Uzyskaj dostęp do tej i ponad 60000 książek od 6,99 zł miesięcznie
Hearts of Three written by Jack London who was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. This book was published in 1920. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Liczba stron: 551
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Hearts of Three
Back to Back Against the Mainmast
I hope the reader will forgive me for beginning this foreword with a brag. In truth, this yarn is a celebration. By its completion I celebrate my fortieth birthday, my fiftieth book, my sixteenth year in the writing game, and a new departure. “Hearts of Three” is a new departure. I have certainly never done anything like it before; I am pretty certain never to do anything like it again. And I haven’t the least bit of reticence in proclaiming my pride in having done it. And now, for the reader who likes action, I advise him to skip the rest of this brag and foreword, and plunge into the narrative, and tell me if it just doesn’t read along.
For the more curious let me explain a bit further. With the rise of moving pictures into the overwhelmingly most popular form of amusement in the entire world, the stock of plots and stories in the world’s fiction fund began rapidly to be exhausted. In a year a single producing company, with a score of directors, is capable of filming the entire literary output of the entire lives of Shakespeare, Balzac, Dickens, Scott, Zola, Tolstoy, and of dozens of less voluminous writers. And since there are hundreds of moving pictures producing companies, it can be readily grasped how quickly they found themselves face to face with a shortage of the raw material of which moving pictures are fashioned.
The film rights in all novels, short stories, and plays that were still covered by copyright, were bought or contracted for, while all similar raw material on which copyright had expired was being screened as swiftly as sailors on a placer beach would pick up nuggets. Thousands of scenario writers—literally tens of thousands, for no man, nor woman, nor child was too mean not to write scenarios—tens of thousands of scenario writers pirated through all literature (copyright or otherwise), and snatched the magazines hot from the press to steal any new scene or plot or story hit upon by their writing brethren.
In passing, it is only fair to point out that, though only the other day, it was in the days ere scenario writers became respectable, in the days when they worked overtime for rough-neck directors for fifteen and twenty a week or freelanced their wares for from ten to twenty dollars per scenario and half the time were beaten out of the due payment, or had their stolen goods stolen from them by their equally graceless and shameless fellows who slaved by the week. But to-day, which is only a day since the other day, I know scenario writers who keep their three machines, their two chauffeurs, send their children to the most exclusive prep schools, and maintain an unwavering solvency.
It was largely because of the shortage in raw material that scenario writers appreciated in value and esteem. They found themselves in demand, treated with respect, better remunerated, and, in return, expected to deliver a higher grade of commodity. One phase of this new quest for material was the attempt to enlist known authors in the work. But because a man had written a score of novels was no guarantee that he could write a good scenario. Quite to the contrary, it was quickly discovered that the surest guarantee of failure was a previous record of success in novel-writing.
But the moving pictures producers were not to be denied. Division of labor was the thing. Allying themselves with powerful newspaper organisations, or, in the case of “Hearts of Three,” the very reverse, they had highly-skilled writers of scenario (who couldn’t write novels to save themselves) make scenarios, which, in turn, were translated into novels by novel-writers (who couldn’t, to save themselves, write scenarios).
Comes now Mr. Charles Goddard to one, Jack London, saying: “The time, the place, and the men are met; the moving pictures producers, the newspapers, and the capital, are ready: let us get together.” And we got. Result: “Hearts of Three.” When I state that Mr. Goddard has been responsible for “The Perils of Pauline,” “The Exploits of Elaine,” “The Goddess,” the “Get Rich Quick Wallingford” series, etc., no question of his skilled fitness can be raised. Also, the name of the present heroine, Leoncia, is of his own devising.
On the ranch, in the “Valley of the Moon,” he wrote his first several episodes. But he wrote faster than I, and was done with his fifteen episodes weeks ahead of me. Do not be misled by the word “episode.” The first episode covers three thousand feet of film. The succeeding fourteen episodes cover each two thousand feet of film. And each episode contains about ninety scenes, which makes a total of some thirteen hundred scenes. Nevertheless, we worked simultaneously at our respective tasks. I could not build for what was going to happen next or a dozen chapters away, because I did not know. Neither did Mr. Goddard know. The inevitable result was that “Hearts of Three” may not be very vertebrate, although it is certainly consecutive.
Imagine my surprise, down here in Hawaii and toiling at the novelization of the tenth episode, to receive by mail from Mr. Goddard in New York the scenario of the fourteenth episode, and glancing therein, to find my hero married to the wrong woman!—and with only one more episode in which to get rid of the wrong woman and duly tie my hero up with the right and only woman. For all of which please see last chapter of fifteenth episode. Trust Mr. Goddard to show me how.
For Mr. Goddard is the master of action and lord of speed. Action doesn’t bother him at all. “Register,” he calmly says in a film direction to the moving picture actor. Evidently the actor registers, for Mr. Goddard goes right on with more action. “Register grief,” he commands, or “sorrow,” or “anger,” or “melting sympathy,” or “homicidal intent,” or “suicidal tendency.” That’s all. It has to be all, or how else would he ever accomplish the whole thirteen hundred scenes?
But imagine the poor devil of a me, who can’t utter the talismanic “register” but who must describe, and at some length inevitably, these moods and modes so airily created in passing by Mr. Goddard! Why, Dickens thought nothing of consuming a thousand words or so in describing and subtly characterizing the particular grief of a particular person. But Mr. Goddard says, “Register,” and the slaves of the camera obey.
And action! I have written some novels of adventure in my time, but never, in all of the many of them, have I perpetrated a totality of action equal to what is contained in “Hearts of Three.”
But I know, now, why moving pictures are popular. I know, now, why Messrs. “Barnes of New York” and “Potter of Texas” sold by the millions of copies. I know, now, why one stump speech of high-falutin’ is a more efficient vote-getter than a finest and highest act or thought of statesmanship. It has been an interesting experience, this novelization by me of Mr. Goddard’s scenario; and it has been instructive. It has given me high lights, foundation lines, cross-bearings, and illumination on my anciently founded sociological generalizations. I have come, by this adventure in writing, to understand the mass mind of the people more thoroughly than I thought I had understood it before, and to realize, more fully than ever, the graphic entertainment delivered by the demagogue who wins the vote of the mass out of his mastery of its mind. I should be surprised if this book does not have a large sale. (“Register surprise,” Mr. Goddard would say; or “Register large sale”).
