Christopher Cadra ~ A Dancing Star

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The Star

‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’
She whispered, prayed.
‘I pray the Lord my soul to keep,’
She was getting ready for bed.
‘His Love to guard me through the night,’
She never went to bed without her prayers.
‘And wake me in the morning’s light…’

When Ellie woke, it was not morning.
She couldn’t tell the time, but she knew it was late.
Her room was as dark as the night outside.
The only light came from the moon and the stars,
The stars that danced upon her windowpane,
Lovingly, lovingly upon her windowpane.
She loved looking at the stars. She loved
Watching them dance: dance a fandango,
Dance a waltz. Dance however the spirit moved them.
They never stopped dancing when her eyes welled with tears.

It was the front door banging downstairs that woke her.
She knew that her father was home, that he’d be drunk.

To Ellie, drunk simply meant stinky, talking funny,
Being unable to walk right, and probably a visit.
Though her father’s footsteps were drawing near,
She didn’t want to think that she might be receiving a visit.
Her mom was a heavy sleeper. ‘But, but, but…

‘How did she not know? Did she know? How…’
Ellie shook her head, and away went her thoughts.

She wished she could be a dancing star,
She wished it were morning, she wished
She were on her windowpane, dancing.

Christopher Cadra is an editor at The Literati Quarterly (thelitq.com). His work will be featured in the upcoming summer issue of The Cimarron Review. Bienvenue au Danse, Christopher.

Frederick George Scott ~ Requiescant

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In lonely watches night by night
Great visions burst upon my sight,
For down the stretches of the sky
The hosts of dead go marching by.

Strange ghostly banners o’er them float,
Strange bugles sound an awful note,
And all their faces and their eyes
Are lit with starlight from the skies.

The anguish and the pain have passed
And peace hath come to them at last,
But in the stern looks linger still
The iron purpose and the will.

Dear Christ, who reign’st above the flood
Of human tears and human blood,
A weary road these men have trod,
O house them in the home of God!

Walt Whitman ~ Adieu to a Soldier

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1959
Adieu O soldier,
You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,)
The rapid march, the life of the camp,
The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long manoeuvre,
Bed battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the strong, terrific
game,
Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time through you
and like of you all fill’d,
With war and war’s expression.

Adieu dear comrade,
Your mission is fulfill’d—but I, more warlike,
Myself and this contentious soul of mine,
Still on our own campaigning bound,
Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined,
Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often baffled,
Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out—aye here,
To fiercer, weightier battles give expression.

Mór Jókai ~ Bizeban

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Such is the name of the deaf and dumb boy who waits upon the Sultan.

The art of manufacturing these bizebans is very simple, and at Gozond there are several hundred professors of it who find it lucrative enough. From poor people, who possess families, they buy children, at ten or twenty rupees apiece—mere infants a twelvemonth old. As yet, of course, they cannot talk. These men begin by pouring into the ears of the little creatures a fluid prepared from herbs, which renders them absolutely deaf. Two-thirds of the children die under the process. Those which survive are valuable articles of commerce. Having lost their hearing they can, of course, no longer learn to talk, and they remain dumb, as well as deaf, for life. These children, as they grow up, see the world around them but cannot comprehend what they see. Their native intelligence cannot become developed: they are like human beings from whom the soul has been snatched. These soulless boys are very valuable articles in the seraglio. They are always hovering around the Sultan. In the most secret chambers they are in attendance; the most valuable documents are entrusted to their care; and beneath their eyes passes all the private correspondence between the Sultan and his confidential advisers. They do not hear a syllable of any conversation—of such a thing as speech they have no conception. How can they imagine what those peculiarly shaped letters mean which their eyes behold? There is no corresponding knowledge or intelligence within them which would render this possible; and the few things which they both see and understood, they could not communicate to other people.

Such were the unfortunate bizebans. Nevertheless they were dressed in purple and silk robes. Long chains of pearls hung from their neck, and they were fed upon what overflowed from the Sultan’s own table. In all respects they were treated with especial consideration—like monkeys or parrots which are kept as playthings.

These creatures, deprived of soul, know how to do one or two things, but no more. They understand that they must remain on guard at a certain post and not move thence; they can carry a certain article to a certain place; they can cut the Sultan’s nails to beautiful fine points and adjust his turban—such is the utmost limit of their accomplishments. They are indeed like dogs, taught to fetch and carry things for their masters in their mouth.

Before Sultan Mustapha II. ascended the throne he already possessed a number of bizebans. One of these was his especial favourite—a boy who was quite superior to the rest and who excited more sympathy; for in his big, dreamy eyes so much sentiment and intelligence was visible that it seemed sad that he could not be taught to feel and think like a human being. Like other bizebans he had no name. Why should a bizeban have a name? He won’t hear it even if it is addressed to him.

As a rule the bizeban also fulfilled the office of eunuch, and walked freely into the seraglio. Prince Mustapha used often, by the hand of his pet bizeban, to send to his sister, the beautiful Saliha, presents of a certain kind of very choice melon which only grew in the Sultan’s garden and concerning which fruit a very sad story was told.

One day, noticing that one melon was missing from the beds, the Sultan had all his gardeners tortured that the culprit might confess his theft. Then, when this experiment failed, he had seven of them cut open. To no purpose; but when the eighth was ripped up fragments of the melon were revealed, which was very fortunate, as a few hundred other servants would, but for this, have been treated likewise.

The lovely Saliha was a very kind-hearted creature. She thought her brother’s bizeban was a very sweet and gentle little thing, and she did not hesitate to pet him. She tried to make him understand this and that, and he seemed to have a very quick intelligence. Why should he not one day possess a soul? This idea occurred to her as she was walking, on one occasion, in the shrubbery. Could she not give back to him the soul of which he had been deprived, could she not teach him the alphabet? If she showed him a certain letter and then pointed to some object with which he was familiar could he not by degrees be made acquainted with the world?

Saliha made the experiment. She found it a very pleasant recreation, for life in the seraglio is extremely monotonous.

We have heard that prisoners in their dungeons have even taught spiders to dance at the sound of music (and the seraglio as a place of detention is scarcely more exhilarating than a dungeon). Why should not the deaf and dumb boy prove as apt as a spider? At her first essay, Saliha was amazed to see how the soul of the bizeban began to expand. He grasped anything in a moment. Once shown the alphabet he could afterwards trace out each letter on the ground. Once shown the name of a certain article he never forgot it. This success encouraged Saliha to further attempts. Would it not be possible to speak to the bizeban? But how could the speaking be done so that no beholder comprehended it? Ah! with the hands! The human hand has five fingers, and their variety of motion, as they open and shut, is such that the entire alphabet might thereby be distinctly expressed. Saliha determined to teach the boy to converse with her by means of his fingers; and the success of her experiments exceeded her expectations. He quickly learned the secret signs. It was delightful to Saliha; and she determined to get amusement out of it too. She would extract from the bizeban secrets concerning her brother which he thought no one living knew, and then she would tease this relative by pretending that she had discovered them through the mystic words of the Cabala. Who could ever dream of suspecting a bizeban who was deaf and dumb?

After the death of Osman, Prince Mustapha ascended the throne. His youthful gaiety now quickly fled—his shoulders began to bend beneath the weight of the Turkish Empire, which was then already in a tottering condition, with enemies on every side.

At that time the country possessed a great statesman in the person of Raghib Pasha, whose potent hand had preserved the empire from destruction. It was he who crushed the forces of the rebellious Egyptian princes and laid the province at the feet of the Padishah. Raghib was not only a hero in war, he was also a famous poet and the greatest scholar in the land. Historians describe him, in his character of statesman, as a “leader of leaders,” szad rul vezir, and in that of writer as the “Prince of Roumelian poets”. (Sultani suari Rum). In his gigantic work entitled Zezinet Olulum (“Ship of Knowledge”) all the legends are collected which had lain scattered about the Arab plains. It was he who founded the splendid library which bears his name.

At the time of which we now write, Saliha was in the very springtide of her beauty—like the lotus-flower which opens its petals before the dew of dawn. Sultan Mustapha could not have given Raghib Pasha a greater reward than by bestowing upon him the hand of his lovely sister; and as to whether he inspired her with real affection I need only say that he was fifty-nine when he married her and that she loved him so much that when he died her mind became deranged.

Raghib Pasha ruled not only over the Mussulmans but also over the ruler of the Mussulmans, for he had divined the Sultan’s thoughts—yes, his innermost thoughts.

It was the Sultan’s habit not to retire at night to his bedchamber until he had recorded, in a voluminous diary, all the events of the day and his impressions concerning them. This book he habitually kept in the secrecy of his own room, and the bizeban watched over it until the morning. To whom would it ever have occurred that the deaf and dumb from birth could read, or that he could communicate the written lines to some one else? In the room where this diary was kept there was a little window which opened into the khazoda, the Sultan’s place of worship. But it was so shut off from view by various corridors as to be only visible from the seraglio. Every evening, just as the Sultan was leaving his apartments in order to go and say his final prayers in this sanctuary, the murzims were accustomed to strike seven times with a hammer a bell without a tongue. Then the Imam who stood before the altar would say: “Ahamdu lillahi Rabbil alemum” (“Grace descends from Heaven, which rules over all”). Thereupon the congregation would fall on their faces. They remained prostrate until the Sultan reached the door; when the Imam would exclaim: Allehú ekber! (“The Lord is powerful”), and all present rose to their feet. During the period of prostration a secret hand would be stretched out from the little window we have mentioned, and would make all kinds of signs. No one noticed this hand, except Saliha, who carefully watched its mysterious movements whilst she was upon her knees. From these signs she knew everything that the Sultan had that day recorded in his diary; and the very same night she would whisper the information to her husband.

Raghib Pasha was a wise man, who knew how to keep such information secret. He thereby learned who his enemies were and managed to clear them out of his way. He got to know the wishes of the Sultan and could long before anticipate them. Everything he did was done in the name of the Sultan: the pomp and glory which he himself achieved he allowed people to ascribe to his Sovereign, and he even made Mustapha imagine that he ruled; whereas the feeble-hearted monarch was a mere puppet in the hands of his skilful Grand Vizier.

In his poems Raghib extolled the Sultan for his mighty and politic deeds—eulogised him for inspecting the navy and the military magazines, for increasing the nation’s revenue by 6,000,000 piastres, and doing other things which Raghib himself had in fact done on his own account.

Throughout Turkey, throughout Europe, it was known well enough that, not the Sultan, but his Minister, ruled at Stamboul; it was only Mustapha who did not know it.

