Part 3 out of 4
" 'That steamer the ~Conchita~,' said the brown man, affable and easy,
rollin' a cigarette. 'Him come from New Orleans for load banana.
Him got load last night. I think him sail in one, two hour. Verree
nice day we shall be goin' have. You hear some talkee 'bout big
battle, maybe so? You think catchee General De Vega, senor? Yes?
"'How's that, Sambo?' says I. 'Big battle? What battle? Who wants
catchee General De Vega? I've been up at my old gold mines in the
interior for a couple of months, and haven't heard any news.'
"'Oh,' says the nigger-man, proud to speak the English, 'verree great
revolution in Guatemala one week ago. General De Vega, him try be
president. Him raise armee--one--five--ten thousand mans for fight
at the government. Those one government send five--forty--hundred
thousand soldier to suppress revolution. They fight big battle
yesterday at Lomagrande--that about nineteen or fifty mile in the
mountain. That government soldier wheep General De Vega--oh, most
bad. Five hundred--nine hundred--two thousand of his mans is kill.
That revolution is smash suppress--bust--very quick. General De Vega,
him r-r-run away fast on one big mule. Yes, ~carrambos!~ The
general, him r-r-run away, and his armee is kill. That government
soldier, they try find General De Vega verree much. They want catchee
him for shoot. You think they catchee that general, senor?'
"'Saints grant it!' says I. ''Twould be the judgment of Providence
for settin' the warlike talent of a Clancy to gradin' the tropics
with a pick and shovel. But 'tis not so much a question of
insurrections now, me little man, as 'tis of the hired-man problem.
'Tis anxious I am to resign a situation of responsibility and trust
with the white wings department of your great and degraded country.
Row me in your little boat out to that steamer, and I'll give ye five
dollars--sinker pacers--sinker pacers,' says I, reducing the offer
to the language and denomination of the tropic dialects.
"'Cinco pesos,' repeats the little man. Five dollee, you give?'
"'Twas not such a bad little man. He had hesitations at first,
sayin' that passengers leavin' the country had to have papers and
passports, but at last he took me out alongside the steamer.
"Day was just breakin' as we struck her, and there wasn't a soul to
be seen on board. The water was very still, and the nigger-man gave
me a lift from the boat, and I climbed onto the steamer where her side
was sliced to the deck for loadin' fruit. The hatches was open, and
I looked down and saw the cargo of bananas that filled the hold to
within six feet of the top. I thinks to myself, 'Clancy, you better
go as a stowaway. It's safer. The steamer men might hand you back
to the employment bureau. The tropic'll get you, Clancy, if you
don't watch out.'
"So I jumps down easy among the bananas, and digs out a hole to hide
in among the bunches. In an hour or so I could hear the engines
goin', and feel the steamer rockin', and I knew we were off to sea.
They left the hatches open for ventilation, and pretty soon it was
light enough in the hold to see fairly well. I got to feelin'
a bit hungry, and thought I'd have a light fruit lunch, by way
of refreshment. I creeped out of the hole I'd made and stood up
straight. Just then I saw another man crawl up about ten feet away
and reach out and skin a banana and stuff it into his mouth. 'Twas
a dirty man, black-faced and ragged and disgraceful of aspect. Yes,
the man was a ringer for the pictures of the fat Weary Willie in the
funny papers. I looked again, and saw it was my general man--De Vega,
the great revolutionist, mule-rider and pickaxe importer. When he
saw me the general hesitated with his mouth filled with banana and
his eyes the size of coconuts.
"'Hist!' I says. 'Not a word, or they'll put us off and make us walk.
"Veev la Liberty!"' I adds, copperin' the sentiment by shovin' a
banana into the source of it. I was certain the general wouldn't
recognize me. The nefarious work of the tropics had left me lookin'
different. There was half an inch of roan whiskers coverin' me face,
and me costume was a pair of blue overalls and a red shirt.
"'How you come in the ship, senor?' asked the general as soon as he
"'By the back door--whist!' says I. ''Twas a glorious blow for
liberty we struck,' I continues; 'but we was overpowered by numbers.
Let us accept our defeat like brave men and eat another banana.'
"'Were you in the cause of liberty fightin', senor?' says the general,
sheddin' tears on the cargo.
"'To the last,' says I. ''Twas I led the last desperate charge
against the minions of the tyrant. But it made them mad, and we was
forced to retreat. 'Twas I, general, procured the mule upon which
you escaped. Could you give that ripe bunch a little boost this way,
general? It's a bit out of my reach. Thanks.'
"'Say you so, brave patriot?' said the general, again weepin'. 'Ah,
~Dios!~ And I have not the means to reward your devotion. Barely
did I my life bring away. ~Carrambos!~ what a devil's animal was that
mule, senor! Like ships in one storm was I dashed about. The skin
on myself was ripped away with the thorns and vines. Upon the bark
of a hundred trees did that beast of the infernal bump, and cause
outrage to the legs of mine. In the night to Port Barrios I came.
I dispossess myself of that mountain of mule and hasten along the
water shore. I find a little boat to be tied. I launch myself and
row to the steamer. I cannot see any mans on board, so I climbed one
rope which hang at the side. I then myself hide in the bananas.
Surely, I say, if the ship captains view me, they shall throw me again
to those Guatemala. Those things are not good. Guatemala will shoot
General De Vega. Therefore, I am hide and remain silent. Life itself
is glorious. Liberty, it is pretty good; but so good as life I do not
"Three days, as I said, was the trip to New Orleans. The general man
and me got to be cronies of the deepest dye. Bananas we ate until
they were distasteful to the sight and an eyesore to the palate, but
to bananas alone was the bill of fare reduced. At night I crawls out,
careful, on the lower deck, and gets a bucketful of fresh water.
"That General De Vega was a man inhabited by an engorgement of words
and sentences. He added to the monotony of the voyage by divestin'
himself of conversation. He believed I was a revolutionist of his
own party, there bein' as he told me, a good many Americans and other
foreigners in its ranks. 'Twas a braggart and a conceited little
gabbler it was, though he considered himself a hero. 'Twas on himself
he wasted all his regrets at the failing of his plot. Not a word did
the little balloon have to say about the other misbehaving idiots that
had been shot, or run themselves to death in his revolution.
"The second day out he was feelin' pretty braggy and uppish for a
stowed-away conspirator that owed his existence to a mule and stolen
bananas. He was tellin' me about the great railroad he had been
buildin', and he relates what he calls a comic incident about a fool
Irishman he inveigled from New Orleans to sling a pick on his little
morgue of a narrow-gauge line. 'Twas sorrowful to hear the little,
dirty general tell the opprobrious story of how he put salt upon the
tail of that reckless and silly bird, Clancy. Laugh, he did, hearty
and long. He shook with laughin', the black-faced rebel and outcast,
standing neck-deep in bananas, without friends or country.
"'Ah, senor,' he snickers, 'to death you would have laughed at that
drollest Irish. I say to him: "Strong, big mans is need very much
in Guatemala." "I will blows strike for your down-pressed country,"
he say. "That shall you do," I tell him. Ah! it was an Irish so
comic. He sees one box break upon the wharf that contain for the
guard a few gun. He think there is gun in all the box. But that is
all pickaxe. Yes. Ah! senor, could you the face of that Irish have
seen when they set him to the work!'
"'Twas thus the ex-boss of the employment bureau contributed to the
tedium of the trip with merry jests and anecdote. But now and then
he would weep upon the bananas and make oration about the lost cause
of liberty and the mule.
"'Twas a pleasant sound when the steamer bumped against the pier in
New Orleans. Pretty soon we heard the pat-a-pat of hundreds of bare
feet, and the Dago gang that unloads the fruit jumped on the deck and
down into the hold. Me and the general worked a while at passing up
the bunches, and they thought we were part of the gang. After about
an hour we managed to slip off the steamer onto the wharf.
"'Twas a great honor on the hands of an obscure Clancy, havin' the
entertainment of the representative of a great foreign filibustering
power. I first bought for the general and myself many long drinks
and things to eat that were not bananas. The general man trotted
along at my side, leaving all the arrangements to me. I led him
up to Lafayette Square and set him on a bench in the little park.
Cigarettes I had bought for him, and he humped himself down on the
seat like a little, fat, contented hobo. I look him over as he sets
there, and what I see pleases me. Brown by nature and instinct, he
is now brindled with dirt and dust. Praise to the mule, his clothes
is mostly strings and flaps. Yes, the looks of the general man is
agreeable to Clancy.
"I asks him, delicate, if, by any chance, he brought away anybody's
money with him from Guatemala. He sighs and humps his shoulders
against the bench. Not a cent. All right. Maybe, he tells me,
some of his friends in the tropic outfit will send him funds later.
The general was as clear a case of no visible means as I ever saw.
"I told him not to move from the bench, and then I went up to the
corner of Poydras and Carondelet. Along there is O'Hara's beat.
In five minutes along comes O'Hara, a big, fine man, red-faced,
with shinin' buttons, swinging his club. 'Twould be a fine thing
for Guatemala to move into O'Hara's precinct. 'Twould be a fine bit
of recreation for Danny to suppress revolutions and uprisins once or
twice a week with his club.
"'Is 5046 workin' yet, Danny?' says I, walking up to him.
"'Overtime,' says O'Hara, looking over me suspicious. 'Want some
"Fifty-forty-six is the celebrated city ordinance authorizing arrest,
conviction and imprisonment of persons that succeed in concealing
their crimes from the police.
"'Don't ye know Jimmy Clancy?' says I. 'Ye pink-gilled monster.'
So, when O'Hara recognized me beneath the scandalous exterior bestowed
upon me by the tropics, I backed him into a doorway and told him what
I wanted, and why I wanted it. 'All right, Jimmy,' says O'Hara. 'Go
back and hold the bench. I'll be along in ten minutes.'
"In that time O'Hara strolled through Lafayette Square and spied two
Weary Willies disgracin' one of the benches. In ten minutes more
J. Clancy and General De Vega, late candidate for the presidency of
Guatemala, was in the station house. The general is badly frightened,
and calls upon me to proclaim his distinguishments and rank.
"'The man,' says I to the police, 'used to be a railroad man. He's
on the bum now. 'Tis a little bughouse he is, on account of losin'
"'~Carrambos!~' says the general, fizzin' like a little soda-fountain,
'you fought, senor, with my forces in my native country. Why do you
say the lies? You shall say I am the General De Vega, one soldier,
"'Railroader,' says I again. 'On the hog. No good. Been livin' for
three days on stolen bananas. Look at him. Ain't that enough?'
"Twenty-five dollars or sixty days, was what the recorder gave the
general. He didn't have a cent, so he took the time. They let me go,
as I knew they would, for I had money to show, and O'Hara spoke for
me. Yes; sixty days he got. 'Twas just so long as I slung a pick
for the great country of Kam--Guatemala."
Clancy paused. The bright starlight showed a reminiscent look of
happy content on his seasoned features. Keogh leaned in his chair
and gave his partner a slap on his thinly clad back that sounded
like the crack of the surf on the sands.
