Part 1 out of 4
Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE UNSPEAKABLE PERK
BY SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS
I. MR. BEETLE MAN
II. AT THE KAST
III. THE BETTER PART OF VALOR
IV. TWO ON A MOUNTAIN-SIDE
V. AN UPHOLDER OF TRADITIONS
VI. FORKED TONGUES
VII. "THAT WHICH THY SERVANT IS--"
VIII. LOS YANKIS
IX. THE BLACK WARNING
X. THE FOLLY OF PERK
XI. PRESTO CHANGE!
XII. THE WOMAN AT THE QUINTA
XIII. LEFT BEHIND
XIV. THE YELLOW FLAG
THE UNSPEAKABLE PERK
MR. BEETLE MAN
The man sat in a niche of the mountain, busily hating the
Caribbean Sea. It was quite a contract that he had undertaken, for
there was a large expanse of Caribbean Sea in sight to hate; very
blue, and still, and indifferent to human emotions. However, the
young man was a good steadfast hater, and he came there every day
to sit in the shade of the overhanging boulder, where there was a
little trickle of cool air down the slope and a little trickle of
cool water from a crevice beneath the rock, to despise that
placid, unimpressionable ocean and all its works and to wish that
it would dry up forthwith, so that he might walk back to the
blessed United States of America. In good plain American, the
young man was pretty homesick.
Two-man's-lengths up the mountain, on the crest of the sturdy
hater's rock, the girl sat, loving the Caribbean Sea. Hers, also,
was a large contract, and she was much newer to it than was the
man to his, for she had only just discovered this vantage-ground
by turning accidentally into a side trail--quite a private little
side trail made by her unsuspected neighbor below--whence one
emerges from a sea of verdure into full view of the sea of azure.
For the time, she was content to rest there in the flow of the
breeze and feast her eyes on that broad, unending blue which
blessedly separated her from the United States of America and
certain perplexities and complications comprised therein.
Presently she would resume the trail and return to the city of
Caracuna, somewhere behind her. That is, she would if she could
find it, which was by no means certain. Not that she greatly
cared. If she were really lost, they'd come out and get her.
Meantime, all she wished was to rest mind and body in the
contemplation of that restful plain of cool sapphire, four
thousand feet below.
But there was a spirit of mischief abroad upon that mountain
slope. It embodied itself in a puff of wind that stirred
gratefully the curls above the girl's brow. Also, it fanned the
neck of the watcher below and cunningly moved his hat from his
side; not more than a few feet, indeed, but still far enough to
transfer it from the shade into the glaring sun and into the view
of the girl above. The owner made no move. If the wind wanted to
blow his new panama into some lower treetop, compelling him to
throw stones, perhaps to its permanent damage, in order to
dislodge it, why, that was just one more cause of offense to pin
to his indictment of irritation against the great island republic
of Caracuna. Such is the temper one gets into after a year in the
Like as peas are panama hats to the eyes of the inexpert; far more
like than men who live under them. For the girl, it was a direct
inference that this was a hat which she knew intimately; which,
indeed, she had rather maliciously eluded, riot half an hour
before. Therefore, she addressed it familiarly: "Boo!"
The result of this simple monosyllable exceeded her fondest
expectations. There was a sharp exclamation of surprise, followed
by a cry that might have meant dismay or wrath or both, as
something metallic tinkled and slid, presently coming to a stop
beside the hat, where it revealed itself as a pair of enormous,
aluminum-mounted brown-green spectacles. After it, on all fours,
scrambled the owner.
Shock number one: It wasn't the man at all! Instead of the black-
haired, flanneled, slender Adonis whom the trouble-maker
confidently assumed to have been under that hat, she beheld a
brownish-clad, stocky figure with a very blond head.
Shock number two: The figure was groping lamentably and blindly in
the undergrowth, and when, for an instant, the face was turned
half toward her, she saw that the eyes were squinted tight-closed,
with a painful extreme of muscular tension about them.
Presently one of the ranging hands encountered the spectacles, and
settled upon them. With careful touches, it felt them all over. A
mild grunt, presumably of satisfaction, made itself heard, and the
figure got to its feet. But before the face turned again, the girl
had stepped back, out of range.
Silence, above and below; a silence the long persistence of which
came near to constituting shock number three. What sort of hermit
had she intruded upon? Into what manner of remote Brahministic
contemplation had she injected that impertinent "Boo!"? Who, what,
"Say it again." The request came from under the rock. Evidently
the spectacled owner had resumed his original situation.
"Say WHAT again?" she inquired.
"Anything," returned the voice, with child-like content.
"Oh, I--I hope you didn't break your glasses."
"No; you didn't."
On consideration, she decided to ignore this prompt countering of
"I thought you were some one else," she observed.
"Well, so I am, am I not?"
"So you are what?"
"Some one else than you thought."
"Why, yes, I suppose--But I meant some one else besides yourself."
"I only wish I were."
"Why?" she asked, intrigued by the fervid inflection of the wish.
"Because then I'd be somewhere else than in this infernal hell-
hole of a black-and-tan nursery of revolution, fever, and
"I think it one of the loveliest spots I've ever seen," said she
"How long have you been here?"
"On this rock? Perhaps five minutes."
"Not on the rock. In Caracuna?"
"Quite a long time. Nearly a fortnight."
The commentary on this was so indefinite that she was moved to
"Is that a local dialect you're speaking?"
"No; that was a grunt."
"I don't think it was a very polite grunt, even as grunts go."
"Perhaps not. I'm afraid I'm out of the habit."
"Of grunting? You seem expert enough to satisfy--"
"No; of being polite. I'll apologize if--if you'll only go on
She laughed aloud.
"Or laughing," he amended promptly. "Do it again."
"One can't laugh to order!" she protested; "or even talk to order.
But why do you stay 'way out here in the mountains if you're so
eager to hear the human voice?"
"The human voice be--choked! It's YOUR human voice I want to hear
--your kind of human voice, I mean." "I don't know that my kind of
human voice is particularly different from plenty of other human
voices," she observed, with an effect of fine impartial judgment.
"It's widely different from the kind that afflicts the suffering
ear in this part of the world. Fourteen months ago I heard the
last American girl speak the last American-girl language that's
come within reach of me. Oh, no,--there WAS one, since, but she
rasped like a rheumatic phonograph and had brick-colored
freckles. Have you got brick-colored freckles?"
"Stand up and see."
"No, SIR!--that is, ma'am. Too much risk."
"Risk! Of what?"
"Freckles. I don't like freckles. Not on YOUR voice, anyway."
"On my VOICE? Are you--"
"Of course I am--a little. Any one is who stays down here more
than a year. But that about the voice and the freckles was sane
enough. What I'm trying to say--and you might know it without a
diagram--is that, from your voice, you ought to be all that a man
dreams of when--well, when he hasn't seen a real American girl for
an eternity. Now I can sit here and dream of you as the loveliest
princess that ever came and went and left a memory of gold and
blue in the heart of--"
"I'm not gold and blue!"
"Of course you're not. But your speech is. I'll be wise, and
content myself with that. One look might pull down, In irrevocable
ruin, all the lovely fabric of my dream. By the way, are you a
"Cookie. Tourist. No, of course you're not. No tour would be
imbecile enough to touch here. The question is: How did you get
"Ah, that's my secret."
"Or, rather, are you here at all? Perhaps you're just a figment of
the overstrained ear. And if I undertook to look, there wouldn't
be anything there at all."
"Of course, if you don't believe in me, I'll fly away on a
"Oh, please! Don't say that! I'm doing my best."
So panic-stricken was the appeal that she laughed again, in spite
"Ah, that's better! Now, come, be honest with me. You're not
pretty, are you?"
"Me? I'm as lovely as the dawn."
"So far, so good. And have you got long golden--that is to say,
silken hair that floats almost to your knees?"
"Certainly," she replied, with spirit.
"Is it plentiful enough so that you could spare a little?"
