"What could I do? I told him the truth. To him even did I tell my family name, and the shame I had saved it from by forswearing it.
"He put his arm on my shoulder, I tell you, and . . . "
The Ancient Mariner ceased talking because of a huskiness in his throat, and a moisture from his eyes trickled down both cheeks.
Dag Daughtry pledged him silently, and in the draught from his glass he recovered himself.
"He told me that I should come and live with him, and, to his great lonely house he took me the very day we landed in Boston. Also, he told me he would make arrangements with his lawyers—the idea tickled his fancy—'I shall adopt you,' he said. 'I shall adopt you along with Isthar'—Isthar was the little maid's name, the little mummy's name.
"Here was I, back in life, steward, and legally to be adopted. But life is a fond betrayer. Eighteen hours afterward, in the morning, we found him dead in his bed, the little mummy maid beside him. Heart-failure, the burst of some blood-vessel in the brain—I never learned.
"I prayed and pleaded with them for the pair to be buried together. But they were a hard, cold, New England lot, his cousins and his aunts, and they presented Isthar to the museum, and me they gave a week to be quit of the house. I left in an hour, and they searched my small baggage before they would let me depart.
"I went to New York. It was the same game there, only that I had more money and could play it properly. It was the same in New Orleans, in Galveston. I came to California. This is my fifth voyage. I had a hard time getting these three interested, and spent all my little store of money before they signed the agreement. They were very mean. Advance any money to me! The very idea of it was preposterous. Though I bided my time, ran up a comfortable hotel bill, and, at the very last, ordered my own generous assortment of liquors and cigars and charged the bill to the schooner. Such a to-do! All three of them raged and all but tore their hair . . . and mime. They said it could not be. I fell promptly sick. I told them they got on my nerves and made me sick. The more they raged, the sicker I got. Then they gave in. As promptly I grew better. And here we are, out of water and heading soon most likely for the Marquesas to fill our barrels. Then they will return and try for it again!"
"You think so, sir?"
"I shall remember even more important data, steward," the Ancient Mariner smiled. "Without doubt they will return. Oh, I know them well. They are meagre, narrow, grasping fools."
"Fools! all fools! a ship of fools!" Dag Daughtry exulted; repeating what he had expressed in the hold, as he bored the last barrel, listened to the good water gurgling away into the bilge, and chuckled over his discovery of the Ancient Mariner on the same lay as his own.
Early next morning, the morning watch of sailors, whose custom was to fetch the day's supply of water for the galley and cabin, discovered that the barrels were empty. Mr. Jackson was so alarmed that he immediately called Captain Doane, and not many minutes elapsed ere Captain Doane had routed out Grimshaw and Nishikanta to tell them the disaster.
Breakfast was an excitement shared in peculiarly by the Ancient Mariner and Dag Daughtry, while the trio of partners raged and bewailed. Captain Doane particularly wailed. Simon Nishikanta was fiendish in his descriptions of whatever miscreant had done the deed and of how he should be made to suffer for it, while Grimshaw clenched and repeatedly clenched his great hands as if throttling some throat.
"I remember, it was in forty-seven—nay, forty-six—yes, forty-six," the Ancient Mariner chattered. "It was a similar and worse predicament. It was in the longboat, sixteen of us. We ran on Glister Reef. So named it was after our pretty little craft discovered it one dark night and left her bones upon it. The reef is on the Admiralty charts. Captain Doane will verify me . . . "
No one listened, save Dag Daughtry, serving hot cakes and admiring. But Simon Nishikanta, becoming suddenly aware that the old man was babbling, bellowed out ferociously:
"Oh, shut up! Close your jaw! You make me tired with your everlasting 'I remember.'"
The Ancient Mariner was guilelessly surprised, as if he had slipped somewhere in his narrative.
"No, I assure you," he continued. "It must have been some error of my poor old tongue. It was not the Wide Awake, but the brig Glister. Did I say Wide Awake? It was the Glister, a smart little brig, almost a toy brig in fact, copper-bottomed, lines like a dolphin, a sea- cutter and a wind-eater. Handled like a top. On my honour, gentlemen, it was lively work for both watches when she went about. I was super- cargo. We sailed out of New York, ostensibly for the north-west coast, with sealed orders—"
"In the name of God, peace, peace! You drive me mad with your drivel!" So Nishikanta cried out in nervous pain that was real and quivering. "Old man, have a heart. What do I care to know of your Glister and your sealed orders!"
"Ah, sealed orders," the Ancient Mariner went on beamingly. "A magic phrase, sealed orders." He rolled it off his tongue with unction. "Those were the days, gentlemen, when ships did sail with sealed orders. And as super-cargo, with my trifle invested in the adventure and my share in the gains, I commanded the captain. Not in him, but in me were reposed the sealed orders. I assure you I did not know myself what they were. Not until we were around old Cape Stiff, fifty to fifty, and in fifty in the Pacific, did I break the seal and learn we were bound for Van Dieman's Land. They called it Van Dieman's Land in those days . . . "
It was a day of discoveries. Captain Doane caught the mate stealing the ship's position from his desk with the duplicate key. There was a scene, but no more, for the Finn was too huge a man to invite personal encounter, and Captain Dome could only stigmatize his conduct to a running reiteration of "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," and "Sorry, sir."
Perhaps the most important discovery, although he did not know it at the time, was that of Dag Daughtry. It was after the course had been changed and all sail set, and after the Ancient Mariner had privily informed him that Taiohae, in the Marquesas, was their objective, that Daughtry gaily proceeded to shave. But one trouble was on his mind. He was not quite sure, in such an out-of-the-way place as Taiohae, that good beer could be procured.
As he prepared to make the first stroke of the razor, most of his face white with lather, he noticed a dark patch of skin on his forehead just between the eyebrows and above. When he had finished shaving he touched the dark patch, wondering how he had been sunburned in such a spot. But he did not know he had touched it in so far as there was any response of sensation. The dark place was numb.
"Curious," he thought, wiped his face, and forgot all about it.
No more than he knew what horror that dark spot represented, did he know that Ah Moy's slant eyes had long since noticed it and were continuing to notice it, day by day, with secret growing terror.
Close-hauled on the south-east trades, the Mary Turner began her long slant toward the Marquesas. For'ard, all were happy. Being only seamen, on seamen's wages, they hailed with delight the news that they were bound in for a tropic isle to fill their water-barrels. Aft, the three partners were in bad temper, and Nishikanta openly sneered at Captain Doane and doubted his ability to find the Marquesas. In the steerage everybody was happy—Dag Daughtry because his wages were running on and a further supply of beer was certain; Kwaque because he was happy whenever his master was happy; and Ah Moy because he would soon have opportunity to desert away from the schooner and the two lepers with whom he was domiciled.
Michael shared in the general happiness of the steerage, and joined eagerly with Steward in learning by heart a fifth song. This was "Lead, kindly Light." In his singing, which was no more than trained howling after all, Michael sought for something he knew not what. In truth, it was the lost pack, the pack of the primeval world before the dog ever came in to the fires of men, and, for that matter, before men built fires and before men were men.
He had been born only the other day and had lived but two years in the world, so that, of himself, he had no knowledge of the lost pack. For many thousands of generations he had been away from it; yet, deep down in the crypts of being, tied about and wrapped up in every muscle and nerve of him, was the indelible record of the days in the wild when dim ancestors had run with the pack and at the same time developed the pack and themselves. When Michael was asleep, then it was that pack-memories sometimes arose to the surface of his subconscious mind. These dreams were real while they lasted, but when he was awake he remembered them little if at all. But asleep, or singing with Steward, he sensed and yearned for the lost pack and was impelled to seek the forgotten way to it.
Waking, Michael had another and real pack. This was composed of Steward, Kwaque, Cocky, and Scraps, and he ran with it as ancient forbears had ran with their own kind in the hunting. The steerage was the lair of this pack, and, out of the steerage, it ranged the whole world, which was the Mary Turner ever rocking, heeling, reeling on the surface of the unstable sea.
But the steerage and its company meant more to Michael than the mere pack. It was heaven as well, where dwelt God. Man early invented God, often of stone, or clod, or fire, and placed him in trees and mountains and among the stars. This was because man observed that man passed and was lost out of the tribe, or family, or whatever name he gave to his group, which was, after all, the human pack. And man did not want to be lost out of the pack. So, of his imagination, he devised a new pack that would be eternal and with which he might for ever run. Fearing the dark, into which he observed all men passed, he built beyond the dark a fairer region, a happier hunting-ground, a jollier and robuster feasting-hall and wassailing-place, and called it variously "heaven."
Like some of the earliest and lowest of primitive men, Michael never dreamed of throwing the shadow of himself across his mind and worshipping it as God. He did not worship shadows. He worshipped a real and indubitable god, not fashioned in his own four-legged, hair-covered image, but in the flesh-and-blood image, two-legged, hairless, upstanding, of Steward.
