I. Mr. Beetle Man
 

The man sat in a niche of the mountain, busily hating the Caribbean Sea. It was quite a contract that he had undertaken, for there was a large expanse of Caribbean Sea in sight to hate; very blue, and still, and indifferent to human emotions. However, the young man was a good steadfast hater, and he came there every day to sit in the shade of the overhanging boulder, where there was a little trickle of cool air down the slope and a little trickle of cool water from a crevice beneath the rock, to despise that placid, unimpressionable ocean and all its works and to wish that it would dry up forthwith, so that he might walk back to the blessed United States of America. In good plain American, the young man was pretty homesick.

Two-man's-lengths up the mountain, on the crest of the sturdy hater's rock, the girl sat, loving the Caribbean Sea. Hers, also, was a large contract, and she was much newer to it than was the man to his, for she had only just discovered this vantage-ground by turning accidentally into a side trail--quite a private little side trail made by her unsuspected neighbor below--whence one emerges from a sea of verdure into full view of the sea of azure. For the time, she was content to rest there in the flow of the breeze and feast her eyes on that broad, unending blue which blessedly separated her from the United States of America and certain perplexities and complications comprised therein. Presently she would resume the trail and return to the city of Caracuna, somewhere behind her. That is, she would if she could find it, which was by no means certain. Not that she greatly cared. If she were really lost, they'd come out and get her. Meantime, all she wished was to rest mind and body in the contemplation of that restful plain of cool sapphire, four thousand feet below.

But there was a spirit of mischief abroad upon that mountain slope. It embodied itself in a puff of wind that stirred gratefully the curls above the girl's brow. Also, it fanned the neck of the watcher below and cunningly moved his hat from his side; not more than a few feet, indeed, but still far enough to transfer it from the shade into the glaring sun and into the view of the girl above. The owner made no move. If the wind wanted to blow his new panama into some lower treetop, compelling him to throw stones, perhaps to its permanent damage, in order to dislodge it, why, that was just one more cause of offense to pin to his indictment of irritation against the great island republic of Caracuna. Such is the temper one gets into after a year in the tropics.

Like as peas are panama hats to the eyes of the inexpert; far more like than men who live under them. For the girl, it was a direct inference that this was a hat which she knew intimately; which, indeed, she had rather maliciously eluded, riot half an hour before. Therefore, she addressed it familiarly: "Boo!"

The result of this simple monosyllable exceeded her fondest expectations. There was a sharp exclamation of surprise, followed by a cry that might have meant dismay or wrath or both, as something metallic tinkled and slid, presently coming to a stop beside the hat, where it revealed itself as a pair of enormous, aluminum-mounted brown-green spectacles. After it, on all fours, scrambled the owner.

Shock number one: It wasn't the man at all! Instead of the black- haired, flanneled, slender Adonis whom the trouble-maker confidently assumed to have been under that hat, she beheld a brownish-clad, stocky figure with a very blond head.

Shock number two: The figure was groping lamentably and blindly in the undergrowth, and when, for an instant, the face was turned half toward her, she saw that the eyes were squinted tight-closed, with a painful extreme of muscular tension about them.

Presently one of the ranging hands encountered the spectacles, and settled upon them. With careful touches, it felt them all over. A mild grunt, presumably of satisfaction, made itself heard, and the figure got to its feet. But before the face turned again, the girl had stepped back, out of range.

Silence, above and below; a silence the long persistence of which came near to constituting shock number three. What sort of hermit had she intruded upon? Into what manner of remote Brahministic contemplation had she injected that impertinent "Boo!"? Who, what, how, why--

"Say it again." The request came from under the rock. Evidently the spectacled owner had resumed his original situation.

"Say what again?" she inquired.

"Anything," returned the voice, with child-like content.

"Oh, I--I hope you didn't break your glasses."

"No; you didn't."

On consideration, she decided to ignore this prompt countering of the pronoun.

