The DANCING MONUMENT
JAMES FRANCIS DWYER
FATE HAS acted unkindly to Peter Mullins, one time truck driver, now private in the “Canadian Cracks” cavalry regiment. Fate made Peter the hero in an unbelievable adventure which he will persist in relating whenever he can find an audience. Peter has told the story on one hundred and thirty - three different occasions, and the recounting has drawn him into one hundred and twentyseven fights with unimaginative scoffers who were rude enough to scoff openly at the tale.
Peter Mullins was employed by T. Sampson and Co., at the outbreàk of the South African War, and as soon as the Canadian offer of a contingent was accepted, he resigned his position and raced to the nearest recruiting station. He was placed in a cavalry squadron and left for South Africa on a transport which went
via the Suez Canal. In due coursethe transport arrived at Malta,
Port Said, and Aden, and at the latter place Peter took part in the Big Adventure, the recounting of which has given him much training for the welterweight championship of the Canadian Army.
Peter, with four companions, went ashore at Aden on the evening the transport reached that sun-scorched jmrt. They landed at Steamer Point and walked along the Crescent to the Grand Hotel de l’Europe, a hostelry whose claim to the first and last words in its title is a matter of wonder to all visitors. Here Mullins became separated from his companions and Dame Adventure, taking his calloused hand, led him up the little side streets whose dilapidated hovels were made beautiful by a big moon which rose out of the desert behind the town.
It was a night of magic. Little winds came in from the sand wastes, little scented winds that touched the hot forehead of the erstwhile truck driver as lightly as the moist lips of Zeba touched the cheek of the gallant Feerish. The throb of a dharabooka came from the native quarter, insistent, nerve-tingling. From behind latticed windows came laughter and soft cries that had an intoxicating effect upon Peter Mullins.
Peter drifted into a quiet street, one end of which was walled up. In a half trance he walked along, and he had nearly reached the stone wall at the end when he halted. There came within hearing the sweetest voice that he had ever heard. At the instant he compared it with the voice of Lizzie Doherty, back home in Bleecker Street, and Lizzie lost without a murmur. It was a voice that came out like a soft lariat of purple silk and wound itself around the soul of Peter Mullins so that he rocked backward and forward in a state of emotional drunkenness.
■T'HE UNSEEN songster was singing the Song of Longing which Leela the Beautiful sang to the dead body of her lover. Peter did not know it was Leela’s song but people familiar with the verses and who have heard the strange story of Mr. Mullins’
have identified them. The words to Peter’s ears were like the wine of Galsha to the thirsty soldiers of Saigon and he listened with mouth open and eyes
The song ran:
“Beloved, it is night. The moon so pale Swings low above the sands. The nightingale Sings sweetly. Soft desert winds, the breath of Allah, sigh
About my casement as they hurry by To kiss the severed dunes. Beloved, hear My voice and come to whisper sweet things in my ear.”
It is a remarkable fact that Peter Mullins, who never committed three lines of verse to memory in his quarter century of life, is able to repeat the song without making the slightest blunder. His ability to do so has impressed many who consider the story the most impossible narrative that was ever told. Peter repeated the verses when requested by the captain of. the transport on the morning after that memorable
To use his own words, he couldn’t forget them “if his brain garage was run over by a C.P.R. flyer.”
Peter Mullins walked to the brick wall that fenced off the grounds in which was the singer. The song dragged him to the wall. It made him climb it hurriedly. He dropped down behind a stone pillar and peered out at a little lawn whitened by the moonlight, in the centre of which was a weather-worn statue of a youth around which a girl dressed in white garments was dancing, singing as she danced.
Peter, crouched behind the pillar, watched the unusual performance. He could not tear his eyes from the girl. She was the loveliest thing that he had ever seen, and the face of Lizzie Doherty was blotted out by the beauty and grace of the dancer. She was fairer than the seven maids who meet the faithful at
the gates of ivory and her movements were the poetry of motion.
Peter’s ears drank up the song. He listened as the beautiful words of the “Song of Longing” were poured out into the silence of the
“Beloved, little sands from Tarma down to
Whisper thy name when touched so lightly by my slipper heel. And in the night I hear them tell
My story to the stars theylove so well,
They tell .of death, by Love of Mine, I see Your shining eyes and know that y o u’l 1 come back to me.”.
