A Most Unusual Serial Story
FREDERIC S. ISHAM
A uthor of "Nothing But the Truth," etc.
The Lady and the Porter
LADY LANGLENSHIRE looked up. "You wish to see me?" said the man. "Yes," said her ladyship. "Your ladyship has another errand for me?" "Perhaps-a long one." There was a peculiar accent in the patrician tones. "We shall see." "A long one?" repeated the fellow, studying her. "I said, `We shall see,'" observed the lady with a slight frown. The man shifted awkwardly and twirled his porter's cap in his hand. "You are not to do that," said her ladyship. "What, my lady?" "Your hands-please keep them still." The man became immovable. "That is better," said the lady. Then she was silent for a few moments, while her eyes passed disapprovingly over the details of the shabby furnishings of the somewhat abbreviated apart ment in that third-class hotel to which an untoward combination of circumstances had consigned her. Per haps, at that moment, visions of ancestral halls and primrose meadows haunted her memory. The porter waited patiently. He was a burly fellow, with bent shoulders, and a countenance that might not have appeared so sodden except for a habit of keeping his mouth open. This gave him a stupid peasant look. He looked especially stupid, dull and of the proletariat, at the present moment, suffering possibly a slight em barrassment in that radiant, syiph-like presence.
THE lady’s wandering attention again became focused upon him. She noted the bent shoulders, the open mouth, the grimy hands. Her gaze was singularly curious.
“Your name is?” “Alexander,” he said. “You told me you are a Greek, I believe?”
The heavy eyelids flickered beneath the clear and searching blue eyes of the lady. “Yes, your ladyship,” he said.
A flash of merriment shone from the blue eyes. “Alexander the Great was a Greek, too, I believe,” she ruminated aloud. “No relation, I suppose?”
“Who was he?” said the man.
“It is quite obvious you are not related,” said the lady, almost merrily. “Haven’t you any illustrious ancestors, Alexander?”
“No. Why?” The man stared stupidly.
“Never mind,” she observed. “Let the old ancestors go! If you only knew what a lot I’ve got, Alexander.”
“Yes,” he assented, considering, no doubt, her ladyship was talking a great deal of nonsense.
“Never mind,” said the lady, reading the thought. “Don’t try to think too hard, Alexander. It is racking to the brain.”
“Yes; it’s a bother to think,” he said.
“It is easier just to carry,” she said, looking at the bent shoulders.
“Has your ladyship a load for me?”
“A load?” Again she laughed merrily. But her face soon became more sober. Her ladyship sometimes laughed when she did not feel like laughing. One laughs sometimes when the heart is very full. “A load?” she repeated. “Perhaps! Who shall say?”
“Where shall I take it?” he demanded, more aggressively.
“You are going too fast, Alexander,” she said disapprovingly. “You must not try to hurry me. I am not accustomed to being hurried. You will please bear this in mind.”
“I have my work to do,” he dared return.
“And this is a part of your work. It is what you are paid for, and what I shall pay you for.”
'l''HE lady’s tones were imperious. She had a very beautiful voice—young and silvery. It might have made a poet think of silvery bells on a frosty night. But Alexander was not a poet.
“It is true your ladyship has tipped me well,” he assented.
“Yes; I usually do. By the way, how old are you?”
“Twenty-four,” said the fellow.
“No more?” thought the lady, regarding the stoop-
ing figure. Twenty-four, and bent like that! “You must have worked hard all your life?”
“Of course,” he answered simply. “What else is there to do?”
“Nothing, I dare say.” But the lady was thinking: “Straighten him, and he would make quite a figure of a man.” He was very powerful, obviously. But with that open mouth and stupid expression he would always remain an uncouth son of the soil. It would take generations, no doubt, for the civilizing inner reconstruction.
“I suppose you have the usual poor man’s family, Alexander?”
“Í have no family,” he said.
“Not even married?”
“Going to be, some day?” Languidly. “You need not be surprised at my questions. I always take an interest in the welfare of thofee who serve me. At home I consider myself, in a measure, morally responsible for the welfare of my servants. I am merely exercising my prerogative”—here she sighed—“away from home.”
“No; I’m not going to be married,” said the man, blinking stupidly. “There—there was a kitchen-girl— bat—but she preferred the dish-washer. Women are all alike.”
‘ And so your heart is broken, and you have become a cynic?”
A LEXANDER did not answer. “At any rate you are free—perfectly free,” said my lady.
“Yes; I don’t have to bother about beating a wife when I come home.”
“Beating!” observed the lady, and surveyed the shambling, powerful figure. “If you beat any one I’m afraid it would hurt.”
“It would,” said the fellow, grinning. “I think that afterward she behave herself.”
“No doubt!” My lady yawned. “That will do, Alexander. Here is a mark. Run away, now!”
“Hasn’t your ladyship something to carry?” In surprise.
“Not just at present.”
“But—” He gazed at the coin. "I have done nothing.”
“Oh, yes. you have. Only you don’t know it! Nor is it necessary to enlighten you. There are other ways of earning money than with your shoulders, Alexander. You have really served me. Possibly you have helped me amazingly. It is a little early definitely to determine.”
Alexander gazed at the lady steadfastly.
