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The Smooth-Bore Hermanos

by Carl Henry

THE bullet went out through the open window at my elbow and doubtless it startled the fish at the top of the water in the moonlight out there in the Bay of Panama.

The smoke floated up from the muzzle of the Mannleicher till it struck the ceiling of Jimmie Hope's lounging-den and then it umbrellaed out till it mingled with dense blue vapor ascending from the cigars and cigarettes of the twenty adventurers, filibusters, beachcombers and other human rag-tags and bob-tails gathered in the place.

Not a man stirred. No one said anything. Bob Cespinoza, playing chess with Goldtooth Naegel, advanced the queen, after glancing up. Yet they say the tropics get your nerves.

The man who held the Mannleicher that had let out the splurging roar was a bit unsteady on his legs and was very white as he looked around expecting some one to fall, but he was an Englishman arrived that day. He handed the piece he had accidentally discharged to Jimmie Hope, who had been showing him his collection, bits from various revolutions he had had a hand in, and Jimmie, instead of hanging it up once more, looked at it with a grim smile and passed his cognac bottle to the Englishman, saying to me half-dolefully, half-quizzically:

"If that had killed you, Captain, it would have been the biggest joke in Panama."

"Oh, it would, would it?" said I.

"How's that, Jimmie?" asked one of the boys.

Jimmie Hope leaned back against the table, drew up one knee and broke the piece, then held it up to the light.

"See what it is? Smooth as the cheek of a Yucateco baby. An old-fashioned Belgian nigger-killer, mighty nearly open at both ends. That old smooth-bore has been through one war, a coup d'etat with some shooting, and several other occasions when it might have been used, and yet, never dreaming it was loaded, I hung it up there with the very load in it that I put in it twelve years ago—see the copper shell and that nick on the welt—when I first handed it to one of the Smooth-bore Hermanos."

"Haw-haw-he-he! I seen them guys," laughed McTighe. "Say, was that you that had 'em, Jimmie? I'd like to hear the straight of it."

"Well, they are so tangled up with the history of a president or two still kicking that you fellows won't mind if I skip a name now and then. I landed in New York by way of Antwerp one day with forty-two cases of Mausers and all that goes with them down in the pelvic regions of the same ship that brought me. They were invoiced as 'angles,' meaning small structural steel parts, and they were sure enough structural when we got through with them—the best republic-builders I ever saw.

"I got them through customs and over to Brooklyn to storage alongside the Erie Basin where a schooner by the name of the Fortuna lay freshly scraped and dressed as if for a wedding. General Mena-Mena—the fellow that ran Carteret through for writing 'Tekel-Upharsin' after his name on the register of the Hotel du Monde in Paris—had given me the $50,000 gold in Havana to do the work with and he was to have the schooner and men ready. I did not know who was the candidate and would not know till Willemstadt.

"IT WAS a January night and cold and wet. The men came aboard in fives and sixes up to the number of ninety, nearly all recruits off the park benches, and about midnight we were ready to ease out into the stream. I had given orders to let go, when I heard voices up the dock and running feet.

"Everybody was below. All lights were out and I jumped to the plank, a machete in my hand.

"'Stop! Abie, stop! Please don't make it!' I heard some one say out of breath. From the sounds there was one man chasing another down the dock.

"'I vill make it! Vy not?' answered the first man.

"Then the second man caught him and tried to hold him.

"'Let me go, Joey, I have got to make it a soocide!'

"'Please not to do it, Abie!'

"But Abie jumped and pulled Joey with him. Instead of hitting the water they landed about eight feet down on the tarpaulins, lines and bitts of the port quarter of the Fortuna and, kicking and fighting, rolled over and over on the deck.

"The mate did the proper thing. He threw a tarpaulin over them to smother the noise and dropped them down the hatch. It sounded too much like a piece of shanghai to suit a quiet, home-loving filibuster like me. A fuss like that would have brought a watchman or a policeman in no time. I did not have any time to investigate just then and it was only when we were safe beyond Scotland light, about daylight, that I went below to see who our two recruits were.

