let him alone

A servant in private livery admitted us to a spacious drawing-room and
Señor de Jiminez, arrayed in a regulation dress suit, in which he
appeared far more imposing than in the flashy attire he had before worn,
advanced quickly to greet us. At a center table sat an aged, pleasant
faced lady and crouching in a chair by the fireplace was a youth of
about my own age, who bore so strong a facial resemblance to De Jiminez
that it needed no shrewdness to guess he was his son.

Our host led us first to the lady.

“Young gentlemen,” said he, as with profound deference he bowed before
her, “I have the honor to present my mother, Señora de Jiminez.”

She smiled graciously and extended her hands to us.

“It is unfortune,” he added, “that she is not with your English language
familiar.”

“Oh, but I speak Spanish—a little,” said I; for I had learned it during
a sojourn in Panama. Then I told the lady I was glad to meet her,
speaking in her own tongue, and she bade me welcome.

De Jiminez seemed pleased. He next led me to the young fellow by the
fire, who had not risen nor even glanced toward us, but seemed
tremendously interested in his own thoughts. These could not have been
very pleasant, judging from the somber expression of his face.

“My son Alfonso,” said our host, introducing us. “Alfonso, I present Mr.
Steele and Mr. Herring, two young American gentlemen I have recently
met.”

The boy looked up quickly.

“Not of the _Seagull_!” he exclaimed in English.

“Yes.”

“Then—” he began eagerly; but his father stopped him with a gesture.

“I am making consideration of a proposition they have made to me,” he
observed with dignity.

“Perhaps, Alfonso, we may sail back to Colombia in the _Seagull_.”

The boy’s eyes glistened. They were dark and restless eyes, very like
those of his parent. He rose from his chair and shook hands with us with
an appearance of cordiality. We now saw he was remarkably short of
stature. Although he was sixteen the crown of his head scarcely reached
to my shoulder. But he assumed the airs and dress of a man and I noticed
he possessed his father’s inordinate love for jewelry.

“Would you prefer in the hotel restaurant to dine, or in our private
salon?” inquired the elder De Jiminez.

“It is unimportant to us, sir,” I returned. “Do not alter your usual
custom on our account, I beg of you.”

“Then,” said he, “I will order service in the salon.” He seemed relieved
and went to consult his servant.

Meantime young Alfonso looked at us curiously.

“You do not own the _Seagull_, I suppose,” he remarked.

“Why not?” I asked with a smile.

“It’s a fine ship. I’ve been over to look at it this afternoon—”

“Oh; you have!”

“Yes. They would not let me go aboard, but I saw all I wished to. It is
swift and trim—what is called ‘yacht built.’ It can sail or go by steam.
Your crew looks like a good one.”

“That is all true, sir,” I agreed, amused at his observations.

“And you young fellows own it?”

“I don’t,” said Joe. “I’m second mate, that’s all. But Mr. Steele here
is one-third owner, with his father and uncle owning the other
two-thirds.”

Alfonso looked at me intently.

“Have you sold it to my father?” he asked in a low voice.

“Not yet,” said I, laughing. “But, as Señor de Jiminez told you, we are
considering the matter.”

“You know why we want it?”

“‘We’?” I repeated. “Are you also a conspirator—pardon me, a
patriot—then?”

“I am a De Jiminez,” he returned proudly. “After my father I am entitled
to rule over Colombia.”

“To rule? That savors of monarchy. I thought Colombia is a republic.”

“You are quite right. It _is_ a republic—as Mexico is; as Venezuela and
Costa Rica are. But the president has great power. Is not Diaz equal to
a king?”

“I am not very well posted on South American or Mexican politics,” I
replied evasively. “But from what your father said I imagine there is
already a president in Colombia.”

He gave a frown at this, amusingly like his father’s frown. Then his
face cleared and he said:

“Permit me to explain. The family of De Jiminez has controlled Colombian
politics ever since my great ancestor discovered the country and called
it New Grenada. But a few years ago, while my father was traveling in
Europe, the opposition obtained control and still has the presidency.
The important and wealthy class, however, resented the usurpation, and
even before my father alarmed at the situation hurried back home, a
revolution had begun. I say a revolution, because the opposition had
firmly established themselves. We are really attempting a restoration of
the rightful party to its former power.”

