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Title:      The Scarlet Plague (1912)
Author:     Jack London
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Language:   English
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Title:      The Scarlet Plague (1912)
Author:     Jack London


The way led along upon what had once been the embankment of a railroad.
But no train had run upon it for many years. The forest on either side
swelled up the slopes of the embankment and crested across it in a green
wave of trees and bushes. The trail was as narrow as a man's body, and
was no more than a wild-animal runway.

Occasionally, a piece of rusty iron, showing through the forest-mold,
advertised that the rail and the ties still remained. In one place, a
ten-inch tree, bursting through at a connection, had lifted the end of a
rail clearly into view. The tie had evidently followed the rail, held to
it by the spike long enough for its bed to be filled with gravel and
rotten leaves, so that now the crumbling, rotten timber thrust itself up
at a curious slant. Old as the road was, it was manifest that it had
been of the mono-rail type.

An old man and a boy travelled along this runway. They moved slowly, for
the old man was very old, a touch of palsy made his movements tremulous,
and he leaned heavily upon his staff. A rude skull-cap of goatskin
protected his head from the sun. From beneath this fell a scant fringe
of stained and dirty-white hair. A visor, ingeniously made from a large
leaf, shielded his eyes, and from under this he peered at the way of his
feet on the trail. His beard, which should have been snow-white but
which showed the same weather-wear and camp-stain as his hair, fell
nearly to his waist in a great tangled mass. About his chest and
shoulders hung a single, mangy garment of goatskin. His arms and legs,
withered and skinny, betokened extreme age, as well as did their sunburn
and scars and scratches betoken long years of exposure to the elements.

The boy, who led the way, checking the eagerness of his muscles to the
slow progress of the elder, likewise wore a single garment--a
ragged-edged piece of bearskin, with a hole in the middle through which
he had thrust his head. He could not have been more than twelve years

Tucked coquettishly over one ear was the freshly severed tail of a pig.
In one hand he carried a medium-sized bow and an arrow. On his back was
a quiverful of arrows. From a sheath hanging about his neck on a thong,
projected the battered handle of a hunting knife. He was as brown as a
berry, and walked softly, with almost a catlike tread. In marked
contrast with his sunburned skin were his eyes--blue, deep blue, but
keen and sharp as a pair of gimlets. They seemed to bore into all about
him in a way that was habitual. As he went along he smelled things, as
well, his distended, quivering nostrils carrying to his brain an endless
series of messages from the outside world. Also, his hearing was acute,
and had been so trained that it operated automatically. Without
conscious effort, he heard all the slight sounds in the apparent
quiet--heard, and differentiated, and classified these sounds--whether
they were of the wind rustling the leaves, of the humming of bees and
gnats, of the distant rumble of the sea that drifted to him only in
lulls, or of the gopher, just under his foot, shoving a pouchful of
earth into the entrance of his hole.

Suddenly he became alertly tense. Sound, sight, and odor had given him a
simultaneous warning. His hand went back to the old man, touching him,
and the pair stood still. Ahead, at one side of the top of the
embankment, arose a crackling sound, and the boy's gaze was fixed on the
tops of the agitated bushes. Then a large bear, a grizzly, crashed into
view, and likewise stopped abruptly, at sight of the humans. He did not
like them, and growled querulously. Slowly the boy fitted the arrow to
the bow, and slowly he pulled the bowstring taut. But he never removed
his eyes from the bear. The old man peered from under his green leaf at
the danger, and stood as quietly as the boy. For a few seconds this
mutual scrutinizing went on; then, the bear betraying a growing
irritability, the boy, with a movement of his head, indicated that the
old man must step aside from the trail and go down the embankment. The
boy followed, going backward, still holding the bow taut and ready. They
waited till a crashing among the bushes from the opposite side of the
embankment told them the bear had gone on. The boy grinned as he led
back to the trail.

"A big un, Granser," he chuckled.

The old man shook his head.

"They get thicker every day," he complained in, a thin, undependable
falsetto. "Who'd have thought I'd live to see the time when a man would
be afraid of his life on the way to the Cliff House? When I was a boy,
Edwin, men and women and little babies used to come out here from San
Francisco by tens of thousands on a nice day. And there weren't any
bears then. No, sir. They used to pay money to look at them in cages,
they were that rare."

"What is money, Granser?"

Before the old man could answer, the boy recollected and triumphantly
shoved his hand into a pouch under his bearskin and pulled forth a
battered and tarnished silver dollar. The old man's eyes glistened, as
he held the coin close to them.

"I can't see," he muttered. "You look and see if you can make out the
date, Edwin."

The boy laughed.

"You're a great Granser," he cried delightedly, "always making believe
them little marks mean something."

The old man manifested an accustomed chagrin as he brought the coin back
again close to his own eyes.

"2012," he shrilled, and then fell to cackling grotesquely. "That was
the year Morgan the Fifth was appointed President of the United States
by the Board of Magnates. It must have been one of the last coins
minted, for the Scarlet Death came in 2013. Lord! Lord!--think of it!
Sixty years ago, and I am the only person alive to-day that lived in
those times. Where did you find it, Edwin?"

The boy, who had been regarding him with the tolerant curiousness one
accords to the prattlings of the feeble-minded, answered promptly.

"I got it off of Hoo-Hoo. He found it when we was herdin' goats down
near San Jose last spring. Hoo-Hoo said it was money. Ain't you hungry,

The ancient caught his staff in a tighter grip and urged along the
trail, his old eyes shining greedily.

"I hope Hare-Lip's found a crab...or two," he mumbled. "They're good
eating, crabs, mighty good eating when you've no more teeth and you've
got grandsons that love their old grandsire and make a point of catching
crabs for him. When I was a boy--"

But Edwin, suddenly stopped by what he saw, was drawing the bowstring on
a fitted arrow. He had paused on the brink of a crevasse in the
embankment. An ancient culvert had here washed out, and the stream, no
longer confined, had cut a passage through the fill. On the opposite
side, the end of a rail projected and overhung. It showed rustily
through the creeping vines which overran it. Beyond, crouching by a
bush, a rabbit looked across at him in trembling hesitancy. Fully fifty
feet was the distance, but the arrow flashed true; and the transfixed
rabbit, crying out in sudden fright and hurt, struggled painfully away
into the brush. The boy himself was a flash of brown skin and flying fur
as he bounded down the steep wall of the gap and up the other side. His
lean muscles were springs of steel that released into graceful and
efficient action. A hundred feet beyond, in a tangle of bushes, he
overtook the wounded creature, knocked its head on a convenient
tree-trunk, and turned it over to Granser to carry.

"Rabbit is good, very good," the ancient quavered, "but when it comes to
a toothsome delicacy I prefer crab. When I was a boy--"

"Why do you say so much that ain't got no sense?" Edwin impatiently
interrupted the other's threatened garrulousness.

The boy did not exactly utter these words, but something that remotely
resembled them and that was more guttural and explosive and economical
of qualifying phrases. His speech showed distant kinship with that of
the old man, and the latter's speech was approximately an English that
had gone through a bath of corrupt usage.

"What I want to know," Edwin continued, "is why you call crab 'toothsome
delicacy'? Crab is crab, ain't it? No one I never heard calls it such
funny things."

The old man sighed but did not answer, and they moved on in silence.

The surf grew suddenly louder, as they emerged from the forest upon a
stretch of sand dunes bordering the sea. A few goats were browsing among
the sandy hillocks, and a skin-clad boy, aided by a wolfish-looking dog
that was only faintly reminiscent of a collie, was watching them.
Mingled with the roar of the surf was a continuous, deep-throated
barking or bellowing, which came from a cluster of jagged rocks a
hundred yards out from shore. Here huge sea-lions hauled themselves up
to lie in the sun or battle with one another. In the immediate
foreground arose the smoke of a fire, tended by a third savage-looking
boy. Crouched near him were several wolfish dogs similar to the one that
guarded the goats.

The old man accelerated his pace, sniffing eagerly as he neared the

"Mussels!" he muttered ecstatically. "Mussels! And ain't that a crab,
Hoo-Hoo? Ain't that a crab? My, my, you boys are good to your old
grandsire." Hoo-Hoo, who was apparently of the same age as Edwin,

"All you want, Granser. I got four."

The old man's palsied eagerness was pitiful. Sitting down in the sand as
quickly as his stiff limbs would let him, he poked a large rock-mussel
from out of the coals. The heat had forced its shells apart, and the
meat, salmon-colored, was thoroughly cooked. Between thumb and
forefinger, in trembling haste, he caught the morsel and carried it to
his mouth. But it was too hot, and the next moment was violently
ejected. The old man spluttered with the pain, and tears ran out of his
eyes and down his cheeks.

The boys were true savages, possessing only the cruel humor of the
savage. To them the incident was excruciatingly funny, and they burst
into loud laughter. Hoo-Hoo danced up and down, while Edwin rolled
gleefully on the ground. The boy with the goats came running to join in
the fun.

"Set 'em to cool, Edwin, set 'em to cool," the old man besought, in the
midst of his grief, making no attempt to wipe away the tears that flowed
from his eyes. "And cool a crab, Edwin, too. You know your grandsire
likes crabs."

From the coals arose a great sizzling, which proceeded from the many
mussels bursting open their shells and exuding their moisture. They were
large shellfish, running from three to six inches in length. The boys
raked them out with sticks and placed them on a large piece of driftwood
to cool.

"When I was a boy, we did not laugh at our elders; we respected them."

The boys took no notice, and Granser continued to babble an incoherent
flow of complaint and censure. But this time he was more careful, and
did not burn his mouth. All began to eat, using nothing but their hands
and making loud mouth-noises and lip-smackings. The third boy, who was
called Hare-Lip, slyly deposited a pinch of sand on a mussel the
ancient was carrying to his mouth; and when the grit of it bit into the
old fellow's mucous membrane and gums, the laughter was again
uproarious. He was unaware that a joke had been played on him, and
spluttered and spat until Edwin, relenting, gave him a gourd of fresh
water with which to wash out his mouth.

"Where's them crabs, Hoo-Hoo?" Edwin demanded. "Granser's set upon
having a snack."

Again Granser's eyes burned with greediness as a large crab was handed
to him. It was a shell with legs and all complete, but the meat had long
since departed. With shaky fingers and babblings of anticipation, the
old man broke off a leg and found it filled with emptiness.

"The crabs, Hoo-Hoo?" he wailed. "The crabs?"

"I was foolin', Granser. They ain't no crabs. I never found one."

The boys were overwhelmed with delight at sight of the tears of senile
disappointment that dribbled down the old man's cheeks. Then, unnoticed,
Hoo-Hoo replaced the empty shell with a fresh-cooked crab. Already
dismembered, from the cracked legs the white meat sent forth a small [?]
looked down in [?] savory steam. This attracted amazement.

The change of his mood to one of joy was immediate. He snuffled and
muttered and mumbled, making almost a croon of delight, as he began to
eat. Of this the boys took little notice, for it was an accustomed
spectacle. Nor did they notice his occasional exclamations and
utterances of phrases which meant nothing to them, as, for instance,
when he smacked his lips and champed his gums while muttering:

"Mayonnaise! Just think--mayonnaise! And it's sixty years since the last
was ever made! Two generations and never a smell of it! Why, in those
days it was served in every restaurant with crab."

When he could eat no more, the old man sighed, wiped his hands on his
naked legs, and gazed out over the sea. With the content of a full
stomach, he waxed reminiscent.

