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crew at your heels begging for reales to buy plantains and tobacco with.
When he returned to where his happy-go-lucky Caribs were waiting they sprang up and saluted, as he had drilled them to do.
“Come, muchachos," said the admiral; “ it seems that the government is poor. It has no money to give us.
We will earn what we need to live upon. Thus will we serve our country. Soon"— his heavy eyes almost lighted up —“ it may gladly call upon us for help.”
Thereafter El Nacional turned out with the other coast craft and became a wage-earner. She worked with the lighters freighting bananas and oranges out to the fruit steamers that could not approach nearer than a mile from the shore. Surely a self-supporting navy deserves red letters in the budget of any nation.
After earning enough at freighting to keep himself and his crew in provisions for a week Felipe would anchor the navy and hang about the little telegraph office, looking like one of the chorus of an insolvent comic opera troupe besieging the manager's den. A hope for orders from the capital was always in his heart. That his services as admiral had never been called into requirement hurt his pride and patriotism. At every call he would inquire, gravely and expectantly, for despatches. The operator would pretend to make a search, and then reply:
“Not yet, it seems, Señor el Almirante — poco tiempo!”
Outside in the shade of the lime-trees the crew chewed sugar cane or slumbered, well content to serve a country that was contented with so little service.
One day in the early summer the revolution predicted by the collector flamed out suddenly. It had long been smouldering. At the first note of alarm the admiral of the navy force and fleet made all sail for a larger port on the coast of a neighbouring republic, where he traded a hastily collected cargo of fruit for its value in cartridges for the five Martini rifles, the only guns that the navy could boast. Then to the telegraph office sped the admiral. Sprawling in his favourite corner, in his fast-decaying uniform, with his prodigious sabre distributed between his red legs, he waited for the long-delayed, but now soon expected, orders.
“Not yet, Señor el Almirante,” the telegraph clerk would call to him
poco tiempo!” At the answer the admiral would plump himself down with a great rattling of scabbard to await the infrequent tick of the little instrument on the table.
THE FLAG PARAMOUNT
At the head of the insurgent party appeared that Hector and learned Theban of the southern republics, Don Sabas Placido. A traveller, a soldier, a poet, a scientist, a statesman and a connoisseur – the wonder was that he could content himself with the petty, remote life of his native country.
“ It is a whim of Placido's," said a friend who knew him well, “ to take up political intrigue. It is not otherwise than as if he had come upon a new tempo in music, a new bacillus in the air, a new scent, or rhyme, or explosive. He will squeeze this revolution dry of sensations, and a week afterward will forget it, skimming the seas of the world in his brigantine to add to his already world-famous collections. Collections of what? Por Dios! of everything from postage stamps to prehistoric stone idols."
But, for a mere dilettante, the esthetic Placido seemed to be creating a lively row. The people admired him; they were fascinated by his brilliancy and flattered by his taking an interest in so small a thing as his native country. They rallied to the call of his lieutenants in the capital, where (somewhat contrary to arrangements) the army remained faithful to the government. There was also lively skirmishing in the coast towns. It was rumoured that the revolution was aided by the Vesuvius Fruit Company, the power that forever stood with chiding smile and uplifted finger to keep Anchuria in the class of good children. Two of its steamers, the Traveler and the Salvador, were known to have conveyed insurgent troops from point to point along the coast.
As yet there had been no actual uprising in Coralio. Military law prevailed, and the ferment was bottled for the time. And then came the word that everywhere the revolutionists were encountering defeat. In the capital the president's forces triumphed; and there was a rumour that the leaders of the revolt had been forced to fly, hotly pursued.
In the little telegraph office at Coralio there was always a gathering of officials and loyal citizens, awaiting news from the seat of government. One morning the telegraph key began clicking, and presently the operator called, loudly: “One telegram for el Almirante, Don Señor Felipe Carrera !