"I don't often get a good laugh, but I did that morning. Still half rolled in the tarpaulin, they were fast in each other's arms, asleep like the babes in the wood. Nature had been too strong for all their fears, but to avoid being stolen away from each other they had tied their suspenders together in impossible knots.

"'Here you, wake up!' I yelled at them, tickling their noses with a frayed rope's-end. They were two little red-headed, smooth faced, much freckled Russian Jews, just such as you can find in regiments in Rutgers Park. Both were dressed in their best of light checked suits, and a flower much mussed and withered was in one's lapel.

"'What are your names? Wake up. Answer me.'

"The one in the green suit was hit with the trembles and tried to crawl under the tarpaulin, but I yanked him back by his heels. The other rolled his eyes, scared to death, but he could talk:

"'Oh, gentleman, oh, Mister Pirate, please not to hurt Joey!'

"'Joey who?'

"'Joseph Berkintowitz, my brutter.'

"'What's your name?'

"'Abraham Berkintowitz, please, and I am his brutter.'

"'Oh, each is the other's brother. How nice. Say, what did you mean by jumping on this boat last night just as we were sailing?'

"'Oh, and please make it not to be mad, Mister Pirate. Him and me was to my vedding and ven I comes by getting her vedding dowry, six hundred dollars is it, her fadder he makes me a note by t'ree fifty, and my brutter was so sad forme he makes it a soocide, but ve fell across ven ve make a fall down at the vatter and ve fall over on you, Mister Pirate.'

"'I'm not a pirate. I am a soldier. This ship is loaded with men going to war and now that you are here you must go along.'

"'Ve go to var! Ve don't vant to look at it.'

"'You are not to look at it. You are going to help with the chores on battle days.' "'Battle! battle! Abie and me got to be varriors and get shooted! I'll make it a resignation if Abie don't.'

"'But you can't resign. We didn't ask you to jump on this ship. We didn't know you didn't want to go along and be heroes and fight, bleed and die for liberty, glory and bags full of gold.'

"'How much gold does a warrior get if he bleeds but don't die?' he asked.

"'That gave me a glimmer of an idea to have some fun, and of all the ideas I ever had there was never one that I ought not to have forgotten and buried in the dead past quick. However, the only man who can do without experience is a prophet. Captain Duncan, the master of the Fortuna, had been on a shindy with me about two years before when General Torres y Pesces had paid him three million and ninety dollars to escape to Curacao. The three million was in paper money of the Torres Government and the ninety dollars was in gold and silver. Duncan still had the three million dollars in his ship's box and we had had a laugh over it the night before.

"'Lieutenant Connel, find Captain Duncan and say to him that General Hope wants to see him,' I shouted up the hatch. "In a few minutes Duncan stuck his head over and I told him in Spanish what I wanted.

"'Now, you Berkintowitz fellows,' said I, 'I am going to enlist you and give you your first month's pay. If you don't, I make you walk the plank. We can't feed you on a dangerous trip like this.'

"'Please, mister, ve von't eat much.'

"Down came Duncan, marching with the ship's box in his arms, and an armed guard of four men.

"I administered the oath of allegiance and then commanded the sergeant to open the treasury and pay them. He opened the box and there lay the packets of green, yellow and red ten-thousand, five-thousand and one-thousand-dollar bills. The Berkintowitz who had been so silent and retiring till that moment came to life with a great joy on his freckled face. With great gravity I took two one-thousand-dollar bills and gave one to each.

"'Your wages will be doubled for active service,' I said.

"Duncan nearly died from swallowing snickers mixed with tobacco-juice. The guard marched away and the brothers began to come out of their trance. They grabbed each other and did a regular Yiddisher dance.

"'Hey, hey, cut that out, cut that out!' I yelled at them. They had gathered something of the conduct expected of them from the men of the guard, and the way they tried to be a company of two, front and salute, was rich.

"I got them berthed forward, got those noisy suits off of them and put the sergeant to drilling them as soon as we struck the Gulf Stream. Then every day Duncan and I used to lie back under the awning and watch Connel sitting in his hammock trying to teach them foot movements and the manual of arms. Laugh? By gypsum, it was the funniest performance I ever saw. They could not have kept step if they had had only one leg apiece. Their idea of a gun was something to parade with like a flag on a stick, though both was perfect on 'parade rest.'

