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|To pinkney dawson|
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
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
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