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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - How Danny, Home from the Wars, Found Himself an Heir, and How He ...
Chapter 2 - How Pilon Was Lured by Greed of Position to Forsake Danny’s Hospitality.
Chapter 3 - How the Poison of Possessions Wrought with Pilon, and How Evil ...
Chapter 4 - How Jesus Maria Corcoran, a Good Man, Became an Unwilling Vehicle ...
Chapter 5 - How Saint Francis Turned the Tide and Put a Gentle Punishment on ...
Chapter 6 - How Three Sinful Men, Through Contrition, Attained Peace. How ...
Chapter 7 - How Danny’s Friends Became a Force for Good. How They Succored the ...
Chapter 8 - How Danny’s Friends Sought Mystic Treasure on Saint Andrew’s Eve. ...
Chapter 9 - How Danny Was Ensnared by a Vacuum-Cleaner and How Danny’s Friends ...
Chapter 10 - How the Friends Solaced a Corporal and in Return Received a Lesson ...
Chapter 11 - How, Under the Most Adverse Circumstances, Love Came to Big Joe Portagee.
Chapter 12 - How Danny’s Friends Assisted the Pirate to Keep a Vow, and How as ...
Chapter 13 - How Danny’s Friends Threw Themselves to the Aid of a Distressed Lady.
Chapter 14 - Of the Good Life at Danny’s House, of a Gift Pig, of the Pain of ...
Chapter 15 - How Danny Brooded and Became Mad. How the Devil in the Shape of ...
Chapter 16 - Of the Sadness of Danny. How Through Sacrifice Danny’s Friends ...
Chapter 17 - How Danny’s Sorrowing Friends Defied the Conventions. How the ...
THE RED PONY
Chapter 1 - THE GIFT
Chapter 2 - THE GREAT MOUNTAINS
Chapter 3 - THE PROMISE
Chapter 4 - THE LEADER OF THE PEOPLE
OF MICE AND MEN
THE MOON IS DOWN
THE SHORT NOVELS OF JOHN STEINBECK
Born in Salinas, California, in 1902, JOHN STEINBECK grew up in a fertile agriculture valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast—and both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City and then as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe estate, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California fictions, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Early in the 1940S, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon Is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), The Pearl (1947), A Russian Journal (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his family’s history. The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books included Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989). He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.
BY JOHN STEINBECK
Cup of GoldCup of Gold
The Pastures of Heaven
To a God Unknown
In Dubious Battle
Saint Katy the Virgin
Of Mice and Men
The Red Pony
The Long Valley
The Moon Is Down
The Wayward Bus
East of Eden
The Winter of Our Discontent
The Short Reign of Pippin IV
The Grapes of Wrath
Las uvas de la ira (Spanish-language edition of The Grapes of Wrath)
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research
(in collaboration with Edward F. Ricketts)
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team
A Russian Journal (with pictures by Robert Capa)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez
Once There Was a War
Travels with Charley in Search of America
America and Americans
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters
Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath
Of Mice and Men
The Moon Is Down
The Portable Steinbeck
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters
The Forgotten Village (documentary)
Zapata (includes the screenplay of Viva Zapata!)
CRITICAL LIBRARY EDITION
The Grapes of Wrath (edited by Peter Lisca)
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, Inc. 1953
Published in Penguin Books 2009
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1935
Copyright renewed John Steinbeck, 1963
The Red Pony
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1933, 1937, 1938
Copyright renewed John Steinbeck, 1961, 1965
Of Mice and Men
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1937
Copyright renewed John Steinbeck, 1965
The Moon Is Down
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1942
Copyright renewed Elaine A. Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV, 1970
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1945
Copyright renewed Elaine Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV, 1973
Copyright John Steinbeck, 1945
Copyright renewed Elaine Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV, 1973
Originally published in Woman’s Home Companion as “The Pearl of the World”
Copyright Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1953 Copyright renewed Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1981
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-13887-8
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This is the story of Danny and of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house. It is a story of how these three became one thing, so that in Tortilla Flat if you speak of Danny’s house you do not mean a structure of wood flaked with old whitewash, overgrown with an ancient untrimmed rose of Castile. No, when you speak of Danny’s house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end, a mystic sorrow. For Danny’s house was not unlike the Round Table, and Danny’s friends were not unlike the knights of it. And this is the story of how that group came into being, of how it flourished and grew to be an organization beautiful and wise. This story deals with the adventuring of Danny’s friends, with the good they did, with their thoughts and their endeavors. In the end, this story tells how the talisman was lost and how the group disintegrated.
In Monterey, that old city on the coast of California, these things are well known, and they are repeated and sometimes elaborated. It is well that this cycle be put down on paper so that in a future time scholars, hearing the legends, may not say as they say of Arthur and of Roland and of Robin Hood—“There was no Danny nor any group of Danny’s friends, nor any house. Danny is a nature god and his friends primitive symbols of the wind, the sky, the sun.” This history is designed now and ever to keep the sneers from the lips of sour scholars.
Monterey sits on the slope of a hill, with a blue bay below it and with a forest of tall dark pine trees at its back. The lower parts of the town are inhabited by Americans, Italians, catchers and canners of fish. But on the hill where the forest and the town intermingle, where the streets are innocent of asphalt and the corners free of street lights, the old inhabitants of Monterey are embattled as the Ancient Britons are embattled in Wales. These are the paisanos.
They live in old wooden houses set in weedy yards, and the pine trees from the forest are about the houses. The paisanos are clean of commercialism, free of the complicated systems of American business, and, having nothing that can be stolen, exploited, or mortgaged, that system has not attacked them very vigorously.
What is a paisano? He is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and assorted Caucasian bloods. His ancestors have lived in California for a hundred or two years. He speaks English with a paisano accent and Spanish with a paisano accent. When questioned concerning his race, he indignantly claims pure Spanish blood and rolls up his sleeve to show that the soft inside of his arm is nearly white. His color, like that of a well-browned meerschaum pipe, he ascribes to sunburn. He is a paisano, and he lives in the uphill district above the town of Monterey called Tortilla Flat, although it isn’t a flat at all.
Danny was a paisano, and he grew up in Tortilla Flat and everyone liked him, but he did not stand out particularly from the screeching children of Tortilla Flat. He was related to nearly everyone in the Flat by blood or romance. His grandfather was an important man who owned two small houses in Tortilla Flat and was respected for his wealth. If the growing Danny preferred to sleep in the forest, to work on ranches, and to wrest his food and wine from an unwilling world, it was not because he did not have influential relatives. Danny was small and dark and intent. At twenty-five his legs were bent to the exact curves of a horse’s sides.
Now when Danny was twenty-five years old, the war with Germany was declared. Danny and his friend Pilon (Pilon, by the way, is something thrown in when a trade is conducted—a boot) had two gallons of wine when they heard about the war. Big Joe Portagee saw the glitter of the bottles among the pines and he joined Danny and Pilon.
As the wine went down in the bottles, patriotism arose in the three men. And when the wine was gone they went down the hill arm in arm for comradeship and safety, and they walked into Monterey. In front of an enlistment station they cheered loudly for America and dared Germany to do her worst. They howled menaces at the German Empire until the enlistment sergeant awakened and put on his uniform and came into the street to silence them. He remained to enlist them.
The sergeant lined them up in front of his desk. They passed everything but the sobriety test and then the sergeant began his questions with Pilon.
“What branch do you want to go in?”
“I don’ give a god-damn,” said Pilon jauntily.
“I guess we need men like you in the infantry.” And Pilon was written so.
He turned then to Big Joe, and the Portagee was getting sober. “Where do you want to go?”
“I want to go home,” Big Joe said miserably.
The sergeant put him in the infantry too. Finally he confronted Danny, who was sleeping on his feet. “Where do you want to go?”
“I say, what branch?”
“What do you mean, ‘branch’?”
“What can you do?”
“Me? I can do anything.”
“What did you do before?”
“Me? I’m a mule skinner.”
“Oh, you are? How many mules can you drive?”
Danny leaned forward, vaguely and professionally. “How many you got?”
“About thirty thousand,” said the sergeant.
Danny waved his hand. “String ’em up!” he said.
And so Danny went to Texas and broke mules for the duration of the war. And Pilon marched about Oregon with the infantry, and Big Joe, as shall be later made clear, went to jail.
How Danny, Home from the Wars, Found Himself an Heir, and How He Swore to Protect the Helpless.
When Danny came home from the army he learned that he was an heir and an owner of property. The viejo, that is the grandfather, had died, leaving Danny the two small houses on Tortilla Flat.
When Danny heard about it he was a little weighed down with the responsibility of ownership. Before he ever went to look at his property he bought a gallon of red wine and drank most of it himself. The weight of responsibility left him then, and his very worst nature came to the surface. He shouted; he broke a few chairs in a poolroom on Alvarado Street; he had two short but glorious fights. No one paid much attention to Danny. At last his wavering bowlegs took him toward the wharf where, at this early hour in the morning, the Italian fishermen were walking down in rubber boots to go out to sea.
Race antipathy overcame Danny’s good sense. He menaced the fishermen. “Sicilian bastards,” he called them, and “Scum from the prison island,” and “Dogs of dogs of dogs.” He cried, “Chinga tu madre, Piojo.” He thumbed his nose and made obscene gestures below his waist. The fishermen only grinned and shifted their oars and said, “Hello, Danny. When’d you get home? Come around tonight. We got new wine.”
Danny was outraged. He screamed, “Pon un condo a la cabeza.”
They called, “Good-by, Danny. See you tonight.” And they climbed into their little boats and rowed out to the lampara launches and started their engines and chugged away.
