Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 20

CHAPTER XX


OFF TO SANTIAGO


"Ah, Senor Hamilton, I will be most happy to do all in my power for you," remarked Don Ferdinand Hondora, the Spanish lawyer, when he had read slowly through the letter of introduction from the law firm of Blake & Carrington, which epistle Dick handed him. "Most happy to oblige you. You do me an honor to call on me thus, and to-morrow—or manana—as we Spaniards say—manana, I shall be most happy to set on foot an inquiry to locate the Valdez family."

"Can't you do anything to-day?" asked Dick, who was used to business being attended to promptly.

"To-day, my dear Senor Hamilton? To-day?" and the lawyer looked surprised. "Why, already I am in my office later than I ever stay. It is unusual that I am here to this hour. It just happened so by accident. No, nothing can be done to-day. Perhaps to-morrow—or the next day——"

"Why not to-day?" asked Dick, bluntly. "I am willing to pay——"

"It is not a question of money, dear Senor Hamilton," and Don Ferdinand Hondora shrugged his expressive shoulders, elevated his eyebrows, and made deprecatory gestures with his fat hands; "money does not figure. But now it is the hour for the band to play in the plaza, and I like to listen to it as I sit and sip my chocolate. Business is over long ago for Havana. I shall be most happy to have you join me at the plaza. Aly carriage will be here shortly."

'Thank you, but I have left my friends, and I must return to them," answered the youthful millionaire. "But I will be here early in the morning, and——"

"Not—er—not too early, if I may venture to suggest such a thing, my dear Senor Hamilton," spoke the lawyer, gently. "I seldom breakfast before ten, and at eleven o'clock I shall be most happy to receive you."

"Very well, eleven o'clock then," conceded Dick. "And then we can take the rest of the morning, and the whole afternoon, to looking into this matter."

"Pardon me, senor, but did I hear you aright—the whole afternoon, did you say?" and Don Ferdinand Hondora looked pained.

"Yes—why not?"

"Ah, but Senor Hamilton forgets that there is the noon siesta to be taken into consideration. One must have the siesta or—well, business is never done during the siesta or sleep hour," and once more the Spanish lawyer shrugged his shoulders, raised his eyebrows, and threw his hands out in front of him as if he had no further use for them.

"Well," remarked Dick, with a sigh, "when you're in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do, I suppose."

"That's it, Senor Hamilton!" cried the attorney, with a relieved laugh. "And when one is in Havana, he goes to hear the band, he sips his chocolate, and he takes his siesta at the usual hour. To break the customs is to—well, it is never done," and once more he went through his little performance, which seemed to save him considerable in the way of talk.

"Then I'll meet you here at eleven o'clock," added the youth, as he turned to go. "I'll leave these papers, which my father gave me, with you, and, if you should happen to hear any news this afternoon, or evening, you might send word down to my yacht—the Albatross. We're going to stay on board to-night, and put up at a hotel to-morrow. So, if you have any word——"

"Pardon me, Senor Hamilton, it is not likely that I shall have any word of the missing family, who are distant relatives of your late respected mother, to-night—hardly possible. All business is over in Havana long ago. Now, I go to hear the band, and to drink my chocolate, and I would only be too happy to have your pleasurable company."

"No, thank you, I must get back," answered Dick, and, having witnessed Don Ferdinand Hondora give once more his shadow-pictures with his shoulders, eyebrows and fingers, Dick parted from him, after an elaborate series of bows and handshakes.

"This life is too slow for me," remarked our hero, as he got outside, and made his way back to where he had left his chums. "Business from eleven to twelve, and from three to four, I presume. Two hours a day! Whew! If dad was down here he'd turn things upside down, and as for Uncle Ezra, he'd have a conniption fit! A siesta! Good land! I'm beginning to feel sleepy myself!"

The youth walked rapidly along, thereby attracting much attention, for his pace was entirely different from that of the slow-moving and leisure-loving Cubans and Spaniards.

Dick found his chums waiting for him, and they had had their fill of the very excellent chocolate served to them. The young millionaire explained his visit to the lawyer, and amused them with his account of the easy-going methods in vogue.

"Think of a lawyer closing up his ofiice to go to hear the band play!" exclaimed Dick.

"It sure is odd," agreed Beeby. "If it was a gall game now, it wouldn't be so bad."

"But there's nothing to hinder us from going to hear the band; is there?" asked Paul Drew.

"Especially as we're very likely to see some pretty girls," added Frank Bender. "I say let's go."

