Part 3 out of 4
He went out with his suspicions hardened into certainty.
"THAT WHICH THY SERVANT IS--"
A man that you'd call your friend. Such had been Fitzhugh
Carroll's reference to the Unspeakable Perk. With that
characterization in her mind. Miss Brewster let herself drift,
after her suitor had left her, into a dreamy consideration of the
hermit's attitude toward her. She was not prone lightly to employ
the terms of friendship, yet this new and casual acquaintance had
shown a readiness to serve--not as cavalier, but as friend--none
too common in the experience of the much-courted and a little
spoiled beauty. Being, indeed, a "lady nowise bitter to those who
served her with good intent," she reflected, with a kindly light
in her eyes, that it was all part and parcel of the beetle's man's
Still musing upon this queerness, she strolled back to find her
mount waiting at the corner of the plaza. In consideration of the
heat she let her cream-colored mule choose his own pace, so they
proceeded quite slowly up the hill road, both absorbed in
meditation, which ceased only when the mule started an argument
about a turn in the trail. He was a well-bred trotting mule,
worth six hundred dollars in gold of any man's money, and he was
self-appreciative in knowledge of the fact. He brought a singular
firmness of purpose to the support of the negative of her
proposition, which was that he should swing north from the broad
into the narrow path. When the debate was over, St. John the
Baptist--this, I hesitate to state, yet must, it being the truth,
was the spirited animal's name--was considerably chastened, and
Miss Brewster more than a trifle flushed. She left him tied to a
ceiba branch at the exit from the dried creek bed, with strict
instructions not to kick, lest a worse thing befall him. Miss
Brewster's fighting blood was up, when, ten minutes late, because
of the episode, she reached the summit of the rock.
"Oh, Mr. Beetle Man, are you there?" she called.
"Yes, Voice. You sound strange. What is it?"
"I've been hurrying, and if you tell me I'm late, I'll--I'll fall
on your neck again and break it."
"Has anything happened?"
"Nothing in particular. I've been boxing the compass with a mule.
"You're not, by any chance, speaking figuratively of your
"Certainly NOT!" she disclaimed indignantly. "This was a real
mule. You're very impertinent."
"Well, you see, he was impertinent to me, saying he was out when
he was in. What is his decision--yes or no?"
A sharp exclamation came from the nook below.
"Is that the entomological synonym for 'damn'?" she inquired.
"It's a lament for time wasted on a--Well, never mind that."
"But he wants you to carry a message by that secret route of
yours. Will you do it for him?"
"That's not being a very kind or courteous beetle man."
"I owe Mr. Brewster no courtesy."
"And you pay only where you owe? Just, but hardly amiable. Well,
you owe me nothing--but--will you do it for me?"
"Without even knowing what it is?"
"In return you shall have your heart's desire."
"Isn't the dearest wish of your soul to drive me out of Caracuna?"
"Hum! Well--er--yes. Yes; of course it is."
"Very well. If you can get dad's message on the wire to
Washington, he thinks the Secretary of State, who is his friend,
can reach the Dutch and have them open up the blockade for us."
"Time apparently meaning nothing to him."
"Would it take much time?"
"About four days to a wire."
She gazed at him in amazement.
"And you were willing to give up four days to carry my message
through, 'unsight--unseen,' as we children used to say?"
"Willing enough, but not able to. I'd have got a messenger through
with it, if necessary. But in four days, there'll be other
obstacles besides the Dutch."
"I thought that had to wait for Dr. Pruyn."
"Pruyn's here. That's a secret, Miss Brewster."
"Do you know EVERYTHING? Has he found plague?"
"Ah, I don't say that. But he will find it, for it's certainly
here. I satisfied myself of that yesterday."
"From your beggar friend?"
"What made you think that, O most acute observer?"
"What else would you be talking to him of, with such interest?"
"You're correct. Bubonic always starts in the poor quarters. To
know how people die, you have to know how they live. So I
cultivated my beggar friend and listened to the gossip of quick
funerals and unexplained disappearances. I'd have had some real
arguments to present to Mr. Brewster if he had cared to listen."
"He'll listen to Dr. Pruyn. They're old friends."
"No! Are they?"
"Yes. Since college days. So perhaps the quarantine will be easier
to get through than the blockade."
"Do you think so? I'm afraid you'll find that pull doesn't work
with the service that Dr. Pruyn is in."
"And you think that there will be quarantine within four days?"
"Almost sure to be."
"Then, of course, I needn't trouble you with the message."
"Don't jump at conclusions. There might be another and quicker
"Wireless?" she asked quickly.
"No wireless on the island. No. This way you'll just have to trust
"I'll trust you for anything you say you can do."
"But I don't say I can. I say only that I'll try."
"That's enough for me. Ready! Now, brace yourself. I'm coming
"Wh--why--wait! Can't you send it down?"
"No. Besides, you KNOW you want to see me. No use pretending,
after last time. Remember your verse now, and I'll come slowly."
Solemnly he began:--
"Scarab, tarantula, neurop--"
"'Doodle-bug,'" she prompted severely.
he concluded obediently.
"Scarab, tarantula, doodle-bug, flea.
Scarab, tarantula, doodle--"
"Oof! I--I--didn't think you'd be here so soon!"
He scrambled to his feet, hardly less palpitating than on the
occasion of their first encounter.
"Hopeless!" she mourned. "Incurable! Wanted: a miracle of St.
Vitus. Do stop nibbling your hat, and sit down."
"I don't think it's as bad as it was," he murmured, obeying. "One
gets accustomed to you."
"One gets accustomed to anything in time, even the eccentricities
of one's friends."
"Do you think I'm eccentric?"
"Do I think--Have you ever known any one who didn't think you
Upon this he pondered solemnly.
"It's so long since I've stopped to consider what people think of
me. One hasn't time, you know."
"Then one is unhuman. _I_ have time."
"Of course. But you haven't anything else to do."
As this was quite true, she naturally felt annoyed.
"Knowing as you do all the secrets of my inner life," she observed
sarcastically, "of course you are in a position to judge."
Her own words recalled Carroll's charge, and though, with the
subject of them before her, it seemed ridiculously impossible, yet
the spirit of mischief, ever hovering about her like an attendant
sprite, descended and took possession of her speech. She assumed a
severely judicial expression.
"Mr. Beetle Man, will you lay your hand upon your microscope, or
whatever else scientists make oath upon, and answer fully and
truly the question about to be put to you?"
"As I hope for a blessed release from this abode of lunacy, I
"Mr. Beetle Man, have you got an awful secret in your life?"
So sharply did he start that the heavy goggles slipped a fraction
of an inch along his nose, the first time she had ever seen them
in any degree misplaced. She was herself sensibly discountenanced
by his perturbation.
"Why do you ask that?" he demanded.
"Natural interest in a friend," she answered lightly, but with
growing wonder. "I think you'd be altogether irresistible if you
were a pirate or a smuggler or a revolutionary. The romantic
spirit could lurk so securely behind those gloomy soul-screens
that you wear. What do you keep back of them, O dark and shrouded
"My eyes," he grunted.
"Basilisk eyes, I'm sure. And what behind the eyes?"
"You certainly keep them securely. No intruders allowed. But you
haven't answered my question. Have you ever murdered any one in
cold blood? Or are you a married man trifling with the affections
of poor little me?"
"You shall know all," he began, in the leisurely tone of one who
commences a long narrative. "My parents were honest, but poor. At
the age of three years and four months, a maternal uncle, who,
having been a proofreader of Abyssinian dialect stories for a
ladies' magazine, was considered a literary prophet, foretold that
"Help! Wait! Stop!--
"'Oh, skip your dear uncle!' the bellman exclaimed,
And impatiently tinkled his bell."
Her companion promptly capped her verse:--
"'I skip forty years,' said the baker in tears,"--
"You can't," she objected. "If you skipped half that, I don't
believe it would leave you much."
"When one is giving one's life history by request," he began, with
"It isn't by request," she protested. "I don't want your life
history. I won't have it! You shan't treat an unprotected and
helpless stranger so. Besides, I'm much more interested to know
how you came to be familiar with Lewis Carroll."