Danny was insulted. He walked back up Alvarado Street, breaking windows as he went, and in the second block a policeman took him in hand. Danny’s great respect for the law caused him to go quietly. If he had not just been discharged from the army after the victory over Germany, he would have been sentenced to six months. As it was, the judge gave him only thirty days.
And so for one month Danny sat on his cot in the Monterey city jail. Sometimes he drew obscene pictures on the walls, and sometimes he thought over his army career. Time hung heavy on Danny’s hands there in his cell in the city jail. Now and then a drunk was put in for the night, but for the most part crime in Monterey was stagnant, and Danny was lonely. The bedbugs bothered him a little at first, but as they got used to the taste of him and he grew accustomed to their bites, they got along peacefully.
He started playing a satiric game. He caught a bedbug, squashed it against the wall, drew a circle around it with a pencil and named it “Mayor Clough.” Then he caught others and named them after the City Council. In a little while he had one wall decorated with squashed bedbugs, each named for a local dignitary. He drew ears and tails on them, gave them big noses and mustaches. Tito Ralph, the jailer, was scandalized; but he made no complaint because Danny had not included either the justice of the peace who had sentenced him or any of the police force. He had a vast respect for the law.
One night when the jail was lonely, Tito Ralph came into Danny’s cell bearing two bottles of wine. An hour later he went out for more wine, and Danny went with him. It was cheerless in the jail. They stayed at Torrelli’s, where they bought the wine, until Torrelli threw them out. After that Danny went up among the pines and fell asleep, while Tito Ralph staggered back and reported his escape.
When the brilliant sun awakened Danny about noon, he determined to hide all day to escape pursuit. He ran and dodged behind bushes. He peered out of the undergrowth like a hunted fox. And, at evening, the rules having been satisfied, he came out and went about his business.
Danny’s business was fairly direct. He went to the back door of a restaurant. “Got any old bread I can give my dog?” he asked the cook. And while that gullible man was wrapping up the food, Danny stole two slices of ham, four eggs, a lamb chop, and a fly swatter.
“I will pay you sometime,” he said.
“No need to pay for scraps. I throw them away if you don’t take them.”
Danny felt better about the theft then. If that was the way they felt, on the surface he was guiltless. He went back to Torrelli’s, traded the four eggs, the lamb chop, and the fly swatter for a water glass of grappa and retired toward the woods to cook his supper.
The night was dark and damp. The fog hung like limp gauze among the black pines that guard the landward limits of Monterey. Danny put his head down and hurried for the shelter of the woods. Ahead of him he made out another hurrying figure; and as he narrowed the distance, he recognized the scuttling walk of his old friend Pilon. Danny was a generous man, but he recalled that he had sold all his food except the two slices of ham and the bag of stale bread.
“I will pass Pilon by,” he decided. “He walks like a man who is full of roast turkey and things like that.”
Then suddenly Danny noticed the Pilon clutched his coat lovingly across his bosom.
“Ai, Pilon, amigo!” Danny cried.
Pilon scuttled on faster. Danny broke into a trot. “Pilon, my little friend! Where goest thou so fast?”
Pilon resigned himself to the inevitable and waited. Danny approached warily, but his tone was enthusiastic. “I looked for thee, dearest of little angelic friends, for see, I have here two great steaks from God’s own pig, and a sack of sweet white bread. Share my bounty, Pilon, little dumpling.”
Pilon shrugged his shoulders. “As you say,” he muttered savagely. They walked on together into the woods. Pilon was puzzled. At length he stopped and faced his friend. “Danny,” he asked sadly, “how knewest thou I had a bottle of brandy under my coat?”
“Brandy?” Danny cried. “Thou hast brandy? Perhaps it is for some sick old mother,” he said naïvely. “Perhaps thou keepest it for Our Lord Jesus when He comes again. Who am I, thy friend, to judge the destination of this brandy? I am not even sure thou hast it. Besides I am not thirsty. I would not touch this brandy. Thou art welcome to this big roast of pork I have, but as for thy brandy, that is thine own.”
Pilon answered him sternly. “Danny, I do not mind sharing my brandy with you, half and half. It is my duty to see you do not drink it all.”
Danny dropped the subject then. “Here in the clearing I will cook this pig, and you will toast the sugar cakes in this bag here. Put thy brandy here, Pilon. It is better here, where we can see it, and each other.”
They built a fire and broiled the ham and ate the stale bread. The brandy receded quickly down the bottle. After they had eaten, they huddled near the fire and sipped delicately at the bottle like effete bees. And the fog came down upon them and grayed their coats with moisture. The wind sighed sadly in the pines about them.
And after a time a loneliness fell upon Danny and Pilon. Danny thought of his lost friends.
“Where is Arthur Morales?” Danny asked, turning his palms up and thrusting his arms forward. “Dead in France,” he answered himself, turning the palms down and dropping his arms in despair. “Dead for his country. Dead in a foreign land. Strangers walk near his grave and they do not know Arthur Morales lies there.” He raised his hands palms upward again. “Where is Pablo, that good man?”
“In jail,” said Pilon. “Pablo stole a goose and hid in the brush; and that goose bit Pablo and Pablo cried out and so was caught. Now he lies in jail for six months.”
Danny sighed and changed the subject, for he realized that he had prodigally used up the only acquaintance in any way fit for oratory. But the loneliness was still on him and demanded an outlet. “Here we sit,” he began at last.
“—broken-hearted,” Pilon added rhythmically.
“No, this is not a poem,” Danny said. “Here we sit, homeless. We gave our lives for our country, and now we have no roof over our head.”
“We never did have,” Pilon added helpfully.
Danny drank dreamily until Pilon touched his elbow and took the bottle. “That reminds me,” Danny said, “of a story of a man who owned two whorehouses—” His mouth dropped open. “Pilon!” he cried. “Pilon! My little fat duck of a baby friend. I had forgotten! I am an heir! I own two houses.”
“Whorehouses?” Pilon asked hopefully. “Thou art a drunken liar,” he continued.
“No, Pilon. I tell the truth. The viejo died. I am the heir. I, the favorite grandson.”
“Thou art the only grandson,” said the realist Pilon. “Where are these houses?”
“You know the viejo’s house on Tortilla Flat, Pilon?”
“Here in Monterey?”
“Yes, here in Tortilla Flat.”
“Are they any good, these houses?”
Danny sank back, exhausted with emotion. “I do not know. I forgot I owned them.”
Pilon sat silent and absorbed. His face grew mournful. He threw a handful of pine needles on the fire, watched the flames climb frantically among them and die. For a long time he looked into Danny’s face with deep anxiety, and then Pilon sighed noisily, and again he sighed. “Now it is over,” he said sadly. “Now the great times are done. Thy friends will mourn, but nothing will come of their mourning.”
Danny put down the bottle, and Pilon picked it up and set it in his own lap.
“Now what is over?” Danny demanded. “What do you mean?”
“It is not the first time,” Pilon went on. “When one is poor, one thinks, ‘If I had money I would share it with my good friends.’ But let that money come and charity flies away. So it is with thee, my once-friend. Thou art lifted above thy friends. Thou art a man of property. Thou wilt forget thy friends who shared everything with thee, even their brandy.”
His words upset Danny. “Not I,” he cried. “I will never forget thee, Pilon.”
“So you think now,” said Pilon coldly. “But when you have two houses to sleep in, then you will see. Pilon will be a poor paisano, while you eat with the mayor.”
Danny arose unsteadily and held himself upright against a tree. “Pilon, I swear, what I have is thine. While I have a house, thou hast a house. Give me a drink.”
“I must see this to believe it,” Pilon said in a discouraged voice. “It would be a world wonder if it were so. Men would come a thousand miles to look upon it. And besides, the bottle is empty.”
How Pilon Was Lured by Greed of Position to Forsake Danny’s Hospitality.
The lawyer left them at the gate of the second house and climbed into his Ford and stuttered down the hill into Monterey.
Danny and Pilon stood in front of the paintless picket fence and looked with admiration at the property, a low house streaked with old whitewash, uncurtained windows blank and blind. But a great pink rose of Castile was on the porch, and grandfather geraniums grew among the weeds in the front yard.
“This is the best of the two,” said Pilon. “It is bigger than the other.”
Danny held a new skeleton key in his hand. He tiptoed over the rickety porch and unlocked the front door. The main room was just as it had been when the viejo had lived there. The red rose calendar for 1906, the silk banner on the wall, with Fighting Bob Evans looking between the superstructures of a battleship, the bunch of red paper roses tacked up, the strings of dusty red peppers and garlic, the stove, the battered rocking chairs.
Pilon looked in the door. “Three rooms,” he said breathlessly, “and a bed and a stove. We will be happy here, Danny.”
Danny moved cautiously into the house. He had bitter memories of the viejo. Pilon darted ahead of him and into the kitchen. “A sink with a faucet,” he cried. He turned the handle. “No water. Danny, you must have the company turn on the water.”
They stood and smiled at each other. Pilon noticed that the worry of property was settling on Danny’s face. No more in life would that face be free of care. No more would Danny break windows now that he had windows of his own to break. Pilon had been right—he had been raised among his fellows. His shoulders had straightened to withstand the complexity of life. But one cry of pain escaped him before he left for all time his old and simple existence.
“Pilon,” he said sadly, “I wished you owned it and I could come to live with you.”
While Danny went to Monterey to have the water turned on, Pilon wandered into the weed-tangled back yard. Fruit trees were there, bony and black with age, and gnarled and broken with neglect. A few tent-like chicken coops lay among the weeds. A pile of rusty barrel hoops, a heap of ashes, and a sodden mattress. Pilon looked over the fence into Mrs. Morales’ chicken yard, and after a moment of consideration he opened a few small holes in the fence for the hens. “They will like to make nests in the tall weeds,” he thought kindly. He considered how he could make a figure-four trap in case the roosters came in too and bothered the hens and kept them from the nests. “We will live happily,” he thought again.
