The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"

НазваниеThe Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"
Дата публикации24.06.2013
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story of the bottle, rejecting each in turn.
Ships in danger of wreck or disablement sometimes cast forth such

precarious messengers calling for aid. But he had seen the ~Idalia~

not three hours before, safe and speeding. Suppose the crew had

mutinied and imprisoned the passengers below, and the message was one

begging for succor! But, premising such an improbable outrage, would

the agitated captives have taken the pains to fill four pages of

note-paper with carefully penned arguments to their rescue.
Thus by elimination he soon rid the matter of the more unlikely

theories, and was reduced--though aversely--to the less assailable

ones that the bottle contained a message to himself. Ida knew he

was in Coralio; she must have launched the bottle while the yacht

was passing and the wind blowing fairly toward the shore.
As soon as Geddie reached this conclusion a wrinkle came between his

brows and a stubborn look settled around his mouth. He sat looking

out through the doorway at the gigantic fire-flies traversing the

quiet streets.
If this was a message to him from Ida, what could it mean save an

overture at reconciliation? And if that, why had she not used the

same methods of the post instead of this uncertain and even flippant

means of communication? A note in an empty bottle, cast into the

sea! There was something light and frivolous about it, if not

actually contemptuous.
The thought stirred his pride, and subdued whatever emotions had been

resurrected by the finding of the bottle.
Geddie put on his coat and hat and walked out. He followed a street

that led him along the border of the little plaza where a band was

playing and people were rambling, care-free and indolent. Some

timorous ~senoritas~ scurrying past with fire-flies tangled in the

jetty braids of their hair glanced at him with shy, flattering eyes.

The air was languorous with the scent of jasmin and orange-blossoms.
The consul stayed his steps at the house of Bernard Brannigan. Paula

was swinging in a hammock on the gallery. She rose from it like a

bird from its nest. The color came to her cheeck at the sound of

Geddie's voice.
He was charmed at the sight of her costume--a flounced muslin dress,

with a little jacket of white flannel, all made with neatness and

style. He suggested a stroll, and they walked out to the old Indian

well on the hill road. They sat on the curb, and there Geddie made

the expected but long-deferred speech. Certain though he had been

that she would not say him nay, he was still thrilled at the

completeness and sweetness of her surrender. Here was surely a heart

made for love and steadfastness. Here was no caprice or questionings

or captious standards of convention.
When Geddie kissed Paula at her door that night he was happier than

he had ever been before. "Here in this hollow lotus land, ever

to live and lie reclined" seemed to him, as it has seemed to many

mariners, the best as well as the easiest. His future would be

an ideal one. He had attained a Paradise without a serpent. His

Eve would be indeed a part of him, unbeguiled, and therefore more

beguiling. He had made his decision tonight, and his heart was full

of serene, assured content.
Geddie went back to his house whistling that finest and saddest love

song, "La Golondrina." At the door his tame monkey leaped down from

his shelf, chattering briskly. The consul turned to his desk to get

him some nuts he usually kept there. Reaching in the half-darkness,

his hand struck against the bottle. He started as if he had touched

the cold rotundity of a serpent.
He had forgotten that the bottle was there.
He lighted the lamp and fed the monkey. Then, very deliberately,

he lighted a cigar, and took the bottle in his hand, and walked down

the path to the beach.
There was a moon, and the sea was glorious. The breeze had shifted,

as it did each evening, and was now rushing steadily seaward.
Stepping to the water's edge, Geddie hurled the unopened bottle far

out into the sea. It disappeared for a moment, and then shot upward

twice its length. Geddie stood still, watching it. The moonlight

was so bright that he could see it bobbing up and down with the

little waves. Slowly it receded from the shore, flashing and turning

as it went. The wind was carrying it out to sea. Soon it became a

mere speck, doubtfully discerned at irregular intervals; and then the

mystery of it was swallowed up by the greater mystery of the ocean.

