Puslapio vaizdai



VOL. 104 July, 1922 No. 3

My Friend Julio

Drawings by C. B. FALLS

day, he leaving that night for Valparaiso overland, and I for Punta Arenas by steamer; and the next I heard, he had gone to Peru.

ULIO and I were fourth-form boys in Montevideo, but it was only for a together at Winchester. He came from Chile and was one of those who always talk in a cheery way, who accosted his fellows with a freedom in which there was no insolence and gave the general impression of having led what may be called a spacious life. He talked English well, had a gentle, aristocratic manner about him, and his eyes were bright and shining, for he was always eager, always full of astonishment and vitality. So we became fast friends.

When I was leaving for Frankfort, packed up indeed and seated with my bags and things about me within an hour of starting, he rushed in to bid me good-by. While we talked, it began to rain, but we did not notice the weather, engrossed as we were in plans to meet in some indefinite future. Then he waved a hand at me and darted out, to return in a couple of minutes.

"Raining cats and dogs," he said. "Sorry I came without an umbrella. Very silly, you know. If you don't mind, I'll borrow your mackintosh." And he disappeared. That was quite That was quite typical of him. Years after, I met him

I pass over a period of travel in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia to come to a day when, sitting at a window in Mulach's saloon with a glass of wine before me, I found it amusing to watch a certain Rosita returning from mass with her new lover. She has nothing to do with the story directly, but in a way started the whole affair. The fact is that she had slighted one Blomgren a day or so before, and he had taken the matter very seriously indeed, going on a glorious spree, then, at the close of day, rowing out to the coal hulk to spend the night with his friend Tom, the cook. But his host he never saw, for, stumbling along the deck, he tripped and fell into the hold and so broke his neck.

But so complex are human activities, in so extraordinary a manner do things fall out, that I, the amused spectator, idly seated at the door of my own unfoldment and anticipating nothing more than a trip to the Andes presently, was snatched up as by a whirlwind,

Copyright, 1922, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.


twisted and tossed and swept along willy-nilly by strong currents into new and strange channels.

It was this way. Blomgren's death having been reported, his schooner, La Chilota, was sold publicly in the plaza the next day at noon. I, lounging idly, bought the boat for a mere song, as I thought, not that I needed a vessel, but because Captain Ruiz, governor of the town, who acted as a kind of self-appointed receiver in the matter, owed me some fifty-odd dollars, and it seemed to me that my sole chance of balancing the account lay in the possibility of deducting the amount due me from the purchase price.

Now, this Ruiz was a puffy and heavy and pallid kind of man, one ordinarily slow to act; but he showed emotion when I explained the matter to him pleasantly after the sale. Indeed, he seemed to put it aside as a something too painful to dwell upon and passed to the consideration of other matters by no means pertinent. So, in his room adjoining the cuartel, he and I sat awhile over a bottle of wine, as is the custom of the country, and I think that we talked almost an hour about mutton and the best way of cooking it. It became a kind of academic discussion, and I spoke with passing indifference, but diplomacy called for some show of interest on my part. Still, it struck me presently that he seemed depressed, so I, though itching to get at the matter I had in mind, spoke of his health.

"It is," he said musingly, "my heart. True, I am but an instrument, a machine, a little part of the Government, but I have my feelings." He laid his finger-tips on his Adam's apple for a moment, then, with his eyes fixed on me, pulled a folded bunch of papers

out of his pocket. "For you I grieve. This Blomgren fellow- By the law of the port, you as buyer of his property are liable for the cost of the funeral."

It struck me then that there was a curious modified zeal about him, but I affected light interest and said:

"But why not? It is doubtless just." There was a little pause, and it seemed no business of mine to urge him.

"Also, there are sales dues," he went on tenaciously. "Doubtless that is satisfactory."

"Such things must be," said I, airily, both to mollify him and, if possible, to shorten the catalogue, for his mood seemed best met by a show of sympathy.

"The sales dues go to my office, and, what I did not before mention, anchorage dues also. In all-" and he went on to name a sum that was truly astonishing, and I gulped, seeing that the purchase price bade fair to become a very oratorio, as it were.

"I should have expected-" I began, continuing to humor him; but he interrupted, putting up a hand to stop me, and observing that laws were wonderfully framed; said that each day's delay increased the expense. At that, I thought, his eye brightened.