Danny came back indignant from Monterey. “That company wants a deposit,” he said.
“Yes. They want three dollars before they will turn on the water.”
“Three dollars,” Pilon said severely, “is three gallons of wine. And when that is gone, we will borrow a bucket of water from Mrs. Morales, next door.”
“But we haven’t three dollars for wine.”
“I know,” Pilon said. “Maybe we can borrow a little wine from Mrs. Morales.”
The afternoon passed. “Tomorrow we will settle down,” Danny announced. “Tomorrow we will clean and scrub. And you, Pilon, will cut the weeds and throw the trash in the gulch.”
“The weeds?” Pilon cried in horror. “Not those weeds.” He explained his theory of Mrs. Morales’ chickens.
Danny agreed immediately. “My friend,” he said, “I am glad that you have come to live with me. Now, while I collect a little wood, you must get something for dinner.”
Pilon, remembering his brandy, thought this unfair. “I am getting in debt to him,” he thought bitterly. “My freedom will be cut off. Soon I shall be a slave because of this Jew’s house.” But he did go out to look for some dinner.
Two blocks away, near the edge of the pine wood, he came upon a half-grown Plymouth Rock rooster scratching in the road. It had come to that adolescent age when its voice cracked, when its legs and neck and breast were naked. Perhaps because he had been thinking of Mrs. Morales’ hens in a charitable vein, this little rooster engaged Pilon’s sympathy. He walked slowly on toward the dark pine woods, and the chicken ran ahead of him.
Pilon mused, “Poor little bare fowl. How cold it must be for you in the early morning, when the dew falls, and the air grows cold with the dawn. The good God is not always so good to little beasts.” And he thought, “Here you play in the street, little chicken. Some day an automobile will run over you; and if it kills you, that will be the best thing that can happen. It may only break your leg or your wing. Then all of your life you will drag along in misery. Life is too hard for you, little bird.”
He moved slowly and cautiously. Now and then the chicken tried to double back, but always there was Pilon in the place it chose to go. At last it disappeared into the pine forest, and Pilon sauntered after it.
To the glory of his soul be it said that no cry of pain came from that thicket. That chicken, which Pilon had prophesied might live painfully, died peacefully, or at least quietly. And this is no little tribute to Pilon’s technique.
Ten minutes later he emerged from the wood and walked back toward Danny’s house. The little rooster, picked and dismembered, was distributed in his pockets. If there was one rule of conduct more strong than any other to Pilon, it was this: Never under any circumstances bring feathers, head or feet home, for without these a chicken cannot be identified.
In the evening they had a fire of cones in the airtight stove. The flames growled in the chimney. Danny and Pilon, well fed, warm, and happy, sat in the rocking chairs and gently teetered back and forth. At dinner they had used a piece of candle, but now only the light from the stove cracks dispelled the darkness of the room. To make it perfect, rain began to patter on the roof. Only a little leaked through, and that in places where no one wanted to sit anyway.
“It is good, this,” Pilon said. “Think of the nights when we slept in the cold. This is the way to live.”
“Yes, and it is strange,” Danny said. “For years I had no house. Now I have two. I cannot sleep in two houses.”
Pilon hated waste. “This very thing has been bothering me. Why don’t you rent the other house?” he suggested.
Danny’s feet crashed down on the floor. “Pilon,” he cried. “Why didn’t I think of it?” The idea grew more familiar. “But who will rent it, Pilon?”
“I will rent it,” said Pilon. “I will pay ten dollars a month in rent.”
“Fifteen,” Danny insisted. “It’s a good house. It is worth fifteen.”
Pilon agreed, grumbling. But he would have agreed to much more, for he saw the elevation that came to a man who lived in his own house; and Pilon longed to feel that elevation.
“It is agreed, then,” Danny concluded. “You will rent my house. Oh, I will be a good landlord, Pilon. I will not bother you.”
Pilon, except for his year in the army, had never possessed fifteen dollars in his life. But, he thought, it would be a month before the rent was due, and who could tell what might happen in a month.
They teetered contentedly by the fire. After a while Danny went out for a few moments and returned with some apples. “The rain would have spoiled them anyway,” he apologized.
Pilon, not to be outdone, got up and lighted the candle; he went into the bedroom and in a moment returned with a wash bowl and pitcher, two red glass vases, and a bouquet of ostrich plumes. “It is not good to have so many breakable things around,” he said. “When they are broken you become sad. It is much better never to have had them.” He picked the paper roses from the wall. “A compliment for Señora Torrelli,” he explained as he went out the door.
Shortly afterward he returned, wet through from the rain, but triumphant in manner, for he had a gallon jug of red wine in his hand.
They argued bitterly later, but neither cared who won, for they were tired with the excitements of the day. The wine made them drowsy, and they went to sleep on the floor. The fire died down; the stove cricked as it cooled. The candle tipped over and expired in its own grease, with little blue protesting flares. The house was dark and quiet and peaceful.
How the Poison of Possessions Wrought with Pilon, and How Evil Temporarily Triumphed in Him.
The next day Pilon went to live in the other house. It was exactly like Danny’s house, only smaller. It had its pink rose of Castile over the porch, its weed-grown yard, its ancient, barren fruit trees, its red geraniums—and Mrs. Soto’s chicken yard was next door.
Danny became a great man, having a house to rent, and Pilon went up the social scale by renting a house.
It is impossible to say whether Danny expected any rent, or whether Pilon expected to pay any. If they did, both were disappointed. Danny never asked for it, and Pilon never offered it.
The two friends were often together. Let Pilon come by a jug of wine or a piece of meat and Danny was sure to drop in to visit. And, if Danny were lucky or astute in the same way, Pilon spent a riotous night with him. Poor Pilon would have paid the money if he ever had any, but he never did have—not long enough to locate Danny. Pilon was an honest man. It worried him sometimes to think of Danny’s goodness and his own poverty.
One night he had a dollar, acquired in a manner so astounding that he tried to forget it immediately for fear the memory might make him mad. A man in front of the San Carlos hotel had put the dollar in his hand, saying, “Run down and get four bottles of ginger ale. The hotel is out.” Such things were almost miracles, Pilon thought. One should take them on faith, not worry and question them. He took the dollar up the road to give to Danny, but on the way he bought a gallon of wine, and with the wine he lured two plump girls into his house.
Danny, walking by, heard the noise and joyfully went in. Pilon fell into his arms and placed everything at Danny’s disposal. And later, after Danny had helped to dispose of one of the girls and half of the wine, there was a really fine fight. Danny lost a tooth, and Pilon had his shirt torn off. The girls stood shrieking by and kicked whichever man happened to be down. At last Danny got up off the floor and butted one of the girls in the stomach, and she went out the door croaking like a frog. The other girl stole two cooking pots and followed her.
For a little while Danny and Pilon wept over the perfidy of women.
“Thou knowest not what bitches women are,” Danny said wisely.
“I do know,” said Pilon.
“Thou knowest not.”
“I do know.”
There was another fight, but not a very good one.
After that Pilon felt better about the unpaid rent. Had he not been host to his landlord?
A number of months passed. Pilon began again to worry about the rent. And as time went by the worry grew intolerable. At last in desperation he worked a whole day cleaning squids for Chin Kee and made two dollars. In the evening he tied his red handkerchief around his neck, put on his father’s revered hat, and started up the hill to pay Danny the two dollars on account.
But on the way he bought two gallons of wine. “It is better so,” he thought. “If I give him hard money, it does not express how warmly I feel toward my friend. But a present, now. And I will tell him the two gallons cost five dollars.” This was silly, and Pilon knew it, but he indulged himself. No one in Monterey better knew the price of wine than Danny.
Pilon was proceeding happily. His mind was made up; his nose pointed straight toward Danny’s house. His feet moved, not quickly, but steadily in the proper direction. Under each arm he carried a paper bag, and a gallon of wine was in each bag.
It was purple dusk, that sweet time when the day’s sleeping is over, and the evening of pleasure and conversation has not begun. The pine trees were very black against the sky, and all objects on the ground were obscured with dark; but the sky was as mournfully bright as memory. The gulls flew lazily home to the sea rocks after a day’s visit to the fish canneries of Monterey.
Pilon was a lover of beauty and a mystic. He raised his face into the sky and his soul arose out of him into the sun’s afterglow. That not too perfect Pilon, who plotted and fought, who drank and cursed, trudged slowly on; but a wistful and shining Pilon went up to the sea gulls where they bathed on sensitive wings in the evening. That Pilon was beautiful, and his thoughts were unstained with selfishness and lust. And his thoughts are good to know.
“Our Father is in the evening,” he thought. “These birds are flying across the forehead of the Father. Dear birds, dear sea gulls, how I love you all. Your slow wings stroke my heart as the hand of a gentle master strokes the full stomach of a sleeping dog, as the hand of Christ stroked the heads of little children. Dear birds,” he thought, “fly to our Lady of Sweet Sorrows with my open heart.” And then he said the loveliest words he knew, “Ave Marie, gratia plena—”
The feet of the bad Pilon had stopped moving. In truth the bad Pilon for the moment had ceased to exist. (Hear this, recording angel!) There was, nor is, nor ever has been a purer soul than Pilon’s at that moment. Galvez’ bad bulldog came to Pilon’s deserted legs standing alone in the dark. And Galvez’ bulldog sniffed and went away without biting the legs.
