The Medicine Ship*

James B. Connelly**

 

ILLUSTRATION By N . C . Wyeth

However, after six days o’ restin’ up, with salubrious fruits an wines an’ the most melojus concerts, my cap’n broaches the cause of why we’re callin’ on the Don Hidalgo Rodreego Cazamma, 1915
N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945)
From The Medicine Ship, by James B. Connelly, Scribner’s Magazine,
December 1915
Oil on canvas
47-1/2 x 40 in.
Special Purchase Fund, 1920
DAM #1920-3

Image courtesy of The Delaware Art Museum

THE MEDICINE SHIP

By James B. Connolly

ILLUSTRATIONS By N . C . Wyeth

OLD Bill Hickey was comin’ out of Spiegel’s Caffy, meanin’ a place where a man can have somethin’ to eat while he’s havin’ a drink, an’ he had folded he over his arm what looked like a pretty swell coat for old Bill to be wearin’.

Noticin’ me, “Hulloh, Hiker!” says Bill, an’ we stroll along till we come opposite to Wallie Whelan’s father’s store on South Street, where Bill stops. “I do like that little Whelan kid,” says Bill. “ I wonder is he in?”

Wallie was in, an’ “Hulloh, Hiker!” an’ “How do you do, Mr. Hickey!” he says, an’ comes runnin’ out when he sees us.

An’ old Bill says, “Oh-h, driftin’ by—driftin’ by,” an’ spreads out to the air the coat he’s carryin’ on his arm. All wrinkled up it was, like somebody’s slept in it, but a pretty swell coat just the same, like the kind hackmen wear to a funeral or a weddin’ with a stove-pipe hat. There’s a pocket in one o’ the coat-tails, an’ old Bill slides his hand into it and out comes a case, an’ when he springs open the case there’s a shiny black pipe.

“Well, well,” says Bill, lookin’ at the pipe like he was wonderin’ how it come there.

“Where did y’ever get that fine pipe, Mr. Hickey?” asts Wallie.

“Oh, a souveneer, a little souveneer other days—of days I’d ‘most forgot,” says Bill.

“A handsome pipe!” says Wallie.

“Yes,” says Bill, “if on’y I had the fillin’ of it once in a while!”

“Wait!” says Wallie, an’ rushes inside the store. “Comanche Chief, if you have any in stock!” calls out Bill after him.

Mr. Whelan, who’s sittin by the open winder in his office, looks out to Bill an’ then to the clerk an’ smiles that it’s all right to Wallie over the top of his mornin’ paper, an’ Wallie comes out with a plug o’ Comanche Chief smokin’ for Bill an’ a plug o’ the same of chewin’ for me.

I bites into mine right away, but old Bill looks at his pipe, an’ then, sayin’ he didn’t know’s he’d baptize it yet awhile, reaches over an’ gnaws a corner off my plug o’ chewin’.

An’ Wallie’s dyin’ to know how it come to be a souveneer pipe, but is too polite to ask, on’y he can’t help havin’ another look at the pipe an’ noticin’ the picksher of a bird on the bowl an’ readin’ the letters on the gold band. “H R C” he reads out, an’ looks at old Bill.

“I know, I know,” says old Bill. “They bring me back, them initials, lad, like nothin’ else could, to days that is past ‘n’ gone.” He looks across East River over to Brooklyn mournful-like, but not forgettin’ to chew an’ chew, ‘nd bineby, when he has his jaws well oiled up, he says: “‘Tis many ‘n’ many a year ago, lad, an’ me the cabin-boy an’ the fav’rite o’ the capt’n o’ the good ship Tropic Zone.”

“The Tropic Zone! What a corkin’ name for a ship!” says Wallie.

“Ay, lad,” says Bill, “a noble name an’ a noble ship, a full-rigged four-master, an’ one fine day we up jibs an’ yanchor an’ sailed out this same Yeast River an’ past the Battery an’ down New York Bay an’ the Jersey coast, an’ on an’ on, bearin’ s’utherly, till we came to the land o’ Yunzano, which was—an’ mebby is yet—down South Ameriky way, an’ we went ashore, me ‘n’ the capt’n, to call on the noble don which them same initials stands for.