If this adventure of “Hearts of Three” be collaboration, I am transported by it. But alack!—I fear me Mr. Goddard must then be the one collaborator in a million. We have never had a word, an argument, nor a discussion. But then, I must be a jewel of a collaborator myself. Have I not, without whisper or whimper of complaint, let him “register” through fifteen episodes of scenario, through thirteen hundred scenes and thirty-one thousand feet of film, through one hundred and eleven thousand words of novelization? Just the same, having completed the task, I wish I’d never written it—for the reason that I’d like to read it myself to see if it reads along. I am curious to know. I am curious to know.
March 23, 1916.
Do ye seek for fun and fortune?
Listen, rovers, now to me!
Look ye for them on the ocean:
Ye shall find them on the sea.
Roaring wind and deep blue water!
We’re the jolly devils who,
Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew.
Bring the dagger, bring the pistols!
We will have our own to-day!
Let the cannon smash the bulwarks!
Let the cutlass clear the way!
Roaring wind and deep blue water!
We’re the jolly devils who,
Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew.
Here’s to rum and here’s to plunder!
Here’s to all the gales that blow!
Let the seamen cry for mercy!
Let the blood of captains flow!
Roaring wind and deep blue water!
We’re the jolly devils who,
Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew.
Here’s to ships that we have taken!
They have seen which men were best.
We have lifted maids and cargo,
And the sharks have had the rest.
Roaring wind and deep blue water!
We’re the jolly devils who,
Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew.
Events happened very rapidly with Francis Morgan that late spring morning. If ever a man leaped across time into the raw, red drama and tragedy of the primitive and the medieval melodrama of sentiment and passion of the New World Latin, Francis Morgan was destined to be that man, and Destiny was very immediate upon him.
Yet he was lazily unaware that aught in the world was stirring, and was scarcely astir himself. A late night at bridge had necessitated a late rising. A late breakfast of fruit and cereal had occurred along the route to the library—the austerely elegant room from which his father, toward the last, had directed vast and manifold affairs.
“Parker,” he said to the valet who had been his father’s before him, “did you ever notice any signs of fat on R.H.M. in his last days?”
“Oh, no, sir,” was the answer, uttered with all the due humility of the trained servant, but accompanied by an involuntarily measuring glance that scanned the young man’s splendid proportions. “Your father, sir, never lost his leanness. His figure was always the same, broad-shouldered, deep in the chest, big-boned, but lean, always lean, sir, in the middle. When he was laid out, sir, and bathed, his body would have shamed most of the young men about town. He always took good care of himself; it was those exercises in bed, sir. Half an hour every morning. Nothing prevented. He called it religion.”
“Yes, he was a fine figure of a man,” the young man responded idly, glancing to the stock-ticker and the several telephones his father had installed.
“He was that,” Parker agreed eagerly. “He was lean and aristocratic in spite of his shoulders and bone and chest. And you’ve inherited it, sir, only on more generous lines.”
Young Francis Morgan, inheritor of many millions as well as brawn, lolled back luxuriously in a huge leather chair, stretched his legs after the manner of a full-vigored menagerie lion that is overspilling with vigor, and glanced at a headline of the morning paper which informed him of a fresh slide in the Culebra Cut at Panama.
“If I didn’t know we Morgans didn’t run that way,” he yawned, “I’d be fat already from this existence.... Eh, Parker?”
The elderly valet, who had neglected prompt reply, startled at the abrupt interrogative interruption of the pause.
“Oh, yes, sir,” he said hastily. “I mean, no, sir. You are in the pink of condition.”
“Not on your life,” the young man assured him. “I may not be getting fat, but I am certainly growing soft.... Eh, Parker?”
“Yes, sir. No, sir; no, I mean no, sir. You’re just the same as when you came home from college three years ago.”
“And took up loafing as a vocation,” Francis laughed. “Parker!”
Parker was alert attention. His master debated with himself ponderously, as if the problem were of profound importance, rubbing the while the bristly thatch of the small toothbrush moustache he had recently begun to sport on his upper lip.
“Parker, I’m going fishing.”
“I ordered some rods sent up. Please joint them and let me give them the once over. The idea drifts through my mind that two weeks in the woods is what I need. If I don’t, I’ll surely start laying on flesh and disgrace the whole family tree. You remember Sir Henry?—the old original Sir Henry, the buccaneer old swashbuckler?”
“Yes, sir; I’ve read of him, sir.”
Parker had paused in the doorway until such time as the ebbing of his young master’s volubility would permit him to depart on the errand.
“Nothing to be proud of, the old pirate.”
“Oh, no, sir,” Parker protested. “He was Governor of Jamaica. He died respected.”
“It was a mercy he didn’t die hanged,” Francis laughed. “As it was, he’s the only disgrace in the family that he founded. But what I was going to say is that I’ve looked him up very carefully. He kept his figure and he died lean in the middle, thank God. It’s a good inheritance he passed down. We Morgans never found his treasure; but beyond rubies is the lean-in-the-middle legacy he bequeathed us. It’s what is called a fixed character in the breed—that’s what the profs taught me in the biology course.”
Parker faded out of the room in the ensuing silence, during which Francis Morgan buried himself in the Panama column and learned that the canal was not expected to be open for traffic for three weeks to come.
A telephone buzzed, and, through the electric nerves of a consummate civilization, Destiny made the first out-reach of its tentacles and contacted with Francis Morgan in the library of the mansion his father had builded on Riverside Drive.
“But my dear Mrs. Carruthers,” was his protest into the transmitter. “Whatever it is, it is a mere local flurry. Tampico Petroleum is all right. It is not a gambling proposition. It is legitimate investment. Stay with. Tie to it.... Some Minnesota farmer’s come to town and is trying to buy a block or two because it looks as solid as it really is.... What if it is up two points? Don’t sell. Tampico Petroleum is not a lottery or a roulette proposition. It’s bona fide industry. I wish it hadn’t been so almighty big or I’d have financed it all myself.... Listen, please, it’s not a flyer. Our present contracts for tanks is over a million. Our railroad and our three pipe-lines are costing more than five millions. Why, we’ve a hundred millions in producing wells right now, and our problem is to get it down country to the oil-steamers. This is the sober investment time. A year from now, or two years, and your shares will make government bonds look like something the cat brought in....”
