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I saw it was going to get worse. I was scared. I mean, that I was so scared that I almost forgot my bunk and let the captain and the others see I was white. But I didn't. I called to the crews on the tender and the car to put on the brakes. They did; they
turned ’em on till they smoked. It was no use; it was no use!” He paled as he said this. He was
living it over again. “The brakes on the tender and the flat car wouldn’t hold that heavy engine! I climbed up on the end of the tender and directed the blankety-blanks myself, but they couldn't make those brakes hold. “And then,” he said, and he smiled; faintly, but he smiled. “Then—to add to the value of the story, as I stood up there on the tender—I looked off down the hill, and I saw the lights of a train ahead! They were 'way down, and they were going our way, but we’d catch that train if we kept on at that rate, and if we didn't leave the track.” I put back five pesos. “The mind of man,” he said, swelling, “is a great organ, especially when you get an inside view of it, the way us grafters do. Honest men—they have to see it from the outside, in others, in us crooks, and so—” The retransfer of a bill stopped him. “But,” he cried, “you always have to change the note in making a transition in a story—to sustain the suspense. I wanted to sustain—” “Five more,” I said, and I took another bill. “A narrative is no place for a debate. What we want to know now, and quick, is what you did when you saw that the locomotive was running away with you, the car, and—”
re HY, I cut off the car and let the locomotive go—with you, to the devil,” he said, hot. “If it's only information you want, there you have it, but I was going to give you the beauty of it: How my mind rose clear and quiet above that terrible crisis; how I saw that I couldn’t hold the whole train, and that maybe I could hold the car, so I called my troops off the cowcatchers, sent them and the fellows on the tender back, and finally stepped myself—the last man to leave her—off the locomotive and the tender, onto the flat car.” “And then?” “Then,” he said, still hurt, but reviving, “then I ordered the brakes off, then on, and at the jerk lifted the coupling, and let the locomotive go, as I said, where all you Americans can go with your money—” I restored five pesos to his side, adding an encouraging “And then?” “Then I swung everybody onto the brakes on the flat car. And they held. They held ! I don't mean that they stopped her. No. Nothing could stop her, but if we handled her easy, if we gentled her right, I saw that we would soon be in some sort of control. So I sat down on the front end of that car, directed the crews on the brakes, and watched that wild locomotive go free. “And free she was, and she knew she was free. And proud. She seemed to stand up higher, and she certainly flew. She didn’t know anything about that train ahead, of course, but she was after it, and they—they saw her. I guess they had seen us before, but now, when they saw her headlight grow, and switch, and flash, and come, they began to yell. I heard 'em, and they told me afterward that they judged from her speed that she was wild. So they passed the word to their engineer to go, and he went. And I laughed.” The major laughed. “Yes,” he said, “that engineer opened up. “Well, there we were, all three of us tearing down that mountain road which was not intended for a tear. And the greatest, fastest, happiest of the three was that engine of mine. She made me think of Mexico. She didn’t know where she was going, but she was on her way, free. She wasn’t fit to be free, not yet; she wasn’t ready for selfgovernment, not yet; but she didn't realize her dependence on foreign intelligence, and she didn't care for it. She loved liberty, and she was after it.
And— But, just like Mexico, what she didn't know was that she couldn't have liberty and stay on the narrow, crooked road you damn foreigners had laid out for her, and so, like Mexico, she jumped the track. She sprang off into space and went crashing back into barbarism, down through the forest and the rocks into the cañon, a wreck—a free and a glorious wreck.”
