Puslapio vaizdai

The stranger is likely to make other mistakes. If, for instance, he remembers the amazing amount of liquor that he has seen stacked up in the cantinas and cafés of Camagüey, he is likely to mention at home that the always faithful port of Camagüey in drunkenness is rather ahead of our own joyous, bar-room-blessed North. And again he will be wrong. In all my residence there I can recollect seeing only three drunken men in Camagüey; that is, three drunken Cubans. Patriotism and hands-across-the-sea sentiment forbid my saying how many drunken Americans and Britons I can remember.

The stranger in Camagüey, if he is ignorant of Spanish, is more than likely to go away with another fixed and permanent mistaken idea in his mind. It will be that for some mysterious reason there is an enormous demand in Camagüey for hay-tickets, possibly connected with some free-hay fund for the poor. He will get this idea because every day there may be seen temporary placards affixed to scores of shops and private houses, "No hay billetes." These placards, however, really and truly have nothing to do with hay. They signify simply that the person displaying the placard has sold all his lottery-tickets. The Cuban lottery is Camagüey's chief sport next to cock-fighting, and the demand is so good that the venders do not need to advertise that they have tickets, but announce merely when they have none, in order to head off the rush.

Everybody in Camagüey sells lotterytickets. The banks sell them, the chemists sell them, the shoemaker sells them, the doctors sell them. The men who bring guinea-grass fodder and milk and live chickens and live piglets to one's house sell them. A vivid, though impressionistic, memory tells me that the only

person who does not sell them is the undertaker.

The undertaker brightens Camagüey in another way peculiarly his own. He conducts funerals so radiant that I know of tourists who, having failed to see the hearse and noting only what followed, have gone away certain that they had witnessed a gorgeous military parade.

They are scarlet-and-gold funerals. The hearse is scarlet and gold, the horses are hung from nostrils to tail in scarlet and gold, drivers and outriders and attendants are garbed in braided and frogged and laced coats of scarlet and gold, and surmounted with cocked hats of scarlet and gold.

The gorgeous funeral goes to a red, white, and blue cemetery, the beautiful, gaudy wall of which is crowned with minarets and towers and little steeples, which are the tops of tombs.

A sun-bright, flower-bright place is this place of painted tombs, with no gloom of cypresses or willows. The very tombs themselves are sociable, for rows of them are apartment-tombs, whereon are painted the names of many divers occupants who had nothing to do with one another in life. The apartment idea is carried out still further, for apartments in these tall tombs are leased for strictly limited occupancy only. Few of the tombs are permanent. After a respectable interval of years has elapsed, the occupants are moved out to make room for new arrivals.

And there, too, in the red, white, and blue cemetery one meets the Arabian Nights again. There are ancient Spanish tombs let deep into the earth. Of these nothing is visible above-ground except gigantic slabs of stone with enormous rings in them, the very slabs that are lifted so often in the Arabian Nights for doomed princes and princesses.




HE long, hot July afternoon gave promise of an even hotter night. Paul Remington found himself glancing anxiously at the clock, and marveling at the slowness with which the hands approached the hour which would mark the closing of the bank for the day. Baker Baker on one side of him, Zimmerman on the other, toiled stolidly over their books. Mr. Curtis, the paying teller, was counting up his cash at the window.

It still wanted a few moments to the hour when Johnson, the president's secretary, came into the inclosure. "Mr. Langham wants to see you in his office at once," he said to Remington, then went over to Baker and Zimmerman and gave them the same message. All three had been about to remove their ink-stained alpaca office-coats. Zimmerman, in fact, had already taken his partly off.

"Come just as you are," Johnson said sharply, then held open the grated iron door until they had filed ahead of him down the corridor leading to the president's private office.

Paul Remington was aware of a curious presentiment of disaster. It arose from no definite cause, yet it was sufficient to give him a sudden dryness of the throat and a trembling in the knees that were annoying. This peremptory summons to Mr. Langham's office suggested something unpleasant, even sinister. He felt that his companions shared his agitation.

