The Human Drift
by Jack London
THE HUMAN DRIFT
"The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd
Who rose before us, and as Prophets Burn'd,
Are all but stories, which, awoke from Sleep,
They told their comrades, and to Sleep return'd."
The history of civilisation is a history of wandering, sword in
hand, in search of food. In the misty younger world we catch
glimpses of phantom races, rising, slaying, finding food, building
rude civilisations, decaying, falling under the swords of stronger
hands, and passing utterly away. Man, like any other animal, has
roved over the earth seeking what he might devour; and not romance
and adventure, but the hunger-need, has urged him on his vast
adventures. Whether a bankrupt gentleman sailing to colonise
Virginia or a lean Cantonese contracting to labour on the sugar
plantations of Hawaii, in each case, gentleman and coolie, it is a
desperate attempt to get something to eat, to get more to eat than
he can get at home.
It has always been so, from the time of the first pre-human
anthropoid crossing a mountain-divide in quest of better berry-
bushes beyond, down to the latest Slovak, arriving on our shores
to-day, to go to work in the coal-mines of Pennsylvania. These
migratory movements of peoples have been called drifts, and the
word is apposite. Unplanned, blind, automatic, spurred on by the
pain of hunger, man has literally drifted his way around the
planet. There have been drifts in the past, innumerable and
forgotten, and so remote that no records have been left, or
composed of such low-typed humans or pre-humans that they made no
scratchings on stone or bone and left no monuments to show that
they had been.
These early drifts we conjecture and know must have occurred, just
as we know that the first upright-walking brutes were descended
from some kin of the quadrumana through having developed "a pair
of great toes out of two opposable thumbs." Dominated by fear,
and by their very fear accelerating their development, these early
ancestors of ours, suffering hunger-pangs very like the ones we
experience to-day, drifted on, hunting and being hunted, eating
and being eaten, wandering through thousand-year-long odysseys of
screaming primordial savagery, until they left their skeletons in
glacial gravels, some of them, and their bone-scratchings in cave-
There have been drifts from east to west and west to east, from
north to south and back again, drifts that have criss-crossed one
another, and drifts colliding and recoiling and caroming off in
new directions. From Central Europe the Aryans have drifted into
Asia, and from Central Asia the Turanians have drifted across
Europe. Asia has thrown forth great waves of hungry humans from
the prehistoric "round-barrow" "broad-heads" who overran Europe
and penetrated to Scandinavia and England, down through the hordes
of Attila and Tamerlane, to the present immigration of Chinese and
Japanese that threatens America. The Phoenicians and the Greeks,
with unremembered drifts behind them, colonised the Mediterranean.
Rome was engulfed in the torrent of Germanic tribes drifting down
from the north before a flood of drifting Asiatics. The Angles,
Saxons, and Jutes, after having drifted whence no man knows,
poured into Britain, and the English have carried this drift on
around the world. Retreating before stronger breeds, hungry and
voracious, the Eskimo has drifted to the inhospitable polar
regions, the Pigmy to the fever-rotten jungles of Africa. And in
this day the drift of the races continues, whether it be of
Chinese into the Philippines and the Malay Peninsula, of Europeans
to the United States or of Americans to the wheat-lands of
Manitoba and the Northwest.
Perhaps most amazing has been the South Sea Drift. Blind,
fortuitous, precarious as no other drift has been, nevertheless
the islands in that waste of ocean have received drift after drift
of the races. Down from the mainland of Asia poured an Aryan
drift that built civilisations in Ceylon, Java, and Sumatra. Only
the monuments of these Aryans remain. They themselves have
perished utterly, though not until after leaving evidences of
their drift clear across the great South Pacific to far Easter
Island. And on that drift they encountered races who had
accomplished the drift before them, and they, the Aryans, passed,
in turn, before the drift of other and subsequent races whom we
to-day call the Polynesian and the Melanesian.
Man early discovered death. As soon as his evolution permitted,
he made himself better devices for killing than the old natural
ones of fang and claw. He devoted himself to the invention of
killing devices before he discovered fire or manufactured for
himself religion. And to this day, his finest creative energy and
technical skill are devoted to the same old task of making better
and ever better killing weapons. All his days, down all the past,
have been spent in killing. And from the fear-stricken, jungle-
lurking, cave-haunting creature of long ago, he won to empery over
the whole animal world because he developed into the most terrible
and awful killer of all the animals. He found himself crowded.
He killed to make room, and as he made room ever he increased and
found himself crowded, and ever he went on killing to make more
room. Like a settler clearing land of its weeds and forest bushes
in order to plant corn, so man was compelled to clear all manner
of life away in order to plant himself. And, sword in hand, he
has literally hewn his way through the vast masses of life that
occupied the earth space he coveted for himself. And ever he has
carried the battle wider and wider, until to-day not only is he a
far more capable killer of men and animals than ever before, but
he has pressed the battle home to the infinite and invisible hosts
of menacing lives in the world of micro-organisms.
It is true, that they that rose by the sword perished by the
sword. And yet, not only did they not all perish, but more rose
by the sword than perished by it, else man would not to-day be
over-running the world in such huge swarms. Also, it must not be
forgotten that they who did not rise by the sword did not rise at
all. They were not. In view of this, there is something wrong
with Doctor Jordan's war-theory, which is to the effect that the
best being sent out to war, only the second best, the men who are
left, remain to breed a second-best race, and that, therefore, the
human race deteriorates under war. If this be so, if we have sent
forth the best we bred and gone on breeding from the men who were
left, and since we have done this for ten thousand millenniums and
are what we splendidly are to-day, then what unthinkably splendid
and god-like beings must have been our forebears those ten
thousand millenniums ago! Unfortunately for Doctor Jordan's
theory, those ancient forebears cannot live up to this fine
reputation. We know them for what they were, and before the
monkey cage of any menagerie we catch truer glimpses and hints and
resemblances of what our ancestors really were long and long ago.
And by killing, incessant killing, by making a shambles of the
planet, those ape-like creatures have developed even into you and
me. As Henley has said in "The Song of the Sword":
"The Sword Singing -
Driving the darkness,
Even as the banners
And spear of the Morning;
Sifting the nations,
The Slag from the metal,
The waste and the weak
From the fit and the strong;
Fighting the brute,
The abysmal Fecundity;
Checking the gross
The groping, the purblind
Excesses in service
Of the Womb universal,
The absolute drudge."
As time passed and man increased, he drifted ever farther afield
in search of room. He encountered other drifts of men, and the
killing of men became prodigious. The weak and the decadent fell
under the sword. Nations that faltered, that waxed prosperous in
fat valleys and rich river deltas, were swept away by the drifts
of stronger men who were nourished on the hardships of deserts and
mountains and who were more capable with the sword. Unknown and
unnumbered billions of men have been so destroyed in prehistoric
times. Draper says that in the twenty years of the Gothic war,
Italy lost 15,000,000 of her population; "and that the wars,
famines, and pestilences of the reign of Justinian diminished the
human species by the almost incredible number of 100,000,000."
Germany, in the Thirty Years' War, lost 6,000,000 inhabitants.
The record of our own American Civil War need scarcely be
And man has been destroyed in other ways than by the sword.
Flood, famine, pestilence and murder are potent factors in
reducing population--in making room. As Mr. Charles Woodruff, in
his "Expansion of Races," has instanced: In 1886, when the dikes
of the Yellow River burst, 7,000,000 people were drowned. The
failure of crops in Ireland, in 1848, caused 1,000,000 deaths.
The famines in India of 1896-7 and 1899-1900 lessened the
population by 21,000,000. The T'ai'ping rebellion and the
Mohammedan rebellion, combined with the famine of 1877-78,
destroyed scores of millions of Chinese. Europe has been swept
repeatedly by great plagues. In India, for the period of 1903 to
1907, the plague deaths averaged between one and two millions a
year. Mr. Woodruff is responsible for the assertion that
10,000,000 persons now living in the United States are doomed to
die of tuberculosis. And in this same country ten thousand
persons a year are directly murdered. In China, between three and
six millions of infants are annually destroyed, while the total
infanticide record of the whole world is appalling. In Africa,
now, human beings are dying by millions of the sleeping sickness.
More destructive of life than war, is industry. In all civilised
countries great masses of people are crowded into slums and
labour-ghettos, where disease festers, vice corrodes, and famine
is chronic, and where they die more swiftly and in greater numbers
than do the soldiers in our modern wars. The very infant
mortality of a slum parish in the East End of London is three
times that of a middle-class parish in the West End. In the
United States, in the last fourteen years, a total of coal-miners,
greater than our entire standing army, has been killed and
injured. The United States Bureau of Labour states that during
the year 1908, there were between 30,000 and 35,000 deaths of
workers by accidents, while 200,000 more were injured. In fact,
the safest place for a working-man is in the army. And even if
that army be at the front, fighting in Cuba or South Africa, the
soldier in the ranks has a better chance for life than the
working-man at home.
And yet, despite this terrible roll of death, despite the enormous
killing of the past and the enormous killing of the present, there
are to-day alive on the planet a billion and three quarters of
human beings. Our immediate conclusion is that man is exceedingly
fecund and very tough. Never before have there been so many
people in the world. In the past centuries the world's population
has been smaller; in the future centuries it is destined to be
larger. And this brings us to that old bugbear that has been so
frequently laughed away and that still persists in raising its
grisly head--namely, the doctrine of Malthus. While man's
increasing efficiency of food-production, combined with
colonisation of whole virgin continents, has for generations given
the apparent lie to Malthus' mathematical statement of the Law of
Population, nevertheless the essential significance of his
doctrine remains and cannot be challenged. Population DOES press
against subsistence. And no matter how rapidly subsistence
increases, population is certain to catch up with it.
When man was in the hunting stage of development, wide areas were
necessary for the maintenance of scant populations. With the
shepherd stages, the means of subsistence being increased, a
larger population was supported on the same territory. The
agricultural stage gave support to a still larger population; and,
to-day, with the increased food-getting efficiency of a machine
civilisation, an even larger population is made possible. Nor is
this theoretical. The population is here, a billion and three
quarters of men, women, and children, and this vast population is
increasing on itself by leaps and bounds.
A heavy European drift to the New World has gone on and is going
on; yet Europe, whose population a century ago was 170,000,000,
has to-day 500,000,000. At this rate of increase, provided that
subsistence is not overtaken, a century from now the population of
Europe will be 1,500,000,000. And be it noted of the present rate
of increase in the United States that only one-third is due to
immigration, while two-thirds is due to excess of births over
deaths. And at this present rate of increase, the population of
the United States will be 500,000,000 in less than a century from
Man, the hungry one, the killer, has always suffered for lack of
room. The world has been chronically overcrowded. Belgium with
her 572 persons to the square mile is no more crowded than was
Denmark when it supported only 500 palaeolithic people. According
to Mr. Woodruff, cultivated land will produce 1600 times as much
food as hunting land. From the time of the Norman Conquest, for
centuries Europe could support no more than 25 to the square mile.
To-day Europe supports 81 to the square mile. The explanation of
this is that for the several centuries after the Norman Conquest
her population was saturated. Then, with the development of
trading and capitalism, of exploration and exploitation of new
lands, and with the invention of labour-saving machinery and the
discovery and application of scientific principles, was brought
about a tremendous increase in Europe's food-getting efficiency.
And immediately her population sprang up.
According to the census of Ireland, of 1659, that country had a
population of 500,000. One hundred and fifty years later, her
population was 8,000,000. For many centuries the population of
Japan was stationary. There seemed no way of increasing her food-
getting efficiency. Then, sixty years ago, came Commodore Perry,
knocking down her doors and letting in the knowledge and machinery
of the superior food-getting efficiency of the Western world.
Immediately upon this rise in subsistence began the rise of
population; and it is only the other day that Japan, finding her
population once again pressing against subsistence, embarked,
sword in hand, on a westward drift in search of more room. And,
sword in hand, killing and being killed, she has carved out for
herself Formosa and Korea, and driven the vanguard of her drift
far into the rich interior of Manchuria.
For an immense period of time China's population has remained at
400,000,000--the saturation point. The only reason that the
Yellow River periodically drowns millions of Chinese is that there
is no other land for those millions to farm. And after every such
catastrophe the wave of human life rolls up and now millions flood
out upon that precarious territory. They are driven to it,
because they are pressed remorselessly against subsistence. It is
inevitable that China, sooner or later, like Japan, will learn and
put into application our own superior food-getting efficiency.
And when that time comes, it is likewise inevitable that her
population will increase by unguessed millions until it again
reaches the saturation point. And then, inoculated with Western
ideas, may she not, like Japan, take sword in hand and start forth
colossally on a drift of her own for more room? This is another
reputed bogie--the Yellow Peril; yet the men of China are only
men, like any other race of men, and all men, down all history,
have drifted hungrily, here, there and everywhere over the planet,
seeking for something to eat. What other men do, may not the
But a change has long been coming in the affairs of man. The more
recent drifts of the stronger races, carving their way through the
lesser breeds to more earth-space, has led to peace, ever to wider
and more lasting peace. The lesser breeds, under penalty of being
killed, have been compelled to lay down their weapons and cease
killing among themselves. The scalp-talking Indian and the head-
hunting Melanesian have been either destroyed or converted to a
belief in the superior efficacy of civil suits and criminal
prosecutions. The planet is being subdued. The wild and the
hurtful are either tamed or eliminated. From the beasts of prey
and the cannibal humans down to the death-dealing microbes, no
quarter is given; and daily, wider and wider areas of hostile
territory, whether of a warring desert-tribe in Africa or a
pestilential fever-hole like Panama, are made peaceable and
habitable for mankind. As for the great mass of stay-at-home
folk, what percentage of the present generation in the United
States, England, or Germany, has seen war or knows anything of war
at first hand? There was never so much peace in the world as
there is to-day.
War itself, the old red anarch, is passing. It is safer to be a
soldier than a working-man. The chance for life is greater in an
active campaign than in a factory or a coal-mine. In the matter
of killing, war is growing impotent, and this in face of the fact
that the machinery of war was never so expensive in the past nor
so dreadful. War-equipment to-day, in time of peace, is more
expensive than of old in time of war. A standing army costs more
to maintain than it used to cost to conquer an empire. It is more
expensive to be ready to kill, than it used to be to do the
killing. The price of a Dreadnought would furnish the whole army
of Xerxes with killing weapons. And, in spite of its magnificent
equipment, war no longer kills as it used to when its methods were
simpler. A bombardment by a modern fleet has been known to result
in the killing of one mule. The casualties of a twentieth century
war between two world-powers are such as to make a worker in an
iron-foundry turn green with envy. War has become a joke. Men
have made for themselves monsters of battle which they cannot face
in battle. Subsistence is generous these days, life is not cheap,
and it is not in the nature of flesh and blood to indulge in the
carnage made possible by present-day machinery. This is not
theoretical, as will be shown by a comparison of deaths in battle
and men involved, in the South African War and the Spanish-
American War on the one hand, and the Civil War or the Napoleonic
Wars on the other.
Not only has war, by its own evolution, rendered itself futile,
but man himself, with greater wisdom and higher ethics, is opposed
to war. He has learned too much. War is repugnant to his common
sense. He conceives it to be wrong, to be absurd, and to be very
expensive. For the damage wrought and the results accomplished,
it is not worth the price. Just as in the disputes of individuals
the arbitration of a civil court instead of a blood feud is more
practical, so, man decides, is arbitration more practical in the
disputes of nations.
War is passing, disease is being conquered, and man's food-getting
efficiency is increasing. It is because of these factors that
there are a billion and three quarters of people alive to-day
instead of a billion, or three-quarters of a billion. And it is
because of these factors that the world's population will very
soon be two billions and climbing rapidly toward three billions.
The lifetime of the generation is increasing steadily. Men live
longer these days. Life is not so precarious. The newborn infant
has a greater chance for survival than at any time in the past.
Surgery and sanitation reduce the fatalities that accompany the
mischances of life and the ravages of disease. Men and women,
with deficiencies and weaknesses that in the past would have
effected their rapid extinction, live to-day and father and mother
a numerous progeny. And high as the food-getting efficiency may
soar, population is bound to soar after it. "The abysmal
fecundity" of life has not altered. Given the food, and life will
increase. A small percentage of the billion and three-quarters
that live to-day may hush the clamour of life to be born, but it
is only a small percentage. In this particular, the life in the
man-animal is very like the life in the other animals.
And still another change is coming in human affairs. Though
politicians gnash their teeth and cry anathema, and man, whose
superficial book-learning is vitiated by crystallised prejudice,
assures us that civilisation will go to smash, the trend of
society, to-day, the world over, is toward socialism. The old
individualism is passing. The state interferes more and more in
affairs that hitherto have been considered sacredly private. And
socialism, when the last word is said, is merely a new economic
and political system whereby more men can get food to eat. In
short, socialism is an improved food-getting efficiency.
Furthermore, not only will socialism get food more easily and in
greater quantity, but it will achieve a more equitable
distribution of that food. Socialism promises, for a time, to
give all men, women, and children all they want to eat, and to
enable them to eat all they want as often as they want.
Subsistence will be pushed back, temporarily, an exceedingly long
way. In consequence, the flood of life will rise like a tidal
wave. There will be more marriages and more children born. The
enforced sterility that obtains to-day for many millions, will no
longer obtain. Nor will the fecund millions in the slums and
labour-ghettos, who to-day die of all the ills due to chronic
underfeeding and overcrowding, and who die with their fecundity
largely unrealised, die in that future day when the increased
food-getting efficiency of socialism will give them all they want
It is undeniable that population will increase prodigiously-just
as it has increased prodigiously during the last few centuries,
following upon the increase in food-getting efficiency. The
magnitude of population in that future day is well nigh
unthinkable. But there is only so much land and water on the
surface of the earth. Man, despite his marvellous
accomplishments, will never be able to increase the diameter of
the planet. The old days of virgin continents will be gone. The
habitable planet, from ice-cap to ice-cap, will be inhabited. And
in the matter of food-getting, as in everything else, man is only
finite. Undreamed-of efficiencies in food-getting may be
achieved, but, soon or late, man will find himself face to face
with Malthus' grim law. Not only will population catch up with
subsistence, but it will press against subsistence, and the
pressure will be pitiless and savage. Somewhere in the future is
a date when man will face, consciously, the bitter fact that there
is not food enough for all of him to eat.
When this day comes, what then? Will there be a recrudescence of
old obsolete war? In a saturated population life is always cheap,
as it is cheap in China, in India, to-day. Will new human drifts
take place, questing for room, carving earth-space out of crowded
life. Will the Sword again sing:
"Follow, O follow, then,
Heroes, my harvesters!
Where the tall grain is ripe
Thrust in your sickles!
Stripped and adust
In a stubble of empire
Scything and binding
The full sheaves of sovereignty."
Even if, as of old, man should wander hungrily, sword in hand,
slaying and being slain, the relief would be only temporary. Even
if one race alone should hew down the last survivor of all the
other races, that one race, drifting the world around, would
saturate the planet with its own life and again press against
subsistence. And in that day, the death rate and the birth rate
will have to balance. Men will have to die, or be prevented from
being born. Undoubtedly a higher quality of life will obtain, and
also a slowly decreasing fecundity. But this decrease will be so
slow that the pressure against subsistence will remain. The
control of progeny will be one of the most important problems of
man and one of the most important functions of the state. Men
will simply be not permitted to be born.
