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to their pajamas, and their snickersnees drawn, I crawled into the welcome shadow of a banana plant. I remained there for an hour, by which time the excitement and the people had cleared away. And then, my dear Goodwin — excuse me — I saw you sneak back and pluck that ripe and juicy valise from the orange tree. I followed you, and saw you take it to your own house. A hundred-thousand-dollar crop from one orange tree in a season about breaks the record of the fruit-growing industry.
“Being a gentleman at that time, of course I never mentioned the incident to anyone. But this morning I was kicked out of a saloon, my code of honour is all out at the elbows, and I'd sell my mother's prayer-book for three fingers of aguardiente. I'm not putting on the screws hard. It ought to be worth a thousand to you for me to have slept on that cot through the whole business without waking up and seeing anything."
Goodwin opened two more letters, and made memoranda in pencil on them. Then he called “Manuel!” to his secretary, who came, spryly.
“The Ariel- when does she sail ?” asked Goodwin. ** Señor," answered the youth, “at three this afternoon. She drops down-coast to Punta Soledad to complete her cargo of fruit. From there she sails for New Orleans without delay.”
“Bueno!” said Goodwin. “These letters may wait yet awhile."
The secretary returned to his cigarette under the mango tree.
“In round numbers,” said Goodwin, facing Blythe squarely, “how much money do you owe in this town, not including the sums you have ‘borrowed' from me?”
“Five hundred — at a rough guess," answered Blythe, lightly.
“Go somewhere in the town and draw up a schedule of your debts,” said Goodwin. “Come back here in two hours, and I will send Manuel with the money to pay them. I will also have a decent outfit of clothing ready for you. You will sail on the Ariel at three. Manuel will accompany you as far as the deck of the steamer. There he will hand you one thousand dollars in cash. I suppose that we needn't discuss what you will be expected to do in return."
"Oh, I understand,” piped Blythe, cheerily. “I was asleep all the time on the cot under Madama Ortiz's orange trees; and I shake off the dust of Coralio forever. I'll play fair. No more of the lotus for me. Your proposition is O. K. You're a good fellow, Goodwin; and I let you off light. I'll agree to everything. But in the meantime - I've a devil of a thirst on, old man —”
“Not a centavo,” said Goodwin, firmly, "until you are on board the Ariel. You would be drunk in thirty minutes if you had money now.”
But he noticed the blood-streaked eyeballs, the relaxed form and the shaking hands of “Beelzebub;" and he stepped into the dining room through the low window, and brought out a glass and a decanter of brandy.
“Take a bracer, anyway, before you go,” he proposed, even as a man to the friend whom he entertains.
“Beelzebub ” Blythe's eyes glistened at the sight of the solace for which his soul burned. To-day for the first time his poisoned nerves had been denied their steadying dose; and their retort was a mounting
torment. He grasped the decanter and rattled its crystal mouth against the glass in his trembling hand. He flushed the glass, and then stood erect, holding it aloft for an instant. For one fleeting moment he held his head above the drowning waves of his abyss. He nodded easily at Goodwin, raised his brimming glass and murmured a “health” that men had used in his ancient Paradise Lost. And then so suddenly that he spilled the brandy over his hand, he set down his glass, untasted.
“In two hours," his dry lips muttered to Goodwin, as he marched down the steps and turned his face toward the town.
In the edge of the cool banana grove “Beelzebub” halted, and snapped the tongue of his belt buckle into another hole.
“I couldn't do it,” he explained, feverishly, to the waving banana fronds. “I wanted to, but I couldn't. A gentleman can't drink with the man that he blackCHAPTER TWELVE
JOHN DE GRAFFENREID ATWOOD ate of the lotus, root, stem, and flower. The tropics gobbled him up. He plunged enthusiastically into his work, which was to try to forget Rosine.
Now, they who dine on the lotus rarely consume it plain. There is a sauce au diable that goes with it; and the distillers are the chefs who prepare it. And on Johnny's menu card it read “brandy." With a bottle between them, he and Billy Keogh would sit on the porch of the little consulate at night and roar out great, indecorous songs, until the natives, slipping hastily past, would shrug a shoulder and mutter things to themselves about the “ Americanos diablos."
One day Johnny's mozo brought the mail and