The Unspeakable Perk
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
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
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
"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 consideration.
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 fare.