The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"


НазваниеThe Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"
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bright buttons and yellow braid were gone from his jacket. The visor

of his cap was torn, and depended almost to his eyes. The admiral's

feet were bare.
"Dear Admiral," cried the large man, and his voice was like a blast

from a horn, "I kiss your hands. I knew we could build upon your

fidelity. You had our despatch--from General Martinez. A little

nearer with your boat, dear Admiral. Upon these devils of shifting

vines we stand with the smallest security."
Felipe regarded him with a stolid face.
"Provisions and beef for the barracks at Alforan," he quoted.
"No fault of the butchers, ~Almirante mio~, that the beef awaits you

not. But you are come in time to save the cattle. Get us aboard your

vessel, senor, at once. You first, ~caballeros--a priesa!~ Come back

for me. The boat is too small."
The dory conveyed the two officers to the sloop, and returned for

the large man.
"Have you so gross a thing as food, good Admiral?" he cried, when

aboard. "And, perhaps, coffee? Beef and provisions! ~Nombre de

Dios!~ a little longer and we could have eaten one of those mules that

you, Colonel Rafael, saluted so feelingly with your sword scabbard at

parting. Let us have food; and then we will sail--for the barracks

at Alforan--no?"
The Caribs prepared a meal, to which the three passengers of ~El

Nacional~ set themselves with famished delight. About sunset, as was

its custom, the breeze veered and swept back from the mountains, cool

and steady, bringing a taste of the stagnant lagoons and mangrove

swamps that guttered the lowlands. The mainsail of the sloop was

hoisted and swelled to it, and at that moment they heard shouts and

a waxing clamor from the bosky profundities of the shore.
"The butchers, my dear Admiral," said the large man, smiling, "too

late for the slaughter."
Further than his orders to his crew, the admiral was saying nothing.

The topsail and jib were spread, and the sloop elided out of the

estuary. The large man and his companions had bestowed themselves

with what comfort they could about the bare deck. Belike, the thing

big in their minds had been their departure from that critical shore;

and now that the hazard was so far reduced their thoughts were loosed

to the consideration of further deliverance. But when they saw the

sloop turn and fly up coast again they relaxed, satisfied with the

course the admiral had taken.
The large man sat at ease, his spirited blue eye engaged in

the contemplation of the navy's commander. He was trying to estimate

this sombre and fantastic lad, whose impenetrable stolidity puzzled

him. Himself a fugitive, his life sought, and chafing under the smart

of defeat and failure, it was characteristic of him to transfer

instantly his interest to the study of a thing new to him. It was

like him, too, to have conceived and risked all upon this last

desperate and madcap scheme--this message to a poor, crazed ~fanatico~

cruising about with his grotesque uniform and his farcical title.

But his companions had been at their wits' end; escape had seemed

incredible; and now he was pleased with the success of the plan they

had called crack-brained and precarious.
The brief, tropic twilight seemed to slide swiftly into the pearly

splendor of a moonlit night. And now the lights of Coralio appeared,

distributed against the darkening shore to their right. The admiral

stood, silent, at the tiller; the Caribs, like black panthers, held

the sheets, leaping noiselessly at his short commands. The three

passengers were watching intently the sea before them, and when at

length they came in sight of the bulk of a steamer lying a mile out

from the town, with her lights radiating deep into the water, they

held a sudden voluble and close-headed converse. The sloop was

speeding as if to strike midway between ship and shore.
The large man suddenly separated from his companions and approached

the scarecrow at the helm.
"My dear Admiral," he said, "the government has been exceedingly

remiss. I feel all the shame for it that only its ignorance of your

devoted service has prevented it from sustaining. An inexcusable

oversight has been made. A vessel, a uniform and a crew worthy

of your fidelity shall be furnished you. But just now, dear Admiral,

there is business of moment afoot. The steamer lying there is the

~Salvador~. I and my friends desire to be conveyed to her, where we

are sent on the government's business. Do us the favor to shape your

course accordingly."
Without replying, the admiral gave a sharp command, and put the tiller

hard to port. ~El Nacional~ swerved, and headed straight as an

arrow's course for the shore.
"Do me the favor," said the large man, a trifle restively,

"to acknowledge, at least, that you catch the sound of my words."

