Jack London

         In Yeddo Bay

             From "Dutch Courage and Other Stories"

     Somewhere along Theater Street he had lost it. He remembered being hustled
somewhat  roughly  on  the  bridge  over one of the canals that cross that busy
thoroughfare. Possibly some slant-eyed, light-fingered pickpocket was even then
enjoying the fifty-odd yen his purse had contained. And then again, he thought,
he might have lost it himself, just lost it carelessly.
     Hopelessly, and for the twentieth time, he searched in all his pockets for
the missing purse. It was not there. His hand lingered in his empty hip-pocket,
and  he  woefully  regarded  the  voluble and vociferous restaurant-keeper, who
insanely clamored: "Twenty-five sen! You pay now! Twenty-five sen!"
     "But my purse!" the boy said. "I tell you I've lost it somewhere."
     Whereupon  the restaurant-keeper lifted his arms indignantly and shrieked:
"Twenty-five sen! Twenty-five sen! You pay now!"
     Quite a crowd  had  collected,  and it was growing  embarrassing  for  Alf 
     It was so ridiculous  and  petty,  Alf thought.  Such a disturbance  about
nothing!  And, decidedly, he must be doing something. Thoughts of diving wildly
through  that  forest  of  legs, and of striking out at whomsoever opposed him,
flashed  through  his  mind;  but,  as  though divining his purpose, one of the
waiters,  a  short and chunky chap with an evil-looking cast in one eye, seized
him by the arm.
     "You pay now! You pay now! Twenty-five sen!" yelled the proprietor, hoarse
with rage.
     Alf  was  red  in the face, too, from mortification; but he resolutely set
out on another exploration. He had given up the purse, pinning his last hope on
stray  coins. In the little change-pocket of his coat he found a ten- sen piece
and five-copper sen; and remembering having recently missed a ten-sen piece, he
cut  the  seam  of  the  pocket and resurrected the coin from the depths of the
lining.  Twenty-five  sen  he held in his hand, the sum required to pay for the
supper  he  had eaten. He turned them over to the proprietor, who counted them,
grew suddenly calm, and bowed obsequiously — in fact,  the  whole  crowd  bowed
obsequiously and melted away.
     Alf  Davis  was  a  young  sailor, just turned sixteen, on board the Annie
Mine,  an  American  sailing-schooner,  which had run into Yokohama to ship its
season's  catch of skins to London. And in this, his second trip ashore, he was
beginning  to  snatch  his  first  puzzling  glimpses  of the Oriental mind. He
laughed  when  the  bowing  and  kotowing  was  over, and turned on his heel to
confront  another problem. How was he to get aboard ship? It was eleven o'clock
at  night,  and  there  would  be no ship's boats ashore, while the outlook for
hiring  a  native boatman, with nothing but empty pockets to draw upon, was not
particularly inviting.
     Keeping  a  sharp  lookout  for  shipmates,  he  went down to the pier. At
Yokohama  there  are no long lines of wharves. The shipping lies out at anchor,
enabling  a  few  hundred  of  the  short-legged people to make a livelihood by
carrying passengers to and from the shore.
     A dozen  sampan  men  and  boys  hailed Alf and offered their services. He
selected  the  most  favorable-looking one, an old and beneficent-appearing man
with a withered  leg.  Alf  stepped  into his sampan and sat down. It was quite
dark  and  he  could not see what the old fellow was doing, though he evidently
was  doing  nothing  about shoving off and getting under way. At last he limped
over and peered into Alf's face.
     "Ten sen," he said.
     "Yes, I know, ten sen,"  Alf answered  carelessly. "But hurry up. American
     "Ten sen. You pay now," the old fellow insisted.
     Alf  felt  himself  grow hot all over at the hateful words "pay now." "You
take me to American schooner; then I pay," he said.
     But the man  stood up patiently  before him,  held out his hand, and said,
"Ten sen. You pay now."
     Alf tried to explain. He had no money. He had lost his purse. But he would
pay. As soon as he got aboard the American schooner,  then he would pay. No; he
would not even go aboard the American schooner. He would call to his shipmates,
and  they  would  give the sampan man the ten sen first. After that he would go
aboard. So it was all right, of course.
     To  all  of  which the beneficent-appearing old man replied: "You pay now.
Ten sen." And, to make matters worse, the other sampan men squatted on the pier
steps, listening.
     Alf, chagrined and angry, stood up to step ashore. But the old fellow laid
a  detaining  hand  on  his  sleeve.  "You  give shirt now. I take you 'Merican
schooner," he proposed.
     Then  it  was  that  all  of  Alf's American independence flamed up in his
breast.  The  Anglo-Saxon  has a born dislike of being imposed upon, and to Alf
this was sheer robbery! Ten sen was equivalent to six American cents, while his
shirt, which was of good quality and was new, had cost him two dollars.
     He  turned  his back on the man without a word, and went out to the end of
the  pier,  the  crowd,  laughing with great gusto, following at his heels. The
majority of them were heavy-set, muscular fellows, and the July night being one
of  sweltering  heat,  they  were  clad  in  the  least  possible  raiment. The
water-people  of any race are rough and turbulent, and it struck Alf that to be
out  at midnight on a pier-end with such a crowd of wharfmen, in a big Japanese
city, was not as safe as it might be.
     One  burly fellow, with a shock of black hair and ferocious eyes, came up.
