An Occasional Hero can be found in





Read a Random Story



AN OCCASIONAL HERO

by M. S. Wightman

IT MAY have been his unkempt appearance, or it may have been the slouch in his manner as he casually supervised the work of a gang of Filipino truckmen, perhaps it was a combination of the two which irritated White, the chief of the Lighthouse Service.

"Why do you hire such fellows?" he snapped, indicating with slight backward nod of his head the lanky American in dirty khaki.

Farley, the assistant purchasing agent, followed with his glance the direction of White's nod.

"Oh," he said, "partly because we need them and partly because this Bureau is a sort of charity organization. That particular one, Cropsey, was wished on us by the Governor-General's office. He's an ex-soldier, and not a bad sort. He's been here for a couple of months and hasn't gotten drunk yet."

White's blue eyes glinted.

"They don't wish any of them off on me," he said. "I'll have no beach-combers on my pay-roll, and I indicated as much to Calvin when he sent his first one down. He hasn't tried it since."

They were young men, as are most workers in those tropical islands where at forty a man usually begins to show unmistakable signs of wearing out; and they both gave an impression of self-reliance and absorbing interest in their work. But here the resemblance ended. Farley radiated a good nature which would make allowances; White demanded of others the machine-like efficiency which characterized his own work.

"And that's the reason you hold us up now and then in our supplies," he said. "You can't do good work with cheap tools."

Farley's reply was interrupted by the arrival of a motor-car, the panels of whose doors were emblazoned with the eagle-topped shield of the Government. The two men hurried toward it; and a certain deference in their manner told that the genial-faced man who descended was the Governor-General.

As White started to leave, the Governor detained him with a hand on his shoulder.

"I have just dropped in to pay a friendly morning call," he said. "Come up with us."

The three mounted the stairs to the offices, leaving Cropsey the only white man on the lower floor of the long concrete building in which the Government houses its supplies.

He watched them go, a faint flicker of resentment in his manner. They represented success, prosperity, an abundance of the good things of life; he failureā€”a man who was hanging to its outskirts, as it were, by the slender thread of a five-peso-a-day job. Take that from him today; tomorrow he would be a beach-comber. For while with five pesos a day a man can live in some comfort in Manila, eating the lukewarm chow served by Ah Sing in his dingy restaurant and sleeping in a cane-bottomed bed in a musty room of one of the walled city's rambling stone houses, he can hardly lay by enough for his hospital bills when the inevitable sickness strikes him.

But if Cropsey's wage had been multiplied tenfold he would at the end of the month have had little more to show for it. He was one of those men born never to possess anything more substantial than a roving spirit. Putting money into his pockets was like pouring water into a barrel with a hole in its bottom.

But there was something more than resentment in his manner this morning. There was a vague uneasiness, brought about by his consciousness of having violated the rule of his Bureau which admitted of no exceptions; and his sin was returning to plague him. With the purpose of saving an extra trip to the powder magazine at San Juan, he had hidden in the building a small box of dynamite to be shipped that afternoon, together with some steel rods, to the engineers at work on the Calao bridge. The box lay in an out-of-the-way corner, behind some bales of Manila hemp and straw-filled packing-cases.

While White and Farley had been nosing about the building, he had been in terror lest they should discover his infraction, which he knew would mean his summary dismissal. With a sigh of relief he had watched them mount the stairs.

Now he started for the box, intending to get rid of it at once; but suddenly he checked himself. The Governor-General had gone up with them; he would be coming down at any moment, for the Governor did not pay protracted calls.

Cropsey scowled as he moved over to the part of the building furthest away from the hidden box. A dull rage burned in his heart. He had the inefficient man's contempt of rules. He felt that he had been trying to save the Government time and money, and instead of receiving thanks for his zeal, he was in danger of losing his place. A man who is used to getting only rebuffs from fortune, becomes quick to see his grievances. He told himself that hereafter ...

This is only a preview of this story.
If you are interested in unlocking this story, please visit our GoFundMe campaign page and considering helping.