RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
IRENE AND DANA GIBSON
SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE
``It is so good of you to come early,'' said Mrs. Porter, as
Alice Langham entered the drawing-room. ``I want to ask a favor
of you. I'm sure you won't mind. I would ask one of the
debutantes, except that they're always so cross if one puts
them next to men they don't know and who can't help them, and so
I thought I'd just ask you, you're so good-natured. You don't
mind, do you?''
``I mind being called good-natured,'' said Miss Langham, smiling.
``Mind what, Mrs. Porter?'' she asked.
``He is a friend of George's,'' Mrs. Porter explained, vaguely.
``He's a cowboy. It seems he was very civil to George when he
was out there shooting in New Mexico, or Old Mexico, I don't
remember which. He took George to his hut and gave him things to
shoot, and all that, and now he is in New York with a letter of
introduction. It's just like George. He may be a most
impossible sort of man, but, as I said to Mr. Porter, the people
I've asked can't complain, because I don't know anything more
about him than they do. He called to-day when I was out and left
his card and George's letter of introduction, and as a man had
failed me for to-night, I just thought I would kill two birds
with one stone, and ask him to fill his place, and he's here.
And, oh, yes,'' Mrs. Porter added, ``I'm going to put him next to
you, do you mind?''
``Unless he wears leather leggings and long spurs I shall mind
very much,'' said Miss Langham.
``Well, that's very nice of you,'' purred Mrs. Porter, as she
moved away. ``He may not be so bad, after all; and I'll put
Reginald King on your other side, shall I?'' she asked, pausing
and glancing back.
The look on Miss Langham's face, which had been one of amusement,
changed consciously, and she smiled with polite acquiescence.
``As you please, Mrs. Porter,'' she answered. She raised her
eyebrows slightly. ``I am, as the politicians say, `in the hands
of my friends.' ''
``Entirely too much in the hands of my friends,'' she repeated,
as she turned away. This was the twelfth time during that same
winter that she and Mr. King had been placed next to one another
at dinner, and it had passed beyond the point when she could
say that it did not matter what people thought as long as she and
he understood. It had now reached that stage when she was not
quite sure that she understood either him or herself. They had
known each other for a very long time; too long, she sometimes
thought, for them ever to grow to know each other any better.
But there was always the chance that he had another side, one
that had not disclosed itself, and which she could not discover
in the strict social environment in which they both lived. And
she was the surer of this because she had once seen him when he
did not know that she was near, and he had been so different that
it had puzzled her and made her wonder if she knew the real
Reggie King at all.
It was at a dance at a studio, and some French pantomimists gave
a little play. When it was over, King sat in the corner talking
to one of the Frenchwomen, and while he waited on her he was
laughing at her and at her efforts to speak English. He was
telling her how to say certain phrases and not telling her
correctly, and she suspected this and was accusing him of it, and
they were rhapsodizing and exclaiming over certain delightful
places and dishes of which they both knew in Paris with the
enthusiasm of two children. Miss Langham saw him off his guard
for the first time and instead of a somewhat bored and clever
man of the world, he appeared as sincere and interested as a boy.
When he joined her, later, the same evening, he was as
entertaining as usual, and as polite and attentive as he had been
to the Frenchwoman, but he was not greatly interested, and his
laugh was modulated and not spontaneous. She had wondered that
night, and frequently since then, if, in the event of his asking
her to marry him, which was possible, and of her accepting him,
which was also possible, whether she would find him, in the
closer knowledge of married life, as keen and lighthearted with
her as he had been with the French dancer. If he would but treat
her more like a comrade and equal, and less like a prime minister
conferring with his queen! She wanted something more intimate
than the deference that he showed her, and she did not like his
taking it as an accepted fact that she was as worldly-wise as
himself, even though it were true.
She was a woman and wanted to be loved, in spite of the fact that
she had been loved by many men--at least it was so supposed--and
had rejected them.
Each had offered her position, or had wanted her because she was
fitted to match his own great state, or because he was ambitious,
or because she was rich. The man who could love her as she
once believed men could love, and who could give her something
else besides approval of her beauty and her mind, had not
disclosed himself. She had begun to think that he never would,
that he did not exist, that he was an imagination of the
playhouse and the novel. The men whom she knew were careful to
show her that they appreciated how distinguished was her
position, and how inaccessible she was to them. They seemed to
think that by so humbling themselves, and by emphasizing her
position they pleased her best, when it was what she wanted them
to forget. Each of them would draw away backward, bowing and
protesting that he was unworthy to raise his eyes to such a
prize, but that if she would only stoop to him, how happy his
life would be. Sometimes they meant it sincerely; sometimes they
were gentlemanly adventurers of title, from whom it was a
business proposition, and in either case she turned restlessly
away and asked herself how long it would be before the man would
come who would pick her up on his saddle and gallop off with her,
with his arm around her waist and his horse's hoofs clattering
beneath them, and echoing the tumult in their hearts.
She had known too many great people in the world to feel
impressed with her own position at home in America; but she
sometimes compared herself to the Queen in ``In a Balcony,''
and repeated to herself, with mock seriousness:--
``And you the marble statue all the time
They praise and point at as preferred to life,
Yet leave for the first breathing woman's cheek,
First dancer's, gypsy's or street balladine's!''
And if it were true, she asked herself, that the man she had
imagined was only an ideal and an illusion, was not King the best
of the others, the unideal and ever-present others? Every one
else seemed to think so. The society they knew put them
constantly together and approved. Her people approved. Her own
mind approved, and as her heart was not apparently ever to be
considered, who could say that it did not approve as well? He
was certainly a very charming fellow, a manly, clever companion,
and one who bore about him the evidences of distinction and
thorough breeding. As far as family went, the Kings were as old
as a young country could expect, and Reggie King was, moreover,
in spite of his wealth, a man of action and ability. His yacht
journeyed from continent to continent, and not merely up the
Sound to Newport, and he was as well known and welcome to the
consuls along the coasts of Africa and South America as he was at
Cowes or Nice. His books of voyages were recognized by
geographical societies and other serious bodies, who had given
him permission to put long disarrangements of the alphabet after
his name. She liked him because she had grown to be at home with
him, because it was good to know that there was some one who
would not misunderstand her, and who, should she so indulge
herself, would not take advantage of any appeal she might make to
his sympathy, who would always be sure to do the tactful thing
and the courteous thing, and who, while he might never do a great
thing, could not do an unkind one.
Miss Langham had entered the Porters' drawing-room after the
greater number of the guests had arrived, and she turned from her
hostess to listen to an old gentleman with a passion for golf, a
passion in which he had for a long time been endeavoring to
interest her. She answered him and his enthusiasm in kind, and
with as much apparent interest as she would have shown in a
matter of state. It was her principle to be all things to all
men, whether they were great artists, great diplomats, or great
bores. If a man had been pleading with her to leave the
conservatory and run away with him, and another had come up
innocently and announced that it was his dance, she would have
said: ``Oh, is it?'' with as much apparent delight as though his
coming had been the one bright hope in her life.
She was growing enthusiastic over the delights of golf and
unconsciously making a very beautiful picture of herself in her
interest and forced vivacity, when she became conscious for the
first time of a strange young man who was standing alone before
the fireplace looking at her, and frankly listening to all the
nonsense she was talking. She guessed that he had been listening
for some time, and she also saw, before he turned his eyes
quickly away, that he was distinctly amused. Miss Langham
stopped gesticulating and lowered her voice, but continued to
keep her eyes on the face of the stranger, whose own eyes were
wandering around the room, to give her, so she guessed, the idea
that he had not been listening, but that she had caught him at it
in the moment he had first looked at her. He was a tall, broad-
shouldered youth, with a handsome face, tanned and dyed, either
by the sun or by exposure to the wind, to a deep ruddy brown,
which contrasted strangely with his yellow hair and mustache, and
with the pallor of the other faces about him. He was a stranger
apparently to every one present, and his bearing suggested, in
consequence, that ease of manner which comes to a person who is
not only sure of himself, but who has no knowledge of the claims
and pretensions to social distinction of those about him. His
most attractive feature was his eyes, which seemed to observe
all that was going on, not only what was on the surface, but
beneath the surface, and that not rudely or covertly but with the
frank, quick look of the trained observer. Miss Langham found it
an interesting face to watch, and she did not look away from it.
She was acquainted with every one else in the room, and hence she
knew this must be the cowboy of whom Mrs. Porter had spoken, and
she wondered how any one who had lived the rough life of the West
could still retain the look when in formal clothes of one who was
in the habit of doing informal things in them.
Mrs. Porter presented her cowboy simply as ``Mr. Clay, of whom I
spoke to you,'' with a significant raising of the eyebrows, and
the cowboy made way for King, who took Miss Langham in. He
looked frankly pleased, however, when he found himself next to
her again, but did not take advantage of it throughout the first
part of the dinner, during which time he talked to the young
married woman on his right, and Miss Langham and King continued
where they had left off at their last meeting. They knew each
other well enough to joke of the way in which they were thrown
into each other's society, and, as she said, they tried to make
the best of it. But while she spoke, Miss Langham was
continually conscious of the presence of her neighbor, who piqued
her interest and her curiosity in different ways. He seemed
to be at his ease, and yet from the manner in which he glanced up
and down the table and listened to snatches of talk on either
side of him he had the appearance of one to whom it was all new,
and who was seeing it for the first time.
There was a jolly group at one end of the long table, and they
wished to emphasize the fact by laughing a little more
hysterically at their remarks than the humor of those witticisms
seemed to justify. A daughter-in-law of Mrs. Porter was their
leader in this, and at one point she stopped in the middle of a
story and waving her hand at the double row of faces turned in
her direction, which had been attracted by the loudness of her
voice, cried, gayly, ``Don't listen. This is for private
circulation. It is not a jeune-fille story.'' The
debutantes at the table continued talking again in steady,
even tones, as though they had not heard the remark or the first
of the story, and the men next to them appeared equally
unconscious. But the cowboy, Miss Langham noted out of the
corner of her eye, after a look of polite surprise, beamed with
amusement and continued to stare up and down the table as though
he had discovered a new trait in a peculiar and interesting
animal. For some reason, she could not tell why, she felt
annoyed with herself and with her friends, and resented the
attitude which the new-comer assumed toward them.