“H R C,” says Bill, readin’ ‘em off the pipe. “How well do I remember the noble don, Hidalgo Rodreego Cazamma who lived in r’yal splender in a most lovely an’ fertyle valley. Lookin’ back now through the vister of my matoored manhood, I can’t say’s I c’n recall in all my years o’ world travellin’ a more entrancin’ picksher than the valley o’ Yunzano when my capt’n ‘n’ me hove into it of that gorgeous April mornin’. There was a river gleamin’ like silver—an’ sometimes like gold ‘n’ copper—flowin’ through that marvellous valley, an’ above it rose the volkanous mountains with sides of the color of the purple neglijay shirts an’ tops like the ruby scarf-pins that sometimes you see of a mornin’ in Times Square. An’ in that valley was forests with all the tropic trees that ever you read of, bearin’ the most jul-luscious fruits—pomgrannits, cocoanuts, pineapples, limes, lemons, grapefruits, alligator-pears—any fruit ever you see to the stalls in the market was there in abundance. An’ fr’m the branches o’ them same trees came the most melojus birds’ voices, an’ the birds themselves ‘d a-dazzle your eyes with the color o’ their feathers. Parrakeets, marrakeets, bobalinks, nightingales, an’ a little red, white, ‘n’ blue spotted bird the natives called an eggleeno.”

“Ah-h!” says Wallie, “and is that the picture on the bowl o’ the pipe?”

“The same,” says Bill; “done by a master hand, with the same round pop-eyes—see—an’ the same wide, square-cut tail like the stern of a ferry-boat.

“‘Dijjer ever in yer life, William, see anything more saliferous?’ says the capt’n to me whilst we’re ridin’ up to the don hidalgo’s house—a hashyender, they called it—longer ‘n’ wider than any two blocks on Broadway, but not so high, with a red roof, an’ walls o’ solid marble, an’ marble columns ‘n’ promenades around it, with thousands o’ lofty trees liftin’ their heads to the sky, an’ balconies outside the winders, an’ spoutin’ fountains in the r’yal pam garden, which was the size mebby o’ Central Park. It took all of a thousand servants, I should say, in pink-’n’-old-rose knee-pants, to look arter the place; an’ the old don kep’ a band o’ musicians in a green- an’-old-gold uniform on tap all the time. The house rules there—the same engraved in silver on ivory tablets an’ hung on the wall over the head o’ your bed—was that if a guest woke up in the middle o’ the night an’ didn’t feel well enough to go back to sleep, he had on’y to poke the little Injun boy who slep’ on a mat afore every door with his big toe an’ say to him: ‘Boyo, some musico!’ An’ we did one night, an’ in no time the still air was rent by the entrancin’ strains of ‘In the Sweet By ‘n’ By,’ which was the poplar toon o’ them days, an’ the one we ordered. Guitars, manderlins, violins oboes, trombones, an’ cornets they had in squads, though to my mind a native instrerment called the hooloobooloo was the most truly musical of all. Shaped like the bow of a ship it was, with a hundred strings to it, an’ made a noise like a breeze o’ wind tryin’ to steal through a forest o’ trees on a summer’s night. ‘Twas rav-ishin’.

“Arter the fatigues of our long an’ tejus voy’ge, the hashyender o’ the don was a most refreshin’ place to pass a few days in, but we had our business to attend to. Not that the noble don would sully our ears by mentionin’ the same to us. In those tropic countries the greatest insult to the stranger who happens to step in an’ camp awhile with you is to ask him what’s on his mind—not till he’s been restin’ up for at least a week. However, after six days o’ restin’ up, with salubrious fruits an’ wines an’ the most melojus concerts, my capt’n broaches the cause of why we’re callin’ on the Don Hidalgo Rodreego Cazamma.”

“Ah-h,” says Wallie, “now we’ll get it, Hiker!”

“Yes,” says Bill, “now we’ll have it. But, lemme see now—I must tell it so it’ll be clear to your young interlecks,” an’ he looks hard at the pipe an’ then mournful-like acrost East River toward Brooklyn.

“In them days,” Bill goes on at last, “no place you could go to in the whole Yunnited States—the piny woods, the rocky hills an’ grassy plains, no busy city fr’m the rock-bound coast o’ Maine to the golden shores where rolls the Oregon, no sleepy hamlet between the wooded hills o’ Canada an’ the surf-washed sands o’ Florida, but you’d see in big letters on the tops o’ flat rocks an’ the sides o’ mountains, the backs o’ fences an’ the roofs o’ barns, in the winders o’ drug-stores an’ the flags o’ back alleys, nowhere but you’d see: YUNZANO SWAMP ROOT, FOR COUGHS, COLDS, LUMBAGO, RUMMATIZ, GOUT, CHILBLAINS, COLD SORES, COLIC, BRIGHT’S DISEASE, AN’ LIVER TROUBLE—all in high yoller letters agin black paint.

