Marseilles in the spring of 1876 is an active port connecting Europe to all other parts of the world. A drunken young man, KONRAD KORZENIOWSKI, staggers wounded down an alleyway by the harbor. Constables get him to the hospital. Was it a suicide attempt? FLASHBACKs reveal a failed enterprise and a failing romance, but do not answer the question. His UNCLE TADEUSZ comes from Poland, and Konrad tells of his decision to leave Europe and relocate to the East Indies. Through connections, including VICTOR CHODZKO, a fellow Pole, he gets a berth on the four-masted barque Mavis to Veracruz; packs and says goodbye to his Uncle.
At sea, Konrad talks to CAPTAIN MARLOW about where he's from, details of his family history in Russian-occupied Poland and his desire to escape the bourgeois ethics of Europe. The first landfall is Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas in the Danish Virgin Islands. Konrad goes ashore with Chodzko and first sees MR. JONES lounging across several chairs on terrace of a hotel in the city center. Chodzko tells him that the thin, reptilian Mr. Jones is a gambler, a man good enough at cards that he doesn't need to cheat. That night Konrad goes with other crewmen to a brothel but leaves abruptly. He finds Jones, Chodzko and two sailors from a Danish ship playing cards in a back-street cafe. Chodzko has already lost most of his money. He gives Konrad a warning in Polish, as he gets up to leave. Jones has heard that Konrad is a "Polish Count" from Chodzko, so he takes a marker when Konrad is out of cash. One of the other sailors also leaves, and Jones is well ahead and ready to quit. The remaining DANE insists on chance to win back his losses. Konrad stays as well. The next game ends, as most have, when Jones reveals he has better cards. The Dane accuses him of cheating and pulls a knife. Jones calmly tries to dissuade him from recklessness. When the Danish seaman lunges at his throat, Jones, whose gun was in his lap under the table, shoots him.
The local police are angry that the dead man is Danish. Konrad could waffle on his story, let Jones stay in jail, and ship out in the morning without paying his sizeable debt. Instead he tells police the truth: Jones acted purely in self-defense. Jones is released and takes Konrad to the hotel bar to thank him. He tells Konrad his story [these FLASHBACKS are to be silent scenes with voiceover narration]: he was a British earl, who fell in love with a Creole performer. Disowned, he married the woman, killed a peer in a duel and moved to New Orleans, where he became a successful shipper. He fought in the American Civil War, was wounded and captured, then came home to find his wife and children had died of typhoid. He has been a professional gambler since. Jones forgives Konrad's debt, extracts the promise that his story will never be retold and warns him never to bet more than he has on his person
The Mavis skirts a hurricane en route to Haiti. Konrad and all the hands are pushed to the limit, and Morrison, the first mate, escapes serious injury or dead thanks to Konrad.
In Haiti, Port-au-Prince has not repaired the hurricane damage and is in a state of siege with revolutionary and government forces holding separate parts of the city. Because he speaks fluent French, Konrad is asked to go ashore and inquire about the Mavis' cargo. Moving cautiously amidst throngs of armed men through the warehouse district, Konrad locates the shipper. The man has lost all the freight in his storehouse, which burned after being hit by an artillery shell. Back on the Mavis, Captain Marlow is dismayed to learn that he has no cargo to load and no fee to earn. Marlow elects to go himself and buy goods needed to reprovision the ship. Konrad remains aboard for the night watch. At mid-evening, Konrad watches a squad of rebels run the government troops off the dock. Most of them pursue the soldiers, but two hang back to collect the weapons and go though the pockets of fallen men. One soldier isn't dead. A YOUNG REBEL shoots him. An OLDER MAN, a muscular farm hand well over six feet, berates him for wasting shot and powder when a knife would work as well. He notices Konrad on the gunwale. He pulls out a machete and starts towards the gangplank. Startled, Konrad moves to intercept him. He only has time to grab a marlinspike and belaying pin. The man demands money, guns, food--whatever on board might be useful to their cause. When Konrad refuses, the man rushes him. Konrad parries the machete thrusts with the belaying pin. After a struggle, Konrad manages to land a glancing blow across the man's forehead, so he staggers back to the dock. The younger rebel has reloaded his musket and comes up ready to shoot Konrad, who stands his ground anxiously. The attacker wipes some blood from his scalp line then shakes his head for his comrade to hold his fire. After a few more tense seconds, both rebels leave.