A soul washed and saved is a soul doubly in danger, for everything in the world conspires against such a soul. “Even the straws under my knees,” says Saint Augustine, “shout to distract me from prayer.”
Pilon’s soul was not even proof against his own memories; for as he watched the birds, he remembered that Mrs. Pastano used sea gulls sometimes in her tamales, and that memory made him hungry, and hunger tumbled his soul out of the sky. Pilon moved on, once more a cunning mixture of good and evil. Galvez’ bad bulldog turned snarling and stalked back, sorry now that he had let go such a perfect chance at Pilon’s legs.
Pilon hunched his arms to ease the weight of the bottles.
It is a fact verified and recorded in many histories that the soul capable of the greatest good is also capable of the greatest evil. Who is there more impious than a backsliding priest? Who more carnal than a recent virgin? This, however, may be a matter of appearance.
Pilon, just back from Heaven, was, although he did not know it, singularly receptive of every bitter wind, toward every evil influence that crowded the night about him. True, his feet still moved toward Danny’s house, but there was neither intention nor conviction in them. They awaited the littlest signal to turn about. Already Pilon was thinking how stupendously drunk he could get on two gallons of wine, and more, how long he could stay drunk.
It was almost dark now. The dirt road was no longer visible, nor the ditches on either side. No moral conclusion is drawn from the fact that at this moment, when Pilon’s impulses were balanced as precariously as a feather, between generosity and selfishness, at this very moment Pablo Sanchez happened to be sitting in the ditch at the side of the road, wishing he had a cigarette and a glass of wine.
Ah, the prayers of the millions, how they must fight and destroy each other on their way to the throne of God.
Pablo first heard footsteps, then saw a blurred figure, and then recognized Pilon. “Ai, amigo,” he called enthusiastically. “What great burden is it thou carriest?”
Pilon stopped dead and faced the ditch. “I thought you were in jail,” he said severely. “I heard about a goose.”
“So I was, Pilon,” Pablo said jocularly. “But I was not well received. The judge said the sentence did me no good, and the police said I ate more than the allowance for three men. And so,” he finished proudly, “I am on parole.”
Pilon was saved from selfishness. True, he did not take the wine to Danny’s house, but instantly he invited Pablo to share it at the rented house. If two generous paths branch from the high road of life and only one can be followed, who is to judge which is best?
Pilon and Pablo entered the little house joyfully. Pilon lighted a candle and produced two fruit jars for glasses.
“Health!” said Pablo.
“Salud!” said Pilon.
And in a few moments, “Salud!” said Pablo.
“Mud in your eye!” said Pilon.
They rested a little while. “Su servidor,” said Pilon.
“Down the rat-hole,” said Pablo.
Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos. Spiritually the jugs may be graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory. Three inches more, thoughts of old and satisfactory loves. An inch, thoughts of bitter loves. Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness. Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency. Two fingers down, a song of death or longing. A thumb, every other song each one knows. The graduations stop here, for the trail splits and there is no certainty. From this point on anything can happen.
But let us go back to the first mark, which says serious and concentrated conversation, for it was at that place that Pilon made his coup. “Pablo,” he said, “dost thou never get tired of sleeping in ditches, wet and homeless, friendless and alone?”
“No,” said Pablo.
Pilon mellowed his voice persuasively. “So I thought, my friend, when I was a dirty gutter-dog. I too was content, for I did not know how sweet a little house is, and a roof, and a garden. Ah, Pablo, this is indeed living.”
“It’s pretty nice,” Pablo agreed.
Pilon pounced. “See, Pablo, how would you like to rent part of my house? There would never be the cold ground for you any more. Never the hard sand under the wharf with crabs getting in your shoes. How would you like to live here with me?”
“Sure,” said Pablo.
“Look, you will pay only fifteen dollars a month! And you may use all the house except my bed, and all the garden. Think of it, Pablo! And if someone should write you a letter, he will have some place to send it to.”
“Sure,” said Pablo. “That’s swell.”
Pilon sighed with relief. He had not realized how the debt to Danny rode on his shoulders. The fact that he was fairly sure Pablo would never pay any rent did not mitigate his triumph. If Danny should ever ask for money, Pilon could say, “I will pay when Pablo pays.”
They moved on to the next graduation, and Pilon remembered how happy he had been when he was a little boy. “No care then, Pablo. I knew not sin. I was very happy.”
“We have never been happy since,” Pablo agreed sadly.
How Jesus Maria Corcoran, a Good Man, Became an Unwilling Vehicle of Evil.
Life passed smoothly on for Pilon and Pablo. In the morning when the sun was up clear of the pine trees, when the blue bay rippled and sparkled below them, they arose slowly and thoughtfully from their beds.
It is a time of quiet joy, the sunny morning. When the glittery dew is on the mallow weeds, each leaf holds a jewel which is beautiful if not valuable. This is no time for hurry or for bustle. Thoughts are slow and deep and golden in the morning.
Pablo and Pilon in their blue jeans and blue shirts walked in comradeship into the gulch behind the house, and after a little time they returned to sit in the sun on the front porch, to listen to the fish horns on the streets of Monterey, to discuss in wandering, sleepy tones the doings of Tortilla Flat; for there are a thousand climaxes on Tortilla Flat for every day the world wheels through.
They were at peace there on the porch. Only their toes wriggled on the warm boards when the flies landed on them.
“If all the dew were diamonds,” Pablo said, “we would be very rich. We would be drunk all our lives.”
But Pilon, on whom the curse of realism lay uneasily, added, “Everybody would have too many diamonds. There would be no price for them, but wine always costs money. If only it would rain wine for a day, now, and we had a tank to catch it in.”
“But good wine,” interjected Pablo. “Not rotgut swill like the last you got.”
“I didn’t pay for it,” said Pilon. “Someone hid it in the grass by the dance hall. What can you expect of wine you find?”
They sat and waved their hands listlessly at the flies. “Cornelia Ruiz cut up the black Mexican yesterday,” Pilon observed.
Pablo raised his eyes in mild interest. “Fight?” he asked.
“Oh, no, the black one did not know Cornelia got a new man yesterday, and he tried to come in. So Cornelia cut him.”
“He should have known,” Pablo said virtuously.
“Well, he was down in the town when Cornelia got her new man. The black one just tried to go in through the window when she locked the door.”
“The black one is a fool,” said Pablo. “Is he dead?”
“Oh, no. She just cut him up a little bit on the arms. Cornelia was not angry. She just didn’t want the black one to come in.”
“Cornelia is not a very steady woman,” said Pablo. “But still she has masses sung for her father, ten years dead.”
“He will need them,” Pilon observed. “He was a bad man and never went to jail for it, and he never went to confession. When old Ruiz was dying the priest came to give him solace, and Ruiz confessed. Cornelia says the priest was white as buckskin when he came out of the sickroom. But afterward that priest said he didn’t believe half what Ruiz confessed.”
Pablo, with a cat-like stroke, killed a fly that landed on his knee. “Ruiz was always a liar,” he said. “That soul will need plenty of masses. But do you think a mass has virtue when the money for that mass comes out of men’s pockets while they sleep in wine at Cornelia’s house?”
“A mass is a mass,” said Pilon. “Where you get two-bits is of no interest to the man who sells you a glass of wine. And where a mass comes from is of no interest to God. He just likes them, the same as you like wine. Father Murphy used to go fishing all the time, and for months the Holy Sacrament tasted like mackerel, but that did not make it less holy. These things are for priests to explain. They are nothing for us to worry about. I wonder where we could get some eggs to eat. It would be good to eat an egg now.”
Pablo tilted his hat down over his eyes to keep the sun from bothering him. “Charlie Meeler told me that Danny is with Rosa Martin, that Portagee girl.”
Pilon sat upright in alarm. “Maybe that girl will want to marry Danny. Those Portagees always want to marry, and they love money. Maybe when they are married Danny will bother us about the rent. That Rosa will want new dresses. All women do. I know them.”
Pablo too looked annoyed. “Maybe if we went and talked to Danny—” he suggested.
“Maybe Danny has some eggs,” said Pilon. “Those chickens of Mrs. Morales are good layers.”
They put on their shoes and walked slowly toward Danny’s house.
Pilon stooped and picked up a beer bottle cap and cursed and threw it down. “Some evil man has left it there to deceive people,” he said.
“I tried it last night,” said Pablo. He looked into a yard where the green corn was ripe and made a mental note of its ripeness.
They found Danny sitting on his front porch, behind the rose bush, wriggling his toes to keep the flies off.
“Ai, amigos,” he greeted them listlessly.
They sat down beside him and took off their hats and their shoes. Danny took out a sack of tobacco and some papers and passed them to Pilon. Pilon looked mildly shocked, but made no comment.
“Cornelia Ruiz cut up the black Mexican,” he said.
“I heard about it,” said Danny.
Pablo spoke acidly. “These women, there is no virtue in them any more.”
“It is dangerous to lie with them,” said Pilon. “I have heard that there is one young Portagee girl here on the Flat who can give a man something to remember her by, if he goes to the trouble to get it.”
Pablo made disapproving clucking noises with his tongue. He spread his hands in front of him. “What is a man to do?” he asked. “Is there no one to trust?”
They watched Danny’s face and saw no alarm appear there.
“This girl’s name is Rosa,” said Pilon. “I would not say her last name.”
“Oh, you mean Rosa Martin,” Danny observed with very little interest. “Well, what can you expect of a Portagee?”
Pablo and Pilon sighed with relief.
“How are Mrs. Morales’ chickens getting along?” Pilon asked casually.
Danny shook his head sadly. “Every one of those chickens is dead. Mrs. Morales put up some string beans in jars, and the jars blew up, and she fed the beans to the chickens, and those chickens all died, every one.”
