
smoothing his hair.
"Why," he said, "you see, it's this way. I think I'll take 'em now."
Then he fished out the two front bags, opened them, squinted in,
tied them up, and walked off. I sort of gaped after him, and sat down
on my bunk, and wondered why a man like me should have that kind of
trouble, and how soon Monson would take to fooling with his bags, and
find out he owned so much lead pipe. But I heard him banging one of
the negroes, and judged he was cheerful yet. I went up on deck and
lay down on some cordage. Monson left the deck soon after.
I'd calculated on the bags staying under my bunk till we came to New
Orleans, thinking to pass off the two that were doctored on Monson in
a hurry, and then to get out of reach hot-footed. I calculated now
that, as soon as he found his bags had been doctored, he'd mention it
candid and loud, and meanwhile I might as well get my gun in working
shape for trouble. Maybe I might make a bargain with the shifty-looking
white man, and organize an argument as to which should be dropped
overboard, Monson or me. But I hadn't got to the point, when Monson
came lounging up the gangway, still acting apologetic. I judged maybe
he'd stowed away his bags without digging into them. I says:
"Let bygones be, Captain," and he says, "That's right! It's that way."
It was a remarkable thing how friendly and kind we got, hoping there
was no hard feeling.
That day the wind rose to a gale and the sea went wild. It kept
Monson on deck night and day for four days. It kept us in a boiling
pot, and on the fifth we entered the mouth of the Mississippi. Then
Monson went down to sleep, and he hadn't waked when we anchored off
the levee at New Orleans, which was six o'clock in the evening. By
eight I was on a train going north, with a new trunk in the baggage
I've never happened to see Monson since. I guess he was contented.
When I opened the bags, one of them was mainly full of eighth-inch
sections of lead pipe.
Maybe he'd heard me go down to the hold in the first place, but
probably he found first his lead pipe at the time he left me on the
deck, and then he'd changed things a bit more to his ideas of what
was right, bearing in mind the natural wickedness of the negroes. He
didn't appear to have noticed that some of the stuff was stowed in my
leather satchel, but he got nearly a third of Clyde's savings.
I came to New York and I walked along South Street, thinking of the
day, twenty years back, when I first walked along South Street, cocky
and green. Then I came toward the slip where the _Hebe Maitland_
had lain that day, and where I'd looked at her and said, "Now,
there's a ship." I thought of Clyde and that odd talk in the cabin of
the _Hebe Maitland_, where all my deep-sea goings began. And I
looked up and I says, "Now, there's a ship!"
The prow of her came up to the sidewalk, and the bowsprit stretched
over the street, pointing at a house on the other side that was a
restaurant by its sign. The _Annalee_ was the ship's name in
gilt lettering, and the clean lines of her and her way of lying in
the water would give you joy. I walked alongside her on the dock, and
I went across the street to look at her that way, and stood in front
of the restaurant. And there I sniffed around a bit, and there I
smelt hot waffles. "It's a tasty smell," I says. "Smells like Stevey
Todd," and I went into the restaurant, and there was Stevey Todd.
"Stevey," I says, "if you'll give me some hot waffles and honey, I'll
buy that ship out there if she's buyable." And Stevey Todd gave me
hot waffles and honey, and I bought the _Annalee_.
It might be thought, and some would say so, that the trouble I had
with Monson came of Clyde's money being unclean, as not got honestly,
but through dodging South American customs, and I'm free to admit it
was sticky when I dug it up. But it's never acted other than
respectable since that time. I never agreed with Clyde in argument,
more than did Stevey Todd. A man falls in with various folks by sea
and land, and he finds many that are made up of ill-fitting parts.
Clyde was an odd man and a bold one, though old and dry. Monson I
took for a loud and joyful one, simple and open in his mind, and
violent in his habits and free of language, and yet he acted to me
both secret and moderate, and I guess I mistook him.
Stevey Todd and I went to sea again in the coasting trade, and
mainly to the south, and saw the coasts and parts we knew in the
_Hebe Maitland_ days. So I passed several years more.
THE FLANNAGAN AND IMPERIAL--CONTINUING THE NARRATIVE.
I was taking a cargo of machinery and carts one time to the city of
Tampico in Mexico, and from there I was to go for return cargo to a
little republic to the south that we'll call Guadaloupe, whose
capital city we'll call Rosalia. The real names of them sounded that
way, soft and sleepy, and warm and sweet, like hot waffles and honey.
According to reputation it was a place where revolutions were billed
for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the other days left for
siestas and argument. They were fixed that way in respect to
But there came to me in Tampico a man named Flannagan, who said he
was manager of "The Flannagan and Imperial Itinerant Exhibition," a
company composed of three Japanese performers, a tin-type man from
New England, and a trick dog who was thoughtful and spotted.
Flannagan said he wanted to go far, far from Tampico, because, he
says, "Thim Tampican peons ain't seen tin cints apiece since they
sold their souls," he says, "at that price," he says, "to the divil
that presides over loafers." I told him I was going to Rosalia in
Guadaloupe which had a local system of entertainment already, and he
says, "Guadaloupe!" he says, "Rosalia! D'ye moind thim names! It's
like sthrokin' a cat"; and the company came aboard at five dollars a
head, three polite Japanese tumblers and rope-walkers, the thoughtful
dog, whose name was David, and the tin-type man, who was cynical He'd
gone into tin-typing, Flannagan said, so as to express contempt and
satire for his fellow-men.
"But," says Flannagan, "it do be curious how thim Dagoes in this
distimpered climate rejoice to see thimsilves wid a villyanous
exprission an' pathriotic attichude in a two be four photygraph."
We sailed away down the Gulf, through the Strait of Honduras and
into the Caribbean Sea, with quiet weather, so that the Japanese
could rope-walk in the rigging and tumble peaceable about the deck.
The only trouble was the feeling created by the vicious photographs
the tin-typer took of the crew. David used to sit quiet mostly, and
look over the sea, and scratch his spots, for some of them were put on.
Flannagan was a fiery-eyed and easy-spoken man, who had picked up
the tumblers in California and the tin-type man somewhere on the
plains. But David was a friend of his of years' standing, and he was
a dog I should call naturally gifted, and with that of a friendly
nature, sober, decent, middle-aged, comfortable, and one who took
things as they came. But Flannagan had hair that was wild and red,
and his complexion was similar. He was large and bony. His voice was
windy, his manner oratorical, and his nature sudden. The Japanese
spoke little English and couldn't be told apart, but as to that there
was no need of it. They were skilful, small, and dark, with rubber
bones and extra joints, and they could smile from a hundred and
thirteen classified and labelled attitudes. We came one afternoon
into the harbour of Rosalia.
Speaking of Rosalia, it's a green and pink and white town, in a
valley that opens on the sea, with mountains behind it. It's a
prettier town than Portate. In the centre is the little square or
plaza, filled with palms and roses and bushes. There's a lamp-post
near the middle and the ruins of a stone fountain. Around three sides
of the plaza are shops, where you can buy your hands' full of bread
and fruit for a cent or two; and casinos or saloons where they play
monte and fight gamecocks; and a hotel, with men asleep on the steps
of it. On the fourth side is the Palazio del Libertad, which they
commonly call it La Libertad. It contains the government and the
families of most of it. There are the offices and residences of the
President and the departmental ministers, the legislative chambers,
courtrooms, soldiers' barracks, and other things. It's the pride of
Guadaloupe and the record of its revolutions. It's been sixty years
in building, and each new government adds something to remember it
by. It has white stucco fronts, and towers, doors, inner courts, and
roofs. If you are looking for a department, you walk along the fronts
till you see a likely-looking sign that seems to refer in figures of
speech to that department. Then you go in. But when the government
changes by revolution--or by election, which sometimes happens, when
no one is looking--why, then the departments shift around in La
Libertad to suit themselves better, and they're apt to leave their
signs behind them. Besides that, each new minister will decorate
himself and his department with names to fit his ideas of beauty and
usefulness, and he'll proclaim these in the official gazette for the
intention of his department. The Guadaloupeans argue the competence
of a minister according as he has a department with titles that sweep
the horizon and claim kin with the Antipodes and the Resurrection.
