The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"

НазваниеThe Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"
Дата публикации24.06.2013
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by O Henry

The Proem


The Lotus and the Bottle



Cupid's Exile Number Two

The Phonograph and the Graft

Money Maze

The Admiral

The Flag Paramount

The Shamrock and the Palm

The Remnants of the Code



Masters of Arts


Rouge et Noir

Two Recalls

The Vitagraphoscope


The Proem
By the Carpenter
They will tell you in Anchuria, that President Miraflores, of that

volatile republic, died by his own hand in the coast town of Coralio;

that he had reached thus far in flight from the inconveniences of

an imminent revolution; and that one hundred thousand dollars,

government funds, which he carried with him in an American leather

valise as a souvenir of his tempestuous administration, was never

afterward recovered.
For a ~real~, a boy will show you his grave. It is back of the town

near a little bridge that spans a mangrove swamp. A plain slab of

wood stands at its head. Some one has burned upon the headstone with

a hot iron this inscription:




It is characteristic of this buoyant people that they pursue no man

beyond the grave. "Let God be his judge!"--Even with the hundred

thousand unfound, though they greatly coveted, the hue and cry went

no further than that.
To the stranger or the guest the people of Coralio will relate the

story of the tragic end of their former president; how he strove

to escape from the country with the publice funds and also with Dona

Isabel Guilbert, the young American opera singer; and how, being

apprehended by members of the opposing political party in Coralio,

he shot himself through the head rather than give up the funds, and,

in consequence, the Senorita Guilbert. They will relate further

that Dona Isabel, her adventurous bark of fortune shoaled by the

simultaneous loss of her distinguished admirer and the souvenir

hundred thousand, dropped anchor on this stagnant coast, awaiting

a rising tide.
They say, in Coralio, that she found a prompt and prosperous tide

in the form of Frank Goodwin, an American resident of the town,

an investor who had grown wealthy by dealing in the products of

the country--a banana king, a rubber prince, a sarsaparilla, indigo

and mahogany baron. The Senorita Guilbert, you will be told, married

Senor Goodwin one month after the president's death, thus, in the

very moment when Fortune had ceased to smile, wresting from her

a gift greater than the prize withdrawn.
Of the American, Don Frank Goodwin, and of his wife the natives have

nothing but good to say. Don Frank has lived among them for years,

and has compelled their respect. His lady is easily queen of what

social life the sober coast affords. The wife of the governor of the

district, herself, who was of the proud Castilian family of Monteleon

y Dolorosa de los Santos y Mendez, feels honored to unfold her napkin

with olive-hued, ringed hands at the table of Senora Goodwin. Were

you to refer (with your northern prejudices) to the vivacious past

of Mrs. Goodwin when her audacious and gleeful abandon in light opera

captured the mature president's fancy, or to her share in that

statesman's downfall and malfeasance, the Latin shrug of the shoulder

would be your only answer and rebuttal. What prejudices there were

in Coralio concerning Senora Goodwin seemed now to be in her favor,

whatever they had been in the past.
It would seem that the story is ended, instead of begun; that the

close of tragedy and the climax of a romance have covered the ground

of interest; but, to the more curious reader it shall be some slight

instruction to trace the close threads that underlie the ingenious

web of circumstances.
The headpiece bearing the name of President Miraflores is daily

scrubbed with soap-bark and sand. An old half-breed Indian tends the

grave with fidelity and the dawdling minuteness of inherited sloth.

He chops down the weeds and ever-springing grass with his machete, he

plucks ants and scorpions and beetles from it with his horny fingers,

and sprinkles its turf with water from the plaza fountain. There is

no grave anywhere so well kept and ordered.
Only by following out the underlying threads will it be made clear

why the old Indian, Galves, is secretly paid to keep green the grave

of President Miraflores by one who never saw that unfortunate

statesman in life or in death, and why that one was wont to walk

in the twilight, casting from a distance looks of gentle sadness upon

that unhonored mound.
Elsewhere than at Coralio one learns of the impetuous career

of Isabel Guilbert. New Orleans gave her birth and the mingled

French and Spanish creole nature that tinctured her life with such

turbulence and warmth. She had little education, but a knowledge of

men and motives that seemed to have come by instinct. Far beyond the

common woman was she endowed with intrepid rashness, with a love for

the pursuit of adventure to the brink of danger, and with desire for

the pleasures of life. Her spirit was one to chafe under any curb;

she was Eve after the fall, but before the bitterness of it was felt.