"Tell 'em, ye divil," he chuckled, "how you got even with the tropical
general in the way of agricultural maneuverings."
"'Having no money," concluded Clancy, with unction, "they set him
to work his fine out with a gang from the parish prison clearing
Ursulines Street. Around the corner was a saloon decorated genially
with electric fans and cool merchandise. I made that me headquarters,
and every fifteen minutes I'd walk around and take a look at the
little man filibusterin' with a rake and shovel. 'Twas just such
a hot broth of a day as this has been. And I'd call at him 'Hey,
monseer!' and he'd look at me black, with the damp showin' through
his shirt in places.
"'Fat, strong mans,' says I to General De Vega, 'is needed in New
Orleans. Yes. To carry on the good work. Carrambos! Erin go
The Remnants of the Code
Breakfast in Coralio was at eleven. Therefore the people did not go
to market early. The little wooden market-house stood on a patch of
short-trimmed grass, under the vivid green foliage of a bread-fruit
Thither one morning the venders leisurely convened, bringing their
wares with them. A porch or platform six feet wide encircled the
building, shaded from the mid-morning sun by the projecting, grass-
thatched roof. Upon this platform the venders were wont to display
their goods--newly killed beef, fish, crabs, fruit of the country,
cassava, eggs, ~dulces~ and high, tottering stacks of native tortillas
as large around as the sombrero of a Spanish grandee.
But on this morning they whose stations lay on the seaward side
of the market-house, instead of spreading their merchandise formed
themselves into a softly jabbering and gesticulating group. For there
upon their space of the platform was sprawled, asleep, the unbeautiful
figure of "Beelzebub" Blythe. He lay upon a ragged strip of cocoa
matting, more than ever a fallen angel in appearance. His suit of
coarse flax, soiled, bursting at the seams, crumpled into a thousand
diversified wrinkles and creases, inclosed him absurdly, like the garb
of some effigy that had been stuffed in sport and thrown there after
indignity had been wrought upon it. But firmly upon the high bridge
of his nose reposed his gold-rimmed glasses, the surviving badge of
his ancient glory.
The sun's rays, reflecting quiveringly from the rippling sea upon his
face, and the voices of the market-men woke "Beelzebub" Blythe. He
sat up, blinking, and leaned his back against the wall of the market.
Drawing a blighted silk handkerchief from his pocket, he assiduously
rubbed and burnished his glasses. And while doing this he became
aware that his bedroom had been invaded, and that polite brown and
yellow men were beseeching him to vacate in favor of their market
If the senor would have the goodness--a thousand pardons for bringing
to him molestation--but soon would come the ~compradores~ for the
day's provisions--surely they had ten thousand regrets at disturbing
In this manner they expanded to him the intimation that he must clear
out and cease to clog the wheels of trade.
Blythe stepped from the platform with the air of a prince leaving
his canopied couch. He never quite lost that air, even at the lowest
point of his fall. It is clear that the college of good breeding does
not necessarily maintain a chair of morals within its walls.
Blythe shook out his wry clothing, and moved slowly up the Calle
Grande through the hot sand. He moved without a destination in
his mind. The little town was languidly stirring to its daily life.
Golden-skinned babies tumbled over one another in the grass. The sea
breeze brought him appetite, but nothing to satisfy it. Throughout
Coralio were its morning odors--those from the heavily fragrant
tropical flowers and from the bread baking in the outdoor ovens of
clay and the pervading smoke of their fires. Where the smoke cleared,
the crystal air, with some of the efficacy of faith, seemed to remove
the mountains almost to the sea, bringing them so near that one might
count the scarred glades on their wooded sides. The light-footed
Caribs were swiftly gliding to their tasks at the waterside. Already
along the bosky trails from the banana groves files of horses were
slowly moving, concealed, except for their nodding heads and plodding
legs, by the bunches of green-golden fruit heaped upon their backs.
On doorsills sat women combing their long, black hair and calling, one
to another, across the narrow thoroughfares. Peace reigned in Coralio
--arid and bald peace; but still peace.
On that bright morning when Nature seemed to be offering the lotus
on the Dawn's golden platter "Beelzebub" Blythe had reached rock
bottom. Further descent seemed impossible. That last night's slumber
in a public place had done for him. As long as he had had a roof
to cover him there had remained, unbridged, the space that separates
a gentleman from the beasts of the jungle and the fowls of the air.
But now he was little more than a whimpering oyster led to be devoured
on the sands of a Southern sea by the artful walrus, Circumstance,
and the implacable carpenter, Fate.
To Blythe money was now but a memory. He had drained his friends
of all that their good-fellowship had to offer; then he had squeezed
them to the last drop of their generosity; and at last, Aaron-like,
he had smitten the rock of their hardening bosoms for the scattering,
ignoble drops of Charity itself.
He had exhausted his credit to the last real. With the minute
keenness of the shameless sponger he was aware of every source in
Coralio from which a glass of rum, a meal or a piece of silver could
be wheedled. Marshalling each such source in his mind, he considered
it with all the thoroughness and penetration that hunger and thirst
lent him for the task. All his optimism failed to thresh a grain of
hope from the chaff of his postulations. He had played out the game.
That one night in the open had shaken his nerves. Until then there
had been left to him at least a few grounds upon which he could base
his unblushing demands upon his neighbors' stores. Now he must beg
instead of borrowing. The most brazen sophistry could not dignify
by the name of "loan" the coin contemptuously flung to a beachcomber
who slept on the bare boards of the public market.
But on this morning no beggar would have more thankfully received
a charitable coin, for the demon thirst had him by the throat--the
drunkard's matutinal thirst that requires to be slaked at each morning
station on the road to Tophet.
Blythe walked slowly up the street, keeping a watchful eye for any
miracle that might drop manna upon him in his wilderness. As he
passed the popular eating house of Madama Vasquez, Madama's boarders
were just sitting down to freshly baked bread, ~aguacates~, pines
and delicious coffee that sent forth odorous guarantee of its quality
upon the breeze. Madama was serving; she turned her shy, stolid,
melancholy gaze for a moment out the window; she saw Blythe, and
her expression turned more shy and embarrassed. "Beelzebub" owed
her twenty pesos. He bowed as he had once bowed to less embarrassed
dames to whom he owed nothing, and passed on.
Merchants and their clerks were throwing open the solid wooden doors
of their shops. Polite but cool were the glances they cast upon
Blythe as he lounged tentatively by with the remains of his old jaunty
air; for they were his creditors almost without exception.
At the little fountain in the ~plaza~ he made an apology for a toilet
with his wetted handkerchief. Across the open square filed the
dolorous line of friends to the prisoners in the calaboza, bearing
the morning meal of the immured. The food in their hands roused small
longing in Blythe.
It was drink that his soul craved, or money to buy it. In the streets
he met many with whom he had been friends and equals, and whose
patience and liberality he had gradually exhausted. Willard Geddie
and Paula cantered past him with the coolest of nods, returning from
their daily horseback ride along the old Indian road. Keogh passed
him at another corner, whistling cheerfully and bearing a prize of
newly laid eggs for the breakfast of himself and Clancy. The jovial
scout of Fortune was one of Blythe's victims who had plunged his hand
oftenest into his pocket to aid him. But now it seemed that Keogh,
too, had fortified himself against further invasions. His curt
greeting and the ominous light in his full, gray eye quickened the
steps of "Beelzebub," whom desperation had almost incited to attempt
an additional "loan."
Three drinking shops the forlorn one next visited in succession.
In all of these his money, his credit and his welcome had long since
been spent; but Blythe felt that he would have fawned in the dust at
the feet of an enemy that morning for one draught of ~aguardiente~.
In two of the ~pulperias~ his courageous petition for drink was met
with a refusal so polite that it stung worse than abuse. The third
establishment had acquired something of American methods; and here
he was seized bodily and cast out upon his hands and knees.
This physical indignity caused a singular change in the man.
As he picked himself up and walked away, an expression of absolute
relief came upon his features. The specious and conciliatory
smile that had been graven there was succeeded by a look of calm
and sinister resolve. "Beelzebub" had been floundering in the sea
of improbability, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable
world that had cast him overboard. He must have felt that with this
ultimate shock the line had snapped, and have experienced the welcome
ease of the drowning swimmer who has ceased to struggle.
Blythe walked to the next corner and stood there while he brushed
the sand from his garments and repolished his glasses.
"I've got to do it--oh, I've got to do it," he told himself, aloud.
"If I had a quart of rum I believe I could stave it off yet--for a
little while. But there's no more rum for--'Beelzebub,' as they call
me. By the flames of Tartarus! if I'm to sit at the right hand of
Satan somebody has got to pay the court expenses. You'll have to pony
up, Mr. Frank Goodwin. You're a good fellow; but a gentleman must
draw the line at being kicked into the gutter. Blackmail isn't a
pretty word, but it's the next station on the road I'm travelling."
With purpose in his steps Blythe now moved rapidly through the town
by way of its landward environs. He passed through the squalid
quarters of the improvident negroes and on beyond the picturesque
shacks of the poorer mestizos. From many points along his course he
could see, through the umbrageous glades, the house of Frank Goodwin
on its wooded hill. And as he crossed the little bridge over the
lagoon he saw the old Indian, Galvez, scrubbing at the wooden slab
that bore the name of Miraflores. Beyond the lagoon the lands of
Goodwin began to slope gently upward. A grassy road, shaded by
a munificent and diverse array of tropical flora wound from the edge
of an outlying banana grove to the dwelling. Blythe took this road
with long and purposeful strides.
Goodwin was seated on his coolest gallery, dictating letters to his
secretary, a sallow and capable native youth. The household adhered
to the American plan of breakfast; and that meal had been a thing of
the past for the better part of an hour.
The castaway walked to the steps, and flourished a hand.
"Good morning, Blythe, said Goodwin, looking up. "Come in and have
a chair. Anything I can do for you?"
"I want to speak to you in private."
Goodwin nodded at his secretary, who strolled out under a mango tree
and lit a cigarette. Blythe took the chair that he had left vacant.
"I want some money," he began, doggedly.
"I'm sorry," said Goodwin, with equal directness, "but you can't have
any. You're drinking yourself to death, Blythe. Your friends have
done all they could to help you to brace up. You won't help yourself.
There's no use furnishing you with money to ruin yourself with any
"Dear man," said Blythe, tilting back his chair, "it isn't a question
of social economy now. It's past that. I like you, Goodwin; and I've
come to stick a knife between your ribs. I was kicked out of Espada's
saloon this morning; and Society owes me reparation for my wounded
"I didn't kick you out."
"No--but in a general way you represent Society; and in a particular
way you represent my last chance. I've had to come down to it, old
man--I tried to do it a month ago when Losada's man was here turning
things over; but I couldn't do it then. Now it's different. I want
a thousand dollars, Goodwin; and you'll have to give it to me."
"Only last week," said Goodwin, with a smile, "a silver dollar was
all you were asking for."
"An evidence," said Blythe, flippantly, "that I was still virtuous--
though under heavy pressure. The wages of sin should be something
higher than a peso worth forty-eight cents. Let's talk business.