Only it seemed to me that these things tended in time to make the
figures of speech on the signs sort of far-fetched.
It was that way that Flannagan and I, with David, the tin-type man
and the tumblers, fell on the "Department of Military and Internal
Peace," when we were looking for permits to ship cargoes and deliver
Japanese performances, under the sign "Office of Discretionary
Regulations." That may have been all right enough, for most of the
departments were that accommodating they would do any agreeable
business that came their way; but it appeared to me, the revolutions
left the government too full of idioms.
There we waited till Flannagan became fierce with the heat and the
impatience of him.
"Discretionary!" he says, striding around with his nostrils full of
wrath, and banging at doors. "Would they be boilin' us the night wid
the discreetness of 'em?"
With that there was an opening of a door, and there waddled in a
little fat mestizo, both shorter and fatter than seemed right or
natural. He wore red and yellow livery and shining buttons, and we
thought he was likely the official butler or door boy. He seemed to
have eaten too much, as a rule, and looked sleepy and in a bad temper.
"Boy" says Flannagan, striding up to him, "where's the misbegotten
and corrupt official of Disthressionary Regularities? Do we wait here
till the explosion of doom? Spheak, ye lump of butther!" he says. "Or
do we not?"
"Carambos!" says the extraordinary clothes, backing off and speaking
snappish. "If you don't like it, get out!"
"Carambos, is it?" says Flannagan, enraged and grabbing him by the
collar. "Impidence!" he says, "an' ye talk so to the Manager of the
Flannagan and Imparial!"
With that he gets him also by his new trousers and heaves him into
the corridor, where was a handsome half-caste Spanish woman, more
Spanish than Indian, who looked dignified and happy in a purple
dress. She fell against the wall to avoid him, and appeared
surprised. He scrambled up. Then he clutched his hair, and waddled
down the corridor, shrieking, and the purple dress began to gobble
with her laughter.
"Why," she says, in a mellow voice--"Ho! ho! haw! haw! Why does the
distinguished senor cast the Minister of Military and Internal
Peace thus upon his digesting, immediately his too great meal
"Hivins!" says Flannagan.
"Now he will say the internal peace is disturbed, meaning his
digestion, and bring the military, to the end that the distinguished
senors shall be placed in the dungeons of La Libertad, which," she
says kindly, "beyond expectation are wet, and the senors will
probably decay. He is my husband--Ho, ho! haw, haw!" she says. "He is
Flannagan was speechless for a moment. The tin-type man pointed his
camera at the purple dress, and was going to take a misanthropic
photograph, and David went and stood on his head before her, so that
she laughed harder: "Ho! ho! haw! haw!" and spread out her hands,
which had two rings to a finger, and the mixed stones of her necklace
clicked together with her laughter.
"Put up yer camery, typist" says Flannagan, getting hold of his
diplomacy. "None of your contimptimous photographs of the lady.
Sure," he says, "it's wid great discomposure I'm taken to be treatin'
so the iligint buttons an' canned-tomato clothes enclosin'," he says,
"the milithary an' internal digestion of the husband of yourself," he
says, "as foine a lady, an' that educated, as me eyes iver beheld.
'Tis me impulses," he says, "'tis me warm an' hearty nature. But your
ladyship won't be allowin' a triflin' incident to interfere wid
enjoyin' the exhibition by me Japanese frinds of the mystherious art
of ancient Asia, an' me that proud of your ladyship's approvin'!"
"What can they do?" she says, looking interested, while the three
Japanese bowed in a limber manner, and smiled thin and mystical
"Oh, hivins!" said Flannagan. "Oh, that I might see thim again for
the first time, in the bloom of me innocence of marvels! For a
thousand years by the imerald seas of the Orient," he says,--and then
one of them bent backward, and brought his head up between his legs,
and smiled; and the purple dress fell against the wall with pleasure
"Come after me," she says, opening a door in the corridor,
"heretofore the arrival of my pig husband."
We went up twisting staircases that appeared unaccountable and
weren't counted. We saw furnished rooms through open doors, and at
last we came to a large room, high up under a tower, and looking out
over the Plaza, and in another direction over the roofs of La
Libertad. It seemed to be unused, and was darkened with shutters, and
littered with the miscellaneous and upset furniture of past
The Minister of Military and Internal Peace was named "Georgio
Bill," from which a man might argue the origins of his family. The
purple dress was called "Madame Bill," because French titles were
popular with the official ladies. She left us there in a stately
manner, and then fell down the stairs through mixing her feet. She
was dignified and cheerful, but she had large feet.
Through the shutters we saw the Plaza beginning to stir with the
evening crowds. A few blocks over the flat roofs of houses, we saw
the harbour, and the _Annalee_ floating at anchor.
When Madame Bill came back she brought with her two negresses with
baskets, who straightened the furniture and laid the table. The
shutters were closed, and a lamp or two lit, and we dined sumptuous
to the elegant dialogue of Flannagan and Madame Bill. "For a thousand
years," says Flannagan, "by the imerald seas of the Orient"; and the
Japanese did moderate after-dinner tumbling, with mild but curious
bow-knots. David marched and saluted, and after that he climbed into
his chair, and got his pipe, which Flannagan lit for him; he got it
fixed between his teeth, laid his head on his paws, pulled a few
puffs, and went to sleep. He was a calm one, David, as I said, and
ingenious, and experienced. Madame Bill lit her cheroot thoughtful,
and there was conversation.
"The Senor Bill," she says, "is at the present pursuing the foreigners
throughout Rosalia and La Libertad with a portion of the Guadaloupean
army. It was not wise to cast the Minister of Military and Internal
Peace so upon his digestion, which is to him important. But without
doubt you are distinguished and experienced, especially the Senor
David. They will not look for you perhaps here, which is over my
apartments, but will attack, it may be, the ship of your coming here,
and in that way be imbecile and foolish."
"Hivins!" says Flannagan. "But I'm thinkin', wid great admiration
for yourself, ma'am, I'm thinkin' this country wid its interestin'
people in pajamies, its scenery resemblin'a lobster salad, an'
government illuminated by figures of spache an' inspired wid
seltzer-wather--I'm thinkin' it would make its fortune, sure, by
exhibition of itself in the capitals of the worrld, ma'am. Not Barnum's,
nor the Flannagan an' Imparial, would compare with it. An' 'tis thrue,
ma'am, as a showman in the profession, I couldn't be exprissin'
betther me wondher an' admiration."
Then the tin-type man put in, and he sneered some: "I ain't much on
admiration and wonder."
"You're not, typist," says Flannagan. "'Tis curdled like he is,
ma'am, wid inveterate scorn, the poor man!"
"The human bein' is vicious from original sin," says the tin-type
man. "It comes out in the camery," he says. "You can't fool the
camery. It tells ye the Bible truth," he says. "Nor I ain't expectin'
anything from a broiled and frizzled country like this, where the
continent's shaved down so narrow you could take a photograph of two
oceans. And yet it's as good as anywhere else. I takes tin-types and
"Santa Maria!" says Madame Bill.
And Flannagan says proudly: "'Tis as I told ye, ma'am. There's not
such an other to be seen for extinsive scornful-fulness."
"Speaking of the ship, ma'am," I says, "I guess it's all right.
Ain't you afraid your husband will get internationally complicated?"
She gestured and grinned.
"Afraid! I! My Georgio! Neither for him nor of him. Moreover, I
think,"--pausing with her cheroot in the air--"that he has heard from
below, and is now outside the door. He pants. He has climbed the
stairs in haste, the little pig. Ho, ho! haw, haw!"