“Pints an’ quarts in bottles, for sale at all reputable drug-stores, an’ those bottles had to come all the way by sea an’ fr’m the estate o’ Don Hidalgo Rodreego Cazamma, who owned all the swamp-root region in Yunzano. An’ when it’d come on to blow an’ the ship’d take to rollin’, where there was no way o’ tellin’ till arter you’d get to port an’ counted ‘em how many bottles was left that wasn’t busted. Sometimes more’n half or three-quarters of ‘em ‘d be busted.

“An’ now we come to that noble benefactor o’ the human race who at that time owned the string o’ drugstores painted blue ‘n’ green ‘n’ red, with cut-rate prices up ‘n’ down the side of every one of ‘em. ‘Twas him owned the Yunnited States rights to Yunzano Swamp Root, an’ he used to sell millions ‘n’ millions o’ bottles of Yunzano every year, an’ he says: ‘Why do we have to have so many o’ these bottles o’ Yunzano busted in comin’?’ An’ he says: ‘I have it—by Plutie, I have it. I’ll build a special ship for carryin’ my wondrous tropic medicines!’ An’ he does. He builds a ship ‘special, an’ in her he sets a great tank—oh, mebby four hundred foot long an’ fifty foot wide an’ deep—oh, deep as the ship was deep, and of all the ships ever I sailed in she was the deepest. ‘There,’ he says to my capt’n, ‘spill the Yunzano in there ‘stead of in bottles an’ we’ll make millions—millions, sir!’ He meant he’d make millions. An’ the Tropic Zone was that ship, an’ so it was we come, me ‘n’ the capt’n, to be doin’ business this lovely day with the owner o’ the great Yunzano estate.

“‘What we want, don,’ says the capt’n fr’m his chair that was made of inlaid precious woods an’ the horns o’ th’ anzello, a beeyootiful creachure like a nantelope, of which on’y one was killed every hundred years—‘what we want, don,’ says my capt’n—an’ four liveried servants keepin’ the flies ‘n’ other insecks off him with wavin’ pam-leaves while he’s talkin’—‘is to take our swamp root home in bulk.’ An’ the don, a man o’ most majestic figger, smokin’ a fourteen-inch cheroot in another chair that was inlaid all in di’monds ‘n’ gold, he considers the case and finally agrees to sell us enough to fill our tank, which is two million two hundred ‘n’ sixty thousand gallons o’ Yun-zano at forty-two cents a gallon. An’ we despatch a fleet messenger back to the ship, an’ up comes the gold with forty men-at-arms o’ the don guardin’ it—a million dollars or so it was, an’ all in the coin o’ the realm—shiny ten an’ twenty dollar gold pieces.

“Well, that’s settled, so we goes back to the ship, ridin’ our sumpter-mules in the dewy morn, an’ down the gleamin’ silver ‘n’ gold ‘n’ copper river comes the Yumzano in the skins o’ wild animals on banboo rafts, an’ while they’re dumpin’ it inter the tank the capt’n ‘n’ me, by special invitation, have a look at where the don manufactured the Yunzano.

“It was dark like the sassaparilla they served out to church picnics when it oozed first from nature’s bosom, an’ not till it was mixed with a native liquid called poolkey did it become th’ inspirin’ article o’ commerce which the rocks an’ fences an’ druggists’ winders an’ the advertisin’ an’ sometimes the readin’ columns of our American journals shouted to the public. This poolkey grew on trees, in little cups like, which all you had to do was to turn down an’ into your mouth. It was the grandest proof to me o’ the wise provisions of nature. It was a white-colored stuff, an’ tasted like an equal mixture o’ wood alcohol an’ red flame. One part swamp root to one part poolkey made up the Yunzano o’ commerce that many folks preferred to tea. The pookey kep’ it fr’m spilin’. Some o’ the most inveterate battlers agin the demon rum we ever had, some o’ the most cel’brated politicians, platform speakers, an’ drug dealers in the land, certified over their own signatures to the component parts o’ Yunzano an’ indorsed the same highly.

“Well, our tank was fin’lly filled to the hatches with the two million two hundred ‘n’ sixty thousand gallons o’ prime Yunzano, an’ when we considered the sellin’-price—pints fifty cents, quarts a dollar—quarts o’ the five-to-the-gallon size—up home we felt happy to think what profits was goin’ to be in this v’yage, for—but lemme see—did I say his name, the owner o’ the Tropic Zone an’ the fleet o’ drugstores?”