One day Raghib’s enemies, Hamil Pasha, Bahir Mustapha, and Mohamed Emin, who were jealous of the Minister’s great power, said to the Sultan:

“This man only calls you Sultan in mockery. He does everything without you, just as if the State were his. He has just concluded, without your knowledge, an alliance with the ruler of one of the infidel empires—an alliance which, although it may prove the destruction of other unfaithful nations, he should never have dared to make before obtaining the consent of his monarch, in whose presence he is nothing but dust.” It was Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who, believing in the wisdom of the distinguished Minister, had invited his alliance, and the documents ratifying it had already been signed. Had that alliance been allowed to continue, perhaps the crescent of Turkey would have risen again. But the heart of Mustapha had been perturbed by these malicious whisperings. When the traitors had left him he said nothing, but simply ordered his bizeban to bring him his diary, wherein he proceeded to record his impressions of the day. Then, shutting the book and giving it to the bizeban, he went to evening prayers. On this occasion the hand appeared at the little window and made certain signs which Saliha watched intently. They said: “Escape, Raghib. The Sultan knows of your letter to the Prussian king. To-morrow your head will be cut off and your documents confiscated.”

The Sultan returned from his profound devotions with a lightened heart. No one, he said to himself, knew his secret, and to-morrow morning he would send his executioner to fetch him Raghib’s head. Yes, he longed to possess that head ignominiously severed from its trunk.

But when the executioner reached the Grand Vizier’s residence, he found there his dead body, which could no longer be killed. On his table lay a letter addressed to the Sultan and enclosed in a velvet envelope. It was taken to the Sovereign with the news that the Minister had been found dead. The letter ran thus:

“Mustapha, the Omniscient has vouchsafed, in His mysterious providence, to let me know that you wished to kill me because, without your knowledge, I concluded, for the benefit of your dominion, an alliance with the King of Prussia. I did not run away from death; I simply anticipated it. I consider I have lived long enough in order to die fitly now, and long enough not to be forgotten. All the documents at my palace I have burned. You will see what I have done for your country; the rest will be said when we meet in presence of the great Prophet.”

The Sultan was paralysed with wonder and fear. How could that secret, which had been locked up only in his own heart, have been divined by Raghib? First he accused the dsins (Christian prophets), then the Hindoo soothsayers, then the interpreters of dreams—then the very pen with which he had written. How could he dream that the deaf and dumb could speak?

When Mustapha endeavoured to further the alliance with the King of Prussia, this great ruler of the infidels replied that there had until recently been one wise man in Turkey, but that he did not now propose to do business with fools. This was a bitter humiliation to the Sultan—to think that his late slave could have procured an alliance which was contemptuously refused to the King of Kings!

Mustapha frequently lamented the loss of Raghib, and was constantly tortured by the mystery whereby the secret of his heart had been penetrated. After the Grand Vizier’s death the bizeban ceased to communicate to Saliha the secrets of the Sultan. He had no longer any motive to do so.

First came Hamil, who only, however, remained Grand Vizier for six months, when he was executed for his negligence; and chroniclers relate of him that he let the empire go as it pleased, doing it neither good nor harm. Then followed the head of Bahir Mustapha. It was cut off for his barbarity. The third was Mohamed Emin, whom the Sultan beheaded for cowardice on the battlefield. Mustapha shed tears over the loss of his three Grand Viziers—but not on their personal account, for he had never forgotten Raghib, who was so wise, brave, and noble; and whenever he beheaded one of his Grand Viziers he would always think of the unfortunate Raghib.

The bizeban laughed within himself; for the deaf and dumb can laugh when they are alone. His secret no one ever knew.

DMdJ Neu2

Fanciful Fictions from Hammer & Anvil Books

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DEATH COMMENDS aJohn and Bill decide to stop the world and get off. They discover Europe and are formed by the beauty, the nostalgia, and the melodrama of their life-changing voyage. Both tumultuously find success, John as a writer in Italy and Bill as a painter in Germany – and soon find themselves transfixed in the fine art of passion. All paths converge on the bohemian labyrinth of Berlin, where their rivalry for the love of the same woman brings their journeys to a dramatic head. Told from an array of voices, DEATH COMMENDS NOT ALL is a vivid portmanteau of living and loving sure to please those who treat every new novel as a passage to tantalizing new horizons.

 

Penick FRAGMENTS 1The sheer immensity of slaughter and dispossession has paralyzed the minds of us all. It has made amnesia a world necessity. How else could anyone have endured the loss of so much that we have loved? To find continuity, to preserve sanity, this has been the heroic struggle of our ignorant murderous age. Douglas Penick’s FROM THE EMPIRE OF FRAGMENTS is a magisterial collection of four short stories and a novella recounting the lives of a Cambodian dancer, a West Indian indigent, an Indian sitar player, an Albanian professor, and an Amazonian native. Their stories deal with love, memory, fidelity and continuity in the face of profound loss. Lovers of short fiction will be entranced by the command of language and sheer human drama used to weave these unforgettable bittersweet tales.

 

ROWDIES Final CoverEvery pastime has a beginning. Chock full of facts and folklore, legerdemain and legends, ROWDIES depicts professional baseball in its infancy. It is the story of Connie “Yank” Griffin, and out-of-work laborer who becomes a professional base ball player to feed his young family, and team manager G.E. Devlin, universally considered “The Greatest Man Ever to Grace the Diamond”. Together and with the rest of their Nine, they take us on a journey through one season of late nineteenth century professional baseball – a world where beer sold by the quarter is drank by the gallon, where cheating ballplayers will do anything to win – or lose, and where an aging legend can ride the back of a desperate kid towards a final shot at glory in the twilight of his storied career. Fans of historical fiction and lovers of baseball alike will delight in this tale of balls … and strikes.

 

Miles COVER 3Adam Henry Carriere’s debut novel takes you on an unforgettable journey through the limbo of covert sexuality between 1970’s teenagers to chronicle a way of life barely imagined by those outside its boundaries. Once its hero, Miles, is initiated into the steamily erotic, nearly psychotic, passions of gay awareness, he thrusts himself compulsively into the arena of young love – and desire. He prowls the gilded balconies and shaded bathrooms, the flirtatious beaches and temptatious glens of the city in his feverish attempt to make meaning of his eruptive yearnings. And accompanying Miles on his journey, you will be well repaid in pure entertainment. However, Carriere also writes in symbols. His players are natural forces, natural people (by harmony and contrast) and he is always questioning. He makes you connect emotionally. He makes you laugh, in humor and relief. He makes you hope for certain outcomes and gratifies you, when the road not taken turns out to be the one you’ve been on all along. He is, in short, continually asking you what friendship and love not only are but can become. And without apology or cliche MILES is his pleasing yet dynamic, wry yet beguiled answer. If you think that only one thing can happen between gay teenagers, surprise – and delight – awaits you.

 

DIAMOND EYEWhen a frightened young woman brings a black diamond with inexplicable powers to the door of private detective Jack Harriger, he begins a descent into an occult murder mystery that gets him framed for serial murder and leads him to Georgia’s barrier islands. Along the way he enlists the aid of Liz Mab, a local bartender and practicing witch, who helps Harriger chase clues and overcome his painful past. When Liz is kidnapped, Harriger must take to the sea to stage a daring rescue and crack the case of the mysterious relic known as the Diamond Eye and the murderous cult that covets it.

DIAMOND EYE delivers all we expect and love in a mystery. Along with action, suspense, an overcoat-wearing detective named Harriger, and questions so dark and intriguing we have no choice but to keep on reading, Graves’ skill in winding up the tension and conveying unforgettable characters appears here in full force.” ~ Justin Nicholes, author of ASH DOGS and RIVER DRAGON SKY.

 

KRISMAN COVER ForumMisery comes in short order, and murder is often a step behind. Too, murder is not particular – certainly not to the Campus de Fleurs-de-Lys, a secret society veiled for centuries deep within the French nation. Using a soldier stained with defeat at Dien Bien Phu as their pawn, the Campus re-emerges in Montreal, Quebec, during the 1960’s. Squaring off against them is Harry Krisman, whose private investigations draw him ever closer to this sinister penumbra. With Les Habitants and their screaming fans as the milieu, MURDER AT THE FORUM introduces mystery mavens and sports fans alike to a new hero from the distant past whose adventures will thrill the house.

HAMMER n ANVIL mini

 

Zane Grey ~ The Manager of Madden’s Hill

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Willie Howarth loved baseball. He loved it all the more because he was a cripple. The game was more beautiful and wonderful to him because he would never be able to play it. For Willie had been born with one leg shorter than the other; he could not run and at 11 years of age it was all he could do to walk with a crutch.

Nevertheless Willie knew more about baseball than any other boy on Madden’s Hill. An uncle of his had once been a ballplayer and he had taught Willie the fine points of the game. And this uncle’s ballplayer friends, who occasionally visited him, had imparted to Willie the vernacular of the game. So that Willie’s knowledge of players and play, and particularly of the strange talk, the wild and whirling words on the lips of the real baseball men, made him the envy of every boy on Madden’s Hill, and a mine of information. Willie never missed attending the games played on the lots, and he could tell why they were won or lost.

Willie suffered considerable pain, mostly at night, and this had given him a habit of lying awake in the dark hours, grieving over that crooked leg that forever shut him out of the heritage of youth. He had kept his secret well; he was accounted shy because he was quiet and had never been able to mingle with the boys in their activity. No one except his mother dreamed of the fire and hunger and pain within his breast. His school-mates called him “Daddy.” It was a name given for his bent shoulders, his labored gait and his thoughtful face, too old for his years. And no one, not even his mother, guessed how that name hurt Willie.

It was a source of growing unhappiness with Willie that the Madden’s Hill boys were always beaten by the other teams of the town. He really came to lose his sadness over his own misfortune in pondering on the wretched play of the Madden’s Hill baseball club. He had all a boy’s pride in the locality where he lived. And when the Bogg’s Farm team administered a crushing defeat to Madden’s Hill, Willie grew desperate.

Monday he met Lane Griffith, the captain of the Madden’s Hill nine.

“Hello, Daddy,” said Lane. He was a big, aggressive boy, and in a way had a fondness for Willie.

“Lane, you got an orful trimmin’ up on the Boggs. What ‘d you wanter let them country jakes beat you for?”

“Aw, Daddy, they was lucky. Umpire had hay-seed in his eyes! Robbed us! He couldn’t see straight. We’ll trim them down here Saturday.”

“No, you won’t—not without team work. Lane, you’ve got to have a manager.”

“Durn it! Where ‘re we goin’ to get one?” Lane blurted out.

“You can sign me. I can’t play, but I know the game. Let me coach the boys.”

