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Macdonald cleared his throat, with a sound resembling the coughing of a defective pump, and a mere trickle of a voice asked:
“Hwhat evidence have ye of identitee?”
I hadn't any at all, and began to finger my buttonholes as shamefaced as a pauper before a Board. The certitude dawned upon me suddenly that Carlos, even if he would consent to swear to me, would prejudice my chances.
I cannot help thinking that I came very near to being cast adrift upon the streets of Kingston. To my asseverations Macdonald returned nothing but a series of minute “humphs.” I don't know what overcame his scruples; he had shown no signs of yielding, but suddenly turning on his heel made a motion with one of his flabby white hands. I understood it to mean that I was to follow him aft.
The decks were covered with a jabbering turmoil of negroes with muscular arms and brawny shoulders. All their shining black faces seem to be momentarily gashed open to show rows of white teeth, and were spotted with inlaid eyeballs. The sounds coming from them were a bewildering noise. They were hauling baggage about aimlessly. A large soft bundle of bedding nearly took me off my legs. There wasn't room for emotion. Macdonald laid about him with the handle of the umbrella a few inches from the deck; but the passage that he made for himself closed behind him.
Suddenly, in the pushing and hurrying, I came upon a little clear space beside a pile of boxes Stooping over them was the angular figure of Nichols, the second mate. He looked up at me, screwing his yellow eyes together.
Going ashore,” he asked, “’long of that Puffing Billy?”
“What business is it of yours?” I mumbled sulkily.
Sudden and intense threatening came into his yellow eyes:
“Don't you ever come to you know where,” he said; “I don't want no spies on what I do. There's a man there'll crack your little backbone if he catches you, Don't yeh come now.
Rio MEDIO?” Señor Ramon said to me nearly two years afterwards. “The caballero is pleased to give me credit for a very great knowledge. What should I know of that town? There are doubtless good men there and very wicked, as in other towns. Who knows? Your worship must ask the boats' crews that the admiral has sent to burn the town. They will be back very soon now."
He looked at me, inscrutably and attentively, through his gold spectacles.
It was on the arcade before his store in Spanish Town. Long sunblinds flapped slightly. Before the next door a large sign proclaimed “Office of the Buckatoro Journal.” It was, as I have said, after two years--years which, as Carlos had predicted, I had found to be of hard work, and long, hot sameness. I had come down from Horton Pen to Spanish Town, expecting a letter from Veronica, and, the stage not being in, had dropped in to chat with Ramon over a consignment of Yankee notions, which he was prepared to sell at an extravagantly cheap price. It was just at the time when Admiral Rowley was understood to be going to make an energetic attempt upon the pirates who still infested the Gulf of Mexico and nearly ruined the Jamaica trade of those days. Naturally enough, we had talked of the mysterious town in which the pirates were supposed to have their headquarters.
“I know no more than others,” Ramon said, “save, señor, that I lose much more because my dealings are