The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"

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

of it?'
"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'

his job.'
"'~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,

one ~caballero~--'
"'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
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