“No,” says Wallie. “An’ I was wonderin’.”

“No? Well, Nathaniel Spiggs was his name. However, to continue our tale. There we was, our cargo all aboard an’ waitin’ on’y for the mornin’ light to leave to sea. It was a windin’, tortuss channel outer that harbor, not to be navvergated at night by no ship of our size, an’ the skipper was readin the Bible in his cabin. He liked to read a few chapters afore his turnin’ in of a night, an’ to my joy he used to invite me to sit ‘n’ listen to him, an’ many a time in after life I’d be minded of my old skipper o’ the Tropic Zone, an’ the mem’ry of his monitions fr’m the was surely a great bullerk to me agin terrible temptations.

“An’ while he’s sittin’ there, balancin’ his specks an’ readin’ to me, ‘n’ stoppin’ to expound now ‘n’ again where mebby my young intellergence couldn’t assimmerlate it, the mate comes down ‘n’ salutes ‘n’ says: ‘Sir, there’s some people on the beach makin’ signs o’ distress—on horseback.’ An’ the skipper, arter a few cusses, which was on’y nacheral at bein’ disturbed in his pious occupation, he sets the Bible back in his bunk an’ goes up on deck. An’ me with him.

“An’ there they are. An’ behold, as we look, we see—my eyes bein’ young an’ marvellous sharp in them days was the fust—afar up the mountainside—to descry a band o’ people ridin’ wildly down to the valley an’ makin’ what must ‘a’ been all manner o’ loud noises, judgin’ by the way they waved their arms an’ guns, on’y they was too far away to be heard. An’ the capt’n gets out his night glasses:”

“Excuse me, Mr. Hickey,” says Wallie, “ but what is a night glass?”

“A glass you look through at night is a night glass, an’ if you look through it by day it’s a day glass. Don’t all the grand sea stories speak o’ night glasses?”

“That’s why I ast. But, excuse me—please go on,” says Wallie.

“An’ who should they turn out to be on the beach, wavin’ dolorous-like signals o’ distress, but the don hidalgo an’—I forget mebby to mention her afore—the don’s lovely daughter! An’ with them is four sumpter-mules, an’ the sumpter- mules, when we goes ‘n’ gets ‘em off in a boat, turns out to be loaded down with gold ‘n’ jewels. The million dollars in gold we’d brought for the Yunzano water ‘n’ all the jewels the noble don’s fam’ly has been savin’ up for hundreds o’ years is on the mules.

“When we get ‘em all aboard—mules ‘n’ all—the don explains how there’s been a revverlootion in th’ interior, an’ how the General Feeleepo Balbeezo, the leader o’ the revverlootionists, ‘d planned to capture the hashyender o’ the don, includin’ beeyoocheous daughter ‘n’ the gold ‘n’ jewels. An’, on’y for a cook in the employ o’ the wicked general give it away, he would. The don had cured this cook’s grandmother of a vi’lent attack o’ tropic fever years afore this by frequent an’ liberal applications o’ Yunzano, an’ this grandson, though he was a wild an’ reckless an’ dark-complected youth, who preferred to associate with evil companions, nevertheless was grateful for the don’s curin’ his grandmother ‘n’ never forgot it. An’ when he overhears in the kitchen, where he’s fryin’ a few yoller podreedos for the general’s breakfast, the general hisself tellin’ of his dastardly plan to his vellay, he ups on the fav’rite war-charger o’ the general’s, a noble steed eighteen hands high, an’ don’t stop ridin’, without stirrup or bridle or saddle, till he comes gallopin’ in a lather o’ sweat—a hundred ‘n’ ten miles in one night over the mountain trails—to the don an’ tells him all. 0’ course, when the wicked general discovers the cook’s noble devotion to the don’s fam’ly, he has him hung on the spot, but that’s to be expected, an’, the hero an’ herrin’ bein’ saved, it don’t matter.”

“Cheer up, my brave don! “ says our skipper, when the don tells him the story, an’ refreshes him with a drink o’ vold bourbon fr’m his private stock that he kep’ under lock ‘n’ key in his cabin. An’ he has one hisself. An’ then he considers, an’, while he’s considerin’, the General Balbeezo ‘n’ his army, who it was I’d seen ridin’ down the high mountainside, they’re arrived at the beach. An’ they hollers acrost the harbor to us that if we didn’t give up the don hidalgo an’ the seenyohreeter, his daughter, an’ the gold ‘n’ jewels, why, he, General Balbeezo, regardless of possible international complercations, will bring his artillery to the beach ‘n’ blow us all outer water.