“No, I’m not. In fact. I’m poignnntly rational, at the moment, Alexander,” said the lady. “Do you know what ‘rational’ means?”
Alexander shook his head. The lady regarded him.
“How charming! You see, I have been used to clever men, and they bore one beyond endurance. To meet you is a refreshing change.”
The porter bowed stupidly. He did not know what else to do.
“And now, go, most charming of porters,” said the lady. “And let me dream that I am transported back to Arabian fantasies.”
Alexander bit the coin.
“Yes, it’s good,” said the lady.
And Alexander departed. The lady arose, and, going to the window, gazed out drearily. Then she went out.
ITER destination was the usual place—the police station. She waited her turn. It came at length. “Well?” said a harsh voice.
“I am here to report.” Quietly.
"Lift up your veil.”
*• ‘Estelle Langlenshire,’ ” he said, reading the police paper she handed him. “ ‘Twenty-one. Single.’ How ■do you live?” Brusquely.
“I had a little money with me. I am conserving it very carefully.”
“Humph!” For the moment he studied her. “You may go—for now!”
“You mean there may be a change later?” Drawing her breath quickly.
“How can I say?” Impatiently.
“It is possible?”
“All things are possible.”
“Probable, then? I may be deprived of my—my liberty?”
He made a movement. “Others are waiting. You are detaining—Guten Tag!”
“Good day,” she said and left.
A Startling Proposal
\ T the hotel she once more sent for Alexander. She ■**• had seemingly regained her lightness of spirits. Not a worry seemed to cloud her fair brow; no light •of trouble or tragedy lingered in the violet eyes. She had lighted a cigarette and disposed her lithe form daintily on a couch.
“Alexander,” she said, “you are going to be married.” “So?” said Alexander. His tones were heavy and «odden. What was the joke?
The lady smiled. “You do not ask whom you are going to marry?”
“Does that matter?” said Alexander, thinking her doubtlessly bereft of her senses.
“You meaq that since you were disappointed in love —since the scrub-lady ‘threw you down,’ as our American friends say, all women look alike to you?” she observed vivaciously.
“Suppose so,” mumbled Alexander guardedly.
The lady shifted; a dainty bit of hosiery was momentarily visible, but that evanescent gleam was lost upon Alexander.
“I am pleased to find your mental attitude what it is,” said the lady.
S Alexander probably did not know what was his mental attitude, he did not answer.
“The lady you are to marry will be revealed to you at the proper moment. Meanwhile you are to make arrangements.” “Arrangements?”
“With the Greek priest, of course!”
“Priest?” The lady’s tone began to sound as if she meant it.
“There is a Greek priest, isn’t there?” “Oh, yes.” A bit dazed. “And a Greek church?” “Oh, yes.” “You go there sometimes?” Severely. “Sometimes.” Dully. “And know the good priest?” “Yes.”
“Good!” She spoke gaily. “Now, listen: You are to go to him. You are to
tell him you have fallen deeply in love.”
“Eh?” Alexander’s eyes began to gleam -esentfully.
“You can tell him, can’t you?”
“A big lie, like that?” Alexander aughed hoarsely.
“Stupid!” The lady lifted a tolerant eyebrow. "What’s a little lie like that? The principal thing is, you aren’t really in love. You don’t have to be. Get that firmly in mind. Now, don’t you feel easier?”
“I suppose so.” Dubiously.
“There’s no ‘suppose’ about it. You do.” Aggressively. “Get that thought firmly, and don’t make the mistake of trying to think for yourself. It would be an awful error and get you nowhere. Let others think
for you, and perhaps you will amount to something some day, Alexander. A great many people become great by eliminating their own mental processes. Use other people’s brains; that’s the Jacob’s ladder to the heaven of large attainments. It’s not what you do. It’s what others do for you.”
Alexander stared, as well he might. Did onetenth of this filter into his dull brain?
The lady laughed deliciously. “Hand me my cigarette case, Alexander.”
Alexander tried to, and dropped it.
“How adorably useful!” purred the lady.
Alexander managed finally to deliver the case. “Where were we?” said the lady of the couch. “Oh, yes! You had gone to the priest. You had told him you were head-over-heels in love—” Alexander made a movement. “Don’t interrupt!” Imperiously. “You tell the good priest you are in love, because she is so beautiful—”
“Oh!” From Alexander. A snort!
“Silence!” From the lady. “Anyhow, what is the difference whether she is, or not. You like money, Alexander?” Insidiously.
“Oh!” said Alexander, brightening a bit.
“You do. It’s your god. It’s every man’s. It comes first and last. Love?” She made a movement. “But you’ve got to pretend, Alexander.”
“That you have won her—your scrub-lady!” Alexander made a sound. “You are to seem radiant with happiness—that is your attitude before the priest. Of course you couldn’t really be radiant, but maybe you could take some of that bend out of your shoulders. Do you think you could stand up like a man in love?” Again Alexander made a sound.
“Never mind,” said the lady. “I suppose it’s there to stay. Only you are to tell the priest you want to be married at once. You can’t wait. It will be impossible. What you want, you want. You are distracted to possess it immediately.”
“What I want?” said Alexander.
