The Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"

НазваниеThe Proem "Fox-in-the-Morning"
Дата публикации24.06.2013
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to covet so, and show it to you."
She moved toward the closed door that connected the two rooms, but

stopped, and half turned and bestowed upon Goodwin a grave, searching

look that ended in a quizzical smile.
"You force my door," she said, "and you follow your ruffianly behavior

with the basest accusations; and yet"--she hesitated, as if to

reconsider what she was about to say--"and yet--it is a puzzling

thing--I am sure there has been some mistake."
She took a step toward the door, but Goodwin stayed her by a light

touch upon her arm. I have said before that women turned to look

at him in the streets. He was the viking sort of man, big, good-

looking, and with an air of kindly truculence. She was dark and

proud, glowing or pale as her mood moved her. I do not know if Eve

were light or dark, but if such a woman had stood in the garden

I know that the apple would have been eaten. This woman was to be

Goodwin's fate, and he did not know it; but he must have felt the

first throes of destiny, for, as he faced her, the knowledge of what

report named her turned bitter in her throat.
"If there has been any mistake," he said, hotly, "it was yours. I do

not blame the man who has lost his country, his honor, and is about

to lose the poor consolation of his stolen riches as much as I blame

you, for, by Heaven! I can very well see how he was brought to it.

I can understand, and pity him. It is such women as you that strew

this degraded coast with wretched exiles, that make men forget their

trusts, that drag--"
The lady interrupted him with a weary gesture.
"There is no need to continue your insults," she said, coldly.

"I do not understand what you are saying, nor do I know what mad

blunder you are making; but if the inspection of the contents of

a gentleman's portmanteau will rid me of you, let us delay it no

She passed quickly and noiselessly into the other room, and returned

with the heavy leather valise, which she handed to the American with

an air of patient contempt.
Goodwin set the valise quickly upon the table and began to unfasten

the straps. The Lady stood by, with an expression of infinite scorn

and weariness upon her face.
The valise opened wide to a powerful, sidelong wrench. Goodwin

dragged out two or three articles of clothing, exposing the bulk of

its contents--package after package of tightly packed United States

bank and treasury notes of large denomination. Reckoning from the

high figures written upon the paper bands that bound them, the total

must have come closely upon the hundred thousand mark.
Goodwin glanced swiftly at the woman, and saw, with surprise and

a thrill of pleasure that he wondered at, that she had experienced

an unmistakeable shock. Her eyes grew wide, she gasped, and leaned

heavily against the table. She had been ignorant, then, he inferred,

that her companion had looted the government treasury. But why,

he angrily asked himself, should he be so well pleased to think this

wandering and unscrupulous singer not so black as report had painted

A noise in the other room startled them both. The door swung open,

and a tall, elderly, dark complexioned man, recently shaven, hurried

into the room.
All the pictures of President Miraflores represent him as the

possessor of a luxuriant supply of dark and carefully tended whiskers;

but the story of the barber, Esteban, had prepared Goodwin for

the change.
The man stumbled in from the dark room, his eyes blinking at the

lamplight, and heavy from sleep.
"What does this mean?" he demanded in excellent English, with a keen

and perturbed look at the American--"robbery?"
"Very near it," answered Goodwin. "But I rather think I'm in time

to prevent it. I represent the people to whom this money belongs,

and I have come to convey it back to them." He thrust his hand into

a pocket of his loose, linen coat.
The other man's hand went quickly behind him.
"Don't draw," called Goodwin, sharply; "I've got you covered from

my pocket."
The lady stepped forward, and laid one hand upon the shoulder of her

hesitating companion. She pointed to the table. "Tell me the truth

--the truth," she said, in a low voice. "Whose money is that?"
The man did not answer. He gave a deep, long-drawn sigh, leaned

and kissed her on the forehead, stepped back into the other room

and closed the door.
Goodwin foresaw his purpose, and jumped for the door, but the report

of the pistol echoed as his hand touched the knob. A heavy fall

followed, and some one swept him aside and struggled into the room

of the fallen man.
A desolation, thought Goodwin, greater than that derived from

the loss of cavalier and gold must have been in the heart of the

enchantress to have wrung from her, in that moment, the cry of one

turning to the all-forgiving, all-comforting earthly consoler--to

have made her call out from that bloody and dishonored room--"Oh,

mother, mother, mother!"
But there was an alarm outside. The barber, Esteban, at the sound

of the shot, had raised his voice; and the shot itself had aroused

half the town. A pattering of feet came up the street, and official

orders rang out on the still air. Goodwin had a duty to perform.