"Are you asking me for a lock of my hair?" she queried, on a note
of mirth. "For a stranger, you go fast."
"No; oh, no!" he protested. "Nothing so familiar. I'm offering you
a bribe for conversation at the price of, say, five hairs, if you
can sacrifice so many."
"It sounds delightfully like voodoo," she observed. "What must I
do with them?"
"First, catch your hair. Well up toward the head, please. Now pull
it out. One, two, three--yank!"
"Ouch!" said the voice above.
"Do it again. Now have you got two?"
"Knot them together."
There was a period of silence.
"It's very difficult," complained the girl.
"Because you're doing it in silence. There must be sprightly
conversation or the charm won't work. Talk!"
"Tell me who you thought I was when you said, 'Boo!' at me."
"A--a GOOSE! Why--what--"
"Doesn't one proverbially say 'Boo!' to a goose?" she remarked
"If one has the courage. Now, I haven't. I'm shy."
"Shy! You?" Again the delicious trill of her mirth rang in his
ears. "I should imagine that to be the least of your troubles."
"No! Truly." There was real and anxious earnestness in his
assurance. "It's because I don't see you. If I were face to face
with you, I'd stammer and get red and make a regular imbecile of
myself. Another reason why I stick down here and decline to yield
"O wise young man! ARE you young? Ouch!"
"Reasonably. Was that the last hair?"
"Positively! I'm scalped. You're a red Indian."
"Tie it on. Now, fasten a hairpin on the end and let it down. All
right. I've got it. Wait!" The fragile line of communication
twitched for a moment. "Haul, now. Gently!"
Up came the thread, and, as its burden rose over the face of the
rock, the girl gave a little cry of delight:--
"How exquisite! Orchids, aren't they?"
"Yes, the golden-brown bee orchid. Just your coloring."
"So it is. How do you know?" she asked, startled.
"From the hair. And your eyes have gold flashes in the brown when
the sun touches them."
"Your wits are YOUR eyes. But where do you get such orchids?"
"From my little private garden underneath the rock."
"Life will be a dull and dreary round unless I see that garden."
"No! I say! Wait! Really, now, Miss--er--" There was panic in the
"Oh, don't be afraid. I'm only playing with your fears. One look
at you as you chased your absurd spectacles was enough to satisfy
my curiosity. Go in peace, startled fawn that you are."
"Go nothing! I'm not going. Neither are you, I hope, until you've
told me lots more about yourself."
"All that for a spray of orchids?"
"But they are quite rare ones."
"And very lovely."
The girl mused, and a sudden impulse seized her to take the unseen
acquaintance at his word and free her mind as she had not been
able to do to any living soul for long weeks. She pondered over
"You aren't getting ready to go?" he cried, alarmed at her long
"No; I'm thinking."
"Please think aloud."
"I was thinking--suppose I did."
There was so much of weighty consideration in her accents that the
other fear again beset him.
"Did what? Not come down from the rock?" "Be calm. I shouldn't
want to face you any more than you want to face me, if I decided
to do it."
"Go on," he encouraged. "It sounds most promising."
"More than that. It's fairly thrilling. It's the awful secret of
my life that I'm considering laying bare to you, just like a dime
novel. Are you discreet?"
"As the eternal rocks. Prescribe any form of oath and I'll take
"I'm feeling just irresponsible enough to venture. Now, if I knew
you, of course I couldn't. But as I shall never set eyes on you
again--I never shall, shall I?"
"Not unless you creep up on me unawares."
"Then I'll unburden my overweighted heart, and you can be my augur
and advise me with supernatural wisdom. Are you up to that?"
"I will. But, remember: this means truly that we are never to
meet. And if you ever do meet me and recognize my voice, you must
go away at once."
"Agreed," he said cheerfully, just a bit too cheerfully to be
"Very well, then. I'm a runaway."
"Naturally. Where's home?"
"Utica, New York," she specified.
"U.S.A.," he concluded, with a sigh. "What did you run away from?"
"Does any one ever run away from anything else?" he inquired
philosophically. "What particular brand?"
"Three men," she said dolorously. "All after poor little me. They
all thought I ought to marry them, and everybody else seemed to
think so, too--"
"Go slow! Did you say Utica or Utah?"
"Everybody thought I ought to marry one or the other of 'em, I
mean. If I could have married them all, now, it might have been
easier, for I like them ever so much. But how could I make up my
mind? So I just seized papa around the neck and ran away with him
"Why here, of all places on earth?"
"Oh, he's interested in some mines and concessions and things.
It's very beautiful, but I almost wish I'd stayed at home and
"Which is Bobby?"
"He's one of the home boys. We've grown up together, and I'm so
fond of him. Only it's more the brother-and-sister sort of thing,
if he'd let it be."
"Check off No. 1. What's No. 2?"
"Lots older. Mr. Thomas Murray Smith is an unspoiled millionaire.
If he weren't so serious and quite so dangerously near forty--
well, I don't know."
"Have you kept No. 3 for the last because he's the best?"
"No-o-o-o. Because he's the nearest. He followed me down. You can
see his name in all its luster on the Hotel Kast register, when
you get back to the city--Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll, at
"Sounds Southern," commented the man below.
"Southern! He's more Southern than the South Pole. His ancestors
fought all the wars and owned all the negroes--he calls them
'niggers'--and married into all the first families of Virginia,
and all that sort of thing. He must quite hate himself, poor Fitz,
for falling in love with a little Yankee like me. In fact, that's
why I made him do it."
"And now you wish he hadn't?"
"Oh--well--I don't know. He's awfully good-looking and gallant and
devoted and all that. Only he's such a prickly sort of person. I'd
have to spend the rest of my life keeping him and his pride out of
trouble. And I've no taste for diplomacy. Why, only last week he
declined to dine with the President of the Republic because some
one said that his excellency had a touch of the tar brush."
"He'd better get out of this country before that gets back to
"If he thought there was danger, he'd stay forever. I don't
suppose Fitz is afraid of anything on earth. Except perhaps of
me," she added after-thoughtfully.
"Young woman, you're a shameless flirt!" accused the invisible one
in stern tones.
"If I am, it isn't going to hurt you. Besides, I'm not. And,
anyway, who are you to judge me? You're not here as a judge;
you're an augur. Now, go on and aug."
"Aug?" repeated the other hesitantly.
"Certainly. Do an augury. Tell me which."
"Oh! As for that, it's easy. None."
"Because I much prefer to think of you, when you are gone, as
unmarried. It's more in character with your voice."
"Well, of all the selfish pigs! Condemned to be an old maid, in
order not to spoil an ideal! Perhaps you'd like to enter the lists
yourself," she taunted.
"Good Heavens, no!" he cried in the most unflattering alarm. "It
isn't in my line--I mean I haven't time for that sort of thing.
I'm a very busy man."
"You look it! Or you did look it, scrambling about like a doodle
bug after your absurd spectacles."
"There is no such insect as a doodle bug."
"Isn't there? How do you know? Are you personally acquainted with
all the insect families?"
"Certainly. That's my business. I'm a scientist."
"Oh, gracious! And I've appealed to you in a matter of sentiment!
I might better have stuck to Fitz. Poor Fitz! I wonder if he's
"Why should he be lost?"
"Because I lost him. Back there on the trail. Purposely. I sent
him for water and then--I skipped."
"Oh-h-h! Then HE'S the goose."
"Goose! Preston Fairfax Fitz--"
"Yes, the goose you said 'Boo!' to, you know."
"Of course. You didn't steal his hat, did you?"
"No. It's my own hat. Why did you run away from him?"
"He bored me. When people bore me, I always run away. I'm
beginning to feel quite fugitive this very minute."
There was silence below, a silence that piqued the girl.
"Well," she challenged, "haven't you anything to say before the
court passes sentence of abandonment to your fate?"
"I'm thinking--frantically. But the thoughts aren't girl thoughts.
I mean, they wouldn't interest you. I might tell you about some of
my insects," he added hopefully.
"They're very interesting."
