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
balloons. All up and down the Calle Grande they went, sowing the
sharp burrs carefully in the sand, along the narrow sidewalks, in
every foot of grass between the silent houses. And then they took
the side streets and byways, missing none. No place where the foot of
man, woman or child might fall was slighted. Many trips they made to
and from the prickly hoard. And then, nearly at the dawn, they laid
themselves down to rest calmly, as great generals do after planning
a victory according to the revised tactics, and slept, knowing that
they had sowed with the accuracy of Satan sowing tares and the
perseverance of Paul planting.
With the rising sun came the purveyors of fruits and meats, and
arranged their wares in and around the little market-house. At
one end of the town near the seashore the market-house stood; and
the sowing of the burrs had not been carried that far. The dealers
waited long past the hour when their sales usually began. None
came to buy. "!Que hay?~" they began to exclaim, one to another.
At their accustomed time, from every 'dobe and palm hut and grass-
thatched shack and dim ~patio~ glided women--black women, brown
women, lemon-colored women, women dun and yellow and tawny. They
were the marketers starting to purchase the family supply of cassava,
plantains, meat, fowls, and tortillas. Decollete they were and
bare-armed and bare-footed, with a single skirt reaching below
the knee. Stolid and ox-eyed, they stepped from their doorways
into the narrow paths or upon the soft grass of the streets.
The first to emerge uttered ambiguous squeals, and raised one foot
quickly. Another step and they sat down, with shrill cries of alarm,
to pick at the new and painful insects that had stung them upon the
feet. "~Que picadores diablos!~" they screeched to one another across
the narrow ways. Some tried the grass instead of the paths, but there
they were also stung and bitten by the strange little prickly balls.
They plumped down in the grass, and added their lamentations to those
of their sisters in the sandy paths. All through the town was heard
the plaint of the feminine jabber. The venders in the market still
wondered why no customers came.
Then men, lords of the earth, came forth. They, too, began to hop,
to dance, to limp, and to curse. They stood stranded and foolish,
or stopped to pluck at the scourge that attacked their feet and
ankles. Some loudly proclaimed the pest to be poisonous spiders
of an unknown species.
And then the children ran out for their morning romp. And now to
the uproar was added the howls of limping infants and cockleburred
childhood. Every minute the advancing day brought forth fresh
Dona Maria Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas stepped from her
honored doorway, as was her daily custom, to procure fresh bread
from the ~panaderia~ across the street. She was clad in a skirt of
flowered, yellow satin, a chemise of ruffled linen, and wore a purple
mantilla from the looms of Spain. Her lemon-tinted feet, alas! were
bare. Her progress was majestic, for were not her ancestors hidalgos
of Aragon? Three steps she made across the velvety grass, and set
her aristocratic sole upon a bunch of Johnny's burrs. Dona Maria
Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas emitted a yowl even as a
wild-cat. Turning about, she fell upon hands and knees, and crawled
--ay, like a beast of the field she crawled back to her honorable
Don Senor Ildefonso Federico Valdazar, ~Juez de la Paz~, weighing
twenty stone, attempted to convey his bulk to the ~pulperia~ at the
corner of the plaza in order to assuage his matutinal thirst. The
first plunge of his unshod foot into the cool grass struck a concealed
mine. Don Ildefonso fell like a crumpled cathedral, crying out that
he had been fatally bitten by a deadly scorpion. Everywhere were the
shoeless citizens hopping, stumbling, limping, and picking from their
feet the venomous insects that had come in a single night to harass
The first to perceive the remedy was Esteban Delgado, the barber, a
man of travel and education. Sitting upon a stone, he plucked burrs
from his toes, and made oration:
"Behold, my friends, these bugs of the devil! I know them well.
They soar through the skies in swarms like pigeons. These are dead
ones that fell during the night. In Yucatan I have seen them as large
as oranges. Yes! There they hiss like serpents, and have wings like
bats. It is the shoes--the shoes that one needs! ~Zapatos--zapatos
Esteban hobbled to Mr. Hemstetter's store, and bought shoes. Coming
out, he swaggered down the street with impunity, reviling loudly the
bugs of the devil. The suffering ones sat up or stood upon one foot
and beheld the immune barber. Men, women and children took up the
cry: "~Zapatos! zapatos!~"
The necessity for the demand had been created. The demand followed.
That day Mr. Hemstetter sold three hundred pairs of shoes.
"It is really surprising," he said to Johnny, who came up in the
evening to help him straighten out the stock, "how trade is picking
up. Yesterday I made but three sales."
"I told you they'd whoop things up when they got started," said the
"I think I shall order a dozen more cases of goods, to keep the stock
up," said Mr. Hemstetter, beaming through his spectacles.
"I wouldn't send in any orders yet," advised Johnny. "Wait till you
see how the trade holds up."
Each night Johnny and Keogh sowed the crop that grew dollars by day.
At the end of ten days two-thirds of the stock of shoes had been
sold; and the stock of cockleburrs was exhausted. Johnny cabled
to Pink Dawson for another 500 pounds, paying twenty cents per pound
as before. Mr. Hemstetter carefully made up an order for $1500 worth
of shoes from Northern firms. Johnny hung about the store until this
order was ready for the mail, and succeeded in destroying it before
it reached the postoffice.
