A two-inch stub of a blue pencil was the wand with which Keogh
performed the preliminary acts of his magic. So, with this he covered
paper with diagrams and figures while he waited for the United States
of America to send down to Coralio a successor to Atwood, resigned.
The new scheme that his mind had conceived, his stout heart indorsed,
and his blue pencil corroborated, was laid around the characteristics
and human frailties of the new president ofAnchuria. These
characteristics, and the situation out of which Keogh hoped to wrest
a golden tribute, deserve chronicling contributive to the clear order
President Losada--many called him Dictator--was a man whose genius
would have made him conspicuous even among Anglo-Saxons, had not
that genius been intermixed with other traits that were petty and
subversive. He had some of the lofty patriotism of Washington (the
man he most admired), the force of Napoleon, and much of the wisdom
of the sages. These characteristics might have justified him the
assumption of the title of "The Illustrious Liberator," had they not
been accompanied by a stupendous and amazing vanity that kept him
in the less worthy ranks of the dictators.
Yet he did his country great service. With a mighty grasp he shook
it nearly free from the shackles of ignorance and sloth and the vermin
that fed upon it, and all but made it a power in the council of
nations. He established schools and hospitals, built roads, bridges,
railroads and palaces, and bestowed generous subsidies upon the arts
and sciences. He was the absolute despot and the idol of his people.
The wealth of the country poured into his hands. Other presidents had
been rapacious without reason. Losada amassed enormous wealth, but
his people had their share of the benefits.
The joint in his armor was his insatiate passion for monuments and
tokens commemorating his glory. In every town he caused to be erected
statues of himself bearing legends in praise of his greatness. In
the walls of every public edifice, tablets were fixed reciting his
splendor and the gratitude of his subjects. His statuettes and
portraits were scattered throughout the land in every house and hut.
One of the sycophants in his court painted him as St. John, with a
halo and a train of attendants in full uniform. Losada saw nothing
incongruous in this picture, and had it hung in a church in the
capital. He ordered from a French sculptor a marble group including
himself with Napoleon, Alexander the Great, and one or two others whom
he deemed worthy of the honor.
He ransacked Europe for decorations, employing policy, money and
intrigue to cajole the orders he coveted from kings and rulers.
On state occasions his breast was covered from shoulder to shoulder
with crosses, stars, golden roses, medals and ribbons. It was said
that the man who could contrive for him a new decoration, or invent
some new method of extolling his greatness, might plunge a hand deep
into the treasury.
This was the man upon whom Billy Keogh had his eye. The gentle
buccaneer had observed the rain of favors that fell upon those who
ministered to the president's vanities, and he did not deem it his
duty to hoist his umbrella against the scattering drops of liquid
In a few weeks the new consul arrived, releasing Keogh from his
temporary duties. He was a young man fresh from college, who lived
for botany alone. The consulate at Coralio gave him the opportunity
to study tropical flora. He wore smoked glasses, and carried a green
umbrella. He filled the cool, back porch of the consulate with
plants and specimens so that space for a bottle and chair was not
to be found. Keogh gazed on him sadly, but without rancor, and began
to pack his gripsack. For his new plot against stagnation along the
Spanish Main required of him a voyage overseas.
Soon came the ~Karlsefin~ again--she of the trampish habits--gleaning
a cargo of coconuts for a speculative descent upon the New York
market. Keogh was booked for a passage on the return trip.
"Yes, I'm going to New York," he explained to the group of his
countrymen that had gathered on the beach to see him off. "But
I'll be back before you miss me. I've undertaken the art education
of this piebald country, and I'm not the man to desert it while it's
in the early throes of tintypes."
With this mysterious declaration of his intentions Keogh boarded
Ten days later, shivering, with the collar of his thin coat turned
high, he burst into the studio of Carolus White at the top of a tall
building in Tenth Street, New York City.
Carolus White was smoking a cigarette and frying sausages over an oil
stove. He was only twenty-three, and had noble theories about art.
"Billy Knight!" exclaimed White, extending the hand that was not
busy with the frying pan. "From what part of the uncivilized world,
"Hello, Carry," said Keogh, dragging forward a stool, and holding
his fingers close to the stove. "I'm glad I found you so soon. I've
been looking for you all day in the directories and art galleries.