Mr. Langham, the president of the bank, sat behind his rosewood desk. His face was grave, somber. Beside him stood a short, heavily built man with a grayish mustache whom Remington had never before seen.

Mr. Langham looked up, allowing his eyes to stray idly over the faces of the three men before him. Mr. Curtis, the paying teller, came in at that moment and whispered something in the president's ear. Then the latter spoke.

"Gentlemen," he said, "the sum of one thousand dollars in hundred dollar notes has been taken from Mr. Curtis's counter

during the day. Do any of you know anything of the matter?"

Remington shook his head confidently. "Not I, sir," he said. The other two men did likewise. "None of you, then, knows anything about this missing money?"

Again the chorus of denials.

The man with the gray mustache spoke a few words very low into Mr. Langham's ear. The latter nodded, and the man left the room.

"I must ask you to wait a few moments longer," the president said, playing with a silver paper-knife that lay upon his desk.

Almost immediately the gray-mustached man returned. In his hands he carried three coats. Remington recognized one of them as his own, the other two as belonging to Baker and Zimmerman. The man laid the three coats on a chair.

"Shall I go ahead, Mr. Langham?" he asked.

Again the president nodded. Remington observed that his coat lay upon the top of the pile. The man held it up.

"Whose is this?" he inquired.

"Mine," Remington replied, with a sigh of relief. He was anxious to get away. Aline would be expecting him.

The stout man plunged his hand into the breast pocket of the coat, and drew forth some letters and papers and a brown leather wallet. Remington gave a gasp of surprise. The wallet was not his.

"Open it," said Mr. Langham, quickly. The other did so, and took out a bundle of bank-notes, still bound together by the paper band containing the figures $1000 upon it in red. Then he placed both the money and the wallet upon the president's desk.

"You may go," Mr. Langham said, nodding to Baker and Zimmerman. Remington watched them file out, his mind dazed, numb. Then Mr. Langham looked steadily at him without speaking.

"The wallet is not mine," said Remington, nervously. "I have never seen it before. I did not take the money."

Mr. Langham frowned.

"Under the circumstances, young man," he said, "your denials are worse than useless. The evidence is complete." "But I swear to you, on my honor, I did not take it. I-"

"Then how, may I ask, do you account for its presence in the pocket of your coat?"

Remington was silent. How, indeed? "I am inclined to be lenient with you," Mr. Langham went on. "You are young, you have been with us a long time. This is your first offense. If I turn you over to the police, as is perhaps my duty, you will get a long sentence. It will make a hardened criminal of you. I may be wrong, but I do not think that you are that now. It is just possible that this experience may teach you the futility of crime. I am going to discharge you, of course, but without pressing the case against you further."

Again Remington began to speak, hurriedly, excitedly, denying all knowledge of the theft. Mr. Langham's frown grew deeper. He raised his hand.

"No more, if you please," he said. "It is useless, and you may make me regret my decision not to prosecute. Take your coat and go."

With a sob rising in his throat, Remington took up his coat and staggered out. The other clerks looked at him curiously as he passed. Some of them laughed. None made any effort to address him. After what seemed an eternity, he reached the street.

For a time he staggered along, quite unaware of direction. Some automatic operation of the brain guided his steps to the up-town subway station. Then he remembered that he had an engagement to meet Aline at four o'clock.

She was waiting for him in the hall when he reached the apartment, and she had on the white linen dress which he had always admired. They had planned to go to the beach together, and he had intended to go home first and dress. That, however, made no difference now.

"Why, Paul, what 's the matter?" she asked quickly, noting his haggard face.

"Come in and sit down," he said, leading the way to the little parlor; "I have something to tell you."

She followed, dazed by his somber man

ner, and listened in silence while he told her what had occurred.

"I do not know how the money came to be in my pocket," he said dully as he concluded. "I did not take it."

Aline Barnes was very young and very much in love. Hence she came up to him and, putting her arms about his neck, kissed him.

