“Ten cents!” Admeh Drake muttered to himself, as he felt the first shock
of the cool breeze on Kearney Street, “what in Jericho can a man do with
a dime, anyway? It won’t even buy a decent bed; it won’t pay the price
of a drink at the Hoffman Bar. Coffee John is full of prunes!”
He walked up the cheap side of the street, looking aimlessly at the shop
windows. “I figure it out about this way,” he thought, “I ain’t going to
earn a million with two nickels; if I make a raise, it’ll be just by
durn luck. So it don’t matter how I begin, nor what I do at all. I just
got to go it blind, and trust to striking a trail that’ll lead to water.
I’ll take up with the first idea I get, and ride for it as far as it
With this decision, he gave up the unnecessary strain of thought and
floated with the human current, letting it carry him where it would. Now
the main Gulf Stream of San Francisco life sets down Kearney and up
Market Street; this is the Rialto, the promenade of cheap actors,
rounders and men about town. It is the route of the amatory ogler and
the grand tour of the demi-monde. Of a Saturday afternoon the course is
given over to human peacocks and popinjays, fresh from the matinees,
airing “the latest” in garb and finery; but there is a late guard abroad
after the theatres close in the evening, when the relieving prospect of
an idle morrow gives a merry license for late hours and convivial
comradeship. Among these raglans and opera-cloaks, Admeh’s rusty brown
jacket was carried along like an empty bottle floating down stream.
He turned into Market Street at Lotta’s Fountain, and had drifted a
block northerly, when the brilliant letters of an electric sign across
the way caught his eye: “Biograph Theatre. Admittance, ten cents.” The
hint was patent and alluring; there seemed to be no gainsaying such a
tip from Fate. Over he went with never a thought as to where he would
spend the night without money, and in two minutes Coffee John’s dime
slid under the window of the little ticket office in front. “Hurry up!”
said the man in the box, “the performance is just about to begin.”
Admeh made his way upstairs, passed through a corridor lined with a
cheap and unnecessary display of dried fishes in a long glass case, and
came to the entrance of a dingy hall, dimly illuminated. At the far end
of the sloping floor was a Lilliputian stage. A scant score of
spectators were huddled together on the front seats and here Admeh took
his place, between two soldiers in khaki uniform and a fat negress.
As he sat down, the curtain rose and two comedians entered, to go
through a dreary specialty turn of the coarsest “knockabout”
description. Admeh yawned. Even the negress was bored, and the two
infantry corporals sneered openly. Next came a plump lady of uncertain
age who carolled a popular song and did a frisky side-step to the
Admeh was gloomily disappointed. He turned his head to inspect the
audience more closely, hoping for some livelier prompting of his
destiny, when with a trill and a one—two—three accompaniment upon the
wheezy piano at the side of the stage, a little soubrette ran down to
the footlights, and with a mighty fetching seriousness, rolling her eyes
to the ceiling, proclaimed: “Ladies and gentlemen, with your kind
permission, I will now endeavor to entertain you with a few tricks of
She was a wee thing with wistful brown eyes under a curly blond wig, and
seemingly a mere child. Her costume was a painful combination of blue
and violet, home-made beyond a doubt. No one could help looking a guy in
such a dress, but Maxie Morrow, as the placard on the proscenium
announced her, had a childish ingenuousness that forfended criticism.
As she went through her foolish little performance, audibly coached by
some one in the wings, Admeh’s eyes followed her with eager interest. He
wondered how much older she was than she looked, and what she would be
like off the stage. She had a piquant rather than a pretty face, in form
that feline triangle depicted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In her movements
she was as graceful and as swiftly accurate as a kitten, and she had all
a kitten’s endearing and alluring charm.
Admeh made a sudden resolve. If he were to meet with an adventure that
night, what could possibly be more entertaining than to have for his
heroine this little puss of a magician? He made a rapid study of the
situation to discover its possibilities. It took but a few minutes for
his wishes to work out a plan of action, and he was soon at the door
urbanely addressing the ticket-taker.
“See here,” said Admeh, “I’m a reporter on the _Wave_—you know the
paper, weekly illustrated—and I want an interview with Miss Morrow. I’ll
give her a good write-up if you’ll let me go behind and talk to her.”
The Biograph Theatre did not often figure in the dramatic columns of the
city papers, and such a free advertisement was not to be refused. The
doorkeeper became on the instant effusively polite and, bustling with
importance, took the young man down a side aisle to a door and up three
stairs through a passage leading behind the wings. Admeh was shown into
a tiny dressing-room whose scrawled plaster walls were half covered with
skirts, waists, and properties of all kinds. The little magician was in
front of her make-up table, dabbing at the rouge pot. The doorkeeper
introduced the visitor, then discreetly withdrew, closing the door after
At her discovery by this audacious representative of the press, Maxie
was all smiles and blushes. She was still but little more than a girl,
although not quite so young as she had appeared in front of the
footlights, and more naïve and embarrassed than one would have expected
of such a determined little actress. She offered Admeh her own chair,
the only one in the room, but he seated himself upon a trunk and began
All his tact was necessary to put her at her ease and induce her to
talk. The Hero of Pago Bridge was by no means too ready with his tongue,
usually, in the presence of women, but there was something in the
touching admiration she betrayed for him as a newspaper man that
prevented him from being bashful. He thought the brotherly attitude to
be the proper pose, under the circumstances, and he led her on, talking
of the theatre, the weather, her costume and himself, while she sat
awkwardly conscious of her violet tights, which she slapped nervously
with a little whip. His careless, friendly way at last gave her
confidence, for he asked her few questions and did not seem to expect
clever replies. Before long she had thrown off all reserve and chatted
freely to him.
The Biograph Theatre kept open, as a rule, as long as it could secure
patronage. This night stragglers kept coming in, so that the four
“artists” and the picture machine in the room below still went through
their weary routine. As the conversation proceeded, Maxie left at times,
went through her act and returned, finding Admeh always ready to put her
upon the thread of her story.
So, by bits and snatches, by repetitions and parentheses, in an incident
here and a confession there, this is about the way Admeh Drake heard,
that night, in Maxie Morrow’s dressing-room
THE STORY OF THE MINOR CELEBRITY
I can’t really remember when I wasn’t acting, and I have no idea who my
parents were, or where I was born, or when, or anything. I think,
though, I must be about nineteen years old, though I don’t look it, and
I have decided on the first of July for my birthday, because that’s just
the middle of the year and it can’t possibly be more than six months
wrong. I used to go on in child’s parts in London when I couldn’t have
been more than four.
Then, the next thing I remember, I was with a company of Swiss
bell-ringers, and we travelled all through the English provinces. I used
to sing and dance in between their turns, and I tell you it was hard
work, practising all day and dancing all night, almost. We were all
fearfully poor, for we weren’t very much of an attraction. I had only
one frock beside my stage costume, and that one was so patched I was
ashamed to go to the pork shop, even, with it on. I was a regular little
slave to old Max, who ran the company, and had to help cook and wash the
dishes in the lodgings we took in the little towns. Bah! I hate the
smell of brown Windsor soap to this day. I was just a little wild
animal, for I never went to school a day in my life, and I was never
allowed to go out on errands alone, unless they kept account of the
exact time it would take to go and come, and they held me to account for
every minute. I hardly think I ever talked to a child till I was grown
Well, the business fell off in England, so we took passage in a sailing
ship for California, around the Horn. That voyage was the happiest time
of my life, for I had nothing to do but practise my steps one or two
hours a day, when the sea was calm enough. There was a very nice old
lady aboard who taught me how to sew, and gave me some flannel to make
myself some underwear, for I had never worn anything but what showed
before, and I didn’t even know that anyone else ever did. She taught me
to read, too, and tried to help me with arithmetic, but mercy! I never
could get figures into my head.
Well, we got to San Francisco finally—that was about ten years ago.
Bell-ringing didn’t seem to take very well; it was out of date, or other
people did it better, because you know specialty people have to keep
improving their act, and play on their heads, or while they’re tumbling
through the air, or some novelty, nowadays, or it doesn’t go and it’s
hard to get booked. But my act drew well, and it always saved our turn.