“Yes, yes, please. Never mind how the market goes. Also, please, I didn’t advise you to go in in the first place. I never advised a friend to that. But now that they are in, stick. It’s as solid as the Bank of England.... Yes, Dicky and I divided the spoils last night. Lovely party, though Dicky’s got too much temperament for bridge.... Yes, bull luck.... Ha! ha! My temperament? Ha! Ha!... Yes?... Tell Harry I’m off and away for a couple of weeks.... Fishing, troutlets, you know, the springtime and the streams, the rise of sap, the budding and the blossoming and all the rest.... Yes, good-bye, and hold on to Tampico Petroleum. If it goes down, after that Minnesota farmer’s bulled it, buy a little more. I’m going to. It’s finding money.... Yes.... Yes, surely.... It’s too good to dare sell on a flyer now, because it mayn’t ever again go down.... Of course I know what I’m talking about. I’ve just had eight hours’ sleep, and haven’t had a drink.... Yes, yes.... Good-bye.”
He pulled the ticker tape into the comfort of his chair and languidly ran over it, noting with mildly growing interest the message it conveyed.
Parker returned with several slender rods, each a glittering gem of artisanship and art. Francis was out of his chair, ticker flung aside and forgotten as with the exultant joy of a boy he examined the toys and, one after another, began trying them, switching them through the air till they made shrill whip-like noises, moving them gently with prudence and precision under the lofty ceiling as he made believe to cast across the floor into some unseen pool of trout-lurking mystery.
A telephone buzzed. Irritation was swift on his face.
“For heaven’s sake answer it, Parker,” he commanded. “If it is some silly stock-gambling female, tell her I’m dead, or drunk, or down with typhoid, or getting married, or anything calamitous.”
After a moment’s dialogue, conducted on Parker’s part, in the discreet and modulated tones that befitted absolutely the cool, chaste, noble dignity of the room, with a “One moment, sir,” into the transmitter, he muffled the transmitter with his hand and said:
“It’s Mr. Bascom, sir. He wants you.”
“Tell Mr. Bascom to go to hell,” said Francis, simulating so long a cast, that, had it been in verity a cast, and had it pursued the course his fascinated gaze indicated, it would have gone through the window and most likely startled the gardener outside kneeling over the rose bush he was planting.
“Mr. Bascom says it’s about the market, sir, and that he’d like to talk with you only a moment,” Parker urged, but so delicately and subduedly as to seem to be merely repeating an immaterial and unnecessary message.
“All right.” Francis carefully leaned the rod against a table and went to the ‘phone.
“Hello,” he said into the telephone. “Yes, this is I, Morgan. Shoot, What is it?”
He listened for a minute, then interrupted irritably: “Sell—hell. Nothing of the sort.... Of course, I’m glad to know. Even if it goes up ten points, which it won’t, hold on to everything. It may be a legitimate rise, and it mayn’t ever come down. It’s solid. It’s worth far more than it’s listed. I know, if the public doesn’t. A year from now it’ll list at two hundred ... that is, if Mexico can cut the revolution stuff.... Whenever it drops you’ll have buying orders from me.... Nonsense. Who wants control? It’s purely sporadic ... eh? I beg your pardon. I mean it’s merely temporary. Now I’m going off fishing for a fortnight. If it goes down five points, buy. Buy all that’s offered. Say, when a fellow’s got a real bona fide property, being bulled is almost as bad as having the bears after one ... yes.... Sure ... yes. Good-bye.”
And while Francis returned delightedly to his fishing-rods, Destiny, in Thomas Regan’s down-town private office, was working overtime. Having arranged with his various brokers to buy, and, through his divers channels of secret publicity having let slip the cryptic tip that something was wrong with Tampico Petroleum’s concessions from the Mexican government, Thomas Regan studied a report of his own oil-expert emissary who had spent two months on the spot spying out what Tampico Petroleum really had in sight and prospect.
A clerk brought in a card with the information that the visitor was importunate and foreign. Regan listened, glanced at the card, and said:
“Tell this Mister Senor Alvarez Torres of Ciodad de Colon that I can’t see him.”
Five minutes later the clerk was back, this time with a message pencilled on the card. Regan grinned as he read it:
“Dear Mr. Regan,
“I have the honour to inform you that I have a tip on the location of the treasure Sir Henry Morgan buried in old pirate days.
Regan shook his head, and the clerk was nearly out of the room when his employer suddenly recalled him.
“Show him in—at once.”
In the interval of being alone, Regan chuckled to himself as he rolled the new idea over in his mind. “The unlicked cub!” he muttered through the smoke of the cigar he was lighting. “Thinks he can play the lion part old R.H.M. played. A trimming is what he needs, and old Grayhead Thomas R. will see that he gets it.”
Senor Alvarez Torres’ English was as correct as his modish spring suit, and though the bleached yellow of his skin advertised his Latin-American origin, and though his black eyes were eloquent of the mixed lustres of Spanish and Indian long compounded, nevertheless he was as thoroughly New Yorkish as Thomas Regan could have wished.
“By great effort, and years of research, I have finally won to the clue to the buccaneer gold of Sir Henry Morgan,” he preambled. “Of course it’s on the Mosquito Coast. I’ll tell you now that it’s not a thousand miles from the Chiriqui Lagoon, and that Bocas del Toro, within reason, may be described as the nearest town. I was born there—educated in Paris, however—and I know the neighbourhood like a book. A small schooner—the outlay is cheap, most very cheap—but the returns, the reward—the treasure!”
Senor Torres paused in eloquent inability to describe more definitely, and Thomas Regan, hard man used to dealing with hard men, proceeded to bore into him and his data like a cross-examining criminal lawyer.
“Yes,” Senor Torres quickly admitted, “I am somewhat embarrassed—how shall I say?—for immediate funds.”
“You need the money,” the stock operator assured him brutally, and he bowed pained acquiescence.
Much more he admitted under the rapid-fire interrogation. It was true, he had but recently left Bocas del Toro, but he hoped never again to go back. And yet he would go back if possibly some arrangement....
