“Ah,” observed the young Caracunan, “I see that you are persona grata with our worthy President, Miss Brewster.”
“President Fortuno?” asked the girl, surprised. “No; not that I’m aware of. Why do you say that?”
“That is his special orchid—almost the official flower. They call it ‘the President’s orchid.’”
“Has he a monopoly of growing them?” asked Miss Brewster.
“No one can grow them. They die when transplanted from their native cliffs. But it’s only the President’s rangers who are daring enough to get them.”
“Are they so inaccessible?”
“Yes. They grow nowhere but on the cliff faces, usually in the wildest part of the mountains. Few people except the hunters and mountaineers know where, and it’s only the most adventurous of them who go after the flowers.”
“Do you suppose this boy got these?” Miss Brewster indicated the shy and dusky messenger.
Raimonda spoke to the boy for a moment.
“No; he didn’t collect them. Nor is he one of the President’s men. I don’t quite understand it.”
“Who did gather them?”
“All that he will say is, ‘the master.’”
“Oh!” said Miss Brewster, and retired into a thoughtful silence.
“They’re very beautiful, aren’t they?” continued the Caracunan. “And they carry a pretty sentiment.”
“Tell me,” commanded the girl, emerging from her reverie.
“The mountaineers say that their fragrance casts a spell which carries the thought back to the giver.”
“Is that the language of science?” she queried absently, with a thought far away.
“But no, senorita, assuredly not,” said the young Caracufian. “It is the language—permit that I say it better in French—c’est le langage d’amour.”
THE BETTER PART OF VALOR
Night fell with the iron clangor of bells, and day broke to the accompaniment of further insensate jangling, for Caracuna City has the noisiest cathedral in the world; and still the graceful gray yacht Polly lay in the harbor at Puerto del Norte, hemmed in by a thin film of smoke along the horizon where the Dutch warship promenaded.
In one of the side caverns off the main dining-room of the Hotel Kast, the yacht’s owner, breakfasting with the yacht’s tutelary goddess and the goddess’s determined pursuer, discussed the blockade. Though Miss Polly Brewster kept up her end of the conversation, her thoughts were far upon a breeze-swept mountain-side. How, she wondered, had that dry and strange hermit of the wilds known the news before the city learned it? With her wonder came annoyance over her lost wager. The beetle man, she judged, would be coolly superior about it. So she delivered herself of sundry stinging criticisms regarding the conduct of the Caracunan Administration in having stupidly involved itself in a blockade. She even spoke of going to see the President and apprising him of her views.