"Just because I've wasted my career on frivolous trifles like
science, you needn't think I've wholly neglected the true
inwardness of life, as exemplified in 'The Hunting of the Snark,'"
he said gravely.
"Do you know"--she leaned forward, searching his face--"I believe
you came out of that book yourself. ARE you a Boojum? Will you,
unless I 'charm you with smiles and soap,'
"'Softly and silently vanish away,
And never be heard of again'?"
"You're mixed. YOU'D be the one to do that if I were a real
Boojum. And you'll be doing it soon enough, anyway," he concluded
"So I shall, but don't be too sure that I'll 'never be heard of
He glanced up at the sun, which was edging behind a dark cloud,
over the gap.
"Is your raging thirst for personal information sufficiently
slaked?" he asked. "We've still fifteen or twenty minutes left."
"Is that all? And I haven't yet given you the message!" She drew
it from the bag and handed it to him.
"Sealed," he observed.
The girl colored painfully.
"Dad didn't intend--You mustn't think--" With a flash of generous
wrath she tore the envelope open and held out the inclosure. "But
I shouldn't have thought you so concerned with formalities," she
"It isn't that. But in some respects, possibly important, it would
be better if--" He stopped, looking at her doubtfully.
"Read it," she nodded.
He ran through the brief document.
"Yes; it's just as well that I should know. I'll leave a copy."
Something in his accent made her scrutinize him.
"You're going into danger!" she cried.
"Danger? No; I think not. Difficulty, perhaps. But I think it can
be put through."
"If it were dangerous, you'd do it just the same," she said,
"It would be worth some danger now to get you away from greater
danger later. See here, Miss Brewster"--he rose and stood over
her--"there must be no mistake or misunderstanding about this."
"Don't gloom at me with those awful glasses," she said fretfully.
"I feel as if I were being stared at by a hidden person."
He disregarded the protest.
"If I get this message through, can you guarantee that your father
will take out the yacht as soon as the Dutch send word to him?"
"Oh, yes. He will do that. How are you going to deliver the
Again her words might as well not have been spoken.
"You'd better have your luggage ready for a quick start."
"Will it be soon?"
"It may be."
"How shall we know?"
"I will get word to you."
He shook his head.
"No; I fear not. This is good-bye."
"You're very casual about it," she said, aggrieved. "At least, it
would be polite to pretend."
"What am I to pretend?"
"To be sorry. Aren't you sorry? Just a little bit?"
"Yes; I'm sorry. Just a little bit--at least."
"I'm most awfully sorry myself," she said frankly. "I shall miss
"As a curiosity?" he asked, smiling.
"As a friend. You have been a friend to us--to me," she amended
sweetly. "Each time I see you, I have more the feeling that you've
been more of a friend than I know."
"'That which thy servant is,'" he quoted lightly. But beneath the
lightness she divined a pain that she could not wholly fathom.
Quite aware of her power, Miss Polly Brewster was now, for one of
the few times in her life, stricken with contrition for her use of
"And I--I haven't been very nice," she faltered. "I'm afraid"
sometimes I've been quite horrid."
"You? You've been 'the glory and the dream.' I shall be needing
memories for a while. And when the glory has gone, at least the
dream will remain--tethered."
"But I'm not going to be a dream alone," she said, with wistful
lightness. "It's far too much like being a ghost. I'm going to be
a friend, if you'll let me. And I'm going to write to you, if you
will tell me where. You won't find it so very easy to make a mere
memory of me. And when you come home--When ARE you coming home?"
He shook his head.
"Then you must find out, and let me know. And you must come and
visit us at our summer place, where there's a mountain-side that
we can sit on, and you can pretend that our lake is the Caribbean
and hate it to your heart's content--"
"I don't believe I can ever quite hate the Caribbean again."
"From this view you mustn't, anyway. I shouldn't like that. As for
our lake, nobody could really help loving it. So you must be sure
and come, won't you?"
"Dreams!" he murmured.
"Isn't there room in the scientific life for dreams?"
"Yes. But not for their fulfillment."
"But there will be beetles and dragon-flies on our mountain," she
went on, conscious of talking against time, of striving to put off
the moment of departure. "You'll find plenty of work there. Do you
know, Mr. Beetle Man, you haven't told me a thing, really, about
your work, or a thing, really, about yourself. Is that the way to
treat a friend?"
"When I undertook to spread before you the true and veracious
history of my life," he began, striving to make his tone light,
"you would none of it."
"Are you determined to put me off? Do you think that I wouldn't
find the things that are real to you interesting?"
"They're quite technical," he said shyly.
"But they are the big things to you, aren't they? They make life
"Oh, yes; that, of course." It was as if he were surprised at the
need of such a question. "I suppose I find the same excitement and
adventure in research that other men find in politics, or war, or
"Adventure?" she said, puzzled. "I shouldn't have supposed
research an adventurous career, exactly."
"No; not from the outside." His hidden gaze shifted to sweep the
far distances. His voice dropped and softened, and, when he spoke
again, she felt vaguely and strangely that he was hardly thinking
of her or her question, except as a part of the great wonder-world
surrounding and enfolding their companioned remoteness.
"This is my credo," he said, and quoted, half under his breath:--
"'We have come in search of truth,
Trying with uncertain key
Door by door of mystery.
We are reaching, through His laws,
To the garment hem of Cause.
As, with fingers of the blind,
We are groping here to find
What the hieroglyphics mean
Of the Unseen in the seen;
What the Thought which underlies
Nature's masking and disguise;
What it is that hides beneath
Blight and bloom and birth and death.'"
Other men had poured poetry into Polly Brewster's ears, and she
had thought them vapid or priggish or affected, according as they
had chosen this or that medium. This man was different. For all
his outer grotesquery, the noble simplicity of the verse matched
some veiled and hitherto but half-expressed quality within him,
and dignified him. Miss Brewster suffered the strange but not
wholly unpleasant sensation of feeling herself dwindle.
"It's very beautiful," she said, with an effort. "Is it Matthew
"Nearer home. You an American, and don't know your Whittier? That
passage from his 'Agassiz' comes pretty near to being what life
means to me. Have I answered your requirements?"
"Fully and finely."
She rose from the rock upon which she had been seated, and
stretched out both hands to him. He took and held them without
awkwardness or embarrassment. By that alone she could have known
that he was suffering with a pain that submerged consciousness of
"Whether I see you again or not, I'll never forget you," she said
softly. "You HAVE been good to me, Mr. Perkins."
"I like the other name better," he said.
"Of course. Mr. Beetle Man." She laughed a little tremulously.
Abruptly she stamped a determined foot. "I'm NOT going away
without having seen my friend for once. Take off your glasses, Mr.
"Too much radiance is bad for the microscopical eye."
"The sun is under a cloud."
"But you're here, and you'd glow in the dark."
"No; I'm not to be put off with pretty speeches. Take them off.
Releasing her hand, he lifted off the heavy and disfiguring
apparatus, and stood before her, quietly submissive to her wish.
She took a quick step backward, stumbled, and thrust out a hand
against the face of the giant rock for support.
"Oh!" she cried, and again, "Oh, I didn't think you'd look like
"What is it? Is there anything very wrong with me?" he asked
seriously, blinking a little in the soft light.
"No, no. It isn't that. I--I hardly know--I expected something
different. Forgive me for being so--so stupid."
In truth, Miss Polly Brewster had sustained a shock. She had
become accustomed to regard her beetle man rather more in the
light of a beetle than a man. In fact, the human side of him had
impressed her only as a certain dim appeal to sympathy; the
masculine side had simply not existed. Now it was as if he had
unmasked. The visage, so grotesque and gnomish behind its
mechanical apparatus, had given place to a wholly different and
formidably strange face. The change all centered in the eyes. They
were wide-set eyes of the clearest, steadiest, and darkest gray
she had ever met; and they looked out at her from sharply angled
brows with a singular clarity and calmness of regard. In their
light the man's face became instinct with character in every line.