The idea seemed to strike Capt. Griffith favorably. He prevailed upon all the boys living on Madden’s Hill to come out for practice after school. Then he presented them to the managing coach. The boys were inclined to poke fun at Daddy Howarth and ridicule him; but the idea was a novel one and they were in such a state of subjection from many beatings that they welcomed any change. Willie sat on a bench improvised from a soap box and put them through a drill of batting and fielding. The next day in his coaching he included bunting and sliding. He played his men in different positions and for three more days he drove them unmercifully.

When Saturday came, the day for the game with Bogg’s Farm, a wild protest went up from the boys. Willie experienced his first bitterness as a manager. Out of forty aspirants for the Madden’s Hill team he could choose but nine to play the game. And as a conscientious manager he could use no favorites. Willie picked the best players and assigned them to positions that, in his judgment, were the best suited to them. Bob Irvine wanted to play first base and he was down for right field. Sam Wickhart thought he was the fastest fielder, and Willie had him slated to catch. Tom Lindsay’s feelings were hurt because he was not to play in the infield. Eddie Curtis suffered a fall in pride when he discovered he was not down to play second base. Jake Thomas, Tay-Tay Mohler and Brick Grace all wanted to pitch. The manager had chosen Frank Price for that important position, and Frank’s one ambition was to be a shortstop.

So there was a deadlock. For a while there seemed no possibility of a game. Willie sat on the bench, the center of a crowd of discontented, quarreling boys. Some were jealous, some were outraged, some tried to pacify and persuade the others. All were noisy. Lane Griffith stood by his manager and stoutly declared the players should play the positions to which they had been assigned or not at all. And he was entering into a hot argument with Tom Lindsay when the Bogg’s Farm team arrogantly put in an appearance.

The way that team from the country walked out upon the field made a great difference. The spirit of Madden’s Hill roused to battle. The game began swiftly and went on wildly. It ended almost before the Hill boys realized it had commenced. They did not know how they had won but they gave Daddy Howarth credit for it. They had a bonfire that night to celebrate the victory and they talked baseball until their parents became alarmed and hunted them up.

Madden’s Hill practiced all that next week and on Saturday beat the Seventh Ward team. In four more weeks they had added half a dozen more victories to their record. Their reputation went abroad. They got uniforms, and baseball shoes with spikes, and bats and balls and gloves. They got a mask, but Sam Wickhart refused to catch with it.

“Sam, one of these days you’ll be stoppin’ a high inshoot with your eye,” sagely remarked Daddy Howarth. “An’ then where’ll I get a catcher for the Natchez game?”

Natchez was the one name on the lips of every Madden’s Hill boy. For Natchez had the great team of the town and, roused by the growing repute of the Hill club, had condescended to arrange a game. When that game was scheduled for July Fourth Daddy Howarth set to driving his men. Early and late he had them out. This manager, in keeping with all other famous managers, believed that batting was the thing which won games. He developed a hard-hitting team. He kept everlastingly at them to hit and run, hit and run.

On the Saturday before the Fourth, Madden’s Hill had a game to play that did not worry Daddy and he left his team in charge of the captain.

“Fellers, I’m goin’ down to the Round House to see Natchez play. I’ll size up their game,” said Daddy.

When he returned he was glad to find that his team had won its ninth straight victory, but he was not communicative in regard to the playing of the Natchez club. He appeared more than usually thoughtful.

The Fourth fell on Tuesday. Daddy had the boys out Monday and he let them take only a short, sharp practice. Then he sent them home. In his own mind, Daddy did not have much hope of beating Natchez. He had been greatly impressed by their playing, and one inning toward the close of the Round House game they had astonished him with the way they suddenly seemed to break loose and deluge their opponents in a flood of hits and runs. He could not understand this streak of theirs—for they did the same thing every time they played—and he was too good a baseball student to call it luck.

He had never wanted anything in his life, not even to have two good legs, as much as he wanted to beat Natchez. For the Madden’s Hill boys had come to believe him infallible. He was their idol. They imagined they had only to hit and run, to fight and never give up, and Daddy would make them win. There was not a boy on the team who believed that Natchez had a chance. They had grown proud and tenacious of their dearly won reputation. First of all, Daddy thought of his team and their loyalty to him; then he thought of the glory lately come to Madden’s Hill, and lastly of what it meant to him to have risen from a lonely watcher of the game—a cripple who could not even carry a bat—to manager of the famous Hill team. It might go hard with the boys to lose this game, but it would break his heart.

From time out of mind there had always been rivalry between Madden’s Hill and Natchez. And there is no rivalry so bitter as that between boys. So Daddy, as he lay awake at night planning the system of play he wanted to use, left out of all account any possibility of a peaceful game. It was comforting to think that if it came to a fight Sam and Lane could hold their own with Bo Stranathan and Slugger Blandy.

In the managing of his players Daddy observed strict discipline. It was no unusual thing for him to fine them. On practice days and off the field they implicitly obeyed him. During actual play, however, they had evinced a tendency to jump over the traces. It had been his order for them not to report at the field Tuesday until 2 o’clock. He found it extremely difficult to curb his own inclination to start before the set time. And only the stern duty of a man to be an example to his players kept Daddy at home.

He lived near the ball grounds, yet on this day, as he hobbled along on his crutch, he thought the distance interminably long, and for the first time in weeks the old sickening resentment at his useless leg knocked at his heart. Manfully Daddy refused admittance to that old gloomy visitor. He found comfort and forgetfulness in the thought that no strong and swift-legged boy of his acquaintance could do what he could do.

Upon arriving at the field Daddy was amazed to see such a large crowd. It appeared that all the boys and girls in the whole town were in attendance, and, besides, there was a sprinkling of grown-up people interspersed here and there around the diamond. Applause greeted Daddy’s appearance and members of his team escorted him to the soap-box bench.

Daddy cast a sharp eye over the Natchez players practicing on the field. Bo Stranathan had out his strongest team. They were not a prepossessing nine. They wore soiled uniforms that did not match in cut or color. But they pranced and swaggered and strutted! They were boastful and boisterous. It was a trial for any Madden’s Hill boy just to watch them.

“Wot a swelled bunch!” exclaimed Tom Lindsay.

“Fellers, if Slugger Blandy tries to pull any stunt on me today he’ll get a swelleder nut,” growled Lane Griffith.

“T-t-t-t-t-te-te-tell him t-t-t-to keep out of m-m-m-my way an’ not b-b-b-b-bl-block me,” stuttered Tay-Tay Mohler.

“We’re a-goin’ to skin ’em,” said Eddie Curtis.

“Cheese it, you kids, till we git in the game,” ordered Daddy. “Now, Madden’s Hill, hang round an’ listen. I had to sign articles with Natchez—had to let them have their umpire. So we’re up against it. But we’ll hit this pitcher Muckle Harris. He ain’t got any steam. An’ he ain’t got much nerve. Now every feller who goes up to bat wants to talk to Muck. Call him a big swelled stiff. Tell him he can’t break a pane of glass—tell him he can’t put one over the pan—tell him it he does you’ll slam it down in the sand bank. Bluff the whole team. Keep scrappy all the time. See! That’s my game today. This Natchez bunch needs to be gone after. Holler at the umpire. Act like you want to fight.”

Then Daddy sent his men out for practice.

“Boss, enny ground rules?” inquired Bo Stranathan. He was a big, bushy-haired boy with a grin and protruding teeth. “How many bases on wild throws over first base an’ hits over the sand bank?”

“All you can get,” replied Daddy, with a magnanimous wave of hand.

“Huh! Lemmee see your ball?”

Daddy produced the ball that he had Lane had made for the game.

“Huh! Watcher think? We ain ‘t goin’ to play with no mush ball like thet,” protested Bo. “We play with a hard ball. Looka here! We’ll trow up the ball.”

Daddy remembered what he had heard about the singular generosity of the Natchez team to supply the balls for the games they played.

“We don’t hev to pay nothin’ fer them balls. A man down at the Round House makes them for us. They ain’t no balls as good,” explained Bo, with pride.

However, as Bo did not appear eager to pass over the balls for examination Daddy simply reached out and took them. They were small, perfectly round and as hard as bullets. They had no covers. The yarn had been closely and tightly wrapped and then stitched over with fine bees-waxed thread. Daddy fancied he detected a difference in the weight of the ball, but Bo took them back before Daddy could be sure of that point.

“You don’t have to fan about it. I know a ball when I see one,” observed Daddy. “But we’re on our own grounds an’ we’ll use our own ball. Thanks all the same to you, Stranathan.”

“Huh! All I gotta say is we’ll play with my ball er there won’t be no game,” said Bo suddenly.

Daddy shrewdly eyed the Natchez captain. Bo did not look like a fellow wearing himself thin from generosity. It struck Daddy that Bo’s habit of supplying the ball for the game might have some relation to the fact that he always carried along his own umpire. There was a strange feature about this umpire business and it was that Bo’s man had earned a reputation for being particularly fair. No boy ever had any real reason to object to Umpire Gale’s decisions. When Gale umpired away from the Natchez grounds his close decisions always favored the other team, rather than his own. It all made Daddy keen and thoughtful.

“Stranathan, up here on Madden’s Hill we know how to treat visitors. We’ll play with your ball…. Now keep your gang of rooters from crowdin’ on the diamond.”

“Boss, it’s your grounds. Fire ’em off if they don’t suit you…. Come on, let’s git in the game. Watcher want—field er bat?”

“Field,” replied Daddy briefly.

Billy Gale called “Play,” and the game began with Slugger Blandy at bat. The formidable way in which he swung his club did not appear to have any effect on Frank Price or the player back of him. Frank’s most successful pitch was a slow, tantalizing curve, and he used it. Blandy lunged at the ball, missed it and grunted.

“Frank, you got his alley,” called Lane.

Slugger fouled the next one high in the air back of the plate. Sam Wickhart, the stocky bowlegged catcher, was a fiend for running after foul flies, and now he plunged into the crowd of boys, knocking them right and left, and he caught the ball. Whisner came up and hit safely over Griffith, whereupon the Natchez supporters began to howl. Kelly sent a grounder to Grace at short stop. Daddy’s weak player made a poor throw to first base, so the runner was safe. Then Bo Stranathan batted a stinging ball through the infield, scoring Whisner.

“Play the batter! Play the batter!” sharply called Daddy from the bench.

Then Frank struck out Molloy and retired Dundon on an easy fly.

“Fellers, git in the game now,” ordered Daddy, as his players eagerly trotted in. “Say things to that Muckle Harris! We’ll walk through this game like sand through a sieve.”

Bob Irvin ran to the plate waving his bat at Harris.

“Put one over, you freckleface! I ‘ve been dyin’ fer this chanst. You’re on Madden’s Hill now.”

