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tortillas. Décolleté they were and bare-armed and bare-footed, with a single skirt reaching below the knee. Stolid and ox-eyed, they stepped from their doorways into the narrow paths or upon the soft grass of the streets.
The first to emerge uttered ambiguous squeals, and raised one foot quickly. Another step and they sat down, with shrill cries of alarm, to pick at the new and painful insects that had stung them upon the feet. “Qué picadores diablos!” they screeched to one another across the narrow ways. Some tried the grass instead of the paths, but there they were also stung and bitten by the strange little prickly balls. They plumped down in the grass, and added their lamentations to those of their sisters in the sandy paths. All through the town was heard the plaint of the feminine jabber. The venders in the market still wondered why no customers came.
Then men, lords of the earth, came forth. They, too, began to hop, to dance, to limp, and to curse. They stood stranded and foolish, or stooped to pluck at the scourge that attacked their feet and ankles. Some loudly proclaimed the pest to be poisonous spiders of an unknown species.
And then the children ran out for their morning romp. And now to the uproar was added the howls
of limping infants and cockleburred childhood. Every minute the advancing day brought forth fresh victims.
Doña Maria Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas stepped from her honoured doorway, as was her daily custom, to procure fresh bread from the panadería across the street. She was clad in a skirt of flowered yellow satin, a chemise of ruffled linen, and wore a purple mantilla from the looms of Spain. Her lemon-tinted feet, alas! were bare. Her progress was majestic, for were not her ancestors hidalgos of Aragon? Three steps she made across the velvety grass, and set her aristocratic sole upon a bunch of Johnny's burrs. Doña Maria Castillas y Buenventura de las Casas emitted a yowl even as a wild-cat. Turning about, she fell upon hands and knees, and crawled — ay, like a beast of the field she crawled back to her honourable door-sill.
Don Señor Ildefonso Federico Valdazar, Juez de la Paz, weighing twenty stone, attempted to convey his bulk to the pulperia at the corner of the plaza in order to assuage his matutinal thirst. The first plunge of his unshod foot into the cool grass struck a concealed mine. Don Ildefonso fell like a crumpled cathedral, crying out that he had been fatally bitten by a deadly scorpion. Everywhere were the shoe
less citizens hopping, stumbling, limping, and picking from their fect the venomous insects that had come in a single night to harass them.
The first to perceive the remedy was Eštebán Delgado, the barber, a man of travel and education. Sitting upon a stone, he plucked burrs from his toes, and made oration:
“Behold, my friends, these bugs of the devil! I know them well. They soar through the skies in swarms like pigeons. These are the dead ones that fell during the night. In Yucatan I have seen them as large as oranges. Yes! There they hiss like serpents, and have wings like bats. It is the shoes -- the shoes that one needs! Zapatos - zapatos
Estebán hobbled to Mr. Hemstetter's store, and bought shoes. Coming out, he swaggered down the street with impunity, reviling loudly the bugs of the devil. The suffering ones sat up or stood upon one foot and beheld the immune barber. Men, women and children took up the cry: “Zapatos! zapatos!"
The necessity for the demand had been created. The demand followed. That day Mr. Hemstetter sold three hundred pairs of shoes.
“It is really surprising,” he said to Johnny, who came up in the evening to help him straighten out the
stock, “how trade is picking up. Yesterday I made but three sales.”
“I told you they'd whoop things up when they got started," said the consul.
“I think I shall order a dozen more cases of goods, to keep the stock up,” said Mr. Hemstetter, beaming through his spectacles.
“I wouldn't send in any orders yet,” advised Johnny. “Wait till you see how the trade holds up."
Each night Johnny and Keogh sowed the crop that grew dollars by day. At the end of ten days twothirds of the stock of shoes had been sold; and the stock of cockleburrs was exhausted. Johnny cabled to Pink Dawson for another 500 pounds, paying twenty cents per pound as before. · Mr. Hemstetter carefully made up an order for $1500 worth of shoes from Northern firms. Johnny hung about the store until this order was ready for the mail, and succeeded in destroying it before it reached the postoffice.
That night he took Rosine under the mango tree by Goodwin's porch, and confessed everything. She looked him in the eye, and said: “You are a very wicked man. Father and I will go back home. You say it was a joke? I think it is a very serious matter."
But at the end of half an hour's argument the conversation had been turned upon a different subject. The two were considering the respective merits of pale blue and pink wall paper with which the uld colonial mansion of the Atwoods in Dalesburg was to be decorated after the wedding.
On the next morning Johnny confessed to Mr. Hemstetter. The shoe merchant put on his spectacles, and said through them: “You strike me as being a most extraordinary young scamp.
If I had not managed this enterprise with good business judgment my entire stock of goods might have been a complete loss. Now, how do you propose to dispose of the rest of it?"
When the second invoice of cockleburrs arrived Johnny loaded them and the remainder of the shoes into a schooner, and sailed down the coast to Alazan.
There, in the same dark and diabolical manner, he repeated his success; and came back with a bag of money and not so much as a shoestring.
And then he besought his great Uncle of the waving goatee and starred vest to accept his resignation, for the lotus no longer lured him. He hankered for the spinach and cress of Dalesburg.
The services of Mr. William Terence Keogh as acting consul, pro tem., were suggested and accepted,