Captain Macklin by Richard Harding Davis
To MY MOTHER
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT
It may seem presumptuous that so young a man as myself should
propose to write his life and memoirs, for, as a rule, one waits until
he has accomplished something in the world, or until he has reached
old age, before he ventures to tell of the times in which he has
lived, and of his part in them. But the profession to which I belong,
which is that of a soldier, and which is the noblest profession a man
can follow, is a hazardous one, and were I to delay until to-morrow to
write down what I have seen and done, these memoirs might never be
written, for, such being the fortune of war, to-morrow might not come.
So I propose to tell now of the little I have accomplished in the
first twenty-three years of my life, and, from month to month, to add
to these memoirs in order that, should I be suddenly taken off, my
debit and credit pages may be found carefully written up to date and
carried forward. On the other hand, should I live to be an old man,
this record of my career will furnish me with material for a more
complete autobiography, and will serve as a safeguard against a
In writing a personal narrative I take it that the most important
events to be chronicled in the life of a man are his choice of a wife
and his choice of a profession. As I am unmarried, the chief event in
my life is my choice of a profession, and as to that, as a matter of
fact, I was given no choice, but from my earliest childhood was
destined to be a soldier. My education and my daily environment each
pointed to that career, and even if I had shown a remarkable aptitude
for any other calling, which I did not, I doubt if I would have
pursued it. I am confident that had my education been directed in an
entirely different channel, I should have followed my destiny, and
come out a soldier in the end. For by inheritance as well as by
instinct I was foreordained to follow the fortunes of war, to delight
in the clash of arms and the smoke of battle; and I expect that when I
do hear the clash of arms and smell the smoke of battle, the last of
the Macklins will prove himself worthy of his ancestors.
I call myself the last of the Macklins for the reason that last
year, on my twenty-second birthday, I determined I should never marry.
Women I respect and admire, several of them, especially two of the
young ladies at Miss Butler's Academy I have deeply loved, but a
soldier cannot devote himself both to a woman and to his country. As
one of our young professors said, “The flag is a jealous mistress.”
The one who, in my earliest childhood, arranged that I should
follow the profession of arms, was my mother's father, and my only
surviving grandparent. He was no less a personage than Major-General
John M. Hamilton. I am not a writer; my sword, I fear and hope, will
always be easier in my hand than my pen, but I wish for a brief moment
I could hold it with such skill, that I might tell of my grandfather
properly and gratefully, and describe him as the gentle and brave man
he was. I know he was gentle, for though I never had a woman to care
for me as a mother cares for a son, I never missed that care; and I
know how brave he was, for that is part of the history of my country.
During many years he was my only parent or friend or companion; he
taught me my lessons by day and my prayers by night, and, when I
passed through all the absurd ailments to which a child is heir, he
sat beside my cot and lulled me to sleep, or told me stories of the
war. There was a childlike and simple quality in his own nature, which
made me reach out to him and confide in him as I would have done to
one of my own age. Later, I scoffed at this virtue in him as something
old-fashioned and credulous. That was when I had reached the age when
I was older, I hope, than I shall ever be again. There is no such
certainty of knowledge on all subjects as one holds at eighteen and at
eighty, and at eighteen I found his care and solicitude irritating and
irksome. With the intolerance of youth, I could not see the love that
was back of his anxiety, and which should have softened it for me with
a halo and made me considerate and grateful. Now I see it—I see it
now that it is too late. But surely he understood, he knew how I
looked up to him, how I loved him, and how I tried to copy him, and,
because I could not, consoled myself inwardly by thinking that the
reason I had failed was because his way was the wrong one, and that my
way was the better. If he did not understand then, he understands now;
I cannot bear to think he does not understand and forgive me.
Those were the best days of my life, the days I spent with him as a
child in his own home on the Hudson. It stands at Dobbs Ferry, set in
a grove of pines, with a garden about it, and a box hedge that shuts
it from the road. The room I best remember is the one that overlooks
the Hudson and the Palisades. From its windows you can watch the great
vessels passing up and down the river, and the excursion steamers
flying many flags, and tiny pleasure-boats and great barges. There is
an open fireplace in this room, and in a corner formed by the book-
case, and next to the wood-box, was my favorite seat. My grandfather's
place was in a great leather chair beside the centre-table, and I used
to sit cross-legged on a cushion at his feet, with my back against his
knees and my face to the open hearth. I can still see the pages of
“Charles O'Malley” and “Midshipman Easy,” as I read them by the
lifting light of that wood fire, and I can hear the wind roaring down
the chimney and among the trees outside, and the steamers signalling
to each other as they pushed through the ice and fog to the great city
that lay below us. I can feel the fire burning my face, and the cold
shivers that ran down my back, as my grandfather told me of the
Indians who had once hunted in the very woods back of our house, and
of those he had fought with on the plains. With the imagination of a
child, I could hear, mingled with the shrieks of the wind as it dashed
the branches against the roof, their hideous war-cries as they rushed
to some night attack, or the howling of the wolves in the snow. When I
think of myself as I was then I am very fond of that little boy who
sat shivering with excitement, and staring with open eyes at the
pictures he saw in the firelight, a little boy who had made no
enemies, no failures, who had harmed no one, and who knew nothing of
the world outside the walls that sheltered him, save the brave old
soldier who was his law and his example, his friend in trouble, and
I knew nothing then, and I know very little now, either of my
father or my mother. Whenever I asked my grandfather concerning them
he always answered vaguely that he would tell me some day, “when you
are of age,” but whether he meant when I was twenty-one or of an age
when I was best fitted to hear the truth, I shall never know. But I
guessed the truth from what he let fall, and from what I have since
heard from others, although that is but little, for I could not ask
strangers to tell me of my own people. For some reason, soon after
they were married my mother and father separated and she brought me to
live with her father, and he entered the Southern army.
I like to think that I can remember my mother, and it seems I must,
for very dimly I recollect a young girl who used to sit by the window
looking out at the passing vessels. There is a daguerreotype of my
mother, and it may be that my recollection of her is builded upon that
portrait. She died soon after we came to live with my grandfather,
when I was only three years old, but I am sure I remember her, for no
other woman was ever in the house, and the figure of the young girl
looking out across at the Palisades is very clear to me.
My father was an Irish officer and gentleman, who came to the
States to better his fortunes. This was just before the war; and as
soon as it began, although he lived in the North, in New York City, he
joined the Southern army and was killed. I believe, from what little I
have learned of him, that he was both wild and reckless, but the few
who remember him all say that he had many noble qualities, and was
much loved by men, and, I am afraid, by women. I do not know more than
that, except the one story of him, which my grandfather often told me.
“Whatever a man may say of your father,” he would tell me, “you
need not believe; for they may not have understood him, and all that
you need to remember, until when you are of age I shall tell you the
whole truth, is how he died.” It is a brief story. My father was
occupying a trench which for some hours his company had held under a
heavy fire. When the Yankees charged with the bayonet he rose to meet
them, but at the same moment the bugle sounded the retreat, and half
of his company broke and ran. My father sprang to the top of the
trench and called, “Come back, boys, we'll give them one more volley.”
It may have been that he had misunderstood the call of the bugle, and
disobeyed through ignorance, or it may have been that in his education
the signal to retreat had been omitted, for he did not heed it, and
stood outlined against the sky, looking back and waving his hand to
his men. But they did not come to him, and the advancing troop fired,
and he fell upon the trench with his body stretched along its length.
The Union officer was far in advance of his own company, and when he
leaped upon the trench he found that it was empty and that the
Confederate troops were in retreat. He turned, and shouted, laughing:
“Come on! there's only one man here—and he's dead!”
But my father reached up his hand, to where the officer stood above
him, and pulled at his scabbard.
“Not dead, but dying, Captain,” my father said. “And that's better
than retreating, isn't it?”
“And that is the story,” my grandfather used to say to me, “you
must remember of your father, and whatever else he did does not
At the age of ten my grandfather sent me to a military academy near
Dobbs Ferry, where boys were prepared for college and for West Point
and Annapolis. I was a very poor scholar, and, with the exception of
what I learned in the drill-hall and the gymnasium, the academy did me
very little good, and I certainly did not, at that time at least,
reflect any credit on the academy. Had I been able to take half the
interest in my studies my grandfather showed in them, I would have won
prizes in every branch; but even my desire to please him could not
make me understand the simplest problems in long division; and later
here at the Point, the higher branches of mathematics, combined with
other causes, have nearly deprived the United States Army of a gallant
officer. I believe I have it in me to take a piece of field artillery
by assault, but I know I shall never be able to work out the formula
necessary to adjust its elevation.
With the exception, perhaps, of Caesar's “Commentaries,” I hated
all of my studies, not only on their own account, but because they cut
me out of the talks with which in the past my grandfather and I had
been wont to close each day. These talks, which were made up on my
part of demands for more stories, or for repetitions of those I
already knew by heart, did more than any other thing to inspire me
with a desire for military glory. My grandfather had served through
the Mexican War, in the Indian campaigns on the plains, and during the
War of the Rebellion, and his memory recalled the most wonderful and
exciting of adventures. He was singularly modest, which is a virtue I
never could consider as a high one, for I find that the world takes
you at your own valuation, and unless “the terrible trumpet of Fame”
is sounded by yourself no one else will blow your trumpet for you. Of
that you may be sure. But I can't recall ever having heard my
grandfather relate to people of his own age any of the adventures
which he told me, and once I even caught him recounting a personal
experience which redounded greatly to his credit as having happened to
“a man in his regiment.” When with childish delight I at once accused
him of this he was visibly annoyed, and blushed like a girl, and
afterward corrected me for being so forward in the presence of my
elders. His modesty went even to the length of his keeping hidden in
his bedroom the three presentation swords which had been given him at
different times for distinguished action on the field. One came from
the men of his regiment, one from his townspeople after his return
from the City of Mexico, and one from the people of the State of New
York; and nothing I could say would induce him to bring them
downstairs to our sitting room, where visitors might see them.
Personally, I cannot understand what a presentation sword is for
except to show to your friends; for, as a rule, they are very badly
balanced and of no use for fighting.
Had it not been for the colored prints of the different battles in
Mexico which hung in our sitting room, and some Indian war-bonnets and
bows and arrows, and a box of duelling pistols, no one would have
supposed that our house belonged to one of the most distinguished
generals of his day. You may be sure I always pointed these out to our
visitors, and one of my chief pleasures was to dress one of my
schoolmates in the Indian war bonnet, and then scalp him with a
carving knife. The duelling pistols were even a greater delight to me.
They were equipped with rifle barrels and hair triggers, and were
inlaid richly with silver, and more than once had been used on the
field of honor. Whenever my grandfather went out for a walk, or to
play whist at the house of a neighbor, I would get down these pistols
and fight duels with myself in front of the looking-glass. With my
left hand I would hold the handkerchief above my head, and with the
other clutch the pistol at my side, and then, at the word, and as the
handkerchief fluttered to the floor, I would take careful aim and pull
the trigger. Sometimes I died and made speeches before I expired, and
sometimes I killed my adversary and stood smiling down at him.
My grandfather was a member of the Aztec Club, which was organized
during the occupation of the City of Mexico by the American officers
who had stormed the capital; and on the occasion of one of its annual
meetings, which that year was held in Philadelphia, I was permitted to
accompany him to that city. It was the longest journey from home I had
ever taken, and each incident of it is still clearly fixed in my mind.
The event of the reunion was a dinner given at the house of General
Patterson, and on the morning before the dinner the members of the
club were invited to assemble in the garden which surrounded his
house. To this meeting my grandfather conducted me, and I found myself
surrounded by the very men of whom he had so often spoken. I was very
frightened, and I confess I was surprised and greatly disappointed
also to find that they were old and gray-haired men, and not the young
and dashing warriors he had described. General Patterson alone did not
disappoint me, for even at that late day he wore a blue coat with
brass buttons and a buff waistcoat and high black stock. He had a
strong, fine profile and was smooth shaven. I remember I found him
exactly my ideal of the Duke of Wellington; for though I was only then
ten or twelve years of age, I had my own ideas about every soldier
from Alexander and Von Moltke to our own Captain Custer.
It was in the garden behind the Patterson house that we met the
General, and he alarmed me very much by pulling my shoulders back and
asking me my age, and whether or not I expected to be as brave a
soldier as my grandfather, to which latter question I said, “Yes,
General,” and then could have cried with mortification, for all of the
great soldiers laughed at me. One of them turned, and said to the only
one who was seated, “That is Hamilton's grandson.” The man who was
seated did not impress me very much. He was younger than the others.
He wore a black suit and a black tie, and the three upper buttons of
his waistcoat were unfastened. His beard was close-cropped, like a
blacking-brush, and he was chewing on a cigar that had burned so far
down that I remember wondering why it did not scorch his mustache. And
then, as I stood staring up at him and he down at me, it came over me
who he was, and I can recall even now how my heart seemed to jump, and
I felt terribly frightened and as though I were going to cry. My
grandfather bowed to the younger man in the courteous, old-fashioned
manner he always observed, and said: “General, this is my grandchild,
Captain Macklin's boy. When he grows up I want him to be able to say
he has met you. I am going to send him to West Point.”
The man in the chair nodded his head at my grandfather, and took
his cigar from his mouth and said, “When he's ready to enter, remind
me, let me know,” and closed his lips again on his cigar, as though he
had missed it even during that short space if time. But had he made a
long oration neither my grandfather nor I could have been more deeply
moved. My grandfather said: “Thank you, General. It is very kind of
you,” and led me away smiling so proudly that it was beautiful to see
him. When he had entered the house he stopped, and bending over me,
asked. “Do you know who that was, Roy?” But with the awe of the moment
still heavy upon me I could only nod and gasp at him.
“That was General Grant,” my grandfather said.
“Yes, I know,” I whispered.
I am not particularly proud of the years that preceded my entrance
to West Point, and of the years I have spent here I have still less
reason to be content. I was an active boy, and behaved as other young
cubs of that age, no better and no worse. Dobbs Ferry was not a place
where temptations beset one, and, though we were near New York, we
were not of it, and we seldom visited it. When we did, it was to go to
a matinee at some theatre, returning the same afternoon in time for
supper. My grandfather was very fond of the drama, and had been
acquainted since he was a young man with some of the most
distinguished actors. With him I saw Edwin Booth in “Macbeth,” and
Lester Wallack in “Rosedale,” and John McCullough in “Virginius,” a
tragedy which was to me so real and moving that I wept all the way
home in the train. Sometimes I was allowed to visit the theatre alone,
and on these afternoons I selected performances of a lighter variety,
such as that given by Harrigan Hart in their theatre on Broadway.
Every Thanksgiving Day I was allowed, after witnessing the annual
football match between the students from Princeton and Yale
universities, to remain in town all that night. On these great
occasions I used to visit Koster Bial's on Twenty-third Street, a
long, low building, very dark and very smoky, and which on those
nights was blocked with excited mobs of students, wearing different
colored ribbons and shouting the cries of their different colleges. I
envied and admired these young gentlemen, and thought them very fine
fellows indeed. They wore in those days long green coats, which made
them look like coachmen, and high, bell-shaped hats, both of which, as
I now can see, were a queer survival of the fashions of 1830, and
which now for the second time have disappeared.
To me, with my country clothes and manners and scanty spending
money, the way these young collegians wagered their money at the
football match and drank from their silver flasks, and smoked and
swaggered in the hotel corridors, was something to be admired and
copied. And although I knew none of them, and would have been ashamed
had they seen me in company with any of my boy friends from Dobbs
Ferry, I followed them from one hotel to another, pretending I was
with them, and even penetrated at their heels into the cafe of
Delmonico. I felt then for a brief moment that I was “seeing life,”
the life of a great metropolis, and in company with the young swells
who made it the rushing, delightful whirlpool it appeared to be.
It seemed to me, then, that to wear a green coachman's coat, to
rush the doorkeeper at the Haymarket dance-hall, and to eat supper at
the “Silver Grill” was to be “a man about town,” and each year I
returned to our fireside at Dobbs Ferry with some discontent. The
excursions made me look restlessly forward to the day when I would
return from my Western post, a dashing young cavalry officer on leave,
and would wake up the cafes and clubs of New York, and throw my money
about as carelessly as these older boys were doing then.
My appointment to West Point did not, after all, come from General
Grant, but from President Arthur, who was in office when I reached my
nineteenth year. Had I depended upon my Congressman for the
appointment, and had it been made after a competitive examination of
candidates, I doubt if I would have been chosen.
Perhaps my grandfather feared this and had it in his mind when he
asked the President to appoint me. It was the first favor he had ever
asked of the Government he had served so well, and I felt more
grateful to him for having asked the favor, knowing what it cost him
to do so, than I did to the President for granting it.
I was accordingly entered upon the rolls of the Military Academy,
and my career as a soldier began. I wish I could say it began
brilliantly, but the records of the Academy would not bear me out. Had
it not been that I was forced to study books I would not have been a
bad student; for in everything but books, in everything that bore
directly on the training of a soldier and which depended upon myself,
as, for example, drill, riding, marksmanship, and a knowledge of the
manual, I did as well, or far better, than any of my classmates. But I
could not, or would not, study, and instead of passing high in my
class at the end of the plebe year, as my natural talents seemed to
promise I would do, I barely scraped through, and the outlook for the
second year was not encouraging. The campaign in Mexico had given my
grandfather a knowledge of Spanish, and as a boy he had drilled this
language into me, for it was a fixed belief of his, that if the United
States ever went to war, it would be with some of her Spanish-American
neighbors, with Mexico, or Central America, or with Spain on account
of Cuba. In consequence he considered it most essential that every
United States officer should speak Spanish. He also argued that a
knowledge of French was of even greater importance to an officer and a
gentleman, as it was, as I have since found it to be, the most widely
spoken of all languages. I was accordingly well drilled in these two
tongues, and I have never regretted time I spent on them, for my
facility in them has often served me well, has pulled me out of tight
places, put money into my pocket, and gained me friends when but for
them I might have remained and departed a stranger among strangers. My
French accordingly helped me much as a “yearling,” and in camp I threw
myself so earnestly into the skirmish, artillery, and cavalry drills
that in spite of my low marks I still stood high in the opinion of the
cadet officers and of my instructors. With my classmates, for some
reason, although in all out-of-door exercises I was the superior of
most of them, I was not popular. I would not see this at first, for I
try to keep on friendly terms with those around me, and I want to be
liked even by people of whom I have no very high opinion and from whom
I do not want anything besides. But I was not popular. There was no
disguising that, and in the gymnasium or the riding-hall other men
would win applause for performing a feat of horsemanship or a
difficult trick on the parallel bars, which same feat, when I repeated
it immediately after them, and even a little better than they had done
it, would be received in silence. I could not see the reason for this,
and the fact itself hurt me much more than anyone guessed. Then as
they would not signify by their approbation that I was the best
athlete in the class, I took to telling them that I was, which did not
help matters. I find it is the same in the world as it is at the
Academy—that if one wants recognition, he must pretend not to see
that he deserves it. If he shows he does see it, everyone else will
grow blind, holding, I suppose, that a conceited man carries his own
comfort with him, and is his own reward. I soon saw that the cadet who
was modest received more praise than the cadet who was his superior,
but who, through repeated success, had acquired a self-confident, or,
as some people call it, a conceited manner; and so, for a time, I
pretended to be modest, too, and I never spoke of my athletic
successes. But I was never very good at pretending, and soon gave it
up. Then I grew morbid over my inability to make friends, and moped by
myself, having as little to do with my classmates as possible. In my
loneliness I began to think that I was a much misunderstood
individual. My solitary state bred in me a most unhealthy disgust for
myself, and, as it always is with those who are at times exuberantly
light-hearted and self-assertive, I had terrible fits of depression
and lack of self-confidence, during which spells I hated myself and
all of those about me. Once, during one of these moods, a First-Class
man, who had been a sneak in his plebe year and a bully ever since,
asked me, sneeringly, how “Napoleon on the Isle of St. Helena “was
feeling that morning, and I told him promptly to go to the devil, and
added that if he addressed me again, except in the line of his duty, I
would thrash him until he could not stand or see. Of course he sent me
his second, and one of my classmates acted for me. We went out that
same evening after supper behind Fort Clinton, and I thrashed him so
badly that he was laid up in the hospital for several days. After that
I took a much more cheerful view of life, and as it seemed hardly fair
to make one cadet bear the whole brunt of my displeasure toward the
entire battalion, I began picking quarrels with anyone who made
pretensions of being a fighter, and who chanced to be bigger than
Sometimes I got badly beaten, and sometimes I thrashed the other
man, but whichever way it went, those battles in the soft twilight
evenings behind the grass-grown ramparts of the old fort, in the
shadow of the Kosciusko Monument, will always be the brightest and
pleasantest memories of my life at this place.
My grandfather had one other daughter besides my mother, my Aunt
Mary, who had married a Harvard professor, Dr. Endicott, and who had
lived in Cambridge ever since they married.
In my second year here, Dr. Endicott died and my grandfather at
once went to Cambridge to bring Aunt Mary and her daughter Beatrice
back with him, installing them in our little home, which thereafter
was to be theirs as well. He wrote me saying he knew I would not
disapprove of this invasion of my place by my young cousin and assured
me that no one, girl or boy, could ever take the place in his heart
that I had held. As a matter of fact I was secretly pleased to hear of
this addition to our little household. I knew that as soon as I was
graduated I would be sent to some army post in the West, and that the
occasional visit I was now able to pay to Dobbs Ferry would be
discontinued. I hated to think that in his old age my grandfather
would be quite alone. On the other hand, when, after the arrival of my
cousin, I received his first letter and found it filled with
enthusiastic descriptions of her, and of how anxious she was to make
him happy, I felt a little thrill of jealousy. It gave me some sharp
pangs of remorse, and I asked myself searchingly if I had always done
my utmost to please my grandfather and to give him pride and pleasure
in me. I determined for the future I would think only of how to make
A few weeks later I was able to obtain a few hours' leave, and I
wasted no time in running down from the Point to make the acquaintance
of my cousin, and to see how the home looked under the new regime. I
found it changed, and, except that I felt then and afterward that I
was a guest, it was changed for the better.
I found that my grandfather was much more comfortable in every way.
The newcomers were both eager and loving, although no one could help
but love my grandfather, and they invented wants he had never felt
before, and satisfied them, while at the same time they did not
interfere with the life he had formerly led. Aunt Mary is an unselfish
soul, and most content when she is by herself engaged in the affairs
of the house and in doing something for those who live in it. Besides
her unselfishness, which is to me the highest as it is the rarest of
virtues, hers is a sweet and noble character, and she is one of the
gentlest souls that I have ever known.
I may say the same of my cousin Beatrice. When she came into the
room, my first thought was how like she was to a statuette of a
Dresden shepherdess which had always stood at one end of our
mantel-piece, coquetting with the shepherd lad on the other side of
the clock. As a boy, the shepherdess had been my ideal of feminine
loveliness. Since then my ideals had changed rapidly and often, but
Beatrice reminded me that the shepherdess had once been my ideal. She
wore a broad straw hat, with artificial roses which made it hang down
on one side, and, as she had been working in our garden, she wore huge
gloves and carried a trowel in one hand. As she entered, my
grandfather rose hastily from his chair and presented us with
impressive courtesy. “Royal,” he said, “this is your cousin, Beatrice
Endicott.” If he had not been present, I think we would have shaken
hands without restraint. But he made our meeting something of a
ceremony. I brought my heels together and bowed as I have been taught
to do at the Academy, and seeing this she made a low courtesy. She did
this apparently with great gravity, but as she kept her eyes on mine I
saw that she was mocking me. If I am afraid of anything it has
certainly never proved to be a girl, but I confess I was strangely
embarrassed. My cousin seemed somehow different from any of the other
girls I had met. She was not at all like those with whom I had danced
at the hotel hops, and to whom I gave my brass buttons in Flirtation
Walk. She was more fine, more illusive, and yet most fascinating, with
a quaint old- fashioned manner that at times made her seem quite a
child, and the next moment changed her into a worldly and charming
young woman. She made you feel she was much older than yourself in
years and in experience and in knowledge. That is the way my cousin
appeared to me the first time I saw her, when she stood in the middle
of the room courtesying mockingly at me and looking like a picture on
an old French fan. That is how she has since always seemed to me—one
moment a woman, and the next a child; one moment tender and kind and
merry, and the next disapproving, distant, and unapproachable.
[Illustration: He made our meeting something of a ceremony.]
Up to the time I met Beatrice I had never thought it possible to
consider a girl as a friend. For the matter of that, I had no friends
even among men, and I made love to girls. My attitude toward girls, if
one can say that a man of eighteen has an attitude, was always that of
the devoted admirer. If they did not want me as a devoted admirer, I
put them down as being proud and haughty or “stuck up.” It never
occurred to me then that there might be a class of girl who, on
meeting you, did not desire that you should at once tell her exactly
how you loved her, and why. The girls who came to Cranston's certainly
seemed to expect you to set their minds at rest on that subject, and
my point of view of girls was taken entirely from them. I can remember
very well my pause of dawning doubt and surprise when a girl first
informed me she thought a man who told her she was pretty was
impertinent. What bewildered me still more on that occasion was that
this particular girl was so extremely beautiful that to talk about
anything else but her beauty was a waste of time. It made all other
topics trivial, and yet she seemed quite sincere in what she said, and
refused to allow me to bring our talk to the personal basis of “what I
am to you” and “what you are to me.” It was in discussing that
question that I considered myself an artist and a master. My
classmates agreed with me in thinking as I did, and from the first
moment I came here called me “Masher” Macklin, a sobriquet of which I
fear for a time I was rather proud. Certainly, I strove to live up to
it. I believe I dignified my conduct to myself by calling it
“flirtation.” Flirtation, as I understood it, was a sort of game in
which I honestly believed the entire world of men and women, of every
class and age, were eagerly engaged. Indeed, I would have thought it
rather ungallant, and conduct unworthy of an officer and a gentleman,
had I not at once pretended to hold an ardent interest in every girl I
met. This seems strange now, but from the age of fourteen up to the
age of twenty that was my way of regarding the girls I met, and even
today I fear my attitude toward them has altered but slightly, for
now, although I no longer tend to care when I do not, nor make love as
a matter of course, I find it is the easiest attitude to assume toward
most women. It is the simplest to slip into, just as I have certainly
found it the one from which it is most difficult to escape, But I
never seem to remember that until it is too late. A classmate of mine
once said to me: “Royal, you remind me of a man walking along a road
with garden gates opening on each side of it. Instead of keeping to
the road, you stop at every gate, and say: 'Oh! what a pretty garden!
I'll just slip in there, and find out where that path will take me.'
And then—you're either thrown out, and the gate slammed after you, or
you lose yourself in a maze and you can't get out—until you break
out. But does that ever teach you a lesson? No! Instead of going ahead
along the straight and narrow way, and keeping out of temptation, you
halt at the very next gate you come to, just as though you had never
seen a gate before, and exclaim: 'Now, this is a pretty garden,
and what a neat white fence! I really must vault in and take a
look round.' And so the whole thing is gone over again.”
I confess there may be some truth in what he said, but the trouble
I find with the straight and narrow way is that there's not room
enough in it for two. And, then, it is only fair to me to say that
some of the gardens were really most beautiful, and the shade very
deep and sweet there, and the memories of the minutes I passed in them
were very refreshing when I went back to the dust of the empty road.
And no one, man or woman, can say that Royal Macklin ever trampled on
the flowers, or broke the branches, or trespassed in another man's
It was my cousin Beatrice who was responsible for the change of
heart in me toward womankind. For very soon after she came to live
with us, I noticed that in regard to all other young women I was
growing daily more exacting. I did not admit this to myself, and still
less to Beatrice, because she was most scornful of the girls I knew,
and mocked at them. This was quite unfair of her, because she had no
real acquaintance with them, and knew them only from photographs and
tintypes, of which I had a most remarkable collection, and of what I
chose to tell her about them. I was a good deal annoyed to find that
the stories which appealed to me as best illustrating the character of
each of my friends, only seemed to furnish Beatrice with fresh
material for ridicule, and the girls of whom I said the least were the
ones of whom she approved. The only girls of my acquaintance who also
were friends of hers, were two sisters who lived at Dobbs Ferry, and
whose father owned the greater part of it, and a yacht, in which he
went down to his office every morning. But Beatrice held that my
manner even to them was much too free and familiar, and that she could
not understand why I did not see that it was annoying to them as well.
I could not tell her in my own defence that their manner to me, when
she was with us and when she was not, varied in a remarkable degree.
It was not only girls who carried themselves differently before
Beatrice: every man who met her seemed to try and show her the best in
him, or at least to suppress any thought or act which might displease
her. It was not that she was a prig, or an angel, but she herself was
so fine and sincere, and treated all with such an impersonal and yet
gracious manner that it became contagious, and everybody who met her
imitated the model she unconsciously furnished. I was very much struck
with this when she visited the Academy. Men who before her coming had
seemed bold enough for any game, became dumb and embarrassed in her
presence, and eventually it was the officers and instructors who
escorted her over the grounds, while I and my acquaintances among the
cadets formed a straggling rear-guard at her heels. On account of my
grandfather, both she and my aunt were made much of by the Commandant
and all the older officers, and when they continued to visit the
Academy they were honored and welcomed for themselves, and I found
that on such occasions my own popularity was enormously increased. I
have always been susceptible to the opinion of others. Even when the
reigning belle or the popular man of the class was not to me
personally attractive, the fact that she was the reigning belle and
that he was the man of the hour made me seek out the society of each.
This was even so, when, as a matter of fact, I should have much
preferred to dance with some less conspicuous beauty or talk with a
more congenial companion. Consequently I began to value my cousin,
whom I already regarded with the most tremendous admiration, for those
lighter qualities which are common to all attractive girls, but which
in my awe of her I had failed to recognize. There were many times,
even, when I took myself by the shoulders and faced the question if I
were not in love with Beatrice. I mean truly in love, with that sort
of love that one does not talk about, even to one's self, certainly
not to the girl. As the young man of the family, I had assumed the
position of the heir of the house, and treated Beatrice like a younger
sister, but secretly I considered her in no such light.
Many nights when on post I would halt to think of her, and of her
loveliness and high sincerity, and forget my duty while I stood with
my arms crossed on the muzzle of my gun. In such moments the night,
the silence, the moonlight piercing the summer leaves and falling at
my feet, made me forget my promise to myself that I would never marry.
I used to imagine then it was not the unlicked cubs under the distant
tents I was protecting, but that I was awake to watch over and guard
Beatrice, or that I was a knight, standing his vigil so that he might
be worthy to wear the Red Cross and enter her service. In those lonely
watches I saw littlenesses and meannesses in myself, which I could not
see in the brisk light of day, and my self-confidence slipped from me
and left me naked and abashed. I saw myself as a vain, swaggering boy,
who, if he ever hoped to be a man among men, such as Beatrice was a
woman above all other women, must change his nature at once and
I was glad that I owed these good resolutions to her. I was glad
that it was she who inspired them. Those nights, as I leaned on my
gun, I dreamed even that it might end happily and beautifully in our
marriage. I wondered if I could make her care, if I could ever be
worthy of her, and I vowed hotly that I would love her as no other
woman was ever loved.
And then I would feel the cold barrel of my musket pressing against
the palm of my hand, or the bayonet would touch my cheek, and at the
touch something would tighten in my throat, and I would shake the
thoughts from me and remember that I was sworn to love only my country
and my country's flag.
In my third year here my grandfather died. As the winter closed in
he had daily grown more feeble, and sat hour after hour in his great
armchair, dozing and dreaming, before the open fire. And one morning
when he was alone in the room, Death, which had so often taken the man
at his side, and stood at salute to let him live until his work was
done, came to him and touched him gently. A few days later when his
body passed through the streets of our little village, all the
townspeople left their houses and shops, and stood in silent rows
along the sidewalks, with their heads uncovered to the falling snow.
Soldiers of his old regiments, now busy men of affairs in the great
city below us, came to march behind him for the last time. Officers of
the Loyal Legion, veterans of the Mexican War, regulars from
Governor's Island, with their guns reversed, societies, political
clubs, and strangers who knew him only by what he had done for his
country, followed in the long procession as it wound its way through
the cold, gray winter day to the side of the open grave. Until then I
had not fully understood what it meant to me, for my head had been
numbed and dulled; but as the body disappeared into the grave, and the
slow notes of the bugle rose in the final call of “Lights out,” I put
my head on my aunt's shoulder and cried like a child. And I felt as
though I were a child again, as I did when he came and sat beside my
bed, and heard me say my prayers, and then closed the door behind him,
leaving me in the darkness and alone.
But I was not entirely alone, for Beatrice was true and
understanding; putting her own grief out of sight, caring for mine,
and giving it the first place in her thoughts. For the next two days
we walked for hours through the autumn woods where the dead leaves
rustled beneath our feet, thinking and talking of him. Or for hours we
would sit in silence, until the sun sank a golden red behind the wall
of the Palisades, and we went back through the cold night to the open
fireside and his empty chair.
ST. CHARLES HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS
Six months ago had anyone told me that the day would come when I
would feel thankful for the loss of my grandfather, I would have
struck him. But for the last week I have been almost thankful that he
is dead. The worst that could occur has happened. I am in bitter
disgrace, and I am grateful that grandfather died before it came upon
me. I have been dismissed from the Academy. The last of the “Fighting”
Macklins has been declared unfit to hold the President's commission. I
am cast out irrevocably; there is no appeal against the decision. I
shall never change the gray for the blue. I shall never see the U. S.
on my saddle-cloth, nor salute my country's flag as it comes
fluttering down at sunset.
That I am on my way to try and redeem myself is only an attempt to
patch up the broken pieces. The fact remains that the army has no use
for me. I have been dismissed from West Point, in disgrace. It was a
girl who brought it about, or rather my own foolishness over a girl.
And before that there was much that led up to it. It is hard to write
about it, but in these memoirs I mean to tell everything—the good,
with the bad. And as I deserve no excuse, I make none.
During that winter, after the death of my grandfather, and the
spring which had followed, I tried hard to do well at the Point. I
wanted to show them that though my grandfather was gone, his example
and his wishes still inspired me. And though I was not a studious
cadet, I was a smart soldier, and my demerits, when they came, were
for smoking in my room or for breaking some other such silly rule, and
never for slouching through the manual or coming on parade with my
belts twisted. And at the end of the second year I had been promoted
from corporal to be a cadet first sergeant, so that I was fourth in
command over a company of seventy. Although this gave me the advantage
of a light after “taps” until eleven o'clock, my day was so taken up
with roll-calls, riding and evening drills and parade, that I never
seemed to find time to cram my mechanics and chemistry, of which
latter I could never see any possible benefit. How a knowledge of what
acid will turn blue litmus-paper red is going to help an officer to
find fodder for his troop horses, or inspire him to lead a forlorn
hope, was then, and still is, beyond my youthful comprehension.
But these studies were down on the roster, and whether I thought
well of them or not I was marked on them and judged accordingly. But I
cannot claim that it was owing to them or my failure to understand
them that my dismissal came, for, in spite of the absence of 3's in my
markings and the abundance of 2's, I was still a soldierly cadet, and
in spite of the fact that I was a stupid student, I made an excellent
The trouble, when it came, was all my own making, and my dismissal
was entirely due to an act of silly recklessness and my own idiocy. I
had taken chances before and had not been caught; several times I ran
the sentries at night for the sake of a noisy, drunken spree at a
road- side tavern, and several times I had risked my chevrons because
I did not choose to respect the arbitrary rules of the Academy which
chafed my spirit and invited me to rebellion. It was not so much that
I enjoyed those short hours of freedom, which I snatched in the face
of such serious penalties, but it was the risk of the thing itself
which attracted me, and which stirred the spirit of adventure that at
times sways us all.
It was a girl who brought about my dismissal. I do not mean that
she was in any way to blame, but she was the indirect cause of my
leaving the Academy. It was a piece of fool's fortune, and I had not
even the knowledge that I cared in the least for the girl to console
me. She was only one of the several “piazza girls,” as we called
certain ones of those who were staying at Cranston's, with whom I had
danced, to whom I had made pretty speeches, and had given the bell
button that was sewn just over my heart. She certainly was not the
best of them, for I can see now that she was vain and shallow, with a
pert boldness, which I mistook for vivacity and wit. Three years ago,
at the age of twenty, my knowledge of women was so complete that I
divided them into six classes, and as soon as I met a new one I placed
her in one of these classes and created her according to the line of
campaign I had laid down as proper for that class. Now, at
twenty-three, I believe that there are as many different kinds of
women as there are women, but that all kinds are good. Some women are
better than others, but all are good, and all are different. This
particular one unknowingly did me a great harm, but others have given
me so much that is for good, that the balance side is in their favor.
If a man is going to make a fool of himself, I personally would rather
see him do it on account of a woman than for any other cause. For
centuries Antony has been held up to the scorn of the world because he
deserted his troops and his fleet, and sacrificed the Roman Empire for
the sake of Cleopatra. Of course, that is the one thing a man cannot
do, desert his men and betray his flag; but, if he is going to make a
bad break in life, I rather like his doing it for the love of a woman.
And, after all, it is rather fine to have for once felt something in
you so great that you placed it higher than the Roman Empire.
I haven't the excuse of any great feeling in my case. She, the girl
at Cranston's, was leaving the Point on the morrow, and she said if
all I had sworn to her was true I would run the sentries that night to
dance with her at the hop. Of course, love does not set tests nor ask
sacrifices, but I had sworn that I had loved her, as I understood the
world, and I told her I would come. I came, and I was recognized as I
crossed the piazza to the ball-room. On the morning following I was
called to the office of the Commandant and was told to pack my trunk.
I was out of uniform in an hour, and that night at parade the order of
the War Department dismissing me from the service was read to the
[Illustration: We walked out to the woods.]
I cannot write about that day. It was a very bright, beautiful day,
full of life and sunshine, and I remember that I wondered how the
world could be so cruel and unfeeling. The other second classmen came
in while I was packing my things to say that they were sorry. They
were kind enough; and some of them wanted me to go off to New York to
friends of theirs and help upset it and get drunk. Their idea was, I
suppose, to show the authorities how mistaken they had been in not
making me an officer. But I could not be civil to any of them. I hated
them all, and the place, and everyone in it. When I was dismissed my
first thought was one of utter thankfulness that my grandfather died
before the disgrace came upon me, and after that I did not much care.
I was desperate and bitterly miserable. I knew, as the authorities
could not know, that no one in my class felt more loyal to the service
than myself; that I would have died twenty deaths for my country; that
there was no one company post in the West, however distant from
civilization, that would not have been a paradise to me; that there
was no soldier in the army who would have served more devotedly than
myself. And now I was found wanting and thrown out to herd with
civilians, as unfit to hold the President's commission. After my first
outbreak of impotent rage—for I blamed everyone but myself—remorse
set in, and I thought of grandfather and of how much he had done for
our country, and how we had talked so confidently together of the days
when I would follow in his footsteps, as his grandchild, and as the
son of “Fighting Macklin.”
All my life I had talked and thought of nothing else, and now, just
as I was within a year of it, I was shown the door which I never can
That it might be easier for us when I arrived, I telegraphed
Beatrice what had happened, and when I reached the house the same
afternoon she was waiting for me at the door, as though I was coming
home for a holiday and it was all as it might have been. But neither
of us was deceived, and without a word we walked out of the garden and
up the hill to the woods where we had last been together six months
before, Since then all had changed. Summer had come, the trees were
heavy with leaves, and a warm haze hung over the river and the
Palisades beyond We seated ourselves on a fallen tree at the top of
the hill and sat in silence, looking down into the warm, beautiful
valley. It was Beatrice who was the first to speak.
“I have been thinking of what you can do,” she began, gently, “and
it seems to me, Royal, that what you need now is a good rest. It has
been a hard winter for you. You have had to meet the two greatest
trials that I hope will ever come to you. You took the first one well,
as you should, and you will take this lesser one well also; I know you
will. But you must give yourself time to get over this—this
disappointment, and to look about you. You must try to content
yourself at home with mother and with me. I am so selfish that I am
almost glad it has happened, for now for a time we shall have you with
us, all to ourselves, and we can take care of you and see that you are
not gloomy and morbid. And then when the fall comes you will have
decided what is best to do, and you will have a rest and a quiet
summer with those who understand you and love you. And then you can go
out into the world to do your work, whatever your work is to be.”
I turned toward her and stared at her curiously.
“Whatever my work is to be,” I repeated. “That was decided for me,
Beatrice, when I was a little boy.”
She returned my look for a moment in some doubt, and then leaned
eagerly forward. “You mean to enlist?” she asked.