"Of course you did n't, dear," she exclaimed. "I know that. But who did?” There was no answer to that and he attempted none.

"Our engagement must be broken, of course," he went on in a trembling voice. "Your mother and father would insist on that-"

She interrupted him with a cry, and held him close.

"No! no! They won't believe this thing."

"I am disgraced," Remington said bitterly. "I shall be unable to get another position. The moment I tell them where I last worked, they will find out everything. I appreciate the way you feel now, but until I am cleared, I shall not hold you to our engagement."

She protested against this with all the fervor of her youth, but Remington was firm.

"You must tell your parents about it first," he said, "and do as they say." He knew very well what the girl's mother would say; she had never liked him very much as it was, having aspirations for her daughter above the meager salary of a bank clerk.

The tragedy of the situation made it impossible for him to remain. He left Aline in tears, and once more found himself in the blistering July heat. Then he went to his room, and threw himself on the bed. He felt that he must be alone with his grief.

The following day he started out to look for another position. He realized the difficulties which confronted him, and he met them bravely. For many weeks he walked the oven-like streets, searching for work, and found none. The inevitable question, "Where were you last employed?" seemed a barrier which he could not cross. If he replied truthfully, he knew that he would be branded as a thief. If he evaded the question, he became at once a man without experience, and there

fore unavailable. He had been at the bank for several years; his start there, as a messenger, had constituted his first real work. The situation seemed well-nigh hopeless. He had written to Mr. Langham the day after his discharge, protesting his innocence and begging for a further investigation, but there had been no reply. To all intents and purposes he was a thief.

Poverty early gripped him with an icy hand. With the carefree optimism of youth, he had not thought of saving until he met Aline. Since their engagement he had regularly put a certain amount every week into a life-insurance policy, but it was of too recent a date to be available as a means of borrowing money now. In fact, he realized that he would be unable even to keep it up. In two weeks his ready money was gone, and he moved to a cheaper room and managed to exist upon what he could obtain by pawning his few articles of jewelry and his clothes.

Slowly, but none the less surely, poverty and disgrace wore their way into his soul. He no longer faced the world head up. A beaten feeling came to him, growing with the passage of the heartbreaking days. Aline he seldom saw now. In the first rush of her sympathy and love, she had written to him daily, and they had met from time to time in the park and at street corners. He was no longer welcome at her home.

Gradually, however, these meetings became less frequent, and presently ceased altogether. Aline wrote him a tearful note, informing him that her mother had learned of them, and had forbidden her to see him again. Remington was rather glad. He did not blame Aline in the least; he felt that he was under a cloud, and his pride told him that there could be no future for either of them until the disgrace that had unjustly come upon him had been removed.

This disgrace told upon him heavily, even more than his poverty or the loss of Aline. There seemed something cruelly unjust about the whole affair. As week after week of failure sapped his courage and his hope, he became gloomy and morbid, and believed that the Fates had conspired to ruin him. It was a grotesque and futile state of mind, no doubt, but one that in the circumstances was perhaps

inevitable. No one of the several calamities which had overtaken Paul Remington could alone have robbed him of either his courage or his hope. Taken together, they had deprived him of both.

It was at this juncture that he made up his mind quite calmly and deliberately to commit suicide. The impulse came to him at the close of a day that, in its discouragement and suffering, had brought him. measurably nearer the bread-line. He knew that he was beaten, and he gave up the fight. For the last week even employment as a day-laborer had been denied him.

On his way home he made several purchases. He congratulated himself that he still had a small sum of money left from what he had obtained by pawning his only other suit. Arrived at his room, he unwrapped the parcel, done up in brown paper, which he carried under his arm, took from it seven small glasses of a cheap and coarse variety, and placed them upon the top of his chiffonier. Then from a bottle which a second package contained he filled the glasses nearly to the brim with whisky.

This done, he drew from his pocket a small package, and carefully shook the white powder which it contained into one of the glasses, stirring it about with the end of a penholder until it had entirely. dissolved. Then he closed his eyes, and moved the glasses about here and there in such a way that, upon opening his eyes again, he was unable to say in which the powder had been placed. Arranging them in a row on the top of the chiffonier, he stood off to observe the results of his work.