"I have here the full details," he said a little solemnly as he opened a bundle of papers. "Would it please you to have them proved and a fair copy made?" He poured out a glass of wine with great care, then added, "I imagine that you would, in the interest of business."

"It would but unnecessarily add to the costs," said I; and at that he nodded sympathetically, and emptied his glass. Then, speaking quite calmly,

he told me that much as he loved me, he loved his country and her laws more, and could not, in the interests of friendship, deaden his patriotic conscience; so that it had been with grief most keen that only that morning he had ordered my horses impounded as security.

"Of course," said I, gulping very hard. But a sinister shadow had fallen about me, and my sense of cosmic humor became edgeless; yet our parting had every appearance of cordial friendliness.

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I had some difficulty in paying the vigilante who called about bedtime to collect the poundage fees and the cost of fodder, nor, considering the latter, could I but fail to be struck with the evidence of a voracious appetite that my horses seemed to have developed since their withdrawal from active service.

So, next morning, as I sat by the little round table and drank my coffee, I had within me something of the feeling of one to whom had come a king's magnificent gift, which I could in no way maintain, and it was with no friendly eye that I beheld my little ship riding at anchor.

Like a rift of sunshine, then Julio came, and he was gay and debonair and all in white, with a bright scarlet sash about his hips and a red rose at his coat lapel. I was a little startled, supposing him to have been in Valparaiso instead of in the Magellan country. Upon my so saying, he looked radiant, and said, "And I must return north soon," and bade me drink his health. So he went on to tell me things, as a man in love will do, singing the virtues of his sweetheart, a girl, as

he said, tall and deep-chested, with soft, dark hair that lay low on her forehead; whose face was tanned and whose deep-set eyes were blue, and who was silent and self-possessed and of good family. His theme was crescendo, but he fell to a sudden pianissimo and said:

"We are to marry, and the day is set. I am here to settle up a few things."

I murmured congratulatory words, though I was very weary with his tale, and passed swiftly to matters of closer concern, telling him of my ship purchase and of my plight. He regarded the matter lightly; then, in his large and opulent way, said that it was all most fortunate.

"For," said he, "we are surrounded by coincidence. I have time to kill. You have a ship. We will settle these bills and cruise north. Up the channels, you know-Concepcion Strait, Tres Montes, Ancud, Valdivia, a mere thousand miles. Or, being in ill luck, we hail a passing steamer. Moreover, you may sell the boat at a gain. Fate favors us indeed.”

He had hurried on, giving me no time to talk, and taking it for granted that all would fall out well. While I somewhat doubted, yet the way out looked fair to me. Still, I did not entirely assent without putting up some feeble defenses for him to knock down, such as the provisioning of the ship, the getting of two safe men by way of crew, and so on. But he brushed all aside, and, presently, we waited upon Captain Ruiz, who seemed glad to see us.

"Alas!" said he with great dignity, after all was paid and many papers signed, "I had no power to do otherwise for our excellent friend," indicating me with a little sweeping motion

of the hand in which he described a kind of recumbent "S" in the air. "It grieved me. Sleep I lost. In my heart lay grief and anxiety. Here my friend, there my country-a dilemma most vexing."

Though remembering the fifty-odd dollars still due me, I forbore to say anything, thinking that countercharges in the way of release expense might be imminent. Then it came out that we purposed to make the northern trip, and on our preparing to leave, Ruiz insisted that we should stay to a light meal, the more, he said, because the captain of the soldiers would be interested.

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There were nine or ten at the little supper, each representing some arm of government, and I find it hard to recall the main outline of things. The fact is that Ruiz kept the bottle moving in so lively a manner that my memory speedily became irregular. I have a dim impression of a long, low room, a revolving book-case, and some soldiers who seemed to appear from nowhere; but there is nothing very clear-cut. A man named José Maria Lopez detached himself from a haze presently, and I remember being aware of his steady, gray eye watching me, and I found that the company seemed to be expecting my assent to something.

Julio leaned forward and said quite gravely, "You assent, of course," and I raised myself into a sitting position; for I seemed to have been lounging very far back in my chair.

