Adventures and Letters
"The element that he could not put into the account and which is particularly pertinent to
this page, is the author of `Soldiers of Fortune' as he revealed himself to me both with
intention and unconsciously in the presence of the familiar scenes.
"For three weeks, with the exception of one or two occasions when some local dignitary
captured the revisiting lion, he and I spent our evenings together at a cafe table
overlooking `The Great Square,' which he sketches so deftly in its atmosphere when Clay
and the Langhams and Stuart dine there. At one end of the plaza the President's band was
playing native waltzes that came throbbing through the trees and beating softly above the
rustling skirts and clinking spurs of the senoritas and officers sweeping by in two
opposite circles around the edges of the tessellated pavements. Above the palms around
the square arose the dim, white facade of the Cathedral, with the bronze statue of
Anduella the liberator of Olancho, who answered with his upraised arm and cocked hat
the cheers of an imaginary populace.
"Twenty years had gone by since Dick had received the impression that wrote those lines,
and now sometimes after dinner half a long cigar would burn out as he mused over the
picture and the dreams that had gone between. From one long silence he said: `I think I'll
come back here this winter and bring Mrs. Davis with me--stay a couple of months.'
What a fine compliment to a wife to have the thought of her and that plan emerge from
that deep and romantic background.
"The picture people began their film with a showing of the `mountains which jutted out
into the ocean and suggested roughly the five knuckles of a giant's hand clenched and
lying flat upon the surface of the water.' That formation of the sea wall is just outside of
Santiago. `The waves tunnelled their way easily enough until they ran up against those
five mountains and then they had to fall back.' How natural for one of us to be
unimpressed by such a feature of the landscape and yet how characteristic of Dick Davis
to see the elemental fight that it recorded and get the hint for the whole of the engineering
struggle that is so much of his book.
"We went over those mountains together, where two decades before he had planted his
banner of romance. We visited the mines and the railroads and everywhere found some
superintendent or foreman or engineer who remembered Davis. He had guessed at
nothing. Everywhere he had overlaid the facts with adventure and with beauty, but he had
been on sure footing all the time. His prototype of MacWilliams was dead. Together we
visited the wooden cross with which the miners had marked his grave.