At that the Minister of Military and Internal Peace burst in, with
the sweat of his fatness on his face, his teeth sticking out, and his
features expressing intentions.
"You do, you Madame," he says, "you woman! You hide them, my
"You would do best," she says to Flannagan, "without doubt, now to
enclose and suppress him, my Georgio."
"I go! I return!" he says, stamping his feet.
"Nayther," says Flannagan, enclosing his collar with one hand, and
suppressing his features with the other. "Ye sits in the chair, me
little man. Ye smokes a cigar in genteel conviviality afther coolin'
down to be recognised by a thermometer--an' ye listens to the advice
of your beaucheous an' accomplished lady," he says, "that has in
moind a bit of domestic discipline."
He dropped him in a chair facing Madame Bill. David, in the next
chair, woke up, and appeared to say to himself, "They're doing
something else," and went to sleep again. The tin-type man sat by the
window and looked through the shutters at the Plaza. They were making
a noise on the Plaza. Now and then a military let off his gun, and
the people shouted as if they wanted him to do it again. The Japanese
bowed to Bill across the table, and smiled mystical.
"By the tomb of my mother, you shall pay!" gurgled Bill.
"Come off!" says Flannagan kindly. "She hadn't any tomb, an' ye
disremember who she was."
"Why," says Madame Bill, "the Senor Flannagan on that point
speaks nearly the truth."
"A-r-r-r! I'll have your blood!" says the Minister.
"An' me givin' ye the soft word," says Flannagan, "an' apologies for
takin' ye for a decorated rubber ball, an' bouncin' ye on the floor!
'Twas wrong of me. Sure, now, Misther Bill, an' is there more needed
between gentlemen?" He looked for help to Madame Bill, who gazed at
the smoke of her cheroot and seemed absent-minded.
"Listen, my Georgio," she began at last, "I have considered, and I
say you have done foolishly to scatter the soldiers about the city to
hurry and to inquire, so that the people become excited. Hear in the
Plaza already how they cry out like children, and each one is angry
at a different thing."
The Minister started, and listened, and wiped his wet forehead with
his sleeve. The roar in the Plaza was increasing. He sprang to his
feet, and puffed, and he says:
"The military is scattered! It is a mob! I must go! Attend me, my
But Flannagan enclosed his collar. "Respict for me own intherests,"
he says, "is me proudest virtue. Would ye have me missin' the sight
of a rivolution from a private box, an' the shpectacle of explodin'
liberty? An' ye'll be havin' me blood to-morry by the tomb of your
mother? Ah, now!"
"Let me go!" he says, shrieking and struggling. "I accept your
apology! Say no more!"
Flannagan looked at Madame Bill. The crowd was shouting more in
unison now. They says, "Vivo Alvarez!" and "Bill al fuego!" which the
latter means, as you or I might say, "To hell with Bill!" The
Minister shivered and struggled, but more moderate.
"The military will be confused, will do nothing without order!" he
pleaded to Madame Bill.
"The military," says the tin-type man, from the shutters, speaking
through his nose, soft and scornful, "they appear to feel tolerable
good. There's a batch of 'em on the steps under here, a-sittin' in
their sins, and shoutin' 'Down with Bill!' very hearty like."
"Mutiny!" howled the Minister. "Alas!" and he sat down, wiped his
forehead with his sleeve, and panted, and appeared more composed.
Flannagan sat down, too. "I do be feelin' warm the same," he says.
"Shall we have a drink?"
Madame Bill was still turning things over in her mind. "Doubtless
they so shout," she says. "They are not without sense. Listen again,
my Georgio. I have considered. It is perhaps not bad. Moreover, it is
done. But the Department of the Military is not good for you. It
worries you, therefore you disturb it, therefore it does not like
you. Also, we have lost popularity in Rosalia. But in the interior,
as yet, no. Therefore, consider. Senor Alvarez is perhaps
generous. If he overthrow the government, he will desire there come
an election, and who knows? We may for him go to the interior, and in
reward be Minister of Agriculture, which is cooler. But if he
overthrow not the government, but by compromise become Minister of
Military and Internal Peace, then my Georgio will be in innocence a
victim, and perhaps will have to hide, which is hot and dull, or go
to the dungeons of La Libertad, which is dull and wet; or we would
escape from the country in the distinguished ship of the Senor
Buckingham, or in the Imperial Company of Senor Flannagan,
which would be better."
"An' it's proud I'd be to have ye," says Flannagan, "as I said,
ma'am, in the capitals of the world. Hivins!" he says, "the tropical
advertisements! By the mimory of Ireland, 'tis a filibuster
expedition I foresee! Me genius is long suppressed."
Madame Bill shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows? Therefore be calm,
little one. We will see what they do in the Plaza."
The fallen or falling Minister emptied a glass of iced wine, and
looked more contented than before. He was a pleasant enough man as a
rule, except when not digesting well, and generally submissive to
Madame Bill. We put out the lights and opened the shutters, and all
looked out on the Plaza except David, who woke up, and taking things
in, appeared to say to himself, "They're doing something else," and
went to sleep again.
The Plaza was a boiling mess, but the military were enjoying
themselves in good order. They were collected on the steps of La
Libertad below, about five hundred of them. They seemed to be leading
the cheering. The hotel across the Plaza was lit up and the windows
full of heads.
Then a hush fell everywhere, and the faces were turned toward the
portico, with the six great pillars and lamps on each, that formed
the centre of the Plaza front of La Libertad. Two men stood on the
top step, one in a sombrero, and the other in black coat and tall
hat. The tall hat, by his gestures, was addressing the crowd, but we
couldn't hear him.
"The President and Alvarez," says Madame Bill, very calm. "They
compromise. My Georgio will be hot and dull."
The crowd cried "Vivo" everything except Bill. They wanted him "al
fuego" just the same, which, as you might say, means something like:
"Oh, take him away. Put him somewhere and boil him!" They seemed
distressed with him that way, and I took it Madame Bill was right
that he'd been too lively with his military, and it was up with him.
A band began to play by the hotel.
"My wife is ever right," says Bill, and began feeling toward the
table for the iced wine. "Carambos! It is not with Madame Bill to be
discouraged. No! Bueno! All right, my wife. What did you say?"
Madame Bill said we'd leave him there, which we did, after closing
the shutters. We left him drinking iced wine, eating mangoes, blowing
smoke, and looking like a porpoise in respect to complexion, but
shorter and fatter than a porpoise, and remarkable youthful.
It came on the Monday following and my cargo was shipped. There was
a platform put up on the Plaza, and I heard Flannagan making a speech
there, in which the feeling was eloquent, and the languages as they
came along. The tin-type man, under the platform, was taking tin-types
to make a man remember how he was depraved. David's spots were
running with the heat, but he scratched them and made no trouble. The
Japanese sat on their heels and smiled.
"For a thousand years," says Flannagan, "by the imerald seas of the
Orient, have the ancesthors of me frinds on me right developed the
soopleness of limb an' the art that is becalled by the Mahatmas an'
thim Boodhists 'the art of the symbolical attichude,' as discovered
and practised in the Injian Ocean's coral isles, which by the same
they do expriss their feelin's till ye get a mysthical pain in your
stomick wid lookin' at 'em. 'Twas so done," he says, "by the imerald
seas of the Orient."
That evening they came secretly aboard, Flannagan and the Company,
and with them Bill and Madame Bill. We weighed anchor the next
morning, and got away. The Bill family became an addition and a
credit to the Flannagan and Imperial, as it turned out.