“To enlist? Not I!” I answered hotly. “If I'm not fit to be an
officer now, I never shall be, at least not by that road. Do you know
what it means? It's the bitterest life a man can follow. He is neither
the one thing nor the other. The enlisted men suspect him, and the
officers may not speak with him. I know one officer who got his
commission that way. He swears now he would rather have served the
time in jail. The officers at the post pointed him out to visitors, as
the man who had failed at West Point, and who was working his way up
from the ranks, and the men of his company thought that he
thought, God help him, that he was too good for them, and made his
life hell. Do you suppose I'd show my musket to men of my old mess,
and have the girls I've danced with see me marching up and down a
board walk with a gun on my shoulder? Do you see me going on errands
for the men I've hazed, and showing them my socks and shirts at
inspection so they can give me a good mark for being a clean and tidy
soldier? No! I'll not enlist. If I'm not good enough to carry a sword
I'm not good enough to carry a gun, and the United States Army can
struggle along without me.”
Beatrice shook her head.
“Don't say anything you'll be sorry for, Royal,” she warned me.
“You don't understand,” I interrupted. “I'm not saying anything
against my own country or our army—how can I? I've proved clearly
enough that I'm not fit for it. I'm only too grateful, I've had three
years in the best military school in the world, at my country's
expense, and I'm grateful. Yes, and I'm miserable, too, that I have
failed to deserve it.”
I stood up and straightened my shoulders. “But perhaps there are
other countries less difficult to please,” I said, “where I can lose
myself and be forgotten, and where I can see service. After all, a
soldier's business is to fight, not to sit at a post all day or to do
a clerk's work at Washington.”
Even as I spoke these chance words I seemed to feel the cloud of
failure and disgrace passing from me. I saw vaguely a way to redeem
myself, and, though I had spoken with bravado and at random, the words
stuck in my mind, and my despondency fell from me like a heavy
“Come,” I said, cheerfully, “there can be no talk of a holiday for
me until I have earned it. You know I would love to stay here now with
you and Aunt in the old house, but I have no time to mope and be
petted. If you fall down, you must not lie in the road and cry over
your bruised shins; you must pick yourself up and go on again, even if
you are a bit sore and dirty.”
We said nothing more, but my mind was made up, and when we reached
the house I went at once to my room and repacked my trunk for a long
journey. It was a leather trunk in which my grandfather used to carry
his sword and uniform, and in it I now proudly placed the presentation
sword he had bequeathed to me in his will, and my scanty wardrobe and
$500 of the money he had left to me. All the rest of his fortune, with
the exception of the $2,000 a year he had settled upon me, he had, I
am glad to say, bequeathed with the house to Aunt Mary and Beatrice.
When I had finished my packing I joined them at supper, and such was
my elation at the prospect of at once setting forth to redeem myself,
and to seek my fortune, that to me the meal passed most cheerfully.
When it was finished, I found the paper of that morning, and spreading
it out upon the table began a careful search in the foreign news for
what tidings there might be of war.
I told Beatrice what I was doing, and without a word she brought
out my old school atlas, and together under the light of the
student-lamp we sought out the places mentioned in the foreign
despatches, and discussed them, and the chances they might offer me.
There were, I remember, at the time that paper was printed,
strained relations existing between France and China over the copper
mines in Tonkin; there was a tribal war in Upper Burmah with native
troops; there was a threat of complications in the Balkans, but the
Balkans, as I have since learned, are always with us and always
threatening. Nothing in the paper seemed to offer me the chance I
sought, and apparently peace smiled on every other portion of the
“There is always the mounted police in Canada,” I said,
“No,” Beatrice answered, quietly, and without asking her reasons I
accepted her decision and turned again to the paper. And then my eyes
fell on a paragraph which at first I had overlooked—a modest, brief
despatch tucked away in a corner, and unremarkable, except for its
strange date-line. It was headed, “The Revolt in Honduras.” I pointed
to it with my finger, and Beatrice leaned forward with her head close
to mine, and we read it together. “Tegucigalpa, June 17th,” it read.
“The revolution here has assumed serious proportions. President
Alvarez has proclaimed martial law over all provinces, and leaves
tomorrow for Santa Barbara, where the Liberal forces under the rebel
leader, ex-President Louis Garcia, were last in camp. General Laguerre
is coming from Nicaragua to assist Garcia with his foreign legion of
200 men. He has seized the Nancy Miller, belonging to the Isthmian
Line, and has fitted her with two Gatling guns. He is reported to be
bombarding the towns on his way along the coast, and a detachment of
Government troops is marching to Porto Cortez to prevent his landing.
His force is chiefly composed of American and other aliens, who
believe the overthrow of the present government will be beneficial to
“General Laguerre!” I cried, eagerly, “that is not a Spanish name.
General Laguerre must be a Frenchman. And it says that the men with
him are Americans, and that the present government is against all
I drew back from the table with a laugh, and stood smiling at
Beatrice, but she shook her head, even though she smiled, too.
“Oh, not that,” she said.
“My dear Beatrice,” I expostulated, “it certainly isn't right that
American interests in—what's the name of the place—in Honduras,
should be jeopardized, is it? And by an ignorant half-breed like this
President What's-his-name? Certainly not. It must be stopped, even if
we have to requisition every steamer the Isthmian Line has afloat.”
“Oh, Royal,” Beatrice cried, “you are not serious. No, you
wouldn't, you couldn't be so foolish. That's no affair of yours.
That's not your country. Besides, that is not war; it is speculation.
You are a gentleman, not a pirate and a filibuster.”
“William Walker was a filibuster,” I answered. “He took Nicaragua
with 200 men and held it for two years against 20,000. I must begin
somewhere,” I cried, “why not there? A girl can't understand these
things—at least, some girls can't—but I would have thought you
would. What does it matter what I do or where I go?” I broke out,
bitterly. “I have made a failure of my life at the very start. I am
sick and sore and desperate. I don't care where I go or what—-”
I would have ranted on for some time, no doubt, but that a look
from Beatrice stopped me in mid-air, and I stood silent, feeling
“I can understand this much,” she said, “that you are a foolish
boy. How dare you talk of having made a failure of your life? Your
life has not yet begun. You have yet to make it, and to show yourself
something more than a boy.” She paused, and then her manner changed,
and she came toward me, looking up at me with eyes that were moist and
softened with a sweet and troubled tenderness, and she took my hand
and held it close in both of hers.
I had never seen her look more beautiful than she did at that
moment. If it had been any other woman in the world but her, I would
have caught her in my arms and kissed her again and again, but because
it was she I could not touch her, but drew back and looked down into
her eyes with the sudden great feeling I had for her. And so we stood
for a moment, seeing each other as we had never seen each other
before. And then she caught her breath quickly and drew away. But she
turned her face toward me at once, and looked up at me steadily.
“I am so fond of you, Royal,” she said, bravely, “you know,
that—that I cannot bear to think of you doing anything in this world
that is not fine and for the best. But if you will be a knight errant,
and seek out dangers and fight windmills, promise me to be a true
knight and that you will fight only when you must and only on the side
that is just, and then you will come back bringing your sheaves with
I did not dare to look at her, but I raised her hand and held the
tips of her fingers against my lips, and I promised, but I would have
promised anything at that moment.
“If I am to be a knight,” I said, and my voice sounded very hoarse
and boyish, so that I hardly recognized it as my own, “you must give
me your colors to wear on my lance, and if any other knight thinks his
colors fairer, or the lady who gave them more lovely than you, I shall
She laughed softly and moved away.
“Of course,” she said, “of course, you must kill him.” She stepped
a few feet from me, and, raising her hands to her throat, unfastened a
little gold chain which she wore around her neck. She took it off and
held it toward me. “Would you like this?” she said. I did not answer,
nor did she wait for me to do so, but wound the chain around my wrist
and fastened it, and I raised it and kissed it, and neither of us
spoke. She went out to the veranda to warn her mother of my departure,
and I to tell the servants to bring the carriage to the door.
A few minutes later, the suburban train drew out of the station at
Dobbs Ferry, and I waved my hand to Beatrice as she sat in the
carriage looking after me. The night was warm and she wore a white
dress and her head was uncovered. In the smoky glare of the station
lamps I could still see the soft tints of her hair; and as the train
bumped itself together and pulled forward, I felt a sudden panic of
doubt, a piercing stab at my heart, and something called on me to leap
off the car that was bearing me away, and go back to the white figure
sitting motionless in the carriage. As I gripped the iron railing to
restrain myself, I felt the cold sweat springing to the palm of my
hand. For a moment I forgot the end of my long journey. I saw it as
something foolish, mad, fantastic. I was snatching at a flash of
powder, when I could warm my hands at an open fire. I was deserting
the one thing which counted and of which I was certain; the one thing
I loved. And then the train turned a curve, the lamps of the station
and the white ghostly figure were shut from me, and I entered the
glaring car filled with close air and smoke and smelling lamps. I
seated myself beside a window and leaned far out into the night, so
that the wind of the rushing train beat in my face.
And in a little time the clanking car-wheels seemed to speak to me,
beating out the words brazenly so that I thought everyone in the car
must hear them.
“Turn again, turn again, Royal Macklin,” they seemed to say to me.
“She loves you, Royal Macklin, she loves you, she loves you.”
And I thought of Dick Whittington when the Bow bells called to him,
as he paused in the country lane to look lack at the smoky roof of
London, and they had offered him so little, while for me the words
seemed to promise the proudest place a man could hold. And I imagined
myself still at home, working by day in some New York office and
coming back by night to find Beatrice at the station waiting for me,
always in a white dress, and with her brown hair glowing in the light
of the lamps. And I pictured us taking long walks together above the
Hudson, and quiet, happy evenings by the fire-side. But the rhythm of
the car-wheels altered, and from “She loves you, she loves you,” the
refrain now came brokenly and fiercely, like the reports of muskets
fired in hate and fear, and mixed with their roar and rattle I seemed
to distinguish words of command in a foreign tongue, and the groans of
men wounded and dying. And I saw, rising above great jungles and
noisome swamps, a long mountain-range piercing a burning, naked sky;
and in a pass in the mountains a group of my own countrymen, ragged
and worn and with eyes lit with fever, waving a strange flag, and
beset on every side by dark-faced soldiers, and I saw my own face
among them, hollow-cheeked and tanned, with my head bandaged in a
scarf; I felt the hot barrel of a rifle burning my palm, I smelt the
pungent odor of spent powder, my throat and nostrils were assailed
with smoke. I suffered all the fierce joy and agony of battle, and the
picture of the white figure of Beatrice grew dim and receded from me,
and as it faded the eyes regarded me wistfully and reproached me, but
I would not heed them, but turned my own eyes away. And again I saw
the menacing negro faces and the burning sunlight and the strange flag
that tossed and whimpered in the air above my head, the strange flag
of unknown, tawdry colors, like the painted face of a woman in the
street, but a flag at which I cheered and shouted as though it were my
own, as though I loved it; a flag for which I would fight and die.
The train twisted its length into the great station, the men about
me rose and crowded down the aisle, and I heard the cries of newsboys
and hackmen and jangling car-bells, and all the roar and tumult of a
great city at night.
But I had already made my choice. Within an hour I had crossed to
the Jersey side, and was speeding south, south toward New Orleans,
toward the Gulf of Mexico, toward Honduras, to Colonel Laguerre and
his foreign legion.
S.S. PANAMA, OFF COAST OF HONDURAS
To one who never before had travelled farther than is Dobbs Ferry
from Philadelphia, my journey south to New Orleans was something in
the way of an expedition, and I found it rich in incident and
adventure. Everything was new and strange, but nothing was so strange
as my own freedom. After three years of discipline, of going to bed by
drum- call, of waking by drum-call, and obeying the orders of others,
this new independence added a supreme flavor to all my pleasures. I
took my journey very seriously, and I determined to make every little
incident contribute to my better knowledge of the world. I rated the
chance acquaintances of the smoking-car as aids to a clear
understanding of mankind, and when at Washington I saw above the
house-tops the marble dome of the Capitol I was thrilled to think that
I was already so much richer in experience.
To me the country through which we passed spoke with but one
meaning. I saw it as the chess-board of the War of the Rebellion. I
imagined the towns fortified and besieged, the hills topped with
artillery, the forests alive with troops in ambush, and in my mind, on
account of their strategic value to the enemy, I destroyed the bridges
over which we passed. The passengers were only too willing to instruct
a stranger in the historical values of their country. They pointed out
to me where certain regiments had camped, where homesteads had been
burned, and where real battles, not of my own imagining, but which had
cost the lives of many men, had been lost and won. I found that to
these chance acquaintances the events of which they spoke were as
fresh after twenty years as though they had occurred but yesterday,
and they accepted my curiosity as only a natural interest in a still
vital subject. I judged it advisable not to mention that General
Hamilton was my grandfather. Instead I told them that I was the son of
an officer who had died for the cause of secession. This was the first
time I had ever missed an opportunity of boasting of my relationship
to my distinguished grandparent, and I felt meanly conscious that I
was in a way disloyal. But they were so genuinely pleased when they
learned that my father had fought for the South, that I lacked the
courage to tell them that while he was so engaged another relative of
mine had driven one of their best generals through three States.
I am one who makes the most of what he sees, and even the simplest
things filled me with delight; my first sight of cotton-fields, of
tobacco growing in the leaf, were great moments to me; and that the
men who guarded the negro convicts at work in the fields still clung
to the uniform of gray, struck me as a fact of pathetic interest.
I was delayed in New Orleans for only one day. At the end of that
time I secured passage on the steamer Panama. She was listed to sail
for Aspinwall at nine o'clock the next morning, and to touch at ports
along the Central American coast. While waiting for my steamer I
mobilized my transport and supplies, and purchased such articles as I
considered necessary for a rough campaign in a tropical climate. My
purchases consisted of a revolver, a money-belt, in which to carry my
small fortune, which I had exchanged into gold double-eagles, a pair
of field-glasses, a rubber blanket, a canteen, riding boots, and
saddle-bags. I decided that my uniform and saddle would be furnished
me from the quartermaster's department of Garcia's army, for in my
ignorance I supposed I was entering on a campaign conducted after the
methods of European armies.
We left the levees of New Orleans early in the morning, and for the
remainder of the day steamed slowly down the Mississippi River. I sat
alone upon the deck watching the low, swampy banks slipping past us on
either side, the gloomy cypress-trees heavy with gray moss, the
abandoned cotton-gins and disused negro quarters. As I did so a
feeling of homesickness and depression came upon me, and my
disgraceful failure at the Point, the loss of my grandfather, and my
desertion of Beatrice, for so it began to seem to me, filled me with a
The sun set the first day over great wastes of swamp, swamp-land,
and pools of inky black, which stretched as far as the eye could
reach; gloomy, silent, and barren of any form of life. It was a
picture which held neither the freedom of the open sea nor the human
element of the solid earth. It seemed to me as though the world must
have looked so when darkness brooded over the face of the waters, and
as I went to my berth that night I felt as though I were saying
good-by forever to allthat was dear to me—my country, my home, and
the girl I loved.
I was awakened in the morning by a motion which I had never before
experienced. I was being gently lifted and lowered and rolled to and
fro as a hammock is rocked by the breeze. For some minutes I lay
between sleep and waking, struggling back to consciousness, until with
a sudden gasp of delight it came to me that at last I was at sea. I
scrambled from my berth and pulled back the curtains of the air port.
It was as though over night the ocean had crept up to my window. It
stretched below me in great distances of a deep, beautiful blue.
Tumbling waves were chasing each other over it, and millions of white
caps glanced and flashed as they raced by me in the sun. It was my
first real view of the ocean, and the restlessness of it and the
freedom of it stirred me with a great happiness. I drank in its beauty
as eagerly as I filled my lungs with the keen salt air, and thanked
God for both.
The three short days which followed were full of new and delightful
surprises, some because it was all so strange and others because it
was so exactly what I had hoped it would be. I had read many tales of
the sea, but ships I knew only as they moved along the Hudson at the
end of the towing-line. I had never felt one rise and fall beneath me,
nor from the deck of one watched the sun sink into the water. I had
never at night looked up at the great masts, and seen them swing, like
a pendulum reversed, between me and the stars.
There was so much to learn that was new and so many things to see
on the waters, and in the skies, that it seemed wicked to sleep. So,
during nearly the whole of every night, I stood with Captain Leeds on
his bridge, or asked ignorant questions of the man at the wheel. The
steward of the Panama was purser, supercargo, and bar-keeper in one,
and a most interesting man. He apparently never slept, but at any hour
was willing to sit and chat with me. It was he who first introduced me
to the wonderful mysteries of the alligator pear as a salad, and
taught me to prefer, in a hot country, Jamaica rum with half a lime
squeezed into the glass to all other spirits. It was a most
I had much entertainment on board the Panama by pretending that I
was her captain, and that she was sailing under my orders. Sometimes I
pretended that she was an American man-of-war, and sometimes a
filibuster escaping from an American man-of-war. This may seem an
absurd and childish game, but I had always wanted to hold authority,
and as I had never done so, except as a drill sergeant at the Academy,
it was my habit to imagine myself in whatever position of
responsibility my surroundings suggested. For this purpose the Panama
served me excellently, and in scanning the horizon for hostile fleets
or a pirate flag I was as conscientious as was the lookout in the bow.
At the Academy I had often sat in my room with maps spread out before
me planning attacks on the enemy, considering my lines of
communication, telegraphing wildly for reinforcements, and despatching
my aides with a clearly written, comprehensive order to where my
advance column was engaged. I believe this “play-acting,” as my room-
mate used to call it, helped me to think quickly, to give an
intelligent command intelligently, and made me rich in resources.
For the first few days I was so enchanted with my new surroundings
that the sinister purpose of my journey South lost its full value. And
when, as we approached Honduras, it was recalled to me, I was
surprised to find that I had heard no one on board discuss the war,
nor refer to it in any way. When I considered this, I was the more
surprised because Porto Cortez was one of the chief ports at which we
touched, and I was annoyed to find that I had travelled so far for the
sake of a cause in which those directly interested felt so little
concern. I set about with great caution to discover the reason for
this lack of interest. The passengers of the Panama came from widely
different parts of Central America. They were coffee planters and
mining engineers, concession hunters, and promoters of mining
companies. I sounded each of them separately as to the condition of
affairs in Honduras, and gave as my reason for inquiring the fact that
I had thoughts of investing my money there. I talked rather largely of
my money. But this information, instead of inducing them to speak of
Honduras, only made each of them more eloquent in praising the
particular republic in which his own money was invested, and each
begged me to place mine with his. In the course of one day I was
offered a part ownership in four coffee plantations, a rubber forest,
a machine for turning the sea-turtles into fat and shell, and the
good-will and fixtures of a dentist's office. Except that I obtained
some reputation on board as a young man of property, which reputation
I endeavored to maintain by treating everyone to drinks in the social
hall, my inquiries led to no result. No one apparently knew, nor cared
to know, of the revolution in Honduras, and passed it over as a joke.
This hurt me, but lest they should grow suspicious, I did not continue
THE CAFE SANTOS, SAGUA LA GRANDE, HONDURAS
We sighted land at seven in the morning, and as the ship made in
toward the shore I ran to the bow and stood alone peering over the
rail. Before me lay the scene set for my coming adventures, and as the
ship threaded the coral reefs, my excitement ran so high that my
throat choked, and my eyes suddenly dimmed with tears. It seemed too
good to be real. It seemed impossible that it could be true; that at
last I should be about to act the life I had so long only rehearsed
and pretended. But the pretence had changed to something living and
actual. In front of me, under a flashing sun, I saw the palm-fringed
harbor of my dreams, a white village of thatched mud houses, a row of
ugly huts above which drooped limply the flags of foreign consuls,
and, far beyond, a deep blue range of mountains, forbidding and
mysterious, rising out of a steaming swamp into a burning sky, and on
the harbor's only pier, in blue drill uniforms and gay red caps, a
group of dark-skinned, swaggering soldiers. This hot, volcano-looking
land was the one I had come to free from its fetters. These swarthy
barefooted brigands were the men with whom I was to fight.
My trunk had been packed and strapped since sunrise, and before the
ship reached the pier, I had said “good-by” to everyone on board and
was waiting impatiently at the gang-way. I was the only passenger to
leave, and no cargo was unloaded nor taken on. She was waiting only
for the agent of the company to confer with Captain Leeds, and while
these men were conversing on the bridge, and the hawser was being
drawn on board, the custom-house officers, much to my disquiet, began
to search my trunk. I had nothing with me which was dutiable, but my
grandfather's presentation sword was hidden in the trunk and its
presence there and prospective use would be difficult to explain. It
was accordingly with a feeling of satisfaction that I noticed on a
building on the end of the pier the sign of our consulate and the
American flag, and that a young man, evidently an American, was
hurrying from it toward the ship. But as it turned out I had no need
of his services, for I had concealed the sword so cleverly by burying
each end of it in one of my long cavalry boots, that the official
failed to find it.
I had locked my trunk again and was waving final farewells to those
on the Panama, when the young man from the consulate began suddenly to
race down the pier, shouting as he came.
The gang-way had been drawn up, and the steamer was under way,
churning the water as she swung slowly seaward, but she was still
within easy speaking distance of the pierhead.
The young man rushed through the crowd, jostling the native Indians
and negro soldiers, and shrieked at the departing vessel.
“Stop!” he screamed, “stop! stop her!”
He recognized Captain Leeds on the bridge, and, running along the
pierhead until he was just below it, waved wildly at him.
“Where's my freight?” he cried. “My freight! You haven't put off my
Captain Leeds folded his arms comfortably upon the rail, and
regarded the young man calmly and with an expression of amusement.
“Where are my sewing-machines?” the young man demanded. “Where are
the sewing-machines invoiced me by this steamer?”
“Sewing-machines, Mr. Aiken?” the Captain answered. “I left your
sewing-machines in New Orleans.”
“You what?” shrieked the young man. “You left them?”
“I left them sitting on the company's levee,” the Captain
continued, calmly. “The revenue officers have 'em by now, Mr. Aiken.
Some parties said they weren't sewing-machines at all. They said you
were acting for Laguerre.”
The ship was slowly drawing away. The young man stretched out one
arm as though to detain her, and danced frantically along the
“How dare you!” he cried. “I'm a commission merchant. I deal in
whatever I please—and I'm the American Consul!”
The Captain laughed, and with a wave of his hand in farewell backed
away from the rail.
“That may be,” he shouted, “but this line isn't carrying freight
for General Laguerre, nor for you, neither.” He returned and made a
speaking trumpet of his hands. “Tell him from me,” he shouted,
mockingly, “that if he wants his sewing-machines he'd better go North
and steal 'em. Same as he stole our Nancy Miller.”
The young man shook both his fists in helpless anger.
“You damned banana trader,” he shrieked, “you'll lose your license
for this. I'll fix you for this. I'll dirty your card for you, you
The Captain flung himself far over the rail. He did not need a
speaking trumpet now—his voice would have carried above the tumult of
“You'll what?” he roared. “You'll dirty my card, you thieving
filibuster? Do you know what I'll do to you? I'll have your tin sign
taken away from you, before I touch this port again. You'll see—you—
you—“ he ended impotently for lack of epithets, but continued in
eloquent pantomime to wave his arms.
With an oath the young man recognized defeat, and shrugged his
“Oh, you go to the devil,” he shouted, and turned away. He saw me
observing him, and as I was the only person present who looked as
though he understood English, he grinned at me sheepishly, and nodded.
“I don't care for him,” he said. “He can't frighten me.”
I considered this as equivalent to an introduction.
“You are the United States Consul?” I asked. The young man nodded
“Yes; I am. Where do you come from?”
“Dobbs Ferry, near New York,” I answered. “I'd—-I'd like to have a
talk with you, when you are not busy.”
“That's all right,” he said. “I'm not busy now. That bumboat pirate
queered the only business I had. Where are you going to stop? There is
only one place,” he explained; “that's Pulido's. He'll knife you if he
thinks you have five dollars in your belt, and the bar-room is half
under water anyway. Or you can take a cot in my shack, if you like,
and I'll board and lodge you for two pesos a day—that's one dollar in
our money. And if you are going up country,” he went on, “I can fit
you out with mules and mozos and everything you want, from canned
meats to an escort of soldiers. You're sure to be robbed anyway,” he
urged, pleasantly, “and you might as well give the job to a fellow-
countryman. I'd hate to have one of these greasers get it.”
“You're welcome to try,” I said, laughing.
In spite of his manner, which was much too familiar and
patronizing, the young man amused me, and I must confess moreover that
at that moment I felt very far from home and was glad to meet an
American, and one not so much older than myself. The fact that he was
our consul struck me as a most fortunate circumstance.
He clapped his hands and directed one of the negroes to carry my
trunk to the consulate, and I walked with him up the pier, the native
soldiers saluting him awkwardly as he passed. He returned their salute
with a flourish, and more to impress me I guessed than from any regard
“That's because I'm Consul,” he said, with satisfaction. “There's
only eight white men in Porto Cortez,” he explained, “and we're all
consular agents. The Italian consular agent is a Frenchman, and an
Italian, Guessippi—the Banana King, they call him—is consular agent
for both Germany and England, and the only German here is consular
agent for France and Holland. You see, each of 'em has to represent
some other country than his own, because his country knows why he left
it.” He threw back his head and laughed at this with great delight.
Apparently he had already forgotten the rebuff from Captain Leeds. But
it had made a deep impression upon me. I had heard Leeds virtually
accuse the consul of being an agent of General Laguerre, and I
suspected that the articles he had refused to deliver were more likely
to be machine guns than sewing-machines. If this were true, Mr. Aiken
was a person in whom I could confide with safety.
The consulate was a one-story building of corrugated iron, hot,
unpainted, and unlovely. It was set on wooden logs to lift it from the
reach of “sand jiggers” and the surf, which at high tide ran up the
beach, under and beyond it. Inside it was rude and bare, and the heat
and the smell of the harbor, and of the swamp on which the town was
built, passed freely through the open doors.
Aiken proceeded to play the host in a most cordial manner. He
placed my trunk in the room I was to occupy, and set out some very
strong Honduran cigars and a bottle of Jamaica rum. While he did this
he began to grumble over the loss of his sewing-machines, and to swear
picturesquely at Captain Leeds, bragging of the awful things he meant
to do to him. But when he had tasted his drink and lighted a cigar,
his good-humor returned, and he gave his attention to me.
“Now then, young one,” he asked, in a tone of the utmost
familiarity, “what's your trouble?”
I explained that I could not help but hear what the Captain shouted
at him from the Panama, and I asked if it was contrary to the law of
Honduras for one to communicate with the officer Captain Leeds had
“The old man, hey?” Aiken exclaimed and stared at me apparently
with increased interest. “Well, there are some people who might
prevent your getting to him,” he answered, diplomatically. For a
moment he sipped his rum and water, while he examined me from over the
top of the cup. Then he winked and smiled.
“Come now,” he said, encouragingly. “Speak up. What's the game? You
can trust me. You're an agent for Collins, or the Winchester Arms
people, aren't you?”
“On the contrary,” I said, with some haughtiness, “I am serving no
one's interest but my own. I read in the papers of General Laguerre
and his foreign legion, and I came here to join him and to fight with
him. That's all. I am a soldier of fortune, I said.” I repeated this
with some emphasis, for I liked the sound of it. “I am a soldier of
fortune, and my name is Macklin. I hope in time to make it better
“A soldier of fortune, hey?” exclaimed Aiken, observing me with a
grin. “What soldiering have you done?”
I replied, with a little embarrassment, that as yet I had seen no
active service, but that for three years I had been trained for it at
“At West Point, the deuce you have!” said Aiken. His tone was now
one of respect, and he regarded me with marked interest. He was not a
gentleman, but he was sharp-witted enough to recognize one in me, and
my words and bearing had impressed him. Still his next remark was
“But if you're a West Point soldier,” he asked, “why the devil do
you want to mix up in a shooting-match like this?”
I was annoyed, but I answered, civilly: “It's in a good cause,” I
said. “As I understand the situation, this President Alvarez is a
tyrant. He's opposed to all progress. It's a fight for liberty.”
Aiken interrupted me with a laugh, and placed his feet on the
“Oh, come,” he said, in a most offensive tone. “Play fair, play
“Play fair? What do you mean?” I demanded.
“You don't expect me to believe,” he said, jeeringly, “that you
came all the way down here, just to fight for the sacred cause of
I may occasionally exaggerate a bit in representing myself to be a
more important person than I really am, but if I were taught nothing
else at the Point, I was taught to tell the truth, and when Aiken
questioned my word I felt the honor of the whole army rising within me
and stiffening my back-bone.
“You had better believe what I tell you, sir,” I answered him,
sharply. “You may not know it, but you are impertinent!”
I have seldom seen a man so surprised as was Aiken when I made this
speech. His mouth opened and remained open while he slowly removed his
feet from the table and allowed the legs of his chair to touch the
“Great Scott,” he said at last, “but you have got a nasty temper.
I'd forgotten that folks are so particular.”
“Particular—because I object to having my word doubted,” I asked.
“I must request you to send my trunk to Pulido's. I fancy you and I
won't hit it off together.” I rose and started to leave the room, but
he held out his hands to prevent me, and exclaimed, in consternation:
“Oh, that's no way to treat me,” he protested. “I didn't say
anything for you to get on your ear about. If I did, I'm sorry.” He
stepped forward, offering to shake my hand, and as I took his
doubtfully, he pushed me back into my chair.
“You mustn't mind me,” he went on. “It's been so long since I've
seen a man from God's country that I've forgotten how to do the
polite. Here, have another drink and start even.” He was so eager and
so suddenly humble that I felt ashamed of my display of offended
honor, and we began again with a better understanding.
I told him once more why I had come, and this time he accepted my
story as though he considered my wishing to join Laguerre the most
natural thing in the world, nodding his head and muttering
approvingly. When I had finished he said, “You may not think so now,
but I guess you've come to the only person who can help you. If you'd
gone to anyone else you'd probably have landed in jail.” He glanced
over his shoulder at the open door, and then, after a mysterious wink
at me, tiptoed out upon the veranda, and ran rapidly around and
through the house. This precaution on his part gave me a thrill of
satisfaction. I felt that at last I was a real conspirator that I was
concerned in something dangerous and weighty. I sipped at my glass
with an air of indifference, but as a matter of fact I was rather
“You can't be too careful,” Aiken said as he reseated himself. “Of
course, the whole thing is a comic opera, but if they suspect you are
working against them, they're just as likely as not to make it a
tragedy, with you in the star part. Now I'll explain how I got into
this, and I can assure you it wasn't through any love of liberty with
me. The consular agent here is a man named Quay, and he and I have
been in the commission business together. About three months ago, when
Laguerre was organizing his command at Bluefields, Garcia, who is the
leader of the revolutionary party, sent word down here to Quay to go
North for him and buy two machine guns and invoice 'em to me at the
consulate. Quay left on the next steamer and appointed me acting
consul, but except for his saying so I've no more real authority to
act as consul than you have. The plan was that when Laguerre captured
this port he would pick up the guns and carry them on to Garcia.
Laguerre was at Bluefields, but couldn't get into the game for lack of
a boat. So when the Nancy Miller touched there he and his crowd
boarded her just like a lot of old-fashioned pirates and turned the
passengers out on the wharf. Then they put a gun at the head of the
engineer and ordered him to take them back to Porto Cortez. But when
they reached here the guns hadn't arrived from New Orleans. And so,
after a bit of a fight on landing, Laguerre pushed on without them to
join Garcia. He left instructions with me to bring him word when they
arrived. He's in hiding up there in the mountains, waiting to hear
from me now. They ought to have come this steamer day on the Panama
along with you, but, as you know, they didn't. I never thought they
would. I knew the Isthmian Line people wouldn't carry 'em. They've got
to beat Garcia, and until this row is over they won't even carry a
mail-bag for fear he might capture it.”
“Is that because General Laguerre seized one of their steamers?” I
“No, it's an old fight,” said Aiken, “and Laguerre's stealing the
Nancy Miller was only a part of it. The fight began between Garcia and
the Isthmian Line when Garcia became president. He tried to collect
some money from the Isthmian Line, and old man Fiske threw him out of
the palace and made Alvarez president.”
I was beginning to find the politics of the revolution into which I
had precipitated myself somewhat involved, and I suppose I looked
puzzled, for Aiken laughed.
“You can laugh,” I said, “but it is rather confusing. Who is Fiske?
Is he another revolutionist?”
“Fiske!” exclaimed Aiken. “Don't tell me you don't know who Fiske
is? I mean old man Fiske, the Wall Street banker—Joseph Fiske, the
one who owns the steam yacht and all the railroads.”
I had of course heard of that Joseph Fiske, but his name to me was
only a word meaning money. I had never thought of Joseph Fiske as a
human being. At school and at the Point when we wanted to give the
idea of wealth that could not be counted we used to say, “As rich as
Joe Fiske.” But I answered, in a tone that suggested that I knew him
“Oh, that Fiske,” I said. “But what has he to do with Honduras?”
“He owns it,” Aiken answered. “It's like this,” he began. “You must
understand that almost every republic in Central America is under the
thumb of a big trading firm or a banking house or a railroad. For
instance, all these revolutions you read about in the papers—it's
seldom they start with the people. The puebleo don't often
elect a president or turn one out. That's generally the work of a New
York business firm that wants a concession. If the president in office
won't give it a concession the company starts out to find one who
will. It hunts up a rival politician or a general of the army who
wants to be president, and all of them do, and makes a deal with him.
It promises him if he'll start a revolution it will back him with the
money and the guns. Of course, the understanding is that if the leader
of the fake revolution gets in he'll give his New York backers
whatever they're after. Sometimes they want a concession for a
railroad, and sometimes it's a nitrate bed or a rubber forest, but you
can take my word for it that there's very few revolutions down here
that haven't got a money-making scheme at the bottom of them.
“Now this present revolution was started by the Isthmian Steamship
Line, of which Joe Fiske is president. It runs its steamers from New
Orleans to the Isthmus of Panama. In its original charter this
republic gave it the monopoly of the fruit-carrying trade from all
Hondurian ports. In return for this the company agreed to pay the
government $10,000 a year and ten per cent, on its annual receipts, if
the receipts ever exceeded a certain amount. Well, curiously enough,
although the line has been able to build seven new steamers, its
receipts have never exceeded that fixed amount. And if you know these
people the reason for that is very simple. The company has always
given each succeeding president a lump sum for himself, on the
condition that he won't ask any impertinent questions about the
company's earnings. Its people tell him that it is running at a loss,
and he always takes their word for it. But Garcia, when he came in,
either was too honest, or they didn't pay him enough to keep quiet. I
don't know which it was, but, anyway, he sent an agent to New Orleans
to examine the company's books. The agent discovered the earnings have
been so enormous that by rights the Isthmian Line owed the government
of Honduras $500,000. This was a great chance for Garcia, and he told
them to put up the back pay or lose their charter. They refused and he
got back at them by preventing their ships from taking on any cargo in
Honduras, and by seizing their plant here and at Truxillo. Well, the
company didn't dare to go to law about it, nor appeal to the State
Department, so it started a revolution. It picked out a thief named
Alvarez as a figure-head and helped him to bribe the army and capture
the capital. Then he bought a decision from the local courts in favor
of the company. After that there was no more talk about collecting
back pay. Garcia was an exile in Nicaragua. There he met Laguerre, who
is a professional soldier of fortune, and together they cooked up this
present revolution. They hope to put Garcia back into power again. How
he'll act if he gets in I don't know. The common people believe he's a
patriot, that he'll keep all the promises he makes them—and he makes
a good many—and some white people believe in him, too. Laguerre
believes in him, for instance. Laguerre told me that Garcia was a
second Bolivar and Washington. But he might be both of them, and he
couldn't beat the Isthmian Line. You see, while he has prevented the
Isthmian Line from carrying bananas, he's cut off his own nose by
shutting off his only source of supply. For these big corporations
hang together at times, and on the Pacific side the Pacific Mail
Company has got the word from Fiske, and they won't carry supplies,
either. That's what I meant by saying that Joe Fiske owns Honduras.
He's cut it off from the world, and only his arms and his
friends can get into it. And the joke of it is he can't get out.”
“Can't get out?” I exclaimed. “What do you mean?”
“Why, he's up there at Tegucigalpa himself,” said Aiken. “Didn't
you know that? He's up at the capital, visiting Alvarez. He came in
through this port about two weeks ago.”
“Joseph Fiske is fighting in a Hondurian revolution?” I exclaimed.
“Certainly not!” cried Aiken. “He's here on a pleasure trip; partly
pleasure, partly business. He came here on his yacht. You can see her
from the window, lying to the left of the buoy. Fiske has nothing to
do with this row. I don't suppose he knows there's a revolution going
I resented this pretended lack of interest on the part of the Wall
Street banker. I condemned it as a piece of absurd affectation.
“Don't you believe it!” I said. “No matter how many millions a man
has, he doesn't stand to lose $500,000 without taking an interest in
“Oh, but he doesn't know about that,” said Aiken. “He
doesn't know the ins and outs of the story—what I've been telling
you. That's on the inside—that's cafe scandal. That side of it would
never reach him. I suppose Joe Fiske is president of a dozen
steamship lines, and all he does is to lend his name to this one, and
preside at board meetings. The company's lawyers tell him whatever
they think he ought to know. They probably say they're having trouble
down here owing to one of the local revolutions, and that Garcia is
trying to blackmail them.”
“Then you don't think Fiske came down here about this?” I asked.
“About this?” repeated Aiken, in a tone of such contempt that I
disliked him intensely. For the last half hour Aiken had been jumping
unfeelingly on all my ideals and illusions.
“No,” he went on. “He came here on his yacht on a pleasure trip
around the West India Islands, and he rode in from here to look over
the Copan Silver Mines. Alvarez is terribly keen to get rid of him.
He's afraid the revolutionists will catch him and hold him for ransom.
He'd bring a good price,” Aiken added, reflectively. “It's enough to
make a man turn brigand. And his daughter, too. She'd bring a good
“His daughter!” I exclaimed.
Aiken squeezed the tips of his fingers together, and kissed them,
tossing the imaginary kiss up toward the roof. Then he drank what was
left of his rum and water at a gulp and lifted the empty glass high in
the air. “To the daughter,” he said.
It was no concern of mine, but I resented his actions exceedingly.
I think I was annoyed that he should have seen the young lady while I
had not. I also resented his toasting her before a stranger. I knew he
could not have met her, and his pretence of enthusiasm made him appear
quite ridiculous. He looked at me mournfully, shaking his head as
though it were impossible for him to give me an idea of her.
“Why they say,” he exclaimed, “that when she rides along the trail,
the native women kneel beside it.
“She's the best looking girl I ever saw,” he declared, “and she's a
thoroughbred too!” he added, “or she wouldn't have stuck it out in
this country when she had a clean yacht to fall back on. She's been
riding around on a mule, so they tell me, along with her father and
the engineering experts, and just as though she enjoyed it. The men up
at the mines say she tired them all out.”
I had no desire to discuss the young lady with Aiken, so I
pretended not to be interested, and he ceased speaking, and we smoked
in silence. But my mind was nevertheless wide awake to what he had
told me. I could not help but see the dramatic values which had been
given to the situation by the presence of this young lady. The
possibilities were tremendous. Here was I, fighting against her
father, and here was she, beautiful and an heiress to many millions.
In the short space of a few seconds I had pictured myself rescuing her
from brigands, denouncing her father for not paying his honest debt to
Honduras, had been shot down by his escort, Miss Fiske had bandaged my
wounds, and I was returning North as her prospective husband on my
prospective father-in-law's yacht. Aiken aroused me from this by
rising to his feet. “Now then,” he said, briskly, “if you want to go
to Laguerre you can come with me. I've got to see him to explain why
his guns haven't arrived, and I'll take you with me.” He made a wry
face and laughed. “A nice welcome he'll give me,” he said. I jumped to
my feet. “There's my trunk,” I said; “it's ready, and so am I. When do
“As soon as it is moonlight,” Aiken answered.
The remainder of the day was spent in preparing for our journey. I
was first taken to the commandante and presented to him as a
commercial traveller. Aiken asked him for a passport permitting me to
proceed to the capital “for purposes of trade.” As consular agent
Aiken needed no passport for himself, but to avoid suspicion he
informed the commandante that his object in visiting Tegucigalpa was
to persuade Joseph Fiske, as president of the Isthmian Line, to place
buoys in the harbor of Porto Cortez and give the commission for their
purchase to the commandante. Aiken then and always was the most
graceful liar I have ever met. His fictions were never for his own
advantage, at least not obviously so. Instead, they always held out
some pleasing hope for the person to whom they were addressed. His
plans and promises as to what he would do were so alluring that even
when I knew he was lying I liked to pretend that he was not. This
particular fiction so interested the commandante that he even offered
us an escort of soldiers, which honor we naturally declined.
That night when the moon had risen we started inland, each mounted
on a stout little mule, and followed by a third, on which was swung my
trunk, balanced on the other side by Aiken's saddle bags. A Carib
Indian whom Aiken had selected because of his sympathies for the
revolution walked beside the third mule and directed its progress by
the most startling shrieks and howls. To me it was a most memorable
and marvellous night, and although for the greater part of it Aiken
dozed in his saddle and woke only to abuse his mule, I was never more
wakeful nor more happy. At the very setting forth I was pleasantly
stirred when at the limit of the town a squad of soldiers halted us
and demanded our passports. This was my first encounter with the
government troops. They were barefooted and most slovenly looking
soldiers, mere boys in age and armed with old-fashioned Remingtons.