“Where are those chickens now?” Pablo demanded.
Danny waved two fingers back and forth in negation. “Someone told Mrs. Morales not to eat those chickens or she would be sick, but we scraped the insides good and sold them to the butcher.”
“Has anybody died?” Pablo asked.
“No. I guess those chickens would have been all right.”
“Perhaps you bought a little wine with the money from those chickens?” Pilon suggested.
Danny smiled cynically at him. “Mrs. Morales did, and I went to her house last night. That is a pretty woman in some lights, and not so old either.”
The alarm came back to Pablo and Pilon.
“My Cousin Weelie says she is fifty years old,” Pilon said excitedly.
Danny spread his hands. “What is it how old in years she is?” he observed philosophically. “She is lively, that one. She owns her house and has two hundred dollars in the bank.” Then Danny became a little embarrassed. “I would like to make a present to Mrs. Morales.”
Pilon and Pablo regarded their feet and tried by strenuous mental effort to ward off what was coming. But their effort had no value.
“If I had a little money,” said Danny, “I would buy her a box of big candy.” He looked meaningly at his tenants, but neither one answered him. “I would need only a dollar or two,” he suggested.
“Chin Kee is drying squids,” Pilon observed. “Perhaps you could cut squids for half a day.”
Danny spoke pointedly. “It would not look well for a man who owns two houses to cut squids. But perhaps if a little rent were ever paid—”
Pilon arose angrily. “Always the rent,” he cried. “You would force us into the streets—into the gutters, while you sleep in your soft bed. Come, Pablo,” Pilon said angrily, “we will get money for this miser, this Jew.”
The two of them stalked off.
“Where will we get money?” Pablo asked.
“I don’t know,” said Pilon. “Maybe he won’t ask again.” But the inhuman demand had cut deep into their mental peace. “We will call him ‘Old Jew’ when we see him,” said Pilon. “We have been his friends for years. When he was in need, we fed him. When he was cold, we clothed him.”
“When was that?” Pablo asked.
“Well, we would have, if he needed anything and we had it. That is the kind of friends we were to him. And now he crushes our friendship into the ground for a box of big candy to give to an old fat woman.”
“Candy is not good for people,” said Pablo.
So much emotion had exhausted Pilon. He sat down in the ditch beside the road and put his chin in his hands and was disconsolate.
Pablo sat down too, but he only did it to rest, for his friendship with Danny was not as old and beautiful as Pilon’s was.
The bottom of the ditch was choked with dry grass and bushes. Pilon, staring downward in his sorrow and resentment, saw a human arm sticking out from under a bush. And then, beside the arm, a half-full gallon bottle of wine. He clutched Pablo’s arm and pointed.
Pablo stared. “Maybe he is dead, Pilon.”
Pilon had got his breath and his fine clear vision again. “If he is dead, the wine will do him no good. He can’t be buried with it.”
The arm stirred, swept back the bushes, and disclosed the frowsy face and red stubble beard of Jesus Maria Corcoran. “Ai, Pilon. Ai, Pablo,” he said hazily. “Que tomas?”
Pilon leaped down the bank on him. “Amigo, Jesus Maria! You are not well!”
Jesus Maria smiled sweetly. “Just drunk,” he murmured. He rose to his knees. “Come have a drink, my friends. Drink deep. There is plenty more.”
Pilon tilted the bottle over his elbow. He swallowed four times and over a pint left the jug. Then Pablo took the bottle from him, and Pablo played with it as a cat plays with a feather. He polished the mouth with his sleeve. He smelled the wine. He took three or four preliminary sips and let a few drops run all around his mouth, to tantalize himself. At last, “Madre de Dios, que vino!” he said. He raised the jug and the red wine gurgled happily down his throat.
Pilon’s hand was out long before Pablo had to breathe again. Pilon turned a soft and admiring countenance to his friend Jesus Maria. “Hast thou discovered a treasure in the woods?” he asked. “Has some great man died and named thee in his will, my little friend?”
Jesus Maria was a humanitarian, and kindness was always in him. He cleared his throat and spat. “Give me a drink,” he said. “My throat is dry. I will tell you how it was.” He drank dreamily, like a man who has so much wine that he can take his time in drinking it, can even spill a little without remorse. “I was sleeping on the beach two nights ago,” he said. “Out on the beach near Seaside. In the night the little waves washed a rowboat to the shore. Oh, a nice little rowboat, and the oars were there. I got in and rowed it down to Monterey. It was easily worth twenty dollars, but trade was slow, and I only got seven.”
“Thou hast money left?” Pilon put in excitedly.
“I am telling you how it was,” Jesus Maria said with some dignity. “I bought two gallons of wine and brought them up here to the woods, and then I went to walk with Arabella Gross. For her I bought one pair of silk drawers in Monterey. She liked them—so soft they were, and so pink. And then I bought a pint of whisky for Arabella, and then after a while we met some soldiers and she went away with them.”
“Oh, the thief of a good man’s money!” Pilon cried in horror.
“No,” said Jesus Maria dreamily. “It was time she went anyway. And then I came here and went to sleep.”
“Then thou hast no more money?”
“I don’t know,” said Jesus Maria. “I will see.” He fished in his pocket and brought out three crumpled dollar bills and a dime. “Tonight,” he said, “I will buy for Arabella Gross one of those little things that goes around higher up.”
“You mean the little silk pockets on a string?”
“Yes,” said Jesus Maria, “and not so little as you might think either.” He coughed to clear his throat.
Instantly Pilon was filled with solicitude. “It is the night air,” he said. “It is not good to sleep out in the open. Come, Pablo, we will take him to our house and cure this cold of his. The malady of the lungs has a good start, but we will cure it.”
“What are you talking about?” said Jesus Maria. “I’m all right.”
“So you think,” said Pilon. “So Rudolfo Kelling thought. And you yourself went to his funeral a month ago. So Angelina Vasquez thought. She died last week.”
Jesus Maria was frightened. “What do you think is the matter?”
“It is sleeping in this night air,” Pilon said sagely. “Your lungs will not stand it.”
Pablo wrapped the wine jug in a big weed, so disguising it that anyone passing would have been consumed with curiosity until he knew what that weed contained.
Pilon walked beside Jesus Maria, touching him now and then under the elbow to remind him that he was not a well man. They took him to their house and laid him on a cot, and although the day was warm, they covered him with an old comforter. Pablo spoke movingly of those poor ones who writhed and suffered with tuberculosis. And then Pilon pitched his voice to sweetness. He spoke with reverence of the joy of living in a little house. When the night was far gone, and all the talk and wine were gone, and outside the deadly mists clung to the ground like the ghosts of giant leeches, then one did not go out to lie in the sickly damp of a gulch. No, one got into a deep, soft, warm bed and slept like a little child.
Jesus Maria went to sleep at this point. Pilon and Pablo had to wake him up and give him a drink. Then Pilon spoke movingly of the mornings when one lay in one’s warm nest until the sun was high enough to be of some use. One did not go shivering about in the dawn, beating one’s hands to keep them from freezing.
At last Pilon and Pablo moved in on Jesus Maria as two silent hunting Airedales converge on their prey. They rented the use of their house to Jesus Maria for fifteen dollars a month. He accepted happily. They shook hands all around. The jug came out of its weed. Pilon drank deeply, for he knew his hardest task was before him. He said it very gently and casually, while Jesus Maria was drinking out of the bottle.
“And you will pay only three dollars on account now.”
Jesus Maria put down the bottle and looked at him in horror. “No,” he exploded. “I made a promise to Arabella Gross to buy one of those little things. I will pay the rent when it is time.”
Pilon knew he had blundered. “When you lay on that beach at Seaside, God floated the little rowboat to you. Do you think the good God did it so you could buy silk drawers for a cannery slut? No! God did it so you would not die from sleeping on the ground in the cold. Do you think God is interested in Arabella’s breasts? And besides, we will take a two-dollar deposit,” he went on. “For one dollar you can get one of those things big enough to hold the udders of a cow.”
Still Jesus Maria protested.
“I will tell you,” Pilon went on, “unless we pay Danny two dollars we shall all be turned into the street, and it will be your fault. You will have it on your soul that we sleep in ditches.”
Under so many shots, coming from so many directions, Jesus Maria Corcoran succumbed. He passed two of the crumpled bills to Pilon.
And now the tense feeling went out of the room, and peace and quiet and a warm deep comradeship took its place. Pilon relaxed. Pablo took the comforter back to his own bed, and conversation sprang up.
“We must take this money to Danny.”
Their first appetite over, they were sipping the wine out of fruit jars now.
“What is this great need Danny has for two dollars?” Jesus Maria asked.
Pilon grew confidential. His hands came into play like twin moths, restrained only by his wrists and arms from flying out the door. “Danny, our friend, is taking up with Mrs. Morales. Oh, don’t think Danny is a fool. Mrs. Morales has two hundred dollars in the bank. Danny wants to buy a box of big candy for Mrs. Morales.”
“Candy is not good for people,” Pablo observed. “It makes their teeth ache.”
“That is up to Danny,” said Jesus Maria. “If he wants to ache Mrs. Morales’ teeth, that is his business. What do we care for Mrs. Morales’ teeth?”
A cloud of anxiety had settled on Pilon’s face. “But,” he interposed sternly, “if our friend Danny takes big candy to Mrs. Morales, he will eat some too. So it is the teeth of our friend that will ache.”
Pablo shook his head anxiously. “It would be a bad thing if Danny’s friends, on whom he depends, should bring about the aching of his teeth.”
