The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"

НазваниеThe Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"
Дата публикации24.06.2013
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by an emissary of Zavalla's. Long before this could be repaired and

word received along it from the capital the fugitives would have

reached the coast and the question of escape or capture been solved.
Goodwin had stationed armed sentinels at frequent intervals along

the shore for a mile in each direction from Coralio. They were

instructed to keep a vigilant lookout during the night to prevent

Miraflores from attempting to embark stealthily by means of some boat

or sloop found by chance at the water's edge. A dozen patrols walked

the streets of Coralio unsuspected, ready to intercept the truant

official should he show himself there.
Goodwin was very well convinced that no precautions had been

overlooked. He strolled about the streets that bore such high-

sounding names and were but narrow, grass-covered lanes, lending his

own aid to the vigil that had been intrusted to him by Bob Englehart.
The town had begun the tepid round of its nightly diversions. A few

leisurely dandies, cald in white duck, with flowing neckties, and

swinging slim bamboo canes, threaded the grassy by-ways toward the

houses of their favored senoritas. Those who wooed the art of music

dragged tirelessly at whining concertinas, or fingered lugubrious

guitars at doors and windows. An occasional soldier from the

~cuartel~, with flapping straw hat, without coat or shoes, hurried

by, balancing his long gun like a lance in one hand. From every

density of the foliage the giant tree frogs sounded their loud and

irritating clatter. Further out, the guttural cries of marauding

baboons and the coughing of the alligators in the black estuaries

fractured the vain silence of the wood.
By ten o'clock the streets were deserted. The oil lamps that had

burned, a sickly yellow, at random corners, had been extinguished

by some economical civic agent. Coralio lay sleeping calmly between

toppling mountains and encroaching sea like a stolen babe in the arms

of its abductors. Somewhere over in that tropical darkness--perhaps

already threading the profundities of the alluvial lowlands--the high

adventurer and his mate were moving toward land's end. The game of

Fox-in-the-Morning should be coming soon to its close.
Goodwin, at his deliberate gait, passed the long, low ~cuartel~ where

Coralio's contingent of Anchuria's military force slumbered, with its

bare toes pointed heavenward. There was a law that no civilian might

come so near the headquarters of that citadel of war after nine

o'clock, but Goodwin was always forgetting the minor statutes.
"~Quien vive,~" shrieked the sentinel, wrestling prodigiously with

his lengthy musket.
"~Americano,~" growled Goodwin, without turning his head, and passed

on, unhalted.
To the right he turned, and to the left up the street that ultimately

reached the Plaza Nacional. When within the toss of a cigar stump

from the intersecting Street of the Holy Sepulchre, he stopped

suddenly in the pathway.
He saw the form of a tall man, clothed in black and carrying a large

valise, hurry down the cross-street in the direction of the beach.

And Goodwin's second glance made him aware of a woman at the man's

elbow on the farther side, who seemed to urge forward, if not even

to assist, her companion in their swift but silent progress. They

were no Coralians, those two.
Goodwin followed at increased speed, but without any of the artful

tactics that are so dear to the heart of the sleuth. The American

was too broad to feel the instinct of the detective. He stood as

an agent for the people of Anchuria, and but for political reasons

he would have demanded then and there the money. It was the design

of his party to secure the imperilled fund, to restore it to the

treasury of the country, and to declare itself in power without

bloodshed or resistance.
The couple halted at the door of the Hotel de los Extranjeros,

and the man struck upon the wood with the impatience of one unused

to his entry being stayed. Madama was long in response, but after

a time her light showed, the door was opened, and the guests housed.
Goodwin stoodin the quiet street, lighting another cigar. In

two minutes, a faint gleam began to show between the slats of the

jalousies in the upper story of the hotel. "They have engaged rooms,"

said Goodwin to himself. "So, then, their arrangements for sailing

have yet to be made."
At the moment there came along one Esteban Delgado, a barber,

an enemy to existing government, a jovial plotter against stagnation

in any form. This barber was one of Coralio's saddest dogs, often

remaining out of doors as late as eleven, post meridian. He was

a partisan Liberal; and he greeted Goodwin with flatulent importance

as a brother in the cause. But he had something important to tell.
"What think you, Don Frank!" he cried, in the universal tone of the

conspirator. "I have tonight shaved ~la barba~--what you call the

'weeskers' of the ~Presidente~ himself, of this countree! Consider!

