THE LOST ROAD
THE NOVELS AND STORIES OF
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
THE LOST ROAD THE MIRACLE OF LAS PALMAS EVIL TO HIM WHO EVIL THINKS THE MEN OF ZANZIBAR THE LONG ARM THE GOD OF COINCIDENCE THE BURIED TREASURE OF COBRE THE BOY SCOUT SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE THE DESERTER
AN INTRODUCTION BY
JOHN T. McCUTCHEON
WITH DAVIS IN VERA CRUZ, BRUSSELS, AND SALONIKA
In common with many others who have been with Richard Harding Davis as correspondents, I find it difficult to realize that he has covered his last story and that he will not be seen again with the men who follow the war game, rushing to distant places upon which the spotlight of news interest suddenly centres.
It seems a sort of bitter irony that he who had covered so many big events of world importance in the past twenty years should be abruptly torn away in the midst of the greatest event of them all, while the story is still unfinished and its outcome undetermined. If there is a compensating thought, it lies in the reflection that he had a life of almost unparalleled fulness, crowded to the brim, up to the last moment, with those experiences and achievements which he particularly aspired to have. He left while the tide was at its flood, and while he still held supreme his place as the best reporter in his country. He escaped the bitterness of seeing the ebb set in, when the youth to which he clung had slipped away, and when he would have to sit impatient in the audience, while younger men were in the thick of great, world-stirring dramas on the stage.
This would have been a real tragedy in "Dick" Davis's case, for, while his body would have aged, it is doubtful if his spirit ever would have lost its youthful freshness or boyish enthusiasm.
It was my privilege to see a good deal of Davis in the last two years.
He arrived in Vera Cruz among the first of the sixty or seventy correspondents who flocked to that news centre when the situation was so full of sensational possibilities. It was a time when the American newspaper-reading public was eager for thrills, and the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the correspondents in Vera Cruz were tried to the uttermost to supply the demand.
In the face of the fiercest competition it fell to Davis's lot to land the biggest story of those days of marking time.
The story "broke" when it became known that Davis, Medill McCormick, and Frederick Palmer had gone through the Mexican lines in an effort to reach Mexico City. Davis and McCormick, with letters to the Brazilian and British ministers, got through and reached the capital on the strength of those letters, but Palmer, having only an American passport, was turned back.
After an ominous silence which furnished American newspapers with a lively period of suspense, the two men returned safely with wonderful stories of their experiences while under arrest in the hands of the Mexican authorities. McCormick, in recently speaking of Davis at that time, said that, "as a correspondent in difficult and dangerous situations, he was incomparable—cheerful, ingenious, and undiscouraged. When the time came to choose between safety and leaving his companion he stuck by his fellow captive even though, as they both said, a firing-squad and a blank wall were by no means a remote possibility."
This Mexico City adventure was a spectacular achievement which gave Davis and McCormick a distinction which no other correspondents of all the ambitious and able corps had managed to attain.
Davis usually "hunted" alone. He depended entirely upon his own ingenuity and wonderful instinct for news situations. He had the energy and enthusiasm of a beginner, with the experience and training of a veteran. His interest in things remained as keen as though he had not been years at a game which often leaves a man jaded and blase. His acquaintanceship in the American army and navy was wide, and for this reason, as well as for the prestige which his fame and position as a national character gave him, he found it easy to establish valuable connections in the channels from which news emanates. And yet, in spite of the fact that he was "on his own" instead of having a working partnership with other men, he was generous in helping at times when he was able to do so.
Davis was a conspicuous figure in Vera Cruz, as he inevitably had been in all such situations. Wherever he went, he was pointed out. His distinction of appearance, together with a distinction in dress, which, whether from habit or policy, was a valuable asset in his work, made him a marked man. He dressed and looked the "war correspondent," such a one as he would describe in one of his stories. He fulfilled the popular ideal of what a member of that fascinating profession should look like. His code of life and habits was as fixed as that of the Briton who takes his habits and customs and games and tea wherever he goes, no matter how benighted or remote the spot may be.
He was just as loyal to his code as is the Briton. He carried his bath-tub, his immaculate linen, his evening clothes, his war equipment—in which he had the pride of a connoisseur—wherever he went, and, what is more, he had the courage to use the evening clothes at times when their use was conspicuous. He was the only man who wore a dinner coat in Vera Cruz, and each night, at his particular table in the crowded "Portales," at the Hotel Diligencia, he was to be seen, as fresh and clean as though he were in a New York or London restaurant.
Each day he was up early to take the train out to the "gap," across which came arrivals from Mexico City. Sometimes a good "story" would come down, as when the long-heralded and long-expected arrival of Consul Silliman gave a first-page "feature" to all the American papers.
In the afternoon he would play water polo over at the navy aviation camp, and always at a certain time of the day his "striker" would bring him his horse and for an hour or more he would ride out along the beach roads within the American lines. After the first few days it was difficult to extract real thrills from the Vera Cruz situation, but we used to ride out to El Tejar with the cavalry patrol and imagine that we might be fired on at some point in the long ride through unoccupied territory; or else go out to the "front," at Legarto, where a little American force occupied a sun-baked row of freight-cars, surrounded by malarial swamps. From the top of the railroad water-tank, we could look across to the Mexican outposts a mile or so away. It was not very exciting, and what thrills we got lay chiefly in our imagination.
Before my acquaintanceship with Davis at Vera Cruz I had not known him well. Our trails didn't cross while I was in Japan in the Japanese-Russian War, and in the Transvaal I missed him by a few days, but in Vera Cruz I had many enjoyable opportunities of becoming well acquainted with him.
The privilege was a pleasant one, for it served to dispel a preconceived and not an entirely favorable impression of his character. For years I had heard stories about Richard Harding Davis—stories which emphasized an egotism and self-assertiveness which, if they ever existed, had happily ceased to be obtrusive by the time I got to know him.
He was a different Davis from the Davis whom I had expected to find; and I can imagine no more charming and delightful companion than he was in Vera Cruz. There was no evidence of those qualities which I feared to find, and his attitude was one of unfailing kindness, considerateness, and generosity.
In the many talks I had with him, I was always struck by his evident devotion to a fixed code of personal conduct. In his writings he was the interpreter of chivalrous, well-bred youth, and his heroes were young, clean-thinking college men, heroic big-game hunters, war correspondents, and idealized men about town, who always did the noble thing, disdaining the unworthy in act or motive. It seemed to me that he was modelling his own life, perhaps unconsciously, after the favored types which his imagination had created for his stories. In a certain sense he was living a life of make-believe, wherein he was the hero of the story, and in which he was bound by his ideals always to act as he would have the hero of his story act. It was a quality which only one could have who had preserved a fresh youthfulness of outlook in spite of the hardening processes of maturity.
His power of observation was extraordinarily keen, and he not only had the rare gift of sensing the vital elements of a situation, but also had, to an unrivalled degree, the ability to describe them vividly. I don't know how many of those men at Verz Cruz tried to describe the kaleidoscopic life of the city during the American occupation, but I know that Davis's story was far and away the most faithful and satisfying picture. The story was photographic, even to the sounds and smells.
The last I saw of him in Vera Cruz was when, on the Utah, he steamed past the flagship Wyoming, upon which I was quartered, and started for New York. The Battenberg cup race had just been rowed, and the Utah and Florida crews had tied. As the Utah was sailing immediately after the race, there was no time in which to row off the tie. So it was decided that the names of both ships should be engraved on the cup, and that the Florida crew should defend the title against a challenging crew from the British Admiral Craddock's flagship.
By the end of June, the public interest in Vera Cruz had waned, and the corps of correspondents dwindled until there were only a few left.
Frederick Palmer and I went up to join Carranza and Villa, and on the 26th of July we were in Monterey waiting to start with the triumphal march of Carranza's army toward Mexico City. There was no sign of serious trouble abroad. That night ominous telegrams came, and at ten o'clock on the following morning we were on a train headed for the States.
Palmer and Davis caught the Lusitania, sailing August 4 from New York, and I followed on the Saint Paul, leaving three days later. On the 17th of August I reached Brussels, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to find Davis already there. He was at the Palace Hotel, where a number of American and English correspondents were quartered.
Things moved quickly. On the 19th Irvin Cobb, Will Irwin, Arno Dosch, and I were caught between the Belgian and German lines in Louvain; our retreat to Brussels was cut, and for three days, while the vast German army moved through the city, we were detained. Then, the army having passed, we were allowed to go back to the capital.
