|Set Display||Please Turn On Your Virtual Bookmarks||You Can Help This Site||Table of Contents||Jack London|
One night Dag Daughtry sat at a table in the saloon called the Pile-drivers' Home. He was in a parlous predicament. Harder than ever had it been to secure odd jobs, and he had reached the end of his savings. Earlier in the evening he had had a telephone conference with the Ancient Mariner, who had reported only progress with an exceptionally strong nibble that very day from a retired quack doctor.
"Let me pawn my rings," the Ancient Mariner had urged, not for the first time, over the telephone.
"No, sir," had been Daughtry's reply. "We need them in the business. They're stock in trade. They're atmosphere. They're what you call a figure of speech. I'll do some thinking to-night an' see you in the morning, sir. Hold on to them rings an' don't be no more than casual in playin' that doctor. Make 'm come to you. It's the only way. Now you're all right, an' everything's hunkydory an' the goose hangs high. Don't you worry, sir. Dag Daughtry never fell down yet."
But, as he sat in the Pile-drivers' Home, it looked as if his fall-down was very near. In his pocket was precisely the room-rent for the following week, the advance payment of which was already three days overdue and clamorously demanded by the hard-faced landlady. In the rooms, with care, was enough food with which to pinch through for another day. The Ancient Mariner's modest hotel bill had not been paid for two weeks--a prodigious sum under the circumstances, being a first-class hotel; while the Ancient Mariner had no more than a couple of dollars in his pocket with which to make a sound like prosperity in the ears of the retired doctor who wanted to go a-treasuring.
Most catastrophic of all, however, was the fact that Dag Daughtry was three quarts short of his daily allowance and did not dare break into the rent money which was all that stood between him and his family and the street. This was why he sat at the beer table with Captain Jorgensen, who was just returned with a schooner-load of hay from the Petaluma Flats. He had already bought beer twice, and evinced no further show of thirst. Instead, he was yawning from long hours of work and waking and looking at his watch. And Daughtry was three quarts short! Besides, Hanson had not yet been smashed, so that the cook-job on the schooner still lay ahead an unknown distance in the future.
In his desperation, Daughtry hit upon an idea with which to get another schooner of steam beer. He did not like steam beer, but it was cheaper than lager.
"Look here, Captain," he said. "You don't know how smart that Killeny Boy is. Why, he can count just like you and me."
"Hoh!" rumbled Captain Jorgensen. "I seen 'em do it in side shows. It's all tricks. Dogs an' horses can't count."
"This dog can," Daughtry continued quietly. "You can't fool 'm. I bet you, right now, I can order two beers, loud so he can hear and notice, and then whisper to the waiter to bring one, an', when the one comes, Killeny Boy'll raise a roar with the waiter."