ITH a far-away look in his eyes he drew a bill from my right hand and put it into my left. And I let him do it. “Thus would I like to end my days,” he said, “in a wreck. Free, and a wreck. A wreck, but gloriously free, free. And there was my chance. I, too, was free. With that money in that car. “I rose up, with curses and commands to my crew on the brakes, to get them busy. I climbed into the auto and lifted up the back seat. And I felt, I hefted, I counted that money. That is when I reckoned that it was thirt thousand dollars, gold! Yellow gold, as yellow as I am. Yellower! That's when I got back to my white streak which, you haven’t forgotten, was and is the real suspended interest of this twenty-peso story: with a five-peso bet on the side. “Well,” he hastened, “my white streak turned up while I was reckoning up the amount of that money. It was too much. I felt—I had a hunch—that I wouldn't steal it. I don't know how it was exactly, but something seemed to say to me that I wouldn't put through so big a deal. And I was frightened. I had formed my plan to do it. I’d hook my car onto the train ahead, and in the dark nobody'd know about the money. When I got to Vera Cruz—if it was steamer day—I’d drive straight off the car to the dock and run it, automobile and all, right onto the boat and sail. That was simple enough; it might take a tip or two; it might even cost me a bribe; but I knew the ship's officers. It was all perfectly plain sailing. And yet— “As I sat there, looking off over into that deep, dark cañon at the lights of the train and the town below, I thought of all the high aspirations I’d learned from you foreigners: to get rich quick. And I thought of the other higher aims I'd learned from my own countrymen, to spend my riches quick, and live—live. These were the inspiring thoughts that came back to me up out of that beautiful night, and they inspired me. Live? Why, say, on thirty thousand dollars I could not only live, I could die. I could live and love myself to death. “Yellow? Yes, I'm yellow. That's what I said; that's what I wanted to be: a golden yellow, not a pale, spotted yellow, but a brilliant, beautiful golden hue all, all through. And here was my chance. And there was that white streak. It rose like a pale spirit in me, and I trembled. I was afraid that when it came to the pinch, in Vera Cruz—I had a queer fear that I'd take that money to headquarters and deliver it. It wasn’t fear of the consequences; I was sure I could make a get-away. And I had no scruples, none. I knew that if I made my get-away, and had such a lot of money, I could use part of it to prove my honesty, and— “And besides, I don’t want to be honest. I don’t like honesty or honest men, as you and all my friends know. My ideal is your big, successful grafter, and my ambition is to be one of you, one of them. And the tragedy of my life, as you have well said, is that I am only a little one.”
That was the situation. And back of it all was a thought that appalled me.” He was in earnest now. He laid his hand on my arm in an appeal to be understood. “You know how you and I have often discussed whether a petty grafter can rise to be a great one? And you remember how I have cited you case after case to show that only an honest man can become a great grafter? Well, I saw in the deep darkness of that terrible night on that fierce down grade that then and there I was to answer for myself this, the fatal question of my life—once and forever. If I failed this time, if I didn't seize this great opportunity to get a pile, a big pile, why, then, I’d prove to myself that I, De Alegre, was so white—so hopelessly white, in spots—that I would never rise, never succeed. My life would be a failure.” He braced up. “That was the thought which braced me up,” he said. “Armed with that, I leaped on that white temptation. I jumped on it, grabbed it by the throat; I wrestled with it—and I downed it. I beat it to death, and with my hands clenched, and my teeth set, I got up and I went to work. “I had work to do. We were coming down into a station. Covering up the gold, I got out of the auto and went forward to the brake. I ordered it off; I ordered both brakes off, and we sailed into the station like—well, like a revolution, like that free locomotive, wild and glad, hats waving, hair flying. “They saw us coming, of course. They had prepared for us. They gave us lots of room. They'd got their train off on a siding to let us have the main track into and clean through the station. And we took it. Like heroes, we took the track, the station, and the whole place, with everybody in it. For, as you might expect, they all rushed up to us when we stopped, wanting to know— “Why do people keep asking questions when they want to know something? When I finally got that crowd quieted I told them a story, a fine story, not the same nor so great as this one I'm telling you, but they took it better and they paid me better. They took the story, and me, and my gang, and my car—they took us onto their train, and —we got to Vera Cruz about midnight.”
HE life had gone out of the major; he flattened out exactly as his story collapsed, and as suddenly. “It came back,” he whispered, awestruck, “that temptation: not to do it. I had beaten it; I had beaten it to death up on the hill, and—there it was, white, weak, and whispering: “Don't!’” He turned, incredulous, to me to see if I could believe it. “It's true,” he insisted. “And I have read stories like that, where other fellows, in fixes like mine, tempted as I was tempted, have fought just such battles inside of themselves. Mine was upside down. My fight was with a white streak; theirs with a yellow. Their temptation was to do what they called wrong; mine was to do what those other heroes would call right. But it was just as bad. It was worse. “But I won. I won every battle I fought—while the battle was on. But moral struggles are funny things; they ain't like mortal combats. “When our car was hooked onto the end of that train, and I had kindly allowed the little captain to join some friends of his on another car, so he couldn’t watch me; when we were off for Vera Cruz, and I climbed back into that auto to look at my gold again, and count it over to be sure—thirty thousand dollars—then, brother, then was the time I discovered that while I wasn't looking, while I was busy perfecting my arrangements to make my get-away —that's when that white streak had come to life again and, creeping up behind me in the dark, peered over my shoulder and whispered the old bunk into my white-livered ear: “‘Fulfill this trust. Don't swipe so much. Wait for another chance to get your pile.” “I got mad,” he said furiously. “I was scared too, but I was furious.
