Seibert of the Island - Gordon Young - ebook

Seibert of the Island ebook

Gordon Young



South Seas Adventure Novel, written in 1925 by Gordon Ray Young (1886-1948) a journalist in Chicago and San Francisco, literary editor of the Los Angeles times, and author of over forty novels. During his time in Los Angeles, Young befriended the writer Paul Jordan-Smith and the painter Edward Middleton Manigault. As such, this book was dedicated to the memory of the painter Middleton Manigault who was born in London, Ontario, and started his career there. „Seibert of the Island” is a tale of adventure, set on a tropical South Sea island Pulotu. A story with a pirate, two half native girls, a gentleman vagabond and Adolph Seibert, a German plantation owner. The German marries one of the girls, was loved by neither, both girls loved the vagabond.

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Liczba stron: 524

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When Dan McGuire, ripened by years, was quite convinced that modesty, which he seems to have somewhat lacked anyhow, was as burdensome as other virtues, and the least useful of all, he wrote out the notes that have been worked up into this story; and being more or less confused, as authors frequently are, in how to start his story, he began in the middle and tried to go both ways at once, like a crab that scurries ahead backwards. He said plainly enough that it was not his story he was trying to tell, but he nearly made himself out as a hero.

He was vain of his friendship with Williams, the famous sea captain, much talked of some years ago throughout the South Pacific. He said that Captain Williams did not really have much of a place in a story about Seibert of Pulotu. This, however, is hardly true; for, though Williams very soon disappears from the scene and does not reappear, it is what he has done, and what people think he can do, and what they would like to do to him, that greatly influences the narrative at critical times.

McGuire came to know Seibert of Pulotu better than he was known by anyone else. McGuire did not like Germans–”Dutchmen” he called them.

Though this enigmatic German and his affairs were almost forgotten years ago by even the island planters with the longest memories, McGuire remembers Seibert as a sort of prophetic figure whose grotesqueness of character–the mingling of sentimentality, brutality, odd simplicity, and indomitable bull-headness–somewhat typified the nation that in recent times brought disaster upon itself, upon nearly the whole world.

Any one of many incidents, widely scattered as to time and place, might have been taken as the beginning; but McGuire chose a San Francisco dance hall riot out of which he and the young stranger with whom he had been talking escaped before the police got there. Soon they came to a chowder house and went in.

The young fellow was a newcomer to San Francisco. He said that his name was Paullen–John Paullen. McGuire had liked him at sight. He was thin, straight, slight, with square shoulders, rather pale, unduly sober for one of his years, and grey eyed. His eyes were a little too much as a girl’s ought to be, with lashes so long as to be the only lashes McGuire ever before noticed on a man’s face. He was the sort of boy that women love almost instinctively.

Said McGuire, “Many such men in the world, and most o’ them are worthless–or worse.”

But Paullen had a quiet, unmistakable air of manliness; there was no softness in his features to bear out the unworthy suggestion of the eyelashes.

Now he was no longer neat or even clean. Coat lining showed through the mouth-like rip under his arm. A trousers leg was split at the knee. He looked thoughtfully down along his clothes, brushing half-heartedly at dirty splotches.

Presently he began searching his pockets, taking everything out, and feeling about with the detached intentness of a man whose whole attention is at his finger-tips.

“What’s gone?” asked McGuire.

“I–it’s gone–gone all right. It must have dropped on the floor back there. I have–have left–forty cents,” he said, examining the few coins scooped up from a pocket’s depth. “It’s gone, and–”

Paullen smiled as best he could.

“Know anybody here?”


“You can get along somehow till you write home.”

Paullen shook his head, and quietly said “No.”

He was the sort of boy that must have had a home, that couldn’t have come from anywhere but a good home; the mark of hearthstone and roof-tree was on him.

“But there’s somebody on earth you know.”

“No. Paullen–Paullen isn’t my name.”

McGuire eyed him appraisingly. McGuire was a redhead with a burned skin, freckle-black. Always he had–or tried to have–a manner of laziness, a sort of misty good-nature. His wide mouth was usually fringed by an expression that was almost like a smile, yet not quite detectable. His long, pointed nose gave an odd, whimsically impertinent cast to his face; and the blue eyes, coloured with a sort of a childhood blue, were partly hid by sleepy, drooping lids. They seemed innocent eyes, though they had looked upon just about all the uglier shapes of sin.

“Who are you, then?”

“Nobody. Just that. At least, to all the people that used to know me. It makes no difference where I go–what I do.”