She wore life as a rose in her bosom.
Of the legion of men who had been at her feet it was said that

but one was so fortunate as to engage her fancy. To President

Miraflores, the brilliant but unstable ruler of Anchuria, she yielded

the key to her resolute heart. How, then, do we find her (as the

Coralians would have told you) the wife of Frank Goodwin, and happily

living a life of dull and dreamy inaction?
The underlying threads reach far, stretching across the sea.

Following them out it will be made plain why "Shorty" O'Day, of the

Columbia Detective Agency, resigned his position. And, for a lighter

pastime, it shall be a duty and a pleasing sport to wander with Momus

beneath the tropic stars where Melpomene once stalked austere. Now

to cause laughter to echo from those lavish jungles and frowing crags

where formerly rang the cries of pirate's victims; to lay aside pike

and cutlass and attack with quip and jollity; to draw one saving

titter of mirth from the rusty casque of Romance--this were pleasant

to do in the shade of the lemon-trees on that coast that is curved

like lips set for smiling.
For there are yet tales of the Spanish Main. That segment of

continent washed by the tempestuous Caribbean, and presenting to the

sea a formidable border of tropicle jungle topped by the overweening

Cordilleras, is still begirt by mystery and romance. In past times,

buccaneers and revolutionists roused the echoes of its cliffs, and

the condor wheeled perpetually above where, in the green groves,

they made food for him with their matchlocks and toledos. Taken and

retaken by sea rovers, by adverse powers and by sudden uprising of

rebellious factions, the historic 300 miles of adventurous coast has

scarcely known for hundreds of years whom rightly to call its master.

Pizarro, Balboa, Sir Francis Drake, and Bolivar did what they could

to make it a part of Christendom. Sir John Morgan, Lafitte and other

eminent swashbucklers bombarded and pounded it in the name of

The game still goes on. The guns of the rovers are silenced; but the

tintype man, the enlarged photograph brigand, the kodaking tourist

and the scouts of the gentle brigade of fakirs have found it out, and

carry on the work. The hucksters of Germany, France, and Sicily now

bag in small change across their counters. Gentlemen adventurers

throng the waiting-rooms of its rulers with proposals for railways

and concessions. The little ~opera-bouffe~ nations play at

government and intrigue until some day a big, silent gunboat glides

into the offing and warns them not to break their toys. And with

these changes comes also the small adventurer, with empty pockets to

fill, light of heart, busy-brained--the modern fairy prince, bearing

an alarm clock with which, more surely than by the sentimental

kiss, to awaken the beautiful tropics from their centuries' sleep.

Generally he wears a shamrock, which he matches pridefully against

the extravagant palms; and it is he who had driven Melpomene to

the wings, and set Comedy to dancing before the footlights of the

Southern Cross.
So, there is a little tale to tell of many things. Perhaps to the

promiscuous ear of the Walrus it shall come with most avail; for in

it there are indeed shoes and ships and sealing-wax and cabbage-palms

and presidents instead of kings.
Add to these a little love and counterplotting, and scatter

everywhere throughout the maze a trail of tropical dollars--dollars

warmed no more by the torrid sun than by the hot palms of the scouts

of Fortune--and, after all, here seems to be Life, itself, with talk

enough to weary the most garrulous of Walruses.