The free-lunch man on the corner told me where you were, quick.
I was sure you'd be painting pictures yet."
Keogh glanced about the studio with the shrewd eye of a connoisseur
"Yes, you can do it," he declared, with many gentle nods of his head.
"That big one in the corner with the angels and greeh clouds and
band-wagon is just the sort of thing we want. What would you call
that, Carry--scene from Coney Island, ain't it?"
'That," said White, "I had intended to call The Translation of
Elijah,' but you may be nearer right than I am."
"Name doesn't matter," said Keogh, largely; "it's the frame and
the varieties of paint that does the trick. Now, I can tell you in
a minute what I want. I've come on a little voyage of two thousand
miles to take you in with me on a scheme. I thought of you as soon
as the scheme showed itself to me. How would you like to go back
with me and paint a picture? Ninety days for the trip, and five
thousand dollars for the job."
"Cereal food or hair-tonic posters?" asked White.
"It isn't an ad."
"What kind of a picture is it to be?"
"It's a long story," said Keogh.
"Go ahead with it. If you don't mind, while you talk I'll just keep
my eye on these sausages. Let 'em get one shade deeper than a Vandyke
brown and you spoil 'em."
Keogh explained his project. They were to return to Coralio, where
White was to pose as a distinguished American portrait painter who
was touring in the tropics as a relaxation from his arduous and
remunerative professional labors. It was not an unreasonable hope,
even to those who trod in the beaten paths of business, that an artist
with so much prestige might secure a commission to perpetuate upon
canvas the lineaments of the president, and secure a share of the
~pesos~ that were raining upon the caterers to his weaknesses.
Keogh had set his price at ten thousand dollars. Artists had been
paid more for portraits. He and White were to share the expenses of
the trip, and divide the possible profits. Thus he laid the scheme
before White, whom he had known in the West before one declared for
Art and the other became a Bedouin.
Before long the two machinators abandoned the rigor of the bare studio
for a snug corner of a cafe. There they sat far into the night, with
old envelopes and Keogh's stub of blue pencil between them.
At twelve o'clock White doubled up in his chair, with his chin on
his fist, and shut his eyes at the unbeautiful wall-paper.
"I'll go you, Billy," he said, in the quiet tones of decision. "I've
got two or three hundred saved up for sausages and rent; and I'll take
the chance with you. Five thousand! It will give me two years in
Paris and one in Italy. I'll begin to pack tomorrow."
"You'll begin in ten minutes," said Keogh. "It's to-morrow now. The
~Karlsefin~ starts back at four P.M. Come on to your painting shop,
and I'll help you."
For five months in the year Coralio is the Newport of Anchuria.
Then only does the town possess life. From November to March it is
practically the seat of government. The president with his official
family sojourns there; and society follows him. The pleasure-loving
people make the season one long holiday of amusement and rejoicing.
~Fiestas~, balls, games, sea bathing, processions and small theatres
contribute to their enjoyment. The famous Swiss band from the capital
plays in the little plaza every evening, while the fourteen carriages
and vehicles in the town circle in funereal but complacent procession.
Indians from the interior mountains, looking like pre-historic stone
idols, come down to peddle their handiwork in the streets. The people
throng the narrow ways, a chattering, happy, careless stream of
buoyant humanity. Preposterous children rigged out with the
shortest of ballet skirts and gilt wings, howl, underfoot, among the
effervescent crowds. Especially is the arrival of the presidential
party, at the opening of the season, attended with pomp, show and
patriotic demonstrations of enthusiasm and delight.
When Keogh and White reached their destination, on the return trip
of the ~Karlsefin~, the gay winter season was well begun. As they
stepped upon the beach they could hear the band playing in the plaza.
The village maidens, with fireflies already fixed in their dark locks,
were gliding, barefoot and coy-eyed, along the paths. Dandies in
white linen, swinging their canes, were beginning their seductive
strolls. The air was full of human essence, of artificial enticement,
of coquetry, indolence, pleasure--the man-made sense of existence.
The first two or three days after their arrival were spent in
preliminaries. Keogh escorted the artist about town, introducing
him to the little circle of English-speaking residents and pulling
whatever wires he could to effect the spreading of White's fame as
a painter. And then Keogh planned a more spectacular demonstration
of the idea he wished to keep before the public.