"To think of it! I've seen this beach alive with men, women, and
children on a pleasant Sunday. And there weren't any bears to eat them
up, either. And right up there on the cliff was a big restaurant where
you could get anything you wanted to eat. Four million people lived in
San Francisco then. And now, in the whole city and county there aren't
forty all told. And out there on the sea were ships and ships always to
be seen, going in for the Golden Gate or coming out.

"And airships in the air--dirigibles and flying machines. They could
travel two hundred miles an hour. The mail contracts with the New York
and San Francisco Limited demanded that for the minimum.

"There was a chap, a Frenchman, I forget his name, who succeeded in
making three hundred; but the thing was risky, too risky for
conservative persons. But he was on the right clue, and he would have
managed it if it hadn't been for the Great Plague. When I was a boy,
there were men alive who remembered the coming of the first aeroplanes,
and now I have lived to see the last of them, and that sixty years ago."

The old man babbled on, unheeded by the boys, who were long accustomed
to his garrulousness, and whose vocabularies, besides, lacked the
greater portion of the words he used. It was noticeable that in these
rambling soliloquies his English seemed to recrudesce into better
construction and phraseology. But when he talked directly with the boys
it lapsed, largely, into their own uncouth and simpler forms.

"But there weren't many crabs in those days," the old man wandered on.
"They were fished out, and they were great delicacies. The open season
was only a month long, too. And now crabs are accessible the whole year
around. Think of it--catching all the crabs you want, any time you want,
in the surf of the Cliff House beach!"

A sudden commotion among the goats brought the boys to their feet.

The dogs about the fire rushed to join their snarling fellow who guarded
the goats, while the goats themselves stampeded in the direction of
their human protectors. A half dozen forms, lean and gray, glided about
on the sand hillocks or faced the bristling dogs.

Edwin arched an arrow that fell short. But Hare-Lip, with a sling such
as David carried into battle against Goliath, hurled a stone through the
air that whistled from the speed of its flight. It fell squarely among
the wolves and caused them to slink away toward the dark depths of the
eucalyptus forest.

The boys laughed and lay down again in the sand, while Granser sighed
ponderously. He had eaten too much, and, with hands clasped on his
paunch, the fingers interlaced, he resumed his maunderings.

"'The fleeting systems lapse like foam,'" he mumbled what was evidently
a quotation. "That's it--foam, and fleeting. All man's toil upon the
planet was just so much foam. He domesticated the serviceable animals,
destroyed the hostile ones, and cleared the land of its wild vegetation.
And then he passed, and the flood of primordial life rolled back again,
sweeping his handiwork away--the weeds and the forest inundated his
fields, the beasts of prey swept over his flocks, and now there are
wolves on the Cliff House beach." He was appalled by the thought. "Where
four million people disported themselves, the wild wolves roam to-day,
and the savage progeny of our loins, with prehistoric weapons, defend
themselves against the fanged despoilers. Think of it! And all because
of the Scarlet Death--"

The adjective had caught Hare-Lip's ear.

"He's always saying that," he said to Edwin. "What is scarlet?"

"'The scarlet of the maples can shake me like the cry of bugles going
by,'" the old man quoted.

"It's red," Edwin answered the question. "And you don't know it because
you come from the Chauffeur Tribe. They never did know nothing, none of
them. Scarlet is red--I know that."

"Red is red, ain't it?" Hare-Lip grumbled. "Then what's the good of
gettin' cocky and calling it scarlet?"

"Granser, what for do you always say so much what nobody knows?" he
asked. "Scarlet ain't anything, but red is red. Why don't you say red,

"Red is not the right word," was the reply. "The plague was scarlet. The
whole face and body turned scarlet in a hour's time. Don't I know?
Didn't I see enough of it? And I am telling you it was scarlet
because--well, because it was scarlet. There is no other word for it."

"Red is good enough for me," Hare-Lip muttered obstinately. "My dad
calls red red, and he ought to know. He says everybody died of the Red

"Your dad is a common fellow, descended from a common fellow," Granser
retorted heatedly. "Don't I know the beginnings of the Chauffeurs? Your
grandsire was a chauffeur, a servant, and without education. He worked
for other persons. But your grandmother was of good stock, only the
children did not take after her. Don't I remember when I first met them
catching fish at Lake Temescal?"

"What is education?" Edwin asked.

"Calling red scarlet," Hare-Lip sneered, then returned to the attack on
Granser. "My dad told me, an' he got it from his dad afore he croaked,
that your wife was a Santa Rosan, an' that she was sure no account. He
said she was a hash-slinger before the Red Death, though I don't know
what a hash-slinger is. You can tell me, Edwin."

But Edwin shook his head in token of ignorance.

"It is true, she was a waitress," Granser acknowledged. "But she was a
good woman, and your mother was her daughter. Women were very scarce in
the days after the Plague. She was the only wife I could find, even if
she was a hash-slinger, as your father calls it. But it is not nice to
talk about our progenitors that way."

"Dad says that the wife of the first Chauffeur was a lady--"

"What's a lady?" Hoo-Hoo demanded.

"A Lady's a Chauffeur squaw," was the quick reply of Hare-Lip.

"The first Chauffeur was Bill, a common fellow, as I said before," the
old man expounded; "but his wife was a lady, a great lady. Before the
Scarlet Death she was the wife of Van Warden. He was President of the
Board of Industrial Magnates, and was one of the dozen men who ruled
America. He was worth one billion, eight hundred millions of
dollars--coins like you have there in your pouch, Edwin. And then came
the Scarlet Death, and his wife became the wife of Bill, the first
Chauffeur. He used to beat her, too. I have seen it myself."

Hoo-Hoo, lying on his stomach and idly digging his toes in the sand,
cried out and investigated, first, his toe-nail, and next, the small
hole he had dug. The other two boys joined him, excavating the sand
rapidly with their hands till there lay three skeletons exposed. Two
were of adults, the third being that of a part-grown child. The old man
nudged along on the ground and peered at the find.

"Plague victims," he announced. "That's the way they died everywhere in
the last days. This must have been a family, running away from the
contagion and perishing here on the Cliff House beach. They--what are
you doing, Edwin?"

This question was asked in sudden dismay, as Edwin, using the back of
his hunting knife, began to knock out the teeth from the jaws of one of
the skulls.

"Going to string 'em," was the response.

The three boys were now hard at it; and quite a knocking and hammering
arose, in which Granser babbled on unnoticed.

"You are true savages. Already has begun the custom of wearing human
teeth. In another generation you will be perforating your noses and ears
and wearing ornaments of bone and shell. I know. The human race is
doomed to sink back farther and farther into the primitive night ere
again it begins its bloody climb upward to civilization. When we
increase and feel the lack of room, we will proceed to kill one another.

"And then I suppose you will wear human scalp-locks at your waist, as
well--as you, Edwin, who are the gentlest of my grandsons, have already
begun with that vile pigtail. Throw it away, Edwin, boy; throw it away."

"What a gabble the old geezer makes," Hare-Lip remarked, when, the teeth
all extracted, they began an attempt at equal division.

They were very quick and abrupt in their actions, and their speech, in
moments of hot discussion over the allotment of the choicer teeth, was
truly a gabble. They spoke in monosyllables and short jerky sentences
that was more a gibberish than a language. And yet, through it ran hints
of grammatical construction, and appeared vestiges of the conjugation of
some superior culture. Even the speech of Granser was so corrupt that
were it put down literally it would be almost so much nonsense to the
reader. This, however, was when he talked with the boys. When he got
into the full swing of babbling to himself, it slowly purged itself into
pure English. The sentences grew longer and were enunciated with a
rhythm and ease that was reminiscent of the lecture platform.

"Tell us about the Red Death, Granser," Hare-Lip demanded, when the
teeth affair had been satisfactorily concluded.

"The Scarlet Death," Edwin corrected.

"An' don't work all that funny lingo on us," Hare-Lip went on. "Talk
sensible, Granser, like a Santa Rosan ought to talk. Other Santa Rosans
don't talk like you."


The old man showed pleasure in being thus called upon. He cleared his
throat and began.

"Twenty or thirty years ago my story was in great demand. But in these
days nobody seems interested--"

"There you go!" Hare-Lip cried hotly. "Cut out the funny stuff and talk
sensible. What's interested? You talk like a baby that don't know how."

"Let him alone," Edwin urged, "or he'll get mad and won't talk at all.
Skip the funny places. We'll catch on to some of what he tells us."

"Let her go, Granser," Hoo-Hoo encouraged; for the old man was already
maundering about the disrespect for elders and the reversion to cruelty
of all humans that fell from high culture to primitive conditions.

The tale began.

"There were very many people in the world in those days. San Francisco
alone held four millions--"

"What is millions?" Edwin interrupted.

Granser looked at him kindly.

"I know you cannot count beyond ten, so I will tell you. Hold up your
two hands. On both of them you have altogether ten fingers and thumbs.
Very well. I now take this grain of sand--you hold it, Hoo-Hoo." He
dropped the grain of sand into the lad's palm and went on. "Now that
grain of sand stands for the ten fingers of Edwin. I add another grain.
That's ten more fingers. And I add another, and another, and another,
until I have added as many grains as Edwin has fingers and thumbs. That
makes what I call one hundred. Remember that word--one hundred. Now I put
this pebble in Hare-Lip's hand. It stands for ten grains of sand, or ten
tens of fingers, or one hundred fingers. I put in ten pebbles. They
stand for a thousand fingers. I take a mussel-shell, and it stands for
ten pebbles, or one hundred grains of sand, or one thousand fingers..."

And so on, laboriously, and with much reiteration, he strove to build up
in their minds a crude conception of numbers. As the quantities
increased, he had the boys holding different magnitudes in each of their
hands. For still higher sums, he laid the symbols on the log of
driftwood; and for symbols he was hard put, being compelled to use the
teeth from the skulls for millions, and the crab-shells for billions.

It was here that he stopped, for the boys were showing signs of becoming

"There were four million people in San Francisco--four teeth."

The boys' eyes ranged along from the teeth and from hand to hand, down
through the pebbles and sand-grains to Edwin's fingers. And back again
they ranged along the ascending series in the effort to grasp such
inconceivable numbers.

"That was a lot of folks, Granser," Edwin at last hazarded.

"Like sand on the beach here, like sand on the beach, each grain of sand
a man, or woman, or child. Yes, my boy, all those people lived right
here in San Francisco. And at one time or another all those people came
out on this very beach--more people than there are grains of sand.
More--more--more. And San Francisco was a noble city. And across the
bay--where we camped last year, even more people lived, clear from Point
Richmond, on the level ground and on the hills, all the way around to
San Leandro--one great city of seven million people.--Seven
teeth...there, that's it, seven millions."

Again the boys' eyes ranged up and down from Edwin's fingers to the
teeth on the log.

"The world was full of people. The census of 2010 gave eight billions
for the whole world--eight crab-shells, yes, eight billions. It was not
like to-day. Mankind knew a great deal more about getting food. And the
more food there was, the more people there were. In the year 1800, there
were one hundred and seventy millions in Europe alone.

"One hundred years later--a grain of sand, Hoo-Hoo--one hundred years
later, at 1900, there were five hundred millions in Europe--five grains
of sand, Hoo-Hoo, and this one tooth. This shows how easy was the
getting of food, and how men increased. And in the year 2000, there were
fifteen hundred millions in Europe. And it was the same all over the
rest of the world. Eight crab-shells there, yes, eight billion people
were alive on the earth when the Scarlet Death began.

"I was a young man when the Plague came--twenty-seven years old; and I
lived on the other side of San Francisco Bay, in Berkeley. You remember
those great stone houses, Edwin, when we came down the hills from Contra
Costa? That was where I lived, in those stone houses. I was a professor
of English literature."