It was possible that the fellow might be lacking in senses as well

as intellect.
The admiral emitted a croaking, harsh laugh, and spake.
"They will stand you," he said, "with your face to a wall and shoot

you dead. That is the way they kill traitors. I knew you when you

stepped into my boat. I have seen your picture in a book. You are

Sabas Placido, traitor to your country. With your face to a wall.

So, you will die. I am the admiral, and I will take you to them.

With your face to a wall. Yes."
Don Sabas half turned and waved his hand, with a ringing laugh,

toward his fellow fugitives. "To you, ~caballeros~, I have related

the history of that session when we issued that 0! so ridiculous

commission. Of a truth our jest has been turned against us. Behold

the Frankenstein's monster we have created!"
Don Sabas glanced toward the shore. The lights of Coralio were

drawing near. He could see the beach, the warehouse of the ~Bodega

Nacional~, the long, low ~cuartel~ occupied by the soldiers, and

behind that, gleaming in the moonlight, a stretch of high adobe wall.

He had seen men stood with their faces to that wall and shot dead.
Again he addressed the extravagant figure at the helm.
"It is true," he said, "that I am fleeing the country. But, receive

the assurance that I care very little for that. Courts and camps

everywhere are open to Sabas Placido. ~Vaya!~ what is this molehill

of a republic--this pig's head of a country--to a man like me? I am

a ~paisano~ of everywhere. In Rome, in London, in Paris, in Vienna,

you will hear them say: 'Welcome back, Don Sabas.' Come!--~tonto~--

baboon of a boy--admiral, whatever you call yourself, turn your boat.

Put us on board the ~Salvador~, and here is your pay--five hundred

pesos in money of the ~Estados Unidos~--more than your lying

government will pay you in twenty years."
Don Sabas pressed a plump purse against the youth's hand. The admiral

gave no heed to the words or the movement. Braced against the helm,

he was holding the sloop dead on her shoreward course. His dull face

was lit almost to intelligence by some inward conceit that seemed to

afford him joy, and found utterance in another parrot-like cackle.
"That is why they do it," he said--"so that you will not see the guns.

They fire--boom!--and you fall dead. With your face to the wall.

Yes."
The admiral called a sudden order to his crew. The lithe, silent

Caribs made fast the sheets they held, and slipped down the hatchway

into the hold of the sloop. When the last one had disappeared, Don

Sabas, like a big, brown leopard, leaped forward, closed and fastened

the hatch and stood, smiling.
"No rifles, if you please, dear admiral," he said. "It was a whimsey

of mine once to compile a dictionary of the Carib ~lengua~. So,

I understood your order. Perhaps now you will--"
He cut short his words, for he heard the dull "swish" of iron scraping

along tin. The admiral had drawn the cutlass of Pedro Lafitte,

and was darting upon him. The blade descended, and it was only by

a display of surprising agility that the large man escaped, with only

a bruised shoulder, the glancing weapon. He was drawing his pistol

as he sprang, and the next instant he shot the admiral down.
Don Sabas stooped over him, and rose again.
"In the heart," he said briefly. "~Senores~, the navy is abolished."
Colonel Rafael sprang to the helm, and the other officer hastened to

loose the mainsail sheets. The boom swung round; ~El Nacional~ veered

and began to tack industriously for the ~Salvador~.
"Strike that flag, senor," called Colonel Rafael. "Our friends on

the steamer will wonder why we are sailing under it."
"Well said," cried Don Sabas. Advancing to the mast he lowered the

flag to the deck, where lay its too loyal supporter. Thus ended the

Minister of War's little piece of after-dinner drollery, and by the

same hand that began it.
Suddenly Don Sabas gave a great cry of joy, and ran down the slanting

deck to the side of Colonel Rafael. Across his arm he carried the

flag of the extinguished navy.
"~Mire! mire! senor. Ah, ~Dios!~ Already can I hear that great bear

of an Oestreicher~ shout, ~'Du hast mein herz gebrochen!' Mire!~

Of my friend, Herr Grunitz, of Vienna, you have heard me relate.

That man has travelled to Ceylon for an orchid--to Patagonia for

a headdress --to Benares for a slipper--to Mozambique for a spearhead

to add to his famous collections. Thou knowest, also, ~amigo~ Rafael,

that I have been a gatherer of curios. My collection of battle flags

of the world's navies was the most complete in existence until last

year. Then Herr Grunitz secured two, 0! such rare specimens. One

of a Barberry state, and one of the Makarooroos, a tribe on the west

coast of Africa. I have not those, but they can be procured. But

this flag, senor--do you know what it is? Name of God! do you know?