Had the trade wind not failed on the second day after laying the course for the Marquesas; had Captain Doane, at the mid-day meal, not grumbled once again at being equipped with only one chronometer; had Simon Nishikanta not become viciously angry thereat and gone on deck with his rifle to find some sea-denizen to kill; and had the sea-denizen that appeared close alongside been a bonita, a dolphin, a porpoise, an albacore, or anything else than a great, eighty-foot cow whale accompanied by her nursing calf—had any link been missing from this chain of events, the Mary Turner would have undoubtedly reached the Marquesas, filled her water-barrels, and returned to the treasure-hunting; and the destinies of Michael, Daughtry, Kwaque, and Cocky would have been quite different and possibly less terrible.
But every link was present for the occasion. The schooner, in a dead calm, was rolling over the huge, smooth seas, her boom sheets and tackles crashing to the hollow thunder of her great sails, when Simon Nishikanta put a bullet into the body of the little whale calf. By an almost miracle of chance, the shot killed the calf. It was equivalent to killing an elephant with a pea-rifle. Not at once did the calf die. It merely immediately ceased its gambols and for a while lay quivering on the surface of the ocean. The mother was beside it the moment after it was struck, and to those on board, looking almost directly down upon her, her dismay and alarm were very patent. She would nudge the calf with her huge shoulder, circle around and around it, then range up alongside and repeat her nudgings and shoulderings.
All on the Mary Turner, fore and aft, lined the rail and stared down apprehensively at the leviathan that was as long as the schooner.
"If she should do to us, sir, what that other one did to the Essex," Dag Daughtry observed to the Ancient Mariner.
"It would be no more than we deserve," was the response. "It was uncalled-for—a wanton, cruel act."
Michael, aware of the excitement overside but unable to see because of the rail, leaped on top of the cabin and at sight of the monster barked defiantly. Every eye turned on him in startlement and fear, and Steward hushed him with a whispered command.
"This is the last time," Grimshaw muttered in a low voice, tense with anger, to Nishikanta. "If ever again, on this voyage, you take a shot at a whale, I'll wring your dirty neck for you. Get me. I mean it. I'll choke your eye-balls out of you."
The Jew smiled in a sickly way and whined, "There ain't nothing going to happen. I don't believe that Essex ever was sunk by a whale."
Urged on by its mother, the dying calf made spasmodic efforts to swim that were futile and caused it to veer and wallow from side to side.
In the course of circling about it, the mother accidentally brushed her shoulder under the port quarter of the Mary Turner, and the Mary Turner listed to starboard as her stern was lifted a yard or more. Nor was this unintentional, gentle impact all. The instant after her shoulder had touched, startled by the contact, she flailed out with her tail. The blow smote the rail just for'ard of the fore-shrouds, splintering a gap through it as if it were no more than a cigar-box and cracking the covering board.
That was all, and an entire ship's company stared down in silence and fear at a sea-monster grief-stricken over its dying progeny.
Several times, in the course of an hour, during which the schooner and the two whales drifted farther and farther apart, the calf strove vainly to swim. Then it set up a great quivering, which culminated in a wild wallowing and lashing about of its tail.
"It is the death-flurry," said the Ancient Mariner softly.
"By damn, it's dead," was Captain Doane's comment five minutes later. "Who'd believe it? A rifle bullet! I wish to heaven we could get half an hour's breeze of wind to get us out of this neighbourhood."
"A close squeak," said Grimshaw,
Captain Doane shook his head, as his anxious eyes cast aloft to the empty canvas and quested on over the sea in the hope of wind-ruffles on the water. But all was glassy calm, each great sea, of all the orderly procession of great seas, heaving up, round-topped and mountainous, like so much quicksilver.
"It's all right," Grimahaw encouraged. "There she goes now, beating it away from us."
"Of course it's all right, always was all right," Nishikanta bragged, as he wiped the sweat from his face and neck and looked with the others after the departing whale. "You're a fine brave lot, you are, losing your goat to a fish."
"I noticed your face was less yellow than usual," Grimshaw sneered. "It must have gone to your heart."
Captain Doane breathed a great sigh. His relief was too strong to permit him to join in the squabbling.
"You're yellow," Grimshaw went on, "yellow clean through." He nodded his head toward the Ancient Mariner. "Now there's the real thing as a man. No yellow in him. He never batted an eye, and I reckon he knew more about the danger than you did. If I was to choose being wrecked on a desert island with him or you, I'd take him a thousand times first. If—"
But a cry from the sailors interrupted him.
"Merciful God!" Captain Doane breathed aloud.
The great cow whale had turned about, and, on the surface, was charging straight back at them. Such was her speed that a bore was raised by her nose like that which a Dreadnought or an Atlantic liner raises on the sea.
"Hold fast, all!" Captain Doane roared.
Every man braced himself for the shock. Henrik Gjertsen, the sailor at the wheel, spread his legs, crouched down, and stiffened his shoulders and arms to hand-grips on opposite spokes of the wheel. Several of the crew fled from the waist to the poop, and others of them sprang into the main-rigging. Daughtry, one hand on the rail, with his free arm clasped the Ancient Mariner around the waist.
All held. The whale struck the Mary Turner just aft of the fore-shroud. A score of things, which no eye could take in simultaneously, happened. A sailor, in the main rigging, carried away a ratline in both hands, fell head-downward, and was clutched by an ankle and saved head-downward by a comrade, as the schooner cracked and shuddered, uplifted on the port side, and was flung down on her starboard side till the ocean poured level over her rail. Michael, on the smooth roof of the cabin, slithered down the steep slope to starboard and disappeared, clawing and snarling, into the runway. The port shrouds of the foremast carried away at the chain-plates, and the fore-topmast leaned over drunkenly to starboard.
"My word," quoth the Ancient Mariner. "We certainly felt that."
"Mr. Jackson," Captain Doane commanded the mate, "will you sound the well."
The mate obeyed, although he kept an anxious eye on the whale, which had gone off at a tangent and was smoking away to the eastward.
"You see, that's what you get," Grimshaw snarled at Nishikanta.
Nishikanta nodded, as he wiped the sweat away, and muttered, "And I'm satisfied. I got all I want. I didn't think a whale had it in it. I'll never do it again."
"Maybe you'll never have the chance," the captain retorted. "We're not done with this one yet. The one that charged the Essex made charge after charge, and I guess whale nature hasn't changed any in the last few years."
"Dry as a bone, sir," Mr. Jackson reported the result of his sounding.
"There she turns," Daughtry called out.
Half a mile away, the whale circled about sharply and charged back.
"Stand from under for'ard there!" Captain Doane shouted to one of the sailors who had just emerged from the forecastle scuttle, sea-bag in hand, and over whom the fore-topmast was swaying giddily.
"He's packed for the get-away," Daughtry murmured to the Ancient Mariner. "Like a rat leaving a ship."
"We're all rats," was the reply. "I learned just that when I was a rat among the mangy rats of the poor-farm."
By this time, all men on board had communicated to Michael their contagion of excitement and fear. Back on top of the cabin so that he might see, he snarled at the cow whale when the men seized fresh grips against the impending shock and when he saw her close at hand and oncoming.
The Mary Turner was struck aft of the mizzen shrouds. As she was hurled down to starboard, whither Michael was ignominiously flung, the crack of shattered timbers was plainly heard. Henrik Gjertsen, at the wheel, clutching the wheel with all his strength, was spun through the air as the wheel was spun by the fling of the rudder. He fetched up against Captain Doane, whose grip had been torn loose from the rail. Both men crumpled down on deck with the wind knocked out of them. Nishikanta leaned cursing against the side of the cabin, the nails of both hands torn off at the quick by the breaking of his grip on the rail.
While Daughtry was passing a turn of rope around the Ancient Mariner and the mizzen rigging and giving the turn to him to hold, Captain Doane crawled gasping to the rail and dragged himself erect.
"That fetched her," he whispered huskily to the mate, hand pressed to his side to control his pain. "Sound the well again, and keep on sounding."
More of the sailors took advantage of the interval to rush for'ard under the toppling fore-topmast, dive into the forecastle, and hastily pack their sea-bags. As Ah Moy emerged from the steerage with his own rotund sea-bag, Daughtry dispatched Kwaque to pack the belongings of both of them.
"Dry as a bone, sir," came the mate's report.
"Keep on sounding, Mr. Jackson," the captain ordered, his voice already stronger as he recovered from the shock of his collision with the helmsman. "Keep right on sounding. Here she comes again, and the schooner ain't built that'd stand such hammering."
By this time Daughtry had Michael tucked under one arm, his free arm ready to anticipate the next crash by swinging on to the rigging.
In making its circle to come back, the cow lost her bearings sufficiently to miss the stern of the Mary Turner by twenty feet. Nevertheless, the bore of her displacement lifted the schooner's stern gently and made her dip her bow to the sea in a stately curtsey.
"If she'd a-hit . . . " Captain Doane murmured and ceased.
"It'd a-ben good night," Daughtry concluded for him. "She's a-knocked our stern clean off of us, sir."
Again wheeling, this time at no more than two hundred yards, the whale charged back, not completing her semi-circle sufficiently, so that she bore down upon the schooner's bow from starboard. Her back hit the stem and seemed just barely to scrape the martingale, yet the Mary Turner sat down till the sea washed level with her stern-rail. Nor was this all. Martingale, bob-stays and all parted, as well as all starboard stays to the bowsprit, so that the bowsprit swung out to port at right angles and uplifted to the drag of the remaining topmast stays. The topmast anticked high in the air for a space, then crashed down to deck, permitting the bowsprit to dip into the sea, go clear with the butt of it of the forecastle head, and drag alongside.