“Well, what I am telling you you want! Did you ever dream of having a thousand marks?”
“I once saved a hundred. But a thousand—” “Two thousand—that’s what I meant to say.” “Two!” Alexander breathed hard. The lady obviously grew more interesting in his eyes.
“What could you do with two thousand?”
“Do?” He stared at that figure alluring—a golden princess now. “I wouldn’t have to do anything—to carry—to blacken boots—to be cuffed by the head porter! I could have all I vranted to eat—”
“And drink,” added the fair temptress.
“Drink?” Alexander moistened his lips. Dreams of deep potations no doubt assailed him.
r~pHE lady’s red lips curved scornfully; then tolerantA ly. What right had she to sit in judgment? Hadn’t most of her aristocratic ancestors been fouror fivebottle men? “Why should I chide you, Alexander,” she observed softly, “for the manner in which you anticipate spending the reward I am going to bestow upon you, for bestowing upon me your name, your fortunes, and, last but not least, your non-affections?” “Oh, it’s you,” said Alexander. So she was the one who wanted to marry him? “But why?”
EDITOR’S Note.—The author of this sparkling comedy is a well-known playwright as well as author, and this, his latest story, is to be put on the boards this fall. Consequently, it was deemed advisable not to allow the story to appear in serial form in the United States; but the, ban ivas raised for the Canadian field and so readers of MACI.EAN’S will have the first opportunity of enjoying Mr. Jshams charming romance. It begins with the incarceration of an English girl in Germany at the start of the war and the means she adopted of escaping.
“Pooh!” she returned. “Why get categorical? What must be, must be! Isn’t that sufficient? Think of the reward, if you must think at all.”
Alexander did. He asked no more questions.
“That is well,” said the lady.
“I sure get the two thousand?”
“On the word of the daughter of a belted earl!” said the lady.
That sounded good enough for Alexander. ‘Wher. you want it to take place?” he said stoically.
“Say day after to-morrow. Or the day after that You see, I have my trousseau to prepare.”
“Which?” said Alexander.
“A wedding-gown, in keeping with my new loft? station,” said the lady.
“Oh, you mean scrub-woman’s clothes?” said Alex ander practically. “Maybe I swipe some for you. some where.”
“No; please don’t swipe my wedding-garments Alexander,” said the lady. “Have you no sentiment/ Please acquire them by purchase from some old-clothe> man.” Slipping him a fewT pieces of money. “Only Vie very secretive. There is need.”
“You bet! I get you,” said Alexander. Lust for the reward was already in his eyes. “I handle this thine miehty well. Yrou leave to me.”
The lady sighed. Anyhow, he looked very big and powerful, as he spoke. It would be nice to shift some of the responsibility if she could. If? With Alex ander’s brawn and her brains something might be ar complished.
“And now trot along and see the priest,” she said
Alexander trotted. The die was cast. She harr burned her bridges.
A TRAIN speeding northward! A third-class com partment! Hour after hour the train had beer speeding. Now suddenly it stopped.
“The frontier!” A guard looked in; the door opened the people got out—a slow business! One man—a big fellow—yet slept in a corner, and snored—or seemed to.
“Here, wake your good man, woman!” cried th. guard to her at the slumberer’s side.
She did. The uncouth-looking fellow rubbed his eye>sleepily'. Then he reached up for a bundle of old duds Then the man, followed by the woman, approached Officialdom. The examination of their papers took some moments. Once the woman seemed to sway from weariness, or some other emotion. Her hand clutched the man’s arm; he coolly thrust the bundle of old duds into her arms.
“Here, you hold ’em,” he said.
The “duds” made quite an armful; held to her brea.~t they partly concealed the woman’s face.
“Learn ’em young,” said the man, with a sodden grin at Officialdom.
The peasants’ philosophy! Start woman carrying things as soon as she’s married and she’s more likely to keep up the habit. Officialdom laughed harshly. It understood that ungentle peasant philosophy. Hadn’t it been grinding down womankind for generations— keeping woman “in her place”? Trust your son of the soil for that!
“Just married, eh?” said Officialdom, surveying a number of papers.
“Yes.” With a loutish grin. Officialdom peered around the “old duds.” “Shy little dove!” “You bet. I tell her what she get, she look at a man.” Coarsely.
“Beginning right, all right!”
AGAIN the woman’s figure seemed to sway. Alexander’s big .fingers gripped her arm. At the moment they seemed to grip her cruelly. He felt her straighten magically. Again that hateful laugh.
“She mind me—you bet!” said Alex ander.
“Well, get on,” said Officialdom. No doubt Officialdom deemed this a perfect ano ideal way to start the honeymoon. There seemed to exist such a perfect understanding. Oh, happy bride! Bride of the soil!
