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Harrigan (1918)

Max Brand


  Max Brand


  Chapter 1

  "That fellow with the red hair," said the police captain as he pointed.

  "I'll watch him," the sergeant answered.

  The captain had raided two opium dens the day before, and the pride of accomplishment puffed his chest. He would have given advice to the sheriff of Oahu that evening.

  He went on: "I can pick some men out of the crowd by the way they walk, and others by their eyes. That fellow has it written all over him."

  The red-headed man came nearer through the crowd. Because of the warmth, he had stuffed his soft hat into a back pocket, and now the light from a window shone steadily on his hair and made a fire of it, a danger signal. He encountered the searching glances of the two officers and answered with cold, measuring eyes, like the gaze of a prize fighter who waits for a blow. The sergeant turned to his superior with a grunt.

  "You're right," he nodded.

  "Trail him," said the captain, "and take a man with you. If that fellow gets into trouble, you may need help."

  He stepped into his automobile and the sergeant beckoned to a nearby policeman.

  "Akana," he said, "we have a man-sized job tonight. Are you feeling fit?"

  The Kanaka smiled without enthusiasm.

  "The man of the red hair?"

  The sergeant nodded, and Akana tightened his belt. He had eaten fish baked in ti leaves that evening.

  He suggested: "Morley has little to do. His beat is quiet. Shall I tell him to come with us?"

  "No," grinned the sergeant, and then looked up and watched the broad shoulders of the red-haired man, who advanced through the crowd as the prow of a ship lunges through the waves. "Go get Morley," he said abruptly.

  But Harrigan went on his way without misgivings, not that he forgot the policeman, but he was accustomed to stand under the suspicious eye of the law. In all the course of his wanderings it had been upon him. His coming was to the men in uniform like the sound of the battle trumpet to the cavalry horse. This, however, was Harrigan's first night in Honolulu, and there was much to see, much to do. He had rambled through the streets; now he was headed for the Ivilei district. Instinct brought him there, the still, small voice which had guided him from trouble to trouble all his life.

  At a corner he stopped to watch a group of Kanakas who passed him, wreathed with leis and thrumming their ukuleles. They sang in their soft, many-voweled language and the sound was to Harrigan like the rush and lapse of water on a beach, infinitely soothing and as lazy as the atmosphere of Honolulu. All things are subdued in the strange city where East and West meet in the middle of the Pacific. The gayest crowds cannot quite disturb the brooding peace which is like the promise of sleep and rest at sunset. It was not pleasing to Harrigan.

  He frowned and drew a quick, impatient breath, muttering: "I'm not long for this joint. I gotta be moving."

  He joined a crowd which eddied toward the center of Ivilei. In there it was better. Negro soldiers, marines from the _Maryland_, Kanakas, Chinamen, Japanese, Portuguese, Americans; a score of nationalities and complexions rubbed shoulders as they wandered aimlessly among the many bright-painted cottages.

  Yet even in that careless throng of pleasure-seekers no one rubbed shoulders with Harrigan. The flame of his hair was like a red lamp which warned them away. Or perhaps it was his eye, which seemed to linger for a cold, incurious instant on every face that approached. He picked out the prettiest of the girls who sat at the windows chatting with all who passed. He did not have to shoulder to win a way through the crowd of her admirers.

  She was a _hap haoli_, with the fine features of the Caucasian and the black of hair and eye which shows the islander. A rounded elbow rested on the sill of the window; her chin was cupped in her hand.

  "Send these away," said Harrigan, and leaned an elbow beside hers.

  "Oh," she murmured; then: "And if I send them away?"

  "I'll reward you."


  For answer he dragged a crimson carnation from the buttonhole of a tall man who stood at his side.

  "What in hell--" began the victim, but Harrigan smiled and the other drew slowly back through the crowd.

  "Now send them away."

  She looked at him an instant longer with a light coming slowly up behind her eyes. Then she leaned out and waved to the chuckling semicircle.