``Mrs. Porter tells me that you know her son George?'' she said.
He did not answer her at once, but bowed his head in assent, with
a look of interrogation, as though, so it seemed to her, he had
expected her, when she did speak, to say something less
``Yes,'' he replied, after a pause, ``he joined us at Ayutla. It
was the terminus of the Jalisco and Mexican Railroad then. He
came out over the road and went in from there with an outfit
after mountain lions. I believe he had very good sport.''
``That is a very wonderful road, I am told,'' said King, bending
forward and introducing himself into the conversation with a nod
of the head toward Clay; ``quite a remarkable feat of
``It will open up the country, I believe,'' assented the other,
``I know something of it,'' continued King, ``because I met the
men who were putting it through at Pariqua, when we touched there
in the yacht. They shipped most of their plant to that port, and
we saw a good deal of them. They were a very jolly lot, and they
gave me a most interesting account of their work and its
Clay was looking at the other closely, as though he was
trying to find something back of what he was saying, but as his
glance seemed only to embarrass King he smiled freely again in
assent, and gave him his full attention.
``There are no men to-day, Miss Langham,'' King exclaimed,
suddenly, turning toward her, ``to my mind, who lead as
picturesque lives as do civil engineers. And there are no men
whose work is as little appreciated.''
``Really?'' said Miss Langham, encouragingly.
``Now those men I met,'' continued King, settling himself with
his side to the table, ``were all young fellows of thirty or
thereabouts, but they were leading the lives of pioneers and
martyrs--at least that's what I'd call it. They were marching
through an almost unknown part of Mexico, fighting Nature at
every step and carrying civilization with them. They were doing
better work than soldiers, because soldiers destroy things, and
these chaps were creating, and making the way straight. They had
no banners either, nor brass bands. They fought mountains and
rivers, and they were attacked on every side by fever and the
lack of food and severe exposure. They had to sit down around a
camp-fire at night and calculate whether they were to tunnel a
mountain, or turn the bed of a river or bridge it. And they knew
all the time that whatever they decided to do out there in the
wilderness meant thousands of dollars to the stockholders
somewhere up in God's country, who would some day hold them to
account for them. They dragged their chains through miles and
miles of jungle, and over flat alkali beds and cactus, and they
reared bridges across roaring canons. We know nothing about them
and we care less. When their work is done we ride over the road
in an observation-car and look down thousands and thousands of
feet into the depths they have bridged, and we never give them a
thought. They are the bravest soldiers of the present day, and
they are the least recognized. I have forgotten their names, and
you never heard them. But it seems to me the civil engineer, for
all that, is the chief civilizer of our century.''
Miss Langham was looking ahead of her with her eyes half-closed,
as though she were going over in her mind the situation King had
``I never thought of that,'' she said. ``It sounds very fine.
As you say, the reward is so inglorious. But that is what makes
The cowboy was looking down at the table and pulling at a flower
in the centre-piece. He had ceased to smile. Miss Langham
turned on him somewhat sharply, resenting his silence, and said,
with a slight challenge in her voice:--
``Do you agree, Mr. Clay,'' she asked, ``or do you prefer the
chocolate-cream soldiers, in red coats and gold lace?''
``Oh, I don't know,'' the young man answered, with some slight
hesitation. ``It's a trade for each of them. The engineer's
work is all the more absorbing, I imagine, when the difficulties
are greatest. He has the fun of overcoming them.''
``You see nothing in it then,'' she asked, ``but a source of
``Oh, yes, a good deal more,'' he replied. ``A livelihood, for
one thing. I--I have been an engineer all my life. I built that
road Mr. King is talking about.''
An hour later, when Mrs. Porter made the move to go, Miss Langham
rose with a protesting sigh. ``I am so sorry,'' she said, ``it
has been most interesting. I never met two men who had visited
so many inaccessible places and come out whole. You have quite
inspired Mr. King, he was never so amusing. But I should like to
hear the end of that adventure; won't you tell it to me in the
Clay bowed. ``If I haven't thought of something more interesting
in the meantime,'' he said.
``What I can't understand,'' said King, as he moved up into Miss
Langham's place, ``is how you had time to learn so much of the
rest of the world. You don't act like a man who had spent
his life in the brush.''
``How do you mean?'' asked Clay, smiling--``that I don't use the
``No,'' laughed King, ``but you told us that this was your first
visit East, and yet you're talking about England and Vienna and
Voisin's. How is it you've been there, while you have never been
in New York?''
``Well, that's partly due to accident and partly to design,''
Clay answered. ``You see I've worked for English and German and
French companies, as well as for those in the States, and I go
abroad to make reports and to receive instructions. And then I'm
what you call a self-made man; that is, I've never been to
college. I've always had to educate myself, and whenever I did
get a holiday it seemed to me that I ought to put it to the best
advantage, and to spend it where civilization was the furthest
advanced--advanced, at least, in years. When I settle down and
become an expert, and demand large sums for just looking at the
work other fellows have done, then I hope to live in New York,
but until then I go where the art galleries are biggest and where
they have got the science of enjoying themselves down to the very
finest point. I have enough rough work eight months of the year
to make me appreciate that. So whenever I get a few months
to myself I take the Royal Mail to London, and from there to
Paris or Vienna. I think I like Vienna the best. The directors
are generally important people in their own cities, and they ask
one about, and so, though I hope I am a good American, it happens
that I've more friends on the Continent than in the United
``And how does this strike you?'' asked King, with a movement of
his shoulder toward the men about the dismantled table.
``Oh, I don't know,'' laughed Clay. ``You've lived abroad
yourself; how does it strike you?''
Clay was the first man to enter the drawing-room. He walked
directly away from the others and over to Miss Langham, and,
taking her fan out of her hands as though to assure himself of
some hold upon her, seated himself with his back to every one
``You have come to finish that story?'' she said, smiling.
Miss Langham was a careful young person, and would not have
encouraged a man she knew even as well as she knew King, to talk
to her through dinner, and after it as well. She fully
recognized that because she was conspicuous certain innocent
pleasures were denied her which other girls could enjoy without
attracting attention or comment. But Clay interested her beyond
her usual self, and the look in his eyes was a tribute which
she had no wish to put away from her.
``I've thought of something more interesting to talk about,''
said Clay. ``I'm going to talk about you. You see I've known
you a long time.''
``Since eight o'clock?'' asked Miss Langham.
``Oh, no, since your coming out, four years ago.''
``It's not polite to remember so far back,'' she said. ``Were
you one of those who assisted at that important function? There
were so many there I don't remember.''
``No, I only read about it. I remember it very well; I had
ridden over twelve miles for the mail that day, and I stopped
half-way back to the ranch and camped out in the shade of a rock
and read all the papers and magazines through at one sitting,
until the sun went down and I couldn't see the print. One of the
papers had an account of your coming out in it, and a picture of
you, and I wrote East to the photographer for the original. It
knocked about the West for three months and then reached me at
Laredo, on the border between Texas and Mexico, and I have had it
with me ever since.''
Miss Langham looked at Clay for a moment in silent dismay and
with a perplexed smile.
``Where is it now?'' she asked at last.
``In my trunk at the hotel.''
``Oh,'' she said, slowly. She was still in doubt as to how to
treat this act of unconventionality. ``Not in your watch?'' she
said, to cover up the pause. ``That would have been more in
keeping with the rest of the story.''
The young man smiled grimly, and pulling out his watch pried back
the lid and turned it to her so that she could see a photograph
inside. The face in the watch was that of a young girl in the
dress of a fashion of several years ago. It was a lovely, frank
face, looking out of the picture into the world kindly and
questioningly, and without fear.
``Was I once like that?'' she said, lightly. ``Well, go on.''
``Well,'' he said, with a little sigh of relief, ``I became
greatly interested in Miss Alice Langham, and in her comings out
and goings in, and in her gowns. Thanks to our having a press in
the States that makes a specialty of personalities, I was able to
follow you pretty closely, for, wherever I go, I have my papers
sent after me. I can get along without a compass or a medicine-
chest, but I can't do without the newspapers and the magazines.
There was a time when I thought you were going to marry that
Austrian chap, and I didn't approve of that. I knew things about
him in Vienna. And then I read of your engagement to
others--well--several others; some of them I thought worthy, and
others not. Once I even thought of writing you about it, and
once I saw you in Paris. You were passing on a coach. The man
with me told me it was you, and I wanted to follow the coach in a
fiacre, but he said he knew at what hotel you were stopping, and
so I let you go, but you were not at that hotel, or at any
other--at least, I couldn't find you.''
``What would you have done--?'' asked Miss Langham. ``Never
mind,'' she interrupted, ``go on.''
``Well, that's all,'' said Clay, smiling. ``That's all, at
least, that concerns you. That is the romance of this poor young
``But not the only one,'' she said, for the sake of saying
``Perhaps not,'' answered Clay, ``but the only one that counts.
I always knew I was going to meet you some day. And now I have
``Well, and now that you have met me,'' said Miss Langham,
looking at him in some amusement, ``are you sorry?''
``No--'' said Clay, but so slowly and with such consideration
that Miss Langham laughed and held her head a little higher.
``Not sorry to meet you, but to meet you in such surroundings.''
``What fault do you find with my surroundings?''
``Well, these people,'' answered Clay, ``they are so foolish, so
futile. You shouldn't be here. There must be something else
better than this. You can't make me believe that you choose it.
In Europe you could have a salon, or you could influence
statesmen. There surely must be something here for you to turn
to as well. Something better than golf-sticks and salted
``What do you know of me?'' said Miss Langham, steadily. ``Only
what you have read of me in impertinent paragraphs. How do you
know I am fitted for anything else but just this? You never
spoke with me before to-night.''
``That has nothing to do with it,'' said Clay, quickly. ``Time
is made for ordinary people. When people who amount to anything
meet they don't have to waste months in finding each other out.
It is only the doubtful ones who have to be tested again and
again. When I was a kid in the diamond mines in Kimberley, I
have seen the experts pick out a perfect diamond from the heap at
the first glance, and without a moment's hesitation. It was the
cheap stones they spent most of the afternoon over. Suppose I
HAVE only seen you to-night for the first time; suppose I
shall not see you again, which is quite likely, for I sail
tomorrow for South America--what of that? I am just as sure
of what you are as though I had known you for years.''