"I thought you were some one else," she observed.

"Well, so I am, am I not?"

"So you are what?"

"Some one else than you thought."

"Why, yes, I suppose--But I meant some one else besides yourself."

"I only wish I were."

"Why?" she asked, intrigued by the fervid inflection of the wish.

"Because then I'd be somewhere else than in this infernal hell- hole of a black-and-tan nursery of revolution, fever, and trouble!"

"I think it one of the loveliest spots I've ever seen," said she loftily.

"How long have you been here?"

"On this rock? Perhaps five minutes."

"Not on the rock. In Caracuna?"

"Quite a long time. Nearly a fortnight."

The commentary on this was so indefinite that she was moved to inquire:--

"Is that a local dialect you're speaking?"

"No; that was a grunt."

"I don't think it was a very polite grunt, even as grunts go."

"Perhaps not. I'm afraid I'm out of the habit."

"Of grunting? You seem expert enough to satisfy--"

"No; of being polite. I'll apologize if--if you'll only go on talking."

She laughed aloud.

"Or laughing," he amended promptly. "Do it again."

"One can't laugh to order!" she protested; "or even talk to order. But why do you stay 'way out here in the mountains if you're so eager to hear the human voice?"

"The human voice be--choked! It's your human voice I want to hear --your kind of human voice, I mean." "I don't know that my kind of human voice is particularly different from plenty of other human voices," she observed, with an effect of fine impartial judgment.

"It's widely different from the kind that afflicts the suffering ear in this part of the world. Fourteen months ago I heard the last American girl speak the last American-girl language that's come within reach of me. Oh, no,--there was one, since, but she rasped like a rheumatic phonograph and had brick-colored freckles. Have you got brick-colored freckles?"

"Stand up and see."

"No, sir!--that is, ma'am. Too much risk."

"Risk! Of what?"

"Freckles. I don't like freckles. Not on your voice, anyway."

"On my voice? Are you--"

"Of course I am--a little. Any one is who stays down here more than a year. But that about the voice and the freckles was sane enough. What I'm trying to say--and you might know it without a diagram--is that, from your voice, you ought to be all that a man dreams of when--well, when he hasn't seen a real American girl for an eternity. Now I can sit here and dream of you as the loveliest princess that ever came and went and left a memory of gold and blue in the heart of--"

"I'm not gold and blue!"

"Of course you're not. But your speech is. I'll be wise, and content myself with that. One look might pull down, In irrevocable ruin, all the lovely fabric of my dream. By the way, are you a Cookie?"

"A what?"

"Cookie. Tourist. No, of course you're not. No tour would be imbecile enough to touch here. The question is: How did you get here?"

"Ah, that's my secret."

"Or, rather, are you here at all? Perhaps you're just a figment of the overstrained ear. And if I undertook to look, there wouldn't be anything there at all."

"Of course, if you don't believe in me, I'll fly away on a sunbeam."

"Oh, please! Don't say that! I'm doing my best."

So panic-stricken was the appeal that she laughed again, in spite of herself.

"Ah, that's better! Now, come, be honest with me. You're not pretty, are you?"

"Me? I'm as lovely as the dawn."

"So far, so good. And have you got long golden--that is to say, silken hair that floats almost to your knees?"

"Certainly," she replied, with spirit.

"Is it plentiful enough so that you could spare a little?"

"Are you asking me for a lock of my hair?" she queried, on a note of mirth. "For a stranger, you go fast."

"No; oh, no!" he protested. "Nothing so familiar. I'm offering you a bribe for conversation at the price of, say, five hairs, if you can sacrifice so many."

"It sounds delightfully like voodoo," she observed. "What must I do with them?"

"First, catch your hair. Well up toward the head, please. Now pull it out. One, two, three--yank!"

"Ouch!" said the voice above.

"Do it again. Now have you got two?"

"Yes."

"Knot them together."

There was a period of silence.

"It's very difficult," complained the girl.