Marlow next takes the Mavis to La Guaira, Venezuela, where a load of molasses and a wealthy Mexican passenger are waiting to be picked up. The Liberal and Conservative factions of the Venezuelan government are involved in a full-scale civil war. The port city is held by the Conservative faction. The capital, Caracas, seven miles inland through a narrow pas, is held by the other faction. Since the rail line has been cut and the two sides are fighting in this pass, the Mavis' cargo and prospective passenger are trapped in Caracas. Shortly after they land, ABREGON, the Basque 2nd mate, and two others sailors jump ship. Marlow makes Chodzko the acting second mate and Konrad a de facto third officer. Konrad volunteers to find a guide and go overland to the capitol.
Carrying the funds to pay for the cargo in a money belt under his shirt, Konrad hires a burly trapper named PEDRO in a port tavern to guide him over the highlands to Caracas. They cross by the lines between the warring factions at night, meet Pedro's brother ANTONIO mending traps near their hut in the forest, and reach Caracas at daybreak. Caracas is undamaged but short of provisions after a two-month siege. Lines of hungry civilians are lined up outside warehouses and general stores, so Konrad is not surprised that the cargo of molasses sugar has long since been commandeered by the authorities. The warehouse owner, a Russian named Drushnikov is ranting about his misfortune pausing only to ridicule Konrad for coming all this way on a fool's errand. Knowing he can find the hotel where the Mexican passenger is waiting on his own, Konrad pays and discharges Pedro and Antonio. While he has taken pains to conceal his money belt, the brothers believe Konrad must be carrying more than the small fee for which they agreed to work. They decide to follow and ambush him. Konrad narrowly avoids being caught up in a mob that is storming a food depot and being fired on by troops. In an alleyway near the hotel, Pedro and Antonio confront Konrad and demand his money. Konrad refuses and they attack. He manages to club Pedro with a large rock. As Pedro staggers and falls, he tears away part of Konrad's shirt, and the much larger Antonio presses him against a wall and starts to choke him. Konrad is about to loss consciousness when a startled Antonio relaxes his grip. He falls face down at Konrad's feet revealing a knife in his back. A smiling, dark-haired young Englishmen steps from an archway, retrieves his blade, and wipes it clean on the shirt of his victim. After confirming that Konrad is from the Mavis, the man introduces himself as Martin Ricardo and suggests they proceed to the hotel before Pedro comes to. En route Konrad pulls himself together and Ricardo explains that he is the secretary of Señor Carreras, who an hour before received a message from Marlow via the restored telegraph line that Konrad was coming to get them.
At the hotel, Konrad meets CARRERAS, a heavy-set, well-dressed man in his mid-50s, who is suffering from a fever, which he attributes to malnutrition. Because of the fighting in the pass, getting Carreras and his trunks to La Guaira by that route is clearly impossible. Ricardo proposes that they make their way 40 miles west to the port of Puerto Cabello which is held by the Liberals, while Konrad goes back to the Mavis and has it sail to meet them. Konrad thanks Ricardo again for saving his life. Ricardo admonishes Konrad to watch his back.
Konrad retraces his steps carefully, avoiding the traps and the hut lest he reencounter Pedro. At daybreak, he reaches La Guaira harbor and the Mavis sets sails. There are strong currents along the coast, and all able-bodied men are needed to trim the sail and avoid the rocky shallows. As they catch sight of Puerto Cabello, they realize large portions of the town are engulfed in flames and being bombarded by a Conservative warship. Since Marlow does not want to risk sailing the Mavis into port, Konrad proposes that he take a skiff ashore and intercept Carreras and Ricardo on the highway. Initially Marlow prefers to give up on the fee that the passenger would pay rather than risk losing Konrad. Without revealing his sense of obligation to Ricardo, Konrad convinces Marlow to let him try.
When he does intercept the Carreras party on the highway, Konrad is astounded to discover that Ricardo has hired Pedro as a porter and bodyguard. Ricardo laughingly explains that, since he killed Pedro's brother, the trapper's pack mentality made him gravitate to Ricardo as he would to a lead wolf. In fact, when they reach the shore, Pedro proves invaluable. He single-handedly carries the portly Carreras, who is now too ill to walk more than few steps on his own, down the rocky beach and into the boat. Then he mans the oars and rows them all back to the Mavis. Konrad notices that the warship is building up stream. As they scramble aboard, Marlow confirms that the warship appears to have spotted the Mavis lying at anchor and is moving to intercept them. After Carreras is taken below deck, Ricardo smilingly declines to lend a hand; but Konrad has Pedro reset a heavy spar as the Mavis quickly gets underway. By the time the warship is ready to move, the lighter and faster Mavis is already well out to sea and almost out of sight. Marlow had already dropped half his coal overboard to lighten the ship and must now make for the Cayman Islands to resupply.