Circumstances had made him the custodian of his adopted country's

treasure. Swiftly cramming the money into the valise, he closed it,

leaned far out of the window and dropped it into a thick orange-tree

in the little inclosure below.

They will tell you in Coralio, as they delight in telling the

stranger, of the conclusion of that tragic flight. They will tell

you how the upholders of the law came apace when the alarm was

sounded--the ~Comandante~ in red slippers and a jacket like a head

waiter's and girded sword, the soldiers with their interminable guns,

followed by outnumbering officers struggling into their gold and lace

epaulettes; the bare-footed policemen (the only capables in the lot),

and ruffled citizens of every hue and description.
They say that the countenance of the dead man was marred sadly by

the effects of the shot; but he was identified as the fallen president

by both Goodwin and the barber Esteban. On the next morning messages

began to come over the mended telegraph wire; and the story of the

flight from the capital was given out to the public. In San Mateo

the revolutionary party had seized the sceptre of government, without

opposition, and the ~vivas~ of the mercurial populace quickly effaced

the interest belonging to the unfortunate Miraflores.
They will relate to you how the new government sifted the towns

and raked the roads to find the valise containing Anchuria's surplus

capital, which the president was known to have carried with him,

but all in vain. In Coralio Senor Goodwin himself led the searching

party which combed that town as carefully as a woman combs her hair;

but the money was not found.
So they buried the dead man, without honors, back of the town near

the little bridge that spans the mangrove swamp; and for a ~real~

a boy will show you his grave. They say that the old woman in whose

hut the barber shaved the president placed the wooden slab at his

head, and burned the inscription upon it with a hot iron.
You will hear also that Senor Goodwin, like a tower of strength,

shielded Dona Isabel Guilbert through those subsequent distressful

days; and that his scruples as to her past career (if he had any)

vanished; and her adventuresome waywardness (if she had any) left

her, and they were wedded and were happy.
The American built a home on a little foothill near the town. It is

a conglomerate structure of native woods that, exported, would be

worth a fortune, and of brick, palm, glass, bamboo and adobe. There

is a paradise of nature about it; and something of the same sort

within. The natives speak of its interior with hands uplifted in

admiration. There are floors polished like mirrors and covered with

hand-woven Indian rugs of silk fibre, tall ornaments and pictures,

musical instruments and papered walls--"figure-it-to-yourself!"

they exclaim.
But they cannot tell you in Coralio (as you shall learn) what became

of the money that Frank Goodwin dropped into the orange-tree. But

that shall come later; for the palms are fluttering in the breeze,

bidding us to sport and gaiety.

Cupid's Exile Number Two
The United States of America, after looking over its stock of

consular timber, selected Mr. John De Graffenreid Atwood, of

Dalesburg, Alabama, for a successor to Willard Geddie, resigned.
Without prejudice to Mr. Atwood, it will have to be acknowledged

that, in this instance, it was the man who sought the office. As

with the self-banished Geddie, it was nothing less than the artful

smiles of lovely woman that had driven Johnny Atwood to the desperate

expedient of accepting office under a despised Federal Government

so that he might go far, far away and never see again the false, fair

face that had wrecked his young life. The consulship at Coralio

seemed to offer a retreat sufficiently removed and romantic enough

to inject the necessary drama into the pastoral scenes of Dalesburg

It was while playing the part of Cupid's exile that Johnny added his

handiwork to the long list of casualties along the Spanish Main by

his famous manipulation of the shoe market, and his unparalleled feat

of elevating the most despised and useless weed in his own country

from obscurity to be a valuable product in international commerce.
The trouble began, as trouble often begins instead of ending, with

