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Title: Captain Macklin: His Memoirs
Author: Davis, Richard Harding
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Captain Macklin: His Memoirs" ***

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CAPTAIN MACKLIN

HIS MEMOIRS

By Richard Harding Davis

Illustrated By Walter Appleton Clark


{Illustration: “Go, Royal!” he cried, “and--God bless you!”}


To MY MOTHER



ILLUSTRATIONS (not available in this file)

“Go, Royal!” he cried, “and--God bless you!” FRONTISPIECE

He made our meeting something of a ceremony

We walked out to the woods

I was sure life in Sagua la Grande would always suit me

The moon rose over the camp ... but still we sat

And the next instant I fell sprawling inside the barrack yard

I sprang back against the cabin



I


UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT

It may seem presumptuous that so young a man as myself should propose
to write his life and memoirs, for, as a rule, one waits until he has
accomplished something in the world, or until he has reached old age,
before he ventures to tell of the times in which he has lived, and of
his part in them. But the profession to which I belong, which is that
of a soldier, and which is the noblest profession a man can follow, is a
hazardous one, and were I to delay until to-morrow to write down what
I have seen and done, these memoirs might never be written, for, such
being the fortune of war, to-morrow might not come.

So I propose to tell now of the little I have accomplished in the first
twenty-three years of my life, and, from month to month, to add to these
memoirs in order that, should I be suddenly taken off, my debit and
credit pages may be found carefully written up to date and carried
forward. On the other hand, should I live to be an old man, this
record of my career will furnish me with material for a more complete
autobiography, and will serve as a safeguard against a failing memory.

In writing a personal narrative I take it that the most important events
to be chronicled in the life of a man are his choice of a wife and his
choice of a profession. As I am unmarried, the chief event in my life
is my choice of a profession, and as to that, as a matter of fact, I
was given no choice, but from my earliest childhood was destined to be
a soldier. My education and my daily environment each pointed to that
career, and even if I had shown a remarkable aptitude for any other
calling, which I did not, I doubt if I would have pursued it. I am
confident that had my education been directed in an entirely different
channel, I should have followed my destiny, and come out a soldier in
the end. For by inheritance as well as by instinct I was foreordained
to follow the fortunes of war, to delight in the clash of arms and the
smoke of battle; and I expect that when I do hear the clash of arms and
smell the smoke of battle, the last of the Macklins will prove himself
worthy of his ancestors.

I call myself the last of the Macklins for the reason that last year,
on my twenty-second birthday, I determined I should never marry. Women I
respect and admire, several of them, especially two of the young ladies
at Miss Butler’s Academy I have deeply loved, but a soldier cannot
devote himself both to a woman and to his country. As one of our young
professors said, “The flag is a jealous mistress.”

The one who, in my earliest childhood, arranged that I should follow
the profession of arms, was my mother’s father, and my only surviving
grandparent. He was no less a personage than Major-General John M.
Hamilton. I am not a writer; my sword, I fear and hope, will always be
easier in my hand than my pen, but I wish for a brief moment I could
hold it with such skill, that I might tell of my grandfather properly
and gratefully, and describe him as the gentle and brave man he was. I
know he was gentle, for though I never had a woman to care for me as a
mother cares for a son, I never missed that care; and I know how brave
he was, for that is part of the history of my country. During many years
he was my only parent or friend or companion; he taught me my lessons by
day and my prayers by night, and, when I passed through all the absurd
ailments to which a child is heir, he sat beside my cot and lulled me to
sleep, or told me stories of the war. There was a childlike and simple
quality in his own nature, which made me reach out to him and confide in
him as I would have done to one of my own age. Later, I scoffed at this
virtue in him as something old-fashioned and credulous. That was when
I had reached the age when I was older, I hope, than I shall ever be
again. There is no such certainty of knowledge on all subjects as one
holds at eighteen and at eighty, and at eighteen I found his care and
solicitude irritating and irksome. With the intolerance of youth, I
could not see the love that was back of his anxiety, and which should
have softened it for me with a halo and made me considerate and
grateful. Now I see it--I see it now that it is too late. But surely he
understood, he knew how I looked up to him, how I loved him, and how I
tried to copy him, and, because I could not, consoled myself inwardly by
thinking that the reason I had failed was because his way was the wrong
one, and that my way was the better. If he did not understand then,
he understands now; I cannot bear to think he does not understand and
forgive me.

Those were the best days of my life, the days I spent with him as a
child in his own home on the Hudson. It stands at Dobbs Ferry, set in
a grove of pines, with a garden about it, and a box hedge that shuts it
from the road. The room I best remember is the one that overlooks the
Hudson and the Palisades. From its windows you can watch the great
vessels passing up and down the river, and the excursion steamers flying
many flags, and tiny pleasure-boats and great barges. There is an open
fireplace in this room, and in a corner formed by the book-case, and
next to the wood-box, was my favorite seat. My grandfather’s place was
in a great leather chair beside the centre-table, and I used to sit
cross-legged on a cushion at his feet, with my back against his knees
and my face to the open hearth. I can still see the pages of “Charles
O’Malley” and “Midshipman Easy,” as I read them by the lifting light
of that wood fire, and I can hear the wind roaring down the chimney and
among the trees outside, and the steamers signalling to each other as
they pushed through the ice and fog to the great city that lay below us.
I can feel the fire burning my face, and the cold shivers that ran down
my back, as my grandfather told me of the Indians who had once hunted in
the very woods back of our house, and of those he had fought with on the
plains. With the imagination of a child, I could hear, mingled with the
shrieks of the wind as it dashed the branches against the roof, their
hideous war-cries as they rushed to some night attack, or the howling of
the wolves in the snow. When I think of myself as I was then I am very
fond of that little boy who sat shivering with excitement, and staring
with open eyes at the pictures he saw in the firelight, a little boy who
had made no enemies, no failures, who had harmed no one, and who knew
nothing of the world outside the walls that sheltered him, save the
brave old soldier who was his law and his example, his friend in
trouble, and his playmate.

I knew nothing then, and I know very little now, either of my father
or my mother. Whenever I asked my grandfather concerning them he always
answered vaguely that he would tell me some day, “when you are of age,”
 but whether he meant when I was twenty-one or of an age when I was best
fitted to hear the truth, I shall never know. But I guessed the truth
from what he let fall, and from what I have since heard from others,
although that is but little, for I could not ask strangers to tell me of
my own people. For some reason, soon after they were married my mother
and father separated and she brought me to live with her father, and he
entered the Southern army.

I like to think that I can remember my mother, and it seems I must,
for very dimly I recollect a young girl who used to sit by the window
looking out at the passing vessels. There is a daguerreotype of my
mother, and it may be that my recollection of her is builded upon that
portrait. She died soon after we came to live with my grandfather, when
I was only three years old, but I am sure I remember her, for no other
woman was ever in the house, and the figure of the young girl looking
out across at the Palisades is very clear to me.

My father was an Irish officer and gentleman, who came to the States
to better his fortunes. This was just before the war; and as soon as it
began, although he lived in the North, in New York City, he joined the
Southern army and was killed. I believe, from what little I have learned
of him, that he was both wild and reckless, but the few who remember
him all say that he had many noble qualities, and was much loved by men,
and, I am afraid, by women. I do not know more than that, except the one
story of him, which my grandfather often told me.

“Whatever a man may say of your father,” he would tell me, “you need not
believe; for they may not have understood him, and all that you need to
remember, until when you are of age I shall tell you the whole truth,
is how he died.” It is a brief story. My father was occupying a trench
which for some hours his company had held under a heavy fire. When the
Yankees charged with the bayonet he rose to meet them, but at the same
moment the bugle sounded the retreat, and half of his company broke and
ran. My father sprang to the top of the trench and called, “Come back,
boys, we’ll give them one more volley.” It may have been that he had
misunderstood the call of the bugle, and disobeyed through ignorance,
or it may have been that in his education the signal to retreat had been
omitted, for he did not heed it, and stood outlined against the sky,
looking back and waving his hand to his men. But they did not come to
him, and the advancing troop fired, and he fell upon the trench with his
body stretched along its length. The Union officer was far in advance of
his own company, and when he leaped upon the trench he found that it was
empty and that the Confederate troops were in retreat. He turned, and
shouted, laughing: “Come on! there’s only one man here--and he’s dead!”

But my father reached up his hand, to where the officer stood above him,
and pulled at his scabbard.

“Not dead, but dying, Captain,” my father said. “And that’s better than
retreating, isn’t it?”

“And that is the story,” my grandfather used to say to me, “you must
remember of your father, and whatever else he did does not count.”

At the age of ten my grandfather sent me to a military academy near
Dobbs Ferry, where boys were prepared for college and for West Point and
Annapolis. I was a very poor scholar, and, with the exception of what
I learned in the drill-hall and the gymnasium, the academy did me very
little good, and I certainly did not, at that time at least, reflect any
credit on the academy. Had I been able to take half the interest in my
studies my grandfather showed in them, I would have won prizes in every
branch; but even my desire to please him could not make me understand
the simplest problems in long division; and later here at the Point, the
higher branches of mathematics, combined with other causes, have nearly
deprived the United States Army of a gallant officer. I believe I have
it in me to take a piece of field artillery by assault, but I know I
shall never be able to work out the formula necessary to adjust its
elevation.

With the exception, perhaps, of Caesar’s “Commentaries,” I hated all of
my studies, not only on their own account, but because they cut me out
of the talks with which in the past my grandfather and I had been wont
to close each day. These talks, which were made up on my part of demands
for more stories, or for repetitions of those I already knew by heart,
did more than any other thing to inspire me with a desire for military
glory. My grandfather had served through the Mexican War, in the Indian
campaigns on the plains, and during the War of the Rebellion, and his
memory recalled the most wonderful and exciting of adventures. He was
singularly modest, which is a virtue I never could consider as a high
one, for I find that the world takes you at your own valuation, and
unless “the terrible trumpet of Fame” is sounded by yourself no one else
will blow your trumpet for you. Of that you may be sure. But I can’t
recall ever having heard my grandfather relate to people of his own
age any of the adventures which he told me, and once I even caught him
recounting a personal experience which redounded greatly to his credit
as having happened to “a man in his regiment.” When with childish
delight I at once accused him of this he was visibly annoyed, and
blushed like a girl, and afterward corrected me for being so forward in
the presence of my elders. His modesty went even to the length of his
keeping hidden in his bedroom the three presentation swords which had
been given him at different times for distinguished action on the field.
One came from the men of his regiment, one from his townspeople after
his return from the City of Mexico, and one from the people of the State
of New York; and nothing I could say would induce him to bring
them downstairs to our sitting room, where visitors might see them.
Personally, I cannot understand what a presentation sword is for except
to show to your friends; for, as a rule, they are very badly balanced
and of no use for fighting.

Had it not been for the colored prints of the different battles in
Mexico which hung in our sitting room, and some Indian war-bonnets
and bows and arrows, and a box of duelling pistols, no one would have
supposed that our house belonged to one of the most distinguished
generals of his day. You may be sure I always pointed these out to
our visitors, and one of my chief pleasures was to dress one of my
schoolmates in the Indian war bonnet, and then scalp him with a carving
knife. The duelling pistols were even a greater delight to me. They were
equipped with rifle barrels and hair triggers, and were inlaid richly
with silver, and more than once had been used on the field of honor.
Whenever my grandfather went out for a walk, or to play whist at the
house of a neighbor, I would get down these pistols and fight duels with
myself in front of the looking-glass. With my left hand I would hold the
handkerchief above my head, and with the other clutch the pistol at my
side, and then, at the word, and as the handkerchief fluttered to the
floor, I would take careful aim and pull the trigger. Sometimes I died
and made speeches before I expired, and sometimes I killed my adversary
and stood smiling down at him.

My grandfather was a member of the Aztec Club, which was organized
during the occupation of the City of Mexico by the American officers
who had stormed the capital; and on the occasion of one of its annual
meetings, which that year was held in Philadelphia, I was permitted to
accompany him to that city. It was the longest journey from home I had
ever taken, and each incident of it is still clearly fixed in my mind.
The event of the reunion was a dinner given at the house of General
Patterson, and on the morning before the dinner the members of the club
were invited to assemble in the garden which surrounded his house. To
this meeting my grandfather conducted me, and I found myself surrounded
by the very men of whom he had so often spoken. I was very frightened,
and I confess I was surprised and greatly disappointed also to find
that they were old and gray-haired men, and not the young and dashing
warriors he had described. General Patterson alone did not disappoint
me, for even at that late day he wore a blue coat with brass buttons and
a buff waistcoat and high black stock. He had a strong, fine profile and
was smooth shaven. I remember I found him exactly my ideal of the Duke
of Wellington; for though I was only then ten or twelve years of age,
I had my own ideas about every soldier from Alexander and Von Moltke to
our own Captain Custer.

It was in the garden behind the Patterson house that we met the General,
and he alarmed me very much by pulling my shoulders back and asking me
my age, and whether or not I expected to be as brave a soldier as my
grandfather, to which latter question I said, “Yes, General,” and then
could have cried with mortification, for all of the great soldiers
laughed at me. One of them turned, and said to the only one who was
seated, “That is Hamilton’s grandson.” The man who was seated did not
impress me very much. He was younger than the others. He wore a black
suit and a black tie, and the three upper buttons of his waistcoat were
unfastened. His beard was close-cropped, like a blacking-brush, and
he was chewing on a cigar that had burned so far down that I remember
wondering why it did not scorch his mustache. And then, as I stood
staring up at him and he down at me, it came over me who he was, and
I can recall even now how my heart seemed to jump, and I felt terribly
frightened and as though I were going to cry. My grandfather bowed
to the younger man in the courteous, old-fashioned manner he always
observed, and said: “General, this is my grandchild, Captain Macklin’s
boy. When he grows up I want him to be able to say he has met you. I am
going to send him to West Point.”

The man in the chair nodded his head at my grandfather, and took his
cigar from his mouth and said, “When he’s ready to enter, remind me,
let me know,” and closed his lips again on his cigar, as though he had
missed it even during that short space if time. But had he made a long
oration neither my grandfather nor I could have been more deeply moved.
My grandfather said: “Thank you, General. It is very kind of you,” and
led me away smiling so proudly that it was beautiful to see him. When
he had entered the house he stopped, and bending over me, asked. “Do you
know who that was, Roy?” But with the awe of the moment still heavy upon
me I could only nod and gasp at him.

“That was General Grant,” my grandfather said.

“Yes, I know,” I whispered.

I am not particularly proud of the years that preceded my entrance to
West Point, and of the years I have spent here I have still less reason
to be content. I was an active boy, and behaved as other young cubs
of that age, no better and no worse. Dobbs Ferry was not a place where
temptations beset one, and, though we were near New York, we were not of
it, and we seldom visited it. When we did, it was to go to a matinee
at some theatre, returning the same afternoon in time for supper. My
grandfather was very fond of the drama, and had been acquainted since he
was a young man with some of the most distinguished actors. With him I
saw Edwin Booth in “Macbeth,” and Lester Wallack in “Rosedale,” and John
McCullough in “Virginius,” a tragedy which was to me so real and moving
that I wept all the way home in the train. Sometimes I was allowed to
visit the theatre alone, and on these afternoons I selected performances
of a lighter variety, such as that given by Harrigan & Hart in their
theatre on Broadway. Every Thanksgiving Day I was allowed, after
witnessing the annual football match between the students from Princeton
and Yale universities, to remain in town all that night. On these great
occasions I used to visit Koster & Bial’s on Twenty-third Street, a
long, low building, very dark and very smoky, and which on those nights
was blocked with excited mobs of students, wearing different colored
ribbons and shouting the cries of their different colleges. I envied
and admired these young gentlemen, and thought them very fine fellows
indeed. They wore in those days long green coats, which made them look
like coachmen, and high, bell-shaped hats, both of which, as I now can
see, were a queer survival of the fashions of 1830, and which now for
the second time have disappeared.

To me, with my country clothes and manners and scanty spending money,
the way these young collegians wagered their money at the football match
and drank from their silver flasks, and smoked and swaggered in the
hotel corridors, was something to be admired and copied. And although
I knew none of them, and would have been ashamed had they seen me in
company with any of my boy friends from Dobbs Ferry, I followed
them from one hotel to another, pretending I was with them, and even
penetrated at their heels into the cafe of Delmonico. I felt then for a
brief moment that I was “seeing life,” the life of a great metropolis,
and in company with the young swells who made it the rushing, delightful
whirlpool it appeared to be.

It seemed to me, then, that to wear a green coachman’s coat, to rush the
doorkeeper at the Haymarket dance-hall, and to eat supper at the “Silver
Grill” was to be “a man about town,” and each year I returned to our
fireside at Dobbs Ferry with some discontent. The excursions made me
look restlessly forward to the day when I would return from my Western
post, a dashing young cavalry officer on leave, and would wake up the
cafes and clubs of New York, and throw my money about as carelessly as
these older boys were doing then.

My appointment to West Point did not, after all, come from General
Grant, but from President Arthur, who was in office when I reached my
nineteenth year. Had I depended upon my Congressman for the appointment,
and had it been made after a competitive examination of candidates, I
doubt if I would have been chosen.

Perhaps my grandfather feared this and had it in his mind when he asked
the President to appoint me. It was the first favor he had ever asked
of the Government he had served so well, and I felt more grateful to him
for having asked the favor, knowing what it cost him to do so, than I
did to the President for granting it.

I was accordingly entered upon the rolls of the Military Academy, and my
career as a soldier began. I wish I could say it began brilliantly, but
the records of the Academy would not bear me out. Had it not been that
I was forced to study books I would not have been a bad student; for in
everything but books, in everything that bore directly on the training
of a soldier and which depended upon myself, as, for example, drill,
riding, marksmanship, and a knowledge of the manual, I did as well, or
far better, than any of my classmates. But I could not, or would not,
study, and instead of passing high in my class at the end of the plebe
year, as my natural talents seemed to promise I would do, I barely
scraped through, and the outlook for the second year was not
encouraging. The campaign in Mexico had given my grandfather a knowledge
of Spanish, and as a boy he had drilled this language into me, for it
was a fixed belief of his, that if the United States ever went to war,
it would be with some of her Spanish-American neighbors, with Mexico,
or Central America, or with Spain on account of Cuba. In consequence
he considered it most essential that every United States officer should
speak Spanish. He also argued that a knowledge of French was of even
greater importance to an officer and a gentleman, as it was, as I have
since found it to be, the most widely spoken of all languages. I
was accordingly well drilled in these two tongues, and I have never
regretted time I spent on them, for my facility in them has often served
me well, has pulled me out of tight places, put money into my pocket,
and gained me friends when but for them I might have remained and
departed a stranger among strangers. My French accordingly helped me
much as a “yearling,” and in camp I threw myself so earnestly into the
skirmish, artillery, and cavalry drills that in spite of my low marks
I still stood high in the opinion of the cadet officers and of my
instructors. With my classmates, for some reason, although in all
out-of-door exercises I was the superior of most of them, I was not
popular. I would not see this at first, for I try to keep on friendly
terms with those around me, and I want to be liked even by people of
whom I have no very high opinion and from whom I do not want anything
besides. But I was not popular. There was no disguising that, and in the
gymnasium or the riding-hall other men would win applause for performing
a feat of horsemanship or a difficult trick on the parallel bars, which
same feat, when I repeated it immediately after them, and even a little
better than they had done it, would be received in silence. I could
not see the reason for this, and the fact itself hurt me much more than
anyone guessed. Then as they would not signify by their approbation that
I was the best athlete in the class, I took to telling them that I was,
which did not help matters. I find it is the same in the world as it is
at the Academy--that if one wants recognition, he must pretend not to
see that he deserves it. If he shows he does see it, everyone else will
grow blind, holding, I suppose, that a conceited man carries his own
comfort with him, and is his own reward. I soon saw that the cadet who
was modest received more praise than the cadet who was his superior,
but who, through repeated success, had acquired a self-confident, or, as
some people call it, a conceited manner; and so, for a time, I pretended
to be modest, too, and I never spoke of my athletic successes. But I was
never very good at pretending, and soon gave it up. Then I grew morbid
over my inability to make friends, and moped by myself, having as little
to do with my classmates as possible. In my loneliness I began to think
that I was a much misunderstood individual. My solitary state bred in me
a most unhealthy disgust for myself, and, as it always is with those
who are at times exuberantly light-hearted and self-assertive, I had
terrible fits of depression and lack of self-confidence, during which
spells I hated myself and all of those about me. Once, during one of
these moods, a First-Class man, who had been a sneak in his plebe year
and a bully ever since, asked me, sneeringly, how “Napoleon on the Isle
of St. Helena” was feeling that morning, and I told him promptly to go
to the devil, and added that if he addressed me again, except in the
line of his duty, I would thrash him until he could not stand or see. Of
course he sent me his second, and one of my classmates acted for me.
We went out that same evening after supper behind Fort Clinton, and I
thrashed him so badly that he was laid up in the hospital for several
days. After that I took a much more cheerful view of life, and as
it seemed hardly fair to make one cadet bear the whole brunt of my
displeasure toward the entire battalion, I began picking quarrels with
anyone who made pretensions of being a fighter, and who chanced to be
bigger than myself.

Sometimes I got badly beaten, and sometimes I thrashed the other man,
but whichever way it went, those battles in the soft twilight evenings
behind the grass-grown ramparts of the old fort, in the shadow of
the Kosciusko Monument, will always be the brightest and pleasantest
memories of my life at this place.

My grandfather had one other daughter besides my mother, my Aunt Mary,
who had married a Harvard professor, Dr. Endicott, and who had lived in
Cambridge ever since they married.

In my second year here, Dr. Endicott died and my grandfather at once
went to Cambridge to bring Aunt Mary and her daughter Beatrice back
with him, installing them in our little home, which thereafter was to
be theirs as well. He wrote me saying he knew I would not disapprove of
this invasion of my place by my young cousin and assured me that no one,
girl or boy, could ever take the place in his heart that I had held. As
a matter of fact I was secretly pleased to hear of this addition to our
little household. I knew that as soon as I was graduated I would be sent
to some army post in the West, and that the occasional visit I was now
able to pay to Dobbs Ferry would be discontinued. I hated to think that
in his old age my grandfather would be quite alone. On the other hand,
when, after the arrival of my cousin, I received his first letter
and found it filled with enthusiastic descriptions of her, and of how
anxious she was to make him happy, I felt a little thrill of jealousy.
It gave me some sharp pangs of remorse, and I asked myself searchingly
if I had always done my utmost to please my grandfather and to give him
pride and pleasure in me. I determined for the future I would think only
of how to make him happy.

A few weeks later I was able to obtain a few hours’ leave, and I wasted
no time in running down from the Point to make the acquaintance of my
cousin, and to see how the home looked under the new regime. I found it
changed, and, except that I felt then and afterward that I was a guest,
it was changed for the better.

I found that my grandfather was much more comfortable in every way. The
newcomers were both eager and loving, although no one could help but
love my grandfather, and they invented wants he had never felt before,
and satisfied them, while at the same time they did not interfere with
the life he had formerly led. Aunt Mary is an unselfish soul, and most
content when she is by herself engaged in the affairs of the house and
in doing something for those who live in it. Besides her unselfishness,
which is to me the highest as it is the rarest of virtues, hers is a
sweet and noble character, and she is one of the gentlest souls that I
have ever known.

I may say the same of my cousin Beatrice. When she came into the room,
my first thought was how like she was to a statuette of a Dresden
shepherdess which had always stood at one end of our mantel-piece,
coquetting with the shepherd lad on the other side of the clock. As a
boy, the shepherdess had been my ideal of feminine loveliness. Since
then my ideals had changed rapidly and often, but Beatrice reminded me
that the shepherdess had once been my ideal. She wore a broad straw hat,
with artificial roses which made it hang down on one side, and, as
she had been working in our garden, she wore huge gloves and carried a
trowel in one hand. As she entered, my grandfather rose hastily from his
chair and presented us with impressive courtesy. “Royal,” he said, “this
is your cousin, Beatrice Endicott.” If he had not been present, I think
we would have shaken hands without restraint. But he made our meeting
something of a ceremony. I brought my heels together and bowed as I
have been taught to do at the Academy, and seeing this she made a low
courtesy. She did this apparently with great gravity, but as she kept
her eyes on mine I saw that she was mocking me. If I am afraid of
anything it has certainly never proved to be a girl, but I confess I was
strangely embarrassed. My cousin seemed somehow different from any of
the other girls I had met. She was not at all like those with whom I
had danced at the hotel hops, and to whom I gave my brass buttons
in Flirtation Walk. She was more fine, more illusive, and yet most
fascinating, with a quaint old-fashioned manner that at times made her
seem quite a child, and the next moment changed her into a worldly and
charming young woman. She made you feel she was much older than yourself
in years and in experience and in knowledge. That is the way my cousin
appeared to me the first time I saw her, when she stood in the middle
of the room courtesying mockingly at me and looking like a picture on
an old French fan. That is how she has since always seemed to me--one
moment a woman, and the next a child; one moment tender and kind and
merry, and the next disapproving, distant, and unapproachable.

{Illustration: He made our meeting something of a ceremony.}

Up to the time I met Beatrice I had never thought it possible to
consider a girl as a friend. For the matter of that, I had no friends
even among men, and I made love to girls. My attitude toward girls, if
one can say that a man of eighteen has an attitude, was always that of
the devoted admirer. If they did not want me as a devoted admirer, I put
them down as being proud and haughty or “stuck up.” It never occurred to
me then that there might be a class of girl who, on meeting you, did not
desire that you should at once tell her exactly how you loved her, and
why. The girls who came to Cranston’s certainly seemed to expect you to
set their minds at rest on that subject, and my point of view of girls
was taken entirely from them. I can remember very well my pause of
dawning doubt and surprise when a girl first informed me she thought
a man who told her she was pretty was impertinent. What bewildered
me still more on that occasion was that this particular girl was so
extremely beautiful that to talk about anything else but her beauty was
a waste of time. It made all other topics trivial, and yet she seemed
quite sincere in what she said, and refused to allow me to bring our
talk to the personal basis of “what I am to you” and “what you are to
me.” It was in discussing that question that I considered myself an
artist and a master. My classmates agreed with me in thinking as I did,
and from the first moment I came here called me “Masher” Macklin, a
sobriquet of which I fear for a time I was rather proud. Certainly, I
strove to live up to it. I believe I dignified my conduct to myself by
calling it “flirtation.” Flirtation, as I understood it, was a sort of
game in which I honestly believed the entire world of men and women, of
every class and age, were eagerly engaged. Indeed, I would have thought
it rather ungallant, and conduct unworthy of an officer and a gentleman,
had I not at once pretended to hold an ardent interest in every girl I
met. This seems strange now, but from the age of fourteen up to the age
of twenty that was my way of regarding the girls I met, and even today I
fear my attitude toward them has altered but slightly, for now, although
I no longer tend to care when I do not, nor make love as a matter of
course, I find it is the easiest attitude to assume toward most women.
It is the simplest to slip into, just as I have certainly found it
the one from which it is most difficult to escape, But I never seem to
remember that until it is too late. A classmate of mine once said to me:
“Royal, you remind me of a man walking along a road with garden gates
opening on each side of it. Instead of keeping to the road, you stop at
every gate, and say: ‘Oh! what a pretty garden! I’ll just slip in there,
and find out where that path will take me.’ And then--you’re either
thrown out, and the gate slammed after you, or you lose yourself in
a maze and you can’t get out--until you break out. But does that ever
teach you a lesson? No! Instead of going ahead along the straight and
narrow way, and keeping out of temptation, you halt at the very next
gate you come to, just as though you had never seen a gate before, and
exclaim: ‘Now, this _is_ a pretty garden, and _what_ a neat white fence!
I really must vault in and take a look round.’ And so the whole thing is
gone over again.”

I confess there may be some truth in what he said, but the trouble I
find with the straight and narrow way is that there’s not room enough
in it for two. And, then, it is only fair to me to say that some of the
gardens were really most beautiful, and the shade very deep and sweet
there, and the memories of the minutes I passed in them were very
refreshing when I went back to the dust of the empty road. And no one,
man or woman, can say that Royal Macklin ever trampled on the flowers,
or broke the branches, or trespassed in another man’s private grounds.

It was my cousin Beatrice who was responsible for the change of heart
in me toward womankind. For very soon after she came to live with us, I
noticed that in regard to all other young women I was growing daily more
exacting. I did not admit this to myself, and still less to Beatrice,
because she was most scornful of the girls I knew, and mocked at them.
This was quite unfair of her, because she had no real acquaintance with
them, and knew them only from photographs and tintypes, of which I had a
most remarkable collection, and of what I chose to tell her about them.
I was a good deal annoyed to find that the stories which appealed to me
as best illustrating the character of each of my friends, only seemed to
furnish Beatrice with fresh material for ridicule, and the girls of whom
I said the least were the ones of whom she approved. The only girls
of my acquaintance who also were friends of hers, were two sisters who
lived at Dobbs Ferry, and whose father owned the greater part of it, and
a yacht, in which he went down to his office every morning. But Beatrice
held that my manner even to them was much too free and familiar, and
that she could not understand why I did not see that it was annoying to
them as well. I could not tell her in my own defence that their manner
to me, when she was with us and when she was not, varied in a remarkable
degree. It was not only girls who carried themselves differently before
Beatrice: every man who met her seemed to try and show her the best in
him, or at least to suppress any thought or act which might displease
her. It was not that she was a prig, or an angel, but she herself was
so fine and sincere, and treated all with such an impersonal and yet
gracious manner that it became contagious, and everybody who met her
imitated the model she unconsciously furnished. I was very much struck
with this when she visited the Academy. Men who before her coming had
seemed bold enough for any game, became dumb and embarrassed in her
presence, and eventually it was the officers and instructors who
escorted her over the grounds, while I and my acquaintances among the
cadets formed a straggling rear-guard at her heels. On account of my
grandfather, both she and my aunt were made much of by the Commandant
and all the older officers, and when they continued to visit the Academy
they were honored and welcomed for themselves, and I found that on such
occasions my own popularity was enormously increased. I have always been
susceptible to the opinion of others. Even when the reigning belle or
the popular man of the class was not to me personally attractive, the
fact that she was the reigning belle and that he was the man of the
hour made me seek out the society of each. This was even so, when, as
a matter of fact, I should have much preferred to dance with some less
conspicuous beauty or talk with a more congenial companion. Consequently
I began to value my cousin, whom I already regarded with the most
tremendous admiration, for those lighter qualities which are common
to all attractive girls, but which in my awe of her I had failed to
recognize. There were many times, even, when I took myself by the
shoulders and faced the question if I were not in love with Beatrice. I
mean truly in love, with that sort of love that one does not talk about,
even to one’s self, certainly not to the girl. As the young man of the
family, I had assumed the position of the heir of the house, and treated
Beatrice like a younger sister, but secretly I considered her in no such
light.

Many nights when on post I would halt to think of her, and of her
loveliness and high sincerity, and forget my duty while I stood with
my arms crossed on the muzzle of my gun. In such moments the night,
the silence, the moonlight piercing the summer leaves and falling at my
feet, made me forget my promise to myself that I would never marry.
I used to imagine then it was not the unlicked cubs under the distant
tents I was protecting, but that I was awake to watch over and guard
Beatrice, or that I was a knight, standing his vigil so that he might
be worthy to wear the Red Cross and enter her service. In those lonely
watches I saw littlenesses and meannesses in myself, which I could not
see in the brisk light of day, and my self-confidence slipped from me
and left me naked and abashed. I saw myself as a vain, swaggering boy,
who, if he ever hoped to be a man among men, such as Beatrice was a
woman above all other women, must change his nature at once and forever.

I was glad that I owed these good resolutions to her. I was glad that
it was she who inspired them. Those nights, as I leaned on my gun, I
dreamed even that it might end happily and beautifully in our marriage.
I wondered if I could make her care, if I could ever be worthy of her,
and I vowed hotly that I would love her as no other woman was ever
loved.

And then I would feel the cold barrel of my musket pressing against the
palm of my hand, or the bayonet would touch my cheek, and at the touch
something would tighten in my throat, and I would shake the thoughts
from me and remember that I was sworn to love only my country and my
country’s flag.

In my third year here my grandfather died. As the winter closed in
he had daily grown more feeble, and sat hour after hour in his great
armchair, dozing and dreaming, before the open fire. And one morning
when he was alone in the room, Death, which had so often taken the man
at his side, and stood at salute to let him live until his work was
done, came to him and touched him gently. A few days later when his body
passed through the streets of our little village, all the townspeople
left their houses and shops, and stood in silent rows along the
sidewalks, with their heads uncovered to the falling snow. Soldiers of
his old regiments, now busy men of affairs in the great city below
us, came to march behind him for the last time. Officers of the Loyal
Legion, veterans of the Mexican War, regulars from Governor’s Island,
with their guns reversed, societies, political clubs, and strangers who
knew him only by what he had done for his country, followed in the long
procession as it wound its way through the cold, gray winter day to the
side of the open grave. Until then I had not fully understood what it
meant to me, for my head had been numbed and dulled; but as the body
disappeared into the grave, and the slow notes of the bugle rose in
the final call of “Lights out,” I put my head on my aunt’s shoulder and
cried like a child. And I felt as though I were a child again, as I did
when he came and sat beside my bed, and heard me say my prayers, and
then closed the door behind him, leaving me in the darkness and alone.

But I was not entirely alone, for Beatrice was true and understanding;
putting her own grief out of sight, caring for mine, and giving it the
first place in her thoughts. For the next two days we walked for hours
through the autumn woods where the dead leaves rustled beneath our feet,
thinking and talking of him. Or for hours we would sit in silence, until
the sun sank a golden red behind the wall of the Palisades, and we went
back through the cold night to the open fireside and his empty chair.



ST. CHARLES HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS


Six months ago had anyone told me that the day would come when I would
feel thankful for the loss of my grandfather, I would have struck him.
But for the last week I have been almost thankful that he is dead. The
worst that could occur has happened. I am in bitter disgrace, and I
am grateful that grandfather died before it came upon me. I have been
dismissed from the Academy. The last of the “Fighting” Macklins has
been declared unfit to hold the President’s commission. I am cast out
irrevocably; there is no appeal against the decision. I shall never
change the gray for the blue. I shall never see the U. S. on my
saddle-cloth, nor salute my country’s flag as it comes fluttering down
at sunset.

That I am on my way to try and redeem myself is only an attempt to patch
up the broken pieces. The fact remains that the army has no use for me.
I have been dismissed from West Point, in disgrace. It was a girl who
brought it about, or rather my own foolishness over a girl. And before
that there was much that led up to it. It is hard to write about it, but
in these memoirs I mean to tell everything--the good, with the bad. And
as I deserve no excuse, I make none.

During that winter, after the death of my grandfather, and the spring
which had followed, I tried hard to do well at the Point. I wanted
to show them that though my grandfather was gone, his example and his
wishes still inspired me. And though I was not a studious cadet, I was
a smart soldier, and my demerits, when they came, were for smoking in my
room or for breaking some other such silly rule, and never for slouching
through the manual or coming on parade with my belts twisted. And at the
end of the second year I had been promoted from corporal to be a cadet
first sergeant, so that I was fourth in command over a company of
seventy. Although this gave me the advantage of a light after “taps”
 until eleven o’clock, my day was so taken up with roll-calls, riding and
evening drills and parade, that I never seemed to find time to cram my
mechanics and chemistry, of which latter I could never see any possible
benefit. How a knowledge of what acid will turn blue litmus-paper red is
going to help an officer to find fodder for his troop horses, or inspire
him to lead a forlorn hope, was then, and still is, beyond my youthful
comprehension.

But these studies were down on the roster, and whether I thought well
of them or not I was marked on them and judged accordingly. But I cannot
claim that it was owing to them or my failure to understand them that my
dismissal came, for, in spite of the absence of 3’s in my markings and
the abundance of 2’s, I was still a soldierly cadet, and in spite of the
fact that I was a stupid student, I made an excellent drill-master.

The trouble, when it came, was all my own making, and my dismissal was
entirely due to an act of silly recklessness and my own idiocy. I had
taken chances before and had not been caught; several times I ran the
sentries at night for the sake of a noisy, drunken spree at a road-side
tavern, and several times I had risked my chevrons because I did not
choose to respect the arbitrary rules of the Academy which chafed my
spirit and invited me to rebellion. It was not so much that I enjoyed
those short hours of freedom, which I snatched in the face of such
serious penalties, but it was the risk of the thing itself which
attracted me, and which stirred the spirit of adventure that at times
sways us all.

It was a girl who brought about my dismissal. I do not mean that she was
in any way to blame, but she was the indirect cause of my leaving
the Academy. It was a piece of fool’s fortune, and I had not even the
knowledge that I cared in the least for the girl to console me. She was
only one of the several “piazza girls,” as we called certain ones of
those who were staying at Cranston’s, with whom I had danced, to whom
I had made pretty speeches, and had given the bell button that was sewn
just over my heart. She certainly was not the best of them, for I can
see now that she was vain and shallow, with a pert boldness, which I
mistook for vivacity and wit. Three years ago, at the age of twenty, my
knowledge of women was so complete that I divided them into six classes,
and as soon as I met a new one I placed her in one of these classes and
created her according to the line of campaign I had laid down as proper
for that class. Now, at twenty-three, I believe that there are as many
different kinds of women as there are women, but that all kinds are
good. Some women are better than others, but all are good, and all are
different. This particular one unknowingly did me a great harm, but
others have given me so much that is for good, that the balance side
is in their favor. If a man is going to make a fool of himself, I
personally would rather see him do it on account of a woman than for any
other cause. For centuries Antony has been held up to the scorn of the
world because he deserted his troops and his fleet, and sacrificed the
Roman Empire for the sake of Cleopatra. Of course, that is the one thing
a man cannot do, desert his men and betray his flag; but, if he is going
to make a bad break in life, I rather like his doing it for the love
of a woman. And, after all, it is rather fine to have for once felt
something in you so great that you placed it higher than the Roman
Empire.

I haven’t the excuse of any great feeling in my case. She, the girl at
Cranston’s, was leaving the Point on the morrow, and she said if all I
had sworn to her was true I would run the sentries that night to
dance with her at the hop. Of course, love does not set tests nor ask
sacrifices, but I had sworn that I had loved her, as I understood the
world, and I told her I would come. I came, and I was recognized as
I crossed the piazza to the ball-room. On the morning following I was
called to the office of the Commandant and was told to pack my trunk. I
was out of uniform in an hour, and that night at parade the order of the
War Department dismissing me from the service was read to the assembled
battalion.

{Illustration: We walked out to the woods.}

I cannot write about that day. It was a very bright, beautiful day, full
of life and sunshine, and I remember that I wondered how the world could
be so cruel and unfeeling. The other second classmen came in while I was
packing my things to say that they were sorry. They were kind enough;
and some of them wanted me to go off to New York to friends of theirs
and help upset it and get drunk. Their idea was, I suppose, to show the
authorities how mistaken they had been in not making me an officer. But
I could not be civil to any of them. I hated them all, and the place,
and everyone in it. When I was dismissed my first thought was one of
utter thankfulness that my grandfather died before the disgrace came
upon me, and after that I did not much care. I was desperate and
bitterly miserable. I knew, as the authorities could not know, that no
one in my class felt more loyal to the service than myself; that I would
have died twenty deaths for my country; that there was no one company
post in the West, however distant from civilization, that would not have
been a paradise to me; that there was no soldier in the army who would
have served more devotedly than myself. And now I was found wanting
and thrown out to herd with civilians, as unfit to hold the President’s
commission. After my first outbreak of impotent rage--for I blamed
everyone but myself--remorse set in, and I thought of grandfather and
of how much he had done for our country, and how we had talked so
confidently together of the days when I would follow in his footsteps,
as his grandchild, and as the son of “Fighting Macklin.”

All my life I had talked and thought of nothing else, and now, just as
I was within a year of it, I was shown the door which I never can enter
again.

That it might be easier for us when I arrived, I telegraphed Beatrice
what had happened, and when I reached the house the same afternoon
she was waiting for me at the door, as though I was coming home for
a holiday and it was all as it might have been. But neither of us was
deceived, and without a word we walked out of the garden and up the hill
to the woods where we had last been together six months before, Since
then all had changed. Summer had come, the trees were heavy with leaves,
and a warm haze hung over the river and the Palisades beyond We seated
ourselves on a fallen tree at the top of the hill and sat in silence,
looking down into the warm, beautiful valley. It was Beatrice who was
the first to speak.

“I have been thinking of what you can do,” she began, gently, “and it
seems to me, Royal, that what you need now is a good rest. It has been a
hard winter for you. You have had to meet the two greatest trials that I
hope will ever come to you. You took the first one well, as you should,
and you will take this lesser one well also; I know you will. But you
must give yourself time to get over this--this disappointment, and to
look about you. You must try to content yourself at home with mother and
with me. I am so selfish that I am almost glad it has happened, for now
for a time we shall have you with us, all to ourselves, and we can take
care of you and see that you are not gloomy and morbid. And then when
the fall comes you will have decided what is best to do, and you will
have a rest and a quiet summer with those who understand you and love
you. And then you can go out into the world to do your work, whatever
your work is to be.”

I turned toward her and stared at her curiously.

“Whatever my work is to be,” I repeated. “That was decided for me,
Beatrice, when I was a little boy.”

She returned my look for a moment in some doubt, and then leaned eagerly
forward. “You mean to enlist?” she asked.