FLANNAGAN AND STEVEY TODD--CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM RETURNS TO GREENOUGH--
THE NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
The Flannagan and Imperial was the last cargo I carried, but I
carried it near five years. It was what you might call a continuous
cargo; the _Annalee_ was in partnership with it; that is,
Flannagan and I went into partnership together. Madame Bill's
influence appeared to act expansive on Flannagan's ideas, and they
expanded the Company. She was an uncommon woman, with a pushing mind,
and exhibited as "The Princess Popocatapetl, Lineal Descendant of
Montezuma and Queen of the Caribbeans." Flannagan engaged Bill to
exhibit as "The Fat Boy," and he was very successful in this way,
weighing two hundred, and in height four feet eight inches, though
thirty to forty years old. His face was round and smooth as an apple,
and he wore a little jacket and sailor hat, and carried a piece of
gingerbread in general, when on exhibition; and in that way he looked
as young as might be needed, and satisfactory to every one. Flannagan
used to rent the advertising space on Bill's legs, for "Infants'
Foods" and "Patent Medicines for Dyspepsia," which was popular and
profitable. But I was saying Madame Bill was a handsome woman, and
valuable, and Flannagan himself hadn't a better eye for giving the
public sensations. She expanded his ideas. Yet Flannagan had a knack.
He was grand at speech-making, and sudden and spectacular by nature.
He shipped with me then from Rosalia to the different ports I was
billed for that voyage, picking up more additions to the Company,
till it was a large company. I was free to admit he made good profits
out of the seaport cities between South America and Charleston; so at
Charleston, when he offered me a partnership, I felt agreeable, and
took it, on this agreement; I to put in the use and management of the
_Annalee_, and he to put in "The Flannagan and Imperial;" I to
run the ship and he to run the show. The profits should be divided
half-yearly, after paying expenses of ship and show.
We ran under this agreement several years, and exhibited all the way
from Boston to Rio, according to the season, and sometimes went
inland up navigable rivers, such as to Albany and Philadelphia. We
summered northward and wintered southward, and did better than most
shows on transportation expenses, besides having an open season
through the year. Prosperity kept us together until after Bill died,
which came from his being too ambitious, and proud of his line in the
profession, and having his heart set on two hundred and fifty pounds.
Stevey Todd, here, he got too interested in helping Bill along in his
career, and fattening him up to a high standard. But Bill's digestion
was never good. He died rather young.
Stevey Todd has cooked for me so long, that it's got to the point
that other victuals than Stevey Todd's seem unfriendly strangers,
likely to be hostile. I claim that, as a cook, Stevey's a bold and
skilful one, and enterprising. But outside the galley he's a backward
man and caution's his motto, and in argument he's, as you might say,
a gradual man. His nature, as differing there from Flannagan's, might
be seen in this way. For when Bill was dead, Flannagan and Stevey
Todd each wanted to marry Madame Bill, and their notions of it were
as different as sharks are different from mud-turtles, Flannagan's
notion mainly resembling a shark's, as follows. He says:
"Popo," he says, pretty quick, "Bill's off. Here's to him, an' may
his ghost weigh two hundred and fifty. I'm on," he says. "Whin shall
Then a madder woman than Madame Bill was seldom seen, for she threw
Montezuma's crown at Flannagan, and chased him under the tent ropes
with the gilt-headed and feather-tufted spear of the Queen of the
Caribbeans, which ruined an eighteen-dollar crown and stuck Flannagan
vicious in the shoulder-blade with the spear.
Whereas Stevey Todd bided a while, as a cautious man would do, until
some decent time had gone by; and then he gets me, as a friend, in
ambush inside the cabin window for precaution and testimony, and
plants the scornful typist at a distance to take photographs that
might be useful, and then he brings Madame Bill to the window.
"Now," he says to her, "supposing there was a man that we'll call
middle-aged, and that might be a cook maybe by profession, for it
wouldn't do no harm if we took it he had leanings that way, and if
you said he was as good a one as ever stepped into a galley, I
wouldn't go so far as to say so myself, nor yet deny it, for Bill had
that opinion himself, and he was a man of good judgment on things
that had to do with his line, though when his feelings moved him he
was apt to put it warm, nor I ain't denying that when his digestion
was otherwise, his remarks was sometimes contrary. Now, supposing
there was a lady, whose merits I wouldn't nowise try to state, but if
you was to say her talents was good, and her weight a hundred and
forty, I wouldn't say you was wrong, which I've heard it put that as
a Lineal Descendant she was worth climbing the volcano to see, which
supposing she complimented it by borrowing that name, it's no harm if
she did. Now, supposing those parties was talking of this thing and
that, as anybody might do, and, say, they got to talking of the show
business maybe, or, say, they happened to mention such a thing as
matrimony, now," says Stevey Todd, "what would be your idea of that
last as a subject of conversation between those parties?"
Madame Bill didn't answer the question, though it seemed to me put
delicate, but she burst into melodious laughter, and ran away, and
the tin-type man, whose natural expression was dislike of his fellow
man, he looked disgusted more'n you'd believe, and went away too.
Then Stevey Todd put his head through the window, and he says:
"Now, supposing a party acted in such or such a way to one party,
which acted another way to another party, what would you say might
happen to be her meaning?"
I gave my opinion candid, and truthful. I said, as to Madame Bill, I
judged something or other pleased her, and by her behaviour to
Flannagan it looked as if there was something then which she hadn't
liked, though what it might be in either case was more than I could
say, but speaking generally it looked hopeful for Stevey Todd, and I
stated that same opinion. Stevey Todd went back to the galley, and it
seemed to me the difference between his nature and Flannagan's was
something to wonder at and admire, and when I saw Flannagan he seemed
to have the same opinion with me, for he says:
"Powers an' fryin' pans! Thot cook!" he says. "Thot galley shlave!
Thot boiled pertaty widout salt! Shall a barrel of flour put me in
the soup? Tell me thot!"
At the time we were exhibiting in the larger towns about Long Island
Sound, where it happened we'd never exhibited before, dropping into
harbours and setting up the big tent on any bit of land convenient to
the pier. We stayed a long or short time, according to patronage.
Whether it was that Flannagan was too busy, or angry at Madame Bill
for her actions, and didn't know if he wanted a wife with a spear, or
one that was reckless with her headgear, I couldn't have said at that
time; but he surely said no more to Madame Bill that I knew of,
whereas Stevey Todd kept arguing with her all over the ship, and
mainly under the cabin window. Sometimes he'd trim his sails close in
to the subject of matrimony, and sometimes he'd be sailing so far off
the quarter that I couldn't but call out to him through the window
and tell him, "Hard a lee there, Stevey! You'll never fetch it that
tack;" when he'd shift his helm, feeling the edge of the breeze with
as neat a piece of seamanship as a man could ask, and come up dead
into the wind, his sails dropping back stiff on his yardarms, and the
subject of matrimony speared on the end of his bowsprit; then Madame
Bill would get up, and run away laughing. She seemed to enjoy those
arguments, and I judged Stevey Todd would fetch port maybe in course
of time. Meanwhile I sat smoking peaceful at my cabin window, and
watched the shore slipping by, that I knew so well of old. By-and-by
I saw Telford Point, and then the Musquoit River mouth by Adrian.
Stevey Todd sat under the window putting fine edges on his arguments.
And I says:
"Stevey," I says, "I was born and bred on this coast," but Stevey
Todd was that taken up with his points of argument to Madame Bill
that he didn't have any interest in my beginnings, and I went off to
"Flannagan," I says, "I got a sentiment."
"Sintimint, is it!" he says. "Come off! Ye salted codfish! If I
ain't got tin to your one, I'm another," he says.
It made me mad to hear him talk that way, and I set him down on the
starboard anchor and I argued it. I told him of the little town of
Greenough, and then I told him of Madge Pemberton, that afterwards
was Madge McCulloch, and how the old shore village lay, its street
and white houses and its church with the gilded cupola, till
Flannagan got interested. And there we talked a long time.
"Why, ye are salted, Tom," he says, "but I'm not just sayin' ye're
canned. We ain't due in New London till Thursday, an' it's on me
moind we'll exhibit a bit in this town of Greenough."