“What shall we do then?” asked Jesus Maria, although he and everyone else knew exactly what they would do. They waited politely, each one for another, to make the inevitable suggestion. The silence ran on. Pilon and Pablo felt that the suggestion should not come from them, since, by some lines of reasoning, they might be considered interested parties. Jesus Maria kept silence in duty to his hosts, but when their silence made him aware of what was required of him, he came instantly into the breach.
“A gallon of wine makes a nice present for a lady,” he suggested in a musing tone.
Pilon and Pablo were astonished at his brilliance. “We can tell Danny it would be better for his teeth to get wine.”
“But maybe Danny will pay no heed to our warning. If you give money to that Danny, you can’t tell what he will do with it. He might buy candy anyway, and then all of our time and worry are wasted.”
They had made of Jesus Maria their feeder of lines, their opener of uneasy situations. “Maybe if we buy the wine ourselves and then give it to Danny there is no danger,” he suggested.
“That is the thing,” cried Pilon. “Now you have it.”
Jesus Maria smiled modestly at being given credit for this. He felt that sooner or later this principle would have been promulgated by someone in the room.
Pablo poured the last little bit of wine into the fruit jars and they drank tiredly after their effort. It was a matter of pride to them that the idea had been arrived at so logically, and in such a philanthropic cause.
“Now I am hungry,” said Pablo.
Pilon got up and went to the door and looked at the sun. “It is after noon,” he said. “Pablo and I will go to Torrelli’s to get the wine, while you, Jesus Maria, go into Monterey for something to eat. Maybe Mrs. Bruno, on the wharf, will give you a fish. Maybe you can get a little bread some place.”
“I would rather go with you,” said Jesus Maria, for he suspected that another sequence, just as logical, and just as inevitable, was beginning to grow in the heads of his friends.
“No, Jesus Maria,” they said firmly. “It is now two o’clock, or about that. In an hour it will be three o’clock. Then we will meet you here and have something to eat. And maybe a little glass of wine to go with it.”
Jesus Maria started for Monterey very reluctantly, but Pablo and Pilon walked happily down the hill toward Torrelli’s house.
How Saint Francis Turned the Tide and Put a Gentle Punishment on Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria.
The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.
At three o’clock the wind veered around and blew softly in from the bay, bringing all manner of fine kelp odors. The menders of nets in the vacant lots of Monterey put down their spindles and rolled cigarettes. Through the streets of the town, fat ladies, in whose eyes lay the weariness and the wisdom one sees so often in the eyes of pigs, were trundled in overpowered motorcars toward tea and gin fizzes at the Hotel Del Monte. On Alvarado Street, Hugo Machado, the tailor, put a sign in his shop door, “Back in Five Minutes,” and went home for the day. The pines waved slowly and voluptuously. The hens in a hundred hen yards complained in placid voices of their evil lot.
Pilon and Pablo sat under a pink rose of Castile in Torrelli’s yard and quietly drank wine and let the afternoon grow on them as gradually as hair grows.
“It is just as well that we do not take two gallons of wine to Danny,” said Pilon. “He is a man who knows little restraint in drinking.”
Pablo agreed. “Danny looks healthy,” he said, “but it is just such people that you hear of dying every day. Look at Rudolfo Kelling. Look at Angelina Vasquez.”
Pilon’s realism arose mildly to the surface. “Rudolfo fell into the quarry above Pacific Grove,” he observed in mild reproof. “Angelina ate a bad can of fish. But,” he continued kindly, “I know what you mean. And there are plenty of people who die through abuse of wine.”
All Monterey began to make gradual instinctive preparations against the night. Mrs. Guttierez cut little chiles into her enchilada sauce. Rupert Hogan, the seller of spirits, added water to his gin and put it away to be served after midnight. And he shook a little pepper into his early evening whisky. At El Paseo dancing pavilion, Bullet Rosendale opened a carton of pretzels and arranged them like coarse brown lace on the big courtesy plates. The Palace Drug Company wound up its awnings. A little group of men who had spent the afternoon in front of the post office, greeting their friends, moved toward the station to see the Del Monte Express from San Francisco come in. The sea gulls arose glutted from the fish cannery beaches and flew toward the sea rocks. Lines of pelicans pounded doggedly over the water wherever they go to spend the night. On the purse-seine fishing boats the Italian men folded their nets over the big rollers. Little Miss Alma Alvarez, who was ninety years old, took her daily bouquet of pink geraniums to the Virgin on the outer wall of the church of San Carlos. In the neighboring and Methodist village of Pacific Grove the W.C.T.U. met for tea and discussion, listened while a little lady described the vice and prostitution of Monterey with energy and color. She thought a committee should visit these resorts to see exactly how terrible conditions really were. They had gone over the situation so often, and they needed new facts.
The sun went westering and took on an orange blush. Under the rose bush in Torrelli’s yard Pablo and Pilon finished the first gallon of wine. Torrelli came out of his house and passed out of the yard without seeing his erstwhile customers. They waited until he was out of sight on the way to Monterey; whereupon Pablo and Pilon went into the house and, with conscious knowledge of their art, cozened their supper out of Mrs. Torrelli. They slapped her on the buttocks and called her a “Butter Duck” and took little courteous liberties with her person, and finally left her, flattered and slightly tousled.
Now it was evening in Monterey, and the lights went on. The windows glowed softly. The Monterey Theater began to spell “Children of Hell—Children of Hell” over and over with its lights. A small but fanatic group of men who believe that the fish bite in the evening took their places on the cold sea rocks. A little fog drifted through the streets and hung about the chimneys, and a fine smell of burning pine wood filled the air.
Pablo and Pilon went back to their rose bush and sat on the ground, but they were not as contented as they had been. “It is cool here,” said Pilon, and he took a drink of wine to warm himself.
“We should go to our own house where it is warm,” said Pablo.
“But there is no wood for the stove.”
“Well,” said Pablo, “if you will take the wine, I will meet you at the corner of the street.” And he did, in about half an hour.
Pilon waited patiently, for he knew there are some things even one’s friends cannot help with. While he waited, Pilon kept a watchful eye aimed down the street in the direction Torrelli had taken, for Torrelli was a forceful man to whom explanations, no matter how carefully considered nor how beautifully phrased, were as chaff. Moreover, Torrelli had, Pilon knew, the Italian’s exaggerated and wholly quixotic ideal of marital relations. But Pilon watched in vain. No Torrelli came brutally home. In a little while Pablo joined him, and Pilon noticed with admiration and satisfaction that he carried an armful of pine sticks from Torrelli’s wood pile.
Pablo made no comment on his recent adventure until they arrived at their house. Then he echoed Danny’s words, “A lively one, that Butter Duck.”
Pilon nodded his head in the dark and spoke with a quiet philosophy. “It is seldom that one finds all things at one market—wine, food, love, and firewood. We must remember Torrelli, Pablo, my friend. There is a man to know. We must take him a little present sometime.”
Pilon built a roaring fire in the cast-iron stove. The two friends drew their chairs close and held their fruit jars to the heat to warm the wine a little. This night the light was holy, for Pablo had brought a candle to burn for San Francisco. Something had distracted his attention before that sacred plan had been consummated. Now the little wax taper burned beautifully in an abalone shell, and it threw the shadows of Pablo and Pilon on the wall and made them dance.
“I wonder where that Jesus Maria has gone,” Pilon observed.
“He promised he would come back long ago,” said Pablo. “I do not know whether that is a man to trust or not.”
“Perhaps some little thing happened to detain him, Pablo. Jesus Maria, with that red beard and that kind heart, is nearly always in some kind of trouble with ladies.”
“His is a grasshopper brain,” said Pablo. “He sings and plays and jumps. There is no seriousness in him.”
They had no great time to wait. They had barely started their second fruit jar of wine when Jesus Maria staggered in. He held each side of the door to steady himself. His shirt was torn and his face was bloody. One eye showed dark and ominous in the dancing candlelight.
Pablo and Pilon rushed to him. “Our friend! He is hurt. He has fallen from a cliff. He has been run over by a train!” There was not the slightest tone of satire, but Jesus Maria knew it for the most deadly kind of satire. He glared at them out of the eye which still had some volition in such matters.
“Both thy mothers were udderless cows,” he remarked.
They fell back from him in horror at the vulgarity of the curse. “Our friend is wandering in his mind.”
“The bone of his head has been broken.”
“Pour him a little wine, Pablo.”
Jesus Maria sat morosely by the fire and caressed his fruit jar, while his friends waited patiently for an explanation of the tragedy. But Jesus Maria seemed content to leave his friends in ignorance of the mishap. Although Pilon cleared his throat several times, and although Pablo looked at Jesus Maria with eyes which offered sympathy and understanding, Jesus Maria sat sullenly and glared at the stove and at the wine and at the blessed candle, until at length his discourteous reticence drove Pilon to an equal discourtesy. Afterward he did not see how he could have done it.
“Those soldiers again?” he asked.
“Yes,” Jesus Maria growled. “This time they came too soon.”
“There must have been twenty of them to have used thee so,” Pablo observed, for the good of his friend’s spirit. “Everyone knows thou art a bad man in a fight.”
And Jesus Maria did look a little happier then.
“They were four,” he said. “Arabella Gross helped too. She hit me on the head with a rock.”
Pilon felt a wave of moral resentment rising within him. “I would not remind thee,” he said severely, “how thy friends warned thee against this cannery slob.” He wondered whether he had warned Jesus Maria, and seemed to remember that he had.
“These cheap white girls are vicious, my friend,” Pablo broke in. “But did you give her that little thing that goes around?”
Jesus Maria reached into his pocket and brought out a crumpled pink rayon brassiere. “The time had not come,” he said. “I was just getting to that point; and besides, we had not come into the woods yet.”
