THE pair had progressed as far from the depot as the farm-implement shop when Burke’s tall companion interrupted his reverie caused by the sight of the old town again, the dark hour that lay upon it, and the thought of the mission on which he had returned.
“I thought it was more of a place than this,ˮ the fellow slurred, “after hearing you tell about it. Why, the train hardly stopped long enough to let us off.”
“They’re all alike—these tank towns in the corn belt,” Burke snarled, staring resentfully about him—“a green depot, a red elevator, a Main Street, a church, a schoolhouse, a cemetery, and a few houses. And don’t let me forget—a bank!”
“At that, I have an idea the place seems a little different to you than the others, Burke,ˮ the tall man went on. “Just think, this was your world all the time that you were a kid. Every one of these two-story buildings must have loomed like a sky-scraper then. I’ll bet you can remember when you walked along this plank sidewalk here in your bare feet.ˮ
“Cut the comedy, Slim,ˮ Burke broke in, halting his hurried pace a bit to express himself more forcibly. “It’s all familiar enough. These towns around here haven’t had a new brick in them these last ten years. And the folks in them are as changeless as that statue of ‘Justice’ up there on top of the court-house—unless it is that some of the kids have grown up. And if they’ve grown up very much they’ve pulled out like I did.ˮ
They had reached the center of the town—a point where the Main Street intersected with the street leading from the depot. Burke stopped and courteously offered his partner papers and tobacco before rolling a cigarette for himself.
“That’s the joint,ˮ he informed after a deliberate puff as he threw his thumb over his shoulder toward the brick building on the corner. The tall man turned to scan the tin sign whose lettering, “Loans and Deposits,” was foreshortened by the slight breeze that swayed it.
“It looks soft," he answered after a shrewd scrutiny of the surroundings, “but it’s one thing to crack them these days and another thing to get away. The way we’ve planned, though, I can’t see where there can be a leak.”
“Right on this corner is where the show bands used to circle and play,ˮ explained Burke, “and from this crossing down there to the park was the distance set off for the 100-yard dashes on the Fourth of July. I won one of them once with my pants rolled up and wearing a pair of white wool socks. They
* This is the fourth in the series of short stories which are to appear weekly in both English and Esperanto In THE CAVALIER. The Esperanto version follows the English version.
This feature is purely an experiment. THE CAVALIER is the first magazine to include in its Table of Contents a story written in the international language.
The January 18th issue contained The Lure of the Lavender Trees: the January 25th issue, The Fear of Life: the February 1st issue “Marguerites. Back numbers can be supplied by our Subscription Department at 10c a copy.—THE EDITOR.
said I was over the age fixed and wouldn’t give me the money.ˮ
At Burke’s initiative the two started on down the street.
“Here’s the hotel,ˮ he went on in the tone of a guide. “Traveling men and all other folks from the outside world used to sit out here in front and absorb the hero worship always forthcoming from the natives. It’s where you’ll stop. You can look the part of a Chicago drummer all right. Some girl who has got tired of living on her father’s $150-an-acre farm out in the country will ask you in the morning if you want 'tea, coffee, or ice tea.’ There’s the opera house up over the drugstore. Looks as if they had a moving-picture show there now, but when the Warner Comedy Company used to come every fair time it was worth sneaking into, believe me.”
“I suppose there’s something in coming back like this that kind of touches a spot down deep,” suggested the stranger companion as the two passed the point where the stores left off and the homes began, “even though a fellow’s been in the game you have and has come back for what you've come back to do. I know—”
“Spot, h—!” Burke cut in disgustedly. “When we take the ‛bumpers’ to-morrow morning at this time on that train that just pulled out, this town’ll be entirely off the map so far as I am concerned. It’s been out of my mind for years as it is. I came back because I knew there was a soft job here, that was all. There’s the folks’ place, half-way down the block there where you see the big maple—looks as if it was about ready to tumble over. I’ll meet you in the alley there just after dark to-night. You find out what you’e supposed to and count on me. So-long.”
It had been a long time since Burke had tried the door at home in the early morning hours, but he found no lock to prevent his entrance. And he had increased his ability at stealthiness in the years he had been gone so that he was easily able to make his room upstairs without being heard.
It was as if he had been gone but a day—“the smoky kerosene lamp on the bureau, the varicolored quilt on the sagging bed. Once, on being half aroused, he expected to hear the rattle of trucks and the yell of a newsboy, but instead there came only the crow of a rooster welcoming the dawn.
He surprised his mother when she was at the task of getting dinner as he stalked half dressed through the kitchen on the way to the sink.
“There now, can’t a fellow come home once in a while without there being a fuss,” he complained as the woman gave a little startled cry and rushed toward him. “Where’s pa?ˮ
he inquired, forcing the arms away from about his shoulders. “I’m glad it’s nearly dinner time—I’m hungry.ˮ
“I wasn’t counting on you,” his mother answered apologetically, wiping the tears from her eyes and starting for the pantry. Burke noticed that she limped in her walk. She had aged—his mother had.
The door she opened gave a glimpse of the queer-shaped and colored dishes such as he had never seen except at home. They were accompanied by an odor that had been peculiar to-them, too. His mother came back with one of the biggest jars from the row on the shelf—currant jelly.
Burke was wiping his face on he red-bordered towel when his father came in. The old man deliberately set his hoe in the corner and slowly removed his slouch black hat before he spoke.
“Well,ˮ he said, “you’ve come home.”
The removal of the hat showed how white his hair had become, and his face was like it in spite of its contact with sun and wind. He came over to wash his gnarled hands in the same basin with his son.