"No. You're worthless as an augur, and a flat failure as a
conversationalist, when thrown on your own resources. So I shall
shake the dust from my feet and depart."
"Good-bye!" he said desolately. "And thank you."
"For making music in my desert."
"That's much better," she approved. "But you've paid your score
with the orchids. If you have one or two more pretty speeches like
that in stock, I might linger for a while."
"I'm afraid I'm all out of those," he returned. "But," he added
desperately, "there's the hexagonal scarab beetle. He's awfully
queer and of much older family even than Mr. Fitzwhizzle's. It is
the hexagonal scarab's habit when dis--"
"We have an encyclopaedia of our own at home," she interrupted
coldly. "I didn't climb this mountain to talk about beetles."
"Well, I'll talk some more about you, if you'll give me a little
time to think."
"I think you are very impertinent. I don't wish to talk about
myself. Just because I asked your advice in my difficulties, you
assume that I'm a little egoist--"
"Oh, please don't--"
"Don't interrupt. I'm very much offended, and I'm glad we are
never going to meet. Just as I was beginning to like you, too,"
she added, with malice. "Good-bye!"
"Good-bye," he answered mournfully.
But his attentive ears failed to discern the sound of departing
footsteps. The breeze whispered in the tree-tops. A sulphur-yellow
bird, of French extraction, perched in a flowering bush,
insistently demanded: "Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?"
--What's he say? WHAT'S he say?--over and over again, becoming
quite wrathful because neither he nor any one else offered the
slightest reply or explanation. The girl sympathized with the
bird. If the particular he whose blond top she could barely see by
peeping over the rock would only say something, matters would be
easier for her. But he didn't. So presently, in a voice of
suspiciously saccharine meekness, she said:--
"Please, Mr. Beetle Man, I'm lost."
"No, you're not," he said reassuringly. "You're not a quarter of a
mile from the Puerto del Norte Road."
"But I don't know which direction--"
"Perfectly simple. Keep on over the top of the rock; turn left
down the slope, right up the dry stream bed to a dead tree; bear
"That's too many turns, I never could remember more than two."
"Now, listen," he said persuasively. "I can make it quite plain to
"I don't WISH to listen! I'll never find it."
"I'll toss you up my compass."
"I don't want your compass," she said firmly.
A long patient sigh exhaled from below.
"Do you want me to guide you?"
"No," she retorted, and was instantly panic-stricken, for the
monosyllable was of that accent which sets fire to bridges and
burns them beyond hope of return.
Slowly she got to her feet. Perhaps she would have dared and gone;
perhaps she would have swallowed pride and her negative, and made
one more appeal. She turned hesitantly and saw the devil.
It was a small devil on stilts, not more than three or four inches
tall, but there was no mistaking his identity. No other living
thing could possess such demoniac little red-hot pin points of
eyes, or be so bristly and grisly and vicious. The stilts suddenly
folded flat, and the devil rushed upon his prey. The girl stepped
back; her foot turned and caught, and--
"Of course," the patient voice below was saying, "if you really
think that you couldn't find the road, I could draw you a map and
send it up by the hair route. But I really think--"
The rock had turned over on his unprotected head and flattened him
out forever. Such was his first thought. When he finally collected
himself, his eyeglasses, and his senses, he sustained a second
shock more violent than the first.
Two paces away, the Voice, duly and most appropriately embodied,
sat half-facing him. The Voice's eyes confirmed his worst
suspicions, and, dazed though they were at the moment, there were
deep lights in them that wholly disordered his mental mechanism.
Nor were her first words such as to restore his deranged
"Oh-h! Aren't you GOGGLESOME!" she cried dizzily.
He raised his hands to the huge brown spectacles.
"Wh--wh--what did you come down for?" he babbled. There was a
distinct note of accusation in the query.
"COME down! I fell!"
"Yes, yes; that may be true--"
"Of course, it is true. I--I--I see it's true. I'm awfully sorry."
"Sorry? What for?"
"That you came. That you fell, I mean to say. I--I--I don't really
know what I mean to say."
"No wonder, poor boy! I landed right on you, didn't I?"
"Did you? Something did. I thought it was the mountain."
"You aren't very complimentary," she pouted. "But there! I dare
say I knocked your thoughts all to bits."
"No; not at all. Certainly, I mean. It doesn't matter. See here,"
he said, with an injured sharpness of inquiry born of his own
exasperation at his verbal fumbling, "you said you wouldn't, and
here you are. I ask you, is that fair and honorable?"
"Well, if it comes to that," she countered, "you promised that
you'd never speak to me if you saw me, and here you are telling me
that you don't want me around the place at all. It's very rude and
inhospitable, I consider."
"I can't help it," he said miserably. "I'm afraid."
"You don't look it. You look disagreeable."
"As long as you stayed where you belonged--Excuse me--I don't
mean to be impolite--but I--I--You see--as long as you were just
a voice, I could manage all right, but now that you are--er--er--
you--" His speech trailed off lamentably into meaningless
The girl turned amazed and amused eyes upon him.
"What on earth ails the poor man?" she inquired of all creation.
"I told you. I--I'm shy."
"Not really! I thought it was a joke."
"Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" demanded the yellow-
breasted inquisitor, from his flowery perch.
"What does he say? He says he's shy. Poor poo--er young, helpless
thing!" And her laughter put to shame a palm thrush who was giving
what he had up to that moment considered a highly creditable
"All right!" he retorted warmly. "Laugh if you want to! But after
stipulating that we should be strangers, to--to act this way--
well, I think it's--it's--forward. That's what I think it is."
"Do you, indeed? Perhaps you think it's pleasant for me, after
I've opened my heart to a stranger, to have him forced on me as an
From the depths of those limpid eyes welled up a little film of
"O Lord! Don't do that!" he implored. "I didn't mean--I'm a bear--
a pig--a--a--a scarab--I'm anything you choose. Only don't do
"I'm not doing anything."
"Of course you're not. That's fine! As for your secrets, I dare
say I wouldn't know you again if I saw you."
"Oh, wouldn't you?" she cried in quite another tone.
"Quite likely not. These glasses, you see. They make things look
"Or if you heard me?" she challenged.
"Ah, well, that's different. But I forget quite easily--even
things like voices."
She leaned forward, her hands in her lap, her eyes upon the
goggled face before her.
"Then take them off."
"What? My glasses?"
"Take them off!"
"Wh--wh--why should I?"
"So that you can see me better."
"I don't want to see you better."
"Yes, you do. I'm much more interesting than a scarab."
"But I know about scarabs and I don't know about--about--"
"Girls. So one might suspect. Do you know what I'm doing, Mr.
"I'm flirting with you. I never flirted with a scientific person
before. It's awfully one-sided, difficult, uphill work."
This last was all but drowned out in his flood of panicky
instructions, from which she disentangled such phrases as "first
to left"--"dry river-bed-hundred-yards"--"dead tree--can't miss
"If you send me away now, I'll cry. Really, truly cry, this time."
"No, you won't! I mean I won't! I--I'll do anything! I'll talk!
I'll make conversation! How old are you? That's what the Chinese
ask. I used to have a Chinese cook, but he lost all my shirt
studs, playing fan-tan. Can you play fan-tan? Two can't play,
though. They have funny cards in this country, like the Spanish.
Have you seen a bullfight yet? Don't do it. It's dull and brutal.
The bull has no more chance than--than--"
"Than an unprotected man with a conscienceless flirt, who falls on
his neck and then threatens to submerge him in tears."
"Now you're beginning again!" he wailed. "What did you jump for,
"I slipped. An awful, red-eyed, scrambly fiend scared me--a real,
live, hairy devilkin on stilts. He ran at me across the rock. Was
that one of your pet scarabs, Mr. Beetle Man?"
"That was a tarantula, I suppose, from the description."
"They're deadly, aren't they?"
"Of course not. Unscientific nonsense. I'll go up and chase him
"Flying from perils that you know not of to more familiar
dangers?" she taunted.