He sent for me to come. In the poor ~casita~ of an old woman he

awaited me--in a verree leetle house in a dark place. ~Carramba!~

--el Senor Presidente to make himself thus secret and obscured!

I shave a man and not see his face? This gold piece he gave me, and

said it was to be all quite still. I think, Don Frank, there is what

you call a chip over the bug."
"Have you ever seen President Miraflores before?" asked Goodwin.
"But once," answered Esteban. "He is tall; and he had weeskers,

verree black and sufficient."
"Was any one else present when you shaved him?"
"An old Indian woman, Senor, that belonged with the ~casa~, and one

senorita--a ladee of so much beautee!--~ah, Dios!~"
"All right, Esteban," said Goodwin. "It's very lucky that you

happened along with your tonsorial information. The new

administration will be likely to remember you for this."
Then in a few words he made the barber acquainted with the crisis

into which the affairs of the nation had culminated, and instructed

him to remain outside, keeping watch upon the two sides of the hotel

that looked upon the street, and observing whether any one should

attempt to leave the house by any door or window. Goodwin himself

went to the door through which the guests had entered, opened it and

stepped inside.
Madama had returned downstairs from her journey above to see after

the comfort of her lodgers. Her candle stood upon the bar. She was

about to take a thimbleful of rum as a solace for having her rest

disturbed. She looked up without surprise or alarm as her third

caller entered.
"Ah! it is the Senor Goodwin. Not often does he honor my poor house

with his presence."
"I must come oftener," said Goodwin, with a Goodwin smile. "I hear

that your cognac is the best between Belize to the north and Rio to

the south. Set out the bottle, Madama, and let us have the proof in

~un vasito~ for each of us."
"My ~aguardiente~," said Madama, with pride, "is the best. It grows,

in beautiful bottles, in the dark places among the banana-trees.

~Si, Senor~. Only at midnight can they be picked by sailor-men

who bring them, before daylight comes, to your back door. Good

~aguardiente~ is a verree difficult fruit to handle, Senor Goodwin."
Smuggling, in Coralio, was much nearer than competition to being the

life of trade. One spoke of it slyly, yet with a certain conceit,

when it had been well accomplished.
"You have guests in the house tonight," said Goodwin, laying a silver

dollar upon the counter.
"Why not?" said Madama, counting the change. "Two; but the smallest

while finished to arrive. One senor, not quite old, and one senorita

of sufficient hadsomeness. To their rooms they have ascended, not

desiring the to-eat nor the to-drink. Two rooms--~Numero~9 and

~Numero~ 10."
"I was expecting that gentleman and that lady," said Goodwin. "I have

important ~negocios~ that must be transacted. Will you allow me

to see them?"
"Why not?" sighed Madama, placidly. "Why should not Senor Goodwin

ascend and speak to his friends? ~Esta bueno~. Romm ~Numero~ 9 and

romm ~Numero~ 10."
Goodwin loosened in his coat pocket the American revolver that he

carried, and ascended the steep, dark stairway.
In the hallway above, the saffron light from a hanging lamp allowed

him to select the gaudy numbers on the doors. He turned the knob on

Number 9, entered and closed the door behind him.
If that was Isabel Guilbert seated by the table in that poorly

furnished room, report had failed to do her charms justice. She

rested her head upon one hand. Extreme fatigue was signified in

every line of her figure; and upon her countenance a deep perplexity

was written. Her eyes were gray-irised, and of that mold that seems

to have belonged to the orbs of all the famous queens of hearts.

