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the villain in the third act; and I must have my merited, if only temporary, triumph. I saw you collar the late president's valiseful of boodle. Oh, I know it's blackmail; but I'm liberal about the price. I know I'm a cheap villain -- one of the regular sawmill-drama kind - but you're one of my particular friends, and I don't want to stick you hard.”
“Suppose you go into the details,” suggested Goodwin, calmly arranging his letters on the table.
“All right," said “Beelzebub.” “I like the way you take it. I despise histrionics; so you will please prepare yourself for the facts without any red fire, calcium or grace notes on the saxophone.
“On the night that His Fly-by-night Excellency arrived in town I was very drunk. You will excuse the pride with which I state that fact; but it was quite a feat for me to attain that desirable state. Somebody had left a cot out under the orange trees in the yard of Madama Ortiz's hotel. I stepped over the wall, laid down upon it, and fell asleep. I was awakened by an orange that dropped from the trec upon my nose; and I laid there for awhile cursing Sir Isaac Newton, or whoever it was that invented gravitation, for not confining his theory to apples.
“And then along came Mr. Miraflores and his truelove with the treasury in a valise, and went into the
hotel. Next you hove in sight, and held a pow-wow with the tonsorial artist who insisted upon talking shop after hours. I tried to slumber again ; but once more my rest was disturbed — this time by the noise of the popgun that went off upstairs. Then that valise came crashing down into an orange tree just above my head; and I arose from my couch, not knowing when it might begin to rain Saratoga trunks. When the army and the constabulary began to arrive, with their medals and decorations hastily pinned 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
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 secing 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 after
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
“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 cloth
ing 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
Your proposition is (). 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 blackmails.”