Roads of Destiny
The Fourth In Salvador
On a summer's day, while the city was rocking with the din and red uproar of patriotism,
Billy Casparis told me this story.
In his way, Billy is Ulysses, Jr. Like Satan, he comes from going to and fro upon the
earth and walking up and down in it. To-morrow morning while you are cracking your
breakfast egg he may be off with his little alligator grip to boom a town site in the middle
of Lake Okeechobee or to trade horses with the Patagonians.
We sat at a little, round table, and between us were glasses holding big lumps of ice, and
above us leaned an artificial palm. And because our scene was set with the properties of
the one they recalled to his mind, Billy was stirred to narrative.
"It reminds me," said he, "of a Fourth I helped to celebrate down in Salvador. 'Twas
while I was running an ice factory down there, after I unloaded that silver mine I had in
Colorado. I had what they called a 'conditional concession.' They made me put up a
thousand dollars cash forfeit that I would make ice continuously for six months. If I did
that I could draw down my ante. If I failed to do so the government took the pot. So the
inspectors kept dropping in, trying to catch me without the goods.
"One day when the thermometer was at 110, the clock at half-past one, and the calendar
at July third, two of the little, brown, oily nosers in red trousers slid in to make an
inspection. Now, the factory hadn't turned out a pound of ice in three weeks, for a couple
of reasons. The Salvador heathen wouldn't buy it; they said it made things cold they put it
in. And I couldn't make any more, because I was broke. All I was holding on for was to
get down my thousand so I could leave the country. The six months would be up on the
sixth of July.
"Well, I showed 'em all the ice I had. I raised the lid of a darkish vat, and there was an
elegant 100-pound block of ice, beautiful and convincing to the eye. I was about to close
down the lid again when one of those brunette sleuths flops down on his red knees and
lays a slanderous and violent hand on my guarantee of good faith. And in two minutes
more they had dragged out on the floor that fine chunk of molded glass that had cost me
fifty dollars to have shipped down from Frisco.
"'Ice-y?' says the fellow that played me the dishonourable trick; 'verree warm ice-y. Yes.
The day is that hot, señor. Yes. Maybeso it is of desirableness to leave him out to get the
"'Yes,' says I, 'yes,' for I knew they had me. 'Touching's believing, ain't it, boys? Yes.
Now there's some might say the seats of your trousers are sky blue, but 'tis my opinion
they are red. Let's apply the tests of the laying on of hands and feet.' And so I hoisted
both those inspectors out the door on the toe of my shoe, and sat down to cool off on my
block of disreputable glass.