« IndietroContinua »
the late President took with him an American leather valise, containing a large amount of money. Did you see that?"
"De veras — no," Esteban answered. "The light in the little house was but a small lamp by which I could scarcely see to shave the President. Such a thing there may have been, but I did not see it. No. Also in the room was a young lady — a senorita of much beauty — that I could see even in so small a light. But the money, senor, or the thing in which it was carried — that I did not see."
The comandante and other officers gave testimony that they had been awakened and alarmed by the noise of a pistol-shot in the Hotel de los Estranjeros. Hurrying thither to protect the peace and dignity of the republic, they found a man lying dead, with a pistol clutched in his hand. Beside him was a young woman, weeping sorely. Senor Goodwin was also in the room when they entered it. But of the valise of money they saw nothing.
Madame Timotea Ortiz, the proprietress of the hotel in which the game of Fox-in-the-Morning had been played out, told of the coming of the two guests to her house.
"To my house they came," said she—"one senor\ not quite old, and one senorita of sufficient handsomeness. They desired not to eat or to drink — not even of my aguardiente, which is the best. To their rooms they ascended — Numero Nueve and Numero Diez. Later came Senor Goodwin, who ascended to speak with them. Then I heard a great noise like that of a canon, and they said that the pobre Presidente had shot himself. Estd bueno. I saw nothing of money or of the thing you call veliz that you say he carried it in."
Colonel Falcon soon tame to the reasonable conclusion that if anyone in Coralio could furnish a clue to the vanished money, Frank Goodwin must be the man. But the wise secretary pursued a different course in seeking information from the American. Goodwin was a powerful friend to the new administration, and one who was not to be carelessly dealt with in respect to either his honesty or his courage. Even the private secretary of His Excellency hesitated to have this rubber prince and mahogany baron haled before him as a common citizen of Anchuria. So he sent Goodwin a flowery epistle, each word-petal dripping with honey, requesting the favour of an interview. Goodwin replied with an invitation to dinner at his own house.
Before the hour named the American walked over to the Casa Morena, and greeted his guest frankly and friendly. Then the two strolled, in the cool of the afternoon, to Goodwin's home in the environs.
The American left Colonel Falcon in a big, cool, shadowed room with a floor of inlaid and polished woods that any millionaire in the States would have envied, excusing himself for a few minutes. He crossed a patio, shaded with deftly arranged awnings and plants, and entered a long room looking upon the sea in the opposite wing of the house. The broad jalousies were opened wide, and the ocean breeze flowed in through the room, an invisible current of coolness and health. Goodwin's wife sat near one of the windows, making a water-color sketch of the afternoon seascape.
Here was a woman who looked to be happy. And more — she looked to be content. Had a poet been inspired to pen just similes concerning her favour, he Mould have likened her full, clear eyes, with their white-encircled, gray irises, to moonflowers. With none of the goddesses whose traditional charms have become coldly classic would the discerning rhymester have compared her. She was purely Paradisaic, not Olympian. If you can imagine Eve, after the eviction, beguiling the flaming warriors and serenely re-entering the Garden, you will have her. Just so human, and still so harmonious with Eden seemed Mrs. Goodwin.
When her husband entered she looked up, and her lips curved and parted; her eyelids fluttered twice or thrice — a movement remindful (Poesy forgive us!) of the tail-wagging of a faithful dog — and a little ripple went through her like the commotion set up in a weeping willow by a puff of wind. Thus she ever acknowledged his coming, were it twenty times a day. If they who sometimes sat over their wine in Coralio, reshaping old, diverting stories of the madcap career of Isabel Guilbert, could have seen the wife of Frank Goodwin that afternoon in the estimable aura of her happy wifehood, they might have disbelieved, or have agreed to forget, those graphic annals of the life of the one for whom their president gave up his country and his honour.
"I have brought a guest to dinner," said Goodwin. "One Colonel Falcon, from San Mateo. He is come on government business. I do not think you will care to see him, so I prescribe for you one of those convenient and indisputable feminine headaches."
"He has come to inquire about the lost money, has he not?" asked Mrs. Goodwin, going on with her sketch.
"A good guess!" acknowledged Goodwin. "He has been holding an inquisition among the natives for three days. I am next on his list of witnesses, but as he feels shy about dragging one of Uncle Sam's subjects before him, he consents to give it the outward appearance of a social function. He will apply the torture over my own wine and provender."
"Has he found anyone who saw the valise of money?"
"Not a soul. Even Madama Ortiz, whose eyes are so sharp for the sight of a revenue official, does not remember that there was any baggage."
Mrs. Goodwin laid down her brush and sighed.
"I am so sorry, Frank," she said, "that they are giving you so much trouble about the money. But we can't let them know about it, can we?"
"Not without doing our intelligence a great injustice," said Goodwin, with a smile and a shrug that he had picked up from the natives. "Americano, though I am, they would have me in the calaboza in half an hour if they knew we had appropriated that valise. No; we must appear as ignorant about the money as the other ignoramuses in Coralio."
"Do you think that this man they have sent suspects you?" she asked, with a little pucker of her brows.
"He'd better not," said the American, carelessly.