A Tropical Island, Part 4
Whilst I was engaged on breaking up the wreck, Kuhn busied himself making arrangements about his lobster project. He chartered the Pachuco. For this he had to pay £2000 a year—a large sum to risk certainly; but he thought he could make that, and a bit more, by loading up from the mainland with passengers for Juan Fernandez. He reckoned that there were many folk who would jump at the chance of getting the trip, with four days thrown in on the island, for £40 a head.
When he told me what he had done, I said, “Old man, you’ll lose your money, if you don’t watch it. You’ll get passengers only in the summer months, and if, as is most probable, some of them find their tummies are not proof against the tumble and the tossing of the sea, they will put others off going. Then as regards the lobsters, a tank is essential for their safe conveyance; the Pachuco has none. How are you going to get over that?”
“You stand on me,” he replied. “I’ve studied the subject thoroughly, and know all there is to be known about it. You are A1 at training horses and keeping their legs in order, but lobsters——!!!”
The air with which this harangue was delivered was indescribably funny.
At his invitation I accompanied him on his first trip, “just to learn how things are done,” as he put it. If I took advantage of the opportunity to do a little business in the fern line, who shall blame me? One can’t make money standing around! Our cargo consisted of 1200 lobsters and 400 tree ferns. The shell-fish were distributed in large open crates so that they might be easily sprayed with sea-water from time to time. Our voyage only occupied three days, but when we reached Valparaiso all the lobsters had kicked the bucket, except one.
After this experience, Kuhn took my tip, and approached the owners of the Pachuco about a tank. They expressed themselves very amiably over the matter, and said so long as the insurance company didn’t object, they were quite agreeable to his putting one in. Unluckily, the insurance people wouldn’t hear of it. They handed out a flat refusal. Poor old Kuhn! My prediction concerning the passengers was justified up to the hilt. The first batch, which included my good friend, Count von Koningsmarck, were sick all the way. The baron was so poorly that he could enjoy only one day goat-shooting with me, instead of the couple he had looked forward to.
I had the laugh over Kuhn, for I made £250 out of my ferns, whereas his lobster venture turned out disastrously; after dropping £4000 in twelve months, he abandoned it altogether.
Von Koningsmarck was captain in the Prussian Guards, and personal A.D.C. to the Kaiser. He gave me once an instance of Wilhelm’s arrogance that is illuminating. One evening, after dinner, K. ventured to question a statement his Imperial master had made about some subject that was being discussed—music, I believe. The Kaiser was greatly incensed. “Count Koningsmarck,” he thundered, “you will leave Germany this day week. Consider yourself banished until I give you permission to return.” K. bowed and left the palace. Within a week he was on his way to Chile. To save his face, it was given out that he had been lent to the Chilian Government as a cavalry instructor.
K. had a private income of £25,000 a year, so was able to do himself pretty well. Colmo, the champion chaser, belonged to him, and he trained and rode the horse himself. In the saddle he adopted Tod Sloan’s style. He was the only man I have known who exploited the forward seat successfully over a country. Five years or so after he arrived in Chile, K. came to me, and said, “What do you think? The Kaiser has written and asked me to return and let bygones be bygones.” I forget what comment I made; but, anyhow, K. couldn’t resist the reference to the friendship that formerly existed between them. So he went back to Germany. In the Great War Koningsmarck bore himself bravely; but, alas! met the fate allotted to many flying-men: his machine crashed through some structural defect, and he was picked up dead.