Cabbages and Kings HTML version
II. The Lotus And The Bottle
Willard Greddie, consul for the United States in Coralio, was working leisurely on his
yearly report. Goodwin, who had strolled in as he did daily for a smoke on the much
coveted porch, had found him so absorbed in his work that he departed after roundly
abusing the consul for his lack of hospitality.
"I shall complain to the civil service department," said Goodwin;-- "or is it a
department?--perhaps it's only a theory. One gets neither civility nor service from you.
You won't talk; and you won't set out anything to drink. What kind of a way is that of
representing your government?"
Goodwin strolled out and across to the hotel to see if he could bully the quarantine doctor
into a game on Coralio's solitary billiard table. His plans were completed for the
interception of the fugitives from the capital; and now it was but a waiting game that he
had to play.
The consul was interested in his report. He was only twenty-four; and he had not been in
Coralio long enough for his enthusiasm to cool in the heat of the tropics--a paradox that
may be allowed between Cancer and Capricorn.
So many thousand bunches of bananas, so mnay thousand oranges and coconuts, so many
ounces of gold dust, pounds of rubber, coffee, indigo and sarparilla--actually, exports
were twenty per cent greater than for the previous year!
A little thrill of satisfaction ran through the consul. Perhaps, he thought, the State
Department, upon reading his introduction, would notice--and then he leaned back in his
chair and laughed. He was getting as bad as the others. For the moment he had forgotten
that Coralio was an insignificant republic lying along the by-ways of a second-rate sea.
He thought of Gregg, the quarantine doctor, who subscribed for the London ~Lancet~,
expecting to find it quoting his reports to the home Board of Health concerning the
yellow fever germ. The consul knew that not one in fifty of his acquaintances in the
States had ever heard of Coralio. He knew that two men, at any rate, would have to read
his report--some underling in the State Department and a compositor in the Public
Printing Office. Perhaps the typesticker would note the increase of commerce in Coralio,
and speak of it, over the cheese and beer, to a friend.
He had just written: "Most unaccountable is the supineness of the large exporters in the
United States in permitting the French and German houses to practically control the trade
interests of this rich and productive country"--when he heard the hoarse notes of a
Geddie laid down his pen and gathered his Panama hat and umbrella. By the sound he
knew it to be the ~Valhalla~, one of the line of fruit vessels plying for the Vesuvius