  "Run away for a while," she said; "I want to talk to my brother."

  She patted the thick red hair to emphasize the relationship, and the little crowd departed, laughing uproariously. Harrigan slipped the carnation into the jetty hair. His hand lingered a moment against the soft masses, and she drew it down, grown suddenly serious.

  "There are three policemen in the shadow of that cottage over there.

  They're watching you."


  The sound was so soft that it was almost a sigh, but she shivered perceptibly.

  "What have you been doing?"

  He answered regretfully: "Nothing."

  "They're coming this way. The man who had the carnation is with them.

  You better beat it."

  "Nope. I like it here."

  She shook her head, but the flame was blowing high now in her eyes. A hand fell on Harrigan's shoulder.

  "Hey!" said the sergeant in a loud voice.

  Harrigan turned slowly and the sergeant's hand fell away. The man of the carnation was far in the background.


  "That flower. You can't get away with little tricks like that. You better be starting on. Move along."

  Harrigan glanced slowly from face to face. The three policemen drew closer together as if for mutual protection.

  "Please--honey!" urged the whisper of the girl.

  The hand of Harrigan resting on the window sill had gathered to a hard-bunched fist, white at the knuckles, but he nodded across the open space between the cottages.

  "If you're looking for work," he said, "seems as though you'd find a handful over there."

  A clatter of sharp, quick voices rose from a group of Negro soldiers gathering around a white man. No one could tell the cause of the quarrel. It might have been anything from an oath to a blow.

  "Watch him," said Harrigan. "He looks like a man." He added plaintively: "But looks are deceivin'."

  The center of the disturbance appeared to be a man indeed. He was even taller than Harrigan and broader of shoulder, and, like the latter, there was a suggestion of strength in him which could not be defined by his size alone. At the distance they could guess his smile as he faced the clamoring mob.

  "Break in there!" ordered the sergeant to his companions, and started toward the angry circle.

  As he spoke, they heard one of the Negroes curse and the fist of the tall man darted at the face of a soldier and drove him toppling back among his comrades. They closed on the white man with a yell; a passing group of their compatriots joined the affray; the whole mass surged in around the tall fellow. Harrigan's head went back and his eyes half closed like a critic listening to an exquisite symphony.

  "Ah-h!" he whispered to himself. "Watch him fight!"

  The policemen struck the outer edge of the circle with drawn clubs, but there they stopped. They could not dent that compacted mass. The soldiers struggled manfully, but they were held at bay. Harrigan could see the heaving shoulders of the defender over the heads of the assailants, and the crack of hard-driven fists. The attackers were crushed together and had little room to swing their arms with full force, while the big man stood with his back against the wall of the cottage and made every smashing punch count.

  As if by common assent, the soldiers suddenly desisted and gave back from this deadly fighter. His bellow of trium
ph rang over the clamor.

  His hat was off; his long black hair stood straight up in the wind; and he leaped after them with flailing arms.

  But now the police had managed to pry their way into the mass by dint of indiscriminate battering. As the black-haired man came face to face with the sergeant, the light gleamed on a high-swung club that thudded home; and the big man dropped out of sight. He came up again almost at once, but with men draped from every portion of his body. The soldiers and police had joined forces, and once more a dozen men clutched him, spilling over him like football players in a scrimmage. He was knocked from his feet by the impact.

  "Coming!" shouted Harrigan.

  He raced with long strides, head lowered and back bowed until his long arms nearly swept the ground. Gathering impetus at every stride, he crushed into the floundering heap of arms and legs. The police sergeant rose and whirled with lifted club. Harrigan grunted with joy as he dug his left into the man's midsection. The sergeant collapsed upon the ground, embracing his stomach with both arms. Harrigan jerked away the upper layers of the attackers and dragged the black-haired man to his feet.

  "Shoulder to shoulder!" thundered Harrigan, and smote Officer Akana upon the point of the chin.