“To enlist? Not I!” I answered hotly. “If I’m not fit to be an officer
now, I never shall be, at least not by that road. Do you know what it
means? It’s the bitterest life a man can follow. He is neither the one
thing nor the other. The enlisted men suspect him, and the officers may
not speak with him. I know one officer who got his commission that way.
He swears now he would rather have served the time in jail. The officers
at the post pointed him out to visitors, as the man who had failed at
West Point, and who was working his way up from the ranks, and the men
of his company thought that _he_ thought, God help him, that he was too
good for them, and made his life hell. Do you suppose I’d show my
musket to men of my old mess, and have the girls I’ve danced with see me
marching up and down a board walk with a gun on my shoulder? Do you see
me going on errands for the men I’ve hazed, and showing them my socks
and shirts at inspection so they can give me a good mark for being a
clean and tidy soldier? No! I’ll not enlist. If I’m not good enough to
carry a sword I’m not good enough to carry a gun, and the United States
Army can struggle along without me.”

Beatrice shook her head.

“Don’t say anything you’ll be sorry for, Royal,” she warned me.

“You don’t understand,” I interrupted. “I’m not saying anything against
my own country or our army--how can I? I’ve proved clearly enough that
I’m not fit for it. I’m only too grateful, I’ve had three years in the
best military school in the world, at my country’s expense, and I’m
grateful. Yes, and I’m miserable, too, that I have failed to deserve
it.”

I stood up and straightened my shoulders. “But perhaps there are other
countries less difficult to please,” I said, “where I can lose myself
and be forgotten, and where I can see service. After all, a soldier’s
business is to fight, not to sit at a post all day or to do a clerk’s
work at Washington.”

Even as I spoke these chance words I seemed to feel the cloud of failure
and disgrace passing from me. I saw vaguely a way to redeem myself, and,
though I had spoken with bravado and at random, the words stuck in my
mind, and my despondency fell from me like a heavy knapsack.

“Come,” I said, cheerfully, “there can be no talk of a holiday for me
until I have earned it. You know I would love to stay here now with you
and Aunt in the old house, but I have no time to mope and be petted. If
you fall down, you must not lie in the road and cry over your bruised
shins; you must pick yourself up and go on again, even if you are a bit
sore and dirty.”

We said nothing more, but my mind was made up, and when we reached
the house I went at once to my room and repacked my trunk for a long
journey. It was a leather trunk in which my grandfather used to carry
his sword and uniform, and in it I now proudly placed the presentation
sword he had bequeathed to me in his will, and my scanty wardrobe and
$500 of the money he had left to me. All the rest of his fortune, with
the exception of the $2,000 a year he had settled upon me, he had, I am
glad to say, bequeathed with the house to Aunt Mary and Beatrice. When I
had finished my packing I joined them at supper, and such was my elation
at the prospect of at once setting forth to redeem myself, and to seek
my fortune, that to me the meal passed most cheerfully. When it was
finished, I found the paper of that morning, and spreading it out upon
the table began a careful search in the foreign news for what tidings
there might be of war.

I told Beatrice what I was doing, and without a word she brought out my
old school atlas, and together under the light of the student-lamp we
sought out the places mentioned in the foreign despatches, and discussed
them, and the chances they might offer me.

There were, I remember, at the time that paper was printed, strained
relations existing between France and China over the copper mines in
Tonkin; there was a tribal war in Upper Burmah with native troops; there
was a threat of complications in the Balkans, but the Balkans, as I have
since learned, are always with us and always threatening. Nothing in
the paper seemed to offer me the chance I sought, and apparently peace
smiled on every other portion of the globe.

“There is always the mounted police in Canada,” I said, tentatively.

“No,” Beatrice answered, quietly, and without asking her reasons I
accepted her decision and turned again to the paper. And then my eyes
fell on a paragraph which at first I had overlooked--a modest, brief
despatch tucked away in a corner, and unremarkable, except for its
strange date-line. It was headed, “The Revolt in Honduras.” I pointed
to it with my finger, and Beatrice leaned forward with her head close to
mine, and we read it together. “Tegucigalpa, June 17th,” it read. “The
revolution here has assumed serious proportions. President Alvarez has
proclaimed martial law over all provinces, and leaves tomorrow for Santa
Barbara, where the Liberal forces under the rebel leader, ex-President
Louis Garcia, were last in camp. General Laguerre is coming from
Nicaragua to assist Garcia with his foreign legion of 200 men. He has
seized the Nancy Miller, belonging to the Isthmian Line, and has fitted
her with two Gatling guns. He is reported to be bombarding the towns
on his way along the coast, and a detachment of Government troops is
marching to Porto Cortez to prevent his landing. His force is chiefly
composed of American and other aliens, who believe the overthrow of the
present government will be beneficial to foreign residents.”

“General Laguerre!” I cried, eagerly, “that is not a Spanish name.
General Laguerre must be a Frenchman. And it says that the men with
him are Americans, and that the present government is against all
foreigners.”

I drew back from the table with a laugh, and stood smiling at Beatrice,
but she shook her head, even though she smiled, too.

“Oh, not that,” she said.

“My dear Beatrice,” I expostulated, “it certainly isn’t right that
American interests in--what’s the name of the place--in Honduras, should
be jeopardized, is it? And by an ignorant half-breed like this President
What’s-his-name? Certainly not. It must be stopped, even if we have to
requisition every steamer the Isthmian Line has afloat.”

“Oh, Royal,” Beatrice cried, “you are not serious. No, you wouldn’t,
you couldn’t be so foolish. That’s no affair of yours. That’s not
your country. Besides, that is not war; it is speculation. You are a
gentleman, not a pirate and a filibuster.”

“William Walker was a filibuster,” I answered. “He took Nicaragua
with 200 men and held it for two years against 20,000. I must begin
somewhere,” I cried, “why not there? A girl can’t understand these
things--at least, some girls can’t--but I would have thought you would.
What does it matter what I do or where I go?” I broke out, bitterly. “I
have made a failure of my life at the very start. I am sick and sore and
desperate. I don’t care where I go or what---”

I would have ranted on for some time, no doubt, but that a look from
Beatrice stopped me in mid-air, and I stood silent, feeling somewhat
foolish.

“I can understand this much,” she said, “that you are a foolish boy. How
dare you talk of having made a failure of your life? Your life has not
yet begun. You have yet to make it, and to show yourself something
more than a boy.” She paused, and then her manner changed, and she came
toward me, looking up at me with eyes that were moist and softened with
a sweet and troubled tenderness, and she took my hand and held it close
in both of hers.

I had never seen her look more beautiful than she did at that moment.
If it had been any other woman in the world but her, I would have caught
her in my arms and kissed her again and again, but because it was she
I could not touch her, but drew back and looked down into her eyes with
the sudden great feeling I had for her. And so we stood for a moment,
seeing each other as we had never seen each other before. And then she
caught her breath quickly and drew away. But she turned her face toward
me at once, and looked up at me steadily.

“I am so fond of you, Royal,” she said, bravely, “you know, that--that
I cannot bear to think of you doing anything in this world that is not
fine and for the best. But if you will be a knight errant, and seek out
dangers and fight windmills, promise me to be a true knight and that
you will fight only when you must and only on the side that is just, and
then you will come back bringing your sheaves with you.”

I did not dare to look at her, but I raised her hand and held the
tips of her fingers against my lips, and I promised, but I would have
promised anything at that moment.

“If I am to be a knight,” I said, and my voice sounded very hoarse and
boyish, so that I hardly recognized it as my own, “you must give me your
colors to wear on my lance, and if any other knight thinks his colors
fairer, or the lady who gave them more lovely than you, I shall kill
him.”

She laughed softly and moved away.

“Of course,” she said, “of course, you must kill him.” She stepped a few
feet from me, and, raising her hands to her throat, unfastened a little
gold chain which she wore around her neck. She took it off and held it
toward me. “Would you like this?” she said. I did not answer, nor
did she wait for me to do so, but wound the chain around my wrist and
fastened it, and I raised it and kissed it, and neither of us spoke.
She went out to the veranda to warn her mother of my departure, and I to
tell the servants to bring the carriage to the door.

A few minutes later, the suburban train drew out of the station at
Dobbs Ferry, and I waved my hand to Beatrice as she sat in the carriage
looking after me. The night was warm and she wore a white dress and
her head was uncovered. In the smoky glare of the station lamps I could
still see the soft tints of her hair; and as the train bumped itself
together and pulled forward, I felt a sudden panic of doubt, a piercing
stab at my heart, and something called on me to leap off the car that
was bearing me away, and go back to the white figure sitting motionless
in the carriage. As I gripped the iron railing to restrain myself, I
felt the cold sweat springing to the palm of my hand. For a moment I
forgot the end of my long journey. I saw it as something foolish, mad,
fantastic. I was snatching at a flash of powder, when I could warm my
hands at an open fire. I was deserting the one thing which counted and
of which I was certain; the one thing I loved. And then the train turned
a curve, the lamps of the station and the white ghostly figure were shut
from me, and I entered the glaring car filled with close air and smoke
and smelling lamps. I seated myself beside a window and leaned far out
into the night, so that the wind of the rushing train beat in my face.

And in a little time the clanking car-wheels seemed to speak to me,
beating out the words brazenly so that I thought everyone in the car
must hear them.

“Turn again, turn again, Royal Macklin,” they seemed to say to me. “She
loves you, Royal Macklin, she loves you, she loves you.”

And I thought of Dick Whittington when the Bow bells called to him, as
he paused in the country lane to look lack at the smoky roof of London,
and they had offered him so little, while for me the words seemed to
promise the proudest place a man could hold. And I imagined myself still
at home, working by day in some New York office and coming back by night
to find Beatrice at the station waiting for me, always in a white
dress, and with her brown hair glowing in the light of the lamps. And
I pictured us taking long walks together above the Hudson, and quiet,
happy evenings by the fire-side. But the rhythm of the car-wheels
altered, and from “She loves you, she loves you,” the refrain now came
brokenly and fiercely, like the reports of muskets fired in hate and
fear, and mixed with their roar and rattle I seemed to distinguish words
of command in a foreign tongue, and the groans of men wounded and
dying. And I saw, rising above great jungles and noisome swamps, a
long mountain-range piercing a burning, naked sky; and in a pass in the
mountains a group of my own countrymen, ragged and worn and with eyes
lit with fever, waving a strange flag, and beset on every side by
dark-faced soldiers, and I saw my own face among them, hollow-cheeked
and tanned, with my head bandaged in a scarf; I felt the hot barrel of
a rifle burning my palm, I smelt the pungent odor of spent powder, my
throat and nostrils were assailed with smoke. I suffered all the fierce
joy and agony of battle, and the picture of the white figure of Beatrice
grew dim and receded from me, and as it faded the eyes regarded me
wistfully and reproached me, but I would not heed them, but turned my
own eyes away. And again I saw the menacing negro faces and the burning
sunlight and the strange flag that tossed and whimpered in the air above
my head, the strange flag of unknown, tawdry colors, like the painted
face of a woman in the street, but a flag at which I cheered and shouted
as though it were my own, as though I loved it; a flag for which I would
fight and die.

The train twisted its length into the great station, the men about me
rose and crowded down the aisle, and I heard the cries of newsboys and
hackmen and jangling car-bells, and all the roar and tumult of a great
city at night.

But I had already made my choice. Within an hour I had crossed to the
Jersey side, and was speeding south, south toward New Orleans, toward
the Gulf of Mexico, toward Honduras, to Colonel Laguerre and his foreign
legion.



II


S.S. PANAMA, OFF COAST OF HONDURAS

To one who never before had travelled farther than is Dobbs Ferry from
Philadelphia, my journey south to New Orleans was something in the
way of an expedition, and I found it rich in incident and adventure.
Everything was new and strange, but nothing was so strange as my own
freedom. After three years of discipline, of going to bed by drum-call,
of waking by drum-call, and obeying the orders of others, this new
independence added a supreme flavor to all my pleasures. I took my
journey very seriously, and I determined to make every little incident
contribute to my better knowledge of the world. I rated the chance
acquaintances of the smoking-car as aids to a clear understanding of
mankind, and when at Washington I saw above the house-tops the marble
dome of the Capitol I was thrilled to think that I was already so much
richer in experience.

To me the country through which we passed spoke with but one meaning.
I saw it as the chess-board of the War of the Rebellion. I imagined
the towns fortified and besieged, the hills topped with artillery, the
forests alive with troops in ambush, and in my mind, on account of their
strategic value to the enemy, I destroyed the bridges over which we
passed. The passengers were only too willing to instruct a stranger in
the historical values of their country. They pointed out to me where
certain regiments had camped, where homesteads had been burned, and
where real battles, not of my own imagining, but which had cost the
lives of many men, had been lost and won. I found that to these chance
acquaintances the events of which they spoke were as fresh after twenty
years as though they had occurred but yesterday, and they accepted my
curiosity as only a natural interest in a still vital subject. I judged
it advisable not to mention that General Hamilton was my grandfather.
Instead I told them that I was the son of an officer who had died for
the cause of secession. This was the first time I had ever missed
an opportunity of boasting of my relationship to my distinguished
grandparent, and I felt meanly conscious that I was in a way disloyal.
But they were so genuinely pleased when they learned that my father had
fought for the South, that I lacked the courage to tell them that while
he was so engaged another relative of mine had driven one of their best
generals through three States.

I am one who makes the most of what he sees, and even the simplest
things filled me with delight; my first sight of cotton-fields, of
tobacco growing in the leaf, were great moments to me; and that the men
who guarded the negro convicts at work in the fields still clung to the
uniform of gray, struck me as a fact of pathetic interest.

I was delayed in New Orleans for only one day. At the end of that time
I secured passage on the steamer Panama. She was listed to sail for
Aspinwall at nine o’clock the next morning, and to touch at ports along
the Central American coast. While waiting for my steamer I mobilized
my transport and supplies, and purchased such articles as I considered
necessary for a rough campaign in a tropical climate. My purchases
consisted of a revolver, a money-belt, in which to carry my small
fortune, which I had exchanged into gold double-eagles, a pair
of field-glasses, a rubber blanket, a canteen, riding boots, and
saddle-bags. I decided that my uniform and saddle would be furnished
me from the quartermaster’s department of Garcia’s army, for in my
ignorance I supposed I was entering on a campaign conducted after the
methods of European armies.

We left the levees of New Orleans early in the morning, and for the
remainder of the day steamed slowly down the Mississippi River. I sat
alone upon the deck watching the low, swampy banks slipping past us
on either side, the gloomy cypress-trees heavy with gray moss, the
abandoned cotton-gins and disused negro quarters. As I did so a feeling
of homesickness and depression came upon me, and my disgraceful failure
at the Point, the loss of my grandfather, and my desertion of Beatrice,
for so it began to seem to me, filled me with a bitter melancholy.

The sun set the first day over great wastes of swamp, swamp-land, and
pools of inky black, which stretched as far as the eye could reach;
gloomy, silent, and barren of any form of life. It was a picture which
held neither the freedom of the open sea nor the human element of the
solid earth. It seemed to me as though the world must have looked so
when darkness brooded over the face of the waters, and as I went to
my berth that night I felt as though I were saying good-by forever to
allthat was dear to me--my country, my home, and the girl I loved.

I was awakened in the morning by a motion which I had never before
experienced. I was being gently lifted and lowered and rolled to and
fro as a hammock is rocked by the breeze. For some minutes I lay between
sleep and waking, struggling back to consciousness, until with a sudden
gasp of delight it came to me that at last I was at sea. I scrambled
from my berth and pulled back the curtains of the air port. It was as
though over night the ocean had crept up to my window. It stretched
below me in great distances of a deep, beautiful blue. Tumbling waves
were chasing each other over it, and millions of white caps glanced and
flashed as they raced by me in the sun. It was my first real view of the
ocean, and the restlessness of it and the freedom of it stirred me with
a great happiness. I drank in its beauty as eagerly as I filled my lungs
with the keen salt air, and thanked God for both.

The three short days which followed were full of new and delightful
surprises, some because it was all so strange and others because it was
so exactly what I had hoped it would be. I had read many tales of the
sea, but ships I knew only as they moved along the Hudson at the end of
the towing-line. I had never felt one rise and fall beneath me, nor
from the deck of one watched the sun sink into the water. I had never at
night looked up at the great masts, and seen them swing, like a pendulum
reversed, between me and the stars.

There was so much to learn that was new and so many things to see on
the waters, and in the skies, that it seemed wicked to sleep. So, during
nearly the whole of every night, I stood with Captain Leeds on his
bridge, or asked ignorant questions of the man at the wheel. The steward
of the Panama was purser, supercargo, and bar-keeper in one, and a most
interesting man. He apparently never slept, but at any hour was willing
to sit and chat with me. It was he who first introduced me to the
wonderful mysteries of the alligator pear as a salad, and taught me to
prefer, in a hot country, Jamaica rum with half a lime squeezed into the
glass to all other spirits. It was a most educational trip.

I had much entertainment on board the Panama by pretending that I was
her captain, and that she was sailing under my orders. Sometimes
I pretended that she was an American man-of-war, and sometimes a
filibuster escaping from an American man-of-war. This may seem an absurd
and childish game, but I had always wanted to hold authority, and as I
had never done so, except as a drill sergeant at the Academy, it was
my habit to imagine myself in whatever position of responsibility
my surroundings suggested. For this purpose the Panama served me
excellently, and in scanning the horizon for hostile fleets or a pirate
flag I was as conscientious as was the lookout in the bow. At the
Academy I had often sat in my room with maps spread out before me
planning attacks on the enemy, considering my lines of communication,
telegraphing wildly for reinforcements, and despatching my aides with
a clearly written, comprehensive order to where my advance column was
engaged. I believe this “play-acting,” as my room-mate used to call
it, helped me to think quickly, to give an intelligent command
intelligently, and made me rich in resources.

For the first few days I was so enchanted with my new surroundings that
the sinister purpose of my journey South lost its full value. And when,
as we approached Honduras, it was recalled to me, I was surprised to
find that I had heard no one on board discuss the war, nor refer to it
in any way. When I considered this, I was the more surprised because
Porto Cortez was one of the chief ports at which we touched, and I was
annoyed to find that I had travelled so far for the sake of a cause in
which those directly interested felt so little concern. I set about
with great caution to discover the reason for this lack of interest.
The passengers of the Panama came from widely different parts of Central
America. They were coffee planters and mining engineers, concession
hunters, and promoters of mining companies. I sounded each of them
separately as to the condition of affairs in Honduras, and gave as my
reason for inquiring the fact that I had thoughts of investing my
money there. I talked rather largely of my money. But this information,
instead of inducing them to speak of Honduras, only made each of them
more eloquent in praising the particular republic in which his own money
was invested, and each begged me to place mine with his. In the course
of one day I was offered a part ownership in four coffee plantations, a
rubber forest, a machine for turning the sea-turtles into fat and shell,
and the good-will and fixtures of a dentist’s office. Except that I
obtained some reputation on board as a young man of property, which
reputation I endeavored to maintain by treating everyone to drinks in
the social hall, my inquiries led to no result. No one apparently knew,
nor cared to know, of the revolution in Honduras, and passed it over as
a joke. This hurt me, but lest they should grow suspicious, I did not
continue my inquiries.



THE CAFE SANTOS, SAGUA LA GRANDE, HONDURAS


We sighted land at seven in the morning, and as the ship made in toward
the shore I ran to the bow and stood alone peering over the rail. Before
me lay the scene set for my coming adventures, and as the ship threaded
the coral reefs, my excitement ran so high that my throat choked, and
my eyes suddenly dimmed with tears. It seemed too good to be real. It
seemed impossible that it could be true; that at last I should be about
to act the life I had so long only rehearsed and pretended. But the
pretence had changed to something living and actual. In front of me,
under a flashing sun, I saw the palm-fringed harbor of my dreams, a
white village of thatched mud houses, a row of ugly huts above which
drooped limply the flags of foreign consuls, and, far beyond, a deep
blue range of mountains, forbidding and mysterious, rising out of a
steaming swamp into a burning sky, and on the harbor’s only pier,
in blue drill uniforms and gay red caps, a group of dark-skinned,
swaggering soldiers. This hot, volcano-looking land was the one I had
come to free from its fetters. These swarthy barefooted brigands were
the men with whom I was to fight.

My trunk had been packed and strapped since sunrise, and before the
ship reached the pier, I had said “good-by” to everyone on board and was
waiting impatiently at the gang-way. I was the only passenger to leave,
and no cargo was unloaded nor taken on. She was waiting only for the
agent of the company to confer with Captain Leeds, and while these men
were conversing on the bridge, and the hawser was being drawn on board,
the custom-house officers, much to my disquiet, began to search my
trunk. I had nothing with me which was dutiable, but my grandfather’s
presentation sword was hidden in the trunk and its presence there and
prospective use would be difficult to explain. It was accordingly with
a feeling of satisfaction that I noticed on a building on the end of the
pier the sign of our consulate and the American flag, and that a young
man, evidently an American, was hurrying from it toward the ship. But
as it turned out I had no need of his services, for I had concealed the
sword so cleverly by burying each end of it in one of my long cavalry
boots, that the official failed to find it.

I had locked my trunk again and was waving final farewells to those on
the Panama, when the young man from the consulate began suddenly to race
down the pier, shouting as he came.

The gang-way had been drawn up, and the steamer was under way, churning
the water as she swung slowly seaward, but she was still within easy
speaking distance of the pierhead.

The young man rushed through the crowd, jostling the native Indians and
negro soldiers, and shrieked at the departing vessel.

“Stop!” he screamed, “stop! stop her!”

He recognized Captain Leeds on the bridge, and, running along the
pierhead until he was just below it, waved wildly at him.

“Where’s my freight?” he cried. “My freight! You haven’t put off my
freight.”

Captain Leeds folded his arms comfortably upon the rail, and regarded
the young man calmly and with an expression of amusement.

“Where are my sewing-machines?” the young man demanded. “Where are the
sewing-machines invoiced me by this steamer?”

“Sewing-machines, Mr. Aiken?” the Captain answered. “I left your
sewing-machines in New Orleans.”

“You what?” shrieked the young man. “You left them?”

“I left them sitting on the company’s levee,” the Captain continued,
calmly. “The revenue officers have ‘em by now, Mr. Aiken. Some parties
said they weren’t sewing-machines at all. They said you were acting for
Laguerre.”

The ship was slowly drawing away. The young man stretched out one arm as
though to detain her, and danced frantically along the stringhead.

“How dare you!” he cried. “I’m a commission merchant. I deal in whatever
I please--and I’m the American Consul!”

The Captain laughed, and with a wave of his hand in farewell backed away
from the rail.

“That may be,” he shouted, “but this line isn’t carrying freight for
General Laguerre, nor for you, neither.” He returned and made a speaking
trumpet of his hands. “Tell him from me,” he shouted, mockingly, “that
if he wants his sewing-machines he’d better go North and steal ‘em. Same
as he stole our Nancy Miller.”

The young man shook both his fists in helpless anger.

“You damned banana trader,” he shrieked, “you’ll lose your license for
this. I’ll fix you for this. I’ll dirty your card for you, you pirate!”

The Captain flung himself far over the rail. He did not need a speaking
trumpet now--his voice would have carried above the tumult of a
hurricane.

“You’ll what?” he roared. “You’ll dirty my card, you thieving
filibuster? Do you know what I’ll do to you? I’ll have your tin
sign taken away from you, before I touch this port again. You’ll
see--you--you--” he ended impotently for lack of epithets, but continued
in eloquent pantomime to wave his arms.

With an oath the young man recognized defeat, and shrugged his
shoulders.

“Oh, you go to the devil,” he shouted, and turned away. He saw me
observing him, and as I was the only person present who looked as though
he understood English, he grinned at me sheepishly, and nodded.

“I don’t care for him,” he said. “He can’t frighten me.”

I considered this as equivalent to an introduction.

“You are the United States Consul?” I asked. The young man nodded
briskly.

“Yes; I am. Where do you come from?”

“Dobbs Ferry, near New York,” I answered. “I’d---I’d like to have a talk
with you, when you are not busy.”

“That’s all right,” he said. “I’m not busy now. That bumboat pirate
queered the only business I had. Where are you going to stop? There is
only one place,” he explained; “that’s Pulido’s. He’ll knife you if
he thinks you have five dollars in your belt, and the bar-room is half
under water anyway. Or you can take a cot in my shack, if you like, and
I’ll board and lodge you for two pesos a day--that’s one dollar in our
money. And if you are going up country,” he went on, “I can fit you out
with mules and mozos and everything you want, from canned meats to
an escort of soldiers. You’re sure to be robbed anyway,” he urged,
pleasantly, “and you might as well give the job to a fellow-countryman.
I’d hate to have one of these greasers get it.”

“You’re welcome to try,” I said, laughing.

In spite of his manner, which was much too familiar and patronizing, the
young man amused me, and I must confess moreover that at that moment I
felt very far from home and was glad to meet an American, and one not so
much older than myself. The fact that he was our consul struck me as a
most fortunate circumstance.

He clapped his hands and directed one of the negroes to carry my trunk
to the consulate, and I walked with him up the pier, the native soldiers
saluting him awkwardly as he passed. He returned their salute with a
flourish, and more to impress me I guessed than from any regard for
them.

“That’s because I’m Consul,” he said, with satisfaction. “There’s only
eight white men in Porto Cortez,” he explained, “and we’re all consular
agents. The Italian consular agent is a Frenchman, and an Italian,
Guessippi--the Banana King, they call him--is consular agent for both
Germany and England, and the only German here is consular agent for
France and Holland. You see, each of ‘em has to represent some other
country than his own, because his country knows why he left it.” He
threw back his head and laughed at this with great delight. Apparently
he had already forgotten the rebuff from Captain Leeds. But it had made
a deep impression upon me. I had heard Leeds virtually accuse the consul
of being an agent of General Laguerre, and I suspected that the articles
he had refused to deliver were more likely to be machine guns than
sewing-machines. If this were true, Mr. Aiken was a person in whom I
could confide with safety.

The consulate was a one-story building of corrugated iron, hot,
unpainted, and unlovely. It was set on wooden logs to lift it from the
reach of “sand jiggers” and the surf, which at high tide ran up the
beach, under and beyond it. Inside it was rude and bare, and the heat
and the smell of the harbor, and of the swamp on which the town was
built, passed freely through the open doors.

Aiken proceeded to play the host in a most cordial manner. He placed my
trunk in the room I was to occupy, and set out some very strong Honduran
cigars and a bottle of Jamaica rum. While he did this he began to
grumble over the loss of his sewing-machines, and to swear picturesquely
at Captain Leeds, bragging of the awful things he meant to do to him.
But when he had tasted his drink and lighted a cigar, his good-humor
returned, and he gave his attention to me.

“Now then, young one,” he asked, in a tone of the utmost familiarity,
“what’s your trouble?”

I explained that I could not help but hear what the Captain shouted
at him from the Panama, and I asked if it was contrary to the law of
Honduras for one to communicate with the officer Captain Leeds had
mentioned--General Laguerre.

“The old man, hey?” Aiken exclaimed and stared at me apparently with
increased interest. “Well, there are some people who might prevent your
getting to him,” he answered, diplomatically. For a moment he sipped his
rum and water, while he examined me from over the top of the cup. Then
he winked and smiled.

“Come now,” he said, encouragingly. “Speak up. What’s the game? You can
trust me. You’re an agent for Collins, or the Winchester Arms people,
aren’t you?”

“On the contrary,” I said, with some haughtiness, “I am serving no one’s
interest but my own. I read in the papers of General Laguerre and his
foreign legion, and I came here to join him and to fight with him.
That’s all. I am a soldier of fortune, I said.” I repeated this with
some emphasis, for I liked the sound of it. “I am a soldier of fortune,
and my name is Macklin. I hope in time to make it better known.”

“A soldier of fortune, hey?” exclaimed Aiken, observing me with a grin.
“What soldiering have you done?”

I replied, with a little embarrassment, that as yet I had seen no active
service, but that for three years I had been trained for it at West
Point.

“At West Point, the deuce you have!” said Aiken. His tone was now one
of respect, and he regarded me with marked interest. He was not a
gentleman, but he was sharp-witted enough to recognize one in me, and
my words and bearing had impressed him. Still his next remark was
disconcerting.

“But if you’re a West Point soldier,” he asked, “why the devil do you
want to mix up in a shooting-match like this?”

I was annoyed, but I answered, civilly: “It’s in a good cause,” I said.
“As I understand the situation, this President Alvarez is a tyrant. He’s
opposed to all progress. It’s a fight for liberty.”

Aiken interrupted me with a laugh, and placed his feet on the table.

“Oh, come,” he said, in a most offensive tone. “Play fair, play fair.”

“Play fair? What do you mean?” I demanded.

“You don’t expect me to believe,” he said, jeeringly, “that you came all
the way down here, just to fight for the sacred cause of liberty.”

I may occasionally exaggerate a bit in representing myself to be a more
important person than I really am, but if I were taught nothing else at
the Point, I was taught to tell the truth, and when Aiken questioned my
word I felt the honor of the whole army rising within me and stiffening
my back-bone.

“You had better believe what I tell you, sir,” I answered him, sharply.
“You may not know it, but you are impertinent!”

I have seldom seen a man so surprised as was Aiken when I made this
speech. His mouth opened and remained open while he slowly removed
his feet from the table and allowed the legs of his chair to touch the
floor.

“Great Scott,” he said at last, “but you have got a nasty temper. I’d
forgotten that folks are so particular.”

“Particular--because I object to having my word doubted,” I asked. “I
must request you to send my trunk to Pulido’s. I fancy you and I won’t
hit it off together.” I rose and started to leave the room, but he held
out his hands to prevent me, and exclaimed, in consternation:

“Oh, that’s no way to treat me,” he protested. “I didn’t say anything
for you to get on your ear about. If I did, I’m sorry.” He stepped
forward, offering to shake my hand, and as I took his doubtfully, he
pushed me back into my chair.

“You mustn’t mind me,” he went on. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen a
man from God’s country that I’ve forgotten how to do the polite. Here,
have another drink and start even.” He was so eager and so suddenly
humble that I felt ashamed of my display of offended honor, and we began
again with a better understanding.

I told him once more why I had come, and this time he accepted my story
as though he considered my wishing to join Laguerre the most natural
thing in the world, nodding his head and muttering approvingly. When I
had finished he said, “You may not think so now, but I guess you’ve come
to the only person who can help you. If you’d gone to anyone else you’d
probably have landed in jail.” He glanced over his shoulder at the open
door, and then, after a mysterious wink at me, tiptoed out upon the
veranda, and ran rapidly around and through the house. This precaution
on his part gave me a thrill of satisfaction. I felt that at last I
was a real conspirator that I was concerned in something dangerous and
weighty. I sipped at my glass with an air of indifference, but as a
matter of fact I was rather nervous.

“You can’t be too careful,” Aiken said as he reseated himself. “Of
course, the whole thing is a comic opera, but if they suspect you
are working against them, they’re just as likely as not to make it a
tragedy, with you in the star part. Now I’ll explain how I got into
this, and I can assure you it wasn’t through any love of liberty with
me. The consular agent here is a man named Quay, and he and I have
been in the commission business together. About three months ago, when
Laguerre was organizing his command at Bluefields, Garcia, who is the
leader of the revolutionary party, sent word down here to Quay to go
North for him and buy two machine guns and invoice ‘em to me at the
consulate. Quay left on the next steamer and appointed me acting consul,
but except for his saying so I’ve no more real authority to act as
consul than you have. The plan was that when Laguerre captured this port
he would pick up the guns and carry them on to Garcia. Laguerre was at
Bluefields, but couldn’t get into the game for lack of a boat. So when
the Nancy Miller touched there he and his crowd boarded her just like a
lot of old-fashioned pirates and turned the passengers out on the wharf.
Then they put a gun at the head of the engineer and ordered him to take
them back to Porto Cortez. But when they reached here the guns hadn’t
arrived from New Orleans. And so, after a bit of a fight on landing,
Laguerre pushed on without them to join Garcia. He left instructions
with me to bring him word when they arrived. He’s in hiding up there in
the mountains, waiting to hear from me now. They ought to have come this
steamer day on the Panama along with you, but, as you know, they didn’t.
I never thought they would. I knew the Isthmian Line people wouldn’t
carry ‘em. They’ve got to beat Garcia, and until this row is over they
won’t even carry a mail-bag for fear he might capture it.”

“Is that because General Laguerre seized one of their steamers?” I
asked.

“No, it’s an old fight,” said Aiken, “and Laguerre’s stealing the Nancy
Miller was only a part of it. The fight began between Garcia and the
Isthmian Line when Garcia became president. He tried to collect some
money from the Isthmian Line, and old man Fiske threw him out of the
palace and made Alvarez president.”

I was beginning to find the politics of the revolution into which I had
precipitated myself somewhat involved, and I suppose I looked puzzled,
for Aiken laughed.

“You can laugh,” I said, “but it is rather confusing. Who is Fiske? Is
he another revolutionist?”

“Fiske!” exclaimed Aiken. “Don’t tell me you don’t know who Fiske is?
I mean old man Fiske, the Wall Street banker--Joseph Fiske, the one who
owns the steam yacht and all the railroads.”

I had of course heard of that Joseph Fiske, but his name to me was only
a word meaning money. I had never thought of Joseph Fiske as a human
being. At school and at the Point when we wanted to give the idea of
wealth that could not be counted we used to say, “As rich as Joe Fiske.”
 But I answered, in a tone that suggested that I knew him intimately:

“Oh, that Fiske,” I said. “But what has he to do with Honduras?”

“He owns it,” Aiken answered. “It’s like this,” he began. “You must
understand that almost every republic in Central America is under
the thumb of a big trading firm or a banking house or a railroad. For
instance, all these revolutions you read about in the papers--it’s
seldom they start with the people. The _puebleo_ don’t often elect
a president or turn one out. That’s generally the work of a New York
business firm that wants a concession. If the president in office won’t
give it a concession the company starts out to find one who will. It
hunts up a rival politician or a general of the army who wants to be
president, and all of them do, and makes a deal with him. It promises
him if he’ll start a revolution it will back him with the money and the
guns. Of course, the understanding is that if the leader of the fake
revolution gets in he’ll give his New York backers whatever they’re
after. Sometimes they want a concession for a railroad, and sometimes
it’s a nitrate bed or a rubber forest, but you can take my word for
it that there’s very few revolutions down here that haven’t got a
money-making scheme at the bottom of them.

“Now this present revolution was started by the Isthmian Steamship Line,
of which Joe Fiske is president. It runs its steamers from New Orleans
to the Isthmus of Panama. In its original charter this republic gave it
the monopoly of the fruit-carrying trade from all Hondurian ports. In
return for this the company agreed to pay the government $10,000 a year
and ten per cent, on its annual receipts, if the receipts ever exceeded
a certain amount. Well, curiously enough, although the line has been
able to build seven new steamers, its receipts have never exceeded that
fixed amount. And if you know these people the reason for that is very
simple. The company has always given each succeeding president a lump
sum for himself, on the condition that he won’t ask any impertinent
questions about the company’s earnings. Its people tell him that it is
running at a loss, and he always takes their word for it. But Garcia,
when he came in, either was too honest, or they didn’t pay him enough to
keep quiet. I don’t know which it was, but, anyway, he sent an agent
to New Orleans to examine the company’s books. The agent discovered the
earnings have been so enormous that by rights the Isthmian Line owed the
government of Honduras $500,000. This was a great chance for Garcia, and
he told them to put up the back pay or lose their charter. They refused
and he got back at them by preventing their ships from taking on any
cargo in Honduras, and by seizing their plant here and at Truxillo.
Well, the company didn’t dare to go to law about it, nor appeal to the
State Department, so it started a revolution. It picked out a thief
named Alvarez as a figure-head and helped him to bribe the army and
capture the capital. Then he bought a decision from the local courts in
favor of the company. After that there was no more talk about collecting
back pay. Garcia was an exile in Nicaragua. There he met Laguerre, who
is a professional soldier of fortune, and together they cooked up this
present revolution. They hope to put Garcia back into power again. How
he’ll act if he gets in I don’t know. The common people believe he’s a
patriot, that he’ll keep all the promises he makes them--and he makes a
good many--and some white people believe in him, too. Laguerre believes
in him, for instance. Laguerre told me that Garcia was a second Bolivar
and Washington. But he might be both of them, and he couldn’t beat the
Isthmian Line. You see, while he has prevented the Isthmian Line from
carrying bananas, he’s cut off his own nose by shutting off his only
source of supply. For these big corporations hang together at times,
and on the Pacific side the Pacific Mail Company has got the word from
Fiske, and they won’t carry supplies, either. That’s what I meant by
saying that Joe Fiske owns Honduras. He’s cut it off from the world, and
only _his_ arms and _his_ friends can get into it. And the joke of it is
he can’t get out.”

“Can’t get out?” I exclaimed. “What do you mean?”

“Why, he’s up there at Tegucigalpa himself,” said Aiken. “Didn’t you
know that? He’s up at the capital, visiting Alvarez. He came in through
this port about two weeks ago.”

“Joseph Fiske is fighting in a Hondurian revolution?” I exclaimed.

“Certainly not!” cried Aiken. “He’s here on a pleasure trip; partly
pleasure, partly business. He came here on his yacht. You can see her
from the window, lying to the left of the buoy. Fiske has nothing to do
with this row. I don’t suppose he knows there’s a revolution going on.”

I resented this pretended lack of interest on the part of the Wall
Street banker. I condemned it as a piece of absurd affectation.

“Don’t you believe it!” I said. “No matter how many millions a man has,
he doesn’t stand to lose $500,000 without taking an interest in it.”

“Oh, but he doesn’t know about _that_,” said Aiken. “He doesn’t know
the ins and outs of the story--what I’ve been telling you. That’s on the
inside--that’s cafe scandal. That side of it would never reach him. I
suppose Joe Fiske is president of a _dozen_ steamship lines, and all he
does is to lend his name to this one, and preside at board meetings. The
company’s lawyers tell him whatever they think he ought to know. They
probably say they’re having trouble down here owing to one of the local
revolutions, and that Garcia is trying to blackmail them.”

“Then you don’t think Fiske came down here about this?” I asked.

“About this?” repeated Aiken, in a tone of such contempt that I disliked
him intensely. For the last half hour Aiken had been jumping unfeelingly
on all my ideals and illusions.

“No,” he went on. “He came here on his yacht on a pleasure trip around
the West India Islands, and he rode in from here to look over the Copan
Silver Mines. Alvarez is terribly keen to get rid of him. He’s afraid
the revolutionists will catch him and hold him for ransom. He’d bring a
good price,” Aiken added, reflectively. “It’s enough to make a man turn
brigand. And his daughter, too. She’d bring a good price.”

“His daughter!” I exclaimed.

Aiken squeezed the tips of his fingers together, and kissed them,
tossing the imaginary kiss up toward the roof. Then he drank what was
left of his rum and water at a gulp and lifted the empty glass high in
the air. “To the daughter,” he said.

It was no concern of mine, but I resented his actions exceedingly. I
think I was annoyed that he should have seen the young lady while I had
not. I also resented his toasting her before a stranger. I knew he could
not have met her, and his pretence of enthusiasm made him appear quite
ridiculous. He looked at me mournfully, shaking his head as though it
were impossible for him to give me an idea of her.

“Why they say,” he exclaimed, “that when she rides along the trail, the
native women kneel beside it.

“She’s the best looking girl I ever saw,” he declared, “and she’s a
thoroughbred too!” he added, “or she wouldn’t have stuck it out in this
country when she had a clean yacht to fall back on. She’s been riding
around on a mule, so they tell me, along with her father and the
engineering experts, and just as though she enjoyed it. The men up at
the mines say she tired them all out.”

I had no desire to discuss the young lady with Aiken, so I pretended not
to be interested, and he ceased speaking, and we smoked in silence. But
my mind was nevertheless wide awake to what he had told me. I could not
help but see the dramatic values which had been given to the situation
by the presence of this young lady. The possibilities were tremendous.
Here was I, fighting against her father, and here was she, beautiful and
an heiress to many millions. In the short space of a few seconds I had
pictured myself rescuing her from brigands, denouncing her father
for not paying his honest debt to Honduras, had been shot down by his
escort, Miss Fiske had bandaged my wounds, and I was returning North as
her prospective husband on my prospective father-in-law’s yacht.
Aiken aroused me from this by rising to his feet. “Now then,” he said,
briskly, “if you want to go to Laguerre you can come with me. I’ve got
to see him to explain why his guns haven’t arrived, and I’ll take you
with me.” He made a wry face and laughed. “A nice welcome he’ll give
me,” he said. I jumped to my feet. “There’s my trunk,” I said; “it’s
ready, and so am I. When do we start?”

“As soon as it is moonlight,” Aiken answered.

The remainder of the day was spent in preparing for our journey. I was
first taken to the commandante and presented to him as a commercial
traveller. Aiken asked him for a passport permitting me to proceed to
the capital “for purposes of trade.” As consular agent Aiken needed no
passport for himself, but to avoid suspicion he informed the commandante
that his object in visiting Tegucigalpa was to persuade Joseph Fiske,
as president of the Isthmian Line, to place buoys in the harbor of Porto
Cortez and give the commission for their purchase to the commandante.
Aiken then and always was the most graceful liar I have ever met. His
fictions were never for his own advantage, at least not obviously so.
Instead, they always held out some pleasing hope for the person to whom
they were addressed. His plans and promises as to what he would do were
so alluring that even when I knew he was lying I liked to pretend that
he was not. This particular fiction so interested the commandante that
he even offered us an escort of soldiers, which honor we naturally
declined.

