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you will not see the guns. They fire — boom!—and you fall dead. With your face to the wall. Yes."
The admiral called a sudden order to his crew. The lithe, silent Caribs made fast the sheets they held, and slipped down the hatchway into the hold of the sloop. When the last one had disappeared, Don Sabas, like a big, brown leopard, leaped forward, closed and fastened the hatch and stood, smiling.
"No rifles, if you please, dear admiral," he said. "It was a whimsey of mine once to compile a dictionary of the Carib lengua. So, I understood your order. Perhaps now you will—"
He cut short his words, for he heard the dull "swish" of iron scraping along tin. The admiral had drawn the cutlass of Pedro Lafitte, and was darting upon him. The blade descended, and it was only by a display of surprising agility that the large man escaped, with only a bruised shoulder, the glancing weapon. He was drawing his pistol as he sprang, and the next instant he shot the admiral down.
Don Sabas stooped over him, and rose again. "In the heart," he said briefly. "Senores, the navy is abolished."
Colonel Rafael sprang to the helm, and the other officer hastened to loose the mainsail sheets. The boom swung round; El National veered and began to tack industriously for the Salvador.
"Strike that flag, senor," 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! senor. 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, sefior — 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-he! old grumbler beyond the ocean. Wait till Don Sabas comes again to the Konigin Strasse. He will let you kneel and touch the folds of it with one finger. O-he! old spectacled ransacker of the world!"
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, senor, 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.
"Hey! black boys!" said the captain, in a dialect of his own; "you sabe, catchy boat and vamos back same place quick."
They saw him point to themselves, the sloop and Coralio."Yas, yas!" they cried, with broader grins and many nods.
The four — Don Sabas, the two officers and the captain — moved to quit the sloop. Don Sabas lagged a little behind, looking at the still form of the late admiral, sprawled in his paltry trappings.
"Pobrecito loco," he said softly.
He was a brilliant cosmopolite and a cognoscente of high rank; but, after all, he was of the same race and blood and instinct as this people. Even as the simple paisanos of Coralio had said it, so said Don Sabas. Without a smile, he looked, and said, "The poor little crazed one!"
Stooping he raised the limp shoulders, drew the priceless and induplicable flag under them and over the breast, pinning it there with the diamond star of the Order of San Carlos that he took from the collar of his own coat.
He followed after the others, and stood with them upon the deck of the Salvador. The sailors that steadied El National shoved her off. The j abbering