But Regan shut him off with the abrupt way of the master-man dealing with lesser fellow-creatures. He wrote a check, in the name of Alvarez Torres, and when that gentleman glanced at it he read the figures of a thousand dollars.
“Now here’s the idea,” said Regan. “I put no belief whatsoever in your story. But I have a young friend—my heart is bound up in the boy but he is too much about town, the white lights and the white-lighted ladies, and the rest—you understand?” And Senor Alvarez Torres bowed as one man of the world to another. “Now, for the good of his health, as well as his wealth and the saving of his soul, the best thing that could happen to him is a trip after treasure, adventure, exercise, and ... you readily understand, I am sure.”
Again Alvarez Torres bowed.
“You need the money,” Regan continued. “Strive to interest him. That thousand is for your effort. Succeed in interesting him so that he departs after old Morgan’s gold, and two thousand more is yours. So thoroughly succeed in interesting him that he remains away three months, two thousand more—six months, five thousand. Oh, believe me, I knew his father. We were comrades, partners, I—I might say, almost brothers. I would sacrifice any sum to win his son to manhood’s wholesome path. What do you say? The thousand is yours to begin with. Well?”
With trembling fingers Senor Alvarez Torres folded and unfolded the check.
“I ... I accept,” he stammered and faltered in his eagerness. “I ... I ... How shall I say?... I am yours to command.”
Five minutes later, as he arose to go, fully instructed in the part he was to play and with his story of Morgan’s treasure revised to convincingness by the brass-tack business acumen of the stock-gambler, he blurted out, almost facetiously, yet even more pathetically:
“And the funniest thing about it, Mr. Regan, is that it is true. Your advised changes in my narrative make it sound more true, but true it is under it all. I need the money. You are most munificent, and I shall do my best.... I ... I pride myself that I am an artist. But the real and solemn truth is that the clue to Morgan’s buried loot is genuine. I have had access to records inaccessible to the public, which is neither here nor there, for the men of my own family—they are family records—have had similar access, and have wasted their lives before me in the futile search. Yet were they on the right clue—except that their wits made them miss the spot by twenty miles. It was there in the records. They missed it, because it was, I think, a deliberate trick, a conundrum, a puzzle, a disguisement, a maze, which I, and I alone, have penetrated and solved. The early navigators all played such tricks on the charts they drew. My Spanish race so hid the Hawaiian Islands by five degrees of longitude.”
All of which was in turn Greek to Thomas Regan, who smiled his acceptance of listening and with the same smile conveyed his busy business-man’s tolerant unbelief.
Scarcely was Senor Torres gone, when Francis Morgan was shown in.
“Just thought I’d drop around for a bit of counsel,” he said, greetings over. “And to whom but you should I apply, who so closely played the game with my father? You and he were partners, I understand, on some of the biggest deals. He always told me to trust your judgment. And, well, here I am, and I want to go fishing. What’s up with Tampico Petroleum?”
“What is up?” Regan countered, with fine simulation of ignorance of the very thing of moment he was responsible for precipitating. “Tampico Petroleum?”
Francis nodded, dropped into a chair, and lighted a cigarette, while Regan consulted the ticker.
“Tampico Petroleum is up—two points—you should worry,” he opined.
“That’s what I say,” Francis concurred. “I should worry. But just the same, do you think some bunch, onto the inside value of it—and it’s big—I speak under the rose, you know, I mean in absolute confidence?” Regan nodded. “It is big. It is right. It is the real thing. It is legitimate. Now this activity—would you think that somebody, or some bunch, is trying to get control?”
His father’s associate, with the reverend gray of hair thatching his roof of crooked brain, shook the thatch.
“Why,” he amplified, “it may be just a flurry, or it may be a hunch on the stock public that it’s really good. What do you say?”
“Of course it’s good,” was Francis’ warm response. “I’ve got reports, Regan, so good they’d make your hair stand up. As I tell all my friends, this is the real legitimate. It’s a damned shame I had to let the public in on it. It was so big, I just had to. Even all the money my father left me, couldn’t swing it—I mean, free money, not the stuff tied up—money to work with.”
“Are you short?” the older man queried.
“Oh, I’ve got a tidy bit to operate with,” was the airy reply of youth.
“Sure. Just that. If she drops, I’ll buy. It’s finding money.”
“Just about how far would you buy?” was the next searching interrogation, masked by an expression of mingled good humor and approbation.
“All I’ve got,” came Francis Morgan’s prompt answer. “I tell you, Regan, it’s immense.”
“I haven’t looked into it to amount to anything, Francis; but I will say from the little I know that it listens good.”
“Listens! I tell you, Regan, it’s the Simon-pure, straight legitimate, and it’s a shame to have it listed at all. I don’t have to wreck anybody or anything to pull it across. The world will be better for my shooting into it I am afraid to say how many hundreds of millions of barrels of real oil——say, I’ve got one well alone, in the Huasteca field, that’s gushed 27,000 barrels a day for seven months. And it’s still doing it. That’s the drop in the bucket we’ve got piped to market now. And it’s twenty-two gravity, and carries less than two-tenths of one per cent. of sediment. And there’s one gusher—sixty miles of pipe to build to it, and pinched down to the limit of safety, that’s pouring out all over the landscape just about seventy thousand barrels a day.—Of course, all in confidence, you know. We’re doing nicely, and I don’t want Tampico Petroleum to skyrocket.”
“Don’t you worry about that, my lad. You’ve got to get your oil piped, and the Mexican revolution straightened out before ever Tampico Petroleum soars. You go fishing and forget it.” Regan paused, with finely simulated sudden recollection, and picked up Alvarez Torres’ card with the pencilled note. “Look, who’s just been to see me.” Apparently struck with an idea, Regan retained the card a moment. “Why go fishing for mere trout? After all, it’s only recreation. Here’s a thing to go fishing after that there’s real recreation in, full-size man’s recreation, and not the Persian-palace recreation of an Adirondack camp, with ice and servants and electric push-buttons. Your father always was more than a mite proud of that old family pirate. He claimed to look like him, and you certainly look like your dad.”
“Sir Henry,” Francis smiled, reaching for the card. “So am I a mite proud of the old scoundrel.”
He looked up questioningly from the reading of the card.
“He’s a plausible cuss,” Regan explained. “Claims to have been born right down there on the Mosquito Coast, and to have got the tip from private papers in his family. Not that I believe a word of it. I haven’t time or interest to get started believing in stuff outside my own field.”
