The Motor Girls on Waters Blue by Margaret Penrose
Chapter XI. In San Juan
The anchor splashed into the blue waters of San Juan Bay. The ship swung around at her cable, and came to rest, and then up came the small boats with their skippers, eager to obtain fares and the transportation of baggage. Sailing craft there were, puffing tugs, old-fashioned naphtha launches and the more modern gasoline launches, all-swarming about the steamer.
"Look at that!" cried Jack, as he viewed the scene before him. "What does it all mean? Why don't we go up to the dock in regular style, and not stop away out here?"
"There aren't any really good docks in San Juan, though there may be some built soon," said Mr. Robinson. "We'll have to go ashore in some of these craft. They're all right. I'll see to our luggage."
"Well, this is some difference from New York," commented Jack.
"Yes, and that's the beauty of it," remarked his sister. "It is the change that is going to do you good, Jack dear," and she smiled at him, brightly.
"I'm beginning to feel better already, Sis," he answered, and there was a keener look in his eyes that had been so tired, while his checks were flushed with the warmth of the air, and the excitement in anticipation of new scenes.
"Well, get ready, girls!" called Mr. Robinson, "Get all your furbelows and fixings together, and we'll go ashore in one of these boats. My! but it's warm!"
It was hot, with the heat of the tropics, for the rainy season was not yet fully over, though it was approaching its end, and more pleasant weather might be expected.
Porto Rico, I might explain, nearly resembles the climate of Florida, though it is not quite so hot in summer, nor so cold in winter. It is nearly always like June in Porto Rico, the thermometer then, and in July, reaching its maximum of eighty-six, the average being seventy-two.
Mr. Robinson bargained with the skipper of a large and new motor boat to take him, his party and their baggage ashore, and when the trunks and bags had been transferred, off they started over the blue waters toward the small, docks, at which were congregated many small fishing craft.
"Oh, but it is beautiful!" exclaimed Cora, as she looked down into the waters, which were of an intense blue, even close to shore. That is characteristic of this coral land, the, ocean near the coast being always that blue, except where it is colored by the inflowing of some large stream.
Before them lay the city itself, a city of many white buildings, the color of which met and blended with the tints of the mountains beyond, and those tints varied from olive green, into olive brown, indigo, and, in some places, even to the more brilliant ultramarine. The motor girls gazed at the scene with eager eyes, and into those of Inez came tears of joy, for she was, every minute, coming nearer and nearer to the land she loved--the land where her father was a prisoner.
Up to the small dock puffed the motor boat, and when Mr. Robinson demanded to know the price, the boatman named a sum that instantly brought forth a voluble protest from the Spanish girl. At once she and the boatman engaged in a verbal duel.
"Mercy!" exclaimed Bess. "What can have happened? Is he some brigand who wants to carry us off ?"
"Or a pirate?" suggest Jack. "He looks like one. Wally, have you a revolver with you?"
"Don't you dare!" cried Belle, covering her ears with her hands.
"He want to charge two pesos too much!" explained Inez, when she had her breath. "It is not lawful!" and once more she expostulated in Spanish.
The boatman, with a shrug of his shoulders, as much as to ask, "How can one quarrel with a woman?" accepted the amount Inez picked out from the change Mr. Robinson held out, and then they went ashore, their luggage being put on the pier.
The boatman was sullen about the failure of his trick, until Mr. Robinson, who was an experienced traveler, slipped him a coin, which must have been large enough to make up for the disappointment, for the man murmured: "Muchas gracias!" and fell to with a will to help the travelers get their belongings into a carriage.
"What did he say to papa?" asked Bess, of Inez.
"Many thanks," translated the Spanish girl.
"I must practice that!" spoke Jack. "What else do you say in this country, Inez?"
"Oh, many zings, Senor," and she blushed prettily. "It all depends on what you want. But many here speak ze English as you do. Zere is little trouble."
"What would I do if I wanted a glass of ice cream soda water?" asked Walter. "And I feel like one now."