“In our own republic,” I said thoughtfully, “the votes of the majority
rule. Why do you not resort to the ballot instead of to arms?”

“I have visited your country,” he said. “The conditions there are
different. In Colombia we have a small class of wealthy and influential
people and a horde of vulgar laborers who are little more than slaves.
They have small intelligence, no education, and work for a bare living.
My father tried to establish a school system that would enable them to
rise above such conditions. They would not send their children to the
schools. Then he tried to force them by law—compulsory education you
know, copied from your own and other countries—but they rebelled at this
and the opposition made capital out of their resentment. The result was
the overthrow of the De Jiminez party as I have stated.”

This seemed to put a new aspect on the revolution. I began to approve
the action of the De Jiminez party and to sympathize with their “cause.”

“Has your father many followers in Colombia?” I asked.

“The intelligent class is of course with him; small in numbers but
controlling the wealth of the country. We ourselves are coffee planters
and bankers, and we employ several hundred laborers who will do whatever
we may direct—and do it willingly. Many of the families in sympathy with
us can also control their servants; but we have found great difficulty
in securing arms and ammunition for them. We have organized and drilled
several regiments—I have drilled our own men myself—but they cannot
fight without weapons. That is why we are so eager to ship our cargo of
arms to Colombia.”

The elder De Jiminez had returned in time to hear the conclusion of this
speech, and he nodded approval. It seemed to me that the little fellow
really talked remarkably well. He spoke better English than his father
and expressed himself in well chosen language. It at once occurred to me
why Joe and I had been invited here. The young De Jiminez was a rabid
partisan of “the Cause” and his clever father imagined that an
enthusiastic boy would be more apt to impress boys of his own age than
his senior might impress men. The thought put me somewhat on my guard
and made me inquire into things more carefully.

“Australia seems a queer place to obtain a cargo of arms,” I remarked.
“There are no factories here I believe.”

“No,” said our host, “the arms I purchased came from England consigned
to a local firm. We could not purchase direct for it would result in
international complications; but we have many friends here in Australia.
It is a favorite resort for exiles from my country, and that is why I
arranged the purchase here. But come; dinner is served and I hope you
have good appetites.”

He gave his arm to his old mother, who was remarkably active for her
years, and led the way to a connecting room where the dinner was served.
It was a fine spread, and Joe and I did full justice to the many
courses.

Afterward we returned to the drawing-room, where the old lady read a
Spanish periodical while we chatted in English concerning Colombian
affairs and the revolution.

I learned that the De Jiminez family was considered among the wealthiest
of the republic. Our host conducted an important banking business in
Bogota and had extensive coffee plantations in the foothills. He was not
directly known as the leader of the revolutionists, but would be chosen
the new president by the insurgents if they succeeded in overturning the
present government. Yet De Jiminez was scarcely safe in his own country
just at present and intended to land in a secret cove on the coast and
transport his cargo of arms inland to one of the rendezvous of the
revolutionists.

Young Alfonso was as ardent a partisan as his father. He was
tremendously ambitious and it seemed his father encouraged this, telling
his son many times that the future of his country would some day be
dependent upon the boy’s ability and courage and that he must uphold the
honorable name of De Jiminez.

Their assumed importance was of course amusing to me, who looked upon
their seven by nine country with tolerant disdain; but to them Colombia
and the revolution were the most tremendous things in the world. And,
after all they were simple, kindly people, honestly inclined and
desirous of improving the conditions in their native land if this
“tempest in a teapot” resulted in their favor. I had already decided
that we would be justified in concluding the deal with Señor de Jiminez
when a diversion was created by the arrival of visitors.

The servant ushered two ladies into the room. One was a beautiful woman
of middle age and the other a tall, slim girl who was evidently her
daughter. Both were exquisitely dressed and impressed me as persons of
importance even before I noticed the extreme courtesy with which our
host greeted them.