"Because you're doing it in silence. There must be sprightly conversation or the charm won't work. Talk!"

"What about?"

"Tell me who you thought I was when you said, 'Boo!' at me."

"A goose."

"A--a goose! Why--what--"

"Doesn't one proverbially say 'Boo!' to a goose?" she remarked demurely.

"If one has the courage. Now, I haven't. I'm shy."

"Shy! You?" Again the delicious trill of her mirth rang in his ears. "I should imagine that to be the least of your troubles."

"No! Truly." There was real and anxious earnestness in his assurance. "It's because I don't see you. If I were face to face with you, I'd stammer and get red and make a regular imbecile of myself. Another reason why I stick down here and decline to yield to temptation."

"O wise young man! are you young? Ouch!"

"Reasonably. Was that the last hair?"

"Positively! I'm scalped. You're a red Indian."

"Tie it on. Now, fasten a hairpin on the end and let it down. All right. I've got it. Wait!" The fragile line of communication twitched for a moment. "Haul, now. Gently!"

Up came the thread, and, as its burden rose over the face of the rock, the girl gave a little cry of delight:--

"How exquisite! Orchids, aren't they?"

"Yes, the golden-brown bee orchid. Just your coloring."

"So it is. How do you know?" she asked, startled.

"From the hair. And your eyes have gold flashes in the brown when the sun touches them."

"Your wits are your eyes. But where do you get such orchids?"

"From my little private garden underneath the rock."

"Life will be a dull and dreary round unless I see that garden."

"No! I say! Wait! Really, now, Miss--er--" There was panic in the protest.

"Oh, don't be afraid. I'm only playing with your fears. One look at you as you chased your absurd spectacles was enough to satisfy my curiosity. Go in peace, startled fawn that you are."

"Go nothing! I'm not going. Neither are you, I hope, until you've told me lots more about yourself."

"All that for a spray of orchids?"

"But they are quite rare ones."

"And very lovely."

The girl mused, and a sudden impulse seized her to take the unseen acquaintance at his word and free her mind as she had not been able to do to any living soul for long weeks. She pondered over it.

"You aren't getting ready to go?" he cried, alarmed at her long silence.

"No; I'm thinking."

"Please think aloud."

"I was thinking--suppose I did."

There was so much of weighty consideration in her accents that the other fear again beset him.

"Did what? Not come down from the rock?" "Be calm. I shouldn't want to face you any more than you want to face me, if I decided to do it."

"Go on," he encouraged. "It sounds most promising."

"More than that. It's fairly thrilling. It's the awful secret of my life that I'm considering laying bare to you, just like a dime novel. Are you discreet?"

"As the eternal rocks. Prescribe any form of oath and I'll take it."

"I'm feeling just irresponsible enough to venture. Now, if I knew you, of course I couldn't. But as I shall never set eyes on you again--I never shall, shall I?"

"Not unless you creep up on me unawares."

"Then I'll unburden my overweighted heart, and you can be my augur and advise me with supernatural wisdom. Are you up to that?"

"Try me."

"I will. But, remember: this means truly that we are never to meet. And if you ever do meet me and recognize my voice, you must go away at once."

"Agreed," he said cheerfully, just a bit too cheerfully to be flattering.

"Very well, then. I'm a runaway."

"From where?"

"Home."

"Naturally. Where's home?"

"Utica, New York," she specified.

"U.S.A.," he concluded, with a sigh. "What did you run away from?"

"Trouble."

"Does any one ever run away from anything else?" he inquired philosophically. "What particular brand?"

"Three men," she said dolorously. "All after poor little me. They all thought I ought to marry them, and everybody else seemed to think so, too--"

"Go slow! Did you say Utica or Utah?"

"Everybody thought I ought to marry one or the other of 'em, I mean. If I could have married them all, now, it might have been easier, for I like them ever so much. But how could I make up my mind? So I just seized papa around the neck and ran away with him down here."

