Part 1 out of 5
Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.
I. THE WORLD AND THE DOOR
II. THE THEORY AND THE HOUND
III. THE HYPOTHESES OF FAILURE
IV. CALLOWAY'S CODE
V. A MATTER OF MEAN ELEVATION
VII. SOCIOLOGY IN SERGE AND STRAW
VIII. THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF
IX. THE MARRY MONTH OF MAY
X. A TECHNICAL ERROR
XI. SUITE HOMES AND THEIR ROMANCE
XII. THE WHIRLIGIG OF LIFE
XIII. A SACRIFICE HIT
XIV. THE ROADS WE TAKE
XV. A BLACKJACK BARGAINER
XVI. THE SONG AND THE SERGEANT
XVII. ONE DOLLAR'S WORTH
XVIII. A NEWSPAPER STORY
XIX. TOMMY'S BURGLAR
XX. A CHAPARRAL CHRISTMAS
XXI. A LITTLE LOCAL COLOUR
XXII. GEORGIA'S RULING
XXIII. BLIND MAN'S HOLIDAY
XXIV. MADAME BO-PEEP, OF THE RANCHES
THE WORLD AND THE DOOR
A favourite dodge to get your story read by the public is to assert
that it is true, and then add that Truth is stranger than Fiction.
I do not know if the yarn I am anxious for you to read is true; but
the Spanish purser of the fruit steamer _El Carrero_ swore to me by
the shrine of Santa Guadalupe that he had the facts from the U. S.
vice-consul at La Paz--a person who could not possibly have been
cognizant of half of them.
As for the adage quoted above, I take pleasure in puncturing it by
affirming that I read in a purely fictional story the other day the
line: "'Be it so,' said the policeman." Nothing so strange has yet
cropped out in Truth.
When H. Ferguson Hedges, millionaire promoter, investor and man-about-
New-York, turned his thoughts upon matters convivial, and word of it
went "down the line," bouncers took a precautionary turn at the Indian
clubs, waiters put ironstone china on his favourite tables, cab
drivers crowded close to the curbstone in front of all-night cafés,
and careful cashiers in his regular haunts charged up a few bottles to
his account by way of preface and introduction.
As a money power a one-millionaire is of small account in a city where
the man who cuts your slice of beef behind the free-lunch counter
rides to work in his own automobile. But Hedges spent his money as
lavishly, loudly and showily as though he were only a clerk
squandering a week's wages. And, after all, the bartender takes no
interest in your reserve fund. He would rather look you up on his
cash register than in Bradstreet.
On the evening that the material allegation of facts begins, Hedges
was bidding dull care begone in the company of five or six good
fellows--acquaintances and friends who had gathered in his wake.
Among them were two younger men--Ralph Merriam, a broker, and Wade,
Two deep-sea cabmen were chartered. At Columbus Circle they hove to
long enough to revile the statue of the great navigator,
unpatriotically rebuking him for having voyaged in search of land
instead of liquids. Midnight overtook the party marooned in the rear
of a cheap café far uptown.
Hedges was arrogant, overriding and quarrelsome. He was burly and
tough, iron-gray but vigorous, "good" for the rest of the night. There
was a dispute--about nothing that matters--and the five-fingered words
were passed--the words that represent the glove cast into the lists.
Merriam played the rôle of the verbal Hotspur.
Hedges rose quickly, seized his chair, swung it once and smashed
wildly down at Merriam's head. Merriam dodged, drew a small revolver
and shot Hedges in the chest. The leading roysterer stumbled, fell in
a wry heap, and lay still.
Wade, a commuter, had formed that habit of promptness. He juggled
Merriam out a side door, walked him to the corner, ran him a block and
caught a hansom. They rode five minutes and then got out on a dark
corner and dismissed the cab. Across the street the lights of a small
saloon betrayed its hectic hospitality.
"Go in the back room of that saloon," said Wade, "and wait. I'll go
find out what's doing and let you know. You may take two drinks while
I am gone--no more."
At ten minutes to one o'clock Wade returned. "Brace up, old chap," he
said. "The ambulance got there just as I did. The doctor says he's
dead. You may have one more drink. You let me run this thing for
you. You've got to skip. I don't believe a chair is legally a deadly
weapon. You've got to make tracks, that's all there is to it."
Merriam complained of the cold querulously, and asked for another
drink. "Did you notice what big veins he had on the back of his
hands?" he said. "I never could stand--I never could--"
"Take one more," said Wade, "and then come on. I'll see you through."
Wade kept his promise so well that at eleven o'clock the next morning
Merriam, with a new suit case full of new clothes and hair-brushes,
stepped quietly on board a little 500-ton fruit steamer at an East
River pier. The vessel had brought the season's first cargo of limes
from Port Limon, and was homeward bound. Merriam had his bank balance
of $2,800 in his pocket in large bills, and brief instructions to pile
up as much water as he could between himself and New York. There was
no time for anything more.
From Port Limon Merriam worked down the coast by schooner and sloop to
Colon, thence across the isthmus to Panama, where he caught a tramp
bound for Callao and such intermediate ports as might tempt the
discursive skipper from his course.
It was at La Paz that Merriam decided to land--La Paz the Beautiful,
a little harbourless town smothered in a living green ribbon that
banded the foot of a cloud-piercing mountain. Here the little
steamer stopped to tread water while the captain's dory took him
ashore that he might feel the pulse of the cocoanut market. Merriam
went too, with his suit case, and remained.
Kalb, the vice-consul, a Græco-Armenian citizen of the United States,
born in Hessen-Darmstadt, and educated in Cincinnati ward primaries,
considered all Americans his brothers and bankers. He attached
himself to Merriam's elbow, introduced him to every one in La Paz who
wore shoes, borrowed ten dollars and went back to his hammock.
There was a little wooden hotel in the edge of a banana grove, facing
the sea, that catered to the tastes of the few foreigners that had
dropped out of the world into the _triste_ Peruvian town. At Kalb's
introductory: "Shake hands with ----," he had obediently exchanged
manual salutations with a German doctor, one French and two Italian
merchants, and three or four Americans who were spoken of as gold men,
rubber men, mahogany men--anything but men of living tissue.
After dinner Merriam sat in a corner of the broad front _galeria_ with
Bibb, a Vermonter interested in hydraulic mining, and smoked and drank
Scotch "smoke." The moonlit sea, spreading infinitely before him,
seemed to separate him beyond all apprehension from his old life. The
horrid tragedy in which he had played such a disastrous part now
began, for the first time since he stole on board the fruiter, a
wretched fugitive, to lose its sharper outlines. Distance lent
assuagement to his view. Bibb had opened the flood-gates of a stream
of long-dammed discourse, overjoyed to have captured an audience that
had not suffered under a hundred repetitions of his views and
"One year more," said Bibb, "and I'll go back to God's country. Oh, I
know it's pretty here, and you get _dolce far niente_ handed to you in
chunks, but this country wasn't made for a white man to live in.
You've got to have to plug through snow now and then, and see a game
of baseball and wear a stiff collar and have a policeman cuss you.
Still, La Paz is a good sort of a pipe-dreamy old hole. And Mrs.
Conant is here. When any of us feels particularly like jumping into
the sea we rush around to her house and propose. It's nicer to be
rejected by Mrs. Conant than it is to be drowned. And they say
drowning is a delightful sensation."
"Many like her here?" asked Merriam.
"Not anywhere," said Bibb, with a comfortable sigh. She's the only
white woman in La Paz. The rest range from a dappled dun to the
colour of a b-flat piano key. She's been here a year. Comes from--
well, you know how a woman can talk--ask 'em to say 'string' and
they'll say 'crow's foot' or 'cat's cradle.' Sometimes you'd think
she was from Oshkosh, and again from Jacksonville, Florida, and the
next day from Cape Cod."
"Mystery?" ventured Merriam.
"M--well, she looks it; but her talk's translucent enough. But
that's a woman. I suppose if the Sphinx were to begin talking she'd
merely say: 'Goodness me! more visitors coming for dinner, and nothing
to eat but the sand which is here.' But you won't think about that
when you meet her, Merriam. You'll propose to her too."
To make a hard story soft, Merriam did meet her and propose to her.
He found her to be a woman in black with hair the colour of a bronze
turkey's wings, and mysterious, _remembering_ eyes that--well, that
looked as if she might have been a trained nurse looking on when Eve
was created. Her words and manner, though, were translucent, as Bibb
had said. She spoke, vaguely, of friends in California and some of
the lower parishes in Louisiana. The tropical climate and indolent
life suited her; she had thought of buying an orange grove later on;
La Paz, all in all, charmed her.
Merriam's courtship of the Sphinx lasted three months, although be did
not know that he was courting her. He was using her as an antidote
for remorse, until he found, too late, that he had acquired the habit.
During that time he had received no news from home. Wade did not know
where he was; and he was not sure of Wade's exact address, and was
afraid to write. He thought he had better let matters rest as they
were for a while.
One afternoon he and Mrs. Conant hired two ponies and rode out along
the mountain trail as far as the little cold river that came tumbling
down the foothills. There they stopped for a drink, and Merriam spoke
his piece--he proposed, as Bibb had prophesied.
Mrs. Conant gave him one glance of brilliant tenderness, and then her
face took on such a strange, haggard look that Merriam was shaken out
of his intoxication and back to his senses.
"I beg your pardon, Florence," he said, releasing her hand; "but I'll
have to hedge on part of what I said. I can't ask you to marry me, of
course. I killed a man in New York--a man who was my friend--shot
him down--in quite a cowardly manner, I understand. Of course, the
drinking didn't excuse it. Well, I couldn't resist having my say; and
I'll always mean it. I'm here as a fugitive from justice, and--I
suppose that ends our acquaintance."
Mrs. Conant plucked little leaves assiduously from the low-hanging
branch of a lime tree.
"I suppose so," she said, in low and oddly uneven tones; "but that
depends upon you. I'll be as honest as you were. I poisoned my
husband. I am a self-made widow. A man cannot love a murderess. So
I suppose that ends our acquaintance."
She looked up at him slowly. His face turned a little pale, and he
stared at her blankly, like a deaf-and-dumb man who was wondering what
it was all about.
She took a swift step toward him, with stiffened arms and eyes
"Don't look at me like that!" she cried, as though she were in acute
pain. "Curse me, or turn your back on me, but don't look that way.
