Cabbages and Kings HTML version

VIII. The Admiral
Spilled milk draws few tears from an Anchurian administration. Many are its lacteal
sources; and the clocks' hands point forever to milking time. Even the rich cream
skimmed from the treasury by the bewitched Miraflores did not cause the newly installed
patriots to waste time in unprofitable regrets. The government philosophically set about
supplying the deficiency by increasing the import duties and by "suggesting" to wealthy
private citizens that contributions according to their means would be considered patriotic
and in order. Prosperity was expected to attend the reign of Losada, the new president.
The ousted office-holders and military favorites organized a new "Liberal" party, and
began to lay their plans for a re-succession. Thus the game of Anchurian politics began,
like a Chinese comedy, to unwind slowly its serial length. Here and there Mirth peeps for
an instant from the wings and illumines the florid lines.
A dozen quarts of champagne in conjunction with an informal sitting of the president and
his cabinet led to the establishment of the navy and the appointment of Felipe Carrera as
its admiral.
Next to the champagne the credit of the appointment belongs to Don Sabas Placido, the
newly confirmed Minister of War.
The president had requested a convention of his cabinet for the discussion of questions
politic and for the transaction of certain routine matters of state. The session had been
signally tedious; the business and the wine prodigiously dry. A sudden, prankish humor
of Don Sabas, impelling him to the deed, spiced the grave affairs of state with a whiff of
agreeable playfulness. In the dilatory order of business had come a bulletin from the coast
department of Orilla del Mar reporting the seizure by the custom-house officers at the
town of Coralio of the sloop ~Estrella del Noche~ and her cargo of drygoods, patent
medicines, granulated sugar and three-star brandy. Also six Martini rifles and a barrel of
American whiskey. Caught in the act of smuggling, the sloop with its cargo was now,
according to law, the property of the republic.
The Collector of Customs, in making his report, departed from the conventional forms so
far as to suggest that the confiscated vessel be converted to the use of the government.
The prize was the first capture to the credit of the department in ten years. The collector
took opportunity to pat his department on the back.
It often happened that government officers required transportation from point to point
along the coast, and means were usually lacking. Furthermore, the sloop could be manned
by a loyal crew and employed as a coast guard to discourage the pernicious art of
smuggling. The collector also ventured to nominate one to whom the charge of the boat
could be safely intrusted--a young man of Coralio, Felipe Carrera-- not, be it understood,
one of extreme wisdom, but loyal and the best sailor along the coast.