Disease, from time to time, will ease the pressure. Diseases are
parasites, and it must not be forgotten that just as there are
drifts in the world of man, so are there drifts in the world of
micro-organisms--hunger-quests for food. Little is known of the
micro-organic world, but that little is appalling; and no census
of it will ever be taken, for there is the true, literal "abysmal
fecundity." Multitudinous as man is, all his totality of
individuals is as nothing in comparison with the inconceivable
vastness of numbers of the micro-organisms. In your body, or in
mine, right now, are swarming more individual entities than there
are human beings in the world to-day. It is to us an invisible
world. We only guess its nearest confines. With our powerful
microscopes and ultramicroscopes, enlarging diameters twenty
thousand times, we catch but the slightest glimpses of that
profundity of infinitesimal life.
Little is known of that world, save in a general way. We know
that out of it arise diseases, new to us, that afflict and destroy
man. We do not know whether these diseases are merely the drifts,
in a fresh direction, of already-existing breeds of micro-
organisms, or whether they are new, absolutely new, breeds
themselves just spontaneously generated. The latter hypothesis is
tenable, for we theorise that if spontaneous generation still
occurs on the earth, it is far more likely to occur in the form of
simple organisms than of complicated organisms.
Another thing we know, and that is that it is in crowded
populations that new diseases arise. They have done so in the
past. They do so to-day. And no matter how wise are our
physicians and bacteriologists, no matter how successfully they
cope with these invaders, new invaders continue to arise--new
drifts of hungry life seeking to devour us. And so we are
justified in believing that in the saturated populations of the
future, when life is suffocating in the pressure against
subsistence, that new, and ever new, hosts of destroying micro-
organisms will continue to arise and fling themselves upon earth-
crowded man to give him room. There may even be plagues of
unprecedented ferocity that will depopulate great areas before the
wit of man can overcome them. And this we know: that no matter
how often these invisible hosts may be overcome by man's becoming
immune to them through a cruel and terrible selection, new hosts
will ever arise of these micro-organisms that were in the world
before he came and that will be here after he is gone.
After he is gone? Will he then some day be gone, and this planet
know him no more? Is it thither that the human drift in all its
totality is trending? God Himself is silent on this point, though
some of His prophets have given us vivid representations of that
last day when the earth shall pass into nothingness. Nor does
science, despite its radium speculations and its attempted
analyses of the ultimate nature of matter, give us any other word
than that man will pass. So far as man's knowledge goes, law is
universal. Elements react under certain unchangeable conditions.
One of these conditions is temperature. Whether it be in the test
tube of the laboratory or the workshop of nature, all organic
chemical reactions take place only within a restricted range of
heat. Man, the latest of the ephemera, is pitifully a creature of
temperature, strutting his brief day on the thermometer. Behind
him is a past wherein it was too warm for him to exist. Ahead of
him is a future wherein it will be too cold for him to exist. He
cannot adjust himself to that future, because he cannot alter
universal law, because he cannot alter his own construction nor
the molecules that compose him.
It would be well to ponder these lines of Herbert Spencer's which
follow, and which embody, possibly, the wildest vision the
scientific mind has ever achieved:
"Motion as well as Matter being fixed in quantity, it would seem
that the change in the distribution of Matter which Motion
effects, coming to a limit in whichever direction it is carried,
the indestructible Motion thereupon necessitates a reverse
distribution. Apparently, the universally-co-existent forces of
attraction and repulsion, which, as we have seen, necessitate
rhythm in all minor changes throughout the Universe, also
necessitate rhythm in the totality of its changes--produce now an
immeasurable period during which the attractive forces
predominating, cause universal concentration, and then an
immeasurable period during which the repulsive forces
predominating, cause universal diffusion--alternate eras of
Evolution and Dissolution. AND THUS THERE IS SUGGESTED THE
CONCEPTION OF A PAST DURING WHICH THERE HAVE BEEN SUCCESSIVE
EVOLUTIONS ANALOGOUS TO THAT WHICH IS NOW GOING ON; A FUTURE
DURING WHICH SUCCESSIVE OTHER EVOLUTIONS MAY GO ON--EVER THE SAME
IN PRINCIPLE BUT NEVER THE SAME IN CONCRETE RESULT."
That is it--the most we know--alternate eras of evolution and
dissolution. In the past there have been other evolutions similar
to that one in which we live, and in the future there may be other
similar evolutions--that is all. The principle of all these
evolutions remains, but the concrete results are never twice
alike. Man was not; he was; and again he will not be. In
eternity which is beyond our comprehension, the particular
evolution of that solar satellite we call the "Earth" occupied but
a slight fraction of time. And of that fraction of time man
occupies but a small portion. All the whole human drift, from the
first ape-man to the last savant, is but a phantom, a flash of
light and a flutter of movement across the infinite face of the
When the thermometer drops, man ceases--with all his lusts and
wrestlings and achievements; with all his race-adventures and
race-tragedies; and with all his red killings, billions upon
billions of human lives multiplied by as many billions more. This
is the last word of Science, unless there be some further,
unguessed word which Science will some day find and utter. In the
meantime it sees no farther than the starry void, where the
"fleeting systems lapse like foam." Of what ledger-account is the
tiny life of man in a vastness where stars snuff out like candles
and great suns blaze for a time-tick of eternity and are gone?
And for us who live, no worse can happen than has happened to the
earliest drifts of man, marked to-day by ruined cities of
forgotten civilisation--ruined cities, which, on excavation, are
found to rest on ruins of earlier cities, city upon city, and
fourteen cities, down to a stratum where, still earlier, wandering
herdsmen drove their flocks, and where, even preceding them, wild
hunters chased their prey long after the cave-man and the man of
the squatting-place cracked the knuckle-bones of wild animals and
vanished from the earth. There is nothing terrible about it.
With Richard Hovey, when he faced his death, we can say: "Behold!
I have lived!" And with another and greater one, we can lay
ourselves down with a will. The one drop of living, the one taste
of being, has been good; and perhaps our greatest achievement will
be that we dreamed immortality, even though we failed to realise
A sailor is born, not made. And by "sailor" is meant, not the
average efficient and hopeless creature who is found to-day in the
forecastle of deepwater ships, but the man who will take a fabric
compounded of wood and iron and rope and canvas and compel it to
obey his will on the surface of the sea. Barring captains and
mates of big ships, the small-boat sailor is the real sailor. He
knows--he must know--how to make the wind carry his craft from one
given point to another given point. He must know about tides and
rips and eddies, bar and channel markings, and day and night
signals; he must be wise in weather-lore; and he must be
sympathetically familiar with the peculiar qualities of his boat
which differentiate it from every other boat that was ever built
and rigged. He must know how to gentle her about, as one instance
of a myriad, and to fill her on the other tack without deadening
her way or allowing her to fall off too far.
The deepwater sailor of to-day needs know none of these things.
And he doesn't. He pulls and hauls as he is ordered, swabs decks,
washes paint, and chips iron-rust. He knows nothing, and cares
less. Put him in a small boat and he is helpless. He will cut an
even better figure on the hurricane deck of a horse.
I shall never forget my child-astonishment when I first
encountered one of these strange beings. He was a runaway English
sailor. I was a lad of twelve, with a decked-over, fourteen-foot,
centre-board skiff which I had taught myself to sail. I sat at
his feet as at the feet of a god, while he discoursed of strange
lands and peoples, deeds of violence, and hair-raising gales at
sea. Then, one day, I took him for a sail. With all the
trepidation of the veriest little amateur, I hoisted sail and got
under way. Here was a man, looking on critically, I was sure, who
knew more in one second about boats and the water than I could
ever know. After an interval, in which I exceeded myself, he took
the tiller and the sheet. I sat on the little thwart amidships,
open-mouthed, prepared to learn what real sailing was. My mouth
remained open, for I learned what a real sailor was in a small
boat. He couldn't trim the sheet to save himself, he nearly
capsized several times in squalls, and, once again, by
blunderingly jibing over; he didn't know what a centre-board was
for, nor did he know that in running a boat before the wind one
must sit in the middle instead of on the side; and finally, when
we came back to the wharf, he ran the skiff in full tilt,
shattering her nose and carrying away the mast-step. And yet he
was a really truly sailor fresh from the vasty deep.
Which points my moral. A man can sail in the forecastles of big
ships all his life and never know what real sailing is. From the
time I was twelve, I listened to the lure of the sea. When I was
fifteen I was captain and owner of an oyster-pirate sloop. By the
time I was sixteen I was sailing in scow-schooners, fishing salmon
with the Greeks up the Sacramento River, and serving as sailor on
the Fish Patrol. And I was a good sailor, too, though all my
cruising had been on San Francisco Bay and the rivers tributary to
it. I had never been on the ocean in my life.
Then, the month I was seventeen, I signed before the mast as an
able seaman on a three-top-mast schooner bound on a seven-months'
cruise across the Pacific and back again. As my shipmates
promptly informed me, I had had my nerve with me to sign on as
able seaman. Yet behold, I WAS an able seaman. I had graduated
from the right school. It took no more than minutes to learn the
names and uses of the few new ropes. It was simple. I did not do
things blindly. As a small-boat sailor I had learned to reason
out and know the WHY of everything. It is true, I had to learn
how to steer by compass, which took maybe half a minute; but when
it came to steering "full-and-by" and "close-and-by," I could beat
the average of my shipmates, because that was the very way I had
always sailed. Inside fifteen minutes I could box the compass
around and back again. And there was little else to learn during
that seven-months' cruise, except fancy rope-sailorising, such as
the more complicated lanyard knots and the making of various kinds
of sennit and rope-mats. The point of all of which is that it is
by means of small-boat sailing that the real sailor is best
And if a man is a born sailor, and has gone to the school of the
sea, never in all his life can he get away from the sea again.
The salt of it is in his bones as well as his nostrils, and the
sea will call to him until he dies. Of late years, I have found
easier ways of earning a living. I have quit the forecastle for
keeps, but always I come back to the sea. In my case it is
usually San Francisco Bay, than which no lustier, tougher, sheet
of water can be found for small-boat sailing.
It really blows on San Francisco Bay. During the winter, which is
the best cruising season, we have southeasters, southwesters, and
occasional howling northers. Throughout the summer we have what
we call the "sea-breeze," an unfailing wind off the Pacific that
on most afternoons in the week blows what the Atlantic Coast
yachtsmen would name a gale. They are always surprised by the
small spread of canvas our yachts carry. Some of them, with
schooners they have sailed around the Horn, have looked proudly at
their own lofty sticks and huge spreads, then patronisingly and
even pityingly at ours. Then, perchance, they have joined in a
club cruise from San Francisco to Mare Island. They found the
morning run up the Bay delightful. In the afternoon, when the
brave west wind ramped across San Pablo Bay and they faced it on
the long beat home, things were somewhat different. One by one,
like a flight of swallows, our more meagrely sparred and canvassed
yachts went by, leaving them wallowing and dead and shortening
down in what they called a gale but which we called a dandy
sailing breeze. The next time they came out, we would notice
their sticks cut down, their booms shortened, and their after-
leeches nearer the luffs by whole cloths.
As for excitement, there is all the difference in the world
between a ship in trouble at sea, and a small boat in trouble on
land-locked water. Yet for genuine excitement and thrill, give me
the small boat. Things happen so quickly, and there are always so
few to do the work--and hard work, too, as the small-boat sailor
knows. I have toiled all night, both watches on deck, in a
typhoon off the coast of Japan, and been less exhausted than by
two hours' work at reefing down a thirty-foot sloop and heaving up
two anchors on a lee shore in a screaming south-easter.
Hard work and excitement? Let the wind baffle and drop in a heavy
tide-way just as you are sailing your little sloop through a
narrow draw-bridge. Behold your sails, upon which you are
depending, flap with sudden emptiness, and then see the impish
wind, with a haul of eight points, fill your jib aback with a
gusty puff. Around she goes, and sweeps, not through the open
draw, but broadside on against the solid piles. Hear the roar of
the tide, sucking through the trestle. And hear and see your
pretty, fresh-painted boat crash against the piles. Feel her
stout little hull give to the impact. See the rail actually pinch
in. Hear your canvas tearing, and see the black, square-ended
timbers thrusting holes through it. Smash! There goes your
topmast stay, and the topmast reels over drunkenly above you.
There is a ripping and crunching. If it continues, your starboard
shrouds will be torn out. Grab a rope--any rope--and take a turn
around a pile. But the free end of the rope is too short. You
can't make it fast, and you hold on and wildly yell for your one
companion to get a turn with another and longer rope. Hold on!
You hold on till you are purple in the face, till it seems your
arms are dragging out of their sockets, till the blood bursts from
the ends of your fingers. But you hold, and your partner gets the
longer rope and makes it fast. You straighten up and look at your
hands. They are ruined. You can scarcely relax the crooks of the
fingers. The pain is sickening. But there is no time. The
skiff, which is always perverse, is pounding against the barnacles
on the piles which threaten to scrape its gunwale off. It's drop
the peak! Down jib! Then you run lines, and pull and haul and
heave, and exchange unpleasant remarks with the bridge-tender who
is always willing to meet you more than half way in such repartee.
And finally, at the end of an hour, with aching back, sweat-soaked
shirt, and slaughtered hands, you are through and swinging along
on the placid, beneficent tide between narrow banks where the
cattle stand knee-deep and gaze wonderingly at you. Excitement!
Work! Can you beat it in a calm day on the deep sea?
I've tried it both ways. I remember labouring in a fourteen days'
gale off the coast of New Zealand. We were a tramp collier, rusty
and battered, with six thousand tons of coal in our hold. Life
lines were stretched fore and aft; and on our weather side,
attached to smokestack guys and rigging, were huge rope-nettings,
hung there for the purpose of breaking the force of the seas and
so saving our mess-room doors. But the doors were smashed and the
mess-rooms washed out just the same. And yet, out of it all,
arose but the one feeling, namely, of monotony.
In contrast with the foregoing, about the liveliest eight days of
my life were spent in a small boat on the west coast of Korea.
Never mind why I was thus voyaging up the Yellow Sea during the
month of February in below-zero weather. The point is that I was
in an open boat, a sampan, on a rocky coast where there were no
light-houses and where the tides ran from thirty to sixty feet.
My crew were Japanese fishermen. We did not speak each other's
language. Yet there was nothing monotonous about that trip.
Never shall I forget one particular cold bitter dawn, when, in the
thick of driving snow, we took in sail and dropped our small
anchor. The wind was howling out of the northwest, and we were on
a lee shore. Ahead and astern, all escape was cut off by rocky
headlands, against whose bases burst the unbroken seas. To
windward a short distance, seen only between the snow-squalls, was
a low rocky reef. It was this that inadequately protected us from
the whole Yellow Sea that thundered in upon us.
The Japanese crawled under a communal rice mat and went to sleep.
I joined them, and for several hours we dozed fitfully. Then a
sea deluged us out with icy water, and we found several inches of
snow on top the mat. The reef to windward was disappearing under
the rising tide, and moment by moment the seas broke more strongly
over the rocks. The fishermen studied the shore anxiously. So
did I, and with a sailor's eye, though I could see little chance
for a swimmer to gain that surf-hammered line of rocks. I made
signs toward the headlands on either flank. The Japanese shook
their heads. I indicated that dreadful lee shore. Still they
shook their heads and did nothing. My conclusion was that they
were paralysed by the hopelessness of the situation. Yet our
extremity increased with every minute, for the rising tide was
robbing us of the reef that served as buffer. It soon became a
case of swamping at our anchor. Seas were splashing on board in
growing volume, and we baled constantly. And still my fishermen
crew eyed the surf-battered shore and did nothing.
At last, after many narrow escapes from complete swamping, the
fishermen got into action. All hands tailed on to the anchor and
hove it up. For'ard, as the boat's head paid off, we set a patch
of sail about the size of a flour-sack. And we headed straight
for shore. I unlaced my shoes, unbottoned my great-coat and coat,
and was ready to make a quick partial strip a minute or so before
we struck. But we didn't strike, and, as we rushed in, I saw the
beauty of the situation. Before us opened a narrow channel,
frilled at its mouth with breaking seas. Yet, long before, when I
had scanned the shore closely, there had been no such channel. I
HAD FORGOTTEN THE THIRTY-FOOT TIDE. And it was for this tide that
the Japanese had so precariously waited. We ran the frill of
breakers, curved into a tiny sheltered bay where the water was
scarcely flawed by the gale, and landed on a beach where the salt
sea of the last tide lay frozen in long curving lines. And this
was one gale of three in the course of those eight days in the
sampan. Would it have been beaten on a ship? I fear me the ship
would have gone aground on the outlying reef and that its people
would have been incontinently and monotonously drowned.
There are enough surprises and mishaps in a three-days' cruise in
a small boat to supply a great ship on the ocean for a full year.
I remember, once, taking out on her trial trip a little thirty-
footer I had just bought. In six days we had two stiff blows,
and, in addition, one proper southwester and one ripsnorting
southeaster. The slight intervals between these blows were dead
calms. Also, in the six days, we were aground three times. Then,
too, we tied up to the bank in the Sacramento River, and,
grounding by an accident on the steep slope on a falling tide,
nearly turned a side somersault down the bank. In a stark calm
and heavy tide in the Carquinez Straits, where anchors skate on
the channel-scoured bottom, we were sucked against a big dock and
smashed and bumped down a quarter of a mile of its length before
we could get clear. Two hours afterward, on San Pablo Bay, the
wind was piping up and we were reefing down. It is no fun to pick
up a skiff adrift in a heavy sea and gale. That was our next
task, for our skiff, swamping, parted both towing painters we had
bent on. Before we recovered it we had nearly killed ourselves
with exhaustion, and we certainly had strained the sloop in every
part from keelson to truck. And to cap it all, coming into our
home port, beating up the narrowest part of the San Antonio
Estuary, we had a shave of inches from collision with a big ship
in tow of a tug. I have sailed the ocean in far larger craft a
year at a time, in which period occurred no such chapter of moving
After all, the mishaps are almost the best part of small-boat
sailing. Looking back, they prove to be punctuations of joy. At
the time they try your mettle and your vocabulary, and may make
you so pessimistic as to believe that God has a grudge against
you--but afterward, ah, afterward, with what pleasure you remember
them and with what gusto do you relate them to your brother
skippers in the fellowhood of small-boat sailing!
A narrow, winding slough; a half tide, exposing mud surfaced with
gangrenous slime; the water itself filthy and discoloured by the
waste from the vats of a near-by tannery; the marsh grass on
either side mottled with all the shades of a decaying orchid; a
crazy, ramshackled, ancient wharf; and at the end of the wharf a
small, white-painted sloop. Nothing romantic about it. No hint
of adventure. A splendid pictorial argument against the alleged
joys of small-boat sailing. Possibly that is what Cloudesley and
I thought, that sombre, leaden morning as we turned out to cook
breakfast and wash decks. The latter was my stunt, but one look
at the dirty water overside and another at my fresh-painted deck,
deterred me. After breakfast, we started a game of chess. The
tide continued to fall, and we felt the sloop begin to list. We
played on until the chess men began to fall over. The list
increased, and we went on deck. Bow-line and stern-line were
drawn taut. As we looked the boat listed still farther with an
abrupt jerk. The lines were now very taut.