I made up new steps all the time and invented pretty costumes, and so,
of course, old Max watched me like grim death to see that I didn’t get
away from him. We travelled all over the West, and all the time I was a
drudge, did most of the work and got none of the money. They used to
lock me into the house when they went out, and old Max’s wife would give
me so much work to do that she’d know whether I’d been idle a moment.
You wouldn’t think a girl in a fix like that had much chance to get
married, would you?
Well, I am married, or rather I was. I don’t know just how I stand now.
Let me tell you about it.
There was a man used to hang about the Star Variety Theatre in Los
Angeles, who did small parts sometimes, when they wanted a policeman in
a sketch, or things like that, but he mostly helped with the
scene-shifters. I never had more than a few words with him, but he kind
of took a fancy to me, and he used to bring me candy and leave it behind
the flats where the others wouldn’t see it. I don’t believe, now, he
ever cared so very much for me, but I was silly and had never had any
attention, and I thought he was in love with me, and I imagined I was
with him. He tried to make up to Max, but the old man wouldn’t have
anything to do with him.
One day, when all my people were out and had locked me in the house,
with a lot of dishes to wash, Harry—his name was Harry Maidslow—came
down the street and saw me at the kitchen window. I raised the sash when
he came into the yard, and without waiting for much talk first, for we
were both afraid the old man would be coming back and would catch us,
Harry asked me if I didn’t want to leave the show, and if I wouldn’t run
away with him.
I believe I told him I’d run away with an orangoutang if I got the
chance. Remember, I was only seventeen, and I had never been alone with
a man in my life before. In my life—if you call such slavery as that,
living! So he told me not to appear to notice him, but to be all ready
for him and to watch out, and when I heard a certain whistle he taught
me, wherever I was, to jump and run for him, and he’d do the rest.
You can imagine if I wasn’t excited for the next few days! I would have
jumped off the roof to get to him, if necessary, and I just waited from
hour to hour, expecting to hear his call every minute. I didn’t hardly
dare to go to sleep at night for fear I’d miss him, and I was listening
everywhere I went, meals and all. I think I trembled for three days. It
seemed impossible that he’d be able to get me away; it was too good to
come true. But I had nothing else in the world to look forward to, and I
hoped and prayed for that whistle with all my might.
One night at the theatre, after my company had done the first part of
their bell-ringing, I went on for my song. I remember it was that purple
silk frock I wore, the one with the gold fringe, and red stockings with
bows at the knees. Well, the orchestra had just struck up my air—
“Ain’t I the cheese? Ain’t I the cheese?
Dancing the serpentine under the trees!”
and I was just ready to catch the first note when I heard that whistle
so loud and clear I couldn’t mistake it. Heavens! I can almost hear it
now. I was half frightened to death, but I just shut my eyes and jumped
clean over the footlights and landed in the flageolet’s lap and then
pelted right up the middle aisle. Harry had a lot of his friends ready
by the main entrance, and they rushed down to meet me and while half of
them held the ushers and the crowd back, for everyone was getting up to
see what was the matter, like a panic, the rest of the boys took me by
the elbows and ran me out the front door. The house was simply packed
that night, and when they all saw me jump they set up a yell like the
place was afire. But I didn’t hear it at all till I got out in the
corridor with my skirt half torn off and my dancing clogs gone—and then
the noise sounded like a lion roaring in a menagerie.
Harry was all ready waiting for me, and he took me right up in his arms,
as if I was a doll, ran down the stairs, put me in a carriage waiting at
the door, and we drove off, lickety-split.
I’ve often thought since then that I took a big risk in trusting a man I
didn’t really know at all, but Harry was square, and took me right down
to a justice of the peace. We were married just as I stood, with no
slippers and the holes in the heels of my stockings showing. What old
Max did, I don’t know, but he must have been a picture for the audience
when he saw me fly away like a bird out of a cage. By the time he found
out what had happened it was too late to do anything about it, for I was
Well, I lived with Harry for a few months, and then he began to drink
and wanted me to go on the stage again to support him. The first time he
struck me I ran away and came up to San Francisco, and went into
specialty work for myself. Harry was kind enough when he was sober; in
fact, he was too good-natured to refuse even a drink; that was just what
was the matter. He had no backbone, and although he had a sort of
romantic way with him that women like he didn’t have the nerve to stay
with anything very long.
Now the funny part of the whole thing is this. You’d think that old Max
would have been furious, and so he was at first, but afterward he had a
terrible falling out with the others in his company—his wife had
died—and I guess he wanted to spite them more than he did me. At any
rate, just before he died, a year ago, he inherited some money from an
uncle in Germany, and what did he do but leave a kind of a legacy to
Harry. That is, the old man had a funny idea that wills didn’t hold very
well in this country, and he had a great respect for the honor of the
army officers. So he left $15,000 in cash with a Colonel Knowlton in
trust for Harry Maidslow when he could be found. Harry had a way of
changing his name when he felt like it, and old Max didn’t know him very
well, anyway, so the only way he could be sure of Colonel Knowlton
identifying him was by—well, by a certain mark he had on his body that
Max happened to know about. The colonel has been invalided home from the
Philippines, and every time he sees me he asks me if I’ve found Harry.
So, that’s all. I don’t really know whether I’m a wife or a widow, but I
do know that I ought to have a share of that money coming to me, and
perhaps if you put the story into the paper, some of his friends will
see it and give me news of him.
* * * * *
Admeh Drake put his pencil into his pocket feeling a sense of shame at
his duplicity with this little waif. He would have been glad to help
her, but it seemed useless to disappoint her credulity by confessing
that his relations with the press were entirely fictitious. “Well, I
hope you get the money,” he said, “and if there’s anything I can do to
help you, I will. But don’t you want me to see you home, Maxie?”
“Sure!” said the girl, frankly, and after pulling on a rather soiled
automobile coat and adjusting a top-heavy plumed black hat, she
descended the stairs of the theatre with Admeh and they found themselves
on Market Street.
“It’s a little late to get anything to eat,” Admeh suggested,
tentatively, trusting to his luck. He was not disappointed.
“Oh, yes, indeed,” replied the girl. “I always have supper after I get
Half the worry was off his mind, but without a cent in his pocket, the
question of transportation troubled him. If worst came to worst, Admeh
decided that he would take Maxie home in a carriage, see her safely
indoors, and then return and have it out with the driver. But first he
ventured another insinuation. “It’s a beautiful night!” he remarked. At
that moment the fog enveloped the upper half of the Spreckels Building,
and the tall and narrow column was visible only as an irregular pattern
of soft, blurred yellow lights.
“Fine!” said Maxie. “Let’s walk.”
She took his arm blithely, happy at her release from work, and they
crossed over, went up Grant Avenue to Post Street and there turned
toward Union Square. A short distance ahead of them a tall man in a gray
mackintosh was walking with somewhat painful carefulness up the street.
His deviations seemed to testify to a rather jovial evening’s
indulgence. The two rapidly approached him, and Admeh had scarcely time
to notice his yellow beard and hair when the stranger turned into a
doorway. The house he entered was gaudily painted in red and yellow with
stars and crescents, and so fiercely lighted with electric lamps that no
wayfarer, however dazed, could fail to notice the sign: “Hammam
Baths—Gentlemen’s Entrance.” When Admeh turned to Maxie she was as pale
as if she had seen a ghost. She looked up at him with a glitter in her
“Here!” she exclaimed, opening her purse and thrusting a dollar into his
hand. “Go in there and see if that man who just went in has the word
’Dotty’ tattooed on his right arm! Find out who he is, and come to the
theatre and tell me.”
With that she pushed him into the doorway and was gone.
