“Ah, that,” said Raimonda, after a pause,—“that is another question. If it were my sister, or any one dear to me—but”—he shrugged—“views on that matter differ.”
“I hardly think that yours and mine differ, senior. I thank you for bearing with me with so much patience.”
He went out with his suspicions hardened into certainty.
“That which thy servant is—”
A man that you’d call your friend. Such had been Fitzhugh Carroll’s reference to the Unspeakable Perk. With that characterization in her mind. Miss Brewster let herself drift, after her suitor had left her, into a dreamy consideration of the hermit’s attitude toward her. She was not prone lightly to employ the terms of friendship, yet this new and casual acquaintance had shown a readiness to serve—not as cavalier, but as friend—none too common in the experience of the much-courted and a little spoiled beauty. Being, indeed, a “lady nowise bitter to those who served her with good intent,” she reflected, with a kindly light in her eyes, that it was all part and parcel of the beetle’s man’s amiable queerness.
Still musing upon this queerness, she strolled back to find her mount waiting at the corner of the plaza. In consideration of the heat she let her cream-colored mule choose his own pace, so they proceeded quite slowly up the hill road, both absorbed in meditation, which ceased only when the mule started an argument about a turn in the trail. He was a well-bred trotting mule, worth six hundred dollars in gold of any man’s money, and he was self-appreciative in knowledge of the fact. He brought a singular firmness of purpose to the support of the negative of her proposition, which was that he should swing north from the broad into the narrow path. When the debate was over, St. John the Baptist—this, I hesitate to state, yet must, it being the truth, was the spirited animal’s name—was considerably chastened, and Miss Brewster more than a trifle flushed. She left him tied to a ceiba branch at the exit from the dried creek bed, with strict instructions not to kick, lest a worse thing befall him. Miss Brewster’s fighting blood was up, when, ten minutes late, because of the episode, she reached the summit of the rock.
“Oh, Mr. Beetle Man, are you there?” she called.
“Yes, Voice. You sound strange. What is it?”
“I’ve been hurrying, and if you tell me I’m late, I’ll—I’ll fall on your neck again and break it.”
“Has anything happened?”
“Nothing in particular. I’ve been boxing the compass with a mule. It’s tiresome.”
“You’re not, by any chance, speaking figuratively of your respected parent?”
“Certainly not!” she disclaimed indignantly. “This was a real mule. You’re very impertinent.”
“Well, you see, he was impertinent to me, saying he was out when he was in. What is his decision—yes or no?”