That afternoon, then, we hauled into the harbour, by where the
fishing boats lay, and moored the _Annalee_ to the old stone
pier. Flannagan saw the tent, platform, and benches put up, and in
the early evening he went inland to the village and didn't come back
for some hours.
It was a moonlight night, and the show people were still getting
ready for the next day. I was at the deck-cabin window, smoking an
evening pipe, looking at the tent that stood on the sandy piece of
land beyond the pier. I could see the trees of the village, and the
church spire against the sky, and I thought of the way I'd meant to
come back to Greenough, when I left it to go "romping and roaming,"
as Sadler had said, and how now I was come home with grey hairs.
There was the hill between Newport Street and the harbour, and far
along to the west I could see where Pemberton's stood, and see what
might be its lights.
Pretty soon I heard David, the trick dog, barking, and I looked out,
and saw Stevey Todd and Madame Bill coming along in the wake of
David, and I judged that Stevey Todd was meaning to put in an odd
moment or two arguing, and that Madame Bill was going to be joyous
about it. David appeared to be feeling tolerable cheerful, as if
saying to himself, "They're going to do something now, sure." They
sat down by the window, and Madame Bill was speaking:
"Stevey Todd," she says, "I think it would not be such advantage,
not at all. Because it is not good to my looks that I become two
hundred pounds like my Bill, and if now I have a husband who cook so
delicious, so perfect, as you, and who make me laugh between meals
without rest and without pity, as you, which gives the appetite
enormous, so that I have gained five pounds since I weigh before, and
by this am alarmed, disconsolate, helas! what do I do? Am I elephants
in this show? But how? I observe you do not ask that I marry you, but
you say, 'It is a good time to talk here or there, about this or that
--eh? Well, perhaps about matrimony." Haw! haw! ho! ho! But how so? If
you do not say, 'Will you?' how can I say 'No'?"
"Taking that argument so stated," says Stevey Todd, "it might be
called a tidy argument and no harm done, or you might say there was
two arguments in it. Now, taking the first one, a man might make this
point as bearing on it: for you take the tin-typist, who's a good
eater and a well-fleshed man, and yet he's a gloomy man, as you might
say, not putting it too strong; and on the other hand here's David,
who's what you'd call a joking dog, and as an eater without an equal
of his size, though an elderly dog, and yet he's a thin dog, as his
business in the show makes needful for him. Which, I says, might be
put up as an argument by such as wanted to use it, if any one was
speaking contrary to cooks as being dangerous to parties in the show
business, on account of interests not being along the line of weight,
nor yet advertising space on legs which they're able to furnish. Now,
taking the second argument, I wouldn't deny you might be right, and
there's the point. For not to speak of giving no cause for crowns
throwed around expensive, or spears stuck into parties disrespectful
to memory of deceased, I says, here's the point. For if you can't say
'No,' till I say 'Will you?' it follows you can't do it till I say
"I can too!" says Madame Bill.
"No, ye can't! No, ye can't!" says Stevey Todd.
Madame Bill began to laugh, and Flannagan, who was coming over the
ship's side, he stopped at hearing her, and slid across the deck
behind the companion. Then Madame Bill went below, ha-ha-ing
melodious, and Flannagan called in a loud whisper over the roof:
"Hoi! Stevey Todd! Are ye done wid it?"
"She ain't said no," says Stevey Todd. "She ain't said no."
It came afternoon of the next day, and the show was opened, and the
people came flocking in. Near by the tent door was Stevey Todd's
"Cocoanut Cake, Hot Waffle and Fizz Table." On the platform the
company sat in a half-circle, ready for Flannagan's opening speech to
explain the qualities and talents of each. It was a show to be proud
of, and in point of colour resembling solar spectrums, or peacocks'
tails. Madame Bill had charge of costumes, and her tastes were what
you might call exhilarated. Flannagan began:
"Ladies and gintlemen," he says. "The pleasure I take in
inthroducin' 'The Flannagan an' Imparial Itinerant Exhibition,' to
this intelligent aujunce, has niver been equalled in me mimory.
"I see before me," he says, "a ripresentative array of this grreat
counthry's agricultural pursuits, to say nothin' of thim that fish. I
see before me numerous handsome an' imposin' mathrons, to say nothin'
of foine washed babies. I see before me many a rosy girrl a-chewin'
cocoanut candy that ain't so swate as herself, an' many a boy wid his
pockets full of paynuts an' his head full of divelthries.
"Is it the prisence of such an aujunce which gives me the pleasure
unequalled in me mimory? No!
"Ye see before ye 'The Flannagan an' Imparial Itinerant
Exhibition,'" he says. "Yonder is the three Japanese tumblers from
the private company of the Meekado, trained to expriss by motion an'
mysthical attichude, the eternal principles of poethry as understood
by Orientals, Hinjoos, an' thim Chinaysers: forninst the same, the
beaucheous Princess Popocatapetl, whose royal ancesthors was
discovered by Columbus, an' buried by another cilibrated Dago, that
ought t'have been ashamed of it; nixt her, the Hairy Man, wid a chin
beard on the bridge of his nose an' the hair of his head growin' out
of the shmall of his back; nixt, the cilibrated performin' dog,
David, that you'll recognise by his shmilin' looks an' polkadot
complexion; an' so on, the others in due order, that will soon be
increasin' your admiration for the marvels of creation, an' servin'
as texts, I doubt not, for the future discoorses of me frind, the
venerable clergyman of this parish, that sits in the front row--May
Hiven bless him!--all mimbers of the Flannagan an' Imparial,
includin', aye, even down to the poor wake-minded man that sells hot
waffles at the door, which if ye tell him, afther this performance,
that his waffles is the same kind of waffles that a shoemaker pegs on
for the sole of a shoe, it's me private opinion he'll be in no timper
to arguy the point.
"Is it pride in this grreat show that gives me the pleasure on this
occasion unequalled in me mimory? No!
"What is it, ladies and gintlemen? What is it?
"Gintlemen and ladies," he says, "'tis no other than the approach of
the public ciremonial of the rite of mathrimony between mesilf,
Michael Flannagan, an' a party that has no notion what I'm talkin'
about, but is further named in this docyment, which if your riverence
will now shtep up on the platform, he will find to be signed and
sealed by the honourable town clerk of this pasthoral an' marine
community. Ladies an' gintlemen, was ye iver invited before to the
weddin' of a man of me impressive looks an' oratorical gifts, that
first published his own banns, an' thin proposed, in your intelligent
an' sympathetic prisence, to a lady of exalted ancesthry an' pre-eminent
fame? Ye was not? Ye have now that unparallelled experience. For,
as ye see by this license an' authority, this lady, the Lineal Descendant
of Mexican Emperors, is known an' admired in private life as Madame
With that he stepped back, and offered his hand, and said something
to Madame Bill that was lost in the cheering of the audience. Madame
Bill near fell off her chair with surprise, and began ha-ha-ing
melodious. What with the roaring and clapping of the crowd, Flannagan
and Madame Bill were up in front of the minister before Stevey Todd
could be heard from the door, crying, "She ain't said no, Flannagan!
She ain't said no! It ain't right!"
"Will somebody near the door," says Flannagan, "kindly take the
hot-waffle-man an' dhrop a hot waffle down the back of his neck, to
disthract his attintion while the ciremonies proceed?" Stevey Todd
ran out of the door. But the people of Greenough was happy in front,
and the show was hilarious behind. David turned handsprings till he
sweated his spots into streaks.
But I've always had my doubts what may have been previous in Madame
Bill's mind as regards intentions to Flannagan and Stevey Todd. Which
is not saying but Flannagan's ambush was what you'd call a good
ambush, as arranged by one that knew Madame Bill well, and knew her
to be a show-woman by nature and gifts, that would never have the
heart to spoil a fine act in the middle of it, when it was coming on
well. The facts are no more than that she did nothing to spoil the
act. She let it go through. Her statement was she hadn't made up her
mind before. Stevey Todd's opinion was that she'd have taken himself,
barring Flannagan's laying that stratagem, desperate and unrighteous.