  The victory was not yet won. The black soldiers of Uncle Sam's regular army need not take second place to any body of troops in the world.

  These men had tasted their own blood and they came tearing in now for revenge.

  Harrigan, standing full in front of the rescued man until the latter should have recovered his breath, found food for both fists, and his love of battle was fed. The other man had fought stiffly erect, standing with feet braced to give the weight of his whole body to every punch; Harrigan raged back and forth like a panther, avoiding blows by the catlike agility of his movements, which left both hands free to strike sledge-hammer blows. Presently he heard a chuckling at his side.

  Out of the corner of his eye he saw the black-haired man come into the battle, straight and stiff as before, with long arms shooting out like pistons.

  It was a glorious sight. Something made Harrigan's heart big; rose and swelled his throat; rose again and came as a wild yell upon his tongue.

  The unfortunates who have faced Irish legions in battle know that yell.

  The soldiers did not know it, and they held back for a moment.

  Something else lowered their spirits still more. It was the clanging of the police patrol as it swung to a halt and a body of reserves poured out.

  "Here comes our finish!" panted Harrigan to his comrade in arms. "But oh, man, I'm thinkin' it was swate while it lasted!"

  In his great moments the Irish brogue thronged thick upon his tongue.

  "Finish, hell!" grunted the other. "After me, lad!"

  And lowering his head like a bull, he drove forward against the crowd.

  Harrigan caught the idea in a flash. He put his shoulder to the hip of his friend. They became a flying wedge with the jabbing fists of the black-haired man for a point--and they sank into the mass of soldiers like a hot knife into butter, shearing them apart.

  There were few who wished more action, for the police reserves were capturing man after man. One or two resisted, but a revolver fired straight in the air put a sudden period to such thoughts. The crowd scattered in all directions and Harrigan was taking to his heels among the rest when an iron hand caught his shoulder and jerked him to a halt. It was the black-haired man.

  "Easy," he cautioned. He pulled a cap out and settled it upon his head.

  Harrigan followed suit with his soft hat.

  "Are you after givin' yourself away to the law?" he queried, bewildered.

  "Steady, you fool," said the other; "they're only after the ones who run away."

  An excited Kanaka confronted them with brandished club.

  "What's the cause of the disturbance, officer?" asked the big man.

  The policeman for answer waved them away and darted after a running soldier.

  "I'll be damned!" murmured Harrigan, and his eyes dwelt on his companion's face almost tenderly.

  They were at the edge of the crowd when a shrill voice called: "Those two big men! Halt 'em! Stand!"

  Officer Akana ran through the crowd with his regulation Colt brandished above his head.

  "The time's come!" said Harrigan's new friend, and broke into a run.

  Chapter 2

  They were past the thick of the mob now and they dodged rapidly among the cottages until the clamor of police fell away to a murmur behind them, and they swung out onto the narrow, dark street which led back toward the heart of Honolulu. For ten minutes they strode along without a word. Under the light of a street lamp they stopped of one accord.

  "I'm McTee."

  "I'm Harrigan."

  The gripping of the hands was more than fellowship; it was like a test of strength which left each uncertain of the other's resources. They were exactly opposite types. McTee was long of face, with an arched, cruel nose, gleaming eyes, heavy, straight brows which pointed up and gave a touch of the Mephistophelian to his expression, a narrow, jutting chin, and lips habitually compressed to a thin line. It was a handsome face, in a way, but it showed such a brutal dominance that it inspired fear first and admiration afterward.

  Such a man must command. He might be only the boss of a gang of laborers, or he might be a financier, but never in any case an underling. Altogether he combined physical and intellectual strength to such a degree that both men and women would have stopped to look at him, and once seen he would be remembered.

