Turk and Margarida
By Clarence L. Cullen
Drawings by Peter Newell
TURK O'FALLON (of Topeka and Tangier and
eke of Tunis and Truxillo and Everywhere)
told this one without urging, for the reason
that, as appeared at the finish, it was "on him."
When the subject matter of a story threatens to
aureole him in an agreeable or victorious glamour,
Turk, being diffident to the verge of bashfulness,
has to be cajoled into the role of narrator. But
when he knows that the conclusion will find him
impaled on the point of the incident, he is willing
enough to oblige with the tale. Thus true great
ness inevitably reveals itself in modest midriffs.
'' Because I ve got a name?the front part of it
accidental?that listens like the Star and Crescent
of the Ottoman Empire and the harp of Erin com
mingled, the New York ship news reporters, as soon
as they saw my nont dc hike on the passenger list
of the incoming Panama steamer, danced a ring
around rosy with me in the middle on the main
deck. I was sunburnt; my hat?the only one I
had?had three dents in it; I was nibbling on a
brownish cigarette; my oriental occidental monaker
was enrolled as you know it on the passenger list;
and ship news was (or were) scarce at the moment.
That was the combination. That's why the ship
news reporters made the cordon around me. The
three dents in my hat alone were enough to indi
cate to them that I knew all about the nine vaude
ville revolutions that were then simmering in Cen
tral America; all about the hooded cobras of the
Orinoco; all about Vene
zuela and the inner work
"She Wai Making Sad Work Getting Out."
Santos and Pernambuco.?that I must know all
about everything coming off, or likely to, south of
Key West and this side of the Sargasso Sea.
"And I did. Seeing that they asked me and were
so pressing about it, I did know all about every
thing, and freely told them all.
"As a matter of fact, I'd been down in Bogotd
only to see what the inauguration of a Colombian
President looked like, and maybe to find out if the
sportier elements of the Bogota populace would
hold out inducements to somebody who'd start a
roller skating rink for them.
"But I couldn't say that?could I??to eleven
ship news reporters who told me that I might just
as well go ahead and regurgitate all about every
thing in Central and South America; might as well,
that is, if I expected them to turn me loose and
permit me to land.
CO, corraled, I told the ship news reporters all,
^ and a good deal of it was printed. Told them
that I was the important noise in only seven out of
the nine slapstick revolutions then pending or im
pending in Central America; but that, concerning
the other two with which I was only indirectly con
nected, I'd try to answer any questions they cared
to submit. I sort of let it drop that I was tninking
of sifting down to Washington presently to see if
I couldn't buy a few warships from the Navy De
partment ; for some of us had it in mind, I intimated
vaguely, that perhaps we'd fetch the Braganza
family back from Portugal and put 'em back on
the throne of Brazil. Tossed it out in a hesitating
kind of a way, too, that Castro and I had been talk
ing a lot lately about the partition of Honduras,
and that maybe we'd get at that job after the rest
of the revolutions were cleaned up and laid away.
Said that delegations of folks from Paraguay who
wanted to make me Dictator of that country had
been bothering me a good deal lately; but that I
couldn't think, of course, of assuming any more
dictatorships, having such a big string of those
things already on hand.
"Yes, I told those ship news reporters all; didn't
withhold anything whatever from them. They had
me hemmed in on the main deck close to the mid
ships engine-room hatch, whence the hot steam was
issuing, and the hot steam suggested things to me.
So I told them all?plus a few.
"I figured, of course, that they'd know I was
only dishing up a little of that old No. 7 brand
of comic supplement bunk; but if they knew it
they didn't let anybody else in on it?the readers
who read the interviews, I mean. You never saw
or heard of such a serious and solemn little layout
of young interviews about Central and South
American affairs as appeared in the newspapers on
the next day, with T. O'Fallon standing in the
middle of the printed pages, metaphorically speak
ing, moaning for hogsheads of revolutionary blood
and then a lot more of the same. They pictured
me as the revoluter what was; stated that I had
the negotiable papyri in my nankeens wherewith
to purchase most of the warships and all of the
arsenal stores in the United States for use in con
nection with my personally conducted revolutions;
and played me up generally as a Simon Bolivar in
a three-dented hat and with a consuming hatred
* ? 'HAT'S what started it. That's what caused all
the former and would-be prowlers then living
in Xew York and its environs to call upon me. I
took my old rooms over a little Spanish-American
restaurant on Avenue A. The proprietor of that
snug haven?it had often been pretty snug for me?
was an ex-Guatemalan friend of mine, a kombre who
knew how to smile and shrug on settling day if his
guests lacked the increment wherewith to settle.
He had a lot of smiling and shrugging practice with
me; but I always decorated his till out of the first
fruits of a coiniferous project, which made me good
there even when I was being hauled around by a
twin hoodoo working tandem.