Geddie stood still upon the beach, smoking and looking out upon the


"Simon!--Oh, Simon!--Wake up there, Simon!" bawled a sonorous voice

at the edge of the water.
Old Simon Cruz was a half-breed fisherman and smuggler who lived in a

hut on the beach. Out of his earliest nap Simon was thus awakened.
He slipped on his shoes and went outside. Just landing from one of

the ~Valhalla's~ boats was the third mate of that vessel, who was an

acquaintance of Simon's, and three sailors from the fruiter.
"Go up, Simon," called the mate, "and find Doctor Gregg or Mr.

Goodwin or anybody that's a friend to Mr. Geddie, and bring 'em here

at once."
"Saints of the skies!" said Simon, sleepily, "nothing has happened

to Mr. Geddie?"
"He's under that tarpauling," said the mate, pointing to the boat,

"and he's rather more than half drowned. We seen him from the

steamer nearly a mile out from shore, swimmin' like mad after a

bottle that was floatin' in the water, outward bound. We lowered the

gig and started for him. He nearly had his hand on the bottle, when

he gave out and went under. We pulled him out in time to save him,

maybe; but the doctor is the one to decide that."
"A bottle?" said the old man, rubbing his eyes. He was not yet fully

awake. "Where is the bottle?"
"Driftin' along out there some'eres," said the mate, jerking his

thumb toward the sea. "Get on with you, Simon."

Goodwin and the ardent patriot, Zavalla, took all the precautions

that their foresight could contrive to prevent the escape of

President Miraflores and his companion. The sent trusted messengers

up the coast to Solitas and Alazan to warn the local leaders of

the flight, and to instruct them to patrol the water line and arrest

the fugitives at all hazards should they reveal themselves in that

territory. After this was done there remained only to cover

the district about Coralio and await the coming of the quarry.

The nets were well spread. The roads were so few, the opportunities

for embarkation so limited, and the two or three probable points of

exit so well guarded that it would be strange indeed if there should

slip through the meshes so much of the country's dignity, romance,

and collateral. The president would, without doubt, move as secretly

as possible, and endeavor to board a vessel by stealth from some

secluded point along the shore.
On the fourth day after the receipt of Englehart's telegram the

~Karlsefin~, a Norwegian steamer chartered by the New Orleans fruit

trade, anchored off Coralio with three horse toots of her siren.

The ~Karlesfin~ ws not one of the line operated by the Vesuvius Fruit

Company. She was something of a dilettante, doing odd jobs for a

company that was scarcely important enough to figure as a rival to

the Vesuvius. The movements of the ~Karlesfin~ were dependent upon

the state of the market. Sometimes she would ply steadily between

the Spanish Main and New Orleans in the regular transport of fruit;

next she would be maing erratic trips to Mobile or Charleston, or

even as far north as New York, according to the distribution of

the fruit supply.
Goodwin lounged upon the beach with the susual crowd of idlers that

had gathered to view the steamer. Now that President Miraflores

might be expected to reach the borders of his abjured country at any

time, the orders were to keep a strict and unrelenting watch. Every

vessel that approached the shores might now be considered a possible

means of escape for the fugitives; and an eye was kept even on

the slopes and dories that belonged to the sea-going contingent

of Coralio. Goodwin and Zavalla moved everywhere, but without

ostentation, watching the loopholes of escape.
The customs official crowded importantly into their boat and rowed

out to the ~Karlesfin~. A boat from the steamer landed her purser

with his papers, and took out the quarantine doctor with his green

umbrella and clinical thermometer. Next a swarm of Caribs began

to load upon lighters the thousands of bunches of bananas heaped

upon the shore and row them out to the steamer. The ~Karlesfin~

had no passenger list, and was soon done with the attention of

the authorities. The purser declared that the steamer would remain

at anchor until morning, taking on her fruit during the night.

The ~Karlesfin~ had come, he said, from New York, to which port her

latest load of oranges and coconuts had been conveyed. Two or three

of the freighter sloops were engaged to assist in the work, for

the captain was anxious to make a quick return in order to reap

the advantage offered by a certain dearth of fruit in the States.
About four o'clock in the afternoon another of those marine monsters,

not very familiar in those waters, hove in sight, following the

fateful ~Idalia~--a graceful steam yacht, painted a light buff,

clean-cut as a steel engraving. The beautiful vessel hovered off

shore, see-sawing the waves as lightly as a duck in a rain barrel.