Am I a woman to be beaten? If I could show you--here on my arms,
and on my back are scars--and it has been more than a year--scars
that he made in his brutal rages. A holy nun would have risen and
struck the fiend down. Yes, I killed him. The foul and horrible
words that he hurled at me that last day are repeated in my ears every
night when I sleep. And then came his blows, and the end of my
endurance. I got the poison that afternoon. It was his custom to
drink every night in the library before going to bed a hot punch made
of rum and wine. Only from my fair hands would he receive it--
because he knew the fumes of spirits always sickened me. That night
when the maid brought it to me I sent her downstairs on an errand.
Before taking him his drink I went to my little private cabinet and
poured into it more than a tea-spoonful of tincture of aconite--
enough to kill three men, so I had learned. I had drawn $6,000 that I
had in bank, and with that and a few things in a satchel I left the
house without any one seeing me. As I passed the library I heard him
stagger up and fall heavily on a couch. I took a night train for New
Orleans, and from there I sailed to the Bermudas. I finally cast
anchor in La Paz. And now what have you to say? Can you open your
Merriam came back to life.
"Florence," he said earnestly, "I want you. I don't care what you've
done. If the world--"
"Ralph," she interrupted, almost with a scream, "be my world!"
Her eyes melted; she relaxed magnificently and swayed toward Merriam
so suddenly that he had to jump to catch her.
Dear me! in such scenes how the talk runs into artificial prose. But
it can't be helped. It's the subconscious smell of the footlights'
smoke that's in all of us. Stir the depths of your cook's soul
sufficiently and she will discourse in Bulwer-Lyttonese.
Merriam and Mrs. Conant were very happy. He announced their
engagement at the Hotel Orilla del Mar. Eight foreigners and four
native Astors pounded his back and shouted insincere congratulations
at him. Pedrito, the Castilian-mannered barkeep, was goaded to extra
duty until his agility would have turned a Boston cherry-phosphate
clerk a pale lilac with envy.
They were both very happy. According to the strange mathematics of
the god of mutual affinity, the shadows that clouded their pasts when
united became only half as dense instead of darker. They shut the
world out and bolted the doors. Each was the other's world. Mrs.
Conant lived again. The remembering look left her eyes. Merriam was
with her every moment that was possible. On a little plateau under a
grove of palms and calabash trees they were going to build a fairy
bungalow. They were to be married in two months. Many hours of the
day they had their heads together over the house plans. Their joint
capital would set up a business in fruit or woods that would yield a
comfortable support. "Good night, my world," would say Mrs. Conant
every evening when Merriam left her for his hotel. They were very
happy. Their love had, circumstantially, that element of melancholy
in it that it seems to require to attain its supremest elevation. And
it seemed that their mutual great misfortune or sin was a bond that
nothing could sever.
One day a steamer hove in the offing. Bare-legged and bare-shouldered
La Paz scampered down to the beach, for the arrival of a steamer was
their loop-the-loop, circus, Emancipation Day and four-o'clock tea.
When the steamer was near enough, wise ones proclaimed that she was
the _Pajaro_, bound up-coast from Callao to Panama.
The _Pajaro_ put on brakes a mile off shore. Soon a boat came bobbing
shoreward. Merriam strolled down on the beach to look on. In the
shallow water the Carib sailors sprang out and dragged the boat with a
mighty rush to the firm shingle. Out climbed the purser, the captain
and two passengers, ploughing their way through the deep sand toward
the hotel. Merriam glanced toward them with the mild interest due to
strangers. There was something familiar to him in the walk of one of
the passengers. He looked again, and his blood seemed to turn to
strawberry ice cream in his veins. Burly, arrogant, debonair as ever,
H. Ferguson Hedges, the man he had killed, was coming toward him ten
When Hedges saw Merriam his face flushed a dark red. Then he shouted
in his old, bluff way: "Hello, Merriam. Glad to see you. Didn't
expect to find you out here. Quinby, this is my old friend Merriam,
of New York--Merriam, Mr. Quinby."
Merriam gave Hedges and then Quinby an ice-cold hand. "Br-r-r-r!" said
Hedges. "But you've got a frappéd flipper! Man, you're not well.
You're as yellow as a Chinaman. Malarial here? Steer us to a bar if
there is such a thing, and let's take a prophylactic."
Merriam, still half comatose, led them toward the Hotel Orilla del
"Quinby and I," explained Hedges, puffing through the slippery sand,
"are looking out along the coast for some investments. We've just
come up from Concepción and Valparaiso and Lima. The captain of this
subsidized ferry boat told us there was some good picking around
here in silver mines. So we got off. Now, where is that café,
Merriam? Oh, in this portable soda water pavilion?"
Leaving Quinby at the bar, Hedges drew Merriam aside.
"Now, what does this mean?" he said, with gruff kindness. "Are you
sulking about that fool row we had?"
"I thought," stammered Merriam--"I heard--they told me you were--
that I had--"
"Well, you didn't, and I'm not," said Hedges. "That fool young
ambulance surgeon told Wade I was a candidate for a coffin just
because I'd got tired and quit breathing. I laid up in a private
hospital for a month; but here I am, kicking as hard as ever. Wade
and I tried to find you, but couldn't. Now, Merriam, shake hands and
forget it all. I was as much to blame as you were; and the shot
really did me good--I came out of the hospital as healthy and fit as
a cab horse. Come on; that drink's waiting."
"Old man," said Merriam, brokenly, "I don't know how to thank you--I
--well, you know--"
"Oh, forget it," boomed Hedges. "Quinby'll die of thirst if we don't
Bibb was sitting on the shady side of the gallery waiting for the
eleven-o'clock breakfast. Presently Merriam came out and joined him.
His eye was strangely bright.
"Bibb, my boy," said he, slowly waving his hand, "do you see those
mountains and that sea and sky and sunshine?--they're mine, Bibbsy
"You go in," said Bibb, "and take eight grains of quinine, right away.
It won't do in this climate for a man to get to thinking he's
Rockefeller, or James O'Neill either."
Inside, the purser was untying a great roll of newspapers, many of
them weeks old, gathered in the lower ports by the _Pajaro_ to be
distributed at casual stopping-places. Thus do the beneficent voyagers
scatter news and entertainment among the prisoners of sea and
Tio Pancho, the hotel proprietor, set his great silver-rimmed _anteojos_
upon his nose and divided the papers into a number of smaller rolls.
A barefooted _muchacho_ dashed in, desiring the post of messenger.
"_Bien venido_," said Tio Pancho. "This to Señora Conant; that to el
Doctor S-S-Schlegel--_Dios_! what a name to say!--that to Señor Davis
--one for Don Alberto. These two for the _Casa de Huespedes, Numero
6, en la calle de las Buenas Gracias_. And say to them all, _muchacho_,
that the _Pajaro_ sails for Panama at three this afternoon. If any have
letters to send by the post, let them come quickly, that they may
first pass through the _correo_."
Mrs. Conant received her roll of newspapers at four o'clock. The boy
was late in delivering them, because he had been deflected from his
duty by an iguana that crossed his path and to which he immediately
gave chase. But it made no hardship, for she had no letters to send.
She was idling in a hammock in the patio of the house that she
occupied, half awake, half happily dreaming of the paradise that she
and Merriam had created out of the wrecks of their pasts. She was
content now for the horizon of that shimmering sea to be the horizon
of her life. They had shut out the world and closed the door.
Merriam was coming to her house at seven, after his dinner at the
hotel. She would put on a white dress and an apricot-coloured lace
mantilla, and they would walk an hour under the cocoanut palms by the
lagoon. She smiled contentedly, and chose a paper at random from the
roll the boy had brought.
At first the words of a certain headline of a Sunday newspaper meant
nothing to her; they conveyed only a visualized sense of familiarity.
The largest type ran thus: "Lloyd B. Conant secures divorce." And then
the subheadings: "Well-known Saint Louis paint manufacturer wins
suit, pleading one year's absence of wife." "Her mysterious
disappearance recalled." "Nothing has been heard of her since."
Twisting herself quickly out of the hammock, Mrs. Conant's eye soon
traversed the half-column of the "Recall." It ended thus: "It will be
remembered that Mrs. Conant disappeared one evening in March of last
year. It was freely rumoured that her marriage with Lloyd B. Conant
resulted in much unhappiness. Stories were not wanting to the effect
that his cruelty toward his wife had more than once taken the form of
physical abuse. After her departure a full bottle of tincture of
aconite, a deadly poison, was found in a small medicine cabinet in her
bedroom. This might have been an indication that she meditated
suicide. It is supposed that she abandoned such an intention if she
possessed it, and left her home instead."
Mrs. Conant slowly dropped the paper, and sat on a chair, clasping her
"Let me think--O God!--let me think," she whispered. "I took
the bottle with me . . . I threw it out of the window of the train
. . . I-- . . . there was another bottle in the cabinet . . .
there were two, side by side--the aconite--and the valerian that I
took when I could not sleep . . . If they found the aconite bottle
full, why--but, he is alive, of course--I gave him only a
harmless dose of valerian . . . I am not a murderess in fact . . .
Ralph, I--O God, don't let this be a dream!"
She went into the part of the house that she rented from the old
Peruvian man and his wife, shut the door, and walked up and down her
room swiftly and feverishly for half an hour. Merriam's photograph
stood in a frame on a table. She picked it up, looked at it with a
smile of exquisite tenderness, and--dropped four tears on it. And
Merriam only twenty rods away! Then she stood still for ten minutes,
looking into space. She looked into space through a slowly opening
door. On her side of the door was the building material for a castle
of Romance--love, an Arcady of waving palms, a lullaby of waves on
the shore of a haven of rest, respite, peace, a lotus land of dreamy
ease and security--a life of poetry and heart's ease and refuge.
Romanticist, will you tell me what Mrs. Conant saw on the other side
of the door? You cannot?--that is, you will not? Very well; then
_She saw herself go into a department store and buy five spools of
silk thread and three yards of gingham to make an apron for the cook.