He and White engaged rooms in the Hotel de los Extranjeros. The two
were clad in new suits of immaculate duck, with American straw hats,
and carried canes of remarkable uniqueness and inutility. Few
caballeros in Coralio--even the gorgeously uniformed officers of the
Anchurian army--were as conspicuous for ease and elegance of demeanor
as Keogh and his friend, the great American painter, Senor White.
White set up his easel on the beach and made striking sketches of the
mountain and sea views. The native population formed at his rear in
a vast, chattering semicircle to watch his work. Keogh, with his care
for details, had arranged for himself a pose which he carried out with
fidelity. His ro1e was that of friend to the great artist, a man of
affairs and leisure. The visible emblem of his position was a pocket
"For branding the man who owns it," said he, "a genteel dilettante
with a bank account and an easy conscience, a steam-yacht ain't in it
with a camera. You see a man doing nothing but loafing around making
snap-shots, and you know right away he reads up well in 'Bradstreet.'
You notice these old millionaire boys--soon as they get through taking
everything else in sight they go to taking photographs. People are
more impressed by a kodak than they are by a title or a four-karat
scarf-pin." So Keogh strolled blandly about Coralio, snapping the
scenery and the shrinking senoritas, while White posed conspicuously
in the higher regions of art.
Two weeks after their arrival, the scheme began to bear fruit.
An aide-de-camp of the president drove to the hotel in a dashing
victoria. The president desired that Senor White come to the Casa
Morena for an informal interview.
Keogh gripped his pipe tightly between his teeth. "Not a cent
less than ten thousand," he said to the artist--"remember the price.
And in gold or its equivalent--don't let him stick you with this
bargain-counter stuff they call money here."
"Perhaps it isn't that he wants," said White.
"Get out!" said Keogh, with splendid confidence. "I know what he
wants. He wants his picture painted by the celebrated young American
painter and filibuster now sojourning in his down-trodden country.
Off you go."
The victoria sped away with the artist. Keogh walked up and down,
puffing great clouds of smoke from his pipe, and waited. In an hour
the victoria swept again to the door of the hotel, deposited White,
and vanished. The artist dashed up the stairs, three at a step.
Keogh stopped smoking, and became a silent interrogation point.
"Landed," exclaimed White, with his boyish face flushed with elation.
"Billy, you are a wonder. He wants a picture. I'll tell you all
about it. By Heavens! that dictator chap is a corker! He's a
dictator clear down to his finger-ends. He's a kind of combination
of Julius Caesar, Lucifer and Chauncey Depew done in sepia. Polite
and grim--that's his way. The room I saw him in was about ten acres
big, and looked like a Mississippi steamboat with its gilding and
mirrors and white paint. He talks English better than I can ever
hope to. The matter of the price came up. I mentioned ten thousand.
I expected him to call the guard and have me taken out and shot.
He didn't move an eyelash. He just waved one of his chestnut hands
in a careless way, and said, 'Whatever you say.' I am to go back
tomorrow and discuss with him the details of the picture."
Keogh hung his head. Self-abasement was easy to read in his downcast
"I'm failing, Carry," he said, sorrowfully. "I'm not fit to handle
these man's-size schemes any longer. Peddling oranges in a push-cart
is about the suitable graft for me. When I said ten thousand, I swear
I thought I had sized up that brown man's limit to within two cents.
He'd have melted down for fifteen thousand just as easy. Say--Carry--
you'll see old man Keogh safe in some nice, quiet idiot asylum, won't
you, if he makes a break like that again?"
The Casa Morena, although only one story in height, was a building
of brown stone, luxurious as a palace in its interior. It stood on
a low hill in a walled garden of splendid tropical flora at the upper
edge of Coralio. The next day the president's carriage came again
for the artist. Keogh went out for a walk along the beach, where he
and his "picture box" were now familiar sights. When he returned to
the hotel White was sitting in a steamer-chair on the balcony.
"Well," said Keogh, "did you and His Nibs decide on the kind of
a chromo he wants?"
White got up and walked back and forth on the balcony a few times.
Then he stopped, and laughed strangely. His face was flushed, and
his eyes were bright with a kind of angry amusement.
