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A BEAT ON EL CORREO
BY WALTER ADOLF ROBERTS
ON LUIS ROMERO It was with reflections that were none pushed back the pap- the pleasantest that he went about his
on his desk and work for the remainder of that day. Was D
turned ponderously to ever a man called upon to endure such inface the young man justice as this, he brooded. He loved Inez who was seated at his and Inez loved him. His people at home elbow.
were wealthy; he was chief reporter on
Caballero,” The Gatherer, and well able to support a he said. “It cannot be. Can you not wife. Surely in this languid Southern see it for yourself? You are an American land the last thing he could have expected -I am a Puerto Rican. Inez should to encounter was a commercialism demarry one of her own people. But, I manding more than this. Yet from Don could pass that by were it not for the Luis had come what amounted to a denewspaper. Your business day by day is mand that he desert the life's work he to oppose me, to get—what do you call had adopted and turn, he supposed, to them, the beats ? How can you think planting, or anything else that would be that Inez could become the wife of a certain not to harm the circulation of man who is paid to damage her father's El Correo. He might marry Inez and business ?"
take his wife home; but no, Inez had told "But, Senor," protested the young man, him that she could never stand the Northdismayed, “how can I do El Correo any ern winter. They would have to find harm ? The Gatherer is American
some other way. newspaper; yours is printed in Spanish. But from Inez, when he broached the We have different class of readers. matter that evening, he received small enThe news that I report is read only by couragement. the American residents."
She had stolen out to meet him in His eyes were cast moodily down, and he their old trysting place, a garden seat that missed the twinkle that for a moment lit was almost hidden by clinging white jasthose of Don Luis.
mine, and was so deep in the shadow of “Ah, bueno, Senor Grant, but you a blossom-laden orange tree that the eyes Americanos, you are teaching my people of even the keenest of duenas could be your language. It will not be long be- trusted to pass it by unnoticed. fore our own children forget their father's “Vida mia,” he whispered in reply to tongue. But I will say no more.
You the thousand sweet Spanish names she have been in San Juan three months, is it had murmured with lips against his ear. not? As yet you have not had much time "You will not let anything come between to injure El Correo. Within a month I us, little one!
But what will you say will see you again and then we will de- when I tell you that your father has recide the matter. It is useless to say more. fused his blessing ?” Adios, adios! See, I bear you no ill-will. She drew back slightly from him, and Here is my hand.”
with head on hand listened to the recital Grant was at first inclined to ignore of the morning's events. what he regarded as a piece of hypocrisy, Then her laugh rang out musical and but thinking better of it, he took clear. Romero's hand, and drawing himself up “That is not much," she answered very stiff and erect, walked out into the him. “We will not cease to love, but we street.
will wait the month and then we will see.
Is not that what you say: 'We will see ?'” willing to wager fifty dollars that I'll go Nor could he get from her another word a long way towards wiping it out to-day. of encouragement though their little ten- If I do not have the better story of the dernesses lasted long into the quiet West two in print on Tuesday morning I'll acIndian night.
knowledge you to be my superior with “She does not understand,” Grant told pleasure. Is that a bet?” himself bitterly. “She thinks that I will "Done!” cried Grant, and as the puffgive up my work, but that I will never do. ing, sweating locomotive drew up at the We can find some other way.”
Madreluna station they shook hands over It was two days later that McPherson, it, and with a new interest created, stepped the Scotch editor, gave the young re- out on to the platform. porter the most important assignment In the town hall that afternoon they that had come his way since his conversa- sat together at the reporters' table and listion with Don Luis. At Madreluna, a tened to the fiery eloquence of the local town in the mountains seventy miles away, politicians. The negroes
far outnumthere was a mass meeting to be held in bered the whites in this mountain district, connection with the nomination of a dele- but they were inclined to be submissive. gate to Congress.
Spanish rule had not been of the kind to It was Saturday, and Grant had barely teach them that their votes had much the time to catch the last train that would weight, and the endorsement of the white run to Madreluna until the following planter Vaz seemed certain. As the afMonday. In the car with him he found ernoon wore on, however, a negro lawyer Diego Romero, a nephew of his prospec- rose to address the house. He was pertive father-in-law, who wrote for El Cor- suasive of tongue, and in a short time had reo, and who had been sent to report the the attention of the colored voters atmass meeting for the Spanish newspaper. tracted to his programme. He recomProfessionally they knew each other, and mended the endorsement of Alvarezit was not long before they were frater- "the only man who could faithfully repnizing over a couple of black native resent a community like their's in the brevas.
great forum of the nation." “So El Correo does not intend to be ceedings began to look exciting, and the left this time,” remarked Grant.
reporters saw visions of a half page story “No, but this is easy. There is no beat in place of the single column they had for either of us in this, amigo. The peo- anticipated, for even the endorsement of ple of Madreluna are not very original. a negro would cause a big flutter in the They will probably clamor for Francisco island. Half an hour later the mass meetVaz. He is what you call a safe politi- ing recommended the candidacy of Alcian. Garcia has no chance, and even if varez by a large majority. they do the unexpected and swing over to Shoulder to shoulder Grant and Romero the negro Alvarez, the best we can get in pushed their way through the crowd totomorrow's paper will be a telegram." ” wards the telegraph station. Every jour“I suppose so.