"Well, you see, with the tarantula out of the way, there's no
reason why you shouldn't--er--"
"Go, and leave you in peace? What do you think of that for
The gay-feathered inquisitor had come quite near.
"Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" he queried, cocking his curious head.
"He says he doesn't like me one little, wee, teeny bit, and he
wishes I'd go home and stay there. And so I'm going, with my poor
little feelings all hurted and ruffled up like anything."
"Nothing of the sort," protested the badgered spectacle-wearer.
"Then why such unseemly haste to make my path clear?"
"I just thought that maybe you'd go back on the top of the rock,
where you came from, and--and be a voice again. If you won't go, I
He made three jumps of it up the boulder, bearing a stick in his
hand. Presently his face, preternaturally solemn and gnomish
behind the goggles, protruded over the rim. The girl was sitting
with her hands folded in her lap, contemplating the scenery as if
she'd never had another interest in her life. Apparently she had
forgotten his very existence.
"Ahem!" he began nervously.
"Ahem!" she retorted so promptly that he almost fell off his
precarious perch. "Did you ring? Number, please."
"I wish I knew whether you were laughing at me or not," he said
"All the time."
"I am. Your darkest suspicions are correct. Did you abolish my
"I drove him back into his trapdoor home and put a rock over it."
"Why didn't you destroy him?"
"Because I've appointed him guardian of the rock, with strict
instructions to bite any one that ever comes there after this
"Bravo! You're progressing. As soon as you're free from the blight
of my regard, you become quite human. But I'll never come again."
"No, I suppose not," he said dismally. "I shan't hear you again,
unless, perhaps, the echoes have kept your voice to play with."
"Oh, oh! Is this the language of science? You know I almost think
I should like to come--if I could. But I can't."
"Because we leave to-morrow."
"Not across to the southern coast? It isn't safe. Fever--"
"No; by Puerto del Norte."
"There's no boat."
"Yes, there is. You can just see her funnel over that white slope.
It's our yacht."
"And you think you are going in her to-morrow?"
"Think? I know it."
"No," he contradicted.
"Yes," she asserted, quite as concisely.
"No," he repeated. "You're mistaken."
"Don't be absurd. Why?" "Look out there, over that tree to the
"Do you see anything?"
"Yes; a sort of little smudge."
"It's a very shadowy sort of why."
"There's substance enough under it."
"A riddle? I'll give it up."
"No; a bet. I'll bet you the treasures of my mountain-side.
Orchids of gold and white and purple and pink, butterflies that
dart on wings of fire opal--"
"Beetles, to know which is to love them, and love but them
forever," she laughed. "And my side of the wager--what is that to
"That you will come to the rock day after to-morrow at this hour
and stand on the top and be a voice again and talk to me."
"Done! Send your treasures to the pier, for you'll surely lose.
And now take me to the road."
It was a single-file trail, and he walked in advance, silent as an
Indian. As they emerged from a thicket into the highway, above the
red-tiled city in its setting of emerald fields strung on the
silver thread of the Santa Clara River, she turned and gave him
"Be at your rock to-morrow, and when you see the yacht steam out,
you'll know I'll be saying good-bye, and thank you for your
mountain treasures. Send them to Miss Brewster, care of the yacht
Polly. She's named after me. Is there anything the matter with my
shoes?" she broke off to inquire solicitously.
"Er--what? No." He lifted his eyes, startled, and looked out
across the quaint old city.
"Then is there anything the matter with my face?"
"Yes? Well, what?"
"It's going to be hard to forget," complained he of the goggles.
"Then look away before it's too late," she cried merrily; but her
color deepened a little. "Good-bye, O friend of the lowly scarab!"
At the dip of the road down into the bridged arroyo, she turned,
and was surprised--or at least she told herself so--to find him
still looking after her.
AT THE KAST
One dines at the Gran Hotel Kast after the fashion of a champignon
sous cloche. The top of the cloche is of fluted glass, with a wide
aperture between it and the sides, to admit the rain in the wet
season and the flies in the dry. Three balconies run up from the
dining-room well to this roof, and upon these, as near to the
railings as they choose, the rather conglomerate patronage of the
place sleeps, takes baths, dresses, gossips, makes love, quarrels,
and exchanges prophecies as to next Sunday's bullfight, while the
diners below strive to select from the bill of fare special
morsels upon which they will stake their internal peace for the
day. No cabaret can hold a candle to it for variety of interest.
When the sudden torrential storms sweep down the mountains at meal
times, the little human champignons, beneath their insufficient
cloche, rush about wildly seeking spots where the drippage will
not wash their food away. Commercial travelers of the tropics have
a saying: "There are worse hotels in the world than the Kast--but
why take the trouble?" And, year upon year, they return there for
reasons connected with the other hostelries of Caracuna, which I
forbear to specify.
To Miss Polly Brewster, the Kast was a place of romance. Five
miles away, as the buzzard flies, she could have dined well, even
elegantly, on the Brewster yacht. Would she have done it? Not for
worlds! Miss Brewster was entranced by the courtly manners of her
waiter, who had lost one ear and no small part of the countenance
adjacent thereto, only too obviously through the agency of some
edged instrument not wielded in the arts of peace. She was further
delightedly intrigued by the abrupt appearance of a romantic-hued
gentleman, who thrust out over the void from the second balcony an
anguished face, one side of which was profusely lathered, and
addressed to all the hierarchy of heaven above, and the peoples of
the earth beneath, a passionate protest upon the subject of a
cherished and vanished shaving brush; what time, below, the head
waiter was hastily removing from sight, though not from memory, a
soup tureen whose agitated surface bore a creamy froth not of a
lacteal origin. One may not with impunity balance personal
implements upon the too tremulous rails of the ancient Kast.
With an appreciative and glowing eye, Miss Brewster read from her
mimeographed bill of fare such legends as "ropa con carne,"
"bacalao seco," "enchiladas," and meantime devoured chechenaca,
which, had it been translated into its just and simple English of
"hash," she would not have given to her cat.
Nor did her visual and prandial preoccupations inhibit her from a
lively interest in the surrounding Babel of speech in mingled
Spanish, Dutch, German, English, Italian, and French, all at the
highest pitch, for a few rods away the cathedral bells were
saluting Heaven with all the clangor and din of the other place,
and only the strident of voice gained any heed in that contest.
Even after the bells paused, the habit of effort kept the voices
up. Miss Brewster, dining with her father a few hours after her
return from the mountain, absolved her conscience from any intent
of eavesdropping in overhearing the talk of the table to the right
of her. The remark that first fixed her attention was in English,
of the super-British patois.
"Can't tell wot the blighter might look like behind those bloomin'
"But he's not bothersome to any one," suggested a second speaker,
in a slightly foreign accent. "He regards his own affairs."
"Right you are, bo!" approved a tall, deeply browned man of
thirty, all sinewy angles, who, from the shoulders up, suggested
nothing so much as a club with a gnarled knob on the end of it, a
tough, reliable, hardwood club, capable of dealing a stiff blow in
an honest cause. "If he deals in conversation, he must SELL it. I
don't notice him giving any of it away."
"He gave some to Kast the last time he dined here," observed a
languid and rather elegant elderly man, who occupied the fourth
side of the table. "Mine host didn't like it."
"I should suppose Senior Kast would be hardened," remarked the
young Caracunan who had defended the absent.
"Our eyeglassed friend scored for once, though. They had just
served him the usual table-d'hote salad--you know, two leaves of
lettuce with a caterpillar on one. Kast happened to be passing.
Our friend beckoned him over. 'A little less of the fauna and more
of the flora, Senior Kast,' said he in that gritty, scientific
voice of his. I really thought Kast was going to forget his Swiss
blood, and chase a whole peso of custom right out of the place."
"If you ask me, I think the blighter is barmy," asserted the
"Well, I'll ask you," proffered the elegant one kindly. "Why do
you consider him 'barmy,' as you put it?"
