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The Gun Runners
by [?]

“We’ll land here, Mrs. Dunlap.”

Ramon Santos, terror of the Washington State Department and of a half dozen consulates in New York, stuck a pin in a map of Central America spread out on a table before Constance.

“Insurrectos will meet us,” he pursued, then added, “but we must have money, first, my dear Senora, plenty of money.”

Dark of eye and skin, with black imperial and mustache, tall, straight as an arrow, Santos had risen and was now gazing down with rapt attention, not at the map, but at Constance herself.

Every curve of her face and wave of her hair, every line of her trim figure which her filmy gown seemed to accentuate rather than conceal added fire to his ardent glances.

He touched lightly another pin sticking in a little, almost microscopic island of the Caribbean.

“Our plan, it is simple,” he continued with animation in spite of his foreign accent. “On this island a plant to print paper money, to coin silver. With that we shall land, pay our men as they flock to us, collect forces, seize cities, appropriate the customs. Once we start, it is easy.”

Constance looked up quickly. “But that is counterfeiting,” she exclaimed.

“No,” rejoined Santos, “it is a war measure. We–the provisional government–merely coin our own money. Besides, it will not be done in this country. It will not come under your laws.”

There was a magnetism about the man that fascinated her, as he stood watching the effect of his words. Instinctively she knew that it was not alone enthusiasm over his scheme that inspired his confidences.

“Though we are not counterfeiters,” he went on, “we do not know what moment our opponents may set your Secret Service to destroy all our hopes. Besides, we must have money–now–to buy machinery, arms, ammunition. We must find some one,” he lowered his voice, “who can persuade American bankers and merchants to take risks to gain valuable concessions in the new state.”

Santos was talking rapidly and earnestly, urging his case on her.

“We are prepared,” he hurried on confidentially, “to give you, Senora, half the money that you can raise for these purposes.”

He paused and stood before her. He was certainly a handsome figure, this soldier of fortune, and he was at his best now.

Constance looked out of the window of her sitting room. This was a business proposition, not to be influenced by any sentiment.

She watched the lights moving up and down the river and bay. There were craft from the ends of the earth. She speculated on the romantic secrets hidden in liner and tramp. Surely they could scarcely be more romantic than the appeal Santos was making.

“Will you help us?” urged Santos, leaning further over the map to read her averted face.

In her loneliness after she had given up Murray Dodge, life in New York had seemed even more bitter to Constance than before. Yet the great city cast a spell over her, with its countless opportunities for adventure. She could not leave it, but had taken a suite in a quiet boarding house overlooking the bay from the Heights in Brooklyn.

One guest in particular had interested her. He was a Latin American, Ramon Santos. She noticed that he seldom appeared at breakfast or luncheon. But at dinner he often, ordered much as if it were seven o’clock in the morning instead of the evening. He was a mystery and mysteries interested her. Did he work all night and sleep all day? What was he doing?

She was astonished a few nights after her arrival to receive a call from the mysterious evening breakfaster.

“Pardon–I intrude,” he began gracefully, presenting his card. “But I have heard how clever you are, Senora Dunlap. A friend, in an importing firm, has told me of you, a Mr. Dodge.”

Constance was startled at the name. Murray had indeed written a little note expressing his entire confidence in Mr. Santos. Formal as it was, Constance thought she could read between the lines the same feeling toward her that he had expressed at their parting.