A SEABOLD FIGHTS
In which a revolution finds its palace, a Seabold seizes his destiny and a girl leads an army from despair to triumph
MANY LIGHTS were flickering through the darkness of the camp, like the silver threads of a spider’s web, and the soldiers were as insects entangled and struggling in the trap. The minute guns of the Government forces began to speak regularly from the hills.
Then the heavens turned into one universal spout and the rain bucketed down, so that the tent of Hurtado, in which Easter, Hurtado and Seabold were wringing out their sopping clothes, sagged at the top; small waves ran through the canvas: the chilling spray forced itself through the weave of the strong cloth.
‘‘Four thousand wet cats by the morning,” said Easter. “Good!” said Hurtado.
“Good?” echoed Easter.
“Good, Jack! Very good! Because cats will run to get out of the wet, won’t they?”
“True ! True !” cried Easter. “They’ll even run at a dog to get out of the rain . . . If we drove them now straight back toward the jungle, could we cut through? I think we could. We’ll get them under arms ..."
“But the cannon in the mud?” suggested Seabold.
“Let ’em stay in the mud,” answered Easter. "We’re thinking about four thousand wet cats, aren’t we?”
That was why the orders were sent out for the army ot the revolution to fall in.
When the rain was at its heaviest, no other sound could be heard but its dashing. But when it eased a little, there was the squelching noise of thousands of feet in the mud.
Calls ran back from mouth to mouth as the companies rallied. Seabold, as the rain splattered on his cloak of piled silk, rallied his own contingent to the continued cry of “La Merced ! La Merced !” And his men of the last battle came trooping up around him. When a pocket torch gleamed from time to time, it showed him faces streaming with wet but amazingly good-humored. They seemed to have no care in the world except to shelter their rifles.
Someone ran to Seabold with word that he was wanted at the general’s tent. He waded back to headquarters. Both Hurtado and Easter were there, newly come in from the rain, with the water still sluicing of? their slickers. A boy as wet as a herring from the sea, with a rain-beaten felt hat dripping down to his shoulders and over his face, was confronting the two of them.
“Why?” Hurtado was asking.
“Because I saw at last that they were beasts - Don Ricardo and Marigny,” said the voice of Mary Cosgrave. “Wanted you to hear this,” said Easter to Seabold.
The latter ranged himself at the side of the general and Hurtado. The girl failed to see him. She looked only at the other two. The rain had plastered her clothes to her body Range women beside men, Seabold decided, and they’re unimportant little things.
He got a blanket off the pallet in the tent and put it around her shoulders. Her hat dripped down onto the blanket. He took the hat off her head and wrung a gush of water out of it. Her hair, disturbed by this withdrawal of the hat, pulled all askew. It wasn’t cut short, and it wasn’t longer than her shoulder blades. She took that hair in her hands, tilted her head, and wrung out the water: then she twisted the hair around her head and made it stay in place. All this time she was talking.
Easter had said: “Our boys pick you up when you’re
sneaking along our picket line. You wanted to distinguish yourself by bringing back some information. You wanted to play spy, didn’t you?”
"There wasn’t any need to play spy,” she said. "Everybody on the other side knows that you’re cooked geese.”
“Oh. we’re cooked, are we?" asked Easter.
"I had to escape from them. I had to get through the guard they had on me. Don’t you understand?” she said.
'You escaped to us. and yet we’re cooked geese?” asked Easter.
‘Jack, we’re wasting time.” said Hurtado.
Seabold went back to the side of the other two. The girl’s absent-minded glance followed him for an instant. She had expressed no gratitude. With one hand she held the rumpled hat. The other hand fastened the blanket in front of her.
T-JE KEPT watching her, half dis-*• gusted, half curious, seeing the truth of a good many things for the first time. If you see girls at a dance, on a tennis court, on the beach, you take them for granted. You’re ashamed to look at them. They’ve been essential to other men and you feel that they may become essential to you. So you put up with them. Sometimes your heart gives a silly hop, step and jump; and then it skips a beat or two when a girl looks in a certain way, or a certain strain of music comes from her throat. But when men fight, those things don’t count.