Muckle evidently was not the kind of pitcher to stand coolly under such bantering. Obviously he was not used to it. His face grew red and his hair waved up. Swinging hard, he threw the ball straight at Bob’s head. Quick as a cat, Bob dropped flat.

“Never touched me!” he chirped, jumping up and pounding the plate with his bat. “You couldn’t hit a barn door. Come on. I’ll paste one a mile!”

Bob did not get an opportunity to hit, for Harris could not locate the plate and passed him to first on four balls.

“Dump the first one,” whispered Daddy in Grace’s ear. Then he gave Bob a signal to run on the first pitch.

Grace tried to bunt the first ball, but he missed it. His attempt, however, was so violent that he fell over in front of the catcher, who could not recover in time to throw, and Bob got to second base. At this juncture, the Madden’s Hill band of loyal supporters opened up with a mingling of shrill yells and whistles and jangling of tin cans filled with pebbles. Grace hit the next ball into second base and, while he was being thrown out, Bob raced to third. With Sam Wickhart up it looked good for a score, and the crowd yelled louder. Sam was awkward yet efficient, and he batted a long fly to right field. The fielder muffed the ball. Bob scored, Sam reached second base, and the crowd yelled still louder. Then Lane struck out and Mohler hit to shortstop, retiring the side.

Natchez scored a run on a hit, a base on balls, and another error by Grace. Every time a ball went toward Grace at short Daddy groaned. In their half of the inning Madden’s Hill made two runs, increasing the score 3 to 2.

The Madden’s Hill boys began to show the strain of such a close contest. If Daddy had voiced aloud his fear it would have been: “They’ll blow up in a minnit!” Frank Price alone was slow and cool, and he pitched in masterly style. Natchez could not beat him. On the other hand, Madden’s Hill hit Muck Harris hard, but superb fielding kept runners off the bases. As Daddy’s team became more tense and excited Bo Stranathan’s players grew steadier and more arrogantly confident. Daddy saw it with distress, and he could not realize just where Natchez had license for such confidence. Daddy watched the game with the eyes of a hawk.

As the Natchez players trooped in for their sixth inning at bat, Daddy observed a marked change in their demeanor. Suddenly they seemed to have been let loose; they were like a band of Indians. Daddy saw everything. He did not miss seeing Umpire Gale take a ball from his pocket and toss it to Frank, and Daddy wondered if that was the ball which had been in the play. Straightway, however, he forgot that in the interest of the game.

Bo Stranathan bawled: “Wull, Injuns, hyar’s were we do ’em. We’ve jest ben loafin’ along. Git ready to tear the air, you rooters!”

Kelly hit a wonderfully swift ball through the infield. Bo batted out a single. Malloy got up in the way of one of Frank’s pitches, and was passed to first base. Then, as the Natchez crowd opened up in shrill clamor, the impending disaster fell. Dundon hit a bounder down into the infield. The ball appeared to be endowed with life. It bounded low, then high and, cracking into Grace’s hands, bounced out and rolled away. The runners raced around the bases.

Pickens sent up a tremendous fly, the highest ever batted on Madden’s Hill. It went over Tom Lindsay in center field, and Tom ran and ran. The ball went so far up that Tom had time to cover the ground, but he could not judge it. He ran round in a little circle, with hands up in bewilderment. And when the ball dropped it hit him on the head and bounded away.

“Run, you Injun, run!” bawled Bo. “What’d I tell you? We ain’t got ’em goin’, oh, no! Hittin’ ’em on the head!”

Bill dropped a slow, teasing ball down the third-base line. Jake Thomas ran desperately for it, and the ball appeared to strike his hands and run up his arms and caress his nose and wrap itself round his neck and then roll gently away. All the while, the Natchez runners tore wildly about the bases and the Natchez supporters screamed and whistled. Muck Harris could not bat, yet he hit the first ball and it shot like a bullet over the infield. Then Slugger Blandy came to the plate.

The ball he sent out knocked Grace’s leg from under him as if it were a ten-pin. Whisner popped a fly over Tay Tay Mohler’s head. Now Tay Tay was fat and slow, but he was a sure catch. He got under the ball. It struck his hands and jumped back twenty feet up into the air. It was a strangely live ball. Kelly again hit to shortstop, and the ball appeared to start slow, to gather speed with every bound and at last to dart low and shoot between Grace’s legs.

“Haw! Haw!” roared Bo. “They’ve got a hole at short. Hit fer the hole, fellers. Watch me! Jest watch me!”

And he swung hard on the first pitch. The ball glanced like a streak straight at Grace, took a vicious jump, and seemed to flirt with the infielder’s hands, only to evade them.

Malloy fouled a pitch and the ball hit Sam Wickhart square over the eye. Sam’s eye popped out and assumed the proportions and color of a huge plum.

“Hey!” yelled Blandy, the rival catcher. “Air you ketchin’ with yer mug?”

Sam would not delay the game nor would he don the mask.

Daddy sat hunched on his soap-box, and, as in a hateful dream, he saw his famous team go to pieces. He put his hands over his ears to shut out some of the uproar. And he watched that little yarn ball fly and shoot and bound and roll to crush his fondest hopes. Not one of his players appeared able to hold it. And Grace had holes in his hands and legs and body. The ball went right through him. He might as well have been so much water. Instead of being a shortstop he was simply a hole. After every hit Daddy saw that ball more and more as something alive. It sported with his infielders. It bounded like a huge jack-rabbit, and went swifter and higher at every bound. It was here, there, everywhere.

And it became an infernal ball. It became endowed with a fiendish propensity to run up a player’s leg and all about him, as if trying to hide in his pocket. Grace’s efforts to find it were heartbreaking to watch. Every time it bounded out to center field, which was of frequent occurrence, Tom would fall on it and hug it as if he were trying to capture a fleeing squirrel. Tay Tay Mohler could stop the ball, but that was no great credit to him, for his hands took no part in the achievement. Tay Tay was fat and the ball seemed to like him. It boomed into his stomach and banged against his stout legs. When Tay saw it coming he dropped on his knees and valorously sacrificed his anatomy to the cause of the game.

Daddy tried not to notice the scoring of runs by his opponents. But he had to see them and he had to count. Ten runs were as ten blows! After that each run scored was like a stab in his heart. The play went on, a terrible fusilade of wicked ground balls that baffled any attempt to field them. Then, with nineteen runs scored, Natchez appeared to tire. Sam caught a foul fly, and Tay Tay, by obtruding his wide person to the path of infield hits, managed to stop them, and throw out the runners.

Score—Natchez, 21; Madden Hill, 3.

Daddy’s boys slouched and limped wearily in.

“Wot kind of a ball’s that?” panted Tom, as he showed his head with a bruise as large as a goose-egg.

“T-t-t-t-ta-ta-tay-tay-tay-tay——” began Mohler, in great excitement, but as he could not finish what he wanted to say no one caught his meaning.

Daddy’s watchful eye had never left that wonderful, infernal little yarn ball. Daddy was crushed under defeat, but his baseball brains still continued to work. He saw Umpire Gale leisurely step into the pitcher’s box, and leisurely pick up the ball and start to make a motion to put it in his pocket.

Suddenly fire flashed all over Daddy.

“Hyar! Don’t hide that ball!” he yelled, in his piercing tenor.

He jumped up quickly, forgetting his crutch, and fell headlong. Lane and Sam got him upright and handed the crutch to him. Daddy began to hobble out to the pitcher’s box.

“Don’t you hide that ball. See! I’ve got my eye on this game. That ball was in play, an’ you can’t use the other.”

Umpire Gale looked sheepish, and his eyes did not meet Daddy’s. Then Bo came trotting up.

“What’s wrong, boss?” he asked.

“Aw, nuthin’. You’re tryin’ to switch balls on me. That’s all. You can’t pull off any stunts on Madden’s Hill.”

“Why, boss, thet ball’s all right. What you hollerin’ about?”

“Sure that ball’s all right,” replied Daddy. “It’s a fine ball. An’ we want a chanst to hit it! See?”

Bo flared up and tried to bluster, but Daddy cut him short.

“Give us our innin’—let us git a whack at that ball, or I’ll run you off Madden’s Hill.”

Bo suddenly looked a little pale and sick.

“Course youse can git a whack at it,” he said, in a weak attempt to be natural and dignified.

Daddy tossed the ball to Harris, and as he hobbled off the field he heard Bo calling out low and cautiously to his players. Then Daddy was certain he had discovered a trick. He called his players around him.

“This game ain’t over yet. It ain’t any more’n begun. I’ll tell you what. Last innin’ Bo’s umpire switched balls on us. That ball was lively. An’ they tried to switch back on me. But nix! We’re goin’ to git a chanst to hit that lively ball, An’ they’re goin’ to git a dose of their own medicine. Now, you dead ones—come back to life! Show me some hittin’ an’ runnin’.”

“Daddy, you mean they run in a trick on us?” demanded Lane, with flashing eyes.

“Funny about Natchez’s strong finishes!” replied Daddy, coolly, as he eyed his angry players.

They let out a roar, and then ran for the bats.

The crowd, quick to sense what was in the air, thronged to the diamond and manifested alarming signs of outbreak.

Sam Wickhart leaped to the plate and brandished his club.

“Sam, let him pitch a couple,” called Daddy from the bench. “Mebbe we’ll git wise then.”

Harris had pitched only twice when the fact became plain that he could not throw this ball with the same speed as the other. The ball was heavier; besides Harris was also growing tired. The next pitch Sam hit far out over the center fielder’s head for a home run. It was a longer hit than any Madden’s Hill boy had ever made. The crowd shrieked its delight. Sam crossed the plate and then fell on the bench beside Daddy.

“Say! that ball nearly knocked the bat out of my hands,” panted Sam. “It made the bat spring!”

“Fellers, don’t wait,” ordered Daddy. “Don’t give the umpire a chanst to roast us now. Slam the first ball!”

The aggressive captain lined the ball at Bo Stranathan. The Natchez shortstop had a fine opportunity to make the catch, but he made an inglorious muff. Tay Tay hurried to bat. Umpire Gale called the first pitch a strike. Tay slammed down his club. “T-t-t-t-to-to-twasn’t over,” he cried. “T-t-t-tay——”

“Shut up,” yelled Daddy. “We want to git this game over today.”

Tay Tay was fat and he was also strong, so that when beef and muscle both went hard against the ball it traveled. It looked as if it were going a mile straight up. All the infielders ran to get under it. They got into a tangle, into which the ball descended. No one caught it, and thereupon the Natchez players began to rail at one another. Bo stormed at them, and they talked back to him. Then when Tom Lindsay hit a little slow grounder into the infield it seemed that a just retribution had overtaken the great Natchez team.

