The King and Captain O'Shea/Chapter 10
IN SIGHT OF THE ISLAND KINGDOM.
Freed of all anxieties and besetments, the royal passenger resumed his labor of planning the occupations of his subjects. His enthusiasm was delightful to behold. He seemed to grow younger with every day of the voyage southward. His was to be a kingdom of peace and good will, of a benevolent ruler and a contented, industrious people. He was the stanchest kind of a royalist, and Trinadaro was to be a constitutional monarchy, with an aristocracy which should be recruited after the pioneering work had been accomplished. The existing theories and examples of republican government he regarded with peculiar disfavor.
The relations between the king and his mariners twain became those of pleasant, informal intimacy. They learned to know him much better during the long weeks at sea, and felt toward him an affectionate, tolerant respect. He was wrapped up in his one idea. His belief that he was indeed a king was as natural as breathing.
The ship had crossed the equator, and was plowing through the long blue surges of the South Atlantic when Captain O'Shea, after working out the noon observations, informed the king:
"A couple of days more, and we'll begin to look for a sight of the peaks of Trinadaro. If the weather holds calm, we can begin to put the people and the cargo ashore right after that."
"The peaks of Trinadaro!" fondly echoed King Osmond. "Do you know, Captain O'Shea, I have wondered if you considered me a crack-brained old fool. Many men in England think so, I am sure. I know that my relatives do."
"'Tis my opinion that you wish to make folks happy, and that you will do no harm with your money," was the reply. "And there's few rich men that can say the same. No, 'tis not crackbrained to want to be a king. Power is what men desire, and they will trample on others to get it. I have heard ye talk on board ship, and I have admired what you had to say. You will live your own life in your own way, but you will not forget to make this island of yours a place for men and women to call home, and to be glad that they have found it."
"I thank you, Captain O'Shea," said the other. "I cannot help thinking now and then of what will be the fate of my principality when death comes to me. If I am spared for ten or fifteen years longer, I shall have time to set my affairs in order, to make Trinadaro self-sustaining, to win the recognition of foreign governments, to arrange for an administration to succeed my reign."
"May you live to be king until you are a hundred!" cried O'Shea. "And a man who is as happy and contented as you are is pretty sure of a ripe old age."
"I hope that you and Mr. Kent will consent to sail under the flag of my merchant marine and navy as long as I live," earnestly said the king. "I have learned to depend on you, and I need not tell you that the financial arrangement will be more favorable than you could make elsewhere."
"We are restless men, your majesty," replied O'Shea, with a smile; "but we have no notion of quitting your service. 'Tis up to us to see the kingdom fairly under way before we turn rovers again."
It was early in the morning of the second day after this that the officer on watch roused out Captain O'Shea with the news that land had been sighted on the starboard bow. The master of the Tarlington stared through his binoculars at a black, jagged foreland of rock which lifted itself from the sea. He sent word to the passengers that Trinadaro lay ahead of them.
King Osmond had left word that he should be called whenever the first glimpse of his island should be revealed. But he came not to the bridge in response to the message from Captain O'Shea. In his stead appeared his physician, with a demeanor terribly distressed. His voice was unsteady as he said to Captain O'Shea:
"It is my sad duty to inform you that his majesty passed away some time during the night. His heart simply ceased to beat. It had been somewhat feeble and irregular of late, but the symptoms were not alarming. His strength was overtaxed during those last weeks in London."
O'Shea bared his head, and stood silent. The announcement was very hard to believe. Pulling himself together, he murmured to the chief officer:
"The king is dead. Please set the flag of Trinadaro at half mast."
As soon as the word was passed down to the engine room Johnny Kent sought the bridge, and his eyes were filled with tears as he exclaimed:
"It don't seem right, Cap'n Mike. I ain't reconciled to it one mite. He deserved to have what he wanted. And he dies within sight of his kingdom!"
"Yes, he has slipped his cable, Johnny. There are cruel tricks in this game of life."
"What will you do now?"
"I haven't had time to think. But one thing is certain. I will carry King Osmond to his island, and there we will bury him. 'Tis the one place in all the world where he would want to rest. And the peaks of Trinadaro will guard him, and the big breakers will sing anthems for him. And he will be the king there till the Judgment Day."
The Tarlington slowly approached the precipitous coast line, and changed her course to pass around to the lee of the island. As the deeply indented shore opened to view, and one bold headland after another slid by, a comparatively sheltered anchorage was disclosed.