When he takes the night watch, Konrad discovers that Pedro is asleep on deck. As he warily relieves Chodzko at the wheel, Ricardo emerges from the shadows and reassures Konrad that Pedro is not laying for him. He is too claustrophobic to sleep below decks and almost as afraid of Konrad as he is of Ricardo. After he lights a cigar, Ricardo volunteers a narrative of his somewhat unsavory life [FLASHBACKS]: the son of a Spanish father and British mother, raised in poverty in London, he had come to the British Virgin Islands to work as an overseer and seek his fortune. Forced to leave after a scrape with the law, he found work as a translator and manager for an English tannery in Caracas to which Carreras, a wealthy landowner with extensive holdings in the Mexican state of Veracruz, was a major supplier of hides. When the facility was damaged and his supervisor killed in the early fighting a year ago, Ricardo found a position with Carreras. Ricardo is full of himself, proud of his cunning and prowess with a knife. He has his employer's complete trust and even has an eye on Carreras' young daughter Magdalena. Konrad is less forthcoming with details of his past. Although he explains about his family's troubled history of involvement in revolutionary politics and how he has been compelled to leave Europe to pursue a career in the merchant marine. The keen-eyed Ricardo had noticed the bullet wound in Konrad's chest during the scuffle with Pedro and Antonio and asks how it happened. Konrad's tells him that he was in a duel and, not being a good shot, got the worst of it. Ricardo suspects the cause, and Konrad ruefully confirms that it was over a woman. He refuses to tell Ricardo anything more about her. Before Ricardo can press him further, Marlow comes up on deck. Ricardo excuses himself and goes below.
Marlow has already asked Konrad to stay on for the return trip and presses his again. Konrad is grateful for the offer but declines. Marlow sweetens the deal: he will make Konrad an official third mate, help him regularize his immigrant status back in England, and even tutor him for the exam to get a second mate's license. Konrad is tempted. He respects Marlow and realizes the chance to learn from him is great opportunity; but... Marlow confesses that he paused at the hatch and heard Konrad's narrative to Ricardo--why flee Europe over a woman? Konrad tells Marlow a few details that he has not revealed to anyone before: while on an earlier voyage to Sydney, he met a certain Captain Lingaard, a man of mixed heritage with a Swedish father and Polish mother. Lingaard knew the writings of Konrad's father, was astonished to meet the son of Apollo Korzeniowski halfway around the world, and promised him a job as petty officer on Lingaard's packet service in the South China Sea. Despite all that has happened Konrad feels his best chance would be to pursue that opportunity. Marlow accepts Konrad's decision.
The main port at Grand Cayman is all but destroyed. Half the buildings have been leveled by the most recent hurricane. The town reeks with the smell of unburied corpses, and scores more are piling up each day killed by the lack of fresh water and food. Marlow barters some of the ship's medical stores for the needed food. While it is loaded, Marlow gives Konrad and Ricardo side arms and sends them ashore to find a physician for Carreras. Ricardo is in his element, sneering at the emaciated locals who beg him for food and water and finding validation of his belief in survival of the fittest. Konrad ironically points out that belief may run counter to the needs of his employer. Ricardo readily admits that he doesn't care whether Carreras is carried off the ship in Veracruz on a pallet or in a box. Either way he is anxious to get back and complete his seduction of Magdalena. When more locals press them, Ricardo fires a warning shot in the air. Konrad chastises him about playing with guns. Ricardo responds by demonstrating his markmanship: calling a shot and neatly clipping a tree branch thirty yards away. At the local hospital, the DOCTOR refuses Konrad's offer of money to visit Carreras aboard ship. He will only do it in exchange for medical supplies. Konrad agrees to give him whatever can be spared. On the Mavis, the doctor diagnoses Carreras with malarial fever. There is little he can do; perhaps if they get him to a hospital in Veracruz quickly, Carreras has a slight chance to survive.