"Look here, Billy," he said, somewhat roughly, "when you first came
to me in my studio and mentioned a picture, I thought you wanted a
Smashed Oats or a Hair Tonic poster painted on a range of mountains
or the side of a continent. Well, either of those jobs would have
been Art in its highest form compared to the one you've steered me
against. I can't paint that picture, Billy. You've got to let me
out. Let me try to tell you what that barbarian wants. He had it
all planned out and even a sketch made of his idea. The old boy
doesn't draw badly at all. But, ye goddesses of Art! listen to the
monstrosity he expects me to paint. He wants himself in the center
of the canvas, of course. He is to be painted as Jupiter sitting
on Olympus, with the clouds at his feet. At one side of him stands
George Washington, in full regimentals, with his hand on the
president's shoulder. An angel with outstretched wings hovers
overhead, and is placing a laurel wreath on the president's head,
crowning him--Queen of the May, I suppose. In the background is
to be cannon, more angels and soldiers. The man who would paint
that picture would have to have the soul of a dog, and would deserve
to go down into oblivion without even a tin can tied to his tail
to sound his memory."
Little beads of moisture crept out all over Billy Keogh's brow.
The stub of his blue pencil had not figured out a contingency like
this. The machinery of his plan had run with flattering smoothness
until now. He dragged another chair upon the balcony, and got White
back to his seat. He lit his pipe with apparent calm.
"Now, sonny," he said, with gentle grimness, "you and me will have
an Art to Art talk. You've got your art and I've got mine. Yours
is the real Pierian stuff that turns up its nose at bock-beer signs
and oleographs of the Old Mill. Mine's the art of Business.
This was my scheme, and it worked out like two-and-two. Paint
that president man as Old King Cole, or Venus, or a landscape, or
a fresco, or a bunch of lilies, or anything he thinks he looks like.
But get the paint on the canvas and collect the spoils. You wouldn't
throw me down, Carry, at this stage of the game. Think of that ten
"I can't help thinking of it," said White, "and that's what hurts.
I'm tempted to throw every ideal I ever had down in the mire, and
steep my soul in infamy by painting that picture. That five thousand
meant three years of foreign study to me, and I'd almost sell my soul
for that. "
"Now it ain't as bad as that," said Keogh, soothingly. "It's a
business proposition. It's so much paint and time against money. I
don't fall in with your idea that that picture would so everlastingly
jolt the art side of the question. George Washington was all right,
you know, and nobody could say a word against the angel. I don't
think so bad of that group. If you was to give Jupiter a pair of
epaulets and a sword, and kind of work the clouds around to look like
a blackberry patch, it wouldn't make such a bad battle scene. Why,
if we hadn't already settled on the price, he ought to pay an extra
thousand for Washington, and the angel ought to raise it five
"You don't understand, Billy," said White, with an uneasy laugh.
"Some of us fellows who try to paint have big notions about Art.
I wanted to paint a picture some day that people would stand before
and forget that it was made of paint. I wanted it to creep into them
like a bar of music and mushroom there like a soft bullet. And I
wanted 'em to go away and ask, 'What else has he done?' And I didn't
want 'em to find a thing; not a portrait nor a magazine cover nor an
illustration nor a drawing of a girl--nothing but the picture. That's
why I've lived on fried sausages, and tried to keep true to myself.
I persuaded myself to do this portrait for the chance it might give me
to study abroad. But this howling, screaming caricature! Good Lord!
can't you see how it is?"
"Sure," said Keogh, as tenderly as he would have spoken to a child,
and he laid a long forefinger on White's knee. "I see. It's bad to
have your art all slugged up like that. I know. You wanted to paint
a big thing like the panorama of the battle of Gettysburg. But let me
kalsomine you a little mental sketch to consider. Up to date we're
out $385.50 on this scheme. Our capital took every cent both of us
could raise. We've got about enough left to get back to New York on.
I need my share of that ten thousand. I want to work a copper deal
in Idaho, and make a hundred thousand. That's the business end of
the thing. Come down off your art perch, Carry, and let's land that
hatful of dollars."
"Billy," said White, with an effort, "I'll try. I won't say I'll
do it, but I'll try. I'll go at it, and put it through if I can."
"That's business," said Keogh, heartily. "Good boy! Now, here's
another thing--rush that picture--crowd it through as quick as you
can. Get a couple of boys to help you mix the paint if necessary.
