Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 1

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search




"Well, my boy, what is it?"

"I stopped in to see if there was any opening, sir, that I might fill. I'm willing to work hard for small wages."

The man addressed shook his head slowly. "There is no opening. Times are bad, and it is all I can do to keep my regular help employed. Better try your luck down in Honolulu."

"I've been through the city from end to end. It's the same story everywhere," answered the youth, soberly. "I thought there might be a chance up here at the Pali; so many carriages coming and going. I'm used to horses, too."

"Do you belong in Honolulu ?"

"Hardly; although I've been there for nearly a month now. I came in on the bark Rescue, Captain Morgan, from San Francisco."

"As a passenger?"

"Oh, no; as a foremast hand. Didn't have money to pay my passage."

"Why didn't you stay on the bark?"

"She has been condemned and is laid up for repairs. She'll not be able to go to sea for two or three months."

"And you've got to hustle in the mean time, eh? It's hard luck for a boy of your age, sure enough. Can't you get another berth?"

"I haven't tried yet. Captain Morgan was a very nice man to sail under, and I'll stick to him if I can. Besides, I thought I should like to stay in the Hawaiian Islands for a bit and look around. They tell me there is nothing like looking around."

"That's true; although it's also true that a rover never gets a pocket full of money." The man hesitated and glanced sharply, at the boy, who looked hot and tired. "Did you tramp from down in town?"

"Yes, sir."

"It's a good six miles, and all up hill at that. Come in and have a bit to eat. It won't cost you anything."

The invitation was well meant, but the boy shook his curly head decidedly. "I'm not that kind—thank you just the same. If you've got any work—"

"I'll let you work it out. Come."

The boy and the man had been standing in front of a long, low one-story building, set close to a broad highway, and surrounded by tall palm and other tropical trees. On one side of the structure were accommodations for a dozen or more horses, and on the other a small restaurant where light refreshments of various kinds were to be had.

The spot was an ideal one, near the brow of a lofty precipice standing out twelve hundred feet above sea-level, and overlooking a vast expanse of the mighty Pacific Ocean. Here the island of Oahu, upon which Honolulu, the principal city of the Hawaiian Islands, is situated, seemed to split in two, and the sun, glaring down upon that afternoon, lit up one side and cast the other into the deepest of shades.

"You've been in Honolulu a month, eh?" went on the man, as he motioned the lad to a seat by a side-table, and brought him several dishes which were already prepared. "Then you've been up here before?"

"No, sir, I haven't been anywhere but to Hilo and to the great volcano. I had a chance to take the trip to Hilo on a lumber boat, and I took it, just to take a run up to Kilauea. My, but that volcano is a grand sight!" and the boy shook his head enthusiastically.

"It's the greatest volcano in the world. Evidently you like to travel around."

"I do."

"You're an American, I take it?"

"Yes, sir, and I guess you are, too."

"Yes, but I'm not from the States. I came from Canada. I've been in the Sandwich Islands eight years now, doing one thing and another. I used to have a restaurant down in Honolulu, but the Chinese cut me out of my trade, and so I thought I'd try my luck up here. But business is awfully dull. Everybody said it would be better after the monarchy was overthrown and we had set up our own republic, but I don't find it so."

"I guess they are going to annex Hawaii to the United States—at least, I heard them talk about it in San Francisco, and down in Honolulu."

"I shouldn't be surprised. I don't care, one way or the other, if only times pick up. I'm alone in the world, but I want to make my living and a little besides, if I can. Last month we had quite a few excursion parties up here,—folks from the Australian steamers and others,—but this month there hasn't been anybody but city folks, and they either don't want anything or else bring it along."

"The Pali ought to be a big attraction, to my notion," answered the boy, as he fell to eating, with more good manners than the average ship hand, as Ralph Harmon noticed. "Captain Morgan was telling me about it—how King Kamehameha the First gathered his fellow-tribesmen around him in the valley and fought the savage hosts of the mighty Oahu and literally drove them over the edge of the precipice. That must have been a battle worth looking at."

"There was nobody here to look at it but those that took part—and it happened a good many years ago. Here, have another cup of coffee; it will do you good." The coffee was served; Ralph Harmon looked out of the doorway, to find the broad highway still deserted, and dropped into a nearby rustic chair. "So you're from San Francisco?" he continued.

