Oh, sunny old Madrid is the place where I was did
The smoking-compartment of the through sleeper to Memphis had been empty, save for myself, until the Chicago flier paused for one broiling moment at Koko Junction. Inside, the thermometer registered ninety-eight degrees; outside, the air shimmering above the cinder-colored landscape indicated that the mercury, though lost to sight, was still to memory dear. Across the main street the green-baize door of the "Smile-with-Grandfather" saloon suddenly swung outward and a dashing figure with a pair of waving mustachios, carrying a carpet-bag with a stag's head worked upon it in pink worsted, leaped across the platform to the train. In my momentary glimpse of his parabola I recognized the newcomer as an old acquaintance toward whose support I had involuntarily contributed at various intervals in the past through the innocently rural media of euchre and seven-upin short, none other than "Koko Jim" of Koko Junction.
"Como ay star, mio amigo!" he cried, tossing the bag lightly into the rack above and grasping me enthusiastically by both hands. "What luck to find you here! Caramba!"
It was difficult to cherish the past against one so impulsively warm hearted. "Been doing the Spanish?" I asked by way of hot, airy persiflage.
"Nayrather they have been doing me!" he replied with his customary bon esprit.
I smiled incredulously, while he twirled his mustachios in a reminiscent manner.
"You wouldn't be interested in a little game of euchre?" he inquired tentatively. No?" He removed from his breast pocket and lit a rat-tailed cigar about nine inches in length. "I don't blame you," he continued sympathetically. "We must all learn by experience. I have had to pay for mine, just like yourself. I've come way back to sit down for good and 'smile-with-grandfather.' Koko Junct. is good enough for me. Why, I can remember when all a Christian needed was three little walnut-shells and a pea to work his way from here clear to Seattle. But the good old times are past and gone. They have got my numbersame as you have. But the meanest, most humiliating Say, do I look easy? Do you see any straw protruding from my gambrel? Are there any pin-feathers sprouting on my Adam's apple? What? There must be some indicia of senile dementia, for I dropped as easy as doth the yokel to the man who puts his linotype in the galaxy of celebrated men of Buncombe County for fifteen dollars. One fine morning I arose as usual at seven up and found amid the silver of my breakfast set a letter from Spain. Do you savvy? A letter to muh from Espagna! 'James,' says I to myself, 'what foreign duchess of high altitude is seeking a matrimonial alliance with Koko Junct?' So I quickly opened the missive, and my horse-hide double-covered heart leaped, for it proved to be from a millionaire planter of the Canary Isles confined in a loathsome Spanish prison. Sure thing. Here it is." He fumbled in his pocket and produced the following:
"Wasn't that all to the de luxetwo hundred and fifty thousand dollars! I swallowed that letter with my Mocha and Java, and it looked so good to me that after my tortilla I inquired casually of my friend the telegraph operator the price of a cable to Madrid. Six dollars and seventy-five cents was the cash damage and no credit allowed, and not being in funds I had to restrain my impatience until an obliging traveling gentleman in punkin-seed by-products reimbursed me in a quiet game. Then I let myself go and had a wild debauch at twenty-five cents per mot.
"'Sure thing,' I cabled. 'I will assist. Write full particulars. Mir.'
"Say, Koko Junct. seemed a sad, sad place during the dreary days that followed. I began to think Don Jose Carlos was a myth or had died of an acute attack of revolution or that he had moved out of Plaza Cortes 8 Primero to elude his rent. But at last the prisoner replied. This time he gave me eight pages of small pica containing detailed instructions.
"He was Don Antonio Ramos, of the Canary Isles, he was, and he was locked up tight in a dreary dungeon in old Madrid. My seven-dollar cablegram had reached him all right through the faithful old Carlos, who was still boarding at 8 Primero, and he was ready to open up and deliver the goods. He had been a banker in the Canaries, but had gone short of the market in yams, eau de sucre, cocoanuts, or something, and had 'done bankruptcy and being near of arrestation was obliged to escape to a foreign country.' Before he flew the coop he cashed in all his worldly goods for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, lined the secret compartment of his little leather bandbox with long green, and slipped away on a low rakish schooner with his only daughter, a beautiful damsel of nineteen, and the faithful old Carlos. Beautiful daughter! Wasn't that a touch? If you won, you got the kitty as well as the stakes!
