The Unspeakable Perk HTML version

An Upholder Of Traditions
One day passes much like another in Caracuna City. The sun rises blandly, grows hot and
angry as it climbs the slippery polished vault of the heavens, and coasts down to its rest in
a pleased and mild glow. From the squat cathedral tower the bells clang and jangle
defiance to the Adversary, temporarily drowning out the street tumult in which the yells
of the lottery venders, the braying of donkeys, the whoops of the cabmen, and the blaring
of the little motor cars with big horns, combine to render Caracuna the noisiest capital in
the world. Through the saddle-colored hordes on the moot ground of the narrow
sidewalks moves an occasional Anglo-Saxon resident, browned and sallowed, on his way
to the government concession that he manages; a less occasional Anglo-Saxoness,
browned and marked with the seal that the tropics put upon every woman who braves
their rigors for more than a brief period; and a sprinkling of tourists in groups, flying on
cheek, brow, and nose the stark red of their newness to the climate.
Not of this sorority Miss Polly Brewster. Having blithe regard to her duty as an ornament
of this dull world, she had tempered the sun to the foreign cuticle with successively
diminishing layers of veils, to such good purpose that the celestial scorcher had but
kissed her graduated brownness to a soft glow of color. Not alone in appreciation of her
external advantages was Miss Brewster. Such as it was,--and it had its qualities, albeit
somewhat unformulated,--Caracuna society gave her prompt welcome. There were teas
and rides and tennis at the little club; there were agreeable, presentable men and
hospitable women; and always there was Fitzhugh Carroll, suave, handsome, gentle, a
polished man of the world among men, a courteous attendant to every woman, but always
with a first thought for her. Was it sheer perversity of character, that elfin perversity so
shrewdly divined by the hermit of the mountain, that put in her mind, in this far corner of
the world, among these strange people, the thought:
"All men are alike, and Fitz, for all that he's so different and the best of them, is the
MOST alike."
Which paradox, being too much for her in the heat of the day, she put aside in favor of
the insinuating thought of her beetle man. Whatever else he might or might not be, he
wasn't alike. She was by no means sure that she found this difference either admirable or
amiable. But at least it was interesting.
Moreover, she was piqued. For four days had passed and the recluse had not returned her
call. True, there had come to her hotel a wicker full of superb wild tree blooms, and,
again, a tiny box, cunning in workmanship of scented wood, containing what at first
glance she had taken to be a jewel, until she saw that it was a tiny butterfly with
opalescent wings, mounted on a silver wire. But with them had come no word or token of
identification. Perhaps they weren't from the queer and remote person at all. Very likely
Mr. Raimonda had sent them; or Fitzhugh Carroll was adding secret attention to his open
homage; or they might even be a further peace offering from the Hochwald secretary.
That occasionally too festive diplomat had, indeed, made amends both profound and,
evidently, sincere. Soliciting the kind offices of both Sherwen and Raimonda, he had
presented himself, under their escort, stiff and perspiring in his full official regalia, before