"Why here, of all places on earth?"

"Oh, he's interested in some mines and concessions and things. It's very beautiful, but I almost wish I'd stayed at home and married Bobby."

"Which is Bobby?"

"He's one of the home boys. We've grown up together, and I'm so fond of him. Only it's more the brother-and-sister sort of thing, if he'd let it be."

"Check off No. 1. What's No. 2?"

"Lots older. Mr. Thomas Murray Smith is an unspoiled millionaire. If he weren't so serious and quite so dangerously near forty-- well, I don't know."

"Have you kept No. 3 for the last because he's the best?"

"No-o-o-o. Because he's the nearest. He followed me down. You can see his name in all its luster on the Hotel Kast register, when you get back to the city--Preston Fairfax Fitzhugh Carroll, at your service."

"Sounds Southern," commented the man below.

"Southern! He's more Southern than the South Pole. His ancestors fought all the wars and owned all the negroes--he calls them 'niggers'--and married into all the first families of Virginia, and all that sort of thing. He must quite hate himself, poor Fitz, for falling in love with a little Yankee like me. In fact, that's why I made him do it."

"And now you wish he hadn't?"

"Oh--well--I don't know. He's awfully good-looking and gallant and devoted and all that. Only he's such a prickly sort of person. I'd have to spend the rest of my life keeping him and his pride out of trouble. And I've no taste for diplomacy. Why, only last week he declined to dine with the President of the Republic because some one said that his excellency had a touch of the tar brush."

"He'd better get out of this country before that gets back to headquarters."

"If he thought there was danger, he'd stay forever. I don't suppose Fitz is afraid of anything on earth. Except perhaps of me," she added after-thoughtfully.

"Young woman, you're a shameless flirt!" accused the invisible one in stern tones.

"If I am, it isn't going to hurt you. Besides, I'm not. And, anyway, who are you to judge me? You're not here as a judge; you're an augur. Now, go on and aug."

"Aug?" repeated the other hesitantly.

"Certainly. Do an augury. Tell me which."

"Oh! As for that, it's easy. None."

"Why not?"

"Because I much prefer to think of you, when you are gone, as unmarried. It's more in character with your voice."

"Well, of all the selfish pigs! Condemned to be an old maid, in order not to spoil an ideal! Perhaps you'd like to enter the lists yourself," she taunted.

"Good Heavens, no!" he cried in the most unflattering alarm. "It isn't in my line--I mean I haven't time for that sort of thing. I'm a very busy man."

"You look it! Or you did look it, scrambling about like a doodle bug after your absurd spectacles."

"There is no such insect as a doodle bug."

"Isn't there? How do you know? Are you personally acquainted with all the insect families?"

"Certainly. That's my business. I'm a scientist."

"Oh, gracious! And I've appealed to you in a matter of sentiment! I might better have stuck to Fitz. Poor Fitz! I wonder if he's lost."

"Why should he be lost?"

"Because I lost him. Back there on the trail. Purposely. I sent him for water and then--I skipped."

"Oh-h-h! Then he's the goose."

"Goose! Preston Fairfax Fitz--"

"Yes, the goose you said 'Boo!' to, you know."

"Of course. You didn't steal his hat, did you?"

"No. It's my own hat. Why did you run away from him?"

"He bored me. When people bore me, I always run away. I'm beginning to feel quite fugitive this very minute."

There was silence below, a silence that piqued the girl.

"Well," she challenged, "haven't you anything to say before the court passes sentence of abandonment to your fate?"

"I'm thinking--frantically. But the thoughts aren't girl thoughts. I mean, they wouldn't interest you. I might tell you about some of my insects," he added hopefully.

"Heaven forbid!"

"They're very interesting."

"No. You're worthless as an augur, and a flat failure as a conversationalist, when thrown on your own resources. So I shall shake the dust from my feet and depart."

"Good-bye!" he said desolately. "And thank you."