THE MYSTERY OF THE HAMMAM
With the enthusiasm of an amateur detective, Admeh Drake paid his dollar
for admission, and passed through two anterooms into an artificially
tropical atmosphere. Turkish baths were a luxury outside the scheme of
things; he knew nothing of the arrangements. He paused, uncertain how to
proceed; uncertain, too, as to the best plan for catching the
yellow-bearded man stripped. While he hesitated, an attendant showed him
into a dressing-room. He saw naked men passing with towels twisted about
For the first time in many days, he took off his wrinkled, creased
clothes. Pausing on the balcony without the door, he surveyed the
carpeted, gaudily decorated apartment below. It was midnight, the
busiest hour of the twenty-four in the baths. Heavier than the
atmosphere of steam and steamed humanity rose the fumes of liquor. Few
there are sober in a Hammam at that elbow of the night. Not knowing that
the sweating heat takes the edge and fervor from the wildest
intoxication, Admeh wondered, as he watched, at the subdued murmur of
their babblings. His eye ranged over a group sitting up in towel robes,
chatting drowsily, over a drunken satyr thrusting his heavy limbs from
under the covers and singing a sleepy tune, over two others sunk in
stupor. Beyond them was a group of jockeys, who had come to reduce
weight; all were young, small, keen-eyed, each was puffing a huge cigar.
In that bower of transformation, where all men stood equal as at the
judgment, their worldly goods shrunk to a single bath towel, he found it
hard to pick his man, yet no one could he see with the clay-yellow hair
and beard that marked the mysterious person for whom he was searching.
Following others who slipped down the stairs in the single, levelling
garment, Admeh went across the main salon, through a double glass door,
and into an ante-chamber considerably hotter, where men were lolling
back, wet and shiny, in canvas chairs. He saw the rubbers working in the
room beyond, saw that the men under their hands were black and brown of
hair and beard.
To the right, another glass door caught his eye. He passed in and gasped
at the heavy, overpowering temperature. His glasses, to which he had
clung with the instinct of a near-sighted man, burned on his nose. Men,
glistening and dripping, sat all along the wall, their feet in little
tubs of water.
In the corner sat the mysterious stranger of the yellow hair and beard.
He was singing sentimentally. Admeh, practised in the lore of
intoxication, watched him. “The jag’s growing,” he said to himself. In
fact, the fumes of liquor, heat driven, were mounting steadily. Crossing
the room, so as to command the stranger’s right side, he saw round his
upper arm a black rubber bandage, like those used to confine varicose
veins. The problem resolved itself into a question of tearing off that
“Hotter’n the hazes of the Philippines!” babbled the man with the yellow
beard. Piecing together the description of her husband given by Maxie in
the story of her adventures, Admeh was more than ever persuaded that
this was the object of his search, that under the elastic bandage was
the mark of identification by which he was to know the legatee of the
fortune left by the old bell-ringer.
The man of the yellow beard sang maudlin Orpheum songs and prattled of
many things. He cursed San Francisco. He told of his amours. He offered
to fight or wrestle with anyone in the room. “A chance,” thought Admeh,
as he took the challenge. But in a moment more, the drunken man was
running again on a love-tack, with the winds of imagination blowing
free. Nevertheless, this challenge gave Admeh an idea. What he could not
encompass by diplomacy he might seize by force. In that method, all must
depend upon the issue of a moment. If he could tear away the bandage in
the first dash he would win. But let the struggle last more than a
moment and others would intervene; then he would be thrown out and the
chance would be gone. Mentally he measured bodies against the stranger;
man for man he saw that, both being sober, he himself was badly
over-matched. Broader and taller by many inches, the stranger was of
thick, knotty limbs, and deep chest; Admeh himself was all cowboy nerve
and wire, but slight and out of condition. It was bull against coyote.
“The question is,” thought Admeh, “can I and his jag lick him and his
The stranger, singing again, lurched along the hot tiling to another
room. Admeh gasped like a hooked trout as he followed through the door.
It was the extra-hot room, where the mercury registered one hundred and
sixty degrees. The stranger’s bristles began to subside and his lips
crept together. The amateur detective drew nearer and, languid as he was
with the terrific heat, gathered his force for the attempt. At that
moment an attendant with trays of ice water slouched in on his felt
shoes. Admeh slipped back into his chair.
This entrance had a most surprising effect on him of the yellow beard.
Some emotion, which Admeh took to be either fear or anxiety, struggled
to break through the veil of his debauch; he stared with bleary but
intent eyes. In a moment he was lurching for the door. Glad of the
relief from that overwhelming heat, Admeh followed. The trail led
through the anteroom, past the rubbers and their benches, through
another double glass door. A rush of steam fogged his spectacles; when
it cleared a little, he saw dimly, through the hot vapor, that he was in
a long, narrow closet, banked on one side by benches and by pipes which
were vomiting clouds of steam. Groping from one side to the other, he
found that they were quite alone.
With no further hesitation, Admeh rushed on his man and grasped for the
By the fraction of an inch he missed his hold. The stranger, with a
quickness amazing for one in his condition—and what was more surprising,
without a word—lashed out and caught Admeh a blow under the chest which
whirled him back on the hot benches and fairly jerked his spectacles
from his nose. The issue was on, and it was first honors for the
stranger. Unsteady on his legs, but still determined, Admeh closed
again, ducked under a ponderous blow and grappled round the waist. He
managed to get one hand on the bandage, but in no wise could he tear it
away, for the stranger held him in a bear-grip, tight about the neck. So
they struggled and grunted and swayed through the misty clouds from the
hot benches to the slippery floor and back to the benches again. Their
bodies, what with the exertion and the steam, ran rivulets; their
throats were gasping. Once, twice, they staggered the room’s length.
Admeh was beginning to feel his breath and his senses going together,
when the grasp about his neck slackened in tension.
“I and the jag win,” he thought, with what sense was left in him. He
gathered his strength into its last cartridge, and gave a heave and a
fling; they went down to the floor with a wet slap, Admeh above. He felt
his opponent collapse under him. For a moment he, too, saw the universe
swing round him, but with a great effort he tore away the bandage and
pressed his near-sighted eyes close to the right arm.
There, in faded colours, was a tattooed design on the white skin. Admeh
made out the word “Dotty,” framed in a border of twisted snakes. His
quest was done. Faint, weary, languid, he prepared to get away before
his assault was discovered. The door opened; some one caught Admeh by
the arm. With no more fight in him, he raised himself to one knee and
recognised the attendant, the sight of whom had before so nearly sobered
his drunken opponent.
“What the devil——” said the new-comer, and stopped as his eye caught
that mark on the arm. Then he bent down, passed his finger over the
design, studied it, and peered into the white, senseless face behind the
“My work—it is the very man!” he exclaimed, in tones of the greatest
interest. Turning to Admeh he asked:
“Now why did _you_ want to know about that mark, and what were you
“What do you know about him?” retorted Admeh.
“Story for story,” said the attendant.
“Story for story, swapped sight unseen,” agreed Admeh. “But let’s get
him out of here first, because he’s in a pretty bad fix between his
fight and his jag.” Together they carried him to a dressing-room, laid
him on a bench, and closed the curtain. Here Admeh’s last spark of
strength left him; he collapsed in a heap on the floor. With practised
hands the attendant set about reviving them both. In ten minutes the man
of mystery slept heavily, stupidly, on the bench, and Admeh was sitting
against the wall breathing cool relief from the outer air. Briefly, he
told of his singular errand, omitting, from some hazy idea of policy,
the item about the legacy.
“Well,” said the rubber, after Admeh Drake had finished his tale, “your
yarn certainly is curious, but I can beat it. What d’you think of
this?—I tattooed that name and mark on this fellow’s arm, and I know the
history of it, but he has no idea to this day how it ever come there,
nor who ’Dotty’ is, nor why I did it, nor anything at all about it. He
was the hero of as queer a yarn as I ever heard, and he knew no more
about it all the time than a babe unborn!”
He rang an electric bell; a boy answered.
“Tell the boss to send for the extra man,” he said. “I’m done up for
to-night, and I’m going to lay off for a while.”
So saying, he took Drake into an adjoining room, shared by the employees
of the baths, and, after making himself comfortable on a lounge with a
blanket wrapper, he told the following joyous romance:
THE STORY OF THE DERMOGRAPH ARTIST
You see, this ain’t my regular job. I’m working here because my
profession is played out in San Francisco. I’m a dermograph artist.