The rest shoved in after him to take part in the discussion.
     "Give  me  shoes,"  the man said.  "Give me shoes now. I take you 'Merican
     Alf  shook  his  head,  whereat  the  crowd  clamored  that  he accept the
proposal.  Now the Anglo-Saxon is so constituted that to brow-beat or bully him
is  the  last way under the sun of getting him to do any certain thing. He will
dare willingly, but he will not permit himself to be driven. So this attempt of
the  boatmen to force Alf only aroused all the dogged stubbornness of his race.
The  same  qualities  were  in  him that are in men who lead forlorn hopes; and
there,  under  the  stars,  on  the  lonely pier, encircled by the jostling and
shouldering  gang,  he  resolved  that  he  would die rather than submit to the
indignity  of  being  robbed  of  a  single  stitch of clothing. Not value, but
principle, was at stake.
     Then  somebody  thrust  roughly  against him from behind. He whirled about
with flashing eyes, and the circle involuntarily gave ground. But the crowd was
growing  more  boisterous.  Each  and  every  article of clothing he had on was
demanded  by  one  or another, and these demands were shouted simultaneously at
the tops of very healthy lungs.
     Alf  had long since ceased to say anything, but he knew that the situation
was getting dangerous, and that the only thing left to him was to get away. His
face  was set doggedly, his eyes glinted like points of steel, and his body was
firmly and confidently poised. This air of determination sufficiently impressed
the boatmen to make them give way before him when he started to walk toward the
shore-end  of  the  pier.  But  they  trooped  along beside him and behind him,
shouting  and  laughing  more  noisily  than ever. One of the youngsters, about
Alf's  size and build, impudently snatched his cap from his head; but before he
could  put  it  on his own head, Alf struck out from the shoulder, and sent the
fellow rolling on the stones.
     The  cap flew out of his hand and disappeared among the many legs. Alf did
some  quick thinking; his sailor pride would not permit him to leave the cap in
their  hands. He followed in the direction it had sped, and soon found it under
the  bare  foot of a stalwart fellow, who kept his weight stolidly upon it. Alf
tried  to  get  the cap out by a sudden jerk, but failed. He shoved against the
man's  leg, but the man only grunted. It was challenge direct, and Alf accepted
it.  Like  a  flash one leg was behind the man and Alf had thrust strongly with
his  shoulder  against  the fellow's chest. Nothing could save the man from the
fierce vigorousness of the trick, and he was hurled over and backward.
     Next,  the cap was on Alf's head and his fists were up before him. Then he
whirled about to prevent attack from behind, and all those in that quarter fled
precipitately. This was what he wanted. None remained between him and the shore
end.  The  pier was narrow. Facing them and threatening with his fist those who
attempted to pass him on either side, he continued his retreat. It was exciting
work,  walking backward and at the same time checking that surging mass of men.
But the dark-skinned peoples, the world over, have learned to respect the white
man's  fist;  and  it was the battles fought by many sailors, more than his own
warlike front, that gave Alf the victory.
     Where the pier adjoins the shore was the station of the harbor police, and
Alf  backed into the electric-lighted office, very much to the amusement of the
dapper lieutenant in charge. The sampan men, grown quiet and orderly, clustered
like flies by the open door, through which they could see and hear what passed.
     Alf  explained his difficulty in few words, and demanded, as the privilege
of  a  stranger  in  a  strange land, that the lieutenant put him aboard in the
police-boat.  The lieutenant, in turn, who knew all the "rules and regulations"
by  heart,  explained  that  the  harbor police were not ferrymen, and that the
police-boats  had  other functions to perform than that of transporting belated
and penniless sailor-men to their ships. He also said he knew the sampan men to
be  natural-born robbers, but that so long as they robbed within the law he was
powerless.  It  was  their right to collect fares in advance, and who was he to
command  them  to  take  a passenger and collect fare at the journey's end? Alf
acknowledged  the justice of his remarks, but suggested that while he could not
command  he  might  persuade. The lieutenant was willing to oblige, and went to
the  door,  from  where he delivered a speech to the crowd. But they, too, knew
their  rights,  and,  when  the  officer  had finished, shouted in chorus their
abominable "Ten sen! You pay now! You pay now!"
     "You  see,  I can do nothing," said the lieutenant, who, by the way, spoke
perfect English. "But I have warned them not to harm or molest you, so you will
be  safe,  at least. The night is warm and half over. Lie down somewhere and to
sleep.  I would permit you to sleep here in the office, were it not against the
rules and regulations."
     Alf  thanked  him  for  his  kindness and courtesy; but the sampan men had
aroused  all  his  pride  of  race and doggedness, and the problem could not be
solved  that way. To sleep out the night on the stones was an acknowledgment of
     "The sampan men refuse to take me out?"
     The lieutenant nodded.
     "And you refuse to take me out?"
     Again the lieutenant nodded.
     "Well, then, it's not in the rules and regulations that you can prevent my 