That night he took Rosine under the mango tree by Godwin's porch,
and confessed everything. She looked him in the eye, and said: "You
are a very wicked man. Father and I will go back home. You say it
was a joke? I think it is a very serious matter."
But at the end of half an hour's argument the conversation had been
turned upon a different subject. The two were considering the
respective merits of pale blue and pink wall-paper with which the old
colonial mansion of the Atwoods in Dalesburg was to be decorated after
On the next morning Johnny confessed to Mr. Hemstetter. The shoe
merchant put on his spectacles, and said through them: "You strike me
as being a most extraordinary young scamp. If I had not managed this
enterprise with good business judgment my entire stock of goods might
have been a complete loss. Now, how do you propose to dispose of the
rest of it?"
When the second invoice of cockleburrs arrived Johnny loaded them and
the remainder of the shoes into schooner, and sailed down the coast
to Alazan. There, in the same dark and diabolical manner, he repeated
his success: and came back with a bag of money and not so much as
And then he besought his great Uncle of the waving goatee and starred
vest to accept his resignation, for the lotus no longer lured him.
He hankered for the spinach and cress of Dalesburg.
The services of Mr. William Terence Keogh as acting consul, pro term.,
were suggested and accepted, and Johnny sailed with the Hemstetters
back to his native shores.
Keogh slipped into the sinecure of the American consulship with
the ease that never left him even in such high places. The tintype
establishment was soon to become a thing of the past, although its
deadly work along the peaceful and helpless Spanish Main was never
effaced. The restless partners were about to be off again, scouting
ahead of the slow ranks of Fortune. But now they would take different
ways. There were rumors of a promising uprising in Peru; and thither
the martial Clancy would turn his adventurous steps. As for Keogh,
he was figuring in his mind and on quires of Government letter-heads
a scheme that dwarfed the art of misrepresenting the human countenance
"What suits me," Keogh used to say, "in the way of a business
proposition is something diversified that looks like a longer shot
than it is--something in the way of a genteel graft that isn't worked
enough for the correspondence schools to be teaching it by mail.
I take the long end; but I like to have at least as good a chance to
win as a man learning to play poker on an ocean steamer, or running
for governor of Texas on the Republican ticket. And when I cash in
my winnings I don't want to find any widows' and orphans' chips in
The grass-grown globe was the green table on which Keogh gambled.
The games he played were of his own invention. He was no grubber
after the diffident dollar. Nor did he care to follow it with horn
and hounds. Rather he loved to coax it with egregious and brilliant
flies from its habitat in the waters of strange streams. Yet Keogh
was a business man; and his schemes, in spite of their singularity,
were as solidly set as the plans of a building contractor. In
Arthur's time Sir William Keogh would have been a Knight of the Round
Table. In these modern days he rides abroad, seeking the Graft
instead of the Grail.
Three days after Johnny's departure, two small schooners appeared
off Coralio. After some delay a boat put off from one of them, and
brought a sunburned young man ashore. This young man had a shrewd
and calculating eye; and he gazed with amazement at the strange things
that he saw. He found on the beach some one who directed him to the
consul's office; and thither he made his way at a nervous gait.
Keogh was sprawled in the official chair, drawing caricatures
of his Uncle's head on an official pad of paper. He looked up
at his visitor.
"Where's Johnny Atwood?" inquired the sunburned young man, in
a business tone.
"Gone," said Keogh, working carefully at Uncle Sam's necktie.
"That's just like him," remarked the nut-brown one, leaning against
the table. "He always was a fellow to gallivant around instead of
'tending to business. Will he be in soon?"
"Don't think so," said Keogh, after a fair amount of deliberation.
"I s'pose he's out at some of his tomfoolery," conjectured the
visitor, in a tone of virtuous conviction. "Johnny never would stick
to anything long enough to succeed. I wonder how he manages to run
his business here, and never be 'round to look after it."
"I'm looking after the business just now," admitted the pro term.
"Are you--then, say--where's the factory?"
"What factory?" asked Keogh, with a mildly polite interest.
"Why, the factory where they use them cockleburrs. Lord knows what
they use 'em for, anyway! I've got the basements of both them ships
out there loaded with 'em. I'll give you a bargain in this lot.
I've had every man, woman and child around Dalesburg that wasn't
busy pickin' 'em for a month. I hired these ships to bring 'em over.
Everybody thought I was crazy. Now, you can have this lot for fifteen
cents a pound, delivered on land. And if you want more I guess old
Alabam' can come up to the demand. Johnny told me when he left home
that if he struck anything down here that there was any money in he'd
let me in on it. Shall I drive the ships in and hitch?"
A look of supreme, almost incredulous, delight dawned in Keogh's
ruddy countenance. He dropped his pencil. His eyes turned upon
the sunburned young man with joy in them mingled with fear lest
his ecstasy should prove a dream.
"For God's sake tell me," said Keogh, earnestly, "are you Dink
"My name is Pinkney Dawson," said the cornerer of the cockleburr
Billy Keogh slid rapturously and gently from his chair to his favorite
strip of matting on the floor.
There were not many sounds in Coralio on that sultry afternoon. Among
those that were may be mentioned a noise of enraptured and unrighteous
laughter from a prostrate Irish-American, while a sunburned young man,
with a shrewd eye, looked on him with wonder and amazement. Also the
"tramp, tramp, tramp" of many well-shod feet in the streets outside.
Also the lonesome wash of the waves that beat along the historic
shores of the Spanish Main.