"Shall I charge it, ma'am?" asked the clerk. As she walked out a
lady whom she met greeted her cordially. "Oh, where did you get the
pattern for those sleeves, dear Mrs. Conant?" she said. At the corner
a policeman helped her across the street and touched his helmet. "Any
callers?" she asked the maid when she reached home. "Mrs. Waldron,"
answered the maid, "and the two Misses Jenkinson." "Very well," she
said. "You may bring me a cup of tea, Maggie._"
Mrs. Conant went to the door and called Angela, the old Peruvian
woman. "If Mateo is there send him to me." Mateo, a half-breed,
shuffling and old but efficient, came.
"Is there a steamer or a vessel of any kind leaving this coast
to-night or to-morrow that I can get passage on?" she asked.
"At Punta Reina, thirty miles down the coast, señora," he answered,
"there is a small steamer loading with cinchona and dyewoods. She
sails for San Francisco to-morrow at sunrise. So says my brother, who
arrived in his sloop to-day, passing by Punta Reina."
"You must take me in that sloop to that steamer to-night. Will you do
"Perhaps--" Mateo shrugged a suggestive shoulder. Mrs. Conant
took a handful of money from a drawer and gave it to him.
"Get the sloop ready behind the little point of land below the town,"
she ordered. "Get sailors, and be ready to sail at six o'clock. In
half an hour bring a cart partly filled with straw into the patio
here, and take my trunk to the sloop. There is more money yet. Now,
For one time Mateo walked away without shuffling his feet.
"Angela," cried Mrs. Conant, almost fiercely, "come and help me pack.
I am going away. Out with this trunk. My clothes first. Stir
yourself. Those dark dresses first. Hurry."
From the first she did not waver from her decision. Her view was clear
and final. Her door had opened and let the world in. Her love for
Merriam was not lessened; but it now appeared a hopeless and
unrealizable thing. The visions of their future that had seemed so
blissful and complete had vanished. She tried to assure herself that
her renunciation was rather for his sake than for her own. Now that
she was cleared of her burden--at least, technically--would not
his own weigh too heavily upon him? If she should cling to him, would
not the difference forever silently mar and corrode their happiness?
Thus she reasoned; but there were a thousand little voices calling to
her that she could feel rather than hear, like the hum of distant,
powerful machinery--the little voices of the world, that, when
raised in unison, can send their insistent call through the thickest
Once while packing, a brief shadow of the lotus dream came back to
her. She held Merriam's picture to her heart with one hand, while she
threw a pair of shoes into the trunk with her other.
At six o'clock Mateo returned and reported the sloop ready. He and
his brother lifted the trunk into the cart, covered it with straw and
conveyed it to the point of embarkation. From there they transferred
it on board in the sloop's dory. Then Mateo returned for additional
Mrs. Conant was ready. She had settled all business matters with
Angela, and was impatiently waiting. She wore a long, loose black-silk
duster that she often walked about in when the evenings were chilly.
On her head was a small round hat, and over it the apricot-coloured
Dusk had quickly followed the short twilight. Mateo led her by dark
and grass-grown streets toward the point behind which the sloop was
anchored. On turning a corner they beheld the Hotel Orilla del Mar
three streets away, nebulously aglow with its array of kerosene lamps.
Mrs. Conant paused, with streaming eyes. "I must, I _must_ see him
once before I go," she murmured in anguish. But even then she did not
falter in her decision. Quickly she invented a plan by which she might
speak to him, and yet make her departure without his knowing. She
would walk past the hotel, ask some one to call him out and talk a few
moments on some trivial excuse, leaving him expecting to see her at
her home at seven.
She unpinned her hat and gave it to Mateo. "Keep this, and wait here
till I come," she ordered. Then she draped the mantilla over her head
as she usually did when walking after sunset, and went straight to the
Orilla del Mar.
She was glad to see the bulky, white-clad figure of Tio Pancho
standing alone on the gallery.
"Tio Pancho," she said, with a charming smile, "may I trouble you to
ask Mr. Merriam to come out for just a few moments that I may speak
Tio Pancho bowed as an elephant bows.
"Buenas tardes, Señora Conant," he said, as a cavalier talks. And
then he went on, less at his ease:
"But does not the señora know that Señor Merriam sailed on the _Pajaro_
for Panama at three o'clock of this afternoon?"
THE THEORY AND THE HOUND
Not many days ago my old friend from the tropics, J. P. Bridger,
United States consul on the island of Ratona, was in the city. We
had wassail and jubilee and saw the Flatiron building, and missed
seeing the Bronxless menagerie by about a couple of nights. And
then, at the ebb tide, we were walking up a street that parallels and
A woman with a comely and mundane countenance passed us, holding in
leash a wheezing, vicious, waddling, brute of a yellow pug. The dog
entangled himself with Bridger's legs and mumbled his ankles in a
snarling, peevish, sulky bite. Bridger, with a happy smile, kicked
the breath out of the brute; the woman showered us with a quick rain
of well-conceived adjectives that left us in no doubt as to our place
in her opinion, and we passed on. Ten yards farther an old woman
with disordered white hair and her bankbook tucked well hidden
beneath her tattered shawl begged. Bridger stopped and disinterred
for her a quarter from his holiday waistcoat.
On the next corner a quarter of a ton of well-clothed man with a
rice-powdered, fat, white jowl, stood holding the chain of a
devil-born bulldog whose forelegs were strangers by the length of a
dachshund. A little woman in a last-season's hat confronted him and
wept, which was plainly all she could do, while he cursed her in low
sweet, practised tones.
Bridger smiled again--strictly to himself--and this time he took out
a little memorandum book and made a note of it. This he had no right
to do without due explanation, and I said so.
"It's a new theory," said Bridger, "that I picked up down in Ratona.
I've been gathering support for it as I knock about. The world isn't
ripe for it yet, but--well I'll tell you; and then you run your
mind back along the people you've known and see what you make of it."
And so I cornered Bridger in a place where they have artificial palms
and wine; and he told me the story which is here in my words and on
One afternoon at three o'clock, on the island of Ratona, a boy raced
along the beach screaming, "_Pajaro_, ahoy!"
Thus he made known the keenness of his hearing and the justice of his
discrimination in pitch.
He who first heard and made oral proclamation concerning the toot
of an approaching steamer's whistle, and correctly named the steamer,
was a small hero in Ratona--until the next steamer came. Wherefore,
there was rivalry among the barefoot youth of Ratona, and many fell
victims to the softly blown conch shells of sloops which, as they
enter harbour, sound surprisingly like a distant steamer's signal.
And some could name you the vessel when its call, in your duller
ears, sounded no louder than the sigh of the wind through the
branches of the cocoanut palms.
But to-day he who proclaimed the _Pajaro_ gained his honours. Ratona
bent its ear to listen; and soon the deep-tongued blast grew louder
and nearer, and at length Ratona saw above the line of palms on the
low "point" the two black funnels of the fruiter slowly creeping
toward the mouth of the harbour.
You must know that Ratona is an island twenty miles off the south of
a South American republic. It is a port of that republic; and it
sleeps sweetly in a smiling sea, toiling not nor spinning; fed by the
abundant tropics where all things "ripen, cease and fall toward the
Eight hundred people dream life away in a green-embowered village
that follows the horseshoe curve of its bijou harbour. They are
mostly Spanish and Indian _mestizos_, with a shading of San Domingo
Negroes, a lightening of pure-blood Spanish officials and a slight
leavening of the froth of three or four pioneering white races. No
steamers touch at Ratona save the fruit steamers which take on their
banana inspectors there on their way to the coast. They leave Sunday
newspapers, ice, quinine, bacon, watermelons and vaccine matter at
the island and that is about all the touch Ratona gets with the
The _Pajaro_ paused at the mouth of the harbour, rolling heavily in
the swell that sent the whitecaps racing beyond the smooth water
inside. Already two dories from the village--one conveying fruit
inspectors, the other going for what it could get--were halfway out
to the steamer.
The inspectors' dory was taken on board with them, and the _Pajaro_
steamed away for the mainland for its load of fruit.
The other boat returned to Ratona bearing a contribution from the
_Pajaro's_ store of ice, the usual roll of newspapers and one
passenger--Taylor Plunkett, sheriff of Chatham County, Kentucky.
Bridger, the United States consul at Ratona, was cleaning his rifle
in the official shanty under a bread-fruit tree twenty yards from the
water of the harbour. The consul occupied a place somewhat near the
tail of his political party's procession. The music of the band
wagon sounded very faintly to him in the distance. The plums of
office went to others. Bridger's share of the spoils--the
consulship at Ratona--was little more than a prune--a dried prune
from the boarding-house department of the public crib. But $900
yearly was opulence in Ratona. Besides, Bridger had contracted a
passion for shooting alligators in the lagoons near his consulate,
and was not unhappy.
He looked up from a careful inspection of his rifle lock and saw a
broad man filling his doorway. A broad, noiseless, slow-moving man,
sunburned almost to the brown of Vandyke. A man of forty-five,
neatly clothed in homespun, with scanty light hair, a close-clipped
brown-and-gray beard and pale-blue eyes expressing mildness and
"You are Mr. Bridger, the consul," said the broad man. "They
directed me here. Can you tell me what those big bunches of things
like gourds are in those trees that look like feather dusters along
the edge of the water?"
"Take that chair," said the consul, reoiling his cleaning rag.
"No, the other one--that bamboo thing won't hold you. Why, they're
cocoanuts--green cocoanuts. The shell of 'em is always a light
green before they're ripe."
"Much obliged," said the other man, sitting down carefully. "I
didn't quite like to tell the folks at home they were olives unless I
was sure about it. My name is Plunkett. I'm sheriff of Chatham
County, Kentucky. I've got extradition papers in my pocket
authorizing the arrest of a man on this island. They've been signed
by the President of this country, and they're in correct shape. The
man's name is Wade Williams. He's in the cocoanut raising
business. What he's wanted for is the murder of his wife two years
ago. Where can I find him?"
The consul squinted an eye and looked through his rifle barrel.
"There's nobody on the island who calls himself 'Williams,'" he
"Didn't suppose there was," said Plunkett mildly. "He'll do by any
"Besides myself," said Bridger, "there are only two Americans on
Ratona--Bob Reeves and Henry Morgan."
"The man I want sells cocoanuts," suggested Plunkett.
"You see that cocoanut walk extending up to the point?" said the
consul, waving his hand toward the open door. "That belongs to Bob
Reeves. Henry Morgan owns half the trees to loo'ard on the island."