Strength was there, self-control, dignity, a glint of humor in the
little wrinkles at the corner of the mouth, and, withal a sort of
quiet and sturdy beauty.
She had half-turned her face from him. Now, as her gaze returned
and was fixed by his, she felt a wave of blood expand her heart,
rush upward into her cheeks, and press into her eyes tears of
swift regret. But now she was sorry, not for him, but for herself,
because he had become remote and difficult to her.
"Have I startled you?" he asked curiously. "I'll put them back on
"No, no; don't do that!" She rallied herself to the point of
laughing a little. "I'm a goose. You see, I've pictured you as
quite different. Have you ever seen yourself in the glass with
those dreadful disguises on?"
"Why, no; I don't suppose I have," he replied, after reflection.
"After all, they're meant for use, not for ornament."
By this time she had mastered her confusion and was able to
examine his face. Under his eyes were circles of dull gray,
defined by deep lines,
"Why, you're worn out!" she cried pitifully. "Haven't you been
"You must take something for it." The mothering instinct sprang to
the rescue. "How much rest did you get last night?"
"Let me see. Last night I did very well. Fully four hours."
"And that is more than you average?"
"Well, yes; lately. You see, I've been pretty busy."
"Yet you've given up your time to my wretched, unimportant little
stupid affairs! And what return have I made?"
"You've made the sun shine," he said, "in a rather shaded
"Promise me that you'll sleep to-night; that you won't work a
"No; I can't promise that."
"You'll break down. You'll go to pieces. What have you got to do
more important than keeping in condition?"
"As to that, I'll last through. And there's some business that
Divination came upon her.
"If it weren't that, it would be something else."
Her hand went out to him, and was withdrawn.
"Please put on your glasses," she said shyly.
Smiling, he did her bidding.
"There! Now you are my beetle man again. No, not quite, though.
You'll never be quite the same beetle man again."
"I shall always be," he contradicted gently.
"Anyway, it's better. You're easier to say things to. Are you
really the man who ran away from the street car?" she asked
"I really am."
"Then I'm most surely sure that you had good reason." She began to
laugh softly. "As for the stories about you, I'd believe them less
than ever, now."
"Are there stories about me?"
"Gossip of the club. They call you 'The Unspeakable Perk'!"
"Not a bad nickname," he admitted. "I expect I have been rather
unspeakable, from their point of view."
A desire to have the faith that was in her supported by this man's
own word overrode her shyness.
"Mr. Beetle Man," she said, "have you got a sister?"
"I? No. Why?"
"If you had a sister, is there anything--Oh, DARN your sister!"
broke forth the irrepressible Polly. "I'll be your sister for
this. Is there anything about you and your life here that you'd be
afraid to tell me?"
"I knew there wasn't," she said contentedly. She hesitated a
moment, then put a hand on his arm. "Does this HAVE to be good-
bye, Mr. Beetle Man?" she said wistfully.
"I'm afraid so."
"No!" She stamped imperiously. "I want to see you again, and I'm
going to see you again. Won't you come down to the port and bring
me another bunch of your mountain orchids when we sail--just for
Through the dull medium of the glasses she could feel his eyes
questioning hers. And she knew that once more before she sailed
away, she must look into those eyes, in all their clarity and all
their strength--and then try to forget them. The swift color ran
up into her cheeks.
"I--I suppose so," he said. "Yes."
"Au revoir, then!" she cried, with a thrill of gladness, and fled
up the rock.
The Unspeakable Perk strode down his path, broke into a trot, and
held to it until he reached his house. But Miss Polly, departing
in her own direction, stopped dead after ten minutes' going. It
had struck her forcefully that she had forgotten the matter of the
expense of the message. How could she reach him? She remembered
the cliff above the rock, and the signal. If a signal was valid in
one direction, it ought to work equally well in the other. She had
her automatic with her. Retracing her steps, she ascended the
cliff, a rugged climb. Across the deep-fringed chasm she could
plainly see the porch of the quinta with the little clearing at
the side, dim in the clouded light. Drawing the revolver, she
fired three shots.
"He'll come," she thought contentedly.
The sun broke from behind the obscuring cloud and sent a shaft of
light straight down upon the clearing. It illumined with pitiless
distinctness the shimmering silk of a woman's dress, hanging on a
line and waving in the first draft of the evening breeze. For a
moment Polly stood transfixed. What did it mean? Was it perhaps a
servant's dress. No; he had told her that there was no woman
As she sought the solution, a woman's figure emerged from the
porch of the quinta, crossed the compound, and dropped upon a
bench. Even at that distance, the watcher could tell from the
woman's bearing and apparel that she was not of the servant class.
She seemed to be gazing out over the mountains; there was
something dreary and forlorn in her attitude. What, then, did she
do in the beetle man's house?
Below the rock the shrubbery weaved and thrashed, and the person
who could best answer that question burst into view at a full
"What is it?" he panted. "Was it you who fired?"
She stared at him mutely. The revolver hung in her hand. In a
moment he was beside her.
"Has anything happened?" he began again, then turned his head to
follow the direction of her regard. He saw the figure in the
"Good God in heaven!" he groaned.
He caught the revolver from her hand and fired three slow shots.
The woman turned. Snatching off his hat, he signalled violently
with it. The woman rose and, as it seemed to Polly Brewster, moved
in humble submissiveness back to the shelter.
White consternation was stamped on the Unspeakable Perk's face as
he handed the revolver to its owner.
"Do you need me?" he asked quickly. "If not, I must go back at
"I do not need you," said the girl, in level tones. "You lied to
His expression changed. She read in it the desperation of guilt.
"I can explain," he said hurriedly, "but not now. There isn't
time. Wait here. I'll be back. I'll be back the instant I can get
As he spoke, he was halfway down the rock, headed for the lower
trail. The bushes closed behind him.
Painfully Polly Brewster made her way down the treacherous footing
of the cliff path to her place on the rock. From her bag she drew
one of her cards, wrote slowly and carefully a few words, found a
dry stick, set it between two rocks, and pinned her message to it.
Then she ran, as helpless humans run from the scourge of their own
Half an hour later the hermit, sweat-covered and breathless,
returned to the rock. For a moment he gazed about, bewildered by
the silence. The white card caught his eye. He read its angular
"I wish never to see you again. Never! Never! Never!"
A sulphur-yellow inquisitor, of a more insinuating manner than the
former participant in their conversation, who had been examining
the message on his own account, flew to the top of the cliff.
"Qu'est-ce qu'elle dit? Qu'est-ce qu'elle dit?" he demanded.
For the first time in his adult life the beetle man threw a stone
at a bird.
Luncheon on the day following the kiskadee bird's narrow squeak
for his life was a dreary affair for Mr. Fitzhugh Carroll.
Business had called Mr. Brewster away. This deprivation the
Southerner would have borne with equanimity. But Miss Brewster had
also absented herself, which was rather too much for the devoted,
but apprehensive, lover. Thus, ample time was given him to
consider how ill his suit was prospering. The longer he stayed,
the less he saw of Miss Polly. That she was kinder and more
gentle, less given to teasing him than of yore, was poor
compensation. He was shrewd enough to draw no good augury from
that. Something had altered her, and he was divided between
suspicion of the last week's mail, the arrival of which had been
about contemporaneous with her change of spirit, and some local
cause. Was a letter from Smith, the millionaire, or Bobby, the
friend of her childhood, responsible? Or was the cause nearer at
For one preposterous moment he thought of the Unspeakable Perk. A
quick visualization of that gnomish, froggish face was enough to
dispel the suspicion. At least the petted and rather fastidious
Miss Brewster's fancy would be captured only by a gentleman, not
by any such homunculus as the mountain dweller. Her interest,
perhaps; the man possessed the bizarre attraction of the freakish.
But anything else was absurd. And the knight was inclined to
attaint his lady for a certain cruelty in the matter; she was
being something less than fair to the Unspeakable Perk.
