The United States of America, after looking over its stock of
consular timber, selected Mr. John De Graffenreid Atwood, of
Dalesburg, Alabama, for a successor to Willard Geddie, resigned.
Without prejudice to Mr. Atwood, it will have to be acknowledged
that, in this instance, it was the man who sought the office. As
with the self-banished Geddie, it was nothing less than the artful
smiles of lovely woman that had driven Johnny Atwood to the desperate
expedient of accepting office under a despised Federal Government
so that he might go far, far away and never see again the false, fair
face that had wrecked his young life. The consulship at Coralio
seemed to offer a retreat sufficiently removed and romantic enough
to inject the necessary drama into the pastoral scenes of Dalesburg
It was while playing the part of Cupid's exile that Johnny added his
handiwork to the long list of casualties along the Spanish Main by
his famous manipulation of the shoe market, and his unparalleled feat
of elevating the most despised and useless weed in his own country
from obscurity to be a valuable product in international commerce.
The trouble began, as trouble often begins instead of ending, with
a romance. In Dalesburg there was a man named Elijah Hemstetter, who
kept a general store. His family consisted of one daughter called
Rosine, a name that atoned much for "Hemstetter." This young woman
was possessed of plentiful attractions, so that the young men of
the community were agitated in their bosoms. Among the more agitated
was Johnny, the son of Judge Atwood, who lived in the big colonial
mansion on the edge of Dalesburg.
It would seem that the desirable Rosine should have been pleased to
return the affection of an Atwood, a name honored all over the state
long before and since the war. It does seem that she should have
gladly consented to have been led into that stately but rather empty
colonial mansion. But not so. There was a cloud on the horizon, a
threatening, cumulus cloud, in the shape of a lively and shrewd young
farmer in the neighborhood who dared to enter the lists as a rival to
the high-born Atwood.
One night Johnny propounded to Rosine a question that is considered
of much importance by the young of the human species. The accessories
were all there--moonlight, oleanders, magnolias, the mockingbird's
song. Whether or no the shadow of Pinkney Dawson, that prosperous
young farmer came between them on that occasion is not known; but
Rosine's answer was unfavorable. Mr. John De Graffenreid Atwood bowed
till his hat touched the lawn grass, and went away with his head high,
but with a sore wound in his pedigree and heart. A Hemstetter refuse
an Atwood! Zounds!
Among other accidents of that year was a Democratic president. Judge
Atwood was a warhorse of Democracy. Johnny persuaded him to set the
wheels moving for some foreign appointment. He would go away--away.
Perhaps in years to come Rosine would think how true, how faithful
his love had been, and would drop a tear--maybe in the cream she
would be skimming for Pink Dawson's breakfast.
The wheels of politics revolved; and Johnny was appointed consul to
Coralio. Just before leaving he dropped in at Hemstetter's to say
good-bye. There was a queer, pinkish look about Rosine's eyes; and
had the two been alone, the United States might have had to cast
about for another consul. But Pink Dawson was there, of course,
talking about his 400-acre orchard, and the three-mile alfalfa tract,
and the 200-acre pasture. So Johnny shook hands with Rosine as
coolly as if he were only going to run up to Montgomery for a couple
of days. They had the royal manner when they chose, those Atwoods.
"If you happen to strike anything in the way of a good investment
down there, Johnny," said Pink Dawson, "just let me know, will you?
I reckon I could lay my hands on a few extra thousands 'most any time
for a profitable deal."
"Certainly, Pink," said Johnny, pleasantly. "If I strike anything of
that sort I'll let you in with pleasure."
So Johnny went down to Mobile and took a fruit steamer for the coast
When the new consul arrived in Coralio the strangeness of the scenes
diverted him much. He was only twenty-two; and the grief of youth
was not worn like a garment as it is by older men. It has its
seasons when it reigns; and then it is unseated for time by the
assertion of the keen senses.
Billy Keogh and Johnny seemed to conceive a mutual friendship at
once. Keogh took the new consul about town and presented him to the
handful of Americans and the smaller number of French and Germans who
made up the "foreign" contingent. And then, of course, he had to be
more formally introduced to the native officials, and have his
credentials transmitted through an interpreter.
There was something about the young Southerner that the sophisticated
Keogh liked. His manner was simple almost to boyishness; but he
possessed the cool carelessness of a man of far greater age and
experience. Neither uniforms nor titles, red tape nor foreign
languages, mountains nor sea weighed upon his spirits. He was heir
to all ages, an Atwood, of Dalesburg; and you might know every
thought conceived to his bosom.
Geddie came down to the consulate to explain the duties and workings
of the office. He and Keogh tried to interest the new consul in
their description of the work that his government expected him to
"It's all right," said Johnnie from the hammock that he had set up as
the official reclining place. "If anything turns up that has to be
done I'll let you fellows do it. You can't expect a Democrat to work
during his first term of holding office."
"You might look over these headings," suggested Geddie, "of the
different lines of exports you will have to keep account of. The
fruit is classified; and there are the valuable woods, coffee,
"That last account sounds all right," interrupted Mr. Atwood. "Sounds
as if it could be stretched. I want to buy a new flag, a monkey, a
guitar and a barrel of pineapples. Will the rubber account stretch
"That's merely statistics," said Geddie, smiling. "The expense
account is what you want. It is supposed to have a slight elasticity.
The 'stationery' items are sometimes carelessly audited by the State
"We're wasting our time," said Keogh. "This man was born to hold
office. He penetrates to the root of the art at one step of his
eagle eye. The true genius of government shows its hand in every
word of his speech."
"I didn't take this job with any intention of working," explained
Johnny, lazily. "I wanted to go somewhere in the world where they
didn't talk about farms. There are none here, are there?"
"Not the kind you are acquainted with," answered the ex-consul.
"There is no such art here as agriculture. There never was a plow
or a reaper within the boundaries of Anchuria."
"This is the country for me," murmured the consul, and immediately
he fell asleep.
The cheerful tintypist pursued his intimacy with Johnny in spite
of open charges that he did so to obtain a preemption 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 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
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,
"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 way
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 a 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
"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 the 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."