“I’ve the garden nearly all in again,” he continued finally. “I’m
going to put in onions again this year. They take lots of work, but if the season turns out just right they bring more than other stuff.ˮ
He led the way to hunch himself at the table just as he used to when there had been six of them there instead of two.
Burke noticed that the table had been shortened up until the checkered cloth touched the floor on all sides, but the dishes were the same—the food cooked the same.
Close to his place were cookies shaped from the top of a baking-powder can. His mother puttered at the stove a long time before she sat down.
“How long you going to stay?” the father inquired at length, pouring his coffee into a saucer. “It’s been quite a while since you’ve been out here. S’pose you’ve heard Mabel’s got another baby.” He turned reproachfully toward his wife, who fidgeted between going on a hunt for the epistle or staying with her son. “Ma, where is Mabel’s letter? I told you you’d lose it.”
“Oh, I only’ll be here a day or two,” answered Burke, ignoring the reference to his sister’s domestic progress. “It’s pretty dead here after one is used to Chicago.”
“Just a day?” his mother fluttered. “Oh, there’s quite a bit going on now. The Relief Corps is going to give a supper at the camp fire at the G. A. R. hall to-night. Your pa’s going to tell that Gettysburg story of his.”
“Still traveling for that Chicago house?” the father interrupted to inquire, eying his son as he cooled the coffee at his lips. “Times ain’t been so very good out here.”
“I’m still with them,” sparred Burke. “It’s been a little dull with us, too, lately, but”—he faltered for an instant—“we’re expecting quite a big piece of business out this way soon.”
“The plaster on the wall back of you’s all healed up now; do you notice it?ˮ the father went on, pointing to Burke to turn around. “You three boys used to lean back so much when you sat together there on the bench that it was always broke off. There wasn’t much use fixing it.ˮ
The mother entirely ceased with her pretention at eating and nervously fingered the table-cloth.
“Sometimes,” she interposed in an effort to appear unaffected by the reference just made—“sometimes your father goes to the hall door and calls to you all up-stairs just as if you were all here yet. He calls each of you separate by name. ‘It’s time for school,’ he tells you.”
Her attempted laugh with the words fell lame, and to keep brave she started in to clear off the dishes.
Burke sought the lounge in the sitting-room, the springs of which had been ruined by his acrobatic stunts years before. He could close his eyes and see every unchanged object in the room—the cheap organ, at which his sister had spent so many weary hours in practise, the enlarged crayon portrait of his little brother, who had been taken by diphtheria at the time of their quarantine during the awful cold spell, his father’s war relics and encampment badges.
He had planned to get plenty of sleep, but he was surprised to find it dark when he awoke. The lamp in the kitchen was already lighted and a dog was barking outside. Rubbing his eyes, Burke avoided his mother, busy in the pantry, and found his way into the back-yard. He had not counted on the apple-tree spreading its branches, but he refrained from cursing when it brushed his face in the path. At the alley he found his partner pacing in impatience.
“It’s a fine time to be coming,ˮ the waiting man complained sarcastically. “I’ve been waiting half an hour. What was the matter?ˮ
“I fell asleep,ˮ explained Burke, “but I’m awake now—clear awake.ˮ
He paused a moment before going on.
“I’m not in on the deal,” he thrust decisively.
His companion’s chagrin and surprise could not be concealed even by the darkness. For a moment they stood—two shadowy forms studying each other.
“Now there’s no argument,” snapped Burke. “I’m not only not going to pull off this job, but I’m out of the game altogether, I’ll shake hands ‛good-by’ if you want to. I suppose you are disappointed.”
Burke caught the tall man’s mumbled reply as he started back for the house.
“Disappointed!” he echoed. “I think the agency will be somewhat. After my using up two months expense money in trying to get evidence on you that would stick.”
SOURCE: Sweet, Oney Fred. The Spot Down Deep, with La Loko Profunde Interna, translated by D. O. S. Lowell, The Cavalier, vol. 25, no. 2, February 8, 1913, pp. 379-382, 382-384.
Note: Neither the original typography nor the original two-column formatting is preserved here.
Nek la originala tipografio nek la originala 2-koluma formato konserviĝas ĉi tie.
This occasions the fifth appearance of an Esperanto translation in The Cavalier, and the fourth of a test series that generated five translations. For links to all the English originals and Esperanto translations and more information, see:
The Cavalier: Covers & Contents
J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators
In 2112 (1912) by J. U. Giesy & J. B. Smith
2112 (1912) by J. U. Giesy & J. B. Smith,
translated into Esperanto by Elmer E. Haynes, M.D.
In 2112, by J. U. Giesy
& J. B. Smith,
translated from Esperanto by Forrest J. Ackerman
Esperanto in The Scrap Book, April - June 1907
(with 2 articles by D. O. S. Lowell)
Farewell to Esperanto
by Bob Davis, the Editor
(The Cavalier, 15 Feb 1913)
“Esperanto—A Closed Incident”
by the Editor [Bob Davis],
with images of the entire letter column
“Heart to Heart Talks”
Elmer E. Haynes & John A. Morris on J. U. Giesy et al in the pulps (1915)
Esperanto in early science fiction to 1930 by Everet F. Bleiler
J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators
Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko
Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800, and Related Themes: Selected Bibliography
& Utopia Literaturo en Esperanto /
Science Fiction & Utopian Literature in Esperanto:
Gvidilo / A Guide
Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress
J. U. Giesy @ Ĝirafo
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