The White Streak
Continued from page 29
Alone there, with none to witness, none to admire, none but the eternal stars to see, I fought my second fight. I fought that fight all the way to Vera Cruz, and when, wounded, weary, and worn, we approached the city, and I saw in the dark the dock lights of the loading steamer, I won it. I lifted myself and my courage, and I pitched the old white streak off that car into the ditch. And, with victory, triumphant, glad, I–I got busy. “The train stopped 'way up the road, about a mile from the station, because, you see, the yard was chock-a-block with those other trains that had passed us. I didn’t wait. I called my guards, got out the planks, and we run the auto
off the car. We bumped her off the track over to the highway. There I dismissed my faithful troops. I made
'em a speech—you know, bunk—and told 'em to skip. And they skipped... I climbed in at the wheel, I jabbed the starter, I stepped on the gas, and we started for the dock. “I say for the dock. I had no more doubt where I was going—I was as sure I was going to that ship—I had settled it absolutely, hadn't I? You saw me settle it. Well, it must have got unsettled when I was so busy unloading the auto and getting away. And I sure must have been busy, for—I give you my word—I hadn't noticed any change in me. No. I just looked down the road to the dock lights; aimed the auto straight at them, and—” Bewildered he looked, bewildered he spoke. “Say,” he said, “I didn't go there. I went—with my head headed right for the dock, with my eyes on the steamer lights, with my whole soul set on New York—my hands— No, it was that auto. That's what turned. That auto went—wild, like the locomotive did. It went where it wanted to go. I couldn't hold it. It jumped the track, went around a corner, away from the ship; it went carefully, avoiding people, avoiding other cars—dodging and turning; at high speed, it went right along out to the lighthouse, which, you remember, was the headquarters of the Government in Vera Cruz. It went there by itself, you understand, with me trying to make it go to the dock; it went zigzagging clear through the city, out to the lighthouse; it went there itself and it carried me, loyal and true, right up to the entrance and stopped.
** HERE was a crowd there: officers and soldiers fresh off the other trains. There were lots of fellows there that knew me; and they seemed to me to know what I had in that car. Salteras must have told 'em. They didn't say a word. Dumfounded, I guess; paralyzed like me. Not a word. And not a move till—somebody started to help me. Then others came and they helped me. It was like a funeral. All silent and mournful, we carried that gold—all those fat, little, hefty, nifty bags in to the treasurer. He spoke, the first one. He was an old friend of mine, the treasurer, and he showed how he felt. He nearly dropped dead. But he sprang into life first. “De Alegre?” he says, glad, and then, sad: ‘De Alegre! How did you come to—? Salteras said you had it, but he-I'll call him. He’s up with the jefe now, explaining, and— But how? How in the world did you come to-?'" “I didn't answer; not a word. Couldn't. And he didn't press me. He saw I was—all broke up, and I guess he understood. A treasurer, he must have gone through what I had just come through and, since he was a treasurer still and still there, he was a failure, too. “He threw up his hands and sent up for Salteras. And Salteras came arunning, and he—he didn't say much either; just rushed up to me, calling my name; threw his arms around me and gave me the embrace. That started the rest and they, lots of 'em, hugged me; hard, the bears. They were so glad, and so—and I was so—
Collier's, The National Weekly
“Say,” said the major, directly to me. But he didn't “say.” He couldn't. His eyes filled with tears; real tears. I’m sure of it. I looked closely at them and he let me; there was no mistaking those tears. I hadn’t half understood, and I was sorry: really. ... It was painful. His lips trembled. ... Looking away to let him recover, I bethought me of the split bills in my two hands. I put them, all four, together into one hand, intending to give them to him. My movement seemed to make him worse. “Think of it,” he sobbed, “all, that gold; all that yellow gold; mine! And I gave it up.” “Here, major,” I said, “here's your twenty pesos,” and I pressed the bills into his limp hand. His thoughts were elsewhere. “I could have gone—plumb to—” he was saying, brokenly, “with a pile like that—I could have gone the whole route— “But here, look here!” he exclaimed, holding up my bills. “You owe me five pesos more.” “What for?” I asked, taken aback. “The bet,” he said. “We bet five that I’d get the whole twenty out of you, and I won.”.