Miss Langham looked at him for a moment in silence. Her beauty
was so great that she could take her time to speak. She was not
afraid of losing any one's attention.
``And have you come out of the West, knowing me so well, just to
tell me that I am wasting myself?'' she said. ``Is that all?''
``That is all,'' answered Clay. ``You know the things I would
like to tell you,'' he added, looking at her closely.
``I think I like to be told the other things best,'' she said,
``they are the easier to believe.''
``You have to believe whatever I tell you,'' said Clay, smiling.
The girl pressed her hands together in her lap, and looked at him
curiously. The people about them were moving and making their
farewells, and they brought her back to the present with a start.
``I'm sorry you're going away,'' she said. ``It has been so odd.
You come suddenly up out of the wilderness, and set me to
thinking and try to trouble me with questions about myself, and
then steal away again without stopping to help me to settle them.
Is it fair?'' She rose and put out her hand, and he took it
and held it for a moment, while they stood looking at one
``I am coming back,'' he said, ``and I will find that you have
settled them for yourself.''
``Good-by,'' she said, in so low a tone that the people standing
near them could not hear. ``You haven't asked me for it, you
know, but--I think I shall let you keep that picture.''
``Thank you,'' said Clay, smiling, ``I meant to.''
``You can keep it,'' she continued, turning back, ``because it is
not my picture. It is a picture of a girl who ceased to exist
four years ago, and whom you have never met. Good-night.''
Mr. Langham and Hope, his younger daughter, had been to the
theatre. The performance had been one which delighted Miss Hope,
and which satisfied her father because he loved to hear her
laugh. Mr. Langham was the slave of his own good fortune. By
instinct and education he was a man of leisure and culture, but
the wealth he had inherited was like an unruly child that needed
his constant watching, and in keeping it well in hand he had
become a man of business, with time for nothing else.
Alice Langham, on her return from Mrs. Porter's dinner, found him
in his study engaged with a game of solitaire, while Hope was
kneeling on a chair beside him with her elbows on the table.
Mr. Langham had been troubled with insomnia of late, and so it
often happened that when Alice returned from a ball she would
find him sitting with a novel, or his game of solitaire, and
Hope, who had crept downstairs from her bed, dozing in front of
the open fire and keeping him silent company. The father and the
younger daughter were very close to one another, and had grown
especially so since his wife had died and his son and heir had
gone to college. This fourth member of the family was a great
bond of sympathy and interest between them, and his triumphs and
escapades at Yale were the chief subjects of their conversation.
It was told by the directors of a great Western railroad, who had
come to New York to discuss an important question with Mr.
Langham, that they had been ushered downstairs one night into his
basement, where they had found the President of the Board and his
daughter Hope working out a game of football on the billiard
table. They had chalked it off into what corresponded to five-
yard lines, and they were hurling twenty-two chess-men across it
in ``flying wedges'' and practising the several tricks which
young Langham had intrusted to his sister under an oath of
secrecy. The sight filled the directors with the horrible fear
that business troubles had turned the President's mind, but
after they had sat for half an hour perched on the high chairs
around the table, while Hope excitedly explained the game to
them, they decided that he was wiser than they knew, and each
left the house regretting he had no son worthy enough to bring
``that young girl'' into the Far West.
``You are home early,'' said Mr. Langham, as Alice stood above
him pulling at her gloves. ``I thought you said you were going
on to some dance.''
``I was tired,'' his daughter answered.
``Well, when I'm out,'' commented Hope, ``I won't come home at
eleven o'clock. Alice always was a quitter.''
``A what?'' asked the older sister.
``Tell us what you had for dinner,'' said Hope. ``I know it
isn't nice to ask,'' she added, hastily, ``but I always like to
``I don't remember,'' Miss Langham answered, smiling at her
father, ``except that he was very much sunburned and had most
``Oh, of course,'' assented Hope, ``I suppose you mean by that
that you talked with some man all through dinner. Well, I think
there is a time for everything.''
``Father,'' interrupted Miss Langham, ``do you know many
engineers--I mean do you come in contact with them through
the railroads and mines you have an interest in? I am rather
curious about them,'' she said, lightly. ``They seem to be a
most picturesque lot of young men.''
``Engineers? Of course,'' said Mr. Langham, vaguely, with the
ten of spades held doubtfully in air. ``Sometimes we have to
depend upon them altogether. We decide from what the engineering
experts tell us whether we will invest in a thing or not.''
``I don't think I mean the big men of the profession,'' said his
daughter, doubtfully. ``I mean those who do the rough work. The
men who dig the mines and lay out the railroads. Do you know any
``Some of them,'' said Mr. Langham, leaning back and shuffling
the cards for a new game. ``Why?''
``Did you ever hear of a Mr. Robert Clay?''
Mr. Langham smiled as he placed the cards one above the other in
even rows. ``Very often,'' he said. ``He sails to-morrow to
open up the largest iron deposits in South America. He goes for
the Valencia Mining Company. Valencia is the capital of Olancho,
one of those little republics down there.''
``Do you--are you interested in that company?'' asked Miss
Langham, seating herself before the fire and holding out her
hands toward it. ``Does Mr. Clay know that you are?''
``Yes--I am interested in it,'' Mr. Langham replied, studying the
cards before him, ``but I don't think Clay knows it--nobody knows
it yet, except the president and the other officers.'' He lifted
a card and put it down again in some indecision. ``It's
generally supposed to be operated by a company, but all the stock
is owned by one man. As a matter of fact, my dear children,''
exclaimed Mr. Langham, as he placed a deuce of clubs upon a deuce
of spades with a smile of content, ``the Valencia Mining Company
is your beloved father.''
``Oh,'' said Miss Langham, as she looked steadily into the fire.
Hope tapped her lips gently with the back of her hand to hide the
fact that she was sleepy, and nudged her father's elbow. ``You
shouldn't have put the deuce there,'' she said, ``you should have
used it to build with on the ace.''
A year before Mrs. Porter's dinner a tramp steamer on her way to
the capital of Brazil had steered so close to the shores of
Olancho that her solitary passenger could look into the caverns
the waves had tunnelled in the limestone cliffs along the coast.
The solitary passenger was Robert Clay, and he made a guess that
the white palisades which fringed the base of the mountains along
the shore had been forced up above the level of the sea many
years before by some volcanic action. Olancho, as many people
know, is situated on the northeastern coast of South America, and
its shores are washed by the main equatorial current. From the
deck of a passing vessel you can obtain but little idea of
Olancho or of the abundance and tropical beauty which lies hidden
away behind the rampart of mountains on her shore. You can see
only their desolate dark-green front, and the white caves at
their base, into which the waves rush with an echoing roar, and
in and out of which fly continually thousands of frightened bats.
The mining engineer on the rail of the tramp steamer observed
this peculiar formation of the coast with listless interest,
until he noted, when the vessel stood some thirty miles north of
the harbor of Valencia, that the limestone formation had
disappeared, and that the waves now beat against the base of the
mountains themselves. There were five of these mountains which
jutted out into the ocean, and they suggested roughly the five
knuckles of a giant hand clenched and lying flat upon the surface
of the water. They extended for seven miles, and then the
caverns in the palisades began again and continued on down the
coast to the great cliffs that guard the harbor of Olancho's
``The waves tunnelled their way easily enough until they ran up
against those five mountains,'' mused the engineer, ``and then
they had to fall back.'' He walked to the captain's cabin and
asked to look at a map of the coast line. ``I believe I won't go
to Rio,'' he said later in the day; ``I think I will drop off
here at Valencia.''
So he left the tramp steamer at that place and disappeared into
the interior with an ox-cart and a couple of pack-mules, and
returned to write a lengthy letter from the Consul's office to a
Mr. Langham in the United States, knowing he was largely
interested in mines and in mining. ``There are five mountains
filled with ore,'' Clay wrote, ``which should be extracted by
open-faced workings. I saw great masses of red hematite lying
exposed on the side of the mountain, only waiting a pick and
shovel, and at one place there were five thousand tons in plain
sight. I should call the stuff first-class Bessemer ore, running
about sixty-three per cent metallic iron. The people know it is
there, but have no knowledge of its value, and are too lazy to
ever work it themselves. As to transportation, it would only be
necessary to run a freight railroad twenty miles along the sea-
coast to the harbor of Valencia and dump your ore from your own
pier into your own vessels. It would not, I think, be possible
to ship direct from the mines themselves, even though, as I say,
the ore runs right down into the water, because there is no place
at which it would be safe for a large vessel to touch. I will
look into the political side of it and see what sort of a
concession I can get for you. I should think ten per cent of the
output would satisfy them, and they would, of course, admit
machinery and plant free of duty.''
Six months after this communication had arrived in New York City,
the Valencia Mining Company was formally incorporated, and a man
named Van Antwerp, with two hundred workmen and a half-dozen
assistants, was sent South to lay out the freight railroad, to
erect the dumping-pier, and to strip the five mountains of
their forests and underbrush. It was not a task for a holiday,
but a stern, difficult, and perplexing problem, and Van Antwerp
was not quite the man to solve it. He was stubborn, self-
confident, and indifferent by turns. He did not depend upon his
lieutenants, but jealously guarded his own opinions from the
least question or discussion, and at every step he antagonized
the easy-going people among whom he had come to work. He had no
patience with their habits of procrastination, and he was
continually offending their lazy good-nature and their pride. He
treated the rich planters, who owned the land between the mines
and the harbor over which the freight railroad must run, with as
little consideration as he showed the regiment of soldiers which
the Government had farmed out to the company to serve as laborers
in the mines. Six months after Van Antwerp had taken charge at
Valencia, Clay, who had finished the railroad in Mexico, of which
King had spoken, was asked by telegraph to undertake the work of
getting the ore out of the mountains he had discovered, and
shipping it North. He accepted the offer and was given the title
of General Manager and Resident Director, and an enormous salary,
and was also given to understand that the rough work of
preparation had been accomplished, and that the more
important service of picking up the five mountains and
putting them in fragments into tramp steamers would continue
under his direction. He had a letter of recall for Van Antwerp,
and a letter of introduction to the Minister of Mines and
Agriculture. Further than that he knew nothing of the work
before him, but he concluded, from the fact that he had been paid
the almost prohibitive sum he had asked for his services, that it
must be important, or that he had reached that place in his
career when he could stop actual work and live easily, as an
expert, on the work of others.