There is not the oppor- nalistic instinct in the former was aroused tunity in this that there was in the mur- —the memory of the old days in New der case at Ponce, eh?”
York came back to him, and with every Romero flushed with chagrin as he re- nerve a-tingle he swore under his breath membered the defeat he had suffered a that he would score a "beat” on El Cormonth before when Grant had succeeded reo that would make every newspaper in obtaining for The Gatherer the details
reader in Puerto Rico sit up and take of the most sensational murder that had notice. Ah, if he were only on Park Row been committed in years. He had sought now! He felt that it would be easy to those details himself, but had failed mis- have an extra in the hands of the newserably and had called down on his head boys before the sleepy West Indian had the full vials of his uncle's wrath.
finished writing his introduction. But “Very well," he said irritably. "You here in Madreluna, what could he do? do not choose to forget old stories. It is They would wire practically the same true. I have a score against you and I am news back to San Juan, and for full de
tails the public would have to wait until Would not his chances of winning Inez be Tuesday morning. The last train had ruined forever? Grant's resolution was left for the capital hours ago, nor would shaken. For the space of a few minutes there be another before Monday.
the lover and the reporter struggled for Suddenly, however, an inspiration came supremacy in his mind.
The result was to him. It was the sight of Romero a victory for the latter accompanied by a lounging towards the hotel after they had concession to the former. He would ride despatched their messages that offended to San Juan with his story, and Inez, his sense of the fitness of things to the en- why Inez would admire his dash so much durance limit.
that she would marry him with or with"Does that fellow deserve to be called out her father's consent. a reporter ?” he asked himself
himself indig- A quarter of an hour later Grant nantly. He would doubtless take a siesta slipped out of the hotel and made his way until supper time, sleep until ten o'clock to a livery stable at the further end of the the next morning, write his report some town.
Here he hired a mountain pony time during the day, and kill the time that could be depended upon for endurwith cocktails and cigars while he waited for the morning train. Surely there was The southern moonlight shone softly some way of getting to San Juan first ! down upon him as he rode out of MadreYes, by thunder, he had it. It was sev- luna. He went slowly at first, for the enty miles over a rough road, but men roads were bad and he had twenty miles had ridden that distance on horseback be- to cover before he would leave the mounfore, and why could not he?
tains behind him and settle down to the His mind once made up, Grant laid fifty miles 'cross country dash that would his plans craftily. Passing Romero in the bring him to San Juan. The road was hall, he hailed the West Indian pleasantly. crowded with parties of native men and
"Hola, Amigo! I am going upstairs women returning from the mass meeting to write. You know my plan. I never or from the weekly market that is a feawait until the first impression has had ture of all the smaller Puerto Rican time to wear off.”
towns. They were chatting merrily, and "Bueno, bueno! I will wait until to- never failed to hail him
pleasant morrow. Where is the hurry? Sleep the "Buenas Noches" as he passed. Later night, say I, over even the smallest mat- the travelers he met were
more silent. ter.”
The solemnity of the tropical night had At supper, however, Grant again ac- exerted its influence upon them, and the costed his rival. The closely written re- only sounds that passed their lips were an port lay against his breast, but he blandly occasion
occasional Spanish strain, sung quaverremarked:
ingly to keep away the ghosts. “The afternoon was too warm, and I At Santa Catalina, a little village on did no work. I shall not be able to play the shoulder of the mountain range, he cards with you to-night, as I shall re- stopped and rested his horse. The main main in my room and get my story ready.” building was a retail store, in which one
Romero protested. He had looked for could obtain any small need from a drink ward to a quiet evening over the cards, of rum to a pair of shoe-laces. Grant did and failed to appreciate the American's not leave the saddle, but drew up in front uncalled-for energy. Grant, however, was of the store and eat there with the reins obdurate and retraced his steps to his hanging loose on his mount's neck. Horse room, leaving strict injunctions with the
and man and building were buried deep hotel attendants that he should not be in the shadow of a clump of bananas. The disturbed before the next morning. broad leaves swished slowly from side to
It was while he made his final prepara- side, and ever and anon a moonbeam tions that a new aspect of the case pre- struck down upon them, danced unsteadsented itself. What would the editor of ily from side to side and disappeared. El Correo say when he found his paper From every direction came the croaking so badly left behind, and all on account of of a multitude of tree-frogs, varied now the man who sought his daughter's hand.
and then by the hoot of an owl or the
shrill screeching of a cricket.
forty miles more to go, and he must have The proprietor of the store lounged to ten miles more behind him before he the door and opened it. Grant hailed him could afford to change his mount. and enquired if he were on the right road At a little wayside tavern he at length to San Juan.
paused for the double purpose of eating “The road to San Juan !” exclaimed the and obtaining a new horse. The former man, astonished. “Yes, but does the Senor was easy of accomplishment, but the latride to San Juan tonight? Does he know ter delayed the reporter longer than he that it is more than fifty miles away?” had anticipated. The proprietor had a
“Yes, he knows it," bantered the re- horse, but he was not willing to hire it porter gaily. "He has promised an ador- out. He might never see it again, he able Senorita who lives on the Calle de averred. Who could tell what a crazy Buena Esperanza that he will kiss her Americano would do, who rode towards before the sunlight has dried the dew to- San Juan this hot Sunday morning when morrow morning."
he should be attending Mass. The sight “Of a truth, the Gringo is mad!" mut- of ten good American dollars, however, tered the philosopher of the hills sol- overcame his reluctance. That, anyway, emnly. “That one should ride fifty miles was nearly half the value of his shaky to please a foolish girl! There are kisses steed. So he transferred the saddle from to be had in Santa Catalina, Senor." the weary pony and Grant rode swiftly on.