"Shut up that dog!" Nishikanta ordered Daughtry savagery. "If you don't . . . "
Michael, in Steward's arms, was snarling and growling intimidatingly, not merely at the cow whale but at all the hostile and menacing universe that had thrown panic into the two-legged gods of his floating world.
"Just for that," Daughtry snarled back, "I'll let 'm sing. You made this mess, and if you lift a hand to my dog you'll miss seeing the end of the mess you started, you dirty pawnbroker, you."
"Perfectly right, perfectly right," the Ancient Mariner nodded approbation. "Do you think, steward, you could get a width of canvas, or a blanket, or something soft and broad with which to replace this rope? It cuts me too sharply in the spot where my three ribs are missing."
Daughtry thrust Michael into the old man's arm.
"Hold him, sir," the steward said. "If that pawnbroker makes a move against Killeny Boy, spit in his face, bite him, anything. I'll be back in a jiffy, sir, before he can hurt you and before the whale can hit us again. And let Killeny Boy make all the noise he wants. One hair of him's worth more than a world-full of skunks of money-lenders."
Daughtry dashed into the cabin, came back with a pillow and three sheets, and, using the first as a pad and knotting the last together in swift weaver's knots, he left the Ancient Mariner safe and soft and took Michael back into his own arms.
"She's making water, sir," the mate called. "Six inches—no, seven inches, sir."
There was a rush of sailors across the wreckage of the fore-topmast to the forecastle to pack their bags.
"Swing out that starboard boat, Mr. Jackson," the captain commanded, staring after the foaming course of the cow as she surged away for a fresh onslaught. "But don't lower it. Hold it overside in the falls, or that damned fish'll smash it. Just swing it out, ready and waiting, let the men get their bags, then stow food and water aboard of her."
Lashings were cast off the boat and the falls attached, when the men fled to holding-vantage just ere the whale arrived. She struck the Mary Turner squarely amidships on the port beam, so that, from the poop, one saw, as well as heard, her long side bend and spring back like a limber fabric. The starboard rail buried under the sea as the schooner heeled to the blow, and, as she righted with a violent lurch, the water swashed across the deck to the knees of the sailors about the boat and spouted out of the port scuppers.
"Heave away!" Captain Doane ordered from the poop. "Up with her! Swing her out! Hold your turns! Make fast!"
The boat was outboard, its gunwale resting against the Mary Turner's rail.
"Ten inches, sir, and making fast," was the mate's information, as he gauged the sounding-rod.
"I'm going after my tools," Captain Doane announced, as he started for the cabin. Half into the scuttle, he paused to add with a sneer for Nishikanta's benefit, "And for my one chronometer."
"A foot and a half, and making," the mate shouted aft to him.
"We'd better do some packing ourselves," Grimshaw, following on the captain, said to Nishikanta.
"Steward," Nishikanta said, "go below and pack my bedding. I'll take care of the rest."
"Mr. Nishikanta, you can go to hell, sir, and all the rest as well," was Daughtry's quiet response, although in the same breath he was saying, respectfully and assuringly, to the Ancient Mariner: "You hold Killeny, sir. I'll take care of your dunnage. Is there anything special you want to save, sir?"
Jackson joined the four men below, and as the five of them, in haste and trepidation, packed articles of worth and comfort, the Mary Turner was struck again. Caught below without warning, all were flung fiercely to port and from Simon Nishikanta's room came wailing curses of announcement of the hurt to his ribs against his bunk-rail. But this was drowned by a prodigious smashing and crashing on deck.
"Kindling wood—there won't be anything else left of her," Captain Doane commented in the ensuing calm, as he crept gingerly up the companionway with his chronometer cuddled on an even keel to his breast.
Placing it in the custody of a sailor, he returned below and was helped up with his sea-chest by the steward. In turn, he helped the steward up with the Ancient Mariner's sea-chest. Next, aided by anxious sailors, he and Daughtry dropped into the lazarette through the cabin floor, and began breaking out and passing up a stream of supplies—cases of salmon and beef, of marmalade and biscuit, of butter and preserved milk, and of all sorts of the tinned, desiccated, evaporated, and condensed stuff that of modern times goes down to the sea in ships for the nourishment of men.
Daughtry and the captain emerged last from the cabin, and both stared upward for a moment at the gaps in the slender, sky-scraping top-hamper, where, only minutes before, the main- and mizzen-topmasts had been. A second moment they devoted to the wreckage of the same on deck—the mizzen-topmast, thrust through the spanker and supported vertically by the stout canvas, thrashing back and forth with each thrash of the sail, the main-topmast squarely across the ruined companionway to the steerage.
While the mother-whale expressing her bereavement in terms of violence and destruction, was withdrawing the necessary distance for another charge, all hands of the Mary Turner gathered about the starboard boat swung outboard ready for lowering. A respectable hill of case goods, water-kegs, and personal dunnage was piled on the deck alongside. A glance at this, and at the many men of fore and aft, demonstrated that it was to be a perilously overloaded boat.
"We want the sailors with us, at any rate—they can row," said Simon Nishikanta.
"But do we want you?" Grimshaw queried gloomily. "You take up too much room, for your size, and you're a beast anyway."
"I guess I'll be wanted," the pawnbroker observed, as he jerked open his shirt, tearing out the four buttons in his impetuousness and showing a Colt's .44 automatic, strapped in its holster against the bare skin of his side under his left arm, the butt of the weapon most readily accessible to any hasty dip of his right hand. "I guess I'll be wanted. But just the same we can dispense with the undesirables."
"If you will have your will," the wheat-farmer conceded sardonically, although his big hand clenched involuntarily as if throttling a throat. "Besides, if we should run short of food you will prove desirable—for the quantity of you, I mean, and not otherwise. Now just who would you consider undesirable?—the black nigger? He ain't got a gun."
But his pleasantries were cut short by the whale's next attack—another smash at the stern that carried away the rudder and destroyed the steering gear.
"How much water?" Captain Doane queried of the mate.
"Three feet, sir—I just sounded," came the answer. "I think, sir, it would be advisable to part-load the boat; then, right after the next time the whale hits us, lower away on the run, chuck the rest of the dunnage in, and ourselves, and get clear."
Captain Doane nodded.
"It will be lively work," he said. "Stand ready, all of you. Steward, you jump aboard first and I'll pass the chronometer to you."
Nishikanta bellicosely shouldered his vast bulk up to the captain, opened his shirt, and exposed his revolver.
"There's too many for the boat," he said, "and the steward's one of 'em that don't go along. Get that. Hold it in your head. The steward's one of 'em that don't go along."
Captain Doane coolly surveyed the big automatic, while at the fore of his consciousness burned a vision of his flat buildings in San Francisco.
He shrugged his shoulders. "The boat would be overloaded, with all this truck, anyway. Go ahead, if you want to make it your party, but just bear in mind that I'm the navigator, and that, if you ever want to lay eyes on your string of pawnshops, you'd better see that gentle care is taken of me.—Steward!"
Daughtry stepped close.
"There won't be room for you . . . and for one or two others, I'm sorry to say."
"Glory be!" said Daughtry. "I was just fearin' you'd be wantin' me along, sir.—Kwaque, you take 'm my fella dunnage belong me, put 'm in other fella boat along other side."
While Kwaque obeyed, the mate sounded the well for the last time, reporting three feet and a half, and the lighter freightage of the starboard boat was tossed in by the sailors.
A rangy, gangly, Scandinavian youth of a sailor, droop-shouldered, six feet six and slender as a lath, with pallid eyes of palest blue and skin and hair attuned to the same colour scheme, joined Kwaque in his work.
"Here, you Big John," the mate interfered. "This is your boat. You work here."
The lanky one smiled in embarrassment as he haltingly explained: "I tank I lak go along cooky."
"Sure, let him go, the more the easier," Nishikanta took charge of the situation. "Anybody else?"
"Sure," Dag Daughtry sneered to his face. "I reckon what's left of the beer goes with my boat . . . unless you want to argue the matter."
"For two cents—" Nishikanta spluttered in affected rage.
"Not for two billion cents would you risk a scrap with me, you money-sweater, you," was Daughtry's retort. "You've got their goats, but I've got your number. Not for two billion billion cents would you excite me into callin' it right now.—Big John! Just carry that case of beer across, an' that half case, and store in my boat.—Nishikanta, just start something, if you've got the nerve."
Simon Nishikanta did not dare, nor did he know what to do; but he was saved from his perplexity by the shout:
"Here she comes!"
All rushed to holding-ground, and held, while the whale broke more timbers and the Mary Turner rolled sluggishly down and back again.
"Lower away! On the run! Lively!"
Captain Doane's orders were swiftly obeyed. The starboard boat, fended off by sailors, rose and fell in the water alongside while the remainder of the dunnage and provisions showered into her.
"Might as well lend a hand, sir, seein' you're bent on leaving in such a hurry," said Daughtry, taking the chronometer from Captain Doane's hand and standing ready to pass it down to him as soon as he was in the boat.
"Come on, Greenleaf," Grimshaw called up to the Ancient Mariner.
"No, thanking you very kindly, sir," came the reply. "I think there'll be more room in the other boat."
