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- The Belted Seas - 6/29 -
"They are," says Irish.
"Well--ain't they got nerve!"
"She was swashin' Suds and washin' Shirts beneath her orange-tree,"
he says. "Why, I got to go down and spank 'em!" he says, and he rolled out of the hammock and went off down the road toward Portate with Irish pattering after him.
We saw no more of them that day, and we didn't hear any news until the noon following. There was a gale from the northwest in the morning. I went down to the city in the afternoon, and found the Plaza boiling with news.
It seemed that Sadler had gone aboard the _Harvest Moon_ and surprised the two soldiers, and dipped them in the water with their artillery, and sent them uptown with the wet warrant stuck in the muzzle of a gun. Then he paraded the _Harvest Moon_ the length of Portate's water-front, tooting his steam whistle. Then the Jefe Municipal--that's the Mayor--fell into his warmest temper, and sent a company of pink soldiery of the City Guard in the morning, packed close in a tugboat. Then Sadler led them seaward, where the gale was blowing from the northwest and the seas piled past the harbour; so most of the pink soldiers were seasick, not being good mariners, and the gale standing the tugs on their beam-ends, which was no sort of place for a City Guard. They came back unhappy. The _Harvest Moon_ was in again, and now anchored in the harbour. I passed the Jefe myself on the City Hall steps, and heard him b-r-r-ring like a dynamo. Then I went down to the harbour.
The _Harvest Moon_ lay rolling a half mile out. I took a rowboat and rowed out. When I drew near, I saw Sadler standing by the rail with the black nozzle of a hose pipe pushed forward, and shading his eyes against the glint of the water. When he saw it was me he took me aboard. But he was thoughtful and depressed. He sat himself on the rail and dangled his boots over the water and described his state of mind.
"What makes a man act so?" he says. "There's my fellow-man. Look at him! I'm sorry for him. Most of him had hard luck to be born, and yet when he gets in my way I just walk all over him. I can't help it. He's leathery and he's passive, my fellow-man. He goes to sleep in the middle of the road. When I ketch one of him, I kicks a hole in his trousers first, and then it occurs to me, 'My sufferin' brother! This is too bad!' Why, Pete Hillary was one of the dumbdest and leatheriest, and here's the Mayor's pink sojers been fillin' me with joy and sorrow, till I laughed from eleven till twelve, and been sheddin' tears ever since. Irish's been three times around his rosary before he got the scare kinks out of him, and between Irish bein' pathetic, and the Mayor and his sojers comin' out pink and going back jammed to the colour of canned salmon, my feelin's is worked up to bust. What makes a man act so? It must be he has cats in him."
He pulled his moustache and looked gloomy, and I judged his remorse was sincere. I says:
"That's what I don't put together. Why, Kid, look here! If you feel as bad as that three-for-a-cent requiem to Pete Hillary sounded, it's cats all right. It's the same kind that light on back fences and feel sick, and express themselves by clawing faces," I says, "and blaspheming the moon with sounds that never ought to be. That what you mean by 'cats in him'?"
"Precise, Tommy, precise."
"Well, I don't put it together," I says. "I wouldn't feel like that for the satisfaction of drowning all Ferdinand Street. Why, poetical habits and habits of banging folks don't seem to me to fit. Why," I says, "a poet he's one thing, and a scrapper he's another, ain't they? They don't agree. One of 'em feels bad about it, and takes to laments and requiems nights, same as malaria."
"It's this way," he says. "Those are just two different ways of statin' that things are interestin'. And yet, you're not far from the facts. It was a shoemaker in Portland, Maine," he says, "that taught me to chuck metres when I was a young one, and the shoemaker's son taught me to fight in the back yard, more because he was bigger than because he was interested in educatin' me. By-and-by I beat the shoemaker on metres and the son in the back yard, and then I left 'em, for they was no more use to me. But I never found anything else so much satisfaction as them two pursuits. But I'll go away, Tommy," he says, "I'll leave Portate. I will, honest. I'll be good. I wish they'd quit puttin' temptations on me. But they won't. They're comin' out again! Look at 'em! They've borrowed the _Juanita_, and she's comin' with only the steersman in sight, and a cabin full of sojers that can't keep their bayonets inside of the windows. My! ain't they sly!"
He went to the companion way and called Irish, telling him to "start her up."
The _Juanita_ was one of the Transport Company's tugs. She appeared to be engaged in a stratagem. She passed the _Harvest Moon_, then swung around and came up, on the other side. The _Harvest Moon_ made no effort to escape her anchorage, though the engine below began thumping busily.