Clay rolled along the coast from Valencia to the mines in a
paddle-wheeled steamer that had served its usefulness on the
Mississippi, and which had been rotting at the levees in New
Orleans, when Van Antwerp had chartered it to carry tools and
machinery to the mines and to serve as a private launch for
himself. It was a choice either of this steamer and landing in a
small boat, or riding along the line of the unfinished railroad
on horseback. Either route consumed six valuable hours, and
Clay, who was anxious to see his new field of action, beat
impatiently upon the rail of the rolling tub as it wallowed in
He spent the first three days after his arrival at the mines in
the mountains, climbing them on foot and skirting their base on
horseback, and sleeping where night overtook him. Van
Antwerp did not accompany him on his tour of inspection through
the mines, but delegated that duty to an engineer named
MacWilliams, and to Weimer, the United States Consul at Valencia,
who had served the company in many ways and who was in its
For three days the men toiled heavily over fallen trunks and
trees, slippery with the moss of centuries, or slid backward on
the rolling stones in the waterways, or clung to their ponies'
backs to dodge the hanging creepers. At times for hours together
they walked in single file, bent nearly double, and seeing
nothing before them but the shining backs and shoulders of the
negroes who hacked out the way for them to go. And again they
would come suddenly upon a precipice, and drink in the soft cool
breath of the ocean, and look down thousands of feet upon the
impenetrable green under which they had been crawling, out to
where it met the sparkling surface of the Caribbean Sea. It was
three days of unceasing activity while the sun shone, and of
anxious questionings around the camp-fire when the darkness fell,
and when there were no sounds on the mountain-side but that of
falling water in a distant ravine or the calls of the night-
On the morning of the fourth day Clay and his attendants
returned to camp and rode to where the men had just begun to
blast away the sloping surface of the mountain.
As Clay passed between the zinc sheds and palm huts of the
soldier-workmen, they came running out to meet him, and one, who
seemed to be a leader, touched his bridle, and with his straw
sombrero in his hand begged for a word with el Senor the
The news of Clay's return had reached the opening, and the throb
of the dummy-engines and the roar of the blasting ceased as the
assistant-engineers came down the valley to greet the new
manager. They found him seated on his horse gazing ahead of him,
and listening to the story of the soldier, whose fingers, as he
spoke, trembled in the air, with all the grace and passion of his
Southern nature, while back of him his companions stood humbly,
in a silent chorus, with eager, supplicating eyes. Clay answered
the man's speech curtly, with a few short words, in the Spanish
patois in which he had been addressed, and then turned and smiled
grimly upon the expectant group of engineers. He kept them
waiting for some short space, while he looked them over
carefully, as though he had never seen them before.
``Well, gentlemen,'' he said, ``I'm glad to have you here all
together. I am only sorry you didn't come in time to hear
what this fellow has had to say. I don't as a rule listen that
long to complaints, but he told me what I have seen for myself
and what has been told me by others. I have been here three days
now, and I assure you, gentlemen, that my easiest course would be
to pack up my things and go home on the next steamer. I was sent
down here to take charge of a mine in active operation, and I
find--what? I find that in six months you have done almost
nothing, and that the little you have condescended to do has been
done so badly that it will have to be done over again; that you
have not only wasted a half year of time--and I can't tell how
much money--but that you have succeeded in antagonizing all the
people on whose good-will we are absolutely dependent; you have
allowed your machinery to rust in the rain, and your workmen to
rot with sickness. You have not only done nothing, but you
haven't a blue print to show me what you meant to do. I have
never in my life come across laziness and mismanagement and
incompetency upon such a magnificent and reckless scale. You
have not built the pier, you have not opened the freight road,
you have not taken out an ounce of ore. You know more of
Valencia than you know of these mines; you know it from the
Alameda to the Canal. You can tell me what night the band
plays in the Plaza, but you can't give me the elevation of
one of these hills. You have spent your days on the pavements in
front of cafe's, and your nights in dance-halls, and you have
been drawing salaries every month. I've more respect for these
half-breeds that you've allowed to starve in this fever-bed than
I have for you. You have treated them worse than they'd treat a
dog, and if any of them die, it's on your heads. You have put
them in a fever-camp which you have not even taken the trouble to
drain. Your commissariat is rotten, and you have let them drink
all the rum they wanted. There is not one of you--''
The group of silent men broke, and one of them stepped forward
and shook his forefinger at Clay.
``No man can talk to me like that,'' he said, warningly, ``and
think I'll work under him. I resign here and now.''
``You what--'' cried Clay, ``you resign?''
He whirled his horse round with a dig of his spur and faced them.
``How dare you talk of resigning? I'll pack the whole lot of you
back to New York on the first steamer, if I want to, and I'll
give you such characters that you'll be glad to get a job
carrying a transit. You're in no position to talk of resigning
yet--not one of you. Yes,'' he added, interrupting himself,
``one of you is MacWilliams, the man who had charge of the
railroad. It's no fault of his that the road's not working. I
understand that he couldn't get the right of way from the people
who owned the land, but I have seen what he has done, and his
plans, and I apologize to him--to MacWilliams. As for the rest
of you, I'll give you a month's trial. It will be a month before
the next steamer could get here anyway, and I'll give you that
long to redeem yourselves. At the end of that time we will have
another talk, but you are here now only on your good behavior and
on my sufferance. Good-morning.''
As Clay had boasted, he was not the man to throw up his position
because he found the part he had to play was not that of leading
man, but rather one of general utility, and although it had been
several years since it had been part of his duties to oversee the
setting up of machinery, and the policing of a mining camp, he
threw himself as earnestly into the work before him as though to
show his subordinates that it did not matter who did the work, so
long as it was done. The men at first were sulky, resentful, and
suspicious, but they could not long resist the fact that Clay was
doing the work of five men and five different kinds of work, not
only without grumbling, but apparently with the keenest pleasure.
He conciliated the rich coffee planters who owned the land
which he wanted for the freight road by calls of the most formal
state and dinners of much less formality, for he saw that the
iron mine had its social as well as its political side. And with
this fact in mind, he opened the railroad with great ceremony,
and much music and feasting, and the first piece of ore taken out
of the mine was presented to the wife of the Minister of the
Interior in a cluster of diamonds, which made the wives of the
other members of the Cabinet regret that their husbands had not
chosen that portfolio. Six months followed of hard, unremitting
work, during which time the great pier grew out into the bay from
MacWilliams' railroad, and the face of the first mountain was
scarred and torn of its green, and left in mangled nakedness,
while the ringing of hammers and picks, and the racking blasts of
dynamite, and the warning whistles of the dummy-engines drove
away the accumulated silence of centuries.
It had been a long uphill fight, and Clay had enjoyed it
mightily. Two unexpected events had contributed to help it. One
was the arrival in Valencia of young Teddy Langham, who came
ostensibly to learn the profession of which Clay was so
conspicuous an example, and in reality to watch over his father's
interests. He was put at Clay's elbow, and Clay made him learn
in spite of himself, for he ruled him and MacWilliams of both
of whom he was very fond, as though, so they complained, they
were the laziest and the most rebellious members of his entire
staff. The second event of importance was the announcement made
one day by young Langham that his father's physician had ordered
rest in a mild climate, and that he and his daughters were coming
in a month to spend the winter in Valencia, and to see how the
son and heir had developed as a man of business.
The idea of Mr. Langham's coming to visit Olancho to inspect his
new possessions was not a surprise to Clay. It had occurred to
him as possible before, especially after the son had come to join
them there. The place was interesting and beautiful enough in
itself to justify a visit, and it was only a ten days' voyage
from New York. But he had never considered the chance of Miss
Langham's coming, and when that was now not only possible but a
certainty, he dreamed of little else. He lived as earnestly and
toiled as indefatigably as before, but the place was utterly
transformed for him. He saw it now as she would see it when she
came, even while at the same time his own eyes retained their
point of view. It was as though he had lengthened the focus of a
glass, and looked beyond at what was beautiful and picturesque,
instead of what was near at hand and practicable. He found
himself smiling with anticipation of her pleasure in the orchids
hanging from the dead trees, high above the opening of the mine,
and in the parrots hurling themselves like gayly colored missiles
among the vines; and he considered the harbor at night with its
colored lamps floating on the black water as a scene set for her
eyes. He planned the dinners that he would give in her honor on
the balcony of the great restaurant in the Plaza on those nights
when the band played, and the senoritas circled in long lines
between admiring rows of officers and caballeros. And he
imagined how, when the ore-boats had been filled and his work had
slackened, he would be free to ride with her along the rough
mountain roads, between magnificent pillars of royal palms, or to
venture forth in excursions down the bay, to explore the caves
and to lunch on board the rolling paddle-wheel steamer, which he
would have re painted and gilded for her coming. He pictured
himself acting as her guide over the great mines, answering her
simple questions about the strange machinery, and the crew of
workmen, and the local government by which he ruled two thousand
men. It was not on account of any personal pride in the mines
that he wanted her to see them, it was not because he had
discovered and planned and opened them that he wished to show
them to her, but as a curious spectacle that he hoped would
give her a moment's interest.
But his keenest pleasure was when young Langham suggested that
they should build a house for his people on the edge of the hill
that jutted out over the harbor and the great ore pier. If this
were done, Langham urged, it would be possible for him to see
much more of his family than he would be able to do were they
installed in the city, five miles away.
``We can still live in the office at this end of the railroad,''
the boy said, ``and then we shall have them within call at night
when we get back from work; but if they are in Valencia, it will
take the greater part of the evening going there and all of the
night getting back, for I can't pass that club under three hours.
It will keep us out of temptation.''
``Yes, exactly,'' said Clay, with a guilty smile, ``it will keep
us out of temptation.''
So they cleared away the underbrush, and put a double force of
men to work on what was to be the most beautiful and comfortable
bungalow on the edge of the harbor. It had blue and green and
white tiles on the floors, and walls of bamboo, and a red roof of
curved tiles to let in the air, and dragons' heads for water-
spouts, and verandas as broad as the house itself. There was an
open court in the middle hung with balconies looking down
upon a splashing fountain, and to decorate this patio, they
levied upon people for miles around for tropical plants and
colored mats and awnings. They cut down the trees that hid the
view of the long harbor leading from the sea into Valencia, and
planted a rampart of other trees to hide the iron-ore pier, and
they sodded the raw spots where the men had been building, until
the place was as completely transformed as though a fairy had
waved her wand above it.
