Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Phoebe
by [?]

“You are a man of many novel adventures and varied enterprises,” I said to Captain Patricio Malone. “Do you believe that the possible element of good luck or bad luck–if there is such a thing as luck– has influenced your career or persisted for or against you to such an extent that you were forced to attribute results to the operation of the aforesaid good luck or bad luck?”

This question (of almost the dull insolence of legal phraseology) was put while we sat in Rousselin’s little red-tiled cafe near Congo Square in New Orleans.

Brown-faced, white-hatted, finger-ringed captains of adventure came often to Rousselin’s for the cognac. They came from sea and land, and were chary of relating the things they had seen–not because they were more wonderful than the fantasies of the Ananiases of print, but because they were so different. And I was a perpetual wedding-guest, always striving to cast my buttonhole over the finger of one of these mariners of fortune. This Captain Malone was a Hiberno-Iberian creole who had gone to and fro in the earth and walked up and down in it. He looked like any other well-dressed man of thirty-five whom you might meet, except that he was hopelessly weather-tanned, and wore on his chain an ancient ivory-and-gold Peruvian charm against evil, which has nothing at all to do with this story.

“My answer to your question,” said the captain, smiling, “will be to tell you the story of Bad-Luck Kearny. That is, if you don’t mind hearing it.”

My reply was to pound on the table for Rousselin.

* * * * *

“Strolling along Tchoupitoulas Street one night,” began Captain Malone, “I noticed, without especially taxing my interest, a small man walking rapidly toward me. He stepped upon a wooden cellar door, crashed through it, and disappeared. I rescued him from a heap of soft coal below. He dusted himself briskly, swearing fluently in a mechanical tone, as an underpaid actor recites the gypsy’s curse. Gratitude and the dust in his throat seemed to call for fluids to clear them away. His desire for liquidation was expressed so heartily that I went with him to a cafe down the street where we had some vile vermouth and bitters.

“Looking across that little table I had my first clear sight of Francis Kearny. He was about five feet seven, but as tough as a cypress knee. His hair was darkest red, his mouth such a mere slit that you wondered how the flood of his words came rushing from it. His eyes were the brightest and lightest blue and the hopefulest that I ever saw. He gave the double impression that he was at bay and that you had better not crowd him further.

“‘Just in from a gold-hunting expedition on the coast of Costa Rica,’ he explained. ‘Second mate of a banana steamer told me the natives were panning out enough from the beach sands to buy all the rum, red calico, and parlour melodeons in the world. The day I got there a syndicate named Incorporated Jones gets a government concession to all minerals from a given point. For a next choice I take coast fever and count green and blue lizards for six weeks in a grass hut. I had to be notified when I was well, for the reptiles were actually there. Then I shipped back as third cook on a Norwegian tramp that blew up her boiler two miles below Quarantine. I was due to bust through that cellar door here to-night, so I hurried the rest of the way up the river, roustabouting on a lower coast packet that made up a landing for every fisherman that wanted a plug of tobacco. And now I’m here for what comes next. And it’ll be along, it’ll be along,’ said this queer Mr. Kearny; ‘it’ll be along on the beams of my bright but not very particular star.’