« IndietroContinua »
“ 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 its dial twice. Again the two fingers confronted the patient's nose.
“ Twc - two-two hours," repeated the doctor.
“Si, Señor," 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 to-morrow.” Then he departed down-heartedly 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 Karlsefin 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 Karlsefin, 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 Karlsefin 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 ThreeStar? 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 Dr. Gregg; a man of travel and experience. Your decision in a matter of ethics and, no doubt, on the points of equiry, 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 Dr.”
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 interested; 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 ["
“ 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 the approach of soft-footed night.
In the offing the Karlsefin 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 the shore.
On the sandy beach, with his back against a cocoanut-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 Co
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 cocoanut palm, and with the beady, shifting eyes of the selfsame reptile, sustained his espionage on the Karlsefin.
On the white sands a whiter gig belonging to the yacht was drawn up, guarded by one of the whiteducked crew.
Not far away in a pulperia on the shore-following Calle Grande three other sailors swaggered 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