It was to be a great surprise, and they were all--Clay,
MacWilliams, and Langham--as keenly interested in it as though
each were preparing it for his honeymoon. They would be walking
together in Valencia when one would say, ``We ought to have that
for the house,'' and without question they would march into the
shop together and order whatever they fancied to be sent out to
the house of the president of the mines on the hill. They
stocked it with wine and linens, and hired a volante and six
horses, and fitted out the driver with a new pair of boots that
reached above his knees, and a silver jacket and a sombrero that
was so heavy with braid that it flashed like a halo about his
head in the sunlight, and he was ordered not to wear it until the
ladies came, under penalty of arrest. It delighted Clay to find
that it was only the beautiful things and the fine things of
his daily routine that suggested her to him, as though she could
not be associated in his mind with anything less worthy, and he
kept saying to himself, ``She will like this view from the end of
the terrace,'' and ``This will be her favorite walk,'' or ``She
will swing her hammock here,'' and ``I know she will not fancy
the rug that Weimer chose.''
While this fairy palace was growing the three men lived as
roughly as before in the wooden hut at the terminus of the
freight road, three hundred yards below the house, and hidden
from it by an impenetrable rampart of brush and Spanish bayonet.
There was a rough road leading from it to the city, five miles
away, which they had extended still farther up the hill to the
Palms, which was the name Langham had selected for his father's
house. And when it was finally finished, they continued to live
under the corrugated zinc roof of their office building, and
locking up the Palms, left it in charge of a gardener and a
watchman until the coming of its rightful owners.
It had been a viciously hot, close day, and even now the air came
in sickening waves, like a blast from the engine-room of a
steamer, and the heat lightning played round the mountains over
the harbor and showed the empty wharves, and the black outlines
of the steamers, and the white front of the Custom-House, and
the long half-circle of twinkling lamps along the quay.
MacWilliams and Langham sat panting on the lower steps of the
office-porch considering whether they were too lazy to clean
themselves and be rowed over to the city, where, as it was Sunday
night, was promised much entertainment. They had been for the
last hour trying to make up their minds as to this, and appealing
to Clay to stop work and decide for them. But he sat inside at a
table figuring and writing under the green shade of a student's
lamp and made no answer. The walls of Clay's office were of
unplaned boards, bristling with splinters, and hung with blue
prints and outline maps of the mine. A gaudily colored portrait
of Madame la Presidenta, the noble and beautiful woman whom
Alvarez, the President of Olancho, had lately married in Spain,
was pinned to the wall above the table. This table, with its
green oil-cloth top, and the lamp, about which winged insects
beat noisily, and an earthen water-jar--from which the water
dripped as regularly as the ticking of a clock--were the only
articles of furniture in the office. On a shelf at one side of
the door lay the men's machetes, a belt of cartridges, and a
revolver in a holster.
Clay rose from the table and stood in the light of the open door,
stretching himself gingerly, for his joints were sore and
stiff with fording streams and climbing the surfaces of rocks.
The red ore and yellow mud of the mines were plastered over his
boots and riding-breeches, where he had stood knee-deep in the
water, and his shirt stuck to him like a wet bathing-suit,
showing his ribs when he breathed and the curves of his broad
chest. A ring of burning paper and hot ashes fell from his
cigarette to his breast and burnt a hole through the cotton
shirt, and he let it lie there and watched it burn with a grim
``I wanted to see,'' he explained, catching the look of listless
curiosity in MacWilliams's eye, ``whether there was anything
hotter than my blood. It's racing around like boiling water in a
``Listen,'' said Langham, holding up his hand. ``There goes the
call for prayers in the convent, and now it's too late to go to
town. I am glad, rather. I'm too tired to keep awake, and
besides, they don't know how to amuse themselves in a civilized
way--at least not in my way. I wish I could just drop in at home
about now; don't you, MacWilliams? Just about this time up in
God's country all the people are at the theatre, or they've just
finished dinner and are sitting around sipping cool green mint,
trickling through little lumps of ice. What I'd like--'' he
stopped and shut one eye and gazed, with his head on one side, at
the unimaginative MacWilliams--``what I'd like to do now,''
he continued, thoughtfully, ``would be to sit in the front row at
a comic opera, ON THE AISLE. The prima donna must be very,
very beautiful, and sing most of her songs at me, and there must
be three comedians, all good, and a chorus entirely composed of
girls. I never could see why they have men in the chorus,
anyway. No one ever looks at them. Now that's where I'd like to
be. What would you like, MacWilliams?''
MacWilliams was a type with which Clay was intimately familiar,
but to the college-bred Langham he was a revelation and a joy.
He came from some little town in the West, and had learned what
he knew of engineering at the transit's mouth, after he had first
served his apprenticeship by cutting sage-brush and driving
stakes. His life had been spent in Mexico and Central America,
and he spoke of the home he had not seen in ten years with the
aggressive loyalty of the confirmed wanderer, and he was known to
prefer and to import canned corn and canned tomatoes in
preference to eating the wonderful fruits of the country, because
the former came from the States and tasted to him of home. He
had crowded into his young life experiences that would have
shattered the nerves of any other man with a more sensitive
conscience and a less happy sense of humor; but these same
experiences had only served to make him shrewd and self-
confident and at his ease when the occasion or difficulty came.
He pulled meditatively on his pipe and considered Langham's
question deeply, while Clay and the younger boy sat with their
arms upon their knees and waited for his decision in thoughtful
``I'd like to go to the theatre, too,'' said MacWilliams, with an
air as though to show that he also was possessed of artistic
tastes. ``I'd like to see a comical chap I saw once in '80--oh,
long ago--before I joined the P. Q. & M. He WAS funny. His
name was Owens; that was his name, John E. Owens--''
``Oh, for heaven's sake, MacWilliams,'' protested Langham, in
dismay; ``he's been dead for five years.''
``Has he?'' said MacWilliams, thoughtfully. ``Well--'' he
concluded, unabashed, ``I can't help that, he's the one I'd like
to see best.''
``You can have another wish, Mac, you know,'' urged Langham,
``can't he, Clay?''
Clay nodded gravely, and MacWilliams frowned again in thought.
``No,'' he said after an effort, ``Owens, John E. Owens; that's
the one I want to see.''
``Well, now I want another wish, too,'' said Langham. ``I
move we can each have two wishes. I wish--''
``Wait until I've had mine,'' said Clay. ``You've had one turn.
I want to be in a place I know in Vienna. It's not hot like
this, but cool and fresh. It's an open, out-of-door concert-
garden, with hundreds of colored lights and trees, and there's
always a breeze coming through. And Eduard Strauss, the son, you
know, leads the orchestra there, and they play nothing but
waltzes, and he stands in front of them, and begins by raising
himself on his toes, and then he lifts his shoulders gently--and
then sinks back again and raises his baton as though he were
drawing the music out after it, and the whole place seems to rock
and move. It's like being picked up and carried on the deck of a
yacht over great waves; and all around you are the beautiful
Viennese women and those tall Austrian officers in their long,
blue coats and flat hats and silver swords. And there are cool
drinks--'' continued Clay, with his eyes fixed on the coming
storm--``all sorts of cool drinks--in high, thin glasses, full of
ice, all the ice you want--''
``Oh, drop it, will you?'' cried Langham, with a shrug of his
damp shoulders. ``I can't stand it. I'm parching.''
``Wait a minute,'' interrupted MacWilliams, leaning forward
and looking into the night. ``Some one's coming.'' There was a
sound down the road of hoofs and the rattle of the land-crabs as
they scrambled off into the bushes, and two men on horseback came
suddenly out of the darkness and drew rein in the light from the
open door. The first was General Mendoza, the leader of the
Opposition in the Senate, and the other, his orderly. The
General dropped his Panama hat to his knee and bowed in the
saddle three times.
``Good-evening, your Excellency,'' said Clay, rising. ``Tell
that peon to get my coat, will you?'' he added, turning to
Langham. Langham clapped his hands, and the clanging of a guitar
ceased, and their servant and cook came out from the back of the
hut and held the General's horse while he dismounted. ``Wait
until I get you a chair,'' said Clay. ``You'll find those steps
rather bad for white duck.''
``I am fortunate in finding you at home,'' said the officer,
smiling, and showing his white teeth. ``The telephone is not
working. I tried at the club, but I could not call you.''
``It's the storm, I suppose,'' Clay answered, as he struggled
into his jacket. ``Let me offer you something to drink.'' He
entered the house, and returned with several bottles on a tray
and a bundle of cigars. The Spanish-American poured himself
out a glass of water, mixing it with Jamaica rum, and said,
smiling again, ``It is a saying of your countrymen that when a
man first comes to Olancho he puts a little rum into his water,
and that when he is here some time he puts a little water in his
``Yes,'' laughed Clay. ``I'm afraid that's true.''
There was a pause while the men sipped at their glasses, and
looked at the horses and the orderly. The clanging of the guitar
began again from the kitchen. ``You have a very beautiful view
here of the harbor, yes,'' said Mendoza. He seemed to enjoy the
pause after his ride, and to be in no haste to begin on the
object of his errand. MacWilliams and Langham eyed each other
covertly, and Clay examined the end of his cigar, and they all
``And how are the mines progressing, eh?'' asked the officer,
genially. ``You find much good iron in them, they tell me.''
``Yes, we are doing very well,'' Clay assented; ``it was
difficult at first, but now that things are in working order, we
are getting out about ten thousand tons a month. We hope to
increase that soon to twenty thousand when the new openings are
developed and our shipping facilities are in better shape.''
``So much!'' exclaimed the General, pleasantly.
``Of which the Government of my country is to get its share of
ten per cent--one thousand tons! It is munificent!'' He laughed
and shook his head slyly at Clay, who smiled in dissent.
``But you see, sir,'' said Clay, ``you cannot blame us. The
mines have always been there, before this Government came in,
before the Spaniards were here, before there was any Government
at all, but there was not the capital to open them up, I suppose,
or--and it needed a certain energy to begin the attack. Your
people let the chance go, and, as it turned out, I think they
were very wise in doing so. They get ten per cent of the output.
