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Johnny in spite of open charges that he did so to obtain a preëmption on a seat in that coveted spot, the rear gallery of the consulate. But whether his designs were selfish or purely friendly, Keogh achieved that desirable privilege. Few were the nights on which the two could not be found reposing there in the sea breeze, with their heels on the railing, and the cigars and brandy conveniently near.
One evening they sat thus, mainly silent, for their talk had dwindled before the stilling influence of an unusual night.
There was a great, full moon; and the sea was mother-of-pearl. Almost every sound was hushed, for the air was but faintly stirring; and the town lay panting, waiting for the night to cool. Offshore lay the fruit steamer Andador, of the Vesuvius line, full-laden and scheduled to sail at six in the morning. There were no loiterers on the beach. So bright was the moonlight that the two men could see the small pebbles shining on the beach where the gentle surf wetted them.
Then down the coast, tacking close to shore, slowly swam a little sloop, white-winged like some snowy sea fowl. Its course lay within twenty points of the wind's eye; so it veered in and out again in long,
slow strokes like the movements of a graceful skater.
Again the tactics of its crew. brought it close in shore, this time nearly opposite the consulate; and then there blew from the sloop clear and surprising notes as if from a horn of elfland. A fairy bugle it might have been, sweet and silvery and unexpected, playing with spirit the familiar air of “Home, Sweet Home.”
It was a scene set for the land of the lotus. The authority of the sea and the tropics, the mystery that attends unknown sails, and the prestige of drifting music on moonlit waters gave it an anodynous charm. Johnny Atwood felt it, and thought of Dalesburg; but as soon as Keogh's mind had arrived at a theory concerning the peripatetic solo he sprang to the railing, and his ear-rending yawp fractured the silence of Coralio like a cannon shot.
The sloop was now on its outward tack; but from it came a clear, answering hail: “Good-bye, Billy. go-ing home — bye!"
The Andador was the sloop's destination. No doubt some passenger with a sailing permit from some up-the-coast point had come down in this sloop to catch the regular fruit steamer on its return trip.
Like a coquettish pigeon the little boat tacked on its eccentric
until at last its white sail was lost to sight against the larger bulk of the fruiter's side.
“That's old H. P. Mellinger,” explained Keogh, dropping back into his chair. “He's going back to New York. He was private secretary of the late hot-foot president of this grocery and fruit stand that they call a country. His job's over now; and I guess old Mellinger is glad.”
“Why does he disappear to music, like Zo-zo, the magic queen?” asked Johnny. “Just to show 'em that he doesn't care!"
“That noise you heard is a phonograph,” said Keogh. “I sold him that. Mellinger had a graft in this country that was the only thing of its kind in the world. The tooting machine saved it for him once, and he always carried it around with him afterward."
“Tell me about it," demanded Johnny, betraying interest.
“I'm no disseminator of narratives," said Keogh. “I can use language for purposes of speech; but when I attempt a discourse the words come out as they will, and they may make sense when they strike the atmosphere, or they may not."
"I want to hear about that graft," persisted
Johnny. "You've got no right to refuse. I've told you all about every man, woman and hitching post in Dalesburg."
“You shall hear it,” said Keogh. “I said my instincts of narrative were perplexed. Don't you believe it. It's an art I've acquired along with many other of the graces and sciences."
THE PHONOGRAPH AND THE GRAFT
“WHAT was this graft?” asked Johnny, with the impatience of the great public to whom tales are told.
“ 'Tis contrary to art and philosophy to give you the information,” said Keogh, calmly. “The art of narrative consists in concealing from your audience everything it wants to know until after you expose your favourite opinions on topics foreign to the subject. A good story is like a bitter pill with the sugar coating inside of it. I will begin, if you please, with a horoscope located in the Cherokee Nation; and end with a nioral tunc on the phonograph.
“Me and Henry Horsecollar brought the first phonograph to this country. Henry was a quarterbreed, quarter-back Cherokee, educated East in the idioms of football, and West in contraband whisky, and a gentleman, the same as you and me. casy and romping in his ways; a man about six foot, with a kind of rubber-tire movement. Yes, he was a