"When I first saw him here and heard him speak to the waiter, I
knew him for an American Johnny at once, and I went, directly I'd
finished my soup, and sat down at his table. The friendly touch,
y' know. 'I say,' I said to him, 'I don't know you, but I heard
you speak, and I knew at once you were one of these Americans--
tell you at once by the beastly queer accent, you know. You are an
American, ay--wot?' Wot d' you suppose the blighter said? He
said, 'No, I'm an ichthyo'--somethin' or other--"
"Ichthyosaurus, perhaps," supplied the Caracunuan, smiling.
"That's it, whatever it may be. 'I'm an ichthyosaurus,' he says.
'It's a very old family, but most of the buttons are off. Were you
ever bitten by one in the fossil state? Very exhilaratin', but
poisonous,' he says. 'So don't let me keep you any longer from
your dinner.' Of course, I saw then that he was a wrong un, so I
cut him dead, and walked away."
"Served him right," declared the elderly American, with a solemn
twinkle directed at the tall brown man, who, having opened his
mouth, now thought better of it, and closed it again, with a grin.
"But he is very kind," said the native. "When my brother fell and
broke his arm on the mountain, this gentleman found him, took care
of him, and brought him in on muleback."
"Lives up there somewhere, doesn't he, Mr. Raimonda?" asked the
"In the quinta of a deserted plantation," replied the Caracunan.
"Wot's he do?" asked the Englishman.
"Ah, THAT one does not know, unless Senor Sherwen can tell us."
"Not I," said the elderly man. "Some sort of scientific
investigation, according to the guess of the men at the club."
"You never can tell down here," observed the Englishman darkly.
"Might be a blind, you know. Calls himself Perkins. Dare say it
isn't his name at all."
"Daughter," said Mr. Thatcher Brewster at this juncture, in a
patient and plaintive voice, "for the fifth and last time, I
implore you to pass me the butter, or that which purports to be
butter, in the dish at your elbow."
"Oh, poor dad! Forgive me! But I was overhearing some news of an--
"Do you know any of the gentlemen upon whose conversation you are
In financial circles, Mr. Brewster was credited with the
possession of a cold blue eye and a denatured voice of
interrogation, but he seldom succeeded in keeping a twinkle out of
the one and a chuckle out of the other when conversing with his
"Not yet," observed that damsel calmly.
"Meaning, I suppose I am to understand--"
"Precisely. Haven't you noticed them looking this way? Presently
they'll be employing all their strategy to meet me. They'll employ
it on you."
Mr. Brewster surveyed the group dubiously.
"In a country such as this, one can't be too--too cau--"
"Too particular, as you were saying," cut in his daughter
cheerfully. "Men are scarce--except Fitzhugh, who is rather less
scarce than I wish he were lately. You know," she added, with a
covert glance at the adjoining table, "I wouldn't be surprised if
you found yourself an extremely popular papa immediately after
dinner. It might even go so far as cigars. Do you suppose that
lovely young Caracunan is a bullfighter?"
"No; I believe he's a coffee exporter. Less romantic, but more
respectable. Quite one of the gilded youth of Caracuna. His name
is Raimonda. Fitzhugh knows him. By the way, where on earth is
"Trying to fit a kind and gentlemanly expression over a swollen
sense of injury, for a guess," replied the girl carelessly. "I
left him in sweet and lone communion with nature three hours ago."
"Polly, I wish--"
"Oh, dad, dear, don't! You'll get your wish, I suppose, and Fitz,
too. Only I don't want to be hurried. Here he is, now. Look at
that smile! A sculptor couldn't have done any better. Now, as soon
as he comes, I'm going to be quite nice and kind."
But Mr. Fairfax Preston Fitzhugh Carroll did not come direct to
the Brewster table. Instead, he stopped to greet the elderly man
in the near-by group, and presently drew up a chair. At first,
their conversation was low-toned, but presently the young native
added his more vivacious accents.
"Who can tell?" the Brewsters heard him say, and marked the
fatalistic gesture of the upturned hands. "They disappear. One
does not ask questions too much."
"Not here," confirmed the big man. "Always room for a few more in
the undersea jails, eh?"
"Always. But I think it was not that with Basurdo. I think it was
underground, not undersea." He brushed his neck with his finger
"Is it dangerous for foreigners?" asked Carroll quickly.
"For every one," answered Sherwen; adding significantly: "But the
Caracunan Government does not approve of loose fostering of
Carroll rose and came over to the Brewsters.
"May I bring Mr. Graydon Sherwen over and present him?" he asked.
"I can vouch for him, having known his family at home, and--"
"Oh, bring them all, Fitzhugh," commanded the girl.
The exponent of Southern aristocracy looked uncomfortable.
"As to the others," he said, "Mr. Raimonda is a native--"
"With the manners of a prince. I've quite fallen in love with him
already," she said wickedly.
"Of course, if you wish it. But the other American is an ex-
professional baseball player, named Cluff."
"What? 'Clipper' Cluff? I knew I'd seen him before!" cried Miss
Polly. "He got his start in the New York State League. Why, we're
quite old friends, by sight."
"As for Galpy, he's an underbred little cockney bounder."
"With the most naive line of conversation I've ever listened to. I
want all of them."
"Let me bring Sherwen first," pleaded the suitor, and was
presently introducing that gentleman. "Mr. Sherwen is in charge
here of the American Legation," he explained.
"How does one salute a real live minister?" queried Miss Brewster.
"Don't mistake me for anything so important," said Sherwen. "We're
not keeping a minister in stock at present. My job is being a
superior kind of janitor until diplomatic relations are resumed."
"Goodness! It sounds like war," said Miss Brewster hopefully. "Is
there anything as exciting as that going on?"
"Oh, no. Just a temporary cessation of civilities between the two
nations. If it weren't indiscreet--"
"Oh, do be indiscreet!" implored the girl, with clasped hands. "I
admire indiscretion in others, and cultivate it in myself."
Mr. Carroll looked pained, as the other laughed and said:--
"Well, it would certainly be most undiplomatic for me to hint that
the great and friendly nation of Hochwald, which wields more
influence and has a larger market here than any other European
power, has become a little jealous of the growing American trade.
But the fact remains that the Hochwald minister and his secretary,
Von Plaanden, who is a very able citizen when sober,--and is, of
course, almost always sober,--have not exerted themselves
painfully to compose the little misunderstanding between President
Fortuno and us. The Dutch diplomats, who are not as diplomatic in
speech as I am, would tell you, if there were any of them left
here to tell anything, that Von Plaanden's intrigues brought on
the present break with them. So there you have a brief, but
reliable 'History of Our Times in the Island Republic of
"Highly informative and improving to the untutored mind," Miss
Brewster complimented him. "I like seeing the wires of empire
pulled. More, please."
"Perhaps you won't like the next so well," observed Carroll
grimly. "There is bubonic plague here."
"Oh--ah!" protested Sherwen gently. "The suspicion of plague.
Quite a different matter."
"Which usually turns out to be the same, doesn't it?" inquired Mr.
"Perhaps. People disappear, and one is not encouraged to ask about
them. But then people disappear for many causes in Caracuna.
Politics here are somewhat--well--Philadelphian in method. But--
there is smoke rising from behind Capo Blanco."
"What is there?" inquired the girl.
"The lazaretto. Still, it might be yellow fever, or only smallpox.
The Government is not generous with information. To have plague
discovered now would be very disturbing to the worthy plans of the
Hochwald Legation. For trade purposes, they would very much
dislike to have the port closed for a considerable time by
quarantine. The Dutch difficulty they can arrange when they will.
But quarantine would bring in the United States, and that is quite
another matter. Well, we'll see, when Dr. Pruyn gets here."
"Who is he?" asked Carroll.
"Special-duty man of the United States Public Health Service. The
best man on tropical diseases and quarantine that the service has
"That isn't Luther Pruyn, is it?" inquired Mr. Brewster.
"The same. Do you know him?"
"More than I do, except by reputation."