"We want the cook!" Nishikanta cried out from the stern sheets. "Come on, you yellow monkey! Jump in!"
Little old shrivelled Ah Moy debated. He visibly thought, although none knew the intrinsicness of his thinking as he stared at the gun of the fat pawnbroker and at the leprosy of Kwaque and Daughtry, and weighed the one against the other and tossed the light and heavy loads of the two boats into the balance.
"Me go other boat," said Ah Moy, starting to drag his bag away across the deck.
"Cast off," Captain Doane commanded.
Scraps, the big Newfoundland puppy, who had played and pranced about through all the excitement, seeing so many of the Mary Turner's humans in the boat alongside, sprang over the rail, low and close to the water, and landed sprawling on the mass of sea-bags and goods cases.
The boot rocked, and Nishikanta, his automatic in his hand, cried out:
"Back with him! Throw him on board!"
The sailors obeyed, and the astounded Scraps, after a brief flight through the air, found himself arriving on his back on the Mary Turner's deck. At any rate, he took it for no more than a rough joke, and rolled about ecstatically, squirming vermicularly, in anticipation of what new delights of play were to be visited upon him. He reached out, with an enticing growl of good fellowship, for Michael, who was now free on deck, and received in return a forbidding and crusty snarl.
"Guess we'll have to add him to our collection, eh, sir?" Daughtry observed, sparing a moment to pat reassurance on the big puppy's head and being rewarded with a caressing lick on his hand from the puppy's blissful tongue.
No first-class ship's steward can exist without possessing a more than average measure of executive ability. Dag Daughtry was a first-class ship's steward. Placing the Ancient Mariner in a nook of safety, and setting Big John to unlashing the remaining boat and hooking on the falls, he sent Kwaque into the hold to fill kegs of water from the scant remnant of supply, and Ah Moy to clear out the food in the galley.
The starboard boat, cluttered with men, provisions, and property and being rapidly rowed away from the danger centre, which was the Mary Turner, was scarcely a hundred yards away, when the whale, missing the schooner clean, turned at full speed and close range, churning the water, and all but collided with the boat. So near did she come that the rowers on the side next to her pulled in their oars. The surge she raised, heeled the loaded boat gunwale under, so that a degree of water was shipped ere it righted. Nishikanta, automatic still in hand, standing up in the sternsheets by the comfortable seat he had selected for himself, was staggered by the lurch of the boat. In his instinctive, spasmodic effort to maintain balance, he relaxed his clutch on the pistol, which fell into the sea.
"Ha-ah!" Daughtry girded. "What price Nishikanta? I got his number, and he's lost you fellows' goats. He's your meat now. Easy meat? I should say! And when it comes to the eating, eat him first. Sure, he's a skunk, and will taste like one, but many's the honest man that's eaten skunk and pulled through a tight place. But you'd better soak 'im all night in salt water, first."
Grimshaw, whose seat in the sternsheets was none of the best, grasped the situation simultaneously with Daughtry, and, with a quick upstanding, and hooking out-reach of hand, caught the fat pawnbroker around the back of the neck, and with anything but gentle suasion jerked him half into the air and flung him face downward on the bottom boards.
"Ha-ah!" said Daughtry across the hundred yards of ocean.
Next, and without hurry, Grimshaw took the more comfortable seat for himself.
"Want to come along?" he called to Daughtry.
"No, thank you, sir," was the latter's reply. "There's too many of us, an' we'll make out better in the other boat."
With some bailing, and with others bending to the oars, the boat rowed frantically away, while Daughtry took Ah Moy with him down into the lazarette beneath the cabin floor and broke out and passed up more provisions.
It was when he was thus below that the cow grazed the schooner just for'ard of amidships on the port side, lashed out with her mighty tail as she sounded, and ripped clean away the chain plates and rail of the mizzen-shrouds. In the next roll of the huge, glassy sea, the mizzen- mast fell overside.
"My word, some whale," Daughtry said to Ah Moy, as they emerged from the cabin companionway and gazed at this latest wreckage.
Ah Moy found need to get more food from the galley, when Daughtry, Kwaque, and Big John swung their weight on the falls, one at a time, and hoisted the port boat, one end at a time, over the rail and swung her out.
"We'll wait till the next smash, then lower away, throw everything in, an' get outa this," the steward told the Ancient Mariner. "Lots of time. The schooner'll sink no faster when she's awash than she's sinkin' now."
Even as he spoke, the scuppers were nearly level with the ocean, and her rolling in the big sea was sluggish.
"Hey!" he called with sudden forethought across the widening stretch of sea to Captain Doane. "What's the course to the Marquesas? Right now? And how far away, sir?"
"Nor'-nor'-east-quarter-east!" came the faint reply. "Will fetch Nuka- Hiva! About two hundred miles! Haul on the south-east trade with a good full and you'll make it!"
"Thank you, sir," was the steward's acknowledgment, ere he ran aft, disrupted the binnacle, and carried the steering compass back to the boat.
Almost, from the whale's delay in renewing her charging, did they think she had given over. And while they waited and watched her rolling on the sea an eighth of a mile away, the Mary Turner steadily sank.
"We might almost chance it," Daughtry was debating aloud to Big John, when a new voice entered the discussion.
"Cocky!—Cocky!" came plaintive tones from below out of the steerage companion.
"Devil be damned!" was the next, uttered in irritation and anger. "Devil be damned! Devil be damned!"
"Of course not," was Daughtry's judgment, as he dashed across the deck, crawled through the confusion of the main-topmast and its many stays that blocked the way, and found the tiny, white morsel of life perched on a bunk-edge, ruffling its feathers, erecting and flattening its rosy crest, and cursing in honest human speech the waywardness of the world and of ships and humans upon the sea.
The cockatoo stepped upon Daughtry's inviting index finger, swiftly ascended his shirt sleeve, and, on his shoulder, claws sunk into the flimsy shirt fabric till they hurt the flesh beneath, leaned head to ear and uttered in gratitude and relief, and in self-identification: "Cocky. Cocky."
"You son of a gun," Daughtry crooned.
"Glory be!" Cooky replied, in tones so like Daughtry's as to startle him.
"You son of a gun," Daughtry repeated, cuddling his cheek and ear against the cockatoo's feathered and crested head. "And some folks thinks it's only folks that count in this world."
Still the whale delayed, and, with the ocean washing their toes on the level deck, Daughtry ordered the boat lowered away. Ah Moy was eager in his haste to leap into the bow. Nor was Daughtry's judgment correct that the little Chinaman's haste was due to fear of the sinking ship. What Ah Moy sought was the place in the boat remotest from Kwaque and the steward.
Shoving clear, they roughly stored the supplies and dunnage out of the way of the thwarts and took their places, Ah Moy pulling bow-oar, next in order Big John and Kwaque, with Daughtry (Cocky still perched on his shoulder) at stroke. On top of the dunnage, in the sternsheets, Michael gazed wistfully at the Mary Turner and continued to snarl crustily at Scraps who idiotically wanted to start a romp. The Ancient Mariner stood up at the steering sweep and gave the order, when all was ready, for the first dip of the oars.
A growl and a bristle from Michael warned them that the whale was not only coming but was close upon them. But it was not charging. Instead, it circled slowly about the schooner as if examining its antagonist.
"I'll bet it's head's sore from all that banging, an' it's beginnin' to feel it," Daughtry grinned, chiefly for the purpose of keeping his comrades unafraid.
Barely had they rowed a dozen strokes, when an exclamation from Big John led them to follow his gaze to the schooners forecastle-head, where the forecastle cat flashed across in pursuit of a big rat. Other rats they saw, evidently driven out of their lairs by the rising water.
"We just can't leave that cat behind," Daughtry soliloquized in suggestive tones.
"Certainly not," the Ancient Mariner responded swinging his weight on the steering-sweep and heading the boat back.
Twice the whale gently rolled them in the course of its leisurely circling, ere they bent to their oars again and pulled away. Of them the whale seemed to take no notice. It was from the huge thing, the schooner, that death had been wreaked upon her calf; and it was upon the schooner that she vented the wrath of her grief.
Even as they pulled away, the whale turned and headed across the ocean. At a half-mile distance she curved about and charged back.
"With all that water in her, the schooner'll have a real kick-back in her when she's hit," Daughtry said. "Lordy me, rest on your oars an' watch."
Delivered squarely amidships, it was the hardest blow the Mary Turner had received. Stays and splinters of rail flew in the air as she rolled so far over as to expose half her copper wet-glistening in the sun. As she righted sluggishly, the mainmast swayed drunkenly in the air but did not fall.
"A knock-out!" Daughtry cried, at sight of the whale flurrying the water with aimless, gigantic splashings. "It must a-smashed both of 'em."
"Schooner he finish close up altogether," Kwaque observed, as the Mary Turner's rail disappeared.
Swiftly she sank, and no more than a matter of moments was it when the stump of her mainmast was gone. Remained only the whale, floating and floundering, on the surface of the sea.
"It's nothing to brag about," Daughtry delivered himself of the Mary Turner's epitaph. "Nobody'd believe us. A stout little craft like that sunk, deliberately sunk, by an old cow-whale! No, sir. I never believed that old moss-back in Honolulu, when he claimed he was a survivor of the sinkin' of the Essex, an' no more will anybody believe me."