Much of this was over the heads of the boys, but they strove to
comprehend dimly this tale of the past.

"What was them stone houses for?" Hare-Lip queried.

"You remember when your dad taught you to swim?" The boy nodded. "Well,
in the University of California--that is the name we had for the
houses--we taught young men and women how to think, just as I have taught
you now, by sand and pebbles and shells, to know how many people lived
in those days. There was very much to teach. The young men and women we
taught were called students. We had large rooms in which we taught. I
talked to them, forty or fifty at a time, just as I am talking to you
now. I told them about the books other men had written before their
time, and even, sometimes, in their time--"

"Was that all you did?--just talk, talk, talk?" Hoo-Hoo demanded. "Who
hunted your meat for you? and milked the goats? and caught the fish?"

"A sensible question, Hoo-Hoo, a sensible question. As I have told you,
in those days food-getting was easy. We were very wise. A few men got
the food for many men. The other men did other things. As you say, I
talked. I talked all the time, and for this food was given me much food,
fine food, beautiful food, food that I have not tasted in sixty years
and shall never taste again. I sometimes think the most wonderful
achievement of our tremendous civilization was food--its inconceivable
abundance, its infinite variety, its marvellous delicacy. O my
grandsons, life was life in those days, when we had such wonderful
things to eat."

This was beyond the boys, and they let it slip by, words and thoughts,
as a mere senile wandering in the narrative.

"Our food-getters were called freemen. This was a joke. We of the ruling
classes owned all the land, all the machines, everything. These
food-getters were our slaves. We took almost all the food they got, and
left them a little so that they might eat, and work, and get us more

"I'd have gone into the forest and got food for myself," Hare-Lip
announced; "and if any man tried to take it away from me, I'd have
killed him"

The old man laughed.

"Did I not tell you that we of the ruling class owned all the land, all
the forest, everything? Any food-getter who would not get food for us,
him we punished or compelled to starve to death. And very few did that.
They preferred to get food for us, and make clothes for us, and prepare
and administer to us a thousand--a mussel-shell, Hoo-Hoo--a thousand
satisfactions and delights. And I was Professor Smith in those
days--Professor James Howard Smith. And my lecture courses were very
popular--that is, very many of the young men and women liked to hear me
talk about the books other men had written.

"And I was very happy, and I had beautiful things to eat. And my hands
were soft, because I did no work with them, and my body was clean all
over and dressed in the softest garments--" He surveyed his mangy
goatskin with disgust. "We did not wear such things in those days. Even
the slaves had better garments. And we were most clean. We washed our
faces and hands often every day. You boys never wash unless you fall
into the water or go in swimming."

"Neither do you, Granser," Hoo-Hoo retorted.

"I know, I know. I am a filthy old man. But times have changed. No-body
washes these days, and there are no conveniences. It is sixty years
since I have seen a piece of soap. You do not know what soap is, and I
shall not tell you, for I am telling the story of the Scarlet Death. You
know what sickness is. We called it a disease. Very many of the diseases
came from what we called germs. Remember that word--germs. A germ is a
very small thing. It is like a woodtick, such as you find on the dogs in
the spring of the year when they run in the forest. Only the germ is
very small. It is so small that you cannot see it--"

Hoo-Hoo began to laugh.

"You're a queer un, Granser, talking about things you can't see. If you
can't see 'em, how do you know they are? That's what I want to know. How
do you know anything you can't see?"

"A good question, a very good question, Hoo-Hoo. But we did see some of
them. We had what we called microscopes and ultramicroscopes, and we put
them to our eyes and looked through them, so that we saw things larger
than they really were, and many things we could not see without the
microscopes at all. Our best ultramicroscopes could make a germ look
forty thousand times larger.

"A mussel-shell is a thousand fingers like Edwin's. Take forty
mussel-shells, and by as many times larger was the germ when we looked
at it through a microscope. And after that, we had other ways, by using
what we called moving pictures, of making the forty-thousand-times germ
many, many thousand times larger still.

"And thus we saw all these things which our eyes of themselves could not
see. Take a grain of sand. Break it into ten pieces. Take one piece and
break it into ten. Break one of those pieces into ten, and one of those
into ten, and one of those into ten, and one of those into ten, and do
it all day, and maybe, by sunset, you will have a piece as small as one
of the germs."

The boys were openly incredulous. Hare-Lip sniffed and sneered and
Hoo-Hoo snickered, until Edwin nudged them to be silent.

"The woodtick sucks the blood of the dog, but the germ, being so very
small, goes right into the blood of the body, and there it has many
children. In those days there would be as many as a billion--a
crab-shell, please--as many as that crab-shell in one man's body. We
called germs micro-organisms. When a few million, or a billion, of them
were in a man, in all the blood of a man, he was sick. These germs were
a disease. There were many different kinds of them--more different kinds
than there are grains of sand on this beach. We knew only a few of the
kinds. The micro-organic world was an invisible world, a world we could
not see, and we knew very little about it.

"Yet we did know something. There was the bacillus anthracis; there was
the micrococcus; there was the Bacterium termo, and the Bacterium
lactis--that's what turns the goat milk sour even to this day, Hare-Lip;
and there were Schizomycetes without end. And there were many

Here the old man launched into a disquisition on germs and their
natures, using words and phrases of such extraordinary length and
meaninglessness, that the boys grinned at one another and looked out
over the deserted ocean till they forgot the old man was babbling on.

"But the Scarlet Death, Granser," Edwin at last suggested.

Granser recollected himself, and with a start tore himself away from the
rostrum of the lecture-hall, where, to another-world audience, he had
been expounding the latest theory, sixty years gone, of germs and

"Yes, Yes, Edwin; I had forgotten. Sometimes the memory of the past is
very strong upon me, and I forget that I am a dirty old man, clad in
goatskin, wandering with my savage grandsons who are goatherds in the
primeval wilderness. 'The fleeting systems lapse like foam,' and so
lapsed our glorious, colossal civilization. I am Granser, a tired old
man. I belong to the tribe of Santa Rosans. I married into that tribe.

"My sons and daughters married into the Chauffeurs, the Sacramentos, and
the Palo-Altos. You, Hare-Lip, are of the Chauffeurs. You, Edwin, are of
the Sacramentos. And you, Hoo-Hoo, are of the Palo-Altos. Your tribe
takes its name from a town that was near the seat of another great
institution of learning. It was called Stanford University. Yes, I
remember now. It is perfectly clear. I was telling you of the Scarlet
Death. Where was I in my story?"

"You was telling about germs, the things you can't see but which make
men sick," Edwin prompted.

"Yes, that's where I was. A man did not notice at first when only a few
of these germs got into his body. But each germ broke in half and became
two germs, and they kept doing this very rapidly so that in a short time
there were many millions of them in the body. Then the man was sick. He
had a disease, and the disease was named after the kind of germ that was
in him. It might be measles, it might be influenza, it might be yellow
fever; it might be any of thousands and thousands of kinds of diseases.

"Now this is the strange thing about these germs. There were always new
ones coming to live in men's bodies. Long and long and long ago, when
there were only a few men in the world, there were few diseases. But as
men increased and lived closely together in great cities and
civilizations, new diseases arose, new kinds of germs entered their
bodies. Thus were countless millions and billions of human beings
killed. And the more thickly men packed together, the more terrible were
the new diseases that came to be. Long before my time, in the middle
ages, there was the Black Plague that swept across Europe. It swept
across Europe many times. There was tuberculosis, that entered into men
wherever they were thickly packed. A hundred years before my time there
was the bubonic plague. And in Africa was the sleeping sickness. The
bacteriologists fought all these sicknesses and destroyed them, just as
you boys fight the wolves away from your goats, or squash the mosquitoes
that light on you. The bacteriologists--"

"But, Granser, what is a what-you-call-it?" Edwin interrupted.

"You, Edwin, are a goatherd. Your task is to watch the goats. You know a
great deal about goats. A bacteriologist watches germs. That's his task,
and he knows a great deal about them. So, as I was saying, the
bacteriologists fought with the germs and destroyed them--sometimes.
There was leprosy, a horrible disease. A hundred years before I was
born, the bacteriologists discovered the germ of leprosy. They knew all
about it. They made pictures of it. I have seen those pictures. But they
never found a way to kill it. But in 1984, there was the Pantoblast
Plague, a disease that broke out in a country called Brazil and that
killed millions of people. But the bacteriologists found it out, and
found the way to kill it, so that the Pantoblast Plague went no farther.
They made what they called a serum, which they put into a man's body and
which killed the pantoblast germs without killing the man. And in 1910,
there was pellagra, and also the hookworm. These were easily killed by
the bacteriologists. But in 1947 there arose a new disease that had
never been seen before. It got into the bodies of babies of only ten
months old or less, and it made them unable to move their hands and
feet, or to eat, or anything; and the bacteriologists were eleven years
in discovering how to kill that particular germ and save the babies.

"In spite of all these diseases, and of all the new ones that continued
to arise, there were more and more men in the world. This was because it
was easy to get food. The easier it was to get food, the more men there
were; the more men there were, the more thickly were they packed
together on the earth; and the more thickly they were packed, the more
new kinds of germs became diseases. There were warnings. Soldervetzsky,
as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guaranty
against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they
knew, arising and killing by the hundreds of millions and even by the
billion. You see, the micro-organic world remained a mystery to the end.
They knew there was such a world, and that from time to time armies of
new germs emerged from it to kill men. And that was all they knew about
it. For all they knew, in that invisible micro-organic world there might
be as many different kinds of germs as there are grains of sand on this
beach. And also, in that same invisible world it might well be that new
kinds of germs came to be. It might be there that life originated--the
'abysmal fecundity,' Soldervetzsky called it, applying the words of
other men who had written before him...."

It was at this point that Hare-Lip rose to his feet, an expression of
huge contempt on his face.

"Granser," he announced, "you make me sick with your gabble. Why don't
you tell about the Red Death? If you ain't going to, say so, an' we'll
start back for camp."

The old man looked at him and silently began to cry. The weak tears of
age rolled down his cheeks, and all the feebleness of his eighty-seven
years showed in his grief-stricken countenance.

"Sit down," Edwin counselled soothingly. "Granser's all right. He's just
gettin' to the Scarlet Death, ain't you, Granser? He's just goin' to
tell us about it right now. Sit down, Hare-Lip. Go ahead, Granser."


The old man wiped the tears away on his grimy knuckles and took up the
tale in a tremulous, piping voice that soon strengthened as he got the
swing of the narrative.

"It was in the summer of 2013 that the Plague came. I was twenty-seven
years old, and well do I remember it. Wireless dispatches--"

Hare-Lip spat loudly his disgust, and Granser hastened to make amends.

"We talked through the air in those days, thousands and thousands of
miles. And the word came of a strange disease that had broken out in New
York. There were seventeen millions of people living then in that
noblest city of America. Nobody thought anything about the news. It was
only a small thing. There had been only a few deaths. It seemed, though
that they had died very quickly, and that one of the first signs of the
disease was the turning red of the face and all the body. Within
twenty-four hours came the report of the first case in Chicago. And on
the same day, it was made public that London, the greatest city in the
world, next to Chicago, had been secretly fighting the plague for two
weeks and censoring the news dispatches--that is, not permitting the
word to go forth to the rest of the world that London had the plague.