"He was in my class at college, but I haven't seen him since. I'd
be glad to see him again. A queer, dry fellow, but character and
grit to his backbone." "I'd supposed he was younger," said
Sherwen. "Anyway, he's comparatively new to the service. His rise
is the more remarkable. At present, he's not only our quarantine
representative, with full powers, but unofficially he acts, while
on his roving commission, for the British, the Dutch, the French,
and half the South American republics. I suppose he's really the
most important figure in the Caracuna crisis--and he hasn't even
got here yet. Perhaps our Hochwaldian friends have captured him on
the quiet. It would pay 'em, for if there is plague here, he'll
certainly trail it down."
"Oh, I'm tired of plague," announced Miss Polly. "Bring the others
here and let's all go over to the plaza, where it's cool."
To their open and obvious delight, exhibited jauntily by the
Englishman, with awkward and admiring respectfulness by the ball-
player, and with graceful ease by the handsome Caracunan, the rest
were invited to join the party.
"Don't let them scare you about plague, Miss Brewster," said
Cluff, as they found their chairs. "Foreigners don't get it much."
"Oh, I'm not afraid! But, anyway, we shouldn't have time to catch
even a cold. We leave to-morrow."
The men exchanged glances.
"How?" inquired Sherwen and Raimonda in a breath.
"In the yacht, from Puerto del Norte."
"Not if it were a British battleship," said Galpy. "Port's
"What? Quarantine already?" said Carroll.
"Quarantine be blowed! It's the Dutch."
"I thought you knew," said Sherwen. "All the town is ringing with
the news. It just came in to-night. Holland has declared a
blockade until Caracuna apologizes for the interference with its
"And nothing can pass?" asked Mr. Brewster.
"Nothing but an aeroplane or a submarine."
There was a silence. Miss Polly Brewster broke it with a curious
"What day is day after to-morrow?"
Several voices had answered her, but she paid little heed, for
there had slipped over her shoulder a brown thin hand holding a
cunningly woven closed basket of reedwork. A soft voice murmured
something in Spanish.
"What does he say?" asked the girl "For me?"
"He thinks it must be for you," translated Raimonda, "from the
"He was told to go to the hotel and deliver it to the most
beautiful lady. There could hardly be any mistaking such specific
instructions even by an ignorant mountain peon," he added,
The girl opened the curious receptacle, and breathed a little gasp
of delight. Bedded in fern, lay a mass of long sprays aquiver with
bells of the purest, most lucent white, each with a great glow of
gold at its heart.
"Ah," observed the young Caracunan, "I see that you are persona
grata with our worthy President, Miss Brewster."
"President Fortuno?" asked the girl, surprised. "No; not that I'm
aware of. Why do you say that?"
"That is his special orchid--almost the official flower. They call
it 'the President's orchid.'"
"Has he a monopoly of growing them?" asked Miss Brewster.
"No one can grow them. They die when transplanted from their
native cliffs. But it's only the President's rangers who are
daring enough to get them."
"Are they so inaccessible?"
"Yes. They grow nowhere but on the cliff faces, usually in the
wildest part of the mountains. Few people except the hunters and
mountaineers know where, and it's only the most adventurous of
them who go after the flowers."
"Do you suppose this boy got these?" Miss Brewster indicated the
shy and dusky messenger.
Raimonda spoke to the boy for a moment.
"No; he didn't collect them. Nor is he one of the President's men.
I don't quite understand it."
"Who did gather them?"
"All that he will say is, 'the master.'"
"Oh!" said Miss Brewster, and retired into a thoughtful silence.
"They're very beautiful, aren't they?" continued the Caracunan.
"And they carry a pretty sentiment."
"Tell me," commanded the girl, emerging from her reverie.
"The mountaineers say that their fragrance casts a spell which
carries the thought back to the giver."
"Is that the language of science?" she queried absently, with a
thought far away.
"But no, senorita, assuredly not," said the young Caracufian. "It
is the language--permit that I say it better in French--c'est le
THE BETTER PART OF VALOR
Night fell with the iron clangor of bells, and day broke to the
accompaniment of further insensate jangling, for Caracuna City has
the noisiest cathedral in the world; and still the graceful gray
yacht Polly lay in the harbor at Puerto del Norte, hemmed in by a
thin film of smoke along the horizon where the Dutch warship
In one of the side caverns off the main dining-room of the Hotel
Kast, the yacht's owner, breakfasting with the yacht's tutelary
goddess and the goddess's determined pursuer, discussed the
blockade. Though Miss Polly Brewster kept up her end of the
conversation, her thoughts were far upon a breeze-swept mountain-
side. How, she wondered, had that dry and strange hermit of the
wilds known the news before the city learned it? With her wonder
came annoyance over her lost wager. The beetle man, she judged,
would be coolly superior about it. So she delivered herself of
sundry stinging criticisms regarding the conduct of the Caracunan
Administration in having stupidly involved itself in a blockade.
She even spoke of going to see the President and apprising him of
"I'd like to tell him how to run this foolish little island," said
she, puckering a quaintly severe brow.
"Now is the appointed time for you to plunge in and change the
course of empire," her father suggested to her. "There's an
official morning reception at ten o'clock. We're invited."
"Then I shan't go. I wouldn't give the old goose the satisfaction
of going to his fiesta."
"Meaning the noble and patriotic President?" said Carroll.
"Treason most foul! The cuartels are full of chained prisoners who
have said less."
"Father can go with Mr. Sherwen. I shall do some important
shopping," announced Miss Brewster. "And I don't want any one
Thus apprised of her intentions, Carroll wrapped himself in gloom,
and retired to write a letter.
Miss Polly's shopping, being conducted mainly through the medium
of the sign language, presently palled upon her sensibilities, and
about twelve o'clock she decided upon a drive. Accordingly she
stepped into one of the pretty little toy victorias with which the
"Para donde?" inquired the driver.
His fare made an expansive gesture, signifying "Anywhere." Being
an astute person in his own opinion, the Jehu studied the pretty
foreigner's attire with an appraising eye, profoundly estimated
that so much style and elegance could be designed for only one
function of the day, whirled her swiftly along the two-mile drive
of the Calvario Road, and landed her at the President's palace,
half an hour after the reception was over. Supposing from the
coachman's signs that she was expected to go in and view some
public garden, she paid him, walked far enough to be stopped by
the apologetic and appreciative guard, and returned to the
highway, to find no carriage in sight. Never mind, she reflected;
she needed the exercise. Accordingly, she set out to walk.
But the noonday sun of Caracuia has a bite to it. For a time, Miss
Brewster followed the car tracks which were her sure guide from
the palace to the Kast; briskly enough, at first. But, after three
cars had passed her, she began to think longingly of the fourth.
When it stopped at her signal, it was well filled. The most
promising ingress appeared to be across the blockade of a robust
and much-begilded young man, who was occupying the familiar
position of an "end-seat hog," and displaying the full glories of
the Hochwaldian dress uniform.
Herr von Plaanden was both sleepy and cross, for, having lingered
after the reception to have a word and several drinks with the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, he had come forth to find neither
coach nor automobile in attendance. There had been nothing for it
but the plebeian trolley. Accordingly, when he heard a foreign
voice of feminine timbre and felt a light pressure against his
knee, he only snorted. What he next felt against his knee was the
impact of a half-shove, half-blow, brisk enough to slue him
around. The intruder passed by to the vacant seat, while the now
thoroughly awakened and annoyed Hochwaldian whirled, to find
himself looking into a pair of expressionless brown goggles.
With a snort of fury, the diplomat struck backward. The glasses
and the solemn face behind them dodged smartly. The next moment,
Herr von Plaanden felt his neck encircled by a clasp none the less
warm for being not precisely affectionate. He was pinned.
Twisting, he worked one arm loose.
"Be careful!" warned the cool voice of Polly Brewster, addressing
her defender. "He's trying to draw his sword."