"As soon as her belly touches the bottom she will stop," I said.
Cloudesley sounded with a boat-hook along the outside.
"Seven feet of water," he announced. "The bank is almost up and
down. The first thing that touches will be her mast when she
turns bottom up."
An ominous, minute snapping noise came from the stern-line. Even
as we looked, we saw a strand fray and part. Then we jumped.
Scarcely had we bent another line between the stern and the wharf,
when the original line parted. As we bent another line for'ard,
the original one there crackled and parted. After that, it was an
inferno of work and excitement.
We ran more and more lines, and more and more lines continued to
part, and more and more the pretty boat went over on her side. We
bent all our spare lines; we unrove sheets and halyards; we used
our two-inch hawser; we fastened lines part way up the mast, half
way up, and everywhere else. We toiled and sweated and enounced
our mutual and sincere conviction that God's grudge still held
against us. Country yokels came down on the wharf and sniggered
at us. When Cloudesley let a coil of rope slip down the inclined
deck into the vile slime and fished it out with seasick
countenance, the yokels sniggered louder and it was all I could do
to prevent him from climbing up on the wharf and committing
By the time the sloop's deck was perpendicular, we had unbent the
boom-lift from below, made it fast to the wharf, and, with the
other end fast nearly to the mast-head, heaved it taut with block
and tackle. The lift was of steel wire. We were confident that
it could stand the strain, but we doubted the holding-power of the
stays that held the mast.
The tide had two more hours to ebb (and it was the big run-out),
which meant that five hours must elapse ere the returning tide
would give us a chance to learn whether or not the sloop would
rise to it and right herself.
The bank was almost up and down, and at the bottom, directly
beneath us, the fast-ebbing tide left a pit of the vilest, illest-
smelling, illest-appearing muck to be seen in many a day's ride.
Said Cloudesley to me gazing down into it:
"I love you as a brother. I'd fight for you. I'd face roaring
lions, and sudden death by field and flood. But just the same,
don't you fall into that." He shuddered nauseously. "For if you
do, I haven't the grit to pull you out. I simply couldn't. You'd
be awful. The best I could do would be to take a boat-hook and
shove you down out of sight."
We sat on the upper side-wall of the cabin, dangled our legs down
the top of the cabin, leaned our backs against the deck, and
played chess until the rising tide and the block and tackle on the
boom-lift enabled us to get her on a respectable keel again.
Years afterward, down in the South Seas, on the island of Ysabel,
I was caught in a similar predicament. In order to clean her
copper, I had careened the Snark broadside on to the beach and
outward. When the tide rose, she refused to rise. The water
crept in through the scuppers, mounted over the rail, and the
level of the ocean slowly crawled up the slant of the deck. We
battened down the engine-room hatch, and the sea rose to it and
over it and climbed perilously near to the cabin companion-way and
skylight. We were all sick with fever, but we turned out in the
blazing tropic sun and toiled madly for several hours. We carried
our heaviest lines ashore from our mast-heads and heaved with our
heaviest purchase until everything crackled including ourselves.
We would spell off and lie down like dead men, then get up and
heave and crackle again. And in the end, our lower rail five feet
under water and the wavelets lapping the companion-way combing,
the sturdy little craft shivered and shook herself and pointed her
masts once more to the zenith.
There is never lack of exercise in small-boat sailing, and the
hard work is not only part of the fun of it, but it beats the
doctors. San Francisco Bay is no mill pond. It is a large and
draughty and variegated piece of water. I remember, one winter
evening, trying to enter the mouth of the Sacramento. There was a
freshet on the river, the flood tide from the bay had been beaten
back into a strong ebb, and the lusty west wind died down with the
sun. It was just sunset, and with a fair to middling breeze, dead
aft, we stood still in the rapid current. We were squarely in the
mouth of the river; but there was no anchorage and we drifted
backward, faster and faster, and dropped anchor outside as the
last breath of wind left us. The night came on, beautiful and
warm and starry. My one companion cooked supper, while on deck I
put everything in shape Bristol fashion. When we turned in at
nine o'clock the weather-promise was excellent. (If I had carried
a barometer I'd have known better.) By two in the morning our
shrouds were thrumming in a piping breeze, and I got up and gave
her more scope on her hawser. Inside another hour there was no
doubt that we were in for a southeaster.
It is not nice to leave a warm bed and get out of a bad anchorage
in a black blowy night, but we arose to the occasion, put in two
reefs, and started to heave up. The winch was old, and the strain
of the jumping head sea was too much for it. With the winch out
of commission, it was impossible to heave up by hand. We knew,
because we tried it and slaughtered our hands. Now a sailor hates
to lose an anchor. It is a matter of pride. Of course, we could
have buoyed ours and slipped it. Instead, however, I gave her
still more hawser, veered her, and dropped the second anchor.
There was little sleep after that, for first one and then the
other of us would be rolled out of our bunks. The increasing size
of the seas told us we were dragging, and when we struck the
scoured channel we could tell by the feel of it that our two
anchors were fairly skating across. It was a deep channel, the
farther edge of it rising steeply like the wall of a canyon, and
when our anchors started up that wall they hit in and held.
Yet, when we fetched up, through the darkness we could hear the
seas breaking on the solid shore astern, and so near was it that
we shortened the skiff's painter.
Daylight showed us that between the stern of the skiff and
destruction was no more than a score of feet. And how it did
blow! There were times, in the gusts, when the wind must have
approached a velocity of seventy or eighty miles an hour. But the
anchors held, and so nobly that our final anxiety was that the
for'ard bitts would be jerked clean out of the boat. All day the
sloop alternately ducked her nose under and sat down on her stern;
and it was not till late afternoon that the storm broke in one
last and worst mad gust. For a full five minutes an absolute dead
calm prevailed, and then, with the suddenness of a thunderclap,
the wind snorted out of the southwest--a shift of eight points and
a boisterous gale. Another night of it was too much for us, and
we hove up by hand in a cross head-sea. It was not stiff work.
It was heart-breaking. And I know we were both near to crying
from the hurt and the exhaustion. And when we did get the first
anchor up-and-down we couldn't break it out. Between seas we
snubbed her nose down to it, took plenty of turns, and stood clear
as she jumped. Almost everything smashed and parted except the
anchor-hold. The chocks were jerked out, the rail torn off, and
the very covering-board splintered, and still the anchor held. At
last, hoisting the reefed main-sail and slacking off a few of the
hard-won feet of the chain, we sailed the anchor out. It was nip
and tuck, though, and there were times when the boat was knocked
down flat. We repeated the manoeuvre with the remaining anchor,
and in the gathering darkness fled into the shelter of the river's
I was born so long ago that I grew up before the era of gasolene.
As a result, I am old-fashioned. I prefer a sail-boat to a motor-
boat, and it is my belief that boat-sailing is a finer, more
difficult, and sturdier art than running a motor. Gasolene
engines are becoming fool-proof, and while it is unfair to say
that any fool can run an engine, it is fair to say that almost any
one can. Not so, when it comes to sailing a boat. More skill,
more intelligence, and a vast deal more training are necessary.
It is the finest training in the world for boy and youth and man.
If the boy is very small, equip him with a small, comfortable
skiff. He will do the rest. He won't need to be taught. Shortly
he will be setting a tiny leg-of-mutton and steering with an oar.
Then he will begin to talk keels and centreboards and want to take
his blankets out and stop aboard all night.
But don't be afraid for him. He is bound to run risks and
encounter accidents. Remember, there are accidents in the nursery
as well as out on the water. More boys have died from hot-house
culture than have died on boats large and small; and more boys
have been made into strong and reliant men by boat-sailing than by
lawn-croquet and dancing-school.
And once a sailor, always a sailor. The savour of the salt never
stales. The sailor never grows so old that he does not care to go
back for one more wrestling bout with wind and wave. I know it of
myself. I have turned rancher, and live beyond sight of the sea.
Yet I can stay away from it only so long. After several months
have passed, I begin to grow restless. I find myself day-dreaming
over incidents of the last cruise, or wondering if the striped
bass are running on Wingo Slough, or eagerly reading the
newspapers for reports of the first northern flights of ducks.
And then, suddenly, there is a hurried pack of suit-cases and
overhauling of gear, and we are off for Vallejo where the little
Roamer lies, waiting, always waiting, for the skiff to come
alongside, for the lighting of the fire in the galley-stove, for
the pulling off of gaskets, the swinging up of the mainsail, and
the rat-tat-tat of the reef-points, for the heaving short and the
breaking out, and for the twirling of the wheel as she fills away
and heads up Bay or down.
On Board Roamer,
April 15, 1911
FOUR HORSES AND A SAILOR
"Huh! Drive four horses! I wouldn't sit behind you--not for a
thousand dollars--over them mountain roads."
So said Henry, and he ought to have known, for he drives four
Said another Glen Ellen friend: "What? London? He drive four
horses? Can't drive one!"
And the best of it is that he was right. Even after managing to
get a few hundred miles with my four horses, I don't know how to
drive one. Just the other day, swinging down a steep mountain
road and rounding an abrupt turn, I came full tilt on a horse and
buggy being driven by a woman up the hill. We could not pass on
the narrow road, where was only a foot to spare, and my horses did
not know how to back, especially up-hill. About two hundred yards
down the hill was a spot where we could pass. The driver of the
buggy said she didn't dare back down because she was not sure of
the brake. And as I didn't know how to tackle one horse, I didn't
try it. So we unhitched her horse and backed down by hand. Which
was very well, till it came to hitching the horse to the buggy
again. She didn't know how. I didn't either, and I had depended
on her knowledge. It took us about half an hour, with frequent
debates and consultations, though it is an absolute certainty that
never in its life was that horse hitched in that particular way.
No; I can't harness up one horse. But I can four, which compels
me to back up again to get to my beginning. Having selected
Sonoma Valley for our abiding place, Charmian and I decided it was
about time we knew what we had in our own county and the
neighbouring ones. How to do it, was the first question. Among
our many weaknesses is the one of being old-fashioned. We don't
mix with gasolene very well. And, as true sailors should, we
naturally gravitate toward horses. Being one of those lucky
individuals who carries his office under his hat, I should have to
take a typewriter and a load of books along. This put saddle-
horses out of the running. Charmian suggested driving a span.
She had faith in me; besides, she could drive a span herself. But
when I thought of the many mountains to cross, and of crossing
them for three months with a poor tired span, I vetoed the
proposition and said we'd have to come back to gasolene after all.
This she vetoed just as emphatically, and a deadlock obtained
until I received inspiration.
"Why not drive four horses?" I said.
"But you don't know how to drive four horses," was her objection.
I threw my chest out and my shoulders back. "What man has done, I
can do," I proclaimed grandly. "And please don't forget that when
we sailed on the Snark I knew nothing of navigation, and that I
taught myself as I sailed."
"Very well," she said. (And there's faith for you! ) "They shall
be four saddle horses, and we'll strap our saddles on behind the
It was my turn to object. "Our saddle horses are not broken to
"Then break them."
And what I knew about horses, much less about breaking them, was
just about as much as any sailor knows. Having been kicked,
bucked off, fallen over backward upon, and thrown out and run
over, on very numerous occasions, I had a mighty vigorous respect
for horses; but a wife's faith must be lived up to, and I went at
King was a polo pony from St. Louis, and Prince a many-gaited
love-horse from Pasadena. The hardest thing was to get them to
dig in and pull. They rollicked along on the levels and galloped
down the hills, but when they struck an up-grade and felt the
weight of the breaking-cart, they stopped and turned around and
looked at me. But I passed them, and my troubles began. Milda
was fourteen years old, an unadulterated broncho, and in
temperament was a combination of mule and jack-rabbit blended
equally. If you pressed your hand on her flank and told her to
get over, she lay down on you. If you got her by the head and
told her to back, she walked forward over you. And if you got
behind her and shoved and told her to "Giddap!" she sat down on
you. Also, she wouldn't walk. For endless weary miles I strove
with her, but never could I get her to walk a step. Finally, she
was a manger-glutton. No matter how near or far from the stable,
when six o'clock came around she bolted for home and never missed
the directest cross-road. Many times I rejected her.
The fourth and most rejected horse of all was the Outlaw. From
the age of three to seven she had defied all horse-breakers and
broken a number of them. Then a long, lanky cowboy, with a fifty-
pound saddle and a Mexican bit had got her proud goat. I was the
next owner. She was my favourite riding horse. Charmian said I'd
have to put her in as a wheeler where I would have more control
over her. Now Charmian had a favourite riding mare called Maid.
I suggested Maid as a substitute. Charmian pointed out that my
mare was a branded range horse, while hers was a near-
thoroughbred, and that the legs of her mare would be ruined
forever if she were driven for three months. I acknowledged her
mare's thoroughbredness, and at the same time defied her to find
any thoroughbred with as small and delicately-viciously pointed
ears as my Outlaw. She indicated Maid's exquisitely thin
shinbone. I measured the Outlaw's. It was equally thin,
although, I insinuated, possibly more durable. This stabbed
Charmian's pride. Of course her near-thoroughbred Maid, carrying
the blood of "old" Lexington, Morella, and a streak of the super-
enduring Morgan, could run, walk, and work my unregistered Outlaw
into the ground; and that was the very precise reason why such a
paragon of a saddle animal should not be degraded by harness.
So it was that Charmian remained obdurate, until, one day, I got
her behind the Outlaw for a forty-mile drive. For every inch of
those forty miles the Outlaw kicked and jumped, in between the
kicks and jumps finding time and space in which to seize its team-
mate by the back of the neck and attempt to drag it to the ground.
Another trick the Outlaw developed during that drive was suddenly
to turn at right angles in the traces and endeavour to butt its
team-mate over the grade. Reluctantly and nobly did Charmian give
in and consent to the use of Maid. The Outlaw's shoes were pulled
off, and she was turned out on range.
Finally, the four horses were hooked to the rig--a light
Studebaker trap. With two hours and a half of practice, in which
the excitement was not abated by several jack-poles and numerous
kicking matches, I announced myself as ready for the start. Came
the morning, and Prince, who was to have been a wheeler with Maid,
showed up with a badly kicked shoulder. He did not exactly show
up; we had to find him, for he was unable to walk. His leg
swelled and continually swelled during the several days we waited
for him. Remained only the Outlaw. In from pasture she came,
shoes were nailed on, and she was harnessed into the wheel.
Friends and relatives strove to press accident policies on me, but
Charmian climbed up alongside, and Nakata got into the rear seat
with the typewriter--Nakata, who sailed cabin-boy on the Snark for
two years and who had shown himself afraid of nothing, not even of
me and my amateur jamborees in experimenting with new modes of
locomotion. And we did very nicely, thank you, especially after
the first hour or so, during which time the Outlaw had kicked
about fifty various times, chiefly to the damage of her own legs
and the paintwork, and after she had bitten a couple of hundred
times, to the damage of Maid's neck and Charmian's temper. It was
hard enough to have her favourite mare in the harness without also
enduring the spectacle of its being eaten alive.
Our leaders were joys. King being a polo pony and Milda a rabbit,
they rounded curves beautifully and darted ahead like coyotes out
of the way of the wheelers. Milda's besetting weakness was a
frantic desire not to have the lead-bar strike her hocks. When
this happened, one of three things occurred: either she sat down
on the lead-bar, kicked it up in the air until she got her back
under it, or exploded in a straight-ahead, harness-disrupting
jump. Not until she carried the lead-bar clean away and danced a
break-down on it and the traces, did she behave decently. Nakata
and I made the repairs with good old-fashioned bale-rope, which is
stronger than wrought-iron any time, and we went on our way.
In the meantime I was learning--I shall not say to tool a four-in-
hand--but just simply to drive four horses. Now it is all right
enough to begin with four work-horses pulling a load of several
tons. But to begin with four light horses, all running, and a
light rig that seems to outrun them--well, when things happen they
happen quickly. My weakness was total ignorance. In particular,
my fingers lacked training, and I made the mistake of depending on
my eyes to handle the reins. This brought me up against a
disastrous optical illusion. The bight of the off head-line,
being longer and heavier than that of the off wheel-line, hung
lower. In a moment requiring quick action, I invariably mistook
the two lines. Pulling on what I thought was the wheel-line, in
order to straighten the team, I would see the leaders swing
abruptly around into a jack-pole. Now for sensations of sheer
impotence, nothing can compare with a jack-pole, when the
horrified driver beholds his leaders prancing gaily up the road
and his wheelers jogging steadily down the road, all at the same
time and all harnessed together and to the same rig.
I no longer jack-pole, and I don't mind admitting how I got out of
the habit. It was my eyes that enslaved my fingers into ill
practices. So I shut my eyes and let the fingers go it alone.
To-day my fingers are independent of my eyes and work
automatically. I do not see what my fingers do. They just do it.
All I see is the satisfactory result.
Still we managed to get over the ground that first day--down sunny
Sonoma Valley to the old town of Sonoma, founded by General
Vallejo as the remotest outpost on the northern frontier for the
purpose of holding back the Gentiles, as the wild Indians of those
days were called. Here history was made. Here the last Spanish
mission was reared; here the Bear flag was raised; and here Kit
Carson, and Fremont, and all our early adventurers came and rested
in the days before the days of gold.
We swung on over the low, rolling hills, through miles of dairy
farms and chicken ranches where every blessed hen is white, and
down the slopes to Petaluma Valley. Here, in 1776, Captain Quiros
came up Petaluma Creek from San Pablo Bay in quest of an outlet to
Bodega Bay on the coast. And here, later, the Russians, with
Alaskan hunters, carried skin boats across from Fort Ross to poach
for sea-otters on the Spanish preserve of San Francisco Bay.
Here, too, still later, General Vallejo built a fort, which still
stands--one of the finest examples of Spanish adobe that remain to
us. And here, at the old fort, to bring the chronicle up to date,
our horses proceeded to make peculiarly personal history with
astonishing success and dispatch. King, our peerless, polo-pony
leader, went lame. So hopelessly lame did he go that no expert,
then and afterward, could determine whether the lameness was in
his frogs, hoofs, legs, shoulders, or head. Maid picked up a nail
and began to limp. Milda, figuring the day already sufficiently
spent and maniacal with manger-gluttony, began to rabbit-jump.
All that held her was the bale-rope. And the Outlaw, game to the
last, exceeded all previous exhibitions of skin-removing, paint-
marring, and horse-eating.
At Petaluma we rested over while King was returned to the ranch
and Prince sent to us. Now Prince had proved himself an excellent
wheeler, yet he had to go into the lead and let the Outlaw retain
his old place. There is an axiom that a good wheeler is a poor
leader. I object to the last adjective. A good wheeler makes an
infinitely worse kind of a leader than that. I know . . . now. I
ought to know. Since that day I have driven Prince a few hundred
miles in the lead. He is neither any better nor any worse than
the first mile he ran in the lead; and his worst is even extremely
worse than what you are thinking. Not that he is vicious. He is
merely a good-natured rogue who shakes hands for sugar, steps on
your toes out of sheer excessive friendliness, and just goes on
loving you in your harshest moments.