"Those woolly and ensanguined interviews, then,
caused all the professional and amateur
trouble hunters then domiciled in and
around Xew York to shoal, flock, herd,
school, and covey in and around my
Avenue A rooms. They couldn't be shooed
away. When I politely requested them
to beat it while their moccasins remained
good, they'd threaten to cave in the door
and I had to admit them. They all
hankered to insurge. They were all wild
to have me lead them?transportation and
en route expenses to be paid by the leader,
the same being me?to any insurging camp
offering an even money chance of providing
military victuals; uniforms and side arms
to be served out by the insurgent organ
izer,?me again,-1?and a commission in
the ag'in'-the-government army at least
of the rank of Major for each of my besieg
"Most of them were husky, tired looking young
lummoxes, jobless and secretly glad of it, whose
ideas of the insurging business had been gleaned
from R. Harding Davis's hand painted china plaque
pictures of daredivvle young Americans with re
markably boxed jaws (and a dimple in their chins)
who'd insurged themselves into Central American
Cabinet portfolios after teaching their Greaser fol
lowers how to take a cold bath every morning, use
dental floss instead of toothpicks, shave while in
full retreat, manicure their nails with bolos between
drills, and thereby win battles.
"It so irked, fatigued, and
wrought upon me, this be
siegement by the gang of
aching-to-be adventurers in
tropic lands,?and hardly any
of 'em had ever adventured
any farther from the New
York cobbles than Coney
Island or Hoboken,?that I
sought to flag them by craft
and deceit. On the second
day, when about a dozen of
them had me hemmed and
were gradually backing me
into a corner of my room, I
tried to tell them that I was
merely a manufacturer of toy
balloons, passementerie, and
fish horns for the Chile and
Argentine trade, and that the
nearest I'd ever come to see
ing a revolution was when a
baseball umpire had given a
Eunk decision against the
ome team in Pent water,
Michigan. But I couldn't get
away with it. They wouldn't
believe me. "My Mi
TX desperation I plunged for the
*? door through their tightening
cordon, went down the stairs
three at a clip, and reached the
sidewalk just in time to save a
lady from embarrassment.
"She was trying to get out of a sagging, dilapi
dated caloosh?you'd call it a hack?that was drawn
up at the curb. How she'd ever got into the hack,
I took it upon myself not to inquire. But she was
making sad work of it trying to get out. She was
trying to back through the narrow little door when
I first saw her. For reasons all too manifest, that
method of exiting from the hack was not for her
The hack swayed and creaked and looked as if it
wouldn't stand much more of that So 1 stepped
'"Madam,' said I to the fat lady, 'if I may ven
ture to suggest, the sidewise method of evacuating
too inadequate a vehicle might be?er?might be?'
"She turned her engaging fat face upon me and
showed a flustered smile. Then, while the hack's
springs squeaked in torture, she released herself
from her wedged half-in and half-out position and
plumped back into the seat, sighing distressfully.
"'Perhaps,' I tried again, 'it would be more de
sirable, to say nothing of the convenience, if the
party you desire to see here,' waving a hand at my
restaurant rooming y>lant, 'were to descend, or
emerge, or walk out, thus saving you?'
"'You speak the thought that just came to me,'
panted the fat lady. 'Vet, I hate thus to summon
a stranger. Perhaps the Senhor Turco O'Fallonio
might object to being disturbed by one who?'
"' By one, senhora,' said I, noticing her Portuguese
accent, ' who has every visible right to summon?er
?princes and potentates?' and I turned it off into a
question. 'The Senhor Turco O'Fallonio greets you,
senhora, and abjectly awaits your commands.'
"The fat and fair one gave a little start at that;
then smiled from the corners of her eyes to the
lowermost of her three chins.
"'Perhaps it would be better, more discreet?*
and she beckoned me into the hack. I obeyed the
beckon. There wasn't much room beside her.
There was, moreover, a perilous list on her side.
But 1 pretended not to notice.
"'Anywhere,' said I to the hackman when he
turned his bleared eyes upon me with the question.
A ND there was I, rid of my besiegers, and car
riage riding with a lovely fat lady whose name
I did not know. I reiterate it, lovely! Not in any
sylphlike, Salomish way; but lovely. She was bil
lowy and bedimpled. She possessed the Taftian
bulk and the smile that goes with it; a skirted levia
than, but pleasing. I have said that she had three
chins. She had. But three chins?any reasonable
multiplication of chins?are all right if the cuticle
covering them is milky and flawless. Her skin was
very white and free from oil. She had a fine mop
of burnished raven hair and gazelle eyes to match.
She had beautiful fat dimpled hands and perfect
nails. Her teeth were chalk white and as even as
picket palings. She was dressed mitigatingly in
black. Being Portuguese, she was patchouli
sprayed ; but so are many American fat ladies.
Her English was naively incompetent; but I could
help her out with a word or a phrase of Portuguese.
Her voice atoned for her lingual deficiency. It was
of the lower register, sibilant and persuasive.
"I say it, knowing what I know, that this fat
irgarida and I Exchanged Only One Glancc."
xml | txt