"It looked serious, but we in California, like everywhere else, were not
alarmed. We were sure that the bacteriologists would find a way to
overcome this new germ, just as they had overcome other germs in the
past. But the trouble was the astonishing quickness with which this germ
destroyed human beings, and the fact that it inevitably killed any human
body it entered. No one ever recovered. There was the old Asiatic
cholera, when you might eat dinner with a well man in the evening, and
the next morning, if you got up early enough, you would see him being
hauled by your window in the death-cart. But this new plague was quicker
than that--much quicker. From the moment of the first signs of it, a man
would be dead in an hour. Some lasted for several hours. Many died
within ten or fifteen minutes of the appearance of the first signs.

"The heart began to beat faster and the heat of the body to increase.
Then came the scarlet rash, spreading like wildfire over the face and
body. Most persons never noticed the increase in heat and heart-beat,
and the first they knew was when the scarlet rash came out. Usually,
they had convulsions at the time of the appearance of the rash. But
these convulsions did not last long and were not very severe. If one
lived through them, he became perfectly quiet, and only did he feel a
numbness swiftly creeping up his body from the feet. The heels became
numb first, then the legs, and hips, and when the numbness reached as
high as his heart he died. They did not rave or sleep. Their minds
always remained cool and calm up to the moment their hearts numbed and
stopped. And another strange thing was the rapidity of decomposition. No
sooner was a person dead than the body seemed to fall to pieces, to fly
apart, to melt away even as you looked at it. That was one of the
reasons the plague spread so rapidly. All the billions of germs in a
corpse were so immediately released.

"And it was because of all this that the bacteriologists had so little
chance in fighting the germs. They were killed in their laboratories
even as they studied the germ of the Scarlet Death. They were heroes. As
fast as they perished, others stepped forth and took their places. It
was in London that they first isolated it. The news was telegraphed
everywhere. Trask was the name of the man who succeeded in this, but
within thirty hours he was dead. Then came the struggle in all the
laboratories to find something that would kill the plague germs. All
drugs failed. You see, the problem was to get a drug, or serum, that
would kill the germs in the body and not kill the body. They tried to
fight it with other germs, to put into the body of a sick man germs that
were the enemies of the plague germs--"

"And you can't see these germ-things, Granser," Hare-Lip objected, "and
here you gabble, gabble, gabble about them as if they was anything, when
they're nothing at all. Anything you can't see, ain't, that's what.
Fighting things that ain't with things that ain't! They must have been
all fools in them days. That's why they croaked. I ain't goin' to
believe in such rot, I tell you that."

Granser promptly began to weep, while Edwin hotly took up his defense.

"Look here, Hare-Lip, you believe in lots of things you can't see."

Hare-Lip shook his head.

"You believe in dead men walking about. You never seen one dead man walk

"I tell you I seen 'em, last winter, when I was wolf-hunting with dad."

"Well, you always spit when you cross running water," Edwin challenged.

"That's to keep off bad luck," was Hare-Lip's defence.

"You believe in bad luck?"


"An' you ain't never seen bad luck," Edwin concluded triumphantly.

"You're just as bad as Granser and his germs. You believe in what you
don't see. Go on, Granser."

Hare-Lip, crushed by this metaphysical defeat, remained silent, and the
old man went on. Often and often, though this narrative must not be
clogged by the details, was Granser's tale interrupted while the boys
squabbled among themselves. Also, among themselves they kept up a
constant, low-voiced exchange of explanation and conjecture, as they
strove to follow the old man into his unknown and vanished world.

"The Scarlet Death broke out in San Francisco. The first death came on a
Monday morning. By Thursday they were dying like flies in Oakland and
San Francisco. They died everywhere--in their beds, at their work,
walking along the street. It was on Tuesday that I saw my first
death--Miss Collbran, one of my students, sitting right there before my
eyes, in my lecture-room. I noticed her face while I was talking. It had
suddenly turned scarlet. I ceased speaking and could only look at her,
for the first fear of the plague was already on all of us and we knew
that it had come. The young women screamed and ran out of the room. So
did the young men run out, all but two. Miss Colibran's convulsions were
very mild and lasted less than a minute."

"One of the young men fetched her a glass of water. She drank only a
little of it, and cried out:

"'My feet! All sensation has left them.'

"After a minute she said, 'I have no feet. I am unaware that I have any
feet. And my knees are cold. I can scarcely feel that I--have knees.'

"She lay on the floor, a bundle of notebooks under her head. And we
could do nothing. The coldness and the numbness crept up past her hips
to her heart, and when it reached her heart she was dead. In fifteen
minutes, by the clock--I timed it--she was dead, there, in my own
classroom, dead. And she was a very beautiful, strong, healthy young
woman. And from the first sign of the plague to her death only fifteen
minutes elapsed. That will show you how swift was the Scarlet Death.

"Yet in those few minutes I remained with the dying woman in my
classroom, the alarm had spread over the university; and the students,
by thousands, all of them, had deserted the lecture-room and
laboratories. When I emerged, on my way to make report to the President
of the Faculty, I found the university deserted. Across the campus were
several stragglers hurrying for their homes. Two of them were running.

"President Hoag I found in his office, all alone, looking very old and
very gray, with a multitude of wrinkles in his face that I had never
seen before. At the sight of me, he pulled himself to his feet and
tottered away to the inner office, banging the door after him and
locking it. You see, he knew I had been exposed, and he was afraid.

"He shouted to me through the door to go away. I shall never forget my
feelings as I walked down the silent corridors and out across that
deserted campus. I was not afraid. I had been exposed, and I looked upon
myself as already dead. It was not that, but a feeling of awful
depression that impressed me. Everything had stopped. It was like the
end of the world to me--my world. I had been born within sight and sound
of the university. It had been my predestined career. My father had been
a professor there before me, and his father before him. For a century
and a half had this university, like a splendid machine, been running
steadily on. And now, in an instant, it had stopped. It was like seeing
the sacred flame die down on some thrice-sacred altar. I was shocked,
unutterably shocked.

"When I arrived home, my housekeeper screamed as I entered, and fled
away. And when I rang, I found the housemaid had likewise fled. I
investigated. In the kitchen I found the cook on the point of departure.
But she screamed, too, and in her haste dropped a suitcase of her
personal belongings and ran out of the house and across the grounds,
still screaming. I can hear her scream to this day. You see, we did not
act in this way when ordinary diseases smote us. We were always calm
over such things, and sent for the doctors and nurses who knew just what
to do. But this was different. It struck so suddenly, and killed so
swiftly, and never missed a stroke. When the scarlet rash appeared on a
person's face, that person was marked by death. There was never a known
case of a recovery.

"I was alone in my big house. As I have told you often before, in those
days we could talk with one another over wires or through the air. The
telephone bell rang, and I found my brother talking to me. He told me
that he was not coming home for fear of catching the plague from me, and
that he had taken our two sisters to stop at Professor Bacon's home. He
advised me to remain where I was, and wait to find out whether or not I
had caught the plague.

"To all of this I agreed, staying in my house and for the first time in
my life attempting to cook. And the plague did not come out on me.

"By means of the telephone I could talk with whomsoever I pleased and get
the news. Also, there were the newspapers, and I ordered all of them to
be thrown up to my door so that I could know what was happening with the
rest of the world.

"New York City and Chicago were in chaos. And what happened with them
was happening in all the large cities. A third of the New York police
were dead. Their chief was also dead, likewise the mayor. All law and
order had ceased. The bodies were lying in the streets unburied. All
railroads and vessels carrying food and such things into the great city
had ceased running, and mobs of the hungry poor were pillaging the
stores and warehouses. Murder and robbery and drunkenness were
everywhere. Already the people had fled from the city by millions--at
first the rich, in their private motor-cars and dirigibles, and then the
great mass of the population, on foot, carrying the plague with them,
themselves starving and pillaging the farmers and all the towns and
villages on the way.

"The man who sent this news, the wireless operator, was alone with his
instrument on the top of a lofty building. The people remaining in the
city--he estimated them at several hundred thousand--had gone mad from
fear and drink, and on all sides of him great fires were raging. He was
a hero, that man who stayed by his post--an obscure newspaperman, most

"For twenty-four hours, he said, no transatlantic airships had arrived,
and no more messages were coming from England. He did state, though,
that a message from Berlin--that's in Germany--announced that Hoffmeyer,
a bacteriologist of the Metchnikoff School, had discovered the serum for
the plague. That was the last word, to this day, that we of America ever
received from Europe. If Hoffmeyer discovered the serum, it was too
late, or otherwise, long ere this, explorers from Europe would have come
looking for us. We can only conclude that what happened in America
happened in Europe, and that, at the best, some several score may have
survived the Scarlet Death on that whole continent.

"For one day longer the dispatches continued to come from New York. Then
they, too, ceased. The man who had sent them, perched in his lofty
building, had either died of the plague or been consumed in the great
conflagrations he had described as raging around him. And what had
occurred in New York had been duplicated in all the other cities. It was
the same in San Francisco, and Oakland, and Berkeley.

"By Thursday the people were dying so rapidly that their corpses could
not be handled, and dead bodies lay everywhere. Thursday night the panic
outrush for the country began. Imagine, my grandsons, people, thicker
than the salmon-run you have seen on the Sacramento River, pouring out
of the cities by millions, madly over the country, in vain attempt to
escape the ubiquitous death. You see, they carried the germs with them.
Even the airships of the rich, fleeing for mountain and desert
fastnesses, carried the germs.

"Hundreds of these airships escaped to Hawaii, and not only did they
bring the plague with them, but they found the plague already there
before them. This we learned by the dispatches, until all order in San
Francisco vanished, and there were no operators left at their posts to
receive or send. It was amazing, astounding, this loss of communication
with the world. It was exactly as if the world had ceased, been blotted
out. For sixty years that world has no longer existed for me. I know
there must be such places as New York, Europe, Asia, and Africa; but not
one word has been heard of them--not in sixty years. With the coming of
the Scarlet Death the world fell apart, absolutely, irretrievably. Ten
thousand years of culture and civilization passed in the twinkling of an
eye, 'lapsed like foam.'

"I was telling about the airships of the rich. They carried the plague
with them and no matter where they fled, they died. I never encountered
but one survivor of any of them--Mungerson. He was afterwards a Santa
Rosan, and he married my eldest daughter. He came into the tribe eight
years after the plague. He was then nineteen years old, and he was
compelled to wait twelve years more before he could marry. You see,
there were no unmarried women, and some of the older daughters of the
Santa Rosans were already bespoken. So he was forced to wait until my
Mary had grown to sixteen years. It was his son, Gimp-Leg, who was
killed last year by the mountain lion.

"Mungerson was eleven years old at the time of the plague. His father
was one of the Industrial Magnates, a very wealthy, powerful man.

"It was on his airship, the Condor, that they were fleeing, with all the
family, for the wilds of British Columbia, which is far to the north of
here. But there was some accident, and they were wrecked near Mount
Shasta. You have heard of that mountain. It is far to the north. The
plague broke out amongst them, and this boy of eleven was the only
survivor. For eight years he was alone, wandering over a deserted land
and looking vainly for his own kind. And at last, travelling south, he
picked up with us, the Santa Rosans.

"But I am ahead of my story. When the great exodus from the cities
around San Francisco Bay began, and while the telephones were still
working, I talked with my brother. I told him this flight from the
cities was insanity, that there were no symptoms of the plague in me,
and that the thing for us to do was to isolate ourselves and our
relatives in some safe place. We decided on the Chemistry Building, at
the university, and we planned to lay in a supply of provisions, and by
force of arms to prevent any other persons from forcing their presence
upon us after we had retired to our refuge.