But their officer, the captain of the guard, was more smartly dressed,
and I was delighted to find that my knowledge of Spanish, in which my
grandfather had so persistently drilled me, enabled me to understand
all that passed between him and Aiken. The captain warned us that the
revolutionists were camped along the trail, and that if challenged we
had best answer quickly that we were Americanos. He also told us that
General Laguerre and his legion of “gringoes” were in hiding in the
highlands some two days' ride from the coast. Aiken expressed the
greatest concern at this, and was for at once turning back. His
agitation was so convincing, he was apparently so frightened, that,
until he threw a quick wink at me, I confess I was completely taken
in. For some time he refused to be calmed, and it was only when the
captain assured him that his official position would protect him from
any personal danger that he consented to ride on. Before we crossed
the town limits he had made it quite evident that the officer himself
was solely responsible for his continuing on his journey, and he
denounced Laguerre and all his works with a picturesqueness of
language and a sincerity that filled me with confusion. I even began
to doubt if after all Aiken was not playing a game for both sides, and
might not end my career by leading me into a trap. After we rode on I
considered the possibility of this quite seriously, and I was not
reassured until I heard the mozo, with many chuckles and shrugs
of the shoulder, congratulate Aiken on the way he had made a fool of
“That's called diplomacy, Jose,” Aiken told him. “That's my
statecraft. It's because I have so much statecraft that I am a consul.
You keep your eye on this American consul, Jose, and you'll learn a
lot of statecraft.”
Jose showed his teeth and grinned, and after he had dropped into a
line behind us we could hear him still chuckling.
“You would be a great success in secret service work, Aiken,” I
said, “or on the stage.”
We were riding in single file, and in order to see my face in the
moonlight he had to turn in his saddle.
“And yet I didn't,” he laughed.
“What do you mean,” I asked, “were you ever a spy or an actor?”
“I was both,” he said. “I was a failure at both, too. I got put in
jail for being a spy, and I ought to have been hung for my acting.” I
kicked my mule forward in order to hear better.
“Tell me about it,” I asked, eagerly. “About when you were a spy.”
But Aiken only laughed, and rode on without turning his head.
“You wouldn't understand,” he said after a pause. Then he looked at
me over his shoulder. “It needs a big black background of experience
and hard luck to get the perspective on that story,” he explained. “It
wouldn't appeal to you; you're too young. They're some things they
don't teach at West Point.”
“They teach us,” I answered, hotly, “that if we're detailed to
secret service work we are to carry out our orders. It's not
dishonorable to obey orders. I'm not so young as you think. Go on,
tell me, in what war were you a spy?”
“It wasn't in any war,” Aiken said, again turning away from me. “It
was in Haskell's Private Detective Agency.”
I could not prevent an exclamation, but the instant it had escaped
me I could have kicked myself for having made it. “I beg your pardon,”
I murmured, awkwardly.
“I said you wouldn't understand,” Aiken answered. Then, to show he
did not wish to speak with me further, he spurred his mule into a trot
and kept a distance between us.
Our trail ran over soft, spongy ground and was shut in on either
hand by a wet jungle of tangled vines and creepers. They interlaced
like the strands of a hammock, choking and strangling and clinging to
each other in a great web. From the jungle we came to ill-smelling
pools of mud and water, over which hung a white mist which rose as
high as our heads. It was so heavy with moisture that our clothing
dripped with it, and we were chilled until our teeth chattered. But by
five o'clock in the morning we had escaped the coast swamps, and
reached higher ground and the village of Sagua la Grande, and the sun
was drying our clothes and taking the stiffness out of our bones.
CANAL COMPANY'S FEVER HOSPITAL, PANAMA
The nurse brought me my diary this morning. She found it in the
inside pocket of my tunic. All of its back pages were scribbled over
with orders of the day, countersigns, and the memoranda I made after
Laguerre appointed me adjutant to the Legion. But in the first half of
it was what I see I was pleased to call my “memoirs,” in which I had
written the last chapter the day Aiken and I halted at Sagua la
Grande. When I read it over I felt that I was somehow much older than
when I made that last entry. And yet it was only two months ago. It
seems like two years. I don't feel much like writing about it, nor
thinking about it, but I suppose, if I mean to keep my “memoirs” up to
date, I shall never have more leisure in which to write than I have
now. For Dr. Ezequiel says it will be another two weeks before I can
leave this cot. Sagua seems very unimportant now. But I must not write
of it as I see it now, from this distance, but as it appealed to me
then, when everything about me was new and strange and wonderful.
It was my first sight of a Honduranian town, and I thought it most
charming and curious. As I learned later it was like any other
Honduranian town and indeed like every other town in Central America.
They are all built around a plaza, which sometimes is a park with
fountains and tessellated marble pavements and electric lights, and
sometimes only an open place of dusty grass. There is always a church
at one end, and the cafe or club, and the alcalde's house, or the
governor's palace, at another. In the richer plazas there must always
be the statue of some Liberator, and in the poorer a great wooden
cross. Sagua la Grande was bright and warm and foreign looking. It
reminded me of the colored prints of Mexico which I had seen in my
grandfather's library. The houses were thatched clay huts with gardens
around them crowded with banana palms, and trees hung with long beans,
which broke into masses of crimson flowers. The church opposite the
inn was old and yellow, and at the edge of the plaza were great palms
that rustled and courtesied. We led our mules straight through the one
big room of the inn out into the yard behind it, and while doing it I
committed the grave discourtesy of not first removing my spurs. Aiken
told me about it at once, and I apologized to everyone—to the
alcalde, and the priest, and the village school-master who had crossed
the plaza to welcome us—and I asked them all to drink with me. I do
not know that I ever enjoyed a breakfast more than I did the one we
ate in the big cool inn with the striped awning outside, and the naked
brown children watching us from the street, and the palms whispering
overhead. The breakfast was good in itself, but it was my surroundings
which made the meal so remarkable and the fact that I was no longer at
home and responsible to someone, but that I was talking as one man to
another, and in a foreign language to people who knew no other tongue.
The inn-keeper was a fat little person in white drill and a red sash,
in which he carried two silver-mounted pistols. He looked like a ring-
master in a circus, but he cooked us a most wonderful omelette with
tomatoes and onions and olives chopped up in it with oil. And an
Indian woman made us tortillas, which are like our buckwheat cakes. It
was fascinating to see her toss them up in the air, and slap them into
shape with her hands. Outside the sun blazed upon the white rim of
huts, and the great wooden cross in the plaza threw its shadow upon
the yellow facade of the church. Beside the church there was a chime
of four bells swinging from a low ridge-pole. The dews and the sun had
turned their copper a brilliant green, but had not hurt their music,
and while we sat at breakfast a little Indian boy in crumpled
vestments beat upon them with a stick, making a sweet and swinging
melody. It did not seem to me a scene set for revolution, but I liked
it all so much that that one breakfast alone repaid me for my long
journey south. I was sure life in Sagua la Grande would always suit
me, and that I would never ask for better company than the comic-opera
landlord and the jolly young priest and the yellow-skinned, fever-
ridden schoolmaster with his throat wrapped in a great woollen shawl.
But very soon, what with having had no sleep the night before and the
heat, I grew terribly drowsy and turned in on a canvas cot in the
corner, where I slept until long after mid-day. For some time I could
hear Aiken and the others conversing together and caught the names of
Laguerre and Garcia, but I was too sleepy to try to listen, and, as I
said, Sagua did not seem to me to be the place for conspiracies and
revolutions. I left it with real regret, and as though I were parting
with friends of long acquaintanceship.
From the time we left Sagua the path began to ascend, and we rode
in single file along the edges of deep precipices. From the depths
below giant ferns sent up cool, damp odors, and we could hear the
splash and ripple of running water, and at times, by looking into the
valley, I could see waterfalls and broad streams filled with rocks,
which churned the water into a white foam. We passed under tall trees
covered with white and purple flowers, and in the branches of others
were perched macaws, giant parrots of the most wonderful red and blue
and yellow, and just at sunset we startled hundreds of parroquets
which flew screaming and chattering about our heads, like so many
balls of colored worsted.
When the moon rose, we rode out upon a table-land and passed
between thick forests of enormous trees, the like of which I had never
imagined. Their branches began at a great distance from the ground and
were covered thick with orchids, which I mistook for large birds
roosting for the night. Each tree was bound to the next by vines like
tangled ropes, some drawn as taut as the halyards of a ship, and
others, as thick as one's leg; they were twisted and wrapped around
the branches, so that they looked like boa-constrictors hanging ready
to drop upon one's shoulders. The moonlight gave to this forest of
great trees a weird, fantastic look. I felt like a knight entering an
enchanted wood. But nothing disturbed our silence except the sudden
awakening of a great bird or the stealthy rustle of an animal in the
underbrush. Near midnight we rode into a grove of manacca palms as
delicate as ferns, and each as high as a three-story house, and with
fronds so long that those drooping across the trail hid it completely.
To push our way through these we had to use both arms as one lifts the
curtains in a doorway.
[Illustration: I was sure life in Sagua la Grande would always suit
Aiken himself seemed to feel the awe and beauty of the place, and
called the direction to me in a whisper. Even that murmur was enough
to carry above the rustling of the palms, and startled hundreds of
monkeys into wakefulness. We could hear their barks and cries echoing
from every part of the forest, and as they sprang from one branch to
another the palms bent like trout-rods, and then swept back into place
again with a strange swishing sound, like the rush of a great fish
After midnight we were too stiff and sore to ride farther, and we
bivouacked on the trail beside a stream. I had no desire for further
sleep, and I sat at the foot of a tree smoking and thinking. I had
often “camped out” as a boy, and at West Point with the battalion, but
I had never before felt so far away from civilization and my own
people. For company I made a little fire and sat before it, going over
in my mind what I had learned since I had set forth on my travels. I
concluded that so far I had gained much and lost much. What I had
experienced of the ocean while on the ship and what little I had seen
of this country delighted me entirely, and I would not have parted
with a single one of my new impressions. But all I had learned of the
cause for which I had come to fight disappointed and disheartened me.
Of course I had left home partly to seek adventure, but not only for
that. I had set out on this expedition with the idea that I was
serving some good cause—that old-fashioned principles were forcing
these men to fight for their independence. But I had been early
undeceived. At the same time that I was enjoying my first sight of new
and beautiful things I was being robbed of my illusions and my ideals.
And nothing could make up to me for that. By merely travelling on
around the globe I would always be sure to find some new things of
interest. But what would that count if I lost my faith in men! If I
ceased to believe in their unselfishness and honesty. Even though I
were young and credulous, and lived in a make-believe world of my own
imagining, I was happier so than in thinking that everyone worked for
his own advantage, and without justice to others, or private honor. It
harmed no one that I believed better of others than they deserved, but
it was going to hurt me terribly if I learned that their aims were
even lower than my own. I knew it was Aiken who had so discouraged me.
It was he who had laughed at me for believing that Laguerre and his
men were fighting for liberty. If I were going to credit him, there
was not one honest man in Honduras, and no one on either side of this
revolution was fighting for anything but money. He had made it all
seem commercial, sordid, and underhand. I blamed him for having so
shaken my faith and poisoned my mind. I scowled at his unconscious
figure as he lay sleeping peacefully on his blanket, and I wished
heartily that I had never set eyes on him. Then I argued that his
word, after all, was not final. He made no pretence of being a saint,
and it was not unnatural that a man who held no high motives should
fail to credit them to others. I had partially consoled myself with
this reflection, when I remembered suddenly that Beatrice herself had
foretold the exact condition which Aiken had described.
“That is not war,” she had said to me, “that is speculation!” She
surely had said that to me, but how could she have known, or was hers
only a random guess? And if she had guessed correctly what would she
wish me to do now? Would she wish me to turn back, or, if my own
motives were good, would she tell me to go on? She had called me her
knight-errant, and I owed it to her to do nothing of which she would
disapprove. As I thought of her I felt a great loneliness and a
longing to see her once again. I thought of how greatly she would have
delighted in those days at sea, and how wonderful it would have been
if I could have seen this hot, feverish country with her at my side. I
pictured her at the inn at Sagua smiling on the priest and the fat
little landlord; and their admiration of her. I imagined us riding
together in the brilliant sunshine with the crimson flowers meeting
overhead, and the palms bowing to her and paying her homage. I lifted
the locket she had wound around my wrist, and kissed it. As I did so,
my doubts and questionings seemed to fall away. I stood up confident
and determined. It was not my business to worry over the motives of
other men, but to look to my own. I would go ahead and fight Alvarez,
who Aiken himself declared was a thief and a tyrant. If anyone asked
me my politics I would tell him I was for the side that would obtain
the money the Isthmian Line had stolen, and give it to the people;
that I was for Garcia and Liberty, Laguerre and the Foreign Legion.
This platform of principles seemed to me so satisfactory that I
stretched my feet to the fire and went to sleep.
I was awakened by the most delicious odor of coffee, and when I
rolled out of my blanket I found Jose standing over me with a cup of
it in his hand, and Aiken buckling the straps of my saddle-girth. We
took a plunge in the stream, and after a breakfast of coffee and cold
tortillas climbed into the saddle and again picked up the trail.
After riding for an hour Aiken warned me that at any moment we were
likely to come upon either Laguerre or the soldiers of Alvarez. “So
you keep your eyes and ears open,” he said, “and when they challenge
throw up your hands quick. The challenge is 'Halt, who lives,'“ he
explained. “If it is a government soldier you must answer, 'The
government.' But if it's one of Laguerre's or Garcia's pickets you
must say 'The revolution lives.' And whatever else you do, hold up
I rehearsed this at once, challenging myself several times, and
giving the appropriate answers. The performance seemed to afford Aiken
“Isn't that right?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but the joke is that you won't be able to tell
which is the government soldier and which is the revolutionist, and
you'll give the wrong answer, and we'll both get shot.”
“I can tell by our uniform,” I answered.
“Uniform!” exclaimed Aiken, and burst into the most uproarious
laughter. “Rags and tatters,” he said.
I was considerably annoyed to learn by this that the revolutionary
party had no distinctive uniform. The one worn by the government
troops which I had seen at the coast I had thought bad enough, but it
was a great disappointment to hear that we had none at all. Ever since
I had started from Dobbs Ferry I had been wondering what was the
Honduranian uniform. I had promised myself to have my photograph taken
in it. I had anticipated the pride I should have in sending the
picture back to Beatrice. So I was considerably chagrined, until I
decided to invent a uniform of my own, which I would wear whether
anyone else wore it or not. This was even better than having to accept
one which someone else had selected. As I had thought much on the
subject of uniforms, I began at once to design a becoming one.
We had reached a most difficult pass in the mountain, where the
trail stumbled over broken masses of rock and through a thick tangle
of laurel. The walls of the pass were high and the trees at the top
shut out the sunlight. It was damp and cold and dark.
“We're sure to strike something here,” Aiken whispered over his
shoulder. It did not seem at all unlikely. The place was the most
excellent man-trap, but as to that, the whole length of the trail had
lain through what nature had obviously arranged for a succession of
Aiken turned in his saddle and said, in an anxious tone: “Do you
know, the nearer I get to the old man, the more I think I was a fool
to come. As long as I've got nothing but bad news, I'd better have
stayed away. Do you remember Pharaoh and the messengers of ill
I nodded, but I kept my eyes busy with the rocks and motionless
laurel. My mule was slipping and kicking down pebbles, and making as
much noise as a gun battery. I knew, if there were any pickets about,
they could hear us coming for a quarter of a mile.
“Garcia may think he's Pharaoh,” Aiken went on, “and take it into
his head it's my fault the guns didn't come. Laguerre may say I sold
the secret to the Isthmian Line.”
“Oh, he couldn't think you'd do that!” I protested.
“Well, I've known it done,” Aiken said. “Quay certainly sold us out
at New Orleans. And Laguerre may think I went shares with him.”
I began to wonder if Aiken was not probably the very worst person I
could have selected to introduce me to General Laguerre. It seemed as
though it certainly would have been better had I found my way to him
alone. I grew so uneasy concerning my possible reception that I said,
irritably: “Doesn't the General know you well enough to trust you?”
“No, he doesn't!” Aiken snapped back, quite as irritably. “And he's
dead right, too. You take it from me, that the fewer people in this
country you trust, the better for you. Why, the rottenness of this
country is a proverb. 'It's a place where the birds have no song,
where the flowers have no odor, where the women are without virtue,
and the men without honor.' That's what a gringo said of Honduras many
years ago, and he knew the country and the people in it.”
It was not a comforting picture, but in my discouragement I
“General Laguerre does not belong to this country,” I said,
“No,” Aiken answered, with a laugh. “He's an Irish-Frenchman and
belongs to a dozen countries. He's fought for every flag that floats,
and he's no better off to-day than when he began.”
He turned toward me and stared with an amused and tolerant grin.
“He's a bit like you,” he said.
I saw he did not consider what he said as a compliment, but I was
vain enough to want to know what he did think of me, so I asked: “And
in what way am I like General Laguerre?”
The idea of our similarity seemed to amuse Aiken, for he continued
“Oh, you'll see when we meet him,” he said. “I can't explain it.
You two are just different from other people—that's all. He's old-
fashioned like you, if you know what I mean, and young—”
“Why, he's an old man,” I corrected.
“He's old enough to be your grandfather,” Aiken laughed, “but I say
he's young—like you, the way you are.”
Aiken knew that it annoyed me when he pretended I was so much
younger than himself, and I had started on some angry reply, when I
was abruptly interrupted.
A tall, ragged man rose suddenly from behind a rock, and presented
a rifle. He was so close to Aiken that the rifle almost struck him in
the face. Aiken threw up his hands, and fell back with such a jerk
that he lost his balance, and would have fallen had he not pitched
forward and clasped the mule around the neck. I pulled my mule to a
halt, and held my hands as high as I could raise them. The man moved
his rifle from side to side so as to cover each of us in turn, and
cried in English, “Halt! Who goes there?”
Aiken had not told me the answer to that challenge, so I kept
silent. I could hear Jose behind me interrupting his prayers with
little sobs of fright.
Aiken scrambled back into an upright position, held up his hands,
and cried: “Confound you, we are travellers, going to the capital on
business. Who the devil are you?”
“Qui vive?” the man demanded over the barrel of his gun.
“What does that mean?” Aiken cried, petulantly. “Talk English,
can't you, and put down that gun.”
The man ceased moving the rifle between us, and settled it on
“Cry 'Long live the government,'“ he commanded, sharply.
Aiken gave a sudden start of surprise, and I saw his eyelids drop
and rise again. Later when I grew to know him intimately, I could
always tell when he was lying, or making the winning move in some bit
of knavery, by that nervous trick of the eyelids. He knew that I knew
about it, and he once confided to me that, had he been able to
overcome it, he would have saved himself some thousands of dollars
which it had cost him at cards.
But except for this drooping of the eyelids he gave no sign.
“No, I won't cry 'Long live the government,'“ he answered. “That
is,” he added hastily, “I won't cry long live anything. I'm the
American Consul, and I'm up here on business. So's my friend.”
The man did not move his gun by so much as a straw's breadth.
“You will cry 'Long live Alvarez' or I will shoot you,” said the
I had more leisure to observe the man than had Aiken, for it is
difficult to study the features of anyone when he is looking at you
down a gun-barrel, and it seemed to me that the muscles of the man's
mouth as he pressed it against the stock were twitching with a smile.
As the side of his face toward me was the one farther from the gun, I
was able to see this, but Aiken could not, and he answered, still more
angrily: “I tell you, I'm the American Consul. Anyway, it's not going
to do you any good to shoot me. You take me to your colonel alive, and
I'll give you two hundred dollars. You shoot me and you won't get a
The moment was serious enough, and I was thoroughly concerned both
for Aiken and myself, but when he made this offer, my nervousness, or
my sense of humor, got the upper hand of me, and I laughed.
Having laughed I made the best of it, and said:
“Offer him five hundred for the two of us. Hang the expense.”
The rifle wavered in the man's hands, he steadied it, scowled at
me, bit his lips, and then burst into shouts of laughter. He sank back
against one of the rocks, and pointed at Aiken mockingly.
“I knew it was you all the time,” he cried, “for certain I did. I
knew it was you all the time.”
I was greatly relieved, but naturally deeply indignant. I felt as
though someone had jumped from behind a door, and shouted “Boo!” at
me. I hoped in my heart that the colonel would give the fellow eight
hours' pack drill. “What a remarkable sentry,” I said.
Aiken shoved his hands into his breeches pockets, and surveyed the
man with an expression of the most violent disgust.
“You've got a damned queer idea of a joke,” he said finally. “I
might have shot you!”
The man seemed to consider this the very acme of humor, for he
fairly hooted at us. He was so much amused that it was some moments
before he could control himself.
“I saw you at Porto Cortez,” he said, “I knew you was the American
Consul all the time. You came to our camp after the fight, and the
General gave you a long talk in his tent. Don't you remember me? I was
standing guard outside.”
Aiken snorted indignantly.
“No, I don't remember you,” he said. “But I'll remember you next
time. Are you standing guard now, or just doing a little highway
robbery on your own account?”
“Oh, I'm standing guard for keeps,” said the sentry, earnestly.
“Our camp's only two hundred yards back of me. And our Captain told me
to let all parties pass except the enemy, but I thought I'd have to
jump you just for fun. I'm an American myself, you see, from Kansas.
An' being an American I had to give the American Consul a scare. But
say,” he exclaimed, advancing enthusiastically on Aiken, with his hand
outstretched, “you didn't scare for a cent.” He shook hands violently
with each of us in turn. “My name's Pete MacGraw,” he added,
“Well, now, Mr. MacGraw,” said Aiken, “if you'll kindly guide us to
General Laguerre we'll use our influence to have you promoted. You
need more room. I imagine a soldier with your original ideas must find
sentry duty go very dull.”
MacGraw grinned appreciatively and winked.
“If I take you to my General alive, do I get that two hundred
dollars?” he asked. He rounded off his question with another yell of
He was such a harmless idiot that we laughed with him. But we were
silenced at once by a shout from above us, and a command to “Stop that
noise.” I looked up and saw a man in semi-uniform and wearing an
officer's sash and sword stepping from one rock to another and
breaking his way through the laurel. He greeted Aiken with a curt wave
of the hand. “Glad to see you, Consul,” he called. “You will dismount,
please, and lead your horses this way.” He looked at me suspiciously
and then turned and disappeared into the undergrowth.
“The General is expecting you, Aiken,” his voice called back to us.
“I hope everything is all right?”
Aiken and I had started to draw the mules up the hill. Already both
the officer and the trail had been completely hidden by the laurel.
“No, nothing is all right,” Aiken growled.
There was the sound of an oath, the laurels parted, and the
officer's face reappeared, glaring at us angrily.
“What do you mean?” he demanded. “My information is for General
Laguerre,” Aiken answered, sulkily.
The man sprang away again muttering to himself, and we scrambled
and stumbled after him, guided by the sounds of breaking branches and
From a glance I caught of Aiken's face I knew he was regretting
now, with even more reason than before, that he had not remained at
the coast, and I felt very sorry for him. Now that he was in trouble
and not patronizing me and poking fun at me, I experienced a strong
change of feeling toward him. He was the only friend I had in
Honduras, and as between him and these strangers who had received us
so oddly, I felt that, although it would be to my advantage to be
friends with the greater number, my loyalty was owing to Aiken. So I
scrambled up beside him and panted out with some difficulty, for the
ascent was a steep one: “If there is any row, I'm with you,
“Oh, there won't be any row,” he growled.
“Well, if there is,” I repeated, “you can count me in.”
“That's all right,” he said.
At that moment we reached the top of the incline, and I looked down
into the hollow below. To my surprise I found that this side of the
hill was quite barren of laurel or of any undergrowth, and that it
sloped to a little open space carpeted with high, waving grass, and
cut in half by a narrow stream. On one side of the stream a great herd
of mules and horses were tethered, and on the side nearer us were many
smoking camp-fires and rough shelters made from the branches of trees.
Men were sleeping in the grass or sitting in the shade of the
shelters, cleaning accoutrements, and some were washing clothes in the
stream. At the foot of the hill was a tent, and ranged before it two
Gatling guns strapped in their canvas jackets. I saw that I had at
last reached my destination. This was the camp of the filibusters.
These were the soldiers of Laguerre's Foreign Legion.
Although I had reached my journey's end, although I had
accomplished what I had set out to do, I felt no sense of elation nor
relief. I was, instead, disenchanted, discouraged, bitterly depressed.
It was so unutterably and miserably unlike what I had hoped to find,
what I believed I had the right to expect, that my disappointment and
anger choked me. The picture I had carried in my mind was one of
shining tent-walls, soldierly men in gay and gaudy uniforms,
fluttering guidons, blue ammunition-boxes in orderly array, smart
sentries pacing their posts, and a head-quarters tent where busy
officers bent over maps and reports.
The scene I had set was one painted in martial colors, in scarlet
and gold lace; it moved to martial music, to bugle-calls, to words of
command, to the ringing challenge of the sentry, and what I had found
was this camp of gypsies, this nest of tramps, without authority,
discipline, or self-respect. It was not even picturesque. My
indignation stirred me so intensely that, as I walked down the hill, I
prayed for a rude reception, that I might try to express my disgust.
The officer who had first approached us stopped at the opening of
the solitary tent, and began talking excitedly to someone inside. And
as we reached the level ground, the occupant of the tent stepped from
it. He was a stout, heavy man, with a long, twisted mustache, at which
he was tugging fiercely. He wore a red sash and a bandman's tunic,
with two stars sewn on the collar. I could not make out his rank, but
his first words explained him.
“I am glad to see you at last, Mr. Aiken,” he said. “I'm Major
Reeder, in temporary command. You have come to report, sir?”
Aiken took so long to reply that I stopped studying the remarkable
costume of the Major and turned to Aiken. I was surprised to see that
he was unquestionably frightened. His eyes were shifting and blinking,
and he wet his lips with his tongue. All his self-assurance had
deserted him. The officer who had led us to the camp was also aware of
Aiken's uneasiness, and was regarding him with a sneer. For some
reason the spectacle of Aiken's distress seemed to afford him
“I should prefer to report to General Laguerre,” Aiken said, at
“I am in command here,” Reeder answered, sharply. “General Laguerre
is absent—reconnoitering. I represent him. I know all about Mr.
Quay's mission. It was I who recommended him to the General. Where are
For a moment Aiken stared at him helplessly, and then drew in a
“I don't know where they are,” he said. “The Panama arrived two
days ago, but when I went to unload the guns Captain Leeds told me
they had been seized in New Orleans by the Treasury Department.
Someone must have—”
Both Major Reeder and the officer interrupted with a shout of
“Then it's true!” Reeder cried. “It's true, and—and—you dare to
tell us so!”
Aiken raised his head and for a moment looked almost defiant.
“Why shouldn't I tell you?” he demanded, indignantly. “Who else was
there to tell you? I've travelled two days to let you know. I can't
help it if the news isn't good. I'm just as sorry as you are.”
The other officer was a stout, yellow-haired German. He advanced a
step and shook a soiled finger in Aiken's face. “You can't help it,
can't you?” he cried. “You're sorry, are you? You won't be sorry when
you're paid your money, will you? How much did you get for us, hey!
How much did Joe Fiske—”
Reeder threw out his arm and motioned the officer back. “Silence,
Captain Heinze,” he commanded.
The men of the Legion who had happened to be standing near the tent
when we appeared had come up to look at the new arrivals, and when
they heard two of their officers attacking Aiken they crowded still
closer in front of us, forming a big half-circle. Each of them
apparently was on a footing with his officers of perfect comradeship,
and listened openly to what was going forward as though it were a
personal concern of his own. They had even begun to discuss it among
themselves, and made so much noise in doing so that Captain Heinze
passed on Reeder's rebuke as though it had been intended for them,
commanding, “Silence in the ranks.”
They were not in ranks, and should not have been allowed where they
were in any formation, but that did not seem to occur to either of the
“Silence,” Reeder repeated. “Now, Mr. Aiken, I am waiting. What
have you to say?”
“What is there for me to say?” Aiken protested. “I have done all I
could. I told you as soon as I could get here.” Major Reeder drew
close to Aiken and pointed his outstretched hand at him.
“Mr. Aiken,” he said. “Only four people knew that those guns were
ordered—Quay, who went to fetch them, General Laguerre, myself, and
you. Some one of us must have sold out the others; no one else could
have done it. It was not Quay. The General and I have been here in the
mountains—we did not do it; and that—that leaves you.”
“It does not leave me,” Aiken cried. He shouted it out with such
spirit that I wondered at him. It was the same sort of spirit which
makes a rat fight because he can't get away, but I didn't think so
“It was Quay sold you out!” Aiken cried. “Quay told the Isthmian
people as soon as the guns reached New Orleans. I suspected him when
he cabled me he wasn't coming back. I know him. I know just what he
is. He's been on both sides before.”
“Silence, you—you,” Reeder interrupted. He was white with anger.
“Mr. Quay is my friend,” he cried. “I trust him. I trust him as I
would trust my own brother. How dare you accuse him!”
He ceased and stood gasping with indignation, but his show of anger
encouraged Captain Heinze to make a fresh attack on Aiken.
“Quay took you off the beach,” he shouted.
“He gave you food and clothes, and a bed to lie on. It's like you,
to bite the hand that fed you. When have you ever stuck to any side or
anybody if you could get a dollar more by selling him out?”
The whole thing had become intolerable. It was abject and
degrading, like a falling-out among thieves. They reminded me of a
group of drunken women I had once seen, shameless and foul-mouthed,
fighting in the street, with grinning night-birds urging them on. I
felt in some way horribly responsible, as though they had dragged me
into it—as though the flying handfuls of mud had splattered me. And
yet the thing which inflamed me the most against them was their
unfairness to Aiken. They would not let him speak, and they would not
see that they were so many, and that he was alone. I did not then know
that he was telling the truth. Indeed, I thought otherwise. I did not
then know that on those occasions when he appeared to the worst
advantage, he generally was trying to tell the truth.
Captain Heinze pushed nearer, and shoved his fist close to Aiken's
“We know what you are,” he jeered. “We know you're no more on our
side than you're the American Consul. You lied to us about that, and
you've lied to us about everything else. And now we've caught you, and
we'll make you pay for it.”
One of the men in the rear of the crowd shouted, “Ah, shoot the
beggar!” and others began to push forward and to jeer. Aiken heard
them and turned quite white.
“You've caught me?” Aiken stammered. “Why, I came here of my own
will. Is it likely I'd have done that if I had sold you out?”
“I tell you you did sell us out,” Heinze roared. “And you're a
coward besides, and I tell you so to your face!” He sprang at Aiken,
and Aiken shrank back. It made me sick to see him do it. I had such a
contempt for the men against him that I hated his not standing up to
them. It was to hide the fact that he had stepped back, that I jumped
in front of him and pretended to restrain him. I tried to make it look
as though had I not interfered, he would have struck at Heinze.
The German had swung around toward the men behind him, as though he
were subpoenaing them as witnesses.
“I call him a coward to his face!” he shouted. But when he turned
again I was standing in front of Aiken, and he halted in surprise,
glaring at me. I don't know what made me do it, except that I had
heard enough of their recriminations, and was sick with
disappointment. I hated Heinze and all of them, and myself for being
“Yes, you can call him a coward,” I said, as offensively as I
could, “with fifty men behind you. How big a crowd do you want before
you dare insult a man?” Then I turned on the others. “Aren't you
ashamed of yourselves,” I cried, “to all of you set on one man in
your own camp? I don't know anything about this row and I don't want
to know, but there's fifty men here against one, and I'm on the side
of that one. You're a lot of cheap bullies,” I cried, “and this German
drill- sergeant,” I shouted, pointing at Heinze, “who calls himself an
officer, is the cheapest bully of the lot.” I jerked open the buckle
which held my belt and revolver, and flung them on the ground. Then I
slipped off my coat, and shoved it back of me to Aiken, for I wanted
to keep him out of it. It was the luck of Royal Macklin himself that
led me to take off my coat instead of drawing my revolver. At the
Point I had been accustomed to settle things with my fists, and it had
been only since I started from the coast that I had carried a gun. A
year later, in the same situation, I would have reached for it. Had I
done so that morning, as a dozen of them assured me later, they would
have shot me before I could have got my hand on it. But, as it was,
when I rolled up my sleeves the men began to laugh, and some shouted:
“Give him room,” “Make a ring,” “Fair play, now,” “Make a ring.” The
semi-circle spread out and lengthened until it formed a ring, with
Heinze and Reeder, and Aiken holding my coat, and myself in the centre
I squared off in front of the German and tapped him lightly on the
chest with the back of my hand.
“Now, then,” I cried, taunting him, “I call
you a coward to your face. What are you going to do about it?”
For an instant he seemed too enraged and astonished to move, and
the next he exploded with a wonderful German oath and rushed at me,
tugging at his sword. At the same moment the men gave a shout and the
ring broke. I thought they had cried out in protest when they saw
Heinze put his hand on his sword, but as they scattered and fell back
I saw that they were looking neither at Heinze nor at me, but at
someone behind me. Heinze, too, halted as suddenly as though he had
been pulled back by a curbed bit, and, bringing his heels together,
stood stiffly at salute. I turned and saw that everyone was falling
out of the way of a tall man who came striding toward us, and I knew
on the instant that he was General Laguerre. At the first glance I
disassociated him from his followers. He was entirely apart. In any
surroundings I would have picked him out as a leader of men. Even a
civilian would have known he was a soldier, for the signs of his
calling were stamped on him as plainly as the sterling mark on silver,
and although he was not in uniform his carriage and countenance told
you that he was a personage.
He was very tall and gaunt, with broad shoulders and a waist as
small as a girl's, and although he must then have been about fifty
years of age he stood as stiffly erect as though his spine had grown
up into the back of his head.
At the first glance he reminded me of Van Dyke's portrait of
Charles I. He had the same high-bred features, the same wistful eyes,
and hewore his beard and mustache in what was called the Van Dyke
fashion, before Louis Napoleon gave it a new vogue as the “imperial.”
It must have been that I read the wistful look in his eyes later,
for at the moment of our first meeting it was a very stern Charles I.
who confronted us, with the delicate features stiffened in anger, and
the eyes set and burning. Since then I have seen both the wistful look
and the angry look many times, and even now I would rather face the
muzzle of a gun than the eyes of General Laguerre when you have
His first words were addressed to Reeder.
“What does this mean, sir?” he demanded. “If you cannot keep order
in this camp when my back is turned I shall find an officer who can.
Who is this?” he added, pointing at me. I became suddenly conscious of
the fact that I was without my hat or coat, and that my sleeves were
pulled up to the shoulders. Aiken was just behind me, and as I turned
to him for my coat I disclosed his presence to the General. He gave an
exclamation of delight.
“Mr. Aiken!” he cried, “at last!” He lowered his voice to an eager
whisper. “Where are the guns?” he asked.
Apparently Aiken felt more confidence in General Laguerre than in
his officers, for at this second questioning he answered promptly.
“I regret to say, sir,” he began, “that the guns were seized at New
Orleans. Someone informed the Honduranian Consul there, and he—”
“Seized!” cried Laguerre. “By whom? Do you mean we have lost them?”
Aiken lowered his eyes and nodded.
“But how do you know?” Laguerre demanded, eagerly. “You are not
sure? Who seized them?”
“The Treasury officers,” Aiken answered
“The captain of the Panama told me he saw the guns taken on the
For some moments Laguerre regarded him sternly, but I do not think
he saw him. He turned and walked a few steps from us and back again.
Then he gave an upward toss of his head as though he had accepted his
sentence. “The fortunes of war,” he kept repeating to himself, “the
fortunes of war.” He looked up and saw us regarding him with
expressions of the deepest concern.
“I thought I had had my share of them,” he said, simply. He
straightened his shoulders and frowned, and then looked at us and
tried to smile. But the bad news had cut deeply. During the few
minutes since he had come pushing his way through the crowd, he seemed
to have grown ten years older. He walked to the door of his tent and
then halted and turned toward Reeder.
“I think my fever is coming on again,” he said. “I believe I had
better rest. Do not let them disturb me.”
“Yes, General,” Reeder answered. Then he pointed at Aiken and
myself. “And what are we to do with these?” he asked.
“Do with these?” Laguerre repeated. “Why, what did you mean to do
Reeder swelled out his chest importantly, “If you had not arrived
when you did, General,” he said, “I would have had them shot!”
The General stopped at the entrance to the tent and leaned heavily
against the pole. He raised his eyes and looked at us wearily and with
no show of interest.
“Shoot them?” he asked. “Why were you going to shoot them?”
“Because, General,” Reeder declared, theatrically, pointing an
accusing finger at Aiken, “I believe this man sold our secret to the
Isthmian Line. No one knew of the guns but our three selves and Quay.
And Quay is not a man to betray his friends. I wish I could say as
much for Mr. Aiken.”
At that moment Aiken, being quite innocent, said even less for
himself, and because he was innocent looked the trapped and convicted
Laguerre's eyes glowed like two branding-irons. As he fixed them on
Aiken's face one expected to see them leave a mark.
“If the General will only listen,” Aiken stammered. “If you will
only give me a hearing, sir. Why should I come to your camp if I had
sold you out? Why didn't I get away on the first steamer, and stay
away—as Quay did?”
The General gave an exclamation of disgust, and shrugged his
shoulders. He sank back slowly against one of the Gatling guns.
“What does it matter?” he said, bitterly. “Why lock the stable door
now? I will give you a hearing,” he said, turning to Aiken, “but it
would be better for you if I listened to you later. Bring him to me
to-morrow morning after roll-call. And the other?” he asked. He
pointed at me, but his eyes, which were heavy with disappointment,
were staring moodily at the ground.
Heinze interposed himself quickly.
“Aiken brought him here!” he said. “I believe he's an agent of the
Isthmian people, or,” he urged, “why did he come here? He came to spy
out your camp, General, and to report on our condition.”
“A spy!” said Laguerre, raising his head and regarding me sharply.
“Yes,” Heinze declared, with conviction. “A spy, General. A
Government spy, and he has found out our hiding-place and counted our
Aiken turned on him with a snarl.
“Oh, you ass!” he cried. “He came as a volunteer. He wanted to
fight with you,—for the sacred cause of liberty!”
“Yes, he wanted to fight with us,” shouted Heinze, indignantly. “As
soon as he got into the camp, he wanted to fight with us.”
Laguerre made an exclamation of impatience, and rose unsteadily
from the gun-carriage.
“Silence!” he commanded. “I tell you I cannot listen to you now. I
will give these men a hearing after roll-call. In the meantime if they
are spies, they have seen too much. Place them under guard; and if
they try to escape, shoot them.”
I gave a short laugh and turned to Aiken.
“That's the first intelligent military order I've heard yet,” I
Aiken scowled at me fearfully, and Reeder and Heinze gasped.
General Laguerre had caught the words, and turned his eyes on me. Like
the real princess who could feel the crumpled rose-leaf under a dozen
mattresses, I can feel it in my bones when I am in the presence of a
real soldier. My spinal column stiffens, and my fingers twitch to be
at my visor. In spite of their borrowed titles, I had smelt out the
civilian in Reeder and had detected the non-commissioned man in
Heinze, and just as surely I recognized the general officer in
So when he looked at me my heels clicked together, my arm bent to
my hat and fell again to my trouser seam, and I stood at attention. It
was as instinctive as though I were back at the Academy, and he had
confronted me in the uniform and yellow sash of a major-general.
“And what do you know of military orders, sir,” he demanded, in a
low voice, “that you feel competent to pass upon mine?”
Still standing at attention, I said: “For the last three years I
have been at West Point, sir, and have listened to nothing else.”
“You have been at West Point?” he said, slowly, looking at me in
surprise and with evident doubt. “When did you leave the Academy?”
“Two weeks ago,” I answered. At this, he looked even more
“How does it happen,” he asked, “if you are preparing for the army
at West Point, that you are now travelling in Honduras?”
“I was dismissed from the Academy two weeks ago,” I answered. “This
was the only place where there was any fighting, so I came here. I
read that you had formed a Foreign Legion, and thought that maybe you
would let me join it.”
General Laguerre now stared at me in genuine amazement. In his
interest in the supposed spy, he had forgotten the loss of his guns.
“You came from West Point,” he repeated, incredulously, “all the
way to Honduras—to join me!” He turned to the two officers. “Did he
tell you this?” he demanded.
They answered, “No,” promptly, and truthfully as well, for they had
not given me time to tell them anything.
“Have you any credentials, passports, or papers?” he said.
When he asked this I saw Reeder whisper eagerly to Heinze, and then
walk away. He had gone to search my trunk for evidence that I was a
spy, and had I suspected this I would have protested violently, but it
did not occur to me then that he would do such a thing.
“I have only the passport I got from the commandante at Porto
Cortez,” I said.