Introductions followed. The elder lady was Señora de Alcantara of
Bogota, and the younger her daughter Lucia. At once Madam inquired in an
eager tone:

“Well, De Jiminez, have you succeeded in getting a ship?”

“I think so,” he replied, glancing at me a bit doubtfully. “The only
thing still to be settled is the matter of terms. I have not much money
left to satisfy the owners, who have no confidence in their being able
to collect when we arrive at Colombia. But I hope it can yet be arranged
in a satisfactory manner.”

“I also hope so,” she returned, “for I am anxious to travel home in your
company.”

“You!” he exclaimed in unfeigned astonishment.

“Yes. I have just received letters of absolute pardon from the
government. I am free to return to my home in Bogota whenever I please.”

“You surprise me, Señora,” he said, evidently disturbed by the news.
Then he took the lady aside, and while they were conversing privately
Alfonso said to us:

“De Alcantara, her husband, was the first leader of the revolution, and
was killed in battle two years ago. His wife and daughter fled to
Australia and their estates were confiscated. This is indeed surprising
news; but I think the government wishes to placate the wealthy classes
by this lenient action.”

Señor de Jiminez returned to our group smiling and content. I overheard
Madam de Alcantara say in Spanish to Madam de Jiminez. “Never, under any
circumstances, will I abandon the Cause. I shall return to my estates,
because here I am an exile and dependent upon our friends for
maintenance. There I may intrigue to advance the revolution, although I
am warned against mixing in politics if I accept the government’s
amnesty.”

“The Cause is sacred to us all,” was the calm reply.

Lucia de Alcantara was at once monopolized by Alfonso, who deserted us
to pay the young girl marked attention. She did not appear to resent
this; neither did she respond with much enthusiasm. She was really a
beautiful girl, not more than fifteen or sixteen years of age, and her
slender, willowy form towered so far above the undersized Alfonso that I
remarked to Joe, aside: “That certainly is the long and short of it old
man, isn’t it?”

“I suppose there will be accommodations in the _Seagull_ for the
ladies?” inquired Señor de Jiminez.

“Yes,” said I; “they might be made fairly comfortable.”

He said no more then, but presently sat down to a quiet game of bezique
with Madam de Alcantara, leaving Alfonso to entertain us as well as
Lucia. We found that the girl spoke English, and she became so
interested in our accounts of the United States that she fairly ignored
the youthful Colombian to question us about our country, our ship, and
the chances of our sailing together across the South Seas.

It was quite late when they left, Alfonso and his father both escorting
their guests to the carriage, and on their return Joe and I pleaded
fatigue and retired to our rooms.

“Well, Joe,” I said, when we were alone, “what do you think now?”

“Mighty pretty girl,” he returned musingly.

“But about the business deal?”

“Oh, that,” he responded, waking up, “I’m in favor of it, taking it all
around. We get well paid and run no especial chances except when we land
the goods. We’ve done harder things than that, Sam, for less money; so
it needn’t bother us much. You see the Alcantaras can have the for’ard
cabin and—”

“Bother the Alcantaras!” I exclaimed impatiently. “You’re usually
opposed to passengers, Joe.”

“I know; but they’re anxious to get home and Lucia said—”

“‘Lucia!’”

“Isn’t that her name?” he demanded.

“I believe it is.”

“She’s a clever sort of a girl. Usually, Sam, girls are dubs; but this
Spanish creature has lots of ‘go’ to her and won’t make bad company on
the voyage.”

I let him alone, then, and went to bed. Joe Herring was a silent fellow
at ordinary times, but if I had let him ramble on about this girl I am
sure he’d have kept me awake half the night. It didn’t strike me there
was anything remarkable about her either.

Our report seemed to satisfy my uncle and my father when we returned to
the Radley Arms at ten o’clock the next morning. At twelve Señor de
Jiminez appeared in his checked vest and diamonds and signed the
contract, paying us nine thousand dollars in gold and giving us a draft
on his own bank in Bogota for six thousand. We also secured papers
granting us the right to repurchase the _Seagull_ by returning the notes
we accepted for the sale price, which notes we believed not worth the
paper they were written on. Then, all business details being completed
and the ship formally turned over to its new owner, the early afternoon
saw us all aboard the _Seagull_ engaged in stowing the cases of arms and
ammunition which had already begun to arrive. De Jiminez did not intend
to waste any time, that was certain, and one dray after another brought
our freight to the lighter, which transferred it to the ship.