In the meantime Davis was in Brussels. The Germans reached the outskirts of the city on the morning of the 20th, and the correspondents who had remained in Brussels were feverishly writing despatches describing the imminent fall of the city. One of them, Harry Hansen, of the Chicago Daily News, tells the following story, which I give in his words:
"While we were writing," says Hansen, "Richard Harding Davis walked into the writing-room of the Palace Hotel with a bunch of manuscript in his hand. With an amused expression he surveyed the three correspondents filling white paper.
"'I say, men,' said Davis, 'do you know when the next train leaves?'
"'There is one at three o'clock,' said a correspondent, looking up.
"'That looks like our only chance to get a story out,' said Davis. 'Well, we'll trust to that.'
"The story was the German invasion of Brussels, and the train mentioned was considered the forlorn hope of the correspondents to connect with the outside world—that is, every correspondent thought it to be the other man's hope. Secretly each had prepared to outwit the other, and secretly Davis had already sent his story to Ostend. He meant to emulate Archibald Forbes, who despatched a courier with his real manuscript, and next day publicly dropped a bulky package in the mail-bag.
"Davis had sensed the news in the occupation of Brussels long before it happened. With dawn he went out to the Louvain road, where the German army stood, prepared to smash the capital if negotiations failed. His observant eye took in all the details. Before noon he had written a comprehensive sketch of the occupation, and when word was received that it was under way, he trusted his copy to an old Flemish woman, who spoke not a word of English, and saw her safely on board the train that pulled out under Belgian auspices for Ostend."
With passes which the German commandant in Brussels gave us the correspondents immediately started out to see how far those passes would carry us. A number of us left on the afternoon of August 23 for Waterloo, where it was expected that the great clash between the German and the Anglo-French forces would occur. We had planned to be back the same evening, and went prepared only for an afternoon's drive in a couple of hired street carriages. It was seven weeks before we again saw Brussels.
On the following day (August 24) Davis started for Mons. He wore the khaki uniform which he had worn in many campaigns. Across his breast was a narrow bar of silk ribbon indicating the campaigns in which he had served as a correspondent. He so much resembled a British officer that he was arrested as a British derelict and was informed that he would be shot at once.
He escaped only by offering to walk to Brand Whitlock, in Brussels, reporting to each officer he met on the way. His plan was approved, and as a hostage on parole he appeared before the American minister, who quickly established his identity as an American of good standing, to the satisfaction of the Germans.
In the following few months our trails were widely separated. I read of his arrest by German officers on the road to Mons; later I read the story of his departure from Brussels by train to Holland—a trip which carried him through Louvain while the town still was burning; and still later I read that he was with the few lucky men who were in Rheims during one of the early bombardments that damaged the cathedral. By amazing luck, combined with a natural news sense which drew him instinctively to critical places at the psychological moment, he had been a witness of the two most widely featured stories of the early weeks of the war.
Arrested by the Germans in Belgium, and later by the French in France, he was convinced that the restrictions on correspondents were too great to permit of good work.
So he left the European war zone with the widely quoted remark: "The day of the war correspondent is over."
And yet I was not surprised when, one evening, late in November of last year, he suddenly walked into the room in Salonika where William G. Shepherd, of the United Press, "Jimmy Hare," the veteran war photographer, and I had established ourselves several weeks before.
The hotel was jammed, and the city, with a normal capacity of about one hundred and seventy-five thousand, was struggling to accommodate at least a hundred thousand more. There was not a room to be had in any of the better hotels, and for several days we lodged Davis in our room, a vast chamber which formerly had been the main dining-room of the establishment, and which now was converted into a bedroom. There was room for a dozen men, if necessary, and whenever stranded Americans arrived and could find no hotel accommodations we simply rigged up emergency cots for their temporary use.
The weather in Salonika at this time, late November, was penetratingly cold. In the mornings the steam coils struggled feebly to dispel the chill in the room.
Early in the morning after Davis had arrived, we were aroused by the sound of violent splashing, accompanied by shuddering gasps, and we looked out from the snug warmth of our beds to see Davis standing in his portable bath-tub and drenching himself with ice-cold water. As an exhibition of courageous devotion to an established custom of life it was admirable, but I'm not sure that it was prudent.
For some reason, perhaps a defective circulation or a weakened heart, his system failed to react from these cold-water baths. All through the days he complained of feeling chilled. He never seemed to get thoroughly warmed, and of us all he was the one who suffered most keenly from the cold. It was all the more surprising, for his appearance was always that of a man in the pink of athletic fitness—ruddy-faced, clear-eyed, and full of tireless energy.
On one occasion we returned from the French front in Serbia to Salonika in a box car lighted only by candles, bitterly cold, and frightfully exhausting. We were seven hours in travelling fifty-five miles, and we arrived at our destination at three o'clock in the morning. Several of the men contracted desperate colds, which clung to them for weeks. Davis was chilled through, and said that of all the cold he had ever experienced that which swept across the Macedonian plain from the Balkan highlands was the most penetrating. Even his heavy clothing could not afford him adequate protection.
When he was settled in his own room in our hotel he installed an oil-stove which burned beside him as he sat at his desk and wrote his stories. The room was like an oven, but even then he still complained of the cold.
When he left he gave us the stove, and when we left, some time later, it was presented to one of our doctor friends out in a British hospital, where I'm sure it is doing its best to thaw the Balkan chill out of sick and wounded soldiers.
Davis was always up early, and his energy and interest were as keen as a boy's. We had our meals together, sometimes in the crowded and rather smart Bastasini's, but more often in the maelstrom of humanity that nightly packed the Olympos Palace restaurant. Davis, Shepherd, Hare, and I, with sometimes Mr. and Mrs. John Bass, made up these parties, which, for a period of about two weeks or so, were the most enjoyable daily events of our lives.
Under the glaring lights of the restaurant, and surrounded by British, French, Greek, and Serbian officers, German, Austrian, and Bulgarian civilians, with a sprinkling of American, English, and Scotch nurses and doctors, packed so solidly in the huge, high-ceilinged room that the waiters could barely pick their way among the tables, we hung for hours over our dinners, and left only when the landlord and his Austrian wife counted the day's receipts and paid the waiters at the end of the evening.
One could not imagine a more charming and delightful companion than Davis during these days. While he always asserted that he could not make a speech, and was terrified at the thought of standing up at a banquet-table, yet, sitting at a dinner-table with a few friends who were only too eager to listen rather than to talk, his stories, covering personal experiences in all parts of the world, were intensely vivid, with that remarkable "holding" quality of description which characterizes his writings.
He brought his own bread—a coarse, brown sort, which he preferred to the better white bread—and with it he ate great quantities of butter. As we sat down at the table his first demand was for "Mastika," a peculiar Greek drink distilled from mastic gum, and his second demand invariably was "Du beurre!" with the "r's" as silent as the stars; and if it failed to come at once the waiter was made to feel the enormity of his tardiness.
The reminiscences ranged from his early newspaper days in Philadelphia, and skipping from Manchuria to Cuba and Central America, to his early Sun days under Arthur Brisbane; they ranged through an endless variety of personal experiences which very nearly covered the whole course of American history in the past twenty years.
Perhaps to him it was pleasant to go over his remarkable adventures, but it could not have been half as pleasant as it was to hear them, told as they were with a keenness of description and brilliancy of humorous comment that made them gems of narrative.
At times, in our work, we all tried our hands at describing the Salonika of those early days of the Allied occupation, for it was really what one widely travelled British officer called it—"the most amazingly interesting situation I've ever seen"—-but Davis's description was far and away the best, just as his description of Vera Cruz was the best, and his wonderful story of the entry of the German army into Brussels was matchless as one of the great pieces of reporting in the present war.
In thinking of Davis, I shall always remember him for the delightful qualities which he showed in Salonika. He was unfailingly considerate and thoughtful. Through his narratives one could see the pride which he took in the width and breadth of his personal relation to the great events of the past twenty years. His vast scope of experiences and equally wide acquaintanceship with the big figures of our time, were amazing, and it was equally amazing that one of such a rich and interesting history could tell his stories in such a simple way that the personal element was never obtrusive.
When he left Salonika he endeavored to obtain permission from the British staff to visit Moudros, but, failing in this, he booked his passage on a crowded little Greek steamer, where the only obtainable accommodation was a lounge in the dining saloon. We gave him a farewell dinner, at which the American consul and his family, with all the other Americans then in Salonika, were present, and after the dinner we rowed out to his ship and saw him very uncomfortably installed for his voyage.
