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- REAL SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE - 6/25 -
Harden-Hickey was forced to borrow from it freely. Knight himself says that the most minute and accurate description of Trinidad is to be found in the "Frank Mildmay" of Captain Marryat. He found it so easy to identify each spot mentioned in the novel that he believes the author of "Midshipman Easy" himself touched there.
After seizing Trinidad, Harden-Hickey rounded the Cape and made north to Japan, China, and India. In India he became interested in Buddhism, and remained for over a year questioning the priests of that religion and studying its tenets and history.
On his return to Paris, in 1890, he met Miss Annie Harper Flagler, daughter of John H. Flagler. A year later, on St. Patrick's Day, 1891, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Miss Flagler became the Baroness Harden-Hickey. The Rev. John Hall married them.
For the next two years Harden-Hickey lived in New York, but so quietly that, except that he lived quietly, it is difficult to find out anything concerning him. The man who, a few years before, had delighted Paris with his daily feuilletons, with his duels, with his forty-two lawsuits, who had been the master of revels in the Latin Quarter, in New York lived almost as a recluse, writing a book on Buddhism. While he was in New York I was a reporter on the _Evening Sun_, but I cannot recall ever having read his name in the newspapers of that day, and I heard of him only twice; once as giving an exhibition of his water-colors at the American Art Galleries, and again as the author of a book I found in a store in Twenty-second Street, just east of Broadway, then the home of the Truth Seeker Publishing Company.
It was a grewsome compilation and had just appeared in print. It was called "Euthanasia, or the Ethics of Suicide." This book was an apology or plea for self-destruction. In it the baron laid down those occasions when he considered suicide pardonable, and when obligatory. To support his arguments and to show that suicide was a noble act, he quoted Plato, Cicero, Shakespeare, and even misquoted the Bible. He gave a list of poisons, and the amount of each necessary to kill a human being. To show how one can depart from life with the least pain, he illustrated the text with most unpleasant pictures, drawn by himself.
The book showed how far Harden-Hickey had strayed from the teachings of the Jesuit College at Namur, and of the Church that had made him "noble."
All of these two years had not been spent only in New York. Harden-Hickey made excursions to California, to Mexico, and to Texas, and in each of these places bought cattle ranches and mines. The money to pay for these investments came from his father-in-law. But not directly. Whenever he wanted money he asked his wife, or De la Boissiere, who was a friend also of Flagler, to obtain it for him.
His attitude toward his father-in-law is difficult to explain. It is not apparent that Flagler ever did anything which could justly offend him; indeed, he always seems to have spoken of his son-in-law with tolerance, and often with awe, as one would speak of a clever, wayward child. But Harden-Hickey chose to regard Flagler as his enemy, as a sordid man of business who could not understand the feelings and aspirations of a genius and a gentleman.
Before Harden-Hickey married, the misunderstanding between his wife's father and himself began. Because he thought Harden-Hickey was marrying his daughter for her money, Flagler opposed the union. Consequently, Harden-Hickey married Miss Flagler without "settlements," and for the first few years supported her without aid from her father. But his wife had been accustomed to a manner of living beyond the means of the soldier of fortune, and soon his income, and then even his capital, was exhausted. From her mother the baroness inherited a fortune. This was in the hands of her father as executor. When his own money was gone, Harden-Hickey endeavored to have the money belonging to his wife placed to her credit, or to his. To this, it is said, Flagler, on the ground that Harden-Hickey was not a man of business, while he was, objected, and urged that he was, and that if it remained in his hands the money would be better invested and better expended. It was the refusal of Flagler to intrust Harden-Hickey with the care of his wife's money that caused the breach between them.
As I have said, you cannot judge Harden-Hickey as you would a contemporary. With the people among whom he was thrown, his ideas were entirely out of joint. He should have lived in the days of "The Three Musketeers." People who looked upon him as working for his own hand entirely misunderstood him. He was absolutely honest, and as absolutely without a sense of humor. To him, to pay taxes, to pay grocers' bills, to depend for protection upon a policeman, was intolerable. He lived in a world of his own imagining. And one day, in order to make his imaginings real, and to escape from his father-in-law's unromantic world of Standard Oil and Florida hotels, in a proclamation to the powers he announced himself as King James the First of the Principality of Trinidad.