"One, month ago," said the sheriff, "Wade Williams wrote a
confidential letter to a man in Chatham county, telling him where he
was and how he was getting along. The letter was lost; and the person
that found it gave it away. They sent me after him, and I've got the
papers. I reckon he's one of your cocoanut men for certain."
"You've got his picture, of course," said Bridger. "It might be
Reeves or Morgan, but I'd hate to think it. They're both as fine
fellows as you'd meet in an all-day auto ride."
"No," doubtfully answered Plunkett; "there wasn't any picture of
Williams to be had. And I never saw him myself. I've been sheriff
only a year. But I've got a pretty accurate description of him. About
5 feet 11; dark-hair and eyes; nose inclined to be Roman; heavy about
the shoulders; strong, white teeth, with none missing; laughs a good
deal, talkative; drinks considerably but never to intoxication; looks
you square in the eye when talking; age thirty-five. Which one of
your men does that description fit?"
The consul grinned broadly.
"I'll tell you what you do," he said, laying down his rifle and
slipping on his dingy black alpaca coat. "You come along, Mr.
Plunkett, and I'll take you up to see the boys. If you can tell
which one of 'em your description fits better than it does the
other you have the advantage of me."
Bridger conducted the sheriff out and along the hard beach close to
which the tiny houses of the village were distributed. Immediately
back of the town rose sudden, small, thickly wooded hills. Up one of
these, by means of steps cut in the hard clay, the consul led
Plunkett. On the very verge of an eminence was perched a two-room
wooden cottage with a thatched roof. A Carib woman was washing
clothes outside. The consul ushered the sheriff to the door of the
room that overlooked the harbour.
Two men were in the room, about to sit down, in their shirt sleeves,
to a table spread for dinner. They bore little resemblance one to
the other in detail; but the general description given by Plunkett
could have been justly applied to either. In height, colour of hair,
shape of nose, build and manners each of them tallied with it. They
were fair types of jovial, ready-witted, broad-gauged Americans who
had gravitated together for companionship in an alien land.
"Hello, Bridger" they called in unison at sight Of the consul. "Come
and have dinner with us!" And then they noticed Plunkett at his
heels, and came forward with hospitable curiosity.
"Gentlemen," said the consul, his voice taking on unaccustomed
formality, "this is Mr. Plunkett. Mr. Plunkett--Mr. Reeves and Mr.
The cocoanut barons greeted the newcomer joyously. Reeves seemed
about an inch taller than Morgan, but his laugh was not quite as
loud. Morgan's eyes were deep brown; Reeves's were black. Reeves
was the host and busied himself with fetching other chairs and
calling to the Carib woman for supplemental table ware. It was
explained that Morgan lived in a bamboo shack to "loo'ard," but that
every day the two friends dined together. Plunkett stood still
during the preparations, looking about mildly with his pale-blue
eyes. Bridger looked apologetic and uneasy.
At length two other covers were laid and the company was assigned to
places. Reeves and Morgan stood side by side across the table from
the visitors. Reeves nodded genially as a signal for all to seat
themselves. And then suddenly Plunkett raised his hand with a
gesture of authority. He was looking straight between Reeves and
"Wade Williams," he said quietly, "you are under arrest for murder."
Reeves and Morgan instantly exchanged a quick, bright glance, the
quality of which was interrogation, with a seasoning of surprise.
Then, simultaneously they turned to the speaker with a puzzled and
frank deprecation in their gaze.
"Can't say that we understand you, Mr. Plunkett," said Morgan,
cheerfully. "Did you say 'Williams'?"
"What's the joke, Bridgy?" asked Reeves, turning, to the consul with
Before Bridger could answer Plunkett spoke again.
"I'll explain," he said, quietly. "One of you don't need any
explanation, but this is for the other one. One of you is Wade
Williams of Chatham County, Kentucky. You murdered your wife on May
5, two years ago, after ill-treating and abusing her continually for
five years. I have the proper papers in my pocket for taking you
back with me, and you are going. We will return on the fruit steamer
that comes back by this island to-morrow to leave its inspectors. I
acknowledge, gentlemen, that I'm not quite sure which one of you is
Williams. But Wade Williams goes back to Chatham County to-morrow. I
want you to understand that."
A great sound of merry laughter from Morgan and Reeves went out over
the still harbour. Two or three fishermen in the fleet of sloops
anchored there looked up at the house of the diablos Americanos on
the hill and wondered.
"My dear Mr. Plunkett," cried Morgan, conquering his mirth, "the
dinner is getting, cold. Let us sit down and eat. I am anxious to
get my spoon into that shark-fin soup. Business afterward."
"Sit down, gentlemen, if you please," added Reeves, pleasantly. "I
am sure Mr. Plunkett will not object. Perhaps a little time may be of
advantage to him in identifying--the gentleman he wishes to
"No objections, I'm sure," said Plunkett, dropping into his chair
heavily. "I'm hungry myself. I didn't want to accept the
hospitality of you folks without giving you notice; that's all."
Reeves set bottles and glasses on the table.
"There's cognac," he said, "and anisada, and Scotch 'smoke,' and rye.
Take your choice."
Bridger chose rye, Reeves poured three fingers of Scotch for himself,
Morgan took the same. The sheriff, against much protestation, filled
his glass from the water bottle.
"Here's to the appetite," said Reeves, raising his glass, "of Mr.
Williams!" Morgan's laugh and his drink encountering sent him into a
choking splutter. All began to pay attention to the dinner, which
was well cooked and palatable.
"Williams!" called Plunkett, suddenly and sharply.
All looked up wonderingly. Reeves found the sheriff's mild eye
resting upon him. He flushed a little.
"See here," he said, with some asperity, "my name's Reeves, and I
don't want you to--" But the comedy of the thing came to his rescue,
and he ended with a laugh.
"I suppose, Mr. Plunkett," said Morgan, carefully seasoning an
alligator pear, "that you are aware of the fact that you will import
a good deal of trouble for yourself into Kentucky if you take back
the wrong man--that is, of course, if you take anybody back?"
"Thank you for the salt," said the sheriff. "Oh, I'll take somebody
back. It'll be one of you two gentlemen. Yes, I know I'd get stuck
for damages if I make a mistake. But I'm going to try to get the
"I'll tell you what you do," said Morgan, leaning forward with a
jolly twinkle in his eyes. "You take me. I'll go without any
trouble. The cocoanut business hasn't panned out well this year, and
I'd like to make some extra money out of your bondsmen."
"That's not fair," chimed in Reeves. "I got only $16 a thousand for
my last shipment. Take me, Mr. Plunkett."
"I'll take Wade Williams," said the sheriff, patiently, "or I'll come
pretty close to it."
"It's like dining with a ghost," remarked Morgan, with a pretended
shiver. "The ghost of a murderer, too! Will somebody pass the
toothpicks to the shade of the naughty Mr. Williams?"
Plunkett seemed as unconcerned as if he were dining at his own table
in Chatham County. He was a gallant trencherman, and the strange
tropic viands tickled his palate. Heavy, commonplace, almost
slothful in his movements, he appeared to be devoid of all the
cunning and watchfulness of the sleuth. He even ceased to observe,
with any sharpness or attempted discrimination, the two men, one of
whom he had undertaken with surprising self-confidence, to drag
away upon the serious charge of wife-murder. Here, indeed, was a
problem set before him that if wrongly solved would have amounted to
his serious discomfiture, yet there he sat puzzling his soul (to all
appearances) over the novel flavour of a broiled iguana cutlet.
The consul felt a decided discomfort. Reeves and Morgan were his
friends and pals; yet the sheriff from Kentucky had a certain right
to his official aid and moral support. So Bridger sat the silentest
around the board and tried to estimate the peculiar situation. His
conclusion was that both Reeves and Morgan, quickwitted, as he knew
them to be, had conceived at the moment of Plunkett's disclosure of
his mission--and in the brief space of a lightning flash--the
idea that the other might be the guilty Williams; and that each of
them had decided in that moment loyally to protect his comrade
against the doom that threatened him. This was the consul's theory
and if he had been a bookmaker at a race of wits for life and liberty
he would have offered heavy odds against the plodding sheriff from
Chatham County, Kentucky.
When the meal was concluded the Carib woman came and removed the
dishes and cloth. Reeves strewed the table with excellent cigars,
and Plunkett, with the others, lighted one of these with evident
"I may be dull," said Morgan, with a grin and a wink at Bridger; "but
I want to know if I am. Now, I say this is all a joke of Mr.
Plunkett's, concocted to frighten two babes-in-the-woods. Is this
Williamson to be taken seriously or not?"
"'Williams,'" corrected Plunkett gravely. "I never got off any jokes
in my life. I know I wouldn't travel 2,000 miles to get off a poor
one as this would be if I didn't take Wade Williams back with me.
Gentlemen!" continued the sheriff, now letting his mild eyes travel
impartially from one of the company to another, "see if you can find
any joke in this case. Wade Williams is listening to the words I
utter now; but out of politeness, I will speak of him as a third
person. For five years he made his wife lead the life of a dog--No;
I'll take that back. No dog in Kentucky was ever treated as she
was. He spent the money that she brought him--spent it at races, at
the card table and on horses and hunting. He was a good fellow to
his friends, but a cold, sullen demon at home. He wound up the five
years of neglect by striking her with his closed hand--a hand as
hard as a stone--when she was ill and weak from suffering. She
died the next day; and he skipped. That's all there is to it. It's
enough. I never saw Williams; but I knew his wife. I'm not a man to
tell half. She and I were keeping company when she met him. She
went to Louisville on a visit and saw him there. I'll admit that he
spoilt my chances in no time. I lived then on the edge of the
Cumberland mountains. I was elected sheriff of Chatham County a year
after Wade Williams killed his wife. My official duty sends me out
here after him; but I'll admit that there's personal feeling, too.
And he's going back with me. Mr.--er--Reeves, will you pass me a
"Awfully imprudent of Williams," said Morgan, putting his feet up
against the wall, "to strike a Kentucky lady. Seems to me I've heard
they were scrappers."
"Bad, bad Williams," said Reeves, pouring out more Scotch.
The two men spoke lightly, but the consul saw and felt the tension
and the carefulness in their actions and words. "Good old fellows,"
he said to himself; "they're both all right. Each of 'em is standing
by the other like a little brick church."