I've picked up some pointers around town. The people here are
beginning to get sick of Mr. President. They say he's been too free
with concessions; and they accuse him of trying to make a dicker with
England to sell out the country. We want that picture done and paid
for before there's any row."
In the great patio of Casa Morena, the president caused to be
stretched a huge canvas. Under this White set up his temporary
studio. For two hours each day the great man sat to him.
White worked faithfully. But, as the work progressed, he had seasons
of bitter scorn, of infinite self-contempt, of sullen gloom and
sardonic gaiety. Keogh, with the patience of a great general,
soothed, coaxed, argued--kept him at the picture.
At the end of a month White announced that the picture was completed--
Jupiter, Washington, angels, clouds, cannon and all. His face was
pale and his mouth drawn straight when he told Keogh. He said the
president was much pleased with it. It was to be hung in the National
Gallery of Statesmen and Heroes. The artist had been requested to
return to Casa Morena on the following day to receive payment. At
the appointed time he left the hotel, silent under his friend's
joyful talk of their success.
An hour later he walked into the room where Keogh was waiting, threw
his hat on the floor, and sat upon the table.
"Billy," he said, in strained and laboring tones, "I've a little money
out West in a small business that my brother is running. It's what
I've been living on while I've been studying art. I'll draw out my
share and pay you back what you've lost on this scheme."
"Lost!" exclaimed Keogh, jumping up. "Didn't you get paid for
"Yes, I got paid," said White. "But just now there isn't any picture,
and there isn't any pay. If you care to hear about it, here are the
edifying details. The president and I were looking at the painting.
His secretary brought a bank draft on New York for ten thousand
dollars and handed it to me. The moment I touched it I went wild.
I tore it into little pieces and threw them on the floor. A workman
was repainting the pillars inside the ~patio~. A bucket of his paint
happened to be convenient. I picked up his brush and slapped a quart
of blue paint all over that ten-thousand-dollar nightmare. I bowed,
and walked out. The president didn't move or speak. That was one
time he was taken by surprise. It's tough on you, Billy, but I
couldn't help it."
There seemed to be excitement in Coralio. Outside there was
a confused, rising murmur pierced by high-pitched cries. "~Bajo
el traidor--Muerte el traidor!~" were the words they seemed
"Listen to that!" exclaimed White, bitterly; "I know that much
Spanish. They're shouting, 'Down with the traitor!' I heard them
before. I felt that they meant me. I was a traitor to Art.
The picture had to go."
"'Down with the blank fool' would have suited your case better,"
said Keogh, with fiery emphasis. "You tear up ten thousand dollars
like an old rag because the way you've spread on five dollars' worth
of paint hurts your conscience. Next time I pick a side-partner in
a scheme the man has got to go before a notary and swear he never
even heard the word 'ideal' mentioned."
Keogh strode from the room, white-hot. White paid little attention
to his resentment. The scorn of Billy Keogh seemed a trifling thing
beside the greater self-scorn he had escaped.
In Coralio the excitement waxed. An outburst was imminent. The cause
of this demonstration of displeasure was,the presence in the town of
a big, pink-cheeked Englishman, who, it was said, was an agent of his
government come to clinch the bargain by which the president placed
his people in the hands of a foreign power. It was charged that not
only had he given away priceless concessions, but that the public debt
was to be transferred into the hands of the English, and the custom-
houses turned over to them as a guarantee. The long-enduring people
had determined to make their protest felt.
On that night, in Coralio and in other towns, their ire found vent.
Veiling mobs, mercurial but dangerous, roamed the streets. They
overthrew the great bronze statue of the president that stood in
the center of the plaza, and hacked it to shapeless pieces. They
tore from public buildings the tablets set there proclaiming the glory
of the "Illustrious Liberator." His pictures in the government
offices were demolished. The mobs even attacked the Casa Morena,
but were driven away by the military, which remained faithful to
the executive. All the night terror reigned.
The greatness of Losada was shown by the fact that by noon the next
day order was restored and he was still absolute. He issued
proclamations denying positively that any negotiation of any kind had
been entered into with England. Sir Stafford Vaughn, the pink-cheeked
Englishman, also declared in placards and in public print that his
presence there had no international significance. He was a traveller
without guile. In fact (so he stated), he had not even spoken with
the president or been in his presence since his arrival.