"All this being arranged, my brother begged me to stay in my own house
for at least twenty-four hours more, on the chance of the plague
developing in me. To this I agreed, and he promised to come for me next
day. We talked on over the details of the provisioning and the defending
of the Chemistry Building until the telephone died. It died in the midst
of our conversation. That evening there were no electric lights, and I
was alone in my house in the darkness. No more newspapers were being
printed, so I had no knowledge of what was taking place outside. I heard
sounds of rioting and of pistol shots, and from my windows I could see
the glare in the sky of some conflagration in the direction of Oakland.
It was a night of terror. I did not sleep a wink. A man--why and how I
do not know--was killed on the sidewalk in front of the house. I heard
the rapid reports of an automatic pistol, and a few minutes later the
wounded wretch crawled up to my door, moaning and crying out for help.
Arming myself with two automatics, I went to him. By the light of a
match I ascertained that while he was dying of the bullet wounds, at the
same time the plague was on him. I fled indoors, whence I heard him moan
and cry out for half an hour longer.

"In the morning, my brother came to me. I had gathered into a handbag
what things of value I purposed taking, but when I saw his face I knew
that he would never accompany me to the Chemistry Building. The plague
was on him. He intended shaking my hand, but I went back hurriedly
before him.

"Look at yourself in the mirror," I commanded.

"He did so, and at sight of his scarlet face, the color deepening as he
looked at it, he sank down nervelessly in a chair.

"'My God!' he said. 'I've got it. Don't come near me. I am a dead man.'

"Then the convulsions seized him. He was two hours in dying, and he was
conscious to the last, complaining about the coldness and loss of
sensation in his feet, his calves, his thighs, until at last it was his
heart and he was dead.

"That was the way the Scarlet Death slew. I caught up my handbag and
fled. The sights in the streets were terrible. One stumbled on bodies
everywhere. Some were not yet dead. And even as you looked, you saw men
sink down with the death fastened upon them. There were numerous fires
burning in Berkeley, while Oakland and San Francisco were apparently
being swept by vast conflagrations. The smoke of the burning filled the
heavens, so that the mid-day was as a gloomy twilight, and, in the
shifts of wind, sometimes the sun shone through dimly, a dull red orb.
Truly, my grandsons, it was like the last days of the end of the world.

"There were numerous stalled motor-cars, showing that the gasoline and
the engine supplies of the garages had given out. I remember one such
car. A man and a woman lay back dead in the seats, and on the pavement
near it were two more women and a child. Strange and terrible sights
there were on every hand. People slipped by silently, furtively, like
ghosts--white-faced women carrying infants in their arms; fathers
leading children by the hand; singly, and in couples, and in
families--all fleeing out of the city of death. Some carried supplies of
food, others blankets and valuables, and there were many who carried

"There was a grocery store--a place where food was sold. The man to whom
it belonged--I knew him well--a quiet, sober, but stupid and obstinate
fellow, was defending it. The windows and doors had been broken in, but
he, inside, hiding behind a counter, was discharging his pistol at a
number of men on the sidewalk who were breaking in. In the entrance were
several bodies--of men, I decided, whom he had killed earlier in the
day. Even as I looked on from a distance, I saw one of the robbers break
the windows of the adjoining store, a place where shoes were sold, and
deliberately set fire to it. I did not go to the groceryman's
assistance. The time for such acts had already passed. Civilization was
crumbling, and it was each for himself."


"I went away hastily, down a cross-street, and at the first corner I saw
another tragedy. Two men of the working class had caught a man and a
woman with two children, and were robbing them. I knew the man by sight
though I had never been introduced to him. He was a poet whose verses I
had long admired. Yet I did not go to his help, for at the moment I came
upon the scene there was a pistol shot, and I saw him sinking to the
ground. The woman screamed, and she was felled with a fist-blow by one
of the brutes. I cried out threateningly, whereupon they discharged
their pistols at me and I ran away around the corner. Here I was blocked
by an advancing conflagration. The buildings on both sides were burning,
and the street was filled with smoke and flame. From somewhere in that
murk came a woman's voice calling shrilly for help. But I did not go to
her. A man's heart turned to iron amid such scenes, and one heard all
too many appeals for help.

"Returning to the corner, I found the two robbers were gone. The poet
and his wife lay dead on the pavement. It was a shocking sight.

"The two children had vanished--whither I could not tell. And I knew,
now, why it was that the fleeing persons I encountered slipped along so
furtively and with such white faces. In the midst of our civilization,
down in our slums and labor-ghettos, we had bred a race of barbarians,
of savages; and now, in the time of our calamity, they turned upon us
like the wild beasts they were and destroyed us. And they destroyed
themselves as well. They inflamed themselves with strong drink and
committed a thousand atrocities, quarreling and killing one another in
the general madness. One group of workingmen I saw, of the better sort,
who had banded together, and, with their women and children in their
midst, the sick and aged in litters and being carried, and with a number
of horses pulling a truck-load of provisions, they were fighting their
way out of the city. They made a fine spectacle as they came down the
street through the drifting smoke, though they nearly shot me when I
first appeared in their path.

"As they went by, one of their leaders shouted out to me in apologetic
explanation. He said they were killing the robbers and looters on sight,
and that they had thus banded together as the only means by which to
escape the prowlers.

"It was here that I saw for the first time what I was soon to see so
often. One of the marching men had suddenly shown the unmistakable mark
of the plague. Immediately those about him drew away, and he, without a
remonstrance, stepped out of his place to let them pass on.

"A woman, most probably his wife, attempted to follow him. She was
leading a little boy by the hand. But the husband commanded her sternly
to go on, while others laid hands on her and restrained her from
following him. This I saw, and I saw the man also, with his scarlet
blaze of face, step into a doorway on the opposite side of the street. I
heard the report of his pistol, and saw him sink lifeless to the ground.

"After being turned aside twice again by advancing fires, I succeeded in
getting through to the university. On the edge of the campus I came upon
a party of university folk who were going in the direction of the
Chemistry Building. They were all family men, and their families were
with them, including the nurses and the servants. Professor Badminton
greeted me, and I had difficulty in recognizing him. Somewhere he had
gone through flames, and his beard was singed off. About his head was a
bloody bandage, and his clothes were filthy. He told me he had been
cruelly beaten by prowlers, and that his brother had been killed the
previous night, in the defence of their dwelling.

"Midway across the campus, he pointed suddenly to Mrs. Swinton's face.
The unmistakable scarlet was there. Immediately all the other women set
up a screaming and began to run away from her. Her two children were
with a nurse, and these also ran with the women. But her husband, Doctor
Swinton, remained with her.

"'Go on, Smith,' he told me. 'Keep an eye on the children. As for me, I
shall stay with my wife. I know she is as already dead, but I can't
leave her. Afterwards, if I escape, I shall come to the Chemistry
Building, and do you watch for me and let me in.'

"I left him bending over his wife and soothing her last moments, while I
ran to overtake the party. We were the last to be admitted to the
Chemistry Building. After that, with our automatic rifles we maintained
our isolation. By our plans, we had arranged for a company of sixty to
be in this refuge. Instead, every one of the number originally planned
had added relatives and friends and whole families until there were over
four hundred souls. But the Chemistry Building was large, and, standing
by itself, was in no danger of being burned by the great fires that
raged everywhere in the city.

"A large quantity of provisions had been gathered, and a food committee
took charge of it, issuing rations daily to the various families and
groups that arranged themselves into messes. A number of committees were
appointed, and we developed a very efficient organization. I was on the
committee of defence, though for the first day no prowlers came near. We
could see them in the distance, however, and by the smoke of their fires
knew that several camps of them were occupying the far edge of the
campus. Drunkenness was rife, and often we heard them singing ribald
songs or insanely shouting. While the world crashed to ruin about them
and all the air was filled with the smoke of its burning, these low
creatures gave rein to their bestiality and fought and drank and died.
And after all, what did it matter? Everybody died anyway, the good and
the bad, the efficients and the weaklings, those that loved to live and
those that scorned to live. They passed. Everything passed.

"When twenty-four hours had gone by and no signs of the plague were
apparent, we congratulated ourselves and set about digging a well. You
have seen the great iron pipes which in those days carried water to all
the city-dwellers. We feared that the fires in the city would burst the
pipes and empty the reservoirs. So we tore up the cement floor of the
central court of the Chemistry Building and dug a well.

"There were many young men, undergraduates, with us, and we worked night
and day on the well. And our fears were confirmed.

"Three hours before we reached water, the pipes went dry.

"A second twenty-four hours passed, and still the plague did not appear
among us. We thought we were saved. But we did not know what I
afterwards decided to be true, namely, that the period of the incubation
of the plague germs in a human's body was a matter of a number of days.
It slew so swiftly when once it manifested itself, that we were led to
believe that the period of incubation was equally swift. So, when two
days had left us unscathed, we were elated with the idea that we were
free of the contagion.

"But the third day disillusioned us. I can never forget the night
preceding it. I had charge of the night guards from eight to twelve, and
from the roof of the building I watched the passing of all man's
glorious works. So terrible were the local conflagrations that all the
sky was lighted up. One could read the finest print in the red glare.
All the world seemed wrapped in flames. San Francisco spouted smoke and
fire from a score of vast conflagrations that were like so many active
volcanoes. Oakland, San Leandro, Haywards--all were burning; and to the
northward, clear to Point Richmond, other fires were at work. It was an
awe--inspiring spectacle. Civilization, my grandsons, civilization was
passing in a sheet of flame and a breath of death. At ten o'clock that
night, the great powder magazines at Point Pinole exploded in rapid
succession. So terrific were the concussions that the strong building
rocked as in an earthquake, while every pane of glass was broken. It was
then that I left the roof and went down the long corridors, from room to
room, quieting the alarmed women and telling them what had happened.

"An hour later, at a window on the ground floor, I heard pandemonium
break out in the camps of the prowlers. There were cries and screams,
and shots from many pistols. As we afterward conjectured, this fight had
been precipitated by an attempt on the part of those that were well to
drive out those that were sick. At any rate, a number of the
plague-stricken prowlers escaped across the campus and drifted against
our doors. We warned them back, but they cursed us and discharged a
fusillade from their pistols. Professor Merryweather, at one of the
windows, was instantly killed, the bullet striking him squarely between
the eyes. We opened fire in turn, and all the prowlers fled away with
the exception of three. One was a woman.

"The plague was on them and they were reckless. Like foul fiends, there
in the red glare from the skies, with faces blazing, they continued to
curse us and fire at us. One of the men I shot with my own hand.

"After that the other man and the woman, still cursing us, lay down under
our windows, where we were compelled to watch them die of the plague.

"The situation was critical. The explosions of the powder magazines had
broken all the windows of the Chemistry Building, so that we were
exposed to the germs from the corpses. The sanitary committee was called
upon to act, and it responded nobly. Two men were required to go out and
remove the corpses, and this meant the probable sacrifice of their own
lives, for, having performed the task, they were not to be permitted to
re-enter the building. One of the professors, who was a bachelor, and
one of the undergraduates volunteered. They bade good-bye to us and went
forth. They were heroes. They gave up their lives that four hundred
others might live.

"After they had performed their work, they stood for a moment, at a
distance, looking at us wistfully. Then they waved their hands in
farewell and went away slowly across the campus toward the burning city.

"And yet it was all useless. The next morning the first one of us was
smitten with the plague--a little nurse-girl in the family of Professor
Stout. It was no time for weak-kneed, sentimental policies. On the
chance that she might be the only one, we thrust her forth from the
building and commanded her to be gone. She went away slowly across the
campus, wringing her hands and crying pitifully. We felt like brutes,
but what were we to do? There were four hundred of us, and individuals
had to be sacrificed.