“Just the same, Sir Henry died practically a poor man,” Francis asserted, the lines of the Morgan stubbornness knitting themselves for a flash on his brows. “And they never did find any of his buried treasure.”
“Good fishing,” Regan girded good-humoredly.
“I’d like to meet this Alvarez Torres just the same,” the young man responded.
“Fool’s gold,” Regan continued. “Though I must admit that the cuss is most exasperatingly plausible. Why, if I were younger—but oh, the devil, my work’s cut out for me here.”
“Do you know where I can find him?” Francis was asking the next moment, all unwittingly putting his neck into the net of tentacles that Destiny, in the visible incarnation of Thomas Regan, was casting out to snare him.
The next morning the meeting took place in Regan’s office. Senor Alvarez Torres startled and controlled himself at first sight of Francis’ face. This was not missed by Regan, who grinningly demanded:
“Looks like the old pirate himself, eh?”
“Yes, the resemblance is most striking,” Torres lied, or half-lied, for he did recognize the resemblance to the portraits he had seen of Sir Henry Morgan; although at the same time under his eyelids he saw the vision of another and living man who, no less than Francis and Sir Henry, looked as much like both of them as either looked like the other.
Francis was youth that was not to be denied. Modern maps and ancient charts were pored over, as well as old documents, handwritten in faded ink on time-yellowed paper, and at the end of half an hour he announced that the next fish he caught would be on either the Bull or the Calf—the two islets off the Lagoon of Chiriqui, on one or the other of which Torres averred the treasure lay.
“I’ll catch to-night’s train for New Orleans,” Francis announced. “That will just make connection with one of the United Fruit Company’s boats for Colon—oh, I had it all looked up before I slept last night.”
“But don’t charter a schooner at Colon,” Torres advised. “Take the overland trip by horseback to Belen. There’s the place to charter, with unsophisticated native sailors and everything else unsophisticated.”
“Listens good!” Francis agreed. “I always wanted to see that country down there. You’ll be ready to catch to-night’s train, Senor Torres?... Of course, you understand, under the circumstances, I’ll be the treasurer and foot the expenses.”
But at a privy glance from Regan, Alvarez Torres lied with swift efficientness.
“I must join you later, I regret, Mr. Morgan. Some little business that presses—how shall I say?—an insignificant little lawsuit that must be settled first. Not that the sum at issue is important. But it is a family matter, and therefore gravely important. We Torres have our pride, which is a silly thing, I acknowledge, in this country, but which with us is very serious.”
“He can join afterward, and straighten you out if you’ve missed the scent,” Regan assured Francis. “And, before it slips your mind, it might be just as well to arrange with Senor Torres some division of the loot ... if you ever find it.”
“What would you say?” Francis asked.
“Equal division, fifty-fifty,” Regan answered, magnificently arranging the apportionment between the two men of something he was certain did not exist.
“And you will follow after as soon as you can?” Francis asked the Latin American. “Regan, take hold of his little law affair yourself and expedite it, won’t you?”
“Sure, boy,” was the answer. “And, if it’s needed, shall I advance cash to Senor Alvarez?”
“Fine!” Francis shook their hands in both of his. “It will save me bother. And I’ve got to rush to pack and break engagements and catch that train. So long, Regan. Good-bye, Senor Torres, until we meet somewhere around Bocas del Toro, or in a little hole in the ground on the Bull or the Calf—you say you think it’s the Calf? Well, until then—adios!”
And Senor Alvarez Torres remained with Regan some time longer, receiving explicit instructions for the part he was to play, beginning with retardation and delay of Francis’ expedition, and culminating in similar retardation and delay always to be continued.
“In short,” Regan concluded, “I don’t almost care if he never comes back—if you can keep him down there for the good of his health that long and longer.”
Money, like youth, will not be denied, and Francis Morgan, who was the man-legal and nature-certain representative of both youth and money, found himself one afternoon, three weeks after he had said good-bye to Regan, becalmed close under the land on board his schooner, the Angelique. The water was glassy, the smooth roll scarcely perceptible, and, in sheer ennui and overplus of energy that likewise declined to be denied, he asked the captain, a breed, half Jamaica negro and half Indian, to order a small skiff over the side.
“Looks like I might shoot a parrot or a monkey or something,” he explained, searching the jungle-clad shore, half a mile away, through a twelve-power Zeiss glass.
“Most problematic, sir, that you are bitten by a labarri, which is deadly viper in these parts,” grinned the breed skipper and owner of the Angelique, who, from his Jamaica father had inherited the gift of tongues.
But Francis was not to be deterred; for at the moment, through his glass, he had picked out, first, in the middle ground, a white hacienda, and second, on the beach, a white-clad woman’s form, and further, had seen that she was scrutinising him and the schooner through a pair of binoculars.
“Put the skiff over, skipper,” he ordered. “Who lives around here?—white folks?”
“The Enrico Solano family, sir,” was the answer. “My word, they are important gentlefolk, old Spanish, and they own the entire general landscape from the sea to the Cordilleras and half of the Chiriqui Lagoon as well. They are very poor, most powerful rich ... in landscape—and they are prideful and fiery as cayenne pepper.”
As Francis, in the tiny skiff, rowed shoreward, the skipper’s alert eye noted that he had neglected to take along either rifle or shotgun for the contemplated parrot or monkey. And, next, the skipper’s eye picked up the white-clad woman’s figure against the dark edge of the jungle.
Straight to the white beach of coral sand Francis rowed, not trusting himself to look over his shoulder to see if the woman remained or had vanished. In his mind was merely a young man’s healthy idea of encountering a bucolic young lady, or a half-wild white woman for that matter, or at the best a very provincial one, with whom he could fool and fun away a few minutes of the calm that fettered the Angelique to immobility. When the skiff grounded, he stepped out, and with one sturdy arm lifted its nose high enough up the sand to fasten it by its own weight. Then he turned around. The beach to the jungle was bare. He strode forward confidently. Any traveller, on so strange a shore, had a right to seek inhabitants for information on his way—was the idea he was acting out.