“We go back to the beginning,” said Easter, unaware of Hurtado’s impatience. “How’d you find out that Marigny and Don Ricardo were beasts?”
“Except for me. they wouldn’t have dared to steal the Seabold lands.”
Her eyes found the face of Seabold and jumped away from him to Easter again.
“But they could base everything on you, eh?” asked Easter. “You could transfer most of your father’s rights— his so-called rights—to Marigny, eh? And then Marigny would open his purse to Don Ricardo.”
“That’s the way it was to be,” she agreed.
"Well, if you agreed to it, what happened?”
“They wanted me to sign over the deeds to the Universal Fruit Company this morning. I couldn’t do it.”
“Why couldn’t you do it?” asked Easter.
“I don’t know.”
“You knew beforehand, though. It was all arranged. You knew what they expected of you. I suppose?” \ ’Yes.” she said.
“Then why wouldn’t you do what they wanted? They raised all this hullabaloo thinking that you’d give them the legal basis, and that would cut off all the international complications. Isn't that true?”
She was silent.
“Why couldn’t you go through with your part of it?” insisted Easter.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t.”
“Give her a drink of something,” said Hurtado. “And then leave her. Jack. The men are waiting.”
“Agosto, be patient,” said Easter. “I want to see how much she lies, and how much of a spy she is.”
“That’s silly,” said Seabold.
The general turned upon him a terrible eye.
“Be silent!” he commanded.
Seabold started. He was silent.
"You don’t lie?” asked Easter.
“No.” said the girl.
"A trembling lip and tear in the eye don’t make a bit of difference to me,” said Easter.
She straightened. She gripped her hands into fists. “After you refused to work with ’em—you don’t give us any reason for not working with them, though?”
“I saw four thousand men stupidly walked into a trap!” cried the girl. “Is that reason enough?”
“Your refusing to work with ’em—that wouldn’t keep them from butchering this outfit,” said Easter, “though it might make them try to effect a compromise if they could. They tried the compromise, in fact, and it didn’t work.” "Ha!” said Hurtado. “Now I see!”
“I told them.” said Mary Cosgrave. “that if they could end the thing without fighting I’d sign over every right I had in the wrorld.’.’
“When the compromise didn’t work, what did they do?” “They put me in a hut in the village. They put a guard over me. I escaped.”
”1 don’t know. I had to try to get away from them . . .
The sneaking—the cowards—the beasts. I hate them!” "Stop crying,” said Easter. "Crying doesn’t make a bit of difference to us.”
She stopped crying.
"How did you manage to escape?” asked Easter.
"The rain came smashing down. I got out a dirty blanket and lay down on one of the beds in the rcom. It was damp and cold. I tried to sleep. Then a door opened and one of the men looked in at me. I heard him mutter that it was all right, because I was asleep. The door closed. I wondered what was ‘all right.’ I got up and looked out the rear window. There was no longer any guard there. 1 pushed the window open and climbed through. Then I started straight down toward the valley. That was all.” "How do you mean that?” demanded Easter. ‘Why was it all? You had their sentries to pass, and their patrols.”
"The sentries were so far apart, I just waited till they had disappeared into the rain. Then I went on. The patrol didn’t come near me.”
“You were able to come right through?”
Easter turned around on Hurtado.
"Now is it wasted time that I’ve been putting in?” he asked.
“What do you mean, my general?”
“Tell me, Agosto—is that the strongest part of their lines, lying straight ahead?”
“Where they have most of their big guns around the end of the railroad?”
“That’s true also, of course.”
“Ay, and they have the fewest men ! They look on that as their stone wall that we won’t attempt. They’re |X>uring men onto the other three sides to bottle us up for use in the morning. But they’ve stripped themselves so bare that even this girl could get through ! What do you say to me, Agosto? Do we march the men straight on to the hills?”
TT WAS NOT the picture that had filled the mind of Seabold. He had thought of generalship as a thing of maps, long forethought, a checkerboard brilliance of tactics: but now he knew that it could be a sudden decision based on the chance report that a girl brought into camp. For some such turn of chance Easter had been waiting. Perhaps through all his campaigns it had been the same thing—a casual idleness of mind until the opening came through which he could strike.