He came down the sea ladder and waved his hand as we rowed away. That was the last I saw of Richard Harding Davis.
JOHN T. MCCUTCHEON.
THE LOST ROAD
During the war with Spain, Colton Lee came into the service as a volunteer. For a young man, he always had taken life almost too seriously, and when, after the campaign in Cuba, he elected to make soldiering his profession, the seriousness with which he attacked his new work surprised no one. Finding they had lost him forever, his former intimates were bored, but his colonel was enthusiastic, and the men of his troop not only loved, but respected him.
From the start he determined in his new life women should have no part—a determination that puzzled no one so much as the women, for to Lee no woman, old or young, had found cause to be unfriendly. But he had read that the army is a jealous mistress who brooks no rival, that "red lips tarnish the scabbard steel," that "he travels the fastest who travels alone."
So, when white hands beckoned and pretty eyes signalled, he did not look. For five years, until just before he sailed for his three years of duty in the Philippines, he succeeded not only in not looking, but in building up for himself such a fine reputation as a woman-hater that all women were crazy about him. Had he not been ordered to Agawamsett that fact would not have affected him. But at the Officers' School he had indulged in hard study rather than in hard riding, had overworked, had brought back his Cuban fever, and was in poor shape to face the tropics. So, for two months before the transport was to sail, they ordered him to Cape Cod to fill his lungs with the bracing air of a New England autumn.
He selected Agawamsett, because, when at Harvard, it was there he had spent his summer vacations, and he knew he would find sailboats and tennis and, through the pine woods back of the little whaling village, many miles of untravelled roads. He promised himself that over these he would gallop an imaginary troop in route marches, would manoeuvre it against possible ambush, and, in combat patrols, ground scouts, and cossack outposts, charge with it "as foragers." But he did none of these things. For at Agawamsett he met Frances Gardner, and his experience with her was so disastrous that, in his determination to avoid all women, he was convinced he was right.
When later he reached Manila he vowed no other woman would ever again find a place in his thoughts. No other woman did. Not because he had the strength to keep his vow, but because he so continually thought of Frances Gardner that no other woman had a chance.
Miss Gardner was a remarkable girl. Her charm appealed to all kinds of men, and, unfortunately for Lee, several kinds of men appealed to her. Her fortune and her relations were bound up in the person of a rich aunt with whom she lived, and who, it was understood, some day would leave her all the money in the world. But, in spite of her charm, certainly in spite of the rich aunt, Lee, true to his determination, might not have noticed the girl had not she ridden so extremely well.
It was to the captain of cavalry she first appealed. But even a cavalry captain, whose duty in life is to instruct sixty men in the art of taking the life of as many other men as possible, may turn his head in the direction of a good-looking girl. And when for weeks a man rides at the side of one through pine forests as dim and mysterious as the aisles of a great cathedral, when he guides her across the wet marshes when the sun is setting crimson in the pools and the wind blows salt from the sea, when he loses them both by moonlight in wood-roads where the hoofs of the horses sink silently into dusty pine needles, he thinks more frequently of the girl at his side than of the faithful troopers waiting for him in San Francisco. The girl at his side thought frequently of him.
With the "surface indications" of a young man about to ask her to marry him she was painfully familiar; but this time the possibility was the reverse of painful. What she meant to do about it she did not know, but she did know that she was strangely happy. Between living on as the dependent of a somewhat exacting relative and becoming the full partner of this young stranger, who with men had proved himself so masterful, and who with her was so gentle, there seemed but little choice. But she did not as yet wish to make the choice. She preferred to believe she was not certain. She assured him that before his leave of absence was over she would tell him whether she would remain on duty with the querulous aunt, who had befriended her, or as his wife accompany him to the Philippines.
It was not the answer he wanted; but in her happiness, which was evident to every one, he could not help but take hope. And in the questions she put to him of life in the tropics, of the life of the "officers' ladies," he saw that what was in her mind was a possible life with him, and he was content.
She became to him a wonderful, glorious person, and each day she grew in loveliness. It had been five years of soldiering in Cuba, China, and on the Mexican border since he had talked to a woman with interest, and now in all she said, in all her thoughts and words and delights, he found fresher and stronger reasons for discarding his determination to remain wedded only to the United States Army. He did not need reasons. He was far too much in love to see in any word or act of hers anything that was not fine and beautiful.
In their rides they had one day stumbled upon a long-lost and long-forgotten road through the woods, which she had claimed as their own by right of discovery, and, no matter to what point they set forth each day, they always returned by it. Their way through the woods stretched for miles. It was concealed in a forest of stunted oaks and black pines, with no sign of human habitation, save here and there a clearing now long neglected and alive only with goldenrod. Trunks of trees, moss-grown and crumbling beneath the touch of the ponies' hoofs, lay in their path, and above it the branches of a younger generation had clasped hands. At their approach squirrels raced for shelter, woodcock and partridge shot deeper into the network of vines and saplings, and the click of the steel as the ponies tossed their bits, and their own whispers, alone disturbed the silence.
"It is an enchanted road," said the girl; "or maybe we are enchanted."
"Not I," cried the young man loyally. "I was never so sane, never so sure, never so happy in knowing just what I wanted! If only you could be as sure!"
One day she came to him in high excitement with a book of verse. "He has written a poem," she cried, "about our own woods, about our lost road! Listen" she commanded, and she read to him:
"'They shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ringdove broods, And the badgers roll at ease, There was once a road through the woods.
"'Yet, if you enter the woods Of a summer evening late, When the night air cools on the trout-ringed pools Where the otter whistles his mate (They fear not men in the woods Because they see so few), You will hear the beat of a horse's feet, And the swish of a skirt in the dew, Steadily cantering through The misty solitudes, As though they perfectly knew The old lost road through the woods.... But there is no road through the woods.'"
"I don't like that at all," cried the soldierman. "It's too—too sad—it doesn't give you any encouragement. The way it ends, I mean: 'But there is no road through the woods.' Of course there's a road! For us there always will be. I'm going to make sure. I'm going to buy those woods, and keep the lost road where we can always find it."
"I don't think," said the girl, "that he means a real road."
"I know what he means," cried the lover, "and he's wrong! There is a road, and you and I have found it, and we are going to follow it for always."
The girl shook her head, but her eyes were smiling happily.
The "season" at Agawamsett closed with the tennis tournament, and it was generally conceded fit and proper, from every point of view, that in mixed doubles Lee and Miss Gardner should be partners. Young Stedman, the Boston artist, was the only one who made objection. Up in the sail-loft that he had turned into a studio he was painting a portrait of the lovely Miss Gardner, and he protested that the three days' tournament would sadly interrupt his work. And Frances, who was very much interested in the portrait, was inclined to agree.
But Lee beat down her objections. He was not at all interested in the portrait. He disapproved of it entirely. For the sittings robbed him of Frances during the better part of each morning, and he urged that when he must so soon leave her, between the man who wanted her portrait and the man who wanted her, it would be kind to give her time to the latter.
"But I had no idea," protested Frances, "he would take so long. He told me he'd finish it in three sittings. But he's so critical of his own work that he goes over it again and again. He says that I am a most difficult subject, but that I inspire him. And he says, if I will only give him time, he believes this will be the best thing he has done."
"That's an awful thought," said the cavalry officer.
"You don't like him," reproved Miss Gardner. "He is always very polite to you."
"He's polite to everybody," said Lee; "that's why I don't like him. He's not a real artist. He's a courtier. God gave him a talent, and he makes a mean use of it. Uses it to flatter people. He's like these long-haired violinists who play anything you ask them to in the lobster palaces."
Miss Gardner looked away from him. Her color was high and her eyes very bright.
"I think," she said steadily, "that Mr. Stedman is a great artist, and some day all the world will think so, too!"
Lee made no answer. Not because he disagreed with her estimate of Mr. Stedman's genius-he made no pretense of being an art critic—but because her vehement admiration had filled him with sudden panic. He was not jealous. For that he was far too humble. Indeed, he thought himself so utterly unworthy of Frances Gardner that the fact that to him she might prefer some one else was in no way a surprise. He only knew that if she should prefer some one else not all his troop horses nor all his men could put Humpty Dumpty back again.
But if, in regard to Mr. Stedman, Miss Gardner had for a moment been at odds with the man who loved her, she made up for it the day following on the tennis court. There she was in accord with him in heart, soul, and body, and her sharp "Well played, partner!" thrilled him like one of his own bugle calls. For two days against visiting and local teams they fought their way through the tournament, and the struggle with her at his side filled Lee with a great happiness. Not that the championship of Agawamsett counted greatly to one exiled for three years to live among the Moros. He wanted to win because she wanted to win. But his happiness came in doing something in common with her, in helping her and in having her help him, in being, if only in play, if only for three days, her "partner."