During this disturbance, White was preparing for his homeward voyage
in the steamship that was to sail within two or three days. About
noon, Keogh, the restless, took his camera out with the hope of
speeding the lagging hours. The town was now as quiet as if peace
had never departed from her perch on the red-tiled roofs.
About the middle of the afternoon, Keogh hurried back to the hotel
with something decidedly special in his air. He retired to the little
room where he developed his pictures.
Later on he came out to White on the balcony, with a luminous, grim
predatory smile on his face.
"Do you know what that is?" he asked, holding up a 4 x 5 photograph
mounted on cardboard.
"Snap-shot of a senorita sitting in the sand--alliteration
unintentional," guessed White, lazily.
"Wrong," saidKeogh with shining eyes. "It's a slung-shot. It's a can
of dynamite. It's a gold mine. It's a sight-draft on your president
man for twenty thousand dollars--yes, sir--twenty thousand this time,
and no spoiling the picture. No ethics of art in the way. Art! You
with your smelly little tubes! I've got you skinned to death with
a kodak. Take a look at that."
White took the picture in his hand, and gave a long whistle.
"Jove!" he exclaimed, "but wouldn't that stir up a row in town if
you let it be seen. How in the world did you get it, Billy?"
"You know that high wall around the president man's back garden?
I was up there trying to get a bird's eye of the town. I happened to
notice a chink in the wall where a stone and a lot of plaster had slid
out. Thinks I, I'll take a peep through to see how Mr. President's
cabbages are growing. The first thing I saw was him and this Sir
Englishman sitting at a little table about twenty feet away. They
had the table all spread over with documents, and they were hobnobbing
over them as thick as two pirates. 'Twas a nice corner of the garden,
all private and shady with palms and orange trees, and they had a pail
of champagne set by handy in the grass. I knew then was the time
for me to make my big hit in Art. So I raised the machine up to the
crack, and pressed the button. Just as I did so them old boys shook
hands on the deal--you see they took that way in the picture."
Keogh put on his coat and hat.
"What are you going to do with it?" asked White.
"Me," said Keogh in a hurt tone, "why, I'm going to tie a pink ribbon
to it and hang it on the what-not, of course. I'm surprised at you.
But while I'm out you just try to figure out what ginger-cake
potentate would be most likely to want to buy this work of art for
his private collection--just to keep it out of circulation."
The sunset was reddening the tops of the coconut palms when Billy
Keogh came back from Casa Morena. He nodded to the artist's
questioning gaze; and lay down on a cot with his hands under the back
of his head.
"I saw him. He paid the money like a little man. They didn't want
to let me in at first. I told 'em it was important. Yes, that
president man is on the plenty-able list. He's got a beautiful
business system about the way he uses his brains. All I had to do
was to hold up the photograph so he could see it, and name the price.
He just smiled, and walked over to a safe and got the cash. Twenty
one-thousand-dollar brand-new United States Treasury notes he laid on
the table, like I'd pay out a dollar and a quarter. Fine notes, too
--they crackled with a sound like burning the brush off a ten-acre
"Let's try the feel of one," said White, curiously. "I never saw
a thousand-dollar bill." Keogh did not immediately respond.
"Carry," he said, in an absent-minded way, "you think a heap of
your art, don't you?
"More," said White, frankly, "than has been for the financial good
of my self and my friends."
"I thought you were a fool the other day," went on Keogh, quietly,
"and I'm not sure now that you wasn't. But if you was, so am I. I've
been in some funny deals, Carry, but I've always managed to scramble
fair, and match my brains and capital against the other fellow's.
But when it comes to--well, when you've got the other fellow cinched,
and the screws on him, and he's got to put up--why, it don't strike me
as being a man's game. They've got a name for it, you know; it's--
confound you, don't you understand. A fellow feels--it's some thing
like that blamed art of yours--he--well, I tore that photograph up and
laid the pieces on that stack of money and shoved the whole business
back across the table. 'Excuse me, Mr. Losada,' I said, 'but I guess
I've made a mistake in the price. You get the photo for nothing.
Now, Carry, you get out the pencil, and we'll do some more figuring.
I'd like to save enough out of our capital for you to have some fried
sausages in your joint when you get back to New York.