What’s that? Oh, it’s what most people call a tattooer. But don’t you
think we’ve got as much right to be called artists as the fellows that
slap paint on cloth with a brush? I think so. Is anything nicer than the
human skin? Don’t you fix up your walls and your ceilings, and your
floors that you wipe your feet on? Then what’s the matter with
decorating yourself? That’s the line of talk I always gave people when
they asked me why I called myself a dermograph artist.
It was the electric needle and the Jap tattooer that ran me out of
business. With the electric needle, a man could put on a design in about
a quarter of the time that it takes to do a real artistic job by hand.
The blamed little Jap would pretty near pay to get a customer, he worked
that cheap. I quit, and I never get out my needles now except for a
design on some one in the baths.
My parlours were on the water-front, because most of my customers were
sailors. Of course, once in a while some swells from Nob Hill would come
in for a design or two. I used to do my best work for them, because, I
thought, you never can tell when these society people will get next to
the fact that a picture on the skin has it a mile on a painting. Why,
the other day I read in the papers that a Frenchman got a hundred
thousand dollars for a little, dinky canvas painting. The highest pay I
ever knew a dermograph artist to get was five hundred for doing the
Wells Brothers’ tattooed woman. Do you call that square?
After the Jap and the electric needle chump came to town, business fell
off, as I was telling you. They’d have made me close up my shop and get
out if it hadn’t been for Spotty Crigg. Ever hear of him? Well, you sure
haven’t been in San Francisco long. In those days he kept a sailor
boarding-house and saloon round the corner from my parlours, and he was
sort of boss of the water-front—good any time to deliver five hundred
votes. I ain’t saying that Spotty was a Sunday-school kind of man, but
he stuck to his friends. I was one of the gang, so he sent me enough
jobs to keep me going. Besides, I helped him once or twice on a
shanghaing deal. You see, like most sailor boarding-house keepers in
those days, he was a crimp—used to deliver a sailor or two when foremast
hands were scarce and the pay was good. Spotty Crigg is dead now, or I
wouldn’t be telling you about his last and biggest shanghaing scrape. I
didn’t understand it at the time, but I learned about it afterward, part
from Crigg and part from people on the other side of the little deal.
One of my society customers was young Tom Letterblair. Maybe you don’t
know about him, either. He belonged to about the richest tribe of swells
on Nob Hill. That fellow was as wild as a fish-hawk, a thoroughbred dead
game sport. His being wild didn’t bother his people so much as the way
he went about it—always doing something crazy. His people were strong on
getting into the society columns of the papers, but he was eternally
getting the family name on the news pages of the yellow journals, if not
in the police reports. He wasn’t really what you would call bad, either;
only wild and careless and brought up wrong, and stubborn about it when
anyone tried to call him down. He’d never seem sorry if he got the
family into trouble, but just laugh at his sisters when they roasted
him. And instead of treating him quiet and easy, and gentling him into
being good, they’d jaw him. That’s a bad scheme with a gilded youth like
They were a bunch of orphans. That was half the trouble.
Finally, Tom Letterblair took up with a chorus girl and refused to drop
her. The family tried to buy her off. Now she wasn’t a nice sort of
girl, but she was true to Tom. She told him about it. For once, although
he was such a careless fellow, he got mad and what does he do but come
to me to have her name, “Dotty,” tattooed on his arm with the double
snake border. Says he to me confidentially, “That’s the girl I’m going
to marry when I come of age, which is only two months, and don’t you
forget it.” Seems that he told other people the same thing, so that it
came back to his family.
Now his sisters and the Eastern society swells that they were married to
didn’t hanker any to have Dotty for a sister-in-law. But they knew by
experience that if Tom Letterblair said he’d do it, all blazes wouldn’t
hold him. J. Thrasher Sunderland, one of Tom’s brothers-in-law, had what
he thought was a bright idea. It was to get the kid shanghaied on a
sailing vessel off for a six months’ voyage.
That wasn’t such a bad scheme either. They could keep him away from
Dotty and drink for six months, have him work hard, and make a man out
of him. It’s been done before right in this port. That wild streak is a
kind of disease that strikes young fellows with too much blood in their
necks and money in their pockets. I know. I’ve had it myself, bar the
money. By six months, what doctors call the crisis would have been over.
The risky thing was the chance of raising a howl when he got back, but
they were willing to take chances that the sense knocked into him with a
belaying pin would make him see it their way. They were going to give it
out to the papers and their friends that he was off for his health.
J. Thrasher Sunderland made his first break when he went to Captain
Wynch of the bark _Treasure Trove_, instead of going straight to a
crimp, as he ought to have done. Wynch promised to treat the kid well
and try to brace him up. Never having seen Tom Letterblair he got a
description of him, including the tattoo mark. Then the skipper went to
Spotty Crigg and promised him a hundred dollars for doing the rough work
of getting Tom on board the vessel.
Letterblair was such a big, careless fellow, he never suspected
anything, and a lure note fetched him to Crigg’s saloon the night before
the bark cleared. Tom had been drinking hard that day—showed up badly
slewed. ’Twas a jolly drunk, and he was ready for a glass with anyone.
Now, Crigg hadn’t given much thought to this little transaction, for he
was doing that sort of work almost every day in the week. But when that
young swell, all dressed up to the nines, came into the “Bowsprit”
saloon, the looks of him put a brand-new idea into Spotty’s noddle. It
struck him that a hundred dollars was pretty small pay for catching a
fish of that size and colour; there was evidently a big deal on
somewhere. Like everyone else that read the papers, he knew considerable
about Tom Letterblair, knew him for a young sport, free as water with
his money. Putting two and two together, he saw that if he could save
the kid instead of stealing him, there might be a good many times a
hundred in the affair. Besides, there was a chance of finding out who
was trying to get the shanghaing done, and then collecting blackmail. So
he decided to play both ends. He would steal the wrong man, and hold on
to the right one.
He ran his eye around the place and saw Harry Maidslow, a scene-shifter
in the old Baldwin Theatre, who used to drop in, now and then, on his
nights off. Man for man, Maidslow and Letterblair were modelled on the
same lines—Maidslow wore a moustache, but that would come off easy
enough—yellow hair, blue eyes, big and strong build. Maidslow hadn’t a
relative this side of the Rockies; no one would miss him. Crigg knew
Spotty Crigg went so far in his mind before he thought of the tattoo
mark. Captain Wynch had mentioned it as the proof that there was no
mistake. And then, Crigg thought of me. I suppose lots of people would
have stopped there, but Spotty Crigg had nerve, I’ll say that for
him—nerve of a thousand.
He worked Letterblair to drink himself to sleep, and then had him packed
upstairs and put to bed, dead to the world. The next move was easy.
Crigg took Harry Maidslow into his office, fed him knockout drops, and
carried him up into the same room with Letterblair. Side by side he laid
them both, and stripped them to undershirts.
That was the way I found them when a hurry call brought me to the
boarding-house. I thought at first they were both dead. It gave me the
horrors to hear Crigg tell me that I was to copy that tattoo mark. ’Twas
like working on a dead man. One drunk, the other drugged, lying on a
little, cheap old bed and Spotty, who wasn’t a nice, clean-looking sort
of person anyway, leaning over them with a candle.
