This closed the transaction, so far as we were concerned.
A year passed—two of them, in fact—during which time no news of any kind reached us of the lighthouse. Mawkum kept the duplicate blue-print of the elevation tacked on the wall over his desk to show our clients the wide range of our business, and I would now and then try to translate the newspapers which Lawton sent by every mail. These would generally refer to the dissatisfaction felt by many of the Moccadorians over the present government, one editorial, as near as I could make out, going so far as to hint that a secret movement was on foot to oust the “Usurper” Alvarez and restore the old government under Paramba. No reference was ever made to the lighthouse. We knew, of course, that it had arrived, for the freight had been paid: this we learned from the brokers who shipped it; but whether it was still in storage at San Juan or was flashing red and white —a credit to Onativia’s energy and a godsend to incoming shipping—was still a mystery.
Mawkum would often laugh whenever Garlicho’s or Onativia’s name was mentioned, and once in a while we would discuss the difficulties they must have encountered in the erection of the structure in the open sea. One part of the transaction we could never understand, and that was why Garlicho had allowed the matter to lapse if the lighthouse was needed so badly, and what were his reasons for sending Onativia to renew the negotiations instead of coming himself.
All doubts on this and every other point were set at rest one fine morning by the arrival of a sunburned gentleman with gray side-whiskers, a man I had not seen for years.
“Why, Lawton!” I cried, grasping his hand. “This is a surprise. Came by the Tampico, did you? Oh, but I am glad to see you! Here, draw up a chair. But stop—not a word until I ask you some questions about that lighthouse.”
The genial Scotchman broke out into a loud laugh.
“Don’t laugh! Listen!” I said to him. “Tell me, why didn’t Garlicho go on with the work, and what do you know about Onativia?”
Lawton leaned back in his chair and closed one eye in merriment.
“Garlicho did not go on with the work, my dear friend, because he was breaking stone in the streets of San Juan with a ball and chain around his ankle. When Paramba came back to power he was tried for high treason and condemned to be shot. He saved his neck by turning over the lighthouse papers to Onativia. As to Carlos Onativia, he is a product of the soil. Started life as a coolie boss in a copper mine, became manager and owner, built the bridge over the Quitos River and the railroad up the Andes; is the brightest man in Moccador and the brains of the Paramba Government. One part of his duty is to keep the people satisfied, and he does it every single time; another is to divide with Paramba every dollar he makes.”
“But the lighthouse!” I interrupted. “Is it up? You must have passed it on your way out of the harbor.”