« IndietroContinua »
“Between gentlemen,” said the fallen angel, “I don't quite like your use of that word “another. It isn't quite delicate. But the concrete idea that the word represents is not displeasing.”
The glasses were refilled. Blythe sipped blissfully from his, as he began to enter the state of a true idealist.
“I must trot along in a minute or two," hinted Goodwin. “Was there anything in particular?”
Blythe did not reply at once.
“Old Losada would make it a hot country," he remarked at length, "for the man who swiped that gripsack of treasury boodle, don't you think?"
“Undoubtedly, he would,” agreed Goodwin calmly, as he rose leisurely to his feet. “I'll be running over to the house now, old man. Mrs. Goodwin is alone. There was nothing important you had to say, was there?”
“That's all,” said Blythe. “Unless you wouldn't mind sending in another drink from the bar as you go out. Old Espada has closed my account to profit and loss. And pay for the lot, will you, like a good fellow ?"
“All right,” said Goodwin. “Buenas noches." “Beelzebub” Blythe lingered over his cups, polish
ing his eyeglasses with a disreputable handkerchief.
"I thought I could do it, but I couldn't,” he muttered to himself after a time. “A gentleman can't blackmail the man that he drinks with.”
SPILLED milk draws few tears from an Anchurian administration. Many are its lactcal sources; and the clocks' hands point forever to milking time. Even the rich cream skimmed from the treasury by the bewitched Miraflores did not cause the newly-installed patriots to waste time in unprofitable regrets. The government philosophically set about supplying the deficiency by increasing the import duties and by “suggesting” to wealthy private citizens that contributions according to their means would be considered patriotic and in order. Prosperity was expected to attend the reign of Losada, the new president. The ousted office-holders and military favourites organized a new “Liberal” party, and began to lay their plans for a re-succession. Thus the game of Anchurian politics began, like a Chinese comedy, to unwind slowly its serial length. Here and there Mirth peeps for an instant from the wings and illumines the florid lines.
A dozen quarts of champagne in conjunction with an informal sitting of the president and his cabinet led to the establishinent of the navy and the appointment of Felipe Carrera as its admiral.
Next to the champagne the credit of the appointment belongs to Don Sabas Placido, the newly confirmed Minister of War.
The president had requested a convention of his cabinet for the discussion of questions politic and for the transaction of certain routine matters of state. The session had been signally tedious; the business and the wine prodigiously dry. A sudden, prankish humour of Don Sabas, impelling him to the deed, spiced the grave affairs of state with a whiff of agreeable playfulness.
In the dilatory order of business had come a bulletin from the coast department of Orilla del Mar reporting the seizure by the custom-house officers at the town of Coralio of the sloop Estrella del Noche and her cargo of drygoods, patent medicines, granulated sugar and three-star brandy. Also six Martini rifles and a barrel of American whisky. Caught in the act of smuggling, the sloop with its cargo was now, according to law, the property of the republic.
The Collector of Customs, in making his report, departed from theconventional forms so far as to
suggest that the confiscated vessel be converted to the use of the government. The prize was the first capture to the credit of the department in ten years. The collector took opportunity to pat his department on the back.
It often happened that government officers required transportation from point to point along the coast, and means were usually lacking. Further-, more, the sloop could be manned by a loyal crew and employed as a coast guard to discourage the pernicious art of smuggling. The collector also ventured to nominate one to whom the charge of the boat could be safely intrusted — a young man of Coralio, Felipe Carrera — not, be it understood, one of extreme wisdom, but loyal and the best sailor along the coast.
It was upon this hint that the Minister of War acted, executing a rare piece of drollery that so enlivened the tedium of executive session.
In the constitution of this small, maritime banana republic .was a forgotten section that provided for the maintenance of a navy. This provision — with many other wiser ones had lain inert since the establishment of the republic. Anchuria had no navy and had no use for one. It was characteristic of Don Sabas man at once merry, learned,