“Don’t you hear the gentleman say ‘Ge* on’?” said Alexander. And to emphasize their newfound relations and his authority, he gave her a shove. Now, no one had ever shoved Lady Langlenshire before. It was a novel experience. By indulging in this little connubial commonplace liberty. Alexander almost overstepped his mark Almost the lady hurled the old duds at his feet. She had felt strangely weak and “droopy” at the moment Alexander had first placed the bundle in her arms, and his unexpected and ignominious action had oddly revived her. So, too, that subsequent conversation with Officialdom. Indignation had superseded any fears and misgivings that had momentarily assailed hei. Alexander’s perfectly natural conduct under these circumstanees had acted as so many dashes of cold water upon her. Alexander had really served her, and saved her perhaps from betraying herself; but when he gave her that shove he went almost too far. She did, however, manage to control herself, and somehow to move mechanically away from the gate and Officialdom. Her feelings need not be described. She was still carrying the old duds—she, the daughter of a proud earl!
Alexander came sauntering behind. Now they were on the street. Alexander still sauntered at his ease. Then he stopped to strike a match and light his pipe. She could picture him smoking. That was good; excellent. Several blocks she moved on. If only some of her friends could have seen her in that peasant grab, with Alexander’s old duds held to her aristocratic breast. Suddenly she stopped. Alexander came up. He was smoking contentedly. A moment the lady regarded him then suddenly she cast the vile bundle at his feet.
“Take it!” she almost hissed.
Alexander looked surprised. “Eh?” he said.
“Take it!” she repeated dramatically.
“Eh?” he said once more, his mouth still drooping.
“And walk behind!”
“But in my country—” he began helplessly.
“Where a porter should!” interrupted the lady. Revenge for all she had endured was in her tones. She had gone back a few hundred years that day, to what women had been wont to endure. In Alexander she had beheld the prehistoric monster of her sex. She would set the big, bungling animal where he belonged.
“Pick it up,” she repeated imperiously. And Alexander was so surprised he obeyed.
At the hotel, the lady announced her name and condition, and, briefly, vouchsafed a few' whys and wherefores to explain her humble attire. The landlord was sympathetic, as landlords are apt to be w’ith nobility in distress, especially when it can pay its bills.
“And now,” said the lady, “have you a nice room?”
“A cheap one will do,” said Alexander, at that moment insinuating himself upon the scene with the old duds.
“Who is this person?” said the landlord, frowning.
“It’s—it’s the man," said the lady.
“The porter,” she breathed.
“Husband,” mumbled Alexander.
“Of convenience,” laughed the lady. “You know our understanding? The reward you are to get?”
“Three thousand,” said Alexander, who had obviously been thinking a good deal while enroute to the hotel with the bundle. “If you have that, you have more. Why for I give up much for a little? I have you. Why not keep!”
“Horrors!” said the lady.
“Scoundrel!” said the landlord, sensing the situation.
A LEXANDER grinned unctuous ly. “Maybe we go to Greeo some day. You learn to work. Bes for all women to work!”
“In the fields?” said the lady elevating her patrician brow. “Sure,” said Alexander.
“Is this a dream?” said the lady ‘This new attitude of yours! You whom I thought sans guile!”
“I know which side my bread i greased,” observed Alexander.
“Horrors!” said the lady again ■‘At least say ‘buttered.’ ”
“Same thing,” remarked Alex ander placidly.
“Let me tell you, Alexander, said the lady reprovingly, “you ar playing a very dangerous gam« And one w’hich will only react upo yourself. Have you any porters? Turning to the landlord.
“Yes, your ladyship.”
“Oh, I don’t want to marr them! Quickly. “One porter i luite enough. I do not wish to err ulate the Merry Princess and th Six Grimy Porters of Bagdad. Ar /our porters strong?”
“Powerful,” said the landlord. “Call them in.” said the lady.
He did. One was almost as big as Alexander.
“Throw him out,” said the landlord, indicating Alexander. For thus he interpreted her intention.
“One moment,” she said. “Ask them to withdraw, for the present.” The landlord obeyed.
“Now*, Alexander,” said the lady, “w’ill you peaceably depart, for the time being, or be forcibly ejected?”
“You mean they throw me out?”
“Maybe I throw’ them all out,” said Alexander, with superb assurance.
“All of them?” said the lady.
“The whole blame bunch,” said Alexander. “I bust up the whole crowd.”
“Could you?” said the lady blithely. “I W’onder? But that would be positively Homeric. Bust up the whole crowd! You, alone!”
“I clean out whole w’ineshop once. Eight men! Break everything,” said Alexander.
“This is interesting,” said her-ladyship. “According to all the rules of romance you should do something interesting—something big and bizarre!” *
“I’ll settle him,” said the landlord in an exasperated tone, and seized Alexander.
\ LEXANDER gave a hoarse, harsh laugh of un*■ natural glee. “Ho, ho!” he guffawed, and then he seized the landlord by the seat of his trousers and the next moment wras performing dumb-bell exercises with him. The lady burst into laughter; Alexander, at that moment, was magnificent. She forgot about his cupidity, his treachery, his guile ! Alexander at length set down the host, who looked sick and seemed dizzy. He could hardly stand.
“I go now,” said Alexander. “Where’s the nearest wineshop?”
"A-round the-corner," the other managed to sputter.
I don t know when I come back,” said Alexander. “I my own master. Do what I please!”
“Of course,” said the lady faintly.
“You don’t want me to come back?” he asked.
On the contrary, I should miss you dreadfully! I don t know when I have been more entertained.”
“Oh, you see me again, all right,” said Alexander naively. “I keep my eye on good thing!”