The boxes were of all sizes and shapes, being labeled in big black
letters “Machinery.” They were consigned to the coffee plantation of De
Jiminez. There were a lot of them and they were tremendously heavy
things; but we stowed them in the hold as rapidly as they arrived and
two days sufficed to get the entire cargo aboard.

On the evening of the second day our passengers boarded us. There were
five of them including the elder De Jiminez, his mother and son, and
Madam de Alcantara and her daughter. They were accompanied by trunks and
bandboxes galore; enough to make my father grunt disdainfully and Uncle
Naboth look glum. I think none of us—except perhaps our erratic second
mate, Joe—was greatly delighted at the prospect of female passengers on
a long voyage; but we had made our bargain and must abide by it.

De Jiminez had bustled around all day getting the ship’s papers in shape
and preparing for the voyage, while young Alfonso, whom Uncle Naboth had
promptly dubbed “Little Jim,” attended to the loading of the boxes with
the coolness and care of a veteran. They couldn’t wait a moment after
the last case of arms was aboard. Bill Brace, the engineer, had steam up
long ahead of time; so at dusk we hoisted anchor and slowly steamed out
of Port Phillip into the calm blue waters of the South Pacific. If any
government spies watched De Jiminez depart he was indifferent to them,
and they were now powerless to interfere with his plans.

The comfort of our passengers depended wholly upon two men of our crew
whom I have not yet had the opportunity of introducing to you. Our own
personal comfort had depended upon them for years, so I am justified in
making the above statement. They were gigantic blacks; not negroes of
the African type, but straight-haired ebony fellows who were natives of
some island in these very seas where we were now sailing. Their names
were Nux and Bryonia, and one was our steward and the other our
cook—fairly entitled, indeed, to be called our “chef.”

Concerning these curious names there is a serio-comic story which I will
briefly relate.

A number of years ago, while Uncle Naboth Perkins was sailing an old tub
he and my father jointly owned on a voyage from New Zealand to San
Francisco, he encountered somewhere in the South Seas a native canoe
drifting upon the waves. It seemed at first to be vacant, but as it
passed close to the lee of the slow-going sailing vessel the seamen
noticed something lying flat in the bottom of the dugout. They threw a
grappling hook and drew the little boat alongside, when they discovered
two black men lying bound hand and foot and senseless from lack of food
and water. How many days they had drifted about in that condition no one
could tell, least of all the poor victims. Being hoisted aboard the
bodies were laid side by side upon the deck and Uncle Naboth, who was
the only excuse for a physician there was aboard, examined them and
found that both were still alive. But the condition of the poor fellows
was exceedingly precarious. Had they not possessed such stalwart frames
and splendid constitutions they would have been dead long before.

So Uncle Naboth brought out the ship’s medicine chest and found it
rather shy of restoratives. Aside from calomel and quinine, neither of
which seemed appropriate for the case, the only remedies the chest
contained were two bottles of homeopathic pills—one of nux vomica and
the other of bryonia.

My uncle pondered a time between these unknown medicines and decided to
give one black the nux and the other the bryonia, hoping thus to save at
least one of the disabled castaways. So a course of treatment began.
Both were liberally fed brandy and water and one was given six pills of
nux vomica and the other six pills of bryonia, the doses being
administered every hour. Mr. Perkins became intensely interested in the
results, and that no mistake might be made he labeled one black boy
“Nux” and the other “Bryonia.” “Nux” regained consciousness first, and
while the amateur physician was regretting that he had not fed them both
the same dope “Bryonia” opened his eyes to the world again.

I have always suspected the brandy and water really did the job, but
Uncle Naboth was so proud of his medical skill that he will never admit
that possibility.

“It’s a doctor’s duty to guess,” he has said more than once referring to
this occasion, “an’ I managed to guess right because I only had two
medicines an’ both of ’em was recommended to kill or cure. The dog-gone
little sugar pills must ’a’ had extract o’ magic in ’em; that’s what I
think.”