Of the one hundred and twentyseven f i |g h t s which the telling of the story has brought upon him, ninety-eight have been caused by Peter’s description of the happenings which took place immediately after the girl sang the second verse of “The Song of Longing.” It is at this part of the narrative that the scoffer always makes his presence known, and to show that the doubter has cause to express his disbelief, we might use the very words which Peter uses in telling the amazing story. He tells it slowly, alert to note the presence of the unbeliever and quick to challenge the laugh which invariably greets this section of the yarn.
“She was hoppin’ and singin’,” related Peter, “her white dress swishin’ round her legs as she bowed to the statoo. Suddenly she stopped an’ held out her hands to the thing, held ’em out as if she was going to grab hold of it and then—may I never see Hanlan’s Point again, if I ain’t tellin’ yeh the gospel truth—the statoo moved! It moved, I tell yeh! It moved its stone legs! It moved towards her an’ she sprang away from it, dodgin’ across the grass an’ it after her. It’s gospel, an’ if there’s anyone who says I’m tellin’ a lie he can come outside an’ we’ll see who's the best man.”
UpHE NUMBER of acceptances which Peter Mullins I has had to this challenge speaks well for the courage of the Canadian Army, the rank and file of which have constituted his audience on nearly every occasion. Ninety-eight soldiers, at various times, having laughed, were willing to support their right to laugh by their fistic ability although Peter Mullins is a person that the peace lover would not care to jostle on the sidewalk.
“I saw him hoppin’ after her,” continues Peter, if no scoffer shows an inclination to do battle, “an’ I got on me feet an’ watched. She didn’t seem afraid of him, the statoo, I mean. She just wanted to keep out of his way. She danced' an’ skipped an’ dodged, an’ he clumped after her like Paddy the Cop chasin’ a kid who’s quicker’n a jackrabbit.
“‘He’ll get her,’ I-, says to meself. ‘He’ll get her in a corner.’
“But he couldn’t. Every time he would, round her up in a corner she would dodge away from him. - Gee,
it made me blood run cold to watch it! A statoo, mind you, a carved statoo, skippin’ after a girl an’ shakin’ the ground every time he made a sudden hop
“ ‘Look out!’ I yelled. ‘Look out or he’ll jump on yer toes!!
“That’s what I yelled out to her but she was that busy dodgin’ an’ duckin’ that she didn’t hear me. Jumpin’ catamounts, wasn’t I the excited kid! I was runnin’ thrills up and down me spine at the rate of sixty-three to the second as I watched.
“Stonelegs ran her up the grass patch to where I was hidin’ like a second-story man, an’ just as she got near me she trips on her muslin draperies an’ goes flop on her face. I thought the stone man would be on top of her but he stopped for a minute as if surprised, an’ that gave me time to act. I jumped into the open an’ swung at his jaw with me right, unhitchin’ a left jab for the heart so that both would sort of connect at the same moment.
“Say, did any of yeh hit a stone wall in the face when yeh was real mad ? Did yeh ? I unloosed a yell that could be heard over in Bombay, an’ I cuddled me broken knuckles like a monkey huggin’ a burnt finger.
“Sufferin’ snakes, didn’t I yell ? I forgot, mind yeh, forgot that he was stone! Slammed him like as if he was flesh an’ blood an’ smashed every bone in both my hands.
“The girl gave a scream at the moment I yelled. She screamed at me an’ just for a moment I turned me head an’ looked at her as she lay on the grass.
“ ‘Don’t hurt him!’ she shrieked. ‘Don’t hurt him!’
“‘Hurt him?’ I roared, swallowin’ an oath because she was so pretty. ‘Why, you couldn’t hurt him with a sledge hammer! '
“I jerked me head around to the spot where Stonelegs was standin’ when I swatted him an’ then I gave a yelp like a frightened coyote. Do you know why? Yeh don’t? I’ll tell yeh an’ if anyone laughs he can be ready to pull off his tunic. Why, Stonelegs was back in the spot where he was when I first saw him an’ he was standin’ there as erect as as a brigadier, an’ looking as if he never galloped up and down that grass patch after the girl!
