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Tahan
Chapter XXXV With Men of the Underworld


SHORTLY after the fight, Jerry disappeared for several days. During his absence I lived on short rations. It rained nearly all of the time and this, with the loss of my pal, made me desolate.

One dark night I left my shelter on the dock and, partly from loneliness, partly from hunger, went from one low saloon to another. My hope of snatching a handful of free lunch proved slim. Always the watchful eyes of the bartender were in the way.

Finally, rain-soaked and disheartened, I lounged into the back room of a low groggery. I sat down in a dimly lighted corner and fell asleep.

I was aroused by the voices of two men. They were seated at a near-by table talking in low tones. Evidently they had not noticed me.

What I overheard caused me to sit perfectly still. They were planning a robbery, and were waiting for a third person to join them.

One of them became very impatient at the delay. He flung himself away from the table and into the bar-room where he ordered a couple of drinks.

When he returned he discovered me. I sat with my arms folded on the table and my face buried in them.

With a muttered oath he grabbed me by the neck and gave me a vigorous shake.

I pretended to be sound asleep.

After several shakes from his not gentle hand, I got up and started to leave the place.

The fellow forced me back into the chair.

Then he and his pal looked me over in the dim light, alternately plying me with questions and talking in a foreign lingo. Satisfied with my answers, they became decidedly friendly in their manner. One of them got me a drink of whiskey. Then the other, remarking upon my woe-begone appearance, got me a handful of bologna sausage from the lunch counter and another drink of whiskey.

I began to feel better under the stimulus. This pleased my new friends.

The larger of the two, whom the other one called Hank, declared I was the very chap they were looking for; that if I would join them in a certain undertaking I would never lack either drink or food.

They were going to “crack a crib” that very night, Hank told me. All I would have to do was to stand on a special street corner and give them certain signals in case of need.

“I reckon you’re game enough to do that,” he concluded.

I pointed to the signs of my late fight and told them about it in detail.

They laughed uproariously and slapped me on the back.

"You’re the stuff!” cried one.

“You’ll do!” agreed the other.

Immediately Hank described the house they intended to rob and set the hour for doing it; named the street-corner for the “look-out;” and gave me the signal—whistling a few bars of “Yankee Doodle.”

We all had another drink and left the saloon, one at a time.

On my way to the appointed place I turned the matter over in my mind.

To go on might mean serious consequences.

Besides--

Jerry, I knew, would have nothing to do with the kind of men I was now going to help. .

Jerry had told me-

But Jerry was gone. He might never come back.

To go on might mean plenty to eat and good clothes to wear, for some time at least.

Jerry was gone. Who cared what I did?

What was the world of men, anyhow? A pack of snarling wolves fighting around some carcass, each for the biggest share he could get.

I was one of them. I would get my share.

A clock in a church steeple boomed out.

One—two—three!

It was the hour set by the robbers to begin their “crib-cracking.”

I had reached the comer.

I glanced up and down the streets. They were deserted.

A feeling of aching loneliness came over me. Then--

“Injun, whatever yeh git aouten this world, yeh’ll have t’ pay f’r.”

Jerry!

I turned and fled down Canal Street to my place on the dock. Jerry had not come back.

Alone, I crept under the tarpaulin, out of the rain.


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