“The don ‘n’ his daughter is tremblin’ with fear, but ‘Fear not, fear not!” says our skipper, an’ sends for the owner’s son.”

“The owner’s son—aboard all the time!” says Wallie.

“ Sure. I’d ‘a’ told y’about him afore,” says Bill, “but it wasn’t time yet. He’d made the passage with us so’s he could study the volkanous mountains o’ Yunzano, the like o’ which mountains wasn’t in all the world anywhere else. He was wonderful stoodent, so abstracted in his studies that he hadn’t heard a word of what we was sayin’ in the cabin this night till the capt’n sent me to call him outer his room. He was sure a noble specimen o’ fair young manhood to gaze upon—‘twas on’y the other day I was readin’ up to the Yastor Library of a hero in one o’ the best-sellers just like him: seven foot tall ‘n’ three foot acrost the shoulders, an’ nothin’ but pale pink curls to below his shoulders, an’ he no sooner steps inter the cabin now, his wonderful keen, blue-gray eyes still with the absent-minded look the stoodent o’ science, than I could see the don’s daughter, the seenyohreeter, was goin’ to fall wild in love with him.

“The capt’n explains the situation to young Hennery. An’ Hennery thinks awhile, an’ by’n’by he speaks. ‘Har, I have it!” he says. ‘The volkaners!” an’ orders h’isted up from the hold his balloon.”

“ A balloon, Hiker—whooh!” says Wallie, an’ sits closer to Bill.

“A balloon, yes. Y’ see, besides bein’ brought up by his father to be a great chemist an’ stoodent o’ mountains, he was likewise professor of airology in one of our leadin’ colleges. An’ he fills up his balloon—the whole crew standin’ by to help him pump the hot air inter it—an’ then away he goes. ‘In an hour, I promise you, you shall hear from me!’ he says, an’ we watch him soarin’ ‘n’ soarin’ ‘n’ soarin’ till his balloon ain’t no bigger than a sparrer an’ higher than the large an’ silvery moon.

“An’ all this time the wicked General Balbeezo an’ his bandit army is bringin’ their guns down the mountainside ‘n’ preparin’ to blow our ship outer the water. An’ by’n’by they’re all ready to begin, when ‘Car-ra-bees-toe!’ exclaims the don—‘what is that sound I hear?’ I forgot to say that the last thing young Hennery did afore leavin’ the ship was to put in the balloon a handful o’ bombs of a powerful explosive he’d invented hisself An’ the sound the don hears is the ‘ruption produced when young Hennery drops the first of them bombs into the craters o’ the nearest volkaner. An’, while we look, the air gets dark an’ the moon hides, au’ fr’m outer the top of one volkaner after another comes the most monstrous explosions, an’ down the mountainside comes a nocean o ‘ fiery, flamin’ lavver, with billers ‘n’ billers o’ black smoke floatin’ up off it. An’ soon we hears groans o’ terror an’ ‘Save us! Oh, save us!’ from the wicked general an’ his army on the beach, an’ inter the harbor they plunges with their war-horses ‘n’ the cannon ‘n’ their armer still on ‘em.

“An’ onter the deck of our ship begins to fall just then a great shower o’ yashes. An’ we’re in danger o’ burnin’ up ‘n’ suffercatin’ an’ wonderin’ what to do next, when outer the black heavens comes Hennery ‘n’ his balloon. An’ we grabs his lines that’s trailin’ below him when he sails over our ship an’ makes ‘em fast to belayin’-pins, an’ he climbs down to the deck ‘n’ takes charge. He’s on’y eighteen year old, but wonderful beyond his years. He see what to do right away, an’ runs down an’ peels the yasbestos off the boilers ‘n’ steam-pipes in her injin-room.”

“What!” says Wallie.” Was she a steamer ?”