"For what?"

"For making music in my desert."

"That's much better," she approved. "But you've paid your score with the orchids. If you have one or two more pretty speeches like that in stock, I might linger for a while."

"I'm afraid I'm all out of those," he returned. "But," he added desperately, "there's the hexagonal scarab beetle. He's awfully queer and of much older family even than Mr. Fitzwhizzle's. It is the hexagonal scarab's habit when dis--"

"We have an encyclopaedia of our own at home," she interrupted coldly. "I didn't climb this mountain to talk about beetles."

"Well, I'll talk some more about you, if you'll give me a little time to think."

"I think you are very impertinent. I don't wish to talk about myself. Just because I asked your advice in my difficulties, you assume that I'm a little egoist--"

"Oh, please don't--"

"Don't interrupt. I'm very much offended, and I'm glad we are never going to meet. Just as I was beginning to like you, too," she added, with malice. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye," he answered mournfully.

But his attentive ears failed to discern the sound of departing footsteps. The breeze whispered in the tree-tops. A sulphur-yellow bird, of French extraction, perched in a flowering bush, insistently demanded: "Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" --What's he say? What's he say?--over and over again, becoming quite wrathful because neither he nor any one else offered the slightest reply or explanation. The girl sympathized with the bird. If the particular he whose blond top she could barely see by peeping over the rock would only say something, matters would be easier for her. But he didn't. So presently, in a voice of suspiciously saccharine meekness, she said:--

"Please, Mr. Beetle Man, I'm lost."

"No, you're not," he said reassuringly. "You're not a quarter of a mile from the Puerto del Norte Road."

"But I don't know which direction--"

"Perfectly simple. Keep on over the top of the rock; turn left down the slope, right up the dry stream bed to a dead tree; bear right past--"

"That's too many turns, I never could remember more than two."

"Now, listen," he said persuasively. "I can make it quite plain to you if--"

"I don't wish to listen! I'll never find it."

"I'll toss you up my compass."

"I don't want your compass," she said firmly.

A long patient sigh exhaled from below.

"Do you want me to guide you?"

"No," she retorted, and was instantly panic-stricken, for the monosyllable was of that accent which sets fire to bridges and burns them beyond hope of return.

Slowly she got to her feet. Perhaps she would have dared and gone; perhaps she would have swallowed pride and her negative, and made one more appeal. She turned hesitantly and saw the devil.

It was a small devil on stilts, not more than three or four inches tall, but there was no mistaking his identity. No other living thing could possess such demoniac little red-hot pin points of eyes, or be so bristly and grisly and vicious. The stilts suddenly folded flat, and the devil rushed upon his prey. The girl stepped back; her foot turned and caught, and--

"Of course," the patient voice below was saying, "if you really think that you couldn't find the road, I could draw you a map and send it up by the hair route. But I really think--"

"Blump!"

The rock had turned over on his unprotected head and flattened him out forever. Such was his first thought. When he finally collected himself, his eyeglasses, and his senses, he sustained a second shock more violent than the first.

Two paces away, the Voice, duly and most appropriately embodied, sat half-facing him. The Voice's eyes confirmed his worst suspicions, and, dazed though they were at the moment, there were deep lights in them that wholly disordered his mental mechanism. Nor were her first words such as to restore his deranged faculties.

"Oh-h! Aren't you gogglesome!" she cried dizzily.

He raised his hands to the huge brown spectacles.

"Wh--wh--what did you come down for?" he babbled. There was a distinct note of accusation in the query.

"Come down! I fell!"

"Yes, yes; that may be true--"

"May be!"

"Of course, it is true. I--I--I see it's true. I'm awfully sorry."

"Sorry? What for?"

"That you came. That you fell, I mean to say. I--I--I don't really know what I mean to say."

"No wonder, poor boy! I landed right on you, didn't I?"

"Did you? Something did. I thought it was the mountain."