That night when the moon had risen we started inland, each mounted on a
stout little mule, and followed by a third, on which was swung my trunk,
balanced on the other side by Aiken’s saddle bags. A Carib Indian whom
Aiken had selected because of his sympathies for the revolution walked
beside the third mule and directed its progress by the most startling
shrieks and howls. To me it was a most memorable and marvellous night,
and although for the greater part of it Aiken dozed in his saddle and
woke only to abuse his mule, I was never more wakeful nor more happy. At
the very setting forth I was pleasantly stirred when at the limit of the
town a squad of soldiers halted us and demanded our passports. This was
my first encounter with the government troops. They were barefooted
and most slovenly looking soldiers, mere boys in age and armed with
old-fashioned Remingtons. But their officer, the captain of the guard,
was more smartly dressed, and I was delighted to find that my knowledge
of Spanish, in which my grandfather had so persistently drilled me,
enabled me to understand all that passed between him and Aiken. The
captain warned us that the revolutionists were camped along the
trail, and that if challenged we had best answer quickly that we were
Americanos. He also told us that General Laguerre and his legion of
“gringoes” were in hiding in the highlands some two days’ ride from the
coast. Aiken expressed the greatest concern at this, and was for at
once turning back. His agitation was so convincing, he was apparently
so frightened, that, until he threw a quick wink at me, I confess I was
completely taken in. For some time he refused to be calmed, and it
was only when the captain assured him that his official position would
protect him from any personal danger that he consented to ride on.
Before we crossed the town limits he had made it quite evident that
the officer himself was solely responsible for his continuing on
his journey, and he denounced Laguerre and all his works with a
picturesqueness of language and a sincerity that filled me with
confusion. I even began to doubt if after all Aiken was not playing a
game for both sides, and might not end my career by leading me into
a trap. After we rode on I considered the possibility of this quite
seriously, and I was not reassured until I heard the _mozo_, with many
chuckles and shrugs of the shoulder, congratulate Aiken on the way he
had made a fool of the captain.

“That’s called diplomacy, Jose,” Aiken told him. “That’s my statecraft.
It’s because I have so much statecraft that I am a consul. You keep
your eye on this American consul, Jose, and you’ll learn a lot of
statecraft.”

Jose showed his teeth and grinned, and after he had dropped into a line
behind us we could hear him still chuckling.

“You would be a great success in secret service work, Aiken,” I said,
“or on the stage.”

We were riding in single file, and in order to see my face in the
moonlight he had to turn in his saddle.

“And yet I didn’t,” he laughed.

“What do you mean,” I asked, “were you ever a spy or an actor?”

“I was both,” he said. “I was a failure at both, too. I got put in jail
for being a spy, and I ought to have been hung for my acting.” I kicked
my mule forward in order to hear better.

“Tell me about it,” I asked, eagerly. “About when you were a spy.”

But Aiken only laughed, and rode on without turning his head.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said after a pause. Then he looked at me
over his shoulder. “It needs a big black background of experience and
hard luck to get the perspective on that story,” he explained. “It
wouldn’t appeal to you; you’re too young. They’re some things they don’t
teach at West Point.”

“They teach us,” I answered, hotly, “that if we’re detailed to secret
service work we are to carry out our orders. It’s not dishonorable to
obey orders. I’m not so young as you think. Go on, tell me, in what war
were you a spy?”

“It wasn’t in any war,” Aiken said, again turning away from me. “It was
in Haskell’s Private Detective Agency.”

I could not prevent an exclamation, but the instant it had escaped me
I could have kicked myself for having made it. “I beg your pardon,” I
murmured, awkwardly.

“I said you wouldn’t understand,” Aiken answered. Then, to show he did
not wish to speak with me further, he spurred his mule into a trot and
kept a distance between us.

Our trail ran over soft, spongy ground and was shut in on either hand
by a wet jungle of tangled vines and creepers. They interlaced like the
strands of a hammock, choking and strangling and clinging to each other
in a great web. From the jungle we came to ill-smelling pools of mud and
water, over which hung a white mist which rose as high as our heads.
It was so heavy with moisture that our clothing dripped with it, and
we were chilled until our teeth chattered. But by five o’clock in the
morning we had escaped the coast swamps, and reached higher ground and
the village of Sagua la Grande, and the sun was drying our clothes and
taking the stiffness out of our bones.



CANAL COMPANY’S FEVER HOSPITAL, PANAMA


The nurse brought me my diary this morning. She found it in the inside
pocket of my tunic. All of its back pages were scribbled over with
orders of the day, countersigns, and the memoranda I made after Laguerre
appointed me adjutant to the Legion. But in the first half of it was
what I see I was pleased to call my “memoirs,” in which I had written
the last chapter the day Aiken and I halted at Sagua la Grande. When I
read it over I felt that I was somehow much older than when I made that
last entry. And yet it was only two months ago. It seems like two years.
I don’t feel much like writing about it, nor thinking about it, but I
suppose, if I mean to keep my “memoirs” up to date, I shall never have
more leisure in which to write than I have now. For Dr. Ezequiel says it
will be another two weeks before I can leave this cot. Sagua seems very
unimportant now. But I must not write of it as I see it now, from this
distance, but as it appealed to me then, when everything about me was
new and strange and wonderful.

It was my first sight of a Honduranian town, and I thought it most
charming and curious. As I learned later it was like any other
Honduranian town and indeed like every other town in Central America.
They are all built around a plaza, which sometimes is a park with
fountains and tessellated marble pavements and electric lights, and
sometimes only an open place of dusty grass. There is always a church
at one end, and the cafe or club, and the alcalde’s house, or the
governor’s palace, at another. In the richer plazas there must always
be the statue of some Liberator, and in the poorer a great wooden cross.
Sagua la Grande was bright and warm and foreign looking. It reminded
me of the colored prints of Mexico which I had seen in my grandfather’s
library. The houses were thatched clay huts with gardens around them
crowded with banana palms, and trees hung with long beans, which broke
into masses of crimson flowers. The church opposite the inn was old and
yellow, and at the edge of the plaza were great palms that rustled and
courtesied. We led our mules straight through the one big room of the
inn out into the yard behind it, and while doing it I committed the
grave discourtesy of not first removing my spurs. Aiken told me about it
at once, and I apologized to everyone--to the alcalde, and the priest,
and the village school-master who had crossed the plaza to welcome
us--and I asked them all to drink with me. I do not know that I ever
enjoyed a breakfast more than I did the one we ate in the big cool inn
with the striped awning outside, and the naked brown children watching
us from the street, and the palms whispering overhead. The breakfast
was good in itself, but it was my surroundings which made the meal so
remarkable and the fact that I was no longer at home and responsible to
someone, but that I was talking as one man to another, and in a foreign
language to people who knew no other tongue. The inn-keeper was a fat
little person in white drill and a red sash, in which he carried two
silver-mounted pistols. He looked like a ring-master in a circus, but he
cooked us a most wonderful omelette with tomatoes and onions and olives
chopped up in it with oil. And an Indian woman made us tortillas, which
are like our buckwheat cakes. It was fascinating to see her toss them
up in the air, and slap them into shape with her hands. Outside the sun
blazed upon the white rim of huts, and the great wooden cross in the
plaza threw its shadow upon the yellow facade of the church. Beside the
church there was a chime of four bells swinging from a low ridge-pole.
The dews and the sun had turned their copper a brilliant green, but had
not hurt their music, and while we sat at breakfast a little Indian boy
in crumpled vestments beat upon them with a stick, making a sweet and
swinging melody. It did not seem to me a scene set for revolution, but I
liked it all so much that that one breakfast alone repaid me for my long
journey south. I was sure life in Sagua la Grande would always suit
me, and that I would never ask for better company than the comic-opera
landlord and the jolly young priest and the yellow-skinned, fever-ridden
schoolmaster with his throat wrapped in a great woollen shawl. But very
soon, what with having had no sleep the night before and the heat, I
grew terribly drowsy and turned in on a canvas cot in the corner, where
I slept until long after mid-day. For some time I could hear Aiken and
the others conversing together and caught the names of Laguerre and
Garcia, but I was too sleepy to try to listen, and, as I said, Sagua did
not seem to me to be the place for conspiracies and revolutions. I left
it with real regret, and as though I were parting with friends of long
acquaintanceship.

From the time we left Sagua the path began to ascend, and we rode in
single file along the edges of deep precipices. From the depths below
giant ferns sent up cool, damp odors, and we could hear the splash and
ripple of running water, and at times, by looking into the valley, I
could see waterfalls and broad streams filled with rocks, which churned
the water into a white foam. We passed under tall trees covered with
white and purple flowers, and in the branches of others were perched
macaws, giant parrots of the most wonderful red and blue and yellow, and
just at sunset we startled hundreds of parroquets which flew screaming
and chattering about our heads, like so many balls of colored worsted.

When the moon rose, we rode out upon a table-land and passed between
thick forests of enormous trees, the like of which I had never imagined.
Their branches began at a great distance from the ground and were
covered thick with orchids, which I mistook for large birds roosting for
the night. Each tree was bound to the next by vines like tangled ropes,
some drawn as taut as the halyards of a ship, and others, as thick as
one’s leg; they were twisted and wrapped around the branches, so that
they looked like boa-constrictors hanging ready to drop upon one’s
shoulders. The moonlight gave to this forest of great trees a weird,
fantastic look. I felt like a knight entering an enchanted wood. But
nothing disturbed our silence except the sudden awakening of a great
bird or the stealthy rustle of an animal in the underbrush. Near
midnight we rode into a grove of manacca palms as delicate as ferns, and
each as high as a three-story house, and with fronds so long that those
drooping across the trail hid it completely. To push our way through
these we had to use both arms as one lifts the curtains in a doorway.

{Illustration: I was sure life in Sagua la Grande would always suit me.}

Aiken himself seemed to feel the awe and beauty of the place, and called
the direction to me in a whisper. Even that murmur was enough to carry
above the rustling of the palms, and startled hundreds of monkeys into
wakefulness. We could hear their barks and cries echoing from every part
of the forest, and as they sprang from one branch to another the palms
bent like trout-rods, and then swept back into place again with a
strange swishing sound, like the rush of a great fish through water.

After midnight we were too stiff and sore to ride farther, and we
bivouacked on the trail beside a stream. I had no desire for further
sleep, and I sat at the foot of a tree smoking and thinking. I had often
“camped out” as a boy, and at West Point with the battalion, but I had
never before felt so far away from civilization and my own people. For
company I made a little fire and sat before it, going over in my mind
what I had learned since I had set forth on my travels. I concluded that
so far I had gained much and lost much. What I had experienced of the
ocean while on the ship and what little I had seen of this country
delighted me entirely, and I would not have parted with a single one of
my new impressions. But all I had learned of the cause for which I had
come to fight disappointed and disheartened me. Of course I had left
home partly to seek adventure, but not only for that. I had set out on
this expedition with the idea that I was serving some good cause--that
old-fashioned principles were forcing these men to fight for their
independence. But I had been early undeceived. At the same time that
I was enjoying my first sight of new and beautiful things I was being
robbed of my illusions and my ideals. And nothing could make up to me
for that. By merely travelling on around the globe I would always be
sure to find some new things of interest. But what would that count if I
lost my faith in men! If I ceased to believe in their unselfishness
and honesty. Even though I were young and credulous, and lived in
a make-believe world of my own imagining, I was happier so than in
thinking that everyone worked for his own advantage, and without justice
to others, or private honor. It harmed no one that I believed better
of others than they deserved, but it was going to hurt me terribly if I
learned that their aims were even lower than my own. I knew it was Aiken
who had so discouraged me. It was he who had laughed at me for believing
that Laguerre and his men were fighting for liberty. If I were going
to credit him, there was not one honest man in Honduras, and no one on
either side of this revolution was fighting for anything but money. He
had made it all seem commercial, sordid, and underhand. I blamed him
for having so shaken my faith and poisoned my mind. I scowled at his
unconscious figure as he lay sleeping peacefully on his blanket, and I
wished heartily that I had never set eyes on him. Then I argued that his
word, after all, was not final. He made no pretence of being a saint,
and it was not unnatural that a man who held no high motives should
fail to credit them to others. I had partially consoled myself with
this reflection, when I remembered suddenly that Beatrice herself had
foretold the exact condition which Aiken had described.

“That is not war,” she had said to me, “that is speculation!” She surely
had said that to me, but how could she have known, or was hers only a
random guess? And if she had guessed correctly what would she wish me to
do now? Would she wish me to turn back, or, if my own motives were good,
would she tell me to go on? She had called me her knight-errant, and I
owed it to her to do nothing of which she would disapprove. As I thought
of her I felt a great loneliness and a longing to see her once again.
I thought of how greatly she would have delighted in those days at sea,
and how wonderful it would have been if I could have seen this hot,
feverish country with her at my side. I pictured her at the inn at Sagua
smiling on the priest and the fat little landlord; and their admiration
of her. I imagined us riding together in the brilliant sunshine with the
crimson flowers meeting overhead, and the palms bowing to her and paying
her homage. I lifted the locket she had wound around my wrist, and
kissed it. As I did so, my doubts and questionings seemed to fall away.
I stood up confident and determined. It was not my business to worry
over the motives of other men, but to look to my own. I would go ahead
and fight Alvarez, who Aiken himself declared was a thief and a tyrant.
If anyone asked me my politics I would tell him I was for the side that
would obtain the money the Isthmian Line had stolen, and give it to
the people; that I was for Garcia and Liberty, Laguerre and the Foreign
Legion. This platform of principles seemed to me so satisfactory that I
stretched my feet to the fire and went to sleep.

I was awakened by the most delicious odor of coffee, and when I rolled
out of my blanket I found Jose standing over me with a cup of it in his
hand, and Aiken buckling the straps of my saddle-girth. We took a
plunge in the stream, and after a breakfast of coffee and cold tortillas
climbed into the saddle and again picked up the trail.

After riding for an hour Aiken warned me that at any moment we were
likely to come upon either Laguerre or the soldiers of Alvarez. “So you
keep your eyes and ears open,” he said, “and when they challenge throw
up your hands quick. The challenge is ‘Halt, who lives,’” he explained.
“If it is a government soldier you must answer, ‘The government.’ But if
it’s one of Laguerre’s or Garcia’s pickets you must say ‘The revolution
lives.’ And whatever else you do, _hold up your hands._”

I rehearsed this at once, challenging myself several times, and giving
the appropriate answers. The performance seemed to afford Aiken much
amusement.

“Isn’t that right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “but the joke is that you won’t be able to tell which is
the government soldier and which is the revolutionist, and you’ll give
the wrong answer, and we’ll both get shot.”

“I can tell by our uniform,” I answered.

“Uniform!” exclaimed Aiken, and burst into the most uproarious laughter.
“Rags and tatters,” he said.

I was considerably annoyed to learn by this that the revolutionary party
had no distinctive uniform. The one worn by the government troops which
I had seen at the coast I had thought bad enough, but it was a great
disappointment to hear that we had none at all. Ever since I had started
from Dobbs Ferry I had been wondering what was the Honduranian
uniform. I had promised myself to have my photograph taken in it. I
had anticipated the pride I should have in sending the picture back to
Beatrice. So I was considerably chagrined, until I decided to invent
a uniform of my own, which I would wear whether anyone else wore it or
not. This was even better than having to accept one which someone else
had selected. As I had thought much on the subject of uniforms, I began
at once to design a becoming one.

We had reached a most difficult pass in the mountain, where the trail
stumbled over broken masses of rock and through a thick tangle of
laurel. The walls of the pass were high and the trees at the top shut
out the sunlight. It was damp and cold and dark.

“We’re sure to strike something here,” Aiken whispered over his
shoulder. It did not seem at all unlikely. The place was the most
excellent man-trap, but as to that, the whole length of the trail had
lain through what nature had obviously arranged for a succession of
ambushes.

Aiken turned in his saddle and said, in an anxious tone: “Do you know,
the nearer I get to the old man, the more I think I was a fool to come.
As long as I’ve got nothing but bad news, I’d better have stayed away.
Do you remember Pharaoh and the messengers of ill tidings?”

I nodded, but I kept my eyes busy with the rocks and motionless laurel.
My mule was slipping and kicking down pebbles, and making as much noise
as a gun battery. I knew, if there were any pickets about, they could
hear us coming for a quarter of a mile.

“Garcia may think he’s Pharaoh,” Aiken went on, “and take it into his
head it’s my fault the guns didn’t come. Laguerre may say I sold the
secret to the Isthmian Line.”

“Oh, he couldn’t think you’d do that!” I protested.

“Well, I’ve known it done,” Aiken said. “Quay certainly sold us out at
New Orleans. And Laguerre may think I went shares with him.”

I began to wonder if Aiken was not probably the very worst person I
could have selected to introduce me to General Laguerre. It seemed as
though it certainly would have been better had I found my way to him
alone. I grew so uneasy concerning my possible reception that I said,
irritably: “Doesn’t the General know you well enough to trust you?”

“No, he doesn’t!” Aiken snapped back, quite as irritably. “And he’s dead
right, too. You take it from me, that the fewer people in this country
you trust, the better for you. Why, the rottenness of this country is a
proverb. ‘It’s a place where the birds have no song, where the flowers
have no odor, where the women are without virtue, and the men without
honor.’ That’s what a gringo said of Honduras many years ago, and he
knew the country and the people in it.”

It was not a comforting picture, but in my discouragement I remembered
Laguerre.

“General Laguerre does not belong to this country,” I said, hopefully.

“No,” Aiken answered, with a laugh. “He’s an Irish-Frenchman and belongs
to a dozen countries. He’s fought for every flag that floats, and he’s
no better off to-day than when he began.”

He turned toward me and stared with an amused and tolerant grin. “He’s a
bit like you,” he said.

I saw he did not consider what he said as a compliment, but I was vain
enough to want to know what he did think of me, so I asked: “And in what
way am I like General Laguerre?”

The idea of our similarity seemed to amuse Aiken, for he continued to
grin.

“Oh, you’ll see when we meet him,” he said. “I can’t explain it. You
two are just different from other people--that’s all. He’s old-fashioned
like you, if you know what I mean, and young--”

“Why, he’s an old man,” I corrected.

“He’s old enough to be your grandfather,” Aiken laughed, “but I say he’s
young--like you, the way you are.”

Aiken knew that it annoyed me when he pretended I was so much younger
than himself, and I had started on some angry reply, when I was abruptly
interrupted.

A tall, ragged man rose suddenly from behind a rock, and presented a
rifle. He was so close to Aiken that the rifle almost struck him in the
face. Aiken threw up his hands, and fell back with such a jerk that he
lost his balance, and would have fallen had he not pitched forward and
clasped the mule around the neck. I pulled my mule to a halt, and held
my hands as high as I could raise them. The man moved his rifle from
side to side so as to cover each of us in turn, and cried in English,
“Halt! Who goes there?”

Aiken had not told me the answer to that challenge, so I kept silent. I
could hear Jose behind me interrupting his prayers with little sobs of
fright.

Aiken scrambled back into an upright position, held up his hands,
and cried: “Confound you, we are travellers, going to the capital on
business. Who the devil are you?”

“Qui vive?” the man demanded over the barrel of his gun.

“What does that mean?” Aiken cried, petulantly. “Talk English, can’t
you, and put down that gun.”

The man ceased moving the rifle between us, and settled it on Aiken.

“Cry ‘Long live the government,’” he commanded, sharply.

Aiken gave a sudden start of surprise, and I saw his eyelids drop and
rise again. Later when I grew to know him intimately, I could always
tell when he was lying, or making the winning move in some bit of
knavery, by that nervous trick of the eyelids. He knew that I knew about
it, and he once confided to me that, had he been able to overcome it, he
would have saved himself some thousands of dollars which it had cost him
at cards.

But except for this drooping of the eyelids he gave no sign.

“No, I won’t cry ‘Long live the government,’” he answered. “That is,” he
added hastily, “I won’t cry long live anything. I’m the American Consul,
and I’m up here on business. So’s my friend.”

The man did not move his gun by so much as a straw’s breadth.

“You will cry ‘Long live Alvarez’ or I will shoot you,” said the man.

I had more leisure to observe the man than had Aiken, for it is
difficult to study the features of anyone when he is looking at you down
a gun-barrel, and it seemed to me that the muscles of the man’s mouth as
he pressed it against the stock were twitching with a smile. As the side
of his face toward me was the one farther from the gun, I was able to
see this, but Aiken could not, and he answered, still more angrily: “I
tell you, I’m the American Consul. Anyway, it’s not going to do you any
good to shoot me. You take me to your colonel alive, and I’ll give you
two hundred dollars. You shoot me and you won’t get a cent.”

The moment was serious enough, and I was thoroughly concerned both for
Aiken and myself, but when he made this offer, my nervousness, or my
sense of humor, got the upper hand of me, and I laughed.

Having laughed I made the best of it, and said:

“Offer him five hundred for the two of us. Hang the expense.”

The rifle wavered in the man’s hands, he steadied it, scowled at me, bit
his lips, and then burst into shouts of laughter. He sank back against
one of the rocks, and pointed at Aiken mockingly.

“I knew it was you all the time,” he cried, “for certain I did. I knew
it was you all the time.”

I was greatly relieved, but naturally deeply indignant. I felt as though
someone had jumped from behind a door, and shouted “Boo!” at me. I hoped
in my heart that the colonel would give the fellow eight hours’ pack
drill. “What a remarkable sentry,” I said.

Aiken shoved his hands into his breeches pockets, and surveyed the man
with an expression of the most violent disgust.

“You’ve got a damned queer idea of a joke,” he said finally. “I might
have shot you!”

The man seemed to consider this the very acme of humor, for he fairly
hooted at us. He was so much amused that it was some moments before he
could control himself.

“I saw you at Porto Cortez,” he said, “I knew you was the American
Consul all the time. You came to our camp after the fight, and the
General gave you a long talk in his tent. Don’t you remember me? I was
standing guard outside.”

Aiken snorted indignantly.

“No, I don’t remember you,” he said. “But I’ll remember you next time.
Are you standing guard now, or just doing a little highway robbery on
your own account?”

“Oh, I’m standing guard for keeps,” said the sentry, earnestly. “Our
camp’s only two hundred yards back of me. And our Captain told me to let
all parties pass except the enemy, but I thought I’d have to jump you
just for fun. I’m an American myself, you see, from Kansas. An’ being
an American I had to give the American Consul a scare. But say,”
 he exclaimed, advancing enthusiastically on Aiken, with his hand
outstretched, “you didn’t scare for a cent.” He shook hands violently
with each of us in turn. “My name’s Pete MacGraw,” he added,
expectantly.

“Well, now, Mr. MacGraw,” said Aiken, “if you’ll kindly guide us to
General Laguerre we’ll use our influence to have you promoted. You need
more room. I imagine a soldier with your original ideas must find sentry
duty go very dull.”

MacGraw grinned appreciatively and winked.

“If I take you to my General alive, do I get that two hundred dollars?”
 he asked. He rounded off his question with another yell of laughter.

He was such a harmless idiot that we laughed with him. But we were
silenced at once by a shout from above us, and a command to “Stop
that noise.” I looked up and saw a man in semi-uniform and wearing an
officer’s sash and sword stepping from one rock to another and breaking
his way through the laurel. He greeted Aiken with a curt wave of the
hand. “Glad to see you, Consul,” he called. “You will dismount, please,
and lead your horses this way.” He looked at me suspiciously and then
turned and disappeared into the undergrowth.

“The General is expecting you, Aiken,” his voice called back to us. “I
hope everything is all right?”

Aiken and I had started to draw the mules up the hill. Already both the
officer and the trail had been completely hidden by the laurel.

“No, nothing is all right,” Aiken growled.

There was the sound of an oath, the laurels parted, and the officer’s
face reappeared, glaring at us angrily.

“What do you mean?” he demanded. “My information is for General
Laguerre,” Aiken answered, sulkily.

The man sprang away again muttering to himself, and we scrambled and
stumbled after him, guided by the sounds of breaking branches and
rolling stones.

From a glance I caught of Aiken’s face I knew he was regretting now,
with even more reason than before, that he had not remained at the
coast, and I felt very sorry for him. Now that he was in trouble and not
patronizing me and poking fun at me, I experienced a strong change of
feeling toward him. He was the only friend I had in Honduras, and as
between him and these strangers who had received us so oddly, I felt
that, although it would be to my advantage to be friends with the
greater number, my loyalty was owing to Aiken. So I scrambled up beside
him and panted out with some difficulty, for the ascent was a steep one:
“If there is any row, I’m with _you_, Aiken.”

“Oh, there won’t be any row,” he growled.

“Well, if there is,” I repeated, “you can count me in.”

“That’s all right,” he said.

At that moment we reached the top of the incline, and I looked down into
the hollow below. To my surprise I found that this side of the hill was
quite barren of laurel or of any undergrowth, and that it sloped to a
little open space carpeted with high, waving grass, and cut in half by
a narrow stream. On one side of the stream a great herd of mules and
horses were tethered, and on the side nearer us were many smoking
camp-fires and rough shelters made from the branches of trees. Men were
sleeping in the grass or sitting in the shade of the shelters, cleaning
accoutrements, and some were washing clothes in the stream. At the foot
of the hill was a tent, and ranged before it two Gatling guns
strapped in their canvas jackets. I saw that I had at last reached
my destination. This was the camp of the filibusters. These were the
soldiers of Laguerre’s Foreign Legion.



III


Although I had reached my journey’s end, although I had accomplished
what I had set out to do, I felt no sense of elation nor relief. I
was, instead, disenchanted, discouraged, bitterly depressed. It was
so unutterably and miserably unlike what I had hoped to find, what I
believed I had the right to expect, that my disappointment and anger
choked me. The picture I had carried in my mind was one of shining
tent-walls, soldierly men in gay and gaudy uniforms, fluttering guidons,
blue ammunition-boxes in orderly array, smart sentries pacing their
posts, and a head-quarters tent where busy officers bent over maps and
reports.

The scene I had set was one painted in martial colors, in scarlet
and gold lace; it moved to martial music, to bugle-calls, to words of
command, to the ringing challenge of the sentry, and what I had found
was this camp of gypsies, this nest of tramps, without authority,
discipline, or self-respect. It was not even picturesque. My indignation
stirred me so intensely that, as I walked down the hill, I prayed for a
rude reception, that I might try to express my disgust.

The officer who had first approached us stopped at the opening of the
solitary tent, and began talking excitedly to someone inside. And as we
reached the level ground, the occupant of the tent stepped from it. He
was a stout, heavy man, with a long, twisted mustache, at which he was
tugging fiercely. He wore a red sash and a bandman’s tunic, with two
stars sewn on the collar. I could not make out his rank, but his first
words explained him.

“I am glad to see you at last, Mr. Aiken,” he said. “I’m Major Reeder,
in temporary command. You have come to report, sir?”

Aiken took so long to reply that I stopped studying the remarkable
costume of the Major and turned to Aiken. I was surprised to see that he
was unquestionably frightened. His eyes were shifting and blinking, and
he wet his lips with his tongue. All his self-assurance had deserted
him. The officer who had led us to the camp was also aware of Aiken’s
uneasiness, and was regarding him with a sneer. For some reason the
spectacle of Aiken’s distress seemed to afford him satisfaction.

“I should prefer to report to General Laguerre,” Aiken said, at last.

“I am in command here,” Reeder answered, sharply. “General Laguerre is
absent--reconnoitering. I represent him. I know all about Mr. Quay’s
mission. It was I who recommended him to the General. Where are the
guns?”

For a moment Aiken stared at him helplessly, and then drew in a quick
breath.

“I don’t know where they are,” he said. “The Panama arrived two days
ago, but when I went to unload the guns Captain Leeds told me they had
been seized in New Orleans by the Treasury Department. Someone must
have--”

Both Major Reeder and the officer interrupted with a shout of anger.

“Then it’s true!” Reeder cried. “It’s true, and--and--you dare to tell
us so!”

Aiken raised his head and for a moment looked almost defiant.

“Why shouldn’t I tell you?” he demanded, indignantly. “Who else was
there to tell you? I’ve travelled two days to let you know. I can’t help
it if the news isn’t good. I’m just as sorry as you are.”

The other officer was a stout, yellow-haired German. He advanced a step
and shook a soiled finger in Aiken’s face. “You can’t help it, can’t
you?” he cried. “You’re sorry, are you? You won’t be sorry when you’re
paid your money, will you? How much did you get for us, hey! How much
did Joe Fiske--”

Reeder threw out his arm and motioned the officer back. “Silence,
Captain Heinze,” he commanded.

The men of the Legion who had happened to be standing near the tent when
we appeared had come up to look at the new arrivals, and when they heard
two of their officers attacking Aiken they crowded still closer in
front of us, forming a big half-circle. Each of them apparently was on a
footing with his officers of perfect comradeship, and listened openly to
what was going forward as though it were a personal concern of his own.
They had even begun to discuss it among themselves, and made so much
noise in doing so that Captain Heinze passed on Reeder’s rebuke as
though it had been intended for them, commanding, “Silence in the
ranks.”

They were not in ranks, and should not have been allowed where they
were in any formation, but that did not seem to occur to either of the
officers.

“Silence,” Reeder repeated. “Now, Mr. Aiken, I am waiting. What have you
to say?”

“What is there for me to say?” Aiken protested. “I have done all I
could. I told you as soon as I could get here.” Major Reeder drew close
to Aiken and pointed his outstretched hand at him.

“Mr. Aiken,” he said. “Only four people knew that those guns were
ordered--Quay, who went to fetch them, General Laguerre, myself, and
you. Some one of us must have sold out the others; no one else could
have done it. It was not Quay. The General and I have been here in the
mountains--we did not do it; and that--that leaves you.”

“It does not leave me,” Aiken cried. He shouted it out with such spirit
that I wondered at him. It was the same sort of spirit which makes a rat
fight because he can’t get away, but I didn’t think so then.

“It was Quay sold you out!” Aiken cried. “Quay told the Isthmian people
as soon as the guns reached New Orleans. I suspected him when he cabled
me he wasn’t coming back. I know him. I know just what he is. He’s been
on both sides before.”

“Silence, you--you,” Reeder interrupted. He was white with anger. “Mr.
Quay is my friend,” he cried. “I trust him. I trust him as I would trust
my own brother. How dare you accuse him!”

He ceased and stood gasping with indignation, but his show of anger
encouraged Captain Heinze to make a fresh attack on Aiken.

“Quay took you off the beach,” he shouted.

“He gave you food and clothes, and a bed to lie on. It’s like you, to
bite the hand that fed you. When have you ever stuck to any side or
anybody if you could get a dollar more by selling him out?”

The whole thing had become intolerable. It was abject and degrading,
like a falling-out among thieves. They reminded me of a group of drunken
women I had once seen, shameless and foul-mouthed, fighting in the
street, with grinning night-birds urging them on. I felt in some way
horribly responsible, as though they had dragged me into it--as though
the flying handfuls of mud had splattered me. And yet the thing which
inflamed me the most against them was their unfairness to Aiken. They
would not let him speak, and they would not see that they were so many,
and that he was alone. I did not then know that he was telling the
truth. Indeed, I thought otherwise. I did not then know that on those
occasions when he appeared to the worst advantage, he generally was
trying to tell the truth.

Captain Heinze pushed nearer, and shoved his fist close to Aiken’s face.

“We know what you are,” he jeered. “We know you’re no more on our side
than you’re the American Consul. You lied to us about that, and you’ve
lied to us about everything else. And now we’ve caught you, and we’ll
make you pay for it.”

One of the men in the rear of the crowd shouted, “Ah, shoot the beggar!”
 and others began to push forward and to jeer. Aiken heard them and
turned quite white.

“You’ve caught me?” Aiken stammered. “Why, I came here of my own will.
Is it likely I’d have done that if I had sold you out?”

“I tell you you did sell us out,” Heinze roared. “And you’re a coward
besides, and I tell you so to your face!” He sprang at Aiken, and Aiken
shrank back. It made me sick to see him do it. I had such a contempt for
the men against him that I hated his not standing up to them. It was to
hide the fact that he had stepped back, that I jumped in front of him
and pretended to restrain him. I tried to make it look as though had I
not interfered, he would have struck at Heinze.

The German had swung around toward the men behind him, as though he were
subpoenaing them as witnesses.

“I call him a coward to his face!” he shouted. But when he turned again
I was standing in front of Aiken, and he halted in surprise, glaring at
me. I don’t know what made me do it, except that I had heard enough of
their recriminations, and was sick with disappointment. I hated Heinze
and all of them, and myself for being there.

“Yes, you can call him a coward,” I said, as offensively as I could,
“with fifty men behind you. How big a crowd do you want before you
dare insult a man?” Then I turned on the others. “Aren’t you ashamed of
yourselves,” I cried, “to all of you set on one man in your own camp? I
don’t know anything about this row and I don’t want to know, but there’s
fifty men here against one, and I’m on the side of that one. You’re
a lot of cheap bullies,” I cried, “and this German drill-sergeant,”
 I shouted, pointing at Heinze, “who calls himself an officer, is the
cheapest bully of the lot.” I jerked open the buckle which held my belt
and revolver, and flung them on the ground. Then I slipped off my coat,
and shoved it back of me to Aiken, for I wanted to keep him out of it.
It was the luck of Royal Macklin himself that led me to take off my coat
instead of drawing my revolver. At the Point I had been accustomed to
settle things with my fists, and it had been only since I started from
the coast that I had carried a gun. A year later, in the same situation,
I would have reached for it. Had I done so that morning, as a dozen of
them assured me later, they would have shot me before I could have got
my hand on it. But, as it was, when I rolled up my sleeves the men began
to laugh, and some shouted: “Give him room,” “Make a ring,” “Fair play,
now,” “Make a ring.” The semi-circle spread out and lengthened until it
formed a ring, with Heinze and Reeder, and Aiken holding my coat, and
myself in the centre of it.

I squared off in front of the German and tapped him lightly on the chest
with the back of my hand.

“Now, then,” I cried, taunting him, “I call _you_ a coward to _your_
face. What are you going to do about it?”

For an instant he seemed too enraged and astonished to move, and the
next he exploded with a wonderful German oath and rushed at me, tugging
at his sword. At the same moment the men gave a shout and the ring
broke. I thought they had cried out in protest when they saw Heinze put
his hand on his sword, but as they scattered and fell back I saw that
they were looking neither at Heinze nor at me, but at someone behind me.
Heinze, too, halted as suddenly as though he had been pulled back by a
curbed bit, and, bringing his heels together, stood stiffly at salute.
I turned and saw that everyone was falling out of the way of a tall
man who came striding toward us, and I knew on the instant that he
was General Laguerre. At the first glance I disassociated him from
his followers. He was entirely apart. In any surroundings I would have
picked him out as a leader of men. Even a civilian would have known
he was a soldier, for the signs of his calling were stamped on him
as plainly as the sterling mark on silver, and although he was not in
uniform his carriage and countenance told you that he was a personage.

He was very tall and gaunt, with broad shoulders and a waist as small as
a girl’s, and although he must then have been about fifty years of age
he stood as stiffly erect as though his spine had grown up into the back
of his head.

At the first glance he reminded me of Van Dyke’s portrait of Charles I.
He had the same high-bred features, the same wistful eyes, and hewore
his beard and mustache in what was called the Van Dyke fashion, before
Louis Napoleon gave it a new vogue as the “imperial.”

It must have been that I read the wistful look in his eyes later, for
at the moment of our first meeting it was a very stern Charles I. who
confronted us, with the delicate features stiffened in anger, and the
eyes set and burning. Since then I have seen both the wistful look and
the angry look many times, and even now I would rather face the muzzle
of a gun than the eyes of General Laguerre when you have offended him.

His first words were addressed to Reeder.

“What does this mean, sir?” he demanded. “If you cannot keep order in
this camp when my back is turned I shall find an officer who can. Who is
this?” he added, pointing at me. I became suddenly conscious of the fact
that I was without my hat or coat, and that my sleeves were pulled up to
the shoulders. Aiken was just behind me, and as I turned to him for my
coat I disclosed his presence to the General. He gave an exclamation of
delight.

“Mr. Aiken!” he cried, “at last!” He lowered his voice to an eager
whisper. “Where are the guns?” he asked.

Apparently Aiken felt more confidence in General Laguerre than in his
officers, for at this second questioning he answered promptly.

“I regret to say, sir,” he began, “that the guns were seized at New
Orleans. Someone informed the Honduranian Consul there, and he--”

“Seized!” cried Laguerre. “By whom? Do you mean we have lost them?”

Aiken lowered his eyes and nodded.

“But how do you know?” Laguerre demanded, eagerly. “You are not sure?
Who seized them?”

“The Treasury officers,” Aiken answered

“The captain of the Panama told me he saw the guns taken on the
company’s wharf.”

For some moments Laguerre regarded him sternly, but I do not think he
saw him. He turned and walked a few steps from us and back again.
Then he gave an upward toss of his head as though he had accepted his
sentence. “The fortunes of war,” he kept repeating to himself, “the
fortunes of war.” He looked up and saw us regarding him with expressions
of the deepest concern.

“I thought I had had my share of them,” he said, simply. He straightened
his shoulders and frowned, and then looked at us and tried to smile. But
the bad news had cut deeply. During the few minutes since he had come
pushing his way through the crowd, he seemed to have grown ten years
older. He walked to the door of his tent and then halted and turned
toward Reeder.

“I think my fever is coming on again,” he said. “I believe I had better
rest. Do not let them disturb me.”

“Yes, General,” Reeder answered. Then he pointed at Aiken and myself.
“And what are we to do with these?” he asked.

“Do with these?” Laguerre repeated. “Why, what did you mean to do with
them?”

Reeder swelled out his chest importantly, “If you had not arrived when
you did, General,” he said, “I would have had them shot!”

The General stopped at the entrance to the tent and leaned heavily
against the pole. He raised his eyes and looked at us wearily and with
no show of interest.

“Shoot them?” he asked. “Why were you going to shoot them?”

“Because, General,” Reeder declared, theatrically, pointing an accusing
finger at Aiken, “I believe this man sold our secret to the Isthmian
Line. No one knew of the guns but our three selves and Quay. And Quay
is not a man to betray his friends. I wish I could say as much for Mr.
Aiken.”

At that moment Aiken, being quite innocent, said even less for himself,
and because he was innocent looked the trapped and convicted criminal.

Laguerre’s eyes glowed like two branding-irons. As he fixed them on
Aiken’s face one expected to see them leave a mark.

“If the General will only listen,” Aiken stammered. “If you will only
give me a hearing, sir. Why should I come to your camp if I had sold you
out? Why didn’t I get away on the first steamer, and stay away--as Quay
did?”

The General gave an exclamation of disgust, and shrugged his shoulders.
He sank back slowly against one of the Gatling guns.

“What does it matter?” he said, bitterly. “Why lock the stable door now?
I will give you a hearing,” he said, turning to Aiken, “but it would
be better for you if I listened to you later. Bring him to me to-morrow
morning after roll-call. And the other?” he asked. He pointed at me, but
his eyes, which were heavy with disappointment, were staring moodily at
the ground.

Heinze interposed himself quickly.

“Aiken brought him here!” he said. “I believe he’s an agent of the
Isthmian people, or,” he urged, “why did he come here? He came to spy
out your camp, General, and to report on our condition.”

“A spy!” said Laguerre, raising his head and regarding me sharply.

“Yes,” Heinze declared, with conviction. “A spy, General. A Government
spy, and he has found out our hiding-place and counted our men.”

Aiken turned on him with a snarl.

“Oh, you ass!” he cried. “He came as a volunteer. He wanted to fight
with you,--for the sacred cause of liberty!”

“Yes, he wanted to fight with us,” shouted Heinze, indignantly. “As soon
as he got into the camp, he wanted to fight with us.”

Laguerre made an exclamation of impatience, and rose unsteadily from the
gun-carriage.

“Silence!” he commanded. “I tell you I cannot listen to you now. I will
give these men a hearing after roll-call. In the meantime if they are
spies, they have seen too much. Place them under guard; and if they try
to escape, shoot them.”

I gave a short laugh and turned to Aiken.

“That’s the first intelligent military order I’ve heard yet,” I said.

Aiken scowled at me fearfully, and Reeder and Heinze gasped. General
Laguerre had caught the words, and turned his eyes on me. Like the real
princess who could feel the crumpled rose-leaf under a dozen mattresses,
I can feel it in my bones when I am in the presence of a real soldier.
My spinal column stiffens, and my fingers twitch to be at my visor. In
spite of their borrowed titles, I had smelt out the civilian in Reeder
and had detected the non-commissioned man in Heinze, and just as surely
I recognized the general officer in Laguerre.

So when he looked at me my heels clicked together, my arm bent to my hat
and fell again to my trouser seam, and I stood at attention. It was as
instinctive as though I were back at the Academy, and he had confronted
me in the uniform and yellow sash of a major-general.

“And what do you know of military orders, sir,” he demanded, in a low
voice, “that you feel competent to pass upon mine?”

Still standing at attention, I said: “For the last three years I have
been at West Point, sir, and have listened to nothing else.”

“You have been at West Point?” he said, slowly, looking at me in
surprise and with evident doubt. “When did you leave the Academy?”

“Two weeks ago,” I answered. At this, he looked even more incredulous.

“How does it happen,” he asked, “if you are preparing for the army at
West Point, that you are now travelling in Honduras?”

“I was dismissed from the Academy two weeks ago,” I answered. “This was
the only place where there was any fighting, so I came here. I read that
you had formed a Foreign Legion, and thought that maybe you would let me
join it.”

General Laguerre now stared at me in genuine amazement. In his interest
in the supposed spy, he had forgotten the loss of his guns.

“You came from West Point,” he repeated, incredulously, “all the way to
Honduras--to join me!” He turned to the two officers. “Did he tell you
this?” he demanded.

They answered, “No,” promptly, and truthfully as well, for they had not
given me time to tell them anything.