"In due course they reached Gibraltar in safety and took a cross-town steamer for Marseilles, whence Don Antonio and daughter had intended to sail for England, but when they were off Barcelona the tub sprang a leak in her boilers, and they were obliged to land. Don Antonio was in dire fear of being captured by the police, so he bought tickets to London via Paris and checked through the trunk with the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and was just getting safely over the French boundary when, bing! he was nabbed by the Spanish constabulary. Wasn't it sad? You see 'doing bankruptcy' in a Spanish possession is a high crime. So back to Madrid they dragged poor Don Antonio and locked him up in prison, while the dough-box was whisked merrily on via Calais-Dover to dear old Lunnon. Caramba! and Hoyos de Monterey! The beautiful daughter was sent to an orphan-asylum, and Don Antonio's only means of communication with the outside world became the faithful Carlos.
"And now the plot thickens. In order to avoid accidents coony old Antonio had had false bottoms put in his two valises as well as his trunk, and in the pocket of one of them he had stowed away the baggage-check and a sight draft for twenty-four hundred pounds. In the other were the family jewelsamong them some formerly belonging to the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. When the police had arrested him as he was about to slip into France, they had, of course, captured his hand-baggage at the same time, but they didn't get on to the little false bottoms, and all they found was his safety razor, his Sunday suit, and some collars. The trunk had gone on, but the receipt for it remained in the secret compartment of the valise, which was in the hands of the authorities. Once in Madrid the bags were sealed up and deposited with the clerk of the Municipal Tribunal. In due course these would be put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder, and that was where I came in. For if some friend did not jump into the game and bid in the bags some Spaniard who was taking a flier in hand-luggage would buy up the Maximilian jewels, the check, and the draft for a few miserable pesetas! Casadora! Horrible thought!
"Don Antonio had the idea that he would get about five years in prison, and he wanted some honest party to come to Madrid and look after his luggage on a basis of thirty-three and a third per cent. Once the money was safe his side partner could get the daughter out of the asylum, compound the bankruptcy at fifteen cents on the peseta (Excuse my Spanish, but it is second nature), and get the don out of prison! Things had to be done on the jump, too, for there were only about twenty-five days before the annual unclaimed baggage sale. To show that he was on the level, Antonio enclosed a clipping from an English paper telling all about his arrest and a certificate showing that he really had been jugged for being a bankrupt and how much it would cost to get him out. The proposition was simplicity itself. I was to take the first steamer for Gibraltar, come to Madrid via rail, meet Carlos, attend the baggage sale, and buy the valises. This would be easy, as no one but us would know their real value. I would then be in possession of the baggage receipt for the trunk, the jewels, and the sight draft on London. To satisfy myself that there was no trick I could then cable to the bank to find out if it had issued a draft of that number and amount. Having thus assured myself, I could start for London accompanied by Carlos, who would act as his master's representative. Once there I could first cash the draft and then by reason of the check secure the trunk containing the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Could anything have been easier?
"I was to cable the day I sailed, and when I got off the train at Madrid Carlos would know me by the fact that I had a handkerchief tucked around my collar and a newspaper in my hand. I was to give the password, 'Mir,' and the faithful servant would show me to a quiet hotel. Antonio said I had better bring enough money to pay all expenses for the trip to London with Carlos and to bribe the jailer so that we could have a personal conference, and he thought twelve hundred dollars would be about enough. It was no use to write because the postal authorities were on to Carlos and intercepted his letters. Everything had to be clone by cable. He ended up by explaining how he got my name. He said that confined in the same jail for a trifling offense was an American friend of mine who, in response to a request for the name and address of some honest man in the United States, had given him mine. He couldn't give me my friend's name since he knew him only by an aliasSmith. Carlos was going to move in about a week, so that I had better hurry up and cable if my intentions were honorable.
"Well, that letter made me think. It looked kind of phony to me. In the first place I didn't have any friends likely to be in jail in Spain. Most of mine were in Auburn, Joliet, or Sing Sing. It seemed awful queer that poor old faithful Carlos couldn't raise enough coin right in Madrid to buy up a couple of old bags and pay for a railroad ticket to London; and it did not occur to me that Koko Junct. was a particularly promising locality to which to look for help. 'No,' I says, 'this is one of the slickest con games ever worked upon an ignorant agriculturalist.' But the thought of my six dollars and seventy-five cents depressed me. 1 wanted to get even with that Don Antonio Ramos Casadora Perfecto and make him give up!