"You aren't very complimentary," she pouted. "But there! I dare say I knocked your thoughts all to bits."

"No; not at all. Certainly, I mean. It doesn't matter. See here," he said, with an injured sharpness of inquiry born of his own exasperation at his verbal fumbling, "you said you wouldn't, and here you are. I ask you, is that fair and honorable?"

"Well, if it comes to that," she countered, "you promised that you'd never speak to me if you saw me, and here you are telling me that you don't want me around the place at all. It's very rude and inhospitable, I consider."

"I can't help it," he said miserably. "I'm afraid."

"You don't look it. You look disagreeable."

"As long as you stayed where you belonged--Excuse me--I don't mean to be impolite--but I--I--You see--as long as you were just a voice, I could manage all right, but now that you are--er--er-- you--" His speech trailed off lamentably into meaningless stutterings.

The girl turned amazed and amused eyes upon him.

"What on earth ails the poor man?" she inquired of all creation.

"I told you. I--I'm shy."

"Not really! I thought it was a joke."

"Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" demanded the yellow- breasted inquisitor, from his flowery perch.

"What does he say? He says he's shy. Poor poo--er young, helpless thing!" And her laughter put to shame a palm thrush who was giving what he had up to that moment considered a highly creditable musical performance.

"All right!" he retorted warmly. "Laugh if you want to! But after stipulating that we should be strangers, to--to act this way-- well, I think it's--it's--forward. That's what I think it is."

"Do you, indeed? Perhaps you think it's pleasant for me, after I've opened my heart to a stranger, to have him forced on me as an acquaintance!"

From the depths of those limpid eyes welled up a little film of vexation.

"O Lord! Don't do that!" he implored. "I didn't mean--I'm a bear-- a pig--a--a--a scarab--I'm anything you choose. Only don't do that!"

"I'm not doing anything."

"Of course you're not. That's fine! As for your secrets, I dare say I wouldn't know you again if I saw you."

"Oh, wouldn't you?" she cried in quite another tone.

"Quite likely not. These glasses, you see. They make things look quite queer."

"Or if you heard me?" she challenged.

"Ah, well, that's different. But I forget quite easily--even things like voices."

She leaned forward, her hands in her lap, her eyes upon the goggled face before her.

"Then take them off."

"What? My glasses?"

"Take them off!"

"Wh--wh--why should I?"

"So that you can see me better."

"I don't want to see you better."

"Yes, you do. I'm much more interesting than a scarab."

"But I know about scarabs and I don't know about--about--"

"Girls. So one might suspect. Do you know what I'm doing, Mr. Beetle Man?"

"N-n-no."

"I'm flirting with you. I never flirted with a scientific person before. It's awfully one-sided, difficult, uphill work."

This last was all but drowned out in his flood of panicky instructions, from which she disentangled such phrases as "first to left"--"dry river-bed-hundred-yards"--"dead tree--can't miss it."

"If you send me away now, I'll cry. Really, truly cry, this time."

"No, you won't! I mean I won't! I--I'll do anything! I'll talk! I'll make conversation! How old are you? That's what the Chinese ask. I used to have a Chinese cook, but he lost all my shirt studs, playing fan-tan. Can you play fan-tan? Two can't play, though. They have funny cards in this country, like the Spanish. Have you seen a bullfight yet? Don't do it. It's dull and brutal. The bull has no more chance than--than--"

"Than an unprotected man with a conscienceless flirt, who falls on his neck and then threatens to submerge him in tears."

"Now you're beginning again!" he wailed. "What did you jump for, anyway?"

"I slipped. An awful, red-eyed, scrambly fiend scared me--a real, live, hairy devilkin on stilts. He ran at me across the rock. Was that one of your pet scarabs, Mr. Beetle Man?"

"That was a tarantula, I suppose, from the description."

"They're deadly, aren't they?"

"Of course not. Unscientific nonsense. I'll go up and chase him off."