Their whites were singularly clear and brilliant, concealed above

the irises by heavy horizontal lids, and showing a snowy line between

them. Such eyes denote great nobility, vigor, and, if you can

conceive of it, a most generous selfishness. She looked up when

the American entered, with an expression of surprised inquiry, but

without alarm.
Goodwin took off his hat and seated himself, with his characteristic

deliberate ease, upon a corner of the table. He held a lighted cigar

between his fingers. He took this familiar course because he was

sure that preliminaries would be wasted upon Miss Guilbert. He knew

her history, and the small part that the conventions had played in it.
"Good evening," he said. "Now, madame, let us come to business at

once. You will observe that I mention no names, but I know who is in

the next room, and what he carries in that valise. That is the point

which brings me here. I have come to dictate terms of surrender."
The lady neither moved nor replied, but steadily regarded the cigar

in Goodwin's hand.
"We," continued the dictator, thoughtfully regarding the neat buckskin

shoe on his gently swinging foot--"I speak for a considerable majority

of the people--demand the return of the stolen funds belonging to

them. Our terms go very little further than that. They are very

simple. As an accredited spokesman, I promise that our interference

will cease if they are accepted. Give up the money, and you and your

companion will be permitted to proceed wherever you will. In fact,

assistance will be given you in the matter of securing a passage

by any outgoing vessel you may choose. It is on my personal

responsibility that I add congratulations to the gentleman in Number

10 upon his taste in feminine charms."
Returning his cigar to his mouth, Goodwin observed her, and saw that

her eyes followed it and rested upon it with icy and significant

concentration. Apparently she had not heard a word he had said.

He understood, tossed the cigar out the window, and, with an amused

laugh, slid from the table to his feet.
"That is better," said the lady. "It makes it possible for me to

listen to you. For a second lesson in good manners, you might now

tell me by whom I am being insulted."
"I am sorry," said Goodwin, leaning one hand on the table, "that my

time is too brief for devoting much of it to a course of etiquette.

Come, now; I appeal to you good sense. You have shown yourself,

in more than one instance, to be well aware of what is to your

advantage. This is an occasion that demands the exercise of your

undoubted intelligence. There is no mystery here. I am Frank

Goodwin; and I have come for the money. I entered this room at a

venture. Had I entered the other I would have had it before me now.

Do you want it in words? The gentleman in Number 10 has betrayed

a great trust. He has robbed his people of a large sum, and it is

I who will prevent their losing it. I do not say who that gentleman

is; but if I should be forced to see him and he should prove to be

a certain high official of the republic, it will be my duty to arrest

him. The house is guarded. I am offering you liberal terms. It is

not absolutely necessary that I confer personally with the gentleman

in the next room. Bring me the valise containing the money, and we

will call the affair ended."
The lady arose from her chair and stood for a moment, thinking

"Do you live here, Mr. Goodwin?" she asked, presently.
"What is your authority for this intrusion?"
"I am an instrument of the republic. I was advised by wire of the

movements of the--gentleman in Number 10."
"May I ask you two or three questions? I believe you to be a man

more apt to be truthful than--timid. What sort of town is this--

Coralio, I think they call it?"
"Not much of a town," said Goodwin, smiling. "A banana town, as they

run. Grass huts, 'dobes, five or six two-story houses, accomodations

limited, population half-breed Spanish and Indian, Caribs and

blackamoors. No sidewalks to speak of, no amusements. Rather

unmoral. That'a an offhand sketch, of course."
"Are there any inducements, say in a social or in a business way,

for people to reside here?"
"Oh, yes," answered Goodwin, smiling broadly. "There are no

afternoon teas, no hand-organs, no department stores--and there

is no extradition treaty."
"He told me," went on the lady, speaking as if to herself, and with

a slight frown, "that there were towns on this coast of beauty and

importance; that there was a pleasing social order--especially an

American colony of cultured residents."
"There is an American colony," said Goodwin, gazing at her in some

wonder. "Some of the members are all right. Some are fugitives from

justice from the States. I recall two exiled bank presidents, one

army paymaster under a cloud, a couple of manslayers, and a widow--

arsenic, I believe, was the suspicion in her case. I myself complete

the colony, but, as yet, I have not distinguished myself by any

particular crime."
"Do not lose hope," said the lady, dryly; "I see nothing in your

actions tonight to guarantee you further obscurity. Some mistake has

been made; I do not know just where. But ~him~ you shall not disturb

tonight. The journey has fatigued him so that he has fallen asleep,

I think, in his clothes. You talk of stolen money! I do not

understand you. Some mistake has been made. I will convince you.

Remain where you are and I will bring you the valise that you seem
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