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- The Belted Seas - 20/29 -


phongyee. You are not a holy one.' 'Think not?' I says. 'Right again. Any kind of a blanket will do.'

"They gave me a blue cotton sheet, and recommended I go and sit three or four weeks in the pagoda, and consider that 'All things are one.' I says, 'All right,' I squatted every day before them bronze or wooden individuals, and remarked to each one some fifty times a day, 'All things are one,' till it seemed to me every one of 'em was thinking that identical thing too, and every one of 'em had the same identical and balmy smile over it. 'Take it on the whole,' I says, 'that's a singular coincidence, ain't it?' After three or four weeks I says, 'All things are one,' and felt about it the same way as they looked. There was no getting away from the amiableness of 'em. Then I says: 'How's this? Is monotony a benefit? Is enterprise a mistake? Is the Caucasian followin' up a blind trail? What's up?' I says.

"Then I went out and strolled around. A lot of yellow monks live over the west wall, and pass the time, meditatin' on selected subjects and teachin' school. Monks, now, are the mildest lot of old ladies out. The institution furnishes two meals a day, and they all go into the city mornings with begging bowls to give people a chance to acquire merit by charity. Then they come back and give away what they've collected to poverty that's collected at the gate. That way they acquire merit for themselves. Economical, ain't it? Then I saw how old Lo Tsin felt. He admired the economy of it anyway. I guess he admired it all around. He stood pat by his own temple, and then got himself buried there. The thing give him a soft spot on the head.

"Now, they think I'm a sort of an abbot, and folks come in from everywhere to show me a cut finger and discuss their sinfulness, and if Nan's mother ain't mad because the temple keeps puttin' her off with girls, then Kiyi's got the fever and chills, or somethin' else is goin' on. Always something to worry about. But a man can go over to the Pagoda, and tell 'em 'All things are one,' and get three hundred identical opinions to agree with. Cheers you up remarkable. Look at Kiyi! Ain't he great?"

Sadler went on in this way unloading his mind of odds and ends. Down on the slope below Nan was thumping Soaker on the back to make him mind her. She wore a striped cloth and a string of beads for her clothes. Laying down the law appeared to run in her family. Soaker took his thumping in a way that I judged it was a custom between them. Little Kiyi crept up the steps and squatted on the stone floor in front of us. He had a big head, and arms and legs like dry reeds. He sat, solemn and still, while Sadler was unloading his mind, and it seemed to me that Kiyi was mysterious, same as the bronze Buddhas in the cone pagoda.

"He's got it," says Sadler, speaking husky. "Worse'n I did."

"Got what?" I says.

Sadler's face had grown tired, sort of heavy and worn, while he was looking down at Kiyi. "Born with it. He got injected with the extract of misery beforehand," he says. "He was born wishing he wasn't. I know what it is, but he don't know what it is, Kiyi don't. He don't know what's the matter. First thing he saw was the cholera."

All about the gardens there was a tinkle of bells made by the wind blowing them, and a gong kept muttering somewhere. Kiyi rolled over on the edge of Sadler's yellow robe, curled up, and shut his eyes, and went to sleep. He had no clothes but a green loin cloth. His hair was done up in a topknot. Then I looked at Sadler, and then at Kiyi, and then I thought he was the littlest and saddest thing in Asia.

When I was about ready to sail, I took the Shway Dagohn road again, with Stevey Todd, thinking Sadler might have messages to send. It was a windy afternoon. The hot dust was blowing in the road. The yellow old man sat inside the gate alone. There were no children under the trees. He came out of his dream, and motioned to stop us, and mumbled something about "Tha-Thana-Peing," which was the Kid's title in that neighbourhood. Whether it meant "His Solemn High Mightiness," or meant "The Man That Pays the Bills," I didn't know. "No go, no go," mumbles the yellow old man.

"Ain't you keeping school to-day?" I says.

"Dead," mumbles the yellow old man.

"Who? Not Sadler! No. Tha-Thana!"

"Kishhatriya," he mumbles, "Kiyi," and he fell back into his absent-mindedness. So we went past him to the little temple behind the gilded cone. Most of the monks were sitting around it on the grass, and Irish, with his hair remarkable wild, among them, and against a pillar sat Sadler, bent over Kiyi's body that was on his knees. One of the yellow robes recited a monotonous chant. Maybe it was a funeral service, or maybe they were going over their law and gospels for the benefit of Sadler. He looked up, and the reciter stopped, and it was all quiet. Sadler says:

"See here, boys, what's the use? They can't make an Oriental of me. This ain't right, Tommy. Now, is it? No, it ain't right." He looked old and weighted down. He looked as old as a pyramid. "See here," he says, "Tommy, what's the idea of this?"