Pilon sniffed the air and shook his head, but not without a certain sad tolerance. “Thou hast been drinking whisky.”
Jesus Maria nodded.
“Where did this whisky come from?”
“From those soldiers,” said Jesus Maria. “They had it under a culvert. Arabella knew it was there, and she told me. But those soldiers saw us with the bottle.”
The story was gradually taking shape. Pilon liked it this way. It ruined a story to have it all come out quickly. The good story lay in half-told things which must be filled in out of the hearer’s own experience. He took the pink brassiere from Jesus Maria’s lap and ran his fingers over it, and his eyes went to musing. But in a moment they shone with a joyous light.
“I know,” he cried. “We’ll give this thing to Danny as a gift to Mrs. Morales.”
Everyone except Jesus Maria applauded the idea, and he felt himself hopelessly outnumbered. Pablo, with a delicate understanding of the defeat, filled up Jesus Maria’s fruit jar.
When a little time had passed, all three men began to smile. Pilon told a very funny story of a thing that had happened to his father. Good spirits returned to the company. They sang. Jesus Maria did a shuffling dance to prove he was not badly hurt. The wine went down and down in the jug, but before it was gone the three friends grew sleepy. Pilon and Pablo staggered off to bed, and Jesus Maria lay comfortably on the floor, beside the stove.
The fire died down. The house was filled with the deep sounds of slumber. In the front room only one thing moved. The blessed candle darted its little spear-pointed flame up and down with incredible rapidity.
Later, this little candle gave Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria some ethical things to think about. Simple small rod of wax with a string through it. Such a thing, you would say, is answerable to certain physical laws, and to none other. Its conduct, you would think, was guaranteed by certain principles of heat and combustion. You light the wick; the wax is caught and drawn up the wick; the candle burns a number of hours, goes out, and that is all. The incident is finished. In a little while the candle is forgotten, and then, of course, it has never existed.
Have you forgotten that this candle was blessed? That in a moment of conscience or perhaps pure religious exaltation, it was designed by Pablo for San Francisco? Here is the principle which takes the waxen rod outside the jurisdiction of physics.
The candle aimed its spear of light at Heaven, like an artist who consumes himself to become divine. The candle grew shorter and shorter. A wind sprang up outside and sifted through the cracks in the wall. The candle sagged sideways. A silken calendar, bearing the face of a lovely girl looking out of the heart of an American Beauty rose, floated out a little distance from the wall. It came into the spear of flame. The fire licked up the silk and raced toward the ceiling. A loose piece of wallpaper caught fire and fell flaming into a bundle of newspapers.
In the sky, saints and martyrs looked on with set and unforgiving faces. The candle was blessed. It belonged to Saint Francis. Saint Francis will have a big candle in its place tonight.
If it were possible to judge depth of sleep, it could be said with justice that Pablo, whose culpable action was responsible for the fire, slept even more soundly than his two friends. But since there is no gauge, it can only be said that he slept very very soundly.
The flames ran up the walls and found little holes in the roof, and leaked through into the night. The house filled with the roar of fire. Jesus Maria turned over uneasily and began, in his sleep, to take off his coat. Then a flaming shingle dropped in his face. He leaped up with a cry, and stood shocked at the fire that raged about him.
“Pilon!” he shrieked. “Pablo!” He ran into the other room, pulled his friends out of bed and pushed them out of the house. Pilon still grasped the pink brassiere in his fingers.
They stood outside the burning house and looked in the open fire-curtained door. They could see the jug standing on the table with a good two inches of wine in it.
Pilon sensed the savage incipient heroism of Jesus Maria. “Do not do it,” he shouted. “It must be lost in the fire as a punishment on us for leaving it.”
The cry of sirens came to them, and the roar of trucks climbing the hill in second gear from the fire house in Monterey. The big red fire vehicles drew near and their searchlights played among the pine trunks.
Pilon turned hastily to Jesus Maria. “Run and tell Danny his house is burning. Run quickly, Jesus Maria.”
“Why don’t you go?”
“Listen,” said Pilon. “Danny does not know you are one who rents his house. He may be a little bit angry with Pablo and me.”
Jesus Maria grasped this logic and raced toward Danny’s house. The house was dark. “Danny,” Jesus Maria cried.
“Danny, your house is on fire!” There was no answer. “Danny!” he cried again.
A window went up in Mrs. Morales’ house next door. Danny sounded irritable. “What the hell do you want?”
“Your other house is on fire, the one Pablo and Pilon live in.”
For a moment Danny did not answer. Then he demanded, “Is the fire department there?”
“Yes,” cried Jesus Maria.
The whole sky was lighted up by now. The crackling of burning timbers could be heard. “Well,” said Danny, “if the fire department can’t do anything about it, what does Pilon expect me to do?”
Jesus Maria heard the window bang shut, and he turned and trotted back toward the fire. It was a bad time to call Danny, he knew, but then how could one tell? If Danny had missed the fire, he might have been angry. Jesus Maria was glad he had told him about it anyway. Now the responsibility lay on Mrs. Morales.
It was a little house, there was plenty of draft, the walls were perfectly dry. Perhaps not since old Chinatown had burned had there been such a quick and thorough fire. The men of the fire department took a look at the blazing walls and then began wetting the brush and the trees and the neighboring houses. In less than an hour the house was completely gone. Only then did the hoses play on the heap of ashes to put out the coals and sparks.
Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria stood shoulder to shoulder and watched the whole thing. Half the population of Monterey and all the population of Tortilla Flat except Danny and Mrs. Morales stood happily about and watched the fire. At last, when it was all over, when only a cloud of steam arose from the black heap, Pilon turned silently away.
“Where goest thou?” Pablo called.
“I go,” said Pilon, “to the woods to have out my sleep. I counsel you to come too. It will be well if Danny does not see us for a little while.” They nodded gravely and followed him into the pine forest. “It is a lesson to us,” said Pilon. “By this we learn never to leave wine in a house overnight.”
“Next time,” Pablo said hopelessly, “you will take it outside and someone will steal it.”
How Three Sinful Men, Through Contrition, Attained Peace. How Danny’s Friends Swore Comradeship.
When the sun was clear of the pines, and the ground was warm, and the night’s dew was drying on the geranium leaves, Danny came out on his porch to sit in the sunshine and to muse warmly of certain happenings. He slipped off his shoes and wriggled his toes on the sun-warmed boards of the porch. He had walked down earlier in the morning and viewed the square black ashes and twisted plumbing which had been his other house. He had indulged in a little conventional anger against careless friends, had mourned for a moment over that transitory quality of earthly property which made spiritual property so much more valuable. He had thought over the ruin of his status as a man with a house to rent; and, all this clutter of necessary and decent emotion having been satisfied and swept away, he had finally slipped into his true emotion, one of relief that at least one of his burdens was removed.
“If it were still there, I would be covetous of the rent,” he thought. “My friends have been cool toward me because they owed me money. Now we can be free and happy again.”
But Danny knew he must discipline his friends a little, or they would consider him soft. Therefore, as he sat on his porch, ward ing off flies with a moving hand which conveyed more warning than threat to the flies, he went over the things he must say to his friends before he allowed them back into the corral of his affection. He must show them that he was not a man to be imposed upon. But he yearned to get it over and to be once more that Danny whom everyone loved, that Danny whom people sought out when they had a gallon of wine or a piece of meat. As the owner of two houses he had been considered rich, and he had missed a great many tidbits.
Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria Corcoran slept a long time on the pine needles in the forest. It had been a night of terrible excitement, and they were tired. But at length the sun shone into their faces with noonday ardor and the ants walked on them, and two blue jays stood on the ground near by, calling them all manner of sharp names.
What finished their sleep, though, was a picnic party which settled just on the other side of the bush from them and opened a big lunch basket from which moving smells drifted to Pilon and Pablo and Jesus Maria. They awakened; they sat up; and then the enormity of their situation burst upon them.
“How did the fire start?” asked Pablo plaintively, and no one knew.
“Perhaps,” said Jesus Maria, “we had better go to another town for a while—to Watsonville or to Salinas; those are nice towns.”
Pilon pulled the brassiere from his pocket and ran his fingers over its pink smoothness. And he held it to the sunlight and looked through it.
“That would only delay matters,” he decided. “I think it would be better to go to Danny and confess our fault, like little children to a father. Then he can’t say anything without being sorry. And besides, have we not this present for Mrs. Morales?”
His friends nodded agreement. Pilon’s eyes strayed through the thick brush to the picnic party, and particularly to that huge lunch basket from which came the penetrating odors of deviled eggs. Pilon’s nose wrinkled a little, like a rabbit’s. He smiled in a quiet reverie. “I am going to walk, my friends. In a little while I will meet you at the quarry. Do not bring the basket if you can help it.”
They watched sadly as Pilon got up and walked away, through the trees, in a direction at right angles to the picnic and the basket. Pablo and Jesus Maria were not surprised, a few moments later, to hear a dog bark, a rooster crow, high shrill laughter, the snarl of a wild cat, a little short scream and a cry for help; but the picnic party was surprised and fascinated. The two men and two women left their basket and trotted away toward these versatile sounds.
Pablo and Jesus Maria obeyed Pilon. They did not take the basket, but always afterward their hats and their shirts were stained with deviled eggs.
At about three o’clock in the afternoon the three penitents walked slowly toward Danny’s house. Their arms were loaded with offerings of reconciliation: oranges and apples and bananas, bottles of olives and pickles, sandwiches of pressed ham, egg sandwiches, bottles of soda pop, a paper carton of potato salad, and a copy of the Saturday Evening Post.