That's ten per cent on nothing, for the mines really didn't
exist, as far as you were concerned, until we came, did they?
They were just so much waste land, and they would have remained
so. And look at the price we paid down before we cut a tree.
Three millions of dollars; that's a good deal of money. It will
be some time before we realize anything on that investment.''
Mendoza shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. ``I will be
frank with you,'' he said, with the air of one to whom
dissimulation is difficult. ``I come here to-night on an
unpleasant errand, but it is with me a matter of duty, and I am a
soldier, to whom duty is the foremost ever. I have come to tell
you, Mr. Clay, that we, the Opposition, are not satisfied
with the manner in which the Government has disposed of these
great iron deposits. When I say not satisfied, my dear friend, I
speak most moderately. I should say that we are surprised and
indignant, and we are determined the wrong it has done our
country shall be righted. I have the honor to have been chosen
to speak for our party on this most important question, and on
next Tuesday, sir,'' the General stood up and bowed, as though he
were before a great assembly, ``I will rise in the Senate and
move a vote of want of confidence in the Government for the
manner in which it has given away the richest possessions in the
storehouse of my country, giving it not only to aliens, but for a
pittance, for a share which is not a share, but a bribe, to blind
the eyes of the people. It has been a shameful bargain, and I
cannot say who is to blame; I accuse no one. But I suspect, and
I will demand an investigation; I will demand that the value not
of one-tenth, but of one-half of all the iron that your company
takes out of Olancho shall be paid into the treasury of the
State. And I come to you to-night, as the Resident Director, to
inform you beforehand of my intention. I do not wish to take you
unprepared. I do not blame your people; they are business men,
they know how to make good bargains, they get what they best
can. That is the rule of trade, but they have gone too far, and
I advise you to communicate with your people in New York and
learn what they are prepared to offer now--now that they have to
deal with men who do not consider their own interests but the
interests of their country.''
Mendoza made a sweeping bow and seated himself, frowning
dramatically, with folded arms. His voice still hung in the air,
for he had spoken as earnestly as though he imagined himself
already standing in the hall of the Senate championing the cause
of the people.
MacWilliams looked up at Clay from where he sat on the steps
below him, but Clay did not notice him, and there was no sound,
except the quick sputtering of the nicotine in Langham's pipe, at
which he pulled quickly, and which was the only outward sign the
boy gave of his interest. Clay shifted one muddy boot over the
other and leaned back with his hands stuck in his belt.
``Why didn't you speak of this sooner?'' he asked.
``Ah, yes, that is fair,'' said the General, quickly. ``I know
that it is late, and I regret it, and I see that we cause you
inconvenience; but how could I speak sooner when I was ignorant
of what was going on? I have been away with my troops. I am a
soldier first, a politician after. During the last year I
have been engaged in guarding the frontier. No news comes to a
General in the field moving from camp to camp and always in the
saddle; but I may venture to hope, sir, that news has come to you
Clay pressed his lips together and bowed his head.
``We have heard of your victories, General, yes,'' he said; ``and
on your return you say you found things had not been going to
``That is it,'' assented the other, eagerly. ``I find that
indignation reigns on every side. I find my friends complaining
of the railroad which you run across their land. I find that
fifteen hundred soldiers are turned into laborers, with picks and
spades, working by the side of negroes and your Irish; they have
not been paid their wages, and they have been fed worse than
though they were on the march; sickness and--''
Clay moved impatiently and dropped his boot heavily on the porch.
``That was true at first,'' he interrupted, ``but it is not so
now. I should be glad, General, to take you over the men's
quarters at any time. As for their not having been paid, they
were never paid by their own Government before they came to us
and for the same reason, because the petty officers kept back the
money, just as they have always done. But the men are paid
now. However, this is not of the most importance. Who is it
that complains of the terms of our concession?''
``Every one!'' exclaimed Mendoza, throwing out his arms, ``and
they ask, moreover, this: they ask why, if this mine is so rich,
why was not the stock offered here to us in this country? Why
was it not put on the market, that any one might buy? We have
rich men in Olancho, why should not they benefit first of all
others by the wealth of their own lands? But no! we are not
asked to buy. All the stock is taken in New York, no one
benefits but the State, and it receives only ten per cent. It is
``I see,'' said Clay, gravely. ``That had not occurred to me
before. They feel they have been slighted. I see.'' He paused
for a moment as if in serious consideration. ``Well,'' he added,
``that might be arranged.''
He turned and jerked his head toward the open door. ``If you
boys mean to go to town to-night, you'd better be moving,'' he
said. The two men rose together and bowed silently to their
``I should like if Mr. Langham would remain a moment with us,''
said Mendoza, politely. ``I understand that it is his father who
controls the stock of the company. If we discuss any arrangement
it might be well if he were here.''
Clay was sitting with his chin on his breast, and he did not look
up, nor did the young man turn to him for any prompting. ``I'm
not down here as my father's son,'' he said, ``I am an employee
of Mr. Clay's. He represents the company. Good-night, sir.''
``You think, then,'' said Clay, ``that if your friends were given
an opportunity to subscribe to the stock they would feel less
resentful toward us? They would think it was fairer to all?''
``I know it,'' said Mendoza; ``why should the stock go out of the
country when those living here are able to buy it?''
``Exactly,'' said Clay, ``of course. Can you tell me this,
General? Are the gentlemen who want to buy stock in the mine the
same men who are in the Senate? The men who are objecting to the
terms of our concession?''
``With a few exceptions they are the same men.''
Clay looked out over the harbor at the lights of the town, and
the General twirled his hat around his knee and gazed with
appreciation at the stars above him.
``Because if they are,'' Clay continued, ``and they succeed in
getting our share cut down from ninety per cent to fifty per
cent, they must see that the stock would be worth just forty per
cent less than it is now.''
``That is true,'' assented the other. ``I have thought of that,
and if the Senators in Opposition were given a chance to
subscribe, I am sure they would see that it is better wisdom to
drop their objections to the concession, and as stockholders
allow you to keep ninety per cent of the output. And, again,''
continued Mendoza, ``it is really better for the country that the
money should go to its people than that it should be stored up in
the vaults of the treasury, when there is always the danger that
the President will seize it; or, if not this one, the next one.''
``I should think--that is--it seems to me,'' said Clay with
careful consideration, ``that your Excellency might be able to
render us great help in this matter yourself. We need a friend
among the Opposition. In fact--I see where you could assist us
in many ways, where your services would be strictly in the line
of your public duty and yet benefit us very much. Of course I
cannot speak authoritatively without first consulting Mr.
Langham; but I should think he would allow you personally to
purchase as large a block of the stock as you could wish, either
to keep yourself or to resell and distribute among those of your
friends in Opposition where it would do the most good.''
Clay looked over inquiringly to where Mendoza sat in the light of
the open door, and the General smiled faintly, and emitted a
pleased little sigh of relief. ``Indeed,'' continued Clay, ``I
should think Mr. Langham might even save you the formality of
purchasing the stock outright by sending you its money
equivalent. I beg your pardon,'' he asked, interrupting himself,
``does your orderly understand English?''
``He does not,'' the General assured him, eagerly, dragging his
chair a little closer.
``Suppose now that Mr. Langham were to put fifty or let us say
sixty thousand dollars to your account in the Valencia Bank, do
you think this vote of want of confidence in the Government on
the question of our concession would still be moved?''
``I am sure it would not,'' exclaimed the leader of the
Opposition, nodding his head violently.
``Sixty thousand dollars,'' repeated Clay, slowly, ``for
yourself; and do you think, General, that were you paid that sum
you would be able to call off your friends, or would they make a
demand for stock also?''
``Have no anxiety at all, they do just what I say,'' returned
Mendoza, in an eager whisper. ``If I say `It is all right, I am
satisfied with what the Government has done in my absence,' it is
enough. And I will say it, I give you the word of a soldier, I
will say it. I will not move a vote of want of confidence on
Tuesday. You need go no farther than myself. I am glad that I
am powerful enough to serve you, and if you doubt me''--he struck
his heart and bowed with a deprecatory smile--``you need not pay
in the money in exchange for the stock all at the same time. You
can pay ten thousand this year, and next year ten thousand more
and so on, and so feel confident that I shall have the interests
of the mine always in my heart. Who knows what may not happen in
a year? I may be able to serve you even more. Who knows how
long the present Government will last? But I give you my word of
honor, no matter whether I be in Opposition or at the head of the
Government, if I receive every six months the retaining fee of
which you speak, I will be your representative. And my friends
can do nothing. I despise them. _I_ am the Opposition. You
have done well, my dear sir, to consider me alone.''
Clay turned in his chair and looked back of him through the
office to the room beyond.
``Boys,'' he called, ``you can come out now.''
He rose and pushed his chair away and beckoned to the orderly who
sat in the saddle holding the General's horse. Langham and
MacWilliams came out and stood in the open door, and Mendoza rose
and looked at Clay.
``You can go now,'' Clay said to him, quietly. ``And you can
rise in the Senate on Tuesday and move your vote of want of
confidence and object to our concession, and when you have
resumed your seat the Secretary of Mines will rise in his turn
and tell the Senate how you stole out here in the night and tried
to blackmail me, and begged me to bribe you to be silent, and
that you offered to throw over your friends and to take all that
we would give you and keep it yourself. That will make you
popular with your friends, and will show the Government just what
sort of a leader it has working against it.''
Clay took a step forward and shook his finger in the officer's
face. ``Try to break that concession; try it. It was made by
one Government to a body of honest, decent business men, with a
Government of their own back of them, and if you interfere with
our conceded rights to work those mines, I'll have a man-of-war
down here with white paint on her hull, and she'll blow you and
your little republic back up there into the mountains. Now you
Mendoza had straightened with surprise when Clay first began to
speak, and had then bent forward slightly as though he meant to
interrupt him. His eyebrows were lowered in a straight line, and
his lips moved quickly.
``You poor--'' he began, contemptuously. ``Bah,'' he exclaimed,
``you're a fool; I should have sent a servant to talk with you.
You are a child--but you are an insolent child,'' he cried,
suddenly, his anger breaking out, ``and I shall punish you. You
dare to call me names! You shall fight me, you shall fight me
to-morrow. You have insulted an officer, and you shall meet me
at once, to-morrow.''