Easter snapped at him: “Get out your men. Keep ’em bunched. March ’em straight on toward the hills. They’ve got La Merced in their blood, and they’ll have to be our shock troops. Start now !”
As Seabold went out of the tent, he heard Easter saying: “Now tell me what changed your mind this morning. Yesterday you were one of them, so what changed you today?”
“I don’t know !” said the girl, and began to cry.
Seabold, hearing the sobbing, stopped on the dim verge of the sound. It made him feel a little sick, a little unclean. After all, she had brought in the news on which Easter was acting. Then a fresh downixmring of the rain drowned out the sound, and he went on to his small regiment.
He drew them into a huddle. He put his arms around two pairs of shoulders and said, loudly: "Lennox has
moved most of his men to the other sides of the valley. He’s only left a few with the guns up there on the hills straight ahead . . . You remember the guns at La Merced?”
They yelled like wolves. For his own part, a cold lump was in his throat and his teeth wanted to chatter; the instant good cheer of these fellows amazed him.
He said: "We don’t want noise. We don’t want yelling. Machetes will be better than rifles. They won’t make the noise. Sling your rifles and have your machetes in hand, and follow me. Pass the word.”
He heard the word pass out in a ripple; then he was marching ahead of them through the mud.
Marching was not the word. It was a slithering and a sloshing through the slime. Again and again he lost his footing. The men about him pulled him up. He saw that he was holding them and their bare feet back. They could have passed him with the neatest ease, as they had passed him at Merced
More guns w ere speaking. Alw ays the thin screech of the shell seemed to pass directly overhead, making him shorten his neck and bend his knees; right afterward caine the boom of the report. Sometimes he could hear the shell plop into the mud. then the dull explosion. Those men at the three-inch guns had it easy, with tarpaulins up, no doubt, to shield them from the worst of the weather. Down there in the valley it was walking through mud, sometimes kneedeep; and often the blackness seemed to choke up the lungs as though the air were growing muddy, also.
The rain was a thing to hear of but never to believe. The Government forces were doing everything in good army style, using advanced methods and firing star shells and rockets from time to time on all four fronts, but these lights w ere only dim smothers in the torrents of rain that shaded out everything with a billion pencil strokes.
There was such rain that it got inside his collar, inside his oiled silk, and ran in slimy cold currents down his back and over the vital, tender warmth of his belly.
When he reached the little arroyo which the horses had forded with such ease, the water rose to his breast, then to his chin. He was gasping with the weight of the current, and then the cold of the stream. When he got to the farther shore, he threw away the useless cloak. It was only a small weight but every ounce counted.
While his men came over the arroyo, he lay down in the mud and lifted his boots, one by one, to let the liquid burden of the water run out of them. When he got up again, he reached back and pulled off the clots of mud which adhered to him.
Then he went on.
They were commencing the slope, at about the place
where the tent for the conference had been pitched, when a rocket sailed far out from the southern line and dropped with a stream of fire right in the middle of the Hurtadistas. Even so, it gave him only a partial glimpse of the picture behind him of other contingents struggling over the arroyos, and still others stretching back into the mist as far as his struggling eye could reach. The four thousand never had seemed a tithe as numerous as this. They came on now like the flow of a dark river, a solid, endless column.
* i 'HE SLOPE of the hill grew sharper.
He had to turn his feet sidewise and drive them hard into the loose, slippery mud. Even so he went down every minute or two.
The men about him were having trouble enough to keep their own feet without bothering to assist their leader. They panted and gasped and whispered their curses.
Sounds came up from the rear and toward his left. He heard the working of many feet under the roar of the rain. Another section of the Hurtadistas was challenging his lead.
He could see the hills in front of him as black and sheer as the wall of a house—or so they seemed to him—when a rifle clanged on the left, a voice screeched, turned into a horrible bubbling sound, and was still.
A moment later half a dozen men were yelling from the slope: “Quien viva? Quien viva?”
The answer bellowed through the noise of the rain in the familiar voice of James Princeton Easter, crying, “Hurtado! Viva Hurtado! Up and at them, boys! . . . San Esteban . . . Hurtado!”