On the other hand, Flannagan thought it was predestined on account of
his natural gifts. As for me, I had my doubts.
But Stevey Todd wouldn't stay with the show after that. We went on
east, and left him here, boarding at Pemberton's. He said he liked
Pemberton's and would stay there a bit. I says, "There's good points
in a quiet life, Stevey;" and Stevey Todd says, showing what was on
"Aye, but Abe Dalrimple, he argues matrimony ain't quiet, and I
don't go so far as to dispute he may be right, and that's a point to
be allowed, for she throwed Montezuma's crown, not to speak of spears."
"Didn't neither," says Abe Dalrimple. "It was kettles. It wa'n't
none of them things," he says, alluding at Mrs. Dalrimple.
But as to Madame Bill, she was tropical, but not balmy, and
matrimony that wasn't balmy wouldn't have been good for Stevey Todd.
"But," says Stevey Todd, "as to her leanings to me and intentions
pursuant," he says, "I'd argue it, as shown by actions previous."
It was Pemberton told me Madge McCulloch was dead. She died ten
years back, about the time I was leaving the Pacific. He told me she
left a daughter grown up since, and that Andrew McCulloch was an
irritated man by nature.
I went on with the show, but I kept thinking of a quiet life, and
about Greenough and Pemberton's, and about things that were long gone
by. And then, eating other victuals than Stevey Todd cooked was come
to seem to me like taking liberties with strangers. Then I kept
wondering if I hadn't had enough going up and down the seas. I says:
"What's the use of it? A man had best get cured of his restlessness
before he comes to lie still for aye, and that's the truth," I says.
At the end of October I sold out the _Annalee_. Flannagan took
his show inland, and I came back, thinking to sit down at Pemberton's
and get over being restless.
CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM VISITS ADRIAN. ANDREW AND MADGE MCCULLOCH AND
BILLY CORLISS. CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM'S NARRATIVE ENDS.
One day I left Pemberton's and took the road to Adrian. It was an
afternoon in November. The church in Adrian stands on the edge of the
graveyard, in the middle of the village, and there I went about
looking for the McCulloch lot, and found it, and there was Madge's
stone. It's a flat grey stone. There's many more like it, set along
on rows. It seemed a neighbourly sort of place to rest in, if a man
chose, after a roaming life. I stood there till the shadow came along
across the churchyard from the church steeple. Then it grew dusk, and
it seemed like now and then I heard a bell tolling. Aye, it was like
a bell tolling. It seemed to me I could hear it. But there was no bell.
Then I came out and went to look for Andrew McCulloch's house. It
stands north of the Green, looking across the churchyard. I knocked
at the door, then I backed off the step, when it opened, thinking
there must be a mistake about the date, and maybe inscriptions on
gravestones was exaggerated; there was a girl in the doorway that
looked and acted like Madge Pemberton complete. Moreover an old
seaman falling off the doorstep didn't seem to upset her balmy
calmness. She says:
"What is it?"
"It's Tom Buckingham come home," I says. "But I guess you're the
next generation," and I asked for Andrew McCulloch.
He's a red-faced man with short side whiskers, a chunky, fussy, and
hot-tempered man, but whether Madge Pemberton had managed him, or
whether he'd worn her out, I couldn't make up my mind about the
likelihood. I sat a while talking with him, and watching Madge
McCulloch, his daughter, lay the tea table. I thought how I'd give
something to get her to lay the tea table for me as a habit, and I
didn't see how that was likely to come about.
Andrew McCulloch appeared to think most people in Adrian would be
more to his mind if buried with epitaphs describing them accurate.
It was eight o'clock when I came out and started for Pemberton's. I
came past McCulloch's fence, and heard some one speak near by, and
there was a man sitting on the top rail near the corner. It was
"Been in to see King Solomon?" he says.
"What's that?" I says.
"Major General McCulloch," he says. "Why, I believe you stayed to
tea! Why, I haven't fetched that in three months!"
"Oh," he says, "why, you see, the venerable ecclesiastic he's afraid
I'd want to come to breakfast too. He thinks I am a grasshopper and a
I thought it looked like a promising conversation, and climbed on
the fence beside him, and took a look at him in the starlight.
He said his name was "Billy Corliss," and explained why he sat on
the fence. He said it was on account of Andrew McCulloch. He said he
and Madge McCulloch were agreed, but Andrew McCulloch wasn't
agreeable. That was partly because Andrew wanted Madge to stay where
she was, partly because Corliss had no assets or prospects, and
partly because Andrew had an unreasonable low opinion of him, as a
roaming and unsettled sort. He spoke of Andrew by various and soaring
names, implying a high opinion of him, and especially in speaking of
Andrew's warm temper, his respect got remarkable. He'd call him
maybe, "St. Peter," in that connection, or maybe "Sitting Bull." For
candour, and opening his mind, and asking the world for sympathy, I
took him to be given that way. He said the town of Adrian was divided
into two parties on the subject of him, and Madge, and Andrew
McCulloch, so I took it Andrew's temper had had some reasonable
"St. Peter's got a good run of warm language," he says, "but his
fence is chilly. He's got a toothache in his shoes, he has, that man."
"Why don't you elope?" I says.
"That's the trouble," he says. "When I ask Madge, 'Why not?' she
says, 'Where to?' I'd been thinking I'd take a look around the world
"Don't you do it," I says. "When you get around the other side, it's
a long way back. It took me thirty years."
"You don't mean it!" he says. "Why, that wouldn't do."
"Assets take time," I says, "but you might get some prospects."
Then I fell to thinking how it could come about that Madge McCulloch
might get into the habit of making tea for me, seeing I was too old
to marry her, besides her being spoken for. Then I thought she might
do it by keeping a hotel, and I says:
"Speaking of keeping hotels--"
"Who's speaking of it?"
"I am. I kept a hotel once."
"Seaside?" he says.
"No. Inland a bit."
"Aye, summer hotel. Always summer there."
"Why, she must have paid!"
"Aye, she paid. She was put up in New Bedford," I says, "and run in
"You don't mean it!"
"It's a good business if tended to," I says. "But you don't tend to
business, you don't. That's the trouble with you. That hotel fell
into the river more'n twenty years ago, and it ain't to the point,
but here Madge McCulloch's been jerking the window shade up and down
like she had something on her mind."
"It's a signal," he says, and with that he dropped off and
disappeared toward the back of the house. He left me on the fence.
I thought of the four men that had stood by me most in my time; now
one was a miser and smuggler, and got himself hung; and one was a
thief, and died of a split wishbone, on what he called "a throne;"
and one was a fighter and gambler and poet, and he had a heavy fist,
and he turned remorseful into a Burmese monk; and one was Stevey
Todd. And Madge Pemberton thought at one time I was all right, but
she was wrong there. And I thought how here was Andrew and another
Madge, and here was Billy Corliss, and here was the world galloping
along lively. I couldn't but admire the way it was so made as to keep
going, and me thinking it had come pretty near to a standstill.
By-and-by, Corliss and Madge McCulloch came across the yard from the
back of the house, and climbed on the fence, and Madge hooked her
feet on the lower rail and talked cheerful. They spread out what was
on their minds pretty confident. I never knew a couple so open-minded.
"Billy wants to run away," she says, "but he doesn't know where to
yet, unless it's to be a summer hotel in South America that fell into
a river. He thinks it was an interesting hotel," she says. "Do you
think it would be nice? But how would we get there?"