The searchlight of his surmise ranged farther. Raimonda! The young
Caracunan was handsome, distinguished, manly, with a romantic
charm that the American did not underestimate. He, at least, was a
gentleman, and the assiduity of his attentions to the Northern
beauty had become the joke of the clubs--except when Raimonda was
present. By the same token, half of the gilded youth of the
capital, and most of the young diplomats, were the sworn slaves of
the girl. It was a confused field, indeed. Well, thank Heaven, she
would soon be out of it! Word had come down from her that she was
busy packing her things. Carroll wandered about the hotel, waiting
for the news that would explain this preparation.
It came, at mid-afternoon, in the person of Miss Polly herself.
Why packing trunks, with the aid of an experienced maid, should,
even in a hot climate, produce heavy circles under the eyes, a
droop at the mouth corners, and a complete submersion of vivacity,
is a problem which Carroil then and there gave up. He had too much
tact to question or comment.
"Oh, I'm so tired!" she said, giving him her hand. "Have you much
packing to do, Fitzhugh?"
"No one has given me any notice to get ready, Miss Polly."
"How very neglectful of me! We may leave at any time."
"Yes; you may. But my ship doesn't seem to be coming in very
The double entente was unintentional, but the girl winced.
"Aren't you coming with us on the yacht?"
"Am I?" His handsome face lighted hopefully.
"Of course. Dad expects you to. What kind of people should we be
to leave any friend behind, with matters as they are?"
"Ah, yes." The hope passed out of his face. "Dictates of humanity,
and that sort of thing. I think, if you and Mr. Brewster--"
"Please don't be silly, Fitz," she pleaded. "You know it would
make me most unhappy to leave you."
Rarely did the scion of Southern blood and breeding lose the self-
control and reserve on which he prided himself, but he had been
harassed by events to an unwonted strain of temper.
"Is it making you unhappy to leave any one else here?" he blurted
The challenge stirred the girl's spirit.
"No, indeed! I wouldn't care if I never saw any of them again. I'm
tired of it all. I want to go home," she said, like a pathetic
"Oh, Miss Polly," he began, taking a step toward her, "if you'd
only let me--"
She put up one little sunburned hand.
"Please, Fitz! I--I don't feel up to it to-day."
Humbly he subsided.
"I'd no right to ask you the question," he apologized. "It was
kind of you to answer me at all."
"You're really a dear, Fitz," she said, smiling a little wanly.
"Sometimes I wish--"
She did not finish her sentence, but wandered over to the window,
and gazed out across the square. On the far side something quite
out of the ordinary seemed to be going on.
"The legless beggar seems to have collected quite an audience,"
she remarked idly.
Her suitor joined her on the parlor balcony.
"Possibly he's starting a revolution. Any one can do it down
Vehement adjuration, in a high, strident voice, came floating
across to them.
"Listen!" cried the girl. "He's speaking. English, isn't he?"
"It seems to be a mixture of English, French, and Spanish. Quite a
polyglot the friend of your friend Perkins appears to be."
She turned steady eyes upon him.
"Mr. Perkins is not my friend."
"I never want to see him, or to hear his name again."
"Ah, then you've found out about him?"
"Yes." She flushed. "Yes--at least--Yes," she concluded.
"He admitted it to you?"
"No, he lied about it."
"I think I shall go up and make a call on Mr. Perkins," said
Carroll, with formidable quiet.
"Oh, it doesn't matter," she answered wearily. "He'd only run away
and hide." As she said it, her inner self convicted her tongue of
"Very likely. Yet, see here, Miss Polly,--I want to be fair to
that fellow. It doesn't follow that because he's a coward he's a
"He isn't a coward!" she flashed.
"You just said yourself that he'd run and hide."
"Well, he wouldn't, and he IS a cad."
"As you like. In any case, I shall make it a point to see him
before I leave. If he can explain, well and good. If not--" He did
"Our orator seems to have finished," observed the girl. "I shall
go back upstairs and write some good-bye notes to the kind people
"Just for curiosity, I think I'll drive across and look at the
legless Demosthenes," said her companion. "I was going to do a
little shopping, anyway. So I'll report later, if he's revoluting
or anything exciting."
From her own balcony, when she reached it, Polly had a less
obstructed view of the beggar's appropriated corner, and she
looked out a few minutes after she reached the room to see whether
he had resumed his oratory. Apparently he had not, for the crowd
had melted away. The legless one was rocking himself monotonously
upon his stumps. His head was sunk forward, and from his
extraordinary mouthings the spectator judged that he must be
talking to himself with resumed vehemence. From what next passed
before her astonished vision, Miss Brewster would have suspected
herself of a hallucination of delirium had she not been sure of
One of the well-horsed, elegant little public victorias with which
the city is so well supplied stopped at the curb, and the handsome
head of Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll was thrust forth. At
almost the same moment the Unspeakable Perk appeared upon the
steps. He was wearing a pair of enormous, misfit white gloves. He
went down to the beggar, reached forth a hand, and, to the far-
away spectator's wonder-struck interpretation, seemed to thrust
something, presumably a document, into the breast of the
mendicant's shirt. Having performed this strange rite, he leaped
up the steps, hesitated, rushed over to Carroll's equipage, and
laid violent hands upon the occupant, with obvious intent to draw
him forth. For a moment they seemed to struggle upon the sidewalk;
then both rushed upon the unfortunate beggar and proceeded to
kidnap him and thrust him bodily into the cab.
The driver turned in his seat at this point, his cue in the mad
farce having been given, and opened speech with many gestures,
whereupon Carroll arose and embraced him warmly. And with this
grouping, the vehicle, bearing its lunatic load, sped around the
corner and disappeared, while the sole interested witness retired
to obscurity, with her reeling head between her hands.
One final touch of phantasy was given to the whole affair when,
two hours later, she met Carroll, soiled and grimy, coming across
the plaza, smoking--he, the addict to thirty-cent Havanas!--an
awful native cheroot, whose incense spread desolation about him.
Further and more extraordinary, when she essayed to obtain a
solution of the mystery from him, he repelled her with emphatic
gestures and a few half-strangled words with whose
unintelligibility the cheroot fumes may have had some connection,
and hurried into the hotel, where he remained in seclusion the
rest of the day.
What in the name of all the wonders could it mean? On Mr.
Brewster's return, she laid the matter before him at the dinner
"Touch of the sun, perhaps," he hazarded. "Nothing else I know of
would explain it."
"Do two Americans, a half-breed beggar, and a local coachman get
sunstruck at one and the same time?" she inquired disdainfully.
"Doesn't seem likely. By your account, though, the crippled beggar
seems to have been the little Charlie Ross of melodrama."
"Then why didn't he shout for help? I listened, but didn't hear a
sound from him."
"Movie-picture rehearsal," grunted Mr. Brewster. "I can't quite
see the heir of all the Virginias in the part. Isn't he coming
down to dinner this evening?"
"His dinner was sent up to his room. Isn't it extraordinary?"
"Ask Sherwen about it. He's coming around this evening for coffee
in our rooms."
But the American representative had something else on his mind
besides casual kidnapings.
"I've just come from a talk with the British Minister," he
remarked, setting down his cup. "He's officially in charge of
American interests, you know."
"Thought you were," said Mr. Brewster.
"Officially, I have no existence. The United States of America is
wiped off the map, so far as the sovereign Republic of Caracuna is
concerned. Some of its politicians wouldn't be over-grieved if the
local Americans underwent the same process. The British Minister
would, I'm sure, sleep easier if you were all a thousand miles
away from here."
"Tell Sir Willet that he's very ungallant," pouted Miss Polly.
"When I sat next to him at dinner last week he offered to
establish woman suffrage here and elect me next president if I'd
Sherwen hardly paid this the tribute of a smile.
"That was before he found out certain things. The Hochwald
Legation"--he lowered his voice--"is undoubtedly stirring up anti-
"But why?" inquired Mr. Brewster. "There's enough trade for them
and for us?"
"For one thing, they don't like your concessions, Mr. Brewster.