“Have you any credentials, passports, or papers?” he said.

When he asked this I saw Reeder whisper eagerly to Heinze, and then walk
away. He had gone to search my trunk for evidence that I was a spy, and
had I suspected this I would have protested violently, but it did not
occur to me then that he would do such a thing.

“I have only the passport I got from the commandante at Porto Cortez,” I
said.

At the words Aiken gave a quick shake of the head, as a man does when he
sees another move the wrong piece on the chess-board. But when I
stared at him inquiringly his expression changed instantly to one of
interrogation and complete unconcern.

“Ah!” exclaimed Heinze, triumphantly, “he has a permit from the
Government.”

“Let me see it,” said the General.

I handed it to him, and he drew a camp-chair from the tent, and, seating
himself, began to compare me with the passport.

“In this,” he said at last, “you state that you are a commercial
traveller; that you are going to the capital on business, and that you
are a friend of the Government.”

I was going to tell him that until it had been handed me by Aiken, I had
known nothing of the passport, but I considered that in some way this
might involve Aiken, and so I answered:

“It was necessary to tell them any story, sir, in order to get into
the interior. I could not tell them that I was _not_ a friend of the
Government, nor that I was trying to join you.”

“Your stories are somewhat conflicting,” said the General. “You are led
to our hiding-place by a man who is himself under suspicion, and the
only credentials you can show are from the enemy. Why should I believe
you are what you say you are? Why should I believe you are not a spy?”

I could not submit to having my word doubted, so I bowed stiffly and did
not speak.

“Answer me,” the General commanded, “what proofs have I?”

“You have nothing but my word for it,” I said.

General Laguerre seemed pleased with that, and I believe he was really
interested in helping me to clear myself. But he had raised my temper by
questioning my word.

“Surely you must have something to identify you,” he urged.

“If I had I’d refuse to show it,” I answered. “I told you why I came
here. If you think I am a spy, you can go ahead and shoot me as a spy,
and find out whether I told you the truth afterward.”

The General smiled indulgently.

“There would be very little satisfaction in that for me, or for you,” he
said.

“I’m an officer and a gentleman,” I protested, “and I have a right to be
treated as one. If you serve every gentleman who volunteers to join
you in the way I have been served, I’m not surprised that your force is
composed of the sort you have around you.”

The General raised his head and looked at me with such a savage
expression that during the pause which ensued I was most uncomfortable.

“If your proofs you are an officer are no stronger than those you offer
that you are a gentleman,” he said, “perhaps you are wise not to show
them. What right have you to claim you are an officer?”

His words cut and mortified me deeply, chiefly because I felt I deserved
them.

“Every cadet ranks a non-commissioned man,” I answered.

“But you are no longer a cadet,” he replied. “You have been dismissed.
You told me so yourself. Were you dismissed honorably, or dishonorably?”

“Dishonorably,” I answered. I saw that this was not the answer he had
expected. He looked both mortified and puzzled, and glanced at Heinze
and Aiken as though he wished that they were out of hearing.

“What was it for--what was the cause of your dismissal?” he asked. He
now spoke in a much lower tone. “Of course, you need not tell me,” he
added.

“I was dismissed for being outside the limits of the Academy without a
permit,” I answered. “I went to a dance at a hotel in uniform.”

“Was that all?” he demanded, smiling.

“That was the crime for which I was dismissed,” I said, sulkily. The
General looked at me for some moments, evidently in much doubt. I
believe he suspected that I had led him on to asking me the reason for
my dismissal, in order that I could make so satisfactory an answer. As
he sat regarding me, Heinze bent over him and said something to him in
a low tone, to which he replied: “But that would prove nothing. He might
have a most accurate knowledge of military affairs, and still be an
agent of the Government.”

“That is so, General,” Heinze answered, aloud. “But it would prove
whether he is telling the truth about his having been at West Point. If
his story is false in part, it is probably entirely false, as I believe
it to be.”

“Captain Heinze suggests that I allow him to test you with some
questions,” the General said, doubtfully; “questions on military
matters. Would you answer them?”

I did not want them to see how eager I was to be put to such a test, so
I tried to look as though I were frightened, and said, cautiously,
“I will try, sir.” I saw that the proposition to put me through an
examination had filled Aiken with the greatest concern. To reassure him,
I winked covertly.

Captain Heinze glanced about him as though looking for a text.

“Let us suppose,” he said, importantly, “that you are an
inspector-general come to inspect this camp. It is one that I myself
selected; as adjutant it is under my direction. What would you report as
to its position, its advantages and disadvantages?”

I did not have to look about me. Without moving from where I stood,
I could see all that was necessary of that camp. But I first asked,
timidly: “Is this camp a temporary one, made during a halt on the march,
or has it been occupied for some days?”

“We have been here for two weeks,” said Heinze.

“Is it supposed that a war is going on?” I asked, politely; “I mean, are
we in the presence of an enemy?”

“Of course,” answered Heinze. “Certainly we are at war.”

“Then,” I said, triumphantly, “in my report I should recommend that the
officer who selected this camp should be court-martialled.”

Heinze gave a shout of indignant laughter, and Aiken glared at me as
though he thought I had flown suddenly mad, but Laguerre only frowned
and waved his hand impatiently.

“You are bold, sir,” he said, grimly; “I trust you can explain
yourself.”

I pointed from the basin in which we stood, to the thickly wooded hills
around us.

“This camp has the advantage of water and grass,” I said. I spoke
formally, as though I were really making a report. “Those are its only
advantages. Captain Heinze has pitched it in a hollow. In case of an
attack, he has given the advantage of position to the enemy. Fifty
men could conceal themselves on those ridges and fire upon you as
effectively as though they had you at the bottom of a well. There are no
pickets out, except along the trail, which is the one approach the enemy
would not take. So far as this position counts, then,” I summed up, “the
camp is an invitation to a massacre.”

I did not dare look at the General, but I pointed at the guns at his
side. “Your two field-pieces are in their covers, and the covers are
strapped on them. It would take three minutes to get them into action.
Instead of being here in front of the tent, they should be up there on
those two highest points. There are no racks for the men’s rifles or
ammunition belts. The rifles are lying on the ground and scattered
everywhere--in case of an attack the men would not know where to lay
their hands on them. It takes only two forked sticks and a ridge-pole
with nicks in it, to make an excellent gun-rack, but there is none of
any sort. As for the sanitary arrangements of the camp, they are _nil_.
The refuse from the troop kitchen is scattered all over the place, and
so are the branches on which the men have been lying. There is no way
for them to cross that stream without their getting their feet wet; and
every officer knows that wet feet are worse than wet powder. The place
does not look as though it had been policed since you came here. It’s a
fever swamp. If you have been here two weeks, it’s a wonder your whole
force isn’t as rotten as sheep. And there!” I cried, pointing at the
stream which cut the camp in two--“there are men bathing and washing
their clothes up-stream, and those men below them are filling buckets
with water for cooking and drinking. Why have you no water-guards?
You ought to have a sentry there, and there. The water above the first
sentry should be reserved for drinking, below him should be the place
for watering your horses, and below the second sentry would be the water
for washing clothes. Why, these things are the A, B, C, of camp life.”
 For the first time since I had begun to speak, I turned on Heinze and
grinned at him.

“How do you like my report on your camp?” I asked. “Now, don’t you agree
with me that you should be court-martialled?” Heinze’s anger exploded
like a shell.

“You should be court-martialled yourself!” he shouted. “You are
insulting our good General. For me, I do not care. But you shall not
reflect upon my commanding officer, for him I--”

“That will do, Captain Heinze,” Laguerre said, quietly. “That will do,
thank you.” He did not look up at either of us, but for some time sat
with his elbow on his knee and with his chin resting in the palm of his
hand, staring at the camp. There was a long, and, for me, an awkward
silence. The General turned his head and stared at me. His expression
was exceedingly grave, but without resentment.

“You are quite right,” he said, finally. Heinze and Aiken moved
expectantly forward, anxious to hear him pass sentence upon me. Seeing
this he raised his voice and repeated: “You are quite right in what you
say about the camp. All you say is quite true.”

He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and, as he continued
speaking with his face averted, it was as though he were talking to
himself.

“We grow careless as we grow older,” he said, “One grows less difficult
to please.” His tone was that of a man excusing himself to himself. “The
old standards, the old models, pass away and--and failures, failures
come and dull the energy.” His voice dropped into a monotone; he seemed
to have forgotten us entirely.

It must have been then that for the first time I saw the wistful look
come into his eyes, and suddenly felt deeply sorry for him and wished
that I might dare to tell him so. I was not sorry for any act or speech
of mine. They had attacked me, and I had only defended myself. I was not
repentant for anything I had said; my sorrow was for what I read in the
General’s eyes as he sat staring out into the valley. It was the saddest
and loneliest look that I had ever seen. There was no bitterness in
it, but great sadness and weariness and disappointment, and above all,
loneliness, utter and complete loneliness.

He glanced up and saw me watching him, and for a moment regarded me
curiously, and then, as though I had tried to force my way into his
solitude, turned his eyes quickly away.

I had forgotten that I was a suspected spy until the fact was recalled
to me at that moment by the reappearance of Major Reeder. He came
bustling past me, carrying as I saw, to my great indignation, the sword
which had been presented to my grandfather, and which my grandfather had
given to me. I sprang after him and twisted it out of his hand.

“How dare you!” I cried. “You have opened my trunk! How dare you pry
into my affairs? General Laguerre!” I protested. “I appeal to you, sir.”

“Major Reeder,” the General demanded, sharply, “what does this mean?”

“I was merely seeking evidence, General,” said Reeder. “You asked for
his papers, and I went to look for them.”

“I gave you no orders to pry into this gentleman’s trunk,” said the
General. “You have exceeded your authority. You have done very ill, sir.
You have done very ill.”

While the General was reproving Reeder, his eyes, instead of looking at
the officer, were fixed upon my sword. It was sufficiently magnificent
to attract the attention of anyone, certainly of any soldier. The
scabbard was of steel, wonderfully engraved, the hilt was of ivory, and
the hilt-guard and belt fastenings were all of heavy gold. The General’s
face was filled with appreciation.

“You have a remarkably handsome sword there,” he said, and hesitated,
courteously, “--I beg your pardon, I have not heard your name?”

I was advancing to show the sword to him, when my eye fell upon the
plate my grandfather had placed upon it, and which bore the inscription:
“To Royal Macklin, on his appointment to the United States Military
Academy, from his Grandfather, John M. Hamilton, Maj. Gen. U.S.A.”

“My name is Macklin, sir,” I said, “Royal Macklin.” I laid the sword
lengthwise in his hands, and then pointed at the inscription. “You will
find it there,” I said. The General bowed and bent his head over the
inscription and then read the one beside it. This stated that the sword
had been presented by the citizens of New York to Major-General John
M. Hamilton in recognition of his distinguished services during the war
with Mexico. The General glanced up at me in astonishment.

“General Hamilton!” he exclaimed. “General John Hamilton! Is that--was
he your grandfather?”

I bowed my head, and the General stared at me as though I had
contradicted him.

“But, let me tell you, sir,” he protested, “that he was my friend.
General Hamilton was my friend for many years. Let me tell you, sir,”
 he went on, excitedly, “that your grandfather was a brave and courteous
gentleman, a true friend and--and a great soldier, sir, a great soldier.
I knew your grandfather well. I knew him well.” He rose suddenly, and,
while still holding the sword close to him, shook my hand.

“Captain Heinze,” he said, “bring out a chair for Mr. Macklin.” He did
not notice the look of injury with which Heinze obeyed this request.
But I did, and I enjoyed the spectacle, and as Heinze handed me the
camp-chair I thanked him politely. I could afford to be generous.

The General was drawing the sword a few inches from its scabbard and
shoving it back, again, turning it over in his hands.

“And to think that this is John Hamilton’s sword,” he said, “and that
you are John Hamilton’s grandson!” As the sword lay across his knees he
kept stroking it and touching it as one might caress a child, glancing
up at me from time to time with a smile. It seemed to have carried him
back again into days and scenes to which we all were strangers, and
we watched him without speaking. He became suddenly conscious of our
silence, and, on looking up, seemed to become uncomfortably aware of the
presence of Aiken and the two officers.

“That will do, gentlemen,” he said. “You will return with Mr. Aiken
after roll-call.” The officers saluted as they moved away, with Aiken
between them. He raised his eyebrows and tapped himself on the chest. I
understood that he meant by this that I was to say a good word for
him, and I nodded. When they had left us the General leaned forward and
placed his hand upon my shoulder.

“Now tell me,” he said. “Tell me everything. Tell me what you are doing
here, and why you ran away from home. Trust me entirely, and do not be
afraid to speak the whole truth.”

I saw that he thought I had left home because I had been guilty of some
wildness, if not of some crime, and I feared that my story would prove
so inoffensive that he would think I was holding something back. But his
manner was so gentle and generous that I plunged in boldly. I told
him everything; of my life with my grandfather, of my disgrace at the
Academy, of my desire, in spite of my first failure, to still make
myself a soldier. And then I told him of how I had been disappointed and
disillusioned, and how it had hurt me to find that this fight seemed so
sordid and the motives of all engaged only mercenary and selfish. But
once did he interrupt me, and then by an exclamation which I mistook for
an exclamation of disbelief, and which I challenged quickly. “But it
is true, sir,” I said. “I joined the revolutionists for just that
reason--because they were fighting for their liberty and because they
had been wronged and were the under-dogs in the fight, and because
Alvarez is a tyrant. I had no other motive. Indeed, you must believe me,
sir,” I protested, “or I cannot talk to you. It is the truth.”

“The truth!” exclaimed Laguerre, fiercely; and as he raised his eyes I
saw that they had suddenly filled with tears. “It is the first time I
have heard the truth in many years. It is what I have preached myself
for half a lifetime; what I have lived for and fought for. Why, here,
now,” he cried, “while I have been sitting listening to you, it was as
though the boy I used to be had come back to talk to me, bringing my old
ideals, the old enthusiasm.” His manner and his tone suddenly altered,
and he shook his head and placed his hand almost tenderly upon my own.
“But I warn you,” he said, “I warn you that you are wrong. You have
begun young, and there is yet time for you to turn back; but if you hope
for money, or place, or public favor, you have taken the wrong road. You
will be a rolling-stone among milestones, and the way is all down
hill. I began to fight when I was even younger than you. I fought for
whichever party seemed to me to have the right on its side. Sometimes I
have fought for rebels and patriots, sometimes for kings, sometimes for
pretenders. I was out with Garibaldi, because I believed he would give a
republic to Italy; but I fought against the republic of Mexico, because
its people were rotten and corrupt, and I believed that the emperor
would rule them honestly and well. I have always chosen my own side,
the one which seemed to me promised the most good; and yet, after
thirty years, I am where you see me to-night. I am an old man without
a country, I belong to no political party, I have no family, I have no
home. I have travelled over all the world looking for that country which
was governed for the greater good of the greater number, and I have
fought only for those men who promised to govern unselfishly and as the
servants of the people. But when the fighting was over, and they were
safe in power, they had no use for me nor my advice. They laughed, and
called me a visionary and a dreamer. ‘You are no statesman, General,’
they would say to me. ‘Your line is the fighting-line. Go back to it.’
And yet, when I think of how the others have used their power, I believe
that I could have ruled the people as well, and yet given them more
freedom, and made more of them more happy.”

The moon rose over the camp, and the night grew chill; but still we
sat, he talking and I listening as I had used to listen when I sat at
my grandfather’s knee and he told me tales of war and warriors. They
brought us coffee and food, and we ate with an ammunition-box for a
table, he still talking and I eager to ask questions, and yet fearful of
interrupting him. He told of great battles which had changed the history
of Europe, of secret expeditions which had never been recorded even
in his own diary, of revolutions which after months of preparation
had burst forth and had been crushed between sunset and sunrise; of
emperors, kings, patriots, and charlatans. There was nothing that I
had wished to do, and that I had imagined myself doing, that he had not
accomplished in reality--the acquaintances he had made among the leaders
of men, the adventures he had suffered, the honors he had won, were
those which to me were the most to be desired.

{Illustration: The moon rose over the camp ... but still we sat.}

The scene around us added color to his words. The moonlight fell on
ghostly groups of men seated before the camp-fires, their faces glowing
in the red light of the ashes; on the irregular rows of thatched
shelters and on the shadowy figures of the ponies grazing at the
picket-line. All the odors of a camp, which to me are more grateful than
those of a garden, were borne to us on the damp night-air; the clean
pungent smell of burning wood, the scent of running water, the smell of
many horses crowded together and of wet saddles and accoutrements. And
above the swift rush of the stream, we could hear the ceaseless pounding
of the horses’ hoofs on the turf, the murmurs of the men’s voices, and
the lonely cry of the night-birds.

It was past midnight when the General rose, and my brain rioted with the
pictures he had drawn for me. Surely, if I had ever considered turning
back, I now no longer tolerated the thought of it. If he had wished to
convince me that the life of a soldier of fortune was an ungrateful one
he had set about proving it in the worst possible way. At that moment I
saw no career so worthy to be imitated as his own, no success to be so
envied as his failures. And in the glow and inspiration of his talk, and
with the courage of a boy, I told him so. I think he was not ill pleased
at what I said, nor with me. He seemed to approve of what I had related
of myself, and of the comments I had made upon his reminiscences. He had
said, again and again: “That is an intelligent question,” “You have put
your finger on the real weakness of the attack,” “That was exactly the
error in his strategy.”

When he turned to enter his tent he shook my hand. “I do not know when I
have talked so much,” he laughed, “nor,” he added, with grave courtesy,
“when I have had so intelligent a listener. Good-night.”

Throughout the evening he had been holding my sword, and as he entered
the tent he handed it to me.

“Oh, I forgot,” he said. “Here is your sword, Captain.”

The flaps of the tent fell behind him, and I was left outside of them,
incredulous and trembling.

I could not restrain myself, and I pushed the flaps aside.

“I beg your pardon, General,” I stammered.

He had already thrown himself upon his cot, but he rose on his elbow and
stared at me.

“What is it?” he demanded.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” I gasped, “but what did you call me then--just
now?”

“Call you,” he said. “Oh, I called you ‘captain.’ You are a captain. I
will assign you your troop to-morrow.”

He turned and buried his face in his arm, and unable to thank him I
stepped outside of the tent and stood looking up at the stars, with my
grandfather’s sword clasped close in my hands. And I was so proud and
happy that I believe I almost prayed that he could look down and see me.

That was how I received my first commission--in a swamp in Honduras,
from General Laguerre, of the Foreign Legion, as he lay half-asleep
upon his cot. It may be, if I continue as I have begun, I shall receive
higher titles, from ministers of war, from queens, presidents, and
sultans. I shall have a trunk filled, like that of General Laguerre’s,
with commissions, brevets, and patents of nobility, picked up in many
queer courts, in many queer corners of the globe. But to myself I shall
always be Captain Macklin, and no other rank nor title will ever count
with me as did that first one, which came without my earning it, which
fell from the lips of an old man without authority to give it, but which
seemed to touch me like a benediction.

   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

The officer from whom I took over my troop was a German, Baron Herbert
von Ritter. He had served as an aide-de-camp to the King of Bavaria,
and his face was a patchwork of sword-cuts which he had received in the
students’ duels. No one knew why he had left the German army. He had
been in command of the troop with the rank of captain, but when the next
morning Laguerre called him up and told him that I was now his captain
he seemed rather relieved than otherwise.

“They’re a hard lot,” he said to me, as we left the General. “I’m glad
to get rid of them.”

The Legion was divided into four troops of about fifty men each. Only
half of the men were mounted, but the difficulties of the trail were so
great that the men on foot were able to move quite as rapidly as those
on mule-back. Under Laguerre there were Major Webster, an old man, who
as a boy had invaded Central America with William Walker’s expedition,
and who ever since had lived in Honduras; Major Reeder and five
captains, Miller, who was in charge of a dozen native Indians and
who acted as a scout; Captain Heinze, two Americans named Porter and
Russell, and about a dozen lieutenants of every nationality. Heinze had
been adjutant of the force, but the morning after my arrival the General
appointed me to that position, and at roll-call announced the change to
the battalion.

“We have been waiting here for two weeks for a shipment of machine
guns,” he said to them. “They have not arrived and I cannot wait for
them any longer. The battalion will start at once for Santa Barbara,
where I expect to get you by to-morrow night. There we will join General
Garcia, and continue with him until we enter the capital.”

The men, who were properly weary of lying idle in the swamp, interrupted
him with an enthusiastic cheer and continued shouting until he lifted
his hand.

“Since we have been lying here,” he said, “I have allowed you certain
liberties, and discipline has relaxed. But now that we are on the march
again you will conduct yourselves like soldiers, and discipline will be
as strictly enforced as in any army in Europe. Since last night we have
received an addition to our force in the person of Captain Macklin, who
has volunteered his services. Captain Macklin comes of a distinguished
family of soldiers, and he has himself been educated at West Point. I
have appointed him Captain of D Troop and Adjutant of the Legion. As
adjutant you will recognize his authority as you would my own. You will
now break camp, and be prepared to march in half an hour.”

Soon after we had started we reached a clearing, and Laguerre halted
us and formed the column into marching order. Captain Miller, who was
thoroughly acquainted with the trail, and his natives, were sent on two
hundred yards ahead of us as a point. They were followed by Heinze with
his Gatling guns. Then came Laguerre and another troop, then Reeder with
the two remaining troops and our “transport” between them. Our transport
consisted of a dozen mules carrying bags of coffee, beans, and flour,
our reserve ammunition, the General’s tent, and whatever few private
effects the officers possessed over and above the clothes they stood in.
I brought up the rear with D Troop. We moved at a walk in single file
and without flankers, as the jungle on either side of the trail was
impenetrable. Our departure from camp had been so prompt that I had
been given no time to become acquainted with my men, but as we tramped
forward I rode along with them or drew to one side to watch them pass
and took a good look at them. Carrying their rifles, and with their
blanket-rolls and cartridge-belts slung across their shoulders, they
made a better appearance than when they were sleeping around the camp.
As the day grew on I became more and more proud of my command. The baron
pointed out those of the men who could be relied upon, and I could pick
out for myself those who had received some military training. When I
asked these where they had served before, they seemed pleased at
my having distinguished the difference between them and the other
volunteers, and saluted properly and answered briefly and respectfully.

If I was proud of the men, I was just as pleased with myself, or, I
should say, with my luck. Only two weeks before I had been read out to
the battalion at West Point, as one unfit to hold a commission, and here
I was riding at the head of my own troop. I was no second lieutenant
either, with a servitude of five years hanging over me before I could
receive my first bar, but a full-fledged captain, with fifty men under
him to care for and discipline and lead into battle. There was not a man
in my troop who was not at least a few years older than myself, and as
I rode in advance of them and heard the creak of the saddles and the
jingle of the picket-pins and water-bottles, or turned and saw the long
line stretching out behind me, I was as proud as Napoleon returning
in triumph to Paris. I had brought with me from the Academy my scarlet
sash, and wore it around my waist under my sword-belt. I also had my
regulation gauntlets, and a campaign sombrero, and as I rode along
I remembered the line about General Stonewall Jackson, in “Barbara
Frietchie.”

“The leader glancing left and right.”

I repeated it to myself, and scowled up at the trees and into the
jungle. It was a tremendous feeling to be a “leader.”

At noon the heat was very great, and Laguerre halted the column at
a little village and ordered the men to eat their luncheon. I posted
pickets, appointed a detail to water the mules, and asked two of the
inhabitants for the use of their clay ovens. In the other troops each
man, or each group of men, were building separate fires and eating alone
or in messes of five or six but by detailing four of my men to act
as cooks for the whole troop, and six others to tend the fires in the
ovens, and six more to carry water for the coffee, all of my men were
comfortably fed before those in the other troops had their fires going.

Von Ritter had said to me that during the two weeks in camp the men had
used up all their tobacco, and that their nerves were on edge for lack
of something to smoke. So I hunted up a native who owned a tobacco
patch, and from him, for three dollars in silver, I bought three hundred
cigars. I told Von Ritter to serve out six of them to each of the men of
D Troop. It did me good to see how much they enjoyed them. For the next
five minutes every man I met had a big cigar in his mouth, which he
would remove with a grin, and say, “Thank you, Captain.” I did not give
them the tobacco to gain popularity, for in active service I consider
that tobacco is as necessary for the man as food, and I also believe
that any officer who tries to buy the good-will of his men is taking the
quickest way to gain their contempt.

Soldiers know the difference between the officer who bribes and pets
them, and the one who, before his own tent is set up, looks to his
men and his horses, who distributes the unpleasant duties of the camp
evenly, and who knows what he wants done the first time he gives an
order, and does not make unnecessary work for others because he cannot
make up his mind.

After I had seen the mules watered and picketed in the public corral,
I went to look for the General, whom I found with the other officers at
the house of the Alcalde. They had learned news of the greatest moment.
Two nights previous, General Garcia had been attacked in force at Santa
Barbara, and had abandoned the town without a fight. Nothing more was
known, except that he was either falling back along the trail to join
us, or was waiting outside the city for us to come up and join him.

Laguerre at once ordered the bugles to sound “Boots and saddles,” and
within five minutes we were on the trail again with instructions to
press the men forward as rapidly as possible. The loss of Santa Barbara
was a serious calamity. It was the town third in importance in Honduras,
and it had been the stronghold of the revolutionists. The moral effect
of the fact that Garcia held it, had been of the greatest possible
benefit. As Garcia’s force consisted of 2,000 men and six pieces of
artillery, it was inexplicable to Laguerre how without a fight he had
abandoned so valuable a position.

The country through which we now passed was virtually uninhabited, and
wild and rough, but grandly beautiful. At no time, except when we passed
through one of the dusty little villages, of a dozen sun-baked huts set
around a sun-baked plaza, was the trail sufficiently wide to permit
us to advance unless in single file. And yet this was the highway of
Honduras from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and the only road
to Tegucigalpa, the objective point of our expedition. The capital lay
only one hundred miles from Porto Cortez, but owing to the nature of
this trail it could not be reached from the east coast, either on foot
or by mule, in less than from six to nine days. No wheeled vehicle could
have possibly attempted the trip without shaking to pieces, and it was
only by dragging and lifting our Gatling guns by hand that we were able
to bring them with us.

At sunset we halted at a little village, where, as usual, the people
yelled “Vivas!” at us, and protested that they were good revolutionists.
The moon had just risen, and, as the men rode forward, kicking up the
white dust and with the Gatlings clanking and rumbling behind them,
they gave a most war-like impression. Miller, who had reconnoitered the
village before we entered it, stood watching us as we came in. He said
that we reminded him of troops of United States cavalry as he had seen
them on the alkali plains of New Mexico and Arizona. It was again my
duty to station our pickets and out-posts, and as I came back after
placing the sentries, the fires were twinkling all over the plaza and
throwing grotesque shadows of the men and the mules against the white
walls of the houses. It was a most weird and impressive picture.

The troopers were exhausted with the forced march, and fell instantly
to sleep, but for a long time I sat outside the Town Hall talking with
General Laguerre and two of the Americans, Miller and old man Webster.
Their talk was about Aiken, who so far had accompanied us as an untried
prisoner. From what he had said to me on the march, and from what I
remembered of his manner when Captain Leeds informed him of the loss of
the guns, I was convinced that he was innocent of any treachery.

I related to the others just what had occurred at the coast, and after
some talk with Aiken himself, Laguerre finally agreed that he was
innocent of any evil against him, and that Quay was the man who had sold
the secret. Laguerre then offered Aiken his choice of continuing on with
us, or of returning to the coast, and Aiken said that he would prefer to
go on with our column. Now that the Isthmian Line knew that he had tried
to assist Laguerre, his usefulness at the coast was at an end. He added
frankly that his only other reason for staying with us was because he
thought we were going to win. General Laguerre gave him charge of our
transport and commissary, that is of our twelve pack-mules and of
the disposition of the coffee, flour, and beans. Aiken possessed real
executive ability, and it is only fair to him to say that as commissary
sergeant he served us well. By the time we had reached Tegucigalpa the
twelve mules had increased to twenty, and our stock of rations, instead
of diminishing as we consumed them, increased daily. We never asked how
he managed it. Possibly, knowing Aiken, it was wiser not to inquire.

We broke camp at four in the morning, but in spite of our early start
the next day’s advance was marked by the most cruel heat. We had left
the shade of the high lands and now pushed on over a plain of dry,
burning sand, where nothing grew but naked bushes bristling with thorns,
and tall grayish-green cacti with disjointed branching arms. They
stretched out before us against the blazing sky, like a succession of
fantastic telegraph-poles. We were marching over what had once been the
bed of a great lake. Layers of tiny round pebbles rolled under our feet,
and the rocks which rose out of the sand had been worn and polished by
the water until they were as smooth as the steps of a cathedral. A mile
away on each flank were dark green ridges, but ahead of us there was
only a great stretch of glaring white sand. No wind was stirring, and
not a drop of moisture. The air was like a breath from a brick oven,
and the heat of the sun so fierce that if you touched your fingers to a
gun-barrel it burned the flesh.

We did not escape out of this lime-kiln until three in the afternoon,
when the trail again led us into the protecting shade of the jungle. The
men plunged into it as eagerly as though they were diving into water.

About four o’clock we heard great cheering ahead of us, and word was
passed to the rear that Miller had come in touch with Garcia’s scouts. A
half hour later, we marched into the camp of the revolutionists. It was
situated about three miles outside of Santa Barbara, on the banks of the
river where the trail crossed it at a ford. Our fellows made a rather
fine appearance as they rode out of the jungle among the revolutionists;
and, considering the fact that we had come to fight for them, I thought
the little beggars might have given us a cheer, but they only stared
at us, and nodded stupidly. They were a mixed assortment, all of them
under-size and either broad or swarthy, with the straight hair and wide
cheek-bones of the Carib Indian, or slight and nervous looking, with the
soft eyes and sharp profile of the Spaniard. The greater part of
them had deserted in companies from the army, and they still wore
the blue-jean uniform and carried the rifle and accoutrements of the
Government. To distinguish themselves from those soldiers who had
remained with Alvarez, they had torn off the red braid with which their
tunics were embroidered.

All the officers of the Foreign Legion rode up the stream with Laguerre
to meet General Garcia, whom we found sitting in the shade of his
tent surrounded by his staff. He gave us a most enthusiastic greeting,
embracing the General, and shaking hands with each of us in turn. He
seemed to be in the highest state of excitement, and bustled about
ordering us things to drink, and chattering, gesticulating, and
laughing. He reminded me of a little, fat French poodle trying to
express his delight by bounds and barks. They brought us out a great
many bottles of rum and limes, and we all had a long, deep drink. After
the fatigue and dust of the day, it was the best I ever tasted. Garcia’s
officers seemed just as much excited over nothing as he was, but were
exceedingly friendly, treating us with an exaggerated “comrades-in-arms”
 and “brother-officers” sort of manner. The young man who entertained me
was quite a swell, with a tortoise-shell visor to his cap and a Malacca
sword-cane which swung from a gold cord. He was as much pleased over it
as a boy with his first watch, and informed me that it had been used to
assassinate his uncle, ex-President Rojas. As he seemed to consider it a
very valuable heirloom, I moved my legs so that, as though by accident,
my sword fell forward where he could see it. When he did he exclaimed
upon its magnificence, and I showed him my name on the scabbard. He
thought it had been presented to me for bravery. He was very much
impressed.

Garcia and Laguerre talked together for a long time and then shook hands
warmly, and we all saluted and returned to the ford.

As soon as we had reached it Laguerre seated himself under a tree and
sent for all of his officers.

“We are to attack at daybreak to-morrow morning,” he said. “Garcia is
to return along the trail and make a demonstration on this side of the
town, while we are here to attack from the other. The plaza is about
three hundred yards from where we will enter. On the corner of the plaza
and the main street there is a large warehouse. The warehouse looks
across the plaza to the barracks, which are on the other side of the
square. General Garcia’s plan is that our objective point shall be this
warehouse. It has two stories, and men on its roof will have a great
advantage over those in the barracks and in the streets. He believes
that when he begins his attack from this side, the Government troops
will rush from the barracks and hasten toward the sound of the firing.
At the same signal we are to hurry in from the opposite side of the
town, seize the warehouse, and throw up barricades across the plaza.
Should this plan succeed, the Government troops will find themselves
shut in between two fires. It seems to be a good plan, and I have agreed
to it. The cattle-path to the town is much too rough for our guns, so
Captain Heinze and the gun detail will remain here and co-operate with
General Garcia. Let your men get all the sleep they can now. They must
march again at midnight. They will carry nothing but their guns and
ammunition and rations for one meal. If everything goes as we expect, we
will breakfast in Santa Barbara.”

I like to remember the happiness I got out of the excitement of that
moment. I lived at the rate of an hour a minute, and I was as upset from
pure delight as though I had been in a funk of abject terror. And I was
scared in a way, too, for whenever I remembered I knew nothing of actual
fighting, and of what chances there were to make mistakes, I shivered
down to my heels. But I would not let myself think of the chances to
make a failure, but rather of the opportunities of doing something
distinguished and of making myself conspicuous. I laughed when I thought
of my classmates at the Point with their eyes bent on a book of tactics,
while here was I, within three hours of a real battle, of the most
exciting of all engagements, an attack upon a city. A full year, perhaps
many years, would pass before they would get the chance to hear a
hostile shot, the shot fired in anger, which every soldier must first
hear before he can enter upon his inheritance, and hold his own in the
talk of the mess-table. I felt almost sorry for them when I thought
how they would envy me when they read of the fight in the newspapers. I
decided it would be called the battle of Santa Barbara, and I imagined
how it would look in the head-lines. I was even generous enough to wish
that three or four of the cadets were with me; that is, of course, under
me, so that they could tell afterward how well I had led them.

At midnight we filed silently out of camp, and felt our way in the dark
through the worst stretch of country we had yet encountered. The
ferns rose above our hips, and the rocks and fallen logs over which we
stumbled were slippery with moss. Every minute a man was thrown by a
trailing vine or would plunge over a fallen tree-trunk, and there would
be a yell of disgust and an oath and a rattle of accoutrements. The men
would certainly have been lost if they had not kept in touch by calling
to one another, and the noise we made hissing at them for silence only
added to the uproar.

At the end of three hours our guides informed us that for the last
half-mile they had been guessing at the trail, and that they had now
completely lost themselves. So Laguerre sent out Miller and the
native scouts to buskey about and find out where we were, and almost
immediately we heard the welcome barking of a dog, and one of the men
returned to report that we had walked right into the town. We found that
the first huts were not a hundred yards distant. Laguerre accordingly
ordered the men to conceal themselves and sent Miller, one of Garcia’s
officers, and myself to reconnoitre.

The moonlight had given way to the faint gray light which comes just
before dawn, and by it we could distinguish lumps of blackness which as
we approached turned into the thatched huts of the villagers. Until we
found the main trail into the town we kept close to the bamboo fences
of these huts, and then, still keeping in the shadows, we followed the
trail until it turned into a broad and well-paved street.

Except for many mongrel dogs that attacked us, and the roosters that
began to challenge us from every garden, we had not been observed, and,
so far as we could distinguish, the approach to the town was totally
unprotected. By this time the light had increased sufficiently for us
to see the white fronts of the houses, and the long empty street, where
rows of oil-lamps were sputtering and flickering, and as they went out,
filling the clean, morning air with the fumes of the dying wicks. It
had been only two weeks since I had seen paved streets, and shops, and
lamp-posts, but I had been sleeping long enough in the open to make
the little town of Santa Barbara appear to me like a modern and
well-appointed city. Viewed as I now saw it, our purpose to seize
it appeared credulous and grotesque. I could not believe that we
contemplated such a piece of folly. But the native officer pointed down
the street toward a square building with overhanging balconies. In the
morning mist the warehouse loomed up above its fellows of one story like
an impregnable fortress.

Miller purred with satisfaction.

“That’s the place,” he whispered; “I remember it now. If we can get into
it, they can never get us out.” It seemed to me somewhat like burglary,
but I nodded in assent, and we ran back through the outskirts to
where Laguerre was awaiting us. We reported that there were no pickets
guarding our side of the town, and the building Garcia had designated
for defence seemed to us most admirably selected.

It was now near to the time set for the attack to begin, and Laguerre
called the men together, and, as was his custom, explained to them what
he was going to do. He ordered that when we reached the warehouse I was
to spread out my men over the plaza and along the two streets on which
the warehouse stood. Porter was to mount at once to the roof and open
fire on the barracks, and the men of B and C Troops were to fortify the
warehouse and erect the barricades.

It was still dark, but through the chinks of a few of the mud huts
we could see the red glow of a fire, and were warned by this to move
forward and take up our position at the head of the main street. Before
we advanced, skirmishers were sent out to restrain any of the people in
the huts who might attempt to arouse the garrison. But we need not have
concerned ourselves, for those of the natives who came to their doors,
yawning and shivering in the cool morning air, shrank back at the sight
of us, and held up their hands. I suppose, as we crept out of the mist,
we were a somewhat terrifying spectacle, but I know that I personally
felt none of the pride of a conquering hero. The glimpse I had caught of
the sleeping town, peaceful and unconscious, and the stealth and silence
of our movements, depressed me greatly, and I was convinced that I had
either perpetrated or was about to perpetrate some hideous crime. I had
anticipated excitement and the joy of danger, instead of which, as I
tiptoed between the poor gardens, I suffered all the quaking terrors of
a chicken thief.

We had halted behind a long adobe wall to the right of the main street,
and as we crouched there the sun rose like a great searchlight and
pointed us out, and exposed us, and seemed to hold up each one of us to
the derision of Santa Barbara. As the light flooded us we all ducked our
heads simultaneously, and looked wildly about us as though seeking
for some place to hide. I felt as though I had been caught in the open
street in my night-gown. It was impossible to justify our presence. As I
lay, straining my ears for Garcia’s signal, I wondered what we would do
if the worthy citizen who owned the garden wall, against which we lay
huddled, should open the gate and ask us what we wanted. Could we reply
that we, a hundred and fifty men, proposed to seize and occupy his city?
I felt sure he would tell us to go away at once or he would call the
police. I looked at the men near me, and saw that each was as disturbed
as myself. A full quarter of an hour had passed since the time set for
the attack, and still there was no signal from Garcia. The strain was
becoming intolerable. At any moment some servant, rising earlier than
his fellows, might stumble upon us, and in his surprise sound the alarm.
Already in the trail behind us a number of natives, on their way to
market, had been halted by our men, who were silently waving them back
into the forest. The town was beginning to stir, wooden shutters banged
against stone walls, and from but just around the corner of the main
street came the clatter of iron bars as they fell from the door of a
shop. We could hear the man who was taking them down whistling cheerily.

And then from the barracks came, sharply and clearly, the ringing notes
of the reveille. I jumped to my feet and ran to where Laguerre was
sitting with his back to the wall.

“General, can’t I begin now?” I begged. “You said D Troop was to go in
first.”

He shook his head impatiently. “Listen!” he commanded.

We heard a single report, but so faintly and from such a distance
that had it not instantly been followed by two more we could not have
distinguished it. Even then we were not certain. Then as we crouched
listening, each reading the face of the others and no one venturing
to breathe, there came the sharp, broken roll of musketry. It was
unmistakable. The men gave a great gasp of relief, and without orders
sprang to “attention.” A ripple of rifle-fire, wild and scattered,
answered the first volley.

“They have engaged the pickets,” said Laguerre.

The volleys were followed by others, and volleys, more uneven, answered
them still more wildly.

“They are driving the pickets back,” explained Laguerre. We all stood
looking at him as though he were describing something which he actually
saw. Suddenly from the barracks came the discordant calls of many
bugles, warning, commanding, beseeching.

Laguerre tossed back his head, like a horse that has been too tightly
curbed.

“They are leaving the barracks,” he said. He pulled out his watch and
stood looking down at it in his hand.

“I will give them three minutes to get under way,” he said. “Then we
will start for the warehouse. When they come back again, they will find
us waiting for them.”

It seemed an hour that we stood there, and during every second of that
hour the rifle-fire increased in fierceness and came nearer, and seemed
to make another instant of inaction a crime. The men were listening with
their mouths wide apart, their heads cocked on one side, and their eyes
staring. They tightened their cartridge-belts nervously, and opened and
shot back the breech-bolts of their rifles. I took out my revolver, and
spun the cylinder to reassure myself for the hundredth time that it
was ready. But Laguerre stood quite motionless, with his eyes fixed
impassively upon his watch as though he were a physician at a sick-bed.
Only once did he raise his eyes. It was when the human savageness of the
rifle-fire was broken by a low mechanical rattle, like the whirr of a
mowing-machine as one hears it across the hay-fields. It spanked the air
with sharp hot reports.

“Heinze has turned the Gatlings on them,” he said. “They will be coming
back soon.” He closed the lid of his watch with a click and nodded
gravely at me. “You can go ahead now, Captain,” he said. His tone was
the same as though he had asked me to announce dinner.



IV


I jumped toward the street at the double, and the men followed me
crowded in a bunch. I shouted back at them to spread out, and they fell
apart. As I turned into the street I heard a shout from the plaza end of
it and found a dozen soldiers running forward to meet us. When they saw
the troops swing around the corner, they halted and some took cover in
the doorways, and others dropped on one knee in the open street, and
fired carefully. I heard soft, whispering sounds stealing by my head
with incredible slowness, and I knew that at last I was under fire. I no
longer felt like a boy robbing an orchard, nor a burglar. I was instead
grandly excited and happy, and yet I was quite calm too. I am sure
of this, for I remember I calculated the distance between us and the
warehouse, and compared it with the two hundred and twenty-yard stretch
in an athletic park at home. As I ran I noted also everything on either
side of me: two girls standing behind the iron bars of a window with
their hands pressed to their cheeks, and a negro with a broom in his
hand crouching in a doorway. Some of the men stopped running and halted
to fire, but I shouted to them to come on. I was sure if we continued
to charge we could frighten off the men at the end of the street, and I
guessed rightly, for as we kept on they scattered and ran. I could hear
shouts and screams rising from many different houses, and men and women
scuttled from one side of the street to the other like frightened hens.