"In one of the laboratories three families had domiciled themselves, and
that afternoon we found among them no less than four corpses and seven
cases of the plague in all its different stages.

"Then it was that the horror began. Leaving the dead lie, we forced the
living ones to segregate themselves in another room. The plague began to
break out among the rest of us, and as fast as the symptoms appeared, we
sent the stricken ones to these segregated rooms. We compelled them to
walk there by themselves, so as to avoid laying hands on them. It was
heartrending. But still the plague raged among us, and room after room
was filled with the dead and dying. And so we who were yet clean
retreated to the next floor and to the next, before this sea of the
dead, that, room by room and floor by floor, inundated the building.

"The place became a charnel house, and in the middle of the night the
survivors fled forth, taking nothing with them except arms and
ammunition and a heavy store of tinned foods. We camped on the opposite
side of the campus from the prowlers, and, while some stood guard,
others of us volunteered to scout into the city in quest of horses,
motor-cars, carts, and wagons, or anything that would carry our
provisions and enable us to emulate the banded workingmen I had seen
fighting their way out to the open country.

"I was one of these scouts; and Doctor Hoyle, remembering that his
motor-car had been left behind in his home garage, told me to look for
it. We scouted in pairs, and Dombey, a young undergraduate, accompanied
me. We had to cross half a mile of the residence portion of the city to
get to Doctor Hoyle's home. Here the buildings stood apart, in the midst
of trees and grassy lawns, and here the fires had played freaks, burning
whole blocks, skipping blocks and often skipping a single house in a
block. And here, too, the prowlers were still at their work. We carried
our automatic pistols openly in our hands, and looked desperate enough,
forsooth, to keep them from attacking us. But at Doctor Hoyle's house
the thing happened.

"Untouched by fire, even as we came to it the smoke of flames burst

"The miscreant who had set fire to it staggered down the steps and out
along the driveway. Sticking out of his coat pockets were bottles of
whiskey, and he was very drunk. My first impulse was to shoot him, and I
have never ceased regretting that I did not. Staggering and maundering
to himself, with bloodshot eyes, and a raw and bleeding slash down one
side of his bewhiskered face, he was altogether the most nauseating
specimen of degradation and filth I had ever encountered. I did not
shoot him, and he leaned against a tree on the lawn to let us go by. It
was the most absolute, wanton act. Just as we were opposite him, he
suddenly drew a pistol and shot Dombey through the head. The next
instant I shot him. But it was too late.

"Dombey expired without a groan, immediately. I doubt if he even knew
what had happened to him.

"Leaving the two corpses, I hurried on past the burning house to the
garage, and there found Doctor Hoyle's motor-car. The tanks were filled
with gasoline, and it was ready for use. And it was in this car that I
threaded the streets of the ruined city and came back to the survivors
on the campus. The other scouts returned, but none had been so
fortunate. Professor Fairmead had found a Shetland pony, but the poor
creature, tied in a stable and abandoned for days, was so weak from want
of food and water that it could carry no burden at all.

"Some of the men were for turning it loose, but I insisted that we should
lead it along with us, so that, if we got out of food, we would have it
to eat.

"There were forty-seven of us when we started, many being women and
children. The President of the Faculty, an old man to begin with, and
now hopelessly broken by the awful happenings of the past week, rode in
the motor-car with several young children and the aged mother of
Professor Fairmead. Wathope, a young professor of English, who had a
grievous bullet-wound in his leg, drove the car. The rest of us walked,
Professor Fairmead leading the pony.

"It was what should have been a bright summer day, but the smoke from
the burning world filled the sky, through which the sun shone murkily, a
dull and lifeless orb, blood-red and ominous. But we had grown
accustomed to that blood-red sun. With the smoke it was different. It
bit into our nostrils and eyes, and there was not one of us whose eyes
were not bloodshot. We directed our course to the southeast through the
endless miles of suburban residences, travelling along where the first
swells of low hills rose from the flat of the central city. It was by
this way, only, that we could expect to gain the country.

"Our progress was painfully slow. The women and children could not walk
fast. They did not dream of walking, my grandsons, in the way all people
walk to-day. In truth, none of us knew how to walk. It was not until
after the plague that I learned really to walk. So it was that the pace
of the slowest was the pace of all, for we dared not separate on account
of the prowlers. There were not so many now of these human beasts of
prey. The plague had already well diminished their numbers, but enough
still lived to be a constant menace to us. Many of the beautiful
residences were untouched by fire, yet smoking ruins were everywhere.
The prowlers, too, seemed to have got over their insensate desire to
burn, and it was more rarely that we saw houses freshly on fire.

"Several of us scouted among the private garages in search of motor-cars
and gasoline. But in this we were unsuccessful. The first great flights
from the cities had swept all such utilities away. Calgan, a fine young
man, was lost in this work. He was shot by prowlers while crossing a
lawn. Yet this was our only casualty, though, once, a drunken brute
deliberately opened fire on all of us. Luckily, he fired wildly, and we
shot him before he had done any hurt.

"At Fruitvale, still in the heart of the magnificent residence section
of the city, the plague again smote us. Professor Fairmead was the
victim. Making signs to us that his mother was not to know, he turned
aside into the grounds of a beautiful mansion. He sat down forlornly on
the steps of the front veranda, and I, having lingered, waved him a last
farewell. That night, several miles beyond Fruitvale and still in the
city, we made camp. And that night we shifted camp twice to get away
from our dead. In the morning there were thirty of us. I shall never
forget the President of the Faculty. During the morning's march his
wife, who was walking, betrayed the fatal symptoms, and when she drew
aside to let us go on, he insisted on leaving the motor-car and
remaining with her. There was quite a discussion about this, but in the
end we gave in. It was just as well, for we knew not which ones of us,
if any, might ultimately escape.

"That night, the second of our march, we camped beyond Haywards in the
first stretches of country. And in the morning there were eleven of us
that lived. Also, during the night, Wathope, the professor with the
wounded leg, deserted us in the motor-car. He took with him his sister
and his mother and most of our tinned provisions. It was that day, in
the afternoon, while resting by the wayside, that I saw the last airship
I shall ever see. The smoke was much thinner here in the country, and I
first sighted the ship drifting and veering helplessly at an elevation
of two thousand feet. What had happened I could not conjecture, but even
as we looked we saw her bow dip down lower and lower. Then the bulkheads
of the various gas-chambers must have burst, for, quite perpendicular,
she fell like a plummet to the earth.

"And from that day to this I have not seen another airship. Often and
often, during the next few years, I scanned the sky for them hoping
against hope that somewhere in the world civilization had survived.
But it was not to be. What happened with us in California must have
happened with everybody everywhere.

"Another day, and at Niles there were three of us. Beyond Niles, in the
middle of the highway, we found Wathope. The motor-car had broken down,
and there, on the rugs which they had spread on the ground, lay the
bodies of his sister, his mother, and himself.

"Wearied by the unusual exercise of continual walking, that night I
slept heavily. In the morning I was alone in the world. Canfield and
Parsons, my last companions, were dead of the plague. Of the four
hundred that sought shelter in the Chemistry Building, and of the
forty-seven that began the march, I alone remained--I and the Shetland
pony. Why this should be so there is no explaining. I did not catch the
plague, that is all. I was immune. I was merely the one lucky man in a
million--just as every survivor was one in a million, or, rather, in
several millions, for the proportion was at least that."


"For two days I sheltered in a pleasant grove where there had been no
deaths. In those two days, while badly depressed and believing that my
turn would come at any moment, nevertheless I rested and recuperated.

"So did the pony. And on the third day, putting what small store of
tinned provisions I possessed on the pony's back, I started on across a
very lonely land. Not a live man, woman, child, did I encounter, though
the dead were everywhere. Food, however, was abundant. The land then was
not as it is now. It was all cleared of trees and brush, and it was
cultivated. The food for millions of mouths was growing, ripening, and
going to waste. From the fields and orchards I gathered vegetables,
fruits, and berries. Around the deserted farmhouses I got eggs and
caught chickens. And frequently I found supplies of tinned provisions in
the store-rooms.

"A strange thing was what was taking place with all the domestic
animals. Everywhere they were going wild and preying on one another. The
chickens and ducks were the first to be destroyed, while the pigs were
the first to go wild, followed by the cats. Nor were the dogs long in
adapting themselves to the changed conditions. There was a veritable
plague of dogs. They devoured the corpses, barked and howled during the
nights, and in the daytime slunk about in the distance. As the time went
by, I noticed a change in their behavior. At first they were apart from
one another, very suspicious and very prone to fight. But after a not
very long while they began to come together and run in packs. The dog,
you see, always was a social animal, and this was true before ever he
came to be domesticated by man. In the last days of the world before the
plagues there were many many very different kinds of dogs--dogs without
hair and dogs with warm fur, dogs so small that they would make scarcely
a mouthful for other dogs that were as large as mountain lions. Well,
all the small dogs, and the weak types were killed by their fellows.
Also, the very large ones were not adapted for the wild life bred out.
As a result, the many different kinds of dogs disappeared, and there
remained, running in packs, the medium-sized wolfish dogs that you know

"But the cats don't run in packs, Granser," Hoo-Hoo objected.

"The cat was never a social animal. As one writer in the nineteenth
century said, the cat walks by himself. He always walked by himself,
from before the time he was tamed by man, down through the long ages of
domestication, to to-day when once more he is wild.

"The horses also went wild, and all the fine breeds we had degenerated
into the small mustang horse you know today. The cows likewise went
wild, as did the pigeons and the sheep. And that a few of the chickens
survived you know yourself. But the wild chicken of to-day is quite a
different thing from the chickens we had in those days.

"But I must go on with my story. I travelled through a deserted land. As
the time went by I began to yearn more and more for human beings. But I
never found one, and I grew lonelier and lonelier. I crossed Livermore
Valley and the mountains between it and the great valley of the San
Joaquin. You have never seen that valley, but it is very large and it is
the home of the wild horse. There are great droves there, thousands and
tens of thousands. I revisited it thirty years after, so I know. You
think there are lots of wild horses down here in the coast valleys, but
they are as nothing compared with those of the San Joaquin. Strange to
say, the cows, when they went wild, went back into the lower mountains.
Evidently they were better able to protect themselves there.

"In the country districts the ghouls and prowlers had been less in
evidence, for I found many villages and towns untouched by fire. But
they were filled by the pestilential dead, and I passed by without
exploring them. It was near Lathrop that, out of my loneliness, I picked
up a pair of collie dogs that were so newly free that they were urgently
willing to return to their allegiance to man. These collies accompanied
me for many years, and the strains of them are in those very dogs there
that you boys have to-day. But in sixty years the collie strain has
worked out. These brutes are more like domesticated wolves than anything

Hare-Lip rose to his feet, glanced to see that the goats were safe, and
looked at the sun's position in the afternoon sky, advertising
impatience at the prolixity of the old man's tale. Urged to hurry by
Edwin, Granser went on.

"There is little more to tell. With my two dogs and my pony, and riding
a horse I had managed to capture, I crossed the San Joaquin and went on
to a wonderful valley in the Sierras called Yosemite. In the great hotel
there I found a prodigious supply of tinned provisions.

"The pasture was abundant, as was the game, and the river that ran
through the valley was full of trout. I remained there three years in an
utter loneliness that none but a man who has once been highly civilized
can understand. Then I could stand it no more. I felt that I was going
crazy. Like the dog, I was a social animal and I needed my kind. I
reasoned that since I had survived the plague, there was a possibility
that others had survived. Also, I reasoned that after three years the
plague germs must all be gone and the land be clean again.

