The Magic Island

By B. Seabrook; Alexander King | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
"NO WHITE MAN COULD BE AS DUMB AS THAT"

"No white man," said Cumberland, disgusted yet triumphant, "could be as dumb as that."

He seemed to have the best of the argument.

He had said it to Barker, Barnes, me, and an ass named Mabry as we sat round a campfire wrapped in our blankets like Spaniards, forty-five hundred feet above sea-level, on a mountain-circled plateau behind the Morne Rouis range.

This Cumberland -- Dr. W. W. Cumberland -- perhaps there is some such degree as Doctor of Decimals -- was one of the five American high treaty officials in Haiti. Financial Adviser was his title, and he exercised absolute control over government financial matters. He was as honest as an adding-machine and keenly intelligent, but people said he had no bowels, meaning it in the scriptural rather than slang sense. He was as cold as ice and was obsessed with the conviction that the emotional Haitians, whether high or low, were lazy, undependable as apes, and equally limited in their foresight and mental processes. Yet there was a good deal paradoxically likable in Cumberland. He stood ragging, he was a square shooter, and on a trip like this he always did a little more than his share of the camp work. The fact that he would come along at all on such trips, which meant rough going on muleback and afoot, was a part of his paradoxical likableness. Cumberland is a hard man to depict. He was cold without being selfish or aloof. He was prejudiced, yet full of an active curiosity.

It was he, for instance, who had been the prime mover in this present excursion. Hayne Boyden, flyer, who was mak-

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