As we passed an open shop some men inside opened a fusillade on me, and
over my shoulder I just caught a glimpse of one of them as he dropped
back behind the counter. I shouted to Von Ritter, who was racing with
me, to look after them, and saw him and a half-dozen others swerve
suddenly and sweep into the shop. Porter’s men were just behind mine
and the noise our boots made pounding on the cobblestones sounded like a
stampede of cattle.

The plaza was an unshaded square of dusty grass. In the centre was a
circular fountain, choked with dirt and dead leaves, and down the paths
which led to it were solid stone benches. I told the men to take cover
inside the fountain, and about a dozen of them dropped behind the rim of
it, facing toward the barracks. I heard Porter give a loud “hurrah!” at
finding the doors of the warehouse open, and it seemed almost instantly
that the men of his troop began to fire over our heads from its roof.
At the first glance it was difficult to tell from where the enemy’s fire
came, but I soon saw smoke floating from the cupola of the church on
the corner and drifting through the barred windows of the barracks. I
shouted at the men behind the benches to aim at the cupola, and directed
those with me around the fountain to let loose at the barrack windows.
As they rose to fire and exposed themselves above the rim of the
fountain three of them were hit, and fell back swearing. The men behind
the benches shouted at me to take cover, and one of the wounded men in
the fountain reached up and pulled at my tunic, telling me to lie down.
The men of B and C Troops were rolling casks out of the warehouse and
building a barricade, and I saw that we were drawing all of the fire
from them. We were now in a cross-fire between the church and the
barracks, and were getting very much the worst of the fight. The men in
the barracks were only seventy yards away. They seemed to be the ones
chiefly responsible. They had piled canvas cots against the bars of the
windows, and though these afforded them no protection, they prevented
our seeing anything at which to shoot.

One of my men gave a grunt, and whirled over, holding his hand to his
shoulder. “I’ve got it, Captain,” he said. I heard another man shriek
from behind one of the benches. Our position was becoming impossible. It
was true we were drawing the fire from the men who were working on
the barricade, which was what we had been sent out to do, but in three
minutes I had lost five men.

I remembered a professor at the Point telling us the proportion of
bullets that went home was one to every three hundred, and I wished I
had him behind that fountain. Miller was lying at my feet pumping
away with a Winchester. As he was reloading it he looked up at me, and
shouted, “And they say these Central Americans can’t shoot!” I saw white
figures appearing and disappearing at the windows of almost every house
on the plaza. The entire population seemed to have taken up arms against
us. The bullets splashed on the combing of the fountain and tore up the
grass at our feet, and whistled and whispered about our ears. It seemed
utter idiocy to remain, but I could not bring myself to run back to the
barricade.

In the confusion which had ensued in the barracks when Garcia opened the
attack the men who ran out to meet him had left the gates of the barrack
yard open, and as I stood, uncertain what to do, I saw a soldier pushing
them together. He had just closed one when I caught sight of him. I
fired with my revolver, and shouted to the men. “We must get inside
those gates,” I cried. “We can’t stay here. Charge those gates!” I
pointed, and they all jumped from every part of the plaza, and we raced
for the barrack wall, each of us yelling as we ran. A half dozen of us
reached there in time to throw ourselves against the gate that was just
closing, and the next instant I fell sprawling inside the barrack yard.

{Illustration: And the next instant I fell sprawling inside the barrack
yard}

We ran straight for the long room which faced the street, and as we came
in at one end of it the men behind the cots fired a frightened volley at
us and fled out at the other. In less than two minutes the barracks were
empty, and we had changed our base from that cock-pit of a fountain to a
regular fortress with walls two feet thick, with rifles stacked in every
corner, and, what at that moment seemed of greatest importance, with a
breakfast for two hundred men bubbling and boiling in great iron pots in
the kitchen. I had never felt such elation and relief as I did over that
bloodless victory. It had come when things looked so bad; it had come
so suddenly and easily that while some of the men cheered, others only
laughed, shaking each other’s hands or slapping each other on the back,
and some danced about like children. We tore the cots away from the
windows and waved at the men behind the barricade, and they stood up and
cheered us, and the men on the roof, looking very tall against the blue
sky, stood up and waved their hats and cheered too. They had silenced
the men in the cupola, and a sudden hush fell upon the plaza. It was
easy to see that many sympathizers with the government had been shooting
at us from the private houses. When they saw us take the barracks
they had probably decided that the time had come to wipe off the
powder-stains, and reappear as friends of the revolution. The only
firing now was from where Garcia was engaged. Judging from the loudness
of these volleys he had reached the outskirts of the town. I set half
of my force to work piling up bags of meal behind the iron bars, and,
in the event of fire, filling pails with water, and breaking what little
glass still remained in the windows. Others I sent to bring in the
wounded, and still others to serving out the coffee and soup we had
found in the kitchen. After giving these orders I ran to the barricade
to report. When I reached it the men behind it began to rap on the
stones with the butts of their rifles as people pound with their
billiard-cues when someone has made a difficult shot, and those on the
roof leaned over and clapped their hands. It was most unmilitary, but
I must say I was pleased by it, though I pretended I did not know what
they meant.

Laguerre came to the door of the warehouse, and smiled at me.

“I’m glad you’re still alive, sir,” he said. “After this, when you get
within seventy yards of the enemy, I hope you will be able to see him
without standing up.”

The men above us laughed, and I felt rather foolish, and muttered
something about “setting an example.”

“If you get yourself shot,” he said, “you will be setting a very bad
example, indeed. We can’t spare anybody, Captain, and certainly not
you.” I tried to look as modest as possible, but I could not refrain
from glancing around to see if the men had heard him, and I observed
with satisfaction that they had.

Laguerre asked me if I could hold the barracks, and I told him that I
thought I could. He then ordered me to remain there.

“Would you like a cup of coffee, General?” I asked. The General’s
expression changed swiftly. It became that of a very human and a very
hungry man.

“Have you got any?” he demanded anxiously.

“If you can lend me some men,” I said, “I can send you back eight
gallons.” At this the men behind the barricades gave a great cheer of
delight, and the General smiled and patted me on the shoulder.

“That is right,” he said. “The best kind of courage often comes from a
full stomach. Run along now,” he added, as though he were talking to a
child, “run along, and don’t fire until we do, and send us that coffee
before we get to work again.”

I called in all of my men from the side streets, and led them across
to the barracks. I placed some of them on the roof and some of them on
tables set against the inside of the wall in the yard.

As I did so, I saw Porter run across the plaza with about fifty of
his men, and almost immediately after they had disappeared we heard
cheering, and he returned with Captain Heinze. They both ran toward
General Laguerre, and Porter then came across to me, and told me that
the government troops were in full flight, and escaping down the side
streets into the jungle. They were panic-stricken and were scattering in
every direction, each man looking after his own safety. For the next two
hours I chased terrified little soldiers all over the side of the
town which had been assigned me, either losing them at the edge of the
jungle, or dragging them out of shops and private houses. No one was
hurt. It was only necessary to fire a shot after them to see them throw
up their hands. By nine o’clock I had cleaned up my side of the town,
and returned to the plaza. It was now so choked with men and mules that
I was five minutes in forcing my way across. Garcia’s troops had marched
in, and were raising a great hullabaloo, cheering and shouting, and
embracing the townspeople, whom they had known during their former
occupation, and many of whom were the same people who had been firing
at us. I found Laguerre in counsel with Garcia, who was in high spirits,
and feeling exceedingly pleased with himself. He entirely ignored
our part in taking the town, and talked as though he had captured it
single-handed. The fact that the government troops had held him back
until we threatened them in the rear he did not consider as important. I
resented his swagger and the way he patronized Laguerre, but the General
did not seem to notice it, or was too well satisfied with the day’s work
to care. While I was at head-quarters our scouts came in to report that
the enemy was escaping along the trail to Comyagua, and that two of
their guns had stalled in the mud, not one mile out from Santa Barbara.
This was great news, and to my delight I was among those who hurried out
to the place where the guns were supposed to be. We found them abandoned
and stuck in the mud, and captured them without firing a shot. A half
hour later we paraded our prizes in a triumphal procession through the
streets of Santa Barbara, and were given a grand welcome by the allies
and the townspeople. I had never witnessed such enthusiasm, but it was
not long before I found out the cause of it. In our absence everybody
had been celebrating the victory with aguardiente, and half of Garcia’s
warriors had become so hopelessly drunk that they were lying all over
the plaza, and their comrades were dancing and tramping upon them.

I found that this orgy had put Laguerre in a fine rage, and I heard him
send out the provost guard with orders to throw all the drunken men into
the public corral for lost mules.

When he learned of this Garcia was equally indignant. The matter ended
with Laguerre’s locking up Garcia’s soldiers with our prisoners-of-war
in the yard barracks, where they sang and shouted and fought until they
were exhausted and went to sleep.

There was still much drink left on requisition, but the conquering
heroes had taken everything there was to eat, and for some time I
wandered around seeking for food before I finally discovered Miller,
Von Ritter, and Aiken in the garden of a private house enjoying a most
magnificent luncheon. I begged a share on the ground that I had just
overcome two helpless brass cannon, and they gave me a noisy welcome,
and made a place for me. I was just as happy as I was hungry, and I was
delighted to find someone with whom I could discuss the fight. For an
hour we sat laughing and drinking, and each talking at the top of his
voice and all at the same time. We were as elated as though we had
captured the city of London.

Of course Aiken had taken no part in the fight, and of course he made
light of it, which was just the sort of thing he would do, and he
especially poked fun at me and at my charge on the barracks. He called
it a “grand-stand play,” and said I was a “gallery fighter.” He said the
reason I ran out into the centre of the plaza was because I knew there
was a number of women looking out of the windows, and he pretended to
believe that when we entered the barracks they were empty, and that I
knew they were when I ordered the charge.

“It was the coffee they were after,” he declared. “As soon as Macklin
smelt the coffee he drew his big gilt sword and cried, ‘Up, my men,
inside yon fortress a free breakfast awaits us. Follow your gallant
leader!’ and they never stopped following until they reached the
kitchen. They’re going to make Macklin a bugler,” he said, “so that
after this he can blow his own trumpet without anyone being allowed to
interrupt him.”

I was glad to find that I could take what Aiken said of me as lightly as
did the others. Since the fight his power to annoy me had passed. I knew
better than anyone else that at one time during the morning I had been
in a very tight place, but I had stuck to it and won out. The knowledge
that I had done so gave me confidence in myself--not that I have ever
greatly lacked it, but it was a new kind of confidence. It made me
feel older, and less inclined to boast. In this it also helped out my
favorite theory that it must be easy for the man who has done something
to be modest. After he has proved himself capable in the eyes of his
comrades he doesn’t have to go about telling them how good he is. It is
a saying that heroes are always modest, but they are not really modest.
They just keep quiet, because they know their deeds are better talkers
than they are.

Miller and I had despatched an orderly to inform Laguerre of our
whereabouts, and at three o’clock in the afternoon the man returned to
tell us that we were to join the General in the plaza. On arriving there
we found the column already drawn up in the order of march, and an hour
later we filed out of the town down the same street by which we had
entered it that morning, and were cheered by the same people who eight
hours before had been firing upon us. We left five hundred of Garcia’s
men to garrison the place and prevent the townspeople from again
changing their sympathies, and continued on toward Tegucigalpa with
Garcia and the remainder of his force as our main body, and with the
Legion in the van. We were a week in reaching Comyagua, which was the
only place that we expected would offer any resistance until we arrived
outside of the capital. During that week our march was exactly similar
to the one we had made from the camp to Santa Barbara. There was the
same rough trail, the jungle crowding close on either flank, the same
dusty villages, the same fierce heat. At the villages of Tabla Ve and
at Seguatepec our scouts surprised the rear guard of the enemy and
stampeded it without much difficulty, and with only twenty men wounded.
As usual we had no one to thank for our success in these skirmishes but
ourselves, as Garcia’s men never appeared until just as the fight was
over, when they would come running up in great excitement. Laguerre
remarked that they needed a better knowledge of the bugle calls, as they
evidently mistook our “Cease firing” for “Advance.”

The best part of that week’s march lay in the many opportunities it gave
me to become acquainted with my General. The more I was permitted to
be with him the longer I wanted to be always with him, and with no one
else. After listening to Laguerre you felt that a talk with the other
men was a waste of time. There was nothing apparently that he did not
know of men and events, and his knowledge did not come from books, but
at first hand, from contact with the men, and from having taken part in
the events.

After we had pitched camp for the night the others would elect me to go
to his tent, and ask if we could come over and pay our respects. They
always selected me for this errand, because they said it was easy to see
that I was his favorite.

When we were seated about him on the rocks, or on ammunition boxes,
or on the ground, I would say, “Please, General, we want to hear some
stories,” and he would smile and ask, “What sort of stories?” and each
of us would ask for something different. Some would want to hear about
the Franco-Prussian war, and others of the Fall of Plevna or Don Carlos
or Garibaldi, or of the Confederate generals with whom Laguerre had
fought in Egypt.

When the others had said good-night he would sometimes call me back on
the pretence of giving me instructions for the morrow, and then would
come the really wonderful stories--the stories that no historian has
ever told. His talk was more educational than a library of histories,
and it filled me with a desire to mix with great people--to be their
companion as he had been, to have kings and pretenders for my intimates.
When one listened it sounded easy of accomplishment. It never seemed
strange to him that great rulers should have made a friend of a stray
soldier of fortune, an Irish adventurer--for Laguerre’s mother was
Irish; his father had been Colonel Laguerre, and once Military Governor
of Algiers--and given him their confidence. And yet I could see why they
should do so, for just the very reason that he took their confidence
as a matter of course, knowing that his loyalty would always be above
suspicion. He had a great capacity for loyalty. There was no taint in it
of self-interest, nor of snobbishness. He believed, for instance, in the
divine right of kings; and from what he let fall we could see that he
had given the most remarkable devotion not only to every cause for which
he had fought, but to the individual who represented it. That in time
each of these individuals had disappointed him had in no way shaken
his faith in the one to whom he next offered his sword. His was a most
beautiful example of modesty and of faith in one’s fellowman. It was
during this week, and because of these midnight talks with him around
the campfire, that I came to look up to him, and love him like a son.

But during that same week I was annoyed to find that many of our men
believed the version which Aiken had given of my conduct at Santa
Barbara. There were all sorts of stories circulating through the
Legion about me. They made me out a braggart, a bully, and a conceited
ass--indeed, almost everything unpleasant was said of me except that
I was a coward. Aiken, of course, kindly retold these stories to me,
either with the preface that he thought I ought to know what was being
said of me, or that he thought the stories would amuse me. I thanked him
and pretended to laugh, but I felt more like punching his head. People
who say that women are gossips, and that they delight in tearing each
other to pieces, ought to hear the talk of big, broad-shouldered men
around camp-fires. If you believe what they say, you would think that
every officer had either bungled or had funked the fight. And when a
man really has performed some act which cannot be denied they call him a
“swipe,” and say he did it to gain promotion, or to curry favor with
the General. Of course, it may be different in armies officered by
gentlemen; but men are pretty much alike all the world over, and I know
that those in our Legion were as given to gossip and slander as the
inmates of any Old Woman’s Home. I used to say to myself that so long as
I had the approval of Laguerre and of my own men and of my conscience I
could afford not to mind what the little souls said; but as a matter of
fact I did mind it, and it angered me exceedingly. Just as it hurt me at
the Point to see that I was not popular, it distressed me to find that
the same unpopularity had followed me into the Legion. The truth is that
the officers were jealous of me. They envied me my place as Adjutant,
and they were angry because Laguerre assigned one so much younger than
themselves to all the most important duties. They said that by showing
favoritism he was weakening his influence with the men and that he made
a “pet” of me. If he did I know that he also worked me five times as
hard as anyone else, and that he sent me into places where no one but
himself would go. The other officers had really no reason to object to
me personally. I gave them very little of my company, and though I spoke
pleasantly when we met I did not associate with them. Miller and Von
Ritter were always abusing me for not trying to make friends; but I told
them that, since the other officers spoke of me behind my back as a cad,
braggart, and snob, the least I could do was to keep out of their way.

I was even more unpopular with the men, but there was a reason for that;
for I was rather severe with them, and imposed as strict a discipline on
them as that to which I had been accustomed at West Point. The greater
part of them were ne’er-do-wells and adventurers picked up off the beach
at Greytown, and they were a thoroughly independent lot, reckless and
courageous; but I doubt if they had ever known authority or restraint,
unless it was the restraint of a jail. With the men of my own troop I
got on well enough, for they saw I understood how to take care of them,
and that things went on more smoothly when they were carried out as I
had directed, so they obeyed me without sulking. But with the men of the
troops not directly under my command I frequently met with trouble;
and on several occasions different men refused to obey my orders as
Adjutant, and swore and even struck at me, so that I had to knock them
down. I regretted this exceedingly, but I was forced to support my
authority in some way. After learning the circumstances Laguerre
exonerated me, and punished the men. Naturally, this did not help me
with the volunteers, and for the first ten days after I had joined the
Legion I was the most generally disliked man in it. This lasted until we
reached Comyagua, when something happened which brought the men over to
my side. Indeed, I believe I became a sort of a hero with them, and was
nearly as popular as Laguerre himself. So in the end it came out all
right, but it was near to being the death of me; and, next to hanging,
the meanest kind of a death a man could suffer.

When this incident occurred, which came so near to ending tragically
for me, we had been trying to drive the government troops out of the
cathedral of Comyagua. It was really a church and not a cathedral, but
it was so much larger than any other building we had seen in Honduras
that the men called it “The Cathedral.” It occupied one whole side of
the plaza. There were four open towers at each corner, and the front
entrance was as large as a barn. Their cannon, behind a barricade of
paving stones, were on the steps which led to this door.

I carried a message from Laguerre along the end of the plaza opposite
the cathedral, and as I was returning, the fire grew so hot that I
dropped on my face. There was a wooden watering-trough at the edge of
the sidewalk, and I crawled over and lay behind it. Directly back of me
was a restaurant into which a lot of Heinze’s men had broken their
way from the rear. They were firing up at the men in the towers of the
cathedral. My position was not a pleasant one, for every time I raised
my head the soldiers in the belfry would cut loose at me; and, though
they failed to hit me, I did not dare to get up and run. Already the
trough was leaking like a sieve. There was no officer with the men in
the cafe, so they were taking the word from one of their own number, and
were firing regularly in volleys. They fired three times after I took
shelter. They were so near me that at each volley I could hear the sweep
of the bullets passing about two yards above my head.

But at the fourth volley a bullet just grazed my cheek and drove itself
into the wood of the trough. It was so near that the splinters flew
in my eyes. I looked back over my shoulder and shouted, “Look out! You
nearly hit me then. Fire higher.”

One of the men in the cafe called back, “We can’t hear you,” and I
repeated, “Fire higher! You nearly hit me,” and pointed with my finger
to where the big 44-calibre ball had left a black hole in the green
paint of the trough. When they saw this there were excited exclamations
from the men, and I heard the one who was giving the orders repeating my
warning. And then came the shock of another volley. Simultaneously with
the shock a bullet cut through the wide brim of my sombrero and passed
into the box about two inches below my chin.

It was only then that I understood that this was no accident, but that
someone in the restaurant was trying to murder me. The thought was
hideous and sickening. I could bear the fire of the enemy from the
belfry--that was part of the day’s work; the danger of it only excited
me; but the idea that one of my own side was lying within twenty feet
of me, deliberately aiming with intent to kill, was outrageous and
revolting.

I scrambled to my feet and faced the open front of the restaurant, and
as I stood up there was, on the instant, a sharp fusillade from the
belfry tower. But I was now far too angry to consider that. The men were
kneeling just inside the restaurant, and as I halted a few feet from
them I stuck my finger through the bullet hole and held up my hat for
them to see.

“Look!” I shouted at them. “You did that, you cowards. You want to
murder me, do you?” I straightened myself and threw out my arms, “Well,
here’s your chance,” I cried. “Don’t shoot me in the back. Shoot me
now.”

The men gaped at me in utter amazement. Their lips hung apart. Their
faces were drawn in lines of anger, confusion, and dislike.

“Go on!” I shouted. “Fire a volley at that belfry, and let the man who
wants me have another chance at me. I’ll give the word. Make ready!” I
commanded.

There was a pause and a chorus of protests, and then mechanically each
man jerked out the empty shell and drove the next cartridge in place.
“Aim!” I shouted. They hesitated and then raised their pieces in a
wavering line, and I looked into the muzzles of a dozen rifles.

“Now then--damn you,” I cried. “Fire!”

They fired, and my eyes and nostrils were filled with burning smoke, but
not a bullet had passed near me.

“Again!” I shouted, stamping my foot. I was so angry that I suppose I
was really hardly accountable for what I did.

“I told you you were cowards,” I cried. “You can only shoot men in the
back. You don’t like me, don’t you?” I cried, taunting them. “I’m a
braggart, am I? Yes. I’m a bully, am I? Well, here’s your chance. Get
rid of me! Once again now. Make ready,” I commanded. “Aim! Fire!”

Again the smoke swept up, and again I had escaped. I remember that
I laughed at them and that the sound was crazy and hysterical, and
I remember that as I laughed I shook out my arms to show them I was
unhurt. And as I did that someone in the cafe cried, “Thank God!” And
another shouted, “That’s enough of this damn nonsense,” and a big man
with a bushy red beard sprang up and pulled off his hat.

“Now then,” he cried. “All together, boys. Three cheers for the little
one!” and they all jumped and shouted like mad people.

They cheered me again and again, although all the time the bullets from
the belfry were striking about them, ringing on the iron tables and on
the sidewalk, and tearing great gashes in the awnings overhead.

And then it seemed as though the sunlight on the yellow buildings and on
the yellow earth of the plaza had been suddenly shut off, and I dropped
into a well of blackness and sank deeper and deeper.

When I looked up the big man was sitting on the floor holding me as
comfortably as though I were a baby, and my face was resting against
his red beard, and my clothes and everything about me smelt terribly of
brandy.

But the most curious thing about it was that though they told everyone
in the Legion that I had stood up and made them shoot at me, they never
let anyone find out that I had been so weak as to faint.

I do not know whether it was the brandy they gave me that later led me
to charge those guns, but I appreciate now that my conduct was certainly
silly and mad enough to be excused only in that way. According to the
doctrine of chances I should have lost nine lives, and according to
the rules governing an army in the field I should have been
court-martialled. Instead of which, the men caught me up on their
shoulders and carried me around the plaza, and Laguerre and Garcia
looked on from the steps of the Cathedral and laughed and waved to us.

For five hours we had been lying in the blazing sun on the flat
house-tops, or hidden in the shops around the plaza, and the government
troops were still holding us off with one hand and spanking us with the
other. Their guns were so good that, when Heinze attempted to take up a
position against them with his old-style Gatlings, they swept him out
of the street, as a fire-hose flushes a gutter. For five hours they had
kept the plaza empty, and peppered the three sides of it so warmly that
no one of us should have shown his head.

But at every shot from the Cathedral our men grew more unmanageable,
and the longer the enemy held us back the more arrogant and defiant they
became. Ostensibly to obtain a better shot, but in reality from pure
deviltry, they would make individual sallies into the plaza, and, facing
the embrasure, would empty their Winchesters at one of its openings as
coolly as though they were firing at a painted bull’s-eye. The man who
first did this, the moment his rifle was empty, ran for cover and was
tumultuously cheered by his hidden audience. But in order to surpass
him, the next man, after he had emptied his gun, walked back very
deliberately, and the third man remained to refill his magazine. And
so a spirit of the most senseless rivalry sprang up, and one man after
another darted out into the plaza to cap the recklessness of those who
had gone before him.

It was not until five men were shot dead and lay sprawling and uncovered
in the sun that the madness seemed to pass. But my charging the
embrasure was always supposed to be a part of it, and to have
been inspired entirely by vanity and a desire to do something more
extravagantly reckless than any of the others. As a matter of fact I
acted on what has always seemed to me excellent reasoning, and if I went
alone, it was only because, having started, it seemed safer to go ahead
than to run all the way back again. I never blamed the men for running
back, and so I cannot see why they should blame me for having gone
ahead.

The enemy had ceased firing shrapnel and were using solid shot. When
their Gatlings also ceased, I guessed that it might be that the guns
were jammed. If I were right and if one avoided the solid shot by
approaching the barricade obliquely, there was no danger in charging the
barricade. I told my troop that I thought the guns were out of order,
and that if we rushed the barricade we could take it. When I asked for
volunteers, ten men came forward and at once, without asking permission,
which I knew I could not get, we charged across the plaza.

Both sides saw us at the same instant, and the firing was so fierce that
the men with me thought the Gatlings had reopened on us, and ran for
cover.

That left me about fifty feet from the barricade, and as it seemed a
toss-up whichever way I went I kept going forward. I caught the combing
of the embrasure with my hands, stuck my toes between the stones, and
scrambled to the top. The scene inside was horrible. The place looked
like a slaughter-yard. Only three men were still on their legs; the
rest were heaped around the guns. I threatened the three men with my
revolver, but they shrieked for mercy and I did not fire. The men in the
belfries, however, were showing no mercy to me, so I dropped inside the
wall and crawled for shelter beneath a caisson. But, I recognized on the
instant that I could not remain there. It was the fear of the Gatlings
only which was holding back our men, and I felt that before I was shot
they must know that the guns were jammed. So I again scrambled up to
the barricade, and waved my hat to them to come on. At the same moment
a bullet passed through my shoulder, and another burned my neck, and
one of the men who had begged for mercy beat me over the head with his
sword. I went down like a bag of flour, but before my eyes closed I saw
our fellows pouring out of the houses and sweeping toward me.

About an hour later, when Von Ritter had cleaned the hole in my shoulder
and plastered my skull, I sallied out again, and at sight of me the men
gave a shout, and picked me up, and, cheering, bore me around the plaza.
From that day we were the best of friends, and I think in time they grew
to like me.

Two days later we pitched camp outside of Tegucigalpa, the promised
city, the capital of the Republic.

Our points of attack were two: a stone bridge which joins the city
proper with the suburbs, and a great hill of rock called El Pecachua.
This hill either guards or betrays the capital. The houses reach almost
to its base and from its crest one can drop a shell through the roof of
any one of them. Consequently, when we arrived, we found its approaches
strongly entrenched and the hill occupied in force by the government
artillery. There is a saying in Honduras, which has been justified by
countless revolutions, and which dates back to the days of Morazan the
Liberator, that “He who takes Pecachua sleeps in the Palace.”

Garcia’s plan was for two days to bombard the city, and if, in that
time, Alvarez had not surrendered, to attack El Pecachua by night. As
usual, the work was so divided that the more dangerous and difficult
part of it fell to the Foreign Legion, for in his plan Garcia so ordered
it that Laguerre should storm Pecachua, while he advanced from the plain
and attacked the city at the stone bridge.

But this plan was never carried out, and after our first day in front
of the Capital, General Garcia never again gave an order to General
Laguerre.

After midnight on the evening of that first day Aiken came to the hut
where we had made our head-quarters and demanded to see the General on
a matter of life and death. With him, looking very uncertain as to the
propriety of the visit, were all the officers of the Legion.

The General was somewhat surprised and somewhat amused, but he invited
us to enter. When the officers had lined up against the walls he said,
“As a rule, I call my own councils of war, but no doubt Mr. Aiken has
some very good reason for affording me the pleasure of your company.
What is it, Mr. Aiken?”

Instead of answering him, Aiken said, with as much manner as that of
General Garcia himself, “I want a guard put outside this house, and I
want the men placed far enough from it to prevent their hearing what
I say.” The General nodded at me, and I ordered the sentries to
move farther from the hut. I still remember the tableau I saw when I
re-entered it, the row of officers leaning against the mud walls, the
candles stuck in their own grease on the table, the maps spread over
it, and the General and Aiken facing each other from its either end. It
looked like a drumhead court-martial.

When I had shut the door of the hut Aiken spoke. His tone was one of
calm unconcern.

“I have just come from the Palace,” he said, “where I have been having a
talk with President Alvarez.”

No one made a sound, nor no one spoke, but like one man everyone in the
room reached for his revolver. It was a most enlightening revelation of
our confidence in Aiken. Laguerre did not move. He was looking steadily
at Aiken and his eyes were shining like two arc lamps.

“By whose authority?” he asked.

We, who knew every tone of his voice, almost felt sorry for Aiken.

“By whose authority,” Laguerre repeated, “did you communicate with the
enemy?”

“It was an idea of my own,” Aiken answered simply. “I was afraid if
I told you you would interfere. Oh! I’m no soldier,” he said. He was
replying to the look in Laguerre’s face. “And I can tell you that there
are other ways of doing things than ‘according to Hardie.’ Alvarez’s
officers came to me after the battle of Comyagua. They expected to beat
you there, and when you chased them out of the city and started for
the Capital they thought it was all up with them, and decided to make
terms.”

“With you?” said Laguerre.

Aiken laughed without the least trace of resentment, and nodded.

“Well, you give a dog a bad name,” he said, “and it sticks to him. So,
they came to me. I’m no grand-stand fighter; I’m not a fighter at all.
I think fighting is silly. You’ve got all the young men you want to stop
bullets for you, without me. They like it. They like to catch ‘em in
their teeth. I don’t. But that’s not saying that I’m no good. You know
the old gag of the lion and the little mousie, and how the mouse came
along and chewed the lion out of the net. Well, that’s me. I’m no lion
going ‘round seeking whom I may devour.’ I’m just a sewer rat. But I can
tell you all,” he cried, slapping the table with his hand, “that, if it
hadn’t been for little mousie, every one of you lions would have been
shot against a stone wall. And if I can’t prove it, you can take a shot
at me. I’ve been the traitor. I’ve been the go-between from the first. I
arranged the whole thing. The Alvarez crowd told me to tell Garcia that
even if he did succeed in getting into the Palace the Isthmian Line
would drive him out of it in a week. But that if he’d go away from the
country, they’d pay him fifty thousand pesos and a pension. He’s got the
Isthmian Line’s promise in writing.

“This joint attack he’s planned for Wednesday night is a fake. He
doesn’t mean to fight. Nobody means to fight except against you. Every
soldier and every gun in the city is to be sent out to Pecachua to trap
you into an ambush. Natives who pretend to have deserted from Alvarez
are to lead you into it. That was an idea of mine. They thought it was
very clever. Garcia is to make a pretence of attacking the bridge and
a pretence of being driven back. Then messengers are to bring word that
the Foreign Legion has been cut to pieces at Pecachua, and he is to
disband his army, and tell every man to look out for himself.

“If you want proofs of this, I’ll furnish them to any man here that
you’ll pick out. I told Alvarez that one of your officers was working
against you with me, and that at the proper time I’d produce him. Now,
you choose which officer that shall be. He can learn for himself that
all I’m telling you is true. But that will take time!” Aiken cried, as
Laguerre made a movement to interrupt him. “And if you want to get out
of this fix alive, you’d better believe me, and start for the coast at
once--now--to-night!”

Laguerre laughed and sprang to his feet. His eyes were shining and the
color had rushed to his cheeks. He looked like a young man masquerading
in a white wig. He waved his hand at Aiken with a gesture that was part
benediction and part salute.

“I do believe you,” he cried, “and thank you, sir.” He glanced sharply
at the officers around him as though he were weighing the value of each.

“Gentlemen,” he cried, “often in my life I have been prejudiced, and
often I have been deceived, and I think that it is time now that I
acted for myself. From the first, the burden of this expedition has been
carried by the Foreign Legion. I know that; you, who fought the battles,
certainly know it. We invaded Honduras with a purpose. We came to obtain
for the peons the debt that is due them and to give them liberty and
free government. And whether our allies run away or betray us, that
purpose is still the same.”

He paused as though for the first time it had occurred to him that the
motives of the others might not be as his own.

“Am I right?” he asked, eagerly. “Are you willing to carry out that
purpose?” he demanded. “Are you ready to follow me now, to-night--not to
the coast”--he shouted--“but to the Capital--to the top of Pecachua?”

Old man Webster jumped in front of us, and shot his arm into the air as
though it held a standard.

“We’ll follow you to hell and back again,” he cried.

I would not have believed that so few men could have made so much noise.
We yelled and cheered so wildly that we woke the camp. We could hear the
men running down the road, and the sentries calling upon them to halt.
The whole Legion was awake and wondering. Webster beat us into silence
by pounding the table with his fist.

“I have lived in this country for forty years,” he cried, with his eyes
fixed upon Laguerre, “and you are the first white man I have known who
has not come into it, either flying from the law, or to rob and despoil
it. I know this country. I know all of Central America, and it is a
wonderful country. There is not a fruit nor a grain nor a plant that you
cannot dig out of it with your bare fingers. It has great forests, great
pasture-lands, and buried treasures of silver and iron and gold. But it
is cursed with the laziest of God’s creatures, and the men who rule
them are the most corrupt and the most vicious. They are the dogs in
the manger among rulers. They will do nothing to help their own country;
they will not permit others to help it. They are a menace and an insult
to civilization, and it is time that they stepped down and out, and made
way for their betters, or that they were kicked out. One strong man,
if he is an honest man, can conquer and hold Central America. William
Walker was such a man. I was with him when he ruled the best part of
this country for two years. He governed all Nicaragua with two hundred
white men, and never before or since have the pueblo known such peace
and justice and prosperity as Walker gave them.”

Webster threw himself across the table and pointed his hand at Laguerre.

“And you, General Laguerre!” he cried, “and you? Do you see your duty?
You say it calls you to-night to El Pecachua. Then if it does, it calls
you farther--to the Capital! There can be no stopping half-way now, no
turning back. If we follow you to-night to Pecachua, we follow you to
the Palace.”

Webster’s voice rose until it seemed to shake the palm-leaf roof. He
was like a man possessed. He sprang up on the table, and from the height
above us hurled his words at Laguerre.

“We are not fighting for any half-breed now,” he cried; “we are fighting
for you. We know you. We believe in you. We mean to make you President,
and we will not stop there. Our motto shall be Walker’s motto, ‘Five
or none,’ and when we have taken this Republic we shall take the
other four, and you will be President of the United States of Central
America.”

We had been standing open-eyed, open-mouthed, every nerve trembling, and
at these words we shrieked and cheered, but Webster waved at us with an
angry gesture and leaned toward Laguerre.

“You will open this land,” he cried, “with roads and railways. You will
feed the world with its coffee. You will cut the Nicaragua Canal. And
you will found an empire--not the empire of slaves that Walker planned,
but an empire of freed men, freed by you from their tyrants and from
themselves. They tell me, General,” he cried, “that you have fought
under thirteen flags. To-night, sir, you shall fight under your own!”

We all cheered and cheered again, the oldest as well as myself, and I
cheered louder than any, until I looked at Laguerre. Then I felt how
terribly real it was to him. Until I looked at him it had seemed quite
sane and feasible. But when I saw how deeply he was moved, and that
his eyes were brimming with pride and resolve, I felt that it was a mad
dream, and that we were wicked not to wake him. For I, who loved him
like a son, understood what it meant to him. In his talk along the trail
and by the camp-fire he had always dreamed of an impossible republic,
an Utopia ruled by love and justice, and I now saw he believed that the
dreams had at last come true. I knew that the offer these men had made
to follow him, filled him with a great happiness and gratitude. And that
he, who all his life had striven so earnestly and so loyally for others,
would give his very soul for men who fought for him. I was not glad that
they had offered to make him their leader. I could only look ahead with
miserable forebodings and feel bitterly sorry that one so fine and good
was again to be disillusioned and disappointed and cast down.

But there was no time that night to look ahead. The men were outside the
hut, a black, growling mob crying for revenge upon Garcia. Had we not
at once surrounded them they would have broken for his camp and murdered
him in his hammock, and with him his ignorant, deceived followers.

But when Webster spoke to them as he had spoken to us, and told them
what we planned to do, and Laguerre stepped out into the moon-light,
they forgot their anger in their pride for him, and at his first word
they fell into the ranks as obediently as so many fond and devoted
children.

In Honduras a night attack is a discredited manoeuvre. It is considered
an affront to the Blessed Virgin, who first invented sleep. And those
officers who that night guarded Pecachua being acquainted with Garcia’s
plot, were not expecting us until two nights later, when we were to walk
into their parlor, and be torn to pieces. Consequently, when Miller,
who knew Pecachua well, having served without political prejudice in
six revolutions, led us up a by-path to its top, we found the government
troops sleeping sweetly. Before their only sentry had discovered that
someone was kneeling on his chest, our men were in possession of their
batteries.

That morning when the sun rose gloriously, as from a bath, all pink and
shining and dripping with radiance, and the church bells began to clang
for early mass, and the bugles at the barracks sounded the jaunty call
of the reveille, two puffs of white smoke rose from thecrest of El
Pecachua and drifted lazily away. At the same instant a shell sang over
the roofs of Tegucigalpa, howling jeeringly, and smashed into the pots
and pans of the President’s kitchen; another, falling two miles farther
to the right, burst through the white tent of General Garcia, and the
people in the streets, as they crossed themselves in fear, knew that El
Pecachua had again been taken, and that that night a new President would
sleep in the Palace.

All through the hot hours of the morning the captured guns roared and
echoed, until at last we saw Garcia’s force crawling away in a crowd
of dust toward the hills, and an hour later Alvarez, with the household
troops, abandoning the Capital and hastening after him.

We were too few to follow, but we whipped them forward with our shells.

A half-hour later a timid group of merchants and foreign consuls, led by
the Bishop and bearing a great white flag, rode out to the foot of the
rock and surrendered the city.

I am sure no government was ever established more quickly than ours.
We held our first cabinet meeting twenty minutes after we entered the
capital, and ten minutes later Webster, from the balcony of the Palace,
proclaimed Laguerre President and Military Dictator of Honduras.
Laguerre in turn nominated Webster, on account of his knowledge of
the country, Minister of the Interior, and made me Vice-President and
Minister of War. No one knew what were the duties of a Vice-President,
so I asked if I might not also be Provost-Marshal of the city, and I was
accordingly appointed to that position and sent out into the street to
keep order.

Aiken, as a reward for his late services, was made head of the detective
department and Chief of Police. His first official act was to promote
two bare-footed policemen who on his last visit to the Capital had put
him under arrest.

The General, or the President, as we now called him, at once issued a
ringing proclamation in which he promised every liberty that the people
of a free republic should enjoy, and announced that in three months he
would call a general election, when the people could either reelect
him, or a candidate of their own choice. He announced also that he would
force the Isthmian Line to pay the people the half million of dollars it
owed them, and he suggested that this money be placed to the credit of
the people, and that they should pay no taxes until the sum was consumed
in public improvements. Up to that time every new President had imposed
new taxes; none had ever suggested remitting them altogether, and this
offer made a tremendous sensation in our favor.

There were other departures from the usual procedure of victorious
presidents which helped much to make us popular. One was the fact that
Laguerre did not shoot anybody against the barrack wall, nor levy
forced “loans” upon the foreign merchants. Indeed, the only persons who
suffered on the day he came into power were two of our own men, whom I
caught looting. I put them to sweeping the streets, each with a ball and
chain to his ankle, as an example of the sort of order we meant to keep
among ourselves.

Before mid-day Aiken sent a list, which his spies had compiled, of
sympathizers with Alvarez. He guaranteed to have them all in jail before
night. But Laguerre sent for them and promised them, if they remained
neutral, they should not be molested. Personally, I have always been of
the opinion that most of the persons on Aiken’s list of suspects were
most worthy merchants, to whom he owed money.

Laguerre gave a long audience to the cashier of the Manchester and
Central American Bank, Limited, which finances Honduras, and assured him
that the new administration would not force the bank to accept the paper
money issued by Alvarez, but would accept the paper money issued by the
bank, which was based on gold. As a result, the cashier came down the
stair-case of the Palace three steps at a time, and later our censor
read his cable to the Home Bank in England, in which he said that
Honduras at last had an honest man for President. What was more to the
purpose, he reopened his bank at three o’clock, and quoted Honduranian
money on his blackboard at a rise of three per cent. over that of the
day before. This was a great compliment to our government, and it must
have impressed the other business men, for by six o’clock that night a
delegation of American, German, and English shopkeepers called on the
President and offered him a vote of confidence. They volunteered also to
form a home-guard for the defence of the city, and to help keep him in
office.

So, by dinner-time, we had won over the foreign element entirely, and
the consuls had cabled their several ministers, advising them to advise
their governments to recognize ours.

It was a great triumph for fair promises backed by fair dealing.

Although I was a cabinet minister and had a right to have my say I did
not concern myself much with these graver problems of the Palace.

Instead, my first act was to cable to Beatrice that we were safe in
the Capital and that I was second in command. I did not tell her I was
Vice-President of a country of 300,000 people, because at Dobbs Ferry
such a fact would seem hardly probable. After that I spent the day very
happily galloping around the town with the Provost Guard at my heels,
making friends with the inhabitants, and arranging for their defence. I
posted a gun at the entrance to each of the three principal streets, and
ordered mounted scouts to patrol the plains outside the Capital. I also
remembered Heinze and the artillerymen who were protecting us on the
heights of Pecachua, and sent them a moderate amount of rum, and an
immoderate amount of canned goods and cigars. I also found time to
design a wonderful uniform for the officers of our Legion--a dark-green
blouse with silver facings and scarlet riding breeches--and on the
plea of military necessity I ordered six tailors to sit up all night to
finish them.

