There was a great battle at sea. Once could hear nothing but the roars of the big guns. The air was filled with black smoke. The water was strewn with broken masts and pieces of timber, which the canon balls had knocked from the ships. Many men had been killed, and many more had been wounded.
The flagship had taken fire. The flames were breakin’ out from below. The deck was ablaze. The men who were left alive made haste to launch a small boat. The leaped into it, and rowed swiftly away. Any other place was safer now than on board of the burning ship. There was powder in the hold.
But the captain’s son. Young Casablanca, still stood upon the deck. The flames were almost all around him now but he would not stir from his post. His father had bidden him stand there, and he had been taught always to obey. He trusted in his father’s word, and believed that when the right time came, he would tell him to go.
He saw the men leap into the boat. He heard them call to him to come. He shook his head.
"When father bids me, I will go", he said.
And now, the flames were leaping up the masts. The sails were all ablaze. The fire blew hot upon his cheek. It scorched his hair. It was before him, behind all around him.
"Oh Father," he cried, "may I not go now? The men have all left the ship. Is it not the time that we, too, should leave it?"
He did not know that his father was lying in the burning cabin below, that a cannon ball had struck him at the very beginning of the fight. He listened to hear his answer.
"Speak louder, Father," he cried, "I cannot hear what you say".
Above the roaring of the flames, above the crashing of the falling spars, above the booming of the guns, he fancied that his father’s voice came faintly to him through the scorching air.
"I am here, Father. Speak once again," he gasped.
A great flash of light fills the air; clouds of smoke shoot quickly upward to the sky and —
Oh, what a terrific sound. Louder than thunder, louder than the roar of all guns. The air quivers: the see itself trembles; the sky is black. The blazing ship is seen no more. There was powder in the hold.
THE FACE UPON THE FLOOR
Twas a balmy summer evening and a goodly crowd was there,
Which well-nigh filled Joe’s barroom, on the corner of the square;
And as songs and witty stories Came through the open door,
A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor.
"Where did it come from?" someone said. "The wind has blown it in."
"What does it want?" another cried. "Some whiskey, or rum or gin?"
"Here, Toby, sic ‘em, if your stomach’s equal to the work–
I wouldn’t touch him with a fork, he’s filthy as a Turk."
This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace;
In fact, he smiled as tho’ he thought he’d struck the proper place.
"Come, boys, I know there’s kindly hearts among so good a crowd–
To be in such good company would make a deacon proud.
"Give me a drink–that’s what I want… I’m out of funds, you know,
When I had cash to treat the gang this hand was never slow.
What? You laugh as if you thought this pocket never held a sou;
I once was fixed as well, my boys, as any one of you.
"There, thanks, that’s braced me nicely, God bless you one and all;
Next time I pass this good saloon, I’ll make another call.
Give you a song? No, I can’t do that, my singing days are past;
My voice is cracked, my throat’s worn out and my lungs are going fast.
"I’ll tell you a funny story, and a fact, I promise, too.
Say! Give me another whiskey and I’ll tell you what I’ll do…
That I was ever a decent man not one of you would think;
But I was, some four or five years back. Say, give me another drink.
"Fill her up, Joe, I want to put some life into my frame–
Such little drinks to a bum like me are miserably tame;
Five fingers… there, that’s the scheme… and corking whiskey, too.
Well, here’s luck, boys and landlord… my best regards to you.
"You’ve treated me pretty kindly and I’d like to tell you true
How I came to be the dirty sot, you see before you now.
As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame, and health,
And but for a blunder ought to have made, considerable wealth.
"I was a painter, not one that daubed on bricks and wood,
But an artist, and for my age, was rated pretty good.
I worked hard at my canvas and was bidding fair to rise,
For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes.
"I made a picture perhaps you’ve seen, ’tis called the ‘Chase of Fame’.
It brought me fifteen hundred pounds and added to my name,
And then I met a woman… now comes the funny part–
With eyes that petrified my brain and sunk into my heart.
"Why don’t you laugh? ’tis funny that the vagabond you see
Could ever love a woman and expect her love for me;
But ’twas so, and for a month or two, her smiles were freely given,
And when her loving lips touched mine, it carried me to Heaven.
"Boys, did you ever see a girl for whom your soul you’d give,
With a form like the Milo Venus, too beautiful to live.
I DEMAND DEATH
My hands are wet with blood. They are crimsoned with the blood of a man I have just killed.
I have come here today to confess. I have committed murder, deliberate, premeditated murder. I have killed a man in cold blood. That man is my master.
I am here not to ask for pity but for justice. Simple, elementary justice. I am a tenant… My father was a tenant before me and so was his father before him. This misery is my inheritance and perhaps this will be my legacy to my children.
I have labored on a patch of land not mine. But I have learned to love that land, for it is the only thing that lies between me and complete destitution.
It is the only world that I have learned to cherish. And somewhere on that land I have managed to build what is now the dilapidated nipa shack that has been home to me.
I have but a few world possessions, mostly rags. My debts are heavy. They are sum total of my ignorance and the inspired arithmetic of my master, which I do not understand.
I labor like a slave and out of the fruits of that labor I get but a mere pittance for a share. And I have to stretch that mere pittance to keep myself and my family alive.
My poverty has reduced me to the bare necessities of life. And the constant fear of rejection from the land has made me totally subservient to my master. You tell me that under the constitution, I am a free man-free to do what I believe is just, free to do what I think is right, and free to worship God according to the dictate of my conscience. But I do not understand the meaning of all these for I have never known freedom. I have always obeyed the wishes of my master out of fear. I have always regarded myself as no better than a slave to the man who owns the land on which I live. I do not ask you to forgive me nor to mitigate my crime. I have taken the law into my own hands, and I must pay for it in atonement.
But kill this system. Kill this system and you kill despotism. Kill this system and you kill slavery. Kill this despotism and you set the human soul to liberty and freedom. Kill this slavery and you release the human spirit into happiness and contentment. For the cause of human liberty, of human happiness and contentment, thousands and even millions have died and will continue to die.
Mine is only one life. Take me if you must but let it be a sacrifice to the cause which countless others have been given before and will be given again and again, until the oppressive economic system has completely perished, until the sons of toil have been liberated from enslavement, and until man has been fully restored to decency and self respect.
You tell me of the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I have known no rights, only obligations; I have known no happiness; only despair in the encumbered existence that has always been my lot.
My dear friend, I am a peace-loving citizen. I have nothing but love for my fellowmen. And yet, why did I kill this man? It is because he was the symbol of an economic system which has made him and me what we are: He, a master, and I, a slave.
Out of a deliberate design I killed him because I could no longer stand this life of constant fear and being a servant. I could no longer suffer the thought of being perpetually a slave.
I committed the murder as an abject lesson. I want to blow that spelled the death of my master to be a death blow to the institution of the economic slavery which shamelessly exists in the bright sunlight of freedom that is guaranteed by the constitution to every man. My dear friend: I do anguish from the weak and helpless and has laid upon the back of the ignorant labor burdens that are too heavy to be borne, I demand death!
To this callous system of exploitation that has tightened the fetters of perpetual bondage in the hands of thousands, and has killed the spirit of freedom in the hearts of men, I demand death.
To this oppression that has denied liberty to the free and unbounded children of God, I DEMAND DEATH!