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The Theory And The Hound
by [?]

The Pajaro paused at the mouth of the harbour, rolling heavily in the swell that sent the whitecaps racing beyond the smooth water inside. Already two dories from the village–one conveying fruit inspectors, the other going for what it could get–were halfway out to the steamer.

The inspectors’ dory was taken on board with them, and the Pajaro steamed away for the mainland for its load of fruit.

The other boat returned to Ratona bearing a contribution from the Pajaro’s store of ice, the usual roll of newspapers and one passenger–Taylor Plunkett, sheriff of Chatham County, Kentucky.

Bridger, the United States consul at Ratona, was cleaning his rifle in the official shanty under a bread-fruit tree twenty yards from the water of the harbour. The consul occupied a place somewhat near the tail of his political party’s procession. The music of the band wagon sounded very faintly to him in the distance. The plums of office went to others. Bridger’s share of the spoils–the consulship at Ratona–was little more than a prune–a dried prune from the boarding-house department of the public crib. But $900 yearly was opulence in Ratona. Besides, Bridger had contracted a passion for shooting alligators in the lagoons near his consulate, and was not unhappy.

He looked up from a careful inspection of his rifle lock and saw a broad man filling his doorway. A broad, noiseless, slow-moving man, sunburned almost to the brown of Vandyke. A man of forty-five, neatly clothed in homespun, with scanty light hair, a close-clipped brown-and-gray beard and pale-blue eyes expressing mildness and simplicity.

“You are Mr. Bridger, the consul,” said the broad man. “They directed me here. Can you tell me what those big bunches of things like gourds are in those trees that look like feather dusters along the edge of the water?”

“Take that chair,” said the consul, reoiling his cleaning rag. “No, the other one–that bamboo thing won’t hold you. Why, they’re cocoanuts–green cocoanuts. The shell of ’em is always a light green before they’re ripe.”

“Much obliged,” said the other man, sitting down carefully. “I didn’t quite like to tell the folks at home they were olives unless I was sure about it. My name is Plunkett. I’m sheriff of Chatham County, Kentucky. I’ve got extradition papers in my pocket authorizing the arrest of a man on this island. They’ve been signed by the President of this country, and they’re in correct shape. The man’s name is Wade Williams. He’s in the cocoanut raising business. What he’s wanted for is the murder of his wife two years ago. Where can I find him?”

The consul squinted an eye and looked through his rifle barrel.

“There’s nobody on the island who calls himself ‘Williams,'” he remarked.

“Didn’t suppose there was,” said Plunkett mildly. “He’ll do by any other name.”

“Besides myself,” said Bridger, “there are only two Americans on Ratona–Bob Reeves and Henry Morgan.”

“The man I want sells cocoanuts,” suggested Plunkett.

“You see that cocoanut walk extending up to the point?” said the consul, waving his hand toward the open door. “That belongs to Bob Reeves. Henry Morgan owns half the trees to loo’ard on the island.”

“One, month ago,” said the sheriff, “Wade Williams wrote a confidential letter to a man in Chatham county, telling him where he was and how he was getting along. The letter was lost; and the person that found it gave it away. They sent me after him, and I’ve got the papers. I reckon he’s one of your cocoanut men for certain.”

“You’ve got his picture, of course,” said Bridger. “It might be Reeves or Morgan, but I’d hate to think it. They’re both as fine fellows as you’d meet in an all-day auto ride.”

“No,” doubtfully answered Plunkett; “there wasn’t any picture of Williams to be had. And I never saw him myself. I’ve been sheriff only a year. But I’ve got a pretty accurate description of him. About 5 feet 11; dark-hair and eyes; nose inclined to be Roman; heavy about the shoulders; strong, white teeth, with none missing; laughs a good deal, talkative; drinks considerably but never to intoxication; looks you square in the eye when talking; age thirty-five. Which one of your men does that description fit?”