After they won they walked home together, each swinging a fat, heavy loving-cup. On each was engraved:
"Mixed doubles, Agawamsett, 1910."
Lee held his up so that the setting sun flashed on the silver.
"I am going to keep that," he said, "as long as I live. It means you were once my 'partner.' It's a sign that once we two worked together for something and won." In the words the man showed such feeling that the girl said soberly:
"Mine means that to me, too. I will never part with mine, either."
Lee turned to her and smiled, appealing wistfully.
"It seems a pity to separate them," he said. "They'd look well together over an open fireplace."
The girl frowned unhappily. "I don't know," she protested. "I don't know."
The next day Lee received from the War Department a telegram directing him to "proceed without delay" to San Francisco, and there to embark for the Philippines.
That night he put the question to her directly, but again she shook her head unhappily; again she said: "I don't know!"
So he sailed without her, and each evening at sunset, as the great transport heaved her way across the swell of the Pacific, he stood at the rail and looked back. With the aid of the first officer he calculated the difference in time between a whaling village situated at forty-four degrees north and an army transport dropping rapidly toward the equator, and so, each day, kept in step with the girl he loved.
"Now," he would tell himself, "she is in her cart in front of the post-office, and while they sort the morning mail she gossips with the fisher folks, the summer folks, the grooms, and chauffeurs. Now she is sitting for her portrait to Stedman" (he did not dwell long on that part of her day), "and now she is at tennis, or, as she promised, riding alone at sunset down our lost road through the woods."
But that part of her day from which Lee hurried was that part over which the girl herself lingered. As he turned his eyes from his canvas to meet hers, Stedman, the charming, the deferential, the adroit, who never allowed his painting to interrupt his talk, told her of what he was pleased to call his dreams and ambitions, of the great and beautiful ladies who had sat before his easel, and of the only one of them who had given him inspiration. Especially of the only one who had given him inspiration. With her always to uplift him, he could become one of the world's most famous artists, and she would go down into history as the beautiful woman who had helped him, as the wife of Rembrandt had inspired Rembrandt, as "Mona Lisa" had made Leonardo.
Gilbert wrote: "It is not the lover who comes to woo, but the lover's way of wooing!" His successful lover was the one who threw the girl across his saddle and rode away with her. But one kind of woman does not like to have her lover approach shouting: "At the gallop! Charge!"
She prefers a man not because he is masterful, but because he is not. She likes to believe the man needs her more than she needs him, that she, and only she, can steady him, cheer him, keep him true to the work he is in the world to perform. It is called the "mothering" instinct.
Frances felt this mothering instinct toward the sensitive, imaginative, charming Stedman. She believed he had but two thoughts, his art and herself. She was content to place his art first. She could not guess that to one so unworldly, to one so wrapped up in his art, the fortune of a rich aunt might prove alluring.
When the transport finally picked up the landfalls of Cavite Harbor, Lee, with the instinct of a soldier, did not exclaim: "This is where Dewey ran the forts and sank the Spanish fleet!" On the contrary, he was saying: "When she comes to join me, it will be here I will first see her steamer. I will be waiting with a field-glass on the end of that wharf. No, I will be out here in a shore-boat waving my hat. And of all those along the rail, my heart will tell me which is she!"
Then a barefooted Filipino boy handed him an unsigned cablegram. It read: "If I wrote a thousand words I could not make it easier for either of us. I am to marry Arthur Stedman in December."
Lee was grateful for the fact that he was not permitted to linger in Manila. Instead, he was at once ordered up-country, where at a one-troop post he administered the affairs of a somewhat hectic province, and under the guidance of the local constabulary chased will-o'-the-wisp brigands. On a shelf in his quarters he placed the silver loving-cup, and at night, when the village slept, he would sit facing it, filling one pipe after another, and through the smoke staring at the evidence to the fact that once Frances Gardner and he had been partners.
In these post-mortems he saw nothing morbid. With his present activities they in no way interfered, and in thinking of the days when they had been together, in thinking of what he had lost, he found deep content. Another man, having lost the woman he loved, would have tried to forget her and all she meant to him. But Lee was far too honest with himself to substitute other thoughts for those that were glorious, that still thrilled him. The girl could take herself from him, but she could not take his love for her from him. And for that he was grateful. He never had considered himself worthy, and so could not believe he had been ill used. In his thoughts of her there was no bitterness: for that also he was grateful. And, as he knew he would not care for any other woman in the way he cared for her, he preferred to care in that way, even for one who was lost, than in a lesser way for a possible she who some day might greatly care for him. So she still remained in his thoughts, and was so constantly with him that he led a dual existence, in which by day he directed the affairs of an alien and hostile people and by night again lived through the wonderful moments when she had thought she loved him, when he first had learned to love her. At times she seemed actually at his side, and he could not tell whether he was pretending that this were so or whether the force of his love had projected her image half around the world.
Often, when in single file he led the men through the forest, he seemed again to be back on Cape Cod picking his way over their own lost road through the wood, and he heard "the beat of a horse's feet and the swish of a skirt in the dew." And then a carbine would rattle, or a horse would stumble and a trooper swear, and he was again in the sweating jungle, where men, intent upon his life, crouched in ambush.
She spared him the mockery of wedding-cards; but the announcement of the wedding came to him in a three-months-old newspaper. Hoping they would speak of her in their letters, he kept up a somewhat one-sided correspondence with friends of Mrs. Stedman's in Boston, where she now lived. But for a year in none of their letters did her name appear. When a mutual friend did write of her Lee understood the silence.
From the first, the mutual friend wrote, the life of Mrs. Stedman and her husband was thoroughly miserable. Stedman blamed her because she came to him penniless. The rich aunt, who had heartily disapproved of the artist, had spoken of him so frankly that Frances had quarrelled with her, and from her no longer would accept money. In his anger at this Stedman showed himself to Frances as he was. And only two months after their marriage she was further enlightened.
An irate husband made him the central figure in a scandal that filled the friends of Frances with disgust, and that for her was an awakening cruel and humiliating. Men no longer permitted their womenfolk to sit to Stedman for a portrait, and the need of money grew imperative. He the more blamed Frances for having quarrelled with her aunt, told her it was for her money he had married her, that she had ruined his career, and that she was to blame for his ostracism—a condition that his own misconduct had brought upon him. Finally, after twelve months of this, one morning he left a note saying he no longer would allow her to be a drag upon him, and sailed for Europe.
They learned that, in Paris, he had returned to that life which before his marriage, even in that easy-going city, had made him notorious. "And Frances," continued Lee's correspondent, "has left Boston, and now lives in New York. She wouldn't let any of us help her, nor even know where she is. The last we heard of her she was in charge of the complaint department of a millinery shop, for which work she was receiving about the same wages I give my cook."
Lee did not stop to wonder why the same woman, who to one man was a "drag," was to another, even though separated from her by half the world, a joy and a blessing. Instead, he promptly wrote his lawyers to find Mrs. Stedman, and, in such a way as to keep her ignorant of their good offices, see that she obtained a position more congenial than her present one, and one that would pay her as much as, without arousing her suspicions, they found it possible to give.
Three months had passed, and this letter had not been answered, when in Manila, where he had been ordered to make a report, he heard of her again. One evening, when the band played on the Luneta, he met a newly married couple who had known him in Agawamsett. They now were on a ninety-day cruise around the world. Close friends of Frances Gardner, they remembered him as one of her many devotees and at once spoke of her.
"That blackguard she married," the bridegroom told him, "was killed three months ago racing with another car from Versailles back to Paris after a dinner at which, it seems, all present drank 'burgundy out of the fingerbowls.' Coming down that steep hill into Saint Cloud, the cars collided, and Stedman and a woman, whose husband thought she was somewhere else, were killed. He couldn't even die without making a scandal of it."
"But the worst," added the bride, "is that, in spite of the way the little beast treated her, I believe Frances still cares for him, and always will. That's the worst of it, isn't it?" she demanded.
In words, Lee did not answer, but in his heart he agreed that was much the worst of it. The fact that Frances was free filled him with hope; but that she still cared for the man she had married, and would continue to think only of him, made him ill with despair.
He cabled his lawyers for her address. He determined that, at once, on learning it, he would tell her that with him nothing was changed. He had forgotten nothing, and had learned much. He had learned that his love for her was a splendid and inspiring passion, that even without her it had lifted him up, helped and cheered him, made the whole world kind and beautiful. With her he could not picture a world so complete with happiness.