"It's wrong side up now," I says; and Billy Corliss says, "Why,
there's a chance for housekeeping ingenious! Let's be social! 'Sure
Mike!' says the dowager duchess, wishing to be democratic. Why, look
here!" he says. "What right's a chimney got to be haughty over a
"Oh, keep still, Billy!" says Madge McCulloch, and he closed up,
sudden but cheerful, as if he'd been hit by a kettle.
I said I wouldn't recommend the _Helen Mar_ now, but I'd
recommend hotel keeping as a good and sociable business.
"For," I says, "the seaman travels around the world seeking profit
and entertainment, but the hotel keeper sits at home comfortable, and
they come to him. I've been a hotel-keeper in South America" I says,
"and might have been one in Greenough for the asking. I chose to be a
seaman, and take a look around the world, being foolish and curious.
Now, that was a mistake, for the man that bides in his place for the
main of his life, has the best of it. He knows as much of the world
as another; for if a man goes romping and roaming, and knows no
neighbours and no family of his own, why, sure there's a deal of the
world that he never knows. That's the moral of me," I says, "that's
the moral of me. Now, as to hotel keeping," I says, "I liked that
business as well as anything I ever did. I liked it well," I says,
and I looked around both sides of me, and stopped, for no Madge and
no Billy Corliss was sitting on the fence. Nothing there but lonesome
sections of fence.
"Why," I says, "here's an open-minded couple. And it's an energetic
couple. Where in the nation did it go to?"
Then I saw Andrew McCulloch coming down from the front door to the
gate, but he turned to the right at the gate, and went stumping away
up the street, and Madge and Billy Corliss got up from crouching
beside the fence, and Madge says:
"Let's go in and get warm."
And I says to myself, "It's a couple that's got good sense, too,"
for Andrew's fence was chilly.
We went in the house and sat down by the stove.
"As to hotel keeping," I says, "I've talked that over with
Pemberton, and Stevey Todd, who was the man that run the emigrant
hotel with me, and Pemberton's agreeable, and Stevey Todd don't argue
against it. I've been thinking of building on to Pemberton's, and
making a big summer hotel. It stands in sight of the sea, and it's a
likely spot. Now," I says, "hotel keeping is a combination of
hospitality and profit. The secret of it is advertising and a
peaceable mind to take things as they come. A good hotel keeper is a
moderate man. He sees folks coming and going from day to day, and how
many does he see as comfortable as himself? Hotel keeping is a good
life, you can take my word."
Then there was a noise in the hall outside, but I went on:
"It's a good life," I says, and I looked around on both sides of me,
and I saw no Madge McCulloch and no Billy Corliss. Nothing but empty
chairs, and two open doors behind me.
I says, "That's a singular coincidence."
By the noise in the hall I judged Andrew McCulloch was come back
unexpected, and I judged he might come in ambitious and inquiring,
and not easy to take as he came. I started for the open doors, and
got through one of them hasty, and shut it behind. It was soon enough
to escape Andrew, and too soon to see if it was the right door. It
was dark there except for the starlight through a window, showing
crockery on shelves. The place was no more than a pantry.
I've been in different circumstances by sea and land, but I didn't
recollect at that moment ever being planted in just those, and it
seemed to me a couple, that could plant an experienced seaman that
way must be ingenious as well as open-minded. I heard Andrew
McCulloch talking to himself like the forerunnings of an earthquake,
and I says:
"An experienced seaman might get out, but not that way. Experienced
seamen don't put off on the windward side. But," I says, "it seems to
me experience and ingenuity could keep a hotel."
With that I put up the window softly and climbed out and dropped to
the ground. I went round the house looking for ingenious couples, and
then across the yard, and there they sat on the same fence, with
their feet hooked as previous, and they appeared to feel calm and
"As to hotel keeping," I says, climbing on the fence, "it's a good
life,--" and there I stopped.
I looked over at the old churchyard on the Green. It was dark and
still over there. The rows of flat tombstones were grey, like planted
ghosts. "Hic Jacet" means "here lies," as I'm told. Those folks that
once got their "Hic jacets" over them wouldn't ever get up to argue
the statement; but those that left good memories behind, I guessed
they were glad of it. As for the living, if they were elderly, they'd
best go to bed. With that I got down from the fence.
"Madge," I says, "do you know why I'm backing you?"
"Yes," she says, "I know."
How the nation did she know?
"Happen Billy Corliss may want to run away still" I says, "and maybe
you'll be asking, 'Where to?' and maybe he'll remark, 'Pemberton's.'
Then if you and he should drop into Pemberton's most any time, with a
notion of connubiality, I guess likely he'd have prospects to modify
Andrew McCulloch with afterward, 'Pemberton's seaside Hotel. Peaceful
Patronage Welcome. No Earthquakes nor Revolutions Allowed.'"
Then I left them on the fence and came back to Greenough.
CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE.
When Captain Buckingham ended, it was late and dark, the afternoon
long gone into evening. The storm still roared around Pemberton's,
and we five sat anchored close to the chimney. It might have been a
quarter of an hour went by, and it was past time when Pemberton or
Stevey Todd should be getting the supper ready, when there came a
sudden tumult in the hall without, and some one bounced in, the snow
flying after him, and he cried, "I've eloped and I want a minister!"
That was how he stated it: "I've eloped and I want a minister!"
Then Pemberton said:
"I dare say now you're right there," and Captain Buckingham said
nothing, nor looked up.
I knew it must be Billy Corliss, though I didn't know him, nor did
Uncle Abimelech, nor Stevey Todd. He might have blown down from
Labrador, or eloped out of Nova Scotia.
Pemberton and Corliss went out together. Then Stevey Todd spoke up
"When I look at it," he said, "when I asks myself: 'Is he right or
is he not?' I don't hear no objections. And further," he said,
leaning forward and speaking low, "it's my opinion there's a woman
Uncle Abimelech lifted his eyes from the kettle that hung over the
fire, and stared about and seemed to be alarmed.
"Where?" said Uncle Abimelech.
Stevey Todd pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. Uncle
Abimelech followed the direction slowly along the dark ceiling, and
seeing nothing alarming there, seemed relieved. He turned back to the
fire and muttered:
"She throwed kettles, some."
Then Corliss came in again and after him Pemberton, and with them
was a tall girl in layers of cloaks and veils, and layers of snow,
which being taken off, she came out as balmy and calm as a tropic
coast, and enough to make a man forget his old troubles and lay in
new ones. Captain Buckingham only looked at her, and said nothing.
Corliss was a slim young man with a candid manner. For two that had
run away to look for matrimony in the snow they both seemed
remarkably calm. He looked us over, and inquired our names, and
appeared to be satisfied with them, and to like the looks of us.
"Why, that's good," he said. "Now, Miss Madge McCulloch is Mr.
Pemberton's granddaughter, as you likely know, and she's ambitious to
be Mrs. Billy Corliss. That's a good idea, isn't it? But there are
parental objections, hot but reasonable. Parent has no sort of an
opinion of me, and wants her to run parental establishment. Both
reasonable, aren't they?" he said in his candid way. Madge McCulloch
was kneeling before the fire and warming her hands. She looked up and
"You'd better hurry, Billy, or the minister will be snowed in."
"Why, that's reasonable, too," he said, "I was only going to say
that those reasons, as stated, were warm;" and he once more went out
After a time she laughed again.
"If daddy should come here, what do you think would happen?" and she
looked at Captain Buckingham, who looked at her and said nothing, his
thin brown face as still as an Indian's.
Stevey Todd said cautiously:
"I'd almost think, Miss, in that case, you'd be in hot water."
"It's in the kettle," said Uncle Abimelech, and Madge McCulloch, "So
it is! I wonder if there's tea."
Then she and Stevey Todd laid the table, and we sat watching her
make tea, and saw no objections.
"Shall I tell you about it?" she said calmly, pouring tea.
"If so be it's agreeable, Miss," said Stevey Todd; and Uncle
Abimelech said, "I takes no sugar in mine," but Captain Tom was silent.