“Sail ‘n’ steam both. Sail for the hot days to make a draft ‘n’ keep us cool ‘n’ comfortable, an’ steam when there was air ‘n’ it was cold ‘n’ rainy. An’ young Hennery makes fireproof coats ‘n’ boots an’ hats outer the yasbestos linin’ for the capt’n an’ me an’ the mate an’ hisself, ‘cause we’re goin’ to guard the deck agin the wicked general ‘n’ his army. All the others we puts below, so no danger’ll come to them. An’ when the bandits comes swimmin’ alongside an’ up over the rail from the backs o’ their war-horses, we captures ‘em an’ take their weapons from ‘em, an’ then the capt’n says: ‘Now we got ‘em, what’ll we do with ‘em?’

“O’ course,’ says Hennery, ‘it would be perfeckly proper for the crool men o’ the south to kill their prisoners, but as men of the north we must show a loftier example.’ So spoke up our hero nobly.

“An’, while we’re ponderin’ what to do, ‘Har,’ says Hennery agin, ‘I have it! We put them in the medicine-tank.’”

‘But,’ says our capt’n, ‘they’ll spile it—your father’s two million two hundred ‘n’ odd thousand gallons o’ Yunzano that we paid forty-two cents a gallon for.’”

‘An” says young Hennery Spinks to that—”

“ Spiggs,” says Wallie.

“ Spiggs, I mean. ‘Is this the time or the place,’ says heroic young Hennery Spiggs then, ‘to be considerin’ of mere money—with the lives o’ human bein’s at stake? What though they be viler than dogs, they are still our fellow creatures, Cost what it may an’ ruthless though the varlets be, save their lives I shall!’ An’ y’oughter seen him then, the fair scion of a noble sire, his pink hair flyin’ in the southern wind, his pale eyes an’ form in general expanded to twice their reg’lar dimensions by his righteous indignation, an’ the beeyoocheous an’ volupchous daughter o’ the noble, wealthy don stickin’ her head outer a hatchway to cast a nadorin’ gaze upon him.

“An’ into the tank o’ Yunzano we flopped ‘em, one by one as they come over the rail o’ the Tropic Zone. I wouldn’t want to state at this late date how many of ‘em we saved from the burnin’ lavver by throwin’ ‘em inter the tanks, but mebby three or four or five hundred souls all told. An’, to keep the burnin’ yashes off ‘em, we makes a few yasbestos tarpaulins an, claps ‘em down over the hatches o’ the tank.

“All night. long we patrolled the decks shovellin’ the yashes off where they fell. An’ when mornin’ comes an’ the ‘ruptions is over we take the tarpaulins off the tank, an’ there was every blessed one of ‘em, fr’m the General Feeleepo Balbeezo down to the lowest private, ‘spite of all we’d done for ‘em, floatin’ around drowned. Overcome with grief ‘n’ surprise we was o’ course, but when we come to think it over—their endin’ up that way, wi’ the noble don ‘n’ his beeyoocheous daughter saved an’ the revverlootion busted up—it sure did look like the hand o’ Providence was hoverin’ over us.

“And then,” says old Bill, borrowin’ another chew from me, “arter we’d cleared out the tank of the dead revverlootionists an’ the old Yunzano, the don filled her up again free of charge. An’ o’ course Hennery married the don’s daughter, an’ for seven days an’ seven nights there was no place yuh could cast yer eyes but you’d see pillers o’ smoke by day an’ columns o’ flame by night, an’ wherever you see one o’ them it meant a barbecuin’ of a carload o’ goats ‘n’ oxen ‘ n ‘ pigs. ‘Twas nothin’ but feastin an’ the givin’ o’ presents, an’ then the bridal party embarked on the Tropic Zone, an’ gentle tropic breezes wafted us no’therly an’ westerly an’ sometimes yeasterly past the shores o’ Panama an’ Peru an’ Brazil an’ Mexico an’ Yucatan an’ the Farrago Islands, an’ the don’s own band used to sit on their camp-stools under the shadder o’ the great bellyin’ mains’l an’ plunk their guitars an’ mandolins ‘n’ picolettes, not forgettin’ the band leader who played the most amazin’ solos on the hooloobooloo. An, strange ships used to sail a hundred miles out o’ their course to find out who was it was sendin’ them dulcet strains acrost the cam waters. An’ the bridal couple ‘d be holdin’ hands an’ gazin’ over the spanker-boom at the full moon. ‘Twas gorgeous an’ elevatin’, an’ a fasset an’ pipe led direct from the tank to the cutest little kegs with brass hoops placed at frequent intervals around deck, so that whoever o, the crew wanted to could help theirselves any hour o’ the day or night to a free drink o’ Yunzano.