And he, who had anticipated a few moments of diversion merely, was diverted beyond his fondest expectations. Like a jack-in-the-box, the woman, who, in the flash of vision vouchsafed him demonstrated that she was a girl-woman, ripely mature and yet mostly girl, sprang out of the green wall of jungle and with both hands seized his arm. The hearty weight of grip in the seizure surprised him. He fumbled his hat off with his free hand and bowed to the strange woman with the imperturbableness of a Morgan, New York trained and disciplined to be surprised at nothing, and received another surprise, or several surprises compounded. Not alone was it her semi-brunette beauty that impacted upon him with the weight of a blow, but it was her gaze, driven into him, that was all of sternness. Almost it seemed to him that he must know her. Strangers, in his experience, never so looked at one another.
The double grip on his arm became a draw, as she muttered tensely:
“Quick! Follow me!”
A moment he resisted. She shook him in the fervor of her desire, and strove to pull him toward her and after her. With the feeling that it was some unusual game, such as one might meet up with on the coast of Central America, he yielded, smilingly, scarcely knowing whether he followed voluntarily or was being dragged into the jungle by her impetuosity.
“Do as I do,” she shot back at him over her shoulder, by this time leading him with one hand of hers in his.
He smiled and obeyed, crouching when she crouched, doubling over when she doubled, while memories of John Smith and Pocahontas glimmered up in his fancy.
Abruptly she checked him and sat down, her hand directing him to sit beside her ere she released him, and pressed it to her heart while she panted:
“Thank God! Oh, merciful Virgin!”
In imitation, such having been her will of him, and such seeming to be the cue of the game, he smilingly pressed his own hand to his heart, although he called neither on God nor the Virgin.
“Won’t you ever be serious?” she flashed at him, noting his action.
And Francis was immediately and profoundly, as well as naturally, serious.
“My dear lady...” he began.
But an abrupt gesture checked him; and, with growing wonder, he watched her bend and listen, and heard the movement of bodies padding down some runway several yards away.
With a soft warm palm pressed commandingly to his to be silent, she left him with the abruptness that he had already come to consider as customary with her, and slipped away down the runway. Almost he whistled with astonishment. He might have whistled it, had he not heard her voice, not distant, in Spanish, sharply interrogate men whose Spanish voices, half-humbly, half-insistently and half-rebelliously, answered her.
He heard them move on, still talking, and, after five minutes of dead silence, heard her call for him peremptorily to come out.
“Gee! I wonder what Regan would do under such circumstances!” he smiled to himself as he obeyed.
He followed her, no longer hand in hand, through the jungle to the beach. When she paused, he came beside her and faced her, still under the impress of the fantasy which possessed him that it was a game.
“Tag!” he laughed, touching her on the shoulder. “Tag!” he reiterated. “You’re It!”
The anger of her blazing dark eyes scorched him.
“You fool!” she cried, lifting her finger with what he considered undue intimacy to his toothbrush moustache. “As if that could disguise you!”
“But my dear lady...” he began to protest his certain unacquaintance with her.
Her retort, which broke off his speech, was as unreal and bizarre as everything else which had gone before. So quick was it, that he failed to see whence the tiny silver revolver had been drawn, the muzzle of which was not presented merely toward his abdomen, but pressed closely against it.
“My dear lady...” he tried again.
“I won’t talk with you,” she shut him off. “Go back to your schooner, and go away....” He guessed the inaudible sob of the pause, ere she concluded, “Forever.”
This time his mouth opened to speech that was aborted on his lips by the stiff thrust of the muzzle of the weapon into his abdomen.
“If you ever come back—the Madonna forgive me—I shall shoot myself.”
“Guess I’d better go, then,” he uttered airily, as he turned to the skiff, toward which he walked in stately embarrassment, half-filled with laughter for himself and for the ridiculous and incomprehensible figure he was cutting.
Endeavoring to retain a last shred of dignity, he took no notice that she had followed him. As he lifted the skiff’s nose from the sand, he was aware that a faint wind was rustling the palm fronds. A long breeze was darkening the water close at hand, while, far out across the mirrored water the outlying keys of Chiriqui Lagoon shimmered like a mirage above the dark-crisping water.
A sob compelled him to desist from stepping into the skiff, and to turn his head. The strange young woman, revolver dropped to her side, was crying. His step back to her was instant, and the touch of his hand on her arm was sympathetic and inquiring. She shuddered at his touch, drew away from him, and gazed at him reproachfully through her tears. With a shrug of shoulders to her many moods and of surrender to the incomprehensibleness of the situation, he was about to turn to the boat, when she stopped him.
“At least you...” she began, then faltered and swallowed, “you might kiss me good-bye.”
She advanced impulsively, with outstretched arms, the revolver dangling incongruously from her right hand. Francis hesitated a puzzled moment, then gathered her in to receive an astounding passionate kiss on his lips ere she dropped her head on his shoulder in a breakdown of tears. Despite his amazement he was aware of the revolver pressing flat-wise against his back between the shoulders. She lifted her tear-wet face and kissed him again and again, and he wondered to himself if he were a cad for meeting her kisses with almost equal and fully as mysterious impulsiveness.
With a feeling that he did not in the least care how long the tender episode might last, he was startled by her quick drawing away from him, as anger and contempt blazed back in her face, and as she menacingly directed him with the revolver to get into the boat.
He shrugged his shoulders as if to say that he could not say no to a lovely lady, and obeyed, sitting to the oars and facing her as he began rowing away.
“The Virgin save me from my wayward heart,” she cried, with her free hand tearing a locket from her bosom, and, in a shower of golden beads, flinging the ornament into the waterway midway between them.
From the edge of the jungle he saw three men, armed with rifles, run toward her where she had sunk down in the sand. In the midst of lifting her up, they caught sight of Francis, who had begun rowing a strong stroke. Over his shoulder he glimpsed the Angelique, close hauled and slightly heeling, cutting through the water toward him. The next moment, one of the trio on the beach, a bearded elderly man, was directing the girl’s binoculars on him. And the moment after, dropping the glasses, he was taking aim with his rifle.
The bullet spat on the water within a yard of the skiff’s side, and Francis saw the girl spring to her feet, knock up the rifle with her arm, and spoil the second shot. Next, pulling lustily, he saw the men separate from her to sight their rifles, and saw her threatening them with the revolver into lowering their weapons.