"The pretty schooner, the pretty clever craft," mourned the Ancient Mariner. "Never were there more dainty and lovable topmasts on a three- masted schooner, and never was there a three-masted schooner that worked like the witch she was to windward."
Dag Daughtry, who had kept always footloose and never married, surveyed the boat-load of his responsibilities to which he was anchored—Kwaque, the Black Papuan monstrosity whom he had saved from the bellies of his fellows; Ah Moy, the little old sea-cook whose age was problematical only by decades; the Ancient Mariner, the dignified, the beloved, and the respected; gangly Big John, the youthful Scandinavian with the inches of a giant and the mind of a child; Killeny Boy, the wonder of dogs; Scraps, the outrageously silly and fat-rolling puppy; Cocky, the white-feathered mite of life, imperious as a steel-blade and wheedlingly seductive as a charming child; and even the forecastle cat, the lithe and tawny slayer of rats, sheltering between the legs of Ah Moy. And the Marquesas were two hundred miles distant full-hauled on the tradewind which had ceased but which was as sure to live again as the morning sun in the sky.
The steward heaved a sigh, and whimsically shot into his mind the memory- picture in his nursery-book of the old woman who lived in a shoe. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, and was dimly aware of the area of the numbness that bordered the centre that was sensationless between his eyebrows, as he said:
"Well, children, rowing won't fetch us to the Marquesas. We'll need a stretch of wind for that. But it's up to us, right now, to put a mile or so between us an' that peevish old cow. Maybe she'll revive, and maybe she won't, but just the same I can't help feelin' leary about her."
Two days later, as the steamer Mariposa plied her customary route between Tahiti and San Francisco, the passengers ceased playing deck quoits, abandoned their card games in the smoker, their novels and deck chairs, and crowded the rail to stare at the small boat that skimmed to them across the sea before a light following breeze. When Big John, aided by Ah Moy and Kwaque, lowered the sail and unstepped the mast, titters and laughter arose from the passengers. It was contrary to all their preconceptions of mid-ocean rescue of ship-wrecked mariners from the open boat.
It caught their fancy that this boat was the Ark, what of its freightage of bedding, dry goods boxes, beer-cases, a cat, two dogs, a white cockatoo, a Chinaman, a kinky-headed black, a gangly pallid-haired giant, a grizzled Dag Daughtry, and an Ancient Mariner who looked every inch the part. Him a facetious, vacationing architect's clerk dubbed Noah, and so greeted him.
"I say, Noah," he called. "Some flood, eh? Located Ararat yet?"
"Catch any fish?" bawled another youngster down over the rail.
"Gracious! Look at the beer! Good English beer! Put me down for a case!"
Never was a more popular wrecked crew more merrily rescued at sea. The young blades would have it that none other than old Noah himself had come on board with the remnants of the Lost Tribes, and to elderly female passengers spun hair-raising accounts of the sinking of an entire tropic island by volcanic and earthquake action.
"I'm a steward," Dag Daughtry told the Mariposa's captain, "and I'll be glad and grateful to berth along with your stewards in the glory-hole. Big John there's a sailorman, an' the fo'c's'le 'll do him. The Chink is a ship's cook, and the nigger belongs to me. But Mr. Greenleaf, sir, is a gentleman, and the best of cabin fare and staterooms'll be none too good for him, sir."
And when the news went around that these were part of the survivors of the three-masted schooner, Mary Turner, smashed into kindling wood and sunk by a whale, the elderly females no more believed than had they the yarn of the sunken island.
"Captain Hayward," one of them demanded of the steamer's skipper, "could a whale sink the Mariposa?"
"She has never been so sunk," was his reply.
"I knew it!" she declared emphatically. "It's not the way of ships to go around being sunk by whales, is it, captain?"
"No, madam, I assure you it is not," was his response. "Nevertheless, all the five men insist upon it."
"Sailors are notorious for their unveracity, are they not?" the lady voiced her flat conclusion in the form of a tentative query.
"Worst liars I ever saw, madam. Do you know, after forty years at sea, I couldn't believe myself under oath."
* * * * *
Nine days later the Mariposa threaded the Golden Gate and docked at San Francisco. Humorous half-columns in the local papers, written in the customary silly way by unlicked cub reporters just out of grammar school, tickled the fancy of San Francisco for a fleeting moment in that the steamship Mariposa had rescued some sea-waifs possessed of a cock-and- bull story that not even the reporters believed. Thus, silly reportorial unveracity usually proves extraordinary truth a liar. It is the way of cub reporters, city newspapers, and flat-floor populations which get their thrills from moving pictures and for which the real world and all its spaciousness does not exist.
"Sunk by a whale!" demanded the average flat-floor person. "Nonsense, that's all. Just plain rotten nonsense. Now, in the 'Adventures of Eleanor,' which is some film, believe me, I'll tell you what I saw happen . . . "
So Daughtry and his crew went ashore into 'Frisco Town uheralded and unsung, the second following morning's lucubrations of the sea reporters being varied disportations upon the attack on an Italian crab fisherman by an enormous jellyfish. Big John promptly sank out of sight in a sailors' boarding-house, and, within the week, joined the Sailors' Union and shipped on a steam schooner to load redwood ties at Bandon, Oregon. Ah Moy got no farther ashore than the detention sheds of the Federal Immigration Board, whence he was deported to China on the next Pacific Mail steamer. The Mary Turner's cat was adopted by the sailors' forecastle of the Mariposa, and on the Mariposa sailed away on the back trip to Tahiti. Scraps was taken ashore by a quartermaster and left in the bosom of his family.
And ashore went Dag Daughtry, with his small savings, to rent two cheap rooms for himself and his remaining responsibilities, namely, Charles Stough Greenleaf, Kwaque, Michael, and, not least, Cocky. But not for long did he permit the Ancient Mariner to live with him.
"It's not playing the game, sir," he told him. "What we need is capital. We've got to interest capital, and you've got to do the interesting. Now this very day you've got to buy a couple of suit-cases, hire a taxicab, go sailing up to the front door of the Bronx Hotel like good pay and be damned. She's a real stylish hotel, but reasonable if you want to make it so. A little room, an inside room, European plan, of course, and then you can economise by eatin' out."
"But, steward, I have no money," the Ancient Mariner protested.
"That's all right, sir; I'll back you for all I can."
"But, my dear man, you know I'm an old impostor. I can't stick you up like the others. You . . . why . . . why, you're a friend, don't you see?"
"Sure I do, and I thank you for sayin' it, sir. And that's why I'm with you. And when you've nailed another crowd of treasure-hunters and got the ship ready, you'll just ship me along as steward, with Kwaque, and Killeny Boy, and the rest of our family. You've adopted me, now, an' I'm your grown-up son, an' you've got to listen to me. The Bronx is the hotel for you—fine-soundin' name, ain't it? That's atmosphere. Folk'll listen half to you an' more to your hotel. I tell you, you leaning back in a big leather chair talkin' treasure with a two-bit cigar in your mouth an' a twenty-cent drink beside you, why that's like treasure. They just got to believe. An' if you'll come along now, sir, we'll trot out an' buy them suit-cases."
Right bravely the Ancient Mariner drove to the Bronx in a taxi, registered his "Charles Stough Greenleaf" in an old-fashioned hand, and took up anew the activities which for years had kept him free of the poor- farm. No less bravely did Dag Daughtry set out to seek work. This was most necessary, because he was a man of expensive luxuries. His family of Kwaque, Michael, and Cocky required food and shelter; more costly than that was maintenance of the Ancient Mariner in the high-class hotel; and, in addition, was his six-quart thirst.
But it was a time of industrial depression. The unemployed problem was bulking bigger than usual to the citizens of San Francisco. And, as regarded steamships and sailing vessels, there were three stewards for every Steward's position. Nothing steady could Daughtry procure, while his occasional odd jobs did not balance his various running expenses. Even did he do pick-and-shovel work, for the municipality, for three days, when he had to give way, according to the impartial procedure, to another needy one whom three days' work would keep afloat a little longer.
Daughtry would have put Kwaque to work, except that Kwaque was impossible. The black, who had only seen Sydney from steamers' decks, had never been in a city in his life. All he knew of the world was steamers, far-outlying south-sea isles, and his own island of King William in Melanesia. So Kwaque remained in the two rooms, cooking and housekeeping for his master and caring for Michael and Cocky. All of which was prison for Michael, who had been used to the run of ships, of coral beaches and plantations.
But in the evenings, sometimes accompanied a few steps in the rear by Kwaque, Michael strolled out with Steward. The multiplicity of man-gods on the teeming sidewalks became a real bore to Michael, so that man-gods, in general, underwent a sharp depreciation. But Steward, the particular god of his fealty and worship, appreciated. Amongst so many gods Michael felt bewildered, while Steward's Abrahamic bosom became more than ever the one sure haven where harshness and danger never troubled.
"Mind your step," is the last word and warning of twentieth-century city life. Michael was not slow to learn it, as he conserved his own feet among the countless thousands of leather-shod feet of men, ever hurrying, always unregarding of the existence and right of way of a lowly, four- legged Irish terrier.