Then they have heard that Dr. Pruyn is on his way, and they want
to make all the trouble they can for him, and make it impossible
for him to get actual information of the presence of plague. I
happen to know that their consul is officially declaring fake all
the plague rumors."
"That suits me," declared the magnate. "We don't want to have to
run Dutch and quarantine blockade both."
"Meantime, there are two or three cheap but dangerous demagogues
who have been making anti-'Yanki,' as they call us, speeches in
the slums. Sir Willet doesn't like the looks of it. If there were
any way in which you could get through, and to sea, it would be
well to take it at once. Am I correct in supposing that you've
taken steps to clear the yacht, Mr. Brewster?"
"Yes. That is, I've sent a message. Or, at least, so my daughter,
to whose management I left it, believes."
"Don't tell me how," said Sherwen quickly. "There is reason to
believe that it has been dispatched."
"You've heard something?"
"I have a message from our consul at Puerto del Norte, Mr.
"For me?" asked the concessionaire.
"Why, no," was the hesitant reply. "It isn't quite clear, but it
seems to be for Miss Brewster."
"Why not?" inquired that young lady coolly. "What is it?"
"The best I could make of it over the phone--Wisner had to be
guarded--was that people planning to take Dutch leave would better
pay their parting calls by to-morrow at the latest."
"That would mean day after to-morrow, wouldn't it?" mused the
"If it means anything at all," substituted her father testily.
"Meantime, how do you like the Gran Hotel Kast, Miss Brewster?"
"It's awful beyond words! I've done nothing but wish for a brigade
of Biddies, with good stout mops, and a government permit to clean
up. I'd give it a bath!"
"Yes, it's pretty bad. I'm glad you don't like it."
"Glad? Is every one ag'in' poor me?"
"Because--well, the American Legation is a very lonely place. Now,
the presence of an American lady--"
"Are you offering a proposal of marriage, Mr. Sherwen?" twinkled
the girl. "If so--Dad, please leave the room."
"Knock twenty years off my battle-scarred life and you wouldn't be
safe a minute," he retorted. "But, no. This is a measure of
safety. Sir Willet thinks that your party ought to be ready to
move into the American Legation on instant notice, if you can't
get away to sea to-morrow."
"What's the use, if the legation has no official existence?" asked
"In a sense it has. It would probably be respected by a mob. And,
at the worst, it adjoins the British Legation, which would be
quite safe. If it weren't that Sir Willet's boy has typhoid, you'd
be formally invited to go there."
"It's very good of you," said Miss Polly warmly. "But surely it
would be an awful nuisance to you."
"On the contrary, you'd brace up my far-too-casual old housekeeper
and get the machinery running. She constantly takes advantage of
my bachelor ignorance. If you say you'll come, I'll almost pray
for the outbreak."
"Certainly we'll come, at any time you notify us," said Mr.
Brewster. "And we're very grateful. Shall you have room for Mr.
"By all means. And I've notified Mr. Cluff. You won't mind his
being there? He's a rough diamond, but a thoroughly decent
"Useful, too, in case of trouble, I should judge," said the
magnate. "Then I'll wait for further word from you."
"Yes. I've got my men out on watch."
"Wouldn't it be--er--advisable for us to arm ourselves?"
"By no means! There's just one course to follow; keep the peace at
any price, and give the Hochwaldians not the slightest peg on
which to hang a charge that Americans have been responsible for
any trouble that might arise. May I ask you," he added
significantly, "to make this clear to Mr. Carroll?"
"Leave that to me," said Miss Brewster, with superb confidence.
"Content, indeed! You'll find our locality very pleasant, Miss
Brewster. Three of the other legations are on the same block, not
including the Hochwaldian, which is a quarter of a mile down the
hill. On our corner is a house where several of the English
railroad men live, and across is the Club Amicitia, made up
largely of the jeunesse doree, who are mostly pro-American. So
you'll be quite surrounded by friends, not to say adherents."
"Call on me to housekeep for you at any time," cried Polly gayly.
"I'll begin to roll up my sleeves as soon as I get dressed to-
THE BLACK WARNING
That weird three-part drama in the plaza which had so puzzled Miss
Polly Brewster had developed in this wise:--
Coincidently with the departure of Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh
Carroll from the hotel in his cab, the Unspeakable Perk emerged
from a store near the far corner of the square, which exploited
itself in the purest Castilian as offering the last word in the
matter of gentlemen's apparel. "Articulos para Caballeros" was the
representation held forth upon its signboard.
If it had articled Mr. Perkins, it must be confessed that it had
done its job unevenly, not to say fantastically. His linen was
fresh and new, quite conspicuously so, and, therefore, in sharp
contrast to the frayed and patched, but scrupulously clean and
neatly pressed khaki suit, which set forth rather bumpily his
solid figure. A serviceable pith helmet barely overhung the
protrusive goggles. His hands were encased in white cotton gloves,
a size or two too large. Dismal buff spots on the palms impaired
their otherwise virgin purity. As the wearer carried his hands
stiffly splayed, the blemishes were obtrusive. Altogether, one
might have said that, if he were going in for farce, he was
appropriately made up for it.
At the corner above the beggar's niche he was turning toward a
pharmacist's entrance, when the mirth of the departing crowd that
had been enjoying the free oratory attracted his attention. He
glanced across at the beggar, now rocking rhythmically on his
stumps, hesitated a moment, then ran down the steps.
At the same moment Carroll's cab stopped on the other angle of the
curb. The occupant put forth his head, saw the goggled freak
descending to the legless freak, and sat back again.
"Hola, Pancho! Are you ill?" asked the newcomer.
The beggar only swung back and forth, muttering with frenzied
rapidity. With one hand the Unspeakable Perk stopped him, as one
might intercept the runaway pendulum of a clock, setting the other
on his forehead. Then he bent and brought his goblin eyes to bear
on the dark face. The features were distorted, the eyelids
tremulous over suffused eyes, and the teeth set. Opening the man's
loose shirt, Perkins thrust his hand within. It might have been
supposed that he was feeling for the heart action, were it not
that his hand slid past the breast and around under the arm. When
he drew it out, he stood for a moment with chin dropped, in
Midday heat had all but cleared the plaza. As he looked about, the
helper saw no aid, until his eye fell upon the waiting cab. He
fairly bounded up the stairs, calling something to the coachman.
"No," grunted that toiler, with the characteristic discourtesy of
the Caracunan lower class, and jerked his head backward toward his
"I beg your pardon," said the Unspeakable Perk eagerly, in
Spanish, turning to the dim recess of the victoria. "Might I--Oh,
it's you!" He seized Carroll by the arm. "I want your cab."
"Indeed!" said Carroll. "Well, you're cool enough about it."
"And your help," added the other.
"Do you have to ask questions? The man may be dying--is dying, I
"All right," said Carroll promptly. "What's to be done?"
"Get him home. Help me carry him to the cab."
Between them, the two men lifted the heavy, mumbling cripple,
carried him up the steps with a rush, and deposited him in the
cab, while the driver was still angrily expostulating. The beggar
was shivering now, and the cold sweat rolled down his face. His
bearers placed themselves on each side of him. Perkins gave an
order to the driver, who seemed to object, and a rapid-fire
"What's wrong?" asked Carroll.
"Says he won't go there. Says he was hired by you for shopping."
Carroll took one look at the agony-wrung face of the beggar, who
was being held on the seat by his companion.
"Won't he?" said he grimly. "We'll see."
Rising, he threw a pair of long arms around those of the driver,
pinning him, caught the reins, and turned the horses.
"Now ask him if he'll drive," he directed Perkins.
"Si, senor!" gasped the coachman, whose breath had been squeezed
almost through his crackling ribs.
"See that you do," the Southerner bade him, in accents that needed
Presently Perkins looked up from his charge.
"Got a cigar?" he asked abruptly.
"No," replied the other, a little disgusted by this levity in the
presence of imminent death.
Perkins bade the driver stop at the corner.
"Don't let him fall off the seat," he admonished Carroll, and
In the course of a minute he reappeared, smoking a cheroot that
appeared to be writhing and twisting in the effort to escape from
its own noxious fumes.