“There are none I would exchange for The sun was still high in the sky when the one I seek,” shouted Grant, as he dug he galloped over the San Antonio Bridge his spurs into his horse's flank and rode into San Juan. Down the street he sped, on.
scattering the crowds of dirty beggars He did not draw rein again until the and half-naked children, until at length last slope had been descended, and in the he drew rein before the office of The Gathbrilliant moonlight he saw the savannahs rolling away into the distance.
McPherson, the Scotch editor, was lollIt was then past midnight, and for the ing back before a window as Grant dashed sake of horse and rider he decided to in. His lips parted in an exclamation of break the journey for an hour or two. surprise, but the young man, drawing the Some twenty feet from the side of the report from his breast pocket, threw it on road an enormous silk cotton tree reared the desk and spoke first. its head into the sky. Between its but- “We beat El Correo by a day,” he cried. tressed roots he knew he would find shel- “Diego Romero is still in Madreluna, and ter, so making his way to the spot, he cannot get ahead of us now.” hobbled his horse and threw himself down
A slow smile passed over McPherson's on the ground to sleep.
face. Three hours later he awoke, re-saddled "Young man," he said, with eyes that and pursued his way.
twinkled humorously, "I did no' tell ye The air smote keen and fresh on his
to be here on the Sabbath day. Our face. A breath of life, of youth, in these friends in San Juan would no' have been clear morning hours greeted every sense. deesappointed." It was magnificent, exhilarating, as mile "I learned my business on Park Row, after mile he sped on. The sun rose and sir,” answered Grant, simply. shone brilliantly down upon the fields of sugar cane that flanked the road
The appearance of The Gatherer the either side. Behind him lay the moun- following morning with a full account of tains, great masses of blue against the the proceedings at Madreluna caused a sky.
mild flutter among the English-speaking As the day crept on, the dew that had residents of San Juan. Nor did it pass lain heavily on the grass evaporated, and unnoticed among the Spanish population. the heat rose upwards as fiercely as it beat True, the news was not of immense imdown from the cloudless sky. Horse and portance, but a beat was a beat, and all man drooped visibly. But only thirty newspaper men were naturally eaten up miles had been
with envy. It was with a swagger of sat
isfaction that Grant covered his daily
his daily have suggested to my esteemed relative route in search of news. His heart, how- that he should do the same? But no, El ever, experienced a strange sensation of Correo needed an assistant editor and I instability when a few days later he en- a son-in-law. There were two applicants countered Don Luis in the vicinity of the for the latter position and but one for the office of El Correo. He had met Inez former. But, to myself I said: 'He who secretly, of course, and had enjoyed to gets one gets both.'
gets one gets both. What do you say, the full the sweet mead of praise and ad- you Americanos—‘Let the best man win?' miration to which he had looked forward Well, Puerto Rico is American now. That from the first as his greatest reward. But will do for all of us." an encounter with inamorata's father he Grant flushed with rage as he learned somehow wished to avoid.
for the first time of the rival he had had He turned to make his escape, but Don in Diego Romero for the hand of Inez. Luis perceived him, and with an elaborate Then, as he realized the full meaning of salute so clearly indicated a desire to speak Don Luis’s words, he turned and faced with him that Grant found himself the latter. obliged to cross the Calle with the best "But 1-1,” he stammered, "I did that grace possible, and walk with Romero to- for which you most condemned me. You wards the latter's office.
cannot think me capable of helping you “Did you know," said the editor, easily, on El Correo.” “that Diego writes no more for El Cor- “Your knowledge of Spanish, Senor, is reo?”
excellent, for an American. That I al“I am sorry to hear it. We wagered ways knew, but I did not know of what fifty dollars on that little affair at Madre- else you were capable. I do not think you luna, but I did not mean to compass his will want to “beat” El Correo another ruin.”
time; and Inez, well, I will reconsider “He compassed his own ruin. Do you what I said about waiting for a month bethink, Senor, that I too could not have fore deciding. Inez is old enough to deridden to San Juan, or that I could not cide for herself.”
TWILIGHT IN THE HILLS
BY MARY J. ELMENDORF
Like sudden shadows from a summer cloud
On shining seas of wheat, Dusk trails her wings
Across the mellow West and open flings
Of blue till Morn her golden scabbard brings
To sheath the crescent moon that slowly swings
The simple harmonies of Nature claim
The smouldering heart within me leaps to flame.