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
monkeys, and coconuts, and parrots down here--is that right?"
"We have them all," said Geddie. "I'm quite sure that our fauna and
flora would take a prize over Central Park."
"Maybe they would," admitted Smith, cheerfully. "I haven't seen them
yet. But I guess you've got us skinned on the animal and vegetation
question. You don't have much travel here, do you?"
"Travel?" queried the consul. "I suppose you mean passengers on
steamers. No; very few people land in Coralio. An investor now and
then--tourists and sightseers generally go further down the coast to
one of the larger towns where there is a harbor."
"I see a ship out there loading up with bananas," said Smith. "Any
passengers come on her?"
"That's the ~Karlesfin~," said the consul. "She's a tramp fruiter--
made her last trip to New York, I believe. No; she brought no
passengers. I saw her boat come ashore, and there was no one. About
the only exciting recreation we have here is watching steamers when
they arrive; and a passenger on one of them generally causes the
whole town to turn out. If you are going to remain in Coralio
a while, Mr. Smith, I'll be glad to take you around to meet some
people. There are four or five American chaps that are good to know,
besides the native high-fliers."
"Thanks," said the yachtsman, "but I wouldn't put you the trouble.
I'd like to meet the guys you speak of, but I won't be here long
enough to do much knocking around. That cool gent on the beach spoke
of a doctor; can you tell me where to find him? The ~Rambler~ ain't
quite as steady on her feet as a Broadway hotel; and a fellow gets
a touch of seasickness now and then. Thought I'd strike the croaker
for a handful of the little sugar pills, in case I need 'em."
"You will be apt to find Doctor Gregg at the hotel," said the consul.
"You can see it from the door--it's that two-story building with the
balcony, where the orange-trees are."
The Hotel de los Extranjeros was a dreary hostelry, in great disuse
both by strangers and friends. It stood at a corner of the Street
of the Holy Sepulchre. A grove of small orange-trees crowded against
one side of it, enclosed by a low, rock wall over which a tall man
might easily step. The house was of plastered adobe, stained a
hundred shades of color by the salt breeze and the sun. Upon its
upper balcony opened a central door and two windows containing broad
jalousies instead of sashes.
The lower floor communicated by two doorways with the narrow,
rock-paved sidewalk. The ~pulperia~--or drinking shop--of the
proprietess, Madama Timotea Ortiz, occupied the ground floor. On
the bottles of brandy, ~anisada~, Scotch "smoke," and inexpensive
wines behind the little counter the dust lay thick save where the
fingers of infrequent customers had left irregular prints. The upper
story contained four or five guest-rooms which were rarely put to
their destined use. Sometimes a fruitgrower, riding in from his
plantation to confer with his agent, would pass a melancholy night
in the dismal upper story; sometimes a minor native official on some
trifling government quest would have his pomp and majesty awed by
Madama's sepulchral hospitality. But Madama sat behind her bar
content, not desiring to quarrel with Fate. If any one required
meat, drink or lodging at the Hotel de los Extranjeros they had but
to come, and be served. ~Esta bueno~. If they came not, why, then,
they came not. ~Esta bueno~.
As the exceptional yachtsman was making his way down the precarious
sidewalk of the Street of the Holy Sepulchre, the solitary permanent
guest of that decaying hotel sat at its door, enjoying the breeze
from the sea.
Doctor Gregg, the quarantine physician, was a man of fifty or sixty,
with a florid face and the longest beard between Topeka and Terra
del Fuego. He held his position by virtue of an appointment by
the Board of Health of a seaport city in one of the Southern states.
That city feared the ancient enemy of every Southern seaport--the
yellow fever--and it was the duty of Doctor Gregg to examine crew and
passengers of every vessel leaving Coralio for preliminary symptoms.
The duties were light, and the salary, for one who lived in Coralio,
ample. Surplus time there was in plenty; and the good doctor added
to his gains by a large private practice among the residents of the
coast. The fact that he did not know ten words of Spanish was no
obstacle; a pulse could be felt and a fee collected without one being
a linguist. Add to the description the facts that the doctor had
a story to tell concerning the operation of trepanning which no
listener had ever allowed him to conclude, and that he believed
in brandy as a prophylactic; and the special points of interest
possessed by Doctor Gregg will have become exhausted.