The gogglesome one's grip slid a little lower. The car had now
stopped, and the conductor came forward, brandishing what was
apparently the wand of authority, designed to be symbolic rather
than utile, since at no point was it thicker than a man's finger.
From a safe distance on the running-board, he flourished this,
whooping the while in a shrill and dissuasive manner. Somewhere
down the street was heard a responsive yell, and a small, jerky,
olive-green policia pranced into view.
Thereupon a strange thing happened. The rescuing knight relaxed
his grip, leaped the back of his seat, dropped off the car, and
darted like a hunted hare across a compound, around a wall, and so
into the unknown, deserting his lady fair, if not precisely in the
hour of greatest need, at least in a situation fraught with
untoward possibilities. Indeed, it seemed as if these
possibilities might promptly become actualities, for the diplomat
turned his stimulated wrath upon the girl, and was addressing her
in tones too emphatic to be mistaken when a large angular form
interposed itself, landing with a flying leap on the seat between
"Move!" the newly arrived one briefly bade Herr von Plaanden.
Herr von Plaanden, feeling the pressure of a shoulder formed upon
the generous lines of a gorilla's, and noting the approach of the
policia on the other side, was fain to obey.
"Don't you be scared, miss," said Cluff, turning to the girl.
"It's all over."
"I'm not frightened," she said, with a catch in her voice.
"Of course you ain't," he agreed reassuringly. "You just sit
"But I--I--I'm MAD, clean through."
"You gotta right. You gotta perfect right. Now, if this was New
York, I'd spread that gold-laced guy's face--"
"I'm not angry at him. Not particularly, I mean."
"No?" queried her friend in need. "What got your goat, then?"
Miss Brewster shot a quick and scornful glance over her shoulder.
"Oh, HIM" interpreted the athlete. "Well, he made his get-away
like a man with some reason for being elsewhere."
"Reason enough. He was afraid."
"Maybe. Being afraid's a queer thing," remarked her escort
academically. "Now, me, I'm afraid of a fuzzy caterpillar. But I
ain't exactly timid about other things."
"You certainly aren't. And I don't know how to thank you."
"Aw, that's awright, miss. What else could I do? Our departed
friend, Professor Goggle-Eye, when he made his jump, landed right
in my shirt front. 'Take my place,' he says; 'I've got an
engagement.' Well, I was just moving forward, anyway, so it was no
trouble at all, I assure you," asserted the doughty Cluff,
achieving a truly elegant conclusion.
"Most fortunate for me," said the girl sweetly. "Mr. Perkins
scuttled away like one of his own little wretched beetles. When I
see him again--"
"Again? Oh, well, if he's a friend of yours, accourse he'd awtuv
"He isn't!" she declared, with unnecessary vehemence.
"Don't you be too hard on him, miss," argued her escort. "Seems to
me he did a pretty good job for you, and stuck to it until he
found some one else to take it up."
"Then why didn't he stand by you?"
"Oh, I don't carry any 'Help-wanted' signs on me. You know, miss,
you can't size up a man in this country like he was at home. Now,
me, I'd have natcherly hammered that Von Plaanden gink all to heh
--heh--hash. But did I do it? I did not. You see, I got a little
mining concession out here in the mountains, and if I was to get
into any diplomatic mix-up and bring in the police, it'd be bad
for my business, besides maybe getting me a couple of tons of
bracelets around my pretty little ankles. Like as not your friend,
Professor Lamps, has got an equally good reason for keeping the
"Do you mean that this man will make trouble for you over this?"
"Not as things stand. So long as nothing was done--no arrests or
anything like that--he'll be glad to forget it, when he sobers
up. I'll forget it, too, and maybe, miss, it wouldn't be any harm
to anybody if you did a turn at forgetting, yourself."
But neither by the venturesome Miss Polly nor by her athlete
servitor was the episode to be so readily dismissed. Late that
afternoon, when the Brewster party were sitting about iced fruit
drinks amid the dingy and soiled elegance of the Kast's one
private parlor, Mr. Sherwen's card arrived, followed shortly by
Mr. Sherwen's immaculate self, creaseless except for one furrow of
"How you are going to get out of here I really don't know," he
"Why should we hurry?" inquired Miss Brewster. "I don't find
Caracuna so uninteresting."
"Never since I came here has it been so charming," said the
legation representative, with a smiling bow. "But, much as your
party adds to the landscape, I'm not at all sure that this city is
the most healthful spot for you at present."
"You mean the plague?" asked Mr. Brewster.
"Not quite so loud, please. 'Healthful,' as I used it, was, in
part, a figure of speech. Something is brewing hereabout."
"Not a revolution?" cried Miss Polly, with eyes alight. "Oh, do
brew a revolution for me! I should so adore to see one!"
"Possibly you may, though I hardly think it. Some readjustment of
foreign relations, at most. The Dutch blockade is, perhaps, only a
beginning. However, it's sufficient to keep you bottled up, though
if we could get word to them, I dare say they would let a yacht go
"Senator Richland, of the Committee on Foreign Relations, is an
old friend of my family," said Carroll, in his measured tones. "A
"Would probably never get through. This Government wouldn't allow
it. There are other possibilities. Perhaps, Mr. Brewster," he
continued, with a side glance at the girl, "we might talk it over
at length this evening."
"Quite useless, Mr. Sherwen," smiled the magnate. "Polly would
have it all out of me before I was an hour older. She may as well
get it direct."
"Very well, then. It's this quarantine business. If Dr. Pruyn
comes here and declares bubonic plague--"
"But how will he get in?" asked Carroll.
"So far as the blockade goes, the Dutch will help him all they
can. But this Government will keep him out, if possible."
"He is not persona grata?" asked Brewster.
"Not with any of the countries that play politics with pestilence.
But if he's sent here, he'll get in some way. In fact, Stark, the
public-health surgeon at Puerto del Norte, let fall a hint that
makes me think he's on his way now. Probably in some cockleshell
of a small boat manned by Indian smugglers."
"It sounds almost too adventurous for the scholarly Pruyn whom I
recall," observed Mr. Brewster.
"The man who went through the cholera anarchy on the lazar island
off Camacho, with one case of medical supplies and two boxes of
cartridges, may have been scholarly; he certainly didn't exhibit
any distaste for adventure. Well, I wish he'd arrive and get
something settled. Only I'd like to have you out of the way
"Oh, don't send ME away, Mr. Sherwen," pleaded Miss Polly, with
mischief in her eyes. "I'd make the cunningest little office
assistant to busy old Dr. Pruyn. And he's a friend of dad's, and
we surely ought to wait for him."
"If only I COULD send you! The fact is, Americans won't be very
popular if matters turn out as I expect."
"Shall we be confined to our rooms and kept incomunicado, while
Dr. Pruyn chases the terrified germ through the streets of
Caracuna?" queried the irrepressible Polly.
"You'll probably have to move to the legation, where you will be
very welcome, but none too comfortable. The place has been
practically closed and sealed for two months."
"I'm sure we should bother you dreadfully," said the girl.
"It would bother me more dreadfully if you got into any trouble.
Just this morning there was some kind of an affair on a street car
in which some Americans were involved."
Miss Polly's countenance was a design--a very dainty and
ornamental design--in insouciance as her father said:--
"Americans? Any one we have met?"
"No news has come to me. I understand one of the diplomatic corps,
returning from the President's matinee, spoke to an American
woman, and an American man interfered."
"When did this happen?" asked Carroll.
"About noon. Inquiries are going on quietly."
The young man directed a troubled and accusing look from his fine
eyes upon Miss Brewster.
"You see, Miss Polly," he said, "no lady should go about
unprotected down here."
"Ordinarily it's as safe as any city," said Sherwen. "Just now I
can't be so certain."
"I hate being watched over like a child!" pouted Miss Brewster.
"And I love sight-seeing alone. The flowers along the Calvario
Road were so lovely."
"That's the road to the palace," remarked Carroll, looking at her
"And the butterflies are so marvelous," she continued cheerfully.