But he won't get out of the way. Also, whenever he is reproved
for being in the wrong, he accuses Milda of it and bites the back
of her neck. So bad has this become that whenever I yell
"Prince!" in a loud voice, Milda immediately rabbit-jumps to the
side, straight ahead, or sits down on the lead-bar. All of which
is quite disconcerting. Picture it yourself. You are swinging
round a sharp, down-grade, mountain curve, at a fast trot. The
rock wall is the outside of the curve. The inside of the curve is
a precipice. The continuance of the curve is a narrow, unrailed
bridge. You hit the curve, throwing the leaders in against the
wall and making the polo-horse do the work. All is lovely. The
leaders are hugging the wall like nestling doves. But the moment
comes in the evolution when the leaders must shoot out ahead.
They really must shoot, or else they'll hit the wall and miss the
bridge. Also, behind them are the wheelers, and the rig, and you
have just eased the brake in order to put sufficient snap into the
manoeuvre. If ever team-work is required, now is the time. Milda
tries to shoot. She does her best, but Prince, bubbling over with
roguishness, lags behind. He knows the trick. Milda is half a
length ahead of him. He times it to the fraction of a second.
Maid, in the wheel, over-running him, naturally bites him. This
disturbs the Outlaw, who has been behaving beautifully, and she
immediately reaches across for Maid. Simultaneously, with a fine
display of firm conviction that it's all Milda's fault, Prince
sinks his teeth into the back of Milda's defenceless neck. The
whole thing has occurred in less than a second. Under the
surprise and pain of the bite, Milda either jumps ahead to the
imminent peril of harness and lead-bar, or smashes into the wall,
stops short with the lead-bar over her back, and emits a couple of
hysterical kicks. The Outlaw invariably selects this moment to
remove paint. And after things are untangled and you have had
time to appreciate the close shave, you go up to Prince and
reprove him with your choicest vocabulary. And Prince, gazelle-
eyed and tender, offers to shake hands with you for sugar. I
leave it to any one: a boat would never act that way.
We have some history north of the Bay. Nearly three centuries and
a half ago, that doughty pirate and explorer, Sir Francis Drake,
combing the Pacific for Spanish galleons, anchored in the bight
formed by Point Reyes, on which to-day is one of the richest dairy
regions in the world. Here, less than two decades after Drake,
Sebastien Carmenon piled up on the rocks with a silk-laden galleon
from the Philippines. And in this same bay of Drake, long
afterward, the Russian fur-poachers rendezvous'd their bidarkas
and stole in through the Golden Gate to the forbidden waters of
San Francisco Bay.
Farther up the coast, in Sonoma County, we pilgrimaged to the
sites of the Russian settlements. At Bodega Bay, south of what
to-day is called Russian River, was their anchorage, while north
of the river they built their fort. And much of Fort Ross still
stands. Log-bastions, church, and stables hold their own, and so
well, with rusty hinges creaking, that we warmed ourselves at the
hundred-years-old double fireplace and slept under the hand-hewn
roof beams still held together by spikes of hand-wrought iron.
We went to see where history had been made, and we saw scenery as
well. One of our stretches in a day's drive was from beautiful
Inverness on Tomales Bay, down the Olema Valley to Bolinas Bay,
along the eastern shore of that body of water to Willow Camp, and
up over the sea-bluffs, around the bastions of Tamalpais, and down
to Sausalito. From the head of Bolinas Bay to Willow Camp the
drive on the edge of the beach, and actually, for half-mile
stretches, in the waters of the bay itself, was a delightful
experience. The wonderful part was to come. Very few San
Franciscans, much less Californians, know of that drive from
Willow Camp, to the south and east, along the poppy-blown cliffs,
with the sea thundering in the sheer depths hundreds of feet below
and the Golden Gate opening up ahead, disclosing smoky San
Francisco on her many hills. Far off, blurred on the breast of
the sea, can be seen the Farallones, which Sir Francis Drake
passed on a S. W. course in the thick of what he describes as a
"stynking fog." Well might he call it that, and a few other
names, for it was the fog that robbed him of the glory of
discovering San Francisco Bay.
It was on this part of the drive that I decided at last I was
learning real mountain-driving. To confess the truth, for
delicious titillation of one's nerve, I have since driven over no
mountain road that was worse, or better, rather, than that piece.
And then the contrast! From Sausalito, over excellent, park-like
boulevards, through the splendid redwoods and homes of Mill
Valley, across the blossomed hills of Marin County, along the
knoll-studded picturesque marshes, past San Rafael resting warmly
among her hills, over the divide and up the Petaluma Valley, and
on to the grassy feet of Sonoma Mountain and home. We covered
fifty-five miles that day. Not so bad, eh, for Prince the Rogue,
the paint-removing Outlaw, the thin-shanked thoroughbred, and the
rabbit-jumper? And they came in cool and dry, ready for their
mangers and the straw.
Oh, we didn't stop. We considered we were just starting, and that
was many weeks ago. We have kept on going over six counties which
are comfortably large, even for California, and we are still
going. We have twisted and tabled, criss-crossed our tracks, made
fascinating and lengthy dives into the interior valleys in the
hearts of Napa and Lake Counties, travelled the coast for hundreds
of miles on end, and are now in Eureka, on Humboldt Bay, which was
discovered by accident by the gold-seekers, who were trying to
find their way to and from the Trinity diggings. Even here, the
white man's history preceded them, for dim tradition says that the
Russians once anchored here and hunted sea-otter before the first
Yankee trader rounded the Horn, or the first Rocky Mountain
trapper thirsted across the "Great American Desert" and trickled
down the snowy Sierras to the sun-kissed land. No; we are not
resting our horses here on Humboldt Bay. We are writing this
article, gorging on abalones and mussels, digging clams, and
catching record-breaking sea-trout and rock-cod in the intervals
in which we are not sailing, motor-boating, and swimming in the
most temperately equable climate we have ever experienced.
These comfortably large counties! They are veritable empires.
Take Humboldt, for instance. It is three times as large as Rhode
Island, one and a half times as large as Delaware, almost as large
as Connecticut, and half as large as Massachusetts. The pioneer
has done his work in this north of the bay region, the foundations
are laid, and all is ready for the inevitable inrush of population
and adequate development of resources which so far have been no
more than skimmed, and casually and carelessly skimmed at that.
This region of the six counties alone will some day support a
population of millions. In the meanwhile, O you home-seekers, you
wealth-seekers, and, above all, you climate-seekers, now is the
time to get in on the ground floor.
Robert Ingersoll once said that the genial climate of California
would in a fairly brief time evolve a race resembling the
Mexicans, and that in two or three generations the Californians
would be seen of a Sunday morning on their way to a cockfight with
a rooster under each arm. Never was made a rasher generalisation,
based on so absolute an ignorance of facts. It is to laugh. Here
is a climate that breeds vigour, with just sufficient geniality to
prevent the expenditure of most of that vigour in fighting the
elements. Here is a climate where a man can work three hundred
and sixty-five days in the year without the slightest hint of
enervation, and where for three hundred and sixty-five nights he
must perforce sleep under blankets. What more can one say? I
consider myself somewhat of climate expert, having adventured
among most of the climates of five out of the six zones. I have
not yet been in the Antarctic, but whatever climate obtains there
will not deter me from drawing the conclusion that nowhere is
there a climate to compare with that of this region. Maybe I am
as wrong as Ingersoll was. Nevertheless I take my medicine by
continuing to live in this climate. Also, it is the only medicine
I ever take.
But to return to the horses. There is some improvement. Milda
has actually learned to walk. Maid has proved her
thoroughbredness by never tiring on the longest days, and, while
being the strongest and highest spirited of all, by never causing
any trouble save for an occasional kick at the Outlaw. And the
Outlaw rarely gallops, no longer butts, only periodically kicks,
comes in to the pole and does her work without attempting to
vivisect Maid's medulla oblongata, and--marvel of marvels--is
really and truly getting lazy. But Prince remains the same
incorrigible, loving and lovable rogue he has always been.
And the country we've been over! The drives through Napa and Lake
Counties! One, from Sonoma Valley, via Santa Rosa, we could not
refrain from taking several ways, and on all the ways we found the
roads excellent for machines as well as horses. One route, and a
more delightful one for an automobile cannot be found, is out from
Santa Rosa, past old Altruria and Mark West Springs, then to the
right and across to Calistoga in Napa Valley. By keeping to the
left, the drive holds on up the Russian River Valley, through the
miles of the noted Asti Vineyards to Cloverdale, and then by way
of Pieta, Witter, and Highland Springs to Lakeport. Still another
way we took, was down Sonoma Valley, skirting San Pablo Bay, and
up the lovely Napa Valley. From Napa were side excursions through
Pope and Berryessa Valleys, on to AEtna Springs, and still on,
into Lake County, crossing the famous Langtry Ranch.
Continuing up the Napa Valley, walled on either hand by great rock
palisades and redwood forests and carpeted with endless vineyards,
and crossing the many stone bridges for which the County is noted
and which are a joy to the beauty-loving eyes as well as to the
four-horse tyro driver, past Calistoga with its old mud-baths and
chicken-soup springs, with St. Helena and its giant saddle ever
towering before us, we climbed the mountains on a good grade and
dropped down past the quicksilver mines to the canyon of the
Geysers. After a stop over night and an exploration of the
miniature-grand volcanic scene, we pulled on across the canyon and
took the grade where the cicadas simmered audibly in the noon
sunshine among the hillside manzanitas. Then, higher, came the
big cattle-dotted upland pastures, and the rocky summit. And here
on the summit, abruptly, we caught a vision, or what seemed a
mirage. The ocean we had left long days before, yet far down and
away shimmered a blue sea, framed on the farther shore by rugged
mountains, on the near shore by fat and rolling farm lands. Clear
Lake was before us, and like proper sailors we returned to our
sea, going for a sail, a fish, and a swim ere the day was done and
turning into tired Lakeport blankets in the early evening. Well
has Lake County been called the Walled-in County. But the
railroad is coming. They say the approach we made to Clear Lake
is similar to the approach to Lake Lucerne. Be that as it may,
the scenery, with its distant snow-capped peaks, can well be
And what can be more exquisite than the drive out from Clear Lake
to Ukiah by way of the Blue Lakes chain!--every turn bringing into
view a picture of breathless beauty; every glance backward
revealing some perfect composition in line and colour, the intense
blue of the water margined with splendid oaks, green fields, and
swaths of orange poppies. But those side glances and backward
glances were provocative of trouble. Charmian and I disagreed as
to which way the connecting stream of water ran. We still
disagree, for at the hotel, where we submitted the affair to
arbitration, the hotel manager and the clerk likewise disagreed.
I assume, now, that we never will know which way that stream runs.
Charmian suggests "both ways." I refuse such a compromise. No
stream of water I ever saw could accomplish that feat at one and
the same time. The greatest concession I can make is that
sometimes it may run one way and sometimes the other, and that in
the meantime we should both consult an oculist.
More valley from Ukiah to Willits, and then we turned westward
through the virgin Sherwood Forest of magnificent redwood,
stopping at Alpine for the night and continuing on through
Mendocino County to Fort Bragg and "salt water." We also came to
Fort Bragg up the coast from Fort Ross, keeping our coast journey
intact from the Golden Gate. The coast weather was cool and
delightful, the coast driving superb. Especially in the Fort Ross
section did we find the roads thrilling, while all the way along
we followed the sea. At every stream, the road skirted dizzy
cliff-edges, dived down into lush growths of forest and ferns and
climbed out along the cliff-edges again. The way was lined with
flowers--wild lilac, wild roses, poppies, and lupins. Such
lupins!--giant clumps of them, of every lupin-shade and -colour.
And it was along the Mendocino roads that Charmian caused many
delays by insisting on getting out to pick the wild blackberries,
strawberries, and thimble-berries which grew so profusely. And
ever we caught peeps, far down, of steam schooners loading lumber
in the rocky coves; ever we skirted the cliffs, day after day,
crossing stretches of rolling farm lands and passing through
thriving villages and saw-mill towns. Memorable was our launch-
trip from Mendocino City up Big River, where the steering gears of
the launches work the reverse of anywhere else in the world; where
we saw a stream of logs, of six to twelve and fifteen feet in
diameter, which filled the river bed for miles to the obliteration
of any sign of water; and where we were told of a white or albino
redwood tree. We did not see this last, so cannot vouch for it.
All the streams were filled with trout, and more than once we saw
the side-hill salmon on the slopes. No, side-hill salmon is not a
peripatetic fish; it is a deer out of season. But the trout! At
Gualala Charmian caught her first one. Once before in my life I
had caught two . . . on angleworms. On occasion I had tried fly
and spinner and never got a strike, and I had come to believe that
all this talk of fly-fishing was just so much nature-faking. But
on the Gualala River I caught trout--a lot of them--on fly and
spinners; and I was beginning to feel quite an expert, until
Nakata, fishing on bottom with a pellet of bread for bait, caught
the biggest trout of all. I now affirm there is nothing in
science nor in art. Nevertheless, since that day poles and
baskets have been added to our baggage, we tackle every stream we
come to, and we no longer are able to remember the grand total of
At Usal, many hilly and picturesque miles north of Fort Bragg, we
turned again into the interior of Mendocino, crossing the ranges
and coming out in Humboldt County on the south fork of Eel River
at Garberville. Throughout the trip, from Marin County north, we
had been warned of "bad roads ahead." Yet we never found those
bad roads. We seemed always to be just ahead of them or behind
them. The farther we came the better the roads seemed, though
this was probably due to the fact that we were learning more and
more what four horses and a light rig could do on a road. And
thus do I save my face with all the counties. I refuse to make
invidious road comparisons. I can add that while, save in rare
instances on steep pitches, I have trotted my horses down all the
grades, I have never had one horse fall down nor have I had to
send the rig to a blacksmith shop for repairs.
Also, I am learning to throw leather. If any tyro thinks it is
easy to take a short-handled, long-lashed whip, and throw the end
of that lash just where he wants it, let him put on automobile
goggles and try it. On reconsideration, I would suggest the
substitution of a wire fencing-mask for the goggles. For days I
looked at that whip. It fascinated me, and the fascination was
composed mostly of fear. At my first attempt, Charmian and Nakata
became afflicted with the same sort of fascination, and for a long
time afterward, whenever they saw me reach for the whip, they
closed their eyes and shielded their heads with their arms.
Here's the problem. Instead of pulling honestly, Prince is
lagging back and manoeuvring for a bite at Milda's neck. I have
four reins in my hands. I must put these four reins into my left
hand, properly gather the whip handle and the bight of the lash in
my right hand, and throw that lash past Maid without striking her
and into Prince. If the lash strikes Maid, her thoroughbredness
will go up in the air, and I'll have a case of horse hysteria on
my hands for the next half hour. But follow. The whole problem
is not yet stated. Suppose that I miss Maid and reach the
intended target. The instant the lash cracks, the four horses
jump, Prince most of all, and his jump, with spread wicked teeth,
is for the back of Milda's neck. She jumps to escape--which is
her second jump, for the first one came when the lash exploded.
The Outlaw reaches for Maid's neck, and Maid, who has already
jumped and tried to bolt, tries to bolt harder. And all this
infinitesimal fraction of time I am trying to hold the four
animals with my left hand, while my whip-lash, writhing through
the air, is coming back to me. Three simultaneous things I must
do: keep hold of the four reins with my left hand; slam on the
brake with my foot; and on the rebound catch that flying lash in
the hollow of my right arm and get the bight of it safely into my
right hand. Then I must get two of the four lines back into my
right hand and keep the horses from running away or going over the
grade. Try it some time. You will find life anything but
wearisome. Why, the first time I hit the mark and made the lash
go off like a revolver shot, I was so astounded and delighted that
I was paralysed. I forgot to do any of the multitudinous other
things, tangled the whip lash in Maid's harness, and was forced to
call upon Charmian for assistance. And now, confession. I carry
a few pebbles handy. They're great for reaching Prince in a tight
place. But just the same I'm learning that whip every day, and
before I get home I hope to discard the pebbles. And as long as I
rely on pebbles, I cannot truthfully speak of myself as "tooling a
From Garberville, where we ate eel to repletion and got acquainted
with the aborigines, we drove down the Eel River Valley for two
days through the most unthinkably glorious body of redwood timber
to be seen anywhere in California. From Dyerville on to Eureka,
we caught glimpses of railroad construction and of great concrete
bridges in the course of building, which advertised that at least
Humboldt County was going to be linked to the rest of the world.
We still consider our trip is just begun. As soon as this is
mailed from Eureka, it's heigh ho! for the horses and pull on. We
shall continue up the coast, turn in for Hoopa Reservation and the
gold mines, and shoot down the Trinity and Klamath rivers in
Indian canoes to Requa. After that, we shall go on through Del
Norte County and into Oregon. The trip so far has justified us in
taking the attitude that we won't go home until the winter rains
drive us in. And, finally, I am going to try the experiment of
putting the Outlaw in the lead and relegating Prince to his old
position in the near wheel. I won't need any pebbles then.
NOTHING THAT EVER CAME TO ANYTHING
It was at Quito, the mountain capital of Ecuador, that the
following passage at correspondence took place. Having occasion
to buy a pair of shoes in a shop six feet by eight in size and
with walls three feet thick, I noticed a mangy leopard skin on the
floor. I had no Spanish. The shop-keeper had no English. But I
was an adept at sign language. I wanted to know where I should go
to buy leopard skins. On my scribble-pad I drew the interesting
streets of a city. Then I drew a small shop, which, after much
effort, I persuaded the proprietor into recognising as his shop.
Next, I indicated in my drawing that on the many streets there
were many shops. And, finally, I made myself into a living
interrogation mark, pointing all the while from the mangy leopard
skin to the many shops I had sketched.
But the proprietor failed to follow me. So did his assistant.
The street came in to help--that is, as many as could crowd into
the six-by-eight shop; while those that could not force their way
in held an overflow meeting on the sidewalk. The proprietor and
the rest took turns at talking to me in rapid-fire Spanish, and,
from the expressions on their faces, all concluded that I was
remarkably stupid. Again I went through my programme, pointing on
the sketch from the one shop to the many shops, pointing out that
in this particular shop was one leopard skin, and then questing
interrogatively with my pencil among all the shops. All regarded
me in blank silence, until I saw comprehension suddenly dawn on
the face of a small boy.
"Tigres montanya!" he cried.
This appealed to me as mountain tigers, namely, leopards; and in
token that he understood, the boy made signs for me to follow him,
which I obeyed. He led me for a quarter of a mile, and paused
before the doorway of a large building where soldiers slouched on
sentry duty and in and out of which went other soldiers.
Motioning for me to remain, he ran inside.
Fifteen minutes later he was out again, without leopard skins, but
full of information. By means of my card, of my hotel card, of my
watch, and of the boy's fingers, I learned the following: that at
six o'clock that evening he would arrive at my hotel with ten
leopard skins for my inspection. Further, I learned that the
skins were the property of one Captain Ernesto Becucci. Also, I
learned that the boy's name was Eliceo.