"One day later on, as we lay becalmed off Greater Abaco, I thought I would have a little target practise. The bo'sun rowed out in the dinghy about two hundred yards and set up a board and box target. My experience has been that nearly every other tramp or roustabout on the docks or the streets of any American city is a drilled man. I'll go up against anything south of Key West with any kind of a bunch I can pull together north of it. Our men all made a fair showing, using the Winchesters out of Duncan's cabin as I did not want to open the cases below. I thought I would try Joey and Abie. Say, do you know I pretty nearly had to break every rib they had even to get them to take hold of a gun with a load in it? Finally, with Duncan standing by with a belaying-pin behind him and with me holding a bayonet at his stomach, we got Joey to try a shot. He leaned against the rail, pretended to squint along the barrel and, just about the time he had both eyes shut and the butt carelessly scrouged up in his neck, he pulled trigger. I got the gun as it was going overboard and Joey flew end over end and lit on the main hatch. Slowly he got up, with one eye banged shut and his nose bleeding, rummaging around in the front of his undershirt with his fingers. He pulled out the thousand-dollar bill of Torres money and held it out to me.

"'Take it, mister, take it. Der percentage is too strong for me.'

"Well, sir, nothing would make them take hold of a gun again, until Connel happened to think of telling them that the kick was caused by the rifling in the barrel and that a smooth-bore would be just the thing. He hauled out a couple of the several old Mannleichers we had and showed them what he meant. That satisfied them. That was what I equipped them with. That is how the Smooth-bore Brothers got their name.

"I nearly forgot to tell you about the sunburn. The third day out it got hot, and when I got peeled down to undershirt and thin cotton high-collared blouse I was myself again. So were all the others of the bunch except Abie and Joey. They did have sense enough to keep their hats on, but the first morning they took their coats and collars off and by night their necks were raw with sunburn. The next day they turned their shirt collars in for a kind of low necked effect so that the shirts would not rub the burns. Before night their chests and shoulders were sights to see, and then Abie fixed up an invention that nearly split that crew in two when he came on deck. He found an old parasol, tied it to a long stick, fastened that along his back-bone and came on deck with no shirt on at all.

"We got through the Windward Passage at night and five days later sighted Point Mike. We stood along the coast to the east and about daybreak a fishing-boat came alongside with Mena-Mena's nephew, a little yellow hunchback with a major-general's commission signed by his uncle. He told us we were to land far up in Cristobal Lagoon, and if he knew the selection for presidential candidate he did not tell me. Following the fishing-boat we made the inlet at dawn and before sun-up were anchored in fresh water between two strips of islands thick with trees. Fresh though the water was, it backed up or went out with the tide and by noon the Fortuna was as nicely squatted in the mud as anything you ever saw—just like an old duck of war hatching out a hell-brood in the hot sun.

"We had to keep quiet, for we did not know who might come cruising around in there before night when we could get farther inland and hit hard ground. Just as the sun was coming up I walked forward to see how she rode, and there stood the Smooth-bore Hermanos holding hands and watching the steaming water and the stinking jungle within half a stone's throw.

"'Oh, Abie, look by the parrot fowl,' cried Joey.

"'Oh, yes, see the monkeys; vat a gladness they make it," answered Abie gleefully.

"'Abie, it is a country like Central Park, only worse,' commented Joey.

"The monkeys, looking for shell-fish left by the outgoing tide, were frisking about the drooping limbs just over several rough logs in the mud and reeds. Suddenly three of them dropped in a bunch and instantly there were wild screams of terror from the whole monkey crew. The logs had waked up into so many able-bodied and active alligators. One big mouth got two of the monkeys and the third monkey was shared, literally torn in half by the other two big 'gators. Loud as the monkeys screeched, the brothers went them one better. They tried to run, to look, to hide and to talk and yell murder all at once and ended up clasped in each other's arms, dancing up and down on the deck, sobbing like two frightened children. The mate grabbed them and shoved them below to stop their noise. About two hours later the St. Kitts nigger steward brought me a letter:

"Jennerill Hoap

Complamennly Preezentatings

Dear ser—This indenture witniset that me & A. Berkintowitz cancils the contract a4said and returns payment made. You diden told us you half them here R we wooden half come

J. Berkintowitz

We doan know the dade, thanking you in advance.