“An’ thole don sits up on the poop-deck, with his hands folded acrost his stomach, an’ says: ‘Quiscanto vascamo mirajjar,’ which is Yunzano for ‘I am satisfied, I can now die happy.’ But he didn’t die—he lived to be ninety year old, an’ before we arrives at New York he makes me a gift o’ this pipe. O’ course he made me other gifts, the don did, but this I value most of all, bein’ made from wood of a rare tree from the heart o’ the swamps o’ Yunzano. An’ I’ll never forget him. An’ so there’s the story o’ my youth an’ Yunzano.

The days of our youth
Are the days of our glory—
The days of old age
Is the time for the story—’

So I read in a book o’ poetry one time.”

“But young Henry and his bride,” said Wallie—“what happened them later?”

“Them?” says old Bill. “Well, it was on’y the other day 1 met a. nold friend o’ mine who used to report prize-fights an’ jail matters, but is now writin’ about society matters for one of our great metropolitan journals, an’ he shows me in the Sunday supplement a full-page picksher in brown ink, of a solid granite buildin’ that looked like a jail but wasn’t. It was the Hennery Spiggs Home for Inebriates, an’ built strong like that so no one could escape from it ‘n’ the good that was to be done ‘em. An’ there was another two-page picksher, in brown ink, of Hennery Spiggs, our same young hero of other days, but now a noldish gentleman with whiskers under his ears an’ children an’ grandchildren gamblin’ on the green lawn of his million-dollar Newport cottage. A great philanthropist he is now, an’ a leader of society, with wealth beyond the dreams of a movin’-picksher manufacturer—all made outer Yunzano. Before he dies he’s hopin’ to see erected a fittin’ monument for that world-famous chemist, that great benefactor to the cause o’ humanity an’ medicine, the Honorable Nathaniel Spiggs, his father. Already his best-paid foremen an’ employees was bein’ invited to contribute. Sometimes I think o’ goin’ to see him.”

“You should go, of course,” says Wallie. “He will be glad to see you.”

“Mebby so, mebby so, lad, but why should I thrust my wuthless carcass onter him? Besides, the round-trip fare to Newport is four dollars an’ more.” An’ Bill gazes mournful-like across East River to Brooklyn, an’ Wallie’s too polite to bust in on him, but I c’n see in his eyes where he’s goin’ to get four dollars some way for old Bill some day to pay a visit to Newport.

An’ then it comes time for Wallie to hike off to school, an’ he kisses his father good-by, an’ says “So long, Hiker!” to me, an’ thanks old Bill for his story.

“It always gives me pleasure to instruct an’ edify growin’ youth,” says old Bill, lookin’ after Wallie goin’ up South Street, an’ whilst he’s lookin’ a policeman an’ a common ordinary citizen heaves into sight. An’ the man looks to be excited, with a coat over one arm.

“You take some o’ these young fuhlers,’ says Bill, “ that’s been drivin’ a dray all his life an’ invest him with a yunniform an’ authority an’ a club in his hand, an’ two or three times more pay than ever he got before—you do that, an’ I tell you there’s nobody safe from ‘em.” An’ old Bill slips the pipe back into the coat-tail pocket of the coat an’ leaves it on the steps, an’ scoots lightly to behind three high barrels o’ flour in the back o’ the store.

Mr. Whelan has a peek over his paper at Bill passin’; but he don’t say anything on’y to step to the door when the policeman an’ the man come along.

“Look!” the man hollers, an’ dives for the coat Bill’d left behind him.

“An’ lookat—the pipe!” He’d hauled it out of the coat-tail pocket. “My pipe!”

An’ then the policeman says: “This gentleman this morning, Mr. Whelan, dropped into Spiegel’s after a little bat for a little nip and a—“

“If you please,” interrupts the man, “I will tell it. A short while ago”—he faces Mr. Whelan—”I was yunnanimously elected outer sentinel o’ my lodge o’ Fantail Pigeons. And last night a few friends, wishin’ to commemorate the honor, presented me with this pipe—a fine pipe, as you can see—of ebony. And my initials, see—H R C—Henry R. Cotton—on the gold band. And a picture of a fantail—see—engraved on the bowl. You don’t happen to be”—the man steps up to Mr. Whelan an’ grabs an’ squeezes his hand, all the while lookin’ him hard in the eye—“a Fantail?” When Mr. Whelan don’t say anything, the man gives him another grip, ‘most jumpin’ off his feet this time to make sure it was a good one.

“No,” says Mr. Whelan, wrigglin’ his fingers apart after the man let go of ‘em—“I’m no Fantail.”