The evening outings with Steward invariably led from saloon to saloon, where, at long bars, standing on sawdust floors, or seated at tables, men drank and talked. Much of both did men do, and also did Steward do, ere, his daily six-quart stint accomplished, he turned homeward for bed. Many were the acquaintances he made, and Michael with him. Coasting seamen and bay sailors they mostly were, although there were many 'longshoremen and waterfront workmen among them.
From one of these, a scow-schooner captain who plied up and down the bay and the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, Daughtry had the promise of being engaged as cook and sailor on the schooner Howard. Eighty tons of freight, including deckload, she carried, and in all democracy Captain Jorgensen, the cook, and the two other sailors, loaded and unloaded her at all hours, and sailed her night and day on all times and tides, one man steering while three slept and recuperated. It was time, and double- time, and over-time beyond that, but the feeding was generous and the wages ran from forty-five to sixty dollars a month.
"Sure, you bet," said Captain Jorgensen. "This cook-feller, Hanson, pretty quick I smash him up an' fire him, then you can come along . . . and the bow-wow, too." Here he dropped a hearty, wholesome hand of toil down to a caress of Michael's head. "That's one fine bow-wow. A bow-wow is good on a scow when all hands sleep alongside the dock or in an anchor watch."
"Fire Hanson now," Dag Daughtry urged.
But Captain Jorgensen shook his slow head slowly. "First I smash him up."
"Then smash him now and fire him," Daughtry persisted. "There he is right now at the corner of the bar."
"No. He must give me reason. I got plenty of reason. But I want reason all hands can see. I want him make me smash him, so that all hands say, 'Hurrah, Captain, you done right.' Then you get the job, Daughtry."
Had Captain Jorgensen not been dilatory in his contemplated smashing, and had not Hanson delayed in giving sufficient provocation for a smashing, Michael would have accompanied Steward upon the schooner, Howard, and all Michael's subsequent experiences would have been totally different from what they were destined to be. But destined they were, by chance and by combinations of chance events over which Michael had no control and of which he had no more awareness than had Steward himself. At that period, the subsequent stage career and nightmare of cruelty for Michael was beyond any wildest forecast or apprehension. And as to forecasting Dag Daughtry's fate, along with Kwaque, no maddest drug-dream could have approximated it.
One night Dag Daughtry sat at a table in the saloon called the Pile-drivers' Home. He was in a parlous predicament. Harder than ever had it been to secure odd jobs, and he had reached the end of his savings. Earlier in the evening he had had a telephone conference with the Ancient Mariner, who had reported only progress with an exceptionally strong nibble that very day from a retired quack doctor.
"Let me pawn my rings," the Ancient Mariner had urged, not for the first time, over the telephone.
"No, sir," had been Daughtry's reply. "We need them in the business. They're stock in trade. They're atmosphere. They're what you call a figure of speech. I'll do some thinking to-night an' see you in the morning, sir. Hold on to them rings an' don't be no more than casual in playin' that doctor. Make 'm come to you. It's the only way. Now you're all right, an' everything's hunkydory an' the goose hangs high. Don't you worry, sir. Dag Daughtry never fell down yet."
But, as he sat in the Pile-drivers' Home, it looked as if his fall-down was very near. In his pocket was precisely the room-rent for the following week, the advance payment of which was already three days overdue and clamorously demanded by the hard-faced landlady. In the rooms, with care, was enough food with which to pinch through for another day. The Ancient Mariner's modest hotel bill had not been paid for two weeks—a prodigious sum under the circumstances, being a first-class hotel; while the Ancient Mariner had no more than a couple of dollars in his pocket with which to make a sound like prosperity in the ears of the retired doctor who wanted to go a-treasuring.
Most catastrophic of all, however, was the fact that Dag Daughtry was three quarts short of his daily allowance and did not dare break into the rent money which was all that stood between him and his family and the street. This was why he sat at the beer table with Captain Jorgensen, who was just returned with a schooner-load of hay from the Petaluma Flats. He had already bought beer twice, and evinced no further show of thirst. Instead, he was yawning from long hours of work and waking and looking at his watch. And Daughtry was three quarts short! Besides, Hanson had not yet been smashed, so that the cook-job on the schooner still lay ahead an unknown distance in the future.
In his desperation, Daughtry hit upon an idea with which to get another schooner of steam beer. He did not like steam beer, but it was cheaper than lager.
"Look here, Captain," he said. "You don't know how smart that Killeny Boy is. Why, he can count just like you and me."
"Hoh!" rumbled Captain Jorgensen. "I seen 'em do it in side shows. It's all tricks. Dogs an' horses can't count."
"This dog can," Daughtry continued quietly. "You can't fool 'm. I bet you, right now, I can order two beers, loud so he can hear and notice, and then whisper to the waiter to bring one, an', when the one comes, Killeny Boy'll raise a roar with the waiter."
"Hoh! Hoh! How much will you bet?"
The steward fingered a dime in his pocket. If Killeny failed him it meant that the rent-money would be broken in upon. But Killeny couldn't and wouldn't fail him, he reasoned, as he answered:
"I'll bet you the price of two beers."
The waiter was summoned, and, when he had received his secret instructions, Michael was called over from where he lay at Kwaque's feet in a corner. When Steward placed a chair for him at the table and invited him into it, he began to key up. Steward expected something of him, wanted him to show off. And it was not because of the showing off that he was eager, but because of his love for Steward. Love and service were one in the simple processes of Michael's mind. Just as he would have leaped into fire for Steward's sake, so would he now serve Steward in any way Steward desired. That was what love meant to him. It was all love meant to him—service.
"Waiter!" Steward called; and, when the waiter stood close at hand: "Two beers.—Did you get that, Killeny? Two beers."
Michael squirmed in his chair, placed an impulsive paw on the table, and impulsively flashed out his ribbon of tongue to Steward's close-bending face.
"He will remember," Daughtry told the scow-schooner captain.
"Not if we talk," was the reply. "Now we will fool your bow-wow. I will say that the job is yours when I smash Hanson. And you will say it is for me to smash Hanson now. And I will say Hanson must give me reason first to smash him. And then we will argue like two fools with mouths full of much noise. Are you ready?"
Daughtry nodded, and thereupon ensued a loud-voiced discussion that drew Michael's earnest attention from one talker to the other.
"I got you," Captain Jorgensen announced, as he saw the waiter approaching with but a single schooner of beer. "The bow-wow has forgot, if he ever remembered. He thinks you an' me is fighting. The place in his mind for one beer, and two, is wiped out, like a wave on the beach wipes out the writing in the sand."
"I guess he ain't goin' to forget arithmetic no matter how much noise you shouts," Daughtry argued aloud against his sinking spirits. "An' I ain't goin' to butt in," he added hopefully. "You just watch 'm for himself."
The tall, schooner-glass of beer was placed before the captain, who laid a swift, containing hand around it. And Michael, strung as a taut string, knowing that something was expected of him, on his toes to serve, remembered his ancient lessons on the Makambo, vainly looked into the impassive face of Steward for a sign, then looked about and saw, not two glasses, but one glass. So well had he learned the difference between one and two that it came to him—how the profoundest psychologist can no more state than can he state what thought is in itself—that there was one glass only when two glasses had been commanded. With an abrupt upspring, his throat half harsh with anger, he placed both forepaws on the table and barked at the waiter.
Captain Jorgensen crashed his fist down.
"You win!" he roared. "I pay for the beer! Waiter, bring one more."
Michael looked to Steward for verification, and Steward's hand on his head gave adequate reply.
"We try again," said the captain, very much awake and interested, with the back of his hand wiping the beer-foam from his moustache. "Maybe he knows one an' two. How about three? And four?"
"Just the same, Skipper. He counts up to five, and knows more than five when it is more than five, though he don't know the figures by name after five."
"Oh, Hanson!" Captain Jorgensen bellowed across the bar-room to the cook of the Howard. "Hey, you square-head! Come and have a drink!"
Hanson came over and pulled up a chair.
"I pay for the drinks," said the captain; "but you order, Daughtry. See, now, Hanson, this is a trick bow-wow. He can count better than you. We are three. Daughtry is ordering three beers. The bow-wow hears three. I hold up two fingers like this to the waiter. He brings two. The bow-wow raises hell with the waiter. You see."
All of which came to pass, Michael blissfully unappeasable until the order was filled properly.
"He can't count," was Hanson's conclusion. "He sees one man without beer. That's all. He knows every man should ought to have a glass. That's why he barks."
"Better than that," Daughtry boasted. "There are three of us. We will order four. Then each man will have his glass, but Killeny will talk to the waiter just the same."
True enough, now thoroughly aware of the game, Michael made outcry to the waiter till the fourth glass was brought. By this time many men were about the table, all wanting to buy beer and test Michael.
"Glory be," Dag Daughtry solloquized. "A funny world. Thirsty one moment. The next moment they'd fair drown you in beer."
Several even wanted to buy Michael, offering ridiculous sums like fifteen and twenty dollars.
"I tell you what," Captain Jorgensen muttered to Daughtry, whom he had drawn away into a corner. "You give me that bow-wow, and I'll smash Hanson right now, and you got the job right away—come to work in the morning."
