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of Mr. Marshall, would it have any effect?"

"Don't know how it will affect Hanley," said the sailor, "but if you
asked me to make anybody a consul-general, I'd make him an ambassador."

Later in the evening Hanley and Livingstone were seated alone on
deck. The visit to Las Bocas had not proved amusing, but, much to
Livingstone's relief, his honored guest was now in good-humor. He took
his cigar from his lips, only to sip at a long cool drink. He was in a
mood flatteringly confidential and communicative.

"People have the strangest idea of what I can do for them," he laughed.
It was his pose to pretend he was without authority. "They believe I've
only to wave a wand, and get them anything they want. I thought I'd be
safe from them on board a yacht."

Livingstone, in ignorance of what was coming, squirmed apprehensively.

"But it seems," the senator went on, "I'm at the mercy of a conspiracy.
The women folk want me to do something for this fellow Marshall. If they
had their way, they'd send him to the Court of St. James. And old Hardy,
too, tackled me about him. So did Miss Cairns. And then Marshall himself
got me behind the wheel-house, and I thought he was going to tell me how
good he was, too! But he didn't."

As though the joke were on himself, the senator laughed appreciatively.

"Told me, instead, that Hardy ought to be a vice-admiral."

Livingstone, also, laughed, with the satisfied air of one who cannot be
tricked.

"They fixed it up between them," he explained, "each was to put in a
good word for the other." He nodded eagerly. "That's what I think."

There were moments during the cruise when Senator Hanley would have
found relief in dropping his host overboard. With mock deference, the
older man inclined his head.

"That's what you think, is it?" he asked. "Livingstone," he added, "you
certainly are a great judge of men!"

The next morning, old man Marshall woke with a lightness at his heart
that had been long absent. For a moment, conscious only that he was
happy, he lay between sleep and waking, frowning up at his canopy of
mosquito net, trying to realize what change had come to him. Then he
remembered. His old friend had returned. New friends had come into his
life and welcomed him kindly. He was no longer lonely. As eager as a
boy, he ran to the window. He had not been dreaming. In the harbor lay
the pretty yacht, the stately, white-hulled war-ship. The flag that
drooped from the stern of each caused his throat to tighten, brought
warm tears to his eyes, fresh resolve to his discouraged, troubled
spirit. When he knelt beside his bed, his heart poured out his thanks in
gratitude and gladness.

While he was dressing, a blue-jacket brought a note from the admiral.
It invited him to tea on board the war-ship, with the guests of the
SERAPIS. His old friend added that he was coming to lunch with his
consul, and wanted time reserved for a long talk. The consul agreed
gladly. He was in holiday humor. The day promised to repeat the good
moments of the night previous.

At nine o'clock, through the open door of the consulate, Marshall saw
Aiken, the wireless operator, signaling from the wharf excitedly to
the yacht, and a boat leave the ship and return. Almost immediately the
launch, carrying several passengers, again made the trip shoreward.

Half an hour later, Senator Hanley, Miss Cairns, and Livingstone came
up the waterfront, and entering the consulate, seated themselves around
Marshall's desk. Livingstone was sunk in melancholy. The senator,
on the contrary, was smiling broadly. His manner was one of distinct
relief. He greeted the consul with hearty good-humor.

"I'm ordered home!" he announced gleefully. Then, remembering the
presence of Livingstone, he hastened to add: "I needn't say how sorry I
am to give up my yachting trip, but orders are orders. The President,"
he explained to Marshall, "cables me this morning to come back and
take my coat off." The prospect, as a change from playing bridge on a
pleasure boat, seemed far from depressing him.

"Those filibusters in the Senate," he continued genially, "are making
trouble again. They think they've got me out of the way for another
month, but they'll find they're wrong. When that bill comes up, they'll
find me at the old stand and ready for business!" Marshall did not
attempt to conceal his personal disappointment.

"I am so sorry you are leaving," he said; "selfishly sorry, I mean. I'd
hoped you all would be here for several days." He looked inquiringly
toward Livingstone.

"I understood the SERAPIS was disabled," he explained.

"She is," answered Hanley. "So's the RALEIGH. At a pinch, the admiral
might have stretched the regulations and carried me to Jamaica, but
the RALEIGH's engines are knocked about too. I've GOT to reach Kingston
Thursday. The German boat leaves there Thursday for New York. At first
it looked as though I couldn't do it, but we find that the Royal Mail
is due to-day, and she can get to Kingston Wednesday night. It's a great
piece of luck. I wouldn't bother you with my troubles," the senator
explained pleasantly, "but the agent of the Royal Mail here won't sell
me a ticket until you've put your seal to this." He extended a piece of
printed paper.

As Hanley had been talking, the face of the consul had grown grave. He
accepted the paper, but did not look at it. Instead, he regarded the
senator with troubled eyes. When he spoke, his tone was one of genuine
concern.

"It is most unfortunate," he said. "But I am afraid the ROYAL MAIL will
not take you on board. Because of Las Bocas," he explained. "If we had
only known!" he added remorsefully. "It is MOST unfortunate."