Carreras is barely alive two days later when they reach Veracruz at sunset. As Marlow starts to lower a boat to take Carreras ashore, they are intercepted by a skiff loaded with Mexican marines. The COMMANDER explains that the harbor is closed until a fugitive is located. When Marlow starts to object, he finds himself looking down the barrel of a Navy Colt. The marines come aboard and fan out to search the vessel. While Marlow stresses the need to act quickly for Carreras' sake, a SERGEANT returns to tell those on deck that Carreras is dead. The commander informs Marlow they will return in the morning and permit him send the body ashore.
Since Konrad plans on leaving the Mavis anyway, Marlow asks him to take charge of the body and convey it back to Carreras' family. Ricardo tells Marlow that's not necessary, that he and Pedro can handle it. Marlow insists that, because Carreras died while he was his passenger, it is necessary. Seeing no reason to argue, Ricardo relents.
Below deck, Konrad and Chodzko gather lumber to make a large coffin. They finish up just before midnight, and Konrad goes up to supervise the change of watch and to check the ship. He spots something in the water near the anchor chain. It's a man, so Konrad lowers a rope ladder. The swimmer is a well-dressed Mexican in his 40s. He asks Konrad to conceal him below deck. Konrad takes him to the storage room where they have put Carreras and the coffin. The man confirms what Konrad suspects, that he is the FUGITIVE Mexican, but does not reveal his name. He was captured that morning trying to sneak into Veracruz but managed to escape and swim out to conceal himself among the vessels lying at anchor in the outer harbor. Konrad tells the fugitive he must inform the captain. The fugitive warns him that if he is turned in, the Mexican counter-insurgent troops will arrest everyone on board as possible accessories to his escape. Let him rest a moment, and he will swim back to shore on his own. Something about the fugitive convinces Konrad of his sincerity, so he agrees to keep quiet.
In the morning, the marines return. Konrad, Ricardo, and Pedro are prepared to disembark the ship along with Carreras' coffin, their luggage, and Konrad's duffel. Konrad notices Chodzko eyeing the coffin and says something to him in Polish. The Mexican commander asks Konrad what he said. Sheepishly Konrad admits that it was a racial slur about the slovenly attitude of the Marines, that they would never put the Czar's guards to shame. The commander slaps Konrad with his glove. Konrad refuses to react to the provocation; Ricardo finds it all quite amusing. The marines are ordered to open the coffin. They gag slightly as they lift up the heavy and already putrescent body to make sure there is nothing underneath. Two marines rush to the rail and lose their breakfast. Ricardo flashes his cunning smile again, and refuses to stop even when the embarrassed commander glares at him. When the commander takes a step towards him, Pedro looms up behind Ricardo. The commander backs down. He tells them to close the coffin then hands Konrad a shore pass for it and the three men. As Pedro lowers the coffin into the boat, Konrad says goodbye to Marlow, Chodzko, Morrison and his other shipmates. Marlow invites Konrad to look him up in London, if he ever changes his mind about the East Indies.
When they reach the dock, Ricardo tells Konrad to catch his train to Acapulco and let Ricardo handle it from here. Konrad refuses, insisting that Marlow's orders be followed. Ricardo points out that Konrad owes him some deference for saving his life. Konrad counters that Marlow is owed the same deference for plucking Ricardo out of Venezuela. Not seeing what harm it can do to his own plans, Ricardo relents: they will go together and inform Magdalena of her father's demise.
Inside the Customs House, the men are confronted but let through after Konrad produces the pass. MAGDALENA, accompanied by the Carreras' ranch FOREMAN, is among the crowd of people waiting to meet the few persons permitted to come ashore. Ricardo points her out, and Konrad can see that she it indeed as beautiful as he said. She is confused to see Ricardo without her father. Konrad introduces himself and as tactfully as possible breaks the news. Ricardo is annoyed that when she is convulsed by tears she instinctively falls into Konrad's arms and not his for comfort.
By the time they reach the railroad station, Magdalena has composed herself. She orders Ricardo to stay with her father's body while she speaks to an agent about transporting the coffin back to Cordoba and the Carreras ranch. Konrad chides Ricardo for not handling that task himself. Ricardo explains that Magdalena is angry with him because her father died while ostensibly in his care. He's giving her a wide berth until she calms down. He is confident that once they are back at the family hacienda, he will make a display of contrition and she will succumb to his charms. Disgustedly, Konrad goes to offer further assistance. Magdalena thanks Konrad but has matters in hand by the time he comes up to her. She calls Pedro over and tells him and the Foreman to go with the agent and find a baggage car for the coffin. Konrad explains that he must leave to them to buy his ticket to Acapulco, but Magdalena insists on purchasing it for him using her father's own ticket for the first leg. She invites Konrad to travel in her compartment, and he accepts.
