But there was no convincing him that I had in truth brought this game back to San Quentin across the centuries. He insisted that I had read about it somewhere, and, though I had forgotten the reading, the stuff of the reading was nevertheless in the content of my mind, ripe to be brought out in any pipe-dream. Thus he turned the tenets and jargon of psychology back on me.
“What’s to prevent your inventing it right here in solitary?” was his next hypothesis. “Didn’t Ed invent the knuckle-talk? And ain’t you and me improving on it right along? I got you, bo. You invented it. Say, get it patented. I remember when I was night-messenger some guy invented a fool thing called Pigs in Clover and made millions out of it.”
“There’s no patenting this,” I replied. “Doubtlessly the Asiatics have been playing it for thousands of years. Won’t you believe me when I tell you I didn’t invent it?”
“Then you must have read about it, or seen the Chinks playing it in some of those hop-joints you was always hanging around,” was his last word.
But I have a last word. There is a Japanese murderer here in Folsom—or was, for he was executed last week. I talked the matter over with him; and the game Adam Strang played, and which I taught Oppenheimer, proved quite similar to the Japanese game. They are far more alike than is either of them like the Western game.
You, my reader, will remember, far back at the beginning of this narrative, how, when a little lad on the Minnesota farm, I looked at the photographs of the Holy Land and recognized places and pointed out changes in places. Also you will remember, as I described the scene I had witnessed of the healing of the lepers, I told the missionary that I was a big man with a big sword, astride a horse and looking on.
That childhood incident was merely a trailing cloud of glory, as Wordsworth puts it. Not in entire forgetfulness had I, little Darrell Standing, come into the world. But those memories of other times and places that glimmered up to the surface of my child consciousness soon failed and faded. In truth, as is the way with all children, the shades of the prison-house closed about me, and I remembered my mighty past no more. Every man born of woman has a past mighty as mine. Very few men born of women have been fortunate enough to suffer years of solitary and strait-jacketing. That was my good fortune. I was enabled to remember once again, and to remember, among other things, the time when I sat astride a horse and beheld the lepers healed.
My name was Ragnar Lodbrog. I was in truth a large man. I stood half a head above the Romans of my legion. But that was later, after the time of my journey from Alexandria to Jerusalem, that I came to command a legion. It was a crowded life, that. Books and books, and years of writing could not record it all. So I shall briefen and no more than hint at the beginnings of it.