"Have one," he said, extending a handful to his companion.
"I don't care for it," returned the other superciliously. While
willing to aid in a good work, he did not in the least approve
either of the Unspeakable Perk or of his offhand manners.
Before they had gone much farther, his resentment was heated to
the point of offense.
"Is it necessary for you to puff every puff of that infernal smoke
in my face?" he demanded ominously.
"Well, you wouldn't smoke, yourself."
"If it weren't for this poor devil of a sick man--" began Carroll,
when a second thought about the smoke diverted his line of
thought. "Is it contagious?" he asked.
"It's so regarded," observed the other dryly.
"I'll take one of those, thank you."
Perkins handed him one of the rejected spirals. In silence, except
for the outrageous rattling of the wheels on the cobbles, they
drove through mean streets that grew ever meaner, until they drew
up at the blind front of a building abutting on an arroyo of the
foothills. Here they stopped, and Carroll threw his jehu a five-
bolivar piece, which the driver caught, driving away at once,
without the demand for more which usually follows overpayment in
Caracuna. Convenient to hand lay a small rock. Perkins used it for
a knocker, hammering on the guarded wooden door with such
vehemence as to still the clamor that arose from within.
Through the opening, as the barrier was removed by a leather-
skinned old crone, Carroll gazed into a passageway, beyond which
stretched a foul mule yard, bordered by what the visitor at first
supposed to be stalls, until he saw bedding and utensils in them.
The two men lifted the cripple in, amid the outcries and
lamentations of the aged woman, who had looked at his face and
then covered her own. At once they were surrounded by a swarm of
women and children, who pressed upon them, hampering their
movements, until a shrill voice cried:--
"La muerte negra!"
The swarm fell into silence, scattered, vanished, leaving only the
moaning woman to help. At her direction they settled the patient
on a straw pallet in a side room.
"That's all you can do," said the Unspeakable Perk to his
companion. "And thank you."
The goggles gloomed upon him in the dim room.
"I thought probably you would," commented Perkins, and busied
himself over the cripple with a knife and some cloths. He had
stuffed his ludicrous white gloves into his pocket, and was
tearing strips from his handkerchief with skillful fingers.
"Oughtn't he to have a doctor?" asked Carroll. "Shall I go for
"His mother has sent. No use, though."
"He can't be saved?"
"Not a chance on earth. I should say he was in the last stages."
"What is it?" said Carroll hesitantly.
"La muerte negra. The black death."
"Are you sure? Are you an expert?"
"One doesn't have to be to recognize a case like that. The lump in
the armpit is as big as a pigeon's egg."
"Why have you interested yourself in the man to such an extent?"
asked Carroll curiously.
"He's a friend of mine. Why did you?"
"Oh, that's quite different. One can't disregard a call for help
such as yours."
"A certain kind of 'one' can't," returned the Unspeakable Perk,
with his half-smile. "You don't mind my saying, Mr. Carroll,
you're a brave man."
"And I'd have said that you weren't," replied the other bluntly.
"I give it up. But I know this: I'm going to be pretty wretchedly
frightened until I know that I haven't got it. I'm frightened
"Then you're a braver man than I thought. But the danger may be
less than you think. Stick to that cigar--here are two more--and
wait for me outside. Here's the doctor."
Profound and solemn under a silk hat, the local physician entered,
bowing to Carroll as they passed in the hallway. Almost
immediately Perkins emerged. On his face was a sardonic grin.
"Malaria," he observed. "The learned professor assures me that
it's a typical malaria."
"Then it isn't the plague," said Carroll, relieved.
His relief was of brief duration.
"Of course it's plague. But if Professor Silk Hat, in there,
officially declared it such, he'd have bracelets on his arms in
twelve hours. The present Government of Caracuia doesn't believe
in bubonic plague. I fancy our unfortunate friend in there will
presently disappear, either just before or just after death. It
doesn't greatly matter."
"What is to be done now?" asked Carroll.
"See that brush fire up there?" The hermit pointed to the
hillside. "If we steep ourselves in that smoke until we choke, I
think it will discourage any fleas that may have harbored on us.
The flea is the only agent of communication."
Soot-begrimed, strangling, and with streaming eyes, they emerged,
five minutes later, from the cloud of smoke. From his pocket the
Unspeakable Perk dragged forth his white gloves. The action
attracted his companion's attention.
"Good Lord!" he cried. "What has happened to your hands?"
"Stripped, rather. They look as if you'd fallen into a fire, or
rowed a fifty-mile race. That message of Mr. Brewster's--See here,
Perkins, you didn't row that over to the mainland? No, you
couldn't. That's absurd. It's too far."
"No; I didn't row it to the mainland."
"But you've been rowing. I'd swear to those hands. Where? The
blockading Dutch warship?"
The other nodded.
"Last night. Yah-h-h!" he yawned. "It makes me sleepy to think of
"Why didn't they blow you out of the water?" "Oh, I was
semiofficially expected. Message from our consul. They transferred
the message by wireless. I'm telling you all this, Mr. Carroll,
because I think you'll get your release within forty-eight hours,
and I want you to see that some of your party keeps constantly in
touch with Mr. Sherwen. It's mighty important that your party
should get out before plague is officially declared."
"Are you going to report this case?"
"All that I know about it."
"But, of course, you can't report officially, not being a
physician," mused the other. "Still, when Dr. Pruyn comes, it will
be evidence for him, won't it?"
"Undoubtedly. I should consider any delay after twenty-four hours
risky for your party."
"What shall you do? Stay?"
"Oh, I've my place in the mountains. That's remote enough to be
safe. Thank Heaven, there's a cloud over the sun! Let's sit down
by this tree for a minute."
Unthinkingly, as he stretched himself out, the Unspeakable Perk
pushed his goggles back and presently slipped them off. Thus, when
Carroll, who had been gazing at the mist-capped peak of the
mountain in front, turned and met his companion's eyes, he
underwent something of the same shock that Polly Brewster had
experienced, though the nature of his sensation was profoundly
different. But his impression of the suddenly revealed face was
the same. Ribbed-in though his mind was with tradition, and
distorted with falsely focused ideals and prejudices, Preston
Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll possessed a sound underlying judgment of
his fellow man, and was at bottom a frank and honorable gentleman.
In his belief, the suddenly revealed face of the man beside him
came near to being its own guaranty of honor and good faith.
"By Heavens, I don't believe it!" he blurted out, his gaze direct
upon the Unspeakable Perk.
"What don't you believe?"
"That rotten club gossip."
"Yes," said Carroll, reddening.
The hermit pushed his glasses down, settled into place the white
gloves, with their soothing contents of emollient greases, and got
to his feet.
"We'd best be moving. I've got much to do," he said.
"Not yet," retorted Carroll. "Perkins, is there a woman up there
on the mountains with you?"
"That is purely my own business."
"You told Miss Brewster there wasn't. If you tell me--"
"I never told her any such thing. She misunderstood."
"Who is the woman?"
"If you want it even more frankly, that is none of your concern."
"You have been letting Miss Brewster--"
"Are you engaged to marry Miss Brewster?"
"Then you have no authority to question me. But," he added
wearily, "if it will ease your mind, and because of what you've
done to-day, I 'll tell you this--that I do not expect ever to see
Miss Brewster again."
"That isn't enough," insisted Carroll, his face darkening. "Her
name has already been connected with yours, and I intend to follow
this through. I am going to find out who the woman is at your
"How do you propose to do it?"
"By coming to see."
"You'll be welcome," said the other grimly. "By the way, here's a
map." He made a quick sketch on the back of an envelope. "I'll be
there at work most of to-morrow. Au revoir." He rose and started
down the hill. "Better keep to yourself this evening," he warned.
"Take a dilute carbolic bath. You'll be all right, I think."
Slowly and thoughtfully the Southerner made his way back to the
hotel. After dining in his own room, he found time heavy on his
hands; so, dispatching a note of excuse to Miss Brewster on the
plea of personal business, he slipped out into the city. Wandering
idly toward the hills, he presently found himself in a familiar
street, and, impelled by human curiosity, proceeded to turn up the
hill and stop opposite the blank door.