Uniforms for the men I requisitioned from the stores of the Government,
and ordered the red facings changed to yellow.

The next day when we paraded in full dress the President noticed this,
and remarked, “No one but Macklin could have converted a battery of
artillery, without the loss of a single gun or the addition of a single
horse, into a battalion of cavalry.”

We had escorted the President back to the Palace, and I was returning
to the barracks at the head of the Legion, with the local band playing
grandly before me, and the people bowing from the sidewalks, when a girl
on a gray pony turned into the plaza and rode toward us.

She was followed by a group of white men, but I saw only the girl. When
I recognized even at a distance that she was a girl from the States my
satisfaction was unbounded. It had needed only the presence of such an
audience to give the final touch of pleasure to my triumphant progress.
My new uniform had been finished only just in time.

When I first saw the girl I was startled merely because any white woman
in Honduras is an unusual spectacle, but as she rode nearer I knew that,
had I seen this girl at home among a thousand women, I would have looked
only at her.

She wore a white riding-habit, and a high-peaked Mexican sombrero, and
when her pony shied at the sound of the music she raised her head, and
the sun struck on the burnished braid around the brim, and framed her
face with a rim of silver. I had never seen such a face. It was so
beautiful that I drew a great breath of wonder, and my throat tightened
with the deep delight that rose in me.

I stared at her as she rode forward, because I could not help myself. If
an earthquake had opened a crevasse at my feet I would not have lowered
my eyes. I had time to guess who she was, for I knew there could be
no other woman so beautiful in Honduras, except the daughter of Joseph
Fiske. Had not Aiken said of her, “When she passes, the native women
kneel by the trail and cross themselves?”

I rode toward her fearfully, conscious only of a sudden deep flood of
gratitude for anything so nobly beautiful. I was as humbly thankful as
the crusader who is rewarded by his first sight of the Holy City, and I
was glad, too, that I came into her presence worthily, riding in advance
of a regiment. I was proud of our triumphant music, of our captured
flags and guns, and the men behind me, who had taken them.

I still watched her as our column drew nearer, and she pulled her pony
to one side to let it pass. I felt as though I were marching in review
before an empress, and I all but lifted my sword-blade in salute.

But as we passed I saw that the look on her face was that of a superior
and critical adversary. It was a glance of amused disdain, softened only
by a smile of contempt. As it fell upon me I blushed to the rim of my
sombrero. I felt as meanly as though I had been caught in a lie.
With her eyes, I saw the bare feet of our negro band, our ill-fitting
uniforms with their flannel facings, the swagger of our officers,
glancing pompously from their half-starved, unkempt ponies upon the
native Indians, who fawned at us from the sidewalks.

I saw that to her we were so many red-shirted firemen, dragging a wooden
hose-cart; a company of burnt-cork minstrels, kicking up the dust of
a village street; that we were ridiculous, lawless, absurd, and it was
like a blow over my heart that one so noble-looking should be so blind
and so unjust. I was swept with bitter indignation. I wanted to turn in
my saddle and cry to her that beneath the flannel facings at which she
laughed these men wore deep, uncared-for, festering wounds; that to
march thus through the streets of this tiny Capital they had waded
waist-high through rivers, had starved in fever camps, and at any hour
when I had called on them had run forward to throw cold hands with
death.

The group of gentlemen who were riding with the girl had halted their
ponies by the sidewalk, and as I drew near I noted that one of them wore
the uniform of an ensign in our navy. This puzzled me for an instant,
until I remembered I had heard that the cruiser Raleigh was lying at
Amapala. I was just passing the group when one of them, with the evident
intent that I should hear him, raised his voice.

“Well, here’s the army,” he said, “but where’s Falstaff? I don’t see
Laguerre.”

My face was still burning with the blush the girl had brought to it, and
the moment was not the one that any man should have chosen to ridicule
my general. Because the girl had laughed at us I felt indignant with
her, but for the same offence I was grateful to the man, for the reason
that he was a man, and could be punished. I whirled my pony around and
rode it close against his.

“You must apologize for that,” I said, speaking in a low voice, “or I’ll
thrash you with this riding-whip.”

He was a young man, exceedingly well-looking, slim and tall, and with
a fine air of good breeding. He looked straight into my eyes without
moving. His hands remained closed upon the pommel of his saddle.

“If you raise that whip,” he said, “I’ll take your tin sword away from
you, and spank you with it.”

Never in my life had anyone hurt me so terribly. And the insult had come
before my men and his friends and the people in the street. It turned
me perfectly cold, and all the blood seemed to run to my eyes, so that
I saw everything in a red haze. When I answered him my voice sounded
hoarse and shaky.

“Get down,” I said. “Get down, or I’ll pull you down. I’m going to
thrash you until you can’t stand or see.”

He struck at me with his riding-crop, but I caught him by the collar and
with an old trick of the West Point riding-hall threw him off into the
street, and landed on my feet above him. At the same moment Miller and
Von Ritter drove their ponies in between us, and three of the man’s
friends pushed in from the other side. But in spite of them we reached
each other, and I struck up under his guard and beat him savagely on the
face and head, until I found his chin, and he went down. There was an
awful row. The whole street was in an uproar, women screamed, the ponies
were rearing and kicking, the natives jabbering, and my own men swearing
and struggling in a ring around us.

“My God, Macklin!” I heard Von Ritter cry, “stop it! Behave yourself!”

He rode at our men with his sword and drove them back into ranks. I
heard him shout, “Fall in there. Forward. March!”

“This is your idea of keeping order, is it?” Miller shouted at me.

“He insulted Laguerre,” I shouted back, and scrambled into the saddle.
But I was far from satisfied. I, Vice-President, Minister of War,
Provost-Marshal of the city, had been fighting with my fists in the open
street before half the population. I knew what Laguerre would say, and I
wondered hotly if the girl had seen me, and I swore at myself for having
justified her contempt for us. Then I swore at myself again for giving
a moment’s consideration to what she thought. I was recalled to the
present by the apparition of my adversary riding his pony toward me,
partly supported and partly restrained by two of his friends. He was
trembling with anger and pain and mortification.

“You shall fight me for this,” he cried.

I was about to retort that he looked as though I had been fighting him,
but it is not easy to laugh at a man when he is covered with dust and
blood, and this one was so sorry a spectacle that I felt ashamed for
him, and said nothing.

“I am not a street fighter,” he raged. “I wasn’t taught to fight in
a lot. But I’ll fight you like a gentleman, just as though you were a
gentleman. You needn’t think you’ve heard the last of me. My friends
will act for me, and, unless you’re a coward, you will name your
seconds.”

Before I could answer, Von Ritter had removed his hat and was bowing
violently from his saddle.

“I am Baron Herbert Von Ritter,” he said “late Aide-de-Camp to his
Majesty, the King of Bavaria. If you are not satisfied, Captain Miller
and myself will do ourselves the honor of calling on your friends.”

His manner was so grand that it quite calmed me to hear him.

One of the men who was supporting my adversary, a big, sun-burned man,
in a pith helmet, shook his head violently.

“Here, none of that, Miller,” he said; “drop it. Can’t you see the boy
isn’t himself? This isn’t the time to take advantage of him.”

“We are only trying to oblige the gentleman,” said Miller. “The duel is
the only means of defence we’ve left you people. But I tell you, if
any of you insult our government again, we won’t even give you that
satisfaction--we’ll ride you out of town.”

The man in the pith helmet listened to Miller without any trace of
emotion. When Miller had finished he laughed.

“We’ve every means of defence that an American citizen needs when he
runs up against a crowd like yours,” he said. He picked up his reins and
turned his horse’s head down the street. “You will find us at the Hotel
Continental,” he added. “And as for running us out of town,” he shouted
over his shoulder, “there’s an American man-of-war at Amapala that is
going to chase you people out of it as soon as we give the word.”

When I saw that Miller and Von Ritter were arranging a duel, I felt no
further interest in what the man said, until he threatened us with the
warship. At that I turned toward the naval ensign to see how he received
it.

He was a young man, some years older than myself, with a smooth face and
fair, yellow hair and blue eyes. I found that the blue eyes were fixed
upon me steadily and kindly. When he saw that I had caught him watching
me he raised his hand smartly to the visor.

I do not know why, but it made the tears come to my eyes. It was so
different from the salute of our own men; it was like being back again
under the flag at the Point. It was the recognition of the “regular”
 that touched me, of a bona-fide, commissioned officer.

But I returned his salute just as stiffly as though I were a
commissioned officer myself. And then a strange thing happened. The
sailor-boy jerked his head toward the retreating form of my late
adversary, and slowly stuck his tongue into his cheek, and winked.
Before I could recover myself, he had caught up my hand and given it a
sharp shake, and galloped after his friends.

Miller and I fell in at the rear of the column.

“Who were those men?” I asked.

“The Isthmian Line people, of course,” he answered, shortly. “The man
in the helmet is Graham, the manager of the Copan Silver Mines. They’ve
just unloaded them on Fiske. That’s why they’re so thick with him.”

“And who was the chap who insulted Laguerre?” I asked. “The one whose
face I slapped?”

“Face you slapped? Ha!” Miller snorted. “I hope you’ll never slap my
face. Why, don’t you know who he is?” he exclaimed, with a grin. “I
thought, of course, you did. I thought that’s why you hit him. He’s
young Fiske, the old man’s son. That was his sister riding ahead of
them. Didn’t you see that girl?”



V


The day we attacked the capital Joseph Fiske and his party were absent
from it, visiting Graham, the manager of the Copan Mines, at his country
place, and when word was received there that we had taken the city,
Graham urged Mr. Fiske not to return to it, but to ride at once to the
coast and go on board the yacht. They told him that the capital was in
the hands of a mob.

But what really made Graham, and the rest of the Copan people, and the
Isthmian crowd, who now were all working together against us, so anxious
to get Fiske out of Honduras, was that part of Laguerre’s proclamation
in which he said he would force the Isthmian Line to pay its just debts.
They were most anxious that Fiske should not learn from us the true
version of that claim for back pay. They had told him we were a lot of
professional filibusters, that the demand we made for the half-million
of dollars was a gigantic attempt at blackmail. They pointed out to him
that the judges of the highest courts of Honduras had decided against
the validity of our claim, but they did not tell him that Alvarez had
ordered the judges to decide in favor of the company, nor how much money
they had paid Alvarez and the judges for that decision. Instead they
urged that Garcia, a native of the country, had submitted to the decree
of the courts and had joined Alvarez, and that now the only people
fighting against the Isthmian Line were foreign adventurers. They asked,
Was it likely such men would risk their lives to benefit the natives?
Was it not evident that they were fighting only for their own pockets?
And they warned Fiske that while Laguerre was still urging his claim
against this company, it would be unwise for the president of that
company to show himself in Tegucigalpa.

But Fiske laughed at the idea of danger to himself. He said a
revolution, like cock-fighting, was a national pastime, and no more
serious, and that should anyone attempt to molest the property of
the company, he would demand the protection of his own country as
represented by the Raleigh.

He accordingly rode back to the capital, and with his son and daughter
and the company’s representatives and the Copan people, returned to the
same rooms in the Hotel Continental he had occupied three days before,
when Alvarez was president. This made it embarrassing for us, as the
Continental was the only hotel in the city, and as it was there we had
organized our officers’ mess. In consequence, while there was no open
war, the dining-room of the hotel was twice daily the meeting-place of
the two opposing factions, and Von Ritter told me that until matters had
been arranged with the seconds of young Fiske I could not appear there,
as it would be “contrary to the code.”

But our officers were not going to allow the Copan and Isthmian people
to drive them out of their head-quarters, so at the table d’hote
luncheon that day our fellows sat at one end of the room, and Fiske and
Miss Fiske, Graham and his followers at the other. They entirely ignored
each other. After the row I had raised in the street, each side was
anxious to avoid further friction.

As I sat in the barracks over my solitary luncheon my thoughts were
entirely on the duel.

It had been forced on me, so I accepted it; but it struck me as a most
silly proceeding. Young Fiske had insulted my General and my comrades.
He had done so publicly and with intent. I had thrashed him as I said I
would, and as far as I could see the incident was closed. But Miller and
Von Ritter, who knew Honduras from Fonseca Bay to Truxillo, assured me
that, unless I met the man, who had insulted me before the people, our
prestige would be entirely destroyed. To the Honduranian mind, the fact
that I had thrashed him for so doing, would not serve as a substitute
for a duel, it only made a duel absolutely necessary. As I had
determined, if we did meet, that I would not shoot at him, I knew I
would receive no credit from such an encounter, and, so far as I could
see, I was being made ridiculous, and stood a very fair chance of being
killed.

I sincerely hoped that young Fiske would apologize. I assured myself
that my reluctance to meet him was due to the fact that I scorned to
fight a civilian. I always classed civilians, with women and children,
as non-combatants. But in my heart I knew that it was not this prejudice
which made me hesitate. The sister was the real reason. That he was her
brother was the only fact of importance. Had his name been Robinson or
Brown, I would have gone out and shot at the calves of his legs most
cheerfully, and taken considerable satisfaction in the notoriety that
would have followed my having done so.

But I could never let his sister know that I had only fired in the air,
and I knew that if I fought her brother she would always look upon me as
one who had attempted to murder him. I could never speak to her, or even
look at her again. And at that moment I felt that if I did not meet her,
I could go without meeting any other women for many years to come. She
was the most wonderful creature I had ever seen. She was not beautiful,
as Beatrice was beautiful, in a womanly, gracious way, but she had the
beauty of something unattainable. Instead of inspiring you, she filled
you with disquiet. She seemed to me a regal, goddess-like woman, one
that a man might worship with that tribute of fear and adoration that
savages pay to the fire and the sun.

I had ceased to blush because she had laughed at us. I had begun to
think that it was quite right that she should do so. To her we were
lawless adventurers, exiles, expatriates, fugitives. She did not
know that most of us were unselfish, and that our cause was just.
She thought, if she thought of us at all, that we were trying to levy
blackmail on her father. I did not blame her for despising us. I only
wished I could tell her how she had been deceived, and assure her that
among us there was one, at least, who thought of her gratefully and
devotedly, and who would suffer much before he would hurt her or hers. I
knew that this was so, and I hoped her brother would not be such an ass
as to insist upon a duel, and make me pretend to fight him, that her
father would be honest enough to pay his debts, and that some day she
and I might be friends.

But these hopes were killed by the entrance of Miller and Von Ritter.
They looked very grave.

“He won’t apologize,” Miller said. “We arranged that you are to meet
behind the graveyard at sunrise to-morrow morning.” I was bitterly
disappointed, but of course I could not let them see that.

“Does Laguerre know?” I asked.

“No,” Miller said, “neither does old man Fiske. We had the deuce of
a time. Graham and Lowell--that young Middy from the Raleigh--are his
seconds, and we found we were all agreed that he had better apologize.
Lowell, especially, was very keen that you two should shake hands, but
when they went out to talk it over with Fiske, he came back with them
in a terrible rage, and swore he’d not apologize, and that he’d either
shoot you or see you hung. Lowell told him it was all rot that two
Americans should be fighting duels, but Fiske said that when he was
in Rome, he did as Romans did; that he had been brought up in Paris to
believe in duels, and that a duel he would have. Then the sister came
in, and there was a hell of a row!”

“The sister!” I exclaimed.

Miller nodded, and Von Ritter and he shook their heads sadly at each
other, as though the recollection of the interview weighed heavily.

“Yes, his sister,” said Miller. “You know how these Honduranian places
are built, if a parrot scratches his feathers in the patio you can hear
it in every room in the house. Well, she was reading on the balcony, and
when her brother began to rage around and swear he’d have your blood,
she heard him, and opened the shutters and came in. She didn’t stay
long, and she didn’t say much, but she talked to us as though we were so
many bad children. I never felt so mean in my life.”

“She should not have been there,” said Von Ritter, stolidly. “It was
most irregular.”

“Fiske tried the high and mighty, brotherly act with her,” Miller
continued, “but she shook him up like a charge of rack-a-rock. She told
him that a duel was unmanly and un-American, and that he would be a
murderer. She said his honor didn’t require him to risk his life for
every cad who went about armed, insulting unarmed people--”

“What did she say?” I cried. “Say that again.”

Von Ritter tossed up his arms and groaned, but Miller shook his fist at
me.

“Now, don’t you go and get wrathy,” he roared. “We’ll not stand it.
We’ve been abused by everybody else on your account to-day, and we won’t
take it from you. It doesn’t matter what the girl said. They probably
told her you began the fight, and--”

“She said I was a cad,” I repeated, “and that I struck an unarmed man.
Didn’t her brother tell her that he first insulted me, and struck me
with his whip, and that I only used my fists. Didn’t any of you tell
her?”

“No!” roared Miller; “what the devil has that got to do with it? She was
trying to prevent the duel. We were trying to prevent the duel. That’s
all that’s important. And if she hadn’t made the mistake of thinking you
might back out of it, we could have prevented it. Now we can’t.”

I began to wonder if the opinion the Fiske family had formed of me, on
so slight an acquaintance, was not more severe than I deserved, but I
did not let the men see how sorely the news had hurt me. I only asked:
“What other mistake did the young lady make?”

“She meant it all right,” said Miller, “but it was a woman’s idea of a
bluff, and it didn’t go. She told us that before we urged her brother on
to fight, we should have found out that he has spent the last five
years in Paris, and that he’s the gilt-edged pistol-shot of the _salle
d’armes_ in the Rue Scribe, that he can hit a scarf-pin at twenty paces.
Of course that ended it. The Baron spoke up in his best style and said
that in the face of this information it would be now quite impossible
for our man to accept an apology without being considered a coward, and
that a meeting must take place. Then the girl ran to her brother and
said, ‘What have I done?’ and he put his arm around her and walked
her out of the room. Then we arranged the details in peace and came on
here.”

“Good,” I said, “you did exactly right. I’ll meet you at dinner at the
hotel.”

But at this Von Ritter protested that I must not dine there, that it was
against the code.

“The code be hanged,” I said. “If I don’t turn up at dinner they’ll
say I’m afraid to show myself out of doors. Besides, if I must be shot
through the scarf-pin before breakfast to-morrow morning, I mean to have
a good dinner to-night.”

They left me, and I rode to the palace to make my daily report to the
president. I was relieved to find that both he and Webster were so deep
in affairs of state that they had heard nothing of my row in the Plaza,
nor of the duel to follow. They were happy as two children building
forts of sand on the sea-shore. They had rescinded taxes, altered the
tariffs, reorganized the law-courts, taken over the custom-houses
by telegraph, and every five minutes were receiving addresses from
delegations of prominent Honduranians. Nicaragua and Salvador had both
recognized their government, and concession hunters were already cooling
their heels in the ante-room. In every town and seaport the adherents of
Garcia had swung over to Laguerre and our government, and our flag was
now flying in every part of Honduras. It was the flag of Walker, with
the five-pointed blood-red star. We did not explain the significance of
the five points.

I reported that my scouts had located Alvarez and Garcia in the hills
some five miles distant from the capital, that they were preparing a
permanent camp there, and that they gave no evidence of any immediate
intention of attacking the city. General Laguerre was already informed
of the arrival of Mr. Fiske, and had arranged to give him an audience
the following morning. He hoped in this interview to make clear to him
how just was the people’s claim for the half million due them, and to
obtain his guaranty that the money should be paid.

As I was leaving the palace I met Aiken. He was in his most cynical
mood. He said that the air was filled with plots and counter-plots, and
that treachery stalked abroad. He had been unsuccessful in trying to
persuade the president to relieve Heinze of his command on Pecachua. He
wanted Von Ritter or myself put in his place.

“It is the key to the position,” Aiken said, “and if Heinze should sell
us out, we would have to run for our lives. These people are all smiles
and ‘vivas’ to-day because we are on top. But if we lost Pecachua, every
man of them would turn against us.”

I laughed and said: “We can trust Heinze. If I had your opinion of my
fellow-man, I’d blow my brains out.”

“If I hadn’t had such a low opinion of my fellow-man,” Aiken retorted,
“he’d have blown your brains out. Don’t forget that.”

“No one listens to me,” he said. “I consider that I am very hardly used.
For a consideration a friend of Alvarez told me where Alvarez had buried
most of the government money. I went to the cellar and dug it up and
turned it over to Laguerre. And what do you think he’s doing with it!”
 Aiken exclaimed with indignation. “He’s going to give the government
troops their back pay, and the post-office clerks, and the peons who
worked on the public roads.”

I said I considered that that was a most excellent use to make of the
money; that from what I had seen of the native troops, it would turn our
prisoners of war into our most loyal adherents.

“Of course it will!” Aiken agreed. “Why, if the government troops out
there in the hills with Alvarez knew we were paying sixty pesos for
soldiers, they’d run to join us so quick that they’d die on the way of
sunstroke. But that’s not it. Where do we come in? What do we get out of
this? Have we been fighting for three months just to pay the troops who
have been fighting against us? Charity begins at home, I think.”

“You get your own salary, don’t you?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m not starving,” Aiken said, with a grin. “There’s a lot of loot
in being chief-of-police. This is going to be a wide-open town if I can
run it.”

“Well, you can’t,” I laughed. “Not as long as I’m its provost marshal.”

“Yes, and how long will that be?” Aiken retorted. “You take my advice
and make money now, while you’ve got the club to get it with you. Why,
if I had your job I could scare ten thousand sols out of these merchants
before sunrise. Instead of which you walk around nights to see their
front doors are locked. Let them do the walking. We’ve won, and let’s
enjoy the spoil. Eat, live, and be merry, my boy, for to-morrow you
die.”

“I hope not,” I exclaimed, and I ran down the steps of the palace and
turned toward the barracks.

“To-morrow you die,” I repeated, but I could not arouse a single
emotion. Portents and premonitions may frighten some people, but the
only superstition I hold to is to believe in the luck of Royal Macklin.

“What if Fiske can hit a scarf-pin at twenty paces!” I said to myself,
“he can’t hit me.” I was just as sure of it as I was of the fact that
when I met him I was going to fire in the air. I cannot tell why. I was
just sure of it.

The dining-room at the Continental held three long tables. That night
our officers sat at one. Mr. Fiske and his party were at the one
farthest away, and a dining-club of consular agents, merchants, and the
Telegraph Company’s people occupied the one in between. I could see her
whenever the German consul bent over his food. She was very pale and
tired-looking, but in the white evening frock she wore, all soft and
shining with lace, she was as beautiful as the moonlit night outside.
She never once looked in our direction. But I could not keep my eyes
away from her. The merchants, no doubt, enjoyed their dinner. They
laughed and argued boisterously, but at the two other tables there was
very little said.

The waiters, pattering over the stone floor in their bare feet, made
more noise than our entire mess.

When the brandy came, Russell nodded at the others, and they filled
their glasses and drank to me in silence. At the other table I saw the
same pantomime, only on account of old man Fiske they had to act even
more covertly. It struck me as being vastly absurd and wicked. What
right had young Fiske to put his life in jeopardy to me? It was not in
my keeping. I had no claim upon it. It was not in his own keeping. At
least not to throw away.

When they had gone and our officers had shaken hands with me and ridden
off to their different posts, I went out upon the balcony by myself and
sat down in the shadow of the vines. The stream which cuts Tegucigalpa
in two ran directly below the hotel, splashing against the rocks and
sweeping under the stone bridge with a ceaseless murmur. Beyond it
stretched the red-tiled roofs, glowing pink in the moonlight, and beyond
them the camp-fires of Alvarez twinkling like glow-worms against the
dark background of the hills. The town had gone to sleep, and the hotel
was as silent as a church. There was no sound except the whistle of a
policeman calling the hour, the bark of the street-dogs in answer, and
the voice of one of our sentries, arguing with some jovial gentleman who
was abroad without a pass. After the fever and anxieties of the last few
days the peace of the moment was sweet and grateful to me, and I sank
deeper into the long wicker chair and sighed with content. The previous
night I had spent on provost duty in the saddle, and it must have been
that I dropped asleep, for when I next raised my head Miss Fiske was
standing not twenty feet from me. She was leaning against one of the
pillars, a cold and stately statue in the moonlight.

She did not know anyone was near her, and when I moved and my spurs
clanked on the stones, she started, and turned her eyes slowly toward
the shadow in which I sat.

During dinner they must have told her which one of us was to fight the
duel, for when she recognized me she moved sharply away. I did not wish
her to think I would intrude on her against her will, so I rose and
walked toward the door, but before I had reached it she again turned and
approached me.

“You are Captain Macklin?” she said.

I was so excited at the thought that she was about to speak to me, and
so happy to hear her voice, that for an instant I could only whip off my
hat and gaze at her stupidly.

“Captain Macklin,” she repeated. “This afternoon I tried to stop the
duel you are to fight with my brother, and I am told that I made a very
serious blunder. I should like to try and correct it. When I spoke of
my brother’s skill, I mean his skill with the pistol, I knew you were
ignorant of it and I thought if you did know of it you would see the
utter folly, the wickedness of this duel. But instead I am told that I
only made it difficult for you not to meet him. I cannot in the least
see that that follows. I wish to make it clear to you that it does not.”

She paused, and I, as though I had been speaking, drew a long breath.
Had she been reading from a book her tone could not have been more
impersonal. I might have been one of a class of school-boys to whom she
was expounding a problem. At the Point I have heard officers’ wives use
the same tone to the enlisted men. Its effect on them was to drive them
into a surly silence.

But Miss Fiske did not seem conscious of her tone.

“After I had spoken,” she went on evenly, “they told me of your
reputation in this country, that you are known to be quite fearless.
They told me of your ordering your own men to shoot you, and of how you
took a cannon with your hands. Well, I cannot see--since your reputation
for bravery is so well established--that you need to prove it further,
certainly not by engaging in a silly duel. You cannot add to it by
fighting my brother, and if you should injure him, you would bring cruel
distress to--to others.”

“I assure you---” I began.

“Pardon me,” she said, raising her hand, but still speaking in the same
even tone. “Let me explain myself fully. Your own friends said in my
hearing,” she went on, “that they did not desire a fight. It is then my
remark only which apparently makes it inevitable.”

She drew herself up and her tone grew even more distant and disdainful.

“Now, it is not possible,” she exclaimed, “that you and your friends are
going to take advantage of my mistake, and make it the excuse for this
meeting. Suppose any harm should come to my brother.” For the first time
her voice carried a touch of feeling. “It would be my fault. I would
always have myself to blame. And I want to ask you not to fight him. I
want to ask you to withdraw from this altogether.”

I was completely confused. Never before had a young lady of a class
which I had so seldom met, spoken to me even in the words of everyday
civility, and now this one, who was the most wonderful and beautiful
woman I had ever seen, was asking me to grant an impossible favor, was
speaking of my reputation for bravery as though it were a fact which
everyone accepted, and was begging me not to make her suffer. What added
to my perplexity was that she asked me to act only as I desired to act,
but she asked it in such a manner that every nerve in me rebelled.

I could not understand how she could ask so great a favor of one she
held in such evident contempt. It seemed to me that she should not have
addressed me at all, or if she did ask me to stultify my honor and spare
the life of her precious brother she should not have done so in the same
tone with which she would have asked a tradesman for his bill. The
fact that I knew, since I meant to fire in the air, that the duel was a
farce, made it still more difficult for me to speak.

But I managed to say that what she asked was impossible.

“I do not know,” I stammered, “that I ought to talk about it to you at
all. But you don’t understand that your brother did not only insult me.
He insulted my regiment, and my general. It was that I resented, and
that is why I am fighting.”

“Then you refuse?” she said.

“I have no choice,” I replied; “he has left me no choice.”

She drew back, but still stood looking at me coldly. The dislike in her
eyes wounded me inexpressively.

Before she spoke I had longed only for the chance to assure her of my
regard, and had she appealed to me generously, in a manner suited to
one so noble-looking, I was in a state of mind to swim rivers and climb
mountains to serve her. I still would have fought the duel, but sooner
than harm her brother I would have put my hand in the fire. Now, since
she had spoken, I was filled only with pity and disappointment. It
seemed so wrong that one so finely bred and wonderfully fair should feel
so little consideration. No matter how greatly she had been prejudiced
against me she had no cause to ignore my rights in the matter. To speak
to me as though I had no honor of my own, no worthy motive, to treat me
like a common brawler who, because his vanity was wounded, was trying to
force an unoffending stranger to a fight.

My vanity was wounded, but I felt more sorry for her than for myself,
and when she spoke again I listened eagerly, hoping she would say
something which would soften what had gone before. But she did not make
it easier for either of us.

“If I persuade my brother to apologize for what he said of your
regiment,” she continued, “will you accept his apology?” Her tone was
one partly of interrogation, partly of command. “I do not think he is
likely to do so,” she added, “but if you will let that suffice, I shall
see him at once, and ask him.”

“You need not do that!” I replied, quickly. “As I have said, it is not
my affair. It concerns my--a great many people. I am sorry, but the
meeting must take place.”

For the first time Miss Fiske smiled, but it was the same smile of
amusement with which she had regarded us when she first saw us in the
plaza.

“I quite understand,” she said, still smiling. “You need not assure me
that it concerns a great many people.” She turned away as though the
interview was at an end, and then halted. She had stepped into the
circle of the moonlight so that her beauty shone full upon me.

“I know that it concerns a great many people,” she cried. “I know that
it is all a part of the plot against my father!”

I gave a gasp of consternation which she misconstrued, for she
continued, bitterly.

“Oh, I know everything,” she said. “Mr. Graham has told me all that you
mean to do. I was foolish to appeal to any one of you. You have set out
to fight my father, and your friends will use any means to win. But I
should have thought,” she cried, her voice rising and ringing like an
alarm, “that they would have stopped at assassinating his son.”

I stepped back from her as though she had struck at me.

“Miss Fiske,” I cried. What she had charged was so monstrous, so absurd
that I could answer nothing in defence. My brain refused to believe
that she had said it. I could not conceive that any creature so utterly
lovely could be so unseeing, so bitter, and so unfair.

Her charge was ridiculous, but my disappointment in her was so keen that
the tears came to my eyes.

I put my hat back on my head, saluted her and passed her quickly.

“Captain Macklin,” she cried. “What is it? What have I said?” She
stretched out her hand toward me, but I did not stop.

“Captain Macklin!” she called after me in such a voice that I was forced
to halt and turn.

“What are you going to do?” she demanded. “Oh, yes, I see,” she
exclaimed. “I see how it sounded to you. And you?” she cried. Her voice
was trembling with concern. “Because I said that, you mean to punish me
for it--through my brother? You mean to make him suffer. You will kill
him!” Her voice rose to an accent of terror. “But I only said it because
he is my brother, my own brother. Cannot you understand what that means
to me? Cannot you understand why I said it?”

We stood facing each other, I, staring at her miserably, and she
breathing quickly, and holding her hand to her side as though she had
been running a long distance.

“No,” I said in a low voice. It was very hard for me to speak at all.
“No, I cannot understand.”

I pulled off my hat again, and stood before her crushing it in my hands.

“Why didn’t you trust me?” I said, bitterly. “How could you doubt what
I would do? I trusted you. From the moment you came riding toward me,
I thanked God for the sight of such a woman. For making anything so
beautiful.”

I stopped, for I saw I had again offended. At the words she drew back
quickly, and her eyes shone with indignation. She looked at me as though
I had tried to touch her with my hand. But I spoke on without heeding
her. I repeated the words with which I had offended.

“Yes,” I said, “I thanked God for anything so noble and so beautiful. To
me, you could do no wrong. But you! You judged me before you even knew
my name. You said I was a cad who went about armed to fight unarmed
men. To you I was a coward who could be frightened off by a tale of
bulls-eyes, and broken pipe-stems at a Paris fair. What do I care for
your brother’s tricks. Let him see my score cards at West Point. He’ll
find them framed on the walls. I was first a coward and a cad, and now
I am a bully and a hired assassin. From the first, you and your brother
have laughed at me and mine while all I asked of you was to be what you
seemed to be, what I was happy to think you were. I wanted to believe
in you. Why did you show me that you can be selfish and unfeeling? It is
you who do not understand. You understand so little,” I cried, “that I
pity you from the bottom of my heart. I give you my word, I pity you.”

“Stop,” she commanded. I drew back and bowed, and we stood confronting
each other in silence.

“And they call you a brave man,” she said at last, speaking slowly and
steadily, as though she were picking each word. “It is like a brave man
to insult a woman, because she wants to save her brother’s life.”

When I raised my face it was burning, as though she had thrown vitriol.

“If I have insulted you, Miss Fiske,” I said, “if I have ever insulted
any woman, I hope to God that to-morrow morning your brother will kill
me.”

When I turned and looked back at her from the door, she was leaning
against one of the pillars with her face bent in her hands, and weeping
bitterly.

I rode to the barracks and spent several hours in writing a long letter
to Beatrice. I felt a great need to draw near to her. I was confused and
sore and unhappy, and although nothing of this, nor of the duel appeared
in my letter, I was comforted to think that I was writing it to her. It
was good to remember that there was such a woman in the world, and when
I compared her with the girl from whom I had just parted, I laughed out
loud.

And yet I knew that had I put the case to Beatrice, she would have
discovered something to present in favor of Miss Fiske.

“She was pleading for her brother, and she did not understand,” Beatrice
would have said. But in my own heart I could find no excuse. Her family
had brought me nothing but evil. Because her father would not pay his
debts, I had been twice wounded and many times had risked death; the
son had struck me with a whip in the public streets, and the sister
had called me everything that is contemptible, from a cad to a hired
cut-throat. So, I was done with the house of Fiske. My hand was against
it. I owed it nothing.

But with all my indignation against them, for which there was reason
enough, I knew in my heart that I had looked up to them, and stood in
awe of them, for reasons that made me the cad they called me. Ever since
my arrival in Honduras I had been carried away by the talk of the Fiske
millions, and later by the beauty of the girl, and by the boy’s insolent
air, of what I accepted as good breeding. I had been impressed with his
five years in Paris, by the cut of his riding-clothes even, by the fact
that he owned a yacht. I had looked up to them, because they belonged to
a class who formed society, as I knew society through the Sunday papers.
And now these superior beings had rewarded my snobbishness by acting
toward me in a way that was contrary to every ideal I held of what
was right and decent. For such as these, I had felt ashamed of my old
comrades. It was humiliating, but it was true; and as I admitted this
to myself, my cheeks burned in the darkness, and I buried my face in
the pillow. For some time I lay awake debating fiercely in my mind as to
whether, when I faced young Fiske, I should shoot the pistol out of his
hand, or fire into the ground. And it was not until I had decided that
the latter act would better show our contempt for him and his insult,
that I fell asleep.

Von Ritter and Miller woke me at four o’clock. They were painfully
correct and formal. Miller had even borrowed something of the Baron’s
manner, which sat upon him as awkwardly as would a wig and patches. I
laughed at them both, but, for the time being, they had lost their sense
of humor; and we drank our coffee in a constrained and sleepy silence.

At the graveyard we found that Fiske, his two seconds, Graham and
Lowell, the young Middy, and a local surgeon had already arrived. We
exchanged bows and salutes gloomily and the seconds gathered together,
and began to talk in hoarse whispers. It was still very dark. The moon
hung empty and pallid above the cold outline of the hills, and although
the roosters were crowing cheerfully, the sun had not yet risen. In the
hollows the mists lay like lakes, and every stone and rock was wet and
shining as though it had been washed in readiness for the coming day.
The gravestones shone upon us like freshly scrubbed doorsteps. It was
a most dismal spot, and I was so cold that I was afraid I would shiver,
and Fiske might think I was nervous. So I moved briskly about among
the graves, reading the inscriptions on the tombstones. Under the
circumstances the occupation, to a less healthy mind, would have been
depressing. My adversary, so it seemed to me, carried himself with a
little too much unconcern. It struck me that he overdid it. He laughed
with the local surgeon, and pointed out the moon and the lakes of mist
as though we had driven out to observe the view. I could not think of
anything to do which would show that I was unconcerned too, so I got
back into the carriage and stretched my feet out to the seat opposite,
and continued to smoke my cigar.

Incidentally, by speaking to Lowell, I hurt Von Ritter’s feelings. It
seems that as one of the other man’s seconds I should have been more
haughty with him. But when he passed me, pacing out the ground, he
saluted stiffly, and as I saluted back, I called out: “I suppose you
know you’ll catch it if they find out about this at Washington?” And he
answered, with a grin: “Yes, I know, but I couldn’t get out of it.”

“Neither could I,” I replied, cheerfully, and in so loud a tone that
everyone heard me. Von Ritter was terribly annoyed.

At last all was arranged and we took our places. We were to use pistols.
They were double-barrelled affairs, with very fine hair-triggers. Graham
was to give the word by asking if we were ready, and was then to count
“One, two, three.”

After the word “one” we could fire when we pleased. When each of us had
emptied both barrels, our honor was supposed to be satisfied.

Young Fiske wore a blue yachting suit with the collar turned up, and no
white showing except his face, and that in the gray light of the dawn
was a sickly white, like the belly of a fish. After he had walked to his
mark he never took his eyes from me. They seemed to be probing around
under my uniform for the vulnerable spot. I had never before had anyone
look at me, who seemed to so frankly dislike me.

Curiously enough, I kept thinking of the story of the man who boasted he
was so good a shot that he could break the stem of a wine-glass, and how
someone said: “Yes, but the wine-glass isn’t holding a pistol.” Then,
while I was smiling at the application I had made of this story to
my scowling adversary, there came up a picture, not of home and of
Beatrice, nor of my past sins, but of the fellow’s sister as I last saw
her in the moonlight, leaning against the pillar of the balcony with
her head bowed in her hands. And at once it all seemed contemptible and
cruel. No quarrel in the world, so it appeared to me then, was worth
while if it were going to make a woman suffer. And for an instant I was
so indignant with Fiske for having dragged me into this one, to feed his
silly vanity, that for a moment I felt like walking over and giving him
a sound thrashing. But at the instant I heard Graham demand, “Are you
ready?” and I saw Fiske fasten his eyes on mine, and nod his head. The
moment had come.

“One,” Graham counted, and at the word Fiske threw up his gun and fired,
and the ball whistled past my ear. My pistol was still hanging at my
side, so I merely pulled the trigger, and the ball went into the ground.
But instantly I saw my mistake. Shame and consternation were written
on the faces of my two seconds, and to the face of Fiske there came a
contemptuous smile. I at once understood my error. I read what was in
the mind of each. They dared to think I had pulled the trigger through
nervousness, that I had fired before I was ready, that I was frightened
and afraid. I am sure I never was so angry in my life, and I would have
cried out to them, if a movement on the part of Fiske had not sobered
me. Still smiling, he lifted his pistol slightly and aimed for, so it
seemed to me, some seconds, and then fired.

I felt the bullet cut the lining of my tunic and burn the flesh over
my ribs, and the warm blood tickling my side, but I was determined he
should not know he had hit me, and not even my lips moved.

Then a change, so sudden and so remarkable, came over the face of
young Fiske, that its very agony fascinated me. At first it was
incomprehensible, and then I understood. He had fired his last shot, he
thought he had missed, and he was waiting for me, at my leisure, to kill
him with my second bullet.

I raised the pistol, and it was as though you could hear the silence.
Every waking thing about us seemed to suddenly grow still. I brought the
barrel slowly to a level with his knee, raised it to his heart, passed
it over his head, and, aiming in the air, fired at the moon, and then
tossed the gun away. The waking world seemed to breathe again, and
from every side there came a chorus of quick exclamations; but without
turning to note who made them, nor what they signified, I walked back to
the carriage, and picked up my cigar. It was still burning.

Von Ritter ran to the side of the carriage.

“You must wait,” he protested. “Mr. Fiske wishes to shake hands with
you. It is not finished yet.”

“Yes, it is finished,” I replied, savagely. “I have humored you two long
enough. A pest on both your houses. I’m going back to breakfast.”

Poor Von Ritter drew away, deeply hurt and scandalized, but my offence
was nothing to the shock he received when young Lowell ran to the
carriage and caught up my hand. He looked at me with a smile that would
have softened a Spanish duenna.

“See here!” he cried. “Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to shake
hands with me. I want to tell you that was one of the finest things I
ever saw.” He squeezed my fingers until the bones crunched together.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, and now I believe all I’ve heard. To stand
up there,” he ran on, breathlessly, “knowing you didn’t mean to
fire, and knowing he was a dead shot, and make a canvas target of
yourself--that was bully. You were an ass to do it, but it was great.
You going back to breakfast?” he demanded, suddenly, with the same
winning, eager smile. “So am I. I speak to go with you.”

Before I could reply he had vaulted into the carriage, and was shouting
at the driver.

“Cochero, to the Barracks. Full speed ahead. Vamoose. Give way. Allez
vite!”

“But my seconds,” I protested.

“They can walk,” he said.

Already the horses were at a gallop, and as we swung around the wall
of the graveyard and were hidden from the sight of the others, Lowell
sprang into the seat beside me. With the quick fingers of the sailor, he
cast off my sword-belt and tore open my blouse.

“I wanted to get you away,” he muttered, “before he found out he had hit
you.”

“I’m not hit,” I protested.

“Just as you like,” he said. “Still, it looks rather damp to the left
here.”

