Davis' Short Stories Vol. 1 HTML version
Billy And The Big Stick
Had the Wilmot Electric Light people remained content only to make light, had they not,
as a by-product, attempted to make money, they need not have left Hayti.
When they flooded with radiance the unpaved streets of Port- au-Prince no one, except
the police, who complained that the lights kept them awake, made objection; but when
for this illumination the Wilmot Company demanded payment, every one up to President
Hamilear Poussevain was surprised and grieved. So grieved was President Ham, as he
was lovingly designated, that he withdrew the Wilmot concession, surrounded the power-
house with his barefooted army, and in a proclamation announced that for the future the
furnishing of electric light would be a monopoly of the government.
In Hayti, as soon as it begins to make money, any industry, native or foreign, becomes a
monopoly of the government. The thing works automatically. It is what in Hayti is
understood as BAUTE FINANCE. The Wilmot people should have known that. Because
they did not as vice-consul, law and order were as solidly established as the stone jetties,
and by contrast the eccentricities of the Black REPUBLIC baffled and distressed him.
"It can't be that you blackmail the president," said the consul, "because I understand he
boasts he has committed all the known crimes.
"And several he invented," agreed Billy.
"And you can't do it with a gun, because they tell me the president isn't afraid of anything
except a voodoo priestess. What is your secret?" coaxed the consul. "If you'll only sell it,
I know several Powers that would give you your price. Billy smiled modestly.
"It's very simple," he said. "The first time my wages were shy I went to the palace and
told him if he didn't come across I'd shut off the juice. I think he was so stunned at
anybody asking him for real money that while he was still stunned he opened his safe and
handed me two thousand francs. I think he did it more in admiration for my nerve than
because he owed it. The next time pay-day arrived, and the pay did not, I didn't go to the
palace. I just went to bed, and the lights went to bed, too. You may remember?" The
consul snorted indignantly.
"I was holding three queens at the time," he protested. "Was it YOU did that?"
"It was," said Billy. "The police came for me to start the current going again, but I said I
was too ill. Then the president's own doctor came, old Gautier, and Gautier examined me
with a lantern and said that in Hayti my disease frequently proved fatal, but he thought if
I turned on the lights I might recover. I told him I was tired of life, anyway, but that if I
could see three thousand francs it might give me an incentive. He reported back to the
president and the three thousand francs arrived almost instantly, and a chicken broth from