Here he was puzzled. To go in and inquire, even if he cared to and
could make himself understood, would perhaps involve further risk
of infection. While he was considering, the door slowly opened,
and the leather-skinned crone appeared. Her eyes were swollen. In
her hand she carried a travesty of a wreath, done in whitish
metal, which she had interwoven with her own black mantilla, the
best substitute for crape at hand. This she undertook to hang on
the door. As Carroll crossed to address her, a powerful, sullen-
faced man, with a scarred forehead and the insignia of some
official status, apparently civic, on his coat, emerged from a
doorway and addressed her harshly. She raised her reddened eyes to
him and seemed to be pleading for permission to set up the little
tribute to her dead. There was the exchange of a few more words.
Then, with an angry exclamation, the official snatched the wreath
from her. Carroll's hand fell on his shoulder. The man swung and
saw a stranger of barely half his bulk, who addressed him in what
seemed to be politely remonstrant tones. He shook himself loose
and threw the wreath in the crone's face. Then he went down like a
log under the impact of a swinging blow behind the ear. With a
roar he leaped up and rushed. The foreigner met him with right and
left, and this time he lay still.
Hanging the tragically unsightly wreath on the door, through which
the terrified mourner had vanished, Carroll returned to the Gran
Hotel Kast, his perturbed and confused thoughts and emotions
notably relieved by that one comforting moment of action.
THE FOLLY OF PERK
Of the comprehensive superiority of the American Legation over the
Gran Hotel Kast there could be no shadow of a doubt. From the
moment of their arrival at noon of the day after the British
Minister's warning, the refugees found themselves comfortable and
content, Miss Brewster having quietly and tactfully taken over the
management of internal affairs and reigning, at Sherwen's request,
as generalissima. No disturbance had marked the transfer to their
new abode. In fact, so wholly lacking was any evidence of
hostility to the foreigners on the part of the crowds on the
streets that the Brewsters rather felt themselves to be extorting
hospitality on false pretenses. Sherwen, however, exhibited signal
relief upon seeing them safely housed.
"Please stay that way, too," he requested.
"But it seems so unnecessary, and I want to market," protested
"By no means! The market is the last place where any of us should
be seen. It is in that section that Urgante has been doing his
"Who is he?"
"A wandering demagogue and cheap politician. Abuse of the 'Yankis'
is his stock in trade. Somebody has been furnishing him money
lately. That's the sole fuel to his fires of oratory."
"Bet the bills smelled of sauerkraut when they reached him,"
grunted Cluff, striding over to the window of the drawing-room,
where the informal conference was being held.
"They may have had a Hochwaldian origin," admitted Sherwen. "But
it would be difficult to prove."
"At least the Hochwald Legation wouldn't shed any tears over a
demonstration against us," said Carroll.
"Well within the limits of diplomatic truth," smiled the American
"Pooh!" Mr. Brewster puffed the whole matter out of consideration.
"I don't believe a word of it. Some of my acquaintances at the
club, men in high governmental positions, assure me that there is
no anti-American feeling here."
"Very likely they do. Frankness and plain-speaking being, as you
doubtless know, the distinguishing mark of the Caracunan
The sarcasm was not lost upon Mr. Brewster, but it failed to shake
"There are some business matters that require that I should go to
the office of the Ferro carril del Norte this afternoon," he said.
"I beg that you do nothing of the sort," cried Sherwen sharply.
The magnate hesitated. He glanced out of the window and along the
street, close bounded by blank-walled houses, each with its eyes
closed against the sun. A solitary figure strode rapidly across
"There's that bug-hunting fellow again," said Mr. Brewster. "He's
an American, I guess,--God save the mark! Nobody seems to be
interfering with HIM, and he's freaky enough looking to start a
riot on Broadway."
Further comment was checked by the voice of the scientist at the
door, asking to see Mr. Sherwen at once. Miss Polly immediately
slipped out of the room to the patio, followed by Carroll and
"My business, probably," remarked Mr. Brewster. "I'll just stay
and see." And he stayed.
So far as the newcomer was concerned, however, he might as well
not have been there; so he felt, with unwonted injury. The
scientist, disregarding him wholly, shook hands with Sherwen.
"Have you heard from Wisner yet?"
"Yes. An hour ago."
"What was his message?"
"All right, any time to-day."
"Good! Better get them down to-night, then, so they can start to-
"Will Stark pass them?"
"Under restrictions. That's all been seen to."
At this point it appeared to Mr. Brewster that he had figured as a
cipher quite long enough.
"Am I right in assuming that you are talking of my party's
departure?" he inquired.
"Yes," said Sherwen. "The Dutch will let you through the
"Then my cablegram reached the proper parties at Washington," said
the magnate, with an I-knew-it-would-be-that-way air.
"Thanks to Mr. Perkins."
"Of course, of course. That will be--er--suitably attended to
The Unspeakable Perk turned and regarded him fixedly; but, owing
to the goggles, the expression was indeterminable.
"The fact is it would be more convenient for me to go day after
to-morrow than to-morrow."
"Then you'd better rent a house," was the begoggled one's sharp
and brief advice.
"Why so?" queried the great man, startled.
"Because if you don't get out to-morrow, you may not get out for
"As I understand the Dutch permit, it specifies AFTER to-day."
"It isn't a question of the Dutch. Caracuna City goes under
quarantine to-night, and Puerto del Norte to-morrow, as soon as
proper official notification can be given."
"Then plague has actually been found?"
"Determined by bacteriological test this morning."
"How do you know?"
"I was present at the finding."
"Who did it? Dr. Pruyn?"
The other nodded.
"Better make ready to move, Mr. Brewster," he advised. "You can't
get out of port after quarantine is on. At least, you couldn't get
into any other port, even if you sailed, because your sailing-
master wouldn't have clearance papers."
The magnate smiled.
"I hardly think that any United States Consul, with a due regard
for his future, would refuse papers to the yacht Polly," he
"Don't be a fool!"
Thatcher Brewster all but jumped from his chair. That this
adjuration should have come from the freakish spectacle-wearer
seemed impossible. Yet Sherwen, the only other person in the room,
was certainly not guilty.
"Did you address me, young man?"
"Do you know, sir, that since boyhood no person has dared or would
dare to call me a fool?"
"Well, I don't want to set a fashion," said the other equably.
"I'm only advising you not to be."
"Keep your advice until it's wanted."
"If it were a question of you alone, I would. But there are others
to be considered. Now, listen, Mr. Brewster: Wisner and Stark
wouldn't let you through that quarantine, after it's declared, if
you were the Secretary himself. A point is being stretched in
giving you this chance. If you'll agree to ship a doctor,--Stark
will find you one,--stay out for six full days before touching
anywhere, and, if plague develops, make at once for any detention
station specified by the doctor, you can go. Those are Stark's
"Damnable nonsense!" declared Mr. Brewster, jumping to his feet,
quite red in the face.
"Let me warn you, Mr. Brewster," put in Sherwen, with quiet force,
"that you are taking a most unwise course. I am advised that Mr.
Perkins is acting under instructions from our consulate."
"You say that Dr. Pruyn is here. I want to see him before--"
"How can you see him? Nobody knows where he is keeping himself. I
haven't seen him yet myself. Now, Mr. Brewster, just sit down and
talk this over reasonably with Mr. Perkins."
"Oh, no," said the third conferee positively; "I've no time for
argument. At six o'clock I 'll be back here. Unless you decide by
then, I'll telephone the consulate that the whole thing is off."
"Of all the impudent, conceited, self-important young
whippersnappers!" fumed Mr. Brewster. But he found that he had no
audience, as Sherwen had followed the scientist out of the room.