At the words Aiken gave a quick shake of the head, as a man does
when he sees another move the wrong piece on the chess-board. But when
I stared at him inquiringly his expression changed instantly to one of
interrogation and complete unconcern.
“Ah!” exclaimed Heinze, triumphantly, “he has a permit from the
“Let me see it,” said the General.
I handed it to him, and he drew a camp-chair from the tent, and,
seating himself, began to compare me with the passport.
“In this,” he said at last, “you state that you are a commercial
traveller; that you are going to the capital on business, and that you
are a friend of the Government.”
I was going to tell him that until it had been handed me by Aiken,
I had known nothing of the passport, but I considered that in some way
this might involve Aiken, and so I answered:
“It was necessary to tell them any story, sir, in order to get into
the interior. I could not tell them that I was not a friend of
the Government, nor that I was trying to join you.”
“Your stories are somewhat conflicting,” said the General. “You are
led to our hiding-place by a man who is himself under suspicion, and
the only credentials you can show are from the enemy. Why should I
believe you are what you say you are? Why should I believe you are not
I could not submit to having my word doubted, so I bowed stiffly
and did not speak.
“Answer me,” the General commanded, “what proofs have I?”
“You have nothing but my word for it,” I said.
General Laguerre seemed pleased with that, and I believe he was
really interested in helping me to clear myself. But he had raised my
temper by questioning my word.
“Surely you must have something to identify you,” he urged.
“If I had I'd refuse to show it,” I answered. “I told you why I
came here. If you think I am a spy, you can go ahead and shoot me as a
spy, and find out whether I told you the truth afterward.”
The General smiled indulgently.
“There would be very little satisfaction in that for me, or for
you,” he said.
“I'm an officer and a gentleman,” I protested, “and I have a right
to be treated as one. If you serve every gentleman who volunteers to
join you in the way I have been served, I'm not surprised that your
force is composed of the sort you have around you.”
The General raised his head and looked at me with such a savage
expression that during the pause which ensued I was most
“If your proofs you are an officer are no stronger than those you
offer that you are a gentleman,” he said, “perhaps you are wise not to
show them. What right have you to claim you are an officer?”
His words cut and mortified me deeply, chiefly because I felt I
“Every cadet ranks a non-commissioned man,” I answered.
“But you are no longer a cadet,” he replied. “You have been
dismissed. You told me so yourself. Were you dismissed honorably, or
“Dishonorably,” I answered. I saw that this was not the answer he
had expected. He looked both mortified and puzzled, and glanced at
Heinze and Aiken as though he wished that they were out of hearing.
“What was it for—what was the cause of your dismissal?” he asked.
He now spoke in a much lower tone. “Of course, you need not tell me,”
“I was dismissed for being outside the limits of the Academy
without a permit,” I answered. “I went to a dance at a hotel in
“Was that all?” he demanded, smiling.
“That was the crime for which I was dismissed,” I said, sulkily.
The General looked at me for some moments, evidently in much doubt. I
believe he suspected that I had led him on to asking me the reason for
my dismissal, in order that I could make so satisfactory an answer. As
he sat regarding me, Heinze bent over him and said something to him in
a low tone, to which he replied: “But that would prove nothing. He
might have a most accurate knowledge of military affairs, and still be
an agent of the Government.”
“That is so, General,” Heinze answered, aloud. “But it would prove
whether he is telling the truth about his having been at West Point.
If his story is false in part, it is probably entirely false, as I
believe it to be.”
“Captain Heinze suggests that I allow him to test you with some
questions,” the General said, doubtfully; “questions on military
matters. Would you answer them?”
I did not want them to see how eager I was to be put to such a
test, so I tried to look as though I were frightened, and said,
cautiously, “I will try, sir.” I saw that the proposition to put me
through an examination had filled Aiken with the greatest concern. To
reassure him, I winked covertly.
Captain Heinze glanced about him as though looking for a text.
“Let us suppose,” he said, importantly, “that you are an inspector-
general come to inspect this camp. It is one that I myself selected;
as adjutant it is under my direction. What would you report as to its
position, its advantages and disadvantages?”
I did not have to look about me. Without moving from where I stood,
I could see all that was necessary of that camp. But I first asked,
timidly: “Is this camp a temporary one, made during a halt on the
march, or has it been occupied for some days?”
“We have been here for two weeks,” said Heinze.
“Is it supposed that a war is going on?” I asked, politely; “I
mean, are we in the presence of an enemy?”
“Of course,” answered Heinze. “Certainly we are at war.”
“Then,” I said, triumphantly, “in my report I should recommend that
the officer who selected this camp should be court-martialled.”
Heinze gave a shout of indignant laughter, and Aiken glared at me
as though he thought I had flown suddenly mad, but Laguerre only
frowned and waved his hand impatiently.
“You are bold, sir,” he said, grimly; “I trust you can explain
I pointed from the basin in which we stood, to the thickly wooded
hills around us.
“This camp has the advantage of water and grass,” I said. I spoke
formally, as though I were really making a report. “Those are its only
advantages. Captain Heinze has pitched it in a hollow. In case of an
attack, he has given the advantage of position to the enemy. Fifty men
could conceal themselves on those ridges and fire upon you as
effectively as though they had you at the bottom of a well. There are
no pickets out, except along the trail, which is the one approach the
enemy would not take. So far as this position counts, then,” I summed
up, “the camp is an invitation to a massacre.”
I did not dare look at the General, but I pointed at the guns at
his side. “Your two field-pieces are in their covers, and the covers
are strapped on them. It would take three minutes to get them into
action. Instead of being here in front of the tent, they should be up
there on those two highest points. There are no racks for the men's
rifles or ammunition belts. The rifles are lying on the ground and
scattered everywhere—in case of an attack the men would not know
where to lay their hands on them. It takes only two forked sticks and
a ridge-pole with nicks in it, to make an excellent gun-rack, but
there is none of any sort. As for the sanitary arrangements of the
camp, they are nil. The refuse from the troop kitchen is
scattered all over the place, and so are the branches on which the men
have been lying. There is no way for them to cross that stream without
their getting their feet wet; and every officer knows that wet feet
are worse than wet powder. The place does not look as though it had
been policed since you came here. It's a fever swamp. If you have been
here two weeks, it's a wonder your whole force isn't as rotten as
sheep. And there!” I cried, pointing at the stream which cut the camp
in two—“there are men bathing and washing their clothes up-stream,
and those men below them are filling buckets with water for cooking
and drinking. Why have you no water-guards? You ought to have a sentry
there, and there. The water above the first sentry should be reserved
for drinking, below him should be the place for watering your horses,
and below the second sentry would be the water for washing clothes.
Why, these things are the A, B, C, of camp life.” For the first time
since I had begun to speak, I turned on Heinze and grinned at him.
“How do you like my report on your camp?” I asked. “Now, don't you
agree with me that you should be court-martialled?” Heinze's anger
exploded like a shell.
“You should be court-martialled yourself!” he shouted. “You are
insulting our good General. For me, I do not care. But you shall not
reflect upon my commanding officer, for him I—”
“That will do, Captain Heinze,” Laguerre said, quietly. “That will
do, thank you.” He did not look up at either of us, but for some time
sat with his elbow on his knee and with his chin resting in the palm
of his hand, staring at the camp. There was a long, and, for me, an
awkward silence. The General turned his head and stared at me. His
expression was exceedingly grave, but without resentment.
“You are quite right,” he said, finally. Heinze and Aiken moved
expectantly forward, anxious to hear him pass sentence upon me. Seeing
this he raised his voice and repeated: “You are quite right in what
you say about the camp. All you say is quite true.”
He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and, as he
continued speaking with his face averted, it was as though he were
talking to himself.
“We grow careless as we grow older,” he said, “One grows less
difficult to please.” His tone was that of a man excusing himself to
himself. “The old standards, the old models, pass away and—and
failures, failures come and dull the energy.” His voice dropped into a
monotone; he seemed to have forgotten us entirely.
It must have been then that for the first time I saw the wistful
look come into his eyes, and suddenly felt deeply sorry for him and
wished that I might dare to tell him so. I was not sorry for any act
or speech of mine. They had attacked me, and I had only defended
myself. I was not repentant for anything I had said; my sorrow was for
what I read in the General's eyes as he sat staring out into the
valley. It was the saddest and loneliest look that I had ever seen.
There was no bitterness in it, but great sadness and weariness and
disappointment, and above all, loneliness, utter and complete
He glanced up and saw me watching him, and for a moment regarded me
curiously, and then, as though I had tried to force my way into his
solitude, turned his eyes quickly away.
I had forgotten that I was a suspected spy until the fact was
recalled to me at that moment by the reappearance of Major Reeder. He
came bustling past me, carrying as I saw, to my great indignation, the
sword which had been presented to my grandfather, and which my
grandfather had given to me. I sprang after him and twisted it out of
“How dare you!” I cried. “You have opened my trunk! How dare you
pry into my affairs? General Laguerre!” I protested. “I appeal to you,
“Major Reeder,” the General demanded, sharply, “what does this
“I was merely seeking evidence, General,” said Reeder. “You asked
for his papers, and I went to look for them.”
“I gave you no orders to pry into this gentleman's trunk,” said the
General. “You have exceeded your authority. You have done very ill,
sir. You have done very ill.”
While the General was reproving Reeder, his eyes, instead of
looking at the officer, were fixed upon my sword. It was sufficiently
magnificent to attract the attention of anyone, certainly of any
soldier. The scabbard was of steel, wonderfully engraved, the hilt was
of ivory, and the hilt-guard and belt fastenings were all of heavy
gold. The General's face was filled with appreciation.
“You have a remarkably handsome sword there,” he said, and
hesitated, courteously, “—I beg your pardon, I have not heard your
I was advancing to show the sword to him, when my eye fell upon the
plate my grandfather had placed upon it, and which bore the
inscription: “To Royal Macklin, on his appointment to the United
States Military Academy, from his Grandfather, John M. Hamilton, Maj.
“My name is Macklin, sir,” I said, “Royal Macklin.” I laid the
sword lengthwise in his hands, and then pointed at the inscription.
“You will find it there,” I said. The General bowed and bent his head
over the inscription and then read the one beside it. This stated that
the sword had been presented by the citizens of New York to
Major-General John M. Hamilton in recognition of his distinguished
services during the war with Mexico. The General glanced up at me in
“General Hamilton!” he exclaimed. “General John Hamilton! Is
that—was he your grandfather?”
I bowed my head, and the General stared at me as though I had
“But, let me tell you, sir,” he protested, “that he was my friend.
General Hamilton was my friend for many years. Let me tell you, sir,”
he went on, excitedly, “that your grandfather was a brave and
courteous gentleman, a true friend and—and a great soldier, sir, a
great soldier. I knew your grandfather well. I knew him well.” He rose
suddenly, and, while still holding the sword close to him, shook my
“Captain Heinze,” he said, “bring out a chair for Mr. Macklin.” He
did not notice the look of injury with which Heinze obeyed this
request. But I did, and I enjoyed the spectacle, and as Heinze handed
me the camp-chair I thanked him politely. I could afford to be
The General was drawing the sword a few inches from its scabbard
and shoving it back, again, turning it over in his hands.
“And to think that this is John Hamilton's sword,” he said, “and
that you are John Hamilton's grandson!” As the sword lay across his
knees he kept stroking it and touching it as one might caress a child,
glancing up at me from time to time with a smile. It seemed to have
carried him back again into days and scenes to which we all were
strangers, and we watched him without speaking. He became suddenly
conscious of our silence, and, on looking up, seemed to become
uncomfortably aware of the presence of Aiken and the two officers.
“That will do, gentlemen,” he said. “You will return with Mr. Aiken
after roll-call.” The officers saluted as they moved away, with Aiken
between them. He raised his eyebrows and tapped himself on the chest.
I understood that he meant by this that I was to say a good word for
him, and I nodded. When they had left us the General leaned forward
and placed his hand upon my shoulder.
“Now tell me,” he said. “Tell me everything. Tell me what you are
doing here, and why you ran away from home. Trust me entirely, and do
not be afraid to speak the whole truth.”
I saw that he thought I had left home because I had been guilty of
some wildness, if not of some crime, and I feared that my story would
prove so inoffensive that he would think I was holding something back.
But his manner was so gentle and generous that I plunged in boldly. I
told him everything; of my life with my grandfather, of my disgrace at
the Academy, of my desire, in spite of my first failure, to still make
myself a soldier. And then I told him of how I had been disappointed
and disillusioned, and how it had hurt me to find that this fight
seemed so sordid and the motives of all engaged only mercenary and
selfish. But once did he interrupt me, and then by an exclamation
which I mistook for an exclamation of disbelief, and which I
challenged quickly. “But it is true, sir,” I said. “I joined the
revolutionists for just that reason—because they were fighting for
their liberty and because they had been wronged and were the under-
dogs in the fight, and because Alvarez is a tyrant. I had no other
motive. Indeed, you must believe me, sir,” I protested, “or I cannot
talk to you. It is the truth.”
“The truth!” exclaimed Laguerre, fiercely; and as he raised his
eyes I saw that they had suddenly filled with tears. “It is the first
time I have heard the truth in many years. It is what I have preached
myself for half a lifetime; what I have lived for and fought for. Why,
here, now,” he cried, “while I have been sitting listening to you, it
was as though the boy I used to be had come back to talk to me,
bringing my old ideals, the old enthusiasm.” His manner and his tone
suddenly altered, and he shook his head and placed his hand almost
tenderly upon my own. “But I warn you,” he said, “I warn you that you
are wrong. You have begun young, and there is yet time for you to turn
back; but if you hope for money, or place, or public favor, you have
taken the wrong road. You will be a rolling-stone among milestones,
and the way is all down hill. I began to fight when I was even younger
than you. I fought for whichever party seemed to me to have the right
on its side. Sometimes I have fought for rebels and patriots,
sometimes for kings, sometimes for pretenders. I was out with
Garibaldi, because I believed he would give a republic to Italy; but I
fought against the republic of Mexico, because its people were rotten
and corrupt, and I believed that the emperor would rule them honestly
and well. I have always chosen my own side, the one which seemed to me
promised the most good; and yet, after thirty years, I am where you
see me to-night. I am an old man without a country, I belong to no
political party, I have no family, I have no home. I have travelled
over all the world looking for that country which was governed for the
greater good of the greater number, and I have fought only for those
men who promised to govern unselfishly and as the servants of the
people. But when the fighting was over, and they were safe in power,
they had no use for me nor my advice. They laughed, and called me a
visionary and a dreamer. 'You are no statesman, General,' they would
say to me. 'Your line is the fighting-line. Go back to it.' And yet,
when I think of how the others have used their power, I believe that I
could have ruled the people as well, and yet given them more freedom,
and made more of them more happy.”
The moon rose over the camp, and the night grew chill; but still we
sat, he talking and I listening as I had used to listen when I sat at
my grandfather's knee and he told me tales of war and warriors. They
brought us coffee and food, and we ate with an ammunition-box for a
table, he still talking and I eager to ask questions, and yet fearful
of interrupting him. He told of great battles which had changed the
history of Europe, of secret expeditions which had never been recorded
even in his own diary, of revolutions which after months of
preparation had burst forth and had been crushed between sunset and
sunrise; of emperors, kings, patriots, and charlatans. There was
nothing that I had wished to do, and that I had imagined myself doing,
that he had not accomplished in reality—the acquaintances he had made
among the leaders of men, the adventures he had suffered, the honors
he had won, were those which to me were the most to be desired.
[Illustration: The moon rose over the camp ... but still we sat.]
The scene around us added color to his words. The moonlight fell on
ghostly groups of men seated before the camp-fires, their faces
glowing in the red light of the ashes; on the irregular rows of
thatched shelters and on the shadowy figures of the ponies grazing at
the picket-line. All the odors of a camp, which to me are more
grateful than those of a garden, were borne to us on the damp night-
air; the clean pungent smell of burning wood, the scent of running
water, the smell of many horses crowded together and of wet saddles
and accoutrements. And above the swift rush of the stream, we could
hear the ceaseless pounding of the horses' hoofs on the turf, the
murmurs of the men's voices, and the lonely cry of the night-birds.
It was past midnight when the General rose, and my brain rioted
with the pictures he had drawn for me. Surely, if I had ever
considered turning back, I now no longer tolerated the thought of it.
If he had wished to convince me that the life of a soldier of fortune
was an ungrateful one he had set about proving it in the worst
possible way. At that moment I saw no career so worthy to be imitated
as his own, no success to be so envied as his failures. And in the
glow and inspiration of his talk, and with the courage of a boy, I
told him so. I think he was not ill pleased at what I said, nor with
me. He seemed to approve of what I had related of myself, and of the
comments I had made upon his reminiscences. He had said, again and
again: “That is an intelligent question,” “You have put your finger on
the real weakness of the attack,” “That was exactly the error in his
When he turned to enter his tent he shook my hand. “I do not know
when I have talked so much,” he laughed, “nor,” he added, with grave
courtesy, “when I have had so intelligent a listener. Good-night.”
Throughout the evening he had been holding my sword, and as he
entered the tent he handed it to me.
“Oh, I forgot,” he said. “Here is your sword, Captain.”
The flaps of the tent fell behind him, and I was left outside of
them, incredulous and trembling.
I could not restrain myself, and I pushed the flaps aside.
“I beg your pardon, General,” I stammered.
He had already thrown himself upon his cot, but he rose on his
elbow and stared at me.
“What is it?” he demanded.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” I gasped, “but what did you call me
then— just now?”
“Call you,” he said. “Oh, I called you 'captain.' You are a
captain. I will assign you your troop to-morrow.”
He turned and buried his face in his arm, and unable to thank him I
stepped outside of the tent and stood looking up at the stars, with my
grandfather's sword clasped close in my hands. And I was so proud and
happy that I believe I almost prayed that he could look down and see
That was how I received my first commission—in a swamp in
Honduras, from General Laguerre, of the Foreign Legion, as he lay
half-asleep upon his cot. It may be, if I continue as I have begun, I
shall receive higher titles, from ministers of war, from queens,
presidents, and sultans. I shall have a trunk filled, like that of
General Laguerre's, with commissions, brevets, and patents of
nobility, picked up in many queer courts, in many queer corners of the
globe. But to myself I shall always be Captain Macklin, and no other
rank nor title will ever count with me as did that first one, which
came without my earning it, which fell from the lips of an old man
without authority to give it, but which seemed to touch me like a
. . . . . . . . . .
The officer from whom I took over my troop was a German, Baron
Herbert von Ritter. He had served as an aide-de-camp to the King of
Bavaria, and his face was a patchwork of sword-cuts which he had
received in the students' duels. No one knew why he had left the
German army. He had been in command of the troop with the rank of
captain, but when the next morning Laguerre called him up and told him
that I was now his captain he seemed rather relieved than otherwise.
“They're a hard lot,” he said to me, as we left the General. “I'm
glad to get rid of them.”
The Legion was divided into four troops of about fifty men each.
Only half of the men were mounted, but the difficulties of the trail
were so great that the men on foot were able to move quite as rapidly
as those on mule-back. Under Laguerre there were Major Webster, an old
man, who as a boy had invaded Central America with William Walker's
expedition, and who ever since had lived in Honduras; Major Reeder and
five captains, Miller, who was in charge of a dozen native Indians and
who acted as a scout; Captain Heinze, two Americans named Porter and
Russell, and about a dozen lieutenants of every nationality. Heinze
had been adjutant of the force, but the morning after my arrival the
General appointed me to that position, and at roll-call announced the
change to the battalion.
“We have been waiting here for two weeks for a shipment of machine
guns,” he said to them. “They have not arrived and I cannot wait for
them any longer. The battalion will start at once for Santa Barbara,
where I expect to get you by to-morrow night. There we will join
General Garcia, and continue with him until we enter the capital.”
The men, who were properly weary of lying idle in the swamp,
interrupted him with an enthusiastic cheer and continued shouting
until he lifted his hand.
“Since we have been lying here,” he said, “I have allowed you
certain liberties, and discipline has relaxed. But now that we are on
the march again you will conduct yourselves like soldiers, and
discipline will be as strictly enforced as in any army in Europe.
Since last night we have received an addition to our force in the
person of Captain Macklin, who has volunteered his services. Captain
Macklin comes of a distinguished family of soldiers, and he has
himself been educated at West Point. I have appointed him Captain of D
Troop and Adjutant of the Legion. As adjutant you will recognize his
authority as you would my own. You will now break camp, and be
prepared to march in half an hour.”
Soon after we had started we reached a clearing, and Laguerre
halted us and formed the column into marching order. Captain Miller,
who was thoroughly acquainted with the trail, and his natives, were
sent on two hundred yards ahead of us as a point. They were followed
by Heinze with his Gatling guns. Then came Laguerre and another troop,
then Reeder with the two remaining troops and our “transport” between
them. Our transport consisted of a dozen mules carrying bags of
coffee, beans, and flour, our reserve ammunition, the General's tent,
and whatever few private effects the officers possessed over and above
the clothes they stood in. I brought up the rear with D Troop. We
moved at a walk in single file and without flankers, as the jungle on
either side of the trail was impenetrable. Our departure from camp had
been so prompt that I had been given no time to become acquainted with
my men, but as we tramped forward I rode along with them or drew to
one side to watch them pass and took a good look at them. Carrying
their rifles, and with their blanket-rolls and cartridge-belts slung
across their shoulders, they made a better appearance than when they
were sleeping around the camp. As the day grew on I became more and
more proud of my command. The baron pointed out those of the men who
could be relied upon, and I could pick out for myself those who had
received some military training. When I asked these where they had
served before, they seemed pleased at my having distinguished the
difference between them and the other volunteers, and saluted properly
and answered briefly and respectfully.
If I was proud of the men, I was just as pleased with myself, or, I
should say, with my luck. Only two weeks before I had been read out to
the battalion at West Point, as one unfit to hold a commission, and
here I was riding at the head of my own troop. I was no second
lieutenant either, with a servitude of five years hanging over me
before I could receive my first bar, but a full-fledged captain, with
fifty men under him to care for and discipline and lead into battle.
There was not a man in my troop who was not at least a few years older
than myself, and as I rode in advance of them and heard the creak of
the saddles and the jingle of the picket-pins and water-bottles, or
turned and saw the long line stretching out behind me, I was as proud
as Napoleon returning in triumph to Paris. I had brought with me from
the Academy my scarlet sash, and wore it around my waist under my
sword-belt. I also had my regulation gauntlets, and a campaign
sombrero, and as I rode along I remembered the line about General
Stonewall Jackson, in “Barbara Frietchie,”
The leader glancing left and right.
I repeated it to myself, and scowled up at the trees and into the
jungle. It was a tremendous feeling to be a “leader.”
At noon the heat was very great, and Laguerre halted the column at
a little village and ordered the men to eat their luncheon. I posted
pickets, appointed a detail to water the mules, and asked two of the
inhabitants for the use of their clay ovens. In the other troops each
man, or each group of men, were building separate fires and eating
alone or in messes of five or six but by detailing four of my men to
act as cooks for the whole troop, and six others to tend the fires in
the ovens, and six more to carry water for the coffee, all of my men
were comfortably fed before those in the other troops had their fires
Von Ritter had said to me that during the two weeks in camp the men
had used up all their tobacco, and that their nerves were on edge for
lack of something to smoke. So I hunted up a native who owned a
tobacco patch, and from him, for three dollars in silver, I bought
three hundred cigars. I told Von Ritter to serve out six of them to
each of the men of D Troop. It did me good to see how much they
enjoyed them. For the next five minutes every man I met had a big
cigar in his mouth, which he would remove with a grin, and say, “Thank
you, Captain.” I did not give them the tobacco to gain popularity, for
in active service I consider that tobacco is as necessary for the man
as food, and I also believe that any officer who tries to buy the
good-will of his men is taking the quickest way to gain their
Soldiers know the difference between the officer who bribes and
pets them, and the one who, before his own tent is set up, looks to
his men and his horses, who distributes the unpleasant duties of the
camp evenly, and who knows what he wants done the first time he gives
an order, and does not make unnecessary work for others because he
cannot make up his mind.
After I had seen the mules watered and picketed in the public
corral, I went to look for the General, whom I found with the other
officers at the house of the Alcalde. They had learned news of the
greatest moment. Two nights previous, General Garcia had been attacked
in force at Santa Barbara, and had abandoned the town without a fight.
Nothing more was known, except that he was either falling back along
the trail to join us, or was waiting outside the city for us to come
up and join him.
Laguerre at once ordered the bugles to sound “Boots and saddles,”
and within five minutes we were on the trail again with instructions
to press the men forward as rapidly as possible. The loss of Santa
Barbara was a serious calamity. It was the town third in importance in
Honduras, and it had been the stronghold of the revolutionists. The
moral effect of the fact that Garcia held it, had been of the greatest
possible benefit. As Garcia's force consisted of 2,000 men and six
pieces of artillery, it was inexplicable to Laguerre how without a
fight he had abandoned so valuable a position.
The country through which we now passed was virtually uninhabited,
and wild and rough, but grandly beautiful. At no time, except when we
passed through one of the dusty little villages, of a dozen sun-baked
huts set around a sun-baked plaza, was the trail sufficiently wide to
permit us to advance unless in single file. And yet this was the
highway of Honduras from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and
the only road to Tegucigalpa, the objective point of our expedition.
The capital lay only one hundred miles from Porto Cortez, but owing to
the nature of this trail it could not be reached from the east coast,
either on foot or by mule, in less than from six to nine days. No
wheeled vehicle could have possibly attempted the trip without shaking
to pieces, and it was only by dragging and lifting our Gatling guns by
hand that we were able to bring them with us.
At sunset we halted at a little village, where, as usual, the
people yelled “Vivas!” at us, and protested that they were good
revolutionists. The moon had just risen, and, as the men rode forward,
kicking up the white dust and with the Gatlings clanking and rumbling
behind them, they gave a most war-like impression. Miller, who had
reconnoitered the village before we entered it, stood watching us as
we came in. He said that we reminded him of troops of United States
cavalry as he had seen them on the alkali plains of New Mexico and
Arizona. It was again my duty to station our pickets and out-posts,
and as I came back after placing the sentries, the fires were
twinkling all over the plaza and throwing grotesque shadows of the men
and the mules against the white walls of the houses. It was a most
weird and impressive picture.
The troopers were exhausted with the forced march, and fell
instantly to sleep, but for a long time I sat outside the Town Hall
talking with General Laguerre and two of the Americans, Miller and old
man Webster. Their talk was about Aiken, who so far had accompanied us
as an untried prisoner. From what he had said to me on the march, and
from what I remembered of his manner when Captain Leeds informed him
of the loss of the guns, I was convinced that he was innocent of any
I related to the others just what had occurred at the coast, and
after some talk with Aiken himself, Laguerre finally agreed that he
was innocent of any evil against him, and that Quay was the man who
had sold the secret. Laguerre then offered Aiken his choice of
continuing on with us, or of returning to the coast, and Aiken said
that he would prefer to go on with our column. Now that the Isthmian
Line knew that he had tried to assist Laguerre, his usefulness at the
coast was at an end. He added frankly that his only other reason for
staying with us was because he thought we were going to win. General
Laguerre gave him charge of our transport and commissary, that is of
our twelve pack- mules and of the disposition of the coffee, flour,
and beans. Aiken possessed real executive ability, and it is only fair
to him to say that as commissary sergeant he served us well. By the
time we had reached Tegucigalpa the twelve mules had increased to
twenty, and our stock of rations, instead of diminishing as we
consumed them, increased daily. We never asked how he managed it.
Possibly, knowing Aiken, it was wiser not to inquire.
We broke camp at four in the morning, but in spite of our early
start the next day's advance was marked by the most cruel heat. We had
left the shade of the high lands and now pushed on over a plain of
dry, burning sand, where nothing grew but naked bushes bristling with
thorns, and tall grayish-green cacti with disjointed branching arms.
They stretched out before us against the blazing sky, like a
succession of fantastic telegraph-poles. We were marching over what
had once been the bed of a great lake. Layers of tiny round pebbles
rolled under our feet, and the rocks which rose out of the sand had
been worn and polished by the water until they were as smooth as the
steps of a cathedral. A mile away on each flank were dark green
ridges, but ahead of us there was only a great stretch of glaring
white sand. No wind was stirring, and not a drop of moisture. The air
was like a breath from a brick oven, and the heat of the sun so fierce
that if you touched your fingers to a gun-barrel it burned the flesh.
We did not escape out of this lime-kiln until three in the
afternoon, when the trail again led us into the protecting shade of
the jungle. The men plunged into it as eagerly as though they were
diving into water.
About four o'clock we heard great cheering ahead of us, and word
was passed to the rear that Miller had come in touch with Garcia's
scouts. A half hour later, we marched into the camp of the
revolutionists. It was situated about three miles outside of Santa
Barbara, on the banks of the river where the trail crossed it at a
ford. Our fellows made a rather fine appearance as they rode out of
the jungle among the revolutionists; and, considering the fact that we
had come to fight for them, I thought the little beggars might have
given us a cheer, but they only stared at us, and nodded stupidly.
They were a mixed assortment, all of them under-size and either broad
or swarthy, with the straight hair and wide cheek-bones of the Carib
Indian, or slight and nervous looking, with the soft eyes and sharp
profile of the Spaniard. The greater part of them had deserted in
companies from the army, and they still wore the blue-jean uniform and
carried the rifle and accoutrements of the Government. To distinguish
themselves from those soldiers who had remained with Alvarez, they had
torn off the red braid with which their tunics were embroidered.
All the officers of the Foreign Legion rode up the stream with
Laguerre to meet General Garcia, whom we found sitting in the shade of
his tent surrounded by his staff. He gave us a most enthusiastic
greeting, embracing the General, and shaking hands with each of us in
turn. He seemed to be in the highest state of excitement, and bustled
about ordering us things to drink, and chattering, gesticulating, and
laughing. He reminded me of a little, fat French poodle trying to
express his delight by bounds and barks. They brought us out a great
many bottles of rum and limes, and we all had a long, deep drink.
After the fatigue and dust of the day, it was the best I ever tasted.
Garcia's officers seemed just as much excited over nothing as he was,
but were exceedingly friendly, treating us with an exaggerated
“comrades-in-arms” and “brother-officers” sort of manner. The young
man who entertained me was quite a swell, with a tortoise-shell visor
to his cap and a Malacca sword-cane which swung from a gold cord. He
was as much pleased over it as a boy with his first watch, and
informed me that it had been used to assassinate his uncle, ex-
President Rojas. As he seemed to consider it a very valuable heirloom,
I moved my legs so that, as though by accident, my sword fell forward
where he could see it. When he did he exclaimed upon its magnificence,
and I showed him my name on the scabbard. He thought it had been
presented to me for bravery. He was very much impressed.
Garcia and Laguerre talked together for a long time and then shook
hands warmly, and we all saluted and returned to the ford.
As soon as we had reached it Laguerre seated himself under a tree
and sent for all of his officers.
“We are to attack at daybreak to-morrow morning,” he said. “Garcia
is to return along the trail and make a demonstration on this side of
the town, while we are here to attack from the other. The plaza is
about three hundred yards from where we will enter. On the corner of
the plaza and the main street there is a large warehouse. The
warehouse looks across the plaza to the barracks, which are on the
other side of the square. General Garcia's plan is that our objective
point shall be this warehouse. It has two stories, and men on its roof
will have a great advantage over those in the barracks and in the
streets. He believes that when he begins his attack from this side,
the Government troops will rush from the barracks and hasten toward
the sound of the firing. At the same signal we are to hurry in from
the opposite side of the town, seize the warehouse, and throw up
barricades across the plaza. Should this plan succeed, the Government
troops will find themselves shut in between two fires. It seems to be
a good plan, and I have agreed to it. The cattle-path to the town is
much too rough for our guns, so Captain Heinze and the gun detail will
remain here and co-operate with General Garcia. Let your men get all
the sleep they can now. They must march again at midnight. They will
carry nothing but their guns and ammunition and rations for one meal.
If everything goes as we expect, we will breakfast in Santa Barbara.”
I like to remember the happiness I got out of the excitement of
that moment. I lived at the rate of an hour a minute, and I was as
upset from pure delight as though I had been in a funk of abject
terror. And I was scared in a way, too, for whenever I remembered I
knew nothing of actual fighting, and of what chances there were to
make mistakes, I shivered down to my heels. But I would not let myself
think of thechances to make a failure, but rather of the opportunities
of doing something distinguished and of making myself conspicuous. I
laughed when I thought of my classmates at the Point with their eyes
bent on a book of tactics, while here was I, within three hours of a
real battle, of the most exciting of all engagements, an attack upon a
city. A full year, perhaps many years, would pass before they would
get the chance to hear a hostile shot, the shot fired in anger, which
every soldier must first hear before he can enter upon his
inheritance, and hold his own in the talk of the mess-table. I felt
almost sorry for them when I thought how they would envy me when they
read of the fight in the newspapers. I decided it would be called the
battle of Santa Barbara, and I imagined how it would look in the head-
lines. I was even generous enough to wish that three or four of the
cadets were with me; that is, of course, under me, so that they could
tell afterward how well I had led them.
At midnight we filed silently out of camp, and felt our way in the
dark through the worst stretch of country we had yet encountered. The
ferns rose above our hips, and the rocks and fallen logs over which we
stumbled were slippery with moss. Every minute a man was thrown by a
trailing vine or would plunge over a fallen tree-trunk, and there
would be a yell of disgust and an oath and a rattle of accoutrements.
The men would certainly have been lost if they had not kept in touch
by calling to one another, and the noise we made hissing at them for
silence only added to the uproar.
At the end of three hours our guides informed us that for the last
half-mile they had been guessing at the trail, and that they had now
completely lost themselves. So Laguerre sent out Miller and the native
scouts to buskey about and find out where we were, and almost
immediately we heard the welcome barking of a dog, and one of the men
returned to report that we had walked right into the town. We found
that the first huts were not a hundred yards distant. Laguerre
accordingly ordered the men to conceal themselves and sent Miller, one
of Garcia's officers, and myself to reconnoitre.
The moonlight had given way to the faint gray light which comes
just before dawn, and by it we could distinguish lumps of blackness
which as we approached turned into the thatched huts of the villagers.
Until we found the main trail into the town we kept close to the
bamboo fences of these huts, and then, still keeping in the shadows,
we followed the trail until it turned into a broad and well-paved
Except for many mongrel dogs that attacked us, and the roosters
that began to challenge us from every garden, we had not been
observed, and, so far as we could distinguish, the approach to the
town was totally unprotected. By this time the light had increased
sufficiently for us to see the white fronts of the houses, and the
long empty street, where rows of oil-lamps were sputtering and
flickering, and as they went out, filling the clean, morning air with
the fumes of the dying wicks. It had been only two weeks since I had
seen paved streets, and shops, and lamp-posts, but I had been sleeping
long enough in the open to make the little town of Santa Barbara
appear to me like a modern and well-appointed city. Viewed as I now
saw it, our purpose to seize it appeared credulous and grotesque. I
could not believe that we contemplated such a piece of folly. But the
native officer pointed down the street toward a square building with
overhanging balconies. In the morning mist the warehouse loomed up
above its fellows of one story like an impregnable fortress.
Miller purred with satisfaction.
“That's the place,” he whispered; “I remember it now. If we can get
into it, they can never get us out.” It seemed to me somewhat like
burglary, but I nodded in assent, and we ran back through the
outskirts to where Laguerre was awaiting us. We reported that there
were no pickets guarding our side of the town, and the building Garcia
had designated for defence seemed to us most admirably selected.
It was now near to the time set for the attack to begin, and
Laguerre called the men together, and, as was his custom, explained to
them what he was going to do. He ordered that when we reached the
warehouse I was to spread out my men over the plaza and along the two
streets on which the warehouse stood. Porter was to mount at once to
the roof and open fire on the barracks, and the men of B and C Troops
were to fortify the warehouse and erect the barricades.
It was still dark, but through the chinks of a few of the mud huts
we could see the red glow of a fire, and were warned by this to move
forward and take up our position at the head of the main street.
Before we advanced, skirmishers were sent out to restrain any of the
people in the huts who might attempt to arouse the garrison. But we
need not have concerned ourselves, for those of the natives who came
to their doors, yawning and shivering in the cool morning air, shrank
back at the sight of us, and held up their hands. I suppose, as we
crept out of the mist, we were a somewhat terrifying spectacle, but I
know that I personally felt none of the pride of a conquering hero.
The glimpse I had caught of the sleeping town, peaceful and
unconscious, and the stealth and silence of our movements, depressed
me greatly, and I was convinced that I had either perpetrated or was
about to perpetrate some hideous crime. I had anticipated excitement
and the joy of danger, instead of which, as I tiptoed between the poor
gardens, I suffered all the quaking terrors of a chicken thief.
We had halted behind a long adobe wall to the right of the main
street, and as we crouched there the sun rose like a great searchlight
and pointed us out, and exposed us, and seemed to hold up each one of
us to the derision of Santa Barbara. As the light flooded us we all
ducked our heads simultaneously, and looked wildly about us as though
seeking for some place to hide. I felt as though I had been caught in
the open street in my night-gown. It was impossible to justify our
presence. As I lay, straining my ears for Garcia's signal, I wondered
what we would do if the worthy citizen who owned the garden wall,
against which we lay huddled, should open the gate and ask us what we
wanted. Could we reply that we, a hundred and fifty men, proposed to
seize and occupy his city? I felt sure he would tell us to go away at
once or he would call the police. I looked at the men near me, and saw
that each was as disturbed as myself. A full quarter of an hour had
passed since the time set for the attack, and still there was no
signal from Garcia. The strain was becoming intolerable. At any moment
some servant, rising earlier than his fellows, might stumble upon us,
and in his surprise sound the alarm. Already in the trail behind us a
number of natives, on their way to market, had been halted by our men,
who were silently waving them back into the forest. The town was
beginning to stir, wooden shutters banged against stone walls, and
from but just around the corner of the main street came the clatter of
iron bars as they fell from the door of a shop. We could hear the man
who was taking them down whistling cheerily.
And then from the barracks came, sharply and clearly, the ringing
notes of the reveille. I jumped to my feet and ran to where Laguerre
was sitting with his back to the wall.
“General, can't I begin now?” I begged. “You said D Troop was to go
He shook his head impatiently. “Listen!” he commanded.
We heard a single report, but so faintly and from such a distance
that had it not instantly been followed by two more we could not have
distinguished it. Even then we were not certain. Then as we crouched
listening, each reading the face of the others and no one venturing to
breathe, there came the sharp, broken roll of musketry. It was
unmistakable. The men gave a great gasp of relief, and without orders
sprang to “attention.” A ripple of rifle-fire, wild and scattered,
answered the first volley.
“They have engaged the pickets,” said Laguerre.
The volleys were followed by others, and volleys, more uneven,
answered them still more wildly.
“They are driving the pickets back,” explained Laguerre. We all
stood looking at him as though he were describing something which he
actually saw. Suddenly from the barracks came the discordant calls of
many bugles, warning, commanding, beseeching.
Laguerre tossed back his head, like a horse that has been too
“They are leaving the barracks,” he said. He pulled out his watch
and stood looking down at it in his hand.
“I will give them three minutes to get under way,” he said. “Then
we will start for the warehouse. When they come back again, they will
find us waiting for them.”
It seemed an hour that we stood there, and during every second of
that hour the rifle-fire increased in fierceness and came nearer, and
seemed to make another instant of inaction a crime. The men were
listening with their mouths wide apart, their heads cocked on one
side, and their eyes staring. They tightened their cartridge-belts
nervously, and opened and shot back the breech-bolts of their rifles.
I took out my revolver, and spun the cylinder to reassure myself for
the hundredth time that it was ready. But Laguerre stood quite
motionless, with his eyes fixed impassively upon his watch as though
he were a physician at a sick-bed. Only once did he raise his eyes. It
was when the human savageness of the rifle-fire was broken by a low
mechanical rattle, like the whirr of a mowing-machine as one hears it
across the hay-fields. It spanked the air with sharp hot reports.
“Heinze has turned the Gatlings on them,” he said. “They will be
coming back soon.” He closed the lid of his watch with a click and
nodded gravely at me. “You can go ahead now, Captain,” he said. His
tone was the same as though he had asked me to announce dinner.
I jumped toward the street at the double, and the men followed me
crowded in a bunch. I shouted back at them to spread out, and they
fell apart. As I turned into the street I heard a shout from the plaza
end of it and found a dozen soldiers running forward to meet us. When
they saw the troops swing around the corner, they halted and some took
cover in the doorways, and others dropped on one knee in the open
street, and fired carefully. I heard soft, whispering sounds stealing
by my head with incredible slowness, and I knew that at last I was
under fire. I no longer felt like a boy robbing an orchard, nor a
burglar. I was instead grandly excited and happy, and yet I was quite
calm too. I am sure of this, for I remember I calculated the distance
between us and the warehouse, and compared it with the two hundred and
twenty-yard stretch in an athletic park at home. As I ran I noted also
everything on either side of me: two girls standing behind the iron
bars of a window with their hands pressed to their cheeks, and a negro
with a broom in his hand crouching in a doorway. Some of the men
stopped running and halted to fire, but I shouted to them to come on.