But, as I knew, the bullet had only grazed me, and the laugh of relief
Lowell gave when he raised his head, and said, “Why, it’s only a
scratch,” meant as much to me as though he had rendered me some great
service. For it seemed to prove a genuine, friendly concern, and no
one, except Laguerre, had shown that for me since I had left home. I had
taken a fancy to Lowell from the moment he had saluted me like a brother
officer in the Plaza, and I had wished he would like me. I liked him
better than any other young man I had ever met. I had never had a man
for a friend, but before we had finished breakfast I believe we were
better friends than many boys who had lived next door to each other from
the day they were babies.

As a rule, I do not hit it off with men, so I felt that his liking me
was a great piece of good fortune, and a great honor. He was only three
years older than myself, but he knew much more about everything than
I did, and his views of things were as fine and honorable as they were
amusing.

Since then we have grown to be very close friends indeed, and we have
ventured together into many queer corners, but I have never ceased to
admire him, and I have always found him the same--unconscious of himself
and sufficient to himself. I mean that if he were presented to an
Empress he would not be impressed, nor if he chatted with a bar-maid
would he be familiar. He would just look at each of them with his grave
blue eyes and think only of what she was saying, and not at all of what
sort of an impression he was making, or what she thought of him. Aiken
helped me a lot by making me try not to be like Aiken; Lowell helped me
by making me wish to be like Lowell.

We had a very merry breakfast, and the fact that it was seven in the
morning did not in the least interfere with our drinking each other’s
health in a quart of champagne. Nearly all of our officers came in while
we were at breakfast to learn if I were still alive, and Lowell gave
them most marvellous accounts of the affair, sometimes representing me
as an idiot and sometimes as an heroic martyr.

They all asked him if he thought Fiske had sufficient influence at
Washington to cause the Government to give him the use of the Raleigh
against us, but he would only laugh and shake his head.

Later, to Laguerre, he talked earnestly on the same subject, and much to
the point.

The news of the duel had reached the palace at eight o’clock, and the
president at once started for the barracks.

We knew he was coming when we heard the people in the cafes shouting
“Viva,” as they always did when he appeared in public, and, though I was
badly frightened as to what he would say to me, I ran to the door and
turned out the guard to receive him.

He had put on one of the foreign uniforms he was entitled to wear--he
did not seem to fancy the one I had designed--and as he rode across the
Plaza I thought I had never seen a finer soldier. Lowell said he looked
like a field marshal of the Second Empire. I was glad Lowell had come
to the door with me, as he could now see for himself that my general was
one for whom a man might be proud to fight a dozen duels.

The president gave his reins to an orderly and mounted the steps,
touching his chapeau to the salute of guard and the shouting citizens,
but his eyes were fixed sternly on me. I saw that he was deeply moved,
and I wished fervently, now that it was too late, that I had told him
of the street fight at the time, and not allowed him to hear of it
from others. I feared the worst. I was prepared for any reproof, any
punishment, even the loss of my commission, and I braced myself for his
condemnation.

But when he reached the top step where I stood at salute, although I was
inwardly quaking, he halted and his lips suddenly twisted, and the tears
rushed to his eyes.

He tried to speak, but made only a choking, inarticulate sound, and
then, with a quick gesture, before all the soldiers and all the people,
he caught me in his arms.

“My boy,” he whispered, “my boy! For you were lost,” he murmured, “and
have returned to me.”

I heard Lowell running away, and the door of the guard-room banging
behind him, I heard the cheers of the people who, it seems, already knew
of the duel and understood the tableau on the barrack steps, but
the thought that Laguerre cared for me even as a son made me deaf to
everything, and my heart choked with happiness.

It passed in a moment, and in manner he was once more my superior
officer, but the door he had opened was never again wholly shut to me.

In the guard-room I presented Lowell to the president, and I was proud
to see the respect with which Lowell addressed him. At the first glance
they seemed to understand each other, and they talked together as simply
as would friends of long acquaintance.

After they had spoken of many things, Laguerre said: “Would it be fair
for me to ask you, Mr. Lowell, what instructions the United States has
given your commanding officer in regard to our government?”

To this Lowell answered: “All I know, sir, is that when we arrived at
Amapala, Captain Miller telegraphed the late president, Doctor Alvarez,
that we were here to protect American interests. But you probably know,”
 he added, “as everyone else does, that we came here because the Isthmian
Line demanded protection.”

“Yes, so I supposed,” Laguerre replied. “But I understand Mr. Graham has
said that when Mr. Fiske gives the word Captain Miller will land your
marines and drive us out of the country.”

Lowell shrugged his shoulders and frowned.

“Mr. Graham--” he began, “is Mr. Graham.” He added: “Captain Miller is
not taking orders from civilians, and he depends on his own sources
for information. I am here because he sent me to ‘Go, look, see,’ and
report. I have been wiring him ever since you started from the coast,
and since you became president. Your censor has very kindly allowed me
to use our cipher.”

I laughed, and said: “We court investigation.”

“Pardon me, sir,” Lowell answered, earnestly, addressing himself to
Laguerre, “but I should think you would. Why,” he exclaimed, “every
merchant in the city has told me he considers his interests have never
been so secure as since you became president. It is only the Isthmian
Line that wants the protection of our ship. The foreign merchants are
not afraid. I hate it!” he cried, “I hate to think that a billionaire,
with a pull at Washington, can turn our Jackies into Janissaries.
Protect American interests!” he exclaimed, indignantly, “protect
American sharpers! The Isthmian Line has no more right to the protection
of our Navy than have the debtors in Ludlow Street Jail.”

Laguerre sat for a long time without replying, and then rose and bowed
to Lowell with great courtesy.

“I must be returning,” he said. “I thank you, sir, for your good
opinion. At my earliest convenience I shall pay my respects to your
commanding officer. At ten o’clock,” he continued turning to me, “I am
to have my talk with Mr. Fiske. I have not the least doubt but that
he will see the justice of our claim against his company, and before
evening I am sure I shall be able to announce throughout the republic
that I have his guaranty for the money. Mr. Fiske is an able, upright
business man, as well as a gentleman, and he will not see this country
robbed.”

He shook hands with us and we escorted him to his horse.

I always like to remember him as I saw him then, in that gorgeous
uniform, riding away under the great palms of the Plaza, with the
tropical sunshine touching his white hair, and flashing upon the sabres
of the body-guard, and the people running from every side of the square
to cheer him.

Two hours later, when I had finished my “paper” work and was setting
forth on my daily round, Miller came galloping up to the barracks and
flung himself out of the saddle. He nodded to Lowell, and pulled me
roughly to one side.

“The talk with Fiske,” he whispered, “ended in the deuce of a row. Fiske
behaved like a mule. He told Laguerre that the original charter of the
company had been tampered with, and that the one Laguerre submitted to
him was a fake copy. And he ended by asking Laguerre to name his price
to leave them alone.”

“And Laguerre?”

“Well, what do you suppose,” Miller returned, scornfully. “The General
just looked at him, and then picked up a pen, and began to write, and
said to the orderly, ‘Show him out.’

“‘What’s that?’ Fiske said. And Laguerre answered: ‘Merely a figure of
speech; what I really meant was “Put him out,” or “throw him out!” You
are an offensive and foolish old man. I, the President of this country,
received you and conferred with you as one gentleman with another, and
you tried to insult me. You are either extremely ignorant, or extremely
dishonest, and I shall treat with you no longer. Instead, I shall at
once seize every piece of property belonging to your company, and hold
it until you pay your debts. Now you go, and congratulate yourself that
when you tried to insult me, you did so when you were under my roof, at
my invitation.’ Then Laguerre wired the commandantes at all the seaports
to seize the warehouses and officers of the Isthmian Line, and even
its ships, and to occupy the buildings with troops. He means business,”
 Miller cried, jubilantly. “This time it’s a fight to a finish.”

Lowell had already sent for his horse, and altogether we started at a
gallop for the palace. At the office of the Isthmian Line we were
halted by a crowd so great that it blocked the street. The doors of the
building were barred, and two sentries were standing guard in front
of it. A proclamation on the wall announced that, by order of the
President, the entire plant of the Isthmian Line had been confiscated,
and that unless within two weeks the company paid its debts to the
government, the government would sell the property of the company until
it had obtained the money due it.

At the entrance to the palace the sergeant in charge of the native
guard, who was one of our men, told us that two ships of the Isthmian
Line had been caught in port; one at Cortez on her way to Aspinwall, and
one at Truxillo, bound north. The passengers had been landed, and were
to remain on shore as guests of the government until they could be
transferred to another line.

Lowell’s face as he heard this was very grave, and he shook his head.

“A perfectly just reprisal, if you ask me,” he said, “but what one
lonely ensign tells you in confidence, and what Fiske will tell the
State Department at Washington, is a very different matter. It’s a good
thing,” he exclaimed, with a laugh, “that the Raleigh’s on the wrong
side of the Isthmus. If we were in the Caribbean, they might order us to
make you give back those ships. As it is, we can’t get marines here
from the Pacific under three days. So I’d better start them at once,” he
added, suddenly. “Good-by, I must wire the Captain.”

“Don’t let the United States Navy do anything reckless,” I said. “I’m
not so sure you could take those ships, and I’m not so sure your marines
can get here in three days, either, or that they ever could get here.”

Lowell gave a shout of derision.

“What,” he cried, “you’d fight against your country’s flag?”

I told him he must not forget that at West Point they had decided I was
not good enough to fight for my country’s flag.

“We’ve three ships of our own now,” I added, with a grin. “How would you
like to be Rear Admiral of the naval forces of Honduras?”

Lowell caught up his reins in mock terror.

“What!” he cried. “You’d dare to bribe an American officer? And with
such a fat bribe, too?” he exclaimed. “A Rear-Admiral at my age! That’s
dangerously near my price. I’m afraid to listen to you. Good-by.” He
waved his hand and started down the street. “Good-by, Satan,” he called
back to me, and I laughed, and he rode away.

That was the end of the laughter, of the jests, of the play-acting.

After that it was grim, grim, bitter and miserable. We dogs had had our
day. We soldiers of either fortune had tasted our cup of triumph, and
though it was only a taste, it had flown to our brains like heavy wine,
and the headaches and the heartaches followed fast. For some it was more
than a heartache; to them it brought the deep, drugged sleep of Nirvana.

The storm broke at the moment I turned from Lowell on the steps of the
palace, and it did not cease, for even one brief breathing space, until
we were cast forth, and scattered, and beaten.

As Lowell left me, General Laguerre, with Aiken at his side, came
hurrying down the hall of the palace. The President was walking with
his head bowed, listening to Aiken, who was whispering and gesticulating
vehemently. I had never seen him so greatly excited. When he caught
sight of me he ran forward.

“Here he is,” he cried. “Have you heard from Heinze?” he demanded. “Has
he asked you to send him a native regiment to Pecachua?”

“Yes,” I answered, “he wanted natives to dig trenches. I sent five
hundred at eight this morning.”

Aiken clenched his fingers. It was like the quick, desperate clutch of a
drowning man.

“I’m right,” he cried. He turned upon Laguerre. “Macklin has sent them.
By this time our men are prisoners.”

Laguerre glanced sharply at the native guard drawn up at attention on
either side of us. “Hush,” he said. He ran past us down the steps, and
halting when he reached the street, turned and looked up at the
great bulk of El Pecachua that rose in the fierce sunlight, calm and
inscrutable, against the white, glaring masses of the clouds.

“What is it?” I whispered.

“Heinze!” Aiken answered, savagely. “Heinze has sold them Pecachua.”

I cried out, but again Laguerre commanded silence. “You do not know
that,” he said; but his voice trembled, and his face was drawn in lines
of deep concern.

“I warned you!” Aiken cried, roughly. “I warned you yesterday; I told
you to send Macklin to Pecachua.”

He turned on me and held me by the sleeve, but like Laguerre he still
continued to look fearfully toward the mountain.

“They came to me last night, Graham came to me,” he whispered. “He
offered me ten thousand dollars gold, and I did not take it.” In his
wonder at his own integrity, in spite of the excitement which shook
him, Aiken’s face for an instant lit with a weak, gratified smile. “I
pretended to consider it,” he went on, “and sent another of my men to
Pecachua. He came back an hour ago. He tells me Graham offered Heinze
twenty thousand dollars to buy off himself and the other officers and
the men. But Heinze was afraid of the others, and so he planned to ask
Laguerre for a native regiment, to pretend that he wanted them to work
on the trenches. And then, when our men were lying about, suspecting
nothing, the natives should fall on them and tie them, or shoot them,
and then turn the guns on the city. And he _has_ sent for the niggars!”
 Aiken cried. “And there’s not one of them that wouldn’t sell you out.
They’re there now!” he cried, shaking his hand at the mountain. “I
warned you! I warned you!”

Incredible as it seemed, difficult as it was to believe such baseness, I
felt convinced that Aiken spoke the truth. The thought sickened me, but
I stepped over to Laguerre and saluted.

“I can assemble the men in half an hour,” I said. “We can reach the base
of the rock an hour later.”

“But if it should not be true,” Laguerre protested. “The insult to
Heinze--”

“Heinze!” Aiken shouted, and broke into a volley of curses. But the
oaths died in his throat. We heard a whirr of galloping hoofs; a man’s
voice shrieking to his horse; the sounds of many people running, and one
of my scouts swept into the street, and raced toward us. He fell off at
our feet, and the pony rolled upon its head, its flanks heaving horribly
and the blood spurting from its nostrils.

“Garcia and Alvarez!” the man panted. “They’re making for the city.
They tried to fool us. They left their tents up, and fires burning, and
started at night, but I smelt ‘em the moment they struck the trail. We
fellows have been on their flanks since sun-up, picking ‘em off at long
range, but we can’t hold them. They’ll be here in two hours.”

“Now, will you believe me?” Aiken shouted. “That’s their plot. They’re
working together. They mean to trap us on every side. Ah!” he cried.
“Look!”

I knew the thing at which he wished me to look. His voice and my dread
told me at what his arm was pointing.

I raised my eyes fearfully to El Pecachua. From its green crest a puff
of smoke was swelling into a white cloud, the cloud was split with a
flash of flame, and the dull echo of the report drifted toward us on
the hot, motionless air. At the same instant our flag on the crest of
Pecachua, the flag with the five-pointed, blood-red star, came twitching
down; and a shell screeched and broke above us.

Now that he knew the worst, the doubt and concern on the face of General
Laguerre fell from it like a mask.

“We have no guns that will reach the mountain, have we?” he asked. He
spoke as calmly as though we were changing guard.

“No, not one,” I answered. “All our heavy pieces are on Pecachua.”

“Then we must take it by assault,” he said. “We will first drive Garcia
back, and then we will storm the hill, or starve them out. Assemble all
the men at the palace at once. Trust to no one but yourself. Ride to
every outpost and order them here. Send Von Ritter and the gatlings to
meet Alvarez. This man will act as his guide.”

He turned to the scout. “You will find my horse in the court-yard of the
palace,” he said to him. “Take it, and accompany Captain Macklin. Tell
Von Ritter,” he continued, turning to me, “not to expose his men, but
to harass the enemy, and hold him until I come.” His tone was easy,
confident, and assured. Even as I listened to his command I marvelled
at the rapidity with which his mind worked, how he rose to an unexpected
situation, and met unforeseen difficulties.

“That is all,” he said. “I will expect the men here in half an hour.”

He turned from me calmly. As he re-entered the palace between the lines
of the guard he saluted as punctiliously as though he were on his way to
luncheon.

But no one else shared in his calmness. The bursting shells had driven
the people from their houses, and they were screaming through the
streets, as though an earthquake had shaken the city. Even the palace
was in an uproar.

The scout, as he entered it, shouting for the President’s horse, had
told the story to our men, and they came running to the great doors,
fastening their accoutrements as they ran. Outside, even as Laguerre had
been speaking, the people had gathered in a great circle, whispering and
gesticulating, pointing at us, at the dying horse, at the shells that
swung above us, at the flag of Alvarez which floated from Pecachua.
When I spurred my horse forward, with the scout at my side, there was
a sullen silence. The smiles, the raised hats, the cheers were missing,
and I had but turned my back on them when a voice shouted, “Viva
Alvarez!”

I swung in my saddle, and pulled out my sword. I thought it was only the
bravado of some impudent fellow who needed a lesson.

But it was a signal, for as I turned I saw the native guard spring like
one man upon our sergeant and drive their bayonets into his throat. He
went down with a dozen of the dwarf-like negroes stabbing and kicking at
him, and the mob ran shrieking upon the door of the palace.

On the instant I forgot everything except Laguerre. I had only one
thought, to get to him, to place myself at his side.

I pushed my horse among the people, beating at the little beasts with my
sword. But the voice I knew best of all called my name from just above
my head, and I looked up and saw Laguerre with Aiken and Webster on the
iron balcony of the palace.

Laguerre’s face was white and set.

“Captain Macklin!” he cried. “What does this mean? Obey your orders. You
have my orders. Obey my orders.”

“I can’t,” I cried. “This is an attack upon you! They will kill you!”

At the moment I spoke our men fired a scattering volley at the mob, and
swung to the great gates. The mob answered their volley with a dozen
pistol-shots, and threw itself forward. Still looking up, I saw Laguerre
clasp his hands to his throat, and fall back upon Webster’s shoulder,
but he again instantly stood upright and motioned me fiercely with his
arm. “Go,” he cried. “Bring the gatlings here, and all the men. If you
delay we lose the palace. Obey my orders,” he again commanded, with a
second fierce gesture.

The movement was all but fatal. The wound in his throat tore apart, his
head fell forward and his eyes closed. I saw the blood spreading and
dyeing the gold braid. But he straightened himself and leaned forward.
His eyes opened, and, holding himself erect with one hand on the
railing of the balcony, he stretched the other over me, as though in
benediction.

“Go, Royal!” he cried, “and--God bless you!”



VI


I bent my head and drove my spurs into my horse. I did not know where
he was carrying me. My eyes were shut with tears, and with the horror
of what I had witnessed. I was reckless, mad, for the first time in my
life, filled with hate against my fellow-men. I rode a hundred yards
before I heard the scout at my side shouting, “To the right, Captain, to
the right.”

At the word I pulled on my rein, and we turned into the Plaza.

The scout was McGraw, the Kansas cowboy, who had halted Aiken and myself
the day we first met with the filibusters. He was shooting from the
saddle as steadily as other men would shoot with a rest, and each time
he fired, he laughed. The laugh brought me back to the desperate need
of our mission. I tricked myself into believing that Laguerre was not
seriously wounded. I persuaded myself that by bringing him aid quickly
I was rendering him as good service as I might have given had I remained
at his side. I shut out the picture of him, faint and bleeding, and
opened my eyes to the work before us.

We were like the lost dogs on a race-course that run between lines of
hooting men. On every side we were assailed with cries. Even the voices
of women mocked at us. Men sprang at my bridle, and my horse rode
them down. They shot at us from the doors of the cafes, from either
curbstone. As we passed the barracks even the men of my own native
regiment raised their rifles and fired.

The nearest gun was at the end of the Calle Bogran, and we raced down
it, each with his revolver cocked, and held in front of him.

But before we reached the outpost I saw the men who formed it, pushing
their way toward us, bunched about their gatling with their clubbed
rifles warding off the blows of a mob that struck at them from every
side. They were ignorant of what had transpired; they did not know who
was, or who was not their official enemy, and they were unwilling to
fire upon the people, who a moment before, before the flag of Alvarez
had risen on Pecachua, had been their friends and comrades. These
friends now beset them like a pack of wolves. They hung upon their
flanks and stabbed at them from the front and rear. The air was filled
with broken tiles from the roofs, and with flying paving-stones.

When the men saw us they raised a broken cheer.

“Open that gun on them!” I shouted. “Clear the street, and push your gun
to the palace. Laguerre is there. Kill every man in this street if you
have to, but get to the palace.”

The officer in charge fought his way to my side. He was covered with
sweat and blood. He made a path for himself with his bare arms.

“What in hell does this mean, Macklin?” he shouted. “Who are we
fighting?”

“You are fighting every native you see,” I ordered. “Let loose up this
street. Get to the palace!”

I rode on to the rear of the gun, and as McGraw and I raced on toward
the next post, we heard it stabbing the air with short, vicious blows.

At the same instant the heavens shook with a clap of thunder, the sky
turned black, and with the sudden fierceness of the tropics, heavy drops
of rain began to beat upon us, and to splash in the dust like hail.

A moment later and the storm burst upon the city. The streets were swept
with great sheets of water, torrents flowed from the housetop, the
skies darkened to ink, or were ripped asunder by vivid flashes, and
the thunder rolled unceasingly. We were half drowned, as though we were
dragged through a pond, and our ponies bowed and staggered before the
double onslaught of wind and water. We bent our bodies to theirs, and
lashed them forward.

The outpost to which we were now riding was stationed at the edge of
the city where the Calle Morizan joins the trail to San Lorenzo on
the Pacific coast. As we approached it I saw a number of mounted men,
surrounding a closed carriage. They were evidently travellers starting
forth on the three days’ ride to San Lorenzo, to cross to Amapala, where
the Pacific Mail takes on her passengers. They had been halted by our
sentries. As I came nearer I recognized, through the mist of rain,
Joseph Fiske, young Fiske, and a group of the Isthmian men. The storm,
or the bursting shells, had stampeded their pack-train, and a dozen
frantic Mozos were rounding up the mules and adding their shrieks and
the sound of their falling whips to the tumult of the storm.

I galloped past them to where our main guard were lashing the
canvas-cover to their gun, and ordered them to unstrap it, and fight
their way to the palace.

As I turned again the sentry called: “Am I to let these people go? They
have no passes.”

I halted, and Joseph Fiske raised his heavy eyelids, and blinked at me
like a huge crocodile. I put a restraint upon myself and moved toward
him with a confident smile. I could not bear to have him depart,
thinking he went in triumph. I looked the group over carefully and said:
“Certainly, let them pass,” and Fiske and some of the Isthmian men, who
appeared ashamed, nodded at me sheepishly.

But one of them, who was hidden by the carriage, called out: “You’d
better come, too; your ship of state is getting water-logged.”

I made no sign that I heard him, but McGraw instantly answered, “Yes, it
looks so. The rats are leaving it!”

At that the man called back tauntingly the old Spanish proverb: “He
who takes Pecachua, sleeps in the palace.” McGraw did not understand
Spanish, and looked at me appealingly, and I retorted, “We’ve altered
that, sir. The man who sleeps in the palace will take Pecachua tonight.”

And McGraw added: “Yes, and he won’t take it with thirty pieces of
silver, either.”

I started away, beckoning to McGraw, but, as we moved, Mr. Fiske pushed
his pony forward.

“Can you give me a pass, sir?” he asked. He shouted the words, for the
roaring of the storm drowned all ordinary sounds. “In case I meet with
more of your men, can you give me a written pass?”

I knew that the only men of ours still outside of the city were a few
scouts, but I could not let Fiske suspect that, so I whipped out my
notebook and wrote:

“To commanders of all military posts: Pass bearer, Joseph Fiske, his
family, servants, and baggage-train.

“ROYAL MACKLIN,

 “Vice-President of Honduras”

I tore out the page and gave it him, and he read it carefully and bowed.

“Does this include my friends?” he asked, nodding toward the Isthmian
men.

“You can pass them off as your servants,” I answered, and he smiled
grimly.

The men had formed around the gun, and it was being pushed toward me,
but as I turned to meet it I was again halted, this time by young Fiske,
who rode his horse in front of mine, and held out his hand.

“You must shake hands with me!” he cried, “I acted like a cad.” He bent
forward, raising his other arm to shield his face from the storm. “I
say, I acted like a cad,” he shouted, “and I ask your pardon.”

I took his hand and nodded. At the same moment as we held each other’s
hands the window of the carriage was pushed down and his sister leaned
out and beckoned to me. Her face, beaten by the rain, and with her hair
blown across it, was filled with distress.

“I want to thank you,” she cried. “Thank you,” she repeated, “for my
brother. I thank you. I wanted you to know.”

She stretched out her hand and I took it, and released it instantly, and
as she withdrew her face from the window of the carriage, I dug my spurs
into my pony and galloped on with the gun.

What followed is all confused.

I remember that we reached the third and last post just after the men
had abandoned it, but that we overtook them, and with them fought our
way through the streets. But through what streets, or how long it took
us to reach the palace I do not know. No one thing is very clear to me.
Even the day after, I remembered it only as a bad dream, in which I saw
innumerable, dark-skinned faces pressing upon me with open mouths, and
white eyeballs; lit by gleams of lightning and flashes of powder. I
remember going down under my pony and thinking how cool and pleasant it
was in the wet mud, and of being thrown back on him again as though I
were a pack-saddle, and I remember wiping the rain out of my eyes with a
wet sleeve, and finding the sleeve warm with blood. And then there was a
pitchy blackness through which I kept striking at faces that sprang out
of the storm, faces that when they were beaten down were replaced by
other faces; drunken, savage, exulting. I remember the ceaseless booming
of the thunder that shook the houseslike an earthquake, the futile
popping of revolvers, the whining shells overhead, the cries and groans,
the Spanish oaths, and the heavy breathing of my men about me, and
always just in front of us, the breathless whir of the gatling.

After that the next I remember I was inside the palace, and breaking
holes in the wall with an axe. Some of my men took the axe from me, and
said: “He’s crazy, clean crazy,” and Van Ritter and Miller fought with
me, and held me down upon a cot. From the cot I watched the others
making more holes in the wall, through which they shoved their rifles
and then there was a great cheer outside, and a man came running in
crying, “Alvarez and Heinze are at the corner with the twelve-pounders!”
 Then our men cursed like fiends, and swept out of the room, and as
no one remained to hold me down, I stumbled after them into the big
reception-hall, and came upon Laguerre, lying rigid and still upon a
red-silk sofa. I thought he was dead, and screamed, and at that they
seized me again and hustled me back to the cot, telling me that he was
not dead, but that at any moment he might die, and that if I did not
rest, I would die also.

When I came to, it was early morning, and through the holes in the
plaster wall I could see the stars fading before the dawn. The gatlings
were gone and the men were gone, and I was wondering if they had
deserted me, when Von Ritter came back and asked if I were strong enough
to ride, and I stood up feeling dizzy and very weak. But my head was
clear and I could understand what he said to me. Of the whole of the
Foreign Legion only thirty were left. Miller was killed, Russell was
killed and old man Webster was killed. They told me how they had caught
him when he made a dash to the barracks for ammunition, and how, from
the roof, our men had seen them place him against the iron railings of
the University Gardens. There he died, as his hero, William Walker, had
died, on the soil of the country he had tried to save from itself,
with his arms behind him, and his blindfolded eyes turned upon a
firing-squad.

McGraw had been killed as he rode beside me, holding me in the saddle.
That hurt me worse than all. They told me a blow from behind had knocked
me over, and though, of that, I could remember nothing, I could still
feel McGraw’s arm pressing my ribs, and hear his great foolish laugh in
my ears.

They helped me out into the court-yard, where the men stood in a hollow
square, with Laguerre on a litter in the centre, and with the four
gatlings at each corner. The wound was in his throat, so he could not
speak, but when they led me down into the Patio he raised his eyes and
smiled. I tried to smile back, but his face was so white and drawn that
I had to turn away, that he might not see me crying.

There was much besides to make one weep. We were running away. We were
abandoning the country to which some of us had come to better their
fortunes, to which others had come that they might set the people free.
We were being driven out of it by the very men for whom we had risked
our lives. Some among us, the reckless, the mercenary, the adventurers,
had played like gamblers for a stake, and had lost. Others, as they
thought, had planned wisely for the people’s good, had asked nothing in
return but that they might teach them to rule themselves. But they, too,
had lost, and because they had lost, they were to pay the penalty.

Within the week the natives had turned from us to the painted idols of
their jungle, and the new gods toward whom they had wavered were to be
sacrificed on the altars of the old. They were waiting only until the
sun rose to fall upon our little garrison and set us up against the
barrack wall, as a peace offering to their former masters. Only one
chance remained to us. If, while it were still night, we could escape
from the city to the hills, we might be able to fight our way to the
Pacific side, and there claim the protection of our war-ship.

It was a forlorn hope, but we trusted to the gatlings to clear a road
for us, and there was no other way.

So just before the dawn, silently and stealthily the President and the
Cabinet, and all that was left of the Government and Army of General
Laguerre, stole out of his palace through a hole in the courtyard-wall.

We were only a shadowy blot in the darkness, but the instant we reached
the open street they saw us and gave cry.

From behind the barriers they had raised to shut off our escape, from
the house-tops, and from the darkened windows, they opened fire with
rifle and artillery. But our men had seen the dead faces of their
leaders and comrades, and they were frantic, desperate. They charged
like madmen. Nothing could hold them. Our wedge swept steadily forward,
and the guns sputtered from the front and rear and sides, flashing and
illuminating the night like a war-ship in action.

They drove our enemies from behind the barricades, and cleaned the
street beyond it to the bridge, and then swept the bridge itself. We
could hear the splashes when the men who held it leaped out of range of
the whirling bullets into the stream below.

In a quarter of an hour we were running swiftly through the sleeping
suburbs, with only one of our guns barking an occasional warning at the
ghostly figures in our rear.

We made desperate progress during the dark hours of the morning, but
when daylight came we were afraid to remain longer on the trail, and
turned off into the forest. And then, as the sun grew stronger, our
endurance reached its limit, and when they called a halt our fellows
dropped where they stood, and slept like dead men. But they could not
sleep for long. We all knew that our only chance lay in reaching San
Lorenzo, on the Pacific Ocean. Once there, we were confident that the
war-ship would protect us, and her surgeons save our wounded. By the
trail and unmolested, we could have reached it in three days, but in the
jungle we were forced to cut our way painfully and slowly, and at times
we did not know whether we were moving toward the ocean or had turned
back upon the capital.

I do not believe that slaves hunted through a swamp by blood-hounds have
ever suffered more keenly than did the survivors of the Foreign Legion.
Of our thirty men, only five were unwounded. Even those who carried
Laguerre wore blood-stained bandages. All were starving, and after the
second day of hiding in swamps and fording mountain-streams, half of our
little band was sick with fever. We lived on what we found in the woods,
or stole from the clearing, on plants, and roots, and fruit. We were no
longer a military body. We had ceased to be either officers or privates.
We were now only so many wretched fellow-beings, dependent upon each
other, like sailors cast adrift upon some desert island, and each worked
for the good of all, and the ties which bound us together were stronger
than those of authority and discipline. Men scarcely able to drag
themselves on, begged for the privilege of helping to carry Laguerre,
and he in turn besought and commanded that we leave him by the trail,
and hasten to the safety of the coast. In one of his conscious moments
he protested: “I cannot live, and I am only hindering your escape. It
is not right, nor human, that one man should risk the lives of all the
rest. For God’s sake, obey my orders and put me down.”

Hour after hour, by night as well as by day, we struggled forward,
staggering, stumbling, some raving with fever, others with set faces,
biting their yellow lips to choke back the pain.

Three times when we endeavored to gain ground by venturing on the level
trail, the mounted scouts of Alvarez overtook us, or attacked us from
ambush, and when we beat them off, they rode ahead and warned the
villages that we were coming; so, that, when we reached them, we were
driven forth like lepers. Even the village dogs snapped and bit at the
gaunt figures, trembling for lack of food, and loss of sleep and blood.

But on the sixth day, just at sunset, as we had dragged ourselves to
the top of a wooded hill we saw below us, beyond a league of unbroken
jungle, a great, shining sheet of water, like a cloud on the horizon,
and someone cried: “The Pacific!” and we all stumbled forward, and some
dropped on their knees, and some wept, and some swung their hats and
tried to cheer.

And then one of them, I never knew which, started singing, “Praise God,
from whom all blessings flow,” and we stood up, the last of the Legion,
shaken with fever, starving, wounded, and hunted by our fellow-men, and
gave praise to God, as we had never praised Him before.

That night the fever took hold of me, and in my tossings and turnings
I burst open the sword-wound at the back of my head. I remember someone
exclaiming “He’s bled to death!” and a torch held to my eyes, and then
darkness, and the sense that I was being carried and bumped about on
men’s shoulders.

The next thing I knew I was lying in a hammock, a lot of naked, brown
children were playing in the dirt beside me, the sun was shining, great
palms were bending in the wind above me, and the strong, sweet air of
the salt sea was blowing in my face.

I lay for a long time trying to guess where I was, and how I had come
there. But I found no explanation for it, so I gave up guessing, and
gazed contentedly at the bending palms until one of the children found
my eyes upon him, and gave a scream, and they all pattered off like
frightened partridges.

That brought a native woman from behind me, smiling, and murmuring
prayers in Spanish. She handed me a gourd filled with water.

I asked where I was, and she said, “San Lorenzo.”

I could have jumped out of the hammock at that, but when I tried to do
so I found I could hardly raise my body. But I had gained the coast. I
knew I would find strength enough to leave it.

“Where are my friends?” I asked. “Where are the Gringoes?”

But she raised her hands, and threw them wide apart.

“They have gone,” she said, “three, four days from now, they sailed away
in the white ship. There was a great fighting,” she said, raising her
eyes and shaking her head, “and they carried you here, and told me to
hide you. You have been very ill, and you are still very ill.” She gave
a little exclamation and disappeared, and returned at once with a piece
of folded paper. “For you,” she said.

On the outside of the paper was written in Spanish: “This paper will
be found on the body of Royal Macklin. Let the priest bury him and send
word to the Military Academy, West Point, U. S. A., asking that his
family be informed of his place of burial. They will reward you well.”

Inside, in English, was the following letter in Aiken’s handwriting:

“DEAR OLD MAN--We had to drop you here, as we were too sick to carry
you any farther. They jumped us at San Lorenzo, and when we found we
couldn’t get to Amapala from here, we decided to scatter, and let each
man take care of himself. Von Ritter and I, and two of the boys, are
taking Laguerre with us. He is still alive, but very bad. We hope to
pick up a fishing-boat outside of town, and make for the Raleigh. We
tried to carry you, too, but it wasn’t possible. We had to desert one
of you, so we stuck by the old man. We hid your revolver and money-belt
under the seventh palm, on the beach to the right of this shack. If
I’d known you had twenty double eagles on you all this time, I’d have
cracked your skull myself. The crack you’ve got is healing, and if you
pull through the fever you’ll be all right. If you do, give this woman
twenty pesos I borrowed from her. Get her to hire a boat, and men,
and row it to Amapala. This island is only fifteen miles out, and the
Pacific Mail boat touches there Thursdays and Sundays. If you leave here
the night before, you can make it. Whatever you do, don’t go into the
village here or land at Amapala. If they catch you on shore they will
surely shoot you. So board the steamer in the offing. Hoping you will
live to read this, and that we may meet again under more agreeable
circumstances, I am,

“Yours truly,

“HERBERT AIKEN.”

“P.S. I have your gilt sword, and I’m going to turn it over to the
officers of the Raleigh, to take back to your folks. Good luck to you,
old man.”

After reading this letter, which I have preserved carefully as a
characteristic souvenir of Aiken, I had but two anxieties. The first
was to learn if Laguerre and the others had reached the Raleigh, and the
second was how could I escape to the steamer--the first question was at
once answered by the woman. She told me it was known in San Lorenzo that
the late “Presidente Generale,” with three Gringoes, had reached the
American war-ship and had been received on board. The Commandante of
Amapala had demanded their surrender to him, but the captain of the
ship had declared that as political refugees, they were entitled to the
protection they claimed, and when three days later he had been ordered
to return to San Francisco, he had taken them with him.

When I heard that, I gave a cheer all by myself, and I felt so much
better for the news that I at once began to plot for my own departure.
The day was Wednesday, the day before the steamer left Amapala, and I
determined to start for the island the following evening. When I told
the woman this, she protested I was much too weak to move, but the risk
that my hiding-place might be discovered before another steamer-day
arrived was much too great, and I insisted on making a try for the first
one.

The woman accordingly procured a fishing-boat and a crew of three men,
and I dug up my money-belt, and my revolver, and thanked her and paid
her, for Aiken and for myself, as well as one can pay a person for
saving one’s life. The next night, as soon as the sun set, I seated
myself in the stern of the boat, and we pushed out from the shore of
Honduras, and were soon rising and falling on the broad swell of the
Pacific.

My crew were simple fishermen, unconcerned with politics, and as I
had no fear of harm from them, I curled up on a mat at their feet and
instantly fell asleep.

When I again awoke the sun was well up, and when I raised my head the
boatman pointed to a fringe of palms that hung above the water, and
which he told me rose from the Island of Amapala. Two hours later we
made out the wharves and the custom-house of the port itself, and, lying
well toward us in the harbor, a big steamer with the smoke issuing from
her stacks, and the American flag hanging at the stern. I was still weak
and shaky, and I must confess that I choked a bit at the sight of the
flag, and at the thought that, in spite of all, I was going safely back
to life, and Beatrice and Aunt Mary. The name I made out on the stern of
the steamer was Barracouta, and I considered it the prettiest name I
had ever known, and the steamer the handsomest ship that ever sailed the
sea. I loved her from her keel to her topmast. I loved her every line
and curve, her every rope and bolt. But specially did I love the flag
at her stern and the blue Peter at the fore. They meant home. They meant
peace, friends, and my own countrymen.

I gave the boatmen a double eagle, and we all shook hands with great
glee, and then with new strength and unassisted I pulled myself up the
companion-ladder, and stood upon the deck.

When I reached it I wanted to embrace the first man I saw. I somehow
expected that he would want to embrace me, too, and say how glad he was
I had escaped. But he happened to be the ship’s purser, and, instead of
embracing me, he told me coldly that steerage passengers are not allowed
aft. But I did not mind, I knew that I was a disreputable object, but
I also knew that I had gold in my money-belt, and that clothes could be
bought from the slop-chest.

So I said in great good-humor, that I wanted a first-class cabin, the
immediate use of the bathroom, and the services of the ship’s barber.

My head was bound in a dirty bandage. My uniform, which I still wore
as I had nothing else, was in rags from the briers, and the mud of the
swamps and the sweat of the fever had caked it with dirt. I had an eight
days’ beard, and my bare feet were in native sandals. So my feelings
were not greatly hurt because the purser was not as genuinely glad to
see me as I was to see him.

“A first-class passage costs forty dollars gold--in advance,” he said.

“That’s all right,” I answered, and I laughed from sheer, foolish
happiness, “I’ll take six.”

We had been standing at the head of the companion-ladder, and as the
purser moved rather reluctantly toward his cabin, a group of men came
down the deck toward us.

One of them was a fat, red-faced American, the others wore the uniform
of Alvarez. When they saw me they gave little squeals of excitement, and
fell upon the fat man gesticulating violently, and pointing angrily at
me.

The purser halted, and if it were possible, regarded me with even
greater unfriendliness. As for myself, the sight of the brown, impish
faces, and the familiar uniforms filled me with disgust. I had thought
I was done with brawling and fighting, of being hated and hunted. I
had had my fill of it. I wanted to be let alone, I wanted to feel that
everybody about me was a friend. I was not in the least alarmed, for now
that I was under the Stars and Stripes, I knew that I was immune from
capture, but the mere possibility of a row was intolerable.

One of the Honduranians wore the uniform of a colonel, and was, as
I guessed, the Commandante of the port. He spoke to the fat man in
English, but in the same breath turned to one of his lieutenants, and
gave an order in Spanish.

The lieutenant started in my direction, and then hesitated and beckoned
to some one behind me.

I heard a patter of bare feet on the deck, and a dozen soldiers ran past
me, and surrounded us. I noticed that they and their officers belonged
to the Eleventh Infantry. It was the regiment I had driven out of the
barracks at Santa Barbara.

The fat American in his shirt-sleeves was listening to what the
Commandante was saying, and apparently with great dissatisfaction. As
he listened he scowled at me, chewing savagely on an unlit cigar, and
rocking himself to and fro on his heels and toes. His thumbs were stuck
in his suspenders, so that it looked as though, with great indecision he
was pulling himself forward and back.

I turned to the purser and said, as carelessly as I could: “Well, what
are we waiting for?”

But he only shook his head.

With a gesture of impatience the fat man turned suddenly from the
Commandante and came toward me.

He spoke abruptly and with the tone of a man holding authority.

“Have you got your police-permit to leave Amapala?” he demanded.

“No,” I answered.

“Well, why haven’t you?” he snapped.

“I didn’t know I had to have one,” I said. “Why do you ask?” I added.
“Are you the captain of this ship?”

“I think I am,” he suddenly roared, as though I had questioned his
word. “Anyway, I’ve got enough say on her to put you ashore if you don’t
answer my questions.”

I shut my lips together and looked away from him. His tone stirred what
little blood there was still left in me to rebellion; but when I saw the
shore with its swamps and ragged palms, I felt how perilously near it
was, and Panama became suddenly a distant mirage. I was as helpless as a
sailor clinging to a plank. I felt I was in no position to take offence,
so I bit my lips and tried to smile.

The Captain shook his head at me, as though I were a prisoner in the
dock.

“Do you mean to say,” he shouted, “that our agent sold you a ticket
without you showing a police-permit?”

“I haven’t got a ticket,” I said. “I was just going to buy one now.”

The Commandante thrust himself between us.

“Ah, what did I tell you?” he cried. “You see? He is escaping. This is
the man. He answers all the descriptions. He was dressed just so; green
coat, red trousers, very torn and dirty--head in bandage. This is the
description. Is it not so?” he demanded of his lieutenants. They nodded
vigorously.

“Why--a-yes, that is the man,” the Commandante cried in triumph. “Last
night he stabbed Jose Mendez in the Libertad Billiard Hall. He has
wanted to murder him. If Jose, he die, this man he is murderer. He
cannot go. He must come to land with me.”

He gave an order in Spanish, and the soldiers closed in around us.

I saw that I was in great peril, in danger more real than any I had
faced in open fight since I had entered Honduras. For the men who had
met me then had fought with fair weapons. These men were trying to take
away my life with a trick, with cunning lies and false witnesses.