There, to the amazement of Captain O'Shea, rode two small cruisers. One of them flew the red ensign of England, the other the green and yellow colors of the navy of Brazil. He guessed their errand before a British lieutenant in white uniform came alongside the Tarlington in a steam launch and climbed the gangway which had been dropped to receive him.
Gazing curiously at the silent company and the half-masted flag of Trinadaro, he was conducted into the saloon, where Captain O'Shea waited for him to state his business.
"This steamer belongs to Colonel Sydenham-Leach, I presume," said the visitor. "I should like to meet him, if you please. Sorry, but I have unpleasant news for him."
"If it is King Osmond of Trinadaro ye mean, he is dead, God rest his soul. He went out last night."
"You don't say! Please express my sympathy to the ship's company," exclaimed the lieutenant. "How extraordinary! We received orders by cable at Rio to proceed to Trinadaro in time to intercept this vessel of yours."
"And what were the orders, and why is that Brazilian man-of-war anchored alongside of you?" asked O'Shea.
"It is all about the ownership of this island," the lieutenant explained. "Nobody wanted it for centuries, and now everybody seems keen on getting hold of it. The English government suddenly decided, after you sailed from London, that it might need Trinadaro as a landing base for a new cable between South America and Africa, and sent us to hoist the flag over the place. Brazil heard of the affair, and sent a ship to set up a claim on the basis of an early discovery. The Portuguese have presented their evidence, I believe, because their people made some kind of a settlement at Trinadaro once upon a time."
"And the forsaken island was totally forgotten until poor King Osmond got himself and his project into the newspapers," slowly commented O'Shea.
"That is the truth of the matter, I fancy." The naval lieutenant paused, and commiseration was strongly reflected in his manly face. "Tell me," said he, "what was the opinion at home about this King of Trinadaro? He was a bit mad, I take it."
"No more than you or me," answered O'Shea. "He had a beautiful dream, and it made him very happy, but it was not his fate to see it come true. And no doubt it is better that he did not live to know that the scheme was ruined. His island has been taken away from him. It will be wrangled over by England and Brazil and the rest of them, and there is no room for a king that hoped to enjoy himself in his own way. The world has no place for a man like Colonel Osmond George Sydenham-Leach, my dear sir."
"Too bad!" sighed the lieutenant. "And what are your plans, Captain O'Shea? Do you intend to make any formal claim in behalf of the late king?"
"No. His dreams died with him. There is no heir to the throne. I'm thankful that his finish was so bright and hopeful. There will be funeral services and a burial to-morrow. I should take it as a great favor if detachments from the British cruiser and the Brazilian war vessel could be present."
"I will attend to it," said the lieutenant.
When the coffin of King Osmond I. was carried ashore, it was draped with the flag of Trinadaro, which he himself had designed. Launches from the two cruisers towed sailing cutters filled with bluejackets, who splashed through the surf and formed in column led by the bugles and the muffled drums. The parade wound along the narrow valleys, climbing to the plateau on which the ruler had planned to build his capital.
There the first and last King of Trinadaro was laid to rest, and the guns of the cruisers thundered a requiem. The British lieutenant count- ed the guns, and turned to Captain O'Shea to say:
"It is the salute given only to royalty, according to the navy regulations. It is the least we can do for him."
"And it is handsomely done," muttered the grateful O'Shea as he brushed a hand across his eyes.
"Will you take your ship back to England?"
"Yes. I can do nothing else. 'Twill be a sad voyage, but God knows best. As it all turned out, this king of ours had to die to win his kingdom."
When the mourners had returned to the Tarlington, Captain O'Shea and Johnny Kent went into the chart room and talked together for some time. At length the gray, portly, simple-hearted chief engineer said wistfully:
"I'm glad we stood by and did what we could for him, Cap'n Mike, ain't you?"
"You bet I am, Johnny! He was a good man, and I loved him. Here's to his majesty, King Osmond of Trinadaro! He wanted us to sail under his flag as long as he lived. There'll be trouble waiting for us in London River, for we have to account for the pair of court officers we kidnaped and the ship that took out no clearances. But we will face the music. 'Tis not much to do for' him that was so good to us."
"Well, anyhow, they can never take his kingdom away from him," softly quoth Johnny Kent.