The doctor had dragged a chair to the sidewalk. He was coatless,
and he leaned back against the wall and smoked, while he stroked his
beard. Surprise came into his pale blue eyes when he caught sight
of Smith in his unusual and prismatic clothes.
"You're Doctor Gregg--is that right?" said Smith, feeling the dog's
head pin in his tie. "The constable--I mean the consul, told me
you hung out at this caravansary. My name's Smith; and I came in a
yacht. Taking a cruise around, looking at the monkeys and pineapple-
trees. Come inside and have a drink, Doc. This cafe looks on the
blink, but I guess it can set out something wet."
"I will join you, sir, in just a taste of brandy," said Doctor Gregg,
rising quickly. "I find that as a prophylactic a little brandy is
almost a necessity in this climate."
As they turned to enter the ~pulperia~ a native man, barefoot,
glided noiselessly up and addressed the doctor in Spanish. He was
yellowish-brown, like an over-ripe lemon; he wore a cotton shirt and
ragged linen trousers girded by a leather belt. His face was like
an animal's, live and wary, but without promise of much intelligence.
This man jabbered with animation and so much seriousness that it
seemed a pity that his words were to be wasted.
Doctor Gregg felt his pulse.
"You sick?" he inquired.
"~Mi mujer es enferma en la casa,~" said the man, thus endeavoring
to convey the news, in the only language open to him, that his wife
lay ill in her palm-thatched hut.
The doctor drew a handful of capsules filled with a white powder from
his trousers pocket. He counted out ten of them into the native's
hand, and held up his forefinger impressively.
"Take one," said the doctor, "every two hours." He then held up two
fingers, shaking them emphatically before the native's face. Next he
pulled out his watch and ran his finger round the dial twice. Again
the two fingers confronted the patient's nose. "Two--two--two
hours," repeated the doctor.
"~Si, Senor,~" said the native, sadly.
He pulled a cheap silver watch from his own pocket and laid it in
the doctor's hand. "Me bring," said he, struggling painfully with
his scant English, "other watchy tomorrow," then he departed
downheartedly with his capsules.
"A very ignorant race of people, sir," said the doctor, as he slipped
the watch into his pocket. "He seems to have mistaken my directions
for taking the physic for the fee. However, it is all right. He owes
me an account, anyway. The chances are that he won't bring the other
watch. You can't depend on anything they promise you. About that
drink, now? How did you come to Coralio, Mr. Smith? I was not aware
that any boats except the ~Karlesfin~ had arrived for some days."
The two leaned against the deserted bar; and Madama set out a bottle
without waiting for the doctor's order. There was no dust on it.
After they had drank twice Smith said:
"You say there were no passengers on the ~Karlesfin~, Doc? Are you
sure about that? It seems to me I heard somebody down on the beach
say that there was one or two aboard."
"They were mistaken, sir. I myself went out and put all hands
through a medical examination, as usual. The ~Karlesfin~ sails
as soon as she gets her bananas loaded, which will be about daylight
in the morning, and she got everything ready this afternoon. No,
sir, there was no passenger list. Like that Three-Star? A French
schooner landed two slooploads of it a month ago. If any customs
duties on it went to the distinguished republic of Anchuria you may
have my hat. If you won't have another, come out and let's sit
in the cool a while. It isn't often we exiles get a chance to talk
with somebody from the outside world."
The doctor brought out another chair to the sidewalk for his new
acquaintance. The two seated themselves.
"You are a man of the world," said Doctor Gregg; "a man of travel
and experience. Your decision in a matter of ethics and, no doubt,
on the points of equity, ability and professional probity should be
of value. I would be glad if you will listen to the history of a
case that I think stands unique in medical annals.