I am the villain in the third act; and I must have my merited,
if only temporary, triumph. I saw you collar the late president's
valiseful of boodle. Oh, I know it's blackmail; but I'm liberal
about the price. I know I'm a cheap villain--one of the regular
sawmill-drama kind--but you're one of my particular friends, and
I don't want to stick you hard."
"Suppose you go into the details," suggested Goodwin, calmly
arranging his letters on the table.
"All right," said "Beelzebub." "I like the way you take it.
I despise histrionics; so you will please prepare yourself for
the facts without any red fire, calcium or grace notes on
"On the night that His Fly-by-night Excellency arrived in town I was
very drunk. You will excuse the pride with which I state that fact;
but it was quite a feat for me to attain that desirable state.
Somebody had left a cot out under the orange trees in the yard of
Madama Ortiz's hotel. I stepped over the wall, laid down upon it,
and fell asleep. I was awakened by an orange that dropped from
the tree upon my nose; and I laid there for a while cursing Sir Isaac
Newton, or whoever it was that invented gravitation, for not confining
his theory to apples.
"And then along came Mr. Miraflores and his true-love with the
treasury in a valise, and went into the hotel. Next you hove in
sight, and held a pow-wow with the tonsorial artist who insisted
upon talking shop after hours. I tried to slumber again; but once
more my rest was disturbed--this time by the noise of the popgun
that went off upstairs. Then that valise came crashing down into
an orange tree just above my head; and I arose from my couch, not
knowing when it might begin to rain Saratoga trunks. When the army
and the constabulary began to arrive, with their medals and
decorations hastily pinned to their pajamas, and their snickersnees
drawn, I crawled into the welcome shadow of a banana plant. I
remained there for an hour, by which time the excitement and the
people had cleared away. And then, my dear Goodwin--excuse me--I saw
you sneak back and pluck that ripe and juicy valise from the orange
tree. I followed you, and saw you take it to your own house. A
hundred-thousand-dollar crop from one orange tree in a season about
breaks the record of the fruit-growing industry.
"Being a gentleman at that time, of course I never mentioned the
incident to any one. But this morning I was kicked out of a saloon,
my code of honor is all out at the elbows, and I'd sell my mother's
prayer-book for three fingers of ~aguardiente~. I'm not putting
on the screws hard. It ought to be worth a thousand to you for me
to have slept on that cot through the whole business without waking
up and seeing anything."
Goodwin opened two more letters, and made memoranda in pencil on them.
Then he called "Manuel!" to his secretary, who came, spryly.
"The ~Ariel~--when does she sail?" asked Goodwin. "Senor," answered
the youth, "at three this afternoon. She drops down-coast to Punta
Soledad to complete her cargo of fruit. From there she sails for New
Orleans without delay."
"~Bueno!~" said Goodwin. "These letters may wait yet awhile."
The secretary returned to his cigarette under the mango tree.
In round numbers," said Goodwin, facing Blythe squarely, "how much
money do you owe in this town, not including the sums you have
'borrowed' from me?"
"Five hundred--at a rough guess," answered Blythe, lightly.
"Go somewhere in the town and draw up a schedule of your debts," said
Goodwin. "Come back here in two hours, and I will send Manuel with
the money to pay them. I will also have a decent outfit of clothing
ready for you. You will sail on the ~Ariel~ at three. Manuel will
accompany you as far as the deck of the steamer. There he will hand
you one thousand dollars in cash. I suppose that we needn't discuss
what you will be expected to do in return?"
"Oh, I understand," piped Blythe, cheerily. "I was asleep all the
time on the cot under Madama Ortiz's orange trees; and I shake off
the dust of Coralio forever. I'll play fair. No more of the lotus
for me. Your proposition is 0. K. Youre a good fellow, Goodwin; and
I let you off light. I'll agree to everything. But in the meantime
--I've a devil of a thirst on, old man--"
"Not a ~centavo~," said Goodwin, firmly, "until you are on board the
~Ariel~. You would be drunk in thirty minutes if you had money now."
But he noticed the blood-streaked eyeballs, the relaxed form and
the shaking hands of "Beelzebub"; and he stepped into the dining
room through the low window, and brought out a glass and a decanter
"Take a bracer, anyway, before you go," he proposed, even as a man
to the friend whom he entertains.
"Beelzebub" Blythe's eyes glistened at the sight of the solace for
which his soul burned. Today for the first time his poisoned nerves
had been denied their steadying dose; and their retort was a mounting
torment. He grasped the decanter and rattled its crystal mouth
against the glass in his trembling hand. He flushed the glass,
and then stood erect, holding it aloft for an instant. For one
fleeting moment he held his head above the drowning waves of
his abyss. He nodded easily at Goodwin, raised his brimming glass
and murmured a "health" that men had used in his ancient Paradise
Lost. And then so suddenly that he spilled the brandy over his hand,
he set down his glass, untasted.
"In two hours," his dry lips muttered to Goodwin, as he marched down
the steps and turned his face toward the town.
In the edge of the cool banana grove "Beelzebub" halted, and snapped
the tongue of his belt buckle into another hole.
"I couldn't do it," he explained, feverishly, to the waving banana
fronds. "I wanted to, but I couldn't. A gentleman can't drink with
the man that he blackmails."
John De Graffenreid Atwood ate of the lotus, root, stem, and flower.
The tropics gobbled him up. He plunged enthusiastically into his
work, which was to try to forget Rosine.
Now, they who dine on the lotus rarely consume it plain. There is
a sauce ~au diable~ that goes with it; and the distillers are the
chefs who prepare it. And on Johnny's menu card it read "brandy."
With a bottle between them, he and Billy Keogh would sit on the porch
of the little consulate at night and roar out great, indecorous songs,
until the natives, slipping hastily past, would shrug a shoulder and
mutter things to themselves about the "~Americanos diablos~."
One day Johnny's ~mozo~ brought the mail and dumped it on the table.
Johnny leaned from his hammock, and fingered the four or five letters
dejectedly. Keogh was sitting on the edge of the table chopping
lazily with a paper knife at the legs of a centipede that was crawling
among the stationery. Johnny was in that phase of lotus-eating when
all the world tastes bitter in one's mouth.
"Same old thing!" he complained. "Fool people writing for information
about the country. They want to know all about raising fruit, and how
to make a fortune without work. Half of 'em don't even send stamps
for a reply. They think a consul hasn't anything to do but write
letters. Slit those envelopes for me, old man, and see what they
want. I'm feeling too rocky to move."
Keogh, acclimated beyond all possibility of ill-humor, drew his chair
to the table with smiling compliance on his rose-pink countenance,
and began to slit open the letters. Four of them were from citizens
in various parts of the United States who seemed to regard the consul
at Coralio as a cyclopedia of information. They asked long lists
of questions, numerically arranged, about the climate, products,
possibilities, laws, business chances, and statistics of the country
in which the consul had the honor of representing his own government.
"Write 'em, please, Billy," said that inert official, "just a line,
referring them to the latest consular report. Tell 'em the State
Department will be delighted to furnish the literary gems. Sign my
name. Don't let your pen scratch, Billy; it'll keep me awake."
"Don't snore," said Keogh, amiably, "and I'll do your work for you.
You need a corps of assistants, anyhow. Don't see how you ever get
out a report. Wake up a minute--here's one more letter--it's from
your own town, too--—Dalesburg."
"That so?" murmured Johnny showing a mild and obligatory interest.
"What's it about?"
"Postmaster writes," explained Keogh. "Says a citizen of the town
wants some facts and advice from you. Says the citizen has an idea
in his head of coming down where you are and opening a shoe store.
Wants to know if you think the business would pay. Says he's heard
of the boom along this coast, and wants to get in on the ground
In spite of the heat and his bad temper, Johnny's hammock swayed
with his laughter. Keogh laughed too; and the pet monkey on the top
shelf of the bookcase chattered in shrill sympathy with the ironical
reception of the letter from Dalesburg.
"Great bunions!" exclaimed the consul. "Shoe store! What'll they ask
about next, I wonder? Overcoat factory, I reckon. Say, Billy--of our
3,000 citizens, how many do you suppose ever had on a pair of shoes?"
Keogh reflected judicially.
"Let's see--there's you and me and--"
"Not me," said Johnny, promptly and incorrectly, holding up a foot
encased in a disreputable deerskin ~zapato~. "I haven't been a victim
to shoes in months."
"But you've got 'em, though," went on Keogh. "And there's Goodwin
and Blanchard and Geddie and old Lutz and Doc Gregg and that Italian
that's agent for the banana company, and there's old Delgado--no; he
wears sandals. And, oh, yes; there's Madama Ortiz, 'what kapes the
hotel'--she had on a pair of red kid slippers at the ~baile~ the other
night. And Miss Pasa, her daughter, that went to school in the States
--she brought back some civilized notions in the way of footgear. And
there's the ~comandante's~ sister that dresses up her feet on feast-
days--and Mrs. Geddie, who wears a two with a Castilian instep--and
that's about all the ladies. Let's see--don't some of the soldiers at
the ~cuartel~--no: that's so; they're allowed shoes only when on the
march. In barracks they turn their little toeses out to grass."
"'Bout right," agreed the consul. "Not over twenty out of the three
thousand ever felt leather on their walking arrangements. Oh, yes;
Coralio is just the town for an enterprising shoe store--that doesn't
want to part with its goods. Wonder if old Patterson is trying to
jolly me! He always was full of things he called jokes. Write him
a letter, Billy. I'll dictate it. We'll jolly him back a few."
Keogh dipped his pen, and wrote at Johnny's dictation. With many
pauses, filled in with smoke and sundry travellings of the bottle
and glasses, the following reply to the Dalesburg communication was
MR. OBADIAH PATTERSON,
~Dear Sir~: in reply to your favor of July 2d. I have the honor
to inform you that, according to my opinion, there is no place on
the habitable globe that presents to the eye stronger evidence of
the need of a first-class shoe store than does the town of Coralio.
There are 3,000 inhabitants in the place, and not a single shoe
store! The situation speaks for itself. This coast is rapidly
becoming the goal of enterprising business men, but the shoe
business is one that has been sadly overlooked or neglected.
In fact, there are a considerable number of our citizens actually
without shoes at present.
Besides the want above mentioned, there is also a crying need
for a brewery, a college of higher mathematics, a coal yard, and a
clean and intellectual Punch and Judy show. I have the honor to be,
Your Obt. Servant,
~John De Graffenreid Atwood~,
U.S. CONSUL AT CORALIO.
P.S.--Hello! Uncle Obadiah. How's the old burg racking along?
What would the government do without you and me? Look out for
a green-headed parrot and a bunch of bananas soon, from your old
"I throw in that postscript," explained the consul, "so Uncle Obadiah
won't take offense at the official tone of the letter! Now, Billy,
you get that correspondence fixed up, and send Pancho to the post-
office with it. The ~Ariadne~ takes the mail out tomorrow if they
make up that load of fruit today."