The whole mass of soldiers that swarmed behind Seabold took up that cry like madmen. Up a slope where he could barely stagger, they fairly ran. If they could not run erect, they ran on their hands and knees.
That black hillside broke out into a flame of rockets and flares that even the weight of the rain could not dim. It was bright as fire, but through that fire the soldiers were running at the crest of the hill ; and down the slope, far down into the valley, other thousands of the Hurtadistas were yelling, a river of sound. Then, left and right, rapid fire began to blaze from the three-inch guns. He could realize that they were being shot at far too great an angle, as though they had been given range for the lower valley, and the gunners had not time to depress the muzzles of the cannon.
His own throat was aching as it had ached at La Merced because he was yelling with every step he took, yelling and stumbling in the mud and staggering up again, until his automatic was the centre of a great dotted mass of mud.
He saw his men leaping against the light of the flares, and against the snake tongues of gunfire. Yes, it was like a fire. Some of the men shrivelled up on the verge of it; others leaped into the flames, as it were.
Then he was up there at the sketchy little line of shallow trenches, and the world fell into place again. The slope of the hill was not a sheer ascent of black tar, but a rounding grade. The blazing line of battle degenerated into occasional rockets. And everywhere before him the resistance had died out.. He could hear the yells of “Viva Hurtado” ringing as far as the village houses, as far as the many sidetracks where the corps of flatand box-cars were assembled by the industry of Don Ricardo and the money of Marigny. These objects were obscurely viewed not by the lights which they carried but by the flashes and the flares from the farther trenches, right and left, where fighting still went on.
He stumbled across the trenches—mere rifle pits half flooded with water. He washed the mud from his hands, from his automatic, in that water, and clambered up the farther side. There he tried the gun and it exploded.
That was the first shot he had fired during two battles !
A shadow detached itself from the soil and wriggled toward him, moaning: “Water! Water! In the name of sweet Jesus, water, señor!”
That voice from the ground mired him down more than mud. He had to do something. There was a battle going on, and he was out of it. He wished that the roar of the rain and the noise of the firing would cover up that voice which moaned on the ground. He was a general, and he ought to be leading, instead of drawing out his canteen and holding the shaggy head of a single wounded man.
“What are you, brother?” he asked, as the frantic hand of the wounded soldier grasped the canteen.
He could hear the water gurgling down the fellow’s throat. Then the gasping voice: “Jesus and the Virgin reward you! I am Manuel Pampillo. But my heart is with Hurtado. Viva ...”
He began to cough up bubbles of blood. Seabold saw that clutching gesture of both hands to the breast and ran on toward the noise of the fighting. There had been a crazy ecstasy back there at La Merced; there had been a moment of battle madness when he was clambering up the impossible, greasy face of the hill; but now he felt like a lonely, frightened little boy in the rain.
Somewhere voices were crying: “La
Merced ! La Merced !”
T-JE MADE for that familiar cheer. It came from a place where a whole battery of the rapid-fire guns was being turned to serve against the crest of the hills as they swept back in a dim and disappearing curve through the night. On the left, the valley seemed a sea. The rain could not be seen to sink into the shadow of it. Behind him, he could make out the dim hordes of the Hurtadistas still pouring up like figures out of the ocean. Men were shouting: “Victory! Viva Hurtado!” The three-inch guns began to batter away at the blackness.
He was in a swiH of the men of La Merced. Someone was shouting in a terrible voice to commence firing, to open up with rifles. That was Easter. How had his older legs taken him up the slope and to the point of contact as quickly as this? And then he made out blackness moving in blackness as a mass of men poured toward them over the crest of the hills.
He shouted a repetition of the order. All about him he could hear the voices yelling: “The little general! He is with us! Give them hell, amigos!”
They were lying flat. Occasional flares showed them to him as living clots of mud, but calmly pulling bullets out of their belts and shooting at the shadows through the rain.
Those fellows came on yelling: “The
Republic! The Republic! Viva Don Ricardo!”