The boy was prompt. At six o'clock he was at my room. In his
hand was a small roll addressed to me. On opening it I found it
to be manuscript piano music, the Hora Tranquila Valse, or
"Tranquil Hour Waltz," by Ernesto Becucci. I came for leopard
skins, thought I, and the owner sends me sheet music instead. But
the boy assured me that he would have the skins at the hotel at
nine next morning, and I entrusted to him the following letter of
"DEAR CAPTAIN BECUCCI:
"A thousand thanks for your kind presentation of Hora Tranquila
Valse. Mrs. London will play it for me this evening.
Next morning Eliceo was back, but without the skins. Instead, he
gave me a letter, written in Spanish, of which the following is a
"To my dearest and always appreciated friend, I submit myself -
" I sent you last night an offering by the bearer of this note,
and you returned me a letter which I translated.
"Be it known to you, sir, that I am giving this waltz away in the
best society, and therefore to your honoured self. Therefore it
is beholden to you to recognise the attention, I mean by a
tangible return, as this composition was made by myself. You will
therefore send by your humble servant, the bearer, any offering,
however minute, that you may be prompted to make. Send it under
cover of an envelope. The bearer may be trusted.
"I did not indulge in the pleasure of visiting your honourable
self this morning, as I find my body not to be enjoying the normal
exercise of its functions.
"As regards the skins from the mountain, you shall be waited on by
a small boy at seven o'clock at night with ten skins from which
you may select those which most satisfy your aspirations.
"In the hope that you will look upon this in the same light as
myself, I beg to be allowed to remain,
"Your most faithful servant,
" CAPTAIN ERNESTO BECUCCI."
Well, thought I, this Captain Ernesto Becucci has shown himself to
be such an undependable person, that, while I don't mind rewarding
him for his composition, I fear me if I do I never shall lay eyes
on those leopard skins. So to Eliceo I gave this letter for the
"MY DEAR CAPTAIN BECUCCI:
"Have the boy bring the skins at seven o'clock this evening, when
I shall be glad to look at them. This evening when the boy brings
the skins, I shall be pleased to give him, in an envelope, for
you, a tangible return for your musical composition.
"Please put the price on each skin, and also let me know for what
sum all the skins will sell together.
Now, thought I, I have him. No skins, no tangible return; and
evidently he is set on receiving that tangible return.
At seven o'clock Eliceo was back, but without leopard skins. He
handed me this letter:
"I wish to instil in you the belief that I lost to-day, at half
past three in the afternoon, the key to my cubicle. While
distributing rations to the soldiers I dropped it. I see in this
loss the act of God.
"I received a letter from your honourable self, delivered by the
one who bears you this poor response of mine. To-morrow I will
burst open the door to permit me to keep my word with you. I feel
myself eternally shamed not to be able to dominate the evils that
afflict colonial mankind. Please send me the trifle that you
offered me. Send me this proof of your appreciation by the
bearer, who is to be trusted. Also give to him a small sum of
money for himself, and earn the undying gratitude of
Your most faithful servant,
"CAPTAIN ERNESTO BECUCCI."
Also, inclosed in the foregoing letter was the following original
poem, e propos neither of leopard skins nor tangible returns, so
far as I can make out:
Thou canst not weep;
Nor ask I for a year
To rid me of my woes
Or make my life more dear.
The mystic chains that bound
Thy all-fond heart to mine,
Alas! asundered are
For now and for all time.
In vain you strove to hide,
From vulgar gaze of man,
The burning glance of love
That none but Love can scan.
Go on thy starlit way
And leave me to my fate;
Our souls must needs unite -
But, God! 'twill be too late.
To all and sundry of which I replied:
"MY DEAR CAPTAIN BECUCCI:
"I regret exceedingly to hear that by act of God, at half past
three this afternoon, you lost the key to your cubicle. Please
have the boy bring the skins at seven o'clock to-morrow morning,
at which time, when he brings the skins, I shall be glad to make
you that tangible return for your "Tranquil Hour Waltz."
At seven o'clock came no skins, but the following:
"After offering you my most sincere respects, I beg to continue by
telling you that no one, up to the time of writing, has treated me
with such lack of attention. It was a present to GENTLEMEN who
were to retain the piece of music, and who have all, without
exception, made me a present of five dollars. It is beyond my
humble capacity to believe that you, after having offered to send
me money in an envelope, should fail to do so.
"Send me, I pray of you, the money to remunerate the small boy for
his repeated visits to you. Please be discreet and send it in an
envelope by the bearer.
"Last night I came to the hotel with the boy. You were dining. I
waited more than an hour for you and then went to the theatre.
Give the boy some small amount, and send me a like offering of
"Awaiting incessantly a slight attention on your part,
"CAPTAIN ERNESTO BECUCCI."
And here, like one of George Moore's realistic studies, ends this
intercourse with Captain Ernesto Becucci. Nothing happened.
Nothing ever came to anything. He got no tangible return, and I
got no leopard skins. The tangible return he might have got, I
presented to Eliceo, who promptly invested it in a pair of
trousers and a ticket to the bull-fight.
(NOTE TO EDITOR.--This is a faithful narration of what actually
happened in Quito, Ecuador.)
THAT DEAD MEN RISE UP NEVER
The month in which my seventeenth birthday arrived I signed on
before the mast on the Sophie Sutherland, a three-topmast schooner
bound on a seven-months' seal-hunting cruise to the coast of
Japan. We sailed from San Francisco, and immediately I found
confronting me a problem of no inconsiderable proportions. There
were twelve men of us in the forecastle, ten of whom were
hardened, tarry-thumbed sailors. Not alone was I a youth and on
my first voyage, but I had for shipmates men who had come through
the hard school of the merchant service of Europe. As boys, they
had had to perform their ship's duty, and, in addition, by
immemorial sea custom, they had had to be the slaves of the
ordinary and able-bodied seamen. When they became ordinary seamen
they were still the slaves of the able-bodied. Thus, in the
forecastle, with the watch below, an able seaman, lying in his
bunk, will order an ordinary seaman to fetch him his shoes or
bring him a drink of water. Now the ordinary seaman may be lying
in HIS bunk. He is just as tired as the able seaman. Yet he must
get out of his bunk and fetch and carry. If he refuses, he will
be beaten. If, perchance, he is so strong that he can whip the
able seaman, then all the able seamen, or as many as may be
necessary, pitch upon the luckless devil and administer the
My problem now becomes apparent. These hard-bit Scandinavian
sailors had come through a hard school. As boys they had served
their mates, and as able seamen they looked to be served by other
boys. I was a boy--withal with a man's body. I had never been to
sea before--withal I was a good sailor and knew my business. It
was either a case of holding my own with them or of going under.
I had signed on as an equal, and an equal I must maintain myself,
or else endure seven months of hell at their hands. And it was
this very equality they resented. By what right was I an equal?
I had not earned that high privilege. I had not endured the
miseries they had endured as maltreated boys or bullied
ordinaries. Worse than that, I was a land-lubber making his first
voyage. And yet, by the injustice of fate, on the ship's articles
I was their equal.
My method was deliberate, and simple, and drastic. In the first
place, I resolved to do my work, no matter how hard or dangerous
it might be, so well that no man would be called upon to do it for
me. Further, I put ginger in my muscles. I never malingered when
pulling on a rope, for I knew the eagle eyes of my forecastle
mates were squinting for just such evidences of my inferiority. I
made it a point to be among the first of the watch going on deck,
among the last going below, never leaving a sheet or tackle for
some one else to coil over a pin. I was always eager for the run
aloft for the shifting of topsail sheets and tacks, or for the
setting or taking in of topsails; and in these matters I did more
than my share.
Furthermore, I was on a hair-trigger of resentment myself. I knew
better than to accept any abuse or the slightest patronizing. At
the first hint of such, I went off-- I exploded. I might be
beaten in the subsequent fight, but I left the impression that I
was a wild-cat and that I would just as willingly fight again. My
intention was to demonstrate that I would tolerate no imposition.
I proved that the man who imposed on me must have a fight on his
hands. And doing my work well, the innate justice of the men,
assisted by their wholesome dislike for a clawing and rending
wild-cat ruction, soon led them to give over their hectoring.
After a bit of strife, my attitude was accepted, and it was my
pride that I was taken in as an equal in spirit as well as in
fact. From then on, everything was beautiful, and the voyage
promised to be a happy one.
But there was one other man in the forecastle. Counting the
Scandinavians as ten, and myself as the eleventh, this man was the
twelfth and last. We never knew his name, contenting ourselves
with calling him the "Bricklayer." He was from Missouri--at least
he so informed us in the one meagre confidence he was guilty of in
the early days of the voyage. Also, at that time, we learned
several other things. He was a brick-layer by trade. He had
never even seen salt water until the week before he joined us, at
which time he had arrived in San Francisco and looked upon San
Francisco Bay. Why he, of all men, at forty years of age, should
have felt the prod to go to sea, was beyond all of us; for it was
our unanimous conviction that no man less fitted for the sea had
ever embarked on it. But to sea he had come. After a week's stay
in a sailors' boarding-house, he had been shoved aboard of us as
an able seaman.
All hands had to do his work for him. Not only did he know
nothing, but he proved himself unable to learn anything. Try as
they would, they could never teach him to steer. To him the
compass must have been a profound and awful whirligig. He never
mastered its cardinal points, much less the checking and steadying
of the ship on her course. He never did come to know whether
ropes should be coiled from left to right or from right to left.
It was mentally impossible for him to learn the easy muscular
trick of throwing his weight on a rope in pulling and hauling.
The simplest knots and turns were beyond his comprehension, while
he was mortally afraid of going aloft. Bullied by captain and
mate, he was one day forced aloft. He managed to get underneath
the crosstrees, and there he froze to the ratlines. Two sailors
had to go after him to help him down.
All of which was bad enough had there been no worse. But he was
vicious, malignant, dirty, and without common decency. He was a
tall, powerful man, and he fought with everybody. And there was
no fairness in his fighting. His first fight on board, the first
day out, was with me, when he, desiring to cut a plug of chewing
tobacco, took my personal table-knife for the purpose, and
whereupon, I, on a hair-trigger, promptly exploded. After that he
fought with nearly every member of the crew. When his clothing
became too filthy to be bearable by the rest of us, we put it to
soak and stood over him while he washed it. In short, the
Bricklayer was one of those horrible and monstrous things that one
must see in order to be convinced that they exist.
I will only say that he was a beast, and that we treated him like
a beast. It is only by looking back through the years that I
realise how heartless we were to him. He was without sin. He
could not, by the very nature of things, have been anything else
than he was. He had not made himself, and for his making he was
not responsible. Yet we treated him as a free agent and held him
personally responsible for all that he was and that he should not
have been. As a result, our treatment of him was as terrible as
he was himself terrible. Finally we gave him the silent
treatment, and for weeks before he died we neither spoke to him
nor did he speak to us. And for weeks he moved among us, or lay
in his bunk in our crowded house, grinning at us his hatred and
malignancy. He was a dying man, and he knew it, and we knew it.
And furthermore, he knew that we wanted him to die. He cumbered
our life with his presence, and ours was a rough life that made
rough men of us. And so he died, in a small space crowded by
twelve men and as much alone as if he had died on some desolate
mountain peak. No kindly word, no last word, was passed between.
He died as he had lived, a beast, and he died hating us and hated
And now I come to the most startling moment of my life. No sooner
was he dead than he was flung overboard. He died in a night of
wind, drawing his last breath as the men tumbled into their
oilskins to the cry of "All hands!" And he was flung overboard,
several hours later, on a day of wind. Not even a canvas wrapping
graced his mortal remains; nor was he deemed worthy of bars of
iron at his feet. We sewed him up in the blankets in which he
died and laid him on a hatch-cover for'ard of the main-hatch on
the port side. A gunnysack, half full of galley coal, was
fastened to his feet.
It was bitter cold. The weather-side of every rope, spar, and
stay was coated with ice, while all the rigging was a harp,
singing and shouting under the fierce hand of the wind. The
schooner, hove to, lurched and floundered through the sea, rolling
her scuppers under and perpetually flooding the deck with icy salt
water. We of the forecastle stood in sea-boots and oilskins. Our
hands were mittened, but our heads were bared in the presence of
the death we did not respect. Our ears stung and numbed and
whitened, and we yearned for the body to be gone. But the
interminable reading of the burial service went on. The captain
had mistaken his place, and while he read on without purpose we
froze our ears and resented this final hardship thrust upon us by
the helpless cadaver. As from the beginning, so to the end,
everything had gone wrong with the Bricklayer. Finally, the
captain's son, irritated beyond measure, jerked the book from the
palsied fingers of the old man and found the place. Again the
quavering voice of the captain arose. Then came the cue: "And
the body shall be cast into the sea." We elevated one end of the
hatch-cover, and the Bricklayer plunged outboard and was gone.
Back into the forecastle we cleaned house, washing out the dead
man's bunk and removing every vestige of him. By sea law and sea
custom, we should have gathered his effects together and turned
them over to the captain, who, later, would have held an auction
in which we should have bid for the various articles. But no man
wanted them, so we tossed them up on deck and overboard in the
wake of the departed body--the last ill-treatment we could devise
to wreak upon the one we had hated so. Oh, it was raw, believe
me; but the life we lived was raw, and we were as raw as the life.
The Bricklayer's bunk was better than mine. Less sea water leaked
down through the deck into it, and the light was better for lying
in bed and reading. Partly for this reason I proceeded to move
into his bunk. My other reason was pride. I saw the sailors were
superstitious, and by this act I determined to show that I was
braver than they. I would cap my proved equality by a deed that
would compel their recognition of my superiority. Oh, the
arrogance of youth! But let that pass. The sailors were appalled
by my intention. One and all, they warned me that in the history
of the sea no man had taken a dead man's bunk and lived to the end
of the voyage. They instanced case after case in their personal
experience. I was obdurate. Then they begged and pleaded with
me, and my pride was tickled in that they showed they really liked
me and were concerned about me. This but served to confirm me in
my madness. I moved in, and, lying in the dead man's bunk, all
afternoon and evening listened to dire prophecies of my future.
Also were told stories of awful deaths and gruesome ghosts that
secretly shivered the hearts of all of us. Saturated with this,
yet scoffing at it, I rolled over at the end of the second dog-
watch and went to sleep.
At ten minutes to twelve I was called, and at twelve I was dressed
and on deck, relieving the man who had called me. On the sealing
grounds, when hove to, a watch of only a single man is kept
through the night, each man holding the deck for an hour. It was
a dark night, though not a black one. The gale was breaking up,
and the clouds were thinning. There should have been a moon, and,
though invisible, in some way a dim, suffused radiance came from
it. I paced back and forth across the deck amidships. My mind
was filled with the event of the day and with the horrible tales
my shipmates had told, and yet I dare to say, here and now, that I
was not afraid. I was a healthy animal, and furthermore,
intellectually, I agreed with Swinburne that dead men rise up
never. The Bricklayer was dead, and that was the end of it. He
would rise up never--at least, never on the deck of the Sophie
Sutherland. Even then he was in the ocean depths miles to
windward of our leeward drift, and the likelihood was that he was
already portioned out in the maws of many sharks. Still, my mind
pondered on the tales of the ghosts of dead men I had heard, and I
speculated on the spirit world. My conclusion was that if the
spirits of the dead still roamed the world they carried the
goodness or the malignancy of the earth-life with them.
Therefore, granting the hypothesis (which I didn't grant at all),
the ghost of the Bricklayer was bound to be as hateful and
malignant as he in life had been. But there wasn't any
Bricklayer's ghost--that I insisted upon.
A few minutes, thinking thus, I paced up and down. Then, glancing
casually for'ard, along the port side, I leaped like a startled
deer and in a blind madness of terror rushed aft along the poop,
heading for the cabin. Gone was all my arrogance of youth and my
intellectual calm. I had seen a ghost. There, in the dim light,
where we had flung the dead man overboard, I had seen a faint and
wavering form. Six-feet in length it was, slender, and of
substance so attenuated that I had distinctly seen through it the
tracery of the fore-rigging.
As for me, I was as panic-stricken as a frightened horse. I, as
I, had ceased to exist. Through me were vibrating the fibre-
instincts of ten thousand generations of superstitious forebears
who had been afraid of the dark and the things of the dark. I was
not I. I was, in truth, those ten thousand forebears. I was the
race, the whole human race, in its superstitious infancy. Not
until part way down the cabin-companionway did my identity return
to me. I checked my flight and clung to the steep ladder,
suffocating, trembling, and dizzy. Never, before nor since, have
I had such a shock. I clung to the ladder and considered. I
could not doubt my senses. That I had seen something there was no
discussion. But what was it? Either a ghost or a joke. There
could be nothing else. If a ghost, the question was: would it
appear again? If it did not, and I aroused the ship's officers, I
would make myself the laughing stock of all on board. And by the
same token, if it were a joke, my position would be still more
ridiculous. If I were to retain my hard-won place of equality, it
would never do to arouse any one until I ascertained the nature of
I am a brave man. I dare to say so; for in fear and trembling I
crept up the companion-way and went back to the spot from which I
had first seen the thing. It had vanished. My bravery was
qualified, however. Though I could see nothing, I was afraid to
go for'ard to the spot where I had seen the thing. I resumed my
pacing up and down, and though I cast many an anxious glance
toward the dread spot, nothing manifested itself. As my
equanimity returned to me, I concluded that the whole affair had
been a trick of the imagination and that I had got what I deserved
for allowing my mind to dwell on such matters.
Once more my glances for'ard were casual, and not anxious; and
then, suddenly, I was a madman, rushing wildly aft. I had seen
the thing again, the long, wavering attenuated substance through
which could be seen the fore-rigging. This time I had reached
only the break of the poop when I checked myself. Again I
reasoned over the situation, and it was pride that counselled
strongest. I could not afford to make myself a laughing-stock.
This thing, whatever it was, I must face alone. I must work it
out myself. I looked back to the spot where we had tilted the
Bricklayer. It was vacant. Nothing moved. And for a third time
I resumed my amid-ships pacing.
In the absence of the thing my fear died away and my intellectual
poise returned. Of course it was not a ghost. Dead men did not
rise up. It was a joke, a cruel joke. My mates of the
forecastle, by some unknown means, were frightening me. Twice
already must they have seen me run aft. My cheeks burned with
shame. In fancy I could hear the smothered chuckling and laughter
even then going on in the forecastle. I began to grow angry.
Jokes were all very well, but this was carrying the thing too far.
I was the youngest on board, only a youth, and they had no right
to play tricks on me of the order that I well knew in the past had
made raving maniacs of men and women. I grew angrier and angrier,
and resolved to show them that I was made of sterner stuff and at
the same time to wreak my resentment upon them. If the thing
appeared again, I made my mind up that I would go up to it--
furthermore, that I would go up to it knife in hand. When within
striking distance, I would strike. If a man, he would get the
knife-thrust he deserved. If a ghost, well, it wouldn't hurt the
ghost any, while I would have learned that dead men did rise up.