a romance. In Dalesburg there was a man named Elijah Hemstetter, who

kept a general store. His family consisted of one daughter called

Rosine, a name that atoned much for "Hemstetter." This young woman

was possessed of plentiful attractions, so that the young men of

the community were agitated in their bosoms. Among the more agitated

was Johnny, the son of Judge Atwood, who lived in the big colonial

mansion on the edge of Dalesburg.
It would seem that the desirable Rosine should have been pleased to

return the affection of an Atwood, a name honored all over the state

long before and since the war. It does seem that she should have

gladly consented to have been led into that stately but rather empty

colonial mansion. But not so. There was a cloud on the horizon, a

threatening, cumulus cloud, in the shape of a lively and shrewd young

farmer in the neighborhood who dared to enter the lists as a rival to

the high-born Atwood.
One night Johnny propounded to Rosine a question that is considered

of much importance by the young of the human species. The accessories

were all there--moonlight, oleanders, magnolias, the mockingbird's

song. Whether or no the shadow of Pinkney Dawson, that prosperous

young farmer came between them on that occasion is not known; but

Rosine's answer was unfavorable. Mr. John De Graffenreid Atwood bowed

till his hat touched the lawn grass, and went away with his head high,

but with a sore wound in his pedigree and heart. A Hemstetter refuse

an Atwood! Zounds!
Among other accidents of that year was a Democratic president. Judge

Atwood was a warhorse of Democracy. Johnny persuaded him to set the

wheels moving for some foreign appointment. He would go away--away.

Perhaps in years to come Rosine would think how true, how faithful

his love had been, and would drop a tear--maybe in the cream she

would be skimming for Pink Dawson's breakfast.
The wheels of politics revolved; and Johnny was appointed consul to

Coralio. Just before leaving he dropped in at Hemstetter's to say

good-bye. There was a queer, pinkish look about Rosine's eyes; and

had the two been alone, the United States might have had to cast

about for another consul. But Pink Dawson was there, of course,

talking about his 400-acre orchard, and the three-mile alfalfa tract,

and the 200-acre pasture. So Johnny shook hands with Rosine as

coolly as if he were only going to run up to Montgomery for a couple

of days. They had the royal manner when they chose, those Atwoods.
"If you happen to strike anything in the way of a good investment

down there, Johnny," said Pink Dawson, "just let me know, will you?

I reckon I could lay my hands on a few extra thousands 'most any time

for a profitable deal."
"Certainly, Pink," said Johnny, pleasantly. "If I strike anything of

that sort I'll let you in with pleasure."
So Johnny went down to Mobile and took a fruit steamer for the coast

of Anchuria.
When the new consul arrived in Coralio the strangeness of the scenes

diverted him much. He was only twenty-two; and the grief of youth

was not worn like a garment as it is by older men. It has its

seasons when it reigns; and then it is unseated for time by the

assertion of the keen senses.
Billy Keogh and Johnny seemed to conceive a mutual friendship at

once. Keogh took the new consul about town and presented him to the

handful of Americans and the smaller number of French and Germans who

made up the "foreign" contingent. And then, of course, he had to be

more formally introduced to the native officials, and have his

credentials transmitted through an interpreter.
There was something about the young Southerner that the sophisticated

Keogh liked. His manner was simple almost to boyishness; but he

possessed the cool carelessness of a man of far greater age and

experience. Neither uniforms nor titles, red tape nor foreign

languages, mountains nor sea weighed upon his spirits. He was heir

to all ages, an Atwood, of Dalesburg; and you might know every

thought conceived to his bosom.
Geddie came down to the consulate to explain the duties and workings

of the office. He and Keogh tried to interest the new consul in

their description of the work that his government expected him to

"It's all right," said Johnnie from the hammock that he had set up as

the official reclining place. "If anything turns up that has to be

done I'll let you fellows do it. You can't expect a Democrat to work

during his first term of holding office."
"You might look over these headings," suggested Geddie, "of the

different lines of exports you will have to keep account of. The

fruit is classified; and there are the valuable woods, coffee,
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