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of rum, a meal or a piece of silver could be wheedled. Marshalling each such source in his mind, he considered it with all the thoroughness and penetration that hunger and thirst lent him for the task. All his optimism failed to thresh a grain of hope from the chaff of his postulations. He had played out the game.
That one night in the open had shaken his
Until then there had been left to him at least a few grounds upon which he could base his unblushing demands upon his neighbours' stores. Now he must beg instead of borrowing. The most brazen sophistry could not dignify by the name of “loan” the coin contemptuously flung to a beachcomber who slept on the bare boards of the public market.
But on this morning no beggar would have more thankfully received a charitable coin, for the demon thirst had him by the throat - the drunkard's matutinal thirst that requires to be slaked at each morning station on the road to Tophet.
Blythe walked slowly up the street, keeping a watchful
any miracle that might drop manna upon him in his wilderness. As he passed the popular cating house of Madama Vasquez, Madama's boarders were just sitting down to freshly-baked bread, aguacates, pines and delicious coffee that sent forth
odorous guarantee of its quality upon the breeze. Madama was serving; she turned her shy, stolid, melancholy gaze for a moment out the window; she saw Blythe, and her expression turned more shy and embarrassed. “Beelzebub” owed her twenty pesos.
He bowed as he had once bowed to less embarrassed dames to whom he owed nothing, and passed
Merchants and their clerks were throwing open the solid wooden doors of their shops. Polite but cool were the glances they cast upon Blythe as he lounged tentatively by with the remains of his old jaunty air; for they were his creditors almost without exception.
At the little fountain in the plaza he made an apology for a 'toilet with his wetted handkerchief. Across the open square filed the dolorous line of friends of the prisoners in the calaboza, bearing the morning meal of the immured. The food in their hands aroused small longing in Blythe. It was drink that his soul craved, or money to buy it.
In the streets he met many with whom he had been friends and cquals, and whose patience and liberality he had gradually exhausted. Willard Geddie and Paula cantered past him with the coolest of nods, returning from their daily horseback ride along the
old Indian road. Keogh passed him at another corner, whistling cheerfully and bearing a prize of newlyJaid eggs for the breakfast of himself and Clancy The jovial scout of Fortune was one of Blythe's victims who had plunged his hand oftenest into his pocket to aid him, But now it seemed that Keogh, too, had fortified himself against further invasions. His curt greeting and the ominous light in his full, grey eye quickened the steps of “Beelzebub," whom desperation had almost incited to attempt an additional "loan."
Three drinking shops the forlorn one next visited in succession. In all of these his money, his credit and his welcome had long since been spent; but Blythe felt that he would have fawned in the dust at the feet of an enemy that morning for one draught of aguardiente. In two of the pulperias his courageous petition for drink was met with a refusal so polite that it stung worse than abuse. The third establishment had acquired something of American methods; and here he was seized bodily and cast out upon his hands and knees.
This physical indignity caused a singular change in the man.
As he picked himself up and walked away, an expression of absolute relief came upon his features. The specious and conciliatory smile that
had been graven there was succeeded by a look of calm and sinister resolve. “Beelzebub” had been floundering in the sea of improbity, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable world that had cast him overboard. He must have felt that with this ultimate shock the line had snapped, and have experienced the welcome ease of the drowning swimmer who has ceased to struggle.
Blythe walked to the next corner and stood there while he brushed the sand from his garments and repolished his glasses.
“I've got to do it - oh, I've got to do it,” he told himself, aloud. "If I had a quart of rum I believe I could stave it off yet - for a little while. But there's no more rum for—'Beelzebub,' as they call me. By the flames of Tartarus! if I'm to sit at the right hand of Satan somebody has got to pay the court expenses. You'll have to pony up, Mr. Frank Goodwin. You're a good fellow; but a gentleman must draw the line at being kicked into the gutter. Blackmail isn't a pretty word, but it's the next station on the road I'm travelling."
With purpose in his steps Blythe now moved rapidly through the town by way of its landward environs. He passed through the squalid quarters of the improvident negroes and on beyond the pictur
esque shacks of the poorer mestizos. From many points along his course he could sce, through the umbrageous glades, the house of Frank Goodwin on its wooded hill. And as he crossed the little bridge over the lagoon he saw the old Indian, Galvez, scrubbing at the wooden slab that bore the name of Miraflores. Beyond the lagoon the lands of Goodwin began to slope gently upward. A grassy road, shaded by a munificent and diverse array of tropical flora wound from the edge of an outlying banana grove to the dwelling. Blythe took this road with long and purposeful strides.
Goodwin was seated on his coolest gallery, dictating letters to his secretary, a sallow and capable native youth. The household adhered to the American plan of breakfast; and that meal had been a thing of the past for the better part of an hour.
The castaway walked to the steps, and flourished a hand.
“Good morning, Blythe,” said Goodwin, looking up. “Come in and have a chair. Anything I can do for you?”
“I want to speak to you in private.”
Goodwin nodded at his secretary, who strolled out under a mango tree and lit a cigarette. Blythe took the chair that he had left vacant.
“I want some money,” he began, doggedly.