"When I got through laughing I wrote them a nice little note refusing to cancel the contract, returned the two thouand-dollar bills and put in two for ten thousand each as a bonus.

"We were floating at eight that evening and by dawn the next morning we were made fast along a jut of rock some miles inland and began to get the 'angles' ashore. The brothers worked like good fellows till one of them, venturing twenty feet from the gang, got in front of a red, black and yellow land-crab and it scuttled for cover, going over one of his feet. He let out one yell and a string of Yiddish prayers and dived for the ship, his brother after him. It cost me another twenty thousand of Torres paper money to get them back on the job.

"When the work was all done the rest of my command showed up—one hundred and sixteen whites and blacks commanded by three generals and divided into infantry, cavalry and artillery, the same being the ten thousand men Mena-Mena had promised me. The nearest town was Ayoilo, ten miles away, and we decided to attack it the 'next day. I looked over the bunch, dismounted all the cavalry and all but one of the generals, and cradled the extra stands on their horses' backs. Before I said goodby to Duncan I said to him:

"'Say, Captain, we have been pretty good friends and I want to offer you a little token of my esteem. Here's a set of pokerchips a friend of mine in New York gave me, and could you let me have about a million of that keepsake Torres money? I may want to choke these two Yiddishers before I get through.'

"Duncan was tickled to death with the exchange and I sure would never have let go of that poker-set if I could have packed it. I was a little afraid of some of the boys joshing the brothers and putting them wise, so I took them out and said to them:

"'Now, boys, to-day you begin to fight.'

"'Vy don't you try to make it a peace first?' suggested Abie.

"'No, we begin the war. Now, here are your two guns. See, I've put loads in them. Don't shoot at anything or anybody until your commanding officer tells you to and then shoot to kill.'

"'Oh, Abie, he speaks to us to make a murder! Oh, I can't do it, I can't make it,' said Joey, beginning to weep.

"'Now looky here," said I, getting hot under the collar, 'I am getting tired of you two. I'll do the murder if you don't brace up! We are going to attack a city to-day, and if we capture it and you do your share of the fighting, I will give you fifty thousand dollars each.'

"For a minute they were paralyzed. Then Abie began to grin at Joey and Joey at Abie, and they picked up their old smooth-bores and marched back to camp in single file, Abie remarking:

"'Ve got to be brave to-day, Joey, and make it a heroicness if ve never do it again.'

"ABOUT noon we topped a little hill and there lay the little white-walled, red-tile-roofed village of Ayoilo. I had picked up forty men and four horses from four plantations and had learned that there were two companies of government troops on station there. I deployed my men when in range and was just about to send a messenger into town to demand surrender when the rifles began to pop around an old canning factory on the side of town nearest to us and a lew bullets whistled through the green overhead. The Smooth-bore Brothers immediately fell down and began to try to dig dog holes in the ground, so I leaned over and let them have a few nips of my quirt. The yells they let out were soul-splitting. Our boys were opening up in fine style and I was about to leave the two little scamps to shift for themselves when suddenly it occurred to me to remark that if either one of them got killed I would give the other one hundred thousand dollars life insurance. Joey was up on his feet at once, kicking Abie in the ribs and yelling: 'Come on Abie, come on! Ve got the percentage on our side. Come on, you little coward. Look at the nerve on me!'

"I looked back a few minutes later and they were coming ahead, but, though a mile from the enemy, they were charging bayonets, jabbing, sticking and reviling imaginary dying federals.

"There was no reserve to the canning factory, and as soon as we got the range and the steel-jacketed pills began to ricochet from the stone walls, a white flag went up in a jiffy and we rode into town at high noon. I was sitting in the doorway of the best fonda waiting for the reports on captured munitions and other things when I saw coming across the little plaza a pathetic sight—two thorn-torn, besmoked members of my army—Abie and Joey. They marched up proudly and I noticed that Abie had one leg bandaged above the knee, with real blood showing through, and that there was blood on his bayonet and on Joey's hands.

