Cabbages and Kings HTML version

XVII.Two Recalls
There remains three duties to be performed before the curtain falls upon the patched
comedy. Two have been promised: the third is no less obligatory.
It was set forth in the program of this tropic vaudeville that it would be made known why
Shorty 0'Day, of the Columbia Detective Agency, lost his position. Also that Smith
should come again to tell us what mystery he followed that night on the shores of
Anchuria when he strewed so many cigar stumps around the coconut palm during his
lonely night vigil on the beach. These things were promised; but a bigger thing yet
remains to be accomplished--the clearing up of a seeming wrong that has been done
according to the array of chronicled facts (truthfully set forth) that have been presented.
And one voice, speaking, shall do these three things.
Two men sat on a stringer of a North River pier in the City of New York. A steamer from
the tropics had begun to unload bananas and oranges on the pier. Now and then a banana
or two would fall from an overripe bunch, and one of the two men would shamble
forward, seize the fruit and return to share it with his companion.
One of the men was in the ultimate stage of deterioration. As far as rain and wind and sun
could wreck the garments he wore, it had been done. In his person the ravages of drink
were as plainly visible. And yet, upon his high-bridged, rubicund nose was jauntily
perched a pair of shining and flawless gold-rimmed glasses.
The other man was not so far gone upon the descending Highway of the Incompetents.
Truly, the flower of his manhood had gone to seed--seed that, perhaps, no soil might
sprout. But there were still cross-cuts along where he travelled through which he might
yet regain the pathway of usefulness without disturbing the slumbering Miracles. This
man was short and compactly built. He had an oblique, dead eye, like that of a sting-ray,
and the moustache of a cocktail mixer. We know the eye and the moustache; we know
that Smith of the luxurious yacht, the gorgeous raiment, the mysterious mission, the
magic disappearance, has come again, though shorn of the accessories of his former state.
At his third banana, the man with the nose glasses spat it from him with a shudder.
"Deuce take all fruit!" he remarked, in a patrician tone of disgust. "I lived for two years
where these things grow. The memory of their taste lingers with you. The oranges are not
so bad. Just see if you can gather a couple of them, O'Day, when the next broken crate
comes up."
Did you live down with the monkeys?" asked the other, made tepidly garrulous by the
sunshine and the alleviating meal of juicy fruit. "I was down there, once myself. But only
for a few hours. That was when I was with the Columbia Detective Agency. The monkey
people did me up. I'd have my job yet if it hadn't been for them. I'll tell you about it.