Danny saw them coming, and he stood up and tried to remember the things he had to say. They lined up in front of him and hung their heads.
“Dogs of dogs,” Danny called them, and “Thieves of decent folks’ other house,” and “Spawn of cuttlefish.” He named their mothers cows and fathers ancient sheep.
Pilon opened the bag he held and exposed the ham sandwiches. And Danny said he had no more trust in friends, that his faith had been frostbitten and his friendship trampled upon. And then he began to have a little trouble remembering, for Pablo had taken two deviled eggs out of his bosom. But Danny went back to the grand generation and criticized the virtue of its women and the potency of its men.
Pilon pulled the pink brassiere from his pocket and let it dangle listlessly from his fingers.
Danny forgot everything then. He sat down on the porch and his friends sat down, and the packages came open. They ate to a point of discomfort. It was an hour later, when they reclined at ease on the porch, giving attention to little besides digestion, when Danny asked casually, as about some far-off object, “How did the fire start?”
“We don’t know,” Pilon explained. “We went to sleep, and then it started. Perhaps we have enemies.”
“Perhaps,” said Pablo devoutly, “perhaps God had a finger in it.”
“Who can say what makes the good God act the way He does?” added Jesus Maria.
When Pilon handed over the brassiere and explained how it was a present for Mrs. Morales, Danny was reticent. He eyed the brassiere with some skepticism. His friends, he felt, were flattering Mrs. Morales. “That is not a woman to give presents to,” he said finally. “Too often we are tied to women by the silk stockings we give them.” He could not explain to his friends the coolness that had come to his relationship with Mrs. Morales since he was the owner of only one house; nor could he, in courtesy to Mrs. Morales, describe his own pleasure at that coolness. “I will put this little thing away,” he said. “Some day it may be of use to someone.”
When the evening came, and it was dark, they went into the house and built a fire of cones in the airtight stove. Danny, in proof of his forgiveness, brought out a quart of grappa and shared its fire with his friends.
They settled easily into the new life. “It is too bad Mrs. Morales’ chickens are all dead,” Pilon observed.
But even here was no bar to happiness. “She is going to buy two dozen new ones on Monday,” said Danny.
Pilon smiled contentedly. “Those hens of Mrs. Soto’s were no good,” he said. “I told Mrs. Soto they needed oyster shells, but she paid no attention to me.”
They drank the quart of grappa, and there was just enough to promote the sweetness of comradeship.
“It is good to have friends,” said Danny. “How lonely it is in the world if there are no friends to sit with one and to share one’s grappa.”
“Or one’s sandwiches,” Pilon added quickly.
Pablo was not quite over his remorse, for he suspected the true state of celestial politics which had caused the burning of the house. “In all the world there are few friends like thee, Danny. It is not given to many to have such solace.”
Before Danny sank completely under the waves of his friends, he sounded one warning. “I want all of you to keep out of my bed,” he ordered. “That is one thing I must have to myself.”
Although no one had mentioned it, each of the four knew they were all going to live in Danny’s house.
Pilon sighed with pleasure. Gone was the worry of the rent; gone the responsibility of owing money. No longer was he a tenant, but a guest. In his mind he gave thanks for the burning of the other house.
“We will all be happy here, Danny,” he said. “In the evenings we will sit by the fire and our friends will come in to visit. And sometimes maybe we will have a glass of wine to drink for friendship’s sake.”
Then Jesus Maria, in a frenzy of gratefulness, made a rash promise. It was the grappa that did it, and the night of the fire, and all the deviled eggs. He felt that he had received great gifts, and he wanted to distribute a gift. “It shall be our burden and our duty to see that there is always food in the house for Danny,” he declaimed. “Never shall our friend go hungry.”
Pilon and Pablo looked up in alarm, but the thing was said; a beautiful and generous thing. No man could with impunity destroy it. Even Jesus Maria understood, after it was said, the magnitude of his statement. They could only hope that Danny would forget it.
“For,” Pilon mused to himself, “if this promise were enforced, it would be worse than rent. It would be slavery.”
“We swear it, Danny!” he said.
They sat about the stove with tears in their eyes, and their love for one another was almost unbearable.
Pablo wiped his wet eyes with the back of his hand, and he echoed Pilon’s remark. “We shall be very happy living here,” he said.
How Danny’s Friends Became a Force for Good. How They Succored the Poor Pirate.
A great many people saw the Pirate every day, and some laughed at him, and some pitied him; but no one knew him very well, and no one interfered with him. He was a huge, broad man, with a tremendous black and bushy beard. He wore jeans and a blue shirt, and he had no hat. In town he wore shoes. There was a shrinking in the Pirate’s eyes when he confronted any grown person, the secret look of an animal that would like to run away if it dared turn its back long enough. Because of this expression, the paisanos of Monterey knew that his head had not grown up with the rest of his body. They called him the Pirate because of his beard. Every day people saw him wheeling his barrow of pitchwood about the streets until he sold the load. And always in a cluster at his heels walked his five dogs.
Enrique was rather houndish in appearance, although his tail was bushy. Pajarito was brown and curly, and these were the only two things you could see about him. Rudolph was a dog of whom passers-by said, “He is an American dog.” Fluff was a Pug and Señor Alec Thompson seemed to be a kind of an Airedale. They walked in a squad behind the Pirate, very respectful toward him, and very solicitous for his happiness. When he sat down to rest from wheeling his barrow, they all tried to sit on his lap and have their ears scratched.
Some people had seen the Pirate early in the morning on Alvarado Street; some had seen him cutting pitchwood; some knew he sold kindling; but no one except Pilon knew everything the Pirate did. Pilon knew everybody and everything about everybody.
The Pirate lived in a deserted chicken house in the yard of a deserted house on Tortilla Flat. He would have thought it presumptuous to live in the house itself. The dogs lived around and on top of him, and the Pirate liked this, for his dogs kept him warm on the coldest nights. If his feet were cold, he had only to put them against the belly of Señor Alec Thompson. The chicken house was so low that the Pirate had to crawl in on his hands and knees.
Early every morning, well before daylight, the Pirate crawled out of his chicken house, and the dogs followed him, roughing their coats and sneezing in the cold air. Then the party went down to Monterey and worked along an alley. Four or five restaurants had their back doors on this alley. The Pirate entered each one, into a restaurant kitchen, warm and smelling of food. Grumbling cooks put packages of scraps in his hands at each place. They didn’t know why they did it.
When the Pirate had visited each back door and had his arms full of parcels, he walked back up the hill to Munroe Street and entered a vacant lot, and the dogs excitedly swarmed about him. Then he opened the parcels and fed the dogs. For himself he took bread or a piece of meat out of each package, but he did not pick the best for himself. The dogs sat down about him, licking their lips nervously and shifting their feet while they waited for food. They never fought over it, and that was a surprising thing. The Pirate’s dogs never fought each other, but they fought everything else that wandered the streets of Monterey on four legs. It was a fine thing to see the pack of five, hunting fox-terriers and Pomeranians like rabbits.
Daylight had come by the time the meal was over. The Pirate sat on the ground and watched the sky turn blue with the morning. Below him he saw the schooners put out to sea with deckloads of lumber. He heard the bell buoy ringing sweetly off China Point. The dogs sat about him and gnawed at the bones. The Pirate seemed to be listening to the day rather than seeing it, for while his eyes did not move about, there was an air of attentiveness in him. His big hands strayed to the dogs and his fingers worked soothingly in the coarse hair. After about half an hour the Pirate went to the corner of the vacant lot, threw the covering of sacks from his wheelbarrow, and dug up his ax out of the ground where he buried it every evening. Then up the hill he pushed the barrow, and into the woods, until he found a dead tree, full of pitch. By noon he had a load of fine kindling; and then, still followed by his dogs, he walked the streets until he had sold the load for twenty-five cents.
It was possible to observe all this, but what he did with the quarter, no one could tell. He never spent it. In the night, guarded from danger by his dogs, he went into the woods and hid the day’s quarter with hundreds of others. Somewhere he had a great hoard of money.
Pilon, that acute man, from whom no details of the life of his fellows escaped, and who was doubly delighted to come upon those secrets that nestled deep in the brains of his acquaintances, discovered the Pirate’s hoard by a logical process. Pilon reasoned thus: “Every day that Pirate has a quarter. If it is two dimes and a nickel, he takes it to a store and gets a twenty-five cent piece. He never spends any money at all. Therefore, he must be hiding it.”
Pilon tried to compute the amount of the treasure. For years the Pirate had been living in this way. Six days a week he cut pitchwood, and on Sundays he went to church. His clothes he got from the back doors of houses, his food at the back doors of restaurants. Pilon puzzled with the great numbers for a while, and then gave it up. “The Pirate must have at least a hundred dollars,” he thought.
For a long time Pilon had considered these things. But it was only after the foolish and enthusiastic promise to feed Danny that the thought of the Pirate’s hoard gained any personal significance to Pilon.
Before he approached the subject at all, Pilon put his mind through a long and stunning preparation. He felt very sorry for the Pirate. “Poor little half-formed one,” he said to himself. “God did not give him all the brain he should have. That poor little Pirate cannot look after himself. For see, he lives in filth in an old chicken house. He feeds upon scraps fit only for his dogs. His clothes are thin and ragged. And because his brain is not a good one, he hides his money.”
Now, with his groundwork of pity laid, Pilon moved on to his solution. “Would it not be a thing of merit,” he thought, “to do those things for him which he cannot do for himself? To buy him warm clothes, to feed him food fit for a human? But,” he reminded himself, “I have no money to do these things, although they lie squirming in my heart. How can these charitable things be accomplished?”