The Angelique, thrown up into the wind to stop way, foamed alongside, and with an agile leap Francis was aboard, while already, the skipper putting the wheel up, the schooner was paying off and filling. With boyish zest, Francis wafted a kiss of farewell to the girl, who was staring toward him, and saw her collapse on the shoulders of the bearded elderly man.
“Cayenne pepper, eh—those damned, horrible, crazy-proud Solanos,” the breed skipper flashed at Francis with white teeth of laughter.
“Just bugs—clean crazy, nobody at home,” Francis laughed back, as he sprang to the rail to waft further kisses to the strange damsel.
Before the land wind, the Angelique made the outer rim of Chiriqui Lagoon and the Bull and Calf, some fifty miles farther along on the rim, by midnight, when the skipper hove to to wait for daylight. After breakfast, rowed by a Jamaica negro sailor in the skiff, Francis landed to reconnoiter on the Bull, which was the larger island and which the skipper had told him he might find occupied at that season of the year by turtle-catching Indians from the mainland.
And Francis very immediately found that he had traversed not merely thirty degrees of latitude from New York but thirty hundred years, or centuries for that matter, from the last word of civilisation to almost the first word of the primeval. Naked, except for breech-clouts of gunny-sacking, armed with cruelly heavy hacking blades of machetes, the turtle-catchers were swift in proving themselves arrant beggars and dangerous man-killers. The Bull belonged to them, they told him through the medium of his Jamaican sailor’s interpreting; but the Calf, which used to belong to them for the turtle season now was possessed by a madly impossible Gringo, whose reckless, dominating ways had won from them the respect of fear for a two-legged human creature who was more fearful than themselves.
While Francis, for a silver dollar, dispatched one of them with a message to the mysterious Gringo that he desired to call on him, the rest of them clustered about Francis’ skiff, whining for money, glowering upon him, and even impudently stealing his pipe, yet warm from his lips, which he had laid beside him in the sternsheets. Promptly he had laid a blow on the ear of the thief, and the next thief who seized it, and recovered the pipe. Machetes out and sun-glistening their clean-slicing menace, Francis covered and controlled the gang with an automatic pistol; and, while they drew apart in a group and whispered ominously, he made the discovery that his lone sailor-interpreter was a weak brother and received his returned messenger.
The negro went over to the turtle-catchers and talked with a friendliness and subservience, the tones of which Francis did not like. The messenger handed him his note, across which was scrawled in pencil:
“Guess I’ll have to go across myself,” Francis told the negro whom he had beckoned back to him.
“Better be very careful and utmostly cautious, sir,” the negro warned him. “These animals without reason are very problematically likely to act most unreasonably, sir.”
“Get into the boat and row me over,” Francis commanded shortly.
“No, sir, I regret much to say, sir,” was the black sailor’s answer. “I signed on, sir, as a sailor to Captain Trefethen, but I didn’t sign on for no suicide, and I can’t see my way to rowin’ you over, sir, to certain death. Best thing we can do is to get out of this hot place that’s certainly and without peradventure of a doubt goin’ to get hotter for us if we remain, sir.”
In huge disgust and scorn Francis pocketed his automatic, turned his back on the sacking-clad savages, and walked away through the palms. Where a great boulder of coral rock had been upthrust by some ancient restlessness of the earth, he came down to the beach. On the shore of the Calf, across the narrow channel, he made out a dinghy drawn up. Drawn up on his own side was a crank-looking and manifestly leaky dugout canoe. As he tilted the water out of it, he noticed that the turtle-catchers had followed and were peering at him from the edge of the coconuts, though his weak-hearted sailor was not in sight.
To paddle across the channel was a matter of moments, but scarcely was he on the beach of the Calf when further inhospitality greeted him on the part of a tall, barefooted young man, who stepped from behind a palm, automatic pistol in hand, and shouted:
“Vamos! Get out! Scut!”
“Ye gods and little fishes!” Francis grinned, half-humorously, half-seriously. “A fellow can’t move in these parts without having a gun shoved in his face. And everybody says get out pronto.”
“Nobody invited you,” the stranger retorted. “You’re intruding. Get off my island. I’ll give you half a minute.”
“I’m getting sore, friend,” Francis assured him truthfully, at the same time, out of the corner of his eye, measuring the distance to the nearest palm-trunk. “Everybody I meet around here is crazy and discourteous, and peevishly anxious to be rid of my presence, and they’ve just got me feeling that way myself. Besides, just because you tell me it’s your island is no proof——”
The swift rush he made to the shelter of the palm left his sentence unfinished. His arrival behind the trunk was simultaneous with the arrival of a bullet that thudded into the other side of it.
“Now, just for that!” he called out, as he centered a bullet into the trunk of the other man’s palm.
The next few minutes they blazed away, or waited for calculated shots, and when Francis’ eighth and last had been fired, he was unpleasantly certain that he had counted only seven shots for the stranger. He cautiously exposed part of his sun-helmet, held in his hand, and had it perforated.
“What gun are you using?” he asked with cool politeness.
“Colt’s,” came the answer.
Francis stepped boldly into the open, saying: “Then you’re all out. I counted ‘em. Eight. Now we can talk.”
The stranger stepped out, and Francis could not help admiring the fine figure of him, despite the fact that a dirty pair of canvas pants, a cotton undershirt, and a floppy sombrero constituted his garmenting. Further, it seemed he had previously known him, though it did not enter his mind that he was looking at a replica of himself.
“Talk!” the stranger sneered, throwing down his pistol and drawing a knife. “Now we’ll just cut off your ears, and maybe scalp you.”
“Gee! You’re sweet-natured and gentle animals in this neck of the woods,” Francis retorted, his anger and disgust increasing. He drew his own hunting knife, brand new from the shop and shining. “Say, let’s wrestle, and cut out this ten-twenty-and-thirty knife stuff.”
“I want your ears,” the stranger answered pleasantly, as he slowly advanced.
“Sure. First down, and the man who wins the fall gets the other fellow’s ears.”
“Agreed.” The young man in the canvas trousers sheathed his knife.
“Too bad there isn’t a moving picture camera to film this,” Francis girded, sheathing his own knife. “I’m sore as a boil. I feel like a heap bad Injun. Watch out! I’m coming in a rush! Anyway and everyway for the first fall!”