And strode out.
“Isn’t he delightful?” said the lady.
But what the landlord said is neither here nor there.
ALEXANdeR showed his independence once more
a11 nightThe lad* couId not get a boat that first day, so had to wait until the next ■■Whatever his adventures, and whether Alexander rient on a bench or on the beach, he appeared in the mni-r,
a/aSPdatynd «P^-for him-and apparently as fresh * daisy’ In fact’ dissipation and riotous living -eemed to agree with Alexander; he looked like a man who had retired seasonably, slept soundly and Tad ansen with a good conscience in the morning. No íne
,5aaenUPOü h'm’ WOUld ever suspected h°m o f wild debauches and unstinted revelry.
fnTíe.lady had Ieft word that he was to be admitted to the hotel parlor, and so great was her social prestige and high standing m the aristocratic world that herwishes were respected, if secretly resented bv the diT gruntled keeper of the establishment. He gave Alex' ander a wide berth, as that individual enterfd with the tre.d of a gladiator. Then the proprietor shrugged his shoulders. Her ladyship was incomprehensfSt but she had seemed that to many people, before this. *
ALEXANDER found a transformed lady. She had evidently been shopping, and had established a line of substantial credit somewhere. She wore a wonderful Paris gown, and the daintiest of shoes. Her golden hair was no longer brushed straight back but was an aureole of light.
Alexander looked at the gown, and then he looked at the shoes.
“Where you get all that?” he said.
“At the shops.”
“Cost a lot!”
“Quite a lot.”
Alexander pondered. “Good wives, in my country, don’t spend money,” he observed.
“I suppose not,” said the lady calmly. *
“No woman could work in that." was Alexander’s next comment.
Alexander pointed an accusing* finger. “Too small,” he said with a frown.
“My shoes? Pardon me,” gaily, “a perfect fit!”
“What you do with the others?”
“I threw them away."
“Good shoes, like that!” Indig nantly.
“You will find them reposing in some rubbish heap.” Tranquilly.
“Rubbish heap!” cried Alexander “Where?”
“I really couldn’t locate it for you.” Languidly.
Alexander pondered some more. Apparently he gave up the shoesfor lost.
“You throw away the dress, too?"
“Fine clothes!” Alexander looked depressed. “I not like wife, like that,” he said.
“So sorry you disapprove of me. Alexander!” The lady was beginning to enjoy herself once more. The psychology of Alexander was mildly entertaining.
“You keep shawl?" said Alexander. "Maybe. I get something for thut."
He breathed deeply. “Aif those fine things!”
Continued on page 60
Continued from page 13
THE lady laughed. Not once had Alexander really looked at her! And yet the long mirror reflected a radiant presence; a vision of youth and loveliness! In one way, there was something reassuring about Alexander. “When we leave?” he next asked. “Are you so anxious to go? Are the wineshops not to your liking?” she asked frivolously.
“Wineshops all right.”
“But you are thinking of the reward? The sooner we go, the 'quicker you get that?”
“No use waiting for money,” said Alexander. “Didn’t I earn it?”
“If I thought you were trying to get out of paying—” he began.
“Oh, Alexander!” interrupted the lady reproachfully.
“Women like to cheat!”
“Not all, surely?” argued the lady, in that same sad tone. “You surely would except some of us?”
“Blame few,” said Alexander. “About all alike!”
“Say not so,” she breathed. “Do not put us all in the same category.”
“Anyhow, I stick by. Where you go, I go!” He grinned uncouthly. “No cheat, if you don’t get the chance. I stick by, until I get cold cash! Maybe longer !”
“How mercenary! And with the stage all set for—romance ! The
novelists would never forgive you, Alexander.”
“Romance?” said Alexander, puckering his brow'. “What’s that?”
“What, indeed?” said the lady. "A delight that dwells in the shadow of a rose; a thrill that mounts on a moon beam!”
“Craziness,” remarked Alexander looking at the lady. Then he rattled several coins in his pocket. “When 1 got them, I got something.”
“Is it Alexander I hear speaking, or thv. World?” murmured the lady sadly.
“Bah! Everybody know that,” said Alexander.
“It is the World!” The lady sighed, then arose, with a light laugh. “And now let us go aboard.”
“Yes. I have two tickets.”
“Then give me mine.” Alexander helo out his hand.
“Oh, no,” said the lady, “you have to see after my luggage first. You see, 1 told the hotel man, I have my own pri vate porter.”
As she spoke she smiled sweetl> First victory of the day, for her! And she had purchased a particularly heav> trunk—one made of tin.
“II/’HEW! that darn heavy trunk!"
» V said Alexander, breathing hard at the wharf.
“I thought you were so strong,” said the lady. “I thought you could clear out a whole wineroom of loafers, all by yourself.”
“You pick out heaviest trunk on pur pose!” Suspiciously.
“How can you attribute such motives i to me?” she said chidingly.
“Drop him, from top of building, no hurt,” said Alexander.
“That’s just the point, said the lady. | “But here I ascend!” A deck-hand took the trunk from Alexander and the latter followed the lady up a garigplank.
The lady, with her ticket, passed inspection and got by, but Alexander was not permitted to pass.