One of the glasses now contained a drug, tasteless and odorless, which through its rapid action on the heart would produce death within a comparatively short time. The contents of the other six glasses were harmless.

The purpose of this singular arrangement was this: Paul Remington intended to commit suicide by drinking, upon seven successive nights, or such less number as the Fates might dictate, the contents of the seven glasses.

It is true that one glass alone would have accomplished the business in hand much more expeditiously, but the fantastic plan which he was about to put into

effect contained a deeper and more subtle purpose. Convinced that the Fates were against him, he now proposed to issue to them a challenge, with his life as the forfeit.

The reason for this lay in the fact that while he had definitely decided that death was the only course open to him, there still hovered within his mind a faint doubt. Possibly in concluding that the Fates had doomed him to destruction he might be acting hastily. There was just a chance that during the very week to come some unexpected piece of good fortune might arise to prove his reasoning false. True, he had waited with extraordinary patience for many weeks, hoping every day for some favorable turn in the downward course of events, and none had come. There was no reason to suppose that this particular week would prove an exception to the rule. And yet it might. He was willing to give his adversaries a sporting chance.

There before him stood the seven glasses, one of which held death. Which one only the Fates knew. Would they, knowing that the week to come held for him some better fortune, stay his hand, or would they guide it, perhaps even on the very first night of the seven, to that one of the glasses which held the fatal dose? Their hands had already directed his in the arrangement of the glasses as they now stood. Even now his death was unalterably fixed for one night of the seven about to come. He offered the Fates a full week in which either to save or destroy him, and bade them, if they had any favorable cards up their sleeves, to play them now. He washed his own hands of all responsibility in the matter. Destiny, not he, should decide. A psychologist would doubtless have said that Paul Remington, by reason of his sufferings, had become a trifle mad.

At ten o'clock on the first night he drank the first glass. An agonizing moment of suspense followed, but the dose proved quite harmless. His judges had given him a respite of twenty-four hours. He sought for work with almost pathetic eagerness the following day, only to return at night beaten and discouraged.

On the second night he drank the second glass, with the same results as before. The ensuing day was even more distress

ing. The late August heat and his lack of suitable food exhausted him to a point where he could scarcely stagger through the long, hot hours, and his haggard appearance and his shabby clothes rendered it difficult for him even to obtain a hearing.

On the third night he drank the third glass, and realized almost with annoyance that his adversaries had still refused to give the rack the final twist. No doubt, he argued, they were playing with him, as a cat plays with a mouse. For a moment he was tempted to drink the remaining glasses then and there, and settle the whole wretched business once and for all; but some instinct restrained him, and bade him play the game fairly.

On the fourth, fifth, and sixth nights. the results had still been the same, but he endured phlegmatically the successive disappointments. A curious dullness had crept over his brain, and during these final days he wandered about in a daze due to lack of sleep and hunger. He no longer had money for food.

And now the seventh night had come, and with it certainty. He lay upon the bed exhausted, yet with a fierce joy in his heart at the thought that all would soon be over.

The room in which he lay was small and plain, and there was little in it. His trunk, against the kalsomined wall, yawned emptily. There was little in it as well. The kerosene lamp upon the table gasped and flickered in the thick, hot murk of the August night, its feeble flame in momentary danger of extinction.

Paul Remington's face, as he lay upon the bed, showed lines of suffering more appropriate to forty than to twenty-five. There was this, however, in his favor: at twenty-five such lines may be erased by some turn of fortune. At forty they would have become permanent. Such a turn he no longer expected now. Despair held him in its iron grip.

He was gazing with moody eyes toward the battered oak chiffonier, which faced the foot of the bed, but his glances were concerned not so much with this uninteresting article of furniture as with the straggling row of glasses upon its top.

The light from the lamp barely served to reveal those which he had already emptied; their presence was manifested only

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