On his return to the office Mawkum took up his position once more at my window, waited until the Tampico, the case and his Excellency were well on their way to Sandy Hook and started in on other work. The next day the incident, like so many similar ventures—his racks were full of just such estimates —was forgotten. If any of the bread thus cast upon the waters came back, the chief would be glad, and so would the Grandioso; if not, we were both willing to cut a fresh slice to keep it company.
Four months passed. The ice was out of the river; the steam heat had been turned off in the high building and the two time-worn awnings had been fixed to my windows by the obliging janitor. The Tampico had come and gone, and had come again. Its arrivals, and departures were, as usual, always commented upon by Mawkum, generally in connection with “That Bunch of Dried Garlic,” that being the irreverent way in which he spoke of his ivory-tinted Excellency. Otherwise the lighthouse, and all that pertained to it, had become ancient history.
One lovely spring morning—one of those warm mornings when every window and door is wide open to get the breeze from Sandy Hook and beyond— another visitor stepped into Mawkum’s room. He brought no letters of introduction, nor did he confine himself to his mother tongue, although his nationality was as apparent as that of his predecessor. Neither did he possess a trace of Garlicho’s affability or polish. On the contrary, he conducted himself like a muleteer, and spoke with the same sort of brutal authority.
And the differences did not stop here. Garlicho was shrivelled and sun-dried. This man was round and plump—plump as a stuffed olive fished from a jar of oil, and as shiny; dark-skinned, with a pair of heavy eyebrows that met over a stub of a nose ending in a knob; two keen rat eyes, a mouth hidden by a lump of a mustache black as tar, and a sagging, flabby chin which slunk into his collar. Next came a shirt-front soiled and crumpled, and then the rest of him in a suit of bombazine.
“You designed a lighthouse some months ago for Mr. Garlicho, of San Juan,” he blurted out with hardly an accent. “I arrived this morning by the Tampico. My name is Carlos Onativia.” And he laid a thin, elongated piece of cardboard on Mawkum’s desk.
Only the arrival of a South American fresh from the Republic of Moccador, with a spade designed to dig up a long-buried treasure could have robbed Mawkum of his habitual caution of always guarding plans and estimates from outsiders—a custom which was really one of the fundamental laws of the office. The indiscretion was no doubt helped by the discovery that the owner of the spade spoke English, a fact which freed him at once of all dependence on the superior lingual attainments possessed by the Grandioso in the adjoining room.
Down came the duplicate blue-prints without a word of protest or any further inquiry, and before I could reach the inquirer’s side and be properly introduced —I did not want to interfere too abruptly— Mawkum had not only unrolled the elevation and cross-sections, but had handed out a memorandum showing the estimate of cost.