Now I was very angry, and I was quite sure the thing was a trick;
but when the thing appeared a third time, in the same spot, long,
attenuated, and wavering, fear surged up in me and drove most of
my anger away. But I did not run. Nor did I take my eyes from
the thing. Both times before, it had vanished while I was running
away, so I had not seen the manner of its going. I drew my
sheath-knife from my belt and began my advance. Step by step,
nearer and nearer, the effort to control myself grew more severe.
The struggle was between my will, my identity, my very self, on
the one hand, and on the other, the ten thousand ancestors who
were twisted into the fibres of me and whose ghostly voices were
whispering of the dark and the fear of the dark that had been
theirs in the time when the world was dark and full of terror.
I advanced more slowly, and still the thing wavered and flitted
with strange eerie lurches. And then, right before my eyes, it
vanished. I saw it vanish. Neither to the right nor left did it
go, nor backward. Right there, while I gazed upon it, it faded
away, ceased to be. I didn't die, but I swear, from what I
experienced in those few succeeding moments, that I know full well
that men can die of fright. I stood there, knife in hand, swaying
automatically to the roll of the ship, paralysed with fear. Had
the Bricklayer suddenly seized my throat with corporeal fingers
and proceeded to throttle me, it would have been no more than I
expected. Dead men did rise up, and that would be the most likely
thing the malignant Bricklayer would do.
But he didn't seize my throat. Nothing happened. And, since
nature abhors a status, I could not remain there in the one place
forever paralysed. I turned and started aft. I did not run.
What was the use? What chance had I against the malevolent world
of ghosts? Flight, with me, was the swiftness of my legs. The
pursuit, with a ghost, was the swiftness of thought. And there
were ghosts. I had seen one.
And so, stumbling slowly aft, I discovered the explanation of the
seeming. I saw the mizzen topmast lurching across a faint
radiance of cloud behind which was the moon. The idea leaped in
my brain. I extended the line between the cloudy radiance and the
mizzen-topmast and found that it must strike somewhere near the
fore-rigging on the port side. Even as I did this, the radiance
vanished. The driving clouds of the breaking gale were
alternately thickening and thinning before the face of the moon,
but never exposing the face of the moon. And when the clouds were
at their thinnest, it was a very dim radiance that the moon was
able to make. I watched and waited. The next time the clouds
thinned I looked for'ard, and there was the shadow of the topmast,
long and attenuated, wavering and lurching on the deck and against
This was my first ghost. Once again have I seen a ghost. It
proved to be a Newfoundland dog, and I don't know which of us was
the more frightened, for I hit that Newfoundland a full right-arm
swing to the jaw. Regarding the Bricklayer's ghost, I will say
that I never mentioned it to a soul on board. Also, I will say
that in all my life I never went through more torment and mental
suffering than on that lonely night-watch on the Sophie
(TO THE EDITOR.--This is not a fiction. It is a true page out of
A CLASSIC OF THE SEA
Introduction to "Two Years before the Mast."
Once in a hundred years is a book written that lives not alone for
its own century but which becomes a document for the future
centuries. Such a book is Dana's. When Marryat's and Cooper's
sea novels are gone to dust, stimulating and joyful as they have
been to generations of men, still will remain "Two Years Before
Paradoxical as it may seem, Dana's book is the classic of the sea,
not because there was anything extraordinary about Dana, but for
the precise contrary reason that he was just an ordinary, normal
man, clear-seeing, hard-headed, controlled, fitted with adequate
education to go about the work. He brought a trained mind to put
down with untroubled vision what he saw of a certain phase of
work-a-day life. There was nothing brilliant nor fly-away about
him. He was not a genius. His heart never rode his head. He was
neither overlorded by sentiment nor hag-ridden by imagination.
Otherwise he might have been guilty of the beautiful exaggerations
in Melville's "Typee" or the imaginative orgies in the latter's
"Moby Dick." It was Dana's cool poise that saved him from being
spread-eagled and flogged when two of his mates were so treated;
it was his lack of abandon that prevented him from taking up
permanently with the sea, that prevented him from seeing more than
one poetical spot, and more than one romantic spot on all the
coast of Old California. Yet these apparent defects were his
strength. They enabled him magnificently to write, and for all
time, the picture of the sea-life of his time.
Written close to the middle of the last century, such has been the
revolution worked in man's method of trafficking with the sea,
that the life and conditions described in Dana's book have passed
utterly away. Gone are the crack clippers, the driving captains,
the hard-bitten but efficient foremast hands. Remain only
crawling cargo tanks, dirty tramps, greyhound liners, and a
sombre, sordid type of sailing ship. The only records broken to-
day by sailing vessels are those for slowness. They are no longer
built for speed, nor are they manned before the mast by as sturdy
a sailor stock, nor aft the mast are they officered by sail-
carrying captains and driving mates.
Speed is left to the liners, who run the silk, and tea, and
spices. Admiralty courts, boards of trade, and underwriters frown
upon driving and sail-carrying. No more are the free-and-easy,
dare-devil days, when fortunes were made in fast runs and lucky
ventures, not alone for owners, but for captains as well. Nothing
is ventured now. The risks of swift passages cannot be abided.
Freights are calculated to the last least fraction of per cent.
The captains do no speculating, no bargain-making for the owners.
The latter attend to all this, and by wire and cable rake the
ports of the seven seas in quest of cargoes, and through their
agents make all business arrangements.
It has been learned that small crews only, and large carriers
only, can return a decent interest on the investment. The
inevitable corollary is that speed and spirit are at a discount.
There is no discussion of the fact that in the sailing merchant
marine the seamen, as a class, have sadly deteriorated. Men no
longer sell farms to go to sea. But the time of which Dana writes
was the heyday of fortune-making and adventure on the sea--with
the full connotation of hardship and peril always attendant.
It was Dana's fortune, for the sake of the picture, that the
Pilgrim was an average ship, with an average crew and officers,
and managed with average discipline. Even the HAZING that took
place after the California coast was reached, was of the average
sort. The Pilgrim savoured not in any way of a hell-ship. The
captain, while not the sweetest-natured man in the world, was only
an average down-east driver, neither brilliant nor slovenly in his
seamanship, neither cruel nor sentimental in the treatment of his
men. While, on the one hand, there were no extra liberty days, no
delicacies added to the meagre forecastle fare, nor grog or hot
coffee on double watches, on the other hand the crew were not
chronically crippled by the continual play of knuckle-dusters and
belaying pins. Once, and once only, were men flogged or ironed--a
very fair average for the year 1834, for at that time flogging on
board merchant vessels was already well on the decline.
The difference between the sea-life then and now can be no better
epitomised than in Dana's description of the dress of the sailor
of his day:
"The trousers tight around the hips, and thence hanging long and
loose around the feet, a superabundance of checked shirt, a low-
crowned, well-varnished black hat, worn on the back of the head,
with half a fathom of black ribbon hanging over the left eye, and
a peculiar tie to the black silk neckerchief."
Though Dana sailed from Boston only three-quarters of a century
ago, much that is at present obsolete was then in full sway. For
instance, the old word LARBOARD was still in use. He was a member
of the LARBOARD watch. The vessel was on the LARBOARD tack. It
was only the other day, because of its similarity in sound to
starboard, that LARBOARD was changed to PORT. Try to imagine "All
larboard bowlines on deck!" being shouted down into the forecastle
of a present day ship. Yet that was the call used on the Pilgrim
to fetch Dana and the rest of his watch on deck.
The chronometer, which is merely the least imperfect time-piece
man has devised, makes possible the surest and easiest method by
far of ascertaining longitude. Yet the Pilgrim sailed in a day
when the chronometer was just coming into general use. So little
was it depended upon that the Pilgrim carried only one, and that
one, going wrong at the outset, was never used again. A navigator
of the present would be aghast if asked to voyage for two years,
from Boston, around the Horn to California, and back again,
without a chronometer. In those days such a proceeding was a
matter of course, for those were the days when dead reckoning was
indeed something to reckon on, when running down the latitude was
a common way of finding a place, and when lunar observations were
direly necessary. It may be fairly asserted that very few
merchant officers of to-day ever make a lunar observation, and
that a large percentage are unable to do it.
"Sept. 22nd., upon coming on deck at seven bells in the morning we
found the other watch aloft throwing water upon the sails, and
looking astern we saw a small, clipper-built brig with a black
hull heading directly after us. We went to work immediately, and
put all the canvas upon the brig which we could get upon her,
rigging out oars for studding-sail yards; and contined wetting
down the sails by buckets of water whipped up to the mast-head . .
. She was armed, and full of men, and showed no colours."
The foregoing sounds like a paragraph from "Midshipman Easy" or
the "Water Witch," rather than a paragraph from the soberest,
faithfullest, and most literal chronicle of the sea ever written.
And yet the chase by a pirate occurred, on board the brig Pilgrim,
on September 22nd, 1834--something like only two generations ago.
Dana was the thorough-going type of man, not overbalanced and
erratic, without quirk or quibble of temperament. He was
efficient, but not brilliant. His was a general all-round
efficiency. He was efficient at the law; he was efficient at
college; he was efficient as a sailor; he was efficient in the
matter of pride, when that pride was no more than the pride of a
forecastle hand, at twelve dollars a month, in his seaman's task
well done, in the smart sailing of his captain, in the clearness
and trimness of his ship.
There is no sailor whose cockles of the heart will not warm to
Dana's description of the first time he sent down a royal yard.
Once or twice he had seen it done. He got an old hand in the crew
to coach him. And then, the first anchorage at Monterey, being
pretty THICK with the second mate, he got him to ask the mate to
be sent up the first time the royal yards were struck.
"Fortunately," as Dana describes it, "I got through without any
word from the officer; and heard the 'well done' of the mate, when
the yard reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever
felt at Cambridge on seeing a 'bene' at the foot of a Latin
"This was the first time I had taken a weather ear-ring, and I
felt not a little proud to sit astride of the weather yard-arm,
past the ear-ring, and sing out 'Haul out to leeward!'" He had
been over a year at sea before he essayed this able seaman's task,
but he did it, and he did it with pride. And with pride, he went
down a four-hundred foot cliff, on a pair of top-gallant studding-
sail halyards bent together, to dislodge several dollars worth of
stranded bullock hides, though all the acclaim he got from his
mates was: "What a d-d fool you were to risk your life for half a
In brief, it was just this efficiency in pride, as well as work,
that enabled Dana to set down, not merely the photograph detail of
life before the mast and hide-droghing on the coast of California,
but of the untarnished simple psychology and ethics of the
forecastle hands who droghed the hides, stood at the wheel, made
and took in sail, tarred down the rigging, holystoned the decks,
turned in all-standing, grumbled as they cut about the kid,
criticised the seamanship of their officers, and estimated the
duration of their exile from the cubic space of the hide-house.
Glen Ellen, California,
August 13, 1911.
A WICKED WOMAN
Time--Afternoon of a summer day.
LORETTA, A sweet, young thing. Frightfully innocent. About
nineteen years old. Slender, delicate, a fragile flower.
NED BASHFORD, A jaded young man of the world, who has
philosophised his experiences and who is without faith in the
veracity or purity of women.
BILLY MARSH, A boy from a country town who is just about as
innocent as Loretta. Awkward. Positive. Raw and callow youth.
ALICE HEMINGWAY, A society woman, good-hearted, and a match-maker.
JACK HEMINGWAY, Her husband.
A WICKED WOMAN
Curtain rises on a conventional living room of a country house in
California. It is the Hemingway house at Santa Clara. The room
is remarkable for magnificent stone fireplace at rear centre. On
either side of fireplace are generous, diamond-paned windows.
Wide, curtained doorways to right and left. To left, front,
table, with vase of flowers and chairs. To right, front, grand
Curtain discovers LORETTA seated at piano, not playing, her back
to it, facing NED BASHFORD, who is standing.
LORETTA. Petulantly, fanning herself with sheet of music. No,
I won't go fishing. It's too warm. Besides, the fish won't bite
so early in the afternoon.
NED. Oh, come on. It's not warm at all. And anyway, we won't
really fish. I want to tell you something.
LORETTA. Still petulantly. You are always wanting to tell me
NED. Yes, but only in fun. This is different. This is serious.
Our . . . my happiness depends upon it.
LORETTA. Speaking eagerly, no longer petulant, looking, serious
and delighted, divining a proposal. Then don't wait. Tell me
NED. Almost threateningly. Shall I?
LORETTA. Challenging. Yes.
He looks around apprehensively as though fearing interruption,
clears his throat, takes resolution, also takes LORETTA's hand.
LORETTA is startled, timid, yet willing to hear, naively unable
to conceal her love for him.
NED. Speaking softly. Loretta . . . I, . . . ever since I met
you I have -
JACK HEMINGWAY appears in the doorway to the left, just
NED suddenly drops LORETTA's hand. He shows exasperation.
LORETTA shows disappointment at interruption.
NED. Confound it
LORETTA. Shocked. Ned! Why will you swear so?
NED. Testily. That isn't swearing.
LORETTA. What is it, pray?
JACK HEMINGWAY. Who is crossing over to right. Squabbling
LORETTA. Indignantly and with dignity. No, we're not.
NED. Gruffly. What do you want now?
JACK HEMINGWAY. Enthusiastically. Come on fishing.
NED. Snappily. No. It's too warm.
JACK HEMINGWAY. Resignedly, going out right. You needn't take
a fellow's head off.
LORETTA. I thought you wanted to go fishing.
NED. Not with Jack.
LORETTA. Accusingly, fanning herself vigorously. And you told
me it wasn't warm at all.
NED. Speaking softly. That isn't what I wanted to tell you,
Loretta. He takes her hand. Dear Loretta -
Enter abruptly ALICE HEMINGWAY from right.
LORETTA sharply jerks her hand away, and looks put out.
NED tries not to look awkward.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Goodness! I thought you'd both gone fishing!
LORETTA. Sweetly. Is there anything you want, Alice?
NED. Trying to be courteous. Anything I can do?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Speaking quickly, and trying to withdraw. No,
no. I only came to see if the mail had arrived.
LORETTA AND NED
Speaking together. No, it hasn't arrived.
LORETTA. Suddenly moving toward door to right. I am going to
NED looks at her reproachfully.
LORETTA looks back tantalisingly from doorway and disappears.
NED flings himself disgustedly into Morris chair.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Moving over and standing in front of him.
Speaks accusingly. What have you been saying to her?
NED. Disgruntled. Nothing.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Threateningly. Now listen to me, Ned.
NED. Earnestly. On my word, Alice, I've been saying nothing to
ALICE HEMINGWAY. With sudden change of front. Then you ought
to have been saying something to her.
NED. Irritably. Getting chair for her, seating her, and seating
himself again. Look here, Alice, I know your game. You invited
me down here to make a fool of me.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Nothing of the sort, sir. I asked you down to
meet a sweet and unsullied girl--the sweetest, most innocent and
ingenuous girl in the world.
NED. Dryly. That's what you said in your letter.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. And that's why you came. Jack had been trying
for a year to get you to come. He did not know what kind of a
letter to write.
NED. If you think I came because of a line in a letter about a
girl I'd never seen -
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Mockingly. The poor, jaded, world-worn man,
who is no longer interested in women . . . and girls! The poor,
tired pessimist who has lost all faith in the goodness of women -
NED. For which you are responsible.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Incredulously. I?
NED. You are responsible. Why did you throw me over and marry
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Do you want to know?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Judiciously. First, because I did not love
you. Second, because you did not love me. She smiles at his
protesting hand and at the protesting expression on his face.
And third, because there were just about twenty-seven other women
at that time that you loved, or thought you loved. That is why I
married Jack. And that is why you lost faith in the goodness of
women. You have only yourself to blame.
NED. Admiringly. You talk so convincingly. I almost believe
you as I listen to you. And yet I know all the time that you are
like all the rest of your sex--faithless, unveracious, and . . .
He glares at her, but does not proceed.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Go on. I'm not afraid.
NED. With finality. And immoral.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Oh! You wretch!
NED. Gloatingly. That's right. Get angry. You may break the
furniture if you wish. I don't mind.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. With sudden change of front, softly. And how
NED gasps and remains silent.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. The depths of duplicity that must lurk under
that sweet and innocent exterior . . . according to your
NED. Earnestly. Loretta is an exception, I confess. She is
all that you said in your letter. She is a little fairy, an
angel. I never dreamed of anything like her. It is remarkable to
find such a woman in this age.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Encouragingly. She is so naive.
NED. Taking the bait. Yes, isn't she? Her face and her tongue
betray all her secrets.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Nodding her head. Yes, I have noticed it.
NED. Delightedly. Have you?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. She cannot conceal anything. Do you know that
she loves you?
NED. Falling into the trap, eagerly. Do you think so?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Laughing and rising. And to think I once
permitted you to make love to me for three weeks!
MAID enters from left with letters, which she brings to ALICE
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Running over letters. None for you, Ned.
Selecting two letters for herself. Tradesmen. Handing
remainder of letters to MAID. And three for Loretta. Speaking
to MAID. Put them on the table, Josie.
MAID puts letters on table to left front, and makes exit to
NED. With shade of jealousy. Loretta seems to have quite a
ALICE HEMINGWAY. With a sigh. Yes, as I used to when I was a
NED. But hers are family letters.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Yes, I did not notice any from Billy.
NED. Faintly. Billy?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Nodding. Of course she has told you about
NED. Gasping. She has had lovers . . . already?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. And why not? She is nineteen.
NED. Haltingly. This . . . er . . . this Billy . . . ?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Laughing and putting her hand reassuringly on
his arm. Now don't be alarmed, poor, tired philosopher. She
doesn't love Billy at all.
LORETTA enters from right.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. To LORETTA, nodding toward table. Three
letters for you.
LORETTA. Delightedly. Oh! Thank you.
LORETTA trips swiftly across to table, looks at letters, sits
down, opens letters, and begins to read.
NED. Suspiciously. But Billy?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. I am afraid he loves her very hard. That is why
she is here. They had to send her away. Billy was making life
miserable for her. They were little children together--playmates.
And Billy has been, well, importunate. And Loretta, poor child,
does not know anything about marriage. That is all.
NED. Reassured. Oh, I see.
ALICE HEMINGWAY starts slowly toward right exit, continuing
conversation and accompanied by NED.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Calling to LORETTA. Are you going fishing,
LORETTA looks up from letter and shakes head.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. To NED. Then you're not, I suppose?
NED. No, it's too warm.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Then I know the place for you.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Right here. Looks significantly in direction
of LORETTA. Now is your opportunity to say what you ought to
ALICE HEMINGWAY laughs teasingly and goes out to right.
NED hesitates, starts to follow her, looks at LORETTA, and stops.
He twists his moustache and continues to look at her
LORETTA is unaware of his presence and goes on reading. Finishes
letter, folds it, replaces in envelope, looks up, and discovers
LORETTA. Startled. Oh! I thought you were gone.
NED. Walking across to her. I thought I'd stay and finish our
LORETTA. Willingly, settling herself to listen. Yes, you were
going to . . . Drops eyes and ceases talking.
NED. Taking her hand, tenderly. I little dreamed when I came
down here visiting that I was to meet my destiny in--Abruptly
releases LORETTA's hand.
MAID enters from left with tray.
