**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

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!

Told In The Storm
by [?]

The front room of the roadhouse was deserted save for the slumbering bartender, back-tilted in a corner, his chin upon his chest, and one other man who sat in the glare of a swing lamp playing solitaire. It was, perhaps, three hours after midnight. The last carouser had turned in. There was no sound save the scream of the black night and the cry of the salt wind. At intervals only, when the storm lulled, there came from the back room the sound of many men asleep.

I stumbled out from the rear room, heavy-eyed, half clad, and of a vicious temper, dressing in sour silence beside the stove.

“Did they wake you up?” the card-player inquired.


“Me, too. I’d rather bunk in with a herd of walrus in the mating season.”

He was a long, slim man, with blue-black hair and a gas-bleached face of startling pallor from which glittered two wild and roving eyes that flitted in and out of my visual line toward, to, and past me with a baffling elusive glimmer like that of jet spangles. His hands were slender and bony and colorless, but while he talked they worked, each independently. They performed queer, wizard antics with the cards–one-handed cuts, rapid, fluttering shuffles and “frame-ups,” after each pass leaving the pile of pasteboards as square-edged and even as before. While he observed me over his shoulder one hand wandered to some scattered poker-chips which clicked together beneath his touch into a solid-ivory column as if separately magnetized. He shuffled and dealt and cut the disks and made them do odd capers like the cards.

“I slept in a menagerie tent once,” said he, “but these people have got it on the animals.” He nodded toward the sleeping-quarters.

“The open life seems to make a Pan’s pipe out of the human nose,” said I, with disgust.

My indignation was intense and underlaid with a sullen fury at losing my rest. I seized the stranger and led him with me to the open door, saying, roughly, “Listen to that.”

The room was large and low, dim-lighted and walled with tiers of canvas-bottomed “standees” three high. The floor was a litter of boots, the benches piled with garments. Every bed was full, and the place groaned with sounds of strangulation, asphyxiation, and other disagreeable demises. The bunks were peopled by tortured bodies, which seemed to cry of throttlings, garrotings, and sundry hideous punishments. My nervous system, unable to stand it, had risen a-quiver, then shrieked for mercy.

From the nearest sleeper came the most unhappy sounds. He snored at free-and-easy intervals with the voice of a whistling-buoy in a ground swell–a handsome, resonant intake that died away reluctantly, then changed to a loathsome gurgle, as if he blew his breath through a tube into a pot of thick liquid. Now and then he smacked his lips and ground his teeth until the gooseflesh arose on my neck.

“That’s the fellow that drove me out,” said my new acquaintance as we went back to our seats beside the stove. “I had the berth below him. I sleep light, anyhow, since I woke up one night down on the Texas Panhandle and found a Chinaman astraddle of my brisket with a butcherknife.”

“That must have been nice,” said I at random. “What did you do?”

“I doubled up my legs and kicked him into the camp-fire.” The stranger was dealing the cards again, this time into a fanlike, intricate solitaire much affected by gamblers. “I tried the trick again to-night, but I went wrong. I wanted to stop the swan-song of the guy over my head, so I lifted up my feet and put them where the canvas sagged lowest. Then I stretched my legs like a Jap juggler, but I fetched away my own bunk and came down on the man below. I broke a snore short off in him. He’ll never get it out unless he has it pulled. That was us you heard two hours ago.”