"Zere is not so much of your ice-cream soda here," went on Inez, "but ozer drinks are of a goodness. Cocoanut milk is much nice. If in a store you go, say 'Quiero' (ke-a-ro), which means 'I want.' And zen name zat which you desire. You will of a soon learn ze Spanish for many zings."
"And how shall we know what to pay?" asked Bess.
"Say 'Cuanto?"' directed Inez. Cuanto (koo-ahn-to) means 'how much,' and the man will soon tell you--if, indeed, he does not tell you too much. But you will soon learn."
"I have a better way than all this cuanto and piero business," spoke Walter.
"How?" asked Jack. "Show me."
"Go in the place, make a noise like the article you want, or, better still, go pick it out from the shelves, hold out a handful of money, and let the fellow help himself," was Walter's way out of the difficulty. "He'll probably leave you enough for carfare."
"Well, that is a good way, too," agreed Jack.
"We'll try both."
The travelers were distributed in two carriages, their heavy luggage being put in a wagon to follow them to the hotel. On the way to their stopping place, Cora and her chums were much interested in the various sights. They had come to a typical tropical Spanish city, though it was under the dominion of the United States.
No one seemed in a hurry, and, though there were many whites, including Spaniards, to be seen, the majority of the inhabitants were of negro blood, the gradations being from very black to a mulatto, with a curious reddish tinge, in hair and skin, showing Spanish blood.
It was quite a different hotel from the one they had stopped at in New York, there being none of that smartness of service one looks for in the metropolis.
But the rooms were comfortable, and the travelers were assured of good cooking, Inez said. However, there was a penetrating odor of onion and garlic from the direction of the kitchen, that made Jack say to his mother, apprehensively:
"I say, Mater, you know I can't go onions, especially since I am down on my feed. What'll I do? I can stand their red pepper, but onions never!"
"You shall but ask zat none be put in your food, and none will," said Inez. "Many travelers do so. I, myself, do not like onions any more."
"I'm glad of it!" said Jack. "You can sit next to me at table, Inez," whereat she blushed under her olive hue.
Mr. Robinson, seeing that the ladies, girls and youths were comfortably settled in their new quarters, went off to see some business associates, promising to come back in time for an afternoon drive, following the siesta.
"For everyone takes a siesta," explained Inez, speaking of the "afternoon nap."
The drive about the city, and out a distance into the country, was enjoyed by all. Jack seemed to be improving hourly, and his mother and sister assured each other that no mistake had been made in bringing him to Porto Rico.
"And, now that we have him in a fair way to getting better, we must see what we can do to help Inez," said Cora. "I am sure she will never be happy until she is on her way to Sea Horse Island, and is able to start measures for freeing her father."
"I fancy we had better let Mr. Robinson attend to those matters," Mrs. Kimball said. "He knows best what moves to make. Poor girl! I know just how she feels."
The party stopped for a while to look at the statue of Columbus, who discovered Porto Rico on his second voyage. From there, they drove about the city, admiring the various buildings of Spanish architecture, and, as a finish to the drive, went to the old morro-- fort or castle--of San Juan. All signs of the bombardment by Admiral Sampson's fleet, during the Spanish-American War, had been done away with. It was a place of interest to them all, for it was very old, and had withstood many attacks. They went through the watch-tower and also the lighthouse.
"Well, I think we've done enough for one day," announced Cora, as they started back for the hotel. "I'm quite done out, and I'm sure Jack must be tired."
"A little," he admitted.
A concert in the evening, a stroll about the plaza, watching the pretty Spanish girls, and the homely duennas, brought the day to a close.
"And now for bed," sighed Cora. "I wonder if one dreams in San Juan any differently than in Chelton?"
"Cheerful Chelton!" cried Bess. "Doesn't it seem far away!"
All the rooms of our party were near together on the same corridor, Bess, Belle and Cora having connecting apartments. They left the doors open between, and it was due to this that Cora heard, soon after falling into a light doze, the voice of Belle calling her.
"Cora! Cora!" came the entreaty.
"Yes--what is it?" asked Cora, sleepily.
"Some one is in my room!" hissed Belle, in a stage whisper.
"Oh!" cried Cora, and she sat up suddenly, and pulled the cord of the electric light.