Their front disappeared down a small swale in the ground. The mass of them followed, so that the hill was crawling with life. The three-inch guns kept roaring. The rifles chattered a higher pitched nonsense. The front of-the charge did not appear again.
He himself, standing erect, fired until his automatic was empty.
“For our sake, my general, don’t let them kill you and our luck !”
He had to keep saying to himself: “It’s a battle. It isn’t a crazy dream. It’s a battle—in San Esteban !”
He reloaded his gun and struck the detaining hands away as he stood up. A general has to stand up. He has to be seen.
The forefront of the Ricardistas did not appear again. The shallow swale of ground swallowed them completely, like a hollow chasm. Now he could see them spilling away to the right and to the left. All the Hurtadistas were shouting, “Victory!” They jumped up and began to dance. They splattered mud like dogs shaking themselves after rolling in a ditch. Some of the
Continued on page 33
A Seabold Fights
Continued from page 22—Starts on page 20
filth flew into the face of Seabold. He spat.
The huge, hoarse voice of Easter was calling: “Seabold! Seabold! Where are you, Joe?”
He floundered through the mud and found the general.
“Here, general!” he called.
“Was it beautiful, Joe?” asked the general. “A little child shall lead us—a little girl did lead us, didn’t she? Keep these guns going while I begin to load our ragamuffins on the trains for San Esteban. Just fire now and then . . . Good old Hurtado is holding them on the other flank . . . Good-by, Joe!”
And he was gone, shouting out of the darkness, gathering men about him. And Seabold was left alone in that horrible confusion of mud and men and guns.
* I 'HE THING was clear enough in his mind, finally. The picture was simple enough. Don Ricardo and even that clever dark devil of a Marigny had made their mistake in stripping too many men from their strongest point in order to close the lines around the rest of their fourwalled trap. No doubt they had their pictures of a wretched army of rebels submitting to the rain and the mud down there in the heart of the valley, or at the most merely preparing to break out where the hills were lowest or, most probably, toward the rear and the jungle, where there were no hills at all. Now, with darkness and the mud to flounder through, the army of Don Ricardo could come up only slowly to the point where the rebels had broken through. Some of them would have long miles of trudging.
This was war. Blindman’s Buff, guesswork, luck.
Still he saw no good way out of the trouble. For when the morning came, Don Ricardo would be in possession of forces still nearly fourfold those of the revolution, and how could even a lucky General Easter stand against them?
There were no more massed attacks on the battery which he commanded. From the other side of the breach which they had driven through Marigny’s lines, however, ten minutes of uproar broke out a little later. It died away. The cheering for Hurtado told who had won. And they were safe, probably, until the morning light came.
But the morning did not find them in that place. Back where the cars were ranged along the sidings, the army of the revolution was drawn gradually and loaded onto the trains. The absurd little engines began to snort and labor to get the long trains in motion.
Hurtado went off with the first consignment to make an entry into San Esteban City as soon as possible. Seventy-five miles, at fifteen miles an hour—he would get in about the breaking of the day.
Easter and Seabold went with the last division, in the midst of a great turmoil. All the heavy guns were left in place, the breech blocks taken out of the cannon, thus rendering them useless. Only ammunition was taken in quantities till the big dumps were cleaned out. Then as the last train pulled slowly away, a final swarm of the soldiers tore up the tracks behind it with charges of dynamite. Even if Don Ricardo could conjure cars and engines out of the air, he would have no track on which to use them.
THE REARMOST car of the train was an excellent caboose after the fashion of American cars of the same sort. In this sat General James Princeton Easter with certain cheerful trifles which he had been able to pick up at the looted headquarters of Don Ricardo and Tom Lennox. He had rum and wine and lemons, and all that he needed for good cheer. He had a bucket of water, too, in which he had bathed off the
mud after removing the majority of his clothes, so that he sat now in damp underwear and a monocle, helping himself to rum punch and serving Joseph Seabold with the same. On the other side of the car, bedded down on a heap of blankets, slept Mary Cosgrave, exhausted so that her lips were blue, and a blue shadow underlined her eyes also. Seabold sat with his back to her.
He merely hooked a thumb over his shoulder and asked : “How?”