The night programme in Coralio never varied. The recreations of
the people were soporific and flat. They wandered about, barefoot
and aimless, speaking lowly and smoking cigar or cigarette. Looking
down on the dimly lighted ways one seemed to see a threading maze
of brunette ghosts tangled with a procession of insane fireflies.
In some houses the thrumming of lugubrious guitars added to
the depression of the ~triste~ night. Giant tree-frogs rattled in
the foliage as loudly as the end man's "bones" in a minstrel troupe.
By nine o'clock the streets were almost deserted.
Not at the consulate was there often a change of bill. Keogh would
come there nightly, for Coralio's one cool place was the little porch
of that official residence. The brandy would be kept moving; and
before midnight sentiment would begin to stir in the heart of the
self-exiled consul. Then he would relate to Keogh the story of his
ended romance. Each night Keogh would listen patiently to the tale,
and be ready with untiring sympathy.
"But don't you think for a minute"--thus Johnny would always conclude
his woeful narrative--"that I'm grieving about that girl, Billy. I've
forgotten her. She never enters my mind. If she were to enter that
door right now, my pulse wouldn't gain a beat. That's all over long
"Don't I know it?" Keogh would answer. "Of course you've forgotten
her. Proper thing to do. Wasn't quite 0. K. of her to listen to the
knocks that--er--Dink Pawson kept giving you."
"Pink Dawson!"--a word of contempt would be in Johnny's tones--"Poor
white trash! That's what he was. Had five hundred acres of farming
land, though; and that counted. Maybe I'll have a chance to get back
at him some day. The Dawsons weren't anybody. Everybody in Alabama
knows the Atwoods. Say, Billy--did you know my mother was a
"Why, no," Keogh would say; "is that so?" He had heard it some three
"Fact. The De Graffenreids of Hancock County. But I never think
of that girl any more, do I, Billy?"
"Not for a minute, my boy," would be the last sounds heard by
the conqueror of Cupid.
At this point Johnny would fall into a gentle slumber, and Keogh would
saunter out to his own shack under the calabash tree at the edge of
In a day or two the letter from the Dalesburg postmaster and its
answer had been forgotten by the Coralio exiles. But on the 26th day
of July the fruit of the reply appeared upon the tree of events.
The ~Andador~, a fruit steamer that visited Coralio regularly, drew
into the offing and anchored. The beach was lined with spectators
while the quarantine doctor and the custom-house crew rowed out to
attend to their duties.
An hour later Billy Keogh lounged into the consulate, clean and cool
in his linen clothes, and grinning like a pleased shark. "Guess
what?" he said to Johnny, lounging in his hammock.
"Too hot to guess," said Johnny, lazily.
"Your shoe-store man's come," said Keogh, rolling the sweet morsel on
his tongue, "with a stock of goods big enough to supply the continent
as far down as Tierra del Fuego. They're carting his cases over to
the custom-house now. Six barges full they brought ashore and have
paddled back for the rest. Oh, ye saints in glory! won't there be
regalements in the air when he gets onto the joke and has an interview
with Mr. Consul? It'll be worth nine years in the tropics just to
witness that one joyful moment."
Keogh loved to take his mirth easily. He selected a clean place
on the matting and lay upon the floor. The walls shook with his
enjoyment. Johnny turned half over and blinked.
"Didn't tell me," he said, "that anybody was fool enough to take
that letter seriously."
"Four-thousand-dollar stock of goods!" gasped Keogh, in ecstasy.
"Talk about coals to Newcastle! Why didn't he take a ship-load of
palm-leaf fans to Spitzenbergen while he was about it? Saw the old
codger on the beach. You ought to have been there when he put on
his specs and squinted at the five hundred or so barefooted citizens
"Are you telling the truth, Billy?" asked the consul, weakly.
"Am I? You ought to see the buncoed gentleman's daughter he brought
along. Looks! She makes the brick-dust senoritas here look like
"Go on," said Johnny, "if you can stop that asinine giggling. I hate
to see a grown man make a laughing hyena of himself."
"Name is Hemstetter," went on Keogh. "He's a--Hello! what's the matter
Johnny's moccasined feet struck the floor with a thud as he wriggled
out of his hammock.
"Get up, you idiot," he said, sternly, "or I'll brain you with this
inkstand. That's Rosine and her father. Gad! what a drivelling idiot
old Patterson is! Get up, here, Billy Keogh, and help me. What the
devil are we going to do? Has all the world gone crazy?"
Keogh rose and dusted himself. He managed to regain a decorous
"Situation has got to be met, Johnny," he said, with some success
at seriousness. "I didn't think about its being your girl until you
spoke. First thing to do is to get them comfortable quarters. You
go down and face the music, and I'll trot out to Goodwin's and see
if Mrs. Goodwin won't take them in. They've got the decentest house
"Bless you, Billy!" said the consul. "I knew you wouldn't desert me.
The world's bound to come to an end, but maybe we can stave it off for
a day or two."
Keogh hoisted his umbrella and set out for Goodwin's house. Johnny
put on his coat and hat. He picked up the brandy bottle, but set it
down again without drinking, and marched bravely down to the beach.
In the shade of the custom-house walls he found Mr. Hemstetter
and Rosine surrounded by a mass of gaping citizens. The customs
officers were ducking and scraping, while the captain of the Andador
interpreted the business of the new arrivals. Rosine looked healthy
and very much alive. She was gazing at the strange scenes around her
with amused interest. There was a faint blush upon her round cheek
as she greeted her old admirer. Mr. Hemstetter shook hands with
Johnny in a very friendly way. He was an oldish, impractical man
--one of that numerous class of erratic business men who are forever
dissatisfied, and seeking a change.
"I am very glad to see you, John--may I call you John?" he said.
"Let me thank you for your prompt answer to our postmaster's letter
of inquiry. He volunteered to write to you on my behalf. I was
looking about for something different in the way of a business
in which the profits would be greater. I had noticed in the papers
that this coast was receiving much attention from investors. I am
extremely grateful for your advice to come. I sold out everything
that I possess, and invested the proceeds in as fine a stock of shoes
as could be bought in the North. You have a picturesque town here,
John. I hope business will be as good as your letter justifies me
Johnny's agony was abbreviated by the arrival of Keogh, who hurried up
with the news that Mrs. Goodwin would be much pleased to place rooms
at the disposal of Mr. Hemstetter and his daughter. So there Mr.
Hemstetter and Rosine were at once conducted and left to recuperate
from the fatigue of the voyage, while Johnny went down to see that
the cases of shoes were safely stored in the customs warehouse pending
their examination by the officials. Keogh, grinning like a shark,
skirmished about to find Goodwin, to instruct him not to expose to
Mr. Hemstetter the true state of Coralio as a shoe market until Johnny
had been given a chance to redeem the situation, if such a thing were
That night the consul and Keogh held a desperate consultation on
the breezy porch of the consulate.
Send em back home," began Keogh, reading Johnny's thoughts.
"I would," said Johnny, after a little silence; "but I've been lying
to you, Billy."
"All right about that," said Keogh, affably.
"I've told you hundreds of times," said Johnny, slowly, "that I had
forgotten that girl, haven't I?"
"About three hundred and seventy-five," admitted the monument
"I lied," repeated the consul, "every time. I never forgot her for
one moment. I was an obstinate ass for running away just because she
said 'No' once. And I was too proud a fool to go back. I talked with
Rosine a few minutes this evening up at Goodwin's. I found out one
thing. You remember that farmer fellow who was always after her?"
"Dink Pawson?" asked Keogh.
"Pink Dawson. Well, he wasn't a hill of beans to her. She says she
didn't believe a word of the things be told her about me. But I'm
sewed up now, Billy. That tomfool letter we sent ruined whatever
chance I had left. She'll despise me when she finds out that her
old father has been made the victim of a joke that a decent schoolboy
wouldn't have been guilty of. Shoes! Why he couldn't sell twenty
pairs of shoes in Coralio if he kept store here for twenty years. You
put a pair of shoes on one of these Caribs or Spanish brown boys and
what'd he do? Stand on his head and squeal until he'd kicked 'em off.
None of 'em ever wore shoes and they never will. If I send 'em back
home I'll have to tell the whole story, and what'll she think of me?
I want that girl worse than ever, Billy, and now when she's in reach
I've lost her forever because I tried to be funny when the thermometer
was at 102."
"Keep cheerful," said the optimistic Keogh. "And let 'em open
the store. I've been busy myself this afternoon. We can stir up a
temporary boom in foot-gear anyhow. I'll buy six pairs when the doors
open. I've been around and seen all the fellows and explained the
catastrophe. They'll all buy shoes like they was centipedes. Frank
Goodwin will take cases of 'em. The Geddies want about eleven pairs
between 'em. Clancy is going to invest the savings of weeks, and even
old Doc Gregg wants three pairs of alligator-hide slippers if they've
got any tens. Blanchard got a look at Miss Hemstetter; and as he's
a Frenchman, no less than a dozen pairs will do for him."
"A dozen customers," said Johnny, "for a $4,000 stock of shoes!
It won't work. There's a big problem here to figure out. You go
home, Billy, and leave me alone. I've got to work at it all by
myself. Take that bottle of Three-star along with you--no, sir;
not another ounce of booze for the United States consul. I'll sit
here tonight and pull out the think stop. If there's a soft place
on this proposition anywhere I'll land on it. If there isn't
there'll be another wreck to the credit of the gorgeous tropics."
Keogh left, feeling that he could be of no use. Johnny laid a handful
of cigars on a table and stretched himself in a steamer chair. When
the sudden daylight broke, silvering the harbor ripples, he was still
sitting there. Then he got up, whistling a little tune, and took his
At nine o'clock he walked down to the dingy little cable office and
hung for half an hour over a blank. The result of his application was
the following message, which he signed and had transmitted at a cost
TO PINKNEY DAWSON,
Draft for $100 comes to you next mail. Ship me immediately 500
pounds stiff, dry cockleburrs. New use here in arts. Market price
twenty cents pound. Further orders likely. Rush.
Within a week a suitable building had been secured in the Calle
Grande, and Mr. Hemstetter's stock of shoes arranged upon their
shelves. The rent of the store was moderate; and the stock made
a fine showing of neat white boxes, attractively displayed.
Johnny's friends stood by him loyally. On the first day Keogh
strolled into the store in a casual kind of way about once every hour,
and bought shoes. After he had purchased a pair each of extension
soles, congress gaiters, button kids, low-quartered calfs, dancing
pumps, rubber boots, tans of various hues, tennis shoes and flowered
slippers, he sought out Johnny to be prompted as to the names of other
kinds that he might inquire for. The other English-speaking residents
also played their parts nobly by buying often and liberally. Keogh
was grand marshal, and made them distribute their patronage, thus
keeping up a fair run of custom for several days.
Mr. Hemstetter was gratified by the amount of business done thus far;
but expressed surprise that the natives were so backward with their
"Oh, they're awfully shy," explained Johnny, as he wiped his forehead
nervously. "They'll get the habit pretty soon. They'll come with
a rush when they do come."
One afternoon Keogh dropped into the consul's office, chewing an
unlighted cigar thoughtfully.
