Cabbages and Kings HTML version

IX. The Flag Paramount
At the head of the insurgent party appeared that Hector and learned Theban of the
southern republics, Don Sabas Placido. A traveller, a soldier, a poet, a scientist, a
statesman and a connoisseur--the wonder was that he could content himself with the
petty, remote life of his native country.
"It is a whim of Placido's," said a friend who knew him well, "to take up political
intrigue. It is not otherwise than as if he had come upon a new tempo in music, a new
bacillus in the air, a new scent, or rhyme, or explosive. He will squeeze this revolution
dry of sensations, and a week afterward will forget it, skimming the seas of the world in
his brigantine to add to his already world-famous collections. Collections of what? ~Por
Dios~! of everything from postage stamps to prehistoric stone idols."
But, for a mere dilettante, the aesthetic Placido seemed to be creating a lively row. The
people admired him; they were fascinated by his brilliancy and flattered by his taking an
interest in so small a thing as his native country. They rallied to the call of his lieutenants
in the capital, where (somewhat contrary to arrangements) the army remained faithful to
the government. There was also lively skirmishing in the coast towns. It was rumored that
the revolution was aided by the Vesuvius Fruit Company, the power that forever stood
with chiding smile and uplifted finger to keep Anchuria in the class of good children.
Two of its steamers, the ~Traveler~ and the ~Salvador~, were known to have conveyed
insurgent troops from point to point along the coast.
As yet there had been no actual uprising in Coralio. Military law prevailed, and the
ferment was bottled for the time. And then came the word that everywhere the
revolutionists were encountering defeat. In the capital the president's forces triumphed;
and there was a rumor that the leaders of the revolt had been forced to fly, hotly pursued.
In the little telegraph office at Coralio there was always a gathering of officials and loyal
citizens, awaiting news from the seat of government. One morning the telegraph key
began clicking, and presently the operator called, loudly: "One telegram for ~el
Almirante~, Don Senor Felipe Carrera!"
There was a shuffling sound, a great rattling of tin scabbard, and the admiral, prompt at
his spot of waiting, leaped across the room to receive it.
The message was handed to him. Slowly spelling it out, he found it to be his first official
order--thus running:
"Proceed immediately with your vessel to mouth of Rio Ruiz; transport beef and
provisions to barracks at Alforan. ~Martinez, General.~"
Small glory, to be sure, in this, his country's first call. But it had called, and joy surged in
the admiral's breast. He drew his cutlass belt to another buckle hole, roused his dozing