The general made a pause.
“You can be a mean young blighter,” he said. “So could the Admiral, for that matter. Can’t you be sorry for a poor girl who tried to do the right thing at the last minute?”
“Yes, yes, I know about that,” said Seabold carelessly. “But how' did she happen to get here?”
“I couldn’t leave her alone, could I, in that mob of men? I appointed a squad of four to see that she got up the hill right behind me, and that’s the way she came. She used her own feet part of the w'ay and they carried her the rest . . . Pretty thing, Joe, isn’t she?”
He leaned to stare into the shadow cast by Seabold’s chair.
“Pretty?” said Seabold. He looked into space. “I suppose so,” he said. “Pour me another whack of that punch, will you, general?”
The general observed: “The young
generation has gone to hell, Joe.”, He poured the tin cup full of punch. “No romance left in the world. No two hearts that beat as one, and all that. I’m glad I’m getting old.”
“You can’t get old,” said Seabold. “Here you are riding off as secure as can be—and yet there’ll be fifteen thousand men on the way to San Esteban City tomorrow, and plenty of guns along with them to blast the towm dowm around our ears.”
The general stared.
“Guns? You mean the three-inchers?”
“Of course that’s what I mean.”
“Joe,” said the general, “do you know how far it is from here to San Esteban City?”
“Of mud !” said the general.
He allowed this information to sink in for a time, then he added: “In addition to all that, we’ve gutted their food supplies and their quartermaster stores. What we couldn’t carry away, we burned. Look back there.” He pointed to the dying smudge of fire far away in the rain.
“Seventy-five miles. That’s not far. It’s not even as bad as the jungle,” said Seabold.
“Our boys cut through because they had to win or die,” said the general. “These poor blighters only have to desert. When the morning comes they find us gone, themselves licked, and nothing but deep, soft mud between them and San Esteban City. Will they stay together? Will they die for Don Ricardo? Not even if he had money. And he hasn’t any money. It’s all locked up in his bank back there in San Esteban City. In his bank and in his palace. And we, my lad, are going to help ourselves!”
They tore up three miles of track with blasting. Then Moreno, insatiable of work with his new title around his neck, took command of a rearguard detail which was to blast away twenty miles more and remain on guard at the end of the track that was left, to watch the movements of the enemy. With double rations of agua dolce and treble pay, that rearguard was rewarded for failing to join in the triumphal entry into San Esteban.
“You mean,” said Seabold. after long thought, “that the war’s over?”
“Over and done with, and so’s Marigny —in this part of the world,” said Easter.
“And so’s Don Ricardo. Marigny’s goods are proclaimed forfeit to the Republic, for engendering rebellion and what not. What are Marigny’s goods? Oh, just about a million in hard cash. That’s all. Universal Fruit won’t be so proud of its president when it hears the news of the battle of Cristobal; not when it learns how the good honest dollars are jingling in the pockets of Hurtado, Easter and Joseph Seabold. And what is your company going to think of you, you young runagate? Is it going to change its presidential mind? If you don’t get some wires from Kelvin licking the Seabold boots all clean of mud, call me a baby and a half-wit. But it’s time to think, amigo. It’s time to plan and deliberate. San Esteban is ours. How are we going to use it?”
C E A BOLD used it for sleep.
^ He was blind with fatigue that never had been cleansed from his mind since that terrible march through the jungle with Jack Easter. He was so sick with weariness that he retained only a dreamy memory of the march through the streets of San Esteban City in what had fallen, luckily, to a mere light drizzle of rain. A march it had to be, and not a ride in trucks and automobiles. Hurtado had got hold of a batch of old flags, in some way. He had the first division of that muddy army behind his horse. General Easter headed the second batch. And behind Seabold came the men with the blue cotton rags tied around their arms. Every householder and shopkeeper along the way turned out to raise a hearty cheer, though the news had come on San Esteban City so freshly that some men were still writing in chalk on their walls, “Viva Hurtado!” when they had to turn and cheer the living presence of the old revolutionary.
Crackers were set off, guns fired, cannon boomed a salute when they reached the presidential mansion. More cannon were firing hastily from the House of Deputies.
