Cabbages and Kings
XVI. Rouge et Noir
It has been indicated that disaffection followed the elevation of Losada to the presidency.
This feeling continued to grow. Throughout the entire republic there seemed to be a spirit
of silent, sullen discontent. Even the old Liberal party to which Goodwin, Zavalla and
other patriots had lent their aid was disappointed. Losada had failed to become a popular
idol. Fresh taxes, fresh import duties and, more than all, his tolerance of the outrageous
oppression of citizens by the military had rendered him the most obnoxious president
since the despicable Alforan. The majority of his own cabinet were out of sympathy with
him. The army, which he had courted by giving it license to tyrannize, had been his main,
and thus far adequate, support.
But the most impolitic of the administration's moves had been when it antagonized the
Vesuvius Fruit Company, an organization plying twelve steamers with a cash capital
somewhat larger than Anchuria's surplus and debt combined.
Reasonably, an established concern like the Vesuvius would become irritated at having a
small, retail republic with no rating at all attempt to squeeze it. So, when the government
proxies applied for a subsidy they encountered a polite refusal. The president at once
retaliated by clapping an export duty of one ~real~ per bunch on bananas--a thing
unprecedented in fruit-growing countries. The Vesuvius Company had invested large
sums in wharves and plantations along the Anchurian coast, their agents had erected fine
homes in the towns where they had their headquarters, and heretofore had worked with
the republic in good-will and with advantage to both. It would lose an immense sum if
compelled to move out. The selling price of bananas from Vera Cruz to Trinidad was
three ~reales~ per bunch. This new duty of one ~real~ would have ruined the fruit
growers in Anchuria and have seriously discommoded the Vesuvius Company had it
declined to pay it. But for some reason, the Vesuvius continued to buy Anchurian fruit,
paying four ~reals~ for it; and not suffering the growers to bear the loss.
This apparent victory deceived His Excellency; and he began to hunger for more of it. He
sent an emissary to request a conference with a representative of the fruit company. The
Vesuvius sent Mr. Franzoni, a little, stout, cheerful man, always cool, and whistling airs
from Verdi's operas. Senor Espirition, of the office of the Minister of Finance, attempted
the sandbagging in behalf of Anchuria. The meeting took place in the cabin of the
~Salvador~, of the Vesuvius line.
Senor Espirition opened negotiations by announcing that the government contemplated
the building of a railroad to skirt the alluvial coast lands. After touching upon the benefits
such a road would confer upon the interests of the Vesuvius, he reached the definite
suggestion that a contribution to the road's expenses of, say, fifty thousand ~pesos~
would not be more than an equivalent to benefits received.