"In the first place, whoever wrote that letter had committed a crime, by attempting to obtain money on false pretenses; in the second he owed me my cable money with six per cent. interest; and in the third I was entitled to punitive damages. Last, he had insulted my intelligence. 'I will go after this Spanish cavalier, and if he is still in his retreat I will make him reimburse me even to the half of all that he hath!' says I. 'He is fair game, and if I can prove that he wrote that letter he will either go to jail ipso facto, pro bono publico, instanter, or he must shell out handsomefor silence on the part of Koko James is golden.'
"The more I thought of the idea the better I liked it. I had always wanted to go to Spain, and see the black-eyed Amontillados, the ruined Moorish castles, the mules and tinkling fountains. 'I will get my hooks into that old Spanish don and make him look like an Habana second made in Grand Street,' I says. So I cabled faithful old Carlos that I was off and coming so fast that I was gaining all the time.
"Why should I detail to you the emotions of one of your countrymen leaving his native land for the first time? I bade farewell to the 'Smile-with-Grandfather,' put on my store clothes, and shook the cinders of Koko Junct. from off my sandals. Once in New York I discovered that a new and fast Spanish-American liner, The Cuspidores Furiosos, was just sailing for Gibraltar, and on her I took my passage. Once I had recovered from the momentary inconveniences caused by crossing the Gulf Stream I secured a seat at the captain's table, and in spite of a notice warning honest passengers against thieves and gamblers I soon had a quiet little game running in the rear of the smoking-saloon and was taking in the spondulix. Those passengers were the softest lot of guys I have ever seen. They just cried to have their money taken away from 'emone wizened-up little fellow in particular, with a bald head, who looked like Mr. Pip. And there were all kinds.
"One was a German brewer from Newark, New Jersey, with a big black beard; another was a poet from Kansas City with long hair; there was a minister from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a couple of farmers from Illinois. But they were pretty good fun, and the trip was one unalloyed dream of delight. On moonlight nights we would sit along the taffrail and smoke, and the poet would rhapsodize about ruined Spanish castles, and the brewer would sing 'The Watch on the Rhine.' There was a wireless on board, too, and when they got tired of poker I would make a little hand-book on the side. When I was real seasick I used to think of how I was going to put the screws on old Don Antonio and count over my roll, for I had taken in eleven hundred dollars, mostly from Mr. Pip.
"Well, about the seventh day out, just as we were coming into sight of Fayal and having a little five-handed game in the smoker, I happened to pull in a big pot just on a pair of aces, and Pip got up looking kind of limp and threw himself down on a sofy and says:
"'I'm cleaned out! All is over! Toot on somble!'
"'Oh, cheer up,' I says, 'I'll lend you a stake. Your luck may turn now we're in sight of land.'
"'No,' he says dolefully. 'My trip is a failure. I had a wonderful opportunity to win a fortune, and I have thrown it away. I was going to rescue a Spanish prisoner confined in prison in Madrid.'
"'Do tell,' I says, with my heart beating a tattoo.
"'Yes,' he says, 'and he had a daughter, the Doņa Sorella, only nineteen years old, beautiful as a night full of stars.'
"'Excuse me,' says the brewer from Newark. 'Did I hear you say anydings aboud a Spanish prisoner? I vas going to rescue a prisoner myselfin Madrid. Don Antonio Ramos,' he says, 'and he had a pootiful daughter. Maybe he vas der same, already?'
"'That's him,' groans Pip, 'and now you will get the money and the maiden, besides!'
"'Hold on a bit,' cries the poet from Kansas City, 'I'm in on this. I've come four thousand miles to arrange with faithful old Carlos about that daughter, and you can't freeze me out!'
"'Well,' I says, 'this looks serious!' Then, turning to the rest of the passengers lounging around the saloon, I says, 'BoysI mean Gentshow many of you are interested in liberating a Spanish prisoner from durance vile in Madrid?'
For a minute they all put up a bluff at being surprised at the question, and then one by one every hand in the room went up.
"'Gosh" I says. 'This is bad. We can't all marry the poor girl!'
They were the nineteen sickest-looking pikers you ever seen in your life, and of course I let on I was the same kind of a sucker they was. So we had a sort of informal meeting and each told how he happened to be there, and each was different.
