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LOOKING FOR TROUBLE

BEING SOME REAL STORIES FROM THE LIFE of a MASTER ADVENTURER

BY CAPTAIN GEORGE B. BOYNTON

BRAZIL
A BOUQUET OF REVOLUTIONS

Editor's Note-In bringing to a close the story of the adventurous life that came to an end only last January in New York City, Captain Boynton's exploits in Hayti, Jamaica, Colombia and certain of those in Venezuela are omitted. These omitted portions will be published in full in the volume of reminiscences to be issued after the completion of our magazine series.

WITHOUT knowing where or how the cruise would end, but confident it would lead to trouble— though I did not imagine how much of it there really would be or how unpleasant it would prove—I bought the Alice Ada, a brigantine of three hundred tons, and got a general cargo for Rosario, Brazil, on the River Parava. From Rosario I went one hundred miles up the river to St. Stephens and took on a cargo of wheat for Rio Janiero. While the cargo was being unloaded my expectant eye distinguished signs of a nice little revolution which was just being shaped up, so I sold my ship and took quarters at the Hotel Freitas to watch developments.

When the last Emperor of Brazil, Dorn Pedro II, was dragged out of bed at night and deported without the firing of a shot, in the "peaceful Revolution" of November 15, 1889, Deodoro da Fonseca was made President. Before his weakness had become apparent he was made constitutional President, and Floriano Peixotto was elected Vice-President. Deodoro's policy was weak and vacillating and his popularity waned rapidly. A revolution had been quietly fomented by Floriano, the Vice-President. He soon had the army at his back and gained the support of Admiral Mello, ranking officer of the Brazilian navy, and Admiral Soldanlia da Gama, commandant of the naval academy. They brought matters to a head on the morning of November 23, 1891. Mello took up a position at the foot of the main street of Rio in the cruiser Riachuelo, the finest ship in the navy, trained his guns on the Palace of Itumary and sent word to Deodoro that he would open fire on him in two hours if he did not abdicate in favor of Floriano. Deodoro abdicated in two minutes, dropping dead soon afterward from heart disease, and Floriano was proclaimed President.

Before he had time to get his new chair well warmed he had a row with Mello, who considered that he was rightfully entitled to be the power behind the throne. Floriano made it plain to him that, while Mello might give friendly advice, he could not go an inch beyond that. Floriano was perhaps one half Indian and the rest corrupted Portuguese; sixty years old, with clear, brown eyes and iron-gray hair and whiskers—a strong, fine character, perfectly fearless, absolutely honest and devoted to his country, whose interests he greatly advanced. He was proud of his Indian blood, which he made a synonym for courage and fairness, and often referred to it. He was the best president I have ever known, not excepting even the great Guzman.

Mello was a younger man and more of a Spaniard in his blood and his characteristics. He had considerable bravery, of the kind that is best displayed in the presence of a large audience, but he was impetuous and at times foolish. At that, he was more a man after my own heart, for he stood for revolt and anarchy, while Floriano stood for law and order. Soldanha da Gama, the third figure in the drama, was a strange mixture of naval ability, cowardice and theatrical warrior.

Mello worked chiefly among naval officers, aristocrats, adherents of Dom Pedro and the Catholic clergy, and in the end they all became his allies. He was unable to shake the army, and the influence of the priests was minimized by the fact that the people generally were blindly in love with the new scheme of self-government, and were loyal to Floriano.

As Mello's plot shaped up I began to suspect that his real purpose was to restore Dom Pedro to the throne and make himself the power behind it. Mello cared nothing for titles; it was his ambition to be the dictator of Brazil. Later events led me to believe that he had an understanding with several European rulers who were keenly anxious to see the "divine right of kings" perpetuated in South America. Dom Pedro had issued a protest against his deposition as soon as he reached Europe, in which all the princes of the house of Coburg joined, and was conducting an active campaign for his restoration.

IT WAS amusing to watch the development of Mello's rebellion. One would have thought two friendly leaders were planning rival surprise parties, in which there was to be nothing more serious than the throwing of confetti. Floriano, surrounded by spies and assassins, but also by many loyal and devoted friends, knew perfectly well, from his own spies, what Mello was doing, but, relying on his own strength and the public sentiment behind him, he made no move to check him. Mello was well aware that Floriano knew all that was going on, yet neither one gave any outward sign of this knowledge and when they were together they appeared to be friends.

It was along in July or August, 1893, that Mello sent for me and expressed a wish that I go down to Santa Catarina Island, off the southern coast of Brazil, and blow up the Republica, the one Brazilian warship whose officers had so far remained loyal to Floriano, though finally, just before the revolution was declared, they went over to Mello. With the exception of Soldanha da Gama, who was neutral, but whom he regarded as more of a friend than an enemy, Mello had converted the rest of the navy to his cause. He offered a cash payment and a commission in the navy in return for her destruction, but I could never get him down to definite terms.

While we were still negotiating I received a call from one of Floriano's aides, who asked me to accompany him to the palace. He took me in the rear entrance and up a back stairway to Floriano's private sala where, after presenting me, he left me, as I supposed, alone with the President.

"I understand," said Floriano, "that you were in Venezula with President Guzman and have had military training and experience.

"That is correct, sir."

"I am told, too, that you have made a study of high explosives and have invented a remarkable torpedo."

"That is also true."

"Would you be willing to undertake a mission that would involve considerable danger, but for which you would be well paid?"

"I am open to anything except vulgar assassination. That is my business."

"What do you charge for your services?"

"That depends entirely on the nature of the work."

"Then we can leave that question open until the nature of the work has been decided on, provided it is understood that your compensation will be such as you are ordinarily accustomed to."

"Very good, sir."

"Brazil may need your services, Colonel Boynton."

"I beg your pardon," I interrupted. "Captain Boynton."

"I repeat, Colonel Boynton," he replied, with a smile and the suggestion of a bow. "Brazil may need your services, but I can not tell how soon nor in what capacity."

"If I enter your service it will be a loyal service to the end," I told him.

"Consider yourself, then, in the service of Brazil." As he said this he raised his hand and from behind a curtain appeared Captain Cochrane, a descendant of the English Admiral Cochrane, who had fought for Brazil seventy years before.

"As we were strangers I took this precaution," explained Floriano. "It will not be necessary again."

"It was perfectly justifiable," I replied. Captain Cochrane then repeated in English my conversation with the President to be sure I understood it. Immediately on my arrival at my hotel I sent word to Mello that I would consider no further proposition from him.

MELLO'S REBELLION BREAKS OUT

A FEW days later the revolution was declared, under conditions such as one would look for on the light-opera stage but never in real life, not even in South America. On the evening of September 5th Floriano went to the opera, accompanied by Mello, Soldanha and several other officers of the army and navy, and they all sat together in the Presidential box. Mello and Soldanha excused themselves after the second act. They left their cloaks in the box and said they would be back in a few minutes. Knowing full well the reason for their departure, Floriano bowed them out with an ironical excess of politeness. Soldanha, who had not yet taken sides, though his sympathies belonged to the "rebellion," with which he subsequently allied himself, retired to the Naval School,...

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