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had left irregular prints. The upper story contained four or five guest-rooms which were rarely put to their destined use. Sometimes a fruit-grower, riding in from his plantation to confer with his agent, would pass a melancholy night in the dismal upper story; sometimes a minor native official on some trifling government quest would have his pomp and majesty awed by Madama's sepulchral hospitalit. But Madama sat behind her bar content, not desiring to quarrel with Fate. If anyone required meat, drink or lodging at the Hotel de los Estranjeros they had but to come, and be served. Está bueno. If they came not, why, then, they came not. Está bueno.
As the exceptional yachtsman was making his way down the precarious sidewalk of the Street of the Holy Sepulchre, the solitary permanent guest of that decaying hotel sat at its door, enjoying the breeze from the sea.
Dr. Gregg, the quarantine physician, was a man of fifty or sixty, with a florid face and the longest beard between Topeka and Terra del Fuego. He held his position by virtue of an appointment by the Board of Health of a seaport city in one of the Southern states. That city feared the ancient enemy of every Southern seaport — the yellow fever — and it was the duty of
Dr. Gregg to examine crew and passengers of every vessel leaving Coralio for preliminary symptoms. The duties were light, and the salary, for one who lived in Coralio, ample. Surplus time there was in plenty; and the good doctor added to his gains by a large private practice among the residents of the coast. The fact that he did not know ten words of Spanish was no obstacle; a pulse could be felt and a fee collected without one being a linguist. Add to the description the facts that the doctor had a story to tell concerning the operation of trepanning which no listener had ever allowed him to conclude, and that he believed in brandy as a prophylactic; and the special points of interest possessed by Dr. Gregg will have become exhausted.
The doctor had dragged a chair to the sidewalk. He was coatless, and he leaned back against the wall and smoked, while he stroked his beard. Surprise came into his pale blue eyes when he caught sight of Smith in his unusual and prismatic clothes.
"You're Dr. Gregg -- is that right?” said Smith, feeling the dog's head pin in his tie. “The constable
I mean the consul, told me you hung out at this caravansary. My name's Smith; and I came in a yacht. Taking a cruise around, looking at the mon
keys and pineapple-trees. Come inside and have a drink, Doc. This café looks on the blink, but I guess it can set out something wet.”
“I will join you, sir, in just a taste of brandy," said Dr. Gregg, rising quickly. “I find that as a prophylactic a little brandy is almost a necessity in this climate."
As they turned to enter the pulperia a native man, barefoot, glided noiselessly up and addressed the doctor in Spanish. He was yellowish-brown, like an over-ripe lemon; he wore a cotton shirt and ragged linen trousers girded by a leather belt. His face was like an animal's, live and wary, but without promise of much intelligence. This man jabbered with animation and so much seriousness that it seemed a pity that his words were to be wasted.
Dr. Gregg felt his pulse. “You sick?” he inquired.
"Mi mujer está enferma en la casa," said the man, thus endeavouring to convey the news, in the only language open to him, that his wife lay ill in her palm-thatched hut.
The doctor drew a handful of capsules filled with a white powder from his trousers pocket. He counted out ten of them into the native's hand, and held up his forefinger impressively.
“Take one,” said the doctor, “every two hours." He then held up two fingers, shaking them emphatically before the native's face. Next he pulled out his watch and ran his finger round its dial twice. Again the two fingers confronted the patient's nose. "Two-two-two hours," repeated the doctor.
“Si, Señor,” said the native, sadly.
He pulled a cheap silver watch from his own pocket and laid it in the doctor's hand. “Me bring,” said he, struggling painfully with his scant English, “other watchy to-morrow.” Then he departed downheartedly with his capsules.
“A very ignorant race of people, sir,” said the doctor, as he slipped the watch into his pocket. “He seems to have mistaken my directions for taking the physic for the fee. However, it is all right. He owes me an account, anyway.
The chances are that he won't bring the other watch. You can't depend on anything they promise you. About that drink, now? How did you come to Coralio, Mr. Smith? I was not aware that any boats except the Karlsefin had arrived for some days.”
The two leaned against the deserted bar; and Madama set out a bottle without waiting for the doctor's order. There was no dust on it.
After they had drank twice Smith said:
say there were no passengers on the Karlsefin, Doc? Are you sure about that? It seems to me I heard somebody down on the beach say that there was one or two aboard."
“They were mistaken, sir. I myself went out and put all hands through a medical examination, as usual. The Karlsefin sails as soon as she gets her bananas loaded, which will be about daylight in the morning, and she got everything ready this after
No, sir, there was no passenger list. Like that Three-Star? A French schooner landed two slooploads of it a month ago. If any customs duties on it went to the distinguished republic of Anchuria you may have my hat. If you won't have another, come out and let's sit in the cool a while. It isn't often we exiles get a chance to talk with somebody from the outside world.”
The doctor brought out another chair to the sidewalk for his new acquaintance. The two seated themselves.
“You are a man of the world,” said Dr. Gregg; “a man of travel and experience. Your decision in a matter of ethics and, no doubt, on the points of equity, ability and professional probity should be of value. I would be glad if you will listen to the history of a case that I think stands unique in medical annals.