“Oh, well, it’s all right—there are some good men who are not. However, I leave the chaps this morning and step into a place down the street for a cup of coffee before I go to the office, and possibly I laid my head down on the table for a minute’s nap. However, when I get up to take my coat off the hook where I’d left it, the coat is gone. And in place of it is this disreputable garment—see?” an’ he throws down the old coat an’ wipes his feet on it.

“Spiegel’s bartender, Herman,” puts in the policeman,” says there was an old bum came in an’ hung his coat next to this gentleman’s, an’ when he went the coat went; and he must ‘a’ went pretty quiet, Herman says, for he didn’t notice him goin’. An’ his description fits an old loafer who hits the free-lunch trail pretty reg’lar ‘round here, an’ I think I seen him loafin’ around here once or twice.”

“He meant to steal that coat an’ pipe” says the man.

“If he meant to steal it,” says Mr. Whelan, “why d’ y’ s’pose he left it here?”

“Why, I dunno,” says the man.

“O’ course he didn’t,” says Mr. Whelan.” An’, look here”—he sticks the mornin’ paper under the man’s nose an’ says: “What do you think o’ Marquard holdin’ the Phillies down to two hits yesterday?”

“No!” says the man; “two hits? Well, say, he’s some boy, hah?”

“Is he? Listen to me,” says the policeman, shovin’ his club between them. “Listen. All I gotter say is, with Mattie an’ Jeff an’ the Rube goin’ right, where’ll them Red Sox fit with the Giants in the world’s series next month? God help ‘em—that’s all I gotter say.”

“The Giants look like a good bet to me, too,” says the man, an’ soon up the street toward Spiegel’s the pair of ‘em go, fannin’ about the Giants with Mr. Whelan.

An’ when Mr. Whelan is soon back alone, Bill comes out from behind his flour-barrels an’ with his plug o’ Comanche Chief in his hand. “I don’t s’pose yuh could swap this for chewin’ o’ the same brand, could yuh, Mr. Whelan?” he says.

“Why—you given up smokin’?” says Mr. Whelan.

“How’m I goin’ to smoke without a pipe?” says Bill.

“That’s so,” says Mr. Whelan, an’ goes behind the counter an’ pulls down a couple o’ boxes of brier pipes.

“With a middlin’ good hook to the stem, if you don’t mind,” says Bill.

Mr. Whelan passes over the best make of French brier. Bill held it up. “She looks all right.” He put it between his teeth. “An’ she feels all right.” He sticks it into his shirt. “An’ I guess she’ll smoke all right.” He steps to the door an’ picks up the old coat. “What good it done him to wipe his feet on my coat, I dunno,” he says. Then he turns back.

“About Wallie, Mr. Whelan?”

“Why, Bill,” says Mr. Whelan, “when he gets back from school of course he’ll get down the chart to look up all those countries you passed on the way back from Yunzano, and o’ course we’ll have to make a correction or two in your jography.”

“O’ course,” says Bill. “I useder have a good mem’ry once, but”—he taps his head—“gettin’ old, gettin’ old, Mr. Whelan. That coat now—it sure did look like the cut o’ the coat I used to wear on the Tropic Zone. And the pipe!” an’ old Bill gazes mournful-like across East River to Brooklyn, an’ turns again an’ says: “A good boy, your boy, Mr. Whelan—no evil suspicions o’ people in his heart. An’, as my old capt’n o’ the Tropic Zone useder quote fr’m the Bible to me: ‘It’s they shall inherit all there is that’s wuth in-heritin’.’”

An’ then Bill heaved another sigh, and put on his old coat, an’ went shufflin’ up South Street, on the side away from Spiegel’s.

 

** James B Connolly, b. Nov. 28, 1868, S. Boston, MA, d. Jan. 20, 1957. On April 6, 1896, Connolly became the first athlete to win a gold medal in the modern Olympics, taking the triple jump. He later won a silver medal in the high jump and a bronze in the long jump. Connolly never went to high school, but he educated himself before entering Harvard College as a 27-year-old freshman in 1895. When he heard about the Olympics in Athens, he asked for a leave of absence so he could compete. He was turned down, but he left school and went anyway, paying his own passage. He didn't return to Harvard until years later, when he was invited to lecture on literature. In the meantime, he had become a journalist, a war correspondent for Collier's magazine, a novelist, and a short story writer.

* Scribner's Magazine, Dec 1915.

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