One of McGuire’s weaknesses was curiosity. “Who are you, then? What’s the matter with you?”

With reluctance Paullen said: “My father is an army officer; I was expelled from West Point. He told me to go away to some place where I wasn’t known and take another name, and never to let him hear of me again.”

“He gave you some money–an’ you’ve lost it?”


“Umh!” McGuire appeared to be reflecting. He liked the boy. “Paullen, the South Sea trader I work for needs a man or two.” McGuire got up from his chair and laid a dollar on the table. “Here’s a dollar; you eat chowder till I get back. I’ll go get some money to stake you till he sails. You wait.”

McGuire went out. Paullen saw his blurred, shadow-like form pass along close to the moist window, and vanish.


Outside fog-dimmed gaslights spotted the street, and the yellow flames burned dispiritedly under their glass housings.

McGuire cut across Pacific Street, then hurried along a narrow alley into which rickety stairs opened, with faint blots of light lying at the entrance-ways. Behind half-opened street doors women’s figures stood with motionless patience. He went along swiftly, but lonely watchers from the doorways glimpsed his shadowed passing, and called to him with quick words.

He went on, twisting and turning through the blurring fog-haze. On the outskirts of the coast–Barbary Coast–within sound of St. Mary’s bells, also within sound of the jingle-banging music from gay houses, he turned up a low flight of broad stone steps and pushed at an oaken door, broad and barred with iron hinges, studded by nail-heads, as if to keep out feudal raiders.

The house had been originally built for a lucky miner, who wanted plenty of breathing-space in his rooms and halls. Like other houses near by that had formerly been pretentious, it had fallen into a bad state financially. A shade too close to a wholly respectable neighbourhood to be used as yet by avowed sinners, it was far nearer the bad ones of the city than could be lived in by those who wished to appear good; and so, for all of its remnants of grandeur, it had become a sort of second-class rooming-house, much used by officers and masters of ships–fellows who seldom care a rap for what landmen think of their goodness or badness.

McGuire entered into a hall–once a reception-hall; now nothing but unprofitable space in a rooming-house. Stairs wide enough for three people to have climbed arm in arm came down with a slow turn into the hall. The chandelier that hung from the lofty ceiling was as big as a small pine-tree, but it had been denuded of the glassy splendour and shimmering twinkle that once had made the spacious entrance and stairs festive. One thriftily low-turned jet burned at a tip of a bare iron branch. The deep, empty hall disappeared into a gloom from which strange shapes, ghost-like, might well have emerged in the silence that was like an incantation.

Daylight, as truth too often does, showed that the interior was shabby, cold, chill with meagreness. Old heavy wood in wainscotting was dulled and lifeless from damp that was never reached by sunlight, never driven away by heat. Some of the original furniture had been left, and such of this as had been covered with plush now exposed the burlap-like lining.

McGuire went up the stairs and into another hall; not so large, but, if possible, more dimly lighted than the one below. At the front room door he paused a moment to fit a key, then, entering, pushed the door behind him.

A jet with no more than a thread’s thickness of blue flame burned over a flat-topped table. By rising on tiptoes he could reach the jet; when he turned this the flame came up with a flare, causing the shadows to vanish backwards, as if scattered by fright. They clustered in corners and against a far wall, for the room was very large.

There was a wide grate near the middle of the inner wall, where the miner had wanted a fireplace that would be suitable to the home of one who had slept by camp-fires on the mountain-side. Now the hearth was dirtied with partly-burned and charred papers–handbills, discarded letters, the litter of numberless transients that had come drifting in off the seas and departed, unquestioned.

McGuire bent down to the bottom drawer of the table. With a strong tugging pull he drew it half out. Something made a faint click and clink, like the sleepy rustling of timid things when disturbed in the dark; then the light struck shimmeringly down on a scattered heap of gold coins. He knelt, picking out a few of the smaller coins, which are the less conspicuous when being spent.

Everything that McGuire did was with a quiet, almost a furtive ease; the manner was perhaps lazily smooth rather than furtive, but he always moved quietly, as if he did not like the muscular effort of making a clatter.

Suddenly he looked across his shoulder, staring. Nerves that did not reach his ears had warned him, and he saw that the door had been slightly opened. It had not clicked shut when he pushed it as he came in. A nebulously veiled face was peering through.

He half turned, not rising, but shoving with his knee to close the drawer. It would not close. He stood up, placing himself before it, his hands behind him.

He said with an appearance of bold irritation, “Come in. Come on in if you want, or get out!”

The door opened farther, swinging slowly back.

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