I got a clue next morning when Julio told me that the ship had been commandeered, and that we were to take José Maria Lopez and another down to Ooshia and deliver certain silver bars

to a steamer. Indeed, most wonderfully, we had become involved in the Chilean civil war and were loyal Balmacedistas. Balmacedistas. In the meantime we

were to pay all the expense and to be wonderfully rewarded when Montt was defeated.

"It 's no end muddle," Julio said. "Circumstances to be overthrown and all that kind of thing. Besides, she is of the Montt family. Obviously, something must be done. To go south would mean that I would not be on time for the wedding, and that is paramount. Day 's set, you see."

We were seated in the hollow of a sloping cliff, and at our feet was a great concave opening to the sea. Up the great green bowl, borne on a soft, cool wind, came the faint sound of the summer waves. Sunshine and silence, sea and sky, and the green earth. Julio had chosen the place for our talk, because there would be eyes and ears and tongues in town. tongues in town. Then he outlined his plan.

"But it's absurd," I objected.

"So is life," he said. "It may seem supremely silly, this proposition of mine; but if you consider it, it is order in muddle. And the glory of laying the treasure at her feet! Think of it!" "But what about the crew?" said I, still objecting.

"It is done already. Safe menBill Potter and Rip Nelson." Then he stopped suddenly, and I watched him, listening intently. "Say no more. Here comes José Maria Lopez himself. Mind you, he 's a decent fellow."

Lopez came down the slope, greeting us pleasantly enough, so we fell to talking of theaters, of the divine Sarah, of women and feasts, and, as we talked, idly pitched little pebbles down the slope.

So we started one day at noon, and there was a great fuss. The populace observed the day as a fiesta, and the town was flag-dressed. The band played patriotic airs, and there was a parade to the mole, where there were speeches, and the changes were rung upon all the familiar phrases of political oratory with flamboyant boastings and resonant sentences, and, in parenthesis as it were, queer mechanical bursts of applause. With all the paraphernalia of dignity the strong boxes containing the ingots were placed aboard, and the two officers followed. Then, anchor weighed and sails hoisted, the town fell away, and the hill behind vanished into blue haze; the shoreline straightened, and we were outward bound under a cloudless sky, with a breeze that was disagreeably chill to me. So we crouched as best we could in the narrow hatchway, and Lopez opened a bottle.

"To the health of Balmaceda, and success to La Chilota and the good cause!" he said; and arms stretched out and glasses clinked.

"To the good cause!" repeated Julio.

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Now, it took us two days to get to Axton Island, which is in altogether an opposite direction to Ooshia; but that neither José Maria Lopez nor his companion knew, for what with the cramped and crowded quarters, the battering and plunging of our little ship, and the intolerable air below, with the coarse food at the start, for they partook of nothing but a first meal, they were very seasick. Nor was I in much better case, poisoned as I was by too much idleness and eating and drinking ashore.

We dropped anchor in a little cove

at the foot of high hills, although there was a gap in which the woods came down to the beach, almost in the manner of an evergreen shrubbery. Then our passengers came on deck, and, as they looked about them, very glad to see land, Potter, at a sign from Julio, slid the hatchway across the opening. That did not escape José Maria Lopez, who asked very pleasantly:

"Is it Ooshia?"

"No," said Julio, suavely. "You will pardon us in time, I trust. There are certain exigencies. You will do me the favor to land here."

"I do not understand," said Lopez. Julio was all politeness.

"Will you be good enough to go ashore? Necessity demands. It is a quiet island, and it will be only a tenday stay, for the Gulf of Akaba must touch here and anchor. They will take you off. It is true that there may be slight inconveniences, for which I am sorry; but doubtless you would rather suffer inconvenience than that a lady suffer mortification."

José Maria Lopez looked serious.

"But it is incredible," he said. "I had accepted as a fact our doing as was planned."

"One remembers the instability of accepted facts," said Julio. "There will be no inconvenience suffered by you that I can foresee or forestall. A tent will be erected. There will be provisions, blankets, all that can be necessary."

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"As for the slight hardships, they are as nothing," said Lopez. "I am not unfamiliar with camp-life. But what you propose is unheard of."

"I regret what must be, but there is a matter that is imperative; nor do I see an alternative," said Julio.

There was a pause.

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