taking myself out?"
     The lieutenant was perplexed. "There is no boat," he said.
     "That's not the question,"  Alf  proclaimed  hotly. "If I take myself out, 
everybody's satisfied and no harm done?"
     "Yes; what you say is true,"  persisted the puzzled lieutenant.  "But  you 
cannot take yourself out."
     "You just watch me," was the retort.
     Down went Alf's cap on the office floor.  Right and left he kicked off his 
low-cut shoes. Trousers and shirt followed.
     "Remember,"  he  said in ringing  tones, "I, as a citizen  of  the  United 
States,  shall  hold  you,  the  city of Yokohama,  and the government of Japan 
responsible for those clothes. Good night."
     He plunged through the doorway, scattering the astounded boatmen to either
side,  and  ran  out on the pier. But they quickly recovered and ran after him,
shouting  with glee at the new phase the situation had taken on. It was a night
long  remembered among the water-folk of Yokohama town. Straight to the end Alf
ran, and, without pause, dived off cleanly and neatly into the water. He struck
out  with  a  lusty, single-overhand stroke till curiosity prompted him to halt
for  a  moment. Out of the darkness, from where the pier should be, voices were
calling to him.
     He turned on his back, floated, and listened.
     "All  right! All right!" he could distinguish from the babel. "No pay now;
pay bime by! Come back! Come back now; pay bime by!"
     "No, thank you;" he called back. "No pay at all. Good night."
     Then  he  faced  about  in order to locate the Annie Mine. She was fully a
mile  away, and in the darkness it was no easy task to get her bearings. First,
he settled upon a blaze of lights  which he knew nothing but a man-of-war could
make.  That must be the United States war-ship Lancaster. Somewhere to the left
and  beyond  should be the Annie Mine. But to the left he made out three lights
close together. That could not be the schooner. For the moment he was confused.
He  rolled  over  on his back and shut his eyes, striving to construct a mental
picture  of  the  harbor  as  he  had  seen  it  in  daytime.  With  a snort of
satisfaction  he  rolled back again. The three lights evidently belonged to the
big  English  tramp  steamer. Therefore the schooner must lie somewhere between
the three lights and the Lancaster. He gazed long and steadily, and there, very
dim  and  low,  but  at  the  point  he  expected,  burned a single light — the
anchorlight of the Annie Mine.
     And it was a fine swim under the starshine. The air was warm as the water,
and  the  water  as  warm  as  tepid milk. The good salt taste of it was in his
mouth,  the  tingling  of it along his limbs; and the steady beat of his heart,
heavy and strong, made him glad for living.
     But  beyond  being  glorious the swim was uneventful. On the right hand he
passed  the many-lighted Lancaster, on the left hand the English tramp, and ere
long  the Annie Mine loomed large above him. He grasped the hanging rope-ladder
and drew himself noiselessly on deck. There was no one in sight. He saw a light
in  the  galley,  and  knew  that  the  captain's  son,  who  kept  the  lonely
anchorwatch,  was  making  coffee.  Alf went forward to the forecastle. The men
were  snoring in their bunks, and in that confined space the heat seemed to him
insufferable. So he put on a thin cotton shirt and a pair of dungaree trousers,
tucked  blanket  and  pillow  under his arm, and went up on deck and out on the
     Hardly  had he begun to doze when he was roused by a boat coming alongside
and  hailing  the anchor-watch. It was the police-boat, and to Alf it was given
to  enjoy  the  excited  conversation  that  ensued.  Yes,  the  captain's  son
recognized the clothes. They belonged to Alf Davis, one of the seamen. What had
happened?  No; Alf Davis had not come aboard. He was ashore. He was not ashore?
Then  he must be drowned. Here both the lieutenant and the captain's son talked
at  the  same  time,  and  Alf  could make out nothing. Then he heard them come
forward  and  rouse  out the crew. The crew grumbled sleepily and said that Alf
Davis was not in the forecastle; whereupon the captain's son waxed indignant at
the  Yokohama  police  and  their  ways,  and  the  lieutenant quoted rules and
regulations in despairing accents.
     Alf rose up from the forecastle-head and extended his hand, saying:
     "I guess I'll take those clothes.  Thank you for bringing  them  aboard so
     "I don't see why he couldn't have brought you aboard inside of them," said
the captain's son.
     And the police lieutenant said nothing,  though he turned the clothes over
somewhat sheepishly to their rightful owner.
     The  next  day, when Alf started to go ashore, he found himself surrounded
by  shouting  and  gesticulating,  though  very  respectful,  sampan  men,  all
extraordinarily  anxious  to  have  him  for  a  passenger.  Nor did the one he
selected  say,  "You  pay  now," when he entered his boat. When Alf prepared to
step  out on to the pier, he offered the man the customary ten sen. But the man
drew himself up and shook his head.
     "You all right," he said. "You no pay. You never no pay. You bully boy and
all right."
     And for the rest of the Annie Mine's stay in port, the sampan men  refused
money at Alf Davis's hand. Out of admiration for his  pluck  and  independence,
they had given him the freedom of the harbor.

     First published in St. Nicholas, v. 30, February 1903


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