She said she had run out of the back door before it was beginning to
grow dusk, and climbed the fence and gotten into Corliss' sleigh, but
she was afraid they were seen by neighbours; so that it appeared
likely Andrew McCulloch would hear about their going. "He might come
after by-and-by, and do something that would be very hot,--Wouldn't
Stevey Todd said, "It might be as you say, Miss," and Uncle
Abimelech, "It's better when it's hot," looking into his teacup as if
disappointed, but Captain Tom said nothing.
"It was snowing and drifting," she went on, "and we kept falling
into ditches, but at last we saw the light of the hotel by the
roadside and were glad."
So Billy Corliss had come and bounced at the door, and said he
wanted a minister, and quite right he was with respect to those
circumstances and Madge McCulloch, as Stevey Todd hinted, though
When Pemberton and Corliss came back with the minister, it was clear
that Pemberton agreed with Stevey Todd on that point. It may be he
was not in the habit of agreeing with Andrew McCulloch. Certainly he
gave Madge McCulloch away in marriage to Billy Corliss. And she,
saying that she wanted a maid-of-honour, chose Uncle Abimelech for
that purpose, which seemed scarcely reasonable, but the minister
married them and went his way. Then Stevey Todd could not get over
thinking he would have been a better maid-of-honour than Uncle
Abimelech, more suitable and more according to the talents of each,
and he said this, though indirectly and warily; and Uncle Abimelech
said that he recollected licking Stevey Todd thirty years back on the
_Hebe Maitland_, "took him across his knee and whaled him good;"
and Stevey Todd, though cautiously, seemed to hint that some one who
might be Abe Dalrimple, couldn't do it again, and in other respects
resembled a dry codfish. Billy Corliss stood up and said:
"Gentlemen, the elements are raging. In the town of Adrian the ear
of imagination detects explosions. But Pemberton's is dedicated to
peace and connubiality."
Then they retired with their connubiality, and paid us no more
attention, and Pemberton, Captain Buckingham, Stevey Todd, Uncle
Abimelech, and I sat by the fire.
Uncle Abimelech seemed to have something on his mind that he would
like to get off, for his eyes wandered uneasily, and he muttered:
"Throwed 'em, did she?" said Pemberton to encourage him, and Uncle
"Some," and cast his eyes and jerked his thumb vaguely upward,
toward the ceiling.
"If she throws 'em at him--Aye--" He struggled with the thought,
bringing it slowly out of dim recesses to the light. "She ought to
pour the bilin' off first. It ain't right."
Silence fell over us again. At last Captain Tom said:
"Supposing a man is loose-jointed in his mind, like Abe, or Billy
Corliss a trifle, and gets took back of the ear with something hard,
that steadies him, it's no great harm if it's warm."
"She ought to pour off the bilin'," said Uncle Abimelech uneasily.
After that we sat for a while, each taken with his own thoughts,
until Pemberton was knocking out his pipe, like one approaching the
idea of a night's rest, when there came a noise in the outer hall,
and the wind blew snow under the crack below the inner door. Some one
bounced into the room like a storm. He was a short, thickset man with
white side whiskers, and looked like an infuriated Santa Claus, for
he was covered with snow.
"Most miserable, infernal, impossible night ever made, Mr.
Pemberton! Forty thousand devils---Ah! Give me some of that, hot!
"It is so, Andrew," said Pemberton, soothing and agreeable. "You're
"As referring to weather," said Stevey Todd, "though not putting it
so strong, you might--"
But the newcomer broke in, and beat the table with his fist.
"Weather! No! Not weather. Mr. Pemberton, I'll tell you what's the
matter. Here's my daughter run away to be married with the coolest,
freshest, limber-tongued young codfish that ever escaped salting. Not
if I know it! I'll salt him! I'll pickle him! I will, if my name's
He puffed hard, and sat down. Stevey Todd looked at Andrew
McCulloch, then he looked at the others and winked cautiously, and
Pemberton winked back. But Captain Tom did not look up. Uncle
Abimelech too kept his eyes on the fire. He seemed to be following
his old train of thought, which Andrew McCulloch's coming had started
again in his mind, for he began:
"Before I was married, her mother she used to throw kettles at me.
They was kettles," he said bitterly, "with spouts and handles. Aye,
afterward she did too, some."
Andrew McCulloch puffed and looked surprised and Pemberton said:
"Ran in the family?"
"Aye. Then she come across the bay in a rowboat, and I was diggin'
clams, and she says. 'If you dasn't come to the house, what dast you
do?' I see the minister down the beach, diggin' clams, an' he had
eleven children, he had, diggin' clams, and she looked at him too,
and I says, 'I das' say he'd rather'n dig clams.' We went fishin'
afterward, and got eight barrel o' herring."
"You don't say!" says Andrew McCulloch, puffing and looked surprised.
Uncle Abimelech kept his eyes fixed on the kettle and wandered away
in his mind. Then Captain Tom roused himself, and spoke thoughtfully.
"It was different with me," he said. "Her parents wanted another
one. He was richer, but nowise so good-looking. I says to her, 'Cut
and run!' but she wouldn't, as being undutiful. She took him. His
name was Jones. He went bankrupt, and got paralysis, and is living
still. Her parents died in different poorhouses."
Pemberton looked surprised at this too, and then thoughtful, and
then he winked at Stevey Todd, who passed it back.
"I got my wife out of the back window of a boarding school, second
story," said Pemberton. "She came down the blinds." And he wiped his
face with his coat sleeve.
"Mine came through the cellar," said Stevey Todd. "She brought a pot
of jam in her pocket, or else," he added cautiously, "or else it was
pickles. It might've been pickles, but it runs in my mind it was jam."
But Pemberton's wife had been a widow first, as he once told me, and
Captain Tom's and Stevey Todd's romances didn't run that way, by
accounts. But as to Uncle Abimelech, it may be what he said was true.
They all fell silent again, except Andrew McCulloch, who whistled:
"Whew, whew, whew!" and pulled his whiskers, now this one and that,
"Bless my soul! You don't mean it!" and fidgeted in his chair. "I
didn't suppose it was so usual, I didn't! God bless my soul!"
"It's their nature," said Captain Buckingham at length. "They're
made that way."
"You don't mean it!"
"The best thing for 'em is hotel keeping."
"Nothing like it, you can take my word. 'Pemberton's Hotel.
Pemberton and Buckingham, Owners and Proprietors. B. Corliss,
Manager. Peace, Propriety, and Patronage.' Aye, that's it. They get
restless. If they elopes, let 'em keep a hotel. Nothing like it."
"Whew, whew!" whistled Andrew McCulloch. "But they've gone!" he
says. "See here! How you going to catch 'em? How you going to set 'em
to hotel keeping when they elope off your hands? Where've they gone?
That's the point. Where've they gone?"
"Up," said Uncle Abimelech.
"Connubilated," said Uncle Abimelech, pointing. "Gone up."
"Prayed over fifteen minutes," said Stevey Todd, "which I wouldn't
so state without watching the clock."
"What!" cried Andrew McCulloch. "Do you mean to say, you aided and
abetted, Mr. Pemberton--"
"Peace and connubiality was his last words," went on Stevey Todd,
following his train of thought. "Peace and connubiality, he says, and
he meant the same."
"Ain't the same!" said Uncle Abimelech.
"Do you mean to say," cried Andrew McCulloch--
"Don't throw nothin' till you pour off the bilin'," said Uncle
Abimelech uneasily. "It ain't right."
Andrew McCulloch puffed, "Whew! whew! whew!" as if blowing off the
steam of his boiling. Then he said:
"Give me some of that, hot!"
And we all fell silent again.
The kettle sang, the chimney coughed in its throat. One heard
outside the whistle of the wind, the moan of the surf far off in the
night, and the snow snapping against the windows.
The clock struck ten.
Back to Full Books