« IndietroContinua »
THE new administration of Anchuria entered upon its duties and privileges with enthusiasm. Its first act was to send an agent to Coralio with imperative orders to recover, if possible, the sum of money ravished from the treasury by the ill-fated Miraflores.
Colonel Emilio Falcon, the private secretary of Losada, the new president, was despatched from the capital upon this important mission.
The position of private secretary to a tropical president is a responsible one. He must be a diplomat, a spy, a ruler of men, a body-guard to his chief, and a smeller-out of plots and nascent revolutions. Often he is the power behind the throne, the dictator of pol
icy; and a president chooses him with a dozen times the care with which he selects a matrimonial mate.
Colonel Falcon, a handsome and urbane gentleman of Castilian courtesy and debonnaire manners, came to Coralio with the task before him of striking upon the cold trail of the lost money. There he conferred with the military authorities, who had received instructions to co-operate with him in the search.
Colonel Falcon established his headquarters in one of the rooms of the Casa Morena. Here for a week he held informal sittings — much as if he were a kind of unified grand jury - and summoned before him ad those whose testimony might illumine the financial tragedy that had accompanied the less momentous one of the late president's death.
Two or three who were thus examined, among whom was the barber Esteban, declared that they had identified the body of the president before its burial.
"Of a truth," testified Estebán before the mighty secretary, "it was he, the president. Consider! how could I shave a man and not see his face ? He sent for me to shave him in a small house. He had a
beard very black and thick. Had I ever seen the president before? Why not? I saw him once ride forth in a carriage from the vapor in Solitas. When I shaved him he gave me a gold piece, and said there was to be no talk. But I am a Liberal — I am devoted to my country — and I spake of these things to Señor Goodwin.”
“It is known,” said Colonel Falcon, smoothly, “that the late President took with him an American leather valise, containing a large amount of money. Did you see that?”
“De veras — no,” Esteban answered. “The light in the little house was but a small lamp by which I could scarcely see to shave the President. Such a thing there may have been, but I did not see it. No. Also in the room was a young lady-a señorita of much beauty — that I could see even in so small a light. But the money, señor, or the thing in which it was carried that I did not see.”
The comandante and other officers gave testimony that they had been awakened and alarmed by the noise of a pistol-shot in the Hotel de los Estranjeros. Hurrying thither to protect the peace and dignity of the republic, they found a man lying dead, with a pistol clutched in his hand. Beside him was a young woman, weeping sorely. Señor Goodwin was also in the room when they entered it. But of the valise of money they saw nothing.
Madame Timotea Ortiz, the proprietress of the hotel in which the game of Fox-in-the-Morning had been played out, told of the coming of the two guests to her house.
“To my house they came," said she -—"one señor, not quite old, and one señorita of sufficient handsomeness. They desired not to eat or to drink - not even of my aguardiente, which is the best. To their rooms they ascended — Numero Nueve and Numero Diez. Later came Señor Goodwin, who ascended to speak with them. Then I heard a great noise like that of a canon, and they said that the pobre Presidente had shot himself. Está bueno. I saw nothing of money or of the thing you call veliz that you say he carried it
Colonel Falcon soon came to the reasonable conclusion that if anyone in Coralio could furnish a clue to the vanished money, Frank Goodwin must be the man. But the wise secretary pursued a different course in seeking information from the American. Goodwin was a powerful friend to the new administration, and one who was not to be carelessly dealt with in respect to either his honesty or his courage. Even the private secretary of His Excellency hesitated to have this rubber prince and mahogany baron haled before him as a common citizen of Anchuria. So he sent Goodwin a flowery epistle, each word-petal dripping with honey, requesting the favour of an interview. Goodwin replied with an invitation to dinner at his own house.
Before the hour named the American walked over to the Casa Morena, and greeted his guest frankly and friendly. Then the two strolled, in the cool of the afternoon, to Goodwin's home in the environs.
The American left Colonel Falcon in a big, cool, shadowed room with a floor of inlaid and polished woods that any millionaire in the States would have envied, excusing himself for a few minutes. He crossed a patio, shaded with deftly arranged awnings and plants, and entered a long room looking upon the sea in the opposite wing of the house. The broad