In the case of the minister his congregation had contributed toward a fund to liberate Don Antonio and secure the money for church purposes, and the Young Men's Bible Class had offered to marry Doņa Sorella provided she turned down the parson. The farmers had both mortgaged their farms, and the poet had written a poem in one hundred and ninety-seven cantos, based on how he was going to rescue Sorella, and sold it to a newspaper syndicate, and so on and so forth. They all glared at one another and frothed at the mouth as if they wanted to tear each other's hearts out.
"Well, I began to take courage, for I smelt something better than trying to squeeze a con man who spoke a foreign language, for l knew they must all have their moneyexcept what I had taken from themand didn't see why it could not be put to some good purpose. "'Boys,' I says'Beg pardon again, I should say Gentswhat seems at first sight to be an unfortunate coincidence may in the end prove a genooine dispensation. We have all started upon a sacred mission to free an unfortunate man unjustly confined in prison. Money is no object to us. It is the principle of the thing. We have sworn to rescue innocent maidenhood from the contaminating surroundings of a Spanish orphan-asylum. Incidentally we may stumble over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to be used for church purposes. Where no one of us could have hoped to succeed alone, all may achieve our object together. In union is strength. Let us incorporate ourselves.' They had never thought of that, and after a little persuasion they began to see that the idea had points.
"'Gents,' I continued, 'so far as the money is concerned we shall each receive over ten thousand dollarsa sum by no means to be discarded lightly. We shall have the encouragement of mutual support, and we can draw lots for the daughter.'
"'Id looks goot to me,' said the brewer. 'Vat shall we call ourselves?'
"'We must have some simple and intelligible appellation,' I says, 'that will clearly indicate our purposes. I suggest "Las Expeditiones Generales des Americanos to rescue el baul (the trunk) del prisionero Espagna. Incorporated."'
"None of the others knew any Spanish, so they pretended they thought the title was fine; only the poet wanted to add something about the daughter, but he was voted down nineteen to one.
"'What state laws are we going to incorporate under?' inquired the minister, whose name was the Reverend Ezra Washgut.
"I was stuck for a minute, and then my legal experience flew to my aid. 'We are not as yet,' I says, 'a corporation de jure, but merely one de facto. We do not need to incorporate under the laws of any state, being more than three miles outside of the boundaries of the United States and Canada. We can incorporate de jure later.'
"'Of course we don't need a jury,' remarked the minister.
"Then one of the farmers wanted to know how much it was going to cost, and I had to explain that it really would not cost anything, but that each must deposit in the treasury enough to pay for his proportion of the capital stock. We would capitalize the concern at twenty thousand dollars, fully paid up and non-assessable, and each would get one thousand shares at one dollar each. Thereafter all expenses would be paid by the corporation. The first dividend after reaching London would be about one thousand per cent. Well, you oughter have seen their binoculars protrude! They all began to take out what was left of their rolls and count to see how many shares they could buy. The minister allowed he wanted twelve hundred shares, so I had to make a rule (to keep harmony) that no one could put in more than one thousand dollars.
"'The first thing,' I says, 'is to read the minutes of the last meeting,' which there never was any, 'and then proceed to the election of officers. I nominate the Reverend Ezra Washgut for president.'
"The brewer looked a little put out, but the rest thought Ezra would give us a sort of tone and elected him. The minister wanted to make a speech, but was voted down, and then we elected the brewer general manager. I whispered to him that the president was just a figurehead and that he would be the real thing, so he was more than satisfied. Then we chose one of the farmers vice-president and Pip for secretary and the poet for corresponding secretary. At the end I said that there was one more office of trifling import to be filled and that was fiscal agent, or the one who held the bag. Well, they hadn't thought of that, but as all the stockholders with an exaggerated ego had offices already, the brewer nominated me. I declined at first on the ground that I did not care for so much responsibility, but after much urging finally consented to take care of the money. So I collected a thou. from each one and had the ship's printer get us up a certificate with a rising sun and a pair of handcuffs on it, emblematical of the prisoner and hope dawning on the horizon.
"But there was a miner from Skagway who allowed there ought to be an auditing committee to make sure I took proper care of the funds, and on vote the motion was carried, and the chair appointed the miner, a drug-clerk from Bangor, Maine, and a chiropodist from New York as a committee.