An unhappy Ricardo boards the train after being relegated to second class with the Foreman and Pedro, while Konrad sits in the seat he had expected to occupy. On route, Magdalena asks Konrad if Ricardo had any responsibility for her father's death. Konrad tells her that Carreras was already ill when he first met them in Caracas. Then he feels compelled to add details about Pedro and his brother and how Ricardo saved him from Antonio. Magdalena is shocked by the story but realizes she may have misjudged Ricardo. She confesses that she was somewhat smitten with Ricardo before he and her father left on their business voyage. It's not hard for Konrad to see that Ricardo may yet succeed in taking advantage of this girl. He offers to go to the rear of the train to check on the others. He does stop to speak with Ricardo, who has drunk half a bottle of tequila, and tells him that Magdalena's anger was diminished when he told her Ricardo saved his life. Neither Pedro nor the Foreman understand English; in any case they have consumed the other half of the bottle and both dozed off. Ricardo is surprised and grateful. Konrad excuses himself to get something out of his duffel in the baggage compartment.
As the baggage PORTER brings the duffel up to a counter, Konrad is searching his pockets. He offers the man a small gold piece, if he will go to the Carreras compartment and bring him back his passport, which must be on the seat. Puzzled that Konrad does not return himself, the porter nonetheless accepts the coin and leaves to perform the task. Konrad pulls his revolver from the duffle and hurdles the counter. In the back of the car is Carreras' coffin. Konrad takes a fire ax from the wall and pries off the lid. Moving the body is hard and revolting. In the end, Konrad heaves it out onto the floor. Next he wedges the ax into the bottom and pries at it. When he pauses the sound of creaking can still be heard. Finally the false bottom gives way. The Fugitive emerges drenched in sweat from hours spent in the narrow space, his hands splintered from having pushed on the rough wood from inside the secret compartment. Konrad repositions the bottom and asks the fugitive to help with Carreras' body. As they reclose the coffin, the fugitive acknowledges that what Konrad has done for him is beyond mere thanks. Konrad wants nothing. He presses the revolver into the fugitive's hand and tells him to get off the train as soon as he can.
Konrad is dusting himself off on the other side of the counter when the porter returns with his passport. The porter apologizes for taking so long but explains that the other man in the compartment was sitting on it. Surprised, Konrad hurries away. These gringos are a puzzlement but they tip well.
Konrad returns to find Ricardo forcing Magdalena into an embrace. It is clear that she is trying to fend him off; and Konrad jerks him back by the shoulders. As Ricardo wheels around, a spring mechanism under his sleeve thrusts his knife into his palm ready for action. When he sees it is Konrad, he relaxes. He admits to having drunk too much, apologizes awkwardly, and staggers away.
After she composes herself, the conversation between Magdalena and Konrad resumes. She is confused about her feelings for Ricardo. Konrad asks her age. When his smirk implies that 19 is quite young, she challenges him about his own youth. While he insists that being almost 24 makes him much more mature, she off-handedly guesses that he can't have had too many disastrous romantic encounters. This changes his expression. Seeing how much her remark has affected him, Magdalena probes for details. Konrad tells her the whole story [FLASHBACK scenes with dialogue]:
After his first passage to Australia as a regular seaman, not just an apprentice, Konrad was prevented by circumstances from becoming a French citizen. Although a Pole by blood, he is a Russian subject. And when his father was convicted of conspiring to restore Polish independence, Konrad became liable for 25 years of military service. Being banished to a harsh climate led both his parents to early deaths. Before he was 17, his maternal uncle permitted him to leave for France to avoid being conscripted and train as a seaman. But when the French authorities finally discovered his status, they prevented him from sailing on any French vessels. So he took what he had saved from his small allowance and meager pay, partnered with the mates from his last ship, and purchased a sloop to run guns to the Royalist supporters of exiled King Carlos in Spain. After two successful runs, they reinvested all their profits in the largest shipment yet. But the ship foundered, and they lost their entire investment.