"I shipped from San Francisco, but I'm not from there originally. I came from Buffalo, New York."

"You're a good distance from home."

"I haven't any home there, any more." The boy stopped eating and drew a deep breath. "No, I haven't any home anywhere," he added, in a lower tone. "I'm what they call a rolling stone."

"What is your name? Mine is Ralph Harmon, as you probably know by the sign over the door."

"My name is Lawrence Russell—although everyone that knows me calls me Larry. I used to have as nice a home as anybody in Buffalo, but that's some years ago."

"I'll wager you have quite a story to tell—if you've a mind to spin the yarn, as you sailors call it."

"Yes, I have a story; but whether it would interest a stranger or not I don't know, Mr. Harmon. I ran away from home, or rather, from what was supposed to be my home, after my mother died."

"Running away isn't, generally speaking, a good business, Larry."

"I know it, and I wouldn't have gone only I was forced to it. You see, I never knew what it was to have a father. My father died when I was a baby, and I lived with my mother until I was thirteen years old, when she was killed in a railroad accident, and then I was turned over to my uncle, Job Dowling, my mother's half-brother. He was a very queer man,—the neighbors called him a crank,—and he was so miserly that living with him was entirely out of the question."

"So you cut sticks, to use another of your sailor sayings."

"Yes, I cut sticks, and so did my two brothers, Ben and Walter. None of us could stand his—his infernal meanness—I can't find any other word to describe it. We had money coming to us, but he didn't half clothe us, nor feed us; and whenever the least thing went wrong he had his cane ready, and would strike at one or the other with all his might. Once he hit Ben in the arm and nearly broke it. But I went for him then, and threw him down, and Ben got away. That capped the climax, and he was in for having us all arrested, but before he could do it, Ben and Walter ran away, and I left about three months later."

"And where are your brothers?"

"I don't know exactly, excepting that Ben said he was going to try his luck in New York, and Walter said he was going to Boston. I wanted to follow Ben to New York, but when I ran away, my uncle came after me, and I hid in a freight car partly filled with boxes of mineral water, and before I knew it I was locked in and rolling westward at the rate of thirty miles an hour. Try my best, I couldn't get out nor make anybody hear me, and I should have starved to death if it hadn't been for the mineral water and a lot of eating that I had along, for I had expected to tramp to New York."

"And when you reached San Francisco, you shipped on the Rescue?"

"Not right away. I worked at several odd jobs, hoping to earn enough to pay my way to New York. Then one day I fell in with Captain Morgan, and took the notion to ship to Honolulu and back, and here I am—and likely to stay for a while," concluded Larry.

"How did you like the water?"

"First rate. You see, I was rather used to it—for I was around the lake at home a good deal. But I should like to hear from my brothers."

"Have you tried to reach them by letters?"

"Yes; I wrote to New York and Boston from San Francisco, and also from Honolulu, as soon as I arrived. Before they left we arranged between us to write. I wish we had all remained together." The youth finished his meal, then arose, and began to gather up the dishes. "I'm much obliged, Mr. Harmon. Now I'll wash the things up, and then you can let me do that work we spoke of."

"There isn't much to do. I was going to split up some of the logs in the back for firewood. You might do a little of that." The proprietor of the wayside resort arose and stretched himself. "To tell the truth, I never supposed it could get so dull. If it keeps so—Hullo, here comes a carriage-load of folks now! By George, look!"

He ran to the doorway and pointed with his finger. Larry Russell followed, and through the dust saw a large carriage containing three men approaching at a breakneck speed. It was moving to one side of the highway, and two of the wheels were constantly bumping over the rocks in a fashion calculated to overturn the vehicle.

"Those horses are running away!" gasped the boy. "See, the reins are dangling on the ground!" And he ran out into the road in front of the building.

"Help! stop the hosses!" sang out a voice full of terror from the carriage. "Whoa, there, whoa, consarn ye! Whoa!"

"They are making for yonder gully!" burst out the keeper of the resort. "If the carriage goes into that, they'll all be smashed up! The gully is fifty feet deep!"

"I'll stop them if I can!" came from Larry Russell's lips, and with a sudden determination he bounded off in the direction of the runaway team.