The Unspeakable Perk
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 hand?
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
"Oh, I'm so tired!" she said, giving him her hand. "Have you much packing to do,
"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 fast."
The double entente was unintentional, but the girl winced.