“This calls for steerage,” said the man.
“Steerage?” said Alexander.
“Yes; up forward with you, my man!” “But—I want to be near her,” expostulated Alexander.
“You can’t—on this!”
“But, she buy me this. A fine trick!” “I can’t waste any more time on you. Down you go!”
AND Alexander did. On the tiny steerage deck, forward, he looked up and saw the lady and gritted his teeth. A mean trick, he repeated; and he, her husband! Again Alexander looked up ; some one dropped a cigar ash and some of it got in Alexander’s eye. He shook his fist at the individual. Did he hear a light musical laugh? He would almost have sworn to the fact.
“I fix you,” muttered Alexander, looking up at the alluring image of the lady leaning against the rail, so far above him. But she did not look down ; «he seemed otherwise engrossed as the «hip got under way. Alexander settled himself upon a hard bench and gave himself up to apparently moody reflections. The lady moved away. Novi Alexander seemed a statue of patience and resignation. ,
He didn’t see the lady again for quite a long time, and then under circumstances most unusual.
I-'HE ship had struck a mine. This, in ■ itself, was not so unusual; rather to be expected, in this mad, world! My lady had been in her stateroom when it happened; her door had been jammed by the force of the concussion and it was «ome time before she could get out. When she did reach the deck, the lifeboats had left; she called, but no one heard. The ship lurched and she sprang wildly into the sea. Then her brain became blurred, and after that there was H blank.
When she opened her eyes and consciousness began to return to her, she «aw Alexander. She did not feel exactly surprised; she had become rather accustomed to seeing him ; be had grown into a species of habit with her.
“So here you are again?” she ob-
“Yes,” said Alexander, not quite so oarshly as usual. .
“Looks like fate, doesn’t it?” said the
Alexander did not answer. He was not given to philosophizing.
“I suppose I should say ‘Where am I?’” murmured the lady.
“Humph!” said Alexander, but still not so harshly as his wont.
“Though,” she went on, “the query would be entirely superfluous. It is quite apparent, isn’t it?”
“It is,” conceded Alexander.
“We—we are on a hatch, or something.”
“Life-raft,” corrected Alexander.
“How—how odd! Perhaps I should «ay, how convenient—I mean, the liferaft,” observed the lady, rather incoherently.
'pHEN she saw she was fastened to the * raft by a rope, passed around her «lender waist. Alexander was unfastened, sitting at hit. ease; he seemed able to stay on, without any extraneous aid. For a landsman, he appeared quite at home. The lady looked at the rope.
, “I don’t remember doing that,” she «aid.
“What?” asked Alexander.
"Don’t you?” He grinned. “Oh, women do ? lot of things they—”
“Stop!” Imperiously. “If there’s one thing I dislike more than any other, it’s deception—or attempted deception,”
she added. “You tied it.”
“Of course!” Nonchalantly.
“Then why didn’t you say so at once?’’ Accusingly. “Much talk about nothing,” said Alexander.
“You think it was nothing to have tied me to the raft so I couldn’t slide into the sea?”
Alexander shrugged. My lady’s eyes began to shine. She began to see vaguely—very vaguely—new qualities in Alexander.
Alexander put out his big hands. “It was easier than to have to hold you on,” he said simply.
My lady subsided. So? He looked upon her as a bale of hay, or something of the kind. That was the kind of hero your clod of a peasant was! My lady, be it understood, had been accustomed to admiration, adulation, adoration. All kinds of men had desired her, for all manner of reasons. She had been given to understand, in the heyday of her triumphs, not so long ago, that she had what might be called a species of “universal appeal.” The poet found in her pure and lofty inspiration; to the musician she suggested blithe rondeau or mad variations; the writer made her the heroine of his plots; the statesman had discovered in her a born aptitude for intrigue and diplomatic chess-games; the libertine and man of the world—Eut why go on? She gazed at Alexander with cold displeasure. “A bale of hay!” Alexander didn’t blink.
“I no want you to slide off,” he muttered.
“How kind !”
“Oh, it wasn’t any bother!”
“I’m so glad of that!”
THE lady made a gesture. Then she thought deeply.
“Did you save my life?”
“I hauled you from the water.”
“How did you happen to see me?”
“I climbed on deck, to wait and watch for you. Every one get off, in lifeboats. Every one is saved. I wonder why you do not come? The boats go away. I wait.”
“You feared to lose me?”
“Of course, we must not part.”
“I think I understand! Go on! You could not bear that we should part!— and then?”
“The fog come down. I call out to the life-boats, but no answer! Every cne is saved but you and me! You have not left. I was sure.”
“You said that before.”
“I look for you; I do not find you; I search for you. The ship go down, and then—then”—-the fog seemed to have got into Alexander’s throat—“I bump into you, in the water.”
“Yes?” The lady’s voice involuntarily grew a little softer.
“I am very glad!”
“Were you?” said the lady with sudden curiosity.
“You bet; I couldn’t let you go!” With a grin in which cupidity and cunning mingled.
“You are alluding to mercenary reasons?”
“Does that mean money?”
“It does. So it wasn’t me you were saving. It was the reward?”