“ ‘Shades of the Dook of Wellington!’ I said, an’ then cautiously, very cautiously I walked over an’ examined him. He was as dead as Pharaoh’s chariot mules. Yes, sir!
He was stone, plain stone, an’ he looked as if he had not moved since they put him there.
“‘Yeh swine!’ I says to him, kickin’ him in the shins. ‘Yeh swine, I’ve busted me two hands on yeh!’
“I handed him another kick an’ I was that mad that I nearly broke me big toe. I was just goin’ to look around for an axe or a hammer to crack Stonelegs into little pieces when the girl caught hold of me by the arm.
“ ‘How did yeh get in here?’ she says.
“ ‘Over the wall,’ I snapped back at her.
“ ‘But what brought yeh?’ she questions.
“ ‘I heard yeh singin’ ’
I says, ‘an I climbed over the wall an’ watched yeh.
When I saw old Mr. Monument here playin’ tag with yeh I came into the open an’ played the giddy fool by slammin’ him one
or two on his prehistoricat dial, that’s what I did.’
“She looked at me Rands an’ she looked at me face, then she came closer.
“‘You saw that?’ she said, kind of surprised like.
“ ‘Saw it an’ felt it,’ I said. ‘I’ve broken five fingers an’ a thumb.’
“‘Where are yeh from?’ she asked.
“ ‘T’ronto,’ I growled, because I was a bit mad at her questionin’ me after I saved her from that animated quarry. ‘An it’s lucky I’m not in Canada now or he would have mashed you up with his bluemetal shoes.’
“She stood lookin’ at me for a few moments as if she was puzzled, then she caught hold of me arm and started to lead me up the lawn.
“ ‘I must dress yer poor hands,’ she said. ‘Come into the house an’ I’ll bandage ’em up.’
“ ‘Thanks,’ said I, ‘an’ when yeh’ve fixed ’em up I’ll get a sledge hammer an’ come back to Mr. Monument.’
“‘No, no!’ she said. ‘Yeh musn’t touch him! Promise me yeh'Svon’t hurt him!’
“When she said that she caught hold of me jacket an’ looked up at me. Say, she was the goods! She was little Miss Beautiful with all her headlights burnin’. I forgot old Stoneface an’ just grinned at her like a blue-nosed baboob smilin’ at a peanut
“ ‘If yeh don’t want him hurt,’ I said, ‘I’ll forget him although I’d like to smash him into little bits that they could use in makin’ concrete.’ Me hands were hurtin’ me and then I was mighty mad with old Red Sandstone.
“ ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘you mustn’t touch him with a hammer.’
“ ‘Very well, kiddo,’ I said, ‘But I hope that a bull or an elephant or somethin’ with a hard head, with a very hard head, will climb into this garden an’ hurt him.’ That’s what I said to her.
“She laughed when I said that. Say, did yeh ever hear anyone laugh like as if they was makin’ music ? She did! When she laughed I got the little thrills like yeh get when the orchestry is playing the creepy stuff on the gentle pedal.
“‘Yeh’ll feel better when I bathe yeh hands,’ she said, an’ with that she pulls me through the door of the house.
“Say, that was some camp she lugged me into. It was a palace. When I was truckin’ in T’ronto I carried stuff into all the best dumps on St. George St. but that house in Aden was way up over the best of ’em. It was a gorgeous place. Gee, there was things there that was worth their weight in gold. There was gold statoos an’ carpets that yeh sunk in like as if they was quicksand. An’ there was carpets hangin’ on the wall that glittered with gold an’ silver threads, an’ there was gold swords an’ spears an’ big cups with'sparklers stuck all over ’em, cups that could hold a bucket of wine without bein’ full.
“ ‘Holy Moses!’ I said, ‘why yer dad must be richer than T. Sampson an’ Andy Carnegie rolled into one.’