LORETTA glances into tray and discovers that it is empty. She
looks inquiringly at MAID.
MAID. A gentleman to see you. He hasn't any card. He said for
me to tell you that it was Billy.
LORETTA. Starting, looking with dismay and appeal to NED. Oh!
. . . Ned!
NED Gracefully and courteously, rising to his feet and preparing
to go. If you'll excuse me now, I'll wait till afterward to tell
you what I wanted.
LORETTA. In dismay. What shall I do?
NED. Pausing. Don't you want to see him? LORETTA shakes her
head. Then don't.
LORETTA. Slowly. I can't do that. We are old friends. We . .
. were children together. To the MAID. Send him in. To NED,
who has started to go out toward right. Don't go, Ned.
MAID makes exit to left.
NED. Hesitating a moment. I'll come back.
NED makes exit to right.
LORETTA, left alone on stage, shows perturbation and dismay.
BILLY enters from left. Stands in doorway a moment. His shoes
are dusty. He looks overheated. His eyes and face brighten at
sight of LORETTA.
BILLY. Stepping forward, ardently. Loretta!
LORETTA. Not exactly enthusiastic in her reception, going slowly
to meet him. You never said you were coming.
BILLY shows that he expects to kiss her, but she merely shakes
BILLY. Looking down at his very dusty shoes. I walked from the
LORETTA. If you had let me know, the carriage would have been
sent for you.
BILLY. With expression of shrewdness. If I had let you know,
you wouldn't have let me come.
BILLY looks around stage cautiously, then tries to kiss her.
LORETTA. Refusing to be kissed. Won't you sit down?
BILLY. Coaxingly. Go on, just one. LORETTA shakes head and
holds him off. Why not? We're engaged.
LORETTA. With decision. We're not. You know we're not. You
know I broke it off the day before I came away. And . . . and . .
. you'd better sit down.
BILLY sits down on edge of chair. LORETTA seats herself by
table. Billy, without rising, jerks his chair forward till they
are facing each other, his knees touching hers. He yearns toward
her. She moves back her chair slightly.
BILLY. With supreme confidence. That's what I came to see you
for--to get engaged over again.
BILLY hudges chair forward and tries to take her hand.
LORETTA hudges her chair back.
BILLY. Drawing out large silver watch and looking at it. Now
look here, Loretta, I haven't any time to lose. I've got to leave
for that train in ten minutes. And I want you to set the day.
LORETTA. But we're not engaged, Billy. So there can't be any
setting of the day.
BILLY. With confidence. But we're going to be. Suddenly
breaking out. Oh, Loretta, if you only knew how I've suffered.
That first night I didn't sleep a wink. I haven't slept much ever
since. Hudges chair forward. I walk the floor all night.
Solemnly. Loretta, I don't eat enough to keep a canary bird
alive. Loretta . . . Hudges chair forward.
LORETTA. Hudging her chair back maternally. Billy, what you
need is a tonic. Have you seen Doctor Haskins?
BILLY. Looking at watch and evincing signs of haste. Loretta,
when a girl kisses a man, it means she is going to marry him.
LORETTA. I know it, Billy. But . . . She glances toward letters
on table. Captain Kitt doesn't want me to marry you. He says .
. . She takes letter and begins to open it.
BILLY. Never mind what Captain Kitt says. He wants you to stay
and be company for your sister. He doesn't want you to marry me
because he knows she wants to keep you.
LORETTA. Daisy doesn't want to keep me. She wants nothing but my
own happiness. She says--She takes second letter from table and
begins to open it.
BILLY. Never mind what Daisy says -
LORETTA. Taking third letter from table and beginning to open
it. And Martha says -
BILLY. Angrily. Darn Martha and the whole boiling of them!
LORETTA. Reprovingly. Oh, Billy!
BILLY. Defensively. Darn isn't swearing, and you know it
There is an awkward pause. Billy has lost the thread of the
conversation and has vacant expression.
BILLY. Suddenly recollecting. Never mind Captain Kitt, and
Daisy, and Martha, and what they want. The question is, what do
LORETTA. Appealingly. Oh, Billy, I'm so unhappy.
BILLY. Ignoring the appeal and pressing home the point. The
thing is, do you want to marry me? He looks at his watch. Just
LORETTA. Aren't you afraid you'll miss that train?
BILLY. Darn the train!
LORETTA. Reprovingly. Oh, Billy!
BILLY. Most irascibly. Darn isn't swearing. Plaintively.
That's the way you always put me off. I didn't come all the way
here for a train. I came for you. Now just answer me one thing.
Do you want to marry me?
LORETTA. Firmly. No, I don't want to marry you.
BILLY. With assurance. But you've got to, just the same.
LORETTA. With defiance. Got to?
BILLY. With unshaken assurance. That's what I said--got to.
And I'll see that you do.
LORETTA. Blazing with anger. I am no longer a child. You
can't bully me, Billy Marsh!
BILLY. Coolly. I'm not trying to bully you. I'm trying to
save your reputation.
LORETTA. Faintly. Reputation?
BILLY. Nodding. Yes, reputation. He pauses for a moment,
then speaks very solemnly. Loretta, when a woman kisses a man,
she's got to marry him.
LORETTA. Appalled, faintly. Got to?
BILLY. Dogmatically. It is the custom.
LORETTA. Brokenly. And when . . . a . . . a woman kisses a man
and doesn't . . . marry him . . . ?
BILLY. Then there is a scandal. That's where all the scandals
you see in the papers come from.
BILLY looks at watch.
LORETTA in silent despair.
LORETTA. In abasement. You are a good man, Billy. Billy
shows that he believes it. And I am a very wicked woman.
BILLY. No, you're not, Loretta. You just didn't know.
LORETTA. With a gleam of hope. But you kissed me first.
BILLY. It doesn't matter. You let me kiss you.
LORETTA. Hope dying down. But not at first.
BILLY. But you did afterward and that's what counts. You let me
you in the grape-arbour. You let me -
LORETTA. With anguish Don't! Don't!
BILLY. Relentlessly.--kiss you when you were playing the piano.
You let me kiss you that day of the picnic. And I can't remember
all the times you let me kiss you good night.
LORETTA. Beginning to weep. Not more than five.
BILLY. With conviction. Eight at least.
LORETTA. Reproachfully, still weeping. You told me it was all
BILLY. Emphatically. So it was all right--until you said you
wouldn't marry me after all. Then it was a scandal--only no one
knows it yet. If you marry me no one ever will know it. Looks
at watch. I've got to go. Stands up. Where's my hat?
LORETTA. Sobbing. This is awful.
BILLY. Approvingly. You bet it's awful. And there's only one
way out. Looks anxiously about for hat. What do you say?
LORETTA. Brokenly. I must think. I'll write to you.
Faintly. The train? Your hat's in the hall.
BILLY. Looks at watch, hastily tries to kiss her, succeeds only
in shaking hand, starts across stage toward left. All right.
You write to me. Write to-morrow. Stops for a moment in door-
way and speaks very solemnly. Remember, Loretta, there must be
Billy goes out.
LORETTA sits in chair quietly weeping. Slowly dries eyes, rises
from chair, and stands, undecided as to what she will do next.
NED enters from right, peeping. Discovers that LORETTA is alone,
and comes quietly across stage to her. When NED comes up to her
she begins weeping again and tries to turn her head away. NED
catches both her hands in his and compels her to look at him. She
NED. Putting one arm protectingly around her shoulder and
drawing her toward him. There, there, little one, don't cry.
LORETTA. Turning her face to his shoulder like a tired child,
sobbing. Oh, Ned, if you only knew how wicked I am.
NED. Smiling indulgently. What is the matter, little one? Has
your dearly beloved sister failed to write to you? LORETTA
shakes head. Has Hemingway been bullying you? LORETTA shakes
head. Then it must have been that caller of yours? Long pause,
during which LORETTA's weeping grows more violent. Tell me
what's the matter, and we'll see what I can do. He lightly
kisses her hair--so lightly that she does not know.
LORETTA. Sobbing. I can't. You will despise me. Oh, Ned, I
am so ashamed.
NED. Laughing incredulously. Let us forget all about it. I
want to tell you something that may make me very happy. My
fondest hope is that it will make you happy, too. Loretta, I love
LORETTA. Uttering a sharp cry of delight, then moaning. Too
NED. Surprised. Too late?
LORETTA. Still moaning. Oh, why did I? NED somewhat
stiffens. I was so young. I did not know the world then.
NED. What is it all about anyway?
LORETTA. Oh, I . . . he . . . Billy . . . I am a wicked woman,
Ned. I know you will never speak to me again.
NED. This . . . er . . . this Billy--what has he been doing?
LORETTA. I . . . he . . . I didn't know. I was so young. I
could not help it. Oh, I shall go mad, I shall go mad!
NED's encircling arm goes limp. He gently disengages her and
deposits her in big chair.
LORETTA buries her face and sobs afresh.
NED. Twisting moustache fiercely, regarding her dubiously,
hesitating a moment, then drawing up chair and sitting down. I .
. . I do not understand.
LORETTA. Wailing. I am so unhappy!
NED. Inquisitorially. Why unhappy?
LORETTA. Because . . . he . . . he wants to marry me.
NED. His face brightening instantly, leaning forward and laying
a hand soothingly on hers. That should not make any girl
unhappy. Because you don't love him is no reason--Abruptly
breaking off. Of course you don't love him? LORETTA shakes her
head and shoulders vigorously. What?
LORETTA. Explosively. No, I don't love Billy! I don't want to
NED. With confidence. Because you don't love him is no reason
that you should be unhappy just because he has proposed to you.
LORETTA. Sobbing. That's the trouble. I wish I did love him.
Oh, I wish I were dead.
NED. Growing complacent. Now my dear child, you are worrying
yourself over trifles. His second hand joins the first in
holding her hands. Women do it every day. Because you have
changed your mind, or did not know you mind, because you have--to
use an unnecessarily harsh word--jilted a man -
LORETTA. Interrupting, raising her head and looking at him.
Jilted? Oh Ned, if that were a all!
NED. Hollow voice. All!
NED's hands slowly retreat from hers. He opens his mouth as
though to speak further, then changes his mind and remains
LORETTA. Protestingly. But I don't want to marry him!
NED. Then I shouldn't.
LORETTA. But I ought to marry him.
NED. OUGHT to marry him? LORETTA nods. That is a strong word.
LORETTA. Nodding. I know it is. Her lips are trembling, but
she strives for control and manages to speak more calmly. I am a
wicked woman. A terrible wicked woman. No one knows how wicked I
am . . . except Billy.
NED. Starting, looking at her queerly. He . . . Billy knows?
LORETTA nods. He debates with himself a moment. Tell me about
it. You must tell me all of it.
LORETTA. Faintly, as though about to weep again. All of it?
NED. Firmly. Yes, all of it.
LORETTA. Haltingly. And . . . will . . . you . . . ever . . .
forgive . . . me?
NED. Drawing a long, breath, desperately. Yes, I'll forgive
you. Go ahead.
LORETTA. There was no one to tell me. We were with each other so
much. I did not know anything of the world . . . then. Pauses.
NED. Impatiently. Go on.
LORETTA. If I had only known. Pauses.
NED. Biting his lip and clenching his hands. Yes, yes. Go on.
LORETTA. We were together almost every evening.
NED. Savagely. Billy?
LORETTA. Yes, of course, Billy. We were with each other so much
. . . If I had only known . . . There was no one to tell me . . .
I was so young . . . Breaks down crying.
NED. Leaping to his feet, explosively. The scoundrel!
LORETTA. Lifting her head. Billy is not a scoundrel . . . He .
. . he . . . is a good man.
NED. Sarcastically. I suppose you'll be telling me next that
it was all your fault. LORETTA nods. What!
LORETTA. Steadily. It was all my fault. I should never have
let him. I was to blame.
NED. Paces up and down for a minute, stops in front of her, and
speaks with resignation. All right. I don't blame you in the
least, Loretta. And you have been very honest. It is . . . er .
. . commendable. But Billy is right, and you are wrong. You must
LORETTA. In dim, far-away voice. To Billy?
NED. Yes, to Billy. I'll see to it. Where does he live? I'll
make him. If he won't I'll . . . I'll shoot him!
LORETTA. Crying out with alarm. Oh, Ned, you won't do that?
NED. Sternly. I shall.
LORETTA. But I don't want to marry Billy.
NED. Sternly. You must. And Billy must. Do you understand?
It is the only thing.
LORETTA. That's what Billy said.
NED. Triumphantly. You see, I am right.
LORETTA. And if . . . if I don't marry him . . . there will be .
. . scandal?
NED. Calmly. Yes, there will be scandal.
LORETTA. That's what Billy said. Oh, I am so unhappy!
LORETTA breaks down into violent weeping.
NED paces grimly up and down, now and again fiercely twisting his
LORETTA. Face buried, sobbing and crying all the time.
I don't want to leave Daisy! I don't want to leave Daisy! What
shall I do? What shall I do? How was I to know? He didn't tell
me. Nobody else ever kissed me. NED stops curiously to listen.
As he listens his face brightens. I never dreamed a kiss could
be so terrible . . . until . . . until he told me. He only told
me this morning.
NED. Abruptly. Is that what you are crying about?
LORETTA. Reluctantly. N-no.
NED. In hopeless voice, the brightness gone out of his face,
about to begin pacing again. Then what are you crying about?
LORETTA. Because you said I had to marry Billy. I don't want to
marry Billy. I don't want to leave Daisy. I don't know what I
want. I wish I were dead.
NED. Nerving himself for another effort. Now look here,
Loretta, be sensible. What is this about kisses? You haven't
told me everything after all.
LORETTA. I . . . I don't want to tell you everything.
NED. Imperatively. You must.
LORETTA. Surrendering. Well, then . . . must I?
NED. You must.
LORETTA. Floundering. He . . . I . . . we . . . I let him,
and he kissed me.
NED. Desperately, controlling himself. Go on.
LORETTA. He says eight, but I can't think of more than five
NED. Yes, go on.
LORETTA. That's all.
NED. With vast incredulity. All?
LORETTA. Puzzled. All?
NED. Awkwardly. I mean . . . er . . . nothing worse?
LORETTA. Puzzled. Worse? As though there could be. Billy
NED. Interrupting. When?
LORETTA. This afternoon. Just now. Billy said that my . . . our
. . . our . . . our kisses were terrible if we didn't get married.
NED. What else did he say?
LORETTA. He said that when a woman permitted a man to kiss her
she always married him. That it was awful if she didn't. It was
the custom, he said; and I say it is a bad, wicked custom, and it
has broken my heart. I shall never be happy again. I know I am
terrible, but I can't help it. I must have been born wicked.
NED. Absent-mindedly bringing out a cigarette and striking a
match. Do you mind if I smoke? Coming to himself again, and
flinging away match and cigarette. I beg your pardon. I don't
want to smoke. I didn't mean that at all. What I mean is . . .
He bends over LORETTA, catches her hands in his, then sits on arm
of chair, softly puts one arm around her, and is about to kiss
LORETTA. With horror, repulsing him. No! No!
NED. Surprised. What's the matter?
LORETTA. Agitatedly. Would you make me a wickeder woman than I
NED. A kiss?
LORETTA. There will be another scandal. That would make two
NED. To kiss the woman I love . . . a scandal?
LORETTA. Billy loves me, and he said so.
NED. Billy is a joker . . . or else he is as innocent as you.
LORETTA. But you said so yourself.
NED. Taken aback. I?
LORETTA. Yes, you said it yourself, with your own lips, not ten
minutes ago. I shall never believe you again.
NED. Masterfully putting arm around her and drawing her toward
him. And I am a joker, too, and a very wicked man.
Nevertheless, you must trust me. There will be nothing wrong.
LORETTA. Preparing to yield. And no . . . scandal?
NED. Scandal fiddlesticks. Loretta, I want you to be my wife.
He waits anxiously.
JACK HEMINGWAY, in fishing costume, appears in doorway to right
and looks on.
NED. You might say something.
LORETTA. I will . . . if . . .
ALICE HEMINGWAY appears in doorway to left and looks on.
NED. In suspense. Yes, go on.
LORETTA. If I don't have to marry Billy.
NED. Almost shouting. You can't marry both of us!
LORETTA. Sadly, repulsing him with her hands. Then, Ned, I
cannot marry you.
NED. Dumbfounded. W-what?
LORETTA. Sadly. Because I can't marry both of you.
NED. Bosh and nonsense!
LORETTA. I'd like to marry you, but . . .
NED. There is nothing to prevent you.
LORETTA. With sad conviction. Oh, yes, there is. You said
yourself that I had to marry Billy. You said you would s-s-shoot
him if he didn't.
NED. Drawing her toward him. Nevertheless . . .
LORETTA. Slightly holding him off. And it isn't the custom . .
. what . . . Billy said?
NED. No, it isn't the custom. Now, Loretta, will you marry me?
LORETTA. Pouting demurely. Don't be angry with me, Ned. He
gathers her into his arms and kisses her. She partially frees
herself, gasping. I wish it were the custom, because now I'd
have to marry you, Ned, wouldn't I?
NED and LORETTA kiss a second time and profoundly.
JACK HEMINGWAY chuckles.
NED and LORETTA, startled, but still in each other's arms, look
around. NED looks sillily at ALICE HEMINGWAY. LORETTA looks at
LORETTA. I don't care.
THE BIRTH MARK
SKETCH BY JACK LONDON written for Robert and Julia Fitzsimmons
SCENE--One of the club rooms of the West Bay Athletic Club. Near
centre front is a large table covered with newspapers and
magazines. At left a punching-bag apparatus. At right, against
wall, a desk, on which rests a desk-telephone. Door at rear
toward left. On walls are framed pictures of pugilists,
conspicuous among which is one of Robert Fitzsimmons. Appropriate
furnishings, etc., such as foils, clubs, dumb-bells and trophies.
Enter MAUD SYLVESTER.
She is dressed as a man, in evening clothes, preferably a Tuxedo.
In her hand is a card, and under her arm a paper-wrapped parcel.
She peeps about curiously and advances to table. She is timorous
and excited, elated and at the same time frightened. Her eyes are
dancing with excitement.
MAUD. Pausing by table. Not a soul saw me. I wonder where
everybody is. And that big brother of mine said I could not get
in. She reads back of card. "Here is my card, Maudie. If you
can use it, go ahead. But you will never get inside the door. I
consider my bet as good as won." Looking up, triumphantly. You
do, do you? Oh, if you could see your little sister now. Here
she is, inside. Pauses, and looks about. So this is the West
Bay Athletic Club. No women allowed. Well, here I am, if I don't
look like one. Stretches out one leg and then the other, and
looks at them. Leaving card and parcel on table, she struts
around like a man, looks at pictures of pugilists on walls,
reading aloud their names and making appropriate remarks. But she
stops before the portrait of Fitzsimmons and reads aloud.
"Robert Fitzsimmons, the greatest warrior of them all." Clasps
hands, and looking up at portrait murmurs. Oh, you dear!