The proclamation failed to create a world crisis. Several of the powers recognized his principality and his title; but, as a rule, people laughed, wondered, and forgot. That the daughter of John Flagler was to rule the new principality gave it a "news interest," and for a few Sundays in the supplements she was hailed as the "American Queen."
When upon the subject of the new kingdom Flagler himself was interviewed, he showed an open mind.
"My son-in-law is a very determined man," he said; "he will carry out any scheme in which he is interested. Had he consulted me about this, I would have been glad to have aided him with money or advice. My son-in-law is an extremely well-read, refined, well-bred man. He does not court publicity. While he was staying in my house he spent nearly all the time in the library translating an Indian book on Buddhism. My daughter has no ambition to be a queen or anything else than what she is--an American girl. But my son-in-law means to carry on this Trinidad scheme, and--he will."
From his father-in-law, at least, Harden-Hickey could not complain that he had met with lack of sympathy.
The rest of America was amused; and after less than nine days, indifferent. But Harden-Hickey, though unobtrusively, none the less earnestly continued to play the part of king. His friend De la Boissiere he appointed his Minister of Foreign Affairs, and established in a Chancellery at 217 West Thirty-sixth Street, New York, and from there was issued a sort of circular, or prospectus, written by the king, and signed by "Le Grand Chancelier, Secretaire d'Etat pour les Affaires Etrangeres, M. le Comte de la Boissiere."
The document, written in French, announced that the new state would be governed by a military dictatorship, that the royal standard was a yellow triangle on a red ground, and that the arms of the principality were "d'Or chape de Gueules." It pointed out naively that those who first settled on the island would be naturally the oldest inhabitants, and hence would form the aristocracy. But only those who at home enjoyed social position and some private fortune would be admitted into this select circle.
For itself the state reserved a monopoly of the guano, of the turtles, and of the buried treasure. And both to discover the treasure and to encourage settlers to dig and so cultivate the soil, a percentage of the treasure was promised to the one who found it.
Any one purchasing ten $200 bonds was entitled to a free passage to the island, and after a year, should he so desire it, a return trip. The hard work was to be performed by Chinese coolies, the aristocracy existing beautifully, and, according to the prospectus, to enjoy _"vie d'un genre tout nouveau, et la recherche de sensations nouvelles."_
To reward his subjects for prominence in literature, the arts, and the sciences, his Majesty established an order of chivalry. The official document creating this order reads:
"We, James, Prince of Trinidad, have resolved to commemorate our accession to the throne of Trinidad by the institution of an Order of Chivalry, destined to reward literature, industry, science, and the human virtues, and by these presents have established and do institute, with cross and crown, the Order of the Insignia of the Cross of Trinidad, of which we and our heirs and successors shall be the sovereigns.
"Given in our Chancellery the Eighth of the month of December, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-three, and of our reign, the First Year.
There were four grades: Chevalier, Commander, Grand Officer, and Grand Cross; and the name of each member of the order was inscribed in "The Book of Gold." A pension of one thousand francs was given to a Chevalier, of two thousand francs to a Commander, and of three thousand francs to a Grand Officer. Those of the grade of Grand Cross were content with a plaque of eight diamond-studded rays, with, in the centre, set in red enamel, the arms of Trinidad. The ribbon was red and yellow.
A rule of the order read: "The costume shall be identical with that of the Chamberlains of the Court of Trinidad, save the buttons, which shall bear the impress of the Crown of the Order."
For himself, King James commissioned a firm of jewelers to construct a royal crown. In design it was similar to the one which surmounted the cross of Trinidad. It is shown in the photograph of the insignia. Also, the king issued a set of postage-stamps on which was a picture of the island. They were of various colors and denominations, and among stamp-collectors enjoyed a certain sale.
To-day, as I found when I tried to procure one to use in this book, they are worth many times their face value.
For some time the affairs of the new kingdom progressed favorably. In San Francisco, King James, in person, engaged four hundred coolies and fitted out a schooner which he sent to Trinidad, where it made regular trips between his principality and Brazil; an agent was established on the island, and the construction of docks, wharves, and houses was begun, while at the chancellery in West Thirty-sixth Street, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was ready to furnish would-be settlers with information.
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