"They came to attention and saluted finely and I looked on them with a more than pleased smile.

"'Well, what can I do for you, boys? You seem to have been in the fight all right.'

"'Oh, don't say it, gentleman,' responded Abie with a proud glance that belied his modest words.

"'Ve thought maybe you had forgot to make something on us?'

"'Well, I guess I did forget,' I said with a laugh as I reached for my roll of Torres official treasury stationery. 'Here you are—fifty thousand each.'

"They were just about to march away to some place where they could express their joy when I called them back: 'Say, Abie, better have the doctor fix that up for you over in the hospital. Maybe there is a bullet in there.'

"'Oh, no, no. It was not by bullets. Joey sticked me in accidents.'

"It is no use for me to try to tell you the fun I had out of chose two little chaps in the next month. After they had got a line on the percentage of mortality they didn't mind a fight. We took twelve towns without the loss of a man and they began to like war. They picked up Spanish faster than I ever saw men pick up a language, and as the army got bigger and our requisitioned supplies increased I put them to looking after the accounting and administration of the commissary. I have often wished since that I had just one commissary clerk as good as either of them.

"I kept them well supplied with silver so that they would not have to flash any of those 'phony' notes. I only had about a hundred thousand left when we captured our second provincial capital and I was thinking about taking them into my confidence and trying to get them to exchange nine hundred thousand or so they held for a couple of twenty-dollar gold pieces when suddenly, one night after we had captured Boca del Tocas, they went into a gambling-house and got pitched out of a second-story window for trying to cash one of the notes in a game. It seemed funny that neither one came around to see me and I concluded that they had put the blame on some peculiar peevishness of the gamekeeper which they, being strangers in a strange land, did not understand. I ought to have known better, I suppose. Anyhow, I was getting a little bit too busy to bother much about them, with five thousand men to handle and old Ladriz trembling in Carrido in his palace as we drew steadily nearer.

"At Boca del Tocas we heard the news that instead of General Ramirez, our candidate, being on the way from the west with another body of men, Ladriz had arrested him the second day after we had landed and when he had him in jail had fixed up a compromise with him. Ladriz was to keep the presidency for two years, Carvalho, the vice-president, was to be kicked out and exiled and Ramirez was to be made vice-president with the ways greased to have him succeed to the presidential chair. They had forgotten Mena-Mena and me and our republic-builders. To date we were doing so nicely that I told Mena-Mena we might just as well go on and clean out the lot and make Mena-Mena president himself.

"The only thing we needed was a force to capture Puerto del Nogales, the one good port, just as near to us now as the capital. If we had control of the customhouse and could also land arms there to equip our recruits, it would be all over but the shouting. Half the republic was ours; every day he held the army in the capital Ladriz weakened his hold on the people. He must attack us, and we could afford to wait.

"It was the end of March before they tried it. They had even taken poor old General Torres out of his chair in his peaceful patio and put the good old warrior on a horse to command the army moving on us from the north. Ramirez, the dog, took command of the other wing.

"A thousand men could hold my entrenched camp on the hill in the south side of town and I decided to take the others and go to meet Torres. I expected not only to turn him back but to take over most of his men. Then I could go after Ramirez,—chase him straight into the capital and maybe capture him before he could get there. Then it would be all over.

"The night we moved out of town I was riding up to the head of the column when I saw two men in each other's arms. It was the brothers. One had been ordered with us without my knowledge, and they were saying farewell. The next day I saw it was Abie who was with me to uphold the honor of Rivington Street.

"Well, it's a good barrel that don't have one rotten apple. We got in touch with Torres the second evening. The cunning old fox had me flanked before daylight and opened up as the sun showed with Gatlings handled by Englishmen who had come on for some fun from Puerto del Nogales. By noon it was a rear-guard action and I had lost four hundred men.