Ordinarily this grounder of Tom’s would have been easy for a novice to field. But this peculiar grounder, after it has hit the ground once, seemed to wake up and feel lively. It lost its leisurely action and began to have celerity. When it reached Dundon it had the strange, jerky speed so characteristic of the grounders that had confused the Madden’s Hill team. Dundon got his hands on the ball and it would not stay in them. When finally he trapped it Tom had crossed first base and another runner had scored. Eddie Curtis cracked another at Bo. The Natchez captain dove for it, made a good stop, bounced after the rolling ball, and then threw to Kelly at first. The ball knocked Kelly’s hands apart as if they had been paper. Jake Thomas batted left handed and he swung hard on a slow pitch and sent the ball far into right field. Runners scored. Jake’s hit was a three-bagger. Then Frank Price hit up an infield fly. Bo yelled for Dundon to take it and Dundon yelled for Harris. They were all afraid to try for it. It dropped safely while Jake ran home.

With the heavy batters up the excitement increased. A continuous scream and incessant rattle of tin cans made it impossible to hear what the umpire called out. But that was not important, for he seldom had a chance to call either ball or strike. Harris had lost his speed and nearly every ball he pitched was hit by the Madden’s Hill boys. Irvine cracked one down between short and third. Bo and Pickens ran for it and collided while the ball jauntily skipped out to left field and, deftly evading Bell, went on and on. Bob reached third. Grace hit another at Dundon, who appeared actually to stop it four times before he could pick it up, and then he was too late. The doughty bow-legged Sam, with his huge black eye, hung over the plate and howled at Muckle. In the din no one heard what he said, but evidently Muck divined it. For he roused to the spirit of a pitcher who would die of shame if he could not fool a one-eyed batter. But Sam swooped down and upon the first ball and drove it back toward the pitcher. Muck could not get out of the way and the ball made his leg buckle under him. Then that hit glanced off to begin a marvelous exhibition of high and erratic bounding about the infield.

Daddy hunched over his soap-box bench and hugged himself. He was farsighted and he saw victory. Again he watched the queer antics of that little yarn ball, but now with different feelings. Every hit seemed to lift him to the skies. He kept silent, though every time the ball fooled a Natchez player Daddy wanted to yell. And when it started for Bo and, as if in revenge, bounded wickeder at every bounce to skip off the grass and make Bo look ridiculous, then Daddy experienced the happiest moments of his baseball career. Every time a tally crossed the plate he would chalk it down on his soap box.

But when Madden’s Hill scored the nineteenth run without a player being put out, then Daddy lost count. He gave himself up to revel. He sat motionless and silent; nevertheless his whole internal being was in the state of wild tumult. It was as if he was being rewarded in joy for all the misery he had suffered because he was a cripple. He could never play baseball, but he had baseball brains. He had been too wise for the tricky Stranathan. He was the coach and manager and general of the great Madden’s Hill nine. If ever he had to lie awake at night again he would not mourn over his lameness; he would have something to think about. To him would be given the glory of beating the invincible Natchez team. So Daddy felt the last bitterness leave him. And he watched that strange little yarn ball, with its wonderful skips and darts and curves. The longer the game progressed and the wearier Harris grew, the harder the Madden’s Hill boys batted the ball and the crazier it bounced at Bo and his sick players. Finally, Tay Tay Mohler hit a teasing grounder down to Bo.

Then it was as if the ball, realizing a climax, made ready for a final spurt. When Bo reached for the ball it was somewhere else. Dundon could not locate it. And Kelly, rushing down to the chase, fell all over himself and his teammates trying to grasp the illusive ball, and all the time Tay Tay was running. He never stopped. But as he was heavy and fat he did not make fast time on the bases. Frantically the outfielders ran in to head off the bouncing ball, and when they had succeeded Tay Tay had performed the remarkable feat of making a home run on a ball batted into the infield.

That broke Natchez’s spirit. They quit. They hurried for their bats. Only Bo remained behind a moment to try to get his yarn ball. But Sam had pounced upon it and given it safely to Daddy. Bo made one sullen demand for it.

“Funny about them fast finishes of yours!” said Daddy scornfully. “Say! the ball’s our’n. The winnin’ team gits the ball. Go home an’ look up the rules of the game!”

Bo slouched off the field to a shrill hooting and tin canning.

“Fellers, what was the score?” asked Daddy.

Nobody knew the exact number of runs made by Madden’s Hill.

“Gimme a knife, somebody,” said the manager.

When it had been produced Daddy laid down the yarn ball and cut into it. The blade entered readily for a inch and then stopped. Daddy cut all around the ball, and removed the cover of tightly wrapped yarn. Inside was a solid ball of India rubber.

“Say! it ain’t so funny now—how that ball bounced,” remarked Daddy.

“Wot you think of that!” exclaimed Tom, feeling the lump on his head.

“T-t-t-t-t-t-t-ta-tr——” began Tay Tay Mohler.

“Say it! Say it!” interrupted Daddy.

“Ta-ta-ta-tr-trimmed them wa-wa-wa-wa-with their own b-b-b-b-b-ba-ba-ball,” finished Tay.

DGG fur DMdJ

Jack London ~ The Unexpected

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Jericho8

It is a simple matter to see the obvious, to do the expected.  The tendency of the individual life is to be static rather than dynamic, and this tendency is made into a propulsion by civilization, where the obvious only is seen, and the unexpected rarely happens.  When the unexpected does happen, however, and when it is of sufficiently grave import, the unfit perish.  They do not see what is not obvious, are unable to do the unexpected, are incapable of adjusting their well-grooved lives to other and strange grooves.  In short, when they come to the end of their own groove, they die.

On the other hand, there are those that make toward survival, the fit individuals who escape from the rule of the obvious and the expected and adjust their lives to no matter what strange grooves they may stray into, or into which they may be forced.  Such an individual was Edith Whittlesey.  She was born in a rural district of England, where life proceeds by rule of thumb and the unexpected is so very unexpected that when it happens it is looked upon as an immorality.  She went into service early, and while yet a young woman, by rule-of-thumb progression, she became a lady’s maid.

The effect of civilization is to impose human law upon environment until it becomes machine-like in its regularity.  The objectionable is eliminated, the inevitable is foreseen.  One is not even made wet by the rain nor cold by the frost; while death, instead of stalking about grewsome and accidental, becomes a prearranged pageant, moving along a well-oiled groove to the family vault, where the hinges are kept from rusting and the dust from the air is swept continually away.

Such was the environment of Edith Whittlesey.  Nothing happened.  It could scarcely be called a happening, when, at the age of twenty-five, she accompanied her mistress on a bit of travel to the United States.  The groove merely changed its direction.  It was still the same groove and well oiled.  It was a groove that bridged the Atlantic with uneventfulness, so that the ship was not a ship in the midst of the sea, but a capacious, many-corridored hotel that moved swiftly and placidly, crushing the waves into submission with its colossal bulk until the sea was a mill-pond, monotonous with quietude.  And at the other side the groove continued on over the land—a well-disposed, respectable groove that supplied hotels at every stopping-place, and hotels on wheels between the stopping-places.

In Chicago, while her mistress saw one side of social life, Edith Whittlesey saw another side; and when she left her lady’s service and became Edith Nelson, she betrayed, perhaps faintly, her ability to grapple with the unexpected and to master it.  Hans Nelson, immigrant, Swede by birth and carpenter by occupation, had in him that Teutonic unrest that drives the race ever westward on its great adventure.  He was a large-muscled, stolid sort of a man, in whom little imagination was coupled with immense initiative, and who possessed, withal, loyalty and affection as sturdy as his own strength.

“When I have worked hard and saved me some money, I will go to Colorado,” he had told Edith on the day after their wedding.  A year later they were in Colorado, where Hans Nelson saw his first mining and caught the mining-fever himself.  His prospecting led him through the Dakotas, Idaho, and eastern Oregon, and on into the mountains of British Columbia.  In camp and on trail, Edith Nelson was always with him, sharing his luck, his hardship, and his toil.  The short step of the house-reared woman she exchanged for the long stride of the mountaineer.  She learned to look upon danger clear-eyed and with understanding, losing forever that panic fear which is bred of ignorance and which afflicts the city-reared, making them as silly as silly horses, so that they await fate in frozen horror instead of grappling with it, or stampede in blind self-destroying terror which clutters the way with their crushed carcasses.

Edith Nelson met the unexpected at every turn of the trail, and she trained her vision so that she saw in the landscape, not the obvious, but the concealed.  She, who had never cooked in her life, learned to make bread without the mediation of hops, yeast, or baking-powder, and to bake bread, top and bottom, in a frying-pan before an open fire.  And when the last cup of flour was gone and the last rind of bacon, she was able to rise to the occasion, and of moccasins and the softer-tanned bits of leather in the outfit to make a grub-stake substitute that somehow held a man’s soul in his body and enabled him to stagger on.  She learned to pack a horse as well as a man,—a task to break the heart and the pride of any city-dweller, and she knew how to throw the hitch best suited for any particular kind of pack.  Also, she could build a fire of wet wood in a downpour of rain and not lose her temper.  In short, in all its guises she mastered the unexpected.  But the Great Unexpected was yet to come into her life and put its test upon her.

The gold-seeking tide was flooding northward into Alaska, and it was inevitable that Hans Nelson and his wife should he caught up by the stream and swept toward the Klondike.  The fall of 1897 found them at Dyea, but without the money to carry an outfit across Chilcoot Pass and float it down to Dawson.  So Hans Nelson worked at his trade that winter and helped rear the mushroom outfitting-town of Skaguay.

He was on the edge of things, and throughout the winter he heard all Alaska calling to him.  Latuya Bay called loudest, so that the summer of 1898 found him and his wife threading the mazes of the broken coast-line in seventy-foot Siwash canoes.  With them were Indians, also three other men.  The Indians landed them and their supplies in a lonely bight of land a hundred miles or so beyond Latuya Bay, and returned to Skaguay; but the three other men remained, for they were members of the organized party.  Each had put an equal share of capital into the outfitting, and the profits were to be divided equally.  In that Edith Nelson undertook to cook for the outfit, a man’s share was to be her portion.

First, spruce trees were cut down and a three-room cabin constructed.  To keep this cabin was Edith Nelson’s task.  The task of the men was to search for gold, which they did; and to find gold, which they likewise did.  It was not a startling find, merely a low-pay placer where long hours of severe toil earned each man between fifteen and twenty dollars a day.  The brief Alaskan summer protracted itself beyond its usual length, and they took advantage of the opportunity, delaying their return to Skaguay to the last moment.  And then it was too late.  Arrangements had been made to accompany the several dozen local Indians on their fall trading trip down the coast.  The Siwashes had waited on the white people until the eleventh hour, and then departed.  There was no course left the party but to wait for chance transportation.  In the meantime the claim was cleaned up and firewood stocked in.