"Who lives in that salmon-pink pagoda just this side of the
Trouble sat dark and heavy upon the handsome features of Mr.
Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll, but he was too experienced to
put a direct query to his inamorata. What suspicion he had, he
cherished until after dinner, when he took it to the club and made
it the foundation of certain inquiries.
Thus it happened that at eleven o'clock that evening, he paused
before a bench in the plaza, bowered in the bloom of creepers
which flowed down from a balcony of the Kast, and occupied by the
comfortably sprawled-out form of Mr. Thomas Cluff, who was making
a burnt offering to Morpheus.
"Good-evening!" said Mr. Carroll pleasantly.
"Evenin'! How's things?" returned the other.
"Right as can be, thanks to you. On behalf of the Brewster family,
I want to express our appreciation of your assistance to Miss
Brewster this morning."
"Oh, that was nothing," returned the other.
"But it might have been a great deal. Mr. Brewster will wish to
thank you in person--"
"Aw, forget it!" besought Mr. Thomas Cluff. "That little lady is
all right. I'd just as soon eat an ambassador, let alone a gilt-
framed secretary, to help her out."
"Miss Brewster," said the other, somewhat more stiffly, "is a
wholly admirable young lady, but she is not always well advised in
going out unescorted. By the way, you can doubtless confirm the
rumor as to the identity of her insulter."
"His name is Von Plaanden. But I don't think he meant to insult
"You will permit me to be the best judge of that."
"Go as far as you like," asserted the big fellow cheerfully. "That
fellow Perkins can tell you more about the start of the thing than
"From what I hear, he has no cause to be proud of his part in the
matter," said the Southerner, frowning.
"He's sure a prompt little runner," asserted Cluff. "But I've run
away in my time, and glad of the chance."
"You will excuse me from sympathizing with your standards."
"Sure, you're excused," returned the athlete, so placidly that
Carroll, somewhat at a loss, altered his speech to a more gracious
"At any rate, you stood your ground when you were needed, which is
more than Mr. Perkins did. I should like to have a talk with him."
"That's easy. He was rambling around here not a quarter of an hour
ago with young Raimonda. That's them sitting on the bench over by
"Will you take me over and present me? I think it is due Mr.
Perkins that some one should give him a frank opinion of his
"I'd like to hear that," observed Cluff, who was not without
humanistic curiosity. "Come along."
Heaving up his six-feet-one from the seat, he led the way to the
two conversing men. Raimonda looked around and greeted the
newcomers pleasantly. Cluff waved an explanatory hand between his
charge and the bench.
"Make you acquainted with Mr. Perkins," he said, neglecting to
mention the name of the first party of the introduction.
Perkins, goggling upward to meet a coldly hostile glance, rose,
nodded in some wonder, and said: "How do you do?" Raimonda sent
Cluff a glance of interrogation, to which that experimentalist in
human antagonisms responded with a borrowed Spanish gesture of
"I will not say that I'm glad to meet you, Mr. Perkins," began
Carroll weightily, and paused.
If he expected a query, he was doomed to a disappointment. Such of
the Perkins features as were not concealed by his extraordinary
glasses expressed an immovable calm.
"Doubtless you know to what I refer."
Still those blank brown glasses regarded him in silence.
"Do you or do you not?" demanded Carroll, struggling to keep his
temper in the face of this exasperating irresponsiveness.
"Haven't the least idea," replied Perkins equably.
"You were on the tram this morning when Miss Brewster was
insulted, weren't you?"
"And ran away?"
"What did you run away for?"
"I ran away," the other sweetly informed him, "on important
business of my own."
Cluff snickered. The suspicion impinged upon Carroll's mind that
this wasn't going to be as simple as he had expected.
"Let that go for the moment. Do you know Miss Brewster's
"Are you telling me the truth?" asked the Southerner sternly.
The begoggled one's chin jerked up. To the trained eye of Cluff,
swift to interpret physical indications, it seemed that Perkins's
weight had almost imperceptibly shifted its center of gravity.
"Our Southern friend is going to run into something if he doesn't
look out," he reflected.
But there was no hint of trouble in Perkins's voice as he
"I know who he is. I don't know him."
"Was it Von Plaanden?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Because," returned the other, with convincing coolness, "if it
was, I intend to slap his face publicly as soon as I can find
"You must do nothing of the sort."
Now, indeed, there was a change in the other's bearing. The words
came sharp and crisp.
"I shall do exactly as I said. Perhaps you will explain why you
"Because you must have some sense somewhere about you. Do you
realize where you are?"
"I hardly think you can teach me geography, or anything else, Mr.
"Well, good God," said the other sharply, "somebody's got to teach
you! What do you suppose would be the result of your slapping Von
"Whatever it may be, I am ready. I will fight him with any
weapons, and gladly."
"Oh, yes; gladly! Fun for you, all right. But suppose you think of
others a little."
"Afraid of being involved yourself?" smiled Carroll. "I'm sure you
could run away successfully from any kind of trouble."
"Others might not be so able to escape."
"Of course I'm wholly wrong, and my training and traditions are
absurdly old-fashioned, but I've been brought up to believe that
the American who will run from a fight, or who will not stand up
at home or abroad for American rights, American womanhood, and the
American flag, isn't a man."
"Oh, keep it for the Fourth of July," returned Perkins wearily.
"You can't get me into a fight."
"Fight?" Carroll laughed shortly. "If you had the traditions of a
gentleman, you would not require any more provocation."
"If I had the traditions of a deranged doodle bug, I'd go around
hunting trouble in a country that is full of it for foreigners--
even those who behave themselves like sane human beings."
"Meaning, perhaps, that I'm not a sane human being?" inquired the
"Do you think you act like it? To satisfy your own petty vanity of
courage, you'd involve all of us in difficulties of which you know
nothing. We're living over a powder magazine here, and you want to
light matches to show what a hero you are. Traditions! Don't you
talk to me about traditions! If you can serve your country or a
woman better by running away than by fighting, the sensible thing
to do is to run away. The best thing you can do is to keep quiet
and let Von Plaanden drop. Otherwise, you'll have Miss Brewster
the center of--"
"Keep your tongue from that lady's name!" warned Carroll.
"You're giving a good many orders," said the other slowly. "But
I'll do almost anything just now to keep you peaceable, and to
convince you that you must let Von Plaanden strictly alone."
"Just as surely as I meet him," said the Southerner ominously, "on
my word of honor--" "Wait a moment," broke in the other sharply.
"Don't commit yourself until you've heard me. Just around the
corner from here is a cuartel. It isn't a nice clean jail like
ours at home. Fleas are the pleasantest companions in the place.
When a man--particularly an obnoxious foreigner--lands there, they
are rather more than likely to forget little incidentals like food
and water. And if he should happen to be of a nation without
diplomatic representation here, as is the case with the United
States at present, he might well lie there incomunicado until his
hearing, which might be in two days or might not be for a month.
Is that correct, Mr. Raimonda?"
"Essentially," confirmed the Caracunan.
"When you are through trying to frighten me--" began Carroll
"Frighten you? I'm not so foolish as to waste time that way. I'm
trying to warn you."
"Are you quite done?"
"I am not. On MY honor--" He broke off as Carroll smiled. "Smile
if you like, but believe what I'm telling you. Unless you agree to
keep your hands and tongue off Von Plaanden I'll lay an
information which will land you in the cuartel within an hour."
The smile froze on the Southerner's lips.
"Could he do that?" he asked Raimonda.
"I'm afraid he could. And, really, Mr. Carroll, he's correct in
principle. In the present state of political feeling, an assault
by an American upon the representative of Hochwald might seriously
endanger all of your party."
"That's right," Cluff supported him. "I'm with you in wanting to
break that gold-frilled geezer's face up into small sections, but
it just won't do."
With an effort, Carroll recovered his self-control.
"Mr. Raimonda," he said courteously, "I give YOU my word that
there will be no trouble between Herr Von Plaanden and myself, of
my seeking, until Mr. and Miss Brewster are safely out of the