Coralio reclined, in the mid-day heat, like some vacuous beauty

lounging in a guarded harem. The town lay at the sea's edge on

a strip of alluvial coast. It was set like a little pearl in an

emerald band. Behind it, and seeming almost to topple, imminent,

above it, rose the sea-following range of the Cordilleras. In front

the sea was spread, a smiling jailer, but even more incorruptible

than the frowning mountains. The waves swished along the smooth

beach; the parrots screamed in the orange and ceiba-trees; the palms

waved their limber fronds foolishly like an awkward chorus at the

prima donna's cue to enter.
Suddenly the town was full of excitement. A native boy dashed down

a grass-grown street, shrieking: "~Busca el Senor~ Goodwin. ~Ha

venido un telegrafo por el!~"
The word passed quickly. Telegrams do not come to any one in

Coralio. The cry for Senor Goodwin was taken up by a dozen officious

voices. The main street running parallel to the beach became

populated with those who desired to expedite the delivery of the

dispatch. Knots of women with complexions varying from palest olive

to deepest brown gathered at street corners and plaintively carolled:

"~Un telegrafo por Senor~ Goodwin!" The ~comandante~, Don Senor

el Coronel Encarnacion Rios, who was loyal to the Ins and suspected

Goodwin's devotion to the Outs, hissed: "Aha!" and wrote in his

secret memorandum book the accusive fact that Senor Goodwin had on

that momentous date received a telegram.
In the midst of the hullabaloo a man stepped to the door of a small

wooden building and looked out. Above the door was a sign that read

"Keogh and Clancy"--a nomenclature that seemed not to be indigenous

to that tropical soil. The man in the door was Billy Keogh, scout

of fortune and progress and latter-day rover of the Spanish Main.

Tintypes and photographs were the weapons with which Keogh and Clancy

were at that time assailing the hopeless shores. Outside the shop

were set two large frames filled with specimens fo their art and

Keogh leaned in the doorway, his bold and humorous countenance

wearing a look of interest at the unusual influx of life and sound

in the street. When the meaning of the disturbance became clear

to him he placed a hand beside his mouth and shouted: "Hey! Frank!"

in such a robustious voice that the feeble clamor of the natives was

drowned and silenced.
Fifty yards away, on the seaward side of the street, stood the

abode of the consul for the United States. Out from the door of

this building tumbled Goodwin at the call. He had been smoking

with Willard Geddie, the consul, on the back porch of the consulate,

which was conceded to be the coolest spot in Coralio.
"Hurry up," shouted Keogh. "There's a riot in town on account of

a telegram that's come for you. You want to be careful about these

things, my boy. It won't do to trifle with the feelings of the public

this way. You'll be getting a pink note some day with violet scent

on it; and then the country'll be steeped in the throes of a

Goodwin had strolled up the street and met the boy with the message.

The ox-eyed women gazed at him with shy admiration, for his type

drew them. He was big, blond, and jauntily dressed in white linen,

with buckskin ~zapatos~. His manner was courtly, with a merciful

eye. When the telegram had been delivered, and the bearer of it

dismissed with a gratuity, the relieved populace returned to the

contiguities of shade from which curiosity had drawn it--the women

to their baking in the mud ovens under the orange-trees, or to the

interminable combing of their long, straight hair; the men to their

cigarettes and gossip in the cantinas.
Goodwin sat on Keogh's doorstep, and read his telegram. It was from

Bob Englehart, an American, who lived in San Mateo, the capital city

of Anchuria, eighty miles in the interior. Englehart was a gold

miner, an ardent revolutionist and "good people." That he was a man

of resource and imagination was proven by the telegram he had sent.

It had had been his task to send a confidential message to his friend

in Coralio. This could not have been accomplished in either Spanish

or English, for the eye politic in Anchuria was an active one. But

Englehart was a diplomatist. There existed but one code upon which

he might make requisition with promise of safety--the great and

potent code of Slang. So, here is the message that slipped,

unconstrued, through the fingers of curious officials, and came

to the eye of Goodwin:
"His Nibs skedaddled yesterday per jack-rabbit line with all the

coin in the kitty and the bundle of muslin he's spoony about. The

boodle is six figures short. Our crowd in good shape, but we need

the spondulicks. You collar it. The main guy and the dry goods

are headed for the briny. You to know what to do.
This screed, remarkable as it was, had no mystery for Goodwin.

He was the most successful of the small advance-guard of speculative

Americans that had invaded Anchuria, and he had not reached that

enviable pinnacle without having well exercised the arts of foresight
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