"Got anything up your sleeve?" he inquired of Johnny. "If you have
it's about time to show it. If you can borrow some gent's hat in
the audience, and make a lot of customers for an idle stock of shoes
come out of it you'd better spiel. The boys have all laid in enough
footwear to last 'em ten years; and there's nothing doing in the shoe
store but dolcy far nienty. I just came by there. Your venerable
victim was standing in the door, gazing through his specs at the bare
toes passing by his emporium. The natives here have got the true
artistic temperament. Me and Clancy took eighteen tintypes this
morning in two hours. There's been but one pair of shoes sold all
day. Blanchard went in and bought a pair of furlined house-slippers
because he thought he saw Miss Hemstetter go into the store. I saw
him throw the slippers into the lagoon afterwards."
"There's a Mobile fruit steamer coming in tomorrow or next day," said
Johnny. We can't do anything until then."
"What are you going to do--try to create a demand?"
"Political economy isn't your strong point," said the consul,
impudently. "You can't create a demand. But you can create
a necessity for a demand. That's what I am going to do."
Two weeks after the consul sent his cable, a fruit steamer brought
him a huge, mysterious brown bale of some unknown commodity. Johnny's
influence with the custom-house people was sufficiently strong for
him to get the goods turned over to him without the usual inspection.
He had the bale taken to the consulate and snugly stowed in the back
room. That night he ripped open a corner of it and took out a handful
of the cockleburrs. He examined them with the care with which a
warrior examines his arms before he goes forth to battle for his
lady-love and life. The burrs were the ripe August product, as hard
as filberts, and bristling with spines as tough and sharp as needles.
Johnny whistled softly a little tune, and went out to find Billy
Later in the night, when Coralio was steeped in slumber, he and Billy
went forth into the deserted streets with their coats bulging like
balloons. All up and down the Calle Grande they went, sowing the
sharp burrs carefully in the sand, along the narrow sidewalks, in
every foot of grass between the silent houses. And then they took
the side streets and byways, missing none. No place where the foot of
man, woman or child might fall was slighted. Many trips they made to
and from the prickly hoard. And then, nearly at the dawn, they laid
themselves down to rest calmly, as great generals do after planning
a victory according to the revised tactics, and slept, knowing that
they had sowed with the accuracy of Satan sowing tares and the
perseverance of Paul planting.
With the rising sun came the purveyors of fruits and meats, and
arranged their wares in and around the little market-house. At
one end of the town near the seashore the market-house stood; and
the sowing of the burrs had not been carried that far. The dealers
waited long past the hour when their sales usually began. None
came to buy. "!Que hay?~" they began to exclaim, one to another.
At their accustomed time, from every 'dobe and palm hut and grass-
thatched shack and dim ~patio~ glided women--black women, brown
women, lemon-colored women, women dun and yellow and tawny. They
were the marketers starting to purchase the family supply of cassava,
plantains, meat, fowls, and tortillas. Decollete they were and
bare-armed and bare-footed, with a single skirt reaching below
the knee. Stolid and ox-eyed, they stepped from their doorways
into the narrow paths or upon the soft grass of the streets.
The first to emerge uttered ambiguous squeals, and raised one foot
quickly. Another step and they sat down, with shrill cries of alarm,
to pick at the new and painful insects that had stung them upon the
feet. "~Que picadores diablos!~" they screeched to one another across
the narrow ways. Some tried the grass instead of the paths, but there
they were also stung and bitten by the strange little prickly balls.
They plumped down in the grass, and added their lamentations to those
of their sisters in the sandy paths. All through the town was heard
the plaint of the feminine jabber. The venders in the market still
wondered why no customers came.
Then men, lords of the earth, came forth. They, too, began to hop,
to dance, to limp, and to curse. They stood stranded and foolish,
or stopped to pluck at the scourge that attacked their feet and
ankles. Some loudly proclaimed the pest to be poisonous spiders
of an unknown species.
And then the children ran out for their morning romp. And now to
the uproar was added the howls of limping infants and cockleburred
childhood. Every minute the advancing day brought forth fresh
Dona Maria Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas stepped from her
honored doorway, as was her daily custom, to procure fresh bread
from the ~panaderia~ across the street. She was clad in a skirt of
flowered, yellow satin, a chemise of ruffled linen, and wore a purple
mantilla from the looms of Spain. Her lemon-tinted feet, alas! were
bare. Her progress was majestic, for were not her ancestors hidalgos
of Aragon? Three steps she made across the velvety grass, and set
her aristocratic sole upon a bunch of Johnny's burrs. Dona Maria
Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas emitted a yowl even as a
wild-cat. Turning about, she fell upon hands and knees, and crawled
--ay, like a beast of the field she crawled back to her honorable
Don Senor Ildefonso Federico Valdazar, ~Juez de la Paz~, weighing
twenty stone, attempted to convey his bulk to the ~pulperia~ at the
corner of the plaza in order to assuage his matutinal thirst. The
first plunge of his unshod foot into the cool grass struck a concealed
mine. Don Ildefonso fell like a crumpled cathedral, crying out that
he had been fatally bitten by a deadly scorpion. Everywhere were the
shoeless citizens hopping, stumbling, limping, and picking from their
feet the venomous insects that had come in a single night to harass
The first to perceive the remedy was Esteban Delgado, the barber, a
man of travel and education. Sitting upon a stone, he plucked burrs
from his toes, and made oration:
"Behold, my friends, these bugs of the devil! I know them well.
They soar through the skies in swarms like pigeons. These are dead
ones that fell during the night. In Yucatan I have seen them as large
as oranges. Yes! There they hiss like serpents, and have wings like
bats. It is the shoes--the shoes that one needs! ~Zapatos--zapatos
Esteban hobbled to Mr. Hemstetter's store, and bought shoes. Coming
out, he swaggered down the street with impunity, reviling loudly the
bugs of the devil. The suffering ones sat up or stood upon one foot
and beheld the immune barber. Men, women and children took up the
cry: "~Zapatos! zapatos!~"
The necessity for the demand had been created. The demand followed.
That day Mr. Hemstetter sold three hundred pairs of shoes.
"It is really surprising," he said to Johnny, who came up in the
evening to help him straighten out the stock, "how trade is picking
up. Yesterday I made but three sales."
"I told you they'd whoop things up when they got started," said the
"I think I shall order a dozen more cases of goods, to keep the stock
up," said Mr. Hemstetter, beaming through his spectacles.
"I wouldn't send in any orders yet," advised Johnny. "Wait till you
see how the trade holds up."
Each night Johnny and Keogh sowed the crop that grew dollars by day.
At the end of ten days two-thirds of the stock of shoes had been
sold; and the stock of cockleburrs was exhausted. Johnny cabled
to Pink Dawson for another 500 pounds, paying twenty cents per pound
as before. Mr. Hemstetter carefully made up an order for $1500 worth
of shoes from Northern firms. Johnny hung about the store until this
order was ready for the mail, and succeeded in destroying it before
it reached the postoffice.
That night he took Rosine under the mango tree by Godwin's porch,
and confessed everything. She looked him in the eye, and said: "You
are a very wicked man. Father and I will go back home. You say it
was a joke? I think it is a very serious matter."
But at the end of half an hour's argument the conversation had been
turned upon a different subject. The two were considering the
respective merits of pale blue and pink wall-paper with which the old
colonial mansion of the Atwoods in Dalesburg was to be decorated after
On the next morning Johnny confessed to Mr. Hemstetter. The shoe
merchant put on his spectacles, and said through them: "You strike me
as being a most extraordinary young scamp. If I had not managed this
enterprise with good business judgment my entire stock of goods might
have been a complete loss. Now, how do you propose to dispose of the
rest of it?"
When the second invoice of cockleburrs arrived Johnny loaded them and
the remainder of the shoes into schooner, and sailed down the coast
to Alazan. There, in the same dark and diabolical manner, he repeated
his success: and came back with a bag of money and not so much as
And then he besought his great Uncle of the waving goatee and starred
vest to accept his resignation, for the lotus no longer lured him.
He hankered for the spinach and cress of Dalesburg.
The services of Mr. William Terence Keogh as acting consul, pro term.,
were suggested and accepted, and Johnny sailed with the Hemstetters
back to his native shores.
Keogh slipped into the sinecure of the American consulship with
the ease that never left him even in such high places. The tintype
establishment was soon to become a thing of the past, although its
deadly work along the peaceful and helpless Spanish Main was never
effaced. The restless partners were about to be off again, scouting
ahead of the slow ranks of Fortune. But now they would take different
ways. There were rumors of a promising uprising in Peru; and thither
the martial Clancy would turn his adventurous steps. As for Keogh,
he was figuring in his mind and on quires of Government letter-heads
a scheme that dwarfed the art of misrepresenting the human countenance
"What suits me," Keogh used to say, "in the way of a business
proposition is something diversified that looks like a longer shot
than it is--something in the way of a genteel graft that isn't worked
enough for the correspondence schools to be teaching it by mail.
I take the long end; but I like to have at least as good a chance to
win as a man learning to play poker on an ocean steamer, or running
for governor of Texas on the Republican ticket. And when I cash in
my winnings I don't want to find any widows' and orphans' chips in
The grass-grown globe was the green table on which Keogh gambled.
The games he played were of his own invention. He was no grubber
after the diffident dollar. Nor did he care to follow it with horn
and hounds. Rather he loved to coax it with egregious and brilliant
flies from its habitat in the waters of strange streams. Yet Keogh
was a business man; and his schemes, in spite of their singularity,
were as solidly set as the plans of a building contractor. In
Arthur's time Sir William Keogh would have been a Knight of the Round
Table. In these modern days he rides abroad, seeking the Graft
instead of the Grail.
Three days after Johnny's departure, two small schooners appeared
off Coralio. After some delay a boat put off from one of them, and
brought a sunburned young man ashore. This young man had a shrewd
and calculating eye; and he gazed with amazement at the strange things
that he saw. He found on the beach some one who directed him to the
consul's office; and thither he made his way at a nervous gait.
Keogh was sprawled in the official chair, drawing caricatures
of his Uncle's head on an official pad of paper. He looked up
at his visitor.
"Where's Johnny Atwood?" inquired the sunburned young man, in
a business tone.
"Gone," said Keogh, working carefully at Uncle Sam's necktie.
"That's just like him," remarked the nut-brown one, leaning against
the table. "He always was a fellow to gallivant around instead of
'tending to business. Will he be in soon?"
"Don't think so," said Keogh, after a fair amount of deliberation.
"I s'pose he's out at some of his tomfoolery," conjectured the
visitor, in a tone of virtuous conviction. "Johnny never would stick
to anything long enough to succeed. I wonder how he manages to run
his business here, and never be 'round to look after it."
"I'm looking after the business just now," admitted the pro term.
"Are you--then, say--where's the factory?"
"What factory?" asked Keogh, with a mildly polite interest.
"Why, the factory where they use them cockleburrs. Lord knows what
they use 'em for, anyway! I've got the basements of both them ships
out there loaded with 'em. I'll give you a bargain in this lot.