Magdalena interrupts: what does that have to do with affairs of the heart? Konrad continues:
While he was on the beach in Marseilles waiting for his partners to acquire more guns for their second voyage, Konrad would go to plays and concerts. One of them was an all-girl orchestra from Corsica. He noticed that one girl in particular, named Alma, was being abused by the pianist, who was also the wife of the orchestra leader. He used some of his profits to buy out her indenture. She was so grateful that she accepted his overtures of affection. He thought she truly loved him. She was four or five years older, and when he returned from the disastrous last trip with nothing to show for the entire enterprise, she appeared to feel guilty about the money she had cost him. He went to borrow a sum from another young Polish émigré named Kronski, who had warned him about becoming too involved with Alma. When he returned, she had packed up and left for Paris. A note expressed her gratitude but explained that she had never really loved Konrad and certainly could not imagine spending the rest of her life with him. He went to Monte Carlo, drank too much and lost the money he had borrowed. Returning to Marseilles, he continued his alcoholic excesses. That night, he despondently pulled out his revolver and accidentally shot himself. After that, he decided to leave Europe for good and take up the offer made to him by Captain Lingaard.
Magdalena is moved to tears by Konrad's story. Thinking her sobs are a sudden pang about her father, he sits next to her and holds her hand. She explains what has touched her in his story, how she would give anything to experience a love that profound. Her lips part, and Konrad bends in to kiss her.
Two days later, Konrad is standing by Magdalena's side at her father's funeral. Ricardo seethes in the background unable to understand why this meddler has not gone on immediately to his original destination. Back at the Carreras manor house, Ricardo confronts Konrad as he comes downstairs from seeing Magdalena to her room. He demands to know when Konrad is leaving. Konrad has decided that he may stay for a while. When Ricardo presses him for the reasons, he tells him the truth: from what he has seen and been told, Konrad knows that Ricardo's intentions are entirely dishonorable. And what does Konrad propose to do, Ricardo demands to know, make love to her himself. Because the girl is young and charming and he has become very fond of her, Konrad defiantly answers "yes." Ricardo takes a step towards Konrad, who doesn't back down. At that moment Pedro and another farmhand come in to receive their tip for digging and filling in the grave. Konrad gives them each a gold real. Pedro can see that Ricardo is in a state of rage and skulks out.
Konrad makes what he believes is a benevolent decision. He "succumbs" to Magdalena's charms and begins a liaison with her. Within a week he is professing to love her. His words may not be entirely genuine, but they will drive an irremovable wedge between her and Ricardo. It's not long before Ricardo deduces what Konrad is doing and devises a counter-plan. First he tells the local pastor of the affair. When the priest comes to confront Konrad and Magdalena about their behavior, she tells him they plan to be married. The priest asks Konrad to confirm this, and he does. When the priest so informs Ricardo, he is infuriated anew and again confronts Konrad. Ricardo knows Konrad's love is a pretense and warns him how dangerous it is to persist merely to thwart him. He saved Konrad's life once. He has the right to undo that act. Konrad reminds Ricardo that if he is injured or killed, Magdalena will certainly know who is responsible. Ricardo insists that accidents, unfortunate for some, propitious for others, are always possible.
Ricardo's next scheme is inspired from Konrad's own story about fighting a duel and being a poor shot. Ricardo picks a quarrel with Konrad in front of many others, pretending to have taken offense at ungentlemanly remarks Konrad has purportedly made about his liaison with Señorita Carreras in the local tavern; he manipulates that confrontation into a formal challenge. At best, Ricardo reasons, Konrad will decide that risking his life for a woman he doesn't really love is pointless and leave. At worst, Ricardo will kill him in the duel. He doesn't conceal this belief from Konrad who comes to confront Ricardo in his room.
Konrad is, indeed, not enthusiastic at the prospect of fighting a duel over a woman he does not love deeply. In the end, however, and despite Magdalena's fears for his life, Konrad and two seconds show up at the appointed time for combat the next morning. Ricardo's seconds, one of whom is Pedro, are also there; but not Ricardo. For the next several days, Konrad is uncertain about what to do it. If Ricardo has quit the province, he can tell Magdalena the harsh truth and leave; but if he does so prematurely and Ricardo gets wind of it.... That evening, Konrad is in the Carreras study when Pedro knocks and enters. Pedro is returning to Venezuela and wishes to apologize formally for the unfortunate business in Caracas. Konrad readily pardons Pedro. Pedro has a parting gift. He tosses Ricardo's knife onto the table. There are rusty flecks of blood on the blade, something the fastidious Ricardo would never permit. Pedro explains that Ricardo did not really have the heart of a wolf and could not command true loyalty, whereas Konrad is an honorable man and deserved to free of menace.