Into another corner the proprietor of the Pile-drivers' Home drew Daughtry to whisper to him:
"You stick around here every night with that dog of yourn. It makes trade. I'll give you free beer any time and fifty cents cash money a night."
It was this proposition that started the big idea in Daughtry's mind. As he told Michael, back in the room, while Kwaque was unlacing his shoes:
"It's this way Killeny. If you're worth fifty cents a night and free beer to that saloon keeper, then you're worth that to me . . . and more, my son, more. 'Cause he's lookin' for a profit. That's why he sells beer instead of buyin' it. An', Killeny, you won't mind workin' for me, I know. We need the money. There's Kwaque, an' Mr. Greenleaf, an' Cocky, not even mentioning you an' me, an' we eat an awful lot. An' room- rent's hard to get, an' jobs is harder. What d'ye say, son, to-morrow night you an' me hustle around an' see how much coin we can gather?"
And Michael, seated on Steward's knees, eyes to eyes and nose to nose, his jowls held in Steward's hand's wriggled and squirmed with delight, flipping out his tongue and bobbing his tail in the air. Whatever it was, it was good, for it was Steward who spoke.
The grizzled ship's steward and the rough-coated Irish terrier quickly became conspicuous figures in the night life of the Barbary Coast of San Francisco. Daughtry elaborated on the counting trick by bringing Cocky along. Thus, when a waiter did not fetch the right number of glasses, Michael would remain quite still, until Cocky, at a privy signal from Steward, standing on one leg, with the free claw would clutch Michael's neck and apparently talk into Michael's ear. Whereupon Michael would look about the glasses on the table and begin his usual expostulation with the waiter.
But it was when Daughtry and Michael first sang "Roll me Down to Rio" together, that the ten-strike was made. It occurred in a sailors' dance- hall on Pacific Street, and all dancing stopped while the sailors clamoured for more of the singing dog. Nor did the place lose money, for no one left, and the crowd increased to standing room as Michael went through his repertoire of "God Save the King," "Sweet Bye and Bye," "Lead, Kindly Light," "Home, Sweet Home," and "Shenandoah."
It meant more than free beer to Daughtry, for, when he started to leave, the proprietor of the place thrust three silver dollars into his hand and begged him to come around with the dog next night.
"For that?" Daughtry demanded, looking at the money as if it were contemptible.
Hastily the proprietor added two more dollars, and Daughtry promised.
"Just the same, Killeny, my son," he told Michael as they went to bed, "I think you an' me are worth more than five dollars a turn. Why, the like of you has never been seen before. A real singing dog that can carry 'most any air with me, and that can carry half a dozen by himself. An' they say Caruso gets a thousand a night. Well, you ain't Caruso, but you're the dog-Caruso of the entire world. Son, I'm goin' to be your business manager. If we can't make a twenty-dollar gold-piece a night—say, son, we're goin' to move into better quarters. An' the old gent up at the Hotel de Bronx is goin' to move into an outside room. An' Kwaque's goin' to get a real outfit of clothes. Killeny, my boy, we're goin' to get so rich that if he can't snare a sucker we'll put up the cash ourselves 'n' buy a schooner for 'm, 'n' send him out a-treasure- huntin' on his own. We'll be the suckers, eh, just you an' me, an' love to."
* * * * *
The Barbary Coast of San Francisco, once the old-time sailor-town in the days when San Francisco was reckoned the toughest port of the Seven Seas, had evolved with the city until it depended for at least half of its earnings on the slumming parties that visited it and spent liberally. It was quite the custom, after dinner, for many of the better classes of society, especially when entertaining curious Easterners, to spend an hour or several in motoring from dance-hall to dance-hall and cheap cabaret to cheap cabaret. In short, the "Coast" was as much a sight-seeing place as was Chinatown and the Cliff House.
It was not long before Dag Daughtry was getting his twenty dollars a night for two twenty-minute turns, and was declining more beer than a dozen men with thirsts equal to his could have accommodated. Never had he been so prosperous; nor can it be denied that Michael enjoyed it. Enjoy it he did, but principally for Steward's sake. He was serving Steward, and so to serve was his highest heart's desire.
In truth, Michael was the bread-winner for quite a family, each member of which fared well. Kwaque blossomed out resplendent in russet-brown shoes, a derby hat, and a gray suit with trousers immaculately creased. Also, he became a devotee of the moving-picture shows, spending as much as twenty and thirty cents a day and resolutely sitting out every repetition of programme. Little time was required of him in caring for Daughtry, for they had come to eating in restaurants. Not only had the Ancient Mariner moved into a more expensive outside room at the Bronx; but Daughtry insisted on thrusting upon him more spending money, so that, on occasion, he could invite a likely acquaintance to the theatre or a concert and bring him home in a taxi.
"We won't keep this up for ever, Killeny," Steward told Michael. "For just as long as it takes the old gent to land another bunch of gold-pouched, retriever-snouted treasure-hunters, and no longer. Then it's hey for the ocean blue, my son, an' the roll of a good craft under our feet, an' smash of wet on the deck, an' a spout now an' again of the scuppers.
"We got to go rollin' down to Rio as well as sing about it to a lot of cheap skates. They can take their rotten cities. The sea's the life for us—you an' me, Killeny, son, an' the old gent an' Kwaque, an' Cocky, too. We ain't made for city ways. It ain't healthy. Why, son, though you maybe won't believe it, I'm losin' my spring. The rubber's goin' outa me. I'm kind o' languid, with all night in an' nothin' to do but sit around. It makes me fair sick at the thought of hearin' the old gent say once again, 'I think, steward, one of those prime cocktails would be just the thing before dinner.' We'll take a little ice-machine along next voyage, an' give 'm the best.
"An' look at Kwaque, Killeny, my boy. This ain't his climate. He's positively ailin'. If he sits around them picture-shows much more he'll develop the T.B. For the good of his health, an' mine an' yours, an' all of us, we got to get up anchor pretty soon an' hit out for the home of the trade winds that kiss you through an' through with the salt an' the life of the sea."
* * * * *
In truth, Kwaque, who never complained, was ailing fast. A swelling, slow and sensationless at first, under his right arm-pit, had become a mild and unceasing pain. No longer could he sleep a night through. Although he lay on his left side, never less than twice, and often three and four times, the hurt of the swelling woke him. Ah Moy, had he not long since been delivered back to China by the immigration authorities, could have told him the meaning of that swelling, just as he could have told Dag Daughtry the meaning of the increasing area of numbness between his eyes where the tiny, vertical, lion-lines were cutting more conspicuously. Also, could he have told him what was wrong with the little finger on his left hand. Daughtry had first diagnosed it as a sprain of a tendon. Later, he had decided it was chronic rheumatism brought on by the damp and foggy Sun Francisco climate. It was one of his reasons for desiring to get away again to sea where the tropic sun would warm the rheumatism out of him.
As a steward, Daughtry had been accustomed to contact with men and women of the upper world. But for the first time in his life, here in the underworld of San Francisco, in all equality he met such persons from above. Nay, more, they were eager to meet him. They sought him. They fawned upon him for an invitation to sit at his table and buy beer for him in whatever garish cabaret Michael was performing. They would have bought wine for him, at enormous expense, had he not stubbornly stuck to his beer. They were, some of them, for inviting him to their homes—"An' bring the wonderful dog along for a sing-song"; but Daughtry, proud of Michael for being the cause of such invitations, explained that the professional life was too arduous to permit of such diversions. To Michael he explained that when they proffered a fee of fifty dollars, the pair of them would "come a-runnin'."
Among the host of acquaintances made in their cabaret-life, two were destined, very immediately, to play important parts in the lives of Daughtry and Michael. The first, a politician and a doctor, by name Emory—Walter Merritt Emory—was several times at Daughtry's table, where Michael sat with them on a chair according to custom. Among other things, in gratitude for such kindnesses from Daughtry, Doctor Emory gave his office card and begged for the privilege of treating, free of charge, either master or dog should they ever become sick. In Daughtry's opinion, Dr. Walter Merritt Emory was a keen, clever man, undoubtedly able in his profession, but passionately selfish as a hungry tiger. As he told him, in the brutal candour he could afford under such changed conditions: "Doc, you're a wonder. Anybody can see it with half an eye. What you want you just go and get. Nothing'd stop you except . . . "
"Oh, except that it was nailed down, or locked up, or had a policeman standing guard over it. I'd sure hate to have anything you wanted."
"Well, you have," Doctor assured him, with a significant nod at Michael on the chair between them.
"Br-r-r!" Daughtry shivered. "You give me the creeps. If I thought you really meant it, San Francisco couldn't hold me two minutes." He meditated into his beer-glass a moment, then laughed with reassurance. "No man could get that dog away from me. You see, I'd kill the man first. I'd just up an' tell 'm, as I'm tellin' you now, I'd kill 'm first. An' he'd believe me, as you're believin' me now. You know I mean it. So'd he know I meant it. Why, that dog . . . "
In sheer inability to express the profundity of his emotion, Dag Daughtry broke off the sentence and drowned it in his beer-glass.
Of quite different type was the other person of destiny. Harry Del Mar, he called himself; and Harry Del Mar was the name that appeared on the programmes when he was doing Orpheum "time." Although Daughtry did not know it, because Del Mar was laying off for a vacation, the man did trained-animal turns for a living. He, too, bought drinks at Daughtry's table. Young, not over thirty, dark of complexion with large, long-lashed brown eyes that he fondly believed were magnetic, cherubic of lip and feature, he belied all his appearance by talking business in direct business fashion.