They knew the Captain might not surrender a passenger who was only a
political offender, but that he could not harbor a criminal. And at the
first glance at my uniform, and when he knew nothing more of me than
that I wore it, the Commandante had trumped up this charge of crime, and
had fitted to my appearance the imaginary description of an imaginary
murderer. And I knew that he did this that he might send me, bound hand
and foot, as a gift to Alvarez, or that he might, for his own vengeance,
shoot me against a wall.

I knew how little I would receive of either justice or mercy. I had
heard of Dr. Rojas killed between decks on a steamer of this same line;
of Bonilla taken from the Ariadne and murdered on this very wharf at
this very port of Amapala; of General Pulido strangled in the launch
of the Commandante of Corinto and thrown overboard, while still in the
sight of his fellow-passengers on the Southern Cross.

It was a degraded, horrible, inglorious end--to be caught by the heels
after the real battle was lost; to die of fever in a cell; to be stabbed
with bayonets on the wharf, and thrown to the carrion harbor-sharks.

I swung around upon the Captain, and fought for my life as desperately
as though I had a rope around my neck.

“That man is a liar,” I cried. “I was not in Amapala last night. I came
from San Lorenzo--this morning. The boat is alongside now; you can ask
the men who brought me. I’m no murderer. That man knows I’m no murderer.
He wants me because I belonged to the opposition government. It’s
because I wear this uniform he wants me. I’m no criminal. He has no more
right to touch me here, than he would if I were on Broadway.”

The Commandante seized the Captain’s arm.

“As Commandante of this port,” he screamed, “I tell you if you do not
surrender the murderer to me, your ship shall not sail. I will take back
your clearance-papers.”

The Captain turned on me, shaking his red fists, and tossing his head
like a bull. “You see that!” he cried. “You see what you get me into,
coming on board my ship without a permit! That’s what I get at every
banana-patch along this coast, a lot of damned beach-combers and
stowaways stealing on board, and the Commandante chasing ‘em all over my
ship and holding up my papers. You go ashore!” he ordered. He swept his
arm toward the gangway. “You go to Kessler, our consul. If you haven’t
done nothing wrong, he’ll take care of you. You haven’t got a ticket,
and you haven’t got a permit, and you’re no passenger of mine! Over you
go; do you hear me? Quick now, over you go.”

I could not believe that I heard the man aright. He seemed to be talking
a language I did not know.

“Do you mean to tell me,” I cried, speaking very slowly, for I was
incredulous, and I was so weak besides that it was difficult for me to
find the words, “that you refuse to protect me from these half-breeds,
that you are going to turn me over to them--to be shot! And you call
yourself an American?” I cried, “and this an American ship!”

As I turned from him I found that the passengers had come forward and
now surrounded us; big, tall men in cool, clean linen, and beautiful
women, shading their eyes with their fans, and little children crowding
in between them and clinging to their skirts. To my famished eyes they
looked like angels out of Paradise. They were my own people, and they
brought back to me how I loved the life these men were plotting to take
from me. The sight of them drove me into a sort of frenzy.

“Are you going to take that man’s word against mine?” I cried at the
Captain. “Are you going to let him murder me in sight of that flag? You
know he’ll do it. You know what they did to Rojas on one of your own
ships. Do you want another man butchered in sight of your passengers?”

The Commandante crowded in front of the ship’s captain.

“That man is my prisoner,” he cried. “He is going to jail, to be tried
by law. He shall see his consul every day. And so, if you try to leave
this harbor with him, I will sink your ship from the fort!”

The Captain turned with an oath and looked up to the second officer, who
was leaning over the rail of the bridge above us.

“Up anchor,” the Captain shouted. “Get her under weigh! There is your
answer,” he cried, turning upon me. “I’m not going to have this ship
held up any longer, and I’m not going to risk the lives of these ladies
and gentlemen by any bombardment, either. You’re only going to jail.
I’ll report the matter to our consul at Corinto, and he’ll tell our
minister.”

“Corinto!” I replied. “I’ll be dead before you’ve passed that
lighthouse.”

The Captain roared with anger.

“Can’t you hear what he says,” he shouted. “He says he’ll fire on my
ship. They’ve fired on our ships before! I’m not here to protect every
damned scalawag that tries to stowaway on my ship. I’m here to protect
the owners, and I mean to do it. Now you get down that ladder, before we
throw you down.”

I knew his words were final. From the bow I heard the creak of the
anchor-chains as they were drawn on board, and from the engine-room the
tinkle of bells.

The ship was abandoning me. My last appeal had failed. My condition was
desperate.

“Protect your owners, and yourself, damn you!” I cried. “You’re no
American. You’re no white man. No American would let a conch-nigger run
his ship. To hell with your protection!”

All the misery of the last two months, the bitterness of my dismissal
from the Point, the ignominy of our defeat and flight, rose in me and
drove me on. “And I don’t want the protection of that flag either,” I
cried. “I wasn’t good enough to serve it once, and I don’t need it now.”

It should be remembered that when I spoke these words I thought my death
was inevitable and immediate, that it had been brought upon me by one of
my own countrymen, while others of my countrymen stood indifferently by,
and I hope that for what I said in that moment of fever and despair I
may be forgiven.

“I can protect myself!” I cried.

Before anyone could move I whipped out my gun and held it over the
Commandante’s heart, and at the same instant without turning my eyes
from his face I waved my other hand at the passengers. “Take those
children away,” I shouted.

“Don’t move!” I yelled in Spanish at the soldiers. “If one of you raises
his musket I’ll kill him.” I pressed the cocked revolver against the
Commandante’s chest. “Now, then, take me ashore,” I called to his men.
“You know me, I’m Captain Macklin. Captain Macklin, of the Foreign
Legion, and you know that six of you will die before you get me. Come
on,” I taunted. “Which six is it to be?”

Out of the corners of my eyes I could see the bayonets lifting
cautiously and forming a ring of points about me, and the sight, and my
own words lashed me into a frenzy of bravado.

“Oh, you don’t remember me, don’t you?” I cried. “You ought to remember
the Foreign Legion! We drove you out of Santa Barbara and Tabla Ve
and Comyagua, and I’m your Vice-President! Take off your hats to your
Vice-President! To Captain Macklin, Vice-President of Honduras!”

{Illustration: I sprang back against the cabin}

I sprang back against the cabin and swung the gun in swift half-circles.
The men shrank from it as though I had lashed them with a whip. “Come
on,” I cried, “which six is it to be? Come on, you cowards, why don’t
you take me!”

The only answer came from a voice that was suddenly uplifted at my side.
I recognized it as the voice of the ship’s captain.

“Put down that gun!” he shouted.

But I only swung it the further until it covered him also. The man stood
in terror of his ship’s owners, he had a seaman’s dread of international
law, but he certainly was not afraid of a gun. He regarded it no more
than a pointed finger, and leaned eagerly toward me. To my amazement I
saw that his face was beaming with excitement and delight.

“Are you Captain Macklin?” he cried.

I was so amazed that for a moment I could only gape at him while I still
covered him with the revolver.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Then why in hell didn’t you say so!” he roared, and with a bellow
like a bull he threw himself upon the Commandante. He seized him by
his epaulettes and pushed him backward. With the strength of a bull he
butted and shoved him across the deck.

“Off my ship you!” he roared. “Every one of you; you’re a gang of
murdering cutthroats.”

The deck-hands and the ship-stewards, who had gathered at the gangway to
assist in throwing me down it, sprang to the Captain’s aid.

“Over with him, boys,” he roared. “Clear the ship of them. Throw them
overboard.” The crew fell upon the astonished soldiers, and drove
them to the side. Their curses and shrieks filled the air, the women
retreated screaming, and I was left alone, leaning limply against the
cabin with my revolver hanging from my fingers.

It began and ended in an instant, and as the ship moved forward and
the last red-breeched soldier disappeared headforemost down the
companion-ladder, the Captain rushed back to me and clutched me by both
shoulders. Had it not been for the genial grin on his fat face, I would
have thought that he meant to hurl me after the others.

“Now then, Captain Macklin,” he cried, “you come with me. You come to my
cabin, and that’s where you stay as long as you are on my ship. You’re
no passenger, you’re my guest, and there’s nothing on board too good for
you.”

“But I don’t--understand,” I protested faintly. “What does it mean?”

“What does it mean?” he shouted. “It means you’re the right sort for me!
I haven’t heard of nothing but your goings-on for the last three trips.
Vice-President of Honduras!” he exclaimed, shaking me as though I were a
carpet. “A kid like you! You come to my cabin and tell me the whole
yarn from start to finish. I’d rather carry you than old man Huntington
himself!”

The passengers had returned, and stood listening to his exclamations, in
a wondering circle. The stewards and deck-hands, panting with their late
exertions, were grinning at me with unmistakable interest.

“Bring Captain Macklin’s breakfast to my cabin, you,” he shouted to
them. “And, Mr. Owen,” he continued, addressing the Purser, with great
impressiveness, “this is Captain Macklin, himself. He’s going with us as
my guest.”

With a wink, he cautiously removed my revolver from my fingers, and
slapped me jovially on the shoulder. “Son!” he exclaimed, “I wouldn’t
have missed the sight of you holding your gun on that gang for a cargo
of bullion. I suspicioned it was you, the moment you did it. That will
be something for me to tell them in ‘Frisco, that will. Now, you come
along,” he added, suddenly, with parental solicitude, “and take a cup of
coffee, and a dose of quinine, or you’ll be ailing.”

He pushed a way for me through the crowd of passengers, who fell back in
two long lines. As we moved between them, I heard a woman’s voice ask,
in a loud whisper:

“Who did you say?”

A man’s voice answered, “Why, Captain Macklin,” and then protested, in a
rising accent, “Now, for Heaven’s sake, Jennie, don’t tell me you don’t
know who he is?”

That was my first taste of fame. It was a short-lived, limited sort of
fame, but at that time it stretched throughout all Central America. I
doubt if it is sufficiently robust to live in the cold latitudes of
the North. It is just an exotic of the tropics. I am sure it will never
weather Cape Hatteras. But although I won’t amount to much in Dobbs
Ferry, down here in Central America I am pretty well known, and during
these last two months that I have been lying, very near to death, in the
Canal Company’s hospital, my poor little fame stuck by me, and turned
strangers into kind and generous friends.



DOBBS FERRY, September, 1882


September passed before I was a convalescent, and it was the first of
October when the Port of Sydney passed Sandy Hook, and I stood at the
bow, trembling with cold and happiness, and saw the autumn leaves on the
hills of Staten Island and the thousands of columns of circling, white
smoke rising over the three cities. I had not let Beatrice and Aunt Mary
know that I was in a hospital, but had told them that I was making my
way home slowly, which was true enough, and that they need not expect to
hear from me until I had arrived in New York City. So, there was no one
at the dock to meet me.

But, as we came up the harbor, I waved at the people on the passing
ferry-boats, and they, shivering, no doubt, at the sight of our canvas
awnings and the stewards’ white jackets, waved back, and gave me my
first welcome home.

It was worth all the disappointments, and the weeks in hospital, to
stick my head in the ticket-window of the Grand Central Station, and
hear myself say, “Dobbs Ferry, please.” I remember the fascination with
which I watched the man (he was talking over his shoulder to another man
at the time) punch the precious ticket, and toss it to me. I suppose
in his life he has many times sold tickets to Dobbs Ferry, but he never
sold them as often as I had rehearsed asking him for that one.

I had wired them not to meet me at the station, but to be waiting at the
house, and when I came up the old walk, with the box-hedges on either
side, they were at the door, and Aunt Mary ran to meet me, and hugged
and scolded me, and cried on my shoulder, and Beatrice smiled at me,
just as though she were very proud of me, and I kissed her once. After
ten minutes, it did not seem as though I had ever been away from home.
And, when I looked at Beatrice, and I could not keep my eyes from her, I
was filled with wonder that I had ever had the courage to go from where
she was. We were very happy.

I am afraid that for the next two weeks I traded upon their affection
scandalously. But it was their own fault. It was their wish that I
should constantly pose in the dual roles of the returned prodigal and
Othello, and, as I told them, if I were an obnoxious prig ever after,
they alone were responsible.

I had the ravenous hunger of the fever-convalescent, and I had an
audience that would have turned General Grant into a braggart. So, every
day wonderful dishes of Aunt Mary’s contriving were set before me, and
Beatrice would not open a book so long as there was one adventure I had
left untold.

And this, as I soon learned, was the more flattering, as she had already
heard most of them at second-hand.

I can remember my bewilderment that first evening as I was relating the
story of the duel, and she corrected me.

“Weren’t you much nearer?” she asked. “You fired at twenty paces.”

“So we did,” I cried, “but how could you know that?”

“Mr. Lowell told us,” she said.

“Lowell!” I shouted. “Has Lowell been here?”

“Yes, he brought us your sword,” Beatrice answered. “Didn’t you see
where we placed it?” and she rose rather quickly, and stood with her
face toward the fireplace, where, sure enough, my sword was hanging
above the mantel.

“Oh yes,” said Aunt Mary, “Mr. Lowell has been very kind. He has come
out often to ask for news of you. He is at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We
like him so much,” she added.

“Like him!” I echoed. “I should think you would! Isn’t that bully,”
 I cried, “to think of his being so near me, and that he’s a friend of
yours already. We must have him out to-morrow. Isn’t he fine, Beatrice?”

She had taken down the sword, and was standing holding it out to me.

“Yes, he is,” she said, “and he is very fond of you, too, Royal. I don’t
believe you’ve got a better friend.”

Attractive as the prodigal son may seem at first, he soon becomes a
nuisance. Even Othello when he began to tell over his stories for the
second time must have been something of a bore. And when Aunt Mary gave
me roast beef for dinner two nights in succession, and after dinner
Beatrice picked up “Lorna Doone” and retired to a corner, I knew that I
had had my day.

The next morning at breakfast, in a tone of gentle reproach, I announced
that I was going out into the cold world, as represented by New York
City, to look for a job. I had no idea of doing anything of the sort.
I only threw out the suggestion tentatively, and I was exceedingly
disgusted when they caught up my plan with such enthusiasm and alacrity,
that I was forced to go on with it. I could not see why it was necessary
for me to work. I had two thousand dollars a year my grandfather had
left me, and my idea of seeking for a job, was to look for it leisurely,
and with caution. But the family seemed to think that, before the winter
set in, I should take any chance that offered, and, as they expressed
it, settle down.

None of us had any very definite ideas as to what I ought to do, or even
that there was anything I could do. Lowell, who is so much with us now,
that I treat him like one of the family, argued that to business men my
strongest recommendation would be my knowledge of languages. He said
I ought to try for a clerkship in some firm where I could handle
the foreign correspondence. His even suggesting such work annoyed me
extremely. I told him that, on the contrary, my strongest card was
my experience in active campaigning, backed by my thorough military
education, and my ability to command men. He said unfeelingly, that
you must first catch your men, and that in down-town business circles
a military education counted for no more than a college-course in
football.

“You good people don’t seem to understand,” I explained (we were holding
a family council on my case at the time); “I have no desire to move in
down-town business circles. I hate business circles.”

“Well, you must live, Royal,” Aunt Mary said. “You have not enough money
to be a gentleman of leisure.”

“Royal wouldn’t be content without some kind of work,” said Beatrice.

“No, he can’t persuade us he’s not ambitious!” Lowell added. “You mean
to make something of yourself, you know you do, and you can’t begin too
early.”

Since Lowell has been promoted to the ward-room, he talks just like a
grandfather.

“Young man,” I said, “I’ve seen the day when you were an ensign, and
I was a Minister of War, and you had to click your heels if you came
within thirty feet of my distinguished person. Of course, I’m ambitious,
and the best proof of it is, that I don’t want to sit in a bird-cage all
my life, counting other people’s money.”

Aunt Mary looked troubled, and shook her head at me.

“Well, Royal,” she remonstrated, “you’ve got very little of your own to
count, and some day you’ll want to marry, and then you’ll be sorry.”

I don’t know why Aunt Mary’s remark should have affected anyone except
myself, but it seemed to take all the life out of the discussion, and
Beatrice remembered she had some letters to write, and Lowell said he
must go back to the Navy Yard, although when he arrived he told us
he had fixed it with another man to stand his watch. The reason I was
disturbed was because, when Aunt Mary spoke, it made me wonder if she
were not thinking of Beatrice. One day just after I arrived from Panama,
when we were alone, she said that while I was gone she had been in fear
she might die before I came back, and that Beatrice would be left alone.
I laughed at her and told her she would live a hundred years, and added,
not meaning anything in particular, “And she’ll not be alone. I’ll be
here.”

Then Aunt Mary looked at me very sadly, and said: “Royal, I could die so
contentedly if I thought you two were happy.” She waited, as though she
expected me to make some reply, but I couldn’t think of anything to
say, and so just looked solemn, then she changed the subject by asking:
“Royal, have you noticed that Lieutenant Lowell admires Beatrice very
much?” And I said, “Of course he does. If he didn’t, I’d punch his
head.” At which she again looked at me in such a wistful, pained way,
smiling so sadly, as though for some reason she were sorry for me.

They all seemed to agree that I had had my fling, and should, as they
persisted in calling it, “settle down.” A most odious phrase. They were
two to one against me, and when one finished another took it up. So that
at last I ceased arguing and allowed myself to be bullied into looking
for a position.

But before surrendering myself to the downtown business circles I made
one last effort to remain free.

In Honduras, Laguerre had told me that a letter to the Credit Lyonnais
in Paris would always find him. I knew that since his arrival at San
Francisco he had had plenty of time to reach Paris, and that if he
were there now he must know whether there is anything in this talk of a
French expedition against the Chinese in Tonkin. Also whether the Mahdi
really means to make trouble for the Khedive in the Soudan. Laguerre was
in the Egyptian army for three years, and knows Baker Pasha well. I was
sure that if there was going to be trouble, either in China or Egypt, he
could not keep out of it.

So I cabled him to the Credit Lyonnais, “Are you well? If going any more
campaigns, please take me.” I waited three restless weeks for an answer,
and then, as no answer came, I put it all behind me, and hung my old,
torn uniform where I would not see it, and hid the presentation-sword
behind the eight-day clock in the library.

Beatrice raised her eyes from her book and watched me.

“Why?” she asked.

“It hurts me,” I said.

She put down her book, and for a long time looked at me without
speaking.

“I did not know you disliked it as much as that,” she said. “I wonder
if we are wrong. And yet,” she added, smiling, “it does not seem a great
sacrifice; to have work to do, to live at home, and in such a dear,
old home as this, near a big city, and with the river in front and the
country all about you. It seems better than dying of wounds in a swamp,
or of fever in a hospital.”

“I haven’t complained. I’m taking my medicine,” I answered. “I know you
all wouldn’t ask it of me, if you didn’t think it was for my good.”
 I had seated myself in front of the wood fire opposite her, and was
turning the chain she gave me round and round my wrist. I slipped it
off, and showed it to her as it hung from my fingers, shining in the
firelight.

“And yet,” I said, “it was fine being your Knight-Errant, and taking
risks for your sake, and having only this to keep me straight.” I cannot
see why saying just that should have disturbed her, but certainly my
words, or the sight of the chain, had a most curious effect. It is
absurd, but I could almost swear that she looked frightened. She
flushed, and her eyes were suddenly filled with tears. I was greatly
embarrassed. Why should she be afraid of me? I was too much upset to ask
her what was wrong, so I went on hastily: “But now I’ll have you always
with me, to keep me straight,” I said.

She laughed at that, a tremulous little laugh, and said: “And so you
won’t want it any more, will you?”

“Won’t want it,” I protested gallantly. “I’d like to see anyone make me
give it up.”

“You’d give it up to me, wouldn’t you?” she asked gently. “It looks--”
 she added, and stopped.

“I see,” I exclaimed. “Looks like a pose, sort of effeminate, a man’s
wearing a bracelet. Is that what you think?”

She laughed again, but this time quite differently. She seemed greatly
relieved.

“Perhaps that’s it,” she said. “Give it me, Royal. You’ll never need any
woman’s trinkets to keep you straight.”

I weighed the gold links in the hollow of my palm.

“Do you really want it?” I asked. She raised her eyes eagerly. “If you
don’t mind,” she said.

I dropped the chain into her hand, but as I turned toward the fire, I
could not help a little sigh. She heard me, and leaned forward. I could
just see her sweet, troubled face in the firelight. “But I mean to
return it you, Royal,” she said, “some day, when--when you go out again
to fight wind-mills.”

“That’s safe!” I returned, roughly. “You know that time will never
come. The three of you together have fixed that. I’m no longer a
knight-errant. I’m a business-man now. I’m not to remember I ever was a
knight-errant. I must even give up my Order of the Golden Chain, because
it’s too romantic, because it might remind me that somewhere in this
world there is romance, and adventure, and fighting. And it wouldn’t do.
You can’t have romance around a business office. Some day, when I was
trying to add up my sums, I might see it on my wrist, and forget where
I was. I might remember the days when it shone in the light of a
camp-fire, when I used to sleep on the ground with my arm under my head,
and it was the last thing I saw, when it seemed like your fingers on my
wrist holding me back, or urging me forward. Business circles would not
allow that. They’d put up a sign, ‘Canvassers, pedlers, and Romance not
admitted.’”

The first time I applied for a job I was unsuccessful. The man I went to
see had been an instructor at Harvard when my uncle was professor there,
and Aunt Mary said he had been a great friend of Professor Endicott’s.
One day in the laboratory the man discovered something, and had it
patented. It brought him a fortune, and he was now president of a
company which manufactured it, and with branches all over the world.

Aunt Mary wrote him a personal letter about me, in the hope that he
might put me in charge of the foreign correspondence.

He kept me waiting outside his office-door for one full hour. During
the first half-hour I was angry, but the second half-hour I enjoyed
exceedingly. By that time the situation appealed to my sense of humor.
When the great man finally said he would see me, I found him tilting
back in a swivel-chair in front of a mahogany table. He picked out Aunt
Mary’s letter from a heap in front of him, and said: “Are you the Mr.
Macklin mentioned in this letter? What can I do for you?”

I said very deliberately: “You can do nothing for me. I have waited one
hour to tell you so. When my aunt, Mrs. Endicott, does anyone the honor
to write him a letter, there is no other business in New York City
more important than attending promptly to that letter. I _had_ intended
becoming a partner in your firm; now, I shall not. You are a rude, fat,
and absurd, little person. Good-morning.”

I crossed over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and told Lowell and the other
watch-officers in the ward-room of my first attempt to obtain a job.
They laughed until I hoped they would strangle.

“Who the devil do you think you are, anyway,” they cried, “going around,
insulting millionnaires like that?”

After leaving the cruiser that afternoon, I was so miserable that I
could have jumped into the East River. It was the sight of the
big, brown guns did it, and the cutlasses in their racks, and the
clean-limbed, bare-throated Jackies, and the watch-officer stamping the
deck just as though he were at sea, with his glass and side-arms. And
when the marine at the gate of the yard shifted his gun and challenged
me, it was so like old times that I could have fallen on his neck and
hugged him.

Over the wharves, all along my way to the ferry, the names of strange
and beautiful ports mocked at me from the sheds of the steam-ship lines;
“Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and the River Plata,” “Guayaquil, Callao, and
Santiago,” “Cape Town, Durban, and Lorenzo Marquez.” It was past six
o’clock and very dark. The ice was pushing and grinding against the
pier-heads, and through the falling snow the tall buildings in New York
twinkled with thousands of electric lights, like great Christmas-trees.
At one wharf a steamer of the Red D line, just in from La Guayra, was
making fast, and I guiltily crept on board. Without, she was coated in
a shearing of ice, but within she reeked of Spanish-America--of coffee,
rubber, and raw sugar. Pineapples were still swinging in a net from
the awning-rail, a two-necked water-bottle hung at the hot mouth of the
engine-room. I found her captain and told him I only wanted to smell a
ship again, and to find out, if where he came from, the bands were still
playing in the plazas. He seemed to understand, and gave me a drink
of Jamaica rum with fresh limes in it, and a black cigar; and when his
steward brought them, I talked to him in Spanish just for the sound of
it. For half an hour I was under the Southern Cross, and New York was
3,000 miles astern.

When I left him, the captain gave me a bag of alligator-pears to take
home with me, and I promised to come the next day, and bring him a new
library of old, paper novels.

But, as it turned out, I sent them instead, for that night when I
reached the New York side, I saw how weakly and meanly I was acting, and
I threw the alligator-pears over the rail of the ferry-boat and watched
them fall into the dirty, grinding ice. I saw that I had been in rank
mutiny. My bed had been made for me and I must lie in it. I was to be a
business-man. I was to “settle down,” and it is only slaves who rebel.

The next day, humble and chastened in spirit, I kissed the rod, and
went into the city to search for a situation. I determined to start at
Forty-second Street, and work my way down town until I found a place
that looked as though it could afford a foreign correspondent. But I had
reached Twenty-eighth Street, without seeing any place that appealed to
me, when a little groom, in a warm fur collar and chilly white breeches,
ran up beside me and touched his hat. I was so surprised that I saluted
him in return, and then felt uneasily conscious that that was not the
proper thing to do, and that forever I had lost his respect.

“Miss Fiske would like to speak with you, sir,” he said. He ran back to
a brougham that was drawn up beside the curb behind me, and opened the
door. When I reached it, Miss Fiske leaned from it, smiling.

“I couldn’t help calling you back, Captain Macklin,” she said, and held
out her hand.

When I took it she laughed again. “Isn’t this like our last meeting?”
 she asked. “Don’t you remember my reaching out of the carriage, and
our shaking hands? Only now,” she went on, in a most frank and friendly
manner, “instead of a tropical thunder-storm, it’s a snow-storm, and
instead of my running away from your shells, I’m out shopping. At least,
mother’s out shopping,” she added. “She’s in there. I’m waiting for
her.” She seemed to think that the situation required a chaperon.

“You mustn’t say they were my shells, Miss Fiske,” I protested. “I
may insult a woman for protecting her brother’s life, but I never fire
shells at her.”

It did not surprise me to hear myself laughing at the words which, when
she spoke them, had seemed so terrible. It was as though none of it had
ever occurred. It was part of a romantic play, and we had seen the play
together. Who could believe that the young man, tramping the streets on
the lookout for a job, had ever signed his name, as vice-president of
Honduras, to a passport for Joseph Fiske; that the beautiful girl in
the sables, with her card-case in her hand, had ever heard the shriek of
shrapnel?

And she exclaimed, just as though we had both been thinking aloud: “No,
it’s not possible, is it?”

“It never happened,” I said.

“But I tell you what has happened,” she went on, eagerly, “or perhaps
you know. Have you heard what my father did?”

I said I had not. I refrained from adding that I believed her father
capable of doing almost anything.

“Then I’m the first to tell you the news,” she exclaimed. She nodded at
me energetically. “Well, he’s paid that money. He owed it all the time.’

“That’s not news,” I said.

She flushed a little, and laughed.

“But, indeed, father was not to blame,” she exclaimed. “They deceived
him dreadfully. But when we got home, he looked it up, and found you
were right about that money, and so he’s paid it back, not to that
odious Alvarez man, but in some way, I don’t quite understand how, but
so the poor people will get it.”

“Good!” I cried.

“And he’s discharged all that Isthmian crowd,” she went on.

“Better,” I said.

“And made my brother president of the new company,” she continued, and
then raised her eyebrows, and waited, smiling.

“Oh, well,” I said, “since he’s your brother--‘best.’”

“That’s right,” she cried. “That’s very nice of you. Here comes mother.
I want you to meet her.”

Mother came toward us, out of a French dress-maker’s. It was one of the
places I had decided against, when I had passed it a few minutes before.
It seemed one of the few business houses where a French linguist would
be superfluous.

I was presented as “Captain Macklin--who, you know, mother--who fought
the duel with Arthur--that is, who didn’t shoot at him.”

Mrs. Fiske looked somewhat startled. Even to a trained social leader it
must be trying to have a man presented to you on a sidewalk as the one
who did not shoot your son.

Mrs. Fiske had a toy dog under one arm, and was holding up her train,
but she slipped the dog to the groom, and gave me her hand.

“How do you do, Mr.--Captain Macklin,” she said. “My son has told me a
great deal about you. Have you asked Captain Macklin to come to see us,
Helen?” she said, and stepped into the brougham.

“Come in any day after five,” said Miss Fiske, “and we’ll have tortillas
and frijoles, and build a camp-fire in the library. What’s your
address?”

“Dobbs Ferry,” I said.

“Just Dobbs Ferry?” she asked. “But you’re such a well-known person,
Captain Macklin.”

“I’m Mr. Macklin now,” I answered, and I tried to shut the door on them,
but the groom seemed to think that was his privilege, and so I bowed,
and they drove away. Then I went at once to a drug-store and borrowed
the directory, to find out where they lived, and I walked all the way up
the avenue to have a look at their house. Somehow I felt that for that
day I could not go on asking for a job. I saw a picture of myself on
a high stool in the French dressmaker’s writing to the Paris house for
more sable cloaks for Mrs. Fiske.

The Fiske mansion overlooks Central Park, and it is as big as the
Academy of Music. I found that I knew it well by sight. I at once made
up my mind that I never would have the courage to ring that
door-bell, and I mounted a Fifth Avenue stage, and took up my work of
reconnoitering for a job where Miss Fiske had interrupted it.

The next day I got the job. I am to begin work on Monday. It is at
Schwartz & Carboy’s. They manufacture locks and hinges and agricultural
things. I saw a lot of their machetes in Honduras with their paper stamp
on the blade. They have almost a monopoly of the trade in South America.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, one of their Spanish clerks had left
them, and when I said I had been in Central America and could write
Spanish easily, Schwartz, or, it may have been Carboy--I didn’t ask him
which was his silly name--dictated a letter and I wrote it in Spanish.
One of the other clerks admitted it was faultless. So, I regret to say,
I got the job. I’m to begin with fifteen dollars, and Schwartz or Carboy
added, as though it were a sort of a perquisite: “If our young men act
gentlemanly, and are good dressers, we often send them to take our South
American customers to lunch. The house pays the expenses. And in the
evenings you can show them around the town. Our young men find that an
easy way of seeing the theatres for nothing.”

Knowing the tastes of South Americans visiting New York, I replied
severely that my connection with Schwartz & Carboy would end daily at
four in the afternoon, but that a cross-town car passed Koster &
Bial’s every hour. I half hoped he would take offence at that, and in
consequence my connection, with Schwartz & Carboy might end instantly
and forever; but whichever one he was, only laughed and said: “Yes,
those Brazilians are a queer lot. We eat up most of our profits bailing
them out of police courts the next morning. Well--you turn up Monday.”



DOBBS FERRY, Sunday, Midnight


It’s all over. It will be a long time before I add another chapter to
my “Memoirs.” When I have written this one they are to be sealed, and
to-morrow they are to be packed away in Aunt Mary’s cedar chest. I am
now writing these lines after everyone else has gone to bed.

It happened after dinner. Aunt Mary was upstairs, and Beatrice was at
the piano. We were waiting for Lowell, who had promised to come up and
spend the evening. I was sitting at the centre-table, pretending to
read, but watching Beatrice. Her back was turned toward me, so I could
stare at her as long as I pleased. The light of the candles on each side
of the music-rack fell upon her hair, and made it flash and burn. She
had twisted it high, in a coil, and there never was anything more
lovely than the burnished copper against the white glow of her skin,
nor anything so noble as the way her head rose upon her neck and sloping
shoulders. It was like a flower on a white stem.

She was not looking at the music before her, but up at nothing, while
her hands ran over the keyboard, playing an old sailor’s “chantey” which
Lowell has taught us. It carries with it all the sweep and murmur of the
sea at night.

She could not see me, she had forgotten that I was even in the room,
and I was at liberty to gaze at her and dream of her undisturbed. I felt
that, without that slight, white figure always at my side, the life I
was to begin on the morrow, or any other life, would be intolerable.
Without the thought of Beatrice to carry me through the day I could not
bear it. Except for her, what promise was there before me of reward or
honor? I was no longer “an officer and a gentleman,” I was a copying
clerk, “a model letter-writer.” I could foresee the end. I would become
a nervous, knowing, smug-faced civilian. Instead of clean liquors, I
would poison myself with cocktails and “quick-order” luncheons. I would
carry a commuter’s ticket. In time I might rise to the importance of
calling the local conductors by their familiar names. “Bill, what was
the matter with the 8.13 this morning?” From to-morrow forward I would
be “our” Mr. Macklin, “Yours of even date received. Our Mr. Macklin will
submit samples of goods desired.” “Mr.” Macklin! “Our” Mr. Macklin! Ye
Gods! Schwartz any servitude, I would struggle to rise above the most
hateful surroundings.

I had just registered this mental vow, my eyes were still fixed
appealingly on the woman who was all unconscious of the sacrifice I was
about to make for her, when the servant came into the room and handed
me a telegram. I signed for it, and she went out. Beatrice had not heard
her enter, and was still playing. I guessed the telegram was from Lowell
to say he could not get away, and I was sorry. But as I tore open the
envelope, I noticed that it was not the usual one of yellow paper, but
of a pinkish white. I had never received a cablegram. I did not know
that this was one. I read the message, and as I read it the blood in
every part of my body came to a sudden stop. There was a strange buzzing
in my ears, the drums seemed to have burst with a tiny report. The shock
was so tremendous that it seemed Beatrice must have felt it too, and I
looked up at her stupidly. She was still playing.

The cablegram had been sent that morning from Marseilles. The message
read, “Commanding Battalion French Zouaves, Tonkin Expedition, holding
position of Adjutant open for you, rank of Captain, if accept join
Marseilles. Laguerre.”

I laid the paper on my knee, and sat staring, scarcely breathing, as
though I were afraid if I moved I would wake. I was trembling and cold,
for I was at the parting of the ways, and I knew it. Beyond the light
of the candles, beyond the dull red curtains jealously drawn against the
winter landscape, beyond even the slight, white figure with its crown
of burnished copper, I saw the swarming harbor of Marseilles. I saw the
swaggering turcos in their scarlet breeches, the crowded troop-ships,
and from every ship’s mast the glorious tri-color of France; the flag
that in ten short years had again risen, that was flying over advancing
columns in China, in Africa, in Madagascar; over armies that for Alsace
Lorraine were giving France new and great colonies on every seaboard
of the world. The thoughts that flew through my brain made my fingers
clench until the nails bit into my palms. Even to dream of such
happiness was actual pain. That this might come to me! To serve under
the tri-color, to be a captain of the Grand Armee, to be one of the army
reared and trained by Napoleon Bonaparte.

I heard a cheery voice, and Lowell passed me, and advanced bowing toward
Beatrice, and she turned and smiled at him. But as she rose, she saw my
face.

“Roy!” she cried. “What is it? What has happened?”

I watched her coming toward me, as someone projected from another life,
a wonderful, beautiful memory, from a life already far in the past. I
handed her the cablegram and stood up stiffly. My joints were rigid and
the blood was still cold in my veins. She read the message, and gave a
little cry, and stood silent, gazing at me. I motioned her to give it to
Lowell, who was looking at us anxiously, his eyes filled with concern.

He kept his head lowered over the message for so long, that I thought
he was reading it several times. When he again raised his face it was
filled with surprise and disapproval. But beneath, I saw a dawning look
which he could not keep down, of a great hope. It was as though he had
been condemned to death, and the paper Beatrice had handed him to read
had been his own reprieve.

“Tell me,” said Beatrice. Her tone was as gentle and as solemn as the
stroke of a bell, and as impersonal. It neither commended nor reproved.
I saw that instantly she had determined to conceal her own wishes, to
obliterate herself entirely, to let me know that, so far as she could
affect my choice, I was a free agent. I looked appealingly from her to
Lowell, and from Lowell back to Beatrice. I still was trembling with the
fever the message had lit in me. When I tried to answer, my voice was
hoarse and shaking.

“It’s like drink!” I said.

Lowell raised his eyes as though he meant to speak, and then lowered
them and stepped back, leaving Beatrice and myself together.

“I only want you to see,” Beatrice began bravely, “how--how serious it
is. Every one of us in his life must have a moment like this, and, if
he could only know that the moment had come, he might decide wisely. You
know the moment has come. You must see that this is the crisis. It
means choosing not for a year, but for always.” She held out her hands,
entwining the fingers closely. “Oh, don’t think I’m trying to stop you,
Royal,” she cried. “I only want you to see that it’s final. I know that
it’s like strong drink to you, but the more you give way to it--. Don’t
you think, if you gave your life here a fairer trial, if you bore with
it a little longer--”

She stopped sharply as though she recognized that, in urging me to a
choice, she was acting as she had determined she would not. I did not
answer, but stood in silence with my head bent, for I could not look at
her. I knew now how much dearer to me, even than her voice, was the one
which gave the call to arms. I did indeed understand that the crisis had
come. In that same room, five minutes before the message arrived, I had
sworn for her sake alone to submit to the life I hated. And yet in an
instant, without a moment’s pause, at the first sound of “Boots and
Saddles,” I had sprung to my first love, and had forgotten Beatrice
and my sworn allegiance. Knowing how greatly I loved her, I now could
understand, since it made me turn from her, how much greater must be my
love for this, her only rival, the old life that was again inviting me.

I was no longer to be deceived; the one and only thing I really
loved, the one thing I understood and craved, was the free, homeless,
untrammelled life of the soldier of fortune. I wanted to see the shells
splash up the earth again, I wanted to throw my leg across a saddle,
I wanted to sleep on a blanket by a camp-fire, I wanted the kiss and
caress of danger, the joy which comes when the sword wins honor and
victory together, and I wanted the clear, clean view of right and wrong,
that is given only to those who hourly walk with death.

I raised my head, and spoke very softly:

“It is too late. I am sorry. But I have decided. I must go.”

Lowell stepped out of the shadow, and faced me with the same strange
look, partly of wonder, and partly of indignation.

“Nonsense, Royal,” he said, “let _me_ talk to you. We’ve been shipmates,
or comrades, and all that sort of thing, and you’ve got to listen to me.
Think, man, think what you’re losing. Think of all the things you are
giving up. Don’t be a weak child. This will affect your whole life. You
have no right to decide it in a minute.”

I stepped to its hiding-place, and took out the sword my grandfather had
carried in the Civil War; the sword I had worn in Honduras. I had hidden
it away, that it might not remind me that once I, too, was a soldier. It
acted on me like a potion. The instant my fingers touched its hilt, the
blood, which had grown chilled, leaped through my body. In answer I held
the sword toward Lowell. It was very hard to speak. They did not know
how hard. They did not know how cruelly it hurt me to differ from
them, and to part from them. The very thought of it turned me sick and
miserable. But it was written. It had to be.

“You ask me to think of what I am giving up,” I said, gently. “I gave up
this. I shall never surrender it again. I am not deciding in a minute.
It was decided for me long ago. It’s a tradition. It’s handed down to
me. My grandfather was Hamilton, of Cerro Gordo, of the City of Mexico,
of Gettysburg. My father was ‘Fighting’ Macklin. He was killed at the
head of his soldiers. All my people have been soldiers. One fought at
the battle of Princeton, one died fighting the king at Culloden. It’s
bred in me. It’s in the blood. It’s the blood of the Macklins that has
decided this. And I--I am the last of the Macklins, and I must live and
die like one.”

The house is quiet now. They have all left me to my packing, and are
asleep. Lowell went early and bade me good-by at the gate. He was very
sad and solemn. “God bless you, Royal,” he said, “and keep you safe,
and bring you back to us.” And I watched him swinging down the silent,
moon-lit road, knocking the icicles from the hedges with his stick. I
stood there some time looking after him, for I love him very dearly, and
then a strange thing happened. After he had walked quite a distance from
the house, he suddenly raised his head and began to whistle a jolly,
rollicking sea-song. I could hear him for some minutes. I was glad to
think he took it so light-heartedly. It is good to know that he is not
jealous of my great fortune.

To-night we spared each other the parting words. But to-morrow they must
be spoken, when Aunt Mary and Beatrice come to see me sail away on the
French liner. The ship leaves at noon, and ten days later I shall be in
Havre. Ye gods, to think that in ten days I shall see Paris! And then,
the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, Singapore, and, at
last, the yellow flags and black dragons of the enemy. It cannot last
long, this row. I shall be coming home again in six months, unless the
Mahdi makes trouble. Laguerre was three years in the Khedive’s service,
and with his influence an ex-captain of the French army should have
little difficulty in getting a commission in Egypt.

Then, after that, I really will come home. But not as an ex-soldier.
This time I shall come home on furlough. I shall come home a real
officer, and play the prodigal again to the two noblest and sweetest and
best women in God’s world. All women are good, but they are the best.
All women are so good, that when one of them thinks one of us is worthy
to marry her, she pays a compliment to our entire sex. But as they are
all good and all beautiful, Beatrice being the best and most beautiful,
I was right not to think of marrying only one of them. With the world
full of good women, and with a fight always going on somewhere, I am
very wise not to “settle down.” I know I shall be very happy.

In a year I certainly must come back, a foreign officer on leave, and
I shall go to West Point and pay my respects to the Commandant. The men
who saw me turned out will have to present arms to me, and the older
men will say to the plebs, “That distinguished-looking officer with the
French mustache, and the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, is Captain
Macklin. He was turned out of here. Now he’s only a soldier of fortune.
He belongs to no country.”

But when the battalion is drawn up at retreat and the shadows stretch
across the grass, I shall take up my stand once more on the old parade
ground, with all the future Grants and Lees around me, and when the flag
comes down, I shall raise my hand with theirs, and show them that I have
a country, too, and that the flag we salute together is my flag still.

THE END





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