« IndietroContinua »
Colonel Rafael sprang to the helm, and the other officer hastened to loose the mainsail sheets. The boom swung round; El Nacional veered and began to tack industriously for the Salvador.
“Strike that flag, señor,” called Colonel Rafael. “Our friends on the steamer will wonder why we are sailing under it.”
"Well said,” cried Don Sabas. Advancing to the mast he lowered the flag to the deck, where lay its too loyal supporter. Thus ended the Minister of War's little piece of after-dinner drollery, and by the same hand that began it.
Suddenly Don Sabas gave a great cry of joy, and ran down the slanting deck to the side of Colonel Rafael. Across his arm he carried the flag of the extinguished navy.
“Mire! mire! señor. Ah, Dios! Already can I hear that great bear of an Oestreicher shout, ‘Du hast mein herz gebrochen! Mire! Of my friend, Herr Grunitz, of Vienna, you have heard me relate. That man has travelled to Ceylon for an orchid to Patagonia for a headdress - to Benares for a slipper--to Mozambique for a spearhead to add to his famous collections. Thou knowest, also, amigo Rafael, that I have been a gatherer of curios. My collection of battle flags of the world's navies was the most complete in existence until last year. Then Herr Grunitz secured two, O! such rare specimens. One of a Barbary state, and one of the Makarooroos, a tribe on the west coast of Africa. I have not those, but they can be procured. But this flag, señor - do you know what it is? Name of God! do you know? See that red cross upon the blue and white ground! You never saw it before? Seguramente no. It is the naval flag of your country. Mire! This rotten tub we stand upon is its navy — that dead cockatoo lying there was its commander -- that stroke of cutlass and single pistol shot a sea battle. All a piece of absurd foolery, I grant you — but authentic. There has never been another flag like this, and there never will be another. No. It is unique in the whole world. Yes. Think of what that means to a collector of flags! Do you know, Coronel mio, how many golden crowns Herr Grunitz would give for this flag? Ten thousand, likely. Well, a hundred thousand would not buy it. Beautiful flag! Only flag! Little devil of a most heaven-born flag! O-hé! old grumbler beyond the occan. Wait till Don Sabas comes again to the Königin Strasse. He will let you kneel and touch the folds of it with one finger. O-hé! old spectacled ransacker of the world !"
Caribs hauled away at the rigging; the sloop headed for the shore.
And Herr Grunitz's collection of naval flags was still the finest in the world.
THE SHAMROCK AND THE PALM
OXE night when there was no breeze, and Coralio seemed closer than ever to the gratings of Avernus, five men were grouped about the door of the photograph establishment of Keogh and Clancy. Thus, in all the scorched and exotic places of the earth, Caucasians meet when the day's work is done to preserve the fulness of their heritage by the aspersion of alien things.
Johnny Atwood lay stretched upon the grass in the undress uniform of a Carib, and prated feebly of cool water to be had in the cucumber-wood pumps of Dalesburg. Dr. Gregg, through the prestige of his whiskers and as a bribe against the relation of his imminent professional tales, was conceded the hammock that was swung between the door jamb and a calabash-tree. Kcogh had moved out upon the grass a little table that held the instrument for burnishing completed photographs. He was the only busy one Forgotten was the impotent revolution, the danger, the loss, the gall of defeat. Possessed solely by the inordinate and unparalleled passion of the collector, he strode up and down the little deck, clasping to his breast with one hand the paragon of a flag. He snapped his fingers triumphantly toward the east. He shouted the paean to his prize in trumpet tones, as though he would make old Grunitz hear in his musty den beyond the sea.
They were waiting, on the Salvador, to welcome them. The sloop came close alongside the steamer where her sides were sliced almost to the lower deck for the loading of fruit. The sailors of the Salvador grappled and held her there.
Captain McLeod leaned over the side. "Well, señor, the jig is up, I'm told.”
“The jig is up?" Don Sabas looked perplexed for a moment. “That revolution — ah, yes!" With a shrug of his shoulders he dismissed the matter.
The captain learned of the escape and the imprisoned crew.
“Caribs?” he said; “no harm in them.” He slipped down into the sloop and kicked loose the hasp of the hatch. The black fellows came tumbling up, sweating but grinning.