"About nine years ago, while I was engaged in the practice of
medicine in my native city, I was called to treat a case of contusion
of the skull. I made the diagnosis that a splinter of bone was
pressing upon the brain, and that the surgical operation known as
trepanning was required. However, as the patient was a gentleman
of wealth and position, I called in for consultation Doctor--"
Smith rose from his chair, and laid a hand, soft with apology,
upon the doctor's shirt sleeve.
"Say, Doc," he said, solemnly, "I want to hear that story. You've
got me interrested; and I don't want to miss the rest of it. I know
it's a loola by the way it begins; and I want to tell it at the next
meeting of the Barney O'Flynn Association, if you don't mind.
But I've got one or two matters to attend to first. If I get 'em
attended to in time I'll come right back and hear you spiel the rest
before bedtime--is that right?"
"By all means," said the doctor, "get your business attended to,
and then return. I shall wait up for you. You see, one of the most
prominent physicians at the consultation diagnosed the trouble as
a blood clot; another said it was an abscess, but I--"
"Don't tell me now, Doc. Don't spoil the story. Wait till I come
back. I want to hear it as it runs off the reel--is that right?"
The mountains reached up their bulky shoulders to receive the level
gallop of Apollo's homing steeds, the day died in the lagoons and
in the shadowed banana groves and in the mangrove swamps, where the
great blue crabs were beginning to crawl to land for their nightly
ramble. And it died, at last, upon the highest peaks. Then the
brief twilight, ephemeral as the flight of a moth, came and went;
the Southern Cross peeped with its topmost eye above a row of palms,
and the fire-flies heralded with their torches and approach of
In the offing the ~Karlesfin~ swayed at anchor, her lights seeming
to penetrate the water to countless fathoms with their shimmering,
lanceolate reflections. The Caribs were busy loading her by means
of the great lighters heaped full from the piles of fruit ranged upon
On the sandy beach, with his back against a coconut-tree and the stubs
of many cigars lying around him, Smith sat waiting, never relaxing
his sharp gaze in the direction of the steamer.
The incongruous yachtsman had concentrated his interest upon the
innocent fruiter. Twice had he been assured that no passengers had
come to Coralio on board of her. And yet, with a persistence not to
be attributed to an idling voyager, he had appealed the case to the
higher court of his own eyesight. Surprisingly like some gay-coated
lizard, he crouched at the foot of the coconut palm, and with the
beady, shifting eyes of the selfsame reptile, sustained his espionage
on the ~Karlesfin~.
On the white sands a whiter gig belonging to the yacht was drawn up,
guarded by one of the white-ducked crew. Not far away in a ~pulperia~
on the shore-following Calle Grande three other sailors swaggerred
with their cues around Coralio's solitary billiard-table. The boat
lay there as if under orders to be ready for use at any moment.
There was in the atmosphere a hint of expectation, of waiting for
something to occur, which was foreign to the air of Coralio.
Like some passing bird of brilliant plumage, Smith alights on this
palmy shore but to preen his wings for an instant and then to fly
away upon silent pinions. When morning dawned there was no Smith,
no waiting gig, no yacht in the offing, Smith left no intimation of
his mission there, no footprints to show where he had followed the
trail of his mystery on the sands of Coralio that night. He came;
he spake his strange jargon of the asphalt and the cafes; he sat
under the coconut-tree, and vanished. The next morning Coralio,
Smithless, ate its fried plantain and said: "The man of pictured
clothing went himself away." With the ~siesta~ the incident passed,
yawning, into history.
So, for a time, must Smith pass behind the scenes of the play.
He comes no more to Coralio, nor to Doctor Gregg, who sits in vain,
wagging his redundant beard, waiting to enrich his derelict audience
with his moving tale of trepanning and jealousy.
But prosperously to the lucidity of these loose pages, Smith shall
flutter among them again. In the nick of time he shall come to tell
us why he strewed so many anxious cigar stumps around the coconut
palm that night. This he must do; for, when he sailed away before
the dawn in his yacht ~Rambler~, he carried with him the answer to
a riddle so big and preposterous that few in Anchuria had ventured
even to propound it.