Since entering the army he had never taken a leave of absence, and he was sure, if now he asked for one, it would not be refused. He determined, if the answer to his cable gave him the address, he would return at once, and again offer her his love, which he now knew was deeper, finer, and infinitely more tender than the love he first had felt for her. But the cable balked him. "Address unknown," it read; "believed to have gone abroad in capacity of governess. Have employed foreign agents. Will cable their report."
Whether to wait for and be guided by the report of the detectives, or to proceed to Europe and search for her himself, Lee did not know. He finally determined that to seek for her with no clew to her whereabouts would be but a waste of precious moments, while, if in their search the agents were successful, he would be able to go directly to her. Meanwhile, by cable, he asked for protracted leave of absence and, while waiting for his answer, returned to his post. There, within a week, he received his leave of absence, but in a fashion that threatened to remove him forever from the army.
The constabulary had located the will-o'-the-wisp brigands behind a stockade built about an extinct volcano, and Lee and his troop and a mountain battery attempted to dislodge them. In the fight that followed Lee covered his brows with laurel wreaths and received two bullet wounds in his body.
For a month death stood at the side of his cot; and then, still weak and at times delirious with fever, by slow stages he was removed to the hospital in Manila. In one of his sane moments a cable was shown him. It read: "Whereabouts still unknown." Lee at once rebelled against his doctors. He must rise, he declared, and proceed to Europe. It was upon a matter of life and death. The surgeons assured him his remaining exactly where he was also was a matter of as great consequence. Lee's knowledge of his own lack of strength told him they were right.
Then, from headquarters, he was informed that, as a reward for his services and in recognition of his approaching convalescence, he was ordered to return to his own climate and that an easy billet had been found for him as a recruiting officer in New York City. Believing the woman he loved to be in Europe, this plan for his comfort only succeeded in bringing on a relapse. But the day following there came another cablegram. It put an abrupt end to his mutiny, and brought him and the War Department into complete accord.
"She is in New York," it read, "acting as agent for a charitable institution, which one not known, but hope in a few days to cable correct address."
In all the world there was no man so happy. The next morning a transport was sailing, and, probably because they had read the cablegram, the surgeons agreed with Lee that a sea voyage would do him no harm. He was carried on board, and when the propellers first churned the water and he knew he was moving toward her, the hero of the fight around the crater shed unmanly tears. He would see her again, hear her voice; the same great city would shelter them. It was worth a dozen bullets.
He reached New York in a snow-storm, a week before Christmas, and went straight to the office of his lawyers. They received him with embarrassment. Six weeks before, on the very day they had cabled him that Mrs. Stedman was in New York, she had left the charitable institution where she had been employed, and had again disappeared.
Lee sent his trunks to the Army and Navy Club, which was immediately around the corner from the recruiting office in Sixth Avenue, and began discharging telegrams at every one who had ever known Frances Gardner. The net result was discouraging. In the year and a half in which he had been absent every friend of the girl he sought had temporarily changed his place of residence or was permanently dead.
Meanwhile his arrival by the transport was announced in the afternoon papers. At the wharf an admiring trooper had told a fine tale of his conduct at the battle of the crater, and reporters called at the club to see him. He did not discourage them, as he hoped through them the fact of his return might be made known to Frances. She might send him a line of welcome, and he would discover her whereabouts. But, though many others sent him hearty greetings, from her there was no word.
On the second day after his arrival one of the telegrams was answered in person by a friend of Mrs. Stedman. He knew only that she had been in New York, that she was very poor and in ill health, that she shunned all of her friends, and was earning her living as the matron of some sort of a club for working girls. He did not know the name of it.
On the third day there still was no news. On the fourth Lee decided that the next morning he would advertise. He would say only: "Will Mrs. Arthur Stedman communicate with Messrs. Fuller & Fuller?" Fuller & Fuller were his lawyers. That afternoon he remained until six o'clock at the recruiting office, and when he left it the electric street lights were burning brightly. A heavy damp snow was falling, and the lights and the falling flakes and the shouts of drivers and the toots of taxicabs made for the man from the tropics a welcome homecoming.
Instead of returning at once to his club, he slackened his steps. The shop windows of Sixth Avenue hung with Christmas garlands, and colored lamps glowed like open fireplaces. Lee passed slowly before them, glad that he had been able to get back at such a season. For the moment he had forgotten the woman he sought, and was conscious only of his surroundings. He had paused in front of the window of a pawn-shop. Over the array of cheap jewelry, of banjos, shot-guns, and razors, his eyes moved idly. And then they became transfixed and staring. In the very front of the window, directly under his nose, was a tarnished silver loving-cup. On it was engraved, "Mixed Doubles. Agawamsett, 1910." In all the world there were only two such cups, and as though he were dodging the slash of a bolo, Lee leaped into the shop. Many precious seconds were wasted in persuading Mrs. Cohen that he did not believe the cup had been stolen; that he was not from the Central Office; that he believed the lady who had pawned the cup had come by it honestly; that he meant no harm to the lady; that he meant no harm to Mrs. Cohen; that, much as the young lady may have needed the money Mrs. Cohen had loaned her on the cup, he needed the address of the young lady still more.
Mrs. Cohen retired behind a screen, and Lee was conscious that from the other side of it the whole family of Cohens were taking his measurements. He approved of their efforts to protect the owner of the cup, but not from him.
He offered, if one of the younger Cohens would take him to the young lady, to let him first ask her if she would receive Captain Lee, and for his service he would give the young Cohen untold gold. He exhibited the untold gold. The young Cohen choked at the sight and sprang into the seat beside the driver of a taxicab.
"To the Working Girls' Home, on Tenth Street!" he commanded.
Through the falling snow and the flashing lights they slid, skidded, and leaped. Inside the cab Lee shivered with excitement, with cold, with fear that it might not be true. He could not realize she was near. It was easier to imagine himself still in the jungle, with months of time and sixteen thousand miles of land and water separating them; or in the hospital, on a white-enamel cot, watching the shadow creep across the whitewashed wall; or lying beneath an awning that did not move, staring at a burning, brazen sea that did not move, on a transport that, timed by the beating of his heart, stood still.
Those days were within the radius of his experience. Separation, absence, the immutable giants of time and space, he knew. With them he had fought and could withstand them. But to be near her, to hear her voice, to bring his love into her actual presence, that was an attack upon his feelings which found him without weapons. That for a very few dollars she had traded the cup from which she had sworn never to part did not concern him. Having parted from him, what she did with a silver mug was of little consequence. It was of significance only in that it meant she was poor. And that she was either an inmate or a matron of a lodging-house for working girls also showed she was poor.
He had been told that was her condition, and that she was in ill health, and that from all who loved her she had refused to accept help. At the thought his jaws locked pugnaciously. There was one who loved her, who, should she refuse his aid, was prepared to make her life intolerable. He planned in succession at lightning speed all he might do for her. Among other things he would make this Christmas the happiest she or he would ever know. Not for an instant did he question that she who had refused help from all who loved her could refuse anything he offered. For he knew it was offered with a love that demanded nothing in return, with a love that asked only to be allowed to love, and to serve. To refuse help inspired by such a feeling as his would be morbid, wicked, ridiculous, as though a flower refused to turn its face to the sun, and shut its lips to the dew.
The cab stopped in front of a brick building adorned with many fire-escapes. Afterward he remembered a bare, brilliantly lit hall hung with photographs of the Acropolis, and a stout, capable woman in a cap, who looked him over and said:
"You will find Mrs. Stedman in the writing-room."
And he remembered entering a room filled with Mission furniture and reading-lamps under green shades. It was empty, except for a young girl in deep black, who was seated facing him, her head bent above a writing-desk. As he came into the circle of the lamps the girl raised her eyes and as though lifted to her feet by what she saw, and through no effort of her own, stood erect.
And the young man who had persuaded himself his love demanded nothing, who asked only to worship at her gate, found his arms reaching out, and heard his voice as though it came from a great distance, cry, "Frances!"
And the girl who had refused the help of all who loved her, like a homing pigeon walked straight into the outstretched arms.
After five minutes, when he was almost able to believe it was true, he said in his commanding, masterful way: "And now I'm going to take you out of here. I'm going to buy you a ring, and a sable coat, and a house to live in, and a dinner. Which shall we buy first?"
"First," said Frances, frowning happily, "I am afraid we must go to the Ritz, to tell Aunt Emily. She always loved you, and it will make her so happy."