And then a dog walked into the room where they sat--a black-and-tan
hound, long-eared, lazy, confident of welcome.
Plunkett turned his head and looked at the animal, which halted,
confidently, within a few feet of his chair.
Suddenly the sheriff, with a deep-mouthed oath, left his seat and,
bestowed upon the dog a vicious and heavy kick, with his ponderous
The hound, heartbroken, astonished, with flapping ears and incurved
tail, uttered a piercing yelp of pain and surprise.
Reeves and the consul remained in their chairs, saying nothing, but
astonished at the unexpected show of intolerance from the easy-going
man from Chatham county.
But Morgan, with a suddenly purpling face, leaped, to his feet and
raised a threatening arm above the guest.
"You--brute!" he shouted, passionately; "why did you do that?"
Quickly the amenities returned, Plunkett muttered some indistinct
apology and regained his seat. Morgan with a decided effort
controlled his indignation and also returned to his chair.
And then Plunkett with the spring of a tiger, leaped around the
corner of the table and snapped handcuffs on the paralyzed Morgan's
"Hound-lover and woman-killer!" he cried; "get ready to meet your
When Bridger had finished I asked him:
"Did he get the right man?"
"He did," said the Consul.
"And how did he know?" I inquired, being in a kind of bewilderment.
"When he put Morgan in the dory," answered Bridger, "the next day to
take him aboard the _Pajaro_, this man Plunkett stopped to shake hands
with me and I asked him the same question."
"'Mr. Bridger,' said he, 'I'm a Kentuckian, and I've seen a great
deal of both men and animals. And I never yet saw a man that was
overfond of horses and dogs but what was cruel to women.'"
THE HYPOTHESES OF FAILURE
Lawyer Gooch bestowed his undivided attention upon the engrossing arts
of his profession. But one flight of fancy did he allow his mind to
entertain. He was fond of likening his suite of office rooms to the
bottom of a ship. The rooms were three in number, with a door
opening from one to another. These doors could also be closed.
"Ships," Lawyer Gooch would say, "are constructed for safety, with
separate, water-tight compartments in their bottoms. If one
compartment springs a leak it fills with water; but the good ship goes
on unhurt. Were it not for the separating bulkheads one leak would
sink the vessel. Now it often happens that while I am occupied with
clients, other clients with conflicting interests call. With the
assistance of Archibald--an office boy with a future--I cause the
dangerous influx to be diverted into separate compartments, while I
sound with my legal plummet the depth of each. If necessary, they
may be baled into the hallway and permitted to escape by way of the
stairs, which we may term the lee scuppers. Thus the good ship of
business is kept afloat; whereas if the element that supports her were
allowed to mingle freely in her hold we might be swamped--ha, ha, ha!"
The law is dry. Good jokes are few. Surely it might be permitted
Lawyer Gooch to mitigate the bore of briefs, the tedium of torts and
the prosiness of processes with even so light a levy upon the good
property of humour.
Lawyer Gooch's practice leaned largely to the settlement of marital
infelicities. Did matrimony languish through complications, he
mediated, soothed and arbitrated. Did it suffer from implications,
he readjusted, defended and championed. Did it arrive at the
extremity of duplications, he always got light sentences for his
But not always was Lawyer Gooch the keen, armed, wily belligerent,
ready with his two-edged sword to lop off the shackles of Hymen. He
had been known to build up instead of demolishing, to reunite instead
of severing, to lead erring and foolish ones back into the fold
instead of scattering the flock. Often had he by his eloquent and
moving appeals sent husband and wife, weeping, back into each other's
arms. Frequently he had coached childhood so successfully that, at
the psychological moment (and at a given signal) the plaintive pipe of
"Papa, won't you tum home adain to me and muvver?" had won the day
and upheld the pillars of a tottering home.
Unprejudiced persons admitted that Lawyer Gooch received as big fees
from these reyoked clients as would have been paid him had the cases
been contested in court. Prejudiced ones intimated that his fees were
doubled, because the penitent couples always came back later for the
There came a season in June when the legal ship of Lawyer Gooch (to
borrow his own figure) was nearly becalmed. The divorce mill grinds
slowly in June. It is the month of Cupid and Hymen.
Lawyer Gooch, then, sat idle in the middle room of his clientless
suite. A small anteroom connected--or rather separated--this
apartment from the hallway. Here was stationed Archibald, who wrested
from visitors their cards or oral nomenclature which he bore to his
master while they waited.
Suddenly, on this day, there came a great knocking at the outermost
Archibald, opening it, was thrust aside as superfluous by the visitor,
who without due reverence at once penetrated to the office of Lawyer
Gooch and threw himself with good-natured insolence into a comfortable
chair facing that gentlemen.
"You are Phineas C. Gooch, attorney-at-law?" said the visitor, his
tone of voice and inflection making his words at once a question, an
assertion and an accusation.
Before committing himself by a reply, the lawyer estimated his
possible client in one of his brief but shrewd and calculating
The man was of the emphatic type--large-sized, active, bold and
debonair in demeanour, vain beyond a doubt, slightly swaggering, ready
and at ease. He was well-clothed, but with a shade too much
ornateness. He was seeking a lawyer; but if that fact would seem to
saddle him with troubles they were not patent in his beaming eye and
"My name is Gooch," at length the lawyer admitted. Upon pressure he
would also have confessed to the Phineas C. But he did not consider it
good practice to volunteer information. "I did not receive your
card," he continued, by way of rebuke, "so I--"
"I know you didn't," remarked the visitor, coolly; "And you won't just
yet. Light up?" He threw a leg over an arm of his chair, and tossed
a handful of rich-hued cigars upon the table. Lawyer Gooch knew the
brand. He thawed just enough to accept the invitation to smoke.
"You are a divorce lawyer," said the cardless visitor. This time there
was no interrogation in his voice. Nor did his words constitute a
simple assertion. They formed a charge--a denunciation--as one would
say to a dog: "You are a dog." Lawyer Gooch was silent under the
"You handle," continued the visitor, "all the various ramifications of
busted-up connubiality. You are a surgeon, we might saw, who extracts
Cupid's darts when he shoots 'em into the wrong parties. You furnish
patent, incandescent lights for premises where the torch of Hymen has
burned so low you can't light a cigar at it. Am I right, Mr. Gooch?"
"I have undertaken cases," said the lawyer, guardedly, "in the line to
which your figurative speech seems to refer. Do you wish to consult me
professionally, Mr.--" The lawyer paused, with significance.
"Not yet," said the other, with an arch wave of his cigar, "not just
yet. Let us approach the subject with the caution that should have
been used in the original act that makes this pow-wow necessary.
There exists a matrimonial jumble to be straightened out. But before
I give you names I want your honest--well, anyhow, your professional
opinion on the merits of the mix-up. I want you to size up the
catastrophe--abstractly--you understand? I'm Mr. Nobody; and I've got
a story to tell you. Then you say what's what. Do you get my
"You want to state a hypothetical case?" suggested Lawyer Gooch.
"That's the word I was after. 'Apothecary' was the best shot I could
make at it in my mind. The hypothetical goes. I'll state the case.
Suppose there's a woman--a deuced fine-looking woman--who has run
away from her husband and home? She's badly mashed on another man who
went to her town to work up some real estate business. Now, we may as
well call this woman's husband Thomas R. Billings, for that's his
name. I'm giving you straight tips on the cognomens. The Lothario
chap is Henry K. Jessup. The Billingses lived in a little town called
Susanville--a good many miles from here. Now, Jessup leaves
Susanville two weeks ago. The next day Mrs. Billings follows him.
She's dead gone on this man Jessup; you can bet your law library on
Lawyer Gooch's client said this with such unctuous satisfaction that
even the callous lawyer experienced a slight ripple of repulsion. He
now saw clearly in his fatuous visitor the conceit of the lady-killer,
the egoistic complacency of the successful trifler.
"Now," continued the visitor, "suppose this Mrs. Billings wasn't happy
at home? We'll say she and her husband didn't gee worth a cent.
They've got incompatibility to burn. The things she likes, Billings
wouldn't have as a gift with trading-stamps. It's Tabby and Rover
with them all the time. She's an educated woman in science and
culture, and she reads things out loud at meetings. Billings is not
on. He don't appreciate progress and obelisks and ethics, and
things of that sort. Old Billings is simply a blink when it comes to
such things. The lady is out and out above his class. Now, lawyer,
don't it look like a fair equalization of rights and wrongs that a
woman like that should be allowed to throw down Billings and take the
man that can appreciate her?
"Incompatibility," said Lawyer Gooch, "is undoubtedly the source of
much marital discord and unhappiness. Where it is positively proved,
divorce would seem to be the equitable remedy. Are you--excuse me--is
this man Jessup one to whom the lady may safely trust her future?"
"Oh, you can bet on Jessup," said the client, with a confident wag of
his head. "Jessup's all right. He'll do the square thing. Why, he
left Susanville just to keep people from talking about Mrs. Billings.
But she followed him up, and now, of course, he'll stick to her.
When she gets a divorce, all legal and proper, Jessup will do the
"And now," said Lawyer Gooch, "continuing the hypothesis, if you
prefer, and supposing that my services should be desired in the case,
The client rose impulsively to his feet.
"Oh, dang the hypothetical business," he exclaimed, impatiently.
"Let's let her drop, and get down to straight talk. You ought to know
who I am by this time. I want that woman to have her divorce. I'll
pay for it. The day you set Mrs. Billings free I'll pay you five
Lawyer Gooch's client banged his fist upon the table to punctuate his
"If that is the case--" began the lawyer.
"Lady to see you, sir," bawled Archibald, bouncing in from his
anteroom. He had orders to always announce immediately any client
that might come. There was no sense in turning business away.
Lawyer Gooch took client number one by the arm and led him suavely
into one of the adjoining rooms. "Favour me by remaining here a few
minutes, sir," said he. "I will return and resume our consultation
with the least possible delay. I am rather expecting a visit from a
very wealthy old lady in connection with a will. I will not keep you
The breezy gentleman seated himself with obliging acquiescence, and
took up a magazine. The lawyer returned to the middle office,
carefully closing behind him the connecting door.