When he told what he wanted, I kicked until he put on the screws. He
could drive me off the water-front if he cared. I knew that, and he
reminded me of it, besides offering me fifty dollars. So at last I went
at it, he telling me all the time to hurry. I never worked so fast in my
life. By two hours you couldn’t tell one mark from the other, except
that Maidslow’s was new and Letterblair’s old. Next we shaved Maidslow’s
mustache off, for Tom always wore a smooth face. Then we changed their
clothes, putting the swell rig on Maidslow and the old clothes on
Next, Spotty Crigg took Maidslow, got him into a hack, drove him to a
dory he had waiting, and rowed out to the _Treasure Trove_, which was in
the stream waiting to sail next morning. Captain Wynch was cussing
purple because Spotty had been so long. He went over the description,
though, and looked at the right arm to make sure, just as Crigg expected
him to do. It looked all right, because a tattoo mark don’t begin to
swell until the day after; besides, Wynch was seeing it under a
It was all right so far. But Crigg, who wasn’t so keen by a jugful as he
thought he was, hadn’t figured on one thing. The Letterblairs had an
aunt, Mrs. Burden, a widow without chick or child of her own. She was an
old, religious lady, with oodles of money and a whopping temper—a
regular holy terror. She didn’t cotton to the sisters at all; in fact,
hated them, but she was soft over Tom Letterblair. Whenever she wasn’t
turning loose her money, stringing hospitals and churches all the way to
Sacramento, she was handing it over to the kid, who had only an
allowance until he got to be twenty-one. He and the parsons were the
only ones who got her to loosen up. She had no son and I rather guess
that on the quiet she had a sneaking liking for the way he was carrying
on. Sort of thrilled her. You know how some of those pious old girls
like a man that’s real bad. She coddled him to death and fought the
sisters for being hard on the boy.
Spotty’s luck turned so that she picked the very next morning for a
show-down with the sisters over the way they were treating the kid.
There must have been a regular hair-pulling. Anyway, before they got
through, Mrs. Sunderland was so mad that she poured out the whole scheme
in one mouthful. She said:
“You won’t have a chance to coddle _him_ any more! He’s on the _Treasure
Trove_, bound for China to get the foolishness taken out of him. He’s
passed the Farralones by this time.”
The old lady was foxy. She would have made a pretty good sport herself.
She shut up like a clam, went home, rushed for the telephone and called
up the wharfinger. She found that the _Treasure Trove_ was in the stream
being towed for the heads, and belonged to Burke & Coleman, this port.
She knew Burke. She got her carriage, made his office in two jumps, and
wouldn’t leave until she had an order on Captain Wynch to deliver a
sailor answering Letterblair’s description, tattooing and all. In a
half-hour more she had a tug started, chasing the _Treasure Trove_ with
that order. She offered the crew two hundred dollars over regular pay if
they got their man back safe and sound. She herself was afraid of the
water, and stayed in the tug office to wait.
While this was going on, Tom Letterblair woke up. The man watching him
tried to get him drunk again, and the jag turned out loud and nasty.
Crigg saw he’d have to be doing something right off the bat.
He knew a little how the land lay between Tom and his people, but not
enough. He was sure that some one of Tom’s relatives had done it. As far
as that he was right. He struck the wrong lead when he picked Mrs.
Burden as the one—she being a church member—that was most likely to be
ashamed of the kid. He looked up her number in the directory, and made
for the house hot-foot. She wasn’t in, so he held up a lamp-post,
The tug got back. They packed Harry Maidslow into the dock-house. He was
still sound asleep from the knockout drops.
“My precious boy!” said the old lady, and fell on his neck. Then she
screamed so you could hear her all over the water-front and began to
jump on the captain. She said:
“You’re a pack of thieves! You’ve murdered my Tom and dressed another
man in his clothes. Where is my boy? Give me back my boy!” she said, and
a lot of other things.
Said the tug-boat captain: “You’re trying to get out of paying the two
hundred. He’s on specifications, and a nice time we had making them pass
him over. Look here.” He got the coat off Harry Maidslow. There was the
tattoo mark, just beginning to swell up.
“It’s a new mark. You and those hussies have fooled me,” said the old
lady. “I’ll have you all in jail for this,” she said. “I wish I could
find him, I’d show them up. I’d take him right up to the big dance
they’re going to have to-night. I’d shame them!” she said. And she drove
home, laughing and crying out loud. At the doorstep Spotty Crigg braced
He began quiet and easy, working up her curiosity so that she would let
him know how the land lay. That’s just where he went wrong again. In
about a minute she put two and two together and saw pretty clearly
through the whole scheme. She was just one point smarter than Spotty,
and she wormed it out of him finally. He thought she wanted Tom put out
of the way, sure. She played her hand by letting him think so. It was
move and your turn, like a game of checkers, with the old lady one jump
ahead. Said Spotty:
“Two thousand dollars, or I bring him back and give the story to the
Which of course was exactly what she wanted. She pretended to be scared
“Not a cent. Do your worst,” she said.
“Then I’ll go that one better,” said Spotty. “I see by the papers
there’s a dance at the Sunderland house to-night. Three thousand down or
I dump him in the front door, drunk as a lord and dressed like a
stevedore. I’ve got him where you can’t find him——” which was a bluff.
“If you tell the police he’ll get worse than a drunk——” which was
“Not a red cent,” she said.
“Settles it!” said Crigg. He went away red-hot, mad enough to back up
his bluff, just as the old lady thought he would.
When he got home he found that Tom couldn’t be kept much longer. There
had been a deuce of a rough house. That clinched the matter with Spotty
Crigg. About half-past eight he woke Tom, gave him some dinner with a
cold bottle to get him started again, and spun him a yarn about finding
him drunk and robbed. The deal went through on schedule. At half-past
nine, Spotty drove up to the Letterblair house with the kid, rang the
door-bell and pushed Tom right into the hall, nursing a loud, talkative
drunk. They say it put that function on the bum. I heard afterward from
Tom Letterblair that it was about the only time he ever really enjoyed
himself at one of his sister’s parties.
Nobody ever told the police or the papers. Every man-jack in the deal
was afraid to peach on the others, because he couldn’t afford to tell on
himself. All except the old lady and Tom, of course, and they were too
tickled with the way the things turned out to care about giving it away.
Another funny thing: everybody quit a winner. You can see how Captain
Wynch won. Tom paid Spotty Crigg a thousand for keeping him off the
_Treasure Trove_, and I got fifty dollars for my job. And even the snob
sisters won out. How? Well, sir, Tom Letterblair braced up from that
time on. I suppose he took it that if he was far enough gone to the
devil for his family to have to shanghai him, he must be a pretty bad
egg. So he swore off, got on the water-wagon, and turned out pretty
well, alongside of what they’d expected of him. His chorus girl, Dotty,
ran away with another man, and that helped him some, too.
Finally, Tom got a case on a swell New York heiress, a dizzy blonde, who
was just simply It in the Four Hundred. He married her, to the great and
grand delight of Mr. and Mrs. J. Thrasher Sunderland.
And right there was where Tom had too much luck for any one man. I’ll be
darned if that girl’s name wasn’t Dotty, and she always believed Tom had
it pricked on his arm just on her account! What d’you think of that?
But perhaps you’re wondering how Maidslow got square. I’ll tell you.
He came to in the tug office, where the crew had passed him a few swift
kicks and left him. Pretty stupid and dopy yet, he crawled home to his
own room and slept some more of it off.
Then, when his head did finally clear out, he began to look himself
over; to discover and explore, as you might say. When he looked in the
glass he must have nearly fell dead. His yellow moustache was gone.
Then, he’d gone to sleep in old clothes and he woke up in a swell
high-class rig, silk-lined, and without a spot, patch, or sign of wear.
He had on silk gauze underwear, patent leather shoes, diamonds in his
shirt-front, cuff-links, and a pair of pretty hot socks. Feeling in his
pockets, as a man will, he found a gold watch and chain, a gold
cigarette case, a corkscrew mounted in rubies and three hundred and
forty-two dollars in bills and coin. Every one in the deal had been too
busy to touch him while he was drugged.
Long before he got his senses his arm began to feel funny. After he’d
investigated the costume, he took off the Willy-boy coat and stripped up
his shirt sleeve. There was a tattoo mark, smarting like sin, with the
name “DOTTY” in beautiful capital letters! Well, when he saw that he
went right up into the air. He was just like that old woman in the
nursery rhyme—“Lawk-a-massy on us, this is none of I!”
The tattoo mark was his only clue. I was the only one he knew in the
business, so he came down to me and wanted to know how, and when, and
where, and why, and what-the-devil.
