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Harrigan, Page 2

Max Brand


  They were past the thick of the mob now and they dodged rapidly amongthe cottages until the clamor of police fell away to a murmur behindthem, and they swung out onto the narrow, dark street which led backtoward the heart of Honolulu. For ten minutes they strode along withouta 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 testof strength which left each uncertain of the other's resources. Theywere exactly opposite types. McTee was long of face, with an arched,cruel nose, gleaming eyes, heavy, straight brows which pointed up andgave a touch of the Mephistophelian to his expression, a narrow,jutting chin, and lips habitually compressed to a thin line. It was ahandsome face, in a way, but it showed such a brutal dominance that itinspired fear first and admiration afterward.

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

  On the other hand, in Harrigan one felt only force, not directed andcontrolled 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 lipindicated merely brutal endurance and energy, but these qualities weretempered by possibilities of tenderness about the lips and by thesingular lights forever changing in the blue eyes. He would be hard forthe shrewdest judge to understand, for the simple reason that he didnot 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 littlewistful.

  "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 ofcongratulations for the danger they had just escaped. That partingproved them hardened knights of the road which leads across the worldand never turns back home.

  Harrigan strode on full of thought. His uncertain course brought him atlast to the waterfront, and he idled along the black, odorous docksuntil he came to a pier where a ship was under steam, making ready toput out to sea. The spur touched the heart of Harrigan. The urge neverfailed to prick him when he heard the scream of a steamer's horn as itput 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. Theship was not large, and even in the dark it seemed dingy anddilapidated. He guessed that, big or small, this boat would carry hercrew to some distant quarter of the world, and therefore to a place tobe desired.

  A strong voice gave an order from the deck--a hard voice with a ring init like the striking of iron against iron. Harrigan glanced up with astart of recognition, and by the light of a swinging lantern he sawMcTee. If he were in command, this ship was certainly going to a farport. Black water showed between the dock and the ship. In a momentmore it would be beyond reach, and that thought decided Harrigan. Hemade a few paces back, noted the aperture in the rail of the ship wherethe gangplank was being drawn in, then ran at full speed and leapedhigh in the air.

  The three sailors at the rail shouted their astonishment as Harriganstruck the edge of the gangplank, reeled, and then pitched forward tohis knees. He rose and shook himself like a cat that has dropped from ahigh 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 withthe 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 bemovin' 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 wentto the rail. A wide gap of swarthy water now extended between the shipand the dock, but he placed his knee on the rail ready to dive. Then heturned and stood with folded arms looking up to the bridge, for hismind was dark with many doubts. He tapped a passing sailor on theshoulder.

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

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

  "Huh!" grunted Harrigan. "I stay!"

  He kept his eyes fixed on the bridge, remaining motionless at the railfor an hour while the glow of Honolulu grew dimmer and dimmer past thestern. There were lights in the after-cabin and he guessed that theship, in a small way, carried both freight and passengers. At lastMcTee came down the steps to the deck and as he passed Harrigansnapped: "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 hetook one chair and Harrigan dropped easily into another.

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

  "Stand up!" said McTee.


  "Stand up!"

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

  "Harrigan, you took a chance and came with me."


  "I didn't ask you to come."

  "Sure you didn't, but if you think you can treat me like a swine andget away with it--"

  It was wonderful to see the eyes of McTee grow small. They seemed toretreat until they became points of light shining from the deep shadowof his brow. They were met by the cold, incurious light of Harrigan'sstare.

  "You're a hard man, Harrigan."

  He made no answer, but listened to the deep thrum of the engines. Itseemed to him that the force which drove the ship was like a part ofMcTee's will, a thing of steel.

  "And I'm a hard man, Harrigan. On this ship I'm king. There's no willbut my will; there's no right but my right; there's no law but my law.Remember, on land we stood as equals. On this ship you stand and Isit."

  The thin lips did not curve, and yet they seemed to be smiling cruelly,and the eyes were probing deep, deep, deep into Harrigan's soul,weighing, measuring, searching.

  "When we reach land," said Harrigan, "I got an idea I'll have to breakyou."

  He raised his hands, which trembled with the restrained power of hisarms, and moved them as though slowly breaking a stick of wood.

  "I've broken men--like that," he finished.

  "When I'm through with you, Harrigan, you'll take water from aChinaman. You're the first man I've ever seen who could make me stopand look twice. I need a fellow like you, but first I've got to makeyou my man. The best colt in the world is no good until he learns totake the whip without bucking. I'm going to get you used to the whip.This is frank talk, eh? Well, I'm a frank man. You're in the harnessnow, Harrigan; make up your mind: Will you pull or will you balk? Answerme!"

  "I'll see you damned!"

  "Good. You've started to balk, so now you'll have to feel the whip."

  He pulled a cord, and while they waited, the relentless duel of theeyes continued. A flash of instinct like a woman's intuition toldHarrigan what impulse was moving McTee. He knew it was the same thingwhich makes the small schoolboy fight with the stranger; the samecuriosity as to the unknown power, the same relentless will to bemaster, but now intensified a thousandfold in McTee, who looked for thefi
rst time, perhaps, on a man who might be his master. Harrigan knew,and smiled. He was confident. He half rejoiced in looking forward tothe long struggle.

  A knock came and the door opened.

  "Masters," said McTee to the boatswain, "we're three hands short."

  "Yes, sir."

  "Here are the three hands. Take them forward."