The Indian summer had dreamed on and on, and then, suddenly, with the sharpness of bugles, winter came.  It came in a single night, and the miners awoke to howling wind, driving snow, and freezing water.  Storm followed storm, and between the storms there was the silence, broken only by the boom of the surf on the desolate shore, where the salt spray rimmed the beach with frozen white.

All went well in the cabin.  Their gold-dust had weighed up something like eight thousand dollars, and they could not but be contented.  The men made snowshoes, hunted fresh meat for the larder, and in the long evenings played endless games of whist and pedro.  Now that the mining had ceased, Edith Nelson turned over the fire-building and the dish-washing to the men, while she darned their socks and mended their clothes.

There was no grumbling, no bickering, nor petty quarrelling in the little cabin, and they often congratulated one another on the general happiness of the party.  Hans Nelson was stolid and easy-going, while Edith had long before won his unbounded admiration by her capacity for getting on with people.  Harkey, a long, lank Texan, was unusually friendly for one with a saturnine disposition, and, as long as his theory that gold grew was not challenged, was quite companionable.  The fourth member of the party, Michael Dennin, contributed his Irish wit to the gayety of the cabin.  He was a large, powerful man, prone to sudden rushes of anger over little things, and of unfailing good-humor under the stress and strain of big things.  The fifth and last member, Dutchy, was the willing butt of the party.  He even went out of his way to raise a laugh at his own expense in order to keep things cheerful.  His deliberate aim in life seemed to be that of a maker of laughter.  No serious quarrel had ever vexed the serenity of the party; and, now that each had sixteen hundred dollars to show for a short summer’s work, there reigned the well-fed, contented spirit of prosperity.

And then the unexpected happened.  They had just sat down to the breakfast table.  Though it was already eight o’clock (late breakfasts had followed naturally upon cessation of the steady work at mining) a candle in the neck of a bottle lighted the meal.  Edith and Hans sat at each end of the table.  On one side, with their backs to the door, sat Harkey and Dutchy.  The place on the other side was vacant.  Dennin had not yet come in.

Hans Nelson looked at the empty chair, shook his head slowly, and, with a ponderous attempt at humor, said:  “Always is he first at the grub.  It is very strange.  Maybe he is sick.”

“Where is Michael?” Edith asked.

“Got up a little ahead of us and went outside,” Harkey answered.

Dutchy’s face beamed mischievously.  He pretended knowledge of Dennin’s absence, and affected a mysterious air, while they clamored for information.  Edith, after a peep into the men’s bunk-room, returned to the table.  Hans looked at her, and she shook her head.

“He was never late at meal-time before,” she remarked.

“I cannot understand,” said Hans.  “Always has he the great appetite like the horse.”

“It is too bad,” Dutchy said, with a sad shake of his head.

They were beginning to make merry over their comrade’s absence.

“It is a great pity!” Dutchy volunteered.

“What?” they demanded in chorus.

“Poor Michael,” was the mournful reply.

“Well, what’s wrong with Michael?” Harkey asked.

“He is not hungry no more,” wailed Dutchy.  “He has lost der appetite.  He do not like der grub.”

“Not from the way he pitches into it up to his ears,” remarked Harkey.

“He does dot shust to be politeful to Mrs. Nelson,” was Dutchy’s quick retort.  “I know, I know, and it is too pad.  Why is he not here?  Pecause he haf gone out.  Why haf he gone out?  For der defelopment of der appetite.  How does he defelop der appetite?  He walks barefoots in der snow.  Ach! don’t I know?  It is der way der rich peoples chases after der appetite when it is no more and is running away.  Michael haf sixteen hundred dollars.  He is rich peoples.  He haf no appetite.  Derefore, pecause, he is chasing der appetite.  Shust you open der door und you will see his barefoots in der snow.  No, you will not see der appetite.  Dot is shust his trouble.  When he sees der appetite he will catch it und come to preak-fast.”

They burst into loud laughter at Dutchy’s nonsense.  The sound had scarcely died away when the door opened and Dennin came in.  All turned to look at him.  He was carrying a shot-gun.  Even as they looked, he lifted it to his shoulder and fired twice.  At the first shot Dutchy sank upon the table, overturning his mug of coffee, his yellow mop of hair dabbling in his plate of mush.  His forehead, which pressed upon the near edge of the plate, tilted the plate up against his hair at an angle of forty-five degrees.  Harkey was in the air, in his spring to his feet, at the second shot, and he pitched face down upon the floor, his “My God!” gurgling and dying in his throat.

It was the unexpected.  Hans and Edith were stunned.  They sat at the table with bodies tense, their eyes fixed in a fascinated gaze upon the murderer.  Dimly they saw him through the smoke of the powder, and in the silence nothing was to be heard save the drip-drip of Dutchy’s spilled coffee on the floor.  Dennin threw open the breech of the shot-gun, ejecting the empty shells.  Holding the gun with one hand, he reached with the other into his pocket for fresh shells.

He was thrusting the shells into the gun when Edith Nelson was aroused to action.  It was patent that he intended to kill Hans and her.  For a space of possibly three seconds of time she had been dazed and paralysed by the horrible and inconceivable form in which the unexpected had made its appearance.  Then she rose to it and grappled with it. She grappled with it concretely, making a cat-like leap for the murderer and gripping his neck-cloth with both her hands.  The impact of her body sent him stumbling backward several steps.  He tried to shake her loose and still retain his hold on the gun.  This was awkward, for her firm-fleshed body had become a cat’s.  She threw herself to one side, and with her grip at his throat nearly jerked him to the floor.  He straightened himself and whirled swiftly.  Still faithful to her hold, her body followed the circle of his whirl so that her feet left the floor, and she swung through the air fastened to his throat by her hands.  The whirl culminated in a collision with a chair, and the man and woman crashed to the floor in a wild struggling fall that extended itself across half the length of the room.

Hans Nelson was half a second behind his wife in rising to the unexpected.  His nerve processed and mental processes were slower than hers.  His was the grosser organism, and it had taken him half a second longer to perceive, and determine, and proceed to do.  She had already flown at Dennin and gripped his throat, when Hans sprang to his feet.  But her coolness was not his.  He was in a blind fury, a Berserker rage.  At the instant he sprang from his chair his mouth opened and there issued forth a sound that was half roar, half bellow.  The whirl of the two bodies had already started, and still roaring, or bellowing, he pursued this whirl down the room, overtaking it when it fell to the floor.

Hans hurled himself upon the prostrate man, striking madly with his fists.  They were sledge-like blows, and when Edith felt Dennin’s body relax she loosed her grip and rolled clear.  She lay on the floor, panting and watching.  The fury of blows continued to rain down.  Dennin did not seem to mind the blows.  He did not even move.  Then it dawned upon her that he was unconscious.  She cried out to Hans to stop.  She cried out again.  But he paid no heed to her voice.  She caught him by the arm, but her clinging to it merely impeded his effort.

It was no reasoned impulse that stirred her to do what she then did.  Nor was it a sense of pity, nor obedience to the “Thou shalt not” of religion.  Rather was it some sense of law, an ethic of her race and early environment, that compelled her to interpose her body between her husband and the helpless murderer.  It was not until Hans knew he was striking his wife that he ceased.  He allowed himself to be shoved away by her in much the same way that a ferocious but obedient dog allows itself to be shoved away by its master.  The analogy went even farther.  Deep in his throat, in an animal-like way, Hans’s rage still rumbled, and several times he made as though to spring back upon his prey and was only prevented by the woman’s swiftly interposed body.

Back and farther back Edith shoved her husband.  She had never seen him in such a condition, and she was more frightened of him than she had been of Dennin in the thick of the struggle.  She could not believe that this raging beast was her Hans, and with a shock she became suddenly aware of a shrinking, instinctive fear that he might snap her hand in his teeth like any wild animal.  For some seconds, unwilling to hurt her, yet dogged in his desire to return to the attack, Hans dodged back and forth.  But she resolutely dodged with him, until the first glimmerings of reason returned and he gave over.

Both crawled to their feet.  Hans staggered back against the wall, where he leaned, his face working, in his throat the deep and continuous rumble that died away with the seconds and at last ceased.  The time for the reaction had come.  Edith stood in the middle of the floor, wringing her hands, panting and gasping, her whole body trembling violently.

Hans looked at nothing, but Edith’s eyes wandered wildly from detail to detail of what had taken place.  Dennin lay without movement.  The overturned chair, hurled onward in the mad whirl, lay near him.  Partly under him lay the shot-gun, still broken open at the breech.  Spilling out of his right hand were the two cartridges which he had failed to put into the gun and which he had clutched until consciousness left him.  Harkey lay on the floor, face downward, where he had fallen; while Dutchy rested forward on the table, his yellow mop of hair buried in his mush-plate, the plate itself still tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees.  This tilted plate fascinated her.  Why did it not fall down?  It was ridiculous.  It was not in the nature of things for a mush-plate to up-end itself on the table, even if a man or so had been killed.

She glanced back at Dennin, but her eyes returned to the tilted plate.  It was so ridiculous!  She felt a hysterical impulse to laugh.  Then she noticed the silence, and forgot the plate in a desire for something to happen.  The monotonous drip of the coffee from the table to the floor merely emphasized the silence.  Why did not Hans do something? say something?  She looked at him and was about to speak, when she discovered that her tongue refused its wonted duty.  There was a peculiar ache in her throat, and her mouth was dry and furry.  She could only look at Hans, who, in turn, looked at her.

Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp, metallic clang.  She screamed, jerking her eyes back to the table.  The plate had fallen down.  Hans sighed as though awakening from sleep.  The clang of the plate had aroused them to life in a new world.  The cabin epitomized the new world in which they must thenceforth live and move.  The old cabin was gone forever.  The horizon of life was totally new and unfamiliar.  The unexpected had swept its wizardry over the face of things, changing the perspective, juggling values, and shuffling the real and the unreal into perplexing confusion.

“My God, Hans!” was Edith’s first speech.

He did not answer, but stared at her with horror.  Slowly his eyes wandered over the room, for the first time taking in its details.  Then he put on his cap and started for the door.

“Where are you going?” Edith demanded, in an agony of apprehension.

His hand was on the door-knob, and he half turned as he answered, “To dig some graves.”

“Don’t leave me, Hans, with—” her eyes swept the room—“with this.”

“The graves must be dug sometime,” he said.

“But you do not know how many,” she objected desperately.  She noted his indecision, and added, “Besides, I’ll go with you and help.”