Continues strutting around, imitating what she considers are a
man's stride and swagger, returns to table and proceeds to unwrap
parcel. Well, I'll go out like a girl, if I did come in like a
man. Drops wrapping paper on table and holds up a woman's long
automobile cloak and a motor bonnet. Is suddenly startled by
sound of approaching footsteps and glances in a frightened way
toward door. Mercy! Here comes somebody now! Glances about
her in alarm, drops cloak and bonnet on floor close to table,
seizes a handful of newspapers, and runs to large leather chair to
right of table, where she seats herself hurriedly. One paper she
holds up before her, hiding her face as she pretends to read.
Unfortunately the paper is upside down. The other papers lie on
Enter ROBERT FITZSIMMONS.
He looks about, advances to table, takes out cigarette case and
is about to select one, when he notices motor cloak and bonnet on
floor. He lays cigarette case on table and picks them up. They
strike him as profoundly curious things to be in a club room. He
looks at MAUD, then sees card on table. He picks it up and reach
it to himself, then looks at her with comprehension. Hidden by
her newspaper, she sees nothing. He looks at card again and reads
and speaks in an aside.
FITZSIMMONS. "Maudie. John H. Sylvester." That must be Jack
Sylvester's sister Maud. FITZSIMMONS shows by his expression
that he is going to play a joke. Tossing cloak and bonnet under
the table he places card in his vest pocket, selects a chair, sits
down, and looks at MAUD. He notes paper is upside down, is hugely
tickled, and laughs silently. Hello! Newspaper is agitated by
slight tremor. He speaks more loudly. Hello! Newspaper shakes
badly. He speaks very loudly. Hello!
MAUD. Peeping at him over top of paper and speaking
FITZSIMMONS. Gruffly. You are a queer one, reading a paper
MAUD. Lowering newspaper and trying to appear at ease. It's
quite a trick, isn't it? I often practise it. I'm real clever at
it, you know.
FITZSIMMONS. Grunts, then adds. Seems to me I have seen you
MAUD. Glancing quickly from his face to portrait and back
again. Yes, and I know you--You are Robert Fitzsimmons.
FITZSIMMONS. I thought I knew you.
MAUD. Yes, it was out in San Francisco. My people still live
there. I'm just--ahem--doing New York.
FITZSIMMONS. But I don't quite remember the name.
MAUD. Jones--Harry Jones.
FITZSIMMONS. Hugely delighted, leaping from chair and striding
over to her. Sure. Slaps her resoundingly on shoulder.
She is nearly crushed by the weight of the blow, and at the same
time shocked. She scrambles to her feet.
FITZSIMMONS. Glad to see you, Harry. He wrings her hand, so
that it hurts. Glad to see you again, Harry. He continues
wringing her hand and pumping her arm.
MAUD. Struggling to withdraw her hand and finally succeeding.
Her voice is rather faint. Ye-es, er . . . Bob . . . er . . .
glad to see you again. She looks ruefully at her bruised fingers
and sinks into chair. Then, recollecting her part, she crosses
her legs in a mannish way.
FITZSIMMONS. Crossing to desk at right, against which he leans,
facing her. You were a wild young rascal in those San Francisco
days. Chuckling. Lord, Lord, how it all comes back to me.
MAUD. Boastfully. I was wild--some.
FITZSIMMONS. Grinning. I should say! Remember that night I
put you to bed?
MAUD. Forgetting herself, indignantly. Sir!
FITZSIMMONS. You were . . . er . . . drunk.
MAUD. I never was!
FITZSIMMONS. Surely you haven't forgotten that night! You began
with dropping champagne bottles out of the club windows on the
heads of the people on the sidewalk, and you wound up by
assaulting a cabman. And let me tell you I saved you from a good
licking right there, and squared it with the police. Don't you
MAUD. Nodding hesitatingly. Yes, it is beginning to come back
to me. I was a bit tight that night.
FITZSIMMONS. Exultantly. A bit tight! Why, before I could get
you to bed you insisted on telling me the story of your life.
MAUD. Did I? I don't remember that.
FITZSIMMONS. I should say not. You were past remembering
anything by that time. You had your arms around my neck -
MAUD. Interrupting. Oh!
FITZSIMMONS. And you kept repeating over and over, "Bob, dear
MAUD. Springing to her feet. Oh! I never did! Recollecting
herself. Perhaps I must have. I was a trifle wild in those
days, I admit. But I'm wise now. I've sowed my wild oats and
FITZSIMMONS. I'm glad to hear that, Harry. You were tearing off
a pretty fast pace in those days. Pause, in which MAUD nods.
Still punch the bag?
MAUD. In quick alarm, glancing at punching bag. No, I've got
out of the hang of it.
FITZSIMMONS. Reproachfully. You haven't forgotten that right-
and-left, arm, elbow and shoulder movement I taught you?
MAUD. With hesitation. N-o-o.
FITZSIMMONS. Moving toward bag to left. Then, come on.
MAUD. Rising reluctantly and following. I'd rather see you
punch the bag. I'd just love to.
FITZSIMMONS. I will, afterward. You go to it first.
MAUD. Eyeing the bag in alarm. No; you. I'm out of practice.
FITZSIMMONS. Looking at her sharply. How many drinks have you
MAUD. Not a one. I don't drink--that is--er--only occasionally.
FITZSIMMONS. Indicating bag. Then go to it.
MAUD. No; I tell you I am out of practice. I've forgotten it
all. You see, I made a discovery.
MAUD. I--I--you remember what a light voice I always had--almost
MAUD. Well, I discovered it was a perfect falsetto.
MAUD. I've been practising it ever since. Experts, in another
room, would swear it was a woman's voice. So would you, if you
turned your back and I sang.
FITZSIMMONS. Who has been laughing incredulously, now becomes
suspicious. Look here, kid, I think you are an impostor. You
are not Harry Jones at all.
MAUD. I am, too.
FITZSIMMONS. I don't believe it. He was heavier than you.
MAUD. I had the fever last summer and lost a lot of weight.
FITZSIMMONS. You are the Harry Jones that got sousesd and had to
be put to bed?
FITZSIMMONS. There is one thing I remember very distinctly.
Harry Jones had a birth mark on his knee. He looks at her legs
MAUD. Embarrassed, then resolving to carry it out. Yes, right
here. She advances right leg and touches it.
FITZSIMMONS. Triumphantly. Wrong. It was the other knee.
MAUD. I ought to know.
FITZSIMMONS. You haven't any birth mark at all.
MAUD. I have, too.
FITZSIMMONS. Suddenly springing to her and attempting to seize
her leg. Then we'll prove it. Let me see.
MAUD. In a panic backs away from him and resists his attempts,
until grinning in an aside to the audience, he gives over. She,
in an aside to audience. Fancy his wanting to see my birth mark.
FITZSIMMONS. Bullying. Then take a go at the bag. She shakes
her head. You're not Harry Jones.
MAUD. Approaching punching bag. I am, too.
FITZSIMMONS. Then hit it.
MAUD. Resolving to attempt it, hits bag several nice blows, and
then is struck on the nose by it. Oh!
Recovering herself and rubbing her nose. I told you I was out
of practice. You punch the bag, Bob.
FITZSIMMONS. I will, if you will show me what you can do with
that wonderful soprano voice of yours.
MAUD. I don't dare. Everybody would think there was a woman in
FITZSIMMONS. Shaking his head. No, they won't. They've all
gone to the fight. There's not a soul in the building.
MAUD. Alarmed, in a weak voice. Not--a--soul--in--the
FITZSIMMONS. Not a soul. Only you and I.
MAUD. Starting hurriedly toward door. Then I must go.
FITZSIMMONS. What's your hurry? Sing.
MAUD. Turning back with new resolve. Let me see you punch the
FITZSIMMONS. You sing first.
MAUD. No; you punch first.
FITZSIMMONS. I don't believe you are Harry -
MAUD. Hastily. All right, I'll sing. You sit down over there
and turn your back.
MAUD walks over to the table toward right. She is about to sing,
when she notices FITZSIMMONS' cigarette case, picks it up, and in
an aside reads his name on it and speaks.
MAUD. "Robert Fitzsimmons." That will prove to my brother that I
have been here.
FITZSIMMONS. Hurry up.
MAUD hastily puts cigarette case in her pocket and begins to
During the song FITZSIMMONS turns his head slowly and looks at
her with growing admiration.
MAUD. How did you like it?
FITZSIMMONS. Gruffly. Rotten. Anybody could tell it was a
boy's voice -
FITZSIMMONS. It is rough and coarse and it cracked on every high
MAUD. Oh! Oh!
Recollecting herself and shrugging her shoulders. Oh, very
well. Now let's see if you can do any better with the bag.
FITZSIMMONS takes off coat and gives exhibition.
MAUD looks on in an ecstasy of admiration.
MAUD. As he finishes. Beautiful! Beautiful!
FITZSIMMONS puts on coat and goes over and sits down near table.
Nothing like the bag to limber one up. I feel like a fighting
cock. Harry, let's go out on a toot, you and I.
FITZSIMMONS. A toot. You know--one of those rip-snorting nights
you used to make.
MAUD. Emphatically, as she picks up newspapers from leather
chair, sits down, and places them on her lap. I'll do nothing of
the sort. I've--I've reformed.
FITZSIMMONS. You used to joy-ride like the very devil.
MAUD. I know it.
FITZSIMMONS. And you always had a pretty girl or two along.
MAUD. Boastfully, in mannish, fashion. Oh, I still have my
fling. Do you know any--well,--er,--nice girls?
MAUD. Put me wise.
FITZSIMMONS. Sure. You know Jack Sylvester?
MAUD. Forgetting herself. He's my brother -
FITZSIMMONS. Exploding. What!
MAUD. --In-law's first cousin.
MAUD. So you see I don't know him very well. I only met him
once--at the club. We had a drink together.
FITZSIMMONS. Then you don't know his sister?
MAUD. Starting. His sister? I--I didn't know he had a sister.
FITZSIMMONS. Enthusiastically. She's a peach. A queen. A
little bit of all right. A--a loo-loo.
MAUD. Flattered. She is, is she?
FITZSIMMONS. She's a scream. You ought to get acquainted with
MAUD. Slyly. You know her, then?
FITZSIMMONS. You bet.
MAUD. Aside. Oh, ho! To FITZSIMMONS. Know her very well?
FITZSIMMONS. I've taken her out more times than I can remember.
You'll like her, I'm sure.
MAUD. Thanks. Tell me some more about her.
FITZSIMMONS. She dresses a bit loud. But you won't mind that.
And whatever you do, don't take her to eat.
MAUD. Hiding her chagrin. Why not?
FITZSIMMONS. I never saw such an appetite -
FITZSIMMONS. It's fair sickening. She must have a tape-worm.
And she thinks she can sing.
FITZSIMMONS. Rotten. You can do better yourself, and that's not
saying much. She's a nice girl, really she is, but she is the
black sheep of the family. Funny, isn't it?
MAUD. Weak voice. Yes, funny.
FITZSIMMONS. Her brother Jack is all right. But he can't do
anything with her. She's a--a -
MAUD. Grimly. Yes. Go on.
FITZSIMMONS. A holy terror. She ought to be in a reform school.
MAUD. Springing to her feet and slamming newspapers in his
face. Oh! Oh! Oh! You liar! She isn't anything of the sort!
FITZSIMMONS. Recovering from the onslaught and making believe he
is angry, advancing threateningly on her. Now I'm going to put a
head on you. You young hoodlum.
MAUD. All alarm and contrition, backing away from him. Don't!
Please don't! I'm sorry! I apologise. I--I beg your pardon,
Bob. Only I don't like to hear girls talked about that way, even-
-even if it is true. And you ought to know.
FITZSIMMONS. Subsiding and resuming seat. You've changed a
lot, I must say.
MAUD. Sitting down in leather chair. I told you I'd reformed.
Let us talk about something else. Why is it girls like prize-
fighters? I should think--ahem--I mean it seems to me that girls
would think prize-fighters horrid.
FITZSIMMONS. They are men.
MAUD. But there is so much crookedness in the game. One hears
about it all the time.
FITZSIMMONS. There are crooked men in every business and
profession. The best fighters are not crooked.
MAUD. I--er--I thought they all faked fights when there was
enough in it.
FITZSIMMONS. Not the best ones.
MAUD. Did you--er --ever fake a fight?
FITZSIMMONS. Looking at her sharply, then speaking solemnly.
MAUD. Shocked, speaking sadly. And I always heard of you and
thought of you as the one clean champion who never faked.
FITZSIMMONS. Gently and seriously. Let me tell you about it.
It was down in Australia. I had just begun to fight my way up.
It was with old Bill Hobart out at Rushcutters Bay. I threw the
fight to him.
MAUD. Repelled, disgusted. Oh! I could not have believed it
FITZSIMMONS. Let me tell you about it. Bill was an old fighter.
Not an old man, you know, but he'd been in the fighting game a
long time. He was about thirty-eight and a gamer man never
entered the ring. But he was in hard luck. Younger fighters were
coming up, and he was being crowded out. At that time it wasn't
often he got a fight and the purses were small. Besides it was a
drought year in Australia. You don't know what that means. It
means that the rangers are starved. It means that the sheep are
starved and die by the millions. It means that there is no money
and no work, and that the men and women and kiddies starve.
Bill Hobart had a missus and three kids and at the time of his
fight with me they were all starving. They did not have enough to
eat. Do you understand? They did not have enough to eat. And
Bill did not have enough to eat. He trained on an empty stomach,
which is no way to train you'll admit. During that drought year
there was little enough money in the ring, but he had failed to
get any fights. He had worked at long-shoring, ditch-digging,
coal-shovelling--anything, to keep the life in the missus and the
kiddies. The trouble was the jobs didn't hold out. And there he
was, matched to fight with me, behind in his rent, a tough old
chopping-block, but weak from lack of food. If he did not win the
fight, the landlord was going to put them into the street.
MAUD. But why would you want to fight with him in such weak
FITZSIMMONS. I did not know. I did not learn till at the
ringside just before the fight. It was in the dressing rooms,
waiting our turn to go on. Bill came out of his room, ready for
the ring. "Bill," I said--in fun, you know. "Bill, I've got to
do you to-night." He said nothing, but he looked at me with the
saddest and most pitiful face I have ever seen. He went back into
his dressing room and sat down.
"Poor Bill!" one of my seconds said. "He's been fair starving
these last weeks. And I've got it straight, the landlord chucks
him out if he loses to-night."
Then the call came and we went into the ring. Bill was desperate.
He fought like a tiger, a madman. He was fair crazy. He was
fighting for more than I was fighting for. I was a rising
fighter, and I was fighting for the money and the recognition.
But Bill was fighting for life--for the life of his loved ones.
Well, condition told. The strength went out of him, and I was
fresh as a daisy. "What's the matter, Bill?" I said to him in a
clinch. "You're weak." "I ain't had a bit to eat this day," he
answered. That was all.
By the seventh round he was about all in, hanging on and panting
and sobbing for breath in the clinches, and I knew I could put him
out any time. I drew back my right for the short-arm jab that
would do the business. He knew it was coming, and he was
powerless to prevent it.
"For the love of God, Bob," he said; and--Pause.
MAUD. Yes? Yes?
FITZSIMMONS. I held back the blow. We were in a clinch.
"For the love of God, Bob," he said again, "the misses and the
And right there I saw and knew it all. I saw the hungry children
asleep, and the missus sitting up and waiting for Bill to come
home, waiting to know whether they were to have food to eat or be
thrown out in the street.
"Bill," I said, in the next clinch, so low only he could hear.
"Bill, remember the La Blanche swing. Give it to me, hard."
We broke away, and he was tottering and groggy. He staggered away
and started to whirl the swing. I saw it coming. I made believe
I didn't and started after him in a rush. Biff! It caught me on
the jaw, and I went down. I was young and strong. I could eat
punishment. I could have got up the first second. But I lay
there and let them count me out. And making believe I was still
dazed, I let them carry me to my corner and work to bring me to.
Well, I faked that fight.
MAUD. Springing to him and shaking his hand. Thank God! Oh!
You are a man! A--a--a hero!
FITZSIMMONS. Dryly, feeling in his pocket. Let's have a smoke.
He fails to find cigarette case.
MAUD. I can't tell you how glad I am you told me that.
FITZSIMMONS. Gruffly. Forget it. He looks on table, and
fails to find cigarette case. Looks at her suspiciously, then
crosses to desk at right and reaches for telephone.
MAUD. Curiously. What are you going to do?
FITZSIMMONS. Call the police.
MAUD. What for?
FITZSIMMONS. For you.
MAUD. For me?
FITZSIMMONS. You are not Harry Jones. And not only are you an
impostor, but you are a thief.
MAUD. Indignantly. How dare you?
FITZSIMMONS. You have stolen my cigarette case.
MAUD. Remembering and taken aback, pulls out cigarette case.
Here it is.
FITZSIMMONS. Too late. It won't save you. This club must be
kept respectable. Thieves cannot be tolerated.
MAUD. Growing alarm. But you won't have me arrested?
FITZSIMMONS. I certainly will.
MAUD. Pleadingly. Please! Please!
FITZSIMMONS. Obdurately. I see no reason why I should not.
MAUD. Hurriedly, in a panic. I'll give you a reason--a--a good
one. I--I--am not Harry Jones.
FITZSIMMONS. Grimly. A good reason in itself to call in the
MAUD. That isn't the reason. I'm--a--Oh! I'm so ashamed.
FITZSIMMONS. Sternly. I should say you ought to be. Reaches
for telephone receiver.
MAUD. In rush of desperation. Stop! I'm a--I'm a--a girl.
There! Sinks down in chair, burying her face in her hands.
FITZSIMMONS, hanging up receiver, grunts.
MAUD removes hands and looks at him indignantly. As she speaks
her indignation grows.
MAUD. I only wanted your cigarette case to prove to my brother
that I had been here. I--I'm Maud Sylvester, and you never took
me out once. And I'm not a black sheep. And I don't dress
loudly, and I haven't a--a tapeworm.
FITZSIMMONS. Grinning and pulling out card from vest pocket.
I knew you were Miss Sylvester all the time.
MAUD. Oh! You brute! I'll never speak to you again.
FITZSIMMONS. Gently. You'll let me see you safely out of here.
MAUD. Relenting. Ye-e-s. She rises, crosses to table, and is
about to stoop for motor cloak and bonnet, but he forestall her,
holds cloak and helps her into it. Thank you. She takes off
wig, fluffs her own hair becomingly, and puts on bonnet, looking
every inch a pretty young girl, ready for an automobile ride.
FITZSIMMONS. Who, all the time, watching her transformation, has
been growing bashful, now handing her the cigarette case. Here's
the cigarette case. You may k-k-keep it.
MAUD. Looking at him, hesitates, then takes it. I thank you--
er--Bob. I shall treasure it all my life. He is very
embarrassed. Why, I do believe you're bashful. What is the
FITZSIMMONS. Stammering. Why--I--you-- You are a girl--and--a-
-a--deuced pretty one.
MAUD. Taking his arm, ready to start for door. But you knew it
FITZSIMMONS. But it's somehow different now when you've got your
girl's clothes on.
MAUD. But you weren't a bit bashful--or nice, when--you--you--
Blurting it out. Were so anxious about birth marks.
They start to make exit.