Action and word went together, and his glorious rush ended ignominiously, for the stronger, apparently braced for the shock, yielded the instant their bodies met and fell over on his back, at the same time planting his foot in Francis’ abdomen and, from the back purchase on the ground, transforming Francis’ rush into a wild forward somersault.
The fall on the sand knocked most of Francis’ breath out of him, and the flying body of his foe, impacting on him, managed to do for what little breath was left him. As he lay speechless on his back, he observed the man on top of him gazing down at him with sudden curiosity.
“What d’ you want to wear a mustache for?” the stranger muttered.
“Go on and cut ‘em off,” Francis gasped, with the first of his returning breath. “The ears are yours, but the mustache is mine. It is not in the bond. Besides, that fall was straight jiu jiutsu.”
“You said ‘anyway and everyway for the first fall,’” the other quoted laughingly. “As for your ears, keep them. I never intended to cut them off, and now that I look at them closely the less I want them. Get up and get out of here. I’ve licked you. Vamos! And don’t come sneaking around here again! Git! Scut!”
In greater disgust than ever, to which was added the humiliation of defeat, Francis turned down to the beach toward his canoe.
“Say, Little Stranger, do you mind leaving your card?” the victor called after him.
“Visiting cards and cut-throating don’t go together,” Francis shot back across his shoulder, as he squatted in the canoe and dipped his paddle. “My name’s Morgan.”
Surprise and startlement were the stranger’s portion, as he opened his mouth to speak, then changed his mind and murmured to himself, “Same stock—no wonder we look alike.”
Still in the throes of disgust, Francis regained the shore of the Bull, sat down on the edge of the dugout, filled and lighted his pipe, and gloomily meditated. Crazy, everybody, was the run of his thought. Nobody acts with reason. “I’d like to see old Regan try to do business with these people. They’d get his ears.”
Could he have seen, at that moment, the young man of the canvas pants and of familiar appearance, he would have been certain that naught but lunacy resided in Latin America; for the young man in question, inside a grass-thatched hut in the heart of his island, grinning to himself as he uttered aloud, “I guess I put the fear of God into that particular member of the Morgan family,” had just begun to stare at a photographic reproduction of an oil painting on the wall of the original Sir Henry Morgan.
“Well, Old Pirate,” he continued grinning, “two of your latest descendants came pretty close to getting each other with automatics that would make your antediluvian horse-pistols look like thirty cents.”
He bent to a battered and worm-eaten sea-chest, lifted the lid that was monogramed with an “M,” and again addressed the portrait:
“Well, old pirate Welshman of an ancestor, all you’ve left me is the old duds and a face that looks like yours. And I guess, if I was really fired up, I could play your Port-au-Prince stunt about as well as you played it yourself.”
A moment later, beginning to dress himself in the age-worn and moth-eaten garments of the chest, he added: “Well, here’s the old duds on my back. Come, Mister Ancestor, down out of your frame, and dare to tell me a point of looks in which we differ.”
Clad in Sir Henry Morgan’s ancient habiliments, a cutlass strapped on around the middle and two flintlock pistols of huge and ponderous design thrust into his waist-scarf, the resemblance between the living man and the pictured semblance of the old buccaneer who had been long since resolved to dust, was striking.
“Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew....”
As the young man, picking the strings of a guitar, began to sing the old buccaneer rouse, it seemed to him that the picture of his forebear faded into another picture and that he saw:
The old forebear himself, back to a mainmast, cutlass out and flashing, facing a semi-circle of fantastically clad sailor cutthroats, while behind him, on the opposite side of the mast, another similarly garbed and accoutred man, with cutlass flashing, faced the other semi-circle of cutthroats that completed the ring about the mast.
The vivid vision of his fancy was broken by the breaking of a guitar-string which he had thrummed too passionately. And in the sharp pause of silence, it seemed that a freshvision of old Sir Henry came to him, down out of the frame and beside him, real in all seeming, plucking at his sleeve to lead him out of the hut and whispering a ghostly repetition of:
“Back to back against the mainmast
Held at bay the entire crew.”
The young man obeyed his shadowy guide, or some prompting of his own profound of intuition, and went out the door and down to the beach, where, gazing across the narrow channel, on the beach of the Bull, he saw his late antagonist, backed up against the great boulder of coral rock, standing off an attack of sack-clouted, machete-wielding Indians with wide sweeping strokes of a driftwood timber.
And Francis, in extremity, swaying dizzily from the blow of a rock on his head, saw the apparition, that almost convinced him he was already dead and in the realm of the shades, of Sir Henry Morgan himself, cutlass in hand, rushing up the beach to his rescue. Further, the apparition, brandishing the cutlass and laying out Indians right and left, was bellowing:
“Back to back against the mainmast,
Held at bay the entire crew.”
As Francis’ knees gave under him and he slowly crumpled and sank down, he saw the Indians scatter and flee before the onslaught of the weird pirate figure and heard their cries of:
“Heaven help us!” “The Virgin protect us!” “It’s the ghost of old Morgan!”
Francis next opened his eyes inside the grass hut in the midmost center of the Calf. First, in the glimmering of sight of returning consciousness, he beheld the pictured lineaments of Sir Henry Morgan staring down at him from the wall. Next, it was a younger edition of the same, in three dimensions of living, moving flesh, who thrust a mug of brandy to his lips and bade him drink. Francis was on his feet ere he touched lips to the mug; and both he and the stranger man, moved by a common impulse, looked squarely into each other’s eyes, glanced at the picture on the wall and touched mugs in a salute to the picture and to each other ere they drank.
“You told me you were a Morgan,” the stranger said. “I am a Morgan. That man on the wall fathered my breed. Your breed?”
“The old buccaneer’s,” Francis returned. “My first name is Francis. And yours?”
“Henry—straight from the original. We must be remote cousins or something or other. I’m after the foxy old niggardly old Welshman’s loot.”
“So’m I,” said Francis, extending his hand. “But to hell with sharing.”
Tysiące ebooków i audiobooków
Ich liczba ciągle rośnie, a Ty masz gwarancję niezmiennej ceny.
Napisali o nas:
Nowy sposób na e-księgarnię
Czytelnicy nie wierzą
Legimi idzie na całość
Projekt Legimi wielkim wydarzeniem
Spotify for ebooks