I was sure if we continued to charge we could frighten off the men at
the end of the street, and I guessed rightly, for as we kept on they
scattered and ran. I could hear shouts and screams rising from many
different houses, and men and women scuttled from one side of the
street to the other like frightened hens.
As we passed an open shop some men inside opened a fusillade on me,
and over my shoulder I just caught a glimpse of one of them as he
dropped back behind the counter. I shouted to Von Ritter, who was
racing with me, to look after them, and saw him and a half-dozen
others swerve suddenly and sweep into the shop. Porter's men were just
behind mine and the noise our boots made pounding on the cobblestones
sounded like a stampede of cattle.
The plaza was an unshaded square of dusty grass. In the centre was
a circular fountain, choked with dirt and dead leaves, and down the
paths which led to it were solid stone benches. I told the men to take
cover inside the fountain, and about a dozen of them dropped behind
the rim of it, facing toward the barracks. I heard Porter give a loud
“hurrah!” at finding the doors of the warehouse open, and it seemed
almost instantly that the men of his troop began to fire over our
heads from its roof. At the first glance it was difficult to tell from
where the enemy's fire came, but I soon saw smoke floating from the
cupola of the church on the corner and drifting through the barred
windows of the barracks. I shouted at the men behind the benches to
aim at the cupola, and directed those with me around the fountain to
let loose at the barrack windows. As they rose to fire and exposed
themselves above the rim of the fountain three of them were hit, and
fell back swearing. The men behind the benches shouted at me to take
cover, and one of the wounded men in the fountain reached up and
pulled at my tunic, telling me to lie down. The men of B and C Troops
were rolling casks out of the warehouse and building a barricade, and
I saw that we were drawing all of the fire from them. We were now in a
cross-fire between the church and the barracks, and were getting very
much the worst of the fight. The men in the barracks were only seventy
yards away. They seemed to be the ones chiefly responsible. They had
piled canvas cots against the bars of the windows, and though these
afforded them no protection, they prevented our seeing anything at
which to shoot.
One of my men gave a grunt, and whirled over, holding his hand to
his shoulder. “I've got it, Captain,” he said. I heard another man
shriek from behind one of the benches. Our position was becoming
impossible. It was true we were drawing the fire from the men who were
working on the barricade, which was what we had been sent out to do,
but in three minutes I had lost five men.
I remembered a professor at the Point telling us the proportion of
bullets that went home was one to every three hundred, and I wished I
had him behind that fountain. Miller was lying at my feet pumping away
with a Winchester. As he was reloading it he looked up at me, and
shouted, “And they say these Central Americans can't shoot!” I saw
white figures appearing and disappearing at the windows of almost
every house on the plaza. The entire population seemed to have taken
up arms against us. The bullets splashed on the combing of the
fountain and tore up the grass at our feet, and whistled and whispered
about our ears. It seemed utter idiocy to remain, but I could not
bring myself to run back to the barricade.
In the confusion which had ensued in the barracks when Garcia
opened the attack the men who ran out to meet him had left the gates
of the barrack yard open, and as I stood, uncertain what to do, I saw
a soldier pushing them together. He had just closed one when I caught
sight of him. I fired with my revolver, and shouted to the men. “We
must get inside those gates,” I cried. “We can't stay here. Charge
those gates!” I pointed, and they all jumped from every part of the
plaza, and we raced for the barrack wall, each of us yelling as we
ran. A half dozen of us reached there in time to throw ourselves
against the gate that was just closing, and the next instant I fell
sprawling inside the barrack yard.
[Illustration: And the next instant I fell sprawling inside the
We ran straight for the long room which faced the street, and as we
came in at one end of it the men behind the cots fired a frightened
volley at us and fled out at the other. In less than two minutes the
barracks were empty, and we had changed our base from that cock-pit of
a fountain to a regular fortress with walls two feet thick, with
rifles stacked in every corner, and, what at that moment seemed of
greatest importance, with a breakfast for two hundred men bubbling and
boiling in great iron pots in the kitchen. I had never felt such
elation and relief as I did over that bloodless victory. It had come
when things looked so bad; it had come so suddenly and easily that
while some of the men cheered, others only laughed, shaking each
other's hands or slapping each other on the back, and some danced
about like children. We tore the cots away from the windows and waved
at the men behind the barricade, and they stood up and cheered us, and
the men on the roof, looking very tall against the blue sky, stood up
and waved their hats and cheered too. They had silenced the men in the
cupola, and a sudden hush fell upon the plaza. It was easy to see that
many sympathizers with the government had been shooting at us from the
private houses. When they saw us take the barracks they had probably
decided that the time had come to wipe off the powder-stains, and
reappear as friends of the revolution. The only firing now was from
where Garcia was engaged. Judging from the loudness of these volleys
he had reached the outskirts of the town. I set half of my force to
work piling up bags of meal behind the iron bars, and, in the event of
fire, filling pails with water, and breaking what little glass still
remained in the windows. Others I sent to bring in the wounded, and
still others to serving out the coffee and soup we had found in the
kitchen. After giving these orders I ran to the barricade to report.
When I reached it the men behind it began to rap on the stones with
the butts of their rifles as people pound with their billiard-cues
when someone has made a difficult shot, and those on the roof leaned
over and clapped their hands. It was most unmilitary, but I must say I
was pleased by it, though I pretended I did not know what they meant.
Laguerre came to the door of the warehouse, and smiled at me.
“I'm glad you're still alive, sir,” he said. “After this, when you
get within seventy yards of the enemy, I hope you will be able to see
him without standing up.”
The men above us laughed, and I felt rather foolish, and muttered
something about “setting an example.”
“If you get yourself shot,” he said, “you will be setting a very
bad example, indeed. We can't spare anybody, Captain, and certainly
not you.” I tried to look as modest as possible, but I could not
refrain from glancing around to see if the men had heard him, and I
observed with satisfaction that they had.
Laguerre asked me if I could hold the barracks, and I told him that
I thought I could. He then ordered me to remain there.
“Would you like a cup of coffee, General?” I asked. The General's
expression changed swiftly. It became that of a very human and a very
“Have you got any?” he demanded anxiously.
“If you can lend me some men,” I said, “I can send you back eight
gallons.” At this the men behind the barricades gave a great cheer of
delight, and the General smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
“That is right,” he said. “The best kind of courage often comes
from a full stomach. Run along now,” he added, as though he were
talking to a child, “run along, and don't fire until we do, and send
us that coffee before we get to work again.”
I called in all of my men from the side streets, and led them
across to the barracks. I placed some of them on the roof and some of
them on tables set against the inside of the wall in the yard.
As I did so, I saw Porter run across the plaza with about fifty of
his men, and almost immediately after they had disappeared we heard
cheering, and he returned with Captain Heinze. They both ran toward
General Laguerre, and Porter then came across to me, and told me that
the government troops were in full flight, and escaping down the side
streets into the jungle. They were panic-stricken and were scattering
in every direction, each man looking after his own safety. For the
next two hours I chased terrified little soldiers all over the side of
the town which had been assigned me, either losing them at the edge of
the jungle, or dragging them out of shops and private houses. No one
was hurt. It was only necessary to fire a shot after them to see them
throw up their hands. By nine o'clock I had cleaned up my side of the
town, and returned to the plaza. It was now so choked with men and
mules that I was five minutes in forcing my way across. Garcia's
troops had marched in, and were raising a great hullabaloo, cheering
and shouting, and embracing the townspeople, whom they had known
during their former occupation, and many of whom were the same people
who had been firing at us. I found Laguerre in counsel with Garcia,
who was in high spirits, and feeling exceedingly pleased with himself.
He entirely ignored our part in taking the town, and talked as though
he had captured it single-handed. The fact that the government troops
had held him back until we threatened them in the rear he did not
consider as important. I resented his swagger and the way he
patronized Laguerre, but the General did not seem to notice it, or was
too well satisfied with the day's work to care. While I was at head-
quarters our scouts came in to report that the enemy was escaping
along the trail to Comyagua, and that two of their guns had stalled in
the mud, not one mile out from Santa Barbara. This was great news, and
to my delight I was among those who hurried out to the place where the
guns were supposed to be. We found them abandoned and stuck in the
mud, and captured them without firing a shot. A half hour later we
paraded our prizes in a triumphal procession through the streets of
Santa Barbara, and were given a grand welcome by the allies and the
townspeople. I had never witnessed such enthusiasm, but it was not
long before I found out the cause of it. In our absence everybody had
been celebrating the victory with aguardiente, and half of Garcia's
warriors had become so hopelessly drunk that they were lying all over
the plaza, and their comrades were dancing and tramping upon them.
I found that this orgy had put Laguerre in a fine rage, and I heard
him send out the provost guard with orders to throw all the drunken
men into the public corral for lost mules.
When he learned of this Garcia was equally indignant. The matter
ended with Laguerre's locking up Garcia's soldiers with our
prisoners-of-war in the yard barracks, where they sang and shouted and
fought until they were exhausted and went to sleep.
There was still much drink left on requisition, but the conquering
heroes had taken everything there was to eat, and for some time I
wandered around seeking for food before I finally discovered Miller,
Von Ritter, and Aiken in the garden of a private house enjoying a most
magnificent luncheon. I begged a share on the ground that I had just
overcome two helpless brass cannon, and they gave me a noisy welcome,
and made a place for me. I was just as happy as I was hungry, and I
was delighted to find someone with whom I could discuss the fight. For
an hour we sat laughing and drinking, and each talking at the top of
his voice and all at the same time. We were as elated as though we had
captured the city of London.
Of course Aiken had taken no part in the fight, and of course he
made light of it, which was just the sort of thing he would do, and he
especially poked fun at me and at my charge on the barracks. He called
it a “grand-stand play,” and said I was a “gallery fighter.” He said
the reason I ran out into the centre of the plaza was because I knew
there was a number of women looking out of the windows, and he
pretended to believe that when we entered the barracks they were
empty, and that I knew they were when I ordered the charge.
“It was the coffee they were after,” he declared. “As soon as
Macklin smelt the coffee he drew his big gilt sword and cried, 'Up, my
men, inside yon fortress a free breakfast awaits us. Follow your
gallant leader!' and they never stopped following until they reached
the kitchen. They're going to make Macklin a bugler,” he said, “so
that after this he can blow his own trumpet without anyone being
allowed to interrupt him.”
I was glad to find that I could take what Aiken said of me as
lightly as did the others. Since the fight his power to annoy me had
passed. I knew better than anyone else that at one time during the
morning I had been in a very tight place, but I had stuck to it and
won out. The knowledge that I had done so gave me confidence in
myself—not that I have ever greatly lacked it, but it was a new kind
of confidence. It made me feel older, and less inclined to boast. In
this it also helped out my favorite theory that it must be easy for
the man who has done something to be modest. After he has proved
himself capable in the eyes of his comrades he doesn't have to go
about telling them how good he is. It is a saying that heroes are
always modest, but they are not really modest. They just keep quiet,
because they know their deeds are better talkers than they are.
Miller and I had despatched an orderly to inform Laguerre of our
whereabouts, and at three o'clock in the afternoon the man returned to
tell us that we were to join the General in the plaza. On arriving
there we found the column already drawn up in the order of march, and
an hour later we filed out of the town down the same street by which
we had entered it that morning, and were cheered by the same people
who eight hours before had been firing upon us. We left five hundred
of Garcia's men to garrison the place and prevent the townspeople from
again changing their sympathies, and continued on toward Tegucigalpa
with Garcia and the remainder of his force as our main body, and with
the Legion in the van. We were a week in reaching Comyagua, which was
the only place that we expected would offer any resistance until we
arrived outside of the capital. During that week our march was exactly
similar to the one we had made from the camp to Santa Barbara. There
was the same rough trail, the jungle crowding close on either flank,
the same dusty villages, the same fierce heat. At the villages of
Tabla Ve and at Seguatepec our scouts surprised the rear guard of the
enemy and stampeded it without much difficulty, and with only twenty
men wounded. As usual we had no one to thank for our success in these
skirmishes but ourselves, as Garcia's men never appeared until just as
the fight was over, when they would come running up in great
excitement. Laguerre remarked that they needed a better knowledge of
the bugle calls, as they evidently mistook our “Cease firing” for
The best part of that week's march lay in the many opportunities it
gave me to become acquainted with my General. The more I was permitted
to be with him the longer I wanted to be always with him, and with no
one else. After listening to Laguerre you felt that a talk with the
other men was a waste of time. There was nothing apparently that he
did not know of men and events, and his knowledge did not come from
books, but at first hand, from contact with the men, and from having
taken part in the events.
After we had pitched camp for the night the others would elect me
to go to his tent, and ask if we could come over and pay our respects.
They always selected me for this errand, because they said it was easy
to see that I was his favorite.
When we were seated about him on the rocks, or on ammunition boxes,
or on the ground, I would say, “Please, General, we want to hear some
stories,” and he would smile and ask, “What sort of stories?” and each
of us would ask for something different. Some would want to hear about
the Franco-Prussian war, and others of the Fall of Plevna or Don
Carlos or Garibaldi, or of the Confederate generals with whom Laguerre
had fought in Egypt.
When the others had said good-night he would sometimes call me back
on the pretence of giving me instructions for the morrow, and then
would come the really wonderful stories—the stories that no historian
has ever told. His talk was more educational than a library of
histories, and it filled me with a desire to mix with great people—to
be their companion as he had been, to have kings and pretenders for my
intimates. When one listened it sounded easy of accomplishment. It
never seemed strange to him that great rulers should have made a
friend of a stray soldier of fortune, an Irish adventurer—for
Laguerre's mother was Irish; his father had been Colonel Laguerre, and
once Military Governor of Algiers—and given him their confidence. And
yet I could see why they should do so, for just the very reason that
he took their confidence as a matter of course, knowing that his
loyalty would always be above suspicion. He had a great capacity for
loyalty. There was no taint in it of self-interest, nor of
snobbishness. He believed, for instance, in the divine right of kings;
and from what he let fall we could see that he had given the most
remarkable devotion not only to every cause for which he had fought,
but to the individual who represented it. That in time each of these
individuals had disappointed him had in no way shaken his faith in the
one to whom he next offered his sword. His was a most beautiful
example of modesty and of faith in one's fellowman. It was during this
week, and because of these midnight talks with him around the
campfire, that I came to look up to him, and love him like a son.
But during that same week I was annoyed to find that many of our
men believed the version which Aiken had given of my conduct at Santa
Barbara. There were all sorts of stories circulating through the
Legion about me. They made me out a braggart, a bully, and a conceited
ass—indeed, almost everything unpleasant was said of me except that I
was a coward. Aiken, of course, kindly retold these stories to me,
either with the preface that he thought I ought to know what was being
said of me, or that he thought the stories would amuse me. I thanked
him and pretended to laugh, but I felt more like punching his head.
People who say that women are gossips, and that they delight in
tearing each other to pieces, ought to hear the talk of big, broad-
shouldered men around camp-fires. If you believe what they say, you
would think that every officer had either bungled or had funked the
fight. And when a man really has performed some act which cannot be
denied they call him a “swipe,” and say he did it to gain promotion,
or to curry favor with the General. Of course, it may be different in
armies officered by gentlemen; but men are pretty much alike all the
world over, and I know that those in our Legion were as given to
gossip and slander as the inmates of any Old Woman's Home. I used to
say to myself that so long as I had the approval of Laguerre and of my
own men and of my conscience I could afford not to mind what the
little souls said; but as a matter of fact I did mind it, and it
angered me exceedingly. Just as it hurt me at the Point to see that I
was not popular, it distressed me to find that the same unpopularity
had followed me into the Legion. The truth is that the officers were
jealous of me. They envied me my place as Adjutant, and they were
angry because Laguerre assigned one so much younger than themselves to
all the most important duties. They said that by showing favoritism he
was weakening his influence with the men and that he made a “pet” of
me. If he did I know that he also worked me five times as hard as
anyone else, and that he sent me into places where no one but himself
would go. The other officers had really no reason to object to me
personally. I gave them very little of my company, and though I spoke
pleasantly when we met I did not associate with them. Miller and Von
Ritter were always abusing me for not trying to make friends; but I
told them that, since the other officers spoke of me behind my back as
a cad, braggart, and snob, the least I could do was to keep out of
I was even more unpopular with the men, but there was a reason for
that; for I was rather severe with them, and imposed as strict a
discipline on them as that to which I had been accustomed at West
Point. The greater part of them were ne'er-do-wells and adventurers
picked up off the beach at Greytown, and they were a thoroughly
independent lot, reckless and courageous; but I doubt if they had ever
known authority or restraint, unless it was the restraint of a jail.
With the men of my own troop I got on well enough, for they saw I
understood how to take care of them, and that things went on more
smoothly when they were carried out as I had directed, so they obeyed
me without sulking. But with the men of the troops not directly under
my command I frequently met with trouble; and on several occasions
different men refused to obey my orders as Adjutant, and swore and
even struck at me, so that I had to knock them down. I regretted this
exceedingly, but I was forced to support my authority in some way.
After learning the circumstances Laguerre exonerated me, and punished
the men. Naturally, this did not help me with the volunteers, and for
the first ten days after I had joined the Legion I was the most
generally disliked man in it. This lasted until we reached Comyagua,
when something happened which brought the men over to my side. Indeed,
I believe I became a sort of a hero with them, and was nearly as
popular as Laguerre himself. So in the end it came out all right, but
it was near to being the death of me; and, next to hanging, the
meanest kind of a death a man could suffer.
When this incident occurred, which came so near to ending
tragically for me, we had been trying to drive the government troops
out of the cathedral of Comyagua. It was really a church and not a
cathedral, but it was so much larger than any other building we had
seen in Honduras that the men called it “The Cathedral.” It occupied
one whole side of the plaza. There were four open towers at each
corner, and the front entrance was as large as a barn. Their cannon,
behind a barricade of paving stones, were on the steps which led to
I carried a message from Laguerre along the end of the plaza
opposite the cathedral, and as I was returning, the fire grew so hot
that I dropped on my face. There was a wooden watering-trough at the
edge of the sidewalk, and I crawled over and lay behind it. Directly
back of me was a restaurant into which a lot of Heinze's men had
broken their way from the rear. They were firing up at the men in the
towers of the cathedral. My position was not a pleasant one, for every
time I raised my head the soldiers in the belfry would cut loose at
me; and, though they failed to hit me, I did not dare to get up and
run. Already the trough was leaking like a sieve. There was no officer
with the men in the cafe, so they were taking the word from one of
their own number, and were firing regularly in volleys. They fired
three times after I took shelter. They were so near me that at each
volley I could hear the sweep of the bullets passing about two yards
above my head.
But at the fourth volley a bullet just grazed my cheek and drove
itself into the wood of the trough. It was so near that the splinters
flew in my eyes. I looked back over my shoulder and shouted, “Look
out! You nearly hit me then. Fire higher.”
One of the men in the cafe called back, “We can't hear you,” and I
repeated, “Fire higher! You nearly hit me,” and pointed with my finger
to where the big 44-calibre ball had left a black hole in the green
paint of the trough. When they saw this there were excited
exclamations from the men, and I heard the one who was giving the
orders repeating my warning. And then came the shock of another
volley. Simultaneously with the shock a bullet cut through the wide
brim of my sombrero and passed into the box about two inches below my
It was only then that I understood that this was no accident, but
that someone in the restaurant was trying to murder me. The thought
was hideous and sickening. I could bear the fire of the enemy from the
belfry—that was part of the day's work; the danger of it only excited
me; but the idea that one of my own side was lying within twenty feet
of me, deliberately aiming with intent to kill, was outrageous and
I scrambled to my feet and faced the open front of the restaurant,
and as I stood up there was, on the instant, a sharp fusillade from
the belfry tower. But I was now far too angry to consider that. The
men were kneeling just inside the restaurant, and as I halted a few
feet from them I stuck my finger through the bullet hole and held up
my hat for them to see.
“Look!” I shouted at them. “You did that, you cowards. You want to
murder me, do you?” I straightened myself and threw out my arms,
“Well, here's your chance,” I cried. “Don't shoot me in the back.
Shoot me now.”
The men gaped at me in utter amazement. Their lips hung apart.
Their faces were drawn in lines of anger, confusion, and dislike.
“Go on!” I shouted. “Fire a volley at that belfry, and let the man
who wants me have another chance at me. I'll give the word. Make
ready!” I commanded.
There was a pause and a chorus of protests, and then mechanically
each man jerked out the empty shell and drove the next cartridge in
place. “Aim!” I shouted. They hesitated and then raised their pieces
in a wavering line, and I looked into the muzzles of a dozen rifles.
“Now then—damn you,” I cried. “Fire!”
They fired, and my eyes and nostrils were filled with burning
smoke, but not a bullet had passed near me.
“Again!” I shouted, stamping my foot. I was so angry that I suppose
I was really hardly accountable for what I did.
“I told you you were cowards,” I cried. “You can only shoot men in
the back. You don't like me, don't you?” I cried, taunting them. “I'm
a braggart, am I? Yes. I'm a bully, am I? Well, here's your chance.
Get rid of me! Once again now. Make ready,” I commanded. “Aim! Fire!”
Again the smoke swept up, and again I had escaped. I remember that
I laughed at them and that the sound was crazy and hysterical, and I
remember that as I laughed I shook out my arms to show them I was
unhurt. And as I did that someone in the cafe cried, “Thank God!” And
another shouted, “That's enough of this damn nonsense,” and a big man
with a bushy red beard sprang up and pulled off his hat.
“Now then,” he cried. “All together, boys. Three cheers for the
little one!” and they all jumped and shouted like mad people.
They cheered me again and again, although all the time the bullets
from the belfry were striking about them, ringing on the iron tables
and on the sidewalk, and tearing great gashes in the awnings overhead.
And then it seemed as though the sunlight on the yellow buildings
and on the yellow earth of the plaza had been suddenly shut off, and I
dropped into a well of blackness and sank deeper and deeper.
When I looked up the big man was sitting on the floor holding me as
comfortably as though I were a baby, and my face was resting against
his red beard, and my clothes and everything about me smelt terribly
But the most curious thing about it was that though they told
everyone in the Legion that I had stood up and made them shoot at me,
they never let anyone find out that I had been so weak as to faint.
I do not know whether it was the brandy they gave me that later led
me to charge those guns, but I appreciate now that my conduct was
certainly silly and mad enough to be excused only in that way.
According to the doctrine of chances I should have lost nine lives,
and according to the rules governing an army in the field I should
have been court-martialled. Instead of which, the men caught me up on
their shoulders and carried me around the plaza, and Laguerre and
Garcia looked on from the steps of the Cathedral and laughed and waved
For five hours we had been lying in the blazing sun on the flat
house- tops, or hidden in the shops around the plaza, and the
government troops were still holding us off with one hand and spanking
us with the other. Their guns were so good that, when Heinze attempted
to take up a position against them with his old-style Gatlings, they
swept him out of the street, as a fire-hose flushes a gutter. For five
hours they had kept the plaza empty, and peppered the three sides of
it so warmly that no one of us should have shown his head.
But at every shot from the Cathedral our men grew more
unmanageable, and the longer the enemy held us back the more arrogant
and defiant they became. Ostensibly to obtain a better shot, but in
reality from pure deviltry, they would make individual sallies into
the plaza, and, facing the embrasure, would empty their Winchesters at
one of its openings as coolly as though they were firing at a painted
bull's-eye. The man who first did this, the moment his rifle was
empty, ran for cover and was tumultuously cheered by his hidden
audience. But in order to surpass him, the next man, after he had
emptied his gun, walked back very deliberately, and the third man
remained to refill his magazine. And so a spirit of the most senseless
rivalry sprang up, and one man after another darted out into the plaza
to cap the recklessness of those who had gone before him.
It was not until five men were shot dead and lay sprawling and
uncovered in the sun that the madness seemed to pass. But my charging
the embrasure was always supposed to be a part of it, and to have been
inspired entirely by vanity and a desire to do something more
extravagantly reckless than any of the others. As a matter of fact I
acted on what has always seemed to me excellent reasoning, and if I
went alone, it was only because, having started, it seemed safer to go
ahead than to run all the way back again. I never blamed the men for
running back, and so I cannot see why they should blame me for having
The enemy had ceased firing shrapnel and were using solid shot.
When their Gatlings also ceased, I guessed that it might be that the
guns were jammed. If I were right and if one avoided the solid shot by
approaching the barricade obliquely, there was no danger in charging
the barricade. I told my troop that I thought the guns were out of
order, and that if we rushed the barricade we could take it. When I
asked for volunteers, ten men came forward and at once, without asking
permission, which I knew I could not get, we charged across the plaza.
Both sides saw us at the same instant, and the firing was so fierce
that the men with me thought the Gatlings had reopened on us, and ran
That left me about fifty feet from the barricade, and as it seemed
a toss-up whichever way I went I kept going forward. I caught the
combing of the embrasure with my hands, stuck my toes between the
stones, and scrambled to the top. The scene inside was horrible. The
place looked like a slaughter-yard. Only three men were still on their
legs; the rest were heaped around the guns. I threatened the three men
with my revolver, but they shrieked for mercy and I did not fire. The
men in the belfries, however, were showing no mercy to me, so I
dropped inside the wall and crawled for shelter beneath a caisson.
But, I recognized on the instant that I could not remain there. It was
the fear of the Gatlings only which was holding back our men, and I
felt that before I was shot they must know that the guns were jammed.
So I again scrambled up to the barricade, and waved my hat to them to
come on. At the same moment a bullet passed through my shoulder, and
another burned my neck, and one of the men who had begged for mercy
beat me over the head with his sword. I went down like a bag of flour,
but before my eyes closed I saw our fellows pouring out of the houses
and sweeping toward me.
About an hour later, when Von Ritter had cleaned the hole in my
shoulder and plastered my skull, I sallied out again, and at sight of
me the men gave a shout, and picked me up, and, cheering, bore me
around the plaza. From that day we were the best of friends, and I
think in time they grew to like me.
Two days later we pitched camp outside of Tegucigalpa, the promised
city, the capital of the Republic.
Our points of attack were two: a stone bridge which joins the city
proper with the suburbs, and a great hill of rock called El Pecachua.
This hill either guards or betrays the capital. The houses reach
almost to its base and from its crest one can drop a shell through the
roof of any one of them. Consequently, when we arrived, we found its
approaches strongly entrenched and the hill occupied in force by the
government artillery. There is a saying in Honduras, which has been
justified by countless revolutions, and which dates back to the days
of Morazan the Liberator, that “He who takes Pecachua sleeps in the
Garcia's plan was for two days to bombard the city, and if, in that
time, Alvarez had not surrendered, to attack El Pecachua by night. As
usual, the work was so divided that the more dangerous and difficult
part of it fell to the Foreign Legion, for in his plan Garcia so
ordered it that Laguerre should storm Pecachua, while he advanced from
the plain and attacked the city at the stone bridge.
But this plan was never carried out, and after our first day in
front of the Capital, General Garcia never again gave an order to
After midnight on the evening of that first day Aiken came to the
hut where we had made our head-quarters and demanded to see the
General on a matter of life and death. With him, looking very
uncertain as to the propriety of the visit, were all the officers of
The General was somewhat surprised and somewhat amused, but he
invited us to enter. When the officers had lined up against the walls
he said, “As a rule, I call my own councils of war, but no doubt Mr.
Aiken has some very good reason for affording me the pleasure of your
company. What is it, Mr. Aiken?”
Instead of answering him, Aiken said, with as much manner as that
of General Garcia himself, “I want a guard put outside this house, and
I want the men placed far enough from it to prevent their hearing what
I say.” The General nodded at me, and I ordered the sentries to move
farther from the hut. I still remember the tableau I saw when I re-
entered it, the row of officers leaning against the mud walls, the
candles stuck in their own grease on the table, the maps spread over
it, and the General and Aiken facing each other from its either end.
It looked like a drumhead court-martial.
When I had shut the door of the hut Aiken spoke. His tone was one
of calm unconcern.
“I have just come from the Palace,” he said, “where I have been
having a talk with President Alvarez.”
No one made a sound, nor no one spoke, but like one man everyone in
the room reached for his revolver. It was a most enlightening
revelation of our confidence in Aiken. Laguerre did not move. He was
looking steadily at Aiken and his eyes were shining like two arc
“By whose authority?” he asked.
We, who knew every tone of his voice, almost felt sorry for Aiken.
“By whose authority,” Laguerre repeated, “did you communicate with
“It was an idea of my own,” Aiken answered simply. “I was afraid if
I told you you would interfere. Oh! I'm no soldier,” he said. He was
replying to the look in Laguerre's face. “And I can tell you that
there are other ways of doing things than 'according to Hardie.'
Alvarez's officers came to me after the battle of Comyagua. They
expected to beat you there, and when you chased them out of the city
and started for the Capital they thought it was all up with them, and
decided to make terms.”
“With you?” said Laguerre.
Aiken laughed without the least trace of resentment, and nodded.
“Well, you give a dog a bad name,” he said, “and it sticks to him.
So, they came to me. I'm no grand-stand fighter; I'm not a fighter at
all. I think fighting is silly. You've got all the young men you want
to stop bullets for you, without me. They like it. They like to catch
'em in their teeth. I don't. But that's not saying that I'm no good.
You know the old gag of the lion and the little mousie, and how the
mouse came along and chewed the lion out of the net. Well, that's me.
I'm no lion going 'round seeking whom I may devour.' I'm just a sewer
rat. But I can tell you all,” he cried, slapping the table with his
hand, “that, if it hadn't been for little mousie, every one of you
lions would have been shot against a stone wall. And if I can't prove
it, you can take a shot at me. I've been the traitor. I've been the
go- between from the first. I arranged the whole thing. The Alvarez
crowd told me to tell Garcia that even if he did succeed in getting
into the Palace the Isthmian Line would drive him out of it in a week.
But that if he'd go away from the country, they'd pay him fifty
thousand pesos and a pension. He's got the Isthmian Line's promise in
“This joint attack he's planned for Wednesday night is a fake. He
doesn't mean to fight. Nobody means to fight except against you. Every
soldier and every gun in the city is to be sent out to Pecachua to
trap you into an ambush. Natives who pretend to have deserted from
Alvarez are to lead you into it. That was an idea of mine. They
thought it was very clever. Garcia is to make a pretence of attacking
the bridge and a pretence of being driven back. Then messengers are to
bring word that the Foreign Legion has been cut to pieces at Pecachua,
and he is to disband his army, and tell every man to look out for
“If you want proofs of this, I'll furnish them to any man here that
you'll pick out. I told Alvarez that one of your officers was working
against you with me, and that at the proper time I'd produce him. Now,
you choose which officer that shall be. He can learn for himself that
all I'm telling you is true. But that will take time!” Aiken cried, as
Laguerre made a movement to interrupt him. “And if you want to get out
of this fix alive, you'd better believe me, and start for the coast at
Laguerre laughed and sprang to his feet. His eyes were shining and
the color had rushed to his cheeks. He looked like a young man
masquerading in a white wig. He waved his hand at Aiken with a gesture
that was part benediction and part salute.
“I do believe you,” he cried, “and thank you, sir.” He glanced
sharply at the officers around him as though he were weighing the
value of each.
“Gentlemen,” he cried, “often in my life I have been prejudiced,
and often I have been deceived, and I think that it is time now that I
acted for myself. From the first, the burden of this expedition has
been carried by the Foreign Legion. I know that; you, who fought the
battles, certainly know it. We invaded Honduras with a purpose. We
came to obtain for the peons the debt that is due them and to give
them liberty and free government. And whether our allies run away or
betray us, that purpose is still the same.”
He paused as though for the first time it had occurred to him that
the motives of the others might not be as his own.
“Am I right?” he asked, eagerly. “Are you willing to carry out that
purpose?” he demanded. “Are you ready to follow me now, to-night—not
to the coast”—he shouted—“but to the Capital—to the top of
Old man Webster jumped in front of us, and shot his arm into the
air as though it held a standard.
“We'll follow you to hell and back again,” he cried.
I would not have believed that so few men could have made so much
noise. We yelled and cheered so wildly that we woke the camp. We could
hear the men running down the road, and the sentries calling upon them
to halt. The whole Legion was awake and wondering. Webster beat us
into silence by pounding the table with his fist.
“I have lived in this country for forty years,” he cried, with his
eyes fixed upon Laguerre, “and you are the first white man I have
known who has not come into it, either flying from the law, or to rob
and despoil it. I know this country. I know all of Central America,
and it is a wonderful country. There is not a fruit nor a grain nor a
plant that you cannot dig out of it with your bare fingers. It has
great forests, great pasture-lands, and buried treasures of silver and
iron and gold. But it is cursed with the laziest of God's creatures,
and the men who rule them are the most corrupt and the most vicious.
They are the dogs in the manger among rulers. They will do nothing to
help their own country; they will not permit others to help it. They
are a menace and an insult to civilization, and it is time that they
stepped down and out, and made way for their betters, or that they
were kicked out. One strong man, if he is an honest man, can conquer
and hold Central America. William Walker was such a man. I was with
him when he ruled the best part of this country for two years. He
governed all Nicaragua with two hundred white men, and never before or
since have the pueblo known such peace and justice and prosperity as
Walker gave them.”
Webster threw himself across the table and pointed his hand at
“And you, General Laguerre!” he cried, “and you? Do you see your
duty? You say it calls you to-night to El Pecachua. Then if it does,
it calls you farther—to the Capital! There can be no stopping
half-way now, no turning back. If we follow you to-night to Pecachua,
we follow you to the Palace.”
Webster's voice rose until it seemed to shake the palm-leaf roof.
He was like a man possessed. He sprang up on the table, and from the
height above us hurled his words at Laguerre.
“We are not fighting for any half-breed now,” he cried; “we are
fighting for you. We know you. We believe in you. We mean to make you
President, and we will not stop there. Our motto shall be Walker's
motto, 'Five or none,' and when we have taken this Republic we shall
take the other four, and you will be President of the United States of
We had been standing open-eyed, open-mouthed, every nerve
trembling, and at these words we shrieked and cheered, but Webster
waved at us with an angry gesture and leaned toward Laguerre.
“You will open this land,” he cried, “with roads and railways. You
will feed the world with its coffee. You will cut the Nicaragua Canal.
And you will found an empire—not the empire of slaves that Walker
planned, but an empire of freed men, freed by you from their tyrants
and from themselves. They tell me, General,” he cried, “that you have
fought under thirteen flags. To-night, sir, you shall fight under your
We all cheered and cheered again, the oldest as well as myself, and
I cheered louder than any, until I looked at Laguerre. Then I felt how
terribly real it was to him. Until I looked at him it had seemed quite
sane and feasible. But when I saw how deeply he was moved, and that
his eyes were brimming with pride and resolve, I felt that it was a
mad dream, and that we were wicked not to wake him. For I, who loved
him like a son, understood what it meant to him. In his talk along the
trail and by the camp-fire he had always dreamed of an impossible
republic, an Utopia ruled by love and justice, and I now saw he
believed that the dreams had at last come true. I knew that the offer
these men had made to follow him, filled him with a great happiness
and gratitude. And that he, who all his life had striven so earnestly
and so loyally for others, would give his very soul for men who fought
for him. I was not glad that they had offered to make him their
leader. I could only look ahead with miserable forebodings and feel
bitterly sorry that one so fine and good was again to be disillusioned
and disappointed and cast down.
But there was no time that night to look ahead. The men were
outside the hut, a black, growling mob crying for revenge upon Garcia.
Had we not at once surrounded them they would have broken for his camp
and murdered him in his hammock, and with him his ignorant, deceived
But when Webster spoke to them as he had spoken to us, and told
them what we planned to do, and Laguerre stepped out into the
moon-light, they forgot their anger in their pride for him, and at his
first word they fell into the ranks as obediently as so many fond and
In Honduras a night attack is a discredited manoeuvre. It is
considered an affront to the Blessed Virgin, who first invented sleep.
And those officers who that night guarded Pecachua being acquainted
with Garcia's plot, were not expecting us until two nights later, when
we were to walk into their parlor, and be torn to pieces.
Consequently, when Miller, who knew Pecachua well, having served
without political prejudice in six revolutions, led us up a by-path to
its top, we found the government troops sleeping sweetly. Before their
only sentry had discovered that someone was kneeling on his chest, our
men were in possession of their batteries.
That morning when the sun rose gloriously, as from a bath, all pink
and shining and dripping with radiance, and the church bells began to
clang for early mass, and the bugles at the barracks sounded the
jaunty call of the reveille, two puffs of white smoke rose from
thecrest of El Pecachua and drifted lazily away. At the same instant a
shell sang over the roofs of Tegucigalpa, howling jeeringly, and
smashed into the pots and pans of the President's kitchen; another,
falling two miles farther to the right, burst through the white tent
of General Garcia, and the people in the streets, as they crossed
themselves in fear, knew that El Pecachua had again been taken, and
that that night a new President would sleep in the Palace.
All through the hot hours of the morning the captured guns roared
and echoed, until at last we saw Garcia's force crawling away in a
crowd of dust toward the hills, and an hour later Alvarez, with the
household troops, abandoning the Capital and hastening after him.
We were too few to follow, but we whipped them forward with our
A half-hour later a timid group of merchants and foreign consuls,
led by the Bishop and bearing a great white flag, rode out to the foot
of the rock and surrendered the city.
I am sure no government was ever established more quickly than
ours. We held our first cabinet meeting twenty minutes after we
entered the capital, and ten minutes later Webster, from the balcony
of the Palace, proclaimed Laguerre President and Military Dictator of
Honduras. Laguerre in turn nominated Webster, on account of his
knowledge of the country, Minister of the Interior, and made me Vice-
President and Minister of War. No one knew what were the duties of a
Vice-President, so I asked if I might not also be Provost-Marshal of
the city, and I was accordingly appointed to that position and sent
out into the street to keep order.
Aiken, as a reward for his late services, was made head of the
detective department and Chief of Police. His first official act was
to promote two bare-footed policemen who on his last visit to the
Capital had put him under arrest.
The General, or the President, as we now called him, at once issued
a ringing proclamation in which he promised every liberty that the
people of a free republic should enjoy, and announced that in three
months he would call a general election, when the people could either
reelect him, or a candidate of their own choice. He announced also
that he would force the Isthmian Line to pay the people the half
million of dollars it owed them, and he suggested that this money be
placed to the credit of the people, and that they should pay no taxes
until the sum was consumed in public improvements. Up to that time
every new President had imposed new taxes; none had ever suggested
remitting them altogether, and this offer made a tremendous sensation
in our favor.
There were other departures from the usual procedure of victorious
presidents which helped much to make us popular. One was the fact that
Laguerre did not shoot anybody against the barrack wall, nor levy
forced “loans” upon the foreign merchants. Indeed, the only persons
who suffered on the day he came into power were two of our own men,
whom I caught looting. I put them to sweeping the streets, each with a
ball and chain to his ankle, as an example of the sort of order we
meant to keep among ourselves.
Before mid-day Aiken sent a list, which his spies had compiled, of
sympathizers with Alvarez. He guaranteed to have them all in jail
before night. But Laguerre sent for them and promised them, if they
remained neutral, they should not be molested. Personally, I have
always been of the opinion that most of the persons on Aiken's list of
suspects were most worthy merchants, to whom he owed money.
Laguerre gave a long audience to the cashier of the Manchester and
Central American Bank, Limited, which finances Honduras, and assured
him that the new administration would not force the bank to accept the
paper money issued by Alvarez, but would accept the paper money issued
by the bank, which was based on gold. As a result, the cashier came
down the stair-case of the Palace three steps at a time, and later our
censor read his cable to the Home Bank in England, in which he said
that Honduras at last had an honest man for President. What was more
to the purpose, he reopened his bank at three o'clock, and quoted
Honduranian money on his blackboard at a rise of three per cent. over
that of the day before. This was a great compliment to our government,
and it must have impressed the other business men, for by six o'clock
that night a delegation of American, German, and English shopkeepers
called on the President and offered him a vote of confidence. They
volunteered also to form a home-guard for the defence of the city, and
to help keep him in office.
So, by dinner-time, we had won over the foreign element entirely,
and the consuls had cabled their several ministers, advising them to
advise their governments to recognize ours.
It was a great triumph for fair promises backed by fair dealing.
Although I was a cabinet minister and had a right to have my say I
did not concern myself much with these graver problems of the Palace.
Instead, my first act was to cable to Beatrice that we were safe in
the Capital and that I was second in command. I did not tell her I was
Vice-President of a country of 300,000 people, because at Dobbs Ferry
such a fact would seem hardly probable. After that I spent the day
very happily galloping around the town with the Provost Guard at my
heels, making friends with the inhabitants, and arranging for their
defence. I posted a gun at the entrance to each of the three principal
streets, and ordered mounted scouts to patrol the plains outside the
Capital. I also remembered Heinze and the artillerymen who were
protecting us on the heights of Pecachua, and sent them a moderate
amount of rum, and an immoderate amount of canned goods and cigars. I
also found time to design a wonderful uniform for the officers of our
Legion—a dark-green blouse with silver facings and scarlet riding
breeches—and on the plea of military necessity I ordered six tailors
to sit up all night to finish them.