Sadler went aft, dragging the long black hose, and sat on the rail till the _Juanita_ drew in to forty feet away, and through the deckhouse windows you could see the tufted caps of the suppressed soldiery. Then he let a steaming arch out of the hose pipe, that vaulted the distance and soaked the steersman, who howled and lay down. Then the _Juanita_ ploughed on, and Sadler played his hose, as she passed, through the windows of the deck house, where there were crashes and other noises, and Irish's engine kept on chug-chugging in the chest of the _Harvest Moon_. The _Juanita_ went out of reach, and the soldiery poured out on deck disorderly and furious, and Sadler pulled me flat beside him, supposing they might open a volley of musketry on us, but they didn't. Then he got up. "They give me the colic," he says, and Irish put his head up the companion way, and says: "The wather was too hot," he says and blew his fingers, and Sadler gave a groan.
"There's my luck!" he says. "I meant to tell Irish to take the boil off and forgot it. Now their skins'll peel. You go away, Tommy. You go ashore. You can't do me no good."
He looked sheepish and troubled. When I pulled away, he sat staring down, with his back turned, his boots dangling over the water, and his shoulders bent. He certainly felt bad.
The Superintendent of the Transport Company was named Dorcas, a bustling, heavy-bearded man that you couldn't hold still and that talked fast and jerky like a piston rod.
I met him in the Plaza next morning going into the City Hall.
"Come on," he says. "We'll fix it. What? Jefe was stuck. Come to me. Now then. Got an idea. Suit him first-rate. You see. Struck me this morning," says Dorcas. "Suit everybody."
We came to the Mayor's office, and found Sadler, sitting alone by the window and looking moodily down on the Plaza, where the chain gang from the City Jail was pretending to mend the pavement, but mostly loafing and quarrelling.
"Got him!" said Dorcas joyfully. "Thumped up the Jefe. First he cussed, then he calmed. That's his way. Be up pretty soon. Hold on! Wait for the Jefe."
Sadler nodded, and we sat and watched the chain gang, till the Mayor came in out of breath. He was a small, stout man with a military goatee, and his temper was such as kept the resident consuls happy with their diplomacy. He snorted at Sadler, and sat down.
"Now, Excellency," Dorcas says, "this way. Understand your position. All right. Reasonable. First, if Pete Hillary is Jamaican, he's no citizen of Portate. See? No good, anyway. No. British consul, he don't care, except for the principle. Not really. No. You want to pacify him, meaning his principle. That's so. Then that Hottentot Society. Got to fix them. Course you have. Don't want to disoblige honest voters of Ferdinand Street. No. Third; you got to celebrate the majesty of laws and municipal guards. Good. Last; the Transport Company. We don't want the Kid to chew his thumbs in jail for wetting folks. Good land! No! You want to satisfy us. Complicated, ain't it? But you're equal to it. You're a good one, Jefe. Sure. Now what's needed? Something bold. Something skilful. We have it! Get him banished, Excellency. Get him banished. Executive Edict from the President. Big gun. Hottentots pleased and scared. Majesty of Great Britain pacified. Majesty of municipal guards celebrated. Transport Company don't object. Everybody happy. There, now!"
He put his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, leaned back and beamed.
"Hum! You assist?" says the Mayor.
The Mayor gazed at him fierce for a minute, then he smiled and patted his knee.
"It is, perhaps, Senor Dorcas, not impossible."
"There now, Kid! Fixed you."
Sadler said nothing, but looked down at the chain gang below. The Plaza was full of people, women talking under the stiff palms, and men sitting on wicker chairs on the hotel piazza opposite. The butcher on the corner was chasing away a dog.
"It won't do," says Sadler mournfully, at last. "It's more interestin' than I'd suppose you was up to, but comparatively it's dull. Besides, it ain't safe. I'd have to come back and see how bad I was banished. That's certain. Not that I'd throw you down this way, Excellency," he says with sad eyes on the Mayor and a deep voice, "I wouldn't do it," he says, "without puttin' up another scheme, for it wouldn't be treating you upright. But makin' a supposition, now, suppose I was arrested some, and set to bossin' that gang out there for the benefit of Portate, and quartered, for safe keepin' till the trial, at the Hotel Republic, as a partial return for being exhibited in disgrace. And suppose it took me three days to finish that little job they're potterin' with, by that time I'd be ready to, let's say, to escape, say, on the steamer that sails for Lima on Thursday. I'm a broken and tremblin' reed, Jefe. That's me. I shrinks, I fades away. The majestic law's too much for me. And suppose you was to fix up a Proclamation subsequent and immejiate, offerin' a reward for me. Now, as to fugitive, or as to exile, lookin' at it from my standpoint, I
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