Anyhow, Nux and Bryonia got well and regained their strength, and more
grateful fellows never lived. Neither could understand a word of
English, while their own language was a puzzle to all the crew; but they
were quick to observe and ready to undertake any work that lay at hand.

Not knowing where to drop the castaways, nor wishing to delay the voyage
because of two black men, my uncle decided to carry them along with him,
and their intelligence and devotion so won him that before the voyage
ended he prized Nux and Bryonia more than all the rest of the crew put
together. They gradually picked up a word of English here and there
until they were able to make themselves understood, and in time they
learned to speak it fluently. But they had never a word to say of their
experiences or past life and we really knew little about their
antecedents.

The following year we had another ship in which I sailed my first voyage
with Uncle Naboth, and Nux and Bryonia watched over me so
faithfully—saving my life on one important occasion—that I learned to
regard them both very highly and a friendship was formed between us that
time has only strengthened. So of course when we built our fine new ship
the _Seagull_, Nux and Bry became fixtures in it as much as we were
ourselves, and I must admit that no owners ever had more faithful or
capable servants.

Bryonia was the taller of the two, although both were stalwart fellows,
and perhaps he was a bit more shrewd and active than Nux. He became our
cook, learning the art with amazing rapidity, and I am positive that no
ship’s cook ever lived who was his superior. Nux, a jolly good-natured
fellow who was strong as an ox, was our steward and cared for the after
cabin perfectly. They did other tasks when occasion required, and the
two have accompanied me in more than one hair-raising adventure, proving
themselves plucky, intelligent and true to the bone. Somehow we had all
come to depend greatly upon our black South Sea Islanders, and they in
turn were very fond of us—especially of Uncle Naboth and myself.

It so happened that this was the first voyage since they were picked up
that had taken us to the South Seas. We had been to Alaska, to Panama,
to Egypt, China and Yucatan, but the fortune of commerce now led us for
the first time into the South Pacific. When first we headed for
Australia I had said to them:

“Well, boys, you’re going somewhere near your native land on this
voyage.”

They exchanged a quick glance but said nothing in reply. They seemed
neither overjoyed nor sorry, but accepted this journey with the same
calm philosophy they had the others. In mentioning the incident to Uncle
Naboth he said:

“I don’t see why our going through the South Seas should make any
difference to them. Why, Sam, the South Pacific has a million little
islands in it, none of which amounts to a row of pins. Nux and Bry were
natives of one of these dinky islands an’ I guess they had a hard, wild
life of it judging from the condition they was in when I found ’em. My
pickin’ ’em up was great luck for the pair an’ no mistake. They’re
civilized Injuns, now, an’ their life on shipboard is luxury compared to
what they used to have. Besides we’ve treated ’em well an’ they’ve grown
fond of us; I doubt if we landed plump on their native island they’d
ever leave the ship an’ go back to their old life.”

“I should hope not!” I exclaimed. “How old do you think they are, Uncle
Naboth? Whenever I ask them they shake their heads and say they do not
know.”

“Perhaps they don’t; many of the savage races never keep track of their
age; they think it’s bad luck to count the years. But I should judge
these fellows are about twenty-five years old. Nux may be a little
older, but not much.”

Perhaps it was natural that these native islanders should be a source of
much curiosity to Alfonso de Jiminez and Lucia de Alcantara. They were
accustomed to seeing dark-skinned races, and in Australia one meets
Borneans, Samoans, the East India and native Malay tribes, Philippinos,
Japs and Chinese; but such handsome and dignified blacks as Nux and
Bryonia were different, indeed, and I have often thought the desert
Moors the nearest approach to them of any people I have ever seen.

Our islanders wore neat uniforms of gray and gold, which rendered their
appearance the more striking. They would never accept money for their
service, saying they owed their lives and happiness to us and could
never repay us. Moreover they declared they had no use for money. But
they delighted in their uniforms, so we kept them well supplied and they
wore them at all times.