"Early in the day I had swung my reserve around on a lull to meet his flanking and I got a sight of Abie. He was right in the front of the fight, pushing on to glory. It actually took my breath for a minute—I was never more astonished in all my life. And I couldn't help feeling a little bad, when we struck the Cristobal River and I got my men across safe and prepared to hold the ford during the night, to find that among the four hundred back there was A. Berkintowitz and that somewhere up in little old New York a bride who had been robbed of her husband on their wedding night was now a widow.

"When I rode into town all in good order it seemed to me that there was a terrible change in the place. It took me about two minutes to find out that Mena-Mena had decided to go out to meet Ladriz, fearing I would get too much glory out of whipping Torres. He had made half a day's march as if he were parading, riding at the head of the army with a band. Some of Ladriz' scouting cavalry had swooped down and carried off Mena-Mena, his staff and the band. The army had returned. Mena-Mena was not much missed, but it was soon plain that, in Boca del Tocas, I could run a revolution much better without a candidate than I could without a band.

"Connel and I sat down in the Café de Angeles that night and it took a quart for me before I could laugh. It was funny though. From a military point of view I had the best army, the best record, the best position, but I couldn't and wouldn't be president! Nor would I make overtures to an old traitor like Ramirez. No general with me was big enough. There was nothing to do but hold fast and whip all comers right where I was until something happened. The something happened quick enough.

"The next day it was reported that Torres was marching on Puerto del Nogales. In four days he had captured the port, taken possession of the custom-house, sent an envoy to the United States representing his provisional government, and was marching on the capital, leaving a famous European soldier whose name nobody seemed to get, in charge of the port and the custom-house. Torres was after the presidency.

"What a fix that left me in you can see without smoked glasses. I could not march on the capital and take it without a candidate, no matter how strong I was. I could not back up Torres without being asked and Connel and I used up all the whisky in Boca trying to figure out who was going to pay us and our men for our visit to the republic. None of us were that fond of travel and out-door life that we cared to sit around till a new president was installed and then be deported as dangerous to the public welfare. The native part of my army melted into thin air the first two nights after the news reached us.

"I was standing in front of the Café de Angeles one night, waiting for the hill to come around so I could climb it and go to bed, when I saw somebody I knew tramping down the street with a Mannleicher on his shoulder. It was Joey! I had clean forgot to tell him about Abie. Then I remembered it was queer that he had not been around to ask. I called him over.

"'Say, Joey, you know your brother Abie?'

"'Yes, gentleman.'

"'Well, I forgot to tell you he got killed in that fight the other night.'

"'And please that is too bad, ain't it?'

"You would have thought we were talking about my brother instead of his. You could have put all the sorrow he showed into a chorus-girl's sigh. I looked at him dumbfounded for a minute. Then he began to fiddle and shuffle around a little bit and finally he said: 'You don't make it to say anything about the insurance money, Gen'ral.'

"'Oh, is that what you are thinking about! Well, here you are, Joey.' And I pulled out the last hundred thousand of those 'phony' bills and passed them over. He thanked me and saluted fairly well, then went on.

"I had cleared the wires behind me as I advanced and the next morning I got a shock over them. My operator called me and said the port wanted to talk to me at the wire. He explained that the cable was working from the port east to Esperanza and Esperanza was wiring west to me.

"'When the deuce did that start?' I asked.

"'Why somebody has been sending cipher messages to the port for several days. They were on your blanks. I thought it was you.'

"'Great Hellcats, no! but let's see what this is.'

"And what do you think? Greetings from General Torres and an invitation to me to fight for the liberation of the republic from the tyrants that oppressed it and an offer of the post of third in command of his army! We talked back and forth for a while. He told me he was going to move on the capital in the morning—that his second in command was a very able soldier, statesman and financier and he was going to leave him in command of the port. I was to leave Connel in command at Boca del Tocas, travel to the port, take over the customs money, pay the army, get up the artillery and put the three gunboats there in commission so as to hold the entire coast while he made a clean sweep inland. He wanted his second in command relieved as soon as possible, as that general's strategic and diplomatic services would be needed in the siege of the capital. Old Torres was still raving about this man when the wires went bad and the talk ended.

