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To the right he turned, and to the left up the street that ultimately reached the Plaza Nacional. When within the toss of a cigar stump from the intersecting Street of the Holy Sepulchre, he stopped suddenly in the pathway.
He saw the form of a tall man, clothed in black and carrying a large valise, hurry down the crossstreet in the direction of the beach. And Goodwin's second glance made him aware of a woman at the man's elbow on the farther side, who seemed to urge forward, if not even to assist, her companion in their swift but silent progress. They were no Coralians, those two.
Goodwin followed at increased speed, but without any of the artful tactics that are so dear to the heart of the sleuth. The American was too broad to feel the instinct of the detective. He stood as an agent for the people of Anchuria, and but for political reasons he would have demanded then and there the money. It was the design of his party to secure the imperilled fund, to restore it to the treasury of the country, and to declare itself in power without bloodshed or resistance.
The couple halted at the door of the Hotel de los Estranjeros, and the man struck upon the wood with the impatience of one unused to his entry being 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." v
"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 case, and one senorita — a ladee of so much beautce! — 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 sefiorita 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? Esta 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 per