“ T don’t know who T. Sampson and Andy Carnegie are,’ she says, ‘but my father is very wealthy. He’s called the Midas of the East.’ ‘Midas of the East’ is the \lery words she said, an’ a lieutenant in the ‘Strathcona Horse’ told me that she meant her father was as rich as a guy who lived hundre'ds of years ¡ago an’ who could turn a brass door knob into a gold nugget by touchin* it with his mi^t.
“ ‘He’s either a steel king, or a baseball magnet,’ I said, ‘ an’ I take off me hat to him as a simoleon gatherer.
“She laughed again an’ then she clapped her hands an’ a girl brought her warm water so that she could wash me knuckles that had come up against that bunch of rocks.
“She was scrubbin’ away at me knuckles when I heard someone cornin’ along the passage, someone that was swearin’ worse than the skipper of a cattle ship. She stopped like as if she was frightened an’ I popped a question at her.
“ ‘Who’s the little percussion cap?’ I said, noddin’ me head towards the passage.
“ ‘It’s father,’ she whispered.
“ ‘An won’t he be pleased to see me here?’ I asked.
“ ‘Yes, yes, but yeh mustn’t tell how yer got hurt,’ she said. ‘Yeh mustn’t! Dont tell him that yeh hit the statoo. Tell him that yeh saved me from robbers who climbed into the garden.’ “ ‘Don’t worry, Brighteyes’, I said, ‘if yeh wants me to I’ll tell him that I got hurt in a fight with a yellow wasp or in a wrestlin’ match with a cockchafer.’
“Just as I said that the little bit of verbal dynamite ambled into the room an’ the girl starts out to make us acquainted. Say she told him a story that beats anythin’ I ever Continued on page 44
The Dancing Monument
Continued from page 19
heard. She said I saved her from six robbers an’ she garnished up that tale so that I thought old Snowy Whiskers’ eyes would pop out of his head. It was i a peach of a story, an’ when she finish! ed it the old Feather Duster fell on me Í shoulder an’ wept seven quarts of liquid all over me jacket.
“ ‘I’ll reward yeh,’ he sobbed.
“ ‘Don’t mention it,’ I said.
“ ‘Yeh’re a brave man,’ he said. ‘There is no one in the world like yeh.’
“ T got a twin brother an’ yeh could not tell us apart,’ I said.
“Well, old whiskers wouldn’t leave me go. He kept clutchin’ at me arms an’ me neck an* presently he made up his mind what he intended to do.
“ ‘I’ll reward yeh,’ he repeated, an’ with that he gallops out of the room an’ returns in a few minutes with somethin’ in his paw.
“ ‘Hold out yer hand,’ he said, ‘the hand that yeh hurt in protectin’ me daughter.’ •
I “I felt like a big boob, but I put out me mitt an’ old Methusaley drops on ' me palm seven of the biggest pearls that was ever seen. Seven of ’em!
I Seven pearls that was bigger than the first joint of me thumb an’ if anyone ; says they wasn’t I’m ready to break I off this little narrative to prove me I words.
“CEVEN of the biggest pearls that ^ was ever dug out of the insides of a oyster. He gave ’em to me! Shoved ’em into me flips an’ when I kicked about takin’ ’em he toddled off an’ left ; Brighteyes an’ me alone.
“ ‘Take ’em,’ she said, smilin’ at me so that I felt wrigglv all over. ‘Take I ’em. be has thousands as big as ’em.’ 1 “We was sittin’ side by side on a
couch that was softer than anythin’ I ever sat on. There was little green and red lamps all over the place, an’ a smell of incense an’ stuff that made yeh feel all nice an’ comfortable. I wanted to stay there forever, stay there with her an’ the Midas of the East who could chuck away pearls that was as big as pigeon’s eggs.
.“After a while I slipped me arm around her waist an’ drew her close to me. She didn’t mind. Not she. ~ She just took it quietly, an’ I started in to tell her about T’ronto an’ the electric cars an’ Niagara Falls an’ Hanlan’s Point.
“ ‘But it is better here,’ she said. ‘Stay here with me.’
“ ‘I’d be tickled to death,’ I said, ‘But they’d court-martial me an’ shoot me as a deserter.’
“Can’t yeh bribe yer captain?’ she said, snuggling up close to me. ‘If yeh gave him one of the pearls, the biggest one, he might let yeh stay here with me an’ me father.’