``If I meet you to-morrow,'' Clay replied, ``I will thrash you
for your impertinence. The only reason I don't do it now is
because you are on my doorstep. You had better not meet me
tomorrow, or at any other time. And I have no leisure to fight
duels with anybody.''
``You are a coward,'' returned the other, quietly, ``and I tell
you so before my servant.''
Clay gave a short laugh and turned to MacWilliams in the doorway.
``Hand me my gun, MacWilliams,'' he said, ``it's on the shelf to
MacWilliams stood still and shook his head. ``Oh, let him
alone,'' he said. ``You've got him where you want him.''
``Give me the gun, I tell you,'' repeated Clay. ``I'm not going
to hurt him, I'm only going to show him how I can shoot.''
MacWilliams moved grudgingly across the porch and brought back
the revolver and handed it to Clay. ``Look out now,'' he said,
At Clay's words the General had retreated hastily to his horse's
head and had begun unbuckling the strap of his holster, and the
orderly reached back into the boot for his carbine. Clay told
him in Spanish to throw up his hands, and the man, with a
frightened look at his officer, did as the revolver suggested.
Then Clay motioned with his empty hand for the other to desist.
``Don't do that,'' he said, ``I'm not going to hurt you; I'm only
going to frighten you a little.''
He turned and looked at the student lamp inside, where it stood
on the table in full view. Then he raised his revolver. He did
not apparently hold it away from him by the butt, as other men
do, but let it lie in the palm of his hand, into which it seemed
to fit like the hand of a friend. His first shot broke the top
of the glass chimney, the second shattered the green globe around
it, the third put out the light, and the next drove the lamp
crashing to the floor. There was a wild yell of terror from the
back of the house, and the noise of a guitar falling down a
flight of steps. ``I have probably killed a very good cook,''
said Clay, ``as I should as certainly kill you, if I were to
meet you. Langham,'' he continued, ``go tell that cook to come
The General sprang into his saddle, and the altitude it gave him
seemed to bring back some of the jauntiness he had lost.
``That was very pretty,'' he said; ``you have been a cowboy, so
they tell me. It is quite evident by your manners. No matter,
if we do not meet to-morrow it will be because I have more
serious work to do. Two months from to-day there will be a new
Government in Olancho and a new President, and the mines will
have a new director. I have tried to be your friend, Mr. Clay.
See how you like me for an enemy. Goodnight, gentlemen.''
``Good-night,'' said MacWilliams, unmoved. ``Please ask your man
to close the gate after you.''
When the sound of the hoofs had died away the men still stood in
an uncomfortable silence, with Clay twirling the revolver around
his middle finger. ``I'm sorry I had to make a gallery play of
that sort,'' he said. ``But it was the only way to make that
sort of man understand.''
Langham sighed and shook his head ruefully.
``Well,'' he said, ``I thought all the trouble was over, but it
looks to me as though it had just begun. So far as I can see
they're going to give the governor a run for his money yet.''
Clay turned to MacWilliams.
``How many of Mendoza's soldiers have we in the mines, Mac?'' he
``About fifteen hundred,'' MacWilliams answered. ``But you ought
to hear the way they talk of him.''
``They do, eh?'' said Clay, with a smile of satisfaction.
``That's good. `Six hundred slaves who hate their masters.'
What do they say about me?''
``Oh, they think you're all right. They know you got them their
pay and all that. They'd do a lot for you.''
``Would they fight for me?'' asked Clay.
MacWilliams looked up and laughed uneasily. ``I don't know,'' he
said. ``Why, old man? What do you mean to do?''
``Oh, I don't know,'' Clay answered. ``I was just wondering
whether I should like to be President of Olancho.''
The Langhams were to arrive on Friday, and during the week before
that day Clay went about with a long slip of paper in his pocket
which he would consult earnestly in corners, and upon which he
would note down the things that they had left undone. At night
he would sit staring at it and turning it over in much concern,
and would beg Langham to tell him what he could have meant when
he wrote ``see Weimer,'' or ``clean brasses,'' or ``S. Q. M.''
``Why should I see Weimer,'' he would exclaim, ``and which
brasses, and what does S. Q. M. stand for, for heaven's sake?''
They held a full-dress rehearsal in the bungalow to improve its
state of preparation, and drilled the servants and talked English
to them, so that they would know what was wanted when the young
ladies came. It was an interesting exercise, and had the three
young men been less serious in their anxiety to welcome the
coming guests they would have found themselves very amusing--as
when Langham would lean over the balcony in the court and
shout back into the kitchen, in what was supposed to be an
imitation of his sister's manner, ``Bring my coffee and rolls--
and don't take all day about it either,'' while Clay and
MacWilliams stood anxiously below to head off the servants when
they carried in a can of hot water instead of bringing the horses
round to the door, as they had been told to do.
``Of course it's a bit rough and all that,'' Clay would say,
``but they have only to tell us what they want changed and we can
have it ready for them in an hour.''
``Oh, my sisters are all right,'' Langham would reassure him;
``they'll think it's fine. It will be like camping-out to them,
or a picnic. They'll understand.''
But to make sure, and to ``test his girders,'' as Clay put it,
they gave a dinner, and after that a breakfast. The President
came to the first, with his wife, the Countess Manuelata, Madame
la Presidenta, and Captain Stuart, late of the Gordon
Highlanders, and now in command of the household troops at the
Government House and of the body-guard of the President. He was
a friend of Clay's and popular with every one present, except for
the fact that he occupied this position, instead of serving his
own Government in his own army. Some people said he had been
crossed in love, others, less sentimental, that he had forged a
check, or mixed up the mess accounts of his company. But Clay
and MacWilliams said it concerned no one why he was there, and
then emphasized the remark by picking a quarrel with a man who
had given an unpleasant reason for it. Stuart, so far as they
were concerned, could do no wrong.
The dinner went off very well, and the President consented to
dine with them in a week, on the invitation of young Langham to
meet his father.
``Miss Langham is very beautiful, they tell me,'' Madame Alvarez
said to Clay. ``I heard of her one winter in Rome; she was
presented there and much admired.''
``Yes, I believe she is considered very beautiful,'' Clay said.
``I have only just met her, but she has travelled a great deal
and knows every one who is of interest, and I think you will like
her very much.''
``I mean to like her,'' said the woman. ``There are very few of
the native ladies who have seen much of the world beyond a trip
to Paris, where they live in their hotels and at the dressmaker's
while their husbands enjoy themselves; and sometimes I am rather
heart-sick for my home and my own people. I was overjoyed when I
heard Miss Langham was to be with us this winter. But you
must not keep her out here to yourselves. It is too far and too
selfish. She must spend some time with me at the Government
``Yes,'' said Clay, ``I am afraid of that. I am afraid the young
ladies will find it rather lonely out here.''
``Ah, no,'' exclaimed the woman, quickly. ``You have made it
beautiful, and it is only a half-hour's ride, except when it
rains,'' she added, laughing, ``and then it is almost as easy to
row as to ride.''
``I will have the road repaired,'' interrupted the President.
``It is my wish, Mr. Clay, that you will command me in every way;
I am most desirous to make the visit of Mr. Langham agreeable to
him, he is doing so much for us.''
The breakfast was given later in the week, and only men were
present. They were the rich planters and bankers of Valencia,
generals in the army, and members of the Cabinet, and officers
from the tiny war-ship in the harbor. The breeze from the bay
touched them through the open doors, the food and wine cheered
them, and the eager courtesy and hospitality of the three
Americans pleased and flattered them. They were of a people who
better appreciate the amenities of life than its sacrifices.
The breakfast lasted far into the afternoon, and, inspired by
the success of the banquet, Clay quite unexpectedly found himself
on his feet with his hand on his heart, thanking the guests for
the good-will and assistance which they had given him in his
work. ``I have tramped down your coffee plants, and cut away
your forests, and disturbed your sleep with my engines, and you
have not complained,'' he said, in his best Spanish, ``and we
will show that we are not ungrateful.''
Then Weimer, the Consul, spoke, and told them that in his Annual
Consular Report, which he had just forwarded to the State
Department, he had related how ready the Government of Olancho
had been to assist the American company. ``And I hope,'' he
concluded, ``that you will allow me, gentlemen, to propose the
health of President Alvarez and the members of his Cabinet.''
The men rose to their feet, one by one, filling their glasses and
laughing and saying, ``Viva el Gobernador,'' until they were all
standing. Then, as they looked at one another and saw only the
faces of friends, some one of them cried, suddenly, ``To
President Alvarez, Dictator of Olancho!''
The cry was drowned in a yell of exultation, and men sprang
cheering to their chairs waving their napkins above their heads,
and those who wore swords drew them and flashed them in the
air, and the quiet, lazy good-nature of the breakfast was turned
into an uproarious scene of wild excitement. Clay pushed back
his chair from the head of the table with an anxious look at the
servants gathered about the open door, and Weimer clutched
frantically at Langham's elbow and whispered, ``What did I say?
For heaven's sake, how did it begin?''
The outburst ceased as suddenly as it had started, and old
General Rojas, the Vice-President, called out, ``What is said is
said, but it must not be repeated.''
Stuart waited until after the rest had gone, and Clay led him out
to the end of the veranda. ``Now will you kindly tell me what
that was?'' Clay asked. ``It didn't sound like champagne.''
``No,'' said the other, ``I thought you knew. Alvarez means to
proclaim himself Dictator, if he can, before the spring
``And are you going to help him?''
``Of course,'' said the Englishman, simply.
``Well, that's all right,'' said Clay, ``but there's no use
shouting the fact all over the shop like that--and they shouldn't
drag me into it.''
Stuart laughed easily and shook his head. ``It won't be long
before you'll be in it yourself,'' he said.
Clay awoke early Friday morning to hear the shutters beating
viciously against the side of the house, and the wind rushing
through the palms, and the rain beating in splashes on the zinc
roof. It did not come soothingly and in a steady downpour, but
brokenly, like the rush of waves sweeping over a rough beach. He
turned on the pillow and shut his eyes again with the same
impotent and rebellious sense of disappointment that he used to
feel when he had wakened as a boy and found it storming on his
holiday, and he tried to sleep once more in the hope that when he
again awoke the sun would be shining in his eyes; but the storm
only slackened and did not cease, and the rain continued to fall
with dreary, relentless persistence. The men climbed the muddy
road to the Palms, and viewed in silence the wreck which the
night had brought to their plants and garden paths. Rivulets of
muddy water had cut gutters over the lawn and poured out from
under the veranda, and plants and palms lay bent and broken, with
their broad leaves bedraggled and coated with mud. The harbor
and the encircling mountains showed dimly through a curtain of
warm, sticky rain. To something that Langham said of making the
best of it, MacWilliams replied, gloomily, that he would not be
at all surprised if the ladies refused to leave the ship and
demanded to be taken home immediately. ``I am sorry,'' Clay
said, simply; ``I wanted them to like it.''