HESITATED, studying him; foreigners are so beyond our comprehension. And we are beyond theirs. He misunderstood my hesitation. He began to sob again and, sobbing, said: “If I had your gringo nerve—if I had the strength of character you foreigners have, I'd 'a' got away with that thirty thousand and I wouldn't be robbing you here now of twenty pesos and a measly five. I’d— But I'm weak, white, spotted, streaked. I went and delivered it. I delivered it all; all; all but that one thousand—” “One thousand ''” I echoed. “What thousand?” “Why,” he said, “the thousand I pitched off the train coming into Vera Cruz.” And when I stared, uncomprehending, at him, he looked, disappointed, at me.
That was a dramatic touch. As a mat
ter of artless fact, I dropped the picked bag carefully at a spot I picked out very carefully, and most carefully marked down: a spot I could not, cannot forget; a spot where the struggle was going bad, against me, for the right, and I thought I'd better have something to fall back on if I got licked; the spot where, as it turned out —where my life, my career with all its golden hopes, was turned down; ended; wrecked; an inglorious, a pitiful, a petty wreck; the shining, white-livered spot where I buried my own, and the ambition of all us little, yellow grafters to
become big ones—like you honest white
He hung his head, ashamed, but he lifted his eyes and his voice.
“There it was that I dropped the thousand and, later, that night—when I broke away finally from Salteras and the rest of them at the lighthouse—I hot-footed back there, and got it. One measly thou’ out of thirty! I got it. And I got the boat.”
Slowly I dug down, and I dug up slowly a five-peso bill; and gradually I gave it up. He took it and, as he folded it away with the others, a smile streaked through his tears; a sparkling, a wet, a twinkling, incomprehensible— a foreign smile.
Drives and the Driven Business Man 6) Evangeline Booth Fiction 6); James B.Connolly-Olive M'Clintic Johnson-SaxRohmer-William Almon Wolff
ISS PERFUMIA was fat. Not plump, stout, fleshy, or any of the polite, euphemistic terms by which the truth is mitigated, but fat. No other word will do justice to her magnificent proportions. Her corpulency admitted of no camouflage. Miss Perfumia was fat—fatter than anybody not connected with a circus. But to Deep Ellum Miss Perfumia's figure, resembling a feather bed with a string about the middle, was not, as one might suppose, a bar sinister prohibiting her prowess socially. No, indeed. Miss Perfumia's fat was literally the best and richest part of her. It bowled over and flattened out her rivals. Deep Ellum received the steam-roller lady with some misgivings, on her début at the Development Dance Hall, and ensconced her in a conspicuous seat —settee. Miss Perfumia, acknowledging the courtesy with a melliferous smile, sat down heavily. The throne creaked. Miss Perfumia threw back her head and laughed, shaking like a large chocolate jelly.
By Olive McClintic Johnson Illustrated by H. M. Stoops
Deep Ellum, holding its breath in suspense, laughed with her—not at her. The small preposition makes all the difference in the world. The enormous lady was established.
No lissom Cleopatra floating in a regal barge, trailing her tapering fingers in perfumed waters and radiating electric glances, could have caused a more distinct flutter than the adipose Miss Perfumia, on her creaking settee, waving a palmleaf fan and bestowing her largess of smiles impartially.
She filled the eye. She aroused emotions. She
She caused comment.
excited imagination. But more of
And soon she inspired affection. that later. Who was Miss Perfumia and whence had she come? The past of the excessive lady was a sealed book. No one until that night had ever beheld her colossal form. Miss Perfumia possessed all the charm of the unknown. It turned out that Spider Cooter had brought her. But his knowledge was fragmentary. During the last half hour of his service in the drug store below, while he performed his duty at the fountain with one eye impatiently on the clock and the other on the faucet, this Gargantuan lady had strolled in and demanded an egg flip. “Golly, she upset me so complete, I had to take a polo cooler to settle my nerves,” confessed Spider. “But she's a pursick lady and right purty too. Soon's she heahed de music, she pupposed we come to de dance—jes' as frien’ly lak—” Spider was a good press agent. All eyes turned in the direction of the effulgent Miss Perfumia. She