"To the Ritz!" stammered the young man. "To Aunt Emily! I thought they told me your aunt and-you-"
"We quarrelled, yes," said Frances, "and she has forgiven me; but she has not forgiven herself, so she spoils me, and already I have a house to live in, and several sable coats, and, oh! everything, everything but the ring."
"I am so sorry!" cried Lee. "I thought you were poor. I hoped you were poor. But you are joking!" he exclaimed delightedly. "You are here in a working girls' home-"
"It is one of Aunt Emily's charities. She built it," said Frances. "I come here to talk to the girls."
"But," persisted Lee triumphantly, "if you are not poor, why did you pawn our silver loving-cup?"
The face of the girl became a lovely crimson, and tears rose to her eyes. As though at a confessional, she lifted her hands penitently.
"Try to understand," she begged; "I wanted you to love me, not for my money-"
"But you knew!" cried Lee.
"I had to be sure," begged the girl; "and I wanted to believe you loved me even if I did not love you. When it was too late I knew you loved me as no woman ever deserved to be loved; and I wanted that love. I could not live without it. So when I read in the papers you had returned I wouldn't let myself write you; I wouldn't let myself beg you to come to see me. I set a test for you. I knew from the papers you were at the Army and Navy Club, and that around the corner was the recruiting office. I'd often seen the sergeant there, in uniform, at the door. I knew you must pass from your club to the office many times each day, so I thought of the loving-cup and the pawn-shop. I planted it there. It was a trick, a test. I thought if you saw it in a pawn-shop you would believe I no longer cared for you, and that I was very poor. If you passed it by, then I would know you yourself had stopped caring, but if you asked about it, if you inquired for me, then I would know you came to me of your own wish, because you-"
Lee shook his head.
"You don't have to tell me," he said gently, "why I came. I've a cab outside. You will get in it," he commanded, "and we will rescue our cup. I always told you they would look well together over an open fireplace."
THE MIRACLE OF LAS PALMAS
This is the story of a gallant officer who loved his profession, his regiment, his country, but above all, whiskey; of his miraculous conversion to total abstinence, and of the humble instrument that worked the miracle. At the time it was worked, a battalion of the Thirty-third Infantry had been left behind to guard the Zone, and was occupying impromptu barracks on the hill above Las Palmas. That was when Las Palmas was one of the four thousand stations along the forty miles of the Panama Railroad. When the railroad was "reconstructed" the name of Las Palmas did not appear on the new time-table, and when this story appears Las Palmas will be eighty feet under water. So if any one wishes to dispute the miracle he will have to conduct his investigation in a diving-bell.
On this particular evening young Major Aintree, in command of the battalion, had gone up the line to Panama to dine at the Hotel Tivoli, and had dined well. To prevent his doing this a paternal government had ordered that at the Tivoli no alcoholic liquors may be sold; but only two hundred yards from the hotel, outside the zone of temperance, lies Panama and Angelina's, and during the dinner, between the Tivoli and Angelina's, the Jamaican waiter-boys ran relay races.
After the dinner, the Jamaican waiter-boys proving too slow, the dinner-party in a body adjourned to Angelina's, and when later, Major Aintree moved across the street to the night train to Las Palmas, he moved unsteadily.
Young Standish of the Canal Zone police, who, though but twenty-six, was a full corporal, was for that night on duty as "train guard," and was waiting at the rear steps of the last car. As Aintree approached the steps he saw indistinctly a boyish figure in khaki, and, mistaking it for one of his own men, he clasped the handrail for support, and halted frowning.
Observing the condition of the officer the policeman also frowned, but in deference to the uniform, slowly and with reluctance raised his hand to his sombrero. The reluctance was more apparent than the salute. It was less of a salute than an impertinence.
Partly out of regard for his rank, partly from temper, chiefly from whiskey, Aintree saw scarlet.
"When you s'lute your s'perior officer," he shouted, "you s'lute him quick. You unnerstan', you s'lute him quick! S'lute me again," he commanded, "and s'lute me damn quick."
Standish remained motionless. As is the habit of policemen over all the world, his thumbs were stuck in his belt. He answered without offense, in tones matter-of-fact and calm.
"You are not my superior officer," he said.
It was the calmness that irritated Aintree. His eyes sought for the infantryman's cap and found a sombrero.
"You damned leatherneck," he began, "I'll report—"
"I'm not a marine, either," interrupted Standish. "I'm a policeman. Move on," he ordered, "you're keeping these people waiting."
Others of the dinner-party formed a flying wedge around Aintree and crowded him up the steps and into a seat and sat upon him. Ten minutes later, when Standish made his rounds of the cars, Aintree saw him approaching. He had a vague recollection that he had been insulted, and by a policeman.
"You!" he called, and so loudly that all in the car turned, "I'm going to report you, going to report you for insolence. What's your name?"
Looking neither at Aintree nor at the faces turned toward him, Standish replied as though Aintree had asked him what time it was.
"Standish," he said, "corporal, shield number 226, on train guard." He continued down the aisle.
"I'll remember you," Aintree shouted.
But in the hot, glaring dawn of the morning after, Aintree forgot. It was Standish who remembered.
The men of the Zone police are hand-picked. They have been soldiers, marines, cowboys, sheriffs, "Black Hussars" of the Pennsylvania State constabulary, rough riders with Roosevelt, mounted police in Canada, irregular horse in South Africa; they form one of the best-organized, best-disciplined, most efficient, most picturesque semi-military bodies in the world. Standish joined them from the Philippine constabulary in which he had been a second lieutenant. There are several like him in the Zone police, and in England they would be called gentlemen rankers. On the Isthmus, because of his youth, his fellow policemen called Standish "Kid." And smart as each of them was, each of them admitted the Kid wore his uniform with a difference. With him it always looked as though it had come freshly ironed from the Colon laundry; his leather leggings shone like meerschaum pipes; the brim of his sombrero rested impudently on the bridge of his nose.
"He's been an officer," they used to say in extenuation. "You can tell when he salutes. He shows the back of his hand." Secretly, they were proud of him. Standish came of a long chain of soldiers, and that the weakest link in the chain had proved to be himself was a sorrow no one else but himself could fathom. Since he was three years old he had been trained to be a soldier, as carefully, with the same singleness of purpose, as the crown prince is trained to be a king. And when, after three happy, glorious years at West Point, he was found not clever enough to pass the examinations and was dropped, he did not curse the gods and die, but began again to work his way up. He was determined he still would wear shoulder-straps. He owed it to his ancestors. It was the tradition of his family, the one thing he wanted; it was his religion. He would get into the army even if by the side door, if only after many years of rough and patient service. He knew that some day, through his record, through the opportunity of a war, he would come into his inheritance. Meanwhile he officered his soul, disciplined his body, and daily tried to learn the lesson that he who hopes to control others must first control himself.
He allowed himself but one dissipation, one excess. That was to hate Major Aintree, commanding the Thirty-third Infantry. Of all the world could give, Aintree possessed everything that Standish considered the most to be desired. He was a graduate of West Point, he had seen service in Cuba, in the Boxer business, and in the Philippines. For an act of conspicuous courage at Batangas, he had received the medal of honor. He had had the luck of the devil. Wherever he held command turned out to be the place where things broke loose. And Aintree always attacked and routed them, always was the man on the job. It was his name that appeared in the newspapers, it was his name that headed the list of the junior officers mentioned for distinguished conduct. Standish had followed his career with an admiration and a joy that was without taint of envy or detraction. He gloried in Aintree, he delighted to know the army held such a man. He was grateful to Aintree for upholding the traditions of a profession to which he himself gave all the devotion of a fanatic. He made a god of him. This was the attitude of mind toward Aintree before he came to the Isthmus. Up to that time he had never seen his idol. Aintree had been only a name signed to brilliant articles in the service magazines, a man of whom those who had served with him or under him, when asked concerning him, spoke with loyalty and awe, the man the newspapers called "the hero of Batangas." And when at last he saw his hero, he believed his worship was justified. For Aintree looked the part. He was built like a greyhound with the shoulders of a stevedore. His chin was as projecting, and as hard, as the pointed end of a flat-iron. His every movement showed physical fitness, and his every glance and tone a confidence in himself that approached insolence. He was thirty-eight, twelve years older than the youth who had failed to make his commission, and who, as Aintree strode past, looked after him with wistful, hero-worshipping eyes. The revulsion, when it came, was extreme. The hero-worship gave way to contempt, to indignant condemnation, in which there was no pity, no excuse. That one upon whom so much had been lavished, who for himself had accomplished such good things, should bring disgrace upon his profession, should by his example demoralize his men, should risk losing all he had attained, all that had been given, was intolerable. When Standish learned his hero was a drunkard, when day after day Aintree furnished visible evidences of that fact, Standish felt Aintree had betrayed him and the army and the government that had educated, trained, clothed, and fed him. He regarded Aintree as worse than Benedict Arnold, because Arnold had turned traitor for power and money; Aintree was a traitor through mere weakness, because he could not say "no" to a bottle.