Uniforms for the men I requisitioned from the stores of the
Government, and ordered the red facings changed to yellow.
The next day when we paraded in full dress the President noticed
this, and remarked, “No one but Macklin could have converted a battery
of artillery, without the loss of a single gun or the addition of a
single horse, into a battalion of cavalry.”
We had escorted the President back to the Palace, and I was
returning to the barracks at the head of the Legion, with the local
band playing grandly before me, and the people bowing from the
sidewalks, when a girl on a gray pony turned into the plaza and rode
She was followed by a group of white men, but I saw only the girl.
When I recognized even at a distance that she was a girl from the
States my satisfaction was unbounded. It had needed only the presence
of such an audience to give the final touch of pleasure to my
triumphant progress. My new uniform had been finished only just in
When I first saw the girl I was startled merely because any white
woman in Honduras is an unusual spectacle, but as she rode nearer I
knew that, had I seen this girl at home among a thousand women, I
would have looked only at her.
She wore a white riding-habit, and a high-peaked Mexican sombrero,
and when her pony shied at the sound of the music she raised her head,
and the sun struck on the burnished braid around the brim, and framed
her face with a rim of silver. I had never seen such a face. It was so
beautiful that I drew a great breath of wonder, and my throat
tightened with the deep delight that rose in me.
I stared at her as she rode forward, because I could not help
myself. If an earthquake had opened a crevasse at my feet I would not
have lowered my eyes. I had time to guess who she was, for I knew
there could be no other woman so beautiful in Honduras, except the
daughter of Joseph Fiske. Had not Aiken said of her, “When she passes,
the native women kneel by the trail and cross themselves?”
I rode toward her fearfully, conscious only of a sudden deep flood
ofgratitude for anything so nobly beautiful. I was as humbly thankful
as the crusader who is rewarded by his first sight of the Holy City,
and I was glad, too, that I came into her presence worthily, riding in
advance of a regiment. I was proud of our triumphant music, of our
captured flags and guns, and the men behind me, who had taken them.
I still watched her as our column drew nearer, and she pulled her
pony to one side to let it pass. I felt as though I were marching in
review before an empress, and I all but lifted my sword-blade in
But as we passed I saw that the look on her face was that of a
superior and critical adversary. It was a glance of amused disdain,
softened only by a smile of contempt. As it fell upon me I blushed to
the rim of my sombrero. I felt as meanly as though I had been caught
in a lie. With her eyes, I saw the bare feet of our negro band, our
ill-fitting uniforms with their flannel facings, the swagger of our
officers, glancing pompously from their half-starved, unkempt ponies
upon the native Indians, who fawned at us from the sidewalks.
I saw that to her we were so many red-shirted firemen, dragging a
wooden hose-cart; a company of burnt-cork minstrels, kicking up the
dust of a village street; that we were ridiculous, lawless, absurd,
and it was like a blow over my heart that one so noble-looking should
be so blind and so unjust. I was swept with bitter indignation. I
wanted to turn in my saddle and cry to her that beneath the flannel
facings at which she laughed these men wore deep, uncared-for,
festering wounds; that to march thus through the streets of this tiny
Capital they had waded waist-high through rivers, had starved in fever
camps, and at any hour when I had called on them had run forward to
throw cold hands with death.
The group of gentlemen who were riding with the girl had halted
their ponies by the sidewalk, and as I drew near I noted that one of
them wore the uniform of an ensign in our navy. This puzzled me for an
instant, until I remembered I had heard that the cruiser Raleigh was
lying at Amapala. I was just passing the group when one of them, with
the evident intent that I should hear him, raised his voice.
“Well, here's the army,” he said, “but where's Falstaff? I don't
My face was still burning with the blush the girl had brought to
it, and the moment was not the one that any man should have chosen to
ridicule my general. Because the girl had laughed at us I felt
indignant with her, but for the same offence I was grateful to the
man, for the reason that he was a man, and could be punished. I
whirled my pony around and rode it close against his.
“You must apologize for that,” I said, speaking in a low voice, “or
I'll thrash you with this riding-whip.”
He was a young man, exceedingly well-looking, slim and tall, and
with a fine air of good breeding. He looked straight into my eyes
without moving. His hands remained closed upon the pommel of his
“If you raise that whip,” he said, “I'll take your tin sword away
from you, and spank you with it.”
Never in my life had anyone hurt me so terribly. And the insult had
come before my men and his friends and the people in the street. It
turned me perfectly cold, and all the blood seemed to run to my eyes,
so that I saw everything in a red haze. When I answered him my voice
sounded hoarse and shaky.
“Get down,” I said. “Get down, or I'll pull you down. I'm going to
thrash you until you can't stand or see.”
He struck at me with his riding-crop, but I caught him by the
collar and with an old trick of the West Point riding-hall threw him
off into the street, and landed on my feet above him. At the same
moment Miller and Von Ritter drove their ponies in between us, and
three of the man's friends pushed in from the other side. But in spite
of them we reached each other, and I struck up under his guard and
beat him savagely on the face and head, until I found his chin, and he
went down. There was an awful row. The whole street was in an uproar,
women screamed, the ponies were rearing and kicking, the natives
jabbering, and my own men swearing and struggling in a ring around us.
“My God, Macklin!” I heard Von Ritter cry, “stop it! Behave
He rode at our men with his sword and drove them back into ranks. I
heard him shout, “Fall in there. Forward. March!”
“This is your idea of keeping order, is it?” Miller shouted at me.
“He insulted Laguerre,” I shouted back, and scrambled into the
saddle. But I was far from satisfied. I, Vice-President, Minister of
War, Provost-Marshal of the city, had been fighting with my fists in
the open street before half the population. I knew what Laguerre would
say, and I wondered hotly if the girl had seen me, and I swore at
myself for having justified her contempt for us. Then I swore at
myself again for giving a moment's consideration to what she thought.
I was recalled to the present by the apparition of my adversary riding
his pony toward me, partly supported and partly restrained by two of
his friends. He was trembling with anger and pain and mortification.
“You shall fight me for this,” he cried.
I was about to retort that he looked as though I had been fighting
him, but it is not easy to laugh at a man when he is covered with dust
and blood, and this one was so sorry a spectacle that I felt ashamed
for him, and said nothing.
“I am not a street fighter,” he raged. “I wasn't taught to fight in
a lot. But I'll fight you like a gentleman, just as though you were a
gentleman. You needn't think you've heard the last of me. My friends
will act for me, and, unless you're a coward, you will name your
Before I could answer, Von Ritter had removed his hat and was
bowing violently from his saddle.
“I am Baron Herbert Von Ritter,” he said “late Aide-de-Camp to his
Majesty, the King of Bavaria. If you are not satisfied, Captain Miller
and myself will do ourselves the honor of calling on your friends.”
His manner was so grand that it quite calmed me to hear him.
One of the men who was supporting my adversary, a big, sun-burned
man, in a pith helmet, shook his head violently.
“Here, none of that, Miller,” he said; “drop it. Can't you see the
boy isn't himself? This isn't the time to take advantage of him.”
“We are only trying to oblige the gentleman,” said Miller. “The
duel is the only means of defence we've left you people. But I tell
you, if any of you insult our government again, we won't even give you
that satisfaction—we'll ride you out of town.”
The man in the pith helmet listened to Miller without any trace of
emotion. When Miller had finished he laughed.
“We've every means of defence that an American citizen needs when
he runs up against a crowd like yours,” he said. He picked up his
reins and turned his horse's head down the street. “You will find us
at the Hotel Continental,” he added. “And as for running us out of
town,” he shouted over his shoulder, “there's an American man-of-war
at Amapala that is going to chase you people out of it as soon as we
give the word.”
When I saw that Miller and Von Ritter were arranging a duel, I felt
no further interest in what the man said, until he threatened us with
the warship. At that I turned toward the naval ensign to see how he
He was a young man, some years older than myself, with a smooth
face and fair, yellow hair and blue eyes. I found that the blue eyes
were fixed upon me steadily and kindly. When he saw that I had caught
him watching me he raised his hand smartly to the visor.
I do not know why, but it made the tears come to my eyes. It was so
different from the salute of our own men; it was like being back again
under the flag at the Point. It was the recognition of the “regular”
that touched me, of a bona-fide, commissioned officer.
But I returned his salute just as stiffly as though I were a
commissioned officer myself. And then a strange thing happened. The
sailor-boy jerked his head toward the retreating form of my late
adversary, and slowly stuck his tongue into his cheek, and winked.
Before I could recover myself, he had caught up my hand and given it a
sharp shake, and galloped after his friends.
Miller and I fell in at the rear of the column.
“Who were those men?” I asked.
“The Isthmian Line people, of course,” he answered, shortly. “The
man in the helmet is Graham, the manager of the Copan Silver Mines.
They've just unloaded them on Fiske. That's why they're so thick with
“And who was the chap who insulted Laguerre?” I asked. “The one
whose face I slapped?”
“Face you slapped? Ha!” Miller snorted. “I hope you'll never slap
my face. Why, don't you know who he is?” he exclaimed, with a grin. “I
thought, of course, you did. I thought that's why you hit him. He's
young Fiske, the old man's son. That was his sister riding ahead of
them. Didn't you see that girl?”
The day we attacked the capital Joseph Fiske and his party were
absent from it, visiting Graham, the manager of the Copan Mines, at
his country place, and when word was received there that we had taken
the city, Graham urged Mr. Fiske not to return to it, but to ride at
once to the coast and go on board the yacht. They told him that the
capital was in the hands of a mob.
But what really made Graham, and the rest of the Copan people, and
the Isthmian crowd, who now were all working together against us, so
anxious to get Fiske out of Honduras, was that part of Laguerre's
proclamation in which he said he would force the Isthmian Line to pay
its just debts. They were most anxious that Fiske should not learn
from us the true version of that claim for back pay. They had told him
we were a lot of professional filibusters, that the demand we made for
the half-million of dollars was a gigantic attempt at blackmail. They
pointed out to him that the judges of the highest courts of Honduras
had decided against the validity of our claim, but they did not tell
him that Alvarez had ordered the judges to decide in favor of the
company, nor how much money they had paid Alvarez and the judges for
that decision. Instead they urged that Garcia, a native of the
country, had submitted to the decree of the courts and had joined
Alvarez, and that now the only people fighting against the Isthmian
Line were foreign adventurers. They asked, Was it likely such men
would risk their lives to benefit the natives? Was it not evident that
they were fighting only for their own pockets? And they warned Fiske
that while Laguerre was still urging his claim against this company,
it would be unwise for the president of that company to show himself
But Fiske laughed at the idea of danger to himself. He said a
revolution, like cock-fighting, was a national pastime, and no more
serious, and that should anyone attempt to molest the property of the
company, he would demand the protection of his own country as
represented by the Raleigh.
He accordingly rode back to the capital, and with his son and
daughter and the company's representatives and the Copan people,
returned to the same rooms in the Hotel Continental he had occupied
three days before, when Alvarez was president. This made it
embarrassing for us, as the Continental was the only hotel in the
city, and as it was there we had organized our officers' mess. In
consequence, while there was no open war, the dining-room of the hotel
was twice daily the meeting- place of the two opposing factions, and
Von Ritter told me that until matters had been arranged with the
seconds of young Fiske I could not appear there, as it would be
“contrary to the code.”
But our officers were not going to allow the Copan and Isthmian
people to drive them out of their head-quarters, so at the table
d'hote luncheon that day our fellows sat at one end of the room, and
Fiske and Miss Fiske, Graham and his followers at the other. They
entirely ignored each other. After the row I had raised in the street,
each side was anxious to avoid further friction.
As I sat in the barracks over my solitary luncheon my thoughts were
entirely on the duel.
It had been forced on me, so I accepted it; but it struck me as a
most silly proceeding. Young Fiske had insulted my General and my
comrades. He had done so publicly and with intent. I had thrashed him
as I said I would, and as far as I could see the incident was closed.
But Miller and Von Ritter, who knew Honduras from Fonseca Bay to
Truxillo, assured me that, unless I met the man, who had insulted me
before the people, our prestige would be entirely destroyed. To the
Honduranian mind, the fact that I had thrashed him for so doing, would
not serve as a substitute for a duel, it only made a duel absolutely
necessary. As I had determined, if we did meet, that I would not shoot
at him, I knew I would receive no credit from such an encounter, and,
so far as I could see, I was being made ridiculous, and stood a very
fair chance of being killed.
I sincerely hoped that young Fiske would apologize. I assured
myself that my reluctance to meet him was due to the fact that I
scorned to fight a civilian. I always classed civilians, with women
and children, as non-combatants. But in my heart I knew that it was
not this prejudice which made me hesitate. The sister was the real
reason. That he was her brother was the only fact of importance. Had
his name been Robinson or Brown, I would have gone out and shot at the
calves of his legs most cheerfully, and taken considerable
satisfaction in the notoriety that would have followed my having done
But I could never let his sister know that I had only fired in the
air, and I knew that if I fought her brother she would always look
upon me as one who had attempted to murder him. I could never speak to
her, or even look at her again. And at that moment I felt that if I
did not meet her, I could go without meeting any other women for many
years to come. She was the most wonderful creature I had ever seen.
She was not beautiful, as Beatrice was beautiful, in a womanly,
gracious way, but she had the beauty of something unattainable.
Instead of inspiring you, she filled you with disquiet. She seemed to
me a regal, goddess-like woman, one that a man might worship with that
tribute of fear and adoration that savages pay to the fire and the
I had ceased to blush because she had laughed at us. I had begun to
think that it was quite right that she should do so. To her we were
lawless adventurers, exiles, expatriates, fugitives. She did not know
that most of us were unselfish, and that our cause was just. She
thought, if she thought of us at all, that we were trying to levy
blackmail on her father. I did not blame her for despising us. I only
wished I could tell her how she had been deceived, and assure her that
among us there was one, at least, who thought of her gratefully and
devotedly, and who would suffer much before he would hurt her or hers.
I knew that this was so, and I hoped her brother would not be such an
ass as to insist upon a duel, and make me pretend to fight him, that
her father would be honest enough to pay his debts, and that some day
she and I might be friends.
But these hopes were killed by the entrance of Miller and Von
Ritter. They looked very grave.
“He won't apologize,” Miller said. “We arranged that you are to
meet behind the graveyard at sunrise to-morrow morning.” I was
bitterly disappointed, but of course I could not let them see that.
“Does Laguerre know?” I asked.
“No,” Miller said, “neither does old man Fiske. We had the deuce of
a time. Graham and Lowell—that young Middy from the Raleigh—are his
seconds, and we found we were all agreed that he had better apologize.
Lowell, especially, was very keen that you two should shake hands, but
when they went out to talk it over with Fiske, he came back with them
in a terrible rage, and swore he'd not apologize, and that he'd either
shoot you or see you hung. Lowell told him it was all rot that two
Americans should be fighting duels, but Fiske said that when he was in
Rome, he did as Romans did; that he had been brought up in Paris to
believe in duels, and that a duel he would have. Then the sister came
in, and there was a hell of a row!”
“The sister!” I exclaimed.
Miller nodded, and Von Ritter and he shook their heads sadly at
each other, as though the recollection of the interview weighed
“Yes, his sister,” said Miller. “You know how these Honduranian
places are built, if a parrot scratches his feathers in the patio you
can hear it in every room in the house. Well, she was reading on the
balcony, and when her brother began to rage around and swear he'd have
your blood, she heard him, and opened the shutters and came in. She
didn't stay long, and she didn't say much, but she talked to us as
though we were so many bad children. I never felt so mean in my life.”
“She should not have been there,” said Von Ritter, stolidly. “It
was most irregular.”
“Fiske tried the high and mighty, brotherly act with her,” Miller
continued, “but she shook him up like a charge of rack-a-rock. She
told him that a duel was unmanly and un-American, and that he would be
a murderer. She said his honor didn't require him to risk his life for
every cad who went about armed, insulting unarmed people—”
“What did she say?” I cried. “Say that again.”
Von Ritter tossed up his arms and groaned, but Miller shook his
fist at me.
“Now, don't you go and get wrathy,” he roared. “We'll not stand it.
We've been abused by everybody else on your account to-day, and we
won't take it from you. It doesn't matter what the girl said. They
probably told her you began the fight, and—”
“She said I was a cad,” I repeated, “and that I struck an unarmed
man. Didn't her brother tell her that he first insulted me, and struck
me with his whip, and that I only used my fists. Didn't any of you
“No!” roared Miller; “what the devil has that got to do with it?
She was trying to prevent the duel. We were trying to prevent the
duel. That's all that's important. And if she hadn't made the mistake
of thinking you might back out of it, we could have prevented it. Now
I began to wonder if the opinion the Fiske family had formed of me,
on so slight an acquaintance, was not more severe than I deserved, but
I did not let the men see how sorely the news had hurt me. I only
asked: “What other mistake did the young lady make?”
“She meant it all right,” said Miller, “but it was a woman's idea
of a bluff, and it didn't go. She told us that before we urged her
brother on to fight, we should have found out that he has spent the
last five years in Paris, and that he's the gilt-edged pistol-shot of
the salle d'armes in the Rue Scribe, that he can hit a
scarf-pin at twenty paces. Of course that ended it. The Baron spoke up
in his best style and said that in the face of this information it
would be now quite impossible for our man to accept an apology without
being considered a coward, and that a meeting must take place. Then
the girl ran to her brother and said, 'What have I done?' and he put
his arm around her and walked her out of the room. Then we arranged
the details in peace and came on here.”
“Good,” I said, “you did exactly right. I'll meet you at dinner at
But at this Von Ritter protested that I must not dine there, that
it was against the code.
“The code be hanged,” I said. “If I don't turn up at dinner they'll
say I'm afraid to show myself out of doors. Besides, if I must be shot
through the scarf-pin before breakfast to-morrow morning, I mean to
have a good dinner to-night.”
They left me, and I rode to the palace to make my daily report to
the president. I was relieved to find that both he and Webster were so
deep in affairs of state that they had heard nothing of my row in the
Plaza, nor of the duel to follow. They were happy as two children
building forts of sand on the sea-shore. They had rescinded taxes,
altered the tariffs, reorganized the law-courts, taken over the
custom-houses by telegraph, and every five minutes were receiving
addresses from delegations of prominent Honduranians. Nicaragua and
Salvador had both recognized their government, and concession hunters
were already cooling their heels in the ante-room. In every town and
seaport the adherents of Garcia had swung over to Laguerre and our
government, and our flag was now flying in every part of Honduras. It
was the flag of Walker, with the five-pointed blood-red star. We did
not explain the significance of the five points.
I reported that my scouts had located Alvarez and Garcia in the
hills some five miles distant from the capital, that they were
preparing a permanent camp there, and that they gave no evidence of
any immediate intention of attacking the city. General Laguerre was
already informed of the arrival of Mr. Fiske, and had arranged to give
him an audience the following morning. He hoped in this interview to
make clear to him how just was the people's claim for the half million
due them, and to obtain his guaranty that the money should be paid.
As I was leaving the palace I met Aiken. He was in his most cynical
mood. He said that the air was filled with plots and counter-plots,
and that treachery stalked abroad. He had been unsuccessful in trying
to persuade the president to relieve Heinze of his command on
Pecachua. He wanted Von Ritter or myself put in his place.
“It is the key to the position,” Aiken said, “and if Heinze should
sell us out, we would have to run for our lives. These people are all
smiles and 'vivas' to-day because we are on top. But if we lost
Pecachua, every man of them would turn against us.”
I laughed and said: “We can trust Heinze. If I had your opinion of
my fellow-man, I'd blow my brains out.”
“If I hadn't had such a low opinion of my fellow-man,” Aiken
retorted, “he'd have blown your brains out. Don't forget that.”
“No one listens to me,” he said. “I consider that I am very hardly
used. For a consideration a friend of Alvarez told me where Alvarez
had buried most of the government money. I went to the cellar and dug
it up and turned it over to Laguerre. And what do you think he's doing
with it!” Aiken exclaimed with indignation. “He's going to give the
government troops their back pay, and the post-office clerks, and the
peons who worked on the public roads.”
I said I considered that that was a most excellent use to make of
the money; that from what I had seen of the native troops, it would
turn our prisoners of war into our most loyal adherents.
“Of course it will!” Aiken agreed. “Why, if the government troops
out there in the hills with Alvarez knew we were paying sixty pesos
for soldiers, they'd run to join us so quick that they'd die on the
way of sunstroke. But that's not it. Where do we come in? What do we
get out of this? Have we been fighting for three months just to pay
the troops who have been fighting against us? Charity begins at home,
“You get your own salary, don't you?” I asked.
“Oh, I'm not starving,” Aiken said, with a grin. “There's a lot of
loot in being chief-of-police. This is going to be a wide-open town if
I can run it.”
“Well, you can't,” I laughed. “Not as long as I'm its provost
“Yes, and how long will that be?” Aiken retorted. “You take my
advice and make money now, while you've got the club to get it with
you. Why, if I had your job I could scare ten thousand sols out of
these merchants before sunrise. Instead of which you walk around
nights to see their front doors are locked. Let them do the walking.
We've won, and let's enjoy the spoil. Eat, live, and be merry, my boy,
for to- morrow you die.”
“I hope not,” I exclaimed, and I ran down the steps of the palace
and turned toward the barracks.
“To-morrow you die,” I repeated, but I could not arouse a single
emotion. Portents and premonitions may frighten some people, but the
only superstition I hold to is to believe in the luck of Royal
“What if Fiske can hit a scarf-pin at twenty paces!” I said to
myself, “he can't hit me.” I was just as sure of it as I was of the
fact that when I met him I was going to fire in the air. I cannot tell
why. I was just sure of it.
The dining-room at the Continental held three long tables. That
night our officers sat at one. Mr. Fiske and his party were at the one
farthest away, and a dining-club of consular agents, merchants, and
the Telegraph Company's people occupied the one in between. I could
see her whenever the German consul bent over his food. She was very
pale and tired-looking, but in the white evening frock she wore, all
soft and shining with lace, she was as beautiful as the moonlit night
outside. She never once looked in our direction. But I could not keep
my eyes away from her. The merchants, no doubt, enjoyed their dinner.
They laughed and argued boisterously, but at the two other tables
there was very little said.
The waiters, pattering over the stone floor in their bare feet,
made more noise than our entire mess.
When the brandy came, Russell nodded at the others, and they filled
their glasses and drank to me in silence. At the other table I saw the
same pantomime, only on account of old man Fiske they had to act even
more covertly. It struck me as being vastly absurd and wicked. What
right had young Fiske to put his life in jeopardy to me? It was not in
my keeping. I had no claim upon it. It was not in his own keeping. At
least not to throw away.
When they had gone and our officers had shaken hands with me and
ridden off to their different posts, I went out upon the balcony by
myself and sat down in the shadow of the vines. The stream which cuts
Tegucigalpa in two ran directly below the hotel, splashing against the
rocks and sweeping under the stone bridge with a ceaseless murmur.
Beyond it stretched the red-tiled roofs, glowing pink in the
moonlight, and beyond them the camp-fires of Alvarez twinkling like
glow-worms against the dark background of the hills. The town had gone
to sleep, and the hotel was as silent as a church. There was no sound
except the whistle of a policeman calling the hour, the bark of the
street-dogs in answer, and the voice of one of our sentries, arguing
with some jovial gentleman who was abroad without a pass. After the
fever and anxieties of the last few days the peace of the moment was
sweet and grateful to me, and I sank deeper into the long wicker chair
and sighed with content. The previous night I had spent on provost
duty in the saddle, and it must have been that I dropped asleep, for
when I next raised my head Miss Fiske was standing not twenty feet
from me. She was leaning against one of the pillars, a cold and
stately statue in the moonlight.
She did not know anyone was near her, and when I moved and my spurs
clanked on the stones, she started, and turned her eyes slowly toward
the shadow in which I sat.
During dinner they must have told her which one of us was to fight
the duel, for when she recognized me she moved sharply away. I did not
wish her to think I would intrude on her against her will, so I rose
and walked toward the door, but before I had reached it she again
turned and approached me.
“You are Captain Macklin?” she said.
I was so excited at the thought that she was about to speak to me,
and so happy to hear her voice, that for an instant I could only whip
off my hat and gaze at her stupidly.
“Captain Macklin,” she repeated. “This afternoon I tried to stop
the duel you are to fight with my brother, and I am told that I made a
very serious blunder. I should like to try and correct it. When I
spoke of my brother's skill, I mean his skill with the pistol, I knew
you were ignorant of it and I thought if you did know of it you would
see the utter folly, the wickedness of this duel. But instead I am
told that I only made it difficult for you not to meet him. I cannot
in the least see that that follows. I wish to make it clear to you
that it does not.”
She paused, and I, as though I had been speaking, drew a long
breath. Had she been reading from a book her tone could not have been
more impersonal. I might have been one of a class of school-boys to
whom she was expounding a problem. At the Point I have heard officers'
wives use the same tone to the enlisted men. Its effect on them was to
drive them into a surly silence.
But Miss Fiske did not seem conscious of her tone.
“After I had spoken,” she went on evenly, “they told me of your
reputation in this country, that you are known to be quite fearless.
They told me of your ordering your own men to shoot you, and of how
you took a cannon with your hands. Well, I cannot see—since your
reputation for bravery is so well established—that you need to prove
it further, certainly not by engaging in a silly duel. You cannot add
to it by fighting my brother, and if you should injure him, you would
bring cruel distress to—to others.”
“I assure you—-” I began.
“Pardon me,” she said, raising her hand, but still speaking in the
same even tone. “Let me explain myself fully. Your own friends said in
my hearing,” she went on, “that they did not desire a fight. It is
then my remark only which apparently makes it inevitable.”
She drew herself up and her tone grew even more distant and
“Now, it is not possible,” she exclaimed, “that you and your
friends are going to take advantage of my mistake, and make it the
excuse for this meeting. Suppose any harm should come to my brother.”
For the first time her voice carried a touch of feeling. “It would be
my fault. I would always have myself to blame. And I want to ask you
not to fight him. I want to ask you to withdraw from this altogether.”
I was completely confused. Never before had a young lady of a class
which I had so seldom met, spoken to me even in the words of everyday
civility, and now this one, who was the most wonderful and beautiful
woman I had ever seen, was asking me to grant an impossible favor, was
speaking of my reputation for bravery as though it were a fact which
everyone accepted, and was begging me not to make her suffer. What
added to my perplexity was that she asked me to act only as I desired
to act, but she asked it in such a manner that every nerve in me
I could not understand how she could ask so great a favor of one
she held in such evident contempt. It seemed to me that she should not
have addressed me at all, or if she did ask me to stultify my honor
and spare the life of her precious brother she should not have done so
in the same tone with which she would have asked a tradesman for his
bill. The fact that I knew, since I meant to fire in the air, that the
duel was a farce, made it still more difficult for me to speak.
But I managed to say that what she asked was impossible.
“I do not know,” I stammered, “that I ought to talk about it to you
at all. But you don't understand that your brother did not only insult
me. He insulted my regiment, and my general. It was that I resented,
and that is why I am fighting.”
“Then you refuse?” she said.
“I have no choice,” I replied; “he has left me no choice.”
She drew back, but still stood looking at me coldly. The dislike in
her eyes wounded me inexpressively.
Before she spoke I had longed only for the chance to assure her of
my regard, and had she appealed to me generously, in a manner suited
to one so noble-looking, I was in a state of mind to swim rivers and
climb mountains to serve her. I still would have fought the duel, but
sooner than harm her brother I would have put my hand in the fire.
Now, since she had spoken, I was filled only with pity and
disappointment. It seemed so wrong that one so finely bred and
wonderfully fair should feel so little consideration. No matter how
greatly she had been prejudiced against me she had no cause to ignore
my rights in the matter. To speak to me as though I had no honor of my
own, no worthy motive, to treat me like a common brawler who, because
his vanity was wounded, was trying to force an unoffending stranger to
My vanity was wounded, but I felt more sorry for her than for
myself, and when she spoke again I listened eagerly, hoping she would
say something which would soften what had gone before. But she did not
make it easier for either of us.
“If I persuade my brother to apologize for what he said of your
regiment,” she continued, “will you accept his apology?” Her tone was
one partly of interrogation, partly of command. “I do not think he is
likely to do so,” she added, “but if you will let that suffice, I
shall see him at once, and ask him.”
“You need not do that!” I replied, quickly. “As I have said, it is
not my affair. It concerns my—a great many people. I am sorry, but
the meeting must take place.”
For the first time Miss Fiske smiled, but it was the same smile of
amusement with which she had regarded us when she first saw us in the
“I quite understand,” she said, still smiling. “You need not assure
me that it concerns a great many people.” She turned away as though
the interview was at an end, and then halted. She had stepped into the
circle of the moonlight so that her beauty shone full upon me.
“I know that it concerns a great many people,” she cried. “I know
that it is all a part of the plot against my father!”
I gave a gasp of consternation which she misconstrued, for she
“Oh, I know everything,” she said. “Mr. Graham has told me all that
you mean to do. I was foolish to appeal to any one of you. You have
set out to fight my father, and your friends will use any means to
win. But I should have thought,” she cried, her voice rising and
ringing like an alarm, “that they would have stopped at assassinating
I stepped back from her as though she had struck at me.
“Miss Fiske,” I cried. What she had charged was so monstrous, so
absurd that I could answer nothing in defence. My brain refused to
believe that she had said it. I could not conceive that any creature
so utterly lovely could be so unseeing, so bitter, and so unfair.
Her charge was ridiculous, but my disappointment in her was so keen
that the tears came to my eyes.
I put my hat back on my head, saluted her and passed her quickly.
“Captain Macklin,” she cried. “What is it? What have I said?” She
stretched out her hand toward me, but I did not stop.
“Captain Macklin!” she called after me in such a voice that I was
forced to halt and turn.
“What are you going to do?” she demanded. “Oh, yes, I see,” she
exclaimed. “I see how it sounded to you. And you?” she cried. Her
voice was trembling with concern. “Because I said that, you mean to
punish me for it—through my brother? You mean to make him suffer. You
will kill him!” Her voice rose to an accent of terror. “But I only
said it because he is my brother, my own brother. Cannot you
understand what that means to me? Cannot you understand why I said
We stood facing each other, I, staring at her miserably, and she
breathing quickly, and holding her hand to her side as though she had
been running a long distance.
“No,” I said in a low voice. It was very hard for me to speak at
all. “No, I cannot understand.”
I pulled off my hat again, and stood before her crushing it in my
“Why didn't you trust me?” I said, bitterly. “How could you doubt
what I would do? I trusted you. From the moment you came riding toward
me, I thanked God for the sight of such a woman. For making anything
I stopped, for I saw I had again offended. At the words she drew
back quickly, and her eyes shone with indignation. She looked at me as
though I had tried to touch her with my hand. But I spoke on without
heeding her. I repeated the words with which I had offended.
“Yes,” I said, “I thanked God for anything so noble and so
beautiful. To me, you could do no wrong. But you! You judged me before
you even knew my name. You said I was a cad who went about armed to
fight unarmed men. To you I was a coward who could be frightened off
by a tale of bulls-eyes, and broken pipe-stems at a Paris fair. What
do I care for your brother's tricks. Let him see my score cards at
West Point. He'll find them framed on the walls. I was first a coward
and a cad, and now I am a bully and a hired assassin. From the first,
you and your brother have laughed at me and mine while all I asked of
you was to be what you seemed to be, what I was happy to think you
were. I wanted to believe in you. Why did you show me that you can be
selfish and unfeeling? It is you who do not understand. You understand
so little,” I cried, “that I pity you from the bottom of my heart. I
give you my word, I pity you.”
“Stop,” she commanded. I drew back and bowed, and we stood
confronting each other in silence.
“And they call you a brave man,” she said at last, speaking slowly
and steadily, as though she were picking each word. “It is like a
brave man to insult a woman, because she wants to save her brother's
When I raised my face it was burning, as though she had thrown
“If I have insulted you, Miss Fiske,” I said, “if I have ever
insulted any woman, I hope to God that to-morrow morning your brother
will kill me.”
When I turned and looked back at her from the door, she was leaning
against one of the pillars with her face bent in her hands, and
I rode to the barracks and spent several hours in writing a long
letter to Beatrice. I felt a great need to draw near to her. I was
confused and sore and unhappy, and although nothing of this, nor of
the duel appeared in my letter, I was comforted to think that I was
writing it to her. It was good to remember that there was such a woman
in the world, and when I compared her with the girl from whom I had
just parted, I laughed out loud.
And yet I knew that had I put the case to Beatrice, she would have
discovered something to present in favor of Miss Fiske.
“She was pleading for her brother, and she did not understand,”
Beatrice would have said. But in my own heart I could find no excuse.
Her family had brought me nothing but evil. Because her father would
not pay his debts, I had been twice wounded and many times had risked
death; the son had struck me with a whip in the public streets, and
the sister had called me everything that is contemptible, from a cad
to a hired cut-throat. So, I was done with the house of Fiske. My hand
was against it. I owed it nothing.
But with all my indignation against them, for which there was
reason enough, I knew in my heart that I had looked up to them, and
stood in awe of them, for reasons that made me the cad they called me.
Ever since my arrival in Honduras I had been carried away by the talk
of the Fiske millions, and later by the beauty of the girl, and by the
boy's insolent air, of what I accepted as good breeding. I had been
impressed with his five years in Paris, by the cut of his riding-
clothes even, by the fact that he owned a yacht. I had looked up to
them, because they belonged to a class who formed society, as I knew
society through the Sunday papers. And now these superior beings had
rewarded my snobbishness by acting toward me in a way that was
contrary to every ideal I held of what was right and decent. For such
as these, I had felt ashamed of my old comrades. It was humiliating,
but it was true; and as I admitted this to myself, my cheeks burned in
the darkness, and I buried my face in the pillow. For some time I lay
awake debating fiercely in my mind as to whether, when I faced young
Fiske, I should shoot the pistol out of his hand, or fire into the
ground. And it was not until I had decided that the latter act would
better show our contempt for him and his insult, that I fell asleep.
Von Ritter and Miller woke me at four o'clock. They were painfully
correct and formal. Miller had even borrowed something of the Baron's
manner, which sat upon him as awkwardly as would a wig and patches. I
laughed at them both, but, for the time being, they had lost their
sense of humor; and we drank our coffee in a constrained and sleepy
At the graveyard we found that Fiske, his two seconds, Graham and
Lowell, the young Middy, and a local surgeon had already arrived. We
exchanged bows and salutes gloomily and the seconds gathered together,
and began to talk in hoarse whispers. It was still very dark. The moon
hung empty and pallid above the cold outline of the hills, and
although the roosters were crowing cheerfully, the sun had not yet
risen. In the hollows the mists lay like lakes, and every stone and
rock was wet and shining as though it had been washed in readiness for
the coming day. The gravestones shone upon us like freshly scrubbed
doorsteps. It was a most dismal spot, and I was so cold that I was
afraid I would shiver, and Fiske might think I was nervous. So I moved
briskly about among the graves, reading the inscriptions on the
tombstones. Under the circumstances the occupation, to a less healthy
mind, would have been depressing. My adversary, so it seemed to me,
carried himself with a little too much unconcern. It struck me that he
overdid it. He laughed with the local surgeon, and pointed out the
moon and the lakes of mist as though we had driven out to observe the
view. I could not think of anything to do which would show that I was
unconcerned too, so I got back into the carriage and stretched my feet
out to the seat opposite, and continued to smoke my cigar.
Incidentally, by speaking to Lowell, I hurt Von Ritter's feelings.
It seems that as one of the other man's seconds I should have been
more haughty with him. But when he passed me, pacing out the ground,
he saluted stiffly, and as I saluted back, I called out: “I suppose
you know you'll catch it if they find out about this at Washington?”
And he answered, with a grin: “Yes, I know, but I couldn't get out of
“Neither could I,” I replied, cheerfully, and in so loud a tone
that everyone heard me. Von Ritter was terribly annoyed.
At last all was arranged and we took our places. We were to use
pistols. They were double-barrelled affairs, with very fine hair-
triggers. Graham was to give the word by asking if we were ready,
andwas then to count “One, two, three.”
After the word “one” we could fire when we pleased. When each of us
had emptied both barrels, our honor was supposed to be satisfied.
Young Fiske wore a blue yachting suit with the collar turned up,
and no white showing except his face, and that in the gray light of
the dawn was a sickly white, like the belly of a fish. After he had
walked to his mark he never took his eyes from me. They seemed to be
probing around under my uniform for the vulnerable spot. I had never
before had anyone look at me, who seemed to so frankly dislike me.
Curiously enough, I kept thinking of the story of the man who
boasted he was so good a shot that he could break the stem of a
wine-glass, and how someone said: “Yes, but the wine-glass isn't
holding a pistol.” Then, while I was smiling at the application I had
made of this story to my scowling adversary, there came up a picture,
not of home and of Beatrice, nor of my past sins, but of the fellow's
sister as I last saw her in the moonlight, leaning against the pillar
of the balcony with her head bowed in her hands. And at once it all
seemed contemptible and cruel. No quarrel in the world, so it appeared
to me then, was worth while if it were going to make a woman suffer.
And for an instant I was so indignant with Fiske for having dragged me
into this one, to feed his silly vanity, that for a moment I felt like
walking over and giving him a sound thrashing. But at the instant I
heard Graham demand, “Are you ready?” and I saw Fiske fasten his eyes
on mine, and nod his head. The moment had come.
“One,” Graham counted, and at the word Fiske threw up his gun and
fired, and the ball whistled past my ear. My pistol was still hanging
at my side, so I merely pulled the trigger, and the ball went into the
ground. But instantly I saw my mistake. Shame and consternation were
written on the faces of my two seconds, and to the face of Fiske there
came a contemptuous smile. I at once understood my error. I read what
was in the mind of each. They dared to think I had pulled the trigger
through nervousness, that I had fired before I was ready, that I was
frightened and afraid. I am sure I never was so angry in my life, and
I would have cried out to them, if a movement on the part of Fiske had
not sobered me. Still smiling, he lifted his pistol slightly and aimed
for, so it seemed to me, some seconds, and then fired.
I felt the bullet cut the lining of my tunic and burn the flesh
over my ribs, and the warm blood tickling my side, but I was
determined he should not know he had hit me, and not even my lips
Then a change, so sudden and so remarkable, came over the face of
young Fiske, that its very agony fascinated me. At first it was
incomprehensible, and then I understood. He had fired his last shot,
he thought he had missed, and he was waiting for me, at my leisure, to
kill him with my second bullet.
I raised the pistol, and it was as though you could hear the
silence. Every waking thing about us seemed to suddenly grow still. I
brought the barrel slowly to a level with his knee, raised it to his
heart, passed it over his head, and, aiming in the air, fired at the
moon, and then tossed the gun away. The waking world seemed to breathe
again, and from every side there came a chorus of quick exclamations;
but without turning to note who made them, nor what they signified, I
walked back to the carriage, and picked up my cigar. It was still
Von Ritter ran to the side of the carriage.
“You must wait,” he protested. “Mr. Fiske wishes to shake hands
with you. It is not finished yet.”
“Yes, it is finished,” I replied, savagely. “I have humored you two
long enough. A pest on both your houses. I'm going back to breakfast.”
Poor Von Ritter drew away, deeply hurt and scandalized, but my
offence was nothing to the shock he received when young Lowell ran to
the carriage and caught up my hand. He looked at me with a smile that
would have softened a Spanish duenna.
“See here!” he cried. “Whether you like it or not, you've got to
shake hands with me. I want to tell you that was one of the finest
things I ever saw.” He squeezed my fingers until the bones crunched
together. “I've heard a lot about you, and now I believe all I've
heard. To stand up there,” he ran on, breathlessly, “knowing you
didn't mean to fire, and knowing he was a dead shot, and make a canvas
target of yourself—that was bully. You were an ass to do it, but it
was great. You going back to breakfast?” he demanded, suddenly, with
the same winning, eager smile. “So am I. I speak to go with you.”
Before I could reply he had vaulted into the carriage, and was
shouting at the driver.
“Cochero, to the Barracks. Full speed ahead. Vamoose. Give way.
“But my seconds,” I protested.
“They can walk,” he said.
Already the horses were at a gallop, and as we swung around the
wall of the graveyard and were hidden from the sight of the others,
Lowell sprang into the seat beside me. With the quick fingers of the
sailor, he cast off my sword-belt and tore open my blouse.
“I wanted to get you away,” he muttered, “before he found out he
had hit you.”
“I'm not hit,” I protested.
“Just as you like,” he said. “Still, it looks rather damp to the
But, as I knew, the bullet had only grazed me, and the laugh of
relief Lowell gave when he raised his head, and said, “Why, it's only
a scratch,” meant as much to me as though he had rendered me some
great service. For it seemed to prove a genuine, friendly concern, and
no one, except Laguerre, had shown that for me since I had left home.