  On the other hand, in Harrigan one felt only force, not directed and controlled as in McTee, but impulsive, irregular, irresponsible, uncompassed. He carried a contradiction in his face. The heavy, hard-cut jaw, the massive cheekbones, the stiff, straight upper lip indicated merely brutal endurance and energy, but these qualities were tempered by possibilities of tenderness about the lips and by the singular lights forever changing in the blue eyes. He would be hard for the shrewdest judge to understand, for the simple reason that he did not know himself.

  In looking at McTee, one asked: "What is he?" In looking at Harrigan, the question was: "What will he become?"

  "Stayin' in town long?" asked Harrigan, and his voice was a little wistful.

  "I'm bound out tonight."

  "So long, then."

  "So long."

  They turned on their heels into opposite streets without further words, with no thanks given for service rendered, with no exchange of congratulations for the danger they had just escaped. That parting proved them hardened knights of the road which leads across the world and never turns back home.

  Harrigan strode on full of thought. His uncertain course brought him at last to the waterfront, and he idled along the black, odorous docks until he came to a pier where a ship was under steam, making ready to put out to sea. The spur touched the heart of Harrigan. The urge never failed to prick him when he heard the scream of a steamer's horn as it put to sea. It brought the thoughts of far lands and distant cities.

  He strolled out to the pier and watched the last ropes cast loose. The ship was not large, and even in the dark it seemed dingy and dilapidated. He guessed that, big or small, this boat would carry her crew to some distant quarter of the world, and therefore to a place to be desired.

  A strong voice gave an order from the deck--a hard voice with a ring in it like the striking of iron against iron. Harrigan glanced up with a start of recognition, and by the light of a swinging lantern he saw McTee. If he were in command, this ship was certainly going to a far port. Black water showed between the dock and the ship. In a moment more it would be beyond reach, and that thought decided Harrigan. He made a few paces back, noted the aperture in the rail of the ship where the gangplank was being drawn in, then ran at full speed and leaped high in the air.

  The three sailors at the rail shouted their astonishment as Harrigan struck the edge of the gangplank, reeled, and then pitched forward to his knees. He rose and
shook himself like a cat that has dropped from a high fence to the ground.

  "What're you?"

  "I'm the extra hand."

  And Harrigan ran up the steps to the bridge. There he found McTee with the first and second mates.

  "McTee," he said, "I came on your ship by chance an' saw you. If you _can_ use an extra hand, let me stay. I'm footfree an' I need to be movin' on."

  Even through the gloom he caught the glint of the Scotchman's eye.

  "Get off the bridge!" thundered McTee.

  "But I'm Harrigan, and--"

  McTee turned to his first and second mates.

  "Throw that man off the bridge!" he ordered.

  Harrigan didn't wait. He retreated down the steps to the deck and went to the rail. A wide gap of swarthy water now extended between the ship and the dock, but he placed his knee on the rail ready to dive. Then he turned and stood with folded arms looking up to the bridge, for his mind was dark with many doubts. He tapped a passing sailor on the shoulder.

  "What sort of an old boy is the captain?"

  He made up his mind that according to the answer he would stay with the ship or swim to the shore, but the sailor merely stared stupidly at him for a moment and then grinned slowly. There might be malice, there might be mere ridicule in that smile. He passed on before another question could be asked.

  "Huh!" grunted Harrigan. "I stay!"

  He kept his eyes fixed on the bridge, remaining motionless at the rail for an hour while the glow of Honolulu grew dimmer and dimmer past the stern. There were lights in the after-cabin and he guessed that the ship, in a small way, carried both freight and passengers. At last McTee came down the steps to the deck and as he passed Harrigan snapped: "Follow me."

  He led the way aft and up another flight of steps to the after-cabin, unlocked a door, and showed Harrigan into the captain's room. Here he took one chair and Harrigan dropped easily into another.

  "Now, what 'n hell was your line of thinkin', McTee," he began, "when you told me to--"

  "Stand up!" said McTee.


  "Stand up!"

  Harrigan rose very slowly. His jaw was setting harder and harder, and his face became grim.