The addition of five passengers to our complement did not phase Bry in
the least. On the contrary it gave him a chance to cook some of the
delicious dishes for which he was famous among ourselves, and so to
extend his reputation. Nux had more extra work than his comrade, looking
after the cabins and serving the meals; but he had a great capacity for
work and made no complaint whatever.

Captain Steele had been a mariner all his life and was no stranger to
the South Seas; but this course from Melbourne to the coast of Colombia,
while not unknown to the charts, was strange to him and he had to put in
a lot of study before he got his lines properly marked and knew exactly
where to travel.

“Ye see, Sam,” he said to me one evening as I sat in his cabin watching
him figure, “it would be all plain sailin’ if it warn’t fer them measley
little islands—hundreds of ’em the chart shows, an’ there’s indycations
of hundreds more that ain’t been located. If we get a hair’s breadth off
our course we’ll have to do a good bit of dodgin’. The spots on the
chart marked islands means a lot of rocks in plain English, an’ rocks
won’t do the _Seagull_ any good if we happen to bump agin ’em.”

“Isn’t there a way to avoid most of the islands?” I asked.

“Not that anyone knows of. The South Seas is spotted with ’em most
everywheres an’ it’s better to keep in your reg’lar course, where you
know your soundin’s, than to try findin’ a clearer track over to
Colombia.”

“Let’s see,” I said, tracing the chart with my finger; “our course lies
directly through the Low Archipelago. What a lot of islands there are!
But there seems to be plenty of room between them.”

“Certainly,” agreed my father. “Give us weather like this an’ we’ll
dodge every rock in our way.”

I understood what he meant. The weather is treacherous in these seas
near the equator, and it would be bad for us to encounter a storm among
the rocky shoals of the islands. Just now the weather was magnificent
and the sea as smooth as glass. Our engines were in fine working order
and we made sufficient speed to satisfy even the restless new “owner,”
Señor de Jiminez.

A piano was in the main cabin and Lucia played and sang very agreeably.
Her songs were mostly those dreamy Spanish things with melody enough to
haunt you long afterward, and Joe especially listened with eagerness to
every note, although “Little Jim” was always on hand to turn the music.
Joe couldn’t do that, not being able to read a note and he was often on
duty besides; but Lucia knew he appreciated her music and whether our
boy mate was in the cabin or tramping the deck overhead she played to
please him more than she did Alfonso.

Now that all the hurly-burly of stowing the cargo and getting under way
was over, our passengers settled down to enjoy the voyage, and it was
then that the peculiar traits in their various characters became
noticeable. I admit that we are all peculiar in one way or another, as
some clever student of human nature has observed and recorded before my
time. Perhaps, therefore, our new acquaintances were no more odd in
their ways than the ordinary run of humanity.

Madam de Jiminez was as placid and contented as the day was long. She
required little amusement and was no bother at all. Madam de Alcantara,
on the contrary, proved fussy and exacting. She led poor Nux a dog’s
life, waiting on her whims, and her daughter had no easy time of it
either. Lucia was very dutiful and obedient and ran at once when
summoned by her mother—which was every fifteen minutes on a fair
average. Yet the Señora was quite gracious to all about her and never
lost her temper or said unkind things. Being as beautiful as she was
gracious we had not the heart to blame her. I believe her fussiness was
a nervous affliction and that the lady really had a kindly nature. Lucia
was devoted to her and tenderly loved her.

This girl, the third of our female passengers, was always bright and
cheery and the life of the party. She accepted Alfonso’s marked
attentions with absolute indifference. Being accustomed to them she
evidently considered them characteristic of the boy and to be borne with
patience while in his society. Joe pleased her better; but she was not
the least bit a flirt and had no thought as yet of falling in love with
anyone. Her feeling for Joe was one of good comradeship.

Little Jim would have been a very decent fellow could he have modified
his airs of importance and curbed his excessive vanity. He was really a
bright, clever boy, and the son of a man somewhat distinguished in his
own country. But the youth’s patronizing manner was intolerable, and one
evening when he had joined Joe and me and we were leaning over the rail
together I was obliged to “call him down” in no gentle manner.