"Then the Reverend Ezra suggested that in view of the turn things had taken we had better appoint a committee to compose a Marconigram to send to Don Antonio to let him know we were coming. At that the poet put up a kick that it was his job, and so he was given permission to see what he could do first. After a while he came back and said he wasn't any good at ten-word prose and asked for a committee to help him, which was duly appointed and entitled 'The Committee on Wireless Correspondence.'
"The first draft they submitted read:
"'Vat is der goot of tellin' him to vait when he is locked up, yet?' asked the brewer, and the chiropodist thought the reference to the daughter unnecessary. The committee said that the daughter part was up to the poet, who reluctantly consented that it be stricken out, particularly when he found that his name was not to be signed to the message.
"Then the drug-clerk wanted to know what good there was in putting in the name of the corporation if we didn't explain what the corporation was. Everybody agreed that that would take too many words, and the Reverend Ezra suggested that so long as Don Antonio knew anybody was coming that would be sufficient and proposed the following:
The brewer said Ezra had delusions of grandeur and vetoed this, so finally for the sake of peace we compromised on,
"There had been a good deal of feeling over the Marconigram, so in order to induce harmony I moved that all those who held no office in the corporation should be elected directors, which was done amid great applause, and we then had a directors' meeting in order to lay out our plan of campaign.
"The difficulty was that each one wanted to be the chap to carry the thing through himself, meet dear old Carlos, get the money and rescue the beautiful daughterparticularly the daughter. Everybody felt that he wanted to be the early bird who was goin' to land the breakfast-food. The hardest job I had was to gerrymander the bunch in such a way that each crusader was satisfied. So far as I was concerned, once I could shake the auditing committee I was twenty thousand dollars to the good, so the more I could get them scattered the better it was.
"It was finally decided after a close division that the Reverend Ezra should wear the handkerchief and do the glad-hand act with Carlos. There was to be a guard of safety to protect him and to watch from a distance to make sure that he went through the motions correctly. If he didn't they were to report to the directors, and the brewer was to go in as a substitute. Mean-time a reception committee was to wait on Don Antonio with suitable refreshments and give him physical and mental encouragement, while the poet was to snoop around the orphan-asylum and size up Daughter. As for me, I was to sit tight on the hotel pizattza holding the dough-bag in plain view of the auditing committee, who had taken a hide-bound oath to drink nothing and sleep not until 'el baul del prisionero' had been recovered. Of course, as I had the money, if anybody wanted to buy anything be could only get it by coming to me, and he had to sign a voucher for whatever I allowed him. You can bet your life they got mighty little, for every cent came directly out of my own pocket.
"It was not long before we received a reply from Don Antonio:
"'You see, he is quite familiar with my name,' says Washgut. 'I knew any reference to other parties would disconcert him. Hereafter I think all communications should be in the first person singular, signed simply "Washgut."'
"At this the brewer began to get huffy and allowed that the Reverend Ezra was entirely too arbitrary in his methods. He, for one, objected to the domination of the church and didn't believe in mixing religion with business; he said that Washgut had been president now for two days and he thought some one else ought to have a chance. This proposition was greeted with cheers by the malcontents, of whom there were several, there not being enough offices to go entirely round, and I could see that the brewer .had laid his plans astutely. Some one called for a vote on whether there should be a new election, and it was carried by a majority of one.
Things began to look real bad for harmony. The Anti-Washguts had ten votes and the Washguts nine, Ezra himself being in the chair, but of course as soon as we really began to vote Washgut left the chair and voted for himself, making a tie. We voted all one day, taking one hundred and seventy-six ballots with invariably the same result, and finally in sheer desperation some one suggested that Pip, who was a retiring little man and never butted into the conversation, should be elected as a compromise.
This was done, for in truth it would have been quite impossible to agree in any other way. Pip left most of the committees as they were, except that being president of course he would have to take Washgut's place as the glad-hand man to meet Carlos, and at my special and urgent request he took the miner and the chiropodist off the auditing committee and substituted a photographer from Utica and a veterinary from Lynn, Massachusetts, both of them inoffensive and trustful souls.
