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I A QUEER CONSULATE. Senor Antonio Smith, Spanish Consular Agent at Hookport, U.S.A., found himself in a singular diplo- matic position at the commencement of the recent Hispano-American trouble. He had just been notified by his Consul General that, relations with the United States being terminated, he was to turn over the archives to the care of the local Consular Agent of France, close his office and depart. This may not appear difficult, in view of the fact that Hookport was but a small place of two or three thousand inhabitants, so much fallen away from its earlier brisk trade with the West Indies that neither the Spanish or French agent receives a call for official services half a dozen times in a year. So that for the little town one man, and he Anthony Smith, sufficed for both of the foreign consulates. His fellow-towns- men had also obtained for him the position of post- master. He was also, incidentally, district clerk to a famous notary public of his State. This composite responsibility was taken seriously by Senor Antonio, M. Antoine, or plain Anthony Smith. Having much imagination, and quiet and limited surroundings, he magnified his offices like a chameleon, he took colour from the circumstances of the moment, however often and suddenly they might change. Smith was really an Englishman, who had spent years in business in Cuba and Martinique, and had been drafted to Hookport, where he had settled down. In a room adjoining the postoffice stood two roll- top desks, precisely alike, occupying the two front windows. Above one of these desks was draped the flag of Spain; the tricolor of France overhung the other. The archives were few, but arranged with an eye t6 effect, and tied with many yards of red tape the consular seals were also in evidence. In the windows above respectively hung the neatly framed painted signs: CONSULAR AGENCY OF SPAIN, ANTONIO SMITH," and CONSULAR AGENCY OF FRANCE, ANTOINE SMITH." And the same men who were hnil-fellows-well-met with Tony Smith in the postoffice were gravely cour- teous with Senor Antonio, or politely festive to Mon- sieur Antoine at the Consulates. At 10.45 on an April morning, the postmaster of Hookport, having opened the mail-bag, perceived among its contents a large official envelope bearing the seal of the Spanish Consul General and addressed to Senor Antonio Smith. Recent developments in regard to the political situation had prepared him for an international crisis. He turned red, then 'pale; but he placed the packet in its appropriate box, and went on distribut- ing the letters and handing out newspapers to the applicants outside the delivery window. When the rush was over, and only a few straggling individuals came in to inquire for letters, Mr. Smith called Foote, his assistant, and himself passed into the office of the consulates. Thence, a moment later, he came out, and, pre- senting himself at a small window, asked cautiously: Senor Assistant Postmaster, is there anything for the consular agency of Spain ?" Yes Senor," and Johnny Foote proffered the official document, which Senor Antonio took with a lofty expression of thanks. Johnny Foote, it may briefly be said, was a freckled towheaded youth, who adored his employer as the triple extract of all that there is of heroic and romantic, a bigger man than any to be found in history or in novels. It is true that the elaborate in- ternational parts which the official felt himself obliged to play seemed to Johnny a game. But it was a good game, indeed, Johnny judged; and in his awkward way the boy imitated and seconded his chief as best he could. Senor Antonio carried away the document, retired to the desk of the Spanish consulate, opened the envelope, and read his instructions with an air of ever-increasing gloom. Then he shouted Ola Juan 1" The useful Johnny instantly appeared. Yes, Senor." As clerk of the consulate agency of Spain you are now to learn that diplomatic relations between our government and that of the United States are terminated." The paper said so this morning," interrupted Johnny Foote." We have not known it officially until this mo- ment," corrected Antonio, and Johnny stood re- buked. In accordance with instructions from my Consul General," continued Antonio, I am about to con- fide the archives to my honourable colleague, the Consular Agent of France, Juan. It is your duty to carry them to him, and to safeguard them, if need be, with your life." With this, Senor Antonio piled up the packets of papers upon the willing arms of his assistant, crown- ing the heap with the metal stamp of the consulate. Johnry set out with a measured step toward the other side of the room. It had been the intention of M. Antoine to be seated at his desk, ready to receive the messenger, whose errand,his diplomatic sense must have foreseen. But, unluckily, Senor Antonio, in throwing away some useless papers, let fall into the Spanish waste basket a pair of scissors which, before relations with the United States had become strained, he had borrowed from the postoffice. In search for the scissors two or three minutes were lost, so that when M. Antoine entered the office of the French consulate the messenger was awaiting him. Good morning, Senor Juan," said the official with a fine unconsciousness of any crisis in affairs. The messenger, who did not know what he ought to say, answored simply: "Good morning, monsieur," and deposited the archives upon the desk of the friendly power. M. Antoine viewed the papers with an air of sudden concern. Does this mean, Senor Juan, that Spain has severed