Hans stepped back to the table and mechanically snuffed the candle.  Then between them they made the examination.  Both Harkey and Dutchy were dead—frightfully dead, because of the close range of the shot-gun.  Hans refused to go near Dennin, and Edith was forced to conduct this portion of the investigation by herself.

“He isn’t dead,” she called to Hans.

He walked over and looked down at the murderer.

“What did you say?” Edith demanded, having caught the rumble of inarticulate speech in her husband’s throat.

“I said it was a damn shame that he isn’t dead,” came the reply.

Edith was bending over the body.

“Leave him alone,” Hans commanded harshly, in a strange voice.

She looked at him in sudden alarm.  He had picked up the shot-gun dropped by Dennin and was thrusting in the shells.

“What are you going to do?” she cried, rising swiftly from her bending position.

Hans did not answer, but she saw the shot-gun going to his shoulder.  She grasped the muzzle with her hand and threw it up.

“Leave me alone!” he cried hoarsely.

He tried to jerk the weapon away from her, but she came in closer and clung to him.

“Hans!  Hans!  Wake up!” she cried.  “Don’t be crazy!”

“He killed Dutchy and Harkey!” was her husband’s reply; “and I am going to kill him.”

“But that is wrong,” she objected.  “There is the law.”

He sneered his incredulity of the law’s potency in such a region, but he merely iterated, dispassionately, doggedly, “He killed Dutchy and Harkey.”

Long she argued it with him, but the argument was one-sided, for he contented himself with repeating again and again, “He killed Dutchy and Harkey.”  But she could not escape from her childhood training nor from the blood that was in her.  The heritage of law was hers, and right conduct, to her, was the fulfilment of the law.  She could see no other righteous course to pursue.  Hans’s taking the law in his own hands was no more justifiable than Dennin’s deed.  Two wrongs did not make a right, she contended, and there was only one way to punish Dennin, and that was the legal way arranged by society.  At last Hans gave in to her.

“All right,” he said.  “Have it your own way.  And to-morrow or next day look to see him kill you and me.”

She shook her head and held out her hand for the shot-gun.  He started to hand it to her, then hesitated.

“Better let me shoot him,” he pleaded.

Again she shook her head, and again he started to pass her the gun, when the door opened, and an Indian, without knocking, came in.  A blast of wind and flurry of snow came in with him.  They turned and faced him, Hans still holding the shot-gun.  The intruder took in the scene without a quiver.  His eyes embraced the dead and wounded in a sweeping glance.  No surprise showed in his face, not even curiosity.  Harkey lay at his feet, but he took no notice of him.  So far as he was concerned, Harkey’s body did not exist.

“Much wind,” the Indian remarked by way of salutation.  “All well?  Very well?”

Hans, still grasping the gun, felt sure that the Indian attributed to him the mangled corpses.  He glanced appealingly at his wife.

“Good morning, Negook,” she said, her voice betraying her effort.  “No, not very well.  Much trouble.”

“Good-by, I go now, much hurry,” the Indian said, and without semblance of haste, with great deliberation stepping clear of a red pool on the floor, he opened the door and went out.

The man and woman looked at each other.

“He thinks we did it,” Hans gasped, “that I did it.”

Edith was silent for a space.  Then she said, briefly, in a businesslike way:

“Never mind what he thinks.  That will come after.  At present we have two graves to dig.  But first of all, we’ve got to tie up Dennin so he can’t escape.”

Hans refused to touch Dennin, but Edith lashed him securely, hand and foot.  Then she and Hans went out into the snow.  The ground was frozen.  It was impervious to a blow of the pick.  They first gathered wood, then scraped the snow away and on the frozen surface built a fire.  When the fire had burned for an hour, several inches of dirt had thawed.  This they shovelled out, and then built a fresh fire.  Their descent into the earth progressed at the rate of two or three inches an hour.

It was hard and bitter work.  The flurrying snow did not permit the fire to burn any too well, while the wind cut through their clothes and chilled their bodies.  They held but little conversation.  The wind interfered with speech.  Beyond wondering at what could have been Dennin’s motive, they remained silent, oppressed by the horror of the tragedy.  At one o’clock, looking toward the cabin, Hans announced that he was hungry.

“No, not now, Hans,” Edith answered.  “I couldn’t go back alone into that cabin the way it is, and cook a meal.”

At two o’clock Hans volunteered to go with her; but she held him to his work, and four o’clock found the two graves completed.  They were shallow, not more than two feet deep, but they would serve the purpose.  Night had fallen.  Hans got the sled, and the two dead men were dragged through the darkness and storm to their frozen sepulchre.  The funeral procession was anything but a pageant.  The sled sank deep into the drifted snow and pulled hard.  The man and the woman had eaten nothing since the previous day, and were weak from hunger and exhaustion.  They had not the strength to resist the wind, and at times its buffets hurled them off their feet.  On several occasions the sled was overturned, and they were compelled to reload it with its sombre freight.  The last hundred feet to the graves was up a steep slope, and this they took on all fours, like sled-dogs, making legs of their arms and thrusting their hands into the snow.  Even so, they were twice dragged backward by the weight of the sled, and slid and fell down the hill, the living and the dead, the haul-ropes and the sled, in ghastly entanglement.

“To-morrow I will put up head-boards with their names,” Hans said, when the graves were filled in.

Edith was sobbing.  A few broken sentences had been all she was capable of in the way of a funeral service, and now her husband was compelled to half-carry her back to the cabin.

Dennin was conscious.  He had rolled over and over on the floor in vain efforts to free himself.  He watched Hans and Edith with glittering eyes, but made no attempt to speak.  Hans still refused to touch the murderer, and sullenly watched Edith drag him across the floor to the men’s bunk-room.  But try as she would, she could not lift him from the floor into his bunk.

“Better let me shoot him, and we’ll have no more trouble,” Hans said in final appeal.

Edith shook her head and bent again to her task.  To her surprise the body rose easily, and she knew Hans had relented and was helping her.  Then came the cleansing of the kitchen.  But the floor still shrieked the tragedy, until Hans planed the surface of the stained wood away and with the shavings made a fire in the stove.

The days came and went.  There was much of darkness and silence, broken only by the storms and the thunder on the beach of the freezing surf.  Hans was obedient to Edith’s slightest order.  All his splendid initiative had vanished.  She had elected to deal with Dennin in her way, and so he left the whole matter in her hands.

The murderer was a constant menace.  At all times there was the chance that he might free himself from his bonds, and they were compelled to guard him day and night.  The man or the woman sat always beside him, holding the loaded shot-gun.  At first, Edith tried eight-hour watches, but the continuous strain was too great, and afterwards she and Hans relieved each other every four hours.  As they had to sleep, and as the watches extended through the night, their whole waking time was expended in guarding Dennin.  They had barely time left over for the preparation of meals and the getting of firewood.

Since Negook’s inopportune visit, the Indians had avoided the cabin.  Edith sent Hans to their cabins to get them to take Dennin down the coast in a canoe to the nearest white settlement or trading post, but the errand was fruitless.  Then Edith went herself and interviewed Negook.  He was head man of the little village, keenly aware of his responsibility, and he elucidated his policy thoroughly in few words.

“It is white man’s trouble,” he said, “not Siwash trouble.  My people help you, then will it be Siwash trouble too.  When white man’s trouble and Siwash trouble come together and make a trouble, it is a great trouble, beyond understanding and without end.  Trouble no good.  My people do no wrong.  What for they help you and have trouble?”

So Edith Nelson went back to the terrible cabin with its endless alternating four-hour watches.  Sometimes, when it was her turn and she sat by the prisoner, the loaded shot-gun in her lap, her eyes would close and she would doze.  Always she aroused with a start, snatching up the gun and swiftly looking at him.  These were distinct nervous shocks, and their effect was not good on her.  Such was her fear of the man, that even though she were wide awake, if he moved under the bedclothes she could not repress the start and the quick reach for the gun.

She was preparing herself for a nervous break-down, and she knew it.  First came a fluttering of the eyeballs, so that she was compelled to close her eyes for relief.  A little later the eyelids were afflicted by a nervous twitching that she could not control.  To add to the strain, she could not forget the tragedy.  She remained as close to the horror as on the first morning when the unexpected stalked into the cabin and took possession.  In her daily ministrations upon the prisoner she was forced to grit her teeth and steel herself, body and spirit.

Hans was affected differently.  He became obsessed by the idea that it was his duty to kill Dennin; and whenever he waited upon the bound man or watched by him, Edith was troubled by the fear that Hans would add another red entry to the cabin’s record.  Always he cursed Dennin savagely and handled him roughly.  Hans tried to conceal his homicidal mania, and he would say to his wife:  “By and by you will want me to kill him, and then I will not kill him.  It would make me sick.”  But more than once, stealing into the room, when it was her watch off, she would catch the two men glaring ferociously at each other, wild animals the pair of them, in Hans’s face the lust to kill, in Dennin’s the fierceness and savagery of the cornered rat.  “Hans!” she would cry, “wake up!” and he would come to a recollection of himself, startled and shamefaced and unrepentant.

So Hans became another factor in the problem the unexpected had given Edith Nelson to solve.  At first it had been merely a question of right conduct in dealing with Dennin, and right conduct, as she conceived it, lay in keeping him a prisoner until he could be turned over for trial before a proper tribunal.  But now entered Hans, and she saw that his sanity and his salvation were involved.  Nor was she long in discovering that her own strength and endurance had become part of the problem.  She was breaking down under the strain.  Her left arm had developed involuntary jerkings and twitchings.  She spilled her food from her spoon, and could place no reliance in her afflicted arm.  She judged it to be a form of St. Vitus’s dance, and she feared the extent to which its ravages might go.  What if she broke down?  And the vision she had of the possible future, when the cabin might contain only Dennin and Hans, was an added horror.

After the third day, Dennin had begun to talk.  His first question had been, “What are you going to do with me?” And this question he repeated daily and many times a day.  And always Edith replied that he would assuredly be dealt with according to law.  In turn, she put a daily question to him,—“Why did you do it?”  To this he never replied.  Also, he received the question with out-bursts of anger, raging and straining at the rawhide that bound him and threatening her with what he would do when he got loose, which he said he was sure to do sooner or later.  At such times she cocked both triggers of the gun, prepared to meet him with leaden death if he should burst loose, herself trembling and palpitating and dizzy from the tension and shock.

But in time Dennin grew more tractable.  It seemed to her that he was growing weary of his unchanging recumbent position.  He began to beg and plead to be released.  He made wild promises.  He would do them no harm.  He would himself go down the coast and give himself up to the officers of the law.  He would give them his share of the gold.  He would go away into the heart of the wilderness, and never again appear in civilization.  He would take his own life if she would only free him.  His pleadings usually culminated in involuntary raving, until it seemed to her that he was passing into a fit; but always she shook her head and denied him the freedom for which he worked himself into a passion.

