« IndietroContinua »
Insurance Company had skipped with about a tenth of a million dollars in cash. The directors wanted him back pretty bad, but they wanted the money worse. They said they needed it. They had traced the old gent's movements to where he boarded a tramp fruit steamer bound for South America that same morning with his daughter and a big gripsack
all the family he had. “One of the directors had his steam yacht coaled and with steam up, ready for a trip; and he turned her over to me, cart blongsh. In four hours I was on board of her, and hot on the trail of the fruit tub. I had a pretty good idea where old Wahrfield — that was his name, J. Churchill Wahrfield - would head for. At that time we had a treaty with about every foreign country except Belgium and that banana republic, Anchuria. There wasn't a photo of old Wahrfield to be had in New York - he had been foxy there
— but I had his description. And besides, the lady with him would be a dead-give-away anywhere. She was one of the high-flyers in Society — not the kind that have their pictures in the Sunday papers — but the real sort that open chrysanthemum shows and christen battleships.
“Well, sir, we never got a sight of that fruit tub on the road. The ocean is a pretty big place; and
I guess we took different paths across it.
But we kept going toward this Anchuria, where the fruiter was bound for.
“We struck the monkey coast one afternoon about four. There was a ratty-looking steamer off shore taking on bananas. The monkeys were loading her up with big barges. It might be the one the old man had taken, and it might not. I went ashore to look around. The scenery was pretty good. I never saw any finer on the New York stage. I struck an American on shore, a big, cool chap, standing around with the monkeys. He showed me the consul's office. The consul was a nice young fellow. He said the fruiter was the Karlsefin, running generally to New Orleans, but took her last cargo to New York. Then I was sure my people were on board, although everybody told me that no passengers had landed. I didn't think they would land until after dark, for they might have been shy about it on account of seeing that yacht of mine hanging around. So, all I had to do was to wait and nab 'em when they came ashore. I couldn't arrest old Wahrfield without extradition papers, but my play was to get the cash. They generally give up if you strike 'em when they're tired and rattled and short on nerve.
After dark I sat under a cocoanut tree on the
beach for a while, and then I walked around and investigated that town some, and it was enough to give you the lions. If a man could stay in New York and be honest, he'd better do it than to hit that monkey town with a million.
“ Dinky little mud houses; grass over your shoe tops in the streets; ladies in low-neck-and-shortsleeves walking around smoking cigars; tree frogs rattling like a hose cart going to a ten blow; big mountains dropping gravel in the back yards, and the sea licking the paint off in front had better be in God's country living on free lunch than there.
“ The main street ran along the beach, and I walked down it, and then turned up a kind of lane where the houses were made of poles and straw. I wanted to see what the monkeys did when they weren't climbing cocoanut trees. The very first shack I looked in I saw my people. They must have come ashore while I was promenading. A man about fifty, smooth face, heavy eyebrows, dressed in black broadcloth, looking like he was just about to say, 'Can any little boy in the Sunday school answer that?' He was freezing on to a grip that weighed like a dozen gold bricks, and a swell girl - a regular peach, with a Fifth Avenue cut was sitting on a wooden chair. An old
black woman was fixing some coffee and beans on a table. The light they had come from a lantern hung on a nail. I went and stood in the door, and they looked at me, and I said:
“ ' Mr. Wahrfield, you are my prisoner. I hope, for the lady's sake, you will take the matter sensibly. You know why I want you.'
6 • Who are you?' says the old gent.
“O'Day,' says I, of the Columbia Detective Agency. And now, sir, let me give you a piece of good advice. You go back and take your medicine like a man.
Hand 'em back the boodle; and maybe they'll let you off light. Go back easy, and I'll put in a word for you. I'll give you five minutes to decide.' I pulled out my watch and waited.
“ Then the young lady chipped in. She was one of the genuine high-steppers. You could tell by the way her clothes fit and the style she had that Fifth Avenue was made for her.
“Come inside,' she says. “Don't stand in the door and disturb the whole street with that suit of clothes. Now, what is it you want?'
6 • Three minutes gone,' I said. “I'll tell you again while the other two tick off.
“• You'll admit being the president of the Republic, won't you?'
“ “ I am,' says he.
* Well, then,' says I, “ it ought to be plain to you. Wanted, in New York, J. Churchill Wahrfield, president of the Republic Insurance Company.
“ • Also the funds belonging to said company, now in that grip, in the unlawful possession of said J. Churchill Wahrfield.'
“ • Oh-h-h-h!' says the young lady, as if she was thinking, you want to take us back to New York? :
“To take Mr. Wahrfield. There's no charge against you, miss. There'll be no objection, of course, to your returning with your father.'
“ Of a sudden the girl gave a tiny scream and grabbed the old boy around the neck. “Oh, father, father!' she says, kind of contralto, 'can this be true? Have you taken money that is not yours? Speak, father!' It made you shiver to hear the tremolo stop she put on her voice.
“ The old boy looked pretty bughouse when she first grappled him, but she went on, whispering in his ear and patting his off shoulder till he stood still, but sweating a little.
“ She got him to one side and they talked together a minute, and then he put on some gold eyeglasses and walked
and handed me the grip. « « Mr. Detective,' he says, talking a little broken,