Before the afternoon was over, the American concessionnaire had
come to realize that the situation was less assured than he had
thought. Twice the British Minister had come, and there had been
calls from the representatives of several other nationalities. Von
Plaanden, in full uniform and girt with the short saber that is
the special and privileged arm of the crack cavalry regiment to
which he belonged at home, had dismounted to deliver personally a
huge bouquet for Miss Brewster, from the garden of the Hochwald
Legation, not even asking to see the girl, but merely leaving the
flowers as a further expression of his almost daily apology, and
riding on to an official review at the military park.
He had spoken vaguely to Sherwen of a restless condition of the
local mind. Reports, it appeared, had been set afloat among the
populace to the effect that an American sanitary officer had been
bribed by the enemies of Caracuna to declare plague prevalent, in
order to close the ports and strangle commerce. Urgante was going
about the lower part of the city haranguing on street corners
without interference from the police. In the arroyo of the
slaughter-house, two American employees of the street-car company
had been stoned and beaten. Much aguardiente was in process of
consumption, it being a half-holiday in honor of some saint, and
nobody knew what trouble might break out.
"Bolas are rolling around like balls on a billiard table," said
young Raimonda, who had come after luncheon to call on Miss
Brewster. "In this part of the city there will be nothing. You
needn't be alarmed."
"I'm not afraid," said Miss Polly.
"I'm sure of it," declared the Caracunan, with admiration. "You
are very wonderful, you American women."
"Oh, no. It's only that we love excitement," she laughed.
"Ah, that is all very well, for a bull-fight or 'la boxe.' But for
one of our street emeutes--no; too much!"
They were seated on the roof of the half-story of the house, which
had been made into a trellised porch overlooking the patio in the
rear and the street in front, an architectural wonder in that city
of dead walls flush with the sidewalk line all the way up. Leaning
over the rail, the visitor pointed through the leaves of a small
gallito tree to a broad-fronted building almost opposite.
"That is my club. You have other friends there who would do
anything for you, as I would, so gladly," he added wistfully.
"Will you honor me by accepting this little whistle? It is my
hunting-whistle. And if there should be anything--but I think
there will not--you will blow it, and there will be plenty to
answer. If not, you will keep it, please, to remember one who will
not forget you."
Handsome and elegant and courtly he was, a true chevalier of
adventurous pioneering stock, sprung from the old proud Spanish
blood, but there stole behind the girl's vision, as she bade him
farewell, the undesired phantasm of a very different face, weary
and lined and lighted by steadfast gray eyes--eyes that looked
truthful and belonged to a liar! Miss Polly Brewster resumed her
final packing in a fume of rage at herself.
All hands among the visitors passed the afternoon dully. Mr.
Brewster, who had finally yielded to persuasion and decided not to
venture out, though still deriding the restriction as the merest
nonsense, was in a mood of restless silence, which his
irrepressible daughter described to Fitzhugh Carroll as "the
Carroll himself kept pretty much aloof. He had the air of a man
who wrestles with a problem. Cluff fussed and fretted and
privately cursed the country and all its concessions. Between
calls and the telephone, Sherwen was kept constantly busy. But a
few minutes before six, central, in the blandest Spanish,
regretted to inform him that Puerto del Norte was cut off. When
would service be resumed? Quien sabe? It was an order. Hasta
manana. To-morrow, perhaps. Smoothing a furrow from his brow, the
sight of which would have done nobody any good, he suggested that
they all gather on the roof porch for a swizzle. The suggestion
was hailed with enthusiasm.
Thus, when the Unspeakable Perk came hustling down the street some
minutes earlier than the appointed time, he was hailed in
Sherwen's voice, and bidden to come directly up. No time, on this
occasion, for Miss Polly to escape. She decided in one breath to
ignore the man entirely; in the next to bow coldly and walk out;
in the next to--He was there before the latest wavering decision
could be formulated.
"Better all get inside," he said a little breathlessly. "There may
Cluff brightened perceptibly.
"What kind of trouble?"
"Urgante is leading a mob up this way. They're turning the corner
"I'm going to wait and see them," cried Miss Polly, with decision.
"Bend over, then, all of you," ordered Sherwen. "The vines will
cover you if you keep down."
Around the corner, up the hill from where they were, streamed a
rabble of boys, leaping and whooping, and after them a more
compact crowd of men, shoeless, centering on a tall, broad, heavy-
mustached fellow who bore on a short staff the Stars and Stripes.
"Where on earth did he get that?" cried Sherwen.
"Looted the Bazaar Americana," replied Perkins.
"That's Urgante," growled Cluff; "that devil with the flag."
"But he seems to be eulogizing it," cried the girl.
The orator had set down his bright burden, wedging it in the iron
guard railing of a tree, and was now apostrophizing it with
extravagant bows and honeyed accents in which there was an
undertone of hiss. For confirmation, Miss Polly turned to the
others. The first face her eyes fell on was that of the ball-
player. Every muscle in it was drawn, and from the tightened lips
streamed such whispered curses as the girl never before had heard.
Next him stood the hermit, solid and still, but with a queer
spreading pallor under his tan. In front of them Sherwen was
crouched, scowlingly alert. The expression of Mr. Brewster and
Carroll, neither of whom understood Spanish, betokened watchful
Enlightenment burst upon them the next minute. From the motley
crowd below rose a snarl of laughter and savage jeering, the
object of which was unmistakable.
"By G--d!" cried Mr. Brewster, straightening up and grasping the
railing. "They're insulting the flag!"
"I've left my pistol!" muttered Carroll, white-lipped. "I've left
Polly Brewster's hand flew to her belt.
She drew out the automatic and held it toward the Southerner. But
it was not Carroll's hand that met hers; it was the Unspeakable
"No," said he, and he flung the weapon back of him into the patio.
"Oh! Oh!" cried the girl. "You unspeakable coward!"
Carroll jumped forward, but Sherwen was equally quick. He
interposed his slight frame.
"Perkins is right," he said decisively. "No shooting. It would be
worth the life of every one here. We've got to stand it. But
somebody is going to sweat blood for this day's work!"
The instinct of discipline, characteristic of the professional
athlete, brought Cluff to his support.
"What Mr. Sherwen says, goes," he said, almost choking on the
words. "We've got to stand it."
In the breast of Miss Polly Brewster was no response to this
spirit. She was lawless with the lawlessness of unconquered youth
"Oh!" she breathed "If I had my pistol back, I'd shoot that BEAST
The scientist turned his goggles hesitantly upon her.
"Miss Brewster," he began, "please don't think--"
"Don't speak to me!" she cried.
Another clamor of derision sounded from the street as Urgante
resumed the standard of his mockery and led his rabble forward.
Behind the dull-colored mass appeared a spot of splendor. It was
Von Plaanden, gorgeous in his full regalia, who had turned the
corner, returning from the public reception. Well back of the mob,
he pulled his horse up, and sat watching. The coincidence was
unfortunate. It seemed to justify Sherwen's bitter words:--
"Come to visa his work. There's the Hochwaldian for you!"
Forward danced and reeled the "Yanki" baiters below, until they
were under the balcony where the little group of Americans
sheltered and raged silently. There the orator again spewed forth
his contempt upon the alien banner, and again the ranks behind him
shrieked their approval of the affront. Miss Polly Brewster,
American of Americans, whose great-grandfathers had fought with
Herkimer and Steuben,--themselves the sons of women who had stood
by the loopholes of log houses and caught up the rifles of their
fallen pioneer husbands, wherewith to return the fire of the
besieging Mohawks,--ran forward to the railing, snatching her
skirt from the detaining grasp of her father. In the corner stood
a huge bowl of roses. Gathering both hands full, she leaned
forward and flung them, so that they fell in a shower of
loveliness upon the insulted flag of her nation.
For an instant silence fell upon the "great unwashed" below. Out
of it swelled a muttering as the leader made a low, mocking
obeisance to the girl, following it with a word that brought a
jubilant yelp from his adherents. Stooping, he ladled up in his
cupped hand a quantity of gutter filth. Where the flowers had but
a moment before fluttered in the folds, he splotched it, smearing
star, bar, and blue with its blackness. At the sight, the girl
burst into helpless tears, and so stood weeping, openly, bitterly,
No brain is so well ordered, no emotion so thoroughly controlled,