her relations with the United States?" I should say so, monsieur," responded Johnny Foote. The French Consular Agent wrote a receipt for the archives, rose to his feet and, handing the paper to the Spanish messenger, spread his hands elo- quently above the paper of his new trust. I beg you, Senor Juan, to convey this receipt to Don Antonio, assuring him that Spanish honour is safe with France, whose humble representative I have the happiness to be, and also present to him my personal condolences, with the assurances of my highest esteem." This time, on his way between the two consular agencies, Johnny Foote delayed to exchange signals with a friend under a back window, who wanted him to come out later to join in some sport. So that when he reached the Spanish desk Senor Antonio was sitting there in an attitude of noble grief, with an effect of hating remained immovable for several hours. Johnny delivered the receipt, and stated that M. Antoine is going to pitch into anybody that tries to lay hands on the Spanish things and he is awfully sorry for you, senor, and thinks just as much of you as though you were not down on your luck. And so do I, by Jingo added the boy loyally. Don Antonio silently arose from his chair then, mounting it, he took down the Spanish flag, which he carefully folded and laid upon the desk; then, having removed the sign from the window, he placed it with the flag. He closed and locked the desk. His career as a Spanish diplomat was at an end. He crossed the room and set to work to find places for archives intrusted to the guardianship of France. Johnny Foote, emboldened by the more cheerful looks of his superior, came to the side of the desk and stood fidgeting from one leg to the other. M. Antoine smiled at him. My dear Jean (for Johnny was now attached to the French consulate), what can I do for you ?" "If you don't want me, monsieur, I should like to go out a little while with the boys." U Ah I" murmured M. Antoine. "Without doubt. Go, my brave boy On the square-hewed timber near the edge of the wharf sat a row of ancient mariners, talking as they had talked for the last twenty years. They were thoroughly acquainted with one another's ideas, but certain subjects seemed to be made to be rolled over and over again in their mouths along with their tobacco. When other topics failed the peculiarities of Tony Smith were a continual resource, and just now the political crisis, instead of overshadowing his personality, seemed to bring it more strongly to light. I expect," observed one of the elders, that there ain't nobody in this country as much interested in the war as Tony Smith is." Well, you know, there's three of him, to view it from all aides," said another. Queer acting ain't he? Wasn't no mental afflic- tions in his family, was th1"e ?" ventured a straneer, iTskipper, in for repairs to his schooner. He was promptly disciplined. No, sir," responded the captain, who had spoken first. Good blood on both sides of the house. Anthony Smith is a likely "young man, excellent in every respect. Anything you observe that looks sing'lar in him is due to his stay in West Injys. Manners and customs is different there from ours, of course, and Tony stayed long enough to soak 'em into his natur' The other old men nodded their adhesion to this diagnosis. At that moment somebody saw a vessel rounding the point. By a well-known feature of its rigging it was made out to be the Miranda, Captain Soper, of Hookport, master and owner, on its return from Matanzas, where it had gone four months earlier with a load of timber and salted fish. Its captain, when on shore, was one of the chorus of elders who sat on the wharf to prophesy, and he had been much missed. His wife had accompanied him on the voyage, and her return with an assorted cargo of news was eagerly awaited by the ladies of the place. A topic of conversation was not easily let drop by the sages. First man that Captain Soper will want to see is Tony Smith," remarked one. Nobody doubted it. Then the chorus took to professional appreciations of the course of the schooner. The old captains stood in line on the wharf to welcome their crony and his wife. But everybody was surprised to see a third person with the excellent couple, a walking bundle of wraps that still was re- cognisable as a young girl. From under a "pumpkin hood" and above a worsted muffler gleamed a pair of magnificient southern eyes. A Cuban girl! Our young friend, Miss Manuelita Garcia, of Matanzas," Mrs. Soper told the captains. The stay-at-home mariners now enjoyed the glory of informing Captain Soper that while he was on the sea, war had been practically declared. It's a mercy that we hadn't been overhauled for a prize, and I feel thankful," declared the good man. Now, I must see the Spanish Consul at once," he contined, for I've got a letter for him from an old friend in Matanzas." By this time the boys had left off playing and come down to the wharf. Johnny Foote, as ex-clerk of the consular agency of Spain, spoke to Captain Soper: Spanish Consul's gone away, sir. But he has left his papers with the French Consul, and you can see him. He is there. And the postmaster, too, sir," Johnny added, as an afterthought. Eh ?" said Captain Soper, for the moment puzzled. Tony Smith is there all right," exclaimed one of the mariners. Oh, yes, of course. My dear, you see about getting the things on to some kind of a lighter and steer for your sister Byram's. I will run on ahead to see Tony, and you can overhaul me at the post- office." The postmaster sat on the steps of the office alone and in deep thought; when he saw