"Our cables to Don Antonio could no longer be signed by Washgut, which we feared would create confusion in the poor fellow's mind, so one long Marconigram was sent explaining the purposes and organization of our corporation and signed simply: 'Las Expeditiones Generales des Americanos to rescue el baul del prisionero Espagna. Per Ephraim Tubbs, Prest.,' which was Pip's baptismal name.
"As we neared the shores of sunny Espagna the excitement grew intense. The poet stalked up and down the decks in one continuous Marathon race with Pegasus, his hair waving in the wind while he extemporized an invocation to Beautiful Daughter. He also composed a marching song to be sung by the crusaders as they walked along the streets, to the tune of 'Oh, he's a jolly good fellow!' It ran:
"'El baul del prisionero! El baul del prisionero!
"He explained that the fact that there was no word in English to rhyme with 'prisionero' accounted for a certain indefinite but not unpleasing monotony.
"Pip was the only man who seemed at all dispirited. A gloom seemed to have descended upon him like a drop-curtain with a burial scene painted on it. Moodily he paced the quarter-deck with folded arms while the gay crusaders down below sang joyous songs and played pinocle for soft drinks, or dreamed in their cabins of false bottoms and the beautiful daughter.
"At last one golden misty morning the lookout above made land on the port bow, and soon we saw wreathed in iridescent cloud the lordly summits of the mountains of Atlas. The sight of these mysterious crags momentarily appearing and disappearing through the cumuli caused the hearts of the directors and stockholders to leap with joy, and they burst into a prolonged cheer which ended in a triumphant rendition of 'El baul del prisionero.'
"But Pip gently grasped me by the arm and led me aside. 'Look here, old man,' he whispered, 'I hate to say it to you, but I am beginning to get a hunch that this whole thing is a fake.'
"You can imagine the effect of a sudden announcement of that sort upon the delicate adjustment of my angelina pectoris, for once the crusaders got wise to the fact that the beautiful daughter was a myth, stock in the Expeditiones Generales would be a drug on the market and they would want their money back besides, and then where would I be?
"'Say not so!' I says, tryin' to encourage him. 'It cannot be!'
"'No,' he replies, 'I have been thinkin' this over for some time, and if there is any Don Antonio Ramos or beautiful Sorella or even a faithful old Carlos, you can rate me in Bradstreet's List of Suckers as AA1. In my opinion this is a high-class con game,' he says, 'and we will all go sailing back on the next boat sadder and wiser by this momentary glimpse into the complexities of the human heart.'
"'Well,' I says, 'I am inclined to agree with you. There always have been certain features of old Don Antonio that had a familiar physiognomy, but what is the use in casting gloom into the innocent hearts of our friends so long as there is still some possibility of the dream being true?'
"'But,' he says, 'in case there is no Don Ramos it will then become necessary to return the money.'
"'I had already thought of that,' I says, 'and therefore let us prolong the uncertainty as much as possible.'
"He gave me one long look and then held out his hand. 'Mr. Koko,' he says, 'I honor you in that you respect the simple faith of others. Perhaps, as you say, I am wrong, and the poor old don and his lovely daughter may indeed be realities, with faithful old Carlos awaiting us patiently at Plaza Cortes 8 Primero.'
"That afternoon we anchored under the guns of Gibraltar and prepared to debark. The Expeditiones held one last joint directors' and stock-holders' meeting at which we received final instructions. A telegram was sent to Carlos and another to Don Antonio, and Pip, moved to eloquence by the recollection of Trafalgar and the historic associations of the land and sea, burst into eloquence and in an inspired speech warned the committees that the Expeditiones Generales des Americanos expected every one of them to do their duty. Singing the corporation song, the crusaders boarded a tug and were soon landed at the quay, whence they marched to the railroad station. The thought of the proximity of the Spanish prisoner and the faithful Carlos, to say nothing of Daughter, caused a hysteria of excitement in which it was difficult to refrain from yielding to the requisitions of the pilgrims for cash to purchase castanets, wicker bottles, figs, and cork models of the Infanta.
"The hot noon of a burning Spanish day was beating down upon the tiled roofs of Madrid when we pulled into the railroad station and assembled upon the platform. Pip descended from the train last of all, with a red handkerchief tucked into his collar and a copy of a Boston paper held carefully in his dexter hand. At a distance the guard of safety watched his every move.