"Show the lady in, Archibald," he said to the office boy, who was
awaiting the order.
A tall lady, of commanding presence and sternly handsome, entered
the room. She wore robes--robes; not clothes--ample and fluent.
In her eye could be perceived the lambent flame of genius and soul.
In her hand was a green bag of the capacity of a bushel, and an
umbrella that also seemed to wear a robe, ample and fluent. She
accepted a chair.
"Are you Mr. Phineas C. Gooch, the lawyer?" she asked, in formal and
"I am," answered Lawyer Gooch, without circumlocution. He never
circumlocuted when dealing with a woman. Women circumlocute. Time is
wasted when both sides in debate employ the same tactics.
"As a lawyer, sir," began the lady, "you may have acquired some
knowledge of the human heart. Do you believe that the pusillanimous
and petty conventions of our artificial social life should stand as an
obstacle in the way of a noble and affectionate heart when it finds
its true mate among the miserable and worthless wretches in the world
that are called men?"
"Madam," said Lawyer Gooch, in the tone that he used in curbing his
female clients, "this is an office for conducting the practice of law.
I am a lawyer, not a philosopher, nor the editor of an 'Answers to the
Lovelorn' column of a newspaper. I have other clients waiting. I
will ask you kindly to come to the point."
"Well, you needn't get so stiff around the gills about it," said the
lady, with a snap of her luminous eyes and a startling gyration of her
umbrella. "Business is what I've come for. I want your opinion in
the matter of a suit for divorce, as the vulgar would call it, but
which is really only the readjustment of the false and ignoble
conditions that the short-sighted laws of man have interposed between
"I beg your pardon, madam," interrupted Lawyer Gooch, with some
impatience, "for reminding you again that this is a law office.
Perhaps Mrs. Wilcox--"
"Mrs. Wilcox is all right," cut in the lady, with a hint of asperity.
"And so are Tolstoi, and Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, and Omar Khayyam, and
Mr. Edward Bok. I've read 'em all. I would like to discuss with you
the divine right of the soul as opposed to the freedom-destroying
restrictions of a bigoted and narrow-minded society. But I will
proceed to business. I would prefer to lay the matter before you in
an impersonal way until you pass upon its merits. That is to describe
it as a supposable instance, without--"
"You wish to state a hypothetical case?" said Lawyer Gooch.
"I was going to say that," said the lady, sharply. "Now, suppose there
is a woman who is all soul and heart and aspirations for a complete
existence. This woman has a husband who is far below her in intellect,
in taste--in everything. Bah! he is a brute. He despises literature.
He sneers at the lofty thoughts of the world's great thinkers. He
thinks only of real estate and such sordid things. He is no mate for a
woman with soul. We will say that this unfortunate wife one day meets
with her ideal--a man with brain and heart and force. She loves him.
Although this man feels the thrill of a new-found affinity he is too
noble, too honourable to declare himself. He flies from the presence
of his beloved. She flies after him, trampling, with superb
indifference, upon the fetters with which an unenlightened social
system would bind her. Now, what will a divorce cost? Eliza Ann
Timmins, the poetess of Sycamore Gap, got one for three hundred and
forty dollars. Can I--I mean can this lady I speak of get one that
"Madam," said Lawyer Gooch, "your last two or three sentences delight
me with their intelligence and clearness. Can we not now abandon the
hypothetical and come down to names and business?"
"I should say so," exclaimed the lady, adopting the practical with
admirable readiness. "Thomas R. Billings is the name of the low
brute who stands between the happiness of his legal--his legal, but
not his spiritual--wife and Henry K. Jessup, the noble man whom
nature intended for her mate. I," concluded the client, with an air
of dramatic revelation, "am Mrs. Billings!"
"Gentlemen to see you, sir," shouted Archibald, invading the room
almost at a handspring. Lawyer Gooch arose from his chair.
"Mrs. Billings," he said courteously, "allow me to conduct you into
the adjoining office apartment for a few minutes. I am expecting a
very wealthy old gentleman on business connected with a will. In a
very short while I will join you, and continue our consultation."
With his accustomed chivalrous manner, Lawyer Gooch ushered his
soulful client into the remaining unoccupied room, and came out,
closing the door with circumspection.
The next visitor introduced by Archibald was a thin, nervous,
irritable-looking man of middle age, with a worried and apprehensive
expression of countenance. He carried in one hand a small satchel,
which he set down upon the floor beside the chair which the lawyer
placed for him. His clothing was of good quality, but it was worn
without regard to neatness or style, and appeared to be covered with
the dust of travel.
"You make a specialty of divorce cases," he said, in, an agitated but
"I may say," began Lawyer Gooch, "that my practice has not
"I know you do," interrupted client number three. "You needn't tell
me. I've heard all about you. I have a case to lay before you
without necessarily disclosing any connection that I might have with
"You wish," said Lawyer Gooch, "to state a hypothetical case.
"You may call it that. I am a plain man of business. I will be as
brief as possible. We will first take up hypothetical woman. We will
say she is married uncongenially. In many ways she is a superior
woman. Physically she is considered to be handsome. She is devoted
to what she calls literature--poetry and prose, and such stuff. Her
husband is a plain man in the business walks of life. Their home has
not been happy, although the husband has tried to make it so. Some
time ago a man--a stranger--came to the peaceful town in which
they lived and engaged in some real estate operations. This woman met
him, and became unaccountably infatuated with him. Her attentions
became so open that the man felt the community to be no safe place for
him, so he left it. She abandoned husband and home, and followed him.
She forsook her home, where she was provided with every comfort, to
follow this man who had inspired her with such a strange affection.
Is there anything more to be deplored," concluded the client, in a
trembling voice, "than the wrecking of a home by a woman's
Lawyer Gooch delivered the cautious opinion that there was not.
"This man she has gone to join," resumed the visitor, "is not the man
to make her happy. It is a wild and foolish self-deception that makes
her think he will. Her husband, in spite of their many disagreements,
is the only one capable of dealing with her sensitive and peculiar
nature. But this she does not realize now."
"Would you consider a divorce the logical cure in the case you
present?" asked Lawyer Gooch, who felt that the conversation was
wandering too far from the field of business.
"A divorce!" exclaimed the client, feelingly--almost tearfully.
"No, no--not that. I have read, Mr. Gooch, of many instances where
your sympathy and kindly interest led you to act as a mediator
between estranged husband and wife, and brought them together again.
Let us drop the hypothetical case--I need conceal no longer that it
is I who am the sufferer in this sad affair--the names you shall
have--Thomas R. Billings and wife--and Henry K. Jessup, the man
with whom she is infatuated."
Client number three laid his hand upon Mr. Gooch's arm. Deep emotion
was written upon his careworn face. "For Heaven's sake", he said
fervently, "help me in this hour of trouble. Seek out Mrs. Billings,
and persuade her to abandon this distressing pursuit of her lamentable
folly. Tell her, Mr. Gooch, that her husband is willing to receive
her back to his heart and home--promise her anything that will
induce her to return. I have heard of your success in these matters.
Mrs. Billings cannot be very far away. I am worn out with travel
and weariness. Twice during the pursuit I saw her, but various
circumstances prevented our having an interview. Will you undertake
this mission for me, Mr. Gooch, and earn my everlasting gratitude?"
"It is true," said Lawyer Gooch, frowning slightly at the other's last
words, but immediately calling up an expression of virtuous
benevolence, "that on a number of occasions I have been successful in
persuading couples who sought the severing of their matrimonial bonds
to think better of their rash intentions and return to their homes
reconciled. But I assure you that the work is often exceedingly
difficult. The amount of argument, perseverance, and, if I may be
allowed to say it, eloquence that it requires would astonish you. But
this is a case in which my sympathies would be wholly enlisted. I
feel deeply for you sir, and I would be most happy to see husband and
wife reunited. But my time," concluded the lawyer, looking at his
watch as if suddenly reminded of the fact, "is valuable."
"I am aware of that," said the client, "and if you will take the case
and persuade Mrs. Billings to return home and leave the man alone that
she is following--on that day I will pay you the sum of one thousand
dollars. I have made a little money in real estate during the recent
boom in Susanville, and I will not begrudge that amount."
"Retain your seat for a few moments, please," said Lawyer Gooch,
arising, and again consulting his watch. "I have another client
waiting in an adjoining room whom I had very nearly forgotten. I will
return in the briefest possible space."
The situation was now one that fully satisfied Lawyer Gooch's love of
intricacy and complication. He revelled in cases that presented such
subtle problems and possibilities. It pleased him to think that he
was master of the happiness and fate of the three individuals who sat,
unconscious of one another's presence, within his reach. His old
figure of the ship glided into his mind. But now the figure failed,
for to have filled every compartment of an actual vessel would have
been to endanger her safety; with his compartments full, his ship of
affairs could but sail on to the advantageous port of a fine, fat fee.
The thing for him to do, of course, was to wring the best bargain he
could from some one of his anxious cargo.
First he called to the office boy: "Lock the outer door, Archibald,
and admit no one." Then he moved, with long, silent strides into the
room in which client number one waited. That gentleman sat, patiently
scanning the pictures in the magazine, with a cigar in his mouth and
his feet upon a table.
"Well," he remarked, cheerfully, as the lawyer entered, "have you made
up your mind? Does five hundred dollars go for getting the fair lady
"You mean that as a retainer?" asked Lawyer Gooch, softly
"Hey? No; for the whole job. It's enough, ain't it?"
"My fee," said Lawyer Gooch, "would be one thousand five hundred
dollars. Five hundred dollars down, and the remainder upon issuance
of the divorce."
A loud whistle came from client number one. His feet descended to the
"Guess we can't close the deal," he said, arising, "I cleaned up five
hundred dollars in a little real estate dicker down in Susanville.
I'd do anything I could to free the lady, but it out-sizes my pile."
"Could you stand one thousand two hundred dollars?" asked the lawyer,
"Five hundred is my limit, I tell you. Guess I'll have to hunt up a
cheaper lawyer." The client put on his hat.
"Out this way, please," said Lawyer Gooch, opening the door that led
into the hallway.
