At mention of the partnership a vague, cloudy expression crossed my face; my companion caught it, and continued:
Or (again the voice slowed down) I would be paid for the structure on its erection by me on the reef.
Again my eyes wandered, and again he took the cue:
Or—if that was not satisfactory—he would be willing to pay for the ironwork alone as soon as it arrived in the harbor of San Juan.
My Spanish is more like an old uniform that is rubbed up for a parade and then put away in camphor. Much of his talk was therefore lost on me; but the last sentences were as clear as if they had dropped from the lips of my old teacher, Senor Morales.
Half-rising from my chair, I placed my hand over my shirt-front and thanked his Excellency for his confidence—really one of the greatest compliments that had ever been paid me in all my professional career. To be at once the partner of two such distinguished caballeros as General Alvarez, the saviour of his country, and my distinguished guest, was an honor that few men could resist, but—but—here I picked up a lead pencil and a pad—but—the only way I could permit myself to rob him of his just desserts would be—here I traced a few lines on the pad—would be—my voice now became impressive— to receive one-third when it was erected in the yard in Brooklyn, and the balance on delivery of the bills of lading to his agent; payments to be made by his distinguished Excellency’s bankers in New York.
If the modification of terms in any way disappointed the gentleman from San Juan, my closest observation of his smile and glance failed to detect it. He merely quivered his shoulders—a sort of plural shrug—rolled his cigarette tighter between his thumb and forefinger, remarked that the memoranda were entirely satisfactory, and folding the paper slid it carefully into his pocket; then with a series of salaams that reminded me of a Mohammedan spreading a prayer rug, and an “A Dios, Senor,” the ivory-tinted individual withdrew.
A week later Mawkum, carrying a tin case addressed to his sun-dried Excellency, passed up the gangplank of the Tampico; this he placed in that gentleman’s hands. Inside its soldered top were the plans and specifications of a First Order Light, to be made of iron, to be properly packed, and to have three coats of red lead before shipment—together with a cross-section of foundation to be placed on the reef known as “La Garra de Lobo”—The Claw of the Wolf—outside the harbor of San Juan— all at the risk of his Supreme Excellency, Senor Tomas Correntes Garlicho, of the Republic of Moccador, South America—the price of the ironwork to hold good for three months.