« IndietroContinua »
churia, just as it had formed the lucrative "graft" of Mellinger, the secretary of Miraflores.
"I thank you, Senor Goodwin," said Falcon, " for speaking plainly. Your word will be sufficient for the president. But, Senor Goodwin, I am instructed to pursue every clue that presents itself in this matter. There is one that I have not yet touched upon. Our friends in France, senor, have a saying, 'Cherchez la femme,' when there is a mystery without a clue. But here we do not have to search. The woman who accompanied the late President in his flight must surely —"
"I must interrupt you there," interposed Goodwin. "It is true that when I entered the hotel for the purpose of intercepting President Miraflores I found a lady there. I must beg of you to remember that that lady is now my wife. I speak for her as I do for myself. She knows nothing of the fate of the valise or of the money that you are seeking. You will say to his excellency that I guarantee her innocence. I do not need to add to you, Colonel Falcon, that I do not care to have her questioned or disturbed."
Colonel Falcon bowed again.
"For supuesto, no!" he cried. And to indicate that the inquiry was ended he added: "And now, sefior, let me beg of you to show me that sea view from your galena of which you spoke. I am a lover of the sea."
In the early evening Goodwin walked back to the town with his guest, leaving him at the corner of the Calle Grande. As he was returning homeward one "Beelzebub" Blythe, with the air of a courtier and the outward aspect of a scarecrow, pounced upon him hopefully from the door of a pvlperia.
Blythe had been re-christened "Beelzebub" as an acknowledgment of the greatness of his fall. Once in some distant Paradise Lost, he had foregathered with the angels of the earth. But Fate had hurled him headlong down to the tropics, where flamed in his bosom a fire that was seldom quenched. In Coralio they called him a beachcomber; but he was, in reality, a categorical idealist who strove to anamorphosize the dull verities of life by the means of brandy and rum. As Beelzebub, himself, might have held in his clutch with unwitting tenacity his harp or crown during his tremendous fall, so his namesake had clung to his gold-rimmed eyeglasses as the only souvenir of his lost estate. These he wore with impressiveness and distinction while he combed beaches and extracted toll from his friends. By some mysterious means he kept his drink-reddened face always smoothly shaven. For the rest he sponged gracefully upon whomsoever he could for enough to keep him pretty drunk, and sheltered from the rains and night dews.
"Hallo, Goodwin!" called the derelict, airily. "I was hoping I'd strike you. I wanted to see you particularly. Suppose we go where we can talk. Of course you know there's a chap down here looking up the money old Miraflores lost."
"Yes," said Goodwin, " I've been talking with him. Let's go into Espada's place. I can spare you ten minutes."
They went into the pulperia and sat at a little table upon stools with rawhide tops
"Have a drink?" said Goodwin.
"They can't bring it too quickly," said Blythe. "I've been in a drought ever since morning. Hi — muchacho! — el aguardiente por acd."
"Now, what do you want to see me about? " asked Goodwin, when the drinks were before them.
"Confound it', old man," drawled Blythe, "why do you spoil a golden moment like this with business? I wanted to see you — well, this has the preference." He gulped down his brandy, and gazed longingly into the empty glass.
"Have another?" suggested Goodwin.
"Between gentlemen," said the fallen angel, "I don't quite like your use of that word ' another.' It isn't quite delicate. But the concrete idea that the word represents is not displeasing."
The glasses were refilled. Blythe sipped blissfully from his, as he began to enter the state of a true idealist.
"I must trot along in a minute or two," hinted Goodwin. "Was there anything in particular?"
Blythe did not reply at once.
"Old Losada would make it a hot country," he remarked at length, "for the man who swiped that gripsack of treasury boodle, don't you think?"
"Undoubtedly, he would," agreed Goodwin calmly, as he rose leisurely to his feet. "I'll be running over to the house now, old man. Mrs. Goodwin is alone. There was nothing important you had to say, was there?"
"That's all," said Blythe. "Unless you wouldn't mind sending in another drink from the bar as you go out. Old Espada has closed my account to profit and loss. And pay for the lot, will you, like a good fellow?"
"All right," said Goodwin. "Buenat nochet."
"Beelzebub" Blythe lingered over his cups, polishing his eyeglasses with a disreputable handkerchief.