« IndietroContinua »
is guarued. I am offering you liberal terms. It is not absolutely necessary that I confer personally with the gentleman in the next room. Bring me the valise containing the money, and we will call the affair ended.”
The lady arose from her chair and stood for a moment, thinking deeply.
“Do you live here, Mr. Goodwin ?" she asked, presently.
“I am an instrument of the republic. I was advised by wire of the movements of the gentleman in Number 10."
“May I ask you two or three questions? I believe you to be a man more apt to be truthful than — tiinid. What sort of a town is this - Coralio, I think they call it ?”
“Not much of a town,” said Goodwin, smiling. “A banana town, as they run. Grass huts, 'dobes, five or six two-story houses, accommodations limited, population half-breed Spanish and Indian, Caribs and blackamoors. No sidewalks to speak of, no
amusements. Rather unmoral. That's an offhand sketch, of course.
Are there any inducements, say in a social or in a business way, for people to reside here?”
“Oh, yes,” answered Goodwin, smiling broadly. "There are no afternoon teas, no hand-organs, no department stores and there is no extradition treaty.'
"He told me," went on the lady, speaking as if to herself, and with a slight frown, “that there were towns on this coast of beauty and importance; that there was a pleasing social order - especially an American colony of cultured residents.
“There is an American colony,” said Goodwin, gazing at her in some wonder. "Some of the members are all right. Some are fugitives from justice from the States. I recall two exiled bank presidents, one army paymaster under a cloud, a couple of manslayers, and a widow — arsenic, I believe, was the suspicion in her case. I myself complete the colony, but, as yet, I have not distinguished myself by any particular crime.”
“Do not lose hope,” said the lady, dryly; “I see nothing in your actions to-night to guarantee you fur
ther obscurity. Some mistake has been made; I do not know just where. But him you shall not disturb to-night. The journey has fatigued him so that he has fallen asleep, I think, in his clothes. You talk of stolen money! I do not understand you. Some mistake has been made. I will convince you. Remain where you are and I will bring you the valise that you seem to covet so, and show it to you.
She moved toward the closed door that connected the two rooms, but stopped, and half turned and bestowed upon Goodwin a grave, searching look that ended in a quizzical smile.
“You force my door," she said, "and you 'follow your ruffianly behaviour with the basest accusations; and yet ”— she hesitated, as if to reconsider what she was about to say —"and yet - it is a puzzling thing I am sure there has been some mistake.
She took a step toward the door, but Goodwin stayed her by a light touch upon her arm. I have said before that women turned to look at him in the streets. He was the viking sort of man, big, goodlooking, and with an air of kindly truculence. She was dark and proud, glowing or pale as her mood moved her. I do not know if Eve were light or dark, but if such a woman had stood in the garden I know that the apple would have been eaten. This woman was to be Goodwin's fate, and he did not know it; but he must have felt the first throes of destiny, for, as he faced her, the knowledge of what report named her turned bitter in his throat.
"If there has been any mistake,” he said, hotly, “it was yours. I do not blame the man who has lost his country, his honour, and is about to lose the poor consolation of his stolen riches as much as I blame you, for, by Heaven! I can very well see how he was brought to it. I can understand, and pity him. It is such women as you that strew this degraded coast with wretched exiles, that make men forget their trusts, that drag --"
The lady interrupted him with a weary gesture.
“There is no need to continue your insults," she said, coldly. “I do not understand what you are saying, nor do I know what mad blunder you are making; but if the inspection of the contents of a gentleman's portmanteau will rid me of you, let us delay it no longer.
She passed quickly and noiselessly into the other room, and returned with the heavy leather valise, which she handed to the American with an air of patient contempt.
Goodwin set the valise quickly upon the table and began to unfasten the straps. The lady stood by, with an expression of infinite scorn and weariness upon her face.
The valise opened wide to a powerful, sidelong wrench. Goodwin dragged out two or three articles of clothing, exposing the bulk of its contents — pack. age after package of tightly packed United States bank and treasury notes of large denomination. Reckoning from the high figures written upon the paper bands that bound them, the total must have come closely upon the hundred thousand mark.
Goodwin glanced swiftly at the woman, and saw, with surprise and a thrill of pleasure that he wondered at, that she had experienced an unmistakable shock. Her eyes grew wide, she gasped, and leaned heavily against the table. She had been ignorant, then, he inferred, that her companion had looted the government treasury. But why, he angrily asked himself,