"From the shadow of a building an aged white-haired Spaniard cautiously approached. Soon his eye caught the slight figure of our president with the handkerchief and newspaper, and casting a swift look around him he drew near and murmured a few words in his native tongue. The next instant they had embraced, and with beating hearts the stockholders saw the two wending their way through the narrow streets toward the lower city, followed at a respectful distance by the guard of safety. Caramba! and Rey del Mundo! But it was a moment of exaltation for all of us! Even ImeKoko Jim of Koko Junct.felt that perhaps after all there was something doing. I deplored my natural skepticism.
"'Boys,' I says, 'so far so good. We have seen with our own eyes dear old Carlos. Let us now hastily repair to a nearby inn for some light refreshment and then perform our several duties. Don Antonio awaits you! Beautiful Daughter awaits you! The bottomlessI mean double-bottomed valise awaits you! Forward! "El baul del prisionero!"'
"As we threaded the streets leading to the principal hotel I began to have misgiving so far as my own private plans were concerned. The auditing committee stuck closer to me than brothers. They had been much impressedtoo much, it seemed to meby what Pip had said about doing their duty. It appeared impossible that I could ever shake them off. And suppose I could not? And suppose old Ramos really was! I should only come in as a general participant in a visionary fortune when I had twenty thousand dollars in good American bank-notes in my jeans.
"After luncheon at the Hotel del Guillame Shakespeare the reception committee departed for the prison, while the remaining stockholders, including the auditing committee and myself, enjoyed a short siesta upon the pizattza. Have you ever been in Madrid? Then indeed you know nothing of the potentiality of heat. I was wilted with it, inside and out. Even the wad of bills in my pocket was like a handkerchief that has been left out overnight in the rain. And I could not sleep, for while two of the auditing committee snored the third pierced me with an eagle-eye. I began to see where I never could make a get-away at all. The afternoon wore on. Neither Pip nor the reception committee had returned, and the impression gained ground that they had themselves been detained in some place of confinement.
"We dined in an interior courtyard to the musical tinkle of miniature fountains and the pop of the vin du pays, of which I had ordered a liberal supply in the hope that thus I might induce a slight relaxation on the part of the auditing committee. The meal over, we smoked long Habanas in the warm moonlight that fell through the leaves of magnificent imitation rubber-plants, palms, and oleanders, and at nine thirty I proposed that we retire. No one felt particularly concerned about either Pip or the reception committee. We were too comfortable and too tired. It was finally agreed that I should occupy a bed between two others occupied by a couple of the auditing committee, while the third kept watch, on a horsehair sofa, in an adjoining room.
"How long I slept I do not know, but I dreamed of fountains, and tortillas, Spanish maidens, and mules until a low whistle awoke me. At the open window, devoid of even a mosquito-bar, the head of Pip was sharply silhouetted against the moonlight. He beckoned to me, and I silently arose.
"'It's all true!' he whispered. 'I've seen Don Antonio and talked with him. That fool bunch of a reception committee went to the wrong placethe lunatic asylumand got run in. Carlos is waiting for us with Doņa Sorella. She's a peach! Now, look here! Just shake this bunch and slide out of the window, and we'll cop the whole two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and divide even. What do you say?'
"'I'm on!' I replied, letting myself gently out by the trellis and lowering myself down the lightning-rod.
"I followed Pip through countless alleys, across dark shadows sharply pierced by moonlight, over bridges, through sleeping plazas, and down streets of inky blackness until at last we found ourselves on the bank of the river among the rotting piles of ancient warehouses and decaying wharves.
"'Look,' whispered Pip. 'Over there!' and he pointed to a patch of moonlight.
"I strained my eyes to see. As I did so a hairy fist clutched my throat and a brawny arm encircled my waist and threw me to the sand. In a moment I was gagged, bound, and helpless. I struggled to free myself, and glared in fury at my assailants. There before me, a mocking smile playing upon his lips, stood Pip, with the white-haired Spaniard whom we had seen at the railroad station and a third ruffian disguised as a woman. Pip felt in my trousers pocket and relieved me of the money, which he counted deliberately in the moonlight. Then, removing his hat, he said with the stately dignity of ancient Spain:
"'Seņor Koko, I beg the honor of presenting to you the beautiful Doņa Sorella, my faithful old servitor Carloswhom you already knowand myself, the "Spanish Prisoner"Don Antonio Ramos, of the Canary Isles."'
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This page updated 3 February 2003