I've had every man, woman and child around Dalesburg that wasn't
busy pickin' 'em for a month. I hired these ships to bring 'em over.
Everybody thought I was crazy. Now, you can have this lot for fifteen
cents a pound, delivered on land. And if you want more I guess old
Alabam' can come up to the demand. Johnny told me when he left home
that if he struck anything down here that there was any money in he'd
let me in on it. Shall I drive the ships in and hitch?"
A look of supreme, almost incredulous, delight dawned in Keogh's
ruddy countenance. He dropped his pencil. His eyes turned upon
the sunburned young man with joy in them mingled with fear lest
his ecstasy should prove a dream.
"For God's sake tell me," said Keogh, earnestly, "are you Dink
"My name is Pinkney Dawson," said the cornerer of the cockleburr
Billy Keogh slid rapturously and gently from his chair to his favorite
strip of matting on the floor.
There were not many sounds in Coralio on that sultry afternoon. Among
those that were may be mentioned a noise of enraptured and unrighteous
laughter from a prostrate Irish-American, while a sunburned young man,
with a shrewd eye, looked on him with wonder and amazement. Also the
"tramp, tramp, tramp" of many well-shod feet in the streets outside.
Also the lonesome wash of the waves that beat along the historic
shores of the Spanish Main.
Masters of Arts
A two-inch stub of a blue pencil was the wand with which Keogh
performed the preliminary acts of his magic. So, with this he covered
paper with diagrams and figures while he waited for the United States
of America to send down to Coralio a successor to Atwood, resigned.
The new scheme that his mind had conceived, his stout heart indorsed,
and his blue pencil corroborated, was laid around the characteristics
and human frailties of the new president ofAnchuria. These
characteristics, and the situation out of which Keogh hoped to wrest
a golden tribute, deserve chronicling contributive to the clear order
President Losada--many called him Dictator--was a man whose genius
would have made him conspicuous even among Anglo-Saxons, had not
that genius been intermixed with other traits that were petty and
subversive. He had some of the lofty patriotism of Washington (the
man he most admired), the force of Napoleon, and much of the wisdom
of the sages. These characteristics might have justified him the
assumption of the title of "The Illustrious Liberator," had they not
been accompanied by a stupendous and amazing vanity that kept him
in the less worthy ranks of the dictators.
Yet he did his country great service. With a mighty grasp he shook
it nearly free from the shackles of ignorance and sloth and the vermin
that fed upon it, and all but made it a power in the council of
nations. He established schools and hospitals, built roads, bridges,
railroads and palaces, and bestowed generous subsidies upon the arts
and sciences. He was the absolute despot and the idol of his people.
The wealth of the country poured into his hands. Other presidents had
been rapacious without reason. Losada amassed enormous wealth, but
his people had their share of the benefits.
The joint in his armor was his insatiate passion for monuments and
tokens commemorating his glory. In every town he caused to be erected
statues of himself bearing legends in praise of his greatness. In
the walls of every public edifice, tablets were fixed reciting his
splendor and the gratitude of his subjects. His statuettes and
portraits were scattered throughout the land in every house and hut.
One of the sycophants in his court painted him as St. John, with a
halo and a train of attendants in full uniform. Losada saw nothing
incongruous in this picture, and had it hung in a church in the
capital. He ordered from a French sculptor a marble group including
himself with Napoleon, Alexander the Great, and one or two others whom
he deemed worthy of the honor.
He ransacked Europe for decorations, employing policy, money and
intrigue to cajole the orders he coveted from kings and rulers.
On state occasions his breast was covered from shoulder to shoulder
with crosses, stars, golden roses, medals and ribbons. It was said
that the man who could contrive for him a new decoration, or invent
some new method of extolling his greatness, might plunge a hand deep
into the treasury.
This was the man upon whom Billy Keogh had his eye. The gentle
buccaneer had observed the rain of favors that fell upon those who
ministered to the president's vanities, and he did not deem it his
duty to hoist his umbrella against the scattering drops of liquid
In a few weeks the new consul arrived, releasing Keogh from his
temporary duties. He was a young man fresh from college, who lived
for botany alone. The consulate at Coralio gave him the opportunity
to study tropical flora. He wore smoked glasses, and carried a green
umbrella. He filled the cool, back porch of the consulate with
plants and specimens so that space for a bottle and chair was not
to be found. Keogh gazed on him sadly, but without rancor, and began
to pack his gripsack. For his new plot against stagnation along the
Spanish Main required of him a voyage overseas.
Soon came the ~Karlsefin~ again--she of the trampish habits--gleaning
a cargo of coconuts for a speculative descent upon the New York
market. Keogh was booked for a passage on the return trip.
"Yes, I'm going to New York," he explained to the group of his
countrymen that had gathered on the beach to see him off. "But
I'll be back before you miss me. I've undertaken the art education
of this piebald country, and I'm not the man to desert it while it's
in the early throes of tintypes."
With this mysterious declaration of his intentions Keogh boarded
Ten days later, shivering, with the collar of his thin coat turned
high, he burst into the studio of Carolus White at the top of a tall
building in Tenth Street, New York City.
Carolus White was smoking a cigarette and frying sausages over an oil
stove. He was only twenty-three, and had noble theories about art.
"Billy Knight!" exclaimed White, extending the hand that was not
busy with the frying pan. "From what part of the uncivilized world,
"Hello, Carry," said Keogh, dragging forward a stool, and holding
his fingers close to the stove. "I'm glad I found you so soon. I've
been looking for you all day in the directories and art galleries.
The free-lunch man on the corner told me where you were, quick.
I was sure you'd be painting pictures yet."
Keogh glanced about the studio with the shrewd eye of a connoisseur
"Yes, you can do it," he declared, with many gentle nods of his head.
"That big one in the corner with the angels and greeh clouds and
band-wagon is just the sort of thing we want. What would you call
that, Carry--scene from Coney Island, ain't it?"
'That," said White, "I had intended to call The Translation of
Elijah,' but you may be nearer right than I am."
"Name doesn't matter," said Keogh, largely; "it's the frame and
the varieties of paint that does the trick. Now, I can tell you in
a minute what I want. I've come on a little voyage of two thousand
miles to take you in with me on a scheme. I thought of you as soon
as the scheme showed itself to me. How would you like to go back
with me and paint a picture? Ninety days for the trip, and five
thousand dollars for the job."
"Cereal food or hair-tonic posters?" asked White.
"It isn't an ad."
"What kind of a picture is it to be?"
"It's a long story," said Keogh.
"Go ahead with it. If you don't mind, while you talk I'll just keep
my eye on these sausages. Let 'em get one shade deeper than a Vandyke
brown and you spoil 'em."
Keogh explained his project. They were to return to Coralio, where
White was to pose as a distinguished American portrait painter who
was touring in the tropics as a relaxation from his arduous and
remunerative professional labors. It was not an unreasonable hope,
even to those who trod in the beaten paths of business, that an artist
with so much prestige might secure a commission to perpetuate upon
canvas the lineaments of the president, and secure a share of the
~pesos~ that were raining upon the caterers to his weaknesses.
Keogh had set his price at ten thousand dollars. Artists had been
paid more for portraits. He and White were to share the expenses of
the trip, and divide the possible profits. Thus he laid the scheme
before White, whom he had known in the West before one declared for
Art and the other became a Bedouin.
Before long the two machinators abandoned the rigor of the bare studio
for a snug corner of a cafe. There they sat far into the night, with
old envelopes and Keogh's stub of blue pencil between them.
At twelve o'clock White doubled up in his chair, with his chin on
his fist, and shut his eyes at the unbeautiful wall-paper.
"I'll go you, Billy," he said, in the quiet tones of decision. "I've
got two or three hundred saved up for sausages and rent; and I'll take
the chance with you. Five thousand! It will give me two years in
Paris and one in Italy. I'll begin to pack tomorrow."
"You'll begin in ten minutes," said Keogh. "It's to-morrow now. The
~Karlsefin~ starts back at four P.M. Come on to your painting shop,
and I'll help you."
For five months in the year Coralio is the Newport of Anchuria.
Then only does the town possess life. From November to March it is
practically the seat of government. The president with his official
family sojourns there; and society follows him. The pleasure-loving
people make the season one long holiday of amusement and rejoicing.
~Fiestas~, balls, games, sea bathing, processions and small theatres
contribute to their enjoyment. The famous Swiss band from the capital
plays in the little plaza every evening, while the fourteen carriages
and vehicles in the town circle in funereal but complacent procession.
Indians from the interior mountains, looking like pre-historic stone
idols, come down to peddle their handiwork in the streets. The people
throng the narrow ways, a chattering, happy, careless stream of
buoyant humanity. Preposterous children rigged out with the
shortest of ballet skirts and gilt wings, howl, underfoot, among the
effervescent crowds. Especially is the arrival of the presidential
party, at the opening of the season, attended with pomp, show and
patriotic demonstrations of enthusiasm and delight.
When Keogh and White reached their destination, on the return trip
of the ~Karlsefin~, the gay winter season was well begun. As they
stepped upon the beach they could hear the band playing in the plaza.
The village maidens, with fireflies already fixed in their dark locks,
were gliding, barefoot and coy-eyed, along the paths. Dandies in
white linen, swinging their canes, were beginning their seductive
strolls. The air was full of human essence, of artificial enticement,
of coquetry, indolence, pleasure--the man-made sense of existence.
The first two or three days after their arrival were spent in
preliminaries. Keogh escorted the artist about town, introducing
him to the little circle of English-speaking residents and pulling
whatever wires he could to effect the spreading of White's fame as
a painter. And then Keogh planned a more spectacular demonstration
of the idea he wished to keep before the public.
He and White engaged rooms in the Hotel de los Extranjeros. The two
were clad in new suits of immaculate duck, with American straw hats,
and carried canes of remarkable uniqueness and inutility. Few
caballeros in Coralio--even the gorgeously uniformed officers of the
Anchurian army--were as conspicuous for ease and elegance of demeanor
as Keogh and his friend, the great American painter, Senor White.
White set up his easel on the beach and made striking sketches of the
mountain and sea views. The native population formed at his rear in
a vast, chattering semicircle to watch his work. Keogh, with his care
for details, had arranged for himself a pose which he carried out with
fidelity. His ro1e was that of friend to the great artist, a man of
affairs and leisure. The visible emblem of his position was a pocket
"For branding the man who owns it," said he, "a genteel dilettante
with a bank account and an easy conscience, a steam-yacht ain't in it
with a camera. You see a man doing nothing but loafing around making
snap-shots, and you know right away he reads up well in 'Bradstreet.'
You notice these old millionaire boys--soon as they get through taking
everything else in sight they go to taking photographs. People are
more impressed by a kodak than they are by a title or a four-karat
scarf-pin." So Keogh strolled blandly about Coralio, snapping the
scenery and the shrinking senoritas, while White posed conspicuously
in the higher regions of art.
Two weeks after their arrival, the scheme began to bear fruit.
An aide-de-camp of the president drove to the hotel in a dashing
victoria. The president desired that Senor White come to the Casa
Morena for an informal interview.