“Look here, my son,” says I, “what are you kicking about, anyway? You go
to sleep with eight dollars on your back and two bits in your jeans. You
wake up with about a seven hundred and fifty dollar rig on, and a wad in
your pocket, more than you ever had in your life. The thing for you to
do,” I says, “is to lose yourself before you’re called for, and to stay
lost, good and hard! Next time you fade away on the water-front, you may
wake up in a jumper and overalls, shovelling garbage! You can’t expect
to draw a straight flush in diamonds every deal: next shuffle you may
catch deuces. You take my advice and drop a part of that roll of yours
for a ticket in the ’Owl’ train to-night, before you’re enchanted back
“All right,” he says, “I’ll do it. But for heaven’s sake, tell me just
one thing, and I’ll ask no more questions. _Who in blazes is Dotty?_”
“Aw,” I says, “she’s the fairy godmother of this pipe dream. She’s
changed into a sea-gull by this time!”
* * * * *
“Well,” concluded the rubber, “he skipped, and I have never seen him
since, from that day till to-night, when I found you scrapping with him,
for this man is Harry Maidslow for sure. If you want to talk to him now,
he’ll probably be all right. He’s had time to have a plunge, and you’ll
find him sleeping upstairs. I’ve got to go home, so good-by. Come round
again some time and tell me about him!”
Admeh Drake, after a swim in the tank himself, passed through the main
salon and upstairs, acting upon the hint of the Dermograph Artist. The
place was lined with cots, now filled with snoring occupants, and it was
not until he had explored a second story that Admeh found him of the
clay-yellow beard. He was alone in a secluded ward, sleeping peacefully.
Admeh touched him, and Maidslow sat up suddenly with a terrified stare.
“What d’you want? What d’you want of me?” he cried.
Admeh was astonished at his fright, but hastened to relieve the man’s
suspense. “Oh, nothing bad, I hope. Is your name—” here he hesitated,
and the man’s face showed abject fear—“Maidslow?”—and the mouth relaxed
“Yes,” said the man. “What d’you want?”
“I want to tell you that there’s fifteen thousand dollars coming to
you!” said Drake.
The man stared now in bewilderment.
“Ever know old Max Miller, Swiss bell-ringer?” “A little,” said
“He’s your rich uncle. He’s left you his fortune. You caught him when
you stole Maxie from him!”
“See here,” said Maidslow, “what kind of a jolly are you giving me
anyway? I haven’t seen Maxie—I suppose you mean my wife—for two years.
If you know anything about her, tell me the whole thing, and tell it
For the second time that night Admeh Drake narrated his adventures,
beginning at Coffee John’s, and ending with the news of Maxie and the
legacy left to Harry Maidslow. But, when he mentioned Colonel Knowlton’s
name as the trustee, Maidslow, who had listened so far in delight, gave
an exclamation of despair.
“Oh, heavens!” he cried, “I can never get that money! Why couldn’t it
have been given in charge of some one else? Colonel Knowlton, of all men
in the world!”
“Why can’t you get it from him?” Drake asked.
“You listen to my story, and you’ll know,” replied Maidslow.
THE STORY OF THE DESERTER OF THE PHILIPPINES
I don’t exactly know why I married Maxie Morrow, except that I’ve always
been a fool about women. The thing came so sudden, I just jumped and
caught her on the fly. When she left me, I went pretty much to the bad.
Then Harry Maidslow disappeared, because of debts and one thing or
another, and I turned up as Harry Roberts in St. Louis. That was just
about when the Spanish war broke out. It was too good a chance to lose,
and I decided to begin all over again. So I enlisted in the regulars,
joining the One Hundred and Fourteenth Infantry. I was hardly more than
through the goose step when we were sent to the Philippines.
I was no slouch nor shirk, either, but I knew more about eating than
anything else, and I naturally gravitated to the cook’s tent and put him
on to a lot of things the boys liked. I got to be rather popular with
the company in this way, and when the Commissary Sergeant was appointed
in Manila, I managed to get the place, though I was only a rookie.
Perhaps the Captain’s wife helped me out some. She, being an officer’s
lady, wasn’t supposed to know I was on earth, but somehow she noticed me
and fixed it up easy.
Commissary work was a snap—little drill, no guard mount, leave of
absence occasionally, and the run of the town in a little pony cart. You
see each company had its quota of rations. We could draw them, or leave
them and get credit. There was maple syrup and candy, canned fruit, and
chocolate, and all sorts of good stuff in the storehouse that we could
get at wholesale rates. By cutting down on fresh meat and pinching on
bacon, I managed the company’s accounts so that we could have hot
griddle-cakes and maple syrup every day. That’s the way I held my job.
If I ever become famous it will be for having introduced Pie in the
Every morning I drove around Manila, visiting the markets with a man to
help me, exchanging sacks of flour for fresh baker’s bread and cakes,
getting chickens, and so on, besides making friends right and left.
About two nights every week I was dancing or flirting with the
half-breed women; Mestizas they called them. That’s how I got into
Her name was Senorita Maria del Pilar Assompcion Aguilar, and nothing
that ever I saw could touch her for looks. She was the kind of woman
that makes you forget everything else that ever happened before. She and
her brother owned about the whole of a province in the middle of the
island of Luzon. When she came into the room it was all over with me.
There was more of the Spanish than the Filipino in her, enough to give
her the style and air of a lady, but she got her beauty from the
tropics. Her hair was like one of those hot black nights they have down
there—silky and soft, drifting around her face—but it was her eyes that
made you lose sleep. They were blue-black, not melting, but wide-awake
and piercing. They were just a bit crossed, hardly a hairbreadth out,
but that little cast seemed to make her even prettier than if they were
straight. A Kansas sergeant told me that the family was in from their
country place, and that the Secret Service people were watching her. She
and her brother were suspected of knowing a good deal about Aguinaldo’s
You remember that after the battle of Manila the American troops lay in
town for months, just drilling and waiting to see what the insurgents
were going to do. There were all sorts of rumours afloat, and nobody
knew which way the cat would jump. The Filipinos were camped in a
semi-circle outside the city and growing uglier every day. Our sentries
were watching them close enough to see every nigger that stuck his
finger to his nose at us.
I saw more and more of Maria, danced with her, or went to her house
every night I could get off. It wasn’t long before I saw that I had her
going. Her brother looked as if he’d like to bolo me in the back, and
never left us alone for a moment. I didn’t care. I was too far gone
myself to be afraid of him. I’ve seen one or two women in my time, but
she could put it over them all.
Love goes pretty fast in hot countries. One night I happened to find her
alone. Her brother was away on some Katipunan conspiracy business, most
likely, or perhaps dodging our spies. She was dressed like a queen, all
ready for me. I had no more than come in when she threw herself into my
arms and lay there crying. I had gone too far, and I was in for it.
I let her stay there a little while, kissing her and trying to get her
quiet, and then I looked away, and told her what I should have told her
long before—that I had a wife and couldn’t marry. She took it pretty
hard at first.
After she had cried she laughed, and there was a load off my mind. I
said to myself that women must be different down here, and thought I was
lucky to get out of it so easy. I thought perhaps she hadn’t been so
badly hurt, after all. She said we’d forget it, and be friends, just the
same. I was a fool and believed her. She asked me to come back
to-morrow, and I said I would.
The next day I met Señor Aguilar, her brother, and he seemed to be as
friendly as if we were bunkies. He insisted upon my having a drink with
him. He seemed to be glad to know that Maria and I weren’t so much
lovers as he had thought. We sat most of the afternoon drinking cognac,
and I got more and more pleased at having squared myself with them both.
Then some one must have hit me over the head.
When I came to, my head was bursting. My hands were bound and I was
covered with a sheet of canvas, being jolted in a little bobbing cart. I
yelled for help, and my only answer was the barrel of a Mauser rifle
stuck in my face. Then I went off into a stupor, and for the rest of
that trip I only remember heat, thirst, hunger, stiff joints and a
murderous headache. The journey seemed to go on for years and years, but
I didn’t have energy enough even to wonder what had happened or where I
Finally I found myself stretched upon a cot in a white-walled room,
looking through a great arched window into a green _patio_ waving with
palms. Señor Aguilar was standing beside me, smiling wickedly.