"Boys, I will never forget the morning I arrived in Puerto del Nogales. I had a guard of twenty men including Joey, who had begged to be taken along. From the hill above the town I could see twenty or thirty vessels in the harbor. They had been held out by the blockage but now had got in, discharged and were loading. The freight yards were piled with incoming merchandise. The custom-house was doing more business than a county fair.

"Outside the town I was met by a big mounted escort whose officer was all deference and who said he had orders to conduct me direct to the general in command as the garrison was drawn up in the plaza to receive me. I asked him the name of the general. He tried to tell me, but it evidently pained him.

"As we rode into the square the guns began to boom and the band to play and there in the center was the general with his staff and he was certainly the most brilliant bird of plumage I ever saw. He was about as big as a minute, but he sat on the back of a giant white draught-horse. His pants were blue and red. He wore a brass German helmet. His dress coat was solid gold. As I approached after the salute and we came face to face, may I never see a bottle again if my superior officer wasn't little Abie Berkintowitz!

"Now, boys, we all know too much about dignity south of the Rio Grande for any one to suppose that I let on, though I almost fell out of my saddle. Behind me some one was weeping with pure joy. That was Joey. I thought it was because Abie was not dead. I still had something to learn.

"It was two hours before I got him alone in a room of the casa municipal and then I turned on him. 'You little rascal,' said I, 'how the devil did you pull this off? What license have you got to be a general?'

"He almost got down on his knees to explain to me that he had not been captured at all—that he had started to run away when the fight began, only he had taken the wrong direction and run straight into Torres' army. He thought he might as well pretend to be somebody as nobody, since everybody around was pretending anyhow, so he pretended he was a great Russian general, and Torres believed him. Without thinking, he tried to send a telegram to Joey and when it went through and Torres found the wires were open, he made him a colonel in charge of communications. When he put them on a business footing, according to New York ideas, Torres was so pleased that he gave him the second place in the army, made him minister of finance in his provisional government and put him in charge of the custom-house.

"'And please, you should ought to see vat a business I make it,' he concluded.

"I found he had been in communication with Joey all the time and the cipher had been roman letters for Yiddish words. It had been his idea to have me join with Torres. Why? So he could rejoin with Joey.

"Well, he made Joey a general before sunset and the next day the news came that Torres had had a bloodless victory and was president. He wanted his prize strategist and statesman to come at once. General Berkintowitz arranged to have the custom accounts turned over to me in two days.

"By a strange coincidence the mail steamer was sailing at that hour for France and Joey was to go back to New York via Europe. He said a pathetic good-by to both me and Abie and his last act was to hand me his old smooth-bore as a keepsake. After we had gone a little way up the dock Abie cried out that he must run back and kiss Joey once again. He would join me in the casa municipal in a few minutes.

"I strolled on up the street and into the square. I saw two porters lugging a box into the casa municipal and when I entered the commandant's office there sat the box on the table. I sat down to wait. The cathedral bells struck noon. An hour passed. No sign of the minister of finance, the second in command of the army, the receiver of customs at Puerto del Nogales. The French steamer was now hull-down on the horizon. A sudden terrible thought grabbed me. I ran to that box and threw it open. First was a packet—the customs sheets! I looked at the control sheet. Credit of over eleven hundred thousand dollars gold!

"Underneath was a letter from Major-General A. Berkintowitz. First he resigned. Then he explained that when he found the Torres money was no good he and Joey could not sleep of nights till they laid a plan to make it good. He deserted to Torres to give the old man the idea to be president and how to do it. Joey had staid only to get the last hundred thousand, the promised insurance. The only reason he had induced Torres to have me come to take charge of the customs was that I, having paid over the phony money, would surely be the last to charge him with dishonesty if he changed the Torres paper money for Torres gold customs receipts.

"Gentlemen, under that letter was the pile of notes I had bought from Duncan for a poker-set, and the balance was figured to a penny at the prevailing rate of exchange. The rest had gone to France in Joey's boxes. Of course I had to take one of the gunboats and get myself over to Curasao before Torres called for the money to pay the army. I thought I'd heard the last of those fellows until this old smooth-bore went off to-night. There hangs the other one."

Jimmie took down the old piece, broke it and out flew a nicked ball-cartridge.

"And neither one ever fired a shot!"