18. On Sunny Seas Bound North
I met Mr. Robinson on the street one day, bleeding from a wound on his face. He said that Mr. Wood, superintendent of our railway, had struck him. Two of Mr. Wood's children were attending Miss Judson's school, and on account of the official position of their father, behaved in an ugly manner. Miss Judson made complaint to the school board, which exasperated Mr. Wood and he demanded her resignation. This the board would not permit. He called Mr. Robinson to his office and dismissed him from the service of the company. Being requested by Mr. Robinson to give his reasons for his dismissal, he struck him.
I was angry to think a young man would so brutally use a man of Mr. Robinson's age, and, too, in a strange country. Before I could restrain myself I demanded his reason for striking Mr. Robinson. Mr. Wood replied in a haughty manner that he was not accustomed to account for his acts. I replied: "Perhaps not, but when one of your position and age so far forgets himself as to strike an old man, any respect you may be entitled to is dispelled by your cowardly act."
For a moment it looked serious. He raised his hand as if to strike me. I said: "Mr. Wood, if you attempt to go any farther I will certainly be a far different antagonist than Mr. Robinson, and teach you that some of your acts, at least, will be rewarded in a manner not to your liking." He knew he had gone too far, and said in a quieter tone, that he did not consider the affair any of my business.
"Mr. Robinson is an American; let his countrymen investigate this matter. I will deal with them."
"Mr. Wood," I replied, "I hope the time will never come when a Briton will so far forget his duty as not to go to the assistance of any family, irrespective of nationality."
At this moment some other shop men came in, loud in their denunciation of Mr. Wood. There is something that binds a Britisher and an American when they are away from their respective countries, and among strangers. On many occasions I have seen the Britisher and American argue and even quarrel over the merits of their countries but when serious trouble arose, all jealousies would be cast aside, and each one would endeavor to outdo the other in kindness.
That night an indignation meeting was held in a large building formerly used as a storeroom. The employes all knew the reason of Mr. Wood's attack on Mr. Robinson. Although the majority of them were working under Mr. Wood, they felt the indignity inflicted on Mr. Robinson was an insult to them all, most of them having children attending the school.
From the beginning of the school, Mr. Wood had tried to dominate it. This was another reason for the employes' grievances and, chief of all, they were now being paid in the depreciated currency of the country. The meeting was conducted in a quiet business manner. The sentiment was to strike until Mr. Wood was removed from office.
I told the men that that would be an injustice, as the general manager was in Lima and we had no one to appeal to. Therefore we should continue to work until we could communicate with him. This appeal had the desired effect, as all could see the injury our strike would inflict on the railway.
I was then selected as the representative of the employes to go to Lima and lay the matter before the general manager. I was about to start when I was handed a note from the superintendent, saying that my services were no longer required. I replied that I would receive my orders from his superior and proceeded on my journey.
At Lima I succeeded in reinstating Mr. Robinson, and shortly after my return to Arequipa, Mrs. Robinson died. Grief at the injury inflicted upon her husband and a feeling of friendlessness in a foreign land, had hastened her end. Another indignation meeting was held and Mr. Wood was dismissed from the service of the company. Mr. Robinson became despondent and after a few months decided to leave the country.
The war with Chile was still on. The Peruvian army suffered defeat after defeat. Her navy had made some show of success at first, but not after the terrible fight between the Huascar, and two Chile ironclads, in which the Peruvians lost. The currency of the country became practically worthless. My accumulation of years was almost swept away.
Mr. Robinson decided to return to their home in San Louis Obispo, California, and about this time I received an offer from the Peruvian government to bring a torpedo boat from Panama to Mollendo. The Robinson family were going north on the steamer which would carry me to Panama. On leaving, our friends gave us a splendid banquet and assembled at the station to bid us farewell. Poor Chico, I can see him yet, waving his old red handkerchief with his right hand, his left covering his eyes.
When the ship moved out of the port, I stood on the deck with Hattie. Mr. Robinson and the aged mother stood near us looking upon the scene amid a flood of tears. The memory of their dead they were leaving behind, was no doubt uppermost in their minds.
I looked upon the mountains we were just leaving until they were a mere speck. I intended to perform one last service for Peru, for, however much I had suffered, it was my boyhood's home, the only home I had had since leaving my native shores.
We were a week making the voyage from Mollendo to Panama. The weather was fine and the sea was smooth. I was in company with Hattie much of the time. In her gentle way, she sought to dissuade me from the perilous undertaking with the torpedo boat. But when I reminded her of my duty to Peru she said no more. I could see, however, she was pained at the thought.
The north bound steamer had gone when we arrived at Panama and the Robinsons would have to wait ten days, which compelled them to stay at the hotel in that sultry city.
After visiting the Peruvian consul, who had been notified of my mission by his government, I learned that a Chilean cruiser was watching the torpedo boat and it was decided to await a dark night when we could escape from Panama harbor. Meantime I stopped at the same hotel with the Robinsons. I made several trips around the bay to test the speed of the boat and was satisfied we could outrun the cruiser, but somehow I began to dread the venture. The full force of this feeling dawned on me when I realized I was in love with Hattie.
The day was drawing near for their departure, when Hattie and I were seated on the veranda of the hotel, looking out over the Pacific. The afternoon wore away, the sun began to set in the dense blue haze of the tropic ocean, the great cathedral bells pealed out the hour of eight, the night birds screeched from out the palms, and still we sat in the glow of the twilight, talking of our past and future.
The streets became silent and even some stars had faded from the skies and the ceaseless roar of the surf beating upon the sands was music, when she promised to be my wife.
FLIGHT OF THE TORPEDO BOAT