"Flying from perils that you know not of to more familiar dangers?" she taunted.

"Well, you see, with the tarantula out of the way, there's no reason why you shouldn't--er--"

"Go, and leave you in peace? What do you think of that for gallantry, Birdie?"

The gay-feathered inquisitor had come quite near.

"Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?" he queried, cocking his curious head.

"He says he doesn't like me one little, wee, teeny bit, and he wishes I'd go home and stay there. And so I'm going, with my poor little feelings all hurted and ruffled up like anything."

"Nothing of the sort," protested the badgered spectacle-wearer.

"Then why such unseemly haste to make my path clear?"

"I just thought that maybe you'd go back on the top of the rock, where you came from, and--and be a voice again. If you won't go, I will."

He made three jumps of it up the boulder, bearing a stick in his hand. Presently his face, preternaturally solemn and gnomish behind the goggles, protruded over the rim. The girl was sitting with her hands folded in her lap, contemplating the scenery as if she'd never had another interest in her life. Apparently she had forgotten his very existence.

"Ahem!" he began nervously.

"Ahem!" she retorted so promptly that he almost fell off his precarious perch. "Did you ring? Number, please."

"I wish I knew whether you were laughing at me or not," he said ruefully.

"When?"

"All the time."

"I am. Your darkest suspicions are correct. Did you abolish my devilkin?"

"I drove him back into his trapdoor home and put a rock over it."

"Why didn't you destroy him?"

"Because I've appointed him guardian of the rock, with strict instructions to bite any one that ever comes there after this except you."

"Bravo! You're progressing. As soon as you're free from the blight of my regard, you become quite human. But I'll never come again."

"No, I suppose not," he said dismally. "I shan't hear you again, unless, perhaps, the echoes have kept your voice to play with."

"Oh, oh! Is this the language of science? You know I almost think I should like to come--if I could. But I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because we leave to-morrow."

"Not across to the southern coast? It isn't safe. Fever--"

"No; by Puerto del Norte."

"There's no boat."

"Yes, there is. You can just see her funnel over that white slope. It's our yacht."

"And you think you are going in her to-morrow?"

"Think? I know it."

"No," he contradicted.

"Yes," she asserted, quite as concisely.

"No," he repeated. "You're mistaken."

"Don't be absurd. Why?" "Look out there, over that tree to the horizon."

"I'm looking."

"Do you see anything?"

"Yes; a sort of little smudge."

"That's why."

"It's a very shadowy sort of why."

"There's substance enough under it."

"A riddle? I'll give it up."

"No; a bet. I'll bet you the treasures of my mountain-side. Orchids of gold and white and purple and pink, butterflies that dart on wings of fire opal--"

"Beetles, to know which is to love them, and love but them forever," she laughed. "And my side of the wager--what is that to be?"

"That you will come to the rock day after to-morrow at this hour and stand on the top and be a voice again and talk to me."

"Done! Send your treasures to the pier, for you'll surely lose. And now take me to the road."

It was a single-file trail, and he walked in advance, silent as an Indian. As they emerged from a thicket into the highway, above the red-tiled city in its setting of emerald fields strung on the silver thread of the Santa Clara River, she turned and gave him her hand.

"Be at your rock to-morrow, and when you see the yacht steam out, you'll know I'll be saying good-bye, and thank you for your mountain treasures. Send them to Miss Brewster, care of the yacht Polly. She's named after me. Is there anything the matter with my shoes?" she broke off to inquire solicitously.

"Er--what? No." He lifted his eyes, startled, and looked out across the quaint old city.

"Then is there anything the matter with my face?"

"Yes."

"Yes? Well, what?"

"It's going to be hard to forget," complained he of the goggles.

"Then look away before it's too late," she cried merrily; but her color deepened a little. "Good-bye, O friend of the lowly scarab!"

At the dip of the road down into the bridged arroyo, she turned, and was surprised--or at least she told herself so--to find him still looking after her.