A swift boat manned by a crew in uniform came ashore, and a stocky-

built man leaped to the sands.
The newcomer seemed to turn a disapproving eye upon the rather motley

congregation of native Anchurians, and made his way at once toward

Goodwin, who was the most conspicuously Anglo-Saxon figure present.

Goodwin greeted him with courtesy.
Conversation developed that the newly landed one was named Smith,

and that he had come in a yacht. A meagre biography, truly; for

the yacht was most apparent; and the "Smith" not beyond a reasonable

guess before the revelation. Yet to the eye of Goodwin, who has

seen several things, there was a discrepancy between Smith and his

yacht. A bullet-headed man Smith was, with an oblique, dead eye

and the moustache of a cocktail-mixer. And unless he had shifted

costumes before putting off for shore he had affronted the deck of

his correct vessel clad in a pearl-gray derby, a gay plaid suit and

vaudeville neckwear. Men owning pleasure yachts generally harmonize

better with them.
Smith looked business, but he was no advertiser. He commented upon

the scenery, remarking upon its fidelity to the pictures in the

geography; and then inquired for the United States consul. Goodwin

pointed out the starred-and-striped bunting hanging from above the

little consulate, which was concealed behind the orange-trees.
"Mr. Geddie, the consul, will be sure to be there," said Goodwin.

"He was very nearly drowned a few days ago while taking a swim in the

sea, and the doctor has ordered him to remain indoors for some time."
Smith ploughed his way through the sand to the consulate, his

haberdashery creating violent discord against the smooth tropical

blues and greens.
Geddie was lounging in his hammock, somewhat pale of face and languid

in pose. On that night when the ~Valhalla's~ boat had brought him

ashore apparently drenched to death by the sea, Doctor Gregg and his

other friends had toiled for hours to preserve the little spark of

life that remained to him. The bottle, with its impotent message,

was gone out to sea, and the problem that it had provoked was reduced

to a simple sum in addition--one and one make two, by the rule of

arithmetic; one by the rule of romance.
There is a quaint old theory that man may have two souls--a

peripheral one which serves ordinarily, and a central one which

is stirred only at certain times, but then with activity and vigor.

While under the domination of the former a man will shave, vote, pay

taxes, give money to his family, buy subscription books and comport

himself on the average plan. But let the central soul suddenly

become dominant, and he may, in the twinkling of an eye, turn upon

the partner of his joys with furious execration; he may change his

politics while you could snap your fingers; he may deal out deadly

insult to his dearest friend; he may get him, instanter, to a

monastery or a dance hall; he may elope, or hang himself--or he may

write a song or poem, or kiss his wife unasked, or give his funds

to the search of a microbe. Then the peripheral soul will return;

and we have our safe, sane citizen again. It is but the revolt of

the Ego against Order; and its effect is to shake up the atoms only

that they may settle where they belong.
Geddie's revulsion had been a mild one--no more than a swim in

a summer sea after so inglorious an object as a drifting bottle.

And now he was himself again. Upon his desk, ready for the post,

was a letter to his government tendering his resignation as consul,

to be effective as soon as another could be appointed in his place.

For Bernard Brannigan, who never did things in a half-way manner,

was to take Geddie at once for a partner in his very profitable

and various enterprises; and Paula was happily engaged in plans for

refurnishing and decorating the upper story of the Brannigan house.
The consul rose from his hammock when he saw the conspicuous stranger

at this door.
"Keep your seat, old man," said the visitor, with an airy wave of his

large hand. "My name's Smith; and I've come in a yacht. You are the

consul--is that right? A big, cool guy on the beach directed me here.

Thought I'd pay my respects to the flag."
"Sit down, said Geddie. "I've been admiring your craft ever since it

came in sight. Looks like a fast sailer. What's her tonnage?"
"Search me!" said Smith. "I don't know what she weighs in at. But

she's got a tidy gait. The ~Rambler~--that's her name--don't take

the dust of anything afloat. This is my first trip on her. I'm

taking a squint along this coast just to get an idea of the countries

where the rubber and red pepper and revolutions come from. I had no

idea there was so much scenery down here. Why, Central Park ain't

in it with this neck of the woods. I'm from New York. They get
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