As the gentleman flowed out of the compartment and down the stairs,
Lawyer Gooch smiled to himself. "Exit Mr. Jessup," he murmured, as he
fingered the Henry Clay tuft of hair at his ear. "And now for the
forsaken husband." He returned to the middle office, and assumed a
"I understand," he said to client number three, "that you agree to pay
one thousand dollars if I bring about, or am instrumental in bringing
about, the return of Mrs. Billings to her home, and her abandonment of
her infatuated pursuit of the man for whom she has conceived such a
violent fancy. Also that the case is now unreservedly in my hands on
that basis. Is that correct?"
"Entirely", said the other, eagerly. "And I can produce the cash any
time at two hours' notice."
Lawyer Gooch stood up at his full height. His thin figure seemed to
expand. His thumbs sought the arm-holes of his vest. Upon his face
was a look of sympathetic benignity that he always wore during such
"Then, sir," he said, in kindly tones, "I think I can promise you an
early relief from your troubles. I have that much confidence in my
powers of argument and persuasion, in the natural impulses of the
human heart toward good, and in the strong influence of a husband's
unfaltering love. Mrs. Billings, sir, is here--in that room--" the
lawyer's long arm pointed to the door. "I will call her in at once;
and our united pleadings--"
Lawyer Gooch paused, for client number three had leaped from his chair
as if propelled by steel springs, and clutched his satchel.
"What the devil," he exclaimed, harshly, "do you mean? That woman in
there! I thought I shook her off forty miles back."
He ran to the open window, looked out below, and threw one leg over
"Stop!" cried Lawyer Gooch, in amazement. "What would you do? Come,
Mr. Billings, and face your erring but innocent wife. Our combined
entreaties cannot fail to--"
"Billings!" shouted the now thoroughly moved client. "I'll Billings
you, you old idiot!"
Turning, he hurled his satchel with fury at the lawyer's head. It
struck that astounded peacemaker between the eyes, causing him to
stagger backward a pace or two. When Lawyer Gooch recovered his wits
he saw that his client had disappeared. Rushing to the window, he
leaned out, and saw the recreant gathering himself up from the top of
a shed upon which he had dropped from the second-story window.
Without stopping to collect his hat he then plunged downward the
remaining ten feet to the alley, up which he flew with prodigious
celerity until the surrounding building swallowed him up from view.
Lawyer Gooch passed his hand tremblingly across his brow. It was a
habitual act with him, serving to clear his thoughts. Perhaps also it
now seemed to soothe the spot where a very hard alligator-hide satchel
The satchel lay upon the floor, wide open, with its contents spilled
about. Mechanically, Lawyer Gooch stooped to gather up the articles.
The first was a collar; and the omniscient eye of the man of law
perceived, wonderingly, the initials H. K. J. marked upon it. Then
came a comb, a brush, a folded map, and a piece of soap. Lastly, a
handful of old business letters, addressed--every one of them--to
"Henry K. Jessup, Esq."
Lawyer Gooch closed the satchel, and set it upon the table. He
hesitated for a moment, and then put on his hat and walked into the
office boy's anteroom.
"Archibald," he said mildly, as he opened the hall door, "I am going
around to the Supreme Court rooms. In five minutes you may step into
the inner office, and inform the lady who is waiting there that"--
here Lawyer Gooch made use of the vernacular--"that there's nothing
The New York _Enterprise_ sent H. B. Calloway as special correspondent
to the Russo-Japanese-Portsmouth war.
For two months Calloway hung about Yokohama and Tokio, shaking dice
with the other correspondents for drinks of 'rickshaws--oh, no,
that's something to ride in; anyhow, he wasn't earning the salary
that his paper was paying him. But that was not Calloway's fault.
The little brown men who held the strings of Fate between their
fingers were not ready for the readers of the _Enterprise_ to season
their breakfast bacon and eggs with the battles of the descendants of
But soon the column of correspondents that were to go out with the
First Army tightened their field-glass belts and went down to the
Yalu with Kuroki. Calloway was one of these.
Now, this is no history of the battle of the Yalu River. That has
been told in detail by the correspondents who gazed at the shrapnel
smoke rings from a distance of three miles. But, for justice's sake,
let it be understood that the Japanese commander prohibited a nearer
Calloway's feat was accomplished before the battle. What he did was
to furnish the _Enterprise_ with the biggest beat of the war. That
paper published exclusively and in detail the news of the attack on
the lines of the Russian General on the same day that it was made.
No other paper printed a word about it for two days afterward, except
a London paper, whose account was absolutely incorrect and untrue.
Calloway did this in face of the fact that General Kuroki was making
his moves and laying his plans with the profoundest secrecy as far
as the world outside his camps was concerned. The correspondents
were forbidden to send out any news whatever of his plans; and every
message that was allowed on the wires was censored with rigid
The correspondent for the London paper handed in a cablegram
describing Kuroki's plans; but as it was wrong from beginning to end
the censor grinned and let it go through.
So, there they were--Kuroki on one side of the Yalu with forty-two
thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry, and one hundred and
twenty-four guns. On the other side, Zassulitch waited for him with
only twenty-three thousand men, and with a long stretch of river to
guard. And Calloway had got hold of some important inside information
that he knew would bring the _Enterprise_ staff around a cablegram as
thick as flies around a Park Row lemonade stand. If he could only get
that message past the censor--the new censor who had arrived and
taken his post that day!
Calloway did the obviously proper thing. He lit his pipe and sat down
on a gun carriage to think it over. And there we must leave him; for
the rest of the story belongs to Vesey, a sixteen-dollar-a-week
reporter on the _Enterprise_.
Calloway's cablegram was handed to the managing editor at four
o'clock in the afternoon. He read it three times; and then drew a
pocket mirror from a pigeon-hole in his desk, and looked at his
reflection carefully. Then he went over to the desk of Boyd, his
assistant (he usually called Boyd when he wanted him), and laid the
cablegram before him.
"It's from Calloway," he said. "See what you make of it."
The message was dated at Wi-ju, and these were the words of it:
Foregone preconcerted rash witching goes muffled rumour mine dark
silent unfortunate richmond existing great hotly brute select
mooted parlous beggars ye angel incontrovertible.
Boyd read it twice.
"It's either a cipher or a sunstroke," said he.
"Ever hear of anything like a code in the office--a secret code?"
asked the m. e., who had held his desk for only two years. Managing
editors come and go.
"None except the vernacular that the lady specials write in," said
Boyd. "Couldn't be an acrostic, could it?"
"I thought of that," said the m. e., "but the beginning letters
contain only four vowels. It must be a code of some sort."
"Try em in groups," suggested Boyd. "Let's see--'Rash witching
goes'--not with me it doesn't. 'Muffled rumour mine'--must
have an underground wire. 'Dark silent unfortunate richmond'--no
reason why he should knock that town so hard. 'Existing great
hotly'--no it doesn't pan out. I'll call Scott."
The city editor came in a hurry, and tried his luck. A city editor
must know something about everything; so Scott knew a little about
"It may be what is called an inverted alphabet cipher," said he.
"I'll try that. 'R' seems to be the oftenest used initial letter,
with the exception of 'm.' Assuming 'r' to mean 'e', the most
frequently used vowel, we transpose the letters--so."
Scott worked rapidly with his pencil for two minutes; and then showed
the first word according to his reading--the word "Scejtzez."
"Great!" cried Boyd. "It's a charade. My first is a Russian
general. Go on, Scott."
"No, that won't work," said the city editor. "It's undoubtedly a
code. It's impossible to read it without the key. Has the office
ever used a cipher code?"
"Just what I was asking," said the m.e. "Hustle everybody up that
ought to know. We must get at it some way. Calloway has evidently
got hold of something big, and the censor has put the screws on, or
he wouldn't have cabled in a lot of chop suey like this."
Throughout the office of the _Enterprise_ a dragnet was sent, hauling
in such members of the staff as would be likely to know of a code,
past or present, by reason of their wisdom, information, natural
intelligence, or length of servitude. They got together in a group
in the city room, with the m. e. in the centre. No one had heard
of a code. All began to explain to the head investigator that
newspapers never use a code, anyhow--that is, a cipher code. Of
course the Associated Press stuff is a sort of code--an abbreviation,
The m. e. knew all that, and said so. He asked each man how long he
had worked on the paper. Not one of them had drawn pay from an
_Enterprise_ envelope for longer than six years. Calloway had been on
the paper twelve years.
"Try old Heffelbauer," said the m. e. "He was here when Park Row was
a potato patch."
Heffelbauer was an institution. He was half janitor, half handy-man
about the office, and half watchman--thus becoming the peer of
thirteen and one-half tailors. Sent for, he came, radiating his
"Heffelbauer," said the m. e., "did you ever hear of a code belonging
to the office a long time ago--a private code? You know what a code
is, don't you?"
"Yah," said Heffelbauer. "Sure I know vat a code is. Yah, apout
dwelf or fifteen year ago der office had a code. Der reborters in der
city-room haf it here."
"Ah!" said the m. e. "We're getting on the trail now. Where was it
kept, Heffelbauer? What do you know about it?"
"Somedimes," said the retainer, "dey keep it in der little room
behind der library room."
"Can you find it?" asked the m. e. eagerly. "Do you know where it is?"
"Mein Gott!" said Heffelbauer. "How long you dink a code live? Der
reborters call him a maskeet. But von day he butt mit his head der
"Oh, he's talking about a goat," said Boyd. "Get out, Heffelbauer."
Again discomfited, the concerted wit and resource of the _Enterprise_
huddled around Calloway's puzzle, considering its mysterious words
Then Vesey came in.
Vesey was the youngest reporter. He had a thirty-two-inch chest and
wore a number fourteen collar; but his bright Scotch plaid suit gave
him presence and conferred no obscurity upon his whereabouts. He
wore his hat in such a position that people followed him about to see
him take it off, convinced that it must be hung upon a peg driven
into the back of his head. He was never without an immense, knotted,
hard-wood cane with a German-silver tip on its crooked handle. Vesey
was the best photograph hustler in the office. Scott said it was
because no living human being could resist the personal triumph it
was to hand his picture over to Vesey. Vesey always wrote his own
news stories, except the big ones, which were sent to the rewrite
men. Add to this fact that among all the inhabitants, temples, and
groves of the earth nothing existed that could abash Vesey, and his
dim sketch is concluded.