See that red cross upon the blue and white ground! You never saw

it before? ~Seguramente no~. It is the naval flag of your country.

~Mire!~ This rotten tub we stand upon is its navy--that dead cockatoo

lying there was its commander--that stroke of cutlass and single

pistol shot a sea battle. All a piece of absurd foolery, I grant you

--but authentic. There has never been another flag like this, and

there never will be another. No. It is unique in the whole world.

Yes. Think of what that means to a collector of flags! Do you know,

~Coronel mio~, how many golden crowns Herr Grunitz would give for this

flag? Ten thousand, likely. Well, a hundred thousand would not buy

it. Beautiful flag! Only flag! Little devil of a most heaven-born

flag! ~O'he!~ old grumbler beyond the ocean. Wait till Don Sabas

comes again to the Konigin Strasse. He will let you kneel and touch

the folds of it with one finger. ~O-he!~ old spectacled ransacker

of the world!"
Forgotten was the impotent revolution, the danger, the loss, the gall

of defeat. Possessed solely by the inordinate and unparalleled

passion of the collector, he strode up and down the little deck,

clasping to his breast with one hand the paragon of a flag. He

snapped his fingers triumphantly toward the east. He shouted the

paean to his prize in trumpet tones, as though he would make old

Grunitz hear in his musty den beyond the sea.
They were waiting, on the ~Salvador~, to welcome them. The sloop came

close alongside the steamer where her sides were sliced almost to the

lower deck for the loading of fruit. The sailors of the ~Salvador~

grappled and held her there.
Captain McLeod leaned over the side.
"Well, ~senor~, the jig is up, I'm told."
"The jig is up?" Don Sabas looked perplexed for a moment. "That

revolution--ah, yes!" With a shrug of his shoulders he dismissed

the matter.
The captain learned of the escape and the imprisoned crew.
"Caribs!" he said; "no harm in them." He slipped down into the sloop

and kicked loose the hasp of the hatch. The black fellows came

tumbling up, sweating but grinning.
"Hey! black boys!" said the captain, in a dialect of his own; "you

sabe, catchy boat and vamos back same place quick."
They saw him point to themselves, the sloop and Coralio. "Yas, yas!"

they cried, with broader grins and many nods.
The four--Don Sabas, the two officers and the captain--moved to quit

the sloop. Don Sabas lagged a little behind, looking at the still

form of the late admiral, sprawled in his paltry trappings.
"~Pobrecito loco~," he said softly.
He was a brilliant cosmopolite and a ~cognoscente~ of high rank;

but, after all, he was of the same race and blood and instinct as

this people. Even as the simple ~paisanos~ of Coralio had said it,

so said Don Sabas. Without a smile, he looked, and said, "The poor

little crazed one!"
Stooping he raised the limp shoulders, drew the priceless and

induplicable flag under them and over the breast, pinning it there

with the diamond star of the Order of San Carlos that he took from

the collar of his own coat.
He followed after the others, and stood with them upon the deck of

the ~Salvador~. The sailors that steadied ~El Nacional~ shoved her

off. The jabbering Caribs hauled away at the rigging; the sloop

headed for the shore.
And Herr Grunitz's collection of naval flags was still the finest

in the world.


X
The Shamrock and the Palm
One night when there was no breeze, and Coralio seemed closer than

ever to the gratings of Avernus, five men were grouped about the door

of the photograph establishment of Keogh and Clancy. Thus, in all

the scorched and exotic places of the earth, Caucasians meet when

the day's work is done to preserve the fulness of their heritage

by the aspersion of alien things.
Johnny Atwood lay stretched upon the grass in the undress uniform of

a Carib, and prated feebly of cool water to be had in the cucumber-

wood pumps of Dalesburg. Doctor Gregg, through the prestige of

his whiskers and as a bribe against the relation of his imminent

professional tales, was conceded the hammock that was swung between

the door jamb and a calabash-tree. Keogh had moved out upon the grass

a little table that held the instrument for burnishing completed

photographs. He was the only busy one of the group. Industriously

from between the cylinders of the burnisher rolled the finished

depictments of Coralio's citizens. Blanchard, the French mining

engineer, in his cool linen viewed the smoke of his cigarette through

his calm glasses, impervious to the heat. Clancy sat on the steps,

smoking his short pipe. His mood was the gossip's; the others were
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