Keogh gripped his pipe tightly between his teeth. "Not a cent
less than ten thousand," he said to the artist--"remember the price.
And in gold or its equivalent--don't let him stick you with this
bargain-counter stuff they call money here."
"Perhaps it isn't that he wants," said White.
"Get out!" said Keogh, with splendid confidence. "I know what he
wants. He wants his picture painted by the celebrated young American
painter and filibuster now sojourning in his down-trodden country.
Off you go."
The victoria sped away with the artist. Keogh walked up and down,
puffing great clouds of smoke from his pipe, and waited. In an hour
the victoria swept again to the door of the hotel, deposited White,
and vanished. The artist dashed up the stairs, three at a step.
Keogh stopped smoking, and became a silent interrogation point.
"Landed," exclaimed White, with his boyish face flushed with elation.
"Billy, you are a wonder. He wants a picture. I'll tell you all
about it. By Heavens! that dictator chap is a corker! He's a
dictator clear down to his finger-ends. He's a kind of combination
of Julius Caesar, Lucifer and Chauncey Depew done in sepia. Polite
and grim--that's his way. The room I saw him in was about ten acres
big, and looked like a Mississippi steamboat with its gilding and
mirrors and white paint. He talks English better than I can ever
hope to. The matter of the price came up. I mentioned ten thousand.
I expected him to call the guard and have me taken out and shot.
He didn't move an eyelash. He just waved one of his chestnut hands
in a careless way, and said, 'Whatever you say.' I am to go back
tomorrow and discuss with him the details of the picture."
Keogh hung his head. Self-abasement was easy to read in his downcast
"I'm failing, Carry," he said, sorrowfully. "I'm not fit to handle
these man's-size schemes any longer. Peddling oranges in a push-cart
is about the suitable graft for me. When I said ten thousand, I swear
I thought I had sized up that brown man's limit to within two cents.
He'd have melted down for fifteen thousand just as easy. Say--Carry--
you'll see old man Keogh safe in some nice, quiet idiot asylum, won't
you, if he makes a break like that again?"
The Casa Morena, although only one story in height, was a building
of brown stone, luxurious as a palace in its interior. It stood on
a low hill in a walled garden of splendid tropical flora at the upper
edge of Coralio. The next day the president's carriage came again
for the artist. Keogh went out for a walk along the beach, where he
and his "picture box" were now familiar sights. When he returned to
the hotel White was sitting in a steamer-chair on the balcony.
"Well," said Keogh, "did you and His Nibs decide on the kind of
a chromo he wants?"
White got up and walked back and forth on the balcony a few times.
Then he stopped, and laughed strangely. His face was flushed, and
his eyes were bright with a kind of angry amusement.
"Look here, Billy," he said, somewhat roughly, "when you first came
to me in my studio and mentioned a picture, I thought you wanted a
Smashed Oats or a Hair Tonic poster painted on a range of mountains
or the side of a continent. Well, either of those jobs would have
been Art in its highest form compared to the one you've steered me
against. I can't paint that picture, Billy. You've got to let me
out. Let me try to tell you what that barbarian wants. He had it
all planned out and even a sketch made of his idea. The old boy
doesn't draw badly at all. But, ye goddesses of Art! listen to the
monstrosity he expects me to paint. He wants himself in the center
of the canvas, of course. He is to be painted as Jupiter sitting
on Olympus, with the clouds at his feet. At one side of him stands
George Washington, in full regimentals, with his hand on the
president's shoulder. An angel with outstretched wings hovers
overhead, and is placing a laurel wreath on the president's head,
crowning him--Queen of the May, I suppose. In the background is
to be cannon, more angels and soldiers. The man who would paint
that picture would have to have the soul of a dog, and would deserve
to go down into oblivion without even a tin can tied to his tail
to sound his memory."
Little beads of moisture crept out all over Billy Keogh's brow.
The stub of his blue pencil had not figured out a contingency like
this. The machinery of his plan had run with flattering smoothness
until now. He dragged another chair upon the balcony, and got White
back to his seat. He lit his pipe with apparent calm.
"Now, sonny," he said, with gentle grimness, "you and me will have
an Art to Art talk. You've got your art and I've got mine. Yours
is the real Pierian stuff that turns up its nose at bock-beer signs
and oleographs of the Old Mill. Mine's the art of Business.
This was my scheme, and it worked out like two-and-two. Paint
that president man as Old King Cole, or Venus, or a landscape, or
a fresco, or a bunch of lilies, or anything he thinks he looks like.
But get the paint on the canvas and collect the spoils. You wouldn't
throw me down, Carry, at this stage of the game. Think of that ten
"I can't help thinking of it," said White, "and that's what hurts.
I'm tempted to throw every ideal I ever had down in the mire, and
steep my soul in infamy by painting that picture. That five thousand
meant three years of foreign study to me, and I'd almost sell my soul
for that. "
"Now it ain't as bad as that," said Keogh, soothingly. "It's a
business proposition. It's so much paint and time against money. I
don't fall in with your idea that that picture would so everlastingly
jolt the art side of the question. George Washington was all right,
you know, and nobody could say a word against the angel. I don't
think so bad of that group. If you was to give Jupiter a pair of
epaulets and a sword, and kind of work the clouds around to look like
a blackberry patch, it wouldn't make such a bad battle scene. Why,
if we hadn't already settled on the price, he ought to pay an extra
thousand for Washington, and the angel ought to raise it five
"You don't understand, Billy," said White, with an uneasy laugh.
"Some of us fellows who try to paint have big notions about Art.
I wanted to paint a picture some day that people would stand before
and forget that it was made of paint. I wanted it to creep into them
like a bar of music and mushroom there like a soft bullet. And I
wanted 'em to go away and ask, 'What else has he done?' And I didn't
want 'em to find a thing; not a portrait nor a magazine cover nor an
illustration nor a drawing of a girl--nothing but the picture. That's
why I've lived on fried sausages, and tried to keep true to myself.
I persuaded myself to do this portrait for the chance it might give me
to study abroad. But this howling, screaming caricature! Good Lord!
can't you see how it is?"
"Sure," said Keogh, as tenderly as he would have spoken to a child,
and he laid a long forefinger on White's knee. "I see. It's bad to
have your art all slugged up like that. I know. You wanted to paint
a big thing like the panorama of the battle of Gettysburg. But let me
kalsomine you a little mental sketch to consider. Up to date we're
out $385.50 on this scheme. Our capital took every cent both of us
could raise. We've got about enough left to get back to New York on.
I need my share of that ten thousand. I want to work a copper deal
in Idaho, and make a hundred thousand. That's the business end of
the thing. Come down off your art perch, Carry, and let's land that
hatful of dollars."
"Billy," said White, with an effort, "I'll try. I won't say I'll
do it, but I'll try. I'll go at it, and put it through if I can."
"That's business," said Keogh, heartily. "Good boy! Now, here's
another thing--rush that picture--crowd it through as quick as you
can. Get a couple of boys to help you mix the paint if necessary.
I've picked up some pointers around town. The people here are
beginning to get sick of Mr. President. They say he's been too free
with concessions; and they accuse him of trying to make a dicker with
England to sell out the country. We want that picture done and paid
for before there's any row."
In the great patio of Casa Morena, the president caused to be
stretched a huge canvas. Under this White set up his temporary
studio. For two hours each day the great man sat to him.
White worked faithfully. But, as the work progressed, he had seasons
of bitter scorn, of infinite self-contempt, of sullen gloom and
sardonic gaiety. Keogh, with the patience of a great general,
soothed, coaxed, argued--kept him at the picture.
At the end of a month White announced that the picture was completed--
Jupiter, Washington, angels, clouds, cannon and all. His face was
pale and his mouth drawn straight when he told Keogh. He said the
president was much pleased with it. It was to be hung in the National
Gallery of Statesmen and Heroes. The artist had been requested to
return to Casa Morena on the following day to receive payment. At
the appointed time he left the hotel, silent under his friend's
joyful talk of their success.
An hour later he walked into the room where Keogh was waiting, threw
his hat on the floor, and sat upon the table.
"Billy," he said, in strained and laboring tones, "I've a little money
out West in a small business that my brother is running. It's what
I've been living on while I've been studying art. I'll draw out my
share and pay you back what you've lost on this scheme."
"Lost!" exclaimed Keogh, jumping up. "Didn't you get paid for
"Yes, I got paid," said White. "But just now there isn't any picture,
and there isn't any pay. If you care to hear about it, here are the
edifying details. The president and I were looking at the painting.
His secretary brought a bank draft on New York for ten thousand
dollars and handed it to me. The moment I touched it I went wild.
I tore it into little pieces and threw them on the floor. A workman
was repainting the pillars inside the ~patio~. A bucket of his paint
happened to be convenient. I picked up his brush and slapped a quart
of blue paint all over that ten-thousand-dollar nightmare. I bowed,
and walked out. The president didn't move or speak. That was one
time he was taken by surprise. It's tough on you, Billy, but I
couldn't help it."
There seemed to be excitement in Coralio. Outside there was
a confused, rising murmur pierced by high-pitched cries. "~Bajo
el traidor--Muerte el traidor!~" were the words they seemed
"Listen to that!" exclaimed White, bitterly; "I know that much
Spanish. They're shouting, 'Down with the traitor!' I heard them
before. I felt that they meant me. I was a traitor to Art.
The picture had to go."
"'Down with the blank fool' would have suited your case better,"
said Keogh, with fiery emphasis. "You tear up ten thousand dollars
like an old rag because the way you've spread on five dollars' worth
of paint hurts your conscience. Next time I pick a side-partner in
a scheme the man has got to go before a notary and swear he never
even heard the word 'ideal' mentioned."
Keogh strode from the room, white-hot. White paid little attention
to his resentment. The scorn of Billy Keogh seemed a trifling thing
beside the greater self-scorn he had escaped.
In Coralio the excitement waxed. An outburst was imminent. The cause
of this demonstration of displeasure was,the presence in the town of
a big, pink-cheeked Englishman, who, it was said, was an agent of his
government come to clinch the bargain by which the president placed
his people in the hands of a foreign power. It was charged that not
only had he given away priceless concessions, but that the public debt
was to be transferred into the hands of the English, and the custom-
houses turned over to them as a guarantee. The long-enduring people
had determined to make their protest felt.
On that night, in Coralio and in other towns, their ire found vent.
Veiling mobs, mercurial but dangerous, roamed the streets. They
overthrew the great bronze statue of the president that stood in
the center of the plaza, and hacked it to shapeless pieces. They
tore from public buildings the tablets set there proclaiming the glory
of the "Illustrious Liberator." His pictures in the government
offices were demolished. The mobs even attacked the Casa Morena,
but were driven away by the military, which remained faithful to
the executive. All the night terror reigned.
The greatness of Losada was shown by the fact that by noon the next
day order was restored and he was still absolute. He issued
proclamations denying positively that any negotiation of any kind had
been entered into with England. Sir Stafford Vaughn, the pink-cheeked
Englishman, also declared in placards and in public print that his
presence there had no international significance. He was a traveller
without guile. In fact (so he stated), he had not even spoken with
the president or been in his presence since his arrival.
