« IndietroContinua »
plexity was written. Her eyes were gray-irised, and of that mould that seems to have belonged to the orbs of all the famous queens of hearts. Their whites were singularly clear and brilliant, concealed above the irises by heavy horizontal lids, and showing a snowy line below them. Such eyes denote great nobility, vigour, and, if you can conceive of it, a most generous selfishness. She looked up when the American entered with an expression of surprised inquiry, but without alarm.
Goodwin took off his hat and seated himself, with his characteristic deliberate case, upon a corner of the table. He held a lighted cigar between his fingers. He took this familiar course because he was sure that preliminaries would be wasted upon Miss Guilbert. He knew her history, and the small part that the conventions had played in it.
“Good evening," he safd. "Now, madame, let us come to business at once. You will observe that I mention no names, but I know who is in the next room, and what he carries in that valise. That is the point which brings me here. I have come to dictate terms of surrender."
The lady neither moved nor replied, but steadily regarded the cigar in Goodwin's hand.
“We,” continued the dictator, thoughtfully regarding the neat buckskin shoe on his gently swinging foot —"I speak for a considerable majority of the people demand the return of the stolen funds belonging to them. Our terms go very little further than that. They are very simple. As an accredited spokesman, I promise that our interference will cease if they are accepted. Give up the money, and you and your companion will be permitted to proceed wherever you will. In fact, assistance will be given you in the matter of securing a passage by any outgoing vessel you may choose. It is on my personal responsibility that I add congratulations to the gentleman in Number 10 upon his taste in feminine charms."
Returning his cigar to his mouth, Goodwin observed her, and saw that her eyes followed it and rested upon it with icy and significant concentration. Apparently she had not heard a word he had said. He understood, tossed the cigar out the window, and, with an amused laugh, slid from the table to his feet.
“That is better," said the lady. “It makes it possible for me to listen to you. For a second lesson in good manners, you might now tell me by whom I am being insulted.”
“I am sorry,” said Goodwin, leaning one hand on the table, “that my time is too brief for devoting much of it to a course of etiquette. Come, now; I appeal to your good sense.
You have shown yourself, in more than one instance, to be well aware of what is to your advantage. This is an occasion that demands the exercise of your undoubted intelligence. There is no mystery here. I am Frank Goodwin; and I have come for the money. I entered this room at a venture. Had I entered the other I would have had it before now.
Do you want it in words? The gentleman in Number 10 has betrayed a great trust. He has robbed his people of a large sum, and it is I who will prevent their losing it. I do not say who that gentleman is; but if I should be forced to see him and he should prove to be a certain high official of the republic, it will be my duty to arrest him. The house is guarded. 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.
“What is your authority for this intrusion?”
“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 timid. 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 further 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 bea stowed upon Goodwin a grave, searching look that ended in a quizzical smile.
“You force my door,” she said, “and you follow yr ir ruffianly behaviour with the basest accusations;