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stayed. Madama was long in response; but after a time her light showed, the door was opened, and the guests housed.
Goodwin stood in 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 that 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 to-night 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 think he desired not to be known — but, carajo! can you 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 anyone 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 anyone 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 honour my poor house by his presence."
"I must come oftener," said Goodwin, with the 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 to-night," 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 handsomeness. 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? Estd bueno. Room Numero 9 and room 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 of 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 mould 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 below them. Such eyes denote great nobility, vigour, 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 re