"Because of Las Bocas?" echoed Hanley.

"You don't mean they'll refuse to take me to Jamaica because I spent
half an hour at the end of a wharf listening to a squeaky gramophone?"

"The trouble," explained Marshall, "is this: if they carried you, all
the other passengers would be held in quarantine for ten days, and there
are fines to pay, and there would be difficulties over the mails. But,"
he added hopefully, "maybe the regulations have been altered. I will see
her captain, and tell him - - "

"See her captain!" objected Hanley. "Why see the captain? He doesn't
know I've been to that place. Why tell him? All I need is a clean bill
of health from you. That's all HE wants. You have only to sign that
paper." Marshall regarded the senator with surprise.

"But I can't," he said.

"You can't? Why not?"

"Because it certifies to the fact that you have not visited Las Bocas.
Unfortunately, you have visited Las Bocas."

The senator had been walking up and down the room. Now he seated
himself, and stared at Marshall curiously.

"It's like this, Mr. Marshall," he began quietly. "The President desires
my presence in Washington, thinks I can be of some use to him there in
helping carry out certain party measures - measures to which he pledged
himself before his election. Down here, a British steamship line has
laid down local rules which, in my case anyway, are ridiculous. The
question is, are you going to be bound by the red tape of a ha'penny
British colony, or by your oath to the President of the United States?"

The sophistry amused Marshall. He smiled good-naturedly and shook his
head.

"I'm afraid, Senator," he said, "that way of putting it is hardly
fair. Unfortunately, the question is one of fact. I will explain to the
captain - - "

"You will explain nothing to the captain!" interrupted Hanley. "This
is a matter which concerns no one but our two selves. I am not asking
favors of steamboat captains. I am asking an American consul to assist
an American citizen in trouble, and," he added, with heavy sarcasm,
"incidentally, to carry out the wishes of his President."

Marshall regarded the senator with an expression of both surprise and
disbelief.

"Are you asking me to put my name to what is not so?" he said. "Are you
serious?"

"That paper, Mr. Marshall," returned Hanley steadily, "is a mere form,
a piece of red tape. There's no more danger of my carrying the plague to
Jamaica than of my carrying a dynamite bomb. You KNOW that."

"I DO know that," assented Marshall heartily. "I appreciate your
position, and I regret it exceedingly. You are the innocent victim of a
regulation which is a wise regulation, but which is most unfair to you.
My own position," he added, "is not important, but you can believe me,
it is not easy. It is certainly no pleasure for me to be unable to help
you."

Hanley was leaning forward, his hands on his knees, his eyes watching
Marshall closely. "Then you refuse?" he said. "Why?"

Marshall regarded the senator steadily. His manner was untroubled. The
look he turned upon Hanley was one of grave disapproval.

"You know why," he answered quietly. "It is impossible."

In sudden anger Hanley rose. Marshall, who had been seated behind his
desk, also rose. For a moment, in silence, the two men confronted each
other. Then Hanley spoke; his tone was harsh and threatening.

"Then I am to understand," he exclaimed, "that you refuse to carry out
the wishes of a United States Senator and of the President of the United
States?"

In front of Marshall, on his desk, was the little iron stamp of the
consulate. Protectingly, almost caressingly, he laid his hand upon it.

"I refuse," he corrected, "to place the seal of this consulate on a
lie."

There was a moment's pause. Miss Cairns, unwilling to remain, and
unable to withdraw, clasped her hands unhappily and stared at the floor.
Livingstone exclaimed in indignant protest. Hanley moved a step nearer
and, to emphasize what he said, tapped his knuckles on the desk. With
the air of one confident of his advantage, he spoke slowly and softly.

"Do you appreciate," he asked, "that, while you may be of some
importance down here in this fever swamp, in Washington I am supposed
to carry some weight? Do you appreciate that I am a senator from a State
that numbers four millions of people, and that you are preventing me
from serving those people?"

Marshall inclined his head gravely and politely.

"And I want you to appreciate," he said, "that while I have no weight
at Washington, in this fever swamp I have the honor to represent eighty
millions of people, and as long as that consular sign is over my door
I don't intend to prostitute it for YOU, or the President of the United
States, or any one of those eighty millions."


Of the two men, the first to lower his eyes was Hanley. He laughed
shortly, and walked to the door. There he turned, and indifferently, as
though the incident no longer interested him, drew out his watch.

"Mr. Marshall," he said, "if the cable is working, I'll take your tin
sign away from you by sunset."

For one of Marshall's traditions, to such a speech there was no answer
save silence. He bowed, and, apparently serene and undismayed, resumed
his seat. From the contest, judging from the manner of each, it was
Marshall, not Hanley, who had emerged victorious.

But Miss Cairns was not deceived. Under the unexpected blow, Marshall
had turned older. His clear blue eyes had grown less alert, his broad
shoulders seemed to stoop. In sympathy, her own eyes filled with sudden
tears.

"What will you do?" she whispered.

"I don't know what I shall do," said Marshall simply. "I should have
liked to have resigned. It's a prettier finish. After forty years - to be
dismissed by cable is - it's a poor way of ending it."