Alexander did not answer directly. “I look after you,” he said vaguely. “Cheer up!”
“I am cheerful,” the lady protested. “When I think of all it means to you, I feel quite safe in your presence, my dear Alexander!”
“Now you talk sense!”
“Indeed, I believe that with you at my side I am safer than I would* be on the streets of London town. You won’t let anything happen to me, will you, Alexander—my hero?”
“Bet your life I won’t!”
The lady shuddered. “Isn’t that— land, Alexander?”
Alexander did not answer. He tied the line around his waist.
“Oh!” said the lady. “How heroic! But perhaps you think: ‘Turn about is fair play?’ And so it is! I will try and stick on !”
Still Alexander did not answer—with words! He plunged into the sea. Then he began to swim toward the land, slowly drawing the raft after him. The lady clapped her hands. Alexander, at
that moment, was superb, cleaving the waves with the vigor of a Neptune.
THE NYMPH AND THE WATER-GOD
HEY reached the shore at last. “What a charming method of transportation!” said the lady. “I am sure you must have been a water-god in some other reincarnation, Alexander!”
Alexander did not answer. He lay prone on the strand, his face to the sky, his great chest laboring; his breath coming in gasps.
“Oh!” said the lady, forgetting ironical amusement. What should she do? What did they do, in the story-books— the heroines? When Alexander recovered, he should find his head in her lap. She didn’t wish to proceed to that extreme but she felt it incumbent to be polite. His exertions in her behalf had been herculean. My! how the man must like money! She moved forward, politely*, with vague intentions, but Alexander waved her away.
Her eyes flashed. Had he misinterpreted her action? Had he dared think she had intended to act like the conventional heroine—-about his head? She gazed at him now, sans pity! Let him perish, the monster!
Alexander began to recover, while the lady sat on a rock. At last he arose and shook himself.
“Some pull, that!” he said.
“Yes; you’ll have earned the reward!”
Alexander frowned. “Extra work!” he said.
“You mean you did not figure on anything like this when you accepted the contract to marry me? You infer that you have been working overtime?”
Alexander nodded approvingly. His shirt was torn open, and a bit of his magnificent torso was visible. But though Alexander might look like an antique Greek water-god, he acted like a modern Greek land-shark. It was hard to play nymph to such a watergod. Though he had lost most of his “stoop,” or crick in his back, superinduced by carrying trunks up and down stairs! In fact, the sea seemed to have magically washed some of the “bend” away, and straightened his spine.
ON the rock, the lady ruminated. She dropped the subject of extra reward. Alexander, however, was not disposed so lightly to abandon the topic.
“How much extra, you think?” Oh. what a bargaining look shone from the “water-god’s” eyes now !
“Suppose we leave the precise details to be determined later?”
Alexander was about to expostulate, but she cut him short. “Don’t you see, I could promise anything?” she said. “After all, it’s purely a matter of good faith.”
“Suppose so!” His voice implied he recognized the weakness of his position. Trust a woman! Yet, what else was there to do? Alexander’s face grew sad—-almost pathetic!
“Yes. I know it’s hard,” breathed the lady. “But pull yourself together! That drooping manner ill becomes one designed by nature for the exploits of a Ulysses!”
“Who’s him?” said Alexander listlessly.
“A countryman of yours!”
“Never met him!”
“I suppose not. He was a great man!”
“You mean, a big man?”
“Big as me?”
“I think I could whip him.” Boastfully. “I look him up when we go back to my country.”
“We?” Elevating an eyebrow.
“Sure! You don’t like to go?” Challengingly.
“Nothing would give me greater pleasure!” Hastily, for Alexander’s tone was very truculent. “But meanwhile,, don’t you think we had better consider the immediate, not far-distant and uncertain future? I don’t wish to appear trite, but where are we?”
“Well, let’s walk along,” said the lady,
THE beach was quite rocky. Above, a sheer cliff loomed. The walking was bad, especially for high heels, and the lady had not gone far when she slipped and would have fallen, except for Alexander.
“Those no-account shoes!” he grumbled. “You no slip with good shoes you throw away!”
“I believe I have turned my ankle,” answered the lady, and slid to a shelf of stone.
“Eh?” Alexander actually showed sudden sympathy. He forgot to reprove her further about the “good shoes” she had thrown away, in ashheap or garbage-can.
“Oh, it’s not a real sprain,” she reassured him with a silvery laugh, somewhat forced. “Don’t worry! You won’t have to carry me! I’ll rest a bit, though, and then it will be quite all i-ight, I am sure.”
“I look and see!”
“No, no! I know you should, of course, be kneeling at ray feet, and all that, but it is quite unnecessary.”
“Nonsense talk!” Gruffly. “Let me see !”
“I decline! There’s no movie-picture man near.”
“I see, anyway!” said Alexander. And did! It was useless to resist. He untied her shoe—not ungently—and removed it.
“Take off your stocking!” he next commanded, and she obeyed. Perhaps she was rather apprehensive as to just •what would happen if she didn’t.
“Hum !” he said, and felt the ankle. The lady winced, but whether at the twinge of pain or from the touch of those coarse fingers, who shall say?