During this disturbance, White was preparing for his homeward voyage
in the steamship that was to sail within two or three days. About
noon, Keogh, the restless, took his camera out with the hope of
speeding the lagging hours. The town was now as quiet as if peace
had never departed from her perch on the red-tiled roofs.
About the middle of the afternoon, Keogh hurried back to the hotel
with something decidedly special in his air. He retired to the little
room where he developed his pictures.
Later on he came out to White on the balcony, with a luminous, grim
predatory smile on his face.
"Do you know what that is?" he asked, holding up a 4 x 5 photograph
mounted on cardboard.
"Snap-shot of a senorita sitting in the sand--alliteration
unintentional," guessed White, lazily.
"Wrong," saidKeogh with shining eyes. "It's a slung-shot. It's a can
of dynamite. It's a gold mine. It's a sight-draft on your president
man for twenty thousand dollars--yes, sir--twenty thousand this time,
and no spoiling the picture. No ethics of art in the way. Art! You
with your smelly little tubes! I've got you skinned to death with
a kodak. Take a look at that."
White took the picture in his hand, and gave a long whistle.
"Jove!" he exclaimed, "but wouldn't that stir up a row in town if
you let it be seen. How in the world did you get it, Billy?"
"You know that high wall around the president man's back garden?
I was up there trying to get a bird's eye of the town. I happened to
notice a chink in the wall where a stone and a lot of plaster had slid
out. Thinks I, I'll take a peep through to see how Mr. President's
cabbages are growing. The first thing I saw was him and this Sir
Englishman sitting at a little table about twenty feet away. They
had the table all spread over with documents, and they were hobnobbing
over them as thick as two pirates. 'Twas a nice corner of the garden,
all private and shady with palms and orange trees, and they had a pail
of champagne set by handy in the grass. I knew then was the time
for me to make my big hit in Art. So I raised the machine up to the
crack, and pressed the button. Just as I did so them old boys shook
hands on the deal--you see they took that way in the picture."
Keogh put on his coat and hat.
"What are you going to do with it?" asked White.
"Me," said Keogh in a hurt tone, "why, I'm going to tie a pink ribbon
to it and hang it on the what-not, of course. I'm surprised at you.
But while I'm out you just try to figure out what ginger-cake
potentate would be most likely to want to buy this work of art for
his private collection--just to keep it out of circulation."
The sunset was reddening the tops of the coconut palms when Billy
Keogh came back from Casa Morena. He nodded to the artist's
questioning gaze; and lay down on a cot with his hands under the back
of his head.
"I saw him. He paid the money like a little man. They didn't want
to let me in at first. I told 'em it was important. Yes, that
president man is on the plenty-able list. He's got a beautiful
business system about the way he uses his brains. All I had to do
was to hold up the photograph so he could see it, and name the price.
He just smiled, and walked over to a safe and got the cash. Twenty
one-thousand-dollar brand-new United States Treasury notes he laid on
the table, like I'd pay out a dollar and a quarter. Fine notes, too
--they crackled with a sound like burning the brush off a ten-acre
"Let's try the feel of one," said White, curiously. "I never saw
a thousand-dollar bill." Keogh did not immediately respond.
"Carry," he said, in an absent-minded way, "you think a heap of
your art, don't you?
"More," said White, frankly, "than has been for the financial good
of my self and my friends."
"I thought you were a fool the other day," went on Keogh, quietly,
"and I'm not sure now that you wasn't. But if you was, so am I. I've
been in some funny deals, Carry, but I've always managed to scramble
fair, and match my brains and capital against the other fellow's.
But when it comes to--well, when you've got the other fellow cinched,
and the screws on him, and he's got to put up--why, it don't strike me
as being a man's game. They've got a name for it, you know; it's--
confound you, don't you understand. A fellow feels--it's some thing
like that blamed art of yours--he--well, I tore that photograph up and
laid the pieces on that stack of money and shoved the whole business
back across the table. 'Excuse me, Mr. Losada,' I said, 'but I guess
I've made a mistake in the price. You get the photo for nothing.
Now, Carry, you get out the pencil, and we'll do some more figuring.
I'd like to save enough out of our capital for you to have some fried
sausages in your joint when you get back to New York.
There is little consecutiveness along the Spanish Main. Things happen
there intermittently. Even Time seems hang his scythe daily on the
branch of an orange tree while he takes a siesta and a cigarette.
After the ineffectual revolt against the administration of President
Losada, the country settled again into quiet toleration of the abuses
with which he had been charged. In Coralio old political enemies went
arm-in-arm, lightly eschewing for the time all differences of opinion.
The failure of the art expedition did not stretch the cat-footed Keogh
upon his back. The ups and downs of Fortune made smooth travelling
for his nimble steps. His blue pencil stub was at work again before
the smoke of the steamer on which White sailed had cleared away from
the horizon. He had but to speak a word to Geddie to find his credit
negotiable for whatever goods he wanted from the store of Brannigan
& Company. On the same day on which White arrived in New York Keogh,
at the rear of a train of five pack mules loaded with hardware and
cutlery, set his face toward the grim, interior mountains. There
the Indian tribes wash gold dust from the auriferous streams; and
when a market is brought to them trading is brisk and ~muy bueno~
in the Cordilleras.
In Coralio Time folded his wings and paced wearily along his drowsy
path. They who had most cheered the torpid hours were gone. Clancy
had sailed on a Spanish barque for Colon, contemplating a cut across
the isthmus and then a further voyage to end at Callao, where the
fighting was said to be on. Geddie, whose quiet and genial nature had
once served to mitigate the frequent dull reaction of lotus eating,
was now a home-man, happy with his bright orchid, Paula, and never
even dreaming of or regretting the unsolved, sealed and monogramed
Bottle whose contents, now inconsiderable, were held safely in the
keeping of the sea.
Well may the Walrus, most discerning and eclectic of beasts, place
sealing-wax midway on his program of topics that fall pertinent and
diverting upon the ear.
Atwood was gone--he of the hospitable back porch and ingenuous
cunning. Doctor Gregg, with his trepanning story smoldering within
him, was a whiskered volcano, always showing signs of imminent
eruption, and was not to be considered in the ranks of those who
might contribute to the amelioration of ennui. The new consul's note
chimed with the sad sea waves and the violent tropical greens--he had
not a bar of Scheherezade or of the Round Table in his lute. Goodwin
was employed with large projects: what time he was loosed from them
found him at his home, where he loved to be. Therefore it will be
seen that there was a dearth of fellowship and entertainment among
the foreign contingent of Coralio.
And then Dicky Maloney dropped down from the clouds upon the town,
and amused it.
Nobody knew where Dicky Maloney hailed from or how he reached Coralio.
He appeared there one day; and that was all. He afterward said that
he came on the fruit steamer ~Thor~, but an inspection of the ~Thor's~
passenger list of that date was found to be Maloneyless. Curiosity,
however, soon perished; and Dicky took his place among the odd fish
cast up by the Caribbean.
He was an active, devil-may-care, rollicking fellow with an engaging
gray eye, the most irresistible grin, a rather dark or much sunburned
complexion, and a head of the fieriest red hair ever seen in that
country. Speaking the Spanish language as well as he spoke English,
and seeming always to have plenty of silver in his pockets, it was not
long before he was a welcome companion whithersoever he went. He had
an extreme fondness for ~vino blanco~, and gained the reputation of
being able to drink more of it than any three men in town. Everybody
called him "Dicky"; everybody cheered up at the sight of him--
especially the natives, to whom his marvellous red hair and his free-
and-easy style were a constant delight and envy. Wherever you went
in the town you would soon see Dicky or hear his genial laugh, and
find around him a group of admirers who appreciated him both for
his good nature and the white wine he was always so ready to buy.
A considerable amount of speculation was had concerning the object of
his sojourn there, until one day he silenced this by opening a small
shop for the sale of tobacco, ~dulces~ and the handiwork of the
interior Indians--fibre-and-silk-woven goods, deerskin ~zapatos~ and
basketwork of tule reeds. Even then he did not change his habits;
for he was drinking and playing cards half the day and night with
the ~comandante~, the collector of customs, the ~jefe politico~ and
other gay dogs among the native officials.
One day Dicky saw Pasa, the daughter of Madama Ortiz, sitting in the
side-door of the Hotel de los Extranjeros. He stopped in his tracks,
still, for the first time in Coralio; and then he sped, swift as
a deer, to find Vasquez, a gilded native youth, to present him.
The young men had named Pasa ~La Santita Naranjadita~." ~Naranjadita~
is a Spanish word for a certain color that you must go to more trouble
to describe in English. By saying "The little saint, tinted the most
beautiful-delicate-slightly-orange-golden," you will approximate
the description of Madama Ortiz's daughter.
La Madama Ortiz sold rum in addition to other liquors. Now, you must
know that the rum expiates whatever opprobrium attends upon the other
commodities. For rum-making, mind you, is a government monopoly;
and to keep a government dispensary assures respectability if not
preeminence. Moreover, the saddest of precisians could find no fault
with the conduct of the shop. Customers drank there in the lowest
of spirits and fearsomely, as in the shadow of the dead for Madama's
ancient and vaunted lineage counteracted even the rum's behest to be
merry. For, was she not of the ~Iglesias~, who landed with Pizarro?
And had not her deceased husband been ~comisionado de caminos y
puentes~ for the district?
In the evenings Pasa sat by the window in the room next to the one
where they drank, and strummed dreamily upon her guitar. And then,
by twos and threes, would come visiting young caballeros and occupy
the prim line of chairs set against the wall of this room. They were
there to besiege the heart of ~La Santita~." Their method (which
is not proof against intelligent competition) consisted of expanding
the chest, looking valorous, and consuming a gross or two of
cigarettes. Even saints delicately oranged prefer to be wooed
Dona Pasa would tide over the vast chasms of nicotinized silence with
music from her guitar, while she wondered if the romances she had read
about gallant and more--more contiguous cavaliers were all lies. At
somewhat regular intervals Madama would glide in from the dispensary
with a sort of drought-suggesting gleam in her eye, and there would be
a rustling of stiffly starched white trousers as one of the caballeros
would propose an adjournment to the bar.
That Dicky Maloney would, sooner or later, explore this field was
a thing to be foreseen. There were few doors in Coralio into which
his red head had not been poked.
In an incredibly short space of time after his first sight of her
he was there, seated close beside her rocking chair. There was no
back-against-the-wall poses in Dicky's theory of wooing. His plan
of subjection was an attack at close range. To carry the fortress
with one concentrated, ardent, eloquent, irresistible ~escalade~--
that was Dicky's way.
Pasa was descended from the proudest Spanish families in the country.
Moreover, she had had unusual advantages. Two years in a New Orleans
school had elevated her ambitions and fitted her for a fate above
the ordinary maidens of her native land. And yet here she succumbed
to the first red-haired scamp with a glib tongue and a charming smile
that came along and courted her properly.