Pedro departs that night. Konrad is packed to go the following morning. Unlike Alma, Konrad tells Magdalena most of the truth in person, apologgizing for succumbing to her beauty when he knew he could not remain with her forever but never revealing that his underlying motive was to protect her from Ricardo nor that Pedro has apparently killed him. Konrad assures her that she is caring and beautiful young woman and deserves someone who loves her unconditionally. None of her tears or pleas will sway him. He begs her forgiveness one final time and leaves.
Filled with irregular troops loyal to President Lerdo, the train from Oaxaca to Acapulco works its way through the coastal mountains of the state of Guerrero towards a small town with a water stop. As it comes around a bend, there is gunfire. Windows in the Pullman car shatter, and the riders hit the floor. When the train brakes, several passengers run for the exits. Konrad cautiously peers out the window. Uniformed troops positioned along the roadbed are picking off the would-be escapees. Before the car stops, soldiers board the train to herd all the remaining passengers out. Konrad stumbles and falls as he is shoved out near a small platform. As he gets up, the soldiers are already standing selected passengers against a white brick wall by the water station 30 yards away. There is a volley of gunfire and a dozen of them fall. As a corporal grabs him by the collar and pulls him towards the wall, Konrad notices several officers coming out of the station. When Konrad tries to pull free, another soldier grabs his left arm. The corporal takes his right. Over his protests that he is a French citizen, they drag him towards the wall. Another volley of shots fells twenty more men. Konrad is 10 yards from the wall unable to break the soldiers' grasp, when a voice behind calls out to the corporal. First one, then the other releases him, and Konrad falls face forward into the sand. He rolls over as the solders stand clear and come to attention, while a man silhouetted by the sun wearing polished boots, striped gray pants, and a heavily brocaded military coat approaches him. Konrad shields his eyes with an open palm but cannot make out the face. As the figure extends his own hand to help Konrad up, he orders the two soldiers away. Konrad gets to his feet and recognizes the fugitive from Veracruz wearing the insignia of a general officer. Impulsively, the man embraces Konrad. Three staff officers approach uncertainly but smile broadly when they are told Konrad is the one who saved their leader in Veracruz.
Inside the station house, Konrad learns that he had saved Porfirio Diaz, the exiled president who has just routed the Lerdo forces in Oaxaca. Diaz is about to leave for Mexico City and implores Konrad to come along and be his honored guest for a long he wants. Konrad just wants to get to Acapulco. Diaz is disappointed but accepts Konrad's decision and readily agrees when he asks Diaz to make sure no one troubles the Carreras estate. Diaz would do anything to repay the man who saved him.
Conrad is taken to Acapulco in Diaz' grandly appointed, personal Pullman car with a squad of presidential guards serving as his escort. The CAPTAIN of the squad offers liquor and cigars, which Konrad declines while nodding for the Captain to help himself. As the Captain pours himself a drink, Konrad asks about the cause of the revolutionary conflict. The Captain scoffs at its being called a revolution. There's always a fight somewhere in his country, where sometimes three or four self-appointed generals simultaneously lay claim to the presidency. They're all power-hungry, petty dictators from his point of view; but he's been lucky enough to have always sided with the prevailing faction up to now. But, Konrad asks, is not Diaz a protégé of Juarez, the champion of the Mexican republic who ousted the Austrian pretender? Of course, but so was Lerdo and most the others who have fought over the right to take up Juarez' mantel. The Captain's remarks cause Konrad to wonder out loud if saving Diaz was the right thing to do. The Captain laughs. Konrad is leaving Mexico. Be glad that some quirk of fate kept him from being shot down like everyone else on the train from Oaxaca. The Captain drops a bag on gold coins on the table, a gift from President Diaz to provide creature comforts on Konrad's journey to a new life. Be glad also, for no one would know if he did, that the Captain is not so cold-blooded and dishonorable as to throw Konrad's lifeless body from the train and keep this gold for himself. The Captain stubs out his cigar and excuses himself. Konrad is left alone to stare out the window as the sun sets. Acapulco is visible in the distance. As for what fate awaits across the Pacific, Konrad can only guess.