Bromo-seltzer wouldn’t have cleared my head the way the sight of him
“Señor Roberts,” he said, as soon as he saw that I was fully conscious,
“possibly you may have suspected that I have not always been charmed at
the attentions you have paid Señorita Maria. However, you will be glad
to learn that I have at last decided to accept you as my brother-in-law.
I have given directions that the marriage ceremony shall take place
to-morrow evening. I shall be honoured by the alliance, I am sure, for
within a week you will be the only Americano alive on the Island of
Luzon. I have just come from a conference with General Aguinaldo, and
the council of war has set upon February 4th as the date when we shall
have the pleasure of capturing Manila and exterminating your army. You
are at Carrino, a hundred miles from the city, helpless and unarmed. I
think you will see the advisability of accepting gracefully the
privilege of becoming a member of our distinguished family.
“It is barely possible,” he went on, “that you may feel like declining
to become the husband of Señorita Maria. Americanos are not renowned for
their courtesy. So I give you a day to think it over. We Aguilars do not
often force ourselves upon strangers, but under the circumstances I
consent to forget our family pride. You may give me your answer
I knew what he meant. This was a sample of Spanish revenge with a
Filipino barb to it. If I stayed, I was a branded deserter. I knew that,
and Aguilar knew it too. And he was sure enough that I’d never marry his
sister under those circumstances, or he’d never have made the offer. The
only possible way out of it—although that seemed hopeless—was to escape,
carry the news to General Otis, and save the army. It would mean a
pardon, and maybe shoulder-straps for me.
Could I get away? That was the question. I had no time to lose. To
travel a hundred miles through an unknown hostile country in a week,
without arms, food or money, was no child’s play. But I watched my
About sundown a Tagalo woman, homely as a hedge-fence, came in with my
dinner. She hung round as though she were willing to talk, and I set to
work to see how I could use her. I’d had some experience with women, and
had found them mostly alike, black and white, and I used every trick I
knew on her. Of all the cyclone love-making I ever did, that got over
the ground the quickest. I worked so hard I almost meant it, and she
rose to the hook.
That night she got the guard off, filled him up with _bino_, and showed
me the way out of the plantation through the banana grove. Outside, she
had a little scrub pony waiting. She pointed to it, and gave me a
general idea of the direction, then put her arms on my shoulders and
held up her great thick lips to be kissed. That was about the hardest
work I had on the whole trip. Then I jumped into the saddle and pelted
down the road like Sheridan thirty miles away. I thought I was a hero,
all right, and I saw my picture in the papers with shoulder-straps and
the girls kissing me, like Hobson. It was a grand-stand play to save the
army. As near as I could calculate, that was the night of January 31st,
and I had six days to get to Manila. It looked easy.
I kept as nearly south as I could guess, and rode that pony almost to
death. At daylight I hid and hobbled him and crawled into the brush to
sleep. When I woke up the nag was lying in a puddle of blood, hamstrung.
That was the first blow.
There was not a soul in sight, but I imagined there was a boloman behind
every tree. I listened, and every waving bush scared me worse. I was
actually afraid of the light. If this were the beginning of the trip,
what would the end be? But I had to go on, and do my best.
I got under cover and crawled like a snake till I came to a patch of
banana trees, where I stopped long enough to eat and to fill my pockets.
For two days I kept it up, making about thirty miles south, I suppose,
dodging villages, skirting the roads and sleeping most of the daytime.
It was hot and dusty; food was scarce and water scarcer.
So I fought my way through the tropical night, tortured by mosquitos,
insects, and ants. Luckily it was near the full of the moon, and I was
able to drag myself along all night. The way gradually became more moist
and swampy. I toiled through slippery mud, and had often to make detours
to avoid sinking in great morasses. Then, just at dawn of the third
morning I came upon the banks of the Pasig. Now I had four days more in
which to save the army, and a quiet river to drift down at night, hiding
by daylight, if I could only find something to float on.
Towards noon, as I lay in the bushes, I saw an empty boat bobbing down
stream. I swam out to it, hauled it ashore, and hid it in the bushes.
That night I began to paddle down the river, calling myself “Lieutenant”
Twice, before morning, I thought I heard the sound of oars or paddles
behind me, and got inshore to listen, but nothing appeared. At dawn I
drew in to the bank, hid the boat, and crawled to a safe place and slept
like a horse. After I had foraged for bananas and got back to the river,
the boat was gone! I began to lose hope.
I was certain that I had tied the boat securely, so I knew now that
someone was on my trail. I had not only to make my way on foot through
the wilderness, but I was to be dogged at every step. What with the
heat, starvation, and growing fear, I was pretty nearly out of my head,
but the knowledge that upon me alone depended the safety of the army
kept me on, straining every nerve. If it hadn’t been for that, I would
have given it up right there.
After I had followed the bank of the river for some distance, some logs
came drifting down the current. I took the chances of being seen, and
swam out and captured two of them. Tied together with long, tough
creepers, they made a passable raft, and all that night I floated down
stream, paddling as well as I could with my hands. I passed a lot of
houses and villages on the banks, and so I knew that I was approaching
the city. Sometimes I heard the sound of drums and bugles, for the
insurgents were all over the country raising recruits. I must have been
wandering in my mind by that time, for I wasn’t a bit scared any
more—only watching for wild bananas and bread-fruit, and wondering how
long I’d last. I succeeded in killing some of the many tame ducks I saw,
and ate them raw, not daring to build a fire.
Next night the river broadened out into a good-sized lake. By the look
of it, I took it to be Laguna de Bay, about twenty-five miles from
Manila. I had only that night and the next day to reach our troops. If
the first shot were fired before I got to the outposts, I might just as
well drop into the Pasig and go to the bottom.
When the sun rose I slid into the water and struck out for the shore,
intending to take my chances along the bank by daylight. This was the
morning of the 4th of February. Somehow, some way, I had to get through
the circle of the Filipino lines drawn about the city. I hoped that I
was too close to the town for them to dare to interfere with an American
soldier in the daytime. So I climbed up a slippery bank and broke into
the brush, about as tired and discouraged as a man could be and still
Then—all of a sudden—I was nailed from behind! The game was up. Somebody
gripped me by the throat. I was so weak, there was no fight left in me.
In half a minute I was bound by a dozen niggers, who came jumping out of
the bushes and fell on top of me from all sides at once. I didn’t much
care what they were going to do with me: I had quit. Five days of fear
and suspense and suffering had taken every bit of nerve out of me.
As soon as I was tied up they began to rush me along the road, kicking
me up every time I faltered, and jabbing me with bolos when I fell. I
don’t know why I didn’t die right then. I don’t know why my hair isn’t
At last we came to a little nipa hut, guarded by Filipino soldiers in
dirty white uniforms and bare feet. I was thrown inside, unbound, and
given a gourd of rice. I ate it, hoping it was poisoned. From all I saw,
I was sure the tip about the outbreak was straight, for the place was
bustling with soldiers coming and going, and I noticed they all had
At about four o’clock I was bound again and gagged. I thought it was the
end, sure, this time, and I was ready to die game. But it was only a new
kind of torture. They prodded me with their bayonets, marching me to a
place where I could look through the bushes right across a little river.
There, on the other side, was one of our sentries pacing up and down,
and way off I saw the Stars and Stripes floating in the sun. I could
hear a band playing “There’ll be a hot time,” too. If I could have
yelled across just once and given our boys warning, I wouldn’t have
minded anything they did to me. But I was gagged. I believe I cried.
Then they took me back to the hut, and night came on. Every minute that
passed made the torture worse and worse. I didn’t care for myself any
more; I was only thinking about the boys across the river, all
unconscious of what was going to happen. I knew so well how careless
they had got to be, and what fun they made of the idea that the niggers
could possibly have the nerve to attack us. They would all be fooling
around the streets of Manila, probably half of them at the theatre or
dancing or in the cafés, leaving only the guard to take the first rush.
It didn’t seem possible that we could be saved. Our entrenchments would
be carried at the first charge, I was sure. The Tagalos in town would
rise, and it would mean a wholesale massacre.