"With my horse and dogs and pony, I set out. Again I crossed the San
Joaquin Valley, the mountains beyond, and came down into Livermore
Valley. The change in those three years was amazing. All the land had
been splendidly tilled, and now I could scarcely recognize it, such was
the sea of rank vegetation that had overrun the agricultural handiwork
of man. You see, the wheat, the vegetables, and orchard trees had always
been cared for and nursed by man, so that they were soft and tender. The
weeds and wild bushes and such things, on the contrary, had always been
fought by man, so that they were tough and resistant.

"As a result, when the hand of man was removed, the wild vegetation
smothered and destroyed practically all the domesticated vegetation.
The coyotes were greatly increased, and it was at this time that I first
encountered wolves, straying in twos and threes and small packs down
from the regions where they had always persisted.

"It was at Lake Temescal, not far from the one-time city of Oakland,
that I came upon the first live human beings. Oh, my grandsons, how can
I describe to you my emotion, when, astride my horse and dropping down
the hillside to the lake, I saw the smoke of a campfire rising through
the trees. Almost did my heart stop beating. I felt that I was going
crazy. Then I heard the cry of a babe--a human babe. And dogs barked,
and my dogs answered. I did not know but what I was the one human alive
in the whole world. It could not be true that here were others smoke and
the cry of a babe.

"Emerging on the lake, there, before my eyes, not a hundred yards away,
I saw a man, a large man. He was standing on an outjutting rock and
fishing. I was overcome. I stopped my horse. I tried to call out but
could not. I waved my hand. It seemed to me that the man looked at me,
but he did not appear to wave. Then I laid my head on my arms there in
the saddle. I was afraid to look again, for I knew it was an
hallucination, and I knew that if I looked the man would be gone. And so
precious was the hallucination, that I wanted it to persist yet a little
while. I knew, too, that as long as I did not look it would persist.

"Thus I remained, until I heard my dogs snarling, and a man's voice.
What do you think the voice said? I will tell you. It said: 'Where in
hell did you come from?'

"Those were the words, the exact words. That was what your other
grandfather said to me, Hare-Lip, when he greeted me there on the shore
of Lake Temescal fifty-seven years ago. And they were the most ineffable
words I have ever heard. I opened my eyes, and there he stood before me,
a large, dark, hairy man, heavy jawed, slant-browed, fierce-eyed. How I
got off my horse I do not know. But it seemed that the next I knew I was
clasping his hand with both of mine and crying.

"I would have embraced him, but he was ever a narrow-minded, suspicious
man, and he drew away from me. Yet did I cling to his hand and cry."

Granser's voice faltered and broke at the recollection, and the weak
tears streamed down his cheeks while the boys looked on and giggled.

"Yet did I cry," he continued, "and desire to embrace him, though the
Chauffeur was a brute, a perfect brute--the most abhorrent man I have
ever known. His name was . . . strange, how I have forgotten his name.
Everybody called him Chauffeur--it was the name of his occupation, and
it stuck. That is how, to this day, the tribe he founded is called the
Chauffeur Tribe.

"He was a violent, unjust man. Why the plague germs spared him I can
never understand. It would seem, in spite of our old metaphysical
notions about absolute justice, that there is no justice in the

"Why did he live?--an iniquitous, moral monster, a blot on the face of
nature, a cruel, relentless, bestial cheat as well. All he could talk
about was motor-cars, machinery, gasoline, and garages--and especially,
and with huge delight, of his mean pilferings and sordid swindlings of
the persons who had employed him in the days before the corning of the
plague. And yet he was spared, while hundreds of millions, yea,
billions, of better men were destroyed.

"I went on with him to his camp, and there I saw her, Vesta, the one
woman. It was glorious and . . . pitiful. There she was, Vesta Van
Warden, the young wife of John Van Warden, clad in rags, with marred and
scarred and toil-calloused hands, bending over the campfire and doing
scullion work--she, Vesta, who had been born to the purple to greatest
baronage of wealth the world has ever known.

"John Van Warden, her husband, worth one billion, eight hundred millions
and President of the Board of Industrial Magnates, had been the ruler of
America. Also, sitting on the International Board of Control, he had
been one of the seven men who ruled the world. And she herself had come
of equally noble stock. Her father, Philip Saxon, had been President of
the Board of Industrial Magnates up to the time of his death. This
office was in process of becoming hereditary, and had Philip Saxon had a
son that son would have succeeded him. But his only child was Vesta, the
perfect flower of generations of the highest culture this planet has
ever produced. It was not until the engagement between Vesta and Van
Warden took place, that Saxon indicated the latter as his successor. It
was, I am sure, a political marriage. I have reason to believe that
Vesta never really loved her husband in the mad passionate way of which
the poets used to sing. It was more like the marriages that obtained
 among crowned heads in the days before they were displaced by the

"And there she was, boiling fish-chowder in a soot-covered pot, her
glorious eyes inflamed by the acrid smoke of the open fire. Hers was a
sad story. She was the one survivor in a million, as I had been, as the
Chauffeur had been. On a crowning eminence of the Alameda Hills,
overlooking San Francisco Bay, Van Warden had built a vast summer
palace. It was surrounded by a park of a thousand acres. When the plague
broke out, Van Warden sent her there. Armed guards patrolled the
boundaries of the park, and nothing entered in the way of provisions or
even mail matter that was not first fumigated. And yet did the plague
enter, killing the guards at their posts, the servants at their tasks,
sweeping away the whole army of retainers--or, at least, all of them who
did not flee to die elsewhere. So it was that Vesta found herself the
sole living person in the palace that had become a charnel house.

"Now the Chauffeur had been one of the servants that ran away.

"Returning, two months afterward, he discovered Vesta in a little summer
pavilion where there had been no deaths and where she had established
herself. He was a brute. She was afraid, and she ran away and hid among
the trees. That night, on foot, she fled into the mountains--she, whose
tender feet and delicate body had never known the bruise of stones nor
the scratch of briars. He followed, and that night he caught her. He
struck her. Do you understand? He beat her with those terrible fists of
his and made her his slave. It was she who had to gather the firewood,
build the fires, cook, and do all the degrading camp-labor--she, who had
never performed a menial act in her life. These things he compelled her
to do, while he, a proper savage, elected to lie around camp and look
on. He did nothing, absolutely nothing, except on occasion to hunt meat
or catch fish."

"Good for Chauffeur," Hare-Lip commented in an undertone to the other.
boys. "I remember him before he died. He was a corker. But he did
things, and he made things go. You know, Dad married his daughter, an'
you ought to see the way he knocked the spots outa Dad. The Chauffeur
was a son-of-a-gun. He made us kids stand around. Even when he was
croakin', he reached out for me, once, an' laid my head open with that
long stick he kept always beside him."

Hare-Lip rubbed his bullet head reminiscently, and the boys returned to
the old man, who was maundering ecstatically about Vesta, the squaw of
the founder of the Chauffeur Tribe.

"And so I say to you that you cannot understand the awfulness of the
situation. The Chauffeur was a servant, understand, a servant. And he
cringed, with bowed head, to such as she. She was a lord of life, both
by birth and by marriage. The destinies of millions, such as he, she
carried in the hollow of her pink-white hand. And, in the days before
the plague, the slightest contact with such as he would have been
pollution. Oh, I have seen it. Once, I remember, there was Mrs.Goldwin, wife of one of the great magnates. It was on a landing stage,
just as she was embarking in her private dirigible, that she dropped her
parasol. A servant picked it up and made the mistake of handing it to
her--to her, one of the greatest royal ladies of the land! She shrank
back, as though he were a leper, and indicated her secretary to receive
it. Also, she ordered her secretary to ascertain the creature's name and
to see that he was immediately discharged from service. And such a woman
was Vesta Van Warden. And her the Chauffeur beat and made his slave.

"Bill--that was it; Bill, the Chauffeur. That was his name. He was a
wretched, primitive man, wholly devoid of the finer instincts and
chivalrous promptings of a cultured soul. No, there is no absolute
justice, for to him fell that wonder of womanhood, Vesta Van Warden. The
grievousness of this you will never understand, my grandsons; for you
are yourselves Primitive little savages, unaware of aught else but
savagery. Why should Vesta not have been mine? I was a man of culture
and refinement, a professor in a great university.

"Even so, in the time before the plague, such was her exalted position,
she would not have deigned to know that I existed. Mark, then, the
abysmal degradation to which she fell at the hands of the Chauffeur.

"Nothing less than the destruction of all mankind had made it possible
that I should know her, look in her eyes, converse with her, touch her
hand--ay, and love her and know that her feelings toward me were very
kindly. I have reason to believe that she, even she, would have loved
me, there being no other man in the world except the Chauffeur. Why,
when it destroyed eight billions of souls, did not the plague destroy
just one more man, and that man the Chauffeur?

"Once, when the Chauffeur was away fishing, she begged me to kill him.
With tears in her eyes she begged me to kill him. But he was a strong
and violent man, and I was afraid. Afterwards, I talked with him. I
offered him my horse, my pony, my dogs, all that I possessed, if he
would give Vesta to me. And he grinned in my face and shook his head. He
was very insulting. He said that in the old days he had been a servant,
had been dirt under the feet of men like me and of women like Vesta, and
that now he had the greatest lady in the land to be servant to him and
cook his food and nurse his brats. 'You had your day before the plague,'
he said; 'but this is my day, and a damned good day it is. I wouldn't
trade back to the old times for anything.'

"Such words he spoke, but they are not his words. He was a vulgar, low
minded man, and vile oaths fell continually from his lips.

"Also, he told me that if he caught me making eyes at his woman he'd
wring my neck and give her a beating as well. What was I to do? I was
afraid. He was a brute. That first night, when I discovered the camp,
Vesta and I had great talk about the things of our vanished world. We
talked of art, and books, and poetry; and the Chauffeur listened and
grinned and sneered. He was bored and angered by our way of speech which
he did not comprehend, and finally he spoke up and said: 'And this is
Vesta Van Warden, one-time wife of Van Warden the Magnate--a high and
stuck-up beauty, who is now my squaw. Eh, Professor Smith, times is
changed, times is changed. Here, you, woman, take off my moccasins, and
lively about it. I want Professor Smith to see how well I have you

"I saw her clench her teeth, and the flame of revolt rise in her face.
He drew back his gnarled fist to strike, and I was afraid, and sick at

"I could do nothing to prevail against him. So I got up to go, and not be
witness to such indignity. But the Chauffeur laughed and threatened me
with a beating if I did not stay and behold. And I sat there, perforce,
by the campfire on the shore ofLake Temescal, and saw Vesta, Vesta Van
Warden, kneel and remove the moccasins of that grinning, hairy, apelike
human brute.

"--Oh, you do not understand, my grandsons. You have never known
anything else, and you do not understand.

"'Halter-broke and bridle-wise,' the Chauffeur gloated, while she
performed that dreadful, menial task. 'A trifle balky at times,
Professor, a trifle balky; but a clout alongside the jaw makes her as
meek and gentle as a lamb.'

"And another time he said: 'We've got to start all over and replenish
the earth and multiply. You're handicapped, Professor. You ain't got no
wife, and we're up against a regular Garden-of-Eden proposition.
But I ain't proud. I'll tell you what, Professor.' He pointed at their
little infant, barely a year old. 'There's your wife, though you'll have
to wait till she grows up. It's rich, ain't it? We're all equals here,
and I'm the biggest toad in the splash. But I ain't stuck up--not I. I
do you the honor, Professor Smith, the very great honor of betrothing to
you my and Vesta Van Warden's daughter. Ain't it cussed bad that Van
Warden ain't here to see?'"