“Not bad!” diagnosed Doctor Alexander, and took out a big red handkerchief from his blouse. The “bandanna” was as big as four ordinary men’s handkerchiefs. The lady shuddered. Its colors fairly shrieked.
“Take it away!” Faintly.
“For why? You do what I say!”
“I—I suppose I must.”
“Of course!” He bound up the ankle —rather skilfully. His fingers •weren’t half so rough as she had expected. Also, she noted with a certain relief, the bandanna had just been laundered.
“There! That good job!” boasted Alexander. “Me once doctor! Horsedoctor; sheep-doctor!”
The lady was past quivering. Horsedoctor; sheep-doctor! In which category did she come? She felt like a lost lamb; a high-bred lamb, of course!
“This job extra, of course!” said Alexander.
The lady almost shrieked. “Oh, Alexander, you will be the death of me!” “For why?” queried Alexander. “Why you laugh?”
“Why, indeed? I know it is no laughing matter.”
“Unless you think it funny, because you”—he paused—“intend to cheat me? You think how my face look when you say: ‘Kick him out!’ You have three, four, five servants?”
“Quite that number, my sweet Alexander!”
“Perhaps you say that to them?” “You wrong me! Such lack of confidence in a—a wife, is totally uncalled for. You should have faith in me— believe!”
ALEXANDER tapped his chest. "Me look out for myself! You bet!” “Then all is well,” said the lady. “Or as well as could be for two people marooned on a barren coast! Without food or drink! Which reminds me I am very hungry. As the big magician you couldn’t by any chance rub a magical lamp, Alexander, and procure for me a broiled chicken?”
“No chicken!” said Alexander. “Something better!” And took from his blouse a mighty sausage! A king of sausages; a Gargantuan sausage!
“How perfectly delightful!” said the lady.
“Me grab him before leaving the ship !’ said Alexander proudly. “No steerage sausage!” Contemptuously. “Me grab him, in first-class place ! No one to keep me out!” A moment he eyed her with rising resentment. “That nice trick of yours, shoving me in steerage!”
“Why speak of the past?” Quickly. “Are not our present perplexities sufficient? Perhaps we shall both die of exposure. Indeed it is quite likely!” Abruptly turning, without another glance for her, Alexander walked away.
THE lady watched him disappear around a bend. Suddenly, she ceased eating.
“Oh. how funny!”
She looked around her. “That I did not notice before!”
Then she began to laugh. “I suppose I was so confused and preoccupied !”
She looked around again.
“One would be!”
She put down the sausage.
“This is, positively, the best ever!” Her glance was fastened on a slight opening at the foot of the cliff, nearby. “The ‘Witch’s Eye’!” she observed.
“That is it-indubitably! And it was
looking at me, all the time! Probably it was the witch’s magic that caused me to slip!”
The lady got up, abandoning the remains of the patrician sausage and the marmalade on the shelf of rock.
“I’d like to see Alexander’s face, when he comes and finds me gone!” she murmured. “Oh, this is as good as hareand-hounds. He has me; he has me not! Has—not!”
The lady walked to the crevice, or “Eye.” She limped slightly but was in the best of spirits. Beyond the “Eye,” fringed with dark bushes, the opening widened just as she knew it would, and farther along there was a gullv. A path led to the top.
“Oh, Alexander, I can just see you!’ gurgled the lady, as she started up the path, carrying one shoe.
At the top of the gully, which presently she reached, the path led across a broad meadow, and beyond, at the verge of a park, a noble dwelling arose. Langlenshire house! Built in the time of the first of the Georges! The lady, pausing at the gate, poised on one foot, gazed with pleased interest upon the stately and charming pile.
“What an odd way to come home! she thought.
«TS there anythink, ma’am?”
IA man stepped from the little lodge as the lady found herself thus strangely and unexpectedly entering her own estates, after a prolonged and somewhat enforced absence therefrom.
“Nothing special, thank you, James!” “Good ’eavens! Is it really your ladyship?”
“I believe so,” said the lady, hobbling toward the house. “Do not let your surprise overcome you, James!”
James strove to relapse into the impassive model servant.
“Yes, I just landed,” observed the lady.
“Quite so, your ladyship! At Folkestone, perhaps?”
“No, James!” But her ladyship offered no further information, and James trotted along by her side, fairly bursting with curiosity. The lady divined and smiled. She rather enjoyed the situation. She wouldn’t have missed coming home like tHat for a great deal.
“Good morning, Pelton,” she said to the butler, at the front door. “Or is it afternoon?” Pelton nearly fell over as the lady entered her ancestral hall. “Yes, the same old place!” she said. “We'll have to shift those suits of armor, Pelton. They do look so tired, alwavs standing in the same place! Kindly see that it is done, Pelton!” “Yes, your ladyship!” Pelton managed to ejaculate, his eyes sticking out like those of an excited frog. “So glad to see your ladyship once more.”
“Yes, I understand!” Languidly. “Thank you, so much!”
“Your ladyship’s luggage?” Pelton was just able to stammer, gazing, not without horror, at the shoe her ladyship was carrying in her hand.
“There is no luggage! So inconvenient to be bothered with luggage, Pelton, you know!”
“Quite so, your ladyship!” stammered Pelton.