I had taken a fancy to Lowell from the moment he had saluted me like a
brother officer in the Plaza, and I had wished he would like me. I
liked him better than any other young man I had ever met. I had never
had a man for a friend, but before we had finished breakfast I believe
we were better friends than many boys who had lived next door to each
other from the day they were babies.
As a rule, I do not hit it off with men, so I felt that his liking
me was a great piece of good fortune, and a great honor. He was only
three years older than myself, but he knew much more about everything
than I did, and his views of things were as fine and honorable as they
Since then we have grown to be very close friends indeed, and we
have ventured together into many queer corners, but I have never
ceased to admire him, and I have always found him the
same—unconscious of himself and sufficient to himself. I mean that if
he were presented to an Empress he would not be impressed, nor if he
chatted with a bar- maid would he be familiar. He would just look at
each of them with his grave blue eyes and think only of what she was
saying, and not at all of what sort of an impression he was making, or
what she thought of him. Aiken helped me a lot by making me try not to
be like Aiken; Lowell helped me by making me wish to be like Lowell.
We had a very merry breakfast, and the fact that it was seven in
the morning did not in the least interfere with our drinking each
other's health in a quart of champagne. Nearly all of our officers
came in while we were at breakfast to learn if I were still alive, and
Lowell gave them most marvellous accounts of the affair, sometimes
representing me as an idiot and sometimes as an heroic martyr.
They all asked him if he thought Fiske had sufficient influence at
Washington to cause the Government to give him the use of the Raleigh
against us, but he would only laugh and shake his head.
Later, to Laguerre, he talked earnestly on the same subject, and
much to the point.
The news of the duel had reached the palace at eight o'clock, and
the president at once started for the barracks.
We knew he was coming when we heard the people in the cafes
shouting “Viva,” as they always did when he appeared in public, and,
though I was badly frightened as to what he would say to me, I ran to
the door and turned out the guard to receive him.
He had put on one of the foreign uniforms he was entitled to
wear—he did not seem to fancy the one I had designed—and as he rode
across the Plaza I thought I had never seen a finer soldier. Lowell
said he looked like a field marshal of the Second Empire. I was glad
Lowell had come to the door with me, as he could now see for himself
that my general was one for whom a man might be proud to fight a dozen
The president gave his reins to an orderly and mounted the steps,
touching his chapeau to the salute of guard and the shouting citizens,
but his eyes were fixed sternly on me. I saw that he was deeply moved,
and I wished fervently, now that it was too late, that I had told him
of the street fight at the time, and not allowed him to hear of it
from others. I feared the worst. I was prepared for any reproof, any
punishment, even the loss of my commission, and I braced myself for
But when he reached the top step where I stood at salute, although
I was inwardly quaking, he halted and his lips suddenly twisted, and
the tears rushed to his eyes.
He tried to speak, but made only a choking, inarticulate sound, and
then, with a quick gesture, before all the soldiers and all the
people, he caught me in his arms.
“My boy,” he whispered, “my boy! For you were lost,” he murmured,
“and have returned to me.”
I heard Lowell running away, and the door of the guard-room banging
behind him, I heard the cheers of the people who, it seems, already
knew of the duel and understood the tableau on the barrack steps, but
the thought that Laguerre cared for me even as a son made me deaf to
everything, and my heart choked with happiness.
It passed in a moment, and in manner he was once more my superior
officer, but the door he had opened was never again wholly shut to me.
In the guard-room I presented Lowell to the president, and I was
proud to see the respect with which Lowell addressed him. At the first
glance they seemed to understand each other, and they talked together
as simply as would friends of long acquaintance.
After they had spoken of many things, Laguerre said: “Would it be
fair for me to ask you, Mr. Lowell, what instructions the United
States has given your commanding officer in regard to our government?”
To this Lowell answered: “All I know, sir, is that when we arrived
at Amapala, Captain Miller telegraphed the late president, Doctor
Alvarez, that we were here to protect American interests. But you
probably know,” he added, “as everyone else does, that we came here
because the Isthmian Line demanded protection.”
“Yes, so I supposed,” Laguerre replied. “But I understand Mr.
Graham has said that when Mr. Fiske gives the word Captain Miller will
land your marines and drive us out of the country.”
Lowell shrugged his shoulders and frowned.
“Mr. Graham—“ he began, “is Mr. Graham.” He added: “Captain Miller
is not taking orders from civilians, and he depends on his own sources
for information. I am here because he sent me to 'Go, look, see,' and
report. I have been wiring him ever since you started from the coast,
and since you became president. Your censor has very kindly allowed me
to use our cipher.”
I laughed, and said: “We court investigation.”
“Pardon me, sir,” Lowell answered, earnestly, addressing himself to
Laguerre, “but I should think you would. Why,” he exclaimed, “every
merchant in the city has told me he considers his interests have never
been so secure as since you became president. It is only the Isthmian
Line that wants the protection of our ship. The foreign merchants are
not afraid. I hate it!” he cried, “I hate to think that a billionaire,
with a pull at Washington, can turn our Jackies into Janissaries.
Protect American interests!” he exclaimed, indignantly, “protect
American sharpers! The Isthmian Line has no more right to the
protection of our Navy than have the debtors in Ludlow Street Jail.”
Laguerre sat for a long time without replying, and then rose and
bowed to Lowell with great courtesy.
“I must be returning,” he said. “I thank you, sir, for your good
opinion. At my earliest convenience I shall pay my respects to your
commanding officer. At ten o'clock,” he continued turning to me, “I am
to have my talk with Mr. Fiske. I have not the least doubt but that he
will see the justice of our claim against his company, and before
evening I am sure I shall be able to announce throughout the republic
that I have his guaranty for the money. Mr. Fiske is an able, upright
business man, as well as a gentleman, and he will not see this country
He shook hands with us and we escorted him to his horse.
I always like to remember him as I saw him then, in that gorgeous
uniform, riding away under the great palms of the Plaza, with the
tropical sunshine touching his white hair, and flashing upon the
sabres of the body-guard, and the people running from every side of
the square to cheer him.
Two hours later, when I had finished my “paper” work and was
setting forth on my daily round, Miller came galloping up to the
barracks and flung himself out of the saddle. He nodded to Lowell, and
pulled me roughly to one side.
“The talk with Fiske,” he whispered, “ended in the deuce of a row.
Fiske behaved like a mule. He told Laguerre that the original charter
of the company had been tampered with, and that the one Laguerre
submitted to him was a fake copy. And he ended by asking Laguerre to
name his price to leave them alone.”
“Well, what do you suppose,” Miller returned, scornfully. “The
General just looked at him, and then picked up a pen, and began to
write, and said to the orderly, 'Show him out.'
“'What's that?' Fiske said. And Laguerre answered: 'Merely a figure
of speech; what I really meant was “Put him out,” or “throw him out!”
You are an offensive and foolish old man. I, the President of this
country, received you and conferred with you as one gentleman with
another, and you tried to insult me. You are either extremely
ignorant, or extremely dishonest, and I shall treat with you no
longer. Instead, I shall at once seize every piece of property
belonging to your company, and hold it until you pay your debts. Now
you go, and congratulate yourself that when you tried to insult me,
you did so when you were under my roof, at my invitation.' Then
Laguerre wired the commandantes at all the seaports to seize the
warehouses and officers of the Isthmian Line, and even its ships, and
to occupy the buildings with troops. He means business,” Miller cried,
jubilantly. “This time it's a fight to a finish.”
Lowell had already sent for his horse, and altogether we started at
a gallop for the palace. At the office of the Isthmian Line we were
halted by a crowd so great that it blocked the street. The doors of
the building were barred, and two sentries were standing guard in
front of it. A proclamation on the wall announced that, by order of
the President, the entire plant of the Isthmian Line had been
confiscated, and that unless within two weeks the company paid its
debts to the government, the government would sell the property of the
company until it had obtained the money due it.
At the entrance to the palace the sergeant in charge of the native
guard, who was one of our men, told us that two ships of the Isthmian
Line had been caught in port; one at Cortez on her way to Aspinwall,
and one at Truxillo, bound north. The passengers had been landed, and
were to remain on shore as guests of the government until they could
be transferred to another line.
Lowell's face as he heard this was very grave, and he shook his
“A perfectly just reprisal, if you ask me,” he said, “but what one
lonely ensign tells you in confidence, and what Fiske will tell the
State Department at Washington, is a very different matter. It's a
good thing,” he exclaimed, with a laugh, “that the Raleigh's on the
wrong side of the Isthmus. If we were in the Caribbean, they might
order us to make you give back those ships. As it is, we can't get
marines here from the Pacific under three days. So I'd better start
them at once,” he added, suddenly. “Good-by, I must wire the Captain.”
“Don't let the United States Navy do anything reckless,” I said.
“I'm not so sure you could take those ships, and I'm not so sure your
marines can get here in three days, either, or that they ever could
Lowell gave a shout of derision.
“What,” he cried, “you'd fight against your country's flag?”
I told him he must not forget that at West Point they had decided I
was not good enough to fight for my country's flag.
“We've three ships of our own now,” I added, with a grin. “How
would you like to be Rear Admiral of the naval forces of Honduras?”
Lowell caught up his reins in mock terror.
“What!” he cried. “You'd dare to bribe an American officer? And
with such a fat bribe, too?” he exclaimed. “A Rear-Admiral at my age!
That's dangerously near my price. I'm afraid to listen to you. Good-
by.” He waved his hand and started down the street. “Good-by, Satan,”
he called back to me, and I laughed, and he rode away.
That was the end of the laughter, of the jests, of the play-acting.
After that it was grim, grim, bitter and miserable. We dogs had had
our day. We soldiers of either fortune had tasted our cup of triumph,
and though it was only a taste, it had flown to our brains like heavy
wine, and the headaches and the heartaches followed fast. For some it
was more than a heartache; to them it brought the deep, drugged sleep
The storm broke at the moment I turned from Lowell on the steps of
the palace, and it did not cease, for even one brief breathing space,
until we were cast forth, and scattered, and beaten.
As Lowell left me, General Laguerre, with Aiken at his side, came
hurrying down the hall of the palace. The President was walking with
his head bowed, listening to Aiken, who was whispering and
gesticulating vehemently. I had never seen him so greatly excited.
When he caught sight of me he ran forward.
“Here he is,” he cried. “Have you heard from Heinze?” he demanded.
“Has he asked you to send him a native regiment to Pecachua?”
“Yes,” I answered, “he wanted natives to dig trenches. I sent five
hundred at eight this morning.”
Aiken clenched his fingers. It was like the quick, desperate clutch
of a drowning man.
“I'm right,” he cried. He turned upon Laguerre. “Macklin has sent
them. By this time our men are prisoners.”
Laguerre glanced sharply at the native guard drawn up at attention
on either side of us. “Hush,” he said. He ran past us down the steps,
and halting when he reached the street, turned and looked up at the
great bulk of El Pecachua that rose in the fierce sunlight, calm and
inscrutable, against the white, glaring masses of the clouds.
“What is it?” I whispered.
“Heinze!” Aiken answered, savagely. “Heinze has sold them
I cried out, but again Laguerre commanded silence. “You do not know
that,” he said; but his voice trembled, and his face was drawn in
lines of deep concern.
“I warned you!” Aiken cried, roughly. “I warned you yesterday; I
told you to send Macklin to Pecachua.”
He turned on me and held me by the sleeve, but like Laguerre he
still continued to look fearfully toward the mountain.
“They came to me last night, Graham came to me,” he whispered. “He
offered me ten thousand dollars gold, and I did not take it.” In his
wonder at his own integrity, in spite of the excitement which shook
him, Aiken's face for an instant lit with a weak, gratified smile. “I
pretended to consider it,” he went on, “and sent another of my men to
Pecachua. He came back an hour ago. He tells me Graham offered Heinze
twenty thousand dollars to buy off himself and the other officers and
the men. But Heinze was afraid of the others, and so he planned to ask
Laguerre for a native regiment, to pretend that he wanted them to work
on the trenches. And then, when our men were lying about, suspecting
nothing, the natives should fall on them and tie them, or shoot them,
and then turn the guns on the city. And he has sent for the
niggars!” Aiken cried. “And there's not one of them that wouldn't sell
you out. They're there now!” he cried, shaking his hand at the
mountain. “I warned you! I warned you!”
Incredible as it seemed, difficult as it was to believe such
baseness, I felt convinced that Aiken spoke the truth. The thought
sickened me, but I stepped over to Laguerre and saluted.
“I can assemble the men in half an hour,” I said. “We can reach the
base of the rock an hour later.”
“But if it should not be true,” Laguerre protested. “The insult to
“Heinze!” Aiken shouted, and broke into a volley of curses. But the
oaths died in his throat. We heard a whirr of galloping hoofs; a man's
voice shrieking to his horse; the sounds of many people running, and
one of my scouts swept into the street, and raced toward us. He fell
off at our feet, and the pony rolled upon its head, its flanks heaving
horribly and the blood spurting from its nostrils.
“Garcia and Alvarez!” the man panted. “They're making for the city.
They tried to fool us. They left their tents up, and fires burning,
and started at night, but I smelt 'em the moment they struck the
trail. We fellows have been on their flanks since sun-up, picking 'em
off at long range, but we can't hold them. They'll be here in two
“Now, will you believe me?” Aiken shouted. “That's their plot.
They're working together. They mean to trap us on every side. Ah!” he
I knew the thing at which he wished me to look. His voice and my
dread told me at what his arm was pointing.
I raised my eyes fearfully to El Pecachua. From its green crest a
puff of smoke was swelling into a white cloud, the cloud was split
with a flash of flame, and the dull echo of the report drifted toward
us on the hot, motionless air. At the same instant our flag on the
crest of Pecachua, the flag with the five-pointed, blood-red star,
came twitching down; and a shell screeched and broke above us.
Now that he knew the worst, the doubt and concern on the face of
General Laguerre fell from it like a mask.
“We have no guns that will reach the mountain, have we?” he asked.
He spoke as calmly as though we were changing guard.
“No, not one,” I answered. “All our heavy pieces are on Pecachua.”
“Then we must take it by assault,” he said. “We will first drive
Garcia back, and then we will storm the hill, or starve them out.
Assemble all the men at the palace at once. Trust to no one but
yourself. Ride to every outpost and order them here. Send Von Ritter
and the gatlings to meet Alvarez. This man will act as his guide.”
He turned to the scout. “You will find my horse in the court-yard
of the palace,” he said to him. “Take it, and accompany Captain
Macklin. Tell Von Ritter,” he continued, turning to me, “not to expose
his men, but to harass the enemy, and hold him until I come.” His tone
was easy, confident, and assured. Even as I listened to his command I
marvelled at the rapidity with which his mind worked, how he rose to
an unexpected situation, and met unforeseen difficulties.
“That is all,” he said. “I will expect the men here in half an
He turned from me calmly. As he re-entered the palace between the
lines of the guard he saluted as punctiliously as though he were on
his way to luncheon.
But no one else shared in his calmness. The bursting shells had
driven the people from their houses, and they were screaming through
the streets, as though an earthquake had shaken the city. Even the
palace was in an uproar.
The scout, as he entered it, shouting for the President's horse,
had told the story to our men, and they came running to the great
doors, fastening their accoutrements as they ran. Outside, even as
Laguerre had been speaking, the people had gathered in a great circle,
whispering and gesticulating, pointing at us, at the dying horse, at
the shells that swung above us, at the flag of Alvarez which floated
from Pecachua. When I spurred my horse forward, with the scout at my
side, there was a sullen silence. The smiles, the raised hats, the
cheers were missing, and I had but turned my back on them when a voice
shouted, “Viva Alvarez!”
I swung in my saddle, and pulled out my sword. I thought it was
only the bravado of some impudent fellow who needed a lesson.
But it was a signal, for as I turned I saw the native guard spring
like one man upon our sergeant and drive their bayonets into his
throat. He went down with a dozen of the dwarf-like negroes stabbing
and kicking at him, and the mob ran shrieking upon the door of the
On the instant I forgot everything except Laguerre. I had only one
thought, to get to him, to place myself at his side.
I pushed my horse among the people, beating at the little beasts
with my sword. But the voice I knew best of all called my name from
just above my head, and I looked up and saw Laguerre with Aiken and
Webster on the iron balcony of the palace.
Laguerre's face was white and set.
“Captain Macklin!” he cried. “What does this mean? Obey your
orders. You have my orders. Obey my orders.”
“I can't,” I cried. “This is an attack upon you! They will kill
At the moment I spoke our men fired a scattering volley at the mob,
and swung to the great gates. The mob answered their volley with a
dozen pistol-shots, and threw itself forward. Still looking up, I saw
Laguerre clasp his hands to his throat, and fall back upon Webster's
shoulder, but he again instantly stood upright and motioned me
fiercely with his arm. “Go,” he cried. “Bring the gatlings here, and
all the men. If you delay we lose the palace. Obey my orders,” he
again commanded, with a second fierce gesture.
The movement was all but fatal. The wound in his throat tore apart,
his head fell forward and his eyes closed. I saw the blood spreading
and dyeing the gold braid. But he straightened himself and leaned
forward. His eyes opened, and, holding himself erect with one hand on
the railing of the balcony, he stretched the other over me, as though
“Go, Royal!” he cried, “and—God bless you!”
I bent my head and drove my spurs into my horse. I did not know
where he was carrying me. My eyes were shut with tears, and with the
horror of what I had witnessed. I was reckless, mad, for the first
time in my life, filled with hate against my fellow-men. I rode a
hundred yards before I heard the scout at my side shouting, “To the
right, Captain, to the right.”
At the word I pulled on my rein, and we turned into the Plaza.
The scout was McGraw, the Kansas cowboy, who had halted Aiken and
myself the day we first met with the filibusters. He was shooting from
the saddle as steadily as other men would shoot with a rest, and each
time he fired, he laughed. The laugh brought me back to the desperate
need of our mission. I tricked myself into believing that Laguerre was
not seriously wounded. I persuaded myself that by bringing him aid
quickly I was rendering him as good service as I might have given had
I remained at his side. I shut out the picture of him, faint and
bleeding, and opened my eyes to the work before us.
We were like the lost dogs on a race-course that run between lines
of hooting men. On every side we were assailed with cries. Even the
voices of women mocked at us. Men sprang at my bridle, and my horse
rode them down. They shot at us from the doors of the cafes, from
either curbstone. As we passed the barracks even the men of my own
native regiment raised their rifles and fired.
The nearest gun was at the end of the Calle Bogran, and we raced
down it, each with his revolver cocked, and held in front of him.
But before we reached the outpost I saw the men who formed it,
pushing their way toward us, bunched about their gatling with their
clubbed rifles warding off the blows of a mob that struck at them from
every side. They were ignorant of what had transpired; they did not
know who was, or who was not their official enemy, and they were
unwilling to fire upon the people, who a moment before, before the
flag of Alvarez had risen on Pecachua, had been their friends and
comrades. These friends now beset them like a pack of wolves. They
hung upon their flanks and stabbed at them from the front and rear.
The air was filled with broken tiles from the roofs, and with flying
When the men saw us they raised a broken cheer.
“Open that gun on them!” I shouted. “Clear the street, and push
your gun to the palace. Laguerre is there. Kill every man in this
street if you have to, but get to the palace.”
The officer in charge fought his way to my side. He was covered
with sweat and blood. He made a path for himself with his bare arms.
“What in hell does this mean, Macklin?” he shouted. “Who are we
“You are fighting every native you see,” I ordered. “Let loose up
this street. Get to the palace!”
I rode on to the rear of the gun, and as McGraw and I raced on
toward the next post, we heard it stabbing the air with short, vicious
At the same instant the heavens shook with a clap of thunder, the
sky turned black, and with the sudden fierceness of the tropics, heavy
drops of rain began to beat upon us, and to splash in the dust like
A moment later and the storm burst upon the city. The streets were
swept with great sheets of water, torrents flowed from the housetop,
the skies darkened to ink, or were ripped asunder by vivid flashes,
and the thunder rolled unceasingly. We were half drowned, as though we
were dragged through a pond, and our ponies bowed and staggered before
the double onslaught of wind and water. We bent our bodies to theirs,
and lashed them forward.
The outpost to which we were now riding was stationed at the edge
of the city where the Calle Morizan joins the trail to San Lorenzo on
the Pacific coast. As we approached it I saw a number of mounted men,
surrounding a closed carriage. They were evidently travellers starting
forth on the three days' ride to San Lorenzo, to cross to Amapala,
where the Pacific Mail takes on her passengers. They had been halted
by our sentries. As I came nearer I recognized, through the mist of
rain, Joseph Fiske, young Fiske, and a group of the Isthmian men. The
storm, or the bursting shells, had stampeded their pack-train, and a
dozen frantic Mozos were rounding up the mules and adding their
shrieks and the sound of their falling whips to the tumult of the
I galloped past them to where our main guard were lashing the
canvas- cover to their gun, and ordered them to unstrap it, and fight
their way to the palace.
As I turned again the sentry called: “Am I to let these people go?
They have no passes.”
I halted, and Joseph Fiske raised his heavy eyelids, and blinked at
me like a huge crocodile. I put a restraint upon myself and moved
toward him with a confident smile. I could not bear to have him
depart, thinking he went in triumph. I looked the group over carefully
and said: “Certainly, let them pass,” and Fiske and some of the
Isthmian men, who appeared ashamed, nodded at me sheepishly.
But one of them, who was hidden by the carriage, called out: “You'd
better come, too; your ship of state is getting water-logged.”
I made no sign that I heard him, but McGraw instantly answered,
“Yes, it looks so. The rats are leaving it!”
At that the man called back tauntingly the old Spanish proverb: “He
who takes Pecachua, sleeps in the palace.” McGraw did not understand
Spanish, and looked at me appealingly, and I retorted, “We've altered
that, sir. The man who sleeps in the palace will take Pecachua
And McGraw added: “Yes, and he won't take it with thirty pieces of
I started away, beckoning to McGraw, but, as we moved, Mr. Fiske
pushed his pony forward.
“Can you give me a pass, sir?” he asked. He shouted the words, for
the roaring of the storm drowned all ordinary sounds. “In case I meet
with more of your men, can you give me a written pass?”
I knew that the only men of ours still outside of the city were a
few scouts, but I could not let Fiske suspect that, so I whipped out
my notebook and wrote:
“To commanders of all military posts: Pass bearer, Joseph Fiske,
his family, servants, and baggage-train.
“Vice-President of Honduras”
I tore out the page and gave it him, and he read it carefully and
“Does this include my friends?” he asked, nodding toward the
“You can pass them off as your servants,” I answered, and he smiled
The men had formed around the gun, and it was being pushed toward
me, but as I turned to meet it I was again halted, this time by young
Fiske, who rode his horse in front of mine, and held out his hand.
“You must shake hands with me!” he cried, “I acted like a cad.” He
bent forward, raising his other arm to shield his face from the storm.
“I say, I acted like a cad,” he shouted, “and I ask your pardon.”
I took his hand and nodded. At the same moment as we held each
other's hands the window of the carriage was pushed down and his
sister leaned out and beckoned to me. Her face, beaten by the rain,
and with her hair blown across it, was filled with distress.
“I want to thank you,” she cried. “Thank you,” she repeated, “for
my brother. I thank you. I wanted you to know.”
She stretched out her hand and I took it, and released it
instantly, and as she withdrew her face from the window of the
carriage, I dug my spurs into my pony and galloped on with the gun.
What followed is all confused.
I remember that we reached the third and last post just after the
men had abandoned it, but that we overtook them, and with them fought
our way through the streets. But through what streets, or how long it
took us to reach the palace I do not know. No one thing is very clear
to me. Even the day after, I remembered it only as a bad dream, in
which I saw innumerable, dark-skinned faces pressing upon me with open
mouths, and white eyeballs; lit by gleams of lightning and flashes of
powder. I remember going down under my pony and thinking how cool and
pleasant it was in the wet mud, and of being thrown back on him again
as though I were a pack-saddle, and I remember wiping the rain out of
my eyes with a wet sleeve, and finding the sleeve warm with blood. And
then there was a pitchy blackness through which I kept striking at
faces that sprang out of the storm, faces that when they were beaten
down were replaced by other faces; drunken, savage, exulting. I
remember the ceaseless booming of the thunder that shook the
houseslike an earthquake, the futile popping of revolvers, the whining
shells overhead, the cries and groans, the Spanish oaths, and the
heavy breathing of my men about me, and always just in front of us,
the breathless whir of the gatling.
After that the next I remember I was inside the palace, and
breaking holes in the wall with an axe. Some of my men took the axe
from me, and said: “He's crazy, clean crazy,” and Van Ritter and
Miller fought with me, and held me down upon a cot. From the cot I
watched the others making more holes in the wall, through which they
shoved their rifles and then there was a great cheer outside, and a
man came running in crying, “Alvarez and Heinze are at the corner with
the twelve-pounders!” Then our men cursed like fiends, and swept out
of the room, and as no one remained to hold me down, I stumbled after
them into the big reception-hall, and came upon Laguerre, lying rigid
and still upon a red-silk sofa. I thought he was dead, and screamed,
and at that they seized me again and hustled me back to the cot,
telling me that he was not dead, but that at any moment he might die,
and that if I did not rest, I would die also.
When I came to, it was early morning, and through the holes in the
plaster wall I could see the stars fading before the dawn. The
gatlings were gone and the men were gone, and I was wondering if they
had deserted me, when Von Ritter came back and asked if I were strong
enough to ride, and I stood up feeling dizzy and very weak. But my
head was clear and I could understand what he said to me. Of the whole
of the Foreign Legion only thirty were left. Miller was killed,
Russell was killed and old man Webster was killed. They told me how
they had caught him when he made a dash to the barracks for
ammunition, and how, from the roof, our men had seen them place him
against the iron railings of the University Gardens. There he died, as
his hero, William Walker, had died, on the soil of the country he had
tried to save from itself, with his arms behind him, and his
blindfolded eyes turned upon a firing-squad.
McGraw had been killed as he rode beside me, holding me in the
saddle. That hurt me worse than all. They told me a blow from behind
had knocked me over, and though, of that, I could remember nothing, I
could still feel McGraw's arm pressing my ribs, and hear his great
foolish laugh in my ears.
They helped me out into the court-yard, where the men stood in a
hollow square, with Laguerre on a litter in the centre, and with the
four gatlings at each corner. The wound was in his throat, so he could
not speak, but when they led me down into the Patio he raised his eyes
and smiled. I tried to smile back, but his face was so white and drawn
that I had to turn away, that he might not see me crying.
There was much besides to make one weep. We were running away. We
were abandoning the country to which some of us had come to better
their fortunes, to which others had come that they might set the
people free. We were being driven out of it by the very men for whom
we had risked our lives. Some among us, the reckless, the mercenary,
the adventurers, had played like gamblers for a stake, and had lost.
Others, as they thought, had planned wisely for the people's good, had
asked nothing in return but that they might teach them to rule
themselves. But they, too, had lost, and because they had lost, they
were to pay the penalty.
Within the week the natives had turned from us to the painted idols
of their jungle, and the new gods toward whom they had wavered were to
be sacrificed on the altars of the old. They were waiting only until
the sun rose to fall upon our little garrison and set us up against
the barrack wall, as a peace offering to their former masters. Only
one chance remained to us. If, while it were still night, we could
escape from the city to the hills, we might be able to fight our way
to the Pacific side, and there claim the protection of our war-ship.
It was a forlorn hope, but we trusted to the gatlings to clear a
road for us, and there was no other way.
So just before the dawn, silently and stealthily the President and
the Cabinet, and all that was left of the Government and Army of
General Laguerre, stole out of his palace through a hole in the
We were only a shadowy blot in the darkness, but the instant we
reached the open street they saw us and gave cry.
From behind the barriers they had raised to shut off our escape,
from the house-tops, and from the darkened windows, they opened fire
with rifle and artillery. But our men had seen the dead faces of their
leaders and comrades, and they were frantic, desperate. They charged
like madmen. Nothing could hold them. Our wedge swept steadily
forward, and the guns sputtered from the front and rear and sides,
flashing and illuminating the night like a war-ship in action.
They drove our enemies from behind the barricades, and cleaned the
street beyond it to the bridge, and then swept the bridge itself. We
could hear the splashes when the men who held it leaped out of range
of the whirling bullets into the stream below.
In a quarter of an hour we were running swiftly through the
sleeping suburbs, with only one of our guns barking an occasional
warning at the ghostly figures in our rear.
We made desperate progress during the dark hours of the morning,
but when daylight came we were afraid to remain longer on the trail,
and turned off into the forest. And then, as the sun grew stronger,
our endurance reached its limit, and when they called a halt our
fellows dropped where they stood, and slept like dead men. But they
could not sleep for long. We all knew that our only chance lay in
reaching San Lorenzo, on the Pacific Ocean. Once there, we were
confident that the war-ship would protect us, and her surgeons save
our wounded. By the trail and unmolested, we could have reached it in
three days, but in the jungle we were forced to cut our way painfully
and slowly, and at times we did not know whether we were moving toward
the ocean or had turned back upon the capital.
I do not believe that slaves hunted through a swamp by blood-hounds
have ever suffered more keenly than did the survivors of the Foreign
Legion. Of our thirty men, only five were unwounded. Even those who
carried Laguerre wore blood-stained bandages. All were starving, and
after the second day of hiding in swamps and fording mountain-streams,
half of our little band was sick with fever. We lived on what we found
in the woods, or stole from the clearing, on plants, and roots, and
fruit. We were no longer a military body. We had ceased to be either
officers or privates. We were now only so many wretched fellow-beings,
dependent upon each other, like sailors cast adrift upon some desert
island, and each worked for the good of all, and the ties which bound
us together were stronger than those of authority and discipline. Men
scarcely able to drag themselves on, begged for the privilege of
helping to carry Laguerre, and he in turn besought and commanded that
we leave him by the trail, and hasten to the safety of the coast. In
one of his conscious moments he protested: “I cannot live, and I am
only hindering your escape. It is not right, nor human, that one man
should risk the lives of all the rest. For God's sake, obey my orders
and put me down.”
Hour after hour, by night as well as by day, we struggled forward,
staggering, stumbling, some raving with fever, others with set faces,
biting their yellow lips to choke back the pain.
Three times when we endeavored to gain ground by venturing on the
level trail, the mounted scouts of Alvarez overtook us, or attacked us
from ambush, and when we beat them off, they rode ahead and warned the
villages that we were coming; so, that, when we reached them, we were
driven forth like lepers. Even the village dogs snapped and bit at the
gaunt figures, trembling for lack of food, and loss of sleep and
But on the sixth day, just at sunset, as we had dragged ourselves
to the top of a wooded hill we saw below us, beyond a league of
unbroken jungle, a great, shining sheet of water, like a cloud on the
horizon, and someone cried: “The Pacific!” and we all stumbled
forward, and some dropped on their knees, and some wept, and some
swung their hats and tried to cheer.
And then one of them, I never knew which, started singing, “Praise
God, from whom all blessings flow,” and we stood up, the last of the
Legion, shaken with fever, starving, wounded, and hunted by our
fellow-men, and gave praise to God, as we had never praised Him
That night the fever took hold of me, and in my tossings and
turnings I burst open the sword-wound at the back of my head. I
remember someone exclaiming “He's bled to death!” and a torch held to
my eyes, and then darkness, and the sense that I was being carried and
bumped about on men's shoulders.
The next thing I knew I was lying in a hammock, a lot of naked,
brown children were playing in the dirt beside me, the sun was
shining, great palms were bending in the wind above me, and the
strong, sweet air of the salt sea was blowing in my face.
I lay for a long time trying to guess where I was, and how I had
come there. But I found no explanation for it, so I gave up guessing,
and gazed contentedly at the bending palms until one of the children
found my eyes upon him, and gave a scream, and they all pattered off
like frightened partridges.
That brought a native woman from behind me, smiling, and murmuring
prayers in Spanish. She handed me a gourd filled with water.
I asked where I was, and she said, “San Lorenzo.”
I could have jumped out of the hammock at that, but when I tried to
do so I found I could hardly raise my body. But I had gained the
coast. I knew I would find strength enough to leave it.
“Where are my friends?” I asked. “Where are the Gringoes?”
But she raised her hands, and threw them wide apart.
“They have gone,” she said, “three, four days from now, they sailed
away in the white ship. There was a great fighting,” she said, raising
her eyes and shaking her head, “and they carried you here, and told me
to hide you. You have been very ill, and you are still very ill.” She
gave a little exclamation and disappeared, and returned at once with a
piece of folded paper. “For you,” she said.
On the outside of the paper was written in Spanish: “This paper
will be found on the body of Royal Macklin. Let the priest bury him
and send word to the Military Academy, West Point, U. S. A., asking
that his family be informed of his place of burial. They will reward
Inside, in English, was the following letter in Aiken's
“DEAR OLD MAN—We had to drop you here, as we were too sick to
carry you any farther. They jumped us at San Lorenzo, and when we
found we couldn't get to Amapala from here, we decided to scatter, and
let each man take care of himself. Von Ritter and I, and two of the
boys, are taking Laguerre with us. He is still alive, but very bad. We
hope to pick up a fishing-boat outside of town, and make for the
Raleigh. We tried to carry you, too, but it wasn't possible. We had to
desert one of you, so we stuck by the old man. We hid your revolver
and money- belt under the seventh palm, on the beach to the right of
this shack. If I'd known you had twenty double eagles on you all this
time, I'd have cracked your skull myself. The crack you've got is
healing, and if you pull through the fever you'll be all right. If you
do, give this woman twenty pesos I borrowed from her. Get her to hire
a boat, and men, and row it to Amapala. This island is only fifteen
miles out, and the Pacific Mail boat touches there Thursdays and
Sundays. If you leave here the night before, you can make it. Whatever
you do, don't go into the village here or land at Amapala. If they
catch you on shore they will surely shoot you. So board the steamer in
the offing. Hoping you will live to read this, and that we may meet
again under more agreeable circumstances, I am,
“P.S. I have your gilt sword, and I'm going to turn it over to the
officers of the Raleigh, to take back to your folks. Good luck to you,
After reading this letter, which I have preserved carefully as a
characteristic souvenir of Aiken, I had but two anxieties. The first
was to learn if Laguerre and the others had reached the Raleigh, and
the second was how could I escape to the steamer—the first question
was at once answered by the woman. She told me it was known in San
Lorenzo that the late “Presidente Generale,” with three Gringoes, had
reached the American war-ship and had been received on board. The
Commandante of Amapala had demanded their surrender to him, but the
captain of the ship had declared that as political refugees, they were
entitled to the protection they claimed, and when three days later he
had been ordered to return to San Francisco, he had taken them with
When I heard that, I gave a cheer all by myself, and I felt so much
better for the news that I at once began to plot for my own departure.
The day was Wednesday, the day before the steamer left Amapala, and I
determined to start for the island the following evening. When I told
the woman this, she protested I was much too weak to move, but the
risk that my hiding-place might be discovered before another steamer-
day arrived was much too great, and I insisted on making a try for the
The woman accordingly procured a fishing-boat and a crew of three
men, and I dug up my money-belt, and my revolver, and thanked her and
paid her, for Aiken and for myself, as well as one can pay a person
for saving one's life. The next night, as soon as the sun set, I
seated myself in the stern of the boat, and we pushed out from the
shore of Honduras, and were soon rising and falling on the broad swell
of the Pacific.
My crew were simple fishermen, unconcerned with politics, and as I
had no fear of harm from them, I curled up on a mat at their feet and
instantly fell asleep.
When I again awoke the sun was well up, and when I raised my head
the boatman pointed to a fringe of palms that hung above the water,
and which he told me rose from the Island of Amapala. Two hours later
we made out the wharves and the custom-house of the port itself, and,
lying well toward us in the harbor, a big steamer with the smoke
issuing from her stacks, and the American flag hanging at the stern. I
was still weak and shaky, and I must confess that I choked a bit at
the sight of the flag, and at the thought that, in spite of all, I was
going safely back to life, and Beatrice and Aunt Mary. The name I made
out on the stern of the steamer was Barracouta, and I considered it
the prettiest name I had ever known, and the steamer the handsomest
ship that ever sailed the sea. I loved her from her keel to her
topmast. I loved her every line and curve, her every rope and bolt.
But specially did I love the flag at her stern and the blue Peter at
the fore. They meant home. They meant peace, friends, and my own
I gave the boatmen a double eagle, and we all shook hands with
great glee, and then with new strength and unassisted I pulled myself
up the companion-ladder, and stood upon the deck.
When I reached it I wanted to embrace the first man I saw. I
somehow expected that he would want to embrace me, too, and say how
glad he was I had escaped. But he happened to be the ship's purser,
and, instead of embracing me, he told me coldly that steerage
passengers are not allowed aft. But I did not mind, I knew that I was
a disreputable object, but I also knew that I had gold in my
money-belt, and that clothes could be bought from the slop-chest.
So I said in great good-humor, that I wanted a first-class cabin,
the immediate use of the bathroom, and the services of the ship's
My head was bound in a dirty bandage. My uniform, which I still
wore as I had nothing else, was in rags from the briers, and the mud
of the swamps and the sweat of the fever had caked it with dirt. I had
an eight days' beard, and my bare feet were in native sandals. So my
feelings were not greatly hurt because the purser was not as genuinely
glad to see me as I was to see him.
“A first-class passage costs forty dollars gold—in advance,” he
“That's all right,” I answered, and I laughed from sheer, foolish
happiness, “I'll take six.”
We had been standing at the head of the companion-ladder, and as
the purser moved rather reluctantly toward his cabin, a group of men
came down the deck toward us.
One of them was a fat, red-faced American, the others wore the
uniform of Alvarez. When they saw me they gave little squeals of
excitement, and fell upon the fat man gesticulating violently, and
pointing angrily at me.
The purser halted, and if it were possible, regarded me with even
greater unfriendliness. As for myself, the sight of the brown, impish
faces, and the familiar uniforms filled me with disgust. I had thought
I was done with brawling and fighting, of being hated and hunted. I
had had my fill of it. I wanted to be let alone, I wanted to feel that
everybody about me was a friend. I was not in the least alarmed, for
now that I was under the Stars and Stripes, I knew that I was immune
from capture, but the mere possibility of a row was intolerable.
One of the Honduranians wore the uniform of a colonel, and was, as
I guessed, the Commandante of the port. He spoke to the fat man in
English, but in the same breath turned to one of his lieutenants, and
gave an order in Spanish.
The lieutenant started in my direction, and then hesitated and
beckoned to some one behind me.
I heard a patter of bare feet on the deck, and a dozen soldiers ran
past me, and surrounded us. I noticed that they and their officers
belonged to the Eleventh Infantry. It was the regiment I had driven
out of the barracks at Santa Barbara.
The fat American in his shirt-sleeves was listening to what the
Commandante was saying, and apparently with great dissatisfaction. As
he listened he scowled at me, chewing savagely on an unlit cigar, and
rocking himself to and fro on his heels and toes. His thumbs were
stuck in his suspenders, so that it looked as though, with great
indecision he was pulling himself forward and back.
I turned to the purser and said, as carelessly as I could: “Well,
what are we waiting for?”
But he only shook his head.
With a gesture of impatience the fat man turned suddenly from the
Commandante and came toward me.
He spoke abruptly and with the tone of a man holding authority.
“Have you got your police-permit to leave Amapala?” he demanded.
“No,” I answered.
“Well, why haven't you?” he snapped.
“I didn't know I had to have one,” I said. “Why do you ask?” I
added. “Are you the captain of this ship?”
“I think I am,” he suddenly roared, as though I had questioned his
word. “Anyway, I've got enough say on her to put you ashore if you
don't answer my questions.”
I shut my lips together and looked away from him. His tone stirred
what little blood there was still left in me to rebellion; but when I
saw the shore with its swamps and ragged palms, I felt how perilously
near it was, and Panama became suddenly a distant mirage. I was as
helpless as a sailor clinging to a plank. I felt I was in no position
to take offence, so I bit my lips and tried to smile.
The Captain shook his head at me, as though I were a prisoner in
“Do you mean to say,” he shouted, “that our agent sold you a ticket
without you showing a police-permit?”
“I haven't got a ticket,” I said. “I was just going to buy one
The Commandante thrust himself between us.
“Ah, what did I tell you?” he cried. “You see? He is escaping. This
is the man. He answers all the descriptions. He was dressed just so;
green coat, red trousers, very torn and dirty—head in bandage. This
is the description. Is it not so?” he demanded of his lieutenants.
They nodded vigorously.
“Why—a-yes, that is the man,” the Commandante cried in triumph.
“Last night he stabbed Jose Mendez in the Libertad Billiard Hall. He
has wanted to murder him. If Jose, he die, this man he is murderer. He
cannot go. He must come to land with me.”
He gave an order in Spanish, and the soldiers closed in around us.
