This West Indian gold crusade had been going on for several centuries before it came to my notice and it would probably have gone right on without me, quite undisturbed, had it not been for a series of events which turned my fortunes inside out and faced me with the proposition of making a million.
When the million-dollar problem arose, I ransacked my memory and recalled a small unpainted table in a ramshackle dive in San Juan, Puerto Rico where a soldier of fortune of Latin America, slightly voluble with White Horse, had whiled the time by spinning me yarn after yarn about prospectors, natives with gold pans, tons of Spanish bullion, slaves with leather sacks hauling dirt to the riversides to the crack of a Spanish whip, and Americanos picking fabulous float from rivers which glittered with gold and silver awaiting the inroads of feverish gold hunters from the north. This incident had occurred while I was directing a motion picture expedition in the West Indies.
My mining engineer called himself J.B. Carper of Washington, DC, and boasted acquaintance with most of the Hammonds and Joplins of the mining world. He was impressive enough at sight, for his eyes were a baby blue, and his excessive paunch invited trust. We equipped ourselves with mining pans, a sample pick, a few chemicals and acids, and decided that we were prepared for the worst. Eight hundred dollars had been raised for grubstake, and due to his elderly, responsible look, the money was duly entrusted to the engineer. That was a serious mistake, but then to place even such a small sum in the hands of a youth just turned twenty-one is not a common practice and I was forced to content myself with the arrangements. Upon our arrival in Puerto Rico, the head of the Bureau of Commerce of the islands government was encouraging. He quoted several documents which had to do with Spanish bullion, showed us papers handed to him by his minerals committee and gave us, as a guide, the live wire of the committeea little Englishman who told stories of extreme interest if not of extreme truth. The fact that he became confidential with my engineer to the exclusion of my ears did not, at first, strike me as unusual.
But it was not the Englishman who gave me the really colorful pictures of the islands mineral past. That was left to the Spanish volubility of the esteemed Don Martin Ibanez who acted in the self-appointed capacity of the Corozal Chamber of Commerce, and a native practical miner named Jose Rodriguez.
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