Most of the deputies, it was rumored, had fled from the town.
But when Seabold reached the presidential mansion, he wanted only one thing, and that was a bed. He got an entire suite of gaudy chambers. None of it existed for him except the bed under its white memorial draping of mosquito netting. He dived through that white mist and was instantly asleep.
Afterward, a persistent voice roused him.
A mozo, half frightened and half grinning, said: “La Merced, señor! La
Merced! The men of La Merced are serenading señor, the little general. They wait for you outside. This way ! This way to the balcony. If you will put on these clothes ...”
He pointed out a whole array of goldbraided finery laid out on a couch, with gleaming boots and a sword beside it. But the fine display made no impression on the drugged brain of Seabold. AH in those jungle rags, dirty as an alley cat, he stumbled out onto the balcony, to find the dazzle of a clear sun and a vast blue sky overhead, and beneath him a wild uproar from hundreds of men who wore blue bands around their left arms. They were his men of La Merced, now dressed in their best, and every breast decorated with at least one shining medal !
They began to laugh and point out his rags.
“The little general !” they shouted. For he would always be a delightful jest to them, it seemed.
They hushed one another to a silence. Seabold folded his soiled arms on the stone railing of the balcony and said: “I
wondered what I had with me at La Merced. Now I know it was five hundred cats. Because you can do without sleep, but I cannot. God bless you. Adios!”
It was the shortest speech ever made in San Esteban, and it was the most applauded. He went back to his bed and lay there in torpor or sleep for another day, only rousing now and then to eat, and then falling asleep again.
When he roused, it was in a different world. For the House of Deputies had reassembled, called back by Hurtado’s proclamations of amnesty. It had reassembled all the more willingly because word had come in of the swift dissolution of the army of Don Ricardo in the mud, and the disappearance of the late President and Marigny.
There followed for the deputies a glorious all-night session, in which first of all they wiped out all the acts of Don Ricardo’s regime. In the second place they passed a series of new laws, laws which were designed by honest Hurtado to make San Esteban forever glorious and honest and free. After that, they passed a few other laws. To Generals Easter and Seabold were given the noble titles “Friends of the Republic!” and certain special medals and honors; among others the right of picking flowers in the plaza of the city! They went farther. They gave to Señor the General Seabold by permanent concession, never to be taken from his company, al1 the lands which the Admiral ever had held by a less lasting right. They granted him certain moneys also, to repair losses and damages incurred during the late unhappy war.
' I 'HAT WAS why Seabold, when he finally wakened in earnest, found stacks of telegrams beside his bed. One from Kelvin was very interesting. The Seabold Company, it appeared, had changed its mind. It realized the magnificent courage, the wonderful forethought, the extreme genius which Seabold had shown since his arrival in San Esteban. In consequence, Kelvin had resigned from his office, and Joseph Seabold was unanimously elected president in his place.
“Bananas!” said Joseph Seabold, and allowed the telegram to fall to the floor.
He took a cold bath, shaved the dense hair from his face, washed the last mud out of his hair, and sat down to breakfast in a shaft of bright golden sunlight; his own house, it appeared, was now being refurnished and made worthy of his presence at the expense of the Republic itself.
While he ate, he read, with occasional halts in his munchings, occasional popping of the eyes, all the news up to date in the San Esteban morning paper. It was chiefly featured by pictures of the glorious new president, Hurtado, surrounded by a border of flags. But there was also a picture of a rather scrawny youth who leaned in rags on one of the presidential balconies. Beneath it was a glowing account of “the little general.”
Señor Seabold hastily poured some rum into his coffee and drank it down.
Then Easter came in. He shone like a statue in whites.
“The younger generation can’t take it, Joe,” he said by way of greeting. “I’ve been drunk twice and sober again, since we reached San Esteban City. And look at you and your wasted time.”
“General, you have a new string for your monocle, I see,” said Seabold.
“Before I retire to my estates in the mountains,” said the general, “I thought I’d drop in on you.”
“Are they going to damn me with that nickname the rest of my life? Are they going to laugh at me forever?” mourned Seabold.