Miss Cairns rose and walked to the door. There she turned and looked
back.

"I am sorry," she said. And both understood that in saying no more than
that she had best shown her sympathy.

An hour later the sympathy of Admiral Hardy was expressed more directly.

"If he comes on board my ship," roared that gentleman, "I'll push him
down an ammunition hoist and break his damned neck!"

Marshall laughed delightedly. The loyalty of his old friend was never so
welcome.

"You'll treat him with every courtesy," he said. "The only satisfaction
he gets out of this is to see that he has hurt me. We will not give him
that satisfaction."

But Marshall found that to conceal his wound was more difficult than
he had anticipated. When, at tea time, on the deck of the war-ship, he
again met Senator Hanley and the guests of the SERAPIS, he could not
forget that his career had come to an end. There was much to remind
him that this was so. He was made aware of it by the sad, sympathetic
glances of the women; by their tactful courtesies; by the fact that
Livingstone, anxious to propitiate Hanley, treated him rudely; by the
sight of the young officers, each just starting upon a career of honor,
and possible glory, as his career ended in humiliation; and by the big
war-ship herself, that recalled certain crises when he had only to press
a button and war-ships had come at his bidding.

At five o'clock there was an awkward moment. The Royal Mail boat, having
taken on her cargo, passed out of the harbor on her way to Jamaica, and
dipped her colors. Senator Hanley, abandoned to his fate, observed her
departure in silence.

Livingstone, hovering at his side, asked sympathetically: "Have they
answered your cable, sir?" "They have," said Hanley gruffly.

"Was it - was it satisfactory?" pursued the diplomat. "It WAS," said the
senator, with emphasis.

Far from discouraged, Livingstone continued his inquiries.

"And when," he asked eagerly, "are you going to tell him?"

"Now!" said the senator.

The guests were leaving the ship. When all were seated in the admiral's
steam launch, the admiral descended the accommodation ladder and himself
picked up the tiller ropes.

"Mr. Marshall," he called, "when I bring the launch broadside to the
ship and stop her, you will stand ready to receive the consul's salute."

Involuntarily, Marshall uttered an exclamation of protest. He had
forgotten that on leaving the war-ship, as consul, he was entitled to
seven guns. Had he remembered, he would have insisted that the ceremony
be omitted. He knew that the admiral wished to show his loyalty, knew
that his old friend was now paying him this honor only as a rebuke to
Hanley. But the ceremony was no longer an honor. Hanley had made of it a
mockery. It served only to emphasize what had been taken from him. But,
without a scene, it now was too late to avoid it. The first of the seven
guns had roared from the bow, and, as often he had stood before, as
never he would so stand again, Marshall took his place at the gangway
of the launch. His eyes were fixed on the flag, his gray head was
uncovered, his hat was pressed above his heart.

For the first time since Hanley had left the consulate, he fell into
sudden terror lest he might give way to his emotions. Indignant at the
thought, he held himself erect. His face was set like a mask, his eyes
were untroubled. He was determined they should not see that he was
suffering.

Another gun spat out a burst of white smoke, a stab of flame. There was
an echoing roar. Another and another followed. Marshall counted seven,
and then, with a bow to the admiral, backed from the gangway.

And then another gun shattered the hot, heavy silence. Marshall,
confused, embarrassed, assuming he had counted wrong, hastily returned
to his place. But again before he could leave it, in savage haste a
ninth gun roared out its greeting. He could not still be mistaken. He
turned appealingly to his friend. The eyes of the admiral were fixed
upon the war-ship. Again a gun shattered the silence. Was it a jest?
Were they laughing at him? Marshall flushed miserably. He gave a swift
glance toward the others. They were smiling. Then it was a jest. Behind
his back, something of which they all were cognizant was going forward.
The face of Livingstone alone betrayed a like bewilderment to his own.
But the others, who knew, were mocking him.

For the thirteenth time a gun shook the brooding swamp land of Porto
Banos. And then, and not until then, did the flag crawl slowly from the
mast-head. Mary Cairns broke the tenseness by bursting into tears. But
Marshall saw that every one else, save she and Livingstone, were still
smiling. Even the bluejackets in charge of the launch were grinning
at him. He was beset by smiling faces. And then from the war-ship,
unchecked, came, against all regulations, three long, splendid cheers.

Marshall felt his lips quivering, the warm tears forcing their way to
his eyes. He turned beseechingly to his friend. His voice trembled.

"Charles," he begged, "are they laughing at me?"

Eagerly, before the other would answer, Senator Hanley tossed his cigar
into the water and, scrambling forward, seized Marshall by the hand.

"Mr. Marshall," he cried, "our President has great faith in Abraham
Lincoln's judgment of men. And this salute means that this morning
he appointed you our new minister to The Hague. I'm one of those
politicians who keeps his word. I TOLD YOU I'd take your tin sign away
from you by sunset. I've done it!"







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Online LibraryRichard Harding DavisThe Consul → online text (page 2 of 2)