Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol No. 10

Cannon looked into the distance at the ostentatious red banner hanging at the forward end of the dining room, as though he were deep in remembrance. “When I was a mere boy,” he began, “before the war, I had occasion to take a German zeppelin to New York. The chill cut through the heaviest furs—we rode in the gondola, and with the zeppelin filled with hydrogen, we could hardly heat it. Regardless, the captain dined with all the passengers, every night, hosting us in his wardroom.”

Cannon paused in his bogus recollection as four stewards set up chairs and music stands in the center of the balcony. Others delivered instrument cases to them.

“How far we’ve come,” Cannon said. “Can we expect music, then?”

Wailani nodded. The instruments came out, and the four stewards became a serviceable string quartet. “As long as you don’t mind Russian composers.”

Cannon nodded over the opening strains of something Tchaikovsky. “Certainly not. Old masters, one and all.” A moment passed. “Mr. Wailani, I feel we’ve been simply terrible guests. Here we are, imposing upon your hospitality, and yet we’ve done all the talking. How was your time in Panama? Seal any deals, did you?”

Wailani leaned back, losing some of his jocularity. “I had hoped to. The Panamanians do not see the value of a canal.”

“Seems rather redundant what with zeppelins, doesn’t it?”

Wailani smiled. “With that attitude, you could be a Panamanian. What most fail to see is that the day of the airship will, eventually, come to a close. Then, a man with a canal from Atlantic to Pacific could grow wealthy indeed.”

“Seems rather speculative,” Cannon said diffidently. “What if it isn’t for a hundred years?”

To her credit, Iseabail managed a disinterested air, though Cannon could see her foot tapping excitedly.

“Perhaps,” Wailani shrugged. “Business is my business. It pays to be ahead of the curve.”

“Quite the opposite, in our line.”

Wailani laughed aloud. “Well put. Though— well, I am no expert, but is it not the case that Mr. Volkov was ahead of the curve?”

Cannon mulled it over, then smiled in what he hoped was a reserved British manner. “You may just be right.”

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