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