The Unspeakable Perk
Dawn crested, poised, and broke in a surf of splendor upon the great mountain-line that
overhangs Puerto del Norte. Where, at the corporation dock, there had lurked the shadow
of a yacht, gray-black against blue-black, there now swung a fairy ship of purest silver,
cradled upon a swaying mirror. Tiny insects, touched to life by the radiance, scuttled
busily about her decks and swarmed out upon the dock. The seagoing yacht Polly had
Down the mule path that forms the shortest cut from the railway station straggled a group
of minute creatures. To one watching from the mountain-side with powerful field-
glasses--such as, for example, a convinced and ardent hater of the Caribbean Sea, curled
up with his back against a cold and Voiceless rock--it might have appeared that the group
was carrying an unusual quantity of hand luggage. Yet they were not porters; so much,
even at a great distance, their apparel proclaimed. The pirates of porterdom do not get up
to meet five-o'clock-in-the-morning specials in Caracuna.
The little group gathered close at the pier, then separated, two going aboard, and the
others disappearing into sundry streets and reappearing presently at the water-front with
other figures. The human form cannot be distinctly seen, at a distance of three miles, to
rub its eyes; neither can it be heard to curse; but there was that in the newer figures which
suggested a sudden and reluctant surrender of sleeping privileges. Had our supposititious
watcher possessed an intimate and contemptuous knowledge of Caracuna officialdom, he
would have surmised that lavish sums of money had been employed to stir the port and
customs officials to such untimely activity.
But not money or any other agency is potent to stir Caracunan officialdom to undue
speed. Hence the observer from the heights, supposing that he had a personal interest in
the proceedings, might have assured himself of ample time to reach the coast before the
formalities could be completed and the ship put forth to sea. Had he presently humped
himself to his feet with a sluggish effort, abandoned his field-glasses in favor of a pair of
large greenish-brown goggles, and set out on a trail straight down the mountains,
staggering a bit at the start, a second supposititious observer of the first supposititious
observer--if such cumulative hypothesis be permissible--might have divined that the first
supposititious observer was the Unspeakable Perk, going about other people's business
when he ought to have been in bed. And so, not to keep any reader in unendurable
suspense, it was.
While the Unspeakable Perk was making his way down the dim and narrow trail, another
equally weary figure shambled out from the main road upon the flats and made for the
landing. The apparel of Mr. Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll was in a condition that he
would have deemed quite unfit for one of his station, had he been in a frame of mind to
consider such matters at all. He was not. Affairs vastly more weighty and human
occupied his mind. What he most wished was to find Miss Polly Brewster and unburden
himself of them.
At the entrance to the pier, he was detained by the American Consul. Cluff came running
down the long structure in great strides.