the German Flag
[Footnote: Copyright, 1891, by MACMILLAN CO.]
Hans Breitmann paddled across the deck in his pink pyjamas, a cup
of tea in one hand and a cheroot in the other, when the steamer was
sweltering down the coast on her way to Singapur. He drank beer all
day and all night, and played a game called 'Scairt' with three
'I haf washed,' said he in a voice of thunder, 'but dere is no use
washing on these hell-seas. Look at me—I am still all wet and
schweatin'. It is der tea dot makes me so. Boy, bring me Bilsener on
'You will die if you drink beer before breakfast,' said one man.
'Beer is the worst thing in the world for—'
'Ya, I know—der liver. I haf no liver, und I shall not die. At
least I will not die obon dese benny sdeamers dot haf no beer fit to
trink. If I should haf died, I will haf don so a hoondert dimes before
now—in Shermany, in New York, in Japon, in Assam, und all over der
inside bans of South Amerique. Also in Shamaica should I hat died or
in Siam, but I am here; und der are my orchits dot I have drafelled
all the vorld round to find.'
He pointed towards the wheel, where, in two rough wooden boxes, lay
a mass of shrivelled vegetation, supposed by all the ship to represent
Assam orchids of fabulous value.
Now, orchids do not grow in the main streets of towns, and Hans
Breitmann had gone far to get his. There was nothing that he had not
collected that year, from king-crabs to white kangaroos.
'Lisden now,' said he, after he had been speaking for not much more
than ten minutes without a pause; 'Lisden und I will dell you a sdory
to show how bad und worse it is to go gollectin' und belief vot anoder
fool haf said. Dis was in Uraguay which was in Amerique—North or
Sout' you would not know—und I was hoontin' orchits und aferydings
else dot I could back in my kanasters—dot is drafelling
sbecimen-gaces. Dere vas den mit me anoder man—Reingelder, dot vas
his name—und he vas hoontin' also but only coral-snakes—joost
Uraguay coral-snakes—aferykind you could imagine. I dell you a
coral-snake is a peauty—all red und white like coral dot has been
gestrung in bands upon der neck of a girl. Dere is one snake howefer
dot we who gollect know ash der Sherman Flag, pecause id is red und
plack und white, joost like a sausage mit druffles. Reingelder he was
naturalist—goot man—goot trinker—better as me! "By Gott," said
Reingelder, "I will get a Sherman Flag snake or I will die." Und we
toorned all Uraguay upside-behint all pecause of dot Sherman Flag.
'Von day when we was in none knows where—shwingin' in our hummocks
among der woods, oop comes a natif woman mit a Sherman Flag in a
bickle- bottle—my bickle-bottle—und we both fell from our hummocks
flat ubon our pot—what you call stomach—mit shoy at dis thing. Now I
was gollectin' orchits also, und I knowed dot der idee of life to
Reingelder vas dis Sherman Flag. Derefore I bicked myselfs oop und I
said, "Reingelder, dot is YOUR find."—"Heart's true friend, dou art a
goot man," said Reingelder, und mit dot he obens der bickle-bottle,
und der natif woman she shqueals: "Herr Gott! It will bite." I
said—pecause in Uraguay a man must be careful of der
insects—"Reingelder, shpifligate her in der alcohol und den she will
be all right."—"Nein," said Reingelder, "I will der shnake alife
examine. Dere is no fear. Der coral-shnakes are mitout
shting-apparatus brofided." Boot I looked at her het, und she vas der
het of a boison-shnake—der true viper cranium, narrow und contract.
"It is not goot," said I, "she may bite und den—we are tree hoondert
mile from aferywheres. Broduce der alcohol und bickle him alife."
Reingelder he had him in his hand—grawlin' und grawlin' as slow as a
woorm und dwice as guiet. "Nonsense," says Reingelder. "Yates haf said
dot not von of der coral-shnakes haf der sack of boison." Yates vas
der crate authorite ubon der reptilia of Sout' Amerique. He haf
written a book. You do not know, of course, but he vas a crate
'I gum my eye upon der Sherman Flag, grawlin' und grawlin' in
Reingelder's fist, und der het vas not der het of innocence. "Mein
Gott," I said. "It is you dot will get der sack—der sack from dis
life here pelow!"
'"Den you may haf der shnake," says Reingelder, pattin' it ubon her
het. "See now, I will show you vat Yates haf written!"
'Uud mit dot he went indo his dent, unt brung out his big book of
Yates; der Sherman Flag grawlin' in his fist. "Yates haf said," said
Reingelder, und he throwed oben der book in der fork of his fist und
read der passage, proofin' conglusivement dot nefer coral-shnake bite
vas boison. Den he shut der book mit a bang, und dot shqueeze der
Sherman Flag, und she nip once und dwice.
'"Der liddle fool he haf bit me," says Reingelder.
'Dese things was before we know apout der permanganat-potash
injection. I was discomfordable.
'"Die oop der arm, Reingelder," said I, "und trink whisky ontil you
can no more trink."
'"Trink ten tousand tevils! I will go to dinner," said Reingelder,
und he put her afay und it vas very red mit emotion.
'We lifed upon soup, horse-flesh, und beans for dinner, but before
we vas eaten der soup, Reingelder he haf hold of his arm und cry, "It
is genumben to der clavicle. I am a dead man; und Yates he haf lied in
'I dell you it vas most sad, for der symbtoms dot came vas all dose
of strychnine. He vas doubled into big knots, und den undoubled, und
den redoubled mooch worse dan pefore, und he frothed. I vas mit him,
saying, "Reingelder, dost dou know me?" but he himself, der inward
gonsciousness part, was peyond knowledge, und so I know he vas not in
bain. Den he wrop himself oop in von dremendous knot und den he
died—all alone mit me in Uraguay. I was sorry, for I lofed
Reingelder, und I puried him, und den I took der coral-shnake—dot
Sherman Flag—so bad und dreacherous und I bickled him alife.
'So I got him: und so I lost Reingelder.'