“I don’t mind associating with you here where there is no formality, you
know,” he said; “but if you ever come to Bogota you must not expect me
to be quite so free with you.”

“If ever we come to Bogota,” I remarked, “we are liable to find you in
jail or in hiding among the mountains. These petty South American
revolutions take queer turns sometimes and are liable to become
dangerous.”

“Petty!” he exclaimed. “Petty revolutions!”

“That is certainly what they are,” I returned. “Your country is so small
and insignificant that we seldom hear of it in the big world; and your
revolution is so absurdly unimportant that we never hear of it at all.”

“But you will!” he cried. “When we have won and my father is made
president the world will ring with our victory.”

“Nonsense,” said I. “The newspapers in the United States will give it
about an inch of space, and the people who read that inch will wonder
where on earth Colombia is.”

He seemed nettled at this, and a little crestfallen.

“That inch of publicity,” I continued, “you will perhaps get in case you
win. But if you lose you remain unnoticed. There are lots of Central and
South American republics, and plenty of revolutions in them at all
times. To be frank with you, Alfonso, the people of more important
nations are weary of reading about them.”

He hardly knew what to reply, but his humiliation was of short duration.
After strutting up and down the deck a few turns he rejoined us and
said:

“You may sneer at Colombia—and at her great revolution—but you cannot
sneer at the family of De Jiminez. We are very ancient.”

“You are, indeed,” I assented. “You have had a great many ancestors; but
they are mostly dead, are they not?”

“How far back can you trace _your_ descent?” he asked.

“As far as my father. Those before him we’ve lost track of. They are
also dead, and therefore of no importance to us just now.”

“The family of De Jiminez,” he stated proudly, “is very wealthy.”

“Why mention so common a thing?” I responded. “There are thousands of
big fortunes in the world. Joe Herring, who stands there beside you and
is our second mate, is a millionaire; yet he lacks distinction on that
account because there happen to be so many other millionaires in the
world.”

He turned and stared at Joe by the light of the swinging lantern.

“You a millionaire!” he exclaimed.

“Perhaps a little better than that,” admitted Joe, quietly. “I’m a
seaman and pretty nearly a man.”

“But you have money—a million?”

“My agent says it’s getting to be nearly twice that; it grows so
tremendously while I’m away.”

“Then why do you sail in a ship as second mate?”

“Mainly because I love the life, and secondly because I love Sam, here,”
returned Joe gravely. “The adventure and companionship give me more
pleasure than to pose in a big city as a rich young kid. As a matter of
fact the money is a nuisance to me.”

“Why don’t you buy a ship of your own and hire Sam to sail with you?”
asked Little Jim.

“Hire Sam! Why Sam is worth more of that dreadful money than I am. I’m
sure he could buy the De Jiminez estates with the bank thrown in and
still be rich.”

The statement dazed Alfonso.

“Is it true? Is it possible?” he asked. “Or are you joking?”

“It is true,” said Joe. “The surprising thing is that you have not heard
of the _Seagull_ and its adventures before this. The ship has made
several fortunes for its owners, and in the United States and Europe it
is famous. But I suppose that inasmuch as we hear little of the
Colombians they hear little of us.”

Alfonso did not try to patronize us so extensively after this
conversation, but he patronized others and I was sorry he could not
remedy so great a defect in his character. His father was just as
important in his way, but not so officious. A passion for display in
dress and jewelry possessed the elder De Jiminez and he spent most of
his spare time in changing his clothes, appearing before us in a
succession of dazzling costumes that made us fairly gasp for breath. He
had other jewels beside the diamonds. Sometimes he wore rubies, and
sometimes emeralds; but he was never as proud as when sporting his
glittering assortment of diamonds. I think he imagined their sparkle
rendered him personally admirable and the envy of all beholders, and the
poor man never knew we callous Americans were laughing at him.

Señor de Jiminez was very happy to have succeeded at last in
accomplishing his great mission. The arms and munitions of war had been
secured with great difficulty and after many disappointments. Best of
all, a ship had been chartered to carry the stores to Colombia. With
such reinforcements the languishing revolution would receive new
impetus—sufficient, he fondly hoped, to render it successful.