"All right," agreed Dick, always ready to fall in with the wishes of his guests. "I'll call a couple of carriages. It seems that no one who can afford to ride walks in Havana."

Accordingly, in easy-moving, open carriages, drawn by rather sorry-looking specimens of horses, the lads were soon rolling down to the open plaza, where a marine band was already making music. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the varied strains, and they were equally interested in the scenes all around them. The day was fine, and a large throng was out, many Cubans and Spaniards, and not a few Americans strolling about, while more were in open carriages. Frank's remark about the pretty girls was not a bit exaggerated. There were hundreds of them, dark, languishing Spanish beauties, some of whom favored our friends with quick glances from their snapping, black eyes.

The boys dined in a Havana restaurant that evening, where they saw more to interest them, while the highly spiced food was a source of some conjecture to them.

"Guess I'll have to have some more water, Dick," spoke Tim Muldoon, after he had emptied several glasses.

"What's the matter; too much salt in something?" asked Frank. "I noticed it myself."

"No, it's too much pepper," replied the newsboy. "Gee-horse! But I struck a mouthful of the red kind that kicks, just then!" and he drained his glass, which a waiter filled, the man laughing silently the while.

"I guess we'll have to get used to it," remarked Dick. "I should think, though, that, eating so much red pepper as these folks do, that they'd have a little more motion to them. 'To-morrow' seems to answer for everything. I couldn't stand it for very long at a stretch."

They spent that night on the yacht, after an evening in the plaza, where the band continued to play. The next day, at eleven o'clock, Dick again visited Don Ferdinand Hondora, who leisurely began to examine the documents regarding the Valdez family.

"It will be a difficult piece of work," he remarked finally, "but I think I can promise you a report in a month, Senor Hamilton."

"A month! I've got to have it inside of a week!" cried Dick, and, after much argument, and lifting of his eyebrows, shrugging of his shoulders and throwing out of his hands, remarking the while that such a thing—such haste—was never heard of in Havana, the lawyer agreed to do his best.

It was two weeks later before he made his final report, with Dick importuning him every day, for, after the yacht had been tied up at Havana seven days, our hero and his chums found they had exhausted the possibility of amusement in that Cuban city. True, they made excursions inland, and enjoyed the slow-going, easy life, but Dick wanted action, and his plan of going to some lonely island, and camping out, seemed to strike his friends as just right.

So it was with no little satisfaction that the young millionaire was informed one day, by Don Ferdinand Hondora, that the case was closed, as far as he was concerned.

"I have made diligent inquiry, Senor Hamilton," spoke the Spanish advocate, "and your Valdez family is not in this vicinity. They did live here, but they left about the time this island was acquired by the United States. There was much confusion of records at that time, and the best I can learn is that the family now consists of father and son, the Senors Miguel and Raphael Valdez."

"But where are they now?" asked Dick, impatiently.

"Ah, now we are coming to it," spoke the Spaniard, with his usual course of motions. Dick thought he might have "come to it" some time ago. "I learn," the lawyer went on, "that they were last heard of in Santiago de Cuba. If Senor Hamilton is pleased to go there next week, or the week after——"

"Next week?" cried Dick. "I'll start to-night!"

"Ah, such haste!" murmured the Spaniard, as he looked at his watch. "Very well. It is now the hour for the band to play, and for me to sip my chocolate, but if you will come in to-morrow I will be pleased to give you a letter to a lawyer friend of mine in Santiago. Come to-morrow——"

"Can't you give me the letter now?" interrupted Dick.

"Ah, Senor Hamilton, such haste! Already the band is playing, and I——"

"If I can't get the letter now, I'll have to leave without it, Senor Hondora. I'm in a hurry!"

"Ah, Santa Maria!" The lawyer's head nearly disappeared amid his shoulders, so high did he lift them, and his eyebrows were a half-circle, but he sat down, and slowly wrote out a letter by hand, giving it to Dick.

"Don't you use a typewriter?" asked the young millionaire.

"A typewriter? The saints forbid! It is too rapid—too—er—what you Americans call swift," explained the attorney, with a smile. "There is no need of such haste," and pocketing the generous fee which Dick paid, the lawyer bowed our hero out, with a look of relief on his face.

Five minutes later Don Ferdinand Hondora was in his carriage, riding slowly on his way to the plaza, to hear the band play, while Dick was hurrying toward his yacht.

"Well, the first part of my search ended in failure," he said. "Now to try Santiago."

That night the Albatross put to sea, on her cruise to the other side of Cuba.