someone coming near, he threw a small object neatly behind some stones—perhaps forgetting who he was just then. Mr. Smith had been wooing peace of mind with one of the cigarettes of the departed Senor Antonio. He arose ouickly. Glad to see you, Captain Soper. Welcome home again, sir!" he hailed, heartily. But over the fine careless rapture of the meeting was cast a shade of melancholy when the captain, without ceremony, handed a letter to the post- master, who at once saw the handwriting of a Cuban friend. From your old master, Don Serafino Garcia," said the captain, cheerfully. Good many years since he saw you, but he remembers you well, Tony. His wife has been dead for some time, and he was terrible put out to know what to do with his little gifl. You remember Manuelita, I daresay. She must hive been a mite of a little tot, at the time that you were in Matanzas. She ain't !Put sixteen now. Well, m'wife just took to that sweet, pretty creature, and we've brought her home with us to stay for a time, at any rate till the troubles in Cuba are over. The way Senor Garcia talked about you! Tony, I thought he desired that you might take it into your head to marry her. Well, this letter will speak for him, and I must go along now, for here are my women folks." They made a picture as the ox cart came up the street, the two "women seated among a heap of sea- chests, bundles, and a queer, foreign-looking small black trunk. The boys had resolved themselves into a guard of honour. Johnny Foote bore the ox-goad, and gee'd in a friendly fashion at the big, lumbering animals. Heave to, there!" shouted Captain Soper and the team was halted. Here's Tony Smith, my dear," said the Captain. Miss Garcia, Mr. Smith." One-blue mitten, so spacious that it had an appear- ance of emptiness, was pulled off by some force con- cealed in its mate. and a slender little creamy hand was timidly extended toward Tony. As he took her slight fingers she lifted her black-fringed eyelids and shot a soft, brilliant glance straight into his eyes, and down into the heart of Anthony Smith, of M. Antoine, even so far as the heart of Senor Antonio, late con- sular agent of Spain. That glance was a formidable projectile. The ox team started again on its way, Captain Soper walking behind. You be sure and come up'to see us in the evening, Tony," Mrs. Soper called out to him. Thank you, ma'am I will with pleasure if I can. But this is my busy day," he replied, vaguely. He watched the group until it turned the corner toward Byram's house. Then he thought of Don Serafino Garcia's letter, and went into the post office to read it. But it was addressed to Senor Antonio Smith, con- sular agent of Spain. The postmaster sighed. Not for me," he judged. Then he had the right idea. That letter must be consigned to the French consular agent." He looked round for a messenger, but Johnny by this time was probably helping to unload the ox team, so that Mr. Smith was obliged to carry the letter in person. He laid it upon the desk of the'French consulate; then seated himself and opened the envelope. Don Serafino Garcia wrote thus My very dear and esteemed friend Smith." That's me—any one of me," noted M. Antoine, with satisfaction. "I am committing no indiscretion. The letter is not of a personal nature." But as he continued to read, the loyal diplomat, he began to have his scruples. After some generalities concerning the state of the island and of business he saw these phrases with increasing alarm: To you, most excellent friend, I wish to recom- mend my only daughter, Manuelita, the eye of my soul. To a father be it permitted that he speak plainly—if your heart, Clear-Don Antonio—" Clap went the palm of M. Antoine over the ensu- ing words, that he might not behold them. "This is too personal by half," he declared. "I have no right to learn the private affairs of my Spanish ex-colleague. That, indeed would be indiscreet!" and he gave a very Gallic laugh and shrug. But Postmaster Anthony Smith had heard what Captain Soper had said about Don Serafino Garcia's hopes, and M. Antoine had not been able to ignore the overtures to Senor Antonio. There could be no doubt, the question must be settled then and there whether Mrs. Soper's invita- tion be accepted or not. Because it was certain that a few more glances from those glorious eyes of Manuelita would conquer the whole triple alliance of Smith. M. Antoine sat immersed in thought. Finally he came to a diplomatic conclusion to this effect: Senor Antonio, Consulate Agent of Spain, has departed officially he no longer exists; he is defunct. His affairs are, by instructions from his government, committed to the care of the French Consulate. Now in this time of crisis could a Spanish official wed a Cuban woman ? That is the ultimatum in the case of Don Antonio. While I-M. Antoine, French- Consulate Agent, am bound by international honour to remain strictly neutral, a state of mind quite in- compatible with the lively affections which should be the basis of marriage. "So I am out of it, too. But my opinion in this critical case would be that the postmaster, Mr. Anthony Smith, may, individually and officially, with great propriety, contract a matrimonial alliance with the daughter of Don Serafino Garcia of Matan- eas, his old friend and employer." Outside the consular window could be seen the boys returning from escort duty. Mr. Smith ran to the door of the postoffice. "Johnny I" he called to his factotum, you run back and tell Mrs. Soper that I shall have the pleasure of calling on the ladies this evening.'




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