“They’ll laugh at you and love you,” said the general. “Hurtado wants to see you.”
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“Good old Hurtado,” said Seabold. “Is
“Happy as a surgeon,” said the general, “binding up some of the wounds of his people and planning to knife them all over again—for their own good . . . A lot of foreign and native reporters want to see you, too.”
“To the devil with them,” said Seabold. “You can’t say that,” answered James Princeton Easter. “Give me a dash of that rum—you can’t say that. Joe. You’re a public man from now to the end of your days . . . But there’s one thing on your conscience, Joe. You haven’t forgotten, have you, the rotten thing that you did?” “What?” asked Seabold.
The general shook his head gloomily.
“I thought you were a clean-bred one,” he said. “But don’t tell me that there’s really a yellow streak.”
“I’ve been half dead with sleep, general,” said Seabold, startled. “I may have been waked suddenly; I may have said or done something. For lord’s sake, what is it?” “You’ll have to come with me and face it,” said the general.
“But what is it?”
“Don’t bother me with questions. You’ll realize when you come face to face with it, Seabold. Every man has something in his past, and there’s never a free moment for those that don’t face it.”
He led the way from the room, while Seabold wretchedly followed him. The good rum in the coffee, that should have heartened him, merely set his pulse trembling.
' I ''HEY WENT far down the corridor.
They passed, indeed, to the other end of the presidential mansion, where the rooms overlooked the gardens. There the general opened a door and showed Seabold into a room done in blue and white and mirrors. A delicate fragrance filled the air here, iperhaps blown in through the windows that showed him the full riot of the gardens outside. And yet there was a suspicious difference.
“Mary!” shouted the general, in his Stentor’s battle voice.
Seabold, startled, turned only in time to see the door closing on the grinning face of James Easter. He grasped the knob of the door; but a key grated in the turning lock.
“Coming, general!” called the voice of Mary Cosgrave.
He saw her, first, in a long mirror, all in the coolest white, an image wavering toward him like something rising through water. Then she was under the entrance arch.
When she saw him, she stopped. A frightened deer—he thought of something like that and threw the silly image away. It was one of those beginnings in life; it was one of those things that never will go out of the mind; he knew that the instant was eternal for him, as he stared at her.
Somewhere in the background of his mind, he could remember having stared at her and come to certain conclusions. That was a million years ago, before he had been able to sleep and cleanse his mind of all its darkness and folly.
She paused only for a moment, growing redder and redder. Afterward, she came straight up to him.
“I know what’s happened,” she said. “The general told you everything.”
“No,” said Seabold.
“It was cruel of him,” said the girl. “He didn’t understand . . . You look white and sick, Joseph. Will you come over here and sit down by the window?”
He went over and sat down by the window. There was a bird singing its feathers on end at the top of a flowering bush in the garden. It was like a divinely inspired messenger; it sang straight to the trembling heart of Seabold.
She sat opposite him, very erect.
“I know he told you,” said the girl.
“He didn’t,” said Seabold.
“Didn’t he? He didn’t tell you just why I went down into the valley that night?” Such relief began to shine in her eyes
that Seabold leaned forward to look at her more carefully.
“He didn’t tell me. He just left me here, like a yokel,” he said. He added, without the slightest appropriateness: “You’re as beautiful ...” He pointed out the window. She would have to understand what he meant.
“Joseph,” she said, “I don’t want you to say your set speech, please.”
He began to feel himself cornered. Then he saw a slight tremor in her throat. A pulse was beating in there, a shadowy linger of blue was tapping at a racing speed. He tried to count it. His brain grew very dizzy.
“He told me only one thing that
counted,” said Seabold. “It was about a fight—about a battle—when in doubt . . ”
He stood up. She rose with him.
“Joseph,” she cried out, “you look terribly white !”
“Why shouldn’t I?” said he. “Why shouldn’t I when my heart’s going smash? . . . Mary, I love you !”
“Are you a great liar?” she asked. “Are you saying a piece the dear silly old general taught you?”
“I love you!” said Seabold, the tremor passing out of his heart into his voice.
“Well?” said the girl, smiling;
And suddenly he saw that she was waiting.