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Further out, where the by-ways perished at the brink of the jungle, the guttural cries of marauding baboons and the coughing of the alligators in the black estuaries fractured the vain silence of the wood.
By ten o'clock the streets were deserted. The oil lamps that had burned, a sickly yellow, at random corners, had been extinguished by some economical civic agent. Coralio lay sleeping calmly between toppling mountains and encroaching sea like a stolen babe in the arms of its abductors. Somewhere over in that tropical darkness — perhaps already threading the profundities of the alluvial lowlands - the high adventurer and his mate were moving toward land's end. The game of Fox-in-the-Morning should be coming soon to its close.
Goodwin, at his deliberate gait, passed the long, low cuartel where Coralio's contingent of Anchuria's military force slumbered, with its bare toes pointed heavenward. There was a law that no civilian might come so near the headquarters of that citadel of war after nine o'clock, but Goodwin was always forgetting the minor statutes.
“Quién vive?” shrieked the sentinel, wrestling prodigiously with his lengthy musket.
‘Americano,” growled Goodwin, without turning his head, and passed on, unhalted.
To the right he turned, and to the left up the street that ultimately reached the Plaza Nacional. When within the toss of a cigar stump from the intersecting Street of the Holy Sepulchre, he stopped suddenly in the pathway.
He saw the form of a tall man, clothed in black and carrying a large valise, hurry down the crossstreet in the direction of the beach. And Goodwin's second glance made him aware of a woman at the man's elbow on the farther side, who seemed to urge forward, if not even to assist, her companion in their swift but silent progress. They were no Coralians, those two.
Goodwin followed at increased speed, but without any
of the artful tactics that are so dear to the heart of the sleuth. The American was too broad to feel the instinct of the detective. He stood as an agent for the people of Anchuria, and but for political reasons he would have demanded then and there the money. It was the design of his party to secure the imperilled fund, to restore it to the treasury of the country, and to declare itself in power without bloodshed or resistance.
The couple halted at the door of the Hotel de los Estranjeros, and the man struck upon the wood with the impatience of one unused to his entry being
stayed. Madama was long in response; but after a time her light showed, the door was opened, and the guests housed.
Goodwin stood in the quiet street, lighting another cigar. In two minutes a faint gleam began to show between the slats of the jalousies in the upper story of the hotel. “They have engaged rooms,” said Goodwin to himself. “So, then, their arrangements for sailing have yet to be made."
At that moment there came along one Estebán Delgado, a barber, an enemy to existing government, a jovial plotter against stagnation in any form. This barber was one of Coralio's saddest dogs, often remaining out of doors as late as eleven, post meridian. He was a partisan Liberal; and he grected Goodwin with flatulent importance as a brother in the cause.
But he had something important to tell. “What think you, Don Frank!” he cried, in the universal tone of the conspirator. “I have to-night shaved la barba — what you call the 'weeskers' of the Presidente himself, of this countree! Consider! He sent for me to come. In the poor casita of an old woman he awaited me in a verree leetle house in a dark place. Carramba! — el Señor Presidente to make himself thus secret and obscured! I think he desired not to be known — but, carajo! can you
shave a man and not see his face? This gold piece he gave me, and said it was to be all quite still. I think, Don Frank, there is what you call a chip over the bug." “Have you ever
seen President Miraflores before?” asked Goodwin.
“But once," answered Estebán. “He is tall; and he had weeskers, verree black and sufficient.”
"Was anyone else present when you shaved him?"
“An old Indian woman, Señor, that belonged with the casa, and one señorita a ladee of so much beautee! — ah, Dios!"
“All right, Estebán,” said Goodwin. "It's very lucky that you happened along with your tonsorial information. The new administration will be likely to remember you for this."
Then in a few words he made the barber acquainted with the crisis into which the affairs of the nation had culminated, and instructed him to remain outside, keeping watch upon the two sides of the hotel that looked upon the street, and observing whether anyone should attempt to leave the house by any door or window. Goodwin himself went to the door through which the guests had entered, opened it and stepped inside.
Madama had returned downstairs from her journey above to see after the comfort of her lodgers. Her candle stood upon the bar. She was about to take a thimbleful of rum as a solace for having her rest disturbed. She looked up without surprise or alarm as her third caller entered.
"Ah! it is the Señor Goodwin. Not often does he honour my poor house by his presence.”
“I must come oftener,” said Goodwin, with the Goodwin smile. “I hear that your cognac is the best between Belize to the north and Rio to the south. Set out the bottle, Madama, and let us have the proof in un vasito for each of us."
“My aguardiente,” said Madama, with pride, “is the best. It grows, in beautiful bottles, in the dark places among the banana-trees. Si, Señor. Only at midnight can they be picked by sailor-men who bring them, before daylight comes, to your back door. Good aguardiente is a verree difficult fruit to handle, Señor Goodwin.”
Smuggling, in Coralio, was much nearer than competition to being the life of trade. One spoke of it slyly, yet with a certain conceit, when it had been well accomplished.
“You have guests in the house to-night,” said Goodwin, laying a silver dollar upon the counter.