“Well, I looked at the biggest of the seven pearls, an’ I thought how old Captain Lanigan’s eyes would bulge if he saw it. An’ the girl kept on speakin’ to me as I stared at the
“ ‘Give it to him,’ she said. ‘Give him two of ’em an’ then he will let yeh come hack an’ live here with father an’
“Well, she kept on tellin’ me what to say an’ what to do till I got to me feet. ‘Kiddo,’ says I, holdin’ her chin up so that I looked down into her big eyes, ‘I’ll go an’ bribe old Lanigan to let me go. I’m for you, Brighteyes, an’ the minute I bribe him I’m going to gallop back here an’ sit ’longside yeh for the rest of me life.’
“ ‘Go,’ she said, ‘an’ hurry back.’
“ ‘Kiss me,’ I said, an’ she put up her little lips and kissed me on the cheek, then she took me to the door an’ whispered that she’d IKwaitin’ till I came back.
“I started to run down the path to the grass where old Stoneface was standing. I had the seven pearls in me right hand because I had a hole in the pocket of me khaki jacket an’ 1 was takin’ no chances with them pearls. They was seven of the biggest pearls that was ever growed, you bet they
"1 came to the grass patch an’ 1 looked at the spot where Mr. Monument was when I went up to the house with the girl. He wasn’t there! Not a sign ef him! The grass patch was as baie as a billiard table.
“ ‘Wow,’ I says to meself, ‘the old lump of a stone wall has broken loose again. Peter,’ says I, ‘keep yer peepers open an’ prepare to receive a chargin’ tombstone on yer flank.’
“I had no sooner said that to meself than I heard the bushes behind me cracklin’ an’ next minute the stone man came lumberin’ down on me at a gallop.
“ ‘Steady, Peter,’ I says, ‘keep yer hands down, an’ use yer legs a little.'
“nPHAT amberlatin’ monument came -•■at me on the run; I sidestepped like Kid McKoy. It went by me like a steam roller, then it turned an’ charged again. I pulled the same tactics on it the second time an’ it got mad. It wheeled an’ came at me under forced draught an’ I couldn’t move quick enough to dodge it. Its shoulder hit me right hand thát I was carryin’ the pearls in, those seven beauties was spilled on the grass!
“‘Yeh, swine!’ I says, ‘Yeh bloomin’ prehistorical swine,’ an’ with that I forgot all about the hardness of his dial an’ smashed him one on the nose.
“Shades of Night, that punch jarred me right back to me spinal column! It made the back of me brain-box open an’ shut an’ I yelled with the pain of it. I funked right there an’ then. That gallopin’ chunk of sandstone had me nerve and I wanted to get away front it as quick as possible.
“ ‘Peter,’ says I, speakin’ to meself, ‘grab the pearls an’ beat it. This is no place for a man unless he got’s a crowbar an’ a steam drill.’
“The moment I said that to meself the Stone-age guy seemed to understand what I was thinkin’ about. He gave a hop an’ brought his two feet down on the pearl that I was thinkin’ of givin’ to old Lanigan an’ that pearl just become dust! He made a hop at another an’ then at another an’ those pearls after he landed on ’em became stuff that dreams is made of.
“I got mad then. i got fightin’ learin’ mad. 1 didn't care what happened. 1 just wanted to finish that cavorting chunk of cussedness, an’ 1 looked around for somethin’ harder than me fists to do it with.
“He was heatin’ the seventh pearl into dust when I got what I wanted. I found a pole, a pole that was thicker than me leg an’ 1 gave a whoop an’ rushed at the geological specimen that had got off the chain.
“‘Now,’ says 1, 'come on, yer chunk of granite, an’ I’ll knock pieces off yeh.’
“Did he come on '! Yeh bet he did. He came at the charge an’ 1 swatted him over the head as I dodged. Wow! what a terror he was! He was out to tramp me as flat as the pearls an’ kept me movin’ to keep out of the way of his feet.
