man is liable to live along there without noticing any fugiting of
tempus until some day the undertaker calls in for him just when he's
beginning to think about cutting out the gang and saving up a little
to invest in real estate.
"I don't know how long we worked for Don Jaime; but it was through two
or three rainy spells, eight or ten hair cuts, and the life of three
pairs of sail-cloth trousers. All the money we earned went for rum and
tobacco; but we ate, and that was something.
"All of a sudden one day me and Liverpool find the trade of committing
surgical operations on banana stalks turning to aloes and quinine in
our mouths. It's a seizure that often comes upon white men in Latin
and geographical countries. We wanted to be addressed again in
language and see the smoke of a steamer and read the real estate
transfers and gents' outfitting ads in an old newspaper. Even Soledad
seemed like a centre of civilization to us, so that evening we put
our thumbs on our nose at Don Jaime's fruit stand and shook his grass
burrs off our feet.
"It was only twelve miles to Soledad, but it took me and Liverpool two
days to get there. It was banana grove nearly all the way; and we got
twisted time and again. It was like paging the palm room of a New York
hotel for a man named Smith.
"When we saw the houses of Soledad between the trees all my
disinclination toward this Liverpool Sam rose up in me. I stood him
while we were two white men against the banana brindles; but now, when
there were prospects of my exchanging even cuss words with an American
citizen, I put him back in his proper place. And he was a sight, too,
with his rum-painted nose and his red whiskers and elephant feet with
leather sandals strapped to them. I suppose I looked about the same.
"'It looks to me,' says I, 'like Great Britain ought to be made to
keep such gin-swilling, scurvy, unbecoming mud larks as you at home
instead of sending 'em over here to degrade and taint foreign lands.
We kicked you out of America once and we ought to put on rubber boots
and do it again.'
"'Oh, you go to 'ell,' says Liverpool, which was about all the
repartee he ever had.
"Well, Soledad, looked fine to me after Don Jaime 's plantation.
Liverpool and me walked into it side by side, from force of habit,
past the calabosa and the Hotel Grande, down across the plaza toward
Chica's hut, where we hoped that Liverpool, being a husband of hers,
might work his luck for a meal.
"As we passed the two-story little frame house occupied by the
American Club, we noticed that the balcony had been decorated all
around with wreaths of evergreens and flowers, and the flag was
flying from the pole on the roof. Stanzey, the consul, and Arkright,
a gold-mine owner, were smoking on the balcony. Me and Liverpool
waved our dirty hands toward 'em and smiled real society smiles; but
they turned their backs to us and went on talking. And we had played
whist once with the two of 'em up to the time when Liverpool held all
thirteen trumps for four hands in succession. It was some holiday, we
knew; but we didn't know the day nor the year.
"A little further along we saw a reverend man named Pendergast, who
had come to Soledad to build a church, standing under a cocoanut palm
with his little black alpaca coat and green umbrella.
"'Boys, boys!' says he, through his blue spectacles, 'is it as bad as
this? Are you so far reduced?'
"'We're reduced,' says I, 'to very vulgar fractions.'
"'It is indeed sad,' says Pendergast, 'to see my countrymen in such
"'Cut 'arf of that out, old party,' says Liverpool. 'Cawn't you tell
a member of the British upper classes when you see one?'
"'Shut up,' I told Liverpool. 'You're on foreign soil now, or that
portion of it that's not on you.'
"'And on this day, too!' goes on Pendergast, grievous - 'on this most
glorious day of the year when we should all be celebrating the dawn of
Christian civilization and the downfall of the wicked.'
"'I did notice bunting and bouquets decorating the town, reverend,'
says I, 'but I didn't know what it was for. We've been so long out of
touch with calendars that we didn't know whether it was summer time or
"'Here is two dollars,' says Pendergast digging up two Chili silver
wheels and handing 'em to me. 'Go, my men, and observe the rest of the
day in a befitting manner.'
"Me and Liverpool thanked him kindly, and walked away.
"'Shall we eat?' I asks.
"'Oh, 'ell!' says Liverpool. 'What's money for?'
"'Very well, then,' I says, 'since you insist upon it, we'll drink.'
"So we pull up in a rum shop and get a quart of it and go down on the
beach under a cocoanut tree and celebrate.
"Not having eaten anything but oranges in two days, the rum has
immediate effect; and once more I conjure up great repugnance toward
the British nation.
"'Stand up here,' I says to Liverpool, 'you scum of a despot limited
monarchy, and have another dose of Bunker Hill. That good man, Mr.
Pendergast,' says I, 'said we were to observe the day in a befitting
manner, and I'm not going to see his money misapplied.'
"'Oh, you go to 'ell!' says Liverpool, and I started in with a fine
left-hander on his right eye.
"Liverpool had been a fighter once, but dissipation and bad company
had taken the nerve out of him. In ten minutes I had him lying on the
sand waving the white flag.
"'Get up,' says I, kicking him in the ribs, 'and come along with me.'
"Liverpool got up and followed behind me because it was his habit,
wiping the red off his face and nose. I led him to Reverend
Pendergast's shack and called him out.
"'Look at this, sir,' says I - 'look at this thing that was once a
proud Britisher. You gave us two dollars and told us to celebrate the
day. The star-spangled banner still waves. Hurrah for the stars and
"'Dear me,' says Pendergast, holding up his hands. 'Fighting on this
day of all days! On Christmas day, when peace on - '
"'Christmas, hell!' says I. 'I thought it was the Fourth of July.'"
"Merry Christmas!" said the red, white, and blue cockatoo.
"Take him for six dollars," said Hop-along Bibb. "He's got his dates
and colours mixed."