Only in secret Standish railed against Aintree. When his brother policemen gossiped and jested about him, out of loyalty to the army he remained silent. But in his heart he could not forgive. The man he had so generously envied, the man after whose career he had wished to model his own, had voluntarily stepped from his pedestal and made a swine of himself. And not only could he not forgive, but as day after day Aintree furnished fresh food for his indignation he felt a fierce desire to punish.
Meanwhile, of the conduct of Aintree, men older and wiser, if less intolerant than Standish, were beginning to take notice. It was after a dinner on Ancon Hill, and the women had left the men to themselves. They were the men who were placing the Panama Canal on the map. They were officers of the army who for five years had not worn a uniform. But for five years they had been at war with an enemy that never slept. Daily they had engaged in battle with mountains, rivers, swamps, two oceans, and disease. Where Aintree commanded five hundred soldiers, they commanded a body of men better drilled, better disciplined, and in number half as many as those who formed the entire army of the United States. The mind of each was occupied with a world problem. They thought and talked in millions—of millions of cubic yards of dirt, of millions of barrels of cement, of millions of tons of steel, of hundreds of millions of dollars, of which latter each received enough to keep himself and his family just beyond the reach of necessity. To these men with the world waiting upon the outcome of their endeavor, with responsibilities that never relaxed, Aintree's behavior was an incident, an annoyance of less importance than an overturned dirt train that for five minutes dared to block the completion of their work. But they were human and loyal to the army, and in such an infrequent moment as this, over the coffee and cigars, they could afford to remember the junior officer, to feel sorry for him, for the sake of the army, to save him from himself.
"He takes his orders direct from the War Department," said the chief. "I've no authority over him. If he'd been one of my workmen I'd have shipped him north three months ago."
"That's it," said the surgeon, "he's not a workman. He has nothing to do, and idleness is the curse of the army. And in this climate—"
"Nothing to do!" snorted the civil administrator. "Keeping his men in hand is what he has to do! They're running amuck all over Panama, getting into fights with the Spiggoty police, bringing the uniform into contempt. As for the climate, it's the same climate for all of us. Look at Butler's marines and Barber's Zone police. The climate hasn't hurt them. They're as smart men as ever wore khaki. It's not the climate or lack of work that ails the Thirty-third, it's their commanding officer. 'So the colonel, so the regiment.' That's as old as the hills. Until Aintree takes a brace, his men won't. Some one ought to talk to him. It's a shame to see a fine fellow like that going to the dogs because no one has the courage to tell him the truth."
The chief smiled mockingly.
"Then why don't you?" he asked.
"I'm a civilian," protested the administrator. "If I told him he was going to the dogs he'd tell me to go to the devil. No, one of you army men must do it. He'll listen to you."
Young Captain Haldane of the cavalry was at the table; he was visiting Panama on leave as a tourist. The chief turned to him.
"Haldane's the man," he said. "You're his friend and you're his junior in rank, so what you say won't sound official. Tell him people are talking; tell him it won't be long before they'll be talking in Washington. Scare him!"
The captain of cavalry smiled dubiously.
"Aintree's a hard man to scare," he said. "But if it's as bad as you all seem to think, I'll risk it. But, why is it," he complained, "that whenever a man has to be told anything particularly unpleasant they always pick on his best friend to tell him? It makes them both miserable. Why not let his bitterest enemy try it? The enemy at least would have a fine time."
"Because," said the chief, "Aintree hasn't an enemy in the world—except Aintree."
The next morning, as he had promised, Haldane called upon his friend. When he arrived at Las Palmas, although the morning was well advanced toward noon, he found Aintree still under his mosquito bars and awake only to command a drink. The situation furnished Haldane with his text. He expressed his opinion of any individual, friend or no friend, officer or civilian, who on the Zone, where all men begin work at sunrise, could be found at noon still in his pajamas and preparing to face the duties of the day on an absinth cocktail. He said further that since he had arrived on the isthmus he had heard only of Aintree's misconduct, that soon the War Department would hear of it, that Aintree would lose his commission, would break the backbone of a splendid career.
"It's a friend talking," continued Haldane, "and you know it! It's because I am your friend that I've risked losing your friendship! And, whether you like it or not, it's the truth. You're going down-hill, going fast, going like a motor-bus running away, and unless you put on the brakes you'll smash!"
Aintree was not even annoyed.
"That's good advice for the right man," he granted, "but why waste it on me? I can do things other men can't. I can stop drinking this minute, and it will mean so little to me that I won't know I've stopped."
"Then stop," said Haldane.
"Why?" demanded Aintree. "I like it. Why should I stop anything I like? Because a lot of old women are gossiping? Because old men who can't drink green mint without dancing turkey-trots think I'm going to the devil because I can drink whiskey? I'm not afraid of whiskey," he laughed tolerantly. "It amuses me, that's all it does to me; it amuses me." He pulled back the coat of his pajamas and showed his giant chest and shoulder. With his fist he struck his bare flesh and it glowed instantly a healthy, splendid pink.
"See that!" commanded Aintree. "If there's a man on the isthmus in any better physical shape than I am, I'll—" He interrupted himself to begin again eagerly. "I'll make you a sporting proposition," he announced "I'll fight any man on the isthmus ten rounds—no matter who he is, a wop laborer, shovel man, Barbadian nigger, marine, anybody—and if he can knock me out I'll stop drinking. You see," he explained patiently, "I'm no mollycoddle or jelly-fish. I can afford a headache. And besides, it's my own head. If I don't give anybody else a headache, I don't see that it's anybody else's damned business."
"But you do," retorted Haldane steadily. "You're giving your own men worse than a headache, you're setting them a rotten example, you're giving the Thirty-third a bad name-"
Aintree vaulted off his cot and shook his fist at his friend. "You can't say that to me," he cried.
"I do say it," protested Haldane. "When you were in Manila your men were models; here they're unshaven, sloppy, undisciplined. They look like bell-hops. And it's your fault. And everybody thinks so."
Slowly and carefully Aintree snapped his fingers.
"And you can tell everybody, from me," he cried, "that's all I care what they think! And now," he continued, smiling hospitably, "let me congratulate you on your success as a missionary, and, to show you there's not a trace of hard feeling, we will have a drink."
Informally Haldane reported back to the commission, and the wife of one of them must have talked, for it was soon known that a brother officer had appealed to Aintree to reform, and Aintree had refused to listen.
When she heard this, Grace Carter, the wife of Major Carter, one of the surgeons at the Ancon Hospital, was greatly perturbed. Aintree was engaged to be married to Helen Scott, who was her best friend and who was arriving by the next steamer to spend the winter. When she had Helen safely under her roof, Mrs. Carter had planned to marry off the young couple out of hand on the isthmus. But she had begun to wonder if it would not be better they should delay, or best that they should never marry.
"The awakening is going to be a terrible blow to Helen," she said to her husband. "She is so proud of him."
"On the contrary," he protested, "it will be the awakening of Aintree—if Helen will stand for the way he's acting, she is not the girl I know. And when he finds she won't, and that he may lose her, he'll pull up short. He's talked Helen to me night after night until he's bored me so I could strangle him. He cares more for her than he does for anything, for the army, or for himself, and that's saying a great deal. One word from her will be enough."
Helen spoke the word three weeks after she arrived. It had not been necessary to tell her of the manner in which her lover was misconducting himself. At various dinners given in their honor he had made a nuisance of himself; on another occasion, while in uniform, he had created a scene in the dining-room of the Tivoli under the prying eyes of three hundred seeing-the-Canal tourists; and one night he had so badly beaten up a cabman who had laughed at his condition that the man went to the hospital. Major Carter, largely with money, had healed the injuries of the cabman, but Helen, who had witnessed the assault, had suffered an injury that money could not heal.
She sent for Aintree, and at the home of her friend delivered her ultimatum.
"I hit him because he was offensive to you," said Aintree. "That's why I hit him. If I'd not had a drink in a year, I'd have hit him just as quick and just as hard."