Of course you know now all about the battle, for the night of February
4, 1899, is school-book history by this time. I doubt if there was any
actual date set by Aguinaldo for rushing Manila, though he had
considerable trouble keeping his cocky little niggers in order. If there
was a time set, it wasn’t that night, anyway. The Filipinos were getting
more insulting every day, and I suppose it was only a question of a week
or so at latest. But I didn’t know it then. Everybody has heard by this
time how the row opened, with a Nebraska private shooting at four
Tagalos who tried to pass Block House No. 6. But all I knew was what
Aguilar had told me, and from what I saw, it looked nasty enough to be
true. I could see that the niggers were prepared to go into action at a
So I waited and waited in the hut, dying by inches. I hoped I had been
fooled, and feared that I wasn’t. I imagined by what I had seen that I
was at San Felipe, on the bank of the San Juan River, where it joins the
Pasig. If so, the Nebraska boys ought to be nearest me. My regiment was
with Ovenshine, to the south of the city, camped near Malate.
I felt about the way you feel when a tempest is coming up, and I was
just waiting for the first clap of thunder. Along about half-past eight,
I should say, I heard a single shot ring out, and right off, as if it
had been a signal, the Mausers began to crack over by the river. The
fire increased steadily till they were shooting all over to the north in
the Tondo District. Company after company of Filipinos ran past the hut,
the officers yelling like mad. Still, there was nothing but Mausers
going, popping like fire-crackers, and it seemed hours before the fire
was returned. I was sure they had carried the town. At last I heard a
volley of Springfields—I knew them by the heavy boom, and I knew then
that the Nebraska boys had formed and had gone into action. I had been
with the regulars long enough to look down on the volunteers; but when I
heard that firing, I just stood up and yelled! It didn’t die down, but
kept up steadily, and I was sure the boys were holding the Filipinos
back, when the Utah light artillery got into action. Then, just like a
thunderstorm, the noise slowly swept round to the south, and the
Springfields took up the chorus down through Anderson’s Division; first
the California boys and the Idahos of the 1st Brigade, till about three
in the morning the regulars were engaged. Of course I had to guess it
out from what I knew of the way our troops were camped, but I imagined I
could tell the minute my regiment began to fight. The Astor Mountain
Battery and the 6th Artillery began to answer the Filipino’s Krupp guns,
and then till daybreak the battle was going on all round the town.
I waited for the Springfield fire to weaken, dreading that we would be
driven in, but when it kept up as if it never would stop, I was sure
that we had whipped them. The Filipinos began to retreat past the hut in
disorder, the officers as badly scared as the privates. I was watching
them, laughing, when four niggers broke into the hut, tied my arms,
packed me on a mule, and rushed me off.
For four or five days I was carried back and forth behind the Filipino
army, dodging out of every skirmish, as the Americans pushed Aguinaldo
back all along the circle. One night we spent in Mariquina, and left
early in the morning, while white flags were flying to lure our troops
into the town. Then we travelled southwest towards Pasai. I wondered
what they were keeping me for, and why they didn’t either kill me or let
me go. Then I remembered what I’d heard of Spanish prisons, and I
stopped wondering and began to pray.
We ended, finally, in a church the insurgents were trying to hold while
our boys were getting ready to charge. I was driven up into a bell-tower
half battered to pieces from our shells and filled with smoke. A squad
of natives were firing from the windows.
There in a corner was Señor Aguilar, in the uniform of a Filipino
colonel, and I knew that my case was to be settled at last. He looked
black. I didn’t have long to wait this time. The niggers threw me down,
and put a Filipino uniform blouse on me, taking it from a dead soldier
on the floor. I didn’t try to resist. What was the use?
Then Aguilar said to me: “I hope you have enjoyed your journey, Señor
Roberts. My men took care to make it as interesting as possible. A man
who has the courage to refuse the hand of an Aguilar deserves
distinguished treatment.” He got as far as that with his Spanish
sarcasm, and then his native Filipino savagery got the better of him.
“You d—— fool, did you think for a moment that I’d let an American hound
like you marry my sister? Do you think I would let a man live who had
played with her? No, by heaven, nor die, either, except like a dog. I
have let you live long enough to be hanged by your own countrymen.
You’re a deserter, and I’ve given some interesting information to your
spies. And you’ll be caught fighting in our ranks!” Then he drew his
revolver and pointed to the dead Filipino on the floor. “Take that gun,
and go to the window, and shoot down your brother dogs!” he cried.
I don’t know why I didn’t shoot him, instead, right there, but I had
lost my nerve. I went to the window and fired at a bare space. And then,
if you’ll believe it, I saw my own regimental flag coming up with Old
Glory, as my own bunkies formed for the rush. It was Colonel Knowlton’s
command that was to take the church. I don’t know what ever became of
Aguilar, for I just stood up in the window and cheered as the boys came
on. They charged with a yell that did my heart good to hear, for I lost
myself and my danger watching the way they did the work.
But I remembered soon enough. The Filipino fire died away, and the
insurgents scurried out of the building like rats. I was pulled back
with them as they retreated, but as we crossed a dry creek bed I
stumbled and fell. Just then a detachment of my own company came up,
skirmishing, and saw me. I threw up my hands, and a corporal covered me.
I knew him well; he used to drive in the little donkey-cart with me in
Manila when I marketed.
He dropped his rifle and said, “Good God! It’s Roberts.”
I tried to explain how I’d been knocked out and captured, but they
wouldn’t believe me. I had been posted for a deserter, and Aguilar had
fixed me. All I could do was to ask them to shoot me right there, as if
I had been killed in the battle. But they had cooled down some while I
talked, and they couldn’t do it in cold blood. Finally, the corporal
“See here, boys, I enlisted to fight, and not to be a hangman. Roberts
has messed with me, and I can’t do it. Perhaps what he says is true; I
don’t know. If you want to arrest him, go ahead. But I’ll be darned if I
want it said that the old 114th had to shoot a deserter. Come on, and
let him take his chances!”
He turned his back on me, and they followed him. I ripped off my canvas
coat and ran down the creek and hid till night.
There wasn’t a man on the whole island, nigger or white, who wasn’t my
enemy, and I didn’t expect I’d ever escape. But there was a woman. She
wasn’t exactly the kind you’d ever suspect of having a heart, but she
saved my life. She hid me in a shed outside of the town, and fed me and
nursed me till I was able to get away on a blockade runner and come to
San Francisco. I owe that woman something, and if I’m ever flush again,
she’ll get it back.
So it was a woman who sent me to the Philippines, it was a woman who got
my promotion, a woman who tortured me like a fiend, and a woman who
saved me. And the queer part of it is that the last one was what most
people would call the worst of the lot!
* * * * *
Admeh Drake was seeing his own phantoms of the Philippines on his cot;
the man with the yellow beard, Maidslow, _alias_ Roberts, was looking
with eyes that saw beyond the walls of the Hammam, when the Hero of Pago
Bridge brought himself back with a jerk.
“You’ve told me all except how you got here,” he said.
“Plain drunk,” said Maidslow, “the first I dared get after I left the
Islands. But it isn’t safe for me to stay in San Francisco, now Colonel
Knowlton is back here. If Maxie saw through the beard, he will, and the
place is full of Secret Service men.”
Admeh Drake suddenly jumped from the couch.
“What will you give me if I get that legacy for you?”
“A thousand dollars.”
“Done!” cried the Hero. “See here, it’s too easy! Colonel Knowlton don’t
know your real name’s Maidslow, does he?”
“No, I enlisted as Roberts.”
“Dead to rights. He’ll take Maxie’s word when she identifies her husband
to him. All right again. Well, let me play Harry Maidslow, and go with
Maxie to the Colonel. I take my thousand, and you take the rest
and—Maxie. How’s that?”
“If Maxie will stand for it, I’m ready,” said the deserter.
During the rest of the night, the man who went for a soldier and wished
he hadn’t, and the man who didn’t go and wished that he had, lay in an
upper corridor of the Hammam discussing the details of their conspiracy.