Then we backed out of that assembly. Seemed to me it was a proposition a man might as well dodge. Only, I recollect how little Kiyi looked like a wisp of dry hay, and Sadler uncommon large, with his fists on the stone floor on either side, and his head hung over Kiyi, and how the yellow men squatted and said nothing.

Maybe Sadler is studying the "Kiyi Proposition," still, to find out how the three hundred bronze Buddhas can give three hundred cheerful agreements to the statement that "All things are one," when, on the contrary, some things have Kiyi luck and some don't. I don't know. The rights and wrongs of this world always seemed to me pretty complicated. There was Julius R. that was slippery and ambitious; there was Sadler that had a worm in his soul; there was Clyde that kept one conscience for argument, and another for the trade; there was Tommy Buckingham who was getting older and troubled about the intentions of things. And yet again there was folks like Kreps and Stevey Todd, say, mild and warm people, and a bit simple, each in his way, and yet they always kept themselves entertained somehow. "All things are one," are they? I couldn't see it either, no more than Sadler. For this is the Kiyi Proposition. You says: "Here's a bad job. Who did it?" I says: "I don't know." You says: "Well, who pays for it?" I says: "Ain't any doubt about that. It's Kiyi."

It was quite a parcel of years I sailed the Pacific, ten years, or thereabout, altogether. The time I saw Sadler behind the Green Dragons was my last cruise there. I says to myself:

"Tommy, you ain't a 'bonny sailor boy' any more. Why don't you sail your own ship? Haven't you got a bank in the West Indies? Why don't you liquidate on Clyde? Why don't you quit your foolishness?" and when Stevey Todd and I got back to San Francisco, I left Shan Brothers and the _Good Sister_ for good, and we came east by railroad to New Orleans.

CHAPTER XI.

THE VOYAGE OF THE "VOODOO".--NARRATIVE CONTINUED.

Monson was the man's name that I came to deal with in New Orleans. He had a schooner named the _Voodoo_, a coast cruiser that never went further to sea than the Windwards. There was another white man on the crew, but the rest were negroes. Monson was billed already for Martinique and Trinidad, and that was why I dealt with him, and got him cheap for a short trip beyond Tobago.

Stevey Todd set out for the north to find some relatives he thought he had, but found none to his mind, and concluded he was an orphan. But he found a restaurant to his mind in South Street in New York, and there he settled himself and waited for me to come along. It's a place where seamen generally turn up sooner or later, and I told him I would come there. Monson and I set sail the third of September in the year '85.

Now, Monson was a man of great size and long yellowish hair and beard, and shy, innocent-looking eyes. It always gave me a start to look up six feet of legs and chest, and end in an expression of face which seemed about to remark that the world was a strange place, and might be wicked. The other white man and the negroes were a bad lot, and given to viciousness, but Monson ruled them with a heavy fist. He hadn't been three hours away from the river before he was banging a negro with a board, the others looking on and grinning. He was spanking him, in a way. He ran to me with tears in his eyes. "I'll throw that nigger overboard!" he shouted, dancing about, and shortly after he appeared to have forgotten the matter. I thought I should get along with him, but I thought I'd have to keep cool and calm in dealing with him. He was such a man as it seemed better to be acquainted with in a big open space where there was room for him to explode. He was apt to be either gay or outrageous, and that about any little thing. He was simple and furious and very hearty, and that all made him good company. The negroes looked murderous, and the other white man shifty and dirty, but he was a competent seaman.

Three weeks later we passed Tobago and were looking for Clyde's little island. We dropped anchor there one evening about eight o'clock. The moon was high and the sea bright. It was sixteen years since I'd seen that shore last, the night I rowed old Clyde up the inlet, and we buried his canvas bags. It was hard won enough by the old man, that money, with twenty years' dodging South American customs. We'd buried it in the middle of a triangle of three trees. I remembered how black the sea had been, and rough off shore. I remembered the black cruiser with its pennon of smoke. The inlet had been reedy, and the water there quiet, and the soil we dug in punky and wet.

I sat in the stern of the dingey now and let Monson row, which he did powerfully. His forearm was like a log of wood, the muscles coming out of it in knots. I was glad enough there was no danger to seaward, and wished I could carry Clyde's money away in a check, instead of the meal bags we had in the dingey.

We rowed along and came to the inlet. There was a lot of marsh grass and deep-growing reeds, and clear water between that stretched away inland. It made a straight line between the water reeds leading up to a triangle of three trees. There was a little white house in the middle of the triangle, with two lit windows.

I says: "Monson! Somebody's squatted on it!"

"What!" he says.


The Belted Seas - 20/29

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