The men walked back to the office in grim silence, and took turns
in watching with a glass the arms of the semaphore, three miles
below, at the narrow opening of the bay. Clay smiled nervously
at himself, with a sudden sinking at the heart, and with a hot
blush of pleasure, as he thought of how often he had looked at
its great arms out lined like a mast against the sky, and thanked
it in advance for telling him that she was near. In the harbor
below, the vessels lay with bare yards and empty decks, the
wharves were deserted, and only an occasional small boat moved
across the beaten surface of the bay.
But at twelve o'clock MacWilliams lowered the glass quickly, with
a little gasp of excitement, rubbed its moist lens on the inside
of his coat and turned it again toward a limp strip of bunting
that was crawling slowly up the halyards of the semaphore. A
second dripping rag answered it from the semaphore in front of
the Custom-House, and MacWilliams laughed nervously and shut the
``It's red,'' he said; ``they've come.''
They had planned to wear white duck suits, and go out in a launch
with a flag flying, and they had made MacWilliams purchase a red
cummerbund and a pith helmet; but they tumbled into the
launch now, wet and bedraggled as they were, and raced Weimer in
his boat, with the American flag clinging to the pole, to the
side of the big steamer as she drew slowly into the bay. Other
row-boats and launches and lighters began to push out from the
wharves, men appeared under the sagging awnings of the bare
houses along the river-front, and the custom and health officers
in shining oil-skins and puffing damp cigars clambered over the
``I see them,'' cried Langham, jumping up and rocking the boat in
his excitement. ``There they are in the bow. That's Hope
waving. Hope! hullo, Hope!'' he shouted, ``hullo!'' Clay
recognized her standing between the younger sister and her
father, with the rain beating on all of them, and waving her hand
to Langham. The men took off their hats, and as they pulled up
alongside she bowed to Clay and nodded brightly. They sent
Langham up the gangway first, and waited until he had made his
greetings to his family alone.
``We have had a terrible trip, Mr. Clay,'' Miss Langham said to
him, beginning, as people will, with the last few days, as though
they were of the greatest importance; ``and we could see nothing
of you at the mines at all as we passed--only a wet flag, and
a lot of very friendly workmen, who cheered and fired off pans of
``They did, did they?'' said Clay, with a satisfied nod.
``That's all right, then. That was a royal salute in your honor.
Kirkland had that to do. He's the foreman of A opening. I am
awfully sorry about this rain--it spoils everything.''
``I hope it hasn't spoiled our breakfast,'' said Mr. Langham.
``We haven't eaten anything this morning, because we wanted a
change of diet, and the captain told us we should be on shore
``We have some carriages for you at the wharf, and we will drive
you right out to the Palms,'' said young Langham. ``It's shorter
by water, but there's a hill that the girls couldn't climb today.
That's the house we built for you, Governor, with the flag-pole,
up there on the hill; and there's your ugly old pier; and that's
where we live, in the little shack above it, with the tin roof;
and that opening to the right is the terminus of the railroad
MacWilliams built. Where's MacWilliams? Here, Mac, I want you
to know my father. This is MacWilliams, sir, of whom I wrote
There was some delay about the baggage, and in getting the party
together in the boats that Langham and the Consul had brought;
and after they had stood for some time on the wet dock,
hungry and damp, it was rather aggravating to find that the
carriages which Langham had ordered to be at one pier had gone to
another. So the new arrivals sat rather silently under the shed
of the levee on a row of cotton-bales, while Clay and MacWilliams
raced off after the carriages.
``I wish we didn't have to keep the hood down,'' young Langham
said, anxiously, as they at last proceeded heavily up the muddy
streets; ``it makes it so hot, and you can't see anything. Not
that it's worth seeing in all this mud and muck, but it's great
when the sun shines. We had planned it all so differently.''
He was alone with his family now in one carriage, and the other
men and the servants were before them in two others. It seemed
an interminable ride to them all--to the strangers, and to the
men who were anxious that they should be pleased. They left the
city at last, and toiled along the limestone road to the Palms,
rocking from side to side and sinking in ruts filled with rushing
water. When they opened the flap of the hood the rain beat in on
them, and when they closed it they stewed in a damp, warm
atmosphere of wet leather and horse-hair.
``This is worse than a Turkish bath,'' said Hope, faintly.
``Don't you live anywhere, Ted?''
``Oh, it's not far now,'' said the younger brother, dismally; but
even as he spoke the carriage lurched forward and plunged to one
side and came to a halt, and they could hear the streams rushing
past the wheels like the water at the bow of a boat. A wet,
black face appeared at the opening of the hood, and a man spoke
despondently in Spanish.
``He says we're stuck in the mud,'' explained Langham. He looked
at them so beseechingly and so pitifully, with the perspiration
streaming down his face, and his clothes damp and bedraggled,
that Hope leaned back and laughed, and his father patted him on
the knee. ``It can't be any worse,'' he said, cheerfully; ``it
must mend now. It is not your fault, Ted, that we're starving
and lost in the mud.''
Langham looked out to find Clay and MacWilliams knee-deep in the
running water, with their shoulders against the muddy wheels, and
the driver lashing at the horses and dragging at their bridles.
He sprang out to their assistance, and Hope, shaking off her
sister's detaining hands, jumped out after him, laughing. She
splashed up the hill to the horses' heads, motioning to the
driver to release his hold on their bridles.
``That is not the way to treat a horse,'' she said. ``Let me
have them. Are you men all ready down there?'' she called.
Each of the three men glued a shoulder to a wheel, and clenched
his teeth and nodded. ``All right, then,'' Hope called back.
She took hold of the huge Mexican bits close to the mouth, where
the pressure was not so cruel, and then coaxing and tugging by
turns, and slipping as often as the horses themselves, she drew
them out of the mud, and with the help of the men back of the
carriage pulled it clear until it stood free again at the top of
the hill. Then she released her hold on the bridles and looked
down, in dismay, at her frock and hands, and then up at the three
men. They appeared so utterly miserable and forlorn in their
muddy garments, and with their faces washed with the rain and
perspiration, that the girl gave way suddenly to an
uncontrollable shriek of delight. The men stared blankly at her
for a moment, and then inquiringly at one another, and as the
humor of the situation struck them they burst into an echoing
shout of laughter, which rose above the noise of the wind and
rain, and before which the disappointments and trials of the
morning were swept away. Before they reached the Palms the sun
was out and shining with fierce brilliancy, reflecting its rays
on every damp leaf, and drinking up each glistening pool of
MacWilliams and Clay left the Langhams alone together, and
returned to the office, where they assured each other again and
again that there was no doubt, from what each had heard different
members of the family say, that they were greatly pleased with
all that had been prepared for them.
``They think it's fine!'' said young Langham, who had run down
the hill to tell them about it. ``I tell you, they are pleased.
I took them all over the house, and they just exclaimed every
minute. Of course,'' he said, dispassionately, ``I thought
they'd like it, but I had no idea it would please them as much as
it has. My Governor is so delighted with the place that he's
sitting out there on the veranda now, rocking himself up and down
and taking long breaths of sea-air, just as though he owned the
Langham dined with his people that night, Clay and MacWilliams
having promised to follow him up the hill later. It was a night
of much moment to them all, and the two men ate their dinner in
silence, each considering what the coming of the strangers might
mean to him.
As he was leaving the room MacWilliams stopped and hovered
uncertainly in the doorway.
``Are you going to get yourself into a dress-suit to-night?'' he
asked. Clay said that he thought he would; he wanted to feel
quite clean once more.
``Well, all right, then,'' the other returned, reluctantly.
``I'll do it for this once, if you mean to, but you needn't think
I'm going to make a practice of it, for I'm not. I haven't worn
a dress-suit,'' he continued, as though explaining his principles
in the matter, ``since your spread when we opened the railroad--
that's six months ago; and the time before that I wore one at
MacGolderick's funeral. MacGolderick blew himself up at Puerto
Truxillo, shooting rocks for the breakwater. We never found all
of him, but we gave what we could get together as fine a funeral
as those natives ever saw. The boys, they wanted to make him
look respectable, so they asked me to lend them my dress-suit,
but I told them I meant to wear it myself. That's how I came to
wear a dress-suit at a funeral. It was either me or
``MacWilliams,'' said Clay, as he stuck the toe of one boot into
the heel of the other, ``if I had your imagination I'd give up
railroading and take to writing war clouds for the newspapers.''
``Do you mean you don't believe that story?'' MacWilliams
``I do,'' said Clay, ``I mean I don't.''
``Well, let it go,'' returned MacWilliams, gloomily; ``but
there's been funerals for less than that, let me tell you.''
A half-hour later MacWilliams appeared in the door and stood
gazing attentively at Clay arranging his tie before a hand-glass,
and then at himself in his unusual apparel.
``No wonder you voted to dress up,'' he exclaimed finally, in a
tone of personal injury. ``That's not a dress-suit you've got on
anyway. It hasn't any tails. And I hope for your sake, Mr.
Clay,'' he continued, his voice rising in plaintive indignation,
``that you are not going to play that scarf on us for a vest.
And you haven't got a high collar on, either. That's only a
rough blue print of a dress-suit. Why, you look just as
comfortable as though you were going to enjoy yourself--and you
look cool, too.''
``Well, why not?'' laughed Clay.
``Well, but look at me,'' cried the other. ``Do I look cool? Do
I look happy or comfortable? No, I don't. I look just about the
way I feel, like a fool undertaker. I'm going to take this thing
right off. You and Ted Langham can wear your silk scarfs and
bobtail coats, if you like, but if they don't want me in white
duck they don't get me.''
When they reached the Palms, Clay asked Miss Langham if she did
not want to see his view. ``And perhaps, if you appreciate it
properly, I will make you a present of it,'' he said, as he