The Pit of the Serpent (1929)

Robert E. Howard

The minute I stepped ashore from the Sea Girl, merchantman, I had a hunch that there would be trouble. This hunch was caused by seeing some of the crew of the Dauntless. The men on the Dauntless have disliked the Sea Girl’s crew ever since our skipper took their captain to a cleaning on the wharfs of Zanzibar–them being narrow-minded that way. They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.

Seeing these roughnecks in Manila, I had no illusions about them, but I was not looking for no trouble. I am heavyweight champion of the Sea Girl, and before you make any wisecracks about the non-importance of that title, I want you to come down to the forecastle and look over Mushy Hansen and One-Round Grannigan and Flat-Face O’Toole and Swede Hjonning and the rest of the man-killers that make up the Sea Girl’s crew. But for all that, no one can never accuse me of being quarrelsome, and so instead of following my natural instinct and knocking seven or eight of these bezarks for a row, just to be ornery, I avoided them and went to the nearest American bar.

After a while I found myself in a dance hall, and while it is kind of hazy just how I got there, I assure you I had not no great amount of liquor under my belt–some beer, a few whiskeys, a little brandy, and maybe a slug of wine for a chaser like. No, I was the perfect chevalier in all my actions, as was proven when I found myself dancing with the prettiest girl I have yet to see in Manila or elsewhere. She had red lips and black hair, and oh, what a face!

“Say, miss,” said I, the soul of politeness, “where have you been all my life?”

“Oooh, la!” said she, with a silvery ripple of laughter. “You Americans say such theengs. Oooh, so huge and strong you are, senyor!”

I let her feel of my biceps, and she give squeals of surprise and pleasure, clapping her little white hands just like a child what has found a new pretty.

“Oooh! You could just snatch little me oop and walk away weeth me, couldn’t you, senyor?”

“You needn’t not be afraid,” said I, kindly. “I am the soul of politeness around frails, and never pull no rough stuff. I have never soaked a woman in my life, not even that dame in Suez that throwed a knife at me. Baby, has anybody ever give you a hint about what knockouts your eyes is?”

“Ah, go ‘long,” said she, coyly–“Ouch!”

“Did somebody step on your foot?” I ask, looking about for somebody to crown.

“Yes–let’s sit theese one out, senyor. Where did you learn to dance?”

“It comes natural, I reckon,” I admitted modestly. “I never knew I could till now. This is the first time I ever tried.”

From the foregoing you will see that I am carrying on a quiet conversation, not starting nothing with nobody. It is not my fault, what happened.

Me and this girl, whose name is Raquel La Costa, her being Spanish that way… chevronRight icon