Vesey butted into the circle of cipher readers very much as
Heffelbauer's "code" would have done, and asked what was up. Some
one explained, with the touch of half-familiar condescension that
they always used toward him. Vesey reached out and took the
cablegram from the m. e.'s hand. Under the protection of some
special Providence, he was always doing appalling things like that,
and coming, off unscathed.
"It's a code," said Vesey. "Anybody got the key?"
"The office has no code," said Boyd, reaching for the message. Vesey
held to it.
"Then old Calloway expects us to read it, anyhow," said he. "He's up
a tree, or something, and he's made this up so as to get it by the
censor. It's up to us. Gee! I wish they had sent me, too. Say--we
can't afford to fall down on our end of it. 'Foregone, preconcerted
Vesey sat down on a table corner and began to whistle softly,
frowning at the cablegram.
"Let's have it, please," said the m. e. "We've got to get to work on
"I believe I've got a line on it," said Vesey. "Give me ten
He walked to his desk, threw his hat into a waste-basket, spread out
flat on his chest like a gorgeous lizard, and started his pencil
going. The wit and wisdom of the _Enterprise_ remained in a loose
group, and smiled at one another, nodding their heads toward Vesey.
Then they began to exchange their theories about the cipher.
It took Vesey exactly fifteen minutes. He brought to the m. e. a pad
with the code-key written on it.
"I felt the swing of it as soon as I saw it," said Vesey. "Hurrah for
old Calloway! He's done the Japs and every paper in town that prints
literature instead of news. Take a look at that."
Thus had Vesey set forth the reading of the code:
Foregone - conclusion
Preconcerted - arrangement
Rash - act
Witching - hour of midnight
Goes - without saying
Muffled - report
Rumour - hath it
Mine - host
Dark - horse
Silent - majority
Unfortunate - pedestrians*
Richmond - in the field
Existing - conditions
Great - White Way
Hotly - contested
Brute - force
Select - few
Mooted - question
Parlous - times
Beggars - description
Ye - correspondent
Angel - unawares
Incontrovertible - fact
*Mr. Vesey afterward explained that the logical journalistic
complement of the word "unfortunate" was once the word
"victim." But, since the automobile became so popular, the
correct following word is now "pedestrians." Of course, in
Calloway's code it meant infantry.
"It's simply newspaper English," explained Vesey. "I've been
reporting on the _Enterprise_ long enough to know it by heart. Old
Calloway gives us the cue word, and we use the word that naturally
follows it just as we use 'em in the paper. Read it over, and you'll
see how pat they drop into their places. Now, here's the message he
intended us to get."
Vesey handed out another sheet of paper.
Concluded arrangement to act at hour of midnight
without saying. Report hath it that a large body of
cavalry and an overwhelming force of infantry will be
thrown into the field. Conditions white. Way contested
by only a small force. Question the Times description.
Its correspondent is unaware of the facts.
"Great stuff!" cried Boyd excitedly. "Kuroki crosses the Yalu
to-night and attacks. Oh, we won't do a thing to the sheets that make
up with Addison's essays, real estate transfers, and bowling scores!"
"Mr. Vesey," said the m. e., with his jollying-which-you-should-regard-
as-a-favour manner, "you have cast a serious reflection upon the
literary standards of the paper that employs you. You have also
assisted materially in giving us the biggest 'beat' of the year. I
will let you know in a day or two whether you are to be discharged or
retained at a larger salary. Somebody send Ames to me."
Ames was the king-pin, the snowy-petalled Marguerite, the star-bright
looloo of the rewrite men. He saw attempted murder in the pains of
green-apple colic, cyclones in the summer zephyr, lost children in
every top-spinning urchin, an uprising of the down-trodden masses in
every hurling of a derelict potato at a passing automobile. When not
rewriting, Ames sat on the porch of his Brooklyn villa playing
checkers with his ten-year-old son.
Ames and the "war editor" shut themselves in a room. There was a map
in there stuck full of little pins that represented armies and
divisions. Their fingers had been itching for days to move those
pins along the crooked line of the Yalu. They did so now; and in
words of fire Ames translated Calloway's brief message into a front
page masterpiece that set the world talking. He told of the secret
councils of the Japanese officers; gave Kuroki's flaming speeches in
full; counted the cavalry and infantry to a man and a horse;
described the quick and silent building, of the bridge at Suikauchen,
across which the Mikado's legions were hurled upon the surprised
Zassulitch, whose troops were widely scattered along the river. And
the battle!--well, you know what Ames can do with a battle if you give
him just one smell of smoke for a foundation. And in the same story,
with seemingly supernatural knowledge, he gleefully scored the most
profound and ponderous paper in England for the false and misleading
account of the intended movements of the Japanese First Army printed
in its issue of _the same date_.
Only one error was made; and that was the fault of the cable operator
at Wi-ju. Calloway pointed it out after he came back. The word
"great" in his code should have been "gage," and its complemental
words "of battle." But it went to Ames "conditions white," and of
course he took that to mean snow. His description of the Japanese
army struggling through the snowstorm, blinded by the whirling flakes,
was thrillingly vivid. The artists turned out some effective
illustrations that made a hit as pictures of the artillery dragging
their guns through the drifts. But, as the attack was made on the
first day of May, "conditions white" excited some amusement. But it
in made no difference to the _Enterprise_, anyway.
It was wonderful. And Calloway was wonderful in having made the new
censor believe that his jargon of words meant no more than a
complaint of the dearth of news and a petition for more expense
money. And Vesey was wonderful. And most wonderful of all are
words, and how they make friends one with another, being oft
associated, until not even obituary notices them do part.
On the second day following, the city editor halted at Vesey's desk
where the reporter was writing the story of a man who had broken his
leg by falling into a coal-hole--Ames having failed to find a
murder motive in it.
"The old man says your salary is to be raised to twenty a week," said
"All right," said Vesey. "Every little helps. Say--Mr. Scott,
which would you say--'We can state without fear of successful
contradiction,' or, 'On the whole it can be safely asserted'?"
A MATTER OF MEAN ELEVATION
One winter the Alcazar Opera Company of New Orleans made a speculative
trip along the Mexican, Central American and South American coasts.
The venture proved a most successful one. The music-loving,
impressionable Spanish-Americans deluged the company with dollars and
"vivas." The manager waxed plump and amiable. But for the
prohibitive climate he would have put forth the distinctive flower of
his prosperity--the overcoat of fur, braided, frogged and opulent.
Almost was he persuaded to raise the salaries of his company. But
with a mighty effort he conquered the impulse toward such an
unprofitable effervescence of joy.
At Macuto, on the coast of Venezuela, the company scored its greatest
success. Imagine Coney Island translated into Spanish and you will
comprehend Macuto. The fashionable season is from November to March.
Down from La Guayra and Caracas and Valencia and other interior towns
flock the people for their holiday season. There are bathing and
fiestas and bull fights and scandal. And then the people have a
passion for music that the bands in the plaza and on the sea beach
stir but do not satisfy. The coming of the Alcazar Opera Company
aroused the utmost ardour and zeal among the pleasure seekers.
The illustrious Guzman Blanco, President and Dictator of Venezuela,
sojourned in Macuto with his court for the season. That potent ruler
--who himself paid a subsidy of 40,000 pesos each year to grand opera
in Caracas--ordered one of the Government warehouses to be cleared
for a temporary theatre. A stage was quickly constructed and rough
wooden benches made for the audience. Private boxes were added for
the use of the President and the notables of the army and Government.
The company remained in Macuto for two weeks. Each performance filled
the house as closely as it could be packed. Then the music-mad people
fought for room in the open doors and windows, and crowded about,
hundreds deep, on the outside. Those audiences formed a brilliantly
diversified patch of colour. The hue of their faces ranged from the
clear olive of the pure-blood Spaniards down through the yellow and
brown shades of the Mestizos to the coal-black Carib and the Jamaica
Negro. Scattered among them were little groups of Indians with faces
like stone idols, wrapped in gaudy fibre-woven blankets--Indians
down from the mountain states of Zamora and Los Andes and Miranda to
trade their gold dust in the coast towns.
The spell cast upon these denizens of the interior fastnesses was
remarkable. They sat in petrified ecstasy, conspicuous among the
excitable Macutians, who wildly strove with tongue and hand to give
evidence of their delight. Only once did the sombre rapture of these
aboriginals find expression. During the rendition of "Faust," Guzman
Blanco, extravagantly pleased by the "Jewel Song," cast upon the stage
a purse of gold pieces. Other distinguished citizens followed his lead
to the extent of whatever loose coin they had convenient, while some
of the fair and fashionable señoras were moved, in imitation, to
fling a jewel or a ring or two at the feet of the Marguerite--who
was, according to the bills, Mlle. Nina Giraud. Then, from different
parts of the house rose sundry of the stolid hillmen and cast upon the
stage little brown and dun bags that fell with soft "thumps" and did
not rebound. It was, no doubt, pleasure at the tribute to her art
that caused Mlle. Giraud's eyes to shine so brightly when she opened
these little deerskin bags in her dressing room and found them to
contain pure gold dust. If so, the pleasure was rightly hers, for her
voice in song, pure, strong and thrilling with the feeling of the
emotional artist, deserved the tribute that it earned.
But the triumph of the Alcazar Opera Company is not the theme--it
but leans upon and colours it. There happened in Macuto a tragic
thing, an unsolvable mystery, that sobered for a time the gaiety of
the happy season.
One evening between the short twilight and the time when she should
have whirled upon the stage in the red and black of the ardent Carmen,
Mlle. Nina Giraud disappeared from the sight and ken of 6,000 pairs
of eyes and as many minds in Macuto. There was the usual turmoil and
hurrying to seek her. Messengers flew to the little French-kept hotel
where she stayed; others of the company hastened here or there where
she might be lingering in some tienda or unduly prolonging her bath
upon the beach. All search was fruitless. Mademoiselle had
Half an hour passed and she did not appear. The dictator, unused to
the caprices of prime donne, became impatient. He sent an aide from
his box to say to the manager that if the curtain did not at once rise
he would immediately hale the entire company to the calabosa, though
it would desolate his heart, indeed, to be compelled to such an act.
Birds in Macuto could be made to sing.
The manager abandoned hope for the time of Mlle. Giraud. A member of
the chorus, who had dreamed hopelessly for years of the blessed
opportunity, quickly Carmenized herself and the opera went on.
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