But the weeks went by, and he continued to grow more tractable.  And through it all the weariness was asserting itself more and more.  “I am so tired, so tired,” he would murmur, rolling his head back and forth on the pillow like a peevish child.  At a little later period he began to make impassioned pleas for death, to beg her to kill him, to beg Hans to put him our of his misery so that he might at least rest comfortably.

The situation was fast becoming impossible.  Edith’s nervousness was increasing, and she knew her break-down might come any time.  She could not even get her proper rest, for she was haunted by the fear that Hans would yield to his mania and kill Dennin while she slept.  Though January had already come, months would have to elapse before any trading schooner was even likely to put into the bay.  Also, they had not expected to winter in the cabin, and the food was running low; nor could Hans add to the supply by hunting.  They were chained to the cabin by the necessity of guarding their prisoner.

Something must be done, and she knew it.  She forced herself to go back into a reconsideration of the problem.  She could not shake off the legacy of her race, the law that was of her blood and that had been trained into her.  She knew that whatever she did she must do according to the law, and in the long hours of watching, the shot-gun on her knees, the murderer restless beside her and the storms thundering without, she made original sociological researches and worked out for herself the evolution of the law.  It came to her that the law was nothing more than the judgment and the will of any group of people.  It mattered not how large was the group of people.  There were little groups, she reasoned, like Switzerland, and there were big groups like the United States.  Also, she reasoned, it did not matter how small was the group of people.  There might be only ten thousand people in a country, yet their collective judgment and will would be the law of that country.  Why, then, could not one thousand people constitute such a group? she asked herself.  And if one thousand, why not one hundred?  Why not fifty?  Why not five?  Why not—two?

She was frightened at her own conclusion, and she talked it over with Hans.  At first he could not comprehend, and then, when he did, he added convincing evidence.  He spoke of miners’ meetings, where all the men of a locality came together and made the law and executed the law.  There might be only ten or fifteen men altogether, he said, but the will of the majority became the law for the whole ten or fifteen, and whoever violated that will was punished.

Edith saw her way clear at last.  Dennin must hang.  Hans agreed with her.  Between them they constituted the majority of this particular group.  It was the group-will that Dennin should be hanged.  In the execution of this will Edith strove earnestly to observe the customary forms, but the group was so small that Hans and she had to serve as witnesses, as jury, and as judges—also as executioners.  She formally charged Michael Dennin with the murder of Dutchy and Harkey, and the prisoner lay in his bunk and listened to the testimony, first of Hans, and then of Edith.  He refused to plead guilty or not guilty, and remained silent when she asked him if he had anything to say in his own defence.  She and Hans, without leaving their seats, brought in the jury’s verdict of guilty.  Then, as judge, she imposed the sentence.  Her voice shook, her eyelids twitched, her left arm jerked, but she carried it out.

“Michael Dennin, in three days’ time you are to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.”

Such was the sentence.  The man breathed an unconscious sigh of relief, then laughed defiantly, and said, “Thin I’m thinkin’ the damn bunk won’t be achin’ me back anny more, an’ that’s a consolation.”

With the passing of the sentence a feeling of relief seemed to communicate itself to all of them.  Especially was it noticeable in Dennin.  All sullenness and defiance disappeared, and he talked sociably with his captors, and even with flashes of his old-time wit.  Also, he found great satisfaction in Edith’s reading to him from the Bible.  She read from the New Testament, and he took keen interest in the prodigal son and the thief on the cross.

On the day preceding that set for the execution, when Edith asked her usual question, “Why did you do it?” Dennin answered, “’Tis very simple.  I was thinkin’—”

But she hushed him abruptly, asked him to wait, and hurried to Hans’s bedside.  It was his watch off, and he came out of his sleep, rubbing his eyes and grumbling.

“Go,” she told him, “and bring up Negook and one other Indian.  Michael’s going to confess.  Make them come.  Take the rifle along and bring them up at the point of it if you have to.”

Half an hour later Negook and his uncle, Hadikwan, were ushered into the death chamber.  They came unwillingly, Hans with his rifle herding them along.

“Negook,” Edith said, “there is to be no trouble for you and your people.  Only is it for you to sit and do nothing but listen and understand.”

Thus did Michael Dennin, under sentence of death, make public confession of his crime.  As he talked, Edith wrote his story down, while the Indians listened, and Hans guarded the door for fear the witnesses might bolt.

He had not been home to the old country for fifteen years, Dennin explained, and it had always been his intention to return with plenty of money and make his old mother comfortable for the rest of her days.

“An’ how was I to be doin’ it on sixteen hundred?” he demanded.  “What I was after wantin’ was all the goold, the whole eight thousan’.  Thin I cud go back in style.  What ud be aisier, thinks I to myself, than to kill all iv yez, report it at Skaguay for an Indian-killin’, an’ thin pull out for Ireland?  An’ so I started in to kill all iv yez, but, as Harkey was fond of sayin’, I cut out too large a chunk an’ fell down on the swallowin’ iv it.  An’ that’s me confession.  I did me duty to the devil, an’ now, God willin’, I’ll do me duty to God.”

“Negook and Hadikwan, you have heard the white man’s words,” Edith said to the Indians.  “His words are here on this paper, and it is for you to make a sign, thus, on the paper, so that white men to come after will know that you have heard.”

The two Siwashes put crosses opposite their signatures, received a summons to appear on the morrow with all their tribe for a further witnessing of things, and were allowed to go.

Dennin’s hands were released long enough for him to sign the document.  Then a silence fell in the room.  Hans was restless, and Edith felt uncomfortable.  Dennin lay on his back, staring straight up at the moss-chinked roof.

“An’ now I’ll do me duty to God,” he murmured.  He turned his head toward Edith.  “Read to me,” he said, “from the book;” then added, with a glint of playfulness, “Mayhap ’twill help me to forget the bunk.”

The day of the execution broke clear and cold.  The thermometer was down to twenty-five below zero, and a chill wind was blowing which drove the frost through clothes and flesh to the bones.  For the first time in many weeks Dennin stood upon his feet.  His muscles had remained inactive so long, and he was so out of practice in maintaining an erect position, that he could scarcely stand.

He reeled back and forth, staggered, and clutched hold of Edith with his bound hands for support.

“Sure, an’ it’s dizzy I am,” he laughed weakly.

A moment later he said, “An’ it’s glad I am that it’s over with.  That damn bunk would iv been the death iv me, I know.”

When Edith put his fur cap on his head and proceeded to pull the flaps down over his ears, he laughed and said:

“What are you doin’ that for?”

“It’s freezing cold outside,” she answered.

“An’ in tin minutes’ time what’ll matter a frozen ear or so to poor Michael Dennin?” he asked.

She had nerved herself for the last culminating ordeal, and his remark was like a blow to her self-possession.  So far, everything had seemed phantom-like, as in a dream, but the brutal truth of what he had said shocked her eyes wide open to the reality of what was taking place.  Nor was her distress unnoticed by the Irishman.

“I’m sorry to be troublin’ you with me foolish spache,” he said regretfully.  “I mint nothin’ by it.  ’Tis a great day for Michael Dennin, an’ he’s as gay as a lark.”

He broke out in a merry whistle, which quickly became lugubrious and ceased.

“I’m wishin’ there was a priest,” he said wistfully; then added swiftly, “But Michael Dennin’s too old a campaigner to miss the luxuries when he hits the trail.”

He was so very weak and unused to walking that when the door opened and he passed outside, the wind nearly carried him off his feet.  Edith and Hans walked on either side of him and supported him, the while he cracked jokes and tried to keep them cheerful, breaking off, once, long enough to arrange the forwarding of his share of the gold to his mother in Ireland.

They climbed a slight hill and came out into an open space among the trees.  Here, circled solemnly about a barrel that stood on end in the snow, were Negook and Hadikwan, and all the Siwashes down to the babies and the dogs, come to see the way of the white man’s law.  Near by was an open grave which Hans had burned into the frozen earth.

Dennin cast a practical eye over the preparations, noting the grave, the barrel, the thickness of the rope, and the diameter of the limb over which the rope was passed.

“Sure, an’ I couldn’t iv done better meself, Hans, if it’d been for you.”

He laughed loudly at his own sally, but Hans’s face was frozen into a sullen ghastliness that nothing less than the trump of doom could have broken.  Also, Hans was feeling very sick.  He had not realized the enormousness of the task of putting a fellow-man out of the world.  Edith, on the other hand, had realized; but the realization did not make the task any easier.  She was filled with doubt as to whether she could hold herself together long enough to finish it.  She felt incessant impulses to scream, to shriek, to collapse into the snow, to put her hands over her eyes and turn and run blindly away, into the forest, anywhere, away.  It was only by a supreme effort of soul that she was able to keep upright and go on and do what she had to do.  And in the midst of it all she was grateful to Dennin for the way he helped her.

“Lind me a hand,” he said to Hans, with whose assistance he managed to mount the barrel.

He bent over so that Edith could adjust the rope about his neck.  Then he stood upright while Hans drew the rope taut across the overhead branch.

“Michael Dennin, have you anything to say?” Edith asked in a clear voice that shook in spite of her.

Dennin shuffled his feet on the barrel, looked down bashfully like a man making his maiden speech, and cleared his throat.

“I’m glad it’s over with,” he said.  “You’ve treated me like a Christian, an’ I’m thankin’ you hearty for your kindness.”

“Then may God receive you, a repentant sinner,” she said.

“Ay,” he answered, his deep voice as a response to her thin one, “may God receive me, a repentant sinner.”

“Good-by, Michael,” she cried, and her voice sounded desperate.

She threw her weight against the barrel, but it did not overturn.

“Hans!  Quick!  Help me!” she cried faintly.

She could feel her last strength going, and the barrel resisted her.  Hans hurried to her, and the barrel went out from under Michael Dennin.

She turned her back, thrusting her fingers into her ears.  Then she began to laugh, harshly, sharply, metallically; and Hans was shocked as he had not been shocked through the whole tragedy.  Edith Nelson’s break-down had come.  Even in her hysteria she knew it, and she was glad that she had been able to hold up under the strain until everything had been accomplished.  She reeled toward Hans.

“Take me to the cabin, Hans,” she managed to articulate.

“And let me rest,” she added.  “Just let me rest, and rest, and rest.”

With Hans’s arm around her, supporting her weight and directing her helpless steps, she went off across the snow.  But the Indians remained solemnly to watch the working of the white man’s law that compelled a man to dance upon the air.

DGG fur DMdJ