"Can't you see," said the girl, "that in being not yourself when I was in your care you were much more insulting to me than any cabman could possibly be? When you are like that you have no respect for me, or for yourself. Part of my pride in you is that you are so strong, that you control yourself, that common pleasures never get a hold on you. If you couldn't control your temper I wouldn't blame you, because you've a villainous temper and you were born with it. But you weren't born with a taste for liquor. None of your people drank. You never drank until you went into the army. If I were a man," declared the girl, "I'd be ashamed to admit anything was stronger than I was. You never let pain beat you. I've seen you play polo with a broken arm, but in this you give pain to others, you shame and humiliate the one you pretend to love, just because you are weak, just because you can't say 'no.'"
Aintree laughed angrily.
"Drink has no hold on me," he protested. "It affects me as much as the lights and the music affect a girl at her first dance, and no more. But, if you ask me to stop—"
"I do not!" said the girl. "If you stop, you'll stop not because I have any influence over you, but because you don't need my influence. If it's wrong, if it's hurting you, if it's taking away your usefulness and your power for good, that's why you'll stop. Not because a girl begs you. Or you're not the man I think you."
Aintree retorted warmly. "I'm enough of a man for this," he protested: "I'm enough of a man not to confess I can't drink without making a beast of myself. It's easy not to drink at all. But to stop altogether is a confession of weakness. I'd look on my doing that as cowardly. I give you my word—not that I'll swear off, that I'll never do—but I promise you you'll have no further reason to be what you call humiliated, or ashamed. You have my word for it."
A week later Aintree rode his pony into a railway cutting and rolled with it to the tracks below, and, if at the time he had not been extremely drunk, would have been killed. The pony, being quite sober, broke a leg and was destroyed.
When word of this came to Helen she was too sick at heart to see Aintree, and by others it was made known to him that on the first steamer Miss Scott would return North. Aintree knew why she was going, knew she had lost faith and patience, knew the woman he loved had broken with him and put him out of her life. Appalled at this calamity, he proceeded to get drunk in earnest.
The night was very hot and the humidity very heavy, and at Las Palmas inside the bungalow that served as a police-station the lamps on either side of the lieutenant's desk burned like tiny furnaces. Between them, panting in the moist heat and with the sweat from his forehead and hand dripping upon an otherwise immaculate report, sat Standish. Two weeks before, the chief had made him one of his six lieutenants. With the force the promotion had been most popular.
Since his promotion Standish had been in charge of the police-station at Las Palmas and daily had seen Aintree as, on his way down the hill from the barracks to the railroad, the hero of Batangas passed the door of the station-house. Also, on the morning Aintree had jumped his horse over the embankment, Standish had seen him carried up the hill on a stretcher. At the sight the lieutenant of police had taken from his pocket a notebook, and on a flyleaf made a cross. On the flyleaf were many other dates and opposite each a cross. It was Aintree's record and as the number of black crosses grew, the greater had grown the resentment of Standish, the more greatly it had increased his anger against the man who had put this affront upon the army, the greater became his desire to punish.
In police circles the night had been quiet, the cells in the yard were empty, the telephone at his elbow had remained silent, and Standish, alone in the station-house, had employed himself in cramming "Moss's Manual for Subalterns." He found it a fascinating exercise. The hope that soon he might himself be a subaltern always burned brightly, and to be prepared seemed to make the coming of that day more certain. It was ten o'clock and Las Palmas lay sunk in slumber, and after the down train which was now due had passed, there was nothing likely to disturb her slumber until at sunrise the great army of dirt-diggers with shrieks of whistles, with roars of dynamite, with the rumbling of dirt-trains and steam-shovels, again sprang to the attack. Down the hill, a hundred yards below Standish, the night train halted at the station, with creakings and groanings continued toward Colon, and again Las Palmas returned to sleep.
And, then, quickly and viciously, like the crack of a mule-whip, came the reports of a pistol; and once more the hot and dripping silence.
On post at the railroad-station, whence the shots came, was Meehan, one of the Zone police, an ex-sergeant of marines. On top of the hill, outside the infantry barracks, was another policeman, Bullard, once a cowboy.
Standish ran to the veranda and heard the pebbles scattering as Bullard leaped down the hill, and when, in the light from the open door, he passed, the lieutenant shouted at him to find Meehan and report back. Then the desk telephone rang, and Standish returned to his chair.
"This is Meehan," said a voice. "Those shots just now were fired by Major Aintree. He came down on the night train and jumped off after the train was pulling out and stumbled into a negro, and fell. He's been drinking and he swore the nigger pushed him; and the man called Aintree a liar. Aintree pulled his gun and the nigger ran. Aintree fired twice; then I got to him and knocked the gun out of his hand with my nightstick."
There was a pause. Until he was sure his voice would be steady and official, the boy lieutenant did not speak.
"Did he hit the negro?" he asked.
"I don't know," Meehan answered. "The man jumped for the darkest spot he could find." The voice of Meehan lost its professional calm and became personal and aggrieved.
"Aintree's on his way to see you now, lieutenant. He's going to report me."
The voice over the telephone rose indignantly.
"For knocking the gun out of his hand. He says it's an assault. He's going to break me!"
Standish made no comment.
"Report here," he ordered.
He heard Bullard hurrying up the hill and met him at the foot of the steps.
"There's a nigger," began Bullard, "lying under some bushes—"
"Hush!" commanded Standish.
From the path below came the sound of footsteps approaching unsteadily, and the voice of a man swearing and muttering to himself. Standish pulled the ex-cowboy into the shadow of the darkness and spoke in eager whispers.
"You understand," he concluded, "you will not report until you see me pick up a cigar from the desk and light it. You will wait out here in the darkness. When you see me light the cigar, you will come in and report."
The cowboy policeman nodded, but without enthusiasm. "I understand, lieutenant," he said, "but," he shook his head doubtfully, "it sizes up to me like what those police up in New York call a 'frame-up.'"
Standish exclaimed impatiently.
"It's not my frame-up!" he said. "The man's framed himself up. All I'm going to do is to nail him to the wall!"
Standish had only time to return to his desk when Aintree stumbled up the path and into the station-house. He was "fighting drunk," ugly, offensive, all but incoherent with anger.
"You in charge?" he demanded. He did not wait for an answer. "I've been 'saulted!" he shouted. "'Saulted by one of your damned policemen. He struck me—struck me when I was protecting myself. He had a nigger with him. First the nigger tripped me; then, when I tried to protect myself, this thug of yours hits me, clubs me, you unnerstan', clubs me! I want him—"
He was interrupted by the entrance of Meehan, who moved into the light from the lamps and saluted his lieutenant.
"That's the man!" roared Aintree. The sight of Meehan whipped him into greater fury.
"I want that man broke. I want to see you strip his shield off him—now, you unnerstan', now—for 'saulting me, for 'saulting an officer in the United States army. And, if you don't," he threw himself into a position of the prize-ring, "I'll beat him up and you, too." Through want of breath, he stopped, and panted. Again his voice broke forth hysterically. "I'm not afraid of your damned night-sticks," he taunted. "I got five hundred men on top this hill, all I've got to do is to say the word, and they'll rough-house this place and throw it into the cut—and you with it."
Standish rose to his feet, and across the desk looked steadily at Aintree. To Aintree the steadiness of his eyes and the quietness of his voice were an added aggravation.
"Suppose you did," said Standish, "that would not save you."
"From what?" roared Aintree. "Think I'm afraid of your night-sticks?"
"Arrest me!" yelled Aintree. "Do you know who's talking to you? Do you know who I am? I'm Major Aintree, damn you, commanding the infantry. An' I'm here to charge that thug—"
"You are here because you are under arrest," said Standish. "You are arrested for threatening the police, drunkenness, and assaulting a citizen with intent to kill—" The voice of the young man turned shrill and rasping. "And if the man should die—"
Aintree burst into a bellow of mocking laughter.
Standish struck the desk with his open palm.
"Silence!" he commanded.
"Silence to me!" roared Aintree, "you impertinent pup!" He flung himself forward, shaking his fist. "I'm Major Aintree. I'm your superior officer. I'm an officer an' a gentleman—"
"You are not!" replied Standish. "You are a drunken loafer!"
Aintree could not break the silence. Amazement, rage, stupefaction held him in incredulous wonder. Even Meehan moved uneasily. Between the officer commanding the infantry and an officer of police, he feared the lieutenant would not survive.
But he heard the voice of his lieutenant continuing, evenly, coldly, like the voice of a judge delivering sentence.