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“I have found no one yet,” admitted Colonel Falcon, “who even had sight of the valise or the money. Yet I have persisted. It has been proven in the capital that President Miraflores set out from San Mateo with one hundred thousand dollars belonging to the government, accompanied by Señorita Isabel Guilbert, the opera singer. The Government, officially and personally, is loathe to believe,” concluded Colonel Falcon, with a smile, “that our late President's tastes would have permitted him to abandon on the route, as excess baggage, either of the desirable articles with which his flight was burdened.”
"I suppose you would like to hear what I have to say about the affair,” said Goodwin, coming directly to the point. “It will not require many words.
“On that night, with others of our friends here, I was keeping a lookout for the president, having been notified of his fight by a telegram in our national cipher from Englehart, one of our leaders in the capital. About ten o'clock that night I saw a man and a woman hurrying along the streets. They went to the Hotel de los Estranjeros, and engaged rooms. I followed them upstairs, leaving Estebán, who had come up, to watch outside. The barber had told me that he had shaved the beard from the president's face that night; therefore I was prepared, when I
entered the rooms, to find him with a smooth face. When I apprehended him in the name of the people he drew a pistol and shot himself instantly. In a few minutes many officers and citizens were on the spot. I suppose you have been informed of the subsequent facts.”
Goodwin paused. Losada's agent mąintained an attitude of waiting, as if he expected a continuance.
“And now," went on the American, looking steadily into the eyes of the other man, and giving each word a deliberate emphasis, "you will oblige me by attending carefully to what I have to add. I saw no valise or receptacle of any kind, or any money belonging to the Republic of Anchuria. If President Miraflores decamped with any funds belonging to the treasury of this country, or to himself, or to anyone else, I saw no trace of it in the house or elsewhere, at that time or at any other. Does that statement cover the ground of the inquiry you wished to make of me?"
Colonel Falcon bowed, and described a fluent curve with his cigar. His duty was performed. Goodwin was not to be disputed. He was a loyal supporter of the government, and enjoyed the full confidence of the new president. His rectitude had been the capital that had brought him fortune in Anchuria, just
as it had formed the lucrative “graft” of Mellinger, the secretary of Miraflores.
“I thank you, Señor Goodwin,” said Falcon, “for speaking plainly. Your word will be sufficient for the president. But, Señor Goodwin, I am instructed to pursue every clue that presents itself in this matter. There is one that I have not yet touched upon. Our friends in France, señor, have a saying, “Cherchez la femme, when there is a mystery without a clue. But here we do not have to search. The woman who accompanied the late President in his flight must surely —”
“I must interrupt you there,” interposed Goodwin. “It is true that when I entered the hotel for the purpose of intercepting President Miraflores I found a lady there. I must beg of you to remember that that lady is now my wife. I speak for her as I do for myself. She knows nothing of the fate of the valise or of the money that you are seeking. You will say to his excellency that I guarantee her inno
I do not need to add to you, Colonel Falcon, that I do not care to have her questioned or disturbed."
Colonel Falcon bowed again.
“Por supuesto, no!” he cried. And to indicate that the inquiry was ended he added: “And now,
señor, let me beg of you to show me that sea view from your galeria of which you spoke. I am a lover of the sea."
In the carly evening Goodwin walked back to the town with his guest, leaving him at the corner of the Calle Grande. As he was returning homeward one “Beelzebub” Blythe, with the air of a courtier and the outward aspect of a scarecrow, pounced upon
him hopefully from the door of a pulperia.
Blythe had been re-christened “Beelzebub” as an acknowledgment of the greatness of his fall. Once in some distant Paradise Lost, he had foregathered with the angels of the carth. But Fate had hurled him headlong down to the tropics, where flamed in his bosom a fire, that was seldom quenched. In Coralio they called him a beachcomber; but he was, in reality, a categorical idealist who strove to anamorphosize the dull verities of life by the means of brandy and rum. As Beelzebub, himself, might have held in his clutch with unwitting tenacity his harp or crown during his tremendous fall, so his namesake had clung to his gold-rimmed eyeglasses as the only souvenir of his lost estate. These he wore with impressiveness and distinction while he combed beaches and extracted toll from his friends. By some mysterious means he kept his drink-reddened face
always smoothly shaven. For the rest he sponged gracefully upon whomsoever he could for enough to keep him pretty drụnk, and sheltered from the rains and night dews.
“Hallo, Goodwin !" called the derelict, airily. “I was hoping I'd strike
I wanted to see you par: ticularly. Suppose we go where we can talk. Of course you know there's a chap down here looking up the money old Miraflores lost.”
“Yes,” said Goodwin, “I've been talking with him. Let's go into Espada's place. I can spare you ten minutes."
They went into the pulperia and sat at a little table upon stools with rawhide tops.
"Have a drink?" said Goodwin.
“They can't bring it too quickly," said Blythe. “I've been in a drought ever since morning. Hi muchacho!-- el aguardiente por acá."
“Now, what do you want to see me about?" asked Goodwin, when the drinks were before them.
“Confound it, old man,” drawled Blythe, “why do you spoil a golden moment like this with business? I wanted to see you — well, this has the preference.” He gulped down his brandy, and gazed longingly into the empty glass.
“Have another?” suggested Goodwin.