“I was playin’ on his head an’ his body with the pole an’ I was scared stiff because I couldn’t dent him. Seared? Yer can bet yer last nickel that 1 was scared. 1 couldn’t knock a chip off him an’ me arms was achin’ from swingin' the little tree that onlyseemed to tickle him every tin^e I brought it down on his shoulders.
“1 was just wonderin’ if I could get to the fence before he could catch me when I got an idea. It came up out of the back of me head an’ I laughed with joy. Yeh bet I did. I laughed outright an’ then—well, what do yeh think I did? Yeh don’t know, do yeh? Why I lowered that pole an’ walloped him as hard as I could on his legs. On his legs! Swatted him on his stone ankles an’ I howled as I did it.
“rvID THEY crack? Yeh bet they
•-'did! One of ’em smashed clean off with the first smash an’ before he could steady himself I brought him another on the offside leg an’ down he went on the grass.
“I stood an’ looked at him for a minute while I was gettin’ me breath, then I got afraid. I dropped the pole an’ ran for the wall, hopped over it like a madman.
“At the first corner I ran into Corporal Hogan an’ a guard from the transport who was roundin’ up stragglers, an’ Hogan grabbed me.
“‘Here, what’s this?’ he said. ‘What are yeh wakin’ the town for? Are yeh mad?’
“ ‘I ought to be,’ I screamed, then I started in to tell him the story of the perambulatin’ piece of the pyramids. I told him of the girl dancin’ an’ how old Mr. Monument woke up an’ chased her. I showed him me knuckles that had come up against the statoo’s jaw, then I told of Mr. Midas an’ the seven pearls. Then I told of the second fight an’ how I beat the stone man by breakin’ his legs with the pole.
“Hogan had his mouth open
like a dx-ownin’ porgie when I finished.
“‘Holy St. Patrick!’ he said. ‘We’ll go back an’ see the place.’
“ ‘Of course we will,’ I said. ‘She, the girl, she told me that her father had thousands of pearls as big as the ones he gave me.’
“Well, Hogan an’ me an’ the four other soldiers went back an’ climbed over the wall. Right in the middle of the grass patch was Stoneface with his broken legs, an’ Hogan an’ those four fatheads with him walked around him like as if they thought he might get up an’ charge after them.
“ ‘Show us the house,’ says Hogan, ‘I’m dyin’ to have a look at the pearls.’
“Well, I took ’em up the path to the house, the house I had left fifteen minutes before. It was dark, dark as midnight, an’ th|3 doors was closed tight.
“ ‘It’s empty,’ says Hogan. ‘Sure no one is livin’ here at all.’
“ ‘You’re mad,’ I said, ‘She is livin’ here, the girl with eyes as deep as the Pool of Treen an’ the laugh that is like the sweetest music that ever was play-
“ ‘Get in through one of the windows, Lawrence,’ says Hogan, turnin’ to one of the four. ‘Get in an’ see what’s there.’
“Lawrence got in the window an’ struck a match. An’ would yeh believe it? Yeh wouldn’t, would yeh? What do yeh think ? Why, the place was empty! Yes, empty! Empty as Exhibition Park in a snow storm! Not a soul there! Not a scrap! Not one o’ those big cups or the carpets or the gold swords or anythin’! There was only dust, dust an inch thick an’ cobwebs, that’s all.
“Hogan got mad then. ‘Come on,’ he says, grabbin’ me by the shouldsit, ‘yeh can tell yer pearl story to old Lanigan in the mornin’!’
“Did I tell it to him ? To Lanigan ? Of course I did! What did he say? He laughed at me, although I sang him the song that she was singin’ an’ told him everythin’.
“When they was leadin’ me to the caboose to do seven days for assaultin’ Hogan, I heard the lieutenant ask Lanigan how was it possible for me to make up the story if it didn’t happen.
“‘How?’ says Lanigan. ‘Why he’s got Irish blood in his veins an’ they give yeh some vile stuff to drink at
“The old stiff! I only drank three little drinks, an’ I had me broken knuckles to show, an’ I could sing the song she sang, an’ Hogan had to admit that old Stonelegs was lying where I knocked him down. Some guys would not believe their own mother, an’ Lanigan an’ a few others I know belongs to that breed; that’s all I got to say.”