On his own account, Dan, by keeping his mouth shut and his eyes open, learned not a little of the methods which characterized the relations of his company with various Governments; and while not all that he learned could in the widest implication of the phrase he designated as morally—or, say, rather, ethically—elevating, it afforded an interesting side-light upon the business character of Horace Howland.
In this connection it is well to state that the ultra clamorous days in San Blanco had long ceased, and that the new Presidente, Rodriguez, who had arisen to his honors out of the midst of the travail of fire, powder, and a modicum of bloodshed, was conducting affairs of state much to the liking of the San Blanco Trading and Investment Company, of which company Mr. Howland was the brains and guiding spirit. Need it be suggested that this amounts to saying that Mr. Howland was the brains and guiding spirit of the San Blanco Republic as then constituted?
At all events, with peace smiling over troublous San Blanco, Mr. Howland sent word to Dan that early in April he, his daughter, Mrs. Van Vleck, and a party of ten, would sail on the Tampico for Belle View, the Howland estate, just outside of San Blanco City.
Dan was not altogether surprised at this message. The passenger accommodations of the Tampico were elaborate, and hints of Mr. Howland’s intention had reached him in one way or another. But now with definite assurances in hand life took on added zest. He had not seen Miss Howland since the dinner; but it would have been futile for him to attempt to convince himself that she had not formed a more or less vague background for many of his thoughts and moods since that epochal event. Occasionally he saw her name in the newspapers, and one of them once printed a picture purporting to be her photograph. But it was not. Otherwise he might have been tempted to cut it out.
Now, with her presence aboard the Tampico assured, the steamship became involved with a new significance. He pictured her on the bridge with him. He selected her place at the table in the saloon, and dreamed of all the life and laughter and grace and beauty she would bring to it.
As for himself, he had the proud realization that in measuring his opportunities on the broadest possible gauge, he had lived up to them sincerely, and he knew the results to be good. On his own bridge he had faced the blind fog with the lives of passengers hanging upon his judgment; he had met the elements at their work, and out of the ordeal he had come with greater self-reliance, broader, kindlier, better. For the first time in his life he was looking beyond his dreams, although the work in hand was all-absorbing; there would be more for him to do. He felt it, he knew it, for such is youth.
One beautiful April morning, a company, wonderfully well selected according to the view-point of Virginia and her aunt, boarded the Tampico and merrily set sail. Not the least of that company was Howland himself, who, standing upon the bridge beside Dan, smiled as he thought of the dozen Hotchkiss guns and the two very grim eight-inch rifles resting in the darkness of the forward hold, and then spoke almost in parables.