I saw that I was in great peril, in danger more real than any I had
faced in open fight since I had entered Honduras. For the men who had
met me then had fought with fair weapons. These men were trying to
take away my life with a trick, with cunning lies and false witnesses.
They knew the Captain might not surrender a passenger who was only
a political offender, but that he could not harbor a criminal. And at
the first glance at my uniform, and when he knew nothing more of me
than that I wore it, the Commandante had trumped up this charge of
crime, and had fitted to my appearance the imaginary description of an
imaginary murderer. And I knew that he did this that he might send me,
bound hand and foot, as a gift to Alvarez, or that he might, for his
own vengeance, shoot me against a wall.
I knew how little I would receive of either justice or mercy. I had
heard of Dr. Rojas killed between decks on a steamer of this same
line; of Bonilla taken from the Ariadne and murdered on this very
wharf at this very port of Amapala; of General Pulido strangled in the
launch of the Commandante of Corinto and thrown overboard, while still
in the sight of his fellow-passengers on the Southern Cross.
It was a degraded, horrible, inglorious end—to be caught by the
heels after the real battle was lost; to die of fever in a cell; to be
stabbed with bayonets on the wharf, and thrown to the carrion harbor-
I swung around upon the Captain, and fought for my life as
desperately as though I had a rope around my neck.
“That man is a liar,” I cried. “I was not in Amapala last night. I
came from San Lorenzo—this morning. The boat is alongside now; you
can ask the men who brought me. I'm no murderer. That man knows I'm no
murderer. He wants me because I belonged to the opposition government.
It's because I wear this uniform he wants me. I'm no criminal. He has
no more right to touch me here, than he would if I were on Broadway.”
The Commandante seized the Captain's arm.
“As Commandante of this port,” he screamed, “I tell you if you do
not surrender the murderer to me, your ship shall not sail. I will
take back your clearance-papers.”
The Captain turned on me, shaking his red fists, and tossing his
head like a bull. “You see that!” he cried. “You see what you get me
into, coming on board my ship without a permit! That's what I get at
every banana-patch along this coast, a lot of damned beach-combers and
stowaways stealing on board, and the Commandante chasing 'em all over
my ship and holding up my papers. You go ashore!” he ordered. He swept
his arm toward the gangway. “You go to Kessler, our consul. If you
haven't done nothing wrong, he'll take care of you. You haven't got a
ticket, and you haven't got a permit, and you're no passenger of mine!
Over you go; do you hear me? Quick now, over you go.”
I could not believe that I heard the man aright. He seemed to be
talking a language I did not know.
“Do you mean to tell me,” I cried, speaking very slowly, for I was
incredulous, and I was so weak besides that it was difficult for me to
find the words, “that you refuse to protect me from these half-breeds,
that you are going to turn me over to them—to be shot! And you call
yourself an American?” I cried, “and this an American ship!”
As I turned from him I found that the passengers had come forward
and now surrounded us; big, tall men in cool, clean linen, and
beautiful women, shading their eyes with their fans, and little
children crowding in between them and clinging to their skirts. To my
famished eyes they looked like angels out of Paradise. They were my
own people, and they brought back to me how I loved the life these men
were plotting to take from me. The sight of them drove me into a sort
“Are you going to take that man's word against mine?” I cried at
the Captain. “Are you going to let him murder me in sight of that
flag? You know he'll do it. You know what they did to Rojas on one of
your own ships. Do you want another man butchered in sight of your
The Commandante crowded in front of the ship's captain.
“That man is my prisoner,” he cried. “He is going to jail, to be
tried by law. He shall see his consul every day. And so, if you try to
leave this harbor with him, I will sink your ship from the fort!”
The Captain turned with an oath and looked up to the second
officer, who was leaning over the rail of the bridge above us.
“Up anchor,” the Captain shouted. “Get her under weigh! There is
your answer,” he cried, turning upon me. “I'm not going to have this
ship held up any longer, and I'm not going to risk the lives of these
ladies and gentlemen by any bombardment, either. You're only going to
jail. I'll report the matter to our consul at Corinto, and he'll tell
“Corinto!” I replied. “I'll be dead before you've passed that
The Captain roared with anger.
“Can't you hear what he says,” he shouted. “He says he'll fire on
my ship. They've fired on our ships before! I'm not here to protect
every damned scalawag that tries to stowaway on my ship. I'm here to
protect the owners, and I mean to do it. Now you get down that ladder,
before we throw you down.”
I knew his words were final. From the bow I heard the creak of the
anchor-chains as they were drawn on board, and from the engine-room
the tinkle of bells.
The ship was abandoning me. My last appeal had failed. My condition
“Protect your owners, and yourself, damn you!” I cried. “You're no
American. You're no white man. No American would let a conch-nigger
run his ship. To hell with your protection!”
All the misery of the last two months, the bitterness of my
dismissal from the Point, the ignominy of our defeat and flight, rose
in me and drove me on. “And I don't want the protection of that flag
either,” I cried. “I wasn't good enough to serve it once, and I don't
need it now.”
It should be remembered that when I spoke these words I thought my
death was inevitable and immediate, that it had been brought upon me
by one of my own countrymen, while others of my countrymen stood
indifferently by, and I hope that for what I said in that moment of
fever and despair I may be forgiven.
“I can protect myself!” I cried.
Before anyone could move I whipped out my gun and held it over the
Commandante's heart, and at the same instant without turning my eyes
from his face I waved my other hand at the passengers. “Take those
children away,” I shouted.
“Don't move!” I yelled in Spanish at the soldiers. “If one of you
raises his musket I'll kill him.” I pressed the cocked revolver
against the Commandante's chest. “Now, then, take me ashore,” I called
to his men. “You know me, I'm Captain Macklin. Captain Macklin, of the
Foreign Legion, and you know that six of you will die before you get
me. Come on,” I taunted. “Which six is it to be?”
Out of the corners of my eyes I could see the bayonets lifting
cautiously and forming a ring of points about me, and the sight, and
my own words lashed me into a frenzy of bravado.
“Oh, you don't remember me, don't you?” I cried. “You ought to
remember the Foreign Legion! We drove you out of Santa Barbara and
Tabla Ve and Comyagua, and I'm your Vice-President! Take off your hats
to your Vice-President! To Captain Macklin, Vice-President of
[Illustration: I sprang back against the cabin]
I sprang back against the cabin and swung the gun in swift half-
circles. The men shrank from it as though I had lashed them with a
whip. “Come on,” I cried, “which six is it to be? Come on, you
cowards, why don't you take me!”
The only answer came from a voice that was suddenly uplifted at my
side. I recognized it as the voice of the ship's captain.
“Put down that gun!” he shouted.
But I only swung it the further until it covered him also. The man
stood in terror of his ship's owners, he had a seaman's dread of
international law, but he certainly was not afraid of a gun. He
regarded it no more than a pointed finger, and leaned eagerly toward
me. To my amazement I saw that his face was beaming with excitement
“Are you Captain Macklin?” he cried.
I was so amazed that for a moment I could only gape at him while I
still covered him with the revolver.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Then why in hell didn't you say so!” he roared, and with a bellow
like a bull he threw himself upon the Commandante. He seized him by
his epaulettes and pushed him backward. With the strength of a bull he
butted and shoved him across the deck.
“Off my ship you!” he roared. “Every one of you; you're a gang of
The deck-hands and the ship-stewards, who had gathered at the
gangway to assist in throwing me down it, sprang to the Captain's aid.
“Over with him, boys,” he roared. “Clear the ship of them. Throw
them overboard.” The crew fell upon the astonished soldiers, and drove
them to the side. Their curses and shrieks filled the air, the women
retreated screaming, and I was left alone, leaning limply against the
cabin with my revolver hanging from my fingers.
It began and ended in an instant, and as the ship moved forward and
the last red-breeched soldier disappeared headforemost down the
companion-ladder, the Captain rushed back to me and clutched me by
both shoulders. Had it not been for the genial grin on his fat face, I
would have thought that he meant to hurl me after the others.
“Now then, Captain Macklin,” he cried, “you come with me. You come
to my cabin, and that's where you stay as long as you are on my ship.
You're no passenger, you're my guest, and there's nothing on board too
good for you.”
“But I don't—understand,” I protested faintly. “What does it
“What does it mean?” he shouted. “It means you're the right sort
for me! I haven't heard of nothing but your goings-on for the last
three trips. Vice-President of Honduras!” he exclaimed, shaking me as
though I were a carpet. “A kid like you! You come to my cabin and tell
me the whole yarn from start to finish. I'd rather carry you than old
man Huntington himself!”
The passengers had returned, and stood listening to his
exclamations, in a wondering circle. The stewards and deck-hands,
panting with their late exertions, were grinning at me with
“Bring Captain Macklin's breakfast to my cabin, you,” he shouted to
them. “And, Mr. Owen,” he continued, addressing the Purser, with great
impressiveness, “this is Captain Macklin, himself. He's going with us
as my guest.”
With a wink, he cautiously removed my revolver from my fingers, and
slapped me jovially on the shoulder. “Son!” he exclaimed, “I wouldn't
have missed the sight of you holding your gun on that gang for a cargo
of bullion. I suspicioned it was you, the moment you did it. That will
be something for me to tell them in 'Frisco, that will. Now, you come
along,” he added, suddenly, with parental solicitude, “and take a cup
of coffee, and a dose of quinine, or you'll be ailing.”
He pushed a way for me through the crowd of passengers, who fell
back in two long lines. As we moved between them, I heard a woman's
voice ask, in a loud whisper:
“Who did you say?”
A man's voice answered, “Why, Captain Macklin,” and then protested,
in a rising accent, “Now, for Heaven's sake, Jennie, don't tell me you
don't know who he is?”
That was my first taste of fame. It was a short-lived, limited sort
of fame, but at that time it stretched throughout all Central America.
I doubt if it is sufficiently robust to live in the cold latitudes of
the North. It is just an exotic of the tropics. I am sure it will
never weather Cape Hatteras. But although I won't amount to much in
Dobbs Ferry, down here in Central America I am pretty well known, and
during these last two months that I have been lying, very near to
death, in the Canal Company's hospital, my poor little fame stuck by
me, and turned strangers into kind and generous friends.
DOBBS FERRY, September, 1882
September passed before I was a convalescent, and it was the first
of October when the Port of Sydney passed Sandy Hook, and I stood at
the bow, trembling with cold and happiness, and saw the autumn leaves
on the hills of Staten Island and the thousands of columns of
circling, white smoke rising over the three cities. I had not let
Beatrice and Aunt Mary know that I was in a hospital, but had told
them that I was making my way home slowly, which was true enough, and
that they need not expect to hear from me until I had arrived in New
York City. So, there was no one at the dock to meet me.
But, as we came up the harbor, I waved at the people on the passing
ferry-boats, and they, shivering, no doubt, at the sight of our canvas
awnings and the stewards' white jackets, waved back, and gave me my
first welcome home.
It was worth all the disappointments, and the weeks in hospital, to
stick my head in the ticket-window of the Grand Central Station, and
hear myself say, “Dobbs Ferry, please.” I remember the fascination
with which I watched the man (he was talking over his shoulder to
another man at the time) punch the precious ticket, and toss it to me.
I suppose in his life he has many times sold tickets to Dobbs Ferry,
but he never sold them as often as I had rehearsed asking him for that
I had wired them not to meet me at the station, but to be waiting
at the house, and when I came up the old walk, with the box-hedges on
either side, they were at the door, and Aunt Mary ran to meet me, and
hugged and scolded me, and cried on my shoulder, and Beatrice smiled
at me, just as though she were very proud of me, and I kissed her
once. After ten minutes, it did not seem as though I had ever been
away from home. And, when I looked at Beatrice, and I could not keep
my eyes from her, I was filled with wonder that I had ever had the
courage to go from where she was. We were very happy.
I am afraid that for the next two weeks I traded upon their
affection scandalously. But it was their own fault. It was their wish
that I should constantly pose in the dual roles of the returned
prodigal and Othello, and, as I told them, if I were an obnoxious prig
ever after, they alone were responsible.
I had the ravenous hunger of the fever-convalescent, and I had an
audience that would have turned General Grant into a braggart. So,
every day wonderful dishes of Aunt Mary's contriving were set before
me, and Beatrice would not open a book so long as there was one
adventure I had left untold.
And this, as I soon learned, was the more flattering, as she had
already heard most of them at second-hand.
I can remember my bewilderment that first evening as I was relating
the story of the duel, and she corrected me.
“Weren't you much nearer?” she asked. “You fired at twenty paces.”
“So we did,” I cried, “but how could you know that?”
“Mr. Lowell told us,” she said.
“Lowell!” I shouted. “Has Lowell been here?”
“Yes, he brought us your sword,” Beatrice answered. “Didn't you see
where we placed it?” and she rose rather quickly, and stood with her
face toward the fireplace, where, sure enough, my sword was hanging
above the mantel.
“Oh yes,” said Aunt Mary, “Mr. Lowell has been very kind. He has
come out often to ask for news of you. He is at the Brooklyn Navy
Yard. We like him so much,” she added.
“Like him!” I echoed. “I should think you would! Isn't that bully,”
I cried, “to think of his being so near me, and that he's a friend of
yours already. We must have him out to-morrow. Isn't he fine,
She had taken down the sword, and was standing holding it out to
“Yes, he is,” she said, “and he is very fond of you, too, Royal. I
don't believe you've got a better friend.”
Attractive as the prodigal son may seem at first, he soon becomes a
nuisance. Even Othello when he began to tell over his stories for the
second time must have been something of a bore. And when Aunt Mary
gave me roast beef for dinner two nights in succession, and after
dinner Beatrice picked up “Lorna Doone” and retired to a corner, I
knew that I had had my day.
The next morning at breakfast, in a tone of gentle reproach, I
announced that I was going out into the cold world, as represented by
New York City, to look for a job. I had no idea of doing anything of
the sort. I only threw out the suggestion tentatively, and I was
exceedingly disgusted when they caught up my plan with such enthusiasm
and alacrity, that I was forced to go on with it. I could not see why
it was necessary for me to work. I had two thousand dollars a year my
grandfather had left me, and my idea of seeking for a job, was to look
for it leisurely, and with caution. But the family seemed to think
that, before the winter set in, I should take any chance that offered,
and, as they expressed it, settle down.
None of us had any very definite ideas as to what I ought to do, or
even that there was anything I could do. Lowell, who is so much with
us now, that I treat him like one of the family, argued that to
business men my strongest recommendation would be my knowledge of
languages. He said I ought to try for a clerkship in some firm where I
could handle the foreign correspondence. His even suggesting such work
annoyed me extremely. I told him that, on the contrary, my strongest
card was my experience in active campaigning, backed by my thorough
military education, and my ability to command men. He said
unfeelingly, that you must first catch your men, and that in down-town
business circles a military education counted for no more than a
college-course in football.
“You good people don't seem to understand,” I explained (we were
holding a family council on my case at the time); “I have no desire to
move in down-town business circles. I hate business circles.”
“Well, you must live, Royal,” Aunt Mary said. “You have not enough
money to be a gentleman of leisure.”
“Royal wouldn't be content without some kind of work,” said
“No, he can't persuade us he's not ambitious!” Lowell added. “You
mean to make something of yourself, you know you do, and you can't
begin too early.”
Since Lowell has been promoted to the ward-room, he talks just like
“Young man,” I said, “I've seen the day when you were an ensign,
and I was a Minister of War, and you had to click your heels if you
came within thirty feet of my distinguished person. Of course, I'm
ambitious, and the best proof of it is, that I don't want to sit in a
bird-cage all my life, counting other people's money.”
Aunt Mary looked troubled, and shook her head at me.
“Well, Royal,” she remonstrated, “you've got very little of your
own to count, and some day you'll want to marry, and then you'll be
I don't know why Aunt Mary's remark should have affected anyone
except myself, but it seemed to take all the life out of the
discussion, and Beatrice remembered she had some letters to write, and
Lowell said he must go back to the Navy Yard, although when he arrived
he told us he had fixed it with another man to stand his watch. The
reason I was disturbed was because, when Aunt Mary spoke, it made me
wonder if she were not thinking of Beatrice. One day just after I
arrived from Panama, when we were alone, she said that while I was
gone she had been in fear she might die before I came back, and that
Beatrice would be left alone. I laughed at her and told her she would
live a hundred years, and added, not meaning anything in particular,
“And she'll not be alone. I'll be here.”
Then Aunt Mary looked at me very sadly, and said: “Royal, I could
die so contentedly if I thought you two were happy.” She waited, as
though she expected me to make some reply, but I couldn't think of
anything to say, and so just looked solemn, then she changed the
subject by asking: “Royal, have you noticed that Lieutenant Lowell
admires Beatrice very much?” And I said, “Of course he does. If he
didn't, I'd punch his head.” At which she again looked at me in such a
wistful, pained way, smiling so sadly, as though for some reason she
were sorry for me.
They all seemed to agree that I had had my fling, and should, as
they persisted in calling it, “settle down.” A most odious phrase.
They were two to one against me, and when one finished another took it
up. So that at last I ceased arguing and allowed myself to be bullied
into looking for a position.
But before surrendering myself to the downtown business circles I
made one last effort to remain free.
In Honduras, Laguerre had told me that a letter to the Credit
Lyonnais in Paris would always find him. I knew that since his arrival
at San Francisco he had had plenty of time to reach Paris, and that if
he were there now he must know whether there is anything in this talk
of a French expedition against the Chinese in Tonkin. Also whether the
Mahdi really means to make trouble for the Khedive in the Soudan.
Laguerre was in the Egyptian army for three years, and knows Baker
Pasha well. I was sure that if there was going to be trouble, either
in China or Egypt, he could not keep out of it.
So I cabled him to the Credit Lyonnais, “Are you well? If going any
more campaigns, please take me.” I waited three restless weeks for an
answer, and then, as no answer came, I put it all behind me, and hung
my old, torn uniform where I would not see it, and hid the
presentation-sword behind the eight-day clock in the library.
Beatrice raised her eyes from her book and watched me.
“Why?” she asked.
“It hurts me,” I said.
She put down her book, and for a long time looked at me without
“I did not know you disliked it as much as that,” she said. “I
wonder if we are wrong. And yet,” she added, smiling, “it does not
seem a great sacrifice; to have work to do, to live at home, and in
such a dear, old home as this, near a big city, and with the river in
front and the country all about you. It seems better than dying of
wounds in a swamp, or of fever in a hospital.”
“I haven't complained. I'm taking my medicine,” I answered. “I know
you all wouldn't ask it of me, if you didn't think it was for my
good.” I had seated myself in front of the wood fire opposite her, and
was turning the chain she gave me round and round my wrist. I slipped
it off, and showed it to her as it hung from my fingers, shining in
“And yet,” I said, “it was fine being your Knight-Errant, and
taking risks for your sake, and having only this to keep me straight.”
I cannot see why saying just that should have disturbed her, but
certainly my words, or the sight of the chain, had a most curious
effect. It is absurd, but I could almost swear that she looked
frightened. She flushed, and her eyes were suddenly filled with tears.
I was greatly embarrassed. Why should she be afraid of me? I was too
much upset to ask her what was wrong, so I went on hastily: “But now
I'll have you always with me, to keep me straight,” I said.
She laughed at that, a tremulous little laugh, and said: “And so
you won't want it any more, will you?”
“Won't want it,” I protested gallantly. “I'd like to see anyone
make me give it up.”
“You'd give it up to me, wouldn't you?” she asked gently. “It
looks—“ she added, and stopped.
“I see,” I exclaimed. “Looks like a pose, sort of effeminate, a
man's wearing a bracelet. Is that what you think?”
She laughed again, but this time quite differently. She seemed
“Perhaps that's it,” she said. “Give it me, Royal. You'll never
need any woman's trinkets to keep you straight.”
I weighed the gold links in the hollow of my palm.
“Do you really want it?” I asked. She raised her eyes eagerly. “If
you don't mind,” she said.
I dropped the chain into her hand, but as I turned toward the fire,
I could not help a little sigh. She heard me, and leaned forward. I
could just see her sweet, troubled face in the firelight. “But I mean
to return it you, Royal,” she said, “some day, when—when you go out
again to fight wind-mills.”
“That's safe!” I returned, roughly. “You know that time will never
come. The three of you together have fixed that. I'm no longer a
knight-errant. I'm a business-man now. I'm not to remember I ever was
a knight-errant. I must even give up my Order of the Golden Chain,
because it's too romantic, because it might remind me that somewhere
in this world there is romance, and adventure, and fighting. And it
wouldn't do. You can't have romance around a business office. Some
day, when I was trying to add up my sums, I might see it on my wrist,
and forget where I was. I might remember the days when it shone in the
light of a camp-fire, when I used to sleep on the ground with my arm
under my head, and it was the last thing I saw, when it seemed like
your fingers on my wrist holding me back, or urging me forward.
Business circles would not allow that. They'd put up a sign,
'Canvassers, pedlers, and Romance not admitted.'”
The first time I applied for a job I was unsuccessful. The man I
went to see had been an instructor at Harvard when my uncle was
professor there, and Aunt Mary said he had been a great friend of
Professor Endicott's. One day in the laboratory the man discovered
something, and had it patented. It brought him a fortune, and he was
now president of a company which manufactured it, and with branches
all over the world.
Aunt Mary wrote him a personal letter about me, in the hope that he
might put me in charge of the foreign correspondence.
He kept me waiting outside his office-door for one full hour.
During the first half-hour I was angry, but the second half-hour I
enjoyed exceedingly. By that time the situation appealed to my sense
of humor. When the great man finally said he would see me, I found him
tilting back in a swivel-chair in front of a mahogany table. He picked
out Aunt Mary's letter from a heap in front of him, and said: “Are you
the Mr. Macklin mentioned in this letter? What can I do for you?”
I said very deliberately: “You can do nothing for me. I have waited
one hour to tell you so. When my aunt, Mrs. Endicott, does anyone the
honor to write him a letter, there is no other business in New York
City more important than attending promptly to that letter. I had
intended becoming a partner in your firm; now, I shall not. You are a
rude, fat, and absurd, little person. Good-morning.”
I crossed over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and told Lowell and the
other watch-officers in the ward-room of my first attempt to obtain a
job. They laughed until I hoped they would strangle.
“Who the devil do you think you are, anyway,” they cried, “going
around, insulting millionnaires like that?”
After leaving the cruiser that afternoon, I was so miserable that I
could have jumped into the East River. It was the sight of the big,
brown guns did it, and the cutlasses in their racks, and the clean-
limbed, bare-throated Jackies, and the watch-officer stamping the deck
just as though he were at sea, with his glass and side-arms. And when
the marine at the gate of the yard shifted his gun and challenged me,
it was so like old times that I could have fallen on his neck and
Over the wharves, all along my way to the ferry, the names of
strange and beautiful ports mocked at me from the sheds of the
steam-ship lines; “Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and the River Plata,”
“Guayaquil, Callao, and Santiago,” “Cape Town, Durban, and Lorenzo
Marquez.” It was past six o'clock and very dark. The ice was pushing
and grinding against the pier-heads, and through the falling snow the
tall buildings in New York twinkled with thousands of electric lights,
like great Christmas-trees. At one wharf a steamer of the Red D line,
just in from La Guayra, was making fast, and I guiltily crept on
board. Without, she was coated in a shearing of ice, but within she
reeked of Spanish-America—of coffee, rubber, and raw sugar.
Pineapples were still swinging in a net from the awning-rail, a
two-necked water- bottle hung at the hot mouth of the engine-room. I
found her captain and told him I only wanted to smell a ship again,
and to find out, if where he came from, the bands were still playing
in the plazas. He seemed to understand, and gave me a drink of Jamaica
rum with fresh limes in it, and a black cigar; and when his steward
brought them, I talked to him in Spanish just for the sound of it. For
half an hour I was under the Southern Cross, and New York was 3,000
When I left him, the captain gave me a bag of alligator-pears to
take home with me, and I promised to come the next day, and bring him
a new library of old, paper novels.
But, as it turned out, I sent them instead, for that night when I
reached the New York side, I saw how weakly and meanly I was acting,
and I threw the alligator-pears over the rail of the ferry-boat and
watched them fall into the dirty, grinding ice. I saw that I had been
in rank mutiny. My bed had been made for me and I must lie in it. I
was to be a business-man. I was to “settle down,” and it is only
slaves who rebel.
The next day, humble and chastened in spirit, I kissed the rod, and
went into the city to search for a situation. I determined to start at
Forty-second Street, and work my way down town until I found a place
that looked as though it could afford a foreign correspondent. But I
had reached Twenty-eighth Street, without seeing any place that
appealed to me, when a little groom, in a warm fur collar and chilly
white breeches, ran up beside me and touched his hat. I was so
surprised that I saluted him in return, and then felt uneasily
conscious that that was not the proper thing to do, and that forever I
had lost his respect.
“Miss Fiske would like to speak with you, sir,” he said. He ran
back to a brougham that was drawn up beside the curb behind me, and
opened the door. When I reached it, Miss Fiske leaned from it,
“I couldn't help calling you back, Captain Macklin,” she said, and
held out her hand.
When I took it she laughed again. “Isn't this like our last
meeting?” she asked. “Don't you remember my reaching out of the
carriage, and our shaking hands? Only now,” she went on, in a most
frank and friendly manner, “instead of a tropical thunder-storm, it's
a snow- storm, and instead of my running away from your shells, I'm
out shopping. At least, mother's out shopping,” she added. “She's in
there. I'm waiting for her.” She seemed to think that the situation
required a chaperon.
“You mustn't say they were my shells, Miss Fiske,” I protested. “I
may insult a woman for protecting her brother's life, but I never fire
shells at her.”
It did not surprise me to hear myself laughing at the words which,
when she spoke them, had seemed so terrible. It was as though none of
it had ever occurred. It was part of a romantic play, and we had seen
the play together. Who could believe that the young man, tramping the
streets on the lookout for a job, had ever signed his name, as vice-
president of Honduras, to a passport for Joseph Fiske; that the
beautiful girl in the sables, with her card-case in her hand, had ever
heard the shriek of shrapnel?
And she exclaimed, just as though we had both been thinking aloud:
“No, it's not possible, is it?”
“It never happened,” I said.
“But I tell you what has happened,” she went on, eagerly, “or
perhaps you know. Have you heard what my father did?”
I said I had not. I refrained from adding that I believed her
father capable of doing almost anything.
“Then I'm the first to tell you the news,” she exclaimed. She
nodded at me energetically. “Well, he's paid that money. He owed it
all the time.'
“That's not news,” I said.
She flushed a little, and laughed.
“But, indeed, father was not to blame,” she exclaimed. “They
deceived him dreadfully. But when we got home, he looked it up, and
found you were right about that money, and so he's paid it back, not
to that odious Alvarez man, but in some way, I don't quite understand
how, but so the poor people will get it.”
“Good!” I cried.
“And he's discharged all that Isthmian crowd,” she went on.
“Better,” I said.
“And made my brother president of the new company,” she continued,
and then raised her eyebrows, and waited, smiling.
“Oh, well,” I said, “since he's your brother—'best.'”
“That's right,” she cried. “That's very nice of you. Here comes
mother. I want you to meet her.”
Mother came toward us, out of a French dress-maker's. It was one of
the places I had decided against, when I had passed it a few minutes
before. It seemed one of the few business houses where a French
linguist would be superfluous.
I was presented as “Captain Macklin—who, you know, mother—who
fought the duel with Arthur—that is, who didn't shoot at him.”
Mrs. Fiske looked somewhat startled. Even to a trained social
leader it must be trying to have a man presented to you on a sidewalk
as the one who did not shoot your son.
Mrs. Fiske had a toy dog under one arm, and was holding up her
train, but she slipped the dog to the groom, and gave me her hand.
“How do you do, Mr.—Captain Macklin,” she said. “My son has told
me a great deal about you. Have you asked Captain Macklin to come to
see us, Helen?” she said, and stepped into the brougham.
“Come in any day after five,” said Miss Fiske, “and we'll have
tortillas and frijoles, and build a camp-fire in the library. What's
“Dobbs Ferry,” I said.
“Just Dobbs Ferry?” she asked. “But you're such a well-known
person, Captain Macklin.”
“I'm Mr. Macklin now,” I answered, and I tried to shut the door on
them, but the groom seemed to think that was his privilege, and so I
bowed, and they drove away. Then I went at once to a drug-store and
borrowed the directory, to find out where they lived, and I walked all
the way up the avenue to have a look at their house. Somehow I felt
that for that day I could not go on asking for a job. I saw a picture
of myself on a high stool in the French dressmaker's writing to the
Paris house for more sable cloaks for Mrs. Fiske.
The Fiske mansion overlooks Central Park, and it is as big as the
Academy of Music. I found that I knew it well by sight. I at once made
up my mind that I never would have the courage to ring that door-bell,
and I mounted a Fifth Avenue stage, and took up my work of
reconnoitering for a job where Miss Fiske had interrupted it.
The next day I got the job. I am to begin work on Monday. It is at
Schwartz Carboy's. They manufacture locks and hinges and agricultural
things. I saw a lot of their machetes in Honduras with their paper
stamp on the blade. They have almost a monopoly of the trade in South
America. Fortunately, or unfortunately, one of their Spanish clerks
had left them, and when I said I had been in Central America and could
write Spanish easily, Schwartz, or, it may have been Carboy—I didn't
ask him which was his silly name—dictated a letter and I wrote it in
Spanish. One of the other clerks admitted it was faultless. So, I
regret to say, I got the job. I'm to begin with fifteen dollars, and
Schwartz or Carboy added, as though it were a sort of a perquisite:
“If our young men act gentlemanly, and are good dressers, we often
send them to take our South American customers to lunch. The house
pays the expenses. And in the evenings you can show them around the
town. Our young men find that an easy way of seeing the theatres for
Knowing the tastes of South Americans visiting New York, I replied
severely that my connection with Schwartz Carboy would end daily at
four in the afternoon, but that a cross-town car passed Koster Bial's
every hour. I half hoped he would take offence at that, and in
consequence my connection, with Schwartz Carboy might end instantly
and forever; but whichever one he was, only laughed and said: “Yes,
those Brazilians are a queer lot. We eat up most of our profits
bailing them out of police courts the next morning. Well—you turn up
DOBBS FERRY, Sunday, Midnight
It's all over. It will be a long time before I add another chapter
to my “Memoirs.” When I have written this one they are to be sealed,
and to-morrow they are to be packed away in Aunt Mary's cedar chest. I
am now writing these lines after everyone else has gone to bed.
It happened after dinner. Aunt Mary was upstairs, and Beatrice was
at the piano. We were waiting for Lowell, who had promised to come up
and spend the evening. I was sitting at the centre-table, pretending
to read, but watching Beatrice. Her back was turned toward me, so I
could stare at her as long as I pleased. The light of the candles on
each side of the music-rack fell upon her hair, and made it flash and
burn. She had twisted it high, in a coil, and there never was anything
more lovely than the burnished copper against the white glow of her
skin, nor anything so noble as the way her head rose upon her neck and
sloping shoulders. It was like a flower on a white stem.
She was not looking at the music before her, but up at nothing,
while her hands ran over the keyboard, playing an old sailor's
“chantey” which Lowell has taught us. It carries with it all the sweep
and murmur of the sea at night.
She could not see me, she had forgotten that I was even in the
room, and I was at liberty to gaze at her and dream of her
undisturbed. I felt that, without that slight, white figure always at
my side, the life I was to begin on the morrow, or any other life,
would be intolerable. Without the thought of Beatrice to carry me
through the day I could not bear it. Except for her, what promise was
there before me of reward or honor? I was no longer “an officer and a
gentleman,” I was a copying clerk, “a model letter-writer.” I could
foresee the end. I would become a nervous, knowing, smug-faced
civilian. Instead of clean liquors, I would poison myself with
cocktails and “quick-order” luncheons. I would carry a commuter's
ticket. In time I might rise to the importance of calling the local
conductors by their familiar names. “Bill, what was the matter with
the 8.13 this morning?” From to-morrow forward I would be “our” Mr.
Macklin, “Yours of even date received. Our Mr. Macklin will submit
samples of goods desired.” “Mr.” Macklin! “Our” Mr. Macklin! Ye Gods!
Schwartz any servitude, I would struggle to rise above the most
I had just registered this mental vow, my eyes were still fixed
appealingly on the woman who was all unconscious of the sacrifice I
was about to make for her, when the servant came into the room and
handed me a telegram. I signed for it, and she went out. Beatrice had
not heard her enter, and was still playing. I guessed the telegram was
from Lowell to say he could not get away, and I was sorry. But as I
tore open the envelope, I noticed that it was not the usual one of
yellow paper, but of a pinkish white. I had never received a
cablegram. I did not know that this was one. I read the message, and
as I read it the blood in every part of my body came to a sudden stop.
There was a strange buzzing in my ears, the drums seemed to have burst
with a tiny report. The shock was so tremendous that it seemed
Beatrice must have felt it too, and I looked up at her stupidly. She
was still playing.
The cablegram had been sent that morning from Marseilles. The
message read, “Commanding Battalion French Zouaves, Tonkin Expedition,
holding position of Adjutant open for you, rank of Captain, if accept
join Marseilles. Laguerre.”
I laid the paper on my knee, and sat staring, scarcely breathing,
as though I were afraid if I moved I would wake. I was trembling and
cold, for I was at the parting of the ways, and I knew it. Beyond the
light of the candles, beyond the dull red curtains jealously drawn
against the winter landscape, beyond even the slight, white figure
with its crown of burnished copper, I saw the swarming harbor of
Marseilles. I saw the swaggering turcos in their scarlet breeches, the
crowded troop-ships, and from every ship's mast the glorious tri-color
of France; the flag that in ten short years had again risen, that was
flying over advancing columns in China, in Africa, in Madagascar; over
armies that for Alsace Lorraine were giving France new and great
colonies on every seaboard of the world. The thoughts that flew
through my brain made my fingers clench until the nails bit into my
palms. Even to dream of such happiness was actual pain. That this
might come to me! To serve under the tri-color, to be a captain of the
Grand Armee, to be one of the army reared and trained by Napoleon
I heard a cheery voice, and Lowell passed me, and advanced bowing
toward Beatrice, and she turned and smiled at him. But as she rose,
she saw my face.
“Roy!” she cried. “What is it? What has happened?”
I watched her coming toward me, as someone projected from another
life, a wonderful, beautiful memory, from a life already far in the
past. I handed her the cablegram and stood up stiffly. My joints were
rigid and the blood was still cold in my veins. She read the message,
and gave a little cry, and stood silent, gazing at me. I motioned her
to give it to Lowell, who was looking at us anxiously, his eyes filled
He kept his head lowered over the message for so long, that I
thought he was reading it several times. When he again raised his face
it was filled with surprise and disapproval. But beneath, I saw a
dawning look which he could not keep down, of a great hope. It was as
though he had been condemned to death, and the paper Beatrice had
handed himto read had been his own reprieve.
“Tell me,” said Beatrice. Her tone was as gentle and as solemn as
the stroke of a bell, and as impersonal. It neither commended nor
reproved. I saw that instantly she had determined to conceal her own
wishes, to obliterate herself entirely, to let me know that, so far as
she could affect my choice, I was a free agent. I looked appealingly
from her to Lowell, and from Lowell back to Beatrice. I still was
trembling with the fever the message had lit in me. When I tried to
answer, my voice was hoarse and shaking.
“It's like drink!” I said.
Lowell raised his eyes as though he meant to speak, and then
lowered them and stepped back, leaving Beatrice and myself together.
“I only want you to see,” Beatrice began bravely, “how—how serious
it is. Every one of us in his life must have a moment like this, and,
if he could only know that the moment had come, he might decide
wisely. You know the moment has come. You must see that this is the
crisis. It means choosing not for a year, but for always.” She held
out her hands, entwining the fingers closely. “Oh, don't think I'm
trying to stop you, Royal,” she cried. “I only want you to see that
it's final. I know that it's like strong drink to you, but the more
you give way to it—. Don't you think, if you gave your life here a
fairer trial, if you bore with it a little longer—”
She stopped sharply as though she recognized that, in urging me to
a choice, she was acting as she had determined she would not. I did
not answer, but stood in silence with my head bent, for I could not
look at her. I knew now how much dearer to me, even than her voice,
was the one which gave the call to arms. I did indeed understand that
the crisis had come. In that same room, five minutes before the
message arrived, I had sworn for her sake alone to submit to the life
I hated. And yet in an instant, without a moment's pause, at the first
sound of “Boots and Saddles,” I had sprung to my first love, and had
forgotten Beatrice and my sworn allegiance. Knowing how greatly I
loved her, I now could understand, since it made me turn from her, how
much greater must be my love for this, her only rival, the old life
that was again inviting me.
I was no longer to be deceived; the one and only thing I really
loved, the one thing I understood and craved, was the free, homeless,
untrammelled life of the soldier of fortune. I wanted to see the
shells splash up the earth again, I wanted to throw my leg across a
saddle, I wanted to sleep on a blanket by a camp-fire, I wanted the
kiss and caress of danger, the joy which comes when the sword wins
honor and victory together, and I wanted the clear, clean view of
right and wrong, that is given only to those who hourly walk with
I raised my head, and spoke very softly:
“It is too late. I am sorry. But I have decided. I must go.”
Lowell stepped out of the shadow, and faced me with the same
strange look, partly of wonder, and partly of indignation.
“Nonsense, Royal,” he said, “let me talk to you. We've been
shipmates, or comrades, and all that sort of thing, and you've got to
listen to me. Think, man, think what you're losing. Think of all the
things you are giving up. Don't be a weak child. This will affect your
whole life. You have no right to decide it in a minute.”
I stepped to its hiding-place, and took out the sword my
grandfather had carried in the Civil War; the sword I had worn in
Honduras. I had hidden it away, that it might not remind me that once
I, too, was a soldier. It acted on me like a potion. The instant my
fingers touched its hilt, the blood, which had grown chilled, leaped
through my body. In answer I held the sword toward Lowell. It was very
hard to speak. They did not know how hard. They did not know how
cruelly it hurt me to differ from them, and to part from them. The
very thought of it turned me sick and miserable. But it was written.
It had to be.
“You ask me to think of what I am giving up,” I said, gently. “I
gave up this. I shall never surrender it again. I am not deciding in a
minute. It was decided for me long ago. It's a tradition. It's handed
down to me. My grandfather was Hamilton, of Cerro Gordo, of the City
of Mexico, of Gettysburg. My father was 'Fighting' Macklin. He was
killed at the head of his soldiers. All my people have been soldiers.
One fought at the battle of Princeton, one died fighting the king at
Culloden. It's bred in me. It's in the blood. It's the blood of the
Macklins that has decided this. And I—I am the last of the Macklins,
and I must live and die like one.”
The house is quiet now. They have all left me to my packing, and
are asleep. Lowell went early and bade me good-by at the gate. He was
very sad and solemn. “God bless you, Royal,” he said, “and keep you
safe, and bring you back to us.” And I watched him swinging down the
silent, moon-lit road, knocking the icicles from the hedges with his
stick. I stood there some time looking after him, for I love him very
dearly, and then a strange thing happened. After he had walked quite a
distance from the house, he suddenly raised his head and began to
whistle a jolly, rollicking sea-song. I could hear him for some
minutes. I was glad to think he took it so light-heartedly. It is
good to know that he is not jealous of my great fortune.
To-night we spared each other the parting words. But to-morrow they
must be spoken, when Aunt Mary and Beatrice come to see me sail away
on the French liner. The ship leaves at noon, and ten days later I
shall be in Havre. Ye gods, to think that in ten days I shall see
Paris! And then, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean,
Singapore, and, at last, the yellow flags and black dragons of the
enemy. It cannot last long, this row. I shall be coming home again in
six months, unless the Mahdi makes trouble. Laguerre was three years
in the Khedive's service, and with his influence an ex-captain of the
French army should have little difficulty in getting a commission in
Then, after that, I really will come home. But not as an
ex-soldier. This time I shall come home on furlough. I shall come home
a real officer, and play the prodigal again to the two noblest and
sweetest and best women in God's world. All women are good, but they
are the best. All women are so good, that when one of them thinks one
of us is worthy to marry her, she pays a compliment to our entire sex.
But as they are all good and all beautiful, Beatrice being the best
and most beautiful, I was right not to think of marrying only one of
them. With the world full of good women, and with a fight always going
on somewhere, I am very wise not to “settle down.” I know I shall be
In a year I certainly must come back, a foreign officer on leave,
and I shall go to West Point and pay my respects to the Commandant.
The men who saw me turned out will have to present arms to me, and the
older men will say to the plebs, “That distinguished-looking officer
with the French mustache, and the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor,
is Captain Macklin. He was turned out of here. Now he's only a soldier
of fortune. He belongs to no country.”
But when the battalion is drawn up at retreat and the shadows
stretch across the grass, I shall take up my stand once more on the
old parade ground, with all the future Grants and Lees around me, and
when the flag comes down, I shall raise my hand with theirs, and show
them that I have a country, too, and that the flag we salute together
is my flag still.