"But you ain't got the money to buy 'm," Daughtry replied, when the other had increased his first offer of five hundred dollars for Michael to a thousand.
"I've got the thousand, if that's what you mean."
"No," Daughtry shook his head. "I mean he ain't for sale at any price. Besides, what do you want 'm for?"
"I like him," Del Mar answered. "Why do I come to this joint? Why does the crowd come here? Why do men buy wine, run horses, sport actresses, become priests or bookworms? Because they like to. That's the answer. We all do what we like when we can, go after the thing we want whether we can get it or not. Now I like your dog, I want him. I want him a thousand dollars' worth. See that big diamond on that woman's hand over there. I guess she just liked it, and wanted it, and got it, never mind the price. The price didn't mean as much to her as the diamond. Now that dog of yours—"
"Don't like you," Dag Daughtry broke in. "Which is strange. He likes most everybody without fussin' about it. But he bristled at you from the first. No man'd want a dog that don't like him."
"Which isn't the question," Del Mar stated quietly. "I like him. As for him liking or not liking me, that's my look-out, and I guess I can attend to that all right."
It seemed to Daughtry that he glimpsed or sensed under the other's unfaltering cherubicness of expression a steelness of cruelty that was abysmal in that it was of controlled intelligence. Not in such terms did Daughtry think his impression. At the most, it was a feeling, and feelings do not require words in order to be experienced or comprehended.
"There's an all-night bank," the other went on. "We can stroll over, I'll cash a cheque, and in half an hour the cash will be in your hand."
Daughtry shook his head.
"Even as a business proposition, nothing doing," he said. "Look you. Here's the dog earnin' twenty dollars a night. Say he works twenty-five days in the month. That's five hundred a month, or six thousand a year. Now say that's five per cent., because it's easier to count, it represents the interest on a capital value of one hundred an' twenty thousand-dollars. Then we'll suppose expenses and salary for me is twenty thousand. That leaves the dog worth a hundred thousand. Just to be fair, cut it in half—a fifty-thousand dog. And you're offerin' a thousand for him."
"I suppose you think he'll last for ever, like so much land'," Del Mar smiled quietly.
Daughtry saw the point instantly.
"Give 'm five years of work—that's thirty thousand. Give 'm one year of work—it's six thousand. An' you're offerin' me one thousand for six thousand. That ain't no kind of business—for me . . . an' him. Besides, when he can't work any more, an' ain't worth a cent, he'll be worth just a plumb million to me, an' if anybody offered it, I'd raise the price."
"I'll see you again," Harry Del Mar told Daughtry, at the end of his fourth conversation on the matter of Michael's sale.
Wherein Harry Del Mar was mistaken. He never saw Daughtry again, because Daughtry saw Doctor Emory first.
Kwaque's increasing restlessness at night, due to the swelling under his right arm-pit, had began to wake Daughtry up. After several such experiences, he had investigated and decided that Kwaque was sufficiently sick to require a doctor. For which reason, one morning at eleven, taking Kwaque along, he called at Walter Merritt Emory's office and waited his turn in the crowded reception-room.
"I think he's got cancer, Doc.," Daughtry said, while Kwaque was pulling off his shirt and undershirt. "He never squealed, you know, never peeped. That's the way of niggers. I didn't find our till he got to wakin' me up nights with his tossin' about an' groanin' in his sleep.—There! What'd you call it? Cancer or tumour—no two ways about it, eh?"
But the quick eye of Walter Merritt Emory had not missed, in passing, the twisted fingers of Kwaque's left hand. Not only was his eye quick, but it was a "leper eye." A volunteer surgeon in the first days out in the Philippines, he had made a particular study of leprosy, and had observed so many lepers that infallibly, except in the incipient beginnings of the disease, he could pick out a leper at a glance. From the twisted fingers, which was the anaesthetic form, produced by nerve-disintegration, to the corrugated lion forehead (again anaesthetic), his eyes flashed to the swelling under the right arm-pit and his brain diagnosed it as the tubercular form.
Just as swiftly flashed through his brain two thoughts: the first, the axiom, whenever and wherever you find a leper, look for the other leper; the second, the desired Irish terrier, who was owned by Daughtry, with whom Kwaque had been long associated. And here all swiftness of eye- flashing ceased on the part of Walter Merritt Emory. He did not know how much, if anything, the steward knew about leprosy, and he did not care to arouse any suspicions. Casually drawing his watch to see the time, he turned and addressed Daughtry.
"I should say his blood is out of order. He's run down. He's not used to the recent life he's been living, nor to the food. To make certain, I shall examine for cancer and tumour, although there's little chance of anything like that."
And as he talked, with just a waver for a moment, his gaze lifted above Daughtry's eyes to the area of forehead just above and between the eyes. It was sufficient. His "leper-eye" had seen the "lion" mark of the leper.
"You're run down yourself," he continued smoothly. "You're not up to snuff, I'll wager. Eh?"
"Can't say that I am," Daughtry agreed. "I guess I got to get back to the sea an' the tropics and warm the rheumatics outa me."
"Where?" queried Doctor Emory, almost absently, so well did he feign it, as if apparently on the verge of returning to a closer examination, of Kwaque's swelling.
Daughtry extended his left hand, with a little wiggle of the little finger advertising the seat of the affliction. Walter Merritt Emory saw, with seeming careless look out from under careless-drooping eyelids, the little finger slightly swollen, slightly twisted, with a smooth, almost shiny, silkiness of skin-texture. Again, in the course of turning to look at Kwaque, his eyes rested an instant on the lion-lines of Daughtry's brow.
"Rheumatism is still the great mystery," Doctor Emory said, returning to Daughtry as if deflected by the thought. "It's almost individual, there are so many varieties of it. Each man has a kind of his own. Any numbness?"
Daughtry laboriously wiggled his little finger.
"Yes, sir," he answered. "It ain't as lively as it used to was."
"Ah," Walter Merritt Emory murmured, with a vastitude of confidence and assurance. "Please sit down in that chair there. Maybe I won't be able to cure you, but I promise you I can direct you to the best place to live for what's the matter with you.—Miss Judson!"
And while the trained-nurse-apparelled young woman seated Dag Daughtry in the enamelled surgeon's chair and leaned him back under direction, and while Doctor Emory dipped his finger-tips into the strongest antiseptic his office possessed, behind Doctor Emory's eyes, in the midst of his brain, burned the image of a desired Irish terrier who did turns in sailor-town cabarets, was rough-coated, and answered to the full name of Killeny Boy.
"You've got rheumatism in more places than your little finger," he assured Daughtry. "There's a touch right here, I'll wager, on your forehead. One moment, please. Move if I hurt you, Otherwise sit still, because I don't intend to hurt you. I merely want to see if my diagnosis is correct.—There, that's it. Move when you feel anything. Rheumatism has strange freaks.—Watch this, Miss Judson, and I'll wager this form of rheumatism is new to you. See. He does not resent. He thinks I have not begun yet . . . "
And as he talked, steadily, interestingly, he was doing what Dag Daughtry never dreamed he was doing, and what made Kwaque, looking on, almost dream he was seeing because of the unrealness and impossibleness of it. For, with a large needle, Doctor Emory was probing the dark spot in the midst of the vertical lion-lines. Nor did he merely probe the area. Thrusting into it from one side, under the skin and parallel to it, he buried the length of the needle from sight through the insensate infiltration. This Kwaque beheld with bulging eyes; for his master betrayed no sign that the thing was being done.
"Why don't you begin?" Dag Daughtry questioned impatiently. "Besides, my rheumatism don't count. It's the nigger-boy's swelling."
"You need a course of treatment," Doctor Emory assured him. "Rheumatism is a tough proposition. It should never be let grow chronic. I'll fix up a course of treatment for you. Now, if you'll get out of the chair, we'll look at your black servant."
But first, before Kwaque was leaned back, Doctor Emory threw over the chair a sheet that smelled of having been roasted almost to the scorching point. As he was about to examine Kwaque, he looked with a slight start of recollection at his watch. When he saw the time he startled more, and turned a reproachful face upon his assistant.
"Miss Judson," he said, coldly emphatic, "you have failed me. Here it is, twenty before twelve, and you knew I was to confer with Doctor Hadley over that case at eleven-thirty sharp. How he must be cursing me! You know how peevish he is."
Miss Judson nodded, with a perfect expression of contrition and humility, as if she knew all about it, although, in reality, she knew only all about her employer and had never heard till that moment of his engagement at eleven-thirty.
"Doctor Hadley's just across the hall," Doctor Emory explained to Daughtry. "It won't take me five minutes. He and I have a disagreement. He has diagnosed the case as chronic appendicitis and wants to operate. I have diagnosed it as pyorrhea which has infected the stomach from the mouth, and have suggested emetine treatment of the mouth as a cure for the stomach disorder. Of course, you don't understand, but the point is that I've persuaded Doctor Hadley to bring in Doctor Granville, who is a dentist and a pyorrhea expert. And they're all waiting for me these ten minutes! I must run.