"I lived three weeks of infinite torment there in the Chauffeur's camp.

"And then, one day, tiring of me, or of what to him was my bad effect on
Vesta, he told me that the year before, wandering through the Contra
Costa Hills to the Straits of Carquinez, across the Straits he had seen
a smoke. This meant that there were still other human beings, and that
for three weeks he had kept this inestimably precious information from
me. I departed at once, with my dogs and horses, and journeyed across
the Contra Costa Hills to the Straits. I saw no smoke on the other side,
but at Port Costa discovered a small steel barge on which I was able to
embark my animals. Old canvas which I found served me for a sail, and a
southerly breeze fanned me across the Straits and up to the ruins of
Vallejo. Here, on the outskirts of the city, I found evidences of a
recently occupied camp. Many clam-shells showed me why these humans had
come to the shores of the Bay. This was the Santa Rosa Tribe, and I
followed its track along the old railroad right of way across the salt
marshes to Sonoma Valley. Here, at the old brickyard at Glen Ellen, I
came upon the camp. There were eighteen souls all told. Two were old
men, one of whom was Jones, a banker. The other was Harrison, a retired
pawnbroker, who had taken for wife the matron of the State Hospital for
the Insane at Napa.

"Of all the persons of the city of Napa, and of all the other towns and
villages in that rich and populous valley, she had been the only
survivor. Next, there were the three young men--Cardiff and Hale, who
had been farmers, and Wainwright, a common day-laborer. All three had
found wives. To Hale, a crude, illiterate farmer, had fallen Isadore,
the greatest prize, next to Vesta, of the women who came through the
plague. She was one of the world's most noted singers, and the plague
had caught her at San Francisco. She has talked with me for hours at a
time, telling me of her adventures, until, at last, rescued by Hale in
the Mendocino Forest Reserve, there had remained nothing for her to do
but become his wife. But Hale was a good fellow, in spite of his
illiteracy. He had a keen sense of justice and right-dealing, and she
was far happier with him than was Vesta with the Chauffeur.

"The wives of Cardiff and Wainwright were ordinary women, accustomed to
toil, with strong constitutions just the type for the wild new life
which they were compelled to live. In addition were two adult idiots
from the feeble-minded home at Eldredge, and five or six young children
and infants born after the formation of the Santa Rosa Tribe.

"Also, there was Bertha. She was a good woman, Hare-Lip, in spite of the
sneers of your father. Her I took for wife. She was the mother of your
father, Edwin, and of yours, Hoo-Hoo. And it was our daughter, Vera, who
married your father, Hare-Lip--your father, Sandow, who was the oldest
son of Vesta Van Warden and the Chauffeur.

"And so it was that I became the nineteenth member of the Santa Rosa
Tribe. There were only two outsiders added after me. One was Mungerson,
descended from the Magnates, who wandered alone in the wilds of Northern
California for eight years before he came south and joined us. He it was
who waited twelve years more before he married my daughter, Mary. The
other was Johnson, the man who founded the Utah Tribe. That was where he
came from, Utah, a country that lies very far away from here, across the
great deserts, to the east. It was not until twenty-seven years after
the plague that Johnson reached California. In all that Utah region he
reported but three survivors, himself one, and all men. For many years
these three men lived and hunted together, until at last, desperate,
fearing that with them the human race would perish utterly from the
planet, they headed westward on the possibility of finding women
survivors in California. Johnson alone came through the great desert,
where his two companions died. He was forty-six years old when he joined
us, and he married the fourth daughter of Isadore and Hale, and his
eldest son married your aunt, Hare-Lip, who was the third daughter of
Vesta and the Chauffeur. Johnson was a strong man, with a will of his

"And it was because of this that he seceded from the Santa Rosans and
formed the Utah Tribe at San Jose. It is a small tribe--there are only
nine in it; but, though he is dead, such was his influence and the
strength of his breed, that it will grow into a strong tribe and play a
leading part in the recivilization of the planet.

"There are only two other tribes that we know of--the Los Angelitos and
the Carmelitos. The latter started from one man and woman. He was called
Lopez, and he was descended from the ancient Mexicans and was very
black. He was a cowherd in the ranges beyond Carmel, and his wife was a
maidservant in the great Del Monte Hotel. It was seven years before we
first got in touch with the Los Angelitos. They have a good country down
there, but it is too warm. I estimate the present population of the
world at between three hundred and fifty and four hundred--provided, of
course, that there are no scattered little tribes elsewhere in the
world. If there be such, we have not heard from them. Since Johnson
crossed the desert from Utah, no word nor sign has come from the East or
anywhere else. The great world which I knew in my boyhood and early
manhood is gone. It has ceased to be.

"I am the last man who was alive in the days of the plague and who knows
the wonders of that far-off time. We, who mastered the planet its earth,
and sea, and sky--and who were as very gods, now live in primitive
savagery along the water courses of this California country.

"But we are increasing rapidly--your sister, Hare-Lip, already has four
children. We are increasing rapidly and making ready for a new climb
toward civilization. In time, pressure of population will compel us to
spread out, and a hundred generations from now we may expect our
descendants to start across the Sierras, oozing slowly along, generation
by generation, over the great continent to the colonization of the
East--a new Aryan drift around the world.

"But it will be slow, very slow; we have so far to climb. We fell so
hopelessly far. If only one physicist or one chemist had survived! But
it was not to be, and we have forgotten everything. The Chauffeur
started working in iron. He made the forge which we use to this day. But
he was a lazy man, and when he died he took with him all he knew of
metals and machinery. What was I to know of such things? I was a
classical scholar, not a chemist. The other men who survived were not
educated. Only two things did the Chauffeur accomplish--the brewing of
strong drink and the growing of tobacco. It was while he was drunk,
once, that he killed Vesta. I firmly believe that he killed Vesta in a
fit of drunken cruelty though he always maintained that she fell into
the lake and was drowned.

"And, my grandsons, let me warn you against the medicine-men. They call
themselves doctors, travestying what was once a noble profession, but in
reality they are medicine-men, devil-devil men, and they make for
superstition and darkness. They are cheats and liars. But so debased and
degraded are we, that we believe their lies. They, too, will increase in
numbers as we increase, and they will strive to rule us. Yet are they
liars and charlatans. Look at young Cross-Eyes, posing as a doctor,
selling charms against sickness, giving good hunting, exchanging
promises of fair weather for good meat and skins, sending the death
stick, performing a thousand abominations. Yet I say to you, that when
he says he can do these things, he lies. I, Professor Smith, Professor
James Howard Smith, say that he lies. I have told him so to his teeth.
Why has he not sent me the death-stick? Because he knows that with me it
is without avail. But you, Hare-Lip, so deeply are you sunk in black
superstition that did you awake this night and find the death-stick
beside you, you would surely die. And you would die, not because of any
virtues in the stick, but because you are a savage with the dark and
clouded mind of a savage.

"The doctors must be destroyed, and all that was lost must be discovered
over again. Wherefore, earnestly, I repeat unto you certain things which
you must remember and tell to your children after you. You must tell
them that when water is made hot by fire, there resides in it a
wonderful thing called steam, which is stronger than ten thousand men
and which can do all man's work for him. There are other very useful
things. In the lightning flash resides a similarly strong servant of
man, which was of old his slave and which some day will be his slave

"Quite a different thing is the alphabet. It is what enables me to know
the meaning of fine markings, whereas you boys know only rude
picture-writing. In that dry cave on Telegraph Hill, where you see me
often go when the tribe is down by the sea, I have stored many books. In
them is great wisdom. Also, with them, I have placed a key to the
alphabet, so that one who knows picture-writing may also know print.
Some day men will read again; and then, if no accident has befallen my
cave, they will know that Professor James Howard Smith once lived and
saved for them the knowledge of the ancients.

"There is another little device that men inevitably will rediscover. It
is called gunpowder. It was what enabled us to kill surely and at long
distances. Certain things which are found in the ground, when combined
in the right proportions, will make this gunpowder. What these things
are, I have forgotten, or else I never knew. But I wish I did know. Then
would I make powder, and then would I certainly kill Cross-Eyes and rid
the land of superstition--"

"After I am man-grown I am going to give Cross-Eyes all the goats, and
meat, and skins I can get, so that he'll teach me to be a doctor,"
Hoo-Hoo asserted. "And when I know, I'll make everybody else sit up and
take notice. They'll get down in the dirt to me, you bet."

The old man nodded his head solemnly, and murmured:

"Strange it is to hear the vestiges and remnants of the complicated
Aryan speech falling from the lips of a filthy little skin-clad savage.
All the world is topsy-turvy. And it has been topsy-turvy ever since the

"You won't make me sit up," Hare-Lip boasted to the would-be
medicine-man. "If I paid you for a sending of the death-stick and it
didn't work, I'd bust in your head--understand, you Hoo-Hoo, you?"

"I'm going to get Granser to remember this here gunpowder stuff," Edwin
said softly, "and then I'll have you all on the run. You, Hare-Lip, will
do my fighting for me and get my meat for me, and you, Hoo-Hoo, will
send the death-stick for me and make everybody afraid. And if I catch
Hare-Lip trying to bust your head, Hoo-Hoo, I'll fix him with that same
gunpowder. Granser ain't such a fool as you think, and I'm going to
listen to him and some day I'll be boss over the whole bunch of you."

The old man shook his head sadly, and said:

"The gunpowder will come. Nothing can stop it--the same old story over
and over. Man will increase, and men will fight. The gunpowder will
enable men to kill millions of men, and in this way only, by fire and
blood, will a new civilization, in some remote day, be evolved. And of
what profit will it be? Just as the old civilization passed, so will the
new. It may take fifty thousand years to build, but it will pass. All
things pass.

"Only remain cosmic force and matter, ever in flux, ever acting and
reacting and realizing the eternal types--the priest, the soldier, and
the king. Out of the mouths of babes comes the wisdom of all the ages.
Some will fight, some will rule, some will pray; and all the rest will
toil and suffer sore while on their bleeding carcasses is reared again,
and yet again, without end, the amazing beauty and surpassing wonder of
the civilized state. It were just as well that I destroyed those
cave-stored books--whether they remain or perish, all their old truths
will be discovered, their old lies lived and handed down. What is the

Hare-Lip leaped to his feet, giving a quick glance at the pasturing
goats and the afternoon sun.

"Gee!" he muttered to Edwin. "The old geezer gets more long-winded every
day. Let's pull for camp."

While the other two, aided by the dogs, assembled the goats and started
them for the trail through the forest, Edwin stayed by the old man and
guided him in the same direction. When they reached the old right of
way, Edwin stopped suddenly and looked back.

Hare-Lip and Hoo-Hoo and the dogs and the goats passed on.

Edwin was looking at a small herd of wild horses which had come down on
the hard sand. There were at least twenty of them, young colts and
yearlings and mares, led by a beautiful stallion which stood in the foam
at the edge of the surf, with arched neck and bright wild eyes, sniffing
the salt air from off the sea.

"What is it?" Granser queried.

"Horses," was the answer. "First time I ever seen 'em on the beach. It's
the mountain lions getting thicker and thicker and driving 'em down."

The low sun shot red shafts of light, fanshaped, up from a cloud-tumbled
horizon. And close at hand, in the white waste of shore-lashed waters,
the sea-lions, bellowing their old primeval chant, hauled up